8/04/2010 | Share this article: View CommentsBy ExPenty --
I posted a “coming out” message on Facebook a while back, which I also posted here: http://new.exchristian.net/2010/07/open-letter-to-those-who-know-me.html
Image via WikipediaMost comments were positive and even those who disagreed with me did so constructively and respectfully, but then a Christian acquaintance of mine took it upon himself to reply. I’ve reproduced some of the ensuing “discussion” here to serve as an object lesson: never get bogged down in trying to have a rational discussion with someone who has signed his brain away to Jesus. Apologies for the length, but this is the trimmed-down version!
Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Xian: HI EXPENTY, HOW ARE YOU ... XIAN HERE HAVEN'T SEEN YOU FOR AGES,YOU MENTIONED GOD AND RELIGION QUITE A BIT BUT NO MENTION OF JESUS , WHO DO YOU THINK JESUS WAS AND WHAT WAS HIS INTENTION WHILST HERE ON EARTH...WE WILL ALWAYS KEEP PRAYING FOR YOU AND MRS EXPENTY , TAKE CARE XIAN :-)
ExPenty: Hiya, Xian. I didn't answer your question at class earlier because as you asked it on here, I thought it would be best if I answered it here too.
It seems a bit odd that you, as a Christian, are differentiating between God and Jesus, since you believe Jesus to be God. So I'm not really sure why you're asking this question. Still, here goes.
Who do I think Jesus was? Well, firstly, there is actually no historical evidence for him ever existing at all. The only source documents for Jesus' life are the gospels, none of which was written by an eyewitness as they were written too long after the supposed events they record for any eyewitnesses to be still alive. There were a good number of contemporary writers living in Israel at the time who never mention Jesus or his followers, which would be rather odd if he was real and did all the things Christians claim he did. The earliest writings about Jesus that exist are those of Paul of Tarsus (the epistles in the New Testament), but he never actually met or even saw Jesus in person either.
However, if he did exist, Jesus was just another charismatic Jewish teacher. He had disciples, but so did many others. His followers claimed that he did miracles, but then again followers of other religious teachers made similar claims about their own rabbis. Assuming that he was indeed crucified, he died a horrible, painful death and was most likely buried in an unmarked, common grave with other executed criminals - and he stayed there, just like all other dead people.
The Christian religion was mostly created by Paul of Tarsus, not by Jesus himself.
So to sum up, I believe Jesus may or may not have existed; if he did exist, he was a man of his time and culture, and was most definitely NOT divine. I believe that if he ever did live, he is long dead and buried now.
Xian: actually there is a sustantial amount of evidence that Jesus existed independantly from the Gospels and that it is in fact a historical event that did take place.The early written documentation was written within 30 years of Christs life .
ExPenty: OK, Xian, I'll bite. You say there's evidence - well, be specific so I can look it up for myself. What contemporary evidence do you know of for Jesus existing? As far as I'm aware there is none, so produce your sources please.
Apparently the average life expectancy in Roman times was about so even if the earliest gospels were written 30 years later, the chances of them being written or dictated by an eyewitness are slight. Plus, two of the gospels (Matthew and Luke) were largely plagiarism of Marks' gospel, not original works.
Xian: i was asking the question not to diferentiate Jesus frm God but to indicate a starting point , Jesus said if you see me you see the Father. i believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that everything that he said and the way he lived his life showed us the way to God the father.
ExPenty: I know you believe that, Xian, but again I must ask you to show me the evidence that it is true. Remember, I used to believe that myself, but I have since come to the conclusion that it is not true. Sincerity of belief doesn't make something real.
If something is true, there will be evidence that it is true. If God exists, there will be abundant evidence that he exists. I have yet to see any.
Xian: ALL I CAN SAY IS WHAT HAPPENED TO ME ABOUT 5 YEARS AGO . I WAS INVITED TO AN ALPHA COURSE AT CHRISTCHURCH AND AT 49 DIDN'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT GOD AND MY KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS WAS EVEN LESS. AFTER ONLY A FEW WEEKS AT ALPHA I WAS AMAZED CHANGED &... TRANSFORMED BY THE LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST.
WE WERE ASKED A QUESTION ON WHO WE THOUGHT JESUS WAS . LIAR LUNATIC OR SON OF GOD. BASED ON THE LIFE OF JESUS
ExPenty: All of which is fine, but your own subjective experience is not evidence. I had my own conversion experience too, and it seemed real to me at the time, but it was just feelings. People who convert to Islam have similar feelings, but I doubt... you'd take that as evidence for the truth of Islam and the pre-eminence of Allah and the Qur'an.
You're ducking the question, Xian. You said "actually there is a substantial amount of evidence that Jesus existed independently from the Gospels and that it is in fact a historical event that did take place." I asked you to specify what evidence you know of, but you have not done so.
So I must ask again: where is this evidence of which you speak?
Xian: IN THE LIGHT OF WHAT WRITTEN IN THE GOSPELS AND OTHER HISTORIANS AT THAT TIME IT IS VERY CLEAR JESUS DID EXIST AND THAT IT IS A HISTORICAL EVENT WRITTEN WITHIN 30 YEARS OF CHRIST'S LIFE BY PEOPLE THAT WERE ALIVE AT THAT TIME AND WERE EYE WITNESSES TO EVENTS THAT TOOK PLACE
LIAR OR LUNATIC DID NOT FIGURE IN MY THINKING , A PERSON SO LOVING AND KIND AND THE WORDS THAT HE SPOKE WERE OF LOVE , WORDS "LIKE FATHER FORGIVE THEM BECAUSE THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO" ARE NOT THE WORDS OF A LUNATIC. LIAR DIDN'T EVEN COME INTO THE EQUATION AT ALL. I DON'T THINK JESUS WAS A FAN OF RELIGION EITHER, THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF THAT TIME HATED AND DESPISED HIM .
AFTER ANALYSING THE HISTORCAL EVIDENCE , AND THE WRITINGS OF HUNDREDS OF PROPHESIES WRITEN SEVERAL HUNDRED YEARS BEFORE HE EXISTED MADE ME PROBE STILL FURTHER
ExPenty: The gospels, as I have explained, were written too late to be regarded as eyewitness accounts. If any eyewitnesses were still alive, they would only have been very small children at the time. There are NO written references to Jesus that we...re written during his supposed lifetime - unless of course you can show otherwise. What manuscripts contain these references?
The earliest non-biblical reference to Jesus, as far as I can remember, is in a passage in the writings of Josephus that is probably the result of la later copyist meddling with the text. This passage, in any case, was written about 60 years after the crucifixion of Jesus supposedly took place.
The gospels, in any case, were written for propaganda purposes and not as historical accounts. The writer of John's gospel makes that explicit in John 20:31.
Xian: WHAT REALLY SEALED IT FOR ME WAS THAT HE REALLY DID DIE ON A CROSS OF HIS OWN FREE WILL AND THAT ALL HE ASKED OF ME WAS THAT I BELIEVE IN HIM AND REPENT OF ALL MY SINS. NO RULES NO REGULATIONS JUST BELIEVE THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD AND THAT HE DIED FOR ME
ExPenty: Lunatic? Even his own family thought so (Mark 3:21).
Liar? 'And Jesus answered and said to them, "Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountai...n, `Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it will happen. "And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."' (Matthew 21:21-22) I don't see many moving mountains, do you?
Of course, there exist other possibilities besides lunatic, liar and lord. What about misunderstood? Mis-reported? Or simply wrong? That's if he ever really existed, of course.
Oh yes, and please don't type in all capitals. It's harder to read and it's regarded as a form of shouting.
If he did die on a cross, we only have the word of the gospel writers that it was of his own free will. Even so, he died, and dead people do not come back to life. If such a thing had really happened, it would have caused a sensation. Yet n...o writer who was around that area at the time (and there are quite a number of them whose works have survived) mentions the resurrection, or the temple veil ripping in two, or earthquakes, or dead people leaving their tombs and walking about - all of which are mentioned in the gospels. Why? because they didn't happen.
If Jesus ever did live, his remains are in an unmarked grave somewhere near Jerusalem.
Xian: I WENT AWAY THAT NIGHT AND REPENTED OF ALL THE MANY SINS THROUGHOUT MY LIFE , TOOK ABOUT 2 TO 3 WEEKS , I TOOK IT VERY SERIOUSLY AND ASKED GOD TO FORGIVE ME OF EVERY THING I THOUGHT I,D DONE WRONG IN MY LIFE.
ExPenty: Of course Jesus was a "fan" of religion. He was a super-religious Jew. He even "cleansed" the Temple and attacked the people selling things there. He required his followers to obey the Old Testament Law. He didn't come to start a new religion, but he was definitely very religious and in favour of the Jewish religion.
As for the "prophecies" about Jesus made hundreds of years earlier, look up the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy on Wikipedia sometime. It may be enlightening. It's very easy to make something appear to fit prophecy if you're writing after the fact. That proves nothing.
ExPenty: Xian, you don't need to give me a blow-by-blow account. I've been there myself, remember? I believed, repented and was baptised. I even spoke in tongues. None of it reflected reality though.
Xian: I WENT TO ****** CHURCH ON MY OWN ONE SUNDAY TO FIND OUT MORE AND WILL NEVER FORGET WHAT HAPPENED NEXT . [THE PREACHER] WAS PREACHING ON EPHESIANS 1
ExPenty: Xian, are you actually reading anything I post on here? Or are you just intent on giving your own testimony without listening?
I'm happy to have a discussion or a debate, but this is not the appropriate place for you to give a blow-by-blow account of your own conversion. Especially as you seem to be ignoring the points I've raised and the questions I've asked.
Again, I must ask you: where is the evidence? Personal feelings are NOT evidence that something is true.
Xian: THE PLACE WAS VERY HOMELY AND INVITING , NOT LIKE I'D IMAGINED A CHURCH TO BE THE SINGING WAS AMAZING AND UPLIFTING , THE PASTER THEN ASKED PEOPLE TO GET IN GROUPS AND THEN TO PRAY FOR INDIVIDUALS AND PUTTING A HAND ON THE PERSONS SHOULDER
ExPenty: Earth calling Xian! Earth calling Xian! Come in, Xian! Are you listening to anything I say, Xian? AND STOP SHOUTING!
Again, I will repeat myself. I've been there. I was a born-again, "Spirit-filled" Christian for more than 20 years. I've seen it all, done it all. Preaching? teaching? Evangelism? Prayer? Bible study? Been there, done it, got the T-shirt (literally, in some cases). Your personal testimony WILL NOT convince me that God is real, any more than a Muslim's personal testimony would convince me Allah is real, or a Wiccan's personal testimony would convince me that the Horned God and the Earth Mother are real.
The only thing that will convince me that there is a god is real, factual, verifiable evidence. All you are offering me so far is hearsay.
Xian: THEY PRAYED FOR ME THANKING ME ! FOR MY ENTHUSIASM AT ALPHA , WELCOMING ME HOME , AND ECHOING WHAT WAS SAID IN EPHESIANS THAT GOD CHOSE ME BEFORE CREATION AND THAT MY NAME WAS WRITTEN ON HIS HAND , HAD A LOVELY VISION OF MY NAME ON GODS HAND IN GOLD , BIT LIKE IN THE FILM LORD OF THE RINGS WHEN THE LETTERS ON THE RING GLOWED IN GOLD
ExPenty: Now I'm convinced that you're not reading anything I post here - you're just intent on getting your own story across. Fine. I give up. Your god is real, and so is Allah, so is Krishna, so are Zeus, Baal, Dagon, Cernunnos, Ohrmazd and the Great Juju up the mountain. Keep on posting your story if you really must, but when you've finished I hope you'll actually read some of the things I've written. Ah, and if there's no factual, verifiable evidence in your story for the existence of God (which I doubt there will be) it will have no effect on me.
Xian: WILL COME BACK TO YOU ON CONTEMPORY EVIDENCE AS ALPHA WAS 5 YEARS AGO BUT JUST TO CON FIRM.... SOMETHING IS HISTORICAL WHEN IT IS WRITTEN CLOSE TO THE ACTUAL EVENT AND INDEED PEOPLE WERE EYE WITNESSES TO0 THE CRUCIFICTION AND HIS DEATH AND OVER 500 PEOPLE SAW HIM WHEN HE WAS RESURRECTED CLEARLY STATING THAT SOME WERE STILL ALIVE AT THE TIME OF WRITING AND SOME WERE NOT
ExPenty: So you say. You have yet to provide *any* proof to back up your assertions though, and that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.
Now do me a favour and go back and actually READ the comments I made while you were typing your testimony.
Xian: SOMETHING IS DELARED HISTORICAL BY SCIENTIFIC MEANS ON THE TIME LAPSED BETWEEN THE EVENT AND THE AMOUNT OF BOOKS WRITTEN , THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF BOOKS WRITTEN WITHIN ONE GENERATION OF JESUS LIFE IN 3 DIFFERANT LANGUAGES AND BY SOURCES OTHER THAN THE BIBLE AND MORE IMPORTANTLY WRITTEN BY HISTORIANS WHO WERE NOT BELIEVERS
ExPenty: Again you make that assertion, but so far you have not provided the name of one document I can check to see if you're right. Repeating the assertion doesn't make it any more true. I'm calling your bluff here: tell me the specific documents to look at, provide me with specific references, and I'll look them up. They're all freely available on the web.
Xian: WHEN THEY FINISHED PRAYING FOR ME I FELT RELAXED AND A PEACE OF MIND THAT HAD NOT BEEN THERE FOR A VERY LONG TIME.IF SOME ONE HAD LIT A LOG FIRE IT WOULD OF FELT LIKE A HOME WE ALL LOG FOR BUT NOT YET REACHED
ExPenty: So have you read my comments yet?
ExPenty: Oh, FFS! It looks like I'm wasting my time. I'm off to bed.
This is the continuation of a discussion in response to my "coming out" message on Facebook. As before, names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Xian: WHY DON'T YOU COME TO CHRISTINITY EXPLORED IN SEPTEMBER AS A NON BELIEVER AND EXAMINE JESUS'S LIFE AND DEATH ---- LOTS OF COFFEE AND CAKES AND NO RELIGION TOO!!!!! OR COME TO VISITORS SUNDAY THIS SUN AT ****** CHURCH.
I WILL CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR YOU AND MRS EXPENTY AS I ALWAYS HAVE, AND KNOW IN MY HEART THAT GOD LISTENS TO PRAYER IN OUR SUFFERING. MY SON AND MY EX. BOTH HAD M.E. FOR 3 YEARS AND I KNOW WHAT YOUR GOING THROUGH YOU BOTH HAVE HAD A TOUGH SEASON LATELY BUT THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE, YOU BOTH TAKE CARE . GOOD NIGHT ... XIAN
Xian: I HONESTLY CAN,T REMEMBER OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD , BUT I WILL CHECK WITH ALPHA SOURCE OF INFO AND COME BACK TO YOU ON HISTORICAL INFO ON JESUS
LOL WILL GET INFO AND COME BACK TO YOU OR COME TO ****** CHURCH WITH YOUR QUESTIONS ON THIS SUNDAY,REASONS FOR GOD .VISITORS SUNDAY.. SEEMS APPROPRIATE
Xian: sorry didn,t know caps was shouting
ExPenty: Xian, you have proven to me that you don't listen. That is all.
You want testimony? I could give you a good one. I was "saved" in a Pentecostal church at the age of 16. I repented of my sins, invited Jesus into my heart and decided to live my life for him. It felt really real, and the world seemed wonderful.
I devoted my life to serving God. I devoured the Bible, reading it as often as I could. I was hungry for it. I spent hours on my knees in fervent prayer. I received the "baptism in the Spirit" and spoke in tongues.
I spent two years in full-time Christian ministry in London with Youth For Christ, then I went to London Bible College (a respected evangelical college, the largest in Western Europe) for three years. During that time I did a weekly placement with Jews For Jesus and helped run the youth group at a local Baptist church. I left college with an honours degree in Theology and a diploma in Evangelism.
As a result of my college years I can read the Bible in its original languages. I learned about church history, the controversies in the Bible and many other things.
When I left college I came back to Wales and settled back into my home church. I co-led the youth group, led worship, helped to run a local monthly youth rally and many other things. I was "on fire" for God. I was convinced I had the Truth. This carried on for many years.
I won't go into the reasons other than to say that it was due largely to a clash of personalities, but I left the church in 2006. I fully intended to find a new church, but for one reason or another I didn't find one that suited. I was still a strong believer, though, and I continued praying, studying the Bible etc.
I have always believed that if something is true, it will stand up to scrutiny. One day I realised I had questioned every aspect of my faith except one: the very existence of God.
I read books about the subject, both Christian books and non-Christian books. I know reading non-Christian books can be frowned on by some Christians, but it's the only way top get a different perspective. I put a lot of prayer and thought into it.
I realised that there is no evidence for God's existence. I was always told that God answers prayer, but looking back I realised that the vast majority of my prayers were not answered, and those that seemingly were could easily be explained away by attributing them to random chance. I realised that there is no evidence at all for God's existence. (Some people have pointed me towards various Bible verses on the subject, but that's a daft thing to do because if there's no God, then the Bible becomes irrelevant.)
It took me a long time before I was ready to admit even to myself what I secretly had known for a long time: I no longer believed that there was, or could be, a God.
I prayed fervently: "God, if you are really there, show me." I prayed many variants on that prayer, fervently and with deep longing for God to be real. I wrestled with it. Eventually I had to acknowledge that I was getting no answer to my prayers because there was no-one there to answer them. I admitted to myself that there was probably no God, and reconciled myself to the fact that I was now an atheist.
So that's my story, in condensed form. I've been there, done that. The tone of your posts, Xian, suggests that you don't think I really was a true Christian, or that I didn't "taste and see that the Lord is good". Believe me, I was and I did. I threw myself into it. If I wasn't a true Christian, then there is no such thing as a true Christian.
The fact is that even a true Christian like me can end up leaving the faith when they use their (as you believe) God-given brain to process the facts and the evidence, beyond what you are told in church. I examined the evidence and found it wanting as far as God is concerned. I'm an atheist not because I ever wanted to be, but because the facts led me that way.
Jesus got one thing right: the truth, when you know it, will set you free. I feel so much happier now that I am not burdened by Christianity, and funnily enough I have much less fear of death now that I realise there is no heaven and, more importantly, no hell. I understand that when bad things happen to me it is no because of some divine plan or design, and I trust myself more than I ever have before because I realised that for all those years it wasn't God helping me to make decisions; it was just me.
I appreciate this life a lot more now that I know it's the only life I will ever have. The trees seem greener, the mountains more beautiful, and everything seems much more alive and vibrant now that I'm able to appreciate this world for what it truly is. It's not fallen, it's not sinful - it's beautiful.
Please don't insult me by inviting me to "Christianity Explored" meetings as if I don't know what Christianity is really about. I don't want to sound arrogant, but if you read my last few posts here you will realise that I know much more about it, and was in it more deeply, than you.
I'm not someone who will be "brought back to Christ" by having my questions answered by your church. Your church does not have all the answers, and I could probably tell you what their answers would be in any case, as I used to do that sort of thing myself. To assume that one has all the answers is arrogance, pure and simple. I don't recognise the ministers of your church as oracles of wisdom who can answer all my questions. Come to think of it, what makes you think I still *have* any questions that they could answer?
If you want to prove to me that God is real, you must do one of the following:
* Show me, in front of my eyes and before other reliable witnesses, a miracle that has no possible natural explanation. I'm talking about something like an amputee's limb growing back before my eyes.
* Provide me with proper, peer-reviewed scientific reports from a respected mainstream scientific publication (i.e. not the usual pseudo-scientific Christian creationist rubbish) that show that the world could only possibly have come into being by divine creation.
* Show me a detailed, specific prophecy which refers unequivocally to a future event, then wait for me to see that event come to pass. By "specific" I mean giving a specific date and time and going into detail of what will supposedly happen.
Show me any of those and I will take seriously the possibility that there could be a God. Otherwise you're wasting your time.
Finally, Xian, here is my challenge to you. Read the following websites with an open mind - if you dare.
(Needless to say, there has been no reply from Xian to this. If he does reply, I’m sure he’ll ignore everything I said, just like last time. Take the warning, people – don’t get bogged down in debating stupidity like I did!)