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Fear Of Hell - Please Argue Me Down.


ChristianGuy1000
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Hi Folks,

 

I have recently become a bit depressed in the thought that I could goto Hell or the Lake of Fire for Eternity,   For the last few weeks I was ok with Theism and I had my view point which I could back up.

 

But the question I am struggling with is - Do we actually know that Christianity is a Myth of older religions e.g. Is there any documented evidence showing them or being spoken about in the context of things being merged.

 

I am hopeful that their is but right now I am thinking that to say Christianity is a Myth without solid evidence is hard to believe.

E.g. may people including myself believe its based off older religions but is there any hard evidence of this?  E.g. a Before and After shot?

 

Can anyone recommend any books for the Starting Athiest to help me see the truth of information.  I understand researching myself will tell me what I need but I feel if I have a strong framework in place first then research will be more meaningful.

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Hi Folks,

 

I have recently become a bit depressed in the thought that I could goto Hell or the Lake of Fire for Eternity,   For the last few weeks I was ok with Theism and I had my view point which I could back up.

 

But the question I am struggling with is - Do we actually know that Christianity is a Myth of older religions e.g. Is there any documented evidence showing them or being spoken about in the context of things being merged.

 

I am hopeful that their is but right now I am thinking that to say Christianity is a Myth without solid evidence is hard to believe.

E.g. may people including myself believe its based off older religions but is there any hard evidence of this?  E.g. a Before and After shot?

 

Can anyone recommend any books for the Starting Athiest to help me see the truth of information.  I understand researching myself will tell me what I need but I feel if I have a strong framework in place first then research will be more meaningful.

 

 

As a person who never has fallen victim to any of the worlds religions which are all in my opinion 100% wrong I can say that what you are looking for does indeed exist. Whether you will accept it is probably as unlikely as me accepting whatever fantasy you use in your life to create these feelings of fear.

 

As a person who never has fallen victim to any of the worlds religions I can say that I fear very little. So much of the rest of the world is out of my control and I can let that empower me to live my own life and not worry about everyone and everthing else so much or I can let it cripple me. I do not live in fear of my own death and that helps a great deal in not fearing most other things.

 

You are going about this in the wrong direction. I don't even like people labeling me an atheist. I understand that what I believe defines the word when we start to label we go down a bad path that leads to nothing but pain. Look at all the stories in the bible. How many of them label one group or another or call on you to do it. I have no clue how christians are tolerant at all, half the book says crush my enemies (gods enemies) the other half says love thy brother??? I don't deal well with hypocracy and I wonder why you would if you are intelligent enough to see through the lies?

 

You can read all the books in the world and ask all the opinions you can stand but in the end the only thing that it truly going to help you is to put down the fear and learn what it is like to live based on your ideas and your theories not some other assholes and surely not some 2-5 millenia old theories that have not been valid ever and surely not in the modern world in hundreds of years.

 

The day the human race puts down religion in favor of the human race will be the first day of life for our race. It will be the day we have a chance at making a legacy in this universe that will span time and space until the end of time and space. We have it in us to solve our own problems and to realize our wildest dreams. I know you might feel alone out here hanging in space but there are others out here even if we are currently alone in our universe. I don't feel pain when I say that I feel an excitment that I can hardly contain in knowing that one day if we can put down our childlike notions or morality and religion and work together as mankind we will achieve everything. Come with us and be a part of it.

 

 

By the way if you really want some good books to read I suggest starting with Carl Sagan.

 

start here and learn about this man and then learn about what it was he was trying to say to all of us. I think you will find that a man does not need god to love this race or desire us to move out and seize our time in this universe.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Sagan

 

 

Here is what he said about a relationship between religion and science

 

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual." Carl sagan.

 

I know when I look at the sky at night I do not see god up there I see the spirit of man and all of the ages we have been in and will be if we can simply grow up.

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I recommend these videos:

History of Satan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rop_P_6L_5w

Evid3nce: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLF42ACBF6E5F29BA9 (part of the series addresses emerging languages and biblical sources)

 

Prplfox: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3F74B2359EBDAAE4

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The works of Robert Ingersoll are a good start in refuting the absurd notion of hell.

 

Ingersoll was a brilliant man who traveled throughout the country in the 19th century speaking about how preposterous Christianity and the idea of hell are. Interestingly, he grew up in the church and his father had been a pastor.

 

Here are a couple links with information from and about Ingersoll (who is one of my heroes):

 

http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/quotes/ingersoll.htm

 

http://www.skepticaleye.com/2008/03/robert-ingersoll-on-hell.html

 

Here are a few of his quotes:

 

Nothing could add to the horror of hell, except the presence of its creator, God. While I have life, as long as I draw breath, I shall deny with all my strength, and hate with every drop of my blood, this infinite lie.
-- Robert Green Ingersoll, from "Why I Am an Agnostic" (1896)

 

 

If there is a God who will damn his children forever, I would rather go to hell than to go to heaven and keep the society of such an infamous tyrant. I make my choice now. I despise that doctrine. It has covered the cheeks of this world with tears. It has polluted the hearts of children, and poisoned the imaginations of men.... What right have you, sir, Mr. clergyman, you, minister of the gospel to stand at the portals of the tomb, at the vestibule of eternity, and fill the future with horror and with fear? I do not believe this doctrine, neither do you. If you did, you could not sleep one moment. Any man who believes it, and has within his breast a decent, throbbing heart, will go insane. A man who believes that doctrine and does not go insane has the heart of a snake and the conscience of a hyena.

-- Robert Green Ingersoll, "The Liberty Of All" (1877)

 

The doctrine of eternal punishment is in perfect harmony with the savagery of the men who made the orthodox creeds. It is in harmony with torture, with flaying alive, and with burnings. The men who burned their fellow-men for a moment, believed that God would burn his enemies forever.
-- Robert Green Ingersoll, "Crumbling Creeds"

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The idea of hell is nothing more than a meme existing in many different religious memeplexes. This is all explained in The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins - who actually coined the term "meme" back in the 70's in his book The Selfish Gene.

 

Your not going to find hard evidence that Christianity is a myth. This is something you must come to terms with on your own. There are plenty of scholarly works out there that disprove Christianity in every way. However, this is a powerful meme that has survived for 2000 years in spite of the stunning lack of evidence for all of its claims. A five year old in a kindergarten class who does not believe in Santa is not going to have a difficult time convincing his classmates that Santa is a myth. The Santa meme is very powerful in the mind of a believing child. The child who dares call out Santa a myth is likely to be ridiculed by his peers. This is not unlike the life of an atheist in a world full of believers.

 

My advice is to think of religions as a meme - or mind virus - that replicates and runs on the powerful human brain. It's malicious code that boot straps and uses its host, the human brain, to replicate its insidious ideas to other hosts. Think of the Bible as a strand of DNA but with memes instead of genes. All of those memes have competing alleles both dominate and recessive. A person who reads the Bible loads this malicious DNA into their brain and the memes contained within flourish in the mind of the reader. The different alleles of each meme create in the mind of the reader all the different traits of the religion. Calvinism is like dominant brown eyes while speaking in tongues is recessive like blue eyes. All the flavors and traits that make Christianity different are contained with the Bible DNA and hell is but one of them. You can carry this out further and call each religion a separate species with its own DNA but with a certain number of common memes. Sometimes this DNA mutates and creates new branches of the species like Mormonism - still sharing much of the same memes but an altogether different animal.

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I would start with "Things I Never Learned in Sunday School" by Nan Yielding. I think it will answer every question you've asked so far. The Kindle edition is US$3.82. (Don't know about your currency, but it's cheap, easy to read, yet very informative.)

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http://www.utoronto.ca/religion/synopsis/

 

This site will allow you to compare the earliest five gospels.  That is right - five.  The oldest one isn't even in the Bible.  But the Bible gospel writers used Thomas as a source.  When Rome created the Bible they rejected books based on their own needs.  They rejected the oldest gospel along with several gospels written around the time of the synoptics.  And they rejected the dozens of gospels written around the time of the Gospel of John.

 

Also try:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forged

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus,_Interrupted

 

http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Scriptures-Books-that-Testament/dp/0195182502

 

 

Christianity is a fraud.  It's a scam.  

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Hi Folks,

 

I have recently become a bit depressed in the thought that I could goto Hell or the Lake of Fire for Eternity,   For the last few weeks I was ok with Theism and I had my view point which I could back up.

 

But the question I am struggling with is - Do we actually know that Christianity is a Myth of older religions e.g. Is there any documented evidence showing them or being spoken about in the context of things being merged.

 

I am hopeful that their is but right now I am thinking that to say Christianity is a Myth without solid evidence is hard to believe.

E.g. may people including myself believe its based off older religions but is there any hard evidence of this?  E.g. a Before and After shot?

 

Can anyone recommend any books for the Starting Athiest to help me see the truth of information.  I understand researching myself will tell me what I need but I feel if I have a strong framework in place first then research will be more meaningful.

 

Do we actually know that Christianity is fiction borrowed from prior fiction or is it an original fictional work? Not that it makes a difference really.

 

Instead of assuming that Christianity is true and evidence is needed to prove it false, try assuming it is false unless you have evidence to the contrary. Why do you believe Christianity is true while Islam, Scientology, and Pastafarianism are false? Each of these religions have holy books that say their religion is absolutely true and real. Why do you believe one holy book over another? It's due to programming, isn't it?

 

Try this: http://godisimaginary.com/

 

What has taken years to put in place may take years to remove. Be patient. Be kind to yourself.

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I've never read that Ingersoll quote but it sums up perfectly how I feel about hell. If I truly, truly believed it to be true, I could not function as a human being. I would not be able to sleep, I would be in a constant state og misery and horror at the thought of my loved ones going to such a place. And that's why I don't believe THEY believe it.

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Hi Folks,

 

I have recently become a bit depressed in the thought that I could goto Hell or the Lake of Fire for Eternity,   For the last few weeks I was ok with Theism and I had my view point which I could back up.

 

But the question I am struggling with is - Do we actually know that Christianity is a Myth of older religions e.g. Is there any documented evidence showing them or being spoken about in the context of things being merged.

 

I am hopeful that their is but right now I am thinking that to say Christianity is a Myth without solid evidence is hard to believe.

E.g. may people including myself believe its based off older religions but is there any hard evidence of this?  E.g. a Before and After shot?

 

Can anyone recommend any books for the Starting Athiest to help me see the truth of information.  I understand researching myself will tell me what I need but I feel if I have a strong framework in place first then research will be more meaningful.

 

Do we actually know that Christianity is fiction borrowed from prior fiction or is it an original fictional work? Not that it makes a difference really.

 

Instead of assuming that Christianity is true and evidence is needed to prove it false, try assuming it is false unless you have evidence to the contrary. Why do you believe Christianity is true while Islam, Scientology, and Pastafarianism are false? Each of these religions have holy books that say their religion is absolutely true and real. Why do you believe one holy book over another? It's due to programming, isn't it?

 

Try this: http://godisimaginary.com/

 

What has taken years to put in place may take years to remove. Be patient. Be kind to yourself.

 

 

This

 

You can read and watch all matter to the contrary to your beliefs but it probably won't do anything to sway your opinion until you understand why you believe what you believe.

 

Programming, conditioning and ignorance have played major roles in your assimilation.

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Hi Folks,

 

I have recently become a bit depressed in the thought that I could goto Hell or the Lake of Fire for Eternity,   For the last few weeks I was ok with Theism and I had my view point which I could back up.

 

But the question I am struggling with is - Do we actually know that Christianity is a Myth of older religions e.g. Is there any documented evidence showing them or being spoken about in the context of things being merged.

 

I am hopeful that their is but right now I am thinking that to say Christianity is a Myth without solid evidence is hard to believe.

E.g. may people including myself believe its based off older religions but is there any hard evidence of this?  E.g. a Before and After shot?

 

Can anyone recommend any books for the Starting Athiest to help me see the truth of information.  I understand researching myself will tell me what I need but I feel if I have a strong framework in place first then research will be more meaningful.

I would suggest that a good starting point is the basics of critical thinking, rational thought and informal logic.  Do this before delving into the particulars of philosophies or religions.

 

I suggest this because I believe your will find more satisfaction, more meaningful analysis and more complete understanding of your questions is you are first armed with standard rational thinking tools.

 

There examples for your persuasion:

 

1)  What is a strawman fallacy?  How do you recognize one?

 

2)  How do you identify a positive claim?  How do you determine whether the proponent of such a claim is honoring his or her burden of proof?

 

3)  Are you able to identify when you don't know something?  Do you have the intellectual honesty to admit it?

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And afterlife in the underworld was a concept that was already around before Christianity. 

It's described differently in different bible passages, so the bible doesn't seem to agree with itself on what the exact nature of hell is all about. 

Early Christians were split on whether or not there was an afterlife at all. 

 

But people seemed to think it was located inside the earth, and heaven was up in the clouds. (That's why the Tower of Babel story is extra funny--gods decide to stop the people from building a tower up to heaven, as if they could really succeed in that, by making everyone speak a different language so they could no longer communicate and work together.) 

 

We know now that if you fly up above the clouds far enough, you just get to outer space. No heaven up there. 

 

We know that the inside of the earth is hot at the core, but there's no hell in there either. So where exactly is hell supposed to be? Or heaven for that matter? 

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Imagine some children going out to pick a flower for their father, and each child chose a different flower to present to their father.  Each one heard different stories of what flower their father would favor.  They all held sincerity in their hearts that the flower they chose their father would love and favor. A flower that is meant to be a gift for him as a sign of their love. Imagine the flower that they picked was the one they grew themselves, watering and caring for the flower until it bloomed.

 

Imagine that the father had a flower that he favored.  What kind of father would punish the children who brought him the "wrong" flower?  Crushing the flowers and then sentencing the children to a beating for choosing "wrongly". Never forgiving and allowing the children to be beaten over and over again who chose "wrong".  That is an act of a monster, not a loving father. Even if he showed nothing but kindness to the child who chose "correctly", this does not excuse his behavior to the other children.

 

This is how the logic of hell appears to me. It does not come from the mind of a higher being.

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ChristianGuy, if I may be so bold: What is your motivation for bringing this up? Are you hoping that our debate and evidence will be weak enough to allow you to continue in your faith? Or are you in the last ditch phase of finally losing your religion, and you want reassurance that you are heading in the right direction?

 

It may seem like a minor point of difference to you, but it matters to me (and others, I would assume). No offense, but if your answer is the first scenario I presented, then you have been sufficiently answered above, in my opinion, and I am not interested wasting my breath in this little game. If, however, your answer is the latter, then I am more inclined to add my 2¢ to ease your fears as you travel this difficult journey.

 

I don't mean to sound cold-hearted, I am just not interested in debating Christians. If, however, you are de-converting, I'm totally with you.

 

I hope you understand. Peace to you on your journey, whatever that may be.

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Guest Babylonian Dream

Hi Folks,

 

I have recently become a bit depressed in the thought that I could goto Hell or the Lake of Fire for Eternity,   For the last few weeks I was ok with Theism and I had my view point which I could back up.

 

But the question I am struggling with is - Do we actually know that Christianity is a Myth of older religions e.g. Is there any documented evidence showing them or being spoken about in the context of things being merged.

 

I am hopeful that their is but right now I am thinking that to say Christianity is a Myth without solid evidence is hard to believe.

E.g. may people including myself believe its based off older religions but is there any hard evidence of this?  E.g. a Before and After shot?

 

Can anyone recommend any books for the Starting Athiest to help me see the truth of information.  I understand researching myself will tell me what I need but I feel if I have a strong framework in place first then research will be more meaningful.

We can see archaeologically several steps in which Biblical theology, namely that of Judaism and Christianity, has actually evolved from polytheistic roots. Furthermore, we can see that it evolved with contact with other cultures, and through natural cultural evolution. The earliest hebrew inscriptions tell of many gods, and even the Bible says this. Though the Bible starts out saying that there are many gods, but only one is worshippable. This was to make the city god of Jerusalem or Samaria (one of the two) the national god, which is an innovation from the idea of the personal god, the main god you'd worship. It just went from the main god, to to the only worshippable God.

 

From there, he became seen as the only God with time. At least until christianity split him into 3 again.

 

Also, you see the same evolution as the heroes/giants such as the Biblical Gilgamesh, which is found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Gods were identified with the nephilim, and the heroes/demigods became demoted to giants. Gilgamesh being one of them in the Enoch story, and Enoch being the same as the Apkallu who Shamash and Adad brought up to heaven.

 

You also have Goliath, who was another giant.

 

Then the other heroes, who are entirely human, remained as they always were.

 

As far as hell is concerned, its a concept that came rather late, but it came from zoroastrianism.

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Well... as long as you'll actually read it... I'll dump the linkage. This is just a pointer, towards other, more complete information. A visit to the library, if you're really serious, could well be in order. You'll probably feel better, at any rate.

 

I'd second the recommendation of Evid3nce on the Bible. Here's the relevant bits: Bible, Part 2.

 

That makes a nice overview, concerning the history of the text of the Bible itself.

 

Okay, so there's also history, here, and what, exactly, Christianity was influenced by. Thing is, the Hebrew writing system was a relative latecomer, in that part of the world. The Epic of Gilgamesh, for example - one of the very earliest texts in human history, period - contains lots of themes that were borrowed wholesale as part of the cultural environment in which the myths that would later be piecemeal collated into the Torah. Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian creation myths contain many of the themes rehashed in the Bible. The flood myth cycle, for example, pre-dates Noah by quite a bit. Here's a translation of the Sumerian fragments that contain the account. I'm not saying that it was "stolen" from the Sumerians. The point is, mythologies don't spring out of nowhere, fully formed. There's always a provenance, adapted and adopted by new cultural conditions. If it had been a direct revelation, from a single source, it would be brand new, and without such precedent.

 

(You can actually see some artefacts of this, even in the multiple-times translated, distorted, and telephone-game version of the text(s) that we have in English: "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." Implies that there are others, and that there is an ongoing tension between the worship of Yahweh and other gods in the cultural environment. A quick reading of the Old Testament also reveals lots of instances of chasing people off worshipping "idols" - if you have to make a rule against it, it's happening, and enough to be a problem.)

 

Okay, so that's some information about the Old Testament. We haven't gotten to Hell yet, because it doesn't show up like that in the texts yet. All of the terms we translate as "Hell" in English do not really checksum with the concept we have of it

 

Now, as for further influences on Christianity, specifically, lots of what influenced the nascent splinter group of Judaism was the struggle against, and then assimilation and amalgamation with Roman authority. What was just one of many anti-Rome millennialist cults became gradually linked to Roman authority, to the extent that the Church remained like an ideological skeleton, in the wake of Rome's collapse, for the centuries of the Middle Ages. Christmas, actually, is a great example. That's why I laugh when people get all up in arms about "putting the Christ back in Christmas" - the December 25th date and festival relate to the ongoing shift of Roman political and military authority, backed by Emperor worship, to political authority, decaying military power, and the adoption of Christianity as the ideological underpinning. See also Byzantium.

 

After Rome slowly decayed, war chiefs across Europe harnessed their ambition - and political and military power - to the ideological authority of the Church, which had replaced the Roman Empire in a remnant of power. The Divine Right of Kings became the justification for rulership, dependent on Christianity as an ideological underpinning. Warlords converted to Christianity, and at least nominally, superficially, or by brutal force converted their people to Christianity. Which brings us to another wave of borrowing. As Christianity spreads into non-Christian environments, it takes on the cultural context, local flavour, and symbolism of the new environment.

 

Which brings us neatly back to Hell, actually. The Norse were some of these people to adopt Christianity, over the top of their original beliefs. The English-speaking world at the time was deeply tied to these beliefs, which we can actually see preserved in the names for the days of the week. Moon-day, Tiw's day, Woden's day, Thor's day, Frigg's day, Saturn's day (Roman), Sun day. Another artefact, as hinted above, is Hell. The word, "Hell" is swiped from Norse mythology, and doesn't describe a fire and brimstone place necessarily, just a destination not as cool to live in as the infinite roast pork and mead and fighting Valhalla.

 

So, yes, Hell is an import, and I wouldn't worry about it one bit, ChristianGuy1000. I think you're just fine.

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Any god who would send billions of his children to a place of eternal punishment would be an evil god and unworthy of our love. Why should we trust such a god to save a few of us?

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ChristianGuy, if I may be so bold: What is your motivation for bringing this up? Are you hoping that our debate and evidence will be weak enough to allow you to continue in your faith? Or are you in the last ditch phase of finally losing your religion, and you want reassurance that you are heading in the right direction?

 

It may seem like a minor point of difference to you, but it matters to me (and others, I would assume). No offense, but if your answer is the first scenario I presented, then you have been sufficiently answered above, in my opinion, and I am not interested wasting my breath in this little game. If, however, your answer is the latter, then I am more inclined to add my 2¢ to ease your fears as you travel this difficult journey.

 

I don't mean to sound cold-hearted, I am just not interested in debating Christians. If, however, you are de-converting, I'm totally with you.

 

I hope you understand. Peace to you on your journey, whatever that may be.

 

Yeah,  I understand where you are coming from - I am de-converting I told my Pastor where to go etc and that I would not be back to the money making scheme. 

 

The reason is because I am so worried that I will goto Hell I have became very depressed and borderline hopeless.  I know deep down all the Arguements for God but I think some of this is deep programming giving me a 'What If' type of approach.

 

E.g. Everything is great and fine (but what if God Exists and Hell Exists)

 

So I keep reasoning myself down but at the same time I need help to really nail home the belief that the bible is false.   For some reason I keep getting a What-If sort of answer.

 

I keep thinking : (Christians Say X - There is no evidence to support this)  / (Non Christians Say that X, Y and Z in Christianity comes from Sources A, B and C)  I know that non christians are correct but it feels deep down that I am having a problem locking this belief.  E.g. when I start beliving then the doubts come.

 

I know people who take years but I need a path to start down,  I knew arguments against God when I started reading the bible 5 years ago but for some reason im finding it difficult to rid myself of the belief of God and Hell completely.

 

Any suggestions would help

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Hello Christian Guy, have you looked into biblical contradictions?  For starters, the contradictory statements surrounding the stories of Jesus' resurrection and the aftermath into the beginning of Acts.  So this rules out an inerrant Bible.  

 

Then there are erroneous historical claims.  If the Bible can't get historical stuff right, why should it be believed when it presents stuff that can't be verified or falsified at all?

 

Third, the claims of other religions.  Other religions have miracles and sacred texts that one is to accept on faith.  Bhim on the threads with Barnacleben in the Lion's Den posted claims of a Hindu swami of recent times that are like miracles attributed to jesus.  Why do Christians reject one set of miracles and accept another?  usually it comes down to their claims that the resurrection makes Christianity unique.  Resurrection isn't unique to Christianity.  

 

Fourth, scientific claims.  E.g. Bible is wrong when it presents sun as going around the earth.  So if the Bible isn't inerrant on testable stuff like that, it has no credence when it makes claims that are not testable.

 

Fifth, Bible teaches morally repugnant stuff.  it makes God out as a monster.  that version of religion is not worthy of belief, even if it turns out that there is some sort of god out there.

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Hi Folks,

 

I have recently become a bit depressed in the thought that I could goto Hell or the Lake of Fire for Eternity,   For the last few weeks I was ok with Theism and I had my view point which I could back up.

 

But the question I am struggling with is - Do we actually know that Christianity is a Myth of older religions e.g. Is there any documented evidence showing them or being spoken about in the context of things being merged.

 

I am hopeful that their is but right now I am thinking that to say Christianity is a Myth without solid evidence is hard to believe.

E.g. may people including myself believe its based off older religions but is there any hard evidence of this?  E.g. a Before and After shot?

 

Can anyone recommend any books for the Starting Athiest to help me see the truth of information.  I understand researching myself will tell me what I need but I feel if I have a strong framework in place first then research will be more meaningful.

 

Greetings, CG1k!

 

I understand how difficult it can be to try to sort out truth, especially when one has been programmed by the church. I had a rough time coming to grips with reality, but I made it through, so here's hoping that your journey turns out well.

 

I'd suggest simply starting with the following point:

 

Instead of assuming that Christianity is true and evidence is needed to prove it false, try assuming it is false unless you have evidence to the contrary. Why do you believe Christianity is true while Islam, Scientology, and Pastafarianism are false? Each of these religions have holy books that say their religion is absolutely true and real. Why do you believe one holy book over another? It's due to programming, isn't it?

 

One's religious views are largely dependent upon demographics. Most who grow up in a Muslim area will believe Islam, most who grow up in a Hindu area will believe Hinduism, and likewise most who grow up in a Christian area will believe Christianity. The fact that you've started from the assumption of Christianity being true by default until proven false is no different from a Muslim with the assumption that Islam is true by default until proven false.

 

In reality, what we should do is start with all of them as simply claims that would need proof to verify as truth. Unfortunately, that can be very difficult when a particular view has been thoroughly ingrained in us.

 

Since the thread question specifically pertains to "hell," there are some things you should be made aware of. The following dealt with the pagan influences on the doctrine:

 

Okay, so that's some information about the Old Testament. We haven't gotten to Hell yet, because it doesn't show up like that in the texts yet. All of the terms we translate as "Hell" in English do not really checksum with the concept we have of it

<snip>

 

Which brings us neatly back to Hell, actually. The Norse were some of these people to adopt Christianity, over the top of their original beliefs. The English-speaking world at the time was deeply tied to these beliefs, which we can actually see preserved in the names for the days of the week. Moon-day, Tiw's day, Woden's day, Thor's day, Frigg's day, Saturn's day (Roman), Sun day. Another artefact, as hinted above, is Hell. The word, "Hell" is swiped from Norse mythology, and doesn't describe a fire and brimstone place necessarily, just a destination not as cool to live in as the infinite roast pork and mead and fighting Valhalla.

 

I'd also like to add a piece that I wrote a couple years ago about "hell." It's part of a long letter I wrote to my parents about why I no longer believe in Christianity. My approach is basically like a Bible study, since that's what I focused on when I was studying this stuff. I'm not a scholar in the pagan influences, which is why I wanted to use ExCB's post above to cover that part before throwing in my comments. Here is what was in my letter:

 

 

The Lake of Fire

 

The Bible says that "the beast" and "false prophet" will be "cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Rev 19:20), and that "the devil" will also be "cast into the lake of fire and brimstone" and that they "shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev 20:10). After that we read that "death and hell" and "whosoever was not found written in the book of life" will be "cast into the lake of fire," which it also calls "the second death" (Rev 20:14-15). Though it doesn't specify here, one would assume that this implies that everyone thrown into this lake of fire would also be tortured forever, just like it says will happen to the beast, false prophet and devil. Granted, Revelation is highly symbolic, so one could argue that this is not meant literally, especially given the reference to a "second death." For the sake of this writing, though, I will treat it literally, as traditional Christians tend to do.

           

As a side note, many confuse "hell" with the eternal "lake of fire." However, as can be seen from the statement that "hell" will be "cast into the lake of fire" (Rev 20:14), they are technically not the same thing in the Bible. "Hell" here is the Greek term "Hades," which was used for the grave, the nether world, the realm of the dead. But, since most people think of "Hell" as the lake of fire, from here on out that will be what I am referring to when I use the capitalized word "Hell" in quotes. So, let's move on and take a closer look at the concept of eternal torture and what the Bible has to say about "Hell."

           

To hear Christians talk, "Hell" is one of the most important topics in Christianity. Indeed, what we supposedly need saving from is "Hell." Yet, if "Hell" is such a hot topic (pun intended), and burning eternally is the final punishment for the wicked, then why is the concept of the lake of fire completely absent from the Old Testament? Sure, the word "hell" is found in the KJV Old Testament, but it is the Hebrew word "Sheol," which means the grave, the underworld, the abode of the dead, a pit. Though there are several places where the Old Testament refers to "fire" symbolically, there is no place in it that says anything about eternal torture in fire (when preachers use Old Testament verses to prove "Hell," a quick look at the context always reveals that it means something else).

 

In the Old Testament, the punishment for wickedness is said to be death (Eze 3:18-19; 18:20,24; 33:8-14; Psalm 37:20; Prov 2:22). Beyond that, Isaiah says, "They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise" (Isa 26:14). Daniel contradicts that by saying, "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Dan 12:2), but though it doesn't fit with most of what we see in the Old Testament, even this verse doesn't say anything about torture.

 

There is a significant Old Testament verse to mention, though. Jeremiah says, "Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter" (Jer 19:6). In this verse, "The valley of the son of Hinnom" in Hebrew is "gay ben Hinnom," or "gay Hinnom" ("The valley of Hinnom") for short, and is the basis of a later Greek word "Gehenna" that referred to a valley south of Jerusalem where they reportedly burned trash, dead animals and at times the corpses of executed criminals. This "Gehenna" is translated "hell" in the New Testament.

 

So, for clarification, there are two Greek words translated "hell" in the New Testament. "Hades," as mentioned previously, refers to the grave or the netherworld. "Gehenna," on the other hand, was the city dump where refuse was burned. Now let's look at a few uses of "Gehenna."

 

When we read, "Whosever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire" (Matt 5:22), that "hell fire" is referring to the burning dump south of Jerusalem. So is the statement, "It is profitable for thee that one of thy members (body parts) should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell" (Matt 5:29-30). When we read, "Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell" (Luke 12:5), that is again using the burning city dump for imagery.

           

In addition we read, "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:43-44). This is an often cited passage about "Hell," but let's dig deeper. Not only is this using the imagery of "Gehenna" discussed above, but it also alludes to an Old Testament quote that says, "And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched" (Isaiah 66:24).  What is being talked about here is clearly not eternal torture, but simply mounting corpses. The worm not dying out is meant in reference to constantly having rotting corpses to eat on. Whatever "fire" may be referring to here, it is clearly not depicting the "Hell" that Christianity teaches.

 

Again, if "Hell" was such an important topic, then why would God avoid making mention of it throughout the entire Old Testament? Why repeatedly warn of death as punishment if eternal torture was really the punishment? With the complete absence of "Hell" in the Old Testament, and the idea growing out of the imagery of a burning city dump south of Jerusalem called the Valley of Hinnom in the New Testament, isn't it quite clear that "Hell" is merely a doctrine that evolved over time?

           

Beyond that, what about the ethics of "Hell"? How can justice be served by inflicting infinite torture as punishment for finite infractions? How is being burned forever a befitting discipline for mere mortals? What loving father would ever do such a thing? Would any good judge ever issue such an unfair sentence?

           

Jesus supposedly said that "whosever believeth" in God's "only begotten Son" will "have everlasting life," and that "he that believeth not is condemned" (John 3:16,18). In Christian theology, that condemnation is "Hell." However, what about all the people who die having never heard about Jesus? What about people raised in different cultures far removed from Christianity, those who are indoctrinated with other views (through no fault of their own) to the point that that they cannot believe Christianity when presented with it? What about the many, many people throughout the ages who simply never had the opportunity to believe in Jesus?

 

Some Christians try to weasel out of that dilemma by suggesting that God is just and will deal fairly with those other people. They may even cite the judgment based on deeds that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25:31-46. While that may seem to be a noble thought, it is flat-out contradicted by the very quote from Jesus listed above, that "he that believeth not is condemned" (John 3:18). If one doesn't believe, then he's condemned, with no recourse. Besides, there are other logical problems with this argument. Since it indicates that belief in Jesus really isn't necessary for salvation, then what's the point in evangelizing and sending out missionaries? That's commanded in the Bible, of course, but it would be rather pointless if it was true that God would judge everyone justly anyway and that believing in Jesus really isn't necessary for salvation!

           

In addition, what about other people, such as myself, who know the story of Jesus quite well but study Christianity and honestly conclude that it is without merit? With regard to us, as well as the aforementioned people who never heard of Jesus or who were already indoctrinated with another religious view, how could a loving God condemn such people to eternal agony when God himself has refused to show himself? If the all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God of evangelical Christianity existed and wanted to have a relationship with every person, then there would be no question that he is real and Christianity is true because he would make it clear! Yet the majority of people in the world have not been convinced of such. Where is this Christian God who is supposedly reaching out to everyone?

           

Another common Christian response is to bring up the quote, "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). Thus, it is argued, nobody has an excuse for not knowing, because "the creation" around us is proof. But is it really? If this verse was true and the natural world we see clearly depicted the Christian God, then everyone who looks at nature would automatically be convinced of the Christian God! Yet, throughout the world there are varying cultures with different religious views, and many of those people look at the exact same nature and see evidence of their gods! And other people look at nature and see no evidence of any god at all! How could this be if "creation" was so clear regarding the Christian God? Obviously, this argument from "creation" is simply false.

           

Think about this. You were raised in a Christian culture that convinced you that Christianity is true, but in the same way people raised in a Muslim culture are convinced that Islam is true, and people raised in a Hindu culture are convinced that Hinduism is true, and so on and so forth. The fact is that people's religious beliefs are primarily dependent upon demographics instead of logic, reason and indisputable evidence.

           

You cannot believe Islam to be true because you were programmed to believe Christianity. But the opposite is also true: Those who are programmed to believe Islam simply cannot believe Christianity. Put yourself in their shoes. What if you had been raised and indoctrinated with Islam, and therefore you could not believe Christianity? That would be no fault of your own, it would simply be the result of being raised in that culture. Would it then be fair to torture you in "Hell" forever and ever and ever, with no mercy and no relief, simply because you did not believe something that you had no ability to believe? Do you not see the absurdity and injustice in that? Do you really believe that a righteous, loving God would do that to his creation?

           

You've heard about "cruel and unusual punishment." Indeed, when someone commits a crime, we expect them to be punished, but we expect the punishment to be in accordance with the crime. However, how could any criminal deserve being tortured forever and ever and ever? We are mere mortals with a very limited life-span, so how could anything one does be worthy of unending agony? Such torture would be "cruel and unusual punishment"! And, again, the idea of issuing such punishment for a lack of belief by those who can't believe is even more problematic.

           

Clearly, any God who would torture people like that would have to be sadistic and unjust, because only a sadistic monster could be so cruel! To call any such God "good" is ridiculous, and is an insult to all that is good.

           

Given that the unjust nature of the doctrine of "Hell" is incompatible with the idea of a loving and just God, and given the way the Christian doctrine of "Hell" evolved out of the imagery of burning city dump outside Jerusalem, it becomes quite clear that "Hell" is not something revealed by God, but merely a morbid myth that developed over time and became useful for scaring people throughout the ages.

 

As such, there is nothing to fear once one realizes the truth behind the idea of "hell." Also, exactly how reliable is the Bible as a whole anyway? The letter I wrote to my parents is a lengthy 49 pages and is mostly filled with the evidence that swayed me away from my former firm belief, evidence that deals with contradictions in the Bible, New Testament authors taking Old Testaments texts completely out of context in order to fabricate prophetic fulfillments, allegedly divinely sanctioned injustices, Biblical absurdities, etc. There are so many problems with Christianity's source text that, when properly understood, completely obliterate its believability. If you'd like to read the entire letter I wrote, you can do so by clicking the link to it in my signature below and downloading the letter from post #13.

 

I hope you've been finding the stuff in this thread helpful. Anyway, good luck with your journey....

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Any suggestions would help

You've gotten quite a few suggestions so far. You specifically asked for books to read. I'm going to make my suggestion a second time, and I would really encourage you to read this: "Things I Never Learned in Sunday School" by Nan Yielding. If I could send you my Kindle copy, I would, but I don't know if that's possible. But it's really cheap online. Get it -- read it!

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