If God is love (1 John 4:8) , and Love is patient, kind, and does not keep record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:4-8), then why would God be impatient , unkind, and keep records of our sins to the point of punishing us eternally in hell?
If God is love (1 John 4:8) , and Love is patient, kind, and does not keep record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:4-8), then why would God be impatient , unkind, and keep records of our sins to the point of punishing us eternally in hell?
I recently watched the movie “The Case for Christ” and found it to be intriguing . I have been drifting away from the Christian faith I once had and becoming more of an agnostic, or a Deist. I found many evidences of why the Christian faith is a false doctrine. However, I found some aspects of Jesus’s teachings to be applicable and useful in today’s society, and in my personal life, such as the concept of forgiveness, mercy, serving the poor, grace, loving my neighbor as myself , etc. But I have almost completely abandoned today’s church’s way of interpreting the true identity and nature of the figure of Jesus and the meaning of life.
I have recently embraced some teachings of Buddhism. I tried to practice mindfulness and simplicity in my life. The concept of suffering as a result of desiring things and the idea of emptiness as a way to reach enlightenment have been appealing to me. Allowing things to be as they are and letting go . Being formless, like water.
But I don’t identify myself as a Buddhist per se. I don’t even want to identify with any religion or faith in particular. I just want to be a person who finds meaning in this life, if there’s such a thing as meaning. And if there is even worth finding meaning or just living life the fullest. Although I don’t identify myself as such, I have been living a life of an atheist .
But I have recently been longing for an emotional connection to “something”. My heart has felt sad and I find myself seeking something “more.” When people talk about their faith in God or Jesus, I find myself longing for that same feeling again. I have been wanting to explore once again the possibility of a supernatural being that I can reconnect with. It’s almost like wishing to experience a childhood experience once again.
I know I have to be careful to not let my emotions dictate by behaviors. I recently lost my Dad and I’m getting older myself, so I may also be going through some life crisis at the moment. I should weigh all possible explanations before reaching any conclusions . I have to measure every step I make before making any life changing decision.
Nevertheless, I am currently interested in learning more about evidence for the Christian faith, since I watched this movie. I have read and own three of Strobel‘ books which I may read again. I have read many other books that explore the nature of Christianity. Among them “Mere Christianity” by CS Lewis, “Mere Churchianity” by Michel Spenser , “The Hole in our Gospel” by Richard Stevens, “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren, and “So You Thought You Knew: Letting Go of Religion” by Joshua Tongol , and many more.
I feel that, if I decide to do so, I can do some research again with less biased mind, meaning that I will be ok with finding evidence on either side of the argument. If I find evidence and information that proves that Christianity could be true or not true, I will be accepting it either way . I would also find a combination of conclusions , that maybe some aspects of Christianity is true and others are not.
Possible Evidence for Christianity
Christianity is mostly based on the resurrection of Jesus. I can say that some teachings of Jesus may be sufficient to be principles to live by and live a full life. The sermon on the mount is a good verse that can be practiced in our daily lives and be the meaning of our existence (Matthew 5 ). But today’s interpretation of Christianity does not end there. It insists that the resurrection of Jesus after he died on the cross is the culmination of his so called “salvation.” Or is it ? Is there any evidence of the resurrection?
500 witnesses. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, that Jesus appeared to 500 people after his resurrection “at once.” This sounds more like a ghostly appearance to me. Anyways, this supposedly happened along with appearing to Peter and all of his apostles. Believers continued to gather and grow, not simply because of what Jesus taught , but because they apparently “saw him alive” after the resurrection. Could so many people have had some hallucinations or could have made up such a claim? Very unlikely.
Women witnesses. In the times of Jesus, women were considered secondary citizens by many. They were really not regarded as important eyewitness or reliable sources . Yet, the Gospels tell us that the first people to see the resurrected Jesus were women. He also had women among his followers and he freely talked to them (John 4:4-42), and even forgave the sins of prostitutes in public (John 8:3). Is this compatible to that historical culture? If this story of the resurrection was fabricated , would it have mentioned women as the first witnesses? Would any of these “fabricated” stories mention women in this matter?
Early Christians persistence. Christians were persecuted until death . Yet they continued to gather and grow in number. And they spread throughout the world . Does the fact that this faith grew globally serve as evidence of its authenticity? Some speculate that Paul was the main influencer of today’s Christian faith (his epistles were the earliest after Jesus’ time) and that his writings shaped today’s teaching of salvation by grace alone. He was beheaded because of his teachings, giving his life for a cause. I wonder if people were willing to give up their lives for a false doctrine that lasts up to today.
Like Paul wrote,
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. (1 Corinthians 15:12-15)
However , the Progressive Christianity website states : “When Christians talk about the resurrection of Christ, they may be proclaiming that death did not have the last word in the Jesus story because his followers were raised up to be his new body. “
Was it a physical resurrection, or a symbolic resurrection that represented the resurrection of the “body of Christ ?” That is still a debatable topic.
But, Did Jesus even exist? Can we trust the story of Jesus from Bible ? If not, are there any non biblical literature that talks about the existence of Jesus? There’s actually some Non biblical literature of Jesus.
“There was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day” (Antiquities 18:3:3)
Pliny the Younger:
“They (Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food, but of an ordinary and innocent kind.” (Epistles 10.96).
Joseph Klausner, a Jewish researcher, sums up some of the conclusions which can be drawn from the Talmudic theories about Jesus:
“There are some reliable theories regarding the fact that his name was Yeshua (Yeshu) of Nazareth; that he practised sorcery (that is to say that he performed miracles, as was common in those days) and seduction and led Israel astray; that he mocked the words of the wise and discussed Scripture in the same way as the Pharisees; that he had five disciples; that he said he had not come to revoke the Law, nor to add anything to it; that he was hung upon a piece of wood (crucified) as a false authority and seducer on the eve of the Passover (which fell on a Saturday); and that his disciples cured disease in his name” (J.Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth, p.44)
“Nero fastened the guilt … on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of … Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome….
So these example show that Jesus was at least a real person with controversial views. He was crucified and there was darkness during this day and his disciples continued to gather and grow in number in spite of the persecution. And his teachings , like CS Lewis wrote, made him an immoral man because of his pathological and delusional claims of being the”son of God” , or he was actually a moral man who stated the truth. And truth is usually not well received by people who follow the status quo.
Possible Evidence against Christianity
On the other side of this argument lies the fact that there are stories of spiritual teachers who died and resurrected, similar to Jesus’s story .
Mithras (Persian god).
“.Persian legends of Mithras says that He was born of the Sun God and a virgin mother, called “the Mother of God”, on December 25th. They saw him as a symbol of justice, truth, and loyalty. He was considered the saviour of humankind, and stories abound of His healing the sick, raising the dead, and performing miracles (making the blind see and the lame walk). Throughout His lifetime, He was seen as a protector of human souls, a mediator between “heaven” and “earth” and was even associated with a “holy trinity”. He remained celibate, until the ripe old age of 64, throughout his life and preached the virtues of ethics, moral behavior, and good will.”
Osiris (Egyptian god):
Osiris was regarded as the “good shepherd” who was loved by his people and it was felt that paying homage and venerating him would help Egypt and Egyptians to be successful. He also resurrected and was crowned as a king. To the ancient Egyptians, Osiris’ resurrection after being slain by his evil brother Set represents the new beginning for good after it has defeated evil. To them, the tale was symbolized by the sun going into the world of the dead each night and being reborn with each new day.
Attis (Phrygon-Roman god)
“Many professors of modern and past times cannot help but conclude that Jesus is based on mythical deities of old. Among these scholars number individuals such as Porphry (3rd Century), Max Muller, Ernest de Bunsen, Joseph Wheless, Albert Churchward (all of the 19th Century), and T.W. Doane (20th Century). Even Pope Leo X, privy to the truth because of his high rank, made this curious declaration, “It was well known how profitable this fable of Christ has been to us” (“The Diegesis” by Rev. Robert Taylor, footnote, p. 35.
There is also evidence that Paul probably created today’s image of Jesus, to the point of worshiping him as a god. The title of “son of God” could have been added later to the Gospels.
There are also the gnostic gospels (Peter, Thomas, Phillip , Gospel of Truth) which have writings that do not support today’s image of the four traditional Gospels. For example , some of these writings talk about “the self and the divine as identical” and that “the ‘living Jesus’ of these texts speaks of illusion and enlightenment, not of sin and repentance, like the Jesus of the New Testament. Instead of coming to save us from sin, he comes as a guide who opens access to spiritual understanding.” (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/pagels.html).
The Gospel of Judas talks about “oneness of the self with God,” and Judas being the closest disciple to Jesus who helped Jesus die and “escape this world”. Many of these scriptures were considered heretics and, therefore, prohibited by the bishops and priests of the second and third century Orthodox Church. Only the four Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Lucas , and John were accepted as “Scriptures.” How can we then know if these four Gospels can be trusted since there are so many more that have been rejected by the church?
As we can see, there have been numerous myths and stories that resemble Jesus’s story . It’s hard to ignore the possibility that Christianity was copied or at least a product of all these other similar stories and myths. Does this take away the legitimacy of Christianity and what it is based on?
We could go on and on about the authenticity of what the church teaches and how it interprets the Gospels. But in my own personal journey, it mainly boils down to how I’m going to live my present life. And am I going to include the concept of a loving God or continue to live like an atheist?
Am I content with how my life is going right now or do I want something different? The simple answer is that I am not content .
What do all the stories about different myths (including Jesus) all have in common ? Instead of trying to figure out if Jesus’s story is legitimate and “truer” compared to the other numerous stories, would it be wiser to simply concentrate on the common and central message of all these stories , regardless of the “godly figure” that we choose to follow as its protagonist? Can we blame today’s Christians for focusing and using the image of Jesus to represent the central message? If the message is what we should be concentrating on, what is the message then?
The message could be summarized as such: Humanity has a reminder about what life is. There’s death and then there’s a resurrection . There’s the acknowledgment of “sin” and then there’s repentance. There’s also a return to our “selves” through self acceptance and wisdom. There’s the message of loving our neighbors , serving the poor, forgiving others, being meek and making peace. There’s always light after darkness. And Jesus beautifully described this at the Sermon on the Mount. (Mathew 5)
I think that it boils down to the idea of grace.
The teaching of eternal damnation in a place called “hell” is disturbing to say the least. It has been the church’s attempt to manipulate the masses to lure people into their doctrine . In contrast , I find it very inspiring the concept of grace. In the Christian tradition, God has forgiven our trespasses without us having to make sacrifices or doing anything in particular to please God. However, the only condition is to believe. I reject the idea that we would still end up tormented away from God for eternity if we don’t consciously “accept” God’s grace by reciting and “confessing Jesus as our savior.”
An all powerful, all loving God would not let a soul get “lost.” It just doesn’t compute. And I realize I’m not God , and my mind is limited. But God’s grace, by definition, is not limited.
God’s unlimited grace would surpass any amount of grace that any human being can even practice. It is almost impossible to forgive someone who murders our family or steals from my children. But God (somehow) could. So I think it was taught 2000 years ago that , through God, we can do many things, including the impossible “unconditional grace.”
That’s why I would be inclined to accept God’s unconditional grace. Not because the church tries to manipulate me through fear and intimidation with the idea of “hell”, like it has done in all its history. Believing that God punishes us with eternal damnation is rejecting the whole idea of God himself. It is putting limitations to God’s unlimited grace. And I am not creating a God out of convenience. I am clarifying what eternal grace from an eternal God would be.
If you have a child, or a brother, or any significant other, whom you love so much, but this beloved person decides he or she would not want to love you back anymore, what would you do? If this person, whom you love dearly, wants nothing to do with you, would you then decide to let him or her starve to death? Would you abandon this person until death simply because he or she does not love you back ?
If your answer is no, then you think like a any loving being would.
And if so, why would an eternally loving and all powerful being do so then ?
Are we more loving and forgiving than God?
God loves and accepts us even if we don’t love him back. How he decides to give us a chance after we die as unbelievers is up to Him. He doesn’t need us to invent the idea of hell to scare people and manipulate them into believing. We are guaranteed to live eternally and be one with God no matter what we do or say.
Now that’s what I would call “good news.”
Warning: the following note is a hypothetical sentiment about how I would feel as a true nihilist. This is Not a sign of a potential suicide.
My dear loved ones and acquaintances . I have come to conclude that this existence is no longer worth living .
I have struggled and questioned a lot and is worthless to continue to live. Everything we experience is based on our interpretation . Nothing seems to be objective . We create what is good and what is bad. Nothing that we do and prepare lasts forever.
Everybody does things to obtain some kind of self satisfaction and reward, including helping others with the real purpose of feeling good about themselves. Nothing is done with genuine selflessness. Every act of kindness is done based on self righteousness.
The only reason to make efforts to do good to others is with the hope that the good we do today will impact others in the future with favorable outcomes. But that is not guaranteed .
I have tried to do good. But I have realized that many times ( if not all the times ) I have acted out of selfishness . To relieve some guilt or alleviate a pain. And my mission, whatever it was, is over. I’ve done my part.
We fabricate meaning and purpose based on our own interpretation of reality.
It’s all subjective.
It really does not matter unless you give it importance. It has no meaning unless you give it meaning.
What is really out there except what is interpreted through my mind?
What is in my mind can be changed at any moment. There is nothing concrete and tangible out there.
So when I leave, I leave nothing behind except other people’s interpretations of my temporary existence. Memories .
Those who never met me will not care. Those who know me will eventually forget me.
And life will go on.
So don’t feel sad.
Because one day it will be your turn.
And we may (or may not ) meet again.
We think we are free entities.
We believe we have the freedom to choose what we want. We think we have free will and can make our own decisions.
But, we are wrong .
Think about this.
You believe you are an individual, unique person? In the United States (can’t speak for other countries) we are assigned a number when we are born. It is called the “social security number.”
You think you can independently identify yourself? We are also assigned to have a label, it is called “first and last name.”
You think you have freedom to choose your way of life ? Most families raise their children in a religious or cultural organized system and tell them what to believe. They are also taught how to view the world , and it becomes their reality.
You believe you can do whatever you want without restrictions in this society? In reality, we cannot do most things without the government’s permission.
We are not allowed to drive a car unless we have a government appointed license, which we physically have to carry with us every time we drive.
We cannot get an education unless we are assigned a school or a private certified teacher and a student number.
We obtain a job only if we have a government given identification card and ( you guessed it) a social security card.
We cannot get officially married unless the government gives us a marriage certificate. Or have and adopt children without the government forcing us to appoint them a birth certificate or permission ( and a fee) to adopt.
We cannot buy groceries unless we have a currency or food stamp card fabricated only by the government . Even if you go to a food bank, you have to present a government given identification.
We cannot even travel to other countries unless this government gives us the ok to do so through a passport .
Your fingerprints serve as further evidence that the government knows who you are.
We cannot vote for whoever runs in government without being registered by the government itself to vote.
We cannot fish, hunt, carry a weapon, own a farm , or climb a mountain without some sort of government intervention.
We have to dress up a certain way and refrain from being completely naked in public if we don’t want someone to report us to authorities .
We cannot even be homeless without worrying about a government official telling us where we cannot sleep or obtain food, which are basic needs.
Sounds extreme? I agree , but that’s the way it actually is in today’s society.
In summary , we are not free human beings after all.
We are basically owned by the government .
Once we put a label on something , we’re cursed and destined to suffer its consequences.
As soon as we put a name on something , it automatically becomes a trap. It develops into an entity we feel obligated to defend and protect. Whatever it is, either a person’s name, race, nationality, profession, or the name of an event, a place, or situation.
It automatically owns us . It can consume us. It can dictate our thoughts and behaviors. Whatever it is. It can become a reality , but only in our heads, which we will assume to be true until the end .
But do we have to? Are we truly destined to continue to believe the delusions we create in our heads? Is there an escape to this madness?
Our identities are an illusion. Our family names and traditions are also illusions. Patriotism, professionalism, morality, beauty , social classes, religion… they are all labels we put in our heads to try to make sense of this existence.
Truth. Faith . Right versus wrong. Order. Hierarchies. Freedom. Happiness. Meaning.
Everything can be questioned , as far as they are created in our heads. Everything can be changed and altered in our minds.
What is the purpose of our existence then? Purpose is yet another illusion.
What are we to do then?
The concept of “we” is also an illusion . “We” could mean a group of people , a crowd, a town, a country, human beings. Even different entities within one person. They are illusions .
If we get rid of all these illusions and start from zero, what do we have left?
Are we capable of denying ourselves at this level ?
Why do we fear death ?
Death is the only certain thing that brings up the ultimate uncertainty .
It is the ultimate mystery of this existence .
Death is the only experience we cannot control or prevent .
Maybe that is why we fear it so much… because we cannot control it. And because we don’t understand or know for sure what it will bring afterwards.
We merely comprehend it as the final stage in this limited awareness we call Life.
It seems as if it’s the end of our identity.
And the identity we were told we have from the beginning and we constantly defend during our lives is what is always threatened by the inevitable death.
What and who will we become upon death?
What kind of awareness, if any, will we experience when death arrives?
It is this and other similar questions that make us ponder and fear the only experience we have no choice but to accept.
We can deny it, fight it, ignore it, hope it never comes. But at the end it always wins.
We can choose our careers, our friends , our hobbies , our political and philosophical views . But we cannot chose wether to die or not . It is the end of all experiences.
Or is it?
I am currently going through a difficult time… I was recently informed that my Dad, which I call Papi, may be in his death bed now. He has been living in a nursing home and was not eating well.. His potassium level was elevated . He was rushed to the hospital. Now his kidneys are failing and is dehydrated and the doctors gave him a 15-20% chance of survival .
This is hard . I’ve never had anyone so close to me in the process of dying . It’s incredible the amount of emotional pain this brings. Although I’ve not seen him for many years , it still hurts a lot . I have my moments of calm and serenity , but then there are the other moments of pure sorrow and grief. I think about the few times we spent together and the things I learned from him. It wasn’t much actually , since my parents were separated and then divorced most of my life. But it still causes a great deal of sadness not being able to see him like he once was.
I once wrote a post about grief, which i define as feeling sorry for missing the lost person. And I can admit I feel sad and distraught, not because my Dad is necessarily suffering, but because I miss him. I wish I would have spent more time with him. I wish I would have known him and that my children would have known him more.
So now I’m waiting. Waiting for some news about his recovery or his departure. It is torture is some way. But I feel confident that he will be in a peaceful place now.
Update: I received the dreadful news that Papi passed away… I’m distraught . I have crying spells . Can’t concentrate half of the time. But I’m doing ok. Sometimes I wonder if this is a test. An accident. Or a teaching moment.
I just attended his funeral and burial. It’s hard to see my brothers and mom crying. It is a moment I’m never forgetting. Wish I could’ve spent more time with Papi. I feel I did not get to know him . Life’s circumstances prevented me from seeing him more often. He wasn’t part of most of my life .
Yet I miss him and wish I could have at least say goodbye to him.
Miss you, Papi.
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