If You Redefine Christianity, it’s Ridiculous

redefineIn my time discussing apologetics, I’ve encountered two types of atheists:

1. Those who don’t, at the end of the day, believe religious claims, but consider theism a respectable position worthy of serious consideration.

2. Those who know almost nothing about theism outside of wild distortions and straw men.

One such distortion, that comes up semi-regularly, is the patently false claim that Christianity holds that “God sacrificed himself to himself”. Usually, it is followed with intimations that God threatens people with Hell, as well as the insistence that this is the basis of Christianity.

With all due respect to those who believe such claims, this is borne of a deep ignorance of the facts.

Personally, I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with being ignorant, so long as one is willing to learn. Its entirely possible that the second sort of atheist could become the first sort simply by availing his or her self of the writings of actual theologians.

Those that do will find that, according to Christian theology, Christ was indeed a sacrifice, but not remotely “to himself”. That is, he was not a ritual sacrifice, but rather a sacrifice in the same sense that a soldier might sacrifice his life in battle.

Such a person would not be sacrificing “to” something, but rather “for” something (such as freedom or some other cause).

Christ, according to Christians, sacrificed himself to bridge the infinite gap between a perfect God and a finite, fallible species. This wasn’t remotely because God, personally, wanted a sacrifice, it was because (among other things) the distance was so great.

Bridging such a gap, and forgiving great wrongs, is always extraordinarily painful. It is always an act of sacrifice.

It is also well within mainline Christian teachings that Christ died not merely to suffer for us, but to suffer with us. That is part of bridging the gap in any relationship, after all. I’ve even read essays from black Christians who claim that they love Christ not so much because he died for them, but because he was, in effect, lynched. He knew what it was like to suffer under an unjust socio-political system.

Much, much more could be said, but it already seems obvious enough that the common internet meme is far too glib.

It is less so, however, than the even more common claim about threats of Hell. I can’t imagine that the idea that Christianity is a religion of forgiveness is an obscure fact. Yet I run across people who confidently claim that the threat of Hell is the motivation for good behavior to be found in Christianity.

But, as I’ve already written about the actual motivator, I’ll simply respond by wondering how someone who doesn’t seem even to know that Christianity offers forgiveness can claim to know anything at all substantial about the religion, let alone seen through it.

These kinds of claims are no part of what Christian theologians have claimed. Much less are they the basis of the religion. One can believe, or disbelieve. But, what one can’t do, if one is to be rational, is claim that these silly straw men have anything to do with Christianity.

47 responses to “If You Redefine Christianity, it’s Ridiculous

  • paarsurrey

    Sorry; I cannot resist to state.

    But why blame Jesus’ religion and side with Paul for the creeds invented by Paul?

    Jesus never died on the Cross.
    Jesus never believed in Trinity.
    Jesus never claimed to be a literal and physical god.
    Jesus never claimed to be literal son of god.
    Jesus never resurrected from the literal and physical dead.
    Jesus never ascended to skies in literal and physical terms.

    One should note that Atheism is the fruit of Pauline Christianity in the sense that people in the West could not digest such mythical creed in the age of enlightenment.

    Atheism is just a reaction to such unreasonable and irrational notions. They cannot and should not and must not understand a man called Jesus being a god or son of god.

    To that extent the Atheists are right.

    It is time that Pauline Christianity should be reformed and Jesus actual teachings should be upheld.

    Please think about it.


    • Debilis

      Greetings to you!

      I definitely agree that I should be constantly thinking about my beliefs. And, yes, I’ve not provided evidence here that these claims of Christianity are true. I really just wanted to clarify what those claims were.

      To that end, I appreciate your willingness to address the actual Christianity here.

      I’m not convinced, however, that Christianity is the cause of atheism. I’ve heard this claim, but it seems more like speculation. I think it is closer to say that Christianity determined the particular form of atheism.

      I also tend to suspect that monotheism caused atheism in the sense that it showed polytheism to be untenable (but that’s a different subject).

      So, I’m off to take your advice, and think on those claims again. It’s definitely worth going over.

  • john zande

    Sorry Fide, but your particular brand of hermeneutics simply doesn’t fly… and don’t blame me for pointing out the absurdity of your worldview.

    God sacrificed himself,
    to himself,
    to save humanity from himself.

    Line 1: Acts 8:32 “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

    “The reason Jesus had to die for our sins was so that we could be forgiven and go to be with the Lord. Jesus is God in flesh (John 1:1 ,14; Col. 2:9). [Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry]

    Line 2: John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.”

    Line 3: Who’s going to dish out the punishment? Jesus/God, right?

    CARM’s president, Matt Slick, says: “That is why Jesus is God in flesh. He is both divine and human. He was made under the Law (Gal. 4:4), and He fulfilled it perfectly. Therefore, His sacrifice to God the Father on our behalf is of infinite value and is sufficient to cleanse all people from their sins and undo the offense to God.”


    God says that the person who sins must die (be punished). The wages of sin is death.

    A. Ezekiel 18:4, “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die.”
    B. Rom. 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    The sinner needs to escape the righteous judgment of God, or he will face damnation.

    A. Rom. 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”
    B. Matt. 25:46, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    Jesus is God in flesh.

    A. John 1:1, 14, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
    B. Col. 2:9, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.”

    Jesus became sin for us and bore our sins in His body on the cross–thus fulfilling the Law.

    A. 2 Cor. 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
    B. 1 Peter 2:24, “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”
    C. Rom. 8:3-4, “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

    As such, I fail to see how you’ve countered my observation:

    God sacrificed,
    to himself,
    to save humanity from himself

    Here, another way of looking at it:

    Knock, knock…
    -Who’s there?
    It’s Jesus, let me in…
    I have to save you
    -From what?
    From what I’m going to do to you if you don’t let me in!

    • Debilis

      Is this the admission that you don’t merely respond to the claims of the religious, but tell us what we believe?

      You’ve demanded that the Bible be taken literally, but none of the passages you quote literally say the things that you claim. Acts 8:32, for instance, only says that he was silent, led somewhere, and killed.

      So, you aren’t taking a literal interpretation. I agree with you there.

      And I didn’t remotely disagree with the claim that Jesus died “so that we can be forgiven”. That is precisely what I said.

      Where I disagreed was here:
      “Line 3: Who’s going to dish out the punishment? Jesus/God, right?”

      No. The punishment is separation from God. If one abandons God, then one will be separated, and that will become an unthinkably horrific experience (as God is the source of all that is good).

      This is pretty standard. One can’t simply assume the opposite.

      But, at this point, I shouldn’t need to tell you that CARM isn’t the authority on all things Christian.

      “God says that the person who sins must die (be punished).”
      Yes, God is the source of life, and abandoning him leads to death. This doesn’t require some special act on God’s part. It’s simply going to happen.

      So, all of the passages from the Bible you mention say exactly what I claimed. When you can quote a verse that teaches that people can go to Heaven without being in the presence of God, then you’ll have refuted by statements.

      Simply pointing out that, according to the Bible, rebellion against God means dealing with the consequences of not having God does not refute by position.

      I completely agree, however, that the Bible teaches the incarnation. I also agree that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

      But I don’t remotely see how that goes against anything I’ve said. Let me put it in these terms:

      In order to bridge the gap I mentioned, humans needed to “become the righteousness of God in Him”. Relationships with those who have wronged you require forgiveness. It is extraordinarily painful to really forgive deep hurt. Christ’s suffering is that pain.

      Or, to put it another way, there is an infinite metaphysical distance between God and humans. To cross that distance, Christ had to go into the alienation that is Hell in order to find people where we were.

      This is all perfectly consistent with what you’ve quoted.

      In contrast, you are simply demanding that God’s laws, and the consequences for them, are arbitrary. So long as one realizes that God, by any reasonable understanding, has good reasons for these things, this narrative of yours is simply wrong.

      Or, to put it even more simply: you’re simply reinterpreting Christianity. No one ever understood it this way until atheists went looking for something to mock (not even CARM, and that’s saying something).

      All well and good, but, if one wants to debate with the real Christianity that has actually been put forward by theologians, one needs to quit demanding that this straw man is the only way to read the Bible.

      • john zande

        “No. The punishment is separation from God.”

        -You see, Fide, your bible contradicts you. Punishment is dished out by your Jesus/God who has even prepared a place: Hell.

        • Revelation 21:8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

        • Matthew 25:46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

        • 2 Thessalonians 1:9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power

        • Matthew 13:50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

        • Mark 9:43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.

        • Jude 1:7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

        • Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

        • 2 Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment;

        • Revelation 20:13-14 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.

        • Matthew 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

        Fide, if your god is the aseitic creator of all things, then it created Hell, correct? It constructed the place of torture with the express purpose to *punish* people. Tell me, if Hell wasn’t built by your god, then who fashioned it? Who sends people there? If the only way to avoid Hell is to blindly worship your god (which is immoral in itself) then the central message of Christianity is saving souls from going to Hell… a place your god built and sends souls to who aren’t saved. If saving souls from going to Hell is not the central mission of your religion, then what is?

        So, nothing in your reply, I’m afraid to say, has actually made a single dent in my observation:

        God sacrificed,
        to himself,
        to save humanity from himself.

        Again, if this makes you uncomfortable, then I apologise. I can’t, however, be held accountable for pointing out the illogical nature of your worldview.

        “CARM isn’t the authority on all things Christian.”

        -Of course not, and neither are you. They practice their own brand of hermeneutics, as do you. CARM, though, is a professional organisation, and you are not. The question is: Why should I believe any of you?

        “Or, to put it even more simply: you’re simply reinterpreting Christianity. No one ever understood it this way until atheists went looking for something to mock”

        -Again, you’re simply confusing mockery with pointing out the absurdity of your worldview.

        “real Christianity”

        -Pray tell, what is *real* Christianity, Fide? There are over 40,000 sects, and I’m guessing you’re about to say *yours* is the one *True* interpretation.

        • Debilis

          Again, you’re simply demanding that passages be taken in the way you, personally, take them. This is not giving a reason. Let me run through the list:

          • Revelation 21:8 You’re insisting on a literal reading here, when a literal reading would contradict your view as well.

          • Matthew 25:46 This is completely in line with what I claimed. It doesn’t say anything about what the punishment is.

          • 2 Thessalonians 1:9 This basically says what I’ve claimed, that the punishment is separation from God.

          • Matthew 13:50 Here, you’re demanding that a parable be taken literally.

          • Mark 9:43 The same thing here. I’ve never encountered any theologian who insists that this is literal.

          • Jude 1:7 Here, we’re still demanding that the example be taken literally, rather than would be expected given the apocalyptic writing of the time.

          • Matthew 25:41 Again, you’re even demanding that parables be taken literally.

          • 2 Peter 2:4 This simply assumes that the “gloomy dungeon” isn’t separation from God. That is precisely what you should be proving.

          • Revelation 20:13-14 I’ve never encountered anyone, other than yourself, that seriously thinks it can be demanded, without question, that we take imagery in Revelation literally.

          • Matthew 10:28 How does this contradict anything I’ve said?

          This is simply more demanding that we read things as you, personally, chose to interpret them. You don’t seem to be aware at all of the genres of writing used by the books of the Bible.

          I’ve already answered your questions about Hell. It is separation from God. Thus, it was “made” by those who abandoned God.

          But I completely agree that I’m not the authority on all things Christian. As I happen to be the Christian in this conversation, however, we are discussing my understanding of it. And I am the authority on my beliefs.

          That being the case, we need to do more than simply demand that the Bible be read in a particular way. Rather, we need to address the beliefs that I’ve actually described.

          No one has actually done that, meaning that no one has actually pointed out any difficulty with the logic in anything I’ve claimed.

          You keep demanding the right to mock the Bible as you read it, but you haven’t actually addressed my beliefs. You’ve only insisted that I should read the Bible as you do.

          And that’s the end of it. Whether or not one can mock other understandings, no one has offered any refutation whatsoever of the one I’ve outlined.

        • john zande

          “This is simply more demanding that we read things as you, personally, chose to interpret them.”

          -BINGO! Isn’t this PRECISELY what you do, Debilis, with your personal brand of hermeneutics? I’m reading it as presented, as instructed. There are no disclaimers in the bible, no authors note as to how a reader should approach the text, correct? Just the opposite, in fact. The bible claims inerrancy, it claims to be 100% true and believable, so aren’t you doing it wrong, and I’m, in fact, doing it right?

          So, as it is written:

          God sacrificed himself,
          To himself,
          To save humanity from himself.

          It’s madness, I agree, but there it is: your entire worldview in ten words.

          Side question: doesn’t it bother you that the only source for your worldview is so devastatingly unreliable?

        • Debilis

          Yes, when we are discussing my beliefs, I insist that people discuss my beliefs. Perhaps you have thoroughly refuted some other version of Christianity. I’ll leave it for those who actually believe that version to respond. But, regarding my beliefs, you’ve said precisely nothing.

          Second, the mantra you keep repeating isn’t anywhere in the Bible. As such, your ‘literal or nothing’ approach should reject this.

          Third, don’t you think that writing should be read with awareness of the cultural context? The hermeneutics you seem to be promoting are “ask yourself what those words would mean in our culture”.

          But every culture realizes that forgiveness is costly and painful. Whether or not the means used make sense to you, simply demanding that forgiveness doesn’t involve sacrifice isn’t hermeneutics. It’s pure supposition.

          It’s equally supposition to demand, without giving a reason, that cultural context is irrelevant. So if you’d like to debate my beliefs, by all means, do so. But simply insisting, by fiat, that I ignore the experts in ancient literature in favor of literal reading gives me no reason whatsoever to take your view.

        • john zande

          So, you’re saying the bible is misleading and cannot be trusted as written.


        • Debilis

          I’ve always taken you for an intelligent person.
          But, if that is true, it can’t possibly be that you really think this is what I’m saying. And the only other reason you’d write that, so far as I can tell, is because you’re more interested in debate one-liners than seeking truth.

          So, no. I’ve not remotely said that, as should be obvious. I said that I consider the cultural context when I read a book. Do you have a reason why I shouldn’t do this?

          Unless you do, I’ve been given no reason whatsoever to change my view.

        • john zande

          I’m teasing, although that is the take-away message from how you’re explaining things. The Bible isn’t inerrant, it has to be interpreted, confusion is rife, you can’t believe a word as it is written… although it claims to be 100% true.

        • Debilis

          If this is your takeaway, you really need to reread what I’ve written. That is, it makes the same assumption I’ve been challenging from the beginning: that ‘literal’ and ‘can’t believe a word that is written’ are the only options.

          Really, I (literally) have no idea why anyone should believe that. I keep asking for a reason why understanding the cultural context isn’t permissible, and the only answer I get is ‘because then the subject would be confusing’.

          I’m not sure that’s true, but it doesn’t really matter. Sometimes figuring out what is true can be difficult. That doesn’t make anything less true.

          So, is your take on the Bible the only understanding that need be discussed? I’ve been given no reason whatsoever to think so, and I’ve never encountered an expert on ancient writing who would defend such an extreme position.

        • john zande

          The context is of course permissible in almost every story written by man, but as i’ve pointed out to you before, we are not talking about *any* story here. This is scripture which makes a tremendous “truth claim.” I’ve, in the past, listed the parts of the bible that corroborate this. We spoke about the Pentateuch clearly being presented as “fact,” when it was, in all truth, a geopolitical myth from beginning to end. Why you keep trying to lump the bible in with Moby Dick or The Hunt For Red October is beyond me.

          Anyway, not sure this is going anywhere if you’re just going to keep moving the goal posts.

        • Debilis

          It’s a bit disappointing to read the claim that I’m moving goal posts when I’ve been saying the same thing from the beginning:

          It isn’t merely fiction that requires understanding of cultural context.

          Really, I’m not aware of a single historian who would agree with you on this point-or a single reason to think that “well, fiction should be understood in context, but truth claims are made in the same format in every culture in all of history’.

          Is there any reason, whatsoever, to think that?

          Truth claims are not stories, but they can be encased in stories and other non-literal forms of communication, and not all stories are fiction in any case.

          Simply put, we’ve seen no reason whatsoever to insist that yours is an acceptable way, let alone the only acceptable way, of reading ancient books.

        • john zande

          I wouldn’t for one moment take the bible for its word. Many, many, many theists do, though.

          I understand you’re just trying to make sense of it (or find sense in it), but your particular interpretation will vary from Christian B’s interpretation, and that will vary to Christian C’s interpretation. I say moving the goal posts because in one instance you’ll say something must betaken as factual, like the resurrection event, then suddenly turn around and say the ATM fish is clearly not-factual, and was never meant to be read as such.

          I at least hope you can appreciate my position here.

        • Debilis

          Whether one takes the Bible ‘at its word’, the point is how we determine what it’s actually claiming.

          So, yes. Christians are going to disagree on specific points. That does nothing whatsoever to refute my position.

          Rather, it refutes those who want to judge every possible version of Christianity based on one particular understanding.

          Refuting an ultra-fundamentalist Christianity no more refutes me than refuting Alex Rosenberg refutes you (even though you’re both materialist atheists).

          This is how logic works. People have different takes on things. This isn’t particular to Christianity. It’s just as true of secular views.

          This is probably the most basic logical error in new atheist reasoning: the idea that dispensing with a single take on one religion is a reason to dismiss all religion, everywhere.

          So, attacking other views is no reason to dismiss mine. That isn’t shifting goal posts; it’s pointing out that my goal posts were never what the new atheists keep demanding that they are.

        • john zande

          Oh no, I dismiss every Abrahamic religion based on hard cold facts: the Pentateuch is myth. None of the characters or events detailed ever existed, and as that is the *only* source document for that particular Middle Eastern god, then that particular Middle Eastern god is also myth. There are, of course, a myriad of other patently valid and potent reasons, but facts are facts… they are enormously discourteous to people’s beliefs.

        • Debilis

          The facts, in this case, are going to be enormously discourteous to your belief that these things you’ve claimed are either:

          1. Relevant, or
          2. Established as facts in the first place.

          I’ve made a case for theism without any reference at all to this ‘sole source’. Again, you can’t simply dismiss all theism because you feel you have a reason to dismiss one form.

          But, as has been pointed out (many times) we don’t even have a reason to dismiss that one form. Rather, we’ve only looked at one interpretation of one form.

          We may have reasons to not be ultra-fundamentalists (though I’ve not even heard those here, but elsewhere). But this doesn’t remotely address my beliefs.

          Much less is any of this a reason to be a materialist atheist.

        • john zande

          1. Beyond relevant if you’re a Yahwehist, which you are.
          2. Overwhelmingly established as fact.

        • Debilis

          1. This isn’t remotely a reason to either read the Bible as you’ve insisted, or to be an atheist.

          2. Not remotely established as fact. You can claim this if you’d like, but it is simply not true. Even New Atheist favorite Bart Ehrman agrees with me on this.

        • john zande

          1. Have you another source for Yahwehism which i’m, perhaps, not aware of?

          2. I challenge you to present a single reputable biblical archaeologist (preferably an Israeli, with current tenure who’s actually led digs) who will state, in writing, “The Patriarchs and Moses were real historical characters, the Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt, there was an Exodus of 2 million people followed by a triumphant conquest of Canaan.”

        • Debilis

          1. I’m not sure why you’re suddenly changing the subject to ‘Yahweism’ (whatever that is). I’ve been discussing exegesis.

          Specifically, I was pointing out that we’ve seen no reason whatsoever to think that dismissing one form of one religion is a reason to dismiss all religion.

          But you seem to be doing exactly that: thinking that dismissing (not refuting, merely dismissing) a particular text in a larger collection is somehow a reason to be a materialist atheist.

          2. Why challenge me? You’ve made the claim, so defend it. Defend this idea that it is archeology pertinent to the conquest of Cannan that determines the truth of my beliefs.

          Please establish (overwhelmingly, as you put it) that other historical disciplines, periods, and (of course) the actual reasons I’ve actually given for what I believe are not significant factors.

          What is it, precisely, about my beliefs that you think this refutes?

          It can’t possibly be my rejection of materialism. Nor could it be my theism. It’s not even relevant to the New Testament records. Nor is it even a reason to think the one event you named didn’t happen.

          All it is is an unsupported assertion coupled with a conclusion (materialist atheism) that doesn’t follow from that assertion.

        • john zande

          We diverged onto Yahwehism (you are a Yahwehist) from your comment on May 6th, 2014 at 5:05 pm. You made 2 points, i countered them.

          I don’t have to establish anything but lay out the facts; and that is the overwhelming archaeological consensus. If those facts contradict your Yahwehist worldview then it is you who has to maneuver around them. I challenged you in full confidence that you wouldn’t be able to produce a single reputable archaeologist who’d support your position. Of course, if pressed you (like every other theist who thinks they can make a case here) will roll out the usual names: Bryant Wood, the Young Earth Creationist from the inerrantist Associates for Biblical Research, or Hoffmeier who is from the Trinity Evangelical School, or Kitchen, who is a hopeless evangelical Christian. These three a third-rate “archaeologists” and hardly “reputable;” their positions so skewed by their evangelical footing that no one but fellow evangelicals listen to anything they say… and for very good reason. They’re not serious archaeologists.

          Anyway, if we’ve strayed too far off topic then perhaps we should stop.

        • Debilis

          Could you please do me the favor of telling me what on Earth ‘Yahweism’ is? I hardly think it is likely that I practice a religion I’ve never heard of.

          It’s even less likely that I hold a belief which, apparently, requires affirmation of young Earth creationism. I’ve made it clear in the past that I reject that view.

          So, while I do want to mention that there is a world of difference between making unsupported claims and “laying down facts”, and that you were doing precisely the former, I’m much more interested in the fact that we’ve stumbled back into the topic.

          That is, you’re once again demanding that it is you, and not I, who is the authority on my beliefs. You tell me that my beliefs stand or fall with the literal facts regarding the conquest of Cannan. You even give every impression that any reason to think this event didn’t happen is a reason to be a materialist atheist.

          And, really, is that the big argument for atheism that I’ve been told will shake my foundations? “This cartoonish distortion of the Abrahamic religions is, well, cartoonish. So, all forms of them are wrong, and all forms of theism are wrong, and materialism is true” isn’t a good argument.

          Think that’s a strawman? Then give me a refutation that doesn’t depend on assuming that I believe things I don’t believe.

          Until you do that, it doesn’t matter how many times you demand that I believe in ‘Jahwehism’. This is still a failure to address my actual beliefs.

        • john zande

          You’re a Yahwehist: you prostrate yourself before a Middle Eastern god called Yahweh… or am I mistaken?

        • Debilis

          It’s my understanding that the proper name of my “middle eastern God” has been lost to history.

          It’s also my understanding that you believe in reading truth claims literally. And I don’t literally prostrate myself to anything. I’m walking at the moment. (Is a literal reading of that truth claim obtuse? You may want to think about that.)

          You’ve claimed some things about Yahwehism that don’t apply to me (belief in a young earth, that the historicity of the conquest of Cannan is absolutely vital, etc.). So whatever it is that you’ve been calling Yawehism clearly means more than simply believing one of the Abrahamic faiths.

          Last, why do you have so much trouble using the words that the English language has for things? The New Atheists in general seem to have a desperate need to redefine and reinvent terms. So far, there never been a non-rhetorical reason for that.

          Presumably, terms like “faithhead” and “Jeebus” are supposed to make it seem like it is theists, and not the people using them, that are the ignorant adolescents. Personally, it has the opposite effect on me.

          Now, I don’t claim to know why you are so insistent on using the wrong term here, but it only makes you sound less educated than I know you to be.

          And it makes the conversation difficult. Since I don’t know whether you are referring to the Abrihamic religions, or Christianity, or fundamentalist versions of these faiths, or your own cartoonish understanding of them, I don’t know whether you fail to realize what ‘Yahwehism’ entails, or whether you fail to realize that I don’t believe in it.

          If you’d been using correct English, this wouldn’t be a problem.

          So please quit with the standard New Atheist “I’ll define the theist’s position for her” shtick. If you can’t address the points I’ve actually made, there’s no point in attacking things I’ve never said and, often as not, don’t believe.

        • john zande

          Debilis, apologies if you misunderstood me, but do re-read what i wrote. I never called you a YEC, rather Bryant Wood, who is a Young Earth Creationist from the inerrantist Associates for Biblical Research. Wood, Hoffmeier and Kitchen are the three usual names the apologist trots out in a cheerless attempt to establish some fragile notion that there is still some life left in the claim that the events of the Pentateuch actually occurred… a debate that was closed decades ago, yet it is a position you seem to cling to, which indicates that either 1) you’ve not read much on this subject (which is fine, I understand your apologetic interests lie elsewhere), or 2) you’re in a state of maximal denial.

          I think Yahwehism is an immeasurably accurate term to stand for the monotheistic Abrahamic religions, as that is precisely the focal point of your worldview: Yhwh. You worship Yahweh, and “Yahweh Did It” is the answer the Yahwehist gives to the Big Questions.

          Considering you do worship this particular god, may I ask what you find particularly distasteful, or even offensive in the term?

          I think you should perhaps read your sentence carefully and see if you can identify the anomaly in it: “It’s also my understanding that you believe in reading truth claims literally.”

        • Debilis

          Okay, at least we have a definition here.

          The first thing to note is that none of the Abrahamic religions stand or fall with the historicity of the invasion of Cannan. I could get into the theology of that, but common sense should tell you the same: if Mohammed really did get a revelation from Gabriel, or Jesus really was resurrected, saying ‘the Cannan invasion was a myth’ doesn’t do much.

          So, while I’m not convinced of your conclusion (and I’ve read more than you seem to think), I mostly don’t think it is relevant.

          More relevant is the fact that you’re still doing the “name and define my position” shtick. The tetragammaton is indeed mentioned in the Old Testament, but the grammatical rules for adding the vowel sounds have been lost. ‘Yahweh’ is a guess.

          This is, therefore, one more example of demanding that a term is applicable based on a certain amount of ignorance. And, really, you’ve now invested a fair amount of energy into demanding the right to call me a Yahwehist, is there any reason whatsoever for that? Why is it so difficult for you to actually use the correct English terms?

          I ask because my experience with New Atheists who refuse to change their incorrect terms has, in the past, always been that such people don’t actually have a real argument underneath the word games.

          We’re seeing that here. You’re using this term ‘Yahwehist’ to try to make it sound like the conquest of Cannan is the basis of my belief system, when it is closer to a footnote. If you were to reduce yourself to actually calling my religion ‘Christianity’ or ‘one of the Abrahamic religions’ it would be obvious that other things are the significant events.

          So, did the conquest of Cannan actually happen? I don’t claim to know. It seems to me that it is rather like Ceasar’s invasion of Gaul. We have a record saying so. One can believe it, or not. But the truth of the matter is no more relevant to my view than the Gallic wars.

          So, that is my issue with your otherwise inexplicable demand to replace terms: it’s being used as a way to make complete irrelevancies seem as if they actually had something to do with the point.

        • john zande

          Who’s just talking about the “conquest” of Canaan? Why do you keep ignoring the rest of the Pentateuch?

        • Debilis

          1. You haven’t mentioned it
          2. I’ve been given no reason whatsoever to unilaterally dismiss this diverse collection of books
          3. I’ve been given no reason whatsoever to think that the the literal facts about any particular part of it is relevant to anything I’ve claimed.

          That is, I’ve given a series of reasons why materialism is untenable, why theism is a better explanation of reality, and why the New Atheists have deeply misunderstood the claims that theists actually make.

          Needless to say, simply claiming “the Pentateuch is fiction” doesn’t even address, let alone refute, anything I’ve actually said.

        • Debilis


          Now, if you have anything to say about what I’ve actually claimed, I’d love to discuss. I think we’ve seen good reasons to dismiss materialism, to accept theism, and reject the epistemology of scientism.

          Given this, we’ve already long since left materialist atheism.

  • paarsurrey

    @john zande : May 4th, 2014 at 6:44 am
    “The bible claims inerrancy, it claims to be 100% true and believable,”

    I don’t think Bible has anywhere claimed inerrancy, its claims to be 100% true that are applicable to the whole Bible except the last paragraph of “Revelation”:

    Revelation 22:18-19

    [18] For I testify to every one that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book: If any man shall add to these things, God shall add unto him the plagues written in this book. [19] And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from these things that are written in this book.


    NT Bible is a conglomerate of books; not written by a single author; hence, if at all, this should be applicable to this book Revelation only not to the whole Bible.


  • paarsurrey

    @Debilis : May 6th, 2014 at 10:48 am

    “Truth claims are not stories, but they can be encased in stories and other non-literal forms of communication, and not all stories are fiction in any case.”

    I agree with you.
    The language of science is different dealing in the physical and material only.
    The language of religions need not be in the same format as it deals with purpose of life and the ethical, moral and spiritual aspects of life.


    • Debilis

      Yes, that always seemed undeniable to me. It is strange fashion indeed to call a certain linguistic tone-deafness the great insight into religious traditions.

  • paarsurrey

    @Debilis : May 6th, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    “People have different takes on things. This isn’t particular to Christianity. It’s just as true of secular views.”

    I agree with you here.
    One is not bound by understanding of others or by others’ interpretations.


  • paarsurrey

    @john zande : May 6th, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    “Oh no, I dismiss every Abrahamic religion based on hard cold facts: the Pentateuch is myth. None of the characters or events detailed ever existed, and as that is the *only* source document for that particular Middle Eastern god, then that particular Middle Eastern god is also myth. There are, of course, a myriad of other patently valid and potent reasons, but facts are facts… they are enormously discourteous to people’s beliefs.”

    I totally disagree with you. There is no religion by the name “Abrahamic religion”, as you understand or club together Judaism, Christianity and Islam just for your convenience.

    The terms “Yahwehists or Yahweism” is also cooked by the Atheists for their own convenience and is incorrect.

    The Atheists eulogize science so much; why don’t they learn to deal with the facts under a scientific or a sensible approach .


  • paarsurrey

    @john zande : May 6th, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    “1. Beyond relevant if you’re a Yahwehist, which you are.
    2. Overwhelmingly established as fact.”

    Now; this is meaningless.
    So, whatever you say is a fact and whatever others say is incorrect. Isn’t it a strange logic?


  • paarsurrey

    @Debilis : May 6th, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    “But you seem to be doing exactly that: thinking that dismissing (not refuting, merely dismissing) a particular text in a larger collection is somehow a reason to be a materialist atheist. ”

    It could only hint at reformation of a particular faith to which the scripture belongs.

    Certainly it is no reason to be a materialist atheist.

    Validity of Atheism is to be separately and positively proved and evidenced; and that has never been done by any Atheist.

    If one destroys a building that never would automatically erect another building.

    Every building has to have a separate foundation and structure.

    Atheism is just a rubble; good for nothing.


  • paarsurrey

    @john zande :May 7th, 2014 at 5:27 am

    “I don’t have to establish anything”

    because there is no truth in Atheism

  • boxingpythagoras

    Debilis, do you also object when Christians refer to Jesus as the Paschal Lamb?

    The “sacrificed himself, to himself, to save us from himself” meme, unsophisticated though it may be, comes directly from this image of Jesus as the Sacrificial Lamb. For almost 2000 years, this image has been a pretty standard theological construction for Christians: prior to Jesus, the Chosen People of God were required to perform ritual sacrifices to God in order to receive absolution from the sins for which God would otherwise punish them. Jesus, through his death, acted as the Sacrificial Lamb for all Mankind, replacing the need for animal sacrifices, and through his Resurrection showed his power over Life and Death (amongst other implications).

    Do you disagree with this position? If so, do you object when other Christians utilize this imagery? If not, how is the “sacrifice” meme inaccurate?

    • Debilis

      I suppose I’d want to know what is meant by these two images.

      In the case of the Paschal Lamb, I’ve always taken it as a symbol of God’s love for humanity, and willingness to sacrifice to cross the incalculable metaphysical distance between God and ourselves.

      In the case of the “sacrificed himself to himself” meme, I’ve taken the point to be that forgiveness could have been a matter of snapping his fingers, if only God hadn’t arbitrarily demanded a sacrifice–or had lacked the character flaw of being too proud to take back an unwise arbitrary decision.

      It is, of course, entirely possible that I’ve misunderstood what is meant by these two images. To that, I can only say that my extended conversations with those who use them have, so far, confirmed them.

      Thus, I do think they are different claims, even though they are couched in an appeal to very similar images.

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