moonbattery.gif


« First Order of Business for New Congress: Continue Wasting Our Money | Main | Open Thread »


January 7, 2009

Vicar Deems Crucifix Too "Horrifying"

At St. John's Church in Horsham, West Sussex, Christianity withers in the face of feel-good fluffiness:

A vicar has removed a sculpture of the crucifixion from the front of his church because it was a 'horrifying depiction of pain and suffering' that was scaring off worshippers.
Rev Ewen Souter said the traditional Christian symbol was frightening children and that it would be replaced with a modern, stainless steel cross.

We wouldn't want to remind anyone about Christ suffering actual pain on our behalf. Souter elaborates:

We're all about hope, encouragement and the joy of the Christian faith. We want to communicate good news, not bad news, so we need a more uplifting and inspiring symbol than execution on a cross.

Thus the preference for something bland and generic-looking.

The crucifix had been hanging outside the church since the 1960s. Its new home is the Horsham Museum — a fit place for relics of Christian Europe.

The Cult of Moonbattery will win out as our official religion when we no longer have the belly for anything but fluff.

On a tip from Burning Hot.

Posted by Van Helsing at January 7, 2009 10:09 AM

Comments

A vicar has removed a sculpture of the crucifixion from the front of his church because it was a 'horrifying depiction of pain and suffering' that was scaring off worshippers.

Yeah, people are sure put off by depictions of pain and suffering. Must be why the Saw franchise has bankrupted Hollywood.

Oh, I forgot... senseless simulated torture is entertainment. When it is suffered by the Son of Man in a purposeful atonement for our sins, it needs to be censored.

Besides, some people might feel guilty that Christ had to suffer because of their sin. Gee, we sure can't have churches making people feel bad about sin now, can we?

Posted by: V the K at January 7, 2009 10:29 AM

I refer everyone to the movie "Dogma" and the statue of "Buddy Christ" revealed for the Catholic Church's supposed 'makeover'. If you haven't seen it, it's hilarious.

Funny as well when it's actually happening in real life, but funny in a... different way.

Posted by: hiram at January 7, 2009 10:37 AM

As the auto-destruction of the Anglican Church continues, this should be no surprise.

Some Catholic churches here in the good ol' USA have flirted with this kind of nonsense too. Go into just about any Catholic Church built before, say, 1960, and hanging over and/or behind the altar will be a crucifix – a powerful scene invoking both the sin of all of us that made Christ’s bloody sacrifice necessary and the even more powerful Love that made the sacrifice possible. It is, quite simply, the event upon which not only our salvation history, but indeed all of human history, turns on. As Fr. Richard John Neuhaus proclaims in his profound and highly recommended Death on a Friday Afternoon,

"If what Christians say about Good Friday is true, then it is the truth about everything."

To "progressives", however, the crucifix is such a....downer – if thoughts of sin were brought to mind, someone might feel bad about themselves. So what should go in its place? At the parish I grew up in, St. Margaret Mary in Orlando (built in 1968), Christ has his back against the cross and his arms upraised, I suppose to convey His victory over the cross. My mom liked it, and though I prefer the crucifix, I certainly didn’t object to it.

Of course, with this sort of thing, it would be easy to go too far, so the "progressive" folks saw no reason not to. At just about every Catholic church that I've been to that was built post-1970, they continue to move further toward ridiculousness. A small sampling:

** At All Saints here in Dallas, Christ is up against a cross (one about ½ the size a cross would need to be to actually support Him) with His hands out, arms bent at a 45 degree angle, palms facing up, like the King of Kings wants you lay your hands on His and see if you can pull them away before He slaps them.

** St. Elizabeth Ann Seton did away with the cross altogether, and has Jesus against a wall with His arms upraised and His left leg bent and slightly forward: He looks like He’s about to take off from the 3-meter springboard into a 1 ½ twisting somersault with a pike at the World Diving Championships.

** St. Stephen’s back in Orlando has Jesus suspended in mid-air high above the altar, tilted at a 45 degree angle - all that’s missing is a cape and a big ‘S’ on his chest: "Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s...Saviorman!". (It should also be noted that since He is also extending his left arm outward, this particular piece of artwork has also been referred to as "'This Bud's For You' Jesus")

** St. Virgil’s in Morris Plains, NJ (my sister’s parish), however, was the worst. A large cloth picture hung behind the altar, with Jesus standing sideways with his back arm lifted above His head and His front arm out at a 45 degree angle, as if to proclaim "Ta-Da !!".


Thankfully, the "progressives" have seen their influence wain, and crucifixes are now back in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and in St. Virgil's in NJ. The reason for the "progressives" 'wain' is rather simple to discern: they are getting older and won few converts. The parishes and dioceses that are growing most rapidly in the US are ones that are the most traditional and adhere closest to Church doctrine and practice.

This Catholic Moment brought to you courtesy of GeronimoRumplestiltskin.

Posted by: GeronimoRumplestiltskin at January 7, 2009 10:49 AM

Although I have been an athiest for about ten years now, my childhood Sundays were spent in Protestant churches, ranging in degree from Methodist to Pentecostal. I have only been to a Catholic mass once in my life, and could only keep thinking, "Is this what Jesus in the Bible would want his followers to do? Stand up, sit down, kneel, repeat. Eat this cracker, drink this grapejuice, light a candle. Wear this robe, chant this prayer, smell this smoke."

I know I won't make any friends here with my opinion on this topic, but oh well, sorry.

Maybe someone can help me with a few questions:
1. Jesus died for our sins. Why? God makes all the rules, so why did Jesus have to die?

2. Why did worshippers before Jesus have to sacrifice for forgiveness. If I went to my family, wife, or friends and asked them to forgive me for something, they would most likely not require me to burn my car or give them money before they forgave me. Why does God expect that?

3. What if the Catholic Church used an image of Jesus floating into Heaven, or healing the ill, or forgiving sinners instead of the image of the six hours he spent on the cross?

I do know that the good works the church does is done through people. They have fed the hungry, housed the homeless, and sheltered the oppressed. I have looked into working for United Christians Children's Fund in the next year or so, and have donated money to Christian charities. The people who make up the church, to a great extent, do very good work and are worthy of praise and admiration. They are the gift-buying parents to God's Santa Claus.

Posted by: Harris at January 7, 2009 11:30 AM

Liberal wussietard moonbats loose in the church what now will they do to show their rediculous

Posted by: SPURWING PLOVER at January 7, 2009 12:18 PM

It is interesting that people think that Jesus was/is some cotton candy figure that lives between two scented candles on the altar. Jesus was of a rough time and probably a stone worker (see Greek for hand worker) and he surely looked like the people around him (else why would Judas have to point him out with a kiss. He could have just said, "It's the blond guy or he is the tall one.") Of course it was an ugly painful death and that He chose it and that it was terrible is what gives it the power that it has when He rose from it.

As to why He died for our sins or prior to that why sacrifices were required. That is apparently some equasion between good and evil that God recognizes. Just as one can't move something from one side of the equal sign to the other without changing from positive to negative or negative to positive, one can't move around in God's creation without a change in sign that balances God's equasion. That change in sign is through Jesus. It was His death and resurrection that put God's equasion in place.

Posted by: SnowSnake at January 7, 2009 12:25 PM

Harris you obviously weren't exposed enough to Catholic masses to understand them so why bash on them?
If you don't want to believe in God that's your right but why bash on Christian practices? If you don't understand them then study them and maybe you can answer some of your own questions.

Posted by: Farmer Ted at January 7, 2009 12:28 PM

Christians do not celebrate the pain and suffering of Christ they celeberate his resurection. Without the resurection we would be worshipping a very talented carpenter

Posted by: gibbswtr at January 7, 2009 12:32 PM

Harris, unlike leftwing nutjob sites, you are allowed to have an opinion here without getting torn to shreds.

I am not a Catholic, so I see much of what the Church does as being caught in dogma and ritual. Like most churches, the stuff of man creeps in and dilutes the stuff of God. What is essential to Christian faith is Christ, his sacrifice and his resurrection.

As to your other questions, it simply requires a long, hard study of scripture to see why (in the eyes of Christianity) Christ's sacrifice was the key to why he was here. Same for the meaning of burnt offerings and animal sacrifice in OT writings...they are, indeed, foreshadows of it.

The crucifix is not "biblical" in the sense of being necessary for worship. But the "why" of it (instead of Jesus floating or doing good works) is simple: the sacrifice on the cross was the central event, upon which the whole religion is based. One does not worship the cross, but it's a reminder and symbol of His sacrifice. Fairly straightforward, I'd say.

Posted by: matt at January 7, 2009 12:35 PM

"Maybe someone can help me with a few questions:
1. Jesus died for our sins. Why? God makes all the rules, so why did Jesus have to die? "
I believe the Bible shows that God has always been more interested in relationship than rules (and I share your dislike of liturgy). After Adam & Eve broke the one 'rule' in the garden, they hid from God, who called out while in the garden, "Where are you?" Many verses point out that the penalty of sin is death, and God told them they would surely die if they broke the rule. They obviously didn't physically die right away, but their relationship with God was broken. His covering of animal skins came at the price of blood/loss of life, and that was the 'rule' He made. In Leviticus 17, He states that life is in the blood. Unfortunately, sin (breaking the rules) became ingrained in the whole species. If the entire species had to die for their own sin, God would be robbed of the relationship with us that He created us to have. The Bible calls Jesus, " a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. " (1st Peter 1:20,21) Jesus was chosen to take the death penalty for man's sin even before the sin existed, and He willingly died for us rule-breakers. God has provided a solution for the sin mess humans got themselves into, because sin-FULL humans cannot reverse the penalty or consequences of sin and separation from God, no matter what good works we may do.

Posted by: Sage at January 7, 2009 1:06 PM

1. Jesus died for the sins of mankind in a new covenant (contract) with God. God sacrificed His Son so that no man would ever have to sacrifice for his own salvation again.
2. The sacrifice was a gesture simbolic of how much love God has for us. A promise to believers that they need only believe in the sacrifice for salvation.
3. After the crusifiction Jesus did not ascend into heaven, He decended into hell carrying all the sins of mankind with him, and offering all those previously condemned there a chance for redemption, through Him, under the new covenant.
4. Upon the resurrection, Jesus was showing proof to those of his desciples that he was the ONE true messiah.
While this is a greatly shortened version it is, the essence of what christianity means. Some of the retained rituals of different 'sects' are more like 'club rules' than faith in Jesus being the Son of God, who died so that we may live.

Posted by: Eric at January 7, 2009 1:07 PM

1. Jesus died for our sins. Why? God makes all the rules, so why did Jesus have to die?

Because there has to be both mercy and justice. If one man owes another man a debt, and the debt is forgiven, there is mercy without justice. If the other man is forced to sell all that he has to pay the debt, there is justice without mercy. By taking our sins, our debts, on himself, Christ allowed for both mercy and justice.

2. Why did worshippers before Jesus have to sacrifice for forgiveness.

Because Christ had not yet come. But their sacrifices allowed God to educate them so that when he did come, they would understand the nature of His sacrifice.

3. What if the Catholic Church used an image of Jesus floating into Heaven, or healing the ill, or forgiving sinners instead of the image of the six hours he spent on the cross?

They often do. What's your point. I am not a Catholic, but I respect their choice of iconography.

Personally, I view atheism as irrational. If you're right, what do you get? Nothing. If you're wrong, what do you lose? Everything. Since the cost of belief is nothing, it seems foolish to wager everything against it.

Posted by: V the K at January 7, 2009 1:07 PM

Heh, so the stereotype of the the Jewish guilt trip is true, then...hence Jesus on the cross?

For the record, I like the character of Jesus. He healed sick people, told good stories, and threw great parties. I used his parable of the vineyard workers to explain 'fair' compensation to a union worker a few months ago.

God, on the other hand, burned cities down, killed children, and sends people to Hell for not devoting their lives to stroking his ego. My 'earthly' father loves me, and even if I were to rebuke and reject him, he would not wish for me to burn for all eternity, like God does. No man would allow his children to be raped and abused while he watched and did nothing, like God does.

Sorry, but if God is real, I don't want anything to do with him.

Posted by: Harris at January 7, 2009 1:25 PM

harris - i understand your confusion, having been a practicing heathen for the better part of my life, although always believing in the Lord and all He has said. but it wasn't until i investigated it on my own and with the aid of commentary that i began to understand.

having grown up in a catholic family i knew it wasn't for me when i was about three on easter sunday at mass my mother took me out into the foyer and beat the living shit out of me because i wanted to sing "he's got the whole world in his hands!" religion was destroyed and wasted on me. that little incident and the fact that as a catholic you were never supposed to break the gold binding on your bible - ever!

later in life, through the sole help of the Holy Spirit and two small children praying for me daily (unbeknownst to me at the time) and reading the bible from cover to cover over a summer, i came to WANT to know the Lord better. do i understand everything there is to know about HIM? hayull no!

if you read the story of abraham and isaac, you will gain a tiny understanding of the father/son thing with God/Jesus. once you begin knowing, you're helpless to stop. that's when you know that you know everything God has said is true and will come to pass.

Posted by: nanc at January 7, 2009 1:38 PM

Heh, so the stereotype of the the Jewish guilt trip is true, then...hence Jesus on the cross?

For the record, I like the character of Jesus. He healed sick people, told good stories, and threw great parties. I used his parable of the vineyard workers to explain 'fair' compensation to a union worker a few months ago.

God, on the other hand, burned cities down, killed children, and sends people to Hell for not devoting their lives to stroking his ego. My 'earthly' father loves me, and even if I were to rebuke and reject him, he would not wish for me to burn for all eternity, like God does. No man would allow his children to be raped and abused while he watched and did nothing, like God does.

Sorry, but if God is real, I don't want anything to do with him.

Posted by: Harris at January 7, 2009 1:38 PM

p.s. - as for leaving my Yeshua on the cross after He arose on the third day - well, let's just say that angers me and that's another reason i would never go back to catholicism. we're non-denom.

Posted by: nanc at January 7, 2009 1:40 PM

Sorry for the double post. Bad connection it seems.

Posted by: Harris at January 7, 2009 1:40 PM

Harris, if the God of the Bible is real, you will probably get your wish. You may not like how it plays out, however...
As for the current topic, there was an Episcopal church a few years ago that hung a "female Jesus" on a cross and called it "Christa." That sort of thing goes a long way towards explaining why I left that particular denomination.

Posted by: PabloD at January 7, 2009 1:43 PM

V the K,

Who would God be more angry with: an non-believer who does not follow his rules, or a believer who does not follow his rules?

Sage, eric, matt, V,

My question of why Jesus had to die was never answered. You keep saying for our sins or as the ultimate sacrifice, but that doesn't cut it for me. If God makes the rules then he has the power to change the rules. It can't be both ways.

And how does "he gave his only begotten son" harmonize with the claim that Jesus returned to the right hand of his father? I mean, how did God give his son when Jesus simply ascended into heaven? It like saying, "For Harris so loved his neighbor that he loaned him his only chainsaw for the weekend."

I spent many years as a Christian. I was even 'Saved', or 'Born-Again' or 'Washed in the Blood' or however you want to put it at the altar of a holy-rolling Pentecostal church. I have read the Bible several times, even written essays on passages from it. I also know that it is a creation of man. My fall happened with three letters that you aren't supposed to ask: Why?

Posted by: Harris at January 7, 2009 1:59 PM

Why does God alow suffering in the world? HE gave us free will, Harris, so why do YOU alow it?
That was retorical, my friend; I know full well that you have written against suffering and other follys here (and I assume, elsewhere) so you DON'T stand for it at all.

My favorite depiction of the Christ is in "The Church Of The Frescos" in North Carolina (Sorry, I've forgotten the location). One painting they have is called "That Laughing Crist" where Jesus has one hand on his belly, the other extended slightly and a big smile on his face. With his neatly trimmed beard and hair, I can easily imagine that Jesus had just been to the local barber where he had heard a great joke that he is now sharing with us.

Posted by: KHarn at January 7, 2009 2:03 PM

KHarn,

Of course I don't stand for it. I don't call myself God, either, or claim to have super powers.

Why did Doubting Thomas get proof? He had already seen miracles and knew Jesus personally, yet when Jesus was resurrected Thomas didn't believe it. However, we are supposed to believe based on second hand accounts written decades or centuries after the fact.

Can we assume that every person on earth who died before Jesus is in heaven? Either they are all in heaven or hell isn't very bad.

Posted by: Harris at January 7, 2009 2:18 PM

If a Christian is wrong about eternity, then he hasn't lost anything. However, if an atheist is wrong about his view of eternity, then he's lost everything. I just don't understand how anyone can be comfortable in their disbelief when they have everything to lose if their view on eternity and the afterlife is wrong.

Posted by: Anonymous at January 7, 2009 2:39 PM

The 'rules' as you call it weren't created for Him, He doesn't need rules, the 'rules' are for US. Follow them and be saved, or don't and be damned. For God to change the rules would be for HOH to not make water anymore.

It is about FAITH and one who has faith doesn't have to ask; WHY?

As for suffering in the world, He is not of this world, or any other which he may, or may not, choose to create. Suffering is of this world and not His doing.

To attempt to better answer the question why it had to be Jesus. The sacrifice was allowing Jesus to walk the earth as a man, with the physical limitations of man, without the devine intervention and saving of his 'body', including His sacrifice and bodily death. Then the resurrection of that body by devine intervention. It is a message to man that even though his body WILL someday be dead, he still has the choice of eternal life, IF he has the faith to believe.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Posted by: Eric at January 7, 2009 2:48 PM

harris - HE had to die as the sacrificial Lamb because mere humans cannot atone fully for their sins. HE paid our fines. but the fact that HE died is not so important as that HE IS RISEN! and we can be too if we accept his gift of pardon.

he was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world!

hosha na Moshiach

Posted by: nanc at January 7, 2009 3:07 PM

I'm with farmer ted. It's the resurrection that's worth celebrating. I prefer a picture or statue of the resurrected and glorified Lord. A life well lived is a far better tribute to the Savior of Mankind than posting a gruesome depiction of his suffering.

Posted by: simplify at January 7, 2009 3:14 PM

I'd have to agree with ted and simplify on this. We should of course remember Christ's sacrifice on the cross, but also His resurrection. Without the resurrection, He was just another man martyred for His beliefs.
It's what I saw as one of the few major problems with 'The Passion of the Christ': Too much GOod Friday, not enough Easter Sunday.

Posted by: Adam at January 7, 2009 3:29 PM

If a Christian is wrong about eternity, then he hasn't lost anything. However, if an atheist is wrong about his view of eternity, then he's lost everything. I just don't understand how anyone can be comfortable in their disbelief when they have everything to lose if their view on eternity and the afterlife is wrong.

I think it's arrogance, frankly. Believing in God requires you to believe that there is Someone greater than yourself. It's hard for some to let go of that.

And this "I won't believe God because I don't like some of the things He does" is in a similar of arrogance; the presumption that one knows better than God how the world ought to be run.

In my church, we are taught that our souls chose to come into this world; that our purpose here is to be prepared and tested so that we can carry out work in the next Kingdom. If God just stepped in and spared us from every hardship, from every tragedy, what would we learn? Nothing.

Posted by: V the K at January 7, 2009 3:35 PM

By the way, HARRIS, if we had the answers to your questions, do you really think we would be wasting our time on the internet? You're a good sort, I'm sure you can accept that OUR QUESTIONS about "the great mystery" (or whatever you want to call it) have been answered to OUR satisfaction.

If YOUR questions haven't been answered satisfactoraly, well, there's always tomorrow, or the next day. Who knows what may happen?

Posted by: KHarn at January 7, 2009 3:54 PM

vtk - not only that, but our free will would be compromised.

Posted by: nanc at January 7, 2009 3:55 PM

Nanc, I think you are missing the point about "leaving Christ on the cross". The point of keeping his sacrifice in front of us to remind us that his sacrifice is sufficient for all times, but he did, in fact, suffer the ultimate sacrifice in saving us, and we should never forget that.

Posted by: Judith at January 7, 2009 3:55 PM

Since arguing dogma with people of other Christian denominations has probably never helped to convert agnostic and/or atheist bystanders, I will keep my opinions regarding other denominations and dogmatic differences to myself for this thread.

Harris,

I tend to make things overly long winded and complicated when I try to explain something, so I'll offer some Catholic apologetic articles that address your questions about Christianity from the Catholic point of view.

The first link is a Catholic guide to refuting atheism. It addresses most of the questions you have asked.

http://www.catholicbasictraining.com/apologetics/coursetexts/7h.htm

This one explains more about why God would allow evil.

http://users.binary.net/polycarp/evil.html


For you protestants reading this,

Keep in mind that the links I posted are from a Catholic point of vies. They aren't as diplomatic as I am attempting to be, but I didn't write the articles, so please don't flame me :)

Posted by: butlerj at January 7, 2009 4:13 PM

Harris, if this is really true, "I spent many years as a Christian. I was even 'Saved', or 'Born-Again' or 'Washed in the Blood' or however you want to put it at the altar of a holy-rolling Pentecostal church."
Then I fear this would also have to be true:"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away,to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.(Hebrews 6:4-8)"
You can be sincere in your belief that your god must exercise some power to 'change the rules', and you can be sincerely wrong.
If you think you can be accepting of Jesus and skeptical about Almighty God, you're deluded:"I have come as a Light into the world, so that whoever believes on Me should not remain in darkness. And if any one hears My Words and does not believe, I do not judge him, for I do not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me and does not receive My Words has one who judges him; the Word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of Myself, but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that His command is life everlasting. Therefore whatever I speak, even as the Father said to Me, so I speak." (John 12:46-48)

Posted by: Sage at January 7, 2009 4:20 PM

agreed, nanc. I may not be down with every detail of my church's doctrine, but I think they got the big things right. (And believe me, I tried lots of different churches before I became LDS).

Posted by: V the K at January 7, 2009 4:25 PM

judith - i'm reminded every time i sin. it's a very good thing we don't have to sacrifice a little lamb every time!

Posted by: nanc at January 7, 2009 6:09 PM

Harris I'm really surprised that those are your big questions regarding Christianity. As someone who claims to have been fully immersed in Christian theology surely you've come across far bigger stumbling blocks. Predestination comes immediately to mind.

I've been consistently impressed with your reasoning skills, so I'm again suprised to see you recycle the "Worldy Pain Negates God" argument, complete with a variation of, "if God is real we had better kill Him."

I could answer your points on Pain, or I could just point you to The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis. He says it far more eloquently than I ever could, and I'd be paraphrasing him anyway. In it, he also discusses how he lost his convictions as an atheist and came to know Christianity.

Finally, I'm insulted by the slight you may have inadvertently handed to every believer here when you said, "My fall happened with three letters that you aren't supposed to ask: Why?" The Bible consistently upholds the virtues of reason and hunger for knowledge. Implying God prefers us to be mindless drones shows a stunning lack of insight. Please refer to:

Exodus 4:11, 20:5, 11
Isaiah 1:18, 5:3
Hosea 4:1
Daniel 4:36
1 Corinthians 10:15
Peter 3:15
Ecclesiastes 1:13-18, 2:1-12, 12:9-14

That's pretty brief, really.

Doubting Thomas is a good illustration of the difference between honest inquiry and petrifying doubt. Honest inquiry would lead one to seek evidence. In Thomas' case, that evidence was both first-hand accounts from his most trusted friends and brothers, and the actual shrouds Christ was buried in. Thomas moved to petrifying doubt, refusing to believe something truly monumental even when the evidence was right in front of him. Instead, he demanded even more evidence, to the point of wanting to touch Christ's actual wounds (presumably because he wouldn't even believe his very eyes upon seeing Christ). He's given his evidence, and gently rebuked for his excessive, unhealthy doubt.

Posted by: cowlove at January 7, 2009 6:34 PM

Wow, 30-some posts so far, and several different denominational viewpoints, and nobody's gone completely off the rails and started a flame war!
I think part of the issue here is how people see humanity and how they understand the concepts of "mercy" and "justice." A lot of people feel entitled to mercy, or salvation, or whatever good thing they seek in life. If I am the representative of Calvinism in this discussion, then I'd suggest that nobody is entitled to mercy or salvation. It's in God's sovereignty to decide who is saved, and what happens along the way.
As for Harris and his asking "why", I can only say that I had the opposite experience. I was a fervent atheist for years, until I started asking that little three letter question.

Posted by: PabloD at January 7, 2009 8:14 PM

butlerj,
Read your links.

Anonymous (2:39),
To answer the question about what a believer has to lose if they are wrong: As a non-believer I have exactly as much to lose as a child who stops believing in Santa Claus. (Actually, the child still gets their reward whether they belive in Santa or not...)

V the K,
I don't think it's arrogance, more like a realization that God is an imperfect creation of man or a sinister being. Either one is not something I choose to worship.

cowlove,
If I were to list my complaints with the religion my post would be six feet long! Of course my main one is the issue of Faith. Why faith? God gives us a collection of stories and ancient letters written, at least, decades after Jesus' death, and actually expects us to take it at face value? Come on! He could appear in the sky somewhere for 10-12 seconds and gain more converts in one day than in the last 1000 years. Jesus showed Thomas his wounds, I want to see God's face!

I used to be a counselor for juvenile delinquent boys. We had a kid who had been severely molested as a child, and shortly after puberty he began abusing other kids much younger than him. After he left our program he got back in to trouble and ultimately killed himself in another facility. According to what I have been taught, his soul is supposedly in hell this very minute. I do believe that molested children, overwhelmingly boys, have a much greater chance of becoming molestors themselves, and there is much evidence to back this claim up. Why would God let this child be raped if it would mean he would also become a rapist? Why did God let another one of my boys watch his father beat his mother down, pour gasoline on her, and burn her to death? That kid killed himself 3 days after his eighteenth birthday.

Sage,
As a teenager I was supposedly 'saved'. I told my preacher I was ready, and he prayed with me at the altar. I asked Jesus to forgive me, and said I accepted him as my Lord and Savior. You don't have to believe me, I don't care if you do or not, but according to the scriptures I have been redeemed. (Not sure how good that is now...)

Look, I appreciate those of you who seem to be going out of your way to do what in your heart is helping me. I also apologize for sounding condescending at times. I typically side with Christians on most issues, although never for religious reasons. I am an athiest who opposes abortion, gay marriage, the ACLU. I support Israel, most other traditional values, and I notice whether or not someone says 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays'.

What I am trying to say is we can fight and argue over this topic, but at the end of the day I really appreciate you guys.

Posted by: Harris at January 7, 2009 8:15 PM

Oh, and to actually make an on-topic comment:

Many moons ago when I went to church I asked the elders why some churches have Jesus on their cross and others don't. They simply said we don't have Jesus on the cross because he isn't there anymore.

I promise, thought, that no one needed a wooden statue to remember why Jesus died; they were reminded of that quite often amid the warnings of fire and brimstone.

Posted by: Harris at January 7, 2009 8:21 PM

Harris, you're a troll. Drop dead.

Posted by: ahem at January 7, 2009 9:03 PM

ahem,

No, and no.

Posted by: Harris at January 7, 2009 9:10 PM

harris has been here longer than i and i will attest to the fact he's not a troll.

harris - when sin entered the world we became helpless to stop it, but we're not supposed to stop trying. as for suffering i've had my share and am who i am in spite of it, not because of it. life depends upon how you perceive it.

Posted by: nanc at January 7, 2009 9:48 PM

I find this interesting in light of the fact that only weeks ago Hamas legalized/okayed the ACTUAL crucifixion of Christians and Jews.

Like, in real life. And of course Christians, including a 13 year old boy, have been crucified in recent years in the Sudan.

So now this "church" removes the scary symbol of the one thing that matters from the faith that along with Judaism is still being persecuted globally. Nice work, assholes.

Posted by: Anniee451 at January 7, 2009 11:02 PM

Ive always wondered HOW CAN THEY CALL IT GOOD FRIDAY IF JESUS WAS CRUCIFIED ON THAT DAY?

Posted by: SPURWING PLOVER at January 7, 2009 11:13 PM

I can take people not understanding or disagreeing with Catholic doctrine.

Everybody's path to Christ is going to be different. Even Catholics disagree with one another about their beliefs and customs.

In my time here, I have not slammed any Protestant thoughts or ideals of my fellow posters.

But, unabashed bashing Catholic beliefs is something I cannot abide so I will not be visiting here again.

Best wishes to all.

Posted by: Mike at January 7, 2009 11:25 PM

I know I won't make any friends here with my opinion on this topic, but oh well, sorry.

Harris, That's alright. As demonstrated above, you are loved by your creator regardless.

But, Isn't it interesting that your burning question seems to be, well, let's say, coded, in your nature, towards a resolution of this critical issue? If you didn't have any doubts: Why do you ask? Or, waste your time? Just like the foundation of the world, this is no accident, nor coincidence. There are reasons for your being, and reasons for your restlessness. Ye seek, therefore, ye shall find. Perhaps not today, but we all hope soon, to gain knowledge of the Truth, while there is time. God Almighty, is a loving god, requiring love in kind. He is timeless. His grace transcends time completely.
The Lamb's book of life, which was written before the foundation of the universe, is an active bookmark. The good news is, that your name may be written upon it: Shall you find and accept the Truth. The most high Lord has designed us to seek and love Him: Your Creator. And, He loves us back even more than we could ever imagine. Hence your trouble.




Maybe someone can help me with a few questions:



We'll try. I found this amazing resource that answers your question in Tony Warren did a fine job. Also found is this.


1. Jesus died for our sins. Why? God makes all the rules, so why did Jesus have to die?


Jesus, the Lamb, was the ultimate blood sacrifice. Paying the ultimate price in full. Being completely innocent, The blood of the Ultimate Lamb, completely washes out our sins, leaving us clean at His judgment. Throughout the book of Genesis, we see that God judges everything in his creation. The verdict: Good. Recall, God Almighty's position of being double-crossed by a previous creation that he loved: An angel named Satan: who's ultimate goal was to de-throne his Creator. That judgment is also sealed. Satan gums up the works. In vain attempt to increase his power against God Almighty, he attempts to turn us against God. God designed us, microcoding us to love Him, to reject Satan and his temptations, blowing away Satan's plan to achieve God's dominion. Perhaps if Satan didn't turn out the way he did, God wouldn't even have had the need to create us to choose Him instead of Satan? We don't know the absolute answers, so we have to operate on the given information and faith, until all the day of judgment, when the Truth is completely understandable.

2. Why did worshippers before Jesus have to sacrifice for forgiveness. If I went to my family, wife, or friends and asked them to forgive me for something, they would most likely not require me to burn my car or give them money before they forgave me. Why does God expect that?


Your car and your money are things of this world. Inanimate things that mean nothing to Him. Before the birth of Jesus, the Lamb of God, the blood of living creatures, particularly Lambs, was the required atonement. The original instructions with the "old covnenant," of the Ten Commandments, which conditioned us later for the ultimate new covenant, that concentrated the Ten Commandments into the just the first commandment (which is our "coding"). With an ultimate blood sacrifice to end all blood sacrifices, which of course, was the body of Christ Jesus.

3. What if the Catholic Church used an image of Jesus floating into Heaven, or healing the ill, or forgiving sinners instead of the image of the six hours he spent on the cross?

The image of the Lamb on the Cross is a simple reminder that does not violate the Second Commandment. Thou shalt make no graven images of the heavens above, Nor the earth beneath...


The New Covenant of Jesus in no way nullifies the Old Covenant, but the new covenant is a better way. As. the Judge is the same for all. Nobody gets to the father, except through the Son. It always helps when you know the judge, Correct?

Posted by: batman at January 8, 2009 12:08 AM

A little defense of Catholicism seems to be in order.

Intellectual honesty and spiritual integrity, as rare and difficult as they are, will show most people that all roads lead to Rome. I won't completely defend the Catholic Church here, other than to say that there is little doubt that western civilization is living off the capital and the truths of twenty centuries of the Catholic Church.

Protestant movements have tended to take one of the mystical ideas of the Catholic Church and exalted it above (and often against) the rest. For example, Lutherans are preoccupied with the grace of God, Methodists with the sin of man, Calvinists with the sovereignty of God (against the authority of the Church), Baptists with the literal Bible, Quakers with simplicity. Outside of Christianity other philosophies do similar things. Materialists are focused on the creation without a Creator, Spiritualists with the rejection of materialism, Communists with economic equality, etc. The result is always an inferior version of the whole of the Catholic Church. Church reformers, by doing away with various elements of the Catholic Church, usually find that they need to replace them.

From GK Chesterton:

"...truth is a magnet, with the powers of attraction and repulsion. The moment men cease to pull against [the Catholic Church] they feel a tug towards it. The moment they cease to shout it down they begin to listen to it with pleasure. The moment they try to be fair to it they begin to be fond of it. But when that affection has passed a certain point it begins to take on the tragic and menacing grandeur of a great love affair...When he has entered the Church, he finds that the Church is much larger on the inside than it is on the outside."

"We wake at our birth staring at a very funny place. After serious examination of it we receive two fairly definite impressions; the first, delight and the second, fear. The first leads us to dance and to kick about in the sunlight; the second leads us not to do it too much for fear we should get sunstroke. The first leads us to institute festivals, and so create art. The second leads us to institute rules and so create morality. One tells us that the praise of the Lord is the beginning of art; the other that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom"

Chesterton found dizzying freedom in the Church. It should be sobering to any honest Christian that he found a home for his giant intellect in the Catholic Church. He found it a home of rest and of activity and excitement. "To become a Catholic is not to leave off thinking, but to learn how to think."

"To be deep in history is to cease being a Protestant" -- Cardinal Newman

My Church has an actual crucifix. We venerate Mary. We follow Catholic doctrine and rituals. All based on sound reasoning and the deepest Christian understanding.

Posted by: lvb-rocks at January 8, 2009 12:19 AM

nanc,
Thanks

SPURWING,
The term Good Friday is older than Jesus.


Mike,
Sorry, I know asking questions is against the rules. How else would you believe the narrative?

batman,
I aprreciate your response, but my original questions weren't for me. I know the answers to those. The one I can't answer is, "How can you believe this?"

God created the earth and then man, out of dust. Man was bored and lonely, so God made woman. (God said a kind, loving, ever-supporting partner would cost an arm and a leg, Adam said, "What can I get for a rib?") Man and woman had it made in Eden, but they had to do the one thing God didn't want them to do. (Which was gaining knowledge, of course.) While God was asleep they ate from the bad tree, and God got mad and kicked them out. So, due to a design flaw we all have been punished by God since about 2 weeks after we were created. Oh well.
Adam and Eve have children. Everyone is expected to give God something, we don't know why because God had already kicked them out of the garden, made them toil for what they had, and unleashed suffering on them. To top that off, God didn't like Cain's gift. Perhaps Cain tried to hold back on God, in which case I don't blame him. I bet God didn't drive a plow, sew any seeds, or help reap any of the harvest. (Reminds me of the Godfather...hmm...God the Father, Godfather? Interesting.) Anyway, Cain kills Abel, and is then banished to the land of Nod, where he...gets married? OK. Musta missed an entire population being born. We were just told that Adam and Eve were the first humans. We are only a few chapters into the story and it already contradicts itself.

Sometime later we get a flood. (Yep, just like in 'The Epic of Gilgamesh' written down several hundred years before Genesis.) Noah is able to get a male and female sample of every species of animal aboard his ark. Somehow, though, modern animals still remain healthy despite being heavily inbred.

I am going to fast forward through the walls of Jericho, the lion's den, the wrath of God (you know, when he has the Israelites slaughter everything alive), forty years in the wilderness, the burning bush, Jacob's ladder, the firey furnace, wise King Solomon, and get back to Jesus. (You know, the guy whose mother got pregnant by God *wink wink*.)

Jesus is wandering around teaching, but not only teaching, he is performing miracles. Those people were probably not much different than we are today, so you can imagine the excitement of someone healing the sick, blind, and lame. If I saw Jesus touch someone and heal them, someone I knew was ill (as opposed to someone Jesus brought out on staged and 'healed') you better believe I would fight tooth and nail to become a disciple.

However, Jesus pissed the elders off when he flipped some tables at the synagogue. So, we have to accept that Jesus claimed to be the son of God, he openly performed miracles, and the Jewish elders didn't buy it. Not only did the elders not buy it, there was supposedly a crowd gathered shouting, "Crucify him!" Didn't these people realize this was the same dude that had been feeding and healing huge crowds for the last few months? I guess not. They saw miracles and heard teachings first hand, but they still wanted the Romans to execute him. Go figure.

But Jesus had to die, you say? Although I don't know why, the response is always that Jesus had to pay the ultimate price for sin. Pay? To whom? Oh yes, the Godfather, I mean, God the Father. God wouldn't just send out a memo and change his policy on sacrifice;
"Effective immediately, for God so loves the world: All those who wish forgiveness must simply and humbly ask. No more sacrifices required. Have a blessed day."
That won't work...God was forced to impregnate a woman, who he then left to bear the child, after a very long walk, in a barn. (Nowadays he would be called a deadbeat dad.)
So, God donates his only begotten son as a sacrifice, to himself? What? How can you sacrifice something to yourself? Also, sacrificing something means you don't have it anymore. If I were to put $10,000 in the offering plate at church and then get it back out the next week, what have I sacrified? The only way for God to have actually sacrified his son would be for Jesus to cease to exist, which, we are told, did not happen.

Posted by: Harris at January 8, 2009 5:13 AM

I don't think it's arrogance, more like a realization that God is an imperfect creation of man or a sinister being. Either one is not something I choose to worship.

That's a pretty arrogant statement. Man can no more create God than Man can create Helium. We can study God and discern his nature, just as we can study a chemical element and learn its properties.

If Man created God in his own image, then we would expect God to be in the image of man, which clearly He is not. Man's basic nature is selfish, but God demands that we be charitable. Man's basic urge is toward self-gratification, but God demands self-denial. Man's basic nature is wrathful, but God demands that we turn the other cheek.

I think there's a bit of projection going on when someone arrogantly proclaims that God isn't good enough for him.

Posted by: V the K at January 8, 2009 5:17 AM

"Ive always wondered HOW CAN THEY CALL IT GOOD FRIDAY IF JESUS WAS CRUCIFIED ON THAT DAY?"
Spurwing, I can recall asking my mother the exact same question when I was younger. Her response was something to the extent of, it's called Good Friday because it was the day that Christ sacrificed Himself to pay the debt for our sins, and thus enable our salvation. I'd say that (The day our souls were given a way to avoid Hell) was pretty good.
"Wow, 30-some posts so far, and several different denominational viewpoints, and nobody's gone completely off the rails and started a flame war!"
PabloD, that's because here, while we might disagree with each other on issues, we (Not counting the moonbat trolls) generally are perfectly capable of engaging in polite,civilized debating. Compare that to, for instance, DemocraticUnderground, where members fighting with each other and starting flame wars are quite common, and many threads are filled with the DUmmies throwing insults and expletives all around, like monkeys throwing feces at each other.

Posted by: Adam at January 8, 2009 5:27 AM

V,
Man's basic nature is selfish, but God demands that we be charitable. Man's basic urge is toward self-gratification, but God demands self-denial. Man's basic nature is wrathful, but God demands that we turn the other cheek.

God demands that his followers be charitable to him, with their belongings and their very lives. That makes him selfish.

God demands his followers worship him, and have no other gods before him. In essence, he supposedly created humans for the sole purpose of worshipping him. That is what I would call self-gratification.

Do I need to day anything about God's wrath?

God is the epitome of selfishness, self-gratification, and wrathfulness. And as far as our nature goes, didn't he, uh, make us that way?

Hypothetical situation:
Researchers find a family in a remote area with very little access to the outside world. The patriarch has 10 wives who have borne him a large number of children. This father is the only one allowed to go to town to buy supplies, and he is the family's provider. He makes his children worship him as a god in a little chapel, which they gladly do because he has given them life and he provides for their needs. This man demands his children's unwavering adulation and forbids them from ever questioning him. If the children disobey his rules they are told they will be burned alive. What would we think of this man? Would we consider him loving? Why would he demand this life of his children?

Posted by: Harris at January 8, 2009 6:10 AM

One thing about the Catholics is that they have remained stable for the last several hundred years since the split with the Protestants. Catholic services are heavily structured - but like that sort of thing.

The Protestants on the other hand have become heavily fragmented and disorganized with each church tending to do its own thing. Splits in my area are occuring regularly - mostly over the gay issues these days. In alot of Protestants churches the pastor often becomes a cult of personality - and now there are these mega church pastors who get rich fleecing their flocks, wear suits costing thousands of dollars, drive $75,000 cars, live on vast estates and control vast media empires. Pat Roberton, John Hagee, Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer ect. In churches like this it becomes more about feeling good and getting rich than anything else. They do preach about Christ but if youve ever seen these guys on TV youll see what I mean; and look at the audience.

Of course the Catholic church has been inflitrated by commies and pedophiles to its detriment - but at least they finally woke up and are doing something about it. Lawsuits were a powerful motivator as before the leadership was largely in denial.

Ive been to services in various churches and all have good and bad points. The only ones I would never attend are the cult like mega churches or ones that promote the gay lifestyle (nor ones that scream gays are going to burn in hell, thats a bit much).

Posted by: Name at January 8, 2009 6:26 AM

Hypothetical situation:

A pretty irrelevant hypothetical, since God doesn't work anything like that. It is more like God tells His children, "I love you, I gave you life, I provide for you, and I have great wisdom. Out of my love and wisdom, I warn you against carrying rattlesnakes in your pants. If you do, there will be consequences."

But the child, thinking himself wiser than the Father, and thinking "how dare he restrict me from doing what I want," stuffs rattlesnakes in his pants anyway and is bitten. He then blames His Father for allowing the snakes to bite him, and says "How can any beneficent father allow his son to be bitten by a rattlesnake."

Harris, it's pretty obvious you have chosen to develop a construct of God that allows you to reject Him. Johnathan Swift observed that you can't reason a man out of what he wasn't reasoned into.

Posted by: V the K at January 8, 2009 7:02 AM

Never thought this would go on overnight.

Posted by: Eric at January 8, 2009 7:07 AM

Also, V,

It's not about God being good enough for me, it's about God not being real. I don't believe in ghosts, unicorns, leprechauns, the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot, demons, el chupacabra, ESP, telekinesis, astology, palm reading, homeopathy, or any of that stuff either. It doesn't mean I'm too good for it; it means I know they aren't real.

Think about it: The reason you are a Christian is the exact same reason you are an American; sheer chance. Do you think God so graciously selected your soul to bless, while he chose Abu al-Mattrah Durka-Durka's soul to incarnate in Kandahar in an ultra-conservative muslim family? What did your soul do to warrant such preferential treatment?
Why was I born in the U.S. while many others were born into the slums of Rio de Janerio, Brazil? I don't think my soul is better than an untouchable in India, but God somehow decided it must be. Michelle has linked to a story about female circumcision; what did the souls of those girls do to deserve that? That could have been us if God wanted it to be, right?

Posted by: Harris at January 8, 2009 7:15 AM

Sorry, but it is hilarius that someone can believe in all this hocus-pokus and call a non-believer unreasonable.

God created the earth in six days several thousand years ago. To believe that you must reject most tenets of biology, geology, physics, chemistry... well, pretty much all science. To say that God created all those sciences to begin with would negate Eric's claim from 2:48PM yesterday which stated that God forgoing sacrifice would mean HOH wouldn't make water anymore. So, either God created and controls the sciences or he doesn't. (I vote the latter.)

You must also believe in the virgin birth. The Jews don't buy this story, and neither should you. Imagine a girl in Jerusalem coming out later today and claiming to be carrying the child of God. She says she has not been with a man. The Jews hail her child as the Messiah. What would you think of them? They are still waiting, remember?

Also, you are a believer, yet, as you note on your website quite often, you are a hypocrite. Why is that? You stated previously that you believe we have everything to lose by not following God, and everything to gain by believing. Why do you have photos of girls in homosexual situations on your website if you believe that God condemns that behavior?

Imagine you and I both standing at judgement. He points at me and says, "You have heard my word, yet chose not to believe nor follow. You will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

To you, might he say, "You have heard my word, and you chose to believe, yet you did not follow."
While I don't claim to accept this, you do.

Posted by: Harris at January 8, 2009 7:37 AM

No, I was born into a Christian family, but in my twenties I explored a number of different faiths, including Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, and Taoism. While I found Buddhism and Taoism philosophically compelling, and admired the rich cultural history of Judaism, I found the true Spirit of God in Mormon Christianity... which is in practice very different from the church I was raised in.

While I, in accordance with my church's Articles of Faith, respect everyone's right to practice religion in the manner of their choosing, I believe anyone who makes an honest search for God will ultimately be led to Christianity.

Regardless of whether I was born into Christianity or not, the fundamental equation is the same: faith offers the possibility of infinite reward at zero cost. Disbelief offers no reward, and carries the possibility of infinite loss.

Posted by: V the K at January 8, 2009 7:37 AM

What a great thread this has been. Shows again the ability of our side to have mature discourse about the #1 most sensitive subject.

I am firmly on Harris' side. And I think, like he, most willing to change and be shown otherwise. But notice I said 'shown', not 'convinced'. The whole subject of Moonbattery itself is about man's willingness to adopt beliefs that fulfill his desires.

I was raised LDS. V the K argues that 'faith offers the possibility of infinite reward at zero cost. Disbelief offers no reward, and carries the possibility of infinite loss.'

That is indeed true, but is also true of Global Warming. In both cases we are all amenable to actual proof. And this does not make us 'doubters', because we simply don't have enough information to even base doubt on.

Like Harris I respect your convictions and your views and do not wish to make light of them in any way. I'll take it a step further and express that I do not wish my own opinions (atheism) to affect your own personal beliefs in any way, and I sincerely hope your beliefs are rewarding and comforting to you.

Posted by: Air2air at January 8, 2009 8:18 AM

I have nothing against doubt. Doubt is to faith what fear is to courage. Faith is resistance to doubt, mastery of doubt, not absence of doubt. I find that questioning the things I believe ultimately makes my faith stronger.

And I think Global Warming is completely different. The costs of buying into GW are enormous in economical, practical, and health terms.

What does faith cost? A few hours in church, where you can enjoy fellowship even if you don't buy the message? Study of scripture that illuminates an understanding of the human condition, even if you reject the metaphysical aspects of it? A few dollars in the collection plate that could have just as easily gone to any other charitable pursuit or been wasted on some consumer good that you would ultimately dispose of anyway?

Posted by: V the K at January 8, 2009 8:30 AM

Ahhh, so this is the predestination argument after all.

Harris, your argument with god seems valid but it's only so if you work on the assumption that God can go around changing the rules willy nilly. Scripture teaches us that God is consistent and constant. Philosophical musings and the study of science have taught us that God respects rules and logic. That we are made in God's "image" shows us that God is a rational being, as we are rational beings... most of the time. That rationality is generally accepted to be the most perfect state of man but our rationality is finite, thus capable of ending. God's is infinite.

Why should god change the rules? Merely to satisfy your demands? I agree that, from our perspective, the fact that some are born into bad societies is in itself a bad thing but can you blame God for that? Our own free will created this situation. God's rules were such that he could not prevent that choice without taking away that free will. If he had taken away our free will in order to prevent these things we simply wouldn't exist - nor would our existence be worth anything.

And it comes down to covenants. Those who have heard the message of Christ and accept it are living under the covenant God made when Jesus dies for our sins. Those who haven't heard that message are living under the way things used to be - when Israel's activity was the temporary atonement for the sins of the world. That's why they were called the priestly people throughout the scripture - they were acting as the bridge between the world and God. It is stated in scripture that those who haven't heard the message of Christ not be judged by the same standard as those who have. But, neither do they have the opportunity inherent in that message, to simply turn to Christ and ask for forgiveness. They have to be judged on their actions and on the influences over those actions. That's a risky proposition. And, once you've heard the message of Christ and live under that new covenant you have a binary choice: repent and sin no more, or lose everything.

Those muslims you mentioned have not heard the message of Christ.

And finally it comes down to predestination. God did not choose our place, this is true. God could change the rules to make all suffering cease, make the world benign, give it a perfect orbit, remove all our violent tendencies, rescue itty bitty little kittens before they call out of trees... but think about that world for a moment. A world where a divine being constantly interferes in the most direct manner possible to alter things and prevent suffering. A world where the laws of physics would not be reliable from day to day.

God does not choose where your soul comes out. God knows where it comes out but, by his own rules and logic, he can't change that. And we have to assume that there is a deeper rationality than we can fully comprehend in operation. God's "ineffable plan" for the universe.

At the risk of appearing to contradict myself, what happens to people living outside of the christ covenant is unknown. The scriptures never spoke of it in concrete terms. The old jewish belief was that when you died, your soul went to Sheul, the "grave", a cold and dark place where you waited for the judgement at the end of the world. Beyond that the bible is essentially silent. There was no concrete information about "heaven" or paradise or the world after, no information about God's plans for us after the judgement. There was just that judgement. Under the new covenant, if we accept Christ and truly repent of our sins then we bypass Sheul and go straight to our heavenly reward. "Tomorrow you will be with me in paradise", Jesus said to the criminal who believed in him.

But you have to truly repent of your sins in order for it to work. And, anticipating the inevitable hitler's deathbed conversion argument, consider: did Hitler believe he was sinning? You see, to truly repent of our sins, we have to accept that we were sinning in the first place. Hitler thought he was doing the world a favour initiating his mass-murder. He thought he was right. Without believing he was sinning, he can't repent, and without that repentance the deathbed conversion is impossible.

Reading through again, your arguments do all appear to be based on the predestination problem. And again, I can only stress that our situation is the result of the sin of mankind, brought about by free will. God's gift to us was life and the ability to choose what to do with it. If we abuse that gift on the advice of another we can't blame God for the results.

Posted by: Archonix at January 8, 2009 8:32 AM

I'm not kidding, if Jesus wants to come and hang out for a while, or if God wants to just show his face in the sky above for a few seconds, that is all it would take for me to be the most steadfast, hardworking servant of god ever.

Saul and Thomas got proof, now I want mine.

My hypothetical situation from above does work, too.
Here is your rebuttal:
[God says] "I love you, I gave you life, I provide for you, and I have great wisdom. Out of my love and wisdom, I warn you against carrying rattlesnakes in your pants. If you do, there will be consequences."

According to the Bible, however, that statement would be more like, "I love you, I gave you life, I provide for you, and I have great wisdom. Out of my love and wisdom, I forbid you from questioning me, or ever disobeying me. If you do, I will let you burn for eternity. You must give me a portion of what you earn or you will not recieve my love."

If God were a human father, he would be considered a real jerk.

Posted by: Harris at January 8, 2009 8:40 AM

I have to interject once more.

"...faith offers the possibility of infinite reward at zero cost." ~VtheK

While I side with you on this discussion, this comment is a variation of Pascal's wager. The argument, while good in its intentions, is decidedly unreasonable because it only examines Christianity in its "test."

I also have to disagree on the point that faith costs nothing. Christ explicitly went over the cost of following Him many times in His ministry. It's misleading to say there is any reward without great sacrifice.

Harris,

It's unlikely we'll agree here. I do appreciate, however, that we can actually have a discussion about this topic sans childish taunts as has been my experience in other forums. I think my biggest problem overall with the points you've outlined throughout your comments is that you mostly just seem to have a problem with how things are. There is Pain in the world. Some people suffer. Others suffer greatly and die. Still others barely suffer at all. You seem to have some idea in your head of how things should be, and because that doesn't align with reality, God doesn't exist. That reasoning (and its variants) has always seemed simplistic to the point of being ignorant in my opinion.

To borrow from C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain, take the case of a beam of wood. The same properties that make the beam good for supporting a roof make it good for hitting someone in the head and taking their money. If God were to change the properties of the wood so that it became as limp as a noodle when someone used it for evil, our world would essentially become unrecognizable. That's not to say that God couldn't do it, but that He doesn't. He has designed our world in such a way that we have a choice to do Good or Evil. Without that, we become robots mindlessly praising Him all day, and there is no love in that sort of worship. And really, at the end of the day, that is our purpose on earth: to love our God.

Posted by: cowlove at January 8, 2009 8:46 AM

Archonix, the way I teach it in Sunday School is that God can't break the rules because God is the rules.

Posted by: V the K at January 8, 2009 8:58 AM

Archonix,

See, that's what I am talking about! Almost half of what you just said was made up to fit my argument. You manage to incorporate 'God won't deny your free will', 'the Lord works in mysterious ways' and 'you could be sinning and not even know it' into your argument.

God is constant? Then why did he change from animal sacrifice to one human sacrifice? Should we still kill everything alive when we conquer a city? Why is San Francisco still standing? Didn't he destroy cities for doing that in the past, or has he changed?

Can we blame god for where we are born? According to you we should be able to. I don't remember being asked where I wanted to arise, maybe Tom Cruise has some insight into that.

Also, the concept of predestination has to piggyback with the claim that your god is all-powerful and all-knowing. Either he knows everything and has power over everything or he doesn't. You must concede that he is not all-powerful or he is evil. He can't be all-powerful and good.

For instance, there are two boxes. One is full of candy, the other is an explosive. Being all-powerful and all-knowing, I know that my child will choose to open the box with the explosive in it, although I warned her what was in the box. However, I want her to exercise her free will, and she opens the box. Fortunately, I am not as evil as god, and her death is instantaneous. God would prefer someone who didn't listen to burn for eternity.

Posted by: Harris at January 8, 2009 9:06 AM

In this discussion, one can take the route of picking apart the statements of the opposing side, or one can disagree with the entire vision.

But this being a discussion of religion, "right" and "wrong" are of course relative to the claimant. As an example we have most of the Christian denominations represented here. Is just one of these denominations the "correct" one, or are all of them okay? By the same measure, is Islam OK as well? But these are rhetorical questions and it would be a waste of space to answer them.

However the scenario of multiple denominations shows the hand of man at work. And I don't think any of us here would put blind trust in the hand of man. Note that we are each choosing the denomination that makes us most comfortable. And that weakens the argument that there is an absolute, single faith. If there is, please raise your hand.

I have become OK with the thought that there are questions that humans can't answer now. The concept of infinite space and time is unsettling to me, but I have no choice but to be OK with understanding that I can't comprehend it. The question of existence is far beyond me, and I won't go the route of Sartre trying to grapple with it.

If you explain all this away by attributing it to God, it does not answer these questions. Who created God then? In such a scenario God is simply another added layer to the mystery.

One day humans will know the answers to these questions, and we here in this era will just have to be satisified with that for now.

Posted by: Air2air at January 8, 2009 9:25 AM

cowlove,
I can't help but chuckle.

You believe the world was created in 6 days. A being also created the universe and everything else in it. Man came from the dust, woman from his rib, both made in their creator's image. Not sure where all those dinosaur bones or that whole fossil record thing fits, but whatever.
A few thousand years later a virgin got pregnant by god, which luckily an angel(another kind of being created by god, but these have super-powers) let her know. The angel also told her husband, because that could have gotten bad pretty quick.

Fast forward a30-some-odd years and this child, Jesus Christ, is wandering around preaching, teaching, healing people, performing miracles, and being a smart aleck. Jesus amasses a lot of followers and makes quite a name for himself. He tells his 12 disciples that he will be killed, but not to worry; it is part of a plan.

Jesus eventually is executed for upsetting the status quo, but don't worry; he comes back to life. Since he spent about 36 hours dead everyone has the option to ask him for forgiveness. Now that god has followed Rule #21 (Only animals or my son are accepted as payment for sin. No American Express)

Anyway, God made the earth, the universe, the rules (which he chooses not to break), you, me, Planet NGO4718D on the edge of the Milky Way galaxy, Micheal Moore, angels. Demons exist and can possess your body and Satan rules a place called hell. God made Satan, too, but Satan ad God don't get along anymore. We should believe this because an anthology of short books written in several languages, a few letters sent to Greek sects, and four versions of Jesus' life written decades after his death tell us to.

And I am the ignorant one?

Posted by: Harris at January 8, 2009 9:31 AM

Who created God then?

There is no difference, existentially, between that question and "Where did the universe come from?" Those who believe in an acausal universe believe all matter just popped into existence out of a dense singularity, but what medium did the singularity exist in? And where did it come from? And how did the universe manage, against overwhelming odds, to become a place suitable for the formation of matter and, eventually life?

That's why it comes back to the basic question: Do you want to wager nothing on the possibility of gaining everything? Or would you rather, out of arrogance, wager everything on the certainty of gaining nothing?

Posted by: V the K at January 8, 2009 9:39 AM

The difference in religion and science, in regards to the creation of the universe:

Where did the universe come from?
Science: We don't know, yet, but we are figuring it out.
Religion: God.

Posted by: Harris at January 8, 2009 9:45 AM

A theme I see in Harris' arguments is that God does not play by the rules he requires of Man. And believers here are OK with that, because it comes from God.

Thank goodness for the rules of Christianity, with the charity, forgiveness, kindness and love that form the basis for our great Western civilization. We all enjoy living by such standards. There is no wonder that we are attracted to live by them.

And if only God himself applied them to his governance, it would remove all the terrible suffering of innocents around the world. Thus as Harris suggests, God is either not omnipotent, or not Christian. The world certainly does not reflect the governance of one who is both. To that claim, I don't accept the argument of "Well, God makes the rules" that I have read on this thread. That is a "don't dare to question me" Catch-22 that does not address the argument.

Posted by: Air2air at January 8, 2009 9:46 AM

One could define "science" as "figuring out how God does things."

And if only God himself applied them to his governance, it would remove all the terrible suffering of innocents around the world.

If God removed all hardships from us, we'd become a race of trustarfarian moonbats... completely devoid of responsibility, learning nothing because we never had to learn anything. It would make human life meaningless. We wouldn't be God's children, we would be His pets.

Posted by: V the K at January 8, 2009 9:59 AM

Air2air,

I disagree with the claim that we enjoy the culture in the West due to Christianity. If anything it has held us back, at the very least scientifically.

Let's look at the Greeks: Birth of democracy, noted for philosophy, medicine, sciences. No mention of Christianity.

What about the Romans? Vast empire, extension of rights for citizens, architectural brilliance.

Do you really believe that humans must be scared and threatened into charity, or compassion? I think any people who embrace liberalism will eventually reach a higher standard of living.

I know everyone wants to think Islam is vastly different than Christianity, but if you rewind our history back, not very far I might add, you will find that we suffered as a society due to Christianity the same way muslims suffer under Islam. We haven't burned anyone at the stake in a while, and the Inquisition did end, but it isn't hard to find examples of religion leading us astray.

Posted by: Harris at January 8, 2009 10:02 AM

Harris,

A laundry list of strawmen arguments is unconvincing.

Air2Air,

"And if only God himself applied them [His rules] to his governance, it would remove all the terrible suffering of innocents around the world."

How so? Elaborate.

Posted by: Anonymous at January 8, 2009 10:02 AM

Whoops, that was me.

Posted by: cowlove at January 8, 2009 10:04 AM

"We haven't burned anyone at the stake in a while, and the Inquisition did end, but it isn't hard to find examples of religion leading us astray."

So find some and discuss them.

Posted by: cowlove at January 8, 2009 10:06 AM

Anonymous,

Sorry I didn't convince you. I realize I can't do as good as the 'God doesn't want to break his rules' or the 'laws of physics would break down if God changed anything' arguments.

You just made me believe in vampires.

Posted by: Harris at January 8, 2009 10:09 AM

There should be a law, akin to Godwin's, that any atheist's condescension has a linear relationship to the length of any discussion of Christianity.

Posted by: cowlove at January 8, 2009 10:16 AM

That's why it comes back to the basic question: Do you want to wager nothing on the possibility of gaining everything? Or would you rather, out of arrogance, wager everything on the certainty of gaining nothing?

V the K your contributions to this blog have always been great, so with that out of the way allow me to cross swords with you on this.

I often read the accusation made against atheists that they are themselves adhering to a belief system that also must be proven. Well, that is saying that if I can't prove something doesn't exist, then it must exist. Not a satisfactory argument there. I just don't have evidence in the God department; that's all I'm saying.

"Do you want to wager nothing on the possibility of gaining everything?"

That is indeed a compelling bet that anybody would take. But it is simply your characterization of the issue. If somebody knocks on your door with a copy of the Watchtower and gives you the statement above, would it compel you to change your views?

"Or would you rather, out of arrogance, wager everything on the certainty of gaining nothing?"

I do not think you intend to accuse my side of arrogance. You are too fair and open-minded. I think you use the word 'arrogance' to imply that atheists claim an alternative truth that is truthier.

This implication sets up the atheism argument for a fall, because atheists would have to come up with data to back up their claim to have a truthier truth.

Yet the foundation of the atheist argument is that no such data exists. You state:

"Those who believe in an acausal universe believe all matter just popped into existence out of a dense singularity, but what medium did the singularity exist in? And where did it come from? And how did the universe manage, against overwhelming odds, to become a place suitable for the formation of matter and, eventually life?"

As I said before I am content that I do not know the answers to many of these questions. I am also content in the ability of humans to research it and eventually resolve them. And if all things are made by God, you should be equally happy with the results.

To reiterate the "additional layer" issue, did God come before the universe or vice versa? If God created the universe then where was God hanging out beforehand? To me this creates just additional complications to the question of existence.

Posted by: Air2air at January 8, 2009 10:16 AM

"And if only God himself applied them [His rules] to his governance, it would remove all the terrible suffering of innocents around the world."

How so? Elaborate.

V the K, I mean to say that God makes rules for us to live by, like "thou shalt not kill". Yet innocents die by disease and other horrors. These innocents (like children) are never given the chance to even hear about Christianity, yet suffer terribly for no apparent reason.

Usually when I bring this up, believers answer with a vague "Well, it's all God's plan" or some elaborate conjecture.

But in this case I must agree with Harris that I simply can't shrug my shoulders at what happens to innocents in this world. If it's God's plan I have a problem with it, and I would say so. If God is on vacation, I have a problem with that as well.

Posted by: Air2air at January 8, 2009 10:29 AM

Air2Air, you concede the truth is unknowable, at least by any means available to us. And what we are left is the choice between faith and nihilism. One of these holds the prospect of eternal life, the other holds the guarantee of nothing. Since there is no cost to me in choosing the former, it's a no-brainer.

And I could say to the Jehovah Witness, "I have sought God, and I have found Him."

Posted by: V the K at January 8, 2009 10:39 AM

cowlove,

Creation taught in schools. Instead of teaching kids the scientific method and to interpret evidence, Christians want children taught fairy tales.

It wasn't very long ago that this country still had slaves. Nowhere in the Bible is slavery condemned.

Irish Republican Army

Posted by: Harris at January 8, 2009 10:52 AM

V,

One problem with Pascal's wager is that it assumes you are worshipping the right god, the right way. Good luck!

Posted by: Harris at January 8, 2009 11:09 AM

These innocents (like children) are never given the chance to even hear about Christianity, yet suffer terribly for no apparent reason.

I think the reason innocents suffer is that God is challenging us to do something about it.

I thought of this one Sunday when I noted every week a father brought his severely handicapped son to services, and I wondered what the point was, and why God would send someone so afflicted into the world.

And then I realized, God sent him into the world to teach me compassion. His life and his handicaps were blessings to those around him because of what he taught them. And as for the boy himself, I can't help but think God has something special in mind for him as well.

I guess that's a difference between believers and utilitarians, we don't believe a human life is wasted just because it's not ideal.

Posted by: V the K at January 8, 2009 11:11 AM

One problem with Pascal's wager is that it assumes you are worshipping the right god, the right way. .

But if you seek God in faith, surely you will find Him.

Posted by: V the K at January 8, 2009 11:13 AM

Meanwhile, while the Crucifixion is too horrible for Christian kids:

http://www.moonbattery.com/archives/2007/01/muslim_kids_cel.html

Posted by: Panday at January 8, 2009 12:16 PM

VK let me reiterate I do not seek to change your views. You are a good person and that is what counts. We both seek the same thing; compassion and morality towards others.

Our only difference is that I do not claim that I know the specific origination of those qualities. Like Harris I welcome any proof whatsoever, just as for everything else in life. And I am sure Harris and I both would be glad to be proven that the Christian vision of the afterlife is actual. That's better than just going out like a light bulb.

If one day I stand in front of the gates of St. Peter, I'll be happy to accept responsibility that I did not jump on that particular bandwagon. That I should go burn in Hell (Sorry, Telestial level) for eternity for it, does not make a lot of sense to me exactly but again, I'll have an open mind if an explanation is offered. Otherwise, being sent sent to Hell sounds an awful lot like somebody is trying to force me to do something I otherwise would not.

By the same token, everybody here is taking the same risk by not adhering to every single religion in the world. VK I appreciate that you tried so many flavors before you made your decision, and I wish others would do do.

Posted by: Air2air at January 8, 2009 12:24 PM

As I read back through the comments, I am struck that one side of the argument seems to be positive and affirming, while the other comes across as kind of bitter and cynical.

IMHO, going through life with that difference in attitude is worth the price of admission.

Posted by: V the K at January 8, 2009 3:13 PM