These pages have really needed an overhaul for a long time but I just couldn’t figure out how.
I knew re-writing this section would be difficult, but I don't think I ever wrote, crossed out, and rewrote a section as much as this. These pages were among the first I ever wrote and even then they tended towards a more random collection of ideas than a coherent set of pages. The problem was (and still is) an issue of keeping an article you are writing on focus. Religious conversations are always sidetracked by having to define the meaning of a word, or because a related idea comes to mind and the conversation gets sidetracked into a conversation about something else.
Over the last 25+ years I've talked to religious and non-religious people, read piles of books, and surfed online articles for hours and hours. Heck, I've even read the Bible cover to cover in the NLV, and King James versions so I've been introduced a number of interesting ideas. How to share those ideas is the question.
As a surprise to no one that knows me I'm definitely on the far right of the Believer/Agnostic/Atheist side of the belief spectrum, so yes I know there is a slant to these pages, and yes it's intentional because these are the types of articles that I find interesting.
Fee free to surf around as you like, but as a starting point, these are 3 recent thoughts.
This one is universal to almost all conversations regardless of if you are talking about Politics, Money, or Religion. Take something simple like having a conversation about "What are some ways to get Rich?". Before you even start you have to agree on what everyone means by "Rich".
Many of the arguments I've been in are not arguments at but matters of definition. It's always annoying to find out that both of you have been in agreement for the last 30 minutes, but both of you simply have different words for the same thing.
Now, lets try a hard one like "Do you believe in God?". It should be absolutely obvious that is a worthless question without first answering the question "What do you mean by God?", but for some reason many people are surprised at this reply. My best guess is that most people in the US grew up with and in the Christian Worldview, and don't understand how many assumptions come with that worldview. To someone raised this way, the idea that you would have to define God is weird, because of course what is meant is the God that is described in the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible.
This missed a lot of subtle variations and details.
To a Christian, the difference in belief between a Christian and a Jew is huge. To an Agonist or Atheist, there is almost no difference. If you were to ask a Christian and a Jew a series of "Do you believe XYZ" questions, the Christian and the Jew would both be in agreement far more than they would be in disagreement.
Do you believe that…
With this set of questions the Christians and the Jews are in general agreement until the last question with many of the Atheists out from the first question.
And don't even get me started about Agnostics. So you if are only 51% in belief of the New Testament, are you an Agnostic because you are unsure, a Believer because you believe God exists in some form, or an Atheist because you don't believe enough to be "born again".
But back to the first question "Do you believe in God?". A much better question would be "Do you believe in the God as more or less described in the Old Testament?" or "Koran" or "Book of Mormon". With a specific question, you can at least have a real conversation, or as Charles Bradlaugh put it "The Bible God I deny; the Christian God I disbelieve in; but I am not rash enough to say there is no God as long as you tell me you are unprepared to define God to me.”
I've read the Bible from cover to cover in both the KJV and NLV versions and there a lot of parts where I just stopped and thought "something isn't right here". And then there were spots where I stopped and thought "WTF? Did I read that correctly?"
Actually there are lots and lots of places like this.
When I read "how the snake lost it's legs" or "what is the meaning of the rainbow", I thought of Aesop's fable of "How the Giraffe got it's long neck" , and the Indian tale of "How Coyote got his Cunning".
When I read about how some stones were left on a hill, and then read it again a few pages later, I thought there are some editing issues and the JEDP theory gained another convert.
And who the hell is this Saul Guy and what happened to the other 12 disciples? Are you really trying to tell me that this new guy that pretty much started the Christian Church wasn't even a Disciple?
At a certain point I wanted to scream enough already.
Obviously I'm not the first person to have these thoughts but there is a field called Apologetics where people who believe in the Bible have spent a great deal of time pointing to each and every one of these areas and explaining "what they really mean" or "why you might be misinterpreting this".
The thing is, I'm not really convinced. There is a point where you have to say "If it walks like a duck, and it quacks like duck, then it's pretty much a duck."
This is the linchpin issue for me . If the God as described in the Old and New Testaments is unethical, or downright evil, then maybe you should believe in something different.
The idea is pretty simple. If the God as described in the Bible sounds like evil person to you, then no, you shouldn’t be a Christian (or Jewish, or Muslim for that matter). This is by no means a new idea and people have been debating it round and round for centuries. Richard Dawkins is simply the most recent and well known of the authors stating this, but over a 100 years ago in the 1880’s Robert Ingersoll was saying much the same.
The simple truth, is that there is a lot of killing in the Bible, and much of it is done by God, or by his direction. Worse, the killing seems rather indiscriminate, and sometimes petty. Even worse, the people getting punished are not always the people that committed the offense in the first place.
In the view of Richard Dawkins “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Needless to say, there is disagreement to this viewpoint.
As a counter view we have CARM (Christian Apologetics Research Ministry). “The Old Testament showcases a God who asks us to not criticize Him about His acts of justice but instead One who kindly encourages us to come alongside Him and grieve over a world that has misused the gift of freedom given it to do wrong instead of right. When that happens, and God acts in His righteousness, the world discovers that consequences exist for evil behavior.”
I've read both, and I'm sorry to say but Dawkins and Ingersoll have the win without question. If you read the entire article by CARM and don't see it as full of holes, either you have some very thick rose colored glasses, or you need to work on your reading and comprehension skills.
There is a reason it's difficult to explain the actions of a God that would murder innocence children and damn the entire human race to hell for something that their nth generation grandparents did. It's difficult because these actions are bad.
Or as Mark Twain put it "It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand."- Mark Twain