If I Died Tomorrow and Christians Were Right, What Would I Do?

Flying_Skeleton_HellI commented on a recent Christian post and was asked a very interesting question.

Here it is:

GC,

If you died tomorrow and God said “all those Christians were right all along about everything”, what would you do?

If God made a special exception just for you and offered you the choice between an eternity worshiping Him and an eternity in the Hell I have described to you, what would you chose?

Other than the coercion in my hypothetical scenario that would effectively eliminate your free-will, how is that choice different from the choice to come to God through faith you are disregarding now?

Bottom line here is that God wants you to chose Him, as I have while, at the same time, He is willing to let people reject Him, as you have.

Okay, so I’m going to deal with it in chunks. The first question asked is what would I do if I died tomorrow and a godly supernatural entity told me that the Christians were right all along.

Well, I guess I’d come to the realization that I was wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time and I’m sure it wouldn’t be the last, even if it meant being wrong while roasting alive in a pit of torment.

But I wonder what they would do if they died and there was Zeus standing there? What about Allah? Or one of the thousands of other gods we’ve invented throughout history?

I wonder if this God would accept my apology if I told Him the truth – I didn’t see sufficient evidence for its existence; its scripture is contradictory; its abilities are described incoherently; its followers can’t even make up their minds about its properties or what it wants, and I just honestly didn’t believe.

I guess if this deity is really all-loving, I’d expect he’d understand and forgive me.

The Choice

The second question has to do with me getting a choice between worshiping this deity or roasting in hell.

That’s a tough one.

I’d like to think I’d choose the roasting because I don’t like being threatened into what would amount to eternal slavery, but I’m not sure I honestly would. I mean, eternity is a long, long time and who wants to get tortured?

Then again, I think worshiping something for eternity would be its own brand of torture. If I still retained my limited intelligence, I think I’d wish for death after a while no matter what I chose.

I find it telling that this being would need to resort to threats and torture to get what it wants though.

The Second Choice

The next question is a bit hard to decipher. I assume it has to do with the first hypothetical choice and why it is any different than the choice I’m supposedly given here on Earth while I’m alive.

That one is pretty simple.

Obviously, if I die and I’m face-to-face with God, I’ll have sufficient evidence for its existence. I certainly don’t have that at this moment, and I can’t force myself to believe something that at best I view as being an incoherent concept.

That’s a big difference.

The Statement

If God really wants me to choose Him, then he has it within his unlimited power and knowledge to provide the evidence he would know in advance would convince me of its existence.

Like I said in his comment section, that doesn’t mean I’d worship such a being, but I’d definitely acknowledge that it exists. Playing hide and seek, while attempting to speak to us (human beings) through a contradictory mess of a book(s) is obviously not the best way of accomplishing this goal. You’d think this all-knowing god would have figured that out after the first billion or so people were sent to hell for believing in the wrong god.

And besides, not all of my family believes in the Christian God. That means (according to the original post) that they will go to hell. What sort of heaven doesn’t contain the people I love? How could I possibly find peace while knowing my loved ones are being tortured for eternity?

 

 

 

Pastors Who Don’t Believe – A Rebuttal

I read an interesting blog post today about pastors who continue to preach, even after they’ve lost faith in their God. You can follow the link to read it for yourself.

They start out by saying:

In recent years there have been several news features on the phenomenon of pastors who do not believe. The report has essentially been that, in anonymous surveys, some pastors admit to being atheists/agnostics. Why would an atheist/agnostic want to be a pastor? While some reported that they enjoy the control and authority the pastoral role gives them, the majority stated that, while they themselves do not believe, they understand that the Christian message can be a help to weak-minded people; therefore, they are willing to teach it. What does the Bible say about “pastors who do not believe”?

I would say that it’s a good trend and that it’s probably a trend that has always existed. I also wish they had linked to these ‘anonymous surveys’ since it’s the basis for the entire blog post.

What’s even more interesting is that when I went to research these ‘surveys’, I found the exact same article as this one right here – Why are there some pastors who don’t believe?

Could this be plagiarism? If so, I thought there was a commandment about such things somewhere…like the bible?

Here’s a screen shot of the blog post I read. You can find the original article by following the link above.

plagiarism

 

Of course, it’s possible that this blogger is a contributor to Got Questions, but if so, the article should still be linked.

Regardless, I think both the original article as well as the blog post miss the mark. They don’t site any sources and leave out a slew of other reasons someone might not believe in God but continue to preach.

For example:

  • They might have a family and no other sources of income.
  • They’ve invested serious time and money into study.
  • They’re emotionally invested.
  • They enjoy the church environment and don’t want to leave.
  • They feel as though people depend on them and don’t want to let them down.

And so on. Just pretending as though they’re all preying on weak minded people is disingenuous.

For example, here is one explanation given in another article:

the cost of saying “the emperor has no clothes” comes at a steep price. Full-time clergy or religious business leaders, who have come to the realization that their faith is a sham, risk financial hardship for their families if they come clean to their followers or customers. Religious people in the community will almost certainly talk about “that poor family with the atheist mom/dad” and put them on various prayer lists. If most of your friendships, family relationships, and even your marriage are based on this common set of beliefs, you risk losing it all.”

The blog post then goes on to a bunch of bible verses. We’ll skip those and get to the opinion parts that have nothing to do with threatening bible verses.

Now, there are also pastors who truly know and love the Lord and yet are struggling through a time of doubt. This is fairly common and understandable, as pastors deal with a tremendous amount of stress and are subject to heightened spiritual attack. This article is not directed towards believing pastors who struggle with doubt. For pastors in such a trial, the prayer should be “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24)! If the doubts become persistent, the pastor should probably step down until spiritual renewal occurs. A pastor in such a situation deserves our prayer, comfort, encouragement, and empathy.

Pastors have to experience heightened spiritual attack. That’s interesting.

I guess it’s good that this writer believes they deserve empathy and encouragement.

But wait…

But, again, for the pastor who is declaring a message he does not believe, who is pretending to be a servant of a God he does not even know, the only proper response is immediate expulsion. Without repentance leading to genuine faith, God’s judgment on such an individual will be eternally severe.

Ironic that in a piece wondering why some people are afraid of leaving the church when they lose their faith, ends with a threat and provides valid reasons for not leaving, such as being ostracized from the community.

In many cases, these pastors have given their lives to the community they serve. To lose all of that must be painful, and I totally understand why someone might not want to stop leading their church because they lost faith in God.

 

Sam Harris and Cenk Uygur Clear the Air on Religious Violence and Islam

This video is rather long but well worth watching. I watched it in chunks whenever I had time. Thirty minutes here, 20 minutes there and so on.

I found it interesting because I felt that Cenk really went hard at Sam Harris with fair questions and commentary. There were parts I disagreed with both Sam and Cenk, but unlike most interviews, the interviewer didn’t throw soft balls at the interviewee. I wish there were more interviews like this one.

So I thought I’d throw it up on my blog for the interested. Grab a bowl of popcorn and take it all in.

 

Despite What Many Religious People Say, They Don’t Derive Morals or Values From Religion

IMG_20141023_112919344

Dexter’s beliefs have influenced him to become the devil dog. Run for the hills!

Reza Aslan recently made an argument in defense of religion that I’ve heard often – basically it boils down to religion being responsible for nothing.

It goes something like this (taken from the Friendly Atheist Site):

I think the principle fallacy of not just to the so-called New Atheists, but I think of a lot of critics of religion, is that they believe that people derive their values, their morals, from their religion. That, as every scholar of religion in the world will tell you, is false.

People don’t derive their values from their religion — they bring their values to their religion. Which is why religions like Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, [and] Islam, are experienced in such profound, wide diversity…

It seems like a logical viewpoint — if you are just a person who doesn’t know much about the history, philosophy, sociology of religion — it seems like a logical thing to say that people get their values from their scriptures. It’s just intrinsically false. That’s not what happens. People do not derive their values from their scriptures — they insert their values into their scriptures.

Does this apply to good deeds as well? When religious people say they gave to charity or did some other noble act because they were moved by the holy spirit or their scripture, can we ignore it and tell them it had nothing to do with their belief in God?

I’m pretty sure many would take offense to such a proclamation.

Why do we seem intent on ignoring what people tell us. If I say I was once a Christian (which is true) a segment of the population will insist that I wasn’t. If a suicide bomber says they were intent on killing people to attain heaven, why do some of us say he’s lying or simply dismiss his claims? If a Christian (or other religious person) asks me where I get my moral framework, are they saying this because they don’t believe they get theirs from God and their particular brand of scripture?

As The Friendly Atheist Said in his post:

As Linker writes, atheists take religion seriously. We listen to what devout believers say. We see what’s written in the holy books. We don’t sugar coat it to make it more acceptable.

Aslan is willing to ignore all of that because, in his view, religions are all the same and what’s written in the holy books is irrelevant. That’s a dangerous way to think when some religions — and some believers who take the Words of God literally — pose real threats to society.

It’s the same defense I hear over and over from both atheists and religious people – what the books say isn’t important. It’s what people do. There is no bad religion, only bad people, which I consider to be a weak argument and incorrect view. If religion can be credited for the good things it teaches, it can also be criticized for the bad things. You can’t have it both ways.

The defense that beliefs don’t matter because there are good Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews (insert religious or political affiliation here) is flat out false. Imagine if we used this defense when considering other types of ideologies or belief structures.

  • Nazism isn’t bad, there are only bad Nazi’s. Many Nazi’s are moderate and don’t believe Jews and other groups should be gassed to death. Look at all the good Nazi’s have inspired in their fellow people.
  • There are good communists and bad communists.
  • There are good dictators and bad dictators.
  • There are bad cults and benevolent cults.
IMG_20141023_112905251

This commercial break has been brought to you by the fiery depths of doggy hell.

Hell, many of the arguments put forth by theists against atheism use the idea that because we don’t believe in a higher power or use their archaic set of moral codes, we have no basis for morality. If they don’t believe that beliefs matter and have an effect on behavior, they wouldn’t be using that argument.

In any group there are good people and bad people. That doesn’t mean that the ideology they’re part of is true and not harmful. It doesn’t mean the ideas they have adopted are good ideas. Of course some of what religion teaches is good, and that’s great, but we can use those parts (most of which can be found outside religion anyways) and honestly point out the harmful things these dogmas say about reality and how we should treat one another. Anyone who has sat down and honestly read the bible, Torah or Qur’an (or most other religious texts) can see the harmful nonsense mixed in with the good bits. You can easily cherry-pick good verses to line up with societal norms, but those bad bits are still there and the person who uses those bits to justify hating homosexuals (for example) are equally as correct as the person who condemns such behavior based on their holy book of choice.

If beliefs didn’t influence behavior, then we might as well stop trying to teach kids morals. Parents who are religious might as well never read the bible to their children or talk about ‘Christian morals’ or a good ‘Christian upbringing’. Humanists might as well give it up – what they’re passing on doesn’t matter.

I remember when I was a much, much younger Christian. I had all types of (what I now consider to be ignorant) beliefs that influenced my behavior.

For example, I was taught that AIDS was a punishment meted out by God because of homosexuality. My behavior  reflected that. I didn’t like homosexuality. I thought homosexuals were immoral and going against the will of God. I could easily find passages in the bible to back up my view, even if I ignored the bits about stoning them because I believed God would handle it once they were dead. My hands were clean. If I told a homosexual they were an abomination, I was actually doing them a favor.

My beliefs influenced my behavior and those beliefs were reinforced through the church community I was a part of. Only later, after I’d been exposed to other ideas, did I see how wrong I had been. Those new beliefs replaced the old ones, and now my behavior reflects my belief that homosexuals are people and deserve the same rights, opportunities and protectuion under the law as heterosexuals.

When I believed that homosexuality was against Gods will, was I a bad person?

I don’t think so. I did many things that were what I consider to be good deeds, but the fact remains that my initial beliefs certainly affected how I behaved.

If you want to argue that religion is beneficial, that’s fine. We can have that discussion.

But arguing that it has no influence whatsoever is nonsense of the highest order. Not even religious people act like that’s true.

If you’re religious, do you think religion influences the way you act?

If you’re an atheist, do you think religion influences behavior in any way?

As always, thanks for reading. I’m sorry for the longer than usual post.

The Silent Treatment Blows Chunks

SilenceIt does!

It drives me absolutely nuts (probably why people have done it to me) when someone decides that the best way to solve a problem is to not talk about it. When has this ever worked?

Look, I get it if someone needs a half hour or even a few hours to calm down during a heated argument. That’s fine. There is nothing wrong with calling time-out until rational discussion is again possible. Very little if anything is solved by shouting names, throwing things, and losing your cool in general, but deciding to go days on end not talking to someone just adds fuel to the fire. I’m not sure why anyone would think it could solve anything.

If you’re one of those people who use this ‘technique’, you might be shaking your head in denial. You might be thinking I’m completely wrong and it’s a legitimate form of arguing, but sorry to burst your bubble – the research backs me up.

For example:

Although researchers say the cold shoulder is the most common way people deal with marital conflict, an analysis of 74 studies, based on more than 14,000 participants, shows that when one partner withdraws in silence or shuts down emotionally because of perceived demands by the other, the harm is both emotional and physical.

“The more this pattern emerges within your relationship, the greater the chances one or both partners experience heightened levels of anxiety or may use more aggressive forms of behavior,” says Paul Schrodt, a professor of communication studies at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, who led the study published this spring in the journalCommunication Monographs.

Of course they’re going to use more aggressive forms of behavior or experience higher anxiety. Who wants to fight for days? It’s emotionally and physically draining. The person administering the silent treatment is sending the message (although they might not be meaning to) that the other person isn’t worth their time or energy. The person on the receiving end is getting more frustrated as time goes by.

Why not just sit down like rational adults and talk about it?

 

How Have You Evolved As A Person?

Today I found myself thinking about the person I used to be and how I’ve evolved (for better or for worse) over the course of my life.

Here’s a quick overview of what I mean.

Childhood

As a child, I was very emotional. I cried easily, and I was extremely sensitive. I was also naive to the point of being embarrassing.

For example, I once left my brand new bike at the end of the driveway. I didn’t lock it. I just put it on its kick stand and walked away.

When I returned, it was gone. I had no idea what had happened to it. I frantically searched the premises, thinking I’d misplaced an entire mountain bike.

When I couldn’t find it, I went running to my parents who explained to me that it had probably been stolen. I was about 12 years old at the time, and I’d never had anything stolen before. I couldn’t understand why someone would take something that didn’t belong to them.

Didn’t they know that it didn’t belong to them?

Didn’t they take into account that I’d worked hard to earn the money for that bike?

How could they do such a thing? What gave them the right!?

My mom still brings up this incident and laughs. It’s a prime example of my extreme naivety.

Teens

Things began to change when I reached my teens. In grade eight, I’d come to the realization that something had to change or high school would be utter hell.

Over the summer, I worked on my image. I bought black clothing, listened to different music and adopted a darker outlook. I became obsessed with death and life’s more macabre side. In some ways, I still retain pieces of this worldview, since I absolutely love horror movies and enjoy darker subjects.

When I returned to school, I had become someone else. I became eager to fight and after a few fist fights, the bullies that usually plagued me decided to feast on easier game. I became known as someone people didn’t want to mess with. Some even thought I worshiped the devil – although I didn’t. I actively cultivated the image that I was a bit unstable, and it had the intended effect; people left me alone.

Young Adulthood

As a young adult, my first child was born and she changed everything. I could no longer party or do whatever I wanted.

My roommate died after being thrown through the windshield of a car. It made me realize that life was short and you never knew when your ticket would be punched. His death affected me in ways I didn’t fully appreciate at the time. While my teenage self courted and admired death, my new self came face to face with it and realized I wasn’t immune to it after all.

I was no longer naive. That part of me had been burned away by life experiences. I still retained an appreciation for the darker bits of life, but I no longer actively admired it.

Adult

In some ways, I miss the child that used to be. I wish I could retake that sense of innocence and freedom.

I’ve grown as a person. I’ve read more, studied more and experienced more than I had in the past. I retain a sense of humor, but sometimes I wonder if I’ve lost something in the translation. Each evolutionary change has helped shape the person I am today.

I’ve been hurt badly in the past. I’ve experienced unbelievable joy and love. I’ve realized that I survive and can overcome obstacles I thought would be insurmountable at the time. I no longer cry or become emotional at the drop of a hat. In fact, I hardly ever cry and I loathe showing others that something has hurt me.

I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but regardless, it’s who I am right now. As time passes, my evolution will continue.

How have you changed, grown etc during the course of your life?

If your answer is too long for the comment section, I hope you’ll write your own blog piece and link it here. I’d love to read them.

Breaking News: When You Lie To People, They May Get Irritated

Lie_to_Me_black_and_white_by_Shade_KThe dating website, Tinder, recently conducted a ‘social experiment’ where a man and a woman posted dating profiles using photos that showed them to be slim. They then put on ‘fat suits’ before meeting the people who answered the ad, and at least one writer was offended when the people answering the ad were annoyed when they found out they were being lied too.

Of course, the social experiment was immediately used to call men sexist, while the women who answered the ad were let off the hook. You can view the original videos at the bottom of this post and judge for yourself.

Anyways, the writer in question had this to say in the Huffington Post:

A man doesn’t have to be attracted to a woman to respect her, yet that’s exactly what unfolds in the video. Just because a woman is fat doesn’t mean she isn’t sexy — and encountering a fat woman rather than a thin one does not relieve anyone from practicing human decency.

Simple Pickup conducted the same exact experiment with the roles reversed, using a male participant and female Tinder matches, and the results were shockingly different.

When the Tinder matches met the man who was made up to appear heavier in person, they were not nearly as blunt as their male counterparts. Although each one acknowledged he looked different from his photos, most were nice. Three were willing to continue the date or go out with him again, and one gave him a kiss.

First off, I watched both videos and neither the women or the men who answered the ads and were lied to seemed impressed.

Second, how many reactions were edited out or taken out of context?

Third, ‘Tinder has been criticised extensively for its “appearance based match-making process”, which many have labelled shallow, superficial and vain.’

If the criticism is to be believed, then is it any wonder when the people who use the site are sometimes superficial and vain?

Fourth, when you lie to people, they will likely be irritated. I’m not sure why people are surprised by that fact, or why some people immediately point to the men and cry ‘sexism!’ while ignoring or glossing over the similar reactions of the females who were also lied to.

In fact, isn’t that a form of…sexism?

Neither sex has to be happy about being lied to.

I’m also not sure what planet these people are from. I know you don’t have to be slim to be ‘sexy’. I know bigger guys and gals aren’t always viewed as being sexy.

However, some people find bigger people to be very sexy – sexier than slim people. There’s nothing wrong with that, and no one has the right to tell other people what they should or should not find attractive in a potential partner. I for one would find lying to be an unattractive trait, no matter the weight of the person in question.

Sure, I wish everyone just admired personalities and smarts, but that’s not freaking reality. There is usually a visual appearance component to a relationship.

I also love how the writer says, ‘encountering a fat woman rather than a thin one does not relieve anyone from practicing human decency’.

Is it considered ‘humanly decent’ to lie to people and then blame them for not enjoying the experience of being lied to?

Look, there is real sexism out there and it needs to be confronted and beaten. This isn’t one of them, and it’s cases like this one that make it harder for legitimate sexism to be exposed. We need to stop looking for erroneous reasons to cry sexism and expose real, legitimate cases to the light of day.

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