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jlerms
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« on: January 16, 2007, 12:51:32 AM »

Hello there Asterikos,
I decided to start this thread in response to a reply that you sent to Gabriel.  I wanted to share with you that my husband (who claims he is a deist but feels that God is not currently involved with his creation) feels that the human race does not need religion to live a moral life.  He says that if everyone behaves honorably and takes responsibility for their own actions, society would function smoothly.  (tee hee, like that will ever happen!)  He also has said that religion is a thing created by man to 1) try to explain the unexplainable and 2) to control the people with fear and keep people from doing bad things such as: theft, murder and other crimes. Anyway,  I am sure that there are some Atheists who are more moral than some Christians.  And  of course one does not need[/b religion to be Good.  However, if a person has pondered the origin of their existence the idea of a God(s) comes into play.  I would be interested in hearing how you have reasoned that there is no God.  I have read many of your posts ( some of which were from your Christian era) and it is obvious that you are well aquainted with Scripture.  Earlier I assume that you believed that Jesus Christ (besides being a historical figure) was the Son of God since you were an Orthodox Christian.  Do you still believe that He as a man lived?  And if you do believe there was a man Jesus of Nazerath...do you now think that he was a liar, a con-artist or just insane?  I hope that I am not offending you or any others here on OC.net but for some reason I felt compelled to ask you.  If you do not want to reply I will totally understand.

sincerely, Juliana Smiley    ps. I am not very good at utilizing the different text modes.  Apologies
« Last Edit: January 16, 2007, 12:53:07 AM by jlerms » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2007, 01:01:55 AM »

Earlier I assume that you believed that Jesus Christ (besides being a historical figure) was the Son of God since you were an Orthodox Christian.  Do you still believe that He as a man lived?  And if you do believe there was a man Jesus of Nazerath...do you now think that he was a liar, a con-artist or just insane?

I can't speak for Asterikos, but you are bringing up C.S. Lewis' argument in Mere Christianity that ignores one important possibility: Jesus lived but he never said the things that the evangelists claim. There's not just a simple choice between "real genuine Son of God" and "lunatic/liar/con man".
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jlerms
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« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2007, 01:05:51 AM »

Thank you for bringing  up this option.  I have never read Mere Christianity.  Ok, so in this option of Jesus of Nazareth never really saying those things, or performing miracles, etc. does Lewis explain WHY the   evangelists came up with this scenario?   

much obliged, Juliana

edited for spelling and one word replacement
« Last Edit: January 16, 2007, 01:15:54 AM by jlerms » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2007, 01:15:32 AM »

Thank you for bring up this option.  I have never read Mere Christianity.  Ok, so in this option of Jesus of Nazareth never really saying those things, or performing miracles, etc. does Lewis explain WHY the   evangelists came up with this idea?   

You should read Mere Christianity because even though (I at least think) it makes poor arguments, much of the philosophies of modern Christian evangelism in the U.S. and Britain assumes familiarity with it.

The problem is that Lewis doesn't bring up the possibility at all that Jesus lived but the gospel writers just heavily exaggerated him.

This rebuttal is not entirely impossible to overcome. Richard Swinburne in his The Resurrection of God Incarnate (Oxford University Press, 2003) argues that even considering the possibility that the gospel writers were fallible, putting all the evidence together makes it overwhelmingly probable that Christ lived, taught what he taught, and died and rose again.
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jlerms
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« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2007, 01:27:01 AM »

Thank you for the information Culver, however I am more interested why Asterikos (or others) change their mind about believing in Jesus.   My mother-in-law grew up Roman Catholic and then at the age of 30 converted to Judaism.  It seems odd to me that a personat one time believes that Jesus was the Son of God and then has a change of heart.  Sometimes I wonder if a part of the reason faith comes to people is that they have a desire to believe.
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« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2007, 01:30:59 AM »

I can't speak for Asterikos, but you are bringing up C.S. Lewis' argument in Mere Christianity that ignores one important possibility: Jesus lived but he never said the things that the evangelists claim. There's not just a simple choice between "real genuine Son of God" and "lunatic/liar/con man".

I really used to stew over that very possibility, CRC, as I noted its absence from Lewis' writings as well.  My thoughts on this were put to rest, however, due to (what I perceive as) the undeniable witness of the apostles compared to their pre-resurrection behavior.  We move from eleven (sixty-nine, really) terrified individuals--almost all of them fled like scared rabbits when their Messiah was captured by Roman guards--to just as many fearless martyrs three days later.  My question to those who doubt the accounts of the gospel would be this: from whence cometh this boldness? 

Certainly men will die for the Truth; men will even die without a moment's hesitation for something that, in the end, is proven to be a lie, yet which they believed with all their hearts to be the truth.  The men who wrote the gospels were not going on hearsay, but were eyewitnesses of this Man back from the dead, eyewitnesses who had nothing left to lose and (as far as they knew) everything to gain.  The fact that they all attested to Christ's resurrection (which was the proof He said He'd give for all the other claims' validity) with their very lives at stake says to me that the gospel accounts--most importantly, the claims of Christ therein concerning Himself--are at best trustworthy as to what was said by Christ, even if the veracity of said claims is still up for debate.

Lewis may not have included the option CRC offered, but imo it's just as well: such a position hardly squares with the picture the apostles give us.

Thank you for the information Culver, however I am more interested why Asterikos (or others) change their mind about believing in Jesus.   My mother-in-law grew up Roman Catholic and then at the age of 30 converted to Judaism.  It seems odd to me that a personat one time believes that Jesus was the Son of God and then has a change of heart.  Sometimes I wonder if a part of the reason faith comes to people is that they have a desire to believe.

This is absolutely a reason for belief, and a reason why no amount of apologetics or reasoned debate will, ultimately, suffice in convincing someone who, for reasons all their own that they may or may not be able to explain, does not want to believe.

A quote from Rich Mullins, fwiw:

Quote from: Rich Mullins
After I had whacked away his last scrap of defense, after I had successfully cut off every possible escape route that he could use, after I had backed him into an inescapable corner and hit him with a great inarguable truth, he blew me away by simply saying, "I do not want to be a Christian. I don't want your Jesus Christ." There was no argument left to be had or won. Faith is a matter of the will as much as it is of the intellect. I wanted to believe in Jesus. My friend wanted to believe in himself. In spite of how convincing my reason was, my reason was not compelling.
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jlerms
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« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2007, 01:32:39 AM »

Excuse me for not putting this thread in the Free for All section.  My bad.      Juliana Tongue
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jlerms
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« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2007, 01:41:52 AM »

Quote from: Rich Mullins
After I had whacked away his last scrap of defense, after I had successfully cut off every possible escape route that he could use, after I had backed him into an inescapable corner and hit him with a great inarguable truth, he blew me away by simply saying, "I do not want to be a Christian. I don't want your Jesus Christ." There was no argument left to be had or won. Faith is a matter of the will as much as it is of the intellect. I wanted to believe in Jesus. My friend wanted to believe in himself. In spite of how convincing my reason was, my reason was not compelling.


Whoa!  This quote is scary to me because I still pray that my husband one day will become a Christian and hopefully will join me and our children in the Orthodox Church.  So does that mean that our prayers will do no good for a person if they never want to believe in Christ Jesus?

Thank you for your input David Bryan.
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« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2007, 02:06:37 AM »

I've tried my best (with varying degrees of success) to avoid being an overbearing atheist; I don't want it to seem like I'm proselytizing. But I don't mind sharing my opinion when asked. Smiley

Quote
However, if a person has pondered the origin of their existence the idea of a God(s) comes into play.

I'd agree with this, and it's one reason that I am especially sympathetic with Deists (admittedly, I see deism as mainly filling a gap in a philosophical system; though if someone can get something positive out of it then I think that's great). At this point, science hasn't really been able to give a solid answer, so in that way some type of divine creator is no less likely than the idea that we have just always been here. However, part of the problem is then figuring out what type of God that would be, what evidence we have, etc., and I personally don't find holding to a non-personal God to be of much help. So, based on the evidence that there is, I just don't personally believe that there is a God, though I admit that someone could look at the same evidence and come to a very different conclusion.

Quote
I would be interested in hearing how you have reasoned that there is no God.

Well, to the extent that I've thought about it, most of the thought has gone into considering the evidence for a personal God, such as the one Christians worship. This, for me at least, is a somewhat seperate question from why I am not a Christian (which I gave some thoughts on here). I've thought about this question in two ways: the first way was to assume that there was a God and then I tried to prove that there wasn't; the second ways was to assume that there was no God and then I tried to prove that there was. Without going into all the details (which would make for a very long post), if it's ok with you, I'd rather just leave it at the following bit.

When I tried to prove that there was no God, I found that I could not prove it, but that I thought there was a lot of evidence against something like a personal God, including things like the problem of evil, and the lack of a system/group which (only in my opinion) gives an adequate accounting of this possible God. When I tried to prove that there was a God, I found that none of the arguments (again, only in my opinion) really withstood criticisms against them. There are some very good arguments for the existence of a God, such as the design argument and the anthropic principle. There are arguments against these good arguments in favor of God, though, and I could go either way on those as stand alone issue. But, when I put everything, I first came down in the agnostic camp, and eventually went ahead into atheism.

Quote
Earlier I assume that you believed that Jesus Christ (besides being a historical figure) was the Son of God since you were an Orthodox Christian.  Do you still believe that He as a man lived?

Yes, I did believe that he was the Son of God and God the Son, and I do still believe that he was an actual person who lived. I do think that some of the Christian apologetics are exaggerated, such as the claim that there is more historical evidence proving the existence of Jesus than any other figure in the ancient world. I also think atheists are really reaching when they say unequivocally that Jesus did not exist. How in the world do you prove with full assurance that a certain man did not live two thousand years ago? You can't possibly be sure of that type of thing; the best case for such a claim would be for there to be multiple contemporary sources which said that there was no Jesus, but there are no such sources. I will admit that I was somewhat uncomfortable with the way that the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit was articulated/clarified, coming as it did centuries after biblical times. I can remember thinking to myself, when I converted to Orthodoxy, that if I went by the Bible alone I wouldn't be a Trinitarian, or at least I'd be agnostic on the topic. I took that issue, like many others, on faith.

Quote
And if you do believe there was a man Jesus of Nazerath...do you now think that he was a liar, a con-artist or just insane?

Well, I see that CRCulver and DavidBryan has already brought up what I was going to say here. I think that Jesus lived, and that the Apostles (and some later converts who were not eye witnesses), writing anywhere from ten to sixty years after the death of Jesus, wrote what they honestly believed happened. So for me, it is more about whether they got the stories straight, and how they got the stories correct. First, I'll say that I don't trust eye witness accounts further than I can throw the eye witnesses. I think psychology, and for that matter magicians such as James Randi, have shown pretty well that people see what they want or are inclined to see, and remember what they want or are inclined to remember. This is not to imply and intent to deceive, by "want" here I don't mean that they are trying to shape reality, it's just what often happens. Thus, you might have two eye witnesses who witness an auto accident, and both of them are perfectly sincere, but yet they completely contradict each other.

Second, there was quite a bit of time for redactors to even out any contradictions between the Gospels, which admitedly were circulated rather early as a set of four. Again, I do not mean to imply that they had some bad motives; for example, they may just have assumed that the copyist before them copied things wrong, and that they could correct things. While much is made of the Jewish precision in copying, I've read that most biblical manuscripts are riddled with mistakes, showing that exactitude in copying wasn't necessarily a high priority. Third, there seems to still be some minor contradictions, for example whether the money changers/Temple incident happened at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus or at the end. Maybe the proposed solutions for these passages are correct, but at this point I still have doubts. And fourth, we know with certainty that some passages were added to the text well after the biblical authors wrote the books, such as the famous story of the prostitute caught in adultery in John 8.

I think the Jesus Seminar type people go too far in their assumptions about what was not in the original. However, I do have doubts as to whether the Bible as we have it is accurate in it's historical, practical, and theological details. And, as an atheist, I don't believe all the stuff about miracles. I don't know whether it was Jesus doing what we would consider magic, or it was the Apostles misremembering or later attributing to Jesus miracle working out of reverence, or maybe it was meant to be more of a spiritual lesson than historical fact (as I think almost all the stuff in the Orthodox lives of saints is). I am inclined to assume that the central elements of the teachings of Jesus were really his, especially the ones which were derived from earlier Jewish sources (e.g., love God with all your heart, do unto others as you'd have them do unto you, etc.)  

Anyway, I hope that provides some info on where I'm coming from. And, if you don't mind me asking, what do you think of what your husband says? And how does he take your own thoughts on this stuff? I live with a Christian wife, and I've found that it can be very interesting, and helpful, to discuss this stuff with each other. There is no pressure for either to convert to the other's beliefs, it's just a way of sharing who we are and where we are in life. I hope you are in a similarly civil and helpful situation. Smiley


DavidBryan

Fwiw, some thoughts...

Quote
We move from eleven (sixty-nine, really) terrified individuals--almost all of them fled like scared rabbits when their Messiah was captured by Roman guards--to just as many fearless martyrs three days later.  My question to those who doubt the accounts of the gospel would be this: from whence cometh this boldness? The fact that they all attested to Christ's resurrection (which was the proof He said He'd give for all the other claims' validity) with their very lives at stake says to me that the gospel accounts--most importantly, the claims of Christ therein concerning Himself--are at best trustworthy as to what was said by Christ, even if the veracity of said claims is still up for debate.[/

I don't think I have any answers that would persuade a Christian. I'm not even sure that I have answers that I would find persuasive, lol. Was it group delusion, caused by the trauma that they were surely experiencing? Possible, but very unlikely. Was it just a case of misremembering? I can see the not remembering this saying or that action, but I don't think they could forget something like a guy rising or not rising from the dead. Perhaps they just realised that Jesus never meant to reestablish an earthly kingdom, and since their beliefs were incorrect, they decided to reinterpret the ministry of Jesus in a wholly new way? Perhaps the resurrection stories were intended as myths for inspiring Christians to devote themselves to God and trust in him for their salvation? As you yourself said, when someone believes that something is true, they will go even as far as martyrdom to support the truth. While it's not as likely in the Christian case, there have probably been people who died for things that they knew were myths, because they believed in the ideas within those myths (also, Christians were not put to death for believing that Jesus was resurrected, but for other reasons). There are probably other possibilities that I'm not thinking of.

Also, I think the teachings in the text itself are such that I couldn't accept them. There are ones that many people struggle with, like the concept of an eternal hell. There are other issues, though, such as my belief that the prophecy of Jesus that "the gates of hades will not prevail against you" has failed. That, combined with the doubts mentioned above, and some others, leads me to where I am.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2007, 02:13:35 AM by Asteriktos » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2007, 02:10:59 AM »

Whoa!  This quote is scary to me because I still pray that my husband one day will become a Christian and hopefully will join me and our children in the Orthodox Church.  So does that mean that our prayers will do no good for a person if they never want to believe in Christ Jesus?

Well, first: Rich is not an authority of any kind for Orthodox Christians: I just think he's really thought-provoking.  Secondly: Prayer is a mystery, and we're not supposed to dissect what effect, if any, our prayers are going to have; we're just called to PRAY.  Another related quote, if I may, from Mr. Mullins regarding what you just asked about:

Quote from: Rich Mullins again
God called us to be lovers, and we frequently think that He meant us to be saviors. So we 'love' as long as we see 'results.' We give of ourselves as long as our investments pay off, but if the ones we love do not respond, we tend to despair and blame ourselves and even resent those we pretend to love. Because we love someone, we want them to be free of addictions, of sin, of self-and that is as it should be. But it might be that our love for them and our desire for their well-being will not make them well. And, if that is the case, their lack of response no more negates the reality of love than their quickness to respond would confirm it.
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« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2007, 01:41:15 PM »

Dear Asterikos,
 Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me and the others here at OC.net.  If I may say so it seems that you are not quite an Atheist.  You are still growing and evolving as a person and most likely your earthly journey is far from over. Currently I would put you in the undecided camp.

 As for my family situation, the discussions with my husband now can be quite interesting.  I have only been baptised (along with my children) an Orthodox for a year now so I have many moons to go before I can even begin to talk to him (Nick) about the Orthodox church with any competence.  When we met I was bascially a heathen (lapsed Roman Catholic from childhood) and our relationship didn't include any religion or spiritual matters. In fact, besides my fondness for religious artwork (I have a BA in Art History) the subject of God never came up in our day to day life.  After we had our first child things carried on as usual until one day my little girl (at that time 3yrs. old) out of the blue asked me...."Mama, do you know who God is?".  Naturally, this was a little unsettling but I did my best to explain to her about the theory of God.  One would think that I would then start thinking about if I should be taking her to some kind of church or providing her with some religious education...but alas no...I kind of buried the topic for another year or so. 
What happened to me I was not prepared for at all.  I can only describe it as a spiritual experience.  One night, for some strange reason, I was awoken by someone.  It was not a dream. My husband was asleep next to me...it wasn't him...it was someone calling me deep within my conscience...to call out to God.   I can't explain what happened next I but a feeling came over me to say one little prayer, "Help me see." Immediately my life started passing before my eyes in a period of a minute.  I am unable to describe the experience adequately.  Suddenly tears of remorse came pouring out of me as I layed quietly next to my husband.  Actually I left the room in fear of waking him.  I saw and felt the many terrible things and decisions that I hade made through the years.  Anyway I will not go into the gory details but suffice it to say that I can only term what happened to me as a "spiritual awakening."  I will save what happened after that and tmy conversion to Orthodoxy for another thread. 
Needless to say, the road of my marriage has altered a bit with a few curves and bumps.  But I feel blessed that my husband has been relatively patient with the change.  He is not interested in religious matters but is willing to talk to me about them. Christianity seems foreign to him in part because he was brought up in the Jewish faith (which he stopped participating in since high school).  One idea that he finds compelling is the belief (which exists in both Judaism and Christianity)  that "God sees all things." He likes this because it means that we all as individuals are responsible for our thoughts and actions.  It actually pleases him that somehow a complete account is held for every minute of our life on earth and we will be called to "own up" to it.  He's told me that this would give him comfort that there will be true justice one day.  However, he doesn't understand why a "loving" God wouldn't make his prescence more evident by fabulous displays or at least proof that he exists and cares for us.  To Nick, God must not care very much for his creatures  to let all these horrible things happen to many of his innocent children.  He has told me (even just last night) that he would be soooo happy if the God-Man Jesus (who he doesn't believe in) came to our door and showed him that he is REAL.  Then he would be glad to make some changes to his life with this newfound proof.  I love him dearly and cannot blame him for being skeptical.  To me he is a good person who conducts his life accordingly.  Anyway, I have droned on enough.
Thanks again for your story. God bless you and us all.    Juliana Smiley
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