The King & I

I arrive at a cozy English cottage version of a church. A red door leads directly from the street into the chapel; no grand foyer eases the transition. The scale of the building is intimate, with exposed wood beams running the length of the chapel’s ceiling and stained glass windows at eye level. It’s like something in a curio cabinet, a miniature to gaze upon when you want to feel “churchy.” I can almost smell lush pastures dotted by sheep. The images on the stained glass are unmistakable in their realism: wise men, Jesus, angels.

I take a seat halfway down, on the left side of the aisle. Many of congregants are bent with age or reverence or a little of both. Their hair is well-coiffed, crisp leisure suits are donned, walkers are politely placed out of the aisle. A wave of latecomers hacks a good 20 years from the median age, helped by a sprinkling of teens at my back.

For a moment, I’m overcome by the fascinating history of push and pull encapsulated in this simple place: the “Episcopalian” title of the denomination harkens back to the colonists’ demand for independence after the American Revolution. They changed the title from “Anglican” to dissociate from the British monarchy. Yet, everywhere are loving nods to Great Britain. Colonists may have rejected the king as divine head of the church, but they embraced this version Christianity, outlined during Henry VIII’s reign, as a middle ground between Catholicism and Protestantism.

Like a daughter who balks at the rules under her parents’ roof only to recreate their orderly world in her own home, the Episcopalian colonists wrote a “Book of Common Prayer” almost identical to the one in the motherland. Henry VIII installed himself as “pope” of the Church of England to marry and divorce as he pleased, secure a male heir, and ensure the unity of his kingdom. The results of his efforts became an unwitting vehicle for other types of empowerment. Unlike Catholic and even some mainline Protestant denominations, women are allowed in leadership positions in the Episcopalian system. The first female Episcopalian bishop was appointed in 1989. In 2009, the House of Bishops voted to allow homosexuals to serve in ministerial positions. The most traditional house on the block is surprisingly progressive. Today’s service is dominated by female leaders. The priest, or “rector” (as it is called here) is a woman, as are most of her ministerial helpers.

The choir begins its walk down the aisle toward the altar. They wear emerald green robes with bright yellow hoods. A majority of the congregants stand, though there is a little disclaimer in the program. It reads, “please assume postures comfortable for you.” It goes on to state, “Our first Book of Common Prayer noted in 1549” that positions can vary “as every man’s devotion serveth, without blame,” a nod simultaneously to English roots and physical differences.

A handful of the very elderly remain seated, and I might have too if I’d realized what was in store. Today we perform something called “The Great Litany,” a series of 43 calls and responses; after each one, the choir takes a baby step toward the altar. It starts with the rector saying, “O God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth” and then the people and choir reply, “Have mercy upon us.” Over the next six pages of the program, the rector asks God to spare us from sin and everlasting damnation and earthquake and fire and flood and plague; to bless and keep all people; to increase our grace; to make wars cease; to inspire us; to comfort those in danger, in childbirth, and all who suffer. The responses the congregants provide change every few lines, so in turn we beg: “Spare us, good Lord;” “Good Lord, deliver us;” “We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord;” “O Christ, hear us;” and “Christ, have mercy upon us.” This ritual is so emotionally charged; it feels as if we are pleading for our lives. Fifteen minutes after they started at the top of the short aisle, the choir members take their seats at the altar and I fall into my own, worn out…

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46 thoughts on “The King & I

  1. I like the inclusiveness of the Episcopal church but hear in your writing a common theme heard in all of the churches you have visited so far: The need to accept oneself as a sinner crying out for forgiveness and freedom from God’s wrath even though one Pentecostal church sounded like they jumped for joy with it while this Episcopal church used the choir/responses to wear you down into such acceptance. I felt myself longing for the Quaker stillness but I like uplifting music. Perhaps there’s a search here for self-acceptance, warts and all. Onward………….

  2. worn out by rote prayers….quite a commentary on what was being done…..

    …..and leisure suits: I’m guessing these were mostly men now in their 80s or 90s who bought them in the 70s (ie, 1970s) when they were really “in.” We make fun of them now, but they likely represented the only fundamental change in dress-up for men in a hundred years. 😐

    I grew up in a church where we said the “Lord’s prayer” every week. I think most regard it as a rote prayer taught by Jesus, therefore justifying rote prayers….but his wording was set in contrast to the “prayers” (babbling) of some which were thought to be heard by God just because they were repeated so much, but he told his apprentices to pray “like this”–not necessarily exactly the same way each time….(I’m looking at the version in Matthew 6, part of the Sermon on the Mount.) I did learn to say it from memory as a kid, so I suppose most of the time I said it, I was on auto-pilot and not giving it much thought…

      • Hi Walt, I have to admit that there’s something in the formality and ceremony that stirs me. At first, with the responses, I don’t know that I was really feeling what we were saying. By the end, it had sunk in and my sense of gratitude had been elevated (and I was ready for a nap).

        • Hi back, Corinna. I’ve mellowed a lot in my thinking since becoming a Christian in the 70s. Back then, routine, liturgy, repetition became “anathema” (cursed) by me (and my great closed mind). But I realized even then that the things I’d learned by rote as a kid took on new meaning that I had never imagined before. What I said above may seem to some to be a put down of liturgy and repetition–and I will apologize for not making clear that I don’t believe that at all. Yes, the danger does exist of doing all these things on auto-pilot, but later (after the nap) our fabulous brain has had a chance to work and process and remind us of the great things we are a part of–together with others in the family and, yes, it IS something that stirs the heart to wonder (not question but awe and worship). While I’m not necessarily a liturgical-kind-of-guy, I’ve been hit upside the head a few times by my Father to remind me that I don’t know everything and see all things clearly–but he will make them clear in HIS time (not mine).

    • Walt, you nailed it when you pointed out the Matt. 6 contrast Jesus was making between verses 7 and 9. Verse 7 admonishes Jesus’ followers NOT to say the same thing over and over again “for they imagine they will get a hearing for their use of many words”, but instead, they should pray in the “manner” Jesus demonstrated, starting with verse 9. Based on verse 7, the “Lord’s prayer” was never intended to be prayed word-for-word, but to be used as a model regarding things that could–and should–be prayed for. Top among them Jesus taught that we pray for God’s name to be hallowed, or sanctified which means to be set on high as holy. God’s “name” is not “God”–that is his title. Nor is it “Jesus” for he is the Son and the One giving us the model to follow, and obviously praying to his God and Father. God’s name is “Jehovah” in English. The name often varies from one language to another, just as our names do. For example, my name “Charles” in English is “Carlos” in Spanish, and “Karl” in German, etc. Originally God’s name, represented by the Hebrew Yohd, He, Wah, He (the four consonants making up God’s name) was translated into English as “Jehovah”. This name of the True God was present in the Old Testament almost 7,000 times, but for the most part that “name” was removed and substituted as “the Lord”, though it is still translated as Jehovah in several English translations. (Living Bible, Byington’s, American Standard, NWT, to name a few). The King James Version translators removed the name in all but 4 places. If you have the traditional King James Version, you can check that out by looking up Psalm 83:18 for one of those places where “Jehovah” is left intact. Going on in the prayer, it would be proper to pray for God’s kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done here on earth as it is being done in heaven. This would call for wonderful changes on earth, even putting an end to death as a result of Adam’s sin (see Romans 5:12). All through the Bible we have verses showing how God’s will being done on the earth will be fulfilled and result in everlasting blessings for mankind. When the Lord’s Prayer is prayed by rote, as Walt pointed out, many, if not most people give little thought to what ELSE is meant by “thy will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven”. For one—Daniel 2:44 tells us that the God of heaven will set up a kingdom [the one we pray for to come] that will never be destroyed, but it will destroy all the kingdoms of the present world, and God’s kingdom will stand forever.

      When the Lord’s Prayer is prayed for as a prayer learned in childhood, do we realize what is being prayed for?—the destruction of all the kingdoms of this world, and the righteous rule of God’s kingdom with Jesus Christ as the king of that kingdom, ruling forever! I am not aware of any church organization other than Jehovah’s Witnesses that explains that. Perhaps someone can correct me if I’m wrong. Of course there is much more to be explained than is possible here.

      • Hi Chuck: For some reason I’m just now getting around to reading this–I’ve not been on much the past couple weeks. I’m not a Jehovah’s Witness, but Jesus IS King. Evangelicals don’t seem to talk about that very much. As Tim Keller (a Presbyterian in Manhattan) mentioned recently, a lot of American’s are not comfortable with thinking of him as King because when one thinks through the implications, then the necessity of absolute loyalty to him is suddenly apparent. N.T. Wright, an Anglican from England who’s had much impact on Americans over the past 10 years or so, has been speaking/writing a lot about it as well. One day every knee shall bow to him.

        • Thanks, Walt for getting back to me. Interestingly, the word “king” is mentioned about 2,200 times in the Bible, referring to kings of Israel and Judah, as well as kings of gentile nations, and many times referring to Jehovah as King, and Jesus Christ also as King. According to Scripture, Jehovah is the supreme King, possessing unlimited power and authority. The kings of Judah were subordinate kings who represented Jehovah’s sovereignty on earth. At Matt. 28:18, Jesus said: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” God gave Jesus Christ such authority also as a subordinate King, but with far greater power than those earthly kings, because Jehovah has put him in the position of ruling the universe. (Phil. 2:9-11). As such, Jesus has been made “king of kings and Lord of lords.” And, yes, one day “every knee shall bow to him.”

          In view of what the Bible teaches about Jesus Christ as King, I frankly don’t understand why those who refer to themselves as “Christians” are not comfortable with thinking of Jesus as King, even with such an implication of absolute loyalty to him. Isn’t that what all Christians should want? We recall that Jehovah, the supreme King, required “exclusive devotion” (NWT) to him long prior to Jesus being made “King of kings”. We see this at Ex. 20:5 as part of the 10 Commandments: “You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them, because I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion, …” Our Creator does not deserve less, and neither does his Son as “King of kings” having been given by God “All authority in heaven and upon earth”. I’m thinking that there are many other things that you and I can agree on. Thanks again, and I hope you and I can enjoy more exchanges.

          Chuck

          • Thanks, Chuck…I’ll be around. (I haven’t been on much lately, but should be more consistent now.) I was listening to Tim Keller, who shared his thoughts on American’s view of Jesus as King, and his impression is that it has to do with our independent spirit (not necessarily a good thing) and our individualism. I don’t know about JWs, but individualism is a big problem within the American evangelical church–there is little genuine involvement across the “Body” of Christ (as Paul wrote about) and we don’t like the idea that someone (even Jesus) telling us what to do. BTW, he has a new book out called “Jesus the King: the life and death of the Son of God,” which was originally published in England as “King’s Cross.” Keller has a big following in the States, as does NT Wright (a Brit), so maybe they’ll influence Christians to think about it more realistically.

  3. You had me rolling in the floor with this one. It is SO familiar. I’m Anglican Providence of America, which is a breakoff of the Episcopal church (we won’t even go into the reasons !! Let’s just say that my reason for being in it is that it uses the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, the most traditional one available,) and we do the full (what I call) “bells and smells.” On a very important Sunday or Saint’s day and especially in Holy Week, you can spend a LOT of time standing, listening and responding. Easter and Christmas seem to have the longest Gospel readings in the world.

    And you are so right about the emotional level. It is supposed to be intense…..you are worshiping. Just because it is done in a responsive way to an established ritual doesn’t mean it’s any less emotionally intense than a Pentecostal church in the grip of the Holy Ghost!!

    Enjoy.

    Yours in Christ,

  4. Even though I’m a “charismatic” Christian, I have often used readings from the Book of Common Prayer for my own devotional life and have found much that is spiritually enriching.

    I look forward to your blog every week. Blessings to you on your journey…

  5. It’s clear that you enjoy writing, Corinna, and you really do it well, possessing a lyrical syntax, a natural word ‘flow’ that is quite poetic; your love of assembling words and thoughts comes across loud and clear.

    Words mean what they mean: there’s no way we can ascribe any other meanings to the words of Leviticus 20:13 without in turn altering the historical record: “And when a man lies down with a male the same as one lies down with a woman, both of them have done a detestable thing. They should be put to death without fail. Their own blood is upon them.”

    There’s no amount of cognitive dissonance that you can experience, or denial of plain truths to what that says: in ancient Israelite religious worship, homosexuality was considered a death penalty offense, and required “cutting off” anyone who committed that grave sin from the community so as to not bring the shared blood guilt upon the land of Israel. It literally meant stoning to death, just as it should nowadays, if God’s moral codes are immutable and unchangable.

    What’s that, you say? We’re more “progressive” nowadays, and shouldn’t be so judgmental of others who make different “life-style” choices? Sure, that’s fine by me, but as the Bible says, you cannot serve two masters: so pick one or the other. Just don’t try to redefine God into being something you WANT him to be. If a sin was an abomination BEFORE Christ, then it’s STILL an abomination AFTER Christ.

    After all, homosexuality is NOT God’s problem, but mankind’s: despite the efforts of lying scribes, the Bible still says what it says, and shouldn’t be stretched or reinterpreted (aka updated for our modern times) without good reason. That’s practicing cultural relativism, and is something every good Christian denigrates the inherent fallibility of man-made “inferior” moral cores for doing.

    • Hi Dave, I’m not so sure I agree. God’s codes may be constant but our understanding (and expression) of what that means isn’t and hasn’t been. In my opinion, God is love. All the sticks and stones and struggling (in the Bible and everywhere else) are bumps in the road–perhaps even tests–to get there. That’s how I see it at this point. Then again, I’ve never claimed to be a “good Christian.” .

      • Hi Corinna,

        As I’ve pointed out in so many words before, the basic question still boils down to this:

        Does the God as depicted in the Bible exist, or does He not?

        Either He DOES, or He DOESN’T. That’s not a matter of opinion, but of verifiable FACT, where the burden of proof rests with those who want to believe in God, unicorns, Bigfoot, Santy Claus, space aliens, that race of space men living in the trees, etc.

        Now granted, humans have MUCH reason to HOPE that such a God exists, eg the idea of an objective all-loving God who protects us and looks out for our every desire and wish IS compelling and seductive, to be sure. That wish is the very reason WHY ancient humans were inspired to say, “if God didn’t exist, humans would’ve created the concept anyway”. It’s called wish-fulfillment, a need for magic in our lives, a shadow of the promise of HOPE in a World filled with hopelessness.

        And as much as humanity has increased knowledge over the centuries, underneath it all, we’re driven by the same age-old fears, neuroses, desires, dreams, etc. It’s an age-old insight with as much meaning now, such that the ancient Greek myth of Pandora’s Box STILL seems fresh to modern readers; Pandora’s curiosity (which is a DESIRE, like the DESIRE for wisdom which drove Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, in Genesis 3) caused her to unleash the woes of the World on us. And what remained inside Pandora’s Box? One feeling: hope.

        As the old saying goes, “hope springs eternal”.

        No truer or more insightful words can be said about humanity’s constant and everlasting quench for hope, whether it be in the form of religion (eg Gen 3:16, which Xians CLAIM as a foreshadowing of the hope of Christ, sparing us from evil YHWH’s death sentence! Don’t think about it too much, m’kay?) or other REAL forms of hope (eg the TRUE quest for a cure for cancer, etc).

        Thanks, but I’ll stick with the REAL, TRIED-AND-TRUE prospects for hope, over the pseudo (fake) hope, any day.

  6. First, to David: Read the rest of Leviticus, my friend. Should I put my neighbor to death for wearing clothes woven of two different threads? Should we drive out to the country this weekend so I can skewer the first farmer I see planting different crops next to each other? New Testament? How about Paul’s instructions on how to treat salves “well”? If you want to apply the literal words of the Bible, don’t cherry-pick. We are all fallen in one way or another, and targeting homosexuality as some kind of special sin set apart as worse than others is anti-Scriptural. God created much of the Old Testament Law to impress upon the Jewish people the idea they were separate from all others because they were the chosen ones of God. The New Covenant changed that relationship. As Paul himself said, “when I was a child, I did as a Child. Now that I am a man, I put away childish things.”

    Now, back to common sense…We chose thEpiscopal Church after a lifetime of Roman Catholicism for a variety of reasons. What I really like about th Churchch is the breadth of its practice. Like Patti’s church, there is the “High Church” tradition that hearkens back to the pre-Vatican II Mass, to “Low Churchch” informal service, to charismatic ongregations. All exist in joyful tension, recognizing more of what we have in common than what is different. A few months ago we attended a Mass for the installation of our new (female) priest, and the service included elements from High to Low. Much like humanity itselfef, its a mix, but all pointed toward Christ.

    • Thanks, Tim, for putting a bit of perspective on the OT command for dealing with homosexuality. This is such a visceral issue, and even Christians are massively confused, afraid, and divided on it. One thing we do know, as you pointed out, is that we don’t set apart one sin as greater than all the rest (and forget others) but that we are to love all. At the risk of incurring someone’s wrath, I would venture forward the thought that, were he walking the earth now, Jesus would certainly invite ANY person who wanted to know him to come and do so, get to know him, and discover for himself what God is actually like.

      • ps: None of us respond to hate or rejection by being drawn to it….we respond to love. “God so loved the world that he gave…” (John 3:16), and “we love because he first loved us” (1st John 4:19). Those of us humans who can’t stand certain people might draw a lesson here–and yes, I am still trying to learn it. My logs are as big as anyone’s.
        Someone will point out that the issues before the court today have little to do with loving gays, but I would say that no one will be able to see or have wisdom to decide on such matters (whether for or against) unless they love.

    • Tim said:

      “Read the rest of Leviticus, my friend. Should I put my neighbor to death for wearing clothes woven of two different threads? Should we drive out to the country this weekend so I can skewer the first farmer I see planting different crops next to each other? New Testament? How about Paul’s instructions on how to treat salves “well”? If you want to apply the literal words of the Bible, don’t cherry-pick.”

      I agree: let’s NOT cherry-pick which expressions of Divine Will are still in play, since one cannot be too careful about following God’s COMMANDMENTS, His very Orders for mankind, to a tee. Wouldn’t want to piss him off, now, would we?

      And just as no one would argue that murder is no longer considered a sin, thanks to Jesus’ New Covenant (“Thanks, Jesus, for the Get Out of Hell Free card!”), let’s not risk God being displeased by our daily sins, such as homosexuality, adultery, dishonoring one’s parents, or having sex with a menstruating wife (yes, THAT is a sin on equal par with adultery and murder, per Levitical law)!

      Those behaviors were once considered serious enough to offend YHWH to warrant mentioning in Levitical law as death penalty offenses, so why should they now NOT be even a passing concern, as well? If “a thousand years to Jehovah is but a day” (Psalms 90:4), then 500BCE was only, what, a few days ago? Certainly his permanent moral code wouldn’t change so quickly?

      Unlike modern mores (which tend to be more accepting of those aforementioned actions, and don’t even considered them sins, much less criminal behavior), all of those actions were once considered as actions of humans that threatened to displease YHWH, such that Land of Israel would vomit the inhabitants from the Promised Land; ALL inhabitants risked paying for the sins of a few if the sins were unaccounted for (the sinners were to be “cut off” from the community, sentenced to death by stoning). Hence, the long-standing “exile/diaspora” paranoia of Jews, who know a thing about the fear of exile in Egypt, Babylon, Europe, etc.

      The Levitical code is partially based on the odd unscientific concept of boundaries existing between different ‘kinds’ of “things”: it’s such an illogical concept of matter and Natural laws such that it gives one a massive headache trying to integrate it with what IS known about the natural world via scientific inquiry.

      Of course, it ALSO gave the likes of Jesus a headache, too: he chided and derided those Jews who focused on following the Talmudic traditions (the “laws of men”), and I suspect Jesus wanted to ditch the burdensome Pharisaical focus on extra-scriptural codes and TRADITIONS which hindered worship. HOWEVER, Jesus is also quoted as saying (paraphrased) that he didn’t come to remove a letter from the law (Torah), which was to stand for all time; so as usual, Jesus is the guy who offers grand hopes and nebulous dreams, but is lax on the specifics of HOW to achieve those ends. In today’s political parlance, Jesus was running on a “hopes and dreams” platform, relying on a psychological dynamic that existed long BEFORE Jesus came around. In his case, he ‘wins’ by being the biggest loser imaginable: his failure as a Jewish messiah is paradoxically presented as PROOF that he was correct. M-kay, sure….

      As usual, that’s par for the course for the Bible, eg consider the age-old theodicy question (“why do bad things happen to good people?”). The Bible is a veritable Hallmark Greeting Card Store, where the reader selects their cherished and accepted sentiment, based on feelings about the recipient of bad luck (they get to select from: “time and unforeseen circumstances befall all” (Eccl 11:9), or “bad things happen to punish bad people” (eg The Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc, etc, etc), to the example of the righteous Job who undergoes suffering as a test). There’s a veritable smorgasbord, a buffet!

      It’s even worse than Aesop’s Fables (where “look before you leap” stands in stark contrast to, “he who hesitates is lost”. Which is it?). So instead of real useful advice, all you have is the useless appearance of wise and contrite sayings/aphorisms. You’re left with just what you started with: whole lotta nuttin’.

      Tim said:

      “We are all fallen in one way or another, and targeting homosexuality as some kind of special sin set apart as worse than others is anti-Scriptural.”

      Uh, who’s trying to pull it apart from the law, as if to claim it’s a “special” sin? Not moi. Fortunately, the Bible isn’t shy about what it prohibits, although it generally outlines the punishment separately from the sin, itself.

      But are you going to make a statement with a straight face that Leviticus 20:13 is NOT a PART of the scriptures, and are you going to argue Levitcal law is actually ANTI-Scriptural? WOW. You’ve got quite an uphill battle ahead, then, denying the Word of God IS the Word of God.

      And don’t let this hard-core atheist quote your own “Good Book” to you, but I recall Jesus Hisself decrying those “lying teachers of the law” who would attempt to alter or modify the Word of God for their own personal agenda? Isn’t THAT a sin of the highest order?

      Look: words mean what they mean, no more, no less (with the proviso that you need to consider the likely original cultural contexts, as applicable). You need to insert your mind-set into an age before Darwinian evolution arose, before Copernicus/Galileo’s Heliocentrism, etc and understand that homosexuality means EXACTLY what it did to ancient men. NOTHING changed from the vantage-point of Heaven in terms of gay rights, and nothing significant changed from the standpoint of Earth (the Greeks were FAR more liberal/accepting of gay relationships, and considered it as a natural expression of young love, ie they were FAR less homophobic than the uptight Jews, who sneered down on it as unnatural). Homosexuality is the SAME physical act, now as then, whether anal/oral/genital, stimulating another person to orgasm.

      “God created much of the Old Testament Law to impress upon the Jewish people the idea they were separate from all others because they were the chosen ones of God. The New Covenant changed that relationship. As Paul himself said, “when I was a child, I did as a Child. Now that I am a man, I put away childish things.”

      Yup, that’s the party line: creation of ingroups vs outgroups, creating an “us” vs “them” division to maintain a sense of cultural identity. It’s classic Sociology 101, behavior of in-groups. Looking at it from the sociological perspective, one of the downsides of “us” vs “them” thinking is when it gets carried too far, and leads to hatred of the other group, leading to such injustices as genocide, hatred, slavery of the claimed “inferior” group, etc. History is FILLED with the corpses of victims of that kind of archaic thinking, but I see it’s going to take a few MORE millenia in that oven before you’re willing to see it for the foolishness that it leads to, whether the in-group is Jewish OR Xians (vs muslims)?

      Aren’t you JUST A BIT ashamed to publicly admit to being such a bigoted thinker? Really? Not even SLIGHTLY embarrassed, esp in light of what modern men know nowadays at so many more levels (DNA/chromosomes/organism/ecology)?

      BTW, in 1st Cor 13 Paul wasn’t speaking to what you suggested, as his MAJOR theme was that LOVE is above all. So once again, you’re facing a MAJOR uphill battle to connect those dots to back your claim that he was speaking of the so-called “New Covenant” (as if that was an analogy God might be making to the Israelites re: Promised Land? Wha?), when it’s clear it wasn’t remotely on his mind (Paul was speaking as to why gifts of tongues takes a back seat to LOVE, which is supposed to be above even hope and faith).

      Tim said:

      “Now, back to common sense…We chose thEpiscopal Church after a lifetime of Roman Catholicism for a variety of reasons. What I really like about th Churchch is the breadth of its practice. Like Patti’s church, there is the “High Church” tradition that hearkens back to the pre-Vatican II Mass, to “Low Churchch” informal service, to charismatic ongregations. All exist in joyful tension, recognizing more of what we have in common than what is different. A few months ago we attended a Mass for the installation of our new (female) priest, and the service included elements from High to Low. Much like humanity itselfef, its a mix, but all pointed toward Christ.”

      And so one vote for “episcopalian” is noted: check! If this is a popularity poll, then duly noted!

      Now, if you can only PROVE that it actually MATTERS, then we’d be cooking with gas.

      In other words, you still need to prove:

      1) God exists,
      2) the God that exists IS the God depicted in Abrahamic faiths,
      3) WHICH of the Abrahamic faiths has gotten the message right: in case you haven’t noticed, they do NOT agree on even their basic tenets, much less the divergences noted amongst even the so-called “Christian” faiths.

      Which leaves you back at square one (along with Corinna): you, the individual, are forced to “cherry-pick” (which is a cynical way of portraying the choice) or to “comparison-shop” (a more neutral term) ‘your’ religion, using your own sense of right and wrong (AKA your inner moral compass, whatever it’s based on, be it secular law or religious upbringing) since there’s a broad palette, a veritable buffet, from which to choose.

      Now MY inner moral compass is JUST as honed and refined as anyone else I’ve encountered (and arguably it’s MORE finely-tuned than those who simply “church-shop”, often starting with the closest Church in the neighborhood: odd how that works out, as what if you had the misfortune of being born on the OPPOSITE side of the Planet from the foci of “true” religion, eg Shintoism? Sucks to be you, LOL!

      I know some JWs who went to Salt Lake City, Utah, to ask Mormons if they ever considered that Mormonism MIGHT be the wrong religion? Of course, these were 4th and 5th generation JWs asking the question, inadvertently proving the old truism that the question we often ask others is the one we most likely SHOULD be asking ourselves. I pointed out the question to the JWs, who dismissed the question with the ease that Mormons no doubt dismissed it; they KNOW that they’re right, and that’s all there is to it, case closed. Fine, but such inability to even CONSIDER the POSSIBILITY that you are wrong is a hallmark sign of closed-minded bigoted thinking.)

      • Actually, David, I need prove nothing to you or anyone else. Faith is belief in the unprovable. Nor am I trying to get “votes” for being an Episcopalian/Anglican. Its a free country and you can be anything you want, including adhering to no faith at all, and still be a good and decent person. As for being bigoted, I’m not the one spouting Leviticus out of context just to make an argument. I could spend a lot of space arguing with you point by point, but that would change neither your mind nor mine, and its not what this site is about. Under some circumstances, one might find some of your arguments interesting. The way you use them, however, merely makes you absurd.

    • I am so glad to see you reply to David in this way, for you took the words out of my mouth. I remember one service (back when I was a Lutheran) where a fellow parishioner and I laughed about how we were obviously in trouble for breaking some of the ‘laws’ Paul laid down. I had waist length hair, which I wore braided and wrapped on my head. She was African American and wore a skull close Afro. She looked at me and said “Here we are in church doing exactly what Paul said not to – you wearing your hair braided and me wearing it short”. She was, of course, talking about some of Paul’s strictures on how women should appear in church. One that sticks out in my mind is how women were abdjured from wearing gold, or having their heads uncovered. Of course, that would mean that we should all take our wedding bands off before we enter, not to mention making sure we don’t wear any jewelery, and of course we should have veils on our heads!!!!

      To say that Christianity has not and does not reflect changes in society is to cherry pick with a vengeance I have read treatises where Rabbi’s comment that the strictures on homosexuality are confined to the Levite class. Even the most RADICAL conservative Rabbi’s point out that the overriding law is to love thy neighbor as thyself, which would preclude you from harming a homosexual.

      When I am confronted by these differences and changes and translations and cherry picking, (for or against Christianity), I try to tune them out and simply focus on what Jesus actually preached. “Your faith shall make you healed.” (paraphrased)

      Also, I would ask friend David when was the last time he ate bacon. ?

      Corinne, I appreciate your answers here, and as always, enjoy your blog.

      Yours in Christ.

      • My response was to the comment about wearing mixed fibers or the farmer planting mixed crops…….I am always confused about where my post is going to wind up and I misjudged where it would land in the ‘roll’. Sorry!

  7. Hi Tim,

    “Actually, David, I need prove nothing to you or anyone else. Faith is belief in the unprovable.”

    Well not to bicker, but that definition is going even beyond what Paul defines as faith, in Romans 11:1 (and the usual disclaimers apply when considering the inherent difficulty of translating from a language without punctuation marks, etc). Instead, Paul is a bit more slippery, saying:

    “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident observation of realities though not yet beheld”.

    Setting aside the flowery, poetic words for a moment, has anyone here stopped to consider what Paul is actually saying?

    As usual, the entire basis comes from contract law, AKA covenant law, wherein a deal (a contract) is struck between man and God, where as a mortal I am promised God’s blessings in return for offering something of value as a sacrifice. The item sacrificed is called “consideration”, and it HAS to have value; otherwise the deal is null and void, the contract is unenforceable.

    So when Paul mentioned the word “assured”, it’s actually a legal term that is related to ‘assurance’, or even ‘insurance’: ‘assurance’ is when an uninvolved party promises to step up to the plate, if either party fails to act as promised. It’s the same when we speak of assurance for a mortgage (title insurance), etc. Another example: a security bond is required to be posted from an uninvolved 3rd party (typically an insurance company) in order to seek an appeal of civil cases in CA. But the operative concept is “uninvolved”, independent party.

    But what does the Bible tell us provides the “assurance” that the Bible is the word of God, and can be trusted? Answer: the Bible. In essence, the Bible cites itself as the authority for saying that the Word of God is to be trusted, since the Bible tells us so. Anyone spot a circular definition at work there?

    So that ‘assured expectation’ is actually NOT assured by an independent authority, which leaves only “things we hope to be true”.

    The second definition carries on, saying that faith is, “the evident observation of realities though not yet beheld”. Anyone see the problem there?

    How “evident” is evidence which isn’t even presented for cross-examination, a challenge? It’s not “evident”, since it cannot be seen. So Paul was speaking with weasel words, a forked tongue: flowery but meaningless fluff that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, but ultimately is absolutely meaningless.

    “As for being bigoted, I’m not the one spouting Leviticus out of context just to make an argument. ”

    If I had a $ for every time a Xian countered with, “But you’re taking it out of context!” sigh…. The CONTEXT of Leviticus 20 IS the punishment for various sins that were previously described as forbidden, only chapters earlier. Levitical codes separately define the punishment from the crime/sin.

    So it’s IMPOSSIBLE to claim with a straight face that I took the death penalty for homosexuality “out of context”, when that very punishment IS the CONTEXT of Leviticus 11. So try again.

    Here’s an idea: why not just admit the plainly obvious, that the Bible is an archaic moral code that arguably served a time and a place in the past, but is hopelessly outdated and anachronistic for OUR times? How many more thousands of years will it take for some of you to admit THAT?

    “I could spend a lot of space arguing with you point by point, but that would change neither your mind nor mine, and its not what this site is about. Under some circumstances, one might find some of your arguments interesting. The way you use them, however, merely makes you absurd.”

    Maybe I’m a bit biased here, but you’re going to have to ‘raise your game’ in the rhetorical arts, if you hope to keep up. Not only do you NOT have the facts on your side, it turns out you don’t even have the claim of possessing a “superior moral code” on your side, as the Bible just ain’t so superior, eg slavery has been prohibited by ‘fallible’ and ‘inferior’ humans for what, 300 years, now? Meanwhile, the World is STILL waiting for Judeo-Christianity to catch up with that “pagan” religion Zoroasterianism (which was trounced by Christianity, when the Romans adopted a more slavery-tolerant Christianity, which worked out well for the millenium that followed), which WAS the World’s FIRST religion to actually prohibit the practice of slavery (2,500 yrs ago, under the Persian Empire).

    • If by rhetorical arts, you mean crude insults I’ll leave the field to you. Your opinions really aren’t worth the effort to undercut, and this blog isn’t an insult contest. The only purpose your comments serve is reinforce 2,000 + years of antagonistic relations among different faiths, and why there are some many “nones” out there. You’re awfully good at trumpeting what you oppose but sparse on what you believe. People of faith simply can’t be dismissed as backward bumpkins–Albert Einstein was dedicated to his Jewish faith. For whatever reason, you choose to define Christians or others who respect the Bible’s message as bigoted or backward. The Old Testament tried to define the Hebrews as a people set apart by God. The New Covenant blew away those walls and opened Heaven to all people-even you. I don’t presume to know how God thinks and the methods He chooses to reach out to people. And I firmrly believe people of other faiths and of no faith will attain eternal life. If that meets your definition of bigoted, buy yourself a good dictionary. Given the anger in your responses, I’d say you could use a dose of “God is Love”.

    • Hi Dave:
      I wanted to say some things about your comments.

      First, a matter of factual correction: The passage is from Hebrews 11:1, and whether or not Paul wrote that is in dispute. Another way to translate Hebrews 11:1 is this from the New Living Translation: “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Yes, it’s difficult to translate from a language with no punctuation, etc. Paul wrote his letters in all capitals with no spaces between words, which did not usually cause a problem. One example in English I ran across that can help illustrate: HAVEYOUEVERSEENABUNDANCEONTHETABLE–which isn’t a problem unless you happen to think buns can dance…

      re the Bible “citing itself” as the authority for this definition: There are no circular definitions in Scripture, at least, this is not one. The answer here in context is not “the Bible”, but the known history of how God has interacted with his people. It is the same with the New Testament. Paul here (or whoever it was) was speaking primarily of OT interactions. The people were commended for their faith—which, in the context is an evident trust in God’s faithfulness. These are not “unproveable” things (I beg to differ with Tim on this—there is both a great reasonableness and a large amount of historical evidence for the Christian faith). When you shift to the NT, our faith, again, is not in “the Bible”, but in the facts as presented by the men who wrote, who were convinced that they had actually seen this Jesus alive (post-resurrection). (There IS a big problem of bibliolatry in the modern evangelical church, which I heard once described as a belief in the “new trinity” of Father, Son, and Holy Scriptures!)

      You mentioned Paul’s “weasel words” (no matter who wrote your quote), Paul was a person who was an inveterate enemy of the church and of Jesus, but whose life was changed RADICALLY from meeting Jesus on the Damascus Road. I’m sure he’d differ with you on that.

      As I said somewhere else on this blog in response to your comments, I don’t take you as being hateful—though you are indeed driving some readers of Corinna’s blog up the wall and you have really been insulting, either directly or by implication. So I’d like to insist that you be respectful of others. Since you say you are a “hard-core atheist” in this world which is hopeless, I must assume you are a person without hope. Your comments strike me as a person who is not really an atheist—and therefore not completely without hope–otherwise I find it hard to believe you’d waste your time writing so often and in continuous attack mode. You seem also to be extremely cynical. Am I understating the case? Perhaps–I’ll be bold to suggest–you’d really like to hear someone, anyone, give an answer for that hope. That, my friend, could only come to you if you’ll lower your defenses a might (and you don’t have to tell us because we’re not your judge).

      I think you’re dead-on regarding we humans always hoping that there would be something/one to hope in, since this world is indeed so dreary. We all share this hope, I think—save those who have given up (which I honestly hope you have not). The issue here really is not the fact that people WANT there to be a God and a heaven and all that, but whether or not it’s TRUE. As a fellow human being, I have had to learn that other human beings (even those who call themselves ‘Christian’), don’t even begin to live life in relationships with others in the way that Jesus demonstrated while he was on earth.

      I have to conclude from what you’ve said about your background that, as a onetime believer and whole-hearted student of Scripture, that you were screwed over by those who greatly offended you. You are likely familiar with Matthew 18, where Matthew gives a lot of space to Jesus’ words against those who would cause his “little children”—ie, those who came to him with humbleness and willingness to trust like little children—to stumble and fall away from faith in him. It were better, he said, if they were thrown into the deepest sea with a grinding stone tied to their neck rather than what would actually happen to them in eternity.

      With your great learning, I don’t think it would be much of a stretch to actually read the Bible while asking God (“if you exist”) to show you the truth. I believe that the greatest misery lies ahead for those who claimed to be religious (Christian or otherwise) and caused people to turn away from that for which they search. This seems to be your agenda…but it doesn’t have to be.

      The Bible is not anachronistic—although, admittedly, there are lots of ambiguities and questions, especially re the application of the Old Testament covenantal law to people who follow Christ and seek to live under the New Covenant. God had certain principles which he stressed above all, and part of Jesus’ mission was to correct some of the misunderstanding and religious BS that had grown up around them. Certain things never go out of date, like the command to love God and others, the fact that God would rather we show mercy than enforce the law if it will meet human need (eg., Jesus continual contention with the Pharisees over Sabbath laws). One last word is re the image of God that Jesus sought to present to the Jews. He was indeed a bonified radical. He called God ‘Abba”–an intimate Aramaic term for father. The Jews did not routinely use this term to address their “Adonai” (Lord) much less say the sacred covenantal name YHWH–which is why we don’t even know how it was pronounced. He portrayed Abba as a perfect father who had perfect love for his children and who took perfect care, who did discipline, but who also wanted to have a real relationship with his creatures. The OT teachings that seem crazy to us now were given because the Israelites did not understand lots of health, nutrition, issues (eg, menstruation) nor understand the problems that deviating from certain strict ‘moral’ codes could bring about nor how intermingling cross-culturally would affect the values that God sought to teach his people. No, it is not anachronistic…..and what if it’s true? It may take some cajones to explore that….

      • Hi Walt,

        Man, and I thought I wrote LONG treatises, lol! Lotta “meat” on those “bones”, so will have to limit those to which i will respond.

        “First, a matter of factual correction: The passage is from Hebrews 11:1, and whether or not Paul wrote that is in dispute. Another way to translate Hebrews 11:1 is this from the New Living Translation: “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Yes, it’s difficult to translate from a language with no punctuation, etc. Paul wrote his letters in all capitals with no spaces between words, which did not usually cause a problem. One example in English I ran across that can help illustrate: HAVEYOUEVERSEENABUNDANCEONTHETABLE–which isn’t a problem unless you happen to think buns ”

        We basically agree, and it’s quibbling to dispute authorship, as it’s the best attempt the Bible offers to define faith.

        Yes, there are other translations, which vary in their meanings, and that goes to my point about the hazards f interpreting languages without vowels, punctuation marks, etc. Sometimes it’s not likely to be an issue, but sometimes it is (and Jesus’ words of “truly I say to you today you will be with me in paradise” with the longstanding arguments over where the comma is to be placed (after ‘you’ vs after ‘today’) makes that point).

        I chose that translation (New World Translation) as its particularly egregious, although most JWs are blissfully unaware of the liberties it likely takes with “Paul’s” (note the quotes) words.

        “re the Bible “citing itself” as the authority for this definition: There are no circular definitions in Scripture, at least, this is not one.”

        I was referring to eg 2nd Tim 3:16, “all scriptures are the inspired word of God”. That’s an internal reference where the Bible points to itself as assurance to claim it can be trusted as the word of God. That’s exactly how most Xians USE the Bible, and interpret Hebrews 11:1.

        Of course, most Xians don’t understand that the canonization process wasn’t completed until a few hundred years AFTER 2 Timothy was completed, and simply assume that the passage is referring to THEIR modern Bible.

        “The answer here in context is not “the Bible”, but the known history of how God has interacted with his people. It is the same with the New Testament. Paul here (or whoever it was) was speaking primarily of OT interactions. The people were commended for their faith—which, in the context is an evident trust in God’s faithfulness. These are not “unproveable” things (I beg to differ with Tim on this—there is both a great reasonableness and a large amount of historical evidence for the Christian faith). When you shift to the NT, our faith, again, is not in “the Bible”, but in the facts as presented by the men who wrote, who were convinced that they had actually seen this Jesus alive (post-resurrection). (There IS a big problem of bibliolatry in the modern evangelical church, which I heard once described as a belief in the “new trinity” of Father, Son, and Holy Scriptures!)”

        Interesting tack you’re taking, arguing that Israelite history proves that God can be trusted and warrants faith. Of course, you’d have to engage in TONS of “blaming the victim” to explain away the exile to Babylon and Temple destruction, as well as subsequent invasion and occupation by various surrounding empires: Persians, Greeks, Romans, etc, etc.

        Of course, Jews were masters at self-loathing and making up excuses: it must’ve been something THEY did wrong to cause his turning away from them! Sure, ok: it COULDN’T be that YHWH is a figment of Jewish imaginations, and like all other made-up deities (from Ahura Mazda to Zithra), doesn’t actually EXIST!

        “As I said somewhere else on this blog in response to your comments, I don’t take you as being hateful—though you are indeed driving some readers of Corinna’s blog up the wall and you have really been insulting, either directly or by implication. So I’d like to insist that you be respectful of others.”

        Huh, isn’t that a case yet again of a Xian imposing YOUR Holy Book definition of morality (not showing “loving kindness”, or not showing the “fruitage of the spirit”?) on other non-believers?

        See, I’m a practicing rationalist, and we actually place a value on TRUTH above all other concerns, as the TRUTH is often the ONLY THING that matters. Xians value love and faith over truth (reality); I place TRUTH, that which is really real, above all else. I let the evidence lead to my conclusions; you do the OPPOSITE, refusing all evidence that challenges your Xian faith. We could NOT be more different.

        “Since you say you are a “hard-core atheist” in this world which is hopeless, I must assume you are a person without hope.”

        Of course you’d assume that, as that’s what Xians are told a secular rationalist/atheist is: someone without HOPE.

        Uh, can you possibly fathom that I find hope in the advancement of human understanding, freed from theism? That I place HOPE and TRUST in scientific breakthroughs of the past 3,000 years? That someday I HOPE mankind is freed from the need for Gods as an explanation for disease, famine, flood, weather, floods, rainbows, clouds, thunder, astronomy, fire, etc?

        You choose to live in a World filled with vestigial and unnecessary superstitions and rituals: I expect you to vehemently deny that fact all day long, but the fact is YOU DO. If you believe God forbids eating blood since it contains “nephesh”, you are JUST as superstitious as the ignorant Chinese who consumes rhinoceros horn, or the Fundamentalist who thinks homosexual behavior displeases God. It’s ALL goofy superstitions, long disproven by scientific methods.

        Now, you INSISTING I respect your silly superstitions is personally asking a tad too much: I can only tolerate so much silly foolishness before I crack.

        “Your comments strike me as a person who is not really an atheist—and therefore not completely without hope–otherwise I find it hard to believe you’d waste your time writing so often and in continuous attack mode. You seem also to be extremely cynical. Am I understating the case?”

        I am cynical at literally millennia of ignorance and hypocrisy displayed by theists: that irrationality robs me of HOPE in my fellow man.

        “Perhaps–I’ll be bold to suggest–you’d really like to hear someone, anyone, give an answer for that hope. That, my friend, could only come to you if you’ll lower your defenses a might (and you don’t have to tell us because we’re not your judge).

        I think you’re dead-on regarding we humans always hoping that there would be something/one to hope in, since this world is indeed so dreary. We all share this hope, I think—save those who have given up (which I honestly hope you have not). The issue here really is not the fact that people WANT there to be a God and a heaven and all that, but whether or not it’s TRUE. As a fellow human being, I have had to learn that other human beings (even those who call themselves ‘Christian’), don’t even begin to live life in relationships with others in the way that Jesus demonstrated while he was on earth.”

        Yes, I agree: the ONLY thing that matters is TRUTH, ie what can be PROVEN to exist. Show me God exists.

        The Bible says This omnipotent being is capable of all things, yet ironically is seemingly unable to reveal ANY evidence of existing? What’ up with that? 😉

        As someone committed to the scientific method, all deities remain open for consideration as hypotheses, ie fun to discuss the possibility of, but not worth accepting as fact until evidence is presented. I can give you a list of all things I DON’T believe in (fairies, pixies, Nessie, ghosts, aliens from space, etc) but its far easier to limit it to that which I DO believe in (atoms, molecules, animalia, physics, chemistry, biological sciences, etc). Why? The latter are PROVEN to exist, and more importantly, our models of reality for them provide PREDICTIVE capability to postulate behavior under future testing.

        “I have to conclude from what you’ve said about your background that, as a onetime believer and whole-hearted student of Scripture, that you were screwed over by those who greatly offended you. You are likely familiar with Matthew 18, where Matthew gives a lot of space to Jesus’ words against those who would cause his “little children”—ie, those who came to him with humbleness and willingness to trust like little children—to stumble and fall away from faith in him. It were better, he said, if they were thrown into the deepest sea with a grinding stone tied to their neck rather than what would actually happen to them in eternity.”

        You’d have to widen that to include ALL religious beliefs in supernatural forces, not just your God; although some are more benign (eg Buddhist beliefs) than others, none have evidence to show utility, other then entertainment value, fun stuff to think about.

        “With your great learning, I don’t think it would be much of a stretch to actually read the Bible while asking God (“if you exist”) to show you the truth. I believe that the greatest misery lies ahead for those who claimed to be religious (Christian or otherwise) and caused people to turn away from that for which they search. This seems to be your agenda…but it doesn’t have to be.”

        Lol, do I detect a warning in there?

        Soooo, WHICH of the literally MILLIONS of deities would you recommend I ask to reveal themselves to me? (and do you even realize how ARROGANT it is to suggest that an unknown being who is Master of space, time, an dimensionality of

        The Bible is not anachronistic—although, admittedly, there are lots of ambiguities and questions, especially re the application of the Old Testament covenantal law to people who follow Christ and seek to live under the New Covenant. God had certain principles which he stressed above all, and part of Jesus’ mission was to correct some of the misunderstanding and religious BS that had grown up around them. Certain things never go out of date, like the command to love God and others, the fact that God would rather we show mercy than enforce the law if it will meet human need (eg., Jesus continual contention with the Pharisees over Sabbath laws). One last word is re the image of God that Jesus sought to present to the Jews. He was indeed a bonified radical. He called God ‘Abba”–an intimate Aramaic term for father. The Jews did not routinely use this term to address their “Adonai” (Lord) much less say the sacred covenantal name YHWH–which is why we don’t even know how it was pronounced. He portrayed Abba as a perfect father who had perfect love for his children and who took perfect care, who did discipline, but who also wanted to have a real relationship with his creatures. The OT teachings that seem crazy to us now were given because the Israelites did not understand lots of health, nutrition, issues (eg, menstruation) nor understand the problems that deviating from certain strict ‘moral’ codes could bring about nor how intermingling cross-culturally would affect the values that God sought to teach his people. No, it is not anachronistic…..and what if it’s true? It may take some cajones to explore that….

      • Hi Walt,

        Man, and I thought I wrote LONG treatises, lol! Lotta “meat” on those “bones”, so will have to limit those to which i will respond.

        “First, a matter of factual correction: The passage is from Hebrews 11:1, and whether or not Paul wrote that is in dispute. Another way to translate Hebrews 11:1 is this from the New Living Translation: “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Yes, it’s difficult to translate from a language with no punctuation, etc. Paul wrote his letters in all capitals with no spaces between words, which did not usually cause a problem. One example in English I ran across that can help illustrate: HAVEYOUEVERSEENABUNDANCEONTHETABLE–which isn’t a problem unless you happen to think buns ”

        We basically agree, and it’s quibbling to dispute authorship, as it’s the best attempt the Bible offers to define faith.

        Yes, there are other translations, which vary in their meanings, and that goes to my point about the hazards f interpreting languages without vowels, punctuation marks, etc. Sometimes it’s not likely to be an issue, but sometimes it is (and Jesus’ words of “truly I say to you today you will be with me in paradise” with the longstanding arguments over where the comma is to be placed (after ‘you’ vs after ‘today’) makes that point).

        I chose that translation (New World Translation) as its particularly egregious, although most JWs are blissfully unaware of the liberties it likely takes with “Paul’s” (note the quotes) words.

        “re the Bible “citing itself” as the authority for this definition: There are no circular definitions in Scripture, at least, this is not one.”

        I was referring to eg 2nd Tim 3:16, “all scriptures are the inspired word of God”. That’s an internal reference where the Bible points to itself as assurance to claim it can be trusted as the word of God. That’s exactly how most Xians USE the Bible, and interpret Hebrews 11:1.

        Of course, most Xians don’t understand that the canonization process wasn’t completed until a few hundred years AFTER 2 Timothy was completed, and simply assume that the passage is referring to THEIR modern Bible.

        “The answer here in context is not “the Bible”, but the known history of how God has interacted with his people. It is the same with the New Testament. Paul here (or whoever it was) was speaking primarily of OT interactions. The people were commended for their faith—which, in the context is an evident trust in God’s faithfulness. These are not “unproveable” things (I beg to differ with Tim on this—there is both a great reasonableness and a large amount of historical evidence for the Christian faith). When you shift to the NT, our faith, again, is not in “the Bible”, but in the facts as presented by the men who wrote, who were convinced that they had actually seen this Jesus alive (post-resurrection). (There IS a big problem of bibliolatry in the modern evangelical church, which I heard once described as a belief in the “new trinity” of Father, Son, and Holy Scriptures!)”

        Interesting tack you’re taking, arguing that Israelite history proves that God can be trusted and warrants faith. Of course, you’d have to engage in TONS of “blaming the victim” to explain away the exile to Babylon and Temple destruction, as well as subsequent invasion and occupation by various surrounding empires: Persians, Greeks, Romans, etc, etc.

        Of course, Jews were masters at self-loathing and making up excuses: it must’ve been something THEY did wrong to cause his turning away from them! Sure, ok: it COULDN’T be that YHWH is a figment of Jewish imaginations, and like all other made-up deities (from Ahura Mazda to Zithra), doesn’t actually EXIST!

        “As I said somewhere else on this blog in response to your comments, I don’t take you as being hateful—though you are indeed driving some readers of Corinna’s blog up the wall and you have really been insulting, either directly or by implication. So I’d like to insist that you be respectful of others.”

        Huh, isn’t that a case yet again of a Xian imposing YOUR Holy Book definition of morality (not showing “loving kindness”, or not showing the “fruitage of the spirit”?) on other non-believers?

        See, I’m a practicing rationalist, and we actually place a value on TRUTH above all other concerns, as the TRUTH is often the ONLY THING that matters. Xians value love and faith over truth (reality); I place TRUTH, that which is really real, above all else. I let the evidence lead to my conclusions; you do the OPPOSITE, refusing all evidence that challenges your Xian faith. We could NOT be more different.

        “Since you say you are a “hard-core atheist” in this world which is hopeless, I must assume you are a person without hope.”

        Of course you’d assume that, as that’s what Xians are told a secular rationalist/atheist is: someone without HOPE.

        Uh, can you possibly fathom that I find hope in the advancement of human understanding, freed from theism? That I place HOPE and TRUST in scientific breakthroughs of the past 3,000 years? That someday I HOPE mankind is freed from the need for Gods as an explanation for disease, famine, flood, weather, floods, rainbows, clouds, thunder, astronomy, fire, etc?

        You choose to live in a World filled with vestigial and unnecessary superstitions and rituals: I expect you to vehemently deny that fact all day long, but the fact is YOU DO. If you believe God forbids eating blood since it contains “nephesh”, you are JUST as superstitious as the ignorant Chinese who consumes rhinoceros horn, or the Fundamentalist who thinks homosexual behavior displeases God. It’s ALL goofy superstitions, long disproven by scientific methods.

        Now, you INSISTING I respect your silly superstitions is personally asking a tad too much: I can only tolerate so much silly foolishness before I crack.

        “Your comments strike me as a person who is not really an atheist—and therefore not completely without hope–otherwise I find it hard to believe you’d waste your time writing so often and in continuous attack mode. You seem also to be extremely cynical. Am I understating the case?”

        I am cynical at literally millennia of ignorance and hypocrisy displayed by theists: that irrationality robs me of HOPE in my fellow man.

        “Perhaps–I’ll be bold to suggest–you’d really like to hear someone, anyone, give an answer for that hope. That, my friend, could only come to you if you’ll lower your defenses a might (and you don’t have to tell us because we’re not your judge).

        I think you’re dead-on regarding we humans always hoping that there would be something/one to hope in, since this world is indeed so dreary. We all share this hope, I think—save those who have given up (which I honestly hope you have not). The issue here really is not the fact that people WANT there to be a God and a heaven and all that, but whether or not it’s TRUE. As a fellow human being, I have had to learn that other human beings (even those who call themselves ‘Christian’), don’t even begin to live life in relationships with others in the way that Jesus demonstrated while he was on earth.”

        Yes, I agree: the ONLY thing that matters is TRUTH, ie what can be PROVEN to exist. Show me God exists.

        The Bible says This omnipotent being is capable of all things, yet ironically is seemingly unable to reveal ANY evidence of existing? What’ up with that? 😉

        As someone committed to the scientific method, all deities remain open for consideration as hypotheses, ie fun to discuss the possibility of, but not worth accepting as fact until evidence is presented. I can give you a list of all things I DON’T believe in (fairies, pixies, Nessie, ghosts, aliens from space, etc) but its far easier to limit it to that which I DO believe in (atoms, molecules, animalia, physics, chemistry, biological sciences, etc). Why? The latter are PROVEN to exist, and more importantly, our models of reality for them provide PREDICTIVE capability to postulate behavior under future testing.

        “I have to conclude from what you’ve said about your background that, as a onetime believer and whole-hearted student of Scripture, that you were screwed over by those who greatly offended you. You are likely familiar with Matthew 18, where Matthew gives a lot of space to Jesus’ words against those who would cause his “little children”—ie, those who came to him with humbleness and willingness to trust like little children—to stumble and fall away from faith in him. It were better, he said, if they were thrown into the deepest sea with a grinding stone tied to their neck rather than what would actually happen to them in eternity.”

        You’d have to widen that to include ALL religious beliefs in supernatural forces, not just your God; although some are more benign (eg Buddhist beliefs) than others, none have evidence to show utility, other then entertainment value, fun stuff to think about.

        “With your great learning, I don’t think it would be much of a stretch to actually read the Bible while asking God (“if you exist”) to show you the truth. I believe that the greatest misery lies ahead for those who claimed to be religious (Christian or otherwise) and caused people to turn away from that for which they search. This seems to be your agenda…but it doesn’t have to be.”

        Lol, do I detect a warning in there?

        Soooo, WHICH of the literally MILLIONS of deities would you recommend I ask to reveal themselves to me? Ahura Mazda? Thor? Zeus? Jupiter? How about that God of the Jews, YHWH or the prior name he used, Elohim? Zothra? Mothra (I could keep going….)?

        (And do you even realize how ARROGANT it is to suggest an unknown super-powerful being who always exists in defiance of the laws of thermodynamics, mastering space, time, and all dimensionality, would want to have a PERSONAL relationship with little ol’ YOU? THAT is arrogant and hubistic, to the Nth degree. It’s the same kind of narcissism people display when thinking that since they watch a movie star on the TV, that person wantsto have a relationship with them, lol! News-flash: i watched Donald Trump on Celebrity Apprentice, but don’t have any illusions that he wants to be BFF: why should I believe YHWH would be soooo impressed by my loyalty to him, and think I deserve special attention or recognition as a really good soldier?)

        “The Bible is not anachronistic—although, admittedly, there are lots of ambiguities and questions, especially re the application of the Old Testament covenantal law to people who follow Christ and seek to live under the New Covenant.”

        The Bible has stunted the emotional growth of mankind, so in that sense it’s sadly NOT anachronistic: it’s a product of the times (retarded as the thinking may be, with humans still thinking homosexuality is against Gods will).

        The answer is NOT to broaden the definition of what God deems as acceptable behavior, but to discard the anachronistic beliefs in deities. Its time to grow up and discard the mental and emotional baggage!

        Oh, on this:

        “The OT teachings that seem crazy to us now were given because the Israelites did not understand lots of health, nutrition, issues (eg, menstruation) nor understand the problems that deviating from certain strict ‘moral’ codes could bring about nor how intermingling cross-culturally would affect the values that God sought to teach his people. No, it is not anachronistic…..and what if it’s true? It may take some cajones to explore that….”

        Lol! It’s based on ancient ideas of boundaries existing, when no such boundaries are proven to exist (or they don’t exist where you’d think they are: it’s not readily apparent without serious study).

        Most rabbis freely admit that much of the kashrut (dietary) and Sabbath restrictions serve no functional purpose other than as a pure test of obedience, or as a cultural marker of the in-group: “we do it because the Torah tells Jews to do it”. Simple as that….

        Mindless compliance with nonsensical and utterly meaningless rules: is this the Federal Govt we’re talking about, or following Divine Will?

        I’ve been reading about “evum” lately, a loophole for observant Jews to alleviate their guilt for violating a non-existent diety’s restrictions against doing work on the Sabbath by engaging in “legal fiction” (an evum is an attempt to claim that a boundary is created by say, the 405 fwy, or even the presence of a small fishing line, such that the boundary transforms the enclosed property into a privately-owned domain. Not that it IS: the IRS would no doubt disagree with the legal fiction if done for the purposes of tax evasion).

        Such goofiness, and an unnecessary creation of mental hoops; Sabbath doesn’t need to be respected, as YHWH doesn’t even exist.

        • Hi Dave:
          Sorry I haven’t been around. I read your comment to me a day or so after posting. I started to write something then, but time got away. I owe you no flippant answer. You make me think, Dave, and I very much appreciate that. Thinking is such an underutilized activity, much of it not engaged honestly. I also appreciate your commitment to truth, following the evidence where it leads—a difficult challenge in our postmodern age. I would like to say the same about myself. It was that desire that led me to examine Jesus in the first place after a few “near death experiences” in Vietnam led me to take an honest look at what I believed.

          I would ask you not to put me in a pigeonhole or box labeled “opposite” of you, “refusing all evidence that challenges your Xian faith.” You don’t seem to like to be pigeonholed either—it shows that people don’t think or respect others. People do the same with God , putting him in a box of their own construction. (btw, I think the people on this blog are mostly not trying to put God into a box, just interested in the search of one “none” engaged in the quest for God, meaning, and shalom. I don’t “insist” on respect for their ideas, however crazy they seem, but for the people engaging with her.)

          Your question, as I understand it, might be put like this: Prove that God exists. And if he does, what makes me think that he would care about any relationship with an insignificant speck such as I?

          I cannot prove that God exists. That’s a fool’s errand. Some great minds have built great systems of thought to prove or disprove him, and when they were done, they were left with a box—full or empty—of their own construction. Building the box may give some hope, but it remains a box. Searching for truth is necessarily affected by our own logic, which in turn is tainted by our own self-focused existence (aka, ‘sin’) and world view, and people like Jacques Derrida have moved in to ‘deconstruct’ such efforts into a seeming morass of relativity.

          Here’s my take. You know I’m a theist. God to me is personal, the Father of Jesus the Messiah. I’ve been a Christian for some 42 years, and I’ve been around the yard a few times on the evidence for the historicity of Jesus and his resurrection and the conviction by his followers that they saw the risen Jesus. Evidence can lead whichever way you may want to go—my training in history helped me avoid this.

          When you ask me to show you God, I point to Jesus. Before you gag, please read on….

          I understand the message of the Scripture as God our creator wants to be with his creatures—this message runs all the way through the Bible from Abraham on, including the Exodus, the temple, and especially Jesus, who is called “Immanuel,” “God with us.” (“-el” means God).

          Why would this God care or want to be with “little ol’ me”? The question doesn’t fit many theologian’s boxes: they may be so intent on defending God’s sovereignty and majesty and the other “omni’s” that there is little room for a sovereign deity responding to anything that doesn’t seem to be for his “glory.” What he really thinks of me is a question that lurks about every church, mostly unvoiced. Seven or eight years ago, I consciously wrestled with this question. We “good Christians” aren’t supposed to question his love—the reality is that our biggest struggle is to trust his love, and so we dishonestly settle for “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.” It may surprise you—or not—that evangelical Christians in general see God primarily in the role of judge—even while they see Jesus as their savior and “friend.” They may believe they’re “going to heaven” one day, but are not truly certain of God’s acceptance and care. So they spend their lives with a performance treadmill mindset, trying to be acceptable to God, all the while looking over their shoulders, running faster and falling further behind—like a grown-up child forever seeking the approval of a father who never seems satisfied. (Our parents provide our initial picture of God and they inevitably fail us). Many of the most committed Christians are the most performance-minded—as I was. This last likely confirms your ideas about the evils of religion. Indeed it has led to a lot of evil, because many of those committed Christians have children who grow up seeing their parents committed to a “God of love” but not to them.

          In my comments below, I’m assuming that the New Testament documents at least represent Jesus’ followers’ honest attempt at telling us about him—ie, they are historical documents.

          What was Jesus about? What was his message? It often gets blurred by putting him in a “LUV” box (which I suppose puts God in the jury box)…If you’ll back up and take some time to honestly think about what Jesus taught, what his agenda was, you’ll see several things. You may have to mentally un-assume some things you think you know about him. It’s difficult to read the Gospels through fresh eyes and not on auto-pilot, leaving in place all the encrusted baggage we’ve picked up about him, to truly see him. Reminds me of Emerson: “It’s not what you look at that matters, but what you see.”

          As example, one thing that most Christians bring with them as they read is the “deity of Christ.” I believe that—but the fact is, Jesus didn’t come pushing it. He kept showing just enough so his followers could draw their own conclusions, and they kept asking, “who is this man?” When he died, they were crushed and dispirited. The resurrection changed this, as did his subsequent appearances and teaching.

          Jesus spent a lot of time correcting people’s assumptions about God, about who and what he’s “for” (eg, in the sermon on the mount, Matthew 5-7); and his run-ins with the religious teachers stemmed generally from their hypocrisy or self-importance or how they ignored God’s intentions and commands for the sake of their traditions. (Hmmm, they seem suspiciously like many current “Christian” teaches—a primary reason why there are so many “nones” out there (here).

          Jesus did not come to prove he is God, he came to show us God….a big difference. If you want proof of God, look at Jesus, get to know him, see his heart, how important people are to him. How important being a servant is. While he did say that the Law would not pass away, he showed us God’s true intent behind the law and how not to put it above the needs of people (“the Sabbath was made for man”). He came to show what the kingdom of God is really like and how this God is in fact our “Father” (Abba)—a name the Jews wouldn’t use (too familiar). He came to bring forgiveness and healing and shalom. When his disciples were still jockeying for position instead of eager to be servants, he’d point them to children to dramatically illustrate lowliness, the greatest in the kingdom being those who come to him like a child (humble, open to trusting him). There were times when he did indicate who he truly is: “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Many Christians still don’t get what he was saying there, sticking verses like that in the “deity” pigeonhole instead of thinking about the fact that the “judge” above is the same as the “friend” below, that the Father looks forward to a day, as pictured in Revelation, chapter 21, when he is with his people and all tears are wiped away.

          Prove God? Let him out of the box!

          • Hi Walt,

            “You make me think, Dave, and I very much appreciate that. Thinking is such an underutilized activity, much of it not engaged honestly. I also appreciate your commitment to truth, following the evidence where it leads—a difficult challenge in our postmodern age. I would like to say the same about myself.”

            Well, I do get that sense from reading your comments that you’re also looking for answers, and are mature enough not to expect the existence of absolute “truths” when that’s just not possible, eg in science, knowledge is NOT sought a search for absolute truths (where some answers are only CLOSER approximation of observed reality, with those observations NOT being reality, but an internally-generated model that exists in the brain), but instead remains perfectly content to analyze probabilities and confidence levels of which answer is ‘more correct’.

            The need for absolutes reminds me of the old saying, “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”, as I’ve observed that those claiming to KNOW absolutely is inversely proportional to the odds they actually DO know.

            Point being, I don’t spend time worrying about proving the unprovable: as you say, by definition, that would be searching for that which doesn’t even exist. So pointless to even consider doing so (except as a mental exercise, AKA mental self-stimulation).

            Mankind has spent millions of man-hours chasing perpetual motion (which would constitute an exception to policy of the laws of physics/thermodynamics), or those theologians of Middle Ages who argued about how many angels can sit on the head of a pin (when both parties are ASSUMING the existence of angels, in the first place, a postulate that is far from proven)! We might as well argue about those minute, invisible and completely undetectable tea pots which orbit Mars, since it’s no challenge to postulate the existence of objects which seemingly defy all attempts to detect their existence.

            In theological terms, the Bible says, “with God, all things are possible.” Great, but the exception seemingly being that He is unable to do only the MOST IMPORTANT ‘thing’ that He could do: conclusively pointing to evidence of his existence!

            While I have a high tolerance for the tomfoolery of men, there’s a not-so-fine line between paradoxical and nonsensical: the Bible’s authors cross that line.

            BTW, Paul debated/preached in the public forums of Athens introducing his new religion, Xianity, saying that proof of God could be seen all around us by examining God’s creations. Now, that argument MAY have carried some weight with an uneducated superstitious public living 1,800 years (well before Darwin’s theory of evolution was unveiled), but it just doesn’t fly nowadays (well, at least with an EDUCATED crowd willing to examine evidence). Because the fact is, ALL evidence (fossils, molecular biology, DNA analysis, etc) found in the natural World about us instead points to a long, slow theist-free process of evolution and natural selection. It’s not about what we WANT to be true (reality), but what the evidence points to. Only an uneducated fool could deny it, as evolution is a CORNERSTONE, the unifying theory of biology which pulls together observations from sub-disciplines into a cohesive whole, rather than just being a random collection of facts and observations. The results from fossils are confirmed by molecular biology, etc. It all just fits.

            BTW, I’m reading a book which is not exactly new information (the topic has been discussed for THOUSANDS of years), but is interesting, called “The Jesus Mysteries: Was the ‘Original Jesus’ a Pagan God?” by Freke and Gandy.

            The overwhelming parallels between newly-developed Christianity and older “mystery religions” (referred to as paganism in the OT) suggest there was a whole lotta “borrowing” going on (today, it might be labelled ‘plagarism’) by those who wrote the NT, with Xianity being an updating of stuck-in-a-rut Judaism (which some Jews correctly perceived as being sorely in need of updating to remain relevant, due to a history of failed prophecies and crises which arose as the result of Imperial conquests of their Assyrian/Babylonian/Persian/Roman/Greek ‘neighbors’). So Judaism was combined with elements from “paganism”, borrowing from the so-called “Mystery Religions” by retelling the legend of Dionysus/Osiris except in the name of Jesus, 1,000’s of years AFTER the original story arose.

            Ironic that orthodox Xianity (and even the Gnostic forms, which were closer to paganism, being more ‘liberal’ and accepting of other’s religious beliefs) was the type of religious practice warned about in those OT polemics against adopting pagan beliefs/practices of one’s neighbors, eg the Catholic Church’s long-standing practice of Eucharist, where Jesus orders his Jewish disciples that they MUST drink wine as a symbol of his blood, violating YHWH’s 2nd commandment to mankind that’s found in Genesis 9 forbidding drinking of blood for ALL subsequent generations of men. If THAT doesn’t point to pagan/Jewish syncretism, then someone really just doesn’t WANT to see the handwriting on the wall.

            “I would ask you not to put me in a pigeonhole or box labeled “opposite” of you, “refusing all evidence that challenges your Xian faith.” You don’t seem to like to be pigeonholed either—it shows that people don’t think or respect others.”

            Sure, but I haven’t pigeon-holed anyone: in fact, I’ve found that MOST people don’t NEED to be forced to to enter such holes, as they manage to enter quite willingly (and who can blame them? Pigeon holes do LOOK comfy inside). What takes some work is coaxing the pigeons OUT of the hole of religiosity. 😉

            “People do the same with God , putting him in a box of their own construction. (btw, I think the people on this blog are mostly not trying to put God into a box, just interested in the search of one “none” engaged in the quest for God, meaning, and shalom. I don’t “insist” on respect for their ideas, however crazy they seem, but for the people engaging with her.)”

            Actually, whether she realizes it or not, Corinna has already biased her search for God by placing conditions or expectations of what she’s seeking to find. eg, she says she’s “mining religion for essential wisdom TO LIVE BETTER”.

            What if God’s goal is NOT to provide wisdom to mankind? In fact, the story of Adam and Eve from Genesis 3 indicates that God did NOT want mankind to be wise, or else God wouldn’t have prohibited mankind from eating the wisdom-bestowing fruit. The Bible indicates that those who seek wisdom in fact are PUNISHED for their efforts, so “seeking wisdom” is hardly a Universal goal, but only a personal goal (which is admirable, BTW).

            The other problem is the expectation is that religion provides something of benefit to one’s current existence: while it does remain consistent with the concept of being “blessed” by God, that is hardly a universal demonstrated throughout the Bible (eg Job, who experienced misfortune as A DIRECT CONSEQUENCE of his loyalty to YHWH, bringing him up on Satan’s radar, as a target for persecution).

            And of course, think of all those early Xians killed in the Roman arenas by lions, etc. Their deaths indicate they died for beliefs, not to enrich the here and now, but to reap rewards in the hereafter. You could also cite Jesus, who died a young man as a result of his beliefs, not to make the here and now better for himself, but to accomplish a goal and be rewarded for it in Heaven.

            “I understand the message of the Scripture as God our creator wants to be with his creatures—this message runs all the way through the Bible from Abraham on, including the Exodus, the temple, and especially Jesus, who is called “Immanuel,” “God with us.” (“-el” means God).”

            Thanks for the Hebrew lesson, but I’m aware of the El prefix/suffix (as indicated in Elohim, the “other” name of God, which some gnostics suggested was the TRUE God, with the Jewish God YHWH simply being the demiurge, a ‘trickster’ under-God which is shared with Greek pantheistic beliefs.

            Interesting that God enjoys His creations, but apparently not the antics of animals, which are disposable, thus able to serve as proxies to atone for human sins (Jews offered the kidneys of a sacrificial animal to atone for poor choices, believing the kidneys were the center of human decision-making).

            Even when animals commit the ‘sin’ (eg Levitical law says that animals are to be killed to account for the spilled blood of men they gore), they’re only doing what animals do: acting like animals. God is clearly not a naturalist, a field scientist who’s doing animal research.

            Heck, the Torah says that an animal who’s used for sexual gratification is to be “put to death” for being the victim of some horny teenaged shepherd. Why, exactly? Blame the victim much?

            Again, the cultural bias against animals runs so deep and is so intrinsic to humanity, that I doubt you can even BEGIN to see your biases, much less avoid them.

            “It may surprise you—or not—that evangelical Christians in general see God primarily in the role of judge—even while they see Jesus as their savior and “friend.” They may believe they’re “going to heaven” one day, but are not truly certain of God’s acceptance and care.”

            Huh, sounds like the stereotype of “Good cop/bad cop” to me, as they’re BOTH on the same Heavenly team (with Jesus knowing the limits, playing 2nd in command to God’s CEO).

            “So they spend their lives with a performance treadmill mindset, trying to be acceptable to God, all the while looking over their shoulders, running faster and falling further behind—like a grown-up child forever seeking the approval of a father who never seems satisfied.”

            You’re getting warmer here, very warm. 😉

            “(Our parents provide our initial picture of God and they inevitably fail us). Many of the most committed Christians are the most performance-minded—as I was. This last likely confirms your ideas about the evils of religion. Indeed it has led to a lot of evil, because many of those committed Christians have children who grow up seeing their parents committed to a “God of love” but not to them.”

            Yup, nail, meet head.

            The OT and NT YHWH is a God of CONDITIONAL love, who demands that He be placed above EVERYONE else in one’s life, including one’s own family members. The condition of His love is ABSOLUTE: He is to be placed unhesitantly to be placed above “mortal” family members.

            Jesus said he came not to unify, but to tear families apart, setting father against son, husband against wife, etc. His own family is reported in the Bible to have rejected him, until AFTER his death: the only place where Jesus’ family is mentioned is where they were embarrassed of him, and tried to take him away from the crowd (perhaps to save him from himself, committing blasphemy).

            OT examples of God being placed at the top of totem pole are where YHWH asks Abraham to sacrifice his son (and some earlier Talmudic versions have Abraham completing the sacrifice, carrying out the slaughter of Isaac without use of a stunt ram), or Job’s disposable and easily-replaceable offspring, or Lot’s disposable wife (where Lot got a two-fer out of the deal; despite current interpretations making the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as punishment for their homosexual practices, the account actually is a polemic against their legendary inhospitality to traveling strangers: even Jesus refers to this trait in the NT, as the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, referring to the lesson that Lot’s descendents apparently didn’t learn centuries later when they refused to meet the wandering Children of Israel coming out of Egypt, not offering them food and water. Hence the thinly-veiled diatribe written in the OT against the incestuous descendents of Lot, who later reappeared in the OT as the “bad guy” Ammonites and Moabites).

            In my comments below, I’m assuming that the New Testament documents at least represent Jesus’ followers’ honest attempt at telling us about him—ie, they are historical documents.

            “What was Jesus about? What was his message? It often gets blurred by putting him in a “LUV” box (which I suppose puts God in the jury box)…If you’ll back up and take some time to honestly think about what Jesus taught, what his agenda was, you’ll see several things. You may have to mentally un-assume some things you think you know about him.”

            I encourage you to study the deeper history of the so-called “Mystery religions” (See book above), as well as look into the Indian roots of such ancient beliefs (Thomas McEvilley wrote a major work on the subject a decade ago). It just makes too much sense, and is coming from diverse sources.

            As a historian, you’d no doubt agree that you need to analyze the cultural context as it existed at the time Jesus was said to have lived. Well, you gotta walk the walk, if you want to talk the talk.

            “Jesus did not come to prove he is God, he came to show us God….a big difference.

            I’ve mentioned that before: Jesus clearly wants to deny being the Son of God (likely to protect against a blasphemy accusation), while also insinuating that he was the Son of God (which most Xians believe he IS). Only in the mind of a Xian can two such opposite and mutually-exclusive facts co-exist without causing a massive headache from the cognitive dissonance (and why am I thinking of the old Certz commercial with the slogan, “It’s TWO, TWO, TWO mints in ONE!”)? Envisioning a trinity is like-wise.

            • I didn’t say that proving the unprovable is by definition searching for something that doesn’t exist….I merely said it’s a fool’s errand. Disclosing his existence so that all recognize him without a doubt is something he apparently doesn’t see as important as we might want. (I think it has to do with our searching for him of our own will.) I’m also thinking that God–for whatever reason–has not subjected himself to be “proved” by human rationality, but only to the heart that is searching for him, recognizing the fallibility of our ability to reason with total objectivity.

              I wouldn’t say to ALL evidence points to no creator. For one thing, ALL the evidence is not in (I realize you’re referring to known evidence), but we can ALL say (along with Dan Akroyd), “Wait! Wait! There’s more!” (If you missed the reference, watch the original SNL.) Biological evolution is something that Christians don’t always honestly face up to (understatement, I know). Some bend credulity by trying to make Genesis fit with what we actually know about how things came to be. I’m not worried about that…God can take care of himself. There is all the evidence outside our planet which, however long it took to get to what we now have, points to design.

              I’ve previously addressed your comments about “eucharist” violating OT commands against eating/drinking blood.

              Good point on pigeonholes. We all love security, and they DO make our world SEEM more secure, even when just outside lurks unexpected chaos…

              I do think that Corinna is much smarter than any of us on this blog give her credit for…and while extremely gracious to all of us who seek to talk her into this or that, is likely sitting back chuckling at some of our non-wise offerings. The fact is, it seems that all religions seek wisdom to live, since it gets really tiring to have to re-invent the wheel. The fact is, we have much to learn from our fellow humans, and unless you’re a complete believer in chaos, futility, and nihilism, you seem to be looking for some order as well….a pigeonhole?? (perish the thought!)

              Gotta go. I haven’t even finished reading your tome past the pigeonhole comments. I’ll come back likely tomorrow. Cao 🙂

              • OK, so, I’m back….I printed out your last comment and took it to work with me this a.m. so I could make notes on it. fyi: it took 6+ pages 😐
                I would beg to differ with you on the biblical writers crossing the line between paradoxical and nonsensical. There IS much paradox in Scripture, the biggest being, I suppose, God taking on “the nature of a servant”…It may seem nonsense to you, but the longer I think about these things, the more sense it makes……

                Paul’s Mars Hill speech was not truly introducing a “new religion”–you seem to see it as a conflation of Judaism and other mystery, “pagan” religions. It was not “his” (Paul’s) religion, though I understand why you would say that. I remember puzzling as a new Christian why some said that Paul was introducing a religion different from Jesus. At the same time, I was myself being encouraged to focus my Bible reading on those “church epistles” written by Paul as being most relevant to Christian life. That’s really an ass-backwards (pardon my French) approach to understanding Jesus and Christianity. The church in general has emphasized the reading of Paul all too much, with the result that Jesus is often interpreted through the eyes of Paul rather than the other way around. I have been trying to rectify this for myself for the past 3-4 years, and I feel like I’m just getting to know Jesus and what’s important to him–for the first time. But it’s paying off in that I see how Paul’s “doctrine” does not really differ at all from Jesus.

                Going back to a comment you made about evolution, you mentioned all the evidence points to a “theist-free process”: I am (don’t tell my friends) open to the possibility of evolution taking many millions of years, and all the evidence does indeed point to an evolutionary process–but there is no evidence of it occurring “theist-free”. You have made an assumption that, if it can be explained naturalistically, then it must of necessity be “theist-free”. Of course I want it to point to God, but I will not ignore evidence to the contrary.

                I see your book on the “Jesus Mysteries” is in Kindle edition, so I will look at a sample of it. I read a little about it on Wiki for background, also a bit of the reviews–not favorable.

                You posed the question, “What if God’s goal is NOT to provide wisdom to mankind?” Reading the Bible at face value would dictate otherwise…I’m thinking of Proverbs chapter 2 which puts such a high store on wisdom and its pursuit. I’m not sure why you would think wisdom brought punishment. If you’re thinking of Eve, there is no real indication in Genesis 3 that that was her primary goal, and as for Job: It’s a misapprehension that those who follow God should not do so because they risk misfortune or persecution and suffering. I think Job would agree with me that I’d rather suffer now, knowing that, when I see my God, he will wipe away every tear. In the midst of all his troubles, Job said: “I know my redeemer lives and that I shall see him.”

                I don’t claim that the aim behind what I write to you is to give you a lesson on anything, hence the explanation of “el” in ‘Immanuel’. Nor do I have any illusion that you’ll buy into anything I have to say–though I’m praying otherwise. Whatever I write here, I keep in mind that others are reading–it is Corinna’s blog after all–and I would hope that others might realize that there are rational answers to your dismissiveness of history, that they would find that anyone with an open heart and mind (or kidney, as the case may be) can check out Jesus on his terms (not necessarily on some church’s terms) and will conclude that there is something there that Dionysus could not begin to reflect in any real way.

                A couple more things: Your concern for animals is admirable, even though it may obfuscate (another good Mark Twain word like ‘tomfoolery’) what animal sacrifice was designed to do in the Scriptures. Those animals were substituted not blamed. As horrible as a slit throat may seem for humans, it’s one of the simplest and most merciful ways to slay an animal….nothing like the crucifixion of the ‘Lamb of God.’ Crucifixion is one of the cruelest, slowest, and most torturous means of execution devised by man, but Jesus went willingly.

                Other thing: Your “good cop/bad cop” comment and my statement about people seeing Jesus as a friend and God as judge: Yes, they are indeed on the same team–that’s the point. Many Christians miss that very point when they get caught up in trying prove the deity of Christ, but they don’t have to. Jesus didn’t come to prove himself God, but in living, dying and rising, he certainly did. The larger point is actually that he showed us what God is really like, who he is, and what he wants. If that is so, then we need to rethink our picture of who God is. I saw that some years back and was able to climb off the performance treadmill because I saw that God was not “out to get me” except to make me his child. The fact that parents often visit evil on their children by being committed to a ‘loving God’ and not to their children does not prove a bad God but bad parenting (i.e., unwise). I’m guessing that you also climbed off the treadmill at some point, but for different reasons than I

  8. David’s bloviating aside, I’d love to hear how you decide to spend your Easter, Nicole. Regardless, best wishes on your journey!

  9. Corinna,
    Reading all these comments and even going to all of these different churches is bound to leave you more confused than you were before you first started this journey. I am praying that the Holy Spirit will guide you to the truth. Search the Holy Scriptures for yourself and don’t just assume that because a pastor, priest, etc. says that something is the truth that it is.

    • Jo El and Patti both say something to the effect of:

      “I am praying that the Holy Spirit will guide you to the truth.”

      Soooo, Obvious Guy points out an obvious problem:

      Has the Holy Spirit fallen asleep on the job, failing to answer the prayers of those who aren’t blessed with being led to “the truth”? What did they do wrong: not pray earnestly enough?

      Sucks to be one of those 3 billion Muslims, with all of them being misled, huh? Or a foolish atheist, who are cursed as foresaken fools for saying there is no God, when all they’re doing is examining the issue rationally, and asking for evidence?

      Not you two, though: even if you likely don’t agree on the details of your specific religions, don’t let THAT stop you from telling yourselves that you’re keyed in to God’s thoughts, and hence likely to be “saved”. You’re going to Heaven, for an ETERNITY!

      So, how do you handle the problem of Jesus’ warning that Satan presents himself as an “angel of light” to lead humans astray, and OFTEN succeeds? Aren’t you slightly concerned that the OTHERS are actually misled, and actually on the path to damnation despite having food intentions?

      Let me guess: you’re hip to Satan’s tricks, and are nobody’s fool, can’t be played: you’d ask for 2 forms of ID, before following any so-called “angels of light”. ;)!

  10. Corinna, I think the thing I most respect and appreciate about your blogs is that you have managed to always express positive, if often funny, accounts of your journey. I pray that your journey continues to be productive and filled with gentle amusement as well as truths of the heart. As Jo L says, your best guide is the Spirit, and I pray an open door in your heart to It.

    I probably won’t be back on line to check your blog til after Easter. There are Good Friday services this evening, and lots to do before Easter Sunday. So I will end today with the greeting that will be on my lips Sunday morning – the happiest day of the year – He is Risen; He is Risen, indeed. Hallelujah!

    Yours in Christ,

    • Yes, he is risen, indeed! I too will be involved in Good Friday services and Easter morn, of course.
      I couldn’t figure out how to share a picture from my Facebook page onto this, but I think it’s really cool and says alot about:
      It’s from the old “BC” comic strip by Johnny Hart. I haven’t seen him in papers lately, but he must now be a Christian:
      His two stone-age characters are on a hillock.
      Sitter says to stander, “I hate the term ‘Good Friday'”
      Stander, “Why?”
      Sitter, “My Lord was hanged on a tree that day.”
      Stander, “If you were going to be hanged that day, and he volunteered to take your place, how would you feel?”
      Sitter, “Good.”
      Stander, walking away, “Have a nice day….”

      So, for today, Have a Good day….

    • “Related”? Lol, no: IIRC, Chuck is an active Jehovah’s Witness, whereas I’m a secular humanist, AKA a rationalist, or atheist.

      BTW, I’m not a big fan of the ‘atheist’ moniker, since it’s somewhat of a pejorative, and automatically places one in a defensive posture as if they need to explain why they don’t believe in God(s). Instead, theists SHOULD explain why THEY believe in the existence of invisible mystical/magical forces without offering any proof (and without resorting to weak “appeals to tradition”, or teleological “ends-based” arguments, discussing the “benefits” of being a believer).

      Demanding reasonable evidence stems directly from adopting the scientific method: if a scientist wants other scientists to adopt their finding or proposal (called a hypothesis), then the burden of proof is on that scientist to present compelling supportive evidence as to WHY everyone SHOULD accept the idea.

      The proposed idea HAS to offer some utility (eg predictive value). Simply making everyone feel “comfort” doesn’t suffice, as repeatability is needed; otherwise, it’s likely a “placebo” effect, which especially applies to beliefs, due to the confirmed existence of delusional beliefs).

      Sounds like a difficult standard to meet, huh? It’s not, eg even though they’re completely invisible, scientists today fully accept Marconi’s hypothesis of the existence of radio waves (hence why it’s now fully accepted as the theory of radio waves), since it’s possible to prove their existence with radio test equipment, and man has obviously found incredible utility and benefit by accepting the hypothesis and exploiting radio waves (radio/TV/cell phone communications, or medical/diagnostic uses like MRI/CAT scans, gamma-radiation treatments, etc). Repeatable? You bet (unless you’re using an iPhone, as I am: they lock up at the worst times, lol!)

      I believe in radio waves: doesn’t everyone else here?

      Now, if we can just do the same for spirit beings like YHWH, I’ll become a believer… 😉

      But back to your question:

      Maybe the confusion stems from the fact I was raised as a JW, back in the late 60’s/early 70’s, and have an insider’s view of JWs (I have family members who are active JWs, serving as elders, pioneers, etc)?

      And for the record, MOST JWs are good decent people with “good hearts” who honestly believe they have “The Truth” (although some know its NOT “The Truth”, but some are only going through the motions simply in order to enjoy the many benefits of living within a religious-based culture which shares common beliefs/values. Every religion has that kind of thing, eg “Jack Mormons”, and Judaism is known to contain many more agnostic or atheists who go to Temple and self-identify as Jews, if only out of cultural tradition).

      JW’s deserve credit for trying to study and learn the historical roots of Xianity/Judaism, but unfortunately their leadership (the ‘Governing Body’ of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society) strongly discourages all members from engaging in independent research or Bible study, wanting them to rely on the WT publications as their sole source of “spiritual food” (which the GB claims to be solely authorized by Christ to provide, offering “proper food at the proper time”. The GB is relying on a convoluted interpretation of Jesus’ parable of the ‘Faithful and Discreet Slave’. Next time they’re chatting with Jesus, the GB should ask Jesus to explain the difference between PARABLE and a PROPHECY! Maybe the GB actually understands the difference, but they act as if it were a prophecy to justify maintaining their firm grasp on the reins of power and control within the organization. Talk about a classic example of scriptural eisegesis!!).

  11. Carmen,
    Corinna really can’t answer your question, but I can. No, David and I are not related, unless we go way back to Noah. All of us are decendents of one of Noah’s three sons. I don’t know David, but it seems to me he may have come from a JW background, but he no longer practices the JW faith. Something at the back of my mind says that he might be from Albuquerque. Maybe David can tell us that. I lived in Albuquerque for 43 years, and for the last 7 have lived in Tulsa, but I still don’t know David.

    Chuck

    • Hi Chuck,

      Sorry, as we cross-posted. No, I’m not in NM, but CA. I was never baptized as a JW (fortunately).

      Of course, getting baptized into JWs incurs making a life-time obligation, since those who are baptized cannot leave “The Truth” for ANY reason (well, coffins excepted) without facing mandatory Amishesque-style shunning from the rest of the JW community (their own JW parents and family members are included). Getting baptized is thus a religious version of a ‘Roach Motel’, where people can check in, but they can never leave.

      (OK, so shoot me, as that’s from the Eagle’s ‘Hotel California’, but it’s the same general idea of taking a one-way trip…)

      Now, you don’t need to get into the scriptural basis for disfellowshipping and shunning, as I agree that JW practices ARE completely sound and based on Biblical principles, etc. I agree that’s EXACTLY what the Bible says, starting with the OT (Hebrew word, ‘karet’ meaning cutting off from the people, usually by death, so as to maintain the purity of God’s ‘Chosen People’; necessary to avoid the entire community being “vomited out of the Land” for failure to enforce YHWH’s standards). NT theology is simply a continuation of principles presented in the OT.

      THAT STATED, it’s sad to see young children making an important life-long commitment such as JW baptism at such a young age (I’ve personally witnessed a 12 y.o. being baptized, well below the age at which a minor can give their legal consent for anything, including marriage! I’ve heard of children as young as 6 being baptized, but perhaps you can offer your personal experience of how young the children you’ve seen getting baptized were?)

      Even though I was never baptized, I’m STILL shunned by my JW family members for daring to publicly (on-line) speak out against ALL delusional religious beliefs (including the JWs, the prototype of hyper-literalist Xians). As you know, daring to speak out for common sense is the kind of behavior that can get a person declared as an “apostate” by JWs, even if that person was never baptized as a JW and even if done anonymously (eg my real name is NOT ‘Dave’, or ‘David Perez’; it’s a pseudonym, an inside joke, like Corinna’s wearing of a mustache as a disguise must be).

      But as you see, the results are pretty much the same: I’m shunned by my JW family members, despite not being baptized, and treated as if I’m already dead.

      As you know, JWs are not big believers in the US Constitution’s guarantee of “freedom of speech” (which includes religious discussion, such as this), esp for their own family members, JWs or not! Fortunately, I also have non-JW family members who respect my right to free speech (and did I mention I served in the US military as a young man, thus protecting the very rights that JWs passively enjoy, despite their doing bupkis to protect those same rights?). Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said that he came not to bring peace, but to tear families apart: that’s one prophecy that is definitely true, as my JW family members are following the dictates of a ‘cult’ by shunning their own family members (and I really don’t think JWs only deserve the ‘cult’ pejorative: ALL religious belief is ‘cultic’ in MY book, as it speaks to allowing others to control one’s actions and beliefs in the name of appealing to the authority of imaginary beings. The RCC is the BIGGEST cult ever, in my eyes).

      However, such closed-minded intolerance and bald-faced attempts to control other’s thoughts speaks spades about the foolishness of interpreting the Bible in hyper-literalist fashion, taking as fact that which is actually a Bunyanesque tall-tale or allegorical myth (which is actually good, as it makes them easy to dismantle only by using a bit of common sense).

      SPEAKING OF WHICH, you said something like this:

      “We’re all descendents of Noah’s sons”.

      HOLY MANOLY! Prepare for a minor exercise in dismantling the illogic presented in Genesis’ Flood account… 🙂

      (And for the moment, let’s just set aside the sheer impossibility of the Flood account from the scientific standpoint, whether looking at the evidence from the fossil/geological record, biological (that’s some impossible bottle-necking of gene pools), the MANY violations of the laws of physics (feeding all the animals, heck, even supplying fresh water to them, not to mention the source of the flood water, or the effects of a standing column of water) since that kind of scientific refutation is easily found on the web; I won’t repeat. Instead, let’s just focus on the LITERAL WORDS, what the Bible actually SAYS about the Flood, and YHWH’s motives for the Flood.)

      In the Biblical version of history, Genesis 9 records the exact moment when mankind is delegated Divine authority to demand an accounting for spilled blood (murder); God is delegating to man His Divine authority to institute a rudimentary system of administering criminal justice over his fellow man. Note that YHWH even gives Noah a little pep-talk, explaining that he’s up to the task, reminding him that mankind was created “in the image of God”, hence Noah possesses the requisite qualities to fairly administer criminal justice). God is delegating authority to man to make decisions that were previously His exclusive domain. That’s HUGE.

      Now, that little factoid is often noted by Xians as an interesting tid-bit, but they fail to reflect on the deep implications of this claim.

      Of course, in the same account YHWH also grants humanity Divine permission to eat animal flesh, as well (also a first in Biblical history, since mankind’s diet was presumably officially vegetarian before the Flood). The stipulation is that mankind must NOT consume blood ‘with the flesh’, explaining that blood (Hebrew word is ‘dam’) contains ‘nephesh’ (Hebrew for ‘life-force’ or soul). Instead, the blood of animals to be eaten is to be poured onto the ground (obviously you know this, as this is the cornerstone passage upon which JW’s ‘no blood transfusion’ doctrine is built).

      Note the parallelism, with God granting authority to punish the ‘spilling of blood’ of one’s fellow man (ie murder/manslaughter) AND giving man the right to eat animal flesh, with an OBLIGATION incurred in both cases to account for the disposition of the blood. BOTH permissions are given, but God demands something in return: man must account for the proper disposition of the BLOOD spilled, be it animal or human. The covenant is said by YHWH to be EVERLASTING, for all time.

      This so-called ‘Noahide Covenant’ was sealed with an animal sacrifice (which is recorded at the closing of Chapter 8), and ‘marked’ with a sign of this everlasting covenant: the rainbow. God says He promises never again to destroy the Earth on the account of “evil in the hearts of men” (presumably he’ll see the rainbow and it’ll jog his memory of the Noahide covenant, if He were prone to “forget”).

      (Other Biblical covenants used “signs”, eg circumcision is said to be the sign of the Abrahamic covenant. A sign is a common element found in covenants in the OT.)

      Now, remember that the justification YHWH offered for the Flood in the first place was His observation of rampant “evil thoughts in the hearts of men”; YHWH offers this as justification, both BEFORE and AFTER the Flood. The account also says that God examined the heart of Noah, and found him “blameless amongst his contemporaries”; this suggests Noah and his family weren’t prone to “evil thoughts”, but labelled as righteous. The implication being that by eliminating all other humans carrying the “evil hearts” defect outside the Ark (as if it were a genetic defect), the World would be free of “evil in men’s hearts” afterwards, once and for all.

      HOWEVER, note that this proto-Armageddon (“Armageddon, Take One”) didn’t have the intended outcome: YHWH apparently wasn’t as good a reader of men’s hearts as the Bible claims, for only a page later in Genesis we’re reading of sins committed by those in Sodom and Gomorrah. Whoops.

      So that’s a swing and a miss for YHWH, a failed attempt at fixing the problem of “evil thoughts in the hearts of man” bug/defect, as Noah and family apparently were undetected ‘carriers’ of the flaw (that evil Ham becomes the scapegoat, getting blamed as the carrier: he’s the fall guy right afterwards in the account of a drunken and naked Noah, and hence his lineage gets cursed, including the OT’s cast of bad guys, the Caananites, Amorites, Edomites, etc).

      But God basically throws in the towel on further attempts at mitigation of the defect, saying afterwards that evil seemingly persists in men’s hearts despite His best efforts to eliminate a defect of His own making.

      But note that YHWH’s fix was two-pronged, where delegating authority to mankind was the OTHER element of God’s addressing the “evil thoughts in men’s heart” defect.

      So in essence, the Bible is telling readers that YHWH hit the ‘reset button’ to wipe the slate on humans/animals outside the Ark, delegated authority to mankind to enforce criminal behavior afterwards, and see if maybe humans can do a better job of addressing the problem of evil than He was able to do.

      The implications are staggering:

      Without having Divine authority to implement any form of criminal justice BEFORE the Flood, the account implies the Antideluvian (pre-Flood) world existed in a kind of ‘Mad Max’ state of anarchy, where “might made right” and no one had Divine authority to start governance, or institute a system of laws! That would imply that YHWH apparently “forgot” to delegate that kind of authority to mankind AFTER the fall of Adam, which puts quite a different perspective on the oddly-lenient punishment Cain receives at YHWH’s hand (YHWH gave him the ‘mark of Cain’, which paradoxically prevented anyone from killing Cain to avenge the murder of Abel, and even amplified the curse by seven-fold to anyone who tried. Huh?).

      It also seems YHWH apparently “forgot” to make murder a sin right after Adam’s Fall, too: whoopsie-daisy, didn’t see THAT one coming! Remember, Cain/Abel lived thousands of years BEFORE God declared murder as a sin (a violation of his Divine Will) and codified it into writing in tablet in Mt Sinai’s famous account of the Ten Commandments (which included the commandment, “thou shalt not commit murder”). Moses accepted the law from YHWH, and created a Mosaic covenant with God which bound the Israelites to obey it’s laws (Exodus 24:18).

      But notice that this was supposedly 1,000 of years AFTER the Flood. Whoops.

      In other words, granting mankind the authority to institute a rudimentary criminal justice system only AFTER the flood was basically closing the barn door AFTER the animals had already run off (and/or drowned, as the case may be, at least those animals not lucky enough to get on board the Ark).

      As the old saying goes say, better late than never; but so much for God’s foresight and Divine Omnipotence, as well as His “perfect” justice.

      Hopefully I don’t need to mention YHWH’s double “flip-flop” (where He regretted making mankind and decided to wipe the slate clean with a Flood; then He apparently saw all the bloated corpses, and regretted killing them! That’s the very reason the Bible offers to explain where rainbows come from, since rainbows are a sign of the Noahide Covenant per the OT, a sign of His contract with mankind). It’s not like rainbows actually result from the refraction of different wavelengths of sunlight passing through airborne water molecules: science is no FUN when explaining where rainbows come from! After all, “God dun it!” is so much easier for the kids to understand! 🙂

      In case any can’t tell, the Flood account is not a historical record of past events, but simply a late Hebraic adaptation reworked into Jewish terms, based on a far older ancient Babylonian/Akkadian myth that predates the Genesis’ account of Noah by AT LEAST 1,000 years. Many older versions circulated in the Ancient Near East for thousands of years before Genesis was written (Google the “Epic of Atrahasis” as there’s a good Wikipedia page on it); there’s many variations which relied on the same literary motif).

      The widespread flood myths LIKELY reflect older oral accounts of a local flood episode, being ‘echoes’ of a real event that transferred into the domain of collective historical memory but transformed into traditional mythology. But there’s absolutely no reason to elevate Noah’s account in the OT into literal historical truth above all the others, when historicity was RARELY the goal of ANY writings from antiquity (including the Hebrew’s Torah/Tanakh, which is particularly prone to Paul Bunyanesque exaggerations, frequently stepping into tall-tale territory).

      • Hi David,
        Thank you for your lengthy and informative post. I have a few comments, but in most cases (with a few exceptions in this post) I won’t try to convince you, or argue against what you have written. I’m sure your JW relatives have had discussions with you at length on the issues you raise. You mentioned that baptized ones can’t leave “The Truth” for ANY reason without facing mandatory Amishesque-style shunning, but that really isn’t true. Actually, many have not done anything to be disfellowshipped, but have just faded away. My own brother is one of these. We (the elders) don’t go on a “witch hunt” to disfellowship those who have stopped attending. We do, however, call on them to try to help them, encouraging them to come back. But, if they decide they don’t want to associate, and they don’t write a letter of disassociation, and have done nothing scripturally wrong, no action is taken against them. We might just call on them every now and then to encourage them to return. What you describe does sound like a cultish practice, but it’s not OUR practice.

        I FULLY AGREE with you on baptism. My oldest daughter (now 55) was baptized at 13 and I thought that was too young, but she insisted. My son (now 51) was 17, and my youngest daughter (now 48) was also 17. All three are still active as JWs. In my opinion (and yes, we can have our own opinions), being baptized at six years old is way too young to make such a commitment! I believe a person should wait until they know exactly all the ramifications of baptism, and that to me would be impossible at 6 years old.

        If you have never been baptized and you understand the Bible’s standards (and it appears you do), your knowledge makes you accountable to Jehovah, but NOT to any man. It appears your Witness family has decided to DF you from the family, but I see no scriptural authority or allowance to do so. Of course, I don’t know the details, but if you are acting out the role of an apostate, and being vocal about it, even though never being baptized, I can understand the actions of your relatives, however, they still have no scriptural support to do so. They simply choose to do so, just as you or I may choose not to associate with persons we decide not to associate with for whatever reason we have to take that action.

        You said: “I served in the US military as a young man, thus protecting the very rights that JWs passively enjoy, despite their doing bupkis to protect these same rights.” Serving in the military was your choice. JWs choose not to serve, as that would break our neutrality. Interestingly, I know and have known several JW vets. Most of the older ones have died. Actually, JWs have done more to establish, clarify and protect the rights of every American (without firing a single gun), than most people know! You must be aware of the legal battles JWs faught in the Supreme Court, especially in the 1940s and 1950s. JWs won 36 major decisions which clarify and guarantee the rights of all Americans, far more than any individual or entity has ever done! History is clear on that.

        David, your position regarding the flood in Noah’s day does not dismantle anything I believe. I’ve studied all the points you mention, and more. Remember that when you discredit the Flood you discredit Jesus as well. I simply can’t abide that. Jesus believed in and called attention to the Flood, especially at Matt. 24:37-39: “For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark. And they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away. So the presence of the Son of man will be.” If you don’t have faith/confidence in Jesus’ words, then the above will probably have little effect on you. While Gen. 8:21 says that God will not “deal every living thing a blow, just as I have done,” Gen. 9:11 is more specific, saying: “. . .no more will all flesh be cast off by waters of a deluge. . .” and 9:15 says: “. . .no more will the waters become a deluge to bring all flesh to ruin.”

        While this promise of Jehovah will stand, that doesn’t mean that he will refrain from destroying the wicked at his appointed time. Jesus pointed forward to a “great tribulation”. Much has been written about this in both the OT and NT. Jeremiah foretells (Jer. 25:31-33) that “. . .those slain by Jehovah will certainly come to be in that day from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth. They will not be bewailed, neither will they be gathered up or be buried. As manure on the surface of the ground they will become.”

        John said (1 Jn 2:17): “Furthermore the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God REMAINS [no rapturing away, as the Evangelicals say] forever.”

        Ps. 37:29 promises: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth and they will reside FOREVER [no rapture] upon it.”

        Just as there were survivors (8) of the flood, there will be survivors of the Day of God’s Wrath. Jehovah will determine who will survive.

        You said that “evil seemingly persists in men’s hearts despite His best efforts to eliminate a defect of His [God’s] own making.” David, please consider God’s words written down by Moses at Deut. 32:4, 5 that refute what you said: “The Rock, perfect is his activity, for all his ways are justice. . .They have acted ruinously on their own part: They are not his children, the DEFECT IS THEIR OWN.” Free moral agency (man being free to make his own right or wrong choices) mostly has been responsible for this world’s condition. Add to that Jer. 17:9 which says: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?” This helps us to understand how few really “righteous ones” in any given century there were, and are! It’s difficult for me to think of myself as being “righteous”. I leave that in Jehovah’s hands to determine that, one way or the other.

        You certainly have a way with words, David, however, as excellent a writer as you are, and as persuasive as you can be, I prefer to believe the Bible is a written record and message from God. While it doesn’t fill in every detail, there is a theme running through it. It gives the glimpses of mankind (the first pair) before sin entered the world, and some of what their paradise was like, and death eventually resulting from their disobedience (Rom. 5:12), and then Jehovah’s immediate response and promise to restore paradise through his seed (Gen. 3:15). We follow through with his promise of that seed, (who turned out to be Jesus Christ–Gal. 3:16) through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), and how God chose one of Israel’s sons, Judah, to whom that promised seed would come. The narrative continues showing Jesus as the promised Messiah, the 4 gospel accounts of his activities here on earth, setting the stage for wonderful things to come, and then leading up to and including his sacrificial death in behalf of mankind, making all the promised wonderful things to come possible, and ending with a multitude of information, including Revelation, which helps us to understand how God’s will is to take place fully on the earth, as it is in heaven. God’s Kingdom, with Jesus Christ as king, is woven throughout.

        David, it’s your choice as to put faith in Jesus and believe in, and worship Jehovah, our Creator. Nobody–not even your JW relatives can, nor would they want to, force you to do so.

        I might ask you, David, what then is your hope? Mine is to live forever in the promised paradisaic earth to be restored just like God intended at the beginning of mankind. Then God’s “will” will be done on earth as it is in heaven. But, since it appears you do not really believe in Jehovah, Jesus, or the Bible, what is your hope? I would really like to know.

        Best wishes to you, David.

        Chuck

        • Hi Chuck,

          Thanks for your lengthy (but informative) response, as well. 🙂

          BTW, I’ll be quoting your words, despite having been told it risks being misinterpreted as confrontational: I do so simply to avoid confusion, and to keep the conversation on a specific point.

          Chuck said:

          “I have a few comments, but in most cases (with a few exceptions in this post) I won’t try to convince you, or argue against what you have written.”

          And why not? As long as you present a cogent argument, I don’t have any problem engaging in debate.

          Granted, many readers haven’t actually stopped to THINK critically about YHWH’s behavior that’s depicted in the Noah story (much less dare to QUESTION it: that would be…. BLASPHEMOUS! ); most simply accept the story at face-value. Some go with the typical narrative they were told in Sunday School, the one depicting a joyous boat-load of animals, merrily floating on the sea (complete with the obligatory pair of giraffe, their necks protruding through an opening in the roof).

          Now, is it that you COULD present a compelling defense, but choose NOT to? Because if you CAN defend the incriminating and damning evidence I’ve presented (eg YHWH’s capricious and incompetent behavior), then you really SHOULD at least TRY to offer your best defense, willing to defend what you believe to be a LITERAL HISTORICAL event.

          C said:

          “I’m sure your JW relatives have had discussions with you at length on the issues you raise.”

          Actually, no, since maybe you missed the part where I said I’m being shunned? That means no discussion of ANYTHING, much less JW theology.

          And why am I shunned? Simply because they decided to take a vow of celibacy from engaging in rational discourse, willingly sacrificing their capacity for independent thought in the name of serving YHWH and to protect THEIR fragile faith. Cynically, I suspect their motives are to save THEIR own spiritual skin, as that’s what religion ultimately is all about: saving one’s own “skin” (or soul), and let the rest of humanity be damned, including one’s own family (eg the pillaring of Lot’s wife makes that point quite clear, or Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac: it’s every person for themselves, and YHWH demands man’s love above one’s own flesh and blood). That’s also the message of Noah, where only 8 people survived (out of billions who died).

          BTW, many people believe that Noah preached to those humans who were wiped out in the Flood while the Ark was being built, as if some “Worldlies” might repent and be saved onboard the Ark. Unfortunately, the Torah itself doesn’t support that interpretation (another classic example of Xian eisegesis (which is actually based on passages in the NT), reading an interpretation into the original Genesis narrative that simply isn’t there). In fact, the Noah account implies the EXACT OPPOSITE in the part where Noah enters a covenant relationship with YHWH BEFORE the Ark is built, agreeing to a passenger manifest of only EIGHT humans who are to survive on the Ark (Noah and his family members). There was no mention of a final modified passenger manifest that includes “Worldlies” (to accommodate any last-minute additions of humans who may have repented): the agreement only states Noah and his family, and that’s what the story mentions as the actual survivors. So that agreement is quite damning to later Xian writings that suggest anything to the contrary.

          Even in the scripture you provided, Jesus says that men were caught completely off-guard when the Flood began, so that doesn’t exactly support the idea of Noah preaching to others to warn of the impending Flood so they could repent. IF they were warned, it wouldn’t have been a COMPLETE surprise. But regardless, that’s hardly the actions of a loving and forgiving God, but a vengeful and arbitrary God who doesn’t even allow mortals due notice, and hence an opportunity to experience a change of heart and salvation.

          In like manner, JWs preach “the good news” largely because they feel FORCED to do so in order to gain their OWN salvation, hoping their works will measure up on the “Final Day of Judgment”. That’s the part JWs forget to mention to prospective recruits: JW’s HAVE to knock on doors, as Jesus COMMANDED “go forth and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” in order to prove their worthiness to survive Armageddon. So despite their claims to the contrary, it’s not ALL about “how much (you) love (your) fellow man, and want them to be saved from Armageddon”, but more like how much JWs fear losing THEIR lives in Armageddon (ironic really, since JWs are so worried about their reward of eternal life in paradise, they paradoxically are willing to sacrifice the ONLY life they’ll ever have, in the here and now, It’s really quite selfish, actually, all in the name of securing a fantasy pipe-dream of owning a pet panda in the New System and living forever).

          But the fact is, my siblings have never exactly BEEN free-thinkers, but rather exceptional followers (a critical skill to possess in a cult). I’m not sure WHY/WHERE I got the strength to stand apart from the group, and they didn’t? I’m not a believer in astrology, but I AM a Capricorn, and have always been stubborn, LOL!

          Maybe it’s because I read “The King’s New Clothes” as a young child, or paradoxically accepted the JW teaching that I actually WAS “no part of this World” as a child? Perhaps it was hearing tales of JWs held in Concentration Camps in Nazi Germany at assemblies, and imagining how I’d be the one to remain faithful to YHWH, in the face of torture and certain death? That attitude of standing up for what you believe helped me survive the taunting and “religious persecution” I faced for NOT saluting the flag (neutrality) in school, daring to stand faithful to my heart-felt beliefs (at the time). That’s something JWs don’t count on: members who adopt their “JWs are outsiders” Worldview, but then dare to continue seeing themselves as no part of the World AFTER questioning the veracity of JW’s doctrines. JWs get the courage to stand up for what they believe in (if only mistaken beliefs), but then are empowered to learn “The Truth About The Truth”(TTATT) and stand against the JWs. Amazing that some are able to do it, whereas other melt under the pressure of the group.

          (Of course, I fully agree with the ‘apostate’ characterization, as that’s LITERALLY what the word “apostate” means in Greek: one who takes a stand away ( prefix apo-) from the group (state). The term IS slightly pejorative, wherein the group that shuns claims the right to define what the default position is; we’re back at an etymological situation quite like the ‘atheist’ pejorative, where the ‘a-‘ prefix is placed against the ‘-theist’ suffix, and suddenly the atheist is supposed to bear the burden of defending why they DON’T believe in Gods, as if THEY’RE the strange one, the odd-man-out, the person who differs from the default position of the group, however irrational it may be.)

          But the fact is, it’s probably best my family DON’T know “the Truth about The Truth” (TTATT), as pragmatically-speaking, I don’t know if I’d WANT them to go through the painful experience of “Awakening”. Honestly, I don’t think they could handle it, as it’s literally too late for them. Their lives have been entirely built around their JW faith: their jobs (employed/contracts with other JWs), social network, family, etc, ALL revolve around JWs, and they risk losing it ALL if they dared to publicly state they have “lost their religion”. My sister gave the most productive years of her young adult life serving as a special-pioneer in the Midwest for a decade, and another served at Bethel in the 1970’s; another has served for decades on the RBC, donating his construction trade labor skills on quick-builds.
          My older brother (who served at Bethel in the 1970’s) actually DID come to TTATT after reading Ray Franz’ “Crisis of Conscience” in the 90’s: he witnessed some of the events that occurred at Brooklyn HQ at the time, and reading Franz’ book actually explained some of what he saw as a member of “the Bethel family”. He actually developed the strength to come out of the closet in his early 40’s (he was gay, and had repressed those “sinful” urges by being forced to do so, for decades. He was even engaged to a JW sister in the 80’s, but fortunately they didn’t go through with marriage, which would’ve only compounded the misery for both). Unfortunately, being raised in such a protected cloistered environment means many JWs aren’t able to survive in a World, having missed many of life’s lessons that are learned by non-witnesses quite early in their lives. Unfortunately, he died of AIDS in the late 90’s, after having trusted someone who was an HIV carrier (having unprotected sex). Of course, his early death simply strengthened their resolve that he made a mistake by being true to himself: obviously I didn’t agree, and saw his late growth as a sign of being true to oneself, and not being forced to deny fundamental aspects of one’s very being.

          It’s sad, as his life story represents such a waste of potential, a squandered life. All of my siblings possess the intellectual capability to have gone to college, pursue a career, etc. rather than telling themselves it’s OK to under-achieve, and perform menial janitorial work in the name of “putting Kingdom Interests First”.
          Oh, well: those who refuse to exercise their intellectual capabilities might as well not worry about DEVELOPING those capabilities, in the first place, since remaining stunted and numb actually makes it EASIER to avoid the painful cognitive dissonance that comes with realizing that their entire lives have been wasted on a grand lie. In a sense, it’s probably best if their “eyes remain unopened” (reference to Eve’s eating the forbidden, wisdom-bestowing fruit, and having their eyes opened).

          BTW, speaking of Eve, you should consider using an on-line comparative Bible translation (eg bible.cc), as the Genesis 3:6 scripture is a PERFECT example of how the JW’s New World Translation is attempting to cover up a significant element of what the Bible actually says.

          ALL other translations properly transcribe the 3rd reason Eve saw the fruit as desirous to eat: it would give her WISDOM. Instead, the NWT translation removes that WISDOM element entirely, and simply repeats the 2nd reason (“it looked good to eat, and appealing to the eye”). That’s an inaccurate translation which attempts to bury an important element of the story, which also raises some bothersome questions (eg why was the wisdom-granting fruit in the Garden? Why didn’t God place a flaming sword and cherubim to prevent access (like he was able to do with the Tree of Life, etc). It also attempts to bury an element that shows a strong similarity to (or reliance on) other older myths known to exist in the region before the Genesis account was written.

          C said:

          “You mentioned that baptized ones can’t leave “The Truth” for ANY reason without facing mandatory Amishesque-style shunning, but that really isn’t true. Actually, many have not done anything to be disfellowshipped, but have just faded away. My own brother is one of these. We (the elders) don’t go on a “witch hunt” to disfellowship those who have stopped attending. We do, however, call on them to try to help them, encouraging them to come back. But, if they decide they don’t want to associate, and they don’t write a letter of disassociation, and have done nothing scripturally wrong, no action is taken against them. We might just call on them every now and then to encourage them to return. What you describe does sound like a cultish practice, but it’s not OUR practice.”

          Yeah, I thought of mentioning “fading”, but didn’t (simply for sake of brevity).

          HOWEVER, now that you brought it up, LOL!

          For those non-JW’s who may be reading:

          “Fading” is short for “fading away”, and may require moving to a new area/town and not telling anyone of your JW past, avoiding contact with local JWs and elders (in both areas), and basically living outside of “the JW radar” in order to keep contact with family. You can NEVER publicly admit a past association with JWs, esp if showing an interest in converting to another religion (GASP!), as you’re then at risk of being disfellowshipped for returning to false worship (“Christendom”). Such actions are automatically interpreted as being inconsistent with being a JW, and such individuals face permanently losing contact with their JW family members by being disfellowshipped if found out. So, it’s intellectually and spiritually dishonest, needing to lie to one’s own family members in order to not lose contact permanently. I consider it dishonest, a form of deception with one’s own family members (the very people you SHOULD be able to share your innermost thoughts with).

          Hence, fading is quite analogous to the US Military’s now-defunct policy of dealing with homosexuals in the ranks, a policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. The policy was it’s OK if you’re gay, JUST AS LONG as the military NEVER finds out that you ARE. So a gay person MUST remain in the closet, but the minute you ‘came out’ publicly as a gay military member, you risked prosecution under the UCMJ. The military policy has obviously changed, but JW policy for ‘faders’ hasn’t: it’s still a case of “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

          C said:

          “I FULLY AGREE with you on baptism. My oldest daughter (now 55) was baptized at 13 and I thought that was too young, but she insisted.”

          And can we presume you’d also relent to her request if she had say, “insisted” on getting married at 13? Or losing her virginity at 13? After ALL, she DID insist on it!

          Clearly a hyperbolic question, but the fact remains: she WAS making a very important life-altering decision below an age when children are able to make such an important decision, but it was OK with you, since in YOUR OPINION, it WAS the RIGHT decision. That’s EXACTLY the kind of unspoken familial and social pressure that members can expect to experience as a JW, not only for themselves, but for their entire families (their children included).

          Now, JWs can tell themselves all day long that they’re NOT trapped, but they’re fooling themselves, and the answer is theoretical just as long as they don’t decide to exercise their “right” to leave. Not currently having plans to leave is NOT the same as having the free will OPTION to leave JWs. JWs do NOT have a ‘free will’ option to leave “The Truth”, as there definitely ARE pragmatic and devastating consequences that would result from doing so, with ramifications delivered by the congregation members who shun the disfellowshipped member.

          C said:

          “In my opinion (and yes, we can have our own opinions), being baptized at six years old is way too young to make such a commitment! I believe a person should wait until they know exactly all the ramifications of baptism, and that to me would be impossible at 6 years old.”

          Well, the REASON you can hold an opinion on that issue is because there is no scripture which specifically stipulates a minimum age at which baptism should be conducted; thus it is thus a “conscience matter”, where a faithful JW is allowed to exercise his “Bible-trained conscience” to come to their own decision on the matter. Hence the decision remains within a person’s decision-making domain (and in this case, as the parent, you had to allow your daughter to get baptized). In other words, God hasn’t expressed His Divine Will on the matter of child baptism, which in ALL cases WOULD trump a parent’s exercise of his own free will in the decision.

          I’ve got some news for you, though:

          Even many ADULTS in their 40’s and 50’s don’t fully comprehend the ramifications of baptism until they’ve actually been disfellowshipped, and have experienced the pain of shunning first-hand. People change, their priorities change, and you cannot tell me that a 13 y.o. KNOWS what they’ll want to do with the rest of their lives at the advanced age of 13! They’re making decisions that will shape the direction of the rest of their lives, whether they realize it or not.

          Unfortunately, it’s too late AFTER getting baptized, when one’s own children (even those as not yet born or conceived) and/or parents are forced to treat this person as if they’re already dead, under the threat of receiving the same exact treatment from OTHER JWs if they don’t shun. Shunning is a cruel and barbaric ancient practice of social ostracism, one that dates back to ancient times in an attempt for the group to control the individual. And that’s the ENTIRE POINT: JWs think of themselves as the new “Chosen People”, and try to live as modern-day “Israelites in the Spirit”, adopting the same ancient practices of Hebrews living in the Southern Levant in 1,000 BC, trying to gain control over others (where allowed by law, eg stoning is illegal in MOST jurisdictions, so that one’s off the table). Think of modern-day Xian Taliban, which although being prevented by American Civil laws from stoning others (still allowed in Islamic countries like Iran), would use the same methods, if the law allowed it.

          In another thread, you posted happy testimonials of being a JW; I can direct to MANY accounts of the not-so-happy outcomes, eg young JWs who’ve been driven to the depths of situational depression and utter despair over having been shunned by their own family, such that they felt trapped in an irresolvable predicament; they ended up committing suicide, seeing death as the only way out (and since JWs believe that death is like falling sleep, where JWs don’t believe in the concept of eternal Hell fire), so death IS viewed by some JWs as a possible “way out”.

          So those happy JW testimonials have an unpublicized “rest of the story” (as Paul Harvey used to say), and here’s a PERFECT EXAMPLE where Xian theology proves dangerous in telling others with certainty what WILL happen after death, when it’s all men’s fantasies.

          C said:

          “If you have never been baptized and you understand the Bible’s standards (and it appears you do), your knowledge makes you accountable to Jehovah, but NOT to any man.”

          Chuck, did you miss the part where I said I’m an atheist? I do NOT believe in ANY Gods, not Ahuru Mazda, Thor, YHWH, Enki, Enlil, Apu, Satan, his cast of demons, angels, nephilim, cherubim, etc.

          Here, let’s try it this way, per the “Book of David Perez 1:1”

          “Truly I say to you today, David Perez genuinely doesn’t believe in ANY God(s) or supernatural beings, but thinks ALL are mental constructs, figments of man’s wish-fulfillments and emotional needs; more cynically stated, Gods are crude attempts for some men to gain the upper-hand of controlling the beliefs, actions and behavior of their fellow men”.

          Is that clear? 🙂 Sure, I quote the Bible and study it, but only to demonstrate it’s inconsistencies, the evolution of ideas found inside, etc. All are hallmarks of it being the product NOT of “Divine inspiration”, but of clever men (who are prone to “continuity errors”, as seen in many films, eg where an actor wears a blue hat in one take, but slips up and changes color of hat between takes).

          C said:

          “It appears your Witness family has decided to DF you from the family, but I see no scriptural authority or allowance to do so. Of course, I don’t know the details, but if you are acting out the role of an apostate, and being vocal about it, even though never being baptized, I can understand the actions of your relatives, however, they still have no scriptural support to do so. They simply choose to do so, just as you or I may choose not to associate with persons we decide not to associate with for whatever reason we have to take that action.”

          As you well know, the BIble warns about the dangers of being “unevenly yoked with unbelievers”, and the dangers of associating with those who “weaken one’s faith”; that’s all the scriptural justification needed for any JW to make an “individual” choice that is going to be understood by other JWs. The Bible is infamous for shielding a believer’s faith from ANY and ALL challenges, running for shelter (I tend to think of an ostrich sticking it’s head in the ground, or covering one’s ears with hands and repeating, “I can’t HEAR you!”, over and over). After all, the NT places FAITH at the pinnacle: not LOGIC, not RATIONALITY, but FAITH. Those other traits are strongly-associated with ‘pagan’ Greek philosophers (Aristotle, etc), and JWs follow Paul’s tradition of showing disdain for rationality, throwing it and logic ‘under the bus’ when push comes to shove, when one’s faith in Jesus needs to be protected and ‘saved’.

          C said:

          “Serving in the military was your choice. JWs choose not to serve, as that would break our neutrality. Interestingly, I know and have known several JW vets. Most of the older ones have died. Actually, JWs have done more to establish, clarify and protect the rights of every American (without firing a single gun), than most people know! You must be aware of the legal battles JWs faught in the Supreme Court, especially in the 1940s and 1950s. JWs won 36 major decisions which clarify and guarantee the rights of all Americans, far more than any individual or entity has ever done! History is clear on that.”

          Yeah, I agree, but you fail to mention that the JW history of fighting legal battles before the SCOTUS is all the more ironic, since JWs largely weren’t doing it to protect the free-speech rights of their OWN rank-and-file members, but to protect the WTBTS’ right to engage in the door-to-door ORGANIZATIONAL preaching work. The Society was fighting for a COLLECTIVE right to engage in the preaching work, not their member’s individual rights.

          Hence, JWs don’t pass along the benefits of those court battles they won on to their individual JW members, as protecting an individual’s right to free speech is NOT something they believe in (the JW view is that the US Constitution protection of INDIVIDUAL free-speech is contrary to the core principles of an archaic and misogynistic Bible, eg women are supposed to remain submissive to the men-folk, children are to remain obedient to parents, etc).

          And as much as I hate to flog a dead horse, such old-fashioned notions of familial and societal roles are partly to explain why a daughter may decide to get baptized at a young age. Such children are BORN into a World that tells them getting baptized IS the RIGHT THING TO DO in the eyes of God and family, and so they do it. Such young people (AKA ‘born ins’, where both parents are JWs) never really stand a chance at developing critical free-thinking skills, esp since many JWs choose to home-school their children, keeping them from “dangerous ideas” that a “Worldly” secular public education might expose them to. That is not merely a theoretical concern: eg one of my sister-in-laws home-schooled my nieces and nephews, a practice that runs dangerously close to “intellectual incest”, in my opinion. Yes, it’s perfectly legal to home-school your own children, but it’s still morally-questionable to isolate children at the very time in their young lives when proper socialization SHOULD be occurring. A large part of socialization is being exposed to those who “think differently” from you, but JWs knee-jerk reaction is to try to isolate themselves from “Worldlies”, and deny the existence of any evidence they perceive as “threats”.

          Speaking of which, LOL!

          C said:

          “David, your position regarding the flood in Noah’s day does not dismantle anything I believe. I’ve studied all the points you mention, and more.”

          Please share then, as I’ve NEVER seen a refutation (at least, one that held any water; pun intended…) to explain away eg, YHWH’s “Double Regret”, an admission of not just making ONE mistake, but TWO mistakes, in a ROW.

          The “YHWH double-scoop of repenting” passages are a blow to God’s omniscience claim (omniscience implies knowing future events, since that kind of talent is required to grant mortals like Isaiah the gift of prophecy, foretelling future events). It also blows YHWH’s omniscience trait in terms of displaying regret, since omniscients are NOT able to experience the so-called “SURPRISE emotions” that non-omniscient mortals do (emotions such as “regret”: an omniscient would KNOW they were making an error, and simply wouldn’t carry out the act). You cannot “sneak up” on an omniscient and surprise him, going “BOO!”: he would KNOW that you were coming.

          (Here’s where the God apologeticists invariably back-track God only having “limited omniscience”, which only opens another can of worms: how does an omniscient UNLEARN something after they already KNOW it? How do they choose NOT to know something, without KNOWING what it is you DON’T WANT to know?)

          Such capricious and childish tantrum-like behavior as depicted in the Flood narrative (eg deciding to wipe out all of humankind because of “evil in their hearts”) is arguably excusable, if confined within the framework of mythology, eg in Hesiod, Zeus decides to withhold fire (an ancient symbol for knowledge) from humanity as punishment, but Prometheus (a demi-God) steals it and gives it to mankind, but is punished by Zeus for his crime (compare to Adam and Eve stealing wisdom from YHWH, and being cursed as a result). It’s excusable in the Epic of Atrahasis, when Enlil wanted to wipe out mankind with a Flood. The Gods are depicted as acting like arses in Babylonian mythology, but in the case of YHWH, it’s completely out of character with a so-called “God of Love” who oddly enough isn’t depicted as displaying the fruitages of His spirit, wiping out His creations after they disappoint Him.

          Wiping out the ENTIRE population of the Earth, both animal and human, with a mass-extinction event is NOT a display of love, no matter how much you argue to the contrary; you’d stand as good a chance arguing that the meteor that stuck the Yucatan Peninsula and killed off the dinosaurs was the meteor’s way of showing for the dinosaurs! The ONLY reason to claim it IS the act of a God who loves humanity would simply be to kiss up to the Big Guy Upstairs (God) out of self-preservation, fearing of pissing off a hot-tempered and angry God.

          C said:

          ” I simply can’t abide that. Jesus believed in and called attention to the Flood, especially at Matt. 24:37-39: “For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark. And they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away. So the presence of the Son of man will be.” If you don’t have faith/confidence in Jesus’ words, then the above will probably have little effect on you. While Gen. 8:21 says that God will not “deal every living thing a blow, just as I have done,” Gen. 9:11 is more specific, saying: “. . .no more will all flesh be cast off by waters of a deluge. . .” and 9:15 says: “. . .no more will the waters become a deluge to bring all flesh to ruin.”

          Yeah, I’m willing to cut Jesus some slack for honestly BELIEVING in the historicity of the Flood, since he was raised in a Jewish culture which told him it ABSOLUTELY WAS literal, HISTORICAL FACT. Also, Jesus lived in a time before science had developed the means to definitively SHOW WITHOUT DOUBT that it’s simply an ancient myth, from multiple lines of evidence (geological, historical, cultural/sociological, biological, ice core samples, etc). No thinking educated person alive today could come to any other conclusion, as the mounds of evidence from the many diverse fields of science are absolutely OVERWHELMING.

          eg:

          There is NO EVIDENCE in the geological record to indicate a Worldwide flood:

          Here’s a humorous cartoon (clearly made by someone with a biology background), based on the SHEER impossibility of collecting and preserving all those animals:

          What of the fact that historical records of ancient cultures in the Near East continue unbroken DURING the time in which the so-called “Worldwide Flood” was to have occurred?

          http://www.imagesandmeanings.com/2012/10/an-honest-look-at-flood-mythology.html#axzz2U4CPHp3S

          Shall I mention the evidence from the world of nautical engineering, speaking to the sheer impossibility of the sea-worthiness of a floating ark of those dimensions? It wasn’t until within the last two centuries that an all-wood ship (USS Wyoming)

          was constructed that approached the size of the Ark, but all-wood construction was eventually abandoned, due to intrinsic flexure and water-logging properties of wood (I know, the mysterious ‘gopher wood” wasn’t used in the USS Wyoming, although NO MATERIAL known to mankind would possess the required buoyancy/density/resistance to water-logging needed to remain intact and afloat):

          http://ncse.com/cej/4/1/impossible-voyage-noahs-ark

          Sooo, that kind of stuff doesn’t carry any weight with you? That’s a BOATLOAD of miracles that have to be appealed to, with a non-stop mantra of “God Dun It” required.

          C said:
          “Just as there were survivors (8) of the flood, there will be survivors of the Day of God’s Wrath. Jehovah will determine who will survive.”

          Let’s hope the kill ratio for Armageddon isn’t as drastic as Proto-Armageddon: 8 survivors out of how many BILLIONS that were likely killed (I know, the Bible doesn’t say exactly how many)? Wow, that sure was SOME BAD CASE of “evil thoughts in the hearts of men” the World had experienced, if it took THAT kind of drastic action to only solve the problem for what, one page of Genesis? Then it was back to evil men!

          C said:

          “David, please consider God’s words written down by Moses at Deut. 32:4, 5 that refute what you said: “The Rock, perfect is his activity, for all his ways are justice. . .They have acted ruinously on their own part: They are not his children, the DEFECT IS THEIR OWN.”

          Yeah, I’m aware of the Bible’s not-so-subtle tendency to always place the blame on humanity for “our” sinful tendencies; it’s not like humans are the defective product of a “perfect Creator” YHWH, and He’d admit to making flawed creations? God supposedly made Satan, so perhaps he should’ve worked out the kinks with humans BEFORE making the spirit beings? Of course, it’s not possible that YHWH made a mistake with EITHER man or spirit beings, and if there’s ANY errors, it MUST be the creation’s fault. Nope, not God’s fault.

          Here’s a satirical video that deals with that very tendency to blame humanity for a flaw which ULTIMATELY lies with the “Intelligent Designer” that are found in the products He claims to have made. The video looks at the Noah account from the legalistic conceptual framework of a product liability lawsuit, with the Flood analogized as a failed product recall:

          C said:

          “Free moral agency (man being free to make his own right or wrong choices) mostly has been responsible for this world’s condition. Add to that Jer. 17:9 which says: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?” This helps us to understand how few really “righteous ones” in any given century there were, and are! It’s difficult for me to think of myself as being “righteous”. I leave that in Jehovah’s hands to determine that, one way or the other.”

          So, wait a minute: are you saying that the problem with the “Present System of Things” stems from man being unable to determine right vs wrong for himself? Because that would only raise the question: then WHY did YHWH delegate His Divine authority to imperfect mankind immediately AFTER the Flood in the Noahide Covenant, ordering mankind to determine right and wrong by demanding an accounting of spilled blood (which is interpreted by most scholars as ordering mankind to establish the first criminal justice system)? Was THAT another YHWH goof-up, then?

          Or are you advocating for MORE expressions of Divine WIll (AKA “Thou Shalt Not X” prohibitions)? More laws? Or, are you advocating for more COMPLIANCE with Divine Will?

          Regardless, kudos for actually understanding the difference between Divine Will and Man’s Free Will, as I was half-expecting you to repeat the tired ol’ (incorrect) chest-nut which I’ve even heard many JW’s repeat (including elders), without so much as blinking:

          “God didn’t want to create Adam and Eve as robots, who MUST do what He says, so God created mankind with free will.”

          That is soooo wrong, as it suggests the speaker REALLY doesn’t understand the difference between ‘Divine Will’ vs ‘man’s exercise of Free Will’ (which is something that, per XIan theology, should be done ONLY in cases where YHWH hasn’t stated His Divine Will. God doesn’t give man His permission to violate His Divine Will, since that’s the very definition of sinning, and God doesn’t give mankind permission to sin by using the excuse of exercising one’s free will). Most don’t understand that free will is NOT a physical entity that is built into the brain (as if it’s a neural circuit in the brain), but is a matter of God granting PERMISSION or PROHIBITING certain actions. Expression of Divine Will exists by YHWH opening His mouth and saying “Don’t Do X” or You Must Do X”. Everytime God says not to do something, then that decision is instantly removed from man’s “free will” domain column, and transferred over into God’s DIvine Will domain.
          So you earn bonus points by using the term, “free moral agent”, since that phrase implies that while men have ‘a freedom of choice’ in ALL decisions they make, if it’s a violation of Divine Will, men still must “face the music” for the choice they made that may in fact violate God’s Divine Will (and that’s a completely different scenario from having ‘free will’, which implies man’s ability to choose amongst alternatives which carry equal consequences, using one’s “Bible-trained conscience”, in matters where God has remained tacit).

          C said:

          “You certainly have a way with words, David, however, as excellent a writer as you are, and as persuasive as you can be, I prefer to believe the Bible is a written record and message from God.”

          Well thanks, and at least you admit that it IS a choice you make, based not on FACTS, but because of your personal preferences (“I prefer”). We’re ALL slaves to our beliefs, as much as we all tell ourselves we’re not (and I’m admitting to the same).

          My life is committed to being true to MY personal moral/ethical standards and beliefs, where I place greatest value on demonstrable TRUTHS, AKA REALITY. Maybe that’s what happens when you give a young child a blue book that has the word “Truth” embossed in gold on it’s spine, and the child eventually finds out that it ISN’T the Truth: they spend the rest of their lives in pursuit of truths, only to figure out that the Truth doesn’t exist as ABSOLUTES, but only as relative truths.

          Your Bible tells you in 1st Thessalonians “to test all things, prove all things, hold fast to what is good”. It would be nice if JWs actually interpreted THAT scripture out of context, too, LOL! (As you know, the scripture right before says not to despise prophetic utterances, so the likely interpretation is for 1st century Xians to study the prophets’ words (ie in the OT, the Nevi’im) to search for any that hinted at Jesus’ messianic prophecies).

          C said:

          “While it doesn’t fill in every detail, there is a theme running through it. It gives the glimpses of mankind (the first pair) before sin entered the world, and some of what their paradise was like, and death eventually resulting from their disobedience (Rom. 5:12), and then Jehovah’s immediate response and promise to restore paradise through his seed (Gen. 3:15). We follow through with his promise of that seed, (who turned out to be Jesus Christ–Gal. 3:16) through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), and how God chose one of Israel’s sons, Judah, to whom that promised seed would come. The narrative continues showing Jesus as the promised Messiah, the 4 gospel accounts of his activities here on earth, setting the stage for wonderful things to come, and then leading up to and including his sacrificial death in behalf of mankind, making all the promised wonderful things to come possible, and ending with a multitude of information, including Revelation, which helps us to understand how God’s will is to take place fully on the earth, as it is in heaven. God’s Kingdom, with Jesus Christ as king, is woven throughout.”

          Yeah, I’m familiar with the the “plot” of Xianity. It’s a great tale, but unfortunately has been co-opted by those who’d use it as the basis for controlling others.

          C said:

          “David, it’s your choice as to put faith in Jesus and believe in, and worship Jehovah, our Creator. Nobody–not even your JW relatives can, nor would they want to, force you to do so.”

          Wait: are you saying I have “free will” choice (a choice free of consequences) to reject God’s commandments? Cool, THANKS! And I can tell God it was OK to ignore his commandments per Chuck, right? 🙂

          Believe me, as a doctor, I practice in accord with the doctrine of informed consent, which holds that while you can lead horses to water, you cannot force them to drink. The decision to pursue treatment is solely the patients’, and a treatment cannot be forced on them against their will, EVEN IF it’s required for their survival (well, unless you restrain them and insert a sterile saline IV into their veins to forceably rehydrate the horses. I suppose THAT would be “forcing horses to drink”). That doctrine explains why JWs are able to refuse blood transfusions.

          C said:

          “I might ask you, David, what then is your hope? Mine is to live forever in the promised paradisaic earth to be restored just like God intended at the beginning of mankind. Then God’s “will” will be done on earth as it is in heaven. But, since it appears you do not really believe in Jehovah, Jesus, or the Bible, what is your hope? I would really like to know.”

          Read a few posts up, where I describe my hope for mankind: to be free of false lies of ancient superstitions/myths. My hope is to avoid the retarding influence of religious delusions so ALL can contribute to society, realizing that it’s up to US to make things better on Earth, and not to “wait on Jehovah”, or any other non-existent Gods.

          Granted, most people are not Nobel scientists who will unwind the current mysteries that science is involved in studying, hence it TRULY doesn’t matter WHAT anyone’s Aunt Edna believes: she likely won’t be involved in curing cancer via genetic engineering, or developing alternative energy sources that address global climate change. But that’s no excuse for Aunt Edna to drag the rest of humanity down into the ‘faith’ mire she’s bogged in, as if dragging her feet off the side of the merry-go-round is accomplishing anything, opposing the efforts of those who try to improve the here and now.

          That’s my dream, to encourage participation in solving the World’s problems, rather than waiting on a pie-in-the-sky fantasy that NEVER WAS, and never WILL be.

          JWs were told in the 1980’s that “millions now living will never die”, and I remember that Awake! cover that featured the withered faces of those who, in 2013, are now all dead (the article pertained to the old “last generation” policy, which the Society apparently has back-pedalled from at a furious pace, under the cover of claiming “new light”). All Biblical prophecies and interpretations should carry a “use by” date, just like dairy products: unlike fine wine, prophecies don’t get better with age.

  12. Just a joke, guys, as your replies (exhaustive at times) seem to be of the same ‘vein’ – arguing whose interpretation of scripture is the right one. We aren’t learning anything and I (for one) am reading these as an exercise in THINKING. Pedantic and pious opinions based on your interpretation of what’s in your Bible (keeping in mind that those verses were written by MEN, not God, and have gone through many translations) just doesn’t cut it for me. The fact that you can rattle off scriptures by heart only means that you have a good rote memory; the same as if I quoted Shakespeare whenever possible – it would be impressive but would not indicate that I understood what ‘the Bard’ was trying to tell us.
    Also not sure whether “Dave” is the same person as “David Perez” but I do understand where you two are coming from – what some of the atheists (secular humanists/rationalists) are saying make perfect sense to me and can’t be dismissed as having no merit at all.

    So you see that I, also, am on a search as a ‘spiritualist’ but mine has come along a little later in my life (I’m 55 and a long-time member of the United Church of Canada). As Corrina has indicated, there really is quite a bit to think about and I appreciate (as she does) the various viewpoints expressed BUT I have already made up my mind about the ‘cults’. The (good) people who belong to them might not see them as such but many other (intelligent) people do. I also appreciate reading the posts that are obviously written by people much smarter, wiser, and passionate than I am.

    I (as many others on here have expressed) look forward to reading Corrina’s delightful and well-composed ‘essays’ (I am also an English teacher) and the replies to each. Since I just found this Blog recently I am working my way through the previous posts – it’s taking me awhile!
    Cheers!

    • David, (or whoever you are):
      I can agree with much you said. I wrote a rather long reply to your post and then found that there was no attachment to click onto in order to send it to you. So, I’ll have to type it all again as soon as I have the time–hopefully tomorrow. Take care.
      Chuck

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