By John Rieping | All rights reserved | Previously posted on Facebook (not published)
In case others have the same questions, I am sharing questions I have been asked by those skeptical of my religious beliefs and my answers. The questions may be abridged for privacy or clarity reasons. My answers express my personal understanding as a devout Christian (Roman Catholic to be specific). I reserve the right to misstate, change, or otherwise bungle my answers.
UNCERTAINTY OF GOD
... there may be a god, there may not. No one can be 100% certain either way. Live and let live I say! I just enjoy a bit of a debate every now and again.
January 12, 2012, at 3:20pm
There is a difference between being 100 percent certain and being convinced. (Hint: The threshhold is lower for being convinced.) :)
January 12, 2012, at 8:18pm
UNCERTAINTY OF THE BIBLE
... seeing as you are so well versed in the Bible, you will be very aware that it got a serious re-edit by 12th century monks because they felt that some of the information was "unsuitable", shall we say, for "ordinary" people to know.. so it was edited or simply left out. How can a tertiary source like the translated, re-edited bible, still be seen as the absolute Truth?
January 13 at 1:09am
... As for whether monks significantly "re-edited" the New Testament in the 12th century, that is not really correct. But even if it were so it would be irrelevant. We now have most of the text of the New Testament on papyri that date back to A.D. 250, and a complete version (Sinaiticus) on parchment dating from A.D. 350.
January 13 at 8:22am
Brainwashed from birth.
January 13 at 8:22am
I prefer a brain that has been washed to a dirty mind. ;) ...
January 13 at 8:23am
haha, good comeback!
January 13 at 8:23am
IGNORANCE OF GOD
But how do you know a lot about god? Does he speak to you? Or are you going on the word of an old book. What about Muslims and Jews etc.
January 13 at 9:41am
Christianity, Judaism, and Islam believe humanity can know about God because God chose to self-disclose. This self-disclosure to humanity is referred to as "public revelation" and is expressed, in part, in the Bible.
Disclaimer: Judaism doesn't accept all of what Christians term the Bible of course, and Islam accepts the whole Bible per se but distrusts the reliability of the text.
January 13 at 9:47am
But God never spoke to me! I have never read the bible!
January 13 at 9:48am
President Obama has never spoken to me personally either. But if I wish I can find out what he has said.
January 13 at 9:49am
what about people that live in the Amazon that have never been discovered by civilization? Are they going to hell because they don't have access to the bible?
January 13 at 9:51am
Opinions differ on that.
For example, the apostle Paul claimed in one of his New Testament letters that those who lived without reference to "the Law" (meaning the moral code of God) would be judged according to their own conscience.
My denomination, Catholicism, would agree with Paul and say that those people in the Amazon who had no opportunity to learn about public revelation would not necessarily be damned.
Some of the other Christian denominations would say they would go to Hell.
In short, reread the first sentence of this comment. ;)
January 13 at 9:55am
HELL IN A HANDBASKET
What kind of God would send someone to suffer for eternity in hell just for not worshipping him?
January 13 at 9:57am
To answer the question of why God would allow someone to go to hell for eternity, one must first grasp the concept of hell itself.
Hell is more than a place. It is also a state, and that state of being can be experienced even in one's lifetime. What is this state of being and place? Hell is a place and state of the rejection of God and all that directly reflects God.
This rejection has a great quantity of ramifications, because God is a being that possesses the fullness of the qualities of being: all-beautiful, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, etc. To reject God is to, ultimately, embrace ugliness, weakness, ignorance, hate, and more.
Moreover, when one turns away from the gift-giver, one is also spurning the gifts... I will cut short my explanation unfinished though rather than ramble on over long.
January 13 at 10:04am
My parents gave me life! But they don't demand worship! I will go through life being nice to people but according to you, people can rape and murder as long as they repent to god afterwards. So I'm going to hell and they're going to heaven. Where's the justice there? :(
January 13 at 10:05am
Shall I continue my explanation then ... of why God would allow anyone to remain in the state and place of hell for eternity?
Yes, hell exists because people have the choice to accept or reject God. We make that decision every day of our lives by how we choose to be and act, and God respects that choice for all eternity. If we do not wish God to be with us in our lifetime, God allows us to exist without being able to perceive God for all eternity.
In short, the worst and most torturous aspect of hell is not any physical suffering. The most terrible part is being insensible to the presence of God. We are eternally blinded to God, and not by a violent deprivation of our senses but because we willfully closed our eyes.
By "blinded" I don't mean we forget that God exists or are unaware of God in any way. But we are no longer able to appreciate or comprehend anything that resembles God. In a way, it would be like a light to bright for us to witness without pain and being unable to discern any details....
Be right back. Telephone call.
January 13 at 10:16am
what do I have to do to accept god into my life then? It all feels so one sided when I pray.
January 13 at 10:18am
Each human has the choice to accept God into one's life, because God has offered that option to us.
I won't claim that we deserve that option. The happiness from recognizing and appreciating God's presence transcends what any human could "earn" in any way.
But the flip side is that the choice is real. We can accept God or reject God. The reason why rejecting God has such terrible consequences is because the presence of God is such a wonderful gift to us. Even an atheist sees God's reflected presence in one's life in every experience of true beauty, love, goodness, and joy. All of us, whether we believe in God or not, take it for granted, so we fail to realize the fullness of what rejecting God entails.
Hence we think hell is horrible because of fire, torture, or whatever. But what makes hell a tragedy is that inability to comprehend and appreciate God and anything god-like.
We can lament that we have such a choice to make, but that would be like grieving that a stunningly attractive, intelligent and good-hearted woman asked you out for a date. If one turns down that offer, who is to blame for having to return to a cold, empty, and solitary apartment afterwards?
As for how does anyone accept God into one's life, it comes down to daily choices. Despite what some may believe, it isn't just a one-time decision. Every day of our life, one has to welcome God into one's life.
In many ways, but the most basic one is "prayer," which is simply a much-misunderstood term for communication (the word "pray" originally meant "to ask"). As with any relationship, communication is key... and yes, it should be two-way.
How can it be two-way? By not just speaking but also listening. We can listen to God by hearing what God self-revealed, especially in the person and words of Jesus.
Another way we choose God is by, like in any relationship, making a conscious effort not to offend. It helps to have friends who also want God in their lives, because they won't be annoyed or antagonistic when you bring God along with you. In fact, they can be a great support.
January 13 at 10:56am and 11:12am
GAMBLING ON ETERNITY
if atheism is wrong, our faults dont necesarily have to be as bad as to send us to hell, mostly to the purgatory... if religion is wrong, we live our lifes limited by fear and the hope of an afterlife...
is a life of religion one marred by fear and hope? For argument's sake only, I will assume you are correct.
Now let us consider the alternative as you see it: "if atheism is wrong, our faults don't necessarily have to be as bad as to send us to hell." There is uncertainty in this proposition as you describe it. Atheism may or may not result in hell. For argument's sake again, I will presume you are absolutely correct.
Now then, let us ponder this further. What is hell? For expediency, I will simply quote a dictionary's opinion: "hell |hel| noun. 1. a place regarded in various religions as a spiritual realm of evil and suffering... perpetual... 2. a state or place of great suffering; an unbearable experience." In short, hell is an unending unbearable existence of suffering.
And the alternative option? Heaven. "a state of being eternally in the presence of God after death. a place, state, or experience of supreme bliss." (New Oxford American Dictionary) In short, heaven is an unending existence of ecstasy in the presence of God.
So here stands your life's wager as you and the dictionary describe it:
Option 1: About 100 years or less of "fear and hope" + (nothingness or infinite years of bliss with God).
Option 2: About 100 years or less without such "fear and hope" + (nothingness, infinite years of unbearable suffering, or infinite years of ecstasy)
It seems to me that Option 1 has better odds.
i simply dont agree on puting the need of an afterlife along with the creation of laws and morality... imposing morality is unethical... ethics are more urgent than morality, morality is simply a guess... we should focus on the urgent and the evident which is physical reality, instead of superstition on the non physical. we dont need religion to create ethics, we simply need religion to not feel bad about dying...
we don't need religion to create ethics. I and my Christian denomination (Catholicism) agree on that. But religion, if true, does potentially help us to correct our ethics when they become skewed if we are willing to listen.
As for whether imposing morality is unethical, it can be at times. But it can also be an act of sanity, such as when a society establishes laws and punishments for murder, theft, and rape. The consciences of others should be respected, but not all activities or ideas should be unopposed.