I’d like to burn some very typical straw men. Hopefully, in the debate over Christianity, these unnecessary issues can be avoided.

Creation  - Neither Genesis nor any of the scriptures demands that the earth and universe is only 6- to 10- thousand years old. The Hebrew word for “day” (yom) could mean long periods of time. The words  “there was morning and there was evening, the first day” could be translated “there was beginning and ending, the first (yom)”.

(BTW, the narrative moves to the surface of the earth in Genesis 1:2. While stars were certainly already in existence, their light was not visible on the surface of the earth until the opaque early atmosphere cleared).

Adam and Eve – While scripture does indicate they were specially created, there are gaps in the biblical genealogies that could place Adam and Eve back 60- to 90-thousand years. This would also predict increasing discovery of a common DNA originating between east Africa and the Mesopotamia.

(BTW, the word for “rib” means “side”. The story of Eve’s creation could mean God created her from Adam for symbolic purposes. I speculate a biopsy, of sorts, from the side, with a few million variations to the DNA producing a female. )

Talking Snakes - A boa constrictor with vocal cords is not in view here. That image comes largely from medieval art. The “serpent” in the garden was intelligent and used for evil. One can only speculate what sort of being it was (perhaps one no longer extant).

The Flood – The fact that a great flood is found in various cultures indicates that it happened. Two questions emerge:  which account is most accurate and whether the flood was global or local.

I’m of the opinion that the flood was regional rather than global for several reasons. First, while the flood was universal in effect, it was only regional in extent due to human’s not having moved much beyond the Mesopotamia at the time. A global flood was unnecessary.

Secondly, language like “under all the heavens”, “all the earth”, etc. are most likely from the perspective of the observer, i.e. a flood from horizon to horizon. “Mountains” could be translated “hills” with rain and water “covering” (or running over) them rather than submerging them.

Thirdly, this would mean there were not polar bears and penguins, etc. on the ark, but only animals indigenous to the region and of special relation to man.

Fourthly, a global flood would have torn the ark to pieces, no matter how well built. And it certainly would not have landed anywhere near its original location.

Fifthly, the scripture itself said a “large wind” was used in the evaporation process. Such a wind would have virtually no effect in a global flood.

Finally, if the flood were only regional why not just have Noah, his family, and whatever animals needed, hike out of the area and be safe? Why a big specifically-built ark? I think because God often operates via symbols teaching important truths or significance, i.e. salvation in Christ or deliverance through troubled waters (trials).

Use of Metaphor – The scriptures use metaphor and other literary devices. One need only utilize common exegetical analysis and context to determine what any author meant as literal or metaphorical (and on a case-by-case basis).

Inerrancy – If there are consequential or factual errors in the Bible  that does not mean Christianity is false. However, I find it remarkable how well the Bible holds up to scrutiny and that there are plausible answers to discrepancies. Personally, I hold to the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy.  

Hell – is not a place of torture (external) but of torment (internal). There are many descriptions of hell in the scriptures. The “fire” is most likely not the chemical combustion we’re familiar with. It, combined with all the other descriptions, reduces to separation from God and the judgment of God.

This does not make hell more tolerable (that’s not possible). But it does dispel hillbilly theology that has poor souls swatting flames for eternity! Christ depicted conversation taking place “in the flames”. No person could have a conversation while on fire! On our familiar planet, one is in mindless torture if burning.

It is, however, a profound tragedy to be eternally separated from God. It is a “spiritual chaos” one enters when the intact “self” survives the physical body.  There are indications that some kind of body could exist in hell.

Heaven – is a remarkably physical place. It is not ethereal or immaterial. It is a combination of a “new heaven and new earth”. We will live on earth in physical bodies that are “spiritual” which nonetheless have access to one another and continued exploration of the universe without many of the limits of current bodies affected by entropy, etc. Christ’s resurrected body could be touched and he ate food, etc. This describes the redeemed, resurrected body.

This is not to be confused with an intermediary state which is not physical. At death, one goes either into the very presence of God to await the resurrection of the body, or in a state of chaos to await final judgment.

“God will not allow anything to happen in your life that you can’t handle” – False! Scripturally, there are plenty of things that happen that one cannot handle! Devastating things! The accurate teaching is that nothing will happen that God’s grace will not get one through.

“You must become like children”  - Christ said to “humble yourself like a little child”. It does not mean to be naïve, ignorant, gullible, or irrational.

Pascal’s Wager This is not an argument for God nor necessarily addressed to atheists. Pascal used a popular gambling motif to shake the French laity out of spiritual complacency and to at least move them in the direction of God.

Further, the Wager, as it is commonly used, is not allowed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. He said if Christ was not risen, then the jig is up! Christianity is false! He did not say believe it anyway “just in case” or because it provides a positive way of life.

I hope these internal considerations provide food for thought.

Tags: Pascal's, Wager, adam, and, creation, eve, flood, heaven, hell, inerrancy, More…the

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A great break down. Thanks dave
Hello Kevin, and welcome. I agree with a poster which says that you are on step 1 to becoming an atheist. You are an intelligent guy and one day you'll realize.

To better do something you have to imagine it already done; therefore I would urge you to imagine yourself in a world without God(s). Where Zeus does not exist, or Mithra, or Isis... but where God does not exist either. What do you feel? Anguish? Fear? Don't worry. I was a Catholic once, then an agnostic, and then I realized: I am an atheist... and so can you. Yes, I had my nights of despair (usually it's nights, when you are alone with your mind), but lately not even that bothers me too much.

Rest assured: we will be here to support you through the arid patches until you really free yourself. We are here.

Lastly, do an experiment: tell a person who has never heard of religion, the story of a God who's one and three, who created Man with sin, and who went down to Earth to sacrifice himself to himself, in order to forgive men from the sin he had put there in the first place... and besides laughing (as you laugh at the story of Allah, or Moroni, unless you are a Latter Day guy), this person would say to you: "and why should I feel guilty to start with?".

And therein lies the issue: Christianity puts guilt in you which then it offers to solve by believing in mumbo-jumbo. Imagine how liberating not to feel guilty for masturbating. Or being greedy. Or envying someone. Or for liking the same sex. Or for liking the opposite sex. (Sex is a big one for Xtians for some reason). How bloody liberating!

In an ironic way, I like having been religious before being an atheist - because I enjoy it doubly. My son, who was born an atheist (as we all are) but who will not be polluted by early days brainwashing, will not enjoy this... but of course, will be freer from the beginning!

Are you ready to join us?
This apologia is cram-packed with tortuous rationalizations about what the Bible "could" mean. Mr. Harris, in fact, uses the weasel word, "could" six times. Were the people of biblical times really so unsophisticated that they had to be fed stories that "represented" reality rather than trusted to understand it directly? I hardly think so. And are we to assume that the various unknown authors of the Bible were somehow uniquely in possession of these scientific facts so incomprehensible to the masses? The answer in the minds Christians - literalist or otherwise - however you try to dress it up in a cloak of pseudo-rational raiment, is that a supernatural, anthropomorphic, supreme being conveyed the information through the various, privileged, unknown authors of His Holy Scriptures in the guise of myths designed to "enlighten" the childlike Hebrews.
"Creation...the Hebrew word for day (yom) could mean long periods of time." Does that mean that the Hebrews had no word for "year"? And if they did, why didn't the biblical scribes use it?
"Adam and Eve" - Let me get this straight: God conducted a biopsy on Adams "side", came up with DNA, and let evolution take over from there? Or did He just roll the DNA up in his hands (like clay) and "poof!" out popped Eve?
"Talking Snakes...one can only speculate (about) )what sort of being it was." "Speculate" is the operative word here. This entire exposition is scattershot speculation based on no empirical evidence whatsoever. Incidentally, the allusion to the talking snake being a medieval creation should remind us that much of the Bible itself is a medieval interpretation of early Christian mythology.
"The Flood...salvation in Christ or deliverance through troubled waters (trials)." Boy, God sure took the long way around to get this point across, didn't He? Why didn't God just say, "I will lead you through hard times (trials)"? Oh, I forgot, these Hebrews were too stupid to understand plain language. Besides, God only spoke to certain, selected, messengers who translated godspeak into Hebrew.
"Use of Metaphor" - "exegetical analysis" is nothing but a fancy word for "Let's just make the Bible mean what we want it to mean."
"Inerrancy – If there are consequential or factual errors in the Bible that does not mean Christianity is false." Neither does it mean it is true. In fact, isn't it more logical to conclude that these "consequential and factual errors" are compelling evidence that it is NOT true?
"Hell"... reduces to separation from God and the judgment of God." Well, if that's all Hell is, we atheists can breathe a sigh of relief.
"Heaven"...we will live on earth in physical bodies that are “spiritual." Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this an oxymoron?
“God will not allow anything to happen in your life that you can’t handle” - False!...nothing will happen that God’s grace will not get one through." Tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, dreadful diseases, murder, etc., etc., ad infinitum. God sent these to have something to get you through, evidently. This is what is meant by a "benevolent" God.
“You must become like children” - Christ said to 'humble yourself like a little child'. It does not mean to be naïve, ignorant, gullible, or irrational." But it helps.
"Pascal's Wager." It is wise to not invoke this as a reason to be a Christian; because it would be just as applicable as a reason to be Muslim, wouldn't it?
At least literalists are honest about the nonsense they believe. Food for thought, indeed!

Kevin... You're getting close, but you're not quite there. Desperate rationalization  can sometimes be one of the final steps before realizing it's all illogical and made up. But lets look at something. 'Day until night', 'flood would look worldwide from a local perspective', etc... It has an Earthbound perspective and reads like it was written by primitive men ignorant to the knowledge we now have. There is a very good reason the Bible reads as such... because that's who wrote it. Had it actually been the perfect text of some deity don't you think he would know his floor wasn't worldwide? And wouldn't you expect it to much more accurate than it is? The Bible is actually quite laughable if you try to consider it a historical or scientific text. Heck, God apparently doesn't know bats aren't birds! But when you look at it as an old fable written by those without a firm understanding of our world and the cosmos, all the errors make sense and are understandable.

 

Also, I wouldn't say that what you have listed are 'misconceptions of Christianity'.  At most they are misconceptions of your personal version of Christianity/the Bible. Many Christians would actually say that you are the one who has it wrong. Just food for thought.

 

Creation: Genesis 2:2-3 make it very clear that yom refers to day as we know it.

 

Adam and Eve: Genesis 2:19-20 makes it very clear the first woman was created after all livestock and birds were found to be unsuitable to serve the role as man's helper, then he created woman. This is completely inconsistent with evolution.

 

Talking snake: Why would god create a walking, talking serpent to be used for evil?

 

The Flood: If your explanation is correct, it is grossly contradictory to a literal translation of the account given by the bible. The Genesis account make it very clear that the flood covered the earth and that all animals not on the ark died. Genesis is very clear about the size and effect of the flood. The bible is flat out wrong if the flood was not world consuming and genocidal. Regardless the Genesis flood was borrowed from the Epic of Gilgamesh which almost certainly predated Genesis.

 

Hell: The gospels and revelations make it very clear that Jesus described hell as a "pool of fire" or "furnace of fire" or "unquenchable fire" or "everlasting fire". Isaiah describes it as place where the fire is never quenched. St. Augustine was certain that Hell was a an eternal place of fire. Hell is described as a location of fire too many times for it to be viewed as a metaphor for “internal torment”.

...there are plausible answers to discrepancies - Kevin

I don't think you're completely wrong here.  But the word "plausible" is not really significant to this kind of discussion, in my opinion.  For a true believer in the supernatural, it's not necessary that the content of a religious story be plausible, because nothing is impossible for an omnipotent deity.

For most non-believers (including myself), the relative plausibility of a story about the supernatural is not significant; what is significant is the lack of evidence that anything supernatural has occurred, regardless of how plausible or implausible.

So I think this conversation is mostly wasted effort on both sides.

If the Hebrew word for "day" could mean a long period of time, then they didn't really have a word equivalent to our word for a 24 hour period. You're telling me they got along for centuries without such a word? That really beggars the imagination. Even back then, people needed to mark time with basic accuracy so that someone could ask, "When can I return to pick up the work?" "Come back in five days" would be understood. I'm sure the answer wouldn't be "Come back in five long periods of time."

Kevin, I have a name for your God: The God of the Leftovers. Whatever is leftover that science hasn't disproven yet, is where your ever evaporating God lives.

GOLD!

Kevin, ultimately and in practical terms, Christianity consists in what Christians believe. In that sense, you are a dissenter in the Christian fold. But since even your greatly diluted form of Christianity can't possibly be true, why all the effort? While we don't know exactly how the universe was created, that it was created by a magical sorcerer doesn't even pass the giggle test.

After having read most of the commentary. I think as someone said earlier that it is wasted effort on either side. The atheists are going to remain atheists, the theists will most likely remain so. it doesn't matter really how many inconsistencies the theists are shown, they simply have a rationale for all of it.

if for a moment God created eve and adam and a serpent and the snake made man to sin, the problem should be really between God and the snake. Man is not to blame for any of it and thus should not be punished and even if he was to be why must i suffer the consequences of an apple i didn't see or do not have an idea how it looked?

I find it sad and simultaneously amusing how every single Christian I've spoken to believes that they know more about God and the Bible than any priest or supposed "man of God" who has ever walked the Earth.

Yep. Thousands of sects and opinions, and every time they all think their version of christianity/islam/peter pan is the only real and logical one. They all have the one real truth. Of course. And everybody else has it all wrong, and they're always misrepresenting the faith. Not to forget, us poor atheists have fallen into the trap of those misleading other sects! Thank gawd this man came along and enlightened us with the real truth!

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