Is this all there is?

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.

Are We Headed for Another Inquisition?

In the mid fifties Will Durant wrote in Volume VI of The Story of Civilization “We are today so uncertain and diverse in our opinions as to the origin and destiny of the world and man that we have ceased, in most countries, to punish people for differing from us in their religious beliefs….Until the middle of the seventeenth century Christians, Jews, and Muslims were more acutely concerned with religion than we are today; their theologies were their most prized and confident possessions; and they looked upon those who rejected these creeds as attacking the foundations of social order and the very significance of human life.” Mr. Durant is contrasting Europe before the Reformation with America in the fifties. This paragraph begins a chapter titled The Methods of the Inquisition. He writes of the 1400s and 1500s, “Each group was hardened by certainty into intolerance, and branded the others as infidels.”
I wonder if he would find such a contrast today. It seems to me a frightening number of us are “hardened by certainty into intolerance.”

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.

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]

Good in the Bible

Dear Bible Believer, Let me get back to your original question: if Satan wrote the Bible, why is there so much good in it?

Put yourself in Satan’s shoes—you say out of jealousy he wants to destroy God’s creation. He wants us to destroy the forests and fields, to destroy the Garden of Eden, to kill all other creatures and each other; he wants us to deny the pleasure of our senses. You say he is smart and crafty; would it be smart to preach the destruction of creation? If he said he was God and preached destruction, killing and denial, would you follow that god? Satan is devious, right? So he causes the Bible to be written and in it he puts some good things like “Thou Shalt not kill. [It’s interesting that when asked to name the Ten Commandments, the first most people name is “Thou Shalt not kill”. It is number six in the Bible.]

While Satan would like to see lots of wars and have us kill each other he puts in the Bible “Thou shalt not kill.” That makes sense to us. It is wise advice. Then Satan fills the Bible with killing.

God is a brutal, bloodthirsty son of a bitch. Here’s one example:

And at midnight the LORD killed all the firstborn sons in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn son of the captive in the dungeon. Even the firstborn of their livestock were killed.  Pharaoh and his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single house where someone had not died.  (Exodus 12:29-30)

In that one God did the actual killing himself but he also enjoyed ordering murders:

All who curse their father or mother must be put to death. God’s words to Moses in Leviticus 20:9

If you thirst for more of this check out:

http://www.evilbible.com/Murder.htm

Dear Bible Believer, how do you reconcile God’s actions, brutal actions and orders with the Sixth Commandment?

I find the teachings of Jesus to be excellent. He taught love. That was far and away the thing he preached most yet much blood has been shed over belief in him. When he says “I am the way. Only through me can you get to heaven.” Where did that come from? It is not loving. It is excluding. I frankly don’t believe he ever said anything like that. I believe those words were put into his mouth by disciples, preachers traveling around spreading his word and gathering followers. It served their purpose but it did not serve Jesus’s teachings or his legacy well.

Satan’s influence – a dialogue

Bible Believer: If Satan wrote the Bible, why is there so much good in it?

Thomas: Is Satan stupid?

BB: No! He is very smart. That is how he is able to lure us to do things we shouldn’t.

Thomas: What is his mission?

BB: To get us to do bad things.

Thomas: Like destroying God’s creation?

BB: Yes.

Thomas: Are we part of God’s creation?

BB: Yes.

Thomas: Do you believe God gave you your body with senses of smell, sight, touch, hearing, the pleasure of sex?

BB: Yeah, I guess.

Thomas: You guess?

BB: Well, I’m not sure about sex. That might be Satan.

Thomas: Is sex something other than a wonderful combination of the senses, might I say climax?

BB: Yeah, but Satan can get in our mind and make us do things we shouldn’t.

Thomas: Sex is something we shouldn’t do?

BB: Right, unless it is between a man and a woman and only because they are married and want to have children.

Thomas: You are married. Have you had sex with your wife other than to have children?

BB: Yes, but that is because Satan makes me do it.

Thomas: Do you masturbate?

BB: No. Why are you raising your eyebrows; don’t you believe me?

Thomas: You are unique. Anyway, your sexual urges come from Satan? How does Satan do that? I understand that he is smart but he did not create your body, the body that has the sexual urges.

BB: He gets in my mind.

Thomas: Your God-given mind?

BB: Well, yeah, but I’m weak.

Thomas: God gave you a weak mind?

BB: Yeah, no! It’s not God’s fault I’m weak.

Thomas: Your God-given weak mind gives in to the pleasures of your God-given body? How does it make you feel when you “are weak?”

BB: I feel bad because I’m not doing what God wants me to do.

Thomas: How do you know what God wants you to do?

BB: It’s in the Bible.

Thomas: If it weren’t for the Bible, you would enjoy sex without feeling bad? Have I got that right? If God had written a manual for life saying “I have given you a body with senses that can bring you great pleasure and joy; I have given you a mind that will help you enjoy your life; I have given you plants and animals, mountains and oceans if you take care of them they will feed your body and soul all the days of your life; if that were God’s word, would you feel bad when you used your body?

BB: I guess not but that’s not what he said.

Thomas: So, Satan can influence people; could he influence what people write or say?

BB: He’s sure influencing what you are writing. Yes.

Thomas: Is my writing influencing you?

BB: Hell no!

Thomas: Do you think Satan could work through religions to get people to go astray?

BB: Just look at history. He does some of his best work that way.

Thomas: Through other religions, not yours?

BB: Right, there are lots of religions out there that have lost their way.

Thomas: What is your religion?

BB: Lutheran.

Thomas: So Catholics have lost their way?

BB: Absolutely! Martin Luther established that.

Thomas: And Jews have lost their way?

BB: They killed Christ didn’t they?

Thomas: And Mormons?

BB: I don’t really know much about them but unless they believe the only way to heaven is through Christ, why, yeah, they are on the wrong track.

Thomas: Muslims?

BB: Isn’t that obvious?

Thomas: So, Satan is winning? All those millions of people who aren’t Lutherans have been won over by Satan even though all of those people believe in the Bible, the same Bible you believe in. They follow, or at least try to follow, the Ten Commandments, just as you do. All but the Jews believe Jesus was holy.

BB: Not Muslims.

Thomas: Actually, they do but they have a more recent prophet who created another holy book, the Koran. Mormons have the most recent prophet to whom the Book of Mormon came directly from God much as the Ten Commandments came to Moses. The Jews have the oldest word from God and the Mormons have the most recent. What makes the Lutherans special?

BB: I just know they are. It is my faith.

Thomas: I respect your faith as long as it makes you happy. However, if it makes you unhappy, I suggest you question it. You believe Satan is smart and that he can work through religions. Perhaps you should use your mind to make sure you are not following Satan, to make sure Satan is not taking away anything God gave you. I’ll get back to your original question in my next post.

Some Need a Heaven and a Hell

Abe Lincoln was a great man, a great thinker. He learned to use his god-given mind, his conscience, to guide him. It may well be that many people were not given a mind capable of finding within themselves a good feeling associated with doing good and a bad feeling with “doing bad”.
Those who can’t understand how someone who doesn’t believe as they do could possibly be restrained from doing bad apparently need a religion to keep them from doing bad things. Perhaps we should be thankful there is belief in Hell to keep those folks from committing evil deeds.
PS I use the term “god-given mind” for those who believe in a God. They should be able to relate to the term and it is my wish that those who believe in God use their mind; it would be a leap forward for humankind.
An interesting article on Satan:

http://news.yahoo.com/psychological-power-satan-125000557.html

What I believe

There is a type of question on tests in which we are given several samples and we are to choose which one doesn’t belong. For example, which of the following doesn’t belong: horse, mouse, man, mosquito, whale? The answer is mosquito because the rest are mammals. Here is another. Which of the following doesn’t belong: Muslim, Jew, Sikh, Agnostic, Atheist, Christian? Five of these hold a belief about the existence of God. It could be said that an agnostic has a belief but the belief is not in the existence of God but rather that no one knows whether or not God exists. Atheists believe there is no God while the others believe there is a God.
It bothers me that the term agnostic is frequently used similarly to the other terms in the list, usually lumped together with atheists as being nonbelievers (in a god). There can be agnostic Christians, agnostic Sikhs, agnostic Muslims, agnostic Jews and agnostic atheists. That is to say that, linguistically at least; one can hold any belief about a god while acknowledging that what they believe is just that, their belief.
But when someone says their God is the only true God, that their God is the only way to the Promised Land, and that they know this, they are telling everyone who doesn’t hold the same belief that they are wrong. Most of us do not react too well to being told we are wrong. How much better it would be if that someone said something like: “I believe in this wonderful God and through Him I will find my way to the Promised Land. What do you believe?” Then I could respond, “I believe in 24 Gods, two for each sign of the zodiac and they are all trying to sing in harmony and when they do they will hit a note that will transport all of us to the Promised Land.”
Well, hey, there’s a cool belief.
What I truly believe is that the world would be a much better place if we accepted each other’s beliefs as being no less valid than our own.