My Fifteen Minutes of Atheism

I guess you’d call it the perfect storm.

I had just read Love Wins. I wasn’t sure I believed it, so I did a lot of research. Like a lot of research. I spent a ton of time on Tentmaker.org. I had at least ten other bookmarks about Christian Universalism. I read “Justice” by George MacDonald, and he blew my mind.

I was taking a class called Philosophy of Religion, and my (Christian) professor wasn’t remotely similar to the joke of a philosophy professor from God’s Not Dead. He challenged us. We read arguments against God’s existence. Very good arguments.

I took Bible classes and somehow ended up with the notion that the Genesis account was orienting narrative, not history and science, and not intended to be read as such. I decided that evolution was okay.

I took a course on sociology. I learned about other cultures.

I discovered a post by Derek Flood in which he argued that Penal Substitution – the idea that Jesus died to satisfy God’s wrath against humankind – was a horrible way to read the Bible.

Christianity was slowly become a religion that I believed (religion/relationship, whatever) because it was beautiful, not because I didn’t have any other options. But I still believed in inerrancy.

Like I said, it was the perfect storm.

~ ~ ~

One night I was in the computer lab at school working on some video project or another while chatting with a well-intentioned person who was trying to reel me back into orthodoxy on penal substitution. The usual questions, the usual arguments. I had all the answers. And then she said this, in the middle of a huge discussion. It lit up like a light in a kitchen full of cockroaches.

It is obvious that in the Old Testament, God did at different times punish whole nations for the sin of a few. Even children. [Emphasis mine.]

I was stunned.

She was right and I knew it. I spent an hour every night of my childhood listening to my dad read the Bible. God most definitely commanded Israel to kill everyone, even children.

God commanded genocide. The Bible was very clear on that.

My brain went into a tailspin.

I had options. I’d jettisoned 24-hour day creationism. I’d read David Hume’s argument against miracles. Philosophy had given me plenty of good reasons to think God didn’t exist. I didn’t “need” Christianity to explain the world. Sociology could even explain religion. People might behave the way they do even without a God.

I’d learned the Thomas Theorem*. C.S. Lewis’s Lord, Liar, or Lunatic trilemma was patently ridiculous. There was an easy solution: the gospel writers made everything up. Maybe Jesus was just a good teacher.

I could explain away everything about Christianity.

And my debate partner had just handed me a damn good reason to throw the whole thing away and be done with it. Christianity wasn’t beautiful. It was horrible and ugly. And if any part of the Bible was wrong, then it all was, or so I’d been taught. (Apart from the way of reading Genesis 1 & 2, of course, which wasn’t wrong, just being misread).

15 Minutes Without God

At that moment, I rewound my life to the beginning and played it the way I would have if I didn’t believe in God. I rethought and rethought. I wondered what I would do if I knew for a fact that God didn’t exist. I opened Spotify and played  a couple Katy Perry songs and imagined my life as an extravagantly intense sinner. I was raised pretty conservative, and I didn’t have a super-intense rebellion, so there wasn’t a lot of fuel for that imagining. I think it was something about maybe I would just go out and have a bunch of one-night stands or something. Maybe I wouldn’t be worried about marrying a Christian, so maybe I wouldn’t have to worry about all the purity codes and everything. It’s okay, you can laugh.

But then I thought, “What if there’s nothing wrong with normal Christianity? What if it’s good?” I barely bought it, but I went out into the night and phoned a couple of friends to try to get them to talk me down. They didn’t. They tried to help me understand how genocide could be consistent with God’s love for everyone.

The first rule in philosophy is the rule of non-contradiction.

The first rule of discussing Christianity with someone who’s taking philosophy is to not tell them to believe something that is at least on the face of it, self-contradictory. For me, it was like saying that Hitler was my grandfather, and that he was a nice sweet wonderful person. All of which may have been true, except for the grandfather part, but that wouldn’t make his evil deeds less evil. And God was worse than Hitler, because God tormented people forever.

I came back into the computer lab, fairly shaken. The case for Christianity was looking worse and worse. The water I swam in, the air that I breathed, the world that I lived in, was coming crashing down around me.

God wasn’t real. Everything was up for grabs.

~ ~ ~

On a whim, I googled “God and genocide.” I found this article by Greg Boyd:

Before we attempt to explain this, I think it’s important to ask: What is at stake in resolving this issue? In fact, in my opinion, answering this question is even more important than resolving the issue itself.

A pinprick of light. Then this, further down:

If your faith in Christ is rooted in your faith in every passage of the Bible being infallible, this worst case scenario would obviously completely destroy your faith. But if your faith in the Bible is rather rooted in your faith in Christ, the worst case scenario would hardly be catastrophic. It would present us with theological problems, obviously. We’d have to modify our understanding of God’s involvement in providing the oral and written meta-narrative that interprets the coming of Christ. We’d perhaps need to rethink what we mean by claiming the Bible is “infallible,” and this might raise certain hermeneutical issues as well. And we’d certainly have to rethink our Christology. How could Jesus, the Son of God, have trusted that the whole Old Testament was God’s infallible Word if (as we are imagining in this worst case scenario) a major motif that it contains is simply wrong?

I could barely understand it then, but those words were the beginnings of my salvation.

I read Peter Enns. I listened to a sermon series by Adam Hamilton about how to read the Bible. I fell in love with Greg Boyd and his way of explaining how to read the Bible (with the cross in the middle). And I still doubted like crazy. I also made a documentary about what it is like to be gay and Christian. It wasn’t pretty.

I spent the next summer working at the Christian camp I’d loved for the previous three summers and only halfway believing anything. Chick-fil-A-gate happened and I really didn’t want to be a Christian anymore.

Then I read a piece by Morgan Guyton and listened to a sermon by Jonathan Martin. I came back to the cabin and told my friend Joel that for the first time in a long time, I wanted to be a Christian.

I listened to a podcast where Jay Bakker said he only believed in God about 50% of the time. And he’s a pastor. I thought, maybe I can do this Christianity thing after all.

In a Church of Christ we visited a few months ago they gave a welcoming shout-out to people who didn’t believe in God anymore and said that they understood. I was so happy.

~ ~ ~

I still live on the raggedy edge. Some days are better than others for my faith. Some days I think that God has to be real for there to be so much beauty, and some days I think God’s not there at all but I recite “I believe in God the Father the Almighty” just the same, affirming what I can barely believe because maybe my saying the words will help to make them true.

I interviewed for a youth leadership position at our church a couple weeks ago and I told the pastor that I affirmed the creeds and sometimes believed them. He said he thought that was a great way of putting it. It was very liberating.

Sometimes I’m tempted to just give up on the whole thing, but it doesn’t happen as often anymore. My progressive brethren are spreading the Kingdom of God like wildfire, going into the streets and extending Jesus’ ridiculous welcome to anyone who’ll show up, and when they arrive, treating them like honored guests – gay, lesbian, liars, and doubters alike. They preach Christ crucified for his radical welcome, not to pacify wrath. And I think that’s a damn good thing.

And me? I argue for the goodness of God. I argue that God is good, maybe because I so badly want to believe it. I argue that God loves everybody, no matter what, and that God means that nobody gets left behind. Or forgotten.

Why am I still here? I’m still here because it’s beautiful. I’m still here because I think that love can still save the day. I’m still here because I believe that Christianity is about self-sacrificing love, and because I believe that self-sacrificing love is the only thing that will save the world, and because one day, I hope to live like I believe that.

The peace of the Lord be with you.

~ ~ ~

*The Thomas theorem: “Situations that are perceived as real are real in their consequences.” If everyone around us thinks green paper is worth as much as a loaf of bread, then it is. If not for that sociological construct, trading a piece of green paper for a loaf of bread is utterly ridiculous.

David M Schell About David M Schell
David M. Schell is a doubter, a believer, and a skeptic. He writes about God and stuff. He is happily married to Kristen, and that's why his posts don't come out as often or as angry.

    • Well, that was supposed to show Christ of Saint John of the Cross. FYI.

      ——

      The Church is beautiful. Sin is ugly. There is a dichotomy here.

      Sin, and justice, and the free cooperation of sinners with God, means that Hell is a logically necessary possibility. Add to this the observation the Jesus talks a lot about people being there, and we’re left with the conclusion that there are probably people there. They are there because, when given the chance, they decided to kill themselves rather than be with God. That is what grave sin is — it is spiritual suicide. If you die in a state of spiritual suicide, you die forever.

      Your state at death, you see, decides your fate after death. If you die with sanctifying grace, you die in a state of being with God, and so you are sent to be with God in an even greater way past all imagining. If you die in a state of not being with God — without that state of sanctifying grace — you lack the ability to be with God at all. As you die, so you will be forever. Why else would be be told to keep perpetual watch? How many parts of the Gospels reward diligence? How many emphasize the seriousness of never letting your guard down? How many emphasize dependence on God for us to be able to do this? Predestination is God’s knowledge regarding who will and who will not end up in a state of grace at the end of their lives. (There is open opinion on how that precisely works, and that has not yet been settled.)

      We are vessels originally made to contain the grace of God. Adam and Eve’s original grace would have spread from father to son, from mother to daughter, throughout the generations. Because they had free will, they were able to deprive themselves of this grace. They worshiped the creature rather than the creator. How different is that from the crucifixion? If anything, it is not so bad — God came down, and what did we do but kill him? God gave us original grace and what did Adam and Eve do but spill it out with full knowledge and consent? Without that grace, mankind was broken.

      As should be by now clear, sin is a rejection of God despite being given a fair and just chance. Certain kinds of grace necessary for salvation involve cooperation. Grace which does not involve cooperation is the kind of grace which enables us to cooperate. Justification does not force us to cooperate. It allows us to cooperate. Salvation means we have done so, we have run the race, having kept our eyes on the goal. More here.

      Contra Luther, we are not so depraved that we are not brought back to life. God can do this. We can be restored by His grace such that we can break ourselves again, and we can again be reconciled to him in Confession. It has and always has been God’s will that we cooperate with him. It has often been man’s will — because of man’s free will — that we do not. It has always been God’s will that when we love him we do it from our free choice. Even when restored into grace, our free choice chooses wrong. More accurately, we choose wrong. We have control over it.

      We are given strength to avoid sin, through sacraments and sacramentals. Baptism gives us justification, and confirmation deepens those graces. Good confessions restore us into a state of grace and forgives all sins. Most importantly, the Eucharist gives us nothing less and nothing other than Christ, and is presented in a particular way in His sacrifice.

      Some sin kills. Some sin does not. But sin which does not kill still weakens, allowing us to succumb more easily to the sins which kill. For example, I have not been saying my prayers, due to God as a matter of justice before God and out of love for Him. As a result — well, it’s time for Confession. Therefore, all sin must be avoided. Not even a single sin ought to be tolerated. Not a single kind of mingling between sin and righteousness can be tolerated in righteousness.

      Illustrating this, not a single child can be tolerated in the Amalekites, who were given many years to change their ways, and fair warning. They might have had the fate of Babylon if they had repented like Babylon. (Moreover, in such punishments God can look after any of those who really were innocent, and what God gives He can take, up to and including the earthly lives of the Amalekites. That’s how radically important purity is. Not a single sign of impurity can live. Not a single child. Keep in mind, too, that earthly death does not mean Hell. Also, because God knows exactly the fate of those who leave earthly life, it is not like when we kill someone. Because God is not our equal, it is not murder. This is not to downplay the mass killings. This is only to touch on it. More here.)

      ——

      Sin is not what is beautiful. Salvation is. It is the Christ of Saint John of the Cross. Christ has already taken all sins upon himself for the love of us. Do not let the sacrifice for you be in vain. God gives you the chance to make good on His grace. Make good on His grace. Make good with His grace.

      Beauty is experienced more than understood. It is truth and goodness, but made like incense. It soaks in. It pierces, it moves. It rises to Heaven, as we should. We know it when it’s there, but we are always caught off-guard when it moves in for the attack. It is the chief weapon of the current evangelization, because men deny truth, and men hate goodness, but men are always awakened by beauty, if only for a moment.

      Before the coming of Christ and the saints, what is more beautiful than creation? They if nothing else testify to God in an incomplete way, and so not even the savagest savage could ignore at least that. It is explicit in the incarnation, it is manifest by evangelization.

      Saints are what is beautiful. It is the joy of the religious sister, overflowing with the Spirit, piercing the cynicism of all who see her. It is the deep tones of Caravaggio and the bright light of the Christ child. It is the garish tragedy of the Passion brought to impossible, incredible joy on Easter Morning. Christ is alive, and so are His saints.

      Chesterton paraphrased: Dead things go with the stream, and only a living thing can move against it. Gloss: Saints have this life, and not just in moments. Tirelessly performing the work of God, eternal devotion maintained by cooperation with His grace, and powered by His grace.

      Chesterton again paraphrased: How tedious are all the tyrants; how glorious and different are all the saints. Gloss, quoting Christ: Lose yourself to find yourself.

      Stop sinning. Start loving God. Why do you sin? Sin is boring. Sin is evil. Sin is stupid. Sin makes you stupid. Love God. Be a creature of complete devotion. Seek His will in all things. God loves us enough that we might. We are not alone.

      The Body of Christ is our company. She is what is beautiful. In communion with God, and in communion with His visible Church, in communion with the Saints in heaven and earth and purgatory, we praise him in a single voice. God gave us fellow believers to help us believe. We are not alone with God and a Bible. We have a living community, and so did everyone before us right up to Christ.

      ——

      In summary, to demonstrate by image, watch Suor Cristina. It’s like the parable of the seeds. Three of the four critics have basically unmoved reactions. It’s almost like the Parable of the Seeds — one is polite and respectful, another finds the whole thing funny, and she and another makes showy, self-loving gestures. These three seem impressed by her energy, even if it doesn’t lead to anything now.

      The fourth is moved to tears, though. He calls himself the devil, and you know He means it as a self accusation. YouTube’s translation says: “If I had met you during Mass when I was a child, now I would be the Pope. I would surely have attended all of the functions …”

      She says, with her joy: “Well, you have met me now.”

      Note: It isn’t really her singing that turns them around but the reactions of the crowd. It isn’t talent so much as joy which is such a joy to witness.

      How many will end up in Heaven? We don’t know. There are a lot of people who love themselves more than they love God, who smile for cameras and show no signs of having been moved, those who — still — worship the creature rather than the creator even when given a chance. Look at how unmoved some of those other judges seem to be. It would be presumption to suppose that self-aggrandizing persons if dying in such a state would go to God, and presumption to believe these persons show any signs of anything better. Going to God without the love of God is greater than any torture would be. God knows this, and knows both Hell and sin kill us eternally eventually. God loves us and does not want that. But He has chosen to try to convince us.

      Is God really not trying? Watch His saints, hear their constant pleas. They never stop speaking in complete piety. I don’t know if Suor Cristina is a saint any more than I know if Pope Francis is one, or if either will end up in heaven. Still, they so far speak in consonance with the whole Church in its long history. Certainly, God uses these moments in the lives of the baptized to reach everyone the baptized see.

      What does He give those who are not baptized? We don’t know. We only know that we shouldn’t take God’s mercy for granted. Universalism does this, as if God were an immobile person, or as if we always did what God decided we should do. Universalism denies either the personalism of the persons or the personalism of God, treating either as a puppet ruled by forces. Persons can always reject God, and God respects their wishes. It is not without a heavy heart. How could it be? God is love.

      It is good that the saints so tirelessly work. It is beautiful that they so tirelessly work. It is sad should they not succeed. There is no blaming God for it, however. He does not turn our brains to butter because He respects our persons. Even in that restraint, God is doing so incredibly more than we can imagine. And yet He does more! His Son died on the Cross — and still He pursues us through the Church? Still the saints by God’s grace build up the Body of Christ?

      It is not God’s blame if any go to Hell. Do you see how much God does to make His case? Do you see the work He does? How is that not more than sin deserves? How does that not fulfill and more than fulfill the demands of love?

      • Comments that long are why God gave people their own blogs lol. I’ll work on getting back to you on that comment later today, if I can find the time. Today’s pretty intense.

        • I understand! There’s a lot of ground to cover, and it’s important to touch on what redemption really means, and salvation, and what actually happens in the operations of grace, and the relation between grace and nature.

          There’s so much backwards and upside down that, when set correctly, give even the judgment of God against unrepentant sinners a tragic beauty. God constantly reaches.

          I just read an opinion piece by Amanda Marcotte wherein she says she doesn’t want a baby because she would be inconvenienced by having a baby. They’re “time-sucking monsters.” She recognizes that it sounds selfish and hedonistic. She doesn’t care. She wants what she wants when she wants it, and no person may intrude.

          She may still repent, so my bringing her case up is not an argument against her. It is only to illustrate what unrepentence looks like, what selfishness looks like. It is evidence that it does seem to exist in some people at some points in their lives. It is not unlikely that sometimes some people die in this state, fixed forever inwardly to themselves. It is bitterless, joylessness, graceless and full of self-pitying, self-righteous hate.

          Again, in her particular case, she may not really mean what she says, but there are certainly people who do mean that and who do live that. Considering the relationship between God and man, and all that God does, and so far that God reaches for us, that sort of unrepentence is not a good sign. If genuinely directed at God finally and forever at the moment of our deaths — well, God would be blameless for judging such a hypothetical case to perdition. It is only a matter of justice.

          Maybe the difficulty is in the mystery of why we are fixed forever and finally in the state of what we are when we die. This could be explored more, but I don’t want to bloat further your reading assignment.

      • Sin, and justice, and the free cooperation of sinners with God, means that Hell is a logically necessary possibility. Add to this the observation the Jesus talks a lot about people being there, and we’re left with the conclusion that there are probably people there.

        That really depends on whether you assume that every time Jesus talks about something that gets translated “eternal punishment” that he means “hell.” (I assume) you know as well as I do that the word “hell” isn’t in the original Greek or Hebrew, nor is there a word in the Bible that describes a place where people are tormented forever. The word “hell” got invented long after the canon was closed.

        They are there because, when given the chance, they decided to kill themselves rather than be with God.

        As should be by now clear, sin is a rejection of God despite being given a fair and just chance.

        Agree to disagree. Read my latest post, “Huey,” to see what I mean. Also, I wrote it long before you started commenting on my blog, so the fact that Rusty happens to be Catholic isn’t about you.

        Contra Luther, we are not so depraved that we are not brought back to life.

        That doesn’t sound like something Luther would disagree with. What do you mean by it?

        For example, I have not been saying my prayers, due to God as a matter of justice before God and out of love for Him. As a result — well, it’s time for Confession.

        Not saying your prayers is a sin if you’re Catholic? Gosh. That sort of thing is why I left fundamentalism.

        Illustrating this, not a single child can be tolerated in the Amalekites, who were given many years to change their ways, and fair warning. They might have had the fate of Babylon if they had repented like Babylon. (Moreover, in such punishments God can look after any of those who really were innocent, and what God gives He can take, up to and including the earthly lives of the Amalekites. That’s how radically important purity is. Not a single sign of impurity can live. Not a single child.

        That is exactly the sort of argument that stretched my faith to the breaking point. Now, however, this silliness (no offense) that sin cannot be in the presence of God is rendered obviously false by the presence of God (Christ) among sinners.

        Saints are what is beautiful.

        Do you read Peter Kreeft, or is that standard Catholic teaching? I listened to a talk by Kreeft a few times and he talked a lot about the beauty of the saints.

        It is not God’s blame if any go to Hell. Do you see how much God does to make His case? Do you see the work He does? How is that not more than sin deserves? How does that not fulfill and more than fulfill the demands of love?

        If God is omnipotent, then God could prevent it, and if God could prevent it, then it is, at least in some way, God’s fault.

        I don’t believe that this is how it works, so obviously I don’t believe that it is God’s fault that people go to hell, if they go to hell at all, which I doubt.

        Gosh I hope those blockquote tags work.

        • I just read an opinion piece by Amanda Marcotte wherein she says she doesn’t want a baby because she would be inconvenienced by having a baby. They’re “time-sucking monsters.” She recognizes that it sounds selfish and hedonistic. She doesn’t care. She wants what she wants when she wants it, and no person may intrude.

          She may still repent…

          I’m so lost on this one… not wanting a baby is a sin if you’re Catholic? Or is it the selfish and hedonistic motives that are sinful?

          And with that in mind, is not the accepting of faith for the purpose of avoiding hell and gaining heaven also selfish and hedonistic, beneath all the surface layers? Is not everything that we do selfish in some way? I thought I wrote about this somewhere but I can’t find it. In the absence of that post, I give you John Piper, with whom I regularly disagree, on Christian hedonism:

          My shortest summary of Christian Hedonism is: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

          We all make a god out of what we take the most pleasure in. Christian Hedonists want to make God their God by seeking after the greatest pleasure—pleasure in him.

          By Christian Hedonism, we do not mean that our happiness is the highest good. We mean that pursuing the highest good will always result in our greatest happiness in the end.

          Potayto, potahto. Even if “the point” is still God’s greatness, why do it if it’ll make you miserable in the end? Who would? Only a few crazy people. We’re all hedonists, I think, even those of us who worship God.

        • For some reason, I’m not seeing the original epic comment of mine in the comboxes. Hrm. Well, here goes:

          That doesn’t sound like something Luther would disagree with. What do you mean by it?

          We are dung heaps covered with snow, goes Luther’s theology. Against this, we are actually changed from something impure to something clean by the grace of God. Justification does not mean that we wear Jesus like an invisibility cloak in heaven. It means that we are made clean again with God.

          Not saying your prayers is a sin if you’re Catholic? Gosh. That sort of thing is why I left fundamentalism.

          I was trying to suggest, without making it explicit, that because I have not said my prayers, I have weakened my state of grace such that I did in fact do something requiring sacramental absolution.

          That is exactly the sort of argument that stretched my faith to the breaking point. Now, however, this silliness (no offense) that sin cannot be in the presence of God is rendered obviously false by the presence of God (Christ) among sinners.

          There’s a difference between the incarnation and the beatific vision. Sinners in heaven are more like a man reaching to steady the Ark of the covenant and being struck dead than like a woman with an issue of blood reaching to Christ’s garment for healing.

          Keep in mind that physical death is not necessarily a sign of spiritual death. For all we know, the ban against the Amalekites is the only thing that turned some of their eyes to God. With the grace of God, pain can sanctify, and physical death is nothing more than a kind of pain compared to the eternal death of Hell.

          Do you read Peter Kreeft, or is that standard Catholic teaching? I listened to a talk by Kreeft a few times and he talked a lot about the beauty of the saints.

          Kreeft was one of my gateways back to the Church a few years back. I’ve lost my taste for his glibness and cleverness, but I’ll be in his debt for getting me as far as he did.

          I do believe it is standard Catholic teaching, though. It’s at least implicit in the cult of the saints.

          If God is omnipotent, then God could prevent it …

          So that we might love him God eternally chose free will for us. By design, God does not force us. If God did force us to accept him, then spiritually that would be rape.

          … and if God could prevent it, then it is, at least in some way, God’s fault.

          Suppose that you stubbing your toe keeps you from becoming an axe murderer. If I can intervene and prevent the stubbed toe, must I? Am I at fault for the stubbed toe if I let it happen?

          God is not at fault because the moral fault is in the one who desires a thing to happen. If God desired that you kicked your foot against the fridge, if God enjoyed the idea and looked forward to it, then God would bear fault. It is not what enters a man but what leaves him which makes him impure.

          I don’t believe that this is how it works, so obviously I don’t believe that it is God’s fault that people go to hell, if they go to hell at all, which I doubt.

          What is Hell? Ah, but that’s a forthcoming post.

    • Even shorter:

      … self-sacrificing love is the only thing that will save the world, and because one day, I hope to live like I believe that.

      Saints do. Come join them. Saints adore the Blessed Sacrament. They promote the Rosary. Saints live in self-sacrificial love, in imitation of Christ, and they want you to have that more than you do. God wants you to have it more than they do.

      Love wins only if you let it, if you then work with it. Let it. Then, work with it.

  • My gosh it’s like we’re the same person. Relate to almost every single word of this, even the chronology of it….wow

  • David, you have been on quite a journey; I have had a similar journey. Wishing you a continued good journey! ~Tim

  • This is such a lovely post, David. I totally understand what you went through – and are still going through. I remember reading the story of Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16 and tossing my Bible away like it had caught on fire, then promptly dissolving into tears. It’s been a confusing road since, but I think I’m finding my way back to Jesus.

    So thanks, so much, for sharing your experiences.

  • Also, I’m curious – what is the name of the Adam Hamilton sermon series on how to read the Bible? My interest is piqued!

  • Gandolf

    In my opinion.Religion is the root of our problem. Not God

    I’m an agnostic atheist.So of course i don’t believe God exists.It’s crazy to feel hate for something that one doesn’t even believe exists.Really the anger most non believers do feel, is due to some pretty harmful aspects of religion.

    In my opinion, belief in God,may have first evolved,due to minds of ancient people that were trying very hard to find ways how to understand natural phenomena.For instance, wanting to figure out what may have caused tsunami or earthquake or lightening.And why it might have destroyed “some” people,while also not destroying some other people.

    And that is quite understandable.They are not to blame for that

    But what about when the belief then turned into something very religious.

    Peoples belief in God, has often been that people who don’t believe in god,will end up in hell

    Yet more than likely there has always some people who noticed how both good people and bad people were being destroyed.And that blood rituals, where people were sacrificed to God. Didn’t show positive outcomes, in a scientific manner, in regard to favoring people who participated in sacrifice

    Therefore “some” atheists have always existed.

    There is a number of theories for belief in God.One is that absolutely anyone who doesn’t believe in God ,will end up in hell. Which would seem to mean that even people that never even thought or heard about God at all, would also need to be hell bound

    Some people say,no the people who were ignorant of God,wont need to be hell bound.

    But then there is the ethical dilemma.Might it have been better,that people who felt they knew God existed .Had just keep their thoughts to themselves.Thus sacrificing their own lives,knowing how doing that, would also serve to help save the lives of so many more other people

    Then there are those who believe that God just forgives everyone.And nobody is headed for hell.

    Yet what we are still left with, is all the long standing, ongoing pain,suffering and harm, even death, caused by peoples belief’s in God/s

    Its always an interesting subject.Whether we are believers or non believer.It still affects most of us.And thus we all have some reason to be concerned about it.

    What gives me most hope.Is hearing about the people you described in this sentence -> “In a Church of Christ we visited a few months ago they gave a welcoming shout-out to people who didn’t believe in God anymore and said that they understood. I was so happy.”

    “More often” than not,humans will tend to react to this attitude , in a far more positive manner.Because it helps them to adopt the social psychology of reciprocity

    Seems it happens kind of naturally.And even some ancient human minds, that were kind of working in a scientific manner.Would have also noticed this phenomena.Therefore its also little wonder how someone had thought of the golden rule

    • Hi! Thanks for the comment 🙂

      I agree with you on how religion came into being. It makes a lot of sense to me that gods were invented to explain natural phenomenon that prescientific people didn’t understand.

      I’ve seen Dawkins’ argument that religion causes all manner of evils, but I’m not sure that I’m inclined to agree. In some ways I see religion as a neutral-but-possible-good. It really just depends on who’s holding it. A guy like Ghandi or Jesus holding religion? That could make people care. A guy like Hitler or, God forbid, George W. Bush? That could lead to all sorts of evil.

      I think the “point” of religion, if there is one, is to teach people to be kind to each other. The point of an afterlife, originally, was to keep people in line, but folks like Jesus used it to give people who would otherwise be terrified the balls to risk their lives for the sake of love.

      I think Dawkins’ view is a bit one-sided, though he could be forgiven for comparing the weight of the good power of religion in Ghandi against the weight of the evil power of religion in Hitler and the like. But of course then there’s Stalin, who managed to kill significant numbers of people without the crutch of religion.

      But in the end, I don’t know. In my religion, the prophets are those who speak out against all manner of evil and injustice in the name of God (ambiguity intended).

      Welcome to the blog, Gandolf. We’re excited to have you 🙂 Voices that disagree (and voices that agree) are always welcome.

      P.S. Did you subscribe yet? All sorts of more crazy be comin,’ and I’d love to get your input on that, too 🙂

      • Gandolf

        Im not so used to believers making me feel welcome to join in.In fact its something that feels kind of foreign,for me to hear.It certainly brings a sense of joy to the heart.You can be sure i will be interested to read more of what yourself, and others here who comment on your blog,have to say

        Anyway i agree with you about Dawkins.And Hitler of course too.Stalin, and many more.I would never seek to excuse or just dismiss the way they act and the things they did,or do. But yet i do feel we might? need to consider that their attitudes might also be .”at least partly”,due to being the product of them personally experiencing some religious “extremities” , themselves at some stage in life.

        I think you’ll agree. Its part of human nature.To try look for something or someone to blame.Without thinking to consider the whole picture.At least, i know how i’m guilty of this,sometimes.

        If you see religion as “a neutral-but-possible-good”

        How would that mesh-in with (for interest sake) the ritual act of blood sacrifice. Or maybe even the simple fact that we now have need of so many domination’s,just within the Christian faith alone

        Wouldn’t it perhaps have been better? ,that we didn’t have these divisions within society.Especially in thinking of the hatred that exist between Islam/Christian relationships,that too often ends up in hatred and death.That human earthly lives were not sacrificed, whether it be by blood ritual,bigtry that can help cause wars, or even just shunning happening within family relationships what leads to their separation from each other.

        The thing is.These things also go on later, to continue to affect society at large.For the more people who loose connections with each other.The less they bother to even think to personally care about other people, they will feel they have no close connection with.And thus far more beatings,murders and even things like theft of “others” property,becomes the end result. A situation we are then all being force to bear “part” of the consequences of.

        Evidently even Stalin had had his own experiences with theist “extremities”,when he was young.His friends and himself were bullied and looked down-upon, by theists and theists children,within the school when they were being educated.

        Today we see many, of what some people class as the militant atheists.When one does a study of why these people might hate religion so much.We often find that many of them have also felt like they were oppressed by some form of religious extremes

        If i’m to say i’m opposed to religion.In the same breathe i’m also declaring that i’m also opposed to the personality “cults” too. The ones that Hitler and Stalin and many more have become tangled up within.

        Jesus never built church buildings. In fact we see more written about him getting angry about them. Matthew 12:12-17

        We read that Jesus built his church on Peter.Matthew 16: 18

        Why do humans build their church on church buildings,that then have walls that serve to divide people.

        Wouldn’t it have been better that humans had made their church ,among the people.Just as Jesus did

        Even right there in among, the lowly and downtrodden, the prostitutes and more

        Even if, (to bear the mere thought of it).Was to also need to cause much anger, to some people

        I’m still not sure i can agree.That the “religion part” has really been such a great choice, for humans to make

        • The whole blood sacrifice thing? No clue. Unfortunately I may have narrowed my definition so much as to exclude blood sacrifice as a form. I’m referring mainly to the religions of peace; Buddhism, Islam, and (dare I add) Christianity.

          I didn’t know that about Stalin, but to be completely honest it doesn’t surprise me a bit. People are always looking for outsiders to kick down. Religion has long been one of our excuses. That’s what I mean by religion as neutral. Sort of like a tool; it can be used for good or evil. I brought up Hitler because he claimed Christianity.

          No, seriously. Hitler said he was a Christian. His favorite Bible story was about Jesus driving the money-changers (Jews) out of the temple.

          People building church buildings? No idea. Tradition, I guess? It got ingrained somewhere along the line that Christians meet in buildings. I don’t guess they’ve gotta be huge cathedrals, though I do think that cathedrals look pretty darn awesome. If I could handle the hierarchy I might make a decent Catholic,

          I’ma have to totally agree with you on the whole giving people an excuse to look down on others thing. And much, much worse.

          I’m curious: did you grow up in some kind of Christian faith tradition? You seem to have at least a few Bible verses under your belt.

          And the stuff you brought up about Jesus? Yeah. That’s why I still wear the label (and if you saw my profile page here, I affirm and sometimes believe).

          Looking forward to more 🙂 Peace.

          • The Ubiquitous

            I brought up Hitler because he claimed Christianity.

            No, seriously. Hitler said he was a Christian.

            Hitler claimed what was convenient. It was the one thing he thought would unite north and south behind him, probably. Common people believe it, leaders believe it useful.

            People building church buildings? No idea. Tradition, I guess? It got ingrained somewhere along the line that Christians meet in buildings.

            They used to meet in homes, and then catacombs, and then dedicated Church buildings, and those became more and more elaborate because of their belief that something massively important was going on during the liturgy. That belief transformed Romanesque into Gothic.

            I don’t guess they’ve gotta be huge cathedrals, though I do think that cathedrals look pretty darn awesome. If I could handle the hierarchy I might make a decent Catholic,

            Well, if that’s all there is …

          • Gandolf

            Yes i was born into religious extremes.Of the Christian kind.But to be honest, i learned far more about the bible, since i stopped going to church.When i was in church(one which by many is considered a cult) i was far too busy trying make real sure i fitted-in.Making sure i didn’t dare put a foot wrong,according to rules and regulations.

            Many times i was too stressed and anxious.It was more than hard enough to try and understand life.Before even feeling relaxed and settled enough, to delve in depth into a book, like the bible is

            How? does religion become neutral..While people keep on insisting there is a need to create these special groups. (Churches,Mosque,Tabernacle , or others)

            Seems to me that one of the big reason people have to go worship in some special building.Is it helps make them, and what they are doing, feel kinda special.

            I didn’t read of Jesus doing that so much.If ever

            The thing is.People cannot even be used like cash-cows , by corrupt people whom may like to turn belief in God, into something commercial. “Until” human’s suggest there is some good reason that worship needs to include buildings, and special rituals.

            Worship with Jesus , was more like an open air rock concert.Except there was not even any gates or fences. Very often, discussion with Jesus about God, happened sort of unexpectedly. There was no set times..Meeting’s were unpredictable.Happening out of the blue

            People can do this anywhere,anytime.And this kept the faith more in-touch with everyone. I feel sure, it may have helped it seem far less bigoted, as well too

            Jesus church, was more about everyday life. Keeping things simple

            That way no one starts feeling like they are “above” someone else.Or better than someone else is

            You can see why there would have been some humans who really disliked this sort of practice. Because it meant that humans could worship God,without need to go or be anywhere special. So humans ( the rabbi , pastor etc) could see they had no way to stake their territory. No way to become someones guru .So as to make themselves a living out of doing it

            I cant help feeling Jesus understood this. But it was actually a big part of his plan

            For he wanted to find ways to remove the “cost” people had had to pay , for their salvation.

            This is also why we read of Jesus getting involved in free discussion, with people of alternative faiths.

            He was someone, who foresaw how there was a real great need, to try finds ways to bridge the gaps between humans

            Sadly we have gone and allowed these gaps to grow bigger. We all continue pay the price for that. Both theist, and non believer, alike

            For religion to be neutral. Surely that would mean that religion wouldn’t need to exist . But should instead be replaced by more understanding, love and kindness for each other

            We should be able to discuss all our different beliefs together. Without feeling there is some need, to do it within some special place

            That’s my opinion, anyway . Peace ! to you too friend

          • We should be able to discuss all our different beliefs together. Without feeling there is some need, to do it within some special place

            I’m down for that. Did I ever write about the time I ran into Mormons and invited them over to tell us about LDS? I couldn’t tell if they were Mormons or JW, but I was curious about both.

            And uh… Welcome to my special place. 🙂

          • Gandolf

            A few more scriptures that “may” suggest,there was thoughts that were against structured worship

            1 Chr. 17:1-7
            1 Cor. 3:16-17
            John 4:21-24

          • If you grew up in a borderline cult, then I’m sure you’re familiar with that verse about not giving up the assembling blah blah blah as is the habit of some? That’s the argument for structured worship. That and the disciples meeting in the temple daily. The daily thing kinda turned into Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. Or just Sunday morning if you’re Catholic.

        • The Ubiquitous

          I join Dave in welcoming you to join in. It’s his house, of course, but for what it’s worth I also welcome anyone who’s willing to take this stuff seriously. Too many people are too shallow about this stuff.

          • Gandolf

            Thanks so much Ubiquitous .Its mighty kind of you

            I agree with you.But must first admit, i have also been a little shallow too myself, about it “sometimes”. Mainly when i was also hurting extra bad. Due to matters of family shunning and separation.And all the destructive things of life, that then follow on from that

          • Family shunning and separation? Eww. I still talk to my parents, but my dad did call me a Judas the last time I talked. Gosh. Family shunning sucks.

          • Gandolf

            It drove me off the deep end, in the end.I still struggle with sanity to some degree.We were not allowed any contact whatsoever,with family members, including our mum, that had remained within the religious group.I didn’t get to see mum at all, for a little more than 30years.Then one day out of the blue, they(a sister and brother in law from the group) suddenly arrived on our door step,telling us how things had changed,and they (the group) were sorry.We were allowed some contact again, for about six months.When they realized, that we didn’t wish to return to the religious group.They then closed off contact again.

            Many of us experienced this.And much more.I grew up in a household full of screaming, yelling and violence.Have been through the aftermath of dealing with situations, where my sibling’s tried to commit suicide. Loads of crazy stuff like that

      • The Ubiquitous

        (Natural) belief in a thing multiplies a thing. It does not of itself make it worse or better. (Natural) belief merely makes everything more.

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  • I had several doubt moments like you, but mine are different. I mean, doubting there is God, and doubting the incarnation. Doubts about God were always solved by the ontological argument. The latter is: «Either Jesus ate fish, and cursed swine and the fig tree, and he is not God; or else he is God, but those passages are not historical.» Only Eucharist saved me from it.

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