A conversation between a Chrisitan and an Atheist

Just a warning, this is kind of a long one... I copied a facebook conversation I've been having because it's been pretty interesting. This all started when an old friend of mine started posting updates on my news feed about how people are so ignorant to think that Plato is a better source for morality than the "ancient wisdom" of the Bible. I replied and asked her to fill me in and we moved our conversation to a more private form of communication because others started to jump in and we wouldn't have been able to continue chatting in such a civil manner. (BTW the pirate talk is a language setting available to facebook users, please excuse me manners... argh!)

Feel free to give me any pointers or passages that I should read. We left off on the adultery part and I know she's gonna bring up Jesus and the throwing of the stones at the woman.

Rachel Stone Bjorklund is amazed how some people believe that their argument is logical simply because it DOESN'T come from the ancient wisdom of the Bible, but rather out of their own limited understanding and fickle cultural consensus. Which is more reliable? LOL! Why is it we can quote Plato and Aristotle (misogynistic statists) as "reliable" sources, but not scripture? Automatic dismissal of the Bible does not a logical argument make. :)
What's the argument?

Rachel Stone Bjorklund
The definition of family. Plato envisioned a Utopian "Republic" in which women were passed around freely between men, no child knew his parent, and no parent his child. Everyone belonged to the state. And yet, because his ideas supposedly came from reason and logic instead of "religion", they're more "enlightened"? Most people don't realize that Greek Philosophy, Humanism, Moral Relativism and other modern beliefs are actually religious schools of thought. For a person to say the Bible doesn't count as a legitimate source of moral standards because it's "religious", but Plato or Cicero count because they're "objective", is a farce.

Plato sounds kind of screwy, but I agree that the Bible can't be counted as a sound source of morality. And definitely not the source to define "family." There's too many places the Bible fails to teach morality and tolerance. But Plato sounds like he's completely left humanity behind in search for some kind of reason. Not sane reason, but I'm sure he had some kind of logic in mind... (again, not sanity's idea of logic).

Rachel Stone Bjorklund
Month o' showers 23
"There's too many places the Bible fails to teach morality and tolerance." No, there's too many places that don't match YOUR VERSION of morality and tolerance (and critics are fond of twisting Biblical passages to make God sound like a masochist). But what makes you think that your standard is automatically superior? On what is it based? We like to think that society's "enlightened" modern ideas are unbiased and objective, but they are more dogmatic than you think. The prevailing ideologies in America today are based on centuries-old philosophies. Greek and Hindu philosophy, Humanism, Darwinism, Agnosticism, and other religious dogmas all influence the way Western Society thinks today. Yes, even Atheism has religious roots. What we think of as "objective" and "logical" has far more to do with the dogmas our culture has embraced than most of us realize. We each build upon our own dogmatic beliefs to rationalize that which we consider to be "moral".

The question is not, "are my beliefs based on logic and reason, or on religion"? The REAL question is, "which religious dogma has most influenced my current beliefs"? Because all of our logic and reason has been influenced by one religious school of thought, or another. Even science is not immune, because scientists are not above interpreting evidence in a manner which supports their predisposed worldview. For instance, the current scientific community has determined that one may explore any possibility EXCEPT that which calls any part of Darwinism into question. Any scientist who values his career will stick to this "party line", which clearly hampers objective exploration of all possibilities, wherever the evidence may lead (even *gasp!* the possibility of an intelligent designer). They have made the same mistake that the Catholic Church made centuries ago, by drawing a dogmatic line which scientific exploration may not cross. So much for "objectivity".

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I understand that not everyone considers the Bible to be the infallible, authoritative, inspired Word of God. I respect that position. But as the foundation for Western Civilization for thousands of years, it deserves to be treated with far more respect and weight than simply to be blown off as a "religious document". The works of Plato, or Aristotle, or Homer, or Thomas Paine, or Charles Darwin, or any other icon that has influenced our society, are no less dogmatic or "religious" in their claims. If one wishes to be selective about which sources one recognizes as "legitimate", one has merely proved that they are biased against sources with which they disagree. Christians don't claim to be "objective" when it comes to scripture. We freely admit we believe it is the Word of God. But other schools of thought need to admit that their beliefs are just as dogmatic in nature, and not as "objective" or "purely logical" as they claim.

((At this point, other people started chiming in and it got way too confrontational, so we turned instead to private messaging...))

Ok so my mobile version won't let me view your past update to respond... Grrr

I find common sense and equality to be a very good source of morality. The bible is a bit outdated and doesn't allow for tolerance and equality. Too many passages saying that non-Christians and homosexuals don't get to live as you do. I could never accept such hurtful passages to guide me.
Sent usin' Ye olde Facebook on yer Squawking Box

Rachel Stone Bjorklund Month o' showers 23 roundabouts 9:51 in the evenin'
I'm wondering where you're getting the idea that the Bible doesn't allow for "tolerance and equality"? What do you mean by "non-Christians and homosexuals don't get to live as you do"? I'm not sure I understand what that means. Also, have you read the Bible for yourself, or are you going by what some jerk on a street corner wrote on his sign?

There are a lot of people who claim to be Christians who take Bible verses out of context to justify their own prejudices. Slave owners did that for years, while abolitionists like the Quakers proved that scripture did not condone slavery, and in fact told people to "love your neighbor as yourself". You can't do that if you treat another person as property.

So I'm curious as to which passages in scripture you find "hurtful".

As to it being outdated, Plato predates the New Testament by almost 400 years, and yet he's still taught in every college Philosphy or Western Civilization class in America, oddly enough, because they don't consider Greek Philosophy to be "religious" (which it certainly is!). And I doubt you'll find a single college professor who would claim his teachings are an "unreliable source" for judging morality.

The reason western society values "reason and logic" so highly is because that is our cultural heritage passed from the ancient Greeks, through the Roman Empire, and beyond. Oddly enough, everything we know about classical literature would have been lost if not for monks in Irish monasteries who carefully copied and preserved what was left after Roman libraries were destroyed by the barbarian tribes. (Those "close-minded" monks! LOL! On a side note, if you've never read "How the Irish Saved Civilization", I highly recommend it.)

Even so, Plato and other philosophers never claimed that their teachings were "nonreligious". In fact, quite the opposite. They supported all their statements with myths about their gods, like the teaching that there is no hell because women are man's punishment, sent from the gods to torment the male race. You can blame Plato for centuries of discrimination against women, as he heavily influenced Roman society and the Roman Catholic Church founded by Emperor Constantine. Roman Catholics have no idea how many of their teachings are based not on the Bible, but on Plato's philosophies. Like I said, twisting scriptures to match their prejudices.

Roxanne R
Month o' showers 24 roundabouts 5:57 in the mornin'
Yay I am back on a real computer and don't have to slow down. Muah ha ha!!!


Again, I really can't defend Plato or philosophy in general. My personal philosophy is to question everything. I can't ever believe in something whole-heartedly until all the facts are in or until I "see/hear/etc" it with my own eyes/ears/etc.

I definitely wouldn't call myself a scientist or biblical scholar, but I don't take the word of crackpots on the street. I have seen my share of atheists and agnostics battling some crazy christians out there. (The reason I love talking to you is you were never one to just start screaming that I was going to burn in hell ... )

A lot of bible verses get thrown at us everyday. I know a lot of them are the new testament which is what Christianity today follows. But looking back at the old testament, I can't understand why ANYONE would read that and say "oh yeah we should keep that around, it's the word of God and everyone should read it."

The old testament is full of stories painting women and homosexuals as the villains. God is constantly sending plagues and killing thousands. Religious intolerance is the constant theme and anti-semetic.

I will give you exact passages when I'm not running late for work :-)

Rachel Stone Bjorklund
Month o' showers 24 roundabouts 10:27 in the mornin'
"My personal philosophy is to question everything. I can't ever believe in something whole-heartedly until all the facts are in or until I "see/hear/etc" it with my own eyes/ears/etc." That's what I love about you. I have very little patience with people are stuck in their beliefs (Christian or not) just because that's what they've always heard and they're too lazy to do their homework, and too close-minded to study evidence or opinions that don't agree with their own. That's why I found it annoying that a certain person was willing to quote Plato as a reliable source, but disregard the Bible as "irrelevant". (Right, it's only been a foundational pillar of western societies for the past 5000 years!) Being selective about sources like that is just a lame attempt to control the debate. "You can quote from sources that prove my point, but not sources that don't." Right. Way to be objective. LOL!

I agree, a lot of the Old Testament stories come across as "Damn, that's harsh!" to our modern sensibilities. No one wants to repeat them (nor does any church or synagogue teach that we should, to my knowledge). The reason we keep it is because it gives us the historical backdrop to the world that Jesus came into, the law that the Jews were following at the time, the prophecies that He fulfilled, etc. It reveals a lot of the wisdom God passed on to Israel long before there was science to back it up. For instance, the Hebrew law determined what was "clean" and "unclean" to touch, eat, etc. People had no clue about bacteria and viruses back then, or how diseases spread, but God did. Following these laws helped them to avoid a lot of the common health problems of the surrounding nations. The Old Testament also gives us an understanding of what God considers to be evil and good. We don't condone stoning people for adultery anymore, but we understand how seriously God views that kind of behavior. It's not a joke to Him.

The other issue at play in those times were the horrific cults of the surrounding nations. The most popular were the cults of Ba'al, Ashtoreth and Molech. These were cults of fertility, rain, and fire. They commonly practiced human sacrifice and ritualistic rape of virgins and children. One of the worst was a practice of Molech, which involved heating an iron statue until it was red hot and then placing a newborn baby (often a firstborn male) in it's lap or hands to burn to death. The Hebrew people were frequently seduced into these horrid cults, and God regularly condemned them for such practices. In the isolated cases where God commanded the annihilation of an entire tribe, it was literally the only way to prevent these lethal cults from starting back up again. The warning was so severe that surrounding nations were scared enough not to touch those cults ever again. Today we may say, "that's unjustified and cruel!" But how many lives were saved and innocent victims spared because these cults were destroyed?

In regards to homosexuals getting blamed for everything, there are certain verses that people twist today to make those statements, like "AIDS was God's punishment on homosexuals". That's actually not a Biblically-based argument. They've got it backwards. God hasn't sent these diseases as punishment. Rather, like any loving parent, He's warned us to avoid these behaviors BECAUSE he knows that they have the potential to not only spread disease, but also scar us emotionally and make it more difficult to maintain long-term relationships and a stable home for our children in the future. It's the same as a parent who says, "Don't run out in the street or a car will hit you." Does the parent SEND the car as punishment to the child? Of course not!

STD's spread through risky behavior whether you're straight or gay. Where were these self-righteous people to say that Syphillis or Gonorrhea was "God's judgment" on straight people for having sex outside of marriage? Obviously they've got a double standard and want to think that their sin is somehow "better", but it's not. In God's eyes, sin is sin. Trying to look good at someone else's expense is as old as the hills, and it's condemned in the Bible.

In regards to women, I see nowhere in the Old Testament that blames women for everything. Both men and women were held equally accountable and received equal rewards and consequences (which went sorely against the grain in ancient societies, which tried to hold women as inferior). I do, however, see many modern people try to use the story of Adam and Eve, for example, to say that Eve was more to blame. Wrong! They were both standing there, and they both disobeyed. If anything, Adam is more to blame because Eve was tricked, but he wasn't. He knew exactly what was going on but did it anyway. There's a well-known verse that is heavily misused, where God tells Eve, "your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." Some people try to claim this is a command for women to submit to men. Hardly! It's not a command. It's a warning of what's coming. One could rephrase it this way: "Now that men and women are corrupted, their behavior is going to get worse. Women are going to long for the kind of love that their corrupt husbands will refuse to give, and husbands are going to lord it over their wives instead of treating them as equals." God isn't condoning this kind of behavior. He's telling them what kind of evil they've unleashed, the way a doctor tells his patient what symptoms to expect. Except in this case, it's about choices and free will. God isn't going to stand in the way because people have the right to choose whether to behave like this or not.

So as you can see, there are a lot of places where people throughout history and even today will use something in the Bible to justify their own prejudices. People have done some pretty awful stuff "in the name of God". And if you don't know what's really going on, you'll think, "Damn! That's gotta be the wort document in history!"

Roxanne R
Month o' showers 25 roundabouts 3:22 in the evenin'
Whew, I finally found a minute to sit down... I swear this is my last time being a maid of honor... seriously! I promise all of this is just in an attempt to have a serious discussion. I have no desire for disrespecting anyone. Just constantly trying to understand and question everything :-)

Ok first I'll respond to your last note

"We don't condone stoning people for adultery anymore, but we understand how seriously God views that kind of behavior. It's not a joke to Him."

If God sees adultery as such a horrific crime, and he commanded people be stoned to death, why isn't it done anymore? Because we (human beings) have learned to live with each other a little bit better. We used common sense and said "Wow, hey killing someone just because they slept with someone else's spouse isn't as bad as killing people." and we stopped. We strayed from the Bible and made a better place to live.

"Rather, like any loving parent, He's warned us to avoid these behaviors BECAUSE he knows that they have the potential to not only spread disease, but also scar us emotionally and make it more difficult to maintain long-term relationships and a stable home for our children in the future."

Regarding homosexuals. This isn't behavior. This is someone's life. People can't help who they fall in love with. My own cousin is gay and he has a wonderful relationship with his boyfriend. They've been together for about 5 years now and own a home and have many friends. I can't see how God would be upset that two men found love. Their gender shouldn't matter. Their love should though. This wasn't God writing this passage, this was men who were homophobic and didn't understand that same-sex relationships could be just as equally gratifying. Maybe it wasn't as common then, but I know many stories of people who were absolutely miserable trying to hide themselves to fit in and found out that when they came out, they were much happier people. Yes, there are people who are too dumb to use protection, but that's just like natural selection. If people can't use their brains and control their lust (no matter what gender) they're gonna catch something!

"I do, however, see many modern people try to use the story of Adam and Eve, for example, to say that Eve was more to blame. Wrong! They were both standing there, and they both disobeyed. If anything, Adam is more to blame because Eve was tricked, but he wasn't. He knew exactly what was going on but did it anyway."

Well then why is Eve cursed with pains of menstruation and child birth when Adam is pretty much told he'll just have to work hard in the fields and be sad. And they both get thrown out. Cuz I'm working construction outdoors with a large group of men, but once a month I get PMS and they just go on living. Sounds like it was a story written just to explain things. The woman obviously gets tricked because that's where PMS and birth pains come from. The story was created more than likely as a fairy tale about why Women have PMS, why men don't have that rib, why there's lump in their throats, and a general campfire "Where we came from" story.

I had to search for this on the net cuz I couldn't remember it.

1 Corinthians 14
33For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints,
34women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.
35If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

Again, I know it's old testament vs. new but didn't Jesus say something about keeping all the old laws? I"d google it but I'm already about to be late again... where does the day go?

Passages that get thrown around that I pretty much despise...
Deuteronomy 13; 1 Kings 18:40 Makes Christianity sound cult like. You know "My God's better than your God" kind of thing

Leviticus 20 Most of the things listed as a sin are pretty vile, but sounds like God just likes people to kill for any sin

Exodus 22:18 So the Witch Hunters were doing what God commanded. Not in God's Name, but acting in accordance with the Bible.

Rachel Stone Bjorklund
Month o' showers 25 roundabouts 6:35 in the evenin'
Haha! I'm lucky most of my friends are married now. Being in the wedding party isn't my idea of fun anymore. :)

"I promise all of this is just in an attempt to have a serious discussion. I have no desire for disrespecting anyone. Just constantly trying to understand and question everything :-) "

Absolutely. I'm never offended by our discussions, so feel free to question anything you like. I actually appreciate that you're willing to even discuss stuff like this with me. I know you've seen alot of crap out there from supposed "Christians" (who act like anything but), so the fact that you're not automatically lumping me in with them is appreciated.

I like to question everything, too. You should have seen the mountain of research I attacked when I first found out I was pregnant. I ended up questioning the whole birth industry and finally opted for a home birth. You can guess how well that went over with my family! :)

The way I see it, if something is really true, it should be able to hold up under the toughest scrutiny, so go ahead and put it on trial! Christians shouldn't be afraid of science, or archeological evidence, or anything else. If the Bible is true, the evidence will show that. Otherwise, we're wasting our time, right?

Unfortunately, most people don't do enough of their homework to know why they believe what they do, they just say, "well, that's what my Pastor says." Great way to check your brain in at the door! How lazy can you be??

It's gonna take me some time to break down your last post. You're gonna make me do my homework now, huh? LOL! Actually, I'm familiar with the passages, but it's going to take some time to answer them because they've been so misinterpreted over the years.

I'll get back to you on these when I have time to go more in depth. :)



Roxanne R
T'day upon the hour of 11:16 in the mornin'
quick question, do you mind if i share our discussion with some friends. I was talking about our chat and they asked if they could see what we were talking about.

Feel free to say no. :-) ttyl

Rachel Stone Bjorklund
T'day upon the hour of 11:21 in the mornin'
Not a problem! I think you were wise to move it to private e-mail to keep others from jumping in (it's too confusing to carry on multiple conversations in one thread), but none of this is "secret". I told my Dad about it and he kinda wanted to see it, too. Glad to know we're entertaining, right? LOL!

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Comment by Angie Jackson on April 27, 2009 at 9:23am
One more thing - "traditional marriage" advocates miss the point that plural marriage was the tradition in the bible, especially old testament. How many freaking wives did David have? or Solomon? LOTS. (And if we're gonna stone people to death for adultery, why not start with Abraham?)
Comment by Angie Jackson on April 27, 2009 at 9:21am
She seems open-minded enough to have a chance at rationality :) So I just have a couple points...
* men aren't missing a rib though (common misconception due to religious teaching but if you look at skeletons, it's pretty much awash. After all on "Bones" they never count ribs to determine sex of the victim!)
* "passages have been misinterpreted" - This ended up being a strong support of atheism for me. Scripture (bible, q'oran, dianetics, book of mormon, whatever) is interpretive by its nature. I think this says more about the person doing the reading than it does about the authors or deity. Your friend seems liberal/progressive and loving, so she sees a loving god who didn't hate women or gays.
* Ask her what societal consequences there are if gays marry. (none!)
* Plato was nuts IMO. I took a class on him in college and was appalled. It was very... hmm. Trying to think of a way to say this. He talked about leaving defective (sickly) infants outside the city gates to starve and die, because they would be a drain on society. Very utilitarian and non-feeling approach in "The Republic".
* home birth terrifies me. I grew up watching unassissted home births (no midwife) and i know most homebirth advocates are smarter than that, but it still just scares the crap out of me. glad she and her baby are fine
* on ethics and morality - does she think they are objective or subjective? There are great YouTube videos on the subject and I highly recommend the ones done by Theoretical Bullshit

I love to see civil intelligent discussions like these happening. I think they help show atheists as non-baby-eating-mass-murderers (hooray) and might even open up the theists eyes to different views of the world/creation/purpose/ethics & morality.
Comment by Dionysus on April 27, 2009 at 9:04am
With regards to the "adulteress" I am going to quote Bart Ehrman's scholarly work in his book 'Misquoting Jesus'. Apparently, the story was added at a later date and was not part of the original manuscripts that the bible was based on. That's right... it's a non issue since it was made up at a much later date.

This is what Bart Ehrman says about it in his book:
"As it turns out, it was not originally in the Gospel of John. In fact, it was not originally part of any of the Gospels. It was added by later scribes. In fact, scholars who work on the manuscript tradition have no doubts about this particular case. Later in this point out a few basic facts that have proved convincing to nearly all scholars of every persuasion: the story is not found in our oldest and best manuscripts of the Gospel of John; 18 its writing style is very different from what we find in the rest of John (including the stories immediately before and after); and it includes a large number of words and phrases that are otherwise alien to the Gospel. The conclusion is unavoidable: this passage was not originally part of the Gospel.

How then did it come to be added? There are numerous theories about that. Most scholars think that it was probably a wellknown story circulating in the oral tradition about Jesus, which at some point was added in the margin of a manuscript. From there some scribe
or other thought that the marginal note was meant to be part of the text and so inserted it immediately after the account that ends in John 7:52. It is noteworthy that other scribes inserted the account in different locations in the New Testament—some of them after John 21:25, for example, and others, interestingly enough, after Luke 21:38. In any event, whoever wrote the account, it was not John."



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