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PeteMObie
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Sorry I'm late! I'm a bit confused by this meme's topic "Do Atheists harden their heart?" How can you harden your heart against someone or something you don't believe exists? I'm not the sharpest tool in the box especially when it comes to philosophy, but isn't the meme a contradiction in terms? What I can say from my own experience as a believer (been in a variety of churches over the years but stopped going during the last 3years) that Evangelical, Pentecostal and Fundamentalist denominations tend to be taught and think that God is so obvious, therefore some people have chosen to 'deliberately rebel against God by becoming Atheists'. I've paraphrased this quote from a Christian tract I used to use in my mid teens as a basis for converting others. Atheists tended to be seen as secretly knowing there was a god, but wanting to live a life of sin instead, so deliberately chose to accept evolution as an excuse to rule out any divine element of how the universe was made, thus making it easier to live lives of debauchery and vice. Seriously this is what some denominations really believe, I know I was once part of it! Sorry!
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Hi Greta, I enjoyed your post immensely as it highlights what we all do as believers, emphasise your key verses then place less emphasis on the rest that contradicts them. All believers do this to some degree. During my Theology Degree at Uni, being an academic course, there was a huge range of interpretations and theories across the entire spectrum of belief, from Jesus was a Zealot Political Revolutionary, to being God, and everything in between. Some hypotheses were more plausible than others. As most Atheists will appreciate, no two believers believe exactly the same things. Every believer has an internally personalised version of "the gospel". Steve makes an excellent point abut the search for the Jesus of History compared with the Jesus of Faith, since all three Quests for The Historical Jesus by Theologians, basically interpreted Jesus according to the culture of the Theologian's day. We can therefore never really know the Jesus of History. Before any Atheists think of making "If Jesus ever existed" or similar claims, then do I need to remind you of Tacitus, Josephus or Suetonius, all respected historians from the first century AD? Where Steve and I differ in opinion (note that it is just opinion) is concerning the dating of the gospels, their literary dependency (if any) and their transmission accuracy. Steve only mentions one of several main theories regarding the various attempts to identify source materials for the synoptic gospels. I once went with a 4 Document Hypothesis, an expansion of Steve's. Today I'm in the "I give up" camp as it is impossible trying to explain the similarities and differences between the synoptic writings, as the writers had differing target audiences and agendas, so arranged their source material accordingly. The disciples were aging, Jesus had not yet returned so the early church tried to capture as much authentic material from eye witnesses as they could, before they passed away, either naturally or "assisted" by Roman executioners. Not many people realise that most of the disciples were executed/murdered for their faith. Some executions took place at the very same Colosseum you go to visit and marvel at the architecture! I wonder if we'll be visiting Auschwitz in 2000 years time to marvel at the architecture! So if you think the religious right of today are "intolerant" of Atheists, just try being a Christian around 50-70 AD where public executions of thousands of believers took place throughout the Roman Empire. That's why I can identify immediately with an Atheist's anger at being persecuted and unfairly treated by society. I share your sense of outrage that significantly less numerous groups of society get vastly disproportionate representation within society. I see parallels between Atheism coming out and Christianity coming out of Judaism, but you won't have to pay with your life for what you believe, unless these extreme fundamentalist christians start murdering Atheists en mass as well as Pro-Abortion doctors. The claim "you've got a long period of poorly document sources between the time of the Jesus' life and the gospel writers" and similar claims that "the gospels were written in the second century AD" are not well supported by the evidence. The first Christian writings were Paul's Letters to the Thessolonians written about 42-44 AD, that's only 12-14 years after the Crucifixion of Jesus (assuming 30 AD) which is hardly a "long period". A significant number of scholars maintain that all 4 gospels were written before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, beginning with Mark around 55-60 AD. So thats 25-40 years after the Crucifixion. Again not a "long period". The earliest surviving Christian document is P52, a fragment of John 18 in Coptic (Egyptian) held in the John Rylands Library at Manchester University, England, and dated around 125 AD. That is 35 to 55 years after the original gospel was written. Comparing the earliest Christian manuscripts against other ancient literature, there is about half a millennium between Homer and the earliest surviving copies of his Iliad. Although there are hundreds of lines in doubt, my guess is that you will believe you are reading a perfectly transmitted, 100% accurate, error free, rendition of Homer's Iliad as originally written, and translated perfectly from Classical Greek into English. I suspect selective skepticism is at work for most Atheists, just as believers rely on their selective gospel verses. I'm sorry this is more like a Greta length piece, but after all the good work you've done presenting such an excellent case that what I believe is so messed up, it would be a shame to give believers like me holes in your debating points to latch on to.
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Bruce I like it! You might have something there as even the Old Testament mentions other gods. The Commandment YOu shall have no other gods before me" Seem s to imply that other gods existed, or else why use the name "Most High God". Another idea is that the Christian God is only a lackey, having to cow tow to another more supreme god or council of gods. Could we also be over using relative comparisons, so that the Xn God might appear to be "Omni" compared to us yet in reality is finite. Others suggest that maybe God is in a tug of war with an equally powerful devil or god of chaos for want of a description. Also consider Elohim has a pluralness about it, even the Genesis account uses the phrase "Let 'us' make man in our own image", sorting also implying a plurality. Some OT Theologians have suggested that all the various names for God are names of other gods that got amalgamated into one person. Rather like a fictional character being made up of characteristics of several real living persons.
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Sinned34 there are a few places in the Old and New Testaments that speak of things being "predestined" or following some kind of divine plan. A good example might be Ephesians 1:3-5 that mentions God choosing believers before the foundation of the world. Other verses like Mark 4:12 that speak of God deliberately blinding people to the truth in case they realise, repent and be saved. This probably explains why a lot of Christians come across as having a smug superiority when they meet an atheist. Also adds to the "Chosen few" mentality we also see. If we are to believe this is correct, then using Pharaoh as an example, his heart was hardened by God so God could show off demonstrating power over each of the main Egyptian deities. Foreign kinds were also 'used' as part of a divine plan to punish Israel (northern Kingdom) and Judah (Southern Kingdom). There are other verses that contradict this implying that humans have free will. Why did God create Atheists? Warped sense of humour perhaps to show Christians how they really ought to be living, acting and thinking, just like He sent gay people to show straight men how to treat a woman properly.
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Almost every religion thinks its version of the truth is the ultimate absolute truth and all others are well meaning false pretenders. Often religions might claim to be one thing but in reality portray conflicting practices. How often do we hear Christianity is about a God of Love, yet a high proportion of adherents preach venomous hatred towards those who are not followers of their persuasion. Islam claims to be "peace" yet criticise the Koran, make a film called Fitma, write The Satanic Verses etc and watch how many muslims start rioting and threatening Fatwas on the perpetrators. To the credit of Dutch muslims they did not exploit the situation like those around the globe did. Christianity claims "Jesus is the only way to the Father (God)" which you can't help but interpret as being exclusive. But go back to the 4th and 5th century and look at the different philosophies of Antiochene and Alexandrian churches and note how different their Soteriologies (salvation) are. Their whole theological emphasis is derived from their Soteriology. That's just two schools of thought within early Christianity. Bring them together and they mutually excommunicate each other and denounce the other as heretics. Things are evidently not"essentially the same" even within the same religion as this example demonstrates so well. Judaism claims to be tolerant of "the alien and the oppressed" and is even commanded not to oppress the alien "for remember you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt", yet happily bulldozes houses of innocent Palestinian "aliens" in the Gaza strip today. Erecting sniper towers to take pot shots at the Palestinian community who live under this constant cloud of fear and intimidation. Even adherents within Christianity, Islam and Judaism religions cannot agree on things. Just look at all the denominations claiming to follow Christ, or the 4 main schools of Islam, or the main sects within Judaism. So if people within one religion cannot appear to be "essentially the same" what chance is there of claiming that different religions are "essentially the same"?
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Nurse Ingrid Thanks for the comments and the welcome. I was fortunate to have some good experiences, teachers and friends along the way. I'm also an Astronomer and into sciences, so knew the approximate age of the planet and the universe. It was Astronomy that got me into God in the first place. OK that and a girl I liked who went to church. I think we have to consider the differences between how we come to be a Desit/Theist or Atheist. The majority of Athesist I know and meet seem to have done a lot of personal invesitgation and questioning before coming to a reasoned decision about becoming an Atheist. A person of faith however, often makes an emotional spur of the moment decision. Just look at the number of new converts who leave their new religion once the dust has settled. Now the difference is that an Atheist knows why they don't believe in a deity because they've already reasoned things through, whereas the newbie Christian who is apparently "born again" must now go off and learn about what their denomination believe. I'm generalising I know. What you really learn in church, and their Bible College, is not what the text actually states, but what your pastor/vicar/minister believes about the text. No debating! Nothing! It was frustrating having the Theological and Astronomical knowledge to sit through "us and them" type sermons that demonstrated their ignorance and immutable mindset, regarding both spiritual and scientific matters. I accepted that macro evolution was possible, but didn't see any directly observed, empirical evidence, for what seemed like speculation based upon circumstantial evidence. However, I liked the way Darwin's Theory of evolution pulled everything together, so whilst I was agnostic about whether it was 100% accurate, did appreciate that it was the best explanation we had about the origins of life. The only people who I could talk to about science and NOT get ridiculed or charged with "compromising my faith" were Atheists!! One of my "Red Pill" moments was when two Atheists "criticised" what I believed and why. They were both Biologists and I knew they were honest scientists. We laid our cards on the table about the origins of the universe. They were surprised that a Christian was interested in the science, and I was shocked that they didn't laugh and they were impressed with a 3,500 year old poetic creation account that listed the right elements, but not necessarily in the right order. I was impressed by how their scientific knowledge filled the blanks, complimenting what I already thought I knew, as they explained the various processes, even honestly admitting difficulties. Suddenly our ideas didn't seem a million miles apart, compared with when we started. All this came from them "criticising" my beliefs. I don't think it is so much in the exact words of the question but more how you ask the question that will determine the reaction. As you can probably tell, I'm currently at a cross roads in life, reassessing my beliefs in the light of new convictions and recurring truths about the sick condition of my religion. I used to rationalise that most church leaders had not had the privilege of my education, so I tended to overlook their ignorance. Well I can no longer make excuses for what I see going on around me, so something's got to give.
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I'm a Christian and in the minority of society, if recent population stats here in Australia are representative. From my experience (yes I did an academic Theology Degree at a university), most criticism that causes Christians to feel the other party is "intolerant" or "disrespectful" of their beliefs comes not from Atheists, but from other Christians. Do I need to remind us of rival popes facing each other across battle fields in pre-medieval Europe? Personally, when confronted with valid criticisms of my beliefs, I wonder if there is an element of "damn I've been wrong and living a lie for all these years" so it is easier to deny it than face the prospect of admitting you've been living under false beliefs. Or the shame that you may feel at being conned by the Televangelist who appeared so convincing. So it appears to be a pride issue and denial that prevents most of us from facing up to criticism. So have we narrowed it down to "don't criticise me as I will then have to take personal responsibility and face up to your valid challenges that show errors in what I consider to be the absolute truth"? With so many bible verses commanding death (ultimate act of intolerance) towards those who disagree with "The Chosen Ones", is it little wonder that Christians are generally so intolerant and take criticism so badly. Often equating the critic with "The sperm of the devil" or an allegiance with "The Prince of Darkness". Most of the church cannot differentiate between "Atheist" and "AntiChrist", that is "Without god" and "Against god". The mere term "against god" ought to give believers a clue that this implies a believer in God who wants to challenge God, not a person who does not even believe in any deity. How do things improve without criticism? If I were not reading criticisms of Christianity I would become complacent and blinkered, conveniently forget all those verses that contradict what I think I might believe". It's funny how Atheists have a better understanding of what it means to be a Christian than most Christians. Surely I'm not the only Christian who does not see Atheism as a threat, but instead as a neutral voice offering a different perspective on things, and dare I say, a catalyst for change perhaps?
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Jun 22, 2010