Questions for the religious.

Why is the Bible/Koran/Torah more believable to you than conflicting religions’ teaching or atheistic ideas? What makes it more truthful in your eyes?

Do you ever consider that you are only the faith you are by chance? That you believe what you do because your environment helped to lead you to, i.e. if you are Christian, think about this scenario: you probably would’ve grown up believing Islam if you were born in a part of the world that is heavily Muslim and feel the same way about those teaching that you do about your current beliefs.

Just two questions for now, I hope to get some responses this time. I’m genuinely interested in your answers, don’t be afraid to speak up. I won’t disrespect you, but I will probably disagree with you.

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About thatcatkatie
I came to this site to discuss my beliefs, and yours too, and hopefully learn some things from my fellow human beings.

29 Responses to Questions for the religious.

  1. Here are my thoughts! I’ll answer the second lot of questions before the first. πŸ™‚

    1) No – I grew up in a secular environment. I went to a church school, which had some influence. However my family and my friends were not Christian. In fact, I would say there was a strong peer pressure not to become a Christian – I felt a very negative bias towards this faith. It was much more socially acceptable to become Buddhist, Muslim, Pagan, New Age… and I explored this in depth before I committed to Christ. I think I’m a very independent and deep thinker, and I suspect I would have questioned any culture I was in, wherever I was born. As it is, I questioned the secular anti-Christian faith I was brought up in.

    2) I have read the Koran twice and some other religious writings. What really spoke to me at first in the Bible was the person of Jesus. It was the description of Jesus in the gospels that attracted me, and I wanted to follow Him. He spoke to me much more than any other religious writings, including mentions of him in the Koran. Then, I began a relationship with the living Christ, and started trying to live as He taught. It’s a long story, but through that process, I grew to rely on the Bible, which frequently spoke directly to me, and resonated with the love and truth of God. That’s the way I would describe it. I have also studied some of the arguments for the Bible’s authenticity, which I find compelling. However I have both subjective and objective reasons for trusting the Bible.

    • thatcatkatie says:

      What are some reasons you could give for trusting the bible? I think it’s hard to regard as a historically accurate text, especially considering some things in it such as the flood have been debunked.

      • On one level there is the historical reliability of the gospels. There is a lot of good evidence for their reliability. For example, the names used in the gospels for eyewitnesses correlate with other sources in their frequency in the population – indicating the stories came from the expected period of time exactly. The fact of the resurrection has been strengthened by a number of arguments, such as the oldest and first written letter (1 Cor) describing 500 witnesses to the risen Christ, at a time when this could be verified; or the first witnesses being female.
        On another level, I have found what is written in the Bible to be invaluable in terms of guiding me on a path to greater love. Things that at first I found difficult to understand or wondered if it was out of date, I can see and understand the reasons for. On a personal level, it has been very helpful and has really guided me to a closer relationship with God and my fellow human beings. I see great truth in the teaching. I always approach the Bible with the question, β€˜what is it trying to say to me?’ and I find that through this, I get some fascinating answers.
        As to Noah’s Ark and the flood – there are a number of ways of understanding it. It could just be a metaphor or myth with an important lesson behind it. It could have been a localised flood that happened and the events were real in the locality, though not global. Or finally in some way that we do not yet understand scientifically, it could have happened over the whole world. I have not studied this particular issue enough to debate the relative merits of any of these – I’m better on the Creation story.

        There are many other arguments – this is just a taster and I’m not an expert. πŸ™‚

        • thatcatkatie says:

          Then I have another question, if the flood is simply a metaphor, how do you know the entire bible is not? It could reference historical events and people and still be largely metaphor. The flood has been debunked in two respects. 1) The sedimentary evidence suggests there never was a flood. I’m not a geologist, so I’ll explain it as well as I can, but I’m sure if you do a search you could find this information. Basically in the crust of the earth, had a world-wide flood occured, you’d find a layer of earth toward the bottom that was pre-flood, you’d find a layer that was directly affected by the flood (traces of water damage and a lot of dead things), and post-flood layer on top of that. Now, if you don’t look too closely at the evidence, that’s what you find. But if you do look closely, you find distinct layers of different kinds of rock in no real order. There’s no sign of that flood, no layer of sediment that definitively point to a flood. We also find, through experiments, that a flood would produce a single layer of sediment, not many layers of distinct types of rock and soil (which is what we do find) – these many distinct layers would have been mixed up and turned into one layer by a worldwide flood. 2) On the basis that it’s physically impossible for the ark that Noah was told to build by God, that the species living today could have fit on such a vessel. I like to emphasize this by comparing Noah’s Ark to the Titanic. The ark, as described by the bible, was to be built to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet tall. The titanic was 883 feet long, 92 feet wide, and 175 feet tall. The Ark was supposed to fit 8 people plus every kind of species of and plant life that would still exist today. The titanic had a max capacity of 3547 people, and you still had to put enough food and water on there to last those people the two week voyage. There are at least 1.7 million known species of life on this planet. Obviously, this would not have been possible.

          • Hi there, I don’t know enough about the Noah’s ark story to discuss it much, other than to say… I don’t think a story is less powerful as a metaphor or allegory. The question is, what is God saying to us? And I also think the two other options I put (literal or local) are potentially valid too. It’s not on my priority list to look into this particular issue, I’m better on Creation, so I’ll discuss some of the issues and the way I think regarding Genesis 1&2.
            I don’t think Genesis is literal in the sense that a rib was literally taken out of a man’s side etc. However I think the story gives us some clear information. Some of this marries well with current scientific knowledge, such as: the world was created and hasn’t always been here… creation occurred in stages… at some point man became self-aware… there are further fascinating points made on this by a secular biologist called Andrew Parker in ‘The Genesis Enigma’. And it tells us God created the world – there are good rational philosophical reasons for believing this from a more cosmological point of view.
            It’s worth noting that Augustine of Hippo in the 4th century thought Genesis was an allegory, it’s not just modern apologists that do. I don’t think it takes away from the power of the story of God’s creation, and I am sure that one day I will be able to see exactly how that story fits with the actual scientific events.
            And as to how do you know what is metaphor in the Bible – studying it πŸ™‚ Luke’s gospel, for example, is clearly a historical account of Jesus’ life. And to me the gospels are the most vital – because for me the entrance of God into the world through Jesus, what he said and did, is the most important thing of all.
            πŸ™‚

          • thatcatkatie says:

            Creationism did do a good job at it’s time for explaining how the world was created, but I think that it does a poor job explaining things now in light of all the scientific discoveries we have made and what we know about the universe. Especially since creationism also once strongly asserted that the earth was flat, when Ptolemy’s model was first accepted by the church. It does also line up with science in the ways that you mentioned, however science goes about an entirely different way of trying to explain them. Science and religion can only coincide until the point where they don’t, when science asserts something in an area where the bible asserts another, such as the big bang theory, or even abiogenesis – although I am hesitant to mention the latter because it is not accepted as fact among scientists, I only can assert it because logically it does explain how life may have started on this world better to me than opposing theories.
            I’ve heard that response before, that you can study it and figure out what it says. But I disagree, through every century that passes the bible is interpreted differently. Eventually the interpretations you know now may be foreign to the Christians of the future, just in the way that some old interpretations may sound ludicrous to you now. While some things may mention historical events and people, is there any absolute way of knowing that the writings as a whole are not still meant to be metaphor?

          • Hi Katie, thanks for your responses! To answer your last question, I think the opening statement of Luke’s gospel demonstrates that it is intended to be a historical account: “Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.”
            Perhaps this is why Luke is my favourite book in the Bible – it appeals to my scientific mind πŸ™‚
            I agree that the Bible has been interpreted in different ways. However one of the things I find remarkable about my faith, is that when I read the stories of genuine followers of Jesus through the ages and in different cultures, I can relate to them and understand them. I usually see more similarites than differences, sometimes hauntingly so. I think when a genuine believer is using the Bible to hear God speak to them, then often what is heard is very similar.
            Interesting what you say, as I would say the scientific issues of the Big Bang and abiogenesis are two of the areas where science does not have a lot of answers. There are theories re abiogenesis but very little in the way of evidence – people still trot out the ‘alien meteor’ theory because there is so little evidence of it happening spontaneously on Earth.
            As to the Big Bang – there are deep philosophical reasons why this scientific theory marries very well with Christian thought. Even if the Big Bang was caused by a random quantum fluctuation – the laws of physics would be there to cause it, so where did they come from? Why are the laws of physics so precisely tuned to allow our universe, and hence life, to occur? Why is there something rather than nothing? Science does not have answers and there will be a limit to how much it can say on these subjects.
            Just to be clear about my position btw – I think there’s a big difference between Young Earth creationism (it happened in 6 days) and the way I view God’s creation of the world. I am open minded, but loosely would ally myself with a ‘guided evolution’ point of view, which does not conflict with scientific evidence at all.
            Generally I would say that science investigates the material world, while religion is about the spiritual and supernatural. There is no conflict – the conflict is between the philosophical position of naturalism/materialism and religion. But that’s nothing to do with science, I would argue. There are many scientists who have a personal faith in God.
            I’ve never seen evidence that creationists or Christians were ever strong proponents of the Flat Earth theory – could you point me to it? I’ve just had a look online and couldn’t see any.
            Do you think you lost your faith purely for rational reasons, or was there elements of choice in it, do you think?
            I’m enjoying chatting to you! πŸ™‚

          • thatcatkatie says:

            I agree that science can do little to explain abiogenesis, I just think that it does logically make sense and unfortunately no other argument for the beginning of life has been as compelling to me. So personally, it makes sense, but on that basis alone I cannot assert it as truth in the way that I can with evolution. However, I have never looked at gaps in scientific knowledge and thought that since they didn’t give me the answers, that religion could. I simply think that the answers are yet to be discovered.

            I think it’s an interesting perspective to assume that the laws of physics guided the universe’s beginning in respects to the big bang. How can we not know that they are simply a consequence of the big bang? That though, of course, brings us to the point that how can we know the big bang happened if we do not apply these laws to it? I don’t know, but that doesn’t automatically make me think that God is responsible. It’s alright not to know, I think that is the major problem with discussing these viewpoints, is being afraid to admit that you simply don’t know (a lesson I wish I had learned more than just recently). As for your other question – why the laws of physics allow life in the universe – first you would have to believe that the laws of physics are somehow concerned with whether or not something is or isn’t, which they are not. The laws of physics are not sentient things, they only control what is and how that reacts, not why it is. As for why there is something of nothing, it is a purely human desire to want to know why – if a greater being did create us, there still would not necessarily need to be a why.

            Do you believe in the Adam and Eve story then? Or perhaps a modified or differently interpreted version? Why do you believe it to be that way rather than what the bible says?

            The Catholic church officially accepted Ptolemy’s flat earth model, which Aristotle later modified, known as the geocentric model (basically that the earth was both flat and the center of the universe) in the 12th century because it allowed for a vast amount of space outside of our solar system for heaven and hell to exist, and because it didn’t conflict with their teachings. Later on, they adopted a heliocentric view once it was scientifically proven (I want to say this was in the 1800’s, but I’m not sure).

            I believe I lost my faith both out of rational thought and my choices to explore the answers other sources could give me.
            I am too, you’ve got some interesting things to say.

          • Hello! Hope you’re having a good day. OK reading through… I think a lot of scientists with faith would agree with you, that they would not want to look in gaps of scientific knowledge and insert religion in there. I agree with you too, although I do think that abiogenesis and evolution could have been in some way aided supernaturally. However this isn’t fundamental to my faith; it’s just looking at the probabilities. But if it was shown that abiogenesis and evolution happened as a purely naturalistic process (I’m not sure it’ll ever be possibe to totally confirm this), it wouldn’t affect my faith at all, I’d marvel at the beauty of nature either way!
            The big bang is a little different. There is coming a point in the science, where you’ve got to ask, ‘why’? A scientist would point to the laws of physics – it’s not really my own personal explanation. But why did this happen? Whatever the ultimate material cause – whether laws of physics or quantum fluctuation – why did that happen? Why is there something here, rather than nothing? These kinds of questions can only be answered by philosophy. And interestingly, philosophy is becoming more and more positive towards theism, considering for example, the conversion of famous atheist Anthony Flew to belief in God.
            Adam and Eve – the real answer is I don’t know! But my preference is that Adam and Eve and the fall were real events, which happend to the first self-aware homo sapiens. So I think there will be an understanding of the Genesis account and science and these can be totally harmonised, but I suspect that I won’t see this understanding happen in my lifetime, but it may happen beyond the grave. πŸ™‚
            I guess I would see the way I would understand the material world to be through science, and the way I understand myself, society and values etc to be through my faith and the Bible. The two, for me, are very complementary, and both enrich my life. I live more through my faith though, just because I feel God’s love to be the most wonderful and satisfying part of my life, and I see the beauty of nature and science through that worldview. πŸ™‚
            Long post today! x

          • thatcatkatie says:

            something instead of nothing*

          • thatcatkatie says:

            I should have looked the ptolemy thing up before I started typing – it was adopted in the 1600’s, not the 12th century (misremembered). And I also for some reason said Aristotle later modified Ptolemy’s model, and although I can’t remember typing that sentence, I’m not sure why i made such a blunder – Aristotle proposed it first and Ptolemy’s model refined it later. I usually don’t just spout things off without fact checking, I feel like an idiot. I’m just glad I realized my mistakes so quickly.

          • You’re no idiot! It’s easily done. πŸ™‚ I’m going to bed now, it’s UK time, but look forward to answering your posts properly tomorrow. Have a great day x

    • thatcatkatie says:

      I also have to ask, although you did justify your choice in religion, what is it about Christianity specifically that seems more truthful to you? Simply ‘liking’ Jesus and his teachings may sway you, but what about Jesus seems more believable? It is clear though, that the second question doesn’t apply to you, just most religious people. You came to your beliefs by your own finding, which is not as common as people who come to them because of the influence their families or their communities, so I assume you put a much greater amount of thought into choosing your faith than most do.

      • It was more than just liking Jesus for me – there was something very compelling about him as described in the gospels. I wanted to follow Him. There was his teachings, but there was also what he spoke of himself, and his love and comfort for people; his majesty yet his humility. Something seemed much more authentic than other religious leaders/prophets I had read about – something genuine, loving, true… as I learned more it all seemed to make sense in a way that other worldviews didn’t. It was partly a rational assessment of his claims and his moral teaching; and partly the experience of growing to know him personally – a relational knowledge. Does that make sense to you? Thanks for asking!

        • thatcatkatie says:

          It does make sense because if I compare Jesus and Muhammad in my mind, Jesus is definitely more likeable as a person (just one example). I also understand the feeling as a former Christian, but I obviously feel very different about it now.

          • How do you feel about it now? What is different from how you felt before?

          • thatcatkatie says:

            I’ll answer your other points later today, I only have time for this one this morning.
            I used to really believe in Jesus, that we had a relationship, that he listened and was there for me. It didn’t come until after I had questioned the validity of religion that I realized I would have to give up this relationship – it was weird, especially since my deconversion didn’t happen all at once, it happened in tiny bits and pieces. This ‘relationship’ I felt I had with Jesus, or God, it was the last thing to ‘go’ so to say, although it didn’t really go anywhere (I’m getting there). So there was a point at which I said to myself, I don’t think I can reasonably believe in God anymore, and I had to accept that if I felt that way that meant that there never had been such a relationship there. The feelings that were inside of me didn’t just disappear though, that I felt as a connection between me and some seemingly supernatural entity, I just call them something different now. It’s an amazement and gratefulness for being alive and getting to experience anything at all, it’s a feeling of my hopes for humanity and my belief that my fellow man may disappoint me but may also surprise me at the same time. It’s just being alive and appreciating it fully. I don’t feel a need to label it as faith, at least definitely not in a religious sense, I was worried at first when I started questioning things that these questions would lead me to unhappiness – because Christianity always made me feel secure in a way – but as it turns out, it didn’t. I just had to find that drive within me and apply it to life in a different way, I no longer only felt it in feeling confident that Jesus loved me or that God ultimately cared what happened on earth even if I didn’t understand why He didn’t intervene in bad things more often. I now feel it when I walk out my front door and I look around and the wonders around me (I happen to live in a very beautiful spot nature-wise), in noticing someone doing some small kindness or a big one, I feel it in all the little and big things that make life beautiful to me now, I feel it when I myself do something that makes a positive impact. So I don’t necessarily feel differently, I just view what that feeling means differently.

          • Thanks for sharing that Katie, it’s really interesting. It sounds like the deconversion was related to rational arguments against belief God then, is that right? I find this interesting as I guess I have discovered lots of rational reasons to believe in God. I appreciate the views of others who think differently and see it as irrational; but there are some really good rational reasons to believe in God. So I’m starting to wonder whether it is more about a choice, to believe or not, and our rational faculties follow accordingly. Can you relate to that? I’d be really interested to hear more. Thanks again x

  2. For anyone reading my previous comment… I discuss my faith in more detail at http://jesusinthecoffeehouse.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/why-i-believe/

  3. This is true socially speaking, but there’s much more to consider, and in my experience Christians don’t think about the matter in the same way we do.

    • thatcatkatie says:

      What is true socially speaking? Sorry, just not sure what you’re referring to.

      • Oh sorry, you’re right, our social structures do help determine a religion. That’s all I was saying, I just wanted to add a bit because I don’t think many people consider it while making huge life decisions. Perceived reality must always be held in check with actual reality.

        • thatcatkatie says:

          Ah alright, yes I agree. There are a few of us who find answers without societal pressure, I spent the first 16 year of my life going to church and not because my parents made me, but because I wanted to go (my parents aren’t religious). But for the most part, people end up in their faith because of their parents, or that it just happens to be the faith people practice in your geological area – I don’t think that they think of the possibility that had other faiths been more available to them, or had their parents been of another faith, they’d believe something else.

          • I was in the same boat, I chose to go to church, I thought it was the right path. But when I was much younger my grandmother taught me to read with the Bible. My mother handed me a Bible after her bother died. So although I thought I was thinking for myself, I’m sure it was the initial influence that pushed me toward the church. Luckily I found my own way.

          • thatcatkatie says:

            I was influenced heavily by my friends I suppose, but they never seemed like they would think less of me if I didn’t go (this was only in elementary school, too). However, I also acknowledge that if I were in a similar situation somewhere in the middle east, it would have been Islam that I ended up believing, and probably later deconverting because it is also unsatisfactory in explaining the world or as a moral code to me.

  4. Gus Ravenwheel says:

    Interesting conversation. My attempt at some answers to your questions…

    1. We all are influenced by our society, by our family, by our community. Of course, we are.

    2. With that as a given, the subculture that most influenced me during my first ~30 years would be the more conservative traditional evangelical Christian subculture. I read the Bible influenced by their views, what books I read were, for the most part, the ones they recommended, the sermons and speeches and teachings I listened to were nearly all some form of that more conservative, traditional Christian vein.

    3. Where I’ve moved in the second half of my life (the last ~20 years) is to a more progressive Christian view. How I got there was that I was influenced by the more conservative Christian view to HIGHLY value the Bible and, believe it or not, independent thought (for all their negative history, the Baptists and the anabaptist traditions – among others – have offered a great deal to the world in terms of religious liberty and freedom to think for one’s self).

    4. Since I value both biblical teaching and independent thought, and with the starting point of a Christian worldview (ie, a worldview based upon the teachings of Jesus, as opposed to the teachings of the church, which have not always been one and the same), I have found Jesus’ specific teachings to be quite credible and applicable to real world settings.

    5. That is, it has been my experience that Jesus’ teachings make a great deal of plain, good sense in the real world we live in, facing the real problems people face. Other people – non-Christians like Gandhi and Christians like Martin Luther King – have found the same thing to be true.

    6. Specifically, truths such as…

    a. We all are fallen, hurting humanity, none of us are perfect and we all need salvation, in some form or the other.

    b. That salvation comes NOT through adhering to moral principles established by even good religious folk, but in grace and love.

    c. That, as we embrace a life of truth and grace and love and thinking on these good, noble ideals, we can find a kingdom of peace, a realm of well-being and health, in accepting this grace and love and forgiveness.

    d. That the question isn’t how many times must we forgive someone (ie, making grace and salvation and forgiveness a chore to be waded through), but in the recognition that we ALL are in need of forgiveness and, with it being a given that we might hope in our wildest dreams for limitless forgiveness, that this is what we should offer to others, as well.

    e. That love is the standard, not rule-following or tradition. Love for our family, love for our community, love for those who are hard to love and annoying, love even for my enemies! That release and salvation from the oppression even of an enemy does not come in responding in kind, but in overcoming their evil with good…

    7. I could go on, but I’m sure you’re familiar with the broad sweep of Jesus’ teachings. I simply find those teachings – as I understand them, anyway – to be rational, compelling and desirable in my life and, ideally, in the lives of others. Grace IS the way to salvation, seems to me.

    8. So, you ask, “What makes it more truthful in our eyes?” I would not frame it that way. Truth is truth, wherever it is found. The truth, “LOve our enemies” is true, whether it is espoused by a Muslim, a pagan, a buddhist or a Christian, seems to me. The truth “Do unto others” is true regardless of the source.

    9. Jesus told a story wherein a father with two sons told them both to do a chore. One son quickly and politely said, “Yes, sir, Father Dear! I will do it!” and left and did not do the chore. The other son complained, “No, I don’t want to do that!” but in the end, went and did what he was asked.

    “Which son did as the father asked?” Jesus asked. Obviously, the one who embraced the will of the father.

    Dorothy Day once said, “I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.”

    I don’t view the Christian faith to be a contest against other faith traditions. I see it as an embrace of God’s grace and Jesus’ teachings. Jesus never once taught us the “right” position on The Virgin Birth, or the “right” position on the Triune Nature of God. I DO believe Jesus has some pretty cool and specific things to say about love, grace, forgiveness, simple living, peacemaking, dealing with oppressors…

    Also, Jesus told us that those who are not against “us” (he and his followers) are for us. I believe that to be rational and believable.

    Ultimately, I am a Christian in the anabaptist Christian tradition (Amish, mennonite, etc), because it makes sense to me in the real world, it seems like a workable, lovely, elegant and desirable philosophy for the world and, lacking complete agreement with us, it seems like a workable philosophy for me, even if the rest of the world disagrees.

    Does that answer your question (sorry so long)?

    ~Dan Trabue

    • thatcatkatie says:

      In a lot of ways it does, yes. What I see as a trend – when I ask people why their religious over another – is the relationship people have with Jesus. I am just curious because while Jesus did have some very good teachings, they need not be specific to Christianity or any one religion, really. These teachings are about love, they are universal ideas, but you can apply them outside of the religion. I still think (assuming he existed) Jesus was a great man, now I personally don’t believe that he was the son of God or that he performed miracles (I believe these are stories that got out of hand, given that all accounts of Jesus were hearsay for 140 years until anyone bothered to write them down) but I can still appreciate his teachings without believing in the religion.

  5. Really though? Because looking at Jesus’ teachings, they set a very high standard. No lust? No judgement? No serving of money? No pride? The more I attempt to follow Jesus’ fantastic teachings, the more I’m led to the Cross and His power, because I absolutely can’t do it on my own. I need the supernatural power of God to fulfil them.

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