General Question

Likeradar's avatar

How did you come to believe, or not believe, in God?

Asked by Likeradar (19575points) April 21st, 2009

I’m going through some soul-searching about this, so I thought I’d ask for other people’s experiences.

For those of you who are atheists, how did you come to your beliefs?

Are there any former atheists here who would like to share their experiences?

Please, please, please, let’s keep it nice, non-judgmental and non-preachy. Thanks. :)

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176 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

I grew up without god, and never found a compelling reason to change.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

I wrestled with the classic religion/non-religion questions:

Why do bad things happen to good people?
If God is all good, omnipotent, and omniscient, then why do children burn to death?
Why would God favor one cross section of people and not another?

There’s just so many things that I was taught not to question as a child that just didn’t make sense to me.

rooeytoo's avatar

I am not sure what I believe but I don’t think it is important. I think what is most important is to live by the Golden Rule. If I live my life in this fashion and do good when I can, then if there is indeed a god, I assume I will be smiled upon for my efforts not frowned upon because of my lack of faith.

chyna's avatar

I grew up believing in God and never thought there was any other way to believe. The biggest thing I believe now is, if I live life believing in God and act as if I want to go to heaven, and there is no God, then what have I lost?

AstroChuck's avatar

What made me adopt atheism? I reached the age of reason.

DeanV's avatar

I never went to church, and when i finally looked into religion (in this case, Christian), I saw some things I didn’t like, most notably, the “you die and go to heaven if you’re good, and hell if you’re bad”. I don’t believe people should hold back in life because they won’t get a reward at the end, or because this “God” says you should, when there is no evidence of this God even existing.

I am agnostic because I like to keep my options open. I’ve only really looked deeply into Christianity, and I don’t believe Buddhism, or other religions should be overlooked because I’m lazy. I’ll get around to looking into others.

I can see this being a controversial thread, if some troll comes up.

And one always does.

Facade's avatar

I was brought up to believe in God. My Bible has been an excellent “road map,” and I haven’t felt the need to not believe.

Likeradar's avatar

@AstroChuck Can you explain that more?

@dverhey I know… I’m really hoping the trolls find something better to do.

ragingloli's avatar

I was born and raised atheist.
Education then provided the factual justification for remaining and bolstering my atheism and the lack of factual justification for religion.

@chyna :
If you believed in the wrong God and the actual god will send you to his version of hell, then you have lost.
If there is no God, then you have wasted a life with pointless worship and time that you could have spent on useful things.

@Likeradar : my parents never talked about the origin of the world. They didn’t care.

fireside's avatar

I stopped going to church and didn’t really like the disconnect I noticed between Jesus’ words and the attitude I witnessed. So I just did my own thing.

I found meditation to be very relaxing and looked into Buddhism but couldn’t get past the vagueness, even though I understood the concepts for the most part.

After a while, I began to see the interrelationship of things in a different way. I was in tune with my own internal reactions to truth and b.s.

Once I saw that there really was a path that I was following, I was able to write down my thoughts on various subjects..

I was introduced to the Baha’i faith and everything I read was a reflection of things I had believed and written down previously or had never voiced. To me, I knew that I had found my place and I’ve been calm, content and more productive than I have been in years since I declared.

Likeradar's avatar

@ragingloli How did your parents explain the workings of the world to you? I’ve never met anyone raised atheist!

oratio's avatar

I am an atheist. I grew up in here in sweden, and even though very few people are christian here, the church is a part of many traditions of course. But it gave me the freedom to explore it more objectively, IMO. I searched like many do for a higher purpose, and I found that there is none.

I am very much against indoctrinating children from a young age with any faith, or telling them what not to believe. They will take anything their parents tell them to without criticism. I think it should be left for them to make up their mind when they are old enough.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

I was brought up to believe in God.. then I reached an age where I didn’t find it logical and I had a lot of questions… then I investigated further and found there were answers to those questions…

Likeradar's avatar

@NaturalMineralWater What questions and what answers, if you don’t mind me asking.

Qingu's avatar

I started actually reading the Bible when I was 12 or 13 and realized it wasn’t any different from mythology.

A while before that I had actually listened to the lyrics of “Imagine” and got puzzled by the and no religion too line. Before that I had just assumed that religion was a good thing, or at least a default thing.

Qingu's avatar

@chyna, if the real God turns out to be Allah you’ve lost your ability not to have burning oil poured down your throat for all eternity in hell.

crisw's avatar

As a small animal-obsessed child, I saw the incredible impossibilities of the story of Noah’s Ark. it obviously couldn’t have happened that way, so perhaps all the rest of the Bible was just stories too.

As I reached my teens, I was troubled by the inability of Christianity to explain why there is so much suffering in the world- especially animal suffering, since animals aren’t supposed to have sinned, nor do they have any “eternal reward.”

As a senior in high school, I came upon Bertrand Russell’‘s Why I am Not a Christian and it solidified things for me.

The more I look at religion, the more inconsistencies and impossibilities I see.

Jayne's avatar

I never considered believing in God. I wasn’t raised atheist, per se- Harp’s a buddhist and my mom is probably agnostic- but I sure wasn’t raised religious, and I have never seen a hole in my intellectual existence that would tempt me to suddenly take faith in some unseen entity entirely outside of existence.

To satisfy @Likeradar‘s curiosity, my parents explained the workings of the world, to the best of their ability, in terms of how they actually work, from the scientific point of view. When I was young, of course, those answers had to be simplified and to some extent falsified, as I should hope anything so complicated as the ‘workings of the world’ must be for a child’s mind to comprehend them. Now I can do my own discovering and explaining, which is one of the nice things about atheism :)

Likeradar's avatar

@crisw and other people who brought up questioning religion- Have you also questioned the existence of god, or just religions?

I was raised a reform Jew, then I decided that while I like the Jewish culture, I’m not into organized religion. Lately, I’m questioning my belief in god as well. My boyfriend is an atheist, and aside from my main question I’m also curious about how to go about raising children without god.

Thanks for keeping this nice, everyone! :)

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

My grandfather influenced me a great deal. He was my guardian and first father for a number of years and had left religion behind when he returned from WWll. I came to believe as he did that people were connected to one another by some unseen power but no one could know for sure if it was by a God or by humans themselves; he felt it was human power. He would read the Old Testament stories to me and then try to give examples of people we knew or circumstances I might recognize around me. He looked at organized religions as a vehicle with some very good teachings for people to be able to understand one another and be able to bear up around one another in good times and bad but that it was our responsibility as people to look beyond the different ideologies to connect with the unfamiliar. Over the years I’ve looked at religions a number of times but never felt a pull or influence to step away from my gut feelings that I don’t need books or pictures or legends in order to name what I feel towards people around me.

crisw's avatar

I am an atheist; I don’t believe in the existence of any gods or other supernatural beings. I see no evidence that they exist.

Bluefreedom's avatar

I’m not sure if I believe in God. I’m not sure if I believe that a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience, like agnostics do. I’m also not sure if I deny the existence of a deity or of divine beings, like atheists do.

I just don’t know what to believe in anymore. I don’t even believe the world will end in 2012.

Qingu's avatar

@Likeradar, the word “God” can mean all sorts of things. I like to limit its definitions to beings with personalities that intervene in human history. I don’t believe in any of those kinds of gods because they are obviously mythological.

Some people think of God as basically the same thing as the “Universe,” as this algorithm-like entity, or like the Force from Star Wars. To which I say, whatever, that’s just semantics.

I was raised reform Jewish too; I don’t even call myself Jewish anymore, though. I don’t really see why you’d think that you need God to raise kids. It’s basically like raising your kids with Santa Claus, right? I guess I could see how the idea of a universal, hidden camera, always watching you for naughtiness, would be useful to scare kids, but hell, in the future we’ll probably have real cameras everywhere. You might as well tell them the Internet or Skynet is watching them. (Incidentally, my dad did try to convince me that Santa Claus existed for some reason)

ragingloli's avatar

@Qingu lol skynet. Well i guess if i had kids i could teach them that. When they have grown up, it would probably be the case.

Likeradar's avatar

@Qingu I’m not sure why you need god to raise kids either… I just have no model at all for how it’s done.

fireside's avatar

@Likeradar – in terms of raising kids, it is just a matter of having social outlets. That’s basically what church was when I grew up. You can bring them to other group activities.

I don’t think religion or faith in God is something that kids really understand anyways.
I remember spending a lot of time wondering a lot about how me and my 10 year old friends would save the church if terrorists came in and tried to hold up everyone for the collection money. That and looking at the girls as they went up the aisle for confession.

ragingloli's avatar

@Likeradar Just use and explain the “Golden Rule”: Treat others like you want to be treated.

Jayne's avatar

@Likeradar; it’s no different than without, you just need to make sure your children love and respect you, as you can’t fall back upon some other authority to guide them; which ultimately means, show them the love I’m sure you feel. It worked out fine for me.

Qingu's avatar

Well… thinking back to my childhood, God and religion were basically just meaningless rituals that my parents took me to out of obligation. I never really internalized them at all, and I thought synagogue was boring as hell and completely pointless. If my parents simply cut that stuff out of my life and did the rest the same, I don’t really see what would have been different, except maybe I would have outright rejected religion a few years earlier.

The thing is that religion has so little to do with the morals we teach our kids nowadays. Tolerance, freedom, equality, valuing intelligence and curiosity, empathy for all humans—that’s like the opposite of the shit in the Bible.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I was raised Christian, and over time, thru studying ALL other religions, and reading mythology, and studying history, I came to realize that religion is man made. In fact, I decided that ignorance begat superstition, and superstition begat religion. The bible is full of scary nasty horrible things, and if the God in that book is all about love, he can keep it. His love isn’t my kind of love.

I am an agnostic atheist. I cannot say for certain that there is no god out there, but I am willing to bet anything it isn’t the malevolent monster of the OT. If there is a god, I’d hope it is like my imaginary deity Evelyn. She likes to have fun, has no place of punishment for nonbelievers, and finds prayer to be annoying.

oratio's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra Nicely put. Evelyn seems to rock. I wonder if She parties with FSM and the IPU.

Jayne's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra; And she has a pet zebra? She’s got my…worship!

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@oratio, hell, she admits to having sex with FSM and IPU, but not on the same day.

benjaminlevi's avatar

@facade Did you ever questioned it at all?

@crisw Yeah, Noahs Ark always bugged me too. There just isn’t enough genetic diversity in two individuals, not to mention the lions would eat all the antelopes trapped on a tiny ship.

As for me, nobody ever told me to believe in god as my parents were Unitarian, but for some reason I just did until I was about 10ish (maybe older I dont remember). Then I listened to arguments between people that insist there is a god and those who insist there is no god, and realized that they were equally baseless. I am now agnostic.

electricsky's avatar

Besides the fact that I’ve seen a lot of things that have sort of forced disbelief on me, I guess I just grew up, and the more I grew up, the more illogical the whole thing seemed to me. I grew up with some religon… at least, I grew up believing in a deity based on my moms spiritual beliefs relating to our Native American ancestors, though I don’t think I ever wholeheartedly believed in God. My mom didn’t raise me with it, so it wasn’t like there was some huge epiphany one day. I just progressively believed less and less until I didn’t believe in God at all.
Same thing happened with the Tooth Fairy… especially since the Tooth Fairy wrote me letters and her handwriting was eerily similar to my moms…

Likeradar's avatar

@benjaminlevi I always thought Unitarians believed in god… no?

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

went to a catholic grade school, went to church three times a week. Believed in God until I was in 8th or 9th grade.

I remember the first time I ever questioned the extistance of God(at least in the christian aspect). My mother is, with no bias, the sweetest lady you’ll ever meet. In all senses of the term she was born to be a mother, she thinks of everyone else before herself, and I swear she’s never had a mean thought about anyone(unless you hurt her boys, of course). She went to church all the time, donated money to charity, and was an overall good catholic woman. And for 10 years of my life I saw her get the rawest deal I’ve ever seen. She never asked for anything, helped everyone as best she could, and was a fantastic mother. I remember thinking to myself, why would a loving god hurt such a great woman so much? it didn’t, and doesn’t make any sense to me.
So I looked around to a few different faiths, but fell in love with science. it’s hard enough as it is to hold science in such a high degree and still beleive in God as it is, but you see people that just have that faith no matter what, like my mother, and it’s just not me…

aprilsimnel's avatar

I was born into a household with no practice of religion, so by the time I was introduced to it at 7, I thought God, Jesus and angels were like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, and I was confused as to why adults took it seriously. They were all stories to me, like the Greek myths and the Anansi tales I was learning about at school. I wanted to believe, because it would make the adults happy, but I simply couldn’t do it. I made-believe that I did for a good 6 years, though.

There were a lot of things that were completely irrational about what I was told was true, like the virgin birth, the immaculate conception, the last supper (the whole eat and drink thing grossed me out) and the suicide by Roman. And the book of Revelations sounds like something out of a horror movie or an acid trip, not reality.

No one ever gave me good answers as to why I was supposed to believe all this and I was highly discouraged from asking questions. The older I got, the more irrational the stories seemed. I stopped going to church at 16.

kevbo's avatar

I grew up devoutly Catholic, including attending Catholic middle, high school & college. In college, I became as clinically depressed as one could get without being hospitalized (although I probably should have been) both for medical and existential reasons. I experienced profound despair, got incredulous & angry with God and Catholicism and went through a five or so year process of shedding the things that come with being Catholic (morality, guilt, etc.) I read about other religions and dabbled in Buddhism. The difficulty for me with Buddhism was chanting in another language and internalizing the ritual aspects. For a long while after that, religion was just sort of an unlit room in my house. Every once in a while, though, I’d throw up a prayer for lack of a better idea.

In the last year, I’ve become a raging conspiracy nut and now see the world’s major religions as instruments of control that are based on an effective obfuscation and distortion of a much simpler and more basic truth. That truth, more or less, is that we are all a part of a universal creation or consciousness and that we have direct access to that creation/consciousness. It’s just there, and all we have to do is tap into our awareness.

So with religion, we turn that access over to a Big Man who will take care of our souls if we only do what we’re told. What we’re told is a combination of smaller truths measures to ensure that the Big Man stays in control. Part of that control is “taxing” our natural impulses, part is withholding “pure” truth, and part is (in some cases) inducing us to eat shit (politically, for example) and accept it as God’s will. Put another way, many religions are a racket intended to allow power mongers to step between us and the sun and siphon off the energy that travels to and from. (In fact, many ancient religions literally do this very thing.) I would put the whole climate change phenomenon in this category.

So, now I’m trying to understand what immediate access means, whether that’s going to be my belief, and how to apply it. I find this much more comforting than athiesm, because it’s obvious to me now that we are much more than “animated hunks of meat.” I think athiesm exists only in a world with a fixed idea of religions and the Gods that are tied to those religions, but if you peel that layer back you can find that there is connection that is obfuscated by those paradigms. Just MHO.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

I was raised Baptist but when I became an adult I decided that I could not just believe what my parents had pointed me in the direction of. So, I did a lot of reading, soul-searching, and thinking to determine what I really believe to be true. I decided that what makes logical sense to me is Christianity… not necessarily Baptist (which is the kind of church I attend) however, because I do not believe the differences between most Christian denominations are especially important. For a time I wanted some sort of “proof” like many in this thread have mentioned they cannot find. But ultimately I realized that my God is not constrained to the laws of Earth, and looking for any kind of “proof” or asking a typical religion question like, “why is suffering allowed” is pointless because 1. God does not owe us anything at all. 2. The proof he gave is his son Jesus Christ and 3. I do not pretend that I have the capacity (or that any human has the capacity for that matter) to understand everything there is to know, so just because I cannot “prove” something is absolutely no reason to not believe it.

kevbo's avatar

Also, it’s fairly amusing and interesting to read the Bible and mythologies as stories of extraterrestrial interactions with humanity.

Shuttle128's avatar

I was never extremely religious. I was brought up to think, reason, and question everything. My parents loosely guided me through my early years by taking me to church, but I don’t think it ever truly made sense to me. My parents rarely ever spoke out loud about religion so it wasn’t a really big thing. I quasi believed up until the end of high school.

I was learning physics, chemistry, and astronomy and it all seemed to fit together. Eventually I came to the realization that the world was exactly how it should be if no god existed. If I thought about what the world should be if a god did exist, it seemed that too many things needed illogical excuses. I came to like philosophy, especially philosophy of science. I had a humanities teacher that flaunted his pastafarianism and it really got me thinking.

I can’t say for certain when I considered myself a full atheist, but I’ve only started calling myself that in the last 3 years or so.

knitfroggy's avatar

I was raised in a non-denominational church. I believed in God because that was what I was told to do. I enjoyed going to Sunday School and Busy Bee Bible Club.

I quit going to church in high school when we got a new preacher that preached basically that gays are evil and going to hell, you had to go to a Christian school to get a good education, women were second class to men (this wasn’t said in so many words-but that is what I understood from his preachings), and above all you must be a Republican. None of those things were things I agreed with then or now.

l’d go to church with my folks on Christmas for a candlelight service and that was about it for 10 years or so. When my kids got a little older, I let them start going. I decided I would go and check it out, since this was a different church from the one I was raised in. It seemed ok, and then I decided to go to Sunday School with my mother and heard a 30 minute discussion about how Obama is the anti-christ and, I’m not shitting you-that before long there will be debit cards in our heads and we won’t have any cash money. (My mother was a little put off by this “lesson” and promised that it wasn’t like that usually-she knew I was irate.) So I went the next week and heard more Obama/anti christ bullshit.

Basically, I started to really think about religion and what they were telling people and got real pissed off. After lots of consideration and soul searching I’ve come to think of myself as a non-believer. I’m not sure if I’m an atheist or an agnostic-so I just say no-believer. I believe that “God” and religion were basically thought up to make people feel better about death.

fundevogel's avatar

I was raised by a very Christian mom and a not very religious dad who basically let my mom drive all matters religious in the house. He just didn’t ever have anything to say about religion. So I was basically taught that the Bible and Christianity were the end all be all when it came to, well, everything. It was supposed to have all the answers if you looked in the right places and payed attention.

So when I got old enough that I started asking questions and trying to use the Bible to understand the world it became clear that the Bible and Christianity couldn’t do the things I had been told. I love learning things about everything so when I found out that the Bible was worthless when it came to understanding the world or even properly explaining itself without contradiction it was easy to let it go. All of the other religions seemed to be guilty of the same misdirection as Christianity so becoming agnostic and then atheist was a natural progression.

cookieman's avatar

I was born into a hypocritical Roman-Catholic family. Do as I say, not as I do kind of thing.

I read an illustrated version of the bible and had a lot of questions. My parents had no idea how to explain any of it.

So I became an alter boy for about three years so I could learn more and, hopefully, get closer to god. Unfortunately, all I found was more hypocricy (drunk, selfish priests driving around in Cadilacs – bitter angry nuns).

Then, for about fifteen years, I stayed neutral on the subject. “Simply secular” as I like to say.

I observed a lot of people and their beliefs, did some reading, listened to a lot of people – took mental notes.

Shortly after we adopted my daughter, it all clicked. The lightbulbs went off, and the bible and religeon in general, all made perfect sense to me.

While I’d like to believe in a god, I can point to no convincing evidence; and I’m confident that all religions are completely man-made – designed to control people and/or explain the unexplainable.

I’ve been an agnostic ever since.

Critter38's avatar

I think my parents were what I now would call apathetic agnostics and hence I never went to Church but at the same time we never discussed the existence of god. I honestly didn’t know what my parents thought until a few years ago. I think they decided to let me make up my own mind on the topic…so the parental influence was about as neutral as it could possibly be on this topic.

From that starting point it was a case of placing the existence of god and the claims of any given religion in the same realm as all other field of inquiry. For this I truly thank my parents….they never instilled a “get out of evidence or reason free card” for religious claims.

So from that upbringing, and with an appetite for asking why and answering with evidence not wishful thinking, I end up not even the least bit convinced by claims for the existence of anything supernatural, let alone the divine origins of any text or person…

Hence I’m an exuberantly happy atheist. :)

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

@Likeradar These can be found throughout my posts on fluther. It’s rather easy to dismiss the possibility of God if you aren’t willing to allow yourself even a smidge of faith. That and having faith means you are willing to admit you don’t know all the answers.. which is something pride prevents us, collectively, from doing sometimes.

I can’t help but think of 1 Cor 2:14 again: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.”

Nicodemus no doubt thought himself a logical thinker and asked Jesus some pointed questions about how things were supposed to work. His questions seem to be similar to many pondered by atheists and agnostics.

There seems to be a certain one-sidedness to questions dealing with God.. such as: “Why do bad things happen to good people?”. Rarely do you hear the question: “Why do good things happen to bad people?”. It is this subtle twist that represents to me a certain close-mindedness to the truth.

You will also often hear: “If God can perform miracles.. why doesn’t He heal amputees?”.. but you don’t often hear: “Why doesn’t God give me a Porsche when I pray for one?”

Jesus was ridiculed on the cross in the same way.. people shouted at him to have the angels save Him [if he were the son of God].. but Jesus knew it just wasn’t part of God’s divine plan.

Even Garth said: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”.

I don’t know if I’m making any sense.. judging by the sheer number of non-believers in this thread I doubt I am xD.. I really wish I could convey my thoughts more clearly.

It’s difficult to discuss this as if I still wore the atheistic shoes I’ve long since taken off.

LostInParadise's avatar

My home was not religious. My parents could be described as religiously confused, though my mother eventually did come out to say that she is a non-believer. When I went to school we recited the Pledge of Allegiance. As the earliest realization of my atheism that I can recall, I remember stumbling over the words “under God” in the pledge and eventually did not say them.

augustlan's avatar

I’ve struggled with this issue off and on for most of my life. I first became agnostic when I was about 11, and questioned everything I thought I knew. At 13, I got caught up in a religious fervor while visiting relatives in the bible belt, and became a born-again Christian. Pretty much as soon as I was out from under their influence, I was agnostic once more. Long ago, I dismissed organized religion outright as a man-made construct, so that’s not a problem for me. However, I’ve gone back and forth many times about whether God exists. If there is a god, I don’t believe he is any of the gods we know of. I remain agnostic.

As to the children. My ex is a lapsed Jew, I was raised as Christian, and we raised/are raising our kids with the cultural traditions of both, but none of the actual religion. We discuss other religions and philosophies, too. We have always told the girls that we don’t know whether there is a god or not, and that they can decide what they believe when they are older. Right now I’d say they are agnostics with atheist leanings… much like myself.

Ivan's avatar

I don’t believe in God because there is no reason to. God is not necessary to explain the universe, and therefore it would be illogical to believe in him/her/whatever.

Qingu's avatar

@BBSDTfamily, how can you say that “Christianity makes logical sense” to you while simultaneously saying that your God is not constrained by logic and proof?

It’s like saying “I believe in fairies because it seems logical. I don’t have to doubt the existence of fairies because fairies are magical creatures that don’t have to obey the laws of human logic.”

fireside's avatar

I thought we weren’t debating on this thread

Jayne's avatar

@fireside, we are debating whether or not one can know whether God exists, and how one could come to this knowledge; that seems appropriate for the thread.

@NaturalMineralWater; unfortunately, faith, as a substitute for logic, amounts to an assumption that God exists. It is a binary value, which you either have absolutely or not at all, and it cannot be part of a logical inquiry. Basically, you can’t ask an atheist to have faith to help convinced them that God exists, because faith is the result of having been convinced. You would be asking them to accept that you are right in order that you can prove that you are right; in a logical framework, it is circular reasoning. Now, you may very well be right and I wrong, but argument by faith is not possibly proof or even evidence that this is the case.

As for why questions always find fault with the idea of God and never bring up its good points: a premise can never be proven by positive evidence; it can only be disproven by counter-evidence. Thus, a rational inquiry into the subject can only approach any form of conclusion if questions seek to find fault with the ideas both of God and of atheism, and everything in between as well. Ultimately, this is why I find arguments for atheism to be stronger; arguments for either of them are inconclusive, but critiques of theism tend to rely on inconsistencies in their subject, which can be proven, while critiques of atheism tend to rely on the inability of atheism to prove itself, to fully explain the universe in a scientific framework, which (in addition to the fact that it would be preposterous to expect it to do so, at so early a date or at all) can never be proof at all.

Qingu's avatar

@NaturalMineralWater, the problem with what you’re saying is that you don’t specify which God you’re talking about.

Yes, if you allow yourself “faith,” you can banish skepticism about any idea, including astrology, homeopathy, and the existence of Zeus. But it seems like you’ve arbitrarily chosen to have faith in the Christian God. Why did you choose Yahweh over Zeus or Marduk?

Also, for my part, the “problem of evil” is sort of a moot point with Yahweh in particular, as we’re talking about a deity who “takes delight in your ruin and destruction” (Dt. 28:63). Yahweh is the only deity I am aware of that actually commands you to commit genocide. Which makes your decision to choose faith in him over other, less sadistic and genocidal gods sort of puzzling.

fireside's avatar

ah, i must be misunderstanding the meaning of “non-judgmental”

Jayne's avatar

The question is asking about our opinions. One can hardly have an opinion without believing that others are wrong. If that is judgmental, everything is. Frankly, we are not even going as far as the question would allow us. An explanation of why one holds a belief would involve an explanation of the reasoning leading to that belief, which effectively amounts to an argument for it. We, on the other hand, are simply talking about what types of tools could be used in such an argument.

fireside's avatar

Questioning other people’s experiences is very different from sharing your own experiences.

It’s not like Qingu really wants to understand NMW, he’s just preaching.

cookieman's avatar

here we go

this was going so well

Likeradar's avatar

Nicely asking for clarification isn’t being judgey. I’ve been impressed with how people have been answering this, let’s continue to keep it clean, kids. :)

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

@Likeradar No worries here.. I ‘m quite used to it by now. =) Heck… I was once of the same mindset..

It is a bit difficult to try and answer such an age old question without a little bit of argue thrown in.. but we’re doing ok I suppose.

ninjacolin's avatar

i was raised a fundamentalist christian and loved it. i was taught that the bible is the word of god and only the bible can interpret the bible. then as i learned more about the world i live in i came to realize that the things the bible had to say about the world were not accurate. scientific conflicts as well as moral conflicts with the ideas in the bible. i became nondemoninational christian with a more liberal view about how the bible should be read and understood. loved jesus for a while.. but then even some of his ideas seemed a little shabby. eventually, as i studied reality more, i became a determinist and realized that everything in the bible and most other religions are based on subjective reasoning and that everything is just happening in succession as it must and that if there was a god, he would be controlled by the same deterministic forces that we are. officially, though, if there is a god, i think we’re it. each of us. the universe. everything. everything we consider real.. everything true is God… well.. at the very least, it doesn’t seem to be anything else.

fireside's avatar

sounds about right to me.

dynamicduo's avatar

My parents were raised very religiously and this caused extreme pain in both of their lives. They vowed to let their children decide things for themselves. As a result, no religion was shoved down my throat, and I was free to figure things out for myself. Right now I am satisfied in my belief that there is no god. This was influenced by a few things: one, comparing what god has done for my life versus what I have achieved for myself (god did nothing, I and my parents did everything), two, looking at the atrocities committed as a cause or result of religion, and three, understanding why people used religion in the past in relation to our modern scientific world, understanding the reasons for religion in the context of accepting evolution as a fact as I had already done. I have concluded I have no need for a god.

benjaminlevi's avatar

@Likeradar Some do, not all of them. They really encourage you to believe whatever you want, as long as you are accepting of other religions (and are peaceful)

miasmom's avatar

I was raised in a Christian home, we went to church every Sunday and always said a blessing before every meal. Aside from that, we never really ever talked about what we believed, I just knew I was supposed to try and be a good person.

Around high school I got involved in a friend’s youth group and was shocked to see them studying the Bible. I could probably count on my hands the number of times I’d opened my own Bible. Needless to say, I was intrigued and started studying the Bible. That’s when I learned it wasn’t about being good, it was about believing that Jesus died on the cross for me.

In college I had alot of friends with different beliefs and I really liked them as people, so I had a hard time accepting that if they weren’t a Christian, then they weren’t going to heaven, so I rationalized it by thinking, maybe their God was the same God as mine and they just called it something different.

After studying more of the Bible, I realized I couldn’t rationalize that because the Bible is clear that to be saved you have to believe in what Jesus did for you. I realized that I couldn’t take the Bible and ignore the parts I didn’t like, that if I believed it as truth I had to accept all of it as truth.

I don’t have doubts about the veracity of the Bible. I think Noah’s Ark is totally legit. In fact, I think someone recently built a life size replica to show how it worked.

I look at the complexity of our bodies and find it hard to believe it wasn’t intelligently designed.

People like to pull out one or two versus from the Bible and say, see God is mean, how can you believe in him. You have to remember when you look at anything to look at the context. The entire picture.

Qingu's avatar

@miasmom, do you think things would have gone differently if you decided to open up the Quran at a Muslim study group instead of the Bible? Or if you decided to start reading the works of L. Ron Hubbard?

Again, I’m struck that the faith part seems to come before the decision to believe part. If I had faith that the Epic of Atrahasis was true, I would probably find ways to rationalize the ark story in that myth as well.

Jayne's avatar

Someone built a wooden boat with hand tools that can hold two of every animal exactly as they are now? That I would like to see.

oratio's avatar

@Jayne Ever heard of IKEA?

miasmom's avatar

@Qingu I actually took a world’s religion course in college and studied some of the major religions, I attended some different religious services and it didn’t change my conclusion that Jesus was and is the Messiah. What I found in other religions is that it is all about doing good and bettering yourself, Christianity says that you only have to believe, doing good is a product of your belief. That and the evidence for Jesus continues to affirm what I believe to be true.

I don’t know that you can separate faith and belief like that, could you explain that further?

Qingu's avatar

But you only believe Jesus is messiah because you decided, without any evidence or rational thought, that the Bible was a trustworthy document.

If I decided without any evidence or rational thought that the Quran was a trustworthy document, then I would conclude that Allah is God and I must submit to him. If I studied Christianity in a world religion course, I would see that Christians falsely believe Jesus is the son of God, when he is quoted in the Quran as saying that he’s not.

Also, you must not have studied other religions very thoroughly (where did you take this course?) Few religions are about “doing good and bettering yourself.” Islam is about submission to Allah. Islam means “submission.” Doing good is a product of such submission.

And what evidence for Jesus is there, apart from the Bible—which was written by his followers (and which, incidentally, also commands slavery and genocide and says the sun revolves around the earth)? I understand Josephus and Tacitus wrote about him, but neither one actually believed he was the messiah, and Tacitus actually called the resurrection a “mischevious superstition.”

Qingu's avatar

“Also remember that not every variant of every genus was required onboard as their variant species would be produced over the years.”

I love it when creationists secretly believe in evolution.

Also, size constraints aside, I love how the site glosses over the difficulty of collecting 1 million+ separate kinds of land insects. Or maybe Noah only took only a couple insects onboard and the rest super-evolved in 6,000 years?

Jayne's avatar

I’m pretty sure the animals would kill each other or die of confinement after 40 days on that. And one wonders what happened of all of the plants. And the food for these animals goes where? But that is not the question at issue here.

miasmom's avatar

@Qingu I like how you assume that to believe in the Bible you can have no rational thought. Do you know how many ancient manuscripts we have of the New Testament? Thousands. Do you know how many we have of Tacitus? One. Yet you take what he says completely as truth. So, yes, I have logically pursued my belief.

@Likeradar Sorry for derailing your thread.

Qingu's avatar

We have millions and millions of manuscripts for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Not sure what your point is.

“If a text gets reproduced a lot, it must be true?”

Qingu's avatar

Also, what evidence did you use to conclude that the Bible was trustworthy when you first started believing in it? Back when you were in your study group.

Jayne's avatar

OK, that was a bit facile, @Qingu. But it is true that having a large number of believers does not comprise evidence.

miasmom's avatar

Thousands of New Testsment texts are important because you comparing the writings to find inconsistancies, that determines validity. When something is old and you don’t have an original. Only having one copy means that it could be or it could not be what the author intended.

miasmom's avatar

Does it matter what I first used to believe or that I continue to seek truth and legitimacy for what I believe?

Jayne's avatar

I will point out that challenges to the bible’s validity are not generally based on questions of authorship or fidelity to the original.

And we really have jacked this thread, haven’t we?

Qingu's avatar

Again, I fail to see how this has anything to do with the truth of the manuscript. We have millions of identical copies of the original manuscript of Harry Potter.

And not to nitpick, but we have exactly zero manuscripts of the New Testament dating from the first century A.D.

Qingu's avatar

@miasmom, that was the point of my original question to you. Because once you started believing in and having faith in the Bible, that colors your interpretation of everything else.

It seems like your decision was completely arbitrary, and if you were at a Muslim study group you could have just as easily decided the Quran was true. That’s why I’m curious if you had a rational standard when you first decided to trust the Bible—to see if your decision wasn’t arbitrary.

miasmom's avatar

Let me explain better. We aren’t worried about things that are written in our life time because we have the original. When we talk about old texts, like Tacitus or Homer or the Bible, we don’t have the original texts to look at, we only have copies. So, in that case, the more copies you have, the more you can determine veracity of writings. If we have thousands of copies from different regions that say the same thing, then we can conclude with a high probability that it was what was originally written. If we only have one copy, it’s hard to determine veracity.

miasmom's avatar

Must attend to my daughter, I’ll be back later.

Qingu's avatar

Again, I am confused as to how “lots of copies” means “the original is true.”

We also have lots of copies of the Quran. We have lots of copies of Newton’s Principia, which turns out to not be an accurate description of physics.

I’m not denying that the Bible we have today is accurately preserved from the second-century texts. I’m denying that the content of those texts is true. Why on earth do you believe they are?

Jayne's avatar

While she has made the assumption, somewhat dubious, perhaps false, that the bible is true, we atheists have also made the assumption, also possibly false, that it is not. We made these decisions because they made the most intuitive sense to us. At some point, we all have to come to grip with the fact that however logical we want to be, we have premised our conclusions on our gut feelings. One might say that common sense and logic show that the bible must be a load of hooey, but that is itself assuming that common sense and logic always hold true, an assumption that is at odds with the Christian belief that there is a God that acts outside of logic. So logical debate is not going to accomplish anything here.

fireside's avatar

@Jayne – but it is so much more gratifying to the ego to press your own opinion on others, is it not : P

Qingu's avatar

I didn’t assume that the Bible was false.

I read it and concluded that it was false.

There’s a big difference between conclusions and assumptions. Namely, conclusions can be logically defended.

I also disagree that logical debate is worthless—or that it’s all about my “ego.” Beliefs are important. We should talk about them and challenge them.

Jayne's avatar

An assumption is not necessarily made without justification; it is simply a statement which is taken as true, and then is used as a foundation for further logical extrapolation. As in, scientists have concluded that the theory of evolution is almost certainly true, and so biological theories are now constructed upon that assumption. And you cannot logically defend your conclusion that the bible is false, not against most religious arguments, because logic only functions under a given axiomatic system. Your proof would rely, I imagine, on the axiom that the laws of physics apply in all cases. Under another system, a Christian one, this axiom does not apply, and thus your proof is not valid under their system, just like the proofs of euclidean geometry do not apply to the geometry of a sphere. So logical debate is futile, unless the opponent is sufficiently undecided that they can be induced through emotional appeal to accept your axioms; because again, the logic of one system can never disprove the axioms or conclusions of another. There is a reason debates about religion turn into flamewars.

Qingu's avatar

The logical debate is only futile if Christians admit that their belief does not obey the assumptions of logic. Which is half the battle.

I mean, I’ve argued with Christians who claim that their God is the foundation of logic itself, so you can’t even use logic to attack Christianity without first assuming that God exists. Point out this argument is circular and they’ll say “it’s consistent.” But you can still argue with these people and expose the flaws in their reasoning.

I don’t expect anyone on the internet to be instantly swayed by any argument I make. But I wouldn’t characterize it as a “flamewar,” and I actually have talked to a few Christians who later realized it was all nonsense—in part because of internet discussions. I think you’re far too cynical.

ragingloli's avatar

The so called original of the NT is the gospel of Mark. It is generally accepted among scholars that luke and matthew are based on Mark, while adding new parts to the story that were not present in Mark.
Read this and you will get a pretty strong case for the fictional character of the NT.

As for the OT.
There are so many major teachings in the OT that have been proven wrong by science, that it calls in to question the validity of the rest of the book.
The most famous examples are:
– the bible teaches that life on earth was created “as is” and has not changed ever since. This has been shown to be wrong by discovered evidence that points towards the theory of evolution.
– the bible teaches that the earth is standing still, and that the sun revolves around the earth. This has been shown to be wrong. The earth revolves around the sun.
– the bible teaches that the earth is flat. That also has been proven wrong.
– the bible teaches that there was a great flood. No evidence exists for such an occurence

The fact that the teachings of christianity are in stark oppostion to what the evidence actually supports is the reason why I do not believe in the validity f the Bible.

Critter38's avatar

The issue of whether or not we can know if there is a god is distinct from the issue of what we think is probable and our ability to justify such claims. We can all posit a supernatural being with supernatural powers for which no aspect of human reasoning could possibly decipher.

But acknowledgement of this fact (we cannot prove the non-existence of anything..let alone an omnipotent being desiring not to be found) does not lend any weight whatsoever to the particular creeds or supernatural claims of any given religion. The only advance granted is that some things cannot be proved not to exist.

At this point we are back at square one deciding whether or not we have good reasons for the things we believe. And that I think is a reasonable topic of discussion.

Basically we have gaps in what is known or knowable. There are an infinite number of things we can imagine to fill those gaps and therefore an infinite number of ways of being wrong. Some of these claims are consistent with the natural world and some of them are not.

Christians make very specific claims regarding the existence of god, his values and desires, an afterlife, etc.. But because there is insufficient evidence for their god, faith is required to make up for the shortfall.

Atheists also claim that there is insufficient evidence for god…which from the above seems consistent with the position of theists.

So theists and atheist agree on the nature of the universe (eg. there is insufficient evidence to believe in god without resorting to ahh what the hell , I’ll believe anyways (eg. faith).

So we can all have a beer.

Qingu's avatar

@ragingloli, you forgot my favorite:

- the Bible teaches that the sky is a solid dome or “firmament” that holds up an ocean above it. In Genesis 1, God separates the waters above the sky from the waters below. In the flood story, God opens the “windows of the sky” to let the flood in.

This must have made a lot of sense to bronze-age nomads, who thought the sky was blue, like an ocean, and rain fell from it, so there must be an ocean up there. And it looked kind of shiny like metal or glass (the word “raqiya” in Hebrew means “that which is hammered out,” like metal). Babylonian and Egyptian religious texts also describe the sky in this way. It was a commonly held belief, so it’s no surprise that it shows up in the Bible, which was written by people living in that region.

fundevogel's avatar

@Qingu – I’m about 90% convinced that all the crazy backward stuff in the beginning of the Bible (firmament!) is the reason religious people really push the Book of Matthew when they try to convert. They’ve got to stop you from starting where you would naturally start because no one could buy that stuff without out getting their brain primed for God first.

miasmom's avatar

@Qingu Is there not water in the sky? Does it not rain?

Now that we looked at the Bible as a valid text, you need to then determine if you agree with what is said in the Bible. Was there a person named Jesus who lived? Was he just a really good man or was he indeed the Son of God? Look at the change in the disciples. In the Gospels they just didn’t get it, but after Jesus was crucified and he rose again, their lives changed. They spoke boldly about Christ and they were willing to die for him. Would you be willing to die for a good person? Probably not, would you be willing to die for your Savior? Absolutely, especially if you saw him alive after he was crucified.

ragingloli's avatar

@miasmom yes there is water in the sky and it does rain.
BUT what is NOT in the sky is a dome that parts the atmosphere from huga amounts of water above it with hatches that can be opened.

Was there a person named Jesus? Considering the lack of evidence and the lack of any contemporary record of such a person, considering that the gospels of lukas and matthaeus were based on the gospel of markus which was written several decades after Jesus’ alleged death, considering that all of the gospels were written in the style of contemporary fiction, not in the style of contemporary historical works, the conclusion one must arrive at is that the existence of a man named Jesus is extremely unlikely. (

As for your description of the desciples, an author writing a fictional work could easily imagine such a plot, so this means nothing.

miasmom's avatar

@ragingloli I guess if you don’t believe Jesus existed, then it would be hard to believe he is the Son of God.

Qingu's avatar

@miasmom, yeah, there’s water in the sky.

There’s not water above the sky. The sky is not a solid dome, like Genesis says. Apparently you don’t take Genesis literally?

Was Muhammad just a good person? His followers were willing to die for him and even go to war for him. Hell, some of his followers were willing to crash planes into buildings for him. I can’t tell you how idiotic this “Why would they die for a lie” argument sounds to me. As if cult followers never believed or did stupid shit for their cult leader. See also Jonestown, Heaven’s Gate, Aum Shinrikyo.

Qingu's avatar

@ragingloli, I think the argument that Jesus did not exist is bunk. Yeah, we don’t have any primary sources for him, but the same can be said about all kinds of historical figures, including Socrates. More importantly, if Jesus never existed, then you’re challenged to come up with an explanation for where his cult came from. Paul and Peter were writing after 50 A.D., and by that time there was already a well-established cult. If they made up Jesus whole-cloth, where did this cult sprout up from?

Jesus’ nonexistence raises more questions than it answers. Occam’s razor applies here. We know that there were a lot of cults in Judea at the time; the existence of one centered around Jesus is a completely mundane claim. The gospels were written several decades after Jesus died, and we have many examples throughout history of cult or political leaders accreting legends in later texts written about them. This happened as recently as the 50’s—look at how Stalin “deified” Lenin. Paul probably did the same thing with Jesus so he could better integrate and control his cult.

Likeradar's avatar

I am so damn happy to see a nice, calm religious debate on Fluther. I’m loving reading your answers, even though the topic has shifted a little. Lurve for everyone.

ragingloli's avatar

@Qingu i point you towards scientology. Everyone knows that it’s bunk, everyone knows that the founder of it was a science fiction author, everyone knows he created it to make lots of money, and yet still the members of it believe all the crap scientology teaches. The story about the evil alien overlord Xenu is more ludicrous than the Jesus story, but people still buy it.
So a cult believing in the existence of a non existent person really is nothing special.
There are also parts of the Gospels that are contradicted by historical records.
* “Star of Bethlehem” – No record of such a celestial event outside the Gospel of Matthew.
* Roman census in Jesus birth story – No record of any census that matches this description.
* “Massacre of the Innocents” – No record of this event outside the Gospel of Matthew.
* John the Baptist – Killed early in the Gospels, died in 36 CE according to Josephus.
* Death of Jesus – Accompanied by blackout of sun, earthquakes, and raising of the dead in the Gospels, no record of this by others.

Qingu's avatar

@ragingloli, again, if Jesus was made up, that still leaves the question of where his cult came from in the first place. It was there before Peter and Paul. And it’s not just Paul. We know from Paul’s letter to the Galatians that not only were there already Jesus followers running around, but that they had already split into sects!

I’m not denying that cultists believe stupid shit. I’m saying that if Jesus didn’t exist, then it leaves a gaping hole in the historical record for where this cult came from, seemingly pre-fabricated around this Jesus guy, before Paul started writing his letters.

miasmom's avatar

@Qingu I do not disagree that people die for stupid causes. The point about the disciples is that they would never have died for the cause prior to Jesus dying and being raised again. In fact, they denied him prior to that often. So, What changed? He came back and appeared to them, it’s the only logical reason for them to completely change behavior.

Above you said that logic and God don’t agree and to a point I have to agree with that because God is above logic…meaning, He has the power to do miracles and miracles definitely defy logic. So, you have to be willing to accept that because He is God.

As for literalness, I pretty much take the Bible at face value, there are a few exceptions to that, but for the most part, if the Bible says it, then I believe it. In my Bible it says that an expanse separates the water from the water, what interpretation are you looking at that says it’s a dome?

By the way, our previous discussions haven’t been so nice, so I appreciate that you haven’t been yelling at me in this one. Thank you.

Qingu's avatar

@miasmom, the disciples would never have died unless Jesus died and came back, huh?

So therefore, Heaven’s Gate’s mass suicide must have been because a flying saucer really came down?

Please explain your logic here.

We also have no idea what the disciples believed or didn’t believe about Jesus. They are characters in a legend written several decades after Jesus died.

NRSV says it’s a dome. The Hebrew word is “raqia.” It’s a solid object.

miasmom's avatar

@Qingu Heaven’s Gate is very different from Jesus and his disciples. Everyone in Heaven’s Gate died including their leaders. The disciples didn’t die when Jesus did, only Jesus died and their behavior changed radically because of it. Prior to Jesus’ death, the disciples constantly asked, who is this of Jesus. They didn’t trust Jesus when they were out on the sea in a big storm, they clearly did not fully understand who He was or possibly had doubts at the time, but after He died and rose again, then you could say it clicked for them.

You are right about raqia and it’s not what I thought it was, I’m going to need to research it a bit, but it’s not separating the waters from the water in the sky, like rain, it’s separating waters (liquid) from waters (liquid) and it is called firmament. I will get back to you on that.

fireside's avatar

So what did we decide? Everyone should believe in the Force?

Here’s a some nice quotes:

“You don’t have to believe in the sun to delight in the warmth of the morning light. It is simply obvious. That is how I know God. And as to my religion, I’ve sat in the shining temples of the Isrealites and under the glorious spires of the mosques of Islam; I’ve knelt in the great cathedrals and bathed in the light of Christendom; I’ve sat in sweat lodges and passed the pipe, lived as a shaman on the African plains, meditated in Buddhist temples, and inhaled the sweet aroma of incense on the banks of the Ganges. And everywhere, I’ve found the same Spirit in all religions- a Divine Will that transcends time, belief, and culture- revealing the universal laws that are the treasure of God.”
-Dan Millman, The Laws of Spirit

“Be humble for you are made of earth.
Be noble for you are made of stars.”
-Serbian proverb

“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.”
-Helen Keller

“Whoever it was who searched the heavens with a telescope and found no God would not have found the human mind if he had searched the brain with a microscope.”
-George Santayana

“Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny.”
-Carl Schurz

Ivan's avatar


“Whoever it was who searched the heavens with a telescope and found no God would not have found the human mind if he had searched the brain with a microscope.”

This is very accurate. Probably not in the way it was intended, however.

fireside's avatar

@Ivan – I’m not really sure how it was intended. Santayana was a lifelong atheist but he also said, “Religion in its humility restores man to his only dignity, the courage to live by grace.”


“All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible.”

Shuttle128's avatar

@fireside All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible.

Boy, Santayana nailed that one both ways…..pardon the unintended innuendo

rooeytoo's avatar

I am a master of over simplification, but when someone tells me how the bible is absolutely the word of god, I always think about sitting in a latin class with 8 other people, given a paragraph to translate and the result will be 9 different interpretations, perhaps with a similar thread, but none the less dramatically different. The bible has been copied and translated and recopied and retranslated not to mention reinterpreted so many times. It is more difficult to believe and not nearly as entertaining as Grimm’s Fairy Tales. If it ever was the word of some god, I bet it would no longer be recognizable to this god as its own words. And oh yeah, do we believe the catholic version or the protestant version is the real thing????

I think some dude named jesus probably roamed the earth and was a nice guy but the son of god arriving via an immaculate conception, hmmmmm, more interpretation probably done under the influence of some mind altering substance!

Critter38's avatar

@miasmom I have a question. You state the following which quite honestly baffles me (although I know you are by no means alone in this regard).

“I realized that I couldn’t take the Bible and ignore the parts I didn’t like, that if I believed it as truth I had to accept all of it as truth.”

“I pretty much take the Bible at face value, there are a few exceptions to that, but for the most part, if the Bible says it, then I believe it.”

Why? You acknowledge that there are “a few exceptions”.

May I suggest then that instead of relying on a source or a person to tell you what is true or not, you instead rely on your own critical facilities to judge each claim on its own merit. If you start at the end point (the bible is the truth) and then work your way back from that end point, you are always going to convince yourself of it’s validity. It’s circular reasoning, a process that will never get you anywhere but back where you started.

For instance, it is with all politeness that I tell you that the ark story is ridiculous, unless of course you work from the premise that it did happen and then work your way backwards filling in excuses and miracles when needed. But anything and everything can be argued to be true using backwards reasoning. Because of this, it is not a reliable means of determining whether or not something is true or not.

The same goes with your arguments for the divinity of Jesus. Sure he may have been divine. But believing he was because believers wrote in a book that he was and recount their experiences of being convinced…is equally circular and completely unconvincing as an argument (unless you’re already convinced).

Here’s a link to a page of logical fallacies. I hope you find it useful.

Critter38's avatar

With regards to Santayana,

It sounds like Santayana was someone who fits well within the category of believing in belief. It’s a troubling stance for an atheist in my opinion. A person is not convinced that a deity exists but encourages others to submit to the creeds of men propagating a belief that a deity exists. I can’t help but smell a distinct air of patronising hypocrisy in such a stance….with all due respect for the fact that this is just a single quote from a life of achievment..

fireside's avatar

@Critter38 – So is it your belief that any true atheist should not encourage belief of any kind even if it helps others to “live by grace”? Does this mean that you are 100% convinced of your stance and feel that others are wrong? Do you see any value in religion?

Critter38's avatar

Not sure how you got there fireside…but I’ll answer your questions.

I don’t believe in “true” atheists.

Grace is too vague a term to know what Santayana means by it.

the issue is what the quote implies (...restoring man to his only dignity). So why is Santayana as an atheist above such requirements to achieve dignity (By the way…this is all assuming one hell of a lot for a quote…perhaps he was a believer when he wrote this…who knows…anyways). Put yourself in the shoes of an atheist for a second. You do not believe that there is a god. And yet you look on at others and encourage such belief. They need it. It is good for them. You yourself do not need it. What this means is that you are happy for others to be provided false comfort. You are happy for others to be mislead by men who claim divine guidance, which you yourself know is false…as an atheist you do not believe in divinity.

It strikes me that there is something deeply cynical in perpetuating falsehoods in others (they are false to an atheist)....if that is what he is doing. As I state at the end of the post…it is a single quote from a life of achievement. Hardly enough to know what he truly means.

“Does this mean that you are 100% convinced of your stance and feel that others are wrong?”

You should know from our previous discussions that I have never once claimed 100% certainty in anything, and there is nothing in my post to indicate I do so in this case. But frankly that has no relevance with regard to my comment about Santayana. The issue at stake is if he is encouraging belief in others as an atheist, is that or is that not questionable. I offer my view that it is

Frankly, I really don’t understand why you have reacted with such questions to this comment. It was a mere observation of one guys quote….but so be it.

“Do you see any value in religion?”

Yes. Religion provides comfort and solace to those who have lost loved ones. It provides hope to those whose life on this Earth is tragic with no way of extracting themselves from such tragedy. It provides rituals and security to those who need it. It provides guidance to those who need clear rules to live by. It provides a strong sense of belonging and community. It provides a means of amassing positive effort and contribution to worthy causes.


fireside's avatar

@Critter38 – I wasn’t reacting negatively (did it seem that way?), I just wasn’t sure what you meant by “troubling stance” or “patronising hypocrisy”

Thanks for the clarification.

Critter38's avatar

I thought so at first…but then I wasn’t sure… Thanks back.

Hope it makes sense now. :)

fireside's avatar

I’ve heard that before though. I wonder if it is the abundance of question marks

Critter38's avatar

could be…happens to me too

Qingu's avatar

@rooeytoo, I think we can usually trust the translations of the Bible. We have a lot of old copies of Biblical manuscripts and they mostly match up. By the 1st and 2nd century, much of the Old Testament was already codified, and the New Testament soon followed. The Catholic church then picked and choosed which manuscripts they wanted to include in their canon, but they didn’t really change the content of the manuscripts.

That said, we have zero—_zero_—Biblical manuscripts from before the 1st century A.D. with the exception of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which scholars don’t date much earlier. So we really have no idea how much the Old Testament evolved from the time in which it was first composed. We know the Hebrews carried it around in scrolls, but some scholars date the actual writing down of the OT to as late as 400 B.C. If you read the Old Testament, it’s fairly obvious that the work was not only written by a number of authors, but actually edited by several different editors. You can also see how the religion has changed over time—the earliest passages in the OT (such as Psalms) picture Yahweh as this warrior god who fights off the sea, incredibly similar to the classic Mesopotamian sky god template. The prophets have a different portrayal of Yahweh.

Anyway, I do think it’s silly to disbelieve in the Bible because of translation issues. For one thing, there aren’t actually many translation issues. And more importantly, the fact that the Bible was accurately translated and copied from some “original” has nothing to do with whether or not the “original” is true. We have 2,400-year-old copies of the Epic of Gilgamesh, perfectly preserved in stone; that doesn’t mean Gilgamesh really was actually 2/3 god and smacked the goddess Ishtar in the face with a magic bull’s thigh.

Qingu's avatar

@miasmom, I only brought up Heaven’s Gate because of your argument. You argued that Christianity must be true because why else would the disciples risk their lives? Well, look at all these other cults where followers risk their lives.

If you don’t like the example of Heaven’s Gate, try Muhammad’s early followers, many of whom were killed for believing that he was a magic prophet. Why do you trust Jesus’ followers but not Muhammad’s?

rooeytoo's avatar

@Qingu – “Anyway, I do think it’s silly to disbelieve in the Bible because of translation issues.”

Well thank you, I love to have my ideas dismissed as silly even when done so by an obvious expert such as yourself.

None the less, I will stick with my silliness cuz it is the way I see it and you have said nothing to alter my opinion! Your last entry simply strengthened it.

I might also add it is so obviously composed by males and is soooooooo sexist, I can’t imagine myself ever willing to be that dominated or controlled.

miasmom's avatar

@Qingu I’ve done some research on Genesis 1:8 and have come to the conclusion that many people infer raqia to mean sky when it is actually talking of the earth’s crust. This interpretation makes alot of sense because firmament is solid and we know the sky isn’t. So, when it says separates water from water, that means the water below the earth’s surface from the water on top. This actually supports the flood theory that most of the water came up from below the earth’s surface, rather than being rained down.

I don’t solely rely on the change in the disciples to prove that Jesus is the Son of God, rather it’s just another piece in the puzzle. The point of their change in behavior is to show the significance of Jesus’ death and ressurection. If Jesus hadn’t shown up and proved to them he had indeed risen from the dead, then highly doubt they would have become such devoted followers. I don’t know if I can explain it any better than that.

@Critter38 One of the books of the Bible, Proverbs, I don’t take literally because it was written as a general guide, not a “do this and this absolutely will happen”. I believe the Bible is God’s word and that it is written as he intended so I don’t want to make into miasmom’s word by taking only the pieces I like from it and leaving the rest behind.

Qingu's avatar

@rooeytoo, that’s pretty lame. You can believe whatever you want about the Bible, but if you’re going to make an argument that it has translation issues, you need to be able to support it. Just saying “I believe it has translation issues and you can’t change my mind!” is just as bad as Christians who say the Bible is true and you can’t change their mind.

I agree that the Bible was composed by males and is sexist. Disgustingly so, in fact. I wonder if you’ve confused me for someone who actually believes the Bible is a worthy book. I think it’s one of the worst books ever composed in human history. I simply disagree that it has significant translation issues.

Qingu's avatar

@miasmom, but your conclusion is directly contradicted by the verse you cited. Gen 1:8—God calls the raqia “Sky.”

Also, in the flood story, God opens windows in the sky as well as the cataracts of the deep. See Genesis 8:2.

In ancient times, people really did believe the sky was solid and that it had windows.

As for the disciples, how do you know they changed their behavior? In the gospels they don’t even do much of anything post-resurrection. Paul, the author of much of the NT, never even saw Jesus.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Qingu – you may be a biblical scholar (at least in your own mind) but you sure lack communication skills.

First my beliefs are silly, now I’m pretty lame.

What I said was that you’ve said nothing to change my mind, no proof that my belief in incorrect, just your opinion on what happened about 2000 + years ago.

Now I am not trying to change your mind, believe what you want but stop ridiculing me for saying what I believe.

Moderators, is this not a personal attack to be insulted in such a fashion, or must it be a vicious attack that includes swearing? I never have understood when a personal attack is tolerated and when it is not???

oratio's avatar

@Qingu I agree to that the bible’s gospels for the most part seem to be translated correctly. Though parts of it like the amazing misunderstanding about “Lucifer” and the debate of the correctness of the camel and the needle are some things that puts a dent into the credibility. Also, several gospels has been found to have been written in different versions, where at least one of the one’s in the bible not the original one(Mark).

Qingu's avatar

@rooeytoo, it wasn’t a personal attack, I said your argument was silly and lame. Which may have been a bit harsh, but honestly, you haven’t even tried to defend it against the point I brought up.

@oratio, there are certainly additions to the gospels. For example, the end of Mark is regarded by some scholars as an obvious addition because it’s stylistically different. There’s also a part of John that some scholars say is a later addition. This is different from issues with the translation, though—it’s called source criticism and actually forms the basis of modern Biblical scholarship.

Now, as far as translation problems go, I think by far the biggest one is right at the beginning: Genesis 1:1.

In the beginning, God began creating the heaven and the earth…

In the beginning, when God began creating the heaven and the earth…

This gets translated both ways, and they have different meanings. The first way is the one most people know—it’s “creation ex nihilo” (creation out of nothing). But the Hebrew is actually ambiguous, and could just as easily mean the second translation—a creation with materials that are already there, much like how a sculptor “creates” a sculpture out of a chunk of pre-existing clay.

Now, this translation problem is not a problem with the text itself. It’s simply a problem of interpretation. If we had a so-called “original Hebrew text” from 400 B.C. I doubt it would be any clearer.

What we can do, however, is look to other, contemporary texts with ancient Biblical literature, such as Mesopotamian mythology. As a matter of fact, lots of Mesopotamian myths begin with the stock phrase, “When the heaven and the earth were not yet formed/created/named,” or something similar. We know from the content of these myths that the Babylonians believed creation was something like sculpture, not ex-nihilo—that is, there’s stuff and materials that predate creation. And furthermore, if you actually read Genesis 1, you’ll see that there are these “formless waters” that seem to be there as God starts creating the world—again, this is right out of Mesopotamian mythology, where creation is seen as an act of sculpting the chaotic ocean waters.

So in this case, the translation problem can be resolved by looking at the cultural context of the text. The lack of an original really has nothing to do with it.

oratio's avatar

@Qingu Agreed. Also, much of the bible is metaphorical and to understand what these metaphors exactly stand for is hard to know if you don’t know the culture of the context. And that is much up to guess and assumption, since the biblical world and the cultures are long gone.

Qingu's avatar

@oratio, metaphorical? Where did you get that from anything I said?

Genesis 1 is not metaphorical at all if you read it in its cultural context. The Mesopotamians actually believed this is how the world was formed and shaped.

What on earth would it be a metaphor for?

oratio's avatar

@Qingu “much of the bible” doesn’t mean all. And we both know that there is a lot of metaphors in the bible.

Qingu's avatar

Yeah, there are metaphors in the Bible. But oftentimes religious people invoke the word “metaphor” as if that magically makes a nonsensical passage in the Bible seem reasonable.

I often hear that Genesis is supposed to be a metaphorical description, which is nonsense as it’s a pretty standard Mesopotamian myth and the people during this time period actually believed the sky was solid, the sun revolved the earth, and gods personally shaped the structure and inhabitants of the world.

There is no evidence in the text or in the cultural context of Genesis that this passage was intended as a metaphor. It’s an interpretation religious people make up out of thin air when they don’t want to admit their holy book’s creation story is a Mesopotamian myth.

miasmom's avatar

@Qingu In Genesis 1:8, God separates the water from water and God calls the expanse shamayim, which is interpreted as Heaven. Many people refer to Heaven as the sky, but that is a wrong interpretation in this case. What makes sense is this: Prior to Adam and Eve sinning, they were living in the garden of paradise, it was like a heaven on Earth. God was with them there and it makes sense that he would call the raqia Heaven.

In Genesis 8:2, it also talks of the “springs of the deep”, so that supports the idea that the waters below the Earth’s surface contributed to the flood, there couldn’t possibly have been enough rain to do that entirely on its own.

As for the disciples, I will get back to you on the key verses after I have some time to look them all up.

Qingu's avatar

@miasmom, I think at this point you should ask yourself if you are “bearing false witness.”

The Hebrew word for earth is eretz. Nowhere is shamayam ever translated as “earth.” Also, the garden of Eden is not ever said to be like shamayam on earth in Genesis. (In fact, the English word “paradise” is derived from the Afro-semitic words for “garden”).

Genesis 8:2 says the springs of the deep AND the windows of heaven. (Ancient Mesopotamians also believed there was an ocean below the ground, which makes sense because they dug wells for groundwater.)

Your interpretation is contradicted by the text.

fundevogel's avatar

@miasmom – But if the earth was heaven at the time, why not just say he created heaven? The Bible refers to them as separate things. Also if you read on you get this:

“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.” Gen 1:14–15

got to keep things in context you know.

@Qingu – I was reading the creation story recently and I noticed something peculiar about the wording. (I use NRSV)

“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind of God swept over the face of the waters.”

The order and the way this is said makes it sound like God actually created a void in an existing something (probably water) and the void was earth. I looked a few different versions and they each referred the the earth as a void or empty after God created it.

Do the Mesopotamians have any thoughts on this earth void?

Qingu's avatar

The Hebrew word for void means “emptiness.” I think this just reinforces that, at the time of earth’s creation, shit was there, it just didn’t have any form. (I don’t think the Hebrews had any conception of outer space or a vacuum—how would they?)

In the same way, when a sculptor starts creating a sculpture, he doesn’t bring the hunk of clay into being. He works with a hunk of clay that is already there at the time of his creation.

Here’s the beginning of the Enuma Elish, the Babylonian creation myth:

When on high heaven was not named,
And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
And the primeval Apsû, who begat them,
And chaos, Tiamat, the mother of them both,
Their waters were mingled together,
And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;
When of the gods none had been called into being

In this myth, the sky-god Marduk defeats the ocean-god Tiamat before creation. The act of creation involves forming her corpose (the ocean) into discernable parts—the sky and the earth’s foundations. Like in Genesis, the sky holds up an ocean above it, and the foundations apparently float on an underground ocean.

This idea of creation is all over the place in the ancient world, not just in Mesopotamia but also in Egypt, Greece, and India. Nobody at the time I’m aware of believed in creation ex nihilo. They conceived of creation as organizing and forming stuff—usually involving chaotic waters—that already exists. Creation ex nihilo actually has its origins in Greek philosophy, I believe.

fundevogel's avatar

interesting, I’ll have to read more on the other Mesopotamian religions and your namesake apparently.

Qingu's avatar

Marduk is a dick

oratio's avatar

Lol, now, now. God is a dick. But whatever did Marduk do? It is more or less the same story as you can find in nordic creation mythology.

fireside's avatar

Marduk slept with Qingu’s mother, who was also his girlfriend. Typical Oedipal complex being displayed here.

Qingu's avatar

Um. If by “slept with” you mean “blew up like a balloon, popped, and dismembered.”

fireside's avatar

Yeah, I might have gotten that bit wrong. Looked it up a while back. Does seem to be a lot of innuendo in this description :P

Marduk came with his host to attack her. Qingu’s strategy initially confused him, and Tiamat tried to enspell him, hurling jibes at him. She was rebuffed and incited into single combat with Marduk. She continued to cast her spell and Marduk netted her, and threw a wind at her. She tried to swallow it and was undone – distended, shot, sliced in two and cut in the heart. Her crushed skull heralded her death, and half of her body was used to roof up the sky. Her eyes became the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

miasmom's avatar

@Qingu Shamayim means Heaven and it is used in a wide variety of ways, one of which is the sky/atmosphere above, another is where God dwells, another is where angels dwell. Again, there are a variety of different uses, I think it is very possible to be talking of the crust of the earth here. You can agree to disagree, but I don’t think just because the word eratz is not used that we are not talking about the earth.

As for “bearing false witness”, that would be stretching it a bit, I could say the same for you because you choose not to interpret something the way I do.

@fundevogel There were several uses of the word for Heaven, so this doesn’t contradict anything from the text.

Qingu's avatar

@miasmom, the Hebrews believed Yahweh and the angels lived in the sky. This is reflected in a number of Biblical texts, such as Ezekial, Daniel and Revelation, where prophets are taken up into the sky and meet God, who lives there. Most ancient people believed their gods lived up in the sky.

So that’s not using shamayam in different ways at all.

This isn’t a matter of disagreement. You are inventing an interpretation out of thin air that contradicts the actual text of the Bible. Not to mention the absurdity of what this would mean in Genesis 8 (God opening the fountains of the deep AND the windows of the sky… the latter of which you believe are the fountains of the deep)—not a single translator or scholar I’m aware of would understand shamayam to mean “earth.” You just made that up to avoid acknowledging that your holy text contradicts reality.

If you were more honest, you’d simply believe what the Bible says, and say the sky is a solid dome. Maybe all the scientists are lying about the atmosphere and outer space. Don’t you believe they’re already lying about evolution?

Qingu's avatar

@fireside, sexual innuendo in ancient mythology? Shocking!

You should read some Hindu myths. :)

rooeytoo's avatar

@Qingu – my first comment said “there will be 9 different interpretations” which you said was silly, now you later go on to say, “In the beginning, when God began creating the heaven and the earth…This gets translated both ways, and they have different meanings”

That is precisely what I said so thank you for making my silly and lame points. I guess they are no longer silly and lame since you have repeated them in your own words, I believe that is called semantics.

Then you go on to tell me, “you haven’t even tried to defend it against the point I brought up.” And again I will say that by the above you have proved it for me. Besides why must I defend my position, I am simply stating how I see it, I don’t need to defend anything, that is my opinion, if you don’t like it that is your privilege but it is pretty juvenile to go calling names and ridiculing. Harsh was your word, I think juvenile is more appropriate, semantics rears its ugly head again!

Qingu's avatar

I mean, Christ. The first sentence in the book says God made the heavens and the earth.

Not God made the earth and the earth.

Qingu's avatar

@rooeytoo, first of all, Genesis 1 is one of a very small number of translation issues in the Bible.

Secondly, you were arguing that the Bible has been translated from its “original form,” such that we’ve lost what the original said. That’s not the issue with Genesis 1 at all. The issue is that the Hebrew language itself is ambiguous.

oratio's avatar

Was Tiamats eyes the source of eufrat and tigris? Don’t remember that, but I like it. Was it so?

rooeytoo's avatar

@Qingu – Thank you again, this time for telling me what I meant by what I said. I give up, you are too much of an expert for me, not only on the bible but now what is in my head. At least you are growing up and getting over the name calling, that is some sort of progress! You go girl and have a wonderful time!

miasmom's avatar

The beauty of this is that one day we all will know, or we won’t know, depending on what ultimately happens.

I’m going to bank on knowing.

fundevogel's avatar

@miasmom – Suppose that means you’re not overly concerned with trying to understand the intricacies of the world while you’re alive. There would be no reason to bother putting the work into it if it will just be handed to you for free later.

How can that possibly be a good thing? That knowledge could be of use here, but by the time you learn it in heaven you will have missed the opportunity to do any thing good with it. It would be like if all the scientists trying to cure cancer said, “you what, this is hard. Lets just wait until God tells us in heaven.” And then they go to heaven and God tells them how to cure cancer and they say, “Gee why didn’t we think of that? We could have saved a lot of people.”

miasmom's avatar

@fundevogel I did not say that as an excuse not to learn about what you believe, I said that because Qingu and I and many others disagree on the semantics of particular words in the Bible, I can see the perspective from both sides, but because of my personal experiences, I absolutely believe there is a God and his son Jesus died for my sins.

At this point it is pretty much a stalemate because both sides aren’t going to budge no matter how much we discuss. Just my thoughts.

I am happy though that the debating was done very calmly.

fundevogel's avatar

@miasmom – I wasn’t really thinking about the debate or my opinions even. I just can’t imagine not actively persuing a greater understanding of the world in general. Certainly there is a lot more to it than we have talked about.

But yes I am glad that feathers seem to have remained unruffled all around.

Qingu's avatar

A stalemate, huh?

Similarly, if I claimed the moon is made of green cheese and then refused to acknowledge the flaws in that claim, I suppose I could call that a “stalemate” as well.

In reality, you’ve taken a position on Biblical interpretation that you cannot defend. To reiterate: you claimed that the “sky” referred to in Genesis 1 is actually the “earth.” Can you defend this claim, or can’t you?

miasmom's avatar

I can defend it, you just don’t agree with by defense and honestly, you wouldn’t agree with any explanation I gave you because you are so set in your ideas of the passage.

I do wish I knew Hebrew and had the original text to read myself, maybe that should be my next pursuit.

I say that because from what I’ve read there are different Hebrew words that mean canopy and those words weren’t used in Genesis 1:8, I’d like to see that myself.

mattbrowne's avatar

I’m a Christian, a Lutheran Protestant. My parents are non-dogmatic Christians and so am I. When I was twenty I had more doubts than during my childhood, but I always thought it’s normal to have doubts. Others had a similar experience. Eventually I became very passionate about cosmology and astrophysics. I read almost every book I could get my hands on about the subject and I’m still a voracious reader. Every year the universe became more awesome to me. Despite my scientific focus, contemplating about the great many issues was also a spiritual experience. It still is. The mother of all questions: Why? Was there a beginning? What is the deeper meaning of life? Is it just about genes and species wanting to survive? Is the physical world everything there is?

I also believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ. When the Berlin Wall came down on November 9, 1989 to me this was also a result of the spirit of Jesus still alive today in so many people in East Germany who had become a huge part of this peaceful revolution.

miasmom's avatar

@fundevogel I’m totally with you on constantly pursuing more knowledge, God did give us brains for a reason. :)

Qingu's avatar

@miasmom, I didn’t agree with your defense because you didn’t provide one. I asked you to support your position that “shamayam” means earth—despite all the contradictions I raised—and you didn’t. It looks like you just made it up. Probably because you did.

Claiming that “I wouldn’t believe what you said because I’m stubborn” is simply an ad hom.

You don’t need to know Hebrew to engage in the discussion. Here’s a “Bible translator website.“ Have a look for yourself.

There are several words commonly translated as sky: raqiya (the firmament/dome of the sky); shacaq (clouds); and shamayam (the visible sky beyond its structure, “heavens”)

None of these words are ever translated as earth or ground.

So you are taking an interpretation contrary to every single scholar who knows Hebrew. I’ve also never heard of this interpretation during my brief period studying the Bible in college. Defend your position, please.

miasmom's avatar

@Qingu In Genesis 1, the word expanse is used 9 times, the first 5 times in verses 6–8, the last 4 times in verses 14–20. In the first 5 verses God is using the word expanse to describe what separates water from water. In the last verse it says that He called the expanse Heaven.

In verses 16–20, all of the phrases of expanse are followed by of the heavens, so in this particular passage there is clarification to what expanse we are talking about. If we were talking about the same expanse of 6–8, we wouldn’t need to add of the heavens, so here in 14–20, we are talking of everything in the sky and beyond.

In verse 8, God calls the expanse Heaven. Why did He name it this? One thought is because this is the earth’s crust (soon to be formed in the next verses) and this is where He will dwell with Adam and Eve prior to them sinning. It’s a theory, it makes sense on several different levels.

It explains how the flood happened with the water below the earth’s surface contributing to the flood. It makes sense why God would distinguish the other passage using expanse of the heavens, if we were talking of the same expanse He would have just used the word Heaven instead because that’s what He named it in verse 8.

I don’t see how that argument is so far out there that you have to compare it to the moon being made of green cheese.

I would ask you why there couldn’t be two different expanses in those passages, why do you think they must be both referring to the sky and beyond?

Critter38's avatar

“When the Berlin Wall came down on November 9, 1989 to me this was also a result of the spirit of Jesus still alive today in so many people in East Germany who had become a huge part of this peaceful revolution.”

@mattbrowne Could you explain what you mean by “the spirit of Jesus” and on what basis you decide whether or not it was involved in determining an outcome.

manoffaith3112's avatar

With out faith it is impossible to please God.

Growing up in a home where there was a faith in a powerful and loving God I was fortunate to witness answers to prayer a number of times.

Once a lady was brought over to our house who was the sister of a friend of my dad. The lady was the sister of my dad’s friend, and he’d brought her over for a reason.
Unfortunately she had cancer, and it looked like she was going to pass from it. She had little chance medically of recovering, and she was in dire straits.
So, my dad with my mother there went through a number of scriptures in the bible about how healing was paid for through the sacrifice of Jesus at calvary. One example of scripture is the following; He’d been wounded for our transgression, bruised for our inquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and by His stripes we are healed.
Then everyone got ready for prayer through bended knee. My dad prayed out loud. My parents believed during the prayer for a healing over the threat of death.
After a few weeks my parents found out that the lady was miraculously healed! Where at first she was headed for ill health and death suffering from the awful curse of cancer.

This is one example of answer to prayer I witnessed growing up under a home that was full of faith. I understand if a person has not experienced a life of faith that doubts can enter one’s mind. There is a difference between hearing about something; or reading about something; compared to actually experiencing something.

As an adult now I’ve discovered the faithfulness of God. For example; a number of times the vehicles I owned and was driving would just stop working at times when I really needed to get around. In fact last year while picking up my kid’s records at school my van’s battery was found out later to be dead at a car parts store later that day. So, even though we were about 20 miles away from home it would not start after going into the school building and coming back. After trying it three of four times my kids and I prayed God would help the van to start up. Then after I got back into the driver’s seat and I tried the ignition again it started right up!
Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. My fondest hope would be that everyone I know and any one who reads this would find that relationship with the living God in their own life. He is real; His power is real; and most of all His love is real.

I’m writing here about faith in someone other then self and putting one’s life in the hands of a living God. I don’t have to justify or explain this faith that has just been real and the best part of my life. Its what I was fortunate enough to have had experienced, and I wanted to relay to you what I’d seen both growing up and as an adult. It certainly wasn’t because I was good enough or just a wonderful person, but rather it was from finding mercy in my God who simply loves me and every one else on this earth.
Thanks for your question, and please give yourself a chance at finding a relationship with God through faith in Him before just listening to just the natural mind. Seek the living God while He may be found.

Critter38's avatar

Is this how seeing the hand of god works?

If something good happens to the faithful, that’s a sign of god.

If something bad happens to the faithful, god has a greater plan that we cannot fathom, or god had a lesson he needed to teach through suffering, or perhaps they weren’t faithful enough.

If something good happens to the non-faithful, god is trying to show his plan, or is working through the unfaithful for the greater good, or has a greater plan we cannot fathom.

If something bad happens to the non-faithful, that’s what you get for denying god’s word.

Now let’s imagine for a second what would happen if for several centuries god decided to go on holiday (after fixing all those carburettors for the faithful he probably deserves a bit of time off).

How would we detect that he wasn’t there?

manoffaith3112's avatar

I was fortunate to have found a way to get to know a living God. I asked God to come into my heart as a young kid, and have never been let down in my faith toward Him.

My dad was a really good preacher and pastor who spoke of the dramtic change God can make in a life that is sinful. In fact while he was growing up he’d done some tough things. For example he’d stabbed his brother once while fighting. But after he accepted Jesus as his redeemer Jesus changed his way of looking at things, and gave my dad a supernatural change in his life. Since the relationship with God had become so sincere his preaching was also sincere and passionate. During the end of his sermons he would give an invitation to people to find how wonderful the savior Jesus had been to him. And had help change him from a selfish, fighting, and cussing man into someone who found power to over come his former nature to do the wrong things. Well, of course as a young kid at age five I was so little, but still understood the message of salvation.

When he would invite people; “men, women, boys and girls” to find God toward the end of the sermon I could sense the Holy Spirit moving inside me.
So, a number of times I raised my hand to accept Jesus in my life while hearing the sermon. Week after week I’d do this until my sister finally grabbed my hand during one of the altar calls. Its just that His presence was being felt by myself at a young tender age. At only five I began a lovely relationship with God.

At eight I was given the spiritual gift of the Holy Spirit during church one Sunday night, and it is difficult to put into words how it felt. It was so exciting, and an exotic feeling of both crying while feeling just great as God’s presence moved on my young spirit.

I also remember being made fun of later on by other kids who had seen the way I’d reacted as God’s Holy Spirit had moved on me. They laughed and mocked at the simple reactions of worship as His power touched my young life.

So, from that time till now I’ve heard other’s make fun of my
trust in Jesus at different times. I guess its hard to understand the lovely relationship I’ve found through the mercies of a living God.

I really do feel compassion for those who have decided for whatever reason that there is no God. It was so natural to sense the Holy Spirit and to react to that Spirit as a human being. I wouldn’t trade the pure energy of love and power I’ve felt for any thing. I’ve been bought through the price of love from the hand of a living God. A price that was paid for by Jesus for the world. For God so loved….............

mattbrowne's avatar

@Critter38 – I could fill pages on this question, but let’s keep it rather short. In essence: The non-violent approach (Sermon on the Mount).

Turning the other cheek is to respond to an aggressor without violence (in every sense of the word). The phrase originates from the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament.

In the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

A parallel version is offered in the Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel of Luke:

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Christian Fuehrer is a Protestant Pastor and one of the leading figures and organizer of the 1989 Monday demonstrations in East Germany which finally lead to the German reunification and the end of the GDR in 1990.

On 9 October troups of the army, police and Stasi officers arrived in front of the church. About 1,000 members of the SED were ordered into the church. Nearly to the end of the Peace Prayers a manifest were read out, created by Kurt Masur, Bernd-Lutz Lange, Peter Zimmermann and three low charges of the SED (later called the The Leipzig Six), appealing to all attendees not to use force and to stay peaceful. The demonstration of about 70,000 people right after the prayers was in fact peaceful.

The mantra “No Violence!” (Keine Gewalt!) created that day by Führer was used by more than 300,000 people during the following demonstrations. The whole East German revolution remained peaceful.

manoffaith3112's avatar

I would just like to thank you mattbrowne for your level headed answers and views of other’s opinions.
You do not show a reactive mind that is negative towards any one with a different opinion, but you are able to approach different ideas of attitudes with grace.
I’m glad to have come to fluther for if no other reason to then have read your blogs which are the voice of reason.

Critter38's avatar

@mattbrowne Thanks for the clarification.

So what you refer to as the spirit of Christ – at least in these circumstances – is what I would refer to as non-violent persuasion or non-violent political activism….as advocated by Christ, Ghandi, Te Whiti, some Buddhists, etc..and most encompassingly to my understanding by the Jains (or perhaps they are more akin to pacifists…).

I must say that I’m rather neutral with regard to some of the Jesus passages. It is difficult to know whether the writer is advocating pacifism or nonviolent resistance…and to some extent perhaps it can be interpreted either way…..(any thoughts?). I don’t have much time for pacifism in one sense (as a philosophy it is fine, but it completely lacks as a motivator for change in circumstances that may require it) but utter admiration for those with the strength to adopt non-violent resistence when circumstances dictate.

King redefines pacifism in my mind to mean nonviolent resistence. But whatever you call it this is a great quote of his..

“My study of Gandhi convinced me that true pacifism is not nonresistance to evil, but nonviolent resistance to evil. Between the two positions, there is a world of difference. Gandhi resisted evil with as much vigor and power as the violent resister, but True pacifism is not unrealistic submission to evil power. It is rather a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love.”

Qingu's avatar

@miasmom, again, your interpretation directly contradicts the text.

God creates an “expanse” (raqiya). He then names this expanse “heaven” or “sky” (shamayam).

You claim that the expanse can also mean “the earth.” But the problem is that in the same passages, God also creates the earth, along with this sky-raqiya.

As for the floodwaters, you run into the same problem. Genesis 8 says God opens the windows of the sky and the fountains of the deep. Are you seriously saying the “windows of the sky” in this verse also refer to the earth?

Again, I think you need to ask yourself if you are being honest about this text. Nobody has ever translated the word raqiya to have anything to do with the earth. I’m not familiar with any interpretation of these passages by scholars that agrees with you. You can’t just make stuff up. I’m sorry, and I don’t mean any offense, but that’s dishonest. If this were any other ancient text you would never in a million years take such a contrary interpretation.

Qingu's avatar

@manoffaith3112, you’re saying prayer cured cancer. That’s amazing. Do you have access to this lady’s medical records that proved this happened? Surely doctors around the world would be interested in the documentation.

If not, are you still in contact with this woman? You should ask her to provide her medical records. Surely she would like to show the world the proof that prayer can cure cancer, right?

mattbrowne's avatar

@Critter38 – Non-violent persuasion is one key element of what I called the ‘spirit of Christ’. Of course there are others as well. The non-violent approach is by no means an exclusive concept created by Christians, Heaven forbid. Of course Gandhi (which is by the way the most common misspelled names in the world – you’ll get 5.5 million Google hits for Ghandi – and someone pointed this out to me about 5 years ago, so I’ll do the same as a favor) and others use the same approach.

My thoughts on advocating pacifism or nonviolent resistance?

Short term pacifism doesn’t work when mass murder has to be stopped. Mid term and long term it’s probably the most successful strategy ever created.

I’m not a pacifist. I served 2 years in the West German army. I believe in defending freedom. The Soviet Union and East Germany were prisons for millions of people kept under control by totalitarian systems. I believe Stauffenberg did the right thing trying to assassinate Hitler. I’m in favor of stopping genocide in Darfur by force (if UN approval is given). It was a mistake to observe the genocide in Rwanda.

Having said that, short-term action is not enough to create long-term stability and peace. I’m in support of Israel using force to stop Hamas from firing rockets into residential areas. But this alone will accomplish very little. What is needed (metaphorically speaking) are at least

10000 Daniel Baremboim orchestras and
10000 Queen Ranias or Mustafa Kemal Atatürks

Critter38's avatar

I think the world owes a huge debt of gratitude to the Israelis and Palestinians for showing generations what poor leadership, violence and 2 cultures adopting an eye for an eye mentality can achieve together…bravo.

Agreed on the short term long term distinction.

As we’ve shared literature in a previous post you may have or (consideirng your experiences) might be interested in “Nonviolence: The history of a dangerous idea” by Mark Kurlansky.

A wonderfully book. Inspirational. All I can do is highly recommend it and wish everyone would read it.

Thanks for the spellcheck!

manoffaith3112's avatar

” How did you come to believe, or not believe, in God?”

This is what this question was about. All I’ve done is try to be as honest as possible and relate to this nice lady what my answer to the question is. I think she is trying to honestly search for herself which belief system she wants to follow, and I applaud that. She is trying to search in an unbiased manner which is just terrific.

However, there are those on here who has consistently tried to bring about confrontation. Confrontation with any one who thinks different about the Christian faith every time it comes up. I’m trying to point out that trying to attack any idea dealing with Christanity that doesn’t agree with you is not fair.

Out of curiosity and some concern what is causing such negative reactions? Did someone treat you badly who claimed to be a person of faith? If that happened that is a dirty rotten shame. Or whatever it was that could make you so seemingly disagreeable about it I wish it hadn’t happened to you. I will try to be as understanding as possible. Then when questions come up like this I will continue to communicate what I’ve been fortunate to witness.

I don’t mind a different view point at all. That is the right of any individual. In fact I see other’s who have all kinds of different view points here on this site in other intelligent discussions and it can be enjoyable. It has given the chance to learn something new and exposed to different ideas for one thing whether its what I think like or not. That is really great to get to do that.

However, there is a difference though between asking an honest question about a novel view point and trying to understand a subject; compared to just flat out rejecting some one’s view point at the beginning with out trying to understand first. Asking a question with out an agenda of confrontation gives the chance to learn from each other’s ideas on both sides of an issue. Compared to always and every single time just being against a subject matter out right with no chance of discovering or learning something another person knows and maybe has had more experience with. Just assuming and rejecting another person’s experience toward something isn’t very smart.

A feeling on its own is valid whether its a view of the total picture or not. But it just gets monotonous when ideas of faith are rejected out right every time because of feelings from a person who doesn’t understand the idea of faith and isn’t willing to understand. Perhaps not agreeing; but at least understanding.

To those with closed minds who don’t want to learn something new about faith from another mind that means there will be less knowledge to be shared.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Critter38 – Thanks for the reading tip. I’ll put “Nonviolence: The history of a dangerous idea” by Mark Kurlansky on my reading list.

Qingu's avatar

@manoffaith3112, did you ever get in touch with that woman who was miraculously healed by prayer? Again, if that really happened, I’d like evidence, because that would mean my entire worldview would need to change.

Again, surely there must be some sort of record of this happening. I’m sure her doctor has kept medical records. They’re confidential, but why would she want to keep them to herself if it means spreading proof that praying to Jesus actually works?

Or were you bearing false witness?

manoffaith3112's avatar

Yes, I did visit the lady when I was a teen at her house. This was after her serious bout with cancer, and she no longer had a problem with it. She was getting ready at that time to start to travel during her vacation.
I am sure people put down lies all the time on the internet. After all how could a person believe every thing that is written? A person can’t. It seems so easy to be annonymas, so its easy to hide behind that, and say or lie about stuff. Even working with people or being with them doesn’t guarantee they don’t lie. It pays not to be too gullible.
However, in this case a healing did happen. I do not intend to deceive people whom I know or people whom I live with and love. That is against my convictions, and I will not lie on purpose if what I know is the way it is. Lying only breaks trust, and could bring about judgement from people and a living God.

My own daughter was in trouble last summer. Her stomich had started hurting her for over a year. When she went out for volley ball she couldn’t even run a whole mile….at the young age of fourteen. So, last summer she had to go to the hospital when her medical doctor thought she needed some tests run.
To make a long story short it was found out she had a mass or tumor, and one of the doctors who saw her said it was a mass; and was going to be cancer. This is never what any parents want to hear. Any loving parents would not want to out live their children. I know God can give grace to go through difficult things, and when facing tough circumstance I would never be trite or blase about that toward any one.
However, both my daughter’s mother and myself felt assurance she’d be alright after one of the doctors said it was a mass and cancerous. Through prayer and after checking with each other we both felt assurance she’d be all right.

Doctors can be wrong just like any one else, but from what she ended up with it looked likely she’d end up with more treatment.
The next day after waiting for about three hours the surgeon came out and said he’d pulled out a fifteen pound tumor out of her abdomon. There was talk of that there would likely have to be radiation treatment done some time.
While she was in the hospital a neighbor who’d been praying came and visited her. I was there, and the neighbor had the same reassurance she’d be all right after the neighbor had prayed about it.
The six month check up that has come and gone shows no sign of cancer although in most cases like this there is some kind of radiation treatment needed.

The bible does say that there is provisions made for people no matter what happens. I don’t understand every thing nor would I put a veneer of false happiness in dire circumstances while trying to promote my faith. It rains on both the just and the unjust. Good things happen to tyrants while bad things happen to really terrific, caring people. However, I have found mercy in finding an answer to prayer for my daughter; although I still suffer and am disabled. I know for a fact God can give any one grace to go through some tough circumstance. During the midnite hours when I’m all alone I am not lonely. I’m not lonely because I have a mighty friend whom I can sense is there through the spiritual side of myself. One that any one can find. Any one can develop their spiritual side that is real through knowing Him.It seems like the worse thing that can happen to people is the fact that death does happen to all of us. But I’m not really afraid of that. Simply through faith in trust in Someone beyond our limitations.

Now you have a right to live your life the way you want to. Or to believe the way you want too. I wouldn’t blame you though I would like to share with you and other’s what I’ve found through a faith relationship.

There is the intellectual side of people that should be developed through knowledge, and observation. Perhaps even high learning through college, and study or reading about various subjects including science.

And in the same way the spiritual side of a man or lady can also be developed. It happens through repentence, trust, prayer, development of a relationship with God, and learning about one’s spiritual side.

With the mercy and love of God I’ve found some lovely things happen. Protection, security, and comfort are just some of the perks of faith when having to face sometimes tough things and even dangerous things that happen in life.

I am not imitating any religious form or setting up some kind of unattainable religious wish. I’m just an average individual who has developed the spiritual side of life through trust and faith and lovely experience in prayer.

El_Cadejo's avatar

A bunch of things really lead me to getting where i am with my beliefs, but i think a big one was growing up i was always really into greek/egyptian mythology. I realized the ancients used it as a way to explain the things that happened in the world around them that they really couldnt explain scientificlly at the time. I always looked at modern religion the same way. Just stuff we cant explain yet.

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