At the risk of pissing off some of my fellow Christians, since they may perceive that some of my views are “unChristian” and hence “yoked with the devil”, I will answer your questions. The reasons I am answering are three: 1) Your questions are thought-provoking, and I always like that, 2) I am firm enough in my religious views that I don’t hold your views as a “threat” to mine . . . IOW, my beliefs are not shaky, I have thought about them, and other views (probably all of your arguments) quite a bit, and the considered conclusion I have arrived at is comfortable to me, and 3) I am always interested in other world views, even if I disagree with them. It’s always good to understand opposing opinions . . . otherwise you cannot speak knowledgeably in a discussion of other opinions.
I doubt you’ll present anything I haven’t heard before and already evaluated. But it might be prudent for you to keep in mind that my ultimate conclusion is based on . . . FAITH . . . NOT reason (though the common atheist reply to this is that unproven religious propositions deserve as much disbelief as all other unproven propositions . . . that may apply in mathematics, but I don’t buy it elsewhere), consequently if you find yourself saying “Geezzzz, he sees the logic of my reasoning, then why isn’t he an atheist?”, it’s my FAITH that overrides reasoning when necessary (though I’ve encountered that situation only once . . . you’ll see below, but I’m agreeable to tests of my FAITH . . . I’ve already had some I doubt you can top . . . will explain further on down.)
BTW, I’m a Chemical Engineer, so I’m steeped in science and reason. However, just because I can’t measure it doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t exist. I keep science confined to measurements, religion, OTOH, is largely feelings. Using “feelings” in science would lead to catastrophe. Likewise, confining religion to measurements would lead to catastrophe . . . or maybe atheism.
One qualifier here. If your intention turns out to be to abrasively assault MY beliefs . . . all bets are off and I’ll withdraw from any debate immediately. If your intention is benign, then I don’t mind going through my reasons for believing in God and discussing the issues. IOW, if you’re a “New Atheist”, in the mold of Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor J. Stenger, and like them, believe that “religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises”, I will decline to discuss it any further . . . since a discussion will likely be negative and unproductive. I’ll shut the door in your face, as I do when Jehova’s Witnesses come knocking.
If you want to say you disagree with my views, explain yours and why you hold them . . . fine, I have no problem with that. But if you want to evangelize, I DO have a problem with that. If that is your intent, I’m done. I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve, and I don’t mind atheists who don’t wear their atheism on THEIR sleeves. If you don’t try to convince me your views are superior by belittling and insulting mine, I won’t try to convince you mine are superior by belittling and insulting yours. Cross that line, and we’re done.
Challenge all you want, as long as it’s NOT abrasive, condescending, or otherwise uncivil. If I sense that this is just an attempt at a “gotcha” moment, as tperkins remarked, we’re done. If it remains a good faith effort to challenge and discuss in a civil tone, WITHOUT insulting sarcasm (benign sarcasm for emphasis is fine), then we can continue.
Now, your questions on the topic of “Atheism”:
- What is your definition of Atheism?
Atheism, in a broad sense, is the disbelief that there are any deities, the Christian God included, but other gods are also included, like “Allah” in Islam. However, there are sects of atheism, just like there are in Christianity. Some atheists insist that there is no God, period (“Positive atheism”) . . . some just hold that they don’t believe in one (“Negative atheism”) . . . there IS a difference. Agnostics may be “Negative atheists”, but not “Positive atheists”. So, when someone says they’re an atheist, the first question I ask is “Can you be more specific?” An evaluation of an atheist’s opinions is likely off the mark unless you know exactly and precisely “what kind of atheist” they are. The most that can be assumed safely is that there is a disbelief in deities, but it usually goes much farther than that.
A good example of this is that since some Buddhists don’t have gods, there CAN be such a thing as an “atheistic buddhist”. However, an atheist may not believe in spirituality or transcendental concepts, and therefore in that “sect” there would be no such thing as an “atheistic buddhist”.
And here’s a surprise (~sarcasm~), the country that has the largest percentage of the population atheistic is . . . drum roll . . . FRANCE. The lowest rate of atheism is in the U.S.
There is “implicit atheism”, which is only “the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it”, an example of that being a baby that is unable to register conscious notions of God (though that is arguable), and there is “explicit atheism”, the classic example of which is individuals that hold a conscious disbelief.
“Constructive atheism” holds that humanity is the determinant of morals and ethics . . . IOW, “relative morals”. Marx and Freud held these views.
Consequently, in answer to the question “What is your definition of atheism?”, I would reply “I have none beyond a general category, so you’ll have to tell me what precise definition I should use for YOU.” Interestingly, a lot of atheists have absolutely no idea what “type” they are, and many are confused when they hear my reply.
- Do you believe Atheism is a faith?
In the sense that atheists are convinced their opinion is correct, and all other opinions are NOT, Yes.
- Do you find that you view Atheism with negativity, and if so why?
Not necessarily. It depends on how the atheist defines him/her self. Absent a definition, one can reasonably draw conclusions on a definition by the opinions an atheist expresses.
If it is a “New Atheist”, as I described above and which seems to be more fashionable these days since those individuals I named have recently published best selling books, YES, I view that particular type of atheist negatively . . . much as I would a Jehova’s Witness knocking on my door.
- Why do you believe people leave their religion for atheism?
I’m not aware of any valid numbers on this, but my sense is that it is more in reverse.
However, in answer to the question, I believe that if religious FAITH is not strong enough, one can be vulnerable to an argument from an atheist.
- Do you believe that people are immoral without religion and why do you believe this?
Most atheists, except “Christian Atheists” (and I’ll explain what seems like an oxymoronic phrase in a second), believe in a relative morality based on the ethics of a human community and which can be extremely shaky, among other flaws. Following the herd is not always “moral”. “Situational Ethics” sometimes prevail then.
Explanation: “Christian Atheists” are those that reject a belief in the Christian God, but hold to the morals that Jesus expressed in the Bible.
- What is your view of evolution?
As a recent Pope expressed in an encyclical, the theories of traditional evolution are not in conflict with a Roman Catholic viewpoint (though not a practicing Roman Catholic, my religious views are most similar to those of a Roman Catholic.) My views on evolution are mostly traditional, though admittedly there are some large gaps in that view.
Now for your questions on “Christianity”:
- Do you interpret the bible literally, or metaphorically?
When I was raised (in the 1950’s), the Catholic version of the Bible was the Douay-Rheims version, while the Protestants used their own version, the King James bible. There are plenty of similarities, but also some substantial differences.
Some Christian sects, like Southern Baptists, take their Bible literally. I don’t.
I don’t take the bible stories as anything else than parables with moral meaning, and nothing at all is intended to be literal. And as far as any meaning goes, you have to consider the historical context.
They were only written for a very small portion of human kind (Jewish tribes in the Middle East . . . though some of the moral principles are universal) and in a time when those tribes were either in conflict with other tribes or persecuted themselves. Plus, the Roman yoke was over Palestine at the time of the new testament writings. So there was a lot of military and political turmoil in the area. Some of the stories addressed very local traditions and situations, and some had universal applications. Some don’t apply any more, and some have continued to apply through the ages.
Some of the books transcribed have either been excluded by various sect conclaves throughout the ages or different translations have been sanctioned by various sects, hence we have so many versions these days. Which version you use depends largely on how much you believe “divine inspiration” played a role in the translation of that particular version, and how much credibility you give the particular conclave that came up with that version.
This is one of the reasons I don’t use Bible quotes in my posts.
- Do you believe god is omnipotent?
- Is there a hell, if so, how could people sent to heaven live with the idea that potential family members of friends are stuck there suffering for eternity?
This is a very thought provoking question. My compliments for coming up with it. And here is where I’ll tell the story of the testing of my FAITH, which was also instrumental in my beliefs about hell.
My middle son contracted Salmonella Meningitis when he was six months old. He was stricken permanently blind and deaf then, and had grand mal seizures (he died on his tenth birthday.)
Chrissy’s death was one of the significant events in my analysis. The “Why do bad things happen to good people?” question. There was really no adequate answer for me, so I figured I had two choices: either become an atheist, or chalk it up to a mystery of FAITH that I could never begin to understand anyway, and believe in God. I chose the mystery of FAITH approach and continued to believe in God. The typical atheist answer (that there’s an answer for everything, we just haven’t found it yet) didn’t satisfy me. I firmly believe there are just flat out some things we’ll NEVER find answers to. That’s where FAITH comes in.
Catholics have created a region they call “Limbo” (though this may not be exclusive to Catholics . . . other sects may have a similar construct.) “Limbo” is supposed to be a place where the unbaptized go, and it’s supposed to be pleasant, but individuals there are NOT connected with individuals who are baptized and designated to spend eternity in heaven.
I was baptized, and though I’m not running for saint hood, I expect to be sent to “heaven”. For reasons I will not go into here, Chrissy was NOT baptized. Consequently, according to the beliefs of most Christian sects, I would not be reunited with Chrissy, since we both would be in places exclusive of the other.
I cannot fathom this, nor would I be happy if that were the case. FAITH does not remedy this for me. (I suppose God could extinguish my memory of Chrissy, but that would be a trick I would consider evil.)
Chrissy never hurt a fly. He was an angel, and so were all the kids like him in the homes he was in (he had so many medical problems that my wife and I couldn’t care for him properly.)
So I don’t believe he would be “stuck” in Limbo, though some posit it is only a “temporary” holding area . . . similar to “Purgatory”. That’s all a little too esoteric for me. I believe there is just an “up” or “down”, period. Chrissy would go UP!!!
As far as family members of friends going “down”, well . . . I believe God is just, so if they are sent “down”, they earned it. Sounds harsh perhaps, but I don’t think I’d spend any time agonizing over it.
- If you answered yes to nine, are people who are oblivious to god and sin doomed for damnation?
See above on my views about Chrissy. I think that would answer your question here.
- Why couldn’t god simply forgive us for our sins, rather than sending Jesus down to die for them?
Not sure what you’re getting at here, but as asked I not only don’t have an answer for you, quite frankly it’s not something I would agonize over anyway.
However, I’m sure if some other Christian chooses to answer these questions, you’ll get an answer.
- How do you rationalize the passages which advocate for morally questionable acts, such as murder?
You use the word “rationalize” as if you think it’s necessary for Christians to fit a square peg into a round hole in order to believe. Here I’m wondering if you have “gotcha” motivation, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt at this point.
If you remember, I said that the Bible was written for tribes and times in the ME that were sometimes specific to local traditions and situations and no longer apply in some cases. One more reason why I don’t take passages literally.
I have no idea if you have a desired answer in mind, but if so, I suspect one who takes the Bible literally and one who believes that ALL writings apply to current times may be what you’re looking for.
- Why would god care if you worshiped him or not?
Here, you’re asking Christians to get into the mind of God. I don’t think you’re going to get any answer here from Christians. Atheists, maybe, but Christians, NO.
- Can god destroy all evil if he chooses to, if so, why doesn’t he?
Gods 'speriment with humans also was with giving them free will. He may have rolled the dice, walked away from the gaming table and thought, “Let’s see what they do on their own.” I have no idea what HE thought, because as I said, Christians don’t purport to be able to read God’s mind. That’s only my guess, and it’s in a human frame of reference anyway.
However, I think it’s pretty safe to assume he intended to give humans free will (if not, then the 'speriment went south on Him, and that would make Him no longer God.) So, with that safe assumption in mind, why would He even WANT to “destroy all evil”? Doing that would defeat the whole purpose of giving free will.
- Would you find it arrogant of me to demand you praise me every time I posted and ban you if you did not comply, as I claimed I was a deity with unfathomable powers. If you answered yes explain why this is arrogant.
Coupla’ things here.
First of all, you’re comparing yourself to God, so right out of the gate your question is not valid for Christians. Atheist, maybe. Christians, NO.
Comparing yourself to God IS arrogant to Christians.
But let’s get down to your phrasing: “demand you praise me”. I’m guessing you’re parroting those that believe heaven is nothing but “Kneel before Zod” moments. I don’t believe that. My idea of heaven is to be reunited with my loved ones, Chrissy would be a good example, be physically whole again, or at least be without pain or discomfort, continue to enjoy free will, and enjoy my friends and family forever.
Nevertheless, that is a strictly human interpretation, and I could be wayyyyy off. I don’t believe I am though.
If you’re looking for another “gotcha” moment, I think you’ll have to wait until someone with a “Kneel before Zod” belief responds. You won’t get it from me.