Bible Open

Challenge to Atheists 5

Printed below are responses to this challenge. (See part I) I present them as is with no comment. I only use first names, last initial and don't ask for e-mails, I don't release them. I present this page only to induce thought, not as an attack. Send in your response to lewis@sullivan-county.com. I will not post obscenities or proselytizing.

Challenge to Atheists 1
Challenge to Atheists 2
Challenge to Atheists 3
Challenge to Atheists 4
Challenge to Atheists 5

Hi Lewis

Thanks for the website, nice to see someone taking the time to think about the Bible in a constructive and honest manner.

You said in your article on Challenge to Atheists 1 Proving that the Bible is flawed only proves that either the Christian God does not exist or that he has a high tolerance for incompetence and error in his sacred book. I think there is another much greater issue at stake here: God seems to me to be testing those who read it to see if they will patiently accept what is said even if they don't understand it. Not that we should always take it literally, for much is not to be taken literally, but that we should also not be is cynical about what it states.

For example, just because God said that "The serpent was more subtle than any other beast of the field" does not actually mean that a snake spoke with Eve. Yet I certainly believed that it could be possible as just about anything is possible, it is just not particularly plausible. However I recently read in The Companion Bible by Bullinger (appendix 19) that the term serpent would be better translated 'shining one' and he makes a compelling argument that what Eve saw was "a glorious angel possessing superior and supernatural knowledge". And for this reason was compelled by what he said. Now that seems much more plausible and easier to believe.

If at the first sign of something in the Bible being a little bit difficult to comprehend we throw the book out then we have no patience to work through the book and to study what is being said. God does not lay it all out on a plate, it is often partially hidden or even totally hidden. Christ said that many righteous men had desired to see what the apostles had revealed to them, but they were not told, even though they were righteous.

We therefore need to appreciate that there are many apparent errors in the Bible not because God is tolerant of mistakes in his word but in order to test us to see if we will persevere and have tolerance in both God who loves to hide things for us to find and also in the translators who no doubt will get plenty wrong in the process of doing their job. There are also some actual errors, but not many, for exactly the same reason, and because where they are it is of no consequence except for nit pickers to find fault.

I therefore don't think that "The question is does God actually not exist or has God just gone off somewhere?" as you say, nor is "God there but not intervening" God is working with individuals to develop in us the character of God, part of which is patience and loyalty toward him. God wants a relationship with people individually, and in order for us to have any relationship we must trust the other person. Just because we don't understand everything about our friends does not mean we don't tolerate or love them. We are attracted to the fact that they are different and interesting because of their differences. Yet with God people want to know everything all at once, well no relationship works like that. We need to be patient with God and he will let us know him as we are able to handle it.

Regards
Martin S.


Mr. Loflin,

Thank you for your website, for the vast amount of reading and thought that has gone into it. This email is in response to your Challenge to Atheists.

Becoming an atheist, or accepting one's lack of belief in another's cosmological view, can make you a better person. It's the equivalent of standing up and declaring the Emperor has no clothes. Rather than following the crowd, mimicking their "piety" because you don't want to be shunned, you come clean with yourself, and others. You own yourself, your intellect, your virtue. It is an act of faith, because you realize that, if there is a God, it's got to be a whole lot better than what gets marketed as God. If there is a God, you aren't going to get anywhere by pretending to go along with someone else's story about it.

When you accept yourself as a non-believer, it is a supreme act of self-acceptance. It is healing. It is empowering, because you no longer let others define you, or what your spiritual experience is about.

When you accept that the world works the way it does, not because there is a capricious entity working out each decision, you let go of feeling that we are victimized by the Universe. No longer is there an agent deciding who suffers, who has plenty, who gets ill, who wins the presidency or the ball game, but a thousand little cause and effect happenings work these things out. You are free to celebrate the beauty, and loathe the tragedy, and work with others, regardless of their religious perspective, to solve problems.

I know several atheists, and knew them before I had my own experience in letting go. None of them were drug addicts, wife beaters, thieves, or other kinds of decadent people. Maybe the same reasonableness and inner peace is what enabled them to be both atheists and civil human beings. They didn't need a religion to save them, they were simply reasonable. And they are as compassionate, and thoughtful, as anyone else I know, Christian, or Jew, or Muslim, or Hindu.

No, I don't know of a famous person who has done great things, who was an atheist. That doesn't surprise me, as churches find ways of destroying heretics. Anyone who would have been great, certainly wouldn't have made it into the history books, at least not without being demonized. So the argument that atheism can't change us for the better is hard to substantiate or refute.

Thanks for allowing me to share my point of view.

Regards,
Julia


Hi,

I too enjoy your website and its insights. Comments and questions are interesting and provocative and in the case of the latter, I found a note from one GJ to be "answered/confronted".

GJ's copout about his/her "belief system" is flawed at best. Firstly the word "atheism" is from the ancient Greek "atheos" meaning without God and is meant in the negative. It is therefore a rejection of God.
There is no doubt that a belief in God is usually allied with a relationship through a belief system which includes a deity such as Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Mohammedanism or Judaism. All of these may be considered to be flawed. Therefore skepticism and freedom of thought which may provoke criticism should not be identified with or mistaken as rejection. Dogma and doctrine often provoke rejection which is understandable, but forced acceptance has almost disappeared from religious teaching except amongst the most fundamentalist.
The etymological understanding of the word atheism allows folk like GJ to live in a comfort zone which is based on a false understanding of their stated rejection of God. They therefore believe that they do not take responsibility for this stance.
What GJ is suggesting on your site is perhaps closer to agnosticism which I would guess he/she would reject as being "lukewarm". That being the case, GJ get off the fence and make a real statement.

For my part, I am not a follower of one of the dozen or so monotheistic religions. I have studied many of them all of my life and continue to do so. My search for the truth has led me to a stage where I have come to an understanding of my relationship with God and my responsibilities to that relationship. It is a relationship which has enhanced my love of my fellow human being whilst also making me more aware of the deity of evil, the subtlety of which threatens our very existence.

Love of God is a personal search and cannot be found in books or even debate although such activity assists. It is my experience that God's love may only be discovered through observation, interaction and examination. Meditation is one form of scrutiny of one's innermost thoughts and understanding and can lead to further, deeper self-awareness and where we fit in the Universe.

I would therefore invite GJ and like-minded folk to carefully examine their experiences and feelings and never give up on the search for their reason for being.

God bless,
Charles


See Western Thought influenced by Zoroastrianism by Stephen Van Eck

Zoroastor