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Historically, all of the gods that have been invented throughout history have been absolutely horrible. Norse, Roman, Hindu, Greek, etc.- they have all exhibited traits that perhaps a human being would attribute to a truly superior being as perceived by humans- gods that treat humanity as an infestation on the planet. These gods were indifferent at best, and malicious at worst, to human experience and suffering. The god of Abraham, with his insistence that all people and animals in a particular war be slaughtered- to the degree that pregnant women be sliced open to see the death of their child before succumbing to their own death is a specific example of this trend of gods that don't seem to be capable of empathy, actual justice, or any semblance of ethical behavior.

"Oh," Christians tell us. "That was before the new testament. That was before Jesus."

Even in Buddhism, the gods were in awe of the human being, Siddhartha Gautama's, enlightenment, which placed him over even the gods.

So what happened in Christianity that changed their god to one that actually loves, actually respects, actually understands the challenges of humanity and forgives shortcomings?

The answer seems to be that the Christian god became human, and through that process, developed an understanding of human love, human compassion, and human ethics- things that didn't exist for gods in the centuries that preceded.

Could it be that the writers of the new testament were actually proposing the idea that gods are incredibly cruel, incredibly selfish, incredibly stupid, until they meet with the profoundly superior ideologies of their human counterparts? There are many god/man myths, but it seems to me that the one about Jesus fundamentally changed the face of Christianity to include what we've known all along.

That humanity and its fundamental compassion and understanding is the highest example of truth.
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God is spirit, God did not become human.

You are correct that Jesus Christ is a difference maker.

I Timothy 2:5
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people.

Hebrews 4:14
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

God has not changed, Christians are not held to a lower standard that the Hebrews in the OT, but a higher standard.

2 commands fulfill the OT law and the prophets ... Jesus gave those who are his a third that was never required in the OT.
"Love one another as I have loved you."
All 3 commands require love.
1 John 4:8
8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
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You raise a number of challenging points, khalou, more, surely, than can be addressed in this forum. They are topics that I'd encourage you to dig into more deeply, to the extent that you're interested in understanding more fully how a thoughtful Christian might respond. I'll recommend a book that I think would engage your intellect...

For a long time I shared that view, the one you express, that saw God as portrayed in the Old Testament as a God of wrath, given some of what certainly appear to be harsh and judgmental statements, to say nothing of harsh and judgmental actions. Similarly, the message of the New is easily summarized as that of love.

Both of those characterizations are, I've come to realize, gross over-simplifications. It doesn't take too much reading of the OT prophets to realize that, right along with some pretty harsh words of condemnation of unholiness, there are also words of grace, of promised rescue, of--yes--deliverance or salvation. And in the New, Jesus not only speaks pretty harshly to, of all people, those who are the most religious. And the God of wrath is very much present in the New as well, pouring out his wrath on Jesus himself. This latter is very much wrapped up in the mysteries of the incarnation and the Trinity.

Those may sound like utterly silly notions, I realize, but they are--I would suggest--what Christians would be more likely to say when looking at how God is revealed in both Old and New Testaments, not that there was a radical change in the nature of God.

Anyway, this just scratches the surface of what is truly a lot more nuanced than either one of us has offered up to now. May I suggest a book for you? It's called Making Sense of God, with the subtitle Finding God in the Modern World. Here's a link: https://smile.amazon.com/Making-Sense-God-Finding-Modern/dp/...
Tim Keller, the author, has had a remarkably successful ministry in New York City, reaching thousands of hardened skeptics, the highly educated and sophisticated graduates of today's best colleges and universities. I am one of them, and know many more... Reading it may not change your mind, but it will help you be more informed in what it is you're rejecting.

mathetes
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May I suggest a book for you? It's called Making Sense of God, with the subtitle Finding God in the Modern World.

Tim Keller, the author, has had a remarkably successful ministry in New York City, reaching thousands of hardened skeptics, the highly educated and sophisticated graduates of today's best colleges and universities. I am one of them, and know many more... Reading it may not change your mind, but it will help you be more informed in what it is you're rejecting.


I tried it, the kindle version and the audiobook version, both available at my library.

I found it a difficult book to read. He has an annoying habit of quoting other writers, as if the sheer quantity of quotes somehow makes a better argument. I disagreed with much of it.

Here's a couple of quotes from the book:

"Ultimately, nonbelief in God is an act of faith..."

Wait, what?

"all scholars agree that Gospel traditions must originally have been formulated by disciples of Jesus and others who encountered him, witnessed the events, and remembered his teaching."

Wha-what?
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Here's a couple of quotes from the book:

"Ultimately, nonbelief in God is an act of faith..."

Wait, what?

"all scholars agree that Gospel traditions must originally have been formulated by disciples of Jesus and others who encountered him, witnessed the events, and remembered his teaching."


Quotes out of context can be hard to deal with. But in general, he's right. I think for the second one, he must have meant "Historians". There is a broad consensus on that. That is not to say that these experts agree that, for example, miracles really happened.
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Quotes out of context can be hard to deal with. But in general, he's right. I think for the second one, he must have meant "Historians". There is a broad consensus on that. That is not to say that these experts agree that, for example, miracles really happened.

Sure, I objected to "all scholars agree". They don't all agree, of course. Some scholars don't believe that Jesus existed at all. There's is very scant evidence for his existence outside of Christian writings.

Do you agree with him that ultimately, nonbelief in God is an act of faith?

I'm reading a book right now about faith (the faith of God, actually). In it, the author talks of faith as trust, dependence and hope, not absence of doubt, and not believing in something with insufficient evidence. I like this definition of faith.

Some atheists hope there is no God. I don't think this can be described as faith, though.
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Do you agree with him that ultimately, nonbelief in God is an act of faith?

Yes, depending on how you define faith. I think it is just a play on words. It reminds me of a book "I don't have enough faith to be an Atheist" by Geisler and Turek. Their point was that in light of the evidences for God, its takes a lot of faith to still believe there is no God.

Faith can be simply putting your trust in something/someone. I have faith that my brokerage is going to protect my retirement savings. I have faith that the other drivers on the highway will stay in their lanes and not hit me. Seems to me that atheists trust their future on the premise that the God of the Bible does not exist.

I note how you phrased it, "nonbelief in God". This is not the traditional definition of atheism, but reflects a more modern attempt by atheists to try to avoid any burden of defending their position. "I just lack a belief in God, I'm not making an assertion that I have to defend".

Seems to be weasel words to me.
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"...I think it is just a play on words. It reminds me of a book "I don't have enough faith to be an Atheist" by Geisler and Turek. Their point was that in light of the evidences for God, its takes a lot of faith to still believe there is no God.

Faith can be simply putting your trust in something/someone. I have faith that my brokerage is going to protect my retirement savings. I have faith that the other drivers on the highway will stay in their lanes and not hit me. Seems to me that atheists trust their future on the premise that the God of the Bible does not exist.

I note how you phrased it, "nonbelief in God". This is not the traditional definition of atheism, but reflects a more modern attempt by atheists to try to avoid any burden of defending their position. "I just lack a belief in God, I'm not making an assertion that I have to defend". Seems to be weasel words to me.

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I don't know. I think there are various levels of atheism, just like there are various levels of religious faith.

There are atheists who are pretty passive about it, who might also be called agnostics, who just don't believe. They might feel differently if some sort of evidence, whatever it might be, was presented, or presented itself, to them. The more active (non)believers, who say "I absolutely, positively believe that there is no God," may be more rare, which is good, because they're the ones who seem to generate nuisance lawsuits, and make themselves obnoxious in other ways.

I try not to fall into the trap of judging who is entitled to be called a Christian. I'm not going to try to sort out who is eligible to be an atheist.

Bill
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I try not to fall into the trap of judging who is entitled to be called a Christian. I'm not going to try to sort out who is eligible to be an atheist.

It's a skill, you have to practice more if you want to get good at it
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<<Do you agree with him that ultimately, nonbelief in God is an act of faith?>>

Yes, depending on how you define faith.

Sure. I don't "believe that..." very much. I don't believe that Jesus performed miracles. I don't believe that he was born of a virgin or that he bodily rose from the dead (a spiritual resurrection is another matter). My faith, such as it is, has to rest on hope.

I note how you phrased it, "nonbelief in God". This is not the traditional definition of atheism, but reflects a more modern attempt by atheists to try to avoid any burden of defending their position. "I just lack a belief in God, I'm not making an assertion that I have to defend".

Seems to be weasel words to me.


That's Tim Keller's words, the author of the book. This is a direct quote:

"Ultimately, nonbelief in God is an act of faith..."

What is the traditional definition of atheism? Dictionary says "disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods". Seems pretty straightforward. Though I've never liked the idea that the atheist "simply believes in one less god than you do". My thoughts (I won't say belief) about God are not of the old man in the clouds variety. I don't think of God as Zeus or Thor. God is the ultimate, the sum total of everything.

This is a relevant quote from the book I'm reading*:

Faith, on the other hand, desires the truth of the proposition. Thomas Nagel gives us an excellent example of faith—faith that atheism is so. “I want atheism to be true. . . . It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”21 Nagel plainly states that he not only believes that atheism is so but deeply cares about it being so. He hopes that atheism is so. Nagel would be disappointed to learn that theism (or his misunderstanding of theism) is true. Therefore, Nagel has faith that atheism is so. While Nagel is admittedly an odd example, I think it shows that faith and belief are different animals.

I think some of the atheists here would agree with Nagel. They do hope there is no God, they don't want the universe to be like that. IIRC Hitchens had that view.


*The God Who Trusts, page 35.
https://www.amazon.com/God-Who-Trusts-Relational-Theology/dp...

(You might enjoy the book. Full disclosure - the author is a friend and gave me a review copy).
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I don't know. I think there are various levels of atheism, just like there are various levels of religious faith.

Yes. The "Spectrum of theistic probability":

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrum_of_theistic_probabili...

"Popularized by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, the spectrum of theistic probability is a way of categorizing one's belief regarding the probability of the existence of a deity."

I think most atheists here would be a 6 ("De facto atheist" - correct me if I'm wrong). Most Christians would be a 1 in public and a 2 in private if they thought about it some. I flop around between a 3.99 and a 5.01. A leaf in the wind ;-).

I try not to fall into the trap of judging who is entitled to be called a Christian. I'm not going to try to sort out who is eligible to be an atheist.

Where's the fun in that?

I thought we came to the conclusion on this board long ago that a Christian is "anyone who says they are". An atheist should be the same.

I object to being labelled as an atheist, as some have done, when what I'm doing is trying to figure it out. And what's nice about my decades long quest, is that while I'm still ruminating I don't feel qualified to serve on any boring church committees!
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I've never liked the idea that the atheist "simply believes in one less god than you do".


It's completely accurate, though.
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<<
I'm reading a book right now about faith (the faith of God, actually). In it, the author talks of faith as trust, dependence and hope, not absence of doubt, and not believing in something with insufficient evidence. I like this definition of faith.
>>

Trust is an element of faith.
There is a song: "Trust and Obey"

Without trust there is no faith.
Without action there is no faith.

I believe faith is stronger than knowledge, someone may know how to build a bridge but it takes faith to build it. Leonardo da Vinci designed one of the most beautiful bridges I have ever seen to be built across the Bosporus and it was never built. Some engineers say it could withstand a 20 foot shift of the ground supporting it.
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<<
I thought we came to the conclusion on this board long ago that a Christian is "anyone who says they are". An atheist should be the same.
>>
I have never come to that conclusion.

I will accept the label someone claims for their self and proceed accordingly.

The word "Christian" was a term used by the world to identify the disciples of Christ. The term is not defined in the scriptures that i have seen. I try to only use the term for those whom I believe are disciples of Christ but I fail to be consistent it is an easy term to blanket a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations.
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I've never liked the idea that the atheist "simply believes in one less god than you do".

<< It's completely accurate, though. >>

I have noticed that many serve more than one god.
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