How do religions die?

Andrew Brown, from the UK’s Guardian newspaper, has written a short article asking “How do religions die?”

Obviously, he writes from the perspective of an Atheist, believing that all religions are passing fads which come and go with the ages.

“If religions are born, they must also be able to die.” he says.

One interesting approach he takes in attempting to answer the question is to “think in terms of gods dying, rather than religions”

With this assertion, he posits that when a God is no longer worshipped in any form, the religion he/she embodies dies.

The question that Andrew’s article raises in my mind is: “What if there is a God who exists even if no one worships him or believes in him?”

Does a true, living God require people to believe in him for him to exist?

The Christian God, claims to have existed since before the beginning of all things:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:1-3

And indeed, the God of the Bible passed through milennia when no one at all worshipped him or knew anything very much about him. Before Abraham’s time, no one that we know of in pre-history had created any sort of organised religion devoted solely to worshipping the creator of the world described in the Bible. People instead made religions up and worshipped stones and images of created things, rather than acknowledging the one who had actually created the world.

Speaking through the prophet Isaiah God says:

“This is what the Lord says—
    Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
    apart from me there is no God.
Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it.
    Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
    and what is yet to come—
    yes, let them foretell what will come.
Do not tremble, do not be afraid.
    Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
    No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”

A little later, speaking about how a man uses a tree, he goes on to say:

15 It is used as fuel for burning;
    some of it he takes and warms himself,
    he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
But he also fashions a god and worships it;
    he makes an idol and bows down to it.
16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
    over it he prepares his meal,
    he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
    “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”
17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
    he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
    “Save me! You are my god!”
18 They know nothing, they understand nothing;
    their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
    and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
19 No one stops to think,
    no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
    I even baked bread over its coals,
    I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
    Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
20 Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
    he cannot save himself, or say,
    “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”

Isaiah 44:6-20

It’s funny, isn’t it? The God described in the Bible would agree with Andrew Brown’s article: Religions rise based on the delusions of men and therefore die because they have no basis in truth or in fact.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was indeed a living God who was real and not a lie. A God who didn’t need men to worship him in order to have self-validation.

I worship that God. His name is Jesus Christ.

 

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Why are Christians so annoying?

What is the deal with Christians anyway?

They are like uber-persistent, irritating little terriers nipping at your heels- they won’t go away even if you kick them across the room.

Well, from the perspective of a Christian it is simple.

Our whole purpose in life is to be witnesses to what we have seen and heard and experienced in regard to the veracity of the claims of Jesus Christ.

We don’t believe in ideas. If we believed in Jesus Christ as an idea, most of us would stop being Christians within six months.

We believe in the real, often life-changing  experience of of the living Jesus Christ in our lives.

I know that a common response to this is to say that we are brainwashed, gullible fanatics, but honestly, we’re not, (well, maybe some of us are, but then some of you are too).

  • We are just as clever as some of you.
  • We are just as dumb as others of you.
  • We are just as noble and good as many of you.
  • We are just as evil and sinful as others of you.
  • When you ridicule us, we understand – it sounds stupid to us too.
  • When you try to reason with us, we understand, we reason the same way ourselves.

The only difference between us is that we are making the claim that we have actually really met God, not because we are different from you or better than you, but just because we have met him.

We bear witness to the fact that he truly is real, in spite of how silly and unsupportable and illogical it all sounds.

It doesn’t matter what you might say in counter to our claims, our own eyes and our own ears and our own experiences, multiplied by the millions of people who share these experiences, keep reinforcing in us every day what we would all too easily abandon if it were not thrust upon us afresh each time we encountered God.

We bear witness to the fact that God is real and that Jesus Christ is his Son and that he offers all men eternal life if they change their minds about him and accept his offer of eternal life in him.

Essentially, we are witnesses.

  • If you disagree and abuse us, it is no skin off our nose.
    We are simply telling you the truth we have come to know.
  • If you delude yourself into thinking that we are all deluded, it is no skin off our nose.
    We are simply telling you the truth we have come to know.

And we have to keep telling you this because we really, truly have seen and heard and experienced the truth of Jesus Christ, plain and simple.

There doesn’t have to be any religious bells and whistles surrounding it. These facts stand without the need for ceremony or ritual.

If we were not to persist in this ‘delusion’ then we would be lying to you.

We are persistent because God is persistent in interweaving his presence in our lives – he won’t let us forget about him.

Our message is this: Jesus Christ is real. He died in our place to make us right with God, that includes you if you accept his offer. He loves you and wants you to live forever with him. All you have to do is change your mind, believe in him and follow him for the rest of your life.

That’s the point of view from a Christian perspective.

Religion vs Reason?

I recently read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about Sarah Attar, the first female track and field athlete to represent Saudi Arabia at an Olympics.

The article was largely a celebration of this event, which is indeed a wonderful achievement.

My reading was soured, however, when I started to read some of the comments which accompanied the article.

Among the first was this one from someone who calls himself MikeSyd:

While we are on the topic, Lolo Jones could take the time to reflect upon her (religious) life and confirm how absolutely useless her worship of her Imagniary friend in the sky has been in relation to helping her avoid and heal from injury, fulfill her Olympic and relationship ambitions.
Ditto the American long jumper: seen feverishly communicating and appealing to his Cloud Fairy between disappointing jumps that landed him into a very un-supernatural-blessed third.

The theme of religion-bashing was sprinkled throughout the rest of the comments, which set me to considering.

One of the proud claims of religion-bashers and Atheists is that their world-view is arrived at through the careful application of reason and logic.

If you think about it though, this claim is not actually accurate.

I would even suggest that most people who bash religion or adopt an Atheist mindset do not know why they do so. Many are simply unthinkingly ‘running with the crowd’ without actually applying very much brain-power as to why they’ve decided to believe what they do.

Certainly the majority who rail against religion have not applied scientific logic to arrive at their beliefs: Atheist commentary on religious points of view often borders on frenzied fanaticism.

They might have adopted the ‘scientifically supported’ views of peers, mentors or figures of authority, but my belief is that it would be rare for them to actually have explored these views in-depth themselves.

The Scientific Method is “a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses:”

(Oxford English Dictionary)

It might be summarized thus:

  • Ask a Question
  • Do Background Research
  • Construct a Hypothesis
  • Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
  • Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
  • Communicate Your Results
    (From sciencebuddies.org)

Any sincere scientific search for truth in the question of the existence or non-existence of God would look at the billions of people on the planet who do believe in some form of deity and conclude, at the very, very least, that the concept of a real God warrants further investigation. But no, the majority of religion-bashers do not arrive at their view of religion through objective observation and repeated experimentation which has been subjected to peer review.

Their views are not even theoretical constructs, they are opinions, plain and simple. They are not arrived at through reason and logic. They are arrived at through bias, emotional knee-jerk reactions and vivid imaginations.

Many, as evidenced in the comments to the article above, have their basis in a severe hatred of anything religious or superstitious.

Cold, hard evidence is rejected with the naive explanation that ‘I’m right because I can think for myself and the rest of the world must be deluded’, but where a religious person is urged to prove the existence of God, there is also a reluctance to disprove the existence of God on the part of the Atheist.

The problem is that it is very hard to disprove the existence of God. Most attempts are simplistic mind games.

The best approach I’ve seen is the one which takes the claims of Christianity and of God himself and puts them to the test.

And when using this approach it is a mistake to make the proof too complex.

Let’s distil a proof of undeniable simplicity:

  • The Christian Bible claims that God is real
  • God himself claims in the Bible that he will answer you when you pray to him”You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

A proof for the existence of God then?

  • Ask God if he is real

Can it get any simpler?

The Prayer of an Atheist

This is a really funny post by DanielWallDammit.

He has a go at parodying not so much religion in general, but more particularly Christianity and the way Christians respond to Atheists.

The Prayer of an Atheist.

If you’ve read any of my other posts on this blog, you will realise that I am a Christian, and I laugh at this post because much of what he says is so close to the mark.

We Christians have a well-versed set of responses to Atheists and their claims that there is no God – so well versed that we sound very repetitious.

He’s making fun of Christian religious beliefs and that’s fair enough, I say.

I disagree with nearly everything he says, but it’s funny all the same!

It’s been interesting to watch over the years of my short life, all of the attacks against Christianity I’ve seen, as well as all of the stupid things which Christians just like me have done to tarnish the name of Christ.

But, when it’s all said and done, Christianity just keeps growing stronger and stronger all over the world.

Atheists tell Christians that it is our responsibility to prove to them that God really exists, but that’s just silly, isn’t it?

If God exists, then it is not Christians who need to prove his existence, it is God himself.

There’s no point us trying to convince anyone of God’s reality, because then their belief is based on the teachings of men.

When an Atheist claims that God does not exist, then, (if God does indeed exist) they are making that claim to God himself – to his face.

If he does exist, then it is up to God to respond.

The question of God’s existence is easily answered, by the way: just ask him.

If he’s not real he won’t respond.

That’s not so hard is it?

Really that’s all there is to it. If God is real, the way the Bible describes he is real, then he has promised to respond to any person who sincerely seeks him.

That is a public promise, which has opened him up to being accountable to all of the people in the world.

If he does not respond, then the Bible and all of its words are lies.

This is a dilemma for an Atheist, though. How can they ask a simple question like this of someone who does not exist? Moreover, I’m sure pride and a conviction of their own personal rectitude would form barriers for many Atheists, so that they couldn’t even contemplate the question anyway. If an Atheist was even to try to ask the question he would tacitly be admitting that there may be the possibility of a God.

I write this with not even a smattering of concern.

It is not my name that will be ridiculed if God does not respond to you when you seek him: it is God’s own name and his own reputation which is on the line.

Atheists, please read my heathen manifesto | The Guardian

The UK’s Guardian newspaper recently ran this article containing a “heathen manifesto.” It attempts to give a gentler, more reasonable voice to the atheist polemic sweeping through the UK at the moment.

The writer seems quite reasonable in his arguments, but I still don’t agree with his point of view. There seems to be a general consensus among atheists that Christians somehow view themselves as better than other people:

“We are heathens because we have not been saved by God and because in the absence of divine revelation, we are in so many ways deeply unenlightened. The main difference between us and the religious is that we know this to be true of all of us, but they believe it is not true of them.”

This is exactly the opposite of the Christian experience.

Christians become Christians because we too come to the realization that we are unenlightened, but rather than despairing and resigning ourselves to cruel fate,  we believe we need to and can be saved by God.

In fact, for Christians it is divine revelation that makes us realize we are indeed unenlightened.

via Atheists, please read my heathen manifesto | Comment is free | The Guardian.