Not sure about my beliefs


(RiderOnTheClouds) #1

For a few years now I’ve been a very strong atheist. But recently I’ve been discovering that Christianity isn’t so much at odds with science and reality as I once thought, and I now believe that Dawkins, Krauss, Harris, Coyne etc have a very poor knowledge of Christian theology. Properly read, it’s clear that the stories such as Genesis 1 and Noah’s Ark, which are alleged to make faith and science incompatible were never intended to be scientific accounts anyway. I also used to point to the apparent plagiarism of these stories, unaware that what they truly were was polemical responses to earlier pagan myths, which doesn’t make them any less true when in their context. Furthermore, they repeatedly quote the harsh laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy whilst being unaware that Jesus is said to have fulfilled them, so they are not needed anymore.

However, whilst I have been becoming attracted to Christianity of late, and I have a strange urge to keep up with this new found faith. After second thoughts I have decided that there is still no basis for belief. I initially decided that religion can help us live better lives, but after second thoughts I see it as completely possible to live a good life as a non-believer.

Any advice as to what road I should take?


(Christy Hemphill) #2

Faith is not something you conclude as a result of a rational process, so I would say trying to argue yourself or others into faith is a dead end. But as a Christian, I also think God reveals himself to people who sincerely look for him. So I’d say keep an open mind, keep pursuing your questions where they lead, trust your feelings and intuitions sometimes, not just your intellect, and see where it goes.

Do you have any Christian friends, or is your interest in it mostly just at the ideological/philosophical level?


(Mervin Bitikofer) #3

Christy is right that no rational process will by itself deliver you to faith; (to any faith whether secular or religious I would add). But that doesn’t mean that Christian (or other) faith has no basis at all. I hope you maintain your fellowship with earnest and thoughtful believers. You are always welcome here whether you eventually claim belief or unbelief. One of the commonalities that I see among many Christians here with many thoughtful nonbelievers as well is that we (most of us here?) have a strongly professed commitment to truth wherever it may lead. And while that might sound like a trivial commitment, I think it is anything but trivial today (especially in my own home country here in the U.S.). I see both religion and science coming under attack together, and as Polkinghorne once observed, he found it necessary to be evangelist for both. I doubt such necessity has diminished since he said that.

All that said, though, I pray that you will experience a softened heart and willingness to cultivate a relationship with, and submission to the transcendent God who allows you to experience love beyond the restrictive regions of empiricism or rationality, yet without asking you to deny your God-given senses and mind. Seek out fellowship that honors all dimensions of this quest of yours.


(Lynn Munter) #4

I think religion—speaking as someone not personally attached to one—is at its best when it’s not trying to insist on literal ‘scientific’ meanings. The entire language theology converses in is different from the language of science, and although they each in their own ways are rigorous in parsing truth, or should be. But they are languages designed to have entirely different types of conversations.

Of course it is possible to live a good life as a non-believer, or a believer in different religions. But there is something unreplaceable about conversing with other committed people, and with a tradition of people who have put a lot of thought into such matters over many centuries. In the scientific tradition, and also in American culture, there is great approbation attached to forging your own trail and not following those who have gone before you. But though this may produce innovation and sometimes success, if there is anything we might garner from evolution on the topic, it is that such success is far from guaranteed.

I’ve seen a couple other threads wondering how to deal with things that might be wrong in the Bible, and I’ve come to wonder if that’s just plain backwards: instead of looking so hard for what it might have gotten wrong (and realistically, everyone is wrong sometimes, children of God or not) maybe we would be better served to look for what’s right.

I remember reading something quite a while ago about how modern psychology is too focused on diagnosing ‘disorders’ in people, when maybe a lot of times a more positive focus would be more beneficial. Or that famous Russian novel that begins with the line about how unhappy families are each miserable in their own different ways, while happy families are alike.

Anyways, I’ve started to maunder so I’m cutting myself off! Hope there’s something in the above that you can find valuable. :smile:


(Jay Johnson) #5

Augustine of Hippo diagnosed your attraction long ago: Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee. Welcome to the fellowship of the burning heart.

There is basis for belief, as you already discovered, but the evidence is finely balanced, such that reason and logic cannot bring you to decide one way or the other. I think there is a purpose for this, in that if faith in God could be achieved by that path, it would only serve to make us proud of our achievement, as well as making knowledge of God the province of the select few who were intelligent enough to attain the mountaintop. This is not the way of Christ.

Certainly, it is completely possible to live a good life as a non-believer. What Christ offers is not a good and happy life, but “abundant life,” or “life to the fullest extent.” This is spiritual life, life in communion with the Spirit of God. The only way to understand this kind of life is to become his disciple and experience it yourself. Which road should you take?

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."


(Joe Palcsak) #6

have you tried undertaking an honest and balanced research of the Resurrection?


(Marvin Adams) #7

The bible is a great collection of myth and testimonials to convey emotional truth that cannot be delivered using scientific, e.g. material and mathematical language but only by using poetic language, particularly when wanting to convey the information to an illiterate audience.

When you look at the laws in the old testament you claim to have become obsolete because of Jesus having fulfilled the law you have to consider what you think here. What law has he fulfilled? He said it in his own words most eloquent as to what the law is and you should therefore understand how he fulfilled it. He did not abolish the law at all. He did not abolish the idea of the principle of lex talionis, nor did he condone adultery or homosequality. He did however tell us not to kill others for an offence that has not been done it but that does not mean it to be permissible.

So if you found the Christian worldview to be coherent with your understanding of reality I wish you God’s blessings to guide you to find that peace that only a coherent worldview can give you. Don’t be afraid of questioning your understanding of things and ask others about their interpretation and what others say may not satisfy you because they have experienced reality different from you, but have faith / trust in God as he will make it become good - just realise my limit of translating my prayer

Befiehl dem Herrn deine Wege
und hoffe auf ihn,
er wird’s wohl machen

Did not realize how difficult it is to understand psalm 37 in English. the modern translation says

Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
definitely no one in the league of David, as this wording implies him to make your wishes come true. It shows how wrong your understanding of Christianity can suffer from poor translation.
To those who read the text blessed with the holy spirit will see that the psalm expressed the promise of a good outcome, but that is far from the outcome you will have wished for but might make you realise what is good, e.g. what was needed. It is a bit like understanding love to be that someone gives you what you want - and not what you need.

So blessings with your adventure in Christianity. I am blessed with my Childhood prayer that made me realize that I did not pray as well with my children as my parents did with me. May God’s peace be with you on your journey


(Neal Heires) #8

I agree with Christy’s comments but also might add that if you are a person of science you might read Francis Collins book “The Language of God”. This book shows how a scientist can also believe in Jesus.
But I would like to reply to the comment you made about being able to live a good life as a non-believer. I might comment that this approach really just doesn’t work out very well. Yes we can follow civil law and think we live by the principle of doing onto others as they do unto you, but in the end we fall short. In my own life (now at 68 and saved at 61), and I might suggest someday in yours as well, you will find that even with all your intelligence and moral self-righteousness you will get to a place where it does not work.
When accepting Jesus, you get grace that literally transforms you, and as you grow in your faith you change into being a truly righteous person. It’s called the fruits of the Holy Spirit,“love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” You know this is happening when people you have not met in years comment about how much you have changed! And finally there is the prize of eternal life, which is real (believe it or not), and you can’t get there without faith.
While searching and seeking I also suggest you might also read the bible. The gospel John is a good start and epistle of Romans by Paul also.
I will be praying for you.
Neal


(Richard Wright) #9

Hi Reggie,

I’d been enjoying some of your posts from other threads then came across your little spiritual background sketch. I’ve already started praying for you to find God.

[quote=“Reggie_O_Donoghue, post:1, topic:36032”]
However, whilst I have been becoming attracted to Christianity of late, and I have a strange urge to keep up with this new found faith. [/quote]

I truly believe that is the Spirit speaking to you, but your intellect is getting in the way. My advice is to respond to the Spirit’s calling. I myself was a skeptic, coming to biblical faith from not believing in the bible or Jesus or any religion, only in a deistic God, and I can tell you this - Christianity isn’t an intellectual exercise, it’s living in a relationship with your creator. What turned the tide for me is when I attempted to form my own relationship with God, which started with reading the gospel of John daily. I started experiencing a sledgehammer crushing on my hard heart, especially when I came to understand who Jesus was and what my sins did to Him. I then started praying daily and ended up, after 3 months, getting baptized into Christ as a newly formed creation in Him, much to the amazement (and chagrin to some) of the people who knew me.

[quote=“Reggie_O_Donoghue, post:1, topic:36032”]
After second thoughts I have decided that there is still no basis for belief. [/quote]

NO basis at all? You surely can’t mean that. Even though, as I and others have said, Christianity isn’t a logical proposition or intellectual exercise, there is still evidence for faith. What did it for my intellectual side was the consistency of the message of sin and redemption from OT to NT. I could just feel something greater than humanity at work behind the scriptures. Also, what I think is greater than the messianic prophecies, which are great, are the OT’s prefigures and foreshadows to Jesus. They are truly amazing. Along with those, there are the 4 gospels as written accounts about the life and teachings of Jesus (3 of them first-hand), the overnight appearance of a group that was willing to die for it’s founder, wisdom found in scripture, the purity and profundity of Jesus’ teachings, the Josephus passages on Jesus, James and John the baptist, people who have dramatically changed their lives through Jesus’ teachings, the sanitary laws in Leviticus being centuries ahead of their time, etc. Of course you don’t become a Christian just through those types of evidences and usually the person in question is searching for God and looking for answers, but there is some evidence for faith.

I’ll concede that one can live a fairly good life without even believing in God, but it doesn’t compare to living as a follower of Christ. It also doesn’t give you any hope, or even knowledge of, living beyond the death of your body.

I recently suggested these 2 books which are excellent and fairly short and easy to read on reasons for faith. They are Compelling Evidence for God and the Bible by Douglas Jacoby and Is There a God? by John Oakes. Jacoby and Oakes are both Christian apologists from my faith community and fairly well known in apologetics circles (especially Douglas Jacoby).

I’d be happy to answer any questions you have through a PM (personal message).

Hope that helps!


(RiderOnTheClouds) #10

Thanks everyone. I’ve decided to become a believer after all. Partially because I believe there is some evidence and partially because even if there is none, it’s a nice thought and most importantly it is helping me out with issues I have.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #11

Well – whatever your reasons, we celebrate this significant step. And growth will certainly continue --now more than ever, you can be assured. Becoming a believer is a new beginning, and I praise God for all his continued work in our lives! Welcome to you in a new way, brother!


(Edward T Babinski) #12

I too feel an attraction to believing in something higher and beyond everything else, a greater mystery, hopefully a personal afterlife. Though I am not sure that believing in a particular religion or even in theism changes people greatly intellectually, and sometimes not even emotionally. It helps different people to different extents. A female with whom I attended high school decades ago, and whose whole family consists of a few generations of Pentecostal ministers, admitted at a reunion that the majority of her family continue to suffer depression, which drove her to study psychology. And statistics published in a Christian magazine admitted that something like 70% of clergy such chronic depression. And the drop out rate of clergy is quite high compared with other professions, kind of like natural selection I guess, some ministers make it big, others simply don’t make it. Leo Behe, the son of Michael Behe, the I.D.ist, admitted that depression runs in his family. And strictly intellectually speaking, questions remain no matter what one believes. I still have more questions than answers after decades of study (I am 61 but was quite an enthusiastic Christian in my youth). Here are some posts that contain info on religious believers, depression, and addictions: https://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/search/label/depression


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #13

@Reggie_O_Donoghue

For me the question is one of love. Christianity is about loving God and loving others as Jesus loves you. If that seems right to you, you need to give Jesus your life, receive His forgiveness, and love others as you love your self.


(Phil) #14

Interesting observation regarding depression, I’ll give that remark a big toe’s up (sorry!). I’ve had the opportunity to see that dynamic exemplified over the course of my medical career, along with a seemingly higher rate of what is seen as psycho-somatic disorders among clergy( and fundamentalists), as it is more socially acceptable in church circles to seek help for headaches and stomachaches than it is for depression.
One wonders if it is due to in part to the cognitive dissonance that is suffered in trying to integrate literalist theology with physical reality. I know I am more at peace in looking at scripture more metaphorically, an accepting any conflict without it threatening my overall worldview.


(Christy Hemphill) #15

Depression is a sickness rooted in biology. (Hence the fact that it can “run in families” and be treated with medication.) It’s not just an emotional/spiritual thing. Addictions also have genetic and physiological components. Why would one expect miraculous healing from mental illness to accompany Christianity any more than one would expect miraculous healing from cancer or high blood pressure or diabetes?


(Juan Romero) #16


(Christy Hemphill) #17

WLC and I are just paraphrasing what the Bible says:

Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. Matt 7:7

If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. Jeremiah 29:13


(Juan Romero) #18

Right. I always thought that God reveals Himself to those who seek Him, and that is true. I doubted my faith once after a group of classmates started using arguments that I couldn’t refute (I had no knowledge of apologetics back then), but I started seeking Him with all I had, and my search led me to a deeper understanding of what He made for all of us.


(RiderOnTheClouds) #19

So currently I’d say I’m an agnostic who is open to religion (Christianity or otherwise) and belief in God.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #20

That you are posting this status on a Christian site poses a kind of dilemma for Christian responders here. On the one hand, aren’t we called to trip all over ourselves trying to sell you on why you should want to be a Christian? (Is that what you are hoping for … that we would bring all our wares out for show-and-tell and see if we can compare favorably in your eyes to other brand names?) On the other hand, we aren’t given any examples of Jesus rushing out after unconvinced skeptics desperately trying to convince them that he can satisfy their deepest needs if they would just give him a try. They (the ones who really want it) are busy chasing him, and that seems to keep him more than busy.

So I guess I would take it as a positive that you are here; and always welcome to fellowship here in any case whatever current state your belief is in. And would turn the question back on you: what is it you really want? Some just want fellowship. Any number of clubs can provide that. Some want intellectual growth and intelligent conversation. There are clubs for that too. And don’t get me wrong – hopefully you also have both of those here too in ample supply. But if those or similar things are all that you’re after, then Christianity will probably not function well as “your cup of tea”. In fact it is probably dangerous for Christians to go chasing after people to sell them on this or that package of ideas that are ostensibly supposed to represent Christianity. Jesus has something to say to the Pharisees who do that sort of thing in Matthew 23:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

So I guess this is all a long way of saying, it will have to be God’s Spirit that chases you down and convicts you of need. None of us can do that. But we can help point you to Christ when you reach that realization of pure need. But it has to be you responding to Christ who convicts you. Not me or anybody else here. If he is doing that then my prayer is that you would respond by wanting more relationship to him rather than clever discourse or winning arguments. PM me (or any other Christians here) if you want to talk about that more.

If all you want for now is good conversation, that’s fine too. We can “kick around” various beliefs at the intellectual level. For some folks, it’s enough to be window shopping without ever going into the store, so to speak. The Spirit moves in its own good time.