Sunday, January 19, 2014

There is No Misinterpretation of the Bible, Only Interpretation

The following response to many of the arguments against Christianity is a refrain I hear often:  They misinterpreted the bible.  This is of course uttered by Christians explaining how fellow Christians have done things that are no longer acceptable, blatantly wrong or so absurd as to make all of Christianity look bad. 

Christians quoted the bible and the concept of hell to justify the slaughter of millions of Native Americans.  Christians used The Gospel of Mathew 27:25 to justify the blood libel and consequently kill upwards of 200,000 Jews.  Women in the Church were oppressed and denied rights for most of Christianity's existence because of verses written by Saint Paul in The Book of Timothy. For 1500 years Christians thought that the Earth was the center of the Universe citing The Book of Genesis.  In all of these cases present day Christians acknowledge that these past Christians were wrong but give the same explanation: Those Christians misinterpreted the Bible.

This response is supposed to tell us two things: One, that Christians no longer commit such acts of violence or stupidity, and two, that today's Christians somehow know better. 

So did today's Christians receive some new divine revelation that was not given to previous Christians?  Does this mean all Christians somehow know the true interpretation of the Bible and all the denominations can now be unified under one Church?  No, this response doesn't mean either.  What it means is that in the face of science and a more tolerant society, Christianity has had to re-interpret the Bible in order to maintain relevance.  In addition, it tells us that the Bible does not contain any real truth, and whatever information it does contain is relative to person and epoch.   

Facing the questions about the morality of hell, many Christians like Rob Bell have started to suggest that Hell might not exist after all (I strongly suggest you read this article to see just how divided Christianity is on this).  Most Christians no longer agree with the interpretation in Timothy that says women should be submissive.  Were these previous Christians misinterpreting the Bible for the past 2,000 years, and it was only recently that Christians received some divine revelation of the true interpretation?  Or is it that our society has changed such that eternal torture and oppression of women is no longer acceptable, and the church has conveniently reinterpreted many of those verses to keep up with the times?  The Church had to re-interpret and revise their stance on cosmology and human origins in the wake of Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin.  Not only did they come to agree with Copernicus regarding the position of Earth in the Universe, they were arrogant enough to claim they knew this first by citing versus in Psalms and Ecclesiastes.  Recently, the Catholic Church said it was open to the possibility of evolution where before they were adamantly opposed to it.  Christians killed hundreds of thousands of Jews throughout the centuries claiming that the Jews killed Jesus and cited Mathew 25:17 to justify it (this verse also laid the groundwork for the Holocaust).  Of course today the practice of being able to murder innocent people with no consequences is unacceptable, so nearly all Christians have conveniently re-interpreted that part of the Bible. 

The examples above make Christians look foolish and ruthless, but the biggest problem they have by using this excuse of misinterpretation is that it reveals that the Bible contains no real truth at all.  For the past 500 years the church has had no single coherent message.  Why?  Because they cannot agree on an interpretation of the Bible.  Dozens of different denominations have been formed because of disagreement on this point.  Even within these denominations (especially the Evangelical Church) the interpretations vary widely.  So what claim to truth do Christians have? Can any one denomination let alone one individual claim that they know the correct interpretation? Or that someone else has misinterpreted the Bible?  What authority do they have to claim this?  I guarantee for every Christian that makes a claim of truth, I can find another Christian who interprets it differently, and will claim the first Christian is wrong.  Any Christian who claims misinterpretation by past Christians is also contradicting millions of other Christians.  Whose interpretation should we believe?  Who is correct?  The answer is no one's.  Interpretation is relative to time, place and person.  There is no such thing as misinterpretation, only interpretation. If Christians can't agree on one message of the Bible, then we have no choice but to reject it as false.


Not only is Christianity's claim to truth practically gone, but their claims to moral superiority and justice are gone.  Now, Christians past, present and future must stand accountable for their crimes.  Christianity can no longer hide behind the shallow defense of misinterpretation.  This means that Hell, the common idea held by nearly all denominations, and the horrid idea of guilt by association, are things Christians need to explain and justify thoroughly.  This means that the oppression of women and Jews is something that they need to answer for instead of using the excuse that for hundreds of years Christians were somehow misinterpreted the word of God.  If they can't, then our only choice is to reject Christianity as a viable way to achieve a just and compassionate society.  If Christians don't know truth or justice, then what do they know?  Other religions and Atheists can only use history and the effect it has had on society to judge the validity of Christianity, not the Bible. 

34 comments:

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  2. Martin Heidegger, philosopher to the Nazis, opens his book, Being and Time (first published in German as Sein und Zeit, 1927) with the following:

    'For manifestly you have long been aware of what you mean when you use the expression "being". We, however, who used to think we understood it, have now become perplexed.' (Quoted from Plato’s Sophist.)

    Do we in our time have an answer to the question of what we really
    mean by the word 'being' ( seined)? Not at all. So it is fitting that we should
    raise anew the question of the meaning of Being. But are we nowadays even
    perplexed at our inability to understand the expression 'Being'? Not at
    all. So first of all we must reawaken an understanding for the meaning of
    this question. Our aim in the following treatise is to work out the question
    of the meaning of Being and to do so concretely.

    —end of quote—

    Nothing is static and nothing definitive when it comes to language. Our attempts to understand the concrete realities of historical events are just that—attempts. To name historical events in terms of reality, and furthermore, to qualify them as concrete, is to convolute the socially mediated process of meaning-making and to obscure the nature of difference within the human condition.

    Are we not playing the Tapping Game here (vis-à-vis Chip and Dan Heath, 2007)? This post assumes the author and readers share in a mutual understanding of terms such as guilt, punishment, justice, and truth. Such low-hanging fruit is easy enough to point out. More complex yet no less problematic is the issue of what the author means—or assumes the readers to understand—by terms and their associative concepts such as Christianity, interpretation, the Church, and social acceptance.

    Here is a serious problem that does need contending with: either language is socially constructed and relative to context, or meaning and truth are transcendent realities. If the author is arguing for transcendent truth and against the socially mediated construction of language and meaning, does his argument not become self-defeating? Is the author’s argument not predicated on a specific ideology of truth and meaning as it pertains to words and concepts in the exact same vein as those with whom he purports to disagree? These are fundamental problems with the essay that must be contended with if the argument is to go forward with any measure of rationality, but for the sake of cooperation, I will move on to an issue more in line with that which the essay seeks to address.

    To what the author may be getting at, I will say that oppression is real. Colonization is real. Suffering is real. The atrocities of the historic events identified in the author’s essay are no more deniable than are the social complexities that precipitated them. But the action involved in assuming that a 1,000 word essay—particularly one fraught with such vague definitions and conceptual oversimplifications—holds the answer not only to the causes of such complex events, but also the answer for responding to them, is more than just a foolhardy attempt at avoiding future pitfalls of social movements; it risks reinforcing the underlying ideology that fueled such historic atrocities, and thereby risks repeating them.

    As Chris Crass points out in Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy, the replacement of one ruling class and power structure with another does little if anything to ameliorate the systemic oppression and resultant suffering that elicited the change, and is thus simply not the aim of social change activism. If the progress the author is looking for is that of life-affirming human rights, equality, liberation from oppression, and an end to senseless human suffering, then his violent attempts to destroy the culture and identity of a people group are a sad and frightening reification of that from which he seeks to progress.

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  3. Anonymous people can comment. Just choose that option on the "comment as"

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  4. Joel, I hope you will take the time to read some books that present perspectives different from the vitriolic shit put out by the new (aka angry) atheists. If you want to make solid arguments about religion or theism, I highly suggest you read some things outside the anti-theist canon. Daniel Dubuisson’s pivotal book, The Western Construction of Religion is a great text for beginning to think not just of Christianity but of religion in general in different terms, and it will easily lead you to two dozen more texts worthy of investigation. Another text you might consider reading is Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture.

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  5. For most casual Christians, the hermeneutical process consists of either A. unknowingly reading one's own beliefs into the Bible or B. Allowing misplaced confidence in a particular interpretation of the Bible to color one's beliefs. In either case, the casual Christian often expresses great confidence where doubt is the more appropriate epistemic attitude. Learned Christians, on the other hand, seem to know enough to know how little they know. As such, I think that "learned Christian" is a difficult label to maintain without slipping into pluralism, agnosticism, or full on atheism.

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    1. What do you base that off of, with regard to the hermeneutical process? You don't think there is more diversity and synchronism within the Christian tradition? Even among the "casual Christians" here in the US? This sounds to me to be spoken out of a white male privilege with little experience of the "lived religion" experienced by everyday folks in the world outside the wasp enclave of Northern Colorado and its state university philosophy departments. But I could be totally wrong there. You could be referring to the "casual Christians" that blend Santeria with Catholicism in Five Points. Or the "casual Christians" at TD Jakes' PottersHouse extension church in South Denver. And hey, along those lines, you're white, right? So, it was those of our race that "gave" the African American's their religion when they were brutally dragged here to work our tobacco fields. Only seems right that we should fight to take it away from them now, huh? Sure they have their own voice now, but you know, if they knew what was best for them, they'd go back to their Yoruba, right? Or does that tend towards pluralism too? And then towards agnosticism.. and then towards full on atheism?

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  6. Josh, I have read the Holy Bible. Does that count as a book outside of the the New Atheist canon? Reading that book is the biggest piece of evidence against Christianity. Very, very few of my arguments come from the New Atheists. 90% of my arguments, and 90% of my reasoning come from the Bible and my considerable amount of time spent with both Protestant Christians and Catholic Christians. I'll try to read those books, but there are so many things to read. You are a perfect example of the topic of my post. You insist on reading the books that you approve of. But there are a handful of other Christians who have given me a different reading list.

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  7. ....whose reading list should I start with? I am only mortal and I am also a student.

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  8. Oh no, I certainly don't insist. In fact, I don't even insist on disagreeing with your post. I offer those books as tools, should you be interested in refining your argument. To be fair, this is so far outside of my purpose/mission/drive that I am rather disinterested in the topic. It's just a thought for a friend, extended as an offering of good measure.

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  9. Oh no, I certainly don't insist. In fact, I don't even insist on disagreeing with your post. I offer those books as tools, should you be interested in refining your argument. To be fair, this is so far outside of my purpose/mission/drive that I am rather disinterested in the topic. It's just a thought for a friend, extended as an offering of good measure.

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    1. It's funny you are so disinterested in this topic. You are one of the main reasons I wrote this post. I heard you use this time and time again to explain why many of your theological views were so superior to the others in our community in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

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    2. Right, I freely admit that. But I've move on from that place. Way on. In that time I've earned a bachelor's degree and am nearing completion of a master's degree. What kind of person would I be if my encounter with the world did not profoundly change my understandings of the world? Boring to say the least. I now realize that I was wrong at times, at others, hyper focused on the wrong things. I had a very simplistic and limited understanding of human nature, humanity, personhood, and difference. So naturally, things that were "gospel" to me then are of little importance to me now, while things that I had no way of even conceiving have taken their place. Today I am far more concerned with finding ways to out myself as allied with the LGBTQ community, and work along side them, by invitation and in solidarity, to achieve a greater measure of freedom and "justice" (quoted because of the difficulty in defining that word!).

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  10. Also, the Holy Bible is one of the first texts of the New Atheist canon, in that atheism itself is predicated on theism, the theism that most would argue is founded in ancient monotheistic scriptures such as the Holy Bible.

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    1. Atheism is predicated on the theism, just like I am against Nazism because of Nazism. That doesn't make my anti-Nazism any less valid.

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    2. No, it certainly doesn't, but if anti-Nazism were your life's goal, Mein Kampf would a canonical text to read and dissect.

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  11. Joel, from the outside it sounds like during your time exploring evangelical Christianity, you had a number of very important questions that you never found appropriate answers to coupled with an absence of tangible experience (ie feelings, sensations, revelations), which is something heavily focused on in many evangelical denominations. This combination and maybe few other variables caused you to reject the belief system that you held during that time. Let me know if I'm wrong or missing something.

    During that time neither of us had a very sophisticated understanding of God, Jesus of Nazareth, the Bible, or even of history (world and church), epistemology or any of the other vital areas of knowledge that are central to the Christian worldview/belief system. We were growing and learning, and doing that rather shabbily. My understanding is that this has always been a journey of constant growth and adaptation just as the human body is constantly growing and adapting.

    In many ways I think of the phase of the journey that we walked together in as my toddler phase. The fundamentals for maturity were there but I recognized a need to grow beyond where I was in my understanding of just about everything. Since then much has changed and continues to change in my worldview/belief system/faith. Nothing has remained static. Doubt and faith flow freely through my mind and I feel that when things settle I am better for it.

    It seems that you rejected this journey in its toddler phase yet you continue to attack that static representation of Christianity that ceased growing years ago as if it were the full grown, mature version that has survived two thousand years through to today.

    You have the mind of an academic but it appears that you have never looked at how an academic Christian responds to the hard questions. Most Christians, like all other human beings of every worldview are more concerned with day to day life than really truly working out their belief system. But believe it or not there are many credible and fiercely intelligent Christian thinkers with intellectual integrity who are somehow able to maintain faith in a loving god who is active in this world.

    I have heard you say in the past that much of what you believe is reactionary. If this is true then what are you reacting to? It appears that you are reacting to a shallow and immature Christian religion rather than the full, nuanced, complex, and vibrant faith that I and others are growing in and towards.

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    1. Joe,

      First of all, I am challenging (not attacking) a version of the faith that the vast majority of Christians in this country hold, if you want to call that a toddler version of the faith fine, but it's the only version that matters. 99% of Christians on this planet are not academic Christians and do not study the the religion in depth, hence the academic Christians have zero impact on the religion and zero impact on non-believers. It almost sounds like you are saying that you have to be an academian or have your MDiv to be a true believer and achieve the expert phase. All of the people I knew back then who gave their interpretation of the Bible said nothing about what phase of the faith they were in. They just insisted that they were right and the Bible was truth. As soon as you say the prayer, and read the Bible, that was it, no phases no stages, you know God and you know truth. You may disagree with that, but your idea of growth and toddler phase, adolescent phase, etc..is just your interpretation of the process of the Christian faith. You and Josh are coming from a point of view that very few Christians would agree with and many would actually despise you for it. I am not saying you are wrong or that your words aren't helpful. I am trying to get you to understand where you are coming from. I am not a scholar of Christianity nor do I ever plan on becoming one. I only focus on the relevant version of Christianity because that's the only one that matters. It's the version that impacts the rest of the world, it's the version that threatens me, my family and my friends. You ask what am I reacting to? This is what I am reacting to, Christians who view my life as worthless and that I deserve to undergo brutal torture even though they don't even know me. The type of faith you and Josh discuss, isn't relevant at all. Your current version of the faith didn't shape my view of the faith back then or now, it didn't even exist in our community, amongst the young Christians or the veterans. They were all toddlers according to you, even John Sailor who has been a Christian for 40 years. All Christianity is, is a collection of beliefs put together based on a 2000 year old book. The true version of the faith is the one that holds a majority, and it's the only one that matters, yours does not.

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    2. Joel makes a good point here, Joe. It's worth considering. I say that while simultaneously not disagreeing with much of what you wrote, Joe. So that means that what Joel wrote brings up some very important and valid questions, not only for those of the types of Christianity you and I study and practice, but for the culture makers who are leading the masses these days. This is worth serious consideration.

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    3. As a person of the Christian faith, I feel that your "challenge", at least in other forums, is often aggressive enough to be interpreted as an attack and indeed appears to be deliberately inflammatory at times. I very much appreciate the moderate tone you have chosen in this blog as it makes dialogue possible and seems to match up more with the Joel that I knew to be reasonable, if not just a tad hot headed at times.

      In your most recent post, I see that you have made some very good points, however I still think you are missing some very key things. I agree that in the United States in the 21st century it appears that Christians with an approach to faith similar to Josh's and my own seem to be the minority. The most outspoken American Evangelicals do appear to hold the line that you so adamantly disagree with, furthermore they influence the United States politically and socially in a way that opposes and threatens your belief system. With that in mind, your distress makes a lot of sense. BUT I think you are missing two things primarily. One is that Christianity historically has been driven by academics until the last century or maybe two. Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Barth are a few of the most influential, but there are many. Im sure Josh knows a few more. The American Evangelical church, due primarily to a reactionary approach to the modernist movement in the 20th century gave up thinking for a fundamentalist and largely irrational approach. A lot of unhealthy things have happened because of this, but I think this trend is on the way out. So basically I think you are challenging/attacking a kind of Christianity that has seen its heyday but is starting to give way to something much more consistent to its roots as an academically driven belief system. I would submit that the influence that European thinkers like NT Wright are having on the US evangelical church is evidence of that. You can also read RELEVANT magazine (a prominent and influential American evangelical publishing) for evidence of how reactionary modernist thinking is dying as a new and simultaneously ancient way of thinking is beginning to take over at the lay level.

      The other thing I think you're missing is that there is a much broader range of views on some of the issues you bring up that are actually held by a significant percentage of Christians. My particular church denomination which represents hundreds of thousands of Christians worldwide does not necessarily believe you need to "pray a prayer" like your crossing a line into salvation. They don't emphasize heaven as a reward for crossing that line and hell as punishment for failing to do so. I have never heard anyone in my church say seriously that anyone is going to hell. That would be horribly presumptuous and arrogant for anyone to make a statement like that with any level of certainty.

      I don't know much about the church you attended but I know it has it's roots in the Pentecostal Assembly Of God movement. Again I know little about this denomination except that it came out of the Azusa street revival at the beginning of the 20th century, along with many Pentecostal denominations. Assembly of God is not particularly known within Christianity for an emphasis on scholarship. In fact it is often criticized by many within Christianity for bad beliefs and practices.

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    4. Also I have to call you out on your stats. You claim that 99% of Christians do not study the religion in depth. Let me use a hastily put together study by an amateur scientist (me) to prove that number wrong.

      If we take a test population of say a home of Christians on mulberry street in the fall of 2009, we find that two out of four (50% unfairly assuming Danny does not study) do in fact study the religion. If we go for a larger population by assuming that subject Joel knows 20 Christians well enough to know whether they study the Christian religion seriously or not and we know that two do in fact do this we get 10% (still a significant percentage).

      Of course this is stupid, but Joel you should use your advanced understanding of statistics and your access to academic resources to get a better idea of what the Christian church world wide believes and has believed throughout history. Primary experience with a small population and secondary information from the new atheists is not going to give you an accurate picture. Also, I can guarantee you will find out that things are not quite as black and white as they appear while your standing in the 20th/21st century American evangelical church.

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    5. YOU Make some points i agree with and need to consider a bit more. However, just because they were academians shaping the church doesn't mean they contributed positively. In fact many of the masses and fundamentalists take the negative things from these academics for reasons I of power or simplification i guess. Luther's comments on Jews caused a lot of problems. Tertulians comments on hell and Augustine's comments on hell made for some pretty nasty forms of Christianity (I think these were the two). I know little about Aquinas. They may have been academics but they didn't advance the religion in a positive way. After all something they did resulted in a thriving fundamentalist movement in the US and a very conservative Catholic Church fraught with scandals and often times siding with the fundamentalists, especially when it comes to taking away peoples rights. Academic or not, our present day Christianity is something to be feared by a lot of people outside the Church. Regarding the numbers, they may be off, and i did just use a number that popped in my head, but let's examine it for a moment. Most of the US Christians are from the Bible Belt. The Bible Belt is relatively low real income and very poor in education funding, high in illiteracy rate. Worldwide most of the Christians are from poor countries in Africa and Latin America. I doubt my numbers are that far off. Also, you say that your church has never said that anyone is going to hell, yet they still believe that hell exists and some people will be going there correct? This idea of hell is very problematic for many reasons I have to go into later. Just because you don't talk about I am assuming you believe in it and it shapes your worldview, and I would argue that it shapes it in a negative way. Lastly, to you and josh, my posts have nothing to do with the New Atheist movement, NOTHING. I wrote and 'about' and I have now posted it. These blogs, especially this one is very personal. I know it sounds like it's coming from an already converted Atheist, but these were questions I was asking while still in the church. The 'misinterpretation' comments came from all kinds of questions, christian atrocities, explanations for confusing verses etc. Even now as an atheists I get these responses and that's why it seems like I wrote it from an atheism perspective. I should have used a few more personal examples I guess. My first response to Joe as some of these. Again, please take time to read the 'about' page.

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    6. First, I want to apologize for not reading the about page. Now that I have read it I have a much better understanding of where you are coming from as well as a deeper compassion for your "emotional" atheism and how it can naturally lead to anti-theism. Your comments about academic Christians throughout history indicate to me that you take issue with some of the foundational principles of Christianity (loving god, human depravity, gods free grace etc.) as much as the social and political activity of American Evangelicals and conservative Catholics. This might be the first point where we must agree to disagree. I see these principles as causing good, you see them as causing bad. I am sure that we both have some very good reasons for disagreeing.

      Let me comment on the compassion that I feel for you. Every question that you have wrestled with is a question that I have wrestled powerfully with as well at various points over the last 6 years. Certainly the struggle to hold to faith while remaining open to these questions has been too much for me at times and I have nearly fallen away from the Christian faith at several points. Indeed the door to agnosticism or atheism remains open in my mind and the temptation to walk through it remains at all times. So why haven't I crossed the threshold?

      I believe it is a combination of a few things.

      First and foremost, there have been many powerful experiences that are beyond my comprehension. My worldview has had little choice but to shift to accommodate these experiences.

      Second, my life has been radically changed since my conversion, undeniably for the better. I was a maniacally self-centered person who couldn't find a reason to get out of bed except to get high, slowly losing grip on reality as I had no grounding from which to reason out the simplest of conclusions about what is and is not. The belief that there is a god who loves us has provided a platform on which my consciousness has formed a reality that is suitable for providing the two main things that are necessary for human life: purpose and direction. I have seen evidence up for radical life change in dozens of others, including (believe it or not) Nathaniel K.

      Third, I have found reasonable answers that allow for the continuing of my Christian faith with many of these questions through personal study, and I am optimistic that questions that I have yet to approach head on will yield the same results. If any reasonable person sees that 9 or 10 out of 10 times you get a certain result, they will expect the same result for the next opportunities, even if there are thousands.

      Fourth, I have a toxically cynical attitude about man's ability to understand anything after "I have to eat", "I have to poop", and "I have to have sex". I believe all humans regardless of intelligence quotient use their intellect to justify and to cover up feelings and impulses coming from depths that cannot be plumbed with consciousness. We are all fools, children pretending to be adults. This causes me to distrust myself as well as all others. I think I have a lot of evidence for this, but really isn't my own proposition of this reality silly anyway? How can I know that this is true? How can I know that anything is true? This makes all other thoughts, except for those that I feel have come from outside myself (ie. revelation from god) worth very little personally or to others. Without this external input, I would likely have succumbed to one of the natural conclusions of nihilism (self-medication, insanity, suicide etc.)

      Any of these four reasons taken alone is not enough to maintain my Christian faith, but taken together with a tiny bit of blind faith to fill in the gaps, these have kept me where I am and I assume will always keep me where I am. If one were to fall away, I suppose things might be different. So maybe you can see why I understand your atheism.

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    7. Since it came up I would like to explain my views on hell. First off I want to point out that an understanding of heaven and hell as a disembodied reward or punishment for how one conducts oneself in life has more to do with the Greek pantheon and the philosophies of the enlightenment than Jews. I would argue that any attempt at understanding the Bible and what it says about reality must come from what the JEW who wrote it was trying to say rather than how a Greekified west or a guy like Voltaire might have interpreted it.

      With that said, my understanding of hell is not based on careful and meticulous study, but on personal experience, uninformed thought and a laypersons reading of the holy bible. I do believe that hell is real, but instead of the west's concept of a disembodied heaven/hell, I believe that that hell is right here and we are at times living in it. I think it's helpful to think on some of the ideas around higher level physics and dimensions here.

      Hell is the absence of relationship with God. So it would follow that those who do not believe in god are already in hell to some degree only without the finality of death. God does not send people to hell. People choose hell over relationship with god. Hell is not fire and brimstone, hell is isolation from god and everything that he brings to the table.

      Here is a thought experiment that helps to illustrate my idea of hell. You are walking along and you get hit by a car. As you lie there bleeding to death from your ruptured spleen, you fade in and out of consciousness. God appears to you and says "your whole life you have rejected me, but I want you to come to me now". He says that because you formed your life around things that he did not give you, you must decide that everything you hold dear is a lie and let it go. Because of Jesus death, your sins are forgiven, but that every idea that you had, every person that you loved, just about everything about you must be let go of because it cannot be near his perfection.

      You think about your life and the things you loved about it. You think about the fun you had and how important it all was to you. You think about how much pleasure living by your own standards and rules was. You think about all of the conversations you had about how much you hated the idea of having a god to whom you might be accountable. You think about how absurd the Christian idea of Jesus is. Then you think about all of the lame Christians that pissed you off your whole life. You conclude there is no way this is real, and that you are most likely hallucinating from the hard blow to the head or that it is all some dream that will soon be over. Your life fades away and upon death your spirit is forever choosing to say no to god as well as love, relationship, hope, joy and all of the things that come from god.

      Obviously the are issues with my concept of hell, but I am working on it. And well, I think I'm headed in the right direction.

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  13. Although I'm not generally bothered by "Academic Christianity," I do believe that individuals willing to undergo such rigorous mental gymnastics to defend something absurd on its face should at a minimum acknowledge that they could make the same maneuvers in defense of any religion. Thus, I don't understand Academic Religion that doesn't lean toward pluralism. And I don't understand pluralism that doesn't lean toward agnosticism...or agnosticism that doesn't lean toward atheism...

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    1. Mark, the first premise, that undergoing the rigors of academia in the scenario of Academic Christianity) is necessarily for the purpose of defending Christianity, is perhaps unfounded. There are many reasons for pursuing a specific discipline academia aside from defending it. I'm sure you're aware of the "normative statement" versus the "positive statement". I'm borrowing from economics here a bit, but a positive statement describes the world as it is, where a normative statement describes it as it should be. Positive=physics, normative=ethics. I'm oversimplifying a bit here, but the point is, there are those who are interested in the positive more than the normative.

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    2. Also, you line from pluralism to agnosticism to atheism, sure, it works for some. But to apply it as a rule in every scenario, and to use it to say anybody who explores Christianity becomes an atheist, well... I find it at least a little absurd.

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    3. Josh, please read the 'about' page. I just wanted to re-emphasize that this blog is not using arguments froom the New Atheist. do respect the NA, and I certainly understand their anger and sometimes hateful speech

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  14. You hit the Christian nail on it's overinflated head, my friend. Most Christians will insist that their particular version of Christianity is the right one when it suits them, but then they'll turn around and talk about Christianity as a unified whole when that suits them...

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    1. Thanks Veronica, sometimes this tactic is entertaining, other times it is infuriating. Why can't they see what they are doing?

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    2. I don't know, Joel. That's a very good question. I think maybe religion is very emotion-based for a lot of people, and emotions don't demand consistency...

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  15. Its good to hear all of you arguing in such a mature way. I'm happy to have all of you as my friends.

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  16. I think Josh is a strong Christian because he is kind and loves his family.

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  17. I hope you will all join us at my new house on the 21st of February to enjoy a first rate party at my new estate. Where we can all enjoy a lively discussion about these topics in person.

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