Steadfast Madcap

Trying to Better Understand Theism and Religion

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Hi all,

 

This is a question I have been wanting to ask for quite some time, but I have never been totally sure of how to ask it. I've been an atheist more or less my entire life; I don't think it would have even occurred to me to wonder if a deity or deities existed if I hadn't been exposed to other people's religious beliefs as a child. Even when I went through a phase of actively trying to follow a particular faith, I found that I simply *couldn't* believe. As some of you may know, I've been studying the Bible quite in-depth lately as part of a class. I've gotten really emotionally invested in some stories (such as Joseph's narrative in Genesis) and been somewhat horrified by others (Exodus). Either way, I haven't been moved by the Bible in a way that is different from any other piece of literature I've studied.

 

I almost feel like the part of the human brain that is responsible for religious beliefs in most people is simply inactive or nonexistent in mine. When I hear religious people talk of their relationship with their deity/deities, I feel like we're speaking two different languages, or living in two different realities entirely. It is something that has always kind of mystified me, and I would really like to understand this difference in thinking better.

 

So then, my question is really a *ton* of questions, but likely only a few are applicable to any given kind person who chooses to respond to all of this:

  • If you believe in any deity or deities at all: why do you?
  • How do you sense that he/she/they exist?
  • What does it mean when you say you hear them/talk to them/have a relationship with them?
  • Why do you think your religion (and your particular denomination of that faith, if applicable), is correct?
  • If you believe that your scriptures are inerrant: why is that?
  • If you believe in scriptures over secular science and history: why?
  • If you believe that your scriptures are fallible: how do you decide what is absolute truth, and what is just a story?
  • If you seek to reconcile scriptures and science/history: how do you?
  • Do you ever think something your scripture claims was caused/endorsed by your deity was just plain wrong? If so, how do you deal with that?
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OK, the first one. For me, this is simple. It probably started because I grew up around it. However, my mom never forced us to any specific church, or any specific religion. She basically just taught us that she believed, and what she believed, but she wanted us to make up our own minds. As I got older I did attend a few churches, some regularly. I've been baptised... three times, actually. My mom took me to the front of the church she attended shortly after I was born and had be blessed. The second time I didn't remember, but my mom told me it happened and that I wanted it and that when she asked me why I told her that I wanted to be closer to God and let people know about it (I was very young and don't remember this time), and the third was when I was about 16. I remember that time, and did it for the same reasons. I guess I've always believed because... 1. I wasn't forced to, but encouraged, and 2. I just felt Him there when I needed Him... and prayer seems to help me whenever I'm feeling down. Whether it's my own issue, or an issue with another person. It's how I find the strength to forgive. (Side note: I have a view on forgiveness that most people don't until I tell them, but that's not a part of this).

 

Well, I feel Him inside of my emotions. My heart. I feel close to Him in prayer, or when I am reading the Bible with love. You see, I'm not someone who reads a lot of the bible. I read it when I have something specific I need to study about, when I FEEL MOVED to. I dont' know it inside out. I'm no expert, but I know what I feel.

 

For me, this one is a bit complicated, and personal. So, unless we talk in PM I can't tell too much detail. What I will say is this, it's more of a 'feeling' answer. Sometimes I 'hear' a word in my head, in my own voice, but it's more like a feeling coming into me. Again, it's complicated and, if you wish, I can try to explain it a bit better privately. Mainly because I know I'm going to sound crazy when I tell you.

 

I don't practice a specific faith. I just believe, and believe that I am suppose to live by the Bible. Although, my mom tells me a lot of the way that I think fits the Lutheran faith. Still, I don't necessarily think that ANY ONE faith is absolute. I know... 'Bad Christian!' lol j/k Again, I go with my heart. How can I judge others that way? It's not my place, and I don't want that job.

 

I don't know how to answer this one. See, the Bible was written by man but inspired by God. Many people mean that this has to mean that there's NOTHING wrong with it. However, though I believe it to be true, I cannot say with absolute certainty that a HUMAN BEING couldn't have gotten it wrong somewhere down the line. I just believe it, because in my heart I know it to be true.

 

Because no matter what you look at, human beings are the ones who interpret the information we are given. Therefor there IS room for error... be it scripture, science, or history... besides, history and science are constantly being re-written... the Bible? is pretty much the same, give or take a book, depending on if it's Catholic or otherwise. Other religious books also, from what little knowledge I have, are similar in a lot of things, but I won't argue if that's true, or not, because I don't know. I don't argue things of which I know nothing about. Besides, I also believe that Science bring a whole lot of good into the world, and that God gave us Science to help us, and History to learn from.

 

Well, the Bible, the book I live by, is pretty clear. The parables are TOLD as stories by someone addressing someone to teach a lesson. While the rest of the scripture is letters written from one person to another, or another group of people, or Jesus speaking to God or us. So, to say that it's all stories is not accurate to me. Just from how I, myself, understand the Bible.

 

I'm not sure there is any way to do this, but if there is, I hope they figure it out in my lifetime... I'd like to see the look on some people's faces. :) J/K... sort of. Actually, I think that a lot of science  and history are not only fascinating, but true, it's just not fair (in my eyes) to assume that they can be accurate and the Bible can't and vice versa. Many scientist out there are Christians, I am not sure why, but it seems to me that maybe they just see that life isn't just made up of ONE thing. It's a mystery.

 

No. If I ever did, I don't remember it. I believe my God is a just and loving God.

 

.... I will add that about 8 years ago I did have a crisis of faith. I was very angry at God, and I'm not sure why. I believe He has a reason for everything we go through, and that prayer works. However, when my niece passed away a day shy of 4 months old, I was so devestated that I think I just had to take it out on someone. Me taking it out on Him, was kind of like a little girl pounding her daddy's chest as he pulls her in for a hug when something terrible happens to her. He let me do what I needed to, then He just hugged me and accepted when my heart was ok with Him again.

 

I am not sure I was at all helpful, but even if I brought a little more for you to think about, I think I did. I don't judge people, but I do pray for them. I usually ask for their permission first, though. So, if you don't mind, I'd like to pray for your answer to come to you. No matter what they are or how you end up thinking in the end, or after that class. Also, I'd like to add, about prayer, that you can do it too. Sometimes just talking, as though your sitting across the table from Him. You don't have to get on your knees and bow your head. I lay in my bed and talk to Him. You don't even have to be Christian to talk to Him... He'll hear you anyway. I will say, that I do believe you have to truly be open to answers... be they yes or no, or maybe He'll just show you. Then, again, not everyone sees or find what they are looking for. Especially when they are the 'if I can't see it or touch it...' kind of person. Seeing God involves using your heart.

 

Wow... I wrote a lot, and I could probably write more, but I tried to give you answers to each question as clearly as I could and that came from within my heart that.. yes.. I felt led to give.

 

I don't normally respond to the religious things... not because I am ashamed, but because I everyone is entitled to believe what they will or won't. I am just honest about who I am and let them be them. So, I may, or may not, respond to any more than this, but you are welcome to PM me if I can help more or you need to talk.

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Libs, that's a beautiful answer and I really enjoyed reading your beliefs and perspective on your religion :) Steadfast, I think this is a really interesting topic and I hope that people's replies will help you understand religion a bit better. Here are my personal answers to your questions:

 

If you believe in any deity or deities at all, why do you?

 

Put simply, because it makes sense to me. I'm the opposite of you: belief comes naturally to me, and it never occurred to me that a deity couldn't exist. As for why I think this is a rational belief to hold, I should explain first that my concept of the divine is quite different from most people's. To me, deity = energy = life. That thing that makes us think, evolve, and react to our environment - that's the divine. It flows through everything, from flowers to oceans to birds to people, and though its degree varies (ours is a bit more elaborate than, say, a tree's, because we can self-reflect), we all have it in us.

 

When you believe that, the existence of multiple deities goes without saying. A tree has energy, therefore it has life, therefore it has a spirit - hence nymphs. The same goes for the Earth (Gaia), the sun (Helios), the moon (Selene), the wind (Aiolos), and so on. Non-material occurrences and concepts are the same. Sleep exists, therefore the spirit, or idea, of sleep (Hypnos) exists. Love exists, therefore the spirit of love (Eros) exists. The next step requires a little more faith ;) I believe that, just like there are beings made of flesh and bone, there are spirit beings who aren't attached to a single object, event or concept. These are the Olympian Gods, who oversee not just one area but many (for example, Artemis is Goddess of wild animals, childbirth and young girls, virgins, the moon, archery, and more) and are more powerful than the others.

 

Tl;dr: Basically, I give complicated names to everyday things :P What you call the wind, daylight, or peace, I call a God. You don't question the existence of the wind. Likewise, I don't question the existence of Aiolos.

 

How do you sense that he/she/they exist?

 

The above explanation, coupled with the fact that they interfere in my life. For example, when I'm unhappy I might say a prayer to Thetis, and as I pray, I will sense her presence around me. What exactly it feels like is hard to explain... It's like a warm, fuzzy feeling all through your body. Sometimes it's like a hot shower after a long walk in the rain, and instead of washing away the dirt, it washes away your worries. At other times, it's like an electric jolt and suddenly you're over the moon and excited to take on the world. Each God "feels" different.

 

Sometimes I also get signs or confirmations that my prayers are being heard - for example, seeing a poster that's meaningful to my situation, or stumbling across something I need by accident. Some people call them coincidences. In my eyes, they come from the Gods.

 

What does it mean when you say you hear them/talk to them/have a relationship with them?

 

I talk to them through prayer. I tend to be pretty formal and follow the structure of ancients hymns by calling the God/Goddess in question, thanking him/her for their previous help, then making a request ("may you give me strength, watch over my sick friend, provide a job opportunity…"). I don't really babble about my daily life. I don't hear answers, either - the closest I get is a sudden feeling, or a thought coming to mind. If I'm lucky, I might get the answer in a dream, but that doesn't happen often.

 

In Hellenismos, "having a relationship" with a God is different than in other religions. Relationships are built through kharis, which is making offerings and libations to the Gods as a kind of "friendship gift". It's a way of saying: I honour you, so I'll make you a gift. The more kharis you build with a God, the more likely they are to care about your problems and help you if you ask. It's like friends: the nicer you are to them, the more likely they are to stick around when you need them :)

 

Why do you think your religion is correct?

 

I don't. As a polytheist, it's easy for me to believe in many Gods, not only Greek but also Norse, Celtic, Hindu, even Christian. I believe that no religion is better or more correct than the others. It's all a matter of which deity or deities you choose to follow, and whose philosophy suits you best.

 

If you believe that your scriptures are inerrant, why is that?

 

I don't.

 

If you believe in scriptures over secular science and history, why?

 

I don't.

 

If you believe that your scriptures are fallible: how do you decide what is absolute truth, and what is just a story?

 

It doesn't really matter. The myths only provide a guide to the Gods and how we as humans should live, not an absolute truth. Some of the stories may be true, some may not - and people may disagree on which ones fall into which category - but ultimately what matters is what we learn from them.

 

If you seek to reconcile scriptures and science/history, how do you?

 

I would type my own perspective on this but I'm getting tired (it's late here), so here's a blog post which answers your question.

 

Do you ever think something your scripture claims was caused/endorsed by your deity was just plain wrong? If so, how do you deal with that?

 

I think a lot of the Gods' actions, if taken literally and applied to human beings, would be wrong - for example, raping mortal girls and turning random people into trees. But the key lies in the fact that they are Gods, and we are not. Condemning them for not following human standards is like condemning a hurricane or an earthquake because it killed people. It doesn't make sense, because our natures simply aren't the same.

 

We also need to remember that the myths, in many cases, aren't literal. I doubt that Zeus slept with 95% of Greek girls, for one. More likely is that his sexual adventures were used as a metaphor for him being a fertility deity, as well as "Father of Gods and men". In Ancient Greece, many rulers claimed they were descended from Gods in order to legitimise their rule, and what better God to claim as your ancestor than Zeus, King of Olympus?

 

Some Hellenic polytheists may not agree with me, but that's my take on it :)

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I saw some Angelic writing miraculously appear in a Bible I got. I put some photos on the site. I also saw the Heavens open and the True Vine and the Angel of the Lord

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For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other, so it will be on the day when the Son of Man comes. But first the Son of Man must suffer terribly and be rejected by this generation.

 

When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days, the people enjoyed banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat and the flood came and destroyed them all.

 

And the world will be as it was in the days of Lot. People went about their daily business—eating and drinking, buying and selling, farming and building—until the morning Lot left Sodom. Then fire and burning sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. Yes, it will be ‘business as usual’ right up to the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day a person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. A person out in the field must not return home. Remember what happened to Lot’s wife! If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it. (Luke 17:24-33)

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let the son of man come into your body to become one with the body of christ

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if you could meet a new friend who would give his life to protect you, would you want to meet him?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

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Why did God make the earth and us along with it? He doesn't really need us, so why did he create anything?

Let us make man in our own image.

I have loved you with an everlasting love

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
 

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For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.

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Thanks for the very sweet and well-thought-out answers you guys!  :) I appreciate and have thought a lot about everything you guys have said, but I'll just respond to a little bit of your posts so as not to make this too unwieldy.   :lol:

 

For me, this one is a bit complicated, and personal. So, unless we talk in PM I can't tell too much detail. What I will say is this, it's more of a 'feeling' answer. Sometimes I 'hear' a word in my head, in my own voice, but it's more like a feeling coming into me. Again, it's complicated and, if you wish, I can try to explain it a bit better privately. Mainly because I know I'm going to sound crazy when I tell you.

 

I am not sure I was at all helpful, but even if I brought a little more for you to think about, I think I did. I don't judge people, but I do pray for them. I usually ask for their permission first, though. So, if you don't mind, I'd like to pray for your answer to come to you. No matter what they are or how you end up thinking in the end, or after that class. Also, I'd like to add, about prayer, that you can do it too. Sometimes just talking, as though your sitting across the table from Him. You don't have to get on your knees and bow your head. I lay in my bed and talk to Him. You don't even have to be Christian to talk to Him... He'll hear you anyway. I will say, that I do believe you have to truly be open to answers... be they yes or no, or maybe He'll just show you. Then, again, not everyone sees or find what they are looking for. Especially when they are the 'if I can't see it or touch it...' kind of person. Seeing God involves using your heart.

 

I would be interested in that PM, if you don't mind sharing. And even though I don't believe, I am not one to turn down well-wishes in any form they may come in, so I would be honored that someone took the time out of their day to pray for me. :blush: I do very much appreciate that you asked first, as I know other non-Christians have had negative experiences with prayer and get upset by the idea of someone praying for them without their consent. I am always open to having my mind changed -- my favorite part of science is the constant challenging and revision of ideas that it entails. I am also very much a 'if I can't see it or touch it' person, so perhaps there is just a somewhat inborn difference in mindset between people such as myself, and people such as yourself and CrystalFaerie. That doesn't mean we can't all get along, though!  ^_^

 

 As for why I think this is a rational belief to hold, I should explain first that my concept of the divine is quite different from most people's. To me, deity = energy = life. That thing that makes us think, evolve, and react to our environment - that's the divine. It flows through everything, from flowers to oceans to birds to people, and though its degree varies (ours is a bit more elaborate than, say, a tree's, because we can self-reflect), we all have it in us.

 

When you believe that, the existence of multiple deities goes without saying. A tree has energy, therefore it has life, therefore it has a spirit - hence nymphs. The same goes for the Earth (Gaia), the sun (Helios), the moon (Selene), the wind (Aiolos), and so on. Non-material occurrences and concepts are the same. Sleep exists, therefore the spirit, or idea, of sleep (Hypnos) exists. Love exists, therefore the spirit of love (Eros) exists. The next step requires a little more faith ;) I believe that, just like there are beings made of flesh and bone, there are spirit beings who aren't attached to a single object, event or concept. These are the Olympian Gods, who oversee not just one area but many (for example, Artemis is Goddess of wild animals, childbirth and young girls, virgins, the moon, archery, and more) and are more powerful than the others.

 

If you seek to reconcile scriptures and science/history, how do you?

 

I would type my own perspective on this but I'm getting tired (it's late here), so here's a blog post which answers your question.

 

Your perspective of the divine sort of reminds me of the song "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas..."I know every rock, and tree, and creature/has a life, has a spirit, has a name." I mean that in a very good way, in case that isn't clear; I love that song! And many of the science-y people I know who are theistic, describe their concept of god much like you do when you say deity = energy = life. That blog post you linked to was really interesting, as well. It's definitely true that we owe much of the foundation of our current understanding of math and science to the ancient Greeks, so I suppose it is only logical that the religion they practiced is very open to and works well with such things. It's awesome that you guys are continuing that tradition in the revivalist movement!  :)

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And He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

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Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

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@spirit2change, I do not mean to be rude, but I feel as if perhaps you didn't read my post before responding to the thread. I pretty clearly said:

 

I've been studying the Bible quite in-depth lately as part of a class....I haven't been moved by the Bible in a way that is different from any other piece of literature I've studied.

 

So, dumping a bunch of Bible quotes on me that I've already read at least once (if not had thrown at me more times than I can count), isn't...really what I was going for? I want to hear about *your* experiences with your religion; I don't want to be proselytized to.

 

At any rate, I certainly can't profess to love someone or something I have no belief in. That would just be a flat-out lie, and I hate lying above all else. Perhaps you can't comprehend how someone can't believe in the God/Jesus whom you love so much. Well, I can't understand how people *can* believe in that God/Jesus. Hence, why I started this thread; I do *genuinely,* in good will, want to understand how people are able to believe. So tell me how it is that *you* are able to believe, but don't tell me that I either do believe, but am really in denial/rebellion (trust: I get that *a lot*), or that I am somehow bad/defective/wrong/closed off for not being able to believe what you believe. If that's not what you are trying to say, than please tell me what you do mean, as I really don't know how else I'm supposed to interpret your posts.

 

(Also, you can edit your own posts, so if you come up with something else you want to say you can just edit your post to add it; no need to post nine times more or less back-to-back....)

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Spirit2change, Matt asked you to stop. If you spam again you will be flagged as a spammer and thus banned. This is your final warning.

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I'm not very good at explaining things, especially my feelings unless I have some time to think about it. But for now I will answer this question:

How do you sense that he/she/they exist?

Being Catholic, I do believe that Jesus Christ is present in all Catholic churches, given that the body is in the tabernacle. The times that he is not present in the tabernacle, at the end of holy week before Easter, the church does feel empty to me. Now there are times that I feel him out of church. These feelings of absolute peace and love when no one else seems to be around, or even when other people are around. I think mostly, I feel his love for me and I just want to give my love back, and it is an over whelming since of joy in my heart. Sometimes when I see or hear things and I just think "God is so awesome". I hope I explained it well enough. :)

I remember going to this one bible study for the Psalm of Songs, and there was this chapel, at the back of this trail, in a wooded area. I went in there when we had a break, and I felt so at peace and my heart felt so warm that I knew God was there.

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Let's see, where to begin...

 

If you believe in any deity or deities at all: why do you?

 

I think it's logical to think that there's a God. I won't bore you with lots of arguments for God's existence (I could send you some if you like). I do think that everyone is searching for the truth, and for the meaning of life. On some level, I don't think there's anyone who really believes (or wants to believe, at least) that there's no meaning to life, and that we're just clumps of meat sailing on a rock and waiting for death. Plus, with all of the examples of design and intelligence in the universe, it's hard to believe that the whole universe was created by chance, especially since science can't explain what caused the big bang, where did matter and energy (or the building blocks that made them) come from, and so on. I have to think that there's something greater out there.

 

How do you sense that he/she/they exist?

 

It really depends what you mean by "sense". I think some people struggle in their faith because they're expecting to be able to sense God's presence all the time really clearly, and then when they go through times of feeling nothing at all, they think there must be something wrong. But feelings aren't important. They're nice, certainly, but they're not at all essential. It's similar to how in marriage, you're not always going to get romantic feelings for your spouse, and probably not as often as at the beginning of your marriage, but that doesn't mean that your marriage isn't working. So it's common to go through periods where you don't really sense God's presence very much. In addition, some people just aren't the kind of people who get particularly strong feelings, and that's just the way it is.

 

Sometimes, you do get a strong sense of God's presence, which is great, but it's not always the case. I think that's how God wants it, really. He wants you to love Him, not some pleasant feeling you get when you think about Him. I've heard of Christians who constantly change churches because they're chasing after that feeling: maybe they go to a church with great emotional music, but after a few weeks or months, the music loses the effect it once had on them, and they leave to find some other church. That's not searching for God at all. Catholic teaching sometimes talks about "spiritual dryness": periods where you go through difficulty in prayer, faith, etc. They're just another part of life, and you find that they get easier over time, as your faith is constantly being tested and strengthened. That's the main reason we believe God allows them. (Again, I can go into more detail about this in a PM, if you like).

 

What does it mean when you say you hear them/talk to them/have a relationship with them?

 

Basically, talking to God would just mean praying to Him, be that out loud or in your head, speaking or singing, on your own or in a group, etc. Hearing God is a little more complicated to explain. Obviously, you're not going to literally hear His voice in your ear (that can happen, but it's extremely rare). It's more a case of a feeling in your heart, like a little warm hug, or a sudden thought in your head, and you just sort of know that He's there. It's hard to explain, but like I said, it's not quite as simple as hearing a voice, but more a case of Him speaking directly to your soul. 

 

As for having a relationship with Him, it's slightly different for everyone. One thing in common would be prayer. Talking to God is essential. You can talk to Him about anything, tell Him about your struggles, about how you're feeling, and so on. Thank Him for your day, ask Him for help and for grace, tell Him you love Him, tell Him you're sorry for how you've acted today, and so on. The Sacraments are essential, too. Because there exists both a physical and spiritual reality, God uses outward, physical signs to administer spiritual help and strength, and to affect changes in the spiritual world. For example, we have the sacrament of the Eucharist, which imparts both physical and spiritual nourishment. The sacrament of marriage creates a bond between husband and wife that's broken only by death. The sacrament of the anointing of the sick spiritually prepares those who are facing death. The sacraments strengthen us on our journey, and strengthen that relationship between us and God.

 

Reading the Bible has been likened to reading God's love letters to us. It's how you can learn about Jesus Christ, and therefore develop a relationship with Him. Also, obeying God's commandments are important. You don't disobey the Father you love and who loves you. That doesn't mean you're expected to get everything right straight away, of course! We mess up all the time, and God expects that. All He cares about is that we're doing our very best. Like any good Father, when we fall, we simply call to Him to help us, and He's there to pick us back up. Again, the sacrament of confession strengthens us so that it'll get easier over time. And it's good to remember that God doesn't hold grudges. All He cares about is seeing you come home again.

 

Additionally, you can develop your relationship with God in different ways, and I think everyone is different in this. Some like meditation on the Bible etc. some like Eucharistic Adoration, some like learning about their faith, some like writing about the faith, and so on. You should probably do a little of everything, and try new things, but everyone has preferences. I'm personally more of a reader/learner. Plus, we're called to works of charity, and it's often by working to help others that we strengthen a relationship with God.

 

Why do you think your religion (and your particular denomination of that faith, if applicable), is correct?

 

A lot of it is based on research and logic. I look at the claims of other religions, and while there's a great deal of truth in a lot of them, there's also a lot of stuff that just doesn't make sense. I think the best argument for Christianity is this: if God exists, and He wanted a relationship with us, then how would He go about it? For starters, He'd have to contact us somehow if we were to know about Him. A lot of religions don't believe that God has revealed anything to us, and it's all just a matter of human beings searching for Him with little information to go on. The Abrahamic religions are some of the only ones who believe that God actually bothered to contact us and tell us how to find Him. Likewise, if He did contact us, the question is how He went about it. In the Abrahamic religions, God sends prophets, and promises a Messiah. So now it's a matter of working out whether Jesus is the Messiah, and for that, we have the testimonies of the apostles. Just taking the Gospels as historical accounts (not necessarily inspired), and considering the fact that the apostles and early Christians went to their deaths swearing that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead, that's evidence enough to take the claims of Christianity seriously.

 

Reason will only take you so far, though, because no matter how much evidence, you'll find some loophole somewhere, however unlikely or improbable, that could explain it away. It's been said that God gives us just enough light to find Him if we choose, but also enough darkness should we wish to choose against Him. So faith is something of a leap, but it's not a blind leap. Once on the other side, so to speak, you often start to see how your beliefs are validated by your experiences.

 

As for Catholicism, I believe it's true because for one thing, I see the problems with Protestantism, for example, with the teaching of Sola Scriptura (the Bible being sufficient for how to live a Christian life and achieve salvation, and can be interpreted by anyone). Catholic teachings are more logical to me, and work together in a way which means they're all interwoven. That isn't to say that Protestantism is wrong about everything, of course. There's still a great deal of truth there. However, I do believe that the fullness of truth is found with the Catholic Church.

 

If you believe that your scriptures are inerrant: why is that?
If you believe in scriptures over secular science and history: why?
(If you believe that your scriptures are fallible: how do you decide what is absolute truth, and what is just a story?)
(If you seek to reconcile scriptures and science/history: how do you?)
 
(I'll take these together) I believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God because that's what the Church teaches (and I believe the Church was established by Christ). However, it's also important to remember that the Bible is not technically a book, but a collection of books, in different genres (Steadfast, I know you know all this already from your course, so I won't elaborate too much on that!). Catholics don't believe that faith and reason are opposed in any way, because there's only one truth, regardless of how you express it. Therefore, history, science and faith don't contradict. Some Christians argue that, for example, the creation account is a literal account, but that's actually quite a rare view. The early Christians, including St Augustine, admitted that they didn't know whether the creation account was literal, or poetic (it's actually written in a very poetic style). The Catholic Church actually doesn't have a position either way. It's really a scientific matter of how old the earth is, and since faith and reason don't contradict, there's not actually a problem.
 
Do you ever think something your scripture claims was caused/endorsed by your deity was just plain wrong? If so, how do you deal with that?
 
It's true that the Bible contains a lot of difficult stuff (especially in the Old Testament). However, I've never found anything there "wrong". One issue people sometimes have is some of the Mosaic laws and practices, which seem problematic. For example, people will take issue with passages where polygamy is practised, and ask why God allows it. I think it's helpful to look at Jesus' words in the New Testament. He's asked whether or not a man can divorce his wife, with people claiming that under the Mosaic law, they could. Jesus replies that, "Moses allowed divorce because your hearts were hard, but in the beginning it was not so."
 
In other words, what Jesus is saying is that God has allowed certain practices in the past not because the practices were okay or part of His ideal plan, but because the people just weren't ready for the "full" moral law. Remember that when the Old Covenant is established with Abraham, we're going from a culture with some extremely immoral practices and incorrect beliefs straight to a new nation, following God. The change is not going to happen overnight. Like any other society, the new laws have to be brought in gradually for them to work, so God is willing to put up with a lot more that He desires in the meantime.
 
There's a lot more I could say on this, so as before, PM! But that hopefully is a start.
 
Anyway, sorry it took so long to reply (and I'm sorry it's essay-length!), but hopefully that's been helpful!
 
xxx
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Thanks for the answer, Jegsy. I like essay-long comments! I'd also be interested in that PM, if you're still willing.  :)

 

On some level, I don't think there's anyone who really believes (or wants to believe, at least) that there's no meaning to life, and that we're just clumps of meat sailing on a rock and waiting for death.

 

I'd argue with you on that one.  :P

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I'll try to answer these as one.  

 

If you believe that your scriptures are inerrant: why is that?

If you believe in scriptures over secular science and history: why?

If you believe that your scriptures are fallible: how do you decide what is absolute truth, and what is just a story?

If you seek to reconcile scriptures and science/history: how do you?

 

A Christian chooses to accept that the Bible is the Word of God.  Who actually wrote down all of the words is beside the point; either way we believe the Bible is the spiritually inspired Word of God.  Without that faith, there is no way to discuss spiritual things on an equal footing, because that is the foundation.  So, if for a moment, you can assume that frame of mind, a 'willing suspension of disbelief', read on.

 

True science and the Bible do not disagree, because God created everything, He would not put something contrary to the truth in His Word.  A lot of major scientific understandings originated in inspirations from the Bible.  So where scientists claim that the Bible is wrong, we have to look closely and perhaps be patient.  Man's knowledge of science grows every day, and man's understanding of things in science that seemed in contradiction often changes later.

 

And of course there is just a fair bit of pseudo-science out there.  True science is based on being able to reproduce the environment and experiment in any laboratory before believing something as true.  But things like evolution and some of the dating techniques (err, not whether to go to dinner or a movie, but deciding how old a bone or fossil is) are wild guesses.  Evolution has never had any 'proof' that stood up to the test of time and further analysis.  None of the many missing links have ever been found. Not even a single cell has ever been observed to evolve, and believe me, they have tried.  And the age of rocks and fossils cannot be truly scientific because no scientist can actually go back in time to prove that the environment and the experiment are correct. That is especially true of the environment, which has to be exactly the same for most of the aging algorithms to work.

 

Evolution is actually a religion itself, because it takes a faith in something that can never be proven physically.  Except that many times through history, the followers of evolution have falsified their findings in an attempt to help prove it.  Many of these have been later proven to be hoaxes, but apparently some of them are still left in textbooks as 'proof'.  I think some of this stems from the fact that many of the atheists who once had some belief in Christianity have an anger or hatred against God, or at least a strong dislike for all things religion and go out of their way to try to disprove it.  Of course, not all atheists are the same, no offence intended.

 

As for history, again, the Bible is generally not in contradiction to what was recorded elsewhere, or has been discovered.  In fact, tons of historical finds corroborate the Bible account.  But sometimes patience is needed.  For instance, French historian Voltaire ridiculed the Bible because it spoke of the Hittites but no evidence of them had ever been found.  Apparently at the time, the Encyclopedia Britannica referred to the Hittites as "a mythological civilization mentioned only in the Bible."  But in 1876, they were discovered by archaeologists with a tremendous amount of writings and other items that proved their existence.  And sadly today, there are people who rewrite and reinterpret much more recent history to suit their own agenda, e.g. Howard Zinn.

 

As far as understanding the Bible and what is symbolic vs what is literal, that takes most of all a spiritual approach.  Most of the passages that are symbolic are pretty clearly stated as such.  And specifically, Adam and Eve, and Noah are literal history, not parables.  And like anything in life, you cannot lift a few words or a phrase out of context to prove the Bible wrong.  Nor can you use a few words to create a Bible doctrine, as many do today, e.g. 'judge not that ye be not judged' is widely misquoted.  You have to study out all of the scriptures on a topic and see how they work together, because they all do.  When you love God and love His Word, you really want to understand what He means, not just try to make the Bible say what you want it to say.

 

There are things that we don't know the exact meaning or shape of in the Bible history, but they are not the kinds of details that are essential to our everyday lives, they don't change the principle teachings of the Bible.  For example, we don't have to know exactly why or how people in early Genesis used to live hundreds of years in order to believe the rest of the Bible.  It is a point of interest, but doesn't change what we believe and obey.

 

I am not trying to start any arguments, just to answer SM's questions.  If someone else wants to argue something I've said, please start a separate thread out of respect for the SM's original question here.

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@ChristianMan, even though I vehemently disagree with some of your views, I really appreciate that you took the time to write out such a thoughtful and interesting reply, especially because I believe we have occasionally clashed in the past. Anyway, thank you!  :)

 

And thanks again to everyone who has answered so far. I was a bit nervous about asking my questions, so I'm very gratified to see people posting such awesome replies, and that people seem to be enjoying this topic.

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If you believe in any deity or deities at all: why do you?

I've been raised in a Christian family, but that only lays the ground work. In the end, I made my choice to follow Christ because I believe He is The Truth. The alternative is just too dark & bleak. Let the chips fall where they may: if the things in our scriptures do not come to pass, then we deserve every criticism of being the biggest fools in history. But, if they do come to pass, then I can take comfort knowing I made the right choice & join the Heavenly Kingdom.

 

How do you sense that he/she/they exist?

Ever present reminders throughout my life that He always looked after me even in my darkest hours.

There were times I felt like giving up, but something wouldn't let me.

 

What does it mean when you say you hear them/talk to them/have a relationship with them?

It's a relationship like no other. I have not audibly heard Him, but I have prayed to Him & have seen the manifestations of the answers. Sometimes the things you prayed for do not come to pass & other times it answered in ways you never saw coming.

Then there is God's Love. He'll never turn back on you, even though the things we may do things that anger Him or sadden Him, He'll always be ready to forgive you & welcome you back with open arms.

 

Why do you think your religion, is correct?

To quote John 14:6, 'Jesus told him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me."'

If Christ was not telling the Truth here, then everything that we believe is a lie.

 

If you believe that your scriptures are inerrant: why is that?

Granted the Bible itself was not assembled as we know it until the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.

But, I believe the best men in their respective fields were there & decided what would be the canon of our scriptures that we know today. The results of more men & women's lives that have changed exponentially due to message it as brought over the centuries are a testament of the power of it. Sadly, as you may or not be aware of the sacrifice people have made trying to spread the Gospel. From the brave men who tried translating the Bible into the common tongue of the people & DIED for so during the Middle Ages to where someone could be arrested for even possessing it, such as this man:

http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/10/american_bible_north_korea_nig.html

Matthew 10:22 says "'And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.'"

John 15:18 says "'If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.'"

These have been true since two millennia ago, sadly. Why?

As Proverbs 29:27 says,
"The righteous detest the dishonest; the wicked detest the upright."

 

If you believe in scriptures over secular science and history: why?

I believe you have to use history & science to understand the scriptures' background.

For instance, for the Old Testament, you have to keep in mind that the ancient Hebrews used a Lunar calendar still used by Jews & Israelis to this day. Also its fun to see where words come from like Jew. The word "Jew" can be traced back to the Roman province of "Judea," back to the Kingdom of Judah, back to to the Tribe of Judah, back to Jacob's son named Judah.

 

If you believe that your scriptures are fallible: how do you decide what is absolute truth, and what is just a story?

I don't. If God's Word is the Truth, then it can't be a lie.

 

If you seek to reconcile scriptures and science/history: how do you?

I don't. I just see our studies of science as Man trying to interpret the systems God put in place in a way we can understand.

 

Do you ever think something your scripture claims was caused/endorsed by your deity was just plain wrong? If so, how do you deal with that?

Can't think of anything other than Man manipulating & using God's Word for personal gain. That is despicable.

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Simply, I felt Him with me.

And it came about because someone finally helped me see that I couldn't believe, not really, not on my own. He does it all for me.

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Interesting questions Madcap, again, Jegsy pretty much nailed it, so my contribution will much less stellar.

It's very hard to believe in something or someone that isn't tangible or visible. I myself have had my fare share of doubts and questions. It's only natural. That's the beauty of it. I know that for an atheist in order to believe in God, he would have to come down from the heavens and start a Fantasmic show ala Disney and separate the waters, brooms cleaning by themselves, animals singing and God with a magic wand fixing everything on Earth. Well.....is not going to happen. Humanity is not ready for that. Do you think the world can go on or be the same if God reveals himself to the entire human race? I know that he left Peter in charge to spread the word of his existence so why doesn't he just reveals himself to the world? Remember this from John 20:29 "Jesus said to him, 'Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed' ".

In order for the world to keep functioning and go on with our lives, we must believe without seeing. Can you imagine if God came down makes us believe and up he goes again to the heavens? Lots of believers would probably quit their jobs to go and pray and serve the Lord hurting the economy worldwide, teens would not go to college because they now know for certain that the afterlife is better, or how many would rely on God to do everything for them. The world just isn't ready for this kind of revelation. That's why Jegsy explained the reason Polygamy was allowed by Jesus back then. The same with slavery, it was a way of life, of economics in those times for almost every nation. If Jesus would've tried to end slavery abruptly he wouldn't have lasted a week. That's humanity. Everything has to be done in baby steps. To God a day is a thousand years to us.

Now, I love astronomy and the more I study it, the more I realize that everything has and order not created by chance. In the book of Genesis the universe was created by God saying "Let there be light " and there was light. What does the Bing Bang theory tells you? There was darkness and the universe was the size of an atom and suddenly exploding and creating light in less than a second. The theory is the most acceptable theory of the creation of the universe thousands of years after the Genesis. In the Apostles Creed prayer, the Spanish long version has a section that says "creator of all the visible and the invisible ". One of the latest theories of the composition of the universe is that everything you see from stars, planets and galaxies, are just 5% of what the universe is made of. The rest is 27% dark matter and 68% dark energy give or take a few percentage points depending on the study. Both of those energies don't interact with light particles meaning they don't emit nor reflect light hence their darkness. Dark matter is believed to exist by its gravitational interaction with normal matter and dark energy is believed to exist by the fast rate the universe is expanding. I'm turning this into a science class, ha!

Other ways I confirm his existence is by looking into miracles and the apparitions of the Virgin Mary officially acknowledged by the Vatican. The Vatican uses a very lengthy process to officially acknowledge a miracle and an apparition. Look at the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. You'll be stunned. Here's a link to some official miracles. http://www.miraclesofthechurch.com

I'm also intrigued by the miracles not acknowledge yet by the Church. One expamle that impressed me was the connection between Colton Burpo and Akiane Kramarik. Colton was at the emergency room undergoing appendix surgery and visited heaven hence the name of his book "Heaven is for Real" now turned a movie. His father being a Pastor himself was baffled by everything his 4 year old son was telling about heaven, Jesus and how he looks. Colton says that all the statutes and images we have of Jesus aren't precise.

Akiane Kramarik is an American poet and artist born to back then atheist parents. She is a self taught painter that also had visions at the age of 4 and she expressed those visions through paintings. At the age of 8 she painted the famous "Prince of Peace" portrait. Colton with no relation to her or even knowing her says that her rendition of Jesus is the most accurate there is. Her parents are now Catholic.

You might also ask yourself, if God is the creator of the cosmos, how did he created himself? How was he born? Well.... I don't think anyone can answer this. We are just a grain of sand in an vast sea of stars and galaxies. We can't comprehend many things and maybe we are not supposed to. We live in a 3 or 4 dimensional world. We say God is in heaven by looking at the sky but that's just a Metaphorical way of describing the afterlife. It's possible that the afterlife and God are in another dimension we can't perceive as humans.

Now, going back to the Bible, it is very important to truly understand what the passages mean. Remember that the English language is the richest in the world with some 40,000 words followed by Spanish at 35,000 words. Back in those times, the Aramaic language had only 6,000 words meaning that 1 word could have had 8 different meanings. The Bible I read every now and then (I haven't read it yet in its entirety) is the Jerusalem used by many Catholics. It has footnotes explaining most of the passages to better understand what they meant.

Hopefully I added something new to what Jegsy answered you.

May God be with you!

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In order for the world to keep functioning and go on with our lives, we must believe without seeing. Can you imagine if God came down makes us believe and up he goes again to the heavens? Lots of believers would probably quit their jobs to go and pray and serve the Lord hurting the economy worldwide, teens would not go to college because they now know for certain that the afterlife is better, or how many would rely on God to do everything for them. The world just isn't ready for this kind of revelation.

 

So in order for the society to keep on going, people can't believe quite as deeply as they profess to?   ;)

 

Thanks for taking the time to write such a long and detailed response. I enjoy being given a lot to think about.  ^_^ The Bible I read through for my class is a version intended for academic study, so there were definitely footnotes aplenty! (Sometimes they took up more than half the page!)

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