RESPONDblogs: Stephen Fry and the God that Christians Don’t Recognize

Stephen Fry’s response to the question, “What would you say to God if you met him at the pearly gates?” has gone viral in the last few weeks. Almost 6 million views to date.

In a previous blog post, I applauded the fact that in the UK we are free to express our faith position without fear of persecution or imprisonment. I’m glad that the much loved, and usually softly spoken Stephen Fry has raised this topic in public consciousness right now.

 

 

But having listened to his response, the question that must be asked is this – which God is Stephen railing against? Because it sure isn’t the God of the Bible!

 

I don’t know any Christians who believe in a God who has decided to create children with bone cancer, or a God who inflicts torture and suffering on those least equipped to deal with it. I don’t know of any Christian who would feel that this world is just as God intended it to be. Rather…creation is CONFUSED (as Romans 8:20, CEV puts it)…our world is messed up right now. Further – it is also suffering from DECAY (as Romans 8:21 puts it). But the hope is that creation would be set FREE from that decay. This is the hope of the Christian; a new creation which is free from the tragedies and the sufferings of life that so incense Stephen.

 

I agree with Stephen that the suffering should end. But I disagree with him that God is the source of the human suffering. This insane, capricious God of Stephen’s who inflicts suffering on children is not the God we meet in the pages of the Bible. The God of the Bible is working out his plans to positively recreate both us, and the reality that we inhabit in our lives.

 

Having gone to some lengths to point out the pain of human suffering, I’ve got to ask Stephen this. If there is no God, if we are all just chemicals floating in a randomly generated Universe, why is human suffering so important to you anyway?

 

Well – the tyranny of atheism says – if life has been hard, if you’ve been unlucky with your genes or your birthplace or just the breaks you’ve had in life…then tough! You just need to get on with it. There is no grand plan, there is no purpose. There is no point in placing any importance on one human being who suffers because in the end…whether that person is me or anyone else. I will die and the Universe will also eventually experience heat death…and it’s all done.

Dawkins is an expert at articulating a life without God.

“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” — Richard Dawkins

 

Yet as an atheist like Dawkins, Stephen cares about suffering children, even though without a God this seems like a strange philosophy.

So being a caring person like he is, what positive contribution does he make towards the problem of human suffering?

 

Nothing I can see (though I am absolutely sure he is privately generous to charities with his time and his money). And I do have a lot of empathy for him here…what positive response CAN Stephen give to suffering? None – because to the atheist, there is none. It just is. All Stephen seems to do is to blame God (if he’s there) and curse him for our predicament (if he’s to blame). As David Robertson says, the cry of atheism today is so often “God does not exist, and I HATE HIM!”.

 

And here lies the contradiction within Stephen’s position. If there is no overall purpose behind the universe, why does he speak as if there is? Why does he bother standing up for suffering children who are being robbed of their future? Here’s why – because he intuitively know it is ABSOLUTELY the RIGHT thing to do. His gut tells him its right even though his atheistic argument suggests it shouldn’t matter.

Why waste your time cursing the God you don’t believe in? If God doesn’t exist…why do so many people talk as if they hate him? Because our gut sense contradicts our irrational atheistic argument. We have a sense that he’s there, and we do all we can to drown it out in our lives.

 

Stephen is railing against a God that no Christian believes in. He is also incensed by the suffering that God doesn’t cause, and he has no answer to it. But the Bible clearly does.

“God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.” John 3:16, CEV

 

God holds the answer for people who are suffering. The answer is – LIFE!

Kingfisher Church Network, where I serve, is supporting our suffering family in Malawi, Africa right now. Floods have washed away lives, crops and homes. And like Stephen, we know in our guts that we MUST do something to help. So help is exactly what we are doing. But unlike Stephen, we have a good reason to do so. Namely that we view people as more than just a sum of their randomly generated parts.

  • People are individually crafted by Jesus.
  • As the church, we are Jesus’ hands and his feet. We are actively serving suffering, valuable people who each have a great, God crafted plan for their future.
  • People will never really die…and so their lives matter right now.

 

The irony in all of this – is that like them, Stephen also really matters. Stephen is also valued by Jesus. All it would take is for him to receive it! I do wonder whether Stephen would give God the opportunity to get a word in, though.

 

I rather hope that, were Stephen Fry ever to meet God, he would wait for a reply from God.” – Rowan Williams

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stuartgrayuk

I live in the UK, I'm married to Janet and I'm passionate about proposing a case for the historic Christian faith. You can find me on Twitter at @stuhgray.

36 thoughts on “RESPONDblogs: Stephen Fry and the God that Christians Don’t Recognize”

  1. “Well – the tyranny of atheism says – if life has been hard, if you’ve been unlucky with your genes or your birthplace or just the breaks you’ve had in life…then tough! You just need to get on with it. There is no grand plan, there is no purpose. There is no point in placing any importance on one human being who suffers because in the end…whether that person is me or anyone else. I will die and the Universe will also eventually experience heat death…and it’s all done.”

    Atheism only says that there is no god/gods. Nothing else, despite the insistence of Christians and other theists. There can be atheists who are nihilists, atheists that are selfish, atheists are are idiots, etc. There are also atheists who help their fellow man and don’t need a magic carrot or stick to do so. We do not say “tough”. Your generalization is incorrect.

    I do not need any grand plan or purpose to make me feel special. I am quite content as it is. I do place plenty of importance on my fellow human beings *because* we go around only once and everyone deserves a decent life since there is no other. My husband, my family, my friends all give me plenty of purpose and enjoyment in this life.

    Yep, the universe may end in “heat death”. It also might burst forth again in a new “big bang”. I am content in making a difference, no matter how small it might be, right here and right now.

    1. Hey there – thanks so much for commenting – really appreciate it.

      I am completely in agreement with you – magic carrots don’t exist…and even if they did they would be a pretty self centred reason for serving other people and making a difference right here…right now. I’m not an advocate of the magic carrot.

      So …can I ask you a question? Would you mind?

      If we are just chemicals swirling thru a randomly generated universe…why are you content to make a difference in the lives of people? What drives this wonderful and special aspect to your life?

      cheers

      Stu

      1. Hello Stuart,

        Feel free to ask whatever you’d like to this real live atheist 🙂

        To answer your question, I am content to make a difference in the lives of people because I would hope that they would do so for me. However, I do not expect it. I do find that there are morals that are, if not objective, necessary to the type of civilization that I enjoy to live in.

        Many religions claim that they are the source of benevolence. However, they cannot support these claims, one religion having the same evidence as the next. Since religion has no evidence that supports their attempts at taking credit for humans helping one another, or other animals that do the same thing, I find it to be not supernatural at all. It’s just those chemicals.

        I do find that heaven and hell are indeed magical carrots, promised as rewards or punishments for what the Christian bible claims is “right” behavior. Of course, this would assume a free will of a type to do what we wished. I find this one of the contradictions of the bible, reward and punishment vs “grace”. If one believes the bible, there is no free will since Romans 9 claims that this god makes us what we are, it is only by this god’s whim, e.g. grace, that we believe or that we do not. I personally do not believe in pure free will, but in a free will that is so influenced by factors we do not remember that we essentially act like we have free will.

        Do you believe that there is an argument for free will in the bible or are you a predestination-type Christian like I was?

      2. Hey there –

        How are you doing?

        To answer your question about free will – I read two complementary truths in the Bible that sit side by side. The truths are – divine sovereignty (e.g. Ephesians 1:11) and human responsibility (e.g. John 3:16). Or to use your terminology…God’s will sits alongside Man’s will. Both exist. And they complement one another. God’s will never cancels out human will…he invites us to follow him but he doesn’t demand or control us so that we do. Also see Romans 10:9-10, “So you will be saved IF you honestly say Jesus is Lord”…if we choose it, God has the power and the will to make it happen for us.

        You mention Romans 9 in connection with grace…are you thinking of verses 25 + 26? I don’t think Grace is about whim…rather grace is about God’s free offer…him urgently reaching out to us….inviting us to respond with our wills to his free offer of love. Have you struggled with this notion in the past?

        My question about WHY you are content to make a difference in people’s lives is actually important one. Because most atheists I talk to are genuinely caring and loving people like yourself…you just know that it is the right way to be. Everything within them chooses it. But we also intuitively know that hurting our loved ones is the wrong way to behave and so we do our best not to hurt them…but we don’t always succeed. If we are just chemicals…then how do we know there is a right and a wrong? Is it just my subjective opinion? Not at all…we share this sense with others. Is it just a cultural norm? Again – not so. Why? Because even though we have a moral center to our being, the human condition is that we cannot measure up to this moral law within us. We do stuff that contravenes morality and we feel guilty as a result. So the moral code sits OUTSIDE of human culture.

        Everyone intuitively knows right from wrong…cultures differ but a shared moral core transcends culture…Many of us train ourselves to live in the aftermath of persistent wrong. Now you might say…but I’m just happy to make a difference myself. I don’t worry about what anyone else is doing – they are free to do whatever they want to. Really? How do you respond when someone cuts you off on the freeway? “That’s not very kind…and its not right…its against the rules! They shouldn’t be on the road.” We appeal to shared morality as an instinct when someone else wrongs us. We hold other people to a moral standard that…probably we cannot even successfully live at ourselves. Why? Because we are absolutely right – there is an absolute moral standard that exists outside of culture…yet it lives inside each one of us…its from God…and unfortunately none of us can measure up to it, even if we tried! So frustrating! But that’s where grace comes in…making a way in which we can know hope and a future even though we regularly mess up in our lives in the here and now…

        Magic carrots? Lets bury them – they aren’t what Christianity is about – lol. Heaven is not for people who manage to do right in their lives. Heaven is for people like me who admit they do wrong far too frequently, but I have received and continue to receive God’s love and forgiveness and give him access to my life. Heaven is for messed up, grace receiving people like me.

        HTH

        Stu

      3. Hi Stuart,

        Doing fine here. But oh how I wish winter would be over. We’re expecting 3-5 more inches of snow tomorrow here in central PA.

        You say that God’s will never cancels out human will. In the bible it says otherwise. God controlled the pharaoh in Exodus in order to show the world how powerful it is, and any time a miracle occurs, some human’s will is being cancelled out. I can also point to the Book of Job where this god intentionally allows Satan to kill people who have no choice in the matter. We also have Romans 9

        “16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
        19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?“Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?”

        which says that some vessels are made to be destroyed without choice and we have Jesus Christ saying that some people are intentionally kept from accepting his words for this is the reason he uses parables.

        Romans 10 does say “9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”, but the other parts of the bible say that one can only say this if allowed by this god. Romans 11 says this

        ““God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear,to this very day.”

        It also says

        “32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”

        To be frank, this sounds like a firefighter who sets fires so he can be seen as a hero.

        This is why I disagree when you say that your god invites everyone to follow it. Per these verses, it doesn’t and those Christians who believe in predestination use them to support their version of Christianity.

        I am not thinking about Romans 9:25-26 when I am talking about grace. You can see the verses I am considering above.

        There is nothing that shows that this god reaches out and gives us a choice. I have not struggled with notion in the past, I have read the bible and have seen that it doesn’t quite track with what many Christians claim it says in regards to free will and choice. Incidentally, I don’t believe in free will, though I do believe we have to act like we do have it to function.

        I see the Christian attempt to claim that everyone is good because of their god to be baseless and often an attempt to claim every good and decent person is “really” a Christian. You cannot show that it is your god that does anything or that any god does anything at all. There is nothing that says human know intuitively that hurting loved ones is wrong. I only have to look at the news to see yet one more parent abusing or murdering their child. I do think we tend to agree that it is wrong, and that is because families and civilizations need certain moral rules to exist e.g. “cultural norms”. We know right and wrong by society, empathy and intellect. The ideas of right and wrong have changed as society has advanced. Any claims by religion that they have some objective “right” and “wrong” can be known to be untrue because their claims of what their god “really” wants have changed as society has changed, not the other way around.

        Claiming an “intuitive” knowledge is reminiscent of how many theists, especially Christians, want to claim we somehow “know” that their god exists and thus are damned if we disagree with their claims, like in Roman 1:18-20. Unfortunately, many religions make the claim, cannot show it is true any better than Christians and I have plenty of evidence the claim of these religions never happened and other things did in their place.

        The human condition is that we have ideals and no we often do not live up to them. We have had the golden rule “treat others as you’d like to be treated” far longer than your religion has existed. However, there is nothing that says it is somehow “outside” of human culture. Humans have been taking care of each other since tens of thousands of years ago, and we also have that animals do much the same thing as humans do, care for each other and kill each other. Guilt can come from empathy and we have evidence that chemicals are what the brain uses to work. There is no evidence of some magical “soul” or outside influence. Are you a dualist?

        Everyone does not intuitively know right from wrong. Brain chemical imbalances which manifest as mental illness show that this is not the case. I have no idea what you mean by “Many of us train ourselves to live in the aftermath of persistent wrong.”

        When someone cuts me off on the freeway, I do get angry and again, no need for a soul or a god to feel this way. Animals feel the same about fairness and justice, just google “research animals fairness” to see all of the research that shows this. We certainly do appeal to a shared morality and again, no need for a soul or a god to have it; empathy is quite enough. I have no problem living to a moral standard. I am quite happy it is not the one put forth in the bible. Many humans have gone far beyond that primitive idea of morality. If it is from a god, then that god is not worth my worship, even if anyone could show it existed at all.

        Many Christians wish to claim that their personal morality is what this god approves of and that no one can measure up to their personal ideal. However, Christians can’t agree on what that morality is. I can hope and I have no need of your god, Stuart. I have hope in humanity and that doesn’t only include Christians.

        I suspect you do wish to bury the idea of magic carrots, but that is what Christianity is about, that if one does the right thing one gets to go to heaven. The right thing in most Christians’ case is that one must believe in Jesus Christ as they do, which for you seems to be admitting that they do wrong and worshipping their god in a certain way.

        Heaven is indeed for messed-up grace receiving people like you who do certain things and because you were chosen to get this god’s love and forgiveness. It is not for anyone else, because everyone else is damned to eternal torture. If one believes the bible.

      4. Hey there –

        Snow, eh? Not seen that myself in a long time, here in the UK! Hope it doesn’t slow things down too much for you all there.

        Well – I think I can safely say that if God was as you have described him to me…then I wouldn’t give him the time of day either – lol. 🙂 I don’t believe in your God myself either.

        I am wondering – is it possible that you have taken the Bible passages you reference for me in a way that they were never intended to be taken when they were written? Is there the slightest possibility of that? Take Romans 9, for example. What is the Apostle Paul actually doing in this chapter? Well…he is in the middle of his multi-chapter presentation of the Christian Gospel and he is at a stage where he is specifically discussing the nation of Israel. He’s talking about the Jews – not non Jews (I don’t know whether you are Jewish or not…I am not personally). Assuming you aren’t, then we can’t claim those words specifically for us. Context is everything when understanding what literature means.

        You also mention Job and God intentionally allowing Satan to kill people who have no choice in the matter. First – we all die one day and have no choice in the matter. Sucks – but that’s the hand as its dealt to all of us. Second – Satan doesn’t kill anyone in Job chapters 1 and 2. But what we see in these chapters…is an example of a broken creation that Satan has influence on…and Job’s loved ones and business are lost thru the evil of other people and the tragedy of natural disaster. Actually this is a great example that plays to the original point I was making to you. We live in a fallen and imperfect world, right now. And its not God’s doing…but he is allowing it to function that way for a time until he calls “time!” on it.

        A firefighter setting fires so he can be seen as a hero? Goodness, I really don’t follow you there. Look, God has set the stage…he has placed us on it. It’s his show. It seems a bit rich to complain that you’ve been cast in his show. In other words…you and I are here. It’s an opportunity to work out how best to use the opportunity we’ve been given.

        I can see you are wrestling with this thing you call “predestination”. Yea – that will cook anyone’s noodle! I feel for you there 🙂 What I said previously was that God has chosen by his will to create creatures…each with their own free will. Us. He won’t control or manipulate us. Now you have pointed me to various passages that you think prove me wrong there.

        As I look at your interpretation of these passages…I suspect you might be confusing two things here…it is easy to do. You see God’s WILL is a separate thing from God’s FOREKNOWLEDGE. What do I mean? Well – think of it this way. Right from the beginning of Genesis…God created people and he gave them free will to choose to love and honour him…or disobey and reject and hide from him. And in his foreknowledge…he knew ahead of time how people will respond to him with their free will.

        How does that work? Hey – I only work here…I’m not God myself…I have no idea!! 🙂

        Taking this point further…does this negate our personal will and prove we aren’t free after all (as I think you have decided yourself?) By no means! I choose how I’m going to react. I use the will I am given. It’s just that this is God we are talking about already knows the beginning of the story all the way to the end. He has foreknowledge. Because he’s not someone like us inside of the construct of our Universe. Rather he is a personality outside of time and space – who knows the end from the beginning. We see this theme reflected throughout the Bible in all sorts of forms. Two examples…check out Isaiah 42 in the OT and 1 Corinthians 15 in the NT. Prophecy is a way in which God shares his foreknowledge in advance…and we see that playing out in the Bible.

        What does this mean? It means he creates Pharaoh with free will even tho he knows how he is going to use it anyway. And because he’s God…he can weave his purposes through Pharaoh’s choices.

        It means that you personally aren’t in a box without any free will. You are not strapped down and consigned to some future that God says you have. Rather you have always been free to choose what your future is going to look like. The fact that God knows what the ultimate long term effects of your choices will be…isn’t a source of concern. Because he is not trying to catch you out and box you in. He is willing you to make good and positive and open choices because – as you said to me a few days ago…he agrees with your assessment of yourself. Namely – you ARE special…just the way you are! The hope is…that you would choose to realise how good and kind and welcoming he is…and how he’s wanting the best for your life. Going too far too fast? Probably – but its absolutely true.

        Turning to Morality – we see this very differently indeed! And by the way – empathy and morality are two completely different things. What do I mean? Well a Lioness has empathy for her cubs…that’s why she goes hunting so that she can feed them. But when the National Geographic Channel shows her bringing down a Gazelle…and ripping it open so that she can feed her cubs…how do we react? Wow – isn’t nature amazing. Look at that! Does anyone say – call the police cos that Lion has just murdered a Gazelle on the National Geographic Channel? No. Because Lions are empathic creatures but they aren’t moral creatures…they do not answer to the Moral Law that presses in on Mankind. When people kill people…its called murder. When Lions kill Gazelles its called the National Geographic Channel! Its just the way God has set things up.

        Do you see the Bible as a Moral Manual full of ought’s? It’s really the reverse to that. Its a rescue manual for people like me who aren’t able to consistently keep to God’s Moral Law!

        And you know…the way you end your comment to me…”God’s love and forgiveness is only for people who were chosen to get it…everyone else is damned to eternal torture.” If I can be so bold…and plant one seed in your precious life through our discussion this week…it would be this. At the end of our lives, God will grant us the result of our free will choices toward him during our mortal life on earth. For those of us who have decided that they will live day to day with him as a friend rather than an enemy…our future eternity is going to also feature him for ever. However, for those who have used their free will and chosen to reject him in this life…then he will say to those people…ok. I’ll give you what you have freely decided during your life on earth – an eternity without me. Only then…I think the folks who receive this will discover just what a mistake that has turned out to be. It’s good to know this ahead of time…right?

        Remember – God has foreknowledge…but we have free will. Lets make positive choices with it. 🙂

        Have a great day.

        HTH

        Stu

      5. Hello Stu,

        We got three new inches of snow. Not too bad. Of course, today it’s 45 degrees F/7 degrees C today and will be 17 degrees F/-8 C tomorrow. Nutty weather. The melting water today will be a ice skating rink tomorrow.

        My post is long, as always. Your first comment about that you would not worship “my” god either does underline a big problem with religion, no one agrees on what their god really is. “My” god is right from the bible, with all of the contradictions that it contains. The bible presents a god that is wildly variable, for something that is supposedly the font of objective morality. Theists, including Christians, build their god in their own image, accepting parts of the bible they like and ignoring the parts that they don’t like. For example, most Christians love to point to the “ten commandments” but that is an artificial construct since all of the laws in Exodus and Leviticus are from the same god with equal weight.

        I can agree that I, and everyone, can be taking the verses from the bible in a way that they were never meant to be taken. We have no idea who the authors were and we have no evidence that any of the essential events in the bible ever happened so the stories are not depictions of reality. This would mean that you also have the possibility you are wrong too, as does every theist who thinks that they have the only “right” way to believe. Do you think that there is the “slightest possibility” of that? What of a god that intentionally allows this to cause harm?

        It is interesting that you posit that the words in Romans are not specifically for “us”. I can agree with that too, but many Christians claim that they are for all people. They cite Romans 1 to say that no one has any excuse to not believe that their god is the creator of the universe and that those who disagree are simply denying the “obvious”. Romans is also used to claim that this god hates homosexuals. The letters to Timothy say all sorts of idiotic things about women. As a Christian, I would have been happy to toss Paul’s letters out.

        I do see where Paul tries to claim that anyone who doesn’t agree with him is a horrible person and that deserve death. I see where he claims that the “true” Jews are those who agree with him. I also see where he says that no one should judge but then he proceeds to do just that. From what I see, Paul talks about the Jews and the Gentiles, and then goes onto say that “no one” is good, so he seems to be saying that the rest of the book is about everyone “whole world held accountable to God” or at least the Christians in Rome.

        Paul then goes onto say that faith is the only important thing. He also brings up the idea of original sin, which if true, entirely abrogates any claim of free will in the bible, because there is no free will if one is dead and damned by the actions of another. There was no choice in this, only a divine decree that everyone is damned by no action of their own. We have that confirmed by the verse in Romans 8 which says that only some people were predestined to accept this god. Those who weren’t “predestined” weren’t called, God’s “chosen” will supposedly never be separated from him, and thus in Romans 9, we have the reconfirmation of this that some people were intended to be dead and damned with no chance or choice. The Jews who have not accepted that Jesus Christ was their promised messiah weren’t the real chosen people, per Paul. He wishes to claim that the chosen are anyone who agrees with him, predestined to accept Jesus Christ. This is what the context of the verses is, and I do know a lot about how literature is to be analyzed. One uses context, culture, anthropology, archaeology, psychology, etc.

        I would ask you, if Paul’s letters only apply to the people who were in those churches at the time he wrote, why do Christians use them to cite what all Christians should do? These letters are as cherry picked as the Old Testament stories.

        You offer the excuse that since we all will die one day, it’s okay for you god to have allowed Satan to murder Job’s family. Humans have choices in the matter of dying. They can pursue medical attention, they can resist being murdered, they can commit suicide if they wish. If it’s okay for someone to be murdered since they’ll die anyway, why is there any concern about the Holocaust? Those six million plus Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, mentally retarded, etc were going to die anyway, right? I am sure that this comparison will shock you, but you are offering the same excuse for your god.

        I will admit, I find it rather amazing that you insist that “Satan doesn’t kill anyone in Job chapters 1 and 2”. When that is not the case. Indeed, you admit that he does when you say that the murder of Job’s family “is an example of a broken creation that Satan has influence on”. Does he or does he not cause the deaths of Job’s family? The disaster is not “natural” if Satan can make it do what he wants, e.g. “has influence on”. God says this to Satan ““Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Everything is in Satan’s power per your god’s will; who is doing the destruction of all that Job has, Stu? The “fire of God” is used to murder the sheep and the servants. You seem to be contradicting yourself, attempting in one sentence to claim that Satan does nothing and then claiming that this world is under the control of Satan. Which is it? It is certainly God’s doing since he wrote the rules. I would agree if you were speaking about the Gnostic gods which are not the omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent god that most Christians claims theirs is. Perhaps you are and I am mistaken?

        Speaking of your god calling “time” on this universe, when it that supposed to happen? Paul claimed it would be soon, e.g. in an objectively short amount of time. It’s been two thousand plus years.
        You seem to also be contradicting yourself when you have said that your god has set the stage and has placed it on it, “it’s his show” and when you claim that there is free will. There cannot be control of humans and free will. They are mutually exclusive concepts. I have no problem in pointing out that this god creates a problem and then claims to ride to the rescue to solve said problem. The problem never needed to be caused in the first place, other than to be a pointless puppet play. Per your bible, there is no opportunity to work out anything, it has already been decided and again, that means no free will.

        Yep, I do have a problem with the idea of predestination. I was a Presbyterian Christian, and that sect of Christianity says that they are the right ones and everyone else is wrong. They of course have as much evidence as you do that you are right: none. Your bible does not say that your god only chose to create creatures. It never says that they are created with free will, that is an addition by you. If one believes the bible, it does control and manipulate humans, the pharaoh being the most obvious example, when this god says that it is controlling the pharaohs mind in order to get a result that it wants. Every version of the bible says the same thing, that God hardened pharoah’s heart and that this god interfered repeatedly in human events, in battles, in causing the plagues, etc. You may claim that only your interpretation is the right one, but that means that you are claiming that every interpreter who has done their work on the bible is wrong and that you and only you are right, with no evidence to support this.

        You claim that somehow, this god’s will is separate from its foreknowledge. You try to explain this by making one more baseless claim that this god made people with free will, which is not supported. If your god made people, then it made them knowing that it made them to reject him, which is exactly what Romans 9 says, when it says that some people are made to accept this god and some made to reject him. This begs the question, why bother making anyone who would not accept this god? It seems that the only supported answer is that this god wants or needs to torture some people eternally.

        Again, you are a typical Christian in saying that you have no idea about why this god would do something heinous but when you wish to claim that this god loves everyone and you know that it made people with free will, nothing stops you from claiming that you have knowledge of this god with just as little evidence. My husband brought up another point, if we do indeed know good and evil just like this god does (Genesis 3) and I know that torturing people eternally for a finite “sin” is evil, then this god is evil. I of course do not believe in the bible, but I don’t just throw my hands up in the air and try to avoid any responsibility for what I claim is true. I do work here and I do consider what I have been told is supposedly some “truth”. I will ask you another question: do you agree with your god or do you simply claim that anything god does is acceptable because your god did it? I did, when I was a Christian.

        If this god made us and knows what we will do, it made us to do that which it can foresee. If it could not foresee things, then I would agree that we could have some variant of free will. However, creating everything and then also knowing how things will happen means it made things to happen in exactly that way. One is entirely dependent on the other, the cause and effect cannot be separated. You cannot choose how you will react if this god has determined that you will act in that way to get the end of the story.

        You also make the common Christian claim that your god is somehow “outside” of this universe. This cannot work if this god cannot perceive time as we do. This god reacts to things, per the bible, so time is flowing for him as it is for us. This also points out that the bible again contradicts itself. If this god were omnipotent and omniscient, nothing would surprise it and it could not be talked out of an action it intended (for example, the bargaining that Lot did with God about Sodom and Gomorrah). Now, in this case, this god could have been lying to Lot and only pretending that it was going to do something, but most Christians would find the idea of god lying to be completely abhorrent. These contradictions in the claims about god are why Christians have an entire industry built on apologetics to try to explain the bible.

        There are indeed claims of prophecy in the bible. However, theists do not agree on what they mean or how they play out. The Jews are still Jewish because they do not agree with Christians, and with good reason based on what the stories actually say and how the legend of Jesus was shoehorned into them. There is no evidence that the prophecies were true or will be true, and this makes using them as evidence for your god problematic. Again, if this god made the universe and wanted a certain ending and sees this ending, then there is no free will.

        Again, if we believe your bible, this god creates Pharoah, and this god intentionally makes the pharaoh do what this god wants. That’s what the verses say very clearly. You may wish to insist that those verses are wrong, but then that opens up all verses for consideration as wrong. This god also forces the Egyptian people to give all of their wealth to the Israelites. Exodus 3: 21 “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. 22 Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.” I rather doubt that the Egyptian really felt like doing this and God was just “working” through them.

        I know that I am not controlled by your god because it doesn’t exist. I also do not accept that the idea of free will exists, though we do act like we have it. We cannot know all of the influences that make us what we are to counter all of them through intellect. We can do it to a certain degree which is how people learn and change. Again, your bible does not say that I have a choice. If original sin is true, then I had no choice. If Jesus Christ intentionally used parables to make sure that no one other than the chosen could understand, then I do not have a choice. If this god does miracles as the bible says, anyone who doesn’t want the result that God does has no choice. If this god will damn anyone who doesn’t believe in it and those people had no choice that they didn’t know, being born in the wrong place or time, then they have no choice (I know that not all Christians believe in this, but some do).

        Your attempt to claim that your god finds me special, is rather silly. This god, if it exists and if we believe the bible, hates me for what I am and will torture me for all of eternity. Having been a former Christian makes me particularly foul to your god if we are to believe the bible. I have no reason to believe in your god or to believe that this god is good or kind or welcoming. I have no reason to believe that any gods exist or that any gods are what their believers say they are, since theists cannot agree about that even within a religion. This god of yours says that certain people deserve to die. It says that people who work on a Sabbath (whenever that is) should be murdered. It says that women are less than men. Of course, I could ignore all of the petty ignorant commands and decide that only the parts that I like applied but then I have to wonder, if I decide that the idea of original sin is ridiculous, then why do I need a character like Jesus Christ? If this god can’t save a starving child, why in the world should I believe it want the best for *my* life?

        If I can simply do unto others as I would have done unto me and get into heaven, why believe in and be afraid of a character that says that anyone who doesn’t accept him as their king/savior should be brought before him and killed (Luke 19)? If I find the nonsense in Revelation repulsive, then I accept a god that would intentionally allow its evil archenemy free to corrupt its faithful believers (Revelation 19-20). I can be a completely decent and humane person without this god at all, and I don’t have to give myself cognitive dissonance trying to fit a supernatural being into all of this.

        In my experience, empathy leads to morality. Humans constantly kill for their morals,. We can see that every time someone says that God told them that they deserved someone else’s land. Christian morals are not objective at all and can be seen to change repeatedly, and even now we have Christians who drastically differ on what they claim as “moral”. I know that the common Christian answer is that those who disagree with them aren’t really Christians, but again, no way to tell the difference between you all.

        I have also seen Christians insist that their god can kill but it isn’t “really” murder since their god is “moral” and anything god does is moral/good.

        The bible is indeed a moral manual full of what humans have to do not to be sent to hell. That’s the entire point of the laws of god. It’s also interesting that you wish to claim that this book is a “rescue manual” for those who can’t follow this god’s law. Now, who made the law and who decided that everyone would be damned if they couldn’t follow it? And then, per the Christians, decided that the laws weren’t important, accepting Jesus was. Problem here is that Jesus said that the laws are to be followed, not that you could ignore them and just believe in him. Paul said that no one had to believe in those inconvenient laws anymore. Christians now pick and choose what laws that they want to pretend that their god is still interested in and ignore the rest. Who should I believe?

        Again, no evidence in your bible that your god is concerned with free will at all though I know you believe it does. All I have is that your particular Christianity ignores the parts of the bible that says your god has created us to either accept it or not and invents your own version of what this god “really” meant. That’s not meant to be insulting, it’s what all theists do and I did the same thing when I was a Christian. If original sin is true, then this god does not grant me the result of what *I* did. If this god has intentionally made its message incomprehensible to me, then it does not grant me the result of what I did if I could not make an informed decision.

        The bible does not say that this god will grant anyone who doesn’t follow him an “eternity without him”. If this god is omnipresent, like the bible says, then that is impossible. The bible says that anyone who does not accept this god will be tormented in hell, worms, fire, pain, etc and/or be cast into the lake of fire. (t could have been the lake of instant annihilation and then I could perhaps see that wasn’t so pointlessly cruel). I can understand that you are a decent human being and do not like the idea of a hell, where one cannot have one’s thirst slaked. However, the people who wrote the bible had no problem with it at all. It is only Christians who are humane that have decided to expurgate the terrors of hell out of their religion. Christians before you, and Christians still, are gleeful when they consider that those who disagree with them will be tormented in hellfire and there is no more or less reason to believe them than you.

        I have been told the myths of your religion ahead of time, and I have come to the conclusion that there is no reason to believe in it at all. I have been told by you that this god is one thing and by other Christians that it is others. Muslims make the same claims, as do Jews. I do not play Pascal’s Wager and I do use what free will I have to make positive decisions: not to fear something that doesn’t exist.

        later!

      6. Hey hey – how’s it goin? Snowed in and cut off yet? :-p. Some of those cooking posts are great on ur blog…someone’s talented…and hey you won’t starve as you’re still dug in for the winter?

        Yes – I sensed you had issues with Christian faith…and religion in general…and you seem to have raised ALL the issues in you comment!! lol Hopefully we can use your post as a basis to talk further? Maybe taking an issue at a time would be a good idea…

        In many ways as I read your post…and when I talk matters of faith with the dug in atheist…and get the suspicion that a switch has flicked and they suddenly need answers to every single problem they see with Christian belief…as if the very presence of difficulties puts God at risk…as if Jesus hangs from a thread with each challenge.

        But we don’t live our daily lives like this! We live with uncertainty every single day in all sorts of ways. And we naturally get thru each day safely and in one piece…

        I also sometimes think it’s like a conversation between people living on different planets arguing about what colour the sky is.

        But you know – I think if you are motivated to talk about it…for whatever reason…that’s a good thing mate.

        By the way – it also sounds to me like you’ve had a bad experience of the church in the past…and man that’s a real real shame! 😦

        Must go for now – cone back to you again shortly… 🙂

        Stu

      7. Hi Stu,

        I cook a lot during the fall and winter. Alas, my waistline shows it. 🙂

        I find all religions false, so it’s not just an “issue” with Christianity. I am notorious for writing long comments, I guess it’s a problem with drawing analogies and seeing how things link together. We can discuss any or all or none of what I wrote. I find religion an interesting and complicated subject and like to be thorough.

        We do certainly live with uncertainty everyday, however, most of our lives is pretty predictable. The earth will rotate and the sun will appear over the eastern horizon, my car will start unless there is a present mechanical failure, the ceviche I am eating for lunch will fuel my body. The world isn’t some Dr. Seussian place where such things will suddenly stop for no reason. There is evidence that such things can and do occur at the quantum level but they don’t seem to manifest in the macro, for reasons we are still researching.

        This evidence that things will keep on going the way they have is the reason I trust science and why I do not trust the claims of theists. This is why the claims about Jesus and that your god is the “creator” and that this god is the moral foundation of everything do hang in the balance with problems with your religion. You claim absolute truth, but you cannot support that claim.

        The color of a planet’s sky would be dependent on measurable chemistry and physics e.g. evidence.

        Like many Christians, you seem to want to assume I had a bad experience with Christianity in the past so you can just call me “rebellious” or “angry” and ignore my points. I did not, I just realized that the claims of Christianity couldn’t be supported and the other religions I read about made the same claims that Christianity did. It dawned on me that if I didn’t believe in those other religions, why was I believing in Christianity which had the same failings? I was raised as a Christian because that was the culture I was born to, trusted those who taught me it because I had other reasons to trust them and then transferred that trust to Christianity with no good reason.

        As I was losing my faith, I read the bible and prayed. I got a real eye-opening experience in reading all of the bible, because pastors and priests never talk about all of it. I found that the stories were nothing different than the myths I love reading. For the claims in the bible that this god wants everyone to love it, and the claims that prayer will do miracles, I got nothing.

        Perhaps you can tell me why you accept Christianity and no other religion? What sect are you?

      8. Hey there –

        How are you doing? I’ve been very busy these last couple of weeks…apologies for my slow response 🙂

        > Perhaps you can tell me why you accept Christianity and no other religion? What sect are you?
        Very simple – one word. Jesus.
        In my years as a Christian…I have been part of a few evangelical churches. I’ve moved on from church when I’ve moved house…moved area. The thing about Christianity is – that it is all about knowing and following a real person…the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s not actually about religious observance…it’s about knowing and being known by God.
        So your question…”what sect are you?” is I guess a reasonable one. The Christian church is fragmented into many different shades and colours…yet my personal experience of different Christian churches is consistent with my experience of people. We are all different. We all have a unique thumbprint. Well…each Christian church also has its own thumbprint. They are all unique…but the church of Jesus Christ has a common aim. As the church of Jesus Christ…he intends it to be a healing community where we are known…and where we know him and his power in our lives.
        By the way…this is why the Christian church is growing in many parts of the world today where…historically…Christianity has not been strong. Take China. Massive growth in Christianity in a society that has been dominated by eastern religions. People raised in a completely different faith system…realising the truth about the person of Jesus…and choosing to follow Christ. Why am I not a Buddhist…or a Taoist…or a humanist or a Muslim or a Hindu? One word. Jesus. Why do Muslims and Hindus and Taoists become Christians later in their lives? One word. Jesus. It is all about him.

        By the way – I’m not assuming that you had a bad experience of Christianity…I don’t think you are angry and (despite my slow response) I do not intend to simply ignore your important points 🙂 But if I can speak to your considered opinion following your time at church…

        1 – I don’t know any other religion that makes the claims that Christianity does. Namely that God loves the people he created so much that he came in person … at a specific time in history…to a particular land mass on our planet…to show them he cares and make a way for them to know him in their daily lives.

        2 – I DO know the struggle of not consistently living a life that lives up to this ideal! And yet this touches on my earlier comment about you and I arguing about the colour of the sky while we stand on different planets. Evidence – exactly right. Christians see the tangible evidence of the work of God in their lives…enabling staggering acts of forgiveness…guiding them thru difficult life choices…laying aside the guilt they have carried for years…decades. I do smile at the average online sceptical assumption that…of course science beats religion because science is all about evidence. In my experience – life is all about evidence! Relationships are all about evidence. Christianity is all about a daily experience of walking with Christ. Personally…I am 40 years in, mate. If there was no tangible evidence…I would have lost interest LONG ago – lol. My attention span is not that good.

        You mention the myths you love reading. I’m a big Joseph Campbell fan, myself. I’m just reading the book “The Power of Myth” right now. Campbell is fascinating as he talks about the common themes among many world myths. Campbell includes the Bible in his list. Yet the difference between the life of Jesus Christ and the life of…Prometheus (say)…is that Jesus Christ is a documented historical person. There is extra-Biblical evidence of his life and his teaching and his miracles…and his legacy (the church). Prometheus has always been taken as a spiritually instructive fictional story…as myths tend to be. This does not devalue myths…myths are important. It just means there is a category error being made in comparing myths to the New…and I would argue the Old Testaments too. I wonder…whether God has made us to interact with him thru story…

        Anyway – good to finally get back to you. Lots more to discuss. I’d be interested to know more about why Christianity never seemed real to you when you attended church…?

        Stu

      9. Hi Stu,

        No apologies needed. I started a new job and things are busy here too. Finally we have a break in the weather and hopefully no more snow.

        To call Jesus a real man seems to ignore the fact that there is no evidence for this character. This holds the same for your claim that this god did anything or was anywhere in the eastern Med. I do know that there are arguments for a historical Jesus, but that Jesus is not the magical being that the bible describes or that Christians worship. There is no more evidence of Jesus Christ, the son of God, than there is for an avatar of Krishna.

        All of the supposed historical mentions are fraught with many problems, being known forgeries, being repetitions of stories told to the author, having very different details, etc. Many Christians want to present any mention of Christians in historical documents as evidence that Jesus Christ existed. The problem with this is that claiming this would mean that any mention of any believers in any god should be construed as evidence for the existence of those gods. If you would use such arguments, and you may not, are you content with agreeing that Isis is as real as Jesus Christ? If you have any of the supposed historical evidence for JC that you think are particularly convincing for you, I’d like to know them.

        You are correct, Christianity is fragmented into thousands of different sects. It appears that they are sects because they are sure that their version is the right one and most, if not all others, are wrong. Many have entirely different beliefs on what constitutes a True Christian. I have personally watched Christians attack each other and claim that each other were satanic because they didn’t agree. Historically, Christians have killed each other over this. When I was growing up, I saw plenty of anti-Catholicism.

        Your claim that Christians have a common aim seems very untrue when compared to how Christians act. For example, why do Christian churches send missionaries to Christian communities to convert them from one type of Christianity to another? This is why I do not believe that Christianity is a very large religion since the various sects are quite sure that those “other” Christians aren’t Christians at all.

        Growth in a religion is no evidence that it is true. It can be evidence that it preaches an appealing message, which a promise of heaven is a pretty nifty one. I would also question just how much Christianity grows and how big Christianity is as a religion when I know that many Christians do not consider other sects to be Christian at all. If we would measure each sect against the others, then we may have a better grasp on how many believe what.

        You appear to want to claim that since people of other faiths convert to Christianity, this somehow means its true. I could just as easily ask you why Christians become members of other faiths, or agnostics or atheists. Since they do, there is nothing to support any claims that Christianity is anything special.

        You seem to think that since Christianity may have some unique features, this somehow supports your claim that it is true. There is no reason to think that. I can point to unique features in any religion and I would guess that you would not find reason to suddenly accept those as true just because there is something different about them.
        Christian claims of tangible evidence of this god in their lives is just the same as a Muslim claiming tangible evidence of Allah, a Wiccan claiming tangible evidence, etc. I will make the assumption that you don’t believe them (which may be wrong), so why do you think anyone should mistake your feelings for evidence? People forgive others all of the time, and not just Christians do this. People make difficult life choices, people lay aside guilt they’ve held for decades, and all without your god. You seem to be trying to convince me that that only Christians can do this and I know that is patently untrue. It’ seems a clumsy attempt on your part to make such easily disputed claims.

        I agree, how we live life is based on evidence. We have evidence that the earth turns and the sun appears to rise. We have evidence that a white-hot bar of steel in an unprotected hand will burn it to the bone. We have evidence that there was no magical flood and the same processes that we see now were happening during any time a believer might try to claim that flood happened. This holds for all of the essential events in the bible. There is evidence that what was claimed never happened and something else happened in its place.

        You claim category error, and many Christians have tried to claim that. However, it only works if you have a special category that you can demonstrate your god and your supposed savior to occupy. You wish to claim that there is some special category that only your god occupies, so you can except it from any other criticism. It is a fancy form of special pleading in my view. If you can demonstrate that your god is something other than one more god invented by man, you will need evidence of this. The OT and NT are no more true than the Mahabharata or the Iliad. They may mention some real places and people, but the essential events in them are not supported by evidence.

        I don’t recall saying that Christianity “never seemed real” to me when I was in church: “I’d be interested to know more about why Christianity never seemed real to you when you attended church…?”Can you tell me what parts of what I wrote made you think I said that? Maybe I can clarify better if I know that.

      10. Hey there –

        Glad that the weather is improving. Here are some thoughts on your ongoing issues with Christianity…

        >There is no more evidence of Jesus Christ, the son of God, than there is for an avatar of Krishna.

        You are putting up a straw man in your likening of Jesus to Krishna…and the other mythological characters you reference. Sure – knock it down. But it’s not the Jesus that the historical sources record.

        What do you make of the many extra-Biblical accounts that corroborate so much of the New Testament account of Jesus’ life? It sounds like you reject them – but you don’t give any concrete reasons for doing so…you just repeat hearsay and misunderstanding. What many problems exist with these historical sources? Are you aware of the scholarship around the records of the historical Jesus from…
        Roman Historian Tacitus
        Jewish Historian Josephus (you misrepresent the Testimonium Flavanium completely)
        Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata
        Platonist philosopher Celsus
        Roman Governor Pliny the Younger
        Roman Historian Suetonius
        Roman prisoner Mara bar Serapion

        Yes – I know you want to reject the New Testament’s record of Jesus. But the pointers from history make this an exercise in avoidance…not in following the data where it leads. As sceptical scholar Bart Ehrman says, “if you limit yourself just to people at Jesus’ socio economic status … lower class peasant … there isn’t anyone from the ancient world that comes close to the amount of evidence we have for Jesus”. Why is this? Why is there so much written about this obscure Jewish peasant?

        You describe the New Testament Jesus as “magical”. Well again, even sceptical scholars agree that the early Christians believed in and proclaimed Jesus’ Resurrection. Surely the biggest miracle of them all.. Have you ever taken the time to look at the historical details? Gerd Ludemann, sceptical New Testament scholar has said…
        “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ…. The only thing that we can certainly say to be historical is that there were resurrection appearances in Galilee (and in Jerusalem) soon after Jesus death”

        You know – one of the things I hear from you is…”I have personally watched…I saw…” followed by descriptions of terrible behaviour from people who claim to be Christians. I am sure Jesus would be with you on your outrage, as am I.

        “Growth in a religion is no evidence that it is true.” That’s right – the new atheists make more and more noise these days…more and more people are listening to them. But growth of interest is no measure of truth.
        Talking of truth, I wonder where you get your idea of truth from? What is truth to you? Scientific observations – that must be truth…right? We have empirical evidence. But the problem is…the brilliant practice of scientific enquiry is always drawing conclusions that are provisional. Why? Because we are constantly learning more and more about the universe as we study it.
        No truth and falsehood are of a different order from the results of observation. We measure behaviour and our observations against standards that allow us to differentiate truth from falsehood, right from wrong. For truth to exist we must live in a moral universe. For truth to matter, we must live in a moral universe. This is the ground you are standing on…and the best reason for a moral universe is not material naturalism, but theism.

        Yes, people from different cultures do choose to follow Jesus – this shows that the typical claim “people are only a particular religion because they are born into it” is clearly false. Christianity and Buddhism could not be further apart in worldview. I am not saying that this proves that Christianity is special. For that…you would need to talk to them about WHY they have become Christians. And that is a different conversation. I suspect their reasons are in line with my reason…the person of Jesus himself.

        You are right – just because Christianity is unique, this does not mean that it is true. Its truth is based on historical record and personal testimony. Its uniqueness is separate, and found when we compare Christianity to the other world religions.

        Truth is not defined by the strength of our belief. I can honestly believe that Scotland will win the next world cup – but I will probably be completely wrong. Whether we are an atheist, a Muslim or a Christian. Truth rests on objective reality – and as a Christian I am pointing to historical record (I include the New Testament) and centuries of personal Christian testimony.

        Why do you think that a Christian’s experience of God is equivalent to Muslim experience? You are generalising. None of the Muslims I know view God and the practice of Islam as lining up in any way with Christianity. They are two completely different opposing worldviews.

        “People forgive others all the time. People lay aside guilt they’ve held for decades, and all without your god.” I am sure that is true, but the easy way you say this minimises the torturous process that can be involved in it. The point I am making is that – the life of the Christian means that these experiences are tangible and real and can be experienced in a completely different way. We don’t have to force ourselves to forgive ourselves for that guilty secret. We have the opportunity to receive forgiveness from the one who has ultimate say over it all…surely a very different, more solid and long lasting and transformative experience.

        I’m not inventing any category here. I am pointing to historical record and personal testimony as the evidence for Christianity. And to liken the New Testament to the Illiad is a great example of the particular error I was pointing out! Namely confusing myth from recorded history.

        Anyway – enjoy the new job – cheers for now

        Stu

  2. How is it that bone cancer in children isn’t God’s fault. What deficit so you pursuing in your God where It is either unable or unwilling to stop it? Since when is God not the creator of all things (bone cancer and eye-burrowing parasites alike)?
    I have never met a Christian who didn’t assume God’s omnipotence, omniscience and position as creator of all things… Until the problem of suffering is raised; then Christians (and other theists) seem to fold God’s character at whim

    1. Hey there –

      How are you doing? Thanks so much for responding to my blog post.

      You know, I agree with you. God is presented by the Bible as omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing). Yet the Bible also presents God as one who creates beings in his image with free will. He doesn’t force them to worship him (as Stephen suggests in the video). Rather – right now – he gives them the choice. We have the choice whether we allow him access to our lives in the here and now.

      The story that the Bible unfolds for us is one in which mankind quickly decides to rebel against God…and this choice to rebel has consequences on people’s relationship with God…and ultimately also consequences on our world itself. Did God create disease? No God created the everything so that it was very good…but when mankind broke off relations with God…the world we were born into started to go wrong, i.e. one example is disease including cancer.

      It is also important to point out that – Christians don’t believe that God’s character folds at the problem of suffering. Not at all! Suffering underlines the problem we find ourselves living in the light of…the aftermath of mankind’s original rejection of a relationship with God. How is God responding to this? The Bible tells us that he is allowing this messed up world to continue for the time being…he is working out his plans to rescue the people who live in the messed up world (us)…but the clock is ticking…and one day he will call “time!” on it all.

      So why doesn’t he call time right now and eradicate cancer and bring in his new shiny universe sooner rather than later? That’s like demanding Apple bring out the new iphone at MY convenience, rather than theirs. Not gonna happen mate – Apple decide the release schedule of their products. And God knows his mind on these matters of timelines to restoring the broken creation…and I don’t! But I can say that one reason the clock is still ticking is to give us the opportunity to get on board with him before it happens.

      HTH

      Stu

      1. Hey there –

        So sorry it has taken me so long to respond to you.

        Having read your comment…I’m left feeling rather curious. On the subject of the eye-burrowing parasite…you seem to be morally indignant (if I read your tone correctly), but I am not quite sure where you are standing that gives you this elevated position.

        If we say “Evolution is responsible for the eye-burrowing parasite”, then what are we to say to the child and the poor parents? Tough luck folks. It’s just the way life works…you have a few years of unfortunate suffering and then you cease to exist. Well, that doesn’t sound like a moral vantage point there. It sounds completely heartless, in fact. Is this where you stand? What is a moral vantage point to a material naturalist anyway? Who defines good?

        I’ve been quite clear where I stand, I think. I take the Bible’s stance – God created the Universe. And mankind in general has rejected him…and sadly that decision has left many unpleasant results for us to collectively deal with. Yes disease is one of those, but nature behaving in a twisted harmful way too…the eye burrowing parasite sounds like one of those effects. Why do you think this approach victimizes someone? This misrepresents the Bible’s position – we are ALL in the same boat here. No-one can blame anyone else as we are all ultimately culpable. And yes…I do think the boat is sinking…but there is hope for everyone in the boat because God has made a rescue plan available to us.

        I am reminded of something C.S. Lewis said on this subject…
        “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
        ― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

        Why does pain exist? Partly…to point us to him and the future he holds out to us.

        There is hope for each one of us…even if we struggle with pain in our damaged world…there is a future hope waiting for those of us who want it. And those of us who don’t are perfectly free to choose that future too. Rather than vengeful, God is compliant with our personal choices. Lewis again…

        “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

        ― C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

        So I would ask…what is vacuous about this? It’s not vacuous…or mindless at all…but kind and reasonable. He made us…gave us our lives…and ultimately will say yes to our life’s choice – what’s not to like? Now…if you finally discover that your life’s choice was mistaken…then that’s a different issue! But that’s why I write my blog…to raise the issues and continue the discussion…

        One more question…why do you think there is a rigged game here?

        Stu

      2. Morality is about passing judgement on intentional actions. In a created universe, where the life cycle of a particular creation is intentionally manufactured, the manufacturer can be judged: incompetent or immoral. If the life cycle is merely the result of blind evolution, no one is morally culpable.
        C S Lewis’ first quote that you present is post hoc reasoning: he made it up hoping to be right/convince people. The fall narrative that you present, although is sincerely Biblical, is also not moral. It is the assumption that God can allow all of us to descend into pain because It’s passed off that 1 person ate the wrong fruit 10,000 years ago or that It is so narcissistic that without our servitude It will intentionally generate an indifferent world with the near inevitability of suffering.
        Have you heard the quote “if I see a child being raped, I’d try to stop it. That is the difference between me and your God”? It’s important to consider, because when ecology and psychology are tuned to have a lot of presence and you think that is being overseen, you know you’d fix it if you could.
        Making this indifferent God, which is happy to stand back and just observe our suffering, the keystone to Morality is vacuous because it dissolves any content to the definition.

      3. Hey there –

        How are you doing?

        > Morality is about passing judgement on intentional actions.
        Actually, I think morality is a shared, inherited framework within which people are able to pass judgement on intentional actions. If morality was undefined, judgement would not exist (because passing judgement is a very different thing from expressing opinion)

        > In a created universe…the manufacturer can be judged
        Well – yes. We are free to judge God. That’s what free will is all about. But what’s more pressing is that he is also free to judge us. To omit this from your thinking is fine…for now…but in a created Universe (in which I propose we live) neither you or I will be able to avoid it for ever!

        > If the life cycle is merely the result of blind evolution, no one is morally culpable.
        Exactly mate. Good point, well made. So why do we read so many people – like Stephen Fry – passing judgement on the God that they don’t believe exists? Fascinating.

        > C S Lewis and the Post Hoc Fallacy
        I honestly don’t follow you here. Post Hoc is all about faulty cause and effect reasoning, e.g. let’s not take Bill on a picnic because every time we go out with him…it rains. Therefore Bill must be responsible for the rain.
        I do not read Lewis making a cause effect argument in his book the problem of pain. I do think he makes a case for a creator – and having done so, he then points to pain as one of the common experiences in life provided to give us the opportunity to surrender to God. Because our pain reminds us of our own smallness and lack of self sufficiency as people.
        He’s not saying that – because pain happens…therefore God caused it. That WOULD be a logical fallacy…one which I think many people subscribe to…

        > The fall narrative that you present, although sincerely Biblical, is also not moral
        Okay mate – so you are holding God in judgement again here. The problem is – God is not a person who we can hold in judgement. We cannot impose our moral framework on God himself…because he is responsible for the framework. When we reason that God is someone we can judge…like our next door neighbour…we are falling into a category error…god vs mankind. Two completely different things.
        Now – you feel uncomfortable with the fall narrative. I get that mate. I’m not a fan of it myself. But remember that the Bible doesn’t blame sin on Adam and Eve only…it also says we are all culpable…we are sinners by birth and quickly become sinners by choice. So ultimately…we are all culpable…as I say, I’m not a fan of my own sin!

        > “if I see a child being raped, I’d try to stop it. That is the difference between me and your God”
        Yes – you are holding God in judgement because you don’t understand why…if he is all powerful…why he does not step in and intervene and stop every act of evil that is perpetrated by human beings on this planet. Well…number one…its human beings perpetrating the evil in your example…not God…and number two…you are not considering the eternal perspective that God has. Just because you do not see consequences for those rapists actions now…does NOT mean those consequences will not arrive. One day…justice will be seen to be done. I cant explain how that will play out…but it will play out for that child…and that rapist (in your example)

        Yes – you view God as standing back…but this is the deist’s view of God, not the Christian view or the Jewish view…its not the Bible’s view of God at all, mate.

        So…I ask again…what is vacuous about all this? What is unreasonable? Just because you and I do not see the end from the beginning (as God does by definition) does not make our situation unreasonable…it just means we have not gathered all the data yet…we don’t fully understand the situation yet.

        But…there is hope that everything will be made right and justice will be done…and God’s idea of justice includes forgiveness and a second chance for all who genuinely choose it…and freely receive it

        Stu

      4. “Actually, I think morality is a shared, inherited framework within which people are able to pass judgement on intentional actions.”
        That is a fair addendum, it represents many moral philosophies and–although the the moral philosophy I personally think best represents what we mean by “morality” is not represented there–I accept your addendum.
        “If morality was undefined, judgement would not exist (because passing judgement is a very different thing from expressing opinion)”
        I disagree. Opinions are nothing if not judgements. We are talking about judgements within a moral framework.
        “[W]hat’s more pressing is that he is also free to judge us. To omit this from your thinking is fine…for now…but in a created Universe (in which I propose we live) neither you or I will be able to avoid it for ever!”
        This is tyranny. This is the precise definition of tyranny. And yet, we must subscribe to the idea the tyrant is moral.
        “[W]hy do we read so many people – like Stephen Fry – passing judgement on the God that they don’t believe exists? Fascinating.”
        Watch the interview again. He was specifically asked to answer a question presupposing a God. Imagine you were asked “What would you say to the person that caused the 2004 Asian tsunami, if it had been caused by a person” and then mocking the person’s answer because it accepts the premise the tsunami could have been caused by a person.
        RE: CS Lewis
        Lewis is making excuses after the fact. Pain is caused by God, goodness is caused by God. After the fact (“Post facto”) excuses are being made. That is the opposite of reasoned predictions being made. I mean that quite literally: you are changing the standard to absorb the criticism. But the standard cannot be flexible.
        “Okay mate”
        Politely, I request you don’t call me that. I’m British too, and no one calls me that except drunk people at the pub. I have never known it to project respect.
        “[S]o you are holding God in judgement again here. The problem is – God is not a person who we can hold in judgement. We cannot impose our moral framework on God himself…because he is responsible for the framework. When we reason that God is someone we can judge…like our next door neighbour…we are falling into a category error…god vs mankind. Two completely different things.”
        I’m not sure what the category error is. Is God immune from moral criticism? Even if the framework we are holding It to is It’s own? Would the charge of hypocrisy here not count? (I haven’t made such a charge, but I’m curious as to your point.)
        Better yet, what do you even think morality is? Is it knowable to humans in this life? Are all our discussions about right and wrong futile? God acts a certain way and to argue It is immune from criticism is to sound like a supporter of a tyrant.
        “[T]he Bible doesn’t blame sin on Adam and Eve only…it also says we are all culpable…we are sinners by birth”
        So… we are created that way? See, if a computer program is faulty the programmer is either incompetent or intentionally malicious.
        “[W]e… quickly become sinners by choice.”
        Sin is are too flexible an idea to be meaningfully thrown around here. Please define sin. When you do define sin I think you’ll find that people do not make the conscious decision to sin. If they make the decision subconsciously then it, again, is a programming error.
        “[W]hy he does not step in and intervene and stop every act of evil that is perpetrated by human beings on this planet…Just because you do not see consequences for those rapists actions now…does NOT mean those consequences will not arrive. One day…justice will be seen to be done. “
        So, why do we have prisons? Why do you speak out against injustice? If you believe it will all be dealt with, why do you bother?
        More importantly, won’t a repentant rapist get into Heaven and avoid the eternal consequences of rape? And wouldn’t an atheist rape victim never be compensated? That’s the vacuous part: as much as you like to espouse that bad people will be punished and the good rewarded, the dogma of your Book claims that no such punishment or reward will be met out so long as the aggressor is repentant (specifically to Jesus Christ… which is more than a cultural norm) or the victim is not. In the example of the Catholic sex abuse scandal, the repentant victors go to Heaven and any child who lost their faith because of the actions of the priests (regardless of whether that is a reasonable decision) will go to Hell. That is what the Bible really teaches.
        “[W]hat is vacuous about all this? What is unreasonable?”
        In addition to the above, where I talk about the circumventing of justice by vicarious redemption–which is to play to the narcissistic ego of God–we also have to talk about what is means to really believe an innocent person can take our guilt from us.
        “Just because you and I do not see the end from the beginning (as God does by definition) does not make our situation unreasonable”
        I am willing to acknowledge we don’t have all the information. In fact, I am writing a book in which I spend some time arguing that God may hold the exact moral values I do, It is simply armed with more data. But you go beyond acknowledging that possibility by demanding that it is true. You assume people really are met out with just punishments and rewards and that just because you assert they always have been that they always will be (“post hoc ergo propter hoc”).
        “God’s idea of justice includes forgiveness and a second chance for all who genuinely choose it…and freely receive it”
        No one chooses what they believe. People are incontrovertibly made to hold their beliefs through the interaction of the evidence they receive on their brain. If you don’t believe me, I urge you to attempt to choose to no longer believe in gravity.

      5. Hey there – thanks for responding. Apologies for the misunderstanding…please be sure that I completely respect you and your arguments. The challenge I tend to have is that…these conversations aren’t between abstract arguments …they are between people…us…I never lose sight of that. When I don’t know what your name is its hard sometimes to interact and frame the discussion…hence the innocent “mate” :-). Ill try not to use it again with you…please forgive me if I slip back into it…

        I’ll come back to you soon – thanks again

        Stu

      6. Hello again –

        I’ve been thinking about your great comments and questions…

        > “If morality was undefined, judgement would not exist (because passing judgement is a very
        >different thing from expressing opinion)”
        >I disagree. Opinions are nothing if not judgements. We are talking about judgements within a moral
        >framework.

        Looking at the OED definitions of the words “opinion” and “judgement”…yes, you might be correct in many situations. Opinion is how we think about something…so it does imply a judgement or a belief. But it really depends on how we are using the word “judgement”. I was talking about “passing judgement”, so I am using the word in a slightly different way…we are talking about the moral law…so I am using the word in a legal setting. The decision of a judge, for example. And in this setting…the opinion of the judge is different from other opinions…it holds weight and it determines the outcome for the one in the dock. His judgement is of a different order from general opinion because it has implied power behind it.

        >“[W]hat’s more pressing is that he is also free to judge us. To omit this from your thinking is
        >fine…for now…but in a created Universe (in which I propose we live) neither you or I will be able
        >to avoid it for ever!”
        >This is tyranny. This is the precise definition of tyranny. And yet, we must subscribe to the idea the
        >tyrant is moral.

        That is an interesting word that you jump to…tyranny! So because God is free to judge people…that automatically means he is tyrannical?
        Tyranny is defined as “cruel, unreasonable or arbitrary use of power or control” (oxforddictionaries.com). Now as British citizens, you and I are at the mercy of the British lawcourts…does that automatically make the decisions of those courts cruel, unreasonable or arbitrary? Not at all. And so it will be with God.
        Now, it is possible we could conceivably suffer a miscarriage of justice in this life… Humanity’s understanding of justice is really just a pale reflection of God’s just character. But when we eventually stand before the God of the Bible at the end of our lives on earth, justice will be done and will be understood by all. And this does not need to be bad news at all!

        >“[W]hy do we read so many people – like Stephen Fry – passing judgement on the God that they
        >don’t believe exists? Fascinating.”

        >Watch the interview again. He was specifically asked to answer a question presupposing a God.
        >Imagine you were asked “What would you say to the person that caused the 2004 Asian tsunami, if it
        >had been caused by a person” and then mocking the person’s answer because it accepts the premise
        >the tsunami could have been caused by a person.

        Sorry…I don’t follow you here. Militant atheists spend a lot of time commenting on the God that they say they don’t believe exists…just look at the comment sections in my blog posts! As far as Stephen Fry is concern…yes the question was setup with a presumption…but his answer was by no means a theoretical response. There was emotion and hostility communicated in his body language his tone and the words he chose for his response…he was clearly passing judgement on God…

        >RE: CS Lewis
        >Lewis is making excuses after the fact. Pain is caused by God, goodness is caused by God. After the
        >fact (“Post facto”) excuses are being made. That is the opposite of reasoned predictions being made.
        >I mean that quite literally: you are changing the standard to absorb the criticism. But the standard
        >cannot be flexible.

        Hang on– it sounds like you are saying that reason only works when we are considering future outcomes. But this is not the case at all. Reason is used when predicting future outcomes, but reason is also used in the historical disciplines too…history, archaeology, origin of life scientific investigations…reason is a very useful tool for understanding the possible steps that got us to where we are now today.

        Clearly, Lewis’s understanding of pain is influenced by his worldview. One that I share with him – the Universe was created by a God who reveals himself personally to humanity. And this is precisely WHY pain is a problem…because we have to try to understand why a loving God would allow pain to continue for people who believe in him.

        >I’m not sure what the category error is. Is God immune from moral criticism? Even if the framework
        >we are holding It to is It’s own? Would the charge of hypocrisy here not count? (I haven’t made such
        >a charge, but I’m curious as to your point.)

        >Better yet, what do you even think morality is? Is it knowable to humans in this life? Are all our
        >discussions about right and wrong futile? God acts a certain way and to argue It is immune from
        >criticism is to sound like a supporter of a tyrant.

        Premise 1 – There is an objective, absolute moral law pressing in on human beings
        Premise 2 – We know that every law has a law giver
        Conclusion – Therefore there is an objective law giver. Now, the nature of the law will reflect the nature of the law giver. That would make the law giver transcendent, objective and absolute. Which sounds very much like God.

        Because he is the transcendent law giver…who embodies the very tenants of the law…it is undefined to hold him accountable to the moral law. Because he already embodies it.

        Again you use the word tyrant…so you are immediately jumping to an understanding of God as cruel. I wonder where this understanding comes from? It is not a Bible understanding of God at all. Just because we do not understand why God makes certain decisions, does not make those decisions cruel. It just makes our understanding of them partial, and our understanding of the Bible partial.

        >“[T]he Bible doesn’t blame sin on Adam and Eve only…it also says we are all culpable…we are
        >sinners by birth”
        >So… we are created that way? See, if a computer program is faulty the programmer is either
        >incompetent or intentionally malicious.

        But we aren’t talking about computer programs – we are talking about people who possess free will. A c function written to parse a string does not possess free will. It is designed to perform a task…or tasks…that are well defined. People cannot be compared to software programs. The Bible presents humanity as created by God with his moral imprint baked in…and we live each day with the free will choice whether or not to live by those moral standards

        >“[W]e… quickly become sinners by choice.”
        >Sin is are too flexible an idea to be meaningfully thrown around here. Please define sin. When you
        >do define sin I think you’ll find that people do not make the conscious decision to sin. If they make
        >the decision subconsciously then it, again, is a programming error.

        Oh – I’m not throwing the word sin around here. I am a Christian…and so the definition of sin is clear in the Bible. (1 John 3:4, Genesis 3 + Romans 5:12). Sin is all about living life in rebellion towards God. I suffer from it terribly…but there is a cure.

        >In the example of the Catholic sex abuse scandal, the repentant victors go to Heaven and any child
        >who lost their faith because of the actions of the priests (regardless of whether that is a reasonable
        >decision) will go to Hell. That is what the Bible really teaches.
        OK – show me why you think that the Bible teaches this?

        >“[W]hat is vacuous about all this? What is unreasonable?”
        >In addition to the above, where I talk about the circumventing of justice by vicarious redemption–
        >which is to play to the narcissistic ego of God–we also have to talk about what is means to really
        >believe an innocent person can take our guilt from us.
        Well…the Bible teaches that Christ took our punishment for our sin. Guilt…actually is part of the moral and ethical mechanisms within a person that God can use to bring them to understand their NEED to recognize their sin as a problem…guilt is a part of this process so before you talk about guilt being taken away…you have to understand guilt’s role in leading us in the right direction…

        Yes – if a HUMAN BEING believed they were God, I would agree that they could be described as narcissistic and an ego maniac. But I would only think that…because I would recognise they thought themselves to be like “God”. There is only one God – and he is of a completely different order from human beings. Only God can demand worship…because only he is God. And to call this self-seeking narcissism misunderstands the nature of God and also the nature of mankind.

        >No one chooses what they believe. People are incontrovertibly made to hold their beliefs through the
        >interaction of the evidence they receive on their brain. If you don’t believe me, I urge you to attempt
        >to choose to no longer believe in gravity.
        But you are selecting one particular human experience (living on a planet with a particular level of gravitational force exerting itself on us) and then imposing it as a general principle for all of life.
        Have you ever cleaned out your wardrobe and discarded an ugly tie given to you as a present? Why did you throw it away? Maybe because it was taking up space. Each day as you decided what to wear…you were free to choose which articles of clothing to wear. And you chose to avoid that tie. You were not compelled by some external force…Instead your own nature (taste in clothing) drove your choices.
        The Bible’s recognises mankind’s fallen nature – our choice to rebel against God and deny his existence (Romans 3:9-12) but it also teaches that we have the freedom and ability to choose the things of God too (John 7:17, 37-39). But in order to want to choose the things of God…he has to work on softening our nature first…to change our nature…and therefore face choices from a different place than before.

        Anyway…hope some of that helps!

        Stu

      7. Tyranny
        God is not tyrannical because It is free to judge us. God is a tyrant because It is willing to judge so absolutely on issues and rules that It has not put up for review, has not consulted on and are vehemently self-interested. God uses It’s power to condemn people to infinite punishment for finite crimes (Hell), creates arbitrary rules like faith and “You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard.” The punishments are cruel and the rules are arbitrary. Despite this, God will pass judgement. It’s just lying in wait to burn me in Hell.
        Our justice system doesn’t do this. Our laws were discussed before being enforced (for the most part, and where they weren’t we object, right?) We have a punishment system that is finite and meant to fit the crime, which is why drunk and disorderly gets a different sentence to death (we don’t get this nuance with God; there all transgressions are met with the same punishment).

        Stephen Fry and atheists discussing God
        I didn’t realised you were a trained body language expert or psychologist. I defer to you for Stephen Fry’s intentions when he addressed the question as asked.
        I find this an interesting defence that theists like to jump to: if you think I’m wrong why do you bother to address it? Because you’re not wrong and quiet about it; because the horror of the presumed story is so apparent is dumbfounds me that people honestly advocate the opposite; because I talk to people who seem to be genuinely happy about about the end times and subsequent burning of the majority of the population of the earth; because the idea that nature red in tooth and claw is an intentional and authored situation offends me and I have the right to address it, and the idea that someone who could stop it sits back and doesn’t stop it is equally atrocious; because religion, if true, would be the most important discussion imaginable but if false just obfuscates important discussions to make them fit outdated social constructs.

        CS Lewis and reasoning
        I am not saying that reasoning only applies to the future. What I will say is that the method you want to apply needs to be agreed upon first. You can’t make up an excuse and demand that it applies. Lewis was faced with the criticism that there is far too much pain for the world to be orchestrated by a good and omnipotent God. In an attempt to explain why Lewis’ excuse is post facto I am actually failing to explain what Lewis means at all; the more I think about it the more Lewis seems to have used a very impressive aesthetic sentence to say nothing at all. On the face of it I judged that Lewis had simply decided that being the creator of suffering was compatible with goodness (which is a poor excuse), but on deeper reflection it appears he is simply asserting that God is just always talking to us (which begs the question). It raises all sorts of questions, like why suffering should have efficacy in communicating God’s message and why such a tool (one contrary to goodness) is even necessary.
        I think I may retract my accusation that Lewis was using post facto reasoning to replace it with the accusation that he wasn’t using reasoning at all.

        Holding God to moral accountability
        Let us first come back to this definition that God is a tyrant. To hold us to rules and expose us to horrors that we can’t understand (which you said we can’t) is cruel. Parents attempt to explain rules to their children.
        You tell me that my evaluation of God as cruel can’t be a Biblically learned stance. I disagree. I know the Bible says God is loving. But the Bible also describes what God does. “I love you” followed by killing the firstborn sons; “I love you” followed by death by fire in Sodom or drowning in Genesis; “I love you” followed by the command that a rape victim must marry the rapist. The most elegant solution to this blatant contradiction is to doubt the veracity of the repeated claims of love.
        Now, to the moral argument you present. I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s a nice collection of words: “it is undefined to hold him accountable to the moral law. Because he already embodies it.” But it’s utterly meaningless babble. To embody something means to give a tangible form to it, and God certainly doesn’t do that; God is not tangible and neither does it lend tangibility to this religious moral framework. I hope you don’t mind, but I am going to reword the babble to “God’s nature is synonymous with morality” and address that. If you object to my rewording, let me know.
        God’s nature cannot be the definition of the morality pressed upon human beings. That is because God’s nature is one of domineering, authoritarianism, dictatorship and narcissism. Yet, of us morality asks for humility, cooperation and subservience. God’s nature is supposed to have all these things that assume Its dominion over us, and we are not created with that power, but with the need to submit to It because It does have that power.
        It may well be meaningless to hold God morally accountable so long as morality is defined as ‘whatever God does’, but God doesn’t ask from us what It’s nature allows it to do. In any reading of God, whether from Christian scriptures or from interpretations of nature, God is “jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” You can see this in the Old Testament or in nature (with the supposition that God authored it). That is not the standard we assume we are being held to but, if you are right about God embodying morality, that is what the standard is.
        Now, I guess you assume the moral standard is something more akin to what Jesus said. It’s a shame that Jesus’ message was so incongruous with the lionshare of the Bible (the Old Testament) and what any pantheistic interpretation of God should lead us to believe. Jesus, generally, had some nice messages. But that is a very selective reading of both the Bible and the thing you think is God’s creation. God certainly fares badly against the standard so many people assume and cite to Jesus.

        Why are the Catholic Priest Child abusers going to Heaven and any victim who lost their faith going to Hell?
        Firstly, why will the priests be saved?
        Romans 10: 9-10 “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”
        Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
        But to be honest I could quote dozens of passages that say salvation is about faith and not about deeds.
        Secondly, why will the victims who lost (or never had) faith be condemned?
        Revelation 21:8 “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
        John 3:18-36 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son…….Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. “

      8. Hello there –

        Tyranny
        Okay – so what I think you are saying – is that you think you should be allowed to vote on what laws you are governed by. You want the law to be reviewed by your good self…before you willingly put yourself under the law. Please name me one country on this planet that gives its citizens such an opportunity? I’m sorry – but that makes no sense. We are born under the law of the land, and we have to abide by it whether we like it or not.
        You mention God condemning finite crimes with infinite punishment. Let me ask you – since when has the duration of a punishment ever been influenced by how long it took to commit the crime?

        Example:
        A man embezzles 500000 pounds from his employer…but he does it sneakily. It takes him years…but he gradually siphons money out of his employer’s bank account a little bit at a time. He gets caught – and he gets sent to prison for ten years.
        Another man murders his next door neighbour during an argument. The crime only takes a few seconds…but the level of seriousness is much greater. He goes to prison for life.
        In law…a very brief crime can suffer a more extreme penalty than a crime that took years! The point is…the duration of the punishment is never influenced by how long it took to commit the crime. The seriousness of the crime is the determining factor. I would suggest to you that when someone uses their one and only life…birth to death…to choose to consciously reject God…then as we said before…this has implications.
        As I have already said during our conversation, the people that “burn in hell” (as you put it) only do so because they have chosen it as the ultimate and final decision of their lives. There is a crossroads coming for people after we die – yes the Bible teaches this. And for everyone who have lived their whole lives and died with their hearts set on getting their own God rejecting way…God will say to them…okay! You got it. You will live for ever outside my presence. Which might sound just like what you are looking for…but unfortunately Jesus talks in such awful terms about this place…I really think it is somewhere to be avoided at all costs.
        You talk about arbitrary rules…and point to the cultural rules of Ancient Near Eastern Israel. I don’t know ANY Biblical scholar who thinks that those alien cultural laws apply to people living on planet earth today. You misunderstand the purpose of these passages.
        God’s idea of justice is this – he created us – we rejected him and have decided to walk away from him for ever. Yet we don’t realise the implications of that decision. He has made us to be in relationship with himself. So – he has made a way for justice to be done…and yet we still get a chance to come back and spend for ever with him if we want to.

        Stephen Fry and atheists discussing God
        “Because you’re not wrong and quiet about it”. I tend to find that people like to hear good news. I think the problem you have is that – you personally misunderstand and therefore misrepresent the good news that the Bible presents. And so – you find yourself projecting these misunderstandings onto people who have the temerity to discuss this good news – me for example.
        Of course you have the right to do so…but this “right” does not mean you are “right” in your assessment of the good news. 
        Now – I agree with you – it is awful to hear from people who are happy to imagine the majority of the population being burned. What a completely heartless attitude to take. And frankly – not an attitude that reflects the God of the Bible.
        “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” 2 Peter 3:9, NLT
        “the idea that nature red in tooth and claw is an intentional and authored situation offends me” – this is not a Biblical understanding at all…as I have already explained

        CS Lewis and reasoning
        >I think I may retract my accusation that Lewis was using post facto reasoning to replace it with the accusation
        >that he wasn’t using reasoning at all.
        Sorry – I did laugh when I read your section on morality and C S Lewis. It’s hilarious to me that, rather than considering for a second that you don’t grasp the subtleties of Lewis’s argument and need to read his book again, that instead you jump to the conclusion that Lewis is not reasoning at all.
        Actually, this is consistent with the attitude I see you have towards God too. You don’t understand what God is doing as described in the pages of the Bible…and your instinct is to jump to a negative judgement ON God himself. He’s a tyrant (followed by the rest of your insulting accusations). I am wondering why there seems to be no space in your worldview for learning and discovery about the things of God?

        Holding God to moral accountability
        >I know the Bible says God is loving. But the Bible also describes what God does. “I love you” followed by
        >killing the firstborn sons; “I love you” followed by death by fire in Sodom or drowning in Genesis; “I love
        >you” followed by the command that a rape victim must marry the rapist. The most elegant solution to this
        >blatant contradiction is to doubt the veracity of the repeated claims of love.

        What is judgement? It is the outworking of Justice. Your comment above shows a confusion around how Ethical behaviour is defined. Ethics is about balancing two things – love and justice. Human ethics is a pale reflection of God’s perfect moral character (you know…the character you freely assassinate in your comments about him!). If I love my kids but don’t treat them justly, then I will not punish them when they behave immorally. And avoiding punishment is – in turn – dangerous and destructive. It is the role of a parent to train kids how they should live. And this requires two things held together – love and justice. People who parent this way are reflecting the imprint of the character of God in them.
        If we take the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah and the Firstborn, these are good examples of a process that has four common factors.
        – An agent of Judgement
        – Time for repentance
        – A witness for God in the situation
        – The opportunity of Salvation though faith

        To describe a caricature God using your highly insulting and inflammatory Dawkins quote. This not only misrepresents God’s character (and insults me too, by the way), but it shows a complete disregard of the Bible narrative. God is slow to anger, the Bible says. He gives people time to turn from their sinful ways. But eventually, right judgement will come…justice will be done and be seen to be done.
        Flood:
        – Genesis 6:5-7, the Flood is the agent of judgement
        – 1 Peter 3:20, people have time to repent while the ark is being built
        – Noah is gods witness at this time
        – Salvation comes for those who choose faith in God – Noah and family built and enter the ark (Gen 6:9; 7:8)

        Sodom and Gomorrah:
        – Gen 18:20-21, fire from heaven is the agent of judgement
        – Abraham pleads with God in Genesis 18, there is time for the people to repent
        – God’s witness is Lot and Abraham (2 peter 2:7)
        – Gen 19:12-13, Lot and his family flee Sodom and escape
        Firstborn:
        – Exodus 12:12, the angel is the agent of judgement
        – Exodus 7-10, Egyptians have time to repent during the various plagues that get increasingly serious…
        – Moses and Aaron are God’s witnesses at this time
        – Exodus 12:12-13, salvation comes for every house where lamb’s blood is on the doorpost

        The same is true today. Justice will be done. But there is time to choose God’s way instead of our own sinful ways. Belief in Jesus is the opportunity open to us for a positive future.

        Now – because you view God as tyrannical, I am guessing you have yourself decided that God’s way of judging in these situations is unacceptable. Yet you don’t know anything about exactly what God was responding to. Genesis 6:5 gives us a hint at when led to God’s judgement at the flood. A human race that rejects their perfect creator becomes an awful thing…not what God intended humanity to be at all. God is not a person who you can judge, or hold to your idea of morality. Morality comes from him.
        Think of it this way. Is an artist not allowed to do what he likes with his painting? If you or I were to enter a gallery and remove a masterpiece…and bin it…we would be in big trouble. But if the painter did not think it was up to scratch before it got to the gallery, it would be a different story.
        The problem is – you don’t trust or respect God as the Bible reveals him. Therefore you don’t believe that his judgements are right and true. Imagine for a moment that his judgements were right and true…he would still be permitted to bin a painting that he decided had gone wrong. Right? He’s the artist, after all. This is an inadequate picture when it comes to describing god’s relationship with precious people…but it illustrates his role as creator and the rights he therefore has. And bear in mind…even though the Bible contains instances of his judgement…God longs for relationship with us. He does not intend to bin anyone.

        You insult God’s character and use Dawkins vile, inflammatory language. You are therefore insinuating that I believe in this cruel, capricious caricature of God. How insulting…thank you very much! You will probably respond…I am not insulting you…I am insulting the God that doesn’t exist anyway! Well – as I have already said, you seem to be doing a great job of working very hard to misrepresent this God who does not exist. And my identity is wrapped up in the God of the Bible. This is what Christianity is about. So when you insult him, you insult me. And I do not appreciate you repeating this vile tirade on my blog page – please don’t do this again. Thanks.

        “I am going to reword the babble to “God’s nature is synonymous with morality””
        Feel free – lol. But it’s not what I am saying at all. And does not make sense.
        I think what you need to address is the moral argument for God…rather than your odd statement.
        Premise 1 – There is an objective, absolute moral law pressing in on human beings
        Premise 2 – We know that every law has a law giver
        Conclusion – Therefore there is an objective law giver. Now, the nature of the law will reflect the nature of the law giver. That would make the law giver transcendent, objective and absolute. Which sounds very much like God.

        Why are the Catholic Priest Child abusers going to Heaven and any victim who lost their faith going to Hell?
        Look – the Bible is clear that anyone who gets to heaven, gets there by God’s grace. It is a gift. It is not earned or deserved by anyone.
        Yes – salvation is all about faith. But a true faith in Christ will be evident in one’s behaviour. If we take your Romans 10:9-10 example, look at verse 8. If the love of God has not found its home in our hearts…then it does not matter WHAT we say with our mouths. In fact verse 9 and 10 underline this even further. Christianity is about a heart change that is expressed in how we live our lives and the things we say.
        You seem very certain that the Catholic Priest is going to heaven in your example.
        You also seem very sure that the victim who lost their faith is going to Hell.
        I wouldn’t subscribe absolutely to either of those positions. I know people who have lost their faith in the church for various reasons…but I can sense that their hearts still belong to Him. I certainly would never presume I know the mind of God. But I do know that the Bible clearly teaches that God takes it very seriously when the poor and the vulnerable (especially children) are made to suffer.
        Matthew 18:1-6, Psalm 68:5, Deut 10:18

        Stu

      9. It has nothing to do with time. It has to do with finite crimes receiving infinite punishments. Unless you think justice has nothing to do with the punishment fitting the crime.
        You seem sure that being warned that a punishment will befall you if you commit a certain crime that the punishment is immediately justified. Even if that seems a workable definition of blackmail…
        You seem to think democracies don’t get a say in how they are governed. You seem to think that rights are not granted by others accepting responsibility but can simply be assumed.
        You seem to think God is moral no matter what It does.

        Well then, this is not a conversation

  3. “Why waste your time cursing the God you don’t believe in? If God doesn’t exist…why do so many people talk as if they hate him? Because our gut sense contradicts our irrational atheistic argument. We have a sense that he’s there, and we do all we can to drown it out in our lives.”

    If this god was real, I would indeed hate this character described in the bible, as much I as could hate Rumplestiltskin if he were real. However, what I hate is the false claims made by religion and the harm that religion does. My “gut sense” does not say that god exists, it says the direct opposite. We do not all have a sense that a god exists at all, and these falsehoods are what I stand against.

  4. here’s my reply to Stu. I’ll note it above

    Hello Stu,

    The crocuses and hyacinths are finally poking their leaves up. We’ve been having weird weather the last two years. Before that, I’d have roses in November and crocuses in February and now we have gotten two nasty winters that remind me of those I experienced when I was a wee gal. This is a fairly long post since I addressed your claims of evidence. As always, answer what you will. Let the pieces fall where they may.

    I am not putting up a strawman when I compare Jesus to Krishna. Jesus Christ, the son of God, has no more evidence to support his existence than does Krishna. I’ll address that in a minute.
    Again, there are no historical sources that support the existence of JC. I see that you have taken the time to mention some of them. I do reject them and I was waiting until you pointed out the ones that you found compelling to tell you why they fail. I certainly won’t repeat hearsay and misunderstanding. I’ll take them one at a time. Now, after I do this, you can tell me why you think my arguments aren’t correct, if you do find them so.

    Tacitus – As I mentioned before, many Christians try to use the existence of Christians as evidence for their god. Tacitus mentions Christians and says that the name came from Christ. He does not say that the Christ existed, he is repeating what he was told by someone else. Again, if you do wish to use the existence of believers in a god to be evidence of that god, do you agree that this means that Krishna, Isis, etc are just as real as your god. Another problem is Tacitus also claimed that Emperor Vespasian healed a man with spit (in The Histories). Do you believe him when he says this? At best one might say that this is a repetition of what Christians believed and it may be about a non-divine man who thought he was the messiah.

    Josephus – The Testamonium Flavium is his work among others. The quote about Christ is widely considered a forgery, at least in part. The reason that it is considered a forgery is that no early Christians mentioned that very important quote when they knew the Testamonium and had read it. Do you think it conceivable that no “church father” noted this passage if it were in the original? Josephus was a Jew. Do you think he would have called Jesus the “Christ”, wondered if that was “lawful” to call him a man, and written so favorably about a man/god that essentially says that his religion is completely wrong? It may be partially authentic, with additions made by Christians. Who would you think would wonder if it was “lawful” to call Jesus a man: a Christian or a Jew? If one takes out the Christian claims, it reads much like Tacitus, that there was a man, who was killed and that there are still people who believe in it. This holds the same for the other quote from Tacitus, about James. There is again question that these words are authentic, and mentioning something one was told by someone else doesn’t make it true. The details in the context in the passage about James also gets all sorts of details wrong, including how people were going to be killed and who Jesus is, the son of Damneus, a priest.

    Lucian – This is in the Passing of Peregrinus and in . It is again mention of Christians and relating a story about them. Since I can read about worshippers of other religions, does that make those gods as real as yours? Lucian also claims that Christians have dietary laws. I don’t seem to recall those.

    Still nothing to support the existence of the Jesus you worship. Again, I do not misrepresent the Testamonium at all. You are welcome to show how I have.

    Pliny – The same goes for this one. Mentions of Christians, and nothing more. We get lots of “it is said” from Pliny which indicates that he knows little of Christianity.
    Suetonius – And again with this one. As the others, Suetonius mentions Christians, calls them a superstition and has that Nero persecuted them. He also mentions Chrestus, which was an actual name back then not the Greek title Christ, and has only that there were Jews instigated by this person (who doesn’t seem to be dead or a spirit) and that Emperor Claudius kicked them out of Rome.

    Mara bar Serapion – who was a prisoner of the Romans circa 70AD. He gets the story wrong, claiming that the Jews executed their “wise king”. If we are to believe the bible, the romans did this because the Jews were forbidden. Which shall we believe is true? This man is in no way a first hand account, he claims things that have no basis in reality (magic punishment from God about killing Socrates, people burning Pythagoras, etc). Again, at best it is a possible source for a story about a man.
    There are several more that you didn’t use and they also fail.

    I have no problem in rejecting the 5 stories about Jesus in the NT. They don’t match in major details and again, Christians have no idea where the locations of these supposedly important events happened, nor do we have any evidence of Jesus Christ, the son of God.

    As I have demonstrated above, we have no “pointers” from history. We have Josephus also never mentioning the supposed “massacre of the innocents” and the man really hated Herod if one reads what he said about that dynasty. If this actually happened, why is it not mentioned as a particular juicy bit of propaganda? There’s lots of excuses why he wouldn’t have recorded it, which mostly circle around the bible and/or the early Christians being wrong.

    We have no agreement on when Jesus existed or when Jesus died. We have ludicrous claims by the authors of the gospels. I can follow the data where it leads and it leads to the conclusion that there was no magical Jesus Christ and there could have been a man who thought he was the messiah. It certainly does support the fact that there are Christians. No one noticed any of the supposed essential events around this man at all.

    Ehrman also agrees with me, not with you that there was not a magical man/god that saves humanity. It’s interesting that you quote Ehrman with so many ellipses. Those always make the quote look suspicious, for anyone to use. If you read Ehrman’s books (have you?) you will see that Ehrman is daming with faint praise that we have a handful of mentions of Christians and in relation to those Christians, a Christ. We have no mentions of any of the essential events of this Christ, not one bit of magical events happening. What we do have is Ehrman saying this “Even though Jesus may be the only miracle-working Son of God that people know about today, there were lots of people like this in the ancient world.” How Jesus Became God (2014), Ch. 1: “Divine Humans in Ancient Greece and Rome”. Ehrman accepts a historical man, not a god created the idea of sin, who became man, who decided that he had to be sacrificed, but then not really since he rose again. Again, do you worship a man or do you worship a character who was the son of a god?

    Yep, the early Christians proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection. Still doesn’t make it true. With no evidence, it is just a claim, not evidence which would be what you would support the claim with. True Believers trumpet whatever they believe in too. Do you believe them with no evidence? There is no evidence for the resurrection and no reason to believe such a claim, just as there is no reason to believe the magical claims of other religions.
    There is no evidence at all that Peter and the disciples experienced Jesus after his death. Those again are stories, claims of what supposedly happened. They are not evidence. It may be taken as historically certain that someone wrote a story about the disciples meeting a risen Jesus but that is all.

    The whole quote from Ludeman is “The only thing we can certainly say is historical is that there were resurrection appearances in Galilee (and Jerusalem) soon after Jesus’ death. These appearances cannot be denied. But did the risen Jesus in fact reveal himself in them? If this can be can be demonstrated then for the future we can happily dispense with the question how the resurrection took place. For in that case, the establishment of the fact of the resurrection would be quite enough to reinforce our Christian faith.” If one continues reading, one can find out that Ludeman’s conclusion is that the resurrection is not true and that the supposed appearances are fantasies. (this is in Ludeman’s What Really Happened to Jesus: A Historical Approach to the Resurrection, pg. 100+) This book is available on Google Books (a fair amount of it, though there are some pages deleted). You should read the sources you quote from to prevent yourself from falling into the trap of quotemining. I know it’s hard to accept that people you find to be good Christians will intentionally give false information in defense of their claims. I was horrified when I first stumbled onto a intentional lie when I could easily find the actual source. I still kept trying to believe and just think that was one bad apple who didn’t read Romans 3. Unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon at all.

    As many Christians do, you try to claim that only good decent people are True Christians. There is no reason to believe that since those people have great biblical support for their actions. You simply disagree with how they cherry pick their bible as opposed to your way. There is no evidence at all that the character Jesus Christ would disapprove of the Westboro Baptist Church, since he was a Jew that demanded that the OT laws be followed. This also the character that says this in Luke 19: ““He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’” With this, and all of the violence personally done by Jesus in Revelation, I see no reason to think that Jesus would be miffed with the same people you and I might be miffed at. We have Paul saying that anyone who teaches another gospel other than his should be cursed (Galatians 1, when in Romans he says never curse anyone). Again, that is very much in line with what Christians claim about each other.

    Atheists, new and otherwise, are indeed speaking up more because we are less and less afraid of theists wanting to murder us for not agreeing with them. We are showing that there is no evidence for the various religions and that religions often cause pointless harm because of mistaken beliefs. That’s the difference between growth of religion and growth of many other subjects: religion has no evidence that it is what it claims to be. Other subjects, like the sciences, have plenty of evidence to show that their conclusions are true e.g. based on reality.
    Scientific observations are based on reality. If they are wrong, or not complete which is often the case, then they are changed. Religions aren’t like that, they claim to be the truth, with no evidence to support them at all. I, and you, trust that the observations of the sciences are indeed truthful. If you do not, then there is no reason why you should use antibiotics, computers, GPS, modern medical techniques, modern foodstuffs, etc. We trust them because we know that the claims made about such things are true. If it is discovered that something is not true, then we cease accepting it as true. For instance, thalidomide was used as a birth control drug. Then it was found that it was harmful to fetuses, so we ceased accepting it as a birth control drug. We have discovered it is a good drug for some cancers and some symptoms of leprosy, but it most definitely a black box drug, with strict controls. Now compare that to the claim in the bible that bird blood will cure leprosy. I know which I trust and why I trust it.

    You seem to be using the usual Christian “god of the gaps” argument, where your god is always assigned to the things we don’t know *yet*. I will also point out that every scientific hoax has not been uncovered by a theologian, but by another scientist.

    We certainly do measure our observations and behavior against standards. No god is needed. I can measure observation on repeatability. I can measure behavior against my empathy. We have plenty of morals and they are all human generated. I am more than happy to ignore the moral outline in the bible, which reflects the morality of xenophobic agrarian people who were sure that the world would end sometime within their lifetimes. There is nothing in the bible that supports that it has some “truth” in morality. Reality indicates that does not too, since it is religion that plays catch-up while humans debate and change what is considered good or bad. The point about slavery has been done many times, but it is still valid. This bible of yours had many times it could have said “slavery is bad. Don’t do it.” It never says this, it says slaves are to obey no matter what and never try to get away. If slavery is okay, then I am quite glad that I don’t follow a god or a book that advocates it repeatedly.

    Since I do not accept that humans have free will (I think we must act as if we do since we cannot know all of the influences on us), and that there is no evidence for your god having any eternal “truth”, there is no reason to assume a “moral” universe. If we have some moral laws in common, that is from what civilization needs: no gods needed. Christians can’t even agree on the morals of their god, so why should I think any of you have the right answer?

    The universe is has no morals; that is an a priori assumption on your parts since you must believe in some magical god to have started things and to have given morals. It is a thing. There is also no reason to think that your concept of god is the creator. Plenty of other candidates, and all with the same evidence you have: none.

    A very few people from different cultures follow Christianity. Compare that to the millions that follow the religion they grew up with and the numbers are vanishingly small, though not non-existent. Now, why do you think this to be the case? Again, since Christians convert to other religions, does that mean those religions are true too, since you appear to be claiming that conversion is a sign of a religion being the right one. Yep, Christianity and Buddhism are very apart in world view. Christians become Buddhists. We surely can ask people why they chose the religion they did. If you crunch the numbers, then the idea that they accept the religion they did is because they learned it from people they trust, e.g. their community, and keep with it.

    The promises of Christianity are indeed appealing. No death, the people you hate will be punished for eternity, no responsibility for what you’ve done as long as you ask for forgiveness of a god, a god that loves you and will do anything for you, a way for you to claim to understand the universe and make up why bad and good things happen to everyone. The person of Jesus himself is not one thing, it depends on the Christians making the claim. You may want to consider your religion by considering it through the eyes of an outsider. There’s a good link explaining that here: http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Outsider_test

    Islam has plenty of historical record and personal testimony. So does Hinduism. So are those true religions? By your claims they must be. You have yet to show how iis Christianity so different than the other world religions. Where is this “separate uniqueness” ? I’ve compared Christianity to many religions and haven’t found this “uniqueness” yet. Perhaps you can enlighten me.

    I agree, you can honestly believe in something and it not be true in any sense. Now, I could look at Scotland’s scores, their players and come to a conclusion that they won’t win the World Cup and I have based that conclusion on evidence. Truth does indeed rest on objective reality and again, as above in my review of your sources, there is none for Christianity, or any religion. There is no reason to think that the NT is a historical record, other than to document what Christians have come to believe. It is the claim, not the evidence to support it. It doesn’t agree with itself, it makes documentably false claims, and there is no evidence for its essential events. No exodus, no adam and eve, no tower of babel, no great huge temples or palaces, no world-wide flood, no miracles by jesus and no resurrection.

    We have centuries of personal Muslim testimony. We have centuries of personal Hindu testimony. Again, do you want to agree that your god is as real as those gods by what you claim as evidence?

    There is no reason to not thing that a Christians experience of God is equivalent to a Muslim’s experience of Allah, or a Hindu’s experience of Kali. Please do tell me how they differ and how I can tell, since you seem sure that you know the minds of others. How do Islam and Christianity become “completely different opposing worldviews”? Each is monotheistic. Each has a heaven and a hell. Each requires an action to be saved, or the choice of a god, depending which parts you read. Each advocates peace and also advocates violence. Please do answer my question. I am very curious about this one in particular.

    You have tried to claim that only Christians can forgive, lay aside guilt, etc. Now you try to move the goalposts by falsely claiming that I somehow have “minimized” the “tortuous” process. Again, no one needs god at all to do this. There is nothing to show that Christians do it any better than anyone else. There is no reason to believe that Jesus has ultimate say over anything, since no Christian can show it exists. Your claims are dependent on baseless claims. They would only matter to someone who actually believed what you do. It is not different or solid or long lasting, since it isn’t real.

    As I have shown, your claims of a historical Jesus Christ, son of God, or any of the essential events of the bible, are baseless (see above). Personal testimony occurs in all religions and does not make them true (unless you do wish to agree with that?) Since there is no evidence of your claims and the fantastical claims in the Iliad, there is no reason to think either true. Indeed, we have about the same evidence that there was Athena, Zeus and Poseidon as that there is a Christian god and his self/son Jesus who did miracles. We have some real locations, some real people mentioned, stories of what the divine did and nothing else. There is nothing to distinguish myth from your religion. You hope it to be so but you have yet to support your claims of another category.

    I am still wondering about your claim that I said something like “I’d be interested to know more about why Christianity never seemed real to you when you attended church…?”Can you tell me what parts of what I wrote made you think I said that? Maybe I can clarify better if I know that.

    1. Hey there. Glad the weather is improving. This is my favourite time of year…I love Spring and the run into Easter…wonderful family and church community times to look forward to. Relationships are so important…I love making great memories with those close to me.

      My comments below might come over as clinical…maybe challenging. You cannot see my expression or hear the tone of my voice as you read them. At the core – what Christianity is…its becoming the person you are created to be…and doing it while bursting with the love of Christ inside of you towards people around you. I can’t make that happen to the people I talk to…but my hope is that it happens for them…

      The Extra-Biblical Evidence for Jesus of Nazareth
      Coincidently I’ve written quite a lot about some of these sources recently.
      https://respondblogs.wordpress.com/2015/03/20/respondblogs-was-jesus-a-real-person/
      https://respondblogs.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/respondblogs-did-jesus-exist-tacitus-thought-so/
      https://respondblogs.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/respondblogs-did-jesus-exist/

      Tacitus:
      Tacitus references Christus, Latin for Christ. But it looks to me like you dismiss this reference for no good reason.

      “He does not say that Christ existed” – Yes he clearly does. He had to exist to “suffer the extreme penalty”. Look what Tacitus wrote again…
      “Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius…”

      “he is repeating what he was told by someone else.” – Yes this is how all historical record is passed on. Here Tacitus did his research in the available Roman Government records. Are you questioning his report because he wasn’t a direct eyewitness of Jesus? If ONLY eye witnesses were allowed to write History…humanity wouldn’t have many history books…would we?

      Tacitus’s Annals account also corroborates the New Testament…
      (1) Christians were named for their founder, Christus (from the Latin), (2) who was put to death by the Roman procurator Pontius Pilatus (also Latin), (3) during the reign of emperor Tiberius (14 37 A.D.). (4) His death ended the “superstition” for a short time, (5) but it broke out again, (6) especially in Judaea, where the teaching had its origin. (7) His followers carried his doctrine to Rome.

      Josephus:
      Josephus references Jesus in Book 18 and Book 20 of the Jewish War. I’m sorry, but when you describe the Testimonium Flavianum in Book 18 as a forgery, this misrepresents both the text and the critical scholarship around it. Interpolation and Forgery are two very different things. It is thought that the text was interpolated by Christian Scribes…but we have recovered what Josephus originally wrote. Only the Greek manuscripts were interpolated. The Arabic manuscript evidence (as I discuss in my blog) is much simpler, contains the same essential elements and was translated before the interpolated additions were made to the Greek.

      To say that these passages in Book 18 and Book 20 did not exist in the first century because no early Christian referenced them…is like saying the historical works that Eusebius didn’t mention in his history works also didn’t exist and were manufactured later on. No – not at all. History is written from the perspective of the limited human author…that works for Christian Church Fathers too.

      Before they turn to external evidence, Scholars start with the internal evidence of the text itself…and the internal evidence suggests that Josephus wrote two interconnected references to Jesus in Book 18 + Book 20. I talk about the interconnection in my blog. When you start with the recovered Testimonium Flavianum, what credible internal textual reasons exist for disagreeing with this position?

      We clearly have data…we have agreement from Tacitus, Suetonius (I’ve not dealt with him here but have written about him in my blog too) and Josephus that Jesus of Nazareth existed as a person. To deny this is to dismiss the very evidence in front of our eyes. And we know when Jesus died…because Tacitus tells us it was during the reign of Tiberius. I feel you are deciding not to follow the evidence where it leads. You are welcome to do this, of course. But what a pity.

      Referencing Sceptical Scholars
      I referenced both Ehrman and Ludeman specifically to show you that there are respected sceptical scholars who don’t believe in Christianity and don’t believe in the resurrection, but they do believe Jesus of Nazareth was a real person and his disciples genuinely believed he was raised from the dead because the record shows they openly claimed it. Personally speaking, in a strictly monotheistic culture…it strikes me that something very significant had to have happened to cause this to happen.

      Luke 19
      In Luke 19, Jesus is using a story that his audience would connect with and understand…using behaviour that his audience would understand because they saw it in the culture around them and in their history as a nation. Starting from this shared experience, Jesus draws out important lessons in understanding the Kingdom of God. To say that Jesus is prescribing correct behaviour for his followers in this (or any other) parable…is to misunderstand the purpose of a parable.

      The Jews had a particular expectation of who Messiah would be…and how he would forcefully bring God’s rule. Worldly revolution, if you like. But one of Jesus’ intentions in this parable is to correct this mistaken expectation by warning that God’s Messiah would be rejected and there would be a period during which he would be absent and his followers must engage in faithful service until his return.
      But Jesus does not just talk in parables. He also makes prescriptions as to how his followers should behave…all of which challenge Westboro people’s behaviour to the core.

      For example Matthew 5:38-48. An Eye for an Eye (38) in Old Testament times was actually a call for mercy, because general behaviour was if someone injures you…you kill them all together! God was calling for mercy with an eye for an eye. But Jesus takes it to a whole new level…”love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (44) Is there progressive revelation from God going on here? It certainly looks that way. All God could manage in the Ancient Near East was…don’t kill them, only do to them what they did to you. But by Jesus time…God had gotten to the point with his people of calling for something MUCH more far reaching…and this also applies to Jesus followers today, because he hasn’t clarified that we should behave any differently from this…so this is what we’ve got.

      God of the Gaps
      I do not believe in a God of the Gaps. I believe in a God who designed and runs the whole show. The more science shows us about how the Universe operates…the more evidence we see of the work of the designer. To claim – as you do – that Science is based on evidence and Christianity is based on no evidence – is plainly false. We have been talking about historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth and have touched briefly upon the resurrection. Christianity rests on the inconvenient historical evidence that you are happy to dismiss. Christianity also qualifies the evidence that scientists are discovering and seeking to interpret…What do I mean?

      Well – for example, the scientific discovery of the Universe’s background radiation gives us observable evidence supporting the scientific theory of the Universe beginning with the Big Bang. Scientific theory supported by evidence. The philosopher then comes along and points out…
      Premise 1 – Whatever begins to exist has a cause
      Premise 2 – Science tells us that the Universe began to exist.
      Conclusion – therefore the Universe has a cause. And that first cause has to be more transcendent than the unbelievably vast wonder that our universe is. It must be beyond the spacetime universe…it must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, uncaused and unimaginably powerful. Much like…God.

      It is quite reasonable to believe that God does exist. What does that God look like…? Personally I am going with the historical, literary and testimonial evidence of the man Jesus Christ…God who came to earth as a man to show us what he is like…and to make us a way to know him. No other religion comes close.

      Christianity and Islam are Opposing Worldviews
      1 – All Islamic belief is filtered thru the lens of the Koran
      Christianity says real faith must rest on reliable history (evidence)

      2 – Islam teaches that God would never physically visit his creation
      Christianity teaches God is omnipotent. So why can’t he enter his creation in person?

      3 – Islam teaches Jesus (Isa) was one of Allah’s Prophets to the people of Israel
      The Bible teaches “For God so loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that EVERYONE who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16. NLT

      4 – Muslims do not believe any sacrifice for sin is necessary for mankind
      But Christianity teaches that a sacrifice for sin is necessary because God desires a relationship with habitually sinful people

      5 – Muslims believe that God’s love and forgiveness are available – but must be earned by submitting followers
      Christianity is about not attempting to please God by human effort and instead receiving God’s Grace

      6 – Muslims do not believe Jesus died on a cross so his resurrection is a moot point
      Christianity says that Jesus crucifixion – his death – is historical and necessary for mankind

      Morality
      Bear in mind the Bible’s not a moral handbook. Christian teaching says morality is something that comes de facto by being human, because we are created in the image of God. This means that every human being is moral. That’s the reason that rabbits and cows don’t face a day of judgement but human beings do. We are not saying that in order to be moral you need to read the bible – its not a textbook on morality! We are simply saying that by being human you ARE moral because you are made in the image of God…and we somehow have to account for that morality

      Our argument about atheism is that atheism doesn’t make sense of morality. It’s not that atheists are amoral or immoral. It’s just that atheism is a philosophy that doesn’t make sense of and does not account for human morality.

      The moral argument for the existence of God goes something like this…
      1 There is an objective absolute moral law
      2 we know that every law has a law giver
      3 therefore there is an objective absolute law giver. The nature of the law will reflect the nature of the law giver. Something or someone who is Transcendent, Objective and Absolute. Which sounds very much like God.

      People will attack the first premise to this argument – they will argue against the existence of an objective absolute moral law. But this is to confuse society law with underlying moral principles. Not every behaviour in our society is itself a moral law.

      Today it’s inappropriate to marry a 13 year old…but 200 yrs ago things were different. Society has shifted. Times were different when people died in their 30s. We may disagree with the appropriate age to get married but the moral principle isn’t the age – its that a young person should be in a position where they make a reasonable choice based on a level of maturity. The maturity of 13 year old 200 years ago would probably surprise our western sheltered 13 year olds today.

      Not every behavioural reality if a moral absolute. But moral absolutes DO exist. What do they look like? Well…is it any more acceptable to kill innocent children, torture babies, kill whoever we like, take the spouse of another today as it was 200 years ago? Of course not. Even though behaviour has changed in various ways over the years, what we ought to do is still the same….

      I’d be interested to know more about why Christianity never seemed real to you when you attended church…?
      My mistake. Its difficult sometimes to interpret text that arrives in blog comments when I don’t know the person, their name, their background, etc…

      1. Hi Stu, after church, we used to hunt easter eggs at my grandparents. Always a dicy idea when it could be either 30 degrees F or 70 degrees F.

        I don’t find your comments challenging and I always try to read post with a neutral “voice” in my head. Your version of Christianity, becoming a person that you were created to be, loving others whilst bursting with love, is not what all Christians claim. Your version is a more humane than others but it still ends with everyone who didn’t worship your god dead. I have no more reason to think you right than other Christians.

        Tacitus refers to Christians and to the origin of the term. Again, the mention of believers in a god does not mean the god exists, unless you do wish to agree that the believers of other religions mean that those are as true as yours. Are you? This is not historical evidence of Jesus Christ, it is historical evidence of people who believed in Jesus Christ, just as there is no historical evidence of Isis but there is plenty of evidence of people who believed in her. Your claim that I have dismissed this reference without reason is false and you have yet to answer my question. Do you accept the existence of worshippers of a god evidence of a god that is as supposedly real as yours? Tacitus does not say that Christ existed. He repeats a story told to him, and does not mention the details claimed e.g. no claim of crucifixion but only of “torture”.

        Tacitus wrote the Annals around 116 CE and he was born around 56 CE, which means he was not an eyewitness and has no idea if the story he is telling is true. Yes, I am questioning Tacitus’ claims because he wasn’t an eyewitness and we do not know his sources, just like I question the claims of the authors of the gospels because there is no evidence that they were eyewitnesses either nor could they keep their stories straight.

        Historians who write history have evidence. You have none for Jesus Christ, the son of God and neither do historians, that’s why historians consider a historical Jesus to be a man and nothing else. Again, a story can mention real people and places. This does not make the story true as we know from modern political thrillers. We have stories that Tacitus encountered, not evidence. For evidence we need the reports that Tacitus supposedly consulted. If we don’t have them, there is no reason to think that he didn’t hear the story from Christians themselves much later than the events he is describing.

        When you claim I said the entire Testamonium Flavium is a forgery, you are telling something that is not true. It is the passage that Christians always claim that is considered a forgery. A forgery is adding things to a document that did not have them in the first place in order to change the meaning. That is what most, if not all, historians believe about the Josephus phrase that mentions Jesus as being the Christ. Interpolate means to insert something between fixed points. One can interpolate and can forge with no problem. The Arabic and Syrian versions say that this Jesus was believed to be the Christ, and of course don’t note that this Jesus was performing miracle or that he was some divine being. Again, we may have evidence for a man but not the person you claim to worship. The problem with your claims about the church fathers is that they did know of Josephus’ works and read them *and* didn’t mention the sentences that were added later.

        You are making another baseless claim that all scholars start with the internal evidence of the text itself and then go to external evidence. Considering that there is no internal evidence in the text, it being only a claim, scholars do go to external evidence to test the claim presented, e.g. the text itself. We have Josephus reporting about James the brother of Jesus, both common names to the point of Josephus mentioning Jesus the fellow who was appointed as a priest. The “who was called the Christ” is considered an addition. Josephus mentions John the Baptist, and Herod, again, personas who could be/were real people, and this also doesn’t support the idea of a son of god. In the final mention, again, they do not support your magical being. I do want to clarify that it is Jesus Christ son of God that you are arguing for the existence of, isn’t it? If it’s just a rabbi who got killed by Romans, I’m more than happy to say that one could have existed. But if that’s the only one that has support, then your religion is still false. You ask what credible internal textual reasons exist for knowing that parts were added. Well, if you had read about why scholars think that there are additions to Josephus you would know that there is no reason to think a Jewish man would call someone a messiah that he didn’t believe in.

        We have Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, et al agreeing that there were Christians. We do not have them agreeing with you that there was some kind of divine being called Jesus Christ, son of God, who did miracles. Suetonius has a man right there instigating the Christians, Chrestus, which would be rather hard to have either versions of Jesus around to do so decades after his supposed death. There is not “evidence before our eyes” for your version of Jesus. There is evidence before our eyes that there were people who believed in him just like people believed in Zeus. I am following the evidence where it leads and it leads to Christians, and perhaps to a man who thought he was the messiah and who died, not a divine being. It does come down to do you believe you have evidence for Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Christ, son of God. Since we have no evidence for the second, it seems that you have approached this evidence with the a priori belief that these stories must support a magical being and they do not.

        Your claim that we “know” that Jesus died during the reign of Tiberius “because Tacitus tells us it”also is not evidence of your Jesus. Tacitus is again passing along a story that may or may not be true. The story might be about a man that existed, but again, none of these sources describe your Jesus as the bible does, nor do these sources mention acts that many could have seen, *if* they had actually happened.

        To have people who genuinely believe in something doesn’t make it true. Again, you have pointed out yourself that no one agrees with Christians, but Christians, that Jesus Christ,, miracle worker, existed. Jesus of Nazareth may have. If you think belief and openly claiming something makes something true, then genuine belief in any god and its believers must make that god just as true as yours. The society was not strictly monotheistic, they were not in some bubble having no experience with the other religions of the area which makes your claim that something “very significant had to have happened” to be based on a false preconception.

        Yep, Luke 19 is a parable. And it’s the only parable that asks the believers to do the killing, rather than having the god figure in the parable do the killing, like the parable of the tenants,etc. The parable has a man going away to become a king, which appears to be a reflection of death resurrection theme. Then this king comes back and demands that his followers bring before him everyone who rejected him and kill them. Do you believe that the king in the parable is Jesus? If the rest of the parable is how to behave correctly, as Christians I have debated with wish to claim e.g. that the servants with money are examples of how Christians should act by believing and increasing their heavenly wealth, then there is no reason to not think that the rest of the parable is how to act correctly too. “‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.” The purpose of a parable is exactly to teach proper behavior. It’s rather bemusing to see you try to claim otherwise in this instance. So, according to you, what is a parable for? For it seems, from your own words, that parables are indeed to teach how to act correctly which would be exactly what the parable of the ten minas is doing. Which is it? Do parables not teach how to act or do they?

        The Jews certainly did expect a messiah as described in the supposed prophecies of the OT. This is also why there are still Jews since Jesus Christ did not fulfill those prophecies and Christians had to invent a “second coming” to explain why.

        The Westboro Baptists are quite biblical in their hatred of others and their advocating death and misery (Romans 1 is where they get a lot of their claims). The problem is that the bible isn’t consistent in presenting Jesus. You like the nice Jesus who says that one should do unto others; the WBC and many many other Christians want the one who wants everyone who doesn’t agree with him (and them) dead. They have as much biblical support for their claims as you do, Stu, and since none of you can do what your bible promises that true believers can do, there is no reason to believe any of you.

        In the OT, an eye for an eye was the idea of equivalence. People did not go around whole sale slaughtering people for any offence Civilization wouldn’t have survived that, so there were laws of equal punishment before the bible. You are correct, JC did say that one should love their enemies and never resist an evil man. This version of JC was a complete pacifist. Then we get the JC that says that rather than god just punishing you for acts done, this god will damn you for a simple thought. Which is not an eye for an eye anymore, nor is it the idea of loving enemies or not resisting an evil person. It certainly isn’t the JC in Revelation where it promises that everyone who doesn’t accept this god as king will be murdered wholesale.

        The claim of “progressive revelation” is always a curious one, because it indicates that this god of yours can’t actually get what it really wants across. It also makes one question the claims of each generation of Christians who insist that their version is the final and correct one, the revelation of some objective truth. Saying “All God could manage…”makes little sense if one is to believe that this god is omnipotent as most, if not all, Christians claim.

        It is interesting that you believe your god has designed and runs the whole show. Which means that not one raindrop falls without this god’s direct intervention and not one child starves without this god’s direct intervention. How unpleasant. The more science shows how this universe operates, the more Christians change their minds about what their god “really” meant in the bible. Since you claim your god is the creator, you should have evidence that this is true. What is it? What evidence do you have that isn’t used by every other theists when they claim that their god is the creator and not yours?

        I’m still waiting for evidence of the resurrection. As we have discussed, we have plenty of evidence for a possible man who thought he was the messiah and died. What is this evidence for those essential events in the bible that depend on the supernatural? The possible inconvenient historical Jesus underlines that you have no evidence for any other version. Christianity does not rest on the possible historical Jesus, because this is not the Jesus you claim to worship.

        It’s interesting that you claim that Christianity somehow qualifies the evidence that scientists and discovering. I’m not quite sure how you are using the term “qualifies”, since Christianity does nothing to further scientific knowledge. As science has progressed, it has demonstrated that the claims of Christianity are wrong. Many Christians have then reinterpreted their stories claiming that they “really” meant what science found much later, and having no evidence for this at all.

        This universe seems to have began with a “big bang”. We do not know what happened before that. Some hypotheses postulate multiple bangs; we just don’t know *yet* and there is that gap of “yet” where Christians love to stick their god.

        Unsurprisingly you try to trot out the first cause argument which is always curious since it is nothing more than special pleading. The laws of physics could just as likely have always existed as you claim your god has. You also mention another of the common claims of Christian that their god is beyond “spacetime”. This would make it rather hard for it to interact with reality, since it would have no idea what past, present or future means. Christians have constantly redefined god because science has constantly shown that what was claimed was ridiculous. God once had feet.

        No, it is not “quite reasonable to believe” that your god exists, for each religion makes this claim and has no evidence for its god(s) either. You don’t believe that other gods exist but their adherents do for the same reasons you believe in yours. All theists have no evidence for their gods and this is why I do not believe in them. If one believes other religions, gods come to earth all of the time to show humans what they are. That is not a unique feature to Christianity.

        Christianity and Islam are from the same faith root. Christians filter all belief through the lens of the bible, as all theists filter all their belief through the lens of their holy books and assumptions. Christianity does not say that real faith must rest on reliable history. I recall it saying that faith is based on things unseen, and not a bunch of Thomases thrusting their fingers into any hole to find any scrap of evidence they can for their god. But if you wish to show me where it says what you claim, please do.

        Yep, there are differences between Christianity and Islam. So? There are differences of the same caliber between difference sects of Christianity. There are also plenty of similarities between Christianity and Islam, both have a basis in Judaism and a god that only cares about certain people, that demands obedience, demands genocide, and makes claims that anyone who doesn’t agree with it should be tortured for eternity. And again, no evidence that any of you are right.

        Christianity says that Jesus died and rose. It says that two people generated billions. Science says that this is ridiculous. If there is no original sin, then no need for Jesus. Not even a dead historical man.

        The bible is not a moral handbook? That’s a curious claim since Christians have been claiming just that for quite a few years. Which sect of Christianity says that morality comes from being human? The first creation story in Genesis has that man and woman were created, supposedly in this god’s image, together. Then in the second story we have the version where it doesn’t say a man was created in gods image but only created, and after God couldn’t figure out that an aardvark wasn’t a “helpmeet”, this god created woman out of man, again not saying that she was in his image either. In this version, we have the ignorant man and woman not having a clue about morality and only gaining it from a fruit. In that story, it took disobeying this god to get that knowledge, and this god was afraid that if humans became immortal, they would be just like him. Your story doesn’t jibe with the bible, Stu and not all Christians agree with you.

        Humans can be moral without god, to create it or to enforce it. Christians themselves have shown that there is no such thing an objective moral law since Christians can’t agree on what that is. As always, each is sure that their personal hates and desires are some “objective absolute moral law”. Atheism doesn’t have to account for human morality, it’s just a conclusion that no gods exist. However, humanism can explain morality with little problem and doesn’t have to pretend that morality is some absolute. I am quite happy that my morals aren’t the vicious morals that your bible portrays as the inclinations of some magical being. Empathy explains much about morality, that we can feel as our kind feels and can consider whether we want something happening to us or to someone else.

        If the bible is not a moral code, then what is it? Why do many Christians insist that the first ten of the commandments in Exodus and Leviticus are to be follows as a moral law from God? Why do many Christians pick and choose laws from both the OT and NT and claim that those laws they like are moral laws from God and claim that others aren’t without a scrap of difference between them other than the Christian would find that going around and killing people who work on the Sabbath is inconvenient when they get arrested? And indeed, when is the Sabbath? Christians can’t even agree on that.

        You mention marrying a child. Funny how your god did worse and approved of taking virgin girls as sex slaves and said that it was perfectly okay to kill innocent children and told its chosen people that’s what they “ought” to do repeatedly. Your god killed a child for its father’s sin (David’s son). If it was a moral absolute to not allow people take childen against their wishes, then there would have been no reason to ever allow that behavior. You use a classic excuse for allowing children to be wives back in the day. There’s no reason to think that children were any more “mature” then as now. They may have been more experienced, through no fault of their own, but if it’s objectively wrong to do something at one time, then it should be wrong every time.

      2. Hey there again –

        Hope you are well and that things are good for you right now.

        Gosh I do find your position confusing as I read thru it.

        For example…you say, “Yes, I am questioning Tacitus’ claims because he wasn’t an eyewitness and we do not know his sources…”
        And then you go on to say, “Historians who write history have evidence.”

        It sounds like “Historians” are trustworthy because they use evidence, without eye witness observation. But Tacitus isn’t trustworthy because he isn’t an eye witness of Jesus of Nazareth either and you don’t know or trust what evidence he used.

        The contradiction is that you don’t know what evidence “Historians” used when they wrote about all the other ancient characters in ancient history. And they weren’t eye witnesses of those people either. Yet I imagine you don’t have a problem with them or the accounts that they wrote of those individuals….e.g. Plutarch or Suetonius on Julius Caesar…Suetonius also mentions Jesus of Nazareth too.

        Do you see the problem here?

        Christianity is historically testable – or it is nothing. If you’d like to read some other perspectives on this…I found the following summary quite interesting.

        By the way, I’m happy to accept your assessment that Christianity is nothing, even though I don’t agree with you on that position. I have posed reasons to you for its historicity. What you do with them – is down to you.

        Anyway – great corresponding with you and Happy Easter to you and your family! Enjoy.

        Stu

      3. Hello Stu,
        We finally have daffodils blossoming!

        You seem to be confusing what I am saying about Tacitus regarding Jesus Christ and regarding Christians. Tacitus does have evidence that Christians existed. He does not have evidence that Jesus Christ existed. This is a critical difference, and it one that many Christians will not acknowledge since they need evidence to support their claims. They wish to try to claim that historians who mention Christians are evidence that their divine messiah existed. This would mean that the mention of any believers of any god should be considered equally as evidence that those gods exist as the Christians claim their god does.

        It is an entirely different matter to claim an emperor or a general existed than it is to claim some magical being existed. Which is more probable: a human who claimed he was a magical being or a magical being? Which has the evidence supporting it? As I noted earlier, we have historians claiming that the Emperor Vespasian existed. We also have them claiming that Vespasian did miracles just like Jesus Christ. Do you believe that Vespasian existed? I have reason to do so. Do you believe that he did miracles? I have no reason to believe so. I suspect that you do not believe that a Roman emperor has performed miracles either. Suetonius again mentions Christians, not Jesus Christ, the son of God. He says that the Jews of Rome were instigated by a “Chrestus”. Kinda hard for a man who is either not there, or simply dead, to have done this. You may wish to read the wiki entry on Suetonius here so that you do have the entire story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suetonius_on_Christians

        Again, which Jesus do you worship, Stu? The historical itinerant rabbi who thought he was the messiah and who died and stayed dead or the magical one that no one noticed? The problem that Christians encounter when they say that their religion is historically testable is that there is no evidence for the essential events that their religion claims, all supernatural. This is the same for all religions. For all of the claims of gods and miracles, we have no evidence for Heracles, Zeus, Krishna, Thor, Coyote, or Jesus Christ. Where is the historical evidence for the bible creation, Adam and Eve, Sodom and Gomorrah, the tower of babel, the exodus, the conquering of Canaan, the fabulous temples and palaces, the battles between tens of thousands of men, the census, the massacre of the innocents, the gathering of a legion’s worth of men *twice* just outside of a Roman-occupied city, an earthquake, the darkening of the sky and the dead walking on the same day, the tomb, the resurrection? The bible can’t even get the stories straight and you claim that this is historically testable. That is entirely false. When did these events happen? What evidence do you have that they did? Even Christians don’t agree. A propos to this time of year, Christians couldn’t even agree when Easter was to be, which is quite odd that they had no idea when the most important event in their religion happened.

        Your link is again full of evidence for Christians but not for Jesus Christ, the son of God. I’ll ask you again, Stu: do you agree that if evidence for believers is evidence of a god’s existence, this means that any god that has believers is as real as you claim your god to be? Your link is full of claim that mentions of real people and places are somehow evidence for the existence of magical beings. Again, if so, then Athena and Poseidon exist because stories about them mention real people and places. Indeed, again, if the mention of real people and places are evidence that other things exist, the Marvel Universe of superheroes is just a telling of the truth.

        You are very correct, if Christianity isn’t supported by evidence it is nothing, no different than any other set of myths. Since there is no evidence for it, it is no different than any other set of myths. This is why am not a Christian and why I am an atheist to all claims of gods. I do hope you will answer my questions. I suspect you will not. May you have a pleasant Easter.

      4. Hey there

        I am still scratching my head in puzzlement.

        > Tacitus does have evidence that Christians
        > existed. He does not have evidence that Jesus
        > Christ existed. This is a critical difference, and it
        >one that many Christians will not acknowledge
        >since they need evidence to support their claims.

        Well this critical difference only seems to exist in your mind…or more accurately it only exists in your presuppositions. Your opinion on Tacitus’ Annals is not borne out by Tacitus’ actual text. Tacitus records various details of Jesus life in his account. If he had no evidence of Jesus of Nazareth he would not have recorded these details.

        cheers

        Stu

      5. Again, Tacitus has evidence of Christians, which is supported by others. There is no evidence for Jesus Christ, the son of God who did miracles. We have Tacitus relating what Christians believed. We have Tacitus knowing that Christians existed because it seems that his job as senator dealt with foreign religions, as the wiki entry describes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus_on_Christ

        What we do not see is that Tacitus got any of this from records from Jerusalem, nor do we have Tacitus supporting the existence of a magical being, which is the one you worship. This is why I have repeatedly asked you aboaut which you worship and if you agree that the existence of believers is evidence of gods.

        You claim I have presuppositions. What do you think those presuppositions are?

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