Thinking Christian

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Spoilsports: Rethinking the “Christmas Wars”

Posted on Dec 11, 2012 by Tom Gilson

ourtree.jpg

The Gilsons’ Christmas Tree, 2012

We’re just two weeks from Christmas, and thankfully I’m hearing less about the so-called Christmas Wars this year. Not that there aren’t instances, like the banning of creches in Santa Monica, but there seem to be fewer of them. What I did hear a few days ago was a song from probably forty to fifty years ago, about Christmas being the best holiday of them all, better than Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July—and it brought a real pang to my heart.

For the vast majority of us, Christmas has always meant something incredibly special. We don’t decorate our houses for generic “holidays,” we decorate them for Christmas (and for Halloween, but that’s not on the cultural chopping block as Christmas has seemed to be). Children don’t eagerly wait and wait and wait for the Fourth of July. We don’t have weeks’ worth of music about Thanksgiving. We’ve never had a month of people wishing each other Happy Easter.

I realize that Christmas is difficult for Jews, and irrelevant at best to other religions. I note, however, that it is not Jews who have led the attack on Christmas, so I’m not quite sure what’s called for by a sense of proper sensitivity to others’ feelings and experience.

In Santa Monica and elsewhere the anti-Christmas charge has been led by secularists, in a direct attack on the Christian religion. In one sense, that’s a case of “Yawn. So what?” I’m not threatened in a religious sense by the replacement of Christmas by “the Holidays.” .Jesus Christ can more than handle a temporary drop in popularity. The Church grew before Christmas ever became a big cultural event—and if Christmas ever became less commercialized, that would be a blessing. Obviously that’s not happening to “the Holidays.”

I grieve for two significant losses in spite of that. A generation is growing up without the Christmas message of Jesus Christ, God himself come humbly to earth to be among us, to teach us, and to rescue us from our own deaths. For those who do not learn that story, the effect is tragic.

And I regret that a small number of spoilsports want to take away the core meaning of the most special, most wonderful time of the year. At the risk of sounding insensitive I have to wonder, are they any better than a bunch of bullies who won’t let others have the fun they want to have?

82 Responses to “ Spoilsports: Rethinking the “Christmas Wars” ”

  1. Ray Ingles says:

    Point of information – it’s “banning of creches in Santa Monica” on public land, unless alternatives to creches are also allowed.

    To take a wild example, no one has proposed the “banning of creches in Santa Monica” on private land, or in front of a church… :-)

  2. BillT says:

    The problem with the crech bannings is that they generally run contrary to the Supreme Court decisions on this matter. The SC has said religious displays are allowed on public land unless that land is closely assocaited with the government. For example, a crech on the front lawn of the town hall is not permissable. A crech in the town square generally is permissable.

    However, you get judges that will ignore the precidents and ban religious symbols anywhere on public land which doesn’t comport with the gist of the SC decisions. However,the only way around them is the appeals process which is both costly and slow.

  3. Sault says:

    Earlier this week my 4-year old daughter was told by the woman running her daycare that Santa wasn’t real and Jesus was the reason that we have Christmas. Great.

    Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th. He wasn’t born in the winter at all. The only reason that you celebrate Jesus’ birthday on the 25th is because the early Catholic church didn’t want to piss off the pagans.

    How much of Christmas is actually Christian? Some of the Nativity (not the three wise men, those were pagan) and some of the religiously-themed Christmas carols (e.g. Silent Night, which are the only ones that don’t piss me off, btw. How ironic is that?). Everything else is either secular or pagan – Christmas cards, the caroling, Christmas trees, Yule logs, mistletoe, Santa Claus himself, etc.

    Like the billboard says, Be Merry, but Lose the Myth.

    And let my daughter enjoy Christmas without someone telling her that Santa Claus isn’t real but Jesus is. Sheesh.

  4. Ray Ingles says:

    BillT – What the rulings state is that the government can either allow all viewpoints, or none. It doesn’t get to pick just creches, for example.

    This article covers the ground reasonably well.

  5. Tom Gilson says:

    The December celebration pre-dates the supposed pagan connection by many years and was chosen for reasons unrelated to this mythical pagan source.

    The Three Wise Men came from the book of Matthew. There is absolutely no reason to look to a pagan source for them. The only error in our current picture is limiting their number to three.

    Singing (caroling) is all over the Scriptures. It’s a completely Christian activity when done for Christian reasons.

    Saint Nicholas, the original Santa Claus, did not earn the title “Saint” for being a druid priest.

    Whether Christmas cards, trees, fires, etc. have secular sources makes absolutely no difference. They’re just ways of celebrating.

    Jesus is real.

  6. BillT says:

    Ray, the inclusion of menorahs and the like has been a regular part of Christmas time displays for a long, long time. The “equal access” provisions here are for me a red herring. So people whose beliefs have nothing to do with this time of year want to have their display “because it’s only fair”. No they don’t, they want to be the biggest pain in the ass they can be. That’s all that is going on here and you know it.

  7. BillT says:

    Sault.

    If that story is true then you should report that person and get your child out of that daycare. That’s unconscionable. (Unless this is a Christian daycare center and that still doesn’t excuse the Santa Claus aspect)

    Otherwise, as Tom has pointed out, Christmas is a Christian holiday through and through. My goodness, it’s the celebration of the birth of Christ. All that pagan nonesense is junk from the Jesus Seminar types. You should be able to separate the wheat from the chaff better than that.

  8. ryan says:

    I do agree that atheists in this year’s Santa Monica Palisade park case could be considered ‘spoilsports’ for raising such a stink.

    Personally, this is the first year that I have encountered workplace politics on this issue. The boss stated that decorations must remain ‘festive in mood but not affiliated with any religion’. The question did cross my mind, “What’s the point then?”

    As far as religious symbols on public property is concerned, people I have met are against any religious symbols on gov. property, not just Christian. It would be nice to see a summary or data on religious symbols (and their origin) tied to government property.

  9. BillT says:

    ryan,

    The Supreme Court has made a number of rulings on the appropriateness of religious symbols and the government. In God We Trust, “one nation under God” and the opening Congress with a prayer have passed Constititional muster. You can see a general summary in my post #2 above.

    As far as Santa Monica, this could have easily been avoided. All the town needed to do was require any displays on public property to have a legitimate nexus with the December holiday season. However, that would have required three things not commonly found in these sorts of goings on. Frist, cahones, second, common sense and third use of the brains God gave them (as opposed to the ones they got from the flying spaghetti monster).

  10. ryan says:

    Bill, it was my understanding that all parties were within their constitutional rights. However, people were causing such a stink that the mayor took actions to avoid confrontations or negative outcomes. Could be wrong though, it was in one article, NY times I think. Sounded like they (local gov) wanted to avoid taking any sides.

  11. David says:

    @Sault

    Eh? Jesus *is* the reason we have Christmas, regardless of one’s own reasons for – or ways of – celebrating. His actual birth date is moot; the 25th is simply the chosen date for the celebration and doesn’t detract from its purpose.
    Consider Independence Day, celebrating American independence from Britain. What would you think of someone who happily set off fireworks and threw a party every 4th of July all the while getting offended at overt patriotism and saying “just leave America out of it”?

    And yes, Jesus is/was real. There’s little serious scholarly debate about that.

  12. BillT says:

    ryan,

    Where did I say they weren’t “within their constitutional rights”? The mayor’s actions obvoiusly didn’t help and alternatives were available as I suggested.

  13. Ray Ingles says:

    BillT –

    …they want to be the biggest pain in the ass they can be. That’s all that is going on here and you know it.

    Actually, I don’t know it.

    I’m not a litigator, but I understand the motivation. I really don’t care if a church or a neighbor or a private company wants to put up religious decorations. It’s their lookout.

    But I don’t want to see my government making special accomodations for religion. Especially when they are effectively exclusive. I sometimes see menorahs around Christmastime, it’s true. But how come I never see any recognition of, say, Yom Kippur by governments? A much more important holiday to Jews, and all they get – maybe – is time off.

    (And there’s even problems with time off, when it comes to that. There are special laws covering religious observance; in practice, the religious have more time-off available than the non-religious. But usually that’s a minor thing.)

    So, yes, I very much support either making such spaces available to all, at any time, or to none. And there’s a difference between you not liking that and me being a ‘pain in the ass’.

    What if we assume, just for a moment, that neither side is actively, consciously evil? Is that too much to ask?

  14. Ray Ingles says:

    BillT –

    As far as Santa Monica, this could have easily been avoided. All the town needed to do was require any displays on public property to have a legitimate nexus with the December holiday season.

    Please read the article I linked to. As the law stands, governments are not allowed to do that. They can either open a space to all comers, or close it off. They cannot allow some viewpoints and not others.

    (And your proposed solution would still allow Festivus poles.)

  15. ryan says:

    Bill, I wasn’t saying you were wrong or anything. Just making a statement. Maybe my wording was off.

    You’re right, there were alternatives, but as the debate progressed, both sides were becoming increasingly agitated. Here’s a statement from the city’s committee to the courts after being sued by Nativity Scenes Committee in federal court:

    “juxtaposition of religious and anti-religious displays was a distressing symbol of conflict inconsistent with the values of peace and harmony that many associate with the holiday season.”

    The court upheld that Santa Monica’s decision was constitutionally sound. Also, vandals from both sides starting hitting the park. No one was sending a positive message. Given the situation, I personally think it was better that the city did not take any sides as things were not going to get better and it was on public property.

    Did their decision lack ‘cahones’, as you say? I don’t think they wanted to label their ‘cahones’ as religious or anti-religious cahones.

    However, I do agree with the OP. A bunch of spoilsports won a ‘Heckler’s Veto’ to wreck a longstanding tradition that wasn’t hurting anyone.

  16. BillT says:

    Ray,

    First and foremost I didn’t call you a pain in the ass. Who that comment was directed at couldn’t have been clearer. Nor did I say or imply that anyone was acting “consciously evil”. Ryan’s description of it as a ‘Heckler’s Veto’ is more on point.

    That California has painted itself into a corner on these kinds of issues isn’t surprising. Given that we are talking about California that “broad coalition of liberals and conservatives” was unlikely anything like that. Further, the US Supreme Court, in numerous decisions, has made it clear that the government is supposed to accommodate religion. The accommodation of religion and religious liberty is a founding principal of this nation.

  17. ryan says:

    Is it possible that December 25th was chosen for theological AND pagan or cultural reasons?

    There were multiple proposed dates of Jesus’ birth all claiming to be theologically correct. In the article that Tom linked to, only Hippolytus and Africanus are cited with the December 25th date. To be sure, there were other theologically based dates floating around.

    Since their proposal had a good theological base AND it fell on a date smack in the middle of many pagan celebrations, choosing that date would allow the Church to be right in their with other cultural celebrations. This would maximize exposure of Christ as public interest in the spiritual was high in December.

    I doubt that the Roman Church decided on December 25th devoid of any ‘political’ or ‘business’ reasons. Just like any modern Church meeting, pastors generally like to hold public out reach events where they will get the most public exposure or when public interest is high. It helps tell more people of Christ.

    It still holds that Christmas is indeed a Christian religion, but over time, it seems Christmas has picked up little symbols from the many other celebrations in December.

    I guess you could say Christmas is in the holiday season, but not of it. :)

  18. Sault says:

    I invite you to ask any of his disciples who “Jesus” is. Might have to get creative, because the “J” sound wasn’t around until the 14th century-ish. His name was never “Jesus”… it was probably Yeshua, Yehoshua, or maybe Yeshu. It is tragicomical but true that Christians call him by something that no one ever did during his lifetime.

    In that sense, and in the “he’s long dead and decomposed” one, Jesus is not real. Feel free to disagree with me (on the second part at least), but you are (presumably) an adult with full cognitive abilities and have the right to believe whatever you like. Until my child understands the consequences of embracing a mythology as “real”, I will discourage her from doing so.

    At least with Santa if you’re naughty you just get coal in your stocking… with Jesus if you’re naughty you burn in hell for eternity. Until my daughter can rationalize her way through “God made Hell and will send you there unless you love Him, but He really loves you” she doesn’t need that in her life.

  19. Ray Ingles says:

    BillT –

    Ryan’s description of it as a ‘Heckler’s Veto’ is more on point.

    The objections weren’t to the content, but the chosen venue. Again, no one has ever said people can’t put up creches or menorahs on private land.

    Further, the US Supreme Court, in numerous decisions, has made it clear that the government is supposed to accommodate religion. The accommodation of religion and religious liberty is a founding principal of this nation.

    Sure, but where possible the accomodations should be religiously neutral. Specially accomodating only Christianity, or even only monotheism, is problematic, don’t you agree? And there’s a difference between accomodation and endorsement – a principle which the courts have also recognized.

    Allowing people to express religious sentiments is fine. Allowing people to express only religious sentiments is not.

  20. BillT says:

    Sault,

    That’s some very disappointing stuff from you. First of all, calling Christianity a myth is an ill informed position, something you are certainly not. Myths and mythological literature are a very well studied, understood and analyzed field of academia. Whatever you do or don’t believe about Christianity, it is certainly not mythology. There is simply nothing about it that comports with mythology as that term is understood.

    Second, that “God made Hell and will send you there unless you love Him, but He really loves you” is another ill informed position. God didn’t create hell. Christians don’t believe that. Christians believe that we created hell. Also, Christians don’t believe God sends people to hell. Christians believe people choose to go there voluntarily.

    From your many posts here I doubt you really believe Christianity is a myth or what you wrote about God and hell. You are far better informed about it than to accept or disseminate that level of misinformation.

  21. BillT says:

    Ray,

    If it were private land there wouldn’t be a discussion at all. Allowing religious groups whos beliefs have legitimate ties to the Christmas season to put up displays doesn’t violate government nutrality or violate anyone’s rights.

  22. ryan says:

    “Christians don’t believe that. Christians believe that we created hell. Also, Christians don’t believe God sends people to hell. Christians believe people choose to go there voluntarily.”

    Those beliefs blow my mind. Could someone explain that to me, please?

  23. Tom Gilson says:

    Those beliefs need context around them. Try this. I don’t think humans actually created hell, but human choice is what sends humans there.

  24. Sault says:

    In God We Trust, “one nation under God” and the opening Congress with a prayer have passed Constititional muster.

    Never would have happened without McCarthyism. Perhaps not something to be proud of? Fear can make us do funny things. I am doubtful that such amendments would pass muster in this day and age.

  25. Tom Gilson says:

    Yawn.

    Might as well speak to the point, you know.

  26. Ray Ingles says:

    BillT –

    Allowing religious groups whos beliefs have legitimate ties to the Christmas season to put up displays doesn’t violate government nutrality or violate anyone’s rights.

    Yes, I never disputed that.

    It’s allowing only religious groups who have particular ties to particular seasons that violates other people’s rights. Why should the government treat the holidays of particular religions specially?

  27. ryan says:

    At the end of the day though, it is God who sends us there.

    Meaning, he created hell and created the rule that sends humans there if they do not believe in Christ (as the sacrifice for their sins).

    If one is playing basketball and commits a technical foul, they neither created the locker room nor voluntarily send themselves there. The referee must call the foul based on game rules and send them to the locker room (if the rules call for that).

    In this case, God originally created hell (I’m assuming it happened during Genesis???), He is the rule maker (creator, physical, and moral lawgiver) and the referee (Hebrews 9:27). If it was truly up to one whether they go to hell or not, I don’t think many would voluntarily go.

    I’ve often wondered why an eternal, tortuous, burning pit is necessary. Why not eradicate one’s soul or banish to the end of the universe? Pure speculation of course, as the Bible doesn’t delve into why, just states that this is His what He did (does or will do).

  28. Tom Gilson says:

    Sounds to me like you’re commenting on that which you have already told us you do not know. I strongly recommend you read that ebook I linked to, because it would answer many of the questions you have asked here.

    If you really want to know, that is.

  29. ryan says:

    Tom,

    I didn’t say I don’t know anything about hell or what is taught about it. I’ve literally never heard the specific belief that humans created hell and voluntarily go there.

    I am going to read the ebook, thanks.

  30. Sault says:

    @ Tom

    While I don’t have time at the moment to do more than skim the document, I did notice that the word “hell” does not appear in it. I still am not sure what you believe about it. I do know that BillT’s beliefs are not representative of all of Christianity, at least.

    My comments on McCarthyism, while uninteresting to you, do relate back to the original post. It was fear and scare tactics that allowed Christians to establish a special privilege over competing religions and philosophies. It was unethical and immoral, and no one should be proud of it. The time has come for us to remember that at one point in time we didn’t need “One nation under God” and “In God We Trust” to be a country.

    You have cast those who deny Christian special privilege as bullies, but the real bullies were those who perpetrated those special privileges in the first place.

    Are all animals born equal, or are some more equal than others? If we are to treat religions equally, then we cannot treat some of them as more equal than others. Either we have “One Nation Under God, Buddha, Allah, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster” or we have nothing. To do anything else is to invite special privilege – the type of special privilege that Christianity has enjoyed for so long here in America.

    @ BillT

    God didn’t create hell. Christians don’t believe that.

    Oh. So the lake of fire is kind’ve like the waters of the deep… they were both just there when God came along and made everything else?

    Or are these beliefs simply based on reinterpretations of older pagan beliefs? Myths based on myths are still myths, and a collection of myths is still a mythology. Or perhaps we should use the more neutral word “mythos”?

    Yes, I understand that it stings to have your beliefs that feel so special and vital to you be compared to the beliefs that felt so special and vital to people long dead, but buck up… maybe the devil did it [see Chapter LXIX].

    @ ryan

    The most plausible belief that I can see the early Christians holding was that God would chuck people into a burning lake of fire where they “being naughty in [His] sight, shall snuff it.” In other words, no eternal punishment, just death… which fits better with original Jewish belief anyways, I think.

  31. ryan says:

    I read Part Two as it referred to the subject of eternal damnation (didn’t say hell).

    Here’s what I saw. God created EVERYTHING. The Bible doesn’t exclude hell from that creation.

    The book says God cannot approve evil, so humans choose to go there by not accepting his mercy. I can see where you get the idea that humans voluntarily send themselves to hell.

    I far from agree with it. When my children are disobedient, it’s still either me or my rule that directly sends them there. I am responsible for sending them.

    The way I see it, since God cannot approve evil, then he either he doesn’t see the existence of hell nor burning of people in hell as inherently evil. It just is what it is, a punishment.

    Or, hell was manufactured by men, as Sault says.

  32. BillT says:

    Sault,

    You don’t want to understand thus you don’t. That’s ok.

    However, the McCarthyism comments are simply comical.

  33. BillT says:

    “Why should the government treat the holidays of particular religions specially?”

    As I said “The accommodation of religion and religious liberty is a founding principal of this nation.” That accommodation violates no one’s rights.

  34. BillT says:

    Ryan,

    The concept behid what I said isn’t hard to understand. It is man that is responsible for sin. It is man that is responsible for the wages of sin. It is man that is responsible for not accepting God’s grace. Thus, it is man that is responsible for hell (the wages of sin) and it is man that choses to go there (voluntarily) by not accepting God’s grace.

  35. ryan says:

    BillT,

    I understand your position now. Thanks.

    You’re saying that one is born on a path to hell, and since no one is stopping one, one is going voluntarily. God is not responsible for any souls that wind up in hell, and once you are there, you are there for eternity.

    I understand it, but have a hard time with it. The following may be laced with some emotion and therefore adding to my confusion. God created Jesus before time began because he knew man would fall in to sin and be damned to hell. When he created the universe, he created hell, and set everything into motion. Adam, Eve, the rule that sin disconnects man from God and therefore damns one to hell, the new Adam, the whole she-bang. He created the stage, allowed the fall, offered the remedy, and allows (not sends) people to go to hell…and burn…forever…and he has no responsibility whatsoever for billions of souls in hell.

  36. BillT says:

    Ryan,

    What would you like as an alternative. God could have created us all without any ability to choose. We all would have marched lockstep into heaven. However, God created us with free will. With free will comes responsibility. Thus we are able to choose our path and are responsible fot it. What would you have chosen for mankind?

  37. ryan says:

    It’s not my world, I’m just living it…and most of all trying to understand the rules. If that is how God has set things up, then so be it. I personally don’t want to go to hell.

    ::Ryan is now answering a hypothetical question. Ryan is not claiming to be God::

    But, since you asked, I personally would keep the free will and lose the burning pit of hell. It seems vengeful. I wouldn’t want vengeance on my creation. I would be deeply saddened by people not accepting my gift, but not vengeful. A simple destruction (erasing of) of a disobedient (one not following me) soul will do. I would understand that I put humans in a situation that is extremely hard. They lived short, violent, confusing, and bitter lives. If they didn’t accept me, I wouldn’t feel the need to torture them eternally, just exclude them from the heaven I created for my loyal followers.

    That’s just me though, if I was God, but I’m not claiming to be God, just answering BillT’s question.

  38. BillT says:

    Ryan,

    It isn’t vengence. It’s justice.

    You don’t want any part of that? Really? What are you going to tell all the children whose lives have been destroyed by adults that preyed on them. Hey, sure it was wrong that your ___________ abused you for years or tortured you to death. But, hey, that’s just the way it went. What? you’d like some justice. Excuse me? your parents or siblings or friends might like some as well. Nah. I wouldn’t want anyone calling me vengeful.

  39. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Sault:

    Since you have devolved to the gnutoid level of commentary I will restrict myself to this little gem:

    His name was never “Jesus”… it was probably Yeshua, Yehoshua, or maybe Yeshu. It is tragicomical but true that Christians call him by something that no one ever did during his lifetime.

    You are of course absolutely right, since Jesus being an Israelite living in first century palestine, had a (typical) Israelite first century palestine name.

    Now, maybe this will come as a shock to you but it is frequent to transliterate names, especially the names of ancient and famous historical characters. For example Plato is the English transliteration of the Greek Plátōn (foregoing the use of the Greek alphabet). In Portuguese it is Platão.

    For a more common example. Peter (as in the apostle) is Pierre in French, Pedro in Portuguese and Spanish, and Petr in Russian. Cannot remember what was the original Hebrew and cannot be bothrered to check it out.

    Why do you think this minor translation convention is tragicomical, is beyond my ken. Or maybe not. Your ignorance is really hilariously comical and also tragical, in a sad way. But such is life.

  40. ryan says:

    Bill, I would think think that not existing is enough justice. If I am in heaven, why would I take pleasure in the fact that, say, my brother is burning in hell because he molested me for years? He is a sinful, fallen man just like me. All are susceptible to such evil lows. ALL. The past is the past. Corporal punishment is unnecessary on that level.

    By the way, that really did happen to me. I forgave him. Then moved on. He doesn’t need to burn in hell.

    But, let’s say I want ‘justice’, but we both end up in heaven. How is that justice? How is he as deserving of heaven as I am?

  41. G. Rodrigues says:

    @ryan:

    But, since you asked, I personally would keep the free will and lose the burning pit of hell. It seems vengeful. I wouldn’t want vengeance on my creation. I would be deeply saddened by people not accepting my gift, but not vengeful. A simple destruction (erasing of) of a disobedient (one not following me) soul will do.

    Just three points.

    1. Have you not payed attention that ultimately it is we that choose Hell? If you are disobedient, you are saying to God that you reject Him. He respects your *freely will*, so if you choose to reject Him you cannot be with Him. If you cannot be with Him, it means you must go on living apart and separate from Him. Living apart and separate from God is what Christians call (wait for it) Hell.

    2. Retributive justice is not the same thing as vengeance. Now, you can protest that the retribution is not proportional to whatever crimes were committed. This does not work by 1. above, and it can be argued that the retribution *is* indeed proportional. I am not going to, because I am having a hard time remembering a pithy quote of Cardinal Neumann that was just great to explain this point…

    3. No, a “simple destruction” will not do. The gist is that each and every human being, contrary to animals and brutes, is the product of a special creative act of God. God does not “undo” His creation.

    Now, all this could be argued, with little to no recourse to the revealed Word of God, but this will have to do for now.

  42. ryan says:

    @rodrigues,

    1. Bill asked me what I would do (my opinion). He didn’t ask me to sum up the Christian beliefs on heaven and hell (I already did that to ensure I understood Bill and Toms position).

    2. Then Bill brought up justice based on an arbitrary weight of sin. Something I never claimed God does or should do.

    3. Of all the answers to my original questions on the Christian beliefs of hell, yours was the longest, yet communicated the least. At best, it repeated previous responses.

  43. ryan says:

    @rodrigues,

    I take that back. You said Christians believe Hell is living apart from God. Does that include burning while being seperated from God? Or is that the part that is not Biblically clear?

    (Wait for it) ….haha that was funny and sarcastic at the same time.

  44. Sault says:

    God does not “undo” His creation.

    Except when He does.

    “6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” – Genesis 6:6-7 (NIV)

  45. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Sault:

    Sorry, but I will not discuss Biblical exegesis with you, or with atheists in general. There is no common ground for possible discussion.

  46. G. Rodrigues says:

    @ryan:

    Of all the answers to my original questions on the Christian beliefs of hell, yours was the longest, yet communicated the least.

    I tried to answer only one point, specifically why “A simple destruction (erasing of) of a disobedient (one not following me) soul will do.” does not work — that was point 3. Points 1. and 2. were just prolegomena. Appologies for having wasted your time; it will not happen again.

  47. ryan says:

    @sault

    From what I gather, their souls are not “undone” as a result of the flood. They would be in hell because God cannot undo His creation. They have to go somewhere.

    Not sure if they get a chance later (?). It’s really not clear what happened to their souls, just their bodies.

  48. BillT says:

    Ryan,

    A couple of things. Erasing a soul isn’t in the cards. We are all eternal beings. Nothing can change that. Also, you are right about all of us being sinners however the justice isn’t about us. Our sins create debts. Cosmic and immutable and nothing about them is arbitrary. Those debts need to be paid. Either we accept the payment made in our stead or we are left to pay them ourselves. So if you and your tormentor end up in heaven you will both be there under identical conditions.

  49. ryan says:

    @Bill, that makes sense.

    While I’m not sure if I believe it, its a concept I can understand and use while I continue to analyze.

    Thanks

  50. d says:

    If hell is as torturous as the warnings of Christians make it sound, then it is a place that no caring being would let a loved one choose, to heck with free will.

    Or if its really a place where certain people would voluntarily (and rationally) prefer to reside, then why should they try to avoid it?

  51. d says:

    BillT,

    You don’t want any part of that? Really? What are you going to tell all the children whose lives have been destroyed by adults that preyed on them. Hey, sure it was wrong that your ___________ abused you for years or tortured you to death. But, hey, that’s just the way it went. What? you’d like some justice. Excuse me? your parents or siblings or friends might like some as well. Nah. I wouldn’t want anyone calling me vengeful.

    This sort of answer is simply not available to Christians.

    You can’t go on about bad people getting their just comeuppance when any and every child predator is one sincere moment of repentance away from eternal paradise – the offer is extended to them just as equally as its extended to their victims.

    And in the end, only sin that counts in Christianity is the failure to accept the offer of salvation, not the wrongs committed against children, or any other person. That’s the only one that matters.

  52. Melissa says:

    Ryan,

    You likened hell to corporal punishment with God wielding the stick (or fire). There may be some Christians that think that but most are of the opinion that (as G. Rodriguez wrote) hell is what we call separation from God. Obviously if someone chooses to turn their back on everything that is good, true and beautiful it’s going to be bad. I think it’s a mistake to read the descriptions of heaven and hell literally, the writers are attempting to put into words what is outside human experience.

  53. ryan says:

    @Mellisa,

    In my experience, I’ve never heard a preacher/pastor say that about hell. (I’m talking churches in California, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Military Chaplins, of all denominations) They’ve never admitted that they can’t put into words what is outside their human experience. The honesty would be refreshing….yet they always opt for teaching it as a real place of burning fire and torment. Only recently (1999) did the Pope declare hell to be a concept, not a place.

    The idea of taking the multiple scriptures referring to the lake of fire or fires of hell figuratively is a relatively new idea for Christianity. One could get the idea that these views are changing to fit a wider cultural acceptance of God. Also, it makes me wonder what else is simply figurative in the Bible…

    As far as most Christians not believing in hell…A 2008 Pew Forum survey of more than 30,000 Americans found 74 percent of the general population believes in heaven, while 59 percent believes in hell. There is still a good chunk of folks out there that believe in the traditional sense of hell AND pastors and Sunday School teachers that preach it that way.

    My point is, there is no clarity, no consensus among the denominations, so why can’t Christians just be honest and say that they don’t know. Why create such a vivid image of a place, stamp it as real, and teach it to the masses?

    To get an emotional response? Keep people coming on Sunday? Give more money? Scare kids into sitting quietly while Veggie Tales plays? Make Pascal’s Wager more appealing?

    In my personal experience and opinion, religion diminishes God and makes Him inaccessible to those seeking Him.

  54. BillT says:

    d(#51),

    You’re wrong. If there is no forgiveness then we all would get just what we deserve. That would certainly be fair wouldn’t it? So the only question is if there is forgiveness, who gets forgiven and why. Your mistake is to believe that one person’s sins are worse than another’s. You think “those people” don’t deserve to be forgiven but I do. After all, that’s how we see them. Hatred isn’t really as bad as murder, right? But in the grand scheme those distinctions aren’t germane. A sin is a sin, a debt is a debt. It’s either paid or it’s not. God makes His forgiveness available to all just for the asking. If you think that’s not fair then you think you shouldn’t be forgiven either.

  55. Melissa says:

    Ryan,

    As far as most Christians not believing in hell…A 2008 Pew Forum survey of more than 30,000 Americans found 74 percent of the general population believes in heaven, while 59 percent believes in hell. There is still a good chunk of folks out there that believe in the traditional sense of hell AND pastors and Sunday School teachers that preach it that way.

    I did not say most Christians do not believe in hell. I said most Christians do not consider hell to be a place where people go for God to inflict corporal style punishment. Nor do they imagine God is torturing those in hell.

    Also, it makes me wonder what else is simply figurative in the Bible…

    God doesn’t have hands or feet if you were wondering.

    My point is, there is no clarity, no consensus among the denominations, so why can’t Christians just be honest and say that they don’t know. Why create such a vivid image of a place, stamp it as real, and teach it to the masses?

    To get an emotional response? Keep people coming on Sunday? Give more money? Scare kids into sitting quietly while Veggie Tales plays? Make Pascal’s Wager more appealing?

    The consensus is that hell would not be a “place” anyone in their right mind would want to go to. Preachers may use the biblical language to describe hell that does not mean that they necessarily think hell is a literal place of fire or that the congregation understands it that way either. Have you sat down with many ithese ministers to talk about hell or do you just assume that what you heard is the entirity of their thoughts on hell. Any message is always given for a purpose to meet the needs of particular people in a particular context it would be a mistake to assume that that would encapsulate their entire thinking in the subject. I personally think dehumanizing myself by turning my back on everything that is good, true and beautiful is scary, don’t you? The lake of fire definitely portrays the gravity of that choice effectively.

    In my personal experience and opinion, religion diminishes God and makes Him inaccessible to those seeking Him.

    I agree that we humans do have a tendency to put God in a box, that’s part of the challenge of turning towards God and accepting who He is and who we are. I can see from your comments that your understanding of the Christian God is a diminished one. I’m not sure whether you are interested in remedying that.

  56. ryan says:

    Yes, I have sat down with many, many, many pastors and laymen to ask about these things. Since I am generally curious about the world around me, I like to get to know people and their beliefs.

    I said most Christians do not consider hell to be a place where people go for God to inflict corporal style punishment. Nor do they imagine God is torturing those in hell.

    Some do. Are they interpreting the scriptures incorrectly? Who is right, the majority or the minority? Do you feel that it is ok for them to preach that?

    God doesn’t have hands or feet if you were wondering.

    No, but I am wondering about other things like creation and pretty much all of Revelation and Daniel and other things.

    I personally think dehumanizing myself by turning my back on everything that is good, true and beautiful is scary, don’t you?

    Sure, I’ll agree with you. To me, eternal hellfire torture is neither good, true, nor beautiful, so I don’t have an issue turning my back on it. Or did you mean to say that God is good, true, and beautiful and it would be wise for one to seek Him. NOT because Christians are trying to scare you with stories they (apparently?) don’t believe themselves anymore.

    The ‘dehumanizing’ aspect would be for religious leaders to manipulate others with whacked out teaching. For example, the ‘witches’ in the Salem Witch trials were effectively dehumanized.

    I’m not sure whether you are interested in remedying that.

    I’m interested in knowing God…the real one. The one that is good, true, and beautiful…not a man made version.

  57. Sault says:

    Sorry, but I will not discuss Biblical exegesis with you, or with atheists in general. There is no common ground for possible discussion.

    Indeed, I have gotten the impression that the two of us have very little common ground. Sometimes that is simply the case, though.

    I think it’s a mistake to read the descriptions of heaven and hell literally,

    The more that I study the Bible, the more I agree with this sentiment. To stay on the topic of hell, one of the words used is “Gehenna”, which derives from the name of a valley near Jerusalem. It seems like they looked out their windows, saw a pretty nasty place, and said “Hey, you see that valley? That’s kinda what I’m talking about here!” Jesus used parables with terms and situations that his audience would grasp intuitively… I think it’s the same type of thing. The danger (and what has been a reality, I think) is that those later on will not understand the allegory and will misinterpret it or take it literally when it shouldn’t be (e.g. the Book of Revelations).

    If there is no forgiveness then we all would get just what we deserve. That would certainly be fair wouldn’t it?

    I guess it depends on what your definition of “fair” is. If I understand correctly, mercy is the suspension of justice, not the enforcement of it, and it doesn’t seem fair to me (in my limited and very human understanding) that some people are forgiven and others aren’t.

    Why are some people worth forgiving and others aren’t? Why break your own rules? Why make rules in the first place if you’re planning on breaking them anyways? Why allow people to be born condemned to hell, i.e. why make sin the default condition? I can’t answer these questions, and perhaps that’s why He’s God and I’m not.

    from ryan
    They would be in hell because God cannot undo His creation. They have to go somewhere.

    from BillT
    [...]Erasing a soul isn’t in the cards. We are all eternal beings. Nothing can change that.

    Quite frankly, this does not seem to be a Biblical viewpoint, or at the very least not one that is held by all Christians ([example][example]).

    ” Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
    -Matthew 10:28 (NIV)

    I said most Christians do not consider hell to be a place where people go for God to inflict corporal style punishment. Nor do they imagine God is torturing those in hell.

    I think that it is a mistake to use the word “most” here, especially given the Catholic position on Hell for the last thousand years or so. Maybe “some” or even “a few” have your interpretation, but certainly not “most”. Hell has been understood by most Christians, traditionally, as a literal place where people are literally tortured.

    Wikipedia says “Hell’s character is inferred from biblical teaching, which has often been understood literally”, and gives a citation.

    “There is a hell, i.e. all those who die in personal mortal sin, as enemies of God, and unworthy of eternal life, will be severely punished by God after death.” [Catholics]

    My point is, there is no clarity, no consensus among the denominations, so why can’t Christians just be honest and say that they don’t know.

    Bam. It makes it difficult for a non-Christian to know what to believe when so many Christians disagree with each other on even basic doctrine.

    I’m interested in knowing God…the real one. The one that is good, true, and beautiful…not a man made version.

    It is entirely possible that such a thing does not exist. There have been things before that Man has thought *should* exist, but haven’t. That is partly perhaps why I keep a somewhat dim view of metaphysics. Just because something *should* exist doesn’t mean that it actually does.

  58. BillT says:

    “Why are some people worth forgiving and others aren’t?”

    They aren’t. No one is worth forgiving because no one has earned their forgiveness. That’s why Christianity is understood as a grace based faith. Grace is an unmerited gift and our forgiveness is unmerited as well. This is an absolutely basic understanding of the Christian faith and what sets it apart from every other religion on earth.

  59. Melissa says:

    Ryan,

    Some do. Are they interpreting the scriptures incorrectly? Who is right, the majority or the minority? Do you feel that it is ok for them to preach that?

    I think those that envisage God as a huge cosmic torturer are wrong. The view of Christianity that considers the main point getting into heaven and avoiding hell is a distortion of the biblical texts and leads to a view of God that is also distorted. I don’t think people should reduce Christianity or God in this way but I cannot comment whether “they” are wrong because I have not heard what “they” are preaching.

    No, but I am wondering about other things like creation and pretty much all of Revelation and Daniel and other things.

    Do you think we need to pin down all the details of creation and the end times before we can commit to Christ?

    Sure, I’ll agree with you. To me, eternal hellfire torture is neither good, true, nor beautiful, so I don’t have an issue turning my back on it. Or did you mean to say that God is good, true, and beautiful and it would be wise for one to seek Him. NOT because Christians are trying to scare you with stories they (apparently?) don’t believe themselves anymore.

    I didn’t think what I wrote was that hard to understand. To choose what is bad for us is to lessen our humanity (dehumanize ourselves). If you cut yourself off from God and He gives you what you want then your have cut yourself off from everything that is good, true and beautiful. To exist in that state is bad, the biblical imagery conveys the seriousness of this.

    Our options aren’t limited to 1.) believing in a God who literally imposes eternal torture on people or 2.) reducing preaching on the biblical stories of hell to scaring people “with stories they (apparently?) don’t believe themselves anymore”.

  60. d says:

    BillT,

    You misunderstand. I was highlighting an inconsistency in your position, not outlining my own view.

    See your #38, and consider how it pretty much is direclty opposed to everything you say above.

    You can’t make emotional appeals like that, since Christianity holds that we’re all deserving of death, but yet are also offered salvation.

    What if, in bitterness from the aftermath of childhood abuse, the abuse victim rejects God sincerely… and the abuser after a lifetime of horrid acts against young people has a sincere moment of repentance? The abused goes to hell, the abuser goes to heaven – so your emotional appeal backfires.

  61. BillT says:

    d,

    No, you misunderstand. The “emotional” appeal was a way to help Ryan understand that his position that God was acting out of vengence was incorrect. The existance of God makes justice a reality. Without Him everyone would, in actuality, get away with everything they do. Are there circumstances within that are hard to understand? Sure, but that doesn’t mitigate the justice that only God’s existance brings.

  62. ryan says:

    Do you think we need to pin down all the details of creation and the end times before we can commit to Christ?

    In short, yes. Christ is not in a vacuum in the Bible, you have to accept the whole Bible as the word of God. You can’t just accept Christ and be on your merry way. So, the problem is, what am I accepting?! With all the divisions and confusion in the Church are not comforting to an outsider.

    I grew up in a cult, I know the dangers of accepting something nice only to get the nasty once you’re in.

    Let’s look at this on a smaller scale. A lender wants me to commit to a 30 year loan. The contract is large, confusing, and multiple lawyers I have contacted interpret it different ways. He promises that none of the contract is really that important. All I have to do is sign, and I will receive tons of money. Would you be skeptical? I would.

    Just for a second, try to step out of yourself, and really think about what you are asking me. To be a Christian is to commit your life, time, money, energy, EVERYTHING. Just believe in Jesus and it’s all good…because if you don’t you are going to hell…now gimme %10 percent of your income.

    Can you blame people for hesitating? Just a bit, maybe?

  63. BillT says:

    And d. I think you’re probably missing the “other half” of what God’s justice fully entails. God’s justice is not limited to or really consist of “punishing” the guilty. That is what we do here. It really doesn’t do all that much, if anything, for the victims. God in the full exercise of His justice will, as C.S. Lewis put it, “make everything sad become untrue”. We will be healed of all injustice, sadness and pain. That is our hope and what we look forward to in the presence of the Holy God.

  64. Melissa says:

    Ryan,

    In short, yes. Christ is not in a vacuum in the Bible, you have to accept the whole Bible as the word of God. You can’t just accept Christ and be on your merry way. So, the problem is, what am I accepting?! With all the divisions and confusion in the Church are not comforting to an outsider

    I’m not suggesting you ignore parts of the bible. My suggestion is to examine the core truths of Christianity to see if you think those correspond to reality. (I realise there are churches that major on the minors but you could start with Tom’s free ebook what is Christianity). For things like creation, obviously there are certain ideas that are core Christianity but the interpretation of Genesis is disputed. I have my own opinion on that but it is an opinion that I hold lightly and if I was wrong it wouldn’t affect my everyday life, or faith because it is not a belief that is the basis of my faith. Within just my church there would be varying opinions on the interpretation of Genesis, I don’t think that is a problem.

    Just for a second, try to step out of yourself, and really think about what you are asking me. To be a Christian is to commit your life, time, money, energy, EVERYTHING. Just believe in Jesus and it’s all good…because if you don’t you are going to hell…now gimme %10 percent of your income

    My upbringing was basically secular and I didn’t start going to church until I was in my twenties so I know what it is like to weigh up the decision from outside, but I didn’t come from your cult experience so it’s very different for you. You should be wary.

    Your last sentence may be an accurate portrayal of what happens in some churches but I think it’s once again a diminished picture of Christianity, I am especially wary of those who push for a decision and treat it like it’s the end of the story. I sincerely believe the God you want to know is the God of the bible and I would plead with you not to dismiss Him without further investigation because I don’t get any sense from your posts on this site that you are rejecting the God I believe in.

  65. BillT says:

    Ryan,

    Here is another perspective. Christianity doesn’t have all the answers nor is any specific branch of the faith going to provide you with an airtight interpretation of the Bible. However, what are you left with without belief in God. How do you make sense of world around you? Morality, conciousness, good, evil, beauty, truth. How do you account for these and many other things from a secular viewpoint? We are all “reasoning to the best possible inference”. There are no proofs. No ironclad arguments. It is a leap of faith. But remember, not believing is just as much a leap of faith for there are no proofs or ironclad arguments on the other side either. Everyone has religious beliefs. Which of them makes most sense to you?

  66. ryan says:

    @BillT,

    Here’s what makes sense to me right now, I’m not willing to call myself an atheist because I still have hope that a God does exist.

    I’m not willing to subscribe to any religion because, although many contain glimpses of Godly character, they all seem embellished with man made ideas. Lacking full divine inspiration.

    What currently gives me my greatest solace in life is studying science, the universe, and enjoying my family. While I can’t experience God through the lens of a religion, I feel connection to an unnamed God while seeking Him (or His absence) through these activities.

    Whether this feeling is a product of my deepest imaginative faculties or an objective God revealing himself to me is unknown.

    If I was to just take, say Islam and Christianity under consideration and “reason to the best possible inference”, I could find good reasons to be either one and find good reasons to be neither one. Since I believe they are both inferior products, lacking in a complete description of God or having too much additives, I will not invest in them until they are a more secure investment (i.e. Someone very important tells me to).

  67. BillT says:

    Ryan,

    Asking for “…a complete description of God…” is the same as asking for proof. You aren’t going to get either. You can hold out “…hope that a God does exist.” but that’s the same as making a decision that he doesn’t. You can say that you could find “good reasons” to be either Islamic or Christian but there is no middle ground here. You are one, the other or neither.

  68. Sault says:

    @ Melissa

    …but the interpretation of Genesis is disputed. I have my own opinion on that but it is an opinion that I hold lightly and if I was wrong it wouldn’t affect my everyday life, or faith because it is not a belief that is the basis of my faith.

    Bravo. I wish that more Christians held this outlook. A robust faith shouldn’t be threatened by science.

    @ BillT

    But remember, not believing is just as much a leap of faith for there are no proofs or ironclad arguments on the other side either.

    It is equivocation to compare supernatural faith with forms of non-supernatural faith. Perhaps individual atheists may posses some form of non-supernatural faith, but there is nothing inherent in atheism that requires any definition of it.

  69. ryan says:

    “is the same as asking for proof. You aren’t going to get either.”

    That doesn’t make religion the correct answer. At best, your logic tells me I should resign myself of any seeking. That’s odd because even the Bible says that I will find God if I seek Him. Doesn’t that hope alone tell one that stopping before I find Him is simply ending my journey and settling for less?

    “but that’s the same as making a decision that he doesn’t.”

    Not even close. The difference between my hope and your faith is that you have decided that you know He is real in spite of lack of evidence (you have reasons and beliefs, but no smoking gun). I say I don’t know He is real yet will continue seeking Him in spite of insufficient (not complete) evidence so far.

  70. BillT says:

    “It is equivocation to compare supernatural faith with forms of non-supernatural faith.”

    No, it is equivocation to try to claim that believing that there is no God is non-supernatural. God is supernatural. You have a belief about His existance. It’s a belief (an act of faith) because there is no proof. It is a regious (supernatural) belief because it is about God. In the overall it’s about being honest with yourself.

  71. ryan says:

    “Supernatural: Attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature.”

    The Christian idea of God is that of a supernatural one.

    Not all faiths share this detail of God.

  72. Sault says:

    Just because someone holds a position about the supernatural does not mean that they have “faith”, either in the supernatural or non-supernatural sense.

    The quickest definition that I found was

    Faith

    1. Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
    2. Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

    I do not have 1 because I do not have complete trust or confidence that I am correct about whether the supernatural exists or not – I maintain the naturalistic position of skepticism. Given reasonable evidence, I would be open to changing my mind.

    Obviously I don’t fit the second definition.

    My philosophical opinions do not fit the definition of the word “faith”. Having a position on the supernatural does not imply a belief in the supernatural.

    That’s like saying that since I don’t believe in fairy-land that I actually do. That’s silly talk.

  73. BillT says:

    No Sault, it’s special pleading. You can drag out all the dictionary definitions or bad fairy-land analogies you like. Having a belief in whether or not God exists is what it is. A religious belief. The only way around it would be for you to show that non-belief in God was properly basic. Good luck with that.

  74. BillT says:

    “The difference between my hope and your faith is that you have decided that you know He is real in spite of lack of evidence (you have reasons and beliefs, but no smoking gun).”

    Ryan. First, there are no smoking guns. Smoking guns are the same as proof. I made that point a number of times. Second, I don’t believe “in spite of lack of evidence”. There is plenty of evidence. Are you really reading what I wrote?

  75. ryan says:

    Ok. Replace evidence with proof.

  76. BillT says:

    “Ok. Replace evidence with proof.” Huh! What!

    How many times have I said this. I said it in the post you just quoted. There is no proof. Not for what I believe and not for what you believe and not for what anyone believes. If there was proof it wouldn’t be a belief. That’s the point we have been discussing. It’s unbelievable that you would try and twist around that again and again. It’s a stunning lack of integrity.

  77. ryan says:

    Bill, isn’t faith when you believe without proof? Sorry I said evidence instead of proof. Gees.

  78. Melissa says:

    Ryan,

    I think Bill’s point is that outside of mathematics there is no such thing as proof. If you define faith (as you have) as belief without proof then most of your beliefs are also held on faith. In the bible faith generally refers to trust in God.

  79. Sault says:

    If there was proof it wouldn’t be a belief.

    If there was proof it wouldn’t be *faith*, as per the definition.

    I think Bill’s point is that outside of mathematics there is no such thing as proof. If you define faith (as you have) as belief without proof then most of your beliefs are also held on faith. In the bible faith generally refers to trust in God.

    Going off of the super-quick Google definition –

    Proof (n)
    1. Evidence or argument establishing or helping to establish a fact or the truth of a statement.

    Of course there are many types of proof outside of the mathematical variety. I carry a driver’s license, which in general serves as a “proof of residency”, and if I am accused of a crime, the burden is on the prosecutor to prove that I am innocent. None of these can be done mathematically, nor would we reasonably expect them to. Yet, they are forms of proof nonetheless.

    To equate non-supernatural “faith” (when such a term can be applied to a belief at all) with supernatural faith is equivocation, however, again by definition. If we’re going by the English language then we should use the established definitions of the words, and not create our own.

    Having a belief in whether or not God exists is what it is. A religious belief.

    Well, at least you’re not claiming that I have faith anymore. That’s something, I guess.

  80. Melissa says:

    Sault,

    Well if you want to take that as your definition of proof as opposed to providing 100% certainty of the conclusion then I would argue that there is proof that Christianity is true.

  81. Sault says:

    Well if you want to take that as your definition of proof as opposed to providing 100% certainty of the conclusion then I would argue that there is proof that Christianity is true.

    And in using the common vernacular, you would be correct in doing so – arguing for the proof that Christianity is true. Whether it is proof enough is the question. Mention has been made already about how different scientific disciplines have different standards of “truth”, or at least different burdens of proof, and the concept carries over into what it is that you are attempting to prove.

    When it comes to the supernatural, the burden of proof is higher, in part because of the lack of evidence for it. It is not difficult to prove that I am an American citizen – I carry evidence in my pocket. One cannot say the same for the supernatural.

  82. Melissa says:

    Sault,

    Mention has been made already about how different scientific disciplines have different standards of “truth”, or at least different burdens of proof, and the concept carries over into what it is that you are attempting to prove.

    When it comes to the supernatural, the burden of proof is higher, in part because of the lack of evidence for it. It is not difficult to prove that I am an American citizen – I carry evidence in my pocket. One cannot say the same for the supernatural

    You’re better than this Sault. There is plenty of evidence for the existence of God whether you personally count it as evidence is another question. I think what you are getting at is that different disciplines present different types of evidence in support of their claims. the type of evidence you present will be dependent on the questions you are asking. The piece of paper, card, whatever, in your pocket is accepted as evidence of your citizenship because we know the checks that are required to obtain it. It does not prove you are an American citizen. We generally accept it as such unless we suspect it might be fraudulent.

    Here’s my point though: I arrive at my belief that God exists by the exact same process that I use for any other belief – by examining the appropriate evidence and comparing how that evidence fits with the various possibilities. There is no special belief forming mechanism reserved especially for all questions of the supernatural.

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