Email thread with pastor
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30-11-2015, 02:56 PM
RE: Email thread with pastor
My reply:

I indeed forced myself to read the bible through the eyes of a skeptic, just as I believe everyone should. Step back for a moment, and try to separate yourself from your Christian indoctrination. The claims made by theists are outlandish. I know I’ve made the point previously, but I’ll reiterate it: Theists are claiming that an unseen, unheard, unfelt, untasted, odorless force exists in another dimension and wants very much for you to believe in it so you can live in eternal bliss. The onus is on those making such a claim to prove it is true. Only a fool would blindly accept such a claim without thorough investigation. The bible, if true, should emerge unmarked after a lingering gaze from a skeptic.

Do you believe the Koran to be the infallible, inerrant word of God? If not, why not? Have you ever read it? If you did, was it with an open mind, or were you skeptical? You have faith that the bible is the word of God, but discount the Koran. Why?

Moving on, you seem to take a nuanced approach to the bible that differs from the fundamentalists and strict constructionists found even in your very church. If I’ve deconstructed your argument correctly, it’s that God is best understood by examining his full body of work, as declared in the bible, rather than considering specific actions. But isn’t it the sum of our specific actions that defines us? Every being is complex. Adolf Hitler probably did some good things in his life, and Mother Theresa likely did some bad. But no one makes the claims that either was a perfect, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent being. Christians DO make that claim about the god of the bible, so it’s disingenuous to say the ends justify the means. If God’s specific actions aren’t fair game for critical review, then of what use is the bible? Should Christians try merely to divine the larger framework?

Let me present it another way: I assume you, like most fundamentalist Christians, hold homosexuality to be a sin against God. What has told you that’s the case? There are certainly a few scriptures that address the topic, but is it possible you’re misunderstanding them within the larger “framework?” Would you permit a gay, married couple to attend your church? Would you allow them to lead a small group? If not, why not? Last I looked, no woman attending your church had her head covered, and lots of them speak in church. I know modern-day Christians say those edicts were merely cultural, but how do you know the criticism of homosexuality wasn’t merely cultural? It’s a slippery slope when specific actions or admonishments are ignored by those searching for the greater “framework.”

Regarding the bombing of Japan near the end of WWII, a comparison between that and God-ordered genocide is apples and oranges, in my view. American civil and military leaders had very limited options for bringing to end a war against an aggressor nation. There was, indeed, collateral damage, but completely eliminating an entire race was never the goal, and if it had been, it would have indeed been morally reprehensible. The god of the bible had a host of options at his disposal, and yet he ordered grown men to kill innocent children and babies. There’s no getting around that, no matter what the “framework.” Again, the ends don’t justify the means.

Let me ask you this: Is it conceivable that God would direct you to kill a child today? If so, would you do it? If it’s not conceivable, why not? He’s apparently done it numerous times before. What makes the god of today more refined than the god of the bible?

You asked if there still exists in my mind a possible framework for explanations about the bible’s inconsistencies and apparent moral shortcomings. I’ll answer by saying my mind is wide open in ways it never was when I was a fundamentalist Christian. I will go where the evidence leads, and my worldview will surely evolve between now and the day I draw my last breath. That excites me. I’m always eager to expand my brain and gain new knowledge.

I have to ask, though, if the same holds true for you. Is your mind open to non-theist possibilities, or is it closed to anything outside your present worldview? Are you seeking to go where the evidence leads, or do you try to mold and meld facts that are newly learned by you to fit your worldview?
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30-11-2015, 03:30 PM
RE: Email thread with pastor
This is very interesting. Keep posting your responses.

Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors.... on Donald J. Trump:

He is deformed, crooked, old, and sere,
Ill-fac’d, worse bodied, shapeless every where;
Vicious, ungentle, foolish, blunt, unkind,
Stigmatical in making, worse in mind.
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30-11-2015, 04:18 PM
RE: Email thread with pastor
Mother Teresa never did anything good. Other than that, nice response. Keep it up!!

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30-11-2015, 04:26 PM
RE: Email thread with pastor
(30-11-2015 02:56 PM)NolaToad Wrote:  I have to ask, though, if the same holds true for you. Is your mind open to non-theist possibilities, or is it closed to anything outside your present worldview? Are you seeking to go where the evidence leads, or do you try to mold and meld facts that are newly learned by you to fit your worldview?

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15-12-2015, 05:32 PM
RE: Email thread with pastor
His reply:

I actually do think that I'm open-minded about the possibilities posed by non-theists. I think how my views of science have changed over the past 10 years would be evidence to support an open mind. I also think that worldview plays an important role with an evidence rendered. Evidence necessitates interpretation. Our worldview (theist or atheist) informs our interpretation. You seem to have chosen your own framework to interpret life. When you read of new scientific discoveries, I would venture to say that you look for it to fit into the framework through which you make sense of life.

I enjoyed reading about the anniversary of Einstein's theory of relativity last month. When I read it, the question that came to my mind was, 'How is this revealing the nature and character of God?' I admit, I've already made a decision to address the material world believing God is there. I am not afraid to ask, 'Does this disprove God?' If I take matters of morality that are confusing and I don't agree with, I continue to ask the question, 'Why God? How does this reveal your character?' I believe that God's character encompasses realities that I don't understand, therefore, he does things I don't agree with. Investigation in the Bible reveals a framework within which God operates. I don't find it logical to hold morality before God as a proof test for his existence. A confusing God doesn't draw a conclusion of non-existence in my mind.

Even though God didn't commanded the destruction of women and children as a way of life for his people throughout history (it had a point of beginning and end without the same mindset that we impose on it), he still commanded it. I don't like that he did that at all. I'm also aware of how much I may not understand about the command. I do not think God would command me to kill a child today because Jesus' death took the judgment for idolatry for those who call on him for salvation. By declaring my ignorance of the precise determination behind his command and by defending his claim on men as his creation who are obligated to honor him as Creator, I'm not giving God a pass for such actions. I'm holding out for an answer in time. Again, I don't find it logical that to hold him to task is to disbelieve in him. I don't understand how one can hold up his claims as God as the argument for his non-existence. It may prove him unlikable, but not non-existent.

Your argument of the claim of theists can also be said of atheists. Atheists are claiming that an unseen, unheard, unfelt, untasted, odorless force spun a process into motion that has resulted in intricate genetic spinoffs very much wanting for you to believe in it so you can live in a world that is another link in the chain void of purpose. If God is not there, then no one has to tell me what to do. If I decide that I am the ultimate purpose for which I live, then atheism is much to my liking. But, atheism doesn't answer all my questions though. You've already said that atheism doesn't have an answer to my question of moral inability. I find atheism lacking for me. The more I read of it, the more I find that the quest for knowledge, purpose, and imagination is shut off rather than opened up. If I decide there is another ultimate purpose for my life defined by a framework within which is a relationship with God, then I am able to make sense of much more. The God of today is the God of the Bible due to the fulfillment specifically within the person and work of Jesus.

To your point about homosexuals, within the framework of the Bible as God's revealed relationship with his people through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, we are able to make sense of sexuality. The commands to flee homosexuality in Scripture rise above cultural interpretations because the command remains the same amid various cultures over several centuries. The command for head coverings occurs once to a church in a specific context, and the command Paul gave was within the church community for the sake of Gospel proclamation. Both commands have a similarity though. Both commands have to do with responding to God in our humanity within the gift of sexuality. Maintaining heterosexuality reveals the dignity God created inherent to man and woman. The women in Corinth choosing a visible sign of submission also reveals the dignity of women in their relation to men. If a homosexual couple came to our church, I would get to know them and welcome them back. I would also be intentional about sharing the love of Jesus with them.

A big reason I've enjoyed this conversation is directly related to the issues you are raising. I don't approach your arguments as an attack on my beliefs. I enjoy hearing and thinking about your perspective...it's helping me grow in knowledge. Oh, I haven't read the Koran...I've read large sections of the book of Mormon. As with science, I've found what I believe are trustworthy sources for elucidation and explanation on issues that I don't understand.

You mentioned evidence a few times. What are you looking at / have looked at for evidence? Maybe you could help me understand a quote from Dr. William Provine (evolutionary biologist at Cornell) in an interview with Ben Stein: “Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.”

My question is about the 'no foundation for ethics' (and 'no free will' to a lesser extent). If there is no foundation for ethics, wouldn't our discussion of morality be futile?

Look forward to reading your thoughts.
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15-12-2015, 06:09 PM
RE: Email thread with pastor
"Atheists are claiming that an unseen, unheard, unfelt, untasted, odorless force spun a process into motion that has resulted in intricate genetic spinoffs very much wanting for you to believe in it so you can live in a world that is another link in the chain void of purpose. If God is not there, then no one has to tell me what to do."

What a dumbass.

Keep posting these dude.

A man should not believe in an ism, he should believe in himself. -Ferris Bueller

That's what a ship is, you know. It's not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails, that's what a ship needs but what a ship is... what the Black Pearl really is... is freedom. -Jack Sparrow
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15-12-2015, 06:54 PM
RE: Email thread with pastor
(15-12-2015 05:32 PM)NolaToad Wrote:  His reply:

I actually do think that I'm open-minded about the possibilities posed by non-theists. I think how my views of science have changed over the past 10 years would be evidence to support an open mind. I also think that worldview plays an important role with an evidence rendered. Evidence necessitates interpretation. Our worldview (theist or atheist) informs our interpretation. You seem to have chosen your own framework to interpret life. When you read of new scientific discoveries, I would venture to say that you look for it to fit into the framework through which you make sense of life.

I enjoyed reading about the anniversary of Einstein's theory of relativity last month. When I read it, the question that came to my mind was, 'How is this revealing the nature and character of God?' I admit, I've already made a decision to address the material world believing God is there. I am not afraid to ask, 'Does this disprove God?' If I take matters of morality that are confusing and I don't agree with, I continue to ask the question, 'Why God? How does this reveal your character?' I believe that God's character encompasses realities that I don't understand, therefore, he does things I don't agree with. Investigation in the Bible reveals a framework within which God operates. I don't find it logical to hold morality before God as a proof test for his existence. A confusing God doesn't draw a conclusion of non-existence in my mind.

Even though God didn't commanded the destruction of women and children as a way of life for his people throughout history (it had a point of beginning and end without the same mindset that we impose on it), he still commanded it. I don't like that he did that at all. I'm also aware of how much I may not understand about the command. I do not think God would command me to kill a child today because Jesus' death took the judgment for idolatry for those who call on him for salvation. By declaring my ignorance of the precise determination behind his command and by defending his claim on men as his creation who are obligated to honor him as Creator, I'm not giving God a pass for such actions. I'm holding out for an answer in time. Again, I don't find it logical that to hold him to task is to disbelieve in him. I don't understand how one can hold up his claims as God as the argument for his non-existence. It may prove him unlikable, but not non-existent.

Your argument of the claim of theists can also be said of atheists. Atheists are claiming that an unseen, unheard, unfelt, untasted, odorless force spun a process into motion that has resulted in intricate genetic spinoffs very much wanting for you to believe in it so you can live in a world that is another link in the chain void of purpose. If God is not there, then no one has to tell me what to do. If I decide that I am the ultimate purpose for which I live, then atheism is much to my liking. But, atheism doesn't answer all my questions though. You've already said that atheism doesn't have an answer to my question of moral inability. I find atheism lacking for me. The more I read of it, the more I find that the quest for knowledge, purpose, and imagination is shut off rather than opened up. If I decide there is another ultimate purpose for my life defined by a framework within which is a relationship with God, then I am able to make sense of much more. The God of today is the God of the Bible due to the fulfillment specifically within the person and work of Jesus.

To your point about homosexuals, within the framework of the Bible as God's revealed relationship with his people through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, we are able to make sense of sexuality. The commands to flee homosexuality in Scripture rise above cultural interpretations because the command remains the same amid various cultures over several centuries. The command for head coverings occurs once to a church in a specific context, and the command Paul gave was within the church community for the sake of Gospel proclamation. Both commands have a similarity though. Both commands have to do with responding to God in our humanity within the gift of sexuality. Maintaining heterosexuality reveals the dignity God created inherent to man and woman. The women in Corinth choosing a visible sign of submission also reveals the dignity of women in their relation to men. If a homosexual couple came to our church, I would get to know them and welcome them back. I would also be intentional about sharing the love of Jesus with them.

A big reason I've enjoyed this conversation is directly related to the issues you are raising. I don't approach your arguments as an attack on my beliefs. I enjoy hearing and thinking about your perspective...it's helping me grow in knowledge. Oh, I haven't read the Koran...I've read large sections of the book of Mormon. As with science, I've found what I believe are trustworthy sources for elucidation and explanation on issues that I don't understand.

You mentioned evidence a few times. What are you looking at / have looked at for evidence? Maybe you could help me understand a quote from Dr. William Provine (evolutionary biologist at Cornell) in an interview with Ben Stein: “Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.”

My question is about the 'no foundation for ethics' (and 'no free will' to a lesser extent). If there is no foundation for ethics, wouldn't our discussion of morality be futile?

Look forward to reading your thoughts.

OMZ this pastor is whack! It's like he knows his presup bullshit is bullshit and he just doesn't give a shit. Denial is an ugly, scary thing.

Check out my now-defunct atheism blog. It's just a blog, no ads, no revenue, no gods.
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15-12-2015, 10:40 PM
RE: Email thread with pastor
It's terrible how he doesn't hold god to any moral standards. He's just gonna wait for an answer why god was a genocidal maniac. What would be a sufficient reason for that?

A man should not believe in an ism, he should believe in himself. -Ferris Bueller

That's what a ship is, you know. It's not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails, that's what a ship needs but what a ship is... what the Black Pearl really is... is freedom. -Jack Sparrow
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21-12-2015, 01:58 PM
RE: Email thread with pastor
My reply:

You say that worldview informs interpretation. I concur, but that doesn’t mean all worldviews are created (to use a loaded word) equal. I suppose we’d each need to examine the basis of our respective worldviews. I try to base mine on scientific fact, theory and discovery. I remain open-minded because new research sharpens theories and sometimes obliterates hypotheses. Science is ever-evolving (to use another loaded word) because our methods get refined as our knowledge grows. Every scientist indeed stands on the shoulders of other scientists. Even scientific mistakes and misunderstandings are learning tools for researchers who follow, and scientists love nothing more than demonstrating flaws in the findings of research projects. As such, it’s extraordinarily difficult — as it should be — for any hypothesis to graduate to the position of scientific theory.

There are topics around which there is great disagreement among scientists, e.g. dark matter and black holes. Because of our very limited knowledge of either topic and our inability to study them effectively, there’s a broad expanse of hypotheses about how dark matter and black holes function and their role in the universe. It’s kind of like religion in that way. Every theist has his own personal beliefs, and no two theists in the history of the world have ever agreed entirely on every religious topic. That’s because the gods cannot be studied scientifically.

There are other topics that scientists agree on almost universally because they’ve been studied and confirmed, studied and confirmed, studied and confirmed. We know that matter attracts other matter, that germs spread disease and that atoms are the foundation of everything (all of those are scientific theories, by the way).

My presuppositions are based on that which may be examined. A scientist can take a rock and analyze it. If he’s an expert on the topic, he can likely say it was a sedimentary rock, and based on its precise composition, he can tell whether it was formed under the sea or on dry land. He can date the rock, and give an approximation of when it was formed. There are also, however, some things he can’t do. He can’t give GPS coordinates of where the rock first came into existence or tell who might have owned the rock at some point in history. He might publish a paper on the rock detailing the tests he ran on it and their conclusions, but if he ventures into the realm of the rock’s exact location or previous ownership without supporting evidence, he’s going to be ridiculed by other scientists who point out the flaws of his research.

Religion has no such standard. For Christians, you might say the Bible is the standard. If that’s true, why are there such an absurd number of Christian sects, all of which hold to the same Bible but disagree vociferously about its teachings? Besides that, who established the bible as the standard? It is a collection of books and letters written by men and compiled by men. Did God say he was going to use the hands of men to write a book over centuries? Did he declare he’d give other men the authority to bind these missives into one book that spoke 100-percent accurately for him? If so, when did he do these things? Let’s assume for a moment heaven is real, and you make it up there after you die. How do you know St. Paul isn’t going to approach you and say, “Jeff, you moron. I wrote some letters to some friends of mine. Why in the world did you assume I was speaking for God himself?” What would your answer be?

You presuppose a book written by men is the word of God because you’ve been taught that all your life, but again, if you had never heard anything about the existence of a god, and some dude came up to you with a book he proclaimed to be written by the finger of a being you can’t experience with any of your five senses, you might have some pretty serious questions.

Moving on, I brought up the whole God-ordering-the-killing-of-children thing during our discussion on the basis of morality. Christians use the bible as the basis of their morality even though the very god they worship orders actions they deem as immoral, like genocide, infanticide and abortion. If you want to believe that God has transitioned from those dark days to a period of enlightenment because of the death of Jesus, then obviously that’s your right, but it doesn’t change the fact that God ordered (not allowed; ordered) some absolutely heinous acts. As a result, Christians who claim to get their morality from the bible have no leg to stand on. Really, in my view, they hurt their own case when bringing up this topic in discussions with non-believers.

I have to take you to task on your statement that “atheists are claiming that an unseen, unheard, unfelt, untasted, odorless force spun a process into motion …” I know of no atheists who make that claim. Do you? Most scientists answer with an honest “I don’t know” when discussing the origins of the universe. There’s evidence that there was an incomprehensibly dense and tiny collection of all matter that somehow and for unknown reasons exploded, sending matter spinning off in all directions. Where it came from and what caused the Big Bang are two basic questions in a scientific sea of others to which we don’t know the answers.

There is a host of possibilities, ranging from the ridiculous to the conceptual. Maybe the matter always existed. Maybe alien beings planted it. Maybe it’s leftover residue from a previous universe that existed for billions of years before collapsing on itself. Maybe a god created it.

I know you would cling to that last possibility, except you would throw out the ‘maybe’ and replace it with a ‘definitely.’ OK, so what’s your evidence? Is it simply an hypothesis on your part, or do you have concrete, demonstrable evidence that a god created the earth, sun, moon and stars?

You say atheism doesn’t answer all your questions about life or morality, but why should you expect a non-belief to do that? I don’t believe in Santa. Should that give me answers to life?

Regarding the widespread ignoring of head coverings for women in church today, you mean that God inspired Paul to write a letter that God knew would be part of his holy book for millennia, and opted to include a direct command in there, even though that teaching was specifically for that one church? Seems inconsistent with your other beliefs to me, but that, I guess, is for you to work out.

So, if you haven’t read the Koran, how do you know it’s not the REAL book of God’s revelation. More than 1.6 billion people globally say it is. I assume you’d want them to read the bible. Is it fair of you to ask them to explore your faith when you haven’t explored theirs? Like them, you simply walked in the footsteps of your forebears.

Regarding Dr. William Provine, I haven’t read anything he’s produced and couldn’t begin to speak for him.
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21-12-2015, 11:43 PM (This post was last modified: 21-12-2015 11:51 PM by RocketSurgeon76.)
RE: Email thread with pastor
NolaToad - Wow, you're an amazing writer. I'd point out that he needs to step back from his POV and consider two competing hypotheses:

1 ) The Creator of the Universe inspired the priests of tribal sheepherders in a scraggly corner of the ancient near east to write down (for the first time ever) the Thoughts of Almighty God™, which just so happened to coincide with the "cultural perspective" of those sheepherders, and God just didn't know that Mendel would discover genetic inheritance, completely disproving His story of how the man who would be called Israel gained enough wealth to become a patriarch, in Genesis 30, which relies on the debunked idea of Lamarckism... and all the other scientific facts that "God" got wrong (such as the fact that it would require a storm almost 100 times as strong as the most powerful on record to pour rain down continuously for 40 days and 40 nights in order to cover Mt.Ararat, and more for Everest, which would have turned a boat that's already too large to be constructed out of wood into pitch-coated matchsticks)...

or

2 ) The priests of tribal sheepherders in a scraggly corner of the ancient near east wrote a bunch of stuff, getting a lot of it objectively wrong because they just didn't know any better back then, and accidentally encoded genocide, slavery, homophobia, and misogyny as Godly Morality™ by claiming it was sanctioned by the deity of that tribe. Centuries later, when the New Testament was written by a people of a post-Hellenic, Roman-dominated culture, the cultural values of the Godly Morality™ shifted with the times. You might point out that the SOUTHERN Baptist Convention was created because the regular Baptists supported Abolition, and the Southern Baptists Pointed to Leviticus 25:44-46 and said their religious rights were being threatened... yet now, the SBC loudly decries any and all racism... the culture sets the words of the Bible; God does not need to make "exceptions" for local culture. Just as YHWH insisted that His People™ cut their foreskins off, He could just as easily have proclaimed, "As you were slaves in Egypt [factual basis for this detail notwithstanding], from which bondage I brought you to freedom, my people shall never possess slaves, nor shall they permit them to be kept in my holy lands, for all were created equal and free. Thus Saith the Lord." But not so, priests who are just writing what it takes to empower themselves and shape the culture of their nation, as all priests have done, everywhere and always.

Which hypothesis, I wonder, is better supported? I note also that he's carefully not acknowledging that any of the science you mention is real. Do you think he may simply lack a real understanding of how science works, and why it is so?

"Theology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?" - E. O. Wilson
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