Christians: What Question Stops Your Faith in its Tracks?

by Luke Muehlhauser on April 2, 2010 in General Atheism

Hill Country Bible Church in Texas asks:

If you could ask a pastor anything, what would you ask?
What are the questions which stop your faith in its tracks?

You can type in any question you want. I sent in this question:

If I knew about it and it was in my power to stop it, I would stop a man from raping a woman. I would not ‘respect his free will.’

But if God exists, he allows rape to happen all the time.

Christians say he has a good reason to allow rape.

That sounds absurd, but even if it’s true: Doesn’t this mean that WE shouldn’t interfere with attempted rape, either? After all, on the Christian view, every rape that happens somehow works out for the greater good. So if I interfere with rape I’m impeding God’s mysterious plan for the greater good.

Head over there and ask your difficult question about Christian belief. Post your questions here, too, so we can discuss.

Apparently, the pastor will respond to these questions in a future sermon, which will be available for download here.

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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark April 2, 2010 at 6:16 pm

“How can you earnestly expect yourself to be a good judge of the validity of Christian apologetic arguments when so much of your emotional life hangs on already accepting their conclusions?”

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Kutuzov April 2, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Are the responses published?

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lukeprog April 2, 2010 at 6:42 pm

I can’t figure out how they’ll respond. Maybe they’ll use them in future sermons? I don’t know.

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Andrew April 2, 2010 at 6:46 pm

You raise this important question: “Doesn’t this mean that WE shouldn’t interfere with attempted rape, either? After all, on the Christian view, every rape that happens somehow works out for the greater good.”

And it’s been treated at some length by defenders of theism (and skeptical theism in particular). For example, check out Bergmann and Rea’s `In Defense of Skeptical Theism: A Reply to Ameida and Oppy’. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (2005): 241-51.

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Justfinethanks April 2, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Yeah, I’ve always found the “There’s a morally justifiable reason, even if we don’t know what it is” theodicy as being completely at odds with moral realism (as least on a epistemological basis.)

It’s one of those things that apologists would never accept the same logic in any other context. If I punched someone who offered this explanation in the face and said “Look, don’t get mad at me, it’s possible there was a morally justifiable reason for me doing that, even if it isn’t obvious to you, and you can’t disagree with that unless you yourself are omniscient,” I get the sense they would still file assault charges.

Here’s my offering to the website. It’s one of the issues that lead to my apostasy.

Christianity posits that there is something deeply immoral about failing to have a belief in, and saving relationship with, God. But there are countless instances where individuals are incapable of doing so. Children who are too young to understand the concept of God are a classic example. But there are also people who simply suffer from powerful cognitive biases that are beyond a person’s concious, willful control. There might also be individuals who live their entire lives as faithful Christians, but become incapable of believing in their final years because of severe Alzheimer’s Disease. And finally there are simply people in remote parts of the world who aren’t even aware that Christianity exists.

Here’s the dilemma: if any one of these people get into heaven, then the core doctrine of Christianity (that the only path into heaven is a saving relationship with the Christian God) is false. If any of these people don’t get into heaven, then God can’t be just, because it’s only possible to hold people morally accountable for actions they have power over. Sending the Alzheimer’s patient to hell because they don’t have the mental faculties to form a relationship with anyone (including God) makes as much sense as condemning them for failing to solve a Calculus equation.

In either case, the God of Christianity simply doesn’t exist.

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Red King April 2, 2010 at 7:09 pm

What did Jesus’ death save me from and how did his death accomplish this? If God is all powerful, why did he need a blood sacrifice to accomplish anything? And, if Jesus is God, how is this even a sacrifice? Isn’t God just sacrificing himself to himself?

[In college, two kids from a Christian group came by my dorm to chat with people. I asked this question and they said they would get back to me. They never did. I know it's not the most philosophically challenging question, but it's something I've never heard anyone answer without retreating behind "God's ways are unknowable." Well, if they're unknowable, how do we know the sacrifice was a good thing in the first place?]

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Ryan April 2, 2010 at 7:18 pm

I asked 4 questions. I forgot to write them down but here’s a paraphrase:

1) If God has a plan, is all powerful and all knowing, then why is the world not a better place? Why didn’t God create a world with a history that would be Edenic rather than one where thousands/millions/billions of people would burn in hell and where there is so much worldly suffering?

2) If Christians are being spiritually transformed by Christ and the Holy Spirit, then how come they aren’t better people? It seems to me that Christians are just people with a few Christian beliefs than anything supernatural.

3) How come Christianity is spread among families more so than anything else? If belief is something of moral weight, then how come a different distribution doesn’t exist, instead of one based upon the non-moral factor of culture? Why would God create a world in which belief would tend to distribute itself like that?

4) Even though there are Christian apologists, the issue is that there are a number of atheist intellectuals out there who are very smart. How can belief be morally good/required if the intellectual reasons for belief aren’t rationally coercive?

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Justfinethanks April 2, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Even though there are Christian apologists, the issue is that there are a number of atheist intellectuals out there who are very smart. How can belief be morally good/required if the intellectual reasons for belief aren’t rationally coercive?

You know the classic response to this one, don’t you?

“God doesn’t actually care whether or not people believe in him. After all, even Satan believes that God exists. He only cares about people having a saving relationship with Him. If he were to offer more evidence (by appearing to everyone as a vision in the sky for example), more people might believe in him, but it might actually DECREASE the number of people who form a saving relationship. So it is possible that God, in his omniscience, has offered exactly the right amount of evidence that allows the most possible people to be saved. If he offered more, it might actually detract from His ultimate goals.”

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Ben April 2, 2010 at 7:58 pm

I bet the answer to the rape question would be: God allows rape in order to give us the free will to do good by stepping in and stopping it. If god stopped all bad things (even child rape and torture) from happening, then nobody (if anybody is even around) would need to do good (because good needs evil to be good) which defeats (apparently) the whole purpose of life (whatever that is).

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Hermes April 2, 2010 at 8:32 pm

“When preaching a sermon, do you promote information that your theology training has shown you is not true?”

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lukeprog April 2, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Thanks Andrew! Downloaded.

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lukeprog April 2, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Hermes,

Good one!

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Scott April 2, 2010 at 9:15 pm

“If God asked you to sacrifice your child (or wife, mother, etc), would you, even if you didn’t know whether God would intervene?”

“Why is faith an unacceptable criterion in every area of life but religion?”

“If we’re supposed to “turn the other cheek”, then shouldn’t we forgive Osama bin Laden?”

“If God has a reason for everything, then what is the point of prayer? Shouldn’t we just trust Him to work for the best?”

“If Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten from the Tree of Knowledge yet, how were they supposed to know that disobeying God was wrong?”

“If the Bible is literal truth, how do you explain the contradictions? If it is a metaphor, then why is Jesus not a metaphor?”

“If parents taught children that fairy tales were religion, and Bible stories just superstitions, would we instead defend the existence of Mother Goose?”

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Revyloution April 2, 2010 at 9:25 pm

As an atheist, there is only one question that stops me cold.

Why is there something, instead of nothing.

Sure we have Brane theory, String Theory, Multiverse Theory, et al. But why would even those theories exist? The infinite regression problem, that always bothers me. We need 10 dimensions to explain the 3 we live in (and the one we travel through). Who’s to say there aren’t 40 dimensions to explain those 10?

Its a long way from infinite regression to believing in a Jesus zombie who flew up into space, so I still don’t believe in any god.

But why. Why is there something, instead of nothing.

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Supersage400 April 2, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Hello. I’ve been stalking for a while and this will be my first comment here, but I think I like these posts so I’ll try my hand.

I’m curious about your question as well, Luke. I thought about it for a while and I think a possibly workable response to it might be something like the following:

You are permitted to interfere in a rape because that is itself a part of God’s greater plan. Perhaps the reason for the rape to begin with was to get two people to meet without violating the free will of either party involved.

Personally, I think an omnipotent deity could find a better way to achieve its ends than rape even if we grant the assumption that God has to avoid violating free will. Still, I thought the idea that you are permitted to stop the rape on the grounds that it is a part of the “mysterious plan” for you to do so.

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Mathew Wilder April 2, 2010 at 9:45 pm

I asked: “Why does God have a plan for humanity, the universe, etc? (Or why are we told that God does?) Plans are for beings who want a certain state of affairs to exist, and must also work to realize those states of affairs. If God is omnipotent, that means God can directly bring about any state of affairs which God desires to exist. In other words, God shouldn’t need a plan, given what plans are for and the definition of omnipotent. So why would God need (much less have) a plan, and why should we believe God has one?”

After submitting my question, this was displayed:

“Thank You!

Thank you for sharing your road block.
Join us April 4th as we answer the questions which stop your faith in it’s tracks.

Services at 9:15 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. at Hutto Middle School”

So I’m assuming the answers will not be posted online, but only offered during a sermon.

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lukeprog April 2, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Matthew Wilder,

In that case, we should be able to download it here.

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Zak April 2, 2010 at 11:24 pm

If Adam and Eve are a myth, where did original sin come from? If it didn’t literally happen, what is the point of Jesus’ death?

If Adam and Eve didn’t know right from wrong, how could they be blamed for not obeying God and eating from the tree of knowledge? If they didn’t know right from wrong, they wouldn’t have known that it was wrong to disobey God.

If Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten from the tree, sin (and therefore death) would never have entered the world, and the earth would become so overpopulated that we would be a mile deep in people and other organisms, unable to die. Was this really Gods original plan for paradise?

Is Jesus and God the father the same being or separate? If they are the same, why don’t they share the same consciousness/mind (the Gospels make it clear that Jesus does not know the thoughts of God)? If consciousness/mind doesn’t separate beings, then what does?

If morality comes from God, then why do I feel morally repulsed by the actions of God described in the Bible? Where do those moral feelings come from?

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Feldman April 2, 2010 at 11:31 pm

If god has a plan and we are following that plan then dosn’t that mean we really have no free will?

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Edson April 3, 2010 at 12:45 am

Scott, I found some your questions to be really intelligent. I do not claim that the answers I have to these questions are the standard Christian answers. But this is the way they look to me personally.

“If God asked you to sacrifice your child (or wife, mother, etc), would you, even if you didn’t know whether God would intervene?”

It depends on the personal relationship you have with God. Personally, at the moment it feels like I wouldn’t sacrifice my child, my wife or my mother, for that matter. But you never know. May be one day in the future, as I continue to grow stronger and stronger in my trust in God, something equivalent to sacrificing your beloved under the request of God could be a reality. You know, to have faith in God, as much as strong as that of Abraham had, is a step by step process. Abraham learned to trust God after several tests, including a remarkable one of waiting 100 years to beget Isaac, before being commanded to sacrifice the same son. It was not an easy moment for Abraham, but he had been trained satisfactorily, at that stage, in Faith and in Character to handle such a huge challenge.

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Edson April 3, 2010 at 1:01 am

“Why is faith an unacceptable criterion in every area of life but religion?”

Well,it also depends on how you define the term “faith”. To me, faith is to trust and to have hope in that that you believe in for solutions. Some people have faith in Science because they believe in, to be precise they trust in Science, to have answers to their questions. Now these people have their own reasons why they put so much trust in Science.

Similarly, Christians have their own reasons to put so much trust in God. For me, God raised Jesus from the dead and I trust God can do that to me. If He wont, my faith was in vain.

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Edson April 3, 2010 at 1:15 am

“If we’re supposed to “turn the other cheek”, then shouldn’t we forgive Osama bin Laden?”

Year sure. Under the “turn the other cheek” principle, Osama would have been long been forgiven. And Christianity is at a personal level. I believe there are some Christians, even atheists, who at a certain moment in their lives in any given context, utilized the principle. Whether it proved to be a working principle or not, that reamins be a personal testimony.

But hey, this is a secular government and there is no such thing as to turn- the-other-cheek in secular ideals. Osama bin Laden, according to Barack bin Obama, will be caught and brought to justice.

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Edson April 3, 2010 at 2:04 am

“If God has a reason for everything, then what is the point of prayer? Shouldn’t we just trust Him to work for the best?”

To me, to pray to God is not just to utter words. It goes beyond that and including also a certain faith attitude and life-style. Of course, you have a point. To sincerely trust God to work for the best in you and the rest of the world is also Prayer. To use your money, health, expertise, etc. for the glory of God is also Prayer. To tell God, verbatim, that you feel bored with life and need something fresh is also Prayer.

Now the reason the prayer thing is a troubling one in many people’s lives is that they have no idea what kind of God are they praying to. Even more troubling, they do not believe at the first place that God is going to reply. So they go in prayer with this skeptical attitude wondering whether God is real or not. Well, if you are not certain that God exists, do not even waste you time to pray.

The second important thing is that we are not praying to test God, so we must be careful with what we are praying. in fact, many of the life necessary requirements that we take for granted God has provided us free without any effort from us to pray. Indeed, it is high time we use more of our prayer time to thank God and less to demand selfish needs.

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Edson April 3, 2010 at 2:36 am

“If Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten from the Tree of Knowledge yet, how were they supposed to know that disobeying God was wrong?”

The Genesis one story is an enigmatic one, even to me. We have no idea what exactly took place under that scenario of the Genesis story. Even though, I believe, the real scenario is much detailed than depicted, the Tree of Knowledge story is an abstract of a necessary boundary that morally advances humans from the rest of the animals. If we take a social-evolutionary narrative, we are indeed “Moral Animals” to use the title of one of Richard Wright books.

Now whether this advancement is good or bad for us is a topic to debate. Animals do not know what is bad and what is wrong and they are blissfully ignorant. We know what is right and what is wrong but we suffer the guilty of doing wrong when we would have done it right. On one hand Adam and Eve incredulity to be deceived was a good thing for them for their newly acquired “knowledge”. But on the other hand they had to pay the consequences of being responsible to that knowledge. Sure we have to debate on this thing.

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Duke York April 3, 2010 at 3:24 am

Here’s my brain-dump:

“Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?”

Why did your god tell a story in Genesis that so obviously contradicts what we’d eventually find when we look at the real world?

It’s not like the ancient Israelites couldn’t understand the truth — they kept track of bizarre dietary rules, so they weren’t stupid — and your god could have made any story mean anything he liked.

Did your god intentially mean to put a “road block” up for us?

Is your god bound by the rules of logic?

If so, who invented the rules of logic that bind your god?

If not, isn’t your god essentially chaotic and incomprehensible?

According to you, your god thinks it is moral to torture forever anyone who doesn’t pretend to be his best friend while alive.

If your god has that kind of morality, how can we trust him when he says he wants us to pretend to be his friend?

In other words, if your god thinks it is appropriate to kill men for touching the arc of the covenant, why should we think he finds it inappropriate to lie to us about salvation?

How can you condemn Hitler for commiting genocide when your god commanded the Israelites to commit genocide when they took the holy land?

You don’t have perfect knowledge of god’s will. How do you know Hitler wasn’t working under your god’s commands?

Why do you ignore your god’s clearly-stated commandments to kill those of different religions? Look at Deuteronomy 13:5-16.

“If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.”

Why are you ignoring this clearly stated commandment? Will you start following it when you have more political power?

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Charles April 3, 2010 at 3:25 am

If God truly loved us, and he could have made us any way he wanted, then why did he choose evolution?! A process that, in animals, has been the cause of millions of years of untold suffering, and in humans, horrific genetic diseases like, epidermolysis bullos, fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, and child Tay-Sachs? And don’t try to weasel your way out this one by saying things like, evolution is false, God is mysterious, or these things could be the result of something else. Treat it head on!

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Steve Maitzen April 3, 2010 at 6:28 am

And it’s been treated at some length by defenders of theism (and skeptical theism in particular). For example, check out Bergmann and Rea’s `In Defense of Skeptical Theism: A Reply to Almeida and Oppy’. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (2005): 241-51.

For criticisms of Bergmann and Rea’s arguments, I humbly offer this and this.

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JTBorah April 3, 2010 at 6:48 am

Any discussion about the sovereignty of God ALWAYS includes the idea of man’s responsibility. So, what would your responsibility be in your scenario? Stop the rape. Your stopping the rape may be part of “God’s mysterious plan for the greater good.” Nobody looking at a rape happening should ask whether the completion of the act of rape is what God wants.

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Ryan April 3, 2010 at 6:54 am

“God doesn’t actually care whether or not people believe in him. After all, even Satan believes that God exists. He only cares about people having a saving relationship with Him. If he were to offer more evidence (by appearing to everyone as a vision in the sky for example), more people might believe in him, but it might actually DECREASE the number of people who form a saving relationship. So it is possible that God, in his omniscience, has offered exactly the right amount of evidence that allows the most possible people to be saved. If he offered more, it might actually detract from His ultimate goals.” 

I can see the logic of this response, however, I am not sure that it really gets my question. My question was on the moral requirement of a belief insufficiently justified by evidence. While there are potential answers “You’ve gotta have faith”, the problem is that such answers are silly. If you can’t intellectually support a belief, then it is hard to consider it morally required.

I did not refer to the lack of evidence placed by God directly though, and so did not ask “Why didn’t God put more evidence?”.

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Justfinethanks April 3, 2010 at 7:14 am

I did not refer to the lack of evidence placed by God directly though, and so did not ask “Why didn’t God put more evidence?”

Right, but asking “why don’t smart and sane people believe in God” is simply a shorter way of asking “why isn’t there enough evidence for smart and sane people to believe in God.” Implicit is the assumption that if there was overwhelming evidence that God exists (on par with evidence that the Sun exists), then these smart, sane people wouldn’t be unbelievers. The problem of divine hiddenness and the problem of unbelief are really two ways of stating the same issue.

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Duke York April 3, 2010 at 7:36 am

But why. Why is there something, instead of nothing.

I have the perfect answer for this, and I’ll post it, as soon as you answer one of my questions:

Why, why, why is there God instead of nothing?

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Mat Wilder April 3, 2010 at 7:43 am

@lukeprog Thanks for the link. I’ll be really interested to see if the pastor who gives the sermon tomorrow has the spine to actually address any really tough questions, and without resorting to canned apologetics and platitudes about God’s mysteriousness.

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RA April 3, 2010 at 7:48 am

I wish I could be there to see what happens when this little Southern Baptist preacher opens up his email and sees he’s been dumped on by Common Sense Atheism. Not what you expect to happen in little Hutto, Texas.

All of these questions are way to philosophical for the Southern Baptist though. They can rationalize just about anything.

I’d love to hear some of the responses. Southern Baptists have some really interesting rationalizations. My favorites are the explanations pertaining to inerrancy which they totally believe in. Those can be pretty entertaining.

I’d ask, if Adam and Eve created mankind, doesn’t that mean we were created through incest? And if we all come from Adam and Eve, why do we have different races? Isn’t that evidence for evolution? That would be a really interesting one for the junior high kids at Hutto.

The Southern Baptists hate evolution with a passion.

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Torgo April 3, 2010 at 8:01 am

Here’s the question I posed:

Why did God create anything at all? If God is perfect, complete, lacking nothing, then he has no need to create, and gains nothing by doing so. All of existence was perfect and maximally good when it was just God, so why introduce imperfection and evil into the mix? There just seems no logically justifiable reason for God to create at all.

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revrogers April 3, 2010 at 10:23 am

Questions for RA and other atheists:
If Southern Baptists can be monolithically insulted, is it okay to lump all atheists in with Chairman Mao?

If a Southern Baptist preacher being “little” and living in “little Hutto” logically means one is mentally deficient, does it follow that “larger” atheists living in “larger [fill in the blank metropolitan city]” are therefore superior intellectually?

If Southern Baptists are not able to “philosophically” handle these tough questions, what does it say about the ethical character of atheists who torment the obviously mentally deficient?

Why do rational and common-sense thinking atheists spend so much time and emotional energy refuting the existence of a morally and logically deficient being that they are certain does not and cannot exist?

If one only lives for at best 120 years, and even that is not guaranteed, and then ceases to exist, why would one spend one second of one’s own intellectual energy in an attempt to refute what one is “certain” is the “obviously” “irrational” concept of God?

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RA April 3, 2010 at 10:43 am

Rev. Rogers, this seems to have hit a nerve.

I can only speak for myself, but I was raised Southern Baptist so I know a little about the mindset. They don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about these types of arguments and when they do, they shut them out of their mind.

Having lived in the area, I also know a little something about Hutto, Texas. It is a little small town. My comment only pertained to this guy getting inundated with emails with a question he posed to his congregation. I think it will come as quite a surprise to the guy.

You are doing a little projecting Rev.

Why do atheist spend time thinking about these things, I suppose it because they find the topic interesting and enjoy the argument and thought process. Why do you spend your time reading an atheism blog? That may answer your own question.

As for the Southern Baptist having an intellectually inferior argument. Yes, I definitely think that is the case.

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RA April 3, 2010 at 10:59 am

Rev. Rogers, if you would like an example of the intelligence of the Southern Baptist line of thinking, I can share some of it from my own family.

My father believes that Barack Obama is president of the United States because God is punishing America. This is something that is being preached all across Texas in Southern Baptist churches.

My brother is about to enter the seminary to become a Baptist minister and warned me upon the election of Obama that the end of days were near and the destruction of Israel was at hand because Obama was a Muslim and did not support Israel.

I explained to him that Obama was raised by two atheists and atheist do not teach their kids the Muslim faith and his white grandparents from Kansas probably didn’t teach it to him. Well, he said, if he is not a Muslim, why hasn’t he changed his name?

What’s more, when I presented the Adam and Eve argument to him, he proclaimed that we have different races as a result of Ham. Ham’s descendants were all left with a mark. That mark is now the slanted Asian eye. It made perfect sense to him but not to me.

Are you surprised that I am not impressed with this type of mentality? Are you?

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revrogers April 3, 2010 at 11:41 am

I am a Southern Baptist who does not hold to those perspectives, so I am an example that the Southern Baptist “mentality” is not monolithic. I live in a town probably smaller than Hutto and pastor agricultural-based workers. I hold post-graduate degrees and currently read all sorts of material contrary to what I personally believe and what many Southern Baptists supposedly believe. (e.g. I’ve read Dawkins and Hitchens.) I teach classes to ministers and I attempt to train them to evaluate ideologies precisely. That is why I asked the first question. If you can lump Southern Baptists and small towns into one category, can I lump atheists into the Maoist atrocity atheism category? Your criticism of Hutto and this pastor seems to be a projection of your own background. He’s at least asking the questions. Some ministers wouldn’t even do that. Do you really want to discourage pastors from being open to receive legitimate questions by smirking at their very attempt at doing so?

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RA April 3, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Rev, I have not criticized Hutto or the pastor. I’ve said Hutto is a small town and the pastor is going to be surprised to receive all the emails he is going to receive. That’s all there was to it.

Congratulations on growing up in a small town. I grew up in a town with a population of 889 people which is much smaller than Hutto.

I’m sure your students can make apologetic arguments that fellow Christians find compelling.

As a Southern Baptist, you are offended by the idea that Baptists might not be intelligent. Religion has nothing to do with intelligence. I think of Southern Baptists the way you think of the Mormons.

Southern Baptists believe in Biblical inerrancy (just like HCBC in Hutto) as I’m sure you do. Sorry, that is just not very impressive. We will have to agree to disagree on that one.

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RA April 3, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Of course, you can put your Southern Baptist skills on display by defending some of the questions presented and then try your hand as the sharks quickly descend on the blood in the water. I wish you luck if you are prepared to do so.

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Unplugged Toaster April 3, 2010 at 1:12 pm

First, your question has a simple answer, freewill means that humans make the bad decisions. God comes is though and says hey I’ll make lemonade out if your rapey lemons.

Here’s a real question:

As no religion has provable miracles (miracles that non-believers will buy in to) and as faith is the main tenet of all religions, what makes you certain that all the other believers of different faiths that claim a relationship with their god are any more or less ‘right’ than you?

Btw: all religious questions that have no answer are simply answered with: faith.

Weak.

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piero April 3, 2010 at 2:30 pm

You know, to have faith in God, as much as strong as that of Abraham had, is a step by step process.

You sound a lot like a suicide bomber to me. Have you ever thought of embracing Islam? I think it would suit you better.

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Robert April 3, 2010 at 3:57 pm

How can believers explain why the Bible condones slavery and the mistreatment of slaves and that the scriptures value the life of a slave less than that of a non-slave?

Some might reject this question as a mis-characterization of God’s Word, so I am also providing support for it:

– Permission is granted to own people: Leviticus 25:44-45, Male and female slaves are to come from surrounding nations, temporary residents or members of their clans born in Israel.

– A father can sell a daughter into slavery to pay a debt (the context of the passage suggests sex slavery). She is not to be released at the end of six years as is an ordinary male slave: Exodus 21:7-11

– Yahweh’s temple was built with harsh slave labor (1 Kings 5:13, 1 Kings 12:4) — tens of thousands of people — by Solomon, a man with whom Yahweh personally instructed and gave more wisdom than any other man in the history of the world. (1 Kings 3:11, 1 Kings 3:12, Proverbs 2:6, Proverbs 2:9)

– Beating another person is okay to do as long as they are a slave and the beating does not cripple them for more than a day or two: Exodus 21:20-21

– The Mosaic law treats some people as property and their lives are portrayed as less valuable than other humans: Exodus 21:28-32, When an ox kills a man, the ox must be stoned. If the ox has gored a man previously, the animal’s owner must also be put to death, but in the case of the goring of a slave, the only requirement is that the owner of the ox must pay money to the owner of the slave. Thus the slave’s death is treated as loss of property … no more valuable than an animal or some inanimate object. The principal given in this passage — that an owner should keep a dangerous animal away from people — applies severely to non-slaves (fail to do it and you will eventually be put to death), but much less to slaves (fail to do it and you will not be as wealthy). The implied message here is that the life of a slave does not deserve as much protection as the life of a non-slave.

– When a male slave is freed after the law’s 6 year term, his wife and children are to remain the property of another man. If the slave stays with his master (presumably because he doesn’t want to desert his wife and children to slavery alone), he is coerced to become a slave forever and presumably his wife and children are also slaves forever, or they will at some point have to make the same difficult choice the father had to make – whether or not to desert him: Exodus 21:2-6

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Robert April 3, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Sometimes we can forget just how ugly slavery can be. It is too bad that the Bible permitted such cruelty:

“He was a cruel man, hardened by a long life of slaveholding. He would at times seem to take great pleasure in whipping a slave. I have often been awakened at the dawn of day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine, whom he used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered with blood. No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose. The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped longest. He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her to make her hush; and not until overcome by fatigue, would he cease to swing the blood-clotted cowskin. I remember the first time I ever witnessed this horrible exhibition. I was quite a child, but I well remember it. I never shall forget it whilst I remember any thing. It was the first of a long series of such outrages, of which I was doomed to be a witness and a participant. It struck me with awful force. It was the blood-stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery, through which I was about to pass.”

– “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas”

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kourou April 3, 2010 at 5:41 pm

What an interesting idea! I do hope they follow up on it.
My question: “Is there any reason to think God exists that could not have been produced if God did not exist? Is there any evidence for God’s existence that could not have been the product of a human mind in a universe in which there was, in fact, no God?”

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othereric April 3, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Scott: If Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten from the Tree of Knowledge yet, how were they supposed to know that disobeying God was wrong?

i think this question is awesome and hilarious. it’s almost on that, “did adam and eve have navels?” level.
of course christians could claim that they obeyed god purely out of love, and that’s why they were so easily tricked by the serpeant.
still, good one.

to luke’s question i think they would answer that god is a law-giver, not an example to be followed. if he was an example we’d all be spending the next seven days constructing our universes and planning the exact moment to sacrifice ourselves to ourselves.

i’m not sending it in, but my question would be:

what is the purpose of human technological advancement in god’s plan?

i mean, it seems totally unnecessary for us to build microchips and satellites if we’re only here to live, die and subsequently be judged and sentenced. are there any christians who’ve already provided thoughts on this question? it would intrigue the hell out of me.

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raichel April 4, 2010 at 1:42 am

Here is the question I asked:

In Europe there are so many atheist and agnostics. They are often very thoughtful ‘good’ people. The media, education system, environment and disillusionment with the Catholic Church reinforce their position on Christianity.
Yes they do reject the God of the Bible but in these conditions how can they be expected to do anything else? How can they be sent to Hell by a loving, merciful, compassionate God for eternity when they are doing their best and often living more upright lives than most Christians?

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blokhead April 4, 2010 at 8:20 am

I asked two questions:

If there is free will in heaven, but no suffering, then why is free will used as an explanation of suffering in this world?

How can heaven be eternal paradise if the few people I care about most are being eternally tormented in hell? Any arrangement that separates me from those I dearly love is not paradise.

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David April 5, 2010 at 10:03 pm

For criticisms of Bergmann and Rea’s arguments, I humbly offer this and this.  

And I humbly add this (note that this is a prepublication copy).

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lukeprog April 5, 2010 at 10:15 pm

As it happens, I’m interviewing Sehon in a few hours. :)

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RA April 8, 2010 at 2:47 pm

HCBC-Hutto has its Sunday sermon up and acknowledges that “this atheist website” produced 500 email questions in two days.

No answers though.

He got off to a good start and acknowledged the thoughfulness of the questions but then defaulted to the questions being not an intellectual issue but an emotional issue. You are angry and want to be free to have fun and deny God.

We can go to heaven though if we accept Jesus as our personal savior. It’s in the Bible along with all of your other answers.

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