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Featured Why I am an atheist

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by Evangelicalhumanist, Jan 1, 2021.

  1. Evangelicalhumanist

    Evangelicalhumanist "Truth" isn't a thing...
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    Why I Am an Atheist

    This post is written from the perspective of someone brought up in a Christian world, and all arguments will therefore reflect that. It will also be in more than one part, due to post length restrictions on RF.

    “But how can you be an atheist?” That’s the question I am most often asked when I’m discussing my non-religious views with religious acquaintances. This is usually followed up with some variation on, “how do you know right from wrong if you don’t believe in god?” Another frequent question is, “where do you go for help when it’s all too much?”

    And yet, to answer the question, “why am I an atheist,” seems to presuppose that I had some choice in the matter. That, for the record, is simply not true. William James and Pascal’s Wager aside, one cannot really will oneself to believe. One either does or one does not. Certainly one can pretend (lots of church-goers do that), but at the core of one’s being, what one believes about god does not feel as if it’s a matter dependent upon the will. Not if one is honest.

    So the real answer, the only one that actually answers the question “why am I an atheist,” seems to be, “because that’s the way I’m made.” This is hardly a satisfying answer, of course, and doesn’t seem to answer the question that is so often asked. The intent of that question, if I understand it correctly, is rather more “how is it possible you gave up god?”

    I Did Not Give Up God

    I cannot recall a time, ever in my life, when I believed in a god, a soul that survived my body, or a “spirit realm” called either heaven or hell. I was certainly told about all of those things, of course – along with Santa and the Tooth Fairy – but I simply and quite honestly thought it all equally silly nonsense for kids. The Tooth Fairy and Santa didn’t take long to dispense with, as I’m sure it doesn’t for most kids, but it seems as if, somehow, I just applied the same kind of thinking to god.

    I went to Sunday school and heard the Bible stories specially prepared for children. I was told that “Jesus loves me,” though nobody else at the time seemed to, and that “god sees the little sparrow fall.” I noticed, though, that god didn’t hold out a single deified digit to prevent that fall. Then I checked out those Sunday school stories – I read the book (yes, that book, the Bible), from beginning to end, before I was 11 years old.

    What horrors I found there! And what nonsense!

    Now, as it happens, I was also a big fan of National Geographic (the only place I could see naked bodies back then), and everything I could find on dinosaurs and as much science as I could understand. Even as a little kid, I was happier with books and quiet time than on the playing fields. Peaceful walks in natural surroundings, hours with a magnifying glass (and later microscope) examining the wonders of the pond, under rocks, around the roots of trees – these were the things that occupied my mind.

    The Bible didn’t come close to being as believable as any of my other reading material. The god I found there was not, most assuredly not, the god I heard about in Sunday school.

    What Did Other People Believe

    And then, I discovered (perhaps I should say intuited) quite early on that most of the people around me who thought of themselves as believers – and who were supposed to be my role models in religious belief – didn’t seem to believe much either. Or rather, I should say that they may (I couldn’t tell) have held some belief about the existence of god, but they most assuredly did not give much evidence of believing any of the Christian dogma that I was learning about.

    “What an astonishing statement,” I hear you say. “How can you possibly know what somebody believes or doesn’t believe?”

    Well, I know that people “believe in” gravity when I see them step back from the edge of the precipice, or that fire burns as they quickly draw their hand back from the little explosion in the fireplace. Their actions give them away. I know that people believe that they actually have a chance at winning the lottery, else they wouldn’t buy a ticket, which given the actual odds is pretty much exactly like tossing your two dollars over that precipice. Beliefs inform actions. Where the action is inconsistent with a stated belief, I must assume that the action is informed by some other belief, unknown to me and perhaps even to the person performing the action. But what I do know is that the claimed belief cannot be strongly held internally, or it would prevent the action that is inconsistent with it.

    Let me provide a couple of examples.

    There is wildly inconsistent use of Bible texts. Leviticus is used to label gay people as sinners worthy of death (or at least hell, perhaps), but seems remarkably ineffective in getting its message about the evils of pork chops, bacon and shrimp out to the masses. I for one (and I knew I was gay before I was ten) couldn’t see why one verse was dutifully adhered to, to my cost, while others right around it were studiously ignored. That seemed to have a whole lot less to do with believing anything at all about god, and was more reflective of personal tastes. In other words, hypocrisy.

    And I was told that faith, not good works, was needed to please god. Except, of course, when it was good works, not faith. I decided early on that good works couldn’t be what people believed guaranteed entry into heaven, because those works were in remarkably short supply. And, of course, it doesn’t take much actual observation of people to see how routinely the commandments are broken. I saw a graven image in practically every church I was in, but if you’re going to flout a commandment, I suppose church is the place to do it.

    Every believer seems more concerned about his own soul, its disposition after death, then about the condition of his fellow humans who are still alive. The Bible is chock-a-block with prohibitions and "though-shalt-nots," but how much better than “don’t get your hands dirty” might be the enjoinder to soil them dreadfully helping those in need?

    And sex! Don’t even get me started on the religious view (at least the Christian one I grew up with) of sex. (Yet, as a science reader I knew that sexual reproduction was only one of the options god had open to him. Nature, however, needed sexual reproduction as the surest route to evolution and the continuation of life through changing conditions.)

    It Started with My Upbringing

    I was a battered child. Through all the torture of my growing up, I bore the pain and scars. Those who inflicted them went scot-free. I paraphrase Epicurus in saying, if god could have prevented my pain but didn’t, then he shares the blame. If he wanted to help me, but couldn’t, then he was weaker than those who were hurting me, so I’d be better off bowing down before them than god. It was certainly clear to me that god was not simultaneously interested in and capable of my protection, or else I would not have been so horribly hurt.

    And nothing I found, either in the Bible or in church, answered my questions about why that should be so.

    And then I began to see that the world – supposedly the work and pride and joy of a loving god – while often beautiful, awe-inspiring, grand and mysterious, was also a world of unspeakable horror, visited without rhyme or reason upon the just and unjust alike, as were all its many pleasures. And I wondered how it was possible to lay all of the beauty – yet none of the horror – to god’s account. And there were no answers.

    Ah, but then I was told about Satan! The Devil, eager to cart everybody’s soul off to Hell, which would be permitted for eternity for quite finite (often mild) indiscretions. Poppycock! Balderdash! Rubbish!

    If god is omnipotent, then Satan must be nothing by comparison. Infinity is infinitely greater than anything finite. Therefore, Satan could hold no sway – there cannot be two omnipotent entities in a single universe – by definition – since both would be unable to best the other – a clear failure in the definition of omnipotence. Thus, if god exists and moves in the world, then he’s responsible for it all, including how ludicrously unfair it is.

    Such a god, when I thought about it, was completely unacceptable to me.

    (To be continued...)
     
    #1 Evangelicalhumanist, Jan 1, 2021
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  2. Evangelicalhumanist

    Evangelicalhumanist "Truth" isn't a thing...
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    (Continued from last post...)

    Answering My Objections

    No theist has ever actually answered my objections, although I answer all of theirs. Instead, when I raise what I consider to be a killer argument against god, they simply move on to another statement, usually unrelated. I’ve observed this many, many times in debates, for example between Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins. Dawkins gives direct answers to Collins’s points, while Collins frequently rebuts with discourses on “god’s purpose,” and similar arguments which are irrefutable.

    But the truth is, the counter-argument to “red and green make purple,” is not “yellow and blue make green,” no matter how true the latter statement might be.

    No Answers From Scripture(s)

    Answers from Judeo-Christian scripture are no better to me than answers from other scriptures, or from Shakespeare or any other fiction. In fact, every answer from scripture is easily refuted, and almost always by a different selection from the same book. If this were not so, there would be no need for the very busy apologetics industry.

    Religion, it seems to me, teaches that we should be satisfied without bothering to try and understand, to accept without questioning. All I ever have is questions, and magisterial answers, fully dependent on authority and nothing else, leave me completely unsatisfied.

    God’s Greatest Creation

    I’ve seen the human race at work. God’s greatest creation is responsible for a list of horrors too long for recitation here.

    But it’s not just the evil that men do. It’s the sheer bloody stupidity of so much of the race. Watch the football hooligans in the stands, or in the streets after the game. See this creature, a little lower than the angels, this “piece of work...so infinite in faculty,” as it watches endless hours of “reality television.”

    I’ve heard Joel Osteen, a “good Christian,” describe gays and lesbians as “not god’s best work” on Larry King Live on CNN. Yet Osteen seems unable, at least in this particular case, to follow the one thing that Christ is said to have really insisted upon – to love his fellow man without judging. Having failed at this single Christian duty, he still considers himself to be, one must assume, among “god’s best work,” and therefore competent to judge the “sins” of others.

    Guessing Game

    A universe with god, well actually, with all the gods that humanity has created, is an endless guessing game, with poorer odds of being right than the lottery. What does god want? You’ll never figure it out by observing and trying to make sense out of who suffers and who enjoys happiness. If we can’t tell here on earth, what hope have we of understanding the rules by which one merits “heaven?”

    Confusion

    No god worthy of the position could possibly have arranged to be so variously, and badly, misunderstood. One hundred thousand religions later, and still no agreement on who or what god is, and what He/It wants.

    Spirituality Needs Art, Not god

    Spirituality is not aided by unwarranted fear nor unjustified hope, but rather by deeper understanding of ourselves and our universe. For true spirituality, put aside your scripture and turn instead to art – any art. And having done so, recognize that scripture is likewise art, able to provide us with new perspectives on ourselves and our world, worthy of similar (but not greater) respect.

    Too Many Beliefs, Too Little Reason

    I do not believe in god for the same reason that I do not believe in ghosts, the Yeti, Sasquatch, Loch Ness Monster, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Invisible Pink Unicorn, fairies, gnomes, ogres, gremlins, banshees, naiads, dryads, jinn, fairy god-mothers or spontaneous human combustion, among a rather longish list of other nonsense routinely held to be reasonable by far too many people.
    • Every “fact” of science can be demonstrated again and again in controlled experiments. Every theory makes predictions which can be tested for. Not a single “fact” of such pseudo-scientific or religious nonsense ever has been, nor ever can be, tested, and none makes predictions that I’m aware of (or when they do, as is sometimes said of astrology, they are either to general to be useful, or turn out to be wrong a statistically correct number of times).
    • When a theory of science is finally shown not to fulfill some criterion or other implicit in itself, then the theory is either corrected or discarded. Pseudo-science and religion are immune to that sort of self-correction, since there is never going to be any evidence to “disprove” their assertions anyway.
    • If anything must exist, it might as well be the universe as god. Is a naked singularity so much less likely than a consciousness without any other sort of existence, (or means to support itself)? Why propose a middle-man, which only complicates matters?
    Morals and Ethics

    Throughout my entire atheist existence, I’ve managed to behave both more morally and more ethically, with more concern for my fellow man of whatever condition, than many of the religious people that I’ve known. I am in myself proof that morality needs no god – Torquemada, for example, is proof that believing in god does not guarantee moral behaviour.

    What a tragic notion must be held by the faithful that if, by some calamity, they lost their faith in god, they would suddenly be unable to restrain themselves from theft and murder. The atheist is in no doubt at all that – should he suddenly believe in god – he should continue to behave as morally as he did before.

    The problem with morality guided by religion is that religion (at least the human ones that I’m familiar with) is manifestly unintelligible. If this were not so, there would not, could not, have arisen about 100,000 of them in the course of human history.

    God’s Infinite Mercy

    I could never believe in both Hell and a merciful god. Mercy is not needed at all except by those who are not worthy of it. It is completely wasted on those who don’t need it.

    Religion Gone Bad

    I have seen human nature – that good people do good things and bad people do bad things. But to get a whole church or mosque panting for the deaths of the homosexuals, the idolaters, the “sinners” of every sort – yes, that takes religion.

    Original Sin

    Few things offend me as much as the idea of “original sin” – that I (the child abused by those most accountable for my security) inherit guilt along with their genes. The Bishop of Hippo would excuse god for deformed and still-born children on such a vile supposition, but I will not.

    Conclusion, My Purpose, Not God's

    Mostly, I am an atheist because I think, and none of my thinking led me to any notion of god. Nothing led me to understand that there was any other purpose to my existence than what I chose to make of it. My parents gave me life, but it is mine to live, not theirs. They can hope anything they like for me, but I will go my own way.

    I am not interested in being the object of “god’s purpose,” whatever that might be (and I challenge anyone to tell me what it is). I’m the object of enough other purposes over which I have little control. Regarding a meaning or a purpose for my life, I prefer my own. And at the, least I have some hope of knowing what it is.

    Post Scriptum

    I was mentioning this the other day to a friend, who said to me my analogy of winning the lottery and belief is flawed with respect to belief. She said,"I play the lottery because I hope to win, not because I believe I will win."

    Point taken. And it is true that I, too, play the lotteries. I also hope to win. But you know, if I believed that I could not win, I would not play. So, what does that suggest about my beliefs (even though I actually do know the odds)? Beliefs can, in fact, be much stronger than knowledge, for reasons that are so completely human. It's funny, but it's also a bit endearing sometimes -- as long as it doesn't get destructive!

    Another point about my original post. I said "I am an atheist because I think." Someone I know told me that was pretty arrogant, and that many intelligent, thinking people believe in a deity.

    For my comment, then, I must apologize, because of course there are intelligent people on this forum who also believe in a deity. My thought perhaps didn't read as well as it could, and I can see how it looks.

    Ah, well, this is a work in progress, and I'm open to change. Still, I did not mean that believers don't think and atheists do. I meant that I have always spent a lot of time thinking, and every avenue of thought that I traversed led me to a different conclusion than the vast majority of other people.

    Still, I wonder sometimes if it isn't true that most people don't really spend a lot of time and effort really thinking about the things that they take for granted, and if they actually did stop and examine more closely, they might arrive at different conclusions. This might be especially true, not so much for belief in god, but for rigid adherence to the particular dogmas of most formal religions. It would still be possible, I think, to believe in god and the message of Christ without believing that Mary was a virgin, that water turned into wine, or that the dead got out of their graves and wandered around town, and nobody thought to actually write a memo about it. Or that Jesus actually and literally died for our sins.
     
    #2 Evangelicalhumanist, Jan 1, 2021
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  3. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Brilliant essay! Thanks so much for sharing it. Let those who have ears, hear.

    But please forgive me, I must suggest a refinement. You state, "Mostly, I am an atheist because I think...". That in my opinion, is not precisely true. Lots of thinking people are theists, whether we recognize that fact or not. To me, your sentence would be more plausible were you to qualify 'think'. Perhaps this would do: "Mostly, I am an atheist because I am a skeptical thinker...". If that doesn't work for you, then I am sure you can find something that suites you.

    Last, we should all be careful --- very careful -- when we judge people, for judging someone most often steals from us some of our capacity to understand them. That is to say, some of our intelligence. My gravest objection to the passages in the Bible dealing with non-believers is that they are heavy with judgmentalism, and thus so many religious people are robbed of their ability to understand atheists, etc. The more they become convinced of the 'Biblical perspective' on non-believers, the less they can understand any perspective beyond it.

    But atheists far too often and too quickly judge religious people, as well.
     
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  4. Evangelicalhumanist

    Evangelicalhumanist "Truth" isn't a thing...
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    Actually, I addressed that very point about "because I think" in the last section (Post Scriptum) of the second post -- I saw the error, too.
     
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  5. Vouthon

    Vouthon Dominus Deus tuus ignis consumens est
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    That was an immersive read, many thanks @Evangelicalhumanist

    Overall (a few arguments notwithstanding), your expressed reasons for being an atheist come across as very compelling ones to me. Likewise, your criticisms of organised religion happen to cohere with some of my own reservations - even though I'm an orthodox and pretty devout believer, with a decidedly religious mindset.

    I would, if I were in a debating mood, question some of your appraisals of Christian doctrine though - where they conflict with Patristic (and later theological currents) as I have studied and understood them. "Faith, not good works, was needed to please god", suggests to me that you must've had some kind of Protestant background, for that was certainly not the Christian soteriology with which I was raised.

    Of course, I'm also a great deal younger than you are - I mean, your 72 whereas I'm 28. When you were born, the Catholic Church hadn't even convened the Second Vatican Council yet (let alone had a man like Francis occupying the papacy), so I quite appreciate that the Christianity I was brought up with in late 1990s - 2000s Catholic schools in Scotland may be quite a different beast to the one prevalent in your own childhood / youth.

    Regardless, I think it's safe to say that you've spoken very cogently - and earnestly, very sincere - in this essay, which was interesting to wade through. Well done!
     
    #5 Vouthon, Jan 1, 2021
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  6. Evangelicalhumanist

    Evangelicalhumanist "Truth" isn't a thing...
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    Thank you very kindly. And for the record, if you ever do find yourself in "a debating mood," I would be happy to engage. I'm not struggling to change people's minds -- just looking for my own understanding of the world and life that I have been given. I don't debate out of a desire to win, but a desire to learn.
     
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  7. KenS

    KenS Face to face with my Father
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    I realize that being a battered child is something no-one should be experiencing and yet it happens. I know we all have our stories of our past, things that we cannot change and have lived through. How we respond to our individual experiences vary person to person.

    I am happy you have made it through to adult years. Hope the latter of your years are better than the beginning.

    That being said, I don't follow your logic. In some cases, I can assume it was because of what they taught you in Sunday school or lack of more in depth answers to your very good questions. Certainly your "I cannot recall a time, ever in my life, when I believed in a god" dictates what you find or don't find. It sets your course. Was that because of "Those who inflicted them went scot-free..... ...It was certainly clear to me that god was not simultaneously interested in and capable of my protection, or else I would not have been so horribly hurt."? I think so.

    Understand why you would come to that conclusion yet, in my view, one arrives at that conclusion because of experience and not because of a foundational biblical understanding.

    May I re-iterate? I am so sorry you went through that type of childhood and don't want to minimize the reality of the pain it inflicted on you and how it shaped your future.

    "And nothing I found, either in the Bible or in church, answered my questions about why that should be so." Perhaps they didn't answer your question but I can't help but wonder if it was more like "I don't believe in God so I don't believe your answer" more than anything else. Perhaps I come to that conclusion because I have answered your questions but it never seems to be enough. I can understand that having went through what you went through, it is a little more difficult to hear the answers.

    "If god is omnipotent, then Satan must be nothing by comparison. Infinity is infinitely greater than anything finite. Therefore, Satan could hold no sway – there cannot be two omnipotent entities in a single universe – by definition – since both would be unable to best the other – a clear failure in the definition of omnipotence. Thus, if god exists and moves in the world, then he’s responsible for it all, including how ludicrously unfair it is."

    This has been answered before. But I understand that it is your point of view. However, as I see it, it isn't a biblical perspective.

    " Leviticus is used to label gay people as sinners worthy of death (or at least hell, perhaps), but seems remarkably ineffective in getting its message about the evils of pork chops, bacon and shrimp out to the masses. I for one (and I knew I was gay before I was ten) couldn’t see why one verse was dutifully adhered to, to my cost, while others right around it were studiously ignored."

    This also has been addressed. But, again, if we start off with "there is no God and it is nothing but poppycock" then it is hard to have an entrance to your position. It would be like trying to tell someone that we landed on the moon when that person is completely convinced (as there are some) who believe it was and is a Hollywood production. (not me, of course)

    I could go on.. but suffice to say I understand why you are an atheist though I don't agree with your reasons as to why.
     
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  8. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Indeed! I was trying to suggest a solution in my admittedly clumsy way.
     
  9. Vouthon

    Vouthon Dominus Deus tuus ignis consumens est
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    What a superb comment and healthy attitude! Well for uttering that little beauty, you've actually enticed me with the prospect of engaging you in such a debate, when I have the time and fancy. :D

    For the time being, I could point out a few areas of 'doctrinal' corrective from my perspective, I guess, namely:


    "There is wildly inconsistent use of Bible texts. Leviticus is used to label gay people as sinners worthy of death (or at least hell, perhaps), but seems remarkably ineffective in getting its message about the evils of pork chops, bacon and shrimp out to the masses"

    My answer to this (aside from the fact that "eternal hell/damnation" didn't exist in ancient Israelite religion or arguably in the thought of the Apostle Paul) is 'multi-layered':


    (a) Leviticus is not referring to "homosexuals": we need to discuss the 'ancient', pre-modern understanding of sexuality as being about "active" vs "passive" roleplay, as opposed to 'orientation', because the modern 19th century concept of a "sexual orientation" must not be imported into exegesis of biblical texts that lacked such a category

    and


    (b) The New Testament....is considered newer and an advancement on the "old" in Christian theology: mainstream Christian theology holds that the New Testament succeeds the Old Testament and renders its "judicial, cultic and ceremonial" laws abrogated (or, at least, "optional"), whereas the 'moral law' of the older Mosaic covenant is deemed to have eternal force albeit reinterpreted and understood through the lens of enhanced New Covenantal ethics.


    (A)


    "Modern sexuality offers a two-tiered dichotomy based on sexual preference. A homosexual is characterized by his exclusive sexual preference for same-sex relationships. Similarly, a heterosexual favors exclusive sexual relationships with members of the opposite sex.

    Ancient sexuality, on the other hand, finds its basis in status. The active partner assumes the role of the penetrator; whereas, the passive partner takes on the penetrated position.(www.princeton.edu/~clee/paper.html) - Malakos

    Firstly, I'd caution you that the ancient Israelites would've had no concept of a "homosexual" or heterosexual person according to our modern category of an innate 'orientation' defined by sexual attraction - for that reason, I'd find it difficult for one to construe gay people as being worthy of death from this (admittedly, otherwise, quite appalling to our modern liberal sensibilities) verse.

    Sexuality, in the bronze age Near East, had to do with inviolable sex 'roles' (penetrative, dominant and active - male; receptive, submissive and passive - female) and the Levitical code is indicative of a culture steeped in ideas of ritual purity and pollution vis-à-vis the temple which, in the gender domain, is highlighted by the mitzvot (law) against cultic cross-dressing: "A man’s item shall not be on a woman, and a man shall not wear a woman’s garment; whoever does such a thing is an abhorrence unto Adonai" (Deuteronomy 22:5).

    For a male to be penetrated was deemed 'defiling', not because he was being physically intimate with another male but rather because he was considered to have emasculated himself by adopting a female social role (one of submissive receptivity). The second century extra-canonical Christian text, Apocalypse of Peter refers to men "who defile their bodies, behaving like women" and women "who have sex with one another as a man with a woman" as the 'thing' that is objectionable. Note, its not primarily about the gender of your sexual partner and certainly not to which sex your attracted - rather, its all about 'masculine' and 'feminine' sexual roles.

    In the medieval period, it was not considered an 'offence' in Christian societies - for example - for two women to sleep together unless there was penetration involved, i.e. a female taking on the dominant male social role. Only 12 cases of female same sex relations have been found by historians “for the entire medieval period” in the criminal cases. In all those centuries, in which many women would've been frolicking and engaging in activity with other women, only '12' women were ever brought to court over it.

    And why?

    The case of Katherina Hetzeldorfer in 1477, one of those 12 women, is indicative:


    Katherina Hetzeldorfer - Wikipedia


    Katherina Hetzeldorfer (d. 1477) was the first woman recorded to have been executed for female homosexuality.

    In 1477, she was tried for homosexuality and posing as a male. She was prosecuted after having been reported by someone to whom she had confided that she and her sister lived as man and wife. It was discovered that she also had bought sex from two women, both of whom claimed not to have known her biological sex even during intercourse, one of them stating that she had used a strap-on dildo made with red leather.[1]

    There is no earlier record of executions for female homosexuality


    Had Katherina simply engaged in oral sex, fingering or mutual masturbation with these two other women, she would not have been convicted or executed.

    She was executed, in this very rare case, because she 'contravened' her female social role in sex - as late medievals understood it - by strapping a dildo onto herself and assuming the role of "penetrator".

    Thus, it wasn't "lesbianism" - whom she was sexually attracted to or even engaged in some sexual activity with - that had made her commit an 'offence', but rather her assuming the traditional masculine sexual role of penetrative dominant.


    How far did medieval society recognise lesbianism in this period? - Medievalists.net


    Until the Constituto Criminalis Carolina there does not appear to be any secular European legislation acknowledging or forbidding female same sex relations, this did not prevent the prosecution of several women. [18] One trial in 1477, in the imperial city of Speyer, was that of Katherina Hetzeldorfer’s. [19] It is a very interesting case through which to study the recognition of female same sex relations in this period.

    Karras claims that the medieval understanding of sex was something “that one person did to another, by penetrating him or her”.[22] This perhaps is why Hetzeldorfer’s case received notice from authorities. Katherina was accused of using an instrument, “and at last with the piece of wood that she held between her legs to the extent”. [23]

    The act would have thus been considered a subversion of gender roles, “their investigation focused almost entirely on how Katherina Hetzeldorfer was able to embody a masculine role…”. [24] The trial accounts reference to Katherina as “having her manly way”.[25]


    Consider this medieval 'gloss':


    "there are certain women, inclined to foul wickedness, who exercise their lust on other women and pursue them like men" (Cino's gloss on the Joedissimam)

    Now read what the early church father St. Clement of Alexandria (c.200 CE) had to say, in his Paidogogos (From Clement of Alexandria, Paidogogus, trans in Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol 2, pp275-277):


    Internet History Sourcebooks Project


    God wished women to be smooth, and rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane; but has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him, as an attribute of manhood, with shaggy breasts,--a sign this of strength and rule.

    So also cocks, which fight in defence of the hens, he has decked with combs, as it were helmets...

    In this God deemed it right that he should excel, and dispersed hair over man's whole body. Whatever smoothness and softness was in him He abstracted from his side when He formed the woman Eve, physically receptive, his partner in parentage, his help in household management, while he (for he had parted with all smoothness) remained a man, and shows himself man.

    And to him has been assigned action...for what is shaggy is drier and warmer than what is smooth. Wherefore males have both more hair and more heat than females...It is therefore impious to desecrate the symbol of manhood...

    But in the act of bending back and bending down, the violence done to nature's modesty by stepping out and bending backwards in shameful postures, yet the doers not ashamed of themselves, but conducting themselves without shame in the midst of the youth, and in the gymnasium, where the prowess of man is tried; the following of this unnatural practice, is it not the extreme of licentiousness?...

    For he who in the light of day denies his manhood, will prove himself manifestly a woman by night. "There shall not be," said the Word by Moses, "a harlot of the daughters of Israel; there shall not be a fornicator of the sons of Israel."[6]

    Men play the part of women, and women that of men, contrary to nature; women are at once wives and husbands: no passage is closed against libidinousness


    Thus, the verse in question is not a reference to gay people as we define them today and neither did medieval theologians reading it understand Leviticus that way either (because they too had no conception of sexual "orientation" as we do today). What it evidences is an ancient cultural prejudice against the subversion of assigned 'social roles' in sexual intercourse, that is a woman being sexually 'dominant' by penetrating or a man being sexually 'submissive' by being penetrated.

    It has 'nothing' to do with our contemporary, scientific understanding of "homosexuality", inasmuch as its not the gender of the sexual partner that is especially in view but rather the retention of masculine and feminine sexual roles.

    The anachronistic 'reading back into biblical and medieval theological texts' of our modern scientific paradigm of sexuality - which does not belong there - is at the root of much of the homophobia amongst conservative Christians. Their theological forbears were simply not thinking 'in the same way' with our modern category of homosexual orientation and so neither should they be interpreting the texts with this in mind.

    (continued...)
     
    #9 Vouthon, Jan 1, 2021
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2021
  10. Vouthon

    Vouthon Dominus Deus tuus ignis consumens est
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    "The judicial precepts of the Old Testament did not bind for ever, but were annulled by the coming of Christ [...] In the ministry of the New Law, no punishment of death or of bodily maiming is appointed...

    As regards Peter, he did not put Ananias and Saphira to death...The Priests or Levites of the Old Testament were the ministers of the Old Law, which appointed corporal penalties.
    "
    (St. Thomas Aquinas, SUMMA THEOLOGIAE: The judicial precepts (Prima Secundae Partis, Q. 104), 1265–1274)

    For mainstream orthodox Christians, Leviticus's penalty of 'death' for men who behaved like women sexually (by being penetrated rather than being active, dominant penetrators) is abrogated by Christ's commissioning of the New Covenant in his blood at the Last Supper.

    You are aware, no doubt, of the pericope adulterae - the free-floating but very early dominical tradition (thought to have been derived originally from the Gospel of the Hebrews) inserted into the Gospel of John at some point in its textual transmission, where Jesus 'saves' an adulterous woman from being stoned.

    Leviticus 20:10 had imposed death on adulterers: “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife— with the wife of his neighbour—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.”

    Christ-in-coming:


    John 7:53–8:11:

    53 Then each of them went home, 1 while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them.

    3The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?

    6They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him.

    Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

    10Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again."


    In the patristic and medieval scholastic tradition, positive law arises from 'natural law' and is an application of 'reason' to concrete circumstances. It is not something divinely imposed and immutable. Whether something is to be judged a criminal or civil offence (with a corresponding sentance or penalty or restorative justice) is for the relevant political and/or legal authority (i.e. supreme court judgments) to determine. And that's been very fluid and contigent throughout Christian history, with one country have xyz law that differed from another country with xyz.

    Thus, in medieval England 'sodomy' (not homosexuality but contravening the sex 'roles' described in my part (A)) was at odds with the ethical codes of that religious society but it wasn't concretised into a civil or criminal offence until the 16th century when Henry VIII instituted the Reformation, rather it had been a 'spiritual' offence coming under the jurisdiction of ecclesiastical courts (who could only impose 'penalties' like, go to confession; obligatory fasting and mortification for a period and so on, no 'crime' at the state level):


    gay rights movement | Definition & History


    Religious admonitions against sexual relations between same-sex individuals (particularly men) long stigmatized such behaviour, but most legal codes in Europe were silent on the subject of homosexuality. The judicial systems of many predominantly Muslim countries invoked Islamic law (Sharīʿah) in a wide range of contexts, and many sexual or quasi-sexual acts including same-sex intimacy were criminalized in those countries with severe penalties, including execution.

    Beginning in the 16th century, lawmakers in Britain began to categorize homosexual behaviour as criminal rather than simply immoral. In the 1530s, during the reign of Henry VIII, England passed the Buggery Act, which made sexual relations between men a criminal offense punishable by death. In Britain sodomy remained a capital offense punishable by hanging until 1861.


    That's because there is no 'Christian shariah law'.

    Secondly, you wrote:


    Leviticus is used to label gay people as sinners worthy of death (or at least hell, perhaps), but seems remarkably ineffective in getting its message about the evils of pork chops, bacon and shrimp out to the masses. I for one (and I knew I was gay before I was ten) couldn’t see why one verse was dutifully adhered to, to my cost, while others right around it were studiously ignored.


    There is a theological distinction drawn between the eternal and immutable 'moral' principles (the "law") of the Old Covenant and the temporary, mutable "works of the law" (the cultic, civil, criminal, purity laws) was reiterated in later sacred tradition by the Early Church Fathers:


    “ Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience to the Commandments which are called Moral ” (Article VII of the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England (1571))

    The moral law doth for ever bind all, the ceremonial laws are now abrogated under the New Testament; and the sundry judicial (or civil) laws of Israel expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any other now" (chapter 19 of the Westminster Confession of Faith (1643-46))​



    Theodoret, Commentary on Romans (1839) Part 1


    The necessary commandments of the law were taught even by nature. That is, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor, honor your father and mother, and the rest of this kind.”

    But the commandments about the sabbath and circumcision and lepers and menstruation and sacrifice were peculiar to the [Jewish] law, since nature taught nothing about these matters. These are what he now calls works of the law
    . For these were symbols of other things. Nonetheless they were appropriate to the Jews in their due time."

    -Blessed Theodoret ( 393 – 458 CE), Commentary on Galatians 2:15-16 (ACCS, NT, V. VIII, p. 31)​



    https://www.researchgate.net/public...tians_Introduction_Text_Translation_and_Notes


    “Here he begins to demonstrate in what sense the grace of faith is sufficient for justification without the works of the law…. But so that this question may be carefully treated and no one may be deceived by ambiguities, we must first understand that the works of the law are twofold; for they reside partly in ceremonial ordinances and partly in morals. To the ordinances belong the circumcision of the flesh, the weekly sabbath, new moons, sacrifices and all the innumerable observances of this kind. But to morality belong “You shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not bear false witness” and so on. Could the apostle possibly not care whether a Christian were a murderer and adulterer or chaste and innocent, in the way that he does not care whether he is circumcised or uncircumcised in the flesh? He therefore is specially concerned with the works that consist in ceremonial ordinances, although he indicates that the others are sometimes bound up with them. But near the end of the letter he deals separately with those works that consist in morals… The contemplation of truth is found in the love of God alone, good morals in the love of God and the neighbor, and on these two precepts depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

    - St. Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430 AD), Commentary on Galatians 3:2, Migne PL 35:2117,
    (ACCS, NT, V. VIII, p. 36, emphasis added).​


    Thirdly, in point of fact there is no mention of homosexuality or same-sex acts in the canonical gospels or in any other early Jesus traditions.

    The verdict is unanimous that he apparently never saw any need to discuss it at all, despite the fact that Jewish texts of his day refer to it frequently and that same-sex relationships (i.e. albeit usually in the form of pederasty or male prostitution and sex trafficking, although sometimes in marriage-like relationships too) were common throughout the Roman Empire at the time.

    Jesus's silence is potentially revealing, as is the silence of the gospel writers on this as well. And the obsession and ire of some fundamentalist Christians with homosexuality, is therefore odd and unfortunate given the absence of any references to it by Jesus.
     
    #10 Vouthon, Jan 1, 2021
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2021
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  11. icehorse

    icehorse Veteran Member
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  12. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Veteran Member

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    This essay validates what I have always said, that the Bible is the main reason for atheists.

    It is not the atheists who have a problem, it is the Bible. I'd be an atheist too if the Bible was the only scripture.
     
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  13. Conscious thoughts

    Conscious thoughts Veteran Member

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    Thank you for sharing your story @Evangelicalhumanist, now i feel i understand you better, and i can see why your answers often become as they do :)
    You write a lot of good point why you become an atheist, no one can take that away from you.

    May you have a wonderful year in 2021
     
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  14. ChristineM

    ChristineM "Be strong" I whispered to my coffee.
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    I began to read the OP, saw how long it was and considered pressing the back arrow. I am so glad i didn't, so glad that a read it through.

    Its played with my emotions from needed to dab away a tear or two, to thinking, that's me, i completely understand, to the occasional whoop of "yes, yes, YES".

    Thanks for posting.
     
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  15. Audie

    Audie Veteran Member

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    For myself, I was born free of it, raised free of it, so it would bizarre and unnatural for me to
    decide to indulge in it now, having looked and seen essentially what you see.
     
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  16. KenS

    KenS Face to face with my Father
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    You said that the last time you made a post like unto this one. My response was to answer every one of your objections.

    It would be BETTER said,

    "I don't like and don't agree with the answers the theists gives me even as they answer all my objections".

    Improper understanding of scripture as it is say that God gave dominion to man over this earth as it was written that earth belongs to man,
    law : supreme authority : SOVEREIGNTY (Merriam Webster)

    Gen. 1:26; Psalm 115:16

    Always wondered if you really studied the Bible with an open mind. Man is responsible for what is wrong in this earth.

    Yet, you misunderstand other people's positions. Free will?

    Spirituality is based on love because perfected love casts out fear and is based on the assurance of an expectation of hope. Then, IMV, you can understand ourselves and our universe better.

    Yes... you have decided not to believe there is a God.

    I disagree. You are basing your morality and ethics on your own set of rules. With that position, even a rapist can call himself "moral". (Not comparing you with a rapist but simply stating that "morality" in your definition is subjective and as subjective as the next set of people)


    Yes... we know you have decided not to believe there is a God.

    That is absurd in my view. An atheistic Stalin and Mao got a whole country to do horrible things.

    Why? Do you teach children to do good? Do they automatically learn to do evil? Leave a child to himself and he will violate a multitude of moral rules. Someone started the process. The first person to start the process is the one who gets the designation of "original sin". Its origin started with Adam. However, you don't pay for Adam's sin.

    Interpretation, "I have just made myself my own god". Which you are free to do so. Isn't that "pride"? Isn't what you have basically said is "I am so good, so altruistic, having everybody else benefit in mind that you should all be like me?"
     
    #16 KenS, Jan 2, 2021
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  17. Audie

    Audie Veteran Member

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    You have one that is believable?
     
  18. Vouthon

    Vouthon Dominus Deus tuus ignis consumens est
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    Hmm again this is most assuredly not my experience of having grown up in a working class, actively left-wing and socially conscious Catholic family, nor for that matter in the ethical framework I imbibed from my attendance at Catholic schools as a kid - where the "corporal works of mercy" were drummed into me as the bona fide hallmarks of the Christian life:


    Works of mercy - Wikipedia


    Works of mercy (sometimes known as acts of mercy) are practices considered meritorious in Christian ethics.

    The practice is popular in the Catholic Church as an act of both penance and charity.

    The works of mercy have been traditionally divided into two categories, each with seven elements:[3]

    1. "Corporal works of mercy" which concern the material and physical needs of others.
    2. "Spiritual works of mercy" which concern the spiritual needs of others.
    Pope John Paul II issued a papal encyclical "Dives in misericordia" on 30 November 1980 declaring that "Jesus Christ taught that man not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but that he is also called 'to practice mercy' towards others."​


    In the New Testament, what is the standard by which Jesus himself says human beings will be 'judged' by God? These 'works of mercy' so fundamental to Catholic morality:

    The Sheep and the Goats - Wikipedia


    From Matthew 25:31–46:


    "But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

    Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’

    “Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’

    “The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’



    From the Catechism:


    Catechism of the Catholic Church - IntraText


    2447. "The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God....

    This misery elicited the compassion of Christ the Savior, who willingly took it upon himself and identified himself with the least of his brethren. Hence, those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church which, since her origin and in spite of the failings of many of her members, has not ceased to work for their relief, defense, and liberation through numerous works of charity which remain indispensable always and everywhere."


    Our understanding of "salvation" is much less individualistic though, inasmuch as we teach that God elects to save and sanctify us not just as individuals, but rather as a people and as a community (hence the 'church' body being the most important reality in the life of a Catholic Christian):


    Lumen gentium


    God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased Him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness. (LG #9).​


    So, again, your formative experiences of Christianity appear to have been been quite heavily shaped by a version of the faith very different to the one in which I, myself, was raised.
     
    #18 Vouthon, Jan 2, 2021
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  19. Vouthon

    Vouthon Dominus Deus tuus ignis consumens est
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    Jesus said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you"

    (Luke 14:12-14)

    "Jesus said unto us: Verily I say unto you, that I have obtained the whole power of my Father, that I may bring back into light them that dwell in darkness, them that are in corruption into incorruption, them that are in death into life, and that I may loose them that are in chains. For that which is impossible with men, is possible with the Father. I am the hope of the hopeless, the helper of the helpless, the wealth of the poor, the health of the sick, and the resurrection of the dead."

    (Epistula Apostolorum 21 (second century CE), from Montague Rhode James in The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1924)

    The Covenant Code in Exodus, as well as the Deuteronomic and Levitical books of the Torah - owing to their genre as 'divine lawgiver' texts styled after the Code of Hammurabi - are undoubtedly replete with their fair share of prohibitions "thou shalt not, or thou shalt", as you write above in old KJV cadence, and other sanctions for a range of 'misdemeanours' (in addition to having many verses pertaining to social equity and concern for the well-being of ancient Israel's most disadvantaged members).

    But this is not at all the character of the 'sapiential' or wisdom books of the Old Testament, nor that of the Nevi'im - the later prophets such as Isaiah and Micah, overwhelmingly concerned as they were with advocacy for the poor and oppressed - and it's certainly not an accurate description of the character of the Gospels in the New Testament, where Jesus is endlessly "helping those in need".


    (Whether that be the prostitutes whom Jesus said were morally superior to, and closer to God's kingdom than, the "holy men": "Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you [Pharisees and priests], the tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you." (Matthew 21:31), women on the margins of society and deemed ritually unclean because of the painful hemorrhaging of blood in their periods (Mark 5:25-34), those bent-double with some kind of crippling disability (Luke 13:10-17), his solicitude for weeping widows deprived of their only breadwinner in a patriarchal society (Luke 4:24-26), his compassion and righteous anger at witnessing the Levitical priesthood exploiting the poor through the temple tax for pilgrims (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4), lepers (Mark 1:40–45) and so on and so etc. ).​


    From a scholarly perspective, Professor Marcus Borg:


    Marcus Borg: Jesus the Man of the Spirit


    The historical Jesus challenged the purity boundaries in touching lepers as well as hemorrhaging women, in driving the money changers out of the temple, and in table fellowship even with outcasts. Jesus replaced an emphasis on purity with an emphasis on compassion.

    People who were not “whole” – the maimed, the chronically ill, lepers, eunuchs, and so forth – were on the impure side of the spectrum. The purity contrast also was associated with economic class...

    For Jesus, compassion had a radical sociopolitical meaning. In his teaching and table fellowship, and in the shape of his movement, the purity system was subverted and an alternative social vision affirmed. The politics of purity was replaced by a politics of compassion.


    How long is a piece of string? One could talk for hours upon hours about the sheer volume of gospel episodes depicting Jesus's caregiving for those 'in need'. I cannot conceive of anyone reading the Gospel of Matthew or Luke and not coming away with this same fundamental image of a 'caring' and socially engaged Jesus.

    And the current pontiff, His Holiness Pope Francis, has himself been voicing this same message unrelentingly since his election in 2013:


    Pope at Audience: Church a ‘field hospital’ that cares for sick - Vatican News

    Church as field hospital in a time of COVID-19 - Catholic Saskatoon News


    When Pope Francis described the Church as a field hospital, this is the image he had in mind: a world filled with hands reaching up croaking, “Water! Help me! Please!”

    This is not an image of finely-tuned bureaucracy, but one of all hands on deck. This is not washing your hands for 20 seconds while humming “Happy Birthday” but one of wiping the mud and blood off of your hands onto your pants and moving to the next person in need. (Though do please keep washing your hands!)


    The Field Hospital | National Catholic Reporter


    "I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal the wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful. It needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle.

    "It is useless to ask a seriously wounded person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars. You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else
    ."

    - Pope Francis


    Therefore, with all due respect, I'm not sure where you're coming from here - unless the Bible you're familiar with is a special, edited edition limited only to the Pentateuch (the Five Books of Moses) in the Old Testament!
     
    #19 Vouthon, Jan 2, 2021
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2021
  20. metis

    metis aged ecumenical anthropologist

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    First of all, let me just say that reading what you wrote on several posts here accomplished two things that I was already aware of with you: 1.you are very thoughtful, and 2.that it's impossible for me to disagree with the vast majority of what you wrote.

    But I have a question for ya: What about the more "naturalistic" approach taken by Spinoza, Einstein, and myself [notice how I conveniently put myself in there with those geniuses :D]? Not that there's really any proof of what we are inclined to believe in along these lines, but as a hypothesis?
     
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