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Comments

Oedipa

Well....atheists don't believe in gawd. You know, America should really be about our freedom to believe and pursue whatever spirituality we wish, even if it isn't about YOUR god.

You know?

As for the Tooth fairy and Santa Claus and such, I was informed by my very religious family at ages 8 and 9 that neither of these things existed. They were simply things we needed at the time to help us with the magic of childhood. However, if you wish to keep comparing god (in whose "name" wars are fought in) and the tooth Fairy, well, please, be my guest.

But seriously, I like being an atheist. And if you want to be a Christian, I vow never to take that away from you. Just don't force it on me, please.

Cheers.

Dory

Oedipa, First of all, I respect you even if I don't agree with you.

If you interpret my statements to mean I am advocating forcing any belief on anyone, you grossly mistake my meaning. Is there anything I said that indicates that, or are you assuming I think that?

For the record, I believe it is wrong for any person to impose a religious belief upon another. I believe the Bible teaches that no man rules the conscience of another.

The point of my post, which was clearly addressed to Christians, was to engage Christians on how we might best defend our faith. Do you object to us even making the case for our faith, and if so, why?

As to comparing God to Santa, etc., I was not doing that. I was noting that atheists often do it, an assertion that just a wee bit of blog surfing or Google searching would confirm.

I'd like to know, if you are willing to share, what motivated you to respond to my post, and not to posts on other blogs about what Santa brought, about how George Bush caused the tsunami, how men never landed on the moon, etc.? What is it about what I said that stuck in your craw?

Also for the record, I do not think I'm better than you. I think we're the same. I don't think there's any reason whatsoever that God should accept either one of us. And that, ultimately, was the point of my post. Do you object to me thinking you and I are the same in that regard?

UV

I'm an atheist and think Newdow's an ass. He's just after publicity. There are plenty of worthwhile fights to take on...this one is BS. Having the word "God" in the pledge, on money, etc. doesn't bother me at all.

Samantha

"Having the word "God" in the pledge, on money, etc. doesn't bother me at all."
And even if it did bother you there is no law that requires the rest of us regular folk or the government to refrain from referencing God for the sake of an atheist's comfort. newdow seems to take issue with that.

Oedipa

Hi -

I appreciate your attitude of respect.

I think what rankeled me about your post is the insinuation that I, as an aethist, have a moral problem because I lack a belief in god. This has been thrown in my face from other Christians as well. I certainaly have not gone up to them and told them that I believe they simply want to leave the responsibilty of defining their own morality up to a predefined religious structure.

I consider myself a fairly moral person. By whose definition? Well, by how I would expect others in my community and in the world at large to behave.

I expect not to be hurt physically or emotionally by others in willful ways. I expect that I will help protect those in my life who can't protect themselves. I don't like lying. I work very hard. I am spiritual. Very much so. I work daily to cultivate a rich inner life and pay attention to it.

On the other hand I do swear. I like swearing. I have sex when I can. I support the homosexual agenda as a valid civil rights movement. Ah...that probably made you all squirm a bit uncomfortably.

Anyway, as for the Pledge, I have issues with the under God having been added in 1954. It was part of another agenda. The original was changed.

I fear the gap between church and state is closing rapidly. I fear that the needs of others WHO DON'T HAPPEN TO BE CHRISTIAN will be not only ignored, but ridiculed. Our children will be made to feel uncomfortable if they wish to choose what they want to believe in (believe me, I was teased by nuns at my Catholic school).

If they have to stand there day after day reciting the "under God" thing, it further distances them from the choice I'd like them to make. I think we should have a country brave enough to not take sides out of respect for the diversity of its citizens. That's my issue. I don't think it's unreasonable....

Matt

Hey, found you through BE. This was a great post. I was heavily involved with apologetics and have slowly come to realize that that really doesn't do much. I still really enjoy apologetics, but now know it doesn't really further any sort of "cause." Christ doesn't need apology, yeah?

Thanks for the post!

-Matt

Dory

Oedipa,
Thanks for your comments again.

Just as an aside--I don't like the Pledge in children's classrooms at all in either of its forms, but for different reasons. I think we risk teaching kids to take vows lightly when we get them to pledge themselves mindlessly. But that's another issue;-)

First, let me explain what I did not mean by the phrase "moral problem." I was not talking about the way people live their lives either decently or not. As far as that goes, there are many unbelievers who live lives that are far more respectable and admirable than a lot of Christians. I was not saying that atheists are not good enough for God. That, certainly, is a moral problem, too, but it is one I believe all people share, and not what I was talking about when I used those words.

Perhaps if I replace the word "problem" with "difficulty with Christianity" I would be communicating my point better. I was trying to say that we Christians often expend a lot of mental and apologetic energy constructing different types of arguments that attempt to prove the existence of God, or to show that believing in His existence is reasonable. This is because we assume, I believe erroneously, that an atheist's difficulty with Christianity is intellectual. That is, we think if we show people enough evidence they will dispassionately evaluate it and then "see the light."

What I believe is the truth is that an unbeliever's difficulty with Christianity is moral. Not that God morally objects to them, but that they morally object to God. They don't like Him. Some even passionately hate Him, as I believe the case may be with folks like Mr. Newdow or the Santa Claus ranters who expend so much energy fighting a God they say does not exist.

And I believe that the verses from Romans that I quoted at the end of my post give us a clue as to why. Theologians distinguish between two ways God reveals Himself to humankind. First there is the revelation of Nature, similar to how we learn about an artist by her artwork. By this all of us can get a sense of there being a Creator and, because of our moral sense, we also think that if this God was to judge us, He would find us wanting. After all, even if we design our own rules for right and wrong we still have things to regret about how we've kept them.

And what is the natural human reaction to feeling judged and criticised? We resent the Judge and anyone else we see as being His "goody two-shoes co-judging teacher's pets." The problem is, if all we have is the revelation of Nature, that is the condition we are left in, so we supress what we know of God and reject Him.

The second method of God's revelation is the Bible. While we can learn through Nature that there is a God, but we cannot learn about His plan for reconciling us to Himself. We only hear of that through the Word.

So my message to Christians, then, is that though we do need to be able to defend our faith against the accuser, we are not going to help lead anyone to God merely by "proving" His existence. What will lead people to God is the Good News of what God has done to solve the problems that separate us--the Good News that God takes sin away, forgives, and saves.

The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ became human so that He could take the blame for the sins of people upon Himself and pay for them the penalty they owed. He died in our place and then He rose again from the dead, conquering death for us. Now He is in heaven watching out for us and one day He will return to the earth to bless the world eternally. Once a person's sins are paid for, and we turn to Christ in faith--not trusting in our own goodness (We don't have enough.)--but trusting only in what Christ has done for us, then we are joined to Him and become His children.

So Christians shouldn't be burdened with guilt, even though we know we still fail the Lord we love. And if people don't understand our faith, they may look at us and think that we think we do nothing wrong. But it's not that at all. We just have a means of dealing with it. I've had this blog for only about two months, but I've already written on forgiveness several times. Christians delight in it, because we know how badly we need it. So the message I encourage Christians to make is that we are guilt-free not because we are sin-free, but because our sins have been forgiven.

My message to Christians is that unbelievers do not need to be told that God IS; they need to be told that God is LOVE.

Annie

Excellent thoughts here. I especially agree with not encouraging children to say the pledge of allegiance, which is essentially a vow--Vows are very serious to God, as he outlines in his word. No one should take a vow lightly or in ignorance of what it means to God.

God is love and christians, atheists, and even animals, understand it perfectly. We all need it and God has given it to those who thirst, freely.

If you have a place to lay your head and food in your belly, than you have seen the love of God. What a small example this is of his love for us. As the raven neither reaps nor sows; yet he does not go hungry. How much more will He do for his own beloved? God is Love. Amen! :o)

mai

it is my understanding that God is a loving god, and believes in everyone.

...or was i mistaken?

Dory

Oh yes, mai, you are right that He is a God of love. He also knows people well enough to know they are not atheists. And He loves people enough to die in their place to take their punishment for them and give them new hearts and make them His own people--even while they still hate Him.

Rey

Great discussion, folks.

Stuart DiNenno

Dory wrote: "My message to Christians is that unbelievers do not need to be told that God IS; they need to be told that God is LOVE."

They need to be told to repent of their rebellion against God. God is longsuffering to the wicked and offers them forgiveness through Christ if they surrender their lives in obedience to Him. But while God is love to the repentant, He will be a consuming fire of wrath to those who obstinately reject the mercy offered to them.

Dory

Yes, Stuart, but people will have no reason to turn to God in repentance until they understand the salvation that is offered and has been wrought for them by history's most astounding act of love. This they must learn through the Gospel.

Ilkka Kokkarinen

Dory: "Also for the record, I do not think I'm better than you."

Actually, you do. In a very important and real sense, you and the other Christians consider yourselves to be objectively better than those who will be Left Behind. If you really don't, then the whole concept of "better" has no meaning whatsoever.

You assume that you know the inner motivations of atheists: that we know that God exists but simply pretend that he doesn't, unless the situation gets so severe that we can no longer pretend (say, when we are being shelled in a foxhole). Then it should not come as a surprise that we also assume to know the real inner motivations in your side.

For example, it seems to me that the real motivation of Christians to convert people to Christianity is simply to make them easier to control. With new Christians lower than you in the believer hierarchy, you can always control them by saying "God wants you to think this way about this matter, and this is an absolute truth that only a nihilist or a moral relativist disagrees with", a handy technique which obviously does not work with atheists.

As for myself, I reject Christianity for a very simple reason: I can't bring myself to accept that all Western science is wrong and the Universe is only 6,000 years old, like Bible and Christians claim. That, and also the rather embarrassing lack of faith healers in burn wards.

Dory

Hello! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

You said: "Actually, you do. In a very important and real sense, you and the other Christians consider yourselves to be objectively better than those who will be Left Behind. If you really don't, then the whole concept of "better" has no meaning whatsoever."

I think you are operating under the assumption that Christians believe that good people get to heaven and bad people go to hell. That is a common misconception, but it is not the truth. The Bible teaches that everyone has sinned, everyone deserves to be punished for it, and everyone deserves hell. In order for someone to be a Christian they don't have to think they are better, they have to recognize how bad they are--how deserving of hell--and repent. There is not one thing I have done that makes me more deserving of heaven than anyone else. Even the faith I have, which is what attaches me to Christ, comes from Him.

You also said, "You assume that you know the inner motivations of atheists: that we know that God exists..."

Actually what I assume is that the Bible is true, and the Bible says this about everyone, that we all know God exists and if we reject God we suppress that belief.

Most of the rest of what you said really isn't substantive enough to comment upon, other than to note that it does seem to affirm my assertion that that your biggest objection to Christianity is that you don't like it--or us--or our God.

I had to laugh at the control comment, though. I assure you, my desire that you should know God as I do has nothing with a desire to control you. I can't even gain control over my laundry pile.

But thanks for writing and I wish you the best.

Dory

Stuart DiNenno

Dory wrote: "Yes, Stuart, but people will have no reason to turn to God in repentance until they understand the salvation that is offered and has been wrought for them by history's most astounding act of love. This they must learn through the Gospel."

True. But people will have no reason to embrace the salvation offered to them unless they understand that they are presently under the wrath of God for their sins, and that they need to repent of those sins in order to be saved from the punishment to come. Preaching the gospel must include confronting people with their sins, and explaining to them their need for repentance. If these things are omitted, then the result is a feel-good message that is only a half-gospel.

Ilkka Kokkarinen

"I think you are operating under the assumption that Christians believe that good people get to heaven and bad people go to hell."

Well, many Christians do seem to believe exactly that, but that is not the point I was making.

According to your religion, the Ultimate Evaluator takes some people and leaves some others. If the term "objectively better" does not apply to the first group, in what situation or context could we possibly use this term?

"I had to laugh at the control comment, though."

During the Election, if I had had a dollar every time some Christian wrote that liberals oppose Christianity because accepting its truth would force them to accept the conservative policies, I would be a rich man.

This argument, coming straight from the horse's mouth, makes the real reason for converting nonbelievers obvious: social and political control.

For all the fuzzy feelgood talk of how everyone is equal in front of God, not every Christian gets to speak for God equally. The more Christians there are, the more power those who speak for God also have, since Christians cannot oppose God. This gives them a pretty obvious motivation to enlarge the numbers of their followers.

As for the rest of my posting that "isn't substantive enough to comment upon", let me clarify. Christians often claim how they are for "absolute truth" against "relativism". Well, Christianity claims that universe is only about 6,000 years old, whereas the Western science claims that the universe is billions of years old. Since we reject relativism, both of these mutually contradictory claims cannot be true. Which one should I believe?

Looking around, we see that the Western science is clearly correct in its claims of how the reality works. For example, if physics was even teeny bit wrong in its claims, the text that I type here right now would never show up in your computer monitor. Yet it does, having gone through an unimaginably complex chain of physical events from my keyboard to your monitor. (To borrow an argument often used by Christians, the probability of that happening is comparable to a hurricane striking a junkyard and building a 747.)

So, physics is right, and says that universe is billions of years old. Christianity contradicts this by saying that universe is only 6,000 years old. Now, what is someone who rejects relativism supposed to conclude from this?

Stuart DiNenno

Ilkka Kokkarinen wrote: "So, physics is right, and says that universe is billions of years old. Christianity contradicts this by saying that universe is only 6,000 years old. Now, what is someone who rejects relativism supposed to conclude from this?"

Is it the SCIENCE OF PHYSICS that says the universe is billions of years old or is it the RELIGION OF HEATHEN PHYSICISTS that says the universe is billions of years old? And if a Christian physicist was to tell you that the earth is 6,000 years old, would you believe him? If not, why would you believe an atheistic physicist who tells you that the universe is billions of years old? Have you bought into the lie that non-Christians are neutral about science and don't begin with assumptions about the age of the universe?

Stuart DiNenno

Ilkka Kokkarinen wrote: "During the Election, if I had had a dollar every time some Christian wrote that liberals oppose Christianity because accepting its truth would force them to accept the conservative policies, I would be a rich man."

I don't doubt that some of today's Evangelicals say such things. But I do not believe that any true Christian is going to embrace today's "conservative" political organizations, which are very far from being grounded in biblical Christianity.

Ilkka Kokkarinen wrote: "This argument, coming straight from the horse's mouth, makes the real reason for converting nonbelievers obvious: social and political control."

This might be the motivation of some power-seeking pseudo-Christians but it is not the motivation of true Christians. And becoming a Christian does not necessitate participating in or supporting the political and social activism of today's Evangelicals.

Dory

Hi, Stuart, Thanks for your contributions here. I think you and I agree more than you may think.

You said, "True. But people will have no reason to embrace the salvation offered to them unless they understand that they are presently under the wrath of God for their sins, and that they need to repent of those sins in order to be saved from the punishment to come. Preaching the gospel must include confronting people with their sins, and explaining to them their need for repentance. If these things are omitted, then the result is a feel-good message that is only a half-gospel."

I say, "Amen!" I would not omit the fact of our guilt before God in any Gospel presentation. It is not the Gospel, but it is the reason we need the Gospel. That being said, however, my point in the post, which is supported, IMHO by Romans 1:18-32, was that God reveals through nature itself 1) That He exists, and 2) That is wrath is against us because of our sin. These verses also say that though people know these things they suppress that truth in unrigheousness. Not in ignorance, but in unrighteousness. Therefore intellectual arguments that attempt to prove the existence of God are often (I didn't say always) a waste of time. What we ought to focus our attention on, rather, is the information available nowhere except through the revelation of the Word, namely, 1) what Christ has done to secure the salvation of His people, and 2) that that salvation is available to those who are in Christ by grace through faith. This is the information God uses to call those whom He will call. Of course, receiving Christ through faith will necessarily involve repentance.

Even here in these comments we have heard the atheists say we think we are better than they are. They obviously do not have a clear understanding of even the most basic doctrines of grace.

Thanks again for commenting. You've had some great things to say.

Dory

Ilkka, Thanks again for commenting.

You said, "According to your religion, the Ultimate Evaluator takes some people and leaves some others. If the term "objectively better" does not apply to the first group, in what situation or context could we possibly use this term?"

Excellent question, and it goes to the heart of the Gospel. I believe that everyone will face ultimate judgment. However, God does not grade on a curve. He doesn't take the cream of the crop and leave the rest. He is absolutely holy and He will accept nothing less than that. In that respect you and I and any other person on the face of the earth are in the exact same position of deserving His wrath. However, Christ took that wrath already for His people. It's already been done. He stands in our place on the day of judgment, so that it is He that is judged instead of us. So that is how I escape wrath, through Christ's saving work, and not because of any merit of my own. Only Christ is good enough to withstand that judgment. If you ever turn to Him in faith and repentance, He will do the same for you. I pray He will give you the heart to do so. You absolutely cannot do anything to earn salvation.

On another point, if, in fact, anyone claiming the name of Christ says, as you say, "that liberals oppose Christianity because accepting its truth would force them to accept the conservative policies," I will publicly condemn them if you send me the links to quotes. That would be a horrible thing for a Christian to say. Frankly, I have never heard it said.

Everyone who really believes something (Christians and atheists, included) would like to see their world view prevail in the marketplace of ideas, because they believe it would be best. That, however is not the same thing as saying the motivation for evangelism is to gain political power, as you originally charged. Evangelism by the Church has continued unabated now for 2,000 years, even in those times and places when it had no reasonable expectation of earning any political power for anyone. It so continues to this day. Just consider for a moment the Christians suffering in places such as China and the Sudan. They risk their very lives. Evangelism is motivated by a love for God and a love for our neighbors, plain and simple.

On science and what it has "established." I am not anti-science. In fact, I teach it and I'm married to a biochemist. That being said, science is what it is and nothing more. It is a tool by which we observe the natural world, design reproducible experiments, and through that experimental process, discern the natural laws (to varying degrees of certainty) by which the world operates.

Now what experiments have we done to say, see how worlds are made or how naturally-existing chemicals combine themselves into biochemicals and then biochemicals into life forms? Obviously the claims to "know" that such things ever occurred are just plain wishful thinking. You can go ahead and have hypotheses on such things, but to claim it is scientific fact is to redefine science and the scientific method.

To say that since science and technology have enabled us to talk together here via the Internet is proof that "physics isn't even a teeny bit wrong," even on theories of origins or the age of the earth is just plain illogical. Are you saying that because we have figured some things out we have them all figured out? Which of these theories of, say the formation of stars are planets are the "correct" ones? There are many competing theories, even among unbelievers. Why are we still doing science if we have it all figured out already?

The science I had in college has changed considerably, (most notably origins and evolution theories--it's more punctuated equilibrium now) and I am only 45 years old. My older brother is a physicist/astronomer. I'm sure his field had changed enormously since he was in school, and much of what he was taught discarded. I heard yesterday that our science has produced for us yet another set of dietary guidelines--at least the fourth in my lifetime. Ooops! This science that you trust with your soul is a very fickle fellow.

Thanks for the discussion. I've really enjoyed it. I want you to know I have no animosity toward you at all, and I'm glad you were able to speak your mind here.

Den

Do you know of any building that didn't have a builder?

Do you know of any painting that didn't have a painter?

Do you know of any car that didn't have a maker?

From the Atom to the Universe there is order therefore it didn't happen by accident. There is a master plan and there is a master planner...

http://www.godshand.org/Atheist/

Zach

Most of you were also offended by the title of this message. I can understand that.
This message was directed toward Christian believers to better teach them how to witness or share their beliefs with atheists.
However since it was posted online many of you who are not atheist viewed this. Sorry but don't be offended no one told you to read it.

My thoughts on the subject:
By definition, atheism is the disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods (The American Heritage College Dictionary). To all who don’t know, an atheist is someone who follows atheism. If you look closely at the definition you will find that Mr. Limbaugh was wrong in that he stated that an atheist can exist because anyone can deny God’s existence; however, the main point of the message was that disbelief in God is not possible.

In every human there is a sense that there is a higher power. There is a gut feeling that God exists. Though all of atheists deny the existence of God, no atheist truly disbelieves in the existence of God.

I know that some will be offended by my last sentence, but think about it. If you are truly an atheist then you have no belief in God or any higher power. I am not trying to insult any atheist who reads this. I am just stating the truth as I see it.

Junn

I think that some people are mistaking a maltheist from an atheist . A maltheist is a person who believes in a god but hates him. They believe that God is cruel, harsh etc.
Some people also believe that atheists will go to hell. In Matthew 7:21 it said: "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." Maybe there are also some who denies the existence of God because of the problem of evil. true atheists deny God because of lack of evidence, not because of the problem of evil or morality. I'm trying to clear up some misunderstanding here if there are any.

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