Thursday, April 28, 2011

Arrogance, ignorance and some other stuff.

Confucius said "True wisdom is knowing the extent of one's ignorance."

This is a lot harder than it sounds!

On the one hand, I can definitely admit that there is a lot I don't know in this world.  I am ignorant of a lot of things.  But, on the other hand, I am guilty of having a certain degree of arrogance about the things that I think I do know a lot about.  I don't think it's uncommon, I think most people get a little cocky when someone challenges them on a subject which they're quite familiar and well educated about.  If I told a mechanic how to change the oil in a car, he's probably throw a wrench at me.  If I told a doctor how to give a basic physical exam, he'd probably inject me with something and I'd wake up 14 hours later in a dumpster in Tijuana with a florescent light bulb in my ass.  Point is, everyone gets put off when someone tries to tell them how to do their job, or lecture them about a subject which they are pretty well educated on.

The opposite is true as well.  When someone tries to lecture you on something you don't know anything about, and you know they don't really know what they're talking about either, it is also pretty frustrating.  I'm no mechanic, and if my car starts making a funny noise and I pop the hood and some random dude rolls up who knows even less about cars than I do and starts trying to tell me what to do, my reaction would be dude... you don't have any more idea what's wrong than I do, so stop acting like you do.

Recently, I read a statement from a Christian friend of mine, talking about how "arrogant" Atheists are, because they're "so sure about what is and isn't real."  I thought this was, itself, a rather arrogant statement to make, because how does anyone know what is and isn't real?  It bothers me when people who claim to be Christians speak with absolute certainty about things that they cannot prove exist anymore than someone else could prove they don't.  I think the point of Atheism is that you don't know what the truth is, so you aren't going to believe in something that you can't prove is real, or at least that's how it has been explained to me by the Atheists I have spoken to or heard speak.

It also bothers me when people of different religions attack each other's beliefs as being fraudulent or blasphemous.  My Christian friends talk mad shit about Mormons, calling them a cult and a fringe group of polygamist wackos.  Now, my family on my mother's side is predominantly Mormon.  I was raised in the Mormon church myself, but stopped going to church sometime around high school.  So, while I don't claim to be an expert on the religion by any means, I am familiar enough with it to know how wrong most of the assumptions people make about them are.  They aren't polygamists - those people in the news aren't part of the legitimate Mormon church, they are offshoot branches that are completely excommunicated from the legitimate Mormon religion.  The "polygamist Mormons" are the equivalent of Baptist churches where people hold up rattlesnakes during their sermons.  They are a fringe bastardization of the mainstream religion.  It also bothers me when Christians talk shit on Muslims, and vice-versa.  In my opinion, all religion has just as much chance of being correct, so when one group decides that they have all the answers and another group is completely wrong, that's the epitome of arrogance.

The idea that you can be so certain about something for which there is no real proof or certainty to be had at all really baffles me.  I have heard the justification from my Christian friends though, that they prayed long and hard about it and they can feel the spirit of the lord in them and they just know in their heart of hearts that what they believe is the absolute truth.  I understand feeling that way, honestly I do, but I just can't accept that as a confirmation of anything.  If I said that I prayed long and hard about it and I can feel the spirit of being able to fly in me and I just know in my heart of hearts that I can fly and I go jump off a roof, you'll be scraping me up off the street for hours.  Just believing something, no matter how strongly, doesn't make it real.  When I was a kid I would have argued with you for days if you told me Santa Claus wasn't real, that the Tooth Fairy wasn't really the one who left that quarter under my pillow, that the Easter Bunny didn't hide all those eggs in the front yard.

"A lie is a lie even if everyone believes it, the truth is the truth even if no one believes it" - David Stevens

I have been accused by a Christian friend of "thinking I have all the answers."  "You are just so sure you know exactly what's going to happen to you when you die, aren't you?"  They told me.  "No," I replied, "I'm not, not at all, that's my whole point.  I'm not the one who believes I know exactly what's going to happen to me when I die, you are."

Christians say "All things are possible through Christ." (Philippians 4:13, I do my homework!)

To me, that says that there is no doubt God is real and that as long as you believe in him anything is possible.

Well, what if you don't believe in him?  Is nothing possible? I just read a sermon online about that above mentioned bible passage where the pastor said "We can't live a Christian life through our own strength and goodness, it's not possible."  Does that mean that people who are not Christians are incapable of living a life of "Christian" values?  What I mean is, unless you surrender yourself to Christianity and all the teachings of the bible, are you incapable of being a person who is kind, decent, good, compassionate, or morally righteous?  Or, does it mean that, even if you are all of those things, without accepting Christ as your lord and personal savior and giving your soul to him, you are still doomed to an eternity in hell?

"He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16)

"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me." (John 14:6)

These two verses are used by many in the Christian faith as proof that, no matter how well you live your life or how good of a person you are, if you don't believe in God, if you don't surrender yourself to Christ, if you don't acknowledge Christ as your lord and savior, then you will not get into heaven.

"Whoever denies me before man, I will also deny before my Father who is in Heaven." (Matthew 10:33)

According to the bible, Atheists aren't going to get into heaven, no matter how well they live their lives.

This is what bothers me.  The fact that you aren't even allowed to question the existence of a deity who's only ever mentioned in books, written by men.  As much as Christians claim the bible is the "word of God," it was put to paper by the hands of men.  God himself didn't come down and write the bible and then hand it over to us, he "spoke" through "prophets."  Today, those people who claim to be channeling the voice of God and speak for him, we call "mentally insane."  Why can't I question the veracity of the bible?  Why is having doubt an unforgivable sin?  If you're so sure about the beliefs you hold, so convinced of their truth, so adamant that they are the unquestionable proof of all you believe, then why do you have such intolerance for any who would raise a question of doubt?

Why would you not welcome those who doubt God?  Why would you not welcome those who question the bible?  If the point is that God is real and that the bible is his words given to man, then why wouldn't he want the opportunity to prove to all the non-believers that he's real by letting them in heaven to see for themselves?  If you had a dollar in your pocket, and you told me "I have a dollar in my pocket," and I said to you "I don't believe you have a dollar in your pocket, prove it!"  Would you respond by saying "Because you don't believe that I have a dollar in my pocket, I'm going to punish you by never letting you see it!"?  Because that's kind of what you're saying when you tell Atheists that by not believing in God, they will never be allowed to see him and be proven wrong.

This is what I mean when I say there is a level of arrogance on the part of Christians when it comes to those of us who don't simply subscribe without question to the tenets of Christianity.  The arrogance that Christ is the answer to all the things for which man hasn't yet found an answer himself.  Atheists don't have all the answers, so they constantly search for those answers.  Christians don't have all the answers either, but they say "It must be Christ" and that becomes the answer.

Christians say that the bible is the word of God, that even though it was written by men, they were vessels for God's word and he spoke through them.  Like I said, today we call those "vessels" crazy people, but a thousand years ago, they were prophets.  But, ok, if the bible is the unquestionable word of God, and man must adhere to all things that the bible says, well then how about this?

"I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men, she is to keep silent" (Timothy 2:11)

According to "God's word," women shouldn't be teachers, or police officers, or judges, or politicians, or ever hold any position in life whatsoever where they tell a man what to do.  Is this really God's will?  If so, why do so many Christian men allow women to act as if they're equal to them, by letting them get jobs, speak their opinions or walk at their side?

Christians often use the quote "The fool has said in his heart "There is no God" (Psalm 14:1)  But what about this verse, also in the bible?
"Whosoever shall say "thou fool" shall be in danger of hell fire." (Matthew 5:22)

Personally, I like this quote from Proverbs: "A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps" (Prov. 14:15)

See, right there in the bible it says that only a "simple man" believes anything without questioning it first.

My biggest argument as to why I question the teachings of Christianity, the assertion that the bible is the "word of God" and that it is all the proof that is needed that God is real and everything Christians believe is the truth is the fact that it was written by men.  That men are, by our very nature, flawed and imperfect and capable of making mistakes, being corrupted and outright lying to manipulate people.  I have made the point in this very post that the same people who we called "prophets" thousands of years ago would be called "insane" today if they claimed to be speaking for God.  Yet, in spite of all that, Christians still say that the bible is the unquestionable word of God, that it is the truth and it contains all the answers.  If that is the case, well...

"How can you say "We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord" when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?"  (Jeremiah 8:8)

The Bible itself says that it's own words were "handled falsely" by the "lying pen of the scribes"!  The bible as we know it today has been rewritten countless times, translated into dozens of different versions, interpreted and re-interpreted thousands of different ways, such that what Christians hold up as the unquestionable word of God is very different in many ways from the original version that was written by the "lying pen of the scribes" centuries ago, and even varies significantly from other versions being used today.

Now, let me be absolutely crystal clear, I do not claim to have a single answer to anything.  I'm not pointing this stuff out because I think I am so smart that I know more than anyone else does.  I am not so arrogant as to believe that I have the answers no one else has.   

What I AM saying is that I can find enough contradictions in the bible just from a few minutes of research that I HAVE to question it.  I HAVE to raise doubt, simply because to not do so is to ignore what is right in front of my face.

It is not arrogant to say "I don't have all the answers, I don't know the whole truth."

I am wise enough to know the extent of my own ignorance, and I am humble enough to admit it.

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