Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Relational Aspect of Christian Belief--or How I Can Know There Very Probably Is No God

According to Christian theists, it's not enough merely to believe that God exists. To believe that certain arguments are correct which show that God probably exists. For even the demons believe--and they shudder! One must seek and enter into a salvific relationship with Him (or rather, be drawn into such a relationship by God). That's the whole point. God is not an abstract philosophical concept--He is a Person. Thus we can see that theistic belief is indeed intellectual and relational in nature, and the relational aspect is even more important.

But many nonbelievers, including those who wish that God would exist, struggle with finding any of the arguments for God's existence persuasive and/or find arguments against God's existence persuasive. In that event, theists often implore nonbelievers to seek God out as a Person. Stop treating the debate over the existence of God as an academic exercise. Go to Him and He will reveal Himself. Seek, and ye shall find, as it is written in scripture (Matt 7:7).

But I have sought earnestly, and thoroughly, and I have not found. And it's been years. I've poured over my Bible. I've sought answers in Christian apologetics. I've prayed. I prayed throughout my gradual, agonizing deconversion, where my assurance of immortality and Divine love and protection were lost. I prayed for more faith. I prayed for understanding. I prayed for guidance. I said "I believe--help me with my unbelief!" as the father of the child with the unclean spirit once cried to Jesus. I prayed for forgiveness. But I was met only with silence.

I've even prayed as recently as this week--years after my deconversion. Though not always to just any Christian conception of God--I pray to Whatever or Whoever may be out there, so as not to privilege any one religion. And yet I am met with only more silence.

Not to mention the prayers on my behalf that have certainly come my way.

I continue to read the blogs of the smartest Christian apologists and books by their brightest scholars (right now, I'm reading Jesus and the Eyewitnesses) and yet I continue to remain unconvinced. Whereas books like On the Historicity of Jesus seem to only entrench my skepticism.

In all honesty, I am afraid of dying and fear that I may have a terminal illness as I speak (though unconfirmed). The nihilism that was left in the wake of my deconversion has consumed my life to the point of depression. So I have every cognitive motivation to embrace Christian theism again.

I'm not the only one. Other believers like Justin Schieber have experienced the cognitive abandonment that I've just described. And of course, the argument from Divine Hiddeness captures the spirit of what I'm relating in my life experiences.

This is how can I be near certain that there is no omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God. And why I wonder why I even bother continuing to debate the arguments for and against the existence of God. Because such a God would not have abandoned me. And because such a God would not continually ignore my sincere and genuine desire for His presence in my life. Especially with the threat of Hell looming if I do not repent (or, I guess I should say, re-repent).

So far as I can see, my life is a refutation of Christian belief. There is no more debate for me. The only response I can imagine a Christian making is that God, 'in the end', will come to save me before I die, in some unknown time and in some unknown way. But from my perspective, this is incredibly unlikely (though a remote possibility that I hope is true). Most likely, I will die an unbeliever. I've seen essentially all of the arguments and I've prayed all of the prayers. It is finished.

 Another recourse is to deny my lived experiences and claim that I'm really 'in rebellion' against God. But that does not comport well with the extensive evidence from my life I've just discussed. And any pretense to the contrary is theological assumption or simply begging the question. Or maybe I will be blamed for not finding arguments for Gods existence convincing. But believer, I can no more choose what arguments I find convincing than you can. And regardless, that is only the intellectual aspect. I am talking about the relational aspect.

(Which raises the question, why should a relationship rest on finding any particular argument convincing? What other kind of personal relationship is potentially subject  to that type of refutation?)

If nothing else, let it be said that I was a seeker of truth. And I will continue to read on and debate these issues. And maybe the believer will end up being correct, and their God will come to save me in the 11th hour. But I suspect my experiences have been the way they have been because the arguments against arguments God's existence are correct. So I'm not holding my breath.





Sunday, August 23, 2015

There are no Christians open minded to the idea that their beliefs are false

Since Christians claim to have a relationship with God, they can't be open to evidence against their existence--because in real relationships, there can be no doubt as to the other parties existence. Through communicative elements, their existence becomes undeniable. You can't be in a real relationship with someone while at the same time concede you may be just talking to the ceiling.

 Real relationships are a two way straight, therefore the other "street" must exist. So any Christian who believes they could be persuaded out of their beliefs must deny the the divine relational aspect, or argue that relationships with divine Persons are somehow drasticly different from relationships with human persons.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thinking Christian tries to rebut the Failed Apocolyptic Prophet Thesis

Found at: http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2015/02/was-jesus-wrong-about-the-time-of-his-return/

"It sounds like he got it wrong, doesn’t it? All this seems to be happening virtually at once, from the fall of the city to the return of Christ. A lot of skeptics say so."

Gilson make it sound like only internet atheists have argued this. No, this is what many biblical scholars of various theological stripes have concluded (perhaps the majority, depending on who you ask), and even liberal Christians like Thom Stark agree that this is the case.

"In this passage, though, that’s not the case. Look at verse, 24, which I omitted before, and belongs at the end of the first paragraph above:

They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
How long did Jesus expect that interim period to last? Long enough for the Jews to be dispersed among all nations; long enough for the “times of the Gentiles” to be fulfilled. A while, in other words–an indefinite while, that is. I don’t think Jesus can be accused here of getting this wrong."

There's nothing here that logically required an "indefinite while" to had taken place before the return of Jesus: possibly allowing for reasonable hyperbole (but not requiring it), The Jews could have been led captive (not "dispersed"; captivity is the verbage used by the text) among "all nations" by the end of the 2nd Temple era or shortly after (which was roughly a 40 year period). Mainstream scholars (e.g, Allison, Ehrman) have argued that the "times of the Gentiles" was fulfilled at the destruction of the 2nd Temple, which seems to be the era Jesus has in mind here, given the overall context and theme. Importantly, Jesus says in verse 32 that their generation (that of the disciples, who he's speaking to) "will not pass away" until "all has taken place." (Elsewhere, he says all will not "taste death" until they see the "Kingdom of God.")

"That’s especially true if we add Matt. 24:14 into the mix"

The known world wasn't as large to Jews in Jesus' day. So a command to preach throughout "the whole world" and "to all nations" isn't a problem for the Failed Apocalyptic Prophet thesis. What apologists try to do here is make "preach throughout the world" a temporal indicator, when Jesus himself already has given several clear temporal indicators.

 Later on, when an interlocutor makes reference to the "this generation" passage, Tom says this:

"The rest of the paragraph (ESV) says,
And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
So there is some set of signs that indicate the season of his return is arriving. What are those signs? Go back one more paragraph, and you’ll find that there’s a section where his topic seems to have shifted somewhat. He could be talking about the fall of Jerusalem, and the disciples could have naturally interpreted him that way, but it’s also not an unnatural interpretation to suppose that he could be shifting to another time frame. :

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

But this is an unnatural interpretation, because Jesus is telling his disciples-his audience, not some unnamed generation reading a book, unknown millennia into the future- "when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Moreover, Mark and Matthew are even clearer: in Mark, the Son of Man comes "after that tribulation," but still "in those days (Mark 13:24)." Matthew makes things even worse: "immediately after the tribulation of those days..." (Matthew 24:29). [1]

 "Not only that, but if you back up even further to Luke 21:10-19, you’ll see that Jesus is speaking of a whole range of events that seem to take place over an extended period of time, beginning with the disciples’ lifetimes, but not containable within that short time frame."

But a careful reading shows that this all happened before the temple fell again in 70 CE. Nothing described here is not containable within the apostle's generation, Tom's assertion to the contrary notwithstanding. Perhaps Tom had in mind a more widespread persecution of Christians that took place in later centuries, but as Paul and the book of Acts can attest, persecution also took place early on.

"For these reasons, I conclude that “this generation” does not refer to the generation of those who were standing there listening to him, but to the generation that sees the final signs coming together, as he refers to throughout the chapter."

And it is for these reasons Tom's defense of Jesus' infallibility doesn't appear to stand up to close scrutiny. If we had only the few passages that have been discussed on hand, the Failed Apocolyptic Prophetic Thesis would fair pretty strong. Jesus fits well within his apocalyptic era further elucidated by the Qumran community, et al. But the Failed Apocolyptic Prophet Thesis accounts for a much wider range of data, summarized beautifully by the Ex-Apologist here: http://exapologist.blogspot.com/2007/10/one-of-main-reasons-why-i-think.html

Readers further interested in the apocolypticism of Jesus would do well to consult the works of Thom Stark, John Loftus, Dale Allison, Schweitzer, et al.

[1] Credit goes to Thom Stark for this enlightenment.




Friday, February 20, 2015

Tom Gilson Joins the Cult of Victimhood

Bryan, I don’t know why u want 2 keep throwing inanities like this at me, but apparently u do. Could I just ask you to stop, please?"
One person's inanity is another's satire. My comment wasn't necessarily constructive and probably uncalled for. But the arguments presented in the article linked to are just as inane. So maybe I'm just matching tit for tat.

I’m still asking you to cease the pinging, rather than my just muting you on my feed. It’s a matter of courtesy, Bryan, okay?"

Gilson begins to cast himself as a victim and shifts the goalposts to complain about my "pinging" instead. By "pinging," Gilson can only mean regular counterarguments directed at him onto his Twitter feed. Surely some of my tweets have not been very constructive, but most of what I post is relevant criticism:

what well intentioned and syntactically accurate words do conservatives think aren't open to fair use anymore?

your first question is regarding "primary" interest of marriage. If it's children, even a systems approach is pro-gay mrrg

still unclear to me how God's existence is objectively meaningful even given his subjective attributes

Meaninglessness does not require death. One can easily imagine a pointless life stretching into eternity.

and so on...sometimes I even remenisce:

hahaha. I remember that post. There are my comments when I was a Christian. Right there. Good times.

You’re missing the point. It’s not the content, it’s the incessant pinging."

Incessant? Gilson is being hyperbolic. I respond to 20% of his posts, if that. Maybe it seems incessant because I'm virtually the only user who responds to his Twitter posts (counting critics and non-critics).

I offer to restrict my comments to constructive ones only. In reply, he says:

Constructive is a subjective judgment, too."

I want to keep replying to his posts, keeping it constructive. But Gilson gives himself an out. Anything I now post that he disagrees with can now be interpreted as "unconstructive." Here the gauntlet comes down: no more criticism.
Naively, I try to respond with something that could not possibly be interpreted as nonconstructive in a last ditch effort to foster genuine dialogue. I am met with:

" You’re missing the point. It’s not the content, it’s the incessant pinging."

One becomes suspicious that if I was one of his sycophants, he wouldn't have a problem with "incessant pinging." But I speculate.

The salient point here is that he responds only seconds before I post two other comments in rapid succession, which Gilson interprets as belligerence. I have no time to react and defend myself before I am muted. That is the context of his last three tweets:

Case in point: This kind of question I don’t need interrupting my day, and can’t be answered on Twitter anyway. Courtesy. Please."

(How does a tweet "interrupt" someones day? He's starting to sound ridiculous and like he's going off the rails. How does he know such questions can't be answered on Twitter? There's no evidence he even made such an attempt. Even a rudimentary summary would have sufficed.)

My requests for courtesy have gone rudely unanswered. Muting you here now. I hope that works; otherwise I’ll go to Twitter about it."

Muting you didn’t work. Explaining how you got that wrong won’t work either. I’ll try another avenue."

And so Tom Gilson pounds down the kool-aid following swift initiation into the Cult of Victimhood, the very thing decried in the original post. The irony, at least, is not lost on me.

Tom, if you don't want people to argue with you, "incessantly" or not, quit crying, and get off the internet. Blocking someone for anything less than threats, ad hominen attacks or genuine spam is intellectual cowardice. That goes for theists and non-theists.











Tuesday, June 3, 2014

dilemma

1. According to Christians, God is the transcendent standard for morality--based not outside Himself but founded in his own nature.

2. Can a world be conceived of in which murder is the Good founded in the nature of a creator god?

3. If it's conceivable, then it's possible murder could have potentially been ethical. Which is absurd.

4. If it's not conceivable, then one is a applying a moral standard outside of herself and her creator god.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

On Same-Sex Marriage



Human beings have many needs that are basic and universal. We all need to drink water, eat and sleep. We need clothing and a roof over our heads. We also have sexual and social needs; chief among them, the desire for acceptance, and to love and be loved in platonic and romantic relationships. To be sexually intimate with the people (male and/or female) we are sexually drawn to. To deny someone the right to have these basic needs met is to deny their humanity. It is inhumane. This is the way God, if He exists, made them . Telling someone they can’t form a loving, sexual union with their partner is like telling someone not to eat, not to drink. Not to seek friendship. It is to deny someone their full right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is disrespectful and intolerant. You who would do so would condemn someone to a life of suicide-inducing loneliness, misery, and despair. It is social and psychological death, much like ceasing to eat and drink would lead to physical death. It only takes a moment of reflection, a second of empathy for homosexual persons, to see that this is all true.  This is why opposition to same sex marriage will fail. It must fail.

Sunday, December 23, 2012