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REPLY #57d TO
"RELIGION"



Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the last of a four-part reply.

(R) Believers in Christ don't mind going through persecution and suffering, though we might not enjoy it, because we know that we will have riches in heaven.
(MB) If this is so, why do Christians mourn for those who have died, why do they oppose the "right to death", and why don't they pray for an early death so they can join God sooner? None of this squares with the doctrine that a far, far better place awaits them in the afterlife.


(R) Jesus said that if people persecuted Him, they would also persecute us. The sufferings of this present life are no comparison to the glory we will receive in heaven!
(MB) So, why not pray to receive it as soon as possible?


On what basis do we know this for certain? And, what about the billions who have never heard of Jesus and/or who are devout believers in other deities? Is it reasonable to think that they will all be condemned?
(R) (You are referring to Jesus love and everlasting life with Him.) How do we know we will spend an eternity with Jesus? Romans 10:9 says "That if you confess with you mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
(MB) What proof is this for anybody who is not already a believer? Once again, the Bible is no more self-authoritative or self-proving than is the Qu'ran, the Bhagavad Vita, or any other holy book. All merely contain the doctrine to be followed by those who already believe.


(R) Can Christianity be proved? Yes.
(MB) In what sense of the word "proof" can Christianity be proven?


(R) Can you say 100 percent for certain that Christianity is true? No.
(MB) Then, how can you claim that Christianity can be proven if it can't be shown for certain that it is true? Proof requires truth.


(R) Some people feel that this "no" lets them off the hook.
(MB) No, if Christianity can not be shown to be true, this leads to reasonable doubts about it. If one feels that he's "off the hook", he is tacitly admitting to belief. You can't be "off the hook" in regards to something in which you don't believe.


(R) The problem is a misunderstanding of the nature of proof. The key is not a perfect of absolute certainty, as some believe, but a standard of proof that amounts to a moral certainty or puts the matter beyond a reasonable doubt.
(MB) If a question is answered beyond a reasonable doubt, then the answer can be said to be "true" and the case can claim proof on that basis. The key here is the standard of "reasonable" doubt and not just the mere denial of something.


(R) This standard is used in courts of law historically and today.
(MB) Quite correct. Please also realize that doubt/skepticism/innocence is the default judgment unless and until the prosecution/believers can prove their case to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt. It should be fairly obvious that the believers have not proven their case concerning Christianity since only about a third of the world's population believes it in the most general sense and since Christianity itself is subdivided into over 1500 different sects which each have their own incompatible versions of doctrine, dogma, and beliefs. Once Christians get their story straight among themselves, they might possibly have a small chance of convincing the rest of us.


(R) If jury decisions were delayed until 100 percent certainty existed, no verdict would ever be rendered. Everybody makes the decisions of life based on probability, not certainty.
(MB) Correct again. Basic logic shows that the side of an argument which is supported by the most evidence is the one most worthy of adherence even if that support isn't to the level of absolute proof. Same goes for scientific theories. Few theories are 100% complete or 100% accurate, but all can still be used to help us build up a coherent and consistent picture of our universe.


(R) Decisions are based on a combination of faith related to fact.
(MB) Faith only becomes the prime factor in decision-making when one has an insufficiency of facts. The more facts one has, the less faith is needed. Religion relies on faith since it has so few facts. Science is the exact opposite.


(R) For example, a person about to cross a road stands on one side, looks both directions, collecting the evidence necessary to determine the probability of making the journey across in safety. He can never be 100 percent sure he will make it. He could have a heart attack or be swallowed by an earthquake. The lack of 100 percent certainty doesn't keep him on the side of the road, however. He moves out toward the other side with maybe 90 percent certainty and 10 percent faith, but he must take himself 100 percent across.
(MB) Agreed. Of course, one doesn't make the journey without having accumulated enough facts to convince himself beyond a reasonable doubt that he will make it successfully -- unless he is suicidal. Heck, even thrill-seeking performers of wild and dangerous stunts still take strict measures to increase their chances of surviving the stunt.


(R) Many people seem to demand absolute certainty in religious matters, when they don't apply the standard of absolute certainty to anything else of major importance.
(MB) Non-believers don't demand absolute proof of God. *Any* sort of proof or hard evidence would be sufficient to compel them to take the possibility of God's existence seriously. Since there is none, however, the question becomes a moot point.


(R) The atheist cannot even be 100 percent certain of his belief "There is no God".
(MB) An "atheist" is certain in that belief. An "agnostic" is not, but considers it more likely that God does not exist.


(R) People deny the existence of God because they don't want to think about the possibility that He does live.
(MB) Incorrect. People deny the existence of God for the same reasons that they also deny the existence of leprechauns, unicorns, and Little Green Men on Mars. No evidence, no belief. It doesn't get any more basic than that.


(R) People do not stop making decisions because they cannot reach absolute certainty. A high standard of proof is needed, but not an unreasonable one, like 100 percent. Just as the man crossing the street did not need 100 percent certainty to step across, neither does anyone need 100 percent certainty to make a decision to believe in Christianity or Jesus Christ.
(MB) Correct, but one does (or should) require more than a near-zero certainty with no hard evidence to support it. Unfortunately, most Christians take their belief as a given and don't bother worrying about supporting it with anything other than its emotional appeal.


(R) Christianity claims a moral certainty, to anyone who is willing to take the evidence and weigh and evaluate it.
(MB) If so, why then have so many taken the challenge and found it wanting?


(R) When a person becomes a Christian, the "assurance" or "certainty" becomes a reality. Christianity becomes as undeniable as one's own existence.
(MB) Of course! Once you have already committed to the belief (or to any other religious or secular belief, for that matter), it makes little sense to think otherwise. Notice, however, that mere belief does not provide the evidence required to logically support that belief.


(R) After hearing the facts, people still claim an intellectual problem with Christianity, as in your case. The problem is not a matter of "I can't believe because the facts won't let me" so much as a matter of "No matter what proof, I won't believe."
(MB) That's the attitude of many Christians -- not of intellectuals. "God said it. I believe it. That settles it." is an all-too-common mantra. You can see that exhibited in other replies posted on this site.
    Intellectuals do not automatically reject any belief -- whether religious or secular. They subject all claims to the same standards of evidence and believe whatever is best supported. They reject only those claims which fail the test of support.



(R) If anyone is truly interested in evaluating the evidence for proof of Christianity's truth, the words of Jesus are applicable: "If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself."(John 7:17)
(MB) This is still just saying that one can believe if he first becomes a believer.


(R) What about those who have never heard? This question has nothing to do with the authority of Christianity, for that has already been proven with Christ's resurrection from the dead. Jesus said "No one comes to the Father except by me".(John 14:6)
(MB) On the contrary, the point is extremely important and the case is anything but proven. I've already talked about the problems with the resurrection story, so I won't rehash them here. Jesus' statement says nothing about those who have never heard of Jesus or God nor does it prove any authority. Again, it is just another unsupported claim.


(R) From Scripture we know two things about God in this regard: He is a judge and He is just. He will never condemn someone for something that was not their fault.
(MB) This is why he condemns children for the sins of their fathers? Those sins weren't the fault of the children, were they?


(R) He will not blame someone for being born in the wrong place at the wrong time. Everyone will have a chance to repent.
(MB) How are those who have never heard of God throughout their life going to repent after death? And, if God won't hold them accountable for their "bad luck", how can he justify allowing them into heaven if they haven't followed his laws and commandments while they lived on Earth? This would make it seem that missionaries are actually condemning people rather than saving them by spreading the word to those who haven't previously heard it.


(R) Romans 1:19-20 makes it clear that God can plainly be seen through His creation(not by evolution).
(MB) There is nothing said in Romans 1:19-20 about evolution. Also, evolution was not the process by which the universe was created, so it is a non-sequitur to include it in your interpretation of that verse.


(R) The creation testifies to a creator.
(MB) How? The creation testifies only to the fact that it happened. The mere existence of the universe says nothing about how it happened.


(R) 2 Peter 3:9 says that God doesn't want anyone to perish but all to believe in Him.
(MB) Sounds like a reasonable desire to me, but that still proves nothing about what happens to those who have never heard of God and his desires.


(R) There are examples in the Bible where God reveals Himself to those seeking Him. Such as Cornelius in Acts, Naaman the Syrian, the city of Ninevah, and so on.
(MB) Not to mention all of the other stories telling about when God speaks directly to men or makes overt and unmistakeable demonstrations of his power. But, why doesn't any of this happen any more? Was Nietzsche correct when he said, "God is dead"?


(R) What about other beliefs? Jesus said "I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except by me." The same arguments above apply here. Other religions have a so-called holy book.
(MB) On what basis do you say "so-called holy book"? Why are their books wrong while yours is right? Why would they be wrong for holding a similar view calling your Bible a "so-called holy book"? What about the possibility that no religion's holy book(s) have the story right and that the truth (if there is any) still remains to be discovered?


(R) Their holy books were written by one man who supposedly had a divine revelation.
(MB) That is only true in a few isolated cases, such as the Qu'ran and the Book of Mormon. It is not true of the Bhagavad Vita of Hinduism or of the holy book(s) of numerous other religions. For that matter, parts of the Bible are also said to have been written by one man who supposedly had a divine revelation. Why is this believable only in the case of the Bible and not for any other book?


(R) I could go out and write a book, say I had a revelation, and start my own cult if I wanted to.
(MB) Yep, you sure could. And, I'll bet that you would gain your share of followers, too. If your story was good enough, your "revelation" would be proselytized by your followers even after your death (see the Scientologists' treatments of the works of L. Ron Hubbard, for example). As time passes, and the original facts are lost to history and mangled in the aging memories of the believers while the "message" is picked up by the next generation of followers, you would see the original cult begin to grow into a new religion. The longer it survives, the more it grows. It may eventually run its course and die out or it may persist for thousands of years. History shows us more examples of this than most people would want to count.


I wouldn't call you a "weirdo". I have no doubts that you are sincere in your beliefs. But, why should your telling me that "Jesus is my Savior" instantly convert me away from the conclusions reached from a lifetime of study? There are many questions that Christians must answer successfully before they can posit their beliefs as being correct or as being any better than those of any other religious or non-religious belief system. Can you shed some light?
(R) I have answered many questions through out this writing. Hopefully I have shed some light. Still have questions? Don't be afraid to ask.
(MB) I'm never afraid to ask questions and have asked several throughout this reply. The one asked above, however, has not successfully been answered. The simple statement "Jesus is my Savior" is just that -- a statement. It carries nothing but self-referential weight or meaning. It is not proof of its own validity. It does not indicate why Jesus is the real deal or why Buddha, Krishna, or Ra are not.


I *have* put in required research. I am confident that I know the Bible and the history of Christianity better than the vast majority of Christians. I am not predisposed to non-belief, but I can't honestly reach any other conclusion based upon the available evidence.
(R) Your knowledge of the Bible, or lack there of, was proven by some of the statements you said about it earlier.
(MB) So far, no such lack of knowledge has been demonstrated. Uncomfortable conclusions do not denote lack of knowledge. The accumulated weight of evidence and argument on either side of a question will lead us to the correct answer.


(R) I don't want to be harsh or offend you, and I am sorry if I do.
(MB) I will not be offended no matter what is said. However, I hope that the discussion will be featured above the inevitable verbal sparring. That also has its time-honored place, but not as the main event...*grin*


(R) As I said before, maybe you don't want to believe in Christianity no matter how much evidence can be provided.
(MB) I want to believe in whatever is the truth -- no matter where that may take me. Who would want to do otherwise?


(R) Perhaps your intelligence is making you blind.
(MB) Intellect never blinds anybody who uses it. On the contrary, it opens our eyes to all possibilities along with giving us the ability to see everything clearly.


(R) Matthew 11:25 says "you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children." I Corinthians 1:27 says "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise."
(MB) To continue the sentiment, Ecclesiastes 1:18 says "In much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow". Also, 1 Colossians 2:8, "See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ".
    Do these (and other similar verses) show that the Bible advocates the opposite of intelligence and wisdom? Or, is it just defining those qualities in terms of the conclusions that are reached?
    On an interesting note, Paul says in Romans 16:17-18, "I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who created dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded." Here, Paul is saying quite a bit. First, he says to ignore those would question Christian doctrine. Second, he provides the standard stereotype that is often used to denigrate non-believers. Finally, and most interestingly, he refers to believers as being "the simple-minded". Is this a backhanded slap against blind faith or a generalization (albeit, an unfair one) about the intellect of believers?



(R) From your response, it seems you have already made up your mind about God and the Bible when your answers show you have not put enough research into it.
(MB) By now, I hope that you realize that I have, indeed, put in considerable research. I also hope that you accept that my conclusions did not predate my research, but arose as a result of it.


(R) Well, that was a mouth full. Hope to hear from you soon. I can't wait to read your comments.
(MB) Here they are! Were they worth the short wait?


(R) I am praying for you that you would open your mind and heart, that God would make Himself known to you, and that you come to believe the truth. I hope you are praying the same!
(MB) While I have no reason to pray since I don't believe that there is anybody or anything to pray to, I understand and appreciate the sentiment. I, too, want to come to know the truth, but I don't think that it will be found in the realm of the supernatural.



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