Can people be righteous or not?

There is a verse that I came upon recently that seems a bit confusing to me. It is Romans 3:10 which says “As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one.” Later in verse 12 it says, “there is no one who does good, not even one.”

I then started to think about other passages I’ve read that states the opposite.

Of course we have the story of Noah in Genesis 7:1 which states,  “The lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.”

There was the servant Job who never turned from god.

And there is even the verse in James 5:16 that seems to speak to us normal people that states, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” This says to me that some men are righteous and their prayers are effective.

So again, I ask of this seeming contradiction in the bible. Can mankind be righteous or not?

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Where are gods morals here?

We hear it from christians all the time. “Without god, there are no morals.” “We can only get morals from god.” “God is the absolute authority on morality” “Atheist have no morals.” “Atheist are just baby killers!”

Ok, maybe that last one isn’t exactly one I’ve heard directly, but I’m sure that a lot of christians think that. Well, now I can say the same about god himself. And “his own word” is all the proof I need.

Today I was reading 2 Samuel where David sees the desirable Bathsheba naked and bathing from his rooftop on to hers. Bathsheba is married to a man named Uriah. David sends for her, has sex with her and impregnates her. David freaks out and sends for Uriah to himself away from a current battle taking place. He tries to set up Uriah with a perfect opportunity to spend some hanky panky time with Bathsheba. That way it will seem like it was Uriah that gets her pregnant instead. But Uriah is to honorable of a man and can not sleep with his wife while his fellow soldiers are sleeping in the dirt at the battle field. David then tries to get him drunk, hoping Uriah with sleep with his wife then, to no avail.

Then David sends Uriah to the front lines where he is then killed.

The bible then says that “what David had done displeased the Lord.” Its not clear if all of it displeased, or just him sleeping with another mans wife, getting Uriah killed… Who knows what upset god here.

Later in 2 Samuel 12:13 David admits he has sinned against god. But Nathan says in the same verse that god has taken away Davids sin. However in verse 14 Nathan informs David that the son that Bathsheba is about to give birth to will die because of his sin.

Verse 15 says “the lord struck the child and he became ill.” Verse 18 the child dies.

Now then, I understand that not a single man is perfect. Men will do stupid things like act out sexually. Which is what David did. Yes it was wrong and consequences should be expected for David. Even Bathsheba should expect them. I guess back then that would include being stoned to death for her.

But this whole passage just seems to skim over the innocent baby. The baby that god himself kills.

What did the baby do? What did he do to deserve a death sentence given by god? God killed this baby. Not David, not Bathsheba. God is the murderer of innocence.

Today we have christians going on about people killing fetuses in abortions, but why don’t they go on about god himself killing a baby after birth? Where is the outrage and outcries? Where are the questions towards god from believers. And please don’t tell me, “well god did it, so its ok.”

It is something to find out that the god of the bible is really the baby killer.

A new step in the right direction

Well, it finally happened. I got to talk openly this week to someone about my de-conversion and steps towards atheism. Its been about a year since I let go of religion once in for all. Over the course of the past year I’ve read books, listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts, attended my first free thought and atheist convention, read the bible critically and had many chats with my wife who is on her second full year of un-belief. But I’ve never talked to any one else close to me about it all.

I have been dying to talk to others about where I am at now with christianity and religion. But have been cautious about how to go about it. It is still quite a scary thing. Especially when it comes to talking to family about it. Which is who I had the opportunity to talk to this week. I had lunch with an in-law who is christian. And it was he who brought it up.

He started by asking me if my wife was still on her “atheism thing”. It kind of took me off guard, but I said, “yes..yes she is.” Then he asked if I was going in that direction as well. I knew it was on then. I stretched my arms as I thought of what to say. But I gave the simplest answer that I could. “Yes, I am.”

He asked what was leading me in that direction. I explained to him how I became a christian in the first place. It was out of fear of hell. When I was in high school, I had a few friends I hung out with that I had no idea were christians. I partied with them all the time. Then for some reason one night the subject of god came up. They asked the usual fear tactic question, “if you were to die tonight, would you go to hell or heaven.” Hell certainly didn’t sound like a desirable destination. So they lead me through the “sinners prayer” and evidently I was “saved”. Then we went back to partying.

So I lived the next 20-25 years as a blind faith christian, with the “fear of the lord” and fear of hell. I constantly had doubts that I just pushed back and lived on faith alone. I read the bible occasionally, but it was usually a laborious task. I constantly asked myself if I really believed it was the word of god and if god was even real. I never wanted to talk to or “witness” to anyone out of fear they might ask me questions about why I believe. I knew I didn’t have any good answers other than I just have faith.

Then, after about eight years of marriage, I watched my wife become honest with herself and began to question religion. I wanted to still be a christian (mainly because all our friends and family were) so it was difficult to see her go down that road. Over a period of a year or two, she decided she didn’t believe anymore. In our conversations about it, what she would say always made more sense. All I could say was, “I have faith.” That’s all I had.

I told him how I had read the bible more over the past two years than I ever had. I explained that it doesn’t quite make sense that these books were so hard to understand. At this he kind of shrugged his shoulders as if to say (whats so difficult to understand?). I talked about how so many people interpret things in the bible so differently. I told him how I might read a questionable passage and how someone might say, “well, what is REALLY meant by that passage is…blah blah blah.” But the passage clearly says this, and someone else says it means that? How am I to make sense of it all? If my eternal soul is dependent on whats written in the book, it shouldn’t take some scholar, who also makes mistakes, to interpret the whole damn thing for me. I can read. I can see what it says, and it doesn’t make sense.

Another thing I talked about is how it became time for me to search for myself honestly about what is real and what is not. No longer could I simply have faith in what my friends and family had faith in. No longer could I believe just because they all did. In all my years as a christian I never had an “encounter with god” or “felt his presence”. I certainly made claims that I had been touched by god, but it wasn’t true. I wanted it to be true, but in all honesty, it wasn’t. It was just the christian lingo, to be in the presence of god. It’s all just atmosphere and emotions.

The conversation then turned to him telling me a story he had heard the night before at his bible study group. It was another story of a guy getting diagnosed with cancer and given only weeks to live. However, the cancer somehow leaves his body, he gets all his strength back and continues living. The man credited god with this miracle and tells his tale as proof for god. And I guess it was somehow supposed to be sufficient evidence to prove to me that it couldn’t be explained, therefore god DID heal him.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am very glad the guy is no longer living with cancer. Who knows, maybe there is a god who saw fit to heal this particular man of cancer. But it can’t be proven and therefore isn’t evidence. I can’t take this story, and many many stories like it (from more religions than just christianity by the way) and just say, “Ok, I believe it now because you said so.” This is exactly what I am trying to get away from. I would be starting at square one again.

Even if I were to get cancer, given a short time to live, then all of a sudden become free of it all, I wouldn’t take it as evidence for a divine healer. I would be happy as hell, but not convinced of a god.

What would it take for me to believe? Evidence that is testable, verifiable and probably not just some incident that only I can see. But is witnessed by more than myself.

Our 30 minute conversation came to a close by switching the conversation to business and work. I felt pretty good about how I made my points. No one got heated. It pretty much happened the way I played out in my thoughts several times before. I just didn’t know who the exchange would take place with. I’m sure there will be many more to come and with other family and friends as word starts to spread.

Just one more small step on the journey.

Did John the Baptist doubt Jesus?

The mothers of Jesus and John the Baptist both had some remarkable events happen at the time when they conceived. Both were visited by angels and told the details of their soon to come offspring, even down to what to name them. One of them was to come into the world magically.

I understand that John and Jesus may not of been around each other while growing up. Of course…there is no record of these cousins being together until the day Jesus went to John to be baptized. Though John didn’t greet him as a family member, but as someone who’s sandals John was unworthy to carry.

According to Matthew 3:14 (But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”) it is very clear that John knows who Jesus is. At least the god like nature that Jesus was supposed to be. Johns whole purpose was to “prepare the way” for Jesus’ coming. What a day it must have been when Jesus finally did show up on the scene. And even came to John to be baptized.

So there are a couple of passages that I recently read that are a bit puzzling.

Matthew 11:2 When John heard in prison what christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Luke 7:19 he sent them to the lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

When I read this, I picture John sitting in prison saying, “Damn…I wonder if all this crazy magic stuff is true after all. Why hasn’t Jesus broke me out of here yet?!” I wonder if during Johns time in prison, he began to doubt if there was a god or began to doubt Jesus.

Reading further in the texts, I found no resolve to Johns questions or possible doubts. I found no passages where Johns disciples reported back Jesus’ response. Only that John is beheaded later.

Now then, I can already hear possible believers response to all of this. Things like, “John knew he was going to die, and wanted his own disciples to start following Jesus.” or “John wanted his disciples to be re-assured from Jesus himself.” But where does it say that? The bible never says that. Conclusions like this can only be made up. Christians can make up whatever they want in these gaps to make it all fit together. Regardless of wether the text actually says it or not. I can only conclude what the text itself says and it reads to me like John began to doubt the divinity of Jesus.

This is a perfect example of how the bible can be contradictory, confusing and an incomplete, fragmented text. If our very souls are dependent on what is written in it, why make it so difficult to understand. Just another reason to not believe it is the inerrant word of a god.

So, did John the Baptist doubt Jesus?

If anything….

My wife and I met at church 15 years ago. We married 11 years ago. Early on in our marriage I began to have doubts about the existence of a god. However, I was not brave enough to talk to my wife about it. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did try one time, but I don’t think I communicated very well how deep my doubts were. I was actually kind of scared to admit it. I knew it would change things dramatically for us. So I just kind of brushed it off and rolled with trying to remain a christian.

I remember through the years trying to read the bible by myself and with her. It was painful every time. We didn’t read much together and I would usually fall asleep very quickly trying on my own. I know now it was because of my doubts that it was so difficult to read and believe.

Then we started having kids. My wife is the most honest and self searching person that I know. I’m sure she could give a better account of her experience, but I will do my best. She began to have doubts of her own as she read the bible. One day she was reading to our boy while our niece was over. After she read one of the stories, our niece asked my wife, “do you believe that?” A switch went off in my wifes head. She wasn’t sure. The process began, because she knew she couldn’t teach our kids the bible if she didn’t believe it herself.

I remember my wife and I being at our weekly bible study group and she announced she was having doubts that god was there. Most of the people in the group told her she can’t figure it out with her thinking, logic and mind. That the “holy spirit” would reveal all things to her. So we prayed for just that very thing to happen right then and there in the group. I wanted so bad for it to be true myself and for god to show something to her. Of course nothing happened.

I have never seen some one so desperate in their search. Some one so open and really wanting to hear from god as my wife during this time. She cried many times to hear, feel or see anything from the god that (according to the bible) wants to reveal himself to us. I couldn’t understand how god could not do anything for someone that wanted something, anything to show he was real. My wife didn’t believe anymore.

Fast forward the story now to the point where I did my own searching and research to find I don’t believe anymore either. My wife and I have been on an amazing road that is open to truth.

The purpose of this post is to talk about a meeting my wife had yesterday with a family member. This family member is a lifelong christian that of course is very worried about our eternal souls and the souls of our children. I’m sure it is quite disturbing that we are taking the path that we are. I understand that, coming from a christian perspective.

The family member was trying to understand why my wife didn’t believe anymore, and also wanted to show my wife reasons why she does believe it. Their reasons for belief was the usual “prophecies fulfilled, personal experience, why did so many die martyrs for jesus, so many do believe it.” No actual proof for the existence of god. Just emotional plugs and no real truth.

The thing that finally upset my wife was when our family member said that god has spoken to said family member. My wife said, “so he can speak to you so clearly, but not me?” Our family member said something to the effect of, “well…maybe some aren’t as sincere about it.”

This is absolutely not true. IF ANYTHING…my wife was more sincere in trying to get a response from god, than anyone I’ve ever known. And now I have to say that we are both sincerely looking for what is really true. So far, we’ve found no truth in the bible or any god. If there is a god out there, we’re still open. I just think its a dead end.

My wife left the meeting feeling like she didn’t really get all her points across. Like she didn’t really make our family member understand why she doesn’t believe. But I told her that she knows inside herself why she can’t believe it. That’s all that matters. She doesn’t have to convince anyone else or gain any one else’s approval for her disbelief. As long as we can remain honest with ourselves. I am proud of her.

Skeptic Bible Study: The Four Gospels Part I

I’ve recently been listening to several podcasts that have been talking about the four gospels. It’s been interesting to learn about the differences and contradictions in these books of “good news”. I know that most skeptics and unbelievers have heard these contrasts several times over. I know I have. But it is always compelling to hear the facts as a refresher.

Scholars agree that Matthew, Mark and Luke are noticeably similar, and are thus known as the “Synoptic Gospels“, while John is quite different. Mathematical comparisons show that Matthew contains 91% of Mark’s gospel, whereas Luke contains 53% of Mark. So it is also highly agreed among scholars that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source. However, Matthew and Luke contain identical stories that are not found in Mark. This leads many scholars to theorize that Matthew and Luke made use of an additional source called Quelle or “Q”. (All of this information is from my very own copy of the NIV study bible.)

So now that I have the basics set up for us, on to the discrepancies.

Well…the first thing I’ll mention isn’t a discrepancy so much, but the differences are interesting. Marks account begins with the baptism of Jesus. Matthew starts with the genealogy and birth story and Luke begins with even more detail in the birth narrative. Nothing to damning, its just interesting to note the progression of information from Mark to Matt to Luke. Luke lets us know in 1 verse 3, that he’s investigated “everything”, so it seems he has to have the best account.

1. Baptism Account: Let’s take a look at the accounts of Jesus’ baptism. Mark 1:10-11 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, HE saw heaven being torn open and the spirit descending like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “YOU are my son, with YOU I am well pleased.” (Emphasis added)

Notice how personal these two verses are. Its as if Jesus is the only one seeing and hearing god. God it would seem, is revealing himself only to Jesus in this account.

Matthew 3:17 “And a voice from heaven said, THIS is my son, whom I love; with HIM I am well pleased.”

Small differences in the use of words “you are my son/ this is my son” and “with You I am well pleased/ with Him I am well pleased?” Maybe so. I can see just looking at these two passages how a believer could interpret these and say the person who recorded them meant the same thing. But it could also be said that the passage in Matthew seems to be more of a public declaration. Words from god that everyone around could hear.

There is a reason I start this study out with the wording differences in the baptism narrative. With the interpretations of one account being private and the other more public. This actually sets up one of the themes of differences in the gospels. On one hand there is a pattern coming from Mark called the “messianic secret.” We will see that people don’t seem to understand who Jesus is (not even his own disciples) and that Jesus tends to want to keep his identity and “godliness” a secret. The Jesus in Mark is more human and suffers in his humanity much more.

On the other hand coming from Matthew and Luke, Jesus is more of a bad ass that wants everyone to know who he is. Everyone does tend to know who he is. This leaves the Jews, (who have him crucified) much more accountable for their actions. Jesus also seems to suffer far less while being crucified.

In a future blog, I will go into more detail concerning the “messianic secret” vs. Jesus, the popular kick ass messiah.

God of regrets

Regret: To feel sorrow or remorse for (an act, fault or disapointment, etc.)

I’ve been reading over passages in the bible that says god is regretful for acts that he had a hand in. It seems strange to me that a supreme, omniscient, omnipotent and all knowing god could ever do things that it would later regret. Why call it a god if that “god” is capable of making mistakes or at the very least do regrettable things.

Why does god have regrets is a question asked over and over, as I discovered while researching on the internet. Below are a couple examples of the almightys regrets.

Genesis 6:6-7 NIV

The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.
So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”

If this were true, I would surely feel like a lab rat.

1 Samuel 15:10-11 NIV

Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.

The common explanation that I found concerning gods regrets is mans free will. It seems to boil down to god regretting to allow free will, resulting in humans not following, loving, worshipping and obeying him. Essentially taking ALL the blame off of god and putting it ALL on human kind.  It sort of seems like  we were set up for failure from the beginning. Doomed to make wrong choices and burn in hell for all eternity.

One website that I read mentioned the analogy; think of yourself and your own children. Wouldn’t you want yours to make good decisions and love you unconditionally? Of course I would! But even if they decide to wander off and not show they love me, doesn’t mean I won’t still love them. It doesn’t mean I will condemn them to eternal torment for refusing to acknowledge, love or show respect towards me. Sure my heart would be broken, but I could never do something so evil as the god of the bible by sending my child to hell for eternal punishment. It wouldn’t matter what they’ve done. Sorry, but the punishment doesn’t fit the crime!

So honestly, this solidifies even more my doubts that the christian god exists. The system just doesn’t make sense.