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.

Who Wrote the Bible?

Who wrote the Bible? Young men who thought the earth was the center of the universe and that it was flat. I say young because relative to the average life expectance of today they were very young. It was more than 1,500 years after the writing of the Bible that some great thinkers discovered the world was neither flat nor the center of the universe. That knowledge was suppressed by the Catholic Church for another 100 years. If you are looking for answers relevant to modern times, you might find Google a better source than the church.
A believer might say, “Christ knew the earth was round and not the center of the Universe because he was the son of God and he knew everything.” Just because there is no indication that he knew any science is any reason to challenge that statement. Jesus’ focus was on psychology. However, the question was: who wrote the Bible. Jesus didn’t write a single word of the Bible. It was written by itinerant preachers after his death.
If you want a more learned answer, I recommend Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman.
“The New Testament as we actually have it, I knew, was the product of human hands, the hands of the scribes who transmitted it. Then I began to see that not just the scribal text but the original text itself was a very human book. This stood very much at odds with how I had regarded the text in my late teens as a newly minted “born-again” Christian, convinced that the Bible was the inerrant Word of God and that the biblical words themselves had come to us by the inspiration of the Holey Spirit….Given the circumstance that he didn’t preserve the words, the conclusion seemed inescapable to me that he hadn’t gone to the trouble of inspiring them.” (Page 211 HarperSanFrancisco 2005)

How Jesus got Superpowers

You don’t know there is a God any more than an atheist knows there is no god. You can believe there is a God. You can think there is a God. You can have faith there is a God. But there is nothing you can do to convince me you KNOW there is a God.
Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps there is something you can do to convince me you know there is a God. What might that be? How about if you told me God had given you the ability to walk on water? OK. Show me. Let me see you walk on water. If I see you walk on water and you told me that this ability was give to you to convince doubting Thomases like me that God exists, then, wow, yeah, I think I would be convinced.
This is a new thought for me and I think it answers a question I have pondered without resolution before. I think that the teachings of Jesus are really wonderful. Love thy neighbor. Love your enemies. Love everyone. Do not judge others. Really great stuff. My question has been why the supernatural stuff–like walking on water and virgin birth. I simply don’t believe in things that go against all of the experiences that have come to me through my god-given body. It doesn’t matter to me. The supernatural things don’t take away from the wisdom of his words that I can relate to and actually put to good use in the way I live my life.
So here is how I think the supernatural stuff came into being. There were these men, the evangelicals of their time, trying to get the masses to follow the teachings of Jesus but the masses were not buying it so they started attributing supernatural abilities to him.
Are you one of those who need to have Christ with supernatural abilities? Why? Aren’t his words powerful enough without the virgin birth, turning a fish and a loaf of bread into enough food to feed the crowd, resurrection?
This is your life; for those who believe in God, it is the life God gave you. There is so much to be explored, learned, and enjoyed in this life. There are so many challenges, like living peacefully, like having a meaningful relationship with another, like dealing with our deficiencies whether it be physical handicaps or mental handicaps. What a fantastic game has been developed for us—this game of life with its pleasures and its pain and suffering. There are video games that try to recreate parts of life. Think of life as the ultimate video game and play it well.

Jesus Wasn’t Perfect

Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.
And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it and found nothing theron, but leaves only, and said unto it, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever.” And presently the fig tree withered away. Matthew 21:19-20
He kills a fig tree just because it didn’t have figs when he wanted some? Fig trees don’t give fruit all the time so it was probably a perfectly fine and productive tree but even if the tree should have had fruit at that time, killing it simply because he was hungry is hardly a quality I would associate with perfection. Oh, and if you think I’m taking this out of context, by all means check it out. He goes on to tell his disciples that if they have faith “all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” including casting mountains into the sea.