Entry: machination for the expostulation Sunday, December 19, 2004



Rules:

Each opponent will post one entry, to be followed by the other opponent. The other opponent will not reply to an entry before one hour as passed. This will allow the first opponent to make any changes. Once a reply has been made for an entry, the entry will not be deleted or edited without the express consent of both opponents and Major League Baseball. Entries will be concise and consist of less than 10 sentences. An occasional entry of slightly greater than 10 sentences will be permitted if not excessive. Putting quotes around the entire bible and pasting it in does not make for good debate. Responses will be made in a reasonable time. (That means less than one month ElvenSarah!)




My Opponent:

Will be a serious Christian who has read the bible and regularly attends a church and will give us an overview of their beliefs. I do not want to debate a cultural Christian who has no idea what Christianity is, and believes in Jesus because that is what Americans do. It would be a waste of all our time.

Cultural Christian: You should be a Christian!
Me: Why?
CC: Cause Jesus is warm and fluffy!
Me: So is a blanket.
CC: You're the devil and a communist!



I imagine the debate to begin thusly:

Opponent: Hello Elvensarah, my name is [name]. Have you ever heard of Christianity?

ElvenSarah: Kristy Annity? Is she a movie star or something?

Opponent: No, here is why you need to be a Christian....





Will anyone accept the challenge to try to convert Sarah?

   118 comments

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April 22, 2012   10:03 PM PDT
 
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boon
April 27, 2005   01:10 AM PDT
 
I take it I don't need to drone on for another 3 weeks? Well done, Sam. Why didn't I think of it?
ElvenSarah
April 23, 2005   03:54 PM PDT
 
I think that is the most convincing argument yet.
Sam
April 21, 2005   07:47 PM PDT
 
ElvenSarah,

You should be a Christian.

Sam
thinker1524@yahoo.com
boon
April 20, 2005   10:57 PM PDT
 
A reprieve:
Something light this week - a word from the sponsor, if you like. Some of you may have come across this before. If you have, contemplate the quotes against the last sentence. What has the one to do with the other? If not, read and hopefully, enjoy. And I hope the last sentence will come as a surprise and a provocation to you. This series of quotes lie at the very heart of Christianity. If you are no longer aware of this, you have strayed.

> What does Love mean?
> A group of adults posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

> "When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore.
> So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love."
> Rebecca- age 8
>
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> "When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.
> You just know that your name is safe in their mouth."
> Billy - age 4
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other."
> Karl - age 5
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> "Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs."
> Chrissy - age 6
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> "Love is what makes you smile when you're tired."
> Terri - age 4
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> "Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK."
> Danny - age 7
>
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> "Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more.
> My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss"
> Emily - age 8
>
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> "Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."
> Bobby - age 7
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> "If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,"
> Nikka - age 6
>
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
> "Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday."
> Noelle - age 7
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> "Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well."
> Tommy - age 6
>
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> "During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore."
> Cindy - age 8
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> "My mommy loves me more than anybody . You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night."
> Clare - age 6
>
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> "Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken."
> Elaine-age 5
>
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> "Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford."
> Chris - age 7
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> "Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day."
> Mary Ann - age 4
>
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> "I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones."
> Lauren - age 4
>
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------->
> "When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you."
> Karen - age 7
>
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> "Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross."
> Mark - age 6
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> "You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget."
> Jessica - age 8
>
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> And the final one -- Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge.
> The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing, I just helped him cry".
>
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> When there is nothing left but God, that is when you find out that God is all you need.
boon
April 15, 2005   05:52 PM PDT
 
7. Hope and prayer: the evidence of religion
===============================
One of the most common objections to Christianity is that if we have a loving God, why does he tolerate the sin and suffering in this world? None of us would tolerate this of our own children and loved ones. If we could, we would protect them from all harm and stop them from doing things that are harmful to themselves. Even if it means restricting their freedom in some way. If God is so powerful, why doesn't he do something about this? It isn't as if suffering happens only because of sinful acts. Sometimes, good intentions can have bad results. And bad intentions can have good results. Sometimes, it even seems as if good people are punished and bad people rewarded. Certainly, it is hard to get rich without being hardhearted or without somehow exploiting other people or the environment. It is often even hard just to do your job without being sometimes tough on other people. It is so difficult to be completely kind and honest and sometimes it seems not only easy, but necessary and perhaps even better, to cheat a little.

There is much in the Bible that addresses this question - in particular, the whole book of Ecclesiastes is a lament against this injustice. Jesus himself often warned that the Christian life might be filled with even more suffering than we might otherwise experience. Yet, he said that we ought to be joyful about this, to endure the suffering with joy. I don't quite understand this. It is odd, to say the least, to say on the one hand that he comes to save us, to lift our burdens, that his load is the lightest, and then tell us to endure the suffering that will come from following him. You would have thought that the whole point is to remove this suffering. If anyone were to tell me that he wants to lift my burden, I would tell him to just take away my suffering.

There are many books that deal with suffering. Some Christian, many not. Nearly every religion deals with this issue of sin and suffering. I will not repeat their arguments here but simply direct you to them. My favourite Christian authors on this are Philip Yancey and C. S. Lewis. But there is much to learn from comparing what they say with what non-Christians say as well. And here, my favourite authors include the Dalai Lama and Bertrand Russell. There are several good websites on this also and one of my favourites is http://www.livereal.com/livereal_home_page.htm. Their motto is "Where religion and science meets common sense". I like it that they place common sense above science, and much of what they say do make a lot of sense.

What I want to talk about in terms of sin and suffering is how we ought to respond to it. I was asked, just after the Asian tsunami, why God allowed it to happen. Of course, I don't know the answer. But, I did notice that the people who are actually suffering because of the tsunami did not turn away from God, nor curse him. On the contrary, they turned towards God more. In one rather dramatic incident, an Indonesian was lost at sea for two weeks and given up for dead. He was found alive and guess what, he thanked God. Toulon, in this website, said something similar - he believed because he surrendered himself to God and it changed his life. And it took him "coming to [the end of] my ropes" to do that.

My own experience is similar. I turned to God not because of a logical sequence of thinking but because I was at a low point in my life and needed a solution. I set myself a challenge: I will seek the truth. And if Christianity is at the end of that then fine. If not, then I will go where my journey leads me. After much reading and experimenting with various things, I found Christianity to be the most true to life. Not Christianity as such, but what Jesus taught in the Gospels.

As human beings, we are often not in control of things around us and of how our own lives are going. We don't even have much control over ourselves - we are bound by nature's needs (to eat, sleep, shit, etc.), by the way we were brought up, by what people we love do to us (much of which can be very hurtful, and over which we have little control), and our deepest, darkest needs and ambitions. Those of us who try to live a more fulfilling live despite all this can only do so if we have hope.

Hope
--------
Hope is the strangest thing. I said before that we live for love. But to love someone also requires that you have hope in your heart. Much of what we do and how we live hinges on this hope. If you like, we could say that we live for love, but we love through hope. We raise a child because we hope that he or she will have a happy life and that we will be enriched, perhaps even fulfilled, from the experience. We go out and meet people with the hope of falling in love. We work hard in the hope of gaining reward - praise, renumeration, recognition, etc. We are hopeful much of the time because the outcome is not certain. And yet, to hope without reason is foolish. A scientist would persevere in his work because he hopes that he will make a big breakthrough or discovery. He is hopeful because he has thought about the problem and it seems likely or possible that he might be right. He will be a most foolish scientist if he doesn't believe that he is heading towards success but is just mechanically trying out ideas at random. To hope requires us to do everything in our power to ensure the success of what we desire, and then, because even then the outcome remains uncertain, we hope for the best. To do less than that, to hope for the best without first doing everything in your power to increase the chances in your favour, is foolishness.

And the more hopeless the situation, the more important it is that you retain hope. Again, I don't mean a kind of foolish wishing. I mean that when times are at the worst, like during the Acehnese tsunami, it is even more important to remain hopeful and do everything possible to salvage the situation. If you don't have hope, obviously you won't be spurred to act.

So hope is odd in three ways: (a) we live in hope much of the time, (b) we hope because we have done everything we can and think that the desired outcome is a possibility, i.e. hope is rational, and (c) the more dire the situation, the more important it is to hope. You will readily see that hope is a great antitode to suffering. It strengthens your will to succeed and stirs you to act.

I don't know if you can see this but living in hope is to live in a relationship with God. If we go back to the analogy with science, the difference is between someone carrying out experiments without any knowledge framework and a true scientist. A scientist carries out his experiments from within a framework of ideas and after some very careful thought. You cannot be a scientist if you do not have some faith in a rational system that lies behind the area of your research. To live in hope meaningfully, in the manner that I suggested above, requires then that you believe in a rational explanation for the world we live in, that you believe that good will ultimately triumph over evil - all that is needed is some help from you.

I think this is the reason why religion was discovered very early in human civilisation. God, or the belief in some greater power than us who guides the world we live in, is more obvious or logical to our forefathers than the process and ideas of modern science. The reason why it is obvious is not a superstitious belief in spirits but a reflection on the fundamental relationship between life and hope.

Prayer
---------
Once you have come this far, the notion of prayer as a way to reach out to God is a very small and obvious step. To live in hope itself naturally leads to some attempt to reach out beyond yourself. An atheist friend of mine confessed that if he were caught in any large disaster, like 911 or the Asian tsunami, his first reaction would be to pray for intervention and salvation. It is a very natural thing to pray. We have a great desire for our prayers to be answered, and so we try different ways of praying. In the old testament, the idea of blood sacrifice was central to atoning for our sins and appeasing God. We don't do this anymore, thankfully. Jesus taught that the way to pray is to simply talk to God, and God listens to your prayers, not your offerings. God looks at your heart. In this sense, if you believe in offerings, then obviously, God is going to respond to those who make good offerings and not those who make offerings as a matter of ritual. I believe that the emphasis on good offerings in the Bible is because that part of it was written by human beings, who looked at the results but could not perceive the lesson behind them. As human beings, it is hard for us to tell what lies behind God's messages to us. Jesus could and made it very clear to us.

Looked at this way, it seems strange that we now see science as something self-evident and logical and hope and prayer foolish and without basis. No one living in any society before our modern times would have agreed with us. I suggest instead that living in this relationship with God was seen as the most natural and logical thing by our forefathers (and those 'uncorrupted' by modern cynicism). I think that the great ideal is to be able to live like this: to live for love, to have hope springing eternally in your heart, and to pray freely (i.e. to pray because you have a relationship with God and not because you have to, or in a way that follows any predetermined ritual). People who live like this are living lights in their community. I know, when I say this, that there are many people who are inspirational in this way who are not Christians or even religious in any way. I don't know how they do it. It seems to me that you need to believe in God to be so strong and positive about your life and the lives of others.

When times are at their worst, we often see humanity at its best. Historians tell us that the greatest teachers, the greatest art and the greatest literature are found in times and places of unhappiness and turmoil, not in times of peace and contentment. This is not an excuse for suffering - no part of my mind and my heart want suffering for me or for others. And yet, suffering, needless or not, is a daily fact. I used to be able to deal with that. But there came a time when I couldn't and I contemplated many responses I didn't like but seemed the only thing to do. Suicide was one of them. The only way out of that for me was to find God. I didn't want to believe in a lie, so I set myself this task - I will seek the truth. I found Jesus waiting at the end of this search. I don't fully understand what it is all about yet. I don't expect to. After all, there is so much of everyday life that I don't understand. But a lot of it made a lot of sense. I think this is at the very heart of Jesus Christ. What he meant when he said that he was the light, and that we should be the light of humanity.
boon
April 9, 2005   05:19 PM PDT
 
So far, I have argued for the existence of a God who, since he created the universe and all that , and if he created us and wanted us to follow some moral law, would have imparted some knowledge of that law into us. We would know instinctively what we ought to do. If he loved us as Christianity claims, he might send messages to us through various media (prophets, dreams, etc.) to help us additionally along the way. However, because we have free will, we can choose to listen to him or not, and often, his messages to us have been somewhat garbled and difficult to understand when translated through a human medium. Jesus came and clarified these messages from God - what God intended to tell us, and what God wants from us. It is not necessary for us to hear or know Christ in order to know what is good or bad or what is expected of us, Jesus often just reminded us of what we already knew. However, Jesus can be a great help, esp. for those of us who have become rather confused because of life's many complexities.

I believe that if God is really as portrayed in Christianity, then he is not going to be hung up on whether or not you are a Christian. He is more concerned with how you live your life. He sent Jesus to help us do that, and believing in Jesus and what he teaches is a great help in facing the difficulties in life. That's what it is about. And if Christians want to persuade other people to become Christians, we would do better if we focus on how Christianity can help us in our lives than in promoting Christianity as a system of beliefs. Early Christians were, I think, successful because of this (http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_ch.htm). They were loving to one another and were willing to die for their beliefs. It wasn't the miracles that moved the Romans to adopt Christianity but the unwavering faith of the early Christians. The thing about Christianity is that it is about Jesus, a particular person, and about people. It wasn't so much the teaching but the character of the people themselves.

In this context then, the question is:
5: How do we read the Bible
=====================
I have argued that if, as I believe, God is God of everything, then he is not likely to be concerned only with Christians but with everyone. If this is so, is it necessary to be a Christian? Well, no and yes. I will return to this at the end of the steps. Also, if God is not confined within Christianity, should we bother with the Bible then? I'll try to answer this question first.

1. It is a holy book
First off, I think it is safe to say that we can take the Bible to be a holy book. We need not, at this point, claim that it is any holier than other holy books from other religions. It is enough that the Bible is at least as holy as any other holy book and contains revelations from first hand believers or followers. It is possible that other holy books have been equally inspired by God. I have, for example, great respect for Buddhism. I certainly see Buddha as a great teacher and a holy person. The thing that makes the Bible different is, of course, it carries the story of Jesus. Without the Bible, we have no coherent picture of what Jesus taught, or what kind of person he is. The Bible also provides a context for Jesus - not just tell us about him but also about the events and society that led up to him and surround him.

Even if we take the Bible to be no more or less inspired by God than other holy books, we still have to face the fact of Jesus and how we respond to him - if at all.

2. It is a historical book
It is clear, from reading the Bible, that the authors of the Bible tried to give a factual account of the events that took place and of their beliefs. It wasn't meant to be a hoax - nobody at that time took it to be such. So, accurate or not, it was meant to be a historical book, a book telling the history of the Jews, and of Jesus. There were attempts to 'tamper' with the Bible (http://www.bible-history.com/). It was not written in one go, and without 'censorship' from church leaders. But all these attempts, including the various translations of the Bible available today, are honest attempts to keep the Bible truthful, not to twist it around to fit certain beliefs and not others.

Christians often like to claim as proof of the holiness of the Bible that it is so well integrated despite the fact is was written independently by more than 30 authors over several thousand years. I don't see this great consistency when I read the Bible. In fact, straight off in Genesis, you have two versions of the story of Adam and Eve. It is the inconsistencies that I like. It will have been easy enough for any of the later editors to 'correct' the inconsistencies and rewrite a Bible that is much more coherent than the Bible today. The fact that they didn't suggests that they were more concerned with remaining true to the original documents than with internal coherence.

It is because of this faithfulness of the Biblical authors that we can now study the Bible and argue over its contents.

3. It is written with an intention
Let's face it, the Bible was written by people who wanted to present a certain point of view and who wanted to convince their readers of a certain moral position. It is not objective in the sense that we think scientific textbooks are objective. But hold on a minute, are not science books also written to convince us of a certain viewpoint? No book is written totally objectively. We humans are incapable of that. So what if the Bible was written to present a certain point of view? Can we not read it with that in mind and see if we agree or disagree with it? The fact that it is written with a certain bias does not write it off. Everything we write is written with our bias. It does not invalidate the truthfulness of the Bible.

4. It should not be taken literally
So, I say that the Bible should be read carefully and closely. But it should not be taken literally. This is generally accepted by nearly all Christians today - you will actually find it impossible to live your life according to the Bible if you take it literally. For a start, there are so many different interpretations of what the Bible says, anyway. The way I read the Bible is to reflect upon how it may improve my life. I don't accept its moral teachings without question. I ask several questions:
a) does it enhance my own moral beliefs?
b) if it contradicts what I think is right or good, am I wrong or is the Bible wrong?
c) is my interpretation consistent with what is written elsewhere within the Bible?
d) is my understanding consistent with the world around me? A reality check.
e) what other questions does it raise?

If you find, like I do, that there are huge chunks in the Bible that you simply do not understand, read further - there are many books that try to explain the Bible cover to cover, or which address particular points in detail. Read also the books and writing that contradict what you think, even those of other religions or agnostics (like Bertrand Russell, I think he makes a lot of sense). Then, if you still do not understand it, stay that way. We are human beings. We are not supposed to understand everything.

I don't think you should, not are you required to in order to be a Christian, attempt to understand everything the Bible says. If you do, you may fall into the trap of thinking what you believe is the absolute truth. You will be wrong - we are not capable of knowing the absolute truth (see steps 1 and 2). It is enough that what you believe works for you. Stay within what you can comfortably handle - remember that Jesus hates hypocrites more than sinners. The great command is to love one another, not be all-knowing.

In summary, I think the Bible is special because, of all the holy books in the world today, it is the only one that tells the story of Jesus. I am convinced by his story, even though I do not fully understand all of it at the moment. I understand and believe enough to say that I want to stay on this path. I think it is possible that all holy books are inspired by God, and in that sense, all religions are inspired by God. But, as we saw in the Bible, human beings often distort - intentionally or otherwise - what God inspires. We can see that some religions actually teach the wrong things. We do that within Christianity too. So, be careful. Not everything is God sanctioned. We are meant to use our critical faculties. Think it through and decide for yourself. For me, Jesus is a tremendous guide. I am a Christian because of this - it doesn't matter to me whether or not Jesus did miracles or rose from the dead. His teachings and the way he lived his life ring so true and are such an inspiration that that is enough. Not only that, his life story also provides an answer to how we should approach religion.
boon
April 4, 2005   06:53 AM PDT
 
Christianity is viewed today as just another religion - one among many possible worldviews, all of which are equally plausible. Part of the problem lies with us. We need more structure in our lives than is necessary. So, God's instructions to us have a tendency to become enshrined in doctrines and rituals that somehow become binding moral laws. This can be seen in the Bible - both in Old Testament and in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the words of God to Abraham became rules by which the Israelites lived. The same thing happened to Moses and the Ten Commandments. In the New Testament, Jesus's good news became the foundation for a new religion (or several new religions, depending on how you look at it).

But is this what God intended? Or what Jesus taught? I think not. I think what God intended and Jesus reaffirmed will surprise many non-Christians as well as Christians. Again, at certain points, I shall refer to the Bible. This time to support my interpretation of the Bible but again, I do not ask that you take the Bible as absolute but simply approach it with an open and critical mind. Is what I am saying true? Does it make sense to you?

5. What Jesus really taught.
=====================
Sarah, I think you will like this part the most - although it is debatable whether or not you agree with me that this reflects the Gospels more accurately than conventional Christian doctrine. I must say that much of this is my own interpretation and for perhaps obvious reasons, many Christian leaders may not agree with some of the things I will be saying.

1. God's commandments are self-evident
When you read the Bible, it may appear as if God made different agreements with different people at different times - e.g. with Adam and Eve, it was not to eat the fruit from a tree; with Noah, it was to save his family while the rest of humanity was destroyed; with Abraham, it was a promise of a future kingdom; with Moses it was the promised land. Christians often propose that God made a new covenant with us through Jesus. They then go on to suggest that what this covenant means is that we ought to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and if we pray to God through him, we would be both saved (i.e. go to heaven) and blessed (i.e. be blessed in this life).

If you read the Bible as a whole, however, a different picture appears. God was often disappointed with the people because they were not good in his eyes. Cain and Abel did not have the benefit of the 10 commandments but they were still judged by God. It seems to me that what is good or bad is already known to us, and God judges us by this standard - the standard he gave us - and not an external set of rules or covenant. This is reflected by the life and teachings of Jesus. Jesus said that he came to fulfil the law, not to abolish it. Yet, in his life, he clearly and blatantly broke many Jewish laws - laws which can be traced back to the 10 commandments and Moses (for God did not just give Moses the 10 commandments but also a set of more than 500 specific laws about what they can or cannot do - Leviticus, which is essentially a list of laws). When I read the Bible, from start to finish, rather than a picture of God making different covenants with people at different times, I see instead a God who desired us to be good but who was instead bitterly disappointed again and again. And yet, he continued to love us. The analogy that Jesus gave, of God as a suffering but loving parent, is apt. The picture the Bible paints is of a parent who tries by several methods to guide his children towards good, and failing again and again. There were successes of course, it was not all a dismal failure, but failures were common.

The source of the failures was not our inability to live up to an external standard but our inability, and sometimes our wilful rebellion, against in inner unspoken standard.

2. Jesus despised hypocrites
In the gospels, Jesus spoke out more against hypocrisy than against any other sin or misdemeanour. In particular, he chose the priests and the Pharisees as his primary target. Let's repeat - these are Jews he is condemning. Abraham's children, who were supposedly chosen by God. Christians who reject the Jewish claim for entry into heaven forget that the Jews were chosen first before Jesus arrived. I often wonder if we Christians have not fallen into the same rut. It is so tragic that a message from the Son of God is so badly misrepresented by Christians that otherwise well-meaning and good people are turned off by us.

Jesus came to remind us of the simple command that God has put into us - love one another. We do this instinctively and, as I have argued earlier, we literally live for love. Knowing this command helps us understand the rest. Without this command, the notion of being good is quite empty and fruitless.

3. Jesus felt deeply for sinners
Throughout his ministry, Jesus saved sinners and forgave their sins. There were not many scenes - I cannot think of even one - in the gospels where a sinner actually has to confess his sins and repent to Jesus before Jesus would save him. It was enough that they came to him and were willing to be blessed by him. Jesus did not condone sin. He never said that we should go ahead and live a sinful life. He would say sin no more, or follow the rules, but he also said, open your heart to love and be joyful. He understood our struggle. And he forgave the sinner.

4. The aim is a relationship with God
Jesus did not preach an absolute obedience to God. He often said that we should ask and plead with God for what we want. He urged that we should pray and talk to God. But he did not promise a God who will fulfil our every desire. God, according to Jesus, knows best and we ought to submit to his plans, not ours. Jesus himself pleaded with God to be excused from the crucifixion. To no avail.

5. You don't have to be a member
There are instances in the Old Testament - Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (Jeremiah 22:25, 25:9), the people of Nineveh (Jonah) - when God blessed people who were not Jews. Indeed, as I read the Bible, I read about how God dealt with the world and did not just favour the Jews but blessed all who believed in him and obeyed his commands. Of course, the Bible only presented the Jewish part of the story. The Jews were themsleves often punished in the Old Testament. They were forgiven when they repented but it is not by any means certain to me that God only favoured the Jews. The story of the Jews is more significant in that Jesus was foretold and drawn from the Jewish lineage than that God showed any particular favouritism to them. This is consistent with Jesus's later ministry - he included non-Jews, even though the context of his teaching is best understood from within the Jewish or Hebrew law. He also often used people from other families, like the Samaritans, as models of good people.

There are two passages in particular, which I will quote somewhat in full, which to me clearly separates whom God favours and the simple idea of membership:
(http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/ - New International Version)

Matthew 7:21-23.
21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

John 8:33-47.
33They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants[b] and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?"

34Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37I know you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.[c]"

39"Abraham is our father," they answered.

"If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus, "then you would[d] do the things Abraham did. 40As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41You are doing the things your own father does."

"We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself."

42Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. 43Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? 47He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."

There is also the famous sheep and goats passage (Matthew 25:31-46). I won't quote this in full, but the essence of the passage is that God favoured those who 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." There isn't a single mention of worshipping only 1 god, or believing in Jesus, or obedience to the law. Instead, what is reflected are simple good deeds that comes from loving one another.

6. Jesus didn't write the Bible, nor ask for it to be compiled
I cannot find a single instance in the Bible where Jesus said that there ought to be a Bible for the people to follow. Instead, a strange injunction to the disciples to spread the good news was all that was asked. It is as if the news of Jesus's life was enough to liberate us. In the same way, Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for us, rather than the other way around (Mark 2:18-28). Now, in this particular reference, it is important to remember that the Sabbath was ordained by God in Genesis and so is often taken to be sacrosanct. That Jesus should say that he was master even of the Sabbath is a big deal. Christians often draw the distinction and say that this argues for the holiness of Jesus rather than that we should not be bound by doctrines. But looking at the Bible as a whole, I think the latter view - that we should not be bound by doctrines - is more persuasive. Jesus broke more laws than just the law of the Sabbath and encouraged his disciples to do the same.

Summary:
There is more evidence than I can present in this short passage, but what I want to suggest here is that according to my reading of Jesus, God will judge us by whether or not we are good people, not whether or not we are Jews or Christians or whether or not we believe in one God. Good in our hearts, and not just followers of doctrines and religious beliefs. If we are to take the Bible seriously, then I suggest that all good religions (there are bad religions) can be said to come from God. But sadly, as we can see in the Bible, the message is often misinterpreted and distorted by humans. Only Jesus could give us the simple law - love God and love one another. In this sense, to me, Jesus fulfilled all moral and religious laws. If you want to understand Buddhism, understand Jesus. If you want to understand Hinduism, understand Jesus.

There are three main points that Jesus made:
1. Love God and love one another. Know this and you know the law - i.e. the moral teachings of all religions.
2. Forget about claims about Heaven and other spiritual things. Jesus himself said very little about heaven, except to say that that is our reward. He did say that God keeps some things from us for our own good. But we should continue to believe in God and rely on him, and have a relationship with him. The call not to pray to idols stems both from Jesus's contention that there is only one God and that we should be careful not to be misled. Believing or not believing in God is not the critical question here. In an absolute sense, it doesn't really matter. But if we need some help to be good, then the right place to get this help is from God. It doesn't matter what you believe. The truth, whether or not there is God (or many Gods or no gods), remains whether you believe it or not.
3. Religion - the doctrines, rituals and regulations - is there to help us, not hinder us. In that sense, a deeper understanding of these doctrines is useful. For example, I find it helpful - spiritually, emotionally and mentally - to take a break every Sunday and go to church. I may or may not enjoy each session but the break is good. I love that we talk about the Bible, about God and what life is all about but I also love the rituals of holy communion and so on. So, for me, going to church on Sunday is a great doctrine. But I don't force going to church on the rest of my family. I don't think it is that important. Instead, I try to find other ways that we can recharge ourselves. The important thing is that we recharge ourselves - not going to church. Jesus said much the same thing - 23Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24). Life is more important than religion.
boon
April 1, 2005   04:46 PM PST
 
Chrys,

This is much better. Many thanks. I think it is important in this arena to be as clear as possible with what you mean.

I am not a scholar either, so we are on equal footing here. Indeed, I will say that you are much more convinced by Christian theology than I am. I have read some of the things you wrote about BUT....mmm, I dunno.

What I am setting forth is a much more simplistic viewpoint. One which I don't think contradict conventional Christian teaching - except in some areas - but one which I think captures the essence and sets Jesus in a different light.

I look forward to more of your input.
Chrysostomos
March 31, 2005   09:08 AM PST
 
Chrys,

"I am very cautious in interpreting the Bible. So, I cannot simply do what you say and come to the same conclusions as you."

I am not asking you to come to the same conclusions, I am pointing to something for you to search on.

"Indeed, I have rarely found the same reading of the Bible by different people - all of whom profess to be Christians and scholars."

I do not profess to be a scholar, a Christian yes, a amateur Hesychast, but not a scholar. I was never big on intellectualism. Most likely my previous experience with those who are enamoured with their knowledge of scripture. There is a big difference between knowledge about God, and knowing God.

"So, I am afraid your answer is not much good to me. You need to explain what you mean."

Not really, if I don't want to. I made a statement, if you wish to disprove me - do so, and why you disagree? Of course, your choice as well.

"If Jesus saved us from sin, then why do we all still have to die?"

I said Jesus saved us from death, not sin. He forgives us our sins, but saves us from death. What is it, that even people who have no religious background, athiests at that, wish more than anything else?
One word - Immortality.

Immortality = eternal life.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Death is spiritual death. Seperation from God.

"Why is Jesus the only person who was resurrected after 3 days?"

Because He is God in the flesh. He had to die, so that we would have immortality - eternal life through Him.

God became man, so that man could become god. Only god's are immortal. See Gal. 4:4-7 and Eph. 1:5. You and I become sons.

"And what do you mean when you say that sin implies death?"

The law was brought forth to convict man of sin. Wages of sin = death. All have sinned. All shall die a fleshly death, but when Christ returns, he shall redeem our bodies as well. Read 1 Cor. 15 for instance.

"Does the righteous not die also?"
See above.

"I'm somewhat confused."

Hopefully I have eleviated some of the confusion. Search the scriptures as I have suggested. There is much more to this than what I have shared. I am trying to make this as plain and simple as possible.

With humble bow,

Rd. Chrysostomos
boon
March 31, 2005   03:31 AM PST
 
Chrys,

I am very cautious in interpreting the Bible. So, I cannot simply do what you say and come to the same conclusions as you. Indeed, I have rarely found the same reading of the Bible by different people - all of whom profess to be Christians and scholars.

So, I am afraid your answer is not much good to me. You need to explain what you mean. If Jesus saved us from sin, then why do we all still have to die? Why is Jesus the only person who was resurrected after 3 days? And what do you mean when you say that sin implies death? Does the righteous not die also?

I'm somewhat confused.
Chrysostomos
March 30, 2005   02:45 PM PST
 
boon,

Jesus saved us from death rather than from sin, or from sin insofar as it implies death. Take your concordance and with the above, check out references to His death in lets say Romans. Look forward to your reply.

With humble bow,

Rd. Chrysostomos
boon
March 29, 2005   01:49 PM PST
 
Chrys,

So, how do you like my explanation about Jesus's crucifixion? If you like it, wanna know why we suffered from an Original Sin? Beyond the Adam and Eve story, that is.
boon
March 25, 2005   02:36 PM PST
 
My previous entries argued that we have various pointers to the notion that God exists. I didn't quite prove that there is only one God, but I think that the idea that there is just one designer behind the world we live in is quite strong. That this designer is singular, i.e. one mind, is suggested by the unity between the various theories of science, for example. The laws of physics are not contravened when we study chemistry or biology. It appears to be just one big design, rather than the work of several minds. Even if there were several minds, they appear to be working in accord, so we might as well consider it as one mind.

The evidence I have used are actually, if you think about it, the basis for the pillars of civilisation - science, art and philosophy (steps 1, 2 and 3 respectively). That these things exist are pretty good evidence to me that we are not just animals running around in a world without a deeper meaning and a deeper plan. Of course, that there is a plan to our lives is reflected in nearly every culture and certainly in every religion. There are very few parents who raise their children without somehow urging them to make something of their lives, and very few people go through life without an ambition of some sort, however simple or humble. We all know and expect that as we grow older, we have to grow up and hopefully become wiser. But I haven't yet argued for Christianity as such - simply that the idea of God and a grand design or plan is in fact reflected in the world around us, in our lives and in human civilisation itself.

Now, the thing to notice is that we don't all agree what this great plan is, nor even what our own life's ambition ought to be. If we look at other fields of knowledge, like science, where we can more easily agree what is true or not, we find that we are often wrong in our presuppositions. We don't get it totally wrong. In fact in many ways, what we propose are often quite correct. But we do not get everything correct. In various cultures around the world, there are different kinds of knowledge that are substitutes to science in modern society. They must work or else they would not serve the society they are part of very well. Even in the history of science, there are many instances where wrong ideas have been taken for the truth (http://www.strangescience.net/). Yet, these ideas were not completely wrong. They worked, but only to an extent. Human knowledge is characterised by this: it is limited in its scope. Over time, when we can, we replace the older ideas with better ones.

4. We are born to love
=================
"Love God, and love thy neighbour" is well known as the central teaching of Jesus. The main thing to understand about this is that Jesus claims that love is the essence and source for all morality and religious teaching. If you love someone, you will naturally know what is good or bad and the right way to treat him or her. One of our readers, Adsad, described this as religion in a bottle. Indeed, many people have pointed out that this teaching is found in almost all religions - that we should love one another. Some use the saying "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" as being equivalent to this teaching. Using this argument, they then suggest that every religion is the same and Christianity is just one of them.

But this is not so. Although the idea of loving one another is found in other religions, they do not put this teaching as central to their philosophy. I do not want to compare religions here, and so I shall simply make some claims about what Jesus taught which I do not think is taught, or claimed by other religions. The thing to remember is that we are looking at the details of the teaching and at the teaching as a whole, not just at some general similarities. This is as you might expect. If Christianity teaches the truth, then this truth would also have been discovered by other religions. The difference lies in the clarity of the teaching and the depth to which the teaching is true. The important thing, when you look into any teaching, is to ask how much of it is true, and how much of it is made up.

Jesus did not just say that if you want to know what is good or bad, then start by thinking about how you might act if you love someone. Jesus claimed a lot more than that. He claimed that love is the very essence of life. That you cannot be good unless you do this out of love. Good acts are not good acts unless they are loving acts. More importantly, when it comes to a conflict between good and love (and he went into some examples of this which I shall also go into below), then love is more important than being good. He claimed that when you live a life of love, you are free and joyful. This is why the gospels are called the good news. Jesus gave us a teaching that freed us from the burden of being good and showed us that if we love one another, then being good is the most joyful and natural thing. He then went on to say that you can love one another this way because God loves you this way. He also said that you cannot love this way unless you realise that God loves you this way.

From this point on, I shall have to refer to the Bible. But I will not use the Bible to support my arguments, rather I shall use my arguments to support the Bible. I hope this is ok with ElvenSarah and the readers.

This teaching about love is so important, I want to discuss various aspects of it in detail:
a) Jesus defined love
Throughout his teachings - it is best to read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) if you want to know more, but avoid the rest of the Bible for now (I will come to that later) - Jesus not only said we should love one another, but he defined what it meant to love. There are too many examples to list here but some of the more important ones include loving your enemies (Matthew 5:43-48), forgiving them as often as necessary (Matt 18:22), and dying for another (John 15:13). Jesus defined love as a selfless love, the love that puts the other person first. We all know what it means. We simply do not practise it a lot. Some people use the word love to mean a commitment of some kind - a girl once told me that she decided not to use the word love except for the man she intends to marry. Jesus meant for us to love everyone, including our enemies, but he certainly did not mean that we ought to marry everyone.

The idea that love is selfless is not a universal concept. Love does not figure in much of human history. Even today, we still feel the urge to marry not because we found someone we love but because of society's expectations. Children, in some places, are sources of additional income, not results of love. It was recently reported that a man in a certain tribe said that he loved his sister deeply. And that is why he threw acid on her face and disfigured her to prevent her from dishonouring the family name. If the Christian idea of love is so universal and widely accepted, we wouldn't need to fight for human rights.

b) Good acts are not enough
In the famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 & 6), Jesus said that it is not enough to avoid adultery, even lusting for someone else's wife is a sin; it is not enough not to commit murder, hating one another is already a sin. If you read it literally, it seems as if Jesus is asking us not to even think evil thoughts - which, as we know, is impossible. Yet, later in the same sermon, Jesus said that we should be perfect, just as God is perfect. So, it appears that he fully expected us to follow the sermon, even though we know we cannot. Seen in the context of his other teachings, however, it becomes clear that he was emphasizing the heart rather than our actions. He was not saying that murder is not a sin, but that it is what is in our hearts that matters. Modern psychology supports this teaching: if you hold a grudge or hatred in your heart, even if you don't act on it, you will (a) never be satisfied, (b) be unhappy because of this grudge, (c) be a spiteful and jealous person because the person you hate is not punished, and so on. It is not enough not to commit a wrongdoing, we need to let it go in our hearts as well. Even when you do good deeds, just doing them will not be enough. You need to have the right feeling in your heart. Or else you are likely to be self-righteous and secretly jealous of those who seem to be enjoying life.

c) Love is the source of life
Throughout his teachings, Jesus emphasized love. We literally live because of love. As a baby, we seek the love of our mother, and later our parents and then family and friends. We marry because of love. We suffer pregnancy and parenthood because of love. When we grow old, we hope that we will have people who will love us. Life without love is literally not worth living - and many people commit suicide because of this. Jesus did not teach us to be compassionate - that is not enough. We must love one another so much that our love extends to our enemies and we are prepared to die for one another. Jesus did not say either that we should seek happiness. Indeed, he said quite the opposite, that we will suffer if we follow in his footsteps, but we should be happy and filled with joy in our suffering. This is odd but true about people in love. When we are in love, we are happy to suffer for the people we love. Happiness, according to Jesus, is not an avoidance of suffering. It is not even the result of doing the right thing or the good thing. It is a result of love, of receiving and giving love. In this kind of happiness, there is also suffering, maybe even more suffering, but the suffering is joyfully borne.

d) Love is greater than good and justice.
Jesus gave several instances of how love surmounts good and justice. The two most famous examples are the prodigal son (Matthew 21:28-31) and workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). In the story of the prodigal son, the father celebrated the return of the son as soon as he saw him. There was no punishment nor reprimand. The fact that the son returned was enough for the father. When I ask myself what I would do as the father, I think that I would at least reprimand the son. I would also make the son prove himself by working himself up to the level of his brother. This would have been the fair thing to do. But Jesus claimed that the loving thing to do, to forgive with all your heart, is the right thing to do.

In the second example, an owner of a vineyard went out to get workers to harvest his vineyard. Although he recruited workers at different times of the day, he paid all of them the same amount, whether they worked for the whole day or for only a hour. Again, this goes against my sense of fairness. Again, Jesus claimed that love surpasses fairness. In this case, I believe that his argument is that all who are saved go to heaven. There is no better heaven for the saints and a lesser heaven for the rest, depending on how good we are, or how long we have been good. Put this way, I think that Jesus is right again.

I am not saying that you have to agree because this is what Jesus said. What I am saying is that if you find yourself agreeing with Jesus, despite the fact that you might have disagreed before, then you ought to think about becoming a Christian.

e) God loves us this way.
Finally, Jesus said that God loves us this way. Now, it will take a long time for me to prove to you that God indeed loves us this way. Firstly, we do not have a physical relationship with God the way we have with other people. Secondly, we all know that life is difficult, full of suffering and hardship, and we tend to want to blame God for this. What Jesus meant is that we are given more than we need to survive. There is much more food, water and air than we need. We can enjoy the beauty of nature, appreciate the emotion of music, use our brains to make tools, create wealth, write poetry, and generally enjoy life. Very few of us live like animals do, just carrying out their life functions. Even the most primitive societies have rich cultures, and their sons grow up to be warriors, medicine men, or leaders. The abundant potential of human liife is a testimony to God's generosity. Many religions, and most self-help books, tell us that most of us do not live our lives to its fullest potential. What Jesus is saying is that we can, and should, live our lives to its fullest potential. And we do this by loving one another. Again, modern psychology supports this - the people who are grateful for being alive are those who are happiest and healthiest. You might say that those who realise that God loves them are further blessed by him with happiness and good health.

So, you have to decide on two things. Is what Jesus saying the truth about life? It is paradoxical in many ways. He says that he brings good news, and then tells us to be happy when we suffer. He says that he came to save us, and then says that we should be prepared to carry our cross just as he carried his. He tells us that his yoke is the lightest, but expect us to die for one another. The second thing you have to decide is: do you want to live your life this way? If you answer yes to both questions, then you ought to consider Christianity seriously. It is not true that all religions teach the same thing. It is true that the truth is found in all religions. But that is not the same thing.
boon
March 23, 2005   02:56 AM PST
 
Sarah,

OK. I think, if you want, we can have a debate at the end of my 10 steps. Or not, whatever.

Chrys,
Sarah's answer is part of a theory that Christianity is created from an amalgamation of pagan beliefs (http://www.vetssweatshop.net/dogma.htm). Needless to say, Christians do not agree with this.

There are two Christian answers. I'll call them the theological answer and the practical answer respectively. You are probably familiar with the theological answer. Christians believe that we suffer from the original sin because of Adam and Eve. And since there must be punishment for sin, Jesus died so that we may be forgiven not only our original sin, but also all our other sins. This explanation is a bit hard to swallow for most people, so let me give you the practical version.

Lest I am accused of making this up, or if you think I am not talking about Christian belief, let me say where I learnt this - it's from a book by Philip Yancey called What's So Amazing About Grace. Incidentally, Sarah, he also wrote several books (see Soul Survivor, for instance) about how he survived US Christianity. So, you are not the only one who finds some forms of Christianity repugnant.

Anyway, back to the practical explanation. Jesus taught a radical kind of love - where you returned love for hate, forgive others even when they don't repent or apologise, and die for one another. That this is radical is easily shown by reading the Bible - in the Old Testament, God punished sinners, burned down cities, flooded the world, required the death of all enemies, including women and children. It was a world of battle betwen good and bad, and victory belonged to the righteous. Jesus came and taught the opposite - that we should not fight our enemies but love them, and that two wrongs do not make a right. The life (and death) of Jesus inspired Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr to lead peaceful revolutions and helped changed India and the US dramatically.

Yancey explains this better, but in short, Jesus died so that the world can learn that there is an alternative to war.
ElvenSarah
March 22, 2005   12:56 PM PST
 
Boon,

I mean my second post on this blog. It is the post above this one that contains the poll. It is located here:

http://debate.blogdrive.com/archive/2.html


Chrys,

I believe he did for the same reason as Mithra if I remember correctly. It has been a while since I have studied mithraism though.
ElvenSarah
March 22, 2005   12:51 PM PST
 
Folks,

My computer died :(
My only way of responding is through my work computer which is not really feasible. I hope to have another system soon so I can respond.
Chrysostomos
March 22, 2005   10:33 AM PST
 
Okay, Sarah, and others, why did Christ die on the cross? What was the purpose - what did he save us from?

Awaiting your replies....

With humble bow,

Rd. Chrysostomos
boon
March 21, 2005   08:23 PM PST
 
ElvenSarah, ummm, which is your second post? All I got is your request for my blog (which I don't have) and for me to post to this blog (which I am doing). I don't know if you think we ought to have a debate. Mainly because I don't know if you agree with what I am saying. My argument is my own, although it is also developed from what I read. It's somewhat hard to be completely original. What I do is read extensively, both for and against Christianity, and also other religions. What I am writing is my own conclusions from all that I have read. I am not just giving my opinion, but rather, hopefully putting forward a reasonable argument. In the process, I hope to put my thoughts about Christianity out there for comments, esp. yours.

You see, I became a Christian because I said to myself that I shall search for the truth. If Christianity is at the end of my search, fine. If not, so be it. I found Christianity at the end of my search. I thought that if I shared my thoughts with you perhaps I can see more clearly whether I am thinking straight or not. But I won't find out if you, or the rest of the readers, do not respond.

PS: Do you think, when reading my posts, that I am merely parroting what others have said?
ElvenSarah
March 19, 2005   07:59 PM PST
 
Boon,

I will only be debating one person. I am extremely busy. If you would like to actually debate me, then comment on my second post and I will add you to the poll. I will allow you to continue posting here though and I will comment if I see something of interest and have the time. Thus far, neither has occurred. I have heard this line of reasoning before as I have attended many creationist speeches and debates.

As for the doctrine issue, I have a problem with the entire notion of christianity. Differing sects and doctrine changes are no more appealing to me.

Please continue posting. I have no problem with people getting their beliefs down on paper, but if you are just parroting, word for word, the concepts that someone else has given you, then you are wasting both our time. When you write, think to yourself, have I heard this from someone else, or did I come up with this from working through the concept on my own? If these are your own thoughts, as much as a human in society can have, then your are entitled to them.



boon
March 19, 2005   01:29 AM PST
 
Hmmm, still no fire from anyone, least of all ElvenSarah. Sarah, were you looking to bash mainstream Christians because of all the misleading doctrines you have forced upon you? If so, I do regret it. Unfortunately, Christians are not ourselves free from wrongdoing and mistaken doctrines. We can discuss why perhaps at the end of the 10 steps. In the meantime, those of you who are interested in some of the more conventional, and perhaps better argued views may like to try:
http://bede.org.uk/
http://www.philosopher.org.uk/god.htm

The story so far:
============
Over the last two instalments, I have tried to argue two observations: one, that there appears to be a design to the world we live in, and therefore, we are able to make some guesses about the mind behind the design, and two, that the important things about the real world is fully accessible to most, if not all, of us even though we are not really able to understand any of it completely. Both these observations suggest that there is a greater mind behind our world and that the world is not entirely abitrary or random.

The idea that there is a hidden design to the world is reflected in most cultures. All religions of course begin with that premise - if there were no hidden design, there would be nothing to impart in terms of religion. Science itself presupposes that there is a design behind this world, otherwise why bother to discover the laws of science? We may argue whether or not there is someone behind this design. It doesn't matter. The fact that we are searching for the design, or the rules that govern the design, is enough to suggest that (a) we think that there is a mind behind the design, and (b) we are interested to learn how the mind works. Indeed, in the beginning of the scientific revolution, it was often proposed that in science, we see the workings of the mind of God.

The idea of design, however, is less significant to me than the observation that most of the things that matter in life - beauty, love, music, sensory pleasure, emotional wisdom and humour - are available to us regardless of whether we are rich or poor, old or young, wise or dumb. Most importantly, whether or not we are good people (and deserve to go to heaven or not) does not depend on anything except ourselves and our own willingness or desire to be good. And yet, none of these things are themselves easily understood nor analysed.

Which brings me to the third step:
-------------------------------------------------
Life is unbearable without meaning. And yet, the meaning of life seems to be either insignificant or else beyond knowing. Many, if not all, of us search for meaning in our lives. Sometimes we think we might find it through success in something, by becoming a great scientist, artist, leader or whatever. Sometimes we think it is a matter of finding the right partner. These objectives, however alluring, seem unattainable and often dissatisfying (http://mixednuts.net/depression-famous.html). The real meaning in life - loving one another, enjoying the flowers and the birds, taking pleasure in doing a good day's work - these things are so 'easy', they seem not worth the effort.

The people who makes the most difference to our lives, whom we value the most, are often the very people society forgets or ignores - family, friends, relatives, and so on. The grandmother who quietly cares for the grandchildren and who takes up the slack left behind by busy parents, the friend who always has time for you, the employee who is always on time, diligent and yet seem to need no reward other than to do a good job - many of them are 'ordinary', often doing simple unassuming work, and yet, without them, society will literally fall apart.

Perhaps 99.99 percent of us will be forgotten by society as soon as we die. But this does not mean that we should live our lives without responsibility, without caring for the people around us, without trying to be a good person. What reward will we have for our good deeds if we are good? From this world, probably a lot less than we deserve. And yet, we feel that this urge to be good is the right stuff, and we hope and desire that the people around us are also good. I need not repeat that we value such good people very highly.

This urge to be good, despite the lack of earthly rewards, is not, and was not in times past, universally acknowledged. Some people, and some societies, do turn their back and measure the degree of good they ought to do by the amount of return they might get - it is ok to do anything as long as you don't get caught. But most of us do feel that it isn't alright. Even if you don't get caught, it is better to be a good person (or at least try) than not. And for those who are good in this sense, we do feel that they deserve some greater reward, that there ought to be a heaven to redress the imbalance in this world.

The third step or argument then is this: the meaning in our lives comes from being a good person for which there appears to be no material reward in this lifetime. Without this meaning, we often find our lives not worth living. Searching for meaning in our lives through ambition or other worldly reward does not always bring us the satisfaction we crave. The people who seem to be most happy in this world are often those who are happy with life the way it is, finding beauty in the world around them, finding joy and love in the people they meet in their lives, being happy with the ordinary things in life (http://www.biopsychiatry.com/happiness/). This happiness is, again, not restricted to the rich or the poor, the clever or the stupid, the talented or the untalented, the smart or the poor - all of us have just as much access to this happiness. We simply need to make up our minds to choose this. Making this choice is easier if we believe that there is God, that our lives are valued by this God, and that there is a better world waiting for us at the end of this life. This belief can take many forms, and is the primary reason why there are so many religions in this world, throughout our history.

These then are the three legs upon which my argument for believing in God rest. By themselves, they do not prove that there is God. But taken as a whole, the explanation they offer is, to me, reasonably convincing. It is about as scientific as it can get - we postulate that there is oxygen in the air because of the effects of it, rather than because we can actually see oxygen. We believe the existence of oxygen because it explains something that we can observe. We do not say, for example, why should there be an explanation for what we observe? We simply accept that if there is an explanation, then the explanation supports the truth of the proposition. People who say that there need not be an explanation for the world is saying something akin to this. They might as well say that science is not true because it explains things but does not explain why there must be an explanation in the first place. Maybe things are the way they are and there are no explanations for them. So the logic that suggests that there is oxygen in the air we breathe is simply our own imposed rationalisation on something that need not have an explanation. Such an argument could well be true, of course, and we cannot dispute it. But, it is not a scientific argument.

I am aware that perhaps I may not be quite as convincing as I ought to be - given the constraints of space and time. I do not expect that I will be all that convincing on my own accord. All I hope to achieve is to put my thoughts online and see what you think. If I can show that Christianity is not all that silly, then I have achieved my aim. If not, maybe I can learn from the comments from ElvenSarah and the readers. At the end, we have to choose for ourselves - to believe or not.
Akira3099
March 13, 2005   12:41 PM PST
 
No debating, but I would REALLY like to talk to you about Christianity. Contact me if you'd like.
boon
March 11, 2005   02:55 PM PST
 
Hmmm. No big debate yet. Does everyone agree with me or do you simply not care? Maybe the whole debate is irrelevant. Still, I'll keep on posting approximately once a week until someone stops me or until I get bored with talking to myself (whichever comes first)... :).

The story so far...
=============
The previous instalment argued that we cannot prove anything beyond a question of doubt. This is an important idea in science, in which less is actually proven beyond any doubt than we laymen might imagine. Much of science begins with some premises that seem self-evident. There are premises behind not just every scientific theory, but all all of mathematics and philosophy. Indeed, all forms of knowledge, both eastern and western, are based on various, so called "self-evident", premises. Of course, what is self-evident to some is not at all self-evident or convincing to others. Within this context, it can be argued that the order and beauty that we see in nature suggests that there is an organising mind behind it - i.e. that there is a design to the world around us, and that therefore, there must be a designer.

Of course, there are many counter arguments to this. One of them is that there must therefore be an even greater mind behind the designer. And the hierarchy can go on until infinity. But this argument is irrelevant to us. Our only concern, if there is such a mind behind the design of the universe, is (a) whether this mind is accessible to us, and if so, (b) what can we learn about the nature of this mind. It doesn't matter if there is another creator (let's call it Creator 2) higher than the creator of the universe (Creator 1)because we have no access to Creator 2. We have only limited access to Creator 1, and what we know about Creator 1 does not suggest a Creator 2. Since the designer argument must logically end with a top honcho creator, then if we use the Occam's Razor principle - the simplest answer is the best answer - then we should stop at Creator 1, or God.

Argument 2: Nothing real can be understood completely
A friend once asked me why if there is God, why did he make it so difficult to understand him? Actually it is not difficult at all. In the New Testament, Jesus was accepted by many people who were not at all intellectual giants. Children, in particular, were identified by Jesus as being particularly special and favoured. If we look around us, religious people are not restricted to those with high intelligence - in fact, the opposite is often the case. Ordinary folks often have no problem with religion or God. It is often the intellectuals, who imagine that they have understood everything, and whatever they cannot understand, must therefore cannot exist, who have the most problems.

This is clearly a form of conceit. Experts who claim to understand everything will actually find that even in their own fields, not everything has been understood. In fact, I will claim the reverse - that nothing real can be completely understood. If we make something up, then yes, what we make up can be completely understood, or we can make it so. But if something is real, something that we didn't make up, then that real phenomenon is beyond our complete understanding. Take music as an example. It is, at some level, simple enough. There are 8 notes to an octave, and by playing around with these eight notes, you get music. But, as you go deeper into the subject, it gets more and more difficult to explain and understand. What is the difference between music and noise, for example? Often, you can feel the effects but cannot quite explain why. Another example is the taste of food. There are supposed to be only 4 different kinds of taste (http://www.sff.net/people/mberry/taste.htm) but the taste of food for us is so much more complex and interesting. Even the temperature of the food affects our taste (and is, in fact, an important component of the experience of taste).

Life itself is a great example of something that cannot be understood completely. We know what life is and what are living things and what are not. But life cannot be defined clearly enough as a scientific concept and depending on the definition of life, computer programs can be a form of life (http://alife.fusebox.com/), and our planet earth can be considered a living thing (http://www.gaianet.fsbusiness.co.uk/gaiatheory.html).

The amazing thing is that while nothing can be understood completely, everything that is important in life can be accessed and appreciated by nearly everybody. You don't need to be an Einstein to be amazed by the stars in the sky, or a Beethoven to enjoy his music. Most importantly, you don't need to be a genius to be saint.

This point is important in two ways:
1. While the world is complex beyond understanding, and life, as we live it, seems also complex beyond understanding, yet when it comes down to the fundamentals, whether or not we are good people, it is not a matter of birth or genetics. We don't have to be smart to be good. We don't have to be old either. Many young people are good in their innocence. We don't even have to be taught (although upbringing is important). We don't have to be rich or powerful. Indeed, often these worldly advantages can hinder rather than help us in our ability to be good.
2. While so many aspects of reality - morality, music, beauty, wisdom - are beyond understanding, they are not beyond our appreciation. If we go back to our first premise of God, as God the designer, then he is so brilliant that he is able to design things that are beyond our understanding and yet not beyond us in its essential appreciation - we can enjoy it quite completely without having to understand what it is all about.
potencia
March 9, 2005   03:49 AM PST
 
To JFZ and Sarah: You missed the point that I was trying to make on that rant, I think. You didn't check out the first few links apparently, because even though I overlooked the fact that Teper was tring to pass a law (my archives for nov. 28th 2004) for death by guillotine and it didn't actually get passed, the other law public law 102-14 that I mentioned first did get passed. It speaks for itself. There were a lot of links to Jewish sites about the Noahide laws and death by decapitation, and a link to the legislature showing that it did pass. Was that fact overlooked?
Boon
March 2, 2005   08:39 PM PST
 
Prelude:
-----------
What follows are a series of arguments, none of which entirely conclusive (and I will attempt to explain why this is so) and so may be argued about for a very long while. Perhaps, ElvenSarah could start a new page for each argument so that readers may skip back and forth with greater ease. If so, there might be 10 (+1) webpages, each carrying a thread or an argument. The +1 page (or page 0) could be the first (previous) argument - an introduction already generating some feedback. In page 0, the topic is why should we believe anything at all and why can't we just believe whatever we like - regardless of whether it is true or not.

Here begins argument 1:
1. No truth can be proven absolutely
============================
Sometime in the 17th century (http://www.iep.utm.edu/d/descarte.htm), a philosopher, Rene Descartes, tried to develop a philosophy on life without any preconceptions. He is noted to have said "cogito ergo sum", which is often translated as "I think, therefore I am.". Without going into the details of his philosophy, I'd like to raise here a problem he had to resolve in the process of developing his philosophy. Is it possible that there exists a wicked God who tricked him (and us) into thinking that this is reality while actually it is all a dream? After much thought, he concluded that there is no way of knowing if God is indeed wicked and is hiding the truth from us, or is loving because he reveals the world to us through our senses and our logic.

The argument I want to set before you is that there is no such thing as absolute proof (http://www.edge.org/q2005/q05_print.html). All science begins with some premises and/or laws. Even philosophy. Indeed, every branch of human knowledge, whether eastern or western. For example, Newton's Laws of Motion cannot be proven. They are simply accepted as 'common sense' and used to calculate the forces that must exist in order for the laws to apply. For that matter, force itself cannot be seen physically. When a stick hits a ball, for example, we say that a force is applied by the stick to the ball. What we can see is the stick making contact with the ball, but we cannot see the force itself. And yet, for all mathematical and scientific purposes, the force is real. In the same way, much of mathematics cannot be proven. Even a simple thing like a common reality, that we share a common reality, that you are someone out there reading this and that the dreams we have are not real like this world is real, cannot be proven.

Consider this quotation from the website mentioned above:
"SETH LLOYD
Quantum Mechanical Engineer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

I believe in science. Unlike mathematical theorems, scientific results can't be proved.They can only be tested again and again, until only a fool would not believe them.

I cannot prove that electrons exist, but I believe fervently in their existence. And if you don't believe in them, I have a high voltage cattle prod I'm willing to apply as an argument on their behalf. Electrons speak for themselves."

Most of us non-scientists are probably surprised by this view of science and electrons.

So, while I say that I am going to prove Christianity is the one and only true religion, it will be the case that if you choose to disagree, you will have some grounds to disagree. You may question the premises, for example. And I will be unable to disagree with you, because premises are by their very nature something you either accept or not.

OK. So, the first proof of God then is for me, the rationality and design of the universe. This is an old argument, of course. But for me, a persuasive one. By itself, it does not prove that there is God, even less that God is loving, but it does, to me, point to the idea that there is someone out there [I won't say "something out there" because I think the evidence points to a being that is more like us human beings than anything else around us - plants, animals, stones, or the world. That is, the 'creator' of the universe has more in common with us human beings in that he seems to be able to think, to have a value system, and to delight in beautiful things. He (or she, it doesn't matter to me) is more like me than he is like animals, or plants, or non-living objects.]. Now, I entirely accept that I am 'creating' this God out of my own understanding of the world I live in, but this is actually quite scientific - we understand what we don't know by comparing it with what we know. When I look at the scientific explanation of the world, I am truly astounded:

1. The entire universe and all its beauty stems from just a big bang. This big bang is not even a big bomb or planet exploding. It was just a big bang. There was nothing (even this nothing did not exist) and then suddenly a big bang. From the bang, matter was created and then, because there is matter, there is space - which is just the emptiness between matter. And thus was created time, gravity, and all the rest of reality. Now, how cool is that?
2. Laws of science are absolutely precise - the conservation of energy, for example, does not allow for even one iota of energy loss. Also, the basic laws are simple to the point of absurdity - e.g. nothing moves unless there is a force to move it. Given such simple laws, and the fact that scientists have been studying nature for God knows how long, isn't it astounding that we cannot predict the weather even today? Think about it. The weather is caused essentially by inanimate objects - the air, the rotation of the earth, the sun, etc - about which we know their size, weight, and the laws that determine their behaviour. And what we don't know, we can certainly measure. And yet, we cannot even tell if there is going to be a snowstorm in London this winter. The new laws of chaos, which helps us understand nature better, shows that chaos is not disorder, but a higher order, an unpredictable order. It is not nature disobeying the laws, but obeying it absolutely strictly. We simply don't understand the laws well enough.
3. Once we get to this higher mathematics, we find a new fundamental element of nature - fractals. Fractals are amazingly beautiful (http://astronomy.swin.edu.au/~pbourke/fractals). Not only that, they are made of themselves. They are not like triangles, which are made up of lines, which are made up of dots. As you move in closer and closer, i.e. increase the magnification, you find that the complex shape does not become simpler but retains its form. Not only that, because of this quality, the length of the boundary of the fractal is effectively infinite. It is infinity captured in the microscopic.

As our knowledge increases, I find the new discoveries ever more amazing and incredible. Nature can obey strict and simple laws and yet create an infinite diversity without breaking any of the laws. This does not prove that there is a God, but it sure suggests strongly to me that whoever (or whatever) created this world, if he (she) is out there, is pretty damn amazing. For a long time, scientists believed that we have discovered all the laws of nature, and that the reason why we cannot predict some things (like when your car will break down) is simply because there are too many variables. Chaos theory shows that even when we know all the variables, and know all the equations, we still cannot predict the result. To me, this suggests a higher mind than ourselves. Some parts of the universe are easily predicted, and as we study deeper into the problem, we don't find chaos, not even the uncertainty we expect, but a grander design and a deeper certainty than we expected. Oh wow.
boon
March 2, 2005   04:03 PM PST
 
MR FAITH brought up a good point. There's nothing wrong in believing whatever you want - whether or not it is true. And I like the bread and wine during holy communion. To each his own.

The point here, however, is whether Christian faith has any foundation? So, I hope that our discussion here is seen not as an attack on other faiths and beliefs but as only a discussion on Christian faith - whether or not, Christianity can lay any claim to being the one true religion. I am more than happy to put this question under debate. Now, readers from other faiths, or no faith, may be threatened as a result. To them, I say, firstly, we cannot prove anything beyond any question of doubt, and secondly, even the most logical and persuasive argument can be wrong. Of course, if as a result of my argument, you should decide to become a Christian, welcome!!!

But, I am not looking to convert anyone (except ElvenSarah, since she asked for it and then asking her hand in marriage after that - *just joking*). I am simply rising to the challenge and putting my faith to the test.

Cheers, boonlay.
MR.FAITH
March 2, 2005   08:31 AM PST
 

What's wrong with believing in something greater then my self that I can't full understand? Not saying the crazy fucks that bomb abortion clinics are anywhere close to right or god, but nether are the Muslim fundamentalist that attacked the US and brought down the twins. Every side has crazy people
but I think the majority of people just want to believe in something more. Why is that so wrong?

P.s. I think we should all become Jewish because I really like that beanie hats you get to wear.
Boon
February 25, 2005   12:27 AM PST
 
Christianity 101
==========

Let's face it. If you want to reject Christianity, you can, and Christians today, as evidenced by the submissions here, no longer go around condemning people just because they reject Christianity. But, if we admit to being Christians at all, we must also hold the belief that Christianity is the one true religion. And here we have a challenge, and I am calling upon all Christians out there reading this to rise to the challenge. Let's do it rationally, however, with as little personal attacks as possible on both sides. It could be fun, and should be fun, even if we don't finally agree. I will submit to this blog instalments of my argument. I suppose and hope that this will generate views and arguments and counter-arguments from all the readers. When we exhaust one topic, I will then move on to the next. The overview is as follows:

I shall try to prove (yes, prove, haha) the following:
1. that there is God, and only 1 God
2. that this God is the Christian God
3. that Jesus is the Son of God
4. and that Jesus was sent down to save us

And I shall use the following 10 "easy" steps:
1. No truth can be proven absolutely
2. Nothing real can be understood completely
3. Life: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
4. We are born to love
5. What Jesus really taught
6. How to read the Bible
7. Hope and prayer: the evidence of religion
8. Grace: Beyond good and justice
9. Heaven and hell
10. Why believe?

If the readers and ElvenSarah are happy about this arrangement, I shall send the next instalment next week. Let the debate begin...
Low Emissions
February 23, 2005   08:58 AM PST
 
Oh wow...

It's been awhile since I've been here and it's changed a lot during that period, too. I think I just want to add my two cents about religion, and, although I read almost all of the comments, I think I'd rather not comment on any - except one in particular - because I don't want to get too much into this.

I used to be a Lutheran. For several years I attended church with my family, went through Confirmation, went to church sponsored events, put my petty childhood change in the collection bin, ate the flesh and blood of Jesus... only to realize that I have no grasp as to what Lutheranism even is. I didn't know what I was doing there, and I still don't.

I do however understand, or at least call it an understanding considering some could have different views, that Christianity, Lutheranism, or, simply put, religion in general, is not necessarily about wanting to get into Heaven and believing in a God, gods, or essence, it's about leading life.

What do I mean by that? Well, personally it saddens me to see all these people believing that a single book tells the works of how our world was created by some omnipotent being, but I will credit the Bible, Jesus, and God for at least one thing: making lives better. Or trying to. Families take their children to church to have morals taught to them; to teach them that bad things can and will happen, and that the best thing to realize is that there will be something better down the road. I'm not talking about an afterlife, I'm saying that if you've got a headache today, just think that you won't tomorrow. Not the best example, but an example nonetheless.

I now stand agnostic, which, as far as my understanding can grasp at the moment, means that if God himself comes down from heaven and smacks me in the face and proclaims,
"YOU SHALL BELIEVE!!!"
...then I will. Or better yet, if when I die I somehow realize that my atman has left the shell of my body for another, or better still, for the Brahman that is the 'totality of the universe as it is present outside of' myself and you, the reader, as well, I will become Hindu. :P

I like religion. I think it's interesting stuff, all the myths, beliefs, and actions taken throughout trying to reach a blissful eternity, and I think it's good that it attempts to teach people the good morals in life that all people should have (you know, so we don't run around and kill random people type of thing?), but that doesn't mean I think people should take it literally, either.

Alright, now for my comment on somebody elses statement. I couldn't help but giggle when I read it because we're actually learning about Christianity in my religion class (the second I've taken in my college career). Let me find a quote...

"...Heck, the bible wasn't even formed by then. Think about it. The bible was really even ready for the masses until what the 1500's? The majority of citizens couldn't read, so when does one say that the masses had true access to it, and could understand?Heck, the bible wasn't even formed by then. Think about it. The bible was really even ready for the masses until what the 1500's? The majority of citizens couldn't read, so when does one say that the masses had true access to it, and could understand?..." --Chrysostomos

Alright, I'm not here to argue about it, just state an opinion. You're right, the Bible was first thrown together around 1500, give or take, because Christianity then was not one thing. It was diverse, teaching different things city by city and country by country. The emporer Constantine (whom nobody really knows if he was actually Christian or just wanted to get a majority of people on his side of the election or whatever) decided he wanted *one common practice, one common thing to teach around: The Bible. He put up the funds to make 50 bibles, and told them to make them all the same. What do they say to an Emporer? They didn't say they haven't decided which books are staying and which ones are going, that's for sure. Unfinished and unpopular ones - among others - were left out of the 'final version' of the Bible in order to please an Emporer. But I digress from the point of my story, which is simply...

Did you guys know that the first guy to translate the Bible from - Latin, right? - into English wasn't liked by the church? In fact, they disliked him so much for using a printing press and translation - in other words, making the good book and all it's teachings widely available for all to have an understand in their own way, digressing the power of the clergy and the knowledge they have over the common folk to read, write, and understand the works of the Bible - that they tortured and burned him alive? I do believe that happened around the time that Christians were travelling the countryside, killing all that proclaimed a different religious belief on their way to the 'holy land' that they would eventually burn to the ground. Which is right before they would go wipe out entire civilizations in the name of Christ across the Atlantic. Which was right before they started enslaving natives, working them to death or frying them for the dogs to eat, and *one* man had the balls the speak up and suggest that they enslave Africans instead, because Africans already enslave other Africans that have been captured in 'just' wars. And that was just before thousands upon thousands of Africans were being captured in 'just' wars, leading to a profound sense of regret held by the man who made that suggestion in the first place.

XD

If you guys would like, *please* come by my blog and catch my email address from me. I'll try to remember to come back to see if there are any responses to any of this, but I can't guarantee anything. God hasn't taught me how to remember things beyond five minutes yet. ;)
Elle--
Kayla
February 22, 2005   05:30 PM PST
 
I don't think that anyone can force you to believe anything that you don't want to believe. I believe in God and Jesus, but that is just me. Many of my friends don't, some of my friends do. I basically have been through rough times that have made me believe. You may have an experience, and when that time comes, it will. It doesn't concern me whether or not you convert. But hey, nice art, you have talent.
ElvenSarah
February 21, 2005   06:49 PM PST
 
Boon

Do you have a site you keep that we can read? If not please comment more so we can get to know your stance. Thanks.
ElvenSarah
February 21, 2005   06:31 PM PST
 
Sorry for the delay.


Chrysostomos,

I briefly read over the miracle of the holy fire and it seems to me to be much like the other "miracles" I hear about on the internet. If such things should convince me, then I should be a hindu as they have the miracle of the statues producing milk, or a muslim as they have the miracle of the grapefruits with seeds that spell Allah. A cursory search on the internet brings up hundreds of such miracles. My question would be, if God is truly interested in making him known through miracles, why doesn't he do so? Why play with mystical parlor magic tricks when He could just visit each person personally and spend time with them answering questions for 30 minutes. Is that too much to ask of an all power God who puts our eternal life on the line of a decision? Why can't God's miracles be differentiated from all the other Gods? Is he afraid too many will be saved? Why has God become so shy in modern history?




Little Robot
February 21, 2005   03:55 AM PST
 
This does not compute....
Debating religion is equivilent to banging ones head against a wall, I must find a way to convince Sarah to return to her Elven ways....
boon
February 13, 2005   12:53 AM PST
 
I wrote earlier to take you up on your challenge. I am a recent Christian and I think I have a different handle on Jesus than most conventional dogma out there. When I test out my thoughts or ideas with those in the know, my pastors, my other Christian friends, they seem to agree with me so I am not far off the mainstream.

If you take up my challenge, can you e-mail me at ongboonlay@gmail.com?

Many thanks, boonlay.
boon
February 13, 2005   12:50 AM PST
 
OK. I'm a bit late but I'll like to try. First off, do you believe in a universal form of moral good, a kind of human rights thing? And if so, do you agree with me that the motivation for good is found in the love you feel for someone else? That is, if you love someone, then your feelings towards him will be good in the moral sense?
Toulon
February 9, 2005   08:21 AM PST
 
Thank you for the invitation. I have read many of the entries. It's not for a lack of information that those who choose not to believe, do not believe. There are libraries of information that can inform you on histories and current events that point to the divine. There is nothing that I could tell you that you would believe as infallible. Everything that comes from my lips (or in this case, the keyboard) is from my own perspective. So that is all I can give you. An accounting of what I believe and why.

The spectrum of understanding of what I believe is from nearly impossible to completely believable and everywhere in between. This will be more than your ten sentences rules, so forgive me, however there is no other way to explain what it is that I believe.

I believe that Jesus is who He says He is through the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the Pauline Epistles. Why. Why do I believe these things now? It is within us all to seek a god and worship him or her. Atheists call it science, Polytheists call it many things, Gnostics call it divine intellect, Agnostics call it confusion, Monotheists believe in one god. So you see, we all seek the “divine” in one way or another. We must find something larger than ourselves. Some say, “I do not need a god, nor do I believe in one,” usually with a tone of anger or resentment in their words. That is because even though they do not believe in anything, they have focused their need for “something greater than them” on any number of things: themselves, science, non-science, nothing at all, the desire though is still there. That is why anyone is willing to debate it at all. This is all distilled from my own knowledge. From what I have seen in my life and what I have heard. When I look deeper into in the matters of the heart and what men and women desire, that is what I find.

Why have I chosen Christianity over all the other religions on the pallet of divinity? I tell you the truth, I have tried and practiced most of all the rest. In all the things that I have done, Christianity is the only peace I have found. Everything else was empty, void of God. Then again, I was never looking for God in any of the other things I did: Wicca, ZEN Buddhism, Atheism, Gnostics, Agnostics, even Satanism, et. al.

All the while, I had pointed fingers at Christians. I had pointed out what I thought were loopholes in their beliefs. I had become very angry with those who claim to be Christian, but only Christians. Weird eh? Why did I hate only Christians? Anyhow, I trampled the beliefs of any Christian that crossed my path. I felt, that they were a waste of space and a desolation to my beloved country and it’s freedoms.

I was wrong.

It took me coming to my ropes end. I had become what I feared. A loathsome creature who not only hated the world but also hated myself. I was on the fast track to becoming an alcoholic, abusive, …well you know those stories, you’ve heard them before. I was, very seriously, contemplating suicide. I was utterly depressed. I was also obsessed with my appearance, what others thought of me. Starving myself to lose weight, spending more time at the gym than I did at home (not actually, but practically). I sought tawdry love affairs. The list goes on.

Then, one Tuesday morning, probably the most infamous in our current history, something happened that changed our world. It definitely made a huge paradigm shift in my life. I had heard over and over before that day that Jesus forgives; God loves us so much that he sent his only Son to die for us, our proxy, our pinch hitter. He paid the price for our sins. The simplest thing in the world to do to accept this gift of eternal life and forgiveness from my sins, was to believe and say a prayer. Funny how the simplest things can be the most incredibly difficult things to do. It would prove to be the defining moment that would change my life forever. I fell to my knees, truly surrendering myself over to God. I had no more energy to fight whatever it was that I was fighting. I had no idea what was going to happen, but I felt for the first time in my life, in my heart that Jesus is the answer. I said a prayer, regretting all the horrible things I had said to those who had told me about Jesus. Knowing that what I had said and done in the past did not matter anymore. I cannot describe the feeling and sensation I felt. What I saw in that moment, I cannot express.

Ever since that day, I have been a believer, ever growing in my faith. My life was immediately turned around 180 degrees. Today I live a joyful life. I’m married and I will soon be a father. I have faith in God that I know that I am being made into the man that he desires me to be, that He will finish the good work He started in me. I have faith that I have been prepared by God to be a faithful and good husband, and now a good and faithful father. Whereas, before, I would have failed miserably!

There is so much more, but I do not want to take up any more space. Will this convince you to become Christian? Probably not. Will it incite retribution from some, that I am a fanatic, fundamentalist, self-deluded, self-righteous, self-(insert adjective here). Probably. All that I can tell any of you, is that there is something that goes way beyond words. It is spiritual and an understanding of what has been written on my heart. These things can never be taken away from me, and I cannot give them to you. Only God can give these things to you, and the only way to receive them, is to ask. Ask with humility and true belief. I can tell you this, believer or not, I do believe that God LOVES you deeper than anyone can possibly imagine.

Thank you and God Bless
<><
J f Z
February 2, 2005   03:23 PM PST
 
Yes, Sarah and Farasha should tussle in an additional entry. There's nothing hotter than two intelligent woman going at it. I'll make the jello! Heh.
Farasha
January 23, 2005   10:32 PM PST
 
Hey Sarah—

I agree that it is pretty useless to have a debate with a fundamentalist, since they are so blinded in their views and just out to puff themselves up anyway.

I agree that the purpose of a debate should be for everyone to benefit and come away more open-minded.

If you'd like, I would be happy to debate you. I am always interested to know how/why people believe what they believe, and always interested to find new insights into things.
ElvenSarah
January 23, 2005   09:54 PM PST
 
Chrys,

I skimmed the article you posted. I will try to read it more thoroughly and give you my thoughts on it.


Jade,

Welcome to the show. A very good question you have presented and one I want to re-present to our next guest.



Farasha,

It is an honor to have you here. Reading your work these past several months I have come to the conclusion that you are someone who has done her homework. I wish everyone would put in as much open thought and research into religion as you have. People like you rarely become fundamentalists who go to war over religion. It is because of this that I have no problem with you believing what you do and I continued to be intrigued by you after I had heard you had returned to Christianity. I do however disagree with your assessment.

The bible is a collection of books assembled by an organization several hundred years ago. Without the modern church, the bible is the only story we have on Christianity, unless you have been contacted directly by God herself. If that is the case, you must have read the bible and found it to ring true to you. I must then ask if you trust the council of Nicea to have assembled the correct works and if so, isn’t this then your church and religion? If not, if you remove these books claiming that Jesus is God, this religion, this church of beliefs, what is left of Christianity beyond good intentions and a personal belief that there is a God out there?

I will stop guessing at your beliefs. Your presence here has made me rethink the purpose of this debate site. The original intent was to debate a standard fundamentalist Christian so that others can watch the debate and see the reasoning beyond religion fleshed out step by step. I have wondered though if anyone really would learn from a debate style. In a standoff, people buckle down the hatches; they do not become more open. Maybe a better goal is for us each to continue to learn on our own and seek truth. Maybe I should stop trying to teach others and instead debate someone that would be interesting to me and could actually stretch my understanding. Maybe I should debate someone as intriguing as you.
Farasha
January 23, 2005   07:11 PM PST
 
Well, you've been such a faithful frequenter of my blog that I figure it's about time I visit yours.

Here's my deal on Xianity, for whatever it's worth:

I've seen about every facet there is to see of it. I grew up in a pretty fundamental church, then rejected it all and became an athiest/agnostic for about a year, and after quite a lot of searching, came to the realization that real Christianity (not as a cult, not as a religion, not as a subculture, or any of the other crap it tries to be) is the only thing that, for me, makes sense of why I'm here and why the world is the way it is. Unfortunately, there is the problem of the evangelical Xian subculture in America that is basically a cult...they pride themselves on dogma and exclusivity, they parrot some rediculous beliefs that have nothing to do with the heart of the matter, they specialize in hipocrisy, etc. etc.

So perhaps it's best to debate not against the twisted evangelical subculture, but against the heart of Xianity--Xianity as a possible truth behind our existance, as a possibility of explaining it all. This, I think, would be most beneficial to everyone on both "sides" of the matter.

jade
January 22, 2005   11:41 PM PST
 
Hi, I'm Jade.

Well, this is the first time that I will be posting my POV in this debate.

I just have a quick question first. What does it take to be a Christian? Does a Christian have to regularly attend mass? Or is belief enough basis for Christianity? Just wondering.

IMO, any organized religion is a waste of not only time, but also resources. "Religious" people spend their time going to church, offering money to their respective churches and "god" knows what else they pay for.

In the case of belief/faith, we all know that as humans, we cannot all have the same beliefs merely because someone tells us that it is necessary for all of us to have the same beliefs. This may have been true back then, but as of right now, I believe that some of us are now more open-minded to accept other ideas.

And I now discuss my question. As a Christian, does one have to follow every doctrine given by the bible? There are many kinds of Christians and through the great number, the views become more and more distorted.

I think that an individual has his own unique beliefs that should not be grouped into a certain religion making such individual feel as though joining the congregation is the way of life. Diversity is all around us and no religion can say that what they believe in is the truth.

But sadly, each and every single one of them insists this. Not just Christianity.
Chrysostomos
January 22, 2005   08:35 PM PST
 
sarah,

Go to this link, read about it, look at video's and then reply here. Would be interested in hearing your opinion.

Link:http://www.holyfire.org/eng/
ElvenSarah
January 22, 2005   06:46 PM PST
 
Chrys are you back here without evidence? I thought you were going to bring evidence?
Akira3099
January 18, 2005   11:12 PM PST
 
Someone on NPR was talking about yawning and empathy. They mentioned that more adults "yawned contagiously".. I thought of this blog. All I can say is.. this guy Jesus would yawn. If he was everything I've heard and read, he would yawn. I've always thought of the "savior" as the people's person. Not really needing to take a side.. he/she is his/her own side. The strength they show under pressure is what amazes and inspires us, but Christ would not call himself a Christian. We use these words.. names and divisions... like they were handed to us by God. We made the problems, and we fixed them. There is no intervention.. I was reading a web-site for a presbyterian school, something about preying. I'd never bought preying so much, until I read this churches explanation. They said always prey for strength and always believe it. That was the most simple form of meditation I had ever heard. All I can say for those who do not believe in God.. think again. Like JFZ said, and like I said before.. can you feel? Can you kill your own desires, to fulfill someone else's? Do you see yourself in me? Can you see past the name, the character, the color.. can you see behind my eyes? Do you know what goes on back there? and say something more than come join our church. In Christianity's defense, again, I have met many people that dare not call themselves Christian, for fear of an ego blow-up. If you can handle the responciblity that comes with bearing a title.. more power to you. I do not believe that we should even go as far as to say we are active God on this 3rd rock from the sun.. good intentions aside, if someone called me his sheep, it wouldn't go well.
Chrysostomos
January 18, 2005   04:37 PM PST
 
Thought you'd guys would like to read this link:

http://psalm63adam.blogspot.com/2005/01/by-way-i-will-be-moving-my-thoughts-on.html

Cut, paste, and read.

It's a thought provoking post. No, it's not pro Christian, anti-Christian, just thought provoking. Respond here if you want.
Velvet
January 17, 2005   09:43 PM PST
 
There exists no reason why you should become a Christian, so this debate is futile. It has no superiority over other beliefs, and likewise no religion is morally superior to it. Whatever you feel in your heart to be the truth is what you should follow.
Akira3099
January 15, 2005   06:38 PM PST
 
That's just findin' Jesus, my brother.. come give the church money.
J f Z thinks aloud
January 15, 2005   03:49 PM PST
 
Akira,

(linked above) is an interesting page on neoplatonic thought.

Plotinus' last words, "Strive to bring back the god in yourselves to the God in the All"

And this part reminded me of continual exhortations of Marcus Aurelius concerning the perception of good and bad (although Marcus had no vocabulary to put it in a modern christian perspective):

Plotinus demanded the utmost level of intellectual clarity in dealing with the problem of humankind's relation to the highest principle of existence. Striving for or desiring salvation was not, for Plotinus, an excuse for simply abandoning oneself to faith or prayer or unreflective religious rituals; rather, salvation was to be achieved through the practice of philosophical investigation, of dialectic.

The fact that Plotinus, at the end of his life, had arrived at this very simple formulation, serves to show that his dialectical quest was successful. In his last treatise, "On the Primal Good" (Ennead I.7), Plotinus is able to assert, in the same breath, that both life and death are good.

He says this because life is the moment in which the soul expresses itself and revels in the autonomy of the creative act. However, this life, since it is characterized by action, eventually leads to exhaustion, and the desire, not for autonomous action, but for reposeful contemplation -- of a fulfillment that is purely intellectual and eternal. Death is the relief of this exhaustion, and the return to a state of contemplative repose.

Is this return to the Intellect a return to potentiality? It is hard to say. Perhaps it is a synthesis of potentiality and actuality: the moment at which the soul is both one and many, both human and divine. This would constitute Plotinian salvation -- the fulfillment of the exhortation of the dying sage.
Chrysostomos
January 14, 2005   02:08 PM PST
 
Katriana,

You still avoided my point, nor answered the question. Or I should say, by your not answering it, you proved my point. Nuff said....next discussion.
J f Z
January 14, 2005   01:56 PM PST
 
Potencia,

I read your entire rant and followed your links I have to agree with Sarah about your fondness for jewish conspiracy theories.

The source of your "beheading" law is a ten year old list of state house bills proposed by some schmuck named Teper. The reason for beheading? To preserve the organs of the condemned for organ donor transplantation. If you look at his legislative attempts, he also tried to pass a GA state law that would televise executions.

From a cursory glance at all of Teper's legislative attempts, it's apparent that he was a tree-huggin liberal who was trying to wrinkle up the use of the death penalty in Georgia. And even a 5th grader could also see that neither of his proposed bills were *ever* signed into GA law.

Why not really see what the law is in GA? It's Title 17, chapter 10, section 38. It's lethal injection.

http://www.legis.state.ga.us/cgi-bin/gl_codes_detail.pl?code=17-10-38
Katriana
January 14, 2005   12:25 PM PST
 
Chrys,

Why should I call Sarah on her shit when you already did?

I thought someone ought to call you on yours, too.
Akira3099
January 13, 2005   10:23 PM PST
 
You follow Jesus to the Masonry (Carpenter). I think he got tired of building houses and started speaking out against hypocrisy in the church, flipping tables and what not. I think he was killed for political reasons, mostly... not to save us from our sins. Population control and maintainance is a bitch.
That is why you should be a Christian.. errr... I mean, speak out against hypocrisy in the church.

3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? 4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed. 5 And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. 6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. 7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. 8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? 9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? 12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. 13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
potencia
January 13, 2005   06:11 PM PST
 
ElvenSarah: You said "I was hoping to debate a more mainstream Christian. Your last post seems a bit like you have been reading too many conspiracy sites." Did you read the article on my site? Did you follow the links? Why did the government pass a Jewish law? I think they are the ones who are illogical. It isn't a conspiracy. It is true. Check out the first link to the state legislature and then tell me why we have a Jewish law on the books.
Akira3099
January 13, 2005   01:17 PM PST
 
I'm trying to debate, i'm not a cultural christian. I guess I'm in the same boat as you. When I read the Bible for myself, I totally rejected the institution on christianity. I can tell you why you should be a christian, from a christian stand point. Look up neo-platonism, I believe that this is the philosophy that christianity came from, it's a thing of the past. If you want to debate, cool. If you don't, later!
ElvenSarah
January 12, 2005   10:06 PM PST
 
I can't wait Chrysostomos. I will be happy to get past the name calling and into some actual meat. We have accomplished nothing so far.


Chrysostomos
January 12, 2005   09:04 PM PST
 
Sarah,

Charitable = money? Huh? Bill Gates therefore is one of the most godly and then you say he is an athiest? I didn't know he was an atheist, and I didn't know that Charity equaled money. Must be some other sort of Christianity you are speaking of, than I know of. Charity is not just giving money. Its offering to help clean a person's home, offering to visit the sick. Encourage those who are despondent, visiting those in prisons, nursing homes. Loving the loveless, who have nothing to give in return. I don't know about Bill Gates and whether he does that or not. I remember going to a leper colony in Okinawa, on an island. You want to visit some people who are loveless, visit them. But no one wants to do that. They are afraid they will get infected. That the leperousy will get to them.

You said:"but it was you who did the changing. You wanted to change, so you put the effort forward to do so." Once again, are you a seer? How do you know this? My gosh, don't equate my experience with God, with yours or anyone elses. How dare you surmize my life, determine how it came about without knowing me or my relaying things to you!

You replied:"“I could tell you things that even "Sarah" would be unable to explain away.”

Please do.

I will maybe tommorrow, a few things, but honestly don't know if you will understand the significance. I don't mean that in a demeaning way, but unless you are an Eastern Orthodox Christian, it would be very hard for you to understand. If you do end up understanding, great. I sincerely mean that!

You said:"I'm not the one claiming to have answers from God."

You are right! You are claiming to have the answers yourself. That was my point!!

I'll quote you again:"except to get people to take the time and think about what they believe and why."

If that doesn't smack of the ultimate elitism, what does? Oh, those silly Christians, they just need to take the time to think about what they believe and why....
Who says I haven't, we haven't?

You further state:"so I am doing that for others. The truth should hold up to some testing."

Is this a favor? Testing by whom? Who determines whether its valid or not? You? Once again, elitism at it's best.

If it's a choice between accepting you or Christ, I side with Christ.
What you and your world offers, pales in comparison to what I have experienced and continue to do so. To the changes that Christ has made in me, and continues to make in me, until the day I die. Salvation in the Western sense is so confused. Look to the Eastern side.
Then you will understand the saying... Once I was blind, but now I see. It's not, get down on your knees, accept Jesus and that's it. That's your Western brand of Christianity that is a therapy doomed to failure. Christianity is about deification. It's an ongoing process of salvation. It's not a one moment wonder. If that is your interpretation of Christianity, then you and I might have more that we agree on then we both might think.

With humble bow,

Chrysostomos

Chrysostomos
January 12, 2005   08:38 PM PST
 
Katrina,

Show me in any of my writings here where I have been pontificating? I do take and continue to take a close look at myself daily. I find that your response is bias. You say nothing about Sarah, and her comments, but are quick to say something about mine. Why is that? You, by your own admission mock religion on a whole, but for me to question Sarah, oh my, but I am not allowed, nor to call her on her pontification. At least I indicate so by using her words. You on the other hand, make accusations of me doing the same, but don't back them up. Oh, and then the good one, you say:" Don't tell me to look at myself". What's up with that? Because you know that I have some valid points, but geez, that would be horrible to say that Chrys might have some valid points in regards to his comments about Sarah.
Akira3099
January 12, 2005   08:06 PM PST
 
I might not have heard Joesoph Campbell in school, or even evolution.. but I did learn minimal Biology. Sexually reproducing organism sexually reproduce... I think Christianity is a conspiracy to fill the world with people that think they don't have it in them, waiting for someone else. If you want to label yourself, go ahead. We should call all heterosexual people Christian and anyone else we should call Human. Besides, no one knows what's "made this", the Bible just says it's God. Good lesson learned. Just my opinion, and thanks Sarah, but I guess I'm a "Christian". The Human world is too much for me. Peace to all!
ElvenSarah
January 12, 2005   08:00 PM PST
 
“As if you have some sort of answers or call from whom?”

I'm not the one claiming to have answers from God. Apparently I have to be a Christian to proclaim absolute truths, or in this case, have an opinion. I have the belief that Christianity is wrong and if I am the one that is wrong, I want someone to show me.


"Your beginning intro's to discussions of the debate, mock Christianity."

You mean the part where I quote the basic beliefs of the bible? Omnipotent God who created the universe and the rules and has a divine plan to save everyone and anyone not on his side is on the side of Satan? Isn't that the beliefs of the bible? If the bible mocks itself, what does that say?

If you mean me mocking a cultural Christian who knows nothing of the bible and doesn't attend church, yet still calls themselves a Christian, then aren't I really mocking the people who Jesus said never knew him, the ones he said would be thrown into a fiery pit?
ElvenSarah
January 12, 2005   07:42 PM PST
 
“You don't know me, nor my life before becoming a Christian.”

I said I have been where you are, meaning I have been a Christian. I never said I knew anything else about you. You are taking things too personally.


“Are you the only one who knows the arguments for both sides?”

No, of course not. I never said that.

“BS in who's opinion?”

I can only write in my opinion obviously. I have this set up so others can add their opinion. It is a debate.


“How is that any different than you talking smack about Christians and their beliefs and belittling them for those beliefs?”

A lot different. I am not disowning any of my family with this blog, I am contradicting Christian points brought forward by volunteers. That’s right, you are a volunteer here. I’m not holding a gun to your head. I think you can see the difference. I wish my family was willing to debate and see other viewpoints.

“Show me by your works, the fruit of your labor, otherwise save your "pontificating" for someone who wants to record it.”

So now whoever between us has the best charity rate is the one with the best religion? Bill Gates, the richest and one of the most charitable persons in the world must be very Godly then, oh wait, he is an atheist. Here is what I think of works. I think that many things can change a person. Christianity was your catalyst for change but it was you who did the changing. You wanted to change, so you put the effort forward to do so. You should be congratulating your determination, not random cult #495.

“As if you have some sort of answers or call from whom?”

I’m not here to give all the answers. I’m here to ask questions, and give my opinion. You make up your mind.


“I could tell you things that even "Sarah" would be unable to explain away.”

Please do.

“Our pride? Take it from "Chicken Little", from the "Fool for Christ", take some more time for some serious introspection.”

I’ve created a site just so someone can give me something to think about. If I’m wrong, I want to know. I’m not afraid to change sides. I’ve done it before. Prove me wrong and I will do it again. I am after the truth.



“what am I really doing this for?”

When I was a Christian, I never really had anyone to show me a clear picture of the other arguments. I wish someone had done so sooner, so I am doing that for others. The truth should hold up to some testing. I am inviting someone here to my blog to be an author and tell us their reasoning on Christianity, and I will tell my reasoning for not being a Christian. It is that simple.
Katriana
January 12, 2005   07:21 PM PST
 
Chrys,

You know that saying, "Well ain't that the pot calling the kettle black?"

It applies to your last comment. Pontificating? Who made you Pope? You are doing the same thing you're accusing Sarah of. So before you go pointing fingers at other people, take a closer look at yourself.

And before you tell me to look at myself: I admit that I'm not religious and often mock religion as a whole. This is not nice. But I would never go to your house and tell you why you are going to a horrible place because you disagree with me. (Which has been done to me several times by people of many faiths.)

I think it's awesome that we ('we' being everyone in the world) think differently. It's good to have variety. If we all agreed all the time, we'd be pretty damn boring. And probably very stupid.
Chrysostomos
January 12, 2005   02:26 PM PST
 
Sarah,

You said;"I have been where you are."

Oh, really? Pray tell, how do you know this? You don't know me, nor my life before becoming a Christian.

You said on the intro:"A former Christian, she knows the arguments for both sides. Has Satan on her side, which isn't omnipotent, but is rich and owns most of the media with the exception of Fox News."

Are you the only one who knows the arguments for both sides? Geez, for the first 20+ years of my life, I was pagan as they come. I had no religious background, no upbringing that was Christian. Maybe you were born Christian for all I know, but to come off as knowing both sides, please step down from your pedestal. Sheesz, you want both sides, I know both sides. The industry I am in is a cesspool, and you go bantering about as if you are the only one who "knows" both sides.

You said:"call people on BS I see"

Who elected you pope? Since when does your "pontificating" rate higher than anyone else who's left comments here. BS in who's opinion? Oh, that's right, only yours, since you "know" the truth, and all others have no common sense, or knowledge like "you" do.

You said: "when I can't tell my family I have a different view on Christianity because they will dissown me."

How is that any different than you talking smack about Christians and their beliefs and belittling them for those beliefs? Oh, you don't disown the Christians, but you are sure to "put them in their place". You'll show them won't you?

Your beginning intro's to discussions of the debate, mock Christianity.

Your Christianity is completely foreign to the Christianity that I practice. It is about loving your neighbor as yourself and loving God with all your body, mind, heart, and soul. It is helping the poor, the widow and the orphan. Those who are in need, you help them, and if at all possible, you give without them knowing it is you who gives. It is a Christianity that I have experience personal things, that you, science, or anyone can try to explain away in your best efforts, but they fall on deaf ears. Why? Because of what I experienced and the change of life that has resulted from those experiences. I could care less about theological debates, endless me smarter than you tirades, or my religion or lack of, is better than yours. Show me by your works, the fruit of your labor, otherwise save your "pontificating" for someone who wants to record it.

You said:"I'm not trying to pedal any religion except to get people to take the time and think about what they believe and why."

As if you have some sort of answers or call from whom? Yourself? You are all wise, all knowing? Do we bow down to you and worship you? How do we even know you have truly taken the time to think and know what you believe and why? Oh, that's right, you're trying to save us from ourselves!

You have problems with Christianity due to:"The problem is when I can't get married because Christians tell me it is againsts their book of tales or when my tax dollars go to support "faith based initiatives" to further other's stories and wars and when the state of texas has a law that says it is illegal for an atheist to hold public office."

Christians tell you can't get married? Your tax dollars go to support "faith based initiatives", well, I am sure we can all come up with tax dollar issues as well. State of Texas has a law that says it is illegal for an atheist to hold public office? Has anyone tried recently to run and was athiest and this law was brought forth? Do you seriously think that would be allowed in the USA?

Wow, your reasoning blows me away.

I could tell you things that even "Sarah" would be unable to explain away. I tried your version of life, and see it in action every day in life and in my industry. You can keep your version of "life - how it should be lived" to yourself. You've shown nothing but contempt for anyone who doesn't agree with you, or espouses a view different then yours. You think a little intellectual jousting will show who's the real knowledgeable one? We could go toe to toe, but who wins, our egos? Our pride? Take it from "Chicken Little", from the "Fool for Christ", take some more time for some serious introspection. It might be good to take a time out and reread all your verbage and ask yourself, what am I really doing this for?

Signed,

"Fool for Christ/Chicken Little"
Chrysostomos



besbo
January 12, 2005   02:21 PM PST
 
Christianity is in and of itself, tainted and flawed. Jesus drobably didn't intend for it to be this way, and in my estimation is probably crying himself sick over what 'christian people' do to each other.

But the church like all churches helps those who have trouble, and are in need. There are some organizations that do wonderful work.

To be a christian is to accept that someone died so that your soul would never have to. It's a comfort to some, and that's all Jesus meant it as, in my opinion.
ElvenSarah
January 12, 2005   01:01 PM PST
 
Chrysostomos,

I comment on the posts here and call people on BS I see. You have been doing the same for me so I don't really see where the problem is. This is a debate and I am not going to go soft on people. I never denounced Christians for not believing what I believe. I denounce them for spreading their religion and claiming it is the only way and wanting everyone else to follow it when they have no real proof. Hey if you want to believe in heaven I have no problem with that. The problem is when I can't get married because Christians tell me it is againsts their book of tales or when my tax dollars go to support "faith based initiatives" to further other's stories and wars and when the state of texas has a law that says it is illegal for an atheist to hold public office or when I can't tell my family I have a different view on Christianity because they will dissown me.

"You are no different"

No kidding. We are all human. My point is just that. Christianity is not something special, it is just another religion. I'm not trying to pedal any religion except to get people to take the time and think about what they believe and why.


If you want to appear enlightened, maybe you should offer some evidence, or stop saying you have some. I hope you are not sticking with Christianity just because you feel I am being presumtious. If you have a good reason, that is great, share it with us. If not, then I hope you can be honest with yourself. I think you would be a lot happier if you didn't have to play the mind games with yourself. It is not my intent to hurt you. I have been where you are.
Chrysostomos
January 12, 2005   09:31 AM PST
 
Sarah,

I can honestly say I really enjoy your responses. You on one hand paint a picture of yourself as having your act together. Christians on the other hand, myself included, are Chicken Little, have no mind of their own, use defense mechanisms. Others have wild jumps in logic, while others have a poor understanding of science. Wow, looks like you come out on top. You are the "enlightened" one, while us poor sap Christians don't have a clue. You don't even know us, yet, you make the same presumptious remarks that you denounce some "Christians" for making about you or those who don't believe how "you" believe. You are no different than the rest. What you have to offer, is definitely no better than what we have. Thanks, but I'll stick with Christianity and live or die, I die in Christ.
ElvenSarah
January 11, 2005   09:20 PM PST
 
potencia,

I was hoping to debate a more mainstream Christian. Your last post seems a bit like you have been reading too many conspiracy sites and takes some wild jumps in logic. I will continue to consider your proposal though. Thanks.


Chrys,

Every debate between an ex-Christian and Christian always has the Christian saying the ex-Christian became an apostate due to being hurt by someone. I don’t know why that is always said or where, in this case, you got that idea since it is just not true. Maybe it is a defense mechanism. No one would leave Christianity in their right mind……right? I had to hide my change in religious beliefs because I was still close to all my Christian friends. My change came through much introspection. I’m not a very emotional person and I did not become a Christian to get friends so even if I was hurt by a Christian, I would not have left for that reason. Again this has nothing to do with the debate. If, in the debate, my points are valid, then they are valid; If not, then they are not. Whatever the catalyst I now believe it was the correct choice and I am glad I did so.
Chrysostomos
January 11, 2005   09:40 AM PST
 
"Chrysostomos,

"Lord, Lunatic, or Liar"

I see you have been influenced by some of the latest Christian canon and prophets Josh McDowell and CS Lewis. In the two years since I have left Christianity, I have found it very rare for a Christian to come up with their own ideas and thoughts on the bible. Most of it is feed to them by the church or other Christians. As to your, or rather their question, I will have to say it is none of the above."

Sarah, I actually said that as I knew you could or in this case, choose not to relate to it. I have no desire to seek McDowell or C.S. Lewis wisdom. If I talk of things you don't know about, to what can we discuss? I was trying to relate something that I knew you were aware of. You in turn, turn the screw on the topic. Frankly, as I have said before, so I say again - I sincerely believe you have been hurt by whatever Christian community/group you were raised, and are lashing out in response.

Sarah you asked: "Why do you believe being foolish is a redeemable quality?"

I'll respond by quoting Blessed Elder Gabriel Dionysiatis.....
"Before all virtues is humility, just as before all the passions is gluttony and the desire for worldly things....Humility is not manifested by him who belittles himself by words, but by him who, having been reviled by someone, does not diminish his love for Him."

That Sarah, expresses why I don't mind being a fool for Christ.

The fool for Christ, aka Chicken Little,

Rd. Chrysostomos





A monkey
January 11, 2005   06:54 AM PST
 
This is the persecution of the Christians, in Roman culture. The Bible is not a gift from God, or a promise... it's a social comments, especially Revelations, describing the rise of Christianity, and the fall of the empire.
potencia
January 11, 2005   12:10 AM PST
 
Hello ElvenSarah
Here is why you need to be a christian. How about this? A new federal law was passed to get your head cut off for believing in Jesus Christ. And Georgia passed a death by guillotine law. Now if you just click on my name you can read it for yourself. It follows what is prophesied in revelations 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
And then if you would like more debate I will show you how many bible prophecies are coming true. Please take this seriously and read it first, then go back and try out all the links. I went to a lot of effort and research. I would love for someone to read it.
ElvenSarah
January 9, 2005   11:28 PM PST
 
Chrysostomos,

"Lord, Lunatic, or Liar"

I see you have been influenced by some of the latest Christian canon and prophets Josh McDowell and CS Lewis. In the two years since I have left Christianity, I have found it very rare for a Christian to come up with their own ideas and thoughts on the bible. Most of it is feed to them by the church or other Christians. As to your, or rather their question, I will have to say it is none of the above.

"Do you ever wonder why the world seems to be destructing itself."

Because you are chicken little. Calm down; the sky is not falling. The world is a safer, healthier place today than any other time in history. The world is becoming a better place every day. People always believe the current storm is the worst ever, but that is just because they don't know history and have a short memory.

"It's as if there is no such thing as Objective truth."

Hey, I'm trying to find some truth by debating here! I have no problem saying Christianity is wrong. I have a moral code and just because I feel there is nothing wrong with two women kissing you think I do not. I would like to add though, that morals are relative. Lying, is it wrong? What if an SS guard asks you if you have seen any Jews, do you lie or tell him you have Corry Ten Boom in your attic? Is killing wrong? What about self defense or defending others? I do believe that shooting random people is wrong. Why? Because I don’t want to live in a society where that kind of thing happens. I’m selfish; I don’t want to get shot!

"I'm a fool for Christ!"

No argument from me there, but you don't have to be. Why do you believe being foolish is a redeemable quality?

Listen C, if you want to debate me, then just tell me and I will add you as an author of this blog and we will go for it. I can't guarantee that I will be able to respond to all the comments on here. I just plane don't have time.

I do appreciate all the comments here and if everyone would like to continue to discuss among yourselves, you are welcome to do that. I will chime in when I can.




JFZ,

History does hold some interesting things. Many of the stories of Genesis can be found in earlier texts such as the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. Many of the stories have the same themes and nearly every society has some kind of flood story. I was very surprised to learn there were other messiah stories of a man who died for our sins and rose back from the dead. I was always told in Church that Christianity was unique. Hmmm….wonder why we always needed someone to chant that to us? Christians go to church and sing songs saying “Our God is real, Our God is real, there is no other way, I believe it, it is true” Why do Christians need to keep telling themselves this?




Abbie,

Starting with your 10-15 percent brain capacity comment I could already tell you had a poor understanding of science. Please do some research and not just believe every e-mail forward that is sent to you and every Christian legend your pastor belches from the pulpit. I challenge you to do some research on your own and that doesn’t mean reading the sources that prop up your already held beliefs.


Good to hear everyone's thoughts! I see a lot of people are ready to debate this. Keep it coming. What do you think?
A monkey
January 9, 2005   09:19 PM PST
 
I think it's a bunch of stupid humans trying to make sense of an existance that they can't understand. They think too much about it. The Catholic Church accepted evolution in the 50's. Religion was the science and art of the day. "Hi, I'm easily entertained..." The knowledge is all around you, but I don't know why you'd want it. I sit in a cage all day and watch the scientists struggle with experiments. I sneak out at night, out of my own curiosity, to read your history and your personal struggles with life. There are a lot of interesting things you have made, but it all goes ignored. This internet is a useful tool, but that is ignored as well. I need to get back to the jungle, I've been around humans too long. Your personal problems hurt my head. Please stay out of my jungle, my offspring will appreciate it... I'll make sure of that. If there is one thing you humans have taught me, it's that love is a feeling that can not be described. It's a feeling I have forgotten, and that has inspired me to break out of this lab tonight. In the name of everything that has suffer for you causes, Thank You.
Abbie
January 9, 2005   03:01 PM PST
 
As people we are extremely narcissistic. We like to think we have unlocked the keys to the universe in fifteen minutes of thought. But here's the thing. We are not as smart as we think we are. We use somewhere between 10-15% of our brain capacity. With that amount of knowledge we feel confident in saying there is or isn't a God? It's so foolishly vain! That being said, I will admit that I do believe in an omnipotent God. Why? 1) Because the thought of His omnipotence is more than I can define. I don't want a God that I can explain in few pat sentences. That is not what omnipotence is. 2) There are many instances where the Bible and science back each other up. The Great Flood? Some scientists believe that a great flood separated the continents. An original language? Linguists are currently researching that and discovering as they learn the original etymology of ancient words of obscure languages that there was, at one time, a common, single language. The Big Bang? The theory of evolution is remarkably similar to the Genesis story, especially in the ordering of how the earth came to be: a mass, separation of water & land, etc. I find it remarkable that there are all these similarities between science and faith especially when as recently as 500 years ago we thought we could turn base metal into gold. 500 years from now future generations will be talking about how their ancestors fought wars over fossill fuel. Face it, we're not as bright as we think we are. 3) The final reason I believe in an omnipotent "Christian" God is 2000 years after Christ we are STILL debating His existence. He is STILL controversial. Athiests spend more time refuting God than they do Buddha or Mohammed or Krishna. There are several passages in the Bible about God hardening the hearts of people. I don't think it was God literally saying "Those people's hearts shall be hardened!" but that simply the very idea of a God, of someone more powerful than themselves, turned them from the idea of even considering God. Which is what I still see going on today. Most people will claim there is or there isn't a God without even knowing the whole God story.
Katriana
January 9, 2005   02:47 PM PST
 
Chrs,

"I'd rather have you say I was right or wrong. Either way, it wouldn't "hurt my feelings". My concern is the rampant subjectiveness in everyone's decision making process. It's as if there is no such thing as Objective truth. It is ever changing. No moral code, no priniciples by one which chooses to live by. Do you ever wonder why the world seems to be destructing itself. No one really has any principles to stand by."

The world destructing itself due to a lack of faith? That's a Slippery Slope argument. Besides people in general have had faith in something as long as they have been around. And hey, they've always killed each other-- often in the name of their faith.

Anyway, if you'd rather I'd say you're right or wrong, that's too bad. I refuse to say either one because I don't know -- which is my point.

No one knows. That's why they call it "faith." And I simply don't have it. But that sure as hell doesn't mean I lack principles or ideas of what is "right or "wrong."
J f Z
January 9, 2005   12:06 PM PST
 
Chrysostomos,

While you said: "Do you ever wonder why the world seems to be destructing itself. No one really has any principles to stand by. Those who do choose to stand by their believes, who has a code that they choose to live by, are considered controlled. I guess I am guilty"

I do wonder. And maybe I'm not alone when I think that for some devout and fanatical believers of their specific religion and the continual demonization of all other beliefs except their own for which they 'take a stand'; and the wars that have broken out for centuries over those religious beliefs; is the major reason the world is 'destructing itself'.

Maybe people are simply tired of the old tribal ways that lead only to the self-fulfilling armageddon propecies in the various religious scriptures acted out on a global scale these days.

I'm not speaking specifically of your particular sect of christianity. It applies to other christians and other faiths, too. It's not an observation about your personal religious beliefs because I'm not familiar with them, but many people are sick and tired of war in the name of any God.
Chrysostomos
January 7, 2005   09:12 AM PST
 
Edrei,

"Faith in that there is a God and that there is a beginning and an end is all you need. All those rules said by other people. It's just their way of controlling you".
Wisdom is something that is accumulated. It is then transferred onto later generations, either orally or in written form. I can't speak for the Protestants, or for Catholics, but from and Eastern Orthodox viewpoint, it's not about control. It's about submitting oneself to Christ and his instructions. Like I said earlier, even as Eastern Orthodox Christians, we know the therapy recommended for healing.
It is still up to us to follow the recommendation, or to not take the prescription. Simple as that.

Katriana,
"I'm not trying to say you're "wrong" but I'm not saying you're "right" either."

I'd rather have you say I was right or wrong. Either way, it wouldn't "hurt my feelings". My concern is the rampant subjectiveness in everyone's decision making process. It's as if there is no such thing as Objective truth. It is ever changing. No moral code, no priniciples by one which chooses to live by. Do you ever wonder why the world seems to be destructing itself. No one really has any principles to stand by. Those who do choose to stand by their believes, who has a code that they choose to live by, are considered controlled. I guess I am guilty - I would rather take a prescription that has proven itself to me, than to self-prescribe my own remedy. I'm a fool for Christ!
xaos
January 7, 2005   08:37 AM PST
 
egads.
Akira3099
January 7, 2005   12:17 AM PST
 
I got the year wrong, gahh... I'm stupid, don't listen to me.
Akira3099
January 7, 2005   12:04 AM PST
 
Other big difference, God is the only one that knows....
Akira3099
January 6, 2005   11:43 PM PST
 
And now we get to the fact that reincarnation is a way of saying "have kids"... Christianity is a direct mirror of many "Eastern" (excuse me) beliefs, minus the fact that monks don't have kids, but preachers do!
What's that first knowble truth of Buddhism... "All of life is suffering".
The ancients knew what was up... The Christians say blindly procreate in the name of Christianity, and the Buddhists say figure it out for yourself til you get it right (which doesn't mean offspring are bad, this is just the "Immaculate Conception" ideas, I gotta tell ya, I was an "accident"... Sex sells, so do wars... religious ones, at that. Imagine it's 2004 and there are CNN, BBC, and Al-Jazeera satellites, not to mention the internet (thank you God) and we're still here, talking about religion...
J f Z
January 6, 2005   10:35 PM PST
 
As a casual student and observer, I think that even while the modern era of evangelical christianity in the United States may have some traceable roots and lineage going back centuries, it really didn't spread as a popular belief system until the tools of mass communication came into play during the last 50 years. Beyond the travelling preachers and big tent revivals in the rural countryside, people now are probably the second generation to experience (or endure) televangelism.

In general, I think religion is an easy psychological tool for societies to create citizens who follow a certain code of conduct. Even Marcus Aurelius, (http://verissimus.blogdrive.com) in second century Rome, seemed only to want to punish Christians if they refused to act as a proper Roman citizens. Marcus himself, being taught in other philosophical traditions, like Stoicism, didn't seem to hold much value in the multi-theistic Roman tradition, but held it up as a matter that was good for the state of Roman society.

Personally, I'm a little fascinated by the religious traditions and stories in a historical sense. Structurally, for example, is it necessary to have a messiah in order to establish and maintain a lasting religious movement? I was intrigued to learn how widespread the concept of an anti-messiah or anti-christ is among many major religions. (http://thunderstorms.blogdrive.com/archive/232.html)

It interests me when I hear that archaelogists have discovered Sumarian clay tablets that describe and pre-date the Noah story. The original Noah was most likely a trader-merchant who happened to be on his ancient version of a river barge on the Tigres river when a flash flood wiped out many towns. The Noah story probably had a good moral to tell. People simply passed it down through the generations and modified it slightly for their own audience and through mistranslation.

Pretend for a moment that it is 2000-3000 years ago. There are no CNN, BBC, or Al-Jazeera satellites. A tsunami hits and kills 9 out of 10 people in your village. You've never heard of plate tectonics. How do you explain to your little grandchildren what happened and how you managed to survive such an unexplainable event?

I tend to think of religious scriptures in a historical and linguistic sense. Maybe something happened that some of these religious scriptures are trying to describe? I don't know. I'm not a religious scholar of any religion. But it is interesting when they seem to overlap.

As far as debating good/evil, God/Satan, Christianity et al, in a literal sense, I find it to be fairly pointless. An abject believer in any religion is not swayed by logic. Logic and rationalism is a separate philosphy and doesn't apply to their deeply held religious beliefs. To the abject believer, faith always trumps logic, rationalism, or even evidence.
Akira3099
January 6, 2005   10:11 PM PST
 
In light of Edrei's comment, and in support of the idea of some kind of sanity (my own, j/k), we're all right, as long as you are true to yourself.
And in light of Dr. God's post on the tag board, I should probably keep my mouth shut.
I hate religion, as much as I hate science or just people in general, especially myself... it's only human, apparently. David Icke said, "Infinite love is the only truth, everything else is just an illusion".
He also says the world is controlled by "Draconians, under a human form, under a holographic image of a human form". He's talking about aliens, which... whatever, right... but I heard a story about a man that knew about the tsunami an hour before hand... he said nothing because of something about tourism... it boils down to money, and that's what controls the world (in my opinion). I'm going to look for info on that, I'll post something on my blog. I hope this story isn't true....... as for Christianity, this... is your representative for the moment... www.perrystone.org.
Edrei
January 6, 2005   09:01 PM PST
 
I think in the end...you just need to be yourself and what faith you place in reality. Christianity, Islam, Judaism...whatever religions out there are just mirror images of each other looked through the eyes of someone else.

Faith in that there is a God and that there is a beginning and an end is all you need. All those rules said by other people. It's just their way of controling you.
Katriana
January 6, 2005   06:23 PM PST
 
Chrysostomos,

I think it's great that you've found meaning in/for your life.

I'm not trying to say you're "wrong" but I'm not saying you're "right" either.

---------------------------------

Everyone,
My main point is that *maybe* we are *all* correct and *maybe* we are all wrong. Shouldn't matter, it's your personal decision/belief/what have you.

As for this hell stuff, I don't believe in it. But if it does exist and I'm sent there for questioning religion rather than picking one and devoting myself to it *despite* the facts that I have never hurt anyone intentionally, stolen, had sex with someone who is in a relationship with someone else, I'm not a killer, and so on, I don't *want* to believe in any sort of God that would do such a thing.

"Here, you didn't believe in me so I'm sending you to burn for all eternity with the murderers and rapists. Bad little nonreligious girl, BAD!"


No - thank - you.


Akira3099
January 6, 2005   03:24 PM PST
 
Missed that,
sorry Sarah!
Akira3099
January 6, 2005   03:08 PM PST
 
Has anyone forgotten, you're going to hell when you die?
Chrysostomos
January 6, 2005   12:25 PM PST
 
Katriana,

"And that's what organized religion is: people telling you how to interpret something and hoping you won't think too much about it on your own". That might be true of Eastern Orthodoxy now, might have been true for Catholicism in the past, and not true for Protestant Christianity of today. Like I said in previous post, Protestanism, is a perfect religion for "Open Source Theology". Pick and chose what you want to believe, it's your thing, your God. No such thing as objective truths. Everything is subjective. So, once again, Eastern Orthodoxy is one faith, that is saying this is what believed in the past, and this is what Eastern Orthodox believe today. The same thing. When a Priest goes to seminary in the Eastern Orthodox Church, he is taught what he is to instruct. There isn't wiggle room.
In Protestant Seminary, it's you take classes and (speaking from personal experience - as at one time I was planning on being a pastor before I converted) and you basically create your own set of beliefs. Doubt me? Why then are there so many different Protestant Denominations in America? I mean, what, John Wesley came to America to evangelize. He was Anglican. The Church that came into being from his efforts was the United Methodist Church. Well, I am being simplistic, as many denominations have form. Free Methodist, Primitive Methodist, on and on. The Original Church was one until 1054 AD. In a short span of what - 250 years? American has how many different Christian Protestant denominations? And that's suppose to provide some sort of objectivity?


Chrysostomos
January 6, 2005   12:14 PM PST
 
Lyle,

Like I said, it is one of three "therapies" offered. You can either take advantage of one of them, or leave them and use your current one that you might have created on your own. The end result is unknown for now.

Chrysostomos
Akira3099
January 6, 2005   07:14 AM PST
 
That's what everything is...
Katriana
January 6, 2005   12:52 AM PST
 
All's I gots to say is "Whatever floats your boat."

Everyone looks at it differently. Schemas. I mean when I say, "God" you might get an image of Jesus in your head or maybe a little fat guy. Who knows?

Christianity, Catholicism and so on all get their information from most of the same places and all look at it in a different way. But no matter which group of thinking you may belong to, other people in that same group interpret it differently than you do.

What you've got is a bunch of texts that tell you a bunch of stories. It is up to you to believe them or not. It is also up to you to interpret it the way you see fit or to just let other people tell you how they see it and go along with that.

And that's what organized religion is: people telling you how to interpret something and hoping you won't think too much about it on your own.

At least that's how I see it.
Akira3099
January 5, 2005   07:41 PM PST
 
"Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed"
This says a lot to me.
Revelations... the end of days... everyday... is judgment day. I think what the Good Book is getting at is... do not associate with any group. Keep your Christianity with you. Everyone knows, if you can't trust one than it's hard to trust others. Christ was the only true Christian, and we just try to do WJWD. To say, "I'm a Christian" really means I try to be a christian. The Bible even goes as far as to say question this book. Christianity basicly started as a religion for skeptics. There was a lot of questions, similar to those today (Roman Empire 2). They said... "All that mystical hooha... that's rubish... God implanted a baby into a woman, to come and save us from these crazy religious nuts... worshipping idols and such." Watch the plague roll through and the tune changes. The fear of God is instilled again. Trust, and faith in eachother will get us out of this nut house. Don't let any mess with anyone else. If there is a problem, honesty is the best policy... when accepted openly, it is always understood. Selfishness is the mental block that keeps all people apart. Peace through out the land, in every home, in ever mind... Stay strong, and watch out for crazy people (j/k). Everyone, have a good year!
Lyly
January 5, 2005   01:54 PM PST
 
Guess I'm not truly Christian then. But still, not convinced that I need to join an organized religion, in your case, the Eastern Orthodox church, to truly be a Christian.
Akira3099
January 4, 2005   09:20 PM PST
 
I agree completely, and appologize for interfering. I don't want to convert anyone, only show everyone that we aren't so different.
I'd like to continue discussing matters... I'll post something specific on my blog, if anyone wants. Sarah, I hope you got my e-mail... I'd love to get to the bottom of the craziness.
Peace everyone!
Chrysostomos
January 4, 2005   05:33 PM PST
 
Akira,

I haven't seen National Treasure yet. We tried going once during Christmas break, but it was sold out. Bummers... So I can respond to your National Treasure comment.
As to selfishness is Satan - very true. St. Paul says in Galatians 5:19-21 that it is selfishness and other things are works of the flesh. As opposed to 5:22-23 the fruit of the spirit. Those who are truly Christian will "bear" these type of actions/traits - love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
As to saying "I'm the Best", we are actually suppose to say we are the least - it's called humility, humbleness. Something that is hard to find these days. As to God laughing at us, I won't agree. I think rather that he knows our nature, and that we are prone to looking out for ourselves, and prone to do the things of the flesh rather than the spirit and would have us to the things of the spirit instead.

With humble bow,

Rd. Chrysostomos
Akira3099
January 4, 2005   02:31 PM PST
 
I'd hate to say, "National Treasury"... but it's right... except for the gold thing... If you need a church to work for the community, fine... let's build a church... it will remane nameless, each member will memorize the book and burn it symbolicly when they can recite it. Anyone can come, we won't go preach to others. I've mentioned the Nomad clan briefly, here... we're "Christians" without ideas of material values... I hate to say it like that, but selfishness is "satan" and it's plague has reached every corner of the Earth. Every group, infected by one of his desires to wallow in self pity... "I'm the best" they say... everyone trying to prove something. This is beyond God... Good and Evil... Whatever made the universe (if there is such a being... and if it is anything like us, in any way at all... even close) is probably laughing right now... it's been laughing the whole time... at us, here in the inhabitable zone.
Chrysostomos
January 4, 2005   02:24 PM PST
 
Wailfulrhyme, you wanted an answer to your question: " have another question i want a Christian to answer during this debate, why is there so much money-making (ie: evangelist (sp?) in Christianity compared to any other religion?"

That is a corruption of the whole idea of money, etc. Christians are suppose to be Almsgivers. They are suppose to help the poor, the widow, the orphan. Look at the Life of St. Philaret the Almsgiver. Now there is a Saint that had his life on the right path.
Link: http://www.chrysostompress.org/collection/1201_Philaret_Merciful/?CPSESSION=214a65354d02711ed8df31fa964d348e

That's a Christian who abided in God and did the right thing. Interesting story to say the least.

With humble bow,

Rd. Chrysostomos
Chrysostomos
January 4, 2005   02:03 PM PST
 
One doesn't become a Christian because it is "fire" insurance. If that is all they are doing it for, they are in it for the wrong reasons, and missing out on a lot. Lyle, the books that comprise what is now know as the bible was determined by the Church. The reformers later on, took some books out, due to it not jiving with their current theology. The Orthodox Church has maintain the same bible all along. So if you see what comprises the canon of scripture for the Orthodox, it will be different. They don't want the Book of Tobit, or Maccabees in their Bible and others. Would cause too much problems for their developed theology of the 1500's. Also, the orb/censor that is a used in Eastern Orthodox services, let alone the church, is patterned after the Jewish Temple. It is offering incense before the Lord. Look at the video, and see what I am talking about. If one thing you can definitely accuse the Eastern Orthodox Christians of, is not changing. It has to do with handing down that which was handed to them from the Apostles. Go to a service, and you will see basically a service that was typical around 300+ AD. Heck, the bible wasn't even formed by then. Think about it. The bible was really even ready for the masses until what the 1500's? The majority of citizens couldn't read, so when does one say that the masses had true access to it, and could understand? Think about it. Akira, you are right, it is in fact self-discipline. Challenge is, that's too difficult for the average Jane and Joe. If you want a Christianity that promises you no struggles, no crosses, no tribulations in this life, then Eastern Orthodoxy is not for you. If you want a Christianity that advocates an easy feel-good type of faith, nothing required on your part, then Eastern Orthodoxy is not for you. What amazes me is that one of the reasons we read the lives of our Saints, is that many, and I am talking LOTS have been martyrs, and persecuted. Just horrible things done to them. Why do we read them? Because it helps us in our walk, and prepares us for a possible like situation that could happen to us! Imagine if you will, how many Christians will profess Christ if they suffer Persecution, martyrdom? Will they deny the Christ? American Christianity is soft. It has had a cake walk. When I was a Protestant, I was lead to believe all would go great, no problems, no heartaches, nothing would happen as long as you followed Jesus. If you had problems, tribulation, etc., then it is because you sinned. Well, as an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I don't believe that anymore. That's not what the original Church taught and what a wake-up call I had. Finally, St. Seraphim of Sarov said: "Save yourself and thousands around you will be saved." Point being... Be the Christian. If you are, that would accomplish much more than thousands of debates and banterings back and forth. Do you love your neighbor as yourself? Husbands - do you love your wife as Christ loves the Church? No, then get to work on that! Why theologize. I think the problem is that Roman Catholicism and Protestant Churches took the idea that one could experience God via the mind. That all could be accomplished via the mind. Eastern Orthodoxy is mystical. It involves experiencing God, and helping others experience Him. What's the best way? By our actions, by our life. Do a google on the life of St. Mary of Egypt, or St. Moses the Black. Read about their lives. That's just two of our saints that were living Icons of Christ while on earth.

With humble bow,

Rd. Chrysostomos
Akira3099
January 4, 2005   12:00 PM PST
 
it's all just a mode of self-discipline... Let's get past the invisible man in the sky ideas and talk of Heaven and Hell. These are both places you find here. Your afterlife is everyday after you "accept christ", or realize the error of your ways. After that point, you can either make your life hell, or you can realize that nothing matters and be in heaven, or a part of the celestial body... one with the universe, whatever you want to call it. It's not about where you go afterwards... it was never about that. In these days we have people living for the afterlife... you're gonna miss your real life, or spend it talking in circles about the same thing, just using different words. I like what Lyly said about God being Love. "Love" is "The Word"... they just stretched it out, into 1189 pages... best selling book of all time (someone check that).
Our "Awakening"... our "Life"... our ability to observe, critique and change our actions... This is God, not someone far off, that cares about us... inspires us to write. That's us... it's time we give ourselves some credit, but keep the humble attitude. We're some smart monkies, damnit... God "sent us to name the animals" not fight over names. The cave paintings were cool, but our minds have gone out of control. The saviors come and gone several times... he's everywhere. People just choose to ignore him, for selfish reasons... we have to keep this machine pumping... filthy Neo-Con Cult....
Lyly
January 4, 2005   11:35 AM PST
 
But then you get into the whole issue of believing the "scriptures" as you put it. The whole issue of the writings being 'written by man as inspired by God'. Do you believe that the scriptures are pure or tainted by the bias of the writer? What of all the missing scripture - the Gospel of Mary, Thomas, etc. ? I bought those, and the missing pieces are, well, frustrating. We weren't there, and thus we'll never have the full true story of Jesus, what he said and who he really was/is.

So we are then at the issue of faith, of stepping out on the faith of Jesus. What does that mean? Having faith that the scriptures are true and that Jesus did and said was was written...which is suspect because we don't have the full story. You see the loop that is forming here.

As a Jew, I suspect Jesus had faith in the God that he was taught to worship, and that he displayed the purist faith of those around him in the face of Phillistinian snobbery and Roman government pressure, and this impressed many. Here was a guy who was crucified for defying the status quo, and he was/is deified. This happen to people before him, and since him. The difference is that he said and some believed that he was the son of God. They write they witnesssed his miracles. Do you believe the miracles that happened in his name and does that make you a Christian? If I don't flat out believe *all* the miracles as written, but i believe that Jesus's heart was in the right place in terms of how humanity should treat each other, then am i a Christian? A good Christian, carnal Christian (love that term) or a fake Christian?

It seems that alot of 'Christians' are focused on the miracles, on praying for miracles, on performing actions that are clearly superstitious and have nothing to do with Jesus's lessons for humanity but that show others that they are 'faithful'. That is what gets me about organized religion, not limited to Christianity. What does the swinging, smoking orb held by the bishop have to do with anything? If I give $100 and the person next to me gives $10 will I get to the pearly gates first? Why does wearing a piece of lace on my hair matter to God (Adam and Eve and Lilith were naked, right?) If I travel to Vatican City and get to kiss the Pope's ring will I have a bigger mansion in heaven? If I wear black all the time and sit in mass 3 times a day will I die faster and get to heaven? If I cut myself or flog myself till I bleed and say I'm doing it in the name of Jesus, will I get to heaven faster? And what does going through these superstitious acts have to do with my **eternal** salvation or damnation? If God is love then what of the entire issue of hell, purgatory and eternal damnation?
Chrysostomos
January 4, 2005   11:35 AM PST
 
Here is a link that provides a visual answer to why I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian. It is of an Eastern Orthodox Church in Seattle, WA.

http://www.nowandever.be/weblog.php?id=P20
(click check the video)

With humble bow,

Rd. Chrysostomos
Chrysostomos
January 3, 2005   08:21 PM PST
 
Sarah,

First, honestly, I am not afraid to "debate" you in regards to Christianity. Frankly though, I am tired of all types of Christians, and non-Christians who banter about as if they are some sort of walking "Christian" encyclopedia in which they can spout scriptures, judge others, and yet can't live the very thing they profess. Whether atheist, or Christian, or whatever, I have never been impress with the inteligencia type of person who wants to compare their intellectual prowess. Works, living the faith in action, speaks louder to me, than anything else. Especially love. Yes, they might profess, but not possess. That's why I asked why should anyone try to "convert" Sarah, when you really have no desire to be converted. I started out the debate at the end of my response with let's start with Jesus. Because depending on how you view Jesus, is really going to be the issue. Was he a good man? Was he just a prophet? Was he God incarnate, God in the flesh? Was he a lunatic? Was he a liar? That's why I asked you to start with your views on Jesus and wanted to make it easy, by saying, just use the scriptures. You've read them....What do you say after reading them? Who is he to you? As to Christianity. There are three therapies that are available to you in Chrisitianity. You have the smorgasboard Protestant variety, ever changing, kind of Open Source Theology. You've got the Catholic Church therapy that has been around and changed with the times. You also have the Eastern Orthodox Therapy, that sadly America, by and large has missed out on. I challenge you to go to an Eastern Orthodox Church Service. You want early Christianity, you got it there! That's truly how the early Christian's worshiped! English Liturgies were not even in America until the 1960's, so who's to know about that Church. You could go to a Russian Orthodox Church, it would be a beautiful service, but in english you would understand it and I sincerely believe find something that is lacking. We can talk about this via email if you want. But the only version of Christianity you've heard of is Protestant and Catholic. You look into Eastern Orthodoxy, and you will have a revelation. One that might answer many of the questions you have. I don't think your challenge is with Jesus and who he is. I might be wrong, but I think your problem is with the Christianity that you have been exposed to. It isn't the fullness that was once delivered unto the saints. I myself, had no exposure to Christianity until age 20. I accepted Christ, had a dramatic conversion, and my life changed. Long story short, there was still something lacking. I don't want to bore your readers, but suffice it to say, I found that fullness in Eastern Orthodoxy. The Faith of the Apostles. So, I have like you, been an unbeliever, a Protestant (many versions), and ultimately found my rest in Eastern Orthodoxy. So let's start with Jesus...okay? Knowing where you are coming from helps me know how to respond. If you don't want to, I understand, no biggie, but I do care. I think you've been hurt, and hurt badly. That is truly wrong, and sad.
With humble bow,

Rd. Chrysostomos
ElvenSarah
January 3, 2005   07:06 PM PST
 
Chrys, I will answer those questions again:

Why try to convert me? Because I am headed to an eternity of torture since no one has done a good job convincing me that it exists and God wants me saved. Hey, if I am wrong, I want to know.

Have Christians hurt me? Christians have only hurt me more than non-Christians because I have lived my life around them. What has really hurt me is Christianity. That is where my anger lies. Personally I have a lot of friends and family I would like to save from a lifetime of lies and self-degradation that is religion.

Was I ever a true ™ Christian? Whatever that is does it matter? I loved Jesus, I believed in Jesus and all the bible. I had faith and works. I attended church, lead bible studies, and tried to reach those around me. I abstained from anything that I thought was against God’s will. None of that really matters though. Even if I was never a Christian, what does that have to do with the debate? Maybe if just bothers you personally that there are people out there who sought after God with all their heart and found only hollow emotion and smoke and mirrors?

Why shouldn’t I be a Christian? To start off, maybe because you can’t give me a good reason to be a Christian? Or maybe because I believe it is as fake as Islam, it’s sister mind virus, or maybe because I feel it is morally reprehensible and don’t want to base my reality of more lies than I already am. The bible says all Christians should be ready with an answer of why they believe in Christ. This should be an easy debate for any real Christian. You are the one coming to me with the absurd beliefs. It is your job to prove them to me, not vise versa.

If you really want to debate, let’s go.

Why is everyone so afraid of this debate? What are you afraid to find? Unfortunately I can already see what will happen. The Christian opponent will come up with nothing better than “Well you better do it cause you are going to hell if not” or “It’s got to be a step of faith” or some other meaning less comment. Christian will then refuse to drop delusional even though they realize they have no good reason, because it must be right, it is what all the good people believe. Leaving religion is very tough, I know. It is scary, and uncomfortable, but that is the cost of being truthful to your self.
Akira3099
January 3, 2005   04:45 PM PST
 
Modern Christianity is a mockery of what it started as... now we have people chasing heaven, completely missing the point. It's "be cool"...
Jesus was just a man that said, this is fucked up... and we called him a savior. I get called psychotic for stating that the world is in a state of chaos and confusion... it's the attitude, why do you do things? Yourself, or for the betterment of mankind?
Chrysostomos
January 3, 2005   04:19 PM PST
 
Why should anyone try to "convert" Sarah, when Sarah doesn't really want to be converted. Sarah, why waste your time on something that really isn't an issue for you? I can take some guesses.... Maybe you want to show everyone here your intellectual prowess? Maybe you have alot of hurt feelings from some well intented, and some not-so-well intended Christians, and you want to try to denegrate their religious views? It's payback time and it's a *i*ch. For all we know, maybe you were never a Christian? Perhaps you were one of the tares that the bible speaks of being in with the wheat? Not your fault if you were deluded into thinking you were a Christian when you were possibly never really one? Maybe the debate should be, why shouldn't Sarah be a Christian? Convince us the reasons why you shouldn't. Don't use examples from your life of hypocritical self-professed "Christians", but from that bible, let's start out easy, the new testament. Let's make it really easy, and have you convince us, just using the words of Christ, as to why you shouldn't be a true Christian. One of those "wheat" that the bible discusses. We can go off on tangents about why does this happen, or that? But really, let's start with the real basics - Jesus Christ. Look forward to your response.....

With humble bow,

Rd. Chrysostomos
ElvenSarah
January 3, 2005   12:36 PM PST
 
I have to agree with you on that one Akira. Society has kept set up people for a fall on many issues. We are not taught how to think critically about the information we are given. It is a sad statement on our schools when we see thousands of people forwarding an e-mail to their friends, in hope that it will grant their wishes. I believe part of the problem is our religious society that teaches us to believe something if it is in a book. When people can think critically about the religion of their parents, they are on the first step. Teaching their children to do the same is the next. I am just here to get the facts out so people can decide on their own.
Akira3099
January 3, 2005   06:17 AM PST
 
It's that whole idea of something being out there... and the afterlife thing. That really messes with people. Christianity is just a tool, if people take it so literally, maybe we should be debating people. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Christianity doesn't take souls, those people are already trying to give it to something. I'd like to debate alcoholism, the people in AA are there for these same psychological deficiencies... not alcohol problems.
Katriana
December 27, 2004   10:47 AM PST
 
I am reminded of Saved. That movie was fucking hilarious. And I think it had a good message. You can have faith and some sort of god in your life without excluding or hating people who do things differently.

You don't need a set of rules to follow and preach in order to be close to your god. Besides. People wrote that shit. Not your god. What makes you o sure they weren't making it up?

And no, I'm not just talking about Christianity. That last statement applies to any holy book or document you toss my way.
Saphfire Storm
December 25, 2004   12:56 PM PST
 
Hee hee hee...AMEN!
ElvenSarah
December 24, 2004   12:39 PM PST
 
Why debate christianity?

In America, christianity is a huge cult. It has taken far too many victims including myself, and most of my friends and family. It is a cult that I would like to see the end of. I debate christianity for the same reason people fight child abuse. Christianity is morally offensive and it is time for it to be stopped. People are making life decisions based on this superstition, believing it to be from god. Religious fanaticism has hurt too many people. It is a sad state of thinking that has brought so many people to believe religion is a good thing. The world needs to move past it and I want that move to come through action based on logic, debate, and introspection rather than through murder.
Saphfire Storm
December 23, 2004   04:08 AM PST
 
Being a former christian ...let's see.. perhaps the fact that you need no accountability for your actions cuz your forgiven as long as you sell your soul to God?
Lyly
December 22, 2004   01:48 PM PST
 
Not speaking as an opponent here: Some Christians believe it is the one truth religion ("One God, one faith, one baptism") and believe that not doing so is tatamount to blasphemy. But then many devout followers of any religion feel that their way is *the* way - because they're supposed to think that way. Even more, some believe that certain people are excluded from practicing that religion. This type of religious elitism, IMO, is part of what sours me against organized religion (besides the stuff I wrote in my recent blog entry).
Akira3099
December 19, 2004   10:55 PM PST
 
I don't think my side counts, I'm not actually trying to convert you. Delete these, sorry...
Akira3099
December 19, 2004   10:47 PM PST
 
Why debate Christianity?
ElvenSarah
December 19, 2004   10:37 PM PST
 
Why don't I need to be a Jewish, zorastrian, nike cult member, or wear a red ball on my head?
Akira3099
December 19, 2004   10:32 PM PST
 
Not saying Christianity has it, anymore than any other religion...
but, why don't you need to be a Christian?

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