10-09-13 10:56  •  Free Will to Obey

Magdaline: Don't come crying to me when you end up in Hell! You could have followed God. You have free will. But you are choosing not to.

Christians mention "Free Will" a lot. They seem to be using it to explain how God can be 100% good and 100% in charge of everything, and yet, terrible things still happen.

But I have searched several versions of the Bible and the term "free will" doesn't even appear as such in any of them. In fact I think it's more of a philosophical quandary derived from classical Greek thought.

Does anyone know where the "Free Will Doctrine" in Christianity is derived? Is it scriptural?

Magdaline: I understand my choices. If I make the choice to turn away from God I will go to Hell.

Is that fair?

Magdaline: Why woudn't it be? It is the consequence of a choice.

If I say, "If you walk through that door, you will be in that room," that is a consequence. If I say, "If you walk through that door I will kill you," that is not an automatic consequence of your choice, it is a threat and/or punishment that I am imposing far above and beyond the natural consequence. Is that how people get Hell?

Or is it more like a steering choice...make the wrong turn and you naturally drive to Hell? :-)

Magdaline: If you tell me if I walk through the door you will kill me, and I'm stupid enough to still walk through the door, then yes that is a consequence of my choice.

Is that acceptable to you?

Magdaline: It's acceptable because it would be my choice to walk through that door. You didn't force me, right? You didn't say you shoved me through it. You said you said to me that if I walked through it you would kill me. So I would make the choice to not walk through it and therefore wouldn't suffer the consequence of you killing me.

So, if a gunman came and stood in front of your house and said, "If you come outside I will kill you," you would just say, "Well, that's acceptable" and stay in the house for the rest of your life? Better get the pizza delivery number handy!

Magdaline: I still have free will. It's my free will to keep my ass inside the house, and go call the police.

Calling the police? That would suggest that it is not acceptable to you for him to do that.

Magdaline: Do not mock The Lord!

Seriously, Maggie.

Where is your free will to call the cops on God?

Without recourse, and with nought but two really crappy options - hide inside in fear vs. venture out to certain doom - where is your free will?

Magdaline: My free will is in being told what to do or not to do, and then making the choice.

Thank you, this spells out very clearly the position. If that is "free" enough for you, fun!

However this is like saying the slave has free will to obey his master or face the lash.

Freedom is not picking from the limited choices you are given by another. It is examining the reality, first hand, discerning what the choices are, and choosing, not what you have been told to choose, but what you yourself have determined is the correct choice.

Your "free will" to do as you have been instructed, or else the worst possible thing will happen to you, does not sound anything like freedom to me.

Magdaline: You don't understand. You are headed to the lake of fire anyway. God is trying to save you from it.

God made everything. If He didn't want people falling into the lake of fire He shouldn't have created it in the first place.

Magdaline: If people choose not to accept that ticket that His Son already paid for, then they can't turn around come back when the train they are on doesn't go to where they want to go, and then say "Wait, come back and pick me up. I changed my mind."

Why not?

Magdaline: So you think you should be able to live your life not believing in him, not hearing what Christians are telling you about him, basically thinking he is this made up deity, and then when you found out that we were telling you the truth, you should be able to say "Oh, now I have the proof. Ok, I change my mind, I believe."?

Why not? It would certainly be compassionate of God to allow people another chance.

Magdaline: So do you think that someone who knows it is against the law to steal from someone should be given a chance because they finally realized that what they had been told was really the truth?

The compassionate action is to give people a second chance, yes.

Magdaline: God is telling you what he is willing to give you and if you don't take him up on that offer, then you can't blame him for the alternative not being what you thought.

The minute God actually tells me something I will consider it. I only have people telling me God is telling me. And when I ask the people what God said to them, they don't have God telling them either, they only have people telling them.

Magdaline:Here is the thing about the Christian religion, most non-believers feel they need physical proof of the existence of God. If that is what you need, your not going to get it.

Who are you talking to? I am not arguing the existence of God. I am not an atheist. Also, I have never said I would only consider "physical proof" of anything. I will consider any kind of verification that I can personally experience.

Magdaline: Even if He did, it probably still wouldn't convince a non-believer that it was really God.

Maybe it would. But that doesn't happen so there is no point in speculating.

Magdaline: I could discuss it, but why should I? I could never give you the proof you need to convince you of what we believe.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't discuss it.

Magdaline: Non-believers ask these questions all the time, almost as if they are wanting to make a Christian look foolish because of what they believe.

How do Christians look?

Magdaline: If you aren't really interested in Christianity, nothing we say is ever going to be true enough, nor are we ever going to offer enough "proof" to support it.

I am extremely interested in Christianity as well as other systems of belief. I am interested in discussing them.

I am not asking to be convinced, only for you to present your explanation. It doesn't bother me if it is not convincing. Does it bother you?

Magdaline: Maybe he is talking to you and your just not hearing him.

I don't see why that should be the case. If He is seriously trying to get my attention, and he cannot even be heard over the silence of my meditation, maybe He should speak up.

Magdaline: Either way, I think God has talked to you.

You think a lot of things.

Magdaline: Your not open to hearing him right now.

That's not your problem. If you like what you are saying, talk anyway.

Magdaline: Unfortunatly it may be too late for some.

If God was compassionate it would never be too late.

Magdaline:I, or anyone else, can't make you have that verification because we can't cause you to experience anything.

This isn't true at all. I have been able to find my way to many kinds of experiences with instructions from others who have experienced them before me. I was able to verify that their instructions produced the experience they claimed it did.

Magdaline: We have discused it. So has it changed anything for you?

Yes, I found some very clear phrasing. This is one of the most pointed discussions I have ever had about it.

Magdaline: Maybe your ignoring him.

Yes, Christains always claim that God can just be "ignored."

Magdaline: You have to have the faith in him to get the grace.

If He was compassionate grace would be universal.

Magdaline: So if someone broke into your house and stole from you, you would want the law to let them off because you wanted to give them a second chance?

I might, but that's not what I am saying.

I am saying that a compassionate God would not put someone in Hell because they didn't believe in Him. Not believing is not committing a harm, like theft. It is eminently forgiveable. God should be compassionate and just bring them into Heaven, no matter what they used to believe.

Magdaline: I think God speaks to everyone.

It's nice that you think that. However there is no reason to think you are right about this.

Magdaline: His grace is univeral.

If it is not conferred on non-believers it is not universal. Universal means everyone. Everyone includes non-believers.

Magdaline: Anyone can find God. If they don't it's because they just don't want to.

Yes, Christians often suggest to me that people "just don't want to" believe, as if the total lack of evidence, the massively conflicting reports, the complete unconfirmability, and the utter nonsensicalness of it all do not even come in to play.

There are reasons why people don't believe exactly what you think they are supposed to believe. Those reasons do not make them evil, or desirous of eternal suffering. Or deserving of it.

Magdaline: Let me give you an example. Suppose, because of his poor choices, my child decides to start using crack. That is his free will. But it's not going to work out great for him because it's a bad choice.

Are you saying that not believing in Jesus is a poor decision equivalent to the decision to use crack?

Magdaline: Yes, that is what I'm saying.

Well, you are incorrect. I have a perfectly good moral compass and I have analyzed getting addicted to crack and not believing in salvation through Jesus. I have found that getting addicted to crack produces visible, measurable harm, while not believing in salvation through Jesus does not produce any visible harm, or any detectable negative effects whatsoever. There is no reason to think that it is a mistake, at least not a similar one.

Magdaline: Just because you don't believe hell exists, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Just because you do believe hell exists, doesn't mean that it does. Your belief cannot be confirmed. Plenty of other people have completely different ideas.

And, by all appearances, it seems to be a bunch of bs which is being used to manipulate people.

Magdaline: There is more than just MY say on this matter.

There is also the say of other people. However there is nothing other than the say of people. People can say anything. And they are not all saying the same thing.

Magdaline: The bible says we have ALL sinned....

The Bible could be wrong.

10-09-13 10:56  •  Start of Life

Katy: I know God started it all, Adam and Eve. I just like to start at the beginning of time. Where you believe the first person came from?

MyMy: The myth in the bible has nothing to do with how people came to be. There was no "first" person. That is not how species evolve.

We are an unbroken chain of evolving species going back to the beginning of life 3.5 billion years ago without any single "first" of any particular species. Just periods of adaptation and then stability as each species fits into the changing environment as best it can.

Katy: What happen 3.5 billion years ago? What got the ball started rolling?

Carbon atoms are sticky on four sides. This allows them to stick together in a lot of different patterns. Sometimes they form long chains. Sometimes other atoms are mixed in which are sticky in some places and pushy in others. This forms twisty chains of atoms which are looped around themselves.

On the early Earth there was a lot of carbon. There was also a lot of electrical activity, a lot of radiation, a lot of heat and impact from cometary bombardment, and a lot of geothermal energy in the oceans.

Somewhere in all this furious roiling of energy and matter, some of the loopy, sticky chains started to split in half, and then rebuild on the sticky spots. The same type of particle that was stuck there when the pieces were together, got stuck there again as it drifted by. Pretty soon there were two very similar sticky chains there instead of one.

Some of the chains got mushed apart before they could split and re-form. That was the end of them. But some of the chains were a bit better shaped. They made lots of copies of themselves and not all of them got mushed. The ones that did not get mushed kept going.

Some of these sticky chains found homes inside bubbles. The ones which could make their own bubbles, or cells, were the most successful of all. The rest is, literally, history.

Katy: Oh, yeah? Then what made the carbon atoms?

If you have to push God back to doing nothing since the formation of carbon atoms, what point is there in dragging Him into it at all?

As I have explained to you before, carbon atoms and other heavier elements are made by the fusion in stars.

Katy: There was Creator in the beginning all time anyways.

There is no, exactly zero evidence for this, and no suggestion of it in anything that has transpired since.

Again, if that's the only place in the universe you can find the slightest room to wedge in a Creator, why bother?

Katy: This Creator made time too.

There is no evidence of this. And even there was, it certainly doesn't make any of the rest of the crap from your religion true.

10-08-13 6:56  •  Atheists - What about Life after Death?

Stasia: I have a question for atheists. What do you think happens when we die?

It is not known. Tough to hear, but true.

Stasia: What makes the ones who don't believe in higher power not terrified of dying?

I'm not an atheist, but I don't see how higher power=afterlife, or vice versa. One would not guarantee or be evidence of the other.

In any case, whenever I find myself considering the matter, it means one glorious thing... I'm alive! That is reason for rejoicing! Rejoicing trumps terror. :-)

Stasia: So it's just the end and that's it?

We get this question rather often, don't we? Just for fun, here's what I answered last time:

I have spent my life journaling, scrapbooking and recording the essence of my passage through this existence. I hope to leave behind enough of "what it is to be me" that I can be re-created electronically.

I will leave all of my art and writings in a time capsule, with instructions that it be used to re-create my personality as an artificial intelligence on a computer. When I die, I expect to open my eyes, what seems like only a moment later, to find that I have been regenerated as a hologram in the far distant future. From there I will go on to create amazing art for eternity.

Will this actually happen? I doubt it, but at least it seems to fall within the realm of the physically possible.

Jess: I don't think anything magical happens and I'm not scared to die.

I'm not afraid about dying. Rather, I'm pissed. It sucks. I want to do more.

But, I am happy to take what I can get.

Survivor: Jess, you have a daughter! How can you not believe in the power of God?

Jess: I have my beautiful child because a fertility doctor united an egg from my ovary with a sperm from my DH in a petri dish then implanted her into my uterus thanks to IVF. She is a result of the division of cells.

Survivor: The division of human cells is truly miraculous. But, who/what being devised the plan for all of that?

Upon examination, it does not appear to be planned. Even if a deity was responsible for the initial singularity, every single event since then can be explained as arising naturally from previous conditions. There is no further point at which divine intervention would be required to arrive at our current configuration.

Survivor: Think of this world He created! There are literally hundreds of different types of butterflies!

Bio-diversity is a phenomenon which evolution explains extremely well.

Survivor: My thought is, everything needs a creator.

Some things don't. God doesn't. Perhaps the universe doesn't.

Survivor: It's pretty amazing that everything works so perfectly to not have a creator.

What works perfectly?

Survivor: Think about the original design of our bodies and all its systems!

There is no evidence of this.

Are you familiar with the plight of the rabbits? Their digestive tract was "designed," unfortunately, with the major organ of nutrition absorption before the major organ of digestion. Because of this, they have to pass food all the way through to fully digest it, and then put it back into the tract to absorb the nutrition from it. In other words, they have to eat their own droppings.

This does not appear to be a perfect design by a perfect being. Upon examination, it appears to have arisen as an adaptation to a major change in the available nutrition sources at relatively late point in the rabbit's developmental history.

Nature is full of malfunctions, dead ends, and things that just barely work. Often there are very slim advantages created by an adaptation compared with the disadvantages created by it, and changes in the environment can turn advantage into disadvantage very quickly.

Biology looks like what it is - a big, messy, life-and-death trial-and-error process for keeping what works and losing what doesn't work. Lots doesn't work.

Survivor: Think of the manner of the universe, the changing of the seasons, the sunrise and the sunset, the cosmic universe...

What is "perfect" about them? Be specific.

Survivor: ...our involuntary breaths...

The involuntary breath is not perfect. It fails in infants on a regular basis, resulting in crib death. It often goes into spasm, resulting in hiccups. In particular among humans, the opening to the air passage is positioned very dangerously close to the esophagus, and unlike in some other animals, it has no closure, making choking a frequent cause of death. It's easy to imagine very simple design improvements to the ductways which would alleviate this design flaw.

"Perfect" is a value judgement that humans assign. Nothing in nature is "perfect." There are no observable perfect circles, perfect orbits, perfect systems, or perfect beings. All things are impermanent. Nothing is static, or destined to work like it is working now for eternity. Things change. Eventually, all will fail.

Survivor: Jess may think it was a smart doctor who created her child, but I feel God created the brain, the doctor and the ability in the first place.

Upon examination, the brain appears to be a complex organ which had very simple beginnings, and very gradually grew in complexity and capability over a billion years of continuous life-and-death trial and error.

There does not appear to be any other way to make an organic brain. How could a being simply devise one? Why would a being need to, when they appear to be naturally occurring?

Survivor: All very valid scientific points.....if that's how you're swayed, and if science is how you want to explain it.

I want only to explain it accurately. What kind of explanation would be more accurate?

Survivor: Science has its place. I just don't use is as an explanation for how I got here.

If it is an accurate explanation, why not?

Survivor: Science gets a lot of stuff wrong. They can't even figure out how the dinosaurs and humans walked the earth at the same time. To explain the bones, it's my feeling that the flood destroyed the dinosaurs along with the rest of the humans. But you won't hear most scientists acknowledging this.

Are you seriously suggesting dino-human cohabitation? Does it bother you that there is exactly zero evidence for this, and literally mountains of evidence showing that the dinosaurs died out many millions of years before mammals began to take proto-sapient forms?

Survivor: You deserve your beliefs. I'd rather not be scoffed at for mine, thank you.

If that matters to you, then why have beliefs that are scoff-worthy?

Seriously. You don't have to figure out in your head what happened. You don't have to accept what people say about it. You can examine the evidence yourself and see exactly how it points to the processes which shaped it.

Survivor, I don't want to be scoffed for my ideas any more than you do. But I didn't pick some hokey impossible ideas and then beg everybody not to laugh at them, thank you. I make sure that my ideas are solid, plausible, and supported by copious evidence.

It's a win-win. When I'm right, I have a very strong position, because I've got the facts on my side. When I'm wrong, and can be shown to be, I change my belief to match the evidence and then I'm back to being right again. And when I don't know, I simply say so.

If you don't want people to scoff at your beliefs, make them be true, by changing them to match what is.

Survivor: You called my beliefs "scoffworthy" and that's fine, but realize yours are to me as well.

Ha! Prove it. Name something I have stated that is ludicrous, or untrue, or unsupported by the facts.

If you can construct a valid scoff over my "beliefs", I will thank you for pointing it out.

Stasia: I have been questioning the religion I was raised with, and now I'm terrified! I don't want to die!

Basically, I'm scared shitless in my shaky faith. I've been a diehard believer my whole life and I'm 35. I'm re-evaluating everything I've thought I've known.

Don't worry, the terror wears off pretty quick. And you won't regret re-evaluating. No one ever does.

Stasia: No one ever does in life, but what I'm scared of is what if I'm wrong? The thoughts of spending all of eternity burning is really why I'm scared shitless.

Well, that is understandable. But, you could try looking at it this way:

The Christians are not the only ones with separate "good" and "bad" afterlifes. The Dabo People of the Amazon Basin believe that unless you kill a wild boar by the age of fourteen, your soul will never be able to reach the Land of the Ancestors and will wander in torment for eternity. The Ancient Greeks belived that the soul had to cross the River Styx to get to the proper afterlife, and so it was essential to have coins to pay the ferryman, or you would wander forever on the wrong side.

If you are not scared shitless of being kept from the Land of the Ancestors, or trapped on the wrong side of the River Styx, then there is no reason to fear the Christian threat of eternal torment either. There is no reason to think the Christians understand the afterlife better than the Dabo, or the Greeks, or anyone else.

If you are not planning to be buried with coins for the ferryman, or planning a boar hunting expedition just in case it's not too late, then don't feel you have to make any preparations for the Christian afterlife either. All that afterlife talk is just empty speculation. No one has a line on what really happens, if anything.

On the other hand, you are here now. We know this is real, and spread out before us like a journey. No matter what happens later, you are alive now, unquestionably, and that is a reason for rejoicing!

Survivor: Stasia, don't listen to Raver! She has no right to make you risk your immortal soul like this.

Survivor, thank you again for engaging with me on this topic.

Survivor: Your questions are many and personally, we have such different views that it's almost exhausting at this point, since you are never happy with any answers I give.

Where did you get the idea that this was about you making me "happy"? The purpose of my questions is to communicate them to you and have you think about them.

Survivor: This is evidence that you and I will not see eye to eye, as I think with an emotional brain as well as an intellectual one, you seem to think with an intellectual one only on matters of the existence of God and/or science.

It's easy to say, well, since I am a robot, whereas you are a real person with the full range of human emotions, that we will never reach understanding. Well, that's crap. You do not possess more "emotional brain" than me or anyone else.

My "emotional brain" is fully engaged and I exercise it fully in the vibrant pursuit of my spirituality. I regularly participate in spiritual quests and consciousness-expanding rituals that are not for the faint of heart. I have engaged mind, body and spirit in my quest to understand what is real and what is important, and I do so continuously. It is my highest goal and I pursue it with every aspect of my being.

What you are not realizing is that my emotional and spiritual brains are telling me the same thing as my intellectual brain. The truth and what I feel are not in conflict.

Survivor: On matters of God/faith, my emotional brain wins out hands down.

Your "emotional brain only" strategy isn't working. It is leading you to believe things that are just plain wrong. The dino-human cohabitation thing is just one example. How many other silly wrong things can you be led to believe if you have no willingness to discriminate?

Survivor: Checking things out for myself about science is certainly feasible, however, it will not sway my beliefs about creation/God/afterlife.

Well for God's sake don't bother then. But if you never attempt to confirm what people tell you, how will you ever know if you are being suckered?

Survivor: Please remember, science has its place for me but it is not the only way I live my life.

Give me a break. This is not about science. It is about what is real and what can be known. Science is a tool for determining what can be known about reality, but it certainly isn't the end goal. I certainly don't "live my life by science," and I'm not buying your attempt to dismiss my entire position as "science."

Survivor: My spiritual life is much bigger than any scientific fact that you wish to throw my way and I am satisfied with this more than you will ever know.

My spiritual life is bigger than science too, but, it is not in direct conflict with science. I don't have to pick one and reject the other. They align perfectly.

Survivor: I also believe there are actually some things in life that there are no difinitive answers to even though the scientists feel that their word is the only word.

There definitely are some things in life where there are no definitive answers, like the existence of an afterlife, for example. However, it is NOT scientists who are claiming to know anything about them. It is Christians who are claiming to know about them, and claiming that their word is the only word.

Don't try to tar science with that brush.

Survivor: I'm not concerned about a bunny's digestive system, nor do I really care.

That's too bad, because if you were to actually examine life you could readily see that it is not perfect. Therefore, your need to claim "it's all God's plan" to explain the perfection is no longer required.

If you look at life itself, you can observe that it is a haphazard process of trial and error which is proceeding from the ground up as it goes along, not from the top down according to some plan. It is far from perfect and shows no apparent evidence of design.

Survivor: I don't use the answers in science to disapprove things in my faith.

Whether you use them that way or not, that is what they do. Particularly in the case of dino-human cohabitation, the evidence strongly indicates that your belief is wrong. What puzzles me is why DHC is so important to you anyway. Why would you even want that to be true?

Survivor: I've had enough of your questions. I've got more important things to do with my time, like make sure the spiritual lives of my children and their lives in general are going on the right track.

You had time to write this. You can't be too pressed for time.

Survivor: I'm not in the mood today to debate all the tiny details of unconsequential questions that seem to come my way.

Reality is not unconsequential.

Survivor: We can go on and on in circles and you will try to get me to see that the "science" of it all is the correct way to think...

No, my position is not "science."

Survivor: ...and I will want to convince you to believe as a Christian does...

Feel free to try! I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Survivor: ...but our lives are so very different and our beliefs as well.

All the more reason to attempt to find common ground.

Survivor: I hope your life's journey brings you to where you wish to be.

It does.

Survivor: Feel free to continue to ask questions, however, I can't promise we'll get anywhere.

It's worth a try.

Survivor: Again Stasia, I must warn you not to listen to Raver. Ever hear of the saying "error on the side of caution?"

It's "err on the side of caution." But, what makes you think accepting Christianity is the side of caution? What if the Greeks were right and you need to be buried with coins to pay the ferryman to get across the River Styx? Do you plan to err on the side of caution and be buried with coins?

Survivor: Raver, you can surely have the same argument for me, but I have nothing to lose, you do.

Well, you have to lose that you could spend this entire life a total rube, believing in a bunch of crap designed to manipulate you, with no understanding of how anything actually works. You are certainly taking that chance.

Survivor: You may consider your situation a win-win, but you may find it's a lose-lose.

There is no reason to think that it is.

Survivor: I'm happy I've got God on my side.

There is no reason to think that God favors Christianity over other beliefs.

Survivor: I'll take my "hokey" ideas and run with them, thank you.

Running with hokey ideas is like running with scissors.

Jess: LOL! Raver, I think I love you.

Stasia, if you're going to err on the side of caution, then you'd better check out every belief system that man has cooked up.

When erring on the side of caution, I think it would be prudent to adopt Hindu beliefs too. They are one of the biggest world religions after all, with over 900 million adherents.

Of course that takes a bit more planning. For example, if you want to have great wealth in your next incarnation, it's important to be very generous in this one. Etc. So ya gotta know what you're shooting for.

Just to be on the safe side of course.

Stasia: I want to be on the safe side, but I'm more uneasy than ever before! I honestly am thinking about stopping all this re-evaluating and thinking everything over because its making me scared and depressed.

You don't have to analyze it or think about it any further. It is well known that when something is bothering you, but there is nothing you can do about it, the less time spent dwelling on it, the better.

And please consider this - almost everybody, no matter what they believe, faces this feeling in their lives, and comes to terms with it. The terrifying feelings that come with gazing into the depths of the universe are a common experience of gaining maturity, and are usually only temporary.

Most importantly, there is no pressure to decide what you "believe" right now. What's the rush? "Belief" is over-rated.

The best thing to do is just be your life, relish this moment, and love. Observe, be honest with yourself about what you see, and act with clarity. The rest seems to take care of itself.

Stasia: Thank you so much for such great advice! :)

10-08-13 6:56  •  What's wrong with Christianity?

Survivor: I dont understand why it is so important for the non believers to attempt to discredit Christians or their beliefs.

What does it matter to you if I believe in sin, hell and Heaven, and that Jesus Christ was an Earthly manifestation of a higher spiritual being?

So what If I choose to accept that there was communication between a woman and a snake. A giant flood that tipped the world, that the Red Sea parted, or any other miraculous tale I would choose to believe in.

Does it really impact you?

I can only speak for myself.

I challenge Christianity because it does not seem to be true. I feel I have a duty to the truth.

Survivor: In matters of religion there is no one truth.

I'm not using truth like opinion, where it can be different for everyone. I'm talking about truth that is the same for everyone. Not Absolute Truth; just ordinary truth, like in court when you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It may not be perfect, it may not include everything they need to know, but you are supposed try to tell the truth as accurately and fully as you can.

Survivor: Truth can be an idea or belief that leads you to path of self fulfillment and contentment.

"Having a path" is great. There are parts of Christianity which express precious gems of human insight, and I know people who follow the teachings of Jesus as a path to enlightenment.

However, "having a path" is not the same as claiming that your idea or belief is actually true for everyone. The central tenets of Christianity are claims that Christianity applies to everyone, whether they like it or not, and anyone who doesn't "get it" will go to The Bad Place. Utterly unsubstantiated claims that are supposed to be true for everyone are the ones I feel obliged to challenge.

Survivor: Looking for an absolute truth is beyond anyone's right or ability.

That doesn't mean that looking for ordinary truth is beyond anyone's right or ability.

Our understanding of what is actual is far from complete, but exercising our right and ability to find out what is real and how it works has been one of the most fruitful efforts of humankind.

Some Christian claims are about reality, and we have the opportunity to examine those claims like any other claims. If they are found to be unsupported - or wrong - we have a right, an ability and, I think, a duty, to honor that truth.

Survivor: Truth is relative and the angle from which it is examined can be a variable in how it is seen.

Maybe sometimes. You would have to give me a specific example before I could agree that this applied in that specific case.

Survivor: I would say again though that the facts are not all in and while a thing may be argued prior to the data collection, those arguments are not as strong as they would be had they waited until all facts were in.

Then why do Christians claim that anyone who doesn't believe in salvation through Christ will go to the bad afterlife? There are no facts to support this. Why are they jumping the gun?

Survivor: I believe that the Christians who focus on that part of the message are misled.

Failing to focus on that part of the message doesn't erase it. And trying to pretend it "isn't really the important part" doesn't get Christianity off the hook for the doctrine.

Are people just supposed to ignore the fact that the central tenet of Christianity - salvation through Christ - is a claim that if you don't go along with Christianity you will get the "bad" afterlife?

Survivor: The message we are supposed to send is that of love not fear.

As long as people insist that Hell is real there is no escaping the fear message.

Unless you are a Unitarian Universalist-type Christian, then the doctrine of Hell will continue to be the dark, horrific threat underpinning your religion.

Survivor: I still dont understand why hell is so ugly if you do not believe in it.

First of all, it seems like a lie. It is a fantastic claim which is completely unsubstantiated. I find masquarading unsubstantiated mythic claims as actual truth to be an ugly deception.

Second of all, perpetrating a deception like, go along with me or your soul will fry, is cruel, exclusionary, manipulative and wrong. It is playing on people's fears to secure their compliance. That seems extremely ugly to me.

Survivor: I can laugh at the boogeyman under the bed I would not be upset by any debate concerning him, for I do not believe he is real...

It is interesting that you used this particular example.

When my mother was a very little girl she had a crazy aunt who lived with them for a time. The aunt told my mom and her twin that there WAS a boogeyman under their beds, a real monster, who would devour them alive if they stepped one foot on the floor after bedtime.

My mom's early childhood memories are a morass of nightmares, terrified bed wettings, punishment, and abject fear. She said that even as they approached the teen years, she and her sister would stand on the edge of their beds and jump as far as possible towards the door if they had to use the bathroom in the night, to avoid grabbing claws. She says that to this day, she feels a little twinge when she puts her bare feet on the floor getting out of bed. A lifetime later and that early childhood fear still haunts her.

And all over a cruel, manipulative lie.

If somebody told my children that there was a real boogeyman under their beds who was waiting to hurt them, I would not be laughing about it. I would be saying, "That seems like a cruel, manipulative lie. Unless you can substantiate it, you have no business claiming it is the truth."

This is how I usually feel upon hearing what appear to be cruel, manipulative lies told as truth.

Survivor, I have no desire to offend you. But a lot of what you have written here exemplifies my objections to Christianity. You are giving me an opportunity to describe my objections, and so I appreciate that. Please do not feel this is directed at you personally.

Survivor: I still fail to see how the promise is overlooked and only threat of judgement is focused on by both believer and nonbeliever.

The supposed "promise" is almost as ugly.

First of all, what good is any "promise" offered at gunpoint? Accept this promise, or else? It is tainted by the brutal manner in which it is offered.

Second of all, what promise? You'll get something great after you die? Suuuure you will. Nothing is known of "the afterlife" and there is no evidence that this "promise" actually materializes. It is but one of infinitely imaginable possibilities. So what?

Third of all, the promise is only for those who go along with what they are asking. And they are asking too much. "Believing" in this specific non-sensical, error-filled mythology isn't worth that shallow "promise" or that empty "threat."

Even if it were true, what skin is it off Jesus' nose if people don't "believe" in Him? Why does He have to enforce faith in His "promise" with the universe's worst punishment?

Survivor: I meant no ill feelings by it and fear it would invoke them anyhow. I apologize.

I appreciate that, and I was not offended.

Survivor: The existence of Hell has been neither proven nor disproved.

That doesn't make it possible, or likely. There are an infititely large number of possibilities. They are wildly different across cultures. This one does not appear to be more likely than any other.

Survivor: There is no way to fully substantiate it.

There is no way to partially substantiate it. As far as I can tell, all afterlife claims are entirely unsubstantiated.

In all of this speculation, there is one fact which most people, even most Christains I have spoken to acknowledge: Humans do not actually know.

Claiming that any one of these is afterlife speculations is actually true is claiming knowledge of the unknown. That is disregarding the fact that humans do not know. I find it dishonest.

Survivor: I see nothing manipulative about it, it is simply an explanation of consequences to our actions.

First of all, explanation?

It's only an explanation if it is actually explaining something that happens. If there is no referrent in reality, no way to confirm that it actually works that way, it is not an "explanation," it is a "speculation."

Second of all, consequences?

Do you seriously think that failing to believe the Jesus story, for whatever reason, is a horrible crime, an act so utterly vile that it actually deserves eternity of torment for the mistake?

That "consequence" so totally outweighs the "crime" that I can see no moral way to justify it.

Survivor: It has beauty as well, that all of the bad that goes unpunished in this world will be dealt with in the end and that for those who want it redemption is readily available.

Punishment and redemption available only to the compliant are not beautiful. They are vengeful, cruel, manipulative and exclusionary.

Survivor: There are many many things in this life that are ugly.

Not that many.

Survivor: I find the doctrine of hell no uglier than is life.

I'm sorry to hear that. Eternal torment seems uglier than my life, what can I say? A lot uglier.

In fact I find this life, despite its many sufferings, to be so so wondrous, so joyous, and so incredibly beautiful that I stand with my mouth hanging open just struck with awe all day long.

Thank you again for speaking with me of this.

Survivor: I have no issue whatsoever with the wages of sin are death attutude.

How do you figure that failing to believe in Jesus is a sin? What harm?

Survivor: Its the whole big picture thing again. I find the whole to be perfect thereby reinforcing its parts.


Thanks again.

Survivor: It would appear to me that as philosophers of the past have mused, that there must be truth to something so very many have chosen to adhere to.

No. First of all, truth is not determined by popularity. It is determined by correspondence to reality.

Second of all, Christianity is extremely coercive. Many people in history have had literally no choice but to convert to Christianity or be killed.

Third of all, the presence of some truth doesn't make it all true. Some particular tenets of Christianity could be correct and the "Jesus or Burn" thing could still be false.

The presence of large numbers of followers or some few genuine truths does not make Christianity correct, or the "most accurate" religion.

Survivor: I find the dismissal of all within the text would appear to be irrational as well.

Who said "all"? It is possible to value "Do unto others" and "Consider the lilies" and then still dismiss "Jesus or Burn" as cruel and unfounded.

Survivor: I think that the longevity of an idea can be supportive of its truth.

I don't even know which specific idea you are referring to, but truth is measured by correspondence to reality, not longevity. Institutionalized slavery was an extremely long-lived idea. It existed for almost all of human civilization and was only very recently abandoned. That doesn't mean it was "good" or "true" just because it took people so long to get over it.

Survivor: I would refer you to Jolene's response as she stated this better than I: "I take it as one of the many proofs of the truth of Christianity that so many people are so determined, eager and passionate about utterly destroying it."

Jolene's response is meaningless. The church itself resisted and tried to suppress heliocentrism (sun-centered orbits) in favor of geocentrism (earth-centered) for centuries. Does this effort to destroy heliocentrism provide support that heliocentrism is true? Of course not. What people said or did has nothing to do with it.

The truth of heliocentrism is in the actual position of the planets and sun, not whether people believed the information or tortured people for believing it or whatever.

What people think or do is not the arbiter of what is real. It is what it is.

In discussing the culpability of religion, I would like to point out again that not all religions are equal.  I know everybody wants to let Christianity off the hook for all the evil done in its name.   Religions don't torture people, people torture people!  Right?

However Buddhism isn't known for torturing people, or having crusades or inquisitions. In the last 2,500 years, there have not been any wars or persecutions in the name of Buddhism.

2 3 4 5

If Christianity's ills exist only because people are just evil and can twist anything, why aren't they likewise twisting Buddhism into a cruel pogrom too?

I think the violent, bloody, cruel and exclusionary tenets of Christianity may have at least something to do with the violent, bloody, cruel and exclusionary history of Christianity. 

The lack of cruel and violent tenets in Buddhism may have something to do with its more peaceful history.

Why are people acting like the cruel tenets of Christianity have nothing to do with the cruel history of Christianity?

Survivor: But nothing has "turned out".

Then why are Christians claiming knowledge?

Survivor: You have no proof I am wrong, just a suspicion.

So do you believe everything that cannot be "proved wrong"?

Suppose I am suing you for $5000. Judge Judy says, "What proof do you have that Survivor owes you $5000?" I say, "I believe she does owe me! There is no proof that I am wrong, Your Honor."

Judge Judy thinks about it and says, "Survivor, there is no proof that you do not owe RaverLady $5000. Judgement for the plaintiff in that amount."

Was justice served? Is "You can't prove I'm wrong!" really a valid way to get to the truth?

There is a reason why our justice system was constructed so that guilt must be proved rather than innocence. "Proving a negative" is impossible. It's a logical fallacy.

You can't prove that leprechauns don't exist either. That doesn't mean they do, or that it is a good idea to claim that they do.

Jolene: Belief in the doctrine of Christianity, when acted upon, causes people to actively reach out to help and love others, treating all with respect and kindness.

Any good moral structure, "when acted upon," would cause people to act morally. Christianity is nothing special. Particularly since a) it is not at all reliably "acted upon," based on the fact that Christains cannot be shown to actually act more morally than anyone else, and b) it is dragging along with it a horrific and totally unsubstantiated doctrine of vengeance, fear and exclusion.

Jolene: It encourages people to be moral, safe in the certainty that God loves us enough to welcome us to His Kingdom regardless of our faults or sins...

...unless your "sin" includes questioning the Jesus story.

Jolene: Christianity is nothing more than a personal belief that helps the believer and others, including non-believers, and harms no one.

Except homosexuals, some children whose parents decorate their house with Halloween decorations, etc.

Jolene: The only rational reason to oppose this belief is if someone wants to dominate others...

Or, simply because a lot of it does not seem to be true.

Jolene: ... and force them to evil.

So, questioning Christianity = evil. How very cruel, exclusionary and incorrect.

Marnie: Do you believe in prison for those who do worldly wrong?

Depends on what the "wrong" in question is.

Marnie: Or do you believe everyone should be able to do whatever they want with absolutely no consequence to their actions?

There are always consequences. Some are naturally occurring and arise directly as a result of actions. Others are artifically imposed. Sometimes artificially imposed consequences seem fair and appropriate and other times they don't.

Marnie:If you believe in prison, why is it so hard to believe in hell?

There is no evidence that "hell" is real. What the afterlife consists of, if anything, is not known.

Marnie: It is merely a place people go for doing spiritual wrong.

Failing to believe the Jesus story, for whatever reason, is not a "spiritual wrong," any more than failing to believe in Zeus and Apollo or Odin and Thor is a "spiritual wrong."

Marnie: As a Christian, I believe even Christians may end up there also if they do not follow Christ's teachings. So why is it exclusionary?

Because it excludes "Christians who do not follow Christ's teachings," as well as all non-Christians, from the "good" afterlife.

Marnie: It's no more unjust than a lifetime in prison, if you do not believe in eternity.

A "lifetime" in prison is the sentence for causing great and terrible harm, not just thinking the wrong thing. I don't think any person deserves a lifetime in prison or an eternity in torment just for the "crime" of not agreeing with you.

Marnie: We see it as a love of God issue, and by following His path, we don't have to worry about hell, any more than someone following the law has to worry about prison.

Sorry, I refuse to equate being Hindu, Shinto, Buddhist, B'hai, agnostic, Pagan, etc. with breaking the law.

"Jesus or Burn" is cruel, vengeful and exclusionary because 1) not believing in Jesus is not a crime, and 2) even the non-believer was incorrect, it would simply be a mistake, and one hardly worthy of an eternity in The Bad Place. The "punishment" does not fit the "crime."

Marnie: I don't get you.....I don't get where you really stand or what you really feel. Is this really how you believe, or is this simply a debate to you?

To whom is this question addressed? I'd be happy to answer any questions about my position or my spiritual practice.

Marnie: I doubt that anything minor will be considered an 'eternal damnation' event.

The Christian doctrine I am talking about is the one that says because Adam and Eve ate the fruit, all humans are born with "original sin" and deserve Hell, but IF you have faith that Jesus died for your sins, you receive "redemption" and get to go to Heaven instead.

That may or may not have anything to do with what you personally believe, but it is hardly an unusual interpretation. As far as I can tell, Salvation Through Christ is the central tenet of Christianity. There are plenty of Christians I know who think that anyone who does not accept Jesus as their savior will end up in Hell after death. The only denomination I know which explicitly rejects this doctrine are the Unitarian Universalists.

Marnie: And if you don't believe, why do you worry?

I don't worry that it will actually happen, any more than I worry that if I'm not buried with coins for the Ferryman I will spend eternity on the wrong side of the River Styx. Both are utterly unsubstantiated afterlife mythologies and these two concern me no more than a dozen others.

Marnie: Or care?

Because people are making claims of knowledge where no knowledge exists, and have been using these unsubstantiated claims to frighten people into compliance for thousands of years. That seems wrong to me.

Marnie: Or try to sway people from what they believe?

I say what I think. I certainly would not keep silent, just because somebody might be influenced by what I have to say.

Marnie: I believe I'm right; you believe you're right.

What exactly are you talking about? I try to avoid beliefs and I would certainly not claim to be "right" about something unless I had serious substantiation for my claim.

Marnie: I will not put you down for your beliefs, or tear them apart.

I have put no one down. And if I believed something that could not be substantiated, I would thank you for pointing it out, the sooner the better. I would not fear your scrutiny. I would welcome it.

Marnie: But I don't appreciate God being torn apart just because you don't believe.

What does this have to do with God? I'm not an atheist. And if God truly has structural integrity there are no words that could possibly "tear Him apart."

Marnie: I'm not cruel. I know some non-Christians. But I don't tell them they are going to burn in hell if they don't believe.

Do you think they will?

Survivor: What does it matter what she thinks?

I'm interested. If you are suggesting that the question is out of line, I do not agree.

Survivor:When I consider the possibility of someone going to Hell I am greatly saddened.

Do you think they will?

Marnie: Unless you can illustrate negative impact cause by what you deem to be manipulation in my life or the lives of those who are involved in this conversation, then it is not a rational concern for you to have.

If you truly can see no negative impact from Christian manipulation in the lives of those involved in this conversation, you are not paying attention. Or perhaps somehow you just missed it. So, let me illustrate a few examples for you.

In Real Life

I have lived in an overwhelmingly Christian state for the last ten years. I've lived in two different cities here, and in both locations we have been the direct recipients of cruel harrassment. This includes my son being bullied, threatened and physically harassed at school by Christian children for being "nothing." This also includes our property being vandalized - somebody defaced the beautiful Hotei (Laughing Buddha) statue in our garden with black spray paint and scrawled the word "Hellbound" across his tummy.

On an every day basis, it also includes being subjected to public Christian prayer at every type of event we participate in, from alumni banquets to kid's soccer games to Toastmasters meetings to 4th of July fireworks displays. It includes living in the shadow of giant crosses erected all over town. It includes having our entire downtown turned into a Christian billboard during December when the high-rise office lights are left on in the shape of crosses. The ever-present conceit that Americanism = Christianity feels like unrelenting exclusion to us as non-Christians.

And, this also includes our current predicament. Right now all the boys at school are clamoring to join the newly forming Scout troop. More than anything my son would like to join the Cub Scouts with his friends. However we are told by the local pack leader and by the Boy Scouts of America that unless my son "recognizes his obligation to God" and pledges an "oath to God" at every meeting, he is not welcome in the Scouts. Apparently their claim to be "nonsectarian" only includes Christian sects, while non-theistic spiritual traditions like Buddhism are not acceptable.

The coercion and threatening of children I find particularly disturbing. One good friend of mine was raised here in the Assembly of God church. She told me that when she was in the first grade, she absent-mindedly scratched an itch on her nose with her middle finger. She suddenly became paralyzed with fear as she realized what she was doing, because she was afraid that God would think she was flipping Him off! She said that for several years afterwards she lived in terror, afraid she would end up in eternal torment in Hell for disrespecting the Lord. She said it wasn't until she got married (into a much less religious family) that she began to see that perhaps the vengeful God of her youth had been a bit overstated.

This kind of fear is not at all unusual, I have talked to many Christians with similar stories of terror from their childhoods.

On Line

Closer to us, here in our forum, you might have noticed that we had not one but two big Christian misfires at Halloween. One person reported how her children were harassed and told they were celebrating Satan's Birthday or some such crap because their house had Halloween decorations. The other was a drive-by-preaching post about how "true Christians" should not be "celebrating the occult" and "enabling" Satan. Everyone here seemed to agree that this was over the line, but it's hardly an unsusual occurrence at Halloween. We get it at the Crossroads every year.

And, over the years of participating in this kind of online discussion, I have been repeatedly classified by Christians as spiritually blind and/or crippled because I don't "get it." Not because I am an atheist, because I'm not; not because I am am anti-religious, because I'm not; not because I am rude and insulting, because I'm not. There is no evidence at all to suggest that I am lacking in normal human sense ability. Yet, I'm repeatedly accused of "spiritual colorblindness" and dismissed simply because I don't go along with some Christian claims.

Our Nation

There are plenty of problems at the civic level too. Have you been ignoring the fact that our gay brothers and sisters are being relegated to second-class citizenship? Biblically-based homophobia is being legislated. Not to mention the continual attack on science and reason by Christian "intelligent design" and "abstinence only" movements.

Furthermore, and even more disturbing, there appears to be a serious side effect when large portions of a society are forced to devalue reason in order to cling to their dogmas. People who accept unsubstantiated religious claims just because they "like" them seem easily able to accept other unsubstantiated claims they like, such as "Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction." On the eve of our march to war, almost 80% of Americans thought this was true, even though it was completely unsupported, easily refutable at the time, and is now widely acknowledged to be total bunk.

The U.S. is the most religious of the first world nations, and we were also practically alone among them in our march to Iraq. For the last decade in our country the biggest block in support of war and torture were evangelical Christians. Coincidence?

In a broader sense, studies across societies show that the more secular a society is, the less they suffer from social ills:

Here is the summary of the Zuckerman study.  He presents statistics gathered from around the world through page 18.  He draws a sharp distinction between coersive atheism and organic atheism.  He begins to examine the correlation between organic atheism and societal health on page 19.

Here is a separate study by George S. Paul.  Here's an excerpt:

Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies

[19] If the data showed that the U.S. enjoyed higher rates of societal health than the more secular, pro-evolution democracies, then the opinion that popular belief in a creator is strongly beneficial to national cultures would be supported. Although they are by no means utopias, the populations of secular democracies are clearly able to govern themselves and maintain societal cohesion. Indeed, the data examined in this study demonstrates that only the more secular, pro-evolution democracies have, for the first time in history, come closest to achieving practical “cultures of life” that feature low rates of lethal crime, juvenile-adult mortality, sex related dysfunction, and even abortion. The least theistic secular developed democracies such as Japan, France, and Scandinavia have been most successful in these regards. The non-religious, pro-evolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator. The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted. Contradicting these conclusions requires demonstrating a positive link between theism and societal conditions in the first world with a similarly large body of data - a doubtful possibility in view of the observable trends.

I would say that there is plenty of obvious "negative impact" from Christianity in our current world, but if that doesn't convince you, then take a look a the "negative impact" from Christianity's past - a horrific mire of inquisitions, witch trials, Crusades, forced conversions and holy wars.

I think there is plenty of evidence both past and present to show that the "negative impact" of Christian manipulation is a perfectly rational subject for concern.

Marnie: I said, where is the negative impact from manipulation in my life?

Do you think that some people, who do not accept Jesus as their savior, or for whatever reason, will go to hell?

Marnie: I dont view that question as relevant.

Well I certainly do, which is why I asked. What surprises me is how reluctant you seem to be to answer it. If you do think so, seems like you would have the courage of your convictions and just say so. Does it bother you?

Marnie: What I think about what may happen to some people does not impact my life. A lot of thoughts pass through my mind. If I dwelt on some of these thoughts that may pose a negative in my life but I do not.

Unfortunately, it's not just about what you personally think. It is about the basic tenets of the faith you claim to subscribe to. You may want to ignore it and refuse to discuss it but you can't make it go away. It's a big part of your religion and it is affecting a lot of people's lives.

Marnie:Has Buddhism given you the opportunity to totally escape all negative thoughts? You never worry about those you care about? You never get angry? I dont think there is any path that fully removes negatives from our lives.

This is just silly. Sorry, just because Buddhism doesn't "fully remove negatives" doesn't make it equal in negativity to Christianity.

The fact is that Christianity has an extremely cruel, violent and horrific history, while Buddhism has a relatively peaceful history.

So, obviously, it's not that people can and do make everything cruel and violent. It happens in Christianity often. It happens in Buddhism seldom.

Do you think the differing tenets of these religions have nothing to do with the difference?

Marnie: I will not ever agree with the premise that it is the Christian faith of today that is instituting the evils in the world.

I didn't say "the evils" as in everything that ever goes wrong. I said, some negative impact. This "all or nothing" dichotomy you keep presenting is not realistic.

Marnie: Why havent Buddhists caused any wars? It is my opinion Buddhism is a very comfy religion. When people are comfy, in warmth and security they have peace.

I find it to be a false comfort.

Wow. False how? What could possibly be false about 2,500 years of warmth, security and peace?

Marnie:Has Buddhism given you the opportunity to totally escape all negative thoughts? You never worry about those you care about? You never get angry? I dont think there is any path that fully removes negatives from our lives.

I felt that this was thrown in as a red herring in the discussion and so I addressed it as such. But I'm coming back to it because I did not want you to think I was ignoring the questions. It is relevent in another sense, and any way I just love to talk about it.

The answer is, Buddhism has given me to opportunity to almost totally escape negative thoughts. They sure bother me a lot less than they used to. Since beginning my Buddhist practice I have spent far less time in needless worry and anger. It has made me a better person and a far more patient mother. Since this is all Buddhism claims to do, I feel it has really delivered.

BTW, I know Christians who say the same thing about their Christian faith, and I'm certainly willing to accept that. Jesus had some pretty wise things to say about these topics. Do unto others, turn the other cheek and consider the lilies are not dissimilar from Buddhist teachings about trancending suffering.

If both Buddhism and Christianity stopped there, instead of going on to to make unsubstantiated claims about the supernatural and the afterlife, I think both traditions would be better off.

Marnie: I find Hell to be a just consequence to failing to follow a simple plan.

So do you think Buddhists and Hindus will get what is coming to them for failing to be Christian?

Marnie: You have repeatedly blamed Christianity for war, pain, being vengeful, being evil,being ugly, a myth equal to Santa, Silly etc. It feels as if you think all the worlds evil is because of Abrahamic religion.

Again, you are proposing false dichotomy. Some, or a lot, is not all.

Marnie: The false comfort I refer to is, I believe you have a false sense of security.

There is no evidence of this.

Marnie: I believe that 2500 yrs is a short time compared to eternity. I also believe that a peace that neglects to acknowledge the dangers in the spiritual world as well as the only viable (IMO) weapon against the force of evil is not realistic.

Excuse me, "realistic"?

There is no evidence that "eternal" life, "dangers in the spirtual world" or the "force of evil" are anything other than your imagination. There is no reason to think these are any more "realistic" than leprechuans or seven years of bad luck.

By contrast, a system that lets actual people live actual lives of actual peace for thousands of years is obviously providing something real. Dismissing real peace and happiness, in favor of what could be nothing more than phantoms, is far from what I would call "realistic," and goes right to the heart of where I see Christianity failing.

Marnie: You claim Buddhism is so great. But Karma isnt a perfect concept, and if Karma were such a perfect device than why have the Buddhists monks been so persecuted in recent years?

Whoa, who said karma was supposed to be "perfect"? Karma is nothing more than the observation that effects arise from causes. It is not a device and nobody claims it is perfect. J. says, "Karma is just a tendancy, not an absolute. Sometimes other people eat your karma and sometimes you eat theirs. That's just life."

Marnie: The certainly didnt act out in violence, why did they die by violence?

If you a speaking of the Tibetan Buddhists, they are dying and suffering at the hands of the Chinese because China is annexing their land. It had nothing to do with Buddhism.

In any case, I never claimed nothing bad ever happens to Buddhists or no Buddist ever does wrong. Buddhist people get caught up in local troubles and Buddhism itself is not entirely without blemish.

However the fact remains that there have not been any wars or persecutions in the name of Buddhism, and there have been many in the name of Christianity. You can dismiss that peace as "false" but that doesn't change it.

Marnie: I believe that Christ will come to all and offer his salvation. I believe everyone will have ample opportunity to accept or deny.

How nice. However it still contains the conceit that Christianity is right and Buddhism and Hinduism, etc. are wrong. I find this conceit unsupported.

Marnie: I would never give up the peace and grace and love that I am gifted by my relationship with Christ whether you find it to be an overactive imagination or not. I find it to be very real. It brings me peace.

I don't remember anyone suggesting that you give it up. But, whatever. I'm glad you are happy.

This had been a very intellectual discussion of some very emotional issues and overall I think it has gone pretty well. Thanks again for speaking of this with me.

10-08-13 6:56  •  Enlightenment

Hybrid: Personally, I think ALL paths we choose will eventually lead us to enlightenment.

What, specifically, do you mean by "enlightenment"? Is this just a nice sentiment, or have you actually observed people being led to enlightenment by all paths they choose?

Hybrid: It's basically my way of saying that there is no hell. I have no idea of what "enlightenment" or heaven might be, but I feel that if it exists, no one would be denied access.

I certainly don't disagree with your sentiment. However I think if you mean "heaven" or at least "not hell" then "salvation" or "ascension" might be better word choices than "enlightenment."

Enlightenment in the general sense means "coming to a greater understanding" and in the Buddhist sense it refers to the transcendence of personal suffering through focused attention and the practice of non-attachment. It is a cognitive process.

I am aware that there can be other meanings as well but I would suggest that they also concern awakening and understanding which happen during the actual lifetime and not after. It refers to what you comprehend, not where you end up. I don't think enlightenment is an apt term for that which could occur only after death. That's my take on the meaning, just thought I'd share it.

Hybrid: I can understand your ideas on it. I just think that after all is said and done, we WILL be enlightened in one way or another.

There is no evidence of this. It seems to be a faith belief, and that's fine, but this is exactly why I am attempting to clarify the term.

Enlightenment, as I understand it, is NOT a supernatural idea that may be attainable in the afterlife, but maybe not, and there's no way to find out, it could be imaginary, so who knows.

Enlightenment refers to a real thing that actually happens here.

If you are interested in enlightenment, why wait?! Be enlightened now! Other people have done it. You can do it also. It's not bestowed by a deity as a reward. It is something you do yourself. You create it.

Hybrid: Either that, or we will rot.

All the more reason to get started immediately.

Hybrid: I kinda hope I end up with an understanding of everything rather than rotting. :)

Well, who doesn't? But no one knows, and no one has ever known, what happens after death, so we can safely ignore it. It doesn't matter.

You are here now. You may not be able to understand "everything" but being enlightened opens up amazing avenues for understanding everything better.

JC: So, how does one become "enlightened" and what exactly is it?

Thank you for asking, I'm happy to explain.

"Enlightenment" is the term used for the process of transcending suffering. It is achieved through the practice of focused attention and non-attachment.

JC: I have no interest in abandoning my faith and beliefs...is it something that is like a meditation that won't compete with my spiritual beliefs or must I give up my current belief in Christ?

It requires only seeing things as they are. I know many Christians whose relationship with their faith became very different as they learned to do this, though certainly not all of them abandoned Christianity altogether.

JC: So, if one is enlightened, they will not rot in the grave and experience some sort of afterlife?

The practice of enlightenment does not address any "afterlife" issues. It is about now.

10-07-13 6:56  •  Making People Work

Mary Ann: I don't agree with handouts. But if you work forty hours a week, you have the right to afford a roof over your head, food, basic health care, clothing, basic utilties and some form of transportation.

I agree. Is there any human being who is so worthless that forty hours of their time in a week is worth less than what it takes to keep them alive that week?

Red 3: I still firmly believe that I as an individual am entitled to nothing. The U.S. is removing all incentives to work harder/smarter/better to improve our own individual lives.

You just want to give people everything for free! Even college! Then the freeloaders will compete for jobs with people who paid for their own way. That higher education means nothing, if everybody has one.

Ridiculous. It means that more people know more things. They have better ability to employ critical thinking and solve problems and carry out their civic duty. They will know history, and thus be less condemned to repeat it. Education is about more than landing a job. It is about being an educated person who can think. How could that possibly mean nothing?

Red 3: Why work, when there's a safety net readily available?

One, because people like to work. Two, because some people like to have things a little nicer than what is available at the safety net level. Do you really think most people would be satisfied at the bottom? If so, then why do the vast majority of people work?

Red 3: Why work more than 40 hrs/week if our children are not homeless or starving?

Maybe so they could save up for something nice, or accomplish something special. But, do you really think our society is failing by not doing enough to make people work more than 40 hours a week? Why is getting more people to work more than 40 hours a week important?

Red 3: Human nature contradicts you, Raver. No, overall, the majority of people don't like to work.

Ugh, that is not true for me or most people I know or have ever worked with. Almost everybody works. At the very least, they don't mind it. Most people have no problem with having work in their life, and many people love it. My parents wake up every day in a fever to get to work and get started.

Red 3: It's precisely because most are not satisfied, that they work and better themselves and their life circumstances. Their desire for nicer overcomes their lack of desire to work.

Of course! That is why you don't have to worry about the U.S. "removing all incentives to work harder/smarter/better to improve our own individual lives." Most are not satisfied at the bottom and work. That is perfectly natural and I don't see how it could be "removed."

Red 3: But once again, it's that desire for "better" that drives the capitalistic model.

Only part of it. The desire for "better" on the part of some is important, but the desire for subsistence is a large part of it too. Capitalism depends on the large number of people who are getting by as much as the smaller number of people climbing the ranks.

In any case, we don't have to make "what's best for the capitalistic model" our criteria of what to do. We have to do what has the best outcome. That appears to be a combination of capitalism and socialism, a very lot like what we have now.

Red 3: And not once did I ever say our society was failing because we don't make people work more than 40 hrs/week. I said we were removing the incentives to work more than 40 hours a week.

Why is that a problem? Why is it important to not "remove the incentives" to work more than 40 hours a week?

What I'm disagreeing with is the idea that we are removing all incentives to hard work or improvement. One, I don't think we can remove it. A lot of the incentive is naturally occurring and crops up everywhere in every system. Two, I don't think we are removing it. Since most people are not on welfare, the existence of welfare as an allure is obviously not enticing most people into its tantalizing web.

Red 3: If you think people like working, then your experience is in direct contradiction with mine. Almost everyone I know hates working, and resents the necessity of it.

All I can say is, I can't imagine how toxic an environment that must be to live in. Bleh.

Red 3: And at no time did I claim that society was failing because of any number of hours/week worked.

I think this was just a misunderstanding. I didn't mean failing, as in, it is causing our society to fail. I mean failing, as in, failing to do the right thing. Do you think society is doing the wrong thing by not pushing people hard enough to work longer? That was my question.

Red 3: What I'm seeing here is the general complaint that the welfare standard isn't good enough, so the government should raise that standard.

Well, I may have missed that. But what I am seeing is people saying we should raise the working standard - ie, a living wage - not the welfare standard.

Red 3: Offer more services, offer more support...

Are you concerned that we may become too helpful?

Red 3: ...redistribute the wealth of the country more evenly, etc. And I don't think that's the answer.

I don't think trying to distribute wealth more fairly, or in ways that work better, will ever mean distributing it evenly. The class system has nothing to fear.

Red 3: My issue is with the seeming lack of personal accountability.

It is possible to help people become more accountable. That we don't do this, I think, is the big failure. Why isn't everyone on welfare required to take "how to get off of welare" classes? Where people are not accountable we should teach them to be.

Red 3: Like those lazy French - they only work 35 hours a week!

From what I understand, the 35-hour work week was established in France for two reasons. One, to reduce unemployment, and two, to get some payoff from modern productivity, to give workers some more personal time to enhance their quality of life. I tend to agree with the second one - we invented electricty and engines so that we could have more time for leisure, and we should get it.

Red 3: But I do believe we need to help ourselves, rather than expect the governmental entity to do it for us.

First of all, "the government" is us. Humans have always survived by helping ourselves AND each other, and this is the system we have devised for doing what we naturally do.

Second of all, overcoming hardship can require a lot of personal initiative and a lot of help. What is wrong with that? It's not either / or.

Third of all, we, through our government, have to deal with the non-working in some way. We can deal with it by providing necessities, or we can deal with it by handling the massive rise in crime and suffering and social unrest and begging that results from not helping. Just look at countries without a social safety net. It's not safe to walk the streets.

Red 3: I honestly wish we would be a more charitable society overall, on personal and local levels.

We are a pretty generous society, and that speaks well of us. I am not sure more is what is needed. I think we need to be providing different things, not necessarily more things.

Red 3: I don't know when or where personal responsibility and accountability began to fade, but that really is my impression of our society today. From the top down - our Presidents to those living in subsidized housing. All walks of life, all ages, all ethnicities, all socioeconomic classes - across the board.

Every generation always thinks that people "nowadays" are too soft. There are ancient scrolls and papyruses complaining about how people just won't put in a day's work anymore.

But when it comes to chronic use of public assistance, the way to get more accountability is not to cut people adrift and then just expect them to start towing the line. Obviously they don't know how to get it together. The obvious thing to do is to try to teach them what they haven't figured out. I have no clue why we are not doing this.

10-07-13 5:56  •  Ick, Blood Sacrifice

Jolene: There are certain laws that were in effect in the Old Testament times, for instance, sacrificing for God, which is not expected to be followed today, because Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice from that point on. In essence, after that, no more animal sacrifices were required for our sins as they were covered for believers under the new covenant.

Why are animal and/or human sacrifices required to "cover" sins? Does the sacrifice somehow "nullify" the sin? How could they be causually linked?

Killing something to "cover" your sin appears to me to invoke "two wrongs don't make a right."

Jolene: The shedding of blood was necessary for forgiveness.

This is gross. Why should it be?

Jolene: Yes, it does "appear" that two wrongs don't make a right, but we will never understand God's way by only thinking with our "human" minds.

Yes, that is God's standard "get out of morality free" card. His morality is "different," and it just looks grotesque, unjust and nonsensical to us.

Jolene: Once Jesus came to earth as the Son of God, in the form of a divine human, his job was to be the final sacrifice for all who would recognize their own personal sin.

I certainly would ask no other being to be responsible for my own moral standing. That's quite an imposition. It is my responsibility and I am more than capable of handling it well myself.

Jolene: JMHO as a Christian and what I have learned.

I understand, I have heard almost exactly this same thing from other Christians. Practically word for word, actually.

Jolene: Since becoming a parent I have come to a deeper understanding that, to be a GOOD parent, one cannot merely forgive every misdeed, bad attitude and destructive/self-destructive behavior in your child. You have to stop it by punishing it.

How can you stop human misdeeds by punishing them with hell? By then it is too late to learn anything.

Jolene: You need to save your child from the true and lasting pain of his behavior, should it be allowed to continue, by delivering a lesser pain - enough to discourage and change the bad behavior.

What is hell a lesser pain than?

Jolene: Until you can surrender to the will of God, it will be difficult for you to understand this.

You sure are an expert on God.

Jolene: Thanks for the credit you've given me, but I'm much to humble to accept it, especially since it's not true.

Oh. Well, in that case, do you in fact know anything first hand about God? Or are you just repeating what some other people say about Him?

Jolene: Raver, you persist in missing the essential point of Christianity - God does not want ANYONE to go to Hell.

That's fine, but you are the one who said God is like a parent who punishes his kid to teach him a lesson and keep him from worse harm.

Are you referring to Hell as the punishment in question? If so, how can a person learn from ending up in Hell for eternity, and what is the worse harm they are being kept from?

If Hell is not the punishment you were referring to, then what is the punishment you are referring to that God inflicts to teach lessons?

Jolene: A common understanding is that Hell is essentially the place where God is NOT - that God, in accordance with His allowance of our free will, has left this one place for those who adamantly refuse life, love and joy (i.e. God) or that this is the spiritual condition resulting from persistent rejection of God.

Ah yes, the "people reject God because they adamantly refuse life, love and joy" theory.

I have spoken to many non-theists and not one has ever said that they adamantly refuse life, love and joy. They usually say that they don't believe in God because there is no evidence of God. Their capacity or desire for life, love and joy does not even enter in to it. They also usually say that their existence is filled with life, love and joy. So obviously they are not adamantly refusing it.

This "theory" is a conceit and it is a loathsome one.

SexyWithFive: God should have just managed without the HUGE sacrifice by Jesus.

Jolene: You believe that asking someone to agree to endure a temporary, passing pain in order to save the lives of a multitude of people is a HUGE sacrifice and asking too much?

I thought the point was that it was a HUGE sacrifice, the biggest one ever made. If it wasn't a HUGE sacrifice then how do you know it was big enough to cover all subsequent Christian sin?

And I guess the real question is, how does blood sacrifice negate sin? What is the causal relationship?

Jolene: If the ultimate truth should be that Jesus was wrong in this belief, His willingness to sacrifice Himself for us still stands as a shining example of pure love - one that is worthy to follow and that I, personally, find inspiring in me a feeling of deep love and gratitude for Him.

That's nice, but there is nothing supernatural about that. It's just as easy to admire people who sacrificed their lives for our country, or suffragettes who sacrificed their lives for women's right to vote. Admirable, yes; magical, not necessarily.

Jolene: You are assuming that Jesus is just an ordinary human being and not essentially God.

I make no assumptions. However, I am not aware of any substantiated reason to assume otherwise.

Jolene: Adam and Eve were seduced by a desire to be, essentially, their own God...

...or so you have heard.

Jolene: God loves you! He is seeking a relationship with you.

That would be between me and Him.

Jolene: Someone who says that there is no evidence of God has obviously never truly studied classical philosophy nor has explored to any depth astronomy, physics or other of the branches of science.

This is ridiculous. Physicists, astronomers, other scientists, and modern philosophers are absolutely the least likely to be theists. The more learned in science people become, the lower the percentage of theists there are in the group. Obviously their great depth of study is not routinely informing them to theism.

Do you just say things?

Jolene: You could understand it, but you refuse to. Each of us was made capable of grasping a part, however, if we will but try.

I have done far more than my fair share of trying. And it has been my great honor to have more than my share of grasping.

I have seen into the depths of reality, energy, space, time, and matter to the heart of the universe.

I have looked deep within......I have vanquished the ego-mind and found perfect silence. I have looked without...I have seen the swirling stars of distant galaxies. I have looked before me...I have seen intricate patterns in an unending dance.

I am all about the trying. And, I am glad to say that it seems to be working. I am grasping to the full extent of my ability and far beyond what I had ever dreamed.

Jolene: I don't understand why my opinion on the subject should matter enough to you to offend you...

Because it appears to be a loathsome conceit based on a Big Lie. Those bug me.

I have looked deeply into the crevices of this universe. Nowhere upon it is writ "Jesus died for your sins to save you from Hell." That does not exist anywhere in the universe except for people talking.

Read more in the Archives.