Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Humility or Futility?

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Oak Leaf Hydrangeas, Photo Credit: Ruth

Oak Leaf Hydrangeas, Photo Credit: Ruth

The pious Martyr Bradford, when he saw a poor criminal led to execution, exclaimed, “there, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford.” He knew that the same evil principles were in his own heart which had brought the criminal to that shameful end. [1]

I’m not sure how many times I uttered the phrase, “there, but for the grace of God go I”.  Drug addicts, alcoholics, deadbeats, sloths, jailbirds…I’ve had lots of things go wrong in my life and I’ve had every opportunity and excuse to be any one or combination of these.  So I clung to my faith and believed with all sincerity that it was being under the protection go God’s umbrella that kept me from doing so.

I believed that even though things beyond my control had gone wrong it was God’s continual favor for my faithfulness that kept me from choosing to do those things.  Every one of us was capable of those and even more terrible things, right?  Every one of us has only evil in our hearts apart from God’s guiding us to do good, right?

Not only did I believe ardently that Jesus was saving my from hell, I believed he was my salvation from myself; from my destructive, sinful, self.  It was a malady I was born with and one I would take to my grave and only Jesus could keep me from being my worst self.  Even so I knew I wasn’t good.

“As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;” Romans 3:10.

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. Mark 10:18

No, I wasn’t good.  I was just less bad. Even if I never actually did anything particularly sinful I thought about it.  My thinking was sinful so I was a sinner.

I was reminded this week of the futility of this thinking:

I love Luther not because of what he is in himself, but what he is in Christ. Like me, Luther has no righteousness of his own. None. He is a beggar, just like me, sitting at the table of Christ Jesus. I love Luther because he sang to me that Christ alone our shame He bore. Christ alone our sin He carried. I love Luther because he showed us that it is not our righteousness that saves. For we have none. What saves is Christ’s righteousness in us. I am a sinner. In Christ, I am a saint. This sainthood is not ours but Christ Jesus’ in us. [2]

This thinking is not, as is the implication, humble.  This thought is actually either arrogant or fatalistic.  Or both.  How can we be so arrogant to think that we were worth saving from ourselves but that poor fellow marching along in chains being led to his execution wasn’t? When we say such a thing we are expressing the belief that it is not our own decisions that have kept us from peril, but God Almighty, himself. Are we so arrogant to think we are somehow so special that God preserves us?  Are we so fatalistic as to think that our future is not in our own hands but the whim of a God?

I cannot stress enough what a relief it was to come to the realization that this simply not true.  There is no one continually monitoring my every thought.  There is no one watching my every move.  While I still realize that sometimes thoughts materialize, they don’t always.  They don’t even usually.  They are just that; thoughts.  How liberating to realize I wasn’t born a….sinner.  There wasn’t something wrong with me that needed to be fixed just because I think things.

Dr. Martin Luther King, in his famous I Had a Dream speech, said:

I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

I, too, have a dream: That there will be a day when people will not be judged by the mark of this beast we call God, but by the content of their character.

For we are not so special that any gods guides us not to do the horrors of other men.  We are not destined nor predestined to commit atrocities without a deity.  We are not saved by the grace of God from ourselves.

We are saved from self-destruction by our own consciences and our ability to empathize. It is when our own consciences have been seared and when our empathy has withered that we do harm to others and ourselves.

———————————————————————————————————-

[1] The Treatise on Prayer, pg. 60

[2] Daniel Prayson, http://withalliamgodDOTwordpressDOTcom/2014/06/03/the-luther-i-love-is-the-luther-i-am-shamed-of/#more-7552

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88 thoughts on “Humility or Futility?

  1. I dont like to depress you, but isn’t your government trying its best to watch all our moves?

    But there again, let religious people into positions of power, and they think they are god?

    Podenco has just been jumping on me so thoughts are more addled than normal.

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    • Interesting thought that the government is watching our moves. That may be the case, to a certain extent, but aren’t they still our moves, moves not dictated or watched over by some supreme being?

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    • Hmmm….been watching FOX News? lol

      No, they have the capability, I suppose – as does most every other government in the 1st world. But I don’t imagine them watching our every move. There aren’t enough hours in the day for that. Now, as to whether I’m a big fan of how they’re using this technology or not? That’s a whole ‘nother question.

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  2. Very well written. I, too, have heard, and even used, that expression and I agree that it is essentially suggesting that you have no control over yourself or your own actions, that God is in control and you are what you are (and what you aren’t) because of God.

    And the notion that we are all born sinners? I just don’t get that at all.

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  3. Not totally on topic, not totally off topic. You have been doing some music posts. Here is a tremendously overlooked great song by Steppenwolf touching on religion:

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  4. My family situation requires me to attend a fundamentalist church in the Bible Belt so I have a good idea of where you are coming from. Please don’t think, though, that what you have known is the only available understanding of Christianity. Since I don’t know your circumstances, I’m uncertain of what instance in the gospels I should point to as an example of Jesus’ love for women. However, I am sure he has love for you and would like you to experience it.

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    • Well, I came up in a fundamentalist sect. But that’s not why I don’t believe in God anymore. When I started to question I literally did look for God in the closet(you’ll forgive me for perusing your blog before replying). I’ve truly sought for God. I have. Though, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure why it should be on me to search in every possible place for a God. He’s God for cryin’ out loud! Shouldn’t he be easier to find than looking under every rock, diving to the bottom of the sea, climbing the highest mountain?

      But make no mistake, I have looked. And to be honest I’m pretty agnostic with regards to a deity. There may be one. But I am wholly unconvinced of the resurrection. Without which I’m not entirely sure one can call themselves a Christian, or even why they’d want to.

      As I said, there may be a deity of some sort, or there may not be. In any case it seems to me this deity remains fairly hidden and doesn’t care whether it’s known or not. What real difference would this kind of a deity make?

      None.

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      • It is good that you read my post on Finding God. It is also good that you realize that the resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of Christianity. The resurrection is difficult however. When Mary brought the news of the risen Jesus to the apostles, nine of them did not immediately believe her. Paul wrote that the resurrection was an embarrassment to the Jews, who still do not believe it, and a stumbling block to everyone else. So let’s go to a different place.
        Imagine we are at a well in the noonday sun about 2,000 years ago. A man is sitting there and a woman arrives. She is not seeking God but going to get drinking water. She is unaware both that her spiritual life is empty and that she is ready to be filled with “living water.” When I went to college, I left the Christianity I had been raised in behind. About 20 years later I was empty and ready but I didn’t know it. However, Christ came to me and brought me back to him and has been in my life for what is now a long time.
        I think that whenever you are empty and ready Christ will come to you and say, “Come to me my sister” and all your difficulties concerning him, God the Father and the Holy Spirit will be resolved. I hope that time is close and I will pray that it be so.

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        • Forgive me if I don’t hold my breath waiting for that.

          I don’t mean that to sound rude, really. I just don’t want to turn blue in the meantime. At any rate if this resurrection is true(which I haven’t been able to find evidence of) he knows where I am. I think I’m easier to find than he is.

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          • Good news, Ruth. I think you have been found. Why else would I be writing to you had Jesus not had an interest in me telling you about him. (Slightly rude insertion here: Were you expecting a burning bush?) Christ uses people to tell people about him. He does not have too but he does. It is in some way, I suppose, a form of worship he provides. So now back to the resurrection, there are probably enough books written supporting the resurrection to fill a library. However, they are of no use if you are not open to believing it took place. However, just as we are using the Internet without understanding it, people can accept the resurrection without knowing how it happened and find that it works as part of their Christian experience.

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          • Sigh…

            So the fundamentalist Jesus is too hot, the liberal Jesus is too, cold, but your Jesus…well, he’s just right, is he?

            See that’s part of the problem with all of this internet evangelism. Everybody thinks their version is the best version. Not only the best, but the right one.

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          • “Why else would I be writing to you had Jesus not had an interest in me telling you about him.”

            …Because you’re a Christian, so that’s what you think you’re supposed to do? Because you think that the only reason we aren’t Christians is because we’ve never been exposed to Exactly The Right Sort Of Christianity(tm)? Because despite your belief in an all-powerful savior, when it really comes down to it you don’t quite trust Him to speak for Himself? Because you haven’t quite wrapped your mind around the idea that we have been told about Him, and told about Him, and told about Him some more?

            I don’t know, just throwing some ideas out there.

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          • First thing, I was not talking to you. Second, I am sorry to upset you. I try to write things that might be helpful to someone who seemed to have a real interest in learning about Christianity not to those who just want to justify their rejection of it.

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          • Somebody seems to have stirred up an anthill. Anyway, here is my reply to your last response to me. Your avoidance of the issues I raised suggests that perhaps your search is actually you playing a starring role in a drama that could be called “Ruth Seeks God.” The thought that came to me was of a book, The Great Divorce, written by C.S. Lewis. In it various people have become so in love with their own thinking that they will not abandon it even for the sake of a glorious, eternal existence. I would not like you to fall into that trap. The life you live will have a path and outcome based on what you chose to believe about God. My hope is you will open yourself to the faith in Christ that will lead you to what, I think, you truly seek.

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          • Okay…

            This veiled threat of an outcome based on what I choose to believe about God seems a little manipulative. You realize that I don’t believe in the existence of neither heaven nor hell, right? So this isn’t much of a threat.

            As to your claim of Jesus having found me because you are proof of that I didn’t really feel a necessity to respond to. But if you insist…you did read the other responses here, didn’t you? What makes the fact that you’re here evangelizing me any different than the Muslim who was here evangelizing me a month ago? He wanted me to know the truth as well. He’s got a library full of good books for me to read, too.

            See, you think you’re challenging me not to be arrogant, but you’ve been arrogant in your own way. You operate on the presumption that God just is. And that that God is necessarily the Christian God. Why? On what evidence?

            This library full of books that attest to the resurrection are based on what? Historical documents? Archaeology? Science?

            You see, these books on the resurrection are based on the Bible itself, right? So the Bible is proof that the Bible is correct?

            Now, as for your initial offering to me; that you wanted to point me to what the Bible really says about his love for women: what made you think that I don’t believe in God because I don’t like what I (obviously) errantly believe he says about women? What made you think that I haven’t explored other forms of Christianity besides fundamentalism?

            What “issues” did you raise that I avoided? Did you want to know all the reasons I no longer believe. It’s quite long.

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          • In it various people have become so in love with their own thinking that they will not abandon it even for the sake of a glorious, eternal existence.

            Dangling carrots and fear mongering are not conducive to rational thought. Are you suggesting that people give up reason for the promise of something unproven? Am I not supposed to use my brain? Turn it off at the door of the church house?

            Neither the fear of hell nor the promise of heaven are good reasons to believe something that isn’t true.

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          • I think I need to make bingo cards.
            “Me typing is proof of God.”
            “You just need the right sort of Christianity.”
            “Unbelievers are just proud/in love with their own thinking.”
            “People responded to my idiocy, ergo I must be really getting to you!”
            “You have to believe in order to understand.”

            …I think I just got Bingo.

            Seriously, Watsamp, I don’t begrudge you your Christianity. If I sound vaguely irritated at you, it’s not because I secretly know you’re right; it’s because you’ve showed with the same old lines as everyone else, based on the same mistaken assumptions, and they’re tiresome. So let me raise as issue for you to address:

            Why should we believe any of this?

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          • You did, Michael! You got Bingo!

            Like you, I don’t care if he believes that Jesus was raised from the dead.

            He didn’t stir up an anthill. I did react…snarkily…which is fairly uncharacteristic of me, I think. I was taken aback by the amount of condescension in his comments toward me. Why did he assume I hadn’t read any of those books in the library about the resurrection? Or at least not open-mindedly? But the question remains: What are any of those books based on? Each author’s interpretation of scripture. Then we have a problem because we’re still at the Bible is proof of the Bible.

            It seems as if he’s saying exactly what you and boomslang alluded to; and that is, there’s no possible way one can read the Bible, and all the books written about the Bible, and still not believe.

            Rather, I think that a more neutral place to start is with a blank slate with no presumption of either a God or no God, which is where I attempted to start. Having weighed the evidence for and the evidence against, to me the God of the Bible comes up lacking.

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          • …And, I mistyped your name. Sorry, Waltsamp. That was not deliberate.

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        • “Christ uses people to tell people about him.

          I mean this in the kindest way possible, but you do realize, don’t you, that the scenario that you describe just above is completely indistinguishable from a scenario in which people tell other people stuff simply because they want to tell them. You realize that, right? When Muslims tell other people about the “Almighty Allah”, what’s more likely: a) Allah is using people to tell people about him, or b) Muslims want other people to believe in Allah, so Muslims tell people about Allah.

          Well? When you can answer that question honestly, then you can see how you sound to agnostics/atheists/former believers.

          “there are probably enough books written supporting the resurrection to fill a library. However, they are of no use if you are not open to believing it took place.”

          This makes me wonder if it’s possible to be “open minded” to Christianity but still find it unconvincing. I get the impression that the answer is “no”, which would raise an eyebrow. I mean, that would essentially be saying that I have to first take a leap and believe the claims are true before I even do any research. That’s not open-mindedness; that’s just being down-right foolish.

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          • Let me be kind in return. You do realize that everyone who communicates, politicians, ad agencies, all kinds of media, and so forth, has motivations. So why do you only use the motivational and subject test in regard to religious speakers and not the normal examination for truth that you exercise, I hope, in regard to the other kinds of speech.

            I wrote what I did to Ruth about the resurrection because there are, I think, better places to begin looking for Christ. However, Lew Wallace who became a Christian believer in the process of researching his novel Ben Hur did start our intending to prove the untruth of the resurrection.

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        • “various people have become so in love with their own thinking that they will not abandon it even for the sake of a glorious, eternal existence.”

          Several flaws in thinking, here. For starters, isn’t it curious that my “own thinking” seems to work quite well when it comes to the claims of Mormons, Scientologists, Muslims, UFologists, and trackers of large-footed community gorillas?

          Secondly, since when is believing something on the promise of a prize or reward a good reason to believe it, aside from the obvious..i.e..you want the prize or reward??? If an 18 yr-old “Elder” shows up at my door and he says that he’ll give me 4 free tickets to Sea World if a become a member of LDS, is that a good reason to become a Mormon? And this, of course, is assuming that I can force myself to believe something that I find UNbelievable in the first place. I can’t.

          “The life you live will have a path and outcome based on what you chose to believe about God.”

          So, you (unwittingly) demonstrate with great clarity that Christianity is morally bankrupt, since, evidently, what is “good” and “moral” is secondary to what thoughts one holds about how existence came to be. I, whose worst offense in society is a traffic ticket, get perpetually tortured upon death, and meanwhile, a serial killer who professed Christianity while on death row gets an eternal existence of unadulterated bliss. What’s wrong with this picture?

          “My hope is you will open yourself to the faith in Christ that will lead you to what, I think, you truly seek.”

          Here’s the rub: many people, myself included, would rather be b*tch-slapped with the truth than kissed with a lie.

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    • The opening paragraph in your comment would mislead someone to think you are attending the fundamentalist church out of coercion on to realize you are here to parrot the same bs sold in different ways everywhere. There are your kind that insist that we have a wrong reading of the bible or interpretation of the facts [sic].

      If you don’t already know, there are several christian sects and each make the claim of being the very right one. Since you seem to have a way to break the code of which is the right one, I am hoping in your attempt to have us believe in zombie Jesus you would share the script so we could use it too.

      You must by now know that whoever was at that grave brought news of an empty grave not a resurrection. There was no eyewitness one to the death of the fellow nor to the rising that is granting for a moment that miracle worker described by the anonymous authors lived. If this Jesus fellow resurrected and went to the sky let him stay there. We have world problems that no amount of prayer is going to solve unless we soil our hands and get them done. No amount of converts to christ army will end world poverty. Man must learn to or be taught to be not greedy and that education – a good education- is important in contributing to alleviating poverty.

      Men have claimed since the advent of religion to be talking for and on behalf of their god. A god who conveniently seems to want to just appear to a handful of ignoramuses.

      In all this talk about god you haven’t even told us what god is and if anything so described by you has any chance of existing. You assume because the bible mentions god so such a thing is. You want us to believe your silly stories and if that doesn’t work you threaten us with what will happen to us in a netherworld, a world that if you have spent time to read anything other the bible you would have read the writings of the Stoics who advised men to live good lives that if the gods are just, they will consider the good work and if the gods are unjust they should be very afraid.

      Evangelize all you want but always remember that you could be wrong.

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      • I thought the same thing about all of his comments. I’m not sure what part of any of what he said could be construed as liberal or different from fundamentalism.

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        • If you can find please point me to it

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          • I’ve put each account side by side starting with Mark, then John, then Luke, then Matthew and I’m working through it(I have limited time as well. I just didn’t see the point in trash talking since I’m really not good at that-it’s not fun for me).

            It did seem as though the easy peasy debunk required a lot of “reading into it” to determine what it “really meant”.

            But weren’t these letters/documents written to different audiences at different times? Would they have had all of these documents to cross reference since there was not cohesive NT at the time? Wouldn’t they have been taken at face value?

            The recipients of each one of these wouldn’t have had the luxury of using one against another to say “oh Mary must have broken away and run ahead of the group”.

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          • Sorry, Mak. This wasn’t supposed to go here. 😕

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        • Ans he likes issuing threats. I too dont think there is any difference

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  5. I have a dream that religion will die, that gods will die and that men will love their fellows more than they have loved their gods

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  6. Ruth, this was well-written covering the idea of grace and criticizing it as fatalistic and leading to an air of superiority. I think it certainly can turn fatalistic such as in Calvinism where literally everything flows from God’s sovereignty. This is extreme and unbiblical because Jesus said that we should express our freedom to seek and request from God the ability to repent. Freedom is anti-fatalistic.

    As for thinking one is special. . . what did Jesus think?

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  7. Thank you for following my blog today. I am certain that I will enjoy yours as well. 🙂

    I was reading the blog of another “recovering Christian” and it’s funny she used the exact phrase “There is no one continually monitoring my every thought.” This I think is the worse part of any religion, because it is predicated on actually making you feel like your very own thoughts are somehow inherently bad. And while it might be a good check against things like killing another human being, it’s not so good when you start to put it all the other various crazy rules like not eating pork, homosexuality (but really any sexual thought towards somebody that isn’t your spouse), being respectful in another religion’s church, etc. And of course you really don’t need the fear of God to know it’s not good to kill someone. As humans we need to freedom to explore ideas and thoughts, and actually answer the question for our self why something is wrong. We might be able to default to authority on some things, but it’s really not enough for every moral decision in your life to come down to “Well because the Bible says so” or whatever other holy book. Even the best Christians I know are the ones who deal with doubt themselves and ask questions, and encourage others to ask questions instead of the typical religious response which is “Don’t ask questions, that’s what God wants, now go away”.

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    • Hi Swarn,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      Even the best Christians I know are the ones who deal with doubt themselves and ask questions, and encourage others to ask questions instead of the typical religious response which is “Don’t ask questions, that’s what God wants, now go away”.

      Indeed. Those are the Christians who don’t have ready “pat” answers for every scenario in life. They’re the ones who aren’t so quick to tell others how much wrath they’re building up for themselves because they aren’t so all-fired-certain that the God they’ve chosen to worship is really there at all.

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  8. I progressive Christian was all over my site telling us that atheists need to be more humble. Why? Well, because we don’t even doubt that there could be an all-loving, intervening, all-knowing, all-powerful spirit, then we are arrogant.

    This “Humble” meme is all over Christianity — a sneaky manipulation tool.

    Ruth, you illustrate well here its disguise!

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    • Ah, yes. I don’t think that these kinds of Christians are aware of just how much humility it takes to be able to accept new information, deal with it in an objective way, and reconcile oneself to the facts as they are known.

      It is amusing to see them saying how much “we atheists” need to humble ourselves before we can know this God. It’s interesting to see just how much pride they take in their own humility.

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  9. Thank you for another great post, Ruth. There really is so much freedom in the realization you’ve outlined here. I’m so thankful to have come to this freedom, as you did. And the newly found freedom extends to my kids as well. Joy!

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  10. “There is no one continually monitoring my every thought.”

    Right? And if one really scratches beneath the surface of the claim..i.e..that an omniscient, omnipresent being knows our minds and monitors our every thought, things become even more confounded considering that this being would know, in advance, what those thoughts are going to be.

    Yup, “Yahweh”, aka, biblegod, knew from the onset that at some point I’d examine the evidence, find it lacking, and deconvert. ‘Sucks to be him, I guess. Evidently, he’s the guy who watches reruns of Gilligan’s Island, knowing fully well that they ain’t gettin’ off the island, but he cusses out Gilligan and throws his slipper at the TV at the end of each episode, anyway. Blame the writer, bro’, not the actors.

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    • Maybe the Calvinists have it right? *shrug*

      Blame the writer, bro’, not the actors.

      I don’t think there is a writer. But if there is he’s definitely more culpable than the actors. We’re just following the script, eh?

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  11. “Maybe the Calvinists have it right? *shrug*”

    I personally find this sect’s philosophy to be the most vile. Let’s see, now, everybody is born unworthy and deserving of eternal torture by way of incineration in a lake-O-fire. But “God”, being the loving and merciful guy that he is, has a list of those whom has “elected” to spare, just because he can. Ick.

    “I don’t think there is a writer. But if there is he’s definitely more culpable than the actors. We’re just following the script, eh?”

    Correctamundo. J. Calvin’s god is omnidouchificent :p

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    • “Maybe the Calvinists have it right? *shrug*”

      Yeah, I hope it was clear this was sarcasm. Under that theology it’s the Holy Creeper who does the wooing. And he woos just the right ones, and they can’t resist.

      I need a barf-bag now.

      “omnidouchificent”

      Ha! I’m totally stealing this word!

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      • “And he woos just the right ones, and they can’t resist.”

        If memory serves, one of the 5 “points” in Calvinist’s mindset is what’s called “irresistible grace”. Gawd, yes, “woos” whoever he pleases, and it should be noted that they cannot resist the wooing. IOW, “free will” is a steaming pile of guano.

        “Ha! I’m totally stealing this word!”

        By all means, do!

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      • Please forgive me for starting you on a string of comments that has led you to celebrating using a nasty word in regard to the attributes of God. However, this might be a bottom of sorts and sometimes people need to hit some low point before they can turn they thinking around and head in a better direction. (I wonder how many snarky comments I’ll get for that sentence.) If you will, I would like you to go to my post “Reply to the Dancing Professor” that might give us a new start. It is my idea of why the first-century Christian communities were successful in social terms. It does not include any doctrines, theology, or supernatural stuff. I hope you will visit.

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        • I saw your post and it’s sentiments are lovely. They sound quite like humanism. The reasons you ascribe to the success of Christianity have nothing to do with God or a risen Jesus. You don’t think that had anything to do with it?

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          • Thank you for your compliment on my post. I thought it was good, as I mentioned. The reason my sentiments sound quite like humanism is that humanism is, I think, based on the ideals contained in a valid form of Christianity (that of the first century in this case). I do think that God and a risen Jesus are both responsible for the success that Christianity has had. However, if you read my post “Turning American Christianity Upside Down” you will see that I think our current expressions of Christianity do not measure up to the first-century ideals either humanly or spiritually. I want to think awhile before I respond to your second Saturday comment. Thanks for keeping the dialogue going.

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          • The reason my sentiments sound quite like humanism is that humanism is, I think, based on the ideals contained in a valid form of Christianity (that of the first century in this case).

            I’m going to respectfully disagree with you on the basis of humanism. That Christianity encompasses [or at least should] a form of humanism doesn’t mean that secular humanism is based on or derived from a valid form of Christianity(whatever that is). I’ll agree with you that fundamentalist Christianity largely distorts and caricatures Jesus’ message (if you can accurately decipher his message from the texts of the Bible).

            Humanism existed prior to Christianity. Materialist philosophers have been espousing humanism for centuries prior to Jesus’ proclamations of such. Similar moral codes are found in various societies regardless of religious affiliations. Confucius stated the “Golden Rule” some 500 years prior to Jesus doing so. The Hammurabi Code, which predates the Bible, shows the basis for the ten commandments.

            I think that Christianity has borrowed from humanism, if it has any, rather than the other way around.

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        • Oh, and no apologies are necessary. I lack a belief in the existence of a god or gods. Imaginary beings are hard to offend.

          It’s difficult to fathom, though, why it is you don’t attribute the success of early Christianity to it’s God. If that is the basis of Christianity there are many of us already doing those things without the necessity to worship a God.

          These are not meant to be snarky comments. At. all. I just don’t understand why Christianity would be important to you without any theology or supernatural stuff(doctrines are a completely different animal, IMHO).

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  12. I had no “reply” option to the post to which I’m responding, so I’m doing it here, I guess.

    Waltsamp asks…..“You do realize that everyone who communicates, politicians, ad agencies, all kinds of media, and so forth, has motivations.”

    Yes, I do. But I fail to see how that correlates to instances when people, in this case, you, claim that an immaterial, non-corporeal being has commissioned you and others to tell people about him. I’m very aware that politicians have motives and that they sometimes speak on the behalf of other politicians when asked, or even not when asked. But I’m not seeing how that fact ties in to what I originally contended, which was that there is no way to distinguish between a scenario in which an immaterial being is commissioning people to communicate information to other people, and a scenario in which the communication that is taking place is simply people wanting to tell other people about something. IOW, when you assert that, “Christ uses people to tell people about him”, how can we be sure that this isn’t really just a case of believers talking about “Christ” because they want to talk about him?

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    • Or because they are paid to talk about him? The only way that you can tell that what people say concerning Christ is from God is that it is true and that it resonates with your spirit. Neither of these things are easy to experience. Particularly if you reject one or the other or both possibilities.

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      • I’ve largely left this discussion between you and boomslang alone. I have a question about this, though.

        What if what you say doesn’t resonate with me my spirit? What if you say one thing about Christ and someone else says another? What if what the other person says resonates with me? Does that mean what you say isn’t true?

        The problem with this “fuzzy feely” thing is it is so subjective.

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        • It is entirely likely that someone else will tell something different about Christ than I would and what I told you would not resonate with your soul. This is why I was thinking how nice it would be if it were possible for us to talk face to face and each of us to say what we had to say in a friendly conversation. For some reason you are important to me. However, I’m not perfect in any way so I could think things that are not true and I also lack knowledge of many things. All I can do is the best I can with what I have been given.

          Coming into a relationship with Christ is subjective. We are meant to open our heart (to use an old-fashioned expression) before we come to know him in our mind. The best way to come to think of Jesus as a person you would like to know is to read the biographies, the gospels, and see if the person described is someone you would want for a friend or brother. Forget miracles, proof texting, theology and all the other stuff that has cluttered our thinking concerning Jesus and see the person. See how he loved people by doing good things for them and how he showed us the way to God the Father, not by argument, but by showing us how God loves us and wants to enliven our spirits so we can eventually live with him forever.

          I think you would like some objective proof of the divinity of Christ. It would make commitment to him much, much easier. But that is not how it works. Faith must come before certainty about the reality of Jesus and what other Christian beliefs are true. And coming to a strong belief in Jesus may take time. For myself, I can now say that the deity of Christ is as certain to me as my own existence.

          Thanks for your responses to my comments. It is good, I think, that I have dialogued with you, even in such a limited fashion.

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          • I think you would like some objective proof of the divinity of Christ. It would make commitment to him much, much easier

            There is no ‘objective proof’ of divinity as this ( god-hood) was bestowed upon the character, Jesus of Nazareth, by the church.

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          • I think waltsamp would agree with the fact that there is no ‘objective proof’ of divinity. He said as much, though he’d likely disagree with Jesus’ method of bestowment (is that a word?).

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          • For some reason you are important to me.

            I appreciate that sentiment.

            Faith must come before certainty about the reality of Jesus and what other Christian beliefs are true. And coming to a strong belief in Jesus may take time. For myself, I can now say that the deity of Christ is as certain to me as my own existence.

            I do not begrudge you your faith. But certainly you can see the circularity of “you must have faith before you can believe”. This is essentially what you are saying. If one has faith in something, certainly the more they expose themselves to the object of their faith, the more they will believe in that object. People have placed their faith in a myriad of things/gods based on this very reasoning.

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          • There are tons of bad poetry that have been written but I do not see how that excludes the existence of good poetry. As you noted, there are lots of people with misplaced and/or wrong-headed faith. However, that does not preclude the existence of true faith. In fact, faith is the means God gives us to come to Christ. It is the immaterial arriving at the spiritual. I think that makes sense since the mental and physical are not adequate to the task, as I think you found out when you were seeking God. Faith in Christ is thus a gift from God and necessary if we are to know him but it is transmitted to us in various ways. It might arrive in a poem (not even one on a religious subject), a beautiful object, a loving person, or something I cannot even imagine.

            The idea that faith is a blind leap is a supposition of people who have not received faith. People who have been the recipients of God’s grace think it the most reasonable thing in the world to respond to it, even if it goes against all they had previously thought.

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          • Is faith grace given by a God? Or is faith something I do?

            Your poetry analysis sort of breaks down, because poetry is subjective. What I see as bad poetry may be perfectly beautiful poetry to another. But faith in God…considering the stakes…surely cannot be so subjective.

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          • Faith in Christ is a relationship and relationships require “actions” by both participants. You both have to do something, and this is important, as I will explain later, at the same time. At least my poetry analogy got you to the point of recognizing that faith in Christ is objective and that the stakes involved are very high. I was hopeful at this point we were on the way to a useful discussion. However, when I got to the end of the comments, I found you had been persuaded I was a Calvinist.
            Think for a minute. If I was a Calvinist would I see your soul as the object of a tug-of-war with me on one end, representing Christ, and Arkenaten and boomslang on the other end pulling for Satan. Arkenaten’s hatred of Christians and Jews should make it evident to you that he serves, wittingly or unwittingly, the evil spirit who desires the destruction of human souls. Boomslang is more subtle. He is like the tempter who came to Eve with the words, “Did God really say.” However, they are just two different aspects of the same assault on your eternal being.
            I have wondered about why it was me on one end of the rope but I think I got at least some answer when you referred to “The Dark Night of the Soul.” I’ve been there, done that, to use the common expression. I know what it is like to experience the absence of God so at least we have one common experience. Now to the question of why Christ was not there when you sought him.
            The answer to Christ’s absence may lie in what is happening to you now. If you choose to go to Christ, I think you will end up a deeper, richer, stronger Christian than if he had come to you earlier. That may seem like cold comfort now. On the occasion I was deep, deep in depression and Christ would not comfort me or even assure me of his care I felt intense pain and loneliness. Yet Jesus had a better plan. One that involved Prozac and cognitive therapy because what I needed was not immediate comfort but a better way of thinking. Now I understand Jesus’ love for me. I didn’t then.
            I continue to pray for you and continue to hope you will become my sister in Christ.
            Love, waltsamp.

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          • At least my poetry analogy got you to the point of recognizing that faith in Christ is objective and that the stakes involved are very high.

            I think that maybe you’ve misunderstood what I do and do not recognize about faith in Christ. I’ve always recognized that this is objective and that the stakes are high, according to Christianity. I’ve also come to realize some things about those stakes that are false and used to frighten people. Surely, you don’t think I just had a “Dark Night of the Soul” and simply stopped believing just because I didn’t “feel” something I thought I ought to. No, there is much more to it than that. It should be apparent to you by now that I don’t operate on emotion and feelings alone, for they can be very deceptive. No, dear waltsamp, my faith did not leave me so easily and in such a petty manner. It did not leave me without much study, much contemplation, and much anguish. It was not a thing easily relinquished.

            I’m sorry that it took Prozac and cognitive therapy for you to come to a place where you could believe in Jesus. Why would you think that this was part of God’s plan for you? Why would a person who already believed in Jesus need to have a better way of thinking to believe in Jesus? Why would he need to remove his presence from one who loves him to make them love him or believe in him more? That’s like being a little pregnant. Either you believe or you don’t. If a little faith is enough of what benefit is more faith? When is enough faith enough faith? Do you believe that Jesus had to be cruel to be kind?

            I’m not saying you didn’t need Prozac or cognitive therapy. Those have helped untold millions of people in depression – a medical condition – not a spiritual condition. Though it seems that belief is providing you with some measure of comfort now. I wouldn’t wish to take that from you.

            Are you seriously equating Ark and boomSLANG with a being called Satan? Tho Ark can be a bit of a devil, I don’t think that he nor boomSLANG are under the control of Satan or his minions. I don’t even believe there is a Satan. That you do might explain why you feel you need to try to save my soul.

            Ark does not hate Christians nor Jews(I’m not even sure where you got that one). No, he hates what religions(including Islam and others) that brainwash people into believing harmful doctrines does to people – children in particular. That you would equate him with Satan is evidence of that.

            I appreciate your prayers and hope that it gives you some level of comfort at the the thought of my soul. I’m sure I’ll think of you from time to time as well.

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          • And again, because people can be wrong about things they truly believe they are right about, how do you even know that you are saved?

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      • “The only way that you can tell that what people say concerning Christ is from God is that it is true and that it resonates with your spirit.” ~ Waltsamp

        Did you misspeak? As it stands, I’m hearing that the two ways with which we can know that what Christians are saying concerning “Christ” is actually coming from the Xian god, is, 1) that it resonates with one’s spirit, and 2) that it is true

        RE: 2. We can know that it is true because it’s true? If you didn’t misspeak, I would hope that you can see the circularity in that.

        RE: 1. As best as I can tell, every believer who professes to have a personal relationship with “Christ” would claim that whatever they believe about Christianity “resonates” with their spirit. But curiously, Christians are mysteriously on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to things like the important social issues of the day..e.g…abortion, war, death penalty, equal rights for gays, etc. It appears that some people are being self-deceived, here. What, if anything, would make a believer exempt from this sort of self-deception?

        As it stands, in a scenario in which it is claimed that people are getting their info’ from the Xian God, this is indistinguishable from the scenario in which people are just putting forth their own, personal views, which, as Ruth points out, is completely subjective.

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  13. “Faith must come before certainty about the reality of Jesus and what other Christian beliefs are true.”

    In no other facet of life besides religion do we employ a sphere of thought that says that we can be certain of the validity of a proposition by first taking a leap of faith that it is valid. By that sphere of thought, heck, an infinite list of propositions can be “true”. I’m going to have to side with Ruth on this one.

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  14. @waltsamp

    People who have been the recipients of God’s grace think it the most reasonable thing in the world to respond to it, even if it goes against all they had previously thought.

    This would suggest that the god you genuflect to is a capricious s.o.b, as he only dispenses his ‘grace’ to a select few.

    The Jews thought they were the ones, and the men cut off their foreskins as ‘evidence’ of their god’s grace. Intelligence personified.(sic)
    Seems they screwed up big time because their god didn’t tell them that a man called Saul/Paul was soon to come along and preach a different tune to a different bunch of credulous unfortunates.

    And then your god sends his chief Angel to a functionally illiterate goatherd and future pedophile that he was to be your god’s new disseminator of his ‘word’.

    Yes, one can clearly see that belief in this god is rational and reasonable.

    Reasonable if we accept that most people have their religious beliefs rammed down their throats during childhood to the point that is causes untold distress and trauma that only increases exponentially when the recipient of this god’s ‘reasonable grace’ begins to ask a few pertinent questions.

    It never ceases to baffle me how believers can come onto a deconverts blog and comment as if they are addressing a child at Sunday School.
    That there is no argument you can possibly present that the deconvert has not heard.

    That you simply cannot grasp the fact that prior to deconversion many deconverts have been schooled in religious apologetics and are adept at handling non believers, that once they have deconverted and finally accepted that what they previously believed is absolute crap with no evidence whatsoever to back its nonsensical claims, that nothing you can write or say will convince them that what you believe is truth.

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    • I think that it is difficult for [some] believers to grasp the concept that de-converts such as myself have genuinely looked for God. In fact, if you read some of waltsamp’s earlier comments, he implies that I didn’t go about it the right way.

      The Bible says:

      “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. ” Jer. 29:13

      So the implication is that if I don’t believe, I haven’t sought with all my heart. The fact of the matter is, I’ve sought with everything I had in me. I left nothing on the table. Waltsamp has no idea of the “Dark Night of the Soul” that I’ve experienced.

      The Bible also says that faith is a gift from God, not of ourselves.

      So is the fact that I don’t believe in God a failing on my part or on God’s part (if he exists)?

      It is quite difficult for believers to contemplate the implications of apostasy or simple disbelief.

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      • I imagine many deconverts go through similar skepticism and ridicule from non – believers.
        It is the old, “Oh, you were never a proper Christian” rubbish.
        Or, perhaps you were ‘turned’ by an atheist or heathen or worse, someone who played Pat Boone records backwards.

        They truly are so tiresome.

        BTW, the videos you posted are excellent. I skipped Craig – heard his monotonous diatribe once too often – but I have never before listened to Krauss and found his arguments excellent; fully grounded in simple common sense , which appeals to me immensely. And I absolutely loved his almost ad hominum digs at Craig. Hilarious.

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        • Well, it’s simply just easier to find fault with the de-convert/unbeliever than it is to contemplate the implication that either the God they believe in doesn’t exist or that he’s not all-loving. I have to let it slide off my back, so to speak. If not I’d likely walk around in a perpetual state of either agitation or despair. I also remember what I thought of apostates and unbelievers when I was a believer, so I get where their coming from. Regardless, it is a bit grinding at times.

          You watched those? The were quite lengthy. Krauss did have some good zingers. I rather enjoyed the panel on Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s video more.

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  15. “There are tons of bad poetry that have been written but I do not see how that excludes the existence of good poetry. ~ Waltsamp

    It doesn’t exclude it, no. But on the other hand, no one is disputing the existence of “poetry”.

    “there are lots of people with misplaced and/or wrong-headed faith. However, that does not preclude the existence of true faith.”

    It seems to me that two connotations of “faith” are being conflated here, one, “faith”, as in, trusting in that which cannot be seen or empirically proven; two, “faith” as in a specific brand of religion..e.g…”the Christian Faith“, etc.

    Regarding the former, if one theist can be led astray by “faith” that is “misplaced”, then so can the next guy. People who use “faith” as means for believing are all in the same, flimsy boat, IMO.

    Regarding the latter, that there exists thousands of religions past and present that are wrong doesn’t preclude a right one, no. But if there is a “right” one, you wouldn’t need the former type of “faith” to sustain it; it’s truth could be demonstrated in some objective way.

    “In fact, faith is the means God gives us to come to Christ.”

    If I am dependent upon the getting, from God, the means with which to believe in God, then I fail to see how I can be culpable if I end up a nonbeliever in the end. If it is argued that God gives everyone the faith with which to believe in him, then you will probably agree that that faith has failed all Muslims. “Faith” is either reliable, or it isn’t. It appears that it is not.

    “The idea that faith is a blind leap is a supposition of people who have not received faith.”

    So, this seems to be a clear admission that God only gives faith to a select few. Sounds like Calvinism.

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  16. @waltsamp

    Arkenaten’s hatred of Christians and Jews should make it evident to you that he serves, wittingly or unwittingly, the evil spirit who desires the destruction of human souls.

    Goddammit, you got me Walt. I am the right hand man for Satan all right.
    Recruited right out of primary school and I have been playing my Ozzy Osborne and Pat Boone records backwards ever since.
    I have upside down crucifix’s all over my house and my walls are painted black, and on weekends I dress up in a goats skin and jump around the garden naked screaming Beelzebub just to wind up the neighbours.

    LOL. What a jumped up arrogant presumptuous ..and ignorant little t*t you are.

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    • The shame of it is he probably doesn’t even realize how or why this would be insulting. He doesn’t realize that the very things that upset you, that make you despise religion, are that one might be so indoctrinated that they would call another a tool of Satan,

      I’ve been called that and worse.

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      • Ruth asks…“Is faith grace given by a God? Or is faith something I do?”

        Waltsamp responds: Faith in Christ is a relationship and relationships require ‘actions” by both participants.

        This is the fallacy of equivocation, since, lo and behold, Waltsamp has now introduced yet a third, completely different application of the word “faith”

        So, we now have no less the three different connotations for “faith”, which are…

        1) the means by which to believe in something despite (or in spite of) the a lack of empirical evidence for it.

        2) a particular brand of religious belief…e.g..”the Mormon Faith”, “the Muslim Faith”, etc

        3) a relationship

        Regarding 3, I agree that relationships are very important and require actions by both participants. Where I part ways is when people keep a straight face and tell me that they have a “relationship” with an invisible, inaudible, immaterial, non-corporeal being, and that I, too, can have the same. I’m sorry, but that’s malarkey.

        Not too surprisingly, the theist’s claims reverts back to definition #1, above, which somehow always becomes the default connotation of “faith”.

        And there is yet a fourth connotation that Waltsamp hasn’t used(yet), and that is trust. But in the colloquial sense, “trust” is established by a proven track-record..e.g..”She is a wonderful nanny for our children! I have faith in her!”.

        Here’s the rub—no good parent would hire a nanny that they’ve never seen nor heard. They would never just go on the words of others who claim to “know” a “good nanny”. Put up, or shut up.

        Thus, I contend that Christians don’t “trust” that “Jesus” lives in their hearts and answers their prayers, yadda, yadda. No, at best, they have faith that it so(see #1, above).

        “At least my poetry analogy got you to the point of recognizing that faith in Christ is objective and that the stakes involved are very high.”

        No. Wrong. “Faith in Christ” is most certainly not objective. If it was “objective”, then the suppose “relationship” would be demonstrable; you could produce the actual object of your affection in that supposed “relationship”. As it stands, all we have is Christian’s insistence that it so. Nadda mas.

        “I was hopeful at this point we were on the way to a useful discussion.”

        It’s never going to be useful if believers won’t acknowledge and address the reasons that nonbelievers have for finding their “evidence” unconvincing.

        “Think for a minute. If I was a Calvinist would I see your soul as the object of a tug-of-war with me on one end, representing Christ, and Arkenaten and boomslang on the other end pulling for Satan.”

        Okay, I’ve thought about it, except that it only took about 8 seconds to see that believing the whole “good” Vs “evil” religious dichotomy doesn’t preclude Calvinism. Moreover, even if I entertain the whole “tug-of-war” between “good” and “evil”, for critical thinkers, it always reverts back to “God” Vs “Satan”.

        If the most powerful, most resourceful, most intelligent being in existence cannot defeat his worst enemy, someone will be hard-pressed to convince me that this is my problem.

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        • Satan and spiritual death were defeated by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. What is working out now is the free will God gave us to either believe in Christ or reject him. If you go to the end of the New Testament, the book of Revelation, you can find out how it all ends. However, I doubt you will do that as you seem to be more interested in your own cleverness than in learning anything true about the purposes of God.

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          • I’m not sure why you think I haven’t read the Bible. I’ve read the Book of Revelation. I’ve read the entire New Testament. I don’t find it convincing. I’m sorry that exasperates you.

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          • “Satan and spiritual death were defeated by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.” ~ Waltsamp

            If this (supposed) “Satan” fellow has been “defeated”, then it seems odd to me that this guy would still be able to lead us terrible skeptics and back sliders astray. That doesn’t sound like any “defeat”, to me; it sound’s like “Satan” is just doing precisely what he’s always done since the day he decided to “rebel” against God, and curiously, God did nothing then, too.

            To compound the ridiculousness of what you’re proposing, you’d have us believe that the most intelligent, most powerful being in all of existence can’t think of a better way to defeat his enemy than to offer up his own son to be sacrificed in nasty, bloody, Roman-style execution. Brilliant? I think not. Practical? Hardly. Efficient? Apparently not.

            “What is working out now is the free will God gave us to either believe in Christ or reject him.” ~ Waltsamp

            Look up “false dichotomy”. What you are erroneously proposing is that, if don’t believe in someone, in this case, “Christ”, that I am rejecting him by default. I’m sorry, but that’s poppycock. One cannot “reject” that which one doesn’t believe has a referent in reality. Are you and I rejecting “Allah”? Or is it merely the case that we don’t believe that any such individual exists?

            But what’s interesting is that even if God actually made an appearance and we all had indisputable evidence that he exists(as you insist he does), that would not harm or circumvent anyone’s “free will”. My knowing that someone exists for sure doesn’t necessitate my accepting their love and/or their policies, or whatever else they have to offer.

            “you seem to be more interested in your own cleverness than in learning anything true about the purposes of God.” ~ Waltsamp

            There is nothing clever about what I’m doing; I’m simply applying common sense and logic to your bible and your beliefs in the exact same way I’d apply it to a Mormon and their Book of Mormon, to a Muslim and their Qu’ran, and to Scientologist and their copy of Dianetics.

            I contend that I’m the one being consistent when it comes to your bible, and you are the one being inconsistent and making excuses for the nonsense found therein.

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    • How does Arkenaten know he is not a servant of Satan? The devil is a deceiver and Arkenaten has cut himself off from all spiritual knowledge. Perhaps it would have been kinder for me to deal with him on his own terms as an accident of nature, with, I might add, exaggerated pretensions. Then I could tell him that his posts are at the level of junior-high flamers. What I will say is that if a demon shows up in his life, and sooner or later one probably will, there is still hope for him through faith in Jesus Christ.

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  17. “What I will say is that if a demon shows up in his life, and sooner or later one probably will, there is still hope for him through faith in Jesus Christ.” ~ Waltsamp

    So, the suggestion is that these so-called “demons” go around influencing atheists and other non-Christians, since, I guess we are to believe that Christians are impervious the effects of “demons”.

    Here’s the rub: If that was true, we’d see the behavior and motives of non-Christians being far worse than that of Christians. But in fact, that’s not what we see at all.

    Just one more failed, unconvincing argument from the Christian camp.

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