ISIS has a strategic goal with their attacks around the world. They want to rally the Western world against Muslims, forcing the rest of the Islamic world to join together into their global Caliphate state.
My little brother Justin recently emailed me and started a discussion on religion and the problem of evil. I thought my readers may find it useful or entertaining, so check it out:
7/17/09 Written @ 2:21 am
I have been propelled to share truth with you. Because of all things a dream I had about you.
The gospel is truth The complete canon of scripture is truth. Yes, Jesus is truth. I know you know what the scripture says about His life, but I want you to know it is truth. I tell you this quite selfishly and yes with an agenda concerning you–my motivation is my love for you. If I did not love you I would not even dare to try and share with you concerning Jesus. But I must. It is now at this moment 2:21 AM and I am awake because of you and this dream I had concerning you. The dream is of importance only in that it has propelled me to share the gospel with you. Whether or not you will receive it is on you. You are responsible for yourself and your own choices. I know you hardened yourself & your heart most to God because you were most aware of what was happening when our parents abandoned us, but especially you. God is not our parents. He never wished for us to experience what happened to us & to you. Our parents are human as you & I and we must have pity on them, but you must not blame God any longer for what happened. It was not God’s fault or your fault. I doubt this will lead to your conversion but I do believe that as long as you have a breath to breathe and have not entered into eternity you still have the opportunity to turn from your ways and run to God. You are responsible for your choice, Deny Jesus & He will deny you before the Father, Accept Him and He will accept you before the Father. You have not ran to far or done too much to not be able for Jesus to forgive you or to save you. Jesus dying on the cross covers a multitude of sins, a lifetime of sin. Jesus wants to restore you, I implore you to make haste & seek truth. I dare not say this letter is God Himself speaking directly to you, but I dare say He is letting you know He got your attention and given you the opportunity for you to receive truth, to know truth, and maybe one day live truth. As you sat atop the mountain and saw the rolling hills and all that lay before you I hope you could see that all that is, was not by chance nor are u!
Joel, I love you–you are my brother–my flesh and blood is your flesh and blood. You are the first born and as much as I love you, God loves you more. Allow God/Jesus to reveal Himself to you–if you ask Him to–I pray He will. After all, what is the worst that could happen?
In Jesus & concern for you–my brother
My reply to Justin’s email:
Your love and concern for me are moving and much appreciated. However, you have some confusion about who I am. Mom and Dad had really nothing to do with me not being religious. The basic laws of logic, evidence, science, nature and economics did. The dogmatic mysticism of religious people does not make sense and actually heavily contradicts itself. The day I lost my fear of the threat of burning in hell was the first intellectually free day of my life. I realized that Christianity and its rules and threats and prejudices was created by hut-dwellers thousands of years ago in order to gain power over their fellow human beings. New religions continue to crop up constantly in much the same way Christianity originally did- look at the Mormons, Scientologists and other less-successful religions. If I thought Christianity had even a .01% chance of being correct, I would be a believer since the threats of eternity in hell are very scary. However, the problem of evil and many other direct theological contradictions in the Bible make it very obvious that Christianity doesn’t even have that much chance of being correct. There may be a god, but he certainly is not the Christian one.
You may have seen my prayer-helpers.com website and thought my knowledge in the truth was weakening, but that is not the case. That site is built to generate controversy & links so that I can promote other client websites. I do have legitimate Christians doing the praying though- I always deliver the best products to my customers and would never scam them.
Once again, thank you for your love, thought, and concern. I greatly appreciate having you as my little brother and am looking forward to meeting up with you sometime soon. I am going to take Josh camping & hiking if you want to come with us soon. I haven’t decided the exact date yet though.
in Love & Jesus towards you
Thank you for your response. My final thoughts in magical bullet point form:
- You cannot use the Bible as evidence in a debate over the veracity of religion.
- Just because aspects of Christianity sound nice don’t mean they are true.
- According to Christian theology God is all powerful, all knowing, created everything and is completely righteous & good. If God the first three are true, free will is an impossibility. God knew every detail about us and every action that we would ever take from the beginning of time, correct? If he changed or did not change something, we are still 100% his responsibility. I know it’s hard to grasp intellectually, but even without a god true “free will” does not exist. The laws of physics, biology and nature direct everything from gravity to the style of your hair. Just because it doesn’t “feel” that way doesn’t mean its not true.
- So God created us not because he needed our love, but because he wanted to brag? You said, God created us as a “Demonstration of his glory”. Who is he demonstrating to? What is the point? It’s like me making a Microsoft Word file that says, “Joel Rules!” 50 times. Kind of useless.
Thank you for your response to my response. These are not my final thoughts, but beginning of a dialogue (in bullet point form):
- One can use the Bible to affirm the veracity of religion in this sense; if the message of the Bible gives better answers to man’s dilemma than any other world view then it is worth considering. But remember this is not a debate over the veracity of religion–it is a discussion about the problem of evil.
- Your second point is just silly, certainly you would not accuse Blaise Pascal of presenting Christianity as something that just sounds nice. He was one of the great thinkers, mathematicians, and social commentators in all of history. He is not someone who can be treated in a cavalier manner.
- Your argument of what is known as chemical and biological determinism (that there is no free will as everything is a result of “the laws of physics, biology, and nature direct everything from gravity to the style of your hair.”) is simply not true as it isn’t borne out by experience. If it is true, it means there is no real love, no moral motions, no creativity or originality, no appreciation of beauty. Yet, most people affirm that these things are real–and no one really lives as if determinism were true. We all live as if love we’re real–you would not shoot Bestemor in the head with a .357 magnum, not because of chemical or biological determinism, but because it is morally repugnant to you since you actually love her. People who claim to believe in this point of view live by cheating: They can’t live consistent with this world view since it is not true to real life. Another way to say it is if determinism is true you are no longer there: you are only an animal or a machine…and even you Joel are not an animal even though you live like one in some ways as I have in the past. Does this makes sense to you, Joel?
- God did not create us because He needed our love, but He created us to give us the gift of Himself. If God is truly God then by definition there is nothing greater He can do than to allow us to experience Him. Because there is nothing greater or better than Him. That is what I mean by “demonstrating His Glory.”
- Joel, you can agree or disagree with what I believe as you do; However, to make a mockery is ungentlemanly and I hope is beneath you to do from this point on with our discussion–even if you do mock it for the sake of provoking your blog’s readers to respond. I will not and have not made a mockery of you or your beliefs but will try in love to seriously dialogue these very important issues with you. I am referring to your final point on the Jewish Zombie. One of the most fully attested facts of ancient history is the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead in real space/time. There is more evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, both Biblical and extra Biblical, than for the fact that Caesar conquered Gaul. We can discuss this at length another time, but suffice it to say that this is the pivotal truth of the christian faith. The Bible itself, puts all it’s eggs in this one basket when it says that if Jesus is not raised we Christians are of all men most to be pitied, and our faith is in vain. ( 1 Corinthians 15:14-19) But apropos of your point–it is certainly not the case that any christian or any Biblical passage views the resurrected Jesus as a zombie. The men and women who actually encountered Jesus after His resurrection saw Him vibrantly & compellingly alive and well. Further, the forgiveness of sins is not the result of some telepathic interaction with God, but rather God’s gift to all who will, by faith (TRUST) receive that gift which was made possible when Jesus took upon Himself the punishment for sin that I so completely deserve, as He died on the cross in my place. (Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray, we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.) Again, we can discuss in detail later, the moral necessity of a substitutionary propitiatory atonement, but lets begin by clearing up what the Biblical message really is, and not argue about some caricature of Christianity that you so disrespectfully and inaccurately have presented here. Again, I’m not arguing the veracity of religion. Rather I’m explaining the message of the Bible which you misunderstand & therefore misrepresent.
One of my coworkers was driving around Seattle, WA the other day and discovered a gem of hilarity.‚ The Mount Baker Park Presbyterian Church had a sign out front that said “Intellect is Over-Rated”.‚ Apparently Reverend Leland Seese isn’t a big fan of brains.‚
My good friend Mark was kind enough to share his perspective on the Mars Hill Church in Seattle. He sent me the following response in an email and agreed to let me share what he thought, but I should also mention this is just his gut response as he has not attended he just read the NYTimes article. I am less interested in his actual analysis of Mars Hill church and more interested in his thought processes as he approaches such issues.
I read the article on Mars Hill but before I make an intelligible response I want to do some thinking. I can tell you that on my initial reaction, I can see why people like and relate to Pastor Mark, and some of the things he teaches from the article sound pretty right on, but only from reading the article and never having gone to the church I get the feeling that he is trying too hard to go the opposite direction of Joel Osteen and pastors of that type, which I understand why he is, because I agree they are extreme and oftentimes watered down and sometimes wrong, but from Jesus teaching, He still wants obedience and isn¢â‚¬â„¢t a let everything go type of guy.
I¢â‚¬â„¢m sorry, but movies like Fightclub as the article mentions, is not a movie you can watch with a completely clear conscience as a Christian or something is not right in your heart. I have seen it and afterwards regretted watching it due to the extreme content. I agree with Mark in that Christians often try to earn salvation by doing all the right things, but I believe that salvation is a gift, you can¢â‚¬â„¢t earn it. But I also believe that the Bible still has standards for Christian living, not legalism, but standards in order to guard your mind and so often have I messed up in my sins, but Christ is always there to forgive. I am adamantly against any teaching that says you can earn your salvation. I am a believer in doing what is right in God¢â‚¬â„¢s sight and I believe the Holy Spirit opens your eyes to sin. Some people have different views, but that is how I see it. This is a long topic to explore and before I actually sit and think on it more, I will let you respond because I don¢â‚¬â„¢t know in what direction you are most interested in taking it. I don¢â‚¬â„¢t want to blab about boring subject, but what parts specifically you found interesting in the article.
Oh yeah, I don¢â‚¬â„¢t remember as much about Calvanism as I used to, but from what the article reminded me about, I believe most of what Pastor Mark said, but I think he takes some of the topics to the other extreme of Joel Osteen. I mean that I believe in predestination, but I also believe we still have an active part in choosing Christ. See the thing is, just because I believe I am predestined to share God¢â‚¬â„¢s promise, doesn¢â‚¬â„¢t mean I am against choice. For example, if someone is predestined by God, they would not know they were predestined until they become a Christian, so if they became a Christian late in life people could say that that person wasn¢â‚¬â„¢t predestined earlier in his life. The problem is that it isn¢â‚¬â„¢t our role to worry about who is predestined, we don¢â‚¬â„¢t know, we just share the gospel with people so everyone knows the truth. For all we know, everyone could potentially be predestined to be with Christ. But if not, then God is the one in control and I trust His judgment. I believe that God is a God of love and truth, therefore I will be comfortable in his decisions. But if everyone took Christ¢â‚¬â„¢s gift in their life, and developed a personal relationship with Christ, technically everyone would be saved, but since not everyone is saved, or will be saved, only God knows the reasons why. God wants us to seek Him, and He promises to reveal Himself to those who do, so I feel confident in sticking to those promises.
I find reasoned Christian responses to be fascinating.‚ Perhaps that is because of my deeply religious childhood, but I always am interested in learning and seeing things from other people’s perspectives.‚ In this case, as a child Christianity was my perspective so it is interesting to revisit it again as an adult from the outside.‚ I would also love to get some very different perspectives on life, such as that of women, racial minorities and transgendered people.‚ I love talking to people and even just people watching.
My good friend Mark and I have been having an extensive ongoing email conversation about quite a few topics including home prices, construction and the overall economy.‚ However, over the next day or two I am going to publish a few bits and pieces of our conversation as it pertains to religion because I am curious to have other people’s input.‚ Our conversation below is off the hip and unresearched and we werent’ thinking of sharing it when we were writing, so focus on the larger ideas and thought structures rather than individual details.
Mark: When are you going to become a Christian? Hehe =)
Joel: I always try to test my theories and ideas and principles using all sorts of acid tests.‚ I find that debating with people on both sides of an issue and then doing independent research to find the raw data like you were saying works best for me. For me, there are no ‘sacred’ theories/ideas/principles that I am unwilling to question and investigate further.‚ Many things that I had initially believed to be true I found out actually didn’t make sense or were just plain false.‚ For instance, I used to believe as a little kid that I had 7 layers of skin because I was from South Dakota where it was cold, I believed in Santa/Easter Bunny, I believed that homosexuals should be put to death, and many other silly/incorrect ideas.‚ As for your question of me becoming a Christian, I have & continue to thoroughly investigate all sides of various religious philosophies, but the evidence has been overwhelmingly against any such belief system.‚ If I ever do convert, be very wary of me… I’m probably trying to work some sort of power grab scheme lol.
From what I have gleaned from my observations and studies, religion of all types is not only incorrect, but it is also very harmful to humanity.‚ Much of the war, torture, genocides, and loss of individual freedoms in history has been directly linked to religion.‚ The problem is is that ignorant peoples are easily swayed by newly arising religious figures every day- for instance there is a fat Mexican right now who claims to be the real Christ and has amassed over a hundred thousand followers!‚ People are too trusting and tend to believe what they are told, especially if it is espoused by a charismatic person.‚ Many of these mystics, psychics, televangelists and others prey upon people’s desires to believe that their lives will improve or that there is life after death or they will see their loved ones in paradise/heaven/outer space.‚ Its an easy sell when you tell someone that their son Bobby is waiting for them in Heaven and all they have to do is believe in God or that their wife Sally has followed all the little Scientologists up to Pluto and if they “purify” themselves they can go too.‚ Many manipulators have used this scheme to gain followers: David Koresh, L Ron Hubbard, Mohammed, Zoraster, Brigham Young, Krishna, Jesus Christ, Dalai Lama, Charles Manson, and on and on and on… there are literally tens of thousands of these people, some more successful than others.‚ I have actually thought about starting my own mini-religion modelled on these fellows… you get more women, cash and zealot followers easier than you can in any other line of work.‚ Poor/ignorant people fall for this stuff every day.
Mark: Hehe I was just giving you a hard time about the Christian thing, always fun to do.‚ I understand completely why you feel that religion has done more harm than good to humanity.‚ I have listened to Christopher Hitchens several times and I have heard many others explain that point of view.‚ Surprisingly I must say that too often that is the case.‚ Religion hasn¢â‚¬â„¢t caused the problem however, people abusing and misusing it has caused the problem just as cars don¢â‚¬â„¢t cause wrecks, and it is the people who drive them that cause wrecks.‚ I do believe in Christianity though I don¢â‚¬â„¢t believe what all ¢â‚¬Å“Christians¢â‚¬ would claim is Christianity.‚ I do believe the Bible however.‚ I also believe that many of those you listed are truly manipulators; however the only person I completely disagree with is Jesus for a long list of reasons.
I could go many ways with the religion versus no religion idea.‚ The easiest way for me to do this is to picture a world with no religion.‚ Everyone on earth is affected by it, whether they put their faith in one or not, whether they talk against it, whether they hate it or whatever else.‚ Everyone is affected by it just as we are affected by the wind and weather.‚ People have tried putting certain religions to death oftentimes backfiring and causing the religion to explode in followers.‚ Religion will never die.‚ It will always be around like it or not.‚ So individuals have several decisions to make, most of which are just subconscious.‚ How do I feel about religion, do I put faith in one, if I hate religion what am I going to do about it, how do I avoid anything religious so I don¢â‚¬â„¢t have to deal with it, and so on.‚ Very rarely does someone come along with an agenda to abolish religion because it is basically impossible without annihilating all humans.
How is a world with no religion a good thing?‚ And for the other side, how is a world with religion a good thing?‚ I admit I am not persuadable on this due to my personal beliefs, I have spent large amounts of time thinking, researching, and praying about it and have already found more than enough evidence and I just simply have faith in what I believe.‚ However if I was a confused individual with complete objectivity in every way, I might start by making a list with two sides.‚ One side for each of the two questions above.‚ Then I would go through and make a huge list of all the positives and negatives for each question.‚ Just because I may have one side longer than the other doesn¢â‚¬â„¢t really conclude anything either way, because it is only based upon my own personal findings, but it may help me at least have a better understanding of myself and why I believe the way I do.‚ Whether you believe that the world is better with or without religion, you have to live with it, but I personally believe it is better to have religion as long as the truth is really out there, and it is.
Also as for saying that religion being linked with war, torture, genocide, and the like, those would occur whether there was religion or not, and in my opinion they would be more frequent, not less frequent without religion.‚ In most religions worldwide, a vast majority of the followers are peaceful people who do little harm to others.‚ However every single religion has people in the minority who distort, twist, and dement what the tenets of that religion are.‚ Just as the media focuses on all the negative things going on in the world because that¢â‚¬â„¢s what entertains people, so it is easy to look at all the negatives religion has caused.‚ And unfortunately in our country, Christianity has gotten abused so often it disgusts me.‚ All the things you said you get sickened by sicken me too.‚ However being someone who honestly follows Christ and who believes and reads the Bible, I still believe that Christianity is true and what it speaks about are meant for building others up not tearing them down.‚ Because of my viewpoints on sin and evil, I believe that since all of us are sinful, we are all going to distort the truth at times.‚ But I also believe the Holy Spirit guides and directs as He has with me in my own personal life.
Let¢â‚¬â„¢s say that you make a law based upon a truth.‚ For example, the truth is: human being¢â‚¬â„¢s lives are valuable.‚ Then the law would say something like: You will get executed for taking another person¢â‚¬â„¢s life.
Now in a world with billions of people, there are some who don¢â‚¬â„¢t believe that humanity is worth saving, some who believe the truth stated above that human¢â‚¬â„¢s lives are valuable, and some who don¢â‚¬â„¢t give a care either way.‚ With that many people, just about every viewpoint anyone could think of would be practiced and lived out, at least in a world of sin.‚ Now some of those from the camp of those who believe human¢â‚¬â„¢s lives are valuable may decide they are sick of living this truth out.‚ Or maybe they didn¢â‚¬â„¢t believe the truth but pretended to so that they would be more easily accepted by the culture or those with that particular belief.‚ Now let¢â‚¬â„¢s say these individuals go out and kill a bunch of people for whatever reason.‚ The reason they did it doesn¢â‚¬â„¢t matter as much that they did it.‚ Does this mean that the initial truth everything in this example is based upon is a lie?‚ Of course not, but yet plenty of people may look at the evidence and say over time that human being¢â‚¬â„¢s lives are not really valuable.‚ Or maybe they will just put in clarifiers like, this person¢â‚¬â„¢s life is only valuable if they are really smart, good looking, etc.
So in that example, if Christianity is the truth, you can see that people may believe it, may not, and everything in between.‚ But just because someone living under the guise of Christianity goes out and does something terrible, it doesn¢â‚¬â„¢t necessarily negate the fact that Christianity is the truth. The same is true for all religions.
Anyways, that¢â‚¬â„¢s enough thoughts for one email.‚ I don¢â‚¬â„¢t want to give you or me a headache thinking about it, but those are my initial thoughts.
Joel: I love our conversations.‚ Very entertaining.‚ I kind of want to grab bits & pieces of our topics and make them into blog posts if you dont mind (especially the religion thing).
My question to you is, other than your personal religious beliefs, why is Jesus any different than all the other mystics & preachers?
Also, I didn’t really understand your point in the last paragraph about Christianity being the truth.‚ Are you saying that even if religion is false that it leads people to have better lives so we should believe in it anyways?
Mark: I don¢â‚¬â„¢t mind if you post stuff we talk about.‚ Sometimes I may look like an idiot because I am not researching, I am just going off the top of my head, but it doesn¢â‚¬â„¢t bother me.‚ =)
For me I believe Jesus is different than any other prophet, mystic, preacher etc.‚ Assuming you have faith that he actually existed, which obviously I do,‚ for a lot of reasons, I guess the first reason he is different is that he is the only man to actually fulfill hundreds of prophecies written about just such a man.‚ Again, you have to have faith that it was God¢â‚¬â„¢s plan and not coincidence that he fulfilled them in such a way.‚ Second, Jesus didn¢â‚¬â„¢t come to gain power, or money, or any kind of worldly possession which distinguishes himself among many, though many still were selfless like him in the history of the world.‚ Third, Jesus came to specifically die for the sins of mankind, and through the fulfillment of yet more prophecy, he chose to die in the most painful way known in ancient history.‚ Fourth, Jesus didn¢â‚¬â„¢t come claiming to have some new religion or start a new type of worship, he came as a fulfillment of scripture in the old testament and he summed up the old testament through the way he lived and what he taught, and then enabled man to have a personal relationship with God by claiming that he was God and that because he died and bridged the gap of sin, we can now have a relationship directly with him.
Jesus lived a perfect life, and died for all the rest who are imperfect.‚ I understand why many people think this is a stretch of faith to believe in, but looking at the Bible, all the archeological backing that it has, and all the unexplained acts that have occurred to baffle scientists over the years, there is plenty of evidence to at least consider why Christians believe what they do.‚ By the same token, it takes a lot of faith to believe the earth just randomly exploded into existence over billions of years.
I get confusing when I start rambling on as I do, so what I was trying to say about Christianity in the last email is that just because many people do stupid things in the name of religion, doesn¢â‚¬â„¢t mean it is false and worthless and dangerous.‚ People will always find stupid things to do in the name of something whether religion is there or not.‚ So to answer your more recent question:‚ Even if religion is false, it leads people to have better lives so we should believe in it anyways? ¢â‚¬â€œ Religion is just a term that can be defined as a cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.‚ The religion you are referring to are those that follow some supernatural teaching or divine being.‚ The reason I clarify is that what you believe could technically be defined as religion, evolution can be, or any other worldview associated with the cause and origin of life and afterlife.
I think people lead better lives in the pursuit of truth rather than the disconnected life of apathy.‚ Countries where apathy and atheistic worldviews have sunk in are where spiritual principalities are not manifesting themselves.‚ Go to India if you want to see someone possessed by a demon or evil spirit.‚ See what that is like, feel the power in it, feel the fear.‚ To try to explain it through science when the darn thing talks to you through someone is just silliness.‚ And why on earth do demons flee people when Jesus name is invoked.‚ In no other name are demons cast out.‚ And surprisingly it doesn¢â‚¬â„¢t seem to matter what language it is evoked in either.‚ I understand I probably already lost you at this point because I am going on about things pretty deep into spirituality.‚ But the truth is out there for those who look.‚ There is purpose in this world, it is not all for naught. ‚ And I think people are happier overall when they have a sense of purpose in life.‚ You for example, you have goals, dreams, aspirations, maybe you don¢â‚¬â„¢t call what you believe a ¢â‚¬Å“religion¢â‚¬ but you actually are getting something out of life.‚ I respect that, and I respect all who do that.‚ I just believe that through religion, Christianity specifically, fulfillment comes in its most complete form.‚ And for those who practice living out the Bible, their lives will reflect something that the rest of the world who don¢â‚¬â„¢t believe will draw back with wonder.
It is just too hard for me to be quick about writing =)‚ Sorry for being so long =)
I hope you guys were able to work through our somewhat disjointed conversation to understand the root of the ideas.‚ What do you think?
People have strong feelings on both sides of this issue, but I still expect you to be polite.‚ This means you, Tara 😉
The great and mighty Black Rooster sent me the following video of a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on the subject of religion versus evolution.
The debate video is very long, but it is interesting and fun to listen to. Rabbi Boteach does one of the best jobs I’ve heard of defending religion, however Christopher Hitchens still wins out. If you are a logical, reasonable person who watches this video with an open mind, you may gain additional understanding on the explosive topic of religion versus evolution.‚ Christopher Hitchens is a bit overbearing though.
I’m glad religion has found something important to occupy its collective mind.
New scientific findings give new credence to the theory that Jesus rode Dinosaurs. We all know that the dinosaurs survived the Flood on Noah’s Ark (Noah used his miniaturization ray to shrink the T-Rex so it fit) and recent evidence from Creationist scientists conclusively shows that Jesus did ride dinosaurs. To view the evidence of Jesus riding dinosaurs, see the ancient manuscript below:
I love creationists. They make blogging easy.