Dialogue with a theist
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20-03-2010, 09:26 PM
 
Dialogue with a theist
After martinb59 left this forum I was still interested in conversing with him about the Bible and Christianity in general so I sent him an email and below is the transcript, to date, of our ongoing discussion. I doubt he would mind my sharing this on this forum since he has often expressed his opinions unashamedly here and I don't think he has become bashful regarding his beliefs since leaving. Its rather lengthy but if you can get through it I would like to hear some thoughts on anything about it.
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Hello, I am jaronm90 on The Thinking Atheist forum which you post on sometimes. I am rather amused at the back and forth bickering between you and Unbeliever though I know you really just want to use the forum to get feedback from the 'other side', aka atheists, which I totally understand and encourage. I am an agnostic atheist but I like to visit Christian forums to get their opinions, beliefs, and thoughts on some issues as well. I am writing you to see if you would like to discuss the Bible. On one of your posts you seemed to want to have some kind of civil discourse over it though you really only got back from the users that it was seen as fiction on the level of "Jack and the Beanstalk". I disagree and profess that, although I don't take the whole book at face value as intrinsically or inherently true, there are some elements to the book that I personally consider morally virtuous, relevant to the present day and useful historically as a piece of literature.

If you wish to have some civil dialogue I welcome your response. I only ask that we: 1. steer clear from personal insults, such as attacking my age (20), 2. refrain from invoking 'divine inspiration', the mystery of God's 'plan' or the like, and 3. avoid appealing to purported authorities which are either unknown to the both of us and/or unable to be shown to be credible (i.e. have conclusive, consistent evidence or concise, reasonable arguments).

I look forward to your reply,
-Jaron
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I would love to dialogue, ask me anything and I will respond to the best of my ability.

Martin
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Well before we begin, to better understand your perspective and to find out how best to word my queries, it would be good to have a kind of statement of your beliefs, unbeliefs, and stance toward the Bible. To get a sense of what I'm looking to learn, are you a: theist, deist, atheist, ect.; see the Bible as: unerring, literal, metaphorical, allegorical, ect.; and finally, what are some attributes you see God (if its in your theological perspective) to be, contain and represent: omnipotence, omniscience, all-loving, wholly good, infinite, in or outside of time and or space, ect.

To better understand me here is my statement: I am an agnostic atheist, meaning that, I am of the opinion no one can know for certain if there is a god or not and acknowledge that I do not believe in any of the gods put forth by any person or religious institution at any point in human history, nor do I believe in any form of highest consciousness (of supreme deity status) to have created, acted upon or existed in or outside of the universe in any way, at any time, nor before time. I currently do not rule out the possible existence of some form of extraterrestrial life/intelligence which might have arisen on another point in our cosmic universe by the same or similar means as humanity, meaning abiogenesis and subsequent evolution by natural selection. I view the Bible as a piece of literature with some historical value and which contains some benevolent and altruistic passages which I consider to be pertinent to, and congruous with contemporary moral standards and social ethics. Having said that, I now profess that large parts of the Bible are inadmissible, unjust, morally reprehensible, racist, sexist, violent, wrong and incompatible with modern society as any kind of moral, ethical or daily guidebook to be revered and/or taught as anything more than ancient literature for historical purposes. I do not believe the Bible contains any form of fundamental moral absolutes given by a higher governing intelligence and believe everything in the Bible could have been, and was, written by man alone without any form of divine inspiration, visions or prophetic foreknowledge.

Jaron
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I don’t attend that Church, but most Bible based Christian churches believe the same thing.

http://coasthillschurch.org/pages/page.a...e_id=11285

So the above link is what I believe.

Why don’t we start with the Bible? Most Atheists have never read the bible, don’t understand how or why it was written, no idea how to read it, etc.

“I now profess that large parts of the Bible are inadmissible, unjust, morally reprehensible, racist, sexist, violent, wrong and incompatible with modern society as any kind of moral, ethical or daily guidebook to be revered and/or taught as anything more than ancient literature for historical purposes. I do not believe the Bible contains any form of fundamental moral absolutes given by a higher governing intelligence and believe everything in the Bible could have been, and was, written by man alone without any form of divine inspiration, visions or prophetic foreknowledge.” So what are you basing your quote on?

Martin

Just to make sure we are on the same page, you made claims about the Bible that I think are not true, please site your experience with the Bible, sources used to verify that the accusations are true.

Martin
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"Most Atheists have never read the bible, don’t understand how or why it was written, no idea how to read it, etc."
"you made claims about the Bible that I think are not true, please site your experience with the Bible, sources used to verify that the accusations are true."
-Admittibly I have never read the Bible from cover to cover, though I plan to, with an in depth analysis of each book, as soon as my classes allow me a break in the amount of reading required. But, I was raised in a very religious household and from birth was surrounded by the scriptures. Growing up I was required to memorize numerous verses for Sunday (indoctrination) school, mainly the most common ones such as John 3:16, Galatians 5:22-23, Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28, ect., along with the Bible stories every Christian is pretty much required to know, like the creation story of Adam and Eve, David's killing of Goliath, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the furnace, and everything surrounding the birth, life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. Since my internal disavowal of the beliefs of my parents at age 15, and much more so in the last couple years with my immersion into college life, I have been actively questioning, researching and formulating my own opinions about the Bible as a whole. These opinions and critiques, which, for the most part, I stated in my last email, are not quotes from someone else or any form of formal accusations, they are merely my personal convictions put forward as a statement of beliefs and non-beliefs for clarity's sake.

So to begin with I'll dissect my statements regarding the Bible from my last email and explain why I stated what I did.
"I view the Bible as a piece of literature with some historical value and which contains some benevolent and altruistic passages which I consider to be pertinent to, and congruous with contemporary moral standards and social ethics."
This is pretty straightforward and I doubt you would fundamentally disagree with me except over the degree of intrinsic benevolence and pertinence to be found in the Bible, with my assuming that you feel the entire Bible to be inerrant and consequently wholly pertinent and agreeable. You would probably also go beyond calling it historical literature since you hold this to be the book above all books; for you, the paltry status it holds in my mind would seem a belittlement of what you consider to be the Word of a God.

"Having said that, I now profess that large parts of the Bible are inadmissible, unjust, morally reprehensible, racist, sexist, violent, wrong and incompatible with modern society as any kind of [comprehensive] moral, ethical or daily guidebook to be revered and/or taught as anything more than ancient literature for historical purposes."
I assume you would want some sort of citation and example for each adjective I attribute to the Bible, and I will if you respond to this email with a request for such an analysis, but I am hesitant to put the time and effort into such an reexamination when it is too easy and tempting for you, and any Christian defending their sacred text, to claim that anything I cite was taken out of context or, if the context is established and the text of the Bible still seems to smack of any of the above adjectives, it could be invoked that the times with which the Bible was written were different and that God substantiated his book for those times.

"I do not believe the Bible contains any form of fundamental moral absolutes given by a higher governing intelligence and believe everything in the Bible could have been, and was, written by man alone without any form of divine inspiration, visions or prophetic foreknowledge."
When I say "fundamental moral absolutes", I mean timeless morals which are inherently true no matter which age they were given, e.g. incest or pedophilia being morally reprehensible to any decent, civilized and ethical human being and lawfully punishable when exposed (adhering to judicial due process and upholding the unalienable rights of man until proven guilty). For a book purported to be the inerrant word of the Creator and governor of the universe to include even one morally questionable or objectionable stance toward an ethical issue, e.g. slavery, completely invalidates said books' supposed infallibility and credibility as a 'holy/sacred' text. The authenticity of authorship for some books of the Bible is regularly, and rightly, debated, most often drawing attention to the chronological inconsistencies between the books within the Bible and also between other historical sources and the Bible (though I will try to avoid using anything but the Bible itself in the coming posts to discredit the alleged authorship of some books in the Bible, particularly those said to have been written by Moses).

To avoid an extremely lengthy response I would ask that in your reply to this, after you voice your thought to what I have said here, you choose 1 or 2 things you would like me to elaborate on and save any other queries for later analysis.

Jaron
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I will share a few thoughts and we can go from there:

1. When I was about your age I had to take a language class in college, the only one that fit my schedule was World Religions. I decided after taking that class that I was going to dead longer than I was going to alive, and so I started to examine religions and also the possibility that there was no God. At that time I believed in a God, I have never bought into the evolution idea, I believe there is microevolution not macro. And so which one of the religions made the most sense? I studied them all, attended services, went to monasteries, from Hare Krishna's to Buddhists to American Indians.

2. There will be only one group that is right. If there is no God then all of them are wrong. If the Muslims are right, then everyone else is wrong, same with all the other God based religions, they are exclusionary. Now if the Buddhists and Hindus are right then I might get reincarnated as a bug or some higher life form based on what I did here on earth. Your decision will have eternal consequences. The religion that I liked the most was the Native American Idea of Spirituality. But the only one that held up to the Burdon of proof was the Bible and Christianity.

3. Your mindset is key when you are exploring these issues. What are you motivations? Are you trying to disprove God so you can live a life you want without divine intervention? Are you exploring with the idea of approving or disproving? That is key, because of read the bible with idea of disproving then you will miss what it is trying to teach. Same with the other religions. Are you so stuck with the idea of disproving them or finding out if there true?

4. Context is important, not just in the Bible but it anything that is quoted. Starting with Genesis and moving to Revelation, is like a term paper, you have an introduction, some points to learn from and a conclusion. Let's take homosexuality, everyone loves that one, it says that homosexuality is punishable by death, along with many other things. Don't know why that was a capital offense AT THAT TIME, but it was. When you get to the New Testament homosexuality is no different than any other sin, whether that be adultery, cheating, anger etc. Some states still have sodomy laws and enforce them; New Testament said 2000 years ago, it was wrong but no different than any other sin. So if you take Leviticus and pull the homosexual verse out and say "See God says homosexuals should be put to death" you are taking it out of context of the whole Bible. The Old Testament was a different time and different place with different societal rules etc. In the New Testament you don't see the things that you see in the Old Testament, but again the Old was pointing to the New.

5. Slavery is still going on today in many countries, some say there are about 12 million slaves; there were/are many white slaves in these countries so it is not a racist issue. Slavery was a part of the culture and economy for many years. So here is your first test, look up slavery in the Bible, but do it with a mindset of slavery being a part of the culture not against the law, look at how the Bible said to treat slaves, one passage says "treat them as an extended part of your family', another said "if a slave died, his death was to avenged". The New Testament said "treat them better than brothers" it also said slave traders were wrong; they were lumped in with the "lawless, disobedient, unruly, unholy, profane, sinful, lawbreakers, rebels, rebellious, unjust, or disobedient”. I am sure that even if you do a cursory search of slavery in the Bible you will see it far from condones it a way that you might think.

After doing your slavery search with an open mind let me know how your opinion changed. Look up slavery at that time in history and see how slaves were treated, then compare the history of slavery at that time with how the Bible said to treat slaves. Some people would sell themselves into slavery to get out of debt, there is a lot more to it than just saying that slavery is immoral and unethical and the bible does not condemn it. Trust me when you get older and start working you will feel like a slave yourself.

Martin
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"I have never bought into the evolution idea, I believe there is microevolution not macro."
-At what point does microevolution stop? And what do you believe prevents long-term microevolution from becoming macroevolution and producing speciation? Before evolutionary biology was able to give conclusive evidence through replicable experimentation, microevolution was lumped together with macro as unproven, and to some unprovable. Since microevolution has been definitively shown to occur, disbelievers, for whatever reason, have had to admit and come to terms with its existence. Macroevolution on the other hand deals with time scales far longer than the lifespan of the longest living human and consequently is almost impossible to test and give evidence for in any kind of laboratory experiment. Here is a link to an article discussing the methods for showing macroevolution and evidence, as of 2007, for common descent.

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

"There will be only one group that is right...But the only one that held up to the Burdon of proof was the Bible and Christianity."
-By all means, explain how this could be true and yet the world is still not entirely Christianized? Christians and Biblical apologists have had nearly 2000 years to give evidence for and prove that the claims made in the Bible are true and inerrant but, throughout history Christianity has repeatedly felt the need to turn to the sword as a means to spread their message, along with sending missionaries to uncivilized regions of the world to bribe ignorant peoples with technology and and improved standard of living if only they 'convert' to their world view and eschew anything Christians deemed immoral, unethical, or subversive to the Bible.

"Your mindset is key when you are exploring these issues. What are you motivations? Are you trying to disprove God so you can live a life you want without divine intervention? Are you exploring with the idea of approving or disproving? That is key, because of read the bible with idea of disproving then you will miss what it is trying to teach. Same with the other religions. Are you so stuck with the idea of disproving them or finding out if there true?"
-Well being an atheist who already disbelieves in the Bibles infallibility it would be impossible to read it with the mindset or motivation of trying to prove it true, that's your job. I try not to read anything with a closed mind, thought that doesn't mean I can't, or don't, mentally compare and critique what I do read with my previous knowledge so as to prevent taking anything at face value (critical thinking and open-minded skepticism are vastly preferable to gullibility). Divine intervention should not depend on my state of mind, so living my life as I see fit would not interfere with your God's ability to noticeably influence it as he/it pleases.

"Don't know why that [homosexuality] was a capital offense AT THAT TIME, but it was...Some states still have sodomy laws and enforce them"
-Modern sodomy laws are predominately derived from Abrahamic religious ideals and propagated through homophobia, with justification found in 'holy' texts.

http://www.atheistmedia.com/2010/03/abc-...ganda.html

"New Testament said 2000 years ago, it was wrong but no different than any other sin. So if you take Leviticus and pull the homosexual verse out and say "See God says homosexuals should be put to death" you are taking it out of context of the whole Bible. The Old Testament was a different time and different place with different societal rules etc. In the New Testament you don't see the things that you see in the Old Testament, but again the Old was pointing to the New."
-You personally may not agree with the message of homophobic intolerance preached by others of the Christian faith but the fact that the Bible, the inerrant moral authority given by God mind you, is wishy-washy on its stance toward the punishment of what it claims to be immoral cannot be overlooked, understated or dismissed as a change of society over time. I've heard over and over how the New Testament, specifically the death of Jesus, has null and voided or even simply altered some of the things said in the Old Testament. This is a great excuse to use when the various atrocities found in the OT are brought up as arguments against the God of Christianity's benevolence or moral persuasion, but alas, it remains an excuse. I have also heard the defense that everything in the OT was necessary for the protection of the lineage which is supposed to eventually birth Jesus, who was needed to save humanity. This absurd argument implies that the Creator of the universe put forward by the Bible was unable to, or deliberately chose not to, think of a nonviolent means for himself (or his Man-God son, or however you interpret the illogical Trinity) to enter into his creation as Jesus and 'save' the humans he allowed to become corrupt.

"Slavery was a part of the culture and economy for many years. So here is your first test, look up slavery in the Bible, but do it with a mindset of slavery being a part of the culture not against the law, look at how the Bible said to treat slaves, one passage says "treat them as an extended part of your family', another said "if a slave died, his death was to avenged". The New Testament said "treat them better than brothers""
-The Bible was written in a time when slavery was very much apart of society and used almost worldwide by nearly every large economy, which depended heavily on slaves for labor. This said, it is obvious why the Bible doesn't out-rightly declare slavery immoral. Governments of the times which believed slavery to be permissible would have rejected, and suppressed, any book attempting to subvert this system, seeing how potentially damaging to the economy it would be. The writers of the Bible knew this and did not dare attack the institution of slavery itself, instead they chose to set rules/laws for the treatment of slaves (including fines and punishments for those who broke them), guilt slave owners into following 'The Golden Rule' so to speak by treating slaves in a manner Christ would, and implements the fear of afterlife retribution for the mistreatment of slaves. The Bible may not explicitly condone or praise the institution of slavery but it does not condemn it either, a fault only seen as the ever changing moral zeitgeist of societies majority has shed light on the fact that any form of physical slavery is atrocious, immoral and places people in a level viewed as less than human, comparable to chattel.

"Some people would sell themselves into slavery to get out of debt...Trust me when you get older and start working you will feel like a slave yourself."
-Debt Slavery is very different from physical slavery. Physical slavery requires people to be housed and fed, economic slavery required people to feed and house themselves.

"it also said slave traders were wrong; they were lumped in with the "lawless, disobedient, unruly, unholy, profane, sinful, lawbreakers, rebels, rebellious, unjust, or disobedient”."
-Citation?

Jaron
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20-03-2010, 09:51 PM
RE: Dialogue with a theist
Very interesting. I look forward to the next installment.

Tune in next time for another exciting adventure of...

"Sometimes it is better to light a flamethrower than to curse the darkness."
- Terry Pratchett
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