Answering the theist challenge

by Neil Rickert

A while ago, M. Rodriguez posted a series of questions to ask Christians (theists).  He/she had previously posted questions for atheists.

I am no longer a theist, so perhaps I shouldn’t answer.  I will respond based on how I believe I would have responded back when I was a theist.  Note, however, that was a long time ago.  I will quote the questions before answering.  But I may quote in an abbreviated form.  For the full original question, please see the original post: “The Christian (Theist) Challenge.”

1. Do you feel like Religion, God and The Bible conflict?

In a word, Yes.  I won’t elaborate much , because some of the details will come out in some of the other answers.  I’ll note, however, that what stood out most clearly was that organized religion (i.e. the Churches) were far from following the teachings of Jesus.

2. If God told you kill someone, (And you are 100% it’s God).  Would you kill that person?  Why or Why Not?

I would never have been 100%.  During the time that I was a theist, I was filled with doubt.

3. Who created God;

Man created God, in man’s own image.  And when I came to realize that, it was near the end of my period as a theist.

4. If you believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God; do you believe it to be inerrant or infallible?

I did believe that the Bible was the inspired word of God.  I never believed that it was inerrant nor that it was infallible.  The errors are too plain to see.  Right there in Genesis 1, a false account of reality is presented.

The idea that the Bible is inerrant is absurd.  God might be able to inspire man to write.  But if God grants man free will, then God cannot control the words that are written.  And if the writer, inspired though he might be, is exercising free will, then the saying “To err is human” reminds of how unlikely it could be that the Bible would be inerrant.

5. In the Bible their are stories of God telling the Israelites to kill innocent women & children and children being punished for the sins of their father.  Is this morally right or morally justifiable?

That was something that always troubled me.  I never did settle it.  But, indirectly, it led to the end of my theism.  If God is outside of time and is all knowing, then the nature of God should be constant.  Yet, what became clear on reading the Bible, including the kind of stories you mention, was that the nature of God was ever changing (or evolving).  It did occur to me that one possible explanation was that man created God, and as human culture evolved, so did the kind of God that man would create.

6. If God is perfect, how can something imperfect come out of something that is PERFECT?  Did God make a mistake?

I never saw that as a problem.  If God granted us free will, then that would be enough explanation to account for our imperfections.

7. If a Christian goes into a forest and gets lost.  And he prays to God to be saved and not die.  Does a God still here him?  How do know?  And, how can you be sure?

Somehow, it always seemed to me that prayer was like talking to a brick wall.  I tried to pray regularly, but I always had the sense that nobody was listening.

8. If you were to die, and when you go before God; it’s some other God you have never seen or heard of nor worshiped?  What would you do?

I never thought about that during the time that I was a theist, so I shall skip that question.

9. What is something that would convince you that Christianity is wrong and that there is no God?  (If your answer is NOTHING, than please explain WHY?)

The problem for me, all along, was finding something that would convince me that Christianity was right.  And I could never find that.  Perhaps, most serious, was that the accounts of the resurrection were vague and unconvincing.  They could just as easily be the drifting thoughts of someone who was distraught at the crucifixion.

10. This is a quote by the atheist Richard Dawkins…”We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go ONE god further.“-Richard Dawkins.

I never came up with that question.  But a similar one arose.  What kept me a theist, in spite of the doubts that I have described in other answers, was the thought that there are many millions of Christians, and they cannot all be wrong.  But then I happened to think of the Mormons.  And there are many Mormons, too (though not nearly as many as Christians).  Yet it seemed obvious to me the Mormon beliefs were entirely made up.  And if all of those Mormons could be wrong, then all of those Christians could be wrong.

And that realization pretty much ended my period of theism.

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6 Comments to “Answering the theist challenge”

  1. Interestingly, I decided to answer as I would have done when I was a theist. As I was a raging fundamentalist, my answers were nothing like yours. I posted them in the comments here: http://bittersweetend.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/the-christian-theist-challenge/#comment-720

    The thing that made me lose faith was a little like yours, but not exactly the same. The problem for me was the existence of genuine truth-seeking atheists. Not all atheists are Christopher Hitchens. There are plenty who want to believe in God, who search every way they know how, and are simply left with no sense of his existence. I could put my own diminishing sense of God down to personal failings or sin, but I couldn’t believe that all of those who sought God in earnest and said they didn’t find him were just liars.

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    • Thanks, Jonny. There are so many comments in that thread, that I had not tried to read them. Thanks for the direct link to yours.

      As I was a raging fundamentalist, my answers were nothing like yours.

      Thanks to a good elementary school teacher, I had become interested in science at an early age. My interest in science led to a lot of skepticism, which is probably why I was filled with doubt throughout my theist years.

      The problem for me was the existence of genuine truth-seeking atheists.

      That was probably when your skepticism and doubt began to grow.

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  2. “1. Do you feel like Religion, God and The Bible conflict?”

    I agree. The materialism and patriarchal twist that the church exemplified were far from the teachings of Jesus. His teachings suggested giving up one’s material possessions and preach the word of God. Jesus hung around sinners and prostitutes and didn’t exclude them like many churches often do (this includes the church excluding homosexuals). Jesus taught that you didn’t need temples or buildings for you could “lift a stone and find him”, or “split a piece of wood and he is there”, etc. The massive cathedrals with thousand dollar stained glass windows and statues are more of a form of idolatry and materialism than anything else.

    “2. If God told you kill someone, (And you are 100% it’s God). Would you kill that person? Why or Why Not?”

    The ten commandments include “Thou shalt not kill”, and this is one of the paradoxes I see in the bible when God kills quite a few people (Saddam and Gamora, the flood during the time of Noah, mass slaughters of those not in the Hebrew “chosen tribes”, etc.). The paradox is almost laughable if it wasn’t so horrific. I would not kill anyone as it would violate my principle of the golden rule. If I was fighting in self-defense to save my own life or my family’s I may, but I would do everything in my power to avoid bloodshed. The flavor or “God” in the new Testament (i.e. Jesus) is very unlike that of the Old. Jesus teaches his followers to “turn the other cheek”, “love thy neighbor”, and “only those that have not sinned should cast the first stone”, etc. The old testament is filled with the murder of gays, flooding the entire Earth due to God’s mistakes, and the repression and death of many women.

    “3. Who created God;”

    Yes as I’ve mentioned a few times in response to your posts, I see the idea of an anthropomorphic god and an anthropocentric existence as incredibly selfish and ridiculous.

    “4. If you believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God; do you believe it to be inerrant or infallible?”

    Yes and there are those that are literalistic and those that are metaphoric when it comes to that book. Those that are literalistic can’t reconcile their beliefs with reason that’s for sure.

    “The idea that the Bible is inerrant is absurd. God might be able to inspire man to write. But if God grants man free will, then God cannot control the words that are written. And if the writer, inspired though he might be, is exercising free will, then the saying “To err is human” reminds of how unlikely it could be that the Bible would be inerrant.”

    The free will issue is one of the largest straws that broke the camel’s back when it came to me hopping the Christian religious fence. We are supposed to have free will and yet God is supposed to know the future as a product of his omniscience? It’s crazy. I like your point regarding the writing of the bible falling under the umbrella of free will. I never considered that specifically as I just looked at the free will contradiction in a general sense. That specific point is especially important. One of the Christian comebacks that probably deterred me from looking at the writing from a free will stance, is when they say that these writings were written by God with man as the vehicle for the writings. In other words, man has free will but when it came to WHAT was written, man was told exactly what to write word-for-word. Some Christians believe this and some think that it is the general principles that are God-given as opposed to the exact word-for-word writing.

    “5. In the Bible their are stories of God telling the Israelites to kill innocent women & children and children being punished for the sins of their father. Is this morally right or morally justifiable?
    It did occur to me that one possible explanation was that man created God, and as human culture evolved, so did the kind of God that man would create.”

    I thought the same thing. The bible was changing as culture was evolving illustrating how it is really a history book of culture rather than some divine text.

    “6. If God is perfect, how can something imperfect come out of something that is PERFECT? Did God make a mistake?”

    Yeah, the idea of a God that is all powerful, that also created the devil and all evil in the world clearly illustrates that God would have made quite a few mistakes. The idea that God created Lucifer, later to become Satan, was another tipping point on my Christian religious fence. If God designed the laws of physics, then he designed a causal chain, which not only negate free will but determine who will go to heaven and hell, etc. There’s far too many issues to keep count. The list of contradictions and paradoxes is too large to keep track of.

    “7. If a Christian goes into a forest and gets lost. And he prays to God to be saved and not die. Does a God still here him? How do know? And, how can you be sure?”

    I think that prayer can be powerful but not for the reasons that Christians believe. I believe that positive thinking and meditation helps to clear the mind, relieve stress and this may aid in establishing a self-fulfilling prophecy (and a positive power of suggestion). Group prayer, I believe, may also help due to effects of collective conscious thought, however the evidence for this is minimal at best. Either way, I believe that prayer has benefits, but not due to some “God”.

    “8. If you were to die, and when you go before God; it’s some other God you have never seen or heard of nor worshiped? What would you do?”

    I have never seen a “God” anyways, so even back when I was a Christian, how would I know who or what I was worshipping other than the poor man-made descriptions given in the “Holy Bible”? This is a bogus question, but it is similar to what I’ve challenged Christians with (just to play their game). I asked them “what if you die and realize that you’ve been worshiping the “Devil” rather than “God”? The types of answers I got were, “well that would never happen”, or “I know I am worshiping God because the bible says so”….as if there’s never been a book made to deceive people before? Laughable.

    “9. What is something that would convince you that Christianity is wrong and that there is no God? (If your answer is NOTHING, than please explain WHY?)”

    I’ve always gotten the answer, “It has to be right, because the bible says so”, even thought the bible basically preaches Judaism starting in the old Testament.

    “10. This is a quote by the atheist Richard Dawkins…”We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go ONE god further.“-Richard Dawkins.”

    Yeah when I realized that the bible wasn’t accessible to billions of people in the world and that there were so many religions out there that led to more peaceful societies or generally loving people, I realized that the claim that only Christians go to heaven was at the least NOT FAIR and malevolent. Many religions imply that if you don’t follow their teachings and choose a different religion instead, that you will suffer for it, and if you follow it, you will be rewarded. What a brilliant meme. It’s no wonder it had such great fidelity, longevity, and fecundity. People had written scripture which was said to be Gospel, they were told to preach it and believe it or be damned. Any idiot living long ago would have been stupid NOT to follow along (especially when there were threatening dominator societies forcing this religion onto others by use of the sword.

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  3. Im glad you took the time to answer them

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