Easter and the Second-Coming: Do you believe?

I’m frustrated with Easter today. Every Easter we hear about this wonderful thing that happened at the Cross, about the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of Jesus. And every Easter there’s a group of people at church I’ve never seen before, and likely will not see again. And then tomorrow we will all go back to our regular lives, while the bunnies and hidden eggs, the pretty dresses and unscuffed shoes fade in our memories.

Isn’t this what happened, when Jesus said He would return? They believed Him, you know. The New Testament writers thought that He really meant it, that Jesus would come back for them in that one final victory. But time went on, and regular life took over. The prophecy faded, and now to modern ears sounds as believable as the Easter bunny.

As I read the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments urge us to yearn for that day when our faith shall become sight. The final victory. Easter isn’t the end of the story, it’s not the whole picture! An important part, to be sure. Without the resurrection, what Jesus did wouldn’t matter one bit. But it seems to me that the rest of the story hinges on His return. Do you believe He’s coming back?

40 thoughts on “Easter and the Second-Coming: Do you believe?

  1. I have to admit. One one the sad bits about being an atheist is the lack being able to stand on certain traditions. Without all the trappings, easter feels just like any other weekend I have to work. On the plus side, I didn’t spend hours agonizing in tearful prayer begging God to help me remember the importance of his resurrection as deeply throughout the rest of the year as I did on easter. Bittersweet, I guess.

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  2. “Do you believe He’s coming back?”

    Simply answer: No.

    If the person of Jesus ever did exist…he was just a man. No magic powers or anything of the like.

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  3. Matthew, thanks for stopping by. If Jesus was just a man, I have no interest in “following” Him. If He doesn’t have any power (over sin, death, evil, etc.) then what’s the point? I would have better luck studying Nietzsche or Dawkins.

    Of course, I don’t believe Jesus was just a man. I can’t visit his grave. Where’s the body?

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  4. Thanks for having me. 🙂

    “Where’s the body?”

    Can’t seem to find any of those dead guys that were walking around. Pretty crazy that no one documented all the zombies walking around and showing themselves to people (Matthew 27:52-53)

    But back to Jesus…even if the body was gone (and I don’t believe in the historical accuracy of documents written 4-7 decades later by people who never met Jesus and spoke a different language than him)….being raised from the dead is far from the most reasonable explanation.

    Just some of my thought…fwiw.

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  5. lol — I have often wondered at that verse about the dead being raised after the crucifixion.

    There’s obviously different schools of thought about the accuracy and timeframe of the Gospels. Most scholars agree that all four books were written between A.D. 30 and A.D. 160, less than one generation after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Matthew and John knew Jesus directly.

    Of course, there’s all kinds of ways to bend and twist history, drawing the authors and time frame into question. I personally cannot beyond a shadow of a doubt prove that Jesus came back to life, since I didn’t see firsthand and must depend on my interpretation of both secular and biblical history. But there’s also nothing to disprove it.

    And no, being raised from the dead isn’t reasonable. It’s supernatural. 🙂

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  6. “A.D. 160” – This is far from one generation.

    “Matthew and John knew Jesus directly”

    But the gospel’s were not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Theologians widely agree that the authorship of these books is unknown. John is the oldest of the four as well.

    “there’s all kinds of ways to bend and twist history”

    Exactly! That is why you cannot take something seriously that is written so long after the events, especially when they make supernatural claims.

    “But there’s also nothing to disprove it.”

    But there’s nothing to disprove dragons, fairies, loch ness monster, or goblins either. But that doesn’t make them true either. When someone makes a claim (such as: a god exists, goblins exist, or fairies exist), the burden of proof is on that person to provide the evidence for their claims. It is not on everyone else to disprove those things. Otherwise you would be forced to believe in alot of crazy things!

    “And no, being raised from the dead isn’t reasonable. It’s supernatural.”

    Well that we agree on! Now if you have any evidence of these supernatural things I’ll be happy to examine them. 🙂

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  7. “But the gospel’s were not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”

    Just as I cannot say with absolute certainty that they were, you can’t say that they were not. Both sides have strong arguments, with centuries of scholars behind them.

    “Now if you have any evidence of these supernatural things I’ll be happy to examine them.”

    Here we run into a dilemma. A supernatural event by definition cannot be proven through natural means. It exists outside of natural laws as we know them here on earth. In several posts (Spiritual, Supernatural Things Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) I discuss several supernatural events that happened to me personally. Can I prove them? No. Did they really happen? Yes.

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  8. “Can I prove them? No. Did they really happen? Yes.”

    It’s a shame then because they don’t help me understand or believe in your god at all. If he really did exist, it’s a shame he won’t reveal himself to me.

    I must admit I havn’t read any of those postings…but if they cannot be proven then they are simply one person’s claims. That then gets us back to the point of how do you know that your religion is the correct one and everyone else’s is incorrect. Everyone who has a belief in a higher power (whichever one it is) has these kinds of stories that cannot be proven. Why should I accept yours over theirs? I hope these words don’t come across as harsh, as I don’t mean them to in any way. These are simply some of the real dilemmas I see in belief in that which cannot be provided any evidence for.

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  9. “Everyone who has a belief in a higher power (whichever one it is) has these kinds of stories that cannot be proven. Why should I accept yours over theirs?”

    I can’t tell you what you should do. But for me, Christianity is the only religion that provides both an explanation and a solution for evil, sin, and suffering in this world. It also explains to me why purely functional things can be insanely beautiful, and why humanity seems to have something that other animals do not, and why everything wonderful seems to point me toward something More.

    And already we have a firestorm, because now not only are we debating the existence of a higher power, but now we have evil, sin and suffering on the line. And what is beauty, or joy, or love? These are highly subjective concepts that cannot be proven.

    I would love to help you understand or believe in my God better. But I feel like unless you can acknowledge that there might be something more than “provable” it would be like trying to explain a sunset to a blind person.

    “I hope these words don’t come across as harsh, as I don’t mean them to in any way.”

    I appreciate honesty and you didn’t come across as harsh. I hope you feel the same about what I have said.

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  10. “what is beauty, or joy, or love? These are highly subjective concepts that cannot be proven.”

    But the experience of them can be proven. Certain neural pathways fire in response to the things that we think are beautiful, joyous, or that we love. This is demonstratable, repeatable, and verifiable.

    “I would love to help you understand or believe in my God better”

    That’s very kind of you…but I grew up in a christian church and was myself a christian for a very long time…so I do understand the concept of your god…I just don’t believe in him any longer. 🙂

    “unless you can acknowledge that there might be something more than “provable” ”

    That’s kind of the problem for me. I want my beliefs to be as true as possible and demand that they are based on evidence. You probably feel that way about every other area of your life other than your religion. For me I just don’t make that exception anymore.

    “I appreciate honesty and you didn’t come across as harsh. I hope you feel the same about what I have said.”

    You have been nothing but kind and I appreciate the honest dialogue.

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  11. “Certain neural pathways fire in response to the things that we think are beautiful, joyous, or that we love. This is demonstratable, repeatable, and verifiable.”

    Well now you’ve done it. I majored in biology and love the field of neurology, so I went online to find out more. Did you know that falling in love activates the same neural system as that for cravings? And even people who have been in love for many years still show activity in this pathway.

    Then I found an article in Discover magazine online, about a nonbeliever who volunteers to have his brain scanned for activity brought on by questions about stress, politics, and religion. Although he says he doesn’t believe in God, his brain scan showed that he visualizes an active, involved God. However this use of technology is in the early stages and may not be accurate. Very interesting article, though.

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  12. “I grew up in a christian church and was myself a christian for a very long time…so I do understand the concept of your god”

    Not to be contentious, but just growing up in church and identifying yourself as a Christian doesn’t mean that you understand. I know that sounds self-righteous and pretentious, and I don’t mean it to be. I don’t know what church you went to and I don’t even know you, so please don’t take it as a judgmental statement. But I’ve been a Christian for 15 years and not until recently (last few years) have I begun to grasp some of the more basic concepts, which are counter-intuitive to my Western thinking. I was saved, but I had God all boxed in.

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  13. “Not to be contentious, but just growing up in church and identifying yourself as a Christian doesn’t mean that you understand.”

    I know that you don’t mean to be rude by this…but it is the common rebuttal by all christians when someone no longer believes. I don’t feel the need to justify my amount of faith and desire while I was a Christian, but know that I was very intent on my relationship with what I thought was god, being involved in the church, and studying of the bible. (Well the latter hasn’t changed…I still study the Bible…but it’s from a totally different perspective) 🙂

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  14. “I know that you don’t mean to be rude by this…but it is the common rebuttal by all christians when someone no longer believes.”

    I guess I didn’t mean it as a rebuttal to your disbelief, but as a rebuttal to your “been there, done that” statement. Losing one’s belief is more complicated that I would ever try to explain.

    I guess I shouldn’t have said, several comments ago, that I would like to help you understand my God. This implies that I understand, and you don’t — and is condescending. (and that’s what took us down this train of thought).

    I think what I really meant was that I wish I could do my faith justice, to explain it in words that transcend (rather than deny) logic and yet even if I could, then you, being a person of logic, would likely not accept even the best explanation. So then if God really did reveal Himself to you, your mind wouldn’t be open. There would probably be a better, natural explanation. Maybe you were hallucinating, or drank too much vodka, or need a V8. 🙂

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  15. hmmmm…I guess if I got to pick one way, it would be to heal an amputee. That would be pretty good evidence. Why he would let any amputee be that way in the first place is a whole another story. But we could start with heal an amputee.

    http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

    But in saying this…there would also need to be a way to verify that it was your god that did this and no one else’s.

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  16. That would be pretty amazing.

    Is a limb more valuable than heaven?

    I don’t have answers, but this has been something i’ve been thinking about lately. If there really is a heaven (and as you know I believe there is) and we are going to spend a VERY long time there, then is it possible that the problems here are temporary means to that end?

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  17. “Is a limb more valuable than heaven?”

    Well, if heaven existed then the answer is obvious. 🙂

    “If there really is a heaven (and as you know I believe there is) and we are going to spend a VERY long time there, then is it possible that the problems here are temporary means to that end?”

    Two answers to that one. First you can’t assume the answer you are trying to prove in order to make an argument. First you would have to have evidence that a heaven existed and also that it was your god’s heaven. Second….since your god is all-powerful it seems like an awfully bad setup to make people suffer at all. He sets up the rules (if he exists) so an all powerfull, all loving, all knowing creature wouldn’t have to make anyone suffer because he would know ahead of time who would accept him.

    Good discussion. 🙂

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  18. “Two answers to that one. First you can’t assume the answer you are trying to prove in order to make an argument.”
    I’m assuming your assuming your answer is right, isn’t that what a discussion is about?

    “First you would have to have evidence that a heaven existed and also that it was your god’s heaven.”

    First, you can’t have two firsts, only one. Second, the burden of proof is one thing that Christians don’t have to much of, but that doesn’t discount their beliefs. I’ve never seen France but I believe it’s there. Galileo was imprisoned for claiming the sun was the center of the universe, he had proof, but no one wanted to see it. Some that did still didn’t believe. Proof doesn’t mean people will believe it, it’s just another pedestal for skeptics to jump over. Belief is the issue, not proof. Once you start looking for belief, your perception will change.

    “Second….since your god is all-powerful it seems like an awfully bad setup to make people suffer at all. He sets up the rules (if he exists) so an all powerfull, all loving, all knowing creature wouldn’t have to make anyone suffer because he would know ahead of time who would accept him.”

    This is the mystery of God, that in all things he works for the good of those that love him. I have no doubt from your posts that you or someone close to you has lost something dear to them, a part of the body perhaps. You might have even been a christian at the time of the accident and I’m sorry that the experience didn’t draw you closer but I know people who have lost limbs and it did draw them closer to Jesus. They would, and have, said that they would trade it all over again. Why it happens, I can’t tell you, but if you don’t believe there is a God you can’t blame Him for the bad things without praising him everytime a baby is born or a flower blooms or that instead of being dead there is just a piece of you missing. If you say there is a God then you can be emotionally effected, even damaged, and God will be there to lift you up. He does have the power to grow limbs and he would do it if it would be to his glory. But most likely a skeptic would attribute it to some fluke gene or stem cell research that the medical field developed on their own with their own brains and without outside help from God. Again, proof isn’t the cure for disbelief. It’s inside the person!

    Finally you might disagree with everything that is said on this blog, but I hope you would think more about what bridges proof and belief. Galileo and countless others who had proof but weren’t believed. What is required for belief? Just last week there was some story about a skeleton of a lemur found 25 years ago that a few scientist believe is the missing link in evolution, research online what other scientists are saying about how they shortcutted the science to make a deadline for a TV show. Scientist have believed (without proof and they are still trying to prove) evolution for only about 150 years of our tens of thousands of years of existence, I’m not even sure 150 years out of 10,000 is a good statistical sample. I’m not here to argue evolution I only use it as a point that when you believe something, it’s not centered around proof. And it’s the same no matter if you are a Christian or an Aetheist.

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  19. “I’m assuming your assuming your answer is right, isn’t that what a discussion is about?”

    Actually no…and this is the common misperception. What I do is examine the evidence presented and make a decision. Since there is no credible evidence for supernatural entities I don’t believe in it. If there was such evidence I would…that is far from assuming my answer is correct….which is the definition of faith: “belief without proof”

    “First, you can’t have two firsts, only one.”

    Way to catch my typo 🙂

    “I’ve never seen France but I believe it’s there.”

    I’m sorry but this is a very poor argument. You are equating believing in something that there is not evidence for (god) to a place that we can verify exists. I could go there right now if I wanted to. There is an actual way to verify it’s existence…which make all the difference.

    “Proof doesn’t mean people will believe it,”

    Hence why there are still so many religious individuals despite any evidence for their claims.

    “Belief is the issue, not proof.”

    No belief is the issue for you…not me. I demand that my beliefs are based on evidence and you do not.

    “This is the mystery of God, that in all things he works for the good of those that love him. ”

    That is what Christians claim…still no proof. What people would attribute to this would most likely fall under the term confirmaion bias.

    “I have no doubt from your posts that you or someone close to you has lost something dear to them, a part of the body perhaps.”

    Nope…not true at all. I don’t know any amputees.

    “He does have the power to grow limbs and he would do it if it would be to his glory. But most likely a skeptic would attribute it to some fluke gene or stem cell research that the medical field developed on their own with their own brains and without outside help from God.”

    It’s pretty amazing that any answer can be rationalized away. You are basically saying…well he could do it if he wanted to. He just doesn’t want to. How do you know? You don’t.

    “(without proof and they are still trying to prove) evolution ”

    Please, please do not argue about something that you don’t understand. Evolution isn’t just a theory, it is the accepted standard of change over time and is supported by TONS of evidence. If you really want to have a better understanding of evolution, please take a look at:

    http://www.talkorigins.org

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  20. bd6514,

    “Proof doesn’t mean people will believe it, it’s just another pedestal for skeptics to jump over. Belief is the issue, not proof. Once you start looking for belief, your perception will change.”

    Good points. With the exception of some more concrete examples, at some point we have to made a decision without total evidence. Almost all of history is like this. We take sketchy evidence at best, the research of historians and social scientists, and try to piece together the accurate story of a war, or a culture. And at some point, without totally seeing everything with our own eyes, we decide what to believe about any given human situation.

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  21. Matthew,

    “I could go there right now if I wanted to. There is an actual way to verify it’s existence…which make all the difference.”

    Do you believe the holocaust happened? Why or why not?

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  22. “Good discussion.”

    It is! 🙂 It takes a lot of work on all parts to have a real discussion between opposing viewpoints. Rare in the blogging world, and much appreciated.

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  23. Matthew, I think you missed my point. What basis of proof do you have that God doesn’t exist? You don’t have any, which is my point that beliefs are not based on evidence. Why do you believe what you believe?

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  24. bd: “What basis of proof do you have that God doesn’t exist?”

    This is your the point of your whole confusion. I don’t have to disprove your god…you have to provide evidence of him. Here’s an example: I could tell you I have an invisible dragon living in my garage. Since you cannot prove that he doesn’t exist does that mean we have to believe in him? No! My dragon = your god.

    Anyone who makes a claim that cannot be verified by evidence has the burden of proof on them to provide the evidence. It’s the only way things work. Otherwise you have to believe in fairies, goblins, troll, dragons, pixies, flying spaghetti monster, etc. etc.

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  25. “Once again, we have extensive historical evidence to verify that the holocaust happened.”

    I agree. And so that there’s no confusion: I believe that the Holocaust happened, and I do not support antisemitism whatsoever in any form.

    BUT there are people who do not believe in the Holocaust. They have some reasonable arguments. See here (if you must, though I don’t recommend it).

    The Holocaust happened 60-70 years ago and affected millions of people. We have photos, DNA sampling, numbers tattooed on wrists of living survivors etc. AND yet people still manage to deny that it happened! Just because we have evidence doesn’t mean that we all believe.

    So you can see how details surrounding something that happened 2000 years ago to one man might be a tad cloudy. How not all the literature is in agreement. The resurrection was highly controversial then as now, and that controversy is reflected in the “evidence.”

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  26. “Just because we have evidence doesn’t mean that we all believe.’

    But this situation is the opposite of our discussion. There is evidence to support it and despite HAVING the evidence they are denying it.

    In our example of whether a god exists. There is no evidence and despite the LACK of evidence, people still believe.

    In my humble opinion, the sooner we all follow the evidence, the better. 🙂

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  27. Matthew, I did read your response and I thought I couldn’t right a better reply. “Since you cannot prove that he doesn’t exist does that mean we have to believe in him. No! My dragon = your god.” My claim is that belief is not based on facts. I cited examples to that claim, Galileo, evolution, and Anna sites evidence that many people disbelieve the claim of the holocaust despite facts to the contrary. I can come up with millions more, but the more evidence I present that beliefs are not based on facts will that change your belief that they are?

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  28. “My claim is that belief is not based on facts.”

    And therein lies your problem. Beliefs should be based on evidence. I want to believe as many true things as I can. Why don’t you?

    Galileo was right and people should have listened to the evidence. The evidence shows us that evolution is the accepted standard of change over time and thus we should accept it. Evidence shows us that the holocaust occurred, so we should believe that it did.

    Now here is the tricky part. There is no evidence of your god and yet you still believe in him. That’s the issue.

    Beliefs should be based on evidence. Claiming otherwise is blatant ignorance of the facts. Why would you not want your beliefs to be true?

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  29. “But this situation is the opposite of our discussion. There is evidence to support it and despite HAVING the evidence they are denying it.”

    I bring up the Holocaust to show that evidence becomes fuzzy over time and under controversy. What you call evidence somebody else calls a spin job. So a thousand years from now, after our current nations have changed hands and values many times over, what evidence of the holocaust will remain?

    Translate this to the resurrection and the early church. Something happened after Jesus’ death that moved the disciples from grief and defeat, into a rapidly growing movement spanning several countries within a matter of years. They say He came back to life. They saw Him, He appeared to many of the early Christians. Jewish leaders said they were lying and the body was stolen. Who do you believe now, so many years later? No real evidence either way, but the early church grew by leaps and bounds for some reason.

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  30. “What you call evidence somebody else calls a spin job”

    Actually there is real tangible evidence. Very different than a spin job.

    “No real evidence either way, but the early church grew by leaps and bounds for some reason.”

    Unfortunately I cannot base my beliefs on a lack of evidence. Every religion has the same kind of stories. Let’s take Islam of which there are somewhere between 1.5-2 billion believers. Muslims believe that God revealed the Qur’an to Muhammad, God’s final prophet, through the angel Gabriel. This religion spawned in the 7th century has exponentially taken over in terms of number of believers. They would say the same as you…that there was a reason for their beliefs even if not based on evidence.

    Now neither religion has put forth any evidence of why they are the correct one…but both believe they are. It’s not enough to simply say: “alot of people believe it, so it must be true”

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  31. I didn’t know I had a problem, I just happened upon a Christian blog that an atheist sought out to make claims without facts. Maybe we can meet in the middle and say that evidence can be interpreted differently by different people based on other factors? Say when at a trial, two witnesses give two different accounts…you can’t refute that happens. For instance you see someone healed of incurrable cancer and attribute it to nothing, I see God. I have a friend who said her Dad was struck by lightning and fell on a pitch fork, the pitch fork was missing a tine that would have went through his heart, he lived and now serves a Great and Glorious God, you say that is not anything…I see God. You believe that there is no God because you believe you haven’t ever experienced Him. I believe there is a God and I believe I have experienced Him. But my experience is not proof enough for you. You have to experience Him for yourself before you believe and that is a fair request. But before you can do that, you need to ask yourself why you believe what you believe. If beliefs should be based on evidence, will we ever find evidence if we are not looking for it? I believe that is what brought you to this blog, the search for evidence. If you were confident in your beliefs why would you be searching Christian blogs and making atheistic claims? Happy hunting, once you find the reason for your and our beliefs, I believe you will be able to find the evidence.

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  32. “I didn’t know I had a problem”

    I thought it was clear that this meant the problem with your logic.

    “atheist sought out to make claims without facts.”

    Not true. I’ve been able to back up everything I’ve said. I’m sorry to say that it’s been misinformed on a few things.

    “two witnesses give two different accounts…you can’t refute that happens”

    But this doesn’t mean they are both right. A judge listens to both sides of the story, tries to get collaborating evidence, research the subject and then make a decision. Which is alot like the discussion we are having.

    “attribute it to nothing”

    Who said I attribute it to nothing? Obviously the term ‘incurable cancer’ is incorrect if it goes away…but that’s called remission and it happens to lots of people despite their religion or lack of religion.

    “struck by lightning and fell on a pitch fork, the pitch fork was missing a tine that would have went through his heart”

    If this was your god…he sounds horrible to me. Why did he strike him with lightning and make him fall on a pitchfork? You want to worship this creature? That sounds insane to me. Your all powerful god couldn’t find any other way to reveal himself than this?

    “If beliefs should be based on evidence, will we ever find evidence if we are not looking for it?”

    Exactly. And that is what I am doing…looking for the evidence. I spent decades believing in a god growing up and really trying to understand him. Once I started looking at the claims being made more objectively, they didn’t hold up.

    “If you were confident in your beliefs why would you be searching Christian blogs and making atheistic claims?”

    I’m not ‘searching christian blogs’ I stumbled on this one on a tag search and was having a really great discussion with the blog author. I’m sorry you don’t like hearing viewpoints other than your own…but many people do enjoy having discussions with people who think different than themselves.

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  33. “Not true. I’ve been able to back up everything I’ve said. I’m sorry to say that it’s been misinformed on a few things”

    This was supposed to read:

    Not true. I’ve been able to back up everything I’ve said. I’m sorry to say that it’s been ‘YOU THATS BEEN’ misinformed on a few things.

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  34. I think we’ve come to the point in our discussion, as often happens, where we begin going in circles.

    bd brought up some good points about the nature of belief. Very few situations in life offer up total evidence. And even those that do require an open mind to both see and accept the evidence.

    Matthew you have a great deal of tenacity in needing to know the evidence before making a decision about religion. I admire your desire to make the most well-informed decision possible, with such a very important issue. To echo bd’s words, I wish you happy hunting. Thank you for bouncing ideas around with me.

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