Please excuse the novel here... I tend to try to explain myself so clearly that I go overboard, so sorry about that. Also, sorry if this is in the wrong category; I wasn't sure where to put it.
I grew up in a pentecostal Christian household, Assemblies of God to be exact (extremely evangelical believe-every-word-in-the-Bible-exactly group, for those who aren't familiar with it). I remember being told things specifically like "You don't have a conscience; that's the Holy Spirit telling you you're sinning." I remember thinking, "Yeah, because I'm incapable of figuring out when I'm doing something wrong on my own... Riiight."
I knew what hell and demons and Satan were even in early elementary school. I have vague memories of speaking with my school guidance counselor about a ("real," as in not from a movie or a show but documentary style) exorcism I had witnessed. I remember being told horror stories from a youth leader about her experience with demons, which included physical assault on her. I still fear the idea of hell and I've always had a very strong fear of demons (which hasn't gone away).
Anyway, during my journey away from religion entirely I began to be confused by my own thoughts. When I no longer really believed that a God existed and I wondered, "What if I'm wrong? What if I go to hell because of this?" I've had a lot of fear even about just coming to terms with even using the word "agnostic" to describe myself.
Something similar is when I think of things like the fact that I'm going to make sure I have a wedding ceremony with absolutely no mention of God or religion of any sort, something in my head sort of mocks me by saying, "You're just trying to be difficult and defiant." I know that's not true; why would I risk eternity in hell if I really thought it existed? I don't know what that voice is though, or where it's coming from.
Those thoughts aren't always in the front of my mind by they are, and I just keep wondering if they're "God is trying to tell me I'm wrong" or if it's a totally normal human response because leaving a religion can be a scary experience on its own and my brain just needs to relearn things.
I'm not sure if anyone else has this problem, but in a way I'm hoping so because maybe someone could help me understand my "own" thoughts/why I'm having them. Is it normal? I don't really even know if this will make sense to anyone else.
With all due respect Simon, no one ever gets "used" to that --
Archaeopteryx - believe me, I was used to it.
I really don't know what to say to that - Sorry, certainly seems inadequate --
No need at all, Archaeopteryx, you've done nothing wrong, and I certainly don't give a flying... you know.
Maybe after a ton of overwhelming things like that the brain just accepts it, but ... agh, I just can't imagine. It must have been absolutely horrible! I'm so afraid of my own shadow I think I might just... drop dead if something like that happened to me. It's taken a lot of effort on my part to start thinking logically and with reason and when I'm afraid/upset I lack both of those almost entirely.
Hi John. I remember you mentioning this before, namely internal inconsistencies from a theological perspective which you have studied. I find this interesting and wanted to know if you had some material to point to concerning this or if you'd be willing to start a discussion with some of the content. I may be confused but I think I asked you before about some things you had studied but it happened to be more on an argument from archaeology. Thanks a bunch!
I think that was me with the archaeology discussion. A few ideas come to mind and they really are things that Christians take for granted but make no actual internally consistent sense. But I am a bit wiped out for today. I'll try to make time to get to you tomorrow.
Okay, so sorry about the delay, the last few days were pretty crazy. Here are a few things:
Evil would be a part of the Christian god.
One of the first reassurances you can find about the internal inconsistency of Christianity, is that the belief that God is all-knowing causes problems for what is called Theodicy, or “the problem with evil”. In order for God to be all-knowing, and timeless, he would have had to existed for trillions and trillions of years worth of time having the knowledge of evil in his mind. It is actually infinite time, but it helps to throw in a ridiculously large number out there. At this time, there would be no evil anywhere other than the mind of God. If evil is in the mind of God when it is nowhere else, it makes evil a part of God, because it will always be in him and it always was in him. It was never introduced to him, and that is all the difference. Humans are introduced to ideas, but an idea that originates from someones mind is a part of them.
The Christian god would be an unknowable stranger.
The second issue with the omni-infinite problem is with God being infinite yet knowable. If God is infinite, then the finite can only know and relate to a finite amount of him. There is a threshold for the finite, and anything past that is just unrelatable and unknowable. This makes there be an infinite amount of God that would be completely unknowable forever. The Eastern Orthodox, and the Catholic church try to interact with this problem through *Divinification and Theosis for the west. But the real issue is that it means that even the greatest saint that ever lived, has only known infinitely less than .000000000000000000000000000000001% of God. If you knew less than .000001% about a person, could you really claim to know that person? Someone couldn't even claim acquaintance with such a low percentage. Knowing someone's name is more of a percentage than that. People couldn't know the Christian God.
*As far as I can remember, the Catholics say that God can be known through spiritual means that allow you to be finite yet be able to have infinite comprehension of experience, whereas the Orthodox say that you infinitely transform into a more and more divine type of human and forever begin to know God in a deeper infinite way. However, the belief is that the actual essence of God can not be known, but only the radiation produced by his essence known as energies can be known.
A few of the important books of the Christian Bible (Biblical Canon) are only there on account of unreliable tradition.
Even in the early Church, there were plenty who did not accept certain books as being inspired scriptures, while others were accepted. Now, what I have to mention here, is that most books you will hear about being left out of the bible were consistently considered forgeries by most early Christians. However, some books in the bible had questionable authorship. The bible should be smaller to play it safe, yet protestants reject the tradition of man, but do not apply this rejection of tradition to reflect on a smaller biblical canon. The book of Hebrews, and Revelation should be under no circumstances considered as definitely inspired. The people who said it should be canon also believed in transubstantiation the supremacy of Church tradition and in the authority of the Archbishops/Patriarchs. Not to mention that a number of these books which made it into the accepted list for the early Church still look pretty questionable in terms of authorship to people looking at the language used in them.
There is no way that God can be all-just and Jesus pay for your sins.
Suppose sin is as bad as portrayed by the bible. The Bible states that God made it law that the wages of sin is death. If this is the case, after the heinous crime known as sin has been committed and the just thing to do is to punish, God instead decides to forgo justice! The reason is in order to receive personal benefit from said criminals. God either obstructs justice due to personal feelings (love) or God obstructs justice for his glory, which we call “personal gain”. Either way the loophole made for it is not only a neglect of justice, but it is a downright obstruction. And the notion of perfect justice is the only thing that gives the hell notion any credibility.
The story is that Jesus/himself takes the penalty since the penalty must be dealt out. But either God is just and sends everyone to hell and nobody can die for your sins, or God isn't just and knowing that the just punishment for mankind has to be hell, he obstructs justice by creating a new loophole that violates the intent of that law. The intent of the law that says: “the wages of sin is death” is not “the wages of sin is either death for you, or someone who wants to die for you (but someone has to die that is all that matters)” It isn't that. Circumventing the intent of that law to fulfill it on a technicality is pretty sleazy. So doing this would mean that it is okay to circumvent justice for the right reasons. It means sin can't be as big of a deal as portrayed if it isn't enough to cause God to not want to show mercy. But to get the picture of what is going on here and why it is unjust, compare it to reality: If a judge made a loophole to get out a convict for personal gain after the crime was committed, and the criminal was to stand trial, that would be obstructing justice. The loophole was created by God, after many “saved people” like the apostles, Abraham, Moses and others sinned. If the cross was instituted after those people had sinned, it is an obstruction of justice because they deserved punishment.
2 Peter 3:9 makes it a mistake for God to send anyone to Hell
If as the Bible says “God does not want anyone destroyed” (2 Peter 3:9), and he has full power to rehabilitate every person, then there is no reason for hell whatsoever. Unless God desires something less than perfect. Because a desire for something opposite of what is supposed to be, is a less than perfect desire. So if people are supposed to go to hell for their sins it poses a problem. Nothing perfect would desire somdething opposite of what is supposed to be. God isn't supposed to have less than perfect desires, so the obvious would be that nobody is supposed to be punished in the first place. This is internally inconsistent with what the bible states is going on.
Not an inconsistency, but important also:
1 John says most professing Christians are hellbound
The book of 1 John provides a clear litmus test for early Christians to determine if those in their midst were children of God or children of the Devil. It provides an exhaustive list of criteria, and says that those who do not live pious lives are not “stuggling Christians” but rather children of Satan. It indicates some sort of spiritual enlightenment which enables a person to have a different than human nature which enables more loving behavior, the incapacity to hate, and the incapacity to continue in sinful living. There are no indicators of this kind of enlightenment in the Christian population that exceeds any other kind of inspiration found in other religions. Such an enlightenment would be clearly able to be distinguished as beyond human in nature. As of this moment, Ghandi has shown more restraint and doesn't even have this enlightenment claimed only to be provided to the children of God. 1 John is very short, easy to read and of 5 chapters, the last being closing comments, 1-4 contain this clear litmus repeated ad nauseum through the whole document.
That's quite a treatise John - I don't have time to comment on all of it, but let me say just a couple of things. You said that evil was never introduced to god, and I don't dispute that - it couldn't have been introduced, as, a) that would require an outside source, and b) he created it himself, he clearly said so:
"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things."
You further stated - and don't misunderstand, we're in complete agreement here, I'm just elaborating on your comments - "some books in the bible had questionable authorship." It's amazing how many!
Moses did not write Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers or Deuteronomy, which all purport to be, "According to Moses." Remove these, and the rest of the Old Testament has no foundation.
Further, "Matthew," "Mark," "Luke" and "John" (son of Zebedee) did not write the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - these were written anonymously, and the above names ascribed to them later.
If those nine books were removed from the Bible, due to their being psuedepigrapha (texts whose claimed authorship is unfounded), there would be no mention of a creation, no Garden of Eden, no Adam and Eve, no flood, no Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, no Exodus, no ten commandments and no mention of Jesus born of a virgin and dying on a cross. The nine books that describe these events - basically, the crux of the entire Christian religion - were written entirely by people whose identity, knowledge of the subject matter, and qualifications - or motivations for that matter - are completely unknown to anyone.
Yeah, it all comes crumbling down like a house of cards as you look deeper down the rabbit hole.
Just a heads up though, the Isaiah passage is just poorly translated.
The Hebrew word רַע had such a broad range of meaning from harm and disaster to evil, that context was necessary for an ancient Hebrew speaker to identify the right meaning. In this case the context is neutral, so while the interpretation of evil is possible, it is not definite, nor is it likely that it would be meaning the kind of evil addressed in theodicy, so I just avoid it.
RE: "רַע" - that's easy for you to say --!
RE: "while the interpretation of evil is possible, it is not definite" - I don't avoid such inconsistencies, I jump on them with both feet! Hey, as Andy Griffith used to say in his comic monologue, "It's in the book!" which to me, means that it's fair game. The translators who compiled The King James Bible clearly believed it to be the correct translation sufficiently, that they included it, which means that millions and millions have read it as such, which, whether or not it's correct, means that it has become an established part of doctrine. If we were to go through the Hebrew and toss out any words or phrases of questionable translation, do the same with the Aramaic, then the Greek, then the Latin, and finally, the English, who knows with what we'd be left? I personally found a translation error in the second chapter of Genesis, from the Latin to English - who knows how many, many more there are?
If there is a god, however, and if he is omniscient and omnipotent, then he should have foreseen the translation issue and "inspired" a correction prior to publication. Ergo (I've always wanted to say that!), if there's an omniscient and omnipotent god, the passage is correct, as written - if there isn't, then the Bible is just a collection of personal suppositions - what we'd probably call blogs today - so why should anyone care whether or not it's correct?
Are you sure you don't mean, "theo-idiocy"?
I am going to try to convince you otherwise, but I will send you a message about it with some more details.
If you look at the overall usage of "evil" in the KJV, it has a wider usage than "sinister". To deal with problem with רַע, and it not having a perfect english equivalent, it was pretty much just across the board translated as "evil" for even the most benign uses. For instance, Gen 37:20 is properly rendered "dangerous/wild". Everyone just kind of knew that the bible's use of a word is a bit different than its normal use. Kind of like how today words mean different things in Christianese than they do in modern English. Grace, for example. It isn't talking about God's ballet skills lol. ;).
Anyway, Christians from Catholic/Orthodox to Protestant do not believe that translations need to be perfect. The KJV was made because they believed the Roman Church translations were poor and misleading. Only a small few believe the KJV translation is perfect.
The argument that "God would intervene if he was there" will just fall on deaf ears because people are so used to the idea that translations can have errors.