Atheism, Religion, Agnosticism or TRUTH
It's been awhile since we've made a non-work-out post, so it's about time to change it up a bit and include something with a lot more pump than a muscle. We are always appreciative when someone is open to talk to us about their beliefs, even if they are different than our's. It challenges us to investigate questions we've never considered before and provides the opportunity to enlighten each other. As mentioned in previous blogs, Troy and I believe in God as defined in the Bible. We believe Jesus Christ is God in human form and our savior from the sin we cannot save ourselves from, providing us the only hope for life after death through His sacrifice. If this is not your belief, please don't disregard our post(s) or think we're religious zealots about to condemn you for something we have no right to condemn you for. Again, we love hearing views that oppose our's, so we can further investigate the truth. We would love to hear your's too!
Upon a recent discussion, the book “Why Are You Atheists So Angry?” by Greta Christina was recommended. We read the highlighted chapter going over why Atheists don't believe in God and watched some of her videos (it helps hearing a person speak, in addition to reading their book, to get a better depiction of their personality); and there is a lot we agreed with. We agree there are several reasons to be angry at religion: The Crusades, excommunication, abortions because girls are scared to tell their parents they’re pregnant, 9-11, repetitious but meaningless religious practices, false prophets, and the list goes on. We admire those, like Greta, who are confrontational among those who are religious and harmful to others. It is difficult watching others believe a lie, so we admire and encourage those who approach these topics with skepticism and really ‘think’ about and research topics concerning morality, life after death, origin of life and/or our purpose in life, whether they agree with us or not. People like Greta inspire us to continue learning. With that being said, because our belief promises life after death, a purpose for life and love which encourages a desire for objective morality, we are passionate about sharing it. If we weren’t passionate, one should question whether we actually believe it. For example, it was difficult at the beginning of our relationship, because Troy was agnostic while I believed in God. It was difficult to just ignore, and be okay with, the possibility of one of us going to Hell and the other going to Heaven, so we confessed the concerns and fears we had, because we love each other. Greta seems to portray this love for humanity via her hatred for harmful religious acts, and she’s speaking out about it for which we applaud her.
It is difficult, however, to accept many of Greta's claims with an analytical approach, especially when concerning a topic of such great importance: whether or not there is life after death, a Creator that made us with a purpose for a purpose and a reason for love and morality. I think many would agree that happens to us when we die is one of our greatest fears in times of doubt; so we don’t take research on this topic lightly, hence the reason we prefer reputable sources concerning the topic. Having applied basic research methods to this book, like I've done in graduate school and publications/writings on other topics, we find the following constraints in Greta's book:
- She’s a blogger with every right to publish books, but without reputable references, credentials or research to support her claims, they are merely opinions. We are not going to base our faith, and whether or not there is life after death, on opinions.
- She references other bloggers (more opinions) instead of reputable sources.
- She embraces anger as a motivator, while the Bible primarily utilizes love as a motivator. This is not to deny the fact that anger can be motivating for positive causes (it is!), but love surpasses it. Many people carry their anger to the grave before making the difference that resolves it, whereas love can prompt the forgiveness and peace to abolish anger. This method is utilized in therapy for victims of abuse, PTSD, guilt, etc. Anger binds and breaks us, but love and forgiveness (whether we forgive ourselves or others) can set us free. Love gives us purpose and motivates us to help others realize this life is not the end.
- There is an evident struggle to establish any basis for morality. Upon searching her credibility, as we do with authors who believe in God or writers of other topics we care about (with so much information available, it’s important we make sure the information we refer to about important topics, like health, medicine, morality and why we exist, are credible), we found out about other books she’s published. Being very passionate about efforts and awareness to stop human trafficking/slavery and having been involved with Florida Abolitionists, realizing she wrote “Paying for It: A Guide by Sex Workers for Their Customers,” raised more skepticism. Whether paid workers or not, we don’t like supporting industries that encourage the desire for sex trafficking (porn, strip clubs, books about pleasing one’s sex worker, etc), but having not read that book, we cannot assume that’s what it’s about. For the sake of time, I listened to one of her YouTube videos about her views on sexual morality before judging the book by its’ cover. Based on her videos, Greta does not seem to support human trafficking at all, yet reveals an obviously struggle to define sexual morality without any basis of objective morals.
- She comprises all religions as one in the same. She mentions the different and harmful views some religions have about sex, but never regards the parameters given in the Bible. And, why would she if she doesn’t believe in it? So we must add, the Bible formulates flawless instructions for us to live morally. No, none of us will adhere completely, because we fall short with sin; but in using it as our human instruction manual, all the questions Greta prompts are answered. It simplifies SO much! For example, if an adolescent knows their race, personality and gender is sacred (how they were designed to be), regardless of what they like and dislike about themselves (because we all wish we could change something about ourselves), with a clear answer as to how they should respond to sexual desires, we wouldn’t be dealing with men, claiming to be women, dominating women in sports, gender confusion, who’s allowed to use which restroom, homosexual discrimination, etc. How does an atheist justify monogamy vs. polygamy? According to Greta, it’s whatever the participating individuals agree upon. Tell that to someone who’s been cheated on. People base these decisions on how they feel at the time they make them, just like many adolescents when they consider being a different gender than they are. They act on these desires/feelings and society gives them permission. Do I even need to explain the consequences? Just playing all the scenarios in my mind does not prompt anger but grief. Not all people who believe in God and the Bible are sheltered, religious zealots. Some have experienced the brokenness caused when imperfect people try to define morality. In addition to the issues it causes in relationships and self respect, this is how religions are formed. Imperfect people attempting to define morality, whether religious, atheist or agnostic, is the cause of all the reasons Greta is angry.
In response to her Top 10 Reasons Greta does not believe in God
Reason # 1:
"The consistent replacement of supernatural explanations of the world with natural ones"
Being the skeptical, evidence-seeking types, Troy and I cannot relate to those who create supernatural explanations, as she mentions on Page 96. In making the assumption that those who believe in God create supernatural explanations, she also includes, “If I see any solid evidence to support God...I’ll reconsider my disbelief.” In the pages below, there is a lot MORE evidence for the existence of God than she's given for His non-existence.
Reasons # 2 & 3:
"The inconsistency of world religions" &
"The weakness of religious arguments, explanations, and apologetics"
All religions claim exclusivity, so referring to them as one in the same disregards that they are fundamentally different, though superficially the same in some cases. Therefore, all religion cannot be blamed for what Greta’s mad at. Of course world religions are not consistent. They’re man-made (mostly including Judeo-Christianity), many do not acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and two prominent ones, Islam and Hinduism, are based on a false prophets. The Bible, however, is not based on a false prophet, having fulfilled prophecy with over 300 references to the Messiah in the Old Testament that were fulfilled in Jesus, as documented in the New Testament. Troy and I don’t base our belief in God on feelings. I know I am not perfect and my feelings are deceiving, so my faith is based on historical and scientific evidence.She references other bloggers to claim the Earth is not fine tuned instead of reputable resources. Evidence that the Earth is fined-tuned can be found in just the anatomy and physiology of a flagellum motor!
Some of the many scholars supporting this include:
- Dr. Hugh Ross (Astronomer, author of “Why the World’s The Way It Is”): https://youtu.be/gW2QAJAjCxQ
- Dr. William Lane Craig (Philosopher, Theologian)
- Dr. James Tour (Synthetic Organic Chemist specializing in nanotechnology): https://youtu.be/pR4QhNFTtyw
- Dr. John Lennox (Mathematician, Philosopher): https://youtu.be/b25LZdp85jw5
- Dr. John Polkinghorne (Physicist, Theologian): https://youtu.be/dxUAcGnrv-8
- C.S. Lewis (Theologian, former atheist, author of “Mere Christianity”)
"The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron. The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life…it seems clear that there are relatively few ranges of values for the numbers that would allow the development of any form of intelligent life…This means that the initial state of the universe must have been very carefully chosen indeed if the hot big bang model was correct right back to the beginning of time. It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.” - Stephen Hawking, “A Brief History of Time” p. 125, 127)
Biology, astrology and geology, among other sciences, have not proven the Bible wrong, but rather support its claims. Legitimate evidence, including that from eye witnesses, is preferable to the philosophical comparison of a 500 ft tree with hot pink leaves (mentioned in Greta's book). So, it seems practical to assume there is another reason, besides lack of evidence, Greta does not believe God is true. Maybe she does not want God to be true. She is angry at the damage religion has caused, and I am too, but she fails to differentiate between God and religion. God is not religion and religion is not God. There is a HUGE difference! In claiming the weakness of religious arguments, explanations and apologetics, Greta must be referring to religions, not The Bible and historical evidence of Jesus Christ.
Bruce Metzger writes:
“The works of several ancient authors are preserved to us by the thinnest possible thread of transmission. For example, the compendious history of Rome by Velleius Paterculus survived to modern times in only one incomplete manuscript, from which the edition princeps was made – and this lone manuscript was lost in the seventeenth century after being copied by Beatus Rhenanus at Amerbach. Even the Annals of the famous historian Tacitus is extant, so far as the first six books are concerned, in but a single manuscript, dating from the ninth century. In 1870 the only known manuscript of the Epistle to Diognetus, an early Christian composition which editors usually include in the corpus of Apostolic Fathers, perished in a fire at the municipal library in Strasbourg. In contrast with these figures, the textual critic of the New Testament is embarrassed by the wealth of his material.”
And, apologist Ravi Zacharias says,
“In real terms, the New Testament is easily the best attested ancient writing in terms of the sheer number of documents, the time span between the events and the document, and the variety of documents available to sustain or contradict it. There is nothing in ancient manuscript evidence to match such textual availability and integrity.”
The Bible is not one book, but 66 written over about a 1500 year span by over forty authors, most with little to no connection to each other (including tax collectors, poets, peasants, fishermen, statesmen, musicians, scholars, shepherds). It was written in different places, including three continents (Asia, Africa and Europe) in three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek), yet somehow all of it collaborates providing legitimate evidence of God and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Evidence, meaning that which withstands the scholars, investigators and critics today. For more information about the Bible’s accuracy: Josh McDowell’s “The New Evidence that demands a verdict.” The sheer controversy and emotional response it evokes in people is just icing on the cake, indicating the truth it contains.
Reasons # 4 & 5:
"The increasing diminishment of God" & "The fact that religion runs in families"
The “god of the gaps” concept she made in Reason #4 is the same argument she made in Reasons # 1 and 3. I know way too many people, including scholars and apologists who were raised in one religion and later believed something completely different. Adults don’t grow into believing in Santa Claus, they grow out of it, just as people often grow out of beliefs in religion. Nabeel Qureshi, MD, MA in Christian apologetics and MA in religion from Duke Univ., is an example of this. Nabeel was raised Muslim before becoming a profound Christian apologist and writer of “No God but One: Allah or Jesus?” and “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.” Many people have attained belief in God following former religions (JWs, Muslims and Catholics, among other religious affiliates). Yes, many people are shunned for going against the religion their family holds onto, making it hard for some to leave, but they do; and many people lost their lives to profess their faith in Jesus. Even the apostle Paul, originally Saul, in the Bible is an example of this. Muslims believe those who leave their faith should be killed (“Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him,” (Sahih Al-Bukhari volume 9, book 84, no. 57).
Reason # 6:
"The physical causes of everything we think of as the soul"
Having evidence of a God, our Creator, I’m going to believe our Creator’s definition of our souls rather than the creation’s definition of its’ soul, because we don’t know how He created them. I agree, we should not assume supernatural phenomena as a rationale for otherwise un-explainable events, but we should not replace the possibility of supernatural events with explanations that have less evidence! An example of this is the hypothesis that the 500 eye witnesses, who claimed to see Jesus resurrected from the dead, were hallucinating. Psychology quickly debunks this theory. The likeliness of 500 people having the same hallucination is like 500 people having the same dream: this hypothesis requires much more faith than the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection. In addition to 500 eye witnesses who saw Jesus alive after an obvious death, we have historical evidence of people admitting they saw him alive, knowing they’d be sentenced to death for it. In addition, the first eye witnesses were women. Women were not considered reputable sources for this sort of evidence. In other words women would not have been listened to in court/trial, so if this were a made up story, why would women be chosen as the first witnesses? How did the accounts of Jesus’ life match up among four different people: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? They’re not exactly the same, but show the same amount of differences you’d expect from witnesses in a court room sharing their story from four different perspectives. If this were a made up story, they would have collaborated, resulting in a rehearsed, matching story, which raises a red flag among investigators. Josh McDowell began law school as an agnostic when he prepared a study examining the evidence of the Christian faith with the intent to disprove it. Finding too much evidence to support it rather than disprove it, he became a Christian, later receiving his doctorate in law. More evidence for Christ: http://www.bible.ca/d-resurrection-evidence-Josh-McDowell.htm
“A student at the University of Uruguay said to me."Professor McDowell, why can't you refute Christianity?" "For a very simple reason," I answered. "I am not able to explain away an event in history—the resurrection of Jesus Christ."” Josh McDowell
“After more than 700 hours of studying this subject, I have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is either one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted on the minds of human beings—or it is the most remarkable fact of history .” Josh McDowell
Reason # 7:
"The complete failure of any sort of supernatural phenomenon to stand up to rigorous testing"
We cannot test supernatural phenomena in the Bible with the scientific method, because it’s history. History is not observable, measurable and repeatable, as required of something to be tested by the scientific method. There is historical evidence proving that claims made in the Bible are true. None have been disproven. Prove me otherwise if you disagree.
Reason # 8-10:
"The slipperiness of religious and spiritual beliefs," "The failure of religion to improve or clarify over time," & "The complete and utter lack of solid evidence for God's existence"
I do not believe our salvation is based on works. We do not go to Hell for doubting. In response to Reason # 9, our increased understanding of the physical world actually supports the Bible’s accuracy. The Bible’s accuracy is not based on spiritual intuitions. The Bible contains prophecies that have been fulfilled, science that was later proven (blood borne pathogens, the Earth being round, astrological truths). Reason # 10 is absolutely wrong. There is so much evidence for God’s existence, and it’s not based on opinion, tradition or bias. She used God and religion interchangeably, like they’re the same, but they are not at all. I do not consider myself religious, but I believe in God and the gift of salvation He’s given us through the eye-witnessed, historically documented death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I know this sacrifice was because of God’s love for us, hence the reason I love Him and desire to do His will, just as I want to respect, honor and fulfill the desires of my parents. I’m referring to a relationship with God based on love, not religion.*This is opinion, not to be taken otherwise: It seems religion was created by sin to corrupt us and deter us from God. The Bible warns that Satan is crafty and what better way to lure us away from God than to hide his bait in religiosity, disguised to be of God?
Now, not to be hypocritical, these claims must be supported:
To claim I believe in God, it’s important I question my source, The Bible, to defend its accuracy and my faith:God didn’t intend for us to have blind faith- It’s important we question the Bible’s accuracy- “The Bible isn’t true because it works for us. It works, because it’s true.”
1. Historical Accuracy
2. It’s written by man
3. Can it be proven scientifically?
- Eye Witnesses! - 2 Peter 1:16-21, 1 John:1-3, 1 John 1:1-3
- Matthew, Mark, Luke & John give matching, but different, accounts of Jesus’ life, comparable to what detectives seek among different witnesses
- The New Testament was written within the lifetime of eye witnesses, much sooner than other historical figures were written about following their deaths - 1 Cor. 15
Over 5,800 original manuscripts of the New Testament and over 42,000 manuscripts of the Old Testament in comparison to:
- Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars ~10 manuscripts, written ~900 years after
- Aristotle’s Poetics ~5 manuscripts written 1300-1400 years after
- Homer’s Iliad ~1800 manuscripts
Collaboration among 40 authors, over 1000 years (~1526 BC-67 AD), most having never met each other. The Old Testament was written between 1400 BC and 400 BC. The New Testament was written AD 45-AD 90 within the lifetime of eye witnesses!
To deny the Bible’s accuracy would be denying other historical documentation (none of which have the evidence we have for the Bible). It takes a lot of faith to think over-zealous monks somehow stole 5,800 plus New Testament manuscripts from all over the world, altered them then returned them where they stole them from without being caught! Beware of translations that are not backed by these manuscripts. There are committees and scholars dedicated to avoid misinterpretations.Manuscript Comparison among other historical documents: https://www.josh.org/wp-content/uploads/Bibliographical-Test-Update-08.13.14.pdf
Written by man but God inspired
- 2 Peter 1:16-21Prophecies in Psalms, written by David 1040-970 BC, including Jesus’ crucifixion Psalms 22, Matt 27:46, Psalms 22:19, John 16:33
Crucifixion began around 6th century BC, way after David wrote about it: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14750495
The Scientific Method requires something is observable, measurable & repeatable. History cannot be proven by the Scientific Method.
Jesus is the Messiah
The Old Testament, completed in 450 B.C., contains over 300 references to the Messiah that were fulfilled in Jesus.The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) was initiated in 285-246 B.C., so there were at least 250 years between the written prophecies and their fulfillment during the life of Jesus. For more references on fulfilled prophecies, see “The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict” by Josh McDowell beginning page 168.
Evidence of an old Earth:
Psalms 90:4 “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” – Big Bang?
Evidence of an expanding universe according to Edwin Hubble’s discovery:
Isaiah 40:22 “It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in..”
“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”