An Essay on the Moral Argument
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20-07-2017, 11:17 AM
An Essay on the Moral Argument
(19-07-2017 04:22 PM)Dr H Wrote:  You haven't given evidence that your claim has a factual basis.
Without a factual basis claims of objectivity are specious, at best.

You want me to provide evidence that torturing innocent babies just for fun is harmful? Or do you acknowledge that this is objectively true?



Quote:Matters of aesthetics are not moral matters.

If it’s not ultimately reducible to matter of aesthetics is not subjective. You seem to operating on some weird idea of what subjective means in regards to morality. If right and wrong can’t be reducible to matters of likes and dislikes, it’s not subjective.

Quote:[quote]
You have not demonstrated, nor even answered, whether the act of stealing is objectively wrong.

Depends on the context, the harmfulness of stealing to feed your children is different then harmfulness of stealing purely for pleasure.

Quote:If yes, what is the factual basis for that claim?

The degree of harm. If in particular situation this degree is ambiguous the answer might not be determinable. If it’s unambiguous like torturing innocent babies just for fun, the answer is apparent.





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20-07-2017, 02:24 PM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(19-07-2017 07:30 PM)mordant Wrote:  
(19-07-2017 06:28 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  I suppose I'm just intrigued by your conception of what Christianity is, because it doesn't conform to anything I know. Granted many so-called Christians are homophobic and recite the Old Testament, but that's just people cherry picking ideas to support their own predispositions. If one takes the moral ideas in Christianity as a starting point, then one has, surely, to disregard ideas and moral positions which are inconsistent, which would speak against homophobia and beating slaves with a rod, etc. Yes, no?
Yes and no ;-)

Fundamentalists, who are quite influential culturally in the US, hew to a literalist interpretation of scripture that would rather ignore or attempt to resolve inconsistent moral positions in the Bible, than to just eliminate them. It would be sacrilege to them to "disregard" even the smallest part of scripture. Even less inerrantist Christian thinkers often appeal to scripture to support their ethical shibboleths of choice. So because these moral dictums, however obviously factually wrong or internally inconsistent they may be, are there to appeal to, and are commonly appealed to, it's necessary to counter them.

On the other hand, as you point out, liberal Christians, non-devout or non-practicing cultural Christians, etc., may be fine with seeing the Bible as a flawed book and then following some system of cherry-picking the parts they find defensible (you see, the cherry-picking charge cuts both ways), or even ignoring it altogether in favor of some secular basis of morality, which is effectively what we atheists do.

But in doing so, you are departing from the historic creeds that define Christianity, that state that Jesus is divine, the scriptures are the very word of god and to be taken seriously as such, that there is divine punishment from which we must be redeemed through repentance, and so forth. We are addressing actual belief in some commonly accepted definition of orthodox Christianity, not the loosely-held belief that there's some useful moral ideas in the Bible that can inspire us and that we can crib from. Folks like you are live-and-let-live types who have their private beliefs and leave others to theirs, and would not imagine imposing your morality on others (beyond, you know, not wanting to be murdered and such). So you don't represent the potential harm to societal consensus morality that a truly Biblical moralist would. So we don't really need to address your approach to the authority of scripture.

Well, as you put it, yes and no.

I understand what you are saying about American fundamentlists. I grew up watching Rex Humbard, Oral Roberts, Billy Graham et al on Sunday morning TV so I am familiar with their views. I also lived in a fundamentalist community and left because I found it very hard to take.

There are two points, however, I think are important. What you are referring to is distinctly American and perhaps Catholic, although I have been married to two Catholic women and what you refer to as "Christian" beliefs bears no resemblance to anything I experienced them espousing at any point. I also don't accept than any Christians place the Old Testament in the same position as the New Testament. The New Testament is the basis and the only basis of Christianity. It flows out of the religion represented by the Old Testament, and there are aspects of the Old Testament which are consistent with Christian teachings, but Christianity rejects the "God" of the Old Testament and replaces it with an entirely new and different "God". The old one is mean and vindictive, a retributive god and the new one is loving and forgiving. If you don't understand that can I suggest/guess that you weren't raised as a Christian? Because...one of the fundamental issues in Christianity is the difference between the two "Gods".

I'm not even sure if your view of these "fire and brimstone" Christians is actually an accurate one at all. I am as familiar with the bluster of these people as anyone but I can't say that when I heard them talking about things in the Old Testament, they were using it as a basis for saying that all Old Testament teachings were part of Christianity.

Also, when people are inducted into Christianity, either as a child in Sunday school or later in life, there's no attempt to use Old Testament teachings such as the ones cited in the OP. Inductees are taught about the Sermon on the Mount and how the meek will inherit the earth and how to turn the other cheek, love thy neighbour etc etc. I've attended church in Canada, England, Scotland,, France, Spain and Cyprus, and your view of Christianity is not like the Christianity I know. Europeans and particularly the English are almost completely benign compared with what you are referring to as Christianity. I've never heard anyone talk in terms of Old Testament hell fire and damnation after leaving North America and there is no equivalent in Europe to the Sunday morning evangelism and bible thumping one sees in the US.

I'm just pointing this out because I came across the same sort of thinking in a Youtube video of a talk by Sam Harris and Resa Aslam in which Sam Harris, at one point, mentioned that, to paraphrase him, Christianity seemed to have some humane aspects to it, such as loving they neighbour etc. I got the distinct impression that he didn't actually know much, or care to know much, about Christianity, and yet he felt he could talk about it. I've also seen some Youtube videos of Israelis and Muslims being asked in the street what they thought of Christianity and Jesus, and they seemed to have virtually no idea at all about the religion. I suppose, from the outside, it looks like a nutty religion with a central figure who is some kind of magic man or superhero and is discounted as nonsense. I have some sympathy with that idea, and I'm not an apologist for Christianity but I've managed to deal with my distaste for the religion by coming to see the "story" or narrative of Jesus as a partly factual and partly fictional piece of literature which is intended as a pedagogical work devised to convert the people of Syria and Judea who are depicted in the Old Testament. As such, it's intended to change them and to make them abandon the practices in the Old Testament, such as beating slaves and following pointless rituals. In that sense, it can't, therefore, be taken that the Old Testament is the same as the New Testament.
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20-07-2017, 02:35 PM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
Oh my god... he's still doing the same lazy argument. Jfc, the notion of community outliers and bonding of social institutions is still avoided in the black and white scope that something is either so horrendously bad no warped social gains of a group that sees it as not taboo is not understood.

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21-07-2017, 12:14 PM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(19-07-2017 06:28 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  My understanding was that the Old Testament was the holy book of the Jewish faith and I'm not sure why you would say you are addressing the essay to a theoretical Christian. It seems you are addressing it to a Jewish person.
That's a valid point, and a criticism that a Christian apologist might raise about the essay.

Although most Christians will say that the OT is still an important part of their Bible, it is primarily fundamentalist Christians who most consistently and heavily delve into the OT for their positions

There is a tendency to latch-on to the most visible aspect of a philosophy, group, or movement as if it were representative of the entirety of that viewpoint. In the US, the loudest, most visible manifestation of Christianity comes from evangelical fundamentalists. They define themselves forcefully as "Christians", so people reacting to them often feel that they are reacting to "Christianity", and not merely to one small aspect of it. In fact, evangelical fundamentalists make up only about 20% of American Christians.

It's a case of "the squeaky wheel gets the grease".

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21-07-2017, 12:19 PM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(19-07-2017 07:26 PM)Cheerful Charlie Wrote:  
(18-07-2017 05:00 PM)Dr H Wrote:  Society has rules; that's what makes it a "society".
But those rules are neither objective, nor permanent; they change all the time.


There are societies, and then there are societies and then there are societies. Not all societies are a like..The Daesh caliphate society is different from Sweden. Some scieties are based on ideologies, some have a more pragmatic morally based foundation.

Changing to a more ethical basis that eschews moral failure, such as racism or religious based immorality is a change for the better.

One must avoid the fallacy of false equivalency.

I'm not sure I get your point.
Nowhere did I say that all societies were equivalent.

I simply pointed out that to say "society has to have rules" is an empty tautology.
By definition a society does have rules, else there would be no society.

As to "moral failure", I'm not clear on how that is being defined.
Do you believe that there is an objective morality?

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21-07-2017, 12:23 PM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(19-07-2017 07:30 PM)mordant Wrote:  Even less inerrantist Christian thinkers often appeal to scripture to support their ethical shibboleths of choice. So because these moral dictums, however obviously factually wrong or internally inconsistent they may be, are there to appeal to, and are commonly appealed to, it's necessary to counter them.
Even Catholics are pretty big on at least the prophesy aspect of the OT.
We used to have readings from the prophets from the pulpit, most Sundays.

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21-07-2017, 12:35 PM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(20-07-2017 11:17 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  You want me to provide evidence that torturing innocent babies just for fun is harmful? Or do you acknowledge that this is objectively true?
Your claim presents a context.
I want you to provide evidence of an underlying objective moral basis for that claim, independent of context.

Quote:DrH: Matters of aesthetics are not moral matters.
Quote:T: If it’s not ultimately reducible to matter of aesthetics is not subjective. You seem to operating on some weird idea of what subjective means in regards to morality. If right and wrong can’t be reducible to matters of likes and dislikes, it’s not subjective.
It is far more complex than "like/dislike". Decisions concerning things like risk/benefit; simple/complex; useful/not useful; interesting/not interesting; feasible/improbably; and a host of others are also subjective.

My comment was directed to your example: whether or not one likes Justin Bieber is not a moral matter, subjective though it may be. The example was a red herring.

Quote:DrH: You have not demonstrated, nor even answered, whether the act of stealing is objectively wrong.
Quote:T: Depends on the context, the harmfulness of stealing to feed your children is different then harmfulness of stealing purely for pleasure.
Agreed. And if it depends on context, it depends on a subjective decision as regards the amount of harm present in a particular context.
There is no objective scale.

Quote:DrH: If yes, what is the factual basis for that claim?
Quote:T: The degree of harm.
And what is your objective measure for "degree of harm"?

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21-07-2017, 01:01 PM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(20-07-2017 02:24 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  Also, when people are inducted into Christianity, either as a child in Sunday school or later in life, there's no attempt to use Old Testament teachings such as the ones cited in the OP. Inductees are taught about the Sermon on the Mount and how the meek will inherit the earth and how to turn the other cheek, love thy neighbour etc etc.
[...]
I'm just pointing this out because I came across the same sort of thinking in a Youtube video of a talk by Sam Harris and Resa Aslam in which Sam Harris, at one point, mentioned that, to paraphrase him, Christianity seemed to have some humane aspects to it, such as loving they neighbour etc. I got the distinct impression that he didn't actually know much, or care to know much, about Christianity, and yet he felt he could talk about it. I've also seen some Youtube videos of Israelis and Muslims being asked in the street what they thought of Christianity and Jesus, and they seemed to have virtually no idea at all about the religion. I suppose, from the outside, it looks like a nutty religion with a central figure who is some kind of magic man or superhero and is discounted as nonsense.
As one who grew up in a Christian family (Catholic_, and who was made to attend weekly "Religious Instruction" classes for too many of my formative years, I can attest that it looks pretty nutty from the inside, too, for anyone with an ounce of critical thinking ability.

And we were taught OT stories in those classes, although you are correct in assuming that the emphasis was more on Jesus and the NT. Moreover, we were taught very carefully selected OT stories -- the creation; the Jews escaping Egypt; the receiving of the ten commandments; Jonah; bits of Job; etc. The idea being, I figured out in retrospect, to inculcate the idea of the Trinity; the concept that Jesus wasn't just "son of God"; he WAS God.

Catholics were not then (and, I think, not now) encouraged to actually read the Bible. Children had "catechisms" and adults had "missals", which contained the Reader's Digest version of those Biblical passages the Church, in it's infinite wisdom, decided that we hoi-polloi sinners needed to know. Reading the Bible wasn't forbidden, but it wasn't encouraged, either. Indeed, I noticed even as a kid that most Protestant families I knew seemed to own a Bible, but I was never in a Catholic home that did.

But we were fed OT stories. And there were plenty of nutty things that came up, that were noticeably nutty even to an 8-year old. I related one such story -- about choking to death on communion wafers -- in another thread here, just a few days ago.

The relevance to the current discussion is that any moral argument addressed to (or at) Christians needs to take into account both the OT and NT. The foundations for the morality of the NT were laid in the OT. The NT goes on repeatedly about "fulfilling" OT prophesies. Jesus himself speaks of fulfilling his Father's law.

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21-07-2017, 01:44 PM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(20-07-2017 02:24 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  I also don't accept than any Christians place the Old Testament in the same position as the New Testament. The New Testament is the basis and the only basis of Christianity. It flows out of the religion represented by the Old Testament, and there are aspects of the Old Testament which are consistent with Christian teachings, but Christianity rejects the "God" of the Old Testament and replaces it with an entirely new and different "God".
I think "entirely new and different" is not something that most Christians would characterize as accurate. I can speak best to my own upbringing in fundamentalism, which regards god as immutable and frequently seems to regard god as more the angry judgmental type than the meek / mild / kindly type. What I was taught changed was not god, but the "economy" under which he expects Christians to interact with him now vs in OT times. Namely, at a minimum, we are now under grace, rather than the law. We happened to be dispensationalists, and while what we taught wasn't incompatible in practice with the simpler scheme of grace / law, we elaborated that at different times god had different demands he placed on humans and a different way of dealing with non-compliance. Dispensationalism dates to Christian fundamentalism's roots in John Nelson Darby (ca 1830). It is the official teaching of at least 15% of Christianity, I'd judge, given that about 17% of Christianity is fundamentalist, but its more simple expression as law vs grace is much more pervasive.

So ... not two entirely different gods by any means, that may be your perception but I've never seen it taught by any theological school with which I'm familiar.
(20-07-2017 02:24 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  I'm not even sure if your view of these "fire and brimstone" Christians is actually an accurate one at all. I am as familiar with the bluster of these people as anyone but I can't say that when I heard them talking about things in the Old Testament, they were using it as a basis for saying that all Old Testament teachings were part of Christianity.
I think the main issue is not what teaching they think is applicable today, it is their belief in the literal truth and inerrancy of the OT accounts (since they're part of the inerrant scriptures) and therefore the nature of god during that period. Combine that with their assertion that god never changes, and the things they claim god literally did before Christ means that they have to explain or avoid / deflect concerning the nature and character of this unchanging deity.

I'm not suggesting, BTW, that the average fundie pew-warmer doesn't compartmentalize the cranky OT manifestation of god as irrelevant and doesn't focus on the NT manifestation. That is the human thing to do, after all. But -- per my paragraph above they still have to explain their immutable deities actions throughout history, as revealed by their inerrant, literal holy book.
(20-07-2017 02:24 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  Also, when people are inducted into Christianity, either as a child in Sunday school or later in life, there's no attempt to use Old Testament teachings such as the ones cited in the OP. Inductees are taught about the Sermon on the Mount and how the meek will inherit the earth and how to turn the other cheek, love thy neighbour etc etc. I've attended church in Canada, England, Scotland,, France, Spain and Cyprus, and your view of Christianity is not like the Christianity I know.
I think maybe you see what you want to see and also since you are confessedly squeamish about the bombastic fundamentalists you probably avoid them.

As a child I was regaled with Bible stories like Samson and Delilah, Lot's wife turned to a pillar of salt, and most certainly, given that we were Young Earth Creationists, the creation myths in Genesis. Not to mention the Exodus, the conquering of Canaan (the Walls of Jericho was a favorite tale there) and so forth. Ezekiel's visions were gone over with a fine tooth comb. The story of Jonah, of Job, and Shadrach Meshac and Abednego, and so forth. I was obliged to do a term paper in Bible Institute on the topic, "The Millenial Kingdom in the Minor Prophets", which highlights their obsession with "prophecy". So sure, they were eager to say that certain OT laws were "not for today" but also very into the OT on at least the basis that it foreshadowed the coming of Christ and his church.
(20-07-2017 02:24 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  Europeans and particularly the English are almost completely benign compared with what you are referring to as Christianity. I've never heard anyone talk in terms of Old Testament hell fire and damnation after leaving North America and there is no equivalent in Europe to the Sunday morning evangelism and bible thumping one sees in the US.
Basically true, although fundamentalism does exist there, just more marginalized. In the 1990s, fundamentalist missionary friends of mine spent time in the Netherlands and in Romania pushing an aggressive anti-abortion agenda, for example. They also assisted a Bible-smuggling operation into Russia.
(20-07-2017 02:24 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  I've managed to deal with my distaste for the religion by coming to see the "story" or narrative of Jesus as a partly factual and partly fictional piece of literature which is intended as a pedagogical work devised to convert the people of Syria and Judea who are depicted in the Old Testament. As such, it's intended to change them and to make them abandon the practices in the Old Testament, such as beating slaves and following pointless rituals. In that sense, it can't, therefore, be taken that the Old Testament is the same as the New Testament.
Except that you're forgetting that the NT adjures slaves to obey their masters. In his writing about the slave Onesimus, Paul urges that he be received as a brother but does not advocate for his liberation. The NT has a lot to say about slavery, and misses the opportunity to speak out against it. It seems more interested in coexistence with it.

Your treatment of the Jesus mythos as "pedagogical literature" is consistent with liberal Christian thinking but some of your perceptions about Christian thinking about OT vs NT seems a bit off from my experience. I admit that I was part of one extreme (though within that extremism we were centrists if not somewhat liberal) but I have never heard for example of "two different gods" being presented or asserted.
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21-07-2017, 03:14 PM
RE: An Essay on the Moral Argument
(21-07-2017 01:44 PM)mordant Wrote:  
(20-07-2017 02:24 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  I also don't accept than any Christians place the Old Testament in the same position as the New Testament. The New Testament is the basis and the only basis of Christianity. It flows out of the religion represented by the Old Testament, and there are aspects of the Old Testament which are consistent with Christian teachings, but Christianity rejects the "God" of the Old Testament and replaces it with an entirely new and different "God".
I think "entirely new and different" is not something that most Christians would characterize as accurate. I can speak best to my own upbringing in fundamentalism, which regards god as immutable and frequently seems to regard god as more the angry judgmental type than the meek / mild / kindly type. What I was taught changed was not god, but the "economy" under which he expects Christians to interact with him now vs in OT times. Namely, at a minimum, we are now under grace, rather than the law. We happened to be dispensationalists, and while what we taught wasn't incompatible in practice with the simpler scheme of grace / law, we elaborated that at different times god had different demands he placed on humans and a different way of dealing with non-compliance. Dispensationalism dates to Christian fundamentalism's roots in John Nelson Darby (ca 1830). It is the official teaching of at least 15% of Christianity, I'd judge, given that about 17% of Christianity is fundamentalist, but its more simple expression as law vs grace is much more pervasive.

So ... not two entirely different gods by any means, that may be your perception but I've never seen it taught by any theological school with which I'm familiar.
(20-07-2017 02:24 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  I'm not even sure if your view of these "fire and brimstone" Christians is actually an accurate one at all. I am as familiar with the bluster of these people as anyone but I can't say that when I heard them talking about things in the Old Testament, they were using it as a basis for saying that all Old Testament teachings were part of Christianity.
I think the main issue is not what teaching they think is applicable today, it is their belief in the literal truth and inerrancy of the OT accounts (since they're part of the inerrant scriptures) and therefore the nature of god during that period. Combine that with their assertion that god never changes, and the things they claim god literally did before Christ means that they have to explain or avoid / deflect concerning the nature and character of this unchanging deity.

I'm not suggesting, BTW, that the average fundie pew-warmer doesn't compartmentalize the cranky OT manifestation of god as irrelevant and doesn't focus on the NT manifestation. That is the human thing to do, after all. But -- per my paragraph above they still have to explain their immutable deities actions throughout history, as revealed by their inerrant, literal holy book.
(20-07-2017 02:24 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  Also, when people are inducted into Christianity, either as a child in Sunday school or later in life, there's no attempt to use Old Testament teachings such as the ones cited in the OP. Inductees are taught about the Sermon on the Mount and how the meek will inherit the earth and how to turn the other cheek, love thy neighbour etc etc. I've attended church in Canada, England, Scotland,, France, Spain and Cyprus, and your view of Christianity is not like the Christianity I know.
I think maybe you see what you want to see and also since you are confessedly squeamish about the bombastic fundamentalists you probably avoid them.

As a child I was regaled with Bible stories like Samson and Delilah, Lot's wife turned to a pillar of salt, and most certainly, given that we were Young Earth Creationists, the creation myths in Genesis. Not to mention the Exodus, the conquering of Canaan (the Walls of Jericho was a favorite tale there) and so forth. Ezekiel's visions were gone over with a fine tooth comb. The story of Jonah, of Job, and Shadrach Meshac and Abednego, and so forth. I was obliged to do a term paper in Bible Institute on the topic, "The Millenial Kingdom in the Minor Prophets", which highlights their obsession with "prophecy". So sure, they were eager to say that certain OT laws were "not for today" but also very into the OT on at least the basis that it foreshadowed the coming of Christ and his church.
(20-07-2017 02:24 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  Europeans and particularly the English are almost completely benign compared with what you are referring to as Christianity. I've never heard anyone talk in terms of Old Testament hell fire and damnation after leaving North America and there is no equivalent in Europe to the Sunday morning evangelism and bible thumping one sees in the US.
Basically true, although fundamentalism does exist there, just more marginalized. In the 1990s, fundamentalist missionary friends of mine spent time in the Netherlands and in Romania pushing an aggressive anti-abortion agenda, for example. They also assisted a Bible-smuggling operation into Russia.
(20-07-2017 02:24 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  I've managed to deal with my distaste for the religion by coming to see the "story" or narrative of Jesus as a partly factual and partly fictional piece of literature which is intended as a pedagogical work devised to convert the people of Syria and Judea who are depicted in the Old Testament. As such, it's intended to change them and to make them abandon the practices in the Old Testament, such as beating slaves and following pointless rituals. In that sense, it can't, therefore, be taken that the Old Testament is the same as the New Testament.
Except that you're forgetting that the NT adjures slaves to obey their masters. In his writing about the slave Onesimus, Paul urges that he be received as a brother but does not advocate for his liberation. The NT has a lot to say about slavery, and misses the opportunity to speak out against it. It seems more interested in coexistence with it.

Your treatment of the Jesus mythos as "pedagogical literature" is consistent with liberal Christian thinking but some of your perceptions about Christian thinking about OT vs NT seems a bit off from my experience. I admit that I was part of one extreme (though within that extremism we were centrists if not somewhat liberal) but I have never heard for example of "two different gods" being presented or asserted.

Yes, I can see where you are coming from. I watched US TV evangelism with disbelief, to be honest. It's like a carnival show compared to the rest of the world.

I can only speak from my own experience and I run a mile whenever I meet a fundamentalist Christian. I think they are completely muddled.

My extended family are all "Christians", at least nominally. My brother and I and my uncle who is a retired professor were likely the first non-believers. I moved to England in 1990 and lived in the UK for 23 years. No one ever mentioned religion, not a soul. There are NO TV evangelists. The only religious programming is bland beyond words, programs like "Songs of Praise", and none of them preach to the audience. My father once told me that "the Church of England" is what you say when someone comes to your door and asks you what religion you are, as if to say, "mind your own business".

I think my point is that the OP simply says it is addressed to "Christians", but that is a very wide church. I was, frankly, relieved to find that there was a very benign form of Christianit in England. Maybe it reflects the culture of the country, rather than the religion. The English are very reserved and would never dream of talking like a TV evangelist and it's very bad manners for in England to talk to anyone about anything other than the weather, and particularly religion. Americans are very forward in comparison.

I'm not saying that Christians believe that "God" was swapped over for a new one. But, you have to admit that the characterization of it is "different", and quite radically so. It may bet that fundamentalists deal with this as you say, but I don't think that detracts from very real question about the god's nature, which changes and has to be reconciled. I reconcile the difference by viewing the Old Testament as a history of an Assyrian/Sumerian animistic ruling warrior tribe who conquered Egypt and were chased back to where they came from before being taken prisoner by the Persians, who broke them down because they were so dangerous a people. The New Testament is a Roman invention aimed at converting followers of this religion, in Syria and Judea, to a peaceful religion with a moral compass, which wouldn't be a threat to the peace in the Roman provinces. So, the issues you raise don't bother me. My approach to Christianity is that one should simply look at the teachings in Matthew, which are the core moral principles of Christianity and don't depend on the existence of God at all. The rest, including Paul's writings, are an embellished narrative of somebody's life and, while interesting from a literary and historical perspective, have very little to do with the moral teachings. They are part of a literary technique which aims to entice people into the religion. I suppose the fire and brimstone of the OT is also a means of converting people to Christianity because the book contains some intuitively correct moral philosophy and also a lot of cautionary tales. I have always seen the OT that way, not as a representation of what Christianity is.
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