Discussion with Dr. Anthony Garrett, Part 6

----- Original Message -----
Sent: 02 July 2000 22:49
Subject: [1] Re: Let's keep going then...

Dear Anthony,

Please pardon the 4 emails at once but as there is a lot to respond to I
thought it sensible to chop it up a bit.

You wrote:
<< God might well criticise you for it, but it is his job not mine - because
he knows your condition perfectly and I do not. >>

The problem is that you have to accept God's judgement, something
you are admitting to not being qualified to understand. This is
precisely what Christians do. They excuse their god for actions
they would not normally have said were good. It is seldom that
Christians don't understand why it is not good and just to kill and
torture, rather they frequently do feel there is something wrong with
baby and animal torture etc. but abdicate their morality due to the
enormity of the power and perceived source of all worth having that
they ascribe to their god. This is exactly the behaviour in abuser-victim
relationships, like the captives in Stockholm who fell in love with their
tormentors http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/seek.html#stockholm.
To excuse what you cannot understand to be good is a corrupt morality
and irresponsible - "it's okay if god says so."

Regarding my discussion that ex-Christians hardly "choose" to disbelieve,
you replied:
<< I don't agree. You can find many people who deeply and sincerely believe
many things that are crazy in the face of much evidence. Hitler was not a
cynic - he really believed all that evil nonsense. Clearly such people
choose what they believe. >>

Which is it? Did Hitler choose to believe or not? Did he really believe all
that evil nonsense (perhaps deeply and sincerely) or did he choose what he
believed? It seems you are arguing for both options. Your conclusion
<< Clearly such people choose what they believe >> is the opposite of your
claim about Hitler and others being sincere in their belief!

I have already been at pains to explain that my stance is pretty much that
of a working hypothesis, and I find Christianity untenable in the face of
philosophy, psychology, history, biblical criticism, comparative religion
etc. Just as you and many other Christians find creationism false in the
face of the evidence against it, I and many others have found Christianity
untenable in the light of evidence against it. Many of these arguments I
am putting forward in these emails and appear scattered around my site.
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/why.html#notes contains
a vast pool for further research. Do you believe Noah saved the
animals in the ark or do you stubbornly choose to disbelieve it, preferring
to believe there was no global flood which is << crazy in the face of much
evidence? >> Maybe the evidence and problems with the ark story has
convinced you it is a myth.
http://www.abarnett.demon.co.uk/atheism/noahs_ark.html

Another Christian who debated with me discussed that if the Adam and Eve
story, creationism and Noah's ark were myths, then Christianity would fall
apart. He also proved it from scripture. He says at
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/feedback/mark_mcfall2.html
<< I'm sorry but to contend
that the story of Adam and Eve -- and their fall into a constant state of
sin eventually terminated by death -- is simply a figurative allegory would
contradict the whole of Scripture in a devastating manner. First, if there
was no true fall, then there is no sin and therefore no need of the Savior
(Rom. 5.). The Bible, both in the old and new Testaments, is abundantly
clear that humankind is inherently sinful (Job 15:14; Ps 51:5; 58:3; 130:3;
Prov 20:9; Eccl 7:20,29; 9:3; Isa 53:5; 64:6 Eph 2:1-3; 1 Cor 2:14 etc..).
This sin, we are taught, is passed on to us through our first parent, Adam
(Rom 5:12-21). Because of this inborn condition, it is impossible for us to
live the perfect life that God demands of those who seek to be acceptable to
Him by their works (James 2:10). Due to our inability to save ourselves, God
chose to become a man (Isa 9:6; Rom 9:5), born of a virgin (Isa 7:14; Luke
1:31-35) in the city of Bethlehem, to live the perfect life that we can
never live and be crucified to atone for the sines of the world. And he then
rose from the dead on the third day in verification of His radical claims
and ministry. So you see, our hope of savation is rooted in a historically
verifiable Messiah (1 Cor 15:1-8), who according to Scripture, is a
descendant of Adam -- The literal first man (Luke 3:38). Furthermore, while
Scripture explicitly declares Jesus of Nazareth to be the one true God (1
John 5:20), this same Jesus affirms that both Adam and Eve were historical
figures when He references the murder of their son Abel (Matt 23:35).
Finally, both Adam and Eve are constantly referred to in Scripture as being
historical persons and not merely legends (Gen 2-5; Duet 32:8; 1 Chron 1:1;
Job 31:33 etc..).
So you see, if you cast aspersions on the historical record surrounding Adam
and Eve, you must also question the inspiration and authority of the Bible,
the genealogical and archaeological accuracy of Scripture, the problem of
sin, Christ's vicarious atonement, salvation by the grace of God alone, and
much more.
I've been laugh at before for holding this view. But you know what, that's
what the Bible teaches. >>

If you want to discuss his interpretation with him, (he is of course a
creationist as well) his email address is at the URL above.

In connection with this, in your view is it only non or ex-Christians who
choose to believe false things or are creationist Christians like him also
choosing to get their beliefs wrong? Do Muslims deliberately choose the
wrong religion? What about ex-Christians who become Muslims or Jews
(I have conversed with some) do they also choose to get their beliefs wrong?
If a Muslim told me you were choosing to believe a false religion, how would
you advise me to discover whether you or he were correct? Should I take
similar advice from the Muslim (if not, why not)?

<< Clearly such people choose what they believe. >>

Are you still claiming that I and other ex-Christians are all choosing to
not believe in Christianity? Why did we feel upset and disturbed when faced
with hard questions that show big problems with the Christian world view?
Why, despite the light at the end of the tunnel, is the deconversion
experience itself frequently traumatic? If we chose to disbelieve then we
would have been happy to find anything that made us doubt Christianity,
surely? Why instead did we hurry off to find apologetics, pray etc. to
assuage our doubts?

If not believing Christianity claims are << crazy in the face of
much evidence >> then where is this important evidence? Considering
all that such an incredible range of previous Christians have read, thought,
experienced and prayed through it would be astonishing if there really was
"much evidence" that "true Christians" have been keeping from us. If you
really do know something that makes disbelief "crazy in the face of much
evidence" then present it.

You said in an earlier email:
<< Certainly; just as people don't deconvert because of intellectual
argument, neither do they convert. >>

But now, in response to my further explanation that people do not
choose to disbelieve in Christianity, you claim:
<< You can find many people who deeply and sincerely believe
many things that are crazy in the face of much evidence. >>

What are you really claiming here? Is disbelief crazy in the face of much
evidence? If so then people would be converted because of intellectual
argument or at least the weight of evidence, contrary to your previous
claim that people do not convert/deconvert due to intellectual argument.
Religious experience would be counted as evidential too, if not in conflict
with other religious experiences. What this great evidence is, remains to be
seen.

Do you choose to believe "all that evil nonsense" about 1 Samuel 15:3? In
what way is this better than Hitler's genocide? At least Hitler was kind to
animals, was a vegetarian and wasn't interested in torturing people for
ever. I am still waiting for your answer about why it is the action of a
just god to kill little ones, sucklings, animals and rip foetus's out of
their mothers' wombs. I also still want to know if you would partake in this
ripping and slashing if you were part of Moses' Hebrew tribe under these
divine instructions. Remember, that you also said that you believe in love
for non-Christians and Jesus said "love your enemies."

Whether somebody "chooses" to do evil things whilst fully cognisant that
they are being wicked is an old philosophical quandary. It was discussed by
Plato, who thought that the wicked cannot truly understand what they
are doing. I am inclined to think that some do understand, but they believe
it is justified by a higher purpose or even justified by the pleasurable
feelings they get. Others are psychopaths. It is common to find psychopaths
use religious justification for their behaviour, which makes me worry about
this sort of apologetics.

"I thought, if I murdered them all, my family would all go to heaven, and at
least later on, I would have a chance to go to heaven; however, if I
committed suicide, it would be 100% automatic that I would go to hell."
[John List, who murdered his mother, wife, and three children]

You said earlier that atheists are not (any longer) in danger for their
lives from Christians. If Christian reconstructionists ever get into power,
as they dearly wish to, then "blasphemers" will be the first against the
wall. I do not paint all Christians with the same brush (as I repeatedly
say) but the use of apologetics for murderous behaviour is deeply disturbing
given what some people will do and often have done.

Mary Warnock wrote a book called "wickedness" that discusses much the
same point regarding whether people really can do wicked things in full
cognisance. When Bruno Bettleheim, the Austrian psychologist was in
Dachau and Buchenwald, he found that the only way to remain sane was
to analyse his own behaviour and everyone around him. He found it odd
how the SS would repeatedly say to the prisoners "I would shoot you, but
you are not worth the bullet." They said this so often, that it was felt to
be bizarre. Bettleheim thought the SS were doing this in an attempt to
continually persuade themselves that the inmates were untermenschen, so
that they did not have to perceive them as humans, people like them with
thoughts, feelings, the whole human universe inside themselves. How do
hell-believing Christians feel about their fellow humans in hell? Are we not
worthy due to some kind of spiritual error that you don't have, and must
therefore be tortured forever? What it is in your heart that finds happiness
in believing in a such a small and vindictive god?

Even the bible portrays Jesus as discussing others in these "untermenschen"
terms (Matthew 7:6). You have to believe that we are not as spiritually
aware as yourself. Your bible says it and so you are stuck with a narrow and
bigoted view of many other humans. This is not conducive to loving your
neighbour.

I do not really know how to explain to you that torture is not good if you
cannot perceive it. If it is not good then neither is the Christian bible
god good and hence your brand of Christianity is false. There are many ways
to show that Christianity is false. The fact that your version is immoral
whilst claiming morality, is one very convincing way to many people.

I wrote:
>Rape:
>Numbers 31:17-18 "Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept
>with a man, but save for yourself every girl who has never slept with a
>man."
>"Save (virgins) for yourself" hardly means something merciful to these
>warriors who have just been killing boys etc.

You replied:
<< Those warriors were Hebrews, and therefore under divine instructions on
how to behave to women, which preclude rape. >>

Really? Stone your bride if she is not a virgin? (Don't bother with stoning
non-virgin males though - Deuteronomy 22:20 etc.) This is divine instruction
of how to behave to women? Is an instruction also divine when one is
commanded to kill boys, little ones, sucklings and animals? "The
Lord says ... kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep,
camel and ass" (1 Samuel 15:3) etc. If this is the quality of divine
command, then I think "kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save
for yourself every girl who has never slept with a man" means something less
than generous. If this verse was in the Koran and not the bible, would you
think it wicked?

I wrote:
>Dismemberment of pregnant women:
>Hosea 13:16 "The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have
>rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones
>will be dashed to the ground, their women with child ripped open."

You replied:
<< This is prophecy, not divine command - the two are quite distinct. >>

So the consequence for pregnant women of rebelling against their god is to
have their foetus ripped out of them. Is this a fair consequence? A human
being has to do this dismemberment. Again, (please answer) would you do it
if you thought God was telling you to? Why has the god you believe in so
arranged the world that "rebelling against him" should cause such a
consequence for unborn babies?

I asked:
>How are divine commands to kill sucklings etc. good for instruction in
>righteousness?

You replied:
<< The passage you quote is certainly a divine command. And of course I
believe Timothy and the rest of scripture; I would have little right to
call myself a Christian otherwise. >>

According to your version of Christianity that is.

<< The Samuel passage is good for instruction in righteousness
because it shows what can happen to people who misbehave towards God. >>

How do sucklings, oxen, camels etc. misbehave towards God? Why is this level
of divine retribution justified? Surely given the resources of divinity a
program of rehabilitation would have been more compassionate and useful?

<< Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs). >>

Rather it is the beginning of an abusive relationship.
http://www.losingmyreligion.com/articlesf/abuse.html

What do you understand here by "fear?" When I was deconverting, I had many
dreams as my thoughts were rushing around. In one of them I was arguing
with a Christian and found myself saying "the beginning of wisdom is to
realise that there is no god!" I think your "re: Let's carry on then..."
post is demonstrating how horrifically misleading a conservative religious
world view is, rather than something giving "wisdom.".

<< God's wrath and God's love toward sinful man need to be taken
together in teaching, however. (Anyone who thinks these are exclusive needs
to have childen!) >>

Are Christians wrathful towards their children? If so, is such anger
good, or are they failing as parents? As a parent, I feel I fail if I am
ever angry with my daughter. At parenting classes we were advised to
stand back and cool off if we ever felt our emotions turning to anger
with our children. Anger is a weakness in a loving relationship. So
much so worse for a "divine parent."

One should never encourage fear in children, dependants, work-colleagues
or anyone, which is just a form of bullying or abuse. Unfortunately I think
this is exactly the relationship some Christians have with their image of a
god, as evidenced by the tortuous excuses made for biblical atrocities by
apologists, so reminiscent of an abused wife's love for her husband.

Be afraid of poisonous insects, fire and large wild carnivorous animals by
all means, but nobody should fear those who love them.

So no, a healthy relationship does not have fear in it. I agree with 1 John
4:18.

<< As for God being good and ordering this slaughter,
remember that the Amalekites had behaved atrociously for a long time by the
time of their expunging; this was in an era when loyalty was to the tribe
and tribal deity so that there was no chance of individual repentance. And
God knew that any Amalekite who was good would be judged fairly at the end
of time. >>

Is this correct? Atrociously behaved people, like the Amalekites (supposedly
were), should be slaughtered wholesale, including little ones, sucklings and
animals? Please answer - if you thought God was telling you to do this,
would you do it? Many psychopaths believe God is telling them to kill
people. If you say yes, you would have killed, then how would you have
know you are different from a psychopath and how is this loving your
enemies (if they are "god's enemies," then your god doesn't live by his own
rules...). If the answer is no, then why was this slaughter right? Don't
forget to explain why the tiny children were so awful they had to be hacked
to pieces, and why the animals were so evil and unrepentant. Also note in
your answer that God sent no orders for the baby Hitler, Poll-Pot, Attila
the Hun, Torquemada etc. to be killed in the cradle.

A similar debate "Was the Amalekite Massacre a Moral Atrocity?" is
available, sequentially at the following links:
http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1994/1/1amalk94.html
http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1994/1/1mitch94.html
http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1994/2/2legs94.html
http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1994/2/2uneql94.html
http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1994/3/3mitch94.html
http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1994/4/4mcbul94.html
http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1994/3/3back94.html

You wrote:
<< If the bible is true you should do what it says even if you worry about
God's character. >>

If the bible really was known to be true, then although one would be forced
to believe in this god's existence, the bible god would not be good and he
should not be worshipped or his wicked commands obeyed. If, like liberal
Christians, one takes certain passages as man-made, then there is more
leeway for belief and morality co-existing.

Also you are assuming that the bible even can be true. This would require it
to be inerrant, otherwise we would have to know which bits were true.
e.g.
"For I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever."
(Jeremiah 3:12)
or
"Ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn forever." (Jeremiah
17:4)

<< I believe Timothy and the rest of scripture; I would have little right to
call myself a Christian otherwise. >> Do you believe in both these verses of
scripture? Do you believe in Noah's ark? You accept the resurrection though,
I assume http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/asym/jordan.html although you would
not accept the better attested eyewitness accounts of other miracles from
antiquity. http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/kooks.html

Hitler really existed and was kind to animals, provided for the Hitler Youth
and bestowed riches on some of his more devoted worshippers. However it
would not have been moral to do what Mein Kampf says, or follow Hitler's
orders. It is understandable though, that given the extremity of the
punishments he was responsible for and the strength of his rhetoric and
propaganda that people did obey him and even genuinely believed in him
with passion. Some people still try to argue that he was a great man in the
face of such extreme evidence to the contrary.

However, the bible cannot be wholly true (you yourself "explain away" the
creation accounts so they are not to be taken literally). Here is the
logic:

Torturing people for ever, killing innocent babies and animals etc. is
not good or just by any form of moral understanding. The "Charismatic
evangelical" claim for the Christian bible god is that he is good and also
gives these orders and performs such torturing and killings.To be good
and just and to torture and kill the innocent is impossible and therefore
your god does not exist.

I quoted from the ex-Christian archives:
>...after 65 years of Christianity, she
>said "Why I had no idea, I can't believe I have been worshipping this
>shit all my life." [....] The quote was 1 Samuel 15:2-3

You replied:
<< I note she didn't deny the truth of God's existence. If the bible is true
you should do what it says even if you worry about God's character. She was
being inconsistent. And even if she could not see a loving God in this
passage, she should have set it against those passages that do show a
loving God. >>

Let's accept your rather weak claim that she probably still believed in (the
Christian bible) god's existence because she didn't explicitly say she
didn't in this short excerpt, and let's further assume for sake of
argument that she was therefore "being inconsistent." Should a loving
(but not unconditionally loving??) god send people to hell for all eternity
if they are "inconsistent?" Would inflicting less than everlasting
torture for this confused and shocked old woman fall short of
god's perfectly required justice? Are you demonstrating that << the
Christian community is a community of love, and living within that
community assists you in loving non-Christians you meet. >> ?

If somebody is sometimes loving and sometimes murderous, then they are
behaving exactly like an abusive person in a position of power. Why have you
assumed this woman retained belief in the Christian bible god? Should she
have given a full exegesis of her new beliefs immediately after her
deconversion, or do you imagine she was in a state of some shock? Even if
she did retain a theistic belief (which is possible, although unlikely as
most ex-Christians become atheists, closely followed by agnostics, and then
a few non-Christian theists - see my poll) why ever should she have needed
to have set biblical immorality against those passages that (in your
opinion) do show a loving God? She described what she had been
worshipping as "this shit" so I think she was more affected by the
immorality of murdering babies than you are giving evidence of. When
discussing "God's love" with people do you offset it with discussions the
Christian bible god's commands to kill infants, sucklings, oxen, camels,
sheep, hamstring horses etc., and His murder of the Egyptian firstborn,
killing of David's baby as a punishment to David etc? Are *you* being
inconsistent?

I wrote:
>To further illustrate the extent of the lack of moral insight of the bible,
>in Deuteronomy 22:20 etc. we are told that if a man marries a woman

You replied:
<< You seem set to throw many more verses at me for comment, and I must
ask you to look at Christian commentaries on this sort of thing. Some do
duck the big questions and some commentaries are better than others, but
you will find Christian answers to these questions if you persist. I have
no idea whether those answers will satisfy you. >>

This is the sort of vain hope that led to many a deconversion. Christians
often think that so many people have been writing Christian apologetics that
surely somebody has explained the cruel verses. Well, we have looked in
detail (how much searching do you think the combined efforts of who knows
how many ex-Christians amounts to?) and yet these great answers have not
been apparent. Since you remain a Christian in the face of these criticisms,
tell me why Deuteronomy 22:20 etc. is scripture "given by inspiration of
God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction in righteousness." If you think it is not, then by your own
admission you could not call yourself a Christian. Since you think it us
in harmony with 2 Timothy 3:16 then tell me why you think so.

You also said you do not mind the frequency or length of my emails, so you
can take your time to do them justice. After these 4 emails, I will not
write again until I hear back. The only reason you are getting 4 at once is
because there are many subjects to reply to in your last few emails. Take
your time, ask your elders etc.

I wrote:
>I am not baiting you here, rather it is a serious question which may show
>that Christianity is more uncertain to Christians than they admit. Have you
>really nothing to say about why you have not given away all your money to
>the poor (Luke 18:22, surely you must have a reason), why "The Lord said to
>Joshua [...] 'you are to hamstring their horses.' " (Joshua 11:6), why "the
>Lord says ... kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep,
>camel and ass" (1 Samuel 15:3) etc.?

you replied:
<< Samuel dealt with above. Joshua in broadly same category. >>

What! How have you dealt with this? Explain again, carefully, why killing of
little ones, sucklings, animals and ripping of foetuses from wombs is "dealt
with."

You said (regarding the verse about giving all your money away):
<< Luke: first, you don't know what I *have* done - talk about prejudging!
>>

If you have sold all your possessions to the poor then I apologise. If you
have not then you have not done what Jesus recommended as so important. If
money means nothing to you compared to your love of Christ, then why do you
keep money? I am sceptical as I am assuming you have at least a computer and
probably a nice house and a middle class lifestyle. Is this what Jesus was
saying? If it is not important them prove it by giving it all away.

<<Second, this is advice to a rich man, and so is tailored to the rich who
are likely to let money become a stumbling block to them. >>

If money is no stumbling block to you, then give it all away. I'm sure
the modern middle class are better off than the rich of the first century.

I wrote:
>A mere "exposition of the faith" turns
>Christian exegesis into a school R.E. lesson.

You replied:
<< OK, I would go on from the basics of the faith to show how well it makes
sense of the world, perhaps along the lines of CS Lewis' "Mere
Christianity" if the questioner were a thinker. >>

You've not read http://www.ffrf.org/lfif/assertions.html and
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/gaunilo2/mere.html then?
Go ahead and show how well "the faith" makes sense of the world.

<< But if that questioner showed he was hostile to the faith, I should
ponder scriptural parables about stony ground, and advice about shaking
the dust off my feet and moving on, rather than staying to debate at great
length. >>

Exactly what I was saying about seeing others as second-class (or worse)
in some way. Maybe you are hostile to truth, to free enquiry? Maybe you are
viewing non-Christian, sceptics and probers of belief as "untermenschen"
fit for torture, swine who cannot understand. Do you love non-Christians or
are we without the fine qualities you possess?

Christians often wish to "shake their dust from their feet and move on" in
debate because they are not winning the argument. It soon becomes apparent
that their faith would be in danger if they stayed. That is really why they
want to move on. It is frequently seen in online debates. As long as they
think they are making good points, they are eager to debate. When it becomes
apparent that their arguments are very weak they are keen to leave, shouting
"swine!" as they run off with their supposed pearls.

>If Christianity is false in its divine claims, and truth lies outside of
>it, would you want to be a Christian?
<< Of course not. >>

Then answer my questions. If they are truly unanswerable then you may
start to see that Christianity is false in its divine claims. Think about
what I am saying and take me completely seriously. Do not assume I
do not understand, or am being maliciously hostile, but give me some
credit as another human being. Do not automatically see me as somebody
fit for damnation. I have been criticised in the past for not asking
Christians enough questions (hiding in my security blanket of non-belief).
Wake me and my non/ex-Christian readers up out of our unbelieving
slumbers if you have answers to my questions!

I wrote:
>...Bia, Boreas, Caliope, Carpo, Chaos, Charis,
>Charites, Charon, Chloris etc. etc. ) it may still be a while before
>reaching the Christian bible god. I don't think Christianity would be of
>special interest to me if it wasn't in my culture and personal past.

<< That is your problem not mine! >>

I think you have missed my point, which is to say that to focus on
Christianity is special pleading, when there are so many other religions to
investigate. It is not a problem for me because I do not use special
pleading as the above list of gods is meant to demonstrate. However, it
appears you see certain arguments as valid for Christianity whereas if
used for another religion you would believe them to be specious even
though they provide just as good arguments for those other religions.
Special pleading is your problem not mine, because you do it, not me
and so your arguments are fallacious, not mine.

>A great deal of what I ask goes unanswered in your replies.

<< I seize on the points that I judge most important, otherwise this
dialogue would be unmanageable, at least by me. >>

I would advise seizing on the arguments that I judge most important and
answering them. According to my poll 11% of my visitors are Christians
with doubts. If you do not answer my hard questions, what will they think?
(Here's an example
http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1994/3/3back94.html).
Take as much time as required to manage it, I will only write back when I
hear from you, so you can control the pace.

I wrote:
> The "truth of Christianity" has largely been
>maintained by powerful churches and religious states with ruthless
>persecution and murder of heretics.

You replied:
<< Sadly this is true. The New Testament/Early Church model was of each
congregation of voluntary believers having several "episkopoi" for
spiritual direction, several "diakonoi" to help with the administration,
but no hierarchy between that congregation and Jesus Christ. (No priests,
in particular.) That model got lost when Constantine declared Christianity
the established religion of the Roman Empire, with the disastrous
consequences you mention. All of which result from FAILING to keep faithful
to the word of God. >>

See my "Tertullian and Christian love" post for a reply to that.

You wrote:
<< My own view is that the Old Testament does not need interpretation,
but it provides the context for interpreting the New. The New Testament has
for too long been seen through Greek eyes, not Hebrew ones, because of
the history of Europe. >>

The great irony here is that OT passages were frequently used to invent NT
stories. They "must have happened" because they were in the OT and God's
eternal workings are reflected all through time according to the
understanding of ancient Jews and early Christian writers e.g. killing of
the firstborn (c.f. Exodus ch:1), feeding of the 5,000 (c.f. 2 Kings
4:42-44) etc.

"Jesus in Luke 7 raises the son of a widow from the dead. In 1 Kings 17,
Elijah raises the son of a widow from the dead. Both stories employ exactly
the same words - and he gave him to his mother.The Greek is 'kai edoken
auton te metri autou', copied word for word from the Septuagint version of 1
Kings 17." http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/mirc1.htm And so the examples go
on and on.

When viewed through "Hebrew eyes" this is quite apparent. Geza Vermes "Jesus
the Jew" is the classic on "Hebrew eyes" as it were. Also see
http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre/jesus/

You wrote:
<< It is right for Christians to worry about their actions for which they
are accountable to God and will be judged on. >>

So is god going to hurt you if you do something he does not approve of (or
even worse believe/fail to believe something, including believing you have a
"relationship with Jesus")?

If you don't mind the frequency and length of my emails, then why not do
them justice. Don't just pick the few points you believe you have a ready
answer for. Remember, you said << all of the arguments I have encountered I
have pondered on. >> So what are your thoughts as you ponder each of the
questions I ask?

Please take your time.

Best wishes

Steve
----------------
Leaving Christianity: www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html

----- Original Message -----
Sent: 02 July 2000 22:52
Subject: [2] Tertullian and Christian love

You wrote:
<< The New Testament/early church view is that the Christian community is a
community of love, and living within that community assists you in loving
non-Christians you meet. >>

You also wrote:
<< it wasn't Origen who reported the pagan comment "see how these
Christians love each other" in fulfilment of John 13:34-5, as I erroneously
said, but Tertullian. >>

Let's see an early church view via Tertullian's Christian love:-

"Ah! The broad magnificence of that scene! How shall I laugh and be glad and
exult when I see these wise philosophers, who teach that the gods are
indifferent and men soulless, roasting and browning before their own
disciples in hell."
[Tertullian (c. 160 - c. 220), "De Spectaculis"]

For readers, Tertullian was an early and vociferous Christian apologist. He
was also considered a heretic by many (the "Montanist" heresy).

<< "see how these Christians love each other" >>

If Acts Chapter 5 is the word of God then, like Darth Vader in Star Wars
using the "force" to throttle his staff, the holy spirit was used to kill
people who did not hand all their money over!

And so it goes on from the very beginning:

From Amazon:-
<< In "Heretics : The Other Side of Early Christianity," Gerd Ludemann
argues that the time from the first Christian communities to the end of the
second century was not a period of great harmony, but was defined by
the struggles of various Christian groups for doctrinal authority. Drawing
on a wealth of data, Ludemann asserts that the losers in the struggle
actually represented Christianity in its more authentic, original form.
Since Orthodoxy has been defined by the victors in this struggle, it is the
silenced alternative views that have been labelled "heretical". Ludemann's
findings are important as well as liberating for understanding both
Christianity and the Bible. Readers will gain a new understanding of Jesus
and the early church from this compelling and controversial book. Heretics
is a model of historical scholarship and theological investigation. Indeed,
the first recorded clash and conflict over doctrinal propriety took place
in the Jerusalem Christian community when Paul sought a cessation of
the practice of circumcision and the abolition of certain dietary
prohibitions.
The subsequent debates regarding the nature of God, the definition of
what would be come reliable scripture, the theology and doctrines of
Christianity would rage around the rim of the Mediterranean and result in
schism, conflict, commissions, and conferences. Heretics is the informative
history of those fascinating times. >>

If you remember from a previous email, this was research that Ludemann did
whilst still a Christian and later proved to be one of the nails in the
coffin of his Christian faith.

Moving on in time:
"That the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more
abundantly they are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell."
[Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Summa Theologica]

Christianity has included a rich litany of inter-Nicene argument, mutual
condemnation, ex-communication and murder of "brothers" and condemnation
of "non-believers" from the beginning to the present day. Jesus prayed that
his followers would be as one (John 17:20-22). His prayer had so little
power that argument, heresy, schism and religious wars have been the
story ever since. For every Christian group one can find another group who
will tell them they are hell-bound "false Christians." And as for
non-believers.... (Mark 16:16)

The idea that the early church was harmonious is a fiction.

"Now, the early Christians put a great emphasis upon unity amongst one
another, and the odd thing is they seemed always to have been squabbling
with one another over what kind of unity they were to have. The earliest
documents we have are Paul's letters and what do we find there? He is, ever
and again, having defend himself against some other Christians who have come
in and said, "No, Paul didn't tell it right. We have now to tell you the
real thing." So, it is clear from the very beginning of Christianity, that
there are different ways of interpreting the fundamental message. There are
different kinds of practice; there are arguments over how Jewish are we to
be; how Greek are we to be; how do we adapt to the surrounding culture -
what is the real meaning of the death of Jesus, how important is the death
of Jesus? Maybe it's the sayings of Jesus that are really the important
thing and not his death and not his resurrection.
Now, this runs very contrary to the view... which the mainstream
Christianity has always quite understandably wanted to convey. That is, that
at the beginning, everything was unity, everything was clear, everything was
understandable and only gradually, under outside influences, heresies arose
and conflict resulted, so that we must get back somehow to that Golden Age,
when everything was okay. One of the most difficult things which has emerged
from modern historical scholarship, is precisely that that Golden Age eludes
us. The harder we work to try to arrive at that first place where
Christianity, were all one and everything was clear, the more it... seems a
will-o'- the-wisp. There never was this pure Christianity, different from
everybody else and clear, in its contours...."
Wayne A. Meeks:
Woolsey Professor of Biblical Studies Yale University
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/first/diversity.html
(much more similar detail at that acclaimed site).

If you still think there is room for a moment in history when love and
harmony was an outstanding Christian characteristic that evidences
"they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love" as the popular
hymn goes, then see these references:-
http://www.truthbeknown.com/victims.htm
http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/3612/shame.html
http://holysmoke.org/haught/liberty.html
http://holysmoke.org/haught/army.html
http://holysmoke.org/haught/homicide.html
http://holysmoke.org/haught/pent-2.html
http://holysmoke.org/haught/murder.html
http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/robert_ingersoll/heretics_and_hericies.html


Steve
----------------
Leaving Christianity: www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html

----- Original Message -----
Sent: 02 July 2000 22:59
Subject: [3] hell

Quotes and thoughts from the good, the bad and the ugly (let the reader
decide who is who!)

=====================

"But anyone who says 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."
(Jesus) Mat 5:22

"You fools!" (Jesus) Luke 11:40
"You blind fools!" (Jesus) Mat 23:17
"How foolish you are" (Jesus) Luke 24:25

"But God said to him, 'You fool!' " (Jesus) Luke 12:20

"You foolish Galatians!" (St. Paul) Galatians 3:1
"You foolish man" James 2:20

=====================

"...little children who have begun to live in their mothers' womb and have
there died, or who, having just been born, have passed away from the world
without the sacrament of holy baptism... must be punished by the eternal
torture of undying fire."
[quoted in "Hell, A Christian Doctrine"]

=====================

Pagans indeed are those who say that GOD is the Messiah, son of Mary. The
Messiah himself said, "O Children of Israel, you shall worship GOD; my Lord*
and your Lord." Anyone who sets up any idol beside GOD, GOD has forbidden
Paradise for him, and his destiny is Hell. The wicked have no helpers.
Pagans indeed are those who say that GOD is a third of a trinity. There is
no god except the one god. Unless they refrain from saying this, those who
disbelieve among them will incur a painful retribution.
[Koran 005:072-73]

=====================

"Atheists!? I bet you're feeling a right bunch of charlies..... And
Christians!? Over here please. Yes, you see, I'm afraid that the Jews were
right after all."
[Rowan Atkinson as The Devil (or 'Toby') welcoming new arrivals to Hell]

=====================

"That the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more
abundantly they are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell."
[Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Summa Theologica]

=====================

"The good Christian should beware of mathematicians and all those who make
empty prophecies. The danger already exists that mathematicians have made a
covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and confine man in the bonds of
Hell."
[Saint Augustine]

=====================

"God says do what you wish, but make the wrong choice and you will be
tortured for eternity in hell. That sir, is not free will. It would be akin
to a man telling his girlfriend, do what you wish, but if you choose to
leave me, I will track you down and blow your brains out. When a man says
this we call him a psychopath and cry out for his imprisonment/execution.
When god says the same we call him "loving" and build churches in his
honor."
[William C. Easttom II]

=====================

"Satan the envious said with a sigh: Christians know more about their hell
than I."
[Alfred Kreymborg]

=====================

"Those people who tell me that I'm going to hell while  they are going
to heaven somehow make me very glad that we're going to separate
destinations."
[Martin Terman]

=====================

"There are a score of great religions in the world, each with scores or
hundreds of sects, each with its priestly orders, its complicated creed and
ritual, its heavens and hells. Each has its thousands or millions or
hundreds of millions of "true believers"; each damns all the others with
more or less heartiness -- and each is a mighty fortress of graft."
[Upton Sinclair (1878-1968)]

=====================

"My young son asked me what happens after we die. I told him we get buried
under a bunch of dirt and worms eat our bodies. I guess I should have told
him the truth--that most of us go to Hell and burn eternally--but I didn't
want to upset him."
[Jack Handey, "Deep Thoughts"]

=====================

074:031 We appointed angels to be guardians of Hell, and we assigned their
number (19) (1) to disturb the disbelievers, (2) to convince the Christians
and Jews (that this is a divine scripture),
[Koran, Sura 74, verse 31]

=====================

"Who will say with confidence that sexual abuse is more permanently damaging
to children than threatening them with the eternal and unquenchable fires of
hell?"
[Richard Dawkins]

=====================

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
red and yellow black and white
they are precious in his sight except,
for the ones who don't grovel before him they burn in hell
for all eternity.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
[Matt Miller]

=====================

"John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he temporarily died to save it
from himself. But none of that really matters because most people will be
tortured for eternity anyways."
[Matt Miller]

=====================

"Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things: One is that God loves you and
you're going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful,
filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love."
[Butch Hancock]

=====================

"I will call no being good, who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet
to my fellow-creatures; and if such a being can sentence me to hell for not
so calling him, to hell I will go."
[John Stuart Mill]

=====================

"There are in fact so many strong biblical, doctrinal, and logical arguments
against the existence of a literal hell that this question naturally arises:
Why do the churches teach it and why do people often believe it? ... The
churches tend to believe that fear, rather than love conquers all."
[Robert Short, Methodist clergyman, U.S. Catholic magazine, April 1980 pp.
37-40]

=====================

"The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or
some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked,
his wrath towards you burns like fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to
have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his
eyes than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended
him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is
nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment.
It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last
night, that you was [sic] suffered to awake again in this world, after you
closed your eyes to sleep."
["Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," preached July 8, 1741. In Ola
Elizabeth Winslow, ed., Jonathon Edwards: Basic writings (New York: New
American Library, 1966) p. 159.]

=====================

And fourth, I have to side with McKinsey's claim that the only way to get
saved is through the technicality of accepting Jesus. You claim people are
punished for their behavior; yet you and I have heard conversion stories
that begin with, "Before I met Jesus, I was a bulimic, promiscuous, heavy
metal, coke-addict with AIDS who had an abortion." These converts used to be
despicable, yet I have never heard a Christian say that these people will
still be punished for their sins after accepting Jesus. If Hitler had
accepted Jesus just before he died in his bunker, he would have been saved
according to Christian teaching. Yet, if harmless Anne Frank (who was above
the age of accountability and mentally competent) had died in a Nazi death
camp without saying the magic words at the last moment, she would have gone
to hell. (Is she there now?)....
[I forget where I got this quote!]

=====================

"Religion! but for thee, prolific fiend, who peopleth earth with demons,
hell with men, and heaven with slaves!"
[Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Queen Mab", 1813]

=====================

"There are no physicists in the hottest parts of hell, because the existence
of a "hottest part" implies a temperature difference, and any marginally
competent physicist would immediately use this to run a heat engine and make
some other part of hell comfortably cool. This is obviously impossible."
[Richard Davisson]

=====================

Hell is also the strongest case against the Christian faith, for it is
nothing less than the most sadistic torture ever devised. We look aghast at
dictatorial regimes that torture its prisoners and dissidents. Yet even the
worst atrocities committed under the cruellest tyrants of this world are
nothing when compared to what Christians say God has in store for us. A
poignant way to illustrate this is to look at what Christians believe about
Jews, especially Jews that were imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps.
Although Christians generally do not discuss this, it is what they must
believe, for it is built into their system of "divine justice."

Christians define as hell-bound anyone who does not accept Jesus as Lord and
Saviour. This includes just about all practising Jews. So imagine this
scenario: as the millions of Jews slaughtered in Hitler's death camps passed
into the afterlife, they awoke to find themselves burning in hell. Not only
was there a lack of food there, there was no food. Not only was there poor
drinking water, there was no water. Not only was there pain, there was the
most intense pain imaginable, and it was unrelenting. Sort of like being
tossed into the ovens of Auschwitz alive. And not only did this suffering
just seem like it would never end, it really never would.

It's been over half a century since Hitler's death camps were dismantled. So
for more than 50 years, millions of Jews, who were former prisoners of the
Nazis, have been suffering to an extent not even imagined by the SS, and for
a much longer time. In fact, we can imagine that many Jews are longing to
return to the vermin-infested barracks, the mouldy bread, the thin gruel,
the back-breaking work and brutal treatment-if only to escape the agony of
hell for a moment.

This is sick. Yet this is what I had to believe when I was a Christian. This
is what the largest Protestant denomination in the world still teaches its
followers (although usually indirectly), confident that God condones, and
even created, a universe in which this occurs. And to what end? There is no
point to Hell, so it becomes merely a cruel instrument of sadism. Sadistic
torture of any person by another person is unacceptable. Why do Christians
think it's okay when God does this?

Why can't God be at least as decent and understanding to His own kids as we
are to ours? Jesus said in Matthew 7: 9-11, "What man is there of you, whom
if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he
give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto
your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good
things to them that ask him?" I would like to add to that: "or what parent
is there of you, whom if their child disobeys, will douse him in kerosene
and set him alight? And what manner of parent who did this would call
himself good?"

It is a sad day when people condone the abuse of one human being by another.
It is also a sad day when people believe their god does the same.

[From http://www.losingmyreligion.com/articlesf/hell.html]
=====================

Letter #224 from Mark Jacquemin, 4815 E. Thomas Rd. #241, Phoenix, Arizona
85018

When I was a young child I was forced to attend an Episcopalian church every
Sunday morning. There are no words to describe how much I hated this church
and its empty religion. When I reached the eighth grade I was told that I
wouldn't have to go any more so I have never been back since other than to
attend my sister's wedding. During the last couple of years of high school I
started taking drugs. It is hard to explain but I feel that drugs somehow
opened my mind up to religion, which I always hated so much. I also listened
to rock music night and day, some of which spoke favourably of a higher
power. This undoubtedly influenced me. One night in May 1970 when I was 18,
I came home after smoking pot and really felt terrible. This was unusual as
I had always had good experiences with drugs prior to that. I started to
feel worse and suddenly the thought popped into my mind, "why don't you read
the bible, maybe that will help." I was unable to find the family bible but
I did find a paraphrase of the book of Romans. Prior to this night I had
never read the bible in my life. I deliberately never listened to anything
in church and so I was totally unfamiliar with the bible's contents. I read
the first five or six chapters of Romans, all about "man's depravity," and
really became convinced that my life needed to be changed. The next day I
contacted a few of the believers at high school and they proceeded to tell
me all about their version of the Christian faith. They all went to a
"charismatic Pentecostal" church, composed of fundamentalists who also
believe in speaking in tongues, healing, miracles, etc. So I became "saved,"
"born again," "justified," "filled with the Holy Ghost," etc. I began to
read the bible, pray every day, attend a million church meetings, try to
convert the lost etc. As soon as I got "saved" and indoctrinated, I felt
that all churches but charismatic churches were false. I believed that the
Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Presbyterians, Mormons and a million other
sects did not follow the bible so I abhorred these institutions. Around 1975
I started to realize that most charismatic churches did not follow the bible
either, so I read every book and listened to every tape that I could find
about the "new testament church." I reasoned that the true church must be
like the church in the book of Acts. I visited many churches that claimed
they were like the new testament church. In 1977 I attended a bible school
that claimed to have the "new testament order" so I could become a preacher.
After bible school a few friends of mine and I started home bible studies
but they never got off the ground. Around May 1985 I started reading
literature that challenged the idea that the bible taught "eternal hell."
These writings claimed the original writings of scripture had been corrupted
by the King James Version and most of the modern versions of the Bible. It
was claimed that the Hebrew word "olam" and the Greek word "aionios" did not
mean eternal. There are several versions that do not use the word "eternal":
Young's Literal Translation, the Concordant Version, Rotherham's Emphasized
Bible and the Emphatic Diaglott. So I became open to the idea that perhaps
the bible taught the "annihilation of the wicked" (annihilationism--Ed.) or
the doctrine of the restoration of all things, that all mankind and even
fallen angels and satan would eventually be restored to God
(universalism--Ed.). Around January 1986 I formally rejected the idea that
the bible taught the doctrine of the "trinity," though I had felt very
uncomfortable with that belief for years. In my thinking the trinity
doctrine is polytheism, worshipping three gods, and obviously false. Around
November 1986 the thought occurred to me that I had never really given the
enemies of Christianity a fair hearing, I had never even read their books.
In a courtroom a judge listens to both sides before making a decision, but
most Christians, including myself up to that time, only read literature that
confirms their beliefs and traditions. They are not open to change, so it is
impossible to pursue truth impartially. From November 1986 to the present I
have read numerous books by deists, agnostics and atheists, but there are
five books that really stand out in my mind as destroying my faith in the
bible as the "inerrant word of god." These were the first anti-bible books I
read and they demonstrated to my satisfaction that the bible, though it may
have some good morals and interesting stories, is basically a pack of lies,
particularly its main theme, the pagan doctrine of the "atonement." The
first book I read which challenged the scriptures was a small book on the
history of Egypt. It pointed out that the uniqueness of Christianity is a
lie, that scores of pagan deities had a "virgin birth," "died as a ransom
for mankind," and "rose from the dead." Many pagan deities were "god-men"
and the doctrine of the trinity was very common long before the time of
Christ. The second book I read was the Age of Reason by Thomas Paine. I
don't see how anyone could read this book and honestly claim that
Christianity is true. Then I read a book on the "Dead Sea Scrolls" by
Charles Potter that really attacked the doctrine of the deity of Christ, and
pointed out how the NT is filled with mythology. Then I read "The Mistakes
of Moses" by Robert Ingersoll, which pointed out that the so-called "chosen
people of God" were really a bunch of savage pagan barbarians....

If anyone reading this still believes in the bible as non-fiction, rather
than fictitious mythology, I would like to discuss the claims of the
scriptures with him. I rejected the bible after very careful study, not from
a desire to sin or displease the true God, if theism is true. I would
particularly enjoy having an oral or written debate with anyone who believes
in orthodoxy.

[From Dennis McKinsey's Biblical Errancy]

================


Steve
----------------
Leaving Christianity: www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html


----- Original Message -----
Sent: 02 July 2000 23:29
Subject: [4] Re: your testimony

<< Incidentally I too love the Brahms German Requiem. Was it the incredible
"Denn Alles Fleisch" that reached out to you? >>

(For readers, in English, this is referring to the line "For all flesh is
as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass
withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away" [1 Peter 1:24]. This is the
second piece in the Brahms German Requiem)

No, and it is quite important to understand why not. It was some of the
soaring instrumental music that spoke to me. What struck me was not the
shortness of life ("for all flesh is as grass.."), but the searing midday
brightness of human consciousness as experienced though a genius like
Brahms. It was the poignancy of this considering its annihilation that
effected me. The fact of the music being a requiem may have prompted me
to think on death, but this would have had no effect without reflection on
the value and magnitude of consciousness and the beauty of life due to
its finitude. I also had similar experiences with Britten's War Requiem
and Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde." The value and heroism of this was
astonishing, and this feeling was completely lost if one imagined life
going on forever. It is not only stirring music that triggers this
perception, just that these were the most memorable moments.

<< Your attitude to life after death and to hell appears to be that the
truth or falsity of these things is determined by whether or not you like
them. That is called wish-fulfilment, and is not logic. Whether or not they
are compatible with a loving God has nothing to do with it. That is
certainly an important issue, but a completely different one. >>

I have already discussed why this is quite false, and will explain in more
detail. I said before:
"If Christianity is a religion of love and it contains
extremely unloving elements then it is in trouble. Why should one call
God "good" if he is contrary to what we feel good is? Somebody could call
rape good but I don't see why we should believe that. The problem of moral
values are the same for Christians and atheists. It is we who must judge
whether the scriptural god is good. You think he is, I think the evidence is
against it."

If you claim God loves me, and he will send me to hell, then at least one of
your claims is false. That which both is and is not something does not
exist. That is logic.

"For I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever."
(Jeremiah 3:12)
"Ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn forever." (Jeremiah
17:4)

If you claim that your god loves me and sees fit that I go to hell (Mark 16:
16  "... he that believeth not shall be damned.") then your god has the
worst excesses of an abuser - the "conditional love" characteristic of an
abuser-victim relationship (much more on this below).

Once again you are by implication making the bizarre claim that Christians
wish Christianity to be false. (i.e. we are wishing that god does not exist
because we don't like him). Why should I (or anyone) have done this to
make me (us) leave? Reflections on hell whilst I was a Christian disturbed
me, but I certainly wasn't wishing for God to be wicked and hence not be
God  but a demon of men's minds. Neither did I hope for the atonement not to
make sense,
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/robert_price/damnable.html
http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1996/2/2front96.html
and I thought up many schemes to convince me otherwise. I would thank
God for each "explanation" I thought I'd found. It appears Pawson has
done an extreme version of this for you. However, on further
reflection, and increasingly as I felt free to really examine hell-belief
once I had left Christianity (note "*now* I think the idea of hell..." in my
testimony), it appeared that the Christian god idea is abusive, due to
the abundance of Christian ideas like those you promote. I can
understand wish fulfilment to be a desire to see the Christian bible
god as good in the face of his hell and all the massacre and killing of
innocents he is responsible for in the bible, but to think that I left
because I wished Christianity to be untrue for any reason at all is
completely contrary to what happened and hardly logical.

Rather people hang on to Christianity by every means they can until
research, discovery and reflection renders it becomes completely untenable.
(BTW please remember that when I say "Christianity" I mean Christianity in
whichever way it appeals to/is believed in etc. by an individual Christian.
So you do not need to pick me up on "It's a relationship with/faith in Jesus
etc." again, despite my previous explanations that I am well aware of what
various Christians think).

This is the main reason why your claim about me is without understanding.
As I explained to another correspondent at
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/feedback/davidkahn.html
<< bare in mind that, as I say in my deconversion story, "it was the reading
of philosophy, psychology, history, biblical criticism and comparative
religion that raised such serious questions for religious beliefs that
eventually the bubble had to burst." My discussion of hell and other
biblical cruelties was not the lynch pin by any means, just part of the end.
As I have already said in feedback, I would have left Christianity even if
the bible had no cruel passages because I discovered that Christianity
does not correspond with the real world. [...] I was a very liberal
Christian and a universalist. As I said on my site, I did not believe in
hell, and - like you - thought that hell talk and cruel passages in the
bible meant other than what they seemed.  Nevertheless, it still
remains unconscionable that a real God would allow the harm that
has already happened. It's too late to mop it up -  "all will be well,
and all will be well, and all will be manner of things will be well" as
Julian of Norwich said. Read my writings for my reflections on that.
Also remember that these are largely thoughts that have struck me
since I left Christianity and were not the main reasons I left at all. >>

Kahn then discussed hell as meaning annihilation (ghenna), rather than the
torture you favour, and I replied:

<< Even this is too cruel for me. As I said already, to someone else who
told me I had made an historical error about hell:
"Doesn't strike me as particularly nice either. I think given the resources
of divinity and eternity that re-education and rehabilitation of the
"unrepentant" (not to mention a readjustment of seratonin levels and
the dodgy genes that influence behaviour) would be better behaviour. >>

Also, at http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/feedback/mark_mcfall.html
I wrote << When I became an ex-Christian it was due largely to being exposed
to enough thought and experience from the other side to be able to really
perceive that it was indeed possible that Christianity was due to the
complexities of history, sociology, psychology etc. When that happened
Christianity became completely untenable for me. >>

You wrote:
<< Incidentally I am an ex-universalist Christian who changed to the
traditional view, much against my desire, after being argued to a
standstill by the exegesis in the book "The Road To Hell" by David Pawson.
I now think, concerning hell and a God of love, that (1) we learn what
agape-love is from God, and we cannot define agape-love and then define God
afterwards; (2) Christians who speak of a God of UNCONDITIONAL love are
being unscriptural. >>

Again, once before you claimed that it is not intellectual argument that
converts people, << just as people don't deconvert because of intellectual
argument, neither do they convert. >> whereas here you say Pawson converted
you to hell-belief by arguing you to a standstill. You also previously
stated << how could you think I was a Christian and not believe in hell? >>
If you really mean this then Pawson not only argued you into hell-belief,
but also into "true Christianity" (or even Christianity per se) completely
contrary to your claim that people do not convert for intellectual argument.
It is difficult to keep a consistent story if what you believe has
significant flaws.

If Pawson talked you into hell-belief, then in my opinion you don't believe
in a god, you have been talked into believing in a devil. You even had to
shout "unconditional" in capitals, as if you are uneasy, or as if a humane
part inside recognises that it is a weak and wicked argument so you have to
shout it to make effect! No humanist would have been convinced by arguments
for torture, the only way that Pawson could have talked you into hell-belief
is by using appeals to biblical interpretation. It is circular argument to
use the bible to prove the bible. It has no bearing on reality, just as you
do not accept the claims of the Koran. BTW, your number (1)
contains the moral fallacy of the "Eurythro dilemma."

"Consider this: is what is pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or
is it pious because it is loved by the gods? (Euthyphro, 10a)"
http://eawc.evansville.edu/anthology/euthyphro.htm
http://stripe.colorado.edu/~morristo/shields.dct.html

Believing something "because it is scriptural," using arguments from the
bible to "prove" Christian dogma (as I say, I bet Pawson does a lot of this)
is circular reasoning. You can also do exactly the same for the Book of
Mormon, the Koran and other texts you would not defend, which again
shows special pleading.

"Pagans indeed are those who say that GOD is the Messiah, son of Mary. The
Messiah himself said, "O Children of Israel, you shall worship GOD; my Lord*
and your Lord." Anyone who sets up any idol beside GOD, GOD has forbidden
Paradise for him, and his destiny is Hell. The wicked have no helpers.
Pagans indeed are those who say that GOD is a third of a trinity. There is
no god except the one god. Unless they refrain from saying this, those who
disbelieve among them will incur a painful retribution."
[Koran 005:072-73]

<< Like Pawson I describe myself as a charismatic evangelical. There is
nothing in the New Testament that suggests the gifts of the Holy Spirit
should die out after the apostolic era, so they should be accessible today
- as indeed they are. >>

I am well aware of what "charismatic evangelicals" are. I also think they
have many cult elements in their churches. Again I challenge you to read
these URLs to see if your church is free from all these elements:-
http://www.ex-cult.org/General/identifying-a-cult
http://www.ex-cult.org/General/cult.definition
http://www.freedomofmind.com/resource/srmind.htm

<< But in non-evangelical churches there is the risk that such things will
be misunderstood, while in evangelical churches they are too often be
dismissed as excesses. >>

Only you "true Christians" have the right interpretation. Do you believe
psychologists and cult deprogrammers are "dangerous?" They have much to say
about these "excesses."

I wrote:
<<when I told my Christian friends they were only interested in finding out
where I had gone wrong. The chance that I had honestly discovered something
was not admitted as a possibility. Apparently I caused a stir and comments
like "Jesus predicted that some would fall by the wayside".>>

You replied:
<< I am glad that they viewed what happened to you wholly from the Christian
perspective. >>

The wholly Christian perspective as you present it is not one of attempting
to understand, or love, but fitting a real human in a moment of enormous
upheaval in life into a dogmatic world view. This shows absolutely no
attempt to drop Christian arrogance and look at what is going on without
prejudging. As I said on my site "What is most primordial for a Christian?
Is it love and truth, or is it Christianity?"

<< They certainly have a right to quote those words of Jesus to
each other - but not to you. >>

If they have anything unkind to say, then they should say it to my face!

<< I do not know what their attitude to you was, but often when this
happens it is not what it should be, which is sadness and prayer
rather than condemnation. >>

An encouraging change of opinion. Why do you feel they should
have any compassion? Do you not believe their attitude should be
a scriptural one? Mark 16: 16  "... he that believeth not shall be
damned." What is most primordial for a Christian? Is it love and truth,
or is it Christianity?

Regarding this question, you commented:
<< Surely you must know the answer to this - none of the above, it is belief
that Jesus is Christ with all that entails for the believer in him. >>

I refer you to my earlier point, and repeat for you:
"I still get the impression you really don't believe that we knew what
Christianity is purported to be in its various forms. Maybe you are
hoping that all we diverse ex-Christians were never "real Christians."
I'm sorry that my words were not technically correct for this issue but
I really am well aware of the fact that Christians have faith in Jesus
Christ. I don't think you are doing me justice."
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/seek.html

But I am actually more accurate than you. Although many Christians claim
they "believe that Jesus is Christ with all that entails for the believer in
him," "have a relationship with Jesus" etc. what they really have is the
hold of the dogma of their church over their minds. They have an imaginary
relationship, just as Moonies have a rich and vibrant love for the Reverend
Moon. Christians usually feel belief is more important than giving all their
money away. The most heinous crime is not considered to be murder,
rape or ripping up babies and animals  (all this can be forgiven, and it
might even be desired in a "holy war"). Rather the real crime for most
Christians is not believing. Mark 16: 16  "... he that believeth not shall
be damned."


Steve
----------------
Leaving Christianity: www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html


The following is from http://www.losingmyreligion.com/articlesf/abuse.html

Christianity is a system that, taken to its logical conclusion, sets up an
abuser-victim relationship between the object of worship ("God") and the
worshipper ("Christian").

The format is as follows: the first part is a statement of the typical
characteristic of human-human abuse. The second is how common Christian
theology fits the characteristic. Note that I will use the violent male
perpetrator/female victim case for my examples, though this is not by any
stretch the only form of abuse.

1. The perpetrator faults the victim for the violence. For example, a
perpetrator will get mad, hit the victim, and then tell the victim "now look
what you made me do." The victim will eventually get into this mindset as
well, believing that it was the victim's fault violence occurred. ("I made
him mad.") (Ref 1, p. 58)

If something bad happens to a Christian, the Christian will often blame
him/herself, saying something like "I sinned and didn't repent, and God is
reminding me." Alternatively, s/he may say that Satan did it, and that their
faith wasn't strong enough to stay spiritually out of his realm/control. In
the latter case, the theology that God created Satan, and has the power to
utterly destroy him, is conveniently forgotten. For example, a friend of
mine, already legally blind and whose thumb is not opposable, lost his
hearing. He says God is testing his faith, which had started to waver just
before he lost his hearing. This form is usually seen in sects that believe
in ongoing intervention by God. Even those who don't believe in such
intervention will often, when pressed, use the justification that evil is
caused by a sinful world, brought about by human sin. As previously
mentioned, this is a direct consequence of God's actions (i.e. the form of
the creation).

2. The perpetrator will constantly insist s/he loves the victim. However,
his actions demonstrate his definition of love is complete obedience. (Ref
2, p. 8) Violence can occur when the victim disobeys the perpetrator (often
unintentionally - sometimes merely inconveniencing the perpetrator is enough
to trigger violence), even though the victim never displayed any lessening
of expressions of love. The victim never knows when violence will occur.
(Ref 1, p. 18)

The Christian insists that his/her god loves the Christian (and everyone
else). Yet nearly the entire Old Testament is dedicated to the concept of
obedience. The New Testament is similar, in that there is still the
insistence on obedience (1 John 5, 2 John 6). The requirements have merely
been simplified. Now, instead of a book full of laws, there is only one -
believe in Christ, be a slave to God , and have eternal life (Romans
6:22-23). Reject Christ, and the result is everlasting death.

3. The victim loves the perpetrator, making it difficult to recognize the
abuse. (Ref. 1, p. 27 and Ref. 2, p. 33)

Christians insist that we should love God, (and they say they do) even
though (according to many Christians) the violent thing imaginable (eternal
torture) is handed out to the majority of humanity. Many other Christians
talk about eternal separation. This is equivalent to "I'll leave you/disown
you if you don't do exactly as I say." (Ref. 2, p. 6) See also the Book of
Job.

What sort of love does the Christian have for his/her God? The following
statements are common from Christians:

* Without him (God), I have nothing to live for, and I am nothing (John
15:5).* (Contrast this with the statement "He wants me to feel good whether
I'm with him or not.") * I just want to be with him, forever, in Heaven. *
He can't abide sin, and unbelievers will never be with him as I will be. * I
could never love anyone else the way I love him. * I only see the best in
him. * He's so awesome, and I'm a miserable sinner, but he loves me anyway.
* He knows everything about me, and everything I do. I'm secure in his
undivided attention. * I know what I love about him.* * He keeps me on the
straight and narrow away from sin.* * God will never leave me - I can always
trust him. The idea of God leaving is ridiculous and unthinkable.* (Contrast
with "If there were no God, I'd be just fine.") * He brings out the best in
me.* * He has all the qualities I value, and I would like to develop them in
myself.* * I like to hear about the salvation of others.*

Many of these statements compare well with what is called "romantic" and
"addictive" love. (Ref. 2, p. 31-35) While some statements humans make about
human love don't apply at all (God isn't normally seen as "dating") the
comparison is instructive. It is interesting to note that, of the statements
in the list that relate to nurturing love (with asterisks), there is an even
split between nurturing and anti-nurturing ideals. An analysis to show the
origin of the face-value positive statements isn't necessary to show that
the Christian concept of God's "love" is indeed flawed.

4. The perpetrator will maintain a stream of ego-reducing invective. This is
sometimes couched in apparently loving terms, yet will invariably reiterate
the lack of worth of the victim. ("Here, let me help with that. You know you
're hopeless when it comes to machinery.") It can also be brutally direct.
("You are a stupid lazy shithead. Get your lardass moving and get me a
drink.") The abused :

* doubts his/her own worth, and feels punishment is deserved * is very
susceptible to criticism * lets others give him/her direction because s/he
feels without purpose and/or feels incompetent to fulfil goals.

The Christian insists that his/her god loves everyone, in spite of the fact
that the Christian Bible constantly tells us we are unworthy of such love,
that we are all miserable, wretched sinners, who have all fallen short.
(Genesis 6:5, 1 Kings 8:46, Romans 3:23, Proverbs 20:9, Isaiah 53:6 and
64:6, 1 John 1:8)

6. Normal socializing by the victim may be seen as a threat to the
perpetrator's control. The victim's same-sex friends are viewed with deep
suspicion, and there usually are no opposite-sex friends. If there are,
contact with them without presence of the perpetrator usually provokes
violence. This social battering occurs when extreme possessiveness and
jealousy cuts the victim off from activities not involving the perpetrator.
(Ref. 1, p. 22) The abused thinks that s/he isn't complete or successful or
secure alone. (Ref. 1, p. 59)

Christianity tells you God is all you need - that without him, nothing is
possible, with him, everything is possible. The Christian god is very
jealous of his followers (Exodus 20:5), and they are strongly discouraged
from marrying outside the faith. (2 Corinthians 6:14) According to
literalists, he is exceptionally harsh on those who give any indication they
like another god, even if it is just some platonic respect. (Note that
everyone except Jesus, to this sort of person, is an agent of Satan.
Moderates of course ignore this idea, and can appreciate the teachings of
Buddha, for example, even if they don't agree with everything.)


The conversation continues here.


feedback discussions listing | Leaving Christianity contents | Asymmetry of Conversion | Email