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May 25, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

The State of Religion in NZ

All Blacks, Apologetics, Superstition and Suicide Bombers

The Death of Religion

“God not dead but religion dying” shouted the pre-Easter headlines, “New Zealanders are becoming less religious, survey shows”. The cause of the furore? A Massey University study which found 40 percent of New Zealanders have no religious affiliation, compared to 29 percent 17 years ago. Just over a third of New Zealanders identify as religious.

Significant statistics, yet the papers neglected to mention the full scope of the survey or, understandably, explore the murky depths of what being ‘religious’ actually means. Professor Philip Gendall, the researcher in charge of the survey, sent Salient a little more detail.

The results of the Massey survey, actually part of an international study conducted every seven years, are complex. Participants were quizzed on God, the Bible, the role of religion in society, morality, and a range of other beliefs. Despite most of the population admitting to some kind of faith, only 35 percent identified as ‘religious’ and 40 percent said they never attended a ‘religious service’.

Head researcher Professor Philip Gendall doesn’t think the survey was necessary to deduce the state of affiliated religion in NZ. “Just by looking at the numbers of people going to church, by measuring people’s behaviour, it seems affiliated religion is playing a lesser role in society. Once upon a time, everyone went to church on Sundays. We would never have been able to have Sunday shopping.”

He emphasises that a decline in affiliated religion does not necessarily mean religion is dying. “Societies change and religion is part of that. People are becoming disaffiliated from traditional organised religion and in that sense the country is becoming less religious, although it does depend on how you measure religiosity.”

Religiosity and Graduation Ritual

How exactly do we measure religiosity? The most typical criteria might include belief, practice, tradition and ritual, but the definition could also be extended to include ways of moving the body like yoga, traditional songs, irrationality, or forms of community building based on absurdities—like organised sport. If we cut the definition too short, we risk missing that which is utterly strange and perplexing in our most commonplace behaviours and superstitions.

Last week’s graduation ceremonies are a case in point. We would have looked utterly nonsensical to a Martian ethnographer, yet to us, the graduation-believers, everything made sense. Consider how the ceremony opened. After we paraded through the central business district in our black gowns, we assembled on stage and sang the New Zealand anthem. With perhaps a thousand people, we stood up, took off our hats (square velvet with tassel set carefully to the right) cleared our throats, and with others, in unison, belched out:

“God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.”

What did these words mean to us? Were we thinking about a “bonded” embrace? Where we speaking up so Zeus would “hear our voices”, put world-making on hold, and come down to defend us from the intruders (who?). Rather curious thought, when one thinks about it. We generally don’t… probably because, while participation is an option, the graduation ceremony is more than the sum of the participants.

Imagine what would happen if a participant actually challenged the university’s continuation of the practice, if a lecturer (graduands are too transient) were to approach the Vice Chancellor and his group of champagne-supping Deans, and ask whether we shouldn’t eliminate these silly references from the graduation, on pain of irrationality? Indeed, the dissenting participant would argue, why not eliminate these stupid gowns, all that marching and music, and the dread repetition of handing out degrees? Why not eliminate the ceremony all together? The Vice Chancellor would probably react with “get more sun and have a holiday”, while a more vicious response would be incurred from eager parents and graduands if the lecturer in question made their views public.

The Suspension of Disbelief

Everyday superstitions can be as irrational as everyday rituals. Marc Wilson, a senior lecturer at the Victoria University School of Psychology, has been doing his own research into the beliefs of the New Zealand population. In 2008, Wilson collected extensive data from more than 6000 New Zealanders. Turns out 24 percent of New Zealanders believe world governments have covered up the existence of UFOs, 50 percent of us believe ESP exists, and 44 percent believe astrology can be used to predict the future.

Wilson’s inclusion of ideas about urban legends raises similar questions about the willingness of New Zealanders to believe in what a rational mind would consider falsehoods—for example, that evil people put razorblades in Halloween apples or that swimming after a meal causes heart-attacks and drowning (43 percent of us!). Every one of us carries certain irrational, unfounded beliefs, simply because we’ve been told something is true by someone else.

The results of the Victoria and Massey University studies indicate that most New Zealanders express some form of paranormal belief, even if only a small percentage of the population profess to being ‘religious’. There is enough demand for horoscopes to warrant daily updating in The Dominion Post. We tell each other our dreams, without identifying why we believe they give us deep insight into the world. Scratching a little deeper, we find that our evidence for belief often rests on the flimsiest grounds.

The same principles apply to what we value most of all: our attitudes to the environment, to the intentions of government, to our admiration for heroes, to our beloved sports teams (according to Wilson’s study, 40 percent of New Zealanders believe that the All Blacks were deliberately poisoned before the ’95 World Cup final). Are we really in touch with our reasons for taking one job over another, for selecting a particular brand of wine, or deciding to spend the rest of our lives with someone?

Researchers who begin looking into these questions find that they can easily manipulate and predict our judgments, irrespective of our reasons. Indeed, researchers find that we are experts at inventing reasons and then believing whole-heartedly in these self-inflicted prevarications. It seems unlikely that these tendencies will be swept away by the steady winds of scientific progress; they will not decline as church numbers do.

Situational factors can affect people’s commitment to their belief. Wilson found that by suggesting to participants that being a little more (or less) inclined to paranormal belief correlates with intelligence, he could get people to express markedly different answers to his questions. Worrying about dying had a similar effect. After reading 40 questions about different ways of dying, participants not only identified as more ‘religious’, but reported greater levels of paranormal belief.

Students, Apologetics and Universal Truth

For Melanie, a 21-year-old Victoria student, her relationship with God is “everything”. She accepts that other members of the community may not share her belief, but isn’t worried that her faith might be seen as irrational.

“How do you know anything is true? This society assumes that if you can’t see it, it’s not real. That’s not really good enough for me. I’ve experienced God and I’ve spoken to others who have, and to me that’s more important. I believe God is a universal truth, and I think that’s different to being a widely held belief. In New Zealand, you might say a widely held belief is not to believe in God, but that doesn’t make it true.”

‘B’, a 23-year-old former student, said Salient‘s questions about her particular faith made her feel “slightly silly”.

“There are so many different understandings of religion, and no reason why my particular random understanding of spirituality should be of any interest! Also some things that my religion leads me to do are also done by those who have no religion. For example, I try to be green to care for God’s creation—buy a moon cup for Jesus! But being green is not limited to Christians.

“I have travelled, lived in Buddhist countries, gone through a I-want-to-convert-to-Islam period. I think many people from all over the world, and many traditions have desired to reach enlightenment, commune with God, whatever. I don’t want to say, this is God, that is not, here is true faith, there it isn’t… I find life in Christianity and I am committed to that, but I don’t want that commitment to stop me from recognising and respecting the taonga of others.”

The historical discipline of Apologism is built around the concept of truth and how it relates to religious belief. Trevor Mandar, described as one of New Zealand’s foremost Christian Apologists, runs seminars to help Christians give a clear reason for their faith. He says an understanding of truth is an essential foundation of belief.

“There are a variety of ways for people to think about truth, but only one is undeniable. Truth is what the facts are, truth corresponds to reality. No matter what you believe, this is something people from all religions can agree with… People tend to define truth by their experience and beliefs. Once you recognise that this is not an objective definition of truth, it’s a good place to start for inter-faith discussion.”

Mandar says self-professed atheists fail to acknowledge their own set of subjective beliefs. “Atheists deny an ultimate standard of right and wrong, yet an individual may still follow the belief of their community or peers even if there is no logic in it.”

A Fraught Question of Morality

The concepts of religion and morality are often perceived to go hand-in-hand, whatever way you think the correlation pendulum swings. The most extreme of fundamental Christians may view non-believers as immoral, some non-believers may find the religious community around them intolerant and prejudiced. Images of religious fanatics crashing airplanes or preachers railing against homosexuality may lead us to conclude that religious beliefs cause great moral harm.

Perception and reaction aside, what does the data really tell us about the relationship between religion and morality? Many surveys reveal prejudices, but behavioural data paints an different picture. Going back to the 1970s, researchers have considered how religion and morality interrelate. Though it may surprise us when we think of the Taliban or those pinched-faced preachers, social psychologists have found little support for the proposition that religion matters much to moral behaviour. Action-based correlations actually tend to be positive—Christians, it turns out, give more to charity; fundamentalists cheat less on average, and their social groups last longer.

Being a religious ‘believer’ may affect prejudicial behaviour. Circumstances matter, and groups bound by strong feelings of solidarity often organise development to prop up the group feeling at the expense of scapegoats. If context matters, then rituals should be considered moral technologies: strong melodies, rousing speeches, images of fallen soldiers or lost jobs. Such equipped appears artfully concocted to inflame prejudice and in-group feeling.

Yet, before we come to any confident conclusions about ‘religious belief’ and ‘prejudice’, we need to remember what we are really measuring, and whether this measurement entitles us to the pleasure of generalisation. The dynamics of circumstance and commitment are complex, and inferring to large conclusions comes too easily to almost all of us. Restraint is rare. Yet without intellectual restraint, we are every bit as irrational as those villains with the suicide vests or the cherry-faced sermoniser on the television.

It is almost certain that those lucky enough to be reading Salient, including the authors of this article, have caused vastly more harm than the common or garden-variety suicide bomber. If we were to trace the implications of our ‘innocent’ habits, like buying lunch rather than making our own and giving the difference to charity, could we still throw a stone at that scowling preacher or that hungry clueless fanatic in a beard? Evil, as Arendt put it, is ‘banal’, and we may participate in crimes dramatically inconsistent with the moral pictures we carry for ourselves. And what of our moral technologies? Think of how carefully we have organised our circumstances to keep avoidable disease, starvation, injustice, torture, and death far out of view.

On the other side, consider those old religions whose numbers are flagging; how easily we forget the vast matrix of charities stretching around the globe populated with hard-working ‘believers’—all those shoulders set to the wheel, for Jesus, or Mohammed, or Krishna, or Yahweh. How does the good they are doing weigh into up against the monstrous remarks uttered by religious bigots, or the patriarchy of enforced sheet wearing, or by preferential hiring? We simply don’t know. We can’t weigh everything up. That question is rather too large, though asking smaller questions might help us to make better progress…

The Future of ‘Spirituality’?

Leaving morality to the side, if our religions are indeed slowly fading, is this good for anyone? Many of our fellow unbelievers may rejoice at the thought of empty churches. Yet do we really want a world in which we gradually grow more alike each other in our secular beliefs and practices? In such a world, when would our lust for the steady march of progress end—would we feel a similar delight when astrology was stricken from the daily paper, when our anthems were updated to reflected modern sensibilities, when our children began deriding McCahon’s art, when ANZAC day fades into oblivion? Would the sun really shine brighter on such a world, or would it lose something?

While some traditional religions appear to be shedding numbers and other ‘spiritualisms’ appear to be growing, genuine progress begins with honesty. We simply do not know the relationship between these facts and our larger moral and intellectual circumstances. Indeed, almost nothing is known about the causes and effects of religion. It would be irrational to think otherwise.


About the Author ()

Nina Fowler (BA), former Salient feature writer, is excited about Salient '10.

Comments (61)

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  1. Dazzle says:

    Brilliant article, nice to see that there is more than a “fuck god” anti-christian element to this magazine, and that a fairly objective viewpoint has been put forward for once on the topic of religiousity. But as a comment to all atheists out there, I realise that although there are hypocritical religious types out there, myself included, but at least I try to be tolerant of others beliefs. If you could try to be the same, maybe any pointless theological slagging could be avoided

  2. Gemma says:

    Since when are ALL atheists intolerant of others beliefs. Most of us couldn’t care less if you pray, go to church and be a “hypocritical religious type”. Every true Christian I have spoken to about religion has told me I am going to hell for what I don’t believe in (ie Jesus) so it’s their intolerant beliefs that start the “slagging”.

  3. wildcat says:

    it has been said that there are as many paths to god as there are people – religion and god shouldnt be monopolised by anyone. Since both belief and unbelief can provide a secure moral framework, anyone calling atheists immoral or believers irrational should do some good hard thinking. all that is needed is a good balance between rational inquiry and faith. and sadly, yes, the worst offenders do seem to be evangelical christians and jehovahs assholes. i wish it werent so.

  4. she who must not be named says:

    I think often criticism gets mistaken for ‘slagging’. Religion seems to be the ‘Untouchable’ – sure, if someone believes in gravity and you don’t, you would be compelled to question that person. It’s called healthy debate. Some Christians are so emotionally wrapped up in the concept of their God and Jesus that they take the questioning of their belief system personally. It shouldn’t be that way. I don’t mind people asking me to justify why I’m an atheist. They have a right to do that. I have a right to refuse. But I don’t get emotional about them asking why I’m an atheist (unless they’re trying to convert me).

    It’s similar in the way people (Christian or not) aren’t allowed to blaspheme. I’m sorry, what? Blasphemy is only blasphemy to Christians. They say it’s offensive because it’s taking the Lord’s name in vain. But it’s their Lord, who they can’t prove exists. I don’t get offended when people say ‘fuck’, even though (as I read once), it is the Viking word for ‘rape’.

    By all means be Christian. But don’t think it’s above criticism. Nothing is.

  5. Dazzle says:

    Maybe my point was mistaken there. It was the senseless “fuck god” people i was getting at. Sure, you’re entitled to your opinion, and its healthy to have multiple perspectives on things, and i love a good discussion on the topic. Ie, critisizing christianity can be a good thing, as it is a means of stopping ridiculous dogmatic statements. But its just the random cursing of peoples beliefs is not going to solve anything. Just saying “fuck god” is not going to solve problems, it will just create more.

  6. Guy A says:

    Nina and joseph, pats on the back *pat* *pat* very interesting.

    You christian fullas on the comments board should check out my Religion is Cool column.

  7. Amy says:

    This is an interesting series of interrelated musings about faith, belief and spirituality, but does it really say much about religion in NZ or among students?

  8. Hank Scorpio says:

    i dunno u should prob read it and find out. lol.!

  9. Andy says:

    Gemma, if your Christian friends have explained the truth about Jesus well it’ll be more than ‘you’re going to hell for not believing in him’. It’s not an accusation against you, it’s the heart of what Christians believe: we (Christians) know it’s offensive, it’s an offense each and every one of us have taken on board and responded to. You see it’s not about getting to heaven by being good, it’s about all of us not being good enough, in any way, to please God. This is why God came in Jesus – not to condemn us but to offer us a way of being put right with him. We’re not slagging you, or anyone, we’re acknowledging what God has said in His Word (the Bible).

    Fair enough – you’re friends might have put it badly but that doesn’t mean that what they believe can be dismissed out of hand. It’s not intolerant, it’s just what we believe (eg no one would deny you freedom of speech, freedom to gather etc because you disagree with us).

  10. Tommo says:

    I once saw a youtube clip from an atheist who said that he appreciates in when Christians proselytize, because if they really do think that there is something bad for him to be saved from, and something good for him to be saved into, then he would consider them to not be doing their duty if they didn’t try to tell him about it.

    Just a thought for those “as long as they don’t try to convert me” types, though obviously there are some Christians (thankfully not the majority) who just give a “you’re all going to hell” street sermon without any real compassion.

  11. Guy A says:

    I thought one of Christ’s most interesting teachings was “all that I have done ye shall do, yea even greater works than these” when asked of his miracles. Where does that fit into the whole being a sinner forever thing?

  12. Tommo says:

    What is the being a sinner forever thing? According to the bible we are forgiven because Jesus took on our sin when He died and defeated satan when he rose yes?

  13. Matt Fairhurst says:

    The most irritating aspect of the Christian proselytizing that seems to happen on campus (from these “Student Life” types anyway), is the way they seem to think you’ve never heard of this “God” character before. They give the impression that if you would just listen to this really good argument (say, oh I don’t know, the argument from design, or the argument from personal incredulity, or even — laughably — the ontological argument), then of course you’ll agree with them, and rush off to church, or wherever it is they hang out. Stupid and offensive as they may be, I think I’d rather someone tell me I really should subscribe to their bizarre death-worshiping cult, because if I don’t I’ll burn in hell for eternity; than have to listen to their bad attempts at rehashing boring pre-enlightenment philosophy.
    But hey, each to their own, religious belief does usually make people happier. Like owning a cat, but cheaper.

  14. Tommo says:

    @Matt Fairhurst, true Christians should make an effort to relate to people where they are at rather than assume a certain formula is the way to tell people the truth about God.

    This applies to the assumption that people have never heard of God that irritated you, and the opposite assumption that people do know something. I met someone on campus once, that didn’t know that the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were part of the bible. Assumptions are always dangerous things…

  15. Matt Fairhurst says:

    Fair enough. As I say; to each their own. I just got tired of hearing the same so-called “rational” arguments for God being twittered at me again and again – with, of course, the fall back to “faith” over “reason” when they didn’t work out. To be fair though, the Student Christian bunch at Victoria seems less evangelical than at Otago – I mean that as a compliment.

  16. Andy says:

    “the Student Christian bunch at Victoria seems less evangelical than at Otago – I mean that as a compliment” LOL. Not sure they’ll take it that way ;o)

  17. Tommo says:

    Hehe there’s a fair bit going on, don’t know whether you’ve noticed it all…

    The table in the quad every six weeks for you to eat your lunch at with free coke and buns etc…

    The hot cross buns and chats about Jesus at easter…

    Coming up is the prayer and sausage sizzle thing that happens each study week, where you can grab a sausage and get prayed for if you want to…

    Oh and keep an eye out for the Ask God box next semester…

  18. Matt Fairhurst says:

    True – I have noticed those events, and I should have been more clear. Sloppy writing – sorry. By “evangelical” I was thinking more of the people who would approach you undercover of a “survey about values” or similar (actually there was a letter complaining about this in Salient, I just haven’t experienced it here), or just strike up a conversation while you were waiting in line for a concert ticket or what not, then steer it relentlessly towards their spiritual agenda. That sort of thing really annoyed me. Personally, tables in the quad and all the rest are fine by me, I can choose not to talk to you, no one’s time is wasted, we’re all happier. Similarly I can chose not to go to church/temple/mosque/stonehenge. The other, more dishonest approach makes it quite difficult to avoid/escape the Jesus crew without being rude, or wasting half the afternoon in pointless argument, two things I’m far too inclined to do as it is….

  19. Tommo says:

    Sweet, well we’ll definitely take it as a compliment that you don’t think Christians at Vic do undercover stuff.

  20. Matt Fairhurst says:

    Well, if God can know everything I do and think, plus everything I ever will or could do or think, you’d hardly have to really.

  21. Tommo says:

    True about God knowing all that, but that doesn’t mean he compiled it in an encyclopedia in a library somewhere for us to find it hehe, so we still need to get to know people if we’re going to listen to them and chat with them about spirituality, but there’s no reason why we would have to do that in an underhanded kind of way, that would be a bit self defeating.

  22. Sookie says:

    Dazzle – No Atheist is going to say “fuck God”. Atheists don’t believe in deities. Why would an Atheist insult someone they don’t believe exists?

  23. Dazzle says:

    @ Sookie – you tell me, it doesn’t seem to make sense. Its pretty funny tbh

  24. Matt Fairhurst says:

    Just because something doesn’t exist doesn’t mean you can’t make a comment about it. I don’t believe in the traditional god of christianity, but I still he/it is a pretty evil character. Although I suppose if you really wanted to be pedantic, I’d admit that I’m really talking about an intentional object that shares all the properties of the non-existent Christian god. Or something.

  25. Matt Fairhurst says:

    typo. I still *think* he he/it is a pretty evil character. My bad.

  26. Dazzle says:

    You think god is evil? just for the sake of an objective discussion, i can see valid points for thinking that, but why do you personally think that? speaking form a hypothetical point of view as if he did exist

  27. Owlzy says:

    He created death, pain suffering, the devil and hell.
    He knows we are a failed experiment, because of the whole Garden of Eden fiasco, yet he keeps us alive. Why?! We lab rats need extermination.

  28. Matt Fairhurst says:

    I guess it all depends on how much doctrine you’re willing to swallow. Traditional Christian doctrine has it that god is omnipotent and omni-beneficent. Thus any discussion of the problem of evil descends quite quickly into question-begging. I’ve yet to discover a theological argument that satisfactorily explains the problem of evil without begging the question of god’s goodness and omnipotence, so for that reason, among others, I don’t think he exists.
    If we (fairly pointlessly) assume he does exist (hypothetically speaking, and all that) then I think he’s evil for quite self-evident reasons – like Owlzy said between hoots, he created pain, suffering, and hell. Any one of those is enough. If you want to get marginally more subtle, and say that death et. al. is a result of the fall, then you still have to justify existence at all in light of god’s omniscience (no pun intended).
    Anyway, believe whatever you want, I reckon. How about an article on the state of atheism in NZ? I read something about a Jesuit priest who, after reading “The God Delusion” remarked that European atheism had really gone downhill since Nietzsche. It is pretty annoying to get tarred with the Dawkins brush whenever you let slip you’re an atheist these days…

  29. van Talerie says:

    Hey, this is awesome :). It’s actually a decent conversation about Christianity, which makes a nice change from the usual antagonistic flaming business on both sides.

    @ Owlzy- well, Christians don’t actually believe God thinks of us as a failed experiment, or as lab rats. My theology is shaky, but I believe an overwhelming tenet of Christianity is the fact that God loves us beyond belief. We’re not a distant laboratory creation, even if we are created. Artists don’t generally think they should exterminate their works of art, even if there’s a flaw (or at least I don’t… I kind of like what I produce. Better to fix it than scrap it, and it’s usually more beautiful than before after I work with the flaw. :P).
    As well as that, various metaphors for God’s relationship with us seem to involve things like ‘as a mother loves her child’, and in general parents don’t consider their children lab rats (with terrible exceptions, obviously), and nor do they think we are failed experiments, or creatures not worth taking care of or worrying about or, just, well, loving. But yeah. That’s why.

    @ Matt- well, it’d be only fair. You should bring it up with the editor :P. The problem really is that a significant proportion of self-proclaimed atheists tend not to think about what they actually believe (rather like a significant proportion of self-proclaimed Christians) and so the general idea of atheism is applied heavily across the board. More people know of Dawkins than Nietzsche, after all. Shame, really.

  30. Sookie says:

    “You think god is evil? just for the sake of an objective discussion, i can see valid points for thinking that, but why do you personally think that? speaking form a hypothetical point of view as if he did exist”

    Dazzle – Have you read the bible? The character of God is evil. He’s a mass-murderer who hates women, orders rape, kills and abuses children, smashes babies on rocks, allows women to be kept as slaves and makes them barren and loves human (and animal) sacrifice. Not to mention the fact that as a character he’s a hypocrite and an idiot.

    The question of God being evil is redundant. He is an evil character. His own work – if it were true – would prove it. It’s like asking if Hitler is a bad person.

    As a literary character he is an impressive villain though.

  31. Dazzle says:

    No, as a christian I have not read the bible. And using the justification of people he murdered. Nowhere in the bible does he ever condone human sacrifice – unless you are counting the testing of Abraham regarding the near sacrifice of his son, it was a testing of him, to see if Abraham had faith. Mass murderer, right, yes People have killed in god’s name. Regarding the destruction which i don’t really condone of Sodom and Gormarrah, we are talking about people so evil, that they were worse than anything we know today. Regarding the rest, if you really feel that “god” is evil, then read a “case for faith”, by Lee Strobel, Objection (chapter) 4. Any small rebuttal that i put here would not really give credit to that article.

    As to being a hypocrite, i fail to see how. The real possibility of comparing Hitler to God is rather ridiculous.

    Sookie, If you want to have more circumstantial evidence to disprove God, do it in the scientific field, where there is much more evidence.

  32. Sookie says:

    Why is it ridiculous to compare God and Hitler? They’re really very similar – except that one really existed and the other didn’t/doesn’t.

    Hilter ordered mass murder. God ordered heaps and heaps and heaps of mass murder. He even did it himself. He killed 70,000 through pestilence – 1 Chronicles 21. He killed every single person who worshipped Baal and he murdered them in their own church – 2 Kings 10:18-27. He ordered the murder of all the people of Jabesh-Gilead except for the women who he kept to be raped repeatedly and used as slaves – Judges 21. He killed every single man, woman and child in 60 cities – Deuteronomy 3.

    In the bible God kills a total of 371,186 people directly and orders another 1,862,265 people to be killed. I mean you’re a Christian. Can you at least read your own manual?

    You’re also wrong again with your claim that “Nowhere in the bible does he ever condone human sacrifice”

    Exodus 22:29 “Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me.”

    In II Samuel 21 seven men are sacrificed to stop a famine. There’s more obviously: Numbers 31:25 – Lord directing Moses etc. There’s also animal sacrifice throughout the bible. Lots in Leviticus there’s also – Exodus 20:24/Exodus 23:18/Exodus 24:4.

    Leviticus 14:34 “Here, more blood sacrifice is needed to remove the curse of leprosy jehova has inflicted”

    I mean obviously you know all this? If you claim you’ve read the bible.

    But I think claiming God IS NOT a hypocrite is by far your most bizarre claim. How is he not a hypocrite? He might be the literary world’s biggest hypocrite.

    The bible is full of contradictions. Right from Genesis. God is satisfied with his works Gen 1:31, God is dissatisfied with his works Gen 6:6. He also commands his followers not to kill, but then orders some to kill, allows others to kill, kills people himself etc.

    He couldn’t even decide if long hair was OK – it is (Judg 13:5/ Num 6:5) oh wait actually it isn’t (1 Cor 11:14). Adultery was forbidden sometimes (Ex 20:14/ Heb 13:4) but was OK other times (Num 31:18/ Hos 1:2; 2:1-3). You can’t marry your sister (Deut 27:22/ Lev 20:17), actually you can marry your sister (Gen 20:11,12/ Gen 17:16).

    The fear of man was to be upon every beast (Gen 9:2) ACTUALLY not true. God says the fear of man isn’t actually on lions (Prov 30:30) – makes sense really.

    I could obviously go on forever but I’ll leave it up to you to actually read your bible instead of just carrying faitfully to church every Sunday. Open it.

    And your last line about ‘circumstantial evidence’ doesn’t make any sense.

  33. Matt Fairhurst says:

    Wait a minute here. Godwin’s Law. [God]win’s Law? Huh. I’m almost tempted to take Pascal’s Wager on*that* evidence.

  34. Gemma says:

    Go Sookie :D You remind me so much of my sister (ironically her nicknames are tookie or soodle) she was kicked out of religion class more than once for bringing some of those passages up………we went to a strict Catholic school in Ireland.

  35. Sookie says:

    Wow a Catholic school in Ireland must have been so intense! My parents are evangelicals and growing up I had to memorise bible passages so I know the old and new testement back to front. I find I know the bible better than most Christians. Helps in debates. Sometimes.

  36. Dazzle says:

    A), your assuming that christian’s place weighting on importance on the Old Testament, whereas christianity is / or should be concerned on the New Testament.

    B), your taking things out of context. For example being satisfied with your works, Ever considered that once finished an assignment, your instantly satisfied that its done, then later realise that what you have done, there were things you could do better. (dissatisfied).

    C) Regarding the brother sister – if you think about it, according to the bible, we are all indirectly related to Adam and Eve, the 2 humans god created (according to the bible) – hence the saying “God the father”, which would also include all of us as his children, hence, brothers and sisters (spiritually) – also the quote Numbers 31:18 “save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man” – yes because that is condoning adultery.

    D) If god did create life, then he has the right to take away life. Hence, plague pestilence; which you are attributing to god – yes that was harsh, and it occured to David because he sinned. But then think, those people probably went to heaven, as they were innocent. Now i know this isn’t the best of defenses against that argument, but that is a tricky one.

    E) Murdering the priests and worshippers of Baal. You do know who the worshippers of Baal are. Think satanic, think occult. now think Baal. Using the Nerd example of Warhammer 40k, think Chaos Space marines. Now wonder why it was good to get rid of people who liked Blood worship, sacrifice of human beings, misleading Gods chosen people. People died yes, becuase they threatened God’s chosen people, and wouldn’t you do anything to protect your own – especially if Jesus, who came to save us, could not be born, if there were no Jews. Now the killing of the amekelites, and Caananites in Deutoronomy, also threatened to wipe out all of the Jews, Complete genocide. Faced with that fact, there was no other option but to kill them to save His “chosen people”. More stuff on the Caananites – they were into incest, bestiality, cruelty, cultic prostitution. Yay, sounds like people you want for your neighbors. Quoting the book i mentioned earlier “gods purpoin these instances was to destroy the corrupt nation because the national structure was so inherently evil, not to destroy people if they were willing to repent.. that way, Israel could come in and be relatively free from the outside corruption that could have destroyed it like a cancer. He wanted to create an environment where the messiag could come for the millions of people throughout history.” And regarding animal sacrifice, please just read the book, so i don’t have to quote it anymore. There really is a lot for the justification.

    F) Regarding the human sacrifice – Nowhere does it mention that they are to be sacrificed, is was to be committed to the service of the lord. And in Samuel, it was justice against another nation Gibeonites, who Saul wrongly killed in his zeal (after the isrealites had promised to spare them). Now David asked the Gibeonites what they wanted for justice, and they wanted 7 male descandants of him dead.

    G) Both of us know that neither of us is going to agree with either of each others points, so I) will go and finish of assignments due in 5 days.

  37. Matt Fairhurst says:

    Now that’s what I call theodicy.

  38. Tommo says:

    Let’s not forget that after all the wars that did happen in the bible, God also sacrificed the life of His own Son for our sakes. He is certainly not exempt from pain, and that’s before bringing up the pain of seeing the people He created saying He doesn’t exist.

  39. van Talerie says:

    Yes, Godwin’s law. I see I spoke too soon about the lack of antagonism…

    okay. So, I might back the claim that never, in the Bible, is human sacrifice ever condoned. In general the gods of that time- Molech, Astarte and Baal in particular- demanded blood sacrifice, and moreover the sacrifice of children. The God of Judaism violently sets himself apart from this- all the rules in the first five books of the Bible are in fact there to set the Israelites apart from their neighbouring countries, and there are insistent rules about keeping themselves apart, and touching no unclean thing, and that they are a holy people and so on. So.

    Exodus 22:29: Give, as in dedicate. For example, later on the Bible Samuel was also given, as in dedicated, as a child to the priesthood.

    2 Samuel 21: That’s actually due to a blood feud. Saul’s family was all, ‘slaughter the Gibeonites!’ previously, so the Gibeonites demanded retribution, i.e. some measure of death on both sides. It’s a war-thing, rather than human-sacrifice-to-God-type-thing. But the idea is things needed to be put right between both sides.

    Exodus 20:24 etc: yes, animal sacrifice. It’s typical of all religions occurring during that time period. Greeks did it, Romans did it, Hittites did it, etcetera, etcetera. It’s was the basic standard for how-to-treat-something-that-is-divine during that time, and basically emphasised the fact to the Israelite that their God was a God. Animal sacrifice may not be appropriate now, but there are a lot of things that aren’t appropriate now that were then.

    Leviticus 14:34: Sorry, what did you say about blood sacrifice? The verse says ‘When you enter the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as your possession, and I put a spreading mould in a house in that land, the owner of the house must go and tell the priest…’ etc. There’s nothing there about leprosy. Was there a misquote?

    As for the murders- (Godwin’s law!) with the wiping out of people and so on, since Dazzle has gone over it, I won’t unless you feel you need more arguments on that score.

    Right. Now for the hypocrite thing. Here we go.

    First off. The difference between Genesis 1:31 and 6:6? There’s the Fall in between. The basic idea of Creation is that it was an incredibly good thing, reinforced by the fact that it is God who says that it is good- that what he has made is good, which means he both approves and delights in it. So creation was made beautiful, created by a Creator who loves his work, and made to continue to be beautiful- animals, the environment, people, God, all living in complex and intricate unity.
    Then what is generally known as ‘The Fall’ happens, and people chose to disbelieve God- basically, to not trust him. This broke the relationship between people and God, which breaks the relationship between everything else, which basically messes the world up. From then on, the rest of the bible is about the restoration of this- God restoring the relationship between people and himself, restoring his kingship and giving them something to trust and ways to trust him and be in a right relationship with him (rules, covenants, and eventually Jesus). But yes. Since everything is broken up, everything is very, very bad. Hence in 6:5- ‘the Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time’. So in 6.6, he regrets having made human beings. And he acts on it, because God tends to do what he says. He creates the Flood- but because he sees that Noah is good, he spares Noah and his family and an enormous arkful of animals so the world can be repopulated again. It’s interesting to compare this to other mythologies where Floods are concerned, because in those circumstances the presiding deity doesn’t bother trying to save humanity and humanity kind of has to scramble up on dry land on its own.

    Right. Contradictions with long hair and short hair-
    in Judges and Numbers, what they’re actually referring to is a specific sect called the Nazarites. They weren’t allowed to drink wine and shave their hair- not the whole population of Israel, but just this particular sect of people. Samson, found in Judges, is an example of this. In 1st Corinthians, however, this is several hundred years later and Paul is writing to Greeks, rather than Jews. Greek hairstyles are worn quite short- of course, that changes from period to period, but during that period, short was obviously in (long and unkempt usually meant mourning, along with a beard). So yes. Not exactly a contradiction.

    As for adultery- it is never condoned either. The fact that in Numbers 31:18 they save the girls who haven’t slept with men rather than the women who have- the women who were wives- shows that. Keep in mind, also, that concubines were common during that time, among those people. But no-one ever slept with another person’s concubine or wife, which would have counted for adultery.
    And as for Hosea! The whole thing is explicitly against adultery. It’s actually one of my favourite books in the bible :P. Hosea marries a woman who is basically a prostitute, in order to demonstrate to Israel that this is similar to God’s relationship with Israel. When she goes off to be a prostitute again and finds herself in debt- and I believe she does this more than once- each time, Hosea goes after her and buys her back and says, even though you’ve left me, I am still here. Stop going away and stay with me, because I love you. This is, in fact, actively against adultery. Basically, at this point God is saying to Israel, you keep leaving me, but I will go after you because you are my people. Point in case: ‘The Lord said to me (Hosea): ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods.’ Hosea 3:1. Forgiving someone when they’ve committed adultery doesn’t condone adultery at all.

    Whew, almost through! Okay, as for marrying your sister- not allowed, and again, incest is thoroughly disapproved of throughout the Bible, another part of the whole ‘this is a holy nation’ thing God had for his people. Abraham was, however, half-brother to Sarah, rather than full brother, even though he claimed to be quite often so people wouldn’t kill him for Sarah. This led to some pretty interesting mistakes. At the end of one of these, Abraham says: ‘besides, she is really my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife’. Again, keeping in mind the whole concubine thing- actually, now that I look at it, Sarah may have been his cousin. Listen- ‘Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram…’ Genesis 11:31. It doesn’t refer to Sarai (later referred to as Sarah) as Terah’s daughter in any way, even though Abraham clearly says ‘daughter of my father’. So I’m guessing here, but there was actually a habit in those times, that, if a man’s brother died, he took his wife and children and they became his own wife and children (this can be seen in Ruth, for example). If, however, Terah already a wife and children- Abram, Nahor and Haran, technically these children would be brothers by adoption to the children of Terah’s dead brother, but would actually be their cousins…
    hmm. I should look that up. That’s actually a very interesting point, thank you for bringing it up! :)

    Wow, that took a while. I might get back to my Roman Art essay. Any questions? Thank you for raising those interesting points, by the way :). Gave me a good bible workout.

  40. van Talerie says:

    Also, some extra notes (because I’m procrastinating!)-

    1) Sookie, thank you! I’m glad to see a non-Christian so aware of what they’re arguing. Most of the time, people who argue against the Bible have never even picked up the book, and are quoting people they know or just general prejudices. It’s much more awesome when you get actual debate over actual verses themselves, because, hey, Christians do it among themselves in the first place :P. We call it bible study. It always leads to a clarity of thought.

    2) Dazzle, while I agree with a lot of what you’ve said, I disagree with the whole ‘Christians need to be more concerned with the New Testament than the Old’. I think the Old is equally as important as the New, otherwise it might as well not be there :P. I’ve heard once this theory- that from the Fall onwards, the whole Bible is basically God’s restoration of a) the relationship between him and humanity, and humanity and the rest of the world, and b) the authority of his kingship. I’ve been thinking about it, and I kind of like this theory. The idea is that humanity dethroned God during the fall by disbelieving his power and his love for them, so the story of the Bible is a re-throning, a God-is-actually-God-and-we-are-not-actually-God story. But yes. In general, the idea is that the Old Testament isn’t a mistake. Jesus, in the New Testament, comes as the crux to a pyramid of events, being the answer to all the covenants created in the hundreds of years beforehand. It’s an interesting notion, really.

  41. Dazzle says:

    @ von Talarie, good point, ill take that in. And very good rebuttal btw, you did a much better job than what i could have done.

  42. Andy says:

    Sookie – i’m both gutted and intrigued by your post.

    Gutted – not in the sense of broken but as in broken-hearted. You must know that putting the evidence together as you have is a dishonest approach to Scripture: you’ve read it but you’ve read it wrong. It’s no more a valid construction of an argument than those who read every 7th letter and then say – ‘look the Bible predicts JFK’s death’. It’s just dishonest and that is quite sad.

    Intrigued – because you have obviously taken great offence at what God has said about Himself and what He has done in history. You’re construct completely overlooks the claims of His goodness.

    Let me be honest.
    Do some of the passages in the Old Testament make uncomfortable reading? Yes.
    Is the Bible clear that each and every one of us deserves a just and fitting penalty of death? Yes.
    Does the O.T. give ANY hint that God is the blood soaked ogre you make him out to be (akin to Hitler, come on!!??) NO.
    Is the judgement of sin and the hope of salvation a consistent and powerfully driving theme running through the whole of God’s self-revelation? Yes.
    Does Jesus’ death and resurrection confront the reality of God’s terrible judgement and offer a real rescue from that judgement? Yes.

    If you want to engage with who God is then do so honestly. Don’t kick up the dust in the hope of avoiding the depths of the challenges that God’s self-revelation present to each and every one of us.

    I’m not the child of evangelicals but did have the intensity of Catholic schooling. Every investigation I’ve made into the authenticity and authority of the Bible has drawn me deeper and more passionately into relationship with with through Jesus – something that I only discovered at 17: despite rather than because of the intensity of my schooling.

  43. Sookie says:

    Oh I’m reading it wrong? I see.

    And that old chestnut of ‘oh but we ignore the old testement’.

    You can’t argue with that. It’s impossible. I could just say ‘no you’re reading it wrong’ but I won’t do that.

    I’m glad I made you open your dusty bibles regardless.

  44. Electrum Stardust says:

    Siddharta Gautama’s approach to beliefs in general makes interesting reading (Kalama Sutta):

    […] Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing;
    nor upon tradition;
    nor upon rumor;
    nor upon what is in a scripture;
    nor upon surmise;
    nor upon an axiom;
    nor upon specious reasoning;
    nor upon a bias toward a notion that has been pondered over;
    nor upon another’s seeming ability;
    nor upon the consideration, ‘The monk is our teacher. […]’

  45. Matt Fairhurst says:

    If you start off by assuming that God, a) exists, and b) is perfect, perfectly good and all-powerful; then you’ll inevitably come to the conclusion that everything in the Bible supports this, contradictions are only apparent, and everything he does is justified – although those justifications may be far, far less apparent than the contradictions. You have to make some assumptions when you’re investigating anything, of course, but it’s generally considered bad philosophical practice to assume the very thing(s) you’re hoping to prove: “Gee, the Bible seems to suggest that God might be a pretty nasty character, what with all the killin’ and smitin’ and stuff. But of course, he’s actually really, really good right? Right. So, how do we interpret all this killing and smiting to prove that? Well, you see….”.
    It seems a little strange to ask this, because I personally don’t think the Bible makes any truth-claims at all more valid than, say, ‘Madame Bovary’ or ‘The [Leonardo] da Vince Code’; but what would, hypothetically, count as evidence that God isn’t perfectly good? Would anything?
    @Andy, one more specific question. If the Bible is so “clear that each and every one of us deserves a just and fitting penalty of death”, by what criteria do you define “just”, “fitting”, and “deserves”? I’d say the Bible is pretty clear that we all die; and clear on the reasons why we are consigned to death, but really that says nothing about justice or why we actually deserve to live such nasty brutal lives before we die. Now, fair enough, as van Talerie pointed out when she was talking about animal sacrifice, the Bible refers to a time when lots of things that seem inappropriate to us now were considered just fine and dandy. The idea that punishments should fit crimes for example, or that those who frame and enforce laws have a responsibility to make those laws at least vaguely comprehensible to the people who must obey them are (comparatively) modern concepts. But you are talking about taking the Bible seriously today, now, in the present. If we can accept that eviscerating animals is no longer the best way of worshiping our deity of choice, or that knocking off entire cultures with pestilences and plagues is no longer a suitable punishment for, say, conducting censuses, can’t we accept that most (all) of the punishments meted out in the Christian Bible are out of touch with modern reality? And doesn’t this throw the whole idea of “sin”, “punishment” and “regeneration” (or “redemption”) into question?

  46. Melanie says:

    Does it? If we look hard, I think we’ll find that there is right and wrong in this world, and I mean universal right and wrong.

    Some time ago, there was that news item about the man who had kept his daughter in the basement for ages, subjecting her to incestual sexual abuse, fathering children by her. This is wrong; the world agrees it’s wrong. Do we know it’s wrong because it’s a social construct that you don’t do that? No. We know it’s wrong because something in us tells us it’s wrong. It’s been wrong since before time. And the reason it’s wrong, is because it’s against everything God stands for.

    Sin exists. Sin demands punishment. The state of this world demands redemption.

  47. charley says:

    @Matt “If you start off by assuming that God, a) exists, and b) is perfect, perfectly good and all-powerful….”

    Exactly. At some point, faith must kick in. That’s why Christianity has been debated for two millenia, and it’s still being done here, because in the end there is NO conclusive intellectual argument for it. We can only be reconciled to God by faith in Jesus alone, and the intellectual understanding of that only comes after. But I can say with all my heart, IT IS WORTH IT!!! :D lol

    HE is worth it, he is worth it all.

    “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.

  48. Matt Fairhurst says:

    “Does it?”
    –Answering a question with another question is a little cheap, but anyway…

    “If we look hard, I think we’ll find that there is right and wrong in this world, and I mean universal right and wrong.”

    –I’m interested, you may be right about that. Where are you going to look I wonder?

    “Some time ago, there was that news item about the man who had kept his daughter in the basement for ages, subjecting her to incestual sexual abuse, fathering children by her. This is wrong; the world agrees it’s wrong.”

    –Agree with you so far, totally. Incest=wrong. Interesting that you chose such an “extreme” example though. Why not homosexual sex between consenting adults? Is that wrong? How about abortion before term? Right or wrong? Worshipping idols? Wrong? And how about previous societies that have allowed incest? Were there any? If there were, how come they thought differently to us?…–

    “Do we know it’s wrong because it’s a social construct that you don’t do that? No.”

    –Ok, you might be right. I can think of lots of reasons why incest may be considered universally wrong. Various socially constructed moral/ethical systems being only one.

    “We know it’s wrong because something in us tells us it’s wrong”

    –Well, that’s not really such a good reason. What is this something? How does it “tell us” what is wrong? How do we know this something is right, and not…wrong?
    I mean, just reverse the terms here. If I said I knew something was right because something inside me told me it was right, and you didn’t think it was right, would you accept that? C’mon.

    “It’s been wrong since before time”

    –Wait. You say what now? Do you mean that it’s been wrong for such a long time that it may as well have been wrong since before time, or are you trying to tell me that this “wrongness” pre-dates time? How could anything pre-date time? I think I see where this is heading…

    “And the reason it’s wrong, is because it’s against everything God stands for. ”

    —Ahh. Yeah, so did you read my post? I mean, you just did the exactly thing I talked about previously. Begging the question like this is fine for Sunday School, but if you actually want to make a point with “reason”, you’ll just have to try a bit harder.

    “Sin exists. Sin demands punishment. The state of this world demands redemption.”

    —Keep repeating something and it might come true, you never know.

  49. Matt Fairhurst says:

    Well, I can’t argue with that. Whatever makes you happy man.
    As for faith versus works, aren’t you ignoring the Gospel of James, specifically 2:17-20 odd?:

    “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” James 2:17
    “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” James 2:20

  50. Matthew says:

    The message of the letter of James is for Christians to ‘Prove it’. Don’t just say you’re saved, rather show it in your actions.
    The apparent contradiction between James and Paul (author of Ephesians and many other New Testament letters) arises because they are addressing different groups of believers, with different problems in their view of faith. Paul writes to show how no actions that we broken humans can do are ever going to make us righteous enough to be in relationship with a holy righteous God. This stands against the legalism that churches impose on their members. James is addressing those who have a cheap faith, which does not require anything of them. This faith without work does not work, and has no benefit to anyone, whether on earth or in heaven. Paul shows how deeds done pre-conversion are unable to save, while James shows the necessity of post-conversion good deeds.

    Picture a seesaw, where on the one side, works alone cannot save us, but grace. On the other side, we are reminded that because we are saved, we should show it in our good works. If we focus too much on any side, the seesaw stops. But if we can keep both truths in an equilibrium, we have a dynamic, living faith.

    James reminds us that our faith in God is not simply about getting into heaven, but affects how we live our lives, how we treat others, and how we speak and act. And not even just affect our lives, but become our lives.

  51. Alex says:

    @ Gemma: I think anyone who doesn’t believe atheists can be just as dumb intolerant and obnoxious as the worst fundamentalist Christians should install the brilliant Firefox plugin “Stumbleupon” and add atheist/agnostic to their list of interests. Most atheists simply don’t believe in God, but more than a few have a ridiculous “fight the powah” mentality regarding Christianity and have made it their personal mission to cure theists of their “delusions”.

    I have a strong faith my self and I am nominally Anglican (I say nominally because I don’t believe a lot of Christian doctrine), and if I happen to mention that I believe in God half the time I am met with a hostile response.

    My father talks a lot about how Christianity in this country has changed since his youth, become more aggressive and fundamentalist. I think this is partly a reaction to the environment we live in. Until last year I was an atheist, and didn’t notice the extreme amount of animosity there is for those who follow Christian faiths. I’ve become pretty bitter since becoming a believer, and I can understand why people who grew up in such a hostile, prejudiced environment would choose to seperate themselves from society. I’m sick and tired of sneering cunts quoting Leviticus at me and arguing against creationism without bothering to ask me what I actually believe. I have the feeling that if I actually did believe in creationism many of these people would call me a moron to my face.

  52. Matt says:

    Well, my point was really, that quoting Scripture seldom wins an argument. But OK. Ok. They’re all “apparent” contradictions. Believe it makes sense, and you’ll be able to get it to make sense, somehow, some way. Fair enough.

  53. Melanie says:

    @Matt: Alright, I was attempting to move the discussion toward the reasons we christians really are christians; and it’s not intellectual reasoning. (By this I don’t mean in the least that Christianity is unreasonable, just that reason alone is not why we are still christians.) As charley said so well: “at some point, faith has to kick in”. I do have some replies, but that’s not really what I’m trying to get at.

    Out of interest, why the strong antagonism toward christians/christianity?

  54. Dazzle says:

    @Everyone; why do we all attempt to convert others, instead of just living along side by side with each other?

  55. Tommo says:

    Well hopefully it’s because we all think we’re right and care enough about each other to not want others to believe something false.

  56. Matthew Fairhurst says:

    What antagonism? That’s you projecting. Seriously. I haven’t said anything I wouldn’t say to anyone who presented an argument as ridiculous as yours, no matter what the topic, secular or religious. As I keep on fucking repeating, I don’t care what you believe; just don’t go trying to tell me there’s a good reason for me to believe what you do. Because there ain’t. And let’s see your “replies”, dammit. I’m interested. What’ll it be this time?

  57. Dazzle says:

    @Tommo, Yes but just because as a Christian we shouldnt really be telling them how to live, we should be showing them how we live. Because words can mean virtually nothing compared to actions – using Jesus as an Example, “love thy neighbour as I have loved you”, then showed how he did this through his actions (sorry I’m not quoting, I’m assuming we know the bible verses here). And if non-Christians see the way we are living, and like it, then they ‘may’ become christian. And this way, then they can’t justify any harsh words they have to us, if we don’t retaliate. I know I’m a hypocrite when it comes to this point, because I’m very defensive when it comes to my beliefs.

  58. Tommo says:

    @Matt I hope for your sake that Mel’s gracious enough to reply to you cause I wouldn’t. That kind of outburst is unnecessary and makes you look pretty desperate.

    @Dazzle, yep you’re right, and hopefully our actions on living as Jesus did are backed up by speaking the truth as Jesus did and praying for them as Jesus did.

  59. Matt says:

    Ok, fair enough, that was out of line; I apologise. Forgive me for transferring stress from an unrelated discussion to this one after a long day. I’m deservedly contrite. For being rude — not for getting angry. I reserve the right to get wound up about things I care about, otherwise where’s the fun?
    To rephrase more diplomatically: I’ve no “antagonism” towards Christianity, it’s towards the whole idea that having faith — in anything, whether it’s your religion or your bad science or even your reason — absolves you of the responsibility of actually making sense. Hell, I think the same things about plenty of what Richard Dawkins says. So it’s not just Christians.
    The thing I love about the old religious writers, Aquinas, Augustine, and Milton especially, is that they mostly made, really, really good arguments. I disagree with their axioms, yeah, but they reason so damn well. Plus they often get pretty angry in their writing, which as you can probably guess, I quite like.
    So yeah, Melanie, apologies for getting allover angsty before. My bad. Twelve hours of trying (desperately, if you will Tommo) to cut the shitty reasoning out of my own writing can do that.

  60. Tommo says:

    nothing wrong with a bit of passion!

  61. Matthew says:

    I believe all people are rational beings, but the problem is there is no standard rationality. There is a reasonable reason why I act and think like I do, and why you think and act like you do. But we both have reasons for believing as we do, based on experiences and worldview.
    For me, it is the most rational answer to believe that this universe, this world, the human race, right down to the most minuscule cells and atoms, was all created by a force outside the known world. It is easier for me to believe that the complexity and creativity was planned, rather than it just happened accidentally. It makes the most sense to me that I, along with the entire world, was therefore created for a purpose. It is rational to me that there is an absolute measure of right and wrong, but that humans cannot judge this truely. It is therefore a very small step to believe that this force that created the universe is also the judge of right and wrong.
    The most rational view of Jesus, a real historical figure, is that he is the Son of God, rather than a conman, a lunatic, or merely a good teacher. If he was a conman, then how could the Roman authorities find no charges on which to arrest him? If a lunatic, who simply believed himslef to be godly, how could he perform his miracles? I can’t accept him as merely a good moral teacher, as he claimed to be the Son of God, and if he is lying about that, how can I be sure he is telling the truth in the rest of his teaching? My belief is that Jesus is who he says he is, the incarnation of God, the perfect example to follow, and saviour and Lord.
    I don’t think it is possible to prove that God exists, and neither is it possible to prove he does not. God is beyond what we can sense or understand or logically follow. But we can still experience his presence and actions.
    I have never heard a testimony where a Christian says “I didn’t believe in God until my friend proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists”. Our aim in this debate should not be to convince people that God does exist, but to convince them that he could exist. Then it is up to them to recognise his works in their lives, as this is often the best way that God works. Not through our proofs, but through his revelation of himself, and occasionly our interpretation.

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