Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Emotional Attachments to the Church

As I said in an earlier post, I collected several video clips from the Atheist Experience to share with my religious friend so that we could watch and discuss them together, and hopefully come to a better understanding of one another. Unfortunately we never got around to watching a single clip because our conversation ended before we could get around to it. I put a lot of effort into compiling this arrangement of clips and it would be a waste not to share them, so for my next several posts I will share these clips one at a time and comment on them.

This first video is on emotional attachments to the church.

The atheist caller in this video was raised by a very religious Christian family and he discusses how emotionally upset his mother becomes when she is unable to "win her son back for Christ". She believes that he is going to go to hell and it hurts her emotionally. The caller mentions the single "unforgivable sin" mentioned in the bible, which is denial of the holy spirit. I've read this in the bible myself. It is found in Matthew 12:31-32 (and repeated in Mark 3:29 and Luke 12:10), and these are the words spoken there by Jesus Christ himself.
And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
For those who are lacking in understanding of Christian beliefs, "Son of Man" refers to Jesus himself. I still don't understand why its okay to speak against Jesus but not okay to speak against the holy spirit. The "holy trinity" in Christianity is the father (God), the son (Jesus), and the holy spirit. Somehow all three of these entities actually are God, but I guess they are different manifestations of Him? I don't know. It doesn't make much sense to me so consult a preacher.

Back to the subject. Matt and Don (the show hosts) make a good point about how religious persons are so emotionally attached to their beliefs that many times trying to approach a logical argument with these people just goes over their heads. I have sometimes felt the same way when talking to my own friend. When I present a logical argument that she does not want to have (say, about why she believes God is not immoral) she usually will fail to give me a response to my question or try to change the subject. But I always try to make sure to thank and praise her when she does give me a legitimate and logical answer to a question I have. Those are the kinds of responses that I need in order to understand. I am a logical person and a rational thinker, its just how I work. Providing some emotional plee such as "but Jesus died for your sins!" doesn't move me an inch (my friend never said this to me, but others have).

First of all, I'm still not convinced that Jesus ever existed. I would need historical documents outside of the bible that would lead me to believe that he did, and I am planning to do that research myself in the near future (I already have a list of sources to investigate). Second, even if I conclude he exists, I'm not convinced that he is a manifestation of God (assuming here that God does exist, although I obviously don't believe that claim to be true). Jesus Christ performed miracles such as creating matter from nothing, instantly healing the sick by touching them, etc. Furthermore every time he performs some miracle, the bible specifically states that word of his deed spreads throughout the countryside. So why are there no writings external to the bible about these miracles? There were historians during those days, so why didn't anyone ever catch word and investigate and write down what they found? Third, I reject the Christian principal that I (nor any other human) was born into this world guilty. I find it ridiculous that I am guilty for the "sins" of my father and my mother, their parents, and so on back as far as humanity goes. Newborns are innocent, and I welcome any debate where someone would like to argue otherwise. And finally, many other people have died for me in the past. Brave men and women gave their lives to protect the freedoms that I now cherish. Brave men and women struggled in the civil rights movement so that I and others could all have the same liberties and privileges. If I'm going to honor the dead who have died for me, then I would rather honor these people. After all, when Jesus died he got to be resurrected before going up to heaven and ruling the universe. Those normal humans gave their only shot at life for me and for all future generations, and though many of them may be in heaven now too, many of them are also now in hell. At least, assuming that heaven and hell do exist.

Matt then talks about his own family (who are religious) and how they have mutually agreed not to discuss this anymore because its non-productive. My own friend stopped talking to me about this even though I want to continue discussing it, so we've sort of come to the same conclusion at this point even though it was not a mutual decision. But it is different because Matt and the caller's family are trying to convert them back to their religion, where as my friend never did that. I merely wanted to understand why she believed what she did, and at some point she wanted me to understand as well, although I don't know whether or not she still feels this way. Family is not something you can just cut away due to religious differences, but friends are. And although I do not want to end our friendship over this, I know that it is a very real possibility.

This video, along with some other stories I've heard in my studies, have made me very grateful that I was not raised in a religious family nor pressured to believe or disbelieve in any thing. Were that the case, both I and my family would be going through the same pains I imagine.

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