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May. 24th, 2011 @ 03:52 pm Volume 3, Number 4
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 22nd, 2011 05:15 am (UTC)

Afterlife

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Dear Sir, obviously, from the way you write about the Christian beliefs, you are an Atheist. I'd like to propose a little "What If" game. What if all the multi-millions of Christians in this world are wrong, and all the Atheists are right about the afterlife ? What hardships has the belief in Christ cost the Christians? They live by the laws set forth in the Bible; love your neighbor, not stealing, not murdering, etc. I know, I know, in some countries, you can be killed if you profess Christianity publicly, but even there, there are "closet Christians". Basically, being a Christian is a good life. If there is no heaven or hell, there is really not much loss to living a Christian life. On the other hand, in the game of "What If", what if the Christians are right and the Atheists are wrong? What if there is a Heaven and there is a Hell? Where will the Christians spend Eternity, and where will the Atheists spend Eternity? The Christian faith requires just that: Faith. Some Biblical facts have been proven by Science, but the basics of the belief are rooted in "Blind Faith", which has no scientific proof.
Thank you for this opportunity to voice a small thought, I'm just an "Old Geezer"
From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 3rd, 2012 03:16 am (UTC)

Re: Afterlife

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Isn't it something that this comment received no reply? Thank you for this. I sincerely hope that some day the eyes of non-believers will be opened.

(In response to the original post) After all, there is no proof that God doesn't exist, and if atheists are wrong, then what? According to scripture, they will burn in hell. But if Christians are wrong, we lose nothing. One could even take the "better be safe than sorry approach." And trust me, many will be sorry. I suppose Christians are just supposed to let humankind burn. You can at least appreciate our efforts. After all, it's something we sincerely believe in, and you would do the same for something you were passionate about. I would expect nothing more than a pity head-shake, but no! We're all crazy! So take your "facts" and keep them closely. One day you will be hit with a sudden "unexplainable" moment and your facts won't stand a chance.
Thank you for opening my eyes to the other side and revealing that there is so much more work left to do.
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From:james_morrow
Date:February 3rd, 2012 06:06 pm (UTC)

Re: Afterlife

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Dear Anonymous,

You have inspired me to reply to the reader who called himself Old Geezer. I shall do so soon. Meanwhile, please note that I never said Christians are crazy. I merely said that it's wrong for them to lie to each other, as occurred in the case of "Heaven Is for Real."

Let me suggest that the vindictive tone of your message is not likely to make my atheist readers see the light.

Best wishes,

James Morrow

Edited at 2012-02-05 02:45 pm (UTC)
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From:james_morrow
Date:February 4th, 2012 02:43 pm (UTC)

Re: Afterlife

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Dear Anonymous,

Yes, I’m an atheist. I say as much in the above book review.

I’m glad that you lead a fulfilling life, loving your neighbor and eschewing criminal activities. I hope you won’t be surprised to learn that such attributes also characterize all of the atheists I know. And my unbelieving friends behave in this ethical fashion without any theological coercion involving a supposed afterlife.

I appreciate your What If? game. Google “Pascal’s Wager,” and you’ll see that your little thought experiment has quite a venerable history.

From the atheist perspective, there are several problems with Pascal’s Wager. First, it assumes that God would not know when a person is acquiescing to the Christian hypothesis largely to gain Heaven or avoid damnation. (Being omniscient, God would surely perceive the craven cynicism of such a move.) Second, it posits a monstrous and vindictive God who plays Hide and Go Seek with humankind yet thinks nothing of eternally torturing those who won’t join the game. Any parent who behaved in that fashion would rightly be labeled demented. (If I were a Christian, my first concern would be that I was not worshipping the Devil by accident.) Finally, if the Supreme Being of the Bible actually exists, he might very well be inclined to reward unbelievers for their attempt at intellectual integrity, and perhaps even chastise the Pascal’s Wager players for their fearful and largely self-interested "faith.”

I’ve always liked this thought from the British philosopher Galen Strawson: God loves the atheists and agnostics best, because they’re the ones who take him the most seriously.

By the way, at no point does the Bible say that atheists will spend eternity in Hell. Jesus indeed condemns entire cities to the fiery furnace, but his complaint against them does not lie along the axis of atheist vs. evangelical.

Thanks for offering your thoughts. I believe I understand your argument, and I hope you will grapple a bit with mine.

Best wishes,

James Morrow


Edited at 2012-02-15 07:41 pm (UTC)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 7th, 2012 01:06 pm (UTC)

Re: Afterlife

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You ask "what harm?" with an innocence that would be refreshing if not for the obvious lack of any historical perspective. What harm does it do to simply believe in something as opposed to not? The question assumes that there is no public dimension to such belief, and unless you live on a mountain utterly isolated from the rest of the world you have to know this is not the case.

Very simply, such belief requires action, and much of that action in the past has been destructive. You may very well make the case that the bad consequences of an embrace of deistic belief cannot be laid at the feet of the deity in question, but that's begging the question since his followers are quite convinced they're doing what their god wants them to do---and evidently that god doesn't see the point in correcting them.

I could go down the long list of major historical atrocities committed by true believers in the name of a legion of gods, including the christian god, but instead I'll simply point out the quieter tragedy of parents who believe prayer will "cure" their sick child and watch the child die without seeking medical attention. You can claim such folks are an aberration, that "rational" believers wouldn't do that, but it would be a specious claim. Their quite sincere and committed belief brought about the death a child. Do they then react with anger against their delusion? No, they justify it by some formulation of "Well, god works in mysterious ways" which leaves the rest of us fairly sure that if given a chance they'd let another one die.

That's the harm.

Mark Tiedemann
From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 20th, 2012 08:33 pm (UTC)

Re: What if...

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What an interesting blog, and just as interesting the responses to it. Although I intend most of my comments towards Mr. Morrow's critique, I will first comment on Old Geezer's post.

I am a Christian believer and I have a hard time with your statement "They live by the laws set forth in the Bible; love your neighbor, not stealing, not murdering...etc" And I agree with one of the responders that there are plenty of non-Christians who live their lives as such, too. Unfortunately, there are many Christians (and non-Christians) who do not live their lives by such "laws." Please don't forget that when Christ came, the law took on a whole new depth... one that shows that we are all sinners - we miss the mark, the bulls eye, of perfection that only God can fulfill. We all miss the mark because of our bent on self-righteousness (the first transgression).

Mr. Morrow, I appreciate your concerns about the book you reviewed. As a Christian, I am concerned about lies perpetrated by other Christians. So please don't condemn all Christians because some (and perhaps many) have gotten "how to live a Christian life" wrong, after all, humanity - reeks of things done wrong and gone bad. Scripture warns about falsifying the truth, too, so we should be wary of what is said on Christian behalf. There is plenty of Scripture that holds true enough to generate belief in God and his purposes with Christ's life. How Christians live is far from the perfect life that God intended for His creation.

I hope you will remain open-minded to the possibility you have not tapped into all the "logic" of God's ways... I guess if you could be that open-minded you would be agnostic rather than atheist. Perhaps you should seek from the perspective of looking for truth as opposed to looking to criticize, you may come up with different answers.

I appreciate your admission of your cynicism. I confess my cynicism, too. Mine comes from the result of hypocrisy in some Christian "camps," and dogma. Atheists and Christians can agree on some things pertaining to faith, except I don't delight in cynicism as you seem to. Cynicism does have its place - towards liars. But in my faith, God is not a liar and shouldn't be judged or mocked.

I actually am cynical along with you about the Burpo account of Heaven, so your cynicism is not reserved for an atheistic view point. There is room for human fallibility in the story. As much as I'd love to use this book as "proof" of Heaven, it is not Scripture.

If you would, make a note that not all Christian scholars have found inconsistencies in Scripture, so really that is not as strong an argument as you would think. There are plenty of scholars who have a tight explication of Scripture.

Oh, just one more thing...
If you haven't already, might I suggest you look into the work of the apologist Ravi Zaccharias to consider more compelling critique of Christian thought.

I appreciate a good and honest discussion...
:D
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From:james_morrow
Date:February 22nd, 2012 08:10 pm (UTC)

Re: What if...

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Dear D, I applaud your temperate contribution to the discourse. For now, let me offer a clarification of the “agnostic” versus the “atheist” stance.

From my perspective, it is the agnostic, not the atheist, who more readily falls prey to intellectual rigidity. Consonant with the meaning of the term, the agnostic claims to have “no knowledge” concerning the possible existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent Supreme Being (tacitly congratulating himself or herself for not succumbing to any ideology). But that is not an epistemologically tenable position. As an atheist, I can aver that I most emphatically do have knowledge concerning the possible existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent Supreme Being. To be sure, nearly all of that knowledge—most especially the problem of evil—tells against the God hypothesis, but it is knowledge all the same.

If you’re interested, I wrote an entire novel, "Blameless in Abaddon," about what I regard as the manifest fact of unmerited pain. It attempts to give all the great theodicies their due, most especially the ontological defense and the free-will defense.

http://www.amazon.com/Blameless-Abaddon-James-Morrow/dp/0156005050/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1329940920&sr=1-1

So in my experience, it is the atheist who’s likely to be the open-minded critter (with grotesque exceptions, of course), while my agnostic brethren tend to be either sick of the whole subject (for which I can’t blame them) or have lost their nerve (for which I can).

A point of clarification. I never said I was cynical about Burpo's memoir. Rather, I said that it's a cynical book (that is, carefully calculated, telling people only what they want to hear). What I am is skeptical.


Edited at 2012-04-23 04:26 pm (UTC)