In the previous essay, I talked about discussions with Muslims In this essay, I'm going to consider discussions with Christians.
It is much harder to have a discussion with a Christian than with a Muslim. Part of the reason for that is that there are three main Muslim branches, but there are *thousands* of Christian branches. And, of course, some of them claim that the others aren't real Christians, and vice versa. So, especially with Christians, you have to get some idea of what they believe.
Usually, they believe in the Old Testament God, and in *parts* of the OT. Always, they believe in Jesus, who is the son of God (and is also God, there's a three-in-one deal going that is a Mystery that Cannot Be Explained). Or rather, there are umpteen explanations of the Trinity, because they *have* to believe in one god, but then they have a divine Jesus, which makes two, so you have to somehow jam them together while keeping them separate (and for reasons I don't understand a third party has to be jammed in too) - and you thought that quantum mechanics is difficult. My take on this is that "If you think you understand the Trinity, then you don't understand the Trinity".
I've found that Christians willing to discuss are much less common that Muslims. I don't know why this is. But the subject to introduce to Christians is, again slavery.
Exodus 21:20, for example "And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished." So you're allowed to beat your slave, but not to death.
"But that's the Old Testament". I hear this again and again. They want the OT, can't do without it, because they need the Original Sin of Adam and Eve, and they need the predictions of the Messiah. But a great deal of the OT is severely embarrassing to them, and they'd like to pretend it isn't there. Except the bit on homosexuality, which gets a free pass to be included.
So, in the New Testament, slavery isn't forbidden. Why not? Is it beyond God's capability to forbid slavery?
Ephesians 6:5-8 (NASB): Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh,
1 Timothy 6:1-2 (NASB): All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against
Christians sometimes say "But they were servants, not slaves in the sense of being owned"
Matthew 18:25 "And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made."
You sell slaves. You can't sell servants.
So, the bible, OT and NT, supports slavery.
From this we can deduce that our morals, yours and mine, are superior to those of the Bible. So why would we turn to the bible for our moral compass? Better, the bible should be revised and brought up to date. But, of course, it can't be.
This depends on what sort of Christian you're talking to. Many of them believe that "Jesus died for our sins" and "All sins can be forgiven by God". Except blasphemy, no forgiveness for that.
The problem with this is as follows. Alice decides to break Bob's arm. Then Alice asks Carol for forgive her for breaking Boob's arm, and Carol says, it you are truly repentant, then you are forgiven.
What is wrong with this, is that no-one asked Bob. In my view, this third party forgiveness is immoral.
This is not really an argument against Christianity at all, and it only works n Catholics, because the believe in Transubstantiation. The wafer is, according to the doctrine, transformed into the flesh of Jesus, and the wine into his blood. It isn't symbolic, it's actual, a miracle. So you're eating human flesh and drinking human blood. I'm not going to tell you that's wrong in any way, but I'm not a cannibal.
In the case of Protestants, the wafer is merely symbolic (consubstantiation or im[anation), so you're only cannibal symbolically.
It can be quite important to some Christians, that Jesus was foretold in the OT (and that's another reason why they can't discard it. So there's a whole family tree that traces the ancestry from David downwards, and there's another family tree that traces it upwards (and the two are different) but I've never tried to tackle them on this. They rely heavily on Isaiah, for example, with a whole battery of prophecies, all of which could equally apply to Christopher Hitchens as Jesus, with the exception of the Virgin Birth". But most of these prophecies are so vague, like "Will be widely rejected".
The key prophecy for me is Isaiah 11:6-8. "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the adder, and the weaned child shall put forth its hand to the viper's den. "
And Isaiah 2:4 "And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
And none of that has happened.
CHristians say, Oh, that's the second coming". Well, that's the prophecy, it hasn't been fulfilled, your excuses don't butter any parsnips.
This seems to be fairly common amongst Christians, much more so than Muslims. Some Christians have had a personal revelation, as in "Jesus appeared to me ...". I think it's impossible to shift that, so I don't even try, except to point out that no matter how convincing that might be to you, it butters no parsnips for me, because I didn't get that revelation. Near Death Experiences are a rich source of these.
Relationship with Jesus, as in "I have a personal relationship with Jesus". Sorry, I really don't know what that means, except that it's clearly some sort of interior dialogue, and likewise butters no parsnips for me.
An interesting suggestion that is sometimes made is "If you open your heart to jesus then he will make himself know to you" But I would summarise this as "If you believe in Jesus then you will believe in Jesus". Again, no parsnips.
The idea here is that if you don't believe, and God exists, then you go to hell with an infinite torture for ever, an infinite penalty.
If you don't believe and God doesn't exist, no penalty. If you do believe, then no penalty whether God exists or not. Therefore the rational thing is to believe.
There are two huge holes in this. The first is that you don't actually get to choose whether you believe in things or not. Try standing on a chair and disbelieving in the force of gravity.
The second huge hole is that Pascal was assuming that there is only one God. But there are 42,000 gods, and if you choose the wrong one, you're doomed. Indeed, the punishment for believing in the wrong god is probably worse than for not believing at all. And the odds are 42,000 to 1 against that you'll pick the right one.
God is supposed to be all-benevolent. So first he creates the Garden of Eden, and there's one rule, "Don't eat the apple" (actually, we don't know what fruit it was, but never mind). So where does he put this tree? Does he put it outside the Garden, which anyone would obviously do? No. Duh.
So then he decides that nearly all men are evil, so he kills them all with a flood. As collateral damage, this also kills the children, the babies, the cows, the sheep, the cats, the dogs ... I call this God's first genocide.
The second genocide was, of course, Sodom and Gemorrah, with a couple of nice sub-plots, where Lot offers his daughters to be raped instead of the angels - like angels can't look after themselves? Then after they flee, Lot's wife gets turned to salt because she looked back. Then when they find somewhere to rest, Lot's daughters get Lot drunk and rape him while he's incapable. Nice.
So then the third genocide is in Egypt - the slaying of the Firstborn. That would have produced a mountain of dead children and babies. And it wasn't even necessary; Pharaoh had already decided to let the Israelites go, but that wasn't satisfactory to God, so "he hardened Pharaohs heart" and thereby was able to commit his third genocide.
Skip forward a couple of thousand years. It's 1943, and six million jews are being murdered, hence the expression "Did you sleep well? Yes, like God during the Holocaust".
And finally, there's Hell. The deal there is "I love you, you'd better love me back or I'll torture you for ever."
These include all the same ones that Muslims make. I'll be covering these in my third essay in this series.
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