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SkepticsApprentice

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  1. I saw the movie and it definitely exceeded my expectations for a WW film. Definitely as good as Man of Steel or the Dark Knight, so if you saw those movies and liked them you'll probably like this one as well. I did, however, have some issues with the near-end of the film, mostly having to do with the final climactic battle between WW and Ares, the God of War. If you haven't seen the movie yet, SPOILERS AHEAD! You have been warned... So, after WW corners and kills Ludendorff (who she believes to be Ares in disguise), she is dismayed to find that the humans keep fighting World War I, even without 'Ares' around to incite them against each other. Steve, however, knows about human nature, and gently suggests that mankind is more flawed than Diana originally believed, capable of great evil and violence as well as great good and beauty. As Diana struggles to come to terms with this terrible revelation, the real Ares appears. Now, I knew that from a movie perspective, there had to be a climactic final battle between Diana and Ares, or else everyone would have left the theater disappointed. From Ares' perspective, however, I fail to see how revealing himself to Diana accomplished anything. Think about it–all this time Ares has remained hidden, while successfully persuading the countries of the world to fight and occasionally inspiring their scientists with newer, deadlier weaponry to boost the body count. Without Diana's interference, mankind could well be on the road to extinction. The ONE weapon that can kill Ares (Diana herself) believes the God of War is dead, and is prepared to return home to Themiscyra bearing news of humanity's corruption. The Amazons will give mankind up as a lost cause and remain in their safe haven, leaving Ares to finish off the humans without anyone to stand in his way. Although I loved the twist that a god of war would masquerade as an man of peace, there was really no reason for Ares to show himself at any time while Diana was nearby, much less willingly inform her that she is the God-killer who can single-handedly put a stop to his plans. For someone who has thus far manipulated things perfectly from the shadows, the filmmakers' decision to 'out' Ares just felt wrong somehow. With all that said, I still liked this movie. As a little extra incentive for all the ex-Xtians out there, the film did a wonderful job of showing how humanity can be both good and bad, all without the influence of 'the gods' (or God).
  2. Thanks for the support guys. I have actually done some digging to find conversion stories from other faiths with some success, but I've found that they aren't nearly as well-known (probably because they don't fit the popular narrative that the Church wants everyone to believe in, and they simply get drowned out by all the Jesus). If anyone knows where I might find stuff from the Jewish or Hindu side of things, I would definitely be interested in looking at that; I've currently had the most success with Islam or Mormonism (which are both basically just offshoots of Christianity). One of the more interesting stories I came across dealt with a former Catholic priest who was in a coma for months (the result of a construction accident) and returned to the land of the living having seen, as he imagined, a vision from God–a god who called himself 'Allah.' After this supposed message from God, the priest converted to Islam and led some of his congregation to do the same. One thing I found interesting, especially when examining different converts' near-death experiences, was that even when they supposedly went to the same places (heaven, hell, etc.) the descriptions of those places and the details of what went on there were quite different–almost as if these 'visions' were the results of a highly imaginative brain... In a couple of cases that I read about, drugs were quite obviously at work. One former atheist credited his conversion to the incredibly 'realistic' encounters with demons he met while under the influence of drugs. Because of the way the man told his story it was so obvious that his demonic visitors were nothing more than phantasms created by his drug-addled brain, and yet he accepted the veracity of his experiences without question after the trip wore off. Emotion is a powerful thing, and even though I'm thankful for the different feelings and impressions that help color the world around me, it is nonetheless a little disturbing that emotion, if left to itself, can make just about anything seem reasonable (although the shrooms help too).
  3. Hello all, It's probably pretty obvious by now, but I'm definitely a novice when it comes to reevaluating many of the old religious claims and 'evidences' that just a year ago I would have accepted as truth without question. Although I have gotten better (I hope!) there are still times when I get niggling little doubts at the back of my mind, wondering if perhaps I was wrong to question faith in the first place. For those who've been in that situation before (and I'm guessing a lot of you have) it's extremely uncomfortable. In a nutshell, this is what I've been dealing with for the past day or so, thanks to a rather ill-advised journey into the bowels of Christian conversion testimonies (almost all of them 'miraculous' in some way), all collected and reported by Mark Ellis, pastor and president of GodReports. If you're ever looking for lots of conversion stories involving dreams and 'miraculous' healing for some reason, this is going to be your one-stop shop. I made the mistake of reading a bunch of these in one sitting without slowing down and thinking it all through, and the result was one of the worst periods of cognitive dissonance I've had for a while. Even as I realized that every story was being related by one man about whom I knew nothing and from whom I could expect little to no information so I could fact-check his claims, I found myself worrying whether these stories might actually be true. I read about Muslim leaders (even a former ISIS 'prince') coming to Christ after experiencing confirming dreams, Buddhists who were healed of stubborn physical maladies after prayer, and former atheists who converted after experiencing the horrors of hell, or the joys of heaven. Thankfully, I came to my senses and have since left that website alone. As I reexamined the stories, I noticed that everyone who had an encounter with 'Christ' had always had some prior knowledge of him–often converts' dreams would come some time shortly after the gospel was preached to them. The so-called miraculous healings were never instantaneous, as Jesus' were said to be; often it would be days, sometimes weeks after prayers were offered before a particularly stubborn illness disappeared. Partially thanks to this site, however, I have a newfound distaste for conversions post-Near-Death Experience; converts' experiences of heaven and hell were quite different and had little in common with the Bible's (admittedly) limited information on the topic. In my time perusing various testimonies, I did come across at least two that were of such dubious authenticity that I'm surprised anyone fully believed them. The first came from India via communications from an evangelist named Paul Ciniraj, a man who I later discovered has come under some fire for lying about his need for funds, as well as making unfounded and bizarre miraculous claims to keep the money pouring in. The story, 'Hindu snake goddess saw Jesus in dream and became His witness' (yes, you read that right) claims to tell the story of Nagamma, an Indian woman who as a child was bitten by a snake while feeding it milk. Although the venom was successfully treated, Nagamma afterwards began to exhibit snake-like behavior and, I kid you not, the color of her body changed. This bit was so ridiculous that it ruined any effect the rest of the story might have had on me–with such a preposterous tale, I wondered if I was reading a rejected superhero's origin story by mistake. You can read the full story here, if you want the scoop on the Stupendous Snake-Girl. Now if you'll pardon me, I have to snatch up this property before Marvel Studios gets its hands on the rights... The second story dealt with a group of missionaries who went to the interior of Malaita in the Solomon Islands to evangelize a tribe (the Kwaio) known for hostility to outsiders, including cannibalism. They arrived at the tribe's territory just as the Kwaio were preparing for the impending death of their chief. The missionaries managed to meet with the chief, who accepted Christianity just before he 'died.' Then, while the tribe was preparing the chief's body for burial, the man revived with a story of how Jesus Christ took him to heaven, where he was surrounded by throngs of worshipers, and met some Old Testament prophets. Of course, the chief also got a nice view of hell in the bargain. At the end of this vision, 'Jesus' told the chief he had to go back to earth for a short time to make sure his people knew about the one true faith. The chief died, for real this time, the next morning. Considering that medical supplies and expertise were almost certainly scarce in the jungle, it's a good bet that the chief was in a coma or slipped into a death-like state where he had a near-death experience about Jesus being the only way to heaven, which he had conveniently just learned hours earlier from the missionaries. Of course, the story could have been completely made up, but even if the details were accurate the tale wasn't convincing at all. Well, that's definitely enough out of me for one post. If anyone wants to check out this website and do some digging, I'd love to see what you come up with. I tried to find anything at all on boss man Mark Ellis to check his credibility, but I just got redirected to his blog and another ministry where he contributes once in a while, called Assist Ministries. Happy hunting!
  4. Welcome Ataraxia! As I'm very much a newcomer to the whole 'ex-Christian' thing myself, I'm sure we will have some interesting discussions in the future. Even though I was raised under the Protestant Christian school of thought, I did have a period where I researched Catholicism fairly extensively, so while I may not be an expert on the way things are done from the Vatican, at least I'm not ignorant about it. One of the things I found most interesting about the Catholic approach to faith was its insistence that the saints continue to intercede for the 'Church Militant' on believers' behalf, this intercession sometimes manifesting as miracles that, at least at that time, seemed to me to be signs that God was still working powerfully in the Catholic Church. At one point I decided to test this out myself and tried talking to Mary a couple of times, along with requesting the assistance of Saint Blaise on one occasion. I probably was doing something wrong from a purely procedural standpoint, but at the time I was definitely sincere. I would read up on stories like the Marian visions at Medjugorje and testimonies of individuals who had converted to Catholicism after receiving their own vision or 'message' from Jesus or Mary, and wonder if perhaps there really was something to Catholics' claims. Let's just say that I wasn't always the most critical thinker back then (I'm still working on it!) Of course now I look back on it all with a fair amount of skepticism, although the miracle claims do make me want to discover what is really going on–as natural an explanation as I can reasonably expect with humanity's limited knowledge, without the extra baggage of bizarre beliefs in the supernatural. Here's hoping your journey from here on is a pleasant one (at least as pleasant as can be expected) and I look forward to seeing you on the forums!
  5. A prank caller (OwnagePranks) rings up a born-again Christian lady to ask about her Valentine's Day fair. Enjoy!
  6. Is this a real thing, or just a prank? Either way it's hilarious.
  7. Indeed. The same thing happened in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub bombing in Orlando, if you remember. While certainly not the majority, there were at least a few vocal pastors around the U.S. foaming that they had no sympathy for the victims–one preacher in particular I remember reading about (I don't recall his name, unfortunately) remarked that he was sorry the nightclub bomber didn't finish the job (killing all the 'sodomites' in the area). Watching this short clip was just as infuriating. I'd heard a bit about Ted Shoebat and expected him to say some insane stuff in the video; needless to say I was not disappointed. As he repeatedly reminded his viewers how little he cares about the victims of this attack, I wondered if the man is simply unable to empathize on a mental/emotional level, or if his particular brand of religion is to blame for his sociopathic tendencies. Probably, it's both. I thought his commentary on the concert-goers' pictures especially distasteful, and it was pretty obvious Shoebat was grasping at straws when he started ranting about how one man shaved his hair on the sides, marking him as a homosexual for all True Christians™ to see. If there was any point in the video where I might have laughed, it was when Shoebat tried to reassure his audience that despite his angry, hate-filled rhetoric against LGBT folks (or anyone who dresses or styles their hair in a way he doesn't like), he totally doesn't support blowing up people who disagree with him on these things. Not sure if I believe him, though... But seriously, if you have to go out of your way to make sure people know you're not okay with bombing innocent people (including children), you are doing something very, very wrong.
  8. The thing I find most disturbing about this inane rant (besides the fact that there's someone out there legitimately trying to rid the church of a 'spirit of Jezebel') is that this writer is telling his readers that compassion is bad. People who take this guy (or others like him) seriously would normally feel sorry for others who don't fit the 'perfect church' mold (i.e. the LGBT community, members of other religions and even more liberal Christians) and perhaps begin to question the reasonableness of their faith, but now they will squash those feelings because they've been taught to interpret them as the wiles of a demonic space witch. If only this writer hadn't left his night job as a Ghostbuster, we (and countless others) wouldn't have to read this kind of drivel.
  9. Now let's not be too hasty here! The man on the phone might have sounded crazy, but the weird bit is that this sort of thing actually happens in real life. Strange, I know, but it's true! Using certain words in a particular order makes good things happen, but someone can just as easily call upon dark, forbidden words to annoy you or make your life miserable. Want proof? Try shouting 'Accio, money!' or 'Accio, Jaguar (the car, not the big cat)!' As long as you speak these words in faith, whatever you want will magically appear, right in front of you! All your desires will be filled and your needs met forever. Just make sure your tongue doesn't slip so you 'accidentally' mutter Avada Kedavra when you next meet your annoying in-laws, or unintentionally Obliviate your significant other's memory of you and your children. If you're still trying and nothing seems to work, you apparently don't have enough faith in the power of your words! That, or you're just another Muggle. Okay, you're probably tired of the sarcasm (and Harry Potter references). I'll stop now. My family had a couple of years during which we met quite a few charismatic-type Christians. A couple of them made a big deal about the importance of 'speaking blessing' into our lives. Similar to the phone guy in the OP, they also refused to speak about disease or other unfortunate occurrences because they didn't want to speak that into existence. I think these people believed that talking about bad stuff gave the Devil an opening to bring the pain; I wonder what their excuse was when bad things happened anyway. Even as a believer I thought this was insane, and if someone said something similar to me today I'd have a hard time holding back the laughter (or shouting Crucio at them just to see if I get a reaction). It's just as superstitious as throwing salt over your shoulder so the demons don't get you, or saying 'Bless you' after someone sneezes so their soul doesn't escape through their nostrils and float away.
  10. So last night I got into a conversation with family about supposed mystical experiences in the Christian faith, and while I never mentioned that I pretty much consider it all 'woo' at this point I did make it pretty clear that all of the stories about speaking in tongues, demon possession, and being 'slain in the Spirit' could easily be the products of a mental imbalance or some other natural phenomena. This didn't exactly dissuade the fam (nor did I expect it to), and my mother briefly described a time about seventeen years ago when she was taking the Alpha course and a woman got up and started speaking in tongues. The thing is, this apparently wasn't your garden variety glossolalia babble, since someone else in the group actually understood what was being said. Things got even more interesting when the tongue-speaker revealed that she'd never learned the language that she had been speaking, and of course it was all attributed to God. It reminded me a bit of the Agnes Ozman story, where a woman (Ozman) reportedly had hands laid on her and suddenly began to speak and write Chinese for three days, helping to kick off the Pentecostal movement. I didn't press for too many more details, as I was trying to find a nice way to close the conversation without sounding rude or unreceptive, but later I did some searching and discovered that this phenomena–known as xenoglossy–has actually been reported many times throughout history, by Christians and nonbelievers, in both religious and non-religious situations. Of course, there's usually no way to accurately validate these claims, although a number of psychologists and linguists have tried. Outside of Christian circles, xenoglossy seems to often be associated with reincarnation, another concept that I am extremely skeptical of due to a lack of conclusive evidence to support it. Has anybody here had an experience with xenoglossy in the past, and if so what were your thoughts? Also, how might I reconcile the issue with a close relative who sincerely believes that she witnessed an instance of xenoglossy?
  11. Sometimes when I get stuck in a situation where Christian music is playing and I don't want to rock the boat too much, I'm surprised by how easily the songs (especially some of the older hymns) fit into a more, shall we say, irreverent theme. It's hilarious how so many of these songs sing about Jesus' love and how he wants to come inside everyone (homoerotic undertones much?) In your particular case, I remember the song 'Jesus Loves Me' quite well; the lyrics, re-imagined slightly, put Jesus in a hilarious (albeit creepy) light: Jesus loves me this I know For the Bible tells me so Little ones to Him belong They are weak but He is strong! It sounds like the Son of God is very fond of children. Maybe the Catholic pedophile priests are actually following in his footsteps after all? The song later talks about goodies like a 'heaven's gate' that will open wide so Jesus can 'wash away' sin. That doesn't sound dirty at all, now does it? Likewise, the song 'Deep and Wide' is all about a fountain flowing, as the title suggests, 'deep and wide.' I'm pretty sure you can guess where this is going...
  12. What if 'the Lord' was Eve's nickname for Adam's abnormally large package?
  13. Absolutely! That, or he was experiencing the symptoms of some kind of mental illness. I wasn't all that impressed either, partly because the author chose to submit his testimony anonymously. I mean, if I had ever had an experience like that in the past you can bet I would have let people know–not for my own fame, but for the glory of God. If I were in the author's place, I probably also would have left some form of contact information, just in case some poor lost soul got curious and wanted to know more about my encounter with God. As it is, we have no idea who the writer is, no other witnesses to the event (like friends or family members who knew the guy prior to conversion), and no way of following up on any details of his story–therefore no reason to believe it. As I've grown up in the church I don't recall seeing anything quite like this happen (perhaps because my family never was of a Pentecostal/charismatic persuasion), but I've lost count of the number of times pastors and Bible teachers have used similar methods in their sermons. They'll say things like, "Maybe there are some of you listening today whose marriage is falling apart. Perhaps you're a single mom with three kids and you don't know how to make ends meet. You might be a young man or woman struggling to overcome a porn addiction (or some other sin typically associated with the youth). No matter where you are today, I want you to know that God knows what you're going through and he will be faithful to see you through to the other side..." The church that my family goes to uses this technique fairly often in an effort to 'pitch' a relationship with Jesus. I can imagine how someone who is legitimately struggling might hear something like this and think, That pastor knows about my problems! God must really be speaking to him! Praise Jesus! In reality, preachers have just gotten better with basic pattern recognition; in 2000+ years, at least some would have perfected their craft.
  14. Truly inspirational. This makes so much more sense than Joel's typical preaching fare. My life is forever changed! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some 'magnifying' to do...
  15. Well, I suppose that depends on which New Testament teacher you listen to. Paul, at least, certainly seemed to think that the OT law was no longer in effect after Jesus' death. The interesting thing is that we don't get an affirmative from Jesus himself in the Gospels; in fact, he is reported to made some claims that seem to run directly counter to the idea that Christians don't have to worry about OT laws: "It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law." (Luke 16:17) "For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (Matthew 5:18) "Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17) This last teaching is especially interesting in context. Jesus supposedly said this to a rich man (the 'rich young ruler') who in verse 16 asks what he must do to gain eternal life. Now, if you were to ask any modern pastor this question, they would almost certainly tell you to believe in Jesus Christ and receive his sacrifice as a payment for your sins. After that, you're covered–wiped clean, as white as snow in the eyes of God. But that's not what Jesus says. And in case a Christian were to wonder exactly which commandments Jesus is referring to, verses 18-19 make this clear: "You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'" All of these laws are major tenets of the Law of Moses. In brief, Jesus is telling the young man (and by extension, his followers) that keeping the commandments will get people into heaven. 'Faith alone,' prayer, a 'close relationship with God'–Jesus mentions none of these things as the One Way™ into heaven, even though he easily could have. [All Scripture references come from the NIV, in case you were feeling curious!]
  16. Something that might help (beyond everything else that these lovely folks have suggested thus far) is to consider all the alternate versions of Hell that the religious have made up throughout history. Almost every civilization at some point in its history has believed in Hell, and Christian hell seems to be nothing more than a syncretization of earlier religions' teachings on the subject. For instance, ancient Egyptians believed that a human soul was judged after death based on how good of a person they'd been in life. If the soul was pure, it was allowed access to heaven. If, however, the soul was corrupt or wicked, the god Ammit would throw the person into a lake of fire. The Greeks believed in a gloomy underworld where the wicked would be cast into the hellish Tartarus to be tormented. Various European peoples had their own interpretations of hell, and in direct contrast to the popular view of hell today, the Ainu people of Japan believed that hell was a nasty wet place somewhere underground. And that's just a start. Even though the people in these various cultures probably believed quite firmly in the existence of their own versions of 'Hell,' nobody believes in them today because no undeniable evidence has been discovered to prove they exist. If you already don't believe in Egyptian hell, or Hindu hell, or Native American hell, or Buddhist hell, or Muslim hell, why treat Christian hell any differently? I can only speak for myself, but I think it has a lot to do with religious conditioning, often from an early age. If your parents and other authority figures whom you trust without question say that hell is real, chances are you'll take to the idea just as naturally as when Mommy helped you learn how to walk, or when your math teacher told you that two plus two equals four. Sadly, thanks to the majority Christian population in America (who wield far more power and influence than anyone with a mentally disturbed invisible friend should ever be allowed to possess), scores of young people will grow up believing that not only is Hell real, but that God's character isn't in the least bit tarnished by his decision to make it a reality.
  17. So lately I've been doing some reading on mystical experiences and their causes, partly because I find the subject interesting but also because I feel that an individual's 'personal encounter with God' via dream, vision, etc. might be the only argument left in the religious playbook that hasn't been thoroughly debunked or discredited. For the most part, I can easily see where a person's brain chemistry or their environment plays a role in causing the religious experience, but every so often I'll come across stories that don't seem to fit that mold all that well. For instance, while reading up on supposed Christo-centric visions, I came across someone's personal testimony about how he left agnosticism for Christianity. I found the story intriguing, but more than a little troublesome in places: 'I became a Christian in 1987-June. Until then I had rejected a relationship with Him for both personal, and what I considered to be intellectual reasons. [Like most atheist-to-Christian conversion stories, the writer claims he didn't believe in God because he just wanted to sin, and happily dismisses any 'intellectual reasons' that might have convinced him otherwise. This might have been the case for him, I don't know. Perhaps he was never exposed to the reasons for and against faith, and then got suckered in by some shoddy apologetics work. He doesn't mention any examples, but in my experience at least intellectual and personal reasons often overlap. For instance, when reading in the Mosaic Law that a woman is forced to marry her rapist, I am both offended by the decree personally, and also repulsed by the obvious contradiction that an all-knowing, all-loving god could make such a command in good conscience.] I remember that even as a child I found it impossible to accept the idea of God. Before my conversion I thought the following: There is no God. Life on earth evolved Jesus was a myth. The Bible was so old it could not possibly be accurate. Visions of heaven and hell experienced by some people close to death were biochemical changes in the brain. I had no doubt these stories were useful for controlling people! [The author doesn't mention any specific evidence that changed his mind on any of these topics. I wonder if it isn't too much to suspect that after conversion, he ignored all the Biblical textual criticism, scientific evidence for evolution, and modern understanding of NDEs in favor of faith and pseudoscience.] By the time I was eleven I had no faith at all, but as a teenager I began to think that there might possibly be a God so I was baptized and confirmed without really knowing why. I still could not accept what the Bible teaches. After school I continued going to church more out of habit than anything else. I could not understand what making a "commitment to Christ" was all about. I assumed it meant accepting that Jesus was a man with a beard, wearing a robe, living in Israel and that He claimed to be the Son of God. But I had difficulty believing in God, let alone knowing what He and His Son are really like. I was not always easy to live with, determined to compensate for my shortcomings. My world was built around me. I was a controller. I said yes to everything my Christian friends said because the quickest way to get someone to shut up is to agree with them! The barriers to any relationship with God were well and truly up! But He broke them down because He loves each of us so much that He tries anything to get through! [He just takes a hell of a long time to get around to it, that's all. This author probably never even considered the millions of people who go through life without so much as a hint that Biblegod is real, even when they ask in his name. I guess God didn't love those people enough to get off his 'Blessed Assurance' and do something about that. So much for trying 'anything' to come through to them, I guess.] God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever should believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him…(Revelation 3:20). [Sorry, but I don't much fancy the idea of Jesus–or any guy for that matter–coming inside of me, no matter how nicely he knocks first. Makes everything white and sticky afterwards, y'know.] This is how it happened. First I began to feel strange, it was though I was suffocating from the inside, however there was no clinical explanation for it. [Since the author claims to have converted in the late 80s, and this testimony was written in early 2003, it may well be that the author had physical or mental issues that weren't easily diagnosed then. I'd love to know if the symptoms match anything specific that we know about today!] Then one Friday evening I met with three Christian friends to pray. Because Christians prayed I thought I could be a Christian by praying! Rather like being in a garage and pretending to be a car! The young woman in the group began to say things about which only I knew. She said, "Stop your boasting…You’ve nothing to boast about. Salvation comes by faith not works… You did not choose me, I chose you…. The only thing you will ever have to boast about is that it is I and I alone who have saved you." I was terrified. I gasped: "It’s true! There really is a God and He knows exactly what I think!" [So, I wasn't completely sure what supposedly happened here. Did the Wraith of God (Holy Spirit) possess this girl and make her say these things? If so, perhaps all the exorcists owe the demons an apology. But why would the God-possession be necessary in the first place? Couldn't Jesus telepathically speak into this guy's mind during the prayer? I know a lot of Christians who think he does this all the time. Maybe they didn't get the memo...] Then it happened! There was a violent rushing wind from above. It filled the room and penetrated both my eardrums but no damage was done. My whole body was filled with this powerful but gentle wind. The suffocating stopped and I could breathe properly again. There was no wind outside and as the doors and windows were closed there was no draught. It was like a scene out of Pentecost! (Acts 2:2). [Minus the disembodied burning tongues, this does seem similar to the story of the apostles at Pentecost. However, unlike that story, the author seems to have been the only one who experienced the Godly gusts. Also, God knows how to resuscitate folks now. Funny that people still die of normal, non-spiritual suffocation all the time. Maybe God needs to renew his license or something. In addition, I have to wonder why the author received such special treatment from God when he didn't even ask for it. Christians throughout history have begged and prayed for God to move in their lives like he supposedly did for the author, while nonbelievers have argued that if God were real, he'd show himself for all to see. After all, if he cared so much about each and every person the way the author claims, why wouldn't he?] After several weeks I came to the conclusion that the Spirit of God had met with me in a very powerful way. Pentecost only happened because Jesus lived, died and rose again. I thought, I prayed, I read into the evidence supporting the Christian faith, even someone stated, "If God needed to be made He wouldn’t be God!"' [Apparently this fellow doesn't know his mythology very well. There are plenty of examples of 'gods,' even extremely powerful ones, being born or straight-up created by other, higher, beings. Is it really that far removed from the realm of possibility that Biblegod himself was created? After all, Genesis has him referring to an 'Us' when deciding to make humanity. Interestingly, the LDS Church actually does believe that Yahweh was a created being–not only that, but he was once a man to boot!] So there you have it. I copied over almost all of this person's testimony (minus some extra scripture verses and the obligatory Christianity sales-pitch prayer. If you want to see all of it, you can do so right here. Now, I realize that this person could definitely be lying about everything in his story, and he wouldn't be the first to do so. After all, it's the Internet, it's anonymous, who's going to find out, right? Perhaps it's the optimistic side of me that would like to believe that the author isn't lying through his teeth, just very confused about what's going on. Has anyone else here had experiences that were the same or similar as the author claims to have had?
  18. Okay, so I was a little intrigued by this question after posting, so I did a few minutes of research and found this. It critiques Glenn Miller (who runs The Christian Think Tank, an apologetics site), who holds to the theory that the Jews didn't count days as 24-hour periods. The problem is, as the writer of this article points out, this theory is false. The Jews never had such a custom, and so the apologists' attempt to explain the problem away in this manner is either ignorant or dishonest. Balance (not) restored!
  19. The typical apologetic explanation (at least in my experience) has been that the Jews didn't always think of 'days' in terms of literal, 24-hour periods of time. In this view, Jesus would have spent Friday evening in the tomb (part of one day), all of Saturday in the tomb (one full day), and then rose from the dead on Sunday morning (part of another day). I find it interesting how fundamentalists like to play around with time in the Holy Babble, defending a literal, 24-hour, six-day creation to the death, even as they're apparently quite comfortable with interpreting Jesus' days in the tomb as something less than literal. Whatever helps them banish the demons flying around, tempting poor unsuspecting mortals to indulge in a little critical thinking...
  20. I know right! One of the things that really hit me once I started truly thinking about the implications of the Incarnation doctrine was that not only was Jesus God, but he was the jealous, rage-filled God of the OT who had no qualms about slaughtering anyone who failed to worship him. The 'greatest commandment' to love God with everything hints at this, even though many Christians don't realize it. If someone has to explicitly command you to love him, on pain of death or eternal torture should you decline, you are in an abusive relationship. By contrast, Jesus (with a few exceptions depending on which Gospel you're reading) treated people with respect. He healed people when they came to him, without requiring that they grovel at his feet first. The Sabbath that he supposedly instituted in the Old Testament was repeatedly broken in favor of helping others, or simply in performing necessary tasks like picking grain for food. If Jesus had lived in OT Israel, he would have been stoned to death for violating his own commands. At least he'd be in good company when he got to the 'other side' and met up with the guy who Moses stoned for picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Maybe God's laws apply to everyone, just not to him. That would explain a few things...
  21. The discrepancies in the Resurrection story were one of the final nails in the coffin for me, as far as the idea of Jesus being God and rising from the dead were concerned. One would think that if the Gospel texts were truly divinely inspired, an all-powerful, all-knowing God would have been able to see the problems in the accounts and questions that would arise as a result. If so, one would expect God to 'inspire' the gospel writers in such a way that their stories were at least a little more cohesive, especially on a subject as critical to the faith as the Resurrection. I've often heard apologists argue that the discrepancies in the resurrection accounts, far from proving that the Gospels were written solely by men, actually lend credence to the disciples' story. The idea is that what the Gospels describe are 'eye-witness' accounts, and that if there were really no empty tomb and the disciples decided to make it all up, one would expect almost complete solidarity between the Gospels. Of course, these are pretty weak arguments. The fact is that no amount of apologetic pleading will make the contradictions go away, so believers are still left with resurrection 'testimonies' that can't be reconciled. Many texts, while referring to the same period in time, inform us that the witnesses in question (i.e. Mary Magdalene) were doing completely different things. Again, if God really wanted people to come to faith in him, why would he inspire the Gospel authors to write stories that contradict so strongly? Another thing about eyewitness reports: this is one of the apologist's strongest arguments for the veracity of the resurrection accounts, but as anyone with experience in law enforcement will tell you, eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable. In a way, the multiple contradictory resurrection stories remind me of the reports of Jesus' trial, when the religious leaders brought false witnesses in to testify against the would-be Messiah. As one would expect, however, the witnesses' stories conflicted, and their testimony was thrown out of court. It's intriguing that believers won't do the same thing with the Resurrection...
  22. Hello there! It's very nice to 'meet' you. I have a bit of an artistic bent myself, at least if my college major in animation and illustration has anything to say about it. I've visited your state once, but since it was only for a couple of days (for a relative's wedding) I haven't gotten to experience the true religious-fueled insanity that Texas can be. Just fortunate, I guess. I'm sorry to hear that you don't have many friends–although I probably shouldn't talk too much, since I can be a pretty introverted person in real life myself. Being surrounded by hardcore conservative Christians all the time has to be pretty tough at times; at least that's how I envision it. Feel free to correct me if that's just a negative stereotype about Texas; I definitely don't want to make assumptions if I can help it, but that's what I've heard and read about the place. Hopefully we can have some good discussions here in the future; I'm a relatively recent de-convert and so you definitely have more experience than me, even though you're a bit younger in terms of age (I'm 19). It doesn't often happen that young people seriously question beliefs that they've been taught to adhere to since birth, so I'm kind of curious what got you to question the faith in the first place? For me it was the question of 'objective' morality, but that was soon followed by research into history, science, philosophy, and the Bible itself that ultimately did it for me. I still have questions, of course–that's the human experience–but I'm content to make use of science and reason to find the answers, as opposed to my previous assumptions that all knowledge and wisdom were contained within the pages of a Bronze-Age holy book. Well, that's enough out of me. Welcome to the forum man; I hope you find a place that's just as supportive as any church, without all the harmful indoctrination that real church entails.
  23. Hey there F.O.U., Pretty much every year around this time for as far back as I can remember, I would read the accounts of Christ's crucifixion and death with a sense of sorrow for the immense suffering that he endured while on his mission to save me from my 'sins,' and a feeling of awe for the God who cared so much for mankind that he would willingly die for them. Growing up, I often heard the line that 'even if you were the only person on Earth, Jesus would have died just for you.' As time has passed, however, I've come to realize that Christ's sacrifice wasn't really a sacrifice at all. If Jesus was truly God, he would have known that in a mere 'three days' (not even two, really) the pain would be over forever and he would take his place at the right hand of the Father to be crowned with glory and power, a position that he supposedly held since the beginning of time. His suffering to save the world from sin would be completed in twelve hours, not even a heartbeat's worth of time compared to the eternity in Hell that supposedly still awaits those who fail to accept God's 'gift.' The whole idea of a sacrifice is that there's no possibility of regaining what was lost, so God really didn't sacrifice anything, ultimately, by going through with this whole convoluted scheme. Perhaps a bit off-hand, but I find it interesting that Jesus' sacrifice was supposed to atone for all sin, except for the so-called 'unforgivable sin', blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (which isn't very well defined to begin with). So even if all your other sins are forgiven, if you've blasphemed the Holy Spook at some point in your life, you're still screwed. A very happy Ex-ter to you, my good sir.
  24. Hello there! First of all, welcome to the family (for what it's worth, considering I pretty much just joined a few weeks ago myself). I am actually in a similar situation to yours at the moment; I'm 19 and attending an evangelical Christian university for my bachelor's degree. There's actually a lot of different perspectives on faith and 'holy Scripture' where I am, so even though I definitely do not want to let on that I disbelieve it, I'm not feeling an immense pressure to conform to some ridiculous standard (i.e. Biblical literalism). Ironically, I first began really questioning the tenets of the faith as a freshman studying required theology classes at my school, and things pretty much progressed from there. I'm definitely looking forward to graduate school in a year or so; I plan to apply to a more secular institution in a different state (perhaps a different country if I'm feeling really adventurous). In the meantime, I'm trying to read up on as much science, philosophy, and history as I can so that I won't be taken in by the two-bit Internet Apostles that are all over the Web. Someday, I will also inform my family of the change, and although I know they won't take it well at first I hope that the revelation won't have too many long-lasting negative impacts on my relationship with them (or with my significant other or children, if I'm fortunate enough to have any). I definitely feel you regarding Easter...My family has a tradition of going to church and watching the Passion of the Christ to commemorate Jesus' sacrifice of Himself, to Himself, to appease Himself. It's going to feel quite different this year, that is one thing I know for certain.
  25. Not sure if this describes your recent experiences @skysoar15, but here's a link to some information on common persuasion and brainwashing techniques that preachers often use, courtesy of our very own Brother Jeff! Perhaps you've encountered some of these lately? Anyways, hope this is helpful!
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