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Four Extraordinary Aspects of Christianity That Atheists Can't Explain

Discuss religion and spirituality topics.

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Post by celery2010 » March 25th, 2014, 3:54 am

Winston wrote:Bart Ehrman, a distinguished Bible scholar, historian and former Christian, made a great point in his book "Did Jesus Exist?" about why a historical Jesus existed.

He said that no one at the time was expecting a messiah that would be crucified. A crucified messiah was never part of Jewish beliefs prior to Christianity. So if someone were to make up a messiah, he would make up a great warrior or king figure that won many battles and freed many slaves, like King David or Moses. They would not make up a messiah that was executed by the Romans in the most humiliating way. That would mean that the messiah was defeated and failed. It would be a downer and would not inspire people.

So most likely there was a historical Jesus who was crucified, which left his followers confused and disillusioned. So they began looking for a way to justify a crucified messiah. They reinvented the whole theology of the Old Testament, and claimed that it was God's plan all along to have the messiah crucified to wash away our sins. In doing so, they embellished stories about Jesus, including his alleged resurrection.

This is in fact, the view that most historians hold about the historical Jesus. You can listen to Bart Ehrman's interview about this here:

Furthermore, Dr. Ehrman says that the Romans did not commonly worship dying and rising pagan saviors. He says that is a myth that Atheists created that is not backed up by historical evidence. I don't know about this and have not looked into it. But if he's right, then I wonder where Archarya S got her sources.

I think that Dr. Ehrman is probably right. Plus, a hoax can only go so far. People can feel the difference between truth and falsehood at a deeper level. For example, women usually know when their partner is cheating on them, even when they have no evidence. They can sense it at an instinctual and intuitive level. Likewise, people can feel out a hoax eventually, even if they fall for it at first. It loses its power over them over time.

Also, a hoax does not result in millions of lives being transformed, and early Christians enduring three centuries of Roman persecution. Nor can a hoax become the world's biggest religion. A hoax does not have the power to transform lives, answer prayers (in ways that coincidences can't, which Atheists can't explain and can only dismiss) and perform real miracles (many of which are documented and attested to by multiple eyewitnesses). It just would not make sense.

Even if the Bible and Christian doctrine are not literally true, there does seem to be something very real behind the power of Christianity. Even as a non-Christian, I can see this. It's obvious. But we could say the same for Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and even New Age beliefs too. There seems to be something very real and transformative behind those religions as well. Most likely, they all contain kernels of truth at some level in their teachings. After all, all beliefs have some degree of truth in them, and this includes religious beliefs as well.

The problem with Christianity is that it has gotten a bad rap from fanatical literalists, and people who have done great wrong in its name (e.g. Crusades, Inquisition, Witch Trials, punishment and executions of opposers to the Church, subjugation of native tribes, etc). It has also become too institutionalized and subjected to politics, power, control and money (especially with the Catholic Church). It also makes extreme claims, such as if you accept Jesus as your Savior you will go to Heaven, but if you don't, you will go to Hell.

All of this has contributed to its highly controversial reputation. But most likely, it has deviated greatly from the original teachings of its founder, Jesus, and his early disciples. So if you remove all that, it becomes not as bad, and perhaps you can then find some truth in it.

Perhaps if we learn to look at these religions more as symbolic metaphors of truth, rather than as literal truth, they would make a lot more sense to the reasoning mind. After all, taking religion too literally results in too many logical problems that cannot be resolved.

So I think that's the best way to approach this. We should see mankind's religions as ideas which point to a higher truth, and serve as archetypes of our collective consciousness. Even Buddhism and Zen teaches that their religion is like a finger pointing at the moon. The finger is not the moon itself of course, it merely points to it.

It would make a lot more sense to look at religion this way. If we did, it would end the perpetual squabbling and debate between different religious beliefs, religion and science, theism and atheism, etc. In doing so, such dualities and dichotomies would be transcended. I think this view would be far wiser and more reasonable than grappling with literal interpretations that cannot be proven or disproven one way or another.
Jesus was clearly prophesized in the Old Testament in Isaiah.

However, ultimately physical evidence is not what is important.

As you stated, millions of lives have been transformed.

The best way is to try yourself.

Let me tell anyone here listening a little story.

A coincidence happens-- 99% of the time, you are not going to attribute it to a religious reason/source.

Now have it happen 3 or 4 times. Still doubtful-- just a coincidence.

Now have it have over 50 or 100 times. It's hard to refute the evidence at this point, isn't it?

if you seek, there will be ways in which it simply can't be coincidence. Like for example if A, B, C, D, E and F all happened in sequence all in a certain period of time.

For example-- you can stay in a haunted house and perhaps a big piano moved 3 feet right in front of your face. And then a dish flew right in the middle of the air. Perhaps there's a logical explanation. Perhaps when people meet you and explain--.

In short, there's no easy way to convince someone else that these things actually happened, unless they were there with you.

But then, more illogical things happen. At that point, you will probably stop staying there.

In religion, the things are not of this world, and can't be seen or proven-- that's exactly what it actually says. The world is a fallen place and you must avoid bad influences. the tenets are not impossible to follow and actually lead to more happiness.

Tell me the last time you ever saw a homeless and broke believer?

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Post by bladed11 » April 3rd, 2014, 8:27 pm

Jesus Christ never said become a christian. He said we should get oil in our lamps and this is the pineal gland and the oil is our spinal fluids. That's why a glutton or sexual perverted or any of evil people can't see the kingdom of God they acidic and filled their eye with darkness. How great is that darkness when it is dark. People who drain their sexual energy every night. Christians watch porn like maniacs. They are dry as death. Christian church will never ever tell you this. I get banned from forums for talking about this stuff. It is what they hate and really fear. When we awaken fully we can manifest like crazy and will manifest the evil ones destructions. That is the wrath of God.

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Post by Falcon » September 1st, 2014, 1:25 am

I was born into and raised by a devout Taiwanese Protestant Christian family in the US, and made to go to church for 18 years. If I wanted to read a book on another religion, I would have to smuggle it into the house and hide it. These modern Protestant people shove things down your throat, and you can't speak out against anyone. When I was in college, the only people who would approach me on campus were Intervarsity and missionary-type college students who were trying to increase their fellowship membership.

Roman Catholics now are much more open to interfaith dialogue and less prone to zealous proselytism than the Protestants are. Today's Evangelicals love to brand all other religious beliefs as Satanic, including even other branches of Christianity, whereas Catholics mostly keep to themselves nowadays.

I'm not a big fan of hard-line atheism either. It's the narrow-minded Fundamentalist mindset that annoys me. It's that dogmatic, "only I am right" point of view that you can't argue with.

I just prefer to view things from a secular and scientific perspective. Yet, I have also worshiped with Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Hindus in their places of worship and delved into their inside worlds as a form of cultural immersion and appreciation of spirituality. I would say that my views on religion are similar to those of Albert Einstein's.

The kind of Christianity you're talking about here is modern American evangelicalism. Most Asian Americans are in Protestant non-denominational or Baptist churches that are Evangelical to various degrees, even if they don't nominally identify themselves such.

In church, you're expected to be a sheep who is led by a pastor. DO NOT mention books about the Gnostics or the Historical Jesus in a Protestant church. Speaking out will get you sharply criticized and lectured by church elders.

It does change lives for the better, and I have great respect for Christians who devote themselves to making the world a better place to live. It's just that they often go too far to force-feed their beliefs to other people, including their own family members.

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Post by gsjackson » September 1st, 2014, 2:13 am

MrPeabody wrote: The more I study Christianity, the more I am coming to the conclusion that it is monstrously complex and an ascetically ugly system. It seems that what Christianity takes 10,000 books to say, Buddhism can say in one paragraph.
I'm guessing you mean "aesthetically ugly system" rather than "ascetically..." Ascetically could work in the sentence, though the concept is probably associated more with Buddhist renunciation than Christian hairshirts.

Speaking of the aesthetics of religions, the more I see of the world, the more I notice that Christianity usually leaves in its wake quite liveable and often very beautiful physical environments. Buddhism, and the Hinduism it derives from produce a filthy, squalid and repulsive environment -- perhaps a reflection of the emphasis on going inward and ignoring the surrounding world.
Last edited by gsjackson on September 1st, 2014, 3:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by pandabear » September 1st, 2014, 3:49 am

You guys should really watch Marjoe's documentary. Here are some brief excerpts.

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Re: Christianity's Four Extraordinary Unexplainable Aspects

Post by MrMan » September 1st, 2014, 10:04 am

Hi Winston,

I wanted to address some of the points you made. I posted quotes from one of your articles you linked.
The world is unjust and life is unfair. Good people suffer and die young. Peacemakers with mass influence get taken out and assassinated (JFK, RFK, MLK, Lennon, etc.). The strong take advantage of the weak and oppress them, and the world is ruled by the "might is right" principle. Even animals have to kill each other for food. So how can the majority of the world continue to believe in a God who is all-good and all-powerful, yet allows all this to continue to be? That is odd. Yet most people don’t think about it. They simply believe, not because of proof or evidence, but because most people around them believe it, so they assume it must be true. However, it is logically impossible for there to be a God who is both all-powerful and all-good, as Christians claim, yet allows all this to be. There is no resolution or escape from this dilemma. No theologian or philosopher has ever solved it. It remains the eternal paradox. Therefore, we must question our assumptions about God, which may not be correct.

To put this in perspective:

1.Most of the world’s population, billions of innocent people, are suffering in hunger and poverty, now and throughout history.
2.Evil is allowed to exist, run rampant, go unpunished, and attain positions of power more often than not. The world is unjust and life is unfair. Good people suffer and die young. And animals have to kill each other for food.
3.God is all-powerful and all-good, yet allows #1 and #2 to exist, both now and throughout history.

I don't see a logical contradiction here at all. I know one man's philosophical or theologican struggles may not bother another person. I can understand that. You seem to be making a lot of assumptions about morality and Christian thought that God has not revealed himself.

Even this idea that God is 'all-good'. You seem to be bringing in an idea of 'good' that God has not revealed in the Bible. You assume that if God is good, that He won't allow suffering. Does the Bible present suffering as a bad thing?

Let's consider parents. Parents make their children suffer. Getting a kid out of bed at 6:30 AM and sending him to a school when he would prefer to play video games or climb trees is a certain degree of suffering. Parents that spank their children to teach them a lesson inflict a bit of suffering on them. Why? For a greater good. In the Bible, God allows His own Son to suffer for a good reason. He also allows believers to suffer and commends those who suffer unjustly.

And of course, the suffering is temporary, and there is something greater later on.

Human beings do suffer in this life, but later we all stand before the Creator for judgment, and there is a continued existence after that.

Look at your question number 2. You talk about evil people in positions of power. Your question seems to be why does God allow people to suffer if He is good. I think a better question is why God doesn't inflict more people with suffering all the time if he is good.

If there were a judge who had a case where he had to render judgment on a murderer and a rapist. The man said, "Yes, I raped her. I beat her to a bloody pulp and tortured her, inflicting as much pain as I was able to using all my creativity. Then I killed her in the most painful way possible. But I heard, judge, that you are a good judge and a just judge. And since you are so good and so just, please let me go free because I don't want to go to jail and I don't want to suffer."

If the judge let him go free, you wouldn't consider him a good judge or a just judge. You'd consider him a bad judge.

God is the judge of mankind. Not all these people suffering are righteous, holy people. There are some babies who suffer. But most people who suffer have sinned. Most of them have hated their neighbor, said evil hurtful things, lied at someone else's expense to benefit themselves. Maybe they hit their parents or yelled at them. Maybe they fornicated or committed adultery.

The question is, why isn't there more suffering if God is good. I can give an answer, too. There will be a day of judgment and God will render to every man according to His deads. So it isn't over at death.
All three of the above CANNOT logically co-exist at the same time. The only logical possibilities are:

a) God/the Creator is not all powerful and cannot stop evil and suffering. (if so, then how did he create the whole universe?)
b) God/the Creator is evil, or not good, or doesn't care. Or he has an evil side as well as a good side, like we do.
c) God doesn't exist.
d) God/the Creator is nothing like what you think he is, or is something beyond your comprehension.
e) God/the Creator lets suffering and evil exist for reasons beyond your comprehension, and/or does not have the same morals that you do.
Answers d) and e) makes some sense. Answer c) is illogical. If the atheist says there is evil in the world, so how can God exist, I can also say, there is evil in the world, what does that have to do with whether or not there is a God? These questions assume that suffering is inherently evil. If you like Buddhism, how can you believe that? It also assumes that if God is good, that He is obligated to instantly remove suffering and wipe out evil.

God is allowing evil and suffering, partly, because through it, He is preparing a bride for His Son. He has a plan regarding the church, a mystery through which he will teach certain things to principalities and powers, who probably don't get this whol thing about allowing evil and the church.

One philospher answered the question of why God allows suffering to exist,

"He has a very good reason for allowing suffering"
There are even contradictions in basic theology. For example, the Old Testament predicts a Messiah who will become ruler of the Jews and establish a physical kingdom on Earth. Jesus didn't do that.
But He will. It's obvious from Acts that the apostles believed that He will do that. They asked Him when He would restore the kingdom to Israel. He told them it was not for them to know the times and seasons appointed by His Father and ascended. The earliest Christians believed in a literal return of Jesus and a literal kingdom. A few hundred years later, there were theological frameworks that spiritualized things that did not look for a kingdom like this. Eusebius had one of these looser interpretations, but when he wrote his history of the church, he still acknowledged early interpreters who believed in a literal kingdom like Papias, a disciple of St. John. Justin Martyr in the early second century believed in a literal kingdom.

I know there are ideas from the middle ages that people believe in that the future is just Christians as disembodied spirits floating around on clouds. Popular Hollywood religion presents that belief. I know there are people who go to church who think like that. But the Bible and the earliest creeds present the idea of a bodily resurrection. Jesus coming back and He will reign on this earth.

This isn't a contradiction in the Bible. It's a contradiction between the Bible and 'pop' Christian beliefs.
What the New Testament writers did was reinterpret everything in the Old Testament to make it fit in with their beliefs: The Serpent became Satan. Satan became evil. Lucifer became Satan.
Part of that is not explicitly taught in the Bible, about Lucifer that is.
The OT praises and psalms became prophecies of Jesus, though they weren't. The Messiah came to establish a spiritual kingdom, not a political one (conveniently so, since Jesus failed to fulfill the OT Messianic prophecies). Etc.
Jesus kingdom is spiritual, but it is also to be literal on the earth. It is clear from Acts 1 that this is the case. Jesus has not failed to fulfill any prophecies. He has fulfilled some and will fulfill others later.

Circular Logic

I believe the Bible is inspired. But I agree with you that some people use circular logic on this topic. The Bible is God's word because the Bible says it is God's word. That is circular logic. But that doesn't mean Christianity is illogical and unreasonable, even if some who believe in it make some circular arguments.

Christians believe in a revealed religion. God revealed Himself to Noah, Abraham, and Moses. He gave Moses the Law. He revealed Himself through Jesus Christ.

Jesus said no man could come to Him unless the Father draw Him. The Bible also teaches that what may be known of God is manifest in the creation so that men are without excuse.

Those who take a Reformed perspective might say that God reveals Himself to those He has predestined to reveal Himself to. Other Christians may say those who are inclined to accept God's revelation accept it and those who love evil don't. Unbelief is sin also. God has given us enough to know that there is a God, and at least to kind of reach out for Him whether we have heard the Gospel or not. Those who have heard the Gospel are also without excuse because they have heard the Gospel.

It's not illogical to believe that God has revealed Himself through a revealed religion.

I found this quote odd,
Peacemakers with mass influence get taken out and assassinated (JFK, RFK, MLK, Lennon, etc.).
I can understand putting MLK in the list for his civil rights work. JFK? Well, there was the peace core, but he also had a military showdown with Russia. He also had a reputation for his interactions with women. So did John Lennon, who sang 'imagine no religion....' From a perspective of Biblical morality, how many of these men lived a righteous life?

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Post by MrMan » September 1st, 2014, 10:14 am


Also about Gnostic books, the canon was pretty much decided on if you read early church writings way before Constantine. I believe it was Irenaeus list of books that was virtually the same with maybe a book or two missing.

Even if you look up scholars who don't have conservative religious beliefs or Christian beliefs about these Gnostic books, they are books written way later, in the second century or later. The criteria the church used to accept books as canonical was whether the books were written by apostles or their close associates (e.g. Jesus' family.)

About answered prayer and supernatural stuff like that, I've seen a lot of it. What I don't get is why you would leave your religion if God was answering your prayers? Why not just stick with it?

I've had really specific answered prayers. I was in a difficult financial situation and my shoes broke so that they were at a weird slant. So I prayed to get some brand new shoes at a thrift show for super cheap. I moved to this expensive city and I saw a sign for a thrift shop next door. I went out to look for those shoes I prayed for. I went to that thrift shop and saw a cardboard box outside the store. It had a brand new pair of New Balance shoes. Sure enough, they were just my size. The lady in the store said they were having a sale on shoes and they were $2. These were brand new. The guy had tried them out and didn't like the and donated them.

One time I asked God to speak to my wife about a list of 7 or so things, some stuff I don't think I'd even ever mentioned to her before. She was having some hormonally induced bad moods for quite a long time during pregnancy and it was hard to talk to her. A couple of nights after I prayed this, she wanted to talk to me, and walked me through my prayer list, telling her God had spoken to her about all these things. She was really penitent about it for weeks thereafter and it really changed our marriage.

I had a class mate in middle school who was healed from a very visible eye problem, severely crossed eyes, at church through the laying of hands (we went to the same church.)

I've witnessed lots of prophecies with details and when people get words of knowledge, including details they couldn't naturally know. I've even gotten words of knowledge at times to for people. So there is definitely a supernatural side to things.

I don't doubt there is supernatural stuff going on in other religions, but like the Bible says, the gods of the nations are demons. They can know stuff, and maybe even do certain things. I've heard of people going to the witchdoctor and negotiate to be cured of blindness, but the next month, the person comes down with cancer.

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Post by MrMan » September 1st, 2014, 10:23 am

Winston, you said the Psalms were turned into prophecies about Christ when they really weren't.

But before Jesus, Jews interpreted many of these same passages to be about the Messiah. Early Christian use of passages to refer to the Messiah is in keeping with the traditions of Jewish interpretation. Psalm 22 does predict a wound on the hands and the feet. And there is the suffering servant prophecy of Isaiah 53.

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Post by MrMan » September 1st, 2014, 10:26 am

Winston wrote: Which variation or denomination do you recommend? There are so many of them. It's very confusing. How do you know which doctrines to believe in? You can find Bible verses that support a salvation by works and others that support a salvation by faith. It's all confusing and there are no clear answers.

Plus I'm not sure if my lifestyle would fit into it. You aren't allowed sex outside of marriage. Being a womanizer is not compatible with it either. You can't even pick up an Astrology book without feeling guilty. There are so many restrictions.
You'd have to repent of the womanizing and other sins. Part of believing in God is accepting that He is God. He is the Boss and you are not in the relationship. You should repent before God and then trust God to help you with choosing the right church to go to and with some of the other beliefs. Don't use beliefs you don't understand as an excuse to not repent.

I believe it was Mark Twain who said something like, "It's not the things about the Bible that I don't understand that bother me. It's the things I do understand."

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Re: Christianity's Four Extraordinary Aspects - Unexplainabl

Post by El_Caudillo » September 15th, 2016, 4:46 am

What a good essay Winston, I am an atheist but there are things in Christianity which really interest me:

1) Original sin leading to dispositional, innate guilt - something I think many a deep soul feels and only Christianity explains well.

2) Redemption - this is an important and helpful things if offered in the right way. Not just you go to confession and sins are washed away, but you have the option of leaving behind a disastrous worldy life and living that of a saintly hermit - not option number 1 perhaps, but a good plan B. Buddhism has this but without the same idea of redemption of the soul, merely a cleansing and despersonalization.

3) Jesus turning over the tables of the money lenders at the temple. A strong anti-capitalist, anti-greed message. An evil thing such business must be to make Jesus angry,
Even Billy knows that, just ask Mr S!

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