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Religion claims to require ‘Faith’ – but does it really?

“You have to have faith” is the rallying cry of any believer you talk to once you’ve decimated their arguments with science, proof, and rational thought. It’s their last line of defense. “God cannot be proven or dis-proven – he requires Faith!” Perhaps ‘a god’ or the possibility of ‘a god or gods’ cannot, at this time, be proven, but there is ample evidence disproving the current versions of god going around (god, allah, Ra, etc). But who needs evidence when one has faith right?

But is it by faith that most believers maintain their religion in the face of overwhelming evidence against it? I’m starting to believe that faith plays much less part in a believer’s system of religion than old fashioned stubbornness. People are born into their faith and for all but a scant few, are indoctrinated into the same faith that is popular in their direct family or cultural area (Those few that transfer faiths are simply a statistical expectant who have been disillusioned in some way and merely trade one form of religion for another). It is ironic that each of these religions claim they are the true way to god and that all the others are wrong. Some will try and have you believe that they follow a more open belief system, accepting other religions, in an attempt to cherry pick their ideas.

It has been my experience that when I discuss religion with a believer they do not honestly listen to a single thing that I have to say. At best they pay attention to the wording to look for some point in which they can exploit, but anything else I may say falls on deaf ears. It is not through faith that they maintain their believe system – they simply choose to ignore anything that they hear that does not match what they already believe. They will claim that this is “maintaining their faith” but it is not that at all. They have chosen to not explore their own belief system and have chosen to ignore anything that may challenge it. Ironically the more effective your argument, the harder they will hold to their beliefs.

This, of course, isn’t true for every believer, but more of them than not. Believers are comfortable with their belief system. Their belief makes the universe right in their mind. Their religion does exactly what it was designed to do – it gives an explanation for those dark and worrisome questions of what happens to them after they die, what happens to ‘bad people’ and provides them the illusion that everyone will be punished or rewarded after they die. Why would they want to challenge that? They are happy with what they believe, so it is not by faith that they continue to believe it, but by choice. They choose to maintain their belief system and have no interest in “rocking the boat” of their belief.

It should be telling to note that most atheists are ex-religious people. Believers will try to explain this away by believing that the atheists is simply being stubborn, is angry at god – or at the people/clergy of their religion, or is simply changing sides to the devil. They couldn’t be further from the truth (and their refusal to accept this is simply one more indication on how they choose a belief rather than to come to it through understanding). Most atheists became atheists because they wanted to have a better understanding of god, either to become closer to god, or to develop a stronger knowledge in which to debate/preach/seek from. It is that search that opened their eyes. Just as in the movie “The wizard of Oz”, once the man behind the curtain is seen for what he is, the rest of the show loses its scariness and mystery. Once you know, you simply cannot go back and forget what you learned.

But the common believer is simply happy with what they know. They have no reason to question what they “know” so they don’t. Frankly, they are lazy. All the work has been done for them by their family and local church system so they don’t even bother to double check. What their preacher/rabbi/priest tells them is good enough for them – or, oddly enough, they’ll secretly cherry pick their own thoughts based on what makes them feel more happier with the universe. “there is no real hell” or “god loves all religions” or do things like conveniently ignore the brutal parts of the bible while enhancing the nicer parts.

Regardless, its all based on what they want. Faith – not so much. If it were about faith, then they would not require a church or clergy to provide them with answers. They wouldn’t require doctors, insurance, or medicine because their faith that god would sustain them would suffice.

But its much easier to claim faith, while simply being too stubborn to bother challenging your own beliefs. Ask any believer this question : “Is there anything that can convince you that your belief in god is wrong?” You’ll most likely get the answer “No. Nothing will ever shake my faith!” or some such nonsense. This alone proves that they simply choose their path of belief with no room or option to explore, expand, or grow. They are trapped by their very own ideals and destined to a life of ignorant delusion (a life without the opportunity to learn/understand even in the face of overwhelming evidence).

Now ask a non-believer of any gods if there is anything that would make them believe in god – and you will most likely get a yes – just a little evidence.

The atheist has more faith than the believer, in my opinion. I have more faith in my rational mind to make decisions and conclusions based on evidence and logic. The believer has less faith and simply chooses to believe. They do not have faith in their “faith” to be able to stand up to critical examination. But of course the fundy will try to declare atheism as a religion unto itself – but that simply isn’t the case. Atheism is a lack of theism or a lack in a belief of a god or gods. It’s the absence of religion. There are plenty of articles on the net that explain that point.

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May 10, 2007 - Posted by | Discussion, People, Religion

13 Comments »

  1. Religion is much like scientific development in the United States.

    There once was a time that the US took pride in being forerunners of knowledge and pretty much first in everything, but that has changed. Now, Americans sit back and allow the work of other countries to surpass them. The standstill on the stem cell research, the slow progress of space exploration, and belief in religion are some of the countless ways that the US is running behind.

    Christians will scoff at the fanatics in other counties and their beliefs, although those people have proven countless times that they are willing to die for their religion (not much of that happening in Christianity), while other progressive countries scoff at them and us for OUR own beliefs.

    The idea of any god from any bible or religious text is just ridiculous and it surprises me that more people are not willing to put away the blinders and realize this.

    I truly think that people just need to believe in something to feel better. Without this something, then they feel like they are walking on a tightrope high in the air without a net.

    More people need to trust themselves and what they know, not what they have been told. People can be good without fear of hell and damnation forever, but because they should be good.

    I respect a person that has good morals and values and ethics, simply because they want to over any person that does it for fear of an afterlife.

    One question for the Christians, did you cry at the last funeral you went to? If you did, I wonder why you didn’t rejoice over your loved being given the gift of moving into the magical place you call heaven, if your belief is so strong.

    Comment by Vernae | May 12, 2007 | Reply

  2. “… decimated their arguments with science, proof, and rational thought” and then you went to watch as a whole squadron of pigs took off.
    Perhaps it would be clearer if you substituted “choice” for “faith”. Atheism like theism is a matter of choice. Exercising an informed choice and believing you have made the right choice is a little different from ‘faith’.
    Science or philosophy is of no real help in reaching a conclusion here. Science is able to confirm that certain things are testable and repeatable, that is, empirically verifiable in the present, that is experimental proof devoid of argument. A belief in the intangible is clearly an inappropriate subject for scientific investigation. Like science, philosophy endeavours to arrive at a conclusive proof, but this time argument without evidence. If there were conclusive or absolute proof either way I would not be writing this, because like you I would know the truth and further experimentation or argument would be irrelevant.

    Comment by akakiwibear | July 24, 2007 | Reply

  3. and then you went to watch as a whole squadron of pigs took off.

    I have to assume that you are a believer then. By that assumption I then ask for you to prove your god claim, the onus is on you. Of course, i cannot know what you personal cherry picked beliefs are because you guys cannot even agree amongst yourselves, so that makes it more difficult for me to point out the flaws of your religion. Are you a literal bible believer type person, a metaphoric believer or a mixture of both? Do you deny evolution and claim the Earth to be less than 10,000 years old? Do you believe prayer has the power the bible claims (anything is possible) or its more of a means for believers to talk to their god on a personal level?

    A belief in the intangible is clearly an inappropriate subject for scientific investigation.

    The bible, as well as many believers, make very specific claims that are quite testable. Mathew 17:20 is one of them. Faith healing, speaking in tongues, drinking poison, etc. These are all things that one can simply test to see if they are true. We also have our brains to examine the stories told in the bible to determine if they are simply fanciful tales from a bronze age society or if they are truthful, accurate, and supported by evidence.

    The fact is that the evidence simply doesn’t support religious claims. And that is why I say that believers don’t require faith so much as a determination to not accept reality. You can have as much faith as you want, but the dangerous thing about a stubborn blind faith is that you can never discover truth once your mind is set.

    Comment by mtdew | July 25, 2007 | Reply

  4. “the dangerous thing about a stubborn blind faith is that you can never discover truth once your mind is set” too true!! do atheists read this too?

    Your comment regarding Mat 17:20 et al. seems simplistic and rather fundamentalist. I have heard people speaking in tongues (scared me s***less, I though they had gone nuts!) but was it open to scientific test? Clearly not.

    Perhaps I own you an apology – I picked on your first sentence without a real comment on the rest. I liked your point that you may have more faith as a atheist than some religious, also that some believers (atheist and theist?) are just plain stubborn.

    If I had been in a better mood I would have commented that neither atheism nor theism is provable and both require a choice in what to believe. Certainly some people do not think deeply about this choice and perhaps others set the washer to “autofaith”. But for those who do examine their belief, faith would seem to play a part. You have faith that you have made the right choice in accepting the atheist arguments over the theist ones. OK, but is a choice. Perhaps you have the personal skills to have “… decimated their arguments with science, proof, and rational thought” but this does not make you right nor your position unquestionable – perhaps you just pick soft targets!

    But I invite you to expose your faith to argument. Why do you believe there is no God? I expect better from you than teapots.

    Comment by akakiwibear | July 29, 2007 | Reply

  5. “the dangerous thing about a stubborn blind faith is that you can never discover truth once your mind is set” too true!! do atheists read this too?

    Of course, but who do you think is going to be more guilty of this – the person taught that to question opens your heart to evil, or the person who has questioned to begin with and after doing their research of religion has come to the conclusion that religion is a man-made scam?

    Your comment regarding Mat 17:20 et al. seems simplistic and rather fundamentalist

    It’s straight from the bible and it is very straight forward. There is not ambiguous or metaphorically stated -although when pinned down believers try to play it as such. It is a claim that anyone can see is false.

    I have heard people speaking in tongues (scared me s***less, I though they had gone nuts!) but was it open to scientific test? Clearly not

    Actually, it has been tested and found to be yet one more falsification of religion. If you read the exchristian page (link #1 at bottom) you will find stories by past believers who described their speaking in tongues as a matter of acting. Studies have been done that show the patterns in people’s brains while they do it(link #2 at bottom). There are even those that claim they can translate those sounds, yet when tested they completely fail to translate accurately.

    If I had been in a better mood I would have commented that neither atheism nor theism is provable and both require a choice in what to believe.

    Many people have made the claim that there is nothing in reality that we cannot take without at least some sense of taking it on faith. Will we suffocate with our next breath, will the sun really rise, will my car make it to work, etc. However, there is a difference between blind faith and a reasoned expectation based on past evidence and predictability through observation.

    My “faith” does not come by me through blind acceptance. I would change my beliefs in a heartbeat if the evidence was there to suggest it. Believers, on the other hand, try and cram evidence into their preconceived beliefs, or ignore it all together if it doesn’t fit. This is why so many still argue against evolution as not being fact. Satan isn’t the enemy of religion, knowledge is.

    I would caution that i used a play on words in regard to faith and atheism. I can accept that we each must accept a limited form of faith for our day to day living, but I by no means have faith that god does not exist. I have faith in myself to learn a truth, but I do not hold that truth by faith alone.

    But I invite you to expose your faith to argument. Why do you believe there is no God? I expect better from you than teapots.

    Again, it is not faith. It is conclusion.

    Start with Zeitgeist (link #3). It is 2 hours long but well worth the watch.

    Next lets look at the bible. The bible is the foundation of religion. It doesn’t matter who you are or who you learned of religion from, ultimately that knowledge came from the bible. The bible is the foundation of religion. How sturdy is it? (Link #4).

    Do you know the bible? Then take this little test (Link #4a). It is an honest test of 20 questions about the bible and will provide source info for the answers. Please tell me how you did!

    But the problems that can be found in the bible abound! (Link 4b)

    Then there are the logical arguments of religion that fail – the many omni’s of god and free will, a hidden god, original sin, the story of jesus, the creation, noah’s ark, moses, the ten commandments, revelations, the trinity, the virgin birth, the miracles of jesus, the making of the bible, etc.

    Take your pick there.

    Next we can look at the results of religion world wide in body cound. How many have died in his name? How often do people use god to fulfill their desires?

    Don’t forget all the different religions. Which is right? Which is wrong? Which god to choose? Mankind has been pretty inventive with creating gods. Here is a short list of gods you can view and enjoy (it is link #5 but has a funny soundtrack from comedian George Carlin)

    Let me know if you need more?

    #1 Exchristian
    http://www.exchristian.net

    #2 Brain scan of glossolalia
    http://www.slate.com/id/2153947/

    #3 Zeitgeist the Movie
    http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/

    #4 Misquoting Jesus
    http://research.unc.edu/endeavors/spr2006/feature_05.php

    #4a Bible Knowledge Quiz
    http://exchristian.net/3/

    #4b Bible problems
    http://home.teleport.com/~packham/bible.htm

    #5 A short list of gods

    Comment by mtdew | July 30, 2007 | Reply

  6. No new ideas in your reply, but some interesting sites I had not visited before.
    As for listing many religions and gods – so what? Does it prove that God has been revealed to different groups differently? OK, it does it prove that there are charlatans, or people who will seek to exploit a situation for their own gain – no surprises there. But surely you don’t seriously construe the existence of belief in multiple manifestations of God as proof that there is no God!
    Link #2 was interesting, but like my own experience it leaves me uncertain as to what is happening. I remain sceptical about the speaking in tongues thing. As the article says the people seem to having an unusual experience but is this the way to test it? I went there, I observed and came away with the ability to say I saw people do what they call speaking in tongues – but it seems a bit pointless.
    Have yet to get into link #3 but at first glance it seems interesting.

    For the rest you seem to rely heavily on the bible in much the same way that Christian fundamentalists do. Yet even the Catholic church does not claim the bible to be error free – it clearly is not – nor as the sole source of teaching on Christian faith. Check it out in a copy of the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church or any of the many web sites. Catholic theologians and bible scholars view the bible as a source (not the only source) of the revealed word of God – not the literal word of God as dictated by God. While I may not agree with all the teachings of the Catholic church it is a valid reference point for teachings about the bible. Plus any reasonable understanding of the origins of the books of the bible supports this view. It is a collection of writings (yes, the selection of which was human and influenced by the environment at the time of selection) by various authors for reading conjunction with the teachings of the Christian church – and if I may add my say, in conjunction with a lot of other teachings.

    Sites like link #4 and your quaint use to the quote from Matthew illustrates the point. The quote reveals a facet of the teaching of God and as such it can be understood. The message of this passage is fairly obvious. But, using a literal interpretation, as you wrongly do, you are left with a statement that is difficult to understand – why would one want to move mountains? Furthermore, it is not as you assert a simple claim that can be tested. How do you verify that a person has faith the size of a “mustard seed”? The one is a physical object the other not – it’s a bit like saying your hatred of religion is the size of a grapefruit – would that be a metaphor? You have started with a false premise (that it can be tested) and then draw the conclusion that it is false because it can’t be demonstrated. It is your “claim that anyone can see is false”

    If you have discredited belief in God through the improper use of the bible, then the fault lies with you, not the bible.

    Comment by akakiwibear | July 31, 2007 | Reply

  7. “No new ideas in your reply, but some interesting sites I had not visited before”

    A bit contradictory, but ok.

    As for listing many religions and gods – so what?

    It supports the idea that “God” is merely a construct of human imagination. All through history there have been literally thousands of gods created to appease the ignorance of mankind. That you can look at these older gods and so easily dismiss them while still maintaining a belief of your idea of god shows that you are being intellectually dishonest with yourself. Your suggestion that these are or could be earlier manifistations of god only shows a desperation not to face reality.

    I do agree that there are simularities between ancient religions/gods and that of today – but it seems rather obvious to me that it only proves that todays religions are the remanants of those religions conquered and that there mythologies have simply been plagerized.

    Also, the claim of ‘other manifistations’ goes against the very history of the bible. You are starting to sound like one of those apologists that refuse to accept reality so much that you make shit up on the spot to cover your beliefs.

    But surely you don’t seriously construe the existence of belief in multiple manifestations of God as proof that there is no God!

    Let’s get one thing straight here. There is no aboslute proof one way or the other that there is or isn’t a god. What we have is simple deduction based upon what we can see and comprehend. What we can do is determine if the various claims of god are true or not. Is god a christian god? Does the claims of this god ring true? If those examinations fail then we can determine what god is not.

    But that does not give an automatic acception that god exists. Ironically you mention a common argument that non believers use against religious followers in your prior message – the tea cup. I assume you are familiar with it, but in case not (or anyone else reading is not) it is basically making a claim that there is a tea cup orbiting somewhere in space. You can neither confirm or deny this claim that I make. However, that is not reason enough to accept it as truth. The onus is on the one making the claim. Believers make the claim of god but fail on all fronts to prove that claim.

    So there are really only 2 pathways to determine your belief about god – 1) is to simply accept it is true and the other 2) is to determine the validity of the claim through any evidence presented to support it.

    Since historically every culture has created their own gods this suggests that humans are predisposed to creating mythology to provide explanation for things beyond them.

    That no two cultures ever have come up with the same diety is further evidence that conceptualizing god has more to do with culture than divinity. I am talking about seperated cultures that have not garnered their beliefs from conquered peoples (christians, Romans, etc).

    That even today there are a wide variety of gods being worshiped as well as multiple variations of the same gods as well as a refusal of each religion to accept the teachings of the other as valid is further proof that this mythological story spinning is still going on.

    Or, as you suggest, one of them is a real god, and it just so happens to be the one that you were born into (lucky you).

    You can be stubborn and simply refuse to accept the evidence around you, but that still does not make god real. If you really want to make that choice, then do so, but don’t wave your beliefs around like they mean anything to anyone else or try and force people to live by the methodology that you choose to embrace.

    I remain sceptical about the speaking in tongues thing

    As you should. I remain just as sceptical of poison drinking baptists, faith healing, levitation, out of body experiencing, and any other religious ceramony or ritual that people claim as part of their beliefs. Nothing has ever been presented that supports the idea of being divine in nature. Either it is easily duplicatable or it is shown as fraud.

    But you’d suggest that through all these charlatan tricks there *might* be something valid – something that god is actually empowering. Perhaps god hides in the mundane and ordinary? Who knows right?

    For the rest you seem to rely heavily on the bible in much the same way that Christian fundamentalists do

    Oh bullshit. The bible is the foundation of christianity. Without it that religion does not exist – heck even with it that religion has splintered and broken into so many conflicting parts that that alone should clue you into how un-divine that book is.

    Anyone reading the bible can see how faulty it is. But you cannot see the contradiction of Christianity from the bible while at the same time declaring the bible as imperfect? Talk about living with blinders on. Did you take that quiz yet? #4a.

    If you downgrade the importance of the bible to christianity then that tells me that you simply refuse to face the fact that Christianity is anything but firm in its foundation. You are only making excuses to avoid a truth.

    There simply would be no knowledge of christ without the bible. Try and find him in history as anything more than a footnote. A bit odd that such a great man didn’t get mentioned by the dozens of historians of the time (who left behind very detailed recordings).

    My pointing out Mathew 17:20 is not out of context. The Bible clearly promises that God answers prayers. For example, in Mark 11:24 Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Or how about Mark 11:24 or John 14:12-14 or James 5:15-16.

    Over and over the promise is made, so stop trying to evade the fact that the bible is false in its promises.

    why would one want to move mountains

    Now you are just dodging the question. Fine, it only shows that you lack any answer for why the bible lies and attempt to dissuade further talks by turning to ridicule. Anyone reading this can see that.

    How do you verify that a person has faith the size of a “mustard seed”?

    You’re Dodging again. It only shows that you are too petty to accept the obvious and must resort to inuendo and strawman arguments.

    The one is a physical object the other not

    And yet, you are the one arguing the semantics of metaphor and literalism. Either its literal or its not. You’re playing dumb only shows your own refusal to be critical of your own beliefs.

    You have started with a false premise (that it can be tested)

    Do you mean prayer? Of course it can be tested. You , of course, refuse to test it because you already know what the results will be. You need to read a bit more

    http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/msciprayer.html

    http://www.randi.org/jr/123104my.html

    This one is actually humurous – in order for god to grant prayers he has to do something evil to someone else to keep the scales ballanced so no one knows he is real!
    http://www.gaydeceiver.com/religion/prayer.html

    So, going back to what we were talking about. There is no one single absolute proof for or against god – only our willingness to believe or be decieved by what we know.

    All those past gods, all the religions of today, the inaccuracy and contradictions of the bible, the failure of prayer, the history of human atrocities in the name of god, the logic behind the stories of the bible (and the plausability of them), the various ritualistic actions(speaking in tongues) that fail critical examination – it all builds up to one inescapable conclusions. God is not real.

    You can believe if you choose to, but it is not by the evidence that you come to that conclusion. You believe simply because you want to believe.

    It is that simple. The only way to continue believing is through a denial of reality. That is why religion requires and demands faith.

    I forget the author and the exact quote but it goes something like this : “I simply refuse to believe that god created us and then demands that we forgo the use of our brains in order to believe in him”.

    Comment by mtdew | July 31, 2007 | Reply

  8. While we agree that there is no proof and that “… there are really only 2 pathways to determine your belief about god – 1) is to simply accept it is true and the other 2) is to determine the validity of the claim through any evidence presented to support it” you seem to cling to arguments that have no basis – arguments embedded largely in the misconceptions of Christian fundamentalists. Let me illustrate this with responses to your main points.
    1) Multiple concepts of God – again I say so what? Theology is an evolving field of study. Why should it not discard concepts found to be lacking and replace them newer thinking as does any other field. Fundamentalists do not do this – they tend to be locked into a simplistic literal bible (usually OT) concept of God. Atheist reasoning likes to trap theology in its past, it makes it easier to defend the atheist position. The path atheists travel has been travelled by theists and the old thinking reviewed and sometimes found wanting. What theists have done is moved on with their thinking – sought new explanations of the evidence. I seldom see atheists challenging the current theist theology! You don’t appear to either. OK, current theist theology is not of one mind as one would expect in an environment of rational thought and weighing the evidence. The view that I find fits the evidence of God is that God is not an individual but a collective consciousness with common purpose. This fits with Christian teaching about the Trinity and aligns with the possibility of multiple manifestations. Is it “the truth” – don’t know, but it fits the evidence and we both know that is the best we can do – is it a personal choice? – yes, but it does address all the evidence, unlike the much of the fundamentalist and atheist thinking. The bible only addresses the Christian revelation of God, but there are many common elements with some other revelations.
    Multiple versions of God would only support the idea that God is a human construct if the deductive stating point was that there was only one possible revelation of God. That would be a false premise from which to start.
    2) The bible – “Either its literal or its not.” IT IS NOT! Why should it be? Your reference to the quiz in link #4 highlights the misconception. It is a common misconception promoted by fundamentalist Christians and atheists that the bible (NT in particular) is the actual words of God (dictation from God recorded verbatim) rather than the revelation of God’s teaching to a particular group. It is a collection of texts with an historical context. Yes I know some fundamentalist groups ignore this, but does that mean you should too?
    The bible is seminal to Christianity, as other texts are to other revelations – and yes, guess what there are some texts of less merit than others and some plain phoney texts. Again I draw your attention to the position of the Catholic church that the bible is not the only source of understanding about God. While the Catholic scholars can cope with the bible not being literal it seems that many fundamentalists can’t – perhaps they lack the benefit of centuries of academic input that the Catholics have had.
    I do not diminish the importance of the bible for Christians, but I do see it for what it is. Get the history and context right and it makes sense. The New Testament is primarily a collection of the sayings and works of Christ and the letters/writings of his followers, written about 60-110 AD and compiled around 360 AD. Yes Christians believe it was “inspired” but no, it is not a dictation from God recorded verbatim. There are dozens of sites, but for a quick intro try:
    http://www.maplenet.net/~trowbridge/NT_Hist.htm
    Recognising the origins of the New Testament why would it not have inconsistencies? Link #4 and exchriatian.net draws the wrong conclusion from the inconsistencies – a conclusion that ignores the history in favour of the rhetoric! Why collect four of the gospels if any one was complete? What is consistent with in the four gospels is the teaching of Christ – his message. Yes, at a semantic level there is debate, but at a conceptual level it is really clear.
    There is little point in discussing the bible if it is seen as a literal dictation from God recorded verbatim. That is starting fro a false premise! I would have thought that as an atheist you would be inclined to the facts. If you have discredited belief in God through the improper use of the bible, then the fault lies with you, not the belief!
    It is valid to note inconsistencies in the bible – it is not valid to ignore the background of the texts when interpreting the texts and addressing the inconsistencies. To do so ignores the intent of assembling a collection of writings. Pointing out inconsistencies between passages from different authors is a vain exercise in the futile – a bit like pointing out differences between the texts of say Dawkins and Hitchens and concluding on that basis that their texts are lies.
    I hope I have satisfied you that it is OK and acceptable in learned Christian circles not to take the bible literally. We don’t – neither should you. By the way, you still have not said if your hatred of religion is the size of a grapefruit or not.
    3) You seem to have a problem with prayer and since we are on that topic on another post I won’t dwell on it here. You have again taken the literal view which I have already discounted. Also I refer again to the reasonable view that the bible is not the sole source of revelation of God’s word/teaching. So you should not look for the complete teachings on prayer in a few isolated quotes. There is a vast body of learned writing on the topic and it should all be considered. Sufficient to say here, is that the quotes you give ignore the qualifications that come before and after. If you read the full texts either side you see that they teach that a belief in God and the outcome are prerequisites. Clearly the Matthew & Mark quotes relate more to having faith than the way in which prayer is answered. John: 14 presents a less metaphorical view and simple says “greater works”. But one has to go beyond the bible to really understand the power of prayer, which includes that the prayers themselves should be aligned to God’s teachings – doing His will. This would rule out prayer for a lottery win. Also interesting for some biblical scholars is that Christ’s teaching is delivered first hand to his disciples and there is some debate that the promise it that form is made only to them- that he has given them additional power, e.g. to heal – but again the question of too literal an interpretation arises.
    What should we take as a Christian belief in the power of prayer – Oh but that there were only one! If I condense some common understanding from it all I get that one has to pray a prayer founded in God’s teaching, pray in faith and expectation that the pray will be answered – and the prayer will be answered – but that the answer will not necessarily be in the form requested. This is not weasel out – let me try to clarify with an illustration. The disciples had the power to heal – this is linked to prayer as the vehicle for initiating the healing. But there is a clear separation between prayer and the power to heal, which for some is channelled through payer and the prayers of those who do not have the power to heal. So if someone who did not have the power to heal prayed for a healing would the prayer be answered – well clearly not with the healing, but perhaps in an alleviation of suffering. I do not claim that my condensed version is the final word on prayer, but again it is consistent with the evidence and the teachings.
    To liken prayer to a Harry Potter like wand that can wielded at will to change the world at a whim (or prayer) may be the view of some fundamentalists, but it is certainly not the view of informed Christian theologians. To conclude that prayer has no effect based on a comparison with the wand model is again to start with a false premise. You either address the whole topic or you extrapolate to conclusions that can’t be supported.
    To end with a quote: “An unflinching determination to take the whole evidence into account is the only method of preservation against the fluctuating extremes of fashionable opinion” Alfred North Whitehead. I don’t see much of this in fundamentalist or atheist thinking.

    Comment by akakiwibear | August 1, 2007 | Reply

  9. “Theology is an evolving field of study.”

    C’mon. Can’t you even recognize the problem with that statement? God is suppose to be eternal, never changing. “I the Lord do not change” (Malaci 3:6a)

    Following the logic of your statement the only conclusion is that people prior to now were ignorant of an understanding of god (as are you since theology is most likely going to continue to “evolve” so what you know now is less than what other people will know later). This just opens up more cans of worms in understanding god. It’s like they always say about lying – you need to tell more and more to cover that first initial lie in order to maintain the facade.

    “Evolving” theology reveals the truth that religion is not standing up to the scrutiny. If the bible is god’s word then why is there so much misunderstanding and confusion? Anyone that wanted to find god should be able to open the bible and know how to find that path. They shouldn’t need preachers and priests to tell them, they shouldn’t need apologists to explain away the problems, they shouldn’t need the influence of other people to find the path. Those that seek god should simply find him if he has an interest in them finding him. Instead we have people finding nothing or finding things diametrically opposed to what others have found.

    My own personal search lead me to pray day and night for guidance. I talked with my clergy and explored various texts of other writers, yet the questions continued to build and the contradictions were never answered. It was a slow process, but once my eyes opened to the man behind the curtain I simply could not buy back into the B.S. that is religion. Once the man behind the curtain is revealed you cannot swallow the mysticism again.

    You are only revealing a reactionary need to continue to defend a belief system that you want to maintain. Your reasons are, of course, your own, but the simple truth is that you believe because you want to believe, not because of any truth in what you believe. Look at the curtain over there, see it move? I wonder what is behind it…

    I think it is time for you to wake up from your stupor and realize the lengths you are going simply to maintain your belief.

    Fundamentalists do not do this – they tend to be locked into a simplistic literal bible

    But isn’t this what you are doing? Oh sure, you are quite willing to alter and change aspects of your belief in order to maintain the whole, but the bottom line is that you are refusing to surrender your idea of belief.

    You believe because you want to believe. You believe what you believe because of the area of the world you were born in. The reason why you believe is many and varied, but for the most part revolves around a need to be comforted about death and/or an appeal to ignorance in that it is so easy to attribute things we cannot explain to some intelligent source. Most people simply cannot face the fact that things often happen without any particular reason.

    I seldom see atheists challenging the current theist theology!

    I’m starting to think that you merely live in a very cherry picked and deluded world. Of course theology has failed and needs a face lift. It cannot stand up to the extreme scrutiny. What you are failing to do is to realize that the very need of you to change your belief system is proof that the entire thing is man made.

    The idea of God has a source and that source is found in history and tradition. To throw that away and change it simply to provide an answer to the naysayers should be a wake up call to you that what you believe is a load of pre-bronze age nonsense. Ask yourself, why do you keep needing to defend god? Of course you will deny doing that – but here you go plugging away at it anyway.

    This fits with Christian teaching about the Trinity and aligns with the possibility of multiple manifestations

    Now you are simply hiding in something that is already under heavy challenge. The concept of the ‘Trinity’ is Hindu. The Sanskrit term is ‘Trimurti’, meaning ‘three bodies in one godhead’. In the Hindu trinity, it was Siva; the other members of the trinity being Brahma and Vishnu.

    Most fundies will tell you that the trinity represents the different faces of god (the father, the word, and the spirit) yet Christ says John 14:28: “The Father is great than I.” This contradictory to a monotheistic deity, but believers conveniently overlook this in their desire to continue belief. It is very convenient to have a contradiction in theology yet not treat it like a contradiction.

    Multiple versions of God would only support the idea that God is a human construct if the deductive stating point was that there was only one possible revelation of God. That would be a false premise from which to start

    This is the teacup argument all over again. We’ve already mutually agreed that we cannot prove or disprove the reality of a god or gods. That you would use this to defend against the multiple god challenge is disappointing and shallow. It’s also self destructive.

    Your statement only highlights the fact that you have an incredibly low chance of picking the right god out of all those created by mankind if one accepts that one of the thousands is a correct representation. It’s the failure of Pascal’s wager at its finest. Why are you not following Allah, Horus, Ra, Baal, or Vishnu? They are just as likely as your god.

    This is the problem of multiple god descriptions that you so conveniently discard. You have made a choice in belief and now readily discard any other challenge. It is a false confidence that you have taken.

    As the saying goes, we both deny the existence of all those gods – I simply one more than you. But wait, you did suggest that all those gods were different manifestations of the one god didn’t you? Well, at least you get points for a new concept, but that kinda goes against the entire history as described in the bible, especially when the bible describes god destroying the people’s of other ‘false’ gods.

    Yes I know some fundamentalist groups ignore this, but does that mean you should too?

    You are denying an entire history of people that did take the bible as literal. But even ignoring that, there are the loads of philosophical and logical problems of religion. A loving god that eternally punishes, original sin with a fault lying at the feet of god, the lie of the “casting the first stone” story, etc. The bible is the source of knowledge of god and that bible is corrupt. You are ridiculous to continue to maintain your belief in a god described by that bible.

    The fact that people have to keep changing their definitions of religion and cherry picking the teachings to reflect their current views is a sickness! You change it because you know it is wrong. The sickness is the refusal to acknowledge that the very need to change something of an eternal and non changing nature nullifies it. To suggest that you are developing a better understanding of god is both insulting and damning to those that came before you.

    I am not ignoring the fact that the bible cannot be taken literal, but the hypocritical question is what parts of the bible should be taken as literal and what should not be taken as metaphorical? Of course you will make that distinction on your own, but we both know that others will make different distinctions. Again, its a chaos of cherry picking. Either god is a sadistic bastard or the bible and religion at all is a true representation of any real god.

    What is consistent with in the four gospels is the teaching of Christ – his message

    I thought that I’d mentioned this before. If Christ had a message, why didn’t he write it down? Why did not the dozens of historians of the time make note of all those miracles performed by Christ? Why did it take second hand stories to mark his existence? Why do the miracles of Christ become more and more flamboyant as time passes? Maybe the authors are embellishing? Stretching the tales? Again, why the ambivalence? Why the confusion? If god wants mankind to find salvation then why all the confusion?

    it is not valid to ignore the background of the texts when interpreting the texts and addressing the inconsistencies.

    In other words, there is a problem with the details and the foundation of your belief system, but you still hold to the ideal of a god so refuse to accept that what you ultimately believe is false.

    You have again taken the literal view which I have already discounted.

    Of course you discount it because you certainly cannot refute it. This is yet another “evolution” of theology that conveniently discards something that they cannot explain away. That passage does not say “with faith you will become closer to me” or “even with the smallest faith you shall know me” – No, it says that with faith you will have power. I don’t care how much you discount or ignore it, the fact is plain and simple – Prayer does not work. Your continued refusal to accept that fact comes as no surprise from someone who believes simply because the like the idea of a personal god.

    You may want to downplay and ignore that scripture and find solace in the unknown to continue your belief, but that does not negate the fact of the truth.

    But one has to go beyond the bible to really understand the power of prayer, which includes that the
    prayers themselves should be aligned to God’s teachings – doing His will

    But it doesn’t say “if you have faith then you will perform god’s will”. You are still evading the fact and burying your head in the sand.

    I also have to wonder why god needs man in order to perform his will? Is he not all powerful? What you are suggesting is the loss of free will, which your beliefs claim is the greatest gift of god. Watch yourself, you are contradicting again.

    but that the answer will not necessarily be in the form requested

    Right … how convenient. In one breath you are denying that the prayer will grant the power of anything, and then in the next you are accepting that fact with the concession that the prayer may not be what was expected. Again, how convenient.

    Even if a person prayed for a boy and got a girl you can say “god answered your prayer, just not how you expected”. I suppose its too much to ask that you recognize the irrationality of that?

    To end with a quote: “An unflinching determination to take the whole evidence into account is the only method of preservation against the fluctuating extremes of fashionable opinion” Alfred North Whitehead. I don’t see much of this in fundamentalist or atheist thinking.

    What an ironic quote by someone claiming to be “evolving” their theological beliefs. I would urge you take a close look at why you need to evolve anything that has to do with god. Take the whole evidence into consideration. You attempt to paint me focusing on Prayer, but religion as a whole fails scrutiny. Prayer was but one facet that I blogged about.

    I also believe that you are severely separated from your fellow believers. Perhaps you have developed your own personal beliefs, but I assure you that they are nothing like what the majority of believers share – which again goes to show the chaos of religion and the implied absence of god.

    Comment by mtdew | August 2, 2007 | Reply

  10. No I am not separated from my fellow believers – Catholics who have taken courses in theology and bible history at The Catholic Institute of Theology here in Auckland. Certainly I do the lecturers a disservice by badly conveying their teaching, but I have got their concepts right. It is often a real surprise to atheists to discover that they are not the first to discover contradictions or anomalies in traditional or fundamentalist teaching – more so to discover that these can lead to either further inquiry and stronger belief or, as atheists choose to non belief. Again it is choice – review ALL the evidence or stay in the time warp of the fundamentalist God you recognise and love to hate.

    Yet again you miss the point about NOT taking the bible literally and about multiple revelations of God.

    In your first statement you revert to hiding behind a literal use of bible quotes. Besides which, your logic is seriously flawed. Why should an unchanging God (if that were indeed the case – and I make no claim in that regard) imply that the study of God should be unchanging – it is a non-sequitur. An analogy – The nature of light did not change while we studied it and learned more, we thought waves, we thought particles we got into quantum physics – but the nature of light did not change, our knowledge did!

    But I think your comment reveals more about your thinking than just flawed logic. It suggests that you cling to a view of God that you are unwilling to change. Pity it is the view it is.

    I guess your whole atheism hangs on the fact that you can satisfy yourself that there is no God by resorting to your fundamentalist/literal view of God and the arguments of bible based contradiction and paradox. Take away the literal use of the bible and the foundation crumbles – I can see why you are fighting so hard to defend your flawed foundation.

    I have pointed you in a direction that merits serious thought not blind faith rejection, but as the old saying goes, you can take a horse to the water, but …”

    Comment by akakiwibear | August 2, 2007 | Reply

  11. You are right that an understanding of theology has evolved – but it is not an understanding that provides a firmer belief in the god story, its a better understanding of how bad and false that story is. More and more proof and evidence is brought to light about how god is nothing more than one more man made deity.

    Take away the literal use of the bible and the foundation crumbles

    Well it is difficult to point out the flaws when you refuse to acknowledge them. Is the entire bible metaphorical then? Just where do you draw the line? Is the story of genesis literal or not? What of Noah, Moses, Lot, Jesus, Job, Jonnah, John the Baptist, etc? What of Jesus and the withering tree? What of the whore and the stone? What of Sodom and Gomorrah?

    You pick and choose your literalism and my question is what makes you right? I guarantee that whatever you choose as literal or metaphorical you will find other believers disagreeing with you. What makes you right? Because of your faith? That is the problem with your god – he demands obedience but allows the chaos.

    but as the old saying goes, you can take a horse to the water

    You got that right anyway. The irony of that statement is so thick that its magnetic.

    I will attend to your other post later tomorrow.

    Comment by mtdew | August 2, 2007 | Reply

  12. Sorry I’m rather late in posting to this entry, but I’ve only discovered your blog out of interest after reading your comments on another site and agreeing with them.
    Well, I’ve read through the long argument going on here and will leave it alone. There is no shaking the faith of a believer who has centuries of man-made religious doctrines to choose from, but I think this only leads to proving your case.
    I just wanted to add here that there is a semantic problem with the whole concept of ‘faith’ which cannot be easily overcome, and this, I think, is because our language heritage is based so much on christianity, that we cannot argue the case for atheism without falling into the semantic mire of christian teachings.
    As for using the word ‘choice’ instead, somehow I don’t think that is a strong enough term to describe how I personally think that there is no ‘god’ (and I could say that I ‘believe’ there is no god, but that would be falling into the same trap also …).

    Comment by mirzania | August 18, 2007 | Reply

  13. (and I could say that I ‘believe’ there is no god, but that would be falling into the same trap also …)

    I know exactly what you mean. I often feel that believers attempt to twist the meaning of my words as if they are trying to say “see – you are just like us!”. I’ve been chastised for saying “oh my god” because obviously I would not say such a thing if I didn’t believe in god right? Or when someone sneezes and I have the reaction to say “bless you” because that’s simply what everyone always said as I grew up.

    Faith is such a double edged sword for them. Their own dogma demands they have it even going so far as to say that those that believe based on faith are more righteous than those that believe based on evidence. The very act of seeking knowledge to validate their beliefs invalidates that same belief. This is why they scramble to try and prove that even non believers require faith in their day to day lives. They are playing a semantic game simply to appease their own shortcomings.

    Comment by mtdew | August 20, 2007 | Reply


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