I used to wonder (and believe I even asked you) if an aging agnostic would eventually ask, “is this all there is?”
The answers to that question could be mind-blowing.

You probably mean atheist and the fact is that most atheists die quite contentedly without ever asking that question. It comes from giving thought to life and belief and faith and knowledge and thinking is a pretty good thing.
I am agnostic however many people, you apparently are among them, who think that agnosticism is a belief or a faith. It is simply the acknowledgement that metaphysical notions are not known. If a genie appeared and offered to give me one wish it would be that everyone in the world become agnostic; there would be agnostic Catholics, agnostic atheists, agnostic Jews, agnostic Muslims, etc. Everyone would retain their belief/faith and they would freely tell others if they wished, spread the word like the Mormons do, but they would understand the difference between belief and knowledge. I like to think that if everyone understood that their belief was not any better or worse than any other belief and that we should be respectful of others’ beliefs the world would be a safer and happier place.

What do I believe? I believe that this life is wonderful. I like to make an analogy that fits well into the Christmas season. I like to think of life as a gift and I know that if I gave someone a gift that was unwrapped and the recipient exclaimed “great gift, Thank you! What else did you get me?” I would think that person was an ingrate. Just in case the analogy escapes you I’ll put it in terms of your belief. God gave you life and you are saying “is this all there is?” I think this life is wonderful and I give thanks for it frequently. I’m not looking forward to something else. If this is it, thank you! If there is more, wow! But my job in this life is to live it fully, to use the gift well and with appreciation.

From the Quran?

How do you feel about this quote? “If you reject my commands and abhor my laws you will eat the flesh of your own sons and the flesh of your own daughters.”

Wow, that’s harsh. It’s no wonder that people who get that kind of religious teaching could become radicalized. Can you imagine a religion that says people’s hands should be cut off?

http://kos.salsalabs.com/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=WovCxmndOvadFMsQ1M8E9oHPTdeUuOHQ

Check out this link. It is in German; I found it easier to read the subtitles with the sound off.

Some Good in the Bible

While four of the Ten Commandments are bull shit and nothing a loving god would command there are some good things in the Bible. Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” That is from a god I could support. Jesus takes that up a notch in Matthew 6:44 “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you…” What a guy!
The Bible should not be taken literally as it is mostly myth and what is not myth was passed down by word of mouth for generations before being written and the written word was copied by many different hands over and over. In that process embellishment has certainly occurred and some changes were made simply as an expedient of the time such as the date of the birth of Jesus. However, it is a mistake to throw out the good with the bad or to try to make the bad good because of the truisms. Those who believe in God should use their God-given mind to sort out the gems from the junk. Those who don’t believe in God can use their mind without the need of a creator.

Creationism vs Evolution

One of the arguments creationists use to dismiss evolution goes “If we evolved from monkeys, how come there are still monkeys?” They ought to look at their own religion for the answer. Catholicism evolved from Judaism and yet there are still Jews. Islam evolved from Catholicism as did Protestantism yet there are still Catholics. There are divisions within Islam and numerous forms of Protestantism all leaving still intact their origins. For those who are confused about how evolution works, I hope this helps.
Understanding evolution doesn’t mean you have to abandon or even question your faith. I would hope this brings you a better understanding of your faith. Genesis is a myth. It is interesting to contemplate how that myth came into being. The majority of Christians, Jews and Muslims already understand it as a myth and yet they remain Christians, Jews and Muslims. Take the good messages on living that the Bible holds and use them. Enjoy the myths as part of your heritage.

Dialogue with Ben

Ben: If I understand you correctly, you may not be able to comprehend why some people would hurt others, but you wouldn’t say that their path in life; their ultimate goal, is any less valid than your own. Have I represented you accurately?
Thomas: Not exactly. I can’t comprehend why people hurt others because I’m not in their skin, soul, whatever and because what I have learned about myself has made hurting others on purpose incomprehensible. I have no way of knowing why others do what they do and don’t see how I can judge them.
Ben: You said that in your worldview, the world should be a place “where everyone accepts everyone”. Why?
Thomas: “Should” is the operative word in that statement. It is not the way the world is, it will not be that in my lifetime and probably never but my view of a perfect world, heaven, if you will, is one in which everyone accepts everyone else. I use the word “accepts” rather than “love” because love is a word that has too much emotion and misunderstanding attached but I am basically talking about Christ’s central message of love for everyone. The reason everyone should accept everyone, other than because it is what Christ wanted, is that to do otherwise is frequently a source of conflict.
Ben: What if butchering another human makes someone happy?
Thomas: Accepting a person as they are does not include accepting certain behaviors.
Ben: Should we judge or encourage a serial killer like Tommy Lynn Sells?
Thomas: Judging his actions is a no-brainer. Putting him away forever or killing him is all fine with me.
Ben: Why should everyone accept everyone?
Thomas: It’s really hard to love someone if you don’t accept them for who they are. Accepting is not condoning or agreeing with; it is “I see you as a person.”
Ben: Why should we love everyone?
Thomas: Maybe you think Satan wrote Matthew 5: 43-48 and Luke 6:27 or are you picking and choosing? But rather than rely on the Bible I’ll give you my own answer from my own life. While trying to follow the advice from your savior, Jesus, I have found that the more successful I am at loving neighbors and enemies the happier I am. Hating Tommy Sells may make you feel better and if that is the case, it is what you should do. Finding it in my heart to love him, while difficult, makes me feel better. Do I love him enough to think he should be running around in society? Hell no.
Ben: Is your worldview morally superior to the worldview of Tommy Lynn Sells?
Thomas: Sells is a character in my life similar to the ghosts in Pac-Man. I have no morally superior worldview
Ben: Do you exist in a worldview of total relativism where anything is right for anyone?
Thomas: I exist in a place where there is only one person I can change and, thus, only one person to judge. Put me on Sell’s jury and I’d judge his actions unacceptable and I wouldn’t care much what happened to his body but I might feel some compassion for his soul (if I was in a dualistic mood). I have no idea what is right for you or for Sells or anyone else.
Ben: Would you appeal to the Bible? But if you do, why reject so much of it while taking just the parts that you like?
Thomas: Gosh, Ben, it seems to me you are rejecting the passages I cited above. Of course I take the parts I like as do you. There is enough contradiction in the Bible to make everyone happy.
As an aside, I’ve done some research into religion and serial killers and haven’t found one that came from an atheist upbringing so I was further amused at Sells statement: “I’ve made my peace with my maker.”

Another country heard from

Thomas, you wrote, ” I do believe there was a man named Jesus who grew up in Nazareth.”

I don’t. I’ve only recently come to this conclusion after I read this:

http://rosarubicondior.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-historical-evidence-for-jesus.html

Good stuff, though, even if he was a myth… If only people read the Jefferson Bible instead of the King James version.

Another Country

Thank you, Another Country. The link is excellent and I think we are in agreement that there is good stuff in the New Testament whether or not Jesus put on his sandals one foot at a time or if he existed. My fundamentalist friend, Michael, thinks there is good stuff also; I have asked him twice which was more important believing Jesus was the way to heaven or living a good life. He has not answered either time which leads me to believe he thinks believing is more important than understanding or doing.
I tend to believe there was a man who got it right who lived about the time attributed to Jesus and that a number of people heard him and realized he was onto something. The disciples became, if not already, itinerant preachers. They tried to get people to understand the message and as they traveled around they embellished the story creating the myth that is the New Testament. Folks who use their minds, however they got them, can see the beauty of the message of loving everyone and try to bring it into their own lives. Followers, dare I say sheep, pick up the easy way which was probably not part of the original message and can go to bed comforted every night because they have accepted Jesus as their savior and whatever they did during the day is less important. I feel quite sure that the person who understood loving neighbors and enemies as stated directly and through the parables never said he was the way into heaven as that notion is not at all loving

Michael dialogue continued (3)

Thomas: Michael, you wrote “He (God) said He created nature and all creation that would cause men to ask questions and search for who made all of this.” I think you are making my case. You are saying God made creation so we would think. Beautiful. My point exactly. Ask questions; ask questions about creation, who created all of this. YES! That is spot on. And then along comes Satan and he doesn’t want us to think about God’s creation, he wants us to focus on his words.
I’m going to get off the Satan bandwagon for a moment and say something real. The Bible was written by men who were doing exactly what you say God wanted them and us to do, to ask questions. The Bible is their answer (which, if you believe in Satan, could have been influenced by him), the answer of men who knew so much less about the world than we know today. I think we, those of us living today, should do exactly what you say, “ask questions and search for who made all of this.”

Michael: Oh, I think I am seeing what you are saying now.  Are you saying we should more trust his creation (all that we see and experience) rather than this book containing his “supposed” words?
Thomas: Yes.
Michael: Well, we know from Josephus and other non Biblical sources that Jesus really existed and was gathering lots of attention from his miracles and from the fact He claimed to be God.

Thomas: There are those who dispute the existence of Jesus but I’m not one of them. I do believe there was a man named Jesus who grew up in Nazareth. I believe he was one of the great, perhaps the greatest, philosophers of living using philosophy and psychology. That he wasn’t born in December seems unimportant unless you are an astrologer. That miracles were added to his story by those who wrote his story is, I feel, unfortunate as it makes a lot of people skeptical. His teaching of love, his parables, great quotes, that when he spoke of the Ten Commandments he left out the first three are all believable to me. Why anyone who understands life would need the miracles to believe in his wisdom is beyond my comprehension.

Michael: If all we look at is creation for evidence of God, we would never know about Jesus’ claims to be God.

Thomas: You are saying God’s creation is not evidence enough for you.

Michael: Generations until the end of the world would never read or know about Jesus.

Thomas: Have you heard of Homer? Seven hundred years before Jesus he wrote the Iliad with some interesting quotes like “The glorious gifts of the gods are not to be cast aside.” I think Jesus’ teachings would have survived until now if he had written them down without the miracles, as have Homer’s.

Michael:  I think your way is saying that Jesus is not the only way to Heaven and that there is no real “way” to Heaven, so we all should just love each other because we will be together anyway forever.  Is that what you are saying?

Thomas: You’ve got a lot packed into that question. First, I don’t believe Jesus said he was god or he was the only way into Heaven because that would be contrary to all the rest of his teaching. It’s the kind of thing Satan, if you believe in Satan, would have gotten the disciples to write. I think that and the miracles were embellishments to the real story of Jesus life and teachings. If he said anything like “I am the way” his meaning would have been “my teaching is the way, love thy neighbor, don’t have enemies, etc.” Some people have taken his meaning to be “believing in me is more important than living a good life.” That is the kind of thing Satan would love.
When you say “we all should just love each other” I find myself questioning your definition of love in this context. Loving everyone is not the same as loving family members. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how that works, how do I love someone who kills, someone who does stupid things, someone who has stupid thoughts? I think I have figured out how I can do that and it is working out pretty well for me. You’ve probably read my essay on the website on love so you may understand what I’m talking about.

Michael: There is no real basis for that way of thinking and there are no specifics or details.  You would just be hoping.  Jesus lays out a real plan and it is recorded in the Bible.  I don’t see how Satan could benefit by focusing on Jesus so much in the Bible.
Thomas: Not hoping, Michael, just living my life based on learning and thinking, learning from reading what others have thought, learning from experience, learning from conversations like ours and using the gifts I find I have in this life—my senses and my mind.

What do you think Jesus “real plan” is? Is it 1) to love neighbors, enemies, everyone or is it 2) to believe he is God. There is pretty good plan for living laid out in the New Testament. We could say one by Jesus and another (2) by Satan, if we believed in Satan.

Dialogue with Michael

See comments for the beginning of this dialogue.

Michael: Thanks for the reply, Thomas D.  I am probably older than you…I’m 50.  Your life will be over in the blink of an eye and you will have spent so much of your time and effort with this website and it will all be in vain if you continue to hold to your current beliefs.  Besides, is it really bringing you satisfaction doing this?  If you indeed know the Bible, then call out to God and pray to Him for belief or faith and do it in sincerity.  If He doesn’t answer you, then at least you did as He commanded.  He responded to me when I did and He still does when I’m sincere.   That’s better than arguing semantics and philosophy all day.  That will never accomplish anything because people just don’t change their minds through “healthy” debate and arguing.  Anywho, I don’t mean any harm, just saying what I have experienced.  Btw, “Mere Christianity” by CS Lewis had a large part in changing my mind about things.

Thomas: I’m 76 and I live my life as if the next blink may be my last. You may have heard of people whose lives have changed dramatically after having had a near brush with death. My thinking about life over the years has brought me to this wonderful place where I respect and love my fellow travelers in this journey we call life. I got to this place without a near death experience; in fact I am very healthy and active and have always been. I currently grow an acre of vegetables producing over 9,000 pounds last year.
Thinking for me is fun and hoeing the peas is a good time to think. I invite you to read my essay on love on Satanwrotethebible. I suspect you are put off by the website title. The essay on love is sincere and very much in keeping with Jesus’s teaching.

Michael: Wow, 76?  I wasn’t expecting that.  I am used to these younger kids who think they know everything and just want to argue.  I get caught up in their agenda, leave comments and usually regret it.  I grew up in the Mississippi Delta surrounded by farmland.  I even have a degree in Entomology, so it sounds like we aren’t that different.  Uh, yes, I guess I am put off by the website title…maybe even confused a little as to what you believe.

Thomas:You may be amused to learn that atheists visiting my site are also a little confused as to what I believe. My quote “Leave your leap of faith behind and use your God-given mind” leads them to think that I believe in God which confuses them because they assumed anyone who thought Satan wrote the Bible would not believe in God. In my writing I try hard to put myself in the other person’s shoes, to empathize. The notion of Satan writing the Bible assumes the person I’m communicating with believes in Satan and also believes the Bible is the word of God. If I don’t understand where they are in their thoughts, it is not likely I will be able to communicate with them. If you believe in Satan and read my essay “Satan Wrote the Bible”, please tell me where I went wrong—other than the title and conclusion, of course (ha, ha).

Michael: Okay, I read it.  It’s a very creative take on the Bible.  Let me ask this.  What if the Bible is indeed God’s Word (as most Christians believe) and that your idea about Satan writing the Bible is actually Satan’s influence on your mind.  I will go so far as to state, that Satan is influencing either your mind or the Christians’s mind about the Bible.

Thomas: Excellent! You are absolutely right! If you believe the Bible is God’s Word and if you believe in a force of evil with all the powers you attribute to Satan, then it is equally likely that Satan is influencing my mind as that Satan is influencing the Christians’s mind.

Michael: If Satan wrote the Bible, then God is not revealing His word to His people today. The creator has decided not to communicate with His people and that really doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Why wouldn’t God reveal “the real truth” as you state to us in a different way then?

Thomas: I think the creator has communicated eloquently and does so every waking moment of every life that is open to the Creator’s truth. The Creator gave us our bodies with their senses of smell, sight, sound, touch and brains to absorb all of that, to appreciate, to love, to embrace this gift of life. Did he create such dullards that they could not get the message?
Don’t you agree that Satan couldn’t create our bodies, our senses and the flowers, sunsets and billions of life forms and geological forms; that Satan was not a creator? Where we disagree is that you think God’s creation was not enough; that we can’t understand it, appreciate it, figure out how to conduct ourselves in this amazing thing called life without an instruction book.

Michael: Satan doesn’t have the power to allow Jesus Christ to fulfill all Old Testament prophecies for the Messiah.  Only God could have done that.  That would make Jesus the true Messiah that we should follow, which would destroy Satan’s purpose for writing the Bible.

Thomas: Isn’t your impression that Satan has the power to manipulate, that he has the power to cause books to be written, to influence people’s actions, etc. You are saying he doesn’t have the power to allow Jesus Christ to fulfill OT prophecies but all you are writing about is based on writing that Satan could manipulate.

{More to follow]

What Would Your Wish be?

 

A genie materializes before me and says: “Thomas.”

“What?! You scared the crap outa me.”

“Thomas, I am here to grant you one wish.”

“One, I thought I was supposed to get three?”

“No, that’s in mythology. In reality you don’t get any but I’m making an exception in your case.”

“OK. I wish that everyone loved everyone like Jesus said we should.”

“Eh, sorry, I can’t grant that wish.”

“Why?”

“I can’t tell you. Wish again.”

“I wish that everyone understood the difference between belief and knowledge.”

“Can’t they just look it up in the dictionary? Or Google it?”

“I think I’m asking for more than that. I want all of us to be able to say about our faith, our belief in God, heaven, hell, etc. to say ‘this is what I believe but I don’t know.’”

“You want atheists to say I believe there is no god, but I don’t know?”

“Right.”

“And Christians to say I believe in God but I don’t know?”

“Yes, and Jews and Muslims and everybody who holds a belief in something that cannot be proven to be true.”

“Why do you care?”

“Because if all of us recognized that our belief was ours and we respected everyone’s belief as being as valid as ours it might be a big step toward loving each other.”

Jehovah’s Witness

I had a lovely conversation with a Jehovah’s Witness recently. As she turned to leave she paused and looked back to express the very thought that was on my mind. “I enjoyed this. We listened to each other.”

She couldn’t understand how I could write an essay “Satan Wrote the Bible” and yet I claimed not to believe in Satan.

“Do you believe there is a Satan?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Then the essay is for you. It is written for those who believe in personifications of Good and Evil and who think the personification of Good, God, caused the writing of the Bible. I read Job with great care many times trying to understand what was being said. I really don’t think I was trying to find what I found.”

“You found that Satan wrote the Bible?”

“I found that Satan comes across as being smarter than God and that led me to the notion that Satan wrote the Bible.”

“But you don’t believe there is a Satan?”

“Right.”

“But you believe Satan wrote the Bible?”

“I believe the Bible was written by young men who thought the world was flat.” [I have been corrected: “humans have known the to be earth a sphere since 240 BC.” see comments for more.]

At this she turned to a page in the Bible and read, “Isaiah 40:22 There is One who is dwelling above the circle of the earth.” She referred to another passage about space indicating that we are but a small part of the universe. Then she asked, “Young men?”

“Just a flip comment based on life expectancy 2,500 years ago,” I replied.

In this exchange I implied that I read Job objectively. I certainly tried but it is likely that if I had believed God wrote the Bible, I would have come to a different conclusion. I do think I was a leg up on someone reading the Bible to substantiate his or her belief. It is incredibly difficult to read anything objectively but well worth the effort to try.