Michael Battalio

Friday, July 24, 2009

This I Believe (part 14 comments on the comments part 3)

        This post deals with some of the comments from the post “Serious Conversations (part 6)” I’ve really focused in on just the things I felt were important.

Anon: The reason you [Wesley] can't understand this [to know God exists] is because you've never had a conversion experience. And guess what, you never will because you have decided to reject the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and for this, we Christians believe you will spend eternity separated from love and from a God who loves you.
If to know God is real you must blindly believe enough to have a personal conversion experience seems a bit inadequate. So to have a conversion experience (i.e. to know that He exists) you must know he exists in the first place. So only the people who are willing to believe in something that does seem possible are the only ones rewarded. That is counterintuitive. 

Anon: God did not make himself logically impossible to us. In fact, He made it very clear for us.
HOW? Where? If the answer is the Bible, then your argument is moot. The Bible was written by human beings. We are all fallible. To say the Bible was inspired by an omnipotent being is one thing, to say it was actually written by an omnipotent being is another. Example: Just now, God told me that the Bible is wrong. A Christian would say I was lying. To which I would respond, no I’m not; God told me I’m telling the truth. The problem is neither of us can prove what we are saying. That’s what is wrong with the Bible. It was written thousands of years ago by people who have purported to have been talked to by God. There is no way to prove the Bible is true other than the circular argument that the Bible is true because the Bible says it is true. That is obviously fallacious just as me saying God spoke to me is fallacious.

Anon referring to Hell: The Bible tells us that God is righteous….Righteousness deals with justice and justice deals with the Law. This means that God will always do that which is right and He does so according to the righteous Law that He has set forth. How many good works must he perform in order to undo an offense against an infinitely holy God?...”
Because He is loving He forgives. I believe an atheist can “sin” (even though he doesn’t believe in God, he can still recognize that he has done something immoral) and really feel sorry for what he has done. If he does feel sorry and remorseful, I feel that he has corrected his wrong. The point being when a believer sins are they are less guilty simply because they also believe in something that does not logically exist but still have faith for? Thinking that one is required to have a priest (as in the Catholic faith) absolve them of sin for salvation is also silly. The priest is given power by the church, human beings run the church, human beings, unlike God, are fallible, therefore priests are just as fallible as any lay individual is. The notion that you must be absolved to be forgiven is silly. I believe that if you are truly sorry even in the “silence of our own hearts” you are forgiven. Because God is infinite, He is also infinitely forgiving if we are truly sorry)

Anon “But if an atheist were to be diagnosed with terminal cancer, then this would be the time to watch him or her. They would be forced to think about a greater spiritual purpose in my opinion. But now, as long as they are without problems or plaguing events in their lives, why bother?”
This is true. I wonder how many non believers, whether they are premeditated nonbelievers or lazy nonbelievers, beg God for forgiveness and convert just before they die. I wonder if I will do this. I won’t really know until I am presented with a situation like this. I hope that I will be at peace with whatever decisions I have made throughout my life and will be content with my faith or lack thereof.

Monday, July 13, 2009

This I Believe (13)

Christianity is a leap of faith, and that leap is believing that everything in the Bible is 100% true and inspired by God. If you can accept that, then everything else taught by Christianity follows. If that isn’t obvious, then Christianity is a leap of faith.
The following is in response to some possible proofs of the credibility of the Bible.

1. The unity of the Bible--
Thanks to Wesley here are several examples of the Bible contradicting itself. These could be attributed to human error of course, but if there are these obvious contradictions, how many more non obvious untruths are there?
God sent his prophet to threaten David with how many years of famine?
* Seven (2 Samuel 24:13)
* Three (I Chronicles 21:12)
How many pairs of clean animals did God tell Noah to take into the Ark?
* Two (Genesis 6:19, 20)
* Seven (Genesis 7:2). Despite this last instruction only two pairs went into the ark (Genesis 7:8-9)
Did Joshua and the Israelites capture Jerusalem?
* Yes (Joshua 10:23, 40)
* No (Joshua 15:63)
Who was the father of Joseph, husband of Mary?
* Jacob (Matthew 1:16) 
* Heli (Luke 3:23-38)
In the count how many fighting men were found in Israel?
* Eight hundred thousand (2 Samuel 24:9)
* One million, one hundred thousand (I Chronicles 21:5)
Jesus descended from which son of David?
* Solomon (Matthew 1:5-16)
* Nathan(Luke 3:23-38)
Did Jesus bear his own cross?
* Yes (John 19:17)
* No (Matthew 27:31-32)
Who killed Goliath?
* David (I Samuel 17:23, 50)
* Elhanan (2 Samuel 21:19)
Does the Earth spin around in space?
* No (1 Chronicles 16:30)

So when it comes to specifics the Bible isn’t consistent all the time, but the major themes are connected throughout the book, those of love, faith, hope and a righteous God are well maintained. I’m not sure if this is coincidence or if it is a sound argument. It does seem improbable that the overarching themes would remain intact, but simply because it is improbable without intervention does not mean impossible. In my mind this is one of the (few and) best attributes the Bible has going for it: its consistency.
2. The Bible is non-mythical---
This is a matter of opinion and interpretation. Yes, the creation story in Genesis can be interpreted to fit with science, but what about other stories, Noah and the Ark, Moses parting the Red Sea? What is the difference between the “miracles” of the bible and “myths” of other religions? The only difference is that miracles of the Bible are not myths because the Bible is assumed to be true; besides that, the two are different in name only. The Bible is miraculous because the Bible says it is true and miraculous. Some of these stories you might call miracles, but others are obviously just stories, like the fashioning of Eve from a rib of Adam. And if some stories are just metaphor, how does one determine which stories are miracles and which are just stories and myths? Also, just because the Bible has historically accurate accounts of ancient peoples does not mean it has accurate accounts dealing with God.
3. The Bible is intact---
Define intact. If by intact it is meant that the Bible is how it is right now, then it’s intact, but what about all the purported books and manuscripts that aren’t part of the “intact” Bible. If the Bible is correct just because there are a lot of really old pieces of paper with transcriptions on it, then what about the gospels of various other people, Mary Magdalene, Thomas, Judas? Those are really old accounts of Biblical happenings. And there are other books that are accepted in one version of the Bible and not in another. There are seven books in the Catholic Bible that aren’t in the King James Version, including, for example, the book (2 Maccabees) that contains one of the major passages that Catholics take the concept of purgatory from. The acceptance of some books and not others appears random or if not then motivated by politics, power, and personal preference. The Bible is not intact; it only appears intact.
4. The Bible tells events ahead of time---
I’ve explained this point as illogical several times already. I predict that in a couple of lines I will randomly say the word “tomato” in the middle of the sentence. You cannot make predictions, then fulfill them yourself, and call them inspired by divinity. Can passages be specifically and undeniably dated so that an absolutely accurate timeline be created for when prophesies were made and fulfilled? No, so the Bible cannot be independently verified. The Bible is believed because the bible says it should be believed, therefore tomato this argument is moot. Wait, did you see what just happen? The prophesy I made was fulfilled, there must be a God. See how silly that is.

Again, do I want God to exist? Yes. Do I want the Bible to be true? Yes, but there appears to be reasonable doubt as to the veracity of the Bible. Reason does not appear to be helpful in proving the existence of God or the truth of the Bible. At best it is also not possible to prove the inexistence of God or the falsehood of the Bible. So again I say that Christianity and any other religion requires a leap of faith.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

This I Believe (12)

I’m about to be brutally honest. Here is the problem. Not only do Christians of the evangelical variety believe they are correct because the Bible tells them so, but they also believe they are better than people that are more moral, more caring, more loving, and that are just generally better people than they are, just because they were indoctrinated in or adopted the “correct” religion from childhood. Also, it is demanded of them to correct the heathen masses who aren’t Christian exactly as they are Christian or rebuke and condemn them if they refuse.

And if “God” supports this, then that is not a God I want to believe in, a god of intolerance, hate, and mockery. And if hell is complete separation from a petty, intolerant god, then I welcome it. But, I believe in a God of love, and perhaps that isn’t the Christian God they believe in and perhaps it is, just the actual Christian God. Condemn me all you want.

The problem with religion is that all religions are based off of books (Bible included) of dubious credibility - books that have contradicted themselves and were written by fallible, corruptible human beings even if they were inspired by divinity. On top of this, it is left up to other corruptible, fallible human beings to interpret what those books say. So now not only can the original manuscripts be wrong, but the interpretation of an incorrect manuscript be wrong. And the fact is no Christian has any idea, nor does anyone else in any other religion. Everyone thinks they know, but no one actually does for sure. One may feel moved by divinity, but are they sure, really sure? Is anyone sure? Or do they just think they’re sure? (Is there anything beyond a feeling? And how do you express, convince others that your feeling is correct?) That to me is the definition of gullibility: the ability to believe in the credibility of something that can be wrong in so many ways but can never be questioned by the believers simply because that object of belief maintains its own legitimacy.
And maybe that is why I don’t have faith anymore, because it seems that people with an absurdly strong faith in any religion are gullible. I really don’t know. All I know is that I don’t want to believe I was created in the image of an intolerant, petulant, revengeful, and seemingly unintelligent (if ignoring good science [i.e. evolution] is a requirement) being.

The difference is, not every Christian is like Anon2 (or Anon1 for that matter), and that’s why I can still call myself Christian, because there are decent, intelligent people of that religion. Truthfully, I think we’ll all end up in heaven, assuming any divinity exists (I think that only then will we understand each other.), but for very different reasons. Both of us are undoubtedly misguided, but that’s why God is all loving, because by being human we could never please the intolerant, petulant god you speak of. Everyone has some measure of doubt. Let me repeat that. Everyone has some measure of doubt (We wouldn’t be human if we believed all the time.). So how do you measure how strong someone’s faith is against another’s? If good works aren’t good enough for God, how much faith does it take for them to become good? If good works are filthy rags simply because we don’t believe, then all works are filthy rages because at some point everyone doesn’t believe because we are all human. If we did believe 100% all the time we would be divine. No one could get to heaven otherwise.
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