Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Forgiveness

A lot is made in Christian theology about forgiveness. Jesus forgives us of our sins. God forgives us of our sins by sacrificing His only son. Forgiveness to Christians is available to all who open their hearts to Jesus. And I think that’s crap.

Praying to a man who is also God who died 2,000 years ago is not the way to go about forgiveness. It might make you feel better, but it’s a fairy tale. Real forgiveness comes from understanding the action that you have done that harmed another person. It comes from telling the person that you are sorry for what you did. Sometimes, you can make it up to the person. Sometimes you can’t. You can change your behavior and not make the same mistake again.

I truly wish I was able to receive forgiveness as easily as a Christian. Confronting someone I have wronged is hard. I have done it and will continue to do it because it is the only way that true forgiveness can take place.

If I were to cheat on my wife and I were a Christian; I could pray, confess if I were Catholic, feel really bad about it, and be forgiven without telling my wife. I could feel really bad about it, wait a couple of years, do it again, and not tell my wife. I could still go to heaven so long as I pray and feel really bad about it. My religion would constantly teach me that as a human, I am nothing but a sinner and the sins that I have committed were the result of my sinful nature. That’s OK though, because although the wages of sin may be death (side note: who thinks of these things? Wages of sin? Does anyone think that sinning gets paid?) Jesus’ sacrifice will spare me the torment of hell.

I prefer to think of myself as someone who tries to do the right thing. Sometimes I think I’m doing the right thing and it doesn’t work out. Sometimes I make bad decisions. However, if I were to cheat on my wife, I’d like to think that I would at least tell her about it and figure out what to do from there. She would be the person harmed the most and I would have to acknowledge that she might leave me for my actions. I’m not saying that Christian men don’t tell their wives, I am saying that from a punishment/reward perspective there is a much bigger incentive to keep their mouths shut.

Wagerists also acknowledge that they have to forgive themselves. When I make a bad decision, all I can do is review the data that led me to make the decision. I learn what I can and I don’t beat myself up over it. For example, if I’m trying to lose weight and I go into the kitchen at work and then eat a cookie, I don’t believe I was predestined to fail. I think to myself, I wasn’t planning on eating that cookie but then I saw it in the kitchen. Wait a minute, there’s always junk food in the kitchen after lunch – maybe I should avoid the kitchen in the future after lunch? No deity needed.

29 comments:

Miracle said...

Great thoughts Wager, but I don't think wagerism and Christian theology is mutually exclusive. At least on the Christian angle of things, an honest follower of Jesus would ask for forgiveness from their wife.

I'm sure there might be a few Christians whom blame everything on predestination [I'm Wesleyan in theology so don't count me], but I think everyone believes in setting up reasonable situations. Whether or not you actually follow through with your plan to stay away from the cookie is a whole different matter. I'm sure we can get all metaphysical about predestination, but I think this post was a little bit of a reach. I know how it is sometimes though with writing.

I would like to hear more of your personal conclusions for not believing in God. The evidence as you see it.

bravo9 said...

@miracle

Why do call for "evidence"? And why is it the responsibility of the non-believer to produce it? Not being able to disprove God doesn't mean that he exists.

zilch said...

AW- once again, a good post. About the "wages of sin"- this is from the KJV, and back then "wages" still had its older meaning of "recompense, pledge", which still exists in such cognates as English "wed" and German "Wette" (bet). So "the wages of sin" means something like "the reward for sin".

Miracle- it should be no surprise that wagerism and Christianity have considerable overlap. All workable social systems have a great deal in common, given that human beings are a lot alike in their needs and desires. Look at how many times the Golden Rule has independently come up in religious and secular social contracts.

And I'll echo bravo9- in asking for evidence that God does not exist, you have reversed the burden of proof, which should be on the one who proposes the existence of something, not its nonexistence. Not only that, but invisible nonmaterial beings are notoriously difficult to disprove the existence of- can you disprove the existence of the Invisible Pink Unicorn, who is neighing softly over my right shoulder, but whom only I can hear?

Bible student said...

“Wages of sin” is out of context, the whole verse says,

For the wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

The same idea is found in Genesis 2:17, “But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.”

and

Ezekiel 18:4 Look! All the souls—to me they belong. As the soul of the father so likewise the soul of the son—to me they belong. The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.


No hell, exercising faith in Jesus’ sacrifice will spare your life.

Repentance (staying out of the kitchen) is important in that you are training your conscience. Psalm 97:10 reminds us, O YOU lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad. He is guarding the souls of his loyal ones; Out of the hand of the wicked ones he delivers them.

Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; (Galatians 6:7). The occasional tryst, no matter how bad you feel in the meantime, is just as deadly, in God’s eyes.

MasterJediDan said...

@ bravo9

Because some of us don't just blindly follow something, we want hard, solid, evidence. I could say the same thing about not being able to prove God.

kitty said...

@MGD

What is your hard, solid evidence?

If I say I have a small, pink, fluffy polar bear (named Dillan) who sits on my shoulder and talks to me but is invisible to the naked eye, would you say the burden on proof is on me - to show that such a small, pink, fluffy polar bear exists? Or on you to show that it doesn't?

bravo9 said...

@MasterJediDan -

Faith is defined as belief without evidence. The reality is that it (at least today) is impossible to prove or disprove God's existence. If you're a religious person you're fine with this because, after all, faith means that you don't need evidence. If you're an Atheist, you're also fine with this because you basically have "faith" in the idea that God doesn't exist (and don't require any evidence to prove it).

If you're Agnostic then, yes, it is fair to demand evidence -- but, as far as concrete scientific evidence goes, there is far more evidence to show that God doesn't exist than that he does. That is why most Agnostics lean towards Atheism.

Miracle said...

woah guys,

As most of you know, I don't think that there is hard evidence either way when it comes to God. What I was trying to get at is that I would like to read more of why AW chooses atheism and then maybe talk about how the evidences of this life (biology, solar system, rainbows) are all proof of this from his perspective.

@bravo9
I think it is the responsibility of all people to give evidence (reasons) of why they believe this way or that on issues such as these. I'm not talking objective hard facts, but personal reasons. If we just choose a way just because of some other reason other than seeking the truth then we are being no smarter than a goat.

Miracle said...

@bravo9

Where is your concrete evidence to say that it is more plausible that God doesn't exist? On what objective grounds do you judge this evidence? There is no way we can determine objectively the plausibility of God existence/non-existance (at this point). The only way we can determine more plausibility for God is out of personal reasons. I understand this and I'm fine with it is a personal thing, but you said scientifically it is this one way. Science judges on rational, objective and experienced grounds. There is no way one can limit God into any of those categories, therefore scientifically and objectively God's chances of existence is 50%.

Miracle said...

sorry everyone but I keep on reading more.

@bravo9
agnostics do not lead toward atheism rather than God. If you are a by the book agnostic, you do believe in some form of supernatural being. This means agnostic are theistic in nature. They differ in their understanding that God is out there but they don't/can't know what it/she/he is.

zilch said...

Miracle- as bravo9, kitty, and I have said, why should we have to present evidence that God is not there? If you are claiming the existence of something, it's incumbent upon you to present evidence for its existence, not upon us to present evidence for its nonexistence. Otherwise, we could just as reasonably demand evidence from you for the nonexistence of the Invisible Pink Unicorn, Dillon, or the Banana Split that Will Eat Chicago. Demanding proof for the nonexistence of something is a chump's game.

And claiming that "scientifically and objectively God's chances of existence is 50%" is simply absurd. Based on your logic, I could just as reasonably claim that the chances of existence of, say, the Immaculate Ice-Cream Sundae are also 50%, because it also cannot be disproven.

As far as what "agnostic" (or for that matter, "theist" or "atheist") really mean, you're better off asking each individual what they mean by it. I've been involved in many discussions where people end up talking past one another because they disagreed about what these labels "really" mean. Words of wisdom from Through the Looking Glass:
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'

Greg said...

There is plenty of evidence for the existence of God. The Shroud of Turin. The Miracle of the Sun at Fatima in 1917 witnessed by 70,000 people, some atheists themselves. The fact that neither the Roman or the Jews could locate the body of Jesus despite having a MASSIVE incentive not to take their eyes off it, because Jesus had already told them he was going to rise again, where is the body and WHY on earth did they lose it when they were warned???

The remarkable lives of saints and martyrs, the fact that religious societies tend to be more productive and stable than atheistic or pagan societies.

The fact that 12 Jewish fishermen could start a religion that within a few hundred years had taken over the most powerful empire in the world at that time. That seems a remarkable feat to me.

Then there is simply the design and complexity in nature which is so fantastic that the most suitable explanation was that it was designed by a designed. Evolution has got more holes than a sponge.

You can discount some of these things but ALL of them??? That appears to me like you are actively trying to refuse belief in God.

zilch said...

@ greg- with all due respect, what you've presented is evidence for belief in God, but not for the existence of God.

The Shroud of Turin? Three laboratories independently dated the fabric to ca. AD 1260-1390. While there are still those who believe in the authenticity of the Shroud, the scientific consensus is that it is a medieval fake.

The Miracle of the Sun at Fatima? Probably (although strangely enough, not one photograph was made) a combination of weather and what wishful thinkers see when they stare straight at the Sun for minutes at a time. By the way- the accounts from eyewitnesses are contradictory about what happened to the Sun, and over half the people there saw nothing out of the ordinary.

The missing body of Jesus is only known from the Bible, so it doesn't need any more explanation than the missing Body Thetans of "cleared" Scientologists.

The success of religion in organizing societies is no proof of their truth: in the first place, Islam and Christianity cannot both be literally true, so if they both successfully organize societies, some other factors than truth must be at play. The factors that make for successful societies are complex, but a set of workable rules, plus belief in a Policeman in the Sky, is a tried and true formula for assuring a certain amount of cooperation from people. Doesn't mean that there exists such a Policeman, however. Just because little kids can sometimes be convinced to behave nicely for a few weeks before Christmas is no proof for the existence of Santa Claus, either.

As far as evolution having more holes than a sponge- this should be no surprise, since we're trying to describe events that happened over the past four billion years. But at least we have a sponge, and not just a book of myths.

Miracle said...

@zilch

Let me repeat again what I mean when I say evidence. I'm talking about what personal reasons made you come to the conclusion that God is not real. You didn't just one day put on your sock and say, "God isn't real". What was the situation. This is what I want to read.


The idea of God and a banna split taking over the world (very creative)is not comparably the same. Scientifically we can judge what a banana split is and what it is capable of doing. The hypothesis of one taking over the world might be unable to disprove, but it can be judged highly improbable. The same goes for the invisible pink elephant. God is a different story. Scientifically speaking, if God were to exist then by what means do we have to judge this criteria? We can judge an elephant. We can judge a banana split, but we can't judge the existence of God. Therefore, scientifically the plausibility of his existence is at a stalemate. It takes something else other than science to determine his existence.


On the issue of agnosticism and categories, I do agree that we need to find the personal definitions of an individual. The reason why I said the "formal" understanding of agnosticism is bravo gave a statement concerning most agnostics.

zilch said...

Okay, miracle- you want personal reasons, not scientific evidence, for not believing in God. Fair enough.

My personal reasons:

My parents were not religious, so I was not indoctrinated at home. My grandmothers got me to go to church occasionally, and although I enjoyed the ceremony and fellowship, I never believed the stuff about God, as far as I can remember.

When I was around twelve I argued with a Christian kid up the street, saying "well, if God created the Universe, who created God?" and thought I was being very original. Later, when I learned science in school, I saw that the Bible couldn't be literally true, and that strengthened my conviction that God was most likely a story like Santa Claus, but just bigger.

I'm interested in religion, since it is such an important part of so many people's lives, and has played, and continues to play, such a powerful role in building society. I've spent a lot of time talking to believers, reading holy books, and attending services. I'm often very impressed by what religion can do, and many of my best friends are believers.

But nothing I've seen has changed my mind: God is a myth. A very pervasive, useful, and inspirational myth, but a myth nonetheless. Making up gods is something people have done throughout history: the concept of God has tremendous survival value for those societies that hold it. Since we know we shall die, and do not want to stop living, the idea that we can live forever has a way of gripping our attention. Attaching that idea to a set of morals and laws that work (more or less well) to reward membership and punish nonmembership in the religion creates a memeplex (combination of ideas that evolve) of formidable fitness in the ideosphere- it usually works, whether it's true or not. Divine carrots and sticks are compelling means of getting people to sublimate some of their individual desires for the sake of the community.

I would like to think that people are now well educated enough to be able to build societies that work even better without God, based on secular social contracts of one sort or another (after all, that's what governments are), but I'm not sure that's incentive enough for all of us.

On the other hand, religion can obviously also be a destructive force in the world. It's hard to say whether we'd be better off without religion or not. That's one of my motivations for exploring the nature of belief.

You are correct in saying that science cannot disprove the existence of God. But lacking evidence for the existence of God, it's more logical to assume that God does not exist, any more than the Invisible Pink Unicorn does (sorry, Your Pinkness). I'm not closed-minded about it, though- if I see a good reason to believe in God (or leprechauns), I will do so. But until then, I remain a natural.

My main concern is peaceful coexistence with people of all beliefs. Since it seems unlikely that atheism, or religions, are going to disappear anytime soon, it behooves us to try to understand one another and work together, as far as is possible, to make sure the world is a fit place to live for our children.

MasterJediDan said...

@ bravo9

Faith isn't believing in something that there is no evidence for. Faith is believing in something you can't see. For example, I can't see Miracle (and I never have before), but I have faith that he exists because of evidence. (i.e. his comments on this blog, his blog posts).

bravo9 said...

@MasterJediDan -

That makes no sense. First of all:

Example 1) firm belief in something for which there is no proof

Source: http://www.webster.com/dictionary/faith

Example 2) belief that is not based on proof

Source: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/faith

Source: Example 3) "belief or trust: belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof"

Source: http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/refpages/search.aspx?q=faith

I can belabor the point if you insist.

Now that that's out of the way we can show that your believing that Miracle exists is not "faith" since, like you said, you have evidence. One can infer from the aforementioned defitions that, if you have evidence, it's not faith.

bravo9 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bravo9 said...

@Miracle -

As zilch mentioned, inability to prove something does not mean that it has a 50% chance of existing.


@Greg -


Just because something is complex (and seemingly irreducibly complex) it does not mean that it was intelligently designed. Simply assuming that it had to of been designed due to its overwhelming complexity does not prove anything. Also, that way of thinking begs the obvious question of who designed the designer? The intelligent design argument blatantly overlooks this and doesn't even attempt to provide an explanation. There is no possible argument for the idea of intelligent design due to the fact that it deals with an infinite regression. The question of who designed the designer will always exist.

zilch said...

@mjd- as bravo9 said, your definition of "faith" doesn't jibe with the dictionary definition. Of course, you are free to use the word to mean something different, as long as you explain what you mean by it.

However, your definition of "faith" is so broad that the word is not very useful, in my opinion. If you say "faith is belief in something you can't see", that means belief in just about everything is "faith", including the existence of your own feet when you're not looking at them. Are you sure you want to go there?

Bible student said...

@ bravo9

You say, “Faith is defined as belief without evidence.” Mr. Webster says, “firm belief in something for which there is no proof” You’re missing something.

The American Heritage Dictionary says, “Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, an idea, or a thing.”

Their Thesaurus provides synonyms under the headings:

A condition in which one is free from doubt.

Something one believes or accepts as true.

Certainty in another's trustworthiness.

A religious belief or set of beliefs.

A system of belief, principles, or opinions.

and

Acceptance as true or valid.

The emphasis on belief, not proof.

From a lawyers point of view, faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld. (Hebrews 11:1)

To have faith does not need to be proven to another, to be real. The certainty of belief is something deeply personal, and often becomes assured through experience.

That lawyer went on to say several verses later, “Moreover, without faith it is impossible to please [him] well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

My kind of evidence comes abundantly, since I trust the source. Catch it if you can.

Atheistwager said...

@Bible Student
Your lawyer friend caught a case of hysterical blindness and had a whole bunch of visions. In all reality, he probaby had a really guilty conscience from all the Christian persecuting he was doing. To make up for it, he became a deluded Christian zealot. I don't know how many times I'm going to say this, but your lawyer friend Paul NEVER MET JESUS. Everything he decided - he made up. But that's not quite right because he was guided by the Holy Spirit (that was sarcasm).

Bible student said...

@ AW

One place Christians get the evidence of God’s power is seeing the changes in other people. Paul’s story has helped plenty who realize that even someone as bent on persecution can repent, be forgiven, used by God (through His spirit), and have an everlasting reward.

He did a great job persuading his people that following Christ’s teachings was the way to please God. Knowing the law as he did, made him well suited for the task.

Paul, though, wasn’t a loose canon. The issue of circumcision was decided by a meeting of “the apostles and the older men.” They heard testimony from Peter, Paul, Barnabas and James. (Acts 15:6-21) Paul answered to a governing body.

zilch said...

"Paul, though, wasn’t a loose canon."
Forgive me, bible student- I'm really not making fun of you here- everyone makes spelling errors- but this is a typo that enlightens. What you meant was that Paul was not a loose cannon. A "canon" is a tenet or dogma of a church or other authority. I would say, and even many Christians agree, that Paul was indeed a "loose canon", in that he made statements quite different from Jesus' teachings, for instance about the subordinate position women should take in the church.

Bible student said...

@ zilch

“Make love not war.” I always use the canon, never the cannon.

You lost me though, I know Paul’s teaching on women, and where he gets them in the OT. Where do Jesus teachings differ from those?

zilch said...

Well, bible student, Paul did say:

34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.

35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35

As far as I remember (not that I'm a Bible scholar) Jesus didn't say anything about women not speaking in the church, or submitting themselves to their husbands. Your lawyer Paul, who never met Jesus (in the Bible- this is assuming that the two of them really existed, which is far from being proven), is a hardass misogynist.

Bible student said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bible student said...

@ zilch

As mentioned, there was a “pecking order” in the Christian congregation. Paul spelled this out earlier, in this same letter. “But I want YOU to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God. (1 Corinthians 11:3)

This did not surprise any who knew their scriptures. Jehovah is quoted, “To the woman he said: ‘I shall greatly increase the pain of your pregnancy; in birth pangs you will bring forth children, and your craving will be for your husband, and he will dominate you.’” (Genesis 3:16)

Women did not teach in the synagogue. Paul extended this to congregation, “Let a woman learn in silence with full submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach, or to exercise authority over a man, but to be in silence.” (1 Timothy 2:11-12)

In 1 Corinthians chapter 14, Paul was establishing order, relating to meetings of the congregation. “What is to be done, then, brothers? When YOU come together, one has a psalm, another has a teaching, another has a revelation, another has a tongue, another has an interpretation. Let all things take place for upbuilding. (1 Corinthians 14:26)

In context the scriptures you’ve quoted follow, “For God is [a God], not of disorder, but of peace. As in all the congregations of the holy ones, (1 Corinthians 14:33)

Women are not the only ones ordered silent. 1 Corinthians 14:27-30 says, “And if someone speaks in a tongue, let it be limited to two or three at the most, and in turns; and let someone translate. 28 But if there be no translator, let him keep silent in the congregation and speak to himself and to God. 29 Further, let two or three prophets speak, and let the others discern the meaning. 30 But if there is a revelation to another one while sitting there, let the first one keep silent.

Paul concludes his counsel reminding them, ”But let all things take place decently and by arrangement. (1 Corinthians 14:40) These meetings would be a place of learning, not a free-for-all.

Did that mean that a Christian woman would never speak during a congregation meeting? No. In Paul’s day, there were occasions when Christian women, perhaps impelled by holy spirit, prayed or prophesied in the congregation. On such occasions, they acknowledged their position by wearing a head covering. (1 Corinthians 11:5)

So love, not hate motivated Paul to restrict who spoke when.

Jesus on the other hand did not include women in his congregation meetings. All twelve apostles, as well as the 70 who were instructed to preach in the area (Luke 10:1), were all male.

Before you call Jesus a misogynist, remember his approach to women was truly revolutionary for the times. The Encyclopaedia Judaica, says Jewish religious leaders considered women to be “greedy, eavesdroppers, lazy, and jealous.” Conversation with a woman was frowned upon, and “it was disgraceful for a scholar to speak with a woman in the street.” (Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, by Joachim Jeremias)

Not only did he converse with them but he also taught them deep spiritual truths. In fact, the first person to whom he openly revealed his Messiahship was a Samaritan woman. (John 4:7, 25, 26) When he visited Lazarus, Martha and Mary, Mary “chose the good portion,” temporarily leaving her pots and pans in order to increase her spiritual knowledge. (Luke 10:38-42) A few months later, after their brother had died, it was Martha that had the privilege of a spiritual conversation with Jesus about the resurrection hope.

Jesus again put a woman in first place when Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus alive, again. (John 20:11-16) His example, rather than his words, did not allow women to be degraded.

zilch said...

According to you, then, bible student, Jesus was a misogynist, and Paul was even more misogynistic. I'll go along with that.