Hey Guys,

So I'm just looking to brush up on my knowledge regarding Christian beliefs so that I'm better prepared to explain my position of disbelief when the discussion arises (it has been a much more common topic around the house than I'd like, especially being the sole atheist of the family). I have some general questions mainly concerning timelines, tailored beliefs and context of things relating to the Bible. Any insight or helpful links would be greatly appreciated. Alright, so here's what I'd like more info on:

1) Does the Bible condone slavery? Every Christian that's confronted with this seems to flat out deny that it does, stating that those "slaves" were people who volunteered themselves to serve.

2) Over what period of time was the Bible written?

3) What's the story of Abraham killing his son?

4) Who are Cain and Abel?

5) What misogynist things does the Bible say about women?

6) Why don't Christians like to follow the Old Testament?

7) What has the Bible "predicted"?

8) Does the Bible have any racist implications?

9) Who was Mary Magdalene and what was so special about her?

10) What other religions does the Bible "borrow" from?

Thanks in advance! <3

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Oh, I have faith in far more things than you realize Robert, just not in supernatural things. I have to trust that at this very minute, the sun is shining, and I really won't know for nearly 8 more minutes, whether or not it is, yet I still won't know if it is at that moment, only that it was at this one.

Firstly, this is a fantastic selection of questions.

1. In a sense any culture of any era in which there was slavery indirectly "condoned" it because it was accepted. But that's the real point here: you can't live your life by a collection of teachings that emerged from an era in which the people writing these scriptures accepted that kind of thing. Because their moral credibility is shot.

2. There's a general consensus, but the gist of it is that the new testament wasn't finished until hundreds of years after the man Yeshua lived, and a lot of it was written by people who never even met him, let alone saw him on a daily basis.

3. Yahweh told Abraham to kill his son Isaac to test him. Just when he saw he was actually going to do it, he was like "Dude don't! I was just testing you! LOL Jesus, man. You were actually gonna do it. Wow." So Abraham passed the test. And Isaac was just kind of like "Okay, I guess..."

4. In Judeo-Christian mythos, Cain and Abel were the sons of the first man and woman. Cain killed Abel and then ran off and married his sister (because that was his only option).

5. Timothy 2:12, for example, tells us that a woman should not have authority over a man or teach, and should remain silent.

6. Christians don't like to follow the Old Testament because it's where the worst of the worst stuff is and they don't want to identify with that. They're highly selective like that and it's all very convenient.

7. The bible's speculated on a lot of things. Like Nostradamus. If I speculate that enough teams will win the Superbowl over long enough a period of time, eventually I'll be right. And then I'll be like "I told you so," and everyone will know I'm a tool. That's the bible.

8. There are some racial and sometimes downright segregationalist undertones, even stereotypes when the writers reference other ethnic groups, and of course the Old Testament has indirect racism that develops as the result of two groups of different origins fighting, but it's kind of a moot point given that you can't say they were any more racist than people fifty years ago, or a hundred, or today.

9. There were a few characters named Mary that pop up in the stories about Jesus' life. "She" is "special" because people raise a big lugapalooza about her. Which is really to say that "she" raises questions about whether or not Jesus had relations with a woman. He was a 30+ year-old male, and he was human, so... what do we know about human males? They have urges, needs, and even those with the loftiest ideals can fall in love.

10. Well, Christianity is obviously an offshoot of Judaism, and you can see a lot of ideas that the Hebrews took on from their introduction to Zoroastrianism (that'd be from the Persians), but there are a number of reoccurring themes from older and deader religions that you've probably already heard about (Mithraism etc).

You were just insisting on my behalf that my using the standard of scientific evidence-- which is the reason why many atheists are atheists-- disqualifies me as a believer in all mathematics.

No, I was just saying that you didn't actually understand mathematics.  Or, for that matter, the science that you were claiming.   Your statements that you didn't believe the 5th Axiom was actually an axiom were statements that you didn't believe in standard mathematics.  Your claim that scientific observation "proved" Euclidean Geometry (parallel lines never meet) was a statement that you didn't actually understand scientific method, where mathematics is used to model reality, not vice versa.

You have constructed for yourself an interesting worldview, but it isn't fully consistent with science as defined by the broader community. 

And no, the existence of God is not a claim about "empirical reality" for any religion I am aware of. It's a straw man that you have created, which would be my #1 of "typical atheist arguments". ;)

In mathematics, geometry is founded on a set of axioms/postulates which cannot be proven.  Euclid enumerated five, and from this foundational set of "beliefs" one can build all of the theorems and "knowledge" that we recognize as Euclidean Geometry.  The 5th axiom, commonly described as "parallel lines will never meet" has an interesting history, in that some mathematicians did spend time trying to derive it from the other four.  In the end it was established that this could not be done; in fact, one could substitute different axioms for #5 which result in different, self-consistent geometries.   Thus there is, for example, Riemannian Geometry, where parallel lines can in fact meet.   The simplest formulation of this would be longitudinal lines on a globe, where they are absolutely perpendicular to each other at the equator (the true mathematical definition of parallel), and yet meet at the poles.  Put another way, the Riemannian axiom substitutes a curved 2-dimensional space for the Euclidean axiom's flat 2-D space.

Different founding assumptions therefore yield different, entirely self-consistent systems of thought and views of the world.   There is no way to "prove" that one is right and the other is wrong.   So that when you make a claim like this, that there is empirical evidence to support a claim that the Euclidean 5th axiom is "right", you are implying that Euclidean Mathematics can be proved empirically.  The notion that you describe, that you "believe parallel lines will never meet and it's because there is evidence to support the claim" is mathematically naive.

In physics, we use mathematics to describe and model the physical universe, and there is an implied postulate of physics embedded in that.   However, it is well-accepted science from gravitational physics and cosmology that the geometry that best describes our observations of the universe is Riemannian.   Four dimensional spacetime is not flat, it is in fact curved by the stress-energy tensor, in other words by the presence of mass/energy.    In other words, the "empirical evidence" suggests that the universe is best described by a geometry where parallel lines do in fact meet.  So your claim that empirical evidence supported the Euclidean formulation was scientifically naive.

This is why the worldview you have constructed is inconsistent with the broader mathematical and scientific community.   Axioms in mathematics cannot be proven, nor are they subject to empirical evidence.   In physics, the actual observational evidence leads us to choose mathematics where parallel lines converge, contrary to your claim.

Dear me, that was a lot of chaff.  It was quite a bit of atheist #5, belittling the person in a playground fashion rather than addressing the argument, plus a bunch of the new #8.

Let me see if I can simplify for you.

God is a postulate.  Euclid's 5th Axiom is a postulate.

You cannot prove a postulate.  Either one.

Postulates are not based on empirical evidence.  Either one.

The lack of evidence for a postulate does not invalidate the system of thought.  Either one.

It is irrational to reject Euclidean geometry simply because the "claim" about parallel lines is axiomatic.  It is irrational to reject theism simply because the "claim" about God's existence is axiomatic.

Therefore, your original post in this long tangle of a thread, wherein you rejected (Judeo-Christian) theism on the basis of the first lines of the poetic tale of Genesis 1 was irrational.   It was likely a manifestation of atheism fallacy #1. 

As an aside, whether or not your lines on the road meet I would think depends on the goals and level of attention of the person painting them, not on anything else.  In terms of selecting the most successful geometry for modeling the "empirical" universe, however, the proper choice is the geometry in which parallel lines converge.

RE: "(Judeo-Christian) theism" - I'm curious, Robert, you seem to continually leave "Islamic" out of what should be a trinity. Is there a reason for that?

Maybe because they have Jesus, son of Mary, come back to the world to break all the crosses and condemn the Jews and Christians to hell and well that is just not cool.

Bob, if “God is a postulate” as you say then you are telling me that God is assumed to exist. That is fine for argument and intellectual debate. It is not argued though by Christians that it is only a postulate. The existence of God is offered as a statement of fact and not as an assumed to be so. It is held by xians to be the truth. If you say it is a postulate then are you admitting that you don’t take your God to exist in reality?

You cannot prove a postulate? Well, you can’t even attempt to if there is nothing being offered to suggest that it is anything more than just that – an assumption that something is factual.

It is not argued though by Christians that it is only a postulate. The existence of God is offered as a statement of fact and not as an assumed to be so.

Well, we teach Euclidean Geometry to teenagers as "fact" as well, don't we?  Relatively few people actually continue study sufficiently to understand the basis and philosophy of mathematics (at least if the failure of my analogy here is any indication).  So if you ask an average user of geometry, they will tell you that parallel lines never meeting is a statement of fact.  Just as people have here.

So I think what you're describing is just a difference in level of knowledge or sophistication of individuals, rather than something genuine within the discipline.  If you read Pope Francis' interview in America this week, he actually implies that people who claim God exists with complete certainty are frauds.  "That is the proof that God is not with" such a person.   Well-educated faithful, like well-educated mathematicians, understand that fields of knowledge begin with postulates.   Just because that is so does not mean that the field is invalid.

I actually think religions are more honest about it than mathematicians or scientists, despite our efforts to introduce "Nature of Science" instruction in the K-16 schools.  They at least openly acknowledge a need for "belief."

"They at least openly acknowledge a need for 'belief.'"

I see that as being because they wouldn't know what to do without it, just as long-term prisoners often don't know what to do with freedom.

I tol' you and tol' you, he's the Gene Kelley of religious debate --

"I don't find atheism useful as a philosophy. It doesn't seem to contribute any substantive knowledge or insight, doesn't help answer any questions, doesn't help societies or individuals improve."

Quite likely, Bob, that's because you're so deeply embedded in the trees, you can't get a good view of the forest. It helps both societies and individuals improve.

It increases individual self worth to realize that you are not "born in sin." it relieves the paranoia of believing you are being continually watched, day and night, by any entity other than your own government. It saves children's bones, and in some cases, lives - when their parents explain they can't jump off the roof, they can't retort, "But Jesus flew up to heaven --!" Society comes to realize that we're all there is, that we have one painfully short life, and if we're going to save our planet or feed our people or cure our diseases, we have to do it ourselves, there won't be any invisible magician suspending the laws of physics for that purpose, simply because we wished hard enough or truly believed strongly enough in fabricated stories.


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