My fifth email to Eva Marie

From [email protected] Thu Apr 15 00:15:36 1999
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 1999 13:49:20 -0400 (EDT)
From: Reverend Jan
To: eva
Subject: Re: your mail

On Thu, 25 Feb 1999, eva wrote:

How are you? I was pleased to receive your prompt response to my last e-mail, in fact, I've so enjoyed our correspondence that frankly I have been checking daily to see if you have replied. You are obviously quite intelligent, and although we differ in our "philosophies" I nevertheless am impressed by your vast knowledge and ability to counter my arguments.

<blush> Thank you... I would venture to say I learned a lot about that from my parents... and I have had email correspondences like this rather frequently, so when the same arguments come up, I am somewhat prepared.

I was clued in to the possibility that you were of Jewish decent by your use of the Hebrew term for God in a previous e-mail.

That was more out of respect for your possible traditions than any on my side; I do like to be able to "speak the same language" as my correspondents, though.

Yes, you are correct that I am a Christian by definition. I do have a deep love and respect for Jewish history and traditions, though, which is the reason why I have chosen to worship in a Messianic congregation. Having my cake and eating it too, so to speak. :)

If it works for you, by all means.

... never mind that they themselves derived many of their myths from other religions...

I am currently in the process of studying the history of the Jewish faith, and in the several books I am reading, the authors have apparently chosen to cite the saga of Abraham as the origin of the faith, so I am not (as yet) familiar with this fact. Perhaps you could enlighten me.

Well, the whole flood story was derived from Sumarian (I think) mythos, and a very similar story appears in Classical mythology. Many historians now believe that a large flood did occur in the area, and since that area was essentially the whole world to the people who lived there, it was passed on as a world-wide event, first in oral tradition (and I'm sure you know how accurate that is... no one would ever add their own twist to a story around the communal fire ;) and then in writing. The creation of Adam and Eve has tremendous similarities to the Greek myth of Prometheus and his brother, who formed mankind out of clay. I'm sure there are others; I unfortunately do not have the references with me here, but suffice it to say, early religions bear uncanny resemblances to one another. I would venture to guess this is because the cultures did mix through trade and the like, and pieces of this myth were incorporated into that one, etc. When your whole religion is based on word of mouth, this is pretty common.

Jan, I at one time, wondered just this same thing. In my previous e-mail, I mentioned that (one) of the ways in which God speaks to us is through our prayers and "thoughts" which occur to us, in the form of a revelation . In other words, as an answer to what we previously had not considered or had prior knowledge of. I reasoned that if God were a God of love and total "fairness", how could people of other faiths be condemned for eternity through a lack of knowledge of Jesus; those who otherwise believed in a creator and were loving and obedient to him.

This is answered in the Pauline chapters of the bible, and he claims that knowledge of Jesus simply "comes" to people who might not otherwise be made aware of him. So, any way it's diced, you have to believe in Jesus (at least that was the interpretation I have heard most often).

So, I put forth this question to God, in the form of prayer, not really expecting an answer. Surprising enough, I did receive a revelation almost immediately, and this was it. As you know, the Jews of old practiced blood sacrifice as atonement for their sins. This was acceptable to God in those ancient times. When Christ was born, and subsequently died on the cross, he assumed the permanent role of blood sacrifice in atonement for our sins. Thus, no further need for animal sacrifice was required. As you probably know through your Christian friend, the just punishment for our sins was taken on in the person of Christ. My belief (and the answer that I received through prayer) is that when we die and stand in God's presence, Christ stands with us as our mediator. If we have accepted Christ, our atonement is realized through him by this blood sacrifice. We are judged blameless via this blood sacrifice.

For others, they will stand in judgement as well, but will be judged by their own merits, according to their deeds, which is the current belief held by the Jews. A much trickier situation to be in, as how many people can say that they have led exemplary lives?

I would suggest that it is impossible for any human being to live up to the standards set in the old testament, and that God (knowing humankind's faults well, as he is supposed to have designed us) is being extremely unreasonable in damning those who cannot live up to impossible standards. In other words, we've been set up from birth. Not exactly just or loving.

I have often wondered why the Jewish people do not accept Christ, based upon their own ancient blood sacrifice belief of atonement of sins, as this was a necessary practice of their faith in the days of old. I believe that if I were someone in search of the truth, I would examine all faiths and their histories, and use my intelligence and my (limited) knowledge of the character of God to determine what appears to be the most logical.

... and if, as is the case for myself and many other atheists, the most logical answer appears to be that there is no God, and certainly no supernatural Christ-figure?

I do believe other factors are taken into consideration as well, the main one being a person's motivation behind their actions. A lot of so called sin is actually a manifestation of poor judgement, human weakness, etc. We are all fallible, but I believe God knows our heart. So, in the end, I believe that those not knowing of Christ will be judged by their "hearts", and what their true motives were, not necessarily their faults. I do believe people of other faiths will get to heaven.

You are in the minority of born-again Christians on that point, then, and indeed are in direct opposition to Pauline theology. This is not, of course, to say that I disapprove; far from it. IMHO, Paul took a lot of liberties with early Christian thought, and I doubt that, if Jesus had existed as the person described in the New Testament, he would have appreciated Paul's interpretations.

The part about "no one comes to the father except through me" is another :) question I wondered about, and actually put this to my husband only a few weeds ago. His reply was this: God is all holy, and therefore cannot be in the presence of evil. (Recall the "Holy of Holies" in the Torah, of which only the high priest could enter after a blood sacrifice had been made?) We can approach God through Christ as he is blameless, so when we go to God through Christ, God only "sees" the good, and not the evil. By the way, I do believe in hell. Hell is eternal existence void of the presence of God. It's total isolation. Now that is definitely a depressing destination.

For some. Not for me. As for hell and indeed the need for Jesus' death, I would refer you back to my Essays -- there's one about the Original Sin and the like, which I think might prove enlightening as to why I do not consider Christianity a viable system of beliefs for me.

I believe Jesus was the proof. He rose from the dead. (I can't wait to hear your rebuttal:))) This is recorded as history, by witnesses, of which there were approximately five hundred.

And this was recorded, where -- the Bible? What if I do not accept the bible as a reliable source? (This too is discussed in one of the essays.) I do not know of any other sources for this kernel of information; indeed, there is no record in Roman sources (and they were methodical record-keepers). Josepheus is the most oft-cited of the non-biblical authors... however, most if not all biblical scholars now reject this citation because it is a forgery, added to Josepheus' history well after the fact (and not very well forged, apparently).

Now you may argue that these were unreliable witnesses fabricating a story to support their religion. If you recall history at the time of Christ, "Christianity" was an extremely dangerous "cult" in which one could become a member. The danger, of course, was death, and many people did meet with horrible deaths as a result of this conviction. In fact, Christ's disciples all suffered torture and death because of their refusal to deny their faith . ( beheadings, crucifixions, etc, with the exception of John who was exiled to the island of Pathmos)

Again, where was this recorded?

Now, Jan, while it is true that throughout history many people have chosen to die for their beliefs, there is one big differences here. The apostles, and other followers of Christ, didn't die for a belief, they died for what they actually WITNESSED. It stands to reason, that upon pain of death, one could recant a belief, especially if that person witnessed nothing and knew, in fact, that this was in actuality, a LIE in the first place . But no one dies for what they know is a LIE. They actually SAW the risen Christ and, therefore could not deny it. Neither did they fear death, as they knew that there was life after death, after having seen the risen Christ.

I can't accept this as an argument until I have seen its source.

Another argument for the validity of this claim is this. There was a vast number of new testaments in circulation just a short period after the death of Christ. (I don't recall the exact date, but I do have it recorded in my library and could look it up if you need to know). The reason we know this to be true is we have actual copies which have been preserved.

My understanding was that there were no actual copies before 4-500 CE, and those were not in the original languages. Unless you're referring to the Dead Sea Scrolls, which contradict the accepted New Testament in many places.

Now, what might this tell you, especially in light of the fact that during this time period books were painstakingly copied by hand? It tells me that these people felt that these events were extremely important and the word needed to get out. If these events were false, there were enough copies in circulation that someone would have surely stated that the facts were simply not true, especially since the people reading the books were alive during the time the events occurred.

People who want to believe something -- and Christian theology is very tempting in that regard -- will believe it, no matter what inconsistencies are found. Scientologists continue to believe the tripe that L. Rob Hubbard came up with, despite the fact that the whole system was initiated as a bet with Robert Heinlein that one couldn't come up with a belief system so outrageous and still have it followed. While this is not exactly common knowledge, it is an event which occurred within the life-span of most of Scientology's followers, yet it does not stop them from believing.

Also, less than a hundred years later, there were hundreds and hundreds of scholars commentating on these books, which indicated the books were widely circulated, accepted, and in fact, being commentated upon.

Source?

Also, another test of the validity of Christ's followers claims is this...motivation. These people were basically uneducated, poor. If they knew Christ had not actually risen from the dead, what would be their motivation for perpetrating this lie? If your recall the scriptural account, after Christ's crucifixion, they were terrified. In hiding. Peter denied Christ three times in order to avoid being arrested and suffering a similar fate. Crucifixion was a humiliating form of death, and the apostles, who believed that Christ was going to be a "military" Messiah for the Jews, scattered in fear. They believed that their sole purpose was defeated by Christ's death. But as you know, something drastically changed. They did a complete turn around, boldly (even with the threat of death) proclaiming the gospel of Christ. What happened was this .... they witnessed the risen Christ. What else could have explained their remarkable turnaround in behavior? What would they have had to gain otherwise? Certainly nothing, as they were "marked" men, so to speak.

According to the Bible. Which has every reason to make it seem that the events actually occurred. You see, without another source, I have to take all New Testament events with a great deal of skepticism, just as I would any event that was not documented by more than one source.

Yes, in many cases it does. However, there is a phrase that happiness lies not in having what one wants, but in wanting what one has, and I do my best to live by that.

Your very wise. We are by nature, I'm afraid, never quite content with what we have. Of course, as a believer I would say that this restless is a need instilled by God in order for us to seek him out. :)

And as a non-believer, I would say it might be because complacency is usually followed by death, at least in a natural setting. When you're complacent, you let down your guard, and then a saber-toothed tiger comes and eats your family :) Of course I'm just hypothesizing here, but there are other interpretations for the origin of our quest for knowledge and novelty.

Oh, believe me, I did. I had a few one-night-stands, hoping that the endorphins would cheer me up; never tried drugs or alcohol, because the biologist in me simply wouldn't allow it; did drown myself in music and schoolwork, but eventually was deep enough that my friend's faith seemed like the only answer (my friend being a born-again, Fundamentalist type). I wouldn't say (and if I did, I apologize for mis-speaking) that God was *logical* at that point; it was just the option of last resort for me.

You are not alone, Jan. :) Unfortunately, many people seek God out as a last resort, and when their situation changes, so does their connection to him. You should try sometime seeking him out when all is going well and see what happens, even if just as a lark:)

I have. Result: still nothing.

Once I had gotten over that depression, I also recovered my reason (no offense intended; that was just the way it seemed to me). It helped that I had also started bible study; reading the bible was, for me, the quickest route back to atheism, for reasons I'll go into later.

I see that you made a connection to your mental state at the time as being somewhat irrational, and therefore, your actions at the time, mainly seeking God, a product of your irrational thought processes . You did recover...perhaps God truly was there for you and aided you in your recovery, is this possible, Jan?

No. It wasn't until after I had fully quit religion that I recovered from the depression. It was as though a tremendous weight had been lifted from my shoulders on the day I could truly say again that I was an atheist.

Indeed, I had another bout in the fall of 1997, and went to counseling instead of church :) Cleared it up a lot faster, helped me deal with the underlying issues (which had not been resolved the first time), and no side effect like alienating everyone I know...

Did seeking God alienate you from people? Would friends or family alienate you based upon a belief you had (at the time)?

It did from my family, in some ways; they could no longer understand me as a person, and my mother was rather hurt by my decision. My father was more open-minded; he even drove me to church... but also made sure that I didn't forget all that I had learned of science, and gently reminded me of the inconsistencies I had accepted. Friends were also rather mystified, but didn't say anything as long as I didn't try to preach to them.

I had. I meant it will all of my heart and, as I thought then, my soul.

This has been, by far, the most disturbing thing you have written. As I truly believe God is a God of his word, I don't believe you to be a true atheist. From all you have written, even through your arguments, I sense someone who really does desire to know whether or not God exists. You are a seeker. I am not trying to be presumptuous here Jan. Perhaps at the time you were disillusioned, angry, skeptical, disheartened, impatient, who knows. I don't think for a minute God has let you down. In fact, for some reason, I have felt compelled to pray for you, and have every day since we started writing. I hope you don't mind. I just have a feeling something will happen and God will make his presence known to you.

You may believe whatever you like, but I was before and now am again truly an atheist. Studying Christianity and other religions, and being able to compare them to previous mythologies, has made it absolutely crystal clear to me that they are all the wishings and hopings of mortal men, scared witless of dying and having lived for naught (among other things). The only thing that differentiates the current religions from those past is that their followers are still active, whereas previous cultures have not survived.

Are you suggesting that my experience was not a genuine one because I did not have this feeling, or that I did not truly *mean* it when I asked Jesus into my life? I have to say I am somewhat offended if this is what you are suggesting, as there was nothing at the time that I wanted more than to have Jesus as my savior and in my life. Really and truly.

I am sorry Jan, I can't give you an answer. I wish I could, really. It is different with different people. Your life isn't over yet.

True enough. But God is going to have to try a lot harder this time around :)

Jan, I have to end here, as it is rather late. I will get back to you with the remainder of my e-mail response soon. Yes:) I would not mind if you posted the correspondence, thank you, that is rather flattering, although I know its because you feel I have presented a weaker argument:)) I would love to see a wedding photo...you are intelligent and sincere, and that is certainly "evidence" of great beauty to me. I will read all that is contained in your website this weekend. Hope much beauty and peace crosses your path this weekend Jan. Until next time...your "American" friend....Eva

Since I started this letter, I've moved my home page from Geocities to Xoom (the URL is below) and made a lot of changes to my page, including photographs. It will probably be a while before I can format our correspondence to post up, and I still have a few to catch up on -- sorry it's taken me so long!

I actually am technically an American, though I was born in Canada -- that's why the British spellings. I just like to be different :)

Jan

***************** http://members.xoom.com/Rev_Jan/ ******************* 
* Rev. Jan A.N. * Better a bleeding heart than none at all.*       
* aka [email protected] *   Religious freedom means ANY religion.  * 
****** Proud Atheist since 1974 *** Dare to think for yourself! ******

Next: Eva's reply

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