as mere humans – what do we know?

While writing a recent response, I touched on a topic that is interesting to me. I can’t solve it, but then again, I’m only an atheist, so not only do I not “need” to solve it, but the concept has no rigid foundation for me in the first place.

However, it’s very possible that my limited understanding of the facts is causing the problem, so I will present my syllogism, and hopefully, people can correct my syllogism and make it more logical, and more robust.

I have since received at least one complaint from a subscriber here, based, it seems, primarily on my grammar (which I have tried to mitigate here), but to some extent because I dared to touch on a topic that he appears to regard as taboo. I am not TRYING to be taboo – I am asking questions that I think need to be asked, and I think, have already been asked by others here. I am not seeking to inflame, but to learn. This post is written from MY point of view – if you find it inflammatory, then I apologize, but I hope you can understand that for me, it is a relevant and sensible point. If you don’t wish to respond (or you wish to share only condescension or rebuke, despite this disclaimer) then please don’t read it.

Here goes:
The assumptions follow – here is the mostly likely place that i am wrong – please correct me!

1. Love is demonstrated by acceptance and tolerance.
2. Love is demonstrated by dedicated and unambiguous teaching.
3. Love is demonstrated by stemming suffering where possible, and certainly not imposing it for longer than is absolutely necessary.
4. Love is demonstrated by showing the possibilities, and condoning examination, curiosity and exploration. Love is not demonstrated by imposing rules without clear justification, insofar as the abilities of the love-er permit clear explanation.

I think these are some general qualities of love. Of course, this is a nebulous topic. The most important here is that love is demonstrated by stemming suffering, and not imposing punishment for longer than is useful or absolutely necessary.

So – my point is that, as far as I can see, the bible seems to contradict some of my basic concepts of love. While I understand that the bible maintains that God is love, I present these as queries, more than as evidence for anything.

Specifically, my observations are: –
A. God does not seem to tolerate anything that falls outside his demands. A case in point is mahatma ghandi – I regard this man as the pinnacle of human charity, whereas the God of the bible does not.

B. The bible is demonstrably opaque, translatable and ambiguous. My concept of an all-knowing god would be one that is able to make clear to anyone, their requirements and demands. Even a child that has not yet learned to speak.

C. Here is where it gets a bit fuzzy – since the “punishment” for not loving God varies depending on who you talk to, nonetheless, God does condemn to “damnation” people who do not undertake his bidding (Mark 3:29 kjv). the form of this damnation varies between sects. I simply don’t comprehend why anyone all loving would permit eternal punishment with no outcome. With the exception of capital punishment, crimes are met with a sentence to dissuade further crimes. Hell, it seems, is actually torture, for eternity! Even humans do not torture each other! (at least, not ethically, and not legally!). yet God does (or at least, allows it to happen?).

D. God imposes very strong restrictions on humanity. Many of them are very, very strange and are not easily understood. Moreover, God does not attempt to explain them in a clear way, nor to rationalize them.

So!, my point.
To me, this does not seem like God is speaking to us through the bible. This is a “weak” conclusion, since while it is supported by the syllogisms, it can probably be refuted with additional syllogisms.

So here are some more assumptions I’ll make.

5. Satan is (almost) as powerful as God.
6. Humans are very weak, very malleable, and very indecisive.

The implicit conclusion from these is that, to a human, if satan chose to attempt to appear as God, then such is his power, we probably would not be able to distinguish between the “real” God and the phoney Satan “God”.

There’s more;
7. Satan wants to control us. Moreover, Satan does not need to explain WHY he wants to control us
8. Satan wants to hurt us – for eternity if he can.
9. Satan wants to scare us – again for eternity if he can.

It would seem to me, that what I expect (yes, this is what I expect, I understand that they may be different for others) from an all-loving being (syllogisms 1-5) is inconsistent with the observations (observations A-D), but the observations ARE consistent with the actions of what I would expect from someone who does not love at a (syllogism 7-9).

I’m obviously understanding things wrong here, so I’m hoping people can sort me out. Specifically, perhaps the following questions could be addressed:

1. Is satan’s power great enough to fool mere humans, at ANY time? Do humans even have any hope at all, of discerning between the actions of a God, and the actions of satan? If so, how? do we “just know”? or are there other ways?

2. is it even plausible that an all-loving God would permit torture for eternity? Perhaps my understanding of “love” is not what is described in the bible. Can anyone understand how a loving person would simply not act, when witnessing the object of their love being tortured for even a moment, let alone eternity, and particularly when the torture serves absolutely no long-term purpose?

My syllogism has at least one valid conclusion – but there are of course, many others – it is that the bible is NOT inspired or written by God at all.
It’s a scary proposition, so I would like people to fill in my blanks with their knowledge – particularly point #1 above (“Is satan’s power great enough.. “)

What do YOU think?

comments

Comments

  1. alethesia dipsos says:

    It is my belief that who I am is the sum of the decisions I have made and the experiences born from those decisions. With that as a background for my beliefs, I don’t feel that anyone is “objective”
    I believe that we ALL view life in its totality through the tainted glasses of who we are (again, through the choices and experiences of our past)
    I once sought information and knowledge as one who had no experience with God’s word, as one opposed to God and searching for “Truth” as I thought it might appear. Through my studies, that same book Changed my Heart and mind and now my views and beliefs are predicated upon the Truth’s I have adopted from the Bible, which came to make up part of who I now am.
    I still study and research and seek to find answers BUT – the answers I seek, are to confirm what the Bible says. Often times that doesn’t turn out to be such an easy task – but again, unless the Bible is proven beyond doubt to be wrong, I will continue to defend it (not that it needs MY defending! That would be arrogance beyond reason – the Bible was doing just fine before I was here and will flourish when the dust of my bones is gone!) To the best of my ability – not for the sake of the Bible which as mentioned, needs no help from me, but for my own excitement about its message and to try and fulfill the order given to me to spread its message. To this end I try to make certain that I can speak about it AND other books with at least SOME intelligence – and IF that is accomplished in me, in my life – it is only through God’s grace, for all of MY contributions are ashes and dust.

  2. alethesia dipsos says:

    “Does that mean then, that you’ve stopped considering such issues with the seriousness that they might be thought to require?”
    No, it means I no longer search for answers with the motivation of selfish gain – nor do I search for answers at all. It is my belief that I have found THE answer. The searching I do, I do in order to keep a clear conscience before God in making sure that I can reasonably and (somewhat) intelligently speak about my faith AND to the degree that is POSSIBLE, defend my faith as not something foolish but wise. Not an easy job – especially when you consider the stacked deck I work against. One aspect being that FAITH requires lack of evidence and therefore cannot be proven. Although, as I said – I believe God works through faith AND reason / logic. Another disadvantage I have is my limited intellect, wisdom, knowledge, etc.
    You are far more intelligent than I am. You may deny this out of humility but it’s true and I am fine with it, my identity and self worth is found in God. I am just fine knowing the limits of my mind. I sometimes wish I had much more, but that is pride. Having said that, these issues are often beyond my ability to discuss and should perhaps be left to greater MINDS with greater wisdom, like you and Jim (whom I respect very much)
    I hope this hasn’t added more confusion.

  3. alethesia dipsos says:

    Yes I do still search and test and evaluate – before, I was obsessed with a need to know – this was in my arrogance, for I desired knowledge above all. Above love for others, above wisdom, etc. My pride was igniting my curiosity to a destructive degree.
    Now, though still very much flawed, I feel it necessary to the continual appeal for a good conscience, test all things and evaluate all things. If answers are not to be found, I am content with knowledge God has blessed me with. If value is found, God be glorified.
    When I feel it necessary, for the sake of my salvation, to test and approve all things – I MUST take it seriously. Also, any knowledge that is mine, is only so because God has revealed it to me. Left on my own, I would never come to understand anything.
    “Christianity”
    Hmm… Your statement:
    “Given that you now operate under the kind of framework of Christianity”
    I don’t know exactly what you mean by framework of Christianity…

    • anonymous-em says:

      Hmm, but would you contend that seeking knowledge itself is not arrogant – only pehaps, the extent to which you persued it?

      • alethesia dipsos says:

        I apologize for the confusion, I did not make it clear – Please let me better explain – I was ONLY referencing myself. Knowledge is wonderful! Knowledge had become MY idol though. I was lording my knowledge over those with less than me. Rather than strengthening the body of Christ, I was hindering it. That was MY problem only and God has dealt (and continues to deal) with me.

        • anonymous-em says:

          Thanks Alethesia,
          I think we’re approaching at least one of the things that actually perplexes me about christianity, I’m very interested that you appear to embody the exact phenomenon that confuses me!.

          When confronted with a situation, or an observation that is outside your experience, what do you do?
          Do you ponder or research the circumstances leading to the event?
          If you are unable to satisfactorily conclude on, or learn about a realistic and/or plausible set of circumstances, what are your assumptions?
          Do you feel motivated to test those assumptions? Indeed, do you feel motivated even to test even your conclusions, even in the case where you HAVE found a satisfactory description?

          Many thanks!

          • alethesia dipsos says:

            Hello,
            I apologize for my absence the past few days, life has been challenging. But praise be to God.
            To your question:
            “When confronted with a situation, or an observation that is outside your experience, what do you do?
            Do you ponder or research the circumstances leading to the event?”
            Yes I do.

            “If you are unable to satisfactorily conclude on, or learn about a realistic and/or plausible set of circumstances, what are your assumptions?
            My assumptions are typically something resembling “I do not have enough intellect, wisdom, knowledge, etc. To understand such things”

            Do you feel motivated to test those assumptions? Indeed, do you feel motivated even to test even your conclusions, even in the case where you HAVE found a satisfactory description?”
            I feel motivated to test ALL things and to re-test them. In fact, I am MOTIVATED to test everything until an ABSOLUTE is found – if one is never found, my study would never end. I am not driven any longer by my own motivations. I am ruled by what God says by way of His Word, His Spirit in me and from the wise counsel of fellow believers.
            I consider it prudent to make sure that I can speak intelligently regarding my faith and to defend the validity of it, to the degree that is possible. There is much I can’t prove, there is too that I don’t know, too much that I am unable to retain, too much I can’t understand. I am also at a disadvantage being your intellectual inferior. You may deny it out of humility but I am not self conscience or insecure about who I am. God has made me as He saw fit but there are MANY others like yourself (and Jim) who have a much higher level of intellect with which to analyze such things. I am curious too by your comment,
            “I’m very interested that you appear to embody the exact phenomenon that confuses me!”
            What exactly qualifies me to hold this enigmatic place with you?

  4. alethesia dipsos says:

    I know no such word. I don’t hold the opinion that your questions are taboo. In fact, in my mind it is my duty and to my benefit to search my soul for answers to those very questions. I rejoice in your curiosity.
    My wisdom is little and my understanding is clouded by my own pride and sinful heart but I will share my opinion with you.
    Regarding Love:
    I have to choose to believe certain beliefs that the Bible states as plain fact, often times this process requires me to completely go against what I intrinsically believe in my heart. The Bible says MUCH about love. Too many verses to quote. I have found one definition that claims superiority over all other definitions “greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friend” with that as self proclaimed truth of God, he demonstrated what ultimate love by dying for our sins (if you believe)
    Other than that opinion, I have no other consolation on that topic other than I think it kind of sucks too but then as I said, I have had to adopt foreign beliefs as my own.

    “1. Is satan’s power great enough to fool mere humans, at ANY time? Do humans even have any hope at all, of discerning between the actions of a God, and the actions of satan? If so, how? do we “just know”? or are there other ways?”

    Oh yes! Not only is Satan powerful enough to deceive us by pretending to be light, he excels at it! That is the foot he led with in the beginning. He deceived Eve and convinced her that God was wrong and that what he (Satan) said was right. The Bible also records one of the most frightening situations my mind can conceive – namely the verse
    (Said by Jesus)
    “Many will say to Me on that day (day of judgment) “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” Matt. 7:22-23
    What a horrible revelation.
    Is there hope then? I believe so. The Bible teaches how to not be that poor soul whom Jesus quoted. A large part of that is to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” asking these questions is one way to search your soul for those answers. What is to be searched for? If you have the right stuff, if you are plugged in and on the right path, you WILL possess the fruits of the Spirit. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness and Self Control. If those are not found, I would be afraid. I fear for my own salvation. I believe I ought to. I have confidence in my faith but not arrogant assurance. I constantly have to not only keep my actions in check but my motives.
    Satan may be REALLY good at what he does but he is predictable. He appeals to the ego of man, he tickles our ears, he presents half truths as whole truths. For me, the harder the walk the better I feel I am doing but I am never comfortable with my current position with God and try to improve it. Loving others with a sincere heart is very difficult for me, so I focus on that a lot. But that’s just me.
    As I said, I lack much. I wish I could offer more.

    • anonymous-em says:

      Thanks alethesia,
      perhaps your comments are the most sane I think I have encountered! (ah.. I realised just now how that could be misconstrued, but what I MEAN to say is that your reply is well-balanced and is rooted in consideration).

      I think its enough for me for understand your point – but it would seem then that the protection we can offer ourselves from satan is to consider very seriously the concepts presented – would you agree?

      • alethesia dipsos says:

        Yes! Absolutely! For that reason I made mention that I rejoice in your questions!

        • anonymous-em says:

          earlier you spoke about your need to “know”, and after finding faith, you spoke about not needing to know – the questions didn’t “evaporate”, they simply became not useful or relevant.

          Does that mean then, that you’ve stopped considering such issues with the seriousness that they might be thought to require? Given that you now operate under the kind of framework of Christianity, how do you ensure that you are able to “objectively” (i.e. critically and outside of the framework of anything) consider such important matters?

          I kind of assume that it’s important to be able to remove your mind from the assumed concepts, so that you can validate them in an separate and removed context – kind of taking the jewel out of the box so that you can clearly find the best way to examine it when you put it BACK in the box.

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