Is Christmas Pagan?: Christ-Mass

Shadow of Death

"Shadow of Death" by artist William Holman Hunt

Blogger Alamanach commented on my last blog about how it only consisted of my rant about the Pagan half of Christmas and not the Christian half.  I don’t know much about the Christian Christian half, but here’s my take:

The whole religion of Christianity, from my prospective, is based upon the death of Jesus Christ, not the birth of Jesus.  Why would Christians be so wrapped around Jesus’ birth?

If Jesus was never born

If Jesus was never born, the whole message of Christianity would be rather null and pointless.  An excellent blogging peer of mine explained a bit more about this here.

After all, a religion claiming that the death of a person has forgiven all of one’s sins would make no logical sense without exaltation of that person’s birth.  How would Christians know for sure he existed?  Or better yet, how would Christians know for sure that even if he existed, that he was the son of God?

Which is exactly why the Roman Catholic Church has so glorified the story of Jesus’ birth.

Think about it.

In order to constantly remind Christians of the sacrifice that God had to make to relieve them of their sins, the Church must do so in a way that is as subliminal as is influential.  That way, no one begins to wonder and go astray.

Quite frankly, I can’t really see any other relevance, even from the Christian point of view.  This explains the Archangel Gabriel (the same exact angel who told Prophet Mohammed the messages from Allah) foretelling of Jesus’ birth, of the Three Wise Men of Orient who came to Mary, bearing gifts for Jesus, etc.  It’s a way for the Church to capture the minds of the Christians and sequentially keeping everyone in line.

Christ-Mass

Like I said earlier, the whole religion of Christianity is based upon the death of Jesus, not his birth.  In the Christian’s point of view, had Jesus not been born, there would be no Notre Dame College, no Boston College, no Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal, no missions in third-world countries, no missions in places void of Jesus, etc.  All would be lost, our sins would never be forgiven, and our ultimate fate would be eternal damnation to the fiery pits of Hell.

The etymology of the word Christmas still stands out to me.  The Online Etymology Dictionary‘s search results of the word ‘Christmas’ is a mixture between the word Christ and Mass.  After searching the word Mass, only two definitions appear:

mass (1): lump, quantity, size,” c.1400, from O.Fr. masse “lump” (11c.), from L. massa “kneaded dough, lump, that which adheres together like dough,” from Gk. maza “barley cake, lump, mass, ball,” related to massein “to knead,” from PIE base *mag-/*meg- “to knead” (cf. Lith. minkyti “to knead,” see macerate). Sense extended 1580s to “a large quantity, amount, or number.” Strict sense in physics is from 1704. Mass meeting is first attested 1733 in Amer.Eng. mass culture is from 1939; mass hysteria is from 1934;mass media is from 1923; mass movement is from 1897; mass production is from 1920. Verb meaning “to gather in a mass” is attested from 1560s. Related: Massed.

mass (2): “Eucharistic service,” O.E. mæsse, from V.L. *messa “eucharistic service,” lit. “dismissal,” from L.L. missa “dismissal,” fem. pp. ofmittere “to let go, send,” from concluding words of the service, Ite, missa est, “Go, (the prayer) has been sent,” or “Go, it is the dismissal.”

Alas, I was puzzled.  Christ’s Eucharistic Service?  Christ’s Dismissal Service? Huh?

Well, I searched Eucharist and found the Holy Communion…one of the main practices of the Catholic Church (practically their main service).  Another source, David J. Meyer, boldly suggested that Christ-Mass means the celebration of Christ’s Death, and that celebrating it is a symbol of blasphemy:

In essence, the Mass is the ceremonial slaying of Jesus Christ over and over again, followed by the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood.  The Mass is the death sacrifice, and the “Host” is the victim.  This is official Roman Catholic doctrine, and “Christmas” is a word that they invented.  Again, I ask, what is so merry about the pain, bleeding, suffering and death of Jesus Christ? Satan has done quite a job of getting millions of so-called “Christians” to blaspheme.  What a deceiver he is.

Of course I don’t necessarily agree with the “Satan getting millions of ‘Christians’ to blaspheme” part, but in a way it has reinforced my initial views on Christmas and Christianity.

Connections to modern Christmas

So, should we be alarmed?  I don’t really know; I think one’s level of alarm is dependent on one’s level of faith and devotion to Christianity.  As far as we can see, there isn’t much connection with the actual account of Jesus’ birth and the present-day celebrations of his birth, (other than the pagan rituals explained in my previous blog).

But really, if one’s not Christian, what say does he/she have on that matter?

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About Lòt Poto-a

I've taken advantage of this device to shed my view upon the universe from my spatio-temporal framework. View all posts by Lòt Poto-a

21 responses to “Is Christmas Pagan?: Christ-Mass

  • Alamanach

    “The whole religion of Christianity, from my prospective, is based upon the death of Jesus Christ, not the birth of Jesus.”

    “Christ’s Eucharistic Service? Christ’s Dismissal Service? Huh?”

    What happened between Jesus’ birth and his death? His life happened, obviously. During his life, Jesus preached and taught and healed. His disciples travelled with him and learned from him, and then we had this scene:

    Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness… These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give… As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet…”

    He dismissed them, see? He sent them out with a mission. Jesus had a very particular message for the world, a message about love and forgiveness, and that message came in between the events of his birth and his death. Without that message, Christianity would be just as meaningless as it would be without Jesus himself. Christians end mass with an exortation to “go forth, and serve the Lord,” which means to go out as the disciples did and practice the message that Jesus preached. So, if we get hung up about whether Christianity is about his birth or his death, then we miss the message that made that birth and that death notable.

    There is more. Jesus’ message about fogiveness was grounded in the observation that the sun shines on the just as well as the unjust, on the Jew as well as the gentile. We are all God’s children. God gave his law to the Jews, his chosen people, but this led to an untenable situation, because none of those chosen people could follow such a law, and for that matter, neither could anyone else. Jack Miles, in his book “GOD: A Biography” shows how the book of Job brings the paradoxical nature of the whole relationship to a head, and then leaves the problem there at God’s feet for Him to solve. The rest of the old testament is little more than a rehash of previous material, as though the world is on hold while God is busy pondering what His next move needs to be. That next move turns out to be the birth of Jesus.

    So, it was a dark world into which Jesus was born. Not only were Israel and Judah under Rome’s heel, but everyone was a sinner and, according to God’s law, going to hell. Suddenly, a child is born, and through that child, sin will be washed away. God’s love proves stronger than God’s law. God gave us a gift, his only son, to restore the relationship and to resolve the impasse that the law had brought about; he sent a light into the darkness.

    “There is a light in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This is the meaning of Christmas. This is why we celebrate it by giving gifts to those we love during the darkest part of the year.

    • Lòt Poto-a

      Ok, man. I take it that you’re a Christian, and I respect you for that. All that you wrote earlier is from a Christian’s point of view, a point of view in which you couldn’t possibly think that I could write. All of things you obviously see as fact, so to try to dissuade you is basically pointless.

      In the church that I am still forced to go to (I’m still a wee little teen, and I’m not willing to go through the hell of disobeying my parents 😉 ) , the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, the importance of Jesus’ death is pretty much the only thing that’s preached. That and his debates with the Pharisees. So all that’s said about his life is his works, his principles, etc. is lightly spoken of. I snooze through the sermon knowing that he says the same exact thing over and over again; I heard him the first 156, 000 times…But I digress. On your response:

      God gave his law to the Jews, his chosen people, but this led to an untenable situation, because none of those chosen people could follow such a law, and for that matter, neither could anyone else.

      By this law, you mean the Ten Commandments? If so, the first four commandments are much debated, since this is a basis of culture, not common sense. The last six should be common sense, but constantly contradict human nature.

      “There is a light in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This is the meaning of Christmas. This is why we celebrate it by giving gifts to those we love during the darkest part of the year.

      This sounds nice and dandy, however, the gift giving part still stands out as tradition, particularly pagan tradition. Not that I think this is a bad thing (but then again, I’m not religiously biased against pagans as a radical Christian might be), but I know for a fact that there is no commandment in the Bible that orders us to “give gifts to those we love during the darkest part of the year.”

      Also, when you say “the darkest part of the year,” I assume you are speaking of the most trying and difficult time of the year. What do you mean when you say that it’s the darkest part of the year? For one, the darkest part of the year could be April. For another, it could be March.

      • Alamanach

        Judaic Law is much, much more than the Ten Commandments. It is too big a topic for me to try to explain here, and I don’t have sufficient command of the subject anyway. Here’s a good starting place for you to learn more, though: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10582c.htm

        By the darkest time of the year, I mean literally the time of year with the least amount of light. In the northern hemisphere, December 21 is the shortest day of the year, when the sun comes up latest and goes down earliest. Celebrating Christmas at that time is symbolic, if nothing else.

        The Bible may not command us to give gifts, but it doesn’t tell us that pancakes go nicely with syrup, either. Christianity is not the kind of religion that prescribes every last iota of how you are to live your life. Jesus’ birth has meaning for people in such a way that they have chosen to celebrate it. Also, every culture I would be able to name has some concept of gift-giving– what makes that practice pagan?

        From the way you describe it, it sounds like you are attending a church that has a very narrow, limited understanding of Christ, and probably of the world at large. I have meet a lot of people with similar backgrounds who later fled religion– not because of any problems with God per se, but because they couldn’t understand God separately from the oppressive nonsense they had been taught years before. They are in rebellion against the nonsense (and rightfully so), but they reject all of Christianity along with it. This is bad, because Jesus and his teachings are not what they had a problem with. I’ve known several different people like this.

      • Lòt Poto-a

        Ok.

        Forget Judaic law; it is too complicated and was obviously altered countlessly by those very Semites themselves.

        Christianity is not the kind of religion that prescribes every last iota of how you are to live your life.

        You can’t put all Christianity in the same pot. Some sects of Christianity (such as the Seventh-Day Adventists, Mormons and the Jehovah Witnesses) go out of their way to prescribe every last iota of how you are to live your life. Trust me. Nearly every Saturday, my church has meetings on how to dress, what foods to eat, what to watch, what not to watch, etc….Basically every last iota.

        When you speak of the Darkest time of the year, literally, isn’t that darkest in certain areas, but not others? Anyway, it was the Europeans who started celebrating Christmas at that time, a practice the chronologically paralleled the worship of Saturn. I never said gift-giving was pagan. If you give a gift, you give a gift. Everyone does that. I was saying that the practice of gift-giving traditionally at Christmas time has pagan roots. Two different scenarios.

        Jesus and his teaching are next to impossible to follow because there’s just about as much interpretations of his teachings as there are Christians. You act one way, somebody’s bound to be offended and try to persuade you to do it another way. It’s just not worth the trouble. I can imagine you’re probably conjuring a whole sermon for me right now.

  • Alamanach

    “Jesus and his teaching are next to impossible to follow because there’s just about as much interpretations of his teachings as there are Christians. You act one way, somebody’s bound to be offended and try to persuade you to do it another way. It’s just not worth the trouble.”

    Actually, that’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. The people you’re dealing with are so wound up with minutiae that they’ve choked off the possibility of forming personal relationships with God. You’re frustrated that they get offended so easily– okay, I would be too. But the offended people are not God, God is God, and God is the one with whom the relationship needs to be made. If we let the people around us tell us too much about what they say God is, then we never learn for ourselves. It’s okay to offend, when that “offense” is only due to our following what God calls us to do.

    Also, I’d be suspicious of any system that claims authority over all the details of how one is to live one’s life. There are certain rules that do need to be followed, but any rule has its limits, and when we continue to follow those rules beyond their limits, our piety mutates into cruelty. Consider what Rama lost when he refused to let love overcome propriety: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzTg7YXuy34. The sabbath exists for man, not man for the sabbath.

    • Lòt Poto-a

      ” But the offended people are not God, God is God, and God is the one with whom the relationship needs to be made. If we let the people around us tell us too much about what they say God is, then we never learn for ourselves.”

      If everyone has the ability to learn for themselves how to gain a relationship with God, how can we be sure that there even is a relationship with God. For example, a promiscuous teenage girl with tattoos left and right, gages, daisy dukes, and ridiculously high heels claims that she has a relationship with God, and no one else can judge her or tell her what to do. Where is the balance? Do we need organized religion? The whole point of a church is rather moot, isn’t it?

      And when you say God, do you mean the Christian God? After all, Allah, Yahweh, God, all same; they’re Abrahamic religions. All claim Semitic roots, right? If you submit your life to the will of Allah, are you “not in a relationship with God”?

      John 14:15 says “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Are we now to pick and choose which ones are necessary and which aren’t? Who is anyone to draw the lines and identify the rule’s limits. If the law isn’t that necessary, your religion is pointless.

      • Alamanach

        For a fairly long period in my life, I didn’t attend any church, and attendance probably wouldn’t have done me much good. I did have a relationship with God, and it was a lively and developing relationship, but church didn’t happen to be part of it. These days, my life is very different, and I do attend a church. I get a lot of value out of it. My relationship with God is still lively and developing, but it also a very different relationship from what it was many years ago. This is natural; all relationships change and evolve over time. Maybe someday I’ll end up not attending a church again. Or maybe not, I don’t know.

        You pose the example of a trampy tatooed girl who claims a relationship with God and says I cannot judge her or tell her what to do. Why not? There’s no logical link between the two. Maybe I ~shouldn’t~ judge her or whatever, but there’s no reason why I ~can’t~. I’m free to judge or tell things to anybody I please, just as they are free to ignore me, argue with me, listen to me, or whatever they are going to do. People are free.

        This does not moot church. Various truths I have learned about life I learned from my own experiences, from conversations with other people, and from reading certain books. We grow and develop in spiritual understanding just as we do in, say, understanding of physics or chemistry. I have learned about physics from my own experiments, from conversations with other people who were knowledgeable about physics, and from reading certain books. Naturally, some sources turn out to be richer than others, and no single source would be able to tell me everything there is to know about physics. I learned a little bit about physics from TV shows, I learned far more in college. similarly, you can learn things about God just from conversations with people you meet, and you can learn a lot more from a place like church. A church cannot tell you everything about God any more than a university could teach everything about physics; there is much that is simply unknown, and in both, your own personal contributions count for something.

        “After all, Allah, Yahweh, God, all same; they’re Abrahamic religions. All claim Semitic roots, right?”

        They make that claim, but their claiming it is not enough to make it true. (Just because the tatooed girl says she has a relationship with God doesn’t make it so. But that’s between her and God.) Personally, I believe that Christians and Jews worship what is recognizably the same God. Whether or not Islam does as well is a matter of some dispute:

        http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/08/who_is_allah.html

        “Are we now to pick and choose which ones are necessary and which aren’t? Who is anyone to draw the lines and identify the rule’s limits.”

        Why did God give us free will and make us responsible for our own actions if we are to behave unthinkingly? You’ve said you are a teenager, and in that case it’s probably wise to mostly go along with the lessons society teaches you. But as you grow into adulthood and accumulate your own experiences and knowledge, you’ll find that you have a moral responsibility to yourself to do the right thing, and that the right thing may sometimes be in opposition to what received wisdom would usually dictate. It’s rare, but it happens. Those critical judgment calls come with heavy risk, but they are also the moments that reveal what kind of a person you really are. (Put differently: who are you to draw the lines and identify the rule’s limits? You’re Lot Poto-a, that’s who.)

      • Lòt Poto-a

        You have got to be joking.

        Matthew 7: 1-5: “1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
        2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
        3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
        4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?
        5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

        You gave me a link to an article that claims that the Muslims are worshiping some “moon-god.” They (the Arabs that trace their lineage to Ishmael, son of Abraham) worshiped the moon prior to the belief of Islam. Non-Muslims of course will use this to say “Hey, you see? They’re not worshiping the true GOD!”

        What this ridiculously biased article fails to say is exactly the type of hypocrisy in Matthew 7: 3. The Europeans were pagan themselves before converting to Christianity, so this is like pointing fingers and playing the “holier-than-thou” crap that Christians always play. The Arabs worshiped the moon? Big whoop! The Europeans worshiped the sun and changed the original Sabbatical law to Sunday in honor of the very pagan god that Christianity is supposed to disprove.

        This article keeps claiming that Islam is pagan, but fails to see that many elements of Christianity have equally pagan roots. Stupid.

        If I’m Lòt Poto-a and can draw the lines and identify the rule’s limits, then I don’t need religion…I don’t know why you keep going around the point. Why would a God give you free will to choose between “good” and “evil,” and then condemn you to a fiery Hell if you don’t do what He chooses?

        You keep claiming a “relationship with God.” Do you see a cloud come down and say “Hey, buddy!” ? Tons of people claim some kind of trance-like euphoric experience while worshiping, but so does the Buddhist and the guy tripping of acid.

  • Alamanach

    I’m familiar with the lines from Matthew, which was why I tried to emphasize the distinction between could and should.

    I don’t want to try to get in the middle of the debate about Allah, I just wanted to point out that there is a debate.

    The rest of your comments hinge on experience. You seem to dismiss the idea that someone can experience God directly. You’ve equated the mystical experience with an acid trip, and you seem to give it about the same level of credibility. Maybe you’ve never seen God for yourself? If not, then there’s nothing I could say on the matter that would mean anything to you.

    Similarly, your decision to single-handedly dismiss religion appears to be based more on sterile intellectual reasoning than on experience. At your age, you can’t have seen enough (even if you’ve had an extraordinary life and have seen a great deal) to make so broad and sweeping assessment. The times when we override the rules, as I said, are rare and perilous. If you get reckless about it, then you are setting yourself up for HUGE problems. Stay humble. Only the humble person gets to grow up to be this guy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GKZt3I0v7U&feature=related

    “Why would a God give you free will to choose between “good” and “evil,” and then condemn you to a fiery Hell if you don’t do what He chooses?”

    God doesn’t condemn people to Hell, they condemn themselves. God is good. If you want to be near God, good is where He is. If you want to be away from God, do evil. In doing evil, one moves farther and farther from where God is. The doors to Hell are locked from the inside, and it’s full of people who want to be there.

    • Lòt Poto-a

      It’s common knowledge that there’s a debate about Allah. Everyone should know that; the fight’s been going on for nearly a thousand years, if not more.

      The thing about God is that you can’t logically prove his existence, just as you can’t logically disprove it as well. I can easily see something that I claim to be “God” and it turns up to be something else. Thousands of years ago, people claimed to see God, when all they saw was a volcano. They were filled with such conviction, throwing their animals into the volcano as sacrifice (which is still going on today) …Is God a volcano? Can you logically prove to me that your Christian version of “God” exists?

      What does age have to do with making broad and sweeping assessments? An old racist can believe until his death that “all niggers are no good.” For all his experiences were negative, and he sees a large amount of blacks on welfare. Does that justify his position? and what HUGE problems are you talking about? Give me an example.

      If you see me questioning authority, it’s not because I’m “proud” or “not humble.” It’s because I don’t want to be a blind follower, I just want to see things for myself.

      God doesn’t condemn people to Hell, they condemn themselves.

      I love it when Christians say this. Do you believe that Christianity is the only way of life and that no other gods are legitimate? That if one chooses to worship another god, or not to worship anything at all , is that evil and does that mean that they want to be in Hell?

      If your answer is yes, then this explains why Christian Europeans killed and conquered “in the name of God.” Which also is grounds for claiming that your religion is not only bogus, but immoral as well since it teaches you to kill innocent people.

      If you answer is no, then if Christianity is not the only way, then why waste my time with it?

      Also, does Hell exist? Can you prove it to me?

  • Alamanach

    “Can you logically prove to me that your Christian version of “God” exists?”

    No. Although for that matter, I can’t logically prove that you exist either. Perhaps the proofs exist, but I don’t know what they are.

    Now, that is not to say that there is no reason for my belief. There is a lot of reason, and a lot of evidence. It just doesn’t total up to a logical proof. There are a lot of reasons and a lot of evidence in support of all kinds of ideas, and they can’t all be right. For my money, I think Christianity is right. Other people disagree, and while I do think they are wrong, I can also understand their reasons. You won’t see me getting into a lot of arguments over the issue.

    If you’re interested, entire books are written about the reasons for believing Christianity and the evidence in suport of it. I’m willing to recommend one, C.S. Lewis’s “The Case for Christianity.” There are others.

    One other thing– I said the proofs might exist. Then again, they might not. If God created the world and all that is in it, then He created logic too. I have no reason to think that He is bound to it. If that seems impossible, I would point out that the human mind performs logically inconsistent opertions all the time. If humans aren’t bound by logic (and they aren’t), then God probably isn’t either, and it may be the case that logical arguments alone cannot encompass God.

    Your hypothetical racist suffers from a lack of experience, not an abundance of it. Think about how sheltered he’d have to be, his entire life, to have such a narrow range of experience with an entire race of people. Had he ranged a little more broadly, he would inevitably come across people that defied his simplistic views. I say “inevitably” because I know from experience that those people are out there, and they’re not hard to find. Your racist would have had to go his whole life without so much as reading newspapers, because non-niggers (so to speak) have things like syndicated columns. They’re everywhere. The racist could have had this guy: http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/sowell1.asp delivered to his doorstep twice a week, and that would have been a serious challenge to his opinions. But evidently, he never in his life subscribed to a newspaper. He lacks experience.

    As for huge problems, let’s take the example of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. They decided that they knew better, and that they were not limited by the morality of lesser men; they could write their own morality. They had gotten this idea from the writings of Nietzsche, whom they had studied at the University of Chicago as students. They murdered 14-year-old Bobby Franks, simply because they desired to commit “the perfect crime.” Fortunately, they were quickly arrested and convicted. They narrowly avoided the death penalty, and they spent the rest of their lives in prison. Even their defense attorney described them during the trial as a pair of “broken machines.”

    Nietzsche was German, and at the same time that Leopold and Loeb were murdering Franks, there was a postcard artist in Germany who was stuck in prison, and was using the time to write a memoir. He too believed he could dispense with morality, and write his own rules. I don’t know whether he ever heard about Leopold and Loeb, but he would have appreciated what the pair had tried to accomplish. In later years, he went down much the same path, and was responsible for a breathtaking number of murders. He was eventually consumed by despair and ineptitude, and he shot himself. He died miserable, hated, and alone.

    “If you see me questioning authority, it’s not because I’m “proud” or “not humble.” It’s because I don’t want to be a blind follower, I just want to see things for myself.”

    Questioning is good. It’s a humble thing to do. Speaking of questions:

    “Do you believe that Christianity is the only way of life…”

    No.

    “…and that no other gods are legitimate?”

    Yes.

    ” That if one chooses to worship another god, or not to worship anything at all , is that evil and does that mean that they want to be in Hell?”

    Well that depends. I believe that, for example, the teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism are attempts to get at the same God of Judaism and Christianity. Those religions have their flaws, but they are pointed in the right general direction, and they have some useful lessons to teach. I don’t believe that a devout Hindu is going to Hell. (Some Christians disagree.) I believe that that same devout Hindu, under different circumstances, would have recognized the merits of Christianity and embraced it. When the time comes, he won’t have trouble accepting Jesus’ gift.

    On the other hand, some people– and these days we see more and more of them– turn to alternate religions such as Wicca specifically because they do not want to pray to a recognizably Christian God, or anything that might even come close. This is an active, willful turning from God, and I believe it is evil, and I stay as far away as I can from it.

    “Also, does Hell exist?”

    Yes.

    “Can you prove it to me?”

    No.

    • Lòt Poto-a

      So let me get this straight.

      You believe with all your heart in something that you can’t logically prove, and you are attempting to convert me. Makes absolutely no sense whatsoever…

      “Those religions have their flaws” …and Christianity is flawless , right?

      “If a person willfully turns away from a ‘recognizably Christian God,’ then that is evil.” Do you even know why this person has turned away from a Christian God? I can give you many reasons for turning away from a Christian God.

      I know black people who’ve realized that the only reason they are Christian is that the Europeans who had kept them as slaves began to indoctrinate them. They choose to convert to a more African religion, such as Islam (even though that does not have African roots, it’s quite impossible to know one’s original religion prior to the European’s conquests). They’re trying to find their true identity. Are you saying it’s “evil” for an African to want to go back to his roots? God forbid somebody wants to find their original identity!

      But noooo, black people should be thankful that they were sold into slavery! Because if they hadn’t, they’d still be worshiping their evil, heathen gods! Tisk, tisk.

      Or the white person who wanted to follow the Wiccan religions of his ancestors, before they all suddenly became “Christians.” Wow, he must be evil, now! I know Wiccans that have no intention of turning me into a newt, trust me. I know people that are just like everyone else; when I found out about them, I was thinking like you, and expected some evil child-sacrificing witch. But all I found was a normal person.

      You see where I’m getting at?

  • Alamanach

    “…and you are attempting to convert me.”

    Where have I done that?

    “I know black people who’ve realized that the only reason they are Christian is that the Europeans who had kept them as slaves began to indoctrinate them.”

    You’re speaking loosely. Europe outlawed slavery centuries ago; there is no black person around today who was held as a slave by a European and converted to Christianity. On the other hand, there are people whose ancestors were slaves, and some of those slaves converted to Christianity. The difference here is between the individual and the various categories he belongs to. You are speaking of people as if they are a series of categories; Blacks, Christians, Slaves, Whites, etc. A lot of people view themselves that way, and they often try to project their categories onto the world around them.

    The trouble with categories is that they leave out the individual. Knowing that so-and-so’s ancestors were slaves doesn’t tell you anything useful about so-and-so. Knowing that he’s black or Christian or what have you is also unhelpful. These tell us nothing about a person’s personality, talents, or loves. They do not reveal the content of his character. So-and-so himself doesn’t get any useful clues from these things either. Sure he might be black or whatever, but what kind of a man is he? No demographic quality can tell us that; to know what kind of a man he is, we have to know the man himself. We have to know the individual.

    Now, does God love blacks differently than He loves whites? Does He love descendants of slave differently than He loves descendants of slave owners? Does He love people whose ancestors came from Africa within historical memory differently than those whose ancestors left Africa before civilization began? Does God care what categories we fall into? Or are all those categories just stupid man-made distinctions to begin with? I believe God loves us as individuals, not as categories. A person’s relationship with God is a direct one, not mediated by issues of category.

    That being the case, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a person to pursue some other religion just because that’s what he thinks his ancestors did, or because he has a grudge against dead white slave traders or something. In fact, to follow a religion for that kind of reason is to get so wrapped up in issues of identity and category that one puts God second. The identity (artificial and irrelevent as it is) has been put first.

    Putting something other than God in first place routinely leads to trouble. Some reasons for doing so are more understandable than others, but it’s never a good thing to do.

    • Lòt Poto-a

      With your rhetoric, it seems as though you’ve been trying to convert me for the past month…

      Putting something other than God in first place routinely leads to trouble. Some reasons for doing so are more understandable than others, but it’s never a good thing to do.

      …So can you explain terrorists? Religious fanatics? The Branch Davidians and David Koresh followers? They put God first. And look where it got them.

      But of course, I anticipate that you’ll distort this with some sugary Christian view of morals by saying that if they had “truly put God first, then they wouldn’t do something so immoral,” but from a religiously unbiased point of view (which I doubt that you can emit), they had been putting God first; that’s the reason why they did their acts in the first place. Just as Joshua had utterly destroyed the Middle East in his bloody rampage (read Joshua 8-11), torturing and then killing leaders, hanging them on trees to let their bodies rot in the sun for hours, and when the sun went down, throwing their bodies at the front gate of the city/state he’d just conquered. All in the name of God. The Bible says “the Lord ‘gave’ them this land. It was all theirs for the taking; even killing women and children, and stealing the animals as “booty.”

      Joshua put God first now, didn’t he?

      …Seriously, come on.

      • Alamanach

        “With your rhetoric, it seems as though you’ve been trying to convert me for the past month”

        If you could point to some specific examples, I’d appreciate it. Perhaps I’ve been more evangelical than I realize, or perhaps you read my words with mistaken assumptions about my intentions.

        “So can you explain terrorists? Religious fanatics? The Branch Davidians and David Koresh followers? They put God first. And look where it got them.

        But of course, I anticipate that you’ll distort this with some sugary Christian view of morals by saying that if they had “truly put God first, then they wouldn’t do something so immoral,” but from a religiously unbiased point of view (which I doubt that you can emit), they had been putting God first; that’s the reason why they did their acts in the first place.”

        You’re right, that probably would be my explanation; I am a Christian. But calling that a bias will be about as useful as telling a physicist that he has a scientific bias. We all have to ground our beliefs somewhere. I have worked hard to ground my beliefs in the truth, so far as the truth is knowable to me, and that effort has inexorably moved me to an explicitly Christian position. When all is said and done, it will turn out that I was right about some things and wrong about others. For the terrorists, extremists, Branch Davidians, and even for scientists, it will be the same: right about some things and wrong about others.

        Scientists also try hard to ground their beliefs in truth, and they have a lot of success to show for it. Study carefully those other, deadlier groups that you mention, and I think you will find that with them, truth tends to take a back seat to authority and tradition. We all have to ground our beliefs somewhere, and those guys ground it in sand.

        I don’t have an explanation for Joshua 8-11. I can’t fully explain just what was going on behind the scenes with Christ’s crucifixion, either. I suppose I could find somebody who claims they can explain it, and just parrot their arguments, but that would be sand. If I am serious about grounding my beliefs in truth, then at a time like this I have to resort to a position I have taken a few times throughout this discussion: I don’t know.

  • Lòt Poto-a

    An example of your rhetoric:

    “God doesn’t condemn people to Hell, they condemn themselves. God is good. If you want to be near God, good is where He is. If you want to be away from God, do evil. In doing evil, one moves farther and farther from where God is. The doors to Hell are locked from the inside, and it’s full of people who want to be there.”

    Say that to a devout Deist such as myself and you’ll be talking to the air.

    The thing about you Christians is that you are so predictable. Now, how did I know that that would probably be your answer? Think about it.

    When I “trust” a scientist’s word, I’m not believing it as truth; I’m believing it as possible truth. When scientists make a claim, they label their claims as Theories, which can easily be disproved through evidence and logic. Au contraire, when religious people, Christians for example, make their claims, they believe it as FACT. This is a problem, because they are never willing to believe in the possibility that they might be wrong.

    And as far as Joshua goes, it just throws the old unanswered question: Why would God say “Thou shalt not kill,” and then order the genocide of thousands of innocent people? Their only crime? Being born in the wrong place, thus worshiping a different god because they have a different culture. This is xenophobia to the max, man. Not only that, it’s hypocrisy to the max as well.

    But I don’t believe that you’d have an explanation for Joshua 8-11 because you don’t want to accept the explanation. Joshua goes on a killing rampage (which many military leaders often do) and then claims that it was “in the name of God.” Of course all the other people follow; after all, their military is far superior (as well as their tactics), and they haven’t lost yet. They are captivated int he dream just as Joshua is. The people of Germany rallied under Hitler with similar belief.

    But of course you don’t want to believe that, because that implies that your God is a hypocrite, because he says not to kill or steal, yet gives the Children of Israel the permission to utterly conquer other countries, murder their men, women, and children, and then steal their animals as “booty” for themselves.

  • Alamanach

    “When I “trust” a scientist’s word, I’m not believing it as truth; I’m believing it as possible truth. When scientists make a claim, they label their claims as Theories, which can easily be disproved through evidence and logic.”

    I can’t speak for other Christians, but I make no stronger claim to truth than a scientist would. My beliefs are based on experience, logic, and the reports of others, just as are scientists’. I have new experiences that force me to revise my understanding all the time. Like them, I openly admit it when I don’t know something. This approach is what leads to certain comments I’ve made above, such as:

    “For my money, I think Christianity is right. Other people disagree, and while I do think they are wrong, I can also understand their reasons. You won’t see me getting into a lot of arguments over the issue.”

    Not all Christians are that way, I realize; there are those who just follow blindly the teachings of whichever church chance placed them in. Personally, I’d be very wary of anything such people had to say. But they do not represent all Christians. So, a statement like this one:

    “This is a problem, because they are never willing to believe in the possibility that they might be wrong.”

    simply isn’t true. I ~know~ I’ve got some things wrong, and I even said so:

    “When all is said and done, it will turn out that I was right about some things and wrong about others.”

    As for Joshua– though it lacks a moral dimension, the contradiction between quantum mechanics and Relativity is just as severe. We have no answer to the problem of quantum gravity, a fundamental problem which is not limited to a brief interval in history but continues to be with us to this day. Should we dismiss all of physics with the same kind of disdain that you seem to have for Christianity? Are physics and Christianity both useless because you and I have some unanswered questions? If we are in a sincere pursuit of the truth, shouldn’t we ~expect~ that we will have some unanswered questions? Which way do you want it?

    • Lòt Poto-a

      “I can’t speak for other Christians, but I make no stronger claim to truth than a scientist would. My beliefs are based on experience, logic, and the reports of others, just as are scientists’.”

      You always say that you can’t speak for other Christians, yet you repeatedly do so nonetheless. Anyway:

      All religious belief is based on experience; people believe what they want to believe. I’ve said it repeatedly, and I’ll say it again. I know I can’t put all Christians in the same boat, but how can I differentiate you between, say, a lady in my neighborhood who sees her statue of St. Paul standing after the rest of her house is destroyed as a message from God? Come on…she didn’t seem to see that my other neighbor’s Buddha plus the stop down the road was untouched as well. All she saw was the statue of St. Paul, and claimed that it was a message directly from God. You both believe in things you can’t possibly prove with logic, like Hell for example:

      “Also, does Hell exist?”
      Yes.
      “Can you prove it to me?”
      No.

      Thing is, all religions make similar claims, because all religions believe that their message is not opinion, but fact.

      Scientists come to conclusions based on constant repeated tests that bring accuracy sometimes to the 98+ percentile. The theories are then repeatedly and systematically tested. I know of no religion that does this. Why?

      Because after you believe, why keep delving into your religion in order to reaffirm your belief? If you were to do so, it would only suggest that you don’t really believe, but are trying to battle doubt. This is why the most religious people usually know less about their religion, while the more moderate, liberal people usually know more.

      Unanswered questions and deliberate contradictions are two different things. You are comparing physics to fairy tales, two things that are never to be put in the same pot. If God is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), then he meant it when he said “Thou shalt not kill,” and ” Thou shalt not steal.” He meant it yesterday, today and forever, so when Israel goes on a killing spree, then it is not God who tells them to, because God does not change his mind:

      (1 Samuel 15:29) He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

      He wouldn’t say “Thou shalt not kill, unless you’re killing the Amorrites, Canaanites, and Moabites because they’re different and I don’t like them,” would he? But noo, we repeatedly say that “God is so mysterious, and works in mysterious ways.”

      For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
      neither are your ways my ways,” saith the LORD.
      “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
      so are my ways higher than your ways
      and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
      ~Isaiah 55: :8-9 ”

      God is superior to human beings and their futile emotions, right? Yet Christians never cease to given him countless human characteristics to better fit their goals. Even in the ten commandments, God experiences jealousy (an irrational human trait borne of selfishness and distrust that can even lead to open, passionate violence):

      (Exodus 20: 5); Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.

      Of COURSE you’ll say he works in mysterious ways, you know for a fact that reason and logic don’t apply when it comes to God (yet you said earlier that your beliefs are based on ” experience, logic, and the reports of others, just as are scientists’), and everything seems to be going well until you come across a boldfaced contradiction and then say that “God works in mysterious ways.”

      • Alamanach

        “Of COURSE you’ll say he works in mysterious ways…”

        No, I’m going to stick by the answer I’ve been giving you– and that is that I don’t have an answer to those difficult passages. I don’t understand ’em. Sorry.

        “Unanswered questions and deliberate contradictions are two different things.”

        They are, and in physics, quantum mechanics and Relativity stand in contradiction to one another. They cannot, as we understand them, both be true. Across most scales of time and space, the contradiction is too small to matter, but in extremis, they are incompatible. We know that one or both ideas must be wrong, yet we don’t let that stop us from using what we know in the areas where we know it works. We use quantum mechanics in most subatomic applications, we use Relativity at larger scales, and we hope that we never are in a position where we must solve a problem of quantum gravity, because we can’t.

        “how can I differentiate you between, say, a lady in my neighborhood who sees her statue of St. Paul standing after the rest of her house is destroyed as a message from God?”

        For what purpose do you need to differentiate between us? That you would ask this causes me some worry. Let’s go with that example of a house that is destroyed, a statue of St.Paul being all that ‘miraculously’ survives. Now, maybe this was a message from God, and maybe it wasn’t. Let’s say your neighbor believes it was, and I don’t. Neither of our beliefs are what make it so– it was God who either sent a message or didn’t, regardless of what your neighbor and I believe. Someone might tell you, “Hey, Lot Poto-a, Alamanach told me that this wasn’t a message from God.” Will you conclude from this that in fact it wasn’t from God? If you do, then you’ve committed a classical logical fallacy called the appeal to false authority: “My position is the correct one, because so-and-so says it is correct.” So-and-so might be the world’s expert on the matter, but that doesn’t mean he dictates reality. Proofs are based on chains of evidence, not say-so.

        For that same reason, it would be foolish to dismiss your neighbor’s beliefs simply because they came from your neighbor. Whether she is right or wrong about something depends on facts that lie outside of her. She might be stark raving mad, with no real understanding of what she’s talking about, but that doesn’t mean that she can’t utter a statement from time to time that happens to be true.

        If you want to find the truth, you’ll have to gather facts and evidence for yourself, and to weigh carefully for yourself the things people tell you. Sometimes people will be right, sometimes they will be wrong, and there is no single infallible guide that will always show you the difference.

      • Lòt Poto-a

        Sorry I haven’t answered, I’ve been busy with college deadlines and such.

        Ok, that first strand of the argument’s obviously going to get nowhere, so I’ll let it go.

        However, when you say that I’m basing my opinion on false authority, I’m compelled to ask you, “What authority am I basing my opinions on?” Are you suggesting that I’m only saying what was told to me by people who I consider an “authority”? Why?

        Sadly, I can easily say that your belief is based on similar premises.

        Will you conclude from this that in fact it wasn’t from God? If you do, then you’ve committed a classical logical fallacy called the appeal to false authority: “My position is the correct one, because so-and-so says it is correct.” So-and-so might be the world’s expert on the matter, but that doesn’t mean he dictates reality. Proofs are based on chains of evidence, not say-so.

        For me to possibly believe this woman, I would have to believe in a Christian god, and believe me, I don’t. Similarly, I assume (note that I am only assuming, I don’t know you personally) that you only believe in the Christian god because you where not only born into a Christian family, but are living in an area of the world which is predominantly Christian. If you were born in, say, Afghanistan and were surrounded by Muslims and Islam, chances are that you’d believe in the Qur’an and Allah with as much conviction as you believe in the Bible.

        What really makes me laugh is that you keep comparing Christianity to Quantum Physics and the Relativity Theory. Thing is, no one’s going to the most isolated places of the world to preach Quantum Physics and Relativity to the heathen and needy masses to save their souls from the most preposterous of grievances: ignorance.

        With Christianity, well, I can differ there.

  • Alamanach

    Yeah, I think we’re talking past each other. You don’t understand where I’m coming from, and I see that I am unable to explain it.

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