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His Master's Voice
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Written by: C. W. Booth

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

An Atheist‘s Sincere Prayer, “Please Send Me to Hell”

After interacting with numerous atheists over the past few weeks, on this blog, on other forums, and in person, something has solidified in my thinking. Many of the atheists stated that they used to be believers in God, but when they threw off that belief in God they experienced an immediate sweep of euphoria, a pleasing emotional rush, or a sense of profound relief. They felt released from bondage to God and church authorities and are now subsequently happier than they were before.

Many other atheists have told me they would rather spend their eternities in Hell (if it turns out there is such a thing) with other atheists than to have to endure Heaven with Christians. They find being around goody-two-shoes and holier-than-thou religious types to be offensive and suffocating. They simply are not comfortable having meaningful fellowship with born-again types of people.

In short, such atheistic people will literally be happier and more content enduring the pains and horrors of separation from God (Hell) than being continually and forever in His presence (Heaven). Living with a perfectly holy being, when one is not holy because of conscious choice, would be more intolerable and horrifying than any other alternative, no matter how unpleasant the final reality.

What is ironic is that many atheists have told me one of the principal reasons they rejected Christianity is because it teaches God will send unbelievers to an eternal Hell. Their judgment is that such an irreversible act is unloving, unkind, and unfair.

But is it? Would it not be more unloving, unkind, and unfair to subject atheists to an eternity in front of the holy God, against their will, against their wishes, and impose on them a fate that would cause them infinitely more pain and anguish? Though it is a sad and terrifying prospect to me as a Christian, is not Hell the more merciful option for those who have actually stated that it is their preferred choice?

Far from being a reason to reject Christianity, it ought to raise joy and appreciation in the atheist’s heart to recognize that God will answer their unspoken prayer and do just exactly as they wish. In the case of atheists, they will attain precisely the eternity they have requested or even demanded. What could be more fair than that? What possible objection could any atheist raise against God since God will give them the desire of their heart and answer their prayer?

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[This essay was originally posted as blog. As a blog it was subject to public review and comments. This blog solicited an unusually large number of comments from the public, so only a selection of the cleaner and more salient comments are reprinted below.]

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A Reader from the Public Posted the Following Comment

Painful to contemplate. Believing that every good thing is from the Lord, I think they will find His absence different than they are thinking. No, there will not be and fun bashes in hell.

Another Reader Wrote

That's an very interesting idea. If there is a heaven and hell....I think to say "I'd rather spend eternity in hell than endure heaven with a bunch of Christians" is possibly the dumbest statement one can ever make (after all, if that wish is granted, it will be the dumbest mistake for all of eternity!)

I think its naive for anyone to picture heaven as walking around on clouds and having Peter and Paul nagging you because you were an atheist....or hell being in some 120 degree jail cell where you will discuss philosophy with Hume, physics with Hawking, or toss back old, stale, hot light beers (since its hell after all) with Charlie Sheen.

But I think what that type of statement shows is.... that some atheists actually hate Christians, hate Christianity, and hate the idea of God.

But your idea is an interesting concept I've never thought about. Here's a thought though. If an evil person being in the presence of God is the most horrifying place, then hell is not the most horrifying place. So if God is not sending non-believers to the worst possible place, then why must they be sent to a truly horrifying place at all? Why not a semi-bad place, as opposed to a truly horrifying place?

Also, is it fair to judge someone so harshly based on ignorance, and by ignorance I mean a lack of information (relative to having all knowledge and information)? So I think its safe to say, if people were to know for sure God exists, and know exactly what heaven and hell were like and everything it entails, I wonder if the atheist would still choose hell?

I think its also interesting to consider the idea of free-will or determinism in the context of this post. I effectively believe in free-will....but deep down, I actually don't. As Schopenhauer wrote, "you can do what you want, but you can't want what you want."

So Schopenhauer might say, the atheist truly wants to go to hell...but he/she did not want to want to go to hell. Or a physicist might say that the decisions of the atheist (and everyone else) follow natural and physical laws fixedly from the state of the universe at a prior point in time. Or perhaps the most relevant example might be Calvinism, which (if I'm not mistaken) says that God chose the elect, or those that are to be saved. So IF hard determinism is actually the reality, would that change anything, or everything?

Booth Responded to the Above Post

Scripture balances human responsibility (human decision making) with God's election and sovereignty. If you would rather think of the two concepts as the spokes of a bicycle wheel, then you might see them as constantly applying tension against each other but also holding everything in place because of that same tension. Humans have no capacity to organize and orchestrate the future of the universe (but God does) and therefore it is impossible for us to conceive of sovereign election and human will as being concurrently valid, though apparently God does and can.

Frankly, to your last question, would it actually change anything for you (or anyone else) if "free will" were only an illusion and every choice was both foreknown and predestined? Would we not go along thinking we were in control? Would we still not want what we want when we want it, all the time thinking it was our choice? Would not those who want to follow God still follow God, and think it was what they wanted all along? What would be different *from our perspective*? Not much.

We can only live in the world into which we have been placed. God prevents us from seeing the future or from seeing His secret planning, except for that tiny part He put into the Word of God. Therefore, the question is not really, "Does man have genuine autonomous free will?" Rather, the question is really, "What decisions will a man make given that he thinks himself to have free will?" Will he choose to follow God, accept God's salvation, and live to please God? Or will he choose to live for himself and ignore the possible eternal consquences of that choice?

Blessings.

Note--Booth added this following comment on 8/22/2013: I do not think God tells us that Hell was intentionally designed to maximize pain or torture. God does tell us that Hell will be extremely unpleasant by its very nature, particularly by comparison with the comfort the redeemed will experience by spending eternity in God's presence. But the purpose of Hell (separation from God) was to effectively keep the unconverted (those who remain unholy forever by choice) away from God's face, it just so happens that the separation itself as a punishment is unpleasant. Hell is just a dwelling place for those unrepentant sinners who cannot, will not, and could not tolerate living in the light of God's holiness for even a moment, much less for eternity. An unholy person in God's presence for a mere minute would be far more agonizing to the sinner than residing in Hell for eternity; as terrible as that second option is it is still more merciful than the alternative.

Booth's Response Below is to a Public Comment (public comment is not shown)

You wrote, "We must accept your presuposition that God exists." I think that comment is interesting bcause many atheists have approached me holding that very same presupossition. For example, many have told me that their primary reason for becoming atheist is that a God who allows pain in this world and who implements eternal pain in Hell is a God they cannot accept and therefore, they reject His very existence as the outcome of the logical reasoning. But to get to that outcome they had to begin with the premise that such a God must first exist, hypothetically of course. I suspect one root concern they hold is not that God does not actually exist but that God is not fair according to their standards of fairness, and they find that intolerable. In any case, examining the hypothetical situation is not really silly, but a useful exercise whether done by Christians or atheists.

Your last hypothetical question is an excellent one. Would we continue on being Christians even if we knew for certain that the whole faith was a hoax, that Jesus was not God and that He did not raise from death? Paul pondered this same hypothetical question. He wrote that if our faith is a sham we are more to be pitied than all other persons on earth, presumably because our hope is futile and our lives were spent chasing a figment of our imaginations. If we absolutely knew there was no God, no Christ, then we could not be Christians because our faith requires honesty, and to say there is a Savior who offers eternal life when there was no such thing would make us liars, liars doomed to die and rot in the grave and to disappear entirely when earth succombs to the sun's eventual burnout.

Finally, to your second point, which I have saved for last, we are not just creatures of reason. That is a common misunderstanding of the human condition, is it not? We are also creatures of hope, emotion, self-awareness, spiritual awareness, as well as being creatures of reason. And even in our ability to reason we have the capacity for self-deception. So merely being rational, able to reason, does not give an atheist or a deist the final word or the better advantage. Many choose to not follow God on the basis not of reason (for who would reasonbly not choose Heaven?) but on the basis of emotion; they do not want to give up their illusion of complete and utter self-determination instead of voluntarily subjecting themselves to the will of God.

Which is more reasonble: to suspect that there is a God but to deny yourself eternal life because you do not want to give up some of your temporary earthly freedoms, or to suspect that there is a God and to garner the hope of His salvation at the costs of a few temporary earthly freedoms? I say "few temporary earthly freedoms" in the sense of the "freedom to sin without restraint." Christians enjoy marriage, food, vacations, honest labor, just like an atheist might. So what have they really given up to follow God, and what have they gained? So which choice is really the more rational?

Blessings.

Booth Responded to Another Public Comment (public comment is not shown)

You asked, "How can atheism be incorrect, it isn't even an assertion[?]"

Every belief system, like atheism, is supported by explicit assertions. Atheism is the assertion that there is no God. If there is a God which has been overlooked because He is a spirit and not flesh and blood, then the belief system of atheism is mistaken, or "incorrect." Not to worry, the definitive answer to resolve the question as to whether there is or is not a God of spirit will be answered immediately upon the death of every person.

Commenter A, you also wrote, "it's annoying how apologetic christians never deal with what atheism is and always just come at us sideways like this. 'I met an atheist who said something strange...'"

Commenter A, we live in a world of community. Everyone blogs about their personal interactions within that community. What else would anyone blog about? You have often blogged about being incensed at the things theists have said or written about. In fact, as you have often stated, there is no "universal book of atheism" to interact with, so if theists are to explore atheism they must converse with and reference atheists. We do indeed live in a global social community.

Booth Again Responded to Another Comment from Commenter A (Commenter A comment not shown)

Commenter A, you wrote, “And I've never heard an apologist in my life who criticizes atheism or science without misrepresenting both.” But you also wrote, “Atheism is not a belief system, it has no dogma or doctrine. It is a description of what a person does not believe, not a description of what they do believe.”

How can an apologist ever misrepresent atheism when it “has no dogma or doctrine”? Surely, by definition, if there is no “belief system” for atheism how is it even possible to assert that an apologist has misrepresented atheism; is it not possible that the apologist is accurately representing the atheists in his community since no atheists believe anything uniformly or universally? How can any one atheist hope to speak for any other atheists whom they have never met and for whom they have no access to their personal variations on atheism? How can all apologists possibly be labeled as misrepresenting atheism when the one who would apply the label has no idea if the apologist is accurate outside his narrow purview?

I wrote, "Atheism is the assertion that there is no God." to which Commenter A responded, “No, it is non-belief in the existence of a god or gods.” That is a distinction without a difference, a game of debate over genuine meaning. What you seem to be claiming is that atheists (of any kind) do not assert that God does not exist, merely that atheists do not believe that God exists but they just will not assert that He does not exist. However, in the common use of ordinary language to tell someone, “I do not believe in {God, a round earth, Santa Claus}” is to make the assertion, “{God, a round earth, Santa Claus} do not exist and THAT is why I do not believe in them.”

If a person DOUBTS that something exists, but they cannot be dogmatically certain, then they do not adopt for themselves a label that proclaims their certitude. Agnostics generally adopt their label because they are expressing their doubts, “I cannot see God so I suspect He does not exist, but if He does, I would like Him to prove it to me before I worship Him.” Atheism is a rather dogmatic proclamation of certitude, “I do not believe in God [because He does not exist in my opinion].” Merely adopting the label “atheist” is to make a tacit assertion about the existence of God.

Is atheism a system of belief? Commenter A wrote, “The vast, overwhelming majority of atheists are agnostic atheists, not positive atheists.“ Since there are so many ways to label or categorize atheistic beliefs (i.e. positive atheist, agnostic atheist, atheist) it seems there is a system behind the varied belief options after all.

Commenter A wrote, “It is not incorrect to not believe in something in the absence of evidence.” We probably agree more closely on this comment than not. In a total absence of evidence it is both reasonable and rational to disbelieve in something. Of course, as I have noted numerous times before, God has an abundance of evidence to support His existence. Sadly, “most” atheistic apologists I have encountered have employed this logic process: “The evidence that exists to demonstrate that there is a God is flawed, subjective, and biased, so I find it to be inferior evidence, and since I reject inferior evidences as invalid, I find there is no evidence for God.”

Unfortunately the above logic itself is invalid. Unconvincing evidence is not equivalent to a literal absence of evidence. The abundance of evidences (including the written Bible which has human eyewitness accounts of God, the fact that humankind has a self-aware consciousness, and that the human genome is essentially a highly complex programming language which implies a highly intelligent operating system designer and programmer) may be disbelieved, but that does not mean there is no evidence at all. That is a logical fallacy. It is more intellectually honest to say, “I don’t like the evidence that does exist, and I will only accept the evidence of seeing God with my own eyes, or hearing God speak via my own ears, or witnessing God perform an otherwise impossible miracle in the material realm of this earth.”

Of course, if you did get that personal evidence delivered to you from God, no other atheist would believe your oral account, would they? Maybe you would write down your experience, but they would not believe the written record of it either, would they? Or maybe you could make a video recording of the actual encounter, though, would not an atheist predetermine that the video was more likely faked than genuine?

In the question of whether God exists or not, there is no “absence of evidence.” There is only an absence of evidence that an atheist will find acceptable. But, aside from a miraculous personal encounter with God, what evidence would any atheist ever accept as valid that their pre-held convictions would not immediately marginalize?

Booth Later Replied to Yet Another Comment by Commenter A (Commenter A comment not shown)

[Note: Many of Commenter A's comments are unsuitable for reprinting for various reasons of content, language, or size, so they are often omitted.]

Commenter A, you wrote, "Faith is belief without evidence - blessed are those who believe without seeing, as the bible says. Are you saying you don't have faith? Your position is logically, factually and scripturally bankrupt. But if you want to insert the word 'valid' before 'evidence'".

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!" However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; "THEIR VOICE HAS GONE OUT INTO ALL THE EARTH, AND THEIR WORDS TO THE ENDS OF THE WORLD." (Romans 10:12-18)

Faith in God, faith in Christ, only comes by hearing the story about Christ, then believing that report, which leads to repentance for those who will be saved by that report. Thomas got to see as well as to hear. But hearing is sufficient for faith. Nonetheless, to those who were eyewitnesses, Jesus presented "many convincing proofs" as evidence of His true nature as God.

The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:1-3)

Even Paul, who came to Christ about a decade after Jesus was sacrificed wrote about his own eyewitness testimony. As Paul said, so he preaches, so we believe.

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (1 Corinthians 15:1-11)

Faith is not without evidence. The evidence is there. It is simply that the evidence is not always believed. Faith is not seen, but it is passed along by preaching the story.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

Is your wife's love for you real or is it a delusion you have? You cannot touch "love" or "see" it with your eyes, so is it real? You may see evidences of your wife's love, and from the evidences you may come to believe in it. But that belief is only a conviction. And so it is with faith in God. We see the evidences and so we believe and have conviction though we cannot see Him.

Booth Again Replied to Yet Another Comment by Commenter A (Commenter A comment not shown)

[Note: Commenter A expressed his opinion that many of his most loved family members are already in Hell (if there is such a place) and he has no desire to be anywhere but in Hell with them.]

Thank you for expressing your heartfelt emotions. In fact, what you state is similar to what Paul said, "I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Romans 9:2a-3).

What Paul also acknowledged, however, is that every person who goes to Hell has chosen that end for themself. Your reason for not wanting to be in Heaven is that not all your kinpersons will be there. That is a choice. Your kinspersons will not be there because that is their choice.

God demands of us to make a choice. Either we choose Him, or we choose against Him. Blaming God that your kinspersons have choices to make or that they have chosen against God demonstrates whom you love the most: God, yourself, or your kinspersons. Like it or not, God is a jealous God and desires you to love Him more than you love all others.

Hell is a choice. Love is a choice. We have the will, the privilege, and the necessity to choose. The question is, will we choose God or will we choose something less?

I am curious, will you not equally miss those of your kinspersons who will be in Heaven? Why would you not choose to go to Heaven to be with them instead of choosing to leave them behind in favor your kinspersons who will be in Hell? Is this not a double or biased standard against your kinspersons who will be going to Heaven?

Commenter A Posted the Following Comment

That's a good point. I'll have to think about it.

Sorry that my comment came across a bit harsh. The idea of hell just gets me all upset, if you couldn't tell.

I guess most of those I love are "evil" by christian standards ONLY. Meaning, they aren't actually evil. They are gay, Jewish, or atheists and very good, honest, moral human beings! Completely undeserving of torture and torment, and suffering.

Do you have children? What if your child didn't believe? Would you still want to be in heaven knowing your own child was suffering in hell? I couldn't do it.

Wait...God is jealous? I thought god was perfect!? Jealousy is not perfection...in my opinion at least. Jealousy is a flaw. I thought god was supposed to be flawless. Now I am super confused. Thanks for the response.

Booth Replied to Commenter A

Of course most of your friends are "evil," all of mine are. Everyone is evil in the sense that everyone sins (which is a way of saying we are more important than God or God's wishes). Some of us evil people have accepted God's offer of eternal redemption, but we remain sinners for this life, forgiven sinners, but still we are sinners.

Yes, an unbelieving child is tormenting to the soul, right here and right now...I cannot even contemplate how that will change for any grieving parent in eternity, but I trust God it will. Also, I see no way that leaving behind my God, my saved friends, and my saved family members to join my lost child in Hell would be of better benefit than joining all those loved ones in Heaven.

Yes, God is jealous of our love, attention, and worship: "--for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God--"(Exodus 34:14), "Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: 'He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us'?"(James 4:5). He created us to worship Him, and He is jealous of us, His church, His bride, that we not spend our worship or affections on any other so-called God.

Jealousy is not a flaw, if it is not taken to evil extremes. We are jealous for our children's love, are we not? Who wants their child loving another woman as "mom" more than they love their actual mother? Husbands are jealous of their wive's affections and desire their wives not to be romantic with anyone else but them. In fact, we would think a husband was morally defective or sick if they did want their wife to show romantic affections to some other guy. Jealousy is an aspect of the ideal, of perfection, so long as it is grounded in appropriate circumstances and behaviors. For example, being jealous of another man's wife is wrong and inappropriate. Being jealous for our own wife's affections is expected and necessary for a marriage relationship to work.

God is jealous of our worship. He created us, so He has the right to expect to be our sole God. He is jealous of that relationship which He wants to have with us.

Blessings.






Saturday, June 18, 2011

Two Questions Open to Atheists

My own Christian biases allow me to view the varied evidences of God’s existence as being valid and convincing: the written accounts of various humans encountering the living God (the Bible), the human genome which appears to be a highly complex programming language developed and encoded by a master designer and highly intelligent programmer, and the fact that humankind has a self-aware consciousness and desire for spiritual immortality. There are other evidences attesting to God‘s reality, but this summation will do for the purposes of this blog.

Most atheists I have interacted with have decried these evidences as being subjective and unconvincing. But what evidence would an atheist find truly convincing? Would seeing God with your own natural eyes be convincing? Would hearing God speak via your own natural ears be sufficient? Would witnessing a dramatic physical miracle prove that God exists?

And if you, the former atheist, were newly convinced of God’s reality, what would you do to convey that to other atheists? If you gave a speech, would that oral account be convincing to other atheists? If you wrote down your speech, would that carry more evidentiary weight? If you managed to catch the miraculous encounter on a video recording, would other atheists see the video as more likely than not a faked and staged event? What evidence of your personal encounter with God would be needed to convince other atheists?

So, the first question I would genuinely like an honest response to from atheists is: What evidence would you personally need to receive to convince you that God exists?

Since most atheists I have known have utterly rejected the Bible as valid evidence, it begs the second question. Specifically, the second question is: Why do you find the Bible to be unconvincing as evidence of God’s existence?

Note: Generally I open this blog to comments by anyone who wishes to comment. This entry is no different. If you are not an atheist, feel free to post what is on your mind, but first tell us that you are not an atheist. If you are an atheist, please tell us so there is no confusion. And please, everyone keep your entries free of profanity.

Thank you.

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[This essay was originally posted as blog. As a blog it was subject to public review and comments. Only a selection of the cleaner and more salient comments are reprinted below.]

Note: There were thirty comments posted. Below is a compilation of the cleaner and more thoughtful of those comments.

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Atheist 1 on Q1: Well, this may be the pantheist in me speaking here, but I'd think any god would be a part of nature. As such, I'd need to see evidence that can be directly observed and repeated in an experiment (or, if that's not available, an experiment that can simulate the conditions for the observation). Basically, the same type of evidence scientists need to be convinced of the reality of any aspect of nature.

Atheist 1 on Q2: Because it's full of second, third, and fourth hand accounts of events unattested to in any other ancient source with no historical evidence to back them up. Combine that with the sheer numbers of translations, misreadings, and other things oral lore is subjected to, and it becomes very unreliable from a historian's perspective.

Atheist 2 on Q1: Not exactly sure but seeing and hearing could be chalked up to the result of a bad bowl of clams or too many mushrooms. God could easily make it known to us he exists. He is God and making himself known is well within his powers since he supposedly can do anything. The fact he is so ambiguous with the punishment of eternal damnation if you don't beleive he exists leads me to beleive he actually doesn't exist and if he does...he is nuts or not exactly good. I know I wouldn't treat my child this way and it would be cruel if I did.

Atheist 2 on Q2: I beleive the Bible is as valid proving that God exists as the Quran proves Allah exists. Circular logic so that is nil.

Atheist 3 on Q1: I would honestly need some kind of "godlyness" to reach out to me. I would need things (science, morals, life, death) to make sense, and support belief in god, rather than work against him. I would morally need God to support me (a woman) and tell me that I'm worth something besides man's property. I would need there to be ONE religion, ONE way, and no multiple splits in how things are (No dancing, die and get 1 acre of land.. all of the Christian denominations are ridiculous). I would need God to tell me he's real- literally. Not man tell me he's real. Man also tells children Santa is real. I never was a Santa fan when I was little (old man down my chimney, creepy!)

Atheist 3 on Q2: It's written by men with many moral issues that will never change. It's one answer because god said so. It's not based on if someone is good morally, it's based on stupid irrational .... (oh he's gay and going to hell). (You killed someone?!?! It's okay- you're saved.) None of it morally makes any sense at all. My ethics are better than that. I'm not basing off if someone is good or not on a book that was written by men that even stated women are below man. .... them. I live in the Bible Belt- and if I claimed I was atheist, lots of people would look down on me and begin to talk about it. If you aren't christian here, you get treated like you don't shower.

Booth Replied to a Public Commenter (public comment not shown)

Dear Commenter, you wrote, "You're not interested in our point of view, just evangelism."

As I have told my Bible study students many times over the past 30 years, "No one person can know the secret motives and hidden thoughts of anyone else." So, while you can assert to know my motives and interests, you do not and can not actually know. Only those who ask me what they are can know what motives and thoughts are hidden in my heart, assuming I tell them.

Moveover, very few people are so shallow or cardboard that they have but one motive in all that they do, as your accusation seems to imply that I have but one lone interest. Most assuredly, I have many interests in abundance, among which is evangelism.

With regard to this blog post (asking about what atheists do and do not find convincing--June 18) and a previous one (asking about conversion and deconversion generally--June 2), the reason I have not posted responses to any comments left in those two blogs is because I wanted everyone to be free to speak honestly about what they feel instead of needing to defend themselves. My interest in those two blogs was to find out what it is in this day and age that people find unconvincing about the Bible and Christianity, and what they think the lack is that causes faith to be unconvincing. If the post is tantalizing enough, I may ask follow up questions privately to better understand the nature of the comments left, but I want to do that in as non-polemic and non-threatening an atmosphere as possible since I really want to understand what is behind the atheistic mindset.

While there is much opportunity for polemic dialogue in my other posts, or perhaps even serious discussion in the best cases, in this particular blog post I just want to hear what atheists have to say about why the Bible and Christianity are unconvincing and not mute their opinions by engaging in debate. So please, express your individual perspectives as I would be most interested in understanding what they are.






Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Ducks: Supply Your Own Analogies

It was a very warm but near idyllic spring day last week, so my wife and I rode our bikes and enjoyed a picnic under a bridge by a pond. Numerous families of ducks and hatchlings joined us.

One proud mother duck with six tiny ducklings in tow marched by us on the path showing off her newly hatched progeny who were in turn and out of turn chirping at each other back and forth playfully. The ducklings scattered around as mom tried to find a way into the pond through the tall grass; eventually all the family members finding their way into the pond with mom.

That is until one duckling popped back out of the grass next to our picnic, looked up and down the path, and all of a sudden let out the most pathetic and shrill rapid fire chirping, “Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom!…” Hidden from view behind the grass but from the direction of the pond came two short staccato quacks, “Down here.” The duckling instantly bolted off in the direction of the quacks and seconds later the playful chirping of the ducklings returned as they swam off behind mom.

After our picnic I assembled a collapsible fishing pole and began trying to finesse bass out of the pond a short distance from the bridge while my wife read a book in the shade. Down at my feet behind a tuft of short grass was a single female duck and her one and only duckling who walked back up from the pond. The mother duck stopped, paid me no mind, raised herself up and allowed the duckling to walk under her for shade. Then, still standing tall, the mother duck began gently giving a small pump of her wings sending a cooling puff of breeze to the duckling once ever three seconds. This went on nonstop for a half hour until I finally moved to another area of the pond. It was a behavior I had never seen before. I wondered if mother ducks with six ducklings did the same for their entire brood or whether this mother was being extra solicitous to preserve the one remaining charge left to her care.






Sunday, June 26, 2011

New York: The New Spiritual Authority

Yes, New York has passed a law that gives same-sex “couples” the right to be legally “married” in New York. In the larger scheme of things it adds little to real civil rights or to the same-sex marriage debate. Conversely, it detracts very little from the historical understanding of marriage. What it does do, however, is push the government a bit further into becoming a spiritual agency which defines morality; in essence the government has become an alternative church.

In some six states today same-sex civil unions are already legal. Same-sex civil unions are the same-sex equivalent to traditional marriages (traditional marriages only involved two members of the opposite sex and never the same sex). Arguably, the state does have the right to establish civil unions, or civil contracts, as it sees fit. The New York law brings little new to this aspect of civil rights legislation as New York is not first and the scope of their law is limited only to that state.

New York’s law also brings no new arguments or information to the debate. The state has acted, but not on the basis of new knowledge. Therefore, New York does little to advance the debate itself.

What New York has done is place itself in the role of spiritual clergy. It has become the source of moral definition. It has taken away from the church, the synagogue, and other worship centers their authority to describe marriage in spiritual and moral terms.

Marriage throughout the eons, from the beginning of humanity, had been defined as a “male and female…[who] leave…father and mother and [are] joined…and the two…become one flesh” (Matthew 19:4a-5a). With New York, the government has declared that the church, that God, may no longer define what constitutes a marriage. Worse, it has told the church it may no longer define the very nature and concept of sin.

Since the state has determined that same-sex union is not immoral or sinful, it has determined to use its strong arm to usurp the spiritual word “marriage” for its own purposes. By doing so it declares it has the sole right to define that same-sex unions are not sinful and that the word marriage can no longer mean what it has always meant. It has called the church “wrong” for using the term marriage as applicable to only male and female unions. In short, New York has used legislation to make something moral which the church has historically called immoral (same-gender romantic-sexual unions).

New York has used legislation to assert that Jesus was mistaken in Matthew 19:4-5. Since the government of New York has given itself the authority to declare Jesus wrong, it consequently gives itself the authority to declare that Jesus is errant and therefore that He is not the perfect and all-knowing God. Consequently the state has asserted that the Bible is errant in its definition of marriage and that the Bible is mistaken in its prohibition of same-gender sex, and is therefore not the infallible Word of God. By making such claims the state has become the new religious power and source of spiritual authority in that land.

So much for separation of church and state. In New York, the state has become its own church striking down the morality, theology, and doctrine of other churches. I wonder when the first New York lawsuits will occur against traditional churches that do not recognize the legitimacy of same-sex marriages?

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[This essay was originally posted as blog. As a blog it was subject to public review and comments. Only a selection of the cleaner and more salient comments are reprinted below.]

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Someone from the Public Posted this Comment

pretty strong statements! I wondered how long it would take for this post. It is most certainly true that the government of New York has crossed the line violating the establishment of a particular religion by striking down the definition and wording of the Bible and instituting their own definition. Yes, lawsuits will certainly follow....they are the "in" thing these days you know!

Booth responds to comment 1

What makes it worse are the proposed "hate speech crimes" laws, which can bo so easily construed to include Christians speaking against homosexuality. If they are passed and used in conjunction with the New York law (which says that homosexual unions are protected civil rights) then it is almost inevitable that Christians will be targeted for violating the law of the land when they quote 1 Corinthians 6:9. Well, God can cause us to endure.

Booth Posted This Comment in Response to a Comment from the Public Which Is Not Shown

You posted an excellent news article from Nancy Poikoff. Thank you.

It would be my preference for all the states to refer to what Nancy calls "LGBT" patnerships as "civil unions" and leave the label "marriage" in the domain of the church. If the states want to bestow on civil unions all the same legal rights, status, and obligations they presently give to marriages, fine. But do not change the meaning of a word and an institution like marriage that Jesus defined and which God ordained thousands of years ago.


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