This is kind of an old topic, but it is one that seems to never die. That is, does God exist? The debate between deists and atheists typically is centered around the Christian god with atheists rejecting God simply because they reject Christianity. To be fair, though, there are some 4,200 religions in the world and the Christian god, therefore, is just one of 4,200 gods .
So, I pose these questions: In order to be intellectually honest, do atheists need to reject all 4,200 gods before declaring themselves to be atheists? And exactly what makes Christians feel that their god, amongst all of the 4,200 gods, is the one and only?
While my interest in this debate wanes by the day, I feel that it’s still worth a mention. To begin with, religious beliefs are claims rather than the truth. Holy books, however, may be considered to be the truth by a believer, even if it’s based solely on their faith. On the other hand atheism, is a religion too. Michael Ruse, an evolutionist himself, admitted that, “Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion-a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality…Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.”
Scientists of all stripes have weighed in on this debate. Here’s a few thoughts from some of the great minds of science:
“I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.”
– Albert Einstein
Note: According to Wikipedia, Spinoza believed that “…everything is a derivative of God, interconnected with all of existence.” Further, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that Spinoza’s God is an “infinite intellect.”
“The universe does not exist ‘out there,’ independent of us. We are inescapably involved in bringing about that which appears to be happening. We are not only observers. We are participators.”
– John Wheeler, physicist
“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.”
– Carl Sagan, astronomer
Note: Of course, Sagan was admitting that there is super- intelligence in the cosmos, an intelligence which can think, extrapolate… and “know itself”.
“Our brains mathematically construct objective reality by interpreting frequencies that are ultimately projections from another dimension, a deeper order of existence that is beyond both space and time….”
– Michael Talbot, The Holographic Universe
“Life is the most mysterious of all the wonders of creation because atoms have been assembled in such a way so that they can ponder their own existence.”
– Martin Rees, astrophysicist
“The secret of DNA’s success is that it carries information like that of a computer program, but far more advanced. Since experience shows that intelligence is the only presently acting cause of information, we can infer that intelligence is the best explanation for the information in DNA.”
– Jonathan Wells, molecular biologist
“To me, it is clear that we exist in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.”
– Michio Kaku, physicist
“Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe that was created out of nothing and delicately balanced to provide exactly the conditions required to support life. In the absence of an absurdly improbable accident, the observations of modern science seem to suggest an underlying, one might say, supernatural plan.”
– Arno Penzias, physicist
“It is easy to understand why many scientists like Sir Fred Hoyle changed their minds in the past thirty years. They now agree that the universe, as we know it, cannot reasonably be explained as a cosmic accident.”
– Frederic B. Burnham, historian of science
“Beyond all finite experiences and secondary causes, all laws, ideas and principles, there is an Intelligence or Mind, the first principle of all principles, the Supreme Idea on which all other ideas are grounded.”
“When it comes to the origin of life on this earth, there are only two possibilities: creation or spontaneous generation (evolution). There is no third way. Spontaneous generation was disproved 100 years ago, but that leads us only to one other conclusion: that of supernatural creation. We cannot accept that on philosophical grounds (personal reasons); therefore, we choose to believe the impossible: that life arose spontaneously by chance.”
– George Wald
“Super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature.”
– Antony Flew
These gentlemen hardly referred to God at all in explaining the origins of life. Therefore, I would suggest that the vast majority of concepts/perspectives about God (both pro and con) are incomplete, at best. Since the word God is generally associated with religion, I believe that it would be preferable to use the term “creator” instead.
Of course if there is a creator, he doesn’t have to be the god of any religion, now does he? So, if any of you are hung up over the illogic of religion, especially Christianity, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no God. It may simply mean that you have been looking for him in all the wrong places and calling him by the wrong name.
– Joseph Campbell
One of the recurring themes in society today is the ongoing debate between creationists (with Christianity as their advocate) and evolutionists (with atheists as their advocate). The problem is that ideology, on both sides, is driving the discussion. As physicist David Bohm succinctly put it, “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” As a result, the diatribe rages on with no realistic chance of ever ending. I, myself, fall somewhere in the middle since I believe that they are both wrong.
Interestingly enough, both sides do agree on one thing. They both believe that the universe was created out of nothing, and from nowhere! Christianity believes that God created the heavens and earth (in six days no less) because a holy book said so and the atheists believe that we all evolved from a bunch of dead chemicals. So this, then, is the ultimate question of creation. That is, exactly how do you create something out of nothing? For me, it just doesn’t pass the smell test. That is, the only thing that can be made out of nothing…is nothing. The fact that both sides use the very same absurd argument is an indication that there is no proof. Therefore, we’re dealing with blind ideology. In fact, we not only have one religion, we have two – belief in God and the belief in materialism.
The God Delusion
Religious texts are not truths. They are simply claims, the word of man about God if you will. After all, how could man possibly understand the Infinite with his finite mind? As the Pascal Wager states, “If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible.”
Religious texts only become “the truth” when a believer takes a leap of faith and adopts such a belief system. Then, and only then, texts are referred to (by the believer) as the Word of God. That’s not to say that God doesn’t exist, only that man’s idea of God is faith-based.
With respect to the Bible’s creation story, there is no evidence that the Garden of Eden was a real place, complete with talking snakes. The story was written by Jewish holy men who considered Genesis to be allegorical; even Origen, a prominent early Christian theologian, believed that to be the case. So, why then does Christianity insist on their Creation story being the Word of God? I hate being redundant and, since I’ve covered this topic in great detail in prior posts, I won’t burden you with having to read it again here as the explanation is quite lengthy.
So, let’s just say that Christianity has deluded itself with respect to its God. They worship an angry, vengeful and violent God (of the Old Testament). And why? Well, because they are joined at the hip with the Old Testament since they adopted it and its creation story. Is there really even one Christian out there who really wants to worship an angry, vengeful and violent God? Probably not, especially since almost all Christians consider God to be all-loving and good.
Bottom line: If there is a God and he created the universe (out of something), then Christianity doesn’t understand their own Creator. As Voltaire said, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.” And so they did – invent him, that is.
The Hawking Delusion
Stephen Hawking says that, “One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, but science makes God unnecessary.” The reverse, of course, is also true. That is if there is a God, then he would make science unnecessary. Since science can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, then science may (unbeknownst to everyone) already be somewhat irrelevant. After all, science wants us to believe that somehow the cosmos, with no intelligence behind it whatsoever, was able to (poof) materialize out of mindless nothingness. Just poof.
Atheists do not believe in God so they need an explanation as to how, and why, man came into existence without the help of a Creator. Thus, a belief in materialism. Geneticist Richard Lewontin, an atheist himself, explained just how that thought process works: “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a priori commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” As a result, ideology, not science, rules the day.
As Lewontin said, materialism is absolute. So, the atheist having accepted materialism, will embrace evolution. The attraction of evolution, according to neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky, an atheist himself, is that since evolution doesn’t require a blue print, it doesn’t require a blue print maker either. The end result is a worldview that life began, as physicist and Nobel laureate Arno Penzias noted, as the result of an absurdly improbable cosmic accident.
Bottom line: Science has deluded itself that it understands the cosmos, in direct opposition to what Einstein said that the human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. However, who needs proof when you have Stephen Hawking?
“The difference between science and philosophy is that the scientist learns more and more about less and less until she knows everything about nothing, whereas a philosopher learns less and less about more and more until he knows nothing about everything.”
– Dorion Sagan
I was reading a blog recently entitled Refuting 5 False Theories About Jesus. It was Christian apologetics at its finest. I couldn’t have disagreed with it more. The part that quickly caught my attention was one of the so-called false theories called “Jesus The Failed Prophet.” I’ll try and break it down for you.
The author traces the “failed prophet” theory to German scholar Albert Schweitzer, and correctly so. However, Schweitzer wasn’t just any run-of-the-mill scholar. First of all it’s important to note that Schweitzer was a Christian theologian. He was the author of The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle and his book The Quest for the Historical Jesus is considered a seminal work of biblical scholarship. Schweitzer was also a world-famous missionary in Africa and he was awarded the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his philosophy of “Reverence for Life.”
Aside: Schweitzer’s background is extremely relevant in that a reader, especially a young reader, of Refuting 5 False Theories About Jesus might otherwise think that Schweitzer was just another scholar who might easily be dismissed. Keep in mind, the blogger apparently taught theology at the high school level.
The author then accuses Schweitzer of cherry-picking the evidence. Well, the term cherry-picking, as it applies to biblical scholarship, was coined because it applies specifically to Christian apologetics. If you are defending the Bible as the unerring Word of God, you obviously can’t cherry-pick. The Bible has to be spot on, every time. However, if one is simply pointing out inconsistencies in the Bible, then cherry-picking does not apply since the only question is whether or not the Bible can be considered the unerring Word of God.
Aside: Christian apologists never seem to understand the point that it’s okay to believe in something and have faith in that belief system, but it is intellectually dishonest to say that the Bible is the infallible Word of God when it contains so many inconsistencies.
Next, the author tries to refute certain biblical passages that Schweitzer cites, passages which clearly state that Jesus was returning in the lifetime of the disciples. He focuses on Matthew 24:36 to try to prove that Jesus confessed ignorance as to the timing of his return. That’s somewhat true, although woefully incomplete. Just prior to Matthew 24:36, in Matthew 24:34, Jesus actually says that the end of the world will occur in the lifetime of the disciples. C.S. Lewis, a Christian apologist himself, said of this passage, “It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.” Actually, it’s more than embarrassing for Christianity because Schweitzer, a Christian theologian himself, felt compelled to take the skeleton out of the closet, so to speak.
So, Jesus didn’t profess complete ignorance as the author said. Rather, Jesus gave a timeline for the end of the world (“this generation”), just not the exact day and hour. Jesus goes on to say that, since the exact hour is not known, everyone should be alert for his coming (Matthew 24:42) and to be ready for his coming (Matthew 24:44). In other words, the final hour is at hand.
Then, the author makes what is, to me, an astonishing admission. He says that certain critics “mistakenly suppose that first-century Jewish apocalyptic language…must have been intended literally.” This was in reference to the aforementioned passage in Matthew 24. So, according to the author, this Bible passage is not intended to be taken literally! He admits that the Bible can’t be completely read in a literal fashion. I’m still speechless, although Christian apologist Paul Copan pretty much admitted the very same thing (see my recent post Was it Genocide? Was it God?).
To a get a more complete picture, though, let’s more fully review what the Bible reveals about Jesus’ return. Here’s some of the more pertinent Bible passages:
- “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Mark 13:30)
- “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place.” (Luke 21:32)
- “ For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
- “Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” (Matthew 23:36)
- “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”(Matthew 10:23) Note: This was spoken by Jesus to his disciples.
Comment: So Mark and Luke confirm the passage in Matthew 24:34, whereby the End of Days will occur during the lifetime of the current generation. The other passages also confirm that Jesus wlll return in the lifetime of the disciples (the current generation).
- “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3)
- “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11)
- “And he said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place. And behold, I am coming soon.'” (Revelation 22: 6,7)
- “And he said to me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near…Behold, I am coming soon….'” (Revelation 22:10,12)
- “He (Christ) was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.” (1 Peter 1:20)
- “The end of all things is at hand.…” (1 Peter 4:7)
- ” He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)
- “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
- “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18)
- “This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none… For the present form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:29,31)
- “You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” (James 5:8,9)
Comment: So, it’s plainly obvious to most anyone other than a Christian apologist that these passages refer to something that will occur very soon, as opposed to two thousand years later.
- ” Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28)
- Luke 9:27 and Mark 9:1 confirm the passage in Matthew 16:28, whereby some of those standing before Jesus will not taste death until they have seen the arrival of the kingdom.
- “ For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17)
Comment: The above passages indicate that some of the people of that generation will yet be alive when Jesus returns. In other words, the End of Days will occur during the current generation.
- “They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.'” (2 Peter 3:4)
Comment: Obviously, in early Christianity, there was a lot of questions about the fact that Jesus did not return as promised.
The apocalyptic vision of Jesus and his followers is replete throughout the New Testament – from the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to Peter to Revelation to Paul. The focal point of their apocalyptic vision was that this would all occur in their lifetime, as it clearly says in the Bible itself. They were preaching the End of Days and they expected it to happen very soon. Albert Schweitzer, in The Quest for the Historical Jesus, states that Jesus was preparing his followers for the imminent end of the world. As Jesus, himself, says in Mark 1:15, “The time has come…The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Their message was that the faithful would be saved from the coming apocalypse. Without this promise of salvation, the message would have mostly fallen on deaf ears. People want to know that they are going to be saved – in their lifetime. Who would ever follow a messiah if they knew that he would leave and not return for at least two thousand years to finally make good on his promise. No one, of course.
In early Christianity, there was no Bible and few people, if any, ever read the scriptures (since the masses were illiterate). Further, there was disagreement even within the Christian community as to what was acceptable dogma; for example, see Luke 1:1-4 and Paul’s writings (2 Corinthians 11:4 and Galatians 1:6-9). It was the 4th century church that finally decided the fate and direction of Christianity and as a result early Christianity luminaries like Origen, one of the first Christian theologians, and church father Clement of Alexandria were declared heretics by the Church. So, interestingly enough, if Origen and Clement were alive today, Christian apologists would have to be arguing these issues with them as well. Now that would be downright embarrassing, wouldn’t it?
“Jesus of Nazareth was an apocalyptic prophet who anticipated the imminent end of the age and who warned his Jewish compatriots to repent in view of the cosmic crisis that was soon to come. God, Jesus proclaimed, would intervene in the course of history to overthrow the forces of evil, sending from heaven a divine-like figure called the Son of Man in a cataclysmic act of judgment. This Son of Man would bring a new order to this world, a utopian kingdom to replace the evil empire that oppresses God’s people. And this was to occur within Jesus’ generation.”
– Bart Ehrman, biblical scholar and theologian
Both Paul and John wrote that God was an invisible spirit. Yet, other parts of the Bible say otherwise. So which is right?
According to the Bible, you have any number of people who physically encountered God, starting with Adam and Eve and including Ezekiel, Daniel, Abraham, Isaiah, Joshua, Moses and Jacob (who supposedly wrestled with God) and then, of course, there is Revelation. Isaiah is an interesting case because the renown prophet described God as seated on a throne wearing a long, flowing robe – and absolutely nothing else. If you’re reading the Book of Isaiah, you’re waiting for the prophet to describe his once-in-a-lifetime encounter with the Ancient One and all he has to say about God is that he was seated on a throne wearing a robe. There were so many things about God that people were dying to know… and yet he basically said nothing! How is that possible?
It kind of makes you wonder if Isaiah actually met God. Even if one accepts his story at face value, Isaiah obviously didn’t know what God looked like so how did he know that it was really God? It was an other-worldly apparition, to be sure, but God? Why not an angel, a demon or the devil himself (perhaps in disguise)?
Aside: Perhaps it was even the Gnostics’ evil Ialdabaoth himself.
Yet, Paul and John said that God was spirit and John elaborated by saying that no man had ever met God. That raises questions about the veracity of the stories about people having contact with God. Were theses stories pure fiction, such as one’s minister opening his sermon with “and last night God talked to me”, or might they have been based on real-life events, events where the participants might have believed that they had come in direct contact with the Absolute?
For most people, the answer to this question is irrelevant. As Stuart Chase so aptly put it, “For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” In any event, though, the God of the Bible has been shown to be a two-faced god. On the one hand he is a physical life form who is jealous, vengeful and prone to violence; on the other hand he is an invisible spirit who is described as being all-loving. With two such totally disparate concepts, the Bible could hardly be considered to be the unerring Word of God.
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (emphasis mine)
– Romans 1:21-25
Now that Easter is over, I’ve had some time to reflect on what it all means. When I was growing up in a Christian family, I never understood all the fuss concerning Easter. Now that I am older, I understand the fuss but I don’t buy into it. All I see is the Church’s selling of salvation.
I had always been taught that Original Sin comes from the Genesis story. Well, that’s where things get fuzzy. God punished Adam and Eve but he didn’t put any such curse of Original Sin on them (see Genesis 3:16-19). Then in Genesis 8:21, God had an epiphany, “ …and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth….” So, obviously, man did not inherit sin from Adam in that he only became evil beginning in his youth. Jesus actually talks about how men should be like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven; so, again, no sin until after early childhood.
That alone should end the discussion, but I wanted to know more. Since the Genesis story was part of the Jewish Bible and Judaism does not recognize the concept of Original Sin, I wanted to know how that concept found its way into Christianity. Because Original Sin was strictly a Christian concept, I turned to the New Testament for answers. However, the answers weren’t exactly what I had expected. First of all, the disciples did not teach or write about the concept of Original Sin, or Easter either for that matter. Nevertheless, the subject of sin was a hot topic and the disciples even queried Jesus about it, “And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). Jesus responded by saying, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3). So, even Jesus rebuked the idea of Original Sin.
The first actual mention of Original Sin in the Bible is in Romans. The thing is that Paul’s concept of Original Sin does not mean that Adam’s sin was inherited by future generations as can be plainly seen in Romans 5:14, as follows, “Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come” (emphasis mine). Accordingly, noted 19th century evangelist, Charles Finney, denied the doctrine of Original Sin.
When you think about it, the concept of Original Sin is really only necessary if Jesus came to this world to save mankind. If, instead, he had only came to spread a message of hope and love, then the concept of sin wouldn’t be very important at all. So if the concept of Original Sin is incorrect, which it certainly appears to be, then the idea that Jesus came here to save us all is probably also incorrect. The truth is that Christianity needs the concept of salvation in order to make Jesus a universal savior (as opposed to the Jewish messiah that everyone was expecting and was prophesied about in the Bible).
Likewise, the concept of a Second Coming also needs to agree with the biblical account. For example, in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus discusses the End of Days with the disciples, as follows: “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus responded, in part, by saying, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:29-30).
The disciples had asked when the end of the world would occur and Jesus answered by saying, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34). Therefore, as Albert Schweitzer said in his book The Quest of the Historical Jesus, the Second Coming was supposed to occur in the lifetime of the disciples!
In a world of false prophets, one can only wonder who speaks the truth and who does not. Clearly, the Bible and Church doctrine are not in agreement. Doctrines like Original Sin, the Trinity and salvation through Christ can all be called into question.
Early Christian theologian Origen of Alexandria (in On First Principles) said that the resurrection related to the spirit, not the mortal body. He considered the concept of a resurrection to be for those that did not have eyes to see and ears to hear, meaning that the story of the resurrection of a physical body was strictly a surface story for the unenlightened. The real story could only be understood by those that were very enlightened (and had been initiated into the Mysteries).
All religions borrow concepts from other religions; the resurrection concept is no exception. For example, “The pagan belief was that the sun died on the winter solstice (December 22nd) because on that day the sun reached its lowest point in the heavens. The sun was then considered to be “dead and buried” for three days because it stayed at this lowest point on the horizon during that time. When the sun once again made its way higher in the heavens on December 25th, it was said to have been born again (resurrected)” (The Ethical Warrior, Why Are Christians Leaving the Church?). So on the spring equinox, pagans celebrated the resurrection of the sun god whose own “death and rebirth” symbolized the death and rebirth of life associated with the spring equinox. That’s the story of how the world wound up with Easter bunnies, Easter eggs and sunrise services.
The Pascal Wager states that, “If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible.” However, I think that it is possible to deduce some things about God through the use of logic and negative inference. So with apologies to deists everywhere, here are ten things that I know about God:
10. God is not a man. After all, men wrote the Bible and so, of course, God is always described as Him. One does have to wonder, though, where the first X and Y chromosomes came from.
9. God doesn’t get migraines or have a bad-hair day. However, God might be bi-polar since he did destroy his own creation.
8. God is not omniscient. God didn’t know that his own “perfect” creation would turn out to be imperfect and have to be destroyed. It actually sounds more like an experiment gone terribly awry. In hindsight, though, we should have guessed as much since after creating man, God saw that “it was good”. Really, don’t you think that he should have known that his creation would have been good in advance (before he created it)? Even then, he was wrong about it being good, wasn’t he?
7. God isn’t a very good parent. In the Genesis story, God told his children not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. When they did, he punished them severely (life in prison, so to speak). Of course, since God didn’t teach them right from wrong, there was no way for them to comprehend the concepts of good and evil; in short, they didn’t understand that disobedience was bad. If something similar would have happened today, the parent would certainly have been charged with child abuse, wouldn’t they? In any event, I think that God qualifies as an absentee parent since he hasn’t visited his children in 3,000 years, give or take.
6. God was an “Indian giver.” First, God gave man the Tree of Knowledge (i.e. Genesis 1:29 says, “Then God said, ‘I give you… every tree that has fruit and seed in it. They will be yours for food.’”). Then later, God took the gift back (i.e. Genesis 2:16,17 says, “And the Lord God commanded the man…’you must not eat from the Tree of Knowledge…for when you eat from it you will surely die.’” ). Of course, God lied about the dying part, now didn’t he?
5. See the end of #6.
4. God is the source of evil. For this one a little background is required. That is, in the beginning all there was was God. Nothing else; God and only God. By definition, then, evil could have only come from God, notwithstanding the church’s absurd dogma of “creation out of nothing.” Creation out of nothing was the church’s rationalization as to how something that is evil (man) could have come from something that is perfect (God). However, as Roman philosopher Lucretius said, “Nothing comes from nothing.”
Regardless of whether or not God created man out of nothing, he certainly intended to create evil, as he is presumably all-powerful and all-knowing. The Bible actually confirms this (e.g.“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” – Isaiah 45:7).
3. The god of the Bible has a split personality. The god of the Old Testament acts totally different from the god of the New Testament. Further, the god of the Old Testament walked and talked with Adam and Eve, Abraham and Moses. He even wrestled with Jacob. To prove his godhood, he would kill innocent men, women and children. People feared him, obviously for good reason. As opposed to that, the god of the New Testament was considered to be spirit only, according to Paul and the Book of John. It is not surprising, then, that John said that no man had ever seen God. I guess one can infer from what he said that the Old Testament stories were not true and, therefore, not the Word of God.
… or could it just simply be that the god of the Old Testament and the god of the New Testament refer to two different entities.
2. God has never interfered in the affairs of man. If he had, it would be a violation of man’s free will. You can’t have it both ways. Either man has free will or he is merely some form of artificial intelligence. For sure, God never ordered up any tsunamis.
1. The god of the bible is not God, the Prime Creator. See prior posts for details.
The great French philosopher Voltaire said it best when he said that, “ If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.” I believe that Voltaire was correct, although there’s more to the story. To be more precise, God does exist but man invented him anyway. As John said, no one has ever seen God; so man created God in his own image.
Growing up in a Christian family, I may have taken certain things for granted. Take Christianity, itself, for example. Most of what I learned about Christianity I learned from our minister. It never occurred to me that I should ask him how he knew the things about which he spoke, especially since they had happened 2,000 years (or more) ago. As Brian McLaren, a Christian pastor himself, said, “One of the problems is that the average Christian in the average church who listens to the average Christian broadcasting has such an oversimplified understanding of both the Bible and of church history – it would be deeply disturbing for them to really learn church history.”
So here’s a little pop quiz, the answers to which may surprise you.
Fact or Myth:
The Bible is a religious book . True, but incomplete.
The Bible is actually a compilation of a number of religious scriptures. Some of the stories relate to events that occurred over 5,000 years ago (according to the chronology given in the Bible itself). The Old Testament stories were purportedly passed on through oral tradition, some for as much as 3,000 years before they were written down.
The Bible is the Word of God. Myth.
The Bible is more correctly the Word of Man about God. Certainly, God didn’t write the Bible and there is no proof certain that it was even inspired by Him. To confuse the matter even more, some Christian denominations use different Bibles which include or exclude various scriptures, so there is no one universal “Word of God”. Finally, some scriptures have never even been included in any bible. Even early church father Origen of Alexandria did not take the Bible literally. Origen had this to say about the Genesis story, “For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? And that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? And again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally.”
The Bible was written by Jews, about Jews and for Jews. Fact.
For example, Jesus and his disciples were Jewish. For the most part, Christianity did not even exist when the events of the Bible took place.
Matthew and John were disciples of Jesus. Fact.
However, it would be more correct to call them by their Hebrew names (Mattithyahu/Matthew and Yochanan/John).
The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were eyewitness testimony. Myth.
Except for Paul’s letters, the various books of the Bible were not written contemporaneously with the events that they were describing. Most historians/theologians agree that the gospels were based on older sources. Therefore, the Bible is not based on eyewitness testimony. In fact, except for Paul’s letters, there is no proof as to who wrote the different books of the Bible.
The first Christian church was founded by Paul in Antioch. Fact.
However it must be noted that after the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples were initially led by James, the brother of Jesus, through the auspices of what is referred to as the Jerusalem church. The Jerusalem church was the first movement to spread the teachings of Jesus. To some extent, the teachings of Paul conflicted with the teachings of the disciples as can be seen in the New Testament.
Christian dogma is based on the Bible. Myth.
While some Christian dogma can be found in the Bible, some can not. For example, the words “the Trinity” are not in the Bible. As for original sin, that concept is attributed to Saint Augustine (354-430 AD).
The Christian belief in monotheism is supported by the Bible. Myth.
Prior to the establishment of rabbinical Judaism (circa 6th century BCE), the Israelites were polytheist which has been confirmed by archaeological findings and as can be seen in the Old Testament itself. For example, Psalm 82:1 says that, “God stands in the assembly of El; in the midst of the gods he renders judgment.” Actually, the concept of monotheism is attributed by scholars to the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten (circa 1300 BC). Prior to that, people (by definition) had to have worshipped many different gods.
So, how many questions did you answer correctly? It might surprise you to know that many Christian ministers didn’t know many of the correct answers either. As I’ve said before, though, sometimes it’s easier to simply repeat what you were indoctrinated with than to seek the truth.
“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.”
– Stuart Chase
A number of people seem to have liked “Conversations With A Prophet” so I endeavored to bring him back again. Fortunately, I was able to ask the following questions and got these responses:
Query: What existed before the Big Bang? Reply: Creation has always existed in one form or another, even before the Big Bang.
Query: Okay, but since energy can be neither created nor destroyed, our universe must have come from somewhere. Reply: As it applies to this universe, it is true that energy can be neither created nor destroyed. However, the rules of physics don’t apply beyond space and time. So, technically it came from nothing.
Query: Nothing? Reply: To be more exact, nothing that you would understand.
Query: So when Joseph Campbell said that “God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought,” was he correct? Reply: Yes, except that God is much more than a metaphor.
Query: So Stephen Hawking was wrong when he said that, “One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, but science makes God unnecessary.” Reply: To refer back to Joseph Campbell, isn’t science an intellectual thought (emphasis mine)?
Query: Okay, but why do some scientists, like the aforementioned Stephen Hawking, insist that science trumps God? Reply: He is an atheist, isn’t he?
Query: I get that, but can’t science tell us whether or not there is a God? Reply: Science is a process of observation, is it not?
Response: Yes. Reply: Do you understand that science cannot prove what exists beyond space and time simply by observing the universe?
Query: I had a discussion with an atheist friend of mine about morality. He said that atheists can be moral too. I reminded him that Sartre, an atheist himself, agreed with Dostoevsky that if God does not exist, everything is permitted. Who is right? Reply: Yes, atheists can be moral too – because they have the same innate wisdom that all men do. Interestingly enough, though, that innate wisdom comes from the very source that they reject. Sometimes, people reject that which they can’t explain as they seek certainty in their lives.
Query: Why is there such animosity between atheists and Christians? Reply: Some Christians are certain that they are right because of their faith while some atheists are certain that they are right because it’s so obvious, at least to them, that Christianity is – shall we say – illogical. However, certainty is an absurdity. People who do not have open minds will forever be arguing with one another and will never learn anything. They will be forever committed to a certain way of believing and thinking and a certain way of life.
Query: So who is right? Reply: Neither one. Christians who believe that their holy book is holier than all other religions are taking a giant leap of faith – based on what? Did God favor only the holy men of their religion above all others? As for atheists, they often say that God doesn’t exist because Christianity is not believable. Even if Christianity fails to make a case for its god, it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist – only that one rejects God as defined by Christianity.
Aside: The Prophet told me later that God doesn’t need anyone to worship him at all.
Query: So where does mankind go from here? Reply: Be the co-creators of reality that you were always meant to be. After all, didn’t Jesus say that all men are gods and will do greater things than him?
Epilogue: For a man who isn’t religious, it seemed out of place for him to be quoting the Bible (John 10:34 and John 14:12). Then again, who am I to argue with a prophet.
“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.”
Christianity has always been a puzzle to me. After all, how did a bunch of Jewish zealots produce arguably the greatest religion ever known?
The origins of Christianity are a tangled web of conflicting beliefs. During its formation (the 350 year period after Jesus), the church fathers, certain influential church bishops and different Christian groups, including Arianism, put forth their ideas for the new religion resulting in diverse interpretations of Christian beliefs. Out of all the confusion finally arose the Catholic Church with its Roman imperial theology which ruled the day and defined what Christians were, and were not, to believe in. Eventually, Christianity would splinter into the Orthodox Church and into Protestantism (through the Reformation) and the Protestant movement would further splinter into a myriad of different denominations and beliefs.
The roots of Christianity, however, go back much further – arguably to the Garden of Eden. The core tenet of Christianity is salvation through Christ and this presupposes the concept of Original Sin (otherwise, if a person was not born in sin, they might not need to be saved) and this in turn is based on the story of Adam and Eve and the Fall of Man. The problem is that the interpretation by Christianity of the Genesis story runs counter to Jewish custom, tradition and religious belief.
This tangled web has its roots in Judaism, as the Genesis story is part of the Jewish Bible (i.e. Old Testament). The Jewish Bible, of course, was written by Jews, about Jews and for Jews. It was never intended for Gentiles. It was never meant to be transformed from a story that is allegorical in nature to one that is supposed to be taken literally. As Origen of Alexandria (the first theologian of Christianity) said about the Genesis story, “For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? And that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? And again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally (emphasis mine).”
The Jewish Bible/ Old Testament is not about salvation, but rather is about the Law (the Torah). As Jesus himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke or a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18). Yet, how many Christians today believe in and obey the Torah. None, of course. However as the Dead Sea Scrolls make clear, the disciples observed the Torah – because they, like Jesus, were Jewish. Therefore, they did not believe in Original Sin (as Judaism did not recognize it); besides Saint Augustine (354-430 A.D.) was the first theologian to teach the concept.
Among the great minds of ancient times, Philo of Alexandria and Saint Augustine did not believe in the literal interpretation of the creation story either. Further, Paul in Galatians 4:21-31 refers to the Genesis story about the sons of Abraham as an allegory. So even the New Testament views that the Old Testament was, at least in part, allegorical (i.e. not the literal Word of God). Surprisingly, there is a diversity of opinion on Original Sin even within Christianity, with some Christian churches accepting the concept and others not. The Vatican, for its part, recently announced that aliens may be real and, if so, may be free from Original Sin!
So if the Genesis story is allegorical, then the concept of Original Sin is just that – a concept, based on a much later interpretation of scripture (Jewish scripture at that). Without the premise of Original Sin, there would be then be no need for a messiah like Jesus. Besides, Moses said, in effect, that a messiah was not necessary as man can and must merit his own salvation (see Deuteronomy 30:11-20). If Moses believed that, why would anyone want to change it? …unless….
“… and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth….” (Genesis 8:21). According to Genesis 8:21 then, man was not born evil, he became evil during his life.
I have this dilemma about the Old Testament that I’m hoping that someone can help me out with. You see the Old Testament is considered to be the Word of God by the Jewish people and is the basis for their religion and their belief system about God. The Old Testament is also considered to be the Word of God by Christians and, along with the New Testament, forms the basis for their religion and their belief system about God. It just seems to me that that is not possible. The reason for my quandary is that Judaism and Christianity come to different conclusions about what the Word of God in the Old Testament means. After all, by definition, their religions are different, right?
Not to digress, but I was reading the opinion of the Campus Crusade for Christ which addresses the question of why the Old Testament is the Word of God. Their website stated that,“‘Thus says the Lord’, or its equivalent, occurs more than 2,000 times in the Old Testament.”
Aside: For me, theses quotes in the Old Testament about “Thus says the Lord” kind of reminds me of my minister starting his sermon with, “And last night God spoke to me.”
A consensus of historians and theologians say that they don’t know exactly who wrote the Old Testament. So how can anyone accept at face value that these words were actually spoken by God. The answer apparently is that the prophets said so. More to the point, the stories in the Bible written by these same unknown authors say that that’s what the prophets said. How’s that for circular logic!
The only thing that we do know with some certainty is that these biblical passages were finally written down hundreds of years after the events were suppose to have occurred. To make matters worse, the New Testament says that God is invisible, God is spirit and that no man has ever seen God. Therefore, it’s unlikely that God actually spoke to anyone. Further, God apparently hasn’t conversed with anyone else in the last two thousand years or so. Not even a tweet.
And the answer is:
Keep in mind that Christianity has many different denominations some of which interpret the Word of God differently than everyone else, including other Christians. The truth is that there is no one Christianity and there is no one Christian interpretation of the Word of God (Note: even the Campus Crusade for Christ acknowledged the diversity in Christian doctrine as evidenced by the church fathers who differed in their teachings). However, despite the diversity the Old Testament is still suppose to be the Word of God, for everyone – Christians, Jews and, as the Pope would say, even the atheists. You see my dilemma? Help me out.
“No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says – he is always convinced that it says what he means.”
– George Bernard Shaw