58 responses

  1. Ken in Riverside
    September 2, 2009

    I re-assert that I wasn’t speaking to any specific passage.

    I’ll accept your criticism that it was nonsensical for me to bring it up. We can differ on our reasoning as to why.

  2. Timothy Kincaid
    September 2, 2009

    Ken, the words of the Romans passage are clear and plain…

    Priya Lynn’s problem is that she is trying to argue the words in a book without considering the culture, time, or place in which the book was written. And by culture, I’m not simply discussing Rome and Jews.

    The epistle to the Romans was a product of very specific people, the early Christian Church, and a reflection of their views, beliefs, and teachings. To understand it, one must see it in context of those views, beliefs and teachings. If the “plain words” are not consistent with the context of the belief struture of those writing it and those to whom it was written, then they probably aren’t as “plain” as one might believe.

    If one reads the whole of the Christian writings at this time, then one knows that Paul (the likely author) was not endorsing the death penalty for any sin. Understanding the beliefs of the early church would lead one to know that the underlying core principle of their faith was that the relationship between sin, sacrifice, and penalty had changed. No longer was death God’s required penalty for sin.

    Actually, they believed the opposite: that while every person was a sinner of some sort and deserving of death and eternal torture for their sins, God had chosen to forgive their sins instead. And that the death of their leader, Jesus, was the death for all sins of all people for all time.

    Taking but a small selection of scripture and finding within it a doctrine that is contradicted by the whole of the belief structure is not going to demonstrate to the world that one is wiser or more educated or more astute than anyone else. Rather, it shows ignorance and confusion.

    I think Priya Lynn, as an atheist, would be better served by attacking the actual teachings and beliefs of her most hated foe, Christianity, rather than attacking imaginary beliefs or cherry-picking scriptures to denounce. And she would also be better served by recalling that the Bible was a product of a culture, time, and place.

  3. Priya Lynn
    September 2, 2009

    Uh-huh, riiiight Timothy. See Timothy your problem is that you think the belief structures of any particular version of christianity are consistent with what the bible says – they frequently are not. The fact that such dogma has changed over time while the bible has remained the same is proof of this.

    You’ve touched on one such major problem with Christian dogma versus what the bible says – the murder of Jesus was supposed to forgive the sins of all mankind, however, according to christian dogma, it hasn’t. People are still supposed to be born with original sin (the absurd idea that we inherit the guilt of our ancient ancestors) and condemned to hell as babies if they die before “accepting” Jesus. If as adults people commit the sin of not imagining that they’ve accepted Jesus as dominant over them they are also condemned to eternal torture – their sins obviously haven’t been forgiven.

    And the the idea that everyone is a sinner and deserves death and eternal torture for their sins…step back for a moment and be objective. The idea is reprehensible and if you’re honest you’ll admit it. Don’t you agree that the punishment should fit the crime? A finite crime doesn’t deserve an infinite punishment, now does it. According to Christian dogma as long as Hitler repented of his sins before he died and imagined that he wanted Jesus to be dominant over him he’d be rewarded with eternal happiness. In the meantime, an atheist that devoted his life to helping others, who simply didn’t find enough evidence to support a belief in Jesus, he’s rewared with eternal torture. And yet your god is just and loving….Puhleeeze.

    Timothy, if you think my most hated foe is christianity, you’re sadly mistaken. My most hated foes are those who harm those who harm no one – such as the anti-gays.

    Timothy said “she would also be better served by recalling that the Bible was a product of a culture, time, and place.”.

    Once again, you’re mistaken – I’ve never forgotten that, its apparent every time I hear the bigotry of primitive bronze age goat-herders that’s recorded in the bible. Clearly it has nothing to do with a omniscient, timeless being of love and justice.

  4. Priya Lynn
    September 2, 2009

    I should add that given that the bible is a product of that culture, time and place, the passage in Romans is much more consistent with the idea that gays are deserving of death than it is with the idea that its not.

  5. Jim Burroway
    September 2, 2009

    Okay, so now once again a thread has been hijacked into a debate on what Christians believe, with non-Christians/former Christians asserting the arrogance of speaking on behalf of all legitimate Christian interpretation and against the interpretations of believing Christians themselves. I think we’ve had about enough of that.

    Christians are quite capable of speaking for themselves on what they believe and the many thousands of ways they interpret a single line of Scripture. They don’t need an outsider to do that for them — especially one who insists that the outsider’s view is the only one that is reasonable or valid.

    This web site IS NOT about the superiority of an atheist’s views of the correct interpretation of a scripture held sacred by others who hold a belief system the atheist has disavowed. In the same vein, if a Christian were trying to claim that atheists believe something that atheists themselves dispute, I would object to that as well. Frankly, I can find nothing more ludicrous and arrogant than insisting on one single Christian interpretation by a non-Christian is they only one that’s valid. It would be like insisting that only a Republican can read the Democratic Party platform and accurately define Democratic positions, or vice versa. That kind of logic just about makes my head explode.

    This argument is going nowhere except around in circles. It’s time for a cooling off period and a change in subject.

    And to get back to what our web site is all about, I encourage everyone to read this. If it’s something you don’t agree with, that’s fine. But it guides what I and the other authors do here, and it’s the basis behind our comments policy, which unfortunately cannot cover every conceivable instance. But I think the spirit of the comments policy, as well as the letter of the Mission and Principles apply here.

  6. toujoursdan
    September 3, 2009

    You can’t read Scripture or any other document without considering the cultural and rhetorical context of the passage. The writer wrote out of a particular culture/time/worldview to an audience in a particular culture/time/worldview. Taking that into account isn’t “explaining away” anything.

    Secondly, just because something seems clear in English doesn’t mean it is. Everyone carries their own agenda into scripture. There are no unbiased people.

    In the U.S. we even employ a court system to determine what laws written in English mean and how they are to be applied. We have had huge political fights over what one sentence means in the Second Amendment in the Constitution. If legal text written in English only 200 years ago needs that kind of interpretation, rhetorical text written in Koine Greek 2000 years ago certainly does.

  7. Richard W. Fitch
    September 3, 2009

    Kudos to Jim and toujoursdan. Over the past few days I spent a few hours online and at the public library examining various commentaries on the passages that have been batted around here for the past couple of weeks. There is definitely no uniform consensus but the statements that have been made by those of us who claim some form of identity as Christian are well within the spectrum of available scholarship. Since I agree it is time to drop the polemics, I will leave just a general observation from the newly released book by Bishop Spong, “Eternal Life: A New Vision”. “Anger never rises out of genuine commitment; it is always a product of threatened security.(p.3)”

  8. Priya Lynn
    September 3, 2009

    Yeah, right, Richard, you agree its time to drop the polemics after you’ve had your say. What part of “It’s time for a cooling off period and a change in subject” did you and Toujoursdan not get?

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