A Message from my Christian Friend, Jim…a former Atheist

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Jim is a member of my former Christian denomination, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.   For many years prior to being a Christian he was an atheist.  We have spoken several times since my deconversion from Christianity.  He recently left me this message:

Dear Gary,

I am just peeking in on your blog and am surprised that you are still fervently evangelizing for your new faith. I’m not judging you with my statement, but acknowledging understanding. I was an atheist for 18 years and I get why you are pounding the drums so hard. Evangelical atheism is all about self assurance. You want to answer the question of whether or not you have done the right thing in turning your back against God. Blogging concerning your lack of faith in Jesus is cathartic. I certainly had moments of exhilaration when I deconverted Christians who bothered to listen to the evil pouring out of my mouth.

Gary, I am thankful that our Lord brings with Him the forgiveness of sins. He even forgave a blasphemer such as I was.

I am still praying for you.
Jim

My response:

Hi Jim. Nice to hear from you and I very much appreciate your concern for my well-being.

Hey. I have a suggestion: How about you and I have a discussion, here on my blog, about what convinced you that atheism is false and that Christianity is the truth. Maybe you can convince me, and maybe other skeptics, that we have made a mistake. I am always willing to keep an open mind. If you are interested, I will start a new post in which you and I can carry on a conversation. All I ask is this: I won’t ask you to read any books and I ask that you not ask me to read any books. Let’s discuss the evidence to answer this question:

“Is there sufficient evidence for the average, educated person who has never heard of Christianity (or knows very little about it) to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was God, the Creator of the Universe.”
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99 thoughts on “A Message from my Christian Friend, Jim…a former Atheist

  1. We only know today that fairies, flying witches, goblins, warlocks, and the like are not real because science, reason, and the Enlightenment have dispelled our collective belief in these superstitions. If you were living during the Middle Ages and your neighbor claimed that he saw spirits/witches/evil fairies, etc. taking your property there would be many people in the community who might well believe him.

    I hope for the day when all societies will recognize that just as fairies, witches, goblins, and warlocks are not real…devils, holy spirits, and gods are not real. They are imaginary beings who do not exist. They cannot hurt us. We can stop being afraid of them.

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  2. Science:

    http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/something-to-think-about-light-and-darkness/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=sm&utm_content=post&utm_campaign=mayoclinic&geo=national&placementsite=enterprise&mc_id=us&cauid=100502&linkId=29376532

    The Bible bears this out: “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!” Matthew 6:22-23

    It is impossible to believe in evolution. The “Creator God is, he (she/they/or it) is unwilling or incapable of identifying himself”? Absurd! God the Creator is unwilling or incapable of getting a Book written to explain everything He wants us to know? Absurd again!

    The Creator God would have absolutely no problem rising from the dead or communicating to us.

    “Pretty certain it's not true” is an extremely weak belief.

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  3. No, I have not. I am more trusting of science because I know that the scientist who has published a new discovery in a respected scientific journal has been rigorously and thoroughly vetted by his peers. That is one of the great features of science. There are no infallible prophets speaking infallible truths. Nothing is infallible or inerrant. Every new “discovery” is thoroughly scrutinized and tested for accuracy. If even a small flaw is found in the scientist's methodology, his findings are mercilessly criticized.

    Not so with religion. If a prophet claims to speak for God, and is believed, his word is taken as indisputable. A guy named Ezekiel claims he speaks for God and his words are treated as inerrant. I guy named Paul claims he speaks for God and his words are deemed inerrant. A man named Jesus claims he is the Son of God, and his (alleged) words are deemed inerrant.

    Not so with science. Every claim is scrutinized for accuracy. If the claim is found to have flaws, it is rejected. There are no sacred cows.

    So yes, I believe that neutrons and protons exist without ever having seen one with my own two eyes. I believe they exist because I trust the scientific method; I trust the scientific community. I am not a right-wing conspiracy theorist who believes that all scientists are out to discredit Christianity and God. Science and scientists have a proven track record.

    If Christianity had a similar track record and a similar rigorous, verifiable system for investigating truth claims, and, a history of admitting its mistakes and correcting its errors, then I would consider accepting Christianity's truth claims without so much hesitation and without being so demanding.

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  4. Ok. Let's try this: What do you believe is the single most convincing piece of evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus that a Christian can present to a non-believer who knows very little about Christianity?

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  5. I very much appreciate Jim taking time out of his busy day to discuss these issues with me. I sincerely believe that he genuinely cares about my well-being.

    However, he has asserted claims as “facts” without providing any evidence to substantiate those claims as facts. And he has admitted that the reason for his “conversion” from atheism to Christianity was not evidence but his feeling that his life had no meaning: his feelings, his emotions.

    This is what I believe is the most important piece of evidence for most Christians regarding the validity of their Christian Faith: their own personal, subjective, internal, feelings, emotions, and perceptions. They “know” that their Christian belief system is true because their feelings and emotions tell them so.

    But dear Christians, research demonstrates that our feelings and emotions are not a good basis for making judgments on reality. Our emotions and feelings can deceive us. What we WANT to be true is often not true.

    That is why I prefer science and reason. They have a much better track record of reliability and accuracy than subjective feelings and emotions.

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  6. Gary,

    You are right, I do care about your well-being. More than that I don't want to see you perish eternally. Indeed, Jesus doesn't want you to perish, according to the Scriptures.

    I want to make a correction to your above statement. I did not state that I converted from atheism over a “feeling that [my] life had no meaning.” I was very clear (and will repeat my statement now) that my conversion occurred by the work of the Holy Spirit through hearing His Word. I know the truth of the Scriptures NOT because of what my feelings or emotions tell me, but because God has revealed Himself to me through His Holy Word.

    So, yes, what you find in my assertions are boldness. You hear the authority of God's Word. I do not need to substantiate the claims of the Bible with what you will take as evidence, or as facts, because the truth claims of the Scriptures stand on their own. Indeed, belief in the truth of God's Word is a binary operation, you either do or you don't. You cannot come to believe the Word of God is true by your own strength and reason. You must receive the truth of God's Word through faith, it is a revelation. I know that fact will not be acceptable to you.

    I have to leave you with the last word due to my schedule.

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  7. Thank you again, Jim, for your time and concern.

    Dear Readers,

    My friend Jim is obviously very sincere in his belief that the words in the Bible have supernatural (magical) powers and it is these supernaturally powered words which converted him and continue to provide, for him, all the evidence needed to prove that the claims of Christianity are true.

    But let's look at his statement and substitute a few words:

    “So, yes, what you find in my assertions are boldness. You hear the authority of Allah's Word. I do not need to substantiate the claims of the Koran with what you will take as evidence, or as facts, because the truth claims of the Holy Koran stand on their own. Indeed, belief in the truth of Allah's Word is a binary operation, you either do or you don't. You cannot come to believe the Word of Allah is true by your own strength and reason. You must receive the truth of Allah's Word through faith, it is a revelation. I know that fact will not be acceptable to you.”

    And we could substitute “the Book of Mormon” or the “Hindu Scriptures” and get the same result. If internal, subjective feelings of certitude are good enough for Jim, that is fine. But feelings of certitude should not be sufficient evidence to allow an ancient, Bronze Age belief system to have so much influence in our culture and its laws. A belief system based on subjective feelings should be a personal matter, not imposed on others. And bottom line, it is a feeling-based belief system based ultimately on fear. You read it in Jim's statement above: Believe my feelings-based beliefs or you will be forever tortured in my God's torture chamber.

    What a HORRIBLE thing to teach children. What a horrific fear to instill into innocent little minds. THIS is why conservative/traditional Christianity must be exposed, opposed, and spoken out against: to save future generations from the fear of invisible, imaginary ghosts, devils, and vindictive gods.

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  8. Jim says that it was not a state of loneliness, depression, or a lack of meaning or fulfillment in his life that caused him to turn to Christianity; it was the supernatural power of the words in the Bible that brought him to Christianity, which he believes are the words of the Creator God of the universe. Words brought Jim to Christianity.

    Magical words.

    Let's look at this claim. Is there any evidence that the words in the Bible have magical, supernatural powers? Well, Jim and other Christians will claim that the conversions of millions of “sinners” to Christianity can be attributed to the supernatural powers of the Words of God found in the Bible. But I question this claim, and here is why: If the words in the Bible have magical powers, such tremendous magical powers that they turn God-hating sinners into God-loving Christian saints, then why don't those magical words tell every Christian the same damn message???

    These “powerful” magical words tell some Christians that salvation occurs when you take your infant to be baptized in the local church baptismal font. These powerful, magical words tell other Christians that baptized infants are only getting wet, not saved, and that salvation only occurs when an adult or older child prays a prayer requesting that God comes into his or her “heart” to be their eternal Lord and Savior. These magical words tell some Christians that eternal salvation occurs by faith alone while these magical words tell other Christians that salvation comes by a combination of faith and charitable/good deeds. And the doctrine of Predestination; the purpose of the Lord's Supper, etc., etc.. For two thousands years Christian “experts” on these magical words have fought bitter verbal debates and worse, fought brutal, bloody wars over the meanings of these magical words, and they STILL have not reached an agreement on what these words really mean to say!

    What is up with these “powerful” magical words when Christian experts can't even get their interpretation straight!!!

    No, folks. Jim is confusing the power of his emotions with the power of magical words. The evidence is obvious that the only power that the words in the Christian holy book, the Bible, possess are in the imagination of the followers of this ancient religious document. And each sect/denomination and sometimes each individual Christian interprets these “magical” words as best suits him or her.

    There is no such thing as magic, folks. It is an ancient folktale, invented by ancient, uneducated, very superstitious, first century peasants. Modern, educated people should NOT believe in magical words, spells, and other hocus pocus.

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  9. Gary, Gary, Gary –

    You had a perfect chance to put your wares on display to others besides your groupies. I had let a number of people I know that you were willing to have a real debate at long last, with someone other than yourself.

    Perhaps it was the pressure knowing Jim would put you on the spot – no denying that – I don't quite how your thinking process works, but that aside, you immediately began issuing ground rules that, for the most part, guaranteed that you could crow and claim yet another scalp. Even Hillary (or Tim Kaine!) would be embarrassed (and jealous) of the parameters you arbitrarily imposed on a simple debate.

    Rhetorical? Oh, that much you got with a flourish. But is was clear to those of us tuning in again that you were responding to the dialectic as does a vampire to a Cross in a Grade B movie. Or, in other words, withdrawing and retreating, thanking Jim for his kindness as you took over the debate, and then proceeded to have a “hypothetical” debate with yourself (of which this entire site consists) yet again to somehow prove to yourself you have an argument, and then magnanimously declare yourself the overwhelming victor. Were it not so terribly sad to see this coming from what should be a highly developed human brain, it would be hilarious!

    One note: you always like to clarify that you are “agnostic (unknowing; without knowledge), and not atheist. Then in the last paragraph of your clinching, victorious closing statement, you prove you are both.

    Sad, my friend. If that's the best you can do to defend you “new” faith – sad. Sounded like the same old “Fundamentalistic Gary” as always, merely redefining and transferring the Formal and Material Principle to yourself.

    Congratulations on your hard won victory.

    Pax – pb

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  10. I understand your feelings, Pastor B. I am not offended by your comment in the slightest. In fact, it makes me sad to read it; not sad for me, but sad for you and other good people like you who just cannot see that they have been duped by an ancient superstitious cult.

    You see me as a wayward, uninformed former member of your version of Christianity who you believe was never sufficiently educated in the teachings of Lutheranism. You see me as an uniformed know-it-all who has left the “fold” due to MY misunderstanding of the truth. And now, in my uninformed ignorance, I am casting outrageous, blasphemous, aspersions on your cherished belief system.

    Yet, like Vicar Jim above, you have presented no evidence other than subjective claims of “faith” and the subjective assertions of the supernatural powers of the words written in an ancient middle-eastern holy book.

    You complain that I refuse to honestly and fairly discuss the evidence; that I have set up unfair parameters for the discussion. Yet the only parameter I have set is that we stick to evidence, not SUBJECTIVE philosophical theory! Christians do not insist on using philosophical theory to investigate other supernatural claims…other than their own!

    And this proves a point I have mentioned before: In our modern, highly educated world, Religion (in particular, traditional Christianity) cannot survive without Philosophy and Philosophy cannot survive without Religion. The idea that biology and the scientific method can explain not only the process of natural selection and the evolution of animal species and plants, but, can explain all animal (including human) behavior is absolutely terrifying to both Religion and Philosophy. Why? Because the defenders of these two traditions know that if too large a segment of the population comes to buy the scientific argument that biology explains ALL aspects of life…there is no longer a need for either of these fields of thought.

    This discussion has proven one thing: Christians cannot defend the “evidence” for their belief system without appealing to subjective philosophical theories. And why? Answer: On its own, their evidence is very, very, very poor.

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  11. Dear Readers,

    If the loving, compassionate Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels truly is the all-powerful, all-knowing Creator and Ruler of the universe, do you really believe that he would make finding the truth so very, very difficult? Would Jesus have established a truth that could only be understood with a well-versed knowledge of the field of Philosophy???

    Of course not.

    The Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels would have created a system of truth that all persons, regardless of education level, could understand.

    Jesus did not set up the complicated, philosophically entangled “truth” that moderate Christians such as my former LCMS pastor Bombaro, Pastor B., and Vicar Jim today proclaim as the one and only truth in the world.

    It is spin, folks. It is the spin of intelligent, educated, well-meaning, moderate modern Christians who want to make their ancient holy book and science compatible, but who just can't let go of the last remnants of this ancient supernatural tall tale.

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  12. Gary,

    It is not the existence of Mohammed or Joseph Smith that has to be proven (neither of which I dispute), it is the truth of their claims, which have no supporting evidence other than their say-so. You might not find these claims as outlandish, but they are still supernatural claims.

    The claim I am referring to is the central claim of the resurrection of Jesus, upon which everything else depends. You say that all I have are 4 books in support of this claim. I say that is 4 more books than exist in support of the Muslim or Mormon claims. And, these 4 books are the best attested historical documents in antiquity.

    When I refer to “abundant evidence”, I am referring to some 15,000 existing manuscripts, the earliest copies of which dates to within about 150 years of the events they describe. Furthermore, there is external evidence for the authorship of these books being by eye-witnesses.

    You need to keep in mind that these authors do not just baldly state that Jesus appeared to them after his death, therefore he was raised from the dead. Rather, they provide factual details about the events that occurred. The only conclusion that reasonably fits these facts is that a resurrection occurred. These facts are not themselves supernatural – they can be investigated just as any other historical fact can. The conclusion drawn from the factual evidence is that the claimed supernatural event must have occurred.

    Then you have Paul's writings, which you dismiss because he is a “vision-prone Jewish rabbi”, which is a logical fallacy. Paul was a Pharisee, and a hater of Christians, and for that reason his testimony carries a fair amount of weight. That he suddenly switched from killing Christians to preaching the resurrection shows that he really believed that he had an encounter with the risen Jesus. And his letters also show that he had contact with Jesus' desciples and that they were also preaching the resurrection at that time. This is good evidence that the resurrection wasn't invented at some later date.

    All of this not even to mention the evidence that exists from the early church.

    Now, you say you aren't going to believe any of this unless Jesus shows up in your living room and levitates a lamp. Fine. But this is the kind of evidence you have to deal with. Saying that most NT scholars today don't think eye witnesses wrote these books isn't an argument. Why do they think that? What evidence supports that claim?

    Bottom line is that there is a lot of evidence in support of the Christian claim, and this evidence is not “silly”. There is far more evidence for it than for any other religious claim that I am aware of. It is unreasonable to dismiss this evidence with a wave of the hand. And you haven't answered my earlier question – what evidence supports your current belief?

    -K

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  13. Gary,

    Your words against Pastor B. ring hollow. I, for one, have made it abundantly clear that I would not engage you in a debate regarding evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, or in support of any other truth claim of the Bible, because you hold an incoherent view of what counts as evidence. Indeed, you the standard of evidence you require of the Christian to prove his assertions is a standard which you refuse to hold your own truth claims up to. When was the last time you saw, heard, or touched a boson particle? Are you going to deny the reality of subatomic particles until you can actually touch one?

    My point is it is a utter waste of time to engage men like you with evidence, because you simply will not believe the evidence. Jesus could appear directly in front of you and in your Thomas moment, rather than declare Him to be your Lord and God, you might just ask for proof that He isn't an accomplished magician!

    Faith comes through hearing the Word of God, Gary. You cannot by your own strength or reason come to believe in Christ Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Faith is a gift given by God, it is not your own doing or work, but it is His work in you. There's nothing wrong with examining evidence for the truth claims of the Scriptures, but you're not going to create faith by doing so. That is, even if we trotted out what you recognize as irrefutable evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, you would not be able to believe in its truth. If you want to know the resurrected Jesus, then read the Scriptures.

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  14. “And, these 4 books are the best attested historical documents in antiquity.”

    Just because there are millions of copies of “Alice in Wonderland” in existence, more than any other book in history, does not mean that rabbits really can talk or that the Queen of Hearts playing card can yell, “Off with their heads”!

    See my point?

    Without the original documents; without knowing the identity and biographies of the original authors; without knowing if the original authors claimed to be eyewitnesses and without the ability to be able to verify that they were eyewitnesses, etc., etc., the fact that we have thousands of COPIES of the four gospels is no better evidence of the veracity of the supernatural claims in the Bible than the veracity of the supernatural claims in the many copies of Lewis Carroll's children's book.

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  15. “When I refer to “abundant evidence”, I am referring to some 15,000 existing manuscripts, the earliest copies of which dates to within about 150 years of the events they describe.”

    Without the originals, you cannot claim that a 150 year old copy says exactly what the original author wrote down. For all we know, all current copies are based off of a copy of the original in which the copying scribe made significant changes from the original.

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  16. “You need to keep in mind that these authors do not just baldly state that Jesus appeared to them after his death, therefore he was raised from the dead. Rather, they provide factual details about the events that occurred.”

    You (and many other Christians) ASSUME that what the gospel authors wrote down in their books are historically accurate facts but you cannot prove this. For one thing, even some evangelical NT scholars believe that Matthew's claim that dead saints were shaken out of their graves on the day of the Resurrection to walk the streets of Jerusalem was not meant to be taken literally but is theological hyperbole. So what else in these stories is hyperbole; not meant to be taken literally??? Do you see my point?

    We have ZERO contemporaneous, non-Christian corroboration of ANY of the supernatural events described in the Gospels. Zero. No non-Christian source claims that dead people roamed the streets of Jerusalem one spring, Passover morning in the early 30's AD. No contemporary, non-Christian source recounts the claims of five hundred people at once seeing a dead guy. We only see these stories in four books, written decades later, in far away lands, most probably (according to NT scholars) by people who had never met Jesus of Nazareth.

    “The only conclusion that reasonably fits these facts is that a resurrection occurred. These facts are not themselves supernatural – they can be investigated just as any other historical fact can. The conclusion drawn from the factual evidence is that the claimed supernatural event must have occurred.”

    Maybe to you! Muslims, Jews, Hindus, atheists, agnostics and many other people believe that the early Christian belief in a bodily resurrection was due to some of Jesus' grieving friends and family having visions/dreams of Jesus in which he appears to them to comfort them…just as has allegedly occurred to thousands of other grieving family members of a recently deceased person.

    To say that a supernatural resurrection is the only plausible explanation for this ancient supernatural belief is blatantly biased and blatantly false.

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  17. “Then you have Paul's writings, which you dismiss because he is a “vision-prone Jewish rabbi”, which is a logical fallacy.”

    Most people do not have visions. The fact that Paul frequently claims he had visions makes him prone to visions. I do not dismiss his testimony outright due to his claim of visions but to most non-Christians it makes us wary of the veracity of his claims.

    “Paul was a Pharisee, and a hater of Christians, and for that reason his testimony carries a fair amount of weight.”

    I agree that his conversion is dramatic and that we should carefully examine his conversion. But unusual conversions do not prove that one's new belief system is the truth. There is a radical Muslim cleric in Israel today who was previously an ultra-orthodox Jewish rabbinical student. Strange conversions happen. History books are full of stories about human beings making some very strange life decisions.

    “That he suddenly switched from killing Christians to preaching the resurrection shows that he really believed that he had an encounter with the risen Jesus.”

    I do not doubt, nor do most skeptics doubt, that Paul sincerely believed that Jesus had in some fashion appeared to him.

    “And his letters also show that he had contact with Jesus' disciples and that they were also preaching the resurrection at that time.”

    That is what Paul claims, although the accounts of his visit with the disciples in the Book of Acts and the Epistle to the Galatians have some very significant discrepancies. I personally believe that Paul did meet with at least some of the disciples. What did they discuss? We don't know. Did they exchange “appearance” stories? Probably, but we don't know.

    But think about this: The only details we have about Paul's alleged experience with the resurrected Jesus is as a talking, bright light in the Book of Acts. Maybe that is all that the other disciples claim to have seen also: a bright light…in a vision. For all we know it was bright lights, in visions, similar to Paul's experience, that gave rise to the early Resurrection belief and not the detailed stories in the Gospels. It is entirely possible that the detailed Resurrection accounts in the Gospels are theological embellishments—they never happened.

    “This is good evidence that the resurrection wasn't invented at some later date.”

    I and most skeptics agree with Christians that the Resurrection belief arose very quickly after Jesus death. The question is: Based on what did this belief develop? Visions of bright lights? Sightings of “ghosts”? Or, a small group of people in the first century really did see a resurrected dead guy?

    Probability based on personal and cumulative human history points to the former rather than the latter being the truth.

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  18. “All of this not even to mention the evidence that exists from the early church.”

    Such as???

    Think about this: Not one single Christian author refers to passages from the four gospels by their traditional authorship until the Muratorian fragment and Irenaeus in the late second century! Not one Christian author says something like, “As we read in the Gospel of the Apostle John, 'and the Word became Flesh…' “. Nope, no Church Father does this until after Irenaeus.

    Papais, you say?

    Papias never indicates which “gospel” was written by John Mark. And his sources were not the Apostles but third and fourth hand sources. And Papias is infamous for some really wacky beliefs…yet Christians rest the majority of the evidence for the traditional authorship of the gospels on this one man living in Asia Minor who admits that he never met Jesus and never met any of the apostles.

    Conservative and evangelical Christian layperson can argue until they are hoarse that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels but the majority of experts, in this case NT scholars, do NOT believe that ANY of the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses.

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  19. “Now, you say you aren't going to believe any of this unless Jesus shows up in your living room and levitates a lamp. Fine. But this is the kind of evidence you have to deal with.”

    That is the kind of evidence that would get me to believe and return to Christianity, but I would be willing to admit that the supernatural claims of the Gospels are PLAUSIBLE if there were verifiable eyewitness testimony from multiple sources, including sources who were not Christian (and not just Paul). So far, no one has presented such evidence. All the evidence so far is hearsay, assumptions, and claims by non-eyewitnesses.

    “Saying that most NT scholars today don't think eye witnesses wrote these books isn't an argument. Why do they think that? What evidence supports that claim?”

    For all areas of my life and that of most educated people (and I will bet you) in which we ourselves are not experts, we accept the opinion of experts in the field. We drive over bridges because we trust bridge experts not because we ourselves have inspected every bridge we have driven over. We fly on airplanes because airplane experts have assured us they are safe, not because we have personally inspected the planes, and on and on.

    So I trust majority expert opinion. I trust majority expert opinion in all fields in which I personally am not an expert. I therefore accept majority expert opinion regarding the New Testament and early Christian history. And the majority of these experts do not believe that any of the four gospels were written by eye-witnesses.

    Conservative Christians can attempt to present other evidence that they believe proves otherwise, but the experts have spoken and I accept majority expert opinion.

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  20. “Bottom line is that there is a lot of evidence in support of the Christian claim, and this evidence is not “silly”. There is far more evidence for it than for any other religious claim that I am aware of.”

    Mormons have signed affidavits from thirteen known, confirmed-to-exist, persons living less than 200 years ago who swore that they saw the angel Moroni and/or the Golden Plates. Traditional Christianity has no affidavits and no verifiably confirmed eyewitnesses of any of its supernatural claims.

    If we just decided truth by the strength of alleged eye-witness testimony, Mormonism would win hands down.

    “It is unreasonable to dismiss this evidence with a wave of the hand.”

    I have spent the last two years evaluating the evidence. Hardly a “wave of the hand”.

    “And you haven't answered my earlier question – what evidence supports your current belief?”

    The massive quantity of evidence and the near unanimous scientific opinion of the veracity of Evolution supports my belief that human beings evolved from lower life forms, not that we were instantaneously created from dirt by a supernatural being.

    The excellent track record of the scientific method is evidence to me that the scientific method is the best measure of reality we currently have, not ancient writings by scientifically ignorant peoples living in the Bronze Age.

    The massive numbers of errors and contradictions in all holy books of all the major religions is evidence to me that religion and gods are creations of men, not the other way around.

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  21. Sadly, Jim, you have been deceived by an ancient cult to believe that its ancient holy book contains magical words; magical incantations with the power to change the thinking of human beings: mind/thought control.

    It isn't true, Jim. It isn't true.

    The Emperor really and truly has no clothes. There is no such thing as magical, invisible thread. There is no such thing as magical words. The Bible is an ancient book. That is all it is: a book. It nor the words inside its covers has any more magical power than does a copy of “Alice in Wonderland”.

    Step into the light of Reason and out of the darkness of Superstition, Jim. Free yourself from the fear of invisible devils and spirits.

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  22. Gary –

    (Part One_

    What Jim said! Very well, I might add! Abby (remember her?) did not believe you were opening up. I kept telling her it was an opportunity. You seemed amenable, maybe “this time” . . . But you proved her right. Not understanding what in hell you were doing, you hurt her way back badly, and you don't even know what a cad and jerk you were. She never told me, but I can read the clues occasionally. Badly. Sh will dismiss it, give me noise for saying so, but that's her way. She is one of those rare humans beings who lives by the Gospel of the Lord Christ, something you, Gary, have NEVER known or experienced. Now, the crap you have tried to feed me has been nothing short of abysmal. But after 30 years of wearing the weird collar, I have seen shyte you might not even believe! Next to what I have seen and endured, your cries for help only issue forth when no one pays attention to you No one does, do they Gary? Not the few groupies you have here, who would as likely believe you are of a superior race from the plant Uranus!

    Three times I persuaded a potential suicide to hand me the gun, and one of them had stuck it in my own forehead leaving the barrel mark that lasted for days – before placing it to their own temples. Next to that and entire families blowing up in divorce and/or infidelity, you and your brand of “a-theology” – are the smallest of potatoes. You are the product of being raised in a incredible warped version of Christianity (by your own admission), and through your years in ELCA (Lutheran in name only), and the LCMS, you were trying to ward off the demons of your youth (I know you don't believe in demons, but they know and believe in you!). To have tried to do so is very commendable; unfortunately – you were just transferring the fundamentalism of your youth first to ELCA, and then to the LCMS. It was here among us, the LCMS, despite our faults, you were among the Orthodox Faithful furthest from your fundamentalism for the fist time in your life.

    But thinking you could take in the wisdom of the ages and the fullness of Christ in short order, you instead brought your fundy pacifier and began to argue with everybody and anyone – something you are loathe to confess publicly. But the trolls went to their union, complaining that you were giving real trolls a bad name.

    So clenching your fundy (calvinist) pacifier between your teeth, you went looking for your salvation among the skeptics and the know-nothings (agnostics) and the know-everythings (atheists). You yourself admit you cannot admit which of the two you are. But you latched on to “Gary is no longer responsible or guilty for anything” grasping it almost harder that you did your fundamentalism, and that is saying something! But like a drunkard at an AA meeting with his flask in his coat pocket for bathroom breaks, you dragged your pacifier to unbelief.

    And how glorious it was at first. You experienced a self-induced feeling of euphoria in announcing yourself as your own savior! Now your fundamentalism could be jettisoned at long last, because you had freed yourself from the tentacles of “that god thing.” 'T'was a marvelous day, that day you first believed. Now you could shake off the dust of your fundamentalism for once and for all, and just be your self-worshiping self.

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  23. So how powerful are the supernatural (magical) powers of the words in the Bible? Let's see. How is it possible that “God” speaks these very same words to every Christian yet millions and millions of them “hear” what God is literally saying so very differently:

    Denomination name/Members(thousands)

    The Roman Catholic Church 68,202
    Southern Baptist Convention 16,136
    United Methodist Church, The 7,679
    Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The 6,157
    Church of God in Christ, The 5,499
    National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc 5,197
    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 4,274
    National Baptist Convention of America, Inc 3,500
    Assemblies of God 3,030
    Presbyterian Church (USA) 2,675
    African Methodist Episcopal Church 2,500
    National Missionary Baptist Convention of America 2,500
    Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), 2,278
    Episcopal Church 1,951
    Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc Churches of Christ 1,800
    Churches of Christ 1,639
    Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America 1,500
    African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church 1,400
    American Baptist Churches in the USA 1,308
    Jehovah's Witnesses Baptist Bible Fellowship International 1,184
    Church of God 1,074
    Christian Churches and Churches of Christ 1,071
    Seventh-day Adventist Church 1,060
    United Church of Christ 1,058
    TheProgressive National Baptist Convention, Inc 1,010

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  24. (Part Two)

    Except . . . you couldn't. You kept writing, on the surface, to convince yourself you were evangelizing your “new and improved fundaqmentalism. You were trying to convince yourself and the hole in your soul, that all was well. It wasn't and it is obvious in all you write.

    Tell yourself and your groupies different. Jim and I know better -we've both “been there, done that.” It didn't work, never has, as much as it does not work with you. It is painful to realize, and sooner or later you must face it – square off with the Lord and say the words:

    “Heavenly Father, I confess unto Thee that I have sinned against Thee in thought, word and deed, in what id know and do, and what I do not know and do. I have not loved You with my whole heart; I have not loved my neighbor as myself. I justly deserve Your temporal and eternal punnishment . . .”

    When that moment hits, when the aroma of the pig shyte finally hits and penetrates your nostrils (sooner or later) – get with either Jim or me. We both have an excellent line of credit from Calvary. We can take care of the fatted calf, the rings and robes, and the bath beforehand. We both know and loved that routine, which is never routine!

    You know the way home, Gary, when yo9ur are ready for the journey. We. among the many, will rejoice and make the preparations. Hit your knees – the map will pop up like a GPS screen.

    See you then . . .

    Pax in Christi
    pb
    koivwvia@hotmail.com

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  25. That was the BEST you could do?

    If you knew the definition of “Church, your would not have wasted your time with that list.

    But you have never known the meaning or definition of “the Church.

    Pax – pb

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  26. Your words are sincere and heartfelt, JB, but I believe in my very core that you are deceived; you are a member of an ancient cult. Yes, your supernatural superstitions have given hope to many who find themselves in a state of loneliness, illness, tragedy, and despair, but it has also caused countless millions of human beings great pain through its encouragement of sectarianism, discrimination, and persecution due to its perpetuation of the sense of “us” vs. “them”, the “righteous” vs. the “wicked”.

    Overall, I say your belief system is bad for humanity. I say that it is best for society as a whole for ALL superstitions, especially religious superstitions, to be exposed, debunked, and abandoned. I'm sorry that pains you but it is what I truly believe.

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  27. Gary –

    Knowing Abby as I do, I know what her response will be. She may decide to respond to you direct, perhaps not. But as Christ's love overflows to the nth degree, and He has loved all of us, she will mirror that, you can be sure. That's how she is.

    Myself, likewise. I allowed my enthusiasm at your possible return get the better of me this week, I fear. But my desire remains unchanged. I sincerely pray that when that moment comes, it will not be in time of pain and sorrow and grief. But I will always be but a few mouse clicks away, Gary, and ready at a moment's notice.

    Those are just words to you now, but there will be a day when the Spirit breaks through and ensnares whatever from hell that is within trying to ruin you, and give you wholeness in Christ – without that damnable fundamentalism from which you run. Gone forever. It will be a day of rejoicing, and you will finally know what we know . . .

    “The peace which passes all understanding.”

    Until that day, I remain yours
    In Pax Christi,
    Rev, Jeff Baxter
    pb

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  28. P.1

    Gary,

    You have referred to Christianity as an “ancient cult” several times. You have referred to Christians as those who live in fear and whom also fear devils and other spirits, because they are superstitious. The way you describe Christianity contradicts the very gospel of Jesus Christ. For example, I don't fear devils and evil spirits. I certainly have a healthy respect for God, but I don't hold an unpleasant view of God as being dangerous and out to get me. Rather, I see God through His Son, Jesus Christ, as one who wants to be with sinners. Being a sinner means He wants to be with me. He loves sinners, and so He loves me. In fact Gary, He loves you. Jesus came to the world to receive sinners, to forgive their sins, and to give them peace with God. Such good news isn't excessively credulous as superstitions are by definition. Indeed, the news that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, because He doesn't desire that anyone should perish, is completely justified. Take a look around you. It isn't at all hard to see the effects of sin in the world. Death, disease, pain, and so many other evils that befall us all are consequences of sin. They aren't natural. God sending His Son to the world in order to be our sacrifice for sins is incomprehensible to the human mind. However, we can at least connect the dots and see that in view of sin which infects us all, God Himself came and took all sin away. He did for us what we are incapable of doing for ourselves. Jesus going to the cross is wholly justified given the immensity of sin and evil. So, Gary, such good news is not superstition. It isn't something that causes unpleasant emotional distress in those who receive such good news.

    Of course, Christians aren't perfect. They're sinners like everyone else. There are even some who pretend to be Christians for whatever end they seek. There will always be charlatans out to make a dollar. There will always be the cult leaders seeking their own power over others. Indeed, you understand that, but you must think you've struck a golden place with your agnosticism. You would be deluded to think that atheism or agnosticism brings with it well being to human kind. Just look at your own comments… you have a pretty strong sectarian view of “us” versus “them.” Your world has been divided up into the “Rational” (with a capitol “T” no less) versus the “superstitious.”

    Christianity is “bad for humanity,” you say, and so you've divided up the world into the “bad” and the “good.” Yes, you likely will claim that you've found relief from despair in your agnosticism. Your wondrous brain power has lifted you up out of your ills of life that was created by “supernatural superstitions” which were holding you down and making life miserable. It sounds like you turned your back on God to solve deep seated emotional problems? I wonder, how long do you think agnosticism will give you peace? How long before you start dabbling in other religions, other “superstitions”, in order to quench that nagging in your heart telling you that you shall have no other Gods and that you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and body? I don't know… I fought the nagging of the Law written on my heart for 18 years. … (continued).

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  29. P.2 (continued from P.1)

    I wrestled against God's drawing me to Himself so that I could receive the forgiveness of sins. The entire time I struggled against God I did so in the name of “freedom” and “liberty.” I believed the lie that I would not be free if I were to repent of my sins. The idea that I wasn't a law to myself, a self-made individual, who created order in life and gave it meaning was appalling to me. Yeah, being the Nietschean ubermensch is really appealing. Look what it got Nietsche, his own rubber room. The man died in an asylum, suffering the effects of the sexually promiscuous life he lead. He was “free” all right.

    What Pr. Baxter has written is spot on. When you are ready to journey back home we will be ready to take you in as our brother and show you the love of Jesus. We want to rejoice with you in the forgiveness of our sins.

    Only he whom the Son sets free is free indeed!

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  30. Again, I appreciate your concern, Jim. However, your belief system can be summed up thus:

    A god who was perfect felt a need to create something. Was he lonely, bored? He created a universe knowing full well that very shortly after creating it he would curse it and allow horrific, massive suffering for thousands of years.

    And why did he curse it? He cursed it because two of us were tricked by a talking snake to eat some of this god's forbidden fruit.

    Really???

    Thousands of years later, after millions of fellow humans have experienced massive suffering on earth, your god decides to send himself, in the form of his son, to redeem the earth, from the anger of…himself. He allows himself to be nailed to a tree to atone for the sin of ancient ancestor forbidden-fruit-eating.

    Your loving Savior Jesus offers eternal salvation to all who will submit to him and do as he says, including submitting to control over what they think. He demands absolute control, including mind control. And the consequences of refusing to submit to total domination and mind control: “unspeakable” eternal torture of some fashion.

    It's a sick belief system, guys. It is a cult. You have provided no evidence of its reality other than your own subjective feelings and perceptions and your belief in the magical words in a magical book.

    Magic is not real.

    Traditional Christianity is a cult. I am trying to help you get out of this cult.

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  31. Vicar Pierce – Jim –

    Having been there and done that as have you, I know you have earned that title.

    It would be an interesting thing if Gary took a sabbatical from his practice, and took 18 months of classes at the Fort. If he intends to be actively critical as he states, it would seem rational that he would take an objective view, and learn and understand that which he so cavalierly trashes.

    My guess is he knows his lack of objectivity, and the blow to his ego that finding out most of what he spouts is twaddle, he dassn't (Fr. Fritz Eckhardt's term) dare expose his psyche to such trauma.

    That aside, I pray for you a blessed, learning vicarage, that exposes you to the tremendous heartache out there, as well as the indescribable joy when that “Feller from Nazareth” applies the Word and the Mysteries to those hurting souls. And likewise, that you have a profitable 4th year or more back at the Fort. Those were heady days for me – you never forget them, or the friends you make among the brethren. The camaraderie is phenomenal! Let Gary see the limited, shallow view of the he has of the Faith – it his own view he is always criticizing, anyway! Ah, the irony . . .

    Last, but not least – many thanks for the kudos. Know I appreciate your well-worded posts as well as your tenacity. And let us both lift our prayers to the Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith, that He might crash Gary's current party, and bring the Ole Son home. It'll be a real Luke 15:7 moment, eh?

    Pax Tecum always. May the Lord bless and keep you this day and always –

    In His + Name –
    Jeff Baxter

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  32. Dear Readers:

    So who is right? These two Lutheran ministers or me, the untrained former Christian layperson? Well, that is something you will have to decide for yourself. I would encourage you to do this: Evaluate the evidence. One can never be 100% certain of anything, but you have a brain, use it to make a decision based on probability. That is how we make all our decisions in life. Is there enough evidence for the Christian supernatural claims to believe that they PROBABLY happened? If so, believe it. But if you find that there is insufficient evidence to believe that these never-heard-of-before-or-since events PROBABLY happened, don't believe them simply out of fear. That is what many conservative and moderate Christians want you to do. They want to present just enough evidence (four anonymous books and the testimony of one rabbi who says he saw a vision of a talking bright light on a desert highway) and then threaten you that if you don't believe it, TERRIBLE things are going to happen to you…such as being tortured, in some fashion, forever, in a dark pit.

    The thing you have to remember, Reader, is that Christianity is not the only religion telling you, “Believe what we say or suffer the eternal consequences!”. There are many exclusivist religions on earth with many millions of followers, some of whom are just as educated and just as well-read as our two Lutheran ministers. Yet these very educated, very-well read “experts” of other exclusivist religions regarding the supernatural and theology come to very, very different conclusions than our two Lutheran pastors. And there are very well-read, very educated Roman Catholics, Baptist, and Presbyterians who read the same holy book as our two Lutherans and come to very different understandings of the same holy book!

    It's all about evidence, folks. Do Christians have EVIDENCE. Not feelings. Not emotions. Not perceptions. Not opinions. Not alleged magical words. Evidence. Evidence. Evidence.

    Demand evidence from Christians. Don't fall for their appeals to emotions or to fear. Such tactics are the tactics of cults.

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  33. K:

    I want to thank you for presenting evidence, not feelings, opinions, and attempts at fear-mongering. The truth or fiction of the Resurrection of Jesus should be decided on the evidence, and nothing else.

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  34. Thanks Gary, I was trying to stick with your proposal to talk about the evidence. Due to work I haven't had time to comment further as of yet.

    -K

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  35. Dear Gary, I thought I should jump in here for a bit after I found out what was transpiring and that my name had come up. I want to tell you that I hold absolutely no ill will towards you. None whatsoever. Thank you though for your apology. I thought we had some good conversations back then. And I thoroughly did enjoy them.

    Of course, I have been very sad for you and your family ever since you made your decision to leave Christianity. I'm sorry that you seek the kind of proofs that you seem to need in order to believe in Christ Jesus. It is something I will never understand.

    You were always very intense I thought. When you were an LCMSer you communicated as though you had found the best thing since sliced bread. You really had, but then something came in and interrupted that and took you away. And now you are as intense in your new direction. When you believe something you hold to it very deeply. I respect that very much. I just wish you would be able to have that kind of esteem for Jesus again. He really can be satisfied with very little. He loves you so deeply. With all of His being. He only asks any of us to be humble enough to recognize that we need Him. He only asks us to believe in Him. He only asks us to take what He offers to completely and freely give us. Himself. I will leave off the baptism part because you are already baptized.

    I so appreciate the words that Vicar Jim Pierce and Pastor Baxter have given you. I appreciate hearing the warmth and love that they have for you. It is genuine, I can tell. I also care for you as I did in the past. I, together with them, am hoping and praying for your return. I know that you can't absorb this into your being right now. But we are all hoping and praying that you might be able to see and hear from the God who loves you even if it takes you a good long while yet.

    I wish God's blessings for you and your family. All good gifts come from Him even if we don't recognize that fact. Take care of yourself. Maybe someday I will hear some very good news about you.

    God really does love you, Gary.

    Peace in Christ,
    Abby

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  36. Pardon me for the thread necromancy, but I just found this and wanted to make a couple of comments.

    First: Abby wrote: “I so appreciate the words that Vicar Jim Pierce and Pastor Baxter have given you. I appreciate hearing the warmth and love that they have for you. It is genuine, I can tell.”

    Now, I don’t know Pierce or Baxter personally, so all I have to go on regarding their attitudes is the words that they’ve written here for everyone to read. When I read those words, though, I definitely don’t hear any warmth or love. I hear sneering arrogance and pride dripping from every sentence. I hear an intense contempt for anyone who dares to question their beliefs. I see ugliness of the heart that makes me grateful that I don’t have to associate with such people. If you DO see love in their writings here, Abby, then I have to wonder if Christians really understand what love is. (I also note that Mr. Baxter, despite the high word count of his posts, achieved nothing but criticizing Gary’s attitude and threatening him. Tsk. I’d expect better of someone with a college education, Mr. Baxter.)

    Second, Mr. Pierce wrote: “you hold an incoherent view of what counts as evidence. Indeed, you the standard of evidence you require of the Christian to prove his assertions is a standard which you refuse to hold your own truth claims up to. When was the last time you saw, heard, or touched a boson particle? Are you going to deny the reality of subatomic particles until you can actually touch one?”

    A statement of such wrongness could only come from a place of deep dishonesty or even deeper ignorance. As I started to write this paragraph, I intended to take the charitable interpretation, but now I find that I’m not sure which one that would be. To make such a statement from honest ignorance would require a truly staggering lack of knowledge. For example, I would not expect a lay person to know that handheld neutron detectors are available, allowing any interested party to verify the existence and behavior of neutron radiation, nor would I expect them to understand and grasp the implications of Rutherford’s alpha particle scatter experiment–in other words, much of the *experimental evidence* for atomic theory could be lacking from Mr. Pierce’s mind through perfectly ordinary ignorance, such as might come from not paying attention in high school science classes.

    However, I would think that SURELY even someone with such a pitiable but plausible level of ignorance would be aware that such things as nuclear reactors and nuclear bombs exist, and work as expected–that is, as our understanding of subatomic particles predicts. To attribute Mr. Pierce’s comments about subatomic particles to honest ignorance would require implying such a *very large* degree of ignorance on his part as to be quite insulting.

    The alternative, of course, would be to assume that Mr. Pierce knows perfectly well that the existence and nature of subatomic particles can be determined through fairly simple experiments at the high school level, and is blatantly denying that fact. Such a move would be grossly dishonest and . . . well, I would say “unbecoming of a Christian” but sadly, it’s exactly the sort of thing I’ve come to expect.

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