19 comments on “Join the Conversation: The Last Days are Here Again

  1. I’m afraid I have some bad news for you, Aaron. The “thick-skulled predictions” that you say “make Christianity look stupid” aren’t the reason why Xianity looks stupid.

    • Hey Steven,

      Welcome to NI. Thanks for interacting… but no teasing. Drop the other shoe: why does Christianity, in your opinion, look stupid? I fully realize there are other reasons why Christianity “looks stupid” to others, and thus the reason Franny and I started this blog. But what are your reasons? Don’t be shy.

      • Aaron, are you familiar with the Hans Christian Anderson story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? I thinks it’s a perfect anology for religion and the followers of religion and shows exactly the reason why I think Xianity is stupid – believing that something exists when, viewed without bias or prejudice, it is quite clear that it doesn’t.

      • Steven,

        While I appreciate the HCA analogy, I find it to be, well, biased and prejudiced. No one, regardless of their belief/unbelief, is without bias or prejudice. Everyone has reasons that color why they believe or don’t. It looks good on paper to say that we can step back and view the topic of religion with 100% objectivity, but in reality it doesn’t happen. Can those biases and prejudices be (for lack of a better term) overcome? Sure. It’s why some atheists/agnostics convert to Christianity, and why some Christians deconvert. And even in those cases, there are things that serve to change the person’s biases and prejudices (and thus the reason they changed their minds).

  2. As I sit here in my office and look out the window into the fields of green, with Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” playing, I think to myself, “Just another reason”….
    Just another reason for “Non-Christians” to take one person/group and associate him/them with all Christians. Such a shame. So I guess with all that was predicted and all the media hype, the one thing that was going through my head was sadness. No, not sadness that we Christians are being judged by one nut. Not sadness that Jesus didn’t come back. As much as I want to go to Heaven and spend time with my God, I would like to see my child born first (selfish? Yes) and to see more people come to Christ. What makes me sad is that so many people (atheists/agnostics/others) got together to throw a party…. in effect, “mocking God”. That’s the thing that got me.
    They make out the second coming of Christ to be a fairy tale, something to make fun of, something that, if we believe it, makes us crazy. And it saddens me.
    So there you have it…. that’s what I took away with this whole experience. The sadness of seeing people gather to mock the very God, who is love – even if they dont believe in Him.

    • Jerry your comment really made an impact on me.
      First I want to say that this “one nut” had well over 20,000 followers. It wasn’t just what he was saying, it was what his followers were also saying (in a likely invasive manner) to non-believers while they were just trying to go about their day. Lets not forget the copious amount of advertising done and can you really blame most non-believers for thinking this way of thinking represents at least some part of the majority of the christian population?

      I was very impressed with your observation that the “rapture parties” were in effect mocking god. But on the flip side there have been many many times that non-believers have felt dismissed by believers. We too have felt as though our beliefs “were something to make fun of and that by believing what we do it must make us crazy”

      • Good morning Franny,

        It’s a complicated thing – on one hand, some believers are so intent on saving non-believers that they come across as hateful (Westboro – which I truly believe they are) or crazy (H. Camping). If they truly wanted to “win” people to Christ, they would understand that the methods they use are not the most effective. When I come across a “non-believer”, I don’t hammer Christ into their heads, nor do I present myself as the ultimate soul-winning machine. It’s about love, respecting one’s views even if there is disagreement (did I spell that right?), and conversing on why we believe what we do (or don’t)… in a loving manner. I cringe when I see someone represent Christ in a manner that presents his views and Christianity as crazy. And as a Christian, I apologize if some other Christian has made you feel as if you are a monster or crazy or dismissed you.
        And on the flip side, there are Atheists/Agnostics that attack Christians and Christianity. There are people who will say that “Christianity is stupid” and then they dont present any evidence to back it up and they dont research. I guess that’s why I respect you even though I dont know you. Because at least you do your homework and present valid examples.
        It’s a lose/lose situation when people act as mentioned above. Lets hope that people on both sides grow up and find a way to talk like mature people with something to say.

  3. As I read Franny’s post I couldn’t help but notice her total rejection of fear as a valid reason for coming to Christ. First, let me agree that there are many who try to manipulate the emotions of others in order to generate a response to the Gospel. I will stand right beside the other agnostics and atheists who rightly point them out as charlatans. However, to quote an old football coach of mine, ‘Fear is an excellent motivator.’ Fear is not always bad. We were created with the ability to fear in order that we may be protected from that which can harm us. That being said, I don’t think that fear should be the ONLY factor that draws us to the cross. Fear IS an excellent motivator, but only for a short-term commitment. The best motivation, one that can last, is love. What would motivate me to face what I fear? The desire to protect those I love. Love is a stronger and more powerful motivating force than fear can ever hope to be. (and BTW Fran, shame on your church leaders for not explaining to you that the purpose of Revelation is not to scare us to death, but to encourage us to remain faithful, no matter what life throws our way, because, let’s face it, life can be scary sometimes.)

    As for your three reasons to reject Christianity (fear, money and control), I feel that is painting all Christians with an extremely broad brush. That would be the equivalent of me saying ‘I reject atheism because it turns people into baby-killing communists.’ Is that a true statement? Does that accurately depict all atheists?

    Yes, I admit, there are religious groups out there who are after your money, who are manipulative, who play on the fears of the gullible, but they are in the minority. You have often said that Aaron is proof that there are Christians who aren’t judgmental, money-hoarding, hypocrites. Take my word for it, most of us aren’t, and those who are, well, I would shy away from using the word ‘Christian’ to describe them.

    • Ok Dave as usual you bring some good stuff to the table I’m going to try and make sure I touch on everything here.

      You are right, there are certain moments were fear is a good motivator. “don’t touch the stove because it can burn you.” But I hope that you would agree that this works best on those that don’t have the complex thinking processes to rationalize that a burn would be painful;IE children. Let me state loudly and clearly I am in no way trying to state that Christians have the mentality of children. I’m just saying that after a certain age logic and reason can be just as effective and can be an overall positive experience rather than using fear (which invokes very negative emotions)

      In regards to my 3 reasons: I stated clearly that “despite the glimmers of good I do see from time to time there are still tremendous levels of, for lack of a better word, ploys that exist” so I feel my brushstroke wasn’t all that broad. Considering the thousands of mega churches (in the US alone), various theme parks, holy water for your debts infomercials, tv evangelists and rapture predictors, I and many non-believers tend to think its the other way around and people like Aaron and his wife, our good friends Gena and Ryan are the minority. As my husband says, “its hard to see the forest while your standing amongst the trees.”

      • I love what you touched on with the example of children. I would posit this to you: compared to God, we do have the mental capacity of children. Compared to God, our understanding is infantile. It would be extremely arrogant of me to say that I know everything there is about God, especially when the truth is the more I study Him the more my ignorance is made apparent. So, does it make sense for us to ‘fear’ something that we don’t have the ‘complex thinking processes’ to begin to understand? I believe it does, and the Bible backs me up on this. Nearly every time someone encounters God or a messenger (i.e. angel) of God their initial reaction is fear. Does this mean I, as a preacher, should prey on the fears of others to manipulate them to make a decision? Absolutely not. Rather, I must help others to realize the God they may fear is a God who loves them very much and truly desires what is best for them. Should there still be some fear there? Yes. As a child I feared my father and obeyed him because I feared what he could do to me if I didn’t. As an adult I love my father deeply and I obey him because I fear what it will do to him if I don’t. It’s a question of what motivates me.

        I would still say that the ‘megachurch/televangelist’ crowd represents the minority of Christianity. (And let me just say, not every televangelist or megachurch minister is the anti-Christ- just a few ;)) Over 85% of protestant churches average less than 100 in weekly attendance. Less than 2% average more than 1,000. That means for every ‘mega-church’ there are 98 smaller churches out there. For every ‘televangelist’ there are scores, if not hundreds, of other ministers who serve, unheralded and unknown. Again, I’m not denying there are some bigoted creeps out there, but don’t let them negate the truth of Christ by their poor representation of Him.

        As always, I enjoy our discussions Franny!

      • For all the Jim Bakers, Harold Campings, Jimmy Swaggarts, and (our favorite here at NI) Robert Tiltons, there are thousands of Christians who live out their faith in relative obscurity, serving people without fanfare or publicity (because Scripture does tell us to “not let the right hand know what the left hand is doing” – in other words, serve out of the spotlight). They are making this world a better place without seeking for attention. Every once in awhile, the media will showcase a story on the good things Christians do, but it’s almost always on after the sports, when most people turn off the TV and go to bed. Who gets the media attention before the weather report? The nut jobs. And when that’s all we hear about, it’s easy to assume that most Christians are like that. The fact is, they’re not.

  4. Aaron, I’m afraid I can’t leave your last comment without response but promise that this is my final reply.

    Of course you’re going to say I’m biased and prejudiced (altough I note that you didn’t explain why you think so). You’ve invested a lot of time and emotion into your belief and you’re not going to accept that religion can be viewed without bias or prejudice (because that’s the way that you look at it) but I assure you that it can. In any other context you would use logic and reason to decide whether a premise is plausible or not. Do you really think that there exists a fabric that only the rich and important can see? I suspect not. How did you come to that decision? There is absolute no reason why religion can’t be, and isn’t, viewed in the same way.

    Finally, I notice that you decided to side step the true point of my first reply, which is that Xianity is stupid because it’s nothing more than having an imaginary friend.

    • Hey Steven,

      No sidestepping at all. If you haven’t already, go back and peruse previous conversations here at NI. I’ve noticed many people who are nonbelievers simply write off Christians with the whole “it’s just an imaginary friend” thing, as if we have absolutely nothing to base our faith on, or that Christians don’t think. Our Easter Conversation would be a prime example. Jesus’ resurrection is not the stuff of myth and legend. It is attested to outside of Scripture. Jesus’ closest followers talked about and wrote about His resurrection. There were multiple eyewitnesses. If you subject these claims to the same criteria you subject other historical claims to, it is a very strong case. I find atheism/agnosticism to be biased against the view and dismissive of it because it just happens to fall into the “religion” category, even though history makes a strong case for it.

      As to the biased/prejudice thing, we’ll simply have to disagree on it. World views aren’t based on hypothetical fabrics only the rich can see (or whatever hypothetical situation one wants to throw out there). World views are, however, heavily influenced on one’s belief or lack thereof in a deity. And every person has their reasons, which help form their biases, for why they believe or do not believe.

      I’ve enjoyed the exchange. Thanks for stopping by. Please don’t make it your last visit.

      • Aaron, I tried to keep my promise but I feel I must respond. I’ll try better after this – I promise. 😉

        It’s my experience that most of the atheists and agnostics I have encountered have objectively analysed the Abrahamic faiths premise and come to their conclusion base on the available evidence. I’m sure many, including myself, would be more than happy to change that opinion if some solid, incontrovertible proof was put forward but, as yet, none has. Also, that same objectivity is used when it comes to other categories, including science, so to say that they’re dismissive just because it’s religion is competely inaccurate.

        Concerning Jesus’ resurrection:

        1. I’m afraid your version of a “strong case” and mine are poles apart.

        2. There many alternative, plausible explanations.

        2. Just because something has been documented doesn’t mean it’s true – a certain religious book comes to mind.

        3. Various UK Police forces have conducted various studies on the accuracy of eye witness accounts and most, if not all, have concluded that, whilst they may be helpful, they are no longer regarded as a reliable source of evidence.

        3. The whole Xian faith is based on Jesus’ closest followers talking about and documenting his resurrection, so that’s hardly a strong argument.

        And finally (I promise), whilst I agree that I don’t understand what you can possibly base your faith on, I haven’t, at anytime, implied that Xians don’t think. But the problem is that there are, and have been, many other, competing religions say that they’re right and you’re wrong and you can’t both be right, which then weakens your position.

        Like you, I’ve enjoyed the exchange and I’m sure I’ll visit you soon.

      • Steven, I’m glad you broke your promise! It makes for great conversation. I’m going to break this up into multiple comments for the sake of length.

        Let’s apply the criteria you’ve used for the resurrection of Jesus to Socrates, upon whom a wealth of philosophical thought rests. We have nothing Socrates wrote. The only way we know about Socrates is through Plato’s writing about him (and several other of his closest followers). While there is debate among scholars about the finer points of his life, there is no doubt that Socrates existed, taught, was put on trial, and died via hemlock poisoning.

        1. “I’m afraid your version of a ‘strong case’ and mine are poles apart.”
        We’d both agree that there’s a strong case for Socrates’ existence, teachings, and death because of what evidence we have. To say we don’t is just bad history. I think the same could be said for Jesus – to reject his existence, death, and resurrection is bad history. At the very least, something happened. He existed, he had followers, and they proclaimed that he had risen from death and had (along with many others) witnessed it. We have to come up with some kind of explanation for what happened that resulted in this explosion of a new religion that has had a profound impact on the world (for both good and, because of the idiots, bad).

      • 2. “There are many alternative, plausible explanations.”
        A ghost writer could have penned the stuff about Socrates. A group of like-minded thinkers could have made him up as a literary device for their stream of thought. We could make up several more. But based on what we have available to us, these are not the best explanations. The best explanation is that Socrates existed, and his closest followers recorded much of what he said and some events from his life. Now, apply this to the resurrection. What are the “many alternative, plausible explanations”? I’ve yet to see one. One of the foremost experts on the resurrection, N. T. Wright, had an atheist colleague compliment him on his groundbreaking work “The Resurrection of the Son of God.” The atheist colleague said something to the effect of, “You’ve nailed it. You’ve made your case that the resurrection is the best explanation. I just choose to believe something else had to have happened.” In spite of the evidence for the resurrection, Wright’s colleague chose to ignore it and, without the evidence to support it, believe something else happened.

        3. “Just because something has been documented doesn’t mean it’s true – a certain religious book comes to mind.”
        And the opposite is true. Just because something has been documented doesn’t mean it’s false, even if it is a religious book. But to apply this to Socrates, we must then assume that the documents we have may not be true until further evidence that Socrates existed and taught cannot be disproven beyond the shadow of a doubt comes to light. And the entire Socratic way of thinking and all it has contributed to thought, culture, etc., must be, at best, doubted and, at worst, completely rejected. Very few do this, both those of faith and those without. The documentation about Socrates is assumed true until proven false. But when it comes to Jesus, the opposite is true for agnostics and atheists. And the gospels and extra-biblical documentation about Jesus are not written as mythology or philosophical treatise. They’re written as historical narrative. The difference between accepting Socrates and rejecting Jesus? The religious/supernatural aspect.

      • 4. Eyewitness evidence not being reliable.
        Applied to Socrates, everything we know about him must be thrown into the abyss of doubt. Heck, everything we know about everything must be thrown into doubt because everything–history, scientific data, etc., we have because someone witnessed it. I don’t disagree with this study when it comes to reporting a crime – something that happens in a split second, the witness is unprepared for it. But when applied to someone who spends a significant amount of time with a person, listening to them, studying under them, being mentored by them, then this doesn’t hold water. It’s not like Plato only spent ten minutes with Socrates at the scene of a toga-choking accident. He spent significant time with Socrates. We’re not talking about a police report on something that took mere seconds to unfold; we’re talking about significant time invested. The same can be said for Jesus’ followers. We’re not talking about an encounter of less than a minute. We’re talking about several years of Jesus investing himself in them. They lived with Jesus, ate with him, heard him speak, had him speak to them in more private settings over a period of more than three years.

        5. “The whole Xian faith is based on Jesus’ closest followers talking about and documenting his resurrection, so that’s hardly a strong argument.”
        Apply this reasoning to Socrates, and hopefully you see the flaw of this reasoning. Socrates wrote nothing. His closest followers documented his teaching and some events from his life. And yet, these things are accepted as historical fact (with few detractors). Thus, this line of reasoning isn’t accepted with Socrates (and other historical figures who wrote nothing but were written about). Yet people hold Jesus to a different standard. Socrates’ followers can write about him and have it accepted as true, but Jesus’ can’t. An obvious double-standard, yet there is more document evidence for Jesus’ existence, death, and resurrection (and not all of it is from the Bible or from believers) than there is for Socrates. The difference? The religious/supernatural aspect. When one rejects the possibility of the supernatural to start with, they must come up with an alternative explanation.

        As far as the many religions claiming to be right weakening my position that my faith is right, each religion (or lack thereof) should be examined on it’s own merit. If Jesus hadn’t been raised from death, I’d be an agnostic because no other religion in the world claims to have a resurrected founder. And I don’t believe it because my parents took me to church, or my preacher told me to believe it. I searched out those answers from myself, from both sides of the fence, and concluded that Christianity is more reasonable than the alternatives. Yeah, we haven’t exactly helped ourselves with all the idiots and crazies from our past (and present), but those seem to be the guys that get all the press.

        Alright, Steven. Come back soon. I’ve really enjoyed it.

      • Aaron, I’m not the sharpest tool in the box and have realised that we’ve been debating at cross purposes.

        When I gave the example of the HCA story, my final comment was regarding believing that something exists (note the present tense) when it doesn’t. And in my subsequent reply I asserted that Xianity is nothing more than having an imaginary friend. Whilst I now realise that you took this to mean Jesus, I was actually talking about God and, beyond having faith, there is no evidence of his existence.

        And whilst I’m here I may as well address your Socrates argument.

        What you’ve done is employ a type of logical fallacy that Xians commonly use in this type of debate. Equating Socrates to Jesus isn’t appropriate in this context. Whether Socrates existed or not is irrelevant. If a historian were to find evidence that he didn’t exist, would that mean that Philosophy and Ethics are no longer relevant? No it wouldn’t. Furthermore, the lives of millions of people wouldn’t change. However, without Jesus or his resurrection, there cannot be Xianity and Xians would be devastated. It would have been appropriate to use Socrates as an example if Plato had asserted that Socrates was a visitor from outer space and could teleport. As they say “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, which is one of the main arguments atheists use against Xianity. That said, I don’t actually reject the existence or death of Jesus. What I do reject is the notion the he was resurrected from the dead and to say that it’s “bad history” simply isn’t true. BTW, I’m not aware of any “external” eyewitness accounts. Could you please point me to a credible reference?

        I’d also like to pick up on a few things that you said:

        “We have to come up with some kind of explanation”.
        It’s what we, as humans, do but it doesn’t mean that what we’ve come up with it true or accurate. I’m an advocate of Science but I’m still not convinced by the argument for the Big Bang Theory.

        “In spite of the evidence for the resurrection, Wright’s colleague chose to ignore it”
        What you’ve done here is, inappropriately, equate explanation (ie “the resurrection is the best explanation.”) to evidence.

        “and, without the evidence to support it, believe something else happened.”
        I think you’re being a little disingenuous here. When the atheist replied “I just choose to believe something else had to have happened.”, all they were saying is “I don’t accept your explanation” and not that they had an alternative, unfounded explanation.

        “And the opposite is true. Just because something has been documented doesn’t mean it’s false…”
        It’s safe to say that something that is written down is either true or false but it’s only a bad thing to do when it’s false.

        “we must then assume that the documents we have may not be true until further evidence that Socrates existed and taught cannot be disproven beyond the shadow of a doubt comes to light. And the entire Socratic way of thinking and all it has contributed to thought, culture, etc., must be, at best, doubted and, at worst, completely rejected”
        No, that simply isn’t the case (but, maybe, a little melodramatic?). We accept that Socrates existed because there is no reason not to – there are no extraordinary claims about his life.

        “The documentation about Socrates is assumed true until proven false. But when it comes to Jesus, the opposite is true for agnostics and atheists”
        This is the “poor Jesus, the atheist is bullying him again” kind of response. It isn’t automatically assumed to be false, just because it’s about Jesus, but because of the extraordinary claims that have been made about him.

        “the gospels and extra-biblical documentation about Jesus are not written as mythology or philosophical treatise. They’re written as historical narrative”
        Again, that simply isn’t true. If we look at story of the nativity, different Gospels have different accounts of what happened. Furthermore, there wasn’t even a Roman census at that time. So, no, not historical narrative at all.

        “yet there is more document evidence for Jesus’ existence”
        Go to the library and look the number of books on vampires and werewolves or conspiracy theories on the faking of the moon landings. I’m sure you’d find an abundance of books on the subjects. Volume doesn’t equal validity.

        “We’re talking about several years of Jesus investing himself in them. They lived with Jesus, ate with him, heard him speak, had him speak to them in more private settings over a period of more than three years”
        Of course you wrote this in the context of proving the existence of Jesus but my point remains valid when it comes to witnessing the resurrection.

        “When one rejects the possibility of the supernatural to start with, they must come up with an alternative explanation”
        No, no and, thrice I say, no! Just because I am not convinced by the Big Bang Theory doesn’t mean that I have to postulate an alternative.

        “each religion…should be examined on it’s own merit”
        I whole heartedly agree (Yay!). To do otherwise would be contradictory to my previous points. It’s just a pity that the majority of religious people don’t.

        “(or lack thereof)”
        These three little words speak volumes about the religious mindset, ie a lack of belief is a state of being, which is completely incorrect. Only when a concept is introduced can there be a scenario without that concept. There was no lack of concept before the concept existed. For example, only when you define heat, can you define cold (cold is the absence of heat and you can’t get colder than absolute zero) and only when you define light can you define darkness (darkness is the absence light). You can’t examine coldness and you can’t examine darkness. Likewise, you can’t examine a lack of religion, just the same as you can’t cure a healthy person.

        “If Jesus hadn’t been raised from death, I’d be an agnostic because no other religion in the world claims to have a resurrected founder. And I don’t believe it because my parents took me to church, or my preacher told me to believe it. I searched out those answers from myself, from both sides of the fence, and concluded that Christianity is more reasonable than the alternatives”
        Of course there’s no way of ‘knowing’ what you would have been but I doubt, very much, that you would have been agnostic. With the absence of the resurrection you would have simply found one of the alternatives “more reasonable” (note that you didn’t say that Xianity is true and all the alternatives false).

        It’s been a pleasure.

      • Hey Steven,

        Like you, I think we could go back and forth for quite a long time on this subject. Obviously, you can’t understand why I choose to believe and I have difficulty fathoming why someone wouldn’t. We both have our reasons why we view Christianity the way we do, and those reasons color why we see the evidence the way we do. I’m just glad that this forum exists so that people from differing perspectives can share those perspectives without fear of being bullied or looked down upon (which happens on so many other blogs).

        While I do disagree with just about all of what you said, I’m content to leave it at that since you only asked for one thing (extra-biblical references to Jesus). If you’d like me to respond, cool. If you’re content, that’s cool, too. Just come by NI any time.

        Here’s what you asked for. None of these guys wrote volumes like the gospel writers, but they did mention them, and are considered legit sources of history. Not all would carry the same weight for scholars, but they mention Jesus to various degrees:

        -Josephus mentions Jesus’ death, following, miracles, and maybe even his resurrection (many have challenged the resurrection part of the text, but it’s possible that it could be legit).
        -The Roman historian Tacitus mentions Jesus and his death in a negative light.
        -Pliny the Younger, governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor, mentions the Christians gathering and worshiping Jesus “as… a god.”
        -The Babylonian Talmud mentions Jesus being crucified, and that he was accused of sorcery (and thus his miracles are mentioned).
        -Lucian, a Greek writer, mentions Jesus in his description of Christians.

        Peace out.

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