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Pondering the South African Memesphere – Looking for the Good in Everything

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How to Convert an Atheist (1 of 3)

October 4th, 2007 · Posted by Hugo · 81 Comments

We hereby interrupt our regular broadcast with a message to all Evangelicals in the field. This special is the first of a series of three, aimed at making your ministry to atheists more effective and successful.

I suppose one of the biggest accomplishments an Evangelical Christian could hope for, is to convert a hard-core atheist to Christianity. The biggest problem is that evangelical Christians and atheists do not speak the same language.

The most important thing you need to do, before you start sharing with atheists, is to learn how they think. Like Paul, you need to walk the streets of Athens, you need to immerse yourselves in their culture, to walk their streets, to see and understand their altars “to an unknown god”. Only once you understand, once you can speak their language, will you be able to share the Good News. In fact, only then will you be able to fully understand the Good News yourselves. I repeat, the crux of the matter is this:

You need to learn to think, like they do.

This more or less concludes the advice in the first post in this series. Continue thinking until next time, and please keep in mind that arguments such as this one by Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort:

are not at all effective. Such arguments will merely turn you into the laughing stock of the rational scientific world. (Update: If the clip stops working, try e.g. a Google search for ray comfort banana.)

This series will continue next week, when we will look at the gap in communication between atheists and Christians. We will show you what not to do, how not to share the Good News, as it will immediately push them away. The third post is the clincher, and will accomplish what Kirk and Ray can only dream about. Please share this series with your friends. May the world become a better place, may the kingdom come!

Categories: Religion and Science
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81 responses so far ↓

  • 1 emily // Oct 4, 2007 at 11:37 am

    I had a thought last night about the cult thing you joined and had to return to this site. If I’m correct, it must be Shophar. The hurt they are causing with their rules and rituals to people (non-members) near to their members is unbelievable. They infiltrate everywhere and the saddest is that they make people from other denominations feel that their relationship with God is inferior to theirs.

    I see I am just in time for an interesting bit of reading. :) Atheists know the Bible better than most Christians and being slightly cynical, I have always been of the opinion that Christians do not reach atheists because they see themselves as more superior, holier. They do not read Luke 10 where Jesus sent the disciples out to go into peoples houses and eat what they are eating. Join them, don’t try to beat them, and you might save them (and yourself). There’s a saying that most Evangelist preach like a fire on television, fierce, but without any warmth. Well, most Evangelists like to see themselves on television too. ;)

  • 2 Negate // Oct 5, 2007 at 10:42 am

    I am a Atheist, Even if you think like an atheist, you chances of converting a hard core atheist is none, because theist and atheists don’t and will never speak the same language

    Allot of religious people get angry at god for some reasons and then turn to atheism, it is these people you must aim at helping if any!

    I agree with emily i do know my bible better that most of the Christians that try and convert me, it is because before i started thinking like a atheist, i was a Christian but Christianity started to make no sense to me, so i turned to the bible for answers, and the more and more i looked the more doubtful i became of god

    Leave atheist alone with this crap. you are only making yourself look more stupid, atheist are on a different level of logic, the more you try the evangelic crap on them the more we are going to hate and laugh at you

  • 3 Hugo // Oct 5, 2007 at 10:55 am

    @emily: no need to make excuses for reading this blog. Glad to have you on board, feel free to stay. ;)

    @Negate: I hope you will give me a chance to finish my story. I’m sorry you gave an invalid email address. (I understand, though.)

    The schedule has a post every two days (working titles, they may change):

    6 October: What is Science (4 of 12)
    8 October: Know the Good News (2 of 3)
    10 October: TBA (I don’t want to give any hints away, its a little special about the afterlife and heaven…)
    12 October: TBA (3 of 3) (the final in this little series)

  • 4 emily // Oct 6, 2007 at 9:15 pm

    dankie ;)

  • 5 Get the Good News Right (2 of 3) // Oct 8, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    […] making evangelicals in the field more successful in their ministry to atheists. The first post was How to Convert an Atheist. Go and read that one first if you have not already done […]

  • 6 Grace // Oct 8, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    I think the first thing, and the most important thing to remember is that God converts people. Not us. Our job is to tell them the gospel in a gentle, and respectful manner. That’s it. We don’t bash it down people’s throats. If people don’t want to hear it, we respect that decision, and back away. I think that’s where many of us are making a mistake -we get so caught up thinking that WE’RE converting them, that OUR words are going to change them, but meanwhile it’s all God!

  • 7 Coenie // Nov 10, 2007 at 7:26 am

    At this moment, I am attempting to keep this response as civil as possible. Please, I beseech you, do not make it your personal meaning in life to try and convert atheists to Christianity. Atheists have a choice, do not take it upon yourself to try and elucidate this choice.

    I grew up in a Christian family. I was a born again Christian, then I became an Atheist, a very devout atheist. I had a choice. The decision was not preceded by some life altering event of an enigmatic trauma saturated nature. I simply chose atheism as it makes me happy, and is fundamentally based upon science. Can you not accept this?

    How many Atheists do you see who try and convert Christians? How many atheists do you know that are less moral than Christians? How many atheists do you know?

    If it is your desire to live in a delusional world, believing in a plagiarised fairy tale, so be it! But please, leave us be. If you have a deep seated worry that we will burn in hell, then so be it! At least I’ll have Einstein, Nietzsche, and Ghandi to keep me company.

    If you have a deep rooted desire to spread your ‘’good news’’ then try it on your own religious fundamentalists who preach nothing but intolerance.

    My email address is valid and you can find me on facebook.

  • 8 Hugo // Nov 10, 2007 at 9:17 am

    Coenie, you are eavesdropping on a conversation that was not addressed to you. Of course, you are very welcome to do so, this is a public conversation on the internet. However, I beseech you to check the whole conversation then, not just part one of three.

    Maybe this helps: check the bold/italic sentence, and add a comma about two thirds of the way through.

  • 9 Hugo // Nov 10, 2007 at 9:18 am

    Check the “You New?” page at the top, that might also help you get some context here. More reading, less writing. Thanks.

  • 10 Hugo // Nov 10, 2007 at 9:26 am

    (For the record, I do completely agree with Grace… At the same time, my perspectives are very Einsteinian.)

  • 11 Fearing The Golden Compass? How small is your God? // Nov 10, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    […] the wisdom of Jesus, encourages us to not fear foreign culture. Go, Walk the Streets of Athens (1, 2, 3). Learn to understand “their” culture. In the process, you not only get an […]

  • 12 Erwin McManus on Eating Meat on the Streets of Athens // Feb 8, 2008 at 10:36 am

    […] have been talking about “Walking the Streets of Athens” in a number of places. This idea applies to anyone wanting to make a difference in other people’s […]

  • 13 Alisha Pennington // Oct 9, 2008 at 12:01 am

    This is the truth about religion though you may see it as just an opinion. I am an Atheist surrounded by lots of christians and I have practically been raised in the church. The bible says “train up a kid in the way it should go and it won’t ever stray” (not exactly word for word) but I’m an example in the flesh of how that statement can be proven wrong. The bible isn’t truthful. Here is a peice of advice: LEAVE US ALONE!!! Don’t try to convert us. Curveball? Most religions have issues with homosexuals. Here’s an even bigger curveball: THERE’S ALOT OF ‘EM!!! Religion is sexist. Many religions say that men are inferior to women. Hogwash! Bologna! Women aren’t better than men and men aren’t better than women. You’re going to have to deal with the fact that people beleive differently than you. You might think I’m going overboard with what I’m saying here, but the thought of actually converting someone to serving a false God is wwwwwaaaaayyyyy overboard, too, don’t ya think!!!!!!!!!! Yes, I celebrate Christmas, but for teh presents, not for Jesus. I celebrate Easter for the little chocolate candy eggs and Easter egg hunting and the Easter Bunny, not for the reserection, but I accept the fact that thet’s what everybody else around me is celebrating these holidays for. I have to hide what I think to keep from being rejected? That’s not right. I have respect for the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus is my homey! And Halloween is not the Devil’s birthday! lol! You can email me at ishihomeeg16@yahoo.com. Send a comment or a flame about what I just said. I stand by my right to speak my mind and want everyone else to do the same.

  • 14 Hugo // Oct 9, 2008 at 1:17 am

    Alisha, thanks for stopping by and speaking your mind. I don’t know if your comment will find the audience it is looking for though, because I’m not it. How many people read comments on old posts? I don’t know.

    Firstly, this post is not addressed to you. This post is addressed to Christians that want to convert Atheists. You are outside of its target audience. What did this post say? Not really that much. Think about the contents of this post, get past the title. How did you get here, by the way? It at least doesn’t look like you got here by looking for “how to convert an atheist”. I get many of those, or variations of those. If that is what someone is looking for when they find this, they’re at the right place, as in they are the people I’m writing for. Not you.

    Now much of my campaign on my blog is indeed about how to “evangelise”, irrespective of the worldview. And my belief is that it is important to build relationships, to understand one another as human beings, rather than hitting one another over the head with whatever arguments hit the hardest. In that case, I think maybe you might actually be in my target audience, broadly speaking.

    I believe that your comment is largely a knee-jerk reaction at the frustration that you experience being in a minority in your neighbourhood/culture. If you’re the one that got here by searching for “how to give hints to the christians around you that you are atheist”, we can discuss that later. First back to this post though…

    This post is the first in a series of three, not aimed at you. I don’t expect you to have the patience to read them all. However, if you want to understand the context of this post, I can suggest you take a look at the second and the third. I should probably make that clearer. And make it easier to access them. The second and third are at:

    http://thinktoomuch.net/2007/10/08/get-the-good-news-right-2-of-3/
    http://thinktoomuch.net/2007/10/12/language-differences-3-of-3/

    Please remember my target audience, keep in mind that my language and descriptions are aimed at them. Once you have read all three, you can flame me from an informed opinion and understanding, if you want. Then we can have a real discussion. Otherwise, the exchange could develop into something reminiscent of a bunch of silly and immature youtube comments where people hack at each other for the hell of it.

    If you were looking for “how to give hints to the christians around you that you are atheist”, my suggestions would be this, take them or leave them:

    • Avoid labels. Labels get demonised, and end up representing a rather different idea to a fundamentalist than what you actually had in mind. If you want to play with labels, you have to fight a big battle in trying to explain what you believe the label means, rather than what they believe it means. And I don’t mean definitions, I mean consequences, incorrectly derived assumptions due to lack of understanding of the opposing worldview.
    • You want to drop hints? So I’d think there is either a conversation that is making you uncomfortable and you want to distance yourself from it or give some hints that would change the nature or direction of the conversation a bit, or you are looking to be understood and appreciated for what you are, rather than what everyone assumes you are? Some context on the kind of conversation would be helpful in thinking about this problem and potential strategies…
    • Generally, I would aim for hints that point at particular beliefs or ideas, to start with. If you’re in a young-earth crowd, at night, you could marvel at how long it takes for light to travel to the earth, from specific galaxies (start with stars, but they’re too close). That already sets you up on being at odds with literal readings of Genesis.
    • Supernaturalism is the thing you’re disagreeing with, rather than “there is a reason to be good”. The theists label that last one “God”, so it might be better for social interactions to explain things along the lines that you “don’t think God interferes with the laws of nature, or manipulated evolution”. Or that God answers prayers, for example? If you find it uncomfortable to talk about God like that, you could think of God as an “idea”: an idea that certainly exists. Hence, you have a belief that that idea doesn’t answer prayers. (Do I disagree with that one? Well, if we were to avoid talking about the laws of nature, I’d point out that prayers definitely have an influence on how things are perceived and experienced… so an idea can certainly have an influence.)
    • Maybe the third post in this series of three could actually give you some ideas that might be helpful?

    These are some ideas to get you started. Feel free to discuss this further if you want or think it could be helpful to you. Let’s open up some cross-cultural cross-worldview dialogue, might be useful, don’t you think?

  • 15 Kevin // Nov 8, 2008 at 3:19 am

    Why must you Christians INSIST on trying to change the views of others, are you so insecure in your own faith that you need to make sure that others know you’re right? If your “god” condones this kind of asinine, narcissistic intolerance, than fuck you, and fuck “god”.

  • 16 Kevin // Nov 8, 2008 at 3:22 am

    If any of you ASSHOLES would like to converse about this, get in touch with me, Buhglahgluh@hotmail.com. No it’s not fake, add it to your list to find that out for yourself. Cunts.

  • 17 Hugo // Nov 8, 2008 at 3:53 am

    Can I have a quick vote? I’d like to censor this guy. I know he’s got a knee-jerk reaction, which is why he comments before he has a clue who he’s insulting…

    *sigh*

  • 18 Hugo // Nov 8, 2008 at 4:56 am

    Or shall I radically stick with my “no censorship” policy? We could turn this into a discussion of human nature and the relative value-vs-worthlessness of comments like that?

  • 19 Ben-Jammin' // Nov 8, 2008 at 5:41 am

    Or shall I radically stick with my “no censorship” policy?

    Your blog, your preferences. If it doesn’t cause you grief, I don’t think it will hurt anything to leave it there.

  • 20 Hugo // Nov 8, 2008 at 5:47 am

    Fair enough. I have my own initial knee-jerk reaction when I read something like that, and it takes me a couple of moments to calm down. ;)

    *snip further pointless blabber*.

  • 21 Paul // Dec 24, 2008 at 9:14 am

    Come on people. Please stop embarrasing me as a human being. Believing in a higher power is very primitive and superstitious. If you can’t see how religion has poisened society since the beginning of time then you really need to start using the grey slimy thing that’s embedded in each of our skulls. If you knew anything about atheism you would also know that an atheist cannot be converted to believing in any form of religion unless they lose the part of their brain used for reasoning and logic. Atheism is about taking resposibilty for our own actions and treating people as we ourselves would like to be treated. If the world was free of religion it would be a far greater, safer place to live in. Please start thinking for the sake of mankind!

  • 22 Hugo // Dec 27, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Peeps, what do you think? I think I should disable comments on this post. That might encourage people to actually read the rest of the series before being so kind as to bless us with their thoughts…

  • 23 Teapot // Jan 8, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Well I am a teapot agnostic, and what that means is that I consider the probability of the existence of a personal God (like the Christian idea of God) is roughly equivalent to the probability that a large china teapot is in orbit around the sun between the orbits of Earth and Mars. (Bertrand Russell).
    You might call it soft atheism, I don’t state that “God Does Not Exist” (it is logically impossible to prove a negative proposition), I just see no reason to believe – sometimes called a Skeptical Agnostic.

    I think that you will probably find that it is easier to convert a hard atheist than a soft atheist.
    The reason for this is that you share a critical factor – faith.
    If we define belief to be “the acceptance of a proposition as being true”, and we define faith to be “belief without empirical evidence”, then, since one cannot yet prove that God does not exist, the hard atheist position is one of faith.

    Most scientists and any rational thinker worth their salt is a soft atheist, even atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens consider themselves as soft by this definition.

    Your opening statement was: “I suppose one of the biggest accomplishments an Evangelical Christian could hope for, is to convert a hard-core atheist to Christianity.”

    I think that your most difficult task, and thus biggest accomplishment would actually be to convert a true Rationalist Skeptical Agnostic.

    To have any chance of converting someone like this, you should know that most of them read work by the greatest thinkers and philosophers on both sides of the debate, and are familiar with the best arguments that the top theologians can come up with.
    To have even the slightest chance of success, you would need to become familiar with the best arguments from the top rationalist thinkers.

    The only way to do this is to study their work.

    You may take this as a challenge if you wish…

    A Teapot

  • 24 Hugo // Jan 8, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    Interesting. Good point. Though I think the hardest of them all to convert, is a liberal Christian. ;-)

    Now this comment by A Teapot is actually a pretty sweet one, the kind of thing that urges me *not* to close comments on this post. (Then I realise: why am I considering that in the first place, anyway? These comments might be helpful in encouraging others to read the other two posts! Plus, they’re entertaining in their own right.) I’ve a number of nice pipe dreams, as always, will work on them later. And will make the other two posts more visible. Later.

  • 25 Will // Jan 13, 2009 at 6:32 am

    Mark 5:19
    …”Go back home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you.”

    See, this is why we must tell others of our joy and salvation. If we don’t tell anyone of the love and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is keeping them from having the same joy. We do respect everyone’s beliefs (most of us). I think it’s wrong to bother non-Christians about not being Christian, but I do believe we should try to spread the gospel. It is a non-Christians decision whether he accepts or not, so we can’t force anyone to “convert”. Why would we go against our own beliefs because some other group of people are offended by it.

    There is no way to get around the fact that the Bible will offend people, even Christ himself said it. It’s because God stated that “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) And Romans 10:9 states “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Many people find this offensive because it’s not liberal like most other religions are.

    (Romans 3:23) “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” These kind of statements in the Bible often offend, but if you read further, “For the wages of sin is death, BUT THE GIFT OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE IN JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD,” you find that this of course means if we love the Lord Jesus and truly believe he died on the cross and rose again, God will accept us into heaven. Of course you may say that God is horrible, why would he send people to hell. He gave us free wills, to make decisions of our own, to believe or not to believe. If he didn’t, we wouldn’t be as sincere. He also must punish non-believers because they’ve had the choice to accept his everlasting gift, but have rejected. We must help as many people as we can. “Look, I am coming quickly! Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic words of this book.” (Revelation 22:7)

    On the subject about ex-Christians, I must only say that ex-Christians never had the true joy that comes from the Lord Christ. They must have never been saved in the first place (I’m not one who can judge though). If the ex-Christians truly loved Christ and had the true joy of Jesus, they would never want to leave him. Some leave him for guilt or because they want to do what they want without rules. Let me explain that the Lord forgives for all sins the same. To Him, murder is the same as lying. He thinks all sin is equally evil and forgives for all sin equally with His blood. The thing about the rules, truthfully, a Christian doesn’t absolutely have to follow the rules that God has told (except for believing in the risen Lord Jesus), but if you truly have Jesus in your heart, you will want to follow the rules.

    One last thing I must say. Atheists (mainly, of course it’s basically all other religions as well) always say that they have the right to believe what they want. I was reading a blog about Tim Tebow after he (and the University of Florida) won the National Championship in college football that said he should stop stuffing his religion down everyone’s throat, stop proclaiming Jesus as Lord, because they had the right not to believe. Christians also have the right to believe and proclaim their faith. All Tim was doing was saying that Christ helped him to be successful and he had John 3:16 on his face during the game. He never forced anyone to convert, and I’m not trying to convert anyone here. Although, I would love if someone found the love of Jesus.

    John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

  • 26 Will // Jan 13, 2009 at 6:35 am

    And nice point Grace.

  • 27 Hugo // Jan 13, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Will, what did *Jesus* teach as “the gospel”, the good news, would you say?

  • 28 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 13, 2009 at 10:36 am

    See, this is why we must tell others of our joy and salvation. If we don’t tell anyone of the love and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is keeping them from having the same joy.

    There are some assumptions in this statement…

    I think it’s wrong to bother non-Christians about not being Christian, but I do believe we should try to spread the gospel.

    How do you reconcile these two contradictory ideas?

    He also must punish non-believers because they’ve had the choice to accept his everlasting gift, but have rejected.

    I see.

    An omnipotent, supposedly benevolent being punishes, with eternal torture, subjects of his own creation (whom he professes to love and who cannot possibly harm him) for acting the way he made them to act? Sounds pathologically twisted to me.

    Atheists (mainly, of course it’s basically all other religions as well)

    I think the “atheism is a religion the way bald is a hair colour” quote is relevant here. Atheism, by definition, isn’t a belief, it is a lack of belief. I think you will find it hard to justify atheism as a religion.

  • 29 Will // Jan 14, 2009 at 12:22 am

    To Hugo, yes. The good news about the second chance we receive because of the resurrection of Christ. Christ died on the cross for me and you, and everyone who writes and reads this discussion.

    There is no way anyone can have as much joy as a true Christian has. They may have joy, but not as much or the same. Most people find a temperary joy but they seem to still feel empty after the joy of the item or thing goes away. It is not an assumption because many people tell how they’re life completely turned around from the emptiness they had before. Of course it has to be sincere.

    What I meant by spreading the Truth is that Christians shouldn’t bother people a thousand times trying to get them to “convert”. We should tell others about Christ, but if the person rejects the Lord, we must move on. If Christians force a “conversion”, it’s not genuine. If the non-believer says that they will not accept Christ, then there is nothing more to say.

    He never created us to sin and be hateful towards him. He still loves non-believers, but if you never loved Him back, He never knew you. Since the non-believer rejected him, rejects them from the pearly gates of heaven. What more could you ask for if your a believer. All He asks is that you believe in Jesus Christ, and you have eternal happiness. Why even ask questions?

    Yes, I know atheism is the lack of religion. What I basically meant was everyone besides Christians. I’m sorry for the confusion.

  • 30 Hugo // Jan 14, 2009 at 1:48 am

    ;-) And so we each have our grievances. I’d pick a fight with:

    On the subject about ex-Christians, I must only say that ex-Christians never had the true joy that comes from the Lord Christ. They must have never been saved in the first place

    …argument from incredulity

    If the ex-Christians truly loved Christ and had the true joy of Jesus, they would never want to leave him.

    Utter bovine baloney, try saying that to these guys. And all too often, judgemental people give silly disclaimers like the following, thinking it somehow excuses their judgementalness:

    (I’m not one who can judge though).

    But never mind all that, Will, if you’re still around… I much prefer interesting and thought-provoking conversations comparing how different people see things. Could I interest you in the second post in this series, something I’d love to discuss? It shares a video clip about a certain stereotype of religion, sketching out how many atheists experience Christianity. I would love to have a discussion around where the stereotype gets it wrong, as well as where it has the ring of truth, and what the nuances are around that. Because these things get so nuanced and religion is so diverse. Your religion, and views on religion, is miles away from my religion and views on religion. And I’d love to discuss yours in more depth.

    Hoping to hear from you again…

  • 31 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 14, 2009 at 8:31 am

    There is no way anyone can have as much joy as a true Christian has.

    How can you possibly say this? This is an assertion with no evidential basis. Not to mention flirting with a No True Scotsman argument.

    They may have joy, but not as much or the same. Most people find a temperary joy but they seem to still feel empty after the joy of the item or thing goes away.

    Again, really? You really believe this? On what basis?

    It is not an assumption because many people tell how they’re life completely turned around from the emptiness they had before.

    You can say this with equal truth for many deconversion stories, or for conversion between religions.

    We should tell others about Christ, but if the person rejects the Lord, we must move on.

    Doesn’t this leave you with a moral conundrum? By your own argument, you know the person who has rejected god will burn in hell forever. Surely as a Christian, nay, as a person, it is your moral duty to pursue conversion with this unbeliever so as to save their immortal soul from eternal hellfire?

    He never created us to sin and be hateful towards him.

    Again, this presupposes that he created us at all.

    He still loves non-believers,

    Then why persecute them eternally for using the minds he gave them?

    All He asks is that you believe in Jesus Christ, and you have eternal happiness. Why even ask questions?

    Because this all hinges on the very basic fact that the above sentences have to be true. I would venture to say that for non-Christians, this is of course an issue… ;-)

    Yes, I know atheism is the lack of religion. What I basically meant was everyone besides Christians. I’m sorry for the confusion.

    No problem. And (belated) welcome.

  • 32 Hugo // Jan 14, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Sorry Will, I missed your #29. Permit me 5 comments this time around:

    (1) What Kenneth Said.

    (2) Let me explain my question about “What did *Jesus* teach as “the gospel”, the good news, would you say?” — People talk about what “contemporary Christianity” teaches about Jesus, or they talk about what Paul taught about Jesus, or they talk about what early Christianity taught about Jesus. But I see very few people talking about what *Jesus* taught. I suppose this is quite an uphill battle for me to fight, but anyway.

    Hmmm… the Gospel of John doesn’t really help my case — the fundamentalist’s favourite Gospel. Higher criticism points out, being written last, it is largely a theological work, heavily influenced by the developing beliefs of the early Christian movement. Thus it is typically taken as “non factual” by higher criticism. And statements like “I am the way, the truth, the life” becomes a piece of theology rather than a simple and direct statement, needs to be understood for its theological meaning.

    But that doesn’t really get you anywhere for those that reject higher criticism and the historical method. So at best one can quote Matthew: “…he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” So, unless you’re Jewish, Jesus wasn’t talking to you. (I borrowed these words.)

    (3) What Kenneth said.

    Yes, there are stories about people that find joy because they find Christianity. And that’s great. I know someone personally that turned from a terrible life of crime and had his life turned around by Christianity. But you can’t trot that out as the be-all-end-all. It isn’t the full picture. At churches where they encourage that kind of testifying, you effectively get what is called “selection bias” — only those with a good story to tell, will tell the story (self-selection bias), but more obviously, only Christians are telling their stories. There is no representation of non-Christians’ stories. Kenneth, what do you say, shall we start a collection of testimonies, to balance the imbalance fundies see at their congregations?

    Now one more comment to add, with regards to the link I shared above. That link hoped to debunk the absurd claim that “they weren’t REAL Christians” (No True Scotsman, as Kenneth pointed out, check wikipedia if you want to know more on it). The post ends with:

    We prayed and even screamed and cried and pleaded in prayer.

    And heard silence, and felt the emptiness.

    Yes, emptiness… But this is no evidence that “non-Christians have emptiness”. This is just the experience of a *Christian losing faith*. A non-religious life is very different for those that lived non-religiously from the start. The emptiness experienced by deconverts, the harshness and grief the deconversion process causes, is because of the change in state more than about the resultant state. It takes a while to rebuild a healthy worldview after your previous worldview crumbles. All that said, please don’t respond to this paragraph without reading that link. The context is important, and that post is short.

    (4) The second post in this series is Get the Good News Right.

    Note that I typically don’t like my old posts, and I do also take issue with a number of things in these posts. But I still support their primary message. I still have to develop my stance on “editing old posts”. I’ll do one edit now, I’m adding a comma to the bold sentence. Not too intrusive, is it?

    In any case, I’d love it if we could include thoughts from the second post in this discussion.

    (5) What Kenneth said.

  • 33 Hugo // Jan 14, 2009 at 10:44 am

    …Actually, I think that comma change is quite profound. I used to think it is *so* profound that it is best that I leave it out. But after having “run” this post for 15 months without, I thought I might as well see if it makes any difference if I include it.

    With some code, I could technically set up a double-blind experiment to see if it makes any difference in the kinds of comments, but we most certainly won’t have enough samples for any statistically significant conclusion, irrespective of my huge curiosity whether something that small can cause any change in the way people experience a blog post…

  • 34 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 14, 2009 at 10:58 am

    @Hugo
    Do you think it’s necessary? There are many, many, many deconversion/reconversion stories on the internet. Don’t you think it would be better just to list some sites that deal specifically with these issues? That way you eliminate duplication, and spare yourself a shitload of work.

  • 35 Heidi // Jan 15, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    LOL!

    Great experiment! It just goes to show how easily people jump to conclusions.

    Ek meen, mens hoef maar net na jou links te kyk om ‘n idee te kry waar jy le…. Which yet again shows the importance of viewing anything and everything within context.

    Amazing.

    Net jammer die video werk nie. Sou graag wou gehoor het wat Kirk en Ray te se gehad het.

  • 36 Hugo // Jan 16, 2009 at 12:18 am

    @Heidi, I’ve updated the embedded video clip, it should work now. Hmm, a bias in my links? Maybe I need to add a couple to bring back balance (to the force? ;-) )…

    @Kenneth, it might be useful to (a) collect a couple of links, when the time is right, and (b) maybe provide a place where people from Stellenbosch can have their say… collect local balancing testimonies, kinda. Low effort on my part, audience-participation style.

    When the time is right.

  • 37 Angelica // Jan 19, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    You need to learn to think, like they do.

    You know what I find ironic? The comma. Without a comma, the phrase is “you need to learn to think like they do”, i.e. “you need to learn to think in the same manner as they do”. WITH a comma the phrase is “you need to learn to think, like THEY do, AS OPPOSED to your behavior”. Which is surprisingly accurate. Burn.

    Atheists know the Bible better than most Christians and being slightly cynical, I have always been of the opinion that Christians do not reach atheists because they see themselves as more superior, holier.

    This is also true. For instance, in my religion class, where I am the Class Atheist, I am also the Class Genius. During sixth grade I read a portion of the *actual* bible as opposed to the silly textbook adaptions of it. Much more sex.

    Your sentence leaves it ambiguous whether the Christians or the atheists are seeing themselves as holier/superior. I think it can work both ways. Christans naturally can be inclined to think they’re holier because they’re going to heaven and atheists are not. Meanwhile, we atheists feel superior, because we are supported by actual evidence, we’ve actually thought about what we believe(*), and so on.

    *You may object to this statement. However, find a Christian who can give you a better response than one of these:
    – I have a feeling/Faith
    – It’s a society thing/I was raised in it
    – Pascal’s wager/Why shouldn’t I

    Somebody who CAN give you a response different from that is somebody very different from anybody I have ever met.

  • 38 Hugo // Jan 20, 2009 at 2:16 am

    Yea, isn’t it amazing how big a difference an innocent little comma can make.

  • 39 Hugo // Jan 20, 2009 at 2:18 am

    Re: the comma, refer comment 8, point 4 in comment 32, and comment 33.

  • 40 Angelica // Jan 20, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Hmmm. You’re right. Thank you for that clarification.

    I would appreciate it if you took any note of the other 90% of my post. I’m not JUST a grammar freak, you know. ;)

  • 41 Hugo // Jan 20, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    I did read and take note of your whole comment before responding. My response might have been more brief than it would have been, had I not been dealing with a demanding on-call shift. ;-) So responding to the rest then:

    Thanks for your contribution. I think the ambiguity you point out in emily’s comment is adequately clarified by the context – both the paragraph as a whole, and the comment about “cynicism” (for which I have the advantage of knowing her a few years back): I’m quite sure she was referring to Christians.

    At the creationism seminar I attended in late 2007, one of my challenges to the presenter was responded to with a classic fear-of-hell Pascal’s wager expressed in terms of “if you jump out a plane, you might believe it unnecessary to have a parachute, but wouldn’t you want one just in case?” I responded by naming his argument: “ah, Pascal’s wager!” He said, “huh?!” Many in the crowd helped him out, in case I was mumbling too much: “Pascal’s Wager!” “Sorry, I haven’t heard of it.” Scary, huh. At least it warmed my heart to know many in the crowd were better educated than the creationist presenting, and surely also noticed that fact. Then again, I guess many of those may also have been critically thinking outsiders like me, ther to observe the indoctrination happen first hand.

  • 42 Angelica // Jan 20, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    I completely respect the Real Life Reasons Not To Fully Respond. I hate when those sorts of things happen all too often.

    Wow. That’s interesting to know. Fascinating experience.

    A response to that metaphor: Six hundred Americans die falling out of bed every year. So maybe you should put protective cushions besides your bed to keep from dying that way. Even if there’s an incredibly small risk, and the cushions are made from red, lead-containing paint from China anyway.

  • 43 Hugo // Jan 21, 2009 at 12:52 am

    My father always said
    you shouldn’t get out of bed
    in the mornings, because the sky might just fall on your head!

    eye ees poe-it!

    More seriously, there’s some real conversations behind this … uh … “poem”, but it isn’t really about Pascal’s Wager: it is about people not wanting to take risks.

    Pascal’s Wager, xkcd style – I like that one. ;-)

    And then there’s Cectic’s Expanded Pascal’s Wager.

  • 44 Hugo // Jan 21, 2009 at 1:26 am

    (With the cectic one taken in good humour. Of course. Because I want us all to remain very friendly around here.)

  • 45 Joe Bigliogo // Jul 9, 2009 at 3:55 am

    Hugo,
    I think this is parody, and given away by the line, “You need to learn to think, like they do”. The little comma inserted between “think” … and … “like they do” speaks volumes. And of course the reference to the hilarious Ray Comfort video makes it pretty obvious you are an atheist who is pulling legs.
    Am I wrong?

  • 46 Joe Bigliogo // Jul 9, 2009 at 3:59 am

    Hugo
    I answered just before I read the comments. So I guess I caught on early but not early enough to realize it had already noticed. So the three stars I gave myself I will now take away.

    Regards, Joe the atheist Bigliogo

  • 47 Hugo // Jul 9, 2009 at 9:32 am

    You could keep one of ‘em, methinks?

  • 48 Jairo Mejia // Aug 16, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    It has been common among religious believers to look with misgiving at atheists and agnostics, and to think that they are mistaken; however, in many instances the opposite is the truth; some religious beliefs are not just baseless, but obsolete and irrelevant. It is unbelievable how myths and a religious fantasy have influenced human minds with more strength than reality!

    Most people don’t dare to confront their religious doubts; they are afraid of abandoning the “certainty” of their convictions, and opt for the status quo. The “God” of main line traditions simply does not exist. I accepted the challenge of finding the One who may be recognized even by agnostics and atheists, and came to the conclusion that God isn’t other than the Existence itself; and the Existence is, “I am,” the total existence, “All-That-Is.”

    There is a book most probably not written for you, but perhaps useful for some of your religious friends who still think that you are wrong and they are right: “Christianity Reformed From ist Roots.” It might help them to be relieved of the illusion, as I did myself. Distinguished philosophers and thinkers might give you an idea of this book—perhaps a generation ahead of time for most believers—(links below); or you might look at excerpts at Amazon.com.

    Jairo Mejia, M. Psych., Santa Clara University
    Episcopal Priest, Retired
    Carmel Valley, California

    http://www.mbay.net/~jmejia/Grudzen.htm
    http://www.mbay.net/~jmejia/Churcher.htm

  • 49 Joe Esch // Oct 8, 2009 at 5:46 am

    What an interesting discussion. It truly comes down to a search for the truth. Pilate said it best before he sentenced Christ to death, “What is truth” ( John 18:37). Christian believe that truth comes from a long history of monotheistic beliefs that originate with Gods chosen people the Jews. Historically speaking the bible is accurate that fact isn’t refuted by secular historians. Where faith comes in to effect is TOTAL accuracy of the bible. We know that the Jews were enslaved in Egypt circa 3600 years ago and know that traveled to the the land of Cannan. Where most people dissent is, Did God part the Red Sea? How did that happen? Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. (Romans 10:17) Therefore The word of God is the basis of all this. The bible also states “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the Word was God”. (John 1:1)
    1)So once a Christian is able to establish that the Bible is True (Factual history)
    2)Truth is then defined in the bible and proclaims that it is the word of God.
    3)God then gave his creation a choice (free will) to be obedient to his law. (Genesis 2:16,17) True love for a creation is shown only through free will. Let me give an example:
    If parents neglects to establish boundries to a child they are doing there child harm. Furthermore, when true love is shown to another human being Is it shown through force? (if you love something set it free, if it returns…)
    God was showing Perfect love to Adam. Adam disobeyed thus introduction of sin (imperfection). Imperfection cannot coexist with Perfection and Adam was cast out (but still loved by his creator, God) (Genesis 3:23,24)
    4 We still have that choice today through Jesus Christ (Roman 3:23)
    5) Christ, being the only PERFECT human (fully God and fully human, and a totally different discussion) Sacrificed for our sin, because the only reconcilitation with God is through blood shed or death. This is because Sin is Death, (Roman 6:23)it causes death in our live and the only way to understand all of sins implication is to through sacrifice or death itself (a paradox in itself)
    6) Accept Christ’s message (the gospel) or good news. (Romans 10:9)
    7) Belive Christ’s Message
    Once this has happened it becomes critical to spread the news to others the wonderful transfiguration that happens (being born again). The joy that is experienced and peace that overcomes you. Also known as being sanctified.

  • 50 Kenneth Oberlander // Oct 8, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Welcome Joe Esch.

    Historically speaking the bible is accurate that fact isn’t refuted by secular historians.Where faith comes in to effect is TOTAL accuracy of the bible.

    Depends on how you define accuracy. For instance, I don’t think you can apply this to much of Genesis.

    We know that the Jews were enslaved in Egypt circa 3600 years ago and know that traveled to the the land of Cannan.

    Hmmm…I’ve heard conflicting arguments about this:

    http://ebonmusings.org/atheism/otarch.html

    1)So once a Christian is able to establish that the Bible is True (Factual history)

    A large amount of actual history conflicts strongly with the Biblical account. This obviously has repercussions for the rest of your argument.

    True love for a creation is shown only through free will.

    Please define true love. And free will while you’re at it.

    Furthermore, when true love is shown to another human being Is it shown through force? (if you love something set it free, if it returns…)

    How does this square with the concept of hell?

    Adam disobeyed thus introduction of sin (imperfection). Imperfection cannot coexist with Perfection and Adam was cast out (but still loved by his creator, God)

    If imperfection couldn’t exist with perfection, where did the serpent come from in the first place? How did it manage to co-exist with the perfection of the garden?

    Sacrificed for our sin, because the only reconcilitation with God is through blood shed or death.

    That doesn’t sound very loving to me…

    and the only way to understand all of sins implication is to through sacrifice or death itself (a paradox in itself)

    This would only hold the chance of being true if you survive your own death. Needless to say, there is considerable argument about whether this is true or not.

    Once this has happened it becomes critical to spread the news to others the wonderful transfiguration that happens (being born again). The joy that is experienced and peace that overcomes you. Also known as being sanctified.

    I know of a large number of people who have experienced substantial relief and joy once they let go of religious thought. Not to mention the feelings of those who have changed religions. How would you feel if they proselytised the news of their happiness?

  • 51 Lance // Dec 22, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    These are all interesting comments – and definitely give insight on the train of thought of an athiest. I am a christian – and when I say I am a christian I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins so that I may be saved from eternal damnation (separation from God), if I put my faith in Jesus Christ.

    I am not commenting on this post to prove or disprove anything. The context of this blog and recent posts would just present it self as an arguement to athiests if I were to do so, and in the end prove to be some wasted time, However, I am just intersted in finding out what the other side of the coin thinks – or rather why they think the way they do.

    I am more intersted in finding out the core reasons on why people become/are athiests. From basic observation, reading previous posts in this blog, and other blogs about athiesm, etc. – there seems to be some underlying themes on the thoughts of athiests. I am not an athiest so I do not understand – but these are just some of my views on this topic from a Christian perspective.

    It appears that athiests think that the thought of believing in a God is an insult to their intelligence because they like to base their beliefs on actual facts that can be proven, or theories that are postulated in the scientific community. Since there perception is that they have not physically seen God, any miracles or evidence of an act of God themselves – they do not believe in a God. They believe that life can be explained scientifically or mathimatically. Where as my point of view is that the world is full of evidence of God – I think of how ecosystems are so fragile, complexity of the nervous system, ability for humans to procreate – the list goes on, but those to me are evidence of God and not of a scientific phenomenoa.

    Athiests also seem to have a very bitter taste in their mouth about organized religion or religious people. Athiests seem to have a point of view that Christians are always pushing rules and beliefs down their throat and condeming them for wrongdoings. Now, I cannot speak for all Christians, all men fall short of the glory of God and just because I claim to be a Christian does not make me a better person than others, however, I do have good intentions and I only proselytise out of concern for non-believers. The Bible even gives the harshest warnings to those who are deemed to be teachers of the word but do not accept all who are sinners, but not to condemn those who are percieved to be sinners, vagrants, etc. The pharsiees of the old testament is a good example of how man adds rules upon rules to their faith until they loose sight of the true message. Jesus warned them of how they made elaborate prayers in the synagogues purely for show, and shunned people who were not Jewish and weighted the people of the faith down with so many man made rules.

    I saw a good video blog by Pen from Pen and Teller a few months ago. Pen states in the video that he is an athiest, however, he was apparently moved by an interaction he recently had from a Christian man. He stated that he was a good man because his intentions were good. Pen gave an analogy, if you and another person were standing in the street and a bus was coming for the other person, but they didn’t see it. Would it be wrong in trying to save their life? I realize that not all Christians have a skillful approach to discussing their beliefs with athiests – but from my perspective, I’m only trying to save your life. Sometimes I have trouble understanding why that is so offensive.

    I not here to argue with anyone, If anything I’ve written comes across as defensive or arguementative, please don’t take it that way. I was just trying to give a point of view of the dicotamy between Christians and Athiests from a Christian perspective. I am purely trying to gain perspective on how and why athiests believe in what they do as I have never been an athiest.

  • 52 Kenneth Oberlander // Dec 23, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Hi Lance, welcome here.

    They believe that life can be explained scientifically or mathimatically.

    A belief that the test of time has justified, methinks…

    Where as my point of view is that the world is full of evidence of God – I think of how ecosystems are so fragile,

    Some ecosystems are fragile, particularly the ones that we as humans interact with every day. Do a Google search for extremophilic or lithotrophic bacteria and the environments that they are found in. It’s going to be rather difficult to disturb those ecosystems!

    complexity of the nervous system,

    We (in the sense of the scientific community, not me per se) have a very good understanding of the functioning, development and evolution of the vertebrate nervous system. It is incredibly complex, but hardly evidence for a god.

    ability for humans to procreate –

    Again, there is an immense amount of information about reproduction and development out there. Both processes are quite explainable using only well-understood chemical and physical phenomena. There is no need to invoke a god (of any flavour) to understand them.

    the list goes on, but those to me are evidence of God and not of a scientific phenomenoa.

    OK. As I’ve mentioned, these are well understood scientific concepts. Have you considered that there are scientific explanations for other things on your list? Have you searched for those explanations?

    Athiests also seem to have a very bitter taste in their mouth about organized religion or religious people.

    Well, have you been following the Catholic paedophile scandals in Ireland recently? Or the Pope’s idiotic anti-condom stance? The material and financial hypocrisy of the Evangelical church leadership in the USA? The Troubles in Ireland? The massive issues between Hindu and Muslim in India/Pakistan/Bangladesh and the history of the Partition of these three states? 9/11? The history of the Levant? The Crusades? The Inquisition?

    By giving you these examples, I am not cherry-picking the worst possible and ignoring the good that religion can do. I don’t deny that organised religion can do good. My purpose here is to show that any religion that claims to be the official mouthpiece and conscience of a benevolent deity on earth (which one, again?), and yet can allow (or even worse, actively encourage) such breathtaking examples of evil to thrive within their very organisations, does not deserve anybody’s allegiance or support. The hypocrisy in such cases is stunning.

    Athiests seem to have a point of view that Christians are always pushing rules and beliefs down their throat and condeming them for wrongdoings.

    I think many Christians don’t realise how pervasive (and invasive) Christianity is in western culture to those of other beliefs (or non-beliefs). To pick a relatively mild example, how would you feel if you were in a culture that worshipped the Flying Spaghetti Monster before every meal? And frowned upon those that didn’t? It would be unpleasant and disquieting at best…Now extend that line of thought to things like religious interference in civil rights, freedom of speech, freedom of association and expression, education…I can give examples of these, if you like.

    Would it be wrong in trying to save their life?

    The very fact that most people (pre- and post- Jesus Christ, across all cultures, religions and nationalities) would answer in the negative, is very good evidence against the moral argument for god. We don’t need a god to be moral.

    but from my perspective, I’m only trying to save your life.

    Which I understand. It sounds noble, doesn’t it? However, consider this from a different perspective. From an atheist’s point of view, you are wasting your only life (ever: there is no continuance after death) believing in a thing that doesn’t exist, and which requires you to do things that are at best a waste of time and at worst morally repugnant. Even worse, you are busy trying to convince other people that they need to believe in and to do the same! Can you see how this would irritate or trouble an atheist?

    I’m not saying all of this to put your back up, or offend you. But you did ask why atheists believe what they do… ;-) Hope this helps.

  • 53 Hugo // Dec 23, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Hi Lance. If you’re very much interested in the writings of people that have deconverted, a good place to look is http://de-conversion.com/ – be sure to read the posts linked from the “Attention Christian Readers” on the right sidebar, next to the exclamation mark. It might be a rough read to start with, but I would suggest you also read a number of posts and/or discussions before climbing into discussions yourself. That site is a goldmine if you’re really seeking to understand what de-converts go through.

    That would probably cover “why people become atheists”. Kenneth’s a really good correspondent* if you’re interested in chatting with someone that wasn’t a “former Christian”, and being a scientist, a good source for the scientific angle on atheism. ;) (*Declaring my bias: he’s a friend of mine.)

    Kenneth, slightly off-topic (though it could become a talking point in this discussion), it looks like Uganda might be walking down a road where it will be joining your list soon… check the two links currently at the top of the miniblog – I think Rick Warren should be held responsible (not solely of course, but sufficiently and directly) for any atrocities that will be committed as a result of this.

  • 54 Hugo // Dec 31, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Kenneth, I’m wondering if ecosystems are actually fragile. (And I’m playing with semantics, sorry…)

    Where as my point of view is that the world is full of evidence of God – I think of how ecosystems are so fragile,

    Some ecosystems are fragile, particularly the ones that we as humans interact with every day. Do a Google search for extremophilic or lithotrophic bacteria and the environments that they are found in. It’s going to be rather difficult to disturb those ecosystems!

    I started wondering today whether ecosystems aren’t rather remarkably robust… when given an undisturbed-by-humans habitat. Thus, I’m rather replacing a view of “fragility” with one of how powerful humans are in this context. We have the capability to destroy habitats at a scary rate, over-hunt and over-fish due to our tools, etc.

    Extremophiles and lithotrophs: are those ecosystems really robust, or is it just that their environments are so extreme that it keeps us away? The fact that we can’t really disturb rocks or extreme undersea vents? Example: how robust would the ecosystem of an acidophile be if we spilled a bunch of caustic soda or something in its environment, raising the pH? (And whether its robustness characteristics would be due to its own robustness/fragility or due to our power or lack thereof to manipulate pH levels / its environment remains semantic, or perspective-dependent, and probably dumb to argue about.)

    Just some thoughts, for the purpose of possibly reframing a “oh its so fragile, why not just let Darwinian competition destroy it then” into a “we’re powerful, gotta recognise the great responsibility that comes with that” view. (Which also doesn’t have much point, “we’re so powerful, thus our wills lay down the law in terms of Darwinian competition” aint no better a stance.)

  • 55 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 2, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Hugo:

    are those ecosystems really robust

    OK, I see where you’re going with this…good question.

    You have a very good point: the reason I used these ecosystems as examples is because they are difficult to get at…which doesn’t really agree with the definition of the term robust…my point in the previous post was not whether these ecosystems are sensitive to disturbance once introduced, but whether we can disturb them in the first place…

    So you’re right…I was conflating robustness with ease of contact, which are not the same thing (although closely related). I can’t tell you whether lithotrophic ecosystems are fragile (i.e. not robust), because I don’t know of any research into these ecosystems on this aspect! But I stand by my point that it would be very difficult to destroy or even disturb these ecosystems…they are to all intents and purposes unreachable to us.

    Something that I’ve always considered under-represented in conversations like these is the very interesting question about ecosystems that we as humans are creating

    Darwinian competition

    Hurgh…this is a sticky point with me…why do people always associate with the nature red in tooth and claw aspect of natural selection? Mutualism is an incredibly powerful force, as is genetic drift…why focus on the competition aspect when the others are just as attractive?

  • 56 Hugo // Jan 25, 2010 at 12:14 am

    This is interesting…

    Hurgh…this is a sticky point with me…why do people always associate with the nature red in tooth and claw aspect of natural selection? Mutualism is an incredibly powerful force, as is genetic drift…why focus on the competition aspect when the others are just as attractive?

    I expect there’s always some kind of selection pressure, some sort of thing to “compete” against. I suppose “Darwinian competition” implies “between species” (or between members of a species), whereas the mutualism you refer to is much about cooperation “against” the forces of nature, at coping with habitat?

    Some more thinking, I suppose for species able to correctly control their birth-rate, life could be very much not about competition? (And for tropical “birds of paradise” living in lush rainforests, I get the impression the toughest competition they face is wooing the females… :-P – though I’m surely grossly simplifying things and forgetting about all sorts of challenges they face.)

    Thoughts?

  • 57 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 25, 2010 at 8:30 am

    I expect there’s always some kind of selection pressure, some sort of thing to “compete” against.

    This counts for mutualism as well. You need some sort of thing to “mutualise with”, for lack of a better term.

    whereas the mutualism you refer to is much about cooperation “against” the forces of nature

    Well, competition is also “against” the forces of nature, in the form of resource scarcity.

    I suppose for species able to correctly control their birth-rate, life could be very much not about competition?

    I think you have the cart before the horse here. Birth control is often a response to competition.

    I get the impression the toughest competition they face is wooing the females

    Which results in sexual selection, of course…

    though I’m surely grossly simplifying things and forgetting about all sorts of challenges they face.

    Yep! :D
    Parasitism, predation, competition for food availability and nesting sites, competition between males for the best courtship spots…

    I also see I included genetic drift in the above post…

    /slaps himself upside head for sloppy sentence construction.

    Genetic drift is, of course, an incredibly powerful force, particularly in small populations. But it is not an aspect of natural selection, as the quoted paragraph implies.

  • 58 josh // Jan 20, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    i have friends very close to me that i am scared for. what these atheists dont see is we are scared for them. we want to help them they should at least give us a chance but i dont know how to start without being pushy. i know some people seeus as pushy but if the situation was reversed and they believed as we do (that non believers are going to be forever tormented in the lake of fire “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”) what would they do. they look around everwhere at sinners and athiests that are going to suffers gods wrath… all im saying to athiests is to try and understand and more importantly at least consider what we are saying because every knee shall bow before the almighty and accept that he is the creator sooner or later, and for all u atheist that seem to mysteriously read this website i hope for your sake its sooner
    i know my grammar and punctuation is a bit off

  • 59 Kenneth Oberlander // Jan 20, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Hallo Josh. Welcome.

    what these atheists dont see is we are scared for them.

    You’ll be surprised! I was (at least nominally) a Christian. I understand the feeling you describe. The point is, from my perspective, you don’t need to be scared.

    we want to help them they should at least give us a chance but i dont know how to start without being pushy

    See, this is one of the sticking points. I think a lot of atheists have already given Christianity a chance. In my case, it failed the test.

    i know some people seeus as pushy but if the situation was reversed and they believed as we do (that non believers are going to be forever tormented in the lake of fire “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”) what would they do.

    How would you respond to this argument if you were an atheist? This is perhaps a silly question (you aren’t one), but it might be useful to understand why this argument doesn’t work for me.

    all im saying to athiests is to try and understand and more importantly at least consider what we are saying

    Again, most atheists I know have considered what you’re trying to say, and have rejected it, for good reasons.

    because every knee shall bow before the almighty and accept that he is the creator sooner or later

    This is where I rip out the tried and tested Do-You-Have-Any-Evidence-To-Support-This-Statement?

    and for all u atheist that seem to mysteriously read this website i hope for your sake its sooner

    Hmmm…precisely which of the thousands of human religions should I be subscribing to here. And why are those less valid than your own?

    i know my grammar and punctuation is a bit off

    No worries.

  • 60 Hugo // Jan 26, 2011 at 1:58 am

    Hey Josh! Thanks for commenting, I hope you stop by again. I’m not going to interfere in Kenneth’s conversation, there is a different conversation I’m particularly interested in. That leaves you with options for two conversations, take part in whichever you like. ;) (Some day multiple conversations should be easier to handle here on this blog, for now we’ll have to make do.)

    i have friends very close to me that i am scared for. what these atheists dont see is we are scared for them. we want to help them they should at least give us a chance but i dont know how to start without being pushy.

    Your caring about your friends and others is wonderful. I hope you never lose that!

    …[snip] and for all u atheist that seem to mysteriously read this website i hope for your sake its sooner

    We do have more atheist participation than Christian. I find this unfortunate, this is precisely what I wonder about the most. My dream for this blog was (and still is, when I have time to dream) to have a place where conversations can take place across religious and worldview divides, where people genuinely try to connect with others that don’t see things in the same manner as they do. Easier said than done.

    A perspective that is shared by many an atheist and Christian, interestingly, is that truth will prevail: if we can have an open conversation with others that are genuinely interested in seeking Truth, surely we need to be no more than just conduits for the truth, a host with which truth can spread. When push comes to shove, for people genuinely seeking, we should be able to step out of the way and let truth do its work?

    As I said, that paragraph easily describes both a Christian belief and an atheist one, despite the differences of opinion as to what the actual truth is. ;) In cases where conversations continue hitting brick walls, both sides may conclude the other side is simply not interested in looking for the truth.

    Now with that as contextual backdrop, what kind of conversations and relationships can we attempt to have, despite our differences? I’m thinking if our primary striving is for mutual understanding, we should get along alright. If Christians come here to gain a better understanding of how (friendly, open and respectful) atheists think and experience life, that could work. Ditto for the opposite, if atheists here can strive for understanding primarily, shouldn’t it be possible to keep things rolling?

    Community Guideline I have in mind, it needs a blog post: First strive for understanding. Then strive to be understood. Next… nothing, you’re done! (Let truth do the talking?)

    I will postpone talking about the typical conflicts we run into, typical ways in which this little idealistic dream gets broken miserably, until my next comment (I’m hoping/aming for conversation here). So ending for now with a question:

    Josh, do you have any ideas as to how one might improve the atmosphere here in a way that would encourage more Christian participation? Brainstorming mode here: embrace unrealistic optimism, ignore typical ways of failure for now, since I think by being innovative we can find workarounds for many of those problems. For some examples: it might help to have more “explicitly Christian” content, other authors writing posts from a more conservative Christian perspective. Another thing I’m considering is to make it easier to ignore “ugly” conversations that you’ve lost interest in, to focus and encourage conversations which people feel “connect” better.

    Other regulars on this blog: we can discuss these same ideas a bit later if you like. (If so, maybe wait a week or two first to avoid bulldozing this embryonic conversation. Pro-life stance! ;) )

  • 61 Melissa kruger // Feb 15, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    I am a christian, and funny enough, me and my husband were talking to an atheist today, he said he was also a christian before, but now hes atheist. He at first didnt agree with the heavenly experiences christians have. And i really believe that is the problem for pre beleivers of God. They most likely were born again at a stage in their life, and here might be the problem. They were taught a doctrine. They werent filled with the holy spirit, and i tell u this is the problem, they never knew God. If they had learnt how to have a relationship with the holy spirit and not just study the bible, they wouldnt be atheists, they would also try and save atheists. Ive experienced Gods presence, and the holy spirits presence. I could never be atheist. Ive had too many heavenly experiences. The bible is foolishness to the world, because they dont have the author living in them to show them the power that it contains. The bible is secret code for the sons of God. The pharisees and the athiests have something in common. They knew the bible so well, it was a religion to them, but they never understood what jesus was preaching, but rejoice, we do. We dont have to stress for atheists, because the bible says: THEY HAVE HARDENED THEIR HEARTS TOWARDS ME, AND I WILL SEND THEM AN EVEN BIGGER LIE THAT THEY WILL NOT BELEIVE. That is how u become an atheist. We speak a different language to atheists, because our thoughts are from God, our thoughts are on a higher level, because we are sons and daughters of the most high. Their thoughts are based on what their mind makes sense of. But thats all they have, their carnal mind, which only ten percent is used of. We too, but we have something greater, and i speak on the higher level. We have the knowledge that passes all understanding, and the understanding that passes all knowledge. Jesus also said NO ONE CAN COME TO ME, EXCEPT THE FATHER WHO SENT ME CALLS THEM TO ME. Recited from my memory, but that is what that word means.Which means we can only sow seeds, but God determines the increase

  • 62 Hugo // Feb 15, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    Melissa, deconverts don’t like being pigeonholed, told why they deconverted, by you or other people, as though you/they know better than the person that went through a lot of anguish in the process. At the de-conversion blog, they wrote this post because the same old claims get rehashed way too often:

    http://de-conversion.com/2008/03/27/convenient-categories/

    Items on the list that I think are present in your comment in some form:

    6. You never had a true personal relationship with Jesus.
    7. You never experienced/received the Holy Spirit.
    9. Your decision is based on other Christians’ behavior, not on Jesus’ teachings.
    16. You were never saved/Christian to start with. (Good ole Calvinism)
    27. You are shutting your eyes to the obvious truth of God.
    36. You were too legalistic. (maybe?)

    But thats all they have, their carnal mind, which only ten percent is used of.

    By the way, that last bit is a myth that even appears on snopes: http://www.snopes.com/science/stats/10percent.asp

    What I am interested in: what was the intention of your comment? Who are you trying to communicate to, and what are you trying to communicate to them?

  • 63 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 15, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Hallo Melissa kruger, welcome here.

    me and my husband were talking to an atheist today, he said he was also a christian before, but now hes atheist

    Did he by any chance explain why he was no longer a christian?

    He at first didnt agree with the heavenly experiences christians have.

    Does this mean he agreed to some of your arguments? Which ones?

    And i really believe that is the problem for pre beleivers of God.

    I agree. This is exactly one of the reasons why belief is unimportant.

    And which god(s), by the way?

    They most likely were born again at a stage in their life, and here might be the problem

    From my perspective, this didn’t happen. At no stage did I decide I had been born again. I just decided – there is no reason to believe in gods, there is no evidence to support the assumption of god-belief, and the negatives of belief outweigh the benefits.

    They were taught a doctrine.

    Really? Can you tell me the doctrine I was taught when I decided that god-belief was unsupported and unnecessary?

    I could never be atheist. Ive had too many heavenly experiences.

    The problem here is: which heaven exactly? There are so many…

    The bible is secret code for the sons of God.

    What about the daughters?

    No, really. Why is the code so specific to a single sex?

    And also, for someone who so desperately desires worship, why make access to him so secret?

    They knew the bible so well, it was a religion to them, but they never understood what jesus was preaching, but rejoice, we do.

    I don’t know the bible very well, I’ll admit it. The bits I learnt in primary school seem in retrospect to be either rather generic in terms of the morals they teach, or quite morally appalling (Job, for example). I can confidently claim to you that the bible does not serve as my particular moral compass in my day-to-day life, and there are many situations where I am thankful that this is the case. It is not a moral guide to life in many aspects.

    THEY HAVE HARDENED THEIR HEARTS TOWARDS ME, AND I WILL SEND THEM AN EVEN BIGGER LIE THAT THEY WILL NOT BELEIVE

    Wait, this makes no sense. I will believe in (a) god(s) the moment I am given objective evidence for the existence of said deity. To say I have hardened my heart against the existence of (a) god(s) is only as true as to say I have hardened my heart against the existence of the proverbial areologically-orbiting hot beverage receptacle.

    We speak a different language to atheists, because our thoughts are from God, our thoughts are on a higher level, because we are sons and daughters of the most high.

    You are most welcome to believe this. This does not make it true.

    But thats all they have, their carnal mind, which only ten percent is used of.

    Firstly, the idea that you only use a small fraction of your mind is a myth. A cursory perusal of wikipedia would have shown you this.

    Secondly, the mind is all that any of us have to work with. This silly idea that there is something entirely non-carnal to our mentalities is also a myth. To quote from someone who generally has his head screwed on straight: “We do not master our animal natures, we are animals, and our nature is us.”*

    We have the knowledge that passes all understanding, and the understanding that passes all knowledge.

    What does this mean?

    NO ONE CAN COME TO ME, EXCEPT THE FATHER WHO SENT ME CALLS THEM TO ME.

    This seems very exclusive…

    Which means we can only sow seeds, but God determines the increase

    Which makes god directly responsible for all those who don’t believe in him. If belief in him is a thing to be desired, then this does not add to his resume.

    So, much as you seem to have compassion for the de/un/never-converted, do you understand their reasons for not accepting god-belief?

    *PZ Myers. He’s a gnu atheist, but most of us don’t mind too much.

  • 64 Melissa kruger // Feb 15, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    That was just what came out, when i start talking about God or a subject to do with God, whatever comes to my mind i say. I know i go overboard because, u as a christian should know how it is when ur passionate about God, u just want to talk about him, and save the people who arent saved. I didnt mean to pigeonhole any prebeleivers, and those are the reasons ive learnt and realised. I just wrote what i know. Just to say something which might strike the right chord, be an answer to an atheist who God might be calling back, God does speak and work in mysterious ways. I also beleive it takes just one holy spirit enspired God breathed word which can change a prebeleiver just like that! I know christians want to show people how good loving and kind God is. But people also need to fear the wrath of God. Be convicted of their sin, they need to realise the power of Gods word. Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth. The word is a two edged sword, one side is our defense against the devil, the other side is for our flesh. If ur in the flesh and u read the bibleur going to feel convicted and condemned, whereas u are born again and walking in the spirit, u dont feel condemned, but the bible lets u know when u sinned and it changes u from the inside out.People who arent christians may have more knowledge in knowing the bible from past experiences, but what ever revelation they had is all gone.In the bible it says that many will turn away from the faith. Ive noticed people have the wrong impression about christians, theyre religious, they cant do this or that, their lives and conversations are boring.What ive said is just that, some people may get offended, and if they do thats also good, cos im not offending that person, theyr being convicted, and its not me.Revelation comes from God.Im not wise in my own understanding, but He gives me the understanding. When ur being persecuted from the world, it shows ur not of this world, what i just realise now, Jesus didnt go out to win the pharisees, he who has an ear let him hear

  • 65 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 15, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    That was just what came out, when i start talking about God or a subject to do with God, whatever comes to my mind i say.

    You of course have the right to say it, and on this blog (as I understand the rules) are welcome to say it. But then I am both within my rights and welcome to disagree, and provide my reasons.

    Just to say something which might strike the right chord, be an answer to an atheist who God might be calling back, God does speak and work in mysterious ways.

    I think the point here is, that you are unlikely (although not impossibly) to provide the necessary “chord” here. The atheists I know depend on reason and evidence, not faith and revelation. Granted this anecdotal nature, we are speaking very different languages from the outset.

    I also beleive it takes just one holy spirit enspired God breathed word which can change a prebeleiver just like that!

    You do of course realise that this works both ways? I don’t know how many folks lose their beliefs in a single, transcendental moment vs those that face a long protracted process, but I’m willing to grant that the rate for both is substantial.

    I know christians want to show people how good loving and kind God is. But people also need to fear the wrath of God.

    Really? Don’t these two statements strike you as directly contradictory?

    Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth.

    This sounds…quite sadistic.

    In the bible it says that many will turn away from the faith.

    Which is a very clever way of hedging your bets. The same can be said, with the same degree of truth, for virtually every other faith in existence.

    Ive noticed people have the wrong impression about christians, theyre religious, they cant do this or that, their lives and conversations are boring.

    It is my impression that the spectrum of lifestyles/beliefs etc amongst the Christians of my acquaintance is extremely varied. Granted, there are upwards of 30 000 flavours of Christianity, so this it perhaps to be expected.

    What ive said is just that, some people may get offended, and if they do thats also good, cos im not offending that person, theyr being convicted, and its not me.

    It is you. There is only one person doing the convicting in the above sentence, and (perhaps fortunately) it’s not (a) god(s).

    Revelation comes from God.

    If I start alphabetically, then Jehovah has to face a very long queue of other anthropomorphic manifestations before he gets to claim he is the source of my revelations (such as I have them i.e. very infrequently).

    When ur being persecuted from the world,

    How are you being persecuted, exactly? By having your beliefs questioned? Or are you talking about non-Christians here?

  • 66 Hugo // Feb 16, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Additional responses arrived via email, two about 11 hours ago, one about an hour ago. I’m copying them into comments here, hence the batch of three:

  • 67 Melissa kruger // Feb 16, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Hebrews 6:12 for whom the Lord loves He chastens and scourges every son whom He recieves. There is only one creator. And there is only one kingdom which shall reign. I read quickly u said something about not been born again, if ur not born again, ur spirit is still dead, thats why u never received revelations from God. Why i said sons, is because i felt a bit lazy to add the other word, but for the record our spirits are neither male nor female. Your soul is ur mind, will and emotions, its where u make ur decisions. We cannot create our own thoughts, they come from God, and if ur not born again, most of it if not all comes from satan. What we told the prebeleiver today is that man cannot create blood, blood comes from God, it is what keeps us alive. God created us from dust which science proves today, alot of scientists beleive in God. Isnt it funny that the christians are the optimistic happy ones and the people who deny God have nothing to look forward to? They think when they go to the grave thats it. I think thats why theyre so negative, angry and fighting so hard not to beleive in God. We are here for a reason. We r not here by chance.

  • 68 Melissa kruger // Feb 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    God created the earth and the heavens, so Hes a designer and architect. He formed man from dust, created man in His image, He created eve from one of adams ribs because man couldnt be alone, God makes the rules Ge created the laws. The law of genesis where everything produces after its own kind, He created the law of gravity, so we wouldnt float everywhere. He gave man dominion of all He created. Trees for oyeygen so we can breathe, for shade, furniture, fire for winter, fruit so we can eat and get the vitamins we require, structures, houses, gold and jewels so we can trade, metal for tools and the cars we drive today, animals so we can get protein, clothes, blankets, milk, chickens for their eggs, meat, feathers for pillows, fish, a hobby for some men, healthy food for us. God designed everything for man. Pleasure when we have sex, theres no reason why we should have pleasure in sex. He created marriage adam and eve were the first. He created beautiful flowers and a scenery around us to see his beauty, man creates things from what God gave hm. God created things out of nothing. I beleive in science, God is the science behind the science. If God never gave us the talents to work with the material He gave us on this earth, i have no idea where we would be. Man imitates God in some ways. Being a loving father, being kings, he is the king of kings. Having a government, God has his government too with angels in dif ranks, things in order, he is the judge, we have judges on earth, Hes our defender and protector, police are meant to serve that purpose and our dads, we have architects, he is the greatest architect. Talents dont drop from the sky, and our interest in specific jobs tells me theres something for everyone and that means everything was purposely made, and we have a purpose. He says he takes care of the birds of the air, he feeds tge animals in the field, that is why He planned out a food chain, the cat family, bird family, and in every race of mankind we have, a male and female, isnt that incredible? GOD?

  • 69 Melissa kruger // Feb 16, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    If we humans are just hereby chance, why is there a galaxy, planets, why would space exist? Who created the foundation of the existence of space. If there was no creator, nothing should exist, not even the galaxies. There should be nothing. Nothing! The breath taking views we have, the many different colours he designed for our pleasure and difference. Imagine if there was no colour in everything? Imagine if there was no light to see it, dont u wonder the fact that the sun serves the same purpose for everyone on this planet? Our bodies need rest, the sun shines on the other side when its ur turn to sleep, we r made different to animals, zebras and hippos look the same, we have different shapes, sizes, facial features, hair, eye colour, different personalities, passions,+talents, a consience, tastes, dislikes, we have pets. we have finger prints, no two are alike, they also serve in holding. We have babies that need to be nurtured and cared for, and taught, different to animals. Doesnt this say we are unique and have dominion over much? Science proves there is a creator. Science shows the method He used. But some people eliminate the thought of Gods existence because science makes sense to them. The way they were taught was: God created the heavens and the earth. They were never shown the method, a car doesnt make itself. It needs a creator and designer. 6000 years ago God created man from dust, its in the beginning of the bible and science proves it today. And it was written before the science we know. Even the worm has its purpose in the ground. So much more is our purpose. Some people dont beleive in God, but they beleive in the unseen realm? U cant see gravity, television and radio frequencies, its so amazing, we use the things that are unseen to connect. But if we never discovered theres an unseen force, such as frequency, i mean thats part of the unseen world, what more is there to discover for our advantage? And its for mans purpose. This big and wonderful hotel was created by God for His children

  • 70 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 16, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Sheesh where to begin.

    the Lord loves He chastens and scourges every son whom He recieves.

    This is not the action of a loving god. This is the action of a megalomaniac with sadistic tendencies.

    I read quickly u said something about not been born again, if ur not born again, ur spirit is still dead, thats why u never received revelations from God.

    My spirit is dead, inasmuch as I don’t have one. Don’t worry, this is a universal tendency.

    Your soul is ur mind, will and emotions, its where u make ur decisions.

    It is manifestly not some incorporeal thing that survives the death of the brain. You are simply the general functioning of your brain. When the brain stops work that final time, so do you.

    We cannot create our own thoughts, they come from God, and if ur not born again, most of it if not all comes from satan.

    Citation needed.

    What we told the prebeleiver today is that man cannot create blood, blood comes from God, it is what keeps us alive.

    What?

    Every single vertebrate on this planet creates their own blood. This includes humankind. Just as every vertebrate creates their own muscle tissue/sweat/urine/gametes/skin cells etc. Why makes blood so special it needs to be made in a god-factory?

    God created us from dust which science proves today, alot of scientists beleive in God.

    Firstly, science doesn’t prove. It disproves.

    Secondly, whether scientists believe in god is unrelated to whether humans are created from dust.

    Thirdly, there is no way, shape or form that science has upheld the hypothesis that we are created from dust. It is utterly false.

    Isnt it funny that the christians are the optimistic happy ones and the people who deny God have nothing to look forward to?

    Two things:

    The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. – George Bernard Shaw

    Secondly, do you have any non-anecdotal evidence to show that believers are generally happier than sceptics?

    They think when they go to the grave thats it.

    Actually, this is what I believe. You think this makes me an unhappy person? That’s rather a large assumption to make based on your limited contact with me.

    We are here for a reason. We r not here by chance.

    The only reason that can be remotely construed for our existence here is the byproduct of the evolutionary history we share with each and every other organism on this planet. It is a history rife with blood, pain, waste, death and yes, chance.

  • 71 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 16, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    If we humans are just hereby chance, why is there a galaxy, planets, why would space exist?

    Why does the existence of humans predicate the existence of galaxies? The latter existed billions of year before the former. As did planets.

    He created eve from one of adams ribs because man couldnt be alone,

    You know men and women have the same number of ribs? Count them if you don’t believe me.

    The law of genesis where everything produces after its own kind, He created the law of gravity, so we wouldnt float everywhere. He gave man dominion of all He created.

    Do you know what cell theory is?

    Do you know what Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation is, and why it is a a special case of relativity?

    As for your third statement, citation needed.

    Your next few sentences seem to put the cart before the horse. These are not things made for our pleasure or use. We have evolved to derive pleasure from or make use of them. It’s the other way around. I’m expecting you to mention how perfectly the banana fits the human hand next…

    Pleasure when we have sex, theres no reason why we should have pleasure in sex.

    Sorry, what? You honestly don’t see an advantage to experiencing the act of procreation as pleasurable? Would you want to engage in sex if it was painful?

    He created beautiful flowers

    Do you know what flowers are? They are the sex organs of the plant. Flowers evolved to facilitate the process of sex, nothing more.

    Man imitates God in some ways.

    Oh, the irony! This is exactly, 180 degrees bass ackwards.

    I’m sorry, I can’t address the rest of your posts. I give up. You seem to think that the world is a marvellous place, which it is, and that this automatically equates to the existence of a deity, which it does not. You seem to think that god is the answer to these things, when we as humans have managed to figure out explanations for nearly all of them, and where the application of those explanations has shaped the world around you to the point where you can wax lyrical about your beliefs to someone across the world at the speed of light, and not see the irony in denying the science that brings you such marvels. Mostly, you seem profoundly ignorant. If you have access to a library in meatspace, please try reading up on some of the things you feel support your god. You owe it to yourself to know something about this incredible universe you live in.

  • 72 Hugo // Feb 20, 2011 at 2:20 am

    Melissa – when responding, can I suggest you don’t do it via email? Those responses don’t reach the blog, they only reach me personally. Thus Kenneth won’t see them. Instead, click on the link included in the email notification, and enter your comment in the comment form.

    What I’m doing now again, is to copy your comments into the comment form on your behalf. This time I’m not re-wrapping them either, apologies to others if that makes them a bit harder to read.

    The following three comments came in via email, the first two on the 17th in the morning, the third on the 18th in the afternoon (for Africa and European timezones).

  • 73 Melissa kruger // Feb 20, 2011 at 2:23 am

    If a father has a son, he reprimands him if he loves him, in a correct
    manner of course, God is the father of spirits, He doesnt punish our
    flesh. Nor in a sadistic manner either. But in a good manner. His
    word, the bible is what reprimands us. As a child of God, your spirit
    is alive, as adams was, before he ate of the fruit, after he ate the
    fruit, his spirit died. And so are ours when we are born into this
    world, dead. We have to be born again, which means our spirit comes
    alive to God, our new father in spirit. His word is our guideline as
    to how to live in this world now that it is cursed along with our
    flesh. We dont walk according to the flesh, which is the worlds way,
    but according to the spirit which gets stronger than our flesh as we
    grow spiritually through the word, our spiritual bread. These things
    sound foolish to the carnal mind, but to the spiritual mind it is
    revelation and enlightening. Satan is the prince of this world now. He
    operates in the flesh. Depression, hatred, racism, murder, genocide,
    hyprocisy, abuse, abortion, satanism, everything which God is not,
    when we r born into this world, we are born under satans yoke. This is
    his world for now. He has his plans for ur life, child abuse, rape,
    abortion, suicide, theft, those are all his plans for ur life, but the
    minute u are born again, God becomes ur father, which means, satans
    yoke is broken. When we r born into this world, satan is our father by
    default. Yes satan owns ur soul, God becomes ur father when u accep
    his son Jesus, but u have to beleive, even though u are not Gods
    child, doesnt matter who u are or what ur doing, or what ur in bondage
    to, God does love you. Even though u deny him now, He says seek me and
    you will find me. So i promise u, God has His ways of getting to you.
    Even though u fight everything i say, im sowing seeds in your life,
    and one day they will start sprouting by Gods grace. God says my
    people are destroyed because of lack of knowledge. Ive shared the
    spiritual side.

  • 74 Melissa kruger // Feb 20, 2011 at 2:23 am

    If the doctor removed one of ur ribs, and u had a son after, wouldnt
    he have all his ribs? The bible reprimands our spirit, makes us
    realise what we have done wrong and brings us to repentance, and God
    is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins. The bible is spirit,
    the holy spirit convicts us and convinces us. Where we have done
    wrong. When someone was a christian and they have gone back into the
    worlds ways and still beleive in God, they feel condemnation when they
    read something in the bible to do with their present state, ive been
    there, i know a couple who at that point of condemnation right now,
    they re afraid of reading the bible, because they know what they re
    doing is wrong. I am spiritual minded, you are carnally minded, i feel
    offended on your part when the word atheist comes to mind. I dont know
    why they made such a harsh word. But that is the difference between a
    beleiver and non beleiver. Spiritual and carnal. Thats it! That word
    sounds racist to me, i cant change your mind, only God can. He looks
    at the heartnot at the flesh and mind. We need to be love. We were
    created to be loved. Where do our personalities come from and talents?
    He says I knew you in your mothers womb, He is so great, no mind can
    conceive His greatness. Maybe theres other questions u asked, but i
    didnt answer, like i said, i say what comes to my mind. I dont think
    what im going to say, it just comes. As far as the science bit, God
    gave people the ability to study cancers e.t.c, medication, the human
    body, but i am not so clued up with is the ongoing latest science, it
    always seems to be changing, last time i heard, it was dust, now i
    hear its something else. I do know the scientists dont know when the
    earth was made. They mistook some substance in the mines, saying it
    tool millions of years to grow 20 cm, but in actual fact, only tooj 2
    weeks. My faith is in God, not what the devil tries to deceive me
    with. I can hear the spirit that confronts me. Our enemy and war is
    not and with not flesh and blood. But against principals

  • 75 Melissa kruger // Feb 20, 2011 at 2:24 am

    I know i may be ignorant to whatever science, evolution theory u may
    have studied, which is in vain anyway as is everything man has
    accomplished for himself is vanity. And i could say the same for you
    where christianity is concerned. Your ignorant of God.what would u
    lose if u got to know God? Pride, arrogance? I tell you, the only
    thing u will lose is your hardened heart, and the rest will follow.
    You made a choice to deny God. Your judgment is final but while ur
    still alive u can can change ur mind and change ur judgement. Im glad
    im not playing russian roulette with my soul. MATT 16:26 FOR WHAT
    PROFIT IS IT TO A MAN IF HE GAINS THE WHOLE WORLD, AND LOSES HIS SOUL?
    OR WHAT WILL A MAN GIVE IN EXCHANGE FOR HIS OWN SOUL? John 3:17 FOR
    GOD DID NOT SEND HIS SON INTO THE WORLD TO CONDEMN THE WORLD, BUT THE
    WORLD THROUGH HIM MIGHT BE SAVED. HE WHO BELEIVES IN HIM IS NOT
    CONDEMNED BUT HE WHO DOES NOT BELEIVE IS CONDEMNED, BECAUSE HE HAS NOT
    BELEIVED IN THE NAME OF THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD. AND THIS IS THE
    CONDEMNATION THAT THE LIGHT HAS COME INTO THE WORLD, AND MEN LOVED
    DARKNESS RATHER THAN LIGHT, BECAUSE THEIR DEEDS WERE EVIL. 1 John
    2:22 WHO IS A LIAR BUT HE WHO DENIES THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST? HE IS
    ANTICHRIST WHO DENIES THE FATHER AND SON. Maybe you should get an
    easy to read bible, dont start from genesis, then u will lose
    interest. Start from matthew, through to revelation, then genesis
    onwards. But ask for your eyes to be opened spiritually. Renew your
    mind, theres a whole new world unseen. You just need to flip the
    switch from ignorance to life understanding. And you know what? GOD
    BLESS YOU! Im gonna pray for you. I am. Nice knowing you. Melissa, in
    fact, im gonna get my church to pray for you too. Amen

  • 76 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 22, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Sigh. SIWOTI strikes again!

    As a child of God, your spirit
    is alive, as adams was, before he ate of the fruit, after he ate the
    fruit, his spirit died.

    Again with the gendered language. Why are you ignoring Eve?

    And also, might I point out that the fruit of knowledge of good and evil was a fruit god provided Adam and Eve, at the same time that he denied them the knowledge of whether it was good or bad to actually eat it, because they hadn’t actually eaten the fruit yet? How can they be held responsible for doing this when they had no way to know whether what they were doing was good or bad?

    These things sound foolish to the carnal mind, but to the spiritual mind it is revelation and enlightening.

    I would say these things sound foolish because they are foolish.

    He has his plans for ur life, child abuse, rape,
    abortion, suicide, theft, those are all his plans for ur life,

    What, all at the same time?

    Depression, hatred, racism, murder, genocide,
    hyprocisy, abuse, abortion, satanism, everything which God is not,
    when we r born into this world, we are born under satans yoke.

    No, we are not. Some of us believe this.

    Even though u deny him now, He says seek me and
    you will find me.

    Again, I only deny the Christian god in the sense that I deny Thor, Zeus, Quetzalcoatl, Paul Bunyan, Māui, the teapot around Mars, and the Invisible Pink Unicorn. I even deny the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and there is far more evidence that the last exists than any of the others. Should I seek these as well? However do I decide which one? Why is your god better?

    So i promise u, God has His ways of getting to you.

    He’s been extremely coy about using them, hasn’t he? Downright shy, I would say.

    Even though u fight everything i say, im sowing seeds in your life, and one day they will start sprouting by Gods grace.

    What?

    I’m not fighting, I’m disagreeing. There is a world of difference.

    And I can turn this around and say I hope that some of the arguments I’ve used here might lead you to question the assumptions your beliefs are based on, perhaps even eventually lead you to change your mind. But these will be your decisions, not those of some nebulous deity.

  • 77 Hugo // Feb 22, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Allow me to point out that Kenneth’s referral to the Genesis narrative does not imply that he takes it as fact. (He doesn’t.) I also read the first dozen chapters of Genesis as metaphor / mythical, a perspective in which I think it does have value.

    Animals have no knowledge of good and bad, they simply live by instinct. At some point humans evolved self awareness and the ability to reason about the effects of their actions. This is the point at which we had taken a bite of that metaphorical apple, in which we had to start contending with the challenges of being fully aware of the consequences of our actions, and therefore accountable. Prior to having knowledge/awareness of harm we commit, we wouldn’t have any responsibility. We wouldn’t be capable of “sin”, depending on your theological stance towards the concept. (I argue that cats playing with mice aren’t sinning, they are adhering to their nature and not aware of the suffering they cause.)

    We also have numerous pieces of literature and other art (such as movies) investigating the dangers we could run into due to a blind pursuit of science. I think we could also consider the Adam and Eve narrative as an early example of this genre, though like the opening of pandora’s box, with us having access to knowledge and science and good and evil, there’s no going back. We do need to deal with it. (We need to develop our ethics to be able to cope with the new challenges we face. We have lived many decades in the nuclear age, and we face the possibility of biological warfare, also scary – thus we have most clearly lost our innocence about the risks of science and the challenges we will need to overcome going forward.)

    Just some tangential thoughts inspired by the Adam&Eve narrative. ;)

  • 78 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 22, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    If the doctor removed one of ur ribs, and u had a son after, wouldnt he have all his ribs?

    *blinks*

    Yes, that makes the whole created-an-entire-female-human-being-from-a-male-rib story much more plausible.

    I am spiritual minded, you are carnally minded,

    What is this obsession with the word carnal?

    i feel offended on your part when the word atheist comes to mind.

    Why? Should I feel offended on your part that the word Christian exists?

    I dont know why they made such a harsh word.

    Because it accurately describes the position? In any case, it is the word theist, which you presumably have no problems with, prefixed by a perfectly ordinary negation. Methinks your ears are oversensitive.

    Where do our personalities come from and talents?

    From a combination of the genetics we inherit from our parents, the developmental conditions during our foetal and childhood periods, and the environment we find ourselves in. Come on, these are questions that have answers!

    As far as the science bit, God gave people the ability to study cancers e.t.c, medication, the human body,

    Citation needed.

    but i am not so clued up with is the ongoing latest science, it
    always seems to be changing,

    What is? The basic foundations of science?

    last time i heard, it was dust, now i hear its something else.

    “Dust” hasn’t been an acceptable explanation of human origins for 150 years! We are clearly apes, and no other hypothesis has the explanatory power or the evidential support that this explanation does.

    I do know the scientists dont know when the
    earth was made.

    4.6 billion years, give or take a few hundred million years. The error bars on this might have narrowed, I haven’t kept up with the relevant literature.

    They mistook some substance in the mines, saying it
    tool millions of years to grow 20 cm, but in actual fact, only tooj 2
    weeks.

    This sounds like a job for the talk.origins archive!

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-age-of-earth.html#creacrit

  • 79 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 22, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    I know i may be ignorant to whatever science, evolution theory u may have studied, which is in vain anyway as is everything man has accomplished for himself is vanity.

    You are ignorant to science (which is an affliction so easily remedied!). And if everything that science has given you is in vain, then I suggest you get off the computer (which is one of the fruits of science), stop buying food (which is grown, protected, improved, distributed and preserved by the fruits of science), don’t take your flu shots (designed by science), never use a docter (trained by the accumulated knowledge of scientists), and never use a car/train/microwave/cell phone/gorram hot water tap ever again.

    And i could say the same for you where christianity is concerned.

    You haven’t addressed any of my concerns in my previous posts that attempt to show you why I don’t see a reason to accept god. Which god? And why?

    Your ignorant of God.what would u lose if u got to know God?

    Again, which one? Do you have any idea how many gods humans have believed in over the millenia? Why don’t you believe in Zeus?

    I tell you, the only thing u will lose is your hardened heart, and the rest will follow.

    It’s like you’re not reading my posts. All I need to accept the existence of (a) god(s) is evidence. Not lovey-dovey open-your-heart-and-you’ll-see emotional experiences; actual, reliable evidence. Please explain to me how this is hardening my heart, and not a reasonable standpoint for any person to take when confronted by an implausible idea.

    You made a choice to deny God.

    Again, no. Please read what I’m writing, not your interpretation of what I’m writing.

    Im glad im not playing russian roulette with my soul.

    Aaah, the updated version of Pascal’s Wager. Please read up on this wager to understand why your argument doesn’t work. I’ll ignore the tone of smug self-satisfaction for now.

    *skips block of all-caps*

    Maybe you should get an easy to read bible

    There is a Bible at my bed-side right now. I’ll also ignore the implication I’m too dumb to understand a hard to read Bible.

    And you know what? GOD BLESS YOU!

    Why? I haven’t sneezed.

    Im gonna pray for you. I am. Nice knowing you. Melissa, in
    fact, im gonna get my church to pray for you too.

    You know what, while this is very sweet, it really doesn’t address any of the questions/rebuttals I’ve given you. At all. You would do me a far greater favour by actually reading something constructive, such as a basic book on science. It amazes me that you haven’t even considered going to wikipedia or a library to see what we’ve actually managed to figure out over the past few centuries.

  • 80 Kenneth Oberlander // Feb 22, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    I swear I counted all the italics tags, ossifer!

  • 81 Hugo // Feb 23, 2011 at 12:15 am

    Fixed (one typo, there was a i/ instead of a /i). And troubling that it affected subsequent comments. Grrr. Bad WP sanitization!

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