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Ch. 16: Is Religion Child Abuse? 
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Chris OConnor wrote:
Quote:
I don’t think there is a god, but if there is it would exist regardless of my lack of belief.
Exactly. Belief in something doesn't make it exist. Lack of belief doesn't make it not exist.


This discussion has a neat segue to American Gods where Neil Gaiman argues precisely that this common scientific view of the relation between belief and existence is incorrect. A main theme of the book is that Gods exist in human hearts, and fall out of existence when they are forgotten and ignored. Gaiman's outlook is actually compatible with a key Biblical text, 1 John 4:16 - "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God" - in suggesting that God is not an entity but a quality of human existence. Here we have belief in love serving to make God exist, with a constructed narrative a main part of the nature of an imagined God.

The problem, relating here to the issue of religion as child abuse, is that this existential theme of love is set within a complex narrative of traditional faith which propounds many claims that are empirically false. Its defenders try to justify the myth according to the categories of modern science by turning God into a real entity, when the Biblical equation between God and love quoted above is incompatible with such imaginative distortion, which is known as reification.

Logically, love is not an entity, therefore if God = Love, God is not an entity.

I do think it is abusive to tell a child that something you know to be false is in fact true. Hence it is reasonable to say "God is love" but not reasonable to claim that Biblical stories are historical when strong evidence indicates otherwise.

The value of the 'God is love' theme, getting back to an earlier brief conversation with Chris on whether God is an entity or a presence, is that placing a highest value on love gives a logical path with a heart, providing a basis to assess other moral claims.

The question of whether this points to an existent God is not simple. Theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg observed in his discussion of the trinity that the Father is not a father without the Son, so the Christian God is intrinsically relational, as in the 'God is love' idea from John. A being whose nature is relational depends on those it relates to, so God is in fact largely constituted by human belief.

The problem is that belief can be false or true. As I see it, false belief is not sustainable, whereas true belief provides a sustainable path to salvation. The truth of belief is a question of evidence and logic, not of traditional authority. Traditional ideas need to be redefined to make them compatible with modern understanding.

RT



Thu May 21, 2009 5:30 pm
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Post The sky is blue, got a problem with it?
I have only expressed my feelings, and my opinions and I have appologized for appearing to assume to know the feelings and beliefs of others. I have given thanks for the opportunity to discuss this topic, and I have never once told anyone their beliefs and opinions were wrong.

I stated my opinion precisely to avoid any further assumptions, what I failed to realize is that I was making the assumption that I was involved in a discussion deviod of preachers. I assumed wrong.

Superciliousness and childish tendencies for temper tantrums will no doubt provoke a response, and I would never deny you the last word.



Thu May 21, 2009 6:29 pm
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I for one appreciate the discussion, it's tough laying your beliefs out there to be analyzed. What you laid out there was more than an opinion I think, it was a proposition of sorts. If the tables are turned in the future, you'd do me a great service to critique my beliefs so perhaps I could amend them.

Suzanne: "I stated my opinion precisely to avoid any further assumptions, what I failed to realize is that I was making the assumption that I was involved in a discussion deviod of preachers. I assumed wrong."

"Where you do not accept a concept without proof, I do not accept a concept riddled with contradictions."

"Maybe it's not, I fear my plain and simple language may be hard for Interbane to understand."

Preaching is a one way dialogue, no? It's all in good fun. But I think your first assumption that started it all wasn't that this thread is devoid of preachers, but that atheists have no faith. From there it somehow veered off in the direction of what you believe. Delicate territory it seems.



Fri May 22, 2009 1:49 am
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Quote:
"God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God"


This quote is only the smallest fraction of the descriptions given to god in the bible. In order to accept it you must throw away the bulk of the rest of the writings. it is no more a main theme than is...

Quote:
Jesus
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace but a sword.
-Matthew 10:34


or

Quote:
Jesus
But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip; and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
-Luke 22:36


or

Quote:
Jesus
And I will kill her children with death...
-Revelation 2:23


or

Quote:
God
Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree:

And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.
Deuteronomy 12:2-3


or

Quote:
God
Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.
I Samuel 15:3


or

Quote:
God
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
Isaiah 45:7



At any rate why not just call love… love? Why add an element of baggage to the word and alter its meaning?

The accepted definition of god is not love it is…

Supreme being: the being believed in monotheistic religions such as Judaism, Islam, and Christianity to be the all-powerful all-knowing creator of the universe, worshiped as the only god.

Supernatural being: one of a group of supernatural male beings in some religions, each of which is worshiped as the personification or controller of some aspect of the universe.

And of course with these gods comes the very flawed and harmful religions that they inspire.

Later


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Fri May 22, 2009 5:09 pm
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Frank 013 wrote:
Quote:
"God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God"
This quote is only the smallest fraction of the descriptions given to god in the bible. In order to accept it you must throw away the bulk of the rest of the writings.

Frank, you are ignoring the basic message that Jesus came to refine the older teachings about God, in Paul's term superceding the covenant of law by the covenant of grace. This idea of a new covenant is intrinsically linked with the theology of John equating God and love. True, the church has not lived up to this noble ideal, and as you say there are contradictory texts in the Bible as well, but from the simple idea of a covenant of grace you should be able to see that the 'God is love' idea is central to Biblical theology. As to the quotes about Jesus promoting conflict, he does so on behalf of love. Where the church has used the conflict texts to promote its temporal interests it has been inconsistent with the Biblical message. RT



Fri May 22, 2009 8:45 pm
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Robert Tulip wrote:
Frank, you are ignoring the basic message that Jesus came to refine the older teachings about God, in Paul's term superceding the covenant of law by the covenant of grace.

But this covenant of grace or love is for those who accept the Only Truth, and for no one else. In the newer biblical writings, what happens to those who don't follow the Way is only too clear, eternal punishment in Hell. Jesus himself is clear about this. Thus, I can't agree that the Bible opens the way to universal love.



Fri May 22, 2009 9:09 pm
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Quote:
RT
Frank, you are ignoring the basic message that Jesus came to refine the older teachings about God, in Paul's term superseding the covenant of law by the covenant of grace. This idea of a new covenant is intrinsically linked with the theology of John equating God and love.


Jesus' answer to that statement is as follows...

Quote:
Jesus
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
-Matthew: 5:17-18


This idea that Jesus came to change the law goes against his own words on the subject. But that hardly matters, my point is that there are many, many ways to interpret those text and they all can be supported. There is no central message, the message it is what the reader wants to find.

Quote:
RT
True, the church has not lived up to this noble ideal, and as you say there are contradictory texts in the Bible as well, but from the simple idea of a covenant of grace you should be able to see that the 'God is love' idea is central to Biblical theology.


That depends, when I read the bible I saw much more horror and hate than love… the vengeful and intolerant god does pervade the majority of those stories. And even Jesus acts less than loving on more than one occasion.

Quote:
Jesus
Whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness.
-Mark 3:29


Quote:
Jesus
Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
-Matthew 12:31


Quote:
Jesus
Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father. . .
-Matthew 10:33


These are not the words of a forgiving loving god, but of a petty, remorseless tyrant.

Quote:
Jesus
The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
-Matthew 13:41-42


Fire and gnashing of teeth… the very essence of Christian tolerance.

Quote:
Jesus
Ye serpents, ye generations of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
-Matthew 23:33


Quote:
Jesus
O generation of vipers! how can ye, being evil, speak good things?
-Matthew 12:34


These lines (spoken by Jesus) are largely responsible for the Christian churches’ intolerance towards Jews. Again not very loving…

Quote:
Jesus
Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward parts is full of ravening and wickedness.
-Luke 11:39


More of the loving Jesus calling people names…

Quote:
Jesus
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them...
-Mark 16:17-18


Here Jesus says that believers won’t be harmed if they drink poison. I wonder how many “believers” have that much faith, I also wonder how many would consider this an example of Jesus’ love for them ?

Of course there is the greatest lie…

Quote:
Jesus
Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
-Matthew 16:28


Quote:
Jesus
Behold I come quickly...
-Revelation 3:11


And we all know that liars should not be trusted or admired… but you can trust that Jesus loves you if you want to.

Quote:
RT
As to the quotes about Jesus promoting conflict, he does so on behalf of love.


That is exactly what I would expect a Christian to say, but as an outsider who was NOT indoctrinated to believe Jesus was the embodiment of love I don’t see that in the text.

Unless you mean love of god… a jealous and petty god that wants love so selfishly it must come before family, friends, peace and even your own health, and to withhold that love means eternal damnation.

That’s what I see when I read the biblical passages.

But like I said I only read the text I do not have a preacher whispering the “true” meaning of the words into my ear.

Later


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Fri May 22, 2009 9:37 pm
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DWill wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
Frank, you are ignoring the basic message that Jesus came to refine the older teachings about God, in Paul's term superceding the covenant of law by the covenant of grace.
But this covenant of grace or love is for those who accept the Only Truth, and for no one else. In the newer biblical writings, what happens to those who don't follow the Way is only too clear, eternal punishment in Hell. Jesus himself is clear about this. Thus, I can't agree that the Bible opens the way to universal love.


What Jesus is clear about is that salvation is for those who do works of mercy, not those who mouth orthodoxy. He says at Matthew 25, in the text known as The Last Judgement, "the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.'"

Calvin got Jesus completely wrong in his theology of limited atonement (the L of TULIP). The Last Judgement shows that Jesus is found among the poor, the deprived and the oppressed, not the 'true believers' of the hierarchy. The idea that salvation is only through the church was a political initiative of the Roman Church designed to enhance its temporal power, a Roman initiative which Calvin maintained with his fanatical ideology. Limited atonement is not a biblical idea, as it directly conflicts with teachings such as The Last Judgement and The Beatitudes which preach universal love.



Fri May 22, 2009 9:46 pm
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Quote:
RT
Limited atonement is not a biblical idea, as it directly conflicts with teachings such as The Last Judgment and The Beatitudes which preach universal love.


RT, if the word on the subject contradicts itself, as is the case here, how can you reasonably choose one way over the other so confidently?

Both the Old Testament and the gospels agree that limited atonement is the standard, only your assertion that one interpretation of one event counters that ongoing warning… why should that single event (assuming it means what you say it means) trump the rest of the biblical message?

I see you constantly sighting one passage over other (more numerous) passages to support your point, what I do NOT see is the reason that your passage is in any way more credible… except possibly because you want it to be.

It seems clear to me that there is no one message in the bible, which I would expect considering the many writers of the materials and the many revisions made to the text.

Why you insist that there is one central message baffles me considering how much must be ignored or discarded because of direct contradiction to your claim… especially since the parts that must be ignored are often times more numerous than the parts that you site.

Later


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Frank 013 wrote:
Quote:
RT
Limited atonement is not a biblical idea, as it directly conflicts with teachings such as The Last Judgment and The Beatitudes which preach universal love.


RT, if the word on the subject contradicts itself, as is the case here, how can you reasonably choose one way over the other so confidently?

Both the Old Testament and the gospels agree that limited atonement is the standard, only your assertion that one interpretation of one event counters that ongoing warning… why should that single event (assuming it means what you say it means) trump the rest of the biblical message?

I see you constantly sighting one passage over other (more numerous) passages to support your point, what I do NOT see is the reason that your passage is in any way more credible… except possibly because you want it to be.

It seems clear to me that there is no one message in the bible, which I would expect considering the many writers of the materials and the many revisions made to the text.

Why you insist that there is one central message baffles me considering how much must be ignored or discarded because of direct contradiction to your claim… especially since the parts that must be ignored are more numerous than the parts that you site.

Later
Frank, from my point of view it is about asking who Jesus could really have been. As a teacher of universal love, clearly a main theme in the Bible, the story is of his inevitable conflict with the world of pain. It is then about assessing rival explanations and asking which are more coherent, simple, elegant and parsimonious against modern rational scientific criteria. Orthodox faith is none of these, depending instead on miraculous claims which we know are scientifically impossible, and have enabled a culture of child abuse, as shown most shockingly in the report from Ireland.

Given that orthodoxy is false and abusive, the two options are then that Jesus did not exist, or that he existed in a way that can explain how the impossible claims of the church arose and why they were wrong.

The approach of positing an intrinsic conflict between the actual teachings of Jesus and the teachings of the church seems to me a much more coherent approach than simply saying the church tells a pack of lies so it is all baseless. There is a messianic integrity in the idea that God is love, whereas the doctrine of limited atonement serves only the institutional interests of a political clique seeking to retain temporal power. The church, in its alliance with the state, has faced strong incentives to ignore Jesus and claim that salvation was solely a function of orthodoxy. Going back to the text itself, the entry points for such distortion by the church are easy to see.

Yes, the New Testament condemns those who deny Christ. At one level denial of Christ is fair - for example Celsus (as reported in the Contra Celsus) was baffled about how Christians could make all sorts of baseless claims without historical support. This question has multiple levels. The killer for those who say that denial of any Biblical stories amounts to denial of Christ seems to me to be that Philo, a student of messianic movements in Palestine who lived at the time of Jesus and wrote widely about just the sort of thing that Jesus was supposedly up to, never once mentions him. If Jesus flew under Philo's radar he was a master of disguise and invisibility, or there may have been something so way out in his ideas that Philo chose to ignore him.

At another level, denial of Christ is a metaphor for accepting a destructive lifestyle. There are differences of opinion about what behaviour is destructive, but there is also a real sense in which hatred of the very idea of Christ (understood as mythical saviour) is a marker of acceptance of a morality with real problems. I keep returning to the Last Judgement because it is the main expression of who Jesus thinks are saved and who are not. Those who deride and ignore and fail to do works of mercy can reasonably be seen, in conformity with this passage, as out of tune with the ideas of Jesus. This division of the elect and the reprobate got distorted later into political conformity with church dogma. When people talk about the saved and damned they should understand that the parable of the sheep and goats where this idea is expressed is actually all about works of mercy as the mark of salvation - orthopraxis rather than orthodoxy.

I particularly like the line that visiting prisoners is an activity of the elect. Do you get many Christians visiting prisoners in your jail?



Fri May 22, 2009 10:51 pm
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All of that was well thought out and coherent thank you for the response… however I have a problem with the foundation of your position.

Quote:
RT
As a teacher of universal love, clearly a main theme in the Bible, the story is of his inevitable conflict with the world of pain.


This is not at all a clear theme in my opinion… it seems to be a belief that is independent of the text, possibly indoctrinated before the bible was ever read, which supporting material is then used to maintain…

Jesus as written (in my opinion) was a bully, a coward and a jerk, not the embodiment of love or justice. This teacher of universal love seems absent when simply reading the text.

Maybe my standards are too high?

Later


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Fri May 22, 2009 11:28 pm
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Frank 013 wrote:
All of that was well thought out and coherent thank you for the response… however I have a problem with the foundation of your position.

Quote:
RT
As a teacher of universal love, clearly a main theme in the Bible, the story is of his inevitable conflict with the world of pain.


This is not at all a clear theme in my opinion… it seems to be a belief that is independent of the text, possibly indoctrinated before the bible was ever read, which supporting material is then used to maintain…

Jesus as written (in my opinion) was a bully, a coward and a jerk, not the embodiment of love or justice. This teacher of universal love seems absent when simply reading the text.

Maybe my standards are too high?

Later

The Bible mentions love, by one count, 697 times, 439 times in the Old Testament and 258 time in the New Testament. The Easter Passion is about the conflict between the perfect man and the world of pain, and about how ordinary people cannot understand what Jesus calls the main commands, to love God and love neighbour as self. These teachings promote universal love, and are not sectarian as per church tradition.

You do have a bee in your bonnet Frank, calling Jesus a coward. The story of the cross is the epitome of human courage.

We got on to this from the question of whether religion is child abuse. I would say yes when it promotes ideas that are known to be false, but no when its teachings are evidence based, such as the principle that God is love.



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Quote:
We got on to this from the question of whether religion is child abuse. I would say yes when it promotes ideas that are known to be false, but no when its teachings are evidence based, such as the principle that God is love.


Evidence based. Exactly what evidence? The few sentences, out of thousands, you choose to select to support your position while hundreds others contradict it?

If we are going by evidence, then surely the great mass of vengeful, petulent, jealous, petty, foot-stamping outweighs the few begrudging snippets of love.

If we seek evidence for what "love is" then perhaps we should consult a scientist?

Christianity is what it is. The bible is what is written within it. Your position may be "God is love". But that does not reflect the majority of what is written in the bible.

I have spoken with many christians. Many of whom have not put in the thought about their belief that you have, RT. I certainly credit you for doing that work when so many i talk to simply do not. But clearly, "God is love" is A positon, one of many, that can be made from the language in the bible. Not the central, most prominent, most easily understood, or most obvious position the bible takes.

You are super-imposing your world view over the one used in the bible. Do not mistake one for the other.

I imagine we would all be better off if the world had taken your stance, but it has not.



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Quote:
RT
The Bible mentions love, by one count, 697 times, 439 times in the Old Testament and 258 time in the New Testament.


That is a nice little tid-bit of information, but it does not change the jealous, petty or hateful nature of god in the Old Testament or the bully preaching of Jesus in the New Testament. I would be interested to see the context of those 697 times… How often are they used as a description of god?

And just as a curiosity, do you know how many times the word hate is used? Or how many acts of hatred are committed or commanded by god in the bible?

You know, so we can have a balanced view on the subject…

Quote:
RT
You do have a bee in your bonnet Frank, calling Jesus a coward. The story of the cross is the epitome of human courage.


Jesus shows his yellow side on more than one occasion…

Jesus preaches

Quote:
And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. (Luke 12:4)


But then when threatened himself he hides and sneaks away.

Quote:
Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple... (John 8:59)


This is a pure case of do as I say, not as I do and is hypocritical and cowardly by my standards.

His cowardly nature is also noted here…

Quote:
After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because Jews sought to kill him. (John 7:1)


The cross example is not very impressive to me, it certainly is not the “epitome of human courage” that you claim that it is.

Jesus foretold his own death and as an all powerful being could have averted it, in other words he committed suicide.

This act of self destruction hardly seems like an example of courage.

Furthermore it seems that Jesus might have expected to be rescued as is demonstrated by his words to Pilate…

Quote:
If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews.
-John 18:36


Of course Jesus himself would not fight… just his servants.

Also what did Jesus sacrifice?

Not his life, he ascended to heaven to live with god in a place of calm, peace and joy. Jesus fled his problems on earth for the joys of heaven; this is not a noble sacrifice, in my opinion this is self serving and cowardly.

If you want an example of human courage see Spartacus. He died (really died… not trading misery for joy) by throwing himself at several centurions while fighting for freedom.

Leonidas and his Spartans fought to the man to protect their way of life…

These are examples of true courage and they can be found in the real world, we do not need to look to a fairy tale for such bravery, especially when the example is lacking.


Later


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Sat May 23, 2009 10:01 am
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Robert Tulip wrote:
This discussion has a neat segue to American Gods where Neil Gaiman argues precisely that this common scientific view of the relation between belief and existence is incorrect. A main theme of the book is that Gods exist in human hearts, and fall out of existence when they are forgotten and ignored. Gaiman's outlook is actually compatible with a key Biblical text, 1 John 4:16 - "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God" - in suggesting that God is not an entity but a quality of human existence. Here we have belief in love serving to make God exist, with a constructed narrative a main part of the nature of an imagined God.


I don't think Gaiman is arguing anything. American Gods is a work of fiction and Gaiman is telling a story, not espousing Christian values except those which are inherently human to begin with. You seem to be applying your Christian worldview to things that have nothing to do with Christianity. The Bible doesn't help us to understand love. As Frank says, it is more likely to show us how to hate. More importantly, the Bible is such a mishmash of conflicting texts that it can be used to argue anything. This interpretation of love = god is no different from using the Bible to, say, condemn homosexuality. Whatever you like. The Bible is open to any interpretation.

If anything, one of the themes of American Gods is about the power of human belief, but to equate this story with Biblical parable just isn't very meaningful in my opinion.


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Last edited by geo on Sat May 23, 2009 12:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.



Sat May 23, 2009 11:15 am
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