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Responding to the Religionist's Challenge

Discussion in 'Spiritual Growth & Development' started by Types With Fingers, Jan 17, 2016.

  1. I was recently challenged by evangelical Christians to defend the topics we discuss here on ALF. It got me to realize that I'm not as confident, nor well-versed, in our positions as I thought I was, and am in need of further studying the evidence and formulating a much stronger defense. I was hoping to get your thoughts on how I can accomplish this, such as book recommendations or debate point suggestions.

    Some of you might say, you can't convince them, so why try to debate them? My point is not to debate and convince them, but to debate and convince myself.

    Anyway, I appreciate any help you can offer, thank you.
  2. Truth seeker

    Truth seeker Member

  3. mac

    mac senior member Staff Member

    It's good that you're doing it for you and not to counter the detractors.

    Before moving on to your questions though I've often engaged with such individuals in the past - when I was younger and (even more) reactive and confident! - and found that refusing to speak with them unless they expressed themselves in their own words was the most effective way to stump them. I would tell them that they were not allowed to quote 'chapter-and-verse' from any book of guidance. They could use only their own words to explain their points. I soon found out how much, or how little, they actually understood or knew.

    As for yourself where does one begin? A few suggestions. Try to decide what's most important to you and to pick a couple of subjects to research deeply. Reading works for me, perhaps it will work for you. Forum topic threads may provide other ideas to follow. Ask questions here but keep to one issue at a time to try to avoid getting lost in a mass of interdependent issues.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2016
  4. normy

    normy New Member

    Many Christians are also Spiritualist sympathisers. I met many when I belonged to the Christian Fellowship for Psychic and Spiritual Studies.

    As I think I have posted before, two books by the Rev. G. Maurice Elliott explain the Bible in terms of a series of psychic happenings. 'The Psychic Life of Jesus,' and 'When Prophets spoke', make complete sense to me.
  5. Thank you all for your recommendations. What really intrigues me is finding a counter for the following arguments:

    1. The Bible is the infallible word of God.
    2. Anything outside the Bible is the work of Satan.
    3. Those who don't believe Jesus died to cover for our sins will go to Hell.

    It's a very convenient series of arguments for the believer, because the logic seems airtight.
  6. janef

    janef Moderator

    In my opinion the logic is not airtight;
    There is no proof any of the above statements are true. However, I do not believe in arguing about beliefs, it is up to each individual to believe whatever rings true for them. :)
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2016
  7. mac

    mac senior member Staff Member

    If you want to be a believer then just follow the teachings found in any of the mainstream religions.

    If you want to work towards understanding then normy has suggested some useful reading material. At some point you might also wish to consider reading any of the compilations of the guidance from Silver Birch.

    Quite a few hours reading material.
  8. Well now, let's be careful when we say things like, "there is no proof of X or Y," because that's what the pseudoskeptics say about us.

    Besides, based on my debate, Bible-believers will say the Bible is infallible because 1) God never lies in any of the books, 2) None of the books have any major contradictions in it, and (apparently) all minor contradictions have explanations that seemingly iron them out, 3) there is scientific and historical evidence to support the Bible (the example they gave me was the website Reasons to Believe), and 4) there are apparently 2500 prophecies in the Bible, and all but 500 of them have come true (the 500 have apparently not yet come true). So to them, there is plenty of proof that the Bible is infallible.

    Now, I'm not supporting the Bible here, I'm just listing the best arguments they have that I can think of, to show that we can't simply dismiss them with the wave of a hand. After all, we're talking about taking on 2,000 years of dogma.
  9. bluebird

    bluebird Well-Known Member


    I agree with Janef's statement above. There is no proof of any of it (aside from there possibly/probably being proof that the historical Jesus existed), nor of any beliefs of any religion. That's why it's called faith. I really don't see the point of you trying to convince anyone of your beliefs (or against their own), and I also don't really believe it's possible to convince yourself to believe anything -- if a particular belief or idea strikes you as true or right, then you will believe it. I don't think it can be forced.
  10. You make interesting points. However, isn't the point of our discussions, reading books, watching videos, etc., to convince others of our positions, or at least to reinforce our own beliefs? Furthermore, people of faith are more and more turning to science, history, and philosophy to back up their beliefs, don't I have an obligation to defend mine that way as well? I mean, how can I go to sleep at night knowing that all my beliefs hinge on feeling right? What if they don't feel right tomorrow, am I to just turn to any worldview that comes along?

    What I'm trying to say is, I think it's reckless to base my worldview on what merely resonates with me. I think there should be an additional layer of knowledge to back up those beliefs.
  11. bluebird

    bluebird Well-Known Member

    To me, the point of these kinds of discussions is not at all to convince others of our positions, it's just to discuss and share and consider. I can see where these discussions might serve the function, for some people, of reinforcing their own beliefs, but that isn't really the case for me either (I'm agnostic/atheist, though I would rather be wrong, as long as any god that exists is a loving one).

    I think that most intelligent people of faith have always also considered science, history, philosophy, etc. But those things cannot answer the question of whether or not there is a god, nor what that god is like if it does exist. That isn't what those disciplines are even for, or meant to answer. I don't think you are under any obligation whatsoever to defend your beliefs, but if you feel that you are, or if you choose to do so, then that's up to you, and you can do so in whatever way you feel is best.

    You said: "I mean, how can I go to sleep at night knowing that all my beliefs hinge on feeling right? What if they don't feel right tomorrow, am I to just turn to any worldview that comes along?" Well yes, sort of. That is, you should hold whatever beliefs feel right to you, as long as those beliefs don't involve harming others. Not necessarily just accepting any view that comes along, but seriously considering those that feel right to you.

    I understand wanting proof, believe me -- I am in the position of being atheist/agnostic because thus far I have seen no proof of god, and I am in the horrible position of not knowing if my husband's wonderful soul still exists because thus far I have seen no definitive proof of an afterlife. I want an afterlife to exist, desperately, but I'm pretty sure the only proof I could accept would be my husband actually coming to me. So I understand wanting that additional layer of knowledge -- but when it comes to these issues, I think we rarely get it. Nothing wrong with searching for it, of course, especially if you find that helpful, but in the end I just don't think any human can really know. Suppose my husband does come to me, and in doing so I am able to believe in an afterlife -- even so, why should anyone else accept that as proof? It would only be proof to me, really (and I suppose anyone who chose to believe me if I told them what happened), it would not be the be-all and end-all of definitive proof for the world.
  12. Truth seeker

    Truth seeker Member

    I think these articles will answer that:


    And here scroll almost all the way down to the last question (the U question)

  13. magnolia

    magnolia Member

    I like mac's approach and think this is a good way to discuss things, if you're going to bother. Personally, I don't feel it's appropriate for me to try to convince anyone. Experiences that have led me to believe in the afterlife are so personal that they aren't going to resonate in the same way with other people - they have to be experienced to be believed, and as they accumulate they gain more meaning.

    Dr Annette Childs talks about building a "House of Truth" - a personal internal "church" (for want of a better word) to lay down unique experiences. Keeping that in mind has worked well for me in sorting through signs and experiences I've had. The purpose of accumulating them is not to convince "disbelievers" or argue a side, but rather to make sense of the things that are happening to me. Some screaming louder than others!
  14. bluebird

    bluebird Well-Known Member

    Very well said, magnolia.
  15. mac

    mac senior member Staff Member

    As with yourself my days of wanting to share my 'enlightenment' have passed.

    There was a time where I'd've been prepared to discuss and explain what motivates me, why my approach was less exclusive than certain other movements' approach. It was often fun, at times stimulating, but largely pointless. The likes of the LDS and JWs didn't really want to hear my take, only to try to indoctrinate me into theirs. It wasn't a discussion because they'd been trained to deal with almost every question. The only way I could nail 'em was to require of them what I explained earlier. That levelled the playing field, enabled me to challenge their words and ideas, something most didn't care for.

    I do, however, find certain others' experiences can resonate for me. When they do they're helpful. When I've had the chance to question what's said I have gained an insight I didn't expect. When I've probed enough to satisfy me I'm quite prepared to include others' experiences as a help for my own understanding. As I said earlier somewhere, I'm not interested in re-inventing the wheel. Of course personal experience can be very, very helpful and sometimes very, very nice. Sometimes it's quite the opposite yet still helpful; I can still learn from such situations.
  16. janef

    janef Moderator

    I agree Magnolia, well said.
  17. frith

    frith Member

    I read near death experience, after-death communications, and past-life memory reports as a means of trying to glean some fashion of scientific evidence for an afterlife and purpose to this life outside organized religion. Religions which are merely large tribal cults bent on controlling your life. I don't try to convince anybody on what I do or don't believe. I'm just looking for real answers to questions that I know don't exist within the pages of books written in the Bronze Age.

    Any truth to spirituality will be a universal phenomena. Not something only a select few have the truth about in various regions on the planet.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2016
  18. magnolia

    magnolia Member

    I get what you mean, mac. When I think about it more, I do this too; our own experiences can resonate with others so they are worth sharing. However, I guess I wouldn't do it if I'm challenged or if I'm in a combative style environment! That is, challenged by people who aren't open-minded and aren't willling to even consider others' POVs, or to put aside doctrines to explore their own ideas!
  19. RobertaGrimes

    RobertaGrimes Administrator

    Dear, (1) if they are not following strictly every rule in Leviticus - if they ever wear blended fabrics or if men cut their beards, etc. - then they themselves don't believe that the whole Bible is the Inspired Word of God. It's all or nothin;, baby. And how do we reconcile the many contradictions between the Old Testament and the words of Jesus in the Gospels? Does God contradict Himself? You might ask them, too, what their source is for believing that the whole Bible is the inspired work of God. In fact, this notion came from the Council of Nicea in 325, with no support whatsoever except that they said so. And these same folks both took stuff out of the Gospels and added things to the Gospels that Jesus never said. So they are the LAST people to be trusted on what is or is not God's Inspired Word!

    (2) Do they ever read a newspaper? A novel? Anything at all on the Internet? Then they are consorting with Satan. Shame on them!

    (3) Ask them which of their own children they would most enjoy watching be horribly murdered so they could feel better about having to forgive the others for messing up the living room. If they are horrified - as they should be! - then ask them how they can presume to think that they are more loving and more forgiving than God?

    Dear, there is no logic to any of what they say. They are just parroting the garbage they learned in church. You live in San Antonio, right? If you want to trek your friends up to Austin, I'll be happy to have lunch with all of you ;-).
  20. Somehow I missed this reply until now. I am in San Antonio, and while I would love to imagine witnessing a conversation between you and my friends, it doesn't feel right to me to pit people against each other. I really don't like instigating or participating in conflict, though I do keep finding myself in arguments with people...

    On that note, tonight I came across something that deeply disturbed me, and I wanted to share it with you all to illustrate a point. On my Twitter feed I follow several of the biggest Christian denominations in the US. One of them, a liberal denomination from my understanding, posted an article about how the Bible was like a GPS. The article wasn't what disturbed me, what bothered me was in the comments section someone, clearly a conservative Christian, made several remarks that stood out like a pile of dung on a wedding cake. Here's the link: http://www.ucc.org/daily_devotional_jealous_god

    Now, here's my point. If you've read Roberta's recent blog posts, or Victor Zammit's recent weekly afterlife reports, you'll find the topics usually blast mainstream science as the main obstacle to our eventual golden age of enlightenment. However, I submit that the attention should instead be on picking apart religion, particularly conservative religion, which I see as the most dangerous obstacle to our progress. I think we need more discussion and posts like Roberta's which I quoted here.

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