What do I believe?

So a little over a week ago, I picked up my wife’s phone and I noticed a text message from her brother.  The text was him asking her (about me), So what do he believe in now?”

I actually had mixed feeling about this at first; I felt like laughing cause it seemed like a silly question.  Then I felt a little disturbed and upset by the question, because of the lack of understanding in the question, that I don’t live every day of my life engulfed into the idea of belief.  In addition a little offended in the sense that one who ask this question has a complete misunderstanding of reality.  That for me it’s not just about WHAT you believe; but WHY should I believe it.  Living your life day-to-day on belief, but never knowing why is a question, begging to be answered.  It is also the notion that in believing, one should have a real reason to believe and not be afraid to question or seek out an answer to why you believe.  And that one should not just blindly pick up another belief, just because they lost another (delusional) belief. I’m not sure if this post is making sense, but I hope it does for someone.

My wife sometimes says in some of our more heated conversations that I believe in NOTHING.  And that is not entirely accurate.  I believe that a man can be a decent & kind person.  I believe that if I put my mind to it, I can accomplish or achieve anything.  I believe that if I love my wife, she will love me back.  I believe that if I am a good father to my children, they will return that favor in my old age.  These are just some of the things I believe.  But I guess that was not the answer that my brother-in-law or my wife or you were expecting.

Here is the thing; I don’t live everyday of my life based off of Blind Belief or Faith in Belief or Community Belief.  Living based off of belief to me seems like living in world where I can believe in anything I want; -and that is not reality.

However, if that is still not a good enough of an answer, then let me give you my mission statement of belief:…

I believe, that you can believe in anything you want to believe, but that does not make it TRUE.  And that whatever you choose to believe in, you should have a reason to what you believe.

 

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About M. Rodriguez

When I first received Christ salvation, I made it a priority to read the whole bible and I did. But it was the Bible that made me question my faith. For I found it flawed and lacking. Due to this I launched a personal inquiry/investigation into my faith, and ultimately realized that the Christian God of the Bible was indeed man-made. Now I Blog about those findings and life after Christ.
This entry was posted in belief, Common Sense, confusion, freethinker, life, reason, religion and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to What do I believe?

  1. Funny story… You just enlighten my day.

  2. ... Zoe ~ says:

    Well I “get it.” It is amazing to me that people think all of sudden we believe nothing. One therapist I was seeing couldn’t understand how I could leave such an all consuming faith and not replace it with something. I thought for a moment, looked him in the eyes and said, that I had replaced it with peace. That caught him off guard but it’s what I believed. I guess it is difficult to explain to people that we don’t just suddenly become blobs of nothingness that believe in nothing. As you say, we still love, we still show respect, we still want love and respect returned and the list goes on.

    Over time I hope your wife (if she does not like your words) will see who you are and what you believe by your actions. Maybe with time she’ll realize you are the same person minus one belief?

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      I like that the same person minus one belief…thanks for the comments

      • unklee says:

        Do you think that is all it is BR? In a strictly functional sense, this is true, but as a christian I don’t think it is so in reality.

        Take an example. Suppose someone is married and they trust their spouse until they find out one day they have been unfaithful. In a functional sense, it was just their spouse doing some natural physical actions with another person, but in reality, it would likely be a severe emotional blow for the person who was cheated on.

        I can’t help feeling your disbelief would be similar for your wife. (I have discussed your blog with my wife, and I know she would feel devastated in similar circumstances.) Of course, you cannot keep pretending to believe when you don’t, but I think it would be unfortunate not to recognise how much of a blow this may well be to her.

        I hope I am not being too personal here, but I just mean to be helpful.

      • M. Rodriguez says:

        yeah i guess you are right about. that. Even though I would say I am still the same person, and still feel like I am the same person. To my wife and to a degree I am not, cause she married a strong christian man. And expected a strong christian marriage and no longer has that. She even confesses to me, that at times she really doesn’t know what to do with me or how to interact with me.

        I once brought the idea of labeling myself as a christian atheist, (not believe in god, but still hold to chrisitan principles), and she actually liked that idea, because it gave her comfort in knowing how to deal with me and which principals I would value.

    • ... Zoe ~ says:

      I think the label Christian Atheist is a nice way of handling the situation MR. For some reason the term atheist can cause panic amongst believers. Again, the whole idea that we cease to have any values at all. This way she can begin to understand and observe the values that you still have and never lost.

      • M. Rodriguez says:

        the problem I have with the label christian atheist is threefold.

        1. I really don’t like labels in general, The only label I want to be called by is my first name. I would rather be judge by the content of my character than a label that has been assigned to me. In general people assume to much about a person through labels. And labels never accurately define a person.

        2. The problem with the label of christian atheist is what it means in context.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_atheism
        -Christian atheism is an ideology in which the belief in the God of Christianity is rejected or absent but the moral teachings of Jesus are followed.

        The issue is that Christianity is not the owners of principled living or morality. Yes the bible has good teachings, but there are much more out there than christian principals. I’m not even sure if I could describe chrisitan teachings as even unique. There would be very little difference if I called myself a islamlic atheist, or wiccan atheist, or mormon atheist. There is no unique standard of living or morality in any of them.

        3. I’m not really even sure if that describes my belief/disbelief. I am atheist when it comes to christianity. And the christian god. I am agnostic when it comes to the concept of god or concept/philosphy of a higher being. I am not against the idea of God. The idea of a divine creator, in my opinion does warrant consideration, however I am not deist, cause I am not sold on that idea. I would describe myself as more non-theist or anti-theist. I am more against the idea of religious God or a God of a religious belief system. And against the concept of a personable god. However I am too agree pacifisit about the whole thing, I am really starting to thing this whole topic of believing in God to starting become irrelelvant.

        However, the only reason I am considering the label christian atheist, cause I know it would make my wife more comfortable.

      • ... Zoe ~ says:

        I very much agree with everything you’ve said here. I too was just thinking about your wife. 🙂

  3. Neil Rickert says:

    It is one of the oldest (and silliest) accusations from apologetics, that people without religion are nihilists, with empty meaningless lives. If anything, my life became richer and more meaningful when I abandoned religion.

  4. exrelayman says:

    A small observation to your mission statement. Everyone has a reason for believing what they believe. So I would insert the word good before the word reason in the second sentence.

    The Christian doctrine should eventually lose in the marketplace of ideas, primarily because 1) any supposed God that loves us would not create a Hell and make this world a testing ground so that if you get it wrong now you pay for eternity (once you die, it’s too late to make corrections), and at the same time 2) hide from us, so that the only evidence that It exists are fantastic tales told by unknown writers in a vastly less educated and more superstitious time. In short, the evidence for Christianity is not good evidence. And good evidences abound indicative of many things contrary to what is contained in Christian scriptures.

    Very unfortunate how resistant the indoctrinated mind is to these simple facts.

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      I purposely left out the word good …The reason is because once I put in the word Good, it becomes slightly MORE subjective, in the sense of who determines was is a GOOD Reason.

      I felt that leaving it simply as a reason, then the person interpretting must always be aware that there reason is not of their own interpretation. And that the they are not the sole interpreters of a good reason. If one believes that they have to have a good reason. Then all they have to do is find a reason they think is good. If all they have to do is find a reason, then it no longer becomes personable and individual. The reason must always be explained and defended.

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      secondly I don’t want the reason to be simply Good enough…..I want it to be defensible, and explanatory.

  5. Don Hartness says:

    Just had to jump in on this one…
    “Whatever you choose to believe in, you should have a reason to what you believe,” and this sounds rational; otherwise, as you pointed out, we can choose to believe anything we want, even in alternate realities or even fantasy worlds.

    Yet, what is real? We point to what we assume to be true and call it real, until life demonstrates to us otherwise…

    I can believe that I can accomplish anything I put my mind too…until I utterly fail at something in spite of my belief and Herculean effort. Then I discover that this statement, although useful for any endeavor, has its limitations, far greater than most realize…

    I can believe that if I love my wife, she will love me back…until she doesn’t, abandoning me, possibly for another man, even though I gave her my best. I then discover that “all you need is love” is not necessarily true in some cases…

    I can believe that if I am a good father, that my children will return the favor in my old age…until the day comes when I need it and don’t receive it. I then learn that the best father in the world cannot prevent a child from growing up into a selfish louse, even though that teaching did not come from me…

    I can believe that I am a kind and decent person…until someone or some set of circumstances conspires to reveal otherwise. As I look in the mirror, I realize with horror that it was only fear and the protection of my circumstances that prevented me from seeing it before…

    Not that I wish any of this on you. Yet, I can’t prevent it either. These things, or other similar sorrows, will be yours at some point, as they are for all of us. Sorrow and suffering is part and parcel of life, and the same sorrow and suffering that leads some to de-convert is the same sorrow and suffering that will mock any beliefs you choose to have. “Reasons” erode to “reasonable assumptions”, which become nothing at all.

    “Everything is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” When one drops one belief, one picks up another blindly because there is no other choice. To insist that there is reason behind one belief over another is to show partiality for one belief over another, refusing to apply the scalpel to one’s newly held belief. When the scalpel is used without partiality, no belief survives, leaving us with only the question of what we choose to believe.

    For further reading: http://www.philosophypages.com/hy/4t.htm

  6. unklee says:

    Good idea, Bible Reader, to focus on the positives of what you now believe rather than the negatives of what you no longer believe. Negative belief is reaction and I don’t think can sustain much. And like Don, I would be interested to see you further elaborate on why you believe what you do, and how you define “decent”.

  7. unklee says:

    “The Christian doctrine should eventually lose in the marketplace of ideas, primarily because 1) any supposed God that loves us would not create a Hell and make this world a testing ground so that if you get it wrong now you pay for eternity (once you die, it’s too late to make corrections), and at the same time 2) hide from us, so that the only evidence that It exists are fantastic tales told by unknown writers in a vastly less educated and more superstitious time.”

    I hope you are right, exrelayman, that the form of christianity you describe here does indeed lose out in the marketplace of ideas. I genuinely do.

    But fortunately, this is not the only form of christianity. There is a growing number of christians who don’t believe the Bible teaches the Hell you describe here. And I would think the majority would not think God hides himself as much as you say, and certainly almost all the expert scholars don’t think that the New Testament is composed of “fantastic tales told by unknown writers”.

    If you can get over that form of christianity, you might like to check out a form of christianity better based on history and genuine experience than those you rightly criticise. It would be sad if you missed out on the truth because you had rejected a mistaken imitation.

    • ... Zoe ~ says:

      Unklee . . . may I ask you about your truth? Are you a part of the growing number of Christians who don’t believe in the Bible hell that exrelayman mentions? Is there another kind/sort/type/form of hell you believe in?

      • unklee says:

        Hi Zoe. exrelayman mentions the hell that many christians believe in, but it isn’t (IMO) what the Bible teaches. Pretty much the only mentions of hell in the Bible are by Jesus, and he seems to have taught that those who don’t accept God’s offer of eternal life have only this life – hell is simply the end. Still a sad thought, but not the horror of the “traditional” view. To see why I say this, see Hell – what does the Bible say?.

      • M. Rodriguez says:

        I would actually have to agree somewhat with Unklee. I don’t the fundamentalist side of christianity can be sustaniable for a long period of time. Fundamentlaism is radical to a degree that it beginning to lack a reasonable answer to many of life’s question.

    • ... Zoe ~ says:

      Thank you Unklee that answers my question. I may at some point read your link.

  8. exrelayman says:

    I agree also that more moderate interpretations of scripture are less offensive, both to reason and to moral sensibilities. But, as fundamentalists see it, this is putting an over-layer of “man’s wisdom” onto a plain reading of scripture. Christians of differing interpretation do not agree and cannot seem to reconciles their differences (thus some 30,000 plus denominations, the 30 years war, etc.).

    The greater appeal of this softening of scripture is tangential to the issue of whether doing so is correct exegesis.

    My take on this is that the progressive or moderate forms of Christianity only arose in response to the incisiveness of the considerations of my first post, which in times past you could die for expressing.

    • unklee says:

      As far as I can see, the fundamentalist reading of scripture is a relatively recent phenomenon. Jesus, Paul and the early christians were q

      • unklee says:

        (sorry, it posted when I didn’t intend it to)

        As far as I can see, the fundamentalist reading of scripture is a relatively recent phenomenon. Jesus, Paul and the early christians were quite creative in interpreting the OT (see Interpreting the Old Testament), and some of the early church fathers likewise. So I don’t think that a less literal approach is recent at all.

        Likewise, inerrancy and infallibility are not Biblical words or even concepts, so they can’t be considered a “plain reading” of scripture.

        Yes, there are thousands of denominations, but that is hardly a big deal in itself – the problem is lack of unity, which may or may not be related to denominations. I think lack of unity is a scandal, but that isn’t necessarily related to disagreement – I can (and am) in unity with many people I disagree with.

        So in the end, can you clarify what you are saying please? It is hardly news that people, whether believers or unbelievers, have many differing opinions. My point was that, if we want to critique a certain belief, we should use a version of that belief that is reasonable, for it is pretty easy to shoot down silly versions of any belief. Likewise if we want to learn about a belief or consider whether it is true.

  9. Peter says:

    Marcus said, “it’s not just about WHAT you believe; but WHY should I believe it.  Living your life day-to-day on belief, but never knowing why is a question, begging to be answered.  It is also the notion that in believing, one should have a real reason to believe and not be afraid to question or seek out an answer to why you believe”.  Earlier he had asked the classic question, “Why does God allow evil and suffering?”. These are questions I started asking more than 60 years ago.

    I have been outside the walls of ‘traditional’ Christianity for some 40 years and finally stopped attending ‘church’ just over three years ago. I cannot remember ever doubting the existence of God but I came to the conclusion several years ago that there is an enormous difference between the Christian RELIGION and the Christian FAITH.

    Marcus in an earlier post – “A purpose filled blog” suggested he was looking for a haven for free and respectable thought – a place to evaluate and dissect the Christian faith and the apologetic answers. I have been using the web since 1997 and I created my first web site over 12 years ago as a ‘Safe Haven’ for open discussion and since then I’ve been in touch with hundreds of people who have walked away from ‘traditional’ churches.

    It was in June that Bob Greaves – “The Unconventional Pastor” posted “What I actually believe” and my friend Dave suggested, “it’s almost as if Bob has crawled into your heart and communicated the essence of your faith”. Since then I have spent a lot of time rewriting the introduction to my blog that I have renamed “The Unconventional Believer”.

    I have far more empathy with some atheists (both of my children consider themselves to be atheists) than with some evangelical Christians (especially those who seem to have all the answers). If anyone is interested in the story of my journey I suggest that you look at ‘From Christian to Atheist’, ‘Christendom’, and ‘Broken Myths’.

    I look forward to sharing some of your thoughts.

  10. exrelayman says:

    I am not using the ‘reply’, as the diminishing width of the posts in a long discussion is frustrating. But much as I loathe the endless and futile back and forth of these things, I have failed to keep my silence and have thus embroiled myself in such with Unklee, to whom I here respond again
    (note that I have been asked to do so). The mere counterpoint vs counterpoint can go on tediously forever, so I invite Marcus to let me know when the hospitality of this blog site has been abused.

    Let the fisking begin:

    “There is a growing number of christians who don’t believe the Bible teaches the Hell you describe here.” AND “As far as I can see, the fundamentalist reading of scripture is a relatively recent phenomenon.”

    What is it that a “growing number” can be growing from if not the more traditional and fundamentalist form of belief which was their predecessor? Must we go further into the document ‘The Fundamentals’ and the causes of its formation?

    “…certainly almost all the expert scholars don’t think that the New Testament is composed of “fantastic tales told by unknown writers”.”

    Who are ‘almost all the expert Bible scholars’ likely to be? I wonder how many of them must, at their institutions, sign a document of credal belief in order to remain there? How much does being reared in and living in a predominately Christian culture affect impartiality, even for those who think they have broken off from early indoctrination? You don’t think virgin births, healing the sick, and resurrection (done by numerous supposed God men) are fantastic tales? – good on ya, you got more faith (or gullibility) than I do.

    “If you can get over that form of christianity, you might like to check out a form of christianity better based on history and genuine experience than those you rightly criticise. It would be sad if you missed out on the truth because you had rejected a mistaken imitation.”

    This strikes me as condescending. There is an implied ignorance on my part. The occasion of my criticism of a prevalent and traditional form of Christianity is in no way indicative of an ignorance of less fundamental forms of the same. It comes back to my initial post here, advocating good evidence as opposed to merely evidence. Any flavor of Christianity, soft or fundamental, that gives credence to a God and a son who had to be killed because of sin, and that it is vital for us to believe this or perish (or suffer eternally) is based on the Bible. We went down that rabbit hole and got to Q, L, and M, hypothetical constructs which you feel are good evidence and I think are not.

    “Likewise, inerrancy and infallibility are not Biblical words or even concepts, so they can’t be considered a “plain reading” of scripture.”

    I have no recollection of mentioning those topics in association with ‘plain reading’, so I don’t quite see what you are getting at as far as critiquing me goes.

    “Yes, there are thousands of denominations, but that is hardly a big deal in itself – the problem is lack of unity, which may or may not be related to denominations. I think lack of unity is a scandal, but that isn’t necessarily related to disagreement – I can (and am) in unity with many people I disagree with.

    So in the end, can you clarify what you are saying please?”

    Well, there are 2 things I am saying: 1) The mere existence of the multiple understandings is indicative that a supposed God seems to have produced confusion rather than clarity (a house divided) and that doesn’t seem very God like – not a proof of anything, but not very confidence inspiring either, in view of the promise of guidance into correct understanding by the Holy Ghost, and 2) there being more than 30,000 differing readings, the prior probability of your particular reading being the correct one is 1 in 30,000, so I feel no impulse to spend my lifetime examining each of the 30,000, or yours, when an examination of the Bible itself and its origins renders all that interpretive effort an exercise in foolishness.

    Now I will wrap up. I do want to soften my ‘sad and condescending’ above. I take you Unklee to be a good person, meaning well. The same as say the JWs knocking at my door mean well. Only I think, based on an awareness of both the nature of and the provenance of the Bible, that it is not good evidence. To the extent my answering you has offended, I am sorry, but you did request it, and I am sure you can find fault again, just as I can find fault with the way you found fault.

    You asked for clarification. I hope this has provided some. I hope that I have responded with a courtesy commensurate with that which has preceded.

  11. unklee says:

    G’day exrelayman,

    Let me start by thanking you for your explanations and your courtesy. I am not offended by anything you have said, either before or now. And I certainly sympathise with your words about “the endless and futile back and forth of these things”. So let’s see if I/we can clarify things more than provoke further responses.

    “What is it that a “growing number” can be growing from if not the more traditional and fundamentalist form of belief which was their predecessor?”
    There are many different aspects of christian belief and behaviour and they don’t all change in the same way or for the same reasons. My understanding of history (meagre as it is) is that the traditional view of hell has held sway for a long time (though not unanimously), but is now being seriously questioned. On the other hand, the fundamentalist view of the Bible (inerrancy, etc) is a more recent phenomenon.

    “Who are ‘almost all the expert Bible scholars’ likely to be? I wonder how many of them must, at their institutions, sign a document of credal belief in order to remain there?”

    Interesting questions. Those who write about NT history can be loosely categorised into 3 groups:

    1. Some are christian apologists and ministers, writing for christians and with christian assumptions. Some are scholars (i.e. they have relevant qualifications, are working in the field and publish in peer-reviewed literature), many are not. I would guess many of these are bound by credal statements, etc.

    2. At the other extreme are a smaller number of sceptics and unbelievers writing from those assumptions. A very few are scholars, most are enthusiastic amateurs.

    3. In the “middle” are genuine scholars (see definition above) who mostly work for universities, Government archaeological organisations, etc and write from an academic historical viewpoint . Some are christians, some are Jews, some are atheists, some are agnostics, etc, and I would be surprised if any of them have to sign any credal statements, for they would expect and demand academic freedom, same as any other discipline.

    When I use the word scholars, I mean the third group, not the first, which I regard as having an agenda. But I find many non-believers who rely on the second group which is often biased and unprofessional. I generally rely more on non-believers than believers, so I can avoid bias as much as possible, and I try to use the most respected scholars (you can see who these are by checking who is quoted most in books, Wikipedia, etc, and by some textbooks which explicitly state who are the most respected scholars.

    So I quote Bart Ehrman, EP Sanders, Michael Grant (all unbelievers) and NT Wright (christian) most of all, but also many others who are well recognised (Meier, Charlesworth, Keener, Evans, Casey, Vermes, etc). You can read more about this if you are interested at Which historians should we trust?.

    So any thought you had about my bias in quoting historians is unfounded. Can you tell me which historians you have used on which to base your ideas?

    “You don’t think virgin births, healing the sick, and resurrection (done by numerous supposed God men) are fantastic tales?”

    What I think here isn’t important. The important thing is to understand that many ancient historical documents contain what you might call “fantastic tales”, but that doesn’t make the whole documents “fantastic tales told by unknown writers”. In fact, most historians will tell you that, for various reasons, the NT includes a number of good historical documents – for more details, see Are the gospels historical?.

    “The mere existence of the multiple understandings is indicative that a supposed God seems to have produced confusion rather than clarity (a house divided) and that doesn’t seem very God like”

    The whole world contains many opinions, but how is that supposed to mean that God doesn’t exist? It could equally mean that God has given us freedom to choose, even if we choose wildly wrongly at the moment. The diversity of belief can only be an argument against God if you make the premise that God “should” have imposed truth on us. Instead the best your argument can be is reflected in your own words “that doesn’t seem very God like”. Well, that “seem” is an unsupported opinion of yours whereas to me, it “seems” more Godlike to give us freedom than to impose on us.

    “This strikes me as condescending. There is an implied ignorance on my part.”

    First of all, let me apologise for offending you. I didn’t mean to. But can I then ask you this question.

    Why is it that you can write “Very unfortunate how resistant the indoctrinated mind is to these simple facts.” and that is not offensive or condescending to me, nor implying ignorance on my part as a believer, but I can write “If you can get over that form of christianity, you might like to check out a form of christianity better based on history and genuine experience than those you rightly criticise. It would be sad if you missed out on the truth because you had rejected a mistaken imitation.” and that is condescending and implying ignorance?

    I would say your comment was stronger than mine. I wasn’t offended by it, though it did spark my own initial reply. Why did my milder comment cause you to comment as you did? Does not that seem like a double standard?

    So, to conclude. I never set out to “convert” you or argue with you about whether christianity is true. Like you said at the beginning, that would likely be a never-ending story for both of us. Rather, I set out to contest more factual matters about variations in christianity and your statements about the Bible. If you can see that your original comments were over-statements, we can depart in peace. What do you say?

    • arkenaten says:

      “You don’t think virgin births, healing the sick, and resurrection (done by numerous supposed God men) are fantastic tales?”

      What I think here isn’t important. The important thing is to understand that many ancient historical documents contain what you might call “fantastic tales”, but that doesn’t make the whole documents “fantastic tales told by unknown writers”. In fact, most historians will tell you that, for various reasons, the NT includes a number of good historical documents – for more details, see Are the gospels historical?.

      If what you think is unimportant then why A) do you bother entering in a long frustrating discourse?
      And B) the Virgin Birth and the resurrection are the two central aspects on what Chrisianity hangs.
      Furthermore you are being blatently disingeneous as you DO believe in the Virgin Birth.and ultimately acknowledge the Nicene Creed.

      You enter discussions similar to this with a rather innocuous approach that belies the rampant hypocrisy lurking beneath the seeminlmgy banal exterior. An agenda that is condescending.

  12. exrelayman says:

    Again reply to Unklee without using reply button.

    “What do you say?” I say very nicely crafted reply, Unklee. My remarks are as dismissive, or more so, than what I attributed to you – I own up to it. The only (perhaps inadequate) defense of that dismissive statement of mine that you cited was that it was not directed at you specifically, where as yours was directed at me specifically. I think I am less good at handling disagreement than you are, and that you are ‘out-courteousing’ (sic) me. There is a certain level of discourtesy whenever I (or you) am basically saying ‘I think you’re wrong and I am right’ – even if that should happen to be correct. As I said some time back, ‘disagreeing without being disagreeable’. Seems like you are better at that than me. Good for you, I acknowledge and admire that.

    We are all working with ‘seems to me’. That’s all any of us have. Trying our best to to have good reasons for ‘seems to me’ is the effort I think all of us who care enough about the topic to be reading here share. We each and all think we have it right. I have tried, perhaps not very well, to use ‘I language’. Thus: ‘I see it this way/it seems to me’ seems less abrasive than ‘It is this way’. Thus ‘seems’, which can be seen as ‘you don’t have much of an argument if it only ‘seems to you’.

    I think that this passage: “How much does being reared in and living in a predominately Christian culture affect impartiality, even for those who think they have broken off from early indoctrination?” suffices to address those who aren’t required to sign credal pledges.

    I have, in the interest of winding this down, decided that producing a list of my influences (as invited to do) to counterbalance the references you cited would not lead anywhere productive. I think my thought has value, independent of what influences came to play. Suffice it to say that I, like Marcus, began my investigations in an effort to maintain faith, and first began with apologetic literature, but the apologetic literature was critical of doubting literature and thus led me to it. My judgement was that the unbelieving literature made more sense.

    “If you can see that your original comments were over-statements, we can depart in peace.” You can’t get that much out of me, but here’s what you can get: Taking the stance that there is no eternal Hell does serve well to sidestep and render null that particular criticism. There are Christian scholars on both sides of the existence of Hell issue. To that extent, my original comments were over statements. I hope that works, and I hope our discussion has been of value to lurkers of whatever persuasion.

  13. unklee says:

    exrelayman

    That is as fine a response as I have ever had! Thank you. I appreciate your honesty and your approach. I think we could be friends if we had opportunity. LIke I said, I wasn’t offended by your comment, just wanting to defend my own comments, which were genuinely not intended to be nasty, but peace-making.

    “I, like Marcus, began my investigations in an effort to maintain faith, and first began with apologetic literature, but the apologetic literature was critical of doubting literature and thus led me to it. My judgement was that the unbelieving literature made more sense.”

    I’d like to explain my attitude here. I have been involved in these sorts of discussion for about 7 years, and I have long since given up thinking I should try to convince people of theism and christianity. I believe they are true, of course, but arguments rarely convince, mostly further polarise. So my aims are more modest – try to make friendly relations across the divide, try to learn and understand how other people think, and try to correct what I believe are factual errors, so at least any discussion can be on a solid basis. I thought some of your original statements were factually over-statements, so I responded.

    “I think that this passage: “How much does being reared in and living in a predominately Christian culture affect impartiality, even for those who think they have broken off from early indoctrination?” suffices to address those who aren’t required to sign credal pledges.”

    This “explanation” libels all scholars, and still doesn’t account for the facts that:

    (1) The “guild” of NT scholars comprises many beliefs and disbeliefs and many countries. There are avowed atheists among them, and neither the system not culture seems to prevent this.
    (2) Most christians would say that the scholars are insufficiently christian, not that they are over-influenced.
    (3) The academic system in some ways encourages new approaches and radical conclusions, though of course peer review filters these out eventually. If this system doesn’t work, then we would have to question the integrity of science just as much as history.
    (4) I have read several classical historians (historians of the Roman era rather than the NT – people like RL Fox, Michael Grant and AN Sherwin-White) say that NT historians are too sceptical and that classical historians have no difficulty using the gospels as historical sources and accepting the existence and general accounts of the life of Jesus.

    So if we want to base our opinions on evidence, we have to accept the conclusions of the scholars as a starting point, and there is enough flexibility in those conclusions to allow a wide range of opinions.

    Well, that’s enough from me. Thanks again, and best wishes.

  14. M. Rodriguez says:

    So my aims are more modest – try to make friendly relations across the divide, try to learn and understand how other people think, and try to correct what I believe are factual errors, so at least any discussion can be on a solid basis.

    I really do appreaciate this approach. I thinki it is good and thoughtful balance to the yelling and screaming matches that occur on both sides of the spectrum

  15. My one problem with the so-called scandal of unity is that if God is all knowing and all powerful, he could have seen the confusion the scriptures would make and ensured to be more clear or to be more convincing in displaying which “form” of Christianity is true. Thus making sure that believers would be one, just like Jesus prayed, instead of fractured and contradicting each other.

    Again, if God has the power to make things clear, then why doesn’t he do so?

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      I like ehrman said about this topic.. that he could conceive or rationalize the thought that if these scriptures are so important (to god and his people). Why not preserve the originals?

    • unklee says:

      “if God has the power to make things clear, then why doesn’t he do so?”

      I think this is an interesting question to ask, but often it is asked as a de facto argument against God’s existence. But to make it an effective argument, we need to make a number of assumptions, for example, (1) that God’s highest purpose is communicate in clear precise almost scientific terms, and (2) that written documents is the best way to accomplish this. But both these assumptions are highly questionable, and I believe the first is quite mistaken.

      If God placed our getting things exactly right and he knew we would all take notice, then (1) might be valid. But I believe it is clear from New Testament teaching and events that God is more interested in the process of how we reach decisions, in our “heart” more than in our actions. An example would be Jesus’ common use of parables, designed to provoke curiosity, thinking, questions rather than baldly inform. Why would God think this way? I believe because he wants us to become who we choose to be rather than who he chooses us to be – i.e. he gives us real autonomy.

      The second assumption is also doubtful. Christians (mostly) believe in the Holy Spirit as a divine agent to teach and influence, so it seems clear that words alone are not what God expects to instruct us, but words and Spirit.

      So I suggest it is quite clear within christian belief why God has done things the way he has, and anything else would mean humans were something less than we actually are – autonomous, self aware, responsible, ethical, rational, loving beings “made in the image of God”.

      • M. Rodriguez says:

        couldn’t one asko assume for example that since god is not the author of confusion, And desires for everyone to be saved, that God would want a clear understanding bible or gospel for everyone to understand and believe. Isn’t that a reasonable assumption we can al take?

      • That is such a broad definition that just about anything you wanted to believe could be called Christianity. Your saying that God isn’t all that interested in people understanding the details about him, just as long as they care enough to care about trying to understand. Kind of like when every soccer team in the league gets a trophy for trying.

        It does appear that God has not left the scriptures in a very good state for clear understanding, which doesn’t seem to add up to the scriptures teaching of an all wise, all powerful, all loving God. Instead, he comes off looking a little sloppy and like a CEO who delegates a little too much of the important stuff to incompetents.

        Not trying to be harsh, but that’s the way it comes across to me.

  16. unklee says:

    BibleReader, if God’s primary purpose was for everyone to be saved, then the easy way would be to make us robots. So that can’t be the purpose. We don’t want to be robots (do we?) and God doesn’t want us to be robots, but as soon as you bring free will into the picture, everything changes. Until critics start with free will and all the other things I mentioned that are part of being human, I can’t see how they are addressing either the real world or christianity.

  17. unklee says:

    “That is such a broad definition that just about anything you wanted to believe could be called Christianity. Your saying that God isn’t all that interested in people understanding the details about him, just as long as they care enough to care about trying to understand.”

    I think that is a bit of an overstatement of what I believe. (i’m not accusing you, I am expressing myself as briefly as possible, so there are bound to be misunderstandings.) Clearly, some knowledge of God and Jesus is important, not “detail”.

    But nevertheless, several things support what I tried to say.

    (1) the thief dying with Jesus knew very little about him but still earned Jesus’ approval;
    (2) many OT Jews knew even less about him, but still earned God’s approval.
    (3) Romans 2:14-16, Acts 17:24-27 and a few other passages indicate that pagans may well satisfy God’s requirements.
    (4) Unless God wants to condemn more than half the people who ever lived, one would think he must have made some provision for them, as above.

    So I still think reasonable christianity says:

    1. Jesus death and God’s forgiveness are necessary for every human being to be acceptable to God.
    2. Nevertheless, God judges people graciously according the light they have, and they can receive the benefits of Jesus’ death without knowing him.
    3. Those who have heard of Jesus and don’t believe have been shown a lot of light.

    “like a CEO who delegates a little too much of the important stuff to incompetents”

    Now you’re starting to understand (I am not being trivial or patronising). Think more on this thought! I mean it.

    I didn’t think you were harsh, but honest and fair. Thanks, and best wishes.

    • sorry…not following you on the last part. I’m a little slow on thinking this morning, any hints would be appreciated 🙂

      • unklee says:

        I mean that I believe it is exactly as you said – God has delegated a lot of important stuff to us humans, even though we stuff up lots of the time.

        CS Lewis says the “higher” a being is, the greater it will be if it does good and the worse it will be if it does badly. A rock cannot really be good or bad, neither can a beetle, but a dog can be a great friend or a nasty predator, a normal person can do more good and more harm than a dog, and a genius can be even better or even worse.

        A lot about the world can be explained by seeing this, I believe. If God creates the “highest” form of life (intelligent, moral, rational, etc) then that is the greatest good but can become a great evil. As CS Lewis also said, God is a great gambler. He apparently thought the amazing gift of autonomous life to us humans was worth all the pain that accompanied it. (I’m not sure if I would have made that choice, but then I’m not God!)

  18. unklee says:

    “God’s willingness to answer prayer would be one. I wrote a post about it here:

    http://christianagnostic.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/the-powerlessness-of-prayer/

    Thanks. I think that’s a fair objection, though not compelling. I’ll comment on your blog and leave BR’s blog in peace!

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