10 Apr 2011

Why I Am a Christian

Religious 107 Comments

For some time now skeptics have been asking me in the comments of the Sunday religious posts to explain why I am a Christian and not (say) a Muslim or a Jew, or for that matter a follower of Zeus. I have been putting off the question since the full answer would literally require a book. However, I still post arguments in defense of the free market on this blog all the time, even though there are some critics who would never be convinced by my piecemeal remarks. In that light then–knowing full well a staunch atheist will not be converted after one reading–I’ll try to shed some light on this issue.

In the first place, the character of Jesus as portrayed in the gospel accounts is a far better man than I am. In contrast, I am not impressed by the gods of Greek/Roman mythology. By the same token, if it weren’t for Jesus, I would in haste have rejected the God depicted in the Old Testament as petty and unjust.

So for me, everything starts with the character of Jesus. I use the word “character” in two ways, meaning a literary figure but also Jesus’ moral fiber.

To put it succinctly: The older I get, the more I am convinced that if there were a God who decided to become a human being and walk the earth, then His time here would look a lot like the gospel stories. These are not the stories I would have designed from scratch. The accounts of miracles are easy enough; sure God would have gone around healing people. But in terms of His wise teachings, His interactions with the Pharisees, the way He formed His church, and so forth…it would not have occurred to me to do it that way. And for a long time, I thought the gospel stories were pedestrian, and that Greek mythology was much more interesting fiction.

But as I said, the older I get the more I realize that the gospel accounts are magnificent precisely because they are authentic. To repeat, I’m not talking about the miracles, except insofar as the disciples can observe a bunch of miracles, and yet continuously doubt the power of Jesus. I do believe that in this universe, it’s possible for a man to walk on water, cure the blind, etc., but what I’m really sure of, is that if a man went around doing such things, his followers would still doubt him after three years. That’s just the way people are. Yet if I had set out to write a story about a miraculous guy, I might not have added such realistic flourishes.

Another example is the fact that the religious authorities try to nab Jesus for working on the Sabbath (as He heals people). That seems like such a ridiculous thing, that it wouldn’t have been plausible enough for fiction. And yet, of course that is exactly the sort of thing humans would do, if God Himself came to earth and did nothing but help us.

Following Jesus literally provides me with strength in my day to day to life. For example, if I get frustrated that certain people aren’t doing enough (like for a project at work), and that people aren’t appreciating all my contributions, I can quickly nip that self-pity in the bud by reflecting on the life of Jesus. In other words, I don’t have the right to bellyache because Jesus was a lot more “carrying the team” and “unappreciated” than me. And what did He do in His circumstances? Did He mope around and heal people, but with a chip on His shoulder? Hardly.

Another aspect of all this is that Jesus’ teachings seem wiser to me, the older I get. When I was younger, for example, I didn’t interpret His commands about turning the other cheek, or being able to cast a mountain into the sea, literally. But now I am a full-blown pacifist, and I really do think that if someone had the faith of Jesus, he could heal people and perform other miracles. Again, that is just what you would expect if Jesus really were the Son of God: At first His teachings would seem obviously wrong, yet right “in spirit,” but as you gained more knowledge of the world and people, you would come to realize that actually His teachings were exactly correct.

One thing I’ve noticed lately when reading the gospels is that Jesus was like an alien walking among men in these stories, in the sense that He was qualitatively superior to everyone else. Someone with Jesus’ demonstrated wit and wisdom would of course perceive that Judas was going to betray Him; He would see that coming a mile away. Jesus’ superiority to mere mortals is beautifully illustrated when He is arrested:

47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.
48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.
50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?”
Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. 51 And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.
52 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish[a] by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”

Every time I read these passages, I am astounded by the character (in both the literary and moral senses) of Jesus. It literally takes my breath away. I actually had to get up from the computer and walk around the hotel room for a few minutes to process it. So if you “don’t get it” then I really think you aren’t appreciating how significant this story is. (I’m deliberately saying “literary character” and “story” to convey that even if you don’t think these things really happened, you should still be able to appreciate why these myths have such a powerful grip on some people. That was actually the first step in my own conversion to Christianity; there was a point at which I scientifically could understand the success of the historical Jesus, even though I didn’t think he was actually divine.)

So in the passages above, Jesus doesn’t simply decry the use of violence; anybody could have done that. No, He goes further and demonstrates that His supposed follower obviously doesn’t think much of Jesus. Why would the Man who fed 5,000 people need His follower to bring out a sword to defend Him?

Note too that Jesus doesn’t say, “I know kung fu.” No, when Jesus wants to explain the actual power at His disposal, He refers to “twelve legions of angels.” When I read about this episode, I try to imagine the poor guys with clubs who are out there at night trying to arrest this guy. They’ve heard stories about Him healing people, and now when they are about to take Him–in a situation where they have presumably seen other men cower in fear, or look at them with defiance and rage–here’s Jesus turning to lecture His followers about His ability to call down twelve legions of angels on His persecutors. And He would have said it with more confidence than these guys had ever heard any other man possess when uttering a sentence. They may have brushed it off afterward, but I imagine the armed mob was intimidated at that moment. Even in this situation, Jesus is clearly in charge, running the show.

Last thing: How does Jesus the man keep from blowing up into a narcissistic monster? I mean, psychologically we know what happens when people have tremendous power: Lord Acton correctly reports that it corrupts them. So if Jesus is walking around, thinking He is God’s gift to the world, why doesn’t He become a jerk, just like the guys for whom we have invented the saying, “He thinks he’s God’s gift to women”?

The answer is that in addition to all His other attributes, Jesus exhibits the most perfect subservience to the will of His Father. Once again–in retrospect–that is exactly what you would expect God to do, if He turned Himself into a man to better identify with us and provide an example for how we should live.

107 Responses to “Why I Am a Christian”

  1. Luis H Arroyo says:

    Very interesting, indeed. Sadly, I don´t believe. But is a ver convincing lecture of Gospel.

    • Captain_Freedom says:

      Why is it “sad” to not believe in an invisible man who lives in the sky who watches over everything we do?

      Don’t you mean HAPPILY you don’t believe?

      • Dan says:

        When the invisible man in the sky grants you eternal happiness and life after death that might be one reason for it to be sad not to believe. I am personally not a religious person but I don’t find any reason to be happy about it. Seems to me, that if Dr. Murphy is right then there is great reason to be sad about not believing in God.

        • bobmurphy says:

          Yeah, I mean Captain Freedom, using your logic, no one should ever be allowed to say, “Sadly, I don’t think that is true.” For example, one nuclear scientist says, “I don’t think the reactors in Japan will kill a million people.” Another one says, “Sadly, I don’t believe his analysis is correct.” Then Captain Freedom swoops in, “What?!!? You mean you are disappointed that you can’t believe in varying laws of atomic physics, that change because we can’t bear the possibility of a massive death toll?! Aren’t you GLAD your scientific views don’t bend to what the Japanese politicians want you to say?!!”

          • Captain_Freedom says:

            Yeah, I mean Captain Freedom, using your logic, no one should ever be allowed to say, “Sadly, I don’t think that is true.”

            That doesn’t follow. All one say is that by my logic, no one should say “Sadly, I don’t believe in an invisible man in the sky.”

            I don’t think it’s “sad” that someone doesn’t believe in (what I consider to be) imaginary concepts. I consider that to be a happy outcome. It means there is at least one less person who doesn’t believe in ancient superstitions.

            For example, one nuclear scientist says, “I don’t think the reactors in Japan will kill a million people.” Another one says, “Sadly, I don’t believe his analysis is correct.” Then Captain Freedom swoops in, “What?!!? You mean you are disappointed that you can’t believe in varying laws of atomic physics, that change because we can’t bear the possibility of a massive death toll?! Aren’t you GLAD your scientific views don’t bend to what the Japanese politicians want you to say?!!”

            I’ve read and reread this paragraph at least 10 times, and I can’t figure it out.

            • bobmurphy says:

              CF, he was saying, “I wish I could believe that there was an omnipotent God who loved us, and all we had to do was accept His free gift of mercy and spend eternity with Him in paradise, but sadly I cannot believe that.”

              Now do you see why he said “sadly,” and do you understand my nuclear scientist analogy?

              • Captain_Freedom says:

                Now do you see why he said “sadly,”

                Yes, he is sad that he doesn’t believe in what I consider to be an imaginary concept. I know why it could be construed as sad, but that is only if one presumes that it is sad that reality is the way it is and not something else.

                “Sadly, I can’t teleport at will anywhere in the universe.”

                I can understand why someone would say the above, but for me, it’s not sad at all, because it is an impossibility. It makes no sense to be sad that an impossibility is an impossibility. I am happier to not believe in this, because it means I know something about reality and can accept it.

                If someone said the above to me, then I would say “It’s nothing to be sad about. It’s an imaginary fairy tale. You should be happy that you don’t believe in something that is not real.”

                That is why I said not believing in God is nothing to be sad about. It is something to be happy about, because it is a happy thing to not believe in ancient superstitions!

                and do you understand my nuclear scientist analogy?

                Still no, because I WOULD consider it a sad thing if a million people were killed because a nuclear reactor, because it’s real, and in principle avoidable.

              • Dan says:

                CF, would you say happily we can’t teleport anywhere in the universe? If not, why apply happily to the first post?

              • Captain_Freedom says:

                CF, would you say happily we can’t teleport anywhere in the universe?

                If someone first said “Sadly, we can’t teleport anywhere in the universe,” I would immediately think to myself, “You should be HAPPY that you know you can’t.”

                But to answer your question, no, I don’t think I would say what you suggested. I wouldn’t be happy or sad if I contemplated the impossibility of such teleportation throughout the universe.

              • bobmurphy says:

                CF said: If someone first said “Sadly, we can’t teleport anywhere in the universe,” I would immediately think to myself, “You should be HAPPY that you know you can’t.”

                So in general, if someone says, “Sadly, I don’t believe X,” and you agree that X is true, you would think, “You should be HAPPY that you know X.” Right? And hence, my original claim above that using your logic, no one should ever say, “Sadly, I don’t believe X.”

              • bobmurphy says:

                Not that this is particularly important in light of the other issues, but I (and I think Dan) are just showing that your stance is far too broad. For example, when people at a lecture ask me, “Dr. Murphy, do you think we can put enough pressure on Bernanke to turn this thing around before it’s too late?” and I say, “Unfortunately, I think it’s past the point of no return,” should I stop saying that? If you were in the crowd, would you think, “Bob you should be HAPPY that you understand economics and know we are screwed.” ?

              • Captain_Freedom says:

                GETTING SQUISHED

          • Captain_Freedom says:

            Totally getting squished below by the margins pushing the comments further and further to the right, so I am responding to your post here.

            So in general, if someone says, “Sadly, I don’t believe X,” and you agree that X is true, you would think, “You should be HAPPY that you know X.” Right?

            If the person said they don’t believe X, then I wouldn’t think to myself that they should be happy that they know X. I wouldn’t think to be happy that they “know” something they don’t actually believe in.

            Maybe you meant to say that I would think “You should be HAPPY that you know X is not true.”

            And hence, my original claim above that using your logic, no one should ever say, “Sadly, I don’t believe X.”

            In the initial comment, where I made that comment, and have since tried to emphasize, I don’t in fact agree that X is true, since X = God, and so I don’t see how your analogy applies.

          • Captain_Freedom says:

            Not that this is particularly important in light of the other issues, but I (and I think Dan) are just showing that your stance is far too broad. For example, when people at a lecture ask me, “Dr. Murphy, do you think we can put enough pressure on Bernanke to turn this thing around before it’s too late?” and I say, “Unfortunately, I think it’s past the point of no return,” should I stop saying that?

            Not at all, that makes sense, because, from my perspective at least, you are not believing in an imaginary concept when you say that, you would only be referring to the fact that it is unfortunate that Bernanke (and Greenspan) did what they did and not something else that was in principle possible.

            It could have been the case that they didn’t screw things up, but they did, and that’s sad and unfortunate.

            If however a student asked you “Dr. Murphy, do you think that inflation will ever be able to make capital goods appear?” If you then said “Sadly, no that will never be the case,” THEN I would have “swooped in” as it were and say “Dr. Murphy, you rather should be HAPPY that you KNOW that such a thing can never be the case. Knowing that truth is better than believing in a falsehood and then acting on as if it were true, to your and everyone else’s detriment.”

            If you were in the crowd, would you think, “Bob you should be HAPPY that you understand economics and know we are screwed.” ?

            Ah, I see where you are going. I think the reason for our miscommunication is that you take it for granted that God exists, whereas I take it for granted that he doesn’t.

            I am not sad, and I don’t think others should feel sad, for not believing in something that is not true. This is why I said that Avrem should not feel sad for not believing in God, but happy instead.

            You see that and you think: “What is this guy on? Why should anyone feel sad for accepting such a thing? How could anyone feel happy for believing in something the consequences of which are eternal torment in hell? Cripes, he might as well say we should all feel happy that if we know a nuclear disaster is going to kill a million people!”

            All I am saying is that one should never feel sad for not believing in something that isn’t true, or at least never feel sad for not believing in something that they think isn’t true. That’s all.

            I don’t think that someone should feel happy at an empirical truth of violence and disaster that could have been avoided and been an empirical truth of peace and prosperity instead, just because they “know” the empirical truth of violence disaster. If the peace and prosperity were possible, if they could have happened had people’s choices been different, then I would say it is justified in feeling sad.

            But this was only all about God, which I hold is a myth. I do not think people should feel sad in not believing in God, because, to me, there is no possibility of choosing otherwise and thus benefiting from what believing in God allegedly brings to the believer.

            • bobmurphy says:

              CF said:

              “I am not sad, and I don’t think others should feel sad, for not believing in something that is not true.”

              OK, that’s consistent with your reaction about God. But it contradicts everything else you said about secular matters.

              If I say, “Sadly, we can’t stop the economy from crashing,” you should correct me. Why am I sad for something that is not true–namely the claim that the economy won’t crash?

              I know, you are going to come back and say in principle that claim might be true after all–but that’s not how you stated your position in the quote above.

              Look, this is a tangential issue so don’t feel you have to respond.

              • Captain_Freedom says:

                Look, this is a tangential issue so don’t feel you have to respond.

                OK, I won’t feel that.

                If I say, “Sadly, we can’t stop the economy from crashing,” you should correct me.

                But I wouldn’t correct you, because the economy could have not crashed at all. If it does, then that’s sad.

                I know, you are going to come back and say in principle that claim might be true after all–but that’s not how you stated your position in the quote above.

                You’re right.

                I should have said “I don’t think others should feel sad for not believing in something that cannot be true even in principle.”

  2. Captain_Freedom says:

    In the first place, the character of Jesus as portrayed in the gospel accounts is a far better man than I am. In contrast, I am not impressed by the gods of Greek/Roman mythology.

    The story, attributes and actions of the divinated Jesus is not original. It is based on the stories, attributes and actions of prior messianic Gods throughout history. Horus, Mithra, Zoroaster, all kinds of Gods based on personifying astrological movements of the stars share very similar attributes to Jesus. The main differences are usually just the physical appearances, which tends to resemble the people telling the stories.

    Sure there’s some originality, but “far better man” is a stretch.

    >By the same token, if it weren’t for Jesus, I would in haste have rejected the God depicted in the Old Testament as petty and unjust.

    Why are Christians allowed to cherry pick portions of the Bible that do not contradict common sense, and ignore the rest and treat as “petty and unjust” that do?

    Even if cherry picking were somehow a valid way of interpreting a text, the God of the New Testament is also petty and unjust:

    “Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them.” (1 Timothy 6:1-2)

    The New Testament God unjustly wants slaves to not fight against their own slavery.

    “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he can not be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

    The New Testament God wants followers of Jesus, and hence Christians, to unjustly hate their family.

    “So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” (Revelation 2:22-23)

    Here the New Testament God advocates for killing innocent children if their mother commits adultery.

    Then there are the NUMEROUS contradictory statements made by Jesus (well, ancient scribes were not exactly logic experts, so it’s not surprising, well, it is probably surprising to those who believe the Bible was not written by man:

    “I and my father are one.” (John 14:28) “My father is greater then I.” (John 14:28)

    “Resist not evil, but whoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39) “Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” (Luke 22:36-37)

    “I came not to send peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34) “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matthew 26:52)

    “If Jesus bears witness of himself his witness is true” (John 8:14) “If I bear witness of myself it is not true.” (John 5:31)

    “And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her” (Mark 10:11 & Luke 6:18) “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery” (Matthew 19:9)

    “Judge not, and ye shall be not judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven” (Luke 6:37 & Matthew 7:1) “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24)

    Etc.

    But as I said, the older I get the more I realize that the gospel accounts are magnificent precisely because they are authentic.

    Or, could it be the other way around? That you believe they are authentic because you consider them magnificent?

    Authenticity can only come from rational scientific evidence. It cannot come from gut feeling. If Keynesians aren’t allowed to hold their views as correct on the basis of gut feeling, then…

    To repeat, I’m not talking about the miracles, except insofar as the disciples can observe a bunch of miracles, and yet continuously doubt the power of Jesus.

    …by not doubting their rational minds.

    I do believe that in this universe, it’s possible for a man to walk on water, cure the blind, etc.

    [Blinks]

    This is…I don’t even…I mean…you REALLY believe that? How in the WORLD can you criticize Krugman for believing ANYTHING if you believe THAT?!?!? Really? You think it’s *possible* for a human subject to gravity to be supported by a liquid chemical the density of which is lower than a human body, the surface tension of which is not even close to being able to accommodate the pointed pressure of feet supporting the weight of a human?

    I’m speechless Bob. I mean, I get very offended when critics of Austrian theory accuse Austrians of not being scientific, but this, this kind of just proves them right, doesn’t it? If I may be frank, while you are so amazingly good at explaining Austrian theory, so incredibly convincing and very influential, far, far more than myself, while you are doing such a good job on behalf of the Austrian School, I must say that when you say things like this you are doing a disservice to Austrian economics, because it gives critics proof that you can be an irrational unscientific thinker at times.

    Following Jesus literally provides me with strength in my day to day to life. For example, if I get frustrated that certain people aren’t doing enough (like for a project at work), and that people aren’t appreciating all my contributions, I can quickly nip that self-pity in the bud by reflecting on the life of Jesus. In other words, I don’t have the right to bellyache because Jesus was a lot more “carrying the team” and “unappreciated” than me. And what did He do in His circumstances? Did He mope around and heal people, but with a chip on His shoulder? Hardly.

    Anyone can do the same thing reflecting on the story of ANYONE who have/had it rougher than they do. Many mortal humans had a far worse life than Jesus.

    Another aspect of all this is that Jesus’ teachings seem wiser to me, the older I get. When I was younger, for example, I didn’t interpret His commands about turning the other cheek, or being able to cast a mountain into the sea, literally.

    In other words, you don’t base some of your views on the Bible.

    But now I am a full-blown pacifist, and I really do think that if someone had the faith of Jesus, he could heal people and perform other miracles. Again, that is just what you would expect if Jesus really were the Son of God: At first His teachings would seem obviously wrong, yet right “in spirit,” but as you gained more knowledge of the world and people, you would come to realize that actually His teachings were exactly correct.

    As a “full-blown pacifist,” will you not protect yourself or your family using violence even if an armed thug invades your home and threatens you all with death, in which case your violence is the only tool you have that can save your family’s lives? Is that what “full blown pacifism” requires?

    Last thing: How does Jesus the man keep from blowing up into a narcissistic monster? I mean, psychologically we know what happens when people have tremendous power: Lord Acton correctly reports that it corrupts them. So if Jesus is walking around, thinking He is God’s gift to the world, why doesn’t He become a jerk, just like the guys for whom we have invented the saying, “He thinks he’s God’s gift to women”?
    The answer is that in addition to all His other attributes, Jesus exhibits the most perfect subservience to the will of His Father. Once again–in retrospect–that is exactly what you would expect God to do, if He turned Himself into a man to better identify with us and provide an example for how we should live.

    That’s funny, considering the level of narcissism and arrogance it takes for a human to believe that he knows what God wants for all humans, and can be a communicator and thus authority over such matters.

    Mentally attributing humbleness and subservience to Jesus requires mentally attributing arrogance and authoritarianism to something else, in this instance it is God. This necessarily requires the human thinker of such ideas to be an authority on authority.

    This is why so many Christians (indeed followers of all organized religions) claim to be humble and subservient and all of that when asked point blank, but deep down they hold opposite, narcissistic, arrogant, authoritarian convictions about reality. It takes an INCREDIBLE amount of narcissism, arrogance, and hubris to claim to know ANYTHING about any God, and then claim to others that God and Jesus are this and that, and NOT that or this like some people are saying.

    Utilizing Hayek’s knowledge problem would go a LONG way in self-reflecting on one’s posturing about supernatural concepts and holding certain convictions about them.

    I’m sorry Bob, but religion just really grinds my gears. I don’t want to sound like a jackass, but I don’t know of any better way to show how contradictory your reasoning is in economics versus religion. It’s like every Sunday your brilliant mind switches off.

  3. Daniel Kuehn says:

    This is an interesting answer that I’ve never heard before.

    Not to be critical – but just as an observation – you didn’t really make any argument at all about why Christianity is true. What you seem to be saying is given that you find the argument that God exists to be true – conditional on that – Christianity seems to be not simply the most plausible, but the most acceptable to you.

    I’m not sure that logic necessarily works (why should we know what to expect God to be?; why is the fact that you like Jesus better than Zeus proof that he’s the real one?; isn’t your attraction to Jesus a function of the fact that you grew up in a Judeo-Christian culture with a Judea-Christian expectation of how God would act?, etc), but it’s an interesting way to frame the debate.

    Do you think this could open you up to being a sort of Unitarian? I’ve long thought that if I were ever to pick up my faith again, it wouldn’t be all that hard to accept the idea that there is a more powerful transcendant force or being out their (if I had reason to accept that idea again). The whole problem for me, in a lot of ways, is the specificity and what Fenyman called the “provinciality” of the claims of religion that make the argument, from a more global perspective, less plausible. But given the reason to could say “look, there appears to be some broader guiding force that I can’t really define that manifests itself to Bob and people like him in a certain way, and in response those sorts of people made up this story and wrote it in the Bible. Other people see the force another way and have made up stories that congealed into Hinduism, etc.”. I think it’s unlikely, but if I had to take it up again that seems to be what would be most convincing. Because I suppose that was the lingering question I had with this post. You answered the question “why I am a Christian?”. Of course answered that one – it’s the one I and others have been badgering you with and it’s the only one you can answer. But the broader question that that fits into is “why is Christianity true?”, and I suspect different people are going to react to your expectation-based response differently, and I wonder what accounts for that.

    I think when it goes from making an argument for the existence of God in general to providing a narrative about your own relationship to all this, a certain amount of respect is in order. In that sense, I don’t want to repeat all of Captain Freedom’s points which I think are a little too combative for a testimony like this – but I will highlight one point he makes. He writes: “That’s funny, considering the level of narcissism and arrogance it takes for a human to believe that he knows what God wants for all humans, and can be a communicator and thus authority over such matters.”. This is quite a good point, I think. It’s not an insurmountable point if you actually believe he’s God, but it’s a great illustration of how a lot of these arguments are circular. Jesus is humble if he’s really God – of course if he’s not God he’s one of the more arrogant characters in the Bible (in both of your senses of the word “arrogant”). Jesus’s morals are pristine if you were raised in a culture informed by the morals of Jesus. If you weren’t, they probably don’t seem quite so laudable.

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      *both of your sense of the word “character” I mean.

    • Mark says:

      In my opinion, you cannot fully or mostly attribute his belief to the fact that he grew up in a Judeo-Christian culture. Christianity didn’t exist before Jesus; people were converted. The early Roman converts to Christianity didn’t grow up in a Judeo-Christian culture. The same goes for early Greek converts (like Luke) and other early converts in North Africa, Asia Minor, or in the Iberian peninsula, etc. In fact, the U.S. I grew up in, and I suspect I am close to Dr. Murphy’s age, doesn’t exclusive follow the teachings of Jesus. Growing up, I witnessed the slanders, ridicule, and besmirching of everything Christian, which has occurred since Jesus began His ministry. In fact, conversion to Christianity is a rejection of the common culture and the selfishness that it creates.

      The ministry of Jesus was revolutionary. Remember, Jesus was preaching to the Jews, and it was the Jewish non-believers (those that chose not to follow Jesus) that rejected Him. They took Him to the Romans to be crucified. Jewish beliefs are not perfectly compatible with Christianity.

  4. K Sralla says:

    “Authenticity can only come from rational scientific evidence. It cannot come from gut feeling. If Keynesians aren’t allowed to hold their views as correct on the basis of gut feeling, then”

    No No No No. Plus you have the audacity to quote Hayek. You need to read and understand Hayek. Then read Michael Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge. It’s precisely why you see contradictions in the Bible. You do not believe first. It’s also precisely why you would be a horrible scientist. You would be doomed never to make a new discovery.

    It’s you who bashes Laplacean mechanistic positivism on one hand then uses it to bash your friends on the other. Now that’s what I call a contradiction.

    • Captain_Freedom says:

      No No No No.

      Oh, well in THAT case…

      Plus you have the audacity to quote Hayek.

      I did not quote Hayek, I referred to one of his arguments.

      You need to read and understand Hayek.

      Agreed. We all need to read and understand Hayek. Starting with you.

      Then read Michael Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge. It’s precisely why you see contradictions in the Bible.

      I see logical contradictions because there *are* logical contradictions. Do you dispute anything I said above? If so, what? Why?

      You do not believe first.

      Irrelevant. It takes belief to accept it.

      It’s also precisely why you would be a horrible scientist.

      Why again?

      You would be doomed never to make a new discovery.

      You mean I wouldn’t be doomed to go down paths that are scientifically impossible.

      And any new discoveries will also be scientific, not supernatural.

      It’s you who bashes Laplacean mechanistic positivism on one hand then uses it to bash your friends on the other.

      Where have I bashed Laplace again?

      Now that’s what I call a contradiction.

      Where?

  5. Anon says:

    “…knowing full well a staunch atheist will not be converted after one reading–I’ll try to shed some light on this issue.”

    As a staunch atheist I appreciate your attempt to shed some light on this issue. If I were to try to convince someone of the veracity of the Austrian theory of the business cycle (or at least pique their interest in it) and I only had a paragraph to do it, I would write something like the following:

    Austrian economists have correctly called the 1920s stock market bubble, predicted the breakdown of the Bretton Woods agreement, seen stagflation as a threat before anyone in the mainstream admitted it was even possible, called the 1990s stock market bubble, called the recent housing bubble, predicted the failure of TARP, and predicted the failure of the first round of “quantitative easing”. All of these positions were in sharp contrast to those of mainstream economists, who – history has shown – were dead wrong.

    Now, the above paragraph is less than one hundred words, and yet I imagine you would agree that it is quite compelling and presents a number of facts that can’t easily be ignored. On the other hand, your post of almost fifteen hundred words presented no similarly compelling facts to be considered. We learned only that you find the Christian bible to be highly realistic and the teachings of the character Jesus to be exceptionally wise.

    I gave seven good reasons to take Austrian business cycle theory seriously. How many good reasons can you give to take the claim that Jesus existed and was divine seriously?

    • Anon says:

      Hey, I forgot to mention that Austrian economists predicted the breakdown of socialism. What a track record!

    • Gene Callahan says:

      Anon, you find those arguments convincing BECASE you already believe in Austrian cycle theory. But 80 or 90% of serious macroeconomists in the world don’t find them in the least convincing: in fact, they wouldn’t even agree with a number of your “facts.”

      But you have great faith, my friend!

      • Otto Kerner says:

        It’s true that anon’s claims are not self-evidently true. But, if they are true and not taken out of context, they are important evidence with which to weigh the merits of Austrian economists. This means they constitute at least the starting point for conversation and/or argument. As someone who is not a Christian, I don’t see anything in Bob’s original post which I particularly disagree with or feel the need to discuss further. Some of the characterizations of Jesus seem tendentious in view of certain passages in the Gospels, but I can’t argue that no one could read the Gospels and draw those conclusions honestly.

        This post is interesting as one man’s personal musings, but there isn’t a lot to sink my teeth into.

      • Anon says:

        OK, but how about this angle…

        For which claim could a stronger case be made:

        1. The Austrian theory of the business cycle is a true description of economic reality.

        2. Jesus existed and was divine.

        Specifically, if you think a stronger case could be made for claim number two, I’d be interested to know what some of the elements of that case would be.

  6. Blackadder says:

    I think it’s important to note the question Bob is addressing here. The question is not why he is a Christian as opposed to being an atheist. It’s why he is “a Christian and not (say) a Muslim or a Jew, or for that matter a follower of Zeus.” It’s a question of why he belongs to one religion as opposed to another rather than why he has any religion at all.

    • Captain_Freedom says:

      Bob is an atheist in every God except the Christian God.

      • Blackadder says:

        Bob is an atheist in every God except the Christian God.

        There’s only one God. Either he exists or he doesn’t. Granted, different religions make different claims about God (there are even religions who claim there is no such being). But that doesn’t mean that there is more than one God any more than the fact people make different claims about Shakespeare means there is more than one Shakespeare.

        • Captain_Freedom says:

          There’s only one God. Either he exists or he doesn’t.

          Prove it. Suppose I have faith that there is more than one God. If faith underlies all religions, then you can’t disprove me without undercutting your own claim that there is only one God.

          Granted, different religions make different claims about God (there are even religions who claim there is no such being). But that doesn’t mean that there is more than one God any more than the fact people make different claims about Shakespeare means there is more than one Shakespeare.

          You’re comparing apples with Toyotas.

          There couldn’t be more than one Shakespeare because all scientific, rational evidence suggests that humans can only be individuals. There is no such scientific, rational evidence for the concept God.

          • Blackadder says:

            Captain Freedom,

            If you look at the attributes of God (e.g. omnipotence) I think it is clear that there could not be more than one such being. If you want more elaboration on the point, you could read the relevant sections of the Summa Contra Gentiles or some other more modern treatment of the subject.

            However, all of this is rather beside the point, as Bob’s point assumes the existence of God, and tries to explain why he thinks God has revealed himself through one religion rather than another.

            • Gene Callahan says:

              Blackadder, arguing with Captain Freedom is like bashing your head on a brick wall.

              • Blackadder says:

                Gene,

                Conceded.

              • Captain_Freedom says:

                Sounds like you’re still sore, Gene.

                It’s weird that you find it necessary to goad others into playing sides. Aren’t such games played in the schoolyard?

              • Gene Callahan says:

                Yes, I am still sore. I was weight lifting yesterday.

            • Otto Kerner says:

              If that’s what Bob meant, rather than just something you read into it, than he seems to be a bit muddled on the point, since he lists Zeus (part of a polytheistic pantheon, unless perhaps he means the Roderick Long-style symbolic monotheistic Zues) as a potential alternative, and he mentions that atheists will not be converted (irrelevant if he is only addressing the choice faced by monotheists).

            • Captain_Freedom says:

              If you look at the attributes of God (e.g. omnipotence) I think it is clear that there could not be more than one such being.

              That is very convincing, but only if you already presume omnipotence is an attribute of God. If you don’t, which is not outlandish, then it doesn’t follow.

              Omnipotence and omniscience are logically contradictory attributes, and if you presume that God is omniscient, then he can’t be omnipotent.

              There is no requirement that God MUST be singular, because singularity only follows from certain assumptions, which is equivalent to assuming only one God exists at the outset, which is the very issue under consideration.

              However, all of this is rather beside the point, as Bob’s point assumes the existence of God, and tries to explain why he thinks God has revealed himself through one religion rather than another.

              Granted, yet there are (I think) problems even there.

  7. Matt J. says:

    Bob,

    There’s a lot to like about what you wrote but I wonder if you still believe that God, as he expressed himself in the Old Testament, is petty and unjust.

    One other thing I would add about Jesus taking on a human nature to identify with us and to provide an example for us: while this is true and something to be grateful for, I think that what is especially significant about his incarnation was that he did it as an overwhelming act of grace, in order to become a sacrifice for us, after having obeyed God’s law for us, in order to make an atonement for us. By contrast, he didn’t take upon himself an angelic nature to redeem Satan or the fallen angels to provide a way of salvation for them.

  8. Zach Kurtz says:

    What you’ve written could equally apply to well written fiction. I’m reminded heavily of the movie Galaxy Quest where an alien race established an entire culture based off of human “historical documents” of a Star Trek like show.

    It seems to me that the best characters we’d most like to emulate and admire are MORE likely to be fake, but you can’t blame the aliens who didn’t understand lying or entertainment. I think humans can do better!

    • bobmurphy says:

      Zach wrote: “What you’ve written could equally apply to well written fiction.”

      No Zach it couldn’t. I said, “Jesus is the most amazing character I have ever read about; He beats every other character, both historical and fictional.” So you can’t say, “That applies to other characters in fiction.”

      Suppose people ask me, “Bob, OK you’ve explained why you like basketball, but why do you like Michael Jordan in particular?” Then I say, “Because he was the best dunker I’ve ever seen.” Then you say, “OK, but that applies to all good dunkers.” Huh?!

      Superman is cool, but I can’t condone his murder of General Zod when Zod was mortal; at that point he was less of a threat than Lex Luthor. Liam Neeson in Rob Roy is cool, but he too uses violence to solve problems. Sherlock Holmes is impressive, but he doesn’t go around changing people’s lives with his wisdom. Etc.

      So no, you haven’t disproven my claim. People asked me why I gave my life to Jesus, and I am saying because I have never seen anyone else like Him.

  9. bobmurphy says:

    I’m sitting in an airport in Brazil, so I can’t deal with all of the responses thus far. Let me just say this: In the past, when I have written “big picture” posts about why I think there is a God, without fail several people say, “OK Bob, but at best you have just explained why you are a theist. We’re still waiting for you to explain why you are a Christian and not a Jew.”

    Now that I have written the present post in response, it amuses me that people (I think the same ones?) are saying, “OK fine Bob, you have explained why you are a Christian, given the existence of God. But you haven’t explained why we should believe in God at all.”

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      Not sure if you have me in mind with this or not, since I mentioned the conditionality, but I personally just found that conditionality interesting more than problematic.

      I have normally thought of the question as “God is hard enough to prove and you think you can prove JESUS? – that’s even MORE specific!”. You’ve explained it as “Jesus is the most convincing of our God options”.

      I suppose what I mean is – you hear theism vs. atheism all the time, and I’ve been curious about Christianity vs. atheism – why you believe that specific thing as opposed to other things, but what we have is Christianity vs. non-Christianity theisms, which I found interesting because I don’t have a dog in that fight!

      And I was also just interested that the post was more testimony than proof (which makes sense, given it’s a defense of the reality of a personal relationship rather than a metaphysical concept).

    • Anon says:

      You appear to be implying that:

      1. Given that there is a god…

      2. …one of the human religions must be true.

      3. Given that one of the human religions is true…

      4. …the religion with the most realistic stories and wisest teachings must be true.

      5. Given that the gospels are the most realistic among all religious stories and that the teachings of the character Jesus are the wisest among all religious teachings…

      6. …Jesus must have actually existed and been the bodily incarnation of god.

      Is the above an accurate description of your argument? If not, can you please clarify your position, because I think some of us are having difficulty following your line of reasoning.

  10. P.S.H. says:

    Interesting post. But please, please stop mechanically capitalizing pronoun references to the Deity. It’s a silly modernism, and an eyesore.

  11. Jan says:

    Captain_Freedom pretty much took Bob’s post chewed it up and spit it out. Congratulations.

    • bobmurphy says:

      Jan are you a theist or an atheist? I think I can guess.

  12. Avram says:

    This is going to sound ultra stupid as I’m no bible knowing dude (just some stuff I remember from cartoons and sunday school as a kid) but why is Jesus’ character any better than lets say Ghandi’s or Socrates’ (quick analogous characters at the top of my head prolly not analogous).

    Not only that but I am sure there have been hundreds of people with a lot of humility who have had the character of a Jesus, maybe even better, but did not go around saying things like “you know who I am” to every literate they met, and claiming they were god. Why are no songs sung about them? Why does this Jesus guy get to be called god, for what I see as a very arrogant act, while countless better characters go unnoticed?

    Also if I don’t believe in god, in fact renounce the existance of a god and do not call Jesus my lord, but still try not to sin in my time on earth, at least as much as I can not sin and feel remorse when I do sin, why does god punish me with hell. It makes no sense. There are probably plenty of really kind souls that just don’t believe in god so if he does exist why would he send them to hell? Isn’t that kind of evil and just being a jerk.

    • Gene Callahan says:

      “why does god punish me with hell?”

      Well, you know there are many different Christian takes on this. The Catholic Church, for instance, does not hold that one must be a Christian to be saved.

      For many of those who DO so hold, I suspect that it is not that you are being punished for not believing, but simply that you are failing to use the only vehicle that could do the job. Gravity does not punish people who try to fly without a plane; no, it’s that a plane is the right vehicle with which to fly.

      • Avram says:

        Ok sure, I understand that.

        The way I see it is like this: The standard christian claim is: “god is good”, “god rewards being good with heaven”.

        But then it says “to be good you must believe in god” this is what you would call the vehicle. This doesn’t sound so terrible but when you pair it with “if you do not believe in god you are bad” then suddenly the notion of what the religion calls “good” and what I think is actually “good” diverges.

        Bob’s original post went around claiming that Jesus was a great dude. But what if Jesus told us to slay a thousand virgins and drown a thousand newborns in their bolod, would he still be a great dude? Well by the same token when Jesus tells me that the only way he won’t send me to hell when I die is if I bow before him, do what he says and be another sheep in his flock, then all of a sudden don’t think he is so great a dude anymore!

        Of course if the religion never claimed that it has a good god, and that believers did not go around saying “yeah our god is really really good to everyone, and kind and just” and just said “this is how you get to heaven” then it would make complete sense to name any vehicle of choosing.

        But as it is the vehicle has to qualify to the rules of “god is good” and “to get to heaven you have to be good”, and I think that by saying “to ge tto heaven you have to believe, and if you don’t you go to hell” does not fit in at all with the claim that “god is good”. On the contrary it fits in with the claim that “god is the jerk of all jerks, and you really can’t worship him unless you are some kind of brown nosing mega jerk as well”

        • bobmurphy says:

          Avram wrote:

          The way I see it is like this: The standard christian claim is: “god is good”, “god rewards being good with heaven”.

          No, that’s not a standard Christian claim at all. The standard Christian view is that we are all disgusting sinners who deserve hell, and God out of His mercy rewards us with heaven because of the actions of Jesus.

          • Avram says:

            Ok. Sure, Bob, that is more correct.

            But on what basis does god give his mercy?

            My point is if its just on the basis of you accept him as your lord and guardian then how can your original point of “god is a really great dude” stay true.

            How can a really great dude punish a good person who sinned maybe in the fact that he had sex before marriage, maybe cursed another, told lies etc. the same amount as the man who rapes little children drinks their blood, eats their flesh and tortures them for weeks before they die, just because the former does not believe?

            How on earth can that be just and fair? And how can any god that asks you to accept that be a god at all?

            • bobmurphy says:

              Avram, we’re going in circles here. I am saying that God creates us with free will. Then He says, “Do you want to be with Me for eternity or not?” If someone says no, then God respects that decision, even if the person has been a “nice guy” in his life. On the other hand, if someone says, “Yes please! Thanks!” then God respects that decision, even if the person was a murderer.

              You keep wanting to equate our treatment in the afterlife with our earthly behavior, and that’s not what Christianity is. You’re right, it’s “unfair” in the sense that God lets sinners off the hook.

            • Avram says:

              I accept that. And given your interpretation of hell (as just a different kind of heaven for a different sort of dude) it is actually the only fair position a merciful god could take.

    • bobmurphy says:

      Also Avram–and I’m not sure other Christians would agree with me on this–my personal take is that when you go to Hell, what that really means is that you spend eternity in the absence of God. You realize, “Oh my gosh, I thought I would just stop existing when I died, and oops I chose poorly.” And so you know other people are in paradise in the presence of God Himself, while you mope in your narcissism for eternity. Absolute hell, worse than anything you can possibly imagine.

      And so yes, it is eminently fair (given the Christian worldview, and the interpretation of hell I just gave) that God says, “Do you want to be with Me or not? I leave it up to you,” and then you reject Him, that He respects your freedom of choice.

      • Captain_Freedom says:

        If God creates humans that he is going to send to Hell, for an eternity of torment, wouldn’t that make God a vicious and malevolent sadist?

        Further, what possible justification is there for inflicting infinite pain and torment on something that committed a finite “evil” of simply not believing in God’s existence?

        • Gene Callahan says:

          Captain my dear, did you not read what Bob wrote? God does not “send” you to hell; you choose it all by your lonesome.

          • Captain_Freedom says:

            Captain my dear, did you not read what Bob wrote?

            I must have missed it. I see no mention of hell in the article.

            God does not “send” you to hell; you choose it all by your lonesome.

            If God created me to have choice, then he created an atheist that is going to hell.

            If you say I chose hell, then if God created all of reality, then he created my body, my mind, and my choice, indeed he created everything and all events that take place, including all events based on choice.

            As the creator, he created humans that go to hell. It’s his rules that result in him going against my consent and sending me to a place I did not choose to go.

            And if it is merely atheism that is enough to send people to hell, then he won’t just send me to hell, but he will also send to hell every single human that never got exposed to the bible at all. What about atheist parents who raise atheist children? Surely it’s not the children’s fault for not getting exposed to writings of the Christian God. Did they choose hell “all by their lonesome”?

            If you want to place the responsibility for human choice on humans, rather than on that which supposedly created all humans, then that is an unjust transfer of responsibility, in the same way it would be an unjust transfer of responsibility for an inventor of a robot to blame the robot in killing people. Even if the robot had A.I. The killing was still caused by the inventor.

        • Jon O. says:

          Also, if God is a primary mover and created everything didnt he also create skepticism / agnosticism / atheism? If he created my mind and my environment shouldn’t he – being omniscient and just and forgiving and all – understand why I dont bellieve, and forgive me for it?

          If he’s omnipotent – and my will is subordinate to his – then he could make me believe, yet he doesn’t…

          So either 1) he’s not omnipotent 2) he doesn’t want me to believe or 3) he doesnt exist.

          So I guess the question is: why doesn’t God want me to believe? If belief is such a great thing, and God is just, why are some allowed this great gift and others not?

          Maybe for the same reason some sick (innocent) kids get better and some die miserable deaths?

          • bobmurphy says:

            If he’s omnipotent – and my will is subordinate to his – then he could make me believe, yet he doesn’t…

            Right, but then we wouldn’t have free will. I’m not denying that these things get tangled up. It certainly does seem unfair that some people are “saved” and others aren’t, particularly in the hardcore Calvinist view.

            There are parts in the OT where e.g. it says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he didn’t let Moses take the Israelites. And you’re right, God can do whatever He wants, so in a sense He wanted Hitler to do everything he did, etc.

            I’m acknowledging that our free will and God’s sovereignty are difficult to reconcile.

            • Jon O. says:

              “I’m acknowledging that our free will and God’s sovereignty are difficult to reconcile.”

              The only type of theism that I find consistent with free-will is Deism. Basically, some great creator kicked things off and then left us to our own devices. Otherwise, if God is omnipotent and has some plan, our will is simply his will anyway. If it wasn’t he would make it so.

              “so in a sense He wanted Hitler to do everything he did, etc.”

              but doesn’t that create serious problems for the christian view of God? I know this gets into the problem of evil but don’t you have to come up with some theory of moral relativism or of trans-phsyical retribution. If it’s the latter it creates the problem of empirically knowing what happens in the physical realm but speculating as to what happens after.(You basically have to assume the conclusion that God is fair, just etc.) Also, what if a person is born into a great life with little hardship; are they then punished in the after-life to balance things out?

          • Avram says:

            These arguments are weak, and I never bought into them.

            The premise is god can do whatever he likes. He made up all these laws of nature and stuff and humans and put them on earth. Now he watches them, interferes whenver he feels like it, and judges them based on whether they are good or not.

            He never said he will make everyone good and give them eternal paradise, he just said he will give them life and free will and then sort them out when they die / apocalypse depending on which flavor of christian you are (I think?).

            And yes he can make you believe but then he wouldn’t be judging you he would be judging himself and thats not the point.

            As gene pointed out to captain freedom, its not that he sends you to hell, but that you make the choice to go there.

            I don’t see anything really contradictory here or why so many people grapple with it.

            • Jon O. says:

              “As gene pointed out to captain freedom, its not that he sends you to hell, but that you make the choice to go there.”

              Who chooses hell? Assuming there is a God, people use their God-given mind and God-given reason to interpret their God-created environment to make decisions. How then could an omniscient, forgiving God punish these people for doing/believing what they think is correct?

              • Avram says:

                Everyone who does not bow before Jesus as their one true lord, master, shepherd and god.

                Read what bob has been saying.

                His god doesn’t really punish anyone. He just lets people go to heaven if they ask to and doesn’t if they don’t. So if you were to kill a million people drink their blood and eat children and then asked god to go to heaven, god, being the emodiement of mercy would let you through the pearly gates. If you didn’t you’d go to hell which is apparently exactly the same as earth just eternal, so you’d be drinking blood and killing people for all eternity.

                For a Bob flavor christian though life on earth is so mundane and unfulfilling that he’d rather go to heaven, so he views an eternal earth like existence as, well, hell.

          • Avram says:

            Bob mentioned Hitler.

            See if you don’t take god as merciful, but rather the distributor of ultimate justice, then it is nice to think of god just watching all these bad dudes thinking “man how far are these sick SOB’s gonna go” and just sort of racking up the sentence of Prometheus like torture.

            Alas this is not compatible with the absolutely merciful christian(some flavors only? obviously bob flavor) god. Not that I can say for certain that either position is better or worse than the other.

        • cavalier973 says:

          Hell is separation from God, so it’s not “if you don’t believe in Jesus, you’re going to Hell”, it’s “if you don’t believe in Jesus, you’re already there.”

          In the afterlife, people will continue in the path they have chosen–believers will enjoy an eternal relationship with the Infinite Creator, and unbelievers will experience His absence from their lives, which will be torment, but not torture.

      • Avram says:

        Ok. The thought of hell as just being the same as my life here on earth because god respects me isn’t so terrible. I like my life here and if I could I’d live forever anyway. But I never conceptualized hell as like that. You see I always thought of hell as some prometheus like scenario of endless pain and torture.

        For the following I’m assuming hell = bad, heaven = good, where bad and good don’t depend on you hating life on earth and wanting a better life in heaven.

        The thing is in this world there are lots of people who don’t believe in god and who are just great people all round, not perfect, but as good as they can be. Today it would be very silly to expect all good people to believe in god. On the other hand there are some people who will believe in god but who are jerks and worse than these people who don’t believe in god.

        So what sort of god is that who would give the bad believer a place by his side yet give the good agnostic / atheist hell?

        It sounds to me like this god is a cruel, unjust and petty god, and certainly not someone I would ever willingly call my lord. In fact it makes people who do beleive in him for the sole purpose of getting to heaven (I don’t know if this number is few or many), sound like insincere brown nosers – far more narcistic than the good agnostic who says “I really cannot know if there is a god, in my experience so far he has not revealed himself” and goes about his business being a nice person.

        • bobmurphy says:

          For the following I’m assuming hell = bad, heaven = good, where bad and good don’t depend on you hating life on earth and wanting a better life in heaven.

          Right, and in that case I would agree with you. But I don’t buy your assumption–instead I think that the reason heaven is paradise is that you are in everlasting communion with God Himself, while the reason hell is the worst thing imaginable is that you sit by yourself (or maybe with others in hell) and realize you are missing out, for the rest of eternity.

          So if I’m right, watch what happens to your statement:

          So what sort of god is that who would give the bad believer a place by his side yet give the good agnostic / atheist hell?

          To translate, you are saying:

          What sort of God is it who would give a bad sinner a place by His side, if the sinner asked for it, and yet would give a slightly less bad sinner a place far away from Him, if the slightly less bad sinner rejected God’s very existence?

          • Avram says:

            Ok I sort of anticipated this and decided to clarify below. Apologies for not making it central in the original reply – it is often only after trying to step into my conversation partner’s shoes and reading what I said, that I realize I went off on a tangent and didn’t say what I originally set out to say – just implied it obscurely.

      • Avram says:

        I ramble. Let me state my main point more clearly.

        This is a cop out: If all hell is is an absence of god, and I’m prefectly ok with that, then there is nothing bad about it, at least to me. I am perfectly capable of being happy not knowing if god exists or not and not having him be a part of my life. I love my friends and my family and I like to think they like me too. If when I die god just says “well look at this guy he doesn’t need me anyway” and lets me keep living the same sort of existence I do now, then thats just really cool, and I like that god.

        But that’s like saying there’s no hell at all, there are just two heavens: one for one kind of person, another for another!

        • bobmurphy says:

          Well OK, but then again you don’t really believe there is a heaven of eternal bliss in communion with the Creator of the universe. It’s like some brothers and sisters run to the store, but one of them says he would rather stay home and listen to the latest song from their favorite band.

          Then a month later the other brothers and sisters return, and explain that at the store they met the band and just hung out with them for a month, getting to party with all kinds of movie stars and musicians. They feel really awful that their sibling missed out, it wasn’t really fair that they got so lucky just by “choosing correctly” to go the store that fateful day.

          But the sibling says, “No, I am perfectly happy to listen to the mp3. This is my heaven.”

          • Avram says:

            Yeah sucks to be that younger brother!

            Your analogy is off the mark in a few areas but it just sounds like different heavens for different kinds of (good) people.

            I am perfectly ok with calling a god who rewards the good people who don’t believe in him with more of the same (what they care about most), and those that do a place by his side (what they care about the most) a just, merciful and good god.

            I also think that you are mistaken in saying that its not possible to feel true happiness / fulfillment without god by your side. Maybe some people can’t, but I think some can. And even if you said “well there are happy moments on earth but in heaven its like that ALL the time” you have to consider, would anything still taste sweet if the world was made of cake?

            Now the one thing your conception of heaven leaves wanting for me is treatment for the truly wicked? Do they get punishment, or is their reward an eternity of the wicked things they love, where they can eternally enjoy causing harm to others like they did on earth?

            I am not sure what would be just for these sorts. On earth it would be imprisonment or death, but I can’t think of an eternal sentence that can be just but not cruel. So what would your god do?

            Also I never said I don’t believe or think it impossible for heaven to exist. In fact I think it likely, I just don’t know, and accept that as it is I can’t know. And I also don’t accept any god who would punish me because I have the humility to say I don’t know, as a true god. Such a god can only be evil.

          • Avram says:

            Anticipation: note that I said punish. In your interpertation of hell, hell is not a punishment (maybe in some subjective relative sense) but actually a different kind of reward (or in the subjective relative sense the absence of a reward).

      • Anon says:

        “And so yes, it is eminently fair (given the Christian worldview, and the interpretation of hell I just gave) that God says, “Do you want to be with Me or not? I leave it up to you,” and then you reject Him, that He respects your freedom of choice.”

        What about all the people who try to live their life by reason and not faith? What about the people who haven’t figured out that pi + e = Jesus? They’re not even AWARE that there is a choice to be made.

        1. Is the penalty for living a life of reason eternal suffering?

        2. And what about the people who have never even HEARD of Jesus? Sucks for them, right?

        • Avram says:

          If you read what bob has been saying he doesn’t view hell as suffering in any absolute sense. He just views it as an absence of god and more of the same. I for one would welcome that, but to someone who has no fulfillment on his life on earth, the idea of a heaven next to a divine carer, provider and guardian is very attractive.

          As for two, thats why christians view missionary work as important.

          And furthermore as Gene pointed out, not all christians are the same flavor. He even specifically mentioned catholics as of the opinion that people who do not believe can go to heaven anyway. Bob is probably a type of pentacostal from what I can gather here although I am probably wrong.

          • Anon says:

            “If you read what bob has been saying he doesn’t view hell as suffering in any absolute sense. He just views it as an absence of god and more of the same.”

            OK. Doesn’t sound like any hell I’ve ever heard of. But regardless, how is it fair for a god to favor those who value blind faith over reason?

            “As for two, thats why christians view missionary work as important.”

            Sure, but why should someone living in the jungle who has never heard of Jesus get screwed for eternity? Unless I’m misinterpreting something, Bob would call this decision of god’s – to discriminate against the innocently ignorant – “eminently fair”.

            “And furthermore as Gene pointed out, not all christians are the same flavor. He even specifically mentioned catholics as of the opinion that people who do not believe can go to heaven anyway. Bob is probably a type of pentacostal from what I can gather here although I am probably wrong.”

            Right. Meaning that – in the end – all we are really discussing is a set of ideas that personally appeal to Bob (or to Catholics, or to Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Bahais, Rastafarians, Jainists, Sikhs, Mormons, Shintoists, Budhists, Toaists, Zoroastrians, Scientologists, etc.), rather than an objectively true description of reality.

            • Avram says:

              I don’t know if its a good or bad thing that Bob’s god chooses to award on the basis of faith alone. To me it makes the god of Bob flavor christianity a lot less appealing, and I personally don’t accept such a god as my own.

              His entire post is on how cool his god is and how he did great things, but a god that would exclude everyone who doesn’t bow before him sounds like a NOT cool dude to me.

              As for the last thing you said, I don’t think you’re right in saying that religions aren’t concerned with painting a picture of reality. They are. Specifically, they are trying to find out things like what happens to you after you die and how and why everything came to be. The thign is, the type of evidence religion uses to “prove” itself is different then lets say the evidence used in the physical sciences [See Gene's blog post toward the end of this discussion for elaboration]. For example to decide whether the christian god is merciful, or both just and merciful, or just and not merciful, probably the bible and talking to god is the best place to go. On the other if you want to take ti back a step and find out if Jesus is indeed god, or whether another faith like Islam or Hinduism better describes the true state of things then you need personal spiritual experiences, miracles and other kinds of revelations.

          • Anon says:

            Avram,

            “As for the last thing you said, I don’t think you’re right in saying that religions aren’t concerned with painting a picture of reality.”

            Religions paint pictures – just not of reality. They certainly don’t use objective methods to come to their conclusions.

            “Specifically, they are trying to find out things like what happens to you after you die and how and why everything came to be.”

            How does one find out such things? Through revelation? If someone could use revelation to find me a good sushi restaurant or figure out why my computer keeps crashing I’d hold it in much higher esteem.

            “For example to decide whether the christian god is merciful, or both just and merciful, or just and not merciful, probably the bible and talking to god is the best place to go.”

            Only in the case of religion are “I read it in a book!” and “My imaginary friend told me so!” considered valid arguments.

            Religions are not objective. They do not describe an actually existing singular state of affairs. That’s why there is constant branching off, schisms, splits, etc.

            This is in stark contrast to math, science, and engineering, where – over time – conflicts and controversies gradually give way to consensus.

            “On the other if you want to take ti back a step and find out if Jesus is indeed god, or whether another faith like Islam or Hinduism better describes the true state of things then you need personal spiritual experiences, miracles and other kinds of revelations.”

            Since when has that been an effective way of finding out the TRUE state of things?

            More to the point, what standards are we to use to determine whether a given revelation is in fact an accurate description of the true state of things (and not just a dream or hallucination)?

            • Avram says:

              I didn’t make any comments on how effective religion was as a means of gaining good knowledge about the state of things. Just that it does attempt to, and that the way it goes about it is different from other methods.

              For example I don’t make religion a big part of my life at all.

              In regards to your last question, and to use Gene’s example, what standards would you use to determine whether when your partner says they love you, that they mean it? The answer of course is that you are convinced its “genuine”. The same applies for revelations I suppose.

          • Anon says:

            Avram,

            “In regards to your last question, and to use Gene’s example, what standards would you use to determine whether when your partner says they love you, that they mean it? The answer of course is that you are convinced its “genuine”. The same applies for revelations I suppose.”

            The problem is that being convinced something is genuine is not an objective standard of genuineness. Someone else could be equally convinced that the same something is NOT genuine.

            Adhering to the standard of “being convinced” could render something simultaneously genuine and not genuine. However, that determination would clearly not comport with the concept of truth, which is singular.

            Arriving at the truth requires a method of determining one proposition to be veracious and all conflicting propositions to be erroneous.

  13. Tel says:

    At least from my perspective (and that’s an Atheist perspective), the pre-Jesus religions depicted the Gods as petty and vengeful in reflection of the society and the people of the time, who were indeed petty and vengeful. The realization that Jesus came to was that any tightly codified system of laws, rights and property will inevitably result in disputes where people become more and more freaked out over smaller and smaller transgressions. A cycle of revenge and counter-revenge is endless and in the big picture it is highly counter productive.

    The only solution is to accept some degree of forgiveness and tolerance and be willing to overlook petty matters and get on with life. I might point out that similar themes evolved in Buddhism, probably for similar reasons. The problem is that forgiveness and tolerance are difficult to codify — you just have to “get it” and be reasonable about things.

    I don’t have a problem with the idea that Jesus was a man who happened to have some good ideas and thus made a significant historical contribution to our understanding of morality and society. He lived his life by these ideas and set a good example to others… but many men try to do this, and in most of these cases their example is lost and dies with them. Of course, regarding Jesus as special in retrospect gives us a statistical sample of only one, and that one sample is not randomly selected either. Everything that we know about Jesus is viewed in hindsight from the basis that this was the guy who got it right… we don’t spend much time reviewing the lives of the many people who got it wrong.

    Besides, I don’t accept that making Jesus into a god actually lends any additional weight to his ideas. Jesus was willing to face death for his beliefs, but for a God to face death (knowing they will be resurrected) is no big deal, for a man to face death is much more difficult.

    At any rate, ultimately it is the ideas that matter, and what we choose to do with those ideas.

  14. Scott says:

    I have a friend from Nigeria.

    He says that there are men there who claim to have spiritual powers as a result of their contacts with supernatural beings.

    He says that he believes them, because he has seen them use these powers to do things that seem unnatural to him. For example, he saw one man cause an enormous log to stand up off the ground without touching it. Many other people were also there, who also saw these things.

    I may have two possible responses to his story: first, I may believe these men really are in touch with spirits that grant them supernatural powers. Second, I may believe that they are using elaborate tricks to fool people.

    But I do not claim that my friend did not actually see it, i.e. that he ‘made it up.’

    • RG says:

      Well said

  15. K Sralla says:

    Here’s why I am a Christian. The gospel writers said that Jesus the anointed one was born of the virgin Mary, lived a perfect life, was willingly crucified as a sacrificial atonement to propitiate the just wrath of God the Father toward the unclean, was buried and rose from the dead. He ascended into Heaven where he sits at the right hand of God the Father. From thence he will come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy catholic Church, the communion of the Saints, the foregiveness of sins, and life everlasting.

    I believe all this to be true. It’s just that simple.

    ‘Many people think that such a belief is foolish. That’s fine with me, and I’ll go on being a very content fool knowing that God is all Holy, all Just, all Loving, All Powerful, All Knowing, not able to do evil, and not able to not exist. He’s eternal, not divisible, three persons in one being, transcendent, not bound in any way by time or space, imminent, personal, spiritual, physical, a greater that than which nothing greater can be concieved, prime mover, first cause, visible, invisible, bringing order, bringing calamity.

    I find myself willing to be a slave of this being. I crave no greater liberty than the positive liberty of knowing the Jesus described by the gospel writers and doing his commandments, of loving my God with all my heart and mind, and loving my neighbor as myself. That is why I’m a Christian.

    I really do not like wearing this on my sleave and making anyone feel uncomfortable who does not share my convictions, but somehow I am compelled to share this with others, particularly on this blog.

    • Gene Callahan says:

      K Sralla, you left out “Roman”!

      :-)

  16. K Sralla says:

    “There is no such scientific, rational evidence for the concept God.”

    I believe there is. I also strongly suspect that you tacitly know this same evidence but refuse to call your personal rationalized transcendent being “God” because you abhor the moral character of the God of the Bible.

    Science is the art of knowing, and I strongly suspect that any scientist must first believe in a conceptual way before they can make any science discovery. A rationalist like you should know Plato’s Meno by heart.

    The same is true of religion. If you first believed, then you would know God. This does not mean you turn your brain’s logic off, but you would find that your logic post belief works in different ways than before. You see things, patterns and connections that you could not see before, even though these patterns are often hard to describe in words.

    • Captain_Freedom says:

      I believe there is.

      Where?

  17. Jamen says:

    There’s something sad and desperate when an atheist is confronted with a theist who can argue well. Atheists do quite well against ignorami, but when confronted with skilled thinkers to their contrary, they seem to lose it a bit and overcompensate. Pointing out that the Judeo-Christian heritage shares many similar themes with other religious traditions does not prove atheism. Rather, it suggests something more Platonic, as if people separated by miles and eons somehow sense a universal truth in the mix.
    Those who knew Jesus knew him best, but history shows that those who never met Jesus somehow know him as well. There’s definitely some kind of Tao. Science cannot prove it, but our intuitions can reason it.

    • Captain_Freedom says:

      Pointing out that the Judeo-Christian heritage shares many similar themes with other religious traditions does not prove atheism.

      You’re right, but it does serve to undercut the thesis that believing in Jesus *instead of some other messiah* is justified on the basis of specific attributes of Jesus being superior.

      • Gene Callahan says:

        No, it doesn’t do that, either. Early Christian thinkers were aware of and easily handled the facts you note: “OF COURSE,” they said, “there were many anticipations of Jesus throughout earlier cultures: the most important event in human history sent ripples in both directions through time.” Certainly this won’t be convincing if one doesn’t agree with the “most important event in human history” bit, but it does demonstrate why these similarities pose no difficulties at all for Christian belief.

        • Captain_Freedom says:

          That’s just rationalizing the astrologically derived attributes of Jesus and arbitrarily putting the locust on him rather than some other messiah figure.

          That different messiahs share many of the same attributes does in fact undercut the “this guy is different” criteria the theist utilizes in making a decision as to which messiah to think about before bedtime.

          It’s not a valid response to inject MORE faith and MORE arbitrary beliefs and then say this particular messiah figure is “the” figure, and all the others are just:

          “ripples in both directions through time.”

          That doesn’t even make sense. Time has an arrow, and it goes in one direction only. The law of entropy is scientifically sound.

          If choosing Jesus and then calling all other Messiahs “ripples” poses no problem for Christianity, then the same exact reasoning can be used by any of the other messianic religions as well. One could choose say Mithra, and then call that messiah “the” messiah, and all others, including Jesus, nothing but a “ripple” through time, produced by the magical incredible amazing most important event in all of history birth of Mithra.

          There is a much more likely explanation as to why messiahs share the same attributes. It’s because they are all based on the same astrological movements of the stars.

          In all religions, the messiah is personified by the Sun, which is why messiahs are always “sons.” Being dead for three days is the result of the Sun rising in the horizon at equal heights around late December as the orbit of the Earth and the Sun’s position in the sky make the Sun look to the naked eye (which is what the ancients used) to be not moving, i.e. “dead”. After three days, the Sun’s orbit noticeably changes again, and starts to rise in the sky once more, thus “the Sun” is “resurrected.”

          Christianity, as all other messianic religions, is nothing but the result of ancient peoples telling each stories that they believed were happening in the sky.

          Modern people like you take up that same story because it enables you to cope with your own mortality and provide some outside of yourself meaning to the world.

          • Gene Callahan says:

            Man, Jesus ought to have performed the miracle of gettin them locusts da hell offa him!

          • bobmurphy says:

            Gene said: “ripples in both directions through time.”

            To which Captain Freedom replied: “That doesn’t even make sense. Time has an arrow, and it goes in one direction only. The law of entropy is scientifically sound.”

            Uh oh Captain Freedom, I think you just rejected something that is an important component of Richard Feynman’s work?

            Oh wait, don’t tell me: Common sense is only required of religion. If I tell you particles can go backwards in time, or that they can be a wave at the same time, or a cat can be dead and alive simultaneously, that just proves I’m hip and have read up on my pop quantum theory.

            • Captain_Freedom says:

              Uh oh Captain Freedom, I think you just rejected something that is an important component of Richard Feynman’s work?

              Feynman, to my knowledge, never presumed that macroscopic equations applied “backwards” in time. It’s why no physicist believes you can travel back in time. Travelling backwards in time would be required to send “ripples” of an event forward and backward in time.

              Feynman, to my knowledge, only warmed to the notion that quantum particles can travel forward and backward in time, and then with some important caveats. The sum over all possible histories then give us the one directional time in the macroscopic world.

              But surely you aren’t suggesting that because Feynman held that quantum particles MAY travel back in time, that we should all believe Callahan when he says that a macroscopic object like Jesus did in fact send ripples in both directions of time such that other macroscopic figures existed with similar characteristics.

              Oh wait, don’t tell me: Common sense is only required of religion. If I tell you particles can go backwards in time, or that they can be a wave at the same time, or a cat can be dead and alive simultaneously, that just proves I’m hip and have read up on my pop quantum theory.

              Well, the macro-world was the context, so there, common sense does rule. You won’t see humans tunneling through potential wells like particles do. Sure, things get very strange in quantum land. Common sense goes out the window. But the reason why scientists accept the non-common sense conclusions is because the theory matches so well with the observations. Religion cannot claim such a thing, which means the non-common sense views of religion cannot be likened with the non-common sense views of quantum mechanics such that it should be accepted like quantum mechanics is accepted.

    • knoxharrington says:

      “Pointing out that the Judeo-Christian heritage shares many similar themes with other religious traditions does not prove atheism.”

      Judeo-Christian heritage being similar to other traditions does not prove atheism. True. But then, the person making the positive assertion has the burden of proof. The thoughtful atheist is really an agnostic. He should say “I do not have sufficient proof to believe in God” rather than “I know for certain there is no God.”

      I can say with a greater degree of certainty that the Christian view of God – which hinges on his son – is absolutely false. There are so many problems with Christianity one barely knows where to begin. Look at the work of Bart Ehrman, for example, on the historicity of the Gospels. There are too many errors between the Gospels to make them reliable. The Gospels were written generations after Jesus by people who wrote in Greek while his followers (as testified in the Gospels) were Aramaic speaking, illiterate ignorami. Matthew, Mark, et al. didn’t write the Gospels – they are agglomerations of oral traditions that are filled with theological axe-grinding. Additionally, Acts points out repeated problems with both the Gospels and Paul’s letters. For example, his conflict with James over Jews and Gentiles to name just one.

      Taken as a whole the Bible is bad history under a veneer of truth. Yes, there was an Egypt, no there was not an Exodus, etc. When you take into account the theodicy problem, the commandments to commit immorality and other glaring problems it’s a wonder people today still embrace this stuff. I guess we are “cultural Christians” as Richard Dawkins claims himself to be.

      “Rather, it suggests something more Platonic, as if people separated by miles and eons somehow sense a universal truth in the mix.”

      The universal truth is that we are the only animal which recognizes its own mortality. We invent an afterlife in order to appease our fear of death. It’s just that simple. Christianity may offer some good moral teaching and act as a guide to good behavior but so does Buddhism, Scientology and Mormonism so in that regard Christianity is not that special. I know that many have had a “personal experience” that overcomes their reason (as Andy Stanley would have us do) but at the end of the day one cannot force oneself to believe nonsense. That’s why Pascal’s wager is such a joke – I, for one, would surely believe if I thought it would attain me eternal life – but it just doesn’t make sense from a historical, philosophical or scientific perspective. In terms of social psychology I absolutely understand – after all we have cargo cults, Jonestown, Scientology, etc. – people have a desire to believe in manna from Heaven. I fear that it may always be so – and the religious hatred of the “other” underpinning much of war may never go away.

  18. bobmurphy says:

    Sorry for the commenting blackout, everyone. I think I fixed it?

  19. Gene Callahan says:

    I discuss the nature of evidence as it relates to the above discussion here.

    • Captain_Freedom says:

      So “non-scientific evidence for God” is a valid concept because:

      1. One can subjectively prefer God more than Zeus for non-scientific reasons just like one can subjectively prefer Flaubert over Dickens for non-scientific reasons (which presumably means if you permit non-scientific preference for Flaubert over Dickens, then we must permit non-scientific preference for God over Zeus); and

      2. One can love God for non-scientific reasons just like one can love another person for non-scientific reasons (which presumably means if you say you love someone but cannot prove it using science, then that means we have to allow for people to love God without having to prove it using science); and

      3. It’s wrong to ask for scientific evidence for Jesus, but it is right to ask for religious evidence for science.

      Is that it?

      1. and 2. are merely mental states, which means all you are saying is that the concept of God can be in someone’s head. Well, big deal. I have the concept of the Flying Spghetti Monster in my head right now. Now so do you. But that doesn’t mean it exists. In both cases the preference one has can in principle be explained by natural processes of the brain.

      3. is nonsensical on its face. The phrase “religious evidence” is like saying square circle. It’s an oxymoron. The word “evidence” is a rationalistic concept that requires logical and/or empirical verification. Religion is based on faith. Faith and reason are diametric opposites.

  20. Gene Callahan says:

    “It’s wrong to ask for scientific evidence for Jesus, but it is right to ask for religious evidence for science.”

    No, that would be the equivalent of the confused maneuver you are pulling! You see, sometimes some of us use a technique called “sarcasm,” Captain Trips.

    • Captain_Freedom says:

      No, that would be the equivalent of the confused maneuver you are pulling!

      It’s not “confused” to ask for scientific evidence for Jesus AND reject the notion that one is obligated to show religious evidence for science.

      Religious evidence is an oxymoron.

      You see, sometimes some of us use a technique called “sarcasm,” Captain Trips.

      Seems some of us are terrible at it as well.

  21. RG says:

    I’m not going to take the time to read all the above, but I am going to add my 180 cents (price inflation) in this segment the reasons I am not a Christian, or Jew, or Atheist.

    1. any coda based in fear is a lie
    2. anyone that tells you what will happen to you after death is practicing #2
    3. anyone that tells you where you were before you entered this consciousness is also practicing #2

    However, I do have a strong belief in God (or whatever name you’d like to apply).

    I find it incredibly strange that economists who have been able to whittle human action down to scarce resources, define it quite decidedly in detail proving the terrorism of the state and the pure evil inherent, could ignore the same when studying the non-scarce resources of consciousness before life and after death.

    • RG says:

      Sorry those #2s should be #1s (I combined and lost a number).

    • bobmurphy says:

      RG wrote:

      I find it incredibly strange that economists who have been able to whittle human action down to scarce resources, define it quite decidedly in detail proving the terrorism of the state and the pure evil inherent, could ignore the same when studying the non-scarce resources of consciousness before life and after death.

      Can you elaborate on that? I don’t understand what you are saying. (Partly it’s because I lost an hour in your #2 loop.)

  22. RG says:

    The WebSense folks must have reset the edit function we used to have here.

    The primary tool of the state is fear – primarily fear of death or torture. They use the tool to control scarce resources. I think we would both agree to that.

    If we were to consider real estate in heaven as scarce (I believe it’s non-scarce, but that’s a discussion for another day), then consensual trade would be the best way to acquire it. Again, I think we can both agree to that.

    However, the people that trade in this resource say that infinite torture awaits you if you don’t agree to their terms for said real estate. There is no bargaining. You must take the deal as is without question. And if you turn them down after hearing their terms, you’re now damned as well because they’re the only ones allowed to sell said real estate. That reeks of a monopoly secured through fear.

    It’s odd that private law society proponents would accept or promote a deal of that nature.

    By the way, sacramentally confessing your sin of not believing in Jesus to a Catholic priest will inevitably generate an interesting and always different response priest to priest.

  23. K Sralla says:

    “Faith and reason are diametric opposites.”

    Masked imposter, if you want to argue in the big leagues, you must do better than this! You have now officially jumped the shark.

    • Captain_Freedom says:

      Masked imposter, if you want to argue in the big leagues, you must do better than this!

      Prove me wrong, oh unmasked honest one.

  24. David says:

    “Men will trust in God no further than they know Him; and they cannot be in the exercise of faith in Him one ace further than they have a sight of His fulness and faithfulness in exercise.” Jonathan Edwards

    It is folly to attempt to prove or dispporve the existance of God or Jesus. Is it far better to believe in Jesus and be wrong than to not believe in Jesus and be wrong? The risk in believing in Jesus is that one would need to trade in the philosophical knowledge and reasoning of man for the teaching of Jesus and the Bible. This is not a risk most are willing to take as it requires faith, which removes the reasoning of man from the equation.

    I highly recommend watching a movie called “Collision” where Christopher Hitchens (Athiest) travels the country and debates with Douglas Wilson (Christian) about such things as the existance of God. The movie is not Christian “propoganda” but rather objective on both sides of the debate.