Open Thread For Fundamentalists and Atheists

… and you know who you are …

Over ten years and ten-thousand posts, and it could have occurred to me earlier to post a thread for open commentary. It has also occurred to me that long discussions with fundamentalists and/or atheists don’t present the welcoming tone I prefer on the various Scripture posts for weddings, funerals, and penance.

Close to 80% of this site’s traffic is on funerals and weddings, so it seems that such folks are less concerned about why Catholics or Christians are wrong. As the coming month progresses, I will be cleaning up the comment threads accompanying many of those posts.

I wish to be clear that my intent is to make for a friendlier welcome for more of my visitors. Diligent commentators like Dick Martin and Atheist Max are welcome to comment on other posts here. Or better yet, start their own blogs. I would be happy to share the publishing of links there and here. I would probably waft over to discuss from time to time.

In the future, I would appreciate if people would refrain from making remarks on sacramental Scripture posts here if you are not getting married, planning a funeral, or seeking reconciliation with God. If you have a driving need to comment on some passage marked for weddings, funerals, or penance, please send me an email, and I’ll be happy to share my platform with you.

Meanwhile, let me state for the record that I do not hold to a fundamentalist view of Scripture. And it is fruitless for an atheist to come here attempting to crosswire an argument against God with a technique I reject.

Discuss, if you please. Continue to cite Scripture if you wish, but I’m not responsible for any levity I might feel as a consequence.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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124 Responses to Open Thread For Fundamentalists and Atheists

  1. Atheist Max says:

    Todd, This page is a wonderful idea.
    Thanks for providing a place for people to discuss these things.

    I have started a fledgling blog of my own with a few ideas carved out. So far I use it to discuss my experience with Catholicism, what it meant to me and the shocking sequence of events and thoughts which led to my becoming an Atheist.

    I’ll start the first volley here by pointing out that Fundamentalists and Atheists are likely to have nothing in common. For one thing, Atheists are not generally making claims for which there is no evidence. And Atheists are usually open to having their minds changed if any such evidence should emerge.

    Atheism simply means “lack of belief in a god.”
    I don’t claim “There is no god.” I freely accept that a god may exist. But the responsibility for demonstrating the existence of a god is in the hands of the person who makes the claim.
    I no longer take it ‘on faith’ that the hierarchy of prophets, saints and priests have anymore reliable information about what God is than I have.

    There are many reasons why Atheism scares religious people.

    Religion provides an apparently wonderful structure to life. For believers; Muslims, Christians, Hindus, whatever…the idea of living without God or at least “faith in God” seems impossible – impossibly immoral, impossibly unstructured, a complete shrugging off of thousands of years of carefully compiled laws, rules, apparent insights, brilliantly creative theologians, ceremonies, etc.

    And for what? Atheism seems to offer nothing but ad hoc rules of social order, a can of worms opened up and sprawled out all over the place. I know. I felt that way about Atheists when I was a Catholic. Atheists were scary.

    The Fundamentalist is dogmatic, reflexive and doctrinaire. Everything circles back to the Bible and whatever interpretation he is wedded to. I have no idea how think that way.

    I was an extremely liberal-minded Catholic. God was limitless. His capacity for understanding humanity would far exceed anything I could consider; “God’s house has many mansions.”
    I often eagerly anticipated that I would to “go in Peace to love and serve the Lord” and I understood that I should do good works not only because they mysteriously brought me a lot of joy but because I believed that by doing good works God would forgive my sins of which I was certain there were many – but that they were probably minor. I didn’t hurt people.

    But all that is gone now. I’m a happy Atheist but it has been a lot of work.

  2. Atheist Max says:

    Atheist Musings:

    If Adam and Eve only had two sons, Cain and Abel, how would humanity reproduce except through incest? And our DNA would prove it.

    And what did Matthew’s Zombies (Matthew 27:52-53)

 do while they were in Jerusalem?
    After they walked out of the graves did they have eyes? vocal chords? (apparently they did).
    But I wonder if they still had the same health problems which killed them in the first place?
    If a saint dies of heart disease and is resurrected, does his heart disease go away or is it still present in the resurrected person?

    And where did the Zombies go after their visits in Jerusalem? Presumably they rose on the day that Jesus died – but they must have been still walking around when Jesus rose up himself 3 days later – so the town must have really been full of walking dead.

    And frankly, why would anyone notice or care much about Jesus rising from the dead that week?
    The number of dead people walking around resurrected would have been more than enough – one more risen body would be incredibly banal.

    No. I cannot believe any of that to be true.
    It makes no sense.

    • Todd says:

      A few observations here:

      – First, Max, you are trying to argue Genesis literalism with a Catholic who is not a biblical fundamentalist. Yawn.
      – You forgot Seth. But point taken.
      – There is no mention of “zombies” in the Bible. Not everybody who rises from a grave and has animation is a zombie.
      – Using that term is akin to political pro-lifers speaking of “infants” in the womb. You and they use a word to stoke a fire, not to discern sense. Again, yawn.
      – Of course it makes no sense. If it made sense, it would be fact, not faith.

      • Atheist Max says:

        Todd,

        “you are trying to argue Genesis literalism”

        No. I’m pondering it, not arguing it.
        If the Bible is not literally true in any of its particulars, what can really be said about it? As I’ve mentioned many times, every Priest and Rabbi insists that some of the Bible is literal but they always disagree about which parts.

        For example, you will agree with me that Genesis is entirely composed of metaphors:
        7 days of creation
        the garden of eden,
        the talking serpent,
        the tree of knowledge,
        the fruit,
        Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel…

        Based on your statement that a “literalist” view is implausible, ‘God’ must be a metaphor, too.

        You can imagine my confusion.

        When one prays to God one assumes it is not a metaphor.
        Examples of other metaphors might be: “Melting Pot” of the USA or the “Fog of War.”
        Nobody would think to pray to those things or that they are real in any sense.
        What makes the metaphor of ‘God the Creator’ so special if he is only a literary metaphorical construction?

        Meanwhile the Bible insists God is NOT a metaphor.
        “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,
        but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” – (Mark 16:16)
        (I’m not proof texting – I am considering your literalist challenge)

        If Mark’s words are literally true, God is not a metaphor. God then would be the one thing in Genesis – the ONLY thing – which is not a metaphor in the entire book.

        I don’t see how you can have it both ways.
        You believe God is literally real through your relationship with him – yet you are claiming the God of Genesis to be only metaphorical and not literally real.

      • Atheist Max says:

        “If it made sense, it would be fact, not faith.”

        That is a curious thing to say, isn’t it?
        What is the benefit of gullibility? You have no evidence for something and yet you endorse ‘gullibility’ while you are at it.

        If ‘Faith’ is all it is, what good are Catholic rules and claims about ‘certainties’?

        Faith is uncertain by definition.
        It is a best guess based on non-evidence.

  3. Todd says:

    Yes, Max, it is a very curious thing to say. But it is the truth. I don’t see what gullibility has to do with this conversation. Is this an adolescent bait-and-switch?

    Some people fall in love, and some are duped into thinking someone loves them. They pull the wool over their own eyes, at times. But there remains in this world, love. And often enough there is no proof, no declaration of love beyond the marriage record, no daily signing of a contract to love a beloved today. And yet people fall in love and stay there.

    You are asking for material evidence, and often enough, there is none. But spiritual evidence, the feelings of the heart: these are not non-evidence. They are just unconvincing to you. That’s all.

    • Atheist Max says:

      “And often enough there is no proof, no declaration of love beyond the marriage record, no daily signing of a contract to love a beloved today. And yet people fall in love and stay there.”

      The evidence for love is abundantly available to us just as is the evidence for hunger, lust and any other emotion. We can identify these things in all of their forms very easily using clear, simple, demonstrable material evidence.

      However, there is no evidence for a person rising from the dead. And Genesis is not evidence that God is real. As you pointed out, it is not a ‘fact’ – it is Faith.

      If everything in Genesis is only metaphor then God is a metaphor also.
      God is first introduced in the Bible in the Book of Genesis – so his reality is just an assertion.

      You are free to believe in whatever you want of course. But Faith is just gullibility – the acceptance of an assertion without evidence.

      I care about what can be reliably discerned. It speaks volumes that no religion appears capable of jumping out of its gullibility requirement.

      • Todd says:

        Evidence for love is there, certainly. But for the unloved, the abandoned, and those who abuse others, the evidence is more assuredly missing.

        For believers, the evidence is known. It’s not anything you would accept, Max, but thus is the gulf between the people who have closed off into their own mind, and those who are open to a love relationship with God.

        As for you, Max, you cannot prove you are a fifty-something adult male. How can you prove you love a wife and family? Sorry, but you can’t even meet your own standards. Accepting your posts at face value is what I would describe as gullibility, and it’s illustrative and interesting you would bring that word into the conversation. It sure didn’t have anything to do with what I wrote.

        Catch you tomorrow, my friend.

      • Atheist Max says:

        I could easily prove my age or any other details about myself – those details are only important in a tangential way and so I would rather not until sometime in the future.
        RNS editors have vetted me as a 50-ish family man who was a Catholic for decades for a story which featured me on their site.

        I’m not preoccupied with your age and location because it is irrelevant. Your arguments in favor of non-literalism should be able to stand on their own and don’t require any particular age or personal history.

        You have said that Genesis is not to be seen literally.
        But that would appear to mean God is not any more literally true than Adam or Eve.
        God is the first character in that book of Genesis.

        I just don’t see a sign that you have considered the implications about what you are saying when you dismiss Genesis as non-literal.

        “The Three Little Pigs” is a non-literal story too. The wolf “huffed and he puffed” but he didn’t really do it in real life. You seem to be saying the equivalent of,
        ” ‘The Wolf’ is literally real but the three little pigs and their houses are not real at all.”

        So is God literally real or not?
        If so, God is not something to pray to.

  4. Todd says:

    Hi Max,

    I remember that RNS feature. But I have my sense of reading you, as a pseudonymous internet presence, as being rather less mature than other atheists I’ve encountered. I’ve long been a skeptic on anonymity or pseudonymity–just how I am.

    I see God as more than a character in a book. Literally real. A someone rather than a something.

    I see Genesis as a book about faith, not as a scientific treatise on ancient history. Adam and other figures are real in the sense they present realities about human nature, faith, and the relationship with God. I don’t think all Genesis characters are literal, but some are. God is one.

    • Atheist Max says:

      “I don’t think all Genesis characters are literal, but some are. God is one.”

      Care to elaborate on how you determined this?

      • Todd says:

        Personal relationship.

      • Atheist Max says:

        Okay.

        Can a Muslim have a personal relationship with Allah?
        And doesn’t that similarly validate the literal fact of Allah? If not, why not?

      • Todd says:

        The God of Judaism and Christianity is the same as Allah–the One God. You can ask a Muslim, I suppose. Why do you change the subject?

      • Atheist Max says:

        I’m not changing the subject at all. I’m fascinated that a ‘personal relationship’ is how you determined that the God of Genesis is literally true.
        I’m exploring the immediate implications and wondering if I’m missing something – perhaps it suffices – I don’t know.

        I mentioned Allah (god of abraham) but I should have mentioned any number of other gods.

        Because that method (personal relationship) would mean that other Gods should be literally true also as long as there are believers who can say they have a ‘personal relationship’ with those gods. If personal relationship is the primary criteria to determine whether a god is literally true, you would have to agree that other personal gods are validated as literally true also by that method. Thus, there are no false gods.

        I’m fascinated by that paradox.
        You determined that Yahweh was real by your ‘personal relationship’ – yet if you are confident in this method, (and you appear to be) it must follow for all other believers who claim a personal connection to their gods too: Vishnu, Ganesha, Allah, etc.

        In other words;
        If one has a personal relationship with Ganesha (as Hindus do), that is how you (and others) know Ganesha is literally real.

        Perhaps you are just very ecumenical and feel those gods are just as legitimate as your own. Or perhaps you feel that all of these gods are really the same god with different names? (would that include Satan?)
        But I wonder if that is what you meant to imply?

        Here is why I am fascinated….You have a personal relationship with the Christian God but not other gods.
        But your method validates that the other gods exist (through personal relationships of other believers to their separate gods).

        Since you ended up with the Christian God, I’m wondering if there is additional criteria you haven’t mentioned yet which convinced you the God of Genesis is more true than the other gods? Or do you think all other gods are real too and just as Holy?

      • Todd says:

        Max,

        My sense if you miss quite a bit. I don’t think you read carefully. Our exchanges often leave me with a vague sense of having spoken with a clever child who doesn’t want to have a real conversation, except on his own terms. It’s one of the reasons I feel like I’ve been in a conversation with a fourteen-year-old.

        Yes, there are false gods.

        There is a difference between a personal connection and a personal relationship. Tighten up your language and logic, my friend.

        My relationship is with Jesus Christ. I have no interest discussing other religions with an atheist. You’re going to have to find Hindus, Buddhists, and others willing to exchange with you.

        Before I engage more of this conversation, I suggest you explore my blog a bit more deeply. If you are truly fascinated, you’ll do some work yourself. I’d rather not be bothered with reiterating what I’ve written on this site over the past eleven years about my own spiritual journey. I’ve been guarded, but not totally private. Come back in a few days and email me and we’ll talk some more about my personal relationship.

      • Atheist Max says:

        “a clever child who doesn’t want to have a real conversation, except on his own terms.”

        I’ve set no terms. But I have followed all of yours.
        I’ve read most of the pages of your blog – you give a lot of deference toward authoritative decrees within the Catholic philosophy. I haven’t challenged that nor have I denigrated it.

        I’ve respected your request to avoid ‘quote mining’ and ‘proof texting’.
        I’ve respected your integrity – not questioning your experience, your education or your personal life. I don’t pry into irrelevant questions such as your age or your family. None of that should matter.

        I’ve set no terms.
        I don’t get angry. I don’t mind being ridiculed, being proof texted, having my beliefs ridiculed or personal attacks. It rolls off my back, no problem.

        But ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus seems to be the catchphrase these days with many Christians. I happen to find it interesting because it appears to be used as a coat of armor more than as an argument. I’m not accusing you of doing that but this line is very curious:

        “There are false gods”

        So incredibly interesting.

        What makes them false? That they don’t exist at all?
        What do you do with the ‘personal relationships’ people have made with those gods?

        I mean, imagine the One True God (Jesus, let’s say) overhearing an earnest prayer being directed at a false God (Vishnu, for example) by a person who didn’t know any better. Picture it.
        Wouldn’t the One True God accept that prayer as if it were directed at Him? Wouldn’t Jesus forgive the person who misdirected the prayer?
        Or would it not matter at all to Jesus? Would Jesus hear the prayer but then turn his back and wait for Christian Evangelicals to reach the poor person who never heard about Jesus?

        You seem to not realize how fascinating this really is.
        If you had been born in Pakistan or Indonesia you would be dismissing Jesus as ‘a false god’ – by using the very same logic you are using to defend the truth of Jesus.

  5. Atheist Max says:

    Imagine the millions of people who
    felt they had a relationship with God Zoroaster in the immediate years preceding Jesus:

    God Zoroaster (Zarathustra) lived on earth as a human and died in 583 B.C.E :

    – he was born of a virgin and by an “immaculate conception”
    – He was baptized in a river.
    – As a boy he astounded older men with his wisdom.
    – He was tempted in the wilderness, yes – by the devil.
    – He was said to have begun his ministry at age 30.
    – Zoroaster was baptized with water, fire and what was said to be “holy wind.”
    – He cast out demons
    – He restored sight to a blind man.
    – He taught about heaven and (this should be surprising) Hell
    – He revealed mysteries, including resurrection, judgment, salvation and the apocalypse.
    – He had a sacred cup or grail.
    – He was slain.
    – His religion had something like a eucharist.
    – He was the “Word made flesh.”
    – Zoroaster’s followers expected a “second coming” in the virgin-born Saoshynt or Savior, who is to come in 2341 AD and begin his ministry at age 30, ushering in a golden age.

    Millions of people prayed to Zoroaster and begged for various things.

    Zarathustra preached goodness: thinking good thoughts, saying good words, and doing good deeds as in helping the needy or doing good works – we increase this divine force (aša or arts) not only in ourselves but all across the world. It is a celebration of the divine order, and we move toward an eternal path toward unity with a Creator God who is ‘his father in heaven’.

    If Zoroaster is a false God, what difference would it make to Jesus?

    It looks like exactly the same religion as Christianity and it predates Jesus by six centuries at least.

    • Todd says:

      Max,

      Let me get this straight: I suggest the atheist and the Christian (you and I) don’t talk about other religions–faiths we neither follow, nor have intimate knowledge of. And you deliberately ctrl-c and -v some list from a website. Nice show. Please take this discussion to a Zoroastrian blog, and discuss your problems with religion there. There is another thread here for you now. I suggest you bookmark my main page and visit there regularly.

      By the way, from what little I know of this man, there are significant differences between him and Jesus.

    • Atheist Max says:

      You said you have a personal relationship with Jesus.
      You said there are false Gods.
      You are claiming that if other people have personal relationships with Gods other than Jesus those relationships are false.

      Naturally the next question follows:
      What is it about your personal relationship with Jesus which makes it any more legitimate?
      What criteria informs you?

      I would think that you would jump at the chance.
      I gave you an opportunity to expand on your personal relationship with Jesus and to describe all the ways in which it is an improvement over other god beliefs.

      “I suggest…don’t talk about other religions–faiths we neither follow..”

      I have no intention of discussing the other faiths. You are an Atheist (non-believer) like me when it comes to Zoroaster and all other gods. You call them ‘false’, I simply include Yahweh and by extension Jesus and Allah on that list of false gods.

      But no matter:
      Zoroastrianism was a vast, widespread religion throughout Persia and beyond for perhaps a thousand years before Jesus ever appeared on the scene.
      I was not merely posting ‘a list’ from a website – I have researched Zoroaster and other gods since my de-conversion from Christianity 2 years ago and have picked up lots of information which I have collated, re-checked and thought a lot about.

      I was comparing what we know of Zoroaster to what we know of Jesus and asking you a general question about the nature of your Jesus – not Zoroaster.

      I always assumed (often falsely) that religious people, especially the hierarchy of Deacons and Priests and Bishops, etc, were fluent in the vast world of hundreds of religions.

      About a year ago I had a conversation over coffee with a pastor who insisted Zoroaster was a false god because “there was no record that a person named Zoroaster ever lived”. But the pastor missed the point – if the life of Jesus lines up with so clearly with many other snippets from other religions which ‘we know’ are false, what does that tell us about Jesus?

      Here is where it gets interesting:
      If you say you have a ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus this frankly implies you have solid evidence of Jesus. Your relationship would be a piece of astonishing evidence and you are not sharing it.

      Suppose I told you I have a personal relationship with Abraham Lincoln?
      Would you not be curious?

  6. Atheist Max says:

    25% of Americans believe that God will decide the winner of the Super Bowl.

    1. Does this mean 25% of Priests and Pastors are preaching this to Americans?
    2. Or does it mean Priests and Pastors are too smart to be that stupid – but they are not smart enough to preach common sense to their parishioners?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/22/god-superbowl_n_6523400.html

    • Todd says:

      It means that pastors of 25% of Americans (likely more than a mere 25% of clergy–thats not how statistics work, my young friend) have an opportunity to preach God doesn’t care who wins our games. Happy Super Sunday, Max.

      • Atheist Max says:

        So did God decide the Superbowl? Thereby favoring some prayers over others?

        Or did he just let both sides play without the slightest interference from him?

      • Todd says:

        Yawn. Option 2. Next sports question?

      • Atheist Max says:

        “He lets them play”

        Is it therefor wrong (or just pointless) to pray to God on any question regarding sports or sports players?

      • Todd says:

        Is it wrong to pray for a win? Is it wrong to ask someone for something one cannot get? “Wrong” strikes me as the wrong word.

        People will still pray for a win. About half of the pray-ers will be disappointed. I prefer to think of prayer as a dialogue, not a request line. Seems more satisfying–but that’s just me.

      • Atheist Max says:

        I guess I wouldn’t know how to pray without at least some sort of request as part of the prayer:
        “Lord help me be strong,”
        “give me courage”
        “give us this day our daily bread..”

        Or thanking god for helping as in:
        “thanks for giving us this beautiful morning”
        ..”this lovely afternoon”…etc.

        Of course as an Atheist I can no longer bring myself to believe that a god has anything to do with my daily life. Though a god may exist, it doesn’t seem to matter whether I believe in it or not as many wonderful things happen regardless of the fact that I don’t pray for them at all.

        Is there a way to pray without it turning into a request line? Approaching a superior being for dialogue seems set up for special requests.
        Dialogue is difficult to imagine. God would have no questions for you – as he knows the answers already.

      • Todd says:

        You say you are a parent. If that is true, you likely had many charming conversations with your children as they were learning to talk. Certainly you had all the answers for a two-year-old. So what did you gain from it?

        You may have lost your religion, Max, but you are still supping at the altar of consumerism. I don’t ask God what’s in it for me. I just want to spend the time.

  7. Atheist Max says:

    “Certainly you had all the answers for a two-year-old. So what did you gain from it?”

    When I became a parent in 1991 I knew nothing. When they left home I knew even less.
    What did I gain? Wonderful children. Very sensitive and sweet. I’m glad they visit often. Most treasured memories.

    And I would not possibly ever, ever, ever send one of them to a hell. No matter what they ever did – there isn’t the slightest chance of it under any circumstances. They could badmouth me, hate me with ever fiber of their being and steal every dime from me and never talk to me again and kill all of my best friends – still, I would forbid eternal punishment to them no matter what.

    I would reject Hell as a place no child ever should go to for even a moment.
    Hell – and everything about it – would never know my children. Love, even hate, makes such a thing impossible.

    If God exists Hell cannot possibly be real. But I digress.
    If Hell is real – dialogue is absolutely impossible with God.

    • Atheist Max says:

      I mistakenly said, “If God exists Hell cannot possibly be real.”

      I meant to say, “If Hell is real, God’s existence would be worthless and his goodness meaningless”
      Dialogue with such a god is genuinely unimaginable.

    • Todd says:

      Hell has nothing to do with this conversation. So yes, you are digressing again, unable or unwilling to respond to a simple query about how a parent communicates with a babbling, gurgling child yet doesn’t get anything out of it, but perhaps one important thing.

      Enjoy the day, Max.

      • Atheist Max says:

        “how a parent communicates with a babbling, gurgling child yet doesn’t get anything out of it, but perhaps one important thing.”

        My answer to that question is based on science.
        We have no choice but to tend to our children, to care deeply and to work out what their needs are so that we can help them. The depth of commitment and overwhelming desire to nurture and understand our children’s needs is a biological drive like no other. To recognize this drive as purely biologically driven does not diminish the importance, beauty or value of that connection nor does it cheapen the Love – a man made word we use to describe the totality of that drive to be close to and to support that other person. To direct that attention toward an unconfirmed entity is the true cheapener of love.

        As for a God, I see no way in which such a biological drive could be inherent in him. He has no biological connection to us, as he apparently survives without biological needs – nor does he share our evolutionary traits (having not evolved such a thing as love). God does not need us, nor does he desire to protect us – at least not for biological reasons.

        And yet biology is the only driver of these desires which we know of. If God operates above or beyond biology how would one determine this?

  8. Todd says:

    I don’t accept your unproven premise linking biology and love. If I were a deeper campaigner on adoption, I might even feel insulted by it. As it is, I don’t think you’ve taken time to ponder human conversations in which questions are not asked, answers not given or even needed–and yet people benefit from the simple exchange of attention.

  9. Atheist Max says:

    “Biology and love….If I were a deeper campaigner on adoption, I might even feel insulted by it.”

    I must reply to that.

    1. It does not denigrate love to explain it as biology.

    2. Love is biological. So far as we can tell, dead, unconscious things do not love. The living brain which is entirely material acts on its own behalf for survival. This is not a hypothesis of mine but proven through more studies than I could list (but I’m glad to list them if you need them). “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins is one of the easier to read works which touches on evolution’s role in developing deep reciprocity. The three biological drives in love are: sex, partner preferences and attachment. You may think chemistry and science are cold – but even there, your chemical, biological brain is offended for its own selfish reasons! The difference is biologists recognize this selfishness for what it is.

    3. I never said Adoption was a separate category – you assumed I was referring only to the continuity of genes – and I never said any such thing. The biology of the parent is the same whether the child is genetically connected or adopted. The reciprocity is a vital characteristic of survival instincts – it is what drives life and evolution – it is intrinsic to biology.

    Look at a lovely garden full of countless varieties of color and bursting with aroma.
    What does it add to the beauty to claim that an unknowable fairy constructed all of it?

    I’m not trying to insult you by saying the god I once believed in is just a fairy. But why is it somehow insulting to say that Love is biological? Biology is utterly, breathtakingly astounding. The chemistry of dopamine which the brain somehow knows how to manufacture when it needs to – is astounding. The electrical impulses which produce dreams is astounding.

  10. Atheist Max says:

    Where can I find an authority who will claim to know, through intense study, what the Bible is?

    In other words – who would be a final authority regarding the contents of the Bible?
    Does anyone know?

    • Todd says:

      Many will claim to know. I don’t believe such a final authority exists among human beings.

      As for the essence of Christianity, you won’t find the totality of it in the Bible. If this is your expectation, you are more like Dick Martin than you think.

      • Atheist Max says:

        I have no problem being compared to Dick Martin. He doesn’t like wiggle room.
        He insists God exists and has absolute rules which must be followed or all is lost. I’m sensitive to his claim but I can’t find a crumb of evidence that he is correct – not the slightest speck.

        I insist that God either does exist or he does not exist.
        I see no reason to believe he exists, but I don’t claim to know he doesn’t.

        I’m fundamentalist in the sense that I fundamentally insist God is either true or he is not.
        It is a yes or no question. That is where I am a fundamentalist.

        Until the answer to the question of God is somehow ascertained and agreed upon by criteria that all people can understand and embrace, I would argue the practices of religions should be suspended in the meantime as they are generally doing more harm than good.

        I don’t expect the totality of any religion to be in a holy book. But I expect the Holy Books to accurately point the way. Otherwise, they cannot be worthy of their revered status.

        Religion makes very extraordinary claims for itself. The insistence that there are eternal consequences for those who simply do not believe is not a minor injunction!
        I am not making these claims only questioning on what basis it makes those claims.

  11. Atheist Max says:

    For example:
    On what basis do you reject the Q’uran?
    Aren’t you assuming you are (enough of) an authority on the Q’uran that you can dismiss its claims?

    Yet you have spent far more hours reading the Bible, yet you won’t call yourself an authority regarding its contents? You see why I’m puzzled.

    If you admit you do not know enough about the Q’uran to dismiss its claims, why have you been remiss in exploring it further? Suppose Allah is the true God and you have been worshipping the wrong one? Isn’t it arrogant to dismiss the Q’uran without looking further into it?

    Are you not a fundamentalist regarding Islam? As in, you fundamentally reject its claims in the same way I do?

    Maybe you are not so different from Dick Martin, either.

    • Todd says:

      I don’t believe I’ve given any impression I reject the Q’uran. It is simply not a part of my faith. I suppose it can be said I don’t read it, pray with it, study it, or otherwise know much about it. But I could say the same for reading Plato in the original Greek. I don’t reject Plato. Unless one counts me as a rejecter because I’m not a fanboy.

      I don’t style myself as an authority on Scripture. I’m not a Scripture scholar. I don’t know Greek or Hebrew. I’m a minister, a liturgist, and a musician. As a Christian, I do read and pray with the Bible. I also accept the God of Judaism and Christianity is one and the same with the God Muslims revere as Allah.

      So I’m not even a fundamentalist in the sense of defining that word as “someone I don’t understand and can’t make any headway with.” The main difference with me and Dick Martin is that I’m willing to engage in a meaningful dialogue with just about anybody without rejecting or condemning them. The main congruency with you and Dick is that you are both seeking rational explanations for the world as you experience it. I do too, sometimes. But not always.

      • Atheist Max says:

        “you are both seeking rational explanations for the world as you experience it”

        I don’t like being thought of as doctrinaire. But I neither do I see how one abandons reason. How does one say: “My irrational argument makes sense but yours doesn’t?”
        It is an invitation to complete chaos.

        I don’t reject emotion – I’m an artist and musician so I value emotion very much. What is life worth without love and emotion? Nothing.

        But I can’t allow emotion to be my criteria for assessing what is true.
        I loved my old church – the early days with the stained glass reflecting on the pews. The echoes. The beautiful sound of my priest’s voice as he sang “Kyrie Eleison.”
        Sure, I still feel all those emotions. I hum the tunes still.

        My emotional reactions don’t confirm any of the claims of religion. My emotions show that I appreciate beauty – just as other evolved creatures appear to do. It certainly doesn’t mean there is any truth in the claim that a man may have been tortured and slaughtered by Romans 2000 years ago for my personal benefit.

        It is the conclusion which puzzles me. The poetry and beauty doesn’t lead to conclusions – yet Christians are full of claims and conclusions. Fundamentally, a Christian believes something about Jesus and I no longer understand how anyone connects those dots anymore.

      • Todd says:

        A skeptic on reason doesn’t embrace the irrational. You’ve read me long enough to know I prefer many tools in my box, not just the scientific approach.

        Is your love for your family a matter of reason? Entirely? Do you confess to your loved ones it is all biological; Dawkins’ selfish gene?

        I favor integration: head, heart, and gut.

      • Atheist Max says:

        “Is your love for your family a matter of reason? Entirely? Do you confess to your loved ones it is all biological; Dawkins’ selfish gene?”

        Yes. Absolutely.
        Now please realize that the love is not ‘reasoned’ into existence by me consciously – but it is love nevertheless and it is created by chemistry which can be reasoned and sorted out.

        Also realize that ‘selfish’ need not be a cold selfishness. The words, “I need you” can elicit good feelings in both the giver and the receiver.
        For example: a Dog’s brain creates dopamine (a peace inducing drug) when you pet your dog – and guess what? You get a dose of dopamine in your own brain when you pet your dog too!

        That is what is meant by ‘selfish’, there is something in it for you and your dog. Mutuality and reciprocity are built in to our brains.
        And evolution has already done the hard work of creating all of this for us!

        We know that brains which do not have the ability to create certain chemicals cannot experience love – some cannot experience empathy, a true handicap.

        And that is why it is so exciting to study the biology. My daughter, who is a physics major, and I can talk about how amazing the science is yet our love is not diminished – we share movies, books, stories, music – we have a great time. And we know that our love for each and our connections and memories are all finite and they will end one day which makes our time together all the more special. Knowing love is extraordinary chemistry changes nothing about it – except that we need not look for a supernatural as the natural is breathtakingly super enough!

        When I give my daughter a hug I get a dose of dopamine. And she gets one too.

        Biology explains this. We love to give love because our own brains get a big kick out of it.

        Yes. I am delighted that love can be explained and understood this way. It doesn’t cheapen it at all.

  12. Atheist Max says:

    Nobody wants to die.

    That is why our ancestors invented religion. And it was brilliant.
    Until the internet destroyed it.

    We have a responsibility, a duty, to face the evidence wherever it leads.

    • Todd says:

      Well …

      Teenagers don’t want to die, but that isn’t true for many old people.

      Silly comment, and wishful: the internet destroyed religion. It might have given atheists a platform in Christian surroundings, but I don’t have a problem with non-believers coming out of the closet.

      Not all evidence is physical. In fact, much of the internet is void of evidence by any definition.

      • Atheist Max says:

        Teenagers may not want to die. I’m 53 years old. I no longer understand the appeal of afterlife or ‘eternal’ life.

        I don’t think the claims within the Nicene Creed survive a google search.

      • Todd says:

        I take it you concede that you were wrong in saying nobody wants to die. Additionally, google is not my god.

      • Atheist Max says:

        Yes, I concede that some people want to die.
        And I’ve noticed that religious people won’t let them despite unbearable suffering.

        Google may not be your god. But one ought to be open to new information.
        I recently learned that the bread and wine of the Eucharist had roots in the cult of Osiris which predated Jesus by thousands of years.
        Though I realize this does not disprove Jesus or the last supper, it is extraordinary that such rituals existed so long before Jesus even lived.

        I recognize that Theologically one can still see Jesus to be the true God despite that information. I make no claim that he isn’t.
        But the fact that other mystery religions were doing the same thing opens up many questions.

        Google makes information easy. Information makes it very difficult to make absolute claims about God. Most claims don’t survive the information.

      • Atheist Max says:

        For me the question is “what is true?” and not “What is ‘The Truth’ ?”

        Because if I ask, “what is true?” I can learn what I can believe. The time to believe something is when you have discovered that it is true.

        But “The Truth” implies a final answer. I see no evidence of a final answer, so I don’t yet believe one exists. But I’m curious enough to keep looking. It’s fun.

      • Todd says:

        I think your information on the cult of Osiris is irrelevant. Baptism has non-Christian manifestations, too. Meals were part of the ritual life of the ancient world.

        I look for what is true, also. And I’m a skeptic–a good way for a believer to be.

      • Atheist Max says:

        “Osiris is irrelevant”

        Yes, I see the information about Osiris is irrelevant.

        But to me, the similarities of Osiris, Dionysus and Zoroaster show a world full of very dedicated and serious worship stretching back 5000 years. Millions of believers were fully committed to these Gods and believed that praying to them Gods resulted in answers.

        I find it fascinating that they were not real gods.
        Yet their believers were certain of a personal relationship convinced their prayers were heard.

        If one true god exists – did that real god listen to those prayers? One assumes so.
        If so, then praying to a false god still works – it still gets you into a relationship with the true god!

        A prayer to Osiris then, would be no different than praying to Jesus.

        This sort of thing is very fun to speculate about.

  13. “We have a responsibility, a duty, to face the evidence wherever it leads.”

    Max, that mandate resembles the Great Commission in more ways than you’d be comfortable admitting. We can “face the evidence” as taught by Hawking, demonstrated by Schroediger’s Cat and re-created in super colliders, or we can face a discipline of belief, moral responsibility, grace and hope in things seen and unseen, whether by prophets, priests or scientists.
    You can imitate the Knight Templar in Indiana Jones telling the Nazi, “You chose poorly,” until doomsday, but that doesn’t make you the bearer of truth.

  14. Atheist Max says:

    Charles:

    I’m an Agnostic Atheist (like the vast majority of atheists) and we don’t claim any truth regarding claims about God.
    I don’t know if a God exists but neither do I believe a god exists.
    I don’t claim God does not exist – that would be arrogant. I’m open minded.

    But the claims I’ve heard regarding the Gods of the Bible (Yahweh, Satan, Jesus, Holy Spirit) and the Gods of the Quran don’t add up to something I can believe in.

    You said,
    “a discipline of belief, moral responsibility, grace and hope in things seen and unseen, whether by prophets, priests or scientists.”

    Showing confidence in things which have a proven track record is important.
    But that isn’t ‘faith’ – it is confidence based on some sort of previous evidence.
    I have faith in my daughter and my son – because I have confidence in them based on their previous good judgements. They will err. But they will recover. Because they have done so before.

    “Moral responsibility” – this is a very important for me. Morality is about well-being of oneself and others and Atheists are as invested in this as anyone else would be. What surprises me looking back at my Catholic years is how immoral so much of religion really is.

    “Grace” – This I appear to have no use for – I no longer understand it. But modified to a secular interpretation it means “behaving wisely” as in being mindful toward the world and humanity and spreading kindness where possible. No religion is needed for this.

    “Hope” – sure. I have enormous hope for life and my role in doing what I can. Again, no religious beliefs are needed for this. As Jonas Salk (a non-believer) solved the Polio problem in the world freeing millions of a wretched disease and Pasteur solved the deadly bacteria problem in milk – science is leading the way to many life-saving solutions. Nothing fills the world with hope more than saving lives and preventing poverty.

    You said,
    “You can imitate the Knight Templar in Indiana Jones telling the Nazi, “You chose poorly,” until doomsday, but that doesn’t make you the bearer of truth.”

    Same could be said for religious people. Unlike me, each religion claims to have the truth.
    There is no evidence that any have the truth. In fact, the vast majority of religions appear to be false. Even according to you.

    We know all of the religions cannot be true. So if one of them is true, which one is it?
    Perhaps your religion is the correct one? If so, it remains unconvincing to most of the world.
    Perhaps a different one is correct? Seems to be unconvincing to you.
    Is the one true god responding to everyone’s prayers equally and looking past the particulars of whether the person is Hindu, Shia, Sunni, Catholic, Protestant, Charismatic, Evangelical, Mormon, Baptist, Jainist…?
    When god answers those prayers, does it matter to him that it confirms the bias each believer carries from their parents?

    Besides:
    The Nazis were Catholics. That isn’t a very moral, hopeful, or graceful indication about what religion leads to.

    The Hard Atheist communists and agrarian cults like Pol Pot were atheists regarding Yahweh, they certainly were not Agnostic – they worshipped earthly gods while enforcing a dogmatic ‘truth’ claiming Yahweh did NOT exist.

    Agnostic Atheists claim nothing about gods.

    Agnostic Atheism accepts uncertainty. We make no claims about god one way or the other. We just think the evidence shows no reason to believe in any gods.

    No absolute ‘Truth’ appears to be necessary, likely or desirable.
    But I’m open to whatever evidence you may have for gods. I’ve seen nothing convincing one way or the other.

  15. Atheist Max says:

    As an Atheist who has often been very Anti-theist on occasion…

    I Just feel it important to say that I roundly denounce the incident today
    in Chapel Hill in which 3 young Muslims were apparently shot and killed by an Atheist Anti-Theist.

    I weep for these kids. I am saddened and revolted and disgusted at such an act of wanton hatred against religious people. There is no excuse for this hateful, despicable crime against human beings who had every right to practice their faith.

    Freedom of Religion is a basic Human Right
    and I fully support it and defend it.

    Though it appears an argument over a parking space may have been part of the provocation – I’m convinced there was an Anti-Muslim component based on the heartbreaking words of one of the parents.

    There are no excuses to kill people over religious claims of any kind.
    And No Atheist deserves an award or a pat on the back for pointing it out.

    It is difficult for all people with religious views to thread the needle of disdain for other faiths: as Charismatics have for Catholics for example, without advocating violence toward the believers.

    But Atheists can be fascists too. Especially when they convince themselves of the claim that “God does Not Exist” and the develop a fascist dogmatic conviction to enforce it on society.

    The majority of us Atheists are Agnostics. We embrace the uncertainty.
    We don’t claim a God is impossible as this murderer clearly did. Whatever else motivated him, psychological problems, fear of Islam, whatever – It does not escape me that he constructed a life of hatred toward religious people based on Anti-theist arguments.

    I believe we must be free to criticize ideas unreservedly. Especially religious ideas.
    Ideas do not have rights.
    But human beings have rights.

    People have the right to believe and I defend their right to do so.
    “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof”
    – US Constitution.

    Sure. I think a less religious world would be better. But people must leave religion voluntarily and after considering what is best for the well-being of themselves and society – these thoughts for the well-being of humanity never entered this Atheist Killer’s head!

    May we all build a safer world for everyone.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/11/chapel-hill-shooting-social-media_n_6660220.html

    • Atheist Max says:

      Thousands of Gods have been claimed to be real.
      I guess only one of those Gods is real. Since 99% of them probably are not.

      If that one true God listens to all the prayers (since he is the only one which is real), does he mind if we don’t acknowledge him by name and mistakenly use the wrong name – like calling him Osiris, Zeus or Jim?

      Would that true God still listen to prayers if those prayers were sent to him honestly?
      Would he shrug off the fact that we didn’t get his name right?

      If 99% of humanity has been talking to the wrong god for thousands of centuries – including every single person who lived before Jesus – were their prayers heard even though they were clearly calling that God the wrong name and had the wrong ideas about God?

      If God knows what is in our hearts why must we pray? He already knows it all.

      • Todd says:

        “I guess only one of those Gods is real. Since 99% of them probably are not.”

        Yes, it’s a guess. But I don’t think your statement adequately covers the view of many people of faith, including many Catholics.

        Another place where your logic fails is to assume 99% false gods necessarily means 99% of all people. That is not a logical or rational assumption. You seem to be making it up as you go along.

      • Atheist Max says:

        Todd,

        “You seem to be making it up as you go along.”

        I’m just musing and thinking freely. So, yes, I’m making it up as I go along.
        I bring no fundamental belief one way or the other.

        If there is only one true God then 99% of the other religions are wrong.
        Below is a link to the breakdown of how many people believe which religion.
        Christianity is still dominant with 33% of all the world’s believers – but the percentages change each century and Christianity appears to have crested.

        And what strikes me is nobody knows which religion is correct. Yet the fate of the soul supposedly depends on finding the correct answer.

        But whichever religion is correct, 100% of the other religions are wrong.
        So most of the world is completely, hopelessly wrong.

      • Todd says:

        “(T)he fate of the soul supposedly depends on finding the correct answer.”

        As a man of faith, I would pretty much reject that idea.

      • Atheist Max says:

        Todd,

        Interesting answer. Thanks.

  16. Atheist Max says:

    Why is Atheism considered to be similar to Fundamentalism?

    I don’t claim to know if God exists or not. I don’t claim god is impossible at all. A true god may exist and I freely admit it.

    It is true that I don’t believe in the gods I’ve been told about, but that isn’t because I’m fundamentally against believing it possible. I’m totally open to any evidence at all.

    I’m Agnostic in that I don’t know.
    I’m Atheist because I don’t believe.

    Until we get some good evidence for a god it seems best to ignore the claims about what god ‘IS’ since that simply has not yet been adequately determined in a way that most people can agree.

    So religion may be practiced if you want it – I support your right to do so and am not fundamentally against your doing so.

    But there appears to be no price for abandoning religion
    and no benefit for sticking with it either
    outside of the social aspects – like being in a club which meets every Sunday.

  17. Max, by your definition of Agnostic, there is no sense in adding your admission of atheism. If we accept your definition also of compelling evidence, we likely can ignore your claim that God isn’t. Your conclusion about there “being” no price for abandoning religion, or more accurately “faith” is errant, as in that we also simply don’t know. Yet. Picks a number, sticks with it. Consider taking a break from “selling” your POV.

    • Atheist Max says:

      Charles,
      “by your definition of Agnostic, there is no sense in adding your admission of atheism. …we can ignore your claim that God isn’t.”

      I understand, but you are missing something – I do not deny God.

      Here is a demonstration:

      I’m Agnostic (not knowing) about Bigfoot. I don’t ‘know’ if Bigfoot exists.
      There may be a small race of an intelligent humanoid species existing in remote places which is fearful of human beings and so it is reclusive and hard to find.
      Since there is no evidence of Bigfoot beyond personal anecdotes and fake photos, I cannot claim to ‘KNOW’ that Bigfoot exists or that he doesn’t.

      Based on the fact that I do not know, it follows that I cannot ‘believe’ in Bigfoot.
      I cannot ‘decide to believe’ just because I might want to. There isn’t enough of an argument in its favor.

      Atheism is only about ‘belief’ as Agnosticism is only about ‘knowing’.
      So I neither know (agnosticism) nor believe (atheism) in Bigfoot.

      I do not claim Bigfoot is impossible! – He may exist and people are free to say so!
      I do not DENY Bigfoot.

      But until such time as we discover Bigfoot it seems a waste of time to claim Bigfoot is true, to make claims about the food he eats, the way he swims and walks, make claims about how big he grows, build huts in his honor, make claims about his children, claim things about his strength, etc.
      Worse, it would be wrong to tell children that Bigfoot “IS REAL” when we cannot honestly claim that. We can only say ‘he may be’ real until we get more info about it.

      See how none of the claims about Bigfoot are supported by anything beyond traditional assertions? That is why people don’t believe in Bigfoot. That is why you probably do not believe in Zeus – there is no evidence that Zeus was ever real.

      Religion feels like that to me.

      So it is with God, I say, “I don’t know. I can’t claim it one way or the other, so I can’t believe”

      I do not claim God to be impossible. He may exist as you say. I do not deny God
      and I don’t deny your right to claim it.

      “Consider taking a break from “selling” your POV.”

      Someone, somewhere may appreciate learning about Atheism.
      I certainly enjoy reading the comments you and Todd have to contribute.

      I don’t mean to hurt anyone. These discussions are fun.
      I’m not selling anything – just trying to learn how Atheists and Theists can talk about these things and whether there are things I have overlooked about religion which I might benefit from.

      For example:
      After leaving religion I looked back in anger for awhile. I was furious with the claims in The Bible and decided the world would be better off throwing the whole thing away.
      But thanks to conversations with religious people and certain Atheists, I have mellowed out since then and learned that if one takes the myths as a skeptic there is quite a bit to enjoy in the Bible: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs – and even a few insights attributed to Jesus and other individuals.

      In other words, I’m not selling anything here. And the readers of Catholic Sensibility are not interested in buying anyway. I’m just sharing some thoughts and hearing yours.

  18. And I get and appreciate that, Max. But does it occur to you that sharing your sensibilities here and elsewhere requires so much time, bandwidth, verbiage and dialectic (something Todd and I are both guilty of as well)?
    In the end, for what end? Posterity doesn’t give a rip. You were a RC for 40+ years, so you’re roughly in the same demo that I presume Todd, Liam and I also inhabit. You have a family, as we do. I don’t mean to infer anything deficient, but in this world at this time at our Piaget point, shouldn’t personal priorities be factored into our cyber activity?

  19. Atheist Max says:

    “for what end?”

    Wisdom, I suppose. And a clearer look at whatever it was I believed for 5 decades.
    I like to learn. I learn a lot from others who see things differently.
    Spending about 30 minutes a day (and that is all I really invest in this stuff) to hear about other points of view – especially ones directly contrary to mine – is rarely a waste of time.

    I don’t turn on the internet to preach. I come to learn and ask questions and share any new insights as I go. Imagine being certain for almost 50 years – even so far as to say “I’ve found it, and you can find it too, in Jesus”. Now imagine that melting away.

    I find Atheism to be deeply misunderstood by clergy. The vast majority of us are Agnostics and we make no claims. It has only been 2 years since my God vanished. The first round of questions have been answered.

    If any of my commentary here has been surprising or new to you or others it was not a waste of time.

    • Todd says:

      “I don’t turn on the internet to preach.”

      This is good to hear. But preaching and insult is how you present yourself here and on other sites. Communication is not just what we want to say, or our intentions, but includes how we appear.

      As far as making claims, you make quite a few. They are nearly all in the negative, strongly worded, and not always well-thought-out in terms of either logic or learning. They’re just red meat to dangle in front of a lion. Hardly brain food.

      • Atheist Max says:

        If I insulted someone I’m sorry.

        But I take great pains to question claims and not insult believers themselves. Believers are not stupid or warped.

        But the beliefs are worth questioning absolutely. I don’t ask people how old they are or assume things about their personal lives.

        But if someone claims something is true I show respect for their intelligence and their dignity by questioning why they believe it. I’m assuming they are smart and have beliefs for smart reasons.

        If you were to ask a pilot how his plane flies he would be a fool to see that as an insult.

  20. charlesincenca says:

    Max, not to prolong the semantic anquish here, but claiming one’s belief is absolute truth is NOT the same as being truthful about what one believes.

    • Atheist Max says:

      Charles Incenca,

      You said, “claiming one’s belief is absolute truth is NOT the same as being truthful about what one believes.”

      Could you please elaborate?

      I don’t claim to know if god exists.
      I don’t believe that any God does – but I don’t claim God to be impossible. There may be a god.

      Perhaps this will clarify my position:

      I do not claim to know if Bigfoot exists.
      I don’t believe that Bigfoot exists – but I don’t claim Bigfoot to be impossible. There may be a Bigfoot.

      I allow that Bigfoot may exist – but one can’t justify ‘belief’ in Bigfoot unless there is at least some demonstrable evidence OR an indication of some kind that Bigfoot might be real.

      I presume you do not ‘BELIEVE’ in Bigfoot. You need some evidence first – right?

      I am open-minded. If you have evidence that God exists I’m happy to examine it.
      My Agnostic Atheism is extremely vulnerable to the slightest demonstration that God is real.

      • John McGrath says:

        No problem. Demonstration not needed. St. Maximus taught, endorsed by Pope Steven (unfortunately beheaded by the Emperor for agreeing), that “none are saved until all are saved.” His teaching is totally orthodox, so apparently, contrary to popular scare tactics, even you get to meet God after death and then everything will be settled in your favor.

  21. John McGrath says:

    Just a minor point here. In Jewish Scripture and tradition “one’ in relation to God means that God is one for all people, God transcending local customs and religions. the “one” does not mean that there is one God. So syncretism would occur when people had “our God” over against “their God.” Possibly an possible concept for humanity, best to be ignored.

    • Atheist Max says:

      John McGrath,

      Thanks for sharing that thought. Beyond my personal fate in an afterlife (which doesn’t worry me) it appears there are consequences for the wider world
      if ‘Faith’ is not discussed freely and openly and carefully scrutinized.

      There is a conflict between the faiths of the world – all of which claim utopian truths.

      Islam insists it owns the Final Revelation from God of Abraham and they have solid proof at Mecca where there is a black stone (Kaaba) sent directly from God as proof of Allah – and millions kiss this stone every year.

      Christians claim similar things which re-enforce their own ‘literal fact of Jesus’.
      Jews and Hindus carry their own claims which disprove the others.

      But none of the faiths appear to be more true than the others. I don’t see a resolution.

      Is there peaceful solution? Or must all the faiths embrace a suicidal Armageddon?

      I’m rooting for world peace. Any suggestions?

      • Todd says:

        Do more than root. Work for it. Work like it depended on you.

        You misrepresent Christianity, btw, in the terms “literal fact,” or “Armageddon.” The former is a modern construct and the latter is millennialist, and I would claim anti-Christian.

  22. Atheist Max says:

    “Work like it depended on you”

    I am doing so.
    In addition to helping whoever I can, I am questioning the philosophies which are
    steering toward world destruction: Christian vs. Islamist Dominionism and Faith in general – to name a few.

  23. Max, come on man…..don’t go all Dan Brown on us now! Set your sights higher if you must, what with the Trilateral Commission, Protocols of…Zion, Stargate Aliens and meteors all in the running as well.

  24. Atheist Max says:

    “don’t go all Dan Brown…”

    The Protocols of Zion is a hoax along with the rest of that conspiracy nonsense.

    By Islamic dominionism I only refer to the specific Islamic claim that “Islam is the final revelation” of the God of Abraham. A small (but significant) minority of Muslims are waging a violent struggle to enforce that claim.

    “Verily, the only acceptable religion to Allah is Islam.”
    [Quran 3:19]

    It should force thinking people to question faith in revelation as a valid method of truth.

    If such a question bores you, fine. No problem. It does not matter to me
    what you believe. I’m only asking questions and am curious about how these things might be resolved.

  25. Atheist Max says:

    I think somewhere I had mentioned this:

    Krishna was the human son of God Vishnu.
    This according to the Mahabharata (ancient holy text, much like the Bible) which was written in 400 B.C.E

    And to correct something else:

    Appollonius of Tyana (yet another Messiah from 20 C.E) was a real person and is documented in a way that Jesus never was.

    According Bart Ehrman:
    “Even before he was born, it was known that he would be someone special. A supernatural being informed mother the child she was to conceive would not be a mere mortal but would be divine. He was born miraculously, and he became an unusually precocious young man. As an adult he left home and went on an itinerant preaching ministry, urging his listeners to live, not for the material things of this world, but for what is spiritual. He gathered a number of disciples around him, who became convinced that his teachings were divinely inspired, in no small part because he himself was divine. He proved it to them by doing many miracles, healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead. But at the end of his life he roused opposition, and his enemies delivered him over to the Roman authorities for judgment. Still, after he left this world, he returned to meet his followers in order to convince them that he was not really dead but lived on in the heavenly realm. Later some of his followers wrote books about him.”

    Ehrman is not talking about Jesus. He is talking about Appollonius of Tyana.
    Even Christians should be interested enough to look into how many dozens of Messiahs were running around in those days – and it seems Jesus is the only one for whom there is no reliable pagan record.

    There is a lot of information about Appollonius of Tyana.
    Unlike Jesus who does not appear to have left any record outside of the Gospels.

    • Atheist Max says:

      Simply put, isn’t it possible Appollonius of Tyana was the real Jesus?

      • Todd says:

        No. It’s pretty much impossible. There is a record of the real Jesus outside of the New Testament. Wishful thinking on your part, my friend.

        In addition, Jesus had a singular uniqueness to the way he conducted himself–superior in significant ways if you compare the testimony of his disciples compared to the disciples of others.

  26. Atheist Max says:

    “There is a record of the real Jesus outside of the New Testament. Wishful thinking on your part, my friend.”

    I promise I have no wish regarding the outcome of the evidence. It doesn’t worry me if Jesus did exist – I’m not persuaded of the gospel accounts are anything more than legends and conflations.

    I’m just following the evidence which shows the few ‘records’ of Jesus outside of the New Testament are incredibly spurious (a forged paragraph of Josephus being the most obvious example as Bart Ehrman points out).

    However, the records of Appollonius of Tyana (and other Messiah figures) are not spurious but are backed up by several accounts.

    And the general shape of the Jesus story follows dozens of other myths so closely that it is impossible to avoid comparison. It would be like saying all comic book characters are fiction; Spiderman, The Green Hornet, Wonderwoman – except Superman is real.

    I’m open to persuasion. I’ve made no commitment that Jesus did or didn’t exist. He may even have been the one true God for all I know.
    But it seems just as likely that Marduk could be the one true god.
    Same for Krishna, the human son of the god Vishnu.

    The story of Pythagoras was also well-known in the ancient world of 200 B.C.E. and he approached fishermen, told them how many fish would be in their net and he knew exactly the correct number of fish.
    Using fishermen in a mythic legend was common. It really is just unbelievable to think that Jesus was somehow the one exception – the one version of the myth that wasn’t just a myth.

  27. Atheist Max says:

    Why are Atheists lumped in with fundamentalists?

    Atheism just means non-belief. I don’t claim God is or isn’t. I’m completely wishy washy – totally agnostic – on the question of God yet I’m fundamentalist?

    True, I don’t believe in God.
    But there isn’t a fundamentalist bone in my body. I’m very eager to hear any evidence or demonstration which shows a god exists – and I would be fascinated in a solid argument which shows god really is more than just a fable.

  28. Atheist Max says:

    Main characters of the book of Genesis:

    The Garden of Eden was a metaphor – right?
    The tree of knowledge was a metaphor – right?
    The fruit of the tree is a metaphor – right?
    The talking snake is a metaphor – right?
    Adam was not real but a metaphor.
    Eve was not real but is a metaphor.

    When did you decide God was not just a metaphor?

    Every other thing in Genesis is just a metaphor. Every book following Genesis features ‘God’ with the same conviction it featured The Tree of Knowledge.

    How did people decide everything EXCEPT GOD was just a metaphor?

    • Todd says:

      I think you may not quite have the right definition of metaphor here. All of your “main characters” of the first few chapters of Genesis were borrowed from pagan creation mythology. Genesis, centrally, is about the Patriarchs. Creation through Noah is not uniquely Jewish, but borrowed, and more of a prelude to the Torah than anything else.

      • Atheist Max says:

        But it appears that Yahweh was just a derivation of other gods. The Canaanites (3000 BCE) had a pantheon of dozens of gods which they worshipped with elaborate rituals. We know this from the archaeology of Ugarit, among other lost cities. Prayers were very sincerely sent to dozens of gods: Molech, El Elyon, Baal Hammon, Anat, Melqart, Qadeshtu and among them one young god named Yahweh (an opposer of Chemosh).

        At some point it was asserted that Yahweh was the dominant god. Then he somehow became the only god.

        But notice there is no cemetery for all the other gods. And notice how little it matters.
        No grave stones for Molech or Anat or God Yarikh who had God Nikkal for a wife.
        These dead gods have vanished without a trace or a care from anyone – it took a lot of people to turn into Atheists to make that happen.

        Remember, these dozens of Canaanite gods were worshipped with the same intensity and respect and faith as the god Jesus and god Yahweh today. Yet they have vanished completely.

        Similary the Cannanite pantheon was clearly derived from the Greek Pantheon headed by Olympian Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. Those gods have also vanished – their existence was undisputed by millions of people for thousands of years.

        I’m not telling you Yahweh is not the real God. The millions who believe in Vishnu instead will be sorely surprised when they die I guess.

        I would love to hear a good reason why anyone *should* accept any particular claim or assertion from any institution (Catholic or otherwise) about gods. What is this all about?

        Why are so many people uninterested in living without it when it is blatantly obvious that millions Vishnu worshippers are going their whole lives without connecting to real god. Yet they seem content.

        If almost everyone in history has survived happily and getting by believing in enormous numbers of wrong gods, why bother with any gods at all?

  29. Todd says:

    I’m not quite sure about your grasp of history here, Max. Canaan’s gods were probably not derived from those of Greece.

    My sense from history and religion is that most people of faith seek the truth. While as a Catholic, I profess to others a surety about my way, I leave open as a mystery as to how the living God might speak through the traditions and precepts outside of Judeo-Christianity.

    I don’t see the God of the Israelites as derivative, but rather a deepening understanding of a God more merciful, generous, and intimate than how pagans viewed their deities.

    • Atheist Max says:

      Let me ask another way:

      If we cannot prove god exists, how can god be a needed thing?

      I cannot prove God Thor exists or does not exist. The existence of Thor is a completely irrelevant question to modern people. Though it is possible to imagine a relationship with Thor – it requires effort from the one doing the imagining; rituals, incantations, convictions, arguments – all of which do not require any provable participation from Thor.

      Why is Jesus any different from Thor? One cannot prove Jesus exits – and all the evident effort is going from believer toward the object of the belief. If the object (Jesus) could reach out effectively to non believer – wouldn’t all of us be Jesus believers?

      Same with Thor. If Thor wanted us to believe in him, wouldn’t there still be a viking or two hanging on to that thread?

      • Atheist Max says:

        At some point the majority of people who believed in Thor
        became aware that he did not exist. Many hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions – must have felt completely disillusioned.

        Isn’t it true that Allah is a false god?
        Isn’t it true that Vishnu is false? Ganesha, Zoroaster? Xalmoxes? Aphrodite?

        Is there any way to demonstrate that Yahweh is different – since we know he was considered only one of many gods of the distant Canaanites?

        How was it determined that Yahweh was real but the rest of the Pantheon had to be dispensed? And if you don’t know the answer to that, how can you claim Yahweh is real without simply saying, “Because somebody told me so” …?

      • Atheist Max says:

        In Indiana religious power is asserting itself for its own ends – not to claim freedom for itself (a freedom I supported by the way) as it already enjoys plenty freedom to worship and freedom to marry heterosexuals to its heart’s content – but to acquire the new ADDITIONAL VETO power to publicly shame whomever it deems a sinner and other ‘miscreants’ through denying them accesses and vital services through various businesses.

        It is the full intention of the state of Indiana to shame Lesbians, Homosexuals, Transgendered, Bisexuals (or Non-believers, Hindus, Muslims.. anyone at all)
        for not following Jesus Christ’s law TO THE LITERAL LETTER!

        “Avoid Them” (Romans 16:17)
        “For whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” (2 John 1:11)
        “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault.” – JESUS (Matthew 18:15)
        “Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” (1 Corinthians 1:13)
        “have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.” (2 Thessalonian 3:14)

        “Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6)
        “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed!…” (1 Corinthians 16:22)

        JESUS : JUDGE THEM HARSHLY
        “deem them unworthy…remove your blessings of peace.” – JESUS (Matthew 10:13)

        NO METAPHORICAL interpretation is being requested in Indiana.
        If you are gay somehow the believer never wants to talk about ‘metaphors’.
        If you are the wrong religion somehow the Christian forgets about ‘metaphor.
        If you want contraception, somehow the Christian forgets his talk about metaphors.

        Christians are going to be asked a lot of questions about Indiana. And I see no metaphorical interpretation going on – I see Westboro Baptist fundamentalism
        getting very comfy in the seat of government.

        These are very dangerous laws in Indiana.
        They subvert the Separation of Church and State in the last country on earth which had such a good Constitution.

        “In every country and in every age, the preacher has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.”
        -Thomas Jefferson

  30. Atheist Max says:

    WHY ARE MY TEN COMMANDMENTS MUCH BETTER
    THAN GOD’S?

    1. Do not have sex with others without their consent. It is rape.
    2. Never have sex with children, it is always rape.
    3. Be honest.
    4. Thou shalt wash your hands every day to prevent getting many illnesses.
    5. Never own other humans, slavery is immoral.
    6. Never cause unnecessary harm to anyone.
    7. Clean up after yourself.
    8. Be careful with the earth’s resources, they are limited and there is no alternative living space.
    9. Question authority.
    10. Treat others the way you would want to be treated.*

    Instead of my commandments, God piles the same message into the first 4 commandments – a waste of an opportunity. The other commandments only apply to property owners – a wife is property but a husband isn’t.

    Nowhere in the Bible does God forbid rape, genocide or slavery as all are recommended.
    Instead God forbids eating shellfish – yet shellfish is very healthy.

    *Christianity destroys the message of reciprocity in multiple ways
    by forcing believers to take any challenge about God as a personal assault on themselves:
    “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting” (2 John 1:10)
    “Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” (1 Corinthians 1:13)

    Since my commandments are better than Gods:

    1. Why was God not able to do better than he did?
    2. Why do we think God is worthy of judging others when he is such a bad judge of himself?

  31. Atheist Max says:

    Do most people agree that religion can be dangerous?
    What are some practical ways of diminishing such dangers?
    Is it important to protect the feelings of believers while trying to diminish these dangers?

  32. Atheist Max says:

    This falls under the category of “Fair Questions”

    Since Mary was impregnated by Yahweh
    in order to be reborn (reincarnated) as the Lord Jesus Christ
    wouldn’t that mean God impregnated his own mother?
    Why isn’t this a problem for believers?

    And since Mary was not asked how she felt about this and was not offered any alternative – wasn’t it rape?
    The angel supposedly tells Mary what “Is going to happen” but never asks Mary if it is okay to use her womb.

    Instead Mary says, “I am the Lord’s servant”

    For an infinitely powerful person to use a “servant woman” as an incubator without informed consent is clearly immoral. We have laws against such power plays in the office. Employees, for example, are off limits as sexual objects to their bosses for that very reason.

    Mary doesn’t consent. She relents. Very different.

    This appears to be a very immoral story. Please explain why it isn’t.

    • Todd says:

      Max, your understanding of Mary’s story here is pretty much outside the realm of either a literal reading of Luke’s Gospel or a theological understanding of the Incarnation and Mary’s cooperation with it. Read all of Luke 1:26-56 for a better perspective.

      Mary’s consent is authentic.

      • Atheist Max says:

        I have read this section of Luke several times.

        From what I see, Mary relented to her master’s wishes.
        Furthermore, Mary is not being told the full story of what her body will be used for.
        Gabriel never mentions the agony she will endure of watching her son crucified or that her son’s efforts will ultimately fail – as they have – in making the world more peaceful.
        Mary is not asked to consider the dire consequences of all the centuries of wars of misunderstandings about her son. Millions of deaths of innocents are not mentioned.

        God could have provided Mary with a clear and complete picture of all of what was to ensue – and he did not. She doesn’t even say he will be “The Lamb of God” – a terrifying oversight!

        And God sends no mention of how this will affect Joseph or of how bearing Jesus will further affect the other children she bears.

        I see no consent to any of that.
        And Mary is not given the opportunity to voice her husband’s concerns! Does the Angel not know about Joseph? Why doesn’t he acknowledge him?
        Furthermore, as part of the deal, Mary is told a lie: “For no word from God will ever fail.”
        We can enumerate long lists of statements claimed to be from God’s mouth (and Jesus’) which have failed spectacularly.

        God is in a unique All-knowing position unlike any other father in history.
        He has the ability to convey the totality of what will happen to Jesus and He is able (presumably) to be specific and thorough – but he only pretends to do so via Gabriel.
        God brushes over this and uses her body as if it was not hers – and uses her life as if it is not hers to choose. No free will for Mary.

        In normal marriages, men and women are knowingly gambling when they have children. They accept unknowns.

        But God is in a unique position – there are no unknowns supposedly.

        Why is it morally correct for Mary to be denied all of this information?
        To be coerced into a pregnancy and a legacy based on things which have been shown to be untrue in the successive centuries?

  33. Todd says:

    “From what I see, Mary relented to her master’s wishes.”

    I have no reason to disbelieve you say you see this. But I have yet to meet a Christian who agrees with this. Try another topic.

    • Atheist Max says:

      Mary did not consent.
      If that doesn’t bother Christians, it isn’t my business – but it does explain why many Christians around the world are comfortable seeing women as second class citizens. If Mary wasn’t given the personal dignity or respect of something above slavery – by her ‘master’ – it would explain the ensuing philosophies which put men in charge.

      But if it does bother Christians, I wonder why it wouldn’t prompt conversation.

      Hard for me to understand how Christians can object to non-consensual sex, if it is a religion founded on non-consensual sex.

  34. charlesincenca says:

    If there is a photo accompanying one of the definitions of “troll” in any dictionary, your portrait would occupy that space, Max. Sorry to go all ad hominem, and as such apparently lacking in charity, but you’re losing it, friend. If you are what your self-stated biography states, and fairly contemporaneous to folks of our generation, you really need to take stock of how best to utilize your time, as your wasting of it here is becoming increasingly embarrassing to us all. As I understand it, Atheists are congregating in groups all over called “Sunday Assemblies.” Why don’t you offer your time, treasure and talent with one of those nearest you.

    • Atheist Max says:

      Charles:

      Open Thread for Atheists.
      I thought I was following the rules. Did I miss something?

      Ad hominems are comforting. You don’t have to answer my questions. Throw darts all you like. It is impossible for that sort of thing to offend me.

      What offends me are things like what the Pope said yesterday – Gay marriage in Ireland is a “disaster for humanity.” Other things which offend me include: the assassination of cartoonists, witch burnings and exorcisms in Africa and genital mutilation all at the direction of religions.

      I’m not the one claiming “Son of God” or “Mother of our Lord” and getting tax breaks for preaching it. I challenge the claims and look for thoughtful answers – not an end to your tax breaks.

      Regarding ‘Trolls’ – I don’t pry. I consider your religious views to be none of my business.
      Nor do I engage ever in personal insults and ad hominems at any time.

      I am asking fair questions based on the claims coming from Christians.
      You are free to ignore them. If nobody reads them or wants to engage, I’m fine with that, too.

      Are witches real?

  35. Atheist Max says:

    This is from another CS page:

    “As the people of God we must build bridges which reflect the teaching of the Church that we Catholics are
    – not called to separate from culture,
    – nor to be co-opted by our culture,
    – nor to war against our culture,
    but to embrace our culture with a powerful and transformative love rooted in the gospel.”

    HOWEVER:

    “Gay marriage is a defeat for humanity”
    – Cardinal Paolin (The Vatican showed support for this statement) May 30, 2015

    This is separate and at war with the culture. It condescends to the culture which is attempting to change.

    If a Catholic is not co-opted by the culture
    how can she be at peace with the culture? She can only be at peace by herself
    separate from the culture.

  36. Atheist Max says:

    Why is it okay for Jesus to tell lies?

    “Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.’ After saying this, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in private” (John 7.8-10).‬

    If you believe in the book of John you must accept it that Jesus told this lie.
    Why is it okay for Jesus to lie?

    • Todd says:

      “I am not going to this festival” is rendered in the RNAB, “I am not going up to this feast.” The note on the passage suggests a wordplay on the Greek “go up” also refers to Jesus’ Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension.

      This gospel author is the only one that reports this particular visit to Jerusalem. Is it authentic? Or perhaps it is part of the heightening drama of the work, Jesus on a collision course with the religious authorities. Remember that Gospels are also works of drama. They are not intended to be biographies, but mystagogies.

      And I suppose there’s always the possibility Jesus didn’t lie, but he simply changed his mind.

      Interesting find, my friend. But the ump calls strike one.

      • Atheist Max says:

        If my son told me this lie I would punish him. Lying is sometimes necessary, but Jesus didn’t need to tell this lie. He could have just said, “You go and I’ll be there later.”

        I don’t know why people have decided Jesus can be trusted. I’m serious about this.

        How can Jesus be trusted to be the judge to send someone to *eternal Hell* for breaking the same commandment against bearing false witness which he himself has broken?

        If Jesus is justified in scrubbing out his own lies (and Todd, that is what it is) for an end, why not follow Jesus and justify our own lies – after all, every lie has a good reason, just as Jesus had his reasons.

        If “The way is narrow” (as Jesus says) it is obviously narrow for him too!

      • Todd says:

        Your son would be rightly outraged you would take at face value gossip from the Zebedee family. You might talk to him first. When you are old enough to be a parent, you’ll understand.

      • Atheist Max says:

        Todd,

        You must take tremendous comfort in thinking you are speaking to a child when you address me. You bring it up as if it argues against my points, which it doesn’t – as if my observations could never be made by anyone but a child.

        I’ll be 54 years old in October. My daughter is about to turn 25. My son is 22.
        My wife is 54. We are all Atheists – yet we were once believers. We were all baptized – and we all prayed together when the kids were little.

        ALL of us were serious believers 10 years ago. We are now all Atheists. I was the last of the four of us to realize religion is pointless and quite harmful – my own awareness happened on the day of the needless massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary.

        We do not believe God is a real thing – and we don’t think it is now obvious that Jesus is a construction of legends and hear say over centuries.

        The Theory of Christianity is deeply flawed. The Jesus story makes no sense as a theory or as an hypothesis – and Jesus is not consistent enough, original enough, nor good enough to be believable as a real god.

        Finally examining Christianity with a grown up fearless attitude is how we all discovered this religion to be nonsense. Its rituals and leaders are delusional.

      • Todd says:

        Hello Max.

        Comfort? Not really. Like many people on the internet, you present yourself as a pseudonymous presence, choosing to conceal information about yourself. I recognize that as a choice. Some people say this is necessary. I recall you yourself said it was to protect yourself from disapproving family and friends, and yet you say here your whole nuclear family are atheists.

        When I read your writing, I don’t often get a sense of personal maturity of a middle-aged man of 53. The insults today are a little less veiled than usual. You present as less an atheist and more as an anti-believer. There is a significant difference.

        Most people, atheists and believers, have a personal credo that more or less aligns with an official profession of something. While it may be possible to go through life as a skeptic (“I don’t believe that. I don’t accept that. No to that. No. No. No.”), consistency only verifies the person is a complainer. And we have those in religion, too.

        It may be your atheism hasn’t truly taken root except as a reaction against Christianity. Your continued attempts to cite Scripture, for example.

  37. Atheist Max says:

    Todd,

    “Thou shalt not bear false witness…” – YAHWEH (Exodus 20:16)
    “Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe” – JESUS (John 20:29)

    This is an unforgivable, unavoidable, profound contradiction.

    The Exodus commandment forbids claiming things you have not witnessed. One of the few decent ideas in the Bible!

    But Jesus not only violates that rule but he tells us that “not seeing” is BETTER than actually witnessing! Special blessings for ALL who claim as fact that which they HAVE NOT WITNESSED!

    It is an astonishing contradiction.
    When Christians claim, “He is risen” – (Matthew 26:6) they are bearing false witness.
    And they are violating one of the better commandments.

    Thanks to these Jesus legends, fakery is made to be a virtue.

    • Todd says:

      A good example of proof-texting, Max. You have also read something into John 20:29 that’s not there. Context is key, especially in personal narratives. Jesus doesn’t actually say what you think he said. You are reading your personal idea into the text.

      • Atheist Max says:

        Todd,

        “You are reading your personal idea into the text.”

        And who doesn’t? How is that different from what you are doing?
        Where are the instructions on how these texts should be interpreted? And by whose authority?

        If everything depends on personal taste, what is the point of claiming the text matters?

        You seem to have it both ways: You claim my interpretation of the text is wrong in some crucial way. But you also insist the text doesn’t matter in any case. Weird.

        John 20:29 is a direct refutation of the best of the commandments. What exactly do you think I missed?

      • Todd says:

        How is it different? A proof-texter has a conclusion, then searches out evidence to support it. Even atheist, rational, unbelieving scientists don’t work that way. A person of faith reads the Bible and asks, what can illuminate my life, my relationship with God?

        John 20:29 offers a contrast and there’s an important context. Thomas doubted and wouldn’t take his friends at their word. He did come to belief, but the passage was written for a community of 90AD, a generation after most of the last of the apostles. If faith was so difficult for someone who actually knew the Lord, how would the Gospel author offer encouragement to people who had not witnessed the public ministry, or had even heard from any apostle other than John? The contrast is not Max uncovering a gotcha! moment after twenty centuries of Christendom. It is an issue of faith facing a Church that no longer has the Twelve.

        Your efforts in this area are what make me skeptical of your age, but also your credibility as an atheist. You strike me as an antifaith person. At least that’s how you present yourself online.

  38. Atheist Max says:

    Todd,

    “A proof-texter has a conclusion…”

    The text in question (the bible) is claimed to be conclusively authoritative. That is its problem with it!
    I am challenging its authority by questioning its substance.
    The conclusion that these stories are the word of God has been FOISTED UPON THE READER by the preacher.
    I challenge your conclusion that a real God has anything at all to do with these legends.

    If your conclusion about the Bible is that it is just a book of philosophical, moral tales like “Aesop’s Fables” I would not object to that conclusion. I am objecting to your conclusion that says the Bible is a book of Authority which must therefor be protected from proper review.

    When a book reviewer concludes “50 Shades of Gray” is a disgusting book which denigrates women, he doesn’t have the added burden of dealing with a clutch of individuals which have concluded the book is *beyond reproach* because it happens to be the one and only unique word of a God!

    “Burn your daughter to death” – Yahweh (Leviticus 21:9)
    If this is the command of your God I have every right to question it. If this is a moral tale for inspiration, I shudder to think how many innocent people have been burned to death for such “morality”.

    “you are an anti faith person”
    Unless someone convinces me otherwise, faith is exactly the bad thing about religion.
    To have ‘faith’ is to insist that something is true even when all evidence shows it is certainly not true.

    Your car’s brakes must earn the confidence of a driver – the car must demonstrate its brakes actually function before one can trust them.
    Having faith – conversely – is when you KNOW your car has NO brakes but you drive it anyway!
    (“blessed are those who have not seen yet believe” – Jesus)

    Jesus is profoundly immoral. And such immorality upsets me enormously, yes.

    • Todd says:

      “I am objecting to your conclusion that says the Bible is a book of Authority which must therefor be protected from proper review.”

      Wrong website, Max. I’m not saying that. I’m just criticizing an improper review.

      “Jesus is profoundly immoral. And such immorality upsets me enormously, yes.”

      So much for your claim to be mature, polite, and non-insulting. These kinds of provocative statements are what make me think you are really a teenager trying to pretend to be mature while pushing believers’ buttons. Sorry, but it just makes any attempt to discuss with you either a headscratcher or a laughfest.

      • Atheist Max says:

        If the Bible isn’t “an Authority” why do you object to it being treated as just another book?

        “…the best thing a girl can be in this world, is a beautiful little fool.”
        ― Jorden Baker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (Pg. 221)

        We all know Fitzgerald’s character is fiction. His recommendation that girls be fools can be dismissed. You won’t chastise me for ‘proof texting’.

        But when I point out that Jesus says, “Better he be drowned with a millstone around his neck..”

        You’ll accuse me of all sorts of things – wrong interpretations and proof texting.

        You want it both ways.

        Freedom to clobber other people with the Bible’s authority when it suits you.
        Freedom to disregard its entire contents when it doesn’t.

        You are exactly like every other member of every clergy every where.
        You reject all the constraints of reality while pretending Atheists are for anarchy.

  39. leefstrong says:

    Actually the quote from “Gatsby” was said by Daisy, not Jordan. And in a bit of trivia, it’s what Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda said in real life! (Daisy is modeled somewhat on Zelda.)

    • Todd says:

      Max, if we can’t trust you to get your non-Biblical quote right, why would I take your attempts seriously at reading the Bible just as you want? It’s not a matter of faith. It’s a matter of simple reading comprehension and then applying human reason. Your arguments often lack any sort of rationale. A bit more care and thoughtfulness would do you much better.

      • Atheist Max says:

        “a bit more care and thoughtfulness would do you much better.”

        Do you have any idea how censorious and condescending you are?

        You want it both ways:
        The Bible matters when you want it to.
        And it doesn’t matter at all when you want condescend.

        Which is more dangerous?
        A person with an opinion, or a person with an opinion which he can claim was sanctified by God? Heads you win, tails I lose.

        “Burn your daughter alive.”
        Jesus/Yahweh – Leviticus (21:9)

        Please tell me again how the Bible doesn’t matter regarding God’s word in this case
        because this is nothing more than your cue to condescend to me.

      • Todd says:

        Max, your arguments simply don’t make sense. I have no doubt you are impassioned–either as an impostor or as a real anti-religionist.

        It is your interpretation of the Bible that stands outside mainstream Christian thought. And since it is a Judeo-Christian work, I would think it has little truck even among non-believers. If you want to discuss the Bible with Christians, you will need one of two things: the religious sensibility or at the very least, a rational approach. You refuse the first, which is to be expected.

        Your example of Leviticus, the Old Law which was superceded by the New Covenant, is a cultural artifact of ancient Israel. Not even Jews would hold to this specific thing you’ve dredged up. It no longer has any basis in reason.

        And the difference about what to accept in the Bible and what not is (as I’ve said many times) a matter of discernment: alignment with Jesus, the Christian tradition of the past two millennia, not to mention the piece you routinely ignore: context.

        When I mentioned the context of John 20:29, you didn’t even address my point. You continued on as though you, an anti-religionist, had the authoritative interpretation on a Christian text. As a professed atheist, you have very little credibility to speak on Christianity. As I’ve suggested before: make the atheist argument. But you rarely do.

        All this leads me to believe you’re less interested in a real conversation or even making atheist or anti-religionist converts, and more into conducting your rant. My sense is that you want other people to know you are suffering. I believe it. But until you can show some variation on that theme, you’re just playing a simple little tune over and over again.

      • Atheist Max says:

        Todd,

        “Your example …the Old Law which was superceded by the New Covenant, is a cultural artifact of ancient Israel.”

        You don’t appear to be understanding something.
        All of the Bible fits the description of “cultural artifact.” The New Covenant is worthless if the Old Covenant was vile and imperfect.

        I am asking you – Did Yahweh hand the Israelites a perfect, TIMELESS law or not?
        And who gets to decide?

        If “Kill Homosexuals” (Leviticus 20:13) is a vile, disgusting command and
        “Burn your daughter alive” (Leviticus 21:19) is another vile, disgusting command
        How do you justify your claim that Jesus is virtuous if he and Yahweh are the same?

        To say “the Old law is bad but the New Law is good” is to deny the Author of those laws any moral authority. To claim God created evil laws once upon a time but later changed his mind and realized his flaw by giving us Jesus instead – this is insane.

        Is it fear which stops you from exploring this honestly?
        Otherwise, please explain how the same loving God can command “burn your daughter to death” and at the same time command “forgive not 7 times but 77…” (Matthew 18:22) !!!
        For goodness sake. It is obvious all of these rules were made in fear of a god who never put his thumb on any of these scales.

        As for John 20:29…

        Jesus says “blessed are those who have NOT SEEN yet believe” and as I have pointed out, this is a directive to believe (and furthermore claim as True to others!) something which was only hear say.
        Thomas had said “Not until I put my hand in his side…” yet Thomas even John admits Thomas never did it put his hand in Jesus’ side! He never put his fingers in the holes in Jesus’ hands! John claims Thomas witnessed a risen Jesus – and this is supposed to have been enough.

        But even a risen Jesus proves nothing in particular about Jesus. And it only opens up a disastrous set of questions.
        Matthew 27:52 clearly states that bodies rising from the dead was a common, even mundane, ordinary event which happened frequently – many risen holy people visited Jerusalem and discussed Jesus with the people there.

        Somehow according to John, Thomas missed this stunning week of risen people (as did all the historians of the time) – and he thus did not believe Jesus could rise either.
        It is even more jarring that other gospels include Thomas as among the first to see Jesus after the road to Emmaus – completely contradicting the entirety of John’s account.

        “Do not bear false witness” is one of those (incredibly rare) good ideas in the Bible. And the entirety of John wrecks it to smithereens.

      • Todd says:

        Suffice it to say I disagree with pretty much everything you’ve written here, both in content and in your lack of reasoning.

    • Atheist Max says:

      leefstrong –
      Of course you are correct. I regret the misappropriation. The quote is of course Daisy’s.
      But my point was not lost.

  40. charlesincenca says:

    Max, Todd has provided you with this “open thread for atheists.” Your disintegration as an atheist has been painful to observe. You do no honor to secularists who really effort to make sense of this existence by sheer ingenuity as you, despite your protestations, are now bereft of any intellectual ingenuity. Max, you’re flaying and grasping at your last straws, not ours. Bow out gracefully for your own good.
    I don’t give a rip how old you are. If I take you at your word about your family situation, I have to declare I fear that you have led them astray by cultification, not unlike Fred Phelps. If you’re some young ideologue-savant as Todd suspects, do something about it as I’ve proposed many times before.
    Whether Jesus is God, real or imagined or “immoral” (unbelievable irony), is immaterial at this junction to all involved here. You need to get a life, if only in this world.

    • Atheist Max says:

      Charles,

      “You need to get a life, if only in this world.”

      Well now. So superior. Yet you have no evidence I am wrong.
      I would never say something so rude to you. “Get a life” – When have I uttered anything like that to you? I’m an award-winning success in my life. But I question the substance of your claims – I am not the one making claims here.

      Immorality and solipsistic judgement is your god and immorality is your god’s method. Your God, if he exists, is in hiding and the words he has left behind through Jesus are vile.

      Immorality is simple to describe, “Needless harm to others.”
      If that is not immorality then I would not know what use the word could be!

      The words of Jesus have caused untold “Needless harm” across this world.

      If you take it personally that I question Jesus, I feel sorry for you – you truly have lost the argument if an attack on your Jesus is an attack on you personally.

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