Posted by: Jim | April 27, 2009

A Personal Comparison

I’d like to recount a very personal story.  This is probably one of the most intimate details about my life that I could share, but I think it is germane to the goal of this blog.

About six years ago I had a best friend who was deeply troubled with addictions and health issues. His life was a mess. He was miserable, losing his mental faculties, and was watching everything he had worked for in his life slowly slip away. One night I got a call from him and I could tell he was very, very low. The conversation went something like this:

Him: Hey Jim, I need to tell you something but I want you to promise me something. Me: What?
Him: Promise me that after I tell you what I’m going to tell you that you won’t call the police.
(Now, at this point I thought my friend had broken the law, or was intending to break some law. Whatever it was, he was like a brother to me and I didn’t care.)
Me: OK, I promise. Now what’s going on?
Him: I want to kill myself tonight. I don’t want to die alone though, so I want you to come be with me while I die.
(Long Pause.)
Me: Are you kidding me?
Him: I’m very serious.
Me: I need to think about this.
Him: You don’t have time. It’s already started. I just took something, and I should be gone in a few hours.
Me: I’m on my way.

I got into my car in a state of shock. I’d grown up with this guy, and I couldn’t believe what was happening. I thought about for awhile and was in a deep conundrum. I had made a promise to my best friend during the most desperate time of his life! How could I break that promise? I’m embarrassed to say that I was in such a cloud that I lacked the clarity to know what to do. So from the car I called a friend, and she asked one question:

“What is more important: you keeping your promise, or you saving his life?”

Clarity achieved. I hung up with her, and called the police. They arrived at my friend before I did. I didn’t even get to speak to him, but only saw him scowling at me while they put him in the ambulance. He died on the operating table 7 times that night, but they revived him each time. Later, he thanked me for going against his will and breaking my promise.

godBut this brings up a very serious question for Christians, because what my friend was going through is parallel to my current state according to Christians. I am apparently choosing to suffer eternal death, so why isn’t God calling the police? Christians say that God loves me—even more than I loved my friend. And his love is so great that he allegedly allowed his son to die for me. So why won’t he usurp my own will to save my eternal soul from damnation? Why won’t he intervene? Is he so weak that he cannot intervene? Why is he silent? Is he pouting? Why does he provide me no plausible evidence whatsoever?

Christians will say that he has given me evidence, but the evidence for Christ is equal to the evidence for Zoroaster, Allah, and Krishna. It is all laughable and clearly man made.

If God really loved me, and my soul was really valuable to him, and he were really all-powerful, he would do whatever it took to save me. He would set his “higher ways” aside and simply reach down and show me.

“What is more important? Saving my eternal life or sticking to some obtuse Godly method?”

God doesn’t want to save me from hell because he isn’t there, and neither is hell.

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Responses

  1. Jim, I think that if God micro-managed our daily lives to that degree (calling the cops for you, personally saving you), we would not be able to call it ‘life’ as we know it.

    One of God’s gifts is free will. You, for instance, are free to disavow him. Your friend was free to try and kill himself. You were also free to choose to go against your friend’s wishes.

    My sister asked me the other day if God answers my prayers. I cannot prove it like a theorem, but since my divorce, I have prayed for happiness, health, safety and security, calmness and confidence for my children. So far, the big guy has come through for me. You may call it coincidence, I thank God for his guidance in this matter.

    If God comforted my children in this way without using me, the parent as a conduit, the effort would have been useless. The fact that I make good choices in parenting, I credit to my parents, and to some degree, God.

    You may not believe in Heaven, Hell, God or Satan, but that does not mean they don’t exist. I think you are to some extent throwing the baby out with the bathwater when you entirely disavow your fundamentalist past. There are much tamer and tolerant paths of Christianity than Fundamentalism or Catholicism.

    Just my Christian $.02 🙂

  2. Jim, that was a very engaging and touching story.

  3. Jim, I’m glad you were able to be there for your friend, even if you felt you betrayed him at the time.

    That was a good analogy too. If the Christian God is all-powerful and all-knowing shouldn’t he have the ability to help people out and also allow them to live their lives? Why is he constrained by our own understanding? …unless he’s just a figment of our imagination.

  4. Jim,

    That reminds me of a joke where there is a flood and people are on their rooftops trying to stay on high ground. The water is rising and people are drowning and one guy on top of his roof is determined that God will save him. A neighbor comes by on a raft and says to him “come on in!”

    To this the man replies “No thank you, God will save me!” The water rises and it’s up to his ankles now.

    Another guy comes by in a canoe and says to the man “come in and save yourself!”

    The man on the roof says, “I have prayed to God and I have faith that HE will save me!”

    This happens again with another neighbor who was a fisherman and had a fishing vessel. He shouts to the man, who’s up to his belly button in water now, “Come in, there is plenty of room!”

    To this the man says ” I will not go, I will wait patiently for the Lord and HE alone will save me! I will have faith in him alone!”

    The man later drowns to death.

    He arrives in Heaven and he asks God, “Lord, why didn’t you save me that day. I had total and complete faith that you would save, me yet you let me die anyway?”

    God replied, “What are you talking about, I sent you THREE boats!”

    ================

    God could tell you that he put people in your life to tell you his good news. He could tell you that you have heard the way of salvation many times. He could say that he KNOWS that you understand what needs to be done and that it was communicated to you many times. You could argue with him and say that you wanted his hand to actually come from the clouds and his voice to echo in the streets, that you wanted a personal “call to the police”.

    He might say that, that was YOUR part. Your part in stepping out in faith. Your desire to put your will aside. Many rich people do not enter the kingdom of God because they are relying on their riches. They don’t have a perceived “need” for God and they love their money too much to put it aside.

    I would say that there are intellectually “rich” people as well.

  5. Ted,

    The problem with this little story, and with all other beliefs that God’s answer to your prayers can be another person is that it reduces each person to just a puppet of God. My belief, when I believed in God, was that each and every person had free will. How can another person, unknowingly, also be a message from God. For instance, when I spend my Sundays, the time I would be at Mass if I was still Catholic, serving food to the homeless (yes, atheists can do that too), am I just an unwitting robot of God? Are you, when you extend a hand to someone in need, just a machine? The man in the story was lucky to be offered help by three altruistic individuals, not three automatons sent from God.

  6. “My belief, when I believed in God, was that each and every person had free will.”

    to clarify: I still believe each and every person has free will

  7. Hi CRL,

    Nice to hear from you. Of course I understand your dilemma of God’s will and free will. I’m convinced that although we have free will that we also have a conscience.

    This conscience is one of God’s ways of communicating with us through his Spirit. Some listen to his voice and some do not.

    The three men in the story could have headed for the hills on their own and not cared about the man on the roof. I’m sure in this illustration that they had a choice. They were not robots sent only by God.

    When someone is trying to follow Christ, they are dying to their own will and trying to do God’s will. That’s why Jesus said “pick up your cross and follow me.” and “He who loses his life will find it”.
    They perhaps try to listen to their conscience and do what is right rather than what is convenient.

    As I wrote before, I believe that we all have a God given conscience and of course atheists and non Christians can do good things!

    Just to be clear with you, I love atheists and agnostics and people in general based on their character, not their worldview. I try to love even unlovable people regardless of character, but of course that is harder.

  8. Ted,

    Of course I believe that people have consciences. In fact, my personal opinion is that the conscience is actually the most important part of a person. It makes since what you were saying, but only if the conscience is not a gift from God but a part of God within you. I would really like to believe that’s true, but I cant see any evidence for it.

  9. Hi CRL,

    I don’t know if I see a big difference in conscience being a gift from God or being a par of God within you. Can you explain this?

    As far as seeing evidence for it, I think when we stop trying to over analyze things, common sense comes through. What I mean is, YOU are a great example of evidence. I am too. Jim is as well. People who know themselves and are truthful with themselves, KNOW in their soul/heart/mind/psyche/conscience… that they are NOT just chemicals of reactions responding to the environment.

    I mean we are the best evidences that we have personally.

    If naturalism is true and we are just chemicals that randomly came about from simple to complex (making miraculous leaps and bounds of advancement over billions of years) then we are really just robots.

    We are just a complex form of receptors and are in an evolutionary cycle of survival at our core. Us having a conversation is just response to stimuli no “self” and no “soul”.

    Don’t you really know that you are more than that? I mean don’t you really KNOW?

    It is obvious to me personally. If it is not obvious to you or anyone else, that is really interesting to me and I would *love* to hear more about it.

  10. Ted,

    Sorry, I guess I wasn’t really clear about the gift/part thing. A gift from God would be pretty much the same as a gift from a human, except obviously, with an omnipotent giver, it would probably a lot better. I think ( I’m not positive on this, correct me if I’m wrong) that Christians believe that a soul is a gift, not a part of God. For example , when someone gives you a gift, they don’t give you a part of themselves, they give you something that they made of bought.

    As to the rest of your comment, a person is more than the sum of their parts. Is that a soul? Maybe it is. I’m not too arrogant to rule that out. If there is a soul but not a God, that leaves open the question of where this soul came from. My current belief, and the only logical answer answer I can see, is that it came not at the time humans evolved but when life first came into being. The soul of something like a bacteria or a plant would be very simple because it would not be molded in any way by a brain or consciousness. The reason a human (or an animal) has more of a right to live than a bacterium or plant is because it has a self or consciousness, that comes (I guess) from having thoughts.

    Just because a soul doesn’t have any physical form doesn’t make it any less real. Mathematics, for example, doesn’t have any relation, besides governing them, to matter, energy, space, time, dark matter, or anything tangible, but it is completely real.

    None of this is obvious to me. It actually really annoys me when anyone claims to KNOW anything about religion or any related topic, besides simple morality, which is certain. I still remember this awful prayer I had to say every day at the Catholic grammar school I went to,”I know that Jesus is present in each of my classmates and all of my teachers and therefore all my actions will show my respect for Jesus.” I was an atheist before fifth grade. About a month into that year, I realized what I was saying. During the next four years, I never said the those words again. When I briefly went back to religion, I still did not say it, because I never KNEW it, even if did believe it. This experience is still with me today. Sometimes, I am temped to say that I know that there isn’t a God, but knowing that many people say the opposite has always stopped me. Even though I believe in a soul, I am not anything even close to sure. If I had the capacity to be that sure, I probably would not be an atheist.
    Being that sure is actually irrational. So no, I don’t know.

  11. CRL,

    I would say that Christians believe that God gave us his Spirit which is also a part of him dwelling within us.

    I’m kind of like you, always leaving room for doubt and room for the unknown.

    What I’m wanting to say is that there is something inside of me that I know is more than the sum of my parts.

    I almost think that just having this thought is revealing enough, of that truth.

    Being rational and irrational is a very interesting subject. What seems rational is not always rational and what seems irrational is not always irrational. There is so much that we don’t know. We are always striving for truth and I’m extremely skeptical when someone says that they know 100% for sure about something.

    I enjoy my faith and believe it to be rational. Others laugh at me and think that faith cannot be rational. It’s no use arguing to me. To the believers that we are only the sum of our chemical components, I’m built this way. I’m totally hard wired to be a Christian.

    God would say that it’s the gift of faith (speaking of gifts).

    I’m so thankful for my faith. It is the strongest part of me. It is my solid rock and foundation from which the rest of my perspective flows.

    Regardless of this, I allow and enjoy other’s thoughts and faiths. Even though I believe Christianity to be true, and because I do, I want all my friends and family and others to “be saved” and experience the Christian walk, I do not push others in a reckless way.

    I love to share my faith and opinion, but only when it is welcomed. I respect other’s desire for distance and individuality but am excited when they genuinely want to have a spiritual discussion.

    That’s one of the great joys of Jim’s blog to me.

  12. Ted,

    Religion can be rational, within a certain limit. Personally, I draw the line at creation, because evolution is proven science, not religion. Even people beyond this limit, creationists, are usually fully rational people, even though they believe ideas that I consider irrational.

    I agree, we are more than the sum of our parts. How? I have absolutely no idea. I could take the easy way out and say there is a God, but the idea of a God cannot stand on its own; it would have to come from somewhere.

    I could take the Bible as truth and base my faith around that. The problem with this approach is that I can see no suggestion (I’m not even asking for proof) that the Bible is true, beyond the “proof” that all religions thought history have had for their chosen holy books.

    Another approach for me to believe in God would be to go it alone, without organized religion. The problem is that whatever beliefs I came up with would basically be guesses.

    Since God has never made direct contact with me (or anyone I know, for that matter) and probably never will, I will have to be content to continue guessing.

  13. CRL,

    I appreciate your honesty. I feel your sincerity through your words. It is a pleasure to blog with you.

    I think that evolution is a proven science up to a point also. The kinds of speciation that are examples we have today are not what I would call mind blowing examples that turn the light on and make it obvious for all to see.

    Of course species evolve within themselves over time and it is quite interesting and fun to see!

    There are no proofs of cosmic evolution, chemical evolution, stellar and planetary evolution. All of which are necessary for a complete naturalistic worldview.

    It’s neat to look at evolution as it is proven and exists and see how our world works and adapts to our surroundings. It is amazing and astonishing at the complexities that surround us from the invisible (atomic and sub atomic levels and beyond) to the far reaches of the universe (that of which we can see!)

    I could choose to only believe what is proven, but because I see such an unfinished painting, it is hard to let myself “jump to a million different conclusions” based on the information that we have (and that I have come in contact with).

    To rule out God may be emotional, but in my mind it is also very rational.

    Then of course there is the personal experience that we all have to go by in our own limited existence. What works for you? Why does it work? Does this make me a better person? Does this hurt me in anyway? What are the pros vs the cons and which ones outweigh the others the most?

    These I think are the guesses that you are talking about that I have as well. Faith on the other hand, is allowing me to hope for the things that I cannot understand or see. My hope is in God: The God of the Bible.

    Am I a bad person for hoping in God? I don’t believe so. Some would say that if I devote my religious life in a political way that I am a bad person. How about if I don’t politicize my life? Politics is a messy business anyway. Someone is ALWAYS infringing on someone else, no matter what set of standards you go by. Only Chaos and Anarchy would allow complete freedoms (and would not allow freedoms FROM things anyway).

    My faith is in a heaven where I can experience the “next life” that was created, and where all that was unknown will become known. If I die with this belief and it isn’t true, then I doubt I would know it anyway.

    If I die and it is true, then wow. How awesome. I would see my family and other believers and experience a new type of existence without time being a factor. It’s hard to fathom. I see how people can think it is a fairy tale. I’m never sure why people get mad at others for believing however.

    In the strictest of senses, would a person call out a child on believing in Santa Claus? People are so concerned with what other people do with their lives, it can be sickening. The guy who would yell at a kid for believing in Santa may think that they are doing that child a service by giving him “truth” and perspective. Who is that guy to make that call?

    Perhaps the child grows up believing in Santa and is better off because of it. Perhaps he understands hope better. Maybe he becomes a children’s book writer or a poet. Maybe he becomes more sensitive to others beliefs and individuality? My wife and I decided to tell our kids the truth about Santa from the earliest beginnings. We “played” Santa like a game. We would still leave out cookies and milk and still have presents from Santa and it was and still is all great fun. We also tell them NOT to tell their friends who believe in him because we don’t want to ruin their fun and we want to respect their families traditions and parenting, etc.

    I personally do not look at God like Santa Claus. I believe that he is real and true and the creator of us all and all we can see. I am merely bringing up the comparison to say, hey, if you don’t believe and you think God is s fairy tale, then great. Why rain on someone else’s parade?

    Why actually cut them down or get aggressive with people you don’t even really know. That is a strong form of prejudice and bullying.

    IF it’s the political thing that is a hang up, then I would suggest to them that they concentrate on that, and still give respect.

    Jim is a great guy and he shows a lot of respect (or restraint, not sure which :o) ) but there are those out there who just want to tear down, not build up.

    I would love a world where we can build each other up with our words and our actions. The tongue and the written word are so powerful. The old adage about “sticks and stones… but words will never hurt me”, is of course untrue.

    Guessing is okay in my book. Keep guessing until you are satisfied. I equate guessing with searching. Keep searching until your soul (the thing that is more than the sum of our parts) is satisfied.

    Jesus said all who thirst come unto me and I will give you living water. He says that you won’t thirst again. For me, he was right. I am satisfied and I don’t thirst for anything different. Maybe that is why some people get frustrated with me and others like me. They think I’m duped and have a desire to change me but think that no matter how hard they try, I’m stubborn and hold onto my “irrational” beliefs like a blind man. They don’t understand me, and I would guess that they really don’t understand faith.

    How wonderful to have painters and poets and architects and writers and dreamers and planners and science fiction and hope and myths and magic in our world.

    Have you spent time with children? If you have, have you experienced the happiness, joy, laughter, hope, wonder and love of a child? Isn’t it a great thing?

    Sure children can get out of hand (maybe the analogy of religious people politicizing their beliefs) and need rules to obey, but they bring so much goodness to the world as well. Why make them “grow up” too fast and stifle creativity and burden them with responsibility, etc.?

    I realize that I just equated religious people with children, but from the naturalistic perspective, this is what I would equate it to.

    I have a different perspective and believe Christianity to be truth. For those that don’t, don’t sweat it, unless it infringes on your own beliefs (Prop 8 in CA). In this case, talk about it with respect, not ridicule and demonization (like the Carrie Prejean story).

  14. Ted,

    True. There is absolutely nothing wrong with believing in God. If you believe in heaven, there’s nothing wrong with that. I believe that you are completely wrong, but then, you probably believe the same about me.

    Santa is actually an excellent analogy for God. He’s always watching you to judge you behavior, and he rewards if you’re good (presents/Heaven) and punishes you if you’re bad (coal/Hell).

    When I was growing up, my parents always told me that if I waited up for Santa, he wouldn’t come. Christians are told not to test the Lord. Why? For fear that he will choose to “fail” the test.

    I never waited up for Santa. When I believed in Him, I never “waited up for God” asking for a concrete response to my prayers. When I realized that flying reindeer weren’t real, I asked my parents if there really was a Santa. I got a conclusive no.

    A few years later, I realized that flying angels were no more real than flying reindeer. When I got mixed answers from my parents, I decided to “wait up” for God, asking Him one more time to somehow make Himself known. He still hasn’t gotten back to me on that.

    I would hate to have been raised an atheist as much as I would have hated to have been raised without even a “game” of Santa Claus. I am glad that it was my own choice not to believe in God. I respect your right and the right of all other believers to believe in God.

    If I “demonized” your religious beliefs or the beliefs of those who voted for prop 8, it was unintentional and I apologize. Though on opposite sides of the issue, both the Carrie Prejean story and prop 8 are excellent example when people take their beliefs out of where they belong and raise them to the level of prejudices. The judge’s decision was unfair because political beliefs have no more place in a beauty pageant than religious beliefs (should) have in the state constitution.

    The only part of your post I don’t agree with is where you say that, “I would see my family and other believers.” The belief that only believers go to Heaven has always outraged (and scared) me because actions have always outweighed beliefs in my mind. A system that values thoughts over actions is pretty unfair and your God, the inventor of fairness, does not seem to be the type of being that would use any unfair system for his eternal “justice.”

    Obviously, I don not want to find out I am wrong and go to Hell for my beliefs. I would actually be more disappointed, if I felt anything, to find out that I am right. Worse still than either of these possibilities would be if there is a God, but there is no afterlife, either for atheists specifically or for all people. It would be a cruel joke if there is a God but through my own faults, I never knew him.

    Even though i don’t believe in God or Heaven, that doesn’t stop me from hoping for either of them. I do not consider you a bad person for hoping for God, I consider anyone who claims not to hope for God a liar.

  15. It’s good to see such peaceful discussion.

    CRL I agree in part with your last statement. It’s also partly why I relate so closely with Carl Sagan. Sagan, like me, wasn’t afraid to indicate that he had “hope” that there was a God and an afterlife. But like me, he would never be content to believe that without evidence. So he died an atheist, as I’m sure I will as well.

    It would be nice if there was a big, loving guy in charge of it all, but there is no logical argument or any evidence to substantiate him.

    Still, I wouldn’t go so far as to call people who don’t hope for God a liar. It would be arrogant for me to presume that everyone else was like me.

  16. Hey guys. I just replied and it didn’t show up. I tried to send it again and it thinks that it is a duplicate… Not sure if you got it but just have to accept it, or what. Please let me know.

  17. Hi CRL,

    I think I understand your thoughts clearly enough, thank you for sharing them, and thank you for your sympathy and mutual respect. It is truly nice to find an arena in which to be able to hear and be heard peacefully without fear of humiliation and ridicule.

    I’ll speak to the part where you said that the only thing you don’t agree with is that I said I would see my family and other believers. You said it has always outraged and scared you.

    I think that this is a part of the Bible that outrages and scares most non-believers. The concept of Hell, etc.

    There are so many good writers who have spoken on this subject and I encourage you to read some. If you are interested in a particular author or article, please let me know and I would suggest one for you.

    In my own words, first, I think that God is completely fair. He didn’t create a world where you have to do more good things than bad in order to be counted worthy. This is why someone who has done horrible sins in their life (a murderer a molester a rapist…) can still be found worthy. There was a man hanging on the cross next to Jesus who was a murderer. He was at the end of his life and Jesus said that he would be in Paradise the next day.

    This is actually good news, not bad. If we were only counted worthy because of our actions, people would have to live long enough in order to try to out-good the bad stuff they have already done. The other side of this, is that there can be “good” people who can be puffed up and arrogant if their good things outweigh their bad. God says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And he says that we are saved by Grace so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9) “Ephesians 2:8-9 (New Living Translation)

    8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

    Other religions say that you have to *do* things in order to be worthy: Spin a Tibetan prayer wheel to accumulate wisdom or merit, or do good things to create good karma, or a large number of other tasks. Man has to do things to earn favor. They are mans attempt at reaching God.

    Christianity is the only religion where God is attempting to reach man.

    Picture God on one side of a tall cliff and us on the other side, with a grand canyon in between.
    Sin, which separates us from God is the canyon. God sent his son to be a bridge between himself and us. Jesus died for our sins and took them upon himself so that we could be saved. He already did it. It is finished.

    Just like when someone gives you a gift, it is up to you whether you open the gift or not and receive it.

    God is so fair I believe that even a child can accept him. I also believe that he has given us many opportunities in which to choose him or reject him.

    To another point, it is my thought alone, that God will sincerely touch each soul/heart of each person in such a way that only He and the person will know that connection.

    If there is a time after death (a purgatory kind of thing/idea) where people like yourself needed “evidence” of some sort, I would not be surprised at all if God gave it to you and once again let you decide to accept or reject him.

    It is my guess that people like yourself and Jim would then have what you needed and be able to accept with all of your being. But, I suspect that even then, there would be those who would need more, or still feel that they would not like to “submit”.

    Submitting can be hard for the hard-hearted and the strong willed person. Look at just the Earthly family relationship and you’ll see good parents struggling with their children who want to reject them and their words.

    Pride can be a strong stumbling block in this life.

    If you are interested, ask me to tell you the dog analogy that I cam up with years ago.

  18. As far as no logical argument or evidence for God, I believe that there is, and I’ve tried to communicate it over these thousands of words that I’ve written on this blog. It’s frustrating that no matter the argument, that it will come back as illogical to some.

    There is the fact that the Bible is historical and the resurrection is historically proven and documented.

    How about even the idea of a resurrection? Archaeology supports the Bible. Look into some of these articles if you want to:

    The articles are not too long, and raise very logical arguments and theories and possibilities not only conjecture and hope.

    The mere fact that our universe had a beginning is logical to conclude that there could indeed be a creator/ something beyond ourselves that is beyond our limited comprehension and wisdom and understanding. No it doesn’t prove it, but it can be a logical possibility.

    Here are just a couple of websites that have thousands of resources and logical beliefs and statements in them:

    Yes there are opposing websites and theories but there is logic on both sides. The human brain is powerful and knows that there are many options and ways to look at “evidence”.

    To believe in only the things that you can prove, can limit you completely. We have faith every day and trust in things that we don’t yet understand, all the time.

    I guess I can only be called illogical so many times before either my ego or my own sense of self or my humaneness wants to just bail out and focus on more enjoyable endeavors.

    I feel like we are all making progress in understanding each other and it feels really good. I don’t think you are illogical for not believing in God. I know that it is hard to believe in something that you cannot see or feel or touch or hear. It can be logical to only accept the natural world. I’ve always, in my whole life, been a global thinker. I hardly ever only look at the detail in front of me. I am constantly asking myself what is the bigger picture.

    Sure I can look at evolution and admire it and gain knowledge, but I don’t feel thats where the story ends. With the universe being SO Huge, so, so so huge and the sub atomic particles having such design and purpose and looking at all things in between including our consciences, emotions, and individuality, I am convinced, logically mind you, that to base my existence on only a small portion of what I can see- is crazy (for me personally).

    That combined with others writings and ideas like the ones in the links I posted, gives me hope in God. I’m not just a blind idiot who has my head in the sand and willfully refuses to see the truth so that I can trade it for a fairy tale. But that is the way that some people have portrayed me and others like me.

    We all just want to be understood, right? I just want someone to tell me that yeah, I can see that. I see why you do what you do and believe the way that you do. Yes, that’s possible. They don’t have to agree at all, just understand.

    I really like you CRL. I really like you too Jim.
    Thanks for letting me emotionally “throw up” on you. (yeah, I know that’s gross).

    Ted

  19. http://khouse.org/articles_cat/2009/technical/

  20. http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/answers.html

  21. Ted,

    I didn’t mean that when you die, God counts up all you actions and weighs the good against the bad. What I meant was that even if you’ve done something awful, if you genuinely regret it and try to undo it and become, basically, a different person, God forgives you regardless of faith.

    In the example of the murderer on the cross, the man, I would assume, honestly regretted what he had done and changed in his last moment. If he did not regret his actions and his only virtue was accepting Jesus, than he did not, in my mind, deserve to be saved.

    I realize that it is absolutely ridiculous for me, as an atheist, be telling you what to believe within your own religion.

    I would say that God, the real thing if there is one, is “so fair a child can accept him.” Some aspects of religion are not that fair. Original sin, for instance, seems about as fair as calling me racist because my ancestors fought for the confederacy. As a child, I considered that unfair and did not accept it. Even if someone somehow convinces me of God, they will never get me to believe in original sin in this form.

    There is a lot out there that science has not even begun to comprehend. In a near infinite universe, why wouldn’t there be?

    I’ve skimmed through both the links. The first one didn’t seem to be all that helpful, (what exactly is the connection between Jurassic Park and resurrection bodies, whatever they are?) but I’ll give it another try.

    The second one actually had it’s science right and made a lot of sense.

    I’m up for more authors/articles and the dog analogy. Thanks.

  22. Jim,

    Your right, that probably was a bit too much of a generalization. I was basing this not just on myself but on all the atheists I know, but the ones I know are a tiny fraction of all the atheists out there. Although I can’t imagine any person honestly not wanting a loving God and eternal life, there probably is someone out there like that.

  23. CRL,

    I don’t think it’s ridiculous for you to be telling me about my own religion. I appreciate the conversation in general and am always wanting to hear different perspectives, that’s how I learn best.

    You said ” if you genuinely regret it and try to undo it and become, basically, a different person, God forgives you regardless of faith.

    In the example of the murderer on the cross, the man, I would assume, honestly regretted what he had done and changed in his last moment. If he did not regret his actions and his only virtue was accepting Jesus, than he did not, in my mind, deserve to be saved.”

    I agree with half of what you say here, that you have to have a genuine regret. But just having the feeling of regret is not enough to correct the wrong that was done (If you take a test in college and get all the answers wrong, but later regret your answers, you still fail the test).

    (Please remember that I’m speaking from my opinion of what I believe God’s plan is, as stated in the Bible. As a Christian, I believe we all have the right and the joy in life to be able to make our own decisions of what to do with the gift/time of life that we have. So, I am not preaching, I’m just telling you about my faith and what I believe.)

    If you get what you deserve, then if you fail, you fail. If sin is what separates us from God, then if we sin, there is a separation. If I murder someone, that is sin, and I failed the test, so I fail (that’s what I deserve). But from what I understand, God doesn’t give us what we deserve if we have trusted in him/his son. Jesus paid that price forevermore for our individual sins, past, present and future.

    I’ve heard it explained that Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve (salvation), and Mercy is God not giving us what we do deserve (condemnation for sin), regardless of our tests in life. He knows our situation on Earth and offers us a loving way out. His motivation is his love for you and for me/all of us. This way it is still just. The penalty has been paid in full by another, but it is still paid.

    The concept of “original sin” means to me that the world is in a state of decay and has sin in it. When we are born, be are born into a world that contains sin (not heaven) and we have a propensity to sin or have a sin nature. As to when we begin sinning is probably only known by God, or the parents of their child!

    We as people look as sin/wrong as a sliding scale. We think some wrongs are worse than others and that they all have a sliding scale of consequences. The way I’ve always understood the Christian God, sin is sin. A lie is the same as murder, in the fact that both separate us from God. How do we reconcile to the God who so desperately wants us to come back to him? We use our free will and faith and trust in what we cannot prove and rely in something beyond ourselves.

    For some, this is the hardest thing. Some say that in order for them to be a Christian that they would have to check their brains in at the door. That they have to turn their head from truth and blindly follow a fairy-tale.

    Perhaps there are those that follow in that fashion, but I am not one of them. I do not check my brain at the door. I have searched and I have learned about the world we live in and many of the philosophies of man. I am continually in a learning mode. It is in light of all of this that I believe the God of the Bible to be the one and true God, and my God.

    There are many great minds on this Earth who believe in a God.

    The Jurassic Park thing is very interesting to me because even in our human natural world we have the ability/possibility to create a life, a being, an animal from only a fragment of one gene!

    The interesting part is that it is all a code. The code for you in written in your DNA. The code for a cow or any other living thing is in it’s DNA.

    If God, theoretically has our codes, then our body could indeed die and we could still see an afterlife. There is an example that uses hardware and software for computers. The hardware would be our bodies, and the software would be our souls/personalities.

    If you weigh a CD with or without a program on it, it weighs the same. The software does not take up any weight or volume or mass and it can even be transmitted through the air! The implications are very interesting indeed, and this is just the stuff that is simple in our own understanding!

    I’ve always enjoyed the discussions with my grandmother who was born in 1904, and who died in 1998 about all of the advancements that she experienced in her lifetime. From the car to tv to phone to fax to email and computers and so much more. Each stage thinks that they are so advanced (because to them, they are!). I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

    This is already long. I’ll give you the dog analogy another time. I’m heading out to eat some lunch. A toasted turkey sandwich with bacon and avocado sounds so good right now. :o)

  24. Here are a couple of verses regarding Mercy and Grace as we discussed…

    Ephesians 2:4-5 (New International Version)

    4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

    Romans 6:23 (New International Version)

    23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[a] Christ Jesus our Lord.
    2 Peter 3:9 (New International Version)

    9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
    Psalm 103:10-12 (New International Version)

    10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.

    11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;

    12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

  25. Okay, the dog analogy that I came up with regarding pride and obedience is this (I’ve never written it down before, but this is basically it):

    Some people say that they don’t want all the rules of Christianity, that they want to be free to do all the things they want to do without guilt and without judgment.

    I thought of it one day, like a dog, and his owner/master. I am starting off with a good owner who wants only good things for his dog. (this analogy works also with parents and children).

    My own dog, Sierra, is such a good listener! I’ve trained her for her own good and safety, and because she listens to me, I do not have to have a leash on her. She is free and she is so happy. She can relate socially with other people and other dogs and all of my friends love her to death. If there is danger, or if I need her to do something, she willfully listens and so she is rewarded again with so many freedoms.

    Take on the other hand an owner who has a dog that does not listen. The dog has to be leashed, and has to be scolded, or constantly corrected. The dog does not enjoy the same freedoms as the one who obeys. It might have to be sent in another room when company comes over, or chained up in the backyard.

    It will not get the same love and affection if it is always barking and causing problems, etc.

    A child who doesn’t listen to her parents (assuming that her parents are good parents who genuinely love and care for her) can have an unhappy childhood.

    I find that when I listen to God and what he tells me to do, I’m genuinely happier than if I go out on my own and think I know what’s best for me. He tells me not to do certain things, and when I do them anyway, I realize later why he said not to do it. I have more problems in my life.

    When I’m respectful and listen to his words, I actually have more freedom. 1Corinthians 10:23
    I’m trusting in the goodness of the owner or the parent or of God that they know from experience what is best for me.

    My dog who obeys gets to go swimming with us, be with children and other dogs, sleep in the house, enjoy car rides and walks and hikes and vacations and beaches…

    If it was like the dog I had growing up, it would not have those freedoms. It would be either prideful, stupid, not properly trained, or too strong willed for it’s own good.

  26. Ted,

    In the example of the murderer, I did not mean that if he says “I’m Sorry” he gets off. I meant that if given time, he would do all he could to undo his actions, but due to bad luck, did not get enough time to undo them.

    In the test analogy, you are correct in stating that regretting your mistakes alone will not change your grade. Life, however, is better likened to a full semester, not a single test. If you fail one test, you have plenty of opportunities to raise you grade.

    If you get a 0% (or commit a murder) no amount of studying is going to get you an A if mathematically computed. That is where mercy, to me, would come in, but only if the student redeems themselves by doing well in all tests after that.

  27. CRL,

    I can see what you mean about life being a semester and not a single test, because you get many tests (if you are lucky). Life itself can be just one test however.

    The test correlation was specifically for the example of sin. I’m all about the semester thing when it comes to my relationships. I will work hard to correct any ill that I have caused as a parent, son, friend, employee, neighbor, etc.

    The thing about the sin test is, have I ever sinned? I have. Many times and in many ways. The sin in my life has a couple of consequences. According to the Bible, like I said before, it separates me from God. Two, it has practical, natural, consequences.

    The practical, natural consequences are hopefully what I will have time to correct and treat as the semester analogy that you provided.

    The spiritual side, that separates me from God, has only one solution provided in the Bible. The solution being to have repentance and to have faith that God revealed himself to humanity in the form of Jesus who died in our place for our sins.

    That is more like the test analogy I was trying to talk about.

    If you could go through life without sinning, you would not need a savior to reconcile back to the God that so desperately loves you and wants you back.

    I have faith that this is the situation that I am in, and I go through my life (my semester) trying to be the best person to humanity that I can be. I want to please God and lift others up and actually edify the people in my life and those who I come in contact with.

    When I fail, I have the hope that what Jesus did on the cross was enough. I get back up and try again. If I lived this way my whole life, and if it turns out it really was just a fairy-tale, then I don’t think it would matter. I still feel that my life is worth while and had meaning.

    If my faith turns out to be true and God really does love and forgive me…. I will experience a whole new reality and I will have so much to be thankful for.

  28. Ted,

    I still think that the big picture of your life is more important than a single test. Everyone, myself, of course, included, has failed a test (aka sinned).

    One of the nice things about being an atheist is that I don’t have to worry about how my sins will add up. I don’t have to feel guilty every time I take the Lord’s name in vain or skip Mass. If I leave the world a better place than I found it (dealing with the practical, natural consequences) that will be enough for me. If I’m right, that’s all that matters in the end. If I’m wrong, I have worse things to worry about than an occasional oh my God or missed mass.

    There may be no personal consequences for sinning but that does not make it any less wrong. There may also be no personal consequences for doing the right thing, but I try not to let that stop me.

    I have a distant cousin who was a minister. He was recently arrested for stealing thousands of dollars from his own church.

    My father, an atheist like me, is one of the most honest people I have ever known. Through my whole life, I have never known him to tell a single lie.

    If faith was the only criteria for heaven/hell, the minister, also a thief, would go to heaven. If God would send my father and me to hell over beliefs, but send a thief to heaven, I hope He is a figment of your imagination.

  29. “I hope He is a figment of your imagination.”

    As I have said I do hope there is a God, but an unfair God would be worse than no God at all.

  30. I agree. An unfair God would be worse.

  31. Update: I no longer fear hell, on the off-chance that it is real, if I am sent there for my beliefs alone. I also quit believing anything resembling a soul b/c I can see no evidence whatsoever for one, and have somehow found a way to survive without such beliefs.

  32. CRL, I’m on a break from posting on this blog right now, but I’m glad to hear it. A great resource is exchristian.net. They have some forums there with really great people.


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