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How can I respond to the following Christian “apologetic”......
Posted: 29 August 2013 04:51 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I have a lot of discussions about religion with a friend of mine. He’s very open to reason (... bad way to put it), but there’s one thing I have not yet been able to get through to: Old Testament atrocities.

To me, they are tribal warfare with a “God” not exactly worthy of worship. A blood-thirsty creature not relevant anymore for consideration even among biblical scholars. Not so for someone taking the Bible as “verbally, plenary” inspired, such as Evangelical Christianity holds it.

Whenever I bring up these mass murders I am confronted with “a God who has the bigger picture in mind”, “the sin of the people ordered to slaughter”, and just the general idea that “that was back then and needed”, bla, bla, bla…

I understand this justification, I understand that the person holding these beliefs actually believes them and sees “no harm” in the worst of genocide done in biblical times. ....

How do you get through to anyone thinking this way ????

I can’t use personal experience as my doubts about Christianity or religion have always been purely philosophical. Even when I believed I abhorred and ignored this stuff.

Any answers out there? It really boggles my mind that a person thinks it ok to ethnically cleanse an entire people and believe it to be the right thing to do. (In the past, notably! It’s always the past that is brought up, as TODAY God would never order such a thing as “there is no need for it anymore”.)

Thanks much for any input.

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Posted: 29 August 2013 08:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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There really isn’t anything that will convince True Believers® their god is a monster. The logical conclusion is that an omnipotent, omniscient god would have known before creating the universe that most of the people He* created would burn in Hell, making that god the worst mass murderer of all time. See LilySmith’s apologetic arguments on these forums for the type of thinking it takes to absolve such a monster.

Isaac Asimov nailed when he said the Old Testament god had the manners and morals of a spoiled child.

*No female god would commit such an atrocity.

Edit: corrected two typos

[ Edited: 06 September 2013 06:02 AM by DarronS ]
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Posted: 29 August 2013 08:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Michelle, a person who has learned to rationalize atrocities probably won’t listen to reason. He’s not thinking from reason, he’s only rationalizing. However, you might point out to him that everything he is saying to rationalize his defense of the indefensible could be said about anything; and that The Bible - if it is to be considered a single work, i.e., the work and Word of God - cannot be held out as a timeless guide if such things are to be defended. But you’re probably wasting your breath. Good luck anyway.

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Posted: 29 August 2013 09:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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DarronS - 29 August 2013 08:10 PM

There really isn’t anything that will convince True Believers® their god is a monster. The logical conclusion is that an omnipotent,l omniscient god would have know before creating the universe that most of the people He* created would burn in Hell, making that god the worst mass murderer of all time. See LilySmith’s apologetic arguments on these forums for the type of thinking it takes to absolve such a monster.

Isaac Asimov nailed when he said the Old Testament god had the manners and morals of a spoiled child.

*No female god would commit such an atrocity.

Hi Darron, and thanks for the answer. I understand, and I get it, but that is me. How do I make this understandable to a, yes, brainwashed, but still thinking, and thus “redeemable” person? I’m running against walls. The dude is my friend, a very good friend, but in this sense he’s utterly deluded… (as I was myself, but as said, to me it was always philosophical).

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Posted: 30 August 2013 06:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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An important thing to remember Michelle is that this rarely happens overnight. You are confronting someone’s lifetime held worldview. You need to think in terms of years, not conversations. Are you familiar with the details? You can go to Biblegateway.com and search on subjects like slavery and find all the horrific passages. It helps to know in advance that nowhere does it say “don’t have slaves, and if you do, don’t beat them”. Evil Bible.com is a good place for that too, but don’t tell your friend you used that source!!

One big sticker for religion is, people believe it is their source of morals, so if you take it away, they are afraid of what they might think or do. I live in a rural area, so I had to research that myself. What I found is that modern liberal* morality came from John Locke and David Hume more than it came from Christ. The Golden Rule has multiple version throughout history, Jesus didn’t create that. Richard Carrier’s Sense and Goodness without God is a good source, although you might want to skip past the stuff on cosmology. Perhaps the two of you could read that together.

* I don’t mean left-wing politics, I mean the ideas of democracy, caring for each other, treating others as equals, and innocent until proven guilty.

An alternative, which has it’s own problems, is a more open theology. I reviewed a book on my blog that offers more modern answers to many of the passages that you seem to be talking about. Sometimes though, that can be just as frustrating as a Calvinist. CFI thinks I’m spamming when I link to my blog. It is winter60.blogspot, searched for “Banned Questions”

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Posted: 30 August 2013 12:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Michelle D. - 29 August 2013 04:51 PM

To me, they are tribal warfare with a “God” not exactly worthy of worship. A blood-thirsty creature not relevant anymore for consideration even among biblical scholars. Not so for someone taking the Bible as “verbally, plenary” inspired, such as Evangelical Christianity holds it.

All I hear from you are the same old general complaints.  Pick a so called atrocity that God supposedly committed and make your case.  Put it in the context of the entire Scripture and show Christians why the God they believe in—the Creator—shouldn’t have done what he did.  First, put it in context of the reason God created the universe and mankind.  Put it in context of what God is accomplishing.  Put it in context of his eternal purpose.  Put it in context of God’s relationship to man and God’s responsibility towards man.  Your Christian friend will.

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Posted: 30 August 2013 02:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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LilySmith - 30 August 2013 12:52 PM
Michelle D. - 29 August 2013 04:51 PM

To me, they are tribal warfare with a “God” not exactly worthy of worship. A blood-thirsty creature not relevant anymore for consideration even among biblical scholars. Not so for someone taking the Bible as “verbally, plenary” inspired, such as Evangelical Christianity holds it.

All I hear from you are the same old general complaints.  Pick a so called atrocity that God supposedly committed and make your case.  Put it in the context of the entire Scripture and show Christians why the God they believe in—the Creator—shouldn’t have done what he did.  First, put it in context of the reason God created the universe and mankind.  Put it in context of what God is accomplishing.  Put it in context of his eternal purpose.  Put it in context of God’s relationship to man and God’s responsibility towards man.  Your Christian friend will.

Hi Lily! Thanks. I think you have a point here, it’s the entire picture, not “one atrocity”. We just got down to that point through talking, and since God is considered so loving I guess I got stuck on that. My bad.

That bigger, larger context, however, is the problem. It doesn’t matter what is said, there is an answer for everything, supported by that context. Drives me crazy :-)

Since we’re in a week-long conversation by now I’m about to give up. The “eternal” viewpoint is immune to challenge.

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Posted: 30 August 2013 02:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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DarronS - 29 August 2013 08:10 PM

Isaac Asimov nailed when he said the Old Testament god had the manners and morals of a spoiled child.

*No female god would commit such an atrocity.

Hey Darron, .... sorry, I’m a bit confused sometimes and don’t read very well. (Just got contact lenses… what the hell of an excuse :-)

Really like that quote, and, I totally missed that last sentence. Female God? I’ve long had thoughts on Goddesses and matriarchal societies. Very different picture from what this patriarchal nonsense has made of history. I think I should dig around the piles here and post something on that.

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Posted: 30 August 2013 02:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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PLaClair - 29 August 2013 08:13 PM

Michelle, a person who has learned to rationalize atrocities probably won’t listen to reason. He’s not thinking from reason, he’s only rationalizing. However, you might point out to him that everything he is saying to rationalize his defense of the indefensible could be said about anything; and that The Bible - if it is to be considered a single work, i.e., the work and Word of God - cannot be held out as a timeless guide if such things are to be defended. But you’re probably wasting your breath. Good luck anyway.

Hey PlaClair…. thank you. That “timeless guide” point is good, I should remember that. But again, it’s rationalized, so I feel like I am wasting my breath. Since it’s my buddy I like the discussions though, and try not to be offensive.

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Posted: 30 August 2013 02:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Lausten - 30 August 2013 06:31 AM

An important thing to remember Michelle is that this rarely happens overnight. You are confronting someone’s lifetime held worldview. You need to think in terms of years, not conversations. Are you familiar with the details? You can go to Biblegateway.com and search on subjects like slavery and find all the horrific passages. It helps to know in advance that nowhere does it say “don’t have slaves, and if you do, don’t beat them”. Evil Bible.com is a good place for that too, but don’t tell your friend you used that source!!

One big sticker for religion is, people believe it is their source of morals, so if you take it away, they are afraid of what they might think or do. I live in a rural area, so I had to research that myself. What I found is that modern liberal* morality came from John Locke and David Hume more than it came from Christ. The Golden Rule has multiple version throughout history, Jesus didn’t create that. Richard Carrier’s Sense and Goodness without God is a good source, although you might want to skip past the stuff on cosmology. Perhaps the two of you could read that together.

* I don’t mean left-wing politics, I mean the ideas of democracy, caring for each other, treating others as equals, and innocent until proven guilty.

An alternative, which has it’s own problems, is a more open theology. I reviewed a book on my blog that offers more modern answers to many of the passages that you seem to be talking about. Sometimes though, that can be just as frustrating as a Calvinist. CFI thinks I’m spamming when I link to my blog. It is winter60.blogspot, searched for “Banned Questions”

Hi Lausten. Thank you very much for your reply. You’re right, this is not simply a discussion about what brand to purchase, it involves a whole lot more. To me these things are not that hard to deal with, as I’ve always been rather bohemian and could care less what impact it has on my little existence. I often forget that’s not the case with many other people.

I’ve checked out the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible and it’s really helpful. Should use that resource a bit more.

I’ve tried to explain that neither the U.S. nor Western civilization today is a product of Christianity (although, of course, it did and does play a major role when it comes to our culture and traditions) but Christian apologists have done an awesome job undermining that.

Thanks for the book tip. I’ll check it out.

*** Noted. Democracy (Greeks), Law (Romans), all the rest either Enlightenment or common sense.

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Posted: 31 August 2013 10:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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How do you get through to anyone thinking this way ????

As the others have indicated, you probably don’t. This is something which makes religion as scary as it is to any genuinely rational person. A person who is capable of invoking God to justify atrocity is a person who is capable of any other sort of monsterous evil.

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Posted: 20 September 2013 09:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Michelle D. - 29 August 2013 04:51 PM

I have a lot of discussions about religion with a friend of mine. He’s very open to reason (... bad way to put it), but there’s one thing I have not yet been able to get through to: Old Testament atrocities.

Hi michelle:

It’s unlikely you worry your friend is in any danger of repeating those atrocities. Is he bringing up Old Testament stories, or are you? Are such stories the foundation of his Christianity?

You don’t really want to merely score points off a friend. if you’re really concerned about his being a Christian, you might want to think about what the real fulcrum of his faith is. My suggestion is that it’s almost certainly not dependent on the morality of ancient warfare and treatment of enemies.

Chris Kirk

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Posted: 20 September 2013 10:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Since this thread just rose to the top again, I’ll add that I just saw an interesting YouTube. Matt Dillahunty, famous grumpy atheist from Austin is attending an “Explore God” workshop, several sessions. His first report on it starts with a great speech about accepting that every denomination is different, and if you get down the pew (or stadium seat) level there are differences there. An religious conversation that doesn’t recognize this will go nowhere. As LilySmith pointed out, you need to know their motivating factors.

It sounds like there is some overriding sense for your friend that God is taking us somewhere and that the ends somehow justify the means. I wouldn’t put it that crudely to your friend, but I would explore that ends, at least you will probably find something agreeable (maybe just a fantasy, but at least a nice fantasy). With a goal like that in mind, I could justify just about anything. It’s not unlike justifying the bombing of Germany to get Hitler. The hard work then is to alter your friends thinking so something like the Amalekite genocide compares more to bombing Hanoi than to Berlin.

These analogies might not fit for you, so hope I make sense.

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Posted: 20 September 2013 10:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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One little thing you can do, without causing any conflict I think, is begin refering to your friends god in the feminine.  For example, “When you pray to God, do you think She listens?”  So much of religion is purely psychological and emotional, and part of that, in Western male-oriented culture, is that “god” is the protective father/warrior/santa claus/male.  When you start to chip away at those silly cultural notions they start (hopefully) to think a little out of the box as far as their beliefs are concerned.  Another good one, especially for god-fearing christian Americans is: Are we all Gods children? YES. Does She love all of us equally like any good parent would, or does She favor certain people, like does she only listen to the prayers of Americans?  Stuff like that.  Even believers who are way more educated about their beliefs than most, and can argue logically about them, still I imagine they have a basic psychological/emotional need to believe that trumps any logical reasoning.

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Posted: 20 September 2013 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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CuthbertJ - 20 September 2013 10:16 AM

Another good one, especially for god-fearing christian Americans is: Are we all Gods children? YES. Does She love all of us equally like any good parent would, or does She favor certain people, like does she only listen to the prayers of Americans?

I think this brings up an interesting point.  In American society we have come to view all people as the children of God.  That’s because we were all viewed as Christian.  But that’s not accurate in terms of Christian teaching.  We are all God’s creation, but we are not His begotten children.  Only Jesus is presented as the one and only begotten Son of God (monogenes).  Anyone who puts their faith in Jesus as the Christ enters God’s household as an adopted son.  “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”  Galatians 4.

God does offer all of mankind the invitation to become his sons through Jesus Christ.  The message of Christ began in the ME and through time has reached the end of the earth—America.  We are not the only nation on earth where Christians live.  We are one of the youngest.  Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Ethiopia, Lebanon, and many other nations have much older traditions in the Christian faith.

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Posted: 20 September 2013 12:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Michelle D. - 30 August 2013 02:02 PM

Since we’re in a week-long conversation by now I’m about to give up. The “eternal” viewpoint is immune to challenge.

The Judeo-Christian view of the world has a 4,000 year history of scholars who have read, interpreted, commented on and studied the Scripture.  It is not simply a “bunch of superstition” that can easily be refuted.

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