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About TinMan

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    South Korea (just living here temporarily)
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    Academics; knowledge; golf.
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    Became Christian ever since I went to Iraq in 2003 (fear of death and possible subsequent assignment to hell). It has only been recently (past year) where I started to question the validity of my worldview. I am on the slippery slope. I cannot seem to figure out where I fit in. I know I cannot go back to fundamentalism, it was just too crazy and nothing but a bad experience.
    ***Update*** I have definitely moved from "Christian Agnostic" to Agnostic/Atheist.

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  • Still have any Gods? If so, who or what?

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  1. This is the translation of Ezekiel 20:25-26 from the Revised Standard Version: 25 Moreover I gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not have life; 26 and I defiled them through their very gifts in making them offer by fire all their first-born, that I might horrify them; I did it that they might know that I am the Lord. I am inclined to think this is closer to the actual translation than the one offered by the Names of God Bible. The Message Bible also translates it similar to the Names of God Bible and I think both are making an attempt to domesticate the passage. Ezekiel 20, verse 25 and 26 do not make a lot of sense together by the alternate translation. How would Yahweh "allowing" them to sacrifice their firstborn as gifts be tied to God terrifying them so they know he is Yahweh? The translation offered by the majority of translations, which is similar to the RSV makes more sense from the reading. To answer your question, I need to take a running start at it because the background information provides context for what I am saying. In general, Christians will state God is a loving God. Not only that, but God loves us unconditionally and only wants what is best for us. JW.org states that God's love is a factor in everything he does. Generally speaking, we are dealing with a claim that one of the defining attributes or characteristics of the Jewish/Christian God is love. On top of this, they worship the Bible with this veneration as if it is a book with nothing but the highest ethical standards, the utmost compassion for life, a moral dictate for what is good and decent, and it contains God's laws which are always good and life giving. My response to this is that I find that difficult to believe, based upon passages within the Bible, and Ezekiel 20:25-26 is one of the first ones I go to. I had some JW's show up to my house and of course they wanted to hand me some flyers and go through their normal pitch. Usually they ask if you are a believer of some sort and somewhere in there they are going to make a claim about God's character. This is usually where I ask them how they know that. Of course they are going to say, "it's in the Bible." I then will ask them if they also know that the Bible claims God gave commandments to Israel to sacrifice children to him. After that statement, the look they give me is the same, they absolutely cannot believe it. I tell them to look it up, right now. There was one JW who wanted to argue that the passage could not possibly mean what it says. He went through and started to pull out verses to the contrary, such as: Jeremiah 19:4-5 Revised Standard Version (RSV) 4 Because the people have forsaken me, and have profaned this place by burning incense in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, 5 and have built the high places of Ba′al to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Ba′al, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind; I am not disputing what Jeremiah 19:4-5, and other passages like it say. I then raise a point, it seems we have a contradiction. I then say, Exodus 22:29-30 could also be substantiating evidence ancient Hebrews were sacrificing first-born sons to Yahweh, as if they thought they were under commandment to do so: Exodus 22:29-30 Revised Standard Version (RSV) 29 “You shall not delay to offer from the fullness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses. “The first-born of your sons you shall give to me. 30 You shall do likewise with your oxen and with your sheep: seven days it shall be with its dam; on the eighth day you shall give it to me." --Give it to me does not sound like a redemption ritual (see below). My main point to them is this, I think a convincing argument can be made that the author of Ezekiel believed, or knew, child sacrifice was occurring in ancient Israel and he wrote Ezekiel 20:25-26 trying to provide an explanation why that was happening. I am not saying I think a God ordered child sacrifice. What I am saying is that this is good evidence the Bible is not a book inspired by a God, especially the kind of God they are telling me the Bible can support. I showed this to my father and he was flabbergasted it was in there. Most of the time I show Ezekiel 20:25-26 and Exodus 22:29 to people, I can tell they never put it together. If they have read the Bible (rarely is that the occasion), it is as if they glossed over these troubling passages, or they read it with their denominational goggles on and dismissed the literal meaning of the passage because: "That cannot possibly mean what it says." Now an argument could be made that Exodus 13 precedes Exodus 22 and actually Exodus 22 means a redemption: Numbers 18:15-17 Revised Standard Version (RSV) 15 "Everything that opens the womb of all flesh, whether man or beast, which they offer to the Lord, shall be yours; nevertheless the first-born of man you shall redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts you shall redeem. 16 And their redemption price (at a month old you shall redeem them) you shall fix at five shekels in silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs. 17 But the firstling of a cow, or the firstling of a sheep, or the firstling of a goat, you shall not redeem; they are holy. You shall sprinkle their blood upon the altar, and shall burn their fat as an offering by fire, a pleasing odor to the Lord;" --notice in Exodus 22, child, oxen, and sheep are lumped together. Here, cows and sheep are lumped together again. Only thing missing in Exodus 13 is the child It makes me wonder what the author of Ezekiel was contemplating whenever he wrote Ezekiel 20:25-26. Just because Exodus 13 comes before Exodus 22, does not necessarily mean it was originally that way. There were reformations in ancient Judaism just as we see reformations taking place in religion now. Child sacrifice may have been an early practice of Hebrews and eventually a reformation did away with the practice and the practice of redemption, or Pidyon Haben, was instituted to do away with the ritual. I am more inclined to think this was the case, but I am not expert, and this is not my original idea. I got this from Dr. Robert Price and I thought he made a fairly good argument. Especially when he discussed that in ancient times, sacrificing your firstlings was a sign to that you were not holding back, and by doing so, God would open the womb so to speak (I am fairly certain this was common practice in the region). This ritual was supposed to guarantee more offspring in the future. Those who were stingy with their sacrifice could not expect God to show them such favor.
  2. When I point out Ezekiel 20 25-26 to people, you should see the backpedaling that occurs. All of a sudden, the Bible cannot mean what it literally says. They cannot believe their God would command such things. But yet, there it is, plain as day.
  3. If there is anything I have learned in my 38 years of being on this planet, it is that there is a lot I do not know. There are many pressing issues that face humanity that I am ill equipped to answer or to figure out a solution. One example would be climate change. I have heard arguments on both sides: those that state it is a real, scientifically backed issue, and those who say it is just an agenda being peddled to coax people out of their money. I am more inclined to think this is not a giant hoax to get rich, especially when so many scientific organizations back it, but at the end of the day, I cannot know for sure. I am not a scientist in general, let alone a scientist who specializes in paleoclimatology. I mention all this because it always reminds me of a real hangup I had with the Christian faith, and that was why I could never get God to weigh in on issues that I found to be completely out of my ability to know, understand, or do something about. Going back to climate change, if the Christian God is everything Christians say he is, then he not only knows what the issue is, but he has knowledge of how to fix it. That being said, if people like me are in position to not really understand the issue, or know how to work towards a solution, but really beseech God for an answer, why the silence? I think it is a humble request (especially recognizing your own limitations) and is nothing more than what Solomon asked for. And if God found that request from Solomon to be remarkable, would the same metric not be applied here? This is especially true when I was a practicing Christian. I would constantly be in conflict about what the right answer was for such a wide array of topics, starting with theology. I spent years reading, researching, and asking questions of clergy because I really wanted to know what I was supposed to believe, and what I was supposed to do. I came to a point where I realized I was not equipped to make any real judgements on what a collection of writings from 2000 years ago was supposed to be telling me, especially when 30000 different denominations cannot agree on it. Realizing my inability to draw any real conclusions with a high degree of certainty, I would fall on my knees and beg God to reveal himself to give me an hour of his time to tell me what was orthodoxy and orthopraxy. In the midst of this dilemma, I was faced with many more on a daily basis. What should I do about that homeless person begging for money at the intersection? Does he really need money, a meal, or something more to really make an impact in their life. I am limited in my knowledge of what that person really needs, or any person I may run across. I would ask Jesus for true knowledge of what would have the most beneficial impact in that persons life. Naturally, nothing was provided. Questions kept burning: What is the best way to tackle world hunger? How can I personally make an impact that effects real change, not just throwing money at it so I feel better about my first world condition? What should I do about various social issues? What should I do day to day to please Jesus and have a meaningful impact? I was attracted to Christianity because I thought it was going to provide answers to my burning problems. I was promised it was going to provide the solution for not going to hell. I could count on God as a loving father to guide and direct my life. I was told God wanted the best for me, and so on and so forth. Initially it was all pretty easy to get down, but when you get into it, I mean really get into it, you start to realize there are way more questions than answers. Nothing you were told at the beginning really holds true anymore, it was a bait and switch to get you to convert. My conclusion was that if God would not honor my simple request for knowledge and understanding of orthodoxy and orthopraxy, if he was not even willing to put in a fraction of the effort I was, then the Bible is definitely not true on multiple occasions regarding God's character; and that God either does not care, or is not there. If God does not care, then why should I, and if he is not there, then it is a mute point.
  4. No doubt there are people out there who can memorize large swaths of information and pass it on to others, but how frequently do we run across people like that? This particular argument is a favorite of JP Holding. He states that people in ancient times focused on memorizing information since most could not read or write. I have seen arguments from anthropologists stating that was not the case, and to say so is an oversimplification of what really happened. Let's be frank, every society is different. The way they think about things are different, the way they remember things are different, etc. I would also add, how many years of oral tradition are we working with here regarding the gospels? On top of that, is the argument advocating that everyone who heard the whole entire book of Matthew memorized it over night? It's easy to make a broad statement and throw in some really unusual circumstances that make it seem plausible, but I want to hear the details of how they think this process really worked. People in the first century thought a lot differently about the world than we do. These guys were not rationalist. Who knows how they would have viewed the stories in the gospels from a holistic perspective. Not only that, but most of the early Christians were uneducated peasants. Not masters of memorization. Consider this, are you telling me that the beatitudes was passed down word for word since it left the lips of Jesus and accurately recorded in the gopels 40 years after the fact? I have trouble choking that down. Why are there facts that conflict with each other in different gospels? So in reality, if the gospels are supposed to be oral tradition, do they not demonstrate that oral tradition did not work. How many angels were in the empty tomb? Apparently too many for oral tradition to get systematically correct. What is Jesus' true genealogy? Oral tradition could not keep track of that one. Did Jesus clear the temple at the beginning of his ministry or the end? Oral tradition did not help us again. Weird how oral tradition (Matthew) states a bunch of dead people nonchalantly got out of their grave and went to go see their friends in Jerusalem, but no historian took notice of that doozy. So what are advocates of oral tradition reliability even trying to say? The gospels' disagreements tell us it plainly it did not work. Because if it did, then there would be one truth, one story, capturing what happened historically.
  5. I back track the free will argument even more. I would not let Plantinga get away with his argument because I find the principle baseless. God easily could have created beings with free will that did not invole delving into the evil spectrum. Picture a spectrum where on one end we have pure, unadulterated evil, and the other end, moral perfection. If God resides at the far right of moral perfection, then he could have created beings who could never cross the threshold into evil/sin, however you want to define it. Free will would be defined as the ability to freely choose from options that would fall into God approved. A common response would be that God did not choose that option because then people would not "freely" choose him and be more like robots. I tell them to go back to the Bible and show me where YHWH doesn't want robots. All of the commands are commands to obey and fit a stereotype that God deems fitting. Nowhere do you pick up any theme that YHWH wants individuals, he demands drones. Anyone arguing differently is reading from a different book. Matter of fact, isn't the NT theme to "be like Christ"? Where exactly are we getting this idea God is looking for a variety in personalities? That is just some BS philosophers and apologists use to avoid a tight spot. Would it not be better if they just admitted their God is not kind, or loving, or caring (in any way we understand), and quite frankly just demands us to conform or he is going to kick us in the teeth? The truth is the truth and it stands on its own. If Christianity happened to be true regardless of how we felt about it, then fine, it is true and what we are going to do about it is up to the individual. What I absolutely abhor is how pastors, apologists, and philosophers (like Ravi Zacharias) obfuscate the reality of their religion, the God they serve, ignore the blantent facts about our reality which we can investigate, and pull a bait and switch about their real doctrine.
  6. I have never heard someone argue that. I always understood it to be the second level of a structure....bizarre interpretation.
  7. @Geezer Do you have some resources to look at regarding the mythist theory of Paul? I have seen different stuff on Jesus from Richard Carrier, David Fitzgerald, and Robert Price, but I have not seen anyone make a good argument that Paul was made from whole cloth. Mythicism in general is confusing to me, in that, I don't understand the motivation of why someone would sit down and undertake such a task. I do understand it from a Midrash point of view, but some of the stories in the gospels don't appear to be Midrash.
  8. If you look in Genesis, Chapter Two I think (Chapter Two is a more robust creation account than Chapter One), it actually reads as if Adam and Eve had to eat from the tree of life to stay alive. It was the reason they were booted out, God was afraid they would live forever with their new found knowledge.
  9. Supposedly the wood used to make the ark. No one seems to really know what the word means because it is foreign to Hebrew and possibly a mistranslation.
  10. I understand the argument, but isn't obedience the dominant theme in the Bible? I mention this because I find the narrative of God wanting a personal relationship with people to be a strained inference of the Bible. The more obvious inference is that God wants people to obey him. His love is conditional so long as people are doing what he wants. This kind of relationship is more of a king and his vassels opposed to a loving being. If that is the case, and all God really wants are obedient servants, then it seems as if robots are actually what he desires. Free will to love God is then a superfluous attribute because all God wants you to do is give up your free will and obey him to the minute detail. In the end, what is really the difference between a human who gives up their identity to take on a role and a human who was programmed to always be obedient? Saves a lot of hassle for all parties involved. I would rather be a robot than have free will when it endangers the eternal fate of people.
  11. After my last discussion on this topic, I was able to have another conversation with the same colleague regarding the miracles he witnessed first hand: 1. The deafness was caused by a ruptured eardrum. After praying for his sibling over the phone, the eardrum was healed. His follow up was that the doctor called it a peculiarity. 2. Another person had vertebrae in the neck that seemed to be fused together. After praying over them, he could "literally" see them moving away from each other. (No medical records of before and after) 3. Another was that a person had plantar fasciitis and sciatica; both were healed instantly. (No medical records of before and after) Those three items I listed are at the top of his list as to why Christianity is true. After finding out details, I am not completely blown away. Ruptured ear drums are known to heal themselves, granted, if it happened to heal itself right when he prayed, that is highly coincidental. Number 2 is unusual, not really sure what to make of it. Number 3 could easily be psychosomatic. I am curious to hear what everyone else thinks of these "miracles." As I stated before, I have never gone down the rabbit hole of miracles happening around the world/other religions, so if anyone has done some research, I would be glad to hear it. We continued the discussion on Christianity for a while, and like before, he kept retreating to ambiguity, or would flat out deny he believed cherished church doctrine (this one surprised me, he said he is not sure he believes the Trinity, but accepts there is a God, there is Jesus, and there is a Holy Spirit, because the Bible says so - he is a Bible literalist when it suits his argument, but will retreat from it when it does not). I kept pinning down issues such as Paul in disagreement with James, Peter, and the others over what gentile Christians should do about Jewish laws. The fairness, justness, or reasonability of an eternal torture chamber. Through all this, and this is always the answer when I am able to argue people into a corner, "it is all about believing in Jesus, and who he said he was." I heard the same thing from our Chaplain whenever I was routing his arguments as well. So strange I keep hearing that argument, because no Christian actually believes it! It ends up being a bait and switch. They lull you in saying you just have to have faith, then it turns into a whole litany of demands depending on the denomination: no movies; no music; no sex before marriage; you should be celibate (according to Paul & Jesus); you should get married and pump out a 1,000 kids (Quiverfull); no taking communion from two or more cups; observe the Sabbath; it is Yeshua - not Jesus; hell is eternal; Jesus - I mean Yeshua loves you; Yeshua hates you; psychology is heresy; psychology heals the mind as medicine heals the body; hell is annihilation; God saves everyone; creationism; Bible conforms to science; science is the devil; when you should attend church: Saturday or Sunday; Paul was/is a false prophet; Jesus' teachings only; the whole counsel of God (Bible as we have it now is inspired - not sure what that means exactly); OT says the laws are everlasting, and Jesus said the law is forever; Jesus fulfilled the law; Genesis is literally true; Genesis is allegory; the Bible describes the past; the Bible does not make sense in historical context (Origen actually said this); our denomination has the truth - everyone else is deceived (why would Jesus let someone be deceived if they are earnestly seeking him?); God sends lying spirits (1 Kings 22); God does not lie; God believes in preserving life; God let Israel start cannibalizing their children - God ordered the slaughter of man, woman, and child; God ordered animal sacrifice (Exodus); God did not order animal sacrifice " For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices" (Jeremiah 7:22); God gives commandments that are good, and good for life; God gave commandments that were not good, nor good for life: "Moreover I gave them statues that were not good and ordinances by which they could not have life, and I defiled them through their very gifts in making them offer by fire all their first-born (emphasis mine), that I might horrify them; I did it that they might know I am the Lord." (Ezekiel 20:25-26). There are two serious passages I want to point out here: 1 Kings 22 and Ezekiel 20:25-26. In my opinion, these two passages (and no doubt there are more) are a dagger to the heart of any statement from evangelist saying carte blanch "God loves you, unconditionally." That is not even in the realm of possibility. Moreover, I would say it should cause concern to any believer because it opens the door to doubting any possible chance of assurance that they are saved, or will be saved. I know a lot of people maintain their beliefs because they convinced themselves they are right with God. By their own scriptures, I would say that is unknowable! We are talking about a God who has no problem letting people be deceived, or sending them a lying spirit, or quite frankly, giving commands to horrify them. Case closed.
  12. Oh yes, I have heard plenty of this over the years. There is a specific ring leader of this movement: Douglas Del Tonto He runs a website called jesuswordsonly. As usual, he disagrees with everyone else and that you should only read the gospels to hear what Jesus had to say. This, and every other website out there is exactly why I left Christianity. There is no consensus on how to read the Bible; the whole Christian movement is rife with conflict regarding what "truth" is. It is just so insane that you will lose your head trying to figure it out. I mean really, if God wants all man to come to the truth as is stated in 2 Peter, it should not be this difficult. You know what makes me do a double take with these guys? They will say that Paul is a false apostle, and his writings should not be in the Bible, but then they automatically assume everything in the gospels is an accurate snapshot of Jesus' ministry. Why do you believe that some of the Bible is false, but yet you believe everything from John back is true? How did you come to that determination?
  13. Baal can also mean "lord" in the old testament. It was a generic title used by the people in the area for various gods on the regions. To get some real insight into this discussion, pick up Henry Fosdick's "A Guide to Understanding the Bible." He was a liberal theologian who does a pretty good job breaking down all of the different ideas ancient Hebrews had about YHWH.
  14. No need to apologize. The first few steps out of religion are usually emotional.
  15. “You can love God all you want, it does not mean he loves you back.” ~The Author of this Topic~ Hell. It strikes fear in the heart of the believing and the unbelieving. This doctrine has to be the most terrifying aspect of any religion, but it is especially true for those who grew up in the Christian tradition (and I would extend it to Islam as well). If I had to speculate, I would say everyone gets into, and stays in, Christianity because of the dread hell creates in people. During my time in Christianity, all I wanted was an assurance that hell would not be my eternal fate. If there is one thing I learned while I obsessed over dogma, it is this: there is no guarantee, and there never will be. I want to talk about the fear of hell because it is something that borderline debilitated me mentally as a human, and I know it has the same effect on others. Hell did not terrorize me just because of my own personal desire not to be in pain forever, but I could not stomach it for the sake of others as well. When I was a Calvinist, I got to a point where I could not intellectually, and emotionally, handle the idea of God firing people into the pits of hell. It was too troublesome, too grotesque, and too unmerciful. At some point in time, surely God’s blood lust should be sated, surely God would grow tired of sustaining his pure hated for others. Based on mainstream Christian theology, the aforementioned is the only way hell could exist. If YHWH created, and therefore sustains everything, then hell cannot be a place absent of YHWH; therefore, for eternity, YHWH is displaying love for some, and active hate and malice for others. If this premise is true, then God does not love his enemies as he commands us to love them. How do we escape this fate? How can we find ourselves in God’s good graces? My conclusion is that no one could ever know, not in this life anyway. I want to go through a few different talking points to demonstrate that there is no resolution, no assurance, and definitely no guarantee that being a part of the Christian nation will prevent you from going to hell. I bring this up because I know a lot of people, myself included, waver in their decision to leave the Christian faith. The threat of hell hangs over our heads and at times, we want to run back to the illusion of the safety net provided by belief. Personally, I did not just decide to leave the faith one day. It is not as if I packed my bags and headed out the church to never return. What happened to me is that I wanted to know the truth. What is the truth of the reality I observe? How can I know what is true? My problem with religion is epistemological. Because only knowing what is true can I escape my true problem, which is avoiding hell, or rather, eternal suffering. This is the basic problem Christianity sets before us, and what we seek to solve. Christians will say that you can avoid hell by being saved. Well, what exactly is being saved, and how can we know if we are saved? What is the standard response to this dilemma? The sinner’s prayer. We all know it, get on your knees, accept the tenets of the faith (for the sake of this argument, we will assume the Apostolic Creed), beg Jesus (or Joshua, or Yeshua really) for forgiveness of sins, and accept the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua. As long as you petitioned, and believed with your whole being, it took. Nine time out of ten, this is the standard answer I get when I ask the question. This theological concept runs parallel with the notion that salvation comes through faith, and not of works. For right now, we will just say faith is accepting the truths of the tenets of the faith and trusting in the finishing work of the atonement. Seems easy enough, and overall, nothing too taxing of the believer. But is this really all there is too it? Does this really do the trick? Is there any way to back this up? Short answer: no. Naturally, the same Christians who told us that this is all there is to the faith will then say the Bible supports the simple plan of salvation. Yet, when I turn to the Bible, I see some evidence for this, but I see a lot of evidence pointing away from this simple plan of getting right with God. When Jesus was speaking to the crowds, and his own disciples, some key comments stick out in my mind. “Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect.” “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.” I am sure I do not need to go on, just these few statements get the point across. What about other books of the Bible, what do they say about just having faith? “Faith without works is dead.” – James “…not to associate with anyone who bears the name brother if he is guilty of immorality, or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber – not to even eat with such a one.” 1 Corinthians There is a fairly consistent theme through the OT, and the NT, that it is not just about having faith. It is faith and living holy, being a living sacrifice, etcetera. I just do not see any other way around it. Then the question becomes, what is the threshold? How much do I have to sacrifice? How forgiving do I have to be? How can I know where I stand with YHWH? Even if you believe in Christianity, and want to live out the faith, you will never know how you rate with God. We can conclude that just having faith does not solve our dilemma in attempting to avoid hell. If we are to avoid our problem of hell, we must have faith, and we must be doing some other step-actions to satisfy YHWH. But what are they, and how do we figure them out? Let us go back to the Bible. First and foremost, attempting to find a congruent thought in Christianity is quite frankly untenable. I find the Bible has more in common with Wonderland from Alice in Wonderland than it does with our perceived reality. For the sake of this discussion, let us say the 66 books of the Protestant Bible are all we have to work with. That being the case, we are going to attempt to make sense of it, as only humans are capable. No matter what, humans are bound by their own worldview, their own knowledge of reason, and of course biases. It is impossible just to turn these off when reading the Bible. I cannot tell you how many times I would read some quip by an apologist or a pew potato saying you have to read the Bible with an uncluttered filter - good luck with that. It is not as if humans have this built in binary switch you can set to "do not be biased, or think about this with a western mindset." The most basic assumption is that our perceived reality is there, and we can investigate our perceived reality with the scientific method and logic. Quick note on this, any time you hear an apologist state that scientist are "biased" against the supernatural, that is patently false. What scientist do say is that we are not able to investigate or test the supernatural, therefore, the supernatural is not necessarily excluded, science is just unable to say anything about it. Our scientific tools are only capable of investigating the natural world. This standard line from apologist is an equivocation. Allow me to expand upon the various reasons I find that the Bible could only be true outside of our perceived reality. For the Bible to be consistently true, it could only be true in another reality, another universe that is bound by a different set of rules, it cannot be true in our reality. Consider the Gospel of John where it states, “God is love.” How can God be love and then he assigns his creation to eternal torment? Not even a few, but most of his creation is in hell, remember....narrow is the way. If hell is eternal torture, then in our reality, God is not love. The meaning of love is now meaningless to us. It takes on some definition that is outside of human experience and knowledge; but yet, how does the Bible define love? Paul has something to say of it in 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Haha, what!!!!!??? If God is love, and love is what we just defined, then what is the deal with hell? I will go even further and say that is not a systematic definition of the God we find scattered through the Bible. What God is the author of 1 Corinthians 13 even talking about? Why does the evidence we find in our perceived reality not match up with the stories relayed in the Bible? If God created the universe in six days, why does our universe look old? Why doesn’t Noah’s flood match up with paleontology and geology? Why are we so close in genetics to apes? Why does it appear that all living organisms share common ancestry? Why aren’t miracles, or rather interactions with a god being, or angels, a part of our daily experience? Why doesn’t prayer work? 1 Kings 22 presents another problem, what if God sent you a lying spirit? For all those Christians who say the Holy Spirit is talking to them, guiding them, how do they know? Thousands of different denominations attest to the fact they cannot all be right, but they could all be wrong. Who has the Holy Spirit, who is deceived, and who is God purposely sending a lying spirit to? How could anyone know if they were actually following the right way? What method could we employ to figure out the "truth?" Apparently YHWH has no problem letting people be deceived, whether through their own actions, or he simply sent a lying spirit to throw them off track. If God wants all to repent and come to the truth, why allow us to be deceived? And the big question, why in the world would you let a spirit deceive us! Especially if the one seeking the truth has honest intent? This only further substantiates our inability to find a resolution for the stated problem: How do we avoid hell? To summarize the biblical issue, Protestant denominations state the Bible is inerrant, infallible, and true in every aspect. As stated before, that could only be true in some other universe where logical contradictions are all simultaneously true, and that quite frankly is outside of our ability to conceive. We are being asked to believe in something that is not possible for us to actually believe. I would argue we are physically incapable of doing so. Do with that what you will. The problem we have is that the most reliable method humans have to test what is true cannot be applied to biblical stories, and theological concepts. That method is the scientific method: Make an observation Create a hypothesis Test hypothesis with an experiment Record results Refine hypothesis if experiment did not yield conclusive results Application of the scientific method is how we know something can be demonstrated to be true in our perceived reality. Our knowledge of the demonstrably true then feeds our ability to construct logically true premises and conclusions; all of which are tentative based upon new evidence. By now, I am sure anyone can see there is no conclusive way to know whether or not you are going to hell. In this regard, I think the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox have something over Protestants. We may be in a universe where we have a god like Angra Mainyu, who is going to torture all of us just for kicks. We do not know, and right now, we cannot know. We do not have the ability to test such a thing. When it comes to Christianity, unless we actually went through some kind judgement day, had the sheep and the goats separated, and then ended up somewhere, it is all degrees of possibility. Personally, this is how I deal with it - I just accept that I cannot know. I would like to know, I would like to have an assurance that an afterlife would be eternal bliss versus pain, but I realized that there is nothing I can do to guarantee that. All I can do is weigh the evidence, and hold a tentative conclusion on what is probably true based upon the evidence. If there is a hell, then the god who created it put us in an impossible position...we were set up for failure. We have no ability to sift through the data and come to the correct conclusion. As shown already, saying a prayer, having faith, and apparently even performing miracles is no way to know where you stand with God (Recall those individuals on judgement day pleading with Christ because they did miracles in his name, "Depart from me, I never knew you" - Jesus). Only this god could give me the wisdom needed to one: figure out what he wanted; two: be okay with the majority of humanity suffering forever. I could not be in heaven having a good time knowing billions of others were suffering. I am incapable of it. That means God would have to change my whole framework of how I see everything. When I was leaving Christianity, I often prayed that God would just make me a spiritual zombie that believed whatever he wanted me to believe and do all the time. I was more than happy to give up my freewill because it just seemed that my personal freewill was a waste of my time, and God’s time. But that has not happened, so if there is a hell, I am powerless to do anything to avoid it, therefore, why should I spend every waking moment dwelling on it? I am not the kind of person who dwells on situations I have no power over. If there is a hell, it is inevitable I am going there, and I will just have to deal with it when I arrive. What are you going to do? It is a hopeless situation. For those who are terrified of hell, I want you to consider what is it about hell that scares you? Is it the pain? Is it that you think you will never experience any good again? You will never stop being terrified of hell if you do not know what exactly about it that bothers you. I used to be afraid of the pain aspect of hell, of being on fire all the time. When I really thought about it, in some way, the pain might be so excruciating you do not even feel it. Perhaps it is so intense you are almost frozen in time. At some point in time, I would think the nerves would be destroyed so now you are on fire and you do not even feel it. I have heard some Christians say the body just keeps regenerating so you feel it all over again – so loving. Throughout history, some Christians have really painted a pretty grotesque picture of hell, and I can tell you they delighted in it because they did not think they were going there. I have bad news for them, they do not know that. I bet if more people really thought they might ended up in God’s Toyland of Torture, they would be trying to temper all of the horrific aspects. Even those in the holiness movement never actually think they will end up on the spit, it only holds true for everyone else. As I said in my quotes at the start of this, you can love God all you want, it does not mean he loves you back. Telling yourself you are one of God’s special kids is a statement you can never prove to be true. It is all speculation and wishful thinking. Knowing this is what really drove me to investigate the claims of Christianity, I wanted to know I was in God’s good graces. I wanted to know I was going to heaven. I wanted to know God was good, and merciful, and kind. For all the reasons stated above, I could not, and cannot, know any of it.
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