What book would you give to an atheist?


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What book would you give to an atheist?

Editado: Maio 21, 2008, 4:13pm

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Maio 21, 2008, 3:21pm

One that I like is Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul. It gives you all these stories about how people see Christ in thier own life. But I think it is more for a woman then a man.

Maio 21, 2008, 7:55pm

Very interesting about Witness -- it is almost at the top of my TBR pile. I'm looking forward to it.

Maio 22, 2008, 9:50am

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Maio 22, 2008, 3:16pm

I have never read Witness. This sounds like a stupid question but what is it about? I mean is it talking about the bible, is it trying to disprove atheism or what?

Maio 22, 2008, 5:10pm

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Maio 22, 2008, 5:23pm

Whittaker Chambers had a penchant for reinventing himself: http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/03/09/reviews/970309.09schlest.html

He was not a particularly stellar individual, but was dogmatic, absolutist, and a noted liar. http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/03/09/reviews/chambers-letter.html

Maio 22, 2008, 5:53pm

As a former atheist, I'd recommend 'Mere Christianity' by C.S. Lewis. It strikes a good balance between logic and common sense.

Maio 23, 2008, 8:14pm

The Reason for God by Tim Keller.

Maio 24, 2008, 12:25am

I think it's entirely cultural. What sort of person is it? How educated? How interested in abstract arguments? Where does their atheism come from? And so forth. The idea that you can throw texts at someone—including or even especially the Bible—and expect it to work magic is naive and even dangerous.

Generally speaking, I think a lot of Christian proselytism willfully disregards these factors. At its worst you get people handing out simple- and bloody-minded hell-and-damnation pamphlets in Harvard Square, which converts no one and does much to discredit Christianity.

Maio 24, 2008, 12:51am

As a confirmed agnostic, I suspect that Luther may have been right about predestination. Faith, I suspect, is an organ of the brain, and just as some people can't hear certain frequencies, some of us do not resonate to the idea that faith should be in God. Which is not to say we don't have faith of another sort.

I have read Mere Christianity -- Lewis tries to give a common sense explanation of the Trinity at one point, as I recall, and that certainly was a stretcher. The book starts out with the idea that humanity's shared sense of right and wrong is strong evidence for God -- but barbarities are so common that I think this is not so strong an argument.

Can we hand you back God, a Biography by Jack Miles?

I might be interested in the Keller book -- it sounds much more interesting than Sam Harris or Hitchens or Dawkins, whose books on this (I haven't read them) appear, on the basis of the reviews I have read, to be pretty bigoted and foolish, and have no interest to me. The Dennett book, Breaking the Spell, is perhaps more interesting, as it gives a naturalistic explanation as to why religious belief should be common. Then there are books about the nature of this dialog, such as The Stillborn God by Lilla and I don't believe in Atheists by Hedges. And of course The Varieties of Religious Experience and God: A History.

That is, if you are interested in dialog. If the conversation is all just evangelism -- please don't bother!

Editado: Maio 24, 2008, 1:09am

>12 jmcgarve:

I think his point is that, while humans frequently act immorally, human culture is characterized by moral codes and that these codes are extremely similar. That people sometimes kill their mother is not exactly an argument against the fact that killing your mother is universally condemned. (After all, why have morality if there were not selfish reasons to avoid it?)

Personally, I find the morality argument persuasive to a certain extent—although it doesn't get you to *God* per se—but I recognize that many think it can be fully explained naturalistically. I'm not going to fight that. If that works though, I'm not sure that morality can actually be defended—that is, that killing is *actually* wrong, and not just as a description of what someone thinks—in a fully materialistic universe. Morality worthy of the name requires something more than atoms in various arrangements. Which is why I'm not letting you near my mother.

I find more solace in the idea that my sense of consciousness and personal agency require something more than materialism. Something is going on here that is not merely complex, but actually different—I exist and I do. But this doesn't get you to God, and certainly not to Christianity.

Editado: Maio 24, 2008, 2:24pm

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Maio 24, 2008, 9:53am

I certainly think threatening people will hell *can* work. It's been one of the big persuaders over time. Does a crude, verse-strewn pamphlet work on Harvard students and the children of Cambridge doctors and lawyers? No, it doesn't any more than the works of Origen are effective among contemporary migrant farm workers.

Maio 24, 2008, 2:44pm

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Maio 24, 2008, 2:54pm

"Do you really have evidence that threatening people with Hell and damnation doesn't work?"

I don't have evidence or anything to back it up, this is just my opinion, but I'd have to say it doesn't work. I don't believe in Hell, and I don't believe I'm going to burn or be punished for eternity, so why would threatening me with it work?

Editado: Maio 24, 2008, 3:30pm

I was making a larger point about mismatched culture—that evangelizing is about communicating, not putting people and your favorite ideas near each other, like bits of plutonium. Christianity would not, of course, had spread if the message hadn't been translated, both linguistically and intellectually.

To your point, however, I think the rapid fall of certain mainline denominations is over-determined. The decrease in "hell talk" is, I suspect, epiphenomenal to that. There is precious little talk of hell in Catholic churches either—and there was never as much as in Protestant—and they haven't seen the same sorts of declines. If there's a message there it's that, if you base your theology on threats, you have to keep them up.

Wearing my Catholic hat, I'd say much the same applies to the Protestant theory of truth and authority. If your whole theology is based on the Bible as a complete and infallible source of all religious knowledge, everything falls apart when that is undermined. Protestantism is a one-legged stool, Catholicism a rug. :)

Maio 24, 2008, 3:01pm

>17 AngelaB86:

The hell argument is much more effective on people who have some religious sentiment. If you believe in God already, the idea of divine punishment has teeth. If you don't, it's a double or triple persuasion—God, Hell, then me in hell—and so rather ineffective. Much the same is true of scriptural passages.

Maio 24, 2008, 3:14pm

I always tell my inquirers that if you live as Christ calls us to live and as the Holy Spirit is your life guide, the next life will take care of itself. Christianity isn't about Heaven and Hell but about how we live this life.

Maio 24, 2008, 3:33pm

"Christianity isn't about Heaven and Hell but about how we live this life."

That's true for atheism as well.

Editado: Maio 25, 2008, 1:00am

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Maio 24, 2008, 3:48pm

>19 timspalding:: That was my point. The topic is what book you would give to an athiest, not someone who is already practicing a religion, or is open to conversion.

Editado: Maio 24, 2008, 4:17pm

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Maio 24, 2008, 4:51pm

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Editado: Maio 24, 2008, 10:26pm

New LT member, first post ever here . . . but here goes!

The question was, what book would you give an atheist? (not agnostic, not a seeker)

My basic critierion would be that it should be a book that the person might actually read. My (albeit fairly limited) experience with atheist folk is that they are not particularly interested in being converted, and therefore are not particularly likely to read a book with a clear evangelical theme.

Honestly, if the atheist person was my friend and the book was a gift, I would probably give them a nice cookbook or something appreciative of life in general. I know I'm sounding a bit facetious, but isn't the "life abundant" one of the first parts of the gospel? I believe first because my relationship with the Divine enhances my life, not because I am afraid not to believe.

For folks I know I could possibly have a deeper conversation with, I would possibly give Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Fiction and novels - storytelling in general - are great ways to explore themes and topics. American Gods may be a bit overlong, but it makes the point well that we humans have a predeliction for creating our own gods. And the ones we create (idols) tend to not be very nice. This book would at least give an opening for discussing the nature of a god worth worshiping.

Maio 24, 2008, 10:05pm

I would probably give something like Dakota by Kathleen Norris.

Maio 25, 2008, 2:04pm

Gotta ask...

This is a slight tangent to the topic, but I don't think it warrants its own thread.
Would you ~actually give~ any of those books to an atheist, and what would be your motivation for doing so?

I was raised as a Catholic, but absolutely do not believe the mythology (no offense intended, but I haven't had enough coffee to come up with a better term). I've read a few of the books mentioned above (my mother sent them to me), and a few others, with what I would like to believe was an open mind about the subject matter, and I wasn't at all convinced. It seemed to me that the motivation to write the books was more to-write-a-book than anything else. But that's just my opinion.

Editado: Maio 25, 2008, 3:12pm

Just a bit of an experience to relate on this matter, coming from a non-believer.

Yes, a friend gave me Mere Christianity. "Best book I've ever read". So, I read it, happily. Why not? I'm a curious person.

What I told him is that I really enjoyed Lewis' writing style, very nice and all British-paternal cozy warm by the fire talk. But the arguments didn't do it for me, he lost me logically about 20 pages in.

(I have since read The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce and was similarily unmoved, though I delight in his writing style.)

As Tim said in post 13 "Personally, I find the morality argument persuasive to a certain extent—although it doesn't get you to *God* per se—but I recognize that many think it can be fully explained naturalistically. "

(note that I don't necessarily agree with the rest of Tim's comments, well thought and put though they may be)

So, bottom line....give great books to people whenever you can!
I think more atheists should read Christian books, and more Christians should read atheist books. I think it's sad when someone is defending a philosophical position without taking the time to read its refutation.

I ordered Witness and will read that based upon what I've seen in this thread, I'm looking forward to it. Thank you for that recommendation!
Gonna get me The Everlasting Man as well!

I look forward to seeing and seeking out other recommendations as this thread grows.

Editado: Maio 25, 2008, 3:31pm

>#26, walk2work, up in Message #2, I suggested giving an atheist a Bible, not just any Bible (but one particularly helpful for an atheist, I'll explain later), not because they'd read it then -- but because they might read it eventually. So many, many times I've had people come up to me and say something like "remember that Bible you gave me?" (and I wouldn't remember it)..."Well my wife found it in the closet and I started reading it and accepted Christ, even got baptized, and just want to thank you." Happens all the time...it's just a question of timing.

Back to the particular Bible I recommended giving, The MacArthur Study Bible: Revised & Updated Edition (Black Bonded Leather), the reason I picked this one is because in the pages before the actual Bible text starts are sections that nonbelievers either ask about or might find helpful, particularly:

- How We Got the Bible
- How to Study the Bible
- Introduction to the Bible

Plus, I know that the notes in this Bible are doctrinally sound and focus on historical, linguistic, and scripture-to-scripture context, instead of more subjective applicational type notes that are in other Bibles.

Maio 25, 2008, 10:43pm

In #30 'Plus, I know that the notes in this Bible are doctrinally sound . . .".

I thought doctrine was supposed to be Biblically sound, not that the Bible is doctrinally sound. That's a new twist.

Maio 26, 2008, 8:52am

Maio 26, 2008, 11:40am

#31, that'll work:
"Plus, I know the doctrine conveyed in the notes is Biblically sound."

Maio 27, 2008, 2:26pm

As a non-Christian monotheist, I believe that even though Christians think it's their duty to convert the heathens, it's the heathens' right to have their own relationship with God, their own non-relationship with God, their belief in non-Judeo-Christian gods, or their own belief in no god at all.

I have the face that launched a thousand conversions - I have literally been pushed up against a wall and demanded to explain why I won't see the light. My Christian sister and I didn't speak for 3 years because she said I was her special burden with God and that I was going to hell unless I accepted Christ. Now, that's the way to make someone want to seek Christianity! I have been proselytized on the way home from school, at college, at work. I'm the only non-Christian in my department at work and my boss prays out loud with us holding hands if we go out to lunch as a group (and I think Matthew 6:5-8).

If someone asks, then share. If they don't ask, don't share.

Maio 27, 2008, 2:41pm

>34 karenmarie:

Yowch—let me hereby attempt to convert you by promising never ever to try to convert you!

Maio 27, 2008, 2:57pm

I was going to back and delete my entry, but you were too fast, Tim!

Some of us do better left alone. And, truly, my relationship with God is my relationship with God. Don't worry. It's my responsibility and my soul.

Maio 27, 2008, 3:05pm

I think I may be an animist, what book should I read?

Maio 27, 2008, 3:06pm

Maio 27, 2008, 3:18pm

Thanks for the recommendation - looked at a review and it seems to be an interesting book.

I have a mental image of the animals tiptoeing behind the zookeeper as he trudges home, turning to each other from time to time with a finger raised to their lips.

Maio 27, 2008, 10:39pm

33> "Plus, I know the doctrine conveyed in the notes is Biblically sound."

How in the world do you know that??? People have come to many different understandings of the meaning of Bible for many centuries. Do you really know for sure that the MacArthur study Bible notes convey the "real" meaning? The MacArthur Bible focuses on prophecy -- but prophecy has to be read in the "right" way, which seems to change extensively over time. The MacArthur Bible also focuses on the idea that everything in the Bible is literally true. I suspect that such a smug version would not have much appeal to most atheists.

Editado: Maio 28, 2008, 1:07am

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Editado: Maio 28, 2008, 1:12am

41> I am not making the claim of knowing objective truth. This is an extraordinary claim, and requires some justification I think. If EncompassedRunner can know the MacArthur commentary to be true, how? If there is a "right" way to read the Bible, how can one know it is the "right" way? Oakespalding, you claim that you can know these things, but you give no hint as to how they may be known. Many people have claimed certain knowledge of this type, but in general they haven't agreed with one another. I think this is an important fact -- it does not show "precisely nothing" as you say. It shows that we should doubt such claims, unless a justification of some kind is given.

I do not argue that there is no such thing as objective truth. However, claiming certain knowledge of that truth is indeed smug -- smug is a very fair word in this context.

Editado: Maio 28, 2008, 2:03am

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Editado: Maio 28, 2008, 2:11am

"Smug" implies an opinion together with an emotion, and isn't about truth anyway. So I'll skip that.

But believing the Bible to the "literally true"--within the usual small range of what people mean by that--is, however, deeply at odds with reason, and therefore at the very throat of truth. One need not be a relativist or an enemy of religion--I am neither--to believe that the "literal truth" of the Bible is illogical, unreasonable, bad theology and dangerous. I'll add immoral on there too, for good measure. (Why should the literalists have all the fun?)

You look at the evidence, apply inductive and deductive reasoning, etc., etc., as with anything else.

If you think you can personally get from nothing to an exact, secure and fully correct opinion of all the major theological issues involved in a full-on Bible commentary in the ways you describe, you are really out there. You might be smug; you're certainly lacking humility.

And indeed, you're not defending such a thing the way it would defend itself. Even among Prostestants, who don't have the same idea of "authority" as Catholics, you don't actually argue from first principles to the bitter end. You rely on authorities, you rely on the doctrines of your church, you rely on longstanding beliefs within the Jewish/Christian community--eg., the authorship of many books of the Bible rest on little else--you rely on good guesses, on personal religious experience and on faith. That isn't nothing. It doesn't deny the existence of absolute truth. But it does cast some doubt whether you can, in fact, twiddle your thumbs over some books and logic problems to get it.

Whatever value the Bible has, your understanding of the Bible does not have it. They are different. That's why it's the Bible, and your thoughts on the Bible aren't the Bible. "We see through a glass darkly" after all. And we pray for "Thy" will to be done, not ours.

Editado: Maio 29, 2008, 1:08am

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Editado: Maio 28, 2008, 2:18pm

"People have come to many different understandings of the meaning of Bible for many centuries.

Aha! A stunning insight, which shows . . . precisely nothing.

Among other things, it does not show that either

a) The MacArthur Study Bible commentary is false;


b) EncompassedRunner can't know it to be true;"


It actually does show those things and you know it. First of all, there are mistakes throughout every single version of the bible today and anyone who has REALLY studied the bible beyond just reading it knows that. (So, I know you know it.) No one can know for sure what the ORIGINAL texts said because their are no ORIGINAL copies and there are intentional and unintentional changes in every copy of copies we have. Therefore, ER CAN'T know that his/her version of the bible is literal truth. It can't be know for a provable fact any more than a person can prove or disprove the existence of God. Second, while it doesn't prove the McCarthur commentary false, it does prove that one can never know if it is "right". It's merely one opinion of which there are too many to count and that was JMC's statement. He/she said that there have been many different ideas as to the true meaning of the bible and therefore it is impossible to "know" which is the "TRUTH".

Ahhhh Oaksies, you love to use arguments which are merely an attempt to bully anyone with ideas other than yours into shutting up or conceding, but in the end the logic of your comments always looks as weak as any I've ever seen in these posts. It's just that they're long, belligerent, and sound well structured enough to kowtow many posters.

Editado: Maio 28, 2008, 11:50am

#43 I don't think humans beings as brains in a vat would be a boring claim at all.

And who is maintaining the vat?

Editado: Maio 28, 2008, 6:23pm


So, I think there are good arguments against the Bible, but this isn't one of them. For the NT at least have a pretty good idea what the original texts said. It's appealing to someone who hasn't studied ancient texts to imagine that, since it's been about 2,000 years since they were written, they've been copied and recopied so many times that--like a game of telephone--they've got all sorts of errors in them. Fortunately, we have copies from very early dates, together with early translations and the tools of textual criticism. (The latter in particular is highly developed, very powerful and almost unknown outside of academic circles.) So, while we know of all sorts of alterations--deliberate and not--we can factor almost all of them out. What remains is only a problem to the most rigid of literalists--who can, of course, simply resort to the idea that what we have is what God intended we have. The core texts of the NT are not some crazy game of telephone at all. Much the same is true of other classical authors, by the way. We have a good idea what Herodotus wrote, even though he wrote hundreds of years before the NT, and was preserved in orders of magnitude fewer copies and in no early translations. Few would really doubt what we have of Catullus either, and that comes down to us in just one manuscript.

Now, getting to the text of the NT authors doesn't get you all the way to the first Christians. We know with some certainty, for example, that the gospels are, like many ancient texts, composite affairs--indeed almost all scholars are sure that Mark was a source for Matthew and Luke, together with one or more other sources, largely conjectural. And we know there were other gospels and other accounts--some we have, most we lost. Most of these were clearly late and derivative, but not all.

But the argument from copies and time doesn't hold up.

Maio 28, 2008, 7:11pm

"That's what the scribes of the New Testament did. They read the texts available to them and they put them in other words. Sometimes, however, they literally put them in other words. On the one hand, When they did this, they did what all of us do every time we read a text, but on the other, they did something very different from the rest of us. For when we put a text in other words in our minds, we don't actually change the physical words on the page, whereas the scribes sometimes did precisely that, changing the words so that the words later readers would have before them were different words, which then had to be put in other words to be understood."
-Bart D. Ehrman from Misquoting Jesus

Maio 28, 2008, 7:14pm

#48, that's true, but slightly to the side of #46's point. You do point out that a rigid literalist has a problem that is neatly covered by the "what we're meant to have" argument.

His point was more that we can't know for certain. And it is a matter of infinitely more import as to whether the NT is correct as opposed to Herodotus. With apologies to ancient historians, if we have a bit of Herodotus wrong here or there, it doesn't affect eternal salvation or damnation. I think we can grant that text a little wiggle room. So yes, in that sense, we have a lot more preserved samples of the Scriptures, but the small differences account for a lot more. (Not to mention the all-too-human need to resolve sacred writings to a point of shifting and relativistic "doctrinal correctness", which is evident in religious writings over time, and not necessarily present as a motivation when preserving Herodotus).

With regards to textual criticism and early Christians, there is more trouble in the probably unsolvable question of the translation of colloquial Aramaic (what Jesus probably spoke) and written Greek (what the earliest Gospels are written in), wouldn't you say? There is a lot of semantical hair-splitting to be done there (young woman/virgin being only the most prominent of the finely cut textual ticklers) and we may never be able to sort it out fully.

And the composite nature of the Gospels, which has produced speculation along the lines of "sayings Gospel Q", as accepted by most scholars (but not rigid literalists, natch), neatly undercuts the "eyewitness" angle, as used in a lot of modern apologetics (Stroebel, for example). Throw in the pervasive nature of pseudoepigrahy in the ancient world and you've got yourself into even more of a pickle.

With respect to the idea that we can "apply inductive and deductive reasoning", as in post 43, these issues, lost as they are in the fog of time, would preclude any sort of "certainty", and can only lead one to "a reasonable chance of" something being true in this case. (And yes, we can apply this reasoning to, say, Julius Caesar, who has a reasonable chance of having existed. Again, eternal salvation/damnation is not at issue here, so I'm more easily willing to go with the flow in Caesar's case, even if there's less extant evidence.) Unless you're going the literalist route, which doesn't require that the secular/scholarly/human investigated facts line up exactly correctly. If God made all the letters and words fall into place over time, that's His perogative, however odd that may seem to be to a non-literalist. I suppose if the whole created world needed a "do-over", a little editorializing of One's Holy Book over the years is a minor thing.

There's probably no way to ultimately resolve these issues. Perhaps there are more, better, earlier documents to be found, wouldn't that be cool . . .

ramble, ramble...sorry...


Maio 28, 2008, 7:46pm

Get thee behind me, O learned spawn of Satan! God said it, I believe it, that settles it. Everyone knows God speaks Elizabethan English, why would you throw such elitist arguments as those from facts into such a simple matter?

Editado: Maio 28, 2008, 10:01pm

I haven't read that Ehrman--just a few before that--but I have to say that, if he's saying all that, he's wrong. If we're talking about the composition of the actual texts, all bets are off. If we're talking aobut the transmission of the text over time, while there certainly are variant readings, we can, through the process of textual criticism, know what the original text said.

His point was more that we can't know for certain. And it is a matter of infinitely more import as to whether the NT is correct as opposed to Herodotus.

If you're a literalist Protestant, maybe. If you're a Catholic, Orthodox and etc., the understanding is that the Church came before the Bible, and that the truth of the Bible no more hangs on the alarming possibility of pen-slips than the US Government hangs on the possibility that rats will eat a piece of the Constitution.

Not to mention the all-too-human need to resolve sacred writings to a point of shifting and relativistic "doctrinal correctness", which is evident in religious writings over time, and not necessarily present as a motivation when preserving Herodotus.

That's very true. But when it comes to scripture, where's the evidence? Certainly the books picked were picked in part because they fit the dominant model. We know other Christians picked other books, and we know individuals like Marcion reworked NT books in their own interest--nobody believes Marcion's Luke was the original. So, I'm more than willing to concede that the origin of what we have has problems of selection and composition. But the text we have is largely the text as it was written.

With regards to textual criticism and early Christians, there is more trouble in the probably unsolvable question of the translation of colloquial Aramaic (what Jesus probably spoke) and written Greek (what the earliest Gospels are written in), wouldn't you say?

Well, we're talking about different things. Do the Gospels acurately reflect the history (and meaning) of the Christian event? Who knows! Do we have something very close to the original texts at issue? Yes. Did 2,000 years of copying undermine what we know and what's knowable? No, not really.

It has to be said that, in my experience, the "it's been 2,000 years!" argument queerly ex-Protestant, characterized by the vision of someone who's lost the faith but retained the blinkered focus on the Bible, and whose religious education tends to omit the *enormous* amount of secondary Christian writing and thought from the 2c on. The Bible is not some mysterious time capsule that landed on the doorstep of American literalists in the 19c. The Bible is the center of the larger part of western written culture from the 2c to today. Even if we didn't have early texts of the Bible--and we have complete texts from the early Fourth Century!--you could reliably reconstruct most of the NT from quotations in authors who died before the Roman Empire fell.

With respect to the idea that we can "apply inductive and deductive reasoning", as in post 43, these issues, lost as they are in the fog of time, would preclude any sort of "certainty", and can only lead one to "a reasonable chance of" something being true in this case. (And yes, we can apply this reasoning to, say, Julius Caesar, who has a reasonable chance of having existed. Again, eternal salvation/damnation is not at issue here, so I'm more easily willing to go with the flow in Caesar's case, even if there's less extant evidence.

There is an absolute flood of data that Caesar existed. It can be shown in literally hundreds of ancient texts--from the manuscript tradition, from papyri, from inscriptions on stone and a half-dozen other media, done in a number of ancient languages, from coins, from seals--the list goes on and on. To speak of such things as being "lost in the fog of time" isn't cautious, it's absurd.

Just for the record, that Jesus didn't exist is not as secure as Caesar. But the evidence is very strong--much stronger than for most other ancient personages, and, I sspect, nobody would deny it if there weren't strong ideological or otherwise non-rational reasons for doing so. I've never heard anyone deny that Mani exitested, for example, and there is pound-for-pound not a a tenth as much documentation of that.

Maio 29, 2008, 12:00am

I have just enjoyed reading your post, and have learned from it, thanks for sharing your insights, Tim.

(for the record, I meant to be absurd in throwing Julius Caesar out there, and agree that there's a lot more evidence for his existence than there is for Jesus).

Maio 29, 2008, 9:45am

An excellent book, albeit scholarly and eat up with footnotes, on the subject of transmission of western texts from antiquity to the present, is Scribes and Scholars.

Maio 29, 2008, 10:17am

Today is my first day on the site so I'm still trying to familiarize myself with everything.

Of course much depends on the person and his/her issues, but for a classic, Mere Christianity. For a more current book dealing with some of the "new atheists" try "What's so Great about Christianity."

Maio 29, 2008, 7:08pm

well, since LT forums are still fundamentally about recommending books, with regards to the reliability etc. of the biblical texts as we have them, the existence of Jesus etc., I've recently enjoyed Paul Eddy and Greg Boyd's Lord or Legend? It's the popularization of their more academic work The Jesus Legend, which I haven't read, but even the former work is still pretty meaty!

It should also be noted that by no means are Ehrman's views uncontested by other scholars.

Maio 29, 2008, 7:34pm

I may be unreachable and all, but seriously, being as objective as possible I have to urge people away from Mere Christianity. I heard so many Christians rave about it I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and have never read a more disappointing book.

When I got to the lunatic/liar/lord trilemma (and I won't even complain about how it's a false trilemma), and saw that Lewis "resolved" it by saying, "Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend," I was horrified. Come on, you've got to be able to do better than that. If you give this to an atheist who's spent his whole life assuming that of course Jesus was either lying or crazy, it's not going to do much convincing.

There are plenty of other things that your contemporary unbeliever wouldn't care for too—Lewis's attitude toward women, for one thing. I just don't understand why anyone would think it was the right book to give to someone who wasn't at least 50-60% Christian already.

Editado: Maio 30, 2008, 10:43am

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Maio 30, 2008, 1:52am

Of course Christianity, and religion in general, is about the carrots of Heaven and rewards, and the sticks of Hell and punishment. Honestly, how many would still be Christians without the threat of Hell and the reward of Heaven? As for the question, I'm an atheist, and I'll read almost anything, but you wouldn't want to give me D'Douza's book.

Maio 30, 2008, 3:16am

My "problem" with Mere Christianity, if I have one, is that, in the second half of the book, he makes Christianity seem too hard or too unappealing. Though, maybe that says more about me than it does about him.

I dunno. It's been about 20 years since I've read the book, but doesn't he brag that that's actually in Christianity's favor. It's not a "soft-soap" religion or however he puts it.

Maio 30, 2008, 8:56am

58: As far as the women thing, I mostly just think he is a bit of a weirdo—but I know other people feel more strongly. I rolled my eyes through a lot of the bits about chastity and marriage, but I remember thinking the problem was more "lack of research" than misogyny.

But I think his characterization of Christianity as difficult fits with the trilemma also. He's trying to convince people Jesus can't be only a great moral teacher, which I think another argument against "cafeteria Christianity" or whatever. Isn't the difficulty of following a religion supposed to be a point in its favor, in the eyes of a certain kind of adherent?

The underlying problem for me was really that Lewis was just too much inside Christianity when he wrote it. He thinks he proves God, and that takes him straight to Jesus, who was "obviously" God, and all the moral precepts are obviously correct because they are Christian. A lot of it seems sort of incoherent if you don't go in with the preconceived idea that salvation is meaningful. So basically I think it seems pretty effective with its intended audience&mdashnon- or semi-practicing Christians, or whatever—but not with the nonbelievers that Christians so often recommend it to.

Maio 30, 2008, 9:07am

Christianity may now be about "Heaven and Hell", but I do NOT get that impression when I read the Gospels. In the Gospels 95% of Jesus' teaching is about how to live life in the here and now. Paul is all about the here and now. The catholic letters are all about the here and now. Heaven and Hell, as much as the authors of the Bible are concerned is an afterthought and stems from the Platonic worldview prominent in intellectual circles 2,300 years ago. Heaven and Hell arrive on the zeitgeist, not from the scriptures. In fact one whole faction of Jews at Christ's time, the Sadduccees didn't believe in an afterlife.

Many people need the carrot and stick to understand Christianity, that's fine. It's just not my conception of Christianity at all and I don't appreciate people who feel constrained against sin by punishment telling me I have to be "saved" for that reason. Christ spends more time talking about not attempting to 1) decide who is going to heaven and who is going to hell 2) figure out when the Second Coming will take place 3) deny "truth", whatever that may be, than He does talking about how we should live our lives now. In fact in Matthew He tells us that entrance into Heaven is contingent on what we do, not what we profess to believe nor in prayer in public school (exactly the kind of thing Christ warns us against), nor does it include paying lip service to the support of God's beloved, those who are poor, widowed, orphaned, without adequate clothing, in prison, and ill. All of societies orphans.

God starts telling people that He doesn't care about the perfume of their sacrifices, but revels in seeing the just treatment of the least of these, my brothers (and sisters) early on, just before Israel was carried away in @700 BCE. One can track the importance of Heaven and Hell in scripture starting with the Babylonian captivity. The Jews went away without an afterlife and came back with one. Heaven and Hell is a piss-poor way to introduce a person to Christianity.

What with the Bible being about brotherhood and Justice, I think were I going to give an atheist a book, it would have to be the Bible for starters. I think if they read it with an open mind, they would find it doesn't say what they've been told at all.

Maio 30, 2008, 10:09am

On the other hand, something other than the Bible is probably appropriate for an atheist biblical scholar.

Much is made of Lewis' atheism before being persuaded by Chesterton's works. But, really, it was a sort of muddy failed theodicy. Something different would be needed for an atheist of stronger convictions or deeper philosophical understanding.

As I mentioned in the Catholic version of this topic, the great writers of the English Catholic literary revival, and there are some great writers among them, were fighting the lazy secularism of Edwardian bourgeois society, not convinced or even ignorant atheism.

Autobiographical works, in the very long tradition of Confessions and Grace Abounding, are often a good read. But is something so personal truly persuasive? Plus, I suspect more people would care to read Twain's Autobiography than his good friend (very good friend, if you believe the revisionists) Stoddard these days.

So, back to Tim's #11, it really depends.

Maio 30, 2008, 11:26am

I think you're right that it's not obvious that He was neither of those things. But the point is that it jolts people into understanding that they can't have it both ways, so to speak.

I don't know. It seems right superficially, but it has two problems: (1) It's quite arguable that Jesus did not, in fact, proclaim himself to be the son of God, but that this is a later understanding of his life. (2) There's something cramped about reducing religious experience in this way. If we decide that Jesus was the son of God, are we to then march through every non-Christian religious figure and tick off "liar," "insane," "liar," "liar," etc.? While I'm sure you get both, are those really the only options? People are wired for religious experience, big and small. When a Christian collapses in Church filled with the Holy Spirit is it 100% truth, but when a Muslim sufi collapses they're liars and rogues?

Maio 30, 2008, 11:40am

#64 It's quite arguable that Jesus did not, in fact, proclaim himself to be the son of God, but that this is a later understanding of his life.

Surely the issue is that we just don't know enough historical detail about Jesus to understand him or his views. Most everything we think we know has been filtered through other people at different times.

As Tim says, People are wired for religious experience, big and small. I don't know how we can say anything more than this with any degree of certainty.

Maio 30, 2008, 1:09pm

It's at least a nono-lemma, I'd say. Besides the first three, there could be (and I'm sure there are lots more):

-Jesus could be sincere, but mistaken
-Jesus' sayings, being orally transmitted for at
least a couple of decades, are not authentic
-Jesus didn't exist/is a composite figure
-Jesus didn't talk about a lot of the things that
are a core part of Christianity, and his supposed
"true nature", the virgin birth, the trinity, etc., and
so we can't know if he accepted these.
-It is debatable whether Jesus actually claimed
to be God, certainly his attitude about it is
different between, say, the synoptic Gospels and
the (later composed and edited) Gospel of John.
-As Jesus appears to have had a prediliction for
speaking in metaphors, parables, etc., it is difficult
to sort out which of his claims are symbolic, and
which are intended to be literal.

And finally,
Muhammad: liar, lunatic, or prophet of God?
Buddha: liar, lunatic, or enlightened one?
You'll find people (not me) willing to go to the mat
for those characters in resolving the trilemma in their
favor as well.

Maio 30, 2008, 1:11pm

I just thought I'd add that, lest it be taken that I'm just here to be contrary and stir everyone up, I hope it's not taken that way.

I am really enjoying this thread, and am actively seeking out some of the books mentioned here, and I appreciate the recommendations.
I look forward to reading what I find, and learning more, thank you.

Editado: Maio 31, 2008, 1:33pm

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Editado: Maio 31, 2008, 12:56pm

The only thing I can see is that possibilities 1, 2, and 3 can not be empirically proven or disproven, and so become a dead end when "examining the logical possibilities". Any of the other statements can be examined, and a conclusion arrived at with a reasonable degree of certainty. Even if you can categorically eliminate 3(2), 4, 5, and 6, that doesn't get you any closer to which of the remaining three it is. And there is a big hypothetical difference between 1, 2, and 3......especially whether said babble and whirl is caused by "the good guys" or "the bad guys", because our earthly, measureable reaction to the event has real impact. If we "determine" that their spiritual experience is associated with demons, then we're going to behave much differently than if we conclude that "the sprit of the Lord has moved him!".

Take, for example, your illustration of the one permutation. In addition to the possibility that the Sufi was receiving a visitation from the Holy Ghost, it could also be Zeus, Tiamat, Asherah....or some sort of new-age "Gaia-mind". Laying aside the fact that I think it strange that an all powerful deity could not make Itself clear to the receiver of a message, we have to agree at this point that answering (1) to the question merely opens up an almost infinite "God event" subset of (1).

I think the sense of this sort of thinking being "cramped" has to do with attempting to invoke logical/scientific/empirical investigation in the pursuit of spiritual truth. My feeling is, when this is done, it diminishes both rational inquiry, and the possible spectrum of an all-powerful being. It's not that what you're proposing is logically inconsistent, it's just that rumination on these matters all day long will get you no closer to the truth of things, it is applying the wrong "formula" to "solve the equation".

All it can get you to is (1,2,3) it's a supernatural explanation, unproveable, or (3,4,5,6) it's a natural explanation, and at the very least, falsifiable. So we're right back where we started from, supernatural or natural causes. If it ends up being a natural cause, it is possible to reasonably narrow it down to one of those situations, if it ends up being a supernatural cause, there's no way to do it, using logic.

This "cramps" spiritual inquiry by insisting that it fall within a logical, empirical framework, that does not lend itself to examination of this sort of ineffable experience.
If you so choose, chalk it up to the inability of our small human minds to create a framework that can fullly enclose the divine.

That's my take on it, Tim may have meant something entirely different.

Editado: Maio 31, 2008, 8:14pm

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Editado: Maio 31, 2008, 4:18pm

Regarding "the blob" and what can and can't be said about God.

Here's an example regarding what I'm getting at, and is somewhat
related to the thread theme "what book would you give to an Atheist?"

Yes, it's possible to engage in Midrash, rational Christian exegesis,
etc. And yes, to a committed deist, these exercises are claimed to
bring them "closer to God". In that sense, the rational inquiry into
biblical (or other holy book) claims is productive to them, in a
spiritual sense. You're right, the OT God especially almost begs
for that sort of dialogue (does he "need" to feel wanted/needed/worshipped/
bargained with is an interesting question...... God: A Biography by
Jack Miles is an interesting meditation on this).

That sort of inquiry is insular, though, in that it derives both its
procedural evidence, and its conclusions, from the central text being
studied. It's not open to the aforementioned extra-revealed empirical evidence, (beyond
something like "only God can make a tree" and its more heady descendants).

The point is, rational inquiry within the Biblical (or other holy book) framework
isn't going to convince anyone to pull up their tent pegs if they weren't
already thinking about it. "Mushrooms are good because they are good" won't
make me eat a mushroom if I just plain don't like the taste.
So books, for atheists, with insular reasoning regarding biblical
claims, won't be effective most of the time. Alternatively, someone
could cook up a whopper of a meal with mushrooms, and I could change
my mind based upon the EXPERIENCE of that meal.

Which leads me to....the big conversation stopper. At least in
my experience. Direct experience.

I was having a conversation with family members over Christmas about
Biblical Archaeology, the veracity of the original Gospel writings, Early
Christianity, etc.
Folks were fascinated, and as I laid a few bits of knowledge out there,
I encouraged them to not take my word for it, and go look for themselves.
People were interested, but gave me that sort of head tilt that dogs do
for some of it. "hmm, that's interesting, I didn't know that, really?"

Then, a cousin came into the room, who is going to a religious college. Asked
what he thought, he simply said, "well, it's all the truth, because I know
it in my heart, and I've seen the way Christ can come into people's lives
and make a powerful difference".

Boom . . . everyone nodded, hummed, and no one wanted to know peep about Marcionites
from that point on.

They were all nodding and humming about . . . the blob. It made them feel good.

It all starts with the blob. Rational inquiry is used to try to bring the blob
into focus . . . for some. But most people don't need God at a higher resolution
than that.

I think, then, that personal witness, the 'ol tried and true, is what stops people
in their tracks and makes them go "whoa", rather than the measured, detailed analysis
in a book. However, to a skeptical rationalist, anecdotal evidence doesn't carry
much weight. "I lost 20 pounds on the Pringles diet!" just doesn't cut it. Personal
stories, witnessing, just doesn't have the same POW, when you're critically thinking
and investigating things. When you're not thinking about it much, though, it's
devastatingly effective. (note that I did not say, "when you don't think much", and I
don't mean to imply in any way that only stupid or gullible people will go for this.)

So, in my experience, (anecdotal, lol :) ) logical investigation is only a subset
of the more properly ineffable preexisting religious experience. It gets applied to an already
existing faith, to help those who are wrestling with doubt, seeking a closer relationship
with God, or maybe trying to get a leg up on the bargaining thing, I don't know.

But that gut experience, the more "unknowable" part of God, is what's going to
hook people, far more than rational inquiry, I think.

With regards to logical investigation diminishing an all-powerful being, I guess it's
just a method. But my point was more along the lines of "trying to put God in a box",
within the limits of rational comprehension, is no equal for the phenomenon of "accepting
God into my heart", which can't really be analyzed beyond that simple statement. Anything
else you say about that diminishes that universal feeling that is beyond language (or
so I am told).

Editado: Maio 31, 2008, 8:29pm

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Maio 31, 2008, 9:24pm

I believe the usual point-counterpoint on this is C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason and C.S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion, though I'm kinda doubting either side here will agree with either side there.

Maio 31, 2008, 9:35pm

Agree or not, that doesn't mean we don't want to read more about this, thanks MMcM! Those look like they go right to the point.

Re 72, I may have misinterpreted/misdefined you "blob". If I take it correctly now, I'd guess that John Shelby Spong is a "blobber". Correct?

And you're correct, lol, these are great conversations, but they're not actual books!

Editado: Jun 1, 2008, 5:25pm

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Editado: Jun 1, 2008, 2:04pm

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Editado: Jun 1, 2008, 7:46pm

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Jun 1, 2008, 11:29pm

OK, there are two posts to respond to. As for #76, I think we can let that
stand. We could go on and on about the "application of logic" issue. I
think you make good points, but I find that you assign blanket motivation to the
point of view (blobbist nihilism?) that can't apply across the board.
I'd like to get some orthodox Christians with a few drinks in them to calmly discuss the issue as you have, let's leave it at that. I can pretty much guarantee that thirty minutes and two drinks later I wouldn't be ceding ground on this...and I have no axe to grind with Lewis, whom as I have said, is a wonderful
writer. I don't find the trilemma pathetic, I find it intriguing, it's
become such a huge part of apologetics. It has power, obviously.

OK, on #78 I think you've covered it pretty well. There's at least a reasonable
chance on these counts that what we've got is muddled/misconstrued/enhanced (or whatever word choice applies, I'm just picking from a grab bag here)

I'm simultaneously intrigued by/suspicious of Paul, particularily, in getting
the whole ball rolling, and starting to glue this all together into "a thing",
rather than a bunch of disconnected anecdotes. Your point about the "radical
reinterpretation of who Jesus believed himself to be" is true...and makes one
wonder if Paul hadn't been such a busy bee, would it have even happened, or
would the whole thing have dissolved. Jesus, the "Messiah Jesus", had an
indefatigueable champion in Paul....and that sort of motivation could have
produced all sorts of "well, this doesn't quite fit" and "hmm, he needs to
be this" sort of musings. We can't really know, of course.

(I wonder if anyone has put forth any theory as to whether Paul was involved
in composing any of the gospels...or editing them..("Hey, Paul, what do you
think of this? Have a look and get back to me with comments, please.) .hmm. I have no idea on this, so I'm only just irresponsibly wondering aloud)

With regards to Jesus' enemies, I'd lay equal or greater weight to socio-economic or political considerations leading to his death, rather than "dangerous theology". We could get into the weeds on that, I suppose, but it's a bit
tangential to the trilemma discussion.

With regards to the post in its entirety, I'll just say that I agree with
the statements
-"some of the scholars that I have read on the subject seem to feel that it is certainly possible that these were later embellishments"
"-...strikes me as difficult (though, again, not impossible) to believe."

To finish, a question, if you recall, so I don't have to go look it up. :)
An example or two of Jesus "consciously attempting to fulfill various prophecies regarding the Messiah".

Fun thoughts, Oakes, I'm enjoying this, hope you are, too. (and all the innocent bystanders who are gathering around the yellow tape)

Jun 1, 2008, 11:36pm

Another question for the greater group:

Which Chesterton book first?



The Everlasting Man?

Jun 1, 2008, 11:48pm

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Editado: Jun 2, 2008, 12:48am

This thread is really interesting and a good argument for the "mark where I actually stopped reading" function, Tim. Because, coming late to this, it's too much to take in all at once.

However, to the OP's question, I do think it depends greatly on the person, but these are the books that have helped me from agnostic/atheistic Unitarian Universalist to Christian.

Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies and Plan B, while maybe seen by many Christians as too messy or doctrinally unsound (though I don't think there's much doctrine if my memory serves me) can be helpful to someone who is spiritually-minded but hostile or uninterested in Christianity.

For someone a little more academic, literature minded or unfamiliar with the Bible and potentially intimidated by it, I found Jack Miles' God: A Biography to be enlightening.

I think once they're a little more on their way Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz can ease them into Mere Christianity. However, I preferred Philip Yancey's What's So Amazing About Grace?.

Now, I know that some Christians who are much more mature in their faith than I am may find a lot of doctrinal problems with Lamott and Miller's books, but I think to some degree that's really beside the point.

At least for me, the process of conversion was a lot about softening my heart towards Christianity and allowing God into my life. Once someone has accepted Christ, I would hope they would be able to see the weaknesses in some of these books.

However, what's most important is having a trusting, meaningful relationship with someone that has, in a way, very little to do with conversion. I would never have come to Christ had it not been for a very dear friend who was always there when I needed him and was always willing to answer any question I had without condemning me. The ONE AND ONLY time he mentioned my potential eternal damnation was the time I asked him, flat out, if he believed I was going to Hell and even then he was reluctant to answer me and in some ways that reluctance and the obvious way my damnation was difficult for him may have done more to soften my heart than any of these books.

Edited to add something:
Furthermore, a relationship like that means that once the person has accepted Christ, you can show them where all these books fall short of God's word. Some may see something wrong with recommending "biblically unsound" books, but from my perspective the destination matters much more than the journey one takes to get there.

Editado: Jun 2, 2008, 1:09am

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Jun 2, 2008, 1:16am

> 80

I have shown myself time and again to be in a minority with respect to Chesterton, a fine writer but not a timeless one. So with that in mind, I would actually suggest reading Heretics before Orthodoxy. This because it puts the work in context.

Jun 2, 2008, 1:54am

Jesus not existing also "strikes me as difficult (but not impossible) to believe".

Yikes! Can't get that book for less than 35 bucks. I've read Robert Price The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man, The Jesus Puzzle by Earl Doherty, and a few similar others, I assume they cover similar ground.

On the subject of Paul, I enjoyed The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity by a Jewish Scholar, Hyam Maccoby. A lot of research and extrapolation in that, that I'd really have to dig into to confirm or refute, but on face value, an interesting book.

You stated that there were really only three ways out of the trilemma,
(1) Deny the utility of applying logic to the question.
(2) Deny that Jesus actually proclaimed or believed that He was the Son of God, etc. It was a later embellishment.
(3) Assert that Jesus was merely mistaken--not insane or a liar.

But what we're really discussing here is a fourth way (I see it as more than just a subset of (3), because its scope is larger than just that particular claim), and probably the most compelling to me, that inherent confusion, contradictions, and dubious provenance for the writings themselves mean that the trilemma may be being applied to a composite, a construct, a variant, enhancement, or mistaken memory regarding something that did happen, any number of things. In order for the trilemma to stand, one must take the Gospels as coherent, historically accurate, and sincerely related. I don't see them as being such, and so applying the trilemma to a cipher, again, gets us nowhere, other than saying "well, insofar as these writings are concerned, this is an interesting proposition."

Your example of Jesus fulfilling prophecy, by being silent during his conversations with his accusers, is one of those things that always bugs me. We've got these (somewhat complimentary, somewhat contradictory) accounts of his appearance before the Sanhedrin and Pilate . . . private meetings late at night, and these were witnessed and written down precisely by...whom, exactly? This is where most of my conversations with people (although I suspect not present company) devolve into discussion of divine guidance of human writing....God was there, and directed this to be written so. That, I just can't buy.

So, here we have an important part of the story.....that just feels, well, fudged. Filled in, to make a point. To fulfill prophecy. How very convenient.

Once again, that's getting into the weeds......these kinds of discussions can spin off into a bazillion little children, obviously. It's just an illustration of a "fourth way" out of the trilemma.

Let's call it
(4) Assert that the origins of the details of the Gospel writings upon which the trilemma is brought to bear are of suspicious or unconfirmable veracity.

Editado: Jun 2, 2008, 2:09am

I am new to this thread, and (sorry) didn't want to read the prior 84 postings (maybe later) before I got in my two-measly-cents-worth.

I did a search in the thread for Traveling Mercies by the magnificent Anne Lamott, and found it three postings ago at #82 (twomoredays). Way to go, twomoredays! This is my "quick" response to the original question posed.


I've been a "reluctant" Christian (I give new meaning to the word "chosen"; or rather, "pursued") since I was 13 (I'm now 38), and of all the books I've read over the years, and conversations I've had (or witnessed), Traveling Mercies is the only book - nee, author - I'm comfortable giving to folks profoundly antagonistic towards Christianity. (Like twomoredays, Mere Christianity and Blue Like Jazz are close behind. Also consider Take This Bread by Sara Miles.)

Ironically, today I "happened upon" a thread called "Happy Heathens" here on LT. It is a brilliant and humbling (humbling for "religious" folk, that is) heart-felt sharing of all things aetheist. It reminded me of some things I've learned over the years.

At some point - and I learned this from my agnostic father who died in 2000 - people have to be allowed to believe what they believe. This sort of acceptance is as painful and heart-breaking to me as death itself: whether the death of my friend's husband, my neighbor's son, or babies slaughtered in the Sudan.

For some reason - yet another unwelcome Divine mystery - there are people who simply seem to be incapable of grasping "God."

I don't necessarily like it, but there it is. For them, faith in any sort of higher power is silly and nonsensical. My dad fit into this category.

For those who have read the Chronicles of Narnia, I ask that we humbly remember what we learn of dear Susan Pevensie at the end of The Last Battle. She who had been to Narnia, had witnessed Aslan's "victory over death," in the end can barely believe where she has been and what she has seen.

Be careful of apologetics and theology. The aetheistic world has HEARD IT ALL. But, sadly, what they have little seen is Love. Postmodern disbelief may well be the litmus of how well the Church has been doing its job of being Christ incarnate. The onus is NOT on them; it is on us.

All that said, as the Spirit of God moves, send them books. Books ARE magic.

But for many, it's going to take a hell of a lot more than a book.

Jun 2, 2008, 2:33am

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Jun 2, 2008, 10:29pm

I'm going to have to be even briefer, crazy busy week here, but thought I'd respond quickly.

Yeah, I think we're down to the fact that I don't accept the trilemma because I don't accept the veracity of the writings. That doesn't invalidate the proposition, just without that starting point, it's tough to apply it.

I heard a radio interview recently (attirbution completely missing, sorry) talking about how recent Archaeological evidence shows that the area of Nazareth was uninhabited from about 800 BCE until sometime around 80-100 CE. Thus, no one home in Jesus' hometown during the time of the Gospels. Stuff like that drives me nuts. The absence of any records of any census around the time, the conceit that people would have to travel to their birthplace to be counted, etc.....
The list just goes on, and on, and on, and doesn't line up for me.

I would be interested in finishing this up with your take on
(3) Assert that Jesus was merely mistaken--not insane or a liar.

If'n yer so inclined. :)

Editado: Jun 3, 2008, 10:21pm

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Jun 3, 2008, 1:26am

How did a "Happy Heathens" thread end up on this Christianity forum?

Jun 3, 2008, 1:29am

It actually didn't. I'm not a heathen, happy or otherwise. It was just a comment from an interested bystander.

Editado: Jun 3, 2008, 1:58am

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Jun 3, 2008, 9:31am

#90, um, we're discussing Christianity? :)

Jun 3, 2008, 11:28am

Remember, the first rule of Christianity is: Don't ask the tough questions, never ask about something that makes no sense, God said it, I believe it, that settles it. Christianity is a mystery religion: filled with mysteries.

As far as the virgin birth, in the Hellenistic world this kind of thing happened all the time. Consider Hercules. Mother was human, father was a god. Luke, who gives us the most complete nativity account leaves his Greek fingerprints all over it.

I used to think the Gospels were written as a correction to Paul's letters until I actually studied Paul's epistles. Now I think the Gospels corroborate Paul's sketchy authority for his letters, the church, etc. Many people heard Paul and accepted Christianity without any clue who Jesus was, what He meant to the world, and the support for His divinity. The best accounts were word of mouth and probably inconsistent which allowed for many approaches to Christ, many of which were improbable and wrong, at least Paul says they were wrong.

Now I see the Gospels as an attempt to standardize the Jesus stories such that they 1) Introduce Jesus to the wider Roman (Hellenistic) world, 2) Provide background for Paul's theology - in fact some passages in the Gospels are almost word for word the same words Paul uses in his letters, 3) Standardize the teachings of Jesus such that they become the basis of a theology rather than the story of a rather special prophet, an approach that would never have left Palestine and the Diaspora, without the divinity angle.
The issues discussed by Oakes and Atomic interest us, now some four hundred years into the enlightenment, because our entire world view has been stood on its head (a good thing from my perspective). For the first fourteen hundred years of Christianity the world view expressed in both the OT and the NT was essentially the same as the world view of the period. Those who wrote, and read, the NT would have accepted without question much we puzzle over now.

I am enjoying the above discussion immensely. As I said earlier, if you can't ask questions like the ones under discussion, then indeed we do worship a false god.

Jun 3, 2008, 11:53am

#94: you said: "Remember, the first rule of Christianity is: Don't ask the tough questions, never ask about something that makes no sense, God said it, I believe it, that settles it. Christianity is a mystery religion: filled with mysteries."

A gentle remonstration of that statement . . . .

I think that's going a bit far . . . obviously we're engaged in some of the tough questions here, and I'd say that C.S. Lewis was similarily engaged. Paul himself doesn't seem to have been a tremendously happy fellow, we follow him with Augustine, etc., and there is a long history of asking the tough questions.

I have read a lot of well thought out apologetics, writings and thinkings that really challenge me to think about my admittedly
skeptical rationalist worldview. I welcome these writings and seek
them out because a lot of really smart people have written on these issues . . . and come out in favor of Christianity. They're not all liars or lunatics. (Let's go with sincerely mistaken, lol.)

It's true that a lot of folks like their religion "feel good" and don't want to delve into these matters. But there are plenty who don't.

Remember, as pointed out a few posts ago, this ain't "Happy Heathens". I'm here to discuss things and learn, not to whack the regulars of this forum upside the head. I think we can exercise courtesy in these matters. It encourages forthright discussion, and in my opinion, is just plain the right thing to do.

Jun 3, 2008, 12:05pm

You misunderstood me, my tongue was planted firmly in cheek and I thought the last paragraph would point that out. Oh, well. I know too many people who hide themselves from the world behind a don't ask, don't tell kind of Christianity, hence the bumper sticker reference in the first sentence.

Jun 3, 2008, 1:39pm

Gotcha, no worries. :)

Jun 3, 2008, 11:50pm

I have to qualify my remarks re: the existence of Nazareth.

I did some searching to find attribution for the claims that I heard and repeated here, and didn't like what I found. It looks like the person I heard is not a trained Archaeologist. I can't find independent corroborations of his claims, and am in no position myself to evaluate them.

So, for now, until the wider academic community approves of the work, I'll withhold assent to this proposition.

It's possible that Nazareth wasn't inhabited at the time, but not
in any sense proven, from what I can see (on the internets tubez!).

I'm wary of anyone on either side of this type of debate who stretches the truth.

Editado: Jun 4, 2008, 12:44am

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Jun 4, 2008, 3:05am

Does Bauckhaum mention the idea of the oral tradition? In a preliterate society (partly pre-literate at least) oral tradition is much more important, and reliable than it is in a literate society.

Editado: Jun 4, 2008, 1:18pm

> 100
Oh, yes. He takes up the distinction between oral tradition and oral history of Oral Tradition As History, that is between accounts passed by word of mouth over the course of generations and contemporary accounts related by word of mouth, as part of advancing his case that the gospels are more toward the latter. Note that the second member review here at LT is a link to the first of a series of chapter-by-chapter blog post reviews of the book (by, I believe, an atheist biblical scholar: cf. my original answer in this topic). You can find the rest of the series by clicking on the Bauckham category in the blog's Categories.

Editado: Jun 4, 2008, 2:11pm

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Jun 4, 2008, 5:27pm

I peeked at the book and the blog as well. At the very least, it seems like this is a serious work that's making the rounds. My 'to be read' pile gets more daunting by the minute, thanks to this crazy joint called LibraryThing . . . :)

Maybe we all read it and meet up in a "thread of our choosing" in a few weeks or so.

Oakes, as I recall, you and I were going to get on the Evolution/Creation/Intelligent Design tilt-a-whirl a while back. I'm not sure any group here would want to host such a thing. :)

Jun 4, 2008, 10:08pm

> 102 I confess that I have not read them all yet, either, but there do seem to be posts on all 18 chapters, often with several parts for a chapter. Starting with the link above, you have to click Newer Entries to see the subsequent chapters.

Jun 5, 2008, 1:14am

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Jun 5, 2008, 10:02am

I went and looked at that ID thread, what a "dog's breakfast" as my grandmother used to say. A lump of who knows what, world's largest ball of thread. I can see why you don't want to go there again any time soon. (But I am going to get that Stove book)

Anyway . . . I agree completely with the purpose of these sorts of threads in helping to clarify points to one's self, and also to learn more about the topic in question.

As long as folks in the Christianity group don't mind points of view that aren't "chapter and verse" so to speak, I'm happy to get in and discuss these things. Inevitably, I learn a lot, and end up buying a few books as well.

Early Christianity, most pointedly, has a fascination for me.
This Bauckham book is right up my alley.

As you pointed out earlier "one gets the sense that one is looking through a 2000-year-old window, observing something incredibly important but undeniably strange."

Jun 5, 2008, 10:50am

Gosh, I'm sorry I missed the discussion on evolution/creationism when it was happening. I don't think either, or any, of the sides except possibly the young earthers are intellectually honest in this discussion.

Please let me know if you crank it up again elsewhere.

Jun 5, 2008, 2:03pm

If you like the history of Early Christianity, Robert Louis Wilkin The Spirit of Early Christian Thought should be right up your alley as well.

Editado: Jun 6, 2008, 1:40am

Despite the rough start, I've really enjoyed reading this discussion, especially in this calmer and quite interesting later stage. It's productive even for 'bystanders'. As one of the lot - my thanks to all contributors.

I'll look forward to continuations and sequels. They may even induce me to join in. There's much I'd like to know and dig into in these issues. - And I appreciate the prod toward books I might not otherwise look for, or notice. I'll trust Oakes to alert me when you take them up, again.

Jun 7, 2008, 2:28pm

The initial question was, "What book would you give to an atheist?" It says nothing about the purpose of the gift giving. Friendship? Love? Conversion? Assuming that the purpose is not conversion, which is unlikely to work, any book that avoids the topic of religion is great. Cookbook, photography book, art book, gardening, etc. There are any number of subjects where the subject is enjoyable both for the Christian and the Atheist. Anything that celebrates the stewardship of the earth (or Creation if you want to look at it that way) would be appropriate. These books are also wonderful for an Atheist to give to the Christian. This sort of gift respects the receiver while expressing recognition of our common place in the world.

Jun 10, 2008, 9:00am

"This sort of gift respects the receiver while expressing recognition of our common place in the world."

Beautifully said, sigridsmith.

Editado: Jun 11, 2008, 3:08am

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Editado: Jun 11, 2008, 1:29pm

#112 "Though I am a pro-Christian, I would rather read a book penned by Satan himself than to be presented with a gardening manual."

Wow. Presumably, your friends would be aware of your hatred of gardens so they wouldn't give you such a book. I'm not sure where to get a book written by Satan, though.

What about books about the beautiful places in the world? What about inspirational poetry, some of which could be religiously inspired? What about books about influential people who are inspired by their faith but rooted in their humanity? Albert Schweitzer. Father Damien. Jimmy Carter. Even Mother Theresa.

I understand the desire to convert. I have always been puzzled when Christians have said that they respect my unbelief and it's ok with them. If they were a true friend, how could they think that it is ok that I will burn eternally in Hell? I respect your faith but I don't think anything bad will happen to you because of it, only that a good deal of time and money is wasted. You will not come to harm and it probably does you a lot of good to be grounded by your faith much as some are centered by meditation.

Jun 11, 2008, 5:05pm

#113 "If they were a true freind, how could they think that it is okay that I will burn eternally in Hell?"

Possible answers to that question:
1) Some unbelievers who are friends, would no longer want to be friends if we expressed serious concern about their eventual disposition. We like to keep our friends. We figure there's time and it's better to wait until our friend shows some interest.

2) Not all of us believe that unbelievers will "burn eternally in Hell." Possibly we don't actually believe in all that fire-and-brimstone stuff, not literally, anyway. Or we might think that God is great enough to give you lots more chances, maybe even after you die. Or, if by "unbelief" you simply mean not-Christian, some of us are universalist enough to think that there are many paths upon which to get There.

3) Some of us have succumbed to the prevailing cultural stigma against evangelism of any stripe. We don't talk to our friends about faith, even the ones who are fellow Christians. We're tired of being labelled (see some of the discussion on Happy Heathen's "What would it take to change your mind?" thread). We're tired of feeling beat up.

There are probably more, but that's a start.

Jun 11, 2008, 5:39pm

>2 EncompassedRunner:

Some Christians—myself included—believe that any assertions about the salvation of another are wrong and indeed explicitly prohibited. That doesn't mean you shouldn't condemn evil actions, tell someone they're behaving immorally or spread the good word, but I have the deepest antipathy towards confident assertions that so-and-so is saved and so-and-so is going to hell. We are not God.

I have the feeling this is Catholic teaching—that the Church has a definite opinion on the salvation of only one group of people—canonized saints. Anyone want to contradict me?

Editado: Jun 12, 2008, 2:11am

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Jun 12, 2008, 2:16am

I am not an expert on this, but I believe about 20 or 30 years ago, the church "decommisioned" many saints. Among them were St Jehosaphat, who quite possibly was a Buddha, and St Christopher.

The church can always be wrong. The Pope is only infallable when he invokes the rite of infallibility. (My language is not accurate here...it may not be a rite, but the point is, he is only infallible when he says something like, "I said this, and it is infallible." Again, I believe Popes have only issued two infallible decrees, one on the immaculate conception (NOT the virgin birth) and one on...you guessed it, papal infallibility.

I got this information from secondary sources, long forgotten, so I would appreciate it if I need correcting.

Jun 12, 2008, 2:23am

>116 oakes:

Wasn't responding to you, but the friend who believes so-and-so is going to Hell. That I am slurring Protestants is not true, but I am certainly attacking those—and they are very very many—who assert that particular people and categories of people are going to Hell. This sort of attack is a commonplace of certain approaches to evangelism, not some sort of slip of the tongue by ignorants it would be unfair of me to point out. It doesn't take a psychologist to see in this more unhealthy and unholy wish fulfillment than the rational pursuit of absolute truth.

the Church on Earth didn’t cause them to be there—it simply recognized them as being there

Well, the Catholic church does assert something like that, insofar as it understands Matthew's "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" to mean that the church has *actual* power to forgive sins. That is, the priest in confession isn't just echoing a message from God, but actually forgiving sins. Whether that is every pressed to the larger question of salvation and damnation I do not know.

It should be noted that most saints came about before there was any "process" for making them official, and once there was, it was generally to restrict new saints quite severely. Pope John Paul II started something of a revolution there, rapidly expanding canonizations.

Editado: Jun 12, 2008, 2:36am

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Editado: Jun 12, 2008, 2:46am

>117 Arctic-Stranger:

According to Wikipedia, it's one instance, and that was on the Assumption of Mary. Since I think I'm with Lord Acton—whose efforts to prevent the declaration were heroic and, of course, scholarly*—I'm glad it was on such an issue. Anyone willing to risk excommunication for such an issue has, I think, too much regard for his opinion and too little for his soul.

The Wikipedia article—which strikes me as rather half-cooked—noodles about on the infallibility of canonization. Apparently some say yes, some no.

On the infallibility of ecumenical councils, there is much less doubt—even most Protestant denominations accept this. The question is how many. Catholics have kept counting. Orthodox and Protestants stop at seven. Some eastern denominations peal off at 3 or 4.

*But, notably, he did not split from the church when the issue went against him.

Editado: Jun 12, 2008, 2:53am

By "groups of people" I do not mean "evil-doers" but, say, gays, people who engage in dancing, Catholics, non-Jehovah's Witnesses and your cousin, the one who has a tattoo and a live-in boyfriend, etc. To say that evil doers and those who die in a state of mortal sin are going to hell does not assert special knowledge about any person or groups of real people, since the state of any man's soul is not yours to know, but simply to describe what Hell is.

Editado: Jun 13, 2008, 4:08am

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Editado: Jun 12, 2008, 4:06am

Unfortunately, the Catholic church does not assert that is necessary to be Christian to be saved. See, for example, Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 16:"Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience — those too may achieve eternal salvation"
Vatican II, Ad Gentes:
"Therefore though God in ways known to Himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel to find that faith without which it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6), yet a necessity lies upon the Church (1 Cor. 9:16), and at the same time a sacred duty, to preach the Gospel."
The point is that those who knowingly reject the Church are in trouble. Just what this requires, is not specified, nor I suspect will it ever be.

You'd be hard-pressed to find many evangelicals willing to elevant this paragraph—from Vatican II—to the level of infallible doctrine (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_d...)
"The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting."
Subsequent (non-conciliar) documents attempt to rein these ideas somewhat, it, however clear. So in DOMINUS IESUS, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote:
"If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation."

There's an almost-fun "Catholic Answers" on the question http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2004/0403sbs.asp

Jun 12, 2008, 4:20am

"The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins

Jun 12, 2008, 9:02am

You Spalding boys are so entertaining and informative.

*pulls up a chair*

Jun 12, 2008, 11:39am

Amen to that.

The Presbyterian Church recently adopted a statement similiar to the Catholic statement on salvation. Of course, being Presbyterian, they have to pull authority and sovereignty into the reasoning. Basically they say that our understanding of salvation does not limit God's sovereignty. We don't get a say in who gets saved, but it is an imperative to preach the Gospel, to say what we know to be true, knowing meanwhile there is a lot BEYOND what we know to be true.

To say that most Protestants accept the Councils is a Half Truth. Most do not, for instance, even know about the Seventh Council, which in the East is call the Triumph of Orthodoxy. (The iconoclast puritans and reformed Christians certainly do not accept that one.)

One could argue that that the Roman Church denies the First Council with the filoque. (If one were Orthodox, one WOULD argue that.)

Most Protestant prefer the newly minted Apostles' Creed, as compared the Old Standard, the reliable Nicene Creed. Presbyterians include the Nicene Creed, and give you an option on saying the filoque. Lutherans, I was suprised to learn, accept the Athanasian Creed, which Presbyterians do not. (I think they are more comfortable with the anathemas.)

Tim, when you say you stand with Acton, was he fighting the declaration of the Assumption or infallibility?

Jun 12, 2008, 1:07pm

I'd sure like to be fly on the wall in hell when this generation checks in. I'll bet there will be a lot of confused people.

Jun 12, 2008, 8:47pm

ELCA Lutherans have the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian Creed in our hymnal (although good old Athanasia is trotted out once a year for holy trinity sunday if at all.) Nicene is usually used for Eucharist sundays, and Apostles creed for non-Eucharist services.

Spaldings, everytime I see your posts, my eyes glaze over because its too freaking long. You need to practice the art of concise argument :). But they are very helpful and I do appreciate them once I force myself to read them.

And trying to "convert" (debatable what is included in that) a friend is not making an assumption of their salvation but offering them assurance. You're right we don't save people, Christ did, but we can help them find peace and assurance for themselves in that salvation, and perhaps help them grow in faith and love towards God and one another.

If you have a friend whom you never even attempt to have a religious conversation with, even if its just inquisitive, then I think you're missing a part of your calling as a Christian. I'm not saying you have to hold them down and baptize, but geesh, at least open the door, see if there's something there.

And now I've typed a decent size entry myself.

Jun 13, 2008, 4:03am

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Jun 13, 2008, 4:07am

I agree about the long messages. I do too at long messages...

Jun 13, 2008, 3:39pm

Yes, but they're right about you guys. Great reading, profitable, even if I sometimes wonder, at first glance, whether to save it for a better moment.

I meant to read about ecumenical councils last night, but fell asleep.

(Too long after savoring a pot of Hu-Kwa, it seems!)

Jun 17, 2008, 7:17pm


I do recall that those that reach heaven may enjoy the torment of those condemned to hell.

Jun 17, 2008, 7:39pm

Yes, what is that reference?

Editado: Jun 17, 2008, 9:45pm

Schadenfreude is a virtue?

Editado: Jun 18, 2008, 12:49am

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Editado: Jun 18, 2008, 1:36am

The philosophical arguments are arguable. The scriptural is garden-variety quote-plucking, but whatever. Ultimately, I don't think you can pluck this stuff out without also noticing some sort of disjunct—between ancient morality and Christian morality.

You can by such arguments convince yourself that there is no difference between OT messages and NT messages. Huge amounts of Christian theology is engaged in just this project, making the OT Christian and the NT just more of the same. To some extent, great. But if you take it far enough, you can entirely overlook just what Jesus said that was startling—in this case the rather novel idea of praying for your enemies.

I agree that, on some level, it's possible saints can revel in the completion of God's justice, which inevitably involves the punishment of the wicked. Fair enough. But it's a pretty dangerous argument, one which it would do to set a fence around--no rejoicing in the suffering of the wicked until we are capable of doing so without start from or sliding into hatred. Time and again religious men have attempted to annex this pleasure to the real world—to feel good and convince others to feel good about the suffering of others. As a matter of deep theology it may be possible, but as psychology it is surely a pretty common road to sanctified cruelty.

Editado: Jun 18, 2008, 6:29am

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Jun 18, 2008, 10:01am

Why do I want to spend Heaven considering the fate of those in Hell? This sounds like a justification for the all too human desire for validation and retribution. Carrot and Stick Christianity. The lowest sort of Christianity.

Once again, I'll bet there will be a lot of confused people in both Heaven and Hell.

Jun 18, 2008, 12:35pm

Aquinas wrote about a lot of things that make people shake their heads in wonder. Still, as far as theologians go, he is in my top three.

Jun 18, 2008, 12:43pm

>139 Arctic-Stranger: - Out of curiosity, who are the other two?

Jun 18, 2008, 12:45pm

Karl Barth and the third is actually not a theologian but a series of theological book, the Philokalia.

Jun 18, 2008, 2:20pm

Doesn't Dostoevsky address something similar through one of his characters in The Brothers Karamazov. Something about an onion.

Jun 27, 2008, 6:59am

Probably (Velvet Elvis) by Rob Bell. Changed my life.

Jul 15, 2008, 11:10pm

If this atheist happens to be an evolutionist then - The Evolution Cruncher or The Lie: Evolution by Ken Ham.

Jul 16, 2008, 12:33pm

>145 moonstruckeuphoria: No sense giving those books to an atheist. He or she will ignore them as being silly, kind of like the copies of Watchtower that get deposited in my screen door from time to time by Jehovah's Witnesses.

Jul 16, 2008, 12:43pm

Josh McDowell's:
"The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict"


Jul 19, 2008, 10:29am

>145 moonstruckeuphoria:

Bringing someone to Christianity through anti-evolutionism seems to me rather like bringing someone to Islam through books supporting female circumcision.

Jul 19, 2008, 5:48pm

Snort. Glad I was not drinking coffee when I read this!

Jul 19, 2008, 5:57pm

I agree. The best commentary out there.

Jul 19, 2008, 10:06pm

#148, 149, 150

ok...forgive my ignorance but I don't understand the significance of comment 148. What does it mean?

Please help me! :)

Jul 20, 2008, 1:41am

#151 - Perhaps because one's view on evolution has nothing to do with Christianity per se? As has been pointed out in other threads on that topic, the vast majority of Christian denominations throughout the world (and presumably the vast majority of the Christians who belong to those denominations) do not view evolution as an issue. The focus on evolution and creationism is a phenomenon which is strong in a relatively small number of denominations, particularly in the USA. Incidentally I hope this won't start a new off-topic discussion on evolution here - that's well covered in other threads.

Jul 20, 2008, 1:57am


I sort of figured that was what was meant, but my confusion is in the Islam and female circumsion comment. How are they similar? Again, forgive the ignorance! :)

And worry not...i dont want to try and start an off topic discussion, just want to be in on the joke! lol

Jul 20, 2008, 2:10am

#153 - I'm only guessing Tim's intention in #148, but my understanding of female circumcision (or female genital mutilation) is that some Muslims believe it is an Islamic practice, while many others would argue that it has no basis in religion but is purely cultural. Many Muslims believe it is plain wrong and should be stopped. I suppose one could make the same comparison with creationism - some Christians believe it is fundamental to their faith but most would argue that it has no basis in Christianity, and many would argue that it is plain wrong.

Editado: Jul 20, 2008, 3:34am

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Editado: Jul 20, 2008, 7:27pm

>154 John5918:

Sorry to be epigrammatic. Yes, my point was that creationism isn't a necessary Christian doctrine, but, like female circumcision, an add-on position held to by a smaller group who justify it on Christian grounds. The unfairness, if there is any, is that female circumcision is a clear bolt-on, while creationism is to some degree the plain reading of scripture. Most Christian denominations, however, have never held to the idea that all of scripture must or should be read so plainly, particularly when strong arguments suggest such a reading would conflict with reason.

>155 oakes:

I agree on the first paragraph, as involves the history of Darwinism—too often used as a cudgel against religion, as also against non-white races. And certainly modern "scientific" creationism is almost exclusively a Christian phenomenon. The appellation "orthodox" I wouldn't apply to fundamentalist and evangelical Protestants, but they are certainly numerous and influential.

>But I think it is an empirical fact that most orthodox Christians do not view skepticism of evolution as on the same level as, say, the advocacy of female circumcision.

Wait, I'm honestly confused what you mean here. I think you mean that anti-evolutionists are not as firmly in favor of anti-evolutionism as pro-circumcisionists are. Yes, I suppose that's true, as female circumcision is all wound up in family honor, female subjugation, tradition and so forth in societies structured around these concepts even more than around Islam itself.

Editado: Jul 21, 2008, 4:16am

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Jul 20, 2008, 11:17pm

Maybe it would be a good idea to bypass this idea of giving books to the atheist altogether. A nice tie maybe?

The problem with the idea of starting with an antievolutionary tract is that it will give the atheist the idea that the starting point for belief generally is belief in the literal truth of the Bible. That is like trying to drive a nail head first. Atheists tend towards interest in empirical evidence. The empirical evidence shows conclusively that the earth is billions of years old and that a lot of evolution has occurred during that time. One can certainly argue that the process of evolution was divinely inspired, and indeed, there is much in the beauty of the end product to give weight to this argument -- but it doesn't tell us much about the nature of God.

A more natural starting point is the testimony of various people about how God has transformed their lives. If said atheist is going through a hard time, he might be willing to suspend disbelief long enough to reach for a life preserver.

Editado: Jul 21, 2008, 12:29am

>157 oakes:

I think one can usefully separate both Creationism and Intelligent Design from the "Argument from Design." The multiplicity of species and the cool things they do is just one tiny fraction of the possible things to be impressed by, and see design in, and has historically not been a major part of the argument. Indeed the argument predates Christianity and the Biblical idea that God set about creating animal species, whereas a lot of ancient cosmologies assume they developed from slime or need no explanation.

I think any rant against the "out-and-out state-supported force" of the US Government against pro-ID students, parents and teachers needs some sort of contact with the simple reality that professional scientists are almost unanimously against the teaching of intelligent design. Let us for a moment grant that ID is true. What are the implications of setting schools so completely against the grain? Doesn't that "count" or are numbers the only thing that counts? Surely you don't think that just because you think it's a good idea, ID should be taught in school; there has to be some system to decide such questions. So, what is it, numbers?

That is, even if you can get together a school district full of observant mormons, would you think it appropriate to teach children the Mormon sacred history of the Americas as fact, although all but a handful of historians, linguists and archaeologists think it absolute nonsense without a shred of evidence?

Incidentally, I'm going to presuppose public schools, as your argument did too. I think we both agree that public schools force this sort of issue into the public sphere, perhaps wrongly.

Jul 21, 2008, 1:48am

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Editado: Jul 21, 2008, 2:28am

Is it time to take a random poll and ask how many of the men posting here are circumcised?

Jul 21, 2008, 10:04am

>160 oakes:.2

Ultimately, you've ensconced yourself in a theory so marginal to the world of educated, professional discussion that it requires a childish conspiracy theory as well.

Jul 21, 2008, 12:41pm


I've been following the discussion and enjoying it thoroughly! I don't know if my initial question in #151 started this, if so I did not intend it but, again, am enjoying the back and forth dialogue here.

Except for this latest post. This kind of reponse is really not necessary and it seems to me that it even mean spirited and arrogant. Forgive me for being blunt about what I think but I could not help but post this thought after reading it.

I will now excuse myself from the thread since once a discussion falls apart like this is no longer engaging, but for the record I am myself a creationist, and while i think my brethren who embrace evolution are wrong I would never chide them for this...instead relying on the Spirit to correct them as they grow in Christian maturity and understanding of their faith.


Just curious...why does this matter? Are you likening male circumcision to the ghastly practice of female circumcision? Do you even know that is involved in that? And for the record, I am not! :)

Goodbye all and thanks for the lively discussion. I enjoyed it while it lasted.

Editado: Jul 21, 2008, 1:43pm

I'd answer that question, but you've already decided to recuse yourself from the thread.

Editado: Jul 23, 2008, 3:02pm

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Jul 21, 2008, 6:08pm

I bet you two were fun to be around growing up. I mean fun in the "interesting to watch" sort of way.

I also find it amazing that ideas are denied the opportunity to be heard (especially considering what ideas have been spouted in high schools over the last 60 years). The same folk would be appalled if I were to make a stand against the teaching of alternative sexual lifestyles to children. However, I rarely get up in arms about it. The Church was born and grew under substantial efforts to kill it in infancy. As long as there are honest seekers of the truth, it will out eventually.

To answer the original question, it depends on the atheist. But, for an educated one, I would recommend The Question of God by Armand Nicholi.

To answer the follow up: circumcised, but not sure why.

Jul 21, 2008, 6:59pm


You keep saying that you believe that there are more (perhaps many more) university level science people who would be creationists if they didn't worry about ruining their careers... but it seems to me that the more plausible view of the information is simply the more you know about science the more likely you are to believe in evolution.

Jul 21, 2008, 9:18pm

It might be interesting to discuss what kind of high school biology class could teach about evolution while at the same time teaching the controversy. Now, the heliocentric view of the solar system was at one time quite controversial, and for some it still is:


Is it appropriate to teach this controversy as well? Let us assume not. We will assume that the well established facts of science should be taught, without any idea of teaching the controversy. We may want to conduct certain experiments. For example, one can use Foucault's pendulum to measure the rotation of the earth, and with the appropriate differential equations, one can connect the rotation of the pendulum with the latitude.

Unless we dismiss all of science: physics, chemistry, geology, paleontology, etc., we have the following facts, which are not controversial.

A: The earth is billions of years old.
B: No humans, in fact no vertebrates, occupied the earth for most of that time.
C: Different species occupied the earth at different times
D: Similar species succeed one another in adjacent eras.
E: Random variation within a species occurs as a result of mutation.
F: Preferential selection within a species occurs as a result of fitness for the environment.

I claim that these are all established facts. However, now we come to issues which might be the basis for controversy:

G: Life came to exist on the earth in initially simple forms through purely physical processes.
H: All modern species have evolved over time from ancestral species through the process of natural variation combined with natural selection.
I: This process is sufficient to explain the existence of all life, without reference to God or any other guiding agency.

Statement G is a hypothesis. It can't be said to be a fact, inasmuch as we can't describe the process by which nonliving matter produced life. There is an enormous amount of evidence supporting statement H, because of the predictive power of evolutionary theory. A certain type of intermediate species is predicted to be likely in a certain geological strata. In many subsequent cases, that intermediate species has turned up. As for statement I, it seems unlikely that this one is within the realm of science. I am trying to think about how the statement could be disproved.

The problem is that the majority of people within the US who reject evolution also reject most of statements A-F ... and about these statements, there is no controversy to teach, except perhaps by asserting that no truths can be discovered by the methods of science.

Jul 21, 2008, 10:16pm

> 168 Thank you for elucidating the problem so nicely (though I think this whole question really deserves it's own thread).

I have been puzzled by the turn this thread has currently taken. First of all, female genital mutilation bears little resemblance, biologically or culturally, to male circumcision. I am a little disturbed that it can be discussed so casually here. The closest comparision we have in this country is "surgical correction" of ambiguous genitalia in infants or small children. But that's a whole different conversation. (Sorry I have no links, but I couldn't bear the thought of what a Google search might turn up.)

I am also a bit confused by the equating of what seems to me to be conservative/evangelical theology with orthodoxy. I know that recently the terms have been linked within some Protestant denominations. But I guess I still think of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches as being the bastions of true orthodoxy. When did such evangelical theolgical claims as creationism and Intelligent Design get in on the game?

Editado: Jul 22, 2008, 2:27pm

This member has been suspended from the site.

Jul 23, 2008, 3:04pm

jmcgarve, in 1650 James Usher put paid to your points in A - F.

oakesspalding, are these the same highschool teachers who, in other contexts, are failing our youngsters so miserably?

Editado: Mar 22, 2010, 8:55pm

-170 -Those people who believe A through F believe in evolution. As a scientific theory, those ideas encompass it in its entirety. Once you get to the origin of life, there are also several scientific theories, but they are not crucial to an understanding of evolution. As for your confusion about scientists and belief in evolution - almost every scientific paper in biology (thousand and thousands now, and more all the time) provides greater support for the theory. These are papers that are unrelated to evolution themselves, but their findings and methods all support evolution (for example - you find a new protein in a species, and can map the sequence - and it is most similar to the same protein in those animals who are most closely related to it.). Scientists are constantly inundated by evidence that evolution is true. Although I won't argue that a disbelief in evolution could hurt a scientists career, just like a disbelief in the combustion engine would hurt a auto repairman's career.

Set 2, 2008, 7:42pm

>172 jlelliott: I think that evolutionary theory includes not only A through F, but also H (from post 168). I can imagine someone accepting facts A through F, but denying H -- in fact, many of the arguments against evolution have focused primarily on H. For example, anti-evolutionists have claimed that one could not have an intermediate form of mammal that was transitional from a land dwelling carnivore to a modern whale, or a species that was transitional from a flightless animal to a bird. Such arguments have not fared well over time. In these cases (and in many others), fossils showing a succession of transitional species were actually discovered.

Some evolutionists, e.g. Richard Dawkins, have claimed that assertions G and I are proven facts, and that they are also integral to evolutionary theory, but here they overreach, IMHO.

Set 3, 2008, 3:27pm

Answering the original question: I'd probably give them a copy of Odd Thomas, by Dean Koonz. Odd choice? Maybe, since it is secular fiction, but it raises many questions of faith and being created for a purpose, and would possibly open up discussion and thought. It is not my job to convert people, God will take care of that. It IS my job to let people know that he's really there, and that voice they are hearing expects to be acknowledged--that is the Good News. All they have to do is answer the door.

Set 9, 2008, 10:32am

A former atheist myself I would also recommend 'Mere Christianity' (CS Lewis). 'Surprised by Joy' also would be good. Helped me to clarify my thoughts.

Set 9, 2008, 10:43am

-173 The way I think about it, A through F are the facts that lead to the theory, stated in H. I think it takes some serious logical contortions to accept those facts but deny the theory. From my personal experience, most people who accept A through F believe in evolution (H). What they might not believe in is the exclusion of god from the moment of creation of life (I - the theory of the actual origin of the common ancestor is not part of the theory of evolution) or the idea that evolution somehow eliminates the possibility of god (not part of the scientific theory at all). From these two arguments they decide that they don't believe in evolution, when they actually do but merely misunderstand the scope of the scientific term.

Sorry for distracting your thread though.

Set 11, 2008, 11:34am

I think your god is too small is a great book for anyone considering Christianity. It deals with a lot of misconceptions, one might say urban myths, about the God of the Bible. For instance, "God helps those who help themselves."

Set 25, 2008, 9:15pm

I would give an atheist "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins, but most likely an atheist would have already read this. I would not try to convert an atheist into believing in God. Why should I? But "The History of God" may interest an atheist as would Jack Mile's "A Biography of God" or maybe even "The Left Hand of God, The History of the Holy Spirit" by Adolf Holl.

Set 26, 2008, 9:23am

>168 jmcgarve:

The fundamental fallible conceit of science is that "we have all the evidence we need to draw this conclusion".

Just sayin'.

Set 26, 2008, 9:34am

That's a pretty facile and not very correct statement of POS, Mark.

Out 4, 2008, 1:42am

We published a masterpiece by John Schroeder entitled "Why Monkeys are Monkeys and People are People: The Case Against Dawkins, Hitchen and Hawking"

Man, that book is the definitive book on turning scientific information on the givers and proving once and for all that the info they use actually proves them wrong. That man is awesome.

Out 9, 2008, 5:26pm

yogarific wrote: " I would give an atheist "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins, but most likely an atheist would have already read this. "

Very interesting suggestion. I agree 100% except that not all atheists have read the "God Delusion".

I have been an atheist for 33 years after spending 23 as an evangelical. I didn't read TGD until a month ago.

I spent 3 decades accumulating much of the information that Dawkins presents in his book. If I had read his book 3 decades ago (if it had been available 3 decades ago), I would have been standing on the shoulder of a giant and would have been able to reach higher today.

I think we ought to declare "buy an atheist 'TGD' month"

Out 16, 2008, 6:55pm

Just started Berlinski's The Devil's Delusion. This looks like it might be very useful in answer to the original question. Not for your typical village atheist/idiot, but for the more sophisticated. And he is funny. He quickly disposes of most of the more well known militant atheists in an early summary, then dissects their errors more leisurely in later chapters.

Out 21, 2008, 10:56am

Post 183)

You wrote: " He quickly disposes of most of the more well known militant atheists in an early summary, then dissects their errors more leisurely in later chapters "

Oh ... don't be a tease. Give us one of their "errors" so that we can see an example of his dissections.

Out 21, 2008, 11:08am

Over 30 years ago, I read the most faith-affirming book I've ever experienced, "The Last Temptation of Christ" by Nikos Kazantzakis. Held up as blasphemous and heretical in the '90's, this book more than any other presents the godliness in man and the humanity in God in a clear, reverential way.

Out 21, 2008, 12:03pm

It was an interesting movie, as well. Censorship is about power, not faith.

Editado: Out 21, 2008, 4:56pm

I'm very glad to finally hear that someone has found Kazantsakis and in particular "The Last Temptation of Christ". I have exactly the same reaction to this book as baddyo has. Incidentally, Kaz also wrote "St. Francis" an even more introspective introduction to Christian life and ethics. It is a book full of wonder.

Out 23, 2008, 12:11am

"Censorship is about power." Just like racism?

Out 23, 2008, 1:02pm


Out 23, 2008, 1:41pm

Yeah, I don't but that line of thought. I think people have rights, and there are things you can't do to people. I don't think that rights are one thing when someone has no power and another when they have it. This way lies madness. You might as well ditch concepts like racism and censorship—indeed the whole concept of law or moral action—and just turn everything into a game of smaller and bigger fishes, with the small fish always getting to eat the latter.

Out 23, 2008, 1:53pm

I'm confused! Are you implying that my position on censorship, which I thought was plain in my comment, somehow invokes power over the information an individual has access to? I thought I was saying just the opposite.

Somehow I'm not connecting with you, Tim.

To be plain: censorship is the exercise of power over the free flow of information, power external to the flow of information, itself. Sometimes such power is called for, as in protecting vital national secrets, but for you and I and others like us who seldom, if ever, come in contact with such information, censorship is an attempt through the exercise of power to prevent access to said information. It is wrong.

I've just been through an argument of the "black is white/white is black" type and don't really need another just now.

Out 23, 2008, 5:19pm

No, we're missing each other. I'd be interested to hear you say what you mean by "not about faith, but power."

There's a whole line of thought that racism is about, or "a function of," power. This means that, basically, you look at who's affected, not what happened in a more abstract sense. Put another way, a black person can't be racist because racism is a function of white power. White person beats up black person = racism. Black person beats up white person = not racism.

Whether explicit or not, you often get the same argument about censorship--that censorship is about power, not, um, censorship. So, when right-wing types picket a speaker, book or movie, that's censorship. But when left-wing types picket one, it's not. (In my opinion, neither is; censorship is about state action, not private action--although coercive private action, like punching you in the nose because you are trying to get into a movie, resembles it, for sure.)

Apologies if I seemed to be starting a fight. I was throwing out a controversial idea with which I disagree, which seemed echoed in your comment. But clearly you didn't mean that.

Out 24, 2008, 4:56pm

Flies are buzzing around my head
Vultures circling the dead
Picking up every last crumb
The big fish eat the little ones
The big fish eat the little ones
Not my problem give me some

Out 25, 2008, 1:11pm

Tim, in my cosmology all interpersonal relationships are power relationships. Some exercise power directly others not, but it's all about power.

Faith is, as Paul tells us, the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Faith is not an interpersonal relationship. Censorship is. As far as "rights" are concerned, they proceed from the barrel of a gun.

There are absolute moral truths and in attempting to discover them power relationships come into play. Who gets to define these moral absolutes gains power.

All power proceeds from God and carries far more temptation than humans can handle. That's why we get things like slavery, racism, misogyny, various "isms" and so on. Power is nearly self-defining as abusive, the more concentrated, the more abusive it becomes.

Power is best left in the hands of God and if it must be handled by humans, as it appears it must, best disseminated amongst all those affected. All throughout history we find the desire for power to be corrosive of the character, and destructive of those wielding it and having it wielded on them.

Censorship, like racism is a power relationship, unlike Faith which is given by God and must be embraced, Power is Prometheus' "gift" to humanity.

Nov 3, 2008, 6:44pm

Is the part where we start talking about stringing people up by their 'nads?

Nov 3, 2008, 7:00pm

Now, I think. Except that I'm unsure if geneg is my inferior or my superior. If he is the latter, not only does he lack a '"right"' to unstrung genitalia, but apparently God is on my side too. Woo-hoo!

Nov 3, 2008, 10:14pm

Sometimes my sense of outrage gets away from me. I realize stringing them up by the 'nads could be seen as a little harsh. Maybe a guillotine?

Tim, I feel honored that I participate in some of the same discussions as you. I would never consider myself your superior.

BTW, in another group we're reading and discussing The Great Transformation and I'm just to the part where Armstrong discusses warfare among the Chinese in which the least aggressive and most humble of the combatants was the winner. The winner would cry for the loser because he lost and had to deal with that, while the loser would cry for the winner because he won and had to deal with winning. Very interesting concept and one I could learn something from.

Nov 4, 2008, 1:11pm

Sometimes my sense of outrage gets away from me. I realize stringing them up by the 'nads could be seen as a little harsh. Maybe a guillotine?

Mercy's a business, brother. I wish it for you.

Nov 4, 2008, 11:57pm

I just want to see how many times we can all say 'nads. (And note the apostrophe. Only on LibraryThing would it be so religiously applied.)

Do you seriously disagree with "rights" entirely?

Nov 5, 2008, 12:04pm

>195 Jesse_wiedinmyer: Only if you agree on a "safe" word.

Fev 18, 2010, 1:51am

Hey geneg,

thanks for your sincere and encouraging post. I agree with some of what you are saying - Jesus (and Paul too) is extremely concerned with how we live our lives now, saying that it will have an effect on the quality or characteristics of our afterlife. However, he never says that our entrance into Heaven is contingent on what we do...actually he says the opposite. John's Gospel (specifically chapters 3 and 6) recording Jesus saying that what people need to do to be justified before God is to belief in Him (Jesus), whom God sent.

Also, Paul was absolutely obsessed with Heaven, and preached it continually! For him "to die is gain" because he shall enter into Heaven and be with the Lord Jesus. He may not have spilled as much ink making such statements in his epistles as he does trying to mentor infant churches in day-to-day conduct, but such statements are definitive of his whole world view.

But you are right that Jesus and Paul both highly stress living Godly and just lives while still on earth - but this is always in light of what Jesus has saved us for: the Kingdom of Heaven. The Gospel which Jesus continually preaches, as does Paul, is the coming of the Kingdom of God/Heaven. Jesus is looking for the future citizens of that Kingdom. Yes, they will be characterized by caring by the heart-attitude of caring for the world's orphans, but only as a result of believing in and trusting in the Lord Jesus, who saves by faith, and imparts his own Christ-life to His faithful, sanctifying them in preparation for the day of perfection--inauguration into the Kingdom of Heaven.

As I said above, I don't disagree with you on the importance and stress which the Bible lays on how we live now, but you must recognize that the ultimate hope we have is resurrection, and that is also what the Bible teaches. If there is no resurrection, as Paul says, then all of our works are futile. But, he also says, knowing that there is a resurrection, we then ought to serve the God who set us free to serve - in preparation for serving Him perfectly in Heaven.

I hope that this is some good food for thought.

Regarding giving Bibles to Atheists, I agree with you in principle, and agree that uf they read it with open hearts that they would be moved by its good teaching. However, the atheist mind is too fixed on what it considers to be discrepant and troublesome, not lifting their heads from the stump they've tripped over to see the clear path before them. Let us continue to pray for their safe journey towards the truth.

God bless you brother (or sister), and keep feeding on God's word, doing the good works for which you were saved.

Fev 18, 2010, 5:23pm

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Thomas Merton, Seven Story Mountain
Alcoholics Anonymous

Fev 22, 2010, 5:29pm

"The Second Coming" by Walker Percy

Fev 26, 2010, 8:42pm

I'm very happy being an atheist. Why do any of you think that all I need to do to correct that is read the right book? That's whack.

Fev 26, 2010, 9:11pm

Special extension to Borges' library. There is a book—probably not written, but with infinite time, writeable—for every person that can change their mind to thing anything.

Mar 10, 2010, 3:26pm

Este utilizador foi removido como sendo spam.

Mar 10, 2010, 7:36pm

>206 mickeymullen:

And why would I need a plan of salvation? Salvation from what?

Mar 10, 2010, 8:21pm

Indeed. If the person is an atheist, apologetics will probably only annoy him/her. Get a real gift instead.

Mar 11, 2010, 11:58am

# 208.

No kidding!

I was atheistic several years and friends and family gave me lots of apologetics books to read: http://www.librarything.com/catalog/KenoticRunner&tag=apologetics

I read them all, as requested.

But nobody really wanted to discuss anything in meaningful ways.

What was worse than people giving the books was people not being willing to discuss in any depth.

Mar 11, 2010, 4:40pm

But it's the discussing-in-depth that creates atheists. That is why most religionists either avoid atheists, or get so frustrated by the debate when their illogic is graphically pointed out to them that they wish they had.

It's best, IMO, that all devout religionists stay completely away from atheists, if at all possible. IOW, don't go there. Because if you do chances are you are going to find it a very unhappy place - for you, the religionist. It will only be fun and games for the atheist, or it will just annoy him at worst. LOL.

Mar 11, 2010, 4:54pm

It is quite possible to have different experiences, JGL53. Not all atheists are completely certain that there is no value to religion, and not all are out to proselytize "believers" into their state, either. But then, having read many of these posts, most of which I refrain from responding to, I see that there are many who jump into an argument I am not ready to engage with!

(I wonder WHY you care so much. You spend a lot of time in these threads.)

How can I stay away from atheists? I generally don't enquire about anyone's religion or lack of it, except in venues where it would make sense to do so (say, at some Interfaith Meetings I've attended recently). But then, I wouldn't call myself a "religionist," either, whatever that might mean. I am, I suppose, devout, however.

I am good friends with an atheist who is one primarily because of the way he was raised; a European whose family suffered badly during World War II, and who just went "secular" after that. He's said it might be a good thing to have a religion, since he was impressed with the goodness (his word) of several religious people he knew, at least one an ordained priest in the Church of England. His take was quite tolerant and his attitude somewhat humble, in the best sense of the word: he just figures some "get" religion, others don't.

Editado: Mar 11, 2010, 5:11pm

I agree with your main points that were not personal.

As to why I care so much - would the world be a better place if I cared less?

We should always strive to care more for each other. We wouldn't want to make the Buddha cry.

Mar 11, 2010, 6:05pm


In my experience, it wasn't just "debate" but honest, heart-felt discussion that caused cognitive dissonance.

It didn't "create atheists" as you suggest as people's beliefs are so deep and "non-negotiable" from what I observed.

It was more simply that most "believers" avoided rather than either lived it or testified.

But your right though that there was a whole lot of "fun and games." I often have regret about that. It was too much fun and games at others' expense--toying at what they cherished.

Mar 11, 2010, 6:10pm

What book would I give to an atheist? To what end? If the purpose were for conversion, I'd have to say none. While I am a believer, that comes from faith. I have no interest in providing "evidence" for the existence of God. Maybe I'd just take him/her to the ocean. I always feel closer to God there. I don't think I've ever known anyone who changed their faith because of debate or argument. Maybe I just hang out with different people.

Editado: Mar 11, 2010, 6:36pm


"Religionist" and "theist" are generally pejorative terms used in the non-theistic community mostly for persons who would self-identify as "Christians," "believers," and "born again."

Kinda like "the lost," "non-believers," "the deceived," etc. are countering pejorative terms that non-theists would never use to self-describe.

Mar 11, 2010, 6:13pm


Sheesh, that's almost like hanging out with sinners and tax collectors. ;-)

Editado: Mar 12, 2010, 2:47pm

I think that if you give a Bible (or a book that directly states anything about the bible) to an Atheist it would scare them away. They have their beliefs as we have ours as Christians. I think the best way to reach an Atheist is by getting to the indirectly. Make them think. I think a good book (especially for teenagers) is A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks. I am sure alot of people have seen the movie, and it effects alot of people greatly, but movies are never as good as books. When I read the book, I was so moved by the message. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but I highly recommend ir for anyone to read.

Maybe if an Atheist read A Walk to Remember or another spiritual related book, it would make them curious and they would want to know more. I don't know, it's just a thought.


Mar 12, 2010, 3:12pm

the best way to reach an Atheist is by getting to the indirectly

For example, go after their girlfriends!

Mar 12, 2010, 3:27pm


I thought it was through their stomach.

Mar 12, 2010, 3:36pm

You know, like this church's rescue mission. That "message of hope" and the "encouraging message" they mention when they talk about their "Homeless Cafe" here -

Monday-Friday many of the San Francisco homeless can be found at our Homeless Café. It is an excellent atmosphere every morning as residents and homeless come in are individually greeted by staff members and volunteers. Guests are then allowed to relax, enjoying DVD’s of contemporary musical artists on our large video projection screen. After an encouraging message of hope, each person is then served a hot cup of coffee and an assortment of delicious pastries.

or their "Celebration Service" here -

Live music, an encouraging word, hot meal, and blankets. All these can be found at our evening Celebration Service. Homeless men and women from around the city come to the celebration service to experience something different. Friendly people, an encouraging message and a piping hot meal help to make it a little easier for someone who is experiencing difficult times. But it doesn’t stop there. Guests are also given blankets, toiletry kits, and referrals for housing.

is actually a mandatory sermon that one must sit through to get fed for the day. They lock the doors when the sermon starts and if you're not in the door by then, you're shit out of luck for eating there.

Mar 12, 2010, 3:37pm

i would start with a Bible Story....they tell the stories outnof the bible but they shorten them and add detail. My mom introduced them to me when i was very young. She would read them every night and i have outgrown them and am now on to the Bible.

Editado: Mar 12, 2010, 6:51pm

Gee - you people don't know much about atheists, do you?

Ever met one in real life?

You think giving them a bible or reading them bible stories will make it all better?


I grew up going to a southern baptist church every Sunday. I used to win the "sword drill" contests every year at vacation bible school. I could teach YOU people the bible.

I belong to an atheist organization that has not just ex-long time church goers, but actual ex-Penecostal and ex-Baptist preachers, and ex-priests. And so if we just read the bible to these guys they would wake up and smell the coffee?


Editado: Mar 13, 2010, 11:27pm

Indeed, indeed.

I have lots of non-theistic friends (various types of non-theists).

And lots of Christian friends too (of nearly all major denominations).

They don't know each other. At all, really.


Bizarrely nearly all the atheistic friends and acquaintances know the Bible much better than the (nominally) Christian friends, especially those who self-identify as Evangelical and "born again."

The atheists know that they know the Bible generally better.

But the Christians don't know that the atheists know the Bible better.

Yes, the whole know vs. believe discussion could be had, but... most atheists generally know their way around not just the Bible but also denominational distinctions, Christian doctrines, church history, etc. quite well.

Of the touchstone works mentioned in this long thread, I've read about a third, having read most of them when I was non-theistic.

Mar 22, 2010, 8:12pm

The Bible, if that doesn't help the Atheist nothing will...

Editado: Mar 22, 2010, 8:18pm

>224 LeslieMusoko: If I were an atheist, the Bible wouldn't even begin to "convert" me. It's difficult to read, harder even to understand, and has some parts that don't show the chosen people in the best light, to put it mildly.

Editado: Mar 22, 2010, 8:46pm

> 224

I read the entire bible at age 14. I reread it at age 16. I of course didn't tell anyone but I stopped considering myself a Christian at about age 17.

I'm not that unusual. Many times reading the bible causes atheism in intelligent people, or at least leads them to deism or pantheism or Buddhism, etc.

Why do you think the Catholic Church forbade the translation of the bible into the common languages of the people so that they could read it for themselves? They knew it would be worse for Christianity than an invading army of atheists.

Mar 22, 2010, 9:05pm

Oh my, the idea that I could be induced to change my oft-contemplated philosophical beliefs based on a Nicholas Spark novel! Amusing.

Editado: Mar 22, 2010, 9:08pm

Why do you think the Catholic Church forbade the translation of the bible into the common languages of the people so that they could read it for themselves? They knew it would be worse for Christianity than an invading army of atheists.

Let's think about your theory. The Church spread from a tiny cluster of Jews in Palestine to a world religion from Ireland to the Ethiopia, Spain to Georgia, across multiple states and cultures when its scriptures were in the most common and ordinary language of the people—Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Georgian, Gothic, Arabic, Armenian, etc.

With history and especially religion most things are just opinion. One has to really try to say something falsifiable. I commend you for a theory that is both easily falsifiable and completely false.

Mar 23, 2010, 1:13am

(The Churchʻs) . . . scriptures were in the most common and ordinary language(s) of the people -- Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Georgian, Gothic, Arabic, Armenian, etc.

What is forgotten in the stories of how the Church
"suppressed" Bible reading is that usually anyone who could read at all could read the scriptural language, for example in the West to be able to read was to be able to read Latin. True, the Latin was a translation -- from "koine" Greek for the New Testament. Ironically maverick Catholics who support a return to the Latin Mass should realize that that the Latin Mass itself was a switch to the
vernacular from the Greek of the original mass and of Eastern "foreigners". (Some Catholic historians believe there was an Aramaic mass before the Greek, though it canʻt be documented.)

In any event, the Church was not directly suppressing Bible reading. Indirectly, she does bear responsibility for there being little Bible reading: She was at the center of a higher education system which was primarily for
the learning of theology and hence did not widely propagate literacy in either Latin or the vernaculars.
The picture of peasant and middle class people in, say, 700 A.D. wishing they could read the Bible in their own language but forbidden by a stern Church with its chained Bibles and its obsolete Latin, is a fantasy. Such a situation was not going to exist for some 800 years.

Mar 23, 2010, 1:20am

>226 JGL53: Why do you think the Catholic Church forbade the translation of the bible into the common languages of the people so that they could read it for themselves? They knew it would be worse for Christianity than an invading army of atheists.

This reluctance to let the common people read the Bible was a much later development. The Latin Vulgate was the "official" version, and the masterium of the Church was the only group deemed worthy to interpret it: after the invention of the printing press and the Reformation, it was dangerous for people to come to their own conclusions in interpretation.

And, in many respects, they were right! We have complete ignoramuses proof-texting, and claiming Biblical inerrancy, going to town with wild interpretations of Revelation, etc. Partial literacy can be much like allowing children to carry firearms.

Editado: Mar 23, 2010, 2:50am

As a general thing, religions tend to be very conservative linguistically. Once a group of people come to believe that a particular piece of language is divine or causes something divine to happen, it gets frozen in time. This is true across any number of religions. Examples:

1. Some out earliest Latin is preserved in religious formulae that were unintelligible to the later Romans who repeated and recorded it.
2. In Islam, the especially sacred character of the Koran—not just inspired but directly dictated by God in Arabic—has meant that Islam has a linguistic situation far more chained to an obsolete version of Arabic than Latin ever was, with no likelihood of a change.
3. Dead "liturgical" languages abound. Zoroastrians chant in middle Persian, unintelligible to the regular people.
4. An important core part of the Christian mass, the "lord have mercy" (kyrie eleison), is still said in untranslated Greek in the Latin, Syriac, Armenian, Arabic, Coptic and Ethiopic mass.
5. There are not a few "King James Only" zealots, a good demonstration that Protestantism is no cure for linguistic conservatism!

In Christianity the situation is particularly weird. The Bible wasn't merely translated into Georgian, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic and Slavonic; they first achieved written form for the express purpose of recording the Bible! That is, the task of making the Bible intelligible to the people was so pressing it prompted creating new scripts—or adapting old ones with new characters—and spreading literacy on illiterate peoples! (That Christianity brought literacy to huge swaths of the world is largely unknown and unmentioned, even by Christians.)

How ironic, therefore, that all five of these languages have become religious fossils. A contemporary Armenian, Georgian or Ethiopian still speaks the same language, but in a form so different that only the specially-educated can understand the mass. Few Russians can understand a sentence in Slavonic. And Coptic, the center of the mass in Coptic churches, has been a completely dead language for three centuries. And, of course, biblical Greek is now largely unintelligible to most Greeks—they've lost whole cases!—who continue to use it for their bibles and their mass.

Anyway, all this goes to the basic point: Religions are linguistically conservative. That this documented, cross-cultural and cross-lingusitic tendency.

In the case of Christianity, I think it's a bad tendency. That's why I, like 95% of Catholics, do not want to return to the Latin mass (despite being one of the rare Catholics who can actually understand Latin!)(1) That this is all nefarious conspiracy to prevent people from reading religious texts is ignorant and provably false.

Incidentally, linguistic conservancy is characteristic of any realm that requires close agreement between people. Christian communities exist because of what they believe in together. That's why they all repeat the Lords Prayer and most recite the Nicene Creed, despite it being a sort of doctrinal old-chestnut (it's content mostly rebuffs 4c heresies nobody cares about anymore). The same could be said of law, which is a similar agreement to have things mean what they mean, and certain areas of science and medicine. Obviously medicine isn't repeating centuries-old formulae, but it's striking what percentage of medical vocabulary in most modern language is composed of simple words and phrases from Greek and Latin! Next time you hear about a mass in your calamus scriptorius, you can console yourself that your brain cancer resides in an area Hellenistic physicians thought looked like a papyrus pen.

(1) The polls here are mostly about whether Catholics oppose making the Latin mass available. The numbers there show that, in the US, 12% oppose it, 25% favor it and 63% have no opinion; 11% say that, if it were available, they would attend it—the wording doesn't indicate whether they would visit to see what it was like, or attend it to the exclusion of other masses. Never asked is the question "Would you favor restricting or abolishing the non-Latin mass," the view of the Latin-mass zealots.

Mar 23, 2010, 4:34am

>231 timspalding: That Christianity brought literacy to huge swaths of the world is largely unknown and unmentioned

And that is just as true, in a slightly different context, in recent times. Many African languages were first written down by 19th and early 20th century missionaries in order that people would be able to read the bible in their own language. Grammar books, dictionaries, adult literacy programmes and collections of indigenous stories were all published by churches and are still used today.

Editado: Mar 23, 2010, 10:45am

Suppression of unauthorized vernacular translations didn't start with the Council of Trent's decree de editione et usu sacrorum librorum as a reaction to printing and the Reformation. It predates both. In English, for instance, there was the third Synod of Oxford in 1408, as a reaction to the Lollards.

A Protestant oversimplification of history is that this was all about the dangers of reading the Bible on one's own, as Erasmus suggested one should.

A Catholic oversimplification of history is that this was all about suppressing heresies like Arianism.

Neither one is wholly true or wholly false.

Interestingly enough, if you Google such events, on the first page, you will get moderate Catholic, extreme anti-Catholic, pro-Latin Mass, atheist and all-of-the-above-at-once (Wikipedia) interpretations to compare.

Mar 23, 2010, 11:10am


An excellent post.

Any interesting side point on lingustic conservativism is that while the words are slow to change, the meanings behind them have a bit more fluidity.

Mar 23, 2010, 1:23pm

The Bible cannot be interpreted intellectually. If an Atheist reads the bible looking from this perspective they would be lost. It is a spiritual book. Although as Christians some of us might believe that coming to God is our choice, the truth is it really isn't. God chooses you first. You cannot learn about him unless he wishes you to do so.

Accepting God and understanding the Bible is not about reading it many times and understanding each word. It is about how you feel at the moment you pick it up. You can choose any passage and any paragraph and get something from it. God is not about man's intellect as seen by us and our world. To understand God's word regardless of whatever book you pick starts with first accepting him without proof of his existence. If you start here you will understand every word he says. In simple terms imagine choosing your parents. Regardless of whether you accept what they have to say or not they made you. To understand God or his word or the many authors and books inspired by him and his creations you must discard the past and wisdom of man, become a child again and accept his word. Then the miracles follow and eventually you learn to trust him and the rest is history. Simply start by doing as he says, loving him more than anything else you can think of and then he will return that love in ways you could never imagine.

Editado: Mar 23, 2010, 1:52pm

>235 LeslieMusoko:

FWIW, a good many of us fellow Christians would not agree on much or most of that.

Editado: Mar 23, 2010, 2:18pm

> 235

"The Bible cannot be interpreted intellectually. If an Atheist reads the bible looking from this perspective they would be lost. It is a spiritual book. Although as Christians some of us might believe that coming to God is our choice, the truth is it really isn't. God chooses you first. You cannot learn about him unless he wishes you to do so."

I have no desire or good reason, really, to pass the buck as to why I happen to be an atheist. But if your theory is true, then I am an atheist because the Lord has predetermined that I be so.

If that is true, then I bow to the will of god. Except I am an atheist and do not believe a god exists, as defined by theism. So it is sort of a convoluted mess, ain't it?

> 236

"FWIW, a good many of us fellow Christians would not agree on much or most of that."

So, according to this Christian, I'm guessing, my atheism is totally my responsibility.

If so, then I am also totally comfortable with THAT.

If given a choice, though, I like the Calvinist theory best. It seems to cut down the scope of the argument considerable. LOL.

Mar 23, 2010, 2:21pm


And if i don't accept this, I get to burn for all eternity...

Ahhh feel the love...

If you all don't mind, you can just get me a gift certificate and I'll pick out my own books.

Mar 23, 2010, 2:33pm

> 238

"And if i don't accept this, I get to burn for all eternity...

Ahhh feel the love..."

We should not use sarcasm to make fun of unfortunates who believe in a literal hell, we should show human compassion toward them and try to lead them as best we can into the light. And when I say "we" I mean the whole spectrum of people at the rational end of the bell curve, from liberal Christians to atheists.

Mar 23, 2010, 4:35pm

I wonder if anyone would like to make the "True Christian" post at this point...

Mar 23, 2010, 9:24pm

I'm thinking now that I'd give On the Origin of Species to an atheist. I enjoy it, and I believe in God.

Mar 24, 2010, 3:28pm

In answer to the original poster, I'd give the atheist Mind and Nature by Gregory Bateson.

Then we'd have something interesting to talk about and I could stay a "theist" and the atheist an antheist.

Mar 24, 2010, 3:50pm

> 242

This book was given several intricate and glowing reviews by customers on Amazon. I have put the $1.29 paperback on my wish list.

Mar 24, 2010, 5:20pm

Editado: Mar 29, 2010, 4:18pm

> 224

Well, I read the two chapters posted and I did find it worth the time. The author seemed rather verbose in his writing style and the book could have done with substantially more editing (my opinion - and I am not a professional writer).

I think the author gives little comfort to theists or to any type of idealistic belief. He really leaves you nothing except faith - empirical argument is pretty much out.

Can you get by on faith? If so, then we certainly can agree to disagree. I'm not about to dispute someone's right to one's "faith".

Editado: Mar 31, 2010, 7:07pm

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Dez 30, 2011, 5:48pm

Msladylib wrote (230):

"And, in many respects, they were right! We have complete ignoramuses proof-texting, and claiming Biblical inerrancy, going to town with wild interpretations of Revelation, etc. Partial literacy can be much like allowing children to carry firearms."

Don't know about ignoramuses proof-texting, but I'd feel much more comfortable allowing children to carry firearms than all the millions of adults who carry them today. Imagine ... no armies, no armed police ... only children. I dare say they would exhibit more common sense about firearms than all the adults who have ever lived.

Editado: Dez 30, 2011, 10:53pm

>247 Rood: As someone who deals with conflicts in which children carry AK47s I beg to disagree with you completely about the wisdom of allowing them to carry firearms. Were you serious or was that tongue in cheek? I do agree with you though that it would be good if adults didn't carry them either.

Dez 31, 2011, 1:50pm

Reason for God by Tim Keller

Dez 31, 2011, 6:31pm

How about The God Who is There. by Francis A. Schaeffer.

Jan 3, 2012, 11:34am

I have to agree with John on pistil packing pupils. Nothing soured me on teaching more than realizing that if I took a gun from a young dope dealer, I would find myself accused of violating his rights as well as actually placing him in physical danger from other children down the block who had vowed to kill him. They later did.

Jan 7, 2012, 3:51pm

I don't think there is a book to give in my opinion it depends on the person and the situation. I have a friend who loves suspense novels so I give him Frank Peretti because they have a christian background and are pretty good. I gave a friend who reads about WWII a book on bonhoeffer. If I were to switch books I would have lost all benefit.

Editado: Jan 9, 2012, 11:20pm

~ 248 & 251

I find this position to be dangerously naive. It is like the position of the sermon on the mount, where it is noted that not only is it good that people don't commit bad acts, but that it would be better still if they didn't have bad thoughts.

O.K., yes, in some sense it would be better. It would be better, for instance, in a much better world than has ever existed or can ever be expected to exist.

Wouldn't it also be better if no one - including your local Bobby - never had a need for a gun? Yes it would. And there have been some people who have believed that we can bring the world to such a transformed situation through personal courage and acts consistent with such belief http://adinballou.org/
I have always had the greatest respect for such courageous people when they, in fact, act upon their convictions, but I find that I don't agree with them.

While it is a horrible thing that there are situations where children reasonably carry AK-47s there are such situations. One such situation is that such children exist in societies where, otherwise, their female relatives would be repeatedly raped, their families would starve and they themselves would be bashed against a wall until they were dead. Only live people can be moral.

Jan 9, 2012, 11:15pm

I read the entire bible at age 14. I reread it at age 16. I of course didn't tell anyone but I stopped considering myself a Christian at about age 17.

I'm not that unusual. Many times reading the bible causes atheism in intelligent people, or at least leads them to deism or pantheism or Buddhism, etc.


Yes, indeed. Particularly if they partake of the same arrogance as those around them and imagine that they can "read the Bible according to its plain meaning, read it literally." They, of course, wouldn't make the same mistake with Shakespeare, but, hey, this is the Bible. G-d tells the sufficiently arrogant enough reader the "true meaning" of the Bible.

Editado: Jan 10, 2012, 12:57am

>253 lawecon: lawecon, my >248 John5918: was a short response to what I consider to be a naive and dangerous idea in >247 Rood:. Although I tend towards pacifism, I have worked long enough in an armed liberation struggle to realise that it is a very complex issue and I accept the possibility of legitimate armed resistance, just war, self-defence, and the need for official security forces.

I believe that the extreme case you cite in your last paragraph is not common and might even be hypothetical. In the conflicts with which I am familiar most of the children carrying AK47s have been forced to do so against their will, often being dehumanised in the process. One of the reasons they are forcibly conscripted is precisely because they do not "exhibit more common sense about firearms" than adults (>247 Rood:). They are malleable and vicious fighters.

I am currently involved in a peace initiative in a conflict where thousands of heavily armed youth (with machine guns, RPGs and communications kit, not just AK47s), many of them children, have just been on a rampage of killing, abducting, looting and burning towns, because their perception is that they need to protect themselves (and their female relatives, and their cattle) from another group of heavily armed youth who have been attacking them for the same reason (and who have already begun new small-scale revenge attacks). I (and almost everybody else involved in any way in this situation except possibly the youth themselves) definitely think it would be better if they didn't have guns to perpetrate this cycle of violence and revenge. Violence may give the impression of short-term security in such a situation but usually just leads to more violence.

Similarly, ask anyone in Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic or DRC whether children should be allowed to carry firearms, and their experience of the LRA will probably lead them to suggest otherwise.

Edited to fill out a couple of points, before anyone responded.

Editado: Jan 10, 2012, 6:51am

lawecon: Was Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and John Adams intelligent? They were Christians just to name a few.

Editado: Jan 11, 2012, 3:46am

If you are an atheist, read Why I Believe by D. James Kennedy. Creation verses Evolution

Editado: Jan 11, 2012, 8:06am

In the conflicts with which I am familiar most of the children carrying AK47s have been forced to do so against their will, often being dehumanised in the process. One of the reasons they are forcibly conscripted is precisely because they do not "exhibit more common sense about firearms" than adults (>247 Rood:). They are malleable and vicious fighters.


Probably many children are misled by venial other people. But then, probably many adults are misled by venial other people. If you resided in the U.S. you would have seen a lot of that in the years after 9/11.


I am currently involved in a peace initiative in a conflict where thousands of heavily armed youth (with machine guns, RPGs and communications kit, not just AK47s), many of them children, have just been on a rampage of killing, abducting, looting and burning towns, because their perception is that they need to protect themselves (and their female relatives, and their cattle) from another group of heavily armed youth who have been attacking them for the same reason (and who have already begun new small-scale revenge attacks).

Please note that this is directly contradictory with your first theme. If these children's female relatives and cattle (aka food) are in danger, then their resistance is not irrational and they are not being manipulated just because they are children. They may well "go too far," but the same claim can be made, with considerable justice, about every criminal justice system and about conflicts between adults (or purported adults) like the Iraq war.

Again, my instincts are to favor complete pacifism. But I'm going to have to observe a significantly greater proportion of the world population than me and thee and the people who run the website I linked to who adamantly agree with that position before I will start concluding that such is a feasible alternative to where we are today. In the interim, it is probably not a good idea if people who are acting against a credible threat to their physical well being, the physical well being of their families and their ability to keep alive are the ones who are disarmed.


I (and almost everybody else involved in any way in this situation except possibly the youth themselves) definitely think it would be better if they didn't have guns to perpetrate this cycle of violence and revenge. Violence may give the impression of short-term security in such a situation but usually just leads to more violence.


Yes, and see above.

Editado: Jan 10, 2012, 8:16am


lawecon: Was Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and John Adams intelligent? They were Christians just to name a few.


I am curious why you would pose such a ridiculous question. Are you such a poor reader and so prejudiced that you believe that I think or have ever said that many Christians are not intelligent people?

OTOH, some Christians are apparently deaf, dumb, intellectually blind and rather stupid. Just as are many atheists, many Jews and many Muslims. (One hardly needs to read very far to corroborate those observations.) So being a Christian does not make you brilliant - or able to conjugate verbs.

Jan 10, 2012, 8:18am

If your an atheist, read Why I Believe by D. James Kennedy. Creation verses Evolution


It is "you're" which is a contraction for "you are," not "your".

Jan 10, 2012, 8:55am

>258 lawecon: many children are misled by venial other people

There is a difference between forced recruitment into a militia such as the Lord's Resistance Army and participation in community groups which see themselves as defending their people, such as the Nuer White Army or the Zande Arrow Boys. In the former, we're definitely not talking about being "misled". Rather it is forcible conscription and it's not uncommon for it to come with being forced to kill your own parents in cold blood, being drugged, raped, threatened, starved, beaten and being thoroughly brainwashed and intimidated.

if these children's female relatives and cattle (aka food) are in danger, then their resistance is not irrational and they are not being manipulated

I would draw attention to the word "perception" in my post. Actually most of the time they are not in danger, and would be in even less danger if the cycle of revenge attacks didn't take place. Government, UN and Church have all been working hard to reduce the risk, but these perceived self-defence attacks actually increase the risk. They are often carried out against the wishes of the elders and the general population, and it is usually the vulnerable (women, children, the elderly) who bear the brunt of the violence, which is a major departure from "traditional" cattle raiding when warriors fought warriors but didn't touch non-combatants.

Incidentally amongst the pastoralist communities of South Sudan cattle are usually not perceived as food. You don't slaughter cattle to eat unless there is some reason (a religious feast, some other celebration, the animal is sick, or perhaps during extreme famine). Cattle represent wealth, and are necessary for marriage. The latter is one of the key reasons why young men "fetch" cattle (some of my colleagues, including people from pastoralist traditions, and I had a long conversation the other day about how the word used is more akin to "fetch" than "steal").

lawecon, I know how thorough you are, so I hope you recognise that I am sketching in a couple of paragraphs what others have written volumes about. Evans-Pritchard is a household name on both the tribes I mentioned, Nuer and Zande, and there's plenty of modern reflection on child soldiers. I'm also throwing in some of my own personal experience.

Editado: Jan 11, 2012, 7:48am

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Editado: Jan 11, 2012, 8:22am


Much of what you say is very enlightening, and I have great respect for your perceptions as a person "on the ground" with these people and events. However, I still get a certain ambiguity in what you are saying that is disturbing. Let me illustrate using a passage from your post #261:

"if these children's female relatives and cattle (aka food) are in danger, then their resistance is not irrational and they are not being manipulated"

I would draw attention to the word "perception" in my post. Actually most of the time they are not in danger, and would be in even less danger if the cycle of revenge attacks didn't take place. Government, UN and Church have all been working hard to reduce the risk, but these perceived self-defence attacks actually increase the risk. They are often carried out against the wishes of the elders and the general population, and it is usually the vulnerable (women, children, the elderly) who bear the brunt of the violence, which is a major departure from "traditional" cattle raiding when warriors fought warriors but didn't touch non-combatants.


What I find disturbing about the above is a tendency to confuse the hypothetical "if the cycle of revenge attacks didn't take place" with an immediate "solution." If everyone had food there would be no hunger. If everyone had fresh water, there would be no thirst. If we were all nice to one another, there would be no wars, conflicts or hurt feelings. But, sadly, the predicate of each of those hypotheticals is untrue.

The "revenge attacks" are, presumably, for, ah, revenge. Revenge is something that takes place when there is no larger society and societal mechanisms to address real grievances. If the grievances are real, then it won't do to say "Forget it, that was yesterday, this is today." Maybe that "should be" enough, but it isn't. If one's mother is raped or killed or your brother dies of starvation because your cattle were killed, then you are going to live with that and it is going to fester until you have reason to believe that "justice has been done." If there is no prospect that "justice will be done," then it is not extraordinary or immoral to conclude that you should administer such justice yourself.

Frankly, I am not adverse to that conclusion. It is one reason that Moses was admonished that the first thing that should be done in creating a new society was to create a system of courts and judges. When there is no such society or system, however, but raids by those who are "outside of the society" then the reactions you are describing do not seem extraordinary or unjust.

Jan 11, 2012, 10:23am

>263 lawecon: And I don't disagree with you fundamentally on that analysis. The White Army has issued several press releases recently justifying their actions very much on those grounds.

I would make a few counterpoints. This is a newly independent country coming out of decades of war, oppression and chaos. These revenge attacks usually perpetrate the same atrocities on the other group as the original group perceive were perpetrated on them. Thus a whole new set of innocent women and children who are relatives of yet another load of impetuous youth are killed, wounded, raped and abducted. In this particular instance, revenge attacks have already begun, with reports of a couple of dozen killed; small-scale at the moment, but likely to escalate as they regroup.

Government, UN and Church are putting in place mechanisms to address the issues, but of course nothing takes place as fast as the youth would like (their elders are a little more patient). Part of the trauma of the South Sudanese population is that they have learned behaviours which worked very well during the war (ie take your firearms and kill anybody you perceive might be a threat) but which are not appropriate during a time of peaceful nation-building. So even when there is "law and order" (which admittedly is still weak and patchy as the fledgling nation struggles with so many different priorities), there is still a tendency to use the gun as the first method of resolving any dispute.

Jan 11, 2012, 2:48pm

254 - lawecon: “…read the Bible according to its plain meaning, read it literally." …this is the Bible. G-d tells the sufficiently arrogant enough reader the "true meaning" of the Bible.”

I have not heard this “explanation” for a while. The fallacy implies that the Bible is written in some deep mysterious language or coded with divine messages when it is clearly not. It is not even God’s words – it is all human words; their dreams their fears; their aspirations.

There is sufficient evidence to alert those who care for the truth to realize that the Bible, with all its contradictions and blatant inconsistencies, is completely and entirely sourced by humans ( that is evidenced by the problems) – a select collection of works by humans expressing their cultures, their beliefs, their perceptions of reality. Have you researched the origins of the writings, the selection process for entries, who the players were and their intent, the translations and revisions over time – including last year where one change reported: In a change in a passage in Isaiah 7:14 that foretells the coming of Jesus and his birth to a virgin mother, the 1970 edition's reference to "the virgin" will become "the young woman," to better translate the Hebrew word "almah."?

The Bible is an example of how easy it is, with the aid of organized religion, to elevate humankind’s words into inspired words from God. Anyone can write anything claiming to be influenced by God in some way, and someone, somewhere will believe it as the gospel truth.

JGL53 seems to be using great intelligence and comprehension to come to a sound decision – should be lauded for not simply becoming a religious sheep, as is usually the case at such a young age. Most people need to have someone spoon feed personal interpretations of the Bible to them – they feel inferior to the task of doing it themselves, fear it is a sin to spot the discrepancies.

Humans believed certain thing about their gods that they recorded. Those records were later selectively combined to make the Bible. Now others reading the Bible say the writings are true and entirely the words of God, because it says so in there. What utter nonsense! Similarly, artists paint and sculpt their ideas about divine figures. People then later claim to see them because apparitions look like the depictions, even though there is nothing to indicate that the artists’ concepts are accurate. It is the same pattern of behavior since caveman.

Do you know for certain that God interacted with the authors, or was it their interpretation? Did He whisper the information to them in a recognized voice? Did He give them some unmistakable sign or did they say it, and that made it real? On what are you basing your theory that God blocks understanding from the arrogant – God. How do you know it is not a case that they are correct, and you and others are wrong? Are you aware of any incontrovertible evidence that proves that God had anything to do with the contents of the Bible, or you relying on Faith, or choice?

So when a recommendation is made as to what an Atheist should read, the one giving the suggestion should be sure that the objective is to enlighten with knowledge and not brainwash.

Jun 15, 2012, 5:31pm

Was surprised that a search of this thread did not find "God Is Not Great" by Christopher Hitchens, except as a touchstone. But of course it should have been there in #76, where it has been re-titled “God Is Great”; not quite what Hitchens had in mind. This is certainly required reading for any atheist, along with the much quoted Richard Dawkins book “The God Delusion”. For someone who already has TGD, then I'd suggest The Blind Watchmaker, also by Dawkins.

Bertrand Russell's “ Why I am Not A Christian ” should also certainly be on the list. As with the other books I mention here, this important work would also be a suitable gift for any agnostic who hasn't already read it. Many years have passed since I last read it, and I'm not sure if I still have a copy, so can't refer to it in detail. If my copy is still out on loan I hope it's being well circulated.

Ludovic Kennedy's “All in the Mind: A Farewell to God” is another that I can't provide detail on, but it has been recommended to me and is on my TBR list. LK's old school friend Humphrey Lyttleton wrote favourably of it in “It Just Occurred to Me”, where he also wrote of his own passage from confirmed Christian, through agnosticism, to atheism. Here he also accepted the possibility of being pigeon-holed as Humanist, agreeing with LK that it does not rule out the concept of spirituality. HL wanted, but the opportunity didn't arise, to ask LK if he didn't feel some disappointment for not having been burnt at the stake, and couldn't help feeling that the answer, with a twinkle in his eye, would have been, “Yes”. So “It Just Occurred to Me” also gets added to the list.

I'm not surprised to see Tim Keller recommended earlier in this thread. Not just a good writer, but also an excellent orator and his manner is disarming in debate. But I wouldn't agree that he should be recommended reading for an atheist as he fails on two important points. In debate he admits (as any decent person would) that he doesn't have a satisfactory answer, or interpretation, for the exhortations to genocide (or ethnic cleansing) ordered in the OT. Secondly, he propounds that a person without belief in God is condemned like Sisyphus to keep pushing a rock up a hill only for it to roll back down where he has to start again. An empty life is what TK says the atheist has. This is not a description that fits any of the writers I have listed here. So give TK to a theistic agnostic, but don't waste time offering him to an atheistic one.

The UK Secretary of State for Education recently arranged for a copy of the King James bible to be sent to every state school. That it wasn't already there was a source of amazement for many of us, and was proclaimed publicly by Richard Dawkins. In these cash-strapped times Gove had to find private funding for the project, and Dawkins said that had he been approached he would have contributed to it, as anyone not familiar with the KJ Bible would be a literary barbarian. This is a view with which Christopher Hitchens would have agreed. Dawkins admitted his ulterior motive, that children allowed unfettered reading of the Bible, without selection imposed, would be turned against religion. Echoes here of Mark Twain, and “The best cure for Christianity is reading the Bible”.

Editado: Jun 16, 2012, 12:58pm

266 -- Given that this is a group about Christianity, I think the point of this thread was to give a book to atheists which would enlighten them.

I recent read an excellent book by Alan Jacobs called Original Sin: A Cultural History which might easily challenge one's assumptions.

I maintain that Witness by Whittaker Chambers is one of the greatest books of the 20th century, presenting us with the choice: Christ or Marx.

Jun 16, 2012, 5:22pm

>267 barney67:: this is a group about Christianity .
Yes, of course. As the group heading suggests, this is a group for "Readers and book owners interested in Christianity, theology, the Bible, etc...". No conflict there. That description includes me. And it includes atheist readers and book owners interested in Christianity, theology, the Bible, etc...
As for "enlighten", if I hadn't thought that each of the books that I listed would do that then I wouldn't have listed them. As has already been suggested, not all atheists will have read these books.

Jun 16, 2012, 6:40pm

>286 "As for "enlighten", if I hadn't thought that each of the books that I listed would do that then I wouldn't have listed them."

Yes, but they aren't going to enlighten people about Christianity, just various brands of atheism

Editado: Jun 16, 2012, 8:09pm

>269 eclecticdodo::
There was no stated requirement in the thread title that proposed books should "enlighten people about Christianity". Nevertheless, all the books I listed do just that.

Enlighten: To impart greater knowledge, wisdom, or understanding to; ... to free from prejudice or superstition. (OED)

Enlightenment: The action or process of freeing human understanding from the accepted and customary beliefs sanctioned by traditional, esp. religious, authority, chiefly by rational and scientific inquiry into all aspects of human life ... (OED)

Jun 17, 2012, 10:41am

The original post is gone. But you can tell from what people suggested that the intent was to post names of books that would challenge atheism, not reinforce it. You don't need to define enlighten for me, by the way.

Jul 1, 2012, 1:40pm

271: But you can tell from what people suggested that the intent was to post names of books that would challenge atheism, not reinforce it.

Then you shouldn't recommend "Christian" books to an atheist. Most of them are so badly written and full of logical fallacies that they would only reinforce the recipient's atheism.

Jul 1, 2012, 1:44pm

>272 StormRaven: Most of them are so badly written

Good to hear that you are familiar with "most" of the Christian books written over the last two millennia.

full of logical fallacies

Do you think all atheists are only atheists because of perceived "logical fallacies" in Christianity? Christianity is more than a set of intellectual assertions.

Ago 1, 2012, 2:50am

My life.

Editado: Ago 1, 2012, 9:33am


Bill Clinton's biography?

Ago 1, 2012, 10:37am

Good to hear that you are familiar with "most" of the Christian books written over the last two millennia.

I have yet to find one that isn't.

Do you think all atheists are only atheists because of perceived "logical fallacies" in Christianity?

A large proportion are. Try reading the "Why I am an Atheist" series that PZ Myers' has been hosting.

Ago 1, 2012, 2:17pm

>276 StormRaven: Thanks, StormRaven, for correcting me. My point is that Christianity is more than a set of intellectual assertions rather than exactly why atheists reject it, but I didn't make that clear.

Ago 1, 2012, 3:42pm

277: But if the intellectual assertions that form the basis for it are wanting, then the rest doesn't seem valid any more. Put another way, given that it seems no more valid than Scientology, why Christianity rather than Scientology? Or why Christianity rather than Hale-Bopp worship? Why bother with any of it at all?

Ago 1, 2012, 11:25pm

>278 StormRaven: Well, obviously you and I would disagree on both the intellectual assertions and the other reasons for being Christian. You see them as wanting, I don't, for all the reasons which we discuss daily on these threads.

Ago 2, 2012, 9:40am

278: I would guess that you disagree on the intellectual assertions. But the point I was making was that saying there is "more to Christianity" is irrelevant. If the intellectual underpinnings are flawed, then the "more" is nothing but fluff built on a foundation of sand.

Ago 3, 2012, 3:24pm

If attempting to enlighten atheists about Christian life, the last thing I would suggest is a book attempting to argue or prove ancient beliefs. Trying to argue creationism, for example, cannot possibly work. This is because, from a scholarly point of view (and atheists in general favor head over heart), science has proven itself as a worthwhile means of progressing, and Christians had better recognize that conservative beliefs contradict current-day discovery. That's simply the way it is, and trying to argue for the Bible's inerrancy or an antiquated picture of God simply fails.

Therefore, Christianity must be presented as a humanitarian endeavor, and any "science" that comes into play must focus on what Christianity DOES accomplish: that is, it encourages kindness, it helps people cope, it adds meaning to life, it brings comfort, that sort of thing. Soft sciences, not hard.

However, many portions of Christianity need social reform. Admitting the weaknesses and building on the strengths is how any movement keeps moving.

It's taken me a long while to get around to it, but IMO the only reasonable books to offer atheists as a means of promoting Christianity will be decidedly liberal and will present Christianity as progressive and making strides forward.

My recommendation: Take This Bread, a witty, moving book by a left-wing lesbian atheist who joined hands with the Church to take an active role in feeding the poor.

Ago 13, 2012, 11:04am

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Editado: Ago 13, 2012, 5:14pm

Esta mensagem foi removida pelo seu autor.

Ago 13, 2012, 11:27am

283: The most ironic thing about message #283 is that it is completely true.

Ago 13, 2012, 11:43am

>276 StormRaven: I have yet to find one that isn't.

What's your sample size?

Ago 13, 2012, 11:58am

285: Many.

Ago 13, 2012, 2:58pm

>283 barney67: : a circular reference?

Ago 13, 2012, 4:00pm

Yes, I agree. Absolutely right. ~283 is absolute nonsense. Every word of it

Editado: Ago 13, 2012, 5:13pm

You guys have never made typos. Right. You've done worse, much worse.

Ago 13, 2012, 5:19pm

289: The best thing about you is your ability to laugh at yourself.

Oh, wait.

Editado: Ago 13, 2012, 5:20pm

>289 barney67:: But if the original contents of #283 (now edited) had not been questioned, we would still be in the dark as to what it was that you considered nonsense. We are now in a better position to be able to agree with you, on that point.

Ago 13, 2012, 6:05pm

290 -- You don't know anything about me.

Ago 13, 2012, 9:44pm


Obviously, nor do you.

Ago 13, 2012, 10:28pm

292: Sure we do. We know how you behave here.

Editado: Ago 14, 2012, 1:25am

deniro, my reaction when I read your post was not about your typo, but your assertion that someone else's opinion about a book was "absolute nonsense". Presumably that means that your opinion of the book is different from his, and it would have helped the conversation if you had given us some clue as to why you disagreed so strongly with him rather than just dismissing his opinion as "absolute (but unspecified) nonsense".

Ago 14, 2012, 5:22am

A-a-a-anyway, back to the OP. Please could I have The Tiger Who Came to Tea?

Ago 14, 2012, 9:29am


I think you misunderstand. Like his mentor, Russell Kirk, when deniro speaks you just respond "Yes oh great master of Wisdom and Truth." and write down what was said. Your desire for rationales and justifications sounds almost "ideological." (A real no-no in this belief system.)

Ago 14, 2012, 7:38pm

Esta mensagem foi marcada como abusiva por vários utilizadores e por isso não é mostrada (mostre)
Drawing your attention to a book, "Memoirs of a Souper Priest: journey from priest to atheist". Excerpts on blog: www.jeromemccarthy.com

Ago 15, 2012, 6:01am

#298 You've been with LT too long to pretend you still don't know the rules about self-promotion.

Editado: Ago 15, 2012, 9:06am


I am curious about those rules. If the discussion is Great Romantic Novels and I've written, or my wife has written, or our child has written, The Greatest Romantic Novel Of All Time, I guess I'd be forbidden by TOS from mentioning that novel in a positive way or even mentioning it as relevant to the topic? Is that right? If so, does that sound like a sensible rule to you?

Editado: Ago 15, 2012, 2:24pm

Yeah, I'm curious too about these no-self-promotion rules. Three red flags means y'all take them seriously.

For the record, if anyone wishes to risk the ire of red-flaggers, I would love to know what you've written and would love to share what I've written. This is a book club, right?

Editado: Ago 16, 2012, 2:59am

For me it's a question of context and transparency. For someone who has never posted before to advertise their own book in a thread where it's not relevant and without admitting that they are the author seems unacceptable. For someone who is a regular poster to mention their own book in a thread where the book is relevant, and mentioning that it is their own book, seems acceptable. I think if Jerome had mentioned that it was his own book and told us why he thinks it is relevant to this conversation then it would have been OK.

In other words, there's a difference between blatant out-of-context self-promotion on the one hand, and introducing a relevant resource which happens to have been written by the poster on the other.

Ago 16, 2012, 5:52am

#302 Except that the message was duplicated to at least one other thread.

Ago 16, 2012, 7:40am


I think that if most of those who are quick on the draw with the red flag would simply take a few moments to post something like this things would go a lot smoother.


It couldn't be relevant to more than one thread? Oh, yeah, I forgot the applicable bumpersticker, "Its the law !"

Nov 24, 2012, 12:35am

I'm not completely sure of any one book to start with, but a couple besides C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity or Miracles, etc. would be either Lee Strobel's The Case for Faith or his The Case for Christ. For myself, I found the Case for Faith interesting and challenging in Strobel's interviews with Charles Templeton, the evangelist who preached alongside Billy Graham till 1949 when he (Templeton) gradually became an agnostic/atheist. I think the conversation pointed out some the most often given reasons people either become or are confirmed in their agnosticism/atheism. How Strobel deals with these doubts is all the more interesting and compelling.

Nov 24, 2012, 12:46am

If one is inclined to delve in depth with biblical issues and understanding, interpretation, etc., what has impressed me recently the most are books by N.T. Wright, such as his series, Christian Origins and the Question of God, the first three being 1. The New Testament and the People of God, 2. Jesus and the Victory of God, and 3. The Resurrection of the Son of God.

Nov 24, 2012, 1:51am

By the way, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through the back-and-forth discussions between timspalding and oakes in addition to the fascinating observations by inkdrinker, atomicmutant, geneg, jmcgarve, zenomax, and others. Keep up the dialogue.

Nov 24, 2012, 8:56am

The End of Faith by Sam Harris

Nov 24, 2012, 1:44pm

Wouldnʻt giving Harrisʻs The End of Faith (308) to an atheist be "preaching to the converted"--sort of like giving a Billy Graham title to a Fundamentalist.

Nov 24, 2012, 2:23pm

No, I'm sure some of my atheist friends would Harris a good read, as do I (an unbeliever who does not normally use the label atheist) particularly as he rejects that label.
And I do believe that fundamentalists would enjoy reading Billy Graham mor than I would.
The converted do enjoy being preached to.

Nov 24, 2012, 2:47pm

"some atheist(s) would (find) Harris a good read. . ."

". . .fundamentalists would enjoy reading Billy
Graham. . ." (311)

A "good read" and "enjoy", yes I agree.
Thinking it over, I guess my post was founded on
holding everyone to no more and no less than the title of the Thread implies. I realize now that weʻre perfectly free to add phrases of our own to the title, like: ..."in order to
show her/him how wrong he?he/she is" , OR "in order to show. . .how RIGHT"; the latter would be my idea of
your suggesting Harris to an atheist.
It brings to mind the fact that a lot of what we read is
not for finding out anything, but for corroborating our
present attitudes.

Nov 24, 2012, 2:53pm

Even worse than that:
Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them in: but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents.
- Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena

Editado: Nov 24, 2012, 3:31pm

". . .the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents." (313)

Right. There is even a classic essay by Anthony Burgess
called "The Book is not for Reading" in which he opines*
that acquiring books is a substitute for reading them!
He describes "acquiring"(stealing actually) a book from a friendʻs "collection" in which that title was the ONLY book! A late medieval religious book he had always wanted to read (?) or at least wanted to acquire: The Cloud of Unknowing.
The last sentence of the essay is: "NEEDLESS TO SAY, I have NEVER OPENED it." (emphasis added).

*and is really, i m o, stretching a point.

Set 16, 2013, 7:49pm

What book would I give an atheist? I'd start with Walt Whitman's LEAVES OF GRASS

Set 17, 2013, 3:11pm

I would have to give one of mine, say this one:


Seeing as this book is like a voice calling out in the wilderness, advising people to seek the Lord; and to save themselves from eternal punishment.

Nonetheless, I think that there is chance for an atheist too! He or she just need to yield to the light of the Lord and change. Consider this, Jesus didn't come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Set 17, 2013, 7:32pm


Is this an audio book?

Set 17, 2013, 7:58pm

317: That's a pretty good way to get your books mulched.

Editado: Nov 24, 2013, 3:08am

ʻIʻd start with Walt Whitmanʻs Leaves of Grass

Well, he did say something
like "...an ant
Is miracle enough to refute
sextillions of atheists."

On the other hand he said one thing he liked about animals*
was "...they do not BORE me
by discussing their 'duty to God'."
I suppose this was aimed not so much at theists in general, but at an attitude
frequently found in some theists.

*Of course he probably knew that we human beings are animals, too, in the strict sense of the word; but, here, he was
using it in the 19th c. colloquial sense which meant NON-humans (usually also excluding non-mammals).

Fev 14, 2016, 6:00pm

Many atheists are VERY educated, and so are their writings. I offer the example of Religion: The Ultimate STD by Dr. Leviak Kelly.

Fev 15, 2016, 1:04am

Snort. That's a smart-person title for sure.

Fev 15, 2016, 4:07am

>321 Leighna:

Welcome to LT. Just wondering whether you have any connection to Dr Leviak B Kelly DD, as 75% of the four books in your catalogue are by her/him?

Mar 27, 2016, 11:49am

>84 MMcM: "I would actually suggest reading Heretics before Orthodoxy."

I just finished reading Orthodoxy last night after having read Heretics previously. I can see why reading things in that order gives you the historical context, but my personal recommendation to Chesterton-newcomers would be to read Orthodoxy first. It is a great work, and I'd hate for someone not to read it because they got bogged down in Heretics.

Editado: Jan 2, 2017, 12:08am

Esta mensagem foi marcada como abusiva por vários utilizadores e por isso não é mostrada (mostre)
When Time and Eternity Kiss: A Bold New Vision of Human Destiny, God, and the Bible.

Jan 29, 2017, 2:53am

I would recommend I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norman Geisler

Jan 29, 2017, 1:22pm

Though I wouldnʻt expect to convert
him/her through it), if someone was
interested in the politico-economimc
scene, I would recommend: Autobiography
of a Catholic Anarchist by Ammon Hennacy
of the Catholic worker movement.

Jan 29, 2017, 1:58pm

Wow! This is an age old topic. Although there are a lot of excellent books on the topic, let me go out on a limb and say "I do not recommend any book at this time." I believe that a definitive answer to the question "does God exist" is necessary before exploring any book written by mere mortals. Impossible? No! How? Well, whenever one searches for an answer in this world, you usually go to the top to get the story from the horses mouth. That is not always possible, of course.

But, here I go out on the limb. Do not be harsh with me, please! If there is a God, then he would be the top with no one above him. Agree? So, the challenge is between you and this potential God. Here is what you do. Find a quiet comfortable place. Ask the question, "if you exist God, please I want to know, show me if this is true." Please feel free to put the question in your own words." Next, you wait for an answer. I can't tell you if or when you will get an answer, but I can say, watch and listen wherever you go, whatever you do, and see if you get an answer. If there is a God, he will answer. In his own way, and very personal to you. If that happens, go from there. Ron

Ago 11, 2017, 6:10pm

Physician. Heal thyself.

Editado: Set 21, 2017, 11:09pm

Touché - I read thru this thread until I got down to your post and I just had to respond. I'll try hard to not be condescending and smug. Lots of people use lots of reasons to defend their religious beliefs, but I find that most - in the end, resort to the, "You just have to have faith" argument. A thorough reading of Bart Ehrman's many texts on the subject should take any truly open person at least to a point where they question the legitimacy of 99.99% of most of the "faith" arguments that I have ever read and to realize that the bible is a totally fabricated man-made compendium of lubricous information that has been undergoing change for the last 1800+ years at least. Hard to imagine tat most Christians can't imagine that what a bunch of ignorant (by today's standards of course) goat herders wrote down might possibly be incorrect. There are many others that have expounded on the subject over the last 150 years Christoper Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, are just a few of the latest, ... I could go on for quite a while. One thing that I have noticed over the years (almost six decades) is that most of the atheists that I know more about religion, christianity for example, religious beliefs and where they came from as well s their history, than the religious people that they converse with. I find this quite telling. When confronted with academic citations or provable historical examples to refute religious claims, most of the religious people I know (i.e., most of my family) either get very cross and cut off the conversation, or try to 'smooze' the facts into an ever twisting exercise of logic to demonstrate that it could possible be true. I liken it to someone trying to argue that leprechauns and unicorns actually walked the earth because someone wrote about it and left it for us to read.

Hate to pollute this discussion thread but If I was to recommend a book it wouldn't be one for atheists but one for religionists. Anything by Bart Herman. He is very compelling as an author that was once very religious and why he currently is not. Hard to break people of their "ingrained over a life time" beliefs but I think you can't beat Bart for persuasion.

Interesting thread...

(after Edit - sorry - I didn't realize that this BB didn't post under the original post and with 330 posts I'm having a hard time finding the post I was responding to.)

Not going to post here anymore as it's kind of like responding to Foxx news with actual factual information in a way They just respond with excuses as to why they lied during the last broadcast (sorry, just innocently got the facts, tapes, details, ..., mixed up). Truly religious individuals tend to either have an epiphany on their own, or will argue to the death about unprovable assertions. Sorry if this insults some but this has been my experience. Life is great and I can't spend time responding to people that don't even know the facts about their own religion...

Nov 22, 2017, 11:02am

Esta mensagem foi marcada como abusiva por vários utilizadores e por isso não é mostrada (mostre)
The Doctrine of the Cross. One reason is that it describes evolution in the Creation on the cross. If Darwin had used the biblical word "after their kind" instead of the word "evolution" we would not have this conflict. Another reason is that the book connects the numbers of science to the numbers in the Bible. For example all life is carbon based and the atomic image of carbon is 6 electrons, 6 neutrons and 6 protons. According to divine equivocation the number is expressed in the Bible as 666. It is not a coincidence that evening, morning, and day is counted 666 on the sixth day when man and the beast were created.

Nov 22, 2017, 11:31am

>331 jwfarq:

I think it would be polite for you to mention that this is your own book, before your post gets flagged into oblivion by those who suspect it is self-promotory spam.

Nov 22, 2017, 1:46pm

Whoops! Ok. I agree. I haven't been in here for a couple of years and I forgot the rules. I was browsing around, saw the question that asked what book and I just answered the question. Sorry about that. Which brings up another question. Even if I had identified myself as the author, wouldn't still be considered self-promotory spam?

Nov 22, 2017, 11:50pm

>333 jwfarq:

Just my personal opinion, but I only (rarely) mention my own book if it is relevant to the conversation, and I explain why I am mentioning it and that I am the author.

In this particular case, you have explained why you think your book is relevant, so I think all that was missing was an acknowledgement that you are the author. I see no spam flags have appeared, so presumably others agree.

I wasn't trying to be judgemental, but I have seen posts like yours flagged into oblivion in the past, so I thought I'd offer some advice. Thanks for taking it in good spirit.

Nov 24, 2017, 8:49pm

Thanks for the advice. I noticed that my post #331 has two red flags. What does that mean?

Nov 25, 2017, 12:48am

>335 jwfarq:

Ah, that means two people have flagged you. If it reaches four (I think) your post disappears from view but is not deleted and there will be a "view" button that can be clicked by anyone who deliberately chooses to view it.

Nov 25, 2017, 9:57am

Well johnthefireman that is useful information. Thanks. Rules, rules, rules. I have been kicked out (silenced) in Christian blogs before, because I didn't conform to the Lausanne Covenant, which demands conformance to the Trinity Doctrine.
By the way a better title of this thread might be agnostic, instead of atheist. An atheist doesn't believe in any gods. An agnostic doesn't know if any gods exist or not. (belief vs knowledge) You cant teach belief with a book. However, you can teach knowledge with a book that can lead to belief.
Anyway I will probably earn 10 red flags for the suggestion that you click jwfarq (above) and then the Homepage in order to justify the only answer to this thread. Take the challenge of answering 11 questions correctly before rolling the dice with Beyond Pascal's Wager. This is what you can give to an agnostic that might work with an atheist.

Mar 17, 2019, 3:47pm

The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible by Robin Lane Fox. One very fine treatment of the Bible written by an atheist. One of the best scholarly treatments written beautifully and very easy to read by the novice but not trivial. He talks about his journey with the Bible and why he loves it as well as giving an extraordinary treatment of the text of the Bible. I highly recommend it to anyone.

Jan 24, 3:05pm

Intelligent Religion: It's not a contradiction
by Gary Norman Hitch

For the subject, it is an easy read.

Abr 22, 3:45am

The Father and His Family by E.W Kenyon.

I think the most cynical unbeliever can be converted by reading this book.

Abr 30, 12:26am

>340 JoieDidi: You joined LT just to post that? You're likely to be disappointed.

Books like that are unconvincing to anyone who is not already a believer. Recommending them is basically demonstrating that you don't even understand the basics of the conversation.

Maio 14, 2:36am

>341 StormRaven:

I've never heard of the book; you're read it?

(Nice to see you around, SR.)