The missing front of my rental car. Photo by Chris Stedman.

The missing front of my rental car. Photo by Chris Stedman.

Earlier this summer, I had a kind of near death experience. But it didn’t involve a bright light or divine presence—instead, it reminded me of how atheism fuels my appreciation for being alive.

I was days away from moving from Massachusetts to Connecticut and had previously agreed to do a couple of speaking engagements that week. I wondered if I would regret committing to them while living out of boxes, but when the day of the first event came, I was grateful for a break from packing.

I picked up my rental car, drove several hours, checked into the hotel, and got ready for the event. When it was time to leave, I pulled out of the hotel’s parking garage, drove one block, and stopped at a red light. The light turned green, a few cars ahead of me went, and then I entered the intersection.

Halfway into the intersection, a car sped through a red light and smashed into my rental car, ripping off the front of the vehicle before hitting another car.

The car was going incredibly fast, but fortunately everyone involved in the accident was okay—just sore and very shaken.

As the crash happened, I experienced many of the clichés people describe after similar incidents. I experienced the sensation of my “life flashing before my eyes”—in hindsight, my life seemed much shorter in that moment—and the accident somehow felt as if it happened both in slow motion and in a blur all at once.

There was, however, one cliché that wasn’t true for me.

Some people like to say that there are “no atheists in foxholes“—that, when confronted with her or his own mortality, even the most ardent atheist suddenly becomes a believer.

But that wasn’t the case; instead of turning my thoughts to ideas of God or divinity, I thought of my loved ones, felt fear and acceptance, hoped that I and the others involved would be okay, and finally, when it was over, felt grateful to be alive.

I also felt gratitude for the many people who stopped to ask if we were okay, and especially for those who waited with us until the police arrived. I had meaningful conversations with a Muslim woman, with a woman who was eight months pregnant, and with a man who was already late for a shift at work but stayed with us anyway.

The conversations reminded me of my first car accident, when I was 16 years old, which was also due to someone else running a red light and smashing into my car. That accident was far worse, leaving my face cut up and my whole body bruised—but the thing that stands out most strongly about it in my mind today is how many people stopped to help. It’s certainly not the only time in my life that I’ve benefited from the kindness of strangers, and incidents like it continue to fuel my conviction that we have to rely on our fellow human beings.

It’s been said that the only guarantee in life is that eventually we all will die (another cliché). As a child, my wonderful mother used to tease me whenever I asked if I could hang out with a friend later that week by saying, “I don’t know—you could die before then.”

While she was just being playful, she instilled in me an appreciation for life and an acceptance of its finitude. Today, knowing that life could end at any moment encourages me to live each moment as fully as I can.

I was still quite shaken, but I ended up making it to the event just before the panel I was speaking on was scheduled to start. While I wasn’t sure I was up for speaking immediately after the accident, I was so glad that I went because I got to spend the evening doing something that brings my finite life so much meaning and joy: Being in conversation with incredibly thoughtful people who hold different beliefs than I do, being challenged and finding surprising areas of agreement, and taking refuge in the process of listening to and sharing stories. It was another reminder of why I am so grateful to be alive, and why, as an atheist, I know that I can’t take life for granted.

Now that a few months have gone by, I am trying to hold on to that gratitude. It’s easier to be grateful for something when we come close to losing it. But being a nontheist challenges me to be as present as possible in each moment, because nothing is guaranteed beyond this moment.

There are atheists in foxholes, and in car accidents, feeling grateful for our one short life.

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66 Comments

  1. Dear Chris
    When I was in my 20’s I was in multiple car crashes. I also crashed my motorcycle 8 times. I had a drug crazed man named “grizzley” point a gun at my head who said he was going to kill me. None of those instances caused me to become a Christian. While all of them were far closer to death than your little fender bender, none of them compare to being in a foxhole for hours on end wondering if you might die, and mentally preparing yourself for that REAL possibility at any moment. Clearly you have never been in the military.

    You say you are “grateful” for life. To whom? Your parents? OK. But in then end, if you are logical, life is utterly meaningless for an atheist. Everything is amoral. There isn’t any good, any evil, any right, any wrong. Everything is utterly meaningless and a snail is no “better” than a fish or a human. I know you have grappled with this before, but until you are really in a foxhole type situation you just don’t really know yet.

    I was not raised in a religious home. When I joined the USMC I was so naive I did not even know what a jew, christian, hindu, muslim, or buddhist was. NO clue. I mean I was dense. I knew way more about Spider-man than Jesus. I was unconcerned about religion. I was in boot camp during the Iranian Hostage crisis of 1979 and the possibility of actually dying was finally grasped. I still did not become a Christian for another 15 years though. If you had caused the accident and someone died then you would have to look at yourself. Near death scrapes of your own life may never cause true reflection. It didn’t for me, and I have had many.

    • Lance,
      I’m not Chris, but I may be able to offer some answers to your questions.

      Regarding being grateful – Yes, my parents. And theirs. And theirs. and so on, going back to include trillions of people, primates, tetrapods, and ultimately stars and supernovae. Yes, the universe as a whole, yes, the chance occurances that allowed my parents to meet and my life to happen. And their parents, and so on. I find that meaningful. If you don’t, that’s OK – but don’t be surprised when people like me don’t find the idea of a super-person somehow gives meaning beyond what meaning is already there.

      Meaningless? Far from it. Every child, every person, every love, every second makes life profoundly meaningful to me. If you don’t find that those things make life meaninful on their own, without adding a flying skydaddy, that’s OK – but don’t be surprised when people like me find the idea of endlessly worshipping a being so petty or impotent as to fail to save everyone as a meaningless (indeed a cruel) idea – even if we thought it were real.

      If you find everything amoral without the threat of punishment, then that’s OK for you. But please don’t think that I’m not moral without the threat of punishment. I’m moral because I’m a moral person, and I know right from wrong – because I want to pay the love of my Ancestors forward to future generations. After all – if I were only moral because I was threatened into being so, then would I actually be moral? I see how and why our morality evolved, and that makes it all the more wonderul.

      Humans are certainly “better” than snails. Human brains, by objective measure, are simply the most complex items known to us in the universe. And, more to the point, allow the meaning described in the first paragraph to happen. We (unlike snails) are a real way for the universe to see, understand, appreciate, and enjoy much of itself.

      You many not see the profound meaning, the deep and invigorating purpose, the compassionate morality, and the powerful love that many of us Atheists feel. You may have a hard time seeing how our worldview delivers all of that. That’s OK. But please understand, that theist (Christian, Muslim, etc.) explanations for morality, meaning, purpose, and motivation so often seem empty, contrived, and ultimately useless to me.

      Regardless of where we get those core feelings, I feel they are an essential part of being human, and I think I’m glad you feel them – if you truly do – even if our ideas supporting them are different.

    • Congradulations Chris. You figgured it out.
      Life is not meaningless. People have for eons done just what you did.
      People create meaning. Just like you did.
      We perceive an event and attribute a meaning to that which we have perceived. That’s how religions were created by people.
      We shared our attributions of meaning with others. That’s how religions were formed, philosophies too.
      You are living proof that we are still doing it – attributing meaning to our perceptions.

  2. Hmmm

    ” when it was over, felt grateful to be alive.”

    Since gratitude is a feeling which is directed towards something or someone, one has to ask, towards whom or what did you feel this gratitude?

    “Viva Cristo Rey!!”
    Camino bound, Sept 2014!
    DHS

    • “Since gratitude is a feeling which is directed towards something or someone […]”

      No, it’s not. It’s just the state of being thankful. It does not require directing the thankfulness at a specific object or entity.

      • Nell,

        Gratitude is a virtue (According to Cicero the greatest of all virtues), “thankfulness” is the expression of the virtue of gratitude. When one exercises the virtue of gratitude one feels thankfulness.

        Virtues are admirable qualities on individuals, what makes one a moral (i.e. good) person. Virtues are “applied”, they do not stand alone (unlike feelings). For example take the virtue of “Justice” In order for someone to be just one needs to be just towards something. In the same way in order for one to be “thankful” about something one needs to exercise the virtue of gratitude towards something or someone.

        Gratitude and thankfulness are tied together, you can not have one without the other, as you yourself demonstrated in your answer when you defined gratitude in terms of “thankfulness”

        NELL>>”No, it’s not. It’s just the state of being thankful”

        “Viva Cristo Rey!!”
        Camino bound, Sept 2014!
        DHS

    • “Since gratitude is a feeling which is directed towards something or someone…”
      Since when is that a requirement for gratitude? I’ve seen this on more than one response. But why can’t you just feel grateful that you’re wherever you are at in that moment, to nothing in particular.
      “I’m happy to be here, right now.” This does not need to be directed anyone or anything – you just feel what you feel. And that’s fine.
      Everything else just sounds like baggage to me.

      • Mike>>Since when is that a requirement for gratitude?

        Definition of gratitude: “readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” By definition gratitude is oriented towards something to which we want to appreciate and show kindness. Like justice and awe, gratitude is not a feeling (Although people use this terminology) but a “readiness to act”, (an act of the will)

        “Viva Cristo Rey!!”
        DHS

  3. Lance – Why do you feel the need to denigrate someone else’s experience to boost your own self worth? He may not have experienced similar or as intense situations as you but it doesn’t mean he didn’t experience some of the same emotions and/or fears. Not being in his head, you are in no position to evaluate how close to death he actually felt.

    And is it supposed to bolster your argument for God’s existence by claiming that atheists lack meaning in their life or that without God there’s no such thing as good or evil? Unlike you, I try to base my beliefs on what is supported by the evidence – not what I want to be true. I’ll never claim to know for certain whether or not any gods exist but, so far, nobody has yet said or shown me anything to indicate their deity may actually be real. Should such evidence surface, I’ll gladly reevaluate my position but until then, I remain in a state of disbelief.

  4. No Lance, it is not “logical” to conclude that not believing in a deity results in utter meaninglessness and amorality. In fact, making that statement is a pretty clear indication that you don’t quite grasp the meanings of the words “logical”, “atheist” or “amoral”.

    What is logical to conclude is that you personally are incapable of figuring out how to have meaning or morality in your life without your personal choice in a deity. Which is fine. I don’t care if you think your life is meaningless without Christ or that the only reason you don’t rape, murder and beat people is because you know Jesus. As long as you act like a decent human being I don’t care what crutch you use.

    What is intolerable is your arrogant navel-gazing assumption that just because you can’t figure out how to be a decent person with God, that means no one else is capable of it either.

  5. Chris-
    Thank you for your reflection. I’m glad you and everyone involved are OK, car accidents are scary. Your blog reminds me of the five remembrances found in the Upajjhatthana Sutta of Theravada Buddhist practice. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upajjhatthana_Sutta) Reflecting on the nature of this life, as you have pointed out, brings us to a greater presence in each moment and an opportunity to meet that moment with kindness and appreciation. And as you have also mentioned, it allows us to focus our energies on what it truly meaningful in our lives. This important lesson that can also allow us to meet tragedy with an open heart, without dissolving into the idea that we have done something wrong or that we are being punished in some way. When we appreciate the vulnerability of life, we no longer move away from anguish and sorry but towards it with an open heart, as your kind strangers did for you.

    Personally I appreciate your willingness to express your opinions with such kindness and openness, even though this means that you expose yourself to the righteous indignation of those whose beliefs are so tightly held that they cannot allow you your own journey. Your brave honesty and authenticity, held without hatred or exclusion, is a wonderful example to those of us who would find a way of peace in a beautiful world of diversity and wonderment. I think that your example of meeting difference with kindness, openness, and dialog is the only way for us to find our way out of the quagmire of opposition, hate, and division that is a plague upon our country and our world.

    After all, we who would live are the ones who have mercy upon our neighbors.

    Much metta,
    Joseph

  6. Chaplain Martin

    Lance stated his understanding of non-belief and Atheism. He also noted his belief in God did not start with a “fox hole” experience. I wonder how Chris interpreted what Lance wrote?

    “There is no doubt how the “non” reacted to Lance: “… without adding a flying skydaddy, that’s OK – but don’t be surprised when people like me find the idea of endlessly worshipping a being so petty or impotent as to fail to save everyone as a meaningless (indeed a cruel) idea – even if we thought it were real.”-JON

    Jon’s answer and other anti-theist are filled with antagonism in uninformed remarks that show ignorance of Christianity. Sure many believers understanding of Christianity are too simple, but the atheist remarks here do not rise to the level of the online quiz: “Do you know as much as an Atheist?”

    Christ Stedman,
    How do these reactions, including my own, further any chance to real dialogue. I have yet to read your book but were can any real chance be found in the comment section in response to your article. Your book: “Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious”, doesn’t seem to apply in this case.
    Glad you survived the accident and scare.

    • Chaplain Martin – It’s a pity Jon’s and other non-believers’ comments here put you in such a defensive posture. His use of the term “sky daddy” might be somewhat antagonistic but please show me where he demonstrates any ignorance of Christianity that’s relevant to the conversation. BTW, which one of the thousands of flavors of Christianity are you describing?

      And while Lance’s comments may not necessarily be antagonistic, they are definitely ignorant and extremely condescending. Civilized dialogue requires civility from both parties along with the desire to listen to what the other side has to say. So far, Chris has upheld his part of the bargain. The problem I’ve seen starts when those who are willfully ignorant of what atheism is and is not jump into the mix and start making broad claims and accusations without anything of substance to back them up. Chris is to be applauded for starting the conversation. It’s now up to the rest of us to actually hear what’s being said.

        • @Laurence Charles Ringo

          Lance is me?
          Nope. Sorry to disappoint, you ringo.

          Can’t you imagine that there could be more than one atheist around here?
          Lance says he was in the service – I never was – and I was never in any car accidents as he says he was.

          Plus, I do not just disbelieve in god – I happen to hate Jesus.
          Lance sounds more accommodating.

          Get used to it. Atheists are everywhere.

  7. Chris, I am sorry to hear that you get in so many car wrecks. It sounds like the powers of darkness are trying to silence your wonderful Interfaith message! I have found that Christ protects me from car accidents. Maybe you should look into reconverting?

      • That is what faith means, my friend. There are different ways of knowing, of which Western science and rationalism is only one. Faith is another way of knowing. You feel it with your heart.

        This is officially recognized by the International Bachelors Institution

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_knowledge_(IB_course)

        and has also been covered by brilliant intellectuals like Karen Armstrong. and Madeline Bunting. Therefore, if I feel that Jesus protects me, I also know it and it is therefore true.

        • ronald – I agree that faith is defined by some as way of knowing but that doesn’t mean it’s necessary reliable when it comes to determining truthfulness of a claim.

          I assume you have faith that Jesus is the Son of God, or at the very least, a divine being. By your definition of faith this belief makes it true. Muslims, on the other hand, have faith that Jesus is not divine which, following the same logic, would also make their claim true. However, since each claim contradicts the other, both cannot be true. One must be false.

          So what process can we use to determine which is actually true and which is not? It apparently can’t be faith since it’s already resulted in at least one conclusion that is not true. What method would you suggest?

        • @Ronald,
          “Faith is another way of knowing. You feel it with your heart.”

          Nonsense. That is the same as Al Queda’s argument for Allah !
          FAITH IS GULLIBILITY AND IGNORANCE.
          Profoundly immoral.

          It is the mark of an adult
          to be responsible and question
          with great skepticism any claim !

          You defend childish nonsense. For shame.

          RELIGION POISON’S EVERYTHING.

    • Chaplain Martin

      Do you really believe that statement? I knew a chaplain who served in Vietnam who would counter that claim. There are probably few actual fox holes today there are few actual lines.

      I was only locked in a prison each day to minister to state prisoners and to staff. Many of the prisoners were convicted killers, others robbers, sex offenders. No matter the crime they considered all staff potential “Ducks” as in soft underbelly. They had plenty of time to find the “soft underbelly” of each free world person they came in contact with. When I took training as a new chaplain together with program staff (i.e. counselors), we were told as well as the security officers were told to take whatever age we thought to which we would live and deduct fifteen years form it. The instructor was not talking about being killed, but was addressing the tension we would live under each day we worked in a state prison. By the way the prison I am referring to had an inmate population of 550 and on some shifts there were less than 20 security officers on duty.

  8. 8-Aug-14 Atheists and/or faitheists seem in the news more frequently in recent months. Maybe many of them would be surprised to know that Catholics agree with most of them (I taught Catholic theology at college level). We Catholics do not — could not — believe in the existence of any god like those that atheists seem to deny — at least those I know of. But I certainly don’t know how they all define “god.” Maybe others, besides me, would be interested to hear their definitions.

    • Hi Bill – From whom exactly are you requesting a definition of “god”? If you’re asking atheists, it would seem our definitions are irrelevant. We are not proposing or defining a god then saying he doesn’t exist. We are simply responding to the definitions provided by theists and their holy books. And lately, it is becoming increasingly evident that even theists’ often lack a meaningful definition making any examination of their claim next to, if not completely, impossible.

      • Romans 1:18-25 and Bible prophecy accuracy show God is real. We
        have creation which shows there is a creator and the Bible prophecy
        showing Jesus is the Messiah/the only way to heaven…Period! When
        you look at creation and say that is just by chance it takes more faith
        to believe in that than to believe in God. The Case for Christ is a good
        book to read…it’s written by Lee Strobel. The reason many people don’t
        want to believe in God is because they don’t want to be told how to live.

        • Period? So we should just accept what the Bible says without any critical examination whatsoever? What about the Koran? With no more evidence than you have, Muslims would make the same circular claim – have faith that their book is true because it says it’s true. Since you can’t both be right (but you could both be wrong) what can I use to determine whose claim, if any, is actually true? Faith obviously doesn’t work since it’s already resulted in at least one incorrect conclusion so what approach would you suggest I take?

          And, by the way, to point to “creation” and declare “God!” because you can’t think of any other way we could have gotten here is nothing more than an argument from ignorance. You’re basically saying “I don’t know how this could have gotten here because it’s all so complicated so I’m going to propose something even more complicated – God”. How is this an explanation for anything?

          • Read Romans 1:18-25 and Psalm 22/other Bible prophecy that
            came true with 100% accuracy/detail. The Bible prophecy that
            came true is why you can trust Jesus/the Bible. Read the book
            the Case for Christ by Lee Strobel as well. Evolution is impossible
            because it says from nothing the world was formed which can’t
            be true because there had to be material for the world to come
            into existence so where did that material come from? The Bible
            says in Romans 1:18-25 that material came from God and He
            created the world. People always try to undermine the Bible and
            the prophecy accuracy so they can deny Christ but the prophecy
            accuracy proves that Jesus is the Messiah/only way to heaven!

          • I’ve read some of Lee Strobel’s work and listened to him talk and find his arguments very weak. He simply erects strawmen of the opposing position and knocks them over – an easy thing to when the strawman barely even resembles the argument being made from the other side. Not very convincing. And it’s clear you know very little, if anything, about evolution because nothing in the theory makes the first claim about how the Earth was formed. Another ill-conceived strawman.

            Unfortunately, since you only seem interested in proselytizing instead of having an actual discussion, I’ll have to depart here. If you change your mind and actually want to respond to the questions in my previous post instead of preach, I’ll be happy to re-engage.

            Until then, keep in mind it’s okay to say you don’t know or might be wrong about something. It’s the only real way of acquiring knowledge. Have a nice day.

      • Thanks, Tim, for your reply. To get to your point quickly: I was asking any atheist or faitheist to define “god” as he/she understands the term. I was asking, in simple terms, what are you talking about? If someone were to say “I’m an anti-shreptologist. I do not believe in the existence of shrepts.” Would we not want to know the speaker’s definition of “shrept”? I accept what you say: “we are.. responding to the definitions provided by theists.” OK. But I ask, What do you think those definitions are?
        Give me at least one. You say, “Our definitions are irrelevant.” On the contrary, they are absolutely necessary. A person who understands what he himself is talking about must be able to provide a definition, however imperfect, of the most important word he uses.
        Thus, by definition an “atheist” is one who denies the existence of any god. Therefore, one who claims to be atheist cannot engage in meaningful conversation if he/she is unable or unwilling to define the primary term in the very definition of what he/she is, an god-denier.
        So, again. I’m asking: Can you give me one? That is, one definition of “god” which you think is the meaning of the word for some theists?
        I taught Philosophy of Religion and know definitions used in various religions, which you may not know. But, to simplify, choose a definition of god which you think underlies the beliefs of Christians. and which you think has no objective referent.
        P.S. My inquiry is sincere and would truly appreciate your answer.

        • Bill – Thank you for your response. First, let me clarify that as an atheist, in denying god as you put it, I’m not making a positive claim that I believe god does not exist. If I was, then I agree I would need to define what I mean by god as well as evidence to support my claim. For me, denial reflects my disbelief in any of the gods that have been proposed to me by theists – as they define them. And saying that I don’t believe in any of these gods is not the same as saying I believe they don’t exist. It’s the theist making the positive claim and who is responsible for providing the definition. It’s in this sense I was saying that my definition is irrelevant. Without the theistic claim and the definition that must come with it, there’s nothing to discuss.

          To answer your question about what I think those definitions are, I’ve been offered many and they vary widely. Some are very specific – as in Yahweh, Thor, or Vishnu – while others can be frustratingly vague – “god is love”. At least in my case, I might say “I don’t believe in God” and really mean “I don’t believe in the existence of any gods” without any particular definition in mind. The problem I see with your original question is that there is no single definition of the term being discussed by atheists – individually or collectively. The definition of the god being discussed depends on who we’re talking to.

          Lastly, I’m positive there are many definitions of gods with which I’m not familiar but I also don’t feel compelled to seek all of them out. Not that I’m not curious but there isn’t enough time in three lifetimes to understand them all and my time is better spent on more human endeavors. Hopefully, this helps clarify my position and answers your questions.

        • @Bill Steo,

          This is my rough definition of the “God” I do not believe in:

          God – A supreme creator and controller of nature; personally responsive to humans as a special species, who takes sides between good and evil. Humans exist for Him and He exists for us.

          This is my definition of what I think God really is:

          God
          A delusional phenomenon created by our evolved biology to fills gaps of ignorance with a sense of certainty to bring us a feeling of safety and comfort. It originates from the infant’s need to find a parent – it is provided by millions of years of evolution. This is an incredibly strong neurological trait found in all infant mammals – including humans.
          Because the drive for a parent is biologically programmed, all cultures have built complex institutions of rituals and myths to address the phenomenon.
          Religion then, nurtures the infantile impulse and destroys any chance of it dying off as other infant traits do; the baby teeth, baby skin and baby hair, etc.
          Humans have mistaken this very REAL drive for the myths which then become transposed and feel as real as a parent figure!
          Humans then defend these religious myths with absolute fervor yet it is nothing more than the infant demanding its parent.

          “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. – JESUS (Matthew 18:3)

          .
          Religions are blunders. They are early attempts to understand.
          These philosophies were manmade – and were meant to try to explain this natural (and now neurologically confirmed) longing for a parent.

          You can see this absolutist drive on the Christian preachers
          and on the faces of the religious terrorists too.

          It is not AT ALL meant to be insulting
          to say it….humans must ‘grow up’. :-)

    • @Bill Steo,

      YOU said,
      “We Catholics do not … believe in the existence
      of any god like those that atheists seem
      to deny — at least those I know of.
      But I certainly don’t know how they all define “god.” ‘

      #1. ATHEISM is only about belief – as in, ‘I do not believe in god’.
      It is a response to the claim that God exists.
      I’m not claiming anything. I’m not claiming God is impossible.

      #2. GOD may exist but I have not found any definition or demonstration of any God which sounds believable. I’m always happy to consider whatever any believer wants to propose.

      #3. CATHOLICS CLAIM Jesus is God, born of Virgin Mary, He is perfect love, He answers prayers, He can condemn people to Hell or Heaven as he stands in JUDGEMENT and is thus all-knowing.
      The claims continue; Jesus rose from the dead which among other things validated all of his claims.
      Jesus was God (Yahweh) incarnate on earth who sits at the right hand of the Father who along with the Holy Spirit comprises the Trinity.
      He is the King of all things seen and unseen.
      Angels and Saints are Heavenly hosts which supervise the spirit world in some divine capacity.
      Jesus sacrificed his life on a cross for all of humanity, that they might be saved from Hell.
      Since there is little or no evidence for any of this the entire system and theory rests on FAITH. One must have faith for all of this to function.
      The general idea of Christianity is that God so loved the world he became human to help us and guide us through the miseries of life. Love God as He loved us and all blessings flow.

      Sound about right?

      Okay?

      Here’s your problem. Jesus is a spectacular jerk.
      I know ex-roomates who were nicer. I can’t believe he was really a god
      and at least half of the story is clearly man-made legends.

      A few passages indicate that Jesus (or some such moral preacher)
      probably existed.

      But the theory of
      a human blood sacrifice,
      Yahweh’s murderous validity,
      absurdity of ‘eternal life’ for finite decisions,
      preposterous claims of zombies, etc.
      Only proves that primitive people did not know much about themselves or how the world worked. It is not only full of ignorance it is barbaric.

      “I am so constrained” … “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on Earth? No, I tell you, but division.” – Jesus (Luke 12:49-51)

      This is despicable, inflammatory nonsense.
      It is clear this is very unlikely to be a god talking!

      • Max,

        “Sound about right?”

        Almost.

        “Since there is little or no evidence for any of this the entire system”

        Actually this is a common canard among atheist, which they use to easily dismiss the billions of people who had have deeply and transforming personal experiences throughout the 3500 years since God decided to reveal Himself in a more personal way than just by the use of human reason. Just because He has not revealed to you in a convincing way, it does not mean he has not revealed to me or to uncountable others. True discourse starts by acknowledging and respecting these experiences.

        “the entire system and theory rests on FAITH. One must have faith for all of this to function.”

        The entire system HAS to rest in faith, since God’s revelation has to be accepted or rejected, like I imply above. After all God’s nature is unlike anything we humans have experienced. It is at the moment of this experience in which we have to make a free will decision. The believer to believe the non-believer to to continue not believing.

        The rest of your post is just… well.. you been you.

        “Viva Cristo Rey!!”
        DHS

        • Deacon – You’ve acknowledged your entire system of religious beliefs is based on faith so now please explain how faith can be considered a reliable method of determining the truth. That billions of people have been moved by faith says nothing about its effectiveness. It’s a logical fallacy – argumentum ad populum – similar to saying millions of people smoke so it must be safe. All you’ve demonstrated is the belief exists.

          Going back to the question of the reliability of faith, I’ve asked a similar question in these comments twice before and still have yet to receive a response that actually attempts to answer it. If two people hold mutually contradictory beliefs (i.e. one of them must be incorrect) and they arrived at this belief through faith alone, how do we determine which is true if not by using evidence and human reason?

          • Tim,

            >>”You’ve acknowledged your entire system of religious beliefs is based on faith so now please explain how faith can be considered a reliable method of determining the truth.”

            This is a straw man. Please look at my answer to Max. I’m speaking about human experience. Billions of people throughout history have had supranatural (i.e transcending the natural) experiences which atheism dismiss, because they “do not conform to the rules of nature” (Which is an oxymoron since they by definition are beyond natural laws). And before you go down the “fairy tale” or “mental illness” lane, I’m not speaking about encounters with gnomes and mermaids, but about an encounter with the divine, which has caused a deep impression on the experiencer, which is not only limited to the Christian ethos but which has happened to individuals through out the ages who had seek “Truth” in humbleness, and without a shred of cynicism.

            >> If two people hold mutually contradictory beliefs (i.e. one of them must be incorrect) and they arrived at this belief through faith alone, how do we determine which is true if not by using evidence and human reason?

            Beliefs (or non belief) are a byproduct of religious experiences. They are an tempt to contextualize the experience within the reality of the “experiencer”. Two people can have the same experience and derivative different, even contradictory beliefs.

            Let me give you an example. Take Max diatribes about the Jesus of the Gospels, for Max this dude is “a jerk”, for others this individual is a real living presence which they encounter every time they read the same text Max reads. As a Catholic clergyman I don’t get stuck with the thought “Max is wrong”, I try to go beyond this; there is something in his reality which makes him believe what he believes. That is what we should concentrate an not “who is right and who is wrong”. If atheists tried to do the same, they would get a better understanding of religious people and religion. The problem I see again and again with atheistic epistemology is that it gets stuck in how the experience is contextualized (belief) without trying to understand the experiencer and reach back to the experience itself.

            “Viva Cristo Rey!!”

          • Deacon – It appears you misunderstand the definition of a strawman as I am not making an argument, just asking for an explanation. In response, you simply threw out a bunch of additional claims that do nothing to address the question being asked.

            A claim is either true or false, would you agree? When two people arrive at contradictory or mutually exclusive beliefs about the same claim, then at least one of them must be false, correct? (If not, then we must not be using the same definition of the word “contradictory”.) Given that I want my beliefs to align as closely as possible with what is true, then it does become about “who is right and who is wrong”; if a belief I hold is not actually true, I want to know and would hope that the same is true with you as well.

            If you acknowledge that it’s better to hold more true beliefs than false ones, then you should be also be concerned with the method one uses to arrive at their beliefs. So again I ask – what process can we use to determine the truth about any claim if it turns out we can’t rely on faith?

          • Tim,

            Strawman:a sham argument set up to be defeated.

            You said:”You’ve acknowledged YOUR entire system of religious beliefs is based on faith” This seems to me as an argument, specially since I was talking to Max originally and you added an unsolicited contribution (Please don’t take this last statement as a sly, I’m just stating fact)

            I never claimed that my OWN, entire system of belief is exclusively based on faith. For some people it is, for me it is not. I’ve had many personal experiences which have given me certainty of some of what I’m to suppose to believe by faith.

            For the objective believer, which is what Max was referring, it is assumed that only faith serves as a basis of believe, but that does not precludes the subjective case of the many believers whose personal experiences give them certainty in some areas of their belief system.

            Perhaps your intend was to use “your” as in “the belief system of your religion” and I assumed you were speaking about my personal belief system directly (After all you where speaking to me directly),

            But enough about that, lets take a look at what the Catholic Church teaches as an answer to your question.

            >>”When two people arrive at contradictory or mutually exclusive beliefs about the same claim, then at least one of them must be false, correct?”

            Agreed, but lets go farther, let use an example. Lets take child sacrifice. Some religions in history have used this practice as a way to worship their idea of the divine. There was a time in which different people held contradictory views about this.

            Thankfully, with time this practice has stopped. Obviously with time one view overtook the other. what changed? The Catholic Church gives what, to me, based on my experience, is a very good answer: There is something innate in the human creature which “knows” that killing children under any circumstance is wrong. We call that “Natural Law”, which is written in the human heart and “occurs” on us because of our faculties for reason. It guides us towards that which is true, without we noticing. And the more we aplly reason the more we conform to this law, and hence arrive to what is true. To quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

            1955 The “divine and natural” law shows man the way to follow so as to practice the good and attain his end. The natural law states the first and essential precepts which govern the moral life. It hinges upon the desire for God and submission to him, who is the source and judge of all that is good, as well as upon the sense that the other is one’s equal.

            1956 The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties:

            1957 Application of the natural law varies greatly; it can demand reflection that takes account of various conditions of life according to places, times, and circumstances. Nevertheless, in the diversity of cultures, the natural law remains as a rule that binds men among themselves and imposes on them, beyond the inevitable differences, common principles.

            1960 The precepts of natural law are not perceived by everyone clearly and immediately. In the present situation sinful man needs grace and revelation so moral and religious truths may be known “by everyone with facility, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error.” The natural law provides revealed law and grace with a foundation prepared by God and in accordance with the work of the Spirit.

            I hope this answers your question.

            “Viva Cristo Rey!!”
            DHS

        • @Deacon Santiago,

          ” this is a common canard among atheists, which they use to easily dismiss the billions of people who had have deeply and transforming personal experiences throughout the 3500 years since God decided to reveal Himself…”

          It is not a ‘canard’.
          It is SCIENCE.

          Look:

          “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – JESUS (Matthew 18:3)

          Reasons:

          1. This has already been explained by science. We are born with A DRIVE to find our parents. It is stronger than the sex drive and the need for food.

          2. The drive to find parents is VITAL because babies would DIE without it. If we do not find our mother and father we literally DIE.

          3. The human baby is born with baby hair which we lose, baby teeth which we lose and A BABY DRIVE which we WOULD LOSE except that in many cultures this is transformed into religion.

          4. Evolution provides all of these baby traits.

          .
          Religion is a construction which keeps this infantile drive alive within us.
          It nurtures it and attempts to explain it. But it is built on ignorance – through no fault of their own, primitive people felt the drive and could not explain it.

          We know better now.
          The drive to find a god is just the drive to find a parent.
          Even after you find your real mother and father
          Your drive will not go away if you have been instructed to direct it elsewhere.

          Religion is the oldest institution in civilization.
          It has figured out how to use this biological drive without even understanding why it exists.

          But now we know better.

          • @Deacon Harbey Santiago,

            You have opened up a huge can of worms:

            “There is something innate in the human creature which “knows” that killing children under any circumstance is wrong. We call that “Natural Law””

            And why then, is killing children so central to God?
            Why is God against Natural Law? Is God completely wrong?

            Why did Yahweh require the killing of his own child – literally the spilling of his ‘innocent’ blood – as a sacrifice to save humanity?

            It is expressly through the killing of his child, that human sacrifice,
            that God accomplishes his objective – nothing else could work !

            Meanwhile…

            There is no shortage of God’s joy
            from the killing of innocent children:

            GOD COMMANDS DEATH TO INNOCENT CHILDREN
            “Anyone who is captured will be run through with a sword. Their little children will be dashed to death right before their eyes.” – (Isaiah 13:15)

            GOD COMMANDS ABORTIONS
            “Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer… Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts…they shall bear no fruit: yea though they bring forth, YET WILL I SLAY even the beloved fruit of their womb.” (Hosea 9:11-16)

            GOD COMMANDS DEATH TO CHILDREN. JESUS AGREES, AGAIN.
            Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? …. ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’(Matthew 15:3).

            GOD SAYS, MAKE SLAVES OF THE CHILDREN. CLAIM THEM AS YOUR PERMANENT PROPERTY.
            “You shall purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you…also the children..You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this…” (Leviticus 25:44-46)

            KILL YOUR DAUGHTER – SHE IS A HUMAN SACRIFICE
            ‘Alas, my daughter! …you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.’” (Judges 11:30-1, 34-5)

            GOD – KILL YOUR BOY FOR ME
            ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering to me on one of the mountains that I shall show you.’ (Genesis 22:2)

          • Max,

            >>And why then, is killing children so central to God?
            >>Why is God against Natural Law? Is God completely wrong?

            Have you ever wandered why after two thousand years of study and reflection by people who were considered among the most brilliant minds ever produced by Western Civilization, your interpretation of biblical texts is not mainstream among past and present biblical scholars? Even those who are not believers?

            Something to ponder.

            “Viva Cristo Rey!!”
            DHS

          • @Deacon Harbey Santiago,

            “ever wondered why …your interpretation of biblical texts is not mainstream.”

            Augustine, Aquinas and other great thinkers did not have the information we have today. They had NO idea how little the knew.

            Today every Christian rejects the Old Testament
            like a hot potato.
            Thanks to the internet, we know the New Testament is even worse!

            Jesus is a monster.
            “bring to me those enemies of mine…execute them” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)

            There is no healthy way to interpret this nonsense.

          • @Deacon Harbey Santiago,

            God killed his child for your personal benefit.
            That is the mainstream understanding of Christianity.
            Are you denying this?

            Put aside the immorality of having someone tortured
            for your benefit – Why are you deferring to supposed authorities?
            Can’t you think about this by yourself, for yourself?

      • Chaplain Martin

        Bro. Max
        I agree with Bill as far as I understand his comments. Mainly I agree that I would hate the “god” that you describe.
        In the many comments in which I responded to your views, I have not been kidding when I refer to you as Brother Max (well, maybe at first). In my view your are my brother. Maybe not in Christ in the usually way it’s used but in our very pilgrimage in this world.
        I am struck by your 45 years as a Christian. To belong to a religion that long and end up feeling/or being betrayed has got to hurt.

        I came to faith by way of freewill, not through church dogma. I wrote to you these words from a old Hymn before: “I know whom I have believed in and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day.” I don’t expect anyone else to believe exactly like me. I didn’t have to accept church dogma or theology to believe. My faith experience came with a simple personal belief in God. Its made the difference in my life. Sure I’ve had pain and suffering, disappointments and even an attempted murder, but so it is life.

        I imagine that there are many atheist (including my grandson) who live life without the anger and attacking attitude found in these comments.

        • @Brother Chaplain Martin,

          Yes.
          You will find that I will be glad to pick up where we last left off.
          Like me, You are a humanitarian. You care about people.
          I would argue that you don’t need any god to do that.

          In fact, you do the same thing I used to do… you force-fit God into a humanist shape (which he isn’t, according to the Bible).

          Yes, I was a Catholic for 44 years. I started to lapse…. and then Atheism (complete disbelief) hit me suddenly.
          I still carry my grandmother’s Rosary when I go on trips. She gave it to me thinking I would pray with it all the time. And I did.
          She and I were close so many years ago.
          I regret now that she worried so much about her ‘sins’. She lost sleep over her doubts sometimes.

          But make no mistake. I see no intercession by any gods.
          If God answers prayers his answer is INDISTINGUISHABLE from not answering them.
          If God helps one side win in a war, I’d like to know why the bad guys win so often.
          If God can save beautiful children from pain, I’d like to know why he doesn’t.

          It took me some time to realize how infuriated I was.

          And what sense does it make to pray anyway?
          The Priest says God already knows how things will go – It is His will.
          Well it isn’t too faithful to ask for more life, if the afterlife awaits!

          SINCE YOU BROUGHT UP FREE WILL.

          Elvis still lives. Did you hear? He is risen!
          How do I know?
          Because he is completely invisible which means he gave me free will to deny his presence!
          That is how I know Elvis is still alive!

          I hope you see how illogical that is.

          Second, it can’t be free will if it is ‘given to me.’
          Nor if I must accept it only a certain way as in..
          “Accept Jesus or else!”
          That is called a shakedown worthy of the Godfather.

          Chaplain…Hell cannot be real. It is impossible.
          And since Hell cannot be real, a Savior is ridiculous. Especially one so flawed and bloody as the Jesus of the Bible.

          Does God exist? I doubt it. But he can’t be any of the gods
          which have been claimed so far.

          And life without God is very, very good indeed.

          • Chaplain Martin

            Bro. Max
            Thank you for your kind response. We do not agree on matters concerning concepts of God. It complicates matters that you come from a long Catholic background and I from a protestant background (since age 18tn). To me exercising free will is that I made my decision to accept Christ as my Savior as a teen. I believe that the Holy Spirit drew me but I was not aware of it at the time.
            God bless, and keep enjoying your life.

        • @Brother Chaplain Martin,

          “I imagine that there are many atheist (including my grandson) who live life without the anger and attacking attitude found in these comments”

          Today ISIS beheaded people because they are not Muslim.
          Last month children were killed in Africa by Christians because they believed the children were witches.
          Jews claim land for themselves because it is ‘god given’.

          How much hell must religion create before people
          stop apologizing for these gods?

          Isn’t it infuriating to you?

          “Execute them” – Jesus (luke 19:27)
          “Slay them” – Allah (Surah, Q’uran)
          “Kill them” – Yahweh (Leviticus)

          If you cannot take these words LITERALLY
          What does that tell you about the value of the LITERATURE in question?

        • Bro Martin,

          “I know whom I have believed in and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day.”

          I am adopting this for myself. But instead of ‘god affirming’ I’m going to let it be ‘self-affirming’.
          Though I am no god, I am certainly fully capable of being fully human!

          Cheers!

  9. Thanks for your feedback and you have a nice day as well. The muslims say
    Jesus was just a prophet but no true prophet can be revered if they are a
    liar so if Jesus wasn’t the Son of God He was a liar and can’t be revered or a
    true prophet so one has to be right and one has to be wrong. The Bible is
    clear that Jesus is the Son of God/the Messiah not just a prophet so the God
    of the Bible is right and who died for our sins? It was Jesus Christ! God bless.

    • @Karla,

      You keep forgetting that the accounts of Jesus were written by people who were trying to figure out who Jesus was!
      Some people claimed he was god and others did not.

      It cannot be known what Jesus said about himself.
      If he indeed called himself God it is unlikely – and if you look at the history of Christianity you will discover there is nothing divine about it.

  10. @Karla,

    “if Jesus wasn’t the Son of God He was a liar”

    That is not good logic. There are other options.

    Jesus always said he was separate from God in Mark; the first Gospel written 30 years after Jesus died. Luke was written 40 years after Jesus and Matthew perhaps as late as 60 years after Jesus died.

    Only in the book of John, which was written 80 years after Jesus died, does Jesus claim to be God. This means there was plenty of time for people to influence what was finally written about Jesus.

    It is impossible to figure out what Jesus really said about himself. There are too many conflicting accounts in the Gospels. The idea that Jesus became a blood sacrifice to himself is one of the craziest ideas ever invented by humans.

  11. Deacon – My statement that your system of beliefs relied on faith was my attempt at interpreting what you said – much different than a strawman argument. I was speaking about your system of belief and assuming, based on your previous statements, that when you said “the entire system has to rest on faith” you were referring to your own faith. If my assumption was incorrect, please let me know.

    And no, quoting Catholic doctrine (that simply provides new assertions and no actual evidence) does not answer my questions – pretty simple ones I might add. The questions I’ve asked are summarized below. All they really require are yes/no responses.

    – Do you agree a claim is either true or false?

    – If two people make claims that contradict each other, doesn’t at least one of them have to be false?

    – If two people use the same process to arrive at contradictory beliefs, shouldn’t we conclude there’s something wrong with the process?

    If you’re unable or unwilling to answer these questions, there’s really no point in continuing the conversation in which case I’ll simply wish you a good day and move on.

    • Tim- I told you yesterday that Bible prophecy is why we can trust the Bible
      and Jesus. Bible prophecy accuracy is what sets the Bible/Christianity apart
      from every other belief system/religion. Without the Bible prophecy coming
      true with 100% accuracy/detail Christians would have no solid ground to stand
      on and Christianity would be no different from any other religion/belief system
      so the answer when you have two different beliefs on who God is you trust
      the God that predicted His death/burial and resurrection. Only one God went
      to the Cross and that is the God of the Bible. Read Romans 1:18-25 and
      read Bible prophecy like Psalm 22 that came true so once again someone
      is right and someone is wrong and you trust the one who predicts the future
      and went to the Cross/died for our sins and that is Jesus/the God of the Bible!

    • Tim,

      >>”Quoting Catholic doctrine (that simply provides new assertions and no actual evidence) does not answer my questions ”

      The concept of Natural Law is not “Catholic Doctrine”. The first proponents of this concept were Plato and Aristotle (circa 300 BC). It wasn’t until Thomas Aquinas (circa 1250 AD) applied it to Christian though that they were given a Christian interpretation. Perhaps a study of these two Greek philosophers will benefit you in finding an answer to your question, since you dismiss the Catholic Interpretation as just “doctrine”.

      >>- If two people use the same process to arrive at contradictory beliefs, shouldn’t we conclude there’s something wrong with the process?

      Not necessarily, if a process requires trial and error there might be cases in which two people find themselves in opposite sides of the discussion. Again to quote the CCC “The precepts of natural law are not perceived by everyone clearly and immediately”. But like I showed with my children’s sacrifice example, eventually the light of reason shines on what is truth. This is not an accident but part of the divine design.

      One last observation, quickly dismissing something as “doctrine” without second thought might deprive you of the answers you are seeking.

      “Viva Cristo Rey!!”
      DHS

      • Deacon – You continue to mischaracterize my posts in your responses. Previously, you quoted the Catholic catechisms – which I (mistakenly?) labeled doctrine – and all I did was say they did not address the question at hand. I was not being dismissive. When in a dialogue, it’s helpful to address the questions raised before moving forward. Otherwise, just becomes two people talking past each other. Since you don’t appear to be the slightest bit interested in having an actual discussion, there is no point in continuing. Have a great day.

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