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Arguing with religious people is so difficult!

Nothing pleases me more than having a good solid argument with somebody who does not share my views but is prepared to listen to them and give as good as he/she gets. I will always take what they say on board and answer each point on its merits.

I have always been interested in religion and the claims that various religions have made. Christianity is the one I know best, and I have read many articles and books that are both supportive and critical.

My views have changed over the years and I have come to see that there are huge problems with Christianity as it is currently presented to us, these being due to a number of causes that modern scholarship has helped to reveal.

However, when putting forward views that challenge what had been generally accepted in the past, I usually find that the response is far from the open approach that I adopt and which I would like my correspondents to have.

One problem is that people who write on religious topics on online forums tend to have particularly extreme views. For them, the Bible is everything. Every word has the personal endorsement of God and cannot be questioned in any respect.

It is therefore impossible to point out that there are huge contradictions between different Bible passages, such that both accounts cannot possibly be true. We have to accept – apparently – that the Bible is so unified that it contains absolutely no contradictions, when it so obviously does!

One must also reject all the work that has been done down the centuries that queries the authorship of various sections of the Bible and claims that certain passages are later additions written by people who wanted to make points of their own that vary from those of the original authors. This is impossible, we are told, because the whole thing was written by God!

These are points that are worthy of discussion, and taking them on board could do much to strengthen the faith of Christian believers. Indeed, there are many Christian scholars who are perfectly happy to do so.

But that does not seem to be the case with the people I get to talk to!

As an example, I recently queried the treatment of mental illness in New Testament times. Could my correspondent, I asked, really believe that people became possessed by devils and that was what gave them the symptoms of mental illness? Had the work of modern psychiatrists and psychotherapists all been in vain?

Indeed it could! If Jesus cast out devils and made mentally ill people better, that had to be the cause for all time! On top of that, all psychiatrists were agents of Satan!

This might sound like an extreme example, but it is not unique. The conversation usually ends when the opposite party states that he/she has no intention of talking any further with me, because I won’t accept their basic belief and am, indeed, an agent of Satan myself!

What do you think?

14 points

Written by Indexer

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    • Yes, there is much in what you say. One always has to bear in mind that the books of the Bible were written according to the standards of their time, which means that their writers had the view of history that applied then and may not necessarily apply now. That means that accepting every word as an account of what actually happened may very well be doing a disservice to the intention of the authors.

      There are other circumstances to bear in bear, such as the fact that some of the books only reached their final form decades after the events they described, so that retellings of what somebody actually said are unlikely to be accurate.

  1. I agree with all you say, John. I find it utterly pathetic that people who claim to be grown-ups can straight-up be in denial of straightforward logic. There comes a point, I find, when it is pointless even trying to engage intellectually with such people.

  2. I am a Christian but am open to listen to other people who disagree with my Christianity beliefs. Where possible, I make my case. If I don’t have an answer I state it and withdraw till I get valid proof.
    The Bible wasn’t written by God but portions of the Bible were inspired by God e.g. the prophetic books.
    I believe as a Christian I should open to other people’s arguments but it won’t serve as a basis to influence me to leave the camp.

    • There are plenty of people still very much within the camp who take a sensible line to Biblical scholarship. My wife has two brothers – one of them is a Bible fundamentalist and the other is not. The one who is not is a Church of England vicar!

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