I often want to ask Christians (or any theists for that matter) whether they believe things are right and wrong inherently, or because they are commanded by God. Why does that matter? Well, if the former is true then we can figure out what is right and wrong and decide what is best without relying on God. If the latter is true, we must rely on God to help us figure it out -- and that is extremely problematic with Christianity. Here's why:
First, let's look at some of the key properties of God, according to the bible:
1. God exists.
2. God communicates with some humans at certain points in time, in different forms such as a burning bush (Exo 3:1) or an angel (Judge 6:11).
3. God has asked specific people to break the primary rules he provided man (Exo 20 and Deu 5), like telling Abraham to kill his own son (Gen 22:2) and giving Moses authority to command the Levites to murder thousands of their brothers friends and neighbors (Exo 32:26-29).
But Satan has very similar attributes:
1. Satan also exists. (Rev 12:9)
2. Satan can also communicate with some humans at certain points in time, in different forms such as a snake (Gen 3:4) or an angel (Corin 11:14).
3. Satan has also asked men to break God's rules (Gen 3). He's also quite tricky and can tempt even the most righteous (Matt 4:1).
So how would a Christian be able to tell the difference between God and Satan? Couldn't Satan come to a righteous Christian and claim to be an angel (which he is, according to many interpretations of the Bible) in order to make that person do something horrible, such as commanding the rape of women and murder of infants? And why would that Christian believe that such a thing was actually terrible, since it has been condoned by God (e.g. Isaiah 13:16)?
A more clear example (I think): God may ask us to adore him... because He is God! For us humans, it would not be moral for us to ask to be adored because, well, we are not God. Adoration is a term used for the praise that is deserving of the Supreme Being.
Adoring something simply because it's superior seems absurd to me.
I'm not sure how you could see this as a reasonable argument... You really just define God as outside moral boundaries. He is worthy of adoration simply because he is himself? Why would that logic not apply to parents? What would you think if I said, "I require adoration from my children because I made them. I am their creator. They are created and are therefore not worthy of adoration." If I heard someone say that about his children, I would believe that person was arrogant and selfish. Yet when your God tells you that, you blindly accept it as truth.
I think you mean to say that you have a different perception of what God is than most of the atheists on the forum here... What I think is most difficult is that most Christians would define God as perfect -- omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent. Yet the literary description of God and his actions doesn't really match that definition. I'm not asking how a perfect God would be discernible from Satan, but how the God of Christianity (as supported by scripture) is discernible.
Why would God allow Satan to test Job's faith by tormenting him? First, isn't God omniscient (Job 37:16)? Why would he need to see the results of an experiment to know the outcome? Wouldn't he just rebuke Satan's silly suggestion that Job was only faithful because he had been given gifts and blessings from God? And wouldn't Satan believe God knowing him to be omniscient? Second, isn't that petty behavior, anyway? Why would you want a father who allowed someone to torture you to verify your love and devotion?
Lastly, the reason why God would "bother" with the first commandment was the utter tendency of people making creation greater than the creator. Upon deifying things in the world and praising them out of love of the objects causes a disproportionate love for things from what it should - which to a certain degree is the very definition of sin: to love something disproportionately as to reason and to God's law.
Why would God be upset about his creations worshiping his other creations? Or even things he didn't physically create, but were ideas that manifested in the minds of his creations -- isn't everything essentially an extension of God?
And if we can inherently know that Satan is evil, how could he trick us? He tricked the second person God created into dooming the rest of humanity to a life of sin and imperfection. Jesus barely avoided his trickery, and he is God! How can God expect us to know the difference between right and wrong if he knows one of his first creations was persuaded almost immediately into breaking his rules?
My real issue is that right and wrong aren't clearly spelled out in the Bible. Even those who believe it is the word of God cannot agree upon the meaning of the most central aspects. The disciples themselves even have different accounts and perceptions of what was most important in Jesus' life! How can a human be expected to understand the meaning of a compilation of texts two thousand years after they were written, considering that most of us read translations of edited copies?
Anyway, I'm straying from the main topic. Your main answer was "discernment of spirit", but still haven't answered some of the key questions about that ability:
1. How does discernment of spirit work on someone who is divinely powerful and has the specific ability to deceive you?
2. Who has the discernment and how do they know for sure that it's working properly? If it's a skill that needs to be honed, how would one know that he could tell the difference between God and Satan properly?
3. If discernment works for believers, then even why bother giving us rules? Wouldn't we just be able to figure them out ourselves?
That sounds like a longer, wordier version of "we just know." With a side order of how to deal with the hippies camping in your living room. Can you demonstrate this power of discernment? Can you show that it is a real thing in any way, or is it another one of those unsubstantiated things Xtians like to assert? As for the Good/Bad factor, there are many places in the Bible, (inerrant word of god, right?) where god commands his people to do some very, very bad things. Was this god or Satan speaking? The book says it was god. In history, people acting in god's name have done some of the most unspeakably evil things ever. Where is this power of discernment? It doesn't seem very reliable. In fact, I'm tempted to think it doesn't exist.
We atheists practice something that could be called discernment. We evaluate an idea or action and judge it in accordance with our understanding of nature and reality, and we decide if it's true or not. I think our method works better.
In the xian mind:
Good thing - God did it
Bad thing - Devil did it - it's all so convenient.
There are times when I really wonder just what xians see when they read the bible. They just gloss over murder and mayhem.
I am appalled, they see nothing.
Silly question. 'God"™ makes rainbows and butterflies, and "Satan"™ makes everything else. "God's"™ rainbows, by the way, have nothing to do with rain (that's "Satan," 'cause it causes floods), and "God's" butterflies were never caterpillars.
Now do you understand?
Of course, if there WERE a Satan, it might create such things as the loa loa worm and dracunculiasis, but according to Isaiah 45:7, "god" creates evil. so...
That's a good thought. It sort of reminds me of a debate I had with a Christian once. (I had a blog on here about that discussion a while back)
He kept going on and on about how 'we may not believe in Satan, but he believes in us', 'we're doing Satan's biding', 'we are under Satan's control', 'Satan is deceiving us' etc etc. But he kept coming back to the statement that we may not believe in Satan either, but we are unknowingly under his power and fighting for his cause. It was odd that he kept stressing that that we were 'unknowingly' serving Satan...
So I threw this one at him:
Also, you like to constantly repeat that us non-believers (and presumably members of other religions) are unknowingly following Satan and doing his will. So I ask of you; what about the fact that the very same can be said of you? You base your entire world view on the presumption that Christianity is the absolute truth. But what if the true god is in fact Horus? He is said to be in eternal battle with Set, god of darkness and chaos. It is possible that you are unknowingly being used by Set in his battle with Horus. Creating the Christian creed and doing good toward you in the guise of Jesus/God of Abraham in order to lead people from Horus. If I would never know that I am serving Satan as you suggest, then it is equally plain to see that you would never know that you are under Set's control.
I never did hear back from him after that...
James, I like that… Yahweh (and christianity) is a creation of Set to lead people from Horus. Brilliant! I’m going to put that one to good use.
lol , good one. That is pure genius. =)
It is a bit of a paradox for sure, as we have no way of knowing if these characters even exist, let alone what their attributes are.
For example, if Satan can transform into an "angel' who is to say whether or not he transformed into an incarnation of "god" in order to fool people. Who is to say that when Jesus was supposedly "tempted" by Satan in the wilderness, that he didn't take Satan up on his offer to join his side, and then lie about not being tempted--and Jesus is really in league with Satan.
Perhaps Yahweh is an evil monster, as he is directly responsible for millions of deaths in the flood and battles that he ordered be fought, whereas Satan is only responsible for 10--and those would be the victims of the wager Yahweh made with Satan that Job would worship him no matter what. (Which was pointless considering Yahweh the all-knowing god, knew what was going to happen in that case, and had Satan kill Job's children and made Job suffer for nothing other than proving to Satan that Job was "faithful")
What I have found in my studies is Satan was not evil but was assigned to tempt believers so they could prove their faithfulness. Look at the stories of Eve, Abraham, Jesus, and others, Satan tempted them and they either passed or failed the test.
Much of what Xians think of Satan came centuries after the time of Jesus.
If you look at Satan's role in the concept of hell, it is his duty to punish the non believers, again following the role god assigned.
On edit: I should have read more of posts I see I'm not alone in these findings.