I have another important question for my Theist friends. It is simple but very relevant indeed. My question is this: If you are a Christian that defines faith as something that you have received from God, how do you know that this is in fact the case? In fact, how do you know that the kind of trust that you have in the existence of God is any different than the nature of belief that exists within other religions? How is this differentiated? Should it be? Thank you for your thoughts!
I had a bit of an annoying morning at work. I’m presently a waiter at a local restaurant and I worked the overnight last night. This middle aged guy walks in and orders coffee right away.
I’ve always been a patient guy so I can deal with persnickety meal orders and people who talk a mile a minute, much like this fellow did. What became clear from the start however is that this dude had an agenda.
He found out rather quickly from me that I’m a former Theology student that chose not to finish my degree because unbelief found its cozy new home in my life. Funny how Bible study and unbelief make such a good pair, don’t you think?
Anyhow, what soon became rather insulting was this fellow telling me that someone who truly once believed cannot be “unborn” as he put it. He suddenly assumed the role of a preacher telling me it like it is. All the while throwing the f-word around like a five year old with a new toy.
He even thinks that God speaks to him and tells him just when to place his bets when he’s living it up in Vegas. Truly a piece of work this guy revealed himself to be with every word spoken.
I simply remained calm and collected, I even managed to ask him one very simple yet profound question. “Sir, how do you know the difference between the voice of God and say your own inner voice?” He simply shrugged it off by repeating the question as if he’s been asked a thousand times and we unbelieving folks should just know better.
Right before he left he made another appeal for me to reconsider faith in Christ. After all, he apparently went through a phase like I’m in too. He just wanted to sin and live it up for a bit, then Jesus brought him to his knees once again.
It is people like this who are not even the least bit interested in seeing religious experiences in a different light. I don’t negate that human beings get excited about unsubstantiated ideas. I’ll even grant that his turning to religion in his teens probably helped get him away from the pot and the heavy drinking.
There are many different ways to get away from a rough past, I just presently understand unlike this fellow that religion isn’t the only or even most effective way to deal with the past. Transformation begins by reassessing our own past behaviors and finding new strategies for change. Having a community of like minded people makes it all the more effective.
This guy then had the audacity to tell me that God just told him that he doesn’t have to worry about me. I’ll be coming back to the fold at a later time. I quietly told him, “I don’t think so.”
The only thing that really made that conversation worth my time was the ten dollar tip that he left me. I’ll take his money, but he can keep his religion to himself!
As a former student of Theology I find it fascinating how much of a role guilt really has in the Judeo-Christian mindset. In fact this doctrine of guilt is so important to Evangelicals that if you do not accept the notion that your mind, will, and desires are all corrupted by sin then you in fact are lost and especially in danger of judgment.
So let’s be objective here for a second. If I don’t agree that all humans (myself included) are infected with a sin virus then I stand as one who is especially dangerous in the area of morality and accountability? This just does not seem to jive with the facts!
Think about it, what does one really stand to gain by accepting that they are in fact corrupted, depraved, and blinded by sin? The simple answer is guilt and shame. However, let’s hash this out just a little more.
This isn’t just any guilt that we are being told to accept by our religious friends. No, the nature of Biblical guilt is generational. It’s inherited and contagious like a disease. It festers and grows simply by being human and this guilt meets its final demise by applying the wrath of some kind of unseen angry being to it.
Yes, this notion of justice says that it is absolutely necessary for Jesus to wield the sword in the end. Don’t be fooled by that passive martyr from ancient Israel that promoted peace and good will toward men. Also, let us consider this pattern of martyrdom that Jesus is said to have instituted.
Accepting my guilty part as a corrupt sinner is then said to be the evidence of God’s grace in my life. It is as if scales are falling from my eyes and I see reality as it really is! I’m a guilty, pathetic, evil worm that deserves to burn in hell eternally mostly because I was born like this. Hallelujah friends! Praise the Lord. Jesus made a loophole for me when he died on the cross.
Now that my sins are erased there is a wonderful option to consider. I wonder if I should go into the jungles of South America and try to make secluded tribal people think just like me. They have to know they are guilty! They have to. There is no bending on this rule after all it is the heart of the gospel message.
If they do not accept me then I could very well lose my life. I could die! It’s perfectly fine though if I do die, Jesus said there is a great reward for doing this. My religion has made the one life I actually know I possess fairly dispensable, it just depends how I want to use it.
Objectively speaking, if I am to remain consistent with accepting my depravity and guilt I will stand to gain a lot of shame all at once. This shame is good. It teaches me my need for someone to crucify their body on a block of wood on behalf of my guilt. This person is presumably innocent, I didn’t ask him to spill his blood on my account, I am told that he did it because he loves me and scapegoating is the only way for me to be redeemed in the eyes of God.
Suddenly, I don’t think I’m truly guilty in the first place, do you? I also don’t really sense a deep need to be forgiven for a sin virus at all, do you?
I have a lot of Christian facebook friends and lately I’ve been observing some of their public discussions on Theology. One phrase that is often used in discussions about the issue of foreknowledge and god’s purposes is this idea of god’s perfect will being done in the world. As if there is hands down no question from this perspective about the fact that this is somehow being accomplished.
The tricky thing however is that they admittedly don’t know exactly how this is occurring in any objective sense. What they have is one collection of ancient writings that carry on the tradition of one formulation of god in the world. It gets a little more dicey when we realize that the three largest expressions of Monotheism all come from the Old Testament.
Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all have one very important thing in common. Each of these religions has a built in doctrine of inspiration and authority. One must accept without contest that one of these religions holds the most holy and pure expression of god’s will. To deviate from this would be heresy and a sure ticket to eternal punishment in some way, shape, or form.
A simple question for my Theist friends is this: When are you going to acknowledge that none of these built in authority structures have any leg up on the other? If each of these religions requires the same virtue of faith to get into the club then when are you going to admit that faith isn’t enough? Faith will never be enough to establish the truth about anything.
It is simply a mechanism for church growth. It’s a carrot waived before your face so as to gain access to an allegedly eternal award. Please friends, wake up and start drilling your religion with relentless critical thinking! Don’t be afraid to cross the threshold. It is by doing so that we can best learn and grow.
Be careful not to claim
a knowledge that lasts!
Be careful not to blame
the sins of your past!
Take caution when it comes to people you meet,
for faith only has your five senses to cheat!
Confidence will erode
in light of the facts.
False knowledge bestowed
will tumble and crack!
As salt onto metal keeps nothing intact,
this knowledge reaps our minds and won’t give them back!
Are human minds static or malleable? When I refer to the human mind I am referring to our conscious beliefs and brain states. I’m certainly no expert but if I can make one observation on the matter it appears to me that our thinking evolves and matures throughout our lifetimes. This naturally accompanies and seems to be built on every previous experience.
We learn, grow, articulate and seek to perfect our talents and abilities in many ways. Since this is the case, I wonder how it translates into our belief systems and how we view the world? As one who used to converse about and advocate Christian theology I’m seeing an issue between some forms of theology and what we actually know about human knowledge and belief.
One form of theology that appears to be in question would be this idea of “the perseverance of the saints.” It is the idea that anyone who truly believes (has faith) in god will always believe in god. It is more strictly taught among Calvinists as this idea that god’s truly elect believers will never fall out of their faith belief. Now, those who teach this philosophy won’t admit it but it is demonstrated to them over and over again that people who once truly believed and had faith in god can and do change their minds about the matter.
Sometimes it is the rejection of Christian claims and an acceptance of Buddhist claims. Sometimes it goes from a literal interpretation of the bible to a symbolic approach. Other times, as in my own life it is the transition from belief in god to a lack of belief. In other words what I once enthusiastically embraced as indisputable truth I now wholeheartedly reject in light of reevaluating the evidence for a god in my own life.
These people will say, “you were never truly saved in the first place.” I actually agree with them in this regard, but the kicker comes in when I assert that the same is true for them. If these folks are unable to substantiate that a supernatural being even exists then it is more likely that they do not actually know or possess this kind of effectual faith in god, they only think that they do. Any one of us can dig our heels in and not desire to change our minds about a matter and the opposite is also true.
This doctrine needs to be honest about the capacity that every human being has to change their minds. Lack of belief is a very real phenomenon. Do you believe in Zeus, or fairies, or ghosts? I didn’t think so.
For the sake of having sincere discussion and inquiry about the truth. I have a question for my Theist friends. Since the god of Theism is defined as being good, loving, and all-powerful, why is it that this being is not readily detected in our world? Would not this one question of detectability be a sure fire way of turning the world toward one correct view of god? I’m not talking about the prospect of whether people would want a relationship with this being, I am simply talking about one aspect that could potentially solve all the confusion and apparent deception that Theists believe is prevalent across the board. If you engage me I hope that I’ve demonstrated a new passion for kindness and sincerity. We are all on the same team when it comes to seeking truth. Thanks!
I originally posted this question on Facebook and so far it’s been a very lively discussion! Feel free to pass it on if you’re bored and want to delve into different perspectives!
I have a song stuck in my head right now, it relates very much to the title! Remember how it goes friends? Now that I’ve given you the music virus I’d like to address something else that religion needs to answer for. For anyone that may be new to reading my posts it’s no secret that I’ve been taking a hammer and chisel to what I used to believe. I’m not doing this out of malice or a desire to misrepresent, I’m stating the truth about what I once held dear and I’m being honest about the harmful effects that it had on me and that it inevitably has on others as we speak.
One example of unhealthy thinking that I’ve seen over and over again in various faith based authoritative systems is the vast disconnect between an understanding of goodness and justice. When I was a Christian I was told that god is supremely good, kind, merciful, loving, fair and just. Holding this picture in one hand is a very pleasant and comforting thing. On the other hand we have the anger and wrath of almighty god. The kind of anger that sends humans to hell eternally, inflicts pain, torture, disease and famine on his enemies, and allows a devil to be used as a pawn in all of this. He goes about like a roaring lion remember? I’m more concerned about who’s holding the leash if you ask me!
The divisive and cruel nature of the bible is apparent to anyone who reads it but there’s something that has been blinding believers for thousands of years. It’s the endeavor of the theologian. This tradition alone has been justifying and rationalizing the bible’s most unsavory bits of knowledge (or the lack of it) from it’s very inception. I’ll call this blind mouse number one.
This blind mouse needs to be honest about the disconnect between the vague nature of the bible’s ideas and the false knowledge that is being filled into these gaps. How else would ideologies like Calvinism and Arminianism be drawn from the same texts? There’s a disconnect, an agnosticism that underlies these texts when they are left alone. The pervading temptation of any person with half a brain is not to let these difficult passages stand alone. They must be justified and harmonized so as to redeem god and man from further scrutiny. Theology stakes a false knowledge claim on ideas that are otherwise contradictory and perhaps even harmful.
As we move along and set up mouse trap number two. I encourage you to grab your torch because we’ll be walking into another dark cave right about now. Two of the three mice in this story are blind and need to be put down, rather exposed to the light of reason. The third one however is not actually blind. It was just left in the dark for a little too long. We’ll get into that a little later.
The trap is set, the spring is loaded and what have we found here? Blind mouse number two has been found and it’s trying to climb a rather slippery wall. As I bring the torch a little closer I can read some red graffiti against the grey surface. It says FAITH in all capital letters. The bible has to be taken on faith. You know why? It’s the only way to set up the kind of blanketed authority that it is said to have over the believers mind. You must trust in the good nature of Jesus and his Apostles. You must trust in the good nature of god. Apparently, for no other reason than the virtue of faith itself? Is anyone else a little skeptical right about now? Why is faith such a commendable state of mind within religion? This idea of trusting what is unseen? It wouldn’t have anything to do with setting up authority would it?
Within this authority structure the primacy of truth and knowledge itself is said to be displayed in holy scripture. The very act of reasoning itself must serve a master. That master is the god of the bible. The intent is to live and do everything to the glory of god. Where is the concern for acquiring actual truth and knowledge? Where is the scrutiny? The criticism? The testing? It’s done on some measure among biblical scholars but the most rigorous and commendable work seems to be taken on by those who do not ascribe to the authority of the bible for the most part. It is these folks that have been honest about how pervasive the words of man really are in this book.
Finally, as I turn the corner and see light shining in from the entrance I see blind mouse number three making his way to freedom. Remember what I said? He wasn’t actually blind in the first place, he’s just been roaming around in the dark for too long! His eyes are beginning to adjust. He understands the nature of his surroundings. The supernatural realm, though fascinating to think about, is not a part of reality for this third mouse. He’s honest about it. He’s never heard a voice from heaven, never sensed a relationship with an unseen being and has realized how weak the arguments really are in favor of biblical Christianity and Theism itself.
Alright, I fess up! I’m that third mouse. All I have is the air I breathe, the world I live in and the universe in which I dwell. I don’t know if I’ll ever know with certainty if there is anything beyond Big Bang Cosmology or not? If the most commendable and disciplined seekers of knowledge are content with not knowing, then I am too. The sciences are willing to be right or wrong. When former theories are questioned and debunked, people are all the more grateful because we seem to be getting closer and closer to the most coherent and consistent way of understanding reality itself.
1.) You want to be your own god (self worship).
On the contrary most of us just want to be humans, it’s what we do best. If self worship is taken as selfishness, well, we’re all selfish to a point. We like being very caring and self sacrificial as well. Especially toward anyone that has earned our love and respect. Again, we’re just humans!
2.) You worship the devil.
Atheist’s don’t believe in a devil. To claim that we worship the devil by default is very insulting and stops the conversation on the spot. If you are claiming the existence of such a being then you have the burden of proof to demonstrate his/her existence. The same is true for a god.
3.) You steal your morality from (insert name of religion).
Atheist’s don’t have a complete consensus about this issue and we don’t have to. We simply reject the existence of god(s). The last time we checked morality is a human endeavor and our goal in this process is to discern between good and bad, pain and pleasure, health and sickness, etc… We also assess the natural consequences of our actions and want to promote the highest good. At least that’s what any rational mind seeks to do.
4.) Atheist’s hate god(s).
Why would we hate something that we don’t believe even exists?
5.) Atheist’s just want to sin (commit crimes) without answering for their actions.
That’s a lie. There are idiots that represent pretty much every perspective on the planet, don’t make yourself one by throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
6.) Atheist’s are responsible for more evil than all religions combined.
The rejection of the existence of a god or gods is completely separate from the moral actions of an individual. Though there have been dictatorships that endorsed some forms of Atheism in the past, the factors that led these individuals to kill off people in droves were related directly to their own immoral behaviors and prejudices against certain minority groups. These are examples of human irrationality. Human irrationality arises among religious and nonreligious people alike. It is a distinctly human characteristic that needs to remain in check through education, compassion, and accountability.
7.) Atheist’s are dishonest.
Again, that’s just below the belt. Should we call believers dishonest for not ascribing to religions other than their own?
8.) Atheist’s want to destroy all religions.
Not true. Most of us just want to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible.
9.) You don’t care about people.
Really? Be rational here! Many of us are among the top educators and scientists in the world. Let’s make the world a better place together, shall we?
10.) Atheist’s are going to hell.
If you can demonstrate that such a place even exists, we will gladly avoid it. There are many religions with many hells. If you are a conservative evangelical Christian then you are at odds with conservative Muslims that also believe in a literal hell. Isn’t it interesting how those who hold a majority religious view aren’t really sweating over all of the other hell claims? Pascal’s wager could apply to any religion. That is if you think it is even relevant to create such a dilemma?
My main motivation in writing this and other relating posts is to exploit the pitfalls of the modern Christian Charismatic Movement in America. America is just the tip of the iceberg, however. There’s no doubt in my mind that a good amount of disillusioned people are being churned out by the thousands every year! The blame goes to no one other than the individuals that are propagating a hyper view of supernatural claims.
I happen to reject all supernatural claims at this point but that chain of logic was introduced a couple of years after I had abandoned a Charismatic perspective. Another way in which I personally was negatively influenced was by my pastors and teachers creating in me a sense of false expectation. I was told about all of these amazing stories where these men had heard a voice from god, or saw light from heaven fill the room! Pretty strange stuff, I know.
There was one particular moment when I had approached my pastor in a struggle to figure out whether or not I had the gift of tongues. For those of you who don’t know, the gift of tongues is described by Charismatic Christians as being a kind of heavenly language that god speaks through you via the instrument of his holy spirit. This is a completely subjective practice that basically encourages you to speak gibberish and put a stamp of divine approval on it.
So how did my pastor help me out? We went into a separate room where I could practice my gift and he could judge it. Pretty humorous don’t you think? I literally could have made up anything on the spot. As long as I displayed proper humility and sincerity, I was in the club, so to speak! So that’s what I did. We both closed our eyes and sought the Almighty for a divine utterance. I knew to the core of my own ability to discern my situation that nothing divine had taken place at all.
I knew this, and yet I was then told and encouraged to think otherwise. I was encouraged ever so slightly to ignore my own capacity to reason. Since my pastor knew best at that moment I went on for a while thinking I actually did receive a divine gift from the creator of the universe. I was just being too hard on myself, I had to humble myself and go with the flow.
My friends, don’t go with the flow. Question everything fiercely for the sake of acquiring actual truth in this life. Certain authority structures within religion and elsewhere want your mind. The main motivator is ignorance and sometimes even fear. There are movements all throughout the world that spit in the face of reason and rationality. They do this because it is the only way to remain unaccountable to a consensus view of knowledge. They would rather love a delusion.