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How can I respond to the following Christian “apologetic”......
Posted: 20 September 2013 04:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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LilySmith - 20 September 2013 12:12 PM
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.

That’s true, but the Bible is a collection of stories both oral (many of which pre date the Bible and are older than 4000 years) and written for different purposes in different times.  It is not the unchallengeable word of any god but has been used by many different people for to attempt to accomplish many different and often opposing objectives.  If you are interested in this type od study and not merely using the Biblical traditions for your own purposes; the best introduction that I have found is “The River of God” by Gregory J Riley.

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Posted: 20 September 2013 05:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Michelle D. - 29 August 2013 09:29 PM
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).

I’m not sure how you can get through. I used to be one of the true believers, but I was seeking truth in the Bible, and when I did not find it one of my friends convinced me to read Darwin’s works and the scales fell from my eyes. Maybe instead of attacking the Bible you should go on the offensive and challenge your friend to read some science.

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Posted: 20 September 2013 10:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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DarronS - 20 September 2013 05:26 PM

I used to be one of the true believers, but I was seeking truth in the Bible, and when I did not find it one of my friends convinced me to read Darwin’s works and the scales fell from my eyes. Maybe instead of attacking the Bible you should go on the offensive and challenge your friend to read some science.

The moral of your story is that one should read the bible. I think many Christians never read it, only the view parts that they are pointed to by priests and fellow Christians. It might be a healthy cure…

Lily, did you read the bible from the beginning to the end? Does everything make sense to you, including the atrocities done in name of a jealous God?

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Posted: 21 September 2013 02:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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GdB - 20 September 2013 10:28 PM

Lily, did you read the bible from the beginning to the end? Does everything make sense to you, including the atrocities done in name of a jealous God?

I have read the entire Bible and I’ve studied it.  Jews use a technique called midrash, while Christians have homilies.  They take a portion of scripture and expound on it using the entire text of the Bible.  Of course Christians include the NT.  In the OT, God is portrayed as jealous of the nation Israel.  Israel is compared to a wife, and God insists she does not seek after other gods.  From a Christian perspective, Israel is being kept as pure as possible, focused on God until the promised Messiah comes to save the entire world.  That’s the goal.  Many of the so called atrocities were either civil actions which punished Hebrews who had engaged in idol worship, or acts of war by the nation Israel against other nations that were coming against them, threatening their survival and hindering God’s plan for Israel.  At all times Israel remained under the Mosaic Law which forbid rape, murder, stealing and the like.  It also regulated the use of those taken captive as servants.  This was ancient warfare and Israel didn’t have the facilities or ability to take large numbers of prisoners or engage in chattel slavery. 

Michelle mentioned an eternal perspective, and this is the case for understanding the text.  Some points:  Israel was not allowed to enter the land of Canaan until the behavior of the Cannanites had reached a point of judgment by God—four hundred years.  If you read about ancient Canaan, you will learn that they had some horrific customs including child sacrifice. 

The Amalekites were continual enemies of Israel who attacked the weak among Israel, stole their animals, ruined their crops and threatened their ability to survive.  It went on for hundreds of years.  As a result God lead Israel as a nation to war against them.  Remember the eternal perspective, however.  These people, as all people, died, but that’s not the end of it.  The judgment is yet to come and each individual Amalekite will be judged with justice by God as will every other human on the face of the earth. 

The Midianites were the half brothers of Israel, descended from Abraham and his second wife Keturah.  Midian was their son and his descendants had a prophet of God who spoke to them for God.  When Israel was to pass through their land they wanted to kill them all.  God told the prophet no.  He asked again and again and God said Israel was blessed not cursed—let them pass.  So the prophet of God came up with a way to force God to curse Israel.  They led them into idol worship.  God had the Hebrews who engaged in idol worship killed, and led the nation of Israel against the Midianites in war.  They too will be resurrected and face God in the judgment.  They will receive justice.  From a Christian perspective God was protecting Israel in order to preserve them until his promised Messiah would come to save the world.  As God, do you kill the few or do you let all of mankind perish in sin?  Through the work of the Messiah, God can restore all of creation.  If the Messiah never comes, there will be no restoration.  God has a plan and he will accomplish it.  Men will not stand in his way.

Gary views the Bible text as a collection of stories for different purposes at different times.  This is a view, and it basically dismisses the Bible as irrelevant.  On the other hand, the NT reveals the meaning of the Scripture as for all time given by God for the restoration of mankind.  It paints an entire picture, and like the blind men touching parts of the elephant, you must be able to see the whole to understand what’s before you.

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Posted: 22 September 2013 09:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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I find that I really like thinknig of Daniel Dennett’s “intuition pumps” to help arguments. One famous example is the scenario where you see a trolley barreling toward a crowd of people and your only way to stop it is to push a guy in front of it to stop it. Intuition pumping refers to tweaking the details of a moral teaching tool like this one and seeing what happens. If it remains coherent, it’s a good moral tool; if it falls apart, it is not. For example:

What if the trolley were only going to kill one person?
What if the trolley were to kill a thousand people instead of a small crowd?
What if the pushed guy had a chance of surviving?
What if you knew there was a camera overhead which would record your decision to push?
What if, instead of a trolley, this was a terrorist and you had to torture the “pushed” guy to stop him?

See how that works? Change the details and see how well the moral dilemma holds. This one retains meaning fairly well.

You can do this with the Bible, too. Look at the example of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac:

What if Abraham was schizophrenic?
What if Isaac was adopted?
What if Isaac was a monster?
What if Isaac was really an entire clan?
What if God, in this example, was really Satan posing as Him?
What if Abraham was a mob?

This one doesn’t hold together as well as the trolley decision scenario. Changing some of these details drastically changes the meaning of the story. Particularly, the one of Satan posing as God in this scenario - that says some stuff about submission to authority which the original story completely contradicts.

[ Edited: 22 September 2013 09:44 AM by TromboneAndrew ]
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Posted: 22 September 2013 01:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Hello Michelle D.

I have many of the same type of friends.
Like John said, “Let it be”.
When that does not work then it is all about communication.

There is no discussion when comes to items of faith. I could tell you that in my faith I see two suns in the sky and there is no way you could make me think otherwise. Proof that a discussion based on faith is just a waist of time.

So if your friend can use reason and not faith then you have an item of discussion.
The churches have spent millions and millions of hours over a thousand years on answering questions of religion. Therefore your friend has answers available to him on almost any question you my have.

You now have the internet to back you up with facts so that will help in the discussion.

One of the most important items at your disposal is religion itself.

If your friend is like my friends they will only use the NT and OT. When the discussion is not going the way they would like they will discard the OT completely saying the NT is God’s new words.

You have all the history of mankind’s religion at your disposal and are not limited to just the bible.

The bible is the foundation of their belief. What I have found is the bible is based upon older religions. There is not one original religious idea or religious thought is in the bible.

Your friend will try and prove otherwise and you are able to take the discussion outside of the bible and open a whole new world of religion to your friend.

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Posted: 23 September 2013 01:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Lily:

Gary views the Bible text as a collection of stories for different purposes at different times.  This is a view, and it basically dismisses the Bible as irrelevant.  On the other hand, the NT reveals the meaning of the Scripture as for all time given by God for the restoration of mankind.  It paints an entire picture, and like the blind men touching parts of the elephant, you must be able to see the whole to understand what’s before you.

I in no way dismiss the Bible as irrelevant.  It is the most important single collection of books in Western Culture and I have spent the last fifteen years studying it.  However, I have studied it in context, not as the “Word of God” but as a collection of stories that have been edited and reedited multiple times and put to use by various groups of people for a wide variety of purposes.  The Old Testament was created to empower and bind together a small mountain tribe in a border wasteland on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean; the New Testament, among other things was created to harmonize the newer Greek/Roman culture that became dominant in this area from the time of Alexander.  It is this “harmonization” that became prominent in the new culture of Xtianity.  It is IMO, an historical accident that we today are even aware of the teachings and folk lore of the ancient tribe of Judah, in that if the first alphabet hadn’t been invented in the Sinai and there fore these folk tale (oral history) hadn’t been originally written down in this amazing technological advance rather than the hieroglyphics of the Assyrians, Mesopotamians, and Babylonians many people might be today still worshiping their gods such as Baal, mentioned in the Bible and who was the god of Hannibal.

Without the Bible and the uses it has been put to the history of Western Civilization would have been very different.  This does not mean that there is any god but only that humans, in the past have found religion a very useful tool to organize society with and the Bible, and disputes over what it is and means, has been one of the main components of Western religion.

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Posted: 23 September 2013 04:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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inthegobi - 20 September 2013 09:32 AM
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

Hi Chris, and thanks for the input. No, of course I’m not worried about my friend going that overboard, at least not in his case (as with others I’m sometimes not all that sure about it). And you’re correct, I brought up the atrocities, but not to argue him out of his faith. Our discussions are very philosophical. We’re both interested in truth, and of course both of us think we’re on the better track. :-)

Michelle

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Posted: 23 September 2013 04:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Lausten - 20 September 2013 10:07 AM

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.

Hi Lausten. Thanks for the input. By now this conversation has actually shifted again to the evolution / creation debate (which is utterly ridiculous in my mind), but we’re still discussing :-)

I’m noticing three different kinds of believers by now, at least on the Christian level. Those who genuinely believe but accept science. Their religion is not simply nominal or cultural but a living faith, only it is not based on a literal reading of the Bible; the community of faith with its teachings and rituals seems to take preference. Religion is a “backbone” to the pragmatic rest of one’s life.

Then there are the radical fundamentalists. You can’t argue with them as it goes nowhere. The Bible really applies here, as Proverbs says that you shouldn’t argue with fools.

The third category is really the one hard to get to. They’re genuine believers, way too smart to follow blind fundamentalism, but they do buy into the “inerrancy of the Bible” thing. Rather than the community it’s that book that provides the backbone. This is a mainly Protestant and also rather new, church historically speaking, phenomenon. It pretty much appeared in response to Darwin, if I’m not mistaken. Really the best answer in confronting these kinds of beliefs, in my view, are Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth, as they put things into perspective and have weight just by who they are. Problem is, it’s the U.S. Bonhoeffer and Barth, although revered as martyr and highly respected scholar, respectively, are seen as “liberals” in these circles. Not so in Europe, but that doesn’t help much.

The thing with our little discussions, my friend and mine that is, is that this are fundamental questions. They involve so much more than just a change of mind.

Anyway, we’re having fun talking.

Michelle

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Posted: 23 September 2013 04:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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CuthbertJ - 20 September 2013 10:16 AM

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.

That’s funny :-) Yeah, I should try that :-)

The gender thing really is a deep point actually. I think it was Nietzsche that said that if you wanna change anything fundamentally you have to begin with grammar. - We can speak of God, but we speak of “the” Goddess. Very interesting thing to ponder I think.

Thanks!

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Posted: 23 September 2013 04:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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LilySmith - 20 September 2013 12:12 PM
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.

Hi Lily, very true. I’m actually very interested in Christian theology, as it is quite a lot of thought going on there. But you’re right, it’s very thought through.

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Posted: 23 September 2013 04:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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DarronS - 20 September 2013 05:26 PM
Michelle D. - 29 August 2013 09:29 PM
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).

I’m not sure how you can get through. I used to be one of the true believers, but I was seeking truth in the Bible, and when I did not find it one of my friends convinced me to read Darwin’s works and the scales fell from my eyes. Maybe instead of attacking the Bible you should go on the offensive and challenge your friend to read some science.

Hi Darron, ... interesting point. Also that you mention that you once were a believer. I was one myself. I’m a very religious person by nature. Well, you could also say artistic, as I “feel” more than I think, but this balance is actually very awkward because I left the church not because of feeling but plainly because of thought. Anyway.

I’ve actually tried the science thing via “American Scientific” magazine and even AAAS articles. To my near shock science is utterly disregarded by point of “worldview bias”. - What that told me, and knowing my friend’s sincerity, is that these creationist and ID loonies have done a fantastic job. The sad thing is seeing indoctrinated kids grow up and eventually run a country. - Terribly depressing.

Michelle

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Posted: 23 September 2013 04:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Michelle D. - 23 September 2013 04:33 PM

I’m actually very interested in Christian theology, as it is quite a lot of thought going on there. But you’re right, it’s very thought through.

Some of it is but some of Christianity’s most central stories aren’t well thought through at all. They’re like bad fairy tales that don’t even make for a good story. The Jesus myth, for example, has holes in it that are miles wide. It makes no sense that a god who “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son” so that those who believed in him could be saved would then neglect to tell most of the world about it for centuries, having sent a supernatural messenger to tell Mary that she was to be the Mother of God. It’s an absurd story that doesn’t fit together well at all, even if you accept the premise that a loving god would ever have created a hell that he would then have to save people from.

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Posted: 23 September 2013 04:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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MikeYohe - 22 September 2013 01:42 PM

Hello Michelle D.

I have many of the same type of friends.
Like John said, “Let it be”.
When that does not work then it is all about communication.

There is no discussion when comes to items of faith. I could tell you that in my faith I see two suns in the sky and there is no way you could make me think otherwise. Proof that a discussion based on faith is just a waist of time.

So if your friend can use reason and not faith then you have an item of discussion.
The churches have spent millions and millions of hours over a thousand years on answering questions of religion. Therefore your friend has answers available to him on almost any question you my have.

You now have the internet to back you up with facts so that will help in the discussion.

One of the most important items at your disposal is religion itself.

If your friend is like my friends they will only use the NT and OT. When the discussion is not going the way they would like they will discard the OT completely saying the NT is God’s new words.

You have all the history of mankind’s religion at your disposal and are not limited to just the bible.

The bible is the foundation of their belief. What I have found is the bible is based upon older religions. There is not one original religious idea or religious thought is in the bible.

Your friend will try and prove otherwise and you are able to take the discussion outside of the bible and open a whole new world of religion to your friend.

Hi Mike, thanks for the input! These discussions really are something for sure. I like your point on the Bible not being very original. It is original, certainly, as the collection that it is, but the ideas within it are definitely not very unique. I’ll have to look into this a bit more. Thanks for the hint.

Michelle

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Posted: 23 September 2013 05:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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PLaClair - 23 September 2013 04:45 PM
Michelle D. - 23 September 2013 04:33 PM

I’m actually very interested in Christian theology, as it is quite a lot of thought going on there. But you’re right, it’s very thought through.

Some of it is but some of Christianity’s most central stories aren’t well thought through at all. They’re like bad fairy tales that don’t even make for a good story. The Jesus myth, for example, has holes in it that are miles wide. It makes no sense that a god who “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son” so that those who believed in him could be saved would then neglect to tell most of the world about it for centuries, having sent a supernatural messenger to tell Mary that she was to be the Mother of God. It’s an absurd story that doesn’t fit together well at all, even if you accept the premise that a loving god would ever have created a hell that he would then have to save people from.

Very true, many of these stories don’t make much sense, like a bad fairytale, as you say. Unfortunately, the discrepancies can be explained away, however vague, and upon these stories stands an entire monument of theology thought through from every angle. The concept of Original Sin, which I believe originated in Augustine, supports more Christian theology than any other idea. (Jews and Muslims though reject it.)

I agree with what you’re saying, the premises are pretty bad, but what’s built on them is hard to argue with, as it is pretty good logic “firmly planted in mid-air”. (I actually got that phrase from a theologian, saying the same about atheism.)

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