If God made an announcement tomorrow to the effect that hell had been abolished, that is, that there was no more everlasting punishment for sin, would you continue to live a moral life? If beans were peas again? What would you do if it were announced by the Mother Goddess that hereafter all Wiccans would be turned into frogs? Would it offend you in any way if God abolished hell, thereby letting the unrepentant "bad guys" get away with their sin? Yes, in the same way we'd all be offended if all criminals were let out of prison scot free now...
Look deep into your heart for just a moment. Honestly now ... doesn't it give you just a bit of a thrill when you imagine a sarcastic Bible-hating bastard like me screaming in pain as I roast in the flames of hell for eons and eons? No, not really. It's more "thrilling" (if anything here is) to be able to reply to your commentary with the same measure you dish out...and since I don't buy the roasting bit (as I've mentioned, no?) I don't have that option...I think I'd prefer to lock you in a seminary library for eternity, and force you to write endless book reports using credentialed Biblical scholarship...with only tofu to eat...and no TV.
Some Christians say that the earth is only 6,000-8,000 years old. Yet there are stars that are many thousands of light-years away from us; the fact that we can see them at all proves that their light has traveled for more than a million years. How old do you believe the earth to be? I don't care, but I can take anything from 6K to four bajillion. My creationist friends have answers to the starlight stuff...e.g. one Ph.D. YEC astronomer argues that critics have their own light travel problem too (see here) and they have provided models to answer the question (see here ... you should have done your homework. Any further questions, ask them if you want, it's not my area of expertise...
Which Bible translation is your favorite or, to put it another way, which one do you believe to be the most reliable? I don't care. I work with material by scholars who work with the Hebrew or Greek text. Why do you believe this? Obviously NA for my answer. How much Hebrew and/or Greek do you know? Smatterings. Like, some words. If you can't read even one word of Hebrew or Greek, how can you make any assessment of the accuracy of any Bible translation? That's why scholars go to school, my friend...I don't see you pulling your hair out over translations of Livy and Tacitus from Latin. Do you?
And how do you know that all the translators (of all the English translations) haven't been lying to you all along? Haven't you made a pretty big leap of faith, considering that your eternal future is involved? Oh my yes. They could all be secret mafia members from Pluto who plan to suck out our brains and use them as fertilizer. Now can I ask you, How do you know that Wicca wasn't actually invented by a guy named Nefarious Snerd in 1632 AD as a way of selling timeshares to his condo at the Nefarious Snerd Magic World O' Fun Amusement Park?
People have seen images of the Virgin Mary in tortillas, and in stains on the sides of buildings (to name a couple of places). They've even seen Jesus' face on
toilet paper and on
an oyster shell.
Do you believe that any of these "sightings" are valid? No. Would you agree with me that a lot of people who call themselves Christians are blithering idiots? Yes. They can join the rest of the human race....
And can you explain to me how any sane person could believe that the Infinite Creator of the Universe would reveal Himself through an image on a tortilla? No...ask one of them. And if He did so ... what is He trying to SAY? Please translate into plain English the Message of the Holy Tortilla. "Eat at Taco Bell"?
Do you believe that Catholics are saved (going to heaven after they die)? Yes, though not on the basis of being Catholics.... What about Mormons? Jehovah's Witnesses? If they are, it is in spite of their groups' teachings, not because of them. Southern Baptists? Pentecostals? Presbyterians? Episcopalians? Assembly of God? Church of Christ? For these last ones, same as for "Catholic". Why or why not? Because what they believe is true/not true. So you want to get beyond rarified rhetoric at some point? Let me know...
And if your answer is, "Yes, Catholics are saved if they've really received Jesus and been born again," please describe in detail (for the benefit of our Catholic friends) the exact process whereby one receives Jesus and is born again. And please be very, very specific, because if even one small ingredient is misstated, then a person may needlessly end up in hell. Thank you. Have fun with it here. Knowing about the patronage model current in NT times does help quite a bit.
You're a Christian. If you committed suicide, would you go to heaven? Yes. If not, (a) why not, and (b) what is the scriptural basis [if any] for your answer? All sin is forgiven by the atonement -- no exceptions are laid out other than rank apostasy. There you go.
Adolf Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews. According to evangelical Christian beliefs, if Hitler dropped to his knees and repented (and received Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior) three seconds before he died, then he would be saved, and he'd go to heaven and would live forever, right next door to the dead Popes and the virgin Mary and the apostle Paul. Do you think this is fair? "Right next door"? Who told you that? No; by the honor-shame paradigm, repentant Hitler will live in the grungiest part of the eternal realm this side of hell. Have you noticed that Biblegod has quite a few policies that are offensive to the average person's instinctive sense of morality? I've noticed a lot of whining to that effect, yes, but no actual rational argument. By chance do you have any? I also noticed that Jesus told a parable to people who whined about it....
In Isaiah 7:14 we read a prophecy about a virgin having a baby, and she names it "Immanuel." Matthew 1:23 tells us that this was a prophecy of Jesus. But Jesus was named Jesus not Immanuel. How do you explain this? Was Isaiah a false prophet (Deuteronomy 18:22)? Nope. From our sister site: People and groups in the OT were OFTEN getting special 'place' names and temporary names, to be used for a specific purpose. Solomon, for example, got TWO names at his birth (II Sam 12.25)--Solomon and Jedidiah. No reference is ever made to Jedidiah after that, but it doesn't seem to be an issue. See also the story about Pashur in Jer 20:1-6. Israel and Judah consistently receive 'temporary' and symbolic names in the Prophets (cf. Ezek 23 and Is 62.3-4) Matthew is the one who quotes the 'Immanuel' passage one verse AFTER the he reports the angel's command to name the son JESUS, AND four verses BEFORE reporting that his parents called him 'Jesus'...he doesn't show the SLIGHTEST concern over this "problem"! (in other words, it WASN'T an issue in that culture). This is even more striking in that Matthew is the one arguing that the passage was fulfilled! --the name issue wasn't an issue. If you had to call the kid 'Immanuel" for the prophecy to be fulfilled, what in the world are we gonna do with Is 9.6--where the child gets 4 names (i.e. wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace)?! And actually, we don't think it was his mother who had to call him 'Immanuel' anyway. Most modern bibles have a footnote at the 'she shall call him...' text, that explains that in the MSS, we have a couple of variants (he, she, they)...Matthew quotes it as 'they'...This could apply to ANYBODY who acknowledged that Jesus was God walking among his people--even John 1 would qualify for this. This is just not generally considered a problem: "There is no problem in referring the names Jesus and Emmanuel to the same person. This may well be the reason Matthew spells out the meaning of the name Emmanuel, meqÆ hJmw`n oJ qeov", “God with us” (LXX Isa 8:8, 10). Indeed this is not a personal name but rather a name that is descriptive of the task this person will perform. Bringing the presence of God to man, he brings the promised salvation—which, as Matthew has already explained, is also the meaning of the name Jesus (v 21b). “They” who will call him Emmanuel are those who understand and accept the work he has come to do. Matthew probably intends the words of Jesus at the end of his Gospel—“Behold I am with you always, until the end of the age” (28:20)—to correspond to the meaning of Emmanuel. Jesus is God, among his people to accomplish their salvation (see Fenton, “Matthew,” 80–82). [WBC]
In Matthew 17:1-5 we read the story of the "transfiguration" of Jesus. Moses and Elijah dropped in (perhaps in spectral form?) and talked to Jesus. Immediately, Peter wanted to build shelters for Moses and Elijah, calling them by name.
How did Peter know who they were? From photographs? More likely from 1) stereotyped views current among Jews as to what they looked like; or 2) overhearing their names used in the conversation...
In the foregoing questions, I've shown conclusively that your "God" is in reality a hateful, twisted, nasty, vicious, petty, vengeful, double-talking, self-contradictory, nit-picking, spiteful being of low moral character. You've shown you know how to complain about it, but that's really about it...
How do you know you're not really worshipping Satan? I'm not asking you to hold God accountable, or to judge him (he's opposed to that, of course); I'm just asking you if there is any minimum standard of decency that you'd hold him to. Have you decided in advance to worship God no matter what kind of a violent, twisted, sick son of a ***ch he is shown to be in his own book? Beans or peas again? I'll pass until you step past bare "argument by outrage" and offer us some rational argumentation...outrage is not a sufficient form of argument. It is merely a substitute for true argument, with the intention to win over the prospective convert by means of tugging on their heartstrings like an orchestral harp. If the reader finds the God of the Bible cruel, unjust, bloodthirsty, etc., as you do, then that is your own personal problem, as it stands...what must be done -- but I have still not seen done -- is an analysis proving that a given action/directive by God was indeed unfair and/or cruel. Here's some advice on what such you truly need to do to make your "argument by outrage" more than just an emotional spin-doctoring. As I have said time and time again to others, this world is not their world; our thoughts are therefore not their thoughts; their values are therefore not our values. The critic tends to assume that people who lived in this day and age were "just like us" and would have reacted with the same immediate moral outrage as they did. That is simply not the case. Mere statement of data on a broad level argues for nothing; a moral hierarchy must be examined and established. Take these two statements: 1) Hitler exterminated 6 million Jews. 2) Blethkorp exterminated 6 million Refrons. We are rightly filled with moral outrage at the first one. But why? The obvious reason is that we know about Hitler and we know about his Master race schemes; we know about his attempt to seize power; we know from the data that he was morally wrong. The core of "argument by outrage" is to take something like the second item, however, and shake out the "least common denominator" so that the moral equivalency is made to seem to be the same. However, what if we start defining out the second one so that: 1. "Blekthorp" is the leader of the Harlanian race, a peaceful people who only wish to be left alone. 2. The "Refrons" are a predatory and parasitical race -- say like Star Trek's Borg -- whose only goal is to assimilate others into their culture or destroy those they consider inferior. Now that we have the context, whence is the "argument by outrage"? I have chosen a clearly extreme illustration, but between these extremes of black and white lie shades of gray which are a combination of black and white. We would suppose that you would agree that the Harlanians have a right to defend themselves. If the Refrons refuse to give up -- are willing to fight to the last to achieve their goal -- is it a moral outrage that the Harlanians exterminated 6 million of them? How indeed if the total population of Refrons was somewhere around 70 billion and executing 6 million was the only way to get the Refrons to decide that the cost of conquest was too high? Lest you think this a fanciful idea, consider the key parallels to the arguments over whether or not to drop a nuclear bomb on Japan.
In other words ... the Bible contains instructions on how to avoid the eternal fires of hell. God (1) made the rules, (2) created an imperfect human race that
he knew in advance would break his rules, Did you blame Mom for putting the cookie jar where you could reach it, too? Also, is being free an imperfection? If so, do you think the American Founders were idiots? (3) created a horrible place where the rule-breakers would be tortured forever, Not true, as noted. and then (4) provided us with information (albeit confusing and contradictory) To whom? Not to me, sorry.... on how to escape the hell that he himself created. Wouldn't it have been a hell of a lot simpler if the all-powerful God, by a snapping of his fingers, had just eliminated all of the problems we humans must endure ... instead of giving us this complicated book and just hoping we could figure it out? I guess it would also be lot "simpler" for you if someone cooked all your meals, washed you in the bathtub, fed you by hand, and even wiped your hiney for you in the restroom...the simple truth is, none of this is hard; but it is hard to escape the idea that you are being irresponsible....especially since you cite chestnuts like Prov. 26:4-5 as "problems"....I skip the rest of this one, which is more of the same "preaching" for which we once referred you here...
A Christian once told me that the only way to explain the origin of the universe was that God created it, since matter can't come out of nothingness. Question: Where did God come from? What, THIS old canard too? When did he have HIS beginning? Who created HIM? How can God exist without having a beginning? And if GOD can exist without having a beginning ... why can't the universe itself do that? Here's a hint: The universe and matter degrade...the need is for a first uncaused cause, that is NOT subject to degradition...unless you've stopped flaking skin these days, don't ask me to think that the universe is an exception...
This same Christian friend told me that there can't be any design without a designer. She pointed out the incredible complexity of the universe, and of biochemistry and reproduction. If the universe (and life) is complex, then the Designer who thought it up must be much MORE complex, right? So who designed God? No, actually, God is regarded as a very "simple" being in terms of structure...but you're not answering the point anyway simply by throwing up your hands. The issue is otherwise outside my scope, so I'll stop there...
Hebrews 10:4 states unequivocally that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. That being true, why did God give the Jews so many commandments about animal sacrifices (see Leviticus 9:2, for instance)? Was he just playing a joke on them? Why didn't he tell them, way back in the Old Testament days, that their animal sacrifices were useless? Useless for what? Ancient people were quite up on the concept of actions that symbolized something greater. The Jews would have no problem viewing the animal sacrifices in that light.
Exodus 20:17 (commandment #10 of the Ten Commandments) gives a list of property that belongs to your neighbor, which you're ordered not to covet. The list includes your neighbor's house, his servants, his ox, his donkey ... and his wife. Oh dear, THIS canard now? If you are a married man, do you consider your wife to be your property? No. Next part assumes "yes" so we go to: Are you aware that
many women are deeply offended that your God includes them in a property list along with domesticated animals and servants ("servants" being humans that are owned as slaves, with God's blessing)? Are you (and these women) aware that nothing in the list says that these things are all in the category of "property" and that you have just assumed that they are? Doesn't this betray God's crummy attitude toward women in general? No, it reveals that you have made a category error....this is like saying, "I need to go out and pick up some bread, some milk, and my wife" means you think your wife is something to eat....the only category here is "things that can be coveted"....and I think you'll agree that it is possible to covet someone's spouse... Some Christians want to display the Ten Commandments in public schools. Do you think it's a good idea for a modern-day third-grader to grow up thinking that one's wife is property? No, that's why you teach them critical thinking...so they won't make such silly category errors...
And speaking of God's attitude toward women ... did you know that he created Eve as an afterthought? Take a look at Genesis 2:18-22 (which may be one of my all-time favorite Bible passages): God first decides that man (Adam) should not be alone. God decides that Adam needs a "suitable helper." So what God does next is to parade all the animals and birds before Adam, "But for Adam no suitable helper was found." (Genesis 2:20b). THAT'S when God decides to create woman! And your problem here is, what? I don't see "afterthought" here...I see "order" and you reading "afterthought" into it, in order to create an offense. There is none...I see a quite tender moment of realization that would not have been possible otherwise.
As you know, the Bible allows us to have more than one wife at a time; Moses had more than one wife, and God never batted an eye. The Bible has references to multiple wives (Genesis 4:23, Genesis 28:9, etc.) and even gives us some rules on polygamy (Deuteronomy 21:15ff), but has nary a prohibition against the practice. Only bishops ("overseers") are prohibited from having multiple wives (I Timothy 3:2). Do you agree with this? With which? The polygamy, or the restriction? If you and your husband (who isn't a bishop, let's assume) lived in a country where polygamy was legal, do you realize that he could take multiple wives (he'd probably invite you to the weddings, but not the honeymoons), and it wouldn't violate any Biblical commandments? Do you have some problem with this? God nowhere endorses polygamy; condemnation is explicit in the 1 Timothy verse, and implicit and by example: God created but one Eve for Adam. Multiple wives led, for most men who were polygamists, to multiple troubles. Then shouldn't God have said something more direct? Not necessarily. Polygamy counts as one of those acts in the hierarchy of morals that has been reckoned at times to be a "necessary evil" -- not meaning, as you may say, that God changes his mind about what is moral, but that what is moral may be superseded by what is moral on other grounds. To use the classic example, lying is wrong unless you have Jews in your cellar. Then lying becomes a moral imperative. We therefore need only show that there are circumstances in which polygamy might be a moral imperative, and we can produce these, from a contextually neutral source. Karen Armstrong, certainly no friend of fundamentalism, notes in her biography of Muhammed [190-2] that early Islam allowed polygamy. It seems you view polygamy in terms of male chauvinism and a desire to have many bed partners. In some cases there was no doubt abuse in that direction; Solomon seems to have been a prime example, who paid the price of indiscretion via being drawn into idolatry. However, Armstrong notes social factors in Muhammed's time that mitigated the "evil" of polygamy, and these factors apply just as readily in more ancient Biblical settings: 1) Polygamy was Muhammed's solution to the problem of orphans and widows. Men who died for whatever reason left behind sisters, daughters, and other relatives who needed protection. New guardians might not be scrupulous about administering the property of orphans and might even try to keep women unmarried so they could keep the of the deceased husband property. Polygamy allowed an already-married guardian with better interests for the survivors to step in, in an era before there were social, legal and governmental organizations to take up the case. Obviously these conditions applied in the earlier world of the ANE as well.
2) Armstrong notes that there was probably a shortage of men in Arabia in Muhammed's era, "which left a surplus of unmarried women who were often badly exploited." Such women in the ANE found themselves compelled to take up a life of prostitution, and less scrupulous persons may resort to female infanticide. Critics like you should therefore take some caution before condemning polygamy as repugnant. The matter is not that simple; the practice would almost certainly be repugnant in our modern nation, because none of the social conditions exist which exert a moral influence making polygamy a "necessary evil." But there is a vast difference between our modern world and the ancient Near East.
My friend Gordon, a Christian, gets upset when I use the expression "god**m" (the proper pronunciation requires the accent on the second syllable). He doesn't get upset when I just say "d*mn." I have told him that in using the full "god**m" version, I am acknowledging that only God can d*mn; to say "d*mn" only could be a suggestion that some other entity may be damning the object of the imprecation. In other words, as I patiently explain to him, I am in fact honoring his god. What do you think? I think you just like to use the word and are looking for funny excuses to do it. After years working for a prison, language like that bores me; but I'd like to think you'd be able to come up with something more creative, like, "Get the frink out of here, you snorkin' moron."
Imagine that there's a shipwreck, and ten survivors are washed ashore on a deserted island. Not seven? Oh -- wrong show... All of them have complete amnesia, but they retain the ability to read. Hmm, maybe it is NOT the wrong show then.... The only book they have is the Bible (let's say it's the NIV). For the next five years, they study the Bible and use it as the basis for a religion they develop (which they call "Biblianity"). How similar would their doctrines (and worship services) be to what we'd find in your own church among your Christian brothers and sisters? Dunno. How smart are these guys?
Or, in the alternative, is it perhaps more likely that they'd spot the same contradictions, inconsistencies, and outright horrors that I did, and simply reject the Bible out of hand? Maybe if they're presumptuous in their ignorance, yes...is any of them a Bible scholar familiar with the genre of ANE proverbial lit, for example? Would they forget that too? Or would they come with knowledge that the ancients could take for granted, but which we remain willfully ignorant about?
Do you believe that most people "come to Christ" and "receive Jesus" because they become convinced, at some point in their lives, of the validity of Christianity? Probably not, sad to say. Or is it obvious that most people who "surrender to Christ" do so at a time of crisis and emotional turmoil in their lives, and are simply grabbing an emotional life saver? It's pretty clear that this is often true, and that's part of the problem with our churches.
Have you ever noticed that nobody "comes to Christ" on the afternoon before prom night? Nobody "repents" as he's walking into the Pleasure Den whorehouse in Reno after winning $8000 at the roulette wheel I'm sure this is leading to some sort of reflection upon the epistemic value of Christian truth claims...right?... it's always after he's landed on death row, and all his appeals have been exhausted (like Carla Faye Tucker ... she COULD have "found Jesus" just before she grabbed the pickaxe. Why didn't she? Guess it would have been just too d*mn inconvenient). Aren't you a little bit skeptical about the "jailhouse conversions?" Having known many such, no -- not merely on the basis of them being in a jailhouse. Do you think Jesus is a bit disappointed that he gets so much of the dregs of society ... no Donald Trumps or Bill Gateses? No, they have their own reward...and Jesus does not need their riches or real estate....though if you want to play that game, he does have Sam Walton, Curtis Carlsson (owner of Radisson hotels), and Jack Eckerd...
And by the way ... why would any sane person believe that the answer to every problem on earth is the torture-murder of an innocent man? Couldn't resist repeating that canard for the 657th time, eh? Answer above...
In the Bible (Genesis 30:37-39), it tells the story of animals mating while they looked at speckled trees; the result is that the calves that were born were speckled. Honestly, do you believe this story? Yep. What do you think would happen if we tried to replicate this event under controlled conditions? Same result? Only if you had God behind it, as Jacob finally figured out. What Jacob did is obviously a form of "sympathetic magic" - putting a striped object in front of the flocks so that they had "ringstraked," etc. offspring. Yes, Jacob was engaged in bunk. No doubt about it. However, there is a great difference between the Bible describing a bunko process and endorsing it as true. Genesis says that Jacob did the magical bit, and it says he got the results he wanted, but it does not thereby establish that a valid cause-and-effect relationship existed -- though I do think that the story is intended to make the reader wonder whether one exists, before setting up the "punch line" which takes place in 31:10-13. Here, Jacob indicates that God showed in a dream that Laban was intentionally cheating him. He says: And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the rams which leaped upon the cattle were ringstreaked, speckled, and grisled. And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I. And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ringstreaked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee. I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred. In other words, the reader is now told that God divinely intervened for the purpose of evening the odds that Laban was stacking against Jacob. Jacob obviously did think at first that the sticks were the key to his success, but from events in Ch. 31, God stepped down on Jacob and disabused him of the notion.
Do you believe that atheists and Wiccans and lesbians have exactly the same legal rights that you do? Legal rights, yes, other than where lesbians and marriage is concerned. If your answer is "yes," have you taught this to your children? Don't have any...I'll tell my dog though.
After Noah's ark landed, and the flood waters receded, what did the carnivores eat while the prey animals were repopulating? Vegetables, most likely...they can do it in a pinch. But this is beyond my scopeof expertise, so I'll have to pass on it and on 123-6, about what pandas ate, etc.