Obstacles to embracing Judeo-Christian religion

-for me. Read any section by clicking on it. Have an explanation why its not an issue? Leave a comment at the bottom referencing the section title. Thanks!

Top 3 Obstacles:

1. If God is unchanging and same God as described in Old Testament, he appears to be very angry, vengeful, legalistic and spiteful, the opposite of Jesus. I can't love or serve that kind of God. The Old Testament reflects 4000 years of God interacting with man. This gives a much more accurate picture of God than the 3 years of Jesus' ministry in the New Testament.
2. The Bible revolves around the idea of punishing an innocent for the acts of sinful men. From all humanity punished for Adam's sin, to generations of people punished for the sins of an ancestor to Jesus. If God is just, why is this acceptable?
3. The biblical God acts like a dictator. He uses his people to commit genocides and says he wants his people to view his acts and fear him and obey. He wants this more than he wants their love. He expects them to praise him constantly for qualities that he lacks, just like a dictator. i.e. his people sing how loving, patient and merciful he is while he kills his own people because they are related to someone who annoyed him.

FAITH

BIBLE

CONTRADICTIONS

Loving God

Dominant traits of God

same God in OT/NT?

Misc. religion

Praying to God

Knowing God

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  14. God Creates Evil:
    You said: “woe” is defined as “a condition of deep suffering from misfortune, affliction, or grief”. If we agree that God is claiming credit for creating it, is there really a need to argue that God created something bad?

    My response: I’m not trying to lean on semantics – but the word “bad” is so subjective. I suppose that one might argue that suffering is “bad”, but my experiences have taught me that suffering provides me with incredible opportunities to grow closer to God. Some might say that misfortune and affliction are “bad”, but they offer me the opportunity to grow in virtue and spiritual strength. When things are “good” I find myself unchallenged spiritually and therefore become complacent; I exert less energy on the task of becoming the best version of myself possible. I guess all of this is just a long way of saying that I believe that God knows that the “bad” provides us with opportunities to grow in virtue, which in turn helps us to grow in holiness, which helps us to grow closer to Him. I suppose that you and I just don’t view “bad” things in the same way.

    • It looks like you started a new comment instead of replying to my last one. Oh, well.
      You ignored my statement – “If you look at the use of the Hebrew word in question in about 150 passages, the consistent meaning is ‘evil’.” – and focused on whether bad is really bad. Again, I repeat, “I feel like you are using semantics to avoid a basic meaning in a passage because it contradicts your understanding of God.” Can we address that?
      I suggested I talk with someone else about this because you have already acknowledged a bias that prevents you from acknowledging something negative about God (as described in the OT – not necessarily the same as the God you serve). If I showed you a bible passage where God said, I take pleasure in the suffering of those I torture, your brain could not accept that on face value and you would have to rationalize how its not actually a bad thing to say. Is that accurate?
      If a murderer’s wife is positive he’s an angel, and you told her about all the people he killed, no matter what you say, she would interpret it as you being hateful instead of truthful. Her bias prevents her from seeing the truth, even if its right in front of her. Its pointless to continue telling her as she refuses to see anything negative. That’s how I see your view on God. Does that make sense?

  15. Faith vs. Indecision:
    You said, “Once I am convinced that the Bible is from God, I can take a leap of faith in following it.” It seems to me that there are two different issues that you’ve raised that sometimes get muddled together. The first is whether or not the Bible is credible. The second is whether God the Father (as depicted in the OT) is in fact the same as Jesus (as depicted in the NT). It seems like it’s important to start with the idea of whether or not the Bible is credible. Without that piece of critical information, all other debates are of questionable value because they’re based on uncertainty. What do you think about suspending discussion on the other questions and just focusing on the question of whether or not the Bible is a credible source? Maybe you could make another webpage whereby we can dialogue about the various issues related to the Bible’s credibility/origin or whatever?

    • I think that credibility of a book is less important than the content. That’s why it didn’t make my top 3 issues. We can say that a Steven King novel is credible because the places it mentions are real places and the people described are plausible as real people.
      If a book gives stories of a character being violent and mean repeatedly, and then people who love the book say that the character is kind and loving, I don’t question the credibility of the book. I question the honesty of the people ignoring or rationalizing the violent acts of the character.

      • Faith vs. Indecision:
        While I understand the point that you’re trying to make, I believe the Bible to be more complex than a Stephen King novel, so the comparison doesn’t work for me. The Bible is a complicated, intertwined collection of narratives that are meant to tell a bigger story. To understand the story, I believe someone needs to read the entire collection of narratives. When small chunks are taken out of context they can be misleading. Also, it’s really important to understand the various styles of writing that are used in the Bible so as not to misinterpret the language that is used. In your original statement, you indicated that you would be willing to take a leap of faith if you knew the Bible was from God. I was simply suggesting that this is a logical place to start. In previous conversation strands, you’ve questioned the authorship of the Bible. I guess my point is that if someone believes the Bible to be nothing more than a poorly written history book that’s full of errors and contradictions, there is no basis for using that book as a point of reference for any discussions. If, however, someone accepts that the Bible was divinely inspired and is willing to walk through it slowly with the desire to understand the bigger story, I think a lot of great discussions could flow from that. Does that make sense?

        • You say that “The Bible is a complicated, intertwined collection of narratives that are meant to tell a bigger story.” Biblical authorship is by many unrelated people and sources. But passages and books are put together as if they were one book. Christians who presume it as all part of God’s plan don’t question the inconsistency of messages. Scholars agree that Paul didn’t write the text “I suffer not a woman to teach…but to be in silence.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Epistle_to_Timothy#:~:text=Most%20modern%20critical%20scholars%20argue,author%20as%20%22the%20Pastor%22.)
          But you are taught its from God and you must follow it.
          You then say I can either believe the bible is a “poorly written history book” or “divinely inspired” and go from there. But that means starting with a bias that its either from God or not which is not fair to the text. If i presumed it was from God, I would rationalize issues found, and if i presumed it was from man, I would ignore examples of God’s presence in it. Either way, I’m not being fair to the truth.

  16. Discernment vs. Strong Faith:
    I believe it’s important to question things, however, there is also a practical need for trusting others. As such, my opinion is that the comment you made is a bit extreme: “Too many people accept what they are taught and settle in for life putting their faith in something they haven’t proven for themselves.” It is not practical/realistic to believe that one must prove everything for him/herself before being willing to accept it as truth. For example, if I live on one side of a river and work on the other I must cross that river to get to work. There is a bridge that was designed/constructed by qualified engineers…do I not take the bridge until I personally prove that the bridge’s construction is sound? Of course not! The example is a bit ridiculous, but so is the claim that we have to “prove everything for ourselves” before we can believe them. It is important that someone believes that the source is credible before they’re willing to subscribe to that which the source is claiming, but there are simply not enough hours in the day (or days in one’s life) to prove everything that others (who are presumably experts in their respective fields of study) have spent their lives proving. Socrates is known for instigating debates whereby people were encouraged to question the status quo, which is awesome, but I don’t think he would have refused to acknowledge/accept the claims of experts who had spent their entire lives studying, analyzing, and proving what they claim. As a philosopher, Socrates valued the very process of thinking through things, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t value the expertise of other learned men. If I had to guess, I’d say that he had a great deal of respect for those who spent their lives studying and learning. He objected to the bumbling fool who never questioned anything…there’s a big, big difference between those two.

    • I didn’t say that we have to prove “everything” for ourselves. You took that out of context. The previous 2 sentences talk about picking a religion which is the context. “So, strong faith is dangerous if not directed at the truth. Suicide bombers demonstrate this. They have very strong faith but we believe it to be misdirected. So, before one commits to put their faith fully in something, they must know its the truth and not another illusion of truth.”
      I was not referring to questioning real world things like bridges. But if you wanted to compare to something more similar to choosing a religion, think of jumping out of a plane hoping that the pack on your back is a parachute. Would you jump without being sure if you were told that a majority of people make the wrong choice and choose the pack that doesn’t have a parachute? (i.e. choose the wrong religion)

      • Discernment vs. Strong Faith:
        I honor you for devoting so much time to the task of finding the truth. I will continue to pray that God guides you in the way that you need.

  17. Kill Outsiders in the OT:
    I will revisit the idea of killing outsiders, but I just want to comment on your description of the Canaanites as “fellow Jews who disagreed on doctrine details”. The Canaanites were known to worship demonic idols, engage in “taboo sexual acts”, and even sacrifice children to the Canaanite gods, so let’s make sure we’re being accurate when we describe them.

    • There are 2 answers to your statement about being more accurate:
      1. If the main crime of Canaanites was child sacrifice, why was the foundation of Israel based on a parent’s (Abraham) willingness to sacrifice their child? And God demonstrates his agreement by sacrificing his own son. Jepthah sacrificed his daughter and was blessed by God, David had 7 children sacrificed to appease the Gibeonites so that God would be appeased and remove the famine.
      2. If the concern was the worship of other gods (demonic idols?), the Israelites were just as guilty.

      Much effort has been made to demonize the Canaanites so that their slaughter by the Jews around 1200BC is condoned. But the Israelites worshipped many of the same gods for hundreds of years before and after this slaughter. The early Israelites were polytheistic and worshipped Yahweh alongside many Canaanite gods and goddesses. These included:
      El, the ruler of the gods (the golden calf/bull in Exodus)
      Asherah, his consort
      Moloch the god who demanded sacrifice of the firstborn
      Ba’al: The god of rain and thunder
      Anat: The goddess of war
      Astarte: The goddess of love and fertility
      Arsay: The goddess of the underworld
      Yahweh is described as one of the sons of El in Deuteronomy 32:8–9, but this was removed by a later emendation to the text.

      Israelite kings Solomon (1010 BC), Ahaz (720 BC) and Manasseh (650 BC) all came after the Canaanites and were known to worship many gods including Moloch.

      In the 9th century BCE, there are indications of rejection of Baal worship associated with the prophets Elijah and Elisha. The Yahweh-religion thus began to separate itself from its Canaanite heritage; this process continued over the period from 800 to 500 BCE with legal and prophetic condemnations of the asherim, sun worship and worship on the high places, along with practices pertaining to the dead and other aspects of the old religion.[55] Features of Baal, El, and Asherah were absorbed into Yahweh, El (or ‘el) (Hebrew: אל) became a generic term meaning “god” as opposed to the name of a specific god, and epithets such as El Shaddai came to be applied to Yahweh alone.[56]

      More info on Hebrews worshipping El as a bull. https://www.atkinslightquest.com/Documents/Religion/Hebrew-Myths/Worship-of-Yahweh-as-a-Bull.htm

      • Kill Outsiders in the OT:

        My response to your 1st point:
        Just as a point of clarification, God did not kill His Son, He allowed others to kill His Son. There’s a big difference.

        Also, the story of Abraham and Isaac is something really, really profound and has a long back story. To suggest that it’s just another example of human sacrifice is hard for me to receive. To be able to do what God was calling him to do, Abraham needed to trust God 100% – holding nothing back. My interpretation is that God knew that this is what Abraham needed to become the person that he would need to be to fulfill his role in our salvation history. God did not intend for Abraham to kill his son, rather, it is my belief that Abraham had to know that he was willing to give everything – and for him, at this point in the story, Isaac was everything.

        Yes, David allowed Saul’s sons to be killed. That was a sinful choice. Please help me understand why you think God was pleased with David’s decision.

        You made reference to Jephthah sacrificing his daughter and said that what he did was blessed by God. Can you please tell me why you think that God was happy with Jephthah for doing this? My understanding is different. Jephthah was wrong for making such a vow to God. I found this which includes some passages whereby God specifically says that they are not to perform human sacrifices:
        “God had specifically forbidden offering human sacrifices, so it was absolutely not God’s desire for Jephthah to sacrifice his daughter (Leviticus 20:1-5). Jeremiah 7:31; 19:5; and 32:35 clearly indicate that the idea of human sacrifice has “never even entered God’s mind.” The account of Jephthah and his daughter serves as an example for us to not make foolish vows or oaths. It should also serve as a warning to make sure any vow we make is something that is not in violation of God’s Word.”

        The story of Abraham and Isaac is something really, really profound and has a long back story. To suggest that it’s just another example of human sacrifice is hard for me to receive. To be able to do what God was calling him to do, Abraham needed to trust God 100% – holding nothing back. My interpretation is that God knew that this is what Abraham needed to become the person that he would need to be to fulfill his role in our salvation history. God did not intend for Abraham to kill his son, rather, it is my belief that Abraham had to know that he himself was willing to give everything – and for him, at this point in the story, Isaac was everything for him.

        My response to your 2nd point:
        You referenced several deities that the non-Isrealite groups worshipped and pointed out that the Isrealites also worshipped them. That is exactly what the problem was. God instructed the Israelites to not mix with the other tribes. I assume, based on how easily the Israelites fell into the temptation of worshipping other deities, that God knew they weren’t strong enough to be with them and stay faithful to their covenant with Him – to still do all that He had commanded them to do. So, yes, the Israelites fell in this way, which greatly saddened the Lord.

      • Killing Outsides in the OT:
        Here’s the link to the information that I found to be really helpful when considering what happened between the Isrealites and the Caananites. It gives a lot of background information and context as well as insight into the figurative language that is used. Let me know what you think.

    • we are in agreement on this topic: CAN NON-CHRISTIANS BE SAVED? as I am familiar with Catholic teaching on it.
      The distinction is not who can go to heaven, but who actually goes?
      Being Catholic doesn’t get you into heaven even though it qualifies you.
      Can you respond to the point I made?
      “If you look at a typical European or American church full of people, what percent are likely to have a strong relationship with God and have given up their life to serve God’s will? I think saying 10% is generous.”
      PS Try to reply to a specific comment so it doesn’t appear as a new topic.

      • I’m positive that the Church does not claim to know who goes to heaven, apart from those canonized as saints. In fact, there are countless instances in which the Church states very clearly that we are not to judge others, and that only God can/should judge. It is not the Catholic belief that someone has to have a strong relationship with God and give up their life to serve Him to “qualify” for heaven. It is our faith that saves us, not our works. Our works should simply be an expression of the love that we have for the Lord. We do “good things” out of love for the Lord – as a response to the love that He has for us, not as a way to try to earn anything, especially not His love. My understanding is that if someone authentically accepts Jesus as his/her Savior (not just in word, but in truth) then God will happily welcome that person into Heaven. Now, with that said, we have Purgatory which is a state of purification. We need to be purified before we’re welcomed into Heaven because we’re taught that everything in Heaven is perfect…so a person can’t enter Heaven until he/she has been made perfect through the purification that happens in Purgatory. The Church teaches that everyone in Purgatory will eventually go to Heaven and that nobody in Purgatory goes to Hell. So, the lukewarm Christian who half-asses his way through life, spiritually speaking, is not damned to Hell, but will likely spend a very, very long time in Purgatory being purified. So, suggesting that the vast majority of people sitting in church are likely to go to Hell is not a logical conclusion. I know, from my experience with other Christian sects, that some believe that only really devout believers go to Heaven and that the rest (including us Catholics who they say worship idols and adore Mary) are destined for Hell – but that is not the Catholic standpoint.

        • I am very familiar with the Church’s teachings on Purgatory. The description of those who go there as “all who die in God’s grace and friendship but are still imperfectly purified” is unnecessarily abstract. How do we know if we are in God’s grace and friendship? What does that mean?
          The church teaches that those who die without confession of mortal sins do not qualify for purgatory. I suggest that there are a majority of Christians that have done one of these: used contraception, been unfaithful, went to a psychic, used God’s name in vain, masturbated, stolen, missed Sunday mass, etc. who do not confess and die in mortal sin. I think its naive to think this isn’t common.
          Since you disagree, what percent of Christian people do you think actually die in God’s grace and friendship?

          • Who Goes to Heaven?
            You referenced the Church’s teaching on mortal sin and how it disqualifies someone from going to heaven, but there is a critical piece of information missing in your statement. The CCC 1033 says, “To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him forever by our own free choice” However, it’s important to understand what constitutes a mortal sin. “In order for a sin to be mortal, three conditions must be met: (1) The sin must have grave matter, (2) one must have adequate knowledge that it is a grave offense, and (3) one must commit the offense with deliberate consent (CCC 1857–1859). If one of these conditions is not met, the sin will be venial, not mortal.” I believe that most Catholics are not well-formed, which means that most Catholics don’t understand why it’s such a big deal to go to a tarot card reader, miss Mass, masturbate, or use contraception. Without full knowledge of why these things are so bad someone is doing something that they probably know they shouldn’t do but, in reality, have no idea just how terrible they are. With that said, they are venial sins (in God’s eyes) and not mortal sins. For the people who were well-formed, who know why all these things destroy our relationship with God and choose to do them anyway – well, they are choosing to turn away from God which leads one to believe that they’re really not interested in spending all of eternity with Him anyway.

            You’ve asked me to estimate what percentage of people go to heaven and I have absolutely no idea how to answer that.

  18. Who Goes to Heaven?
    I found what I consider to be a great response to this issue. It helped me understand the Church’s teaching and I hope it helps you too. Here it is:
    Q: Is there any hope of salvation for those who are not Catholic or Christian? What is to become of those who do not accept Jesus as their savior (such as those who follow the Jewish or Muslim faiths)?

    A; Each year on Good Friday, Catholics pray an extended set of petitions, including prayers for the church, fellow Christians, non-Christians, and even atheists. In praying for non-Christians, the church prays: “Let us pray also for those who do not believe in Christ, that, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, they, too, may enter on the way of salvation.”

    While none of us can be sure of our own or anyone’s salvation – whether Christian or not – the church has hope for the salvation of others, including non-Christians. The church does not teach that any individual has been or will be deprived of heaven nor does it teach that all will be saved. But as we do on Good Friday and at other times, we pray for the salvation of our brothers and sisters, Christian and non-Christian.

    While acknowledging that good can be found in other religions and that salvation is possible for non-Christians (even the unbaptized), this does not mean that belief in Christ and membership in the church is unimportant. We believe that the church is necessary for salvation, that Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation, and that He Himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism.

    We affirm a proper understanding of the saying, outside the church there is no salvation (“extra ecclesiam nulla salus”), which dates to the preaching of St. Cyprian in the early church. This statement, without excluding the possibility of salvation for non-Christians, reminds us that all salvation comes from Christ through the church, which is His Body. Christ is the source of salvation for all who are saved – even non-Christians – since Christ died for all and His sacrifice on the Cross makes salvation possible.

    George Weigel, in his book, “The Truth of Catholicism” (2001), offers the church’s teaching succinctly through a series of yes-or-no questions:

    • Does the Catholic Church teach that God wishes the salvation of all? Yes.

    • Does the church teach that salvation was made possible for the world through the cross of Jesus Christ? Yes.

    • Does the church believe there is salvation for those who do not believe in Christ? Yes.

    • Does the church believe that the salvation of those who do not know Christ is somehow made possible by Christ? Yes.

    • Does the church believe that this puts all of those saved in some relationship with the Catholic Church? Yes.

    The Catechism describes the teaching in this way, rooting all salvation in Christ and His death: “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery. Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of His church but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity” (Catechism, 1260).

    At times, the church is ridiculed for its narrowness, but its understanding of salvation is broad, allowing for the hope that non-Christians are saved without denying the reason for Jesus coming among us: to set us free from our sins and invite us into eternal life.

  19. Who Goes to Heaven?
    Just out of curiosity, where does it say that someone has to be super devout and Catholic to go to Heaven?

    • “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.“ There are many Christians who say they believe, but have no relationship with God and live their life without seeking to do God’s will. Do these Christians merit Heaven? What about people who say they believe but ignore opportunities to serve God? If you look at a typical European or American church full of people, what percent are likely to have a strong relationship with God and have given up their life to serve God’s will? I think saying 10% is generous.

      • Who Goes to Heaven?
        You started your comment by quoting Matthew chapter 7 where Jesus says that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord…” I believe that Jesus is addressing the fact that the Jews believed very strongly in the power of verbal expression. If they said certain words/prayers at certain times they gained favor with God. If they recited various litanies before certain sacrifices they believed that it would enhance the power of their offering. When the Jews were exiled to Babylon many of them accused those who didn’t publicly recite their prayers as often/well as they “should have” saying that the exile was their fault because they hadn’t prayed “well enough”, which made God mad. When they returned from Babylon the Jews were required to recite their prayers in public places so that others knew that they were “doing their part” to keep God happy so that they didn’t get exiled again. So, when Jesus teaches that it’s not those who say “Lord, Lord…” that go to Heaven, He is speaking to the Jews who were taught to believe that verbal expressions of prayer held spiritual “power” as it were. Jesus wants them to understand that it’s what’s in someone’s heart that matters. Before Jesus teaches them the Our Father, He begins by telling them to go into their “inner room” where nobody could see them and pray from their heart. In the Sermon on Mount Jesus teaches the Jews about what really matters, but these teachings would have been very, very foreign to the people of that time. Does that make sense?

        • Yes that makes sense. but what does that have to do with my comment? You gave background on the meaning of the passage quoted but didn’t agree or disagree with my comment. The original idea was about who deserves to go to heaven. I and others would suggest that the passage quoted may have had a specific meaning at that time but the Church now uses it for its broader meaning: not all Biblethumpers go to heaven.

          • Who Goes to Heaven?
            It makes me really sad to think about how many people will probably not go to heaven, and I’m pretty sure it makes God sad too. I believe that He desires for everyone to live with Him eternally in paradise, but so many reject Him and His ways. When I spend too much time thinking about this I just cry and cry, so I spend my time trying to help people come to know the Lord in a personal and meaningful way. This is all I can do to try to help.

  20. God Creates Evil?
    I’m curious what translation of the Bible this is taken from. I use the Revised New American Bible, which says, “I form the light, and create the darkness, I make weal and create woe.” The phrase “weal and woe” means “both in times of happiness and success, and in times of sadness and difficulty. Another way of describing the phrase “weal and woe” is “joy and sorrow”, so it seems odd to me that the translation you’re using replaces sorrow with the word “evil” because they are obviously not synonyms.

      • God Creates Evil? (King James Bible)
        I’m not willing to base scriptural discussions on the King James translation because it’s known that the writers/editors of the King James bible were instructed by King James himself to make sure that their translation matched the theology of the Church of England, which was started by King Henry the 8th who was pissed that the Catholic Church wouldn’t allow him to divorce his wife (who was sterile) and marry someone else that could presumably give him an heir. Sorry. I’m open to other translations, but not the King James.

        You said that the Hebrew word used “mostly” refers to evil acts, and that word “mostly” is dangerous because it tricks us into thinking that it’s okay to apply it to all situations which isn’t true.

        • I feel like you are using semantics to avoid a basic meaning in a passage because it contradicts your understanding of God.
          If you look at the use of the Hebrew word in question in about 150 passages, the consistent meaning is ‘evil’.
          But just to go along with your word, “Weal and woe” is an English idiom used in place of peace and evil, “woe” is defined as “A condition of deep suffering from misfortune, affliction, or grief”.
          If we agree that God is claiming credit for creating it, is there really a need to argue that God created something bad?

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