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My Take: Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality?
June 21st, 2011
10:10 AM ET

My Take: Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality?

Editor's Note: Jonathan Dudley is the author of Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics.

By Jonathan Dudley, Special to CNN

Growing up in the evangelical community, I learned the Bible’s stance on homosexuality is clear-cut. God condemns it, I was taught, and those who disagree just haven’t read their Bibles closely enough.

Having recently graduated from Yale Divinity School, I can say that my childhood community’s approach to gay rights—though well intentioned—is riddled with self-serving double standards.

I don’t doubt that the one New Testament author who wrote on the subject of male-male intercourse thought it a sin. In Romans 1, the only passage in the Bible where a reason is explicitly given for opposing same-sex relations, the Apostle Paul calls them “unnatural.”

Problem is, Paul’s only other moral argument from nature is the following: “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?” (1 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Few Christians would answer that question with a “yes.”

In short, Paul objects to two things as unnatural: one is male-male sex and the other is long hair on men and short hair on women. The community opposed to gay marriage takes one condemnation as timeless and universal and the other as culturally relative.

I also don’t doubt that those who advocate gay marriage are advocating a revision of the Christian tradition.

But the community opposed to gay marriage has itself revised the Christian tradition in a host of ways. For the first 1500 years of Christianity, for example, marriage was deemed morally inferior to celibacy. When a theologian named Jovinian challenged that hierarchy in 390 A.D. — merely by suggesting that marriage and celibacy might be equally worthwhile endeavors — he was deemed a heretic and excommunicated from the church.

How does that sit with “family values” activism today?

Yale New Testament professor Dale B. Martin has noted that today’s "pro-family" activism, despite its pretense to be representing traditional Christian values, would have been considered “heresy” for most of the church’s history.

The community opposed to gay marriage has also departed from the Christian tradition on another issue at the heart of its social agenda: abortion.

Unbeknownst to most lay Christians, the vast majority of Christian theologians and saints throughout history have not believed life begins at conception.

Although he admitted some uncertainty on the matter, the hugely influential 4th and 5th century Christian thinker Saint Augustine wrote, “it could not be said that there was a living soul in [a] body” if it is “not yet endowed with senses.”

Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic saint and a giant of mediaeval theology, argued: “before the body has organs in any way whatever, it cannot be receptive of the soul.”

American evangelicals, meanwhile, widely opposed the idea that life begins at conception until the 1970s, with some even advocating looser abortion laws based on their reading of the Bible before then.

It won’t do to oppose gay marriage because it’s not traditional while advocating other positions that are not traditional.

And then there’s the topic of divorce. Although there is only one uncontested reference to same-sex relations in the New Testament, divorce is condemned throughout, both by Jesus and Paul. To quote Jesus from the Gospel of Mark: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.”

A possible exception is made only for unfaithfulness.

The community most opposed to gay marriage usually reads these condemnations very leniently. A 2007 issue of Christianity Today, for example, featured a story on its cover about divorce that concluded that Christians should permit divorce for “adultery,” “emotional and physical neglect” and “abandonment and abuse.”

The author emphasizes how impractical it would be to apply a strict interpretation of Jesus on this matter: “It is difficult to believe the Bible can be as impractical as this interpretation implies.”

Indeed it is.

On the other hand, it’s not at all difficult for a community of Christian leaders, who are almost exclusively white, heterosexual men, to advocate interpretations that can be very impractical for a historically oppressed minority to which they do not belong – homosexuals.

Whether the topic is hair length, celibacy, when life begins, or divorce, time and again, the leaders most opposed to gay marriage have demonstrated an incredible willingness to consider nuances and complicating considerations when their own interests are at stake.

Since graduating from seminary, I no longer identify with the evangelical community of my youth. The community gave me many fond memories and sound values but it also taught me to take the very human perspectives of its leaders and attribute them to God.

So let’s stop the charade and be honest.

Opponents of gay marriage aren’t defending the Bible’s values. They’re using the Bible to defend their own.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jonathan Dudley.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Homosexuality • Opinion

soundoff (6,474 Responses)
  1. King James Bible Society

    King James Audio Visual Bible – and it is free at http://kingjamesbiblesociety.org

    September 13, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  2. Jason Reichart

    Please send this Op-Ed to as many people as possible. People need to read this!

    September 12, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  3. Forcxrro

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    September 11, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Douglas

      Forcxrro, Try celibacy. It will bring you peace and relieve your desires for inappropriate relationships with minors. There is power and salvation in celicabcy for GLBTQ&Q folk. Best, Douglas

      September 11, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • Douglas

      Forcxrro, Try celibacy. It will bring you peace and relieve your desires for inappropriate relationships with minors. There is power and salvation in celibacy for GLBTQ&Q folk. Best, Douglas

      September 11, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
  4. Jack Carlson

    This is the best article I've ever read on gay marriage. Pass it on!

    September 10, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  5. Bksgunuz

    I can't get a dialling tone lolita underage
    8P

    September 7, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  6. Nice!!!

    This article needs to be forwarded to as many people as possible!

    September 4, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  7. Conservative Christians Are Going to Hell

    Please pray that conservative Christians will come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

    September 4, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  8. Douglas

    An alternative to celibacy that is gaining popularity in GLBTQ&Q Jewish circles is pairing gays and lesbians for marriage as a means of transitioning for family life. This holds promise and is worth examining as an alternative to celibacy for GLBTQ&Q folks.
    Here is the info: http://news.yahoo.com/israeli-rabbi-pairs-gays-lesbians-061904417.html
    Where there is a will, there is a way. Best, Douglas

    September 3, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Conservative Christians Are Going to Hell

      Where there's a will to let your moral standards be dictated by prejudice against you, there's a way.

      September 3, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  9. Douglas

    Matthew 18:6, "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." Let us not lead our GLBTQ&Q brothers and sisters astray. The path to salvation is paved with celibacy. For straights it means abstinence before marriage. No fornication. This is a struggle for GLBTQ&Q and straights alike, but we can do it! Getting ready here for the Gulf Storm, Lee, Best always, Douglas

    September 2, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • Observer

      Douglas,

      Treat hetero remarriage adultery the same or else skip the hypocrisy.

      September 2, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • Conservative Christians Are Going to Hell

      Conservative Christians are the ones who lead gay people astray with their prejudice-driven abuse of the Bible. Pray for the salvation of conservative Christians.

      September 2, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  10. Ha

    Evangelicals hate Jesus

    September 2, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Esteban

      @Ha,

      So what is an evangelical? Alister McGrath, an evangelical Anglican, offered six major distinctives of evangelical Christianity: 1) The supreme authority of Scripture, 2) Jesus Christ as incarnate God, 3) the Holy Spirit, 4) personal conversion, 5) evangelism, and 6) the importance of the Christian community (Evangelicalism and the Future of Christianity, InterVarsity Press, 1995, pp. 55-56). These six beliefs are not a hard and fast boundary, but in general they serve to mark the boundary between evangelicalism and mainstream Protestantism. (A different list of beliefs and practices would be needed to describe the boundary between evangelicalism and fundamentalism.)

      September 2, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Ha

      His list is incomplete. It should also include: 7) Rejection of modern science 8) Bigotry toward social minorities 9) Resentment of the poor 10) Support of environmental exploitation 11) Hatred for higher education 12) Hatred of Jesus's teaching
      Fo the last point, see here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/phil-zuckerman/why-evangelicals-hate-jes_b_830237.html

      September 2, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • J.W

      I can't believe evangelicals even put the sunglasses face next to bigotry of social minorities. They must really think that is cool.

      September 2, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Esteban

      @HA,

      I am sure they believe in the things you claim they left off....

      You must have had a bad experience along the way with an Evangelical. So sorry to hear that.

      Trust Jesus before men of this world.

      September 2, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • J.W

      Esteban said trust Jesus. He must not be an evangelical.

      September 2, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Esteban

      @JW,

      Nope. I am a Jesus Freak!

      September 2, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Ha

      You're not a Jesus Freak unless you're a socialist like Jesus was.

      September 2, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Esteban

      @HA,

      I will prayer for you...

      Have a great weekend!

      September 2, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Ha

      You can't pray to someone you hate.

      September 2, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  11. Dude

    I wish I could put down my computer and get back to reading my bible..

    By far the majority of comments I have seen all assume a moral law to exist and be actively involved in our life. Thus we all argue on things such as this. So the next choice you have is; what is this governing authority? If you have or have not come to realize yet Christ is that authority. Either way it is out of our control we all see that. What ever you believe it to be you should search it out relentlessly. I believe honest people will find truth if they seek it.
    TO "Christians" : yo stop "interpreting" the bible. Read it, do it. Find the original meaning of the Greek and Hebrew and understand the culture yes of course. But please stop choosing what you think is, or is not Devine. Crap man, I mean really dude. It's true what I have seen some atheist's say. A lot of Christians try to control God. God is not a Tool!

    September 2, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • Esteban

      @Dude,

      Well said, brother, well said....

      September 2, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Ha

      Honest people do find the truth when they seek it. They discover that Christianity is not true.

      September 2, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Esteban

      @Ha,

      You do not have to be a Christian, to be honest.

      September 2, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  12. Enrique

    Having become a Christian and Accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour - I have learned this in the last week: love the gay community and do not criticize, it is up to the Holy Spirit to work in them and in us.

    September 1, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
    • Dude

      Hey bro good stuff. Welcome to the family of Christ. Sorry a lot of us are dysfunctional

      September 2, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  13. stephen

    Folks! This is what you gain from attending a liberal theological seminary school. Okay, so gay marriage is okay because the bible is being twisted by the ultra conservative. Lets compare having a long hair to gay marriage! Great juxtoposition! All those thousands of dollars wasted just to make you more foolish. 'For the wisdom of man is foolishness in God's eyes:"-Proverbs. You could have used all that tuition money to help the poor instead of making yourself a heretic. Sad for a 'so called Christian'.

    September 1, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • Ha

      Another conservative demonstrates his hatred for education (and thus, for truth).

      September 1, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Observer

      Stephen,
      "All those thousands of dollars wasted just to make you more foolish."

      Speaking of looking foolish, without that education, he might still believe in talking serpents and unicorns.

      September 1, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • Esteban

      Welcome back @Ha!

      Lumping Christians, while easy, is not appropriate. Anymore than it is to lump non-believers with the worst the World has to offer.

      I am sorry you have been exposed to the sect of Christians that condemns. In Christianity, we call these people "Pharisees" or "Sadducees". Christians who live as Jesus do not condemn anyone.

      September 2, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  14. GodPot

    Matthew 7:20 "So then, you will know them by their fruits."

    See, Jesus told us we would be known by our fruits.

    September 1, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Esteban

      @godpot

      I am uncertain hat your point is with this. But, if you are saying we will be judged by how good we are, you are going against Biblical theology. Some denominations believe we will be granted entry into Heaven by how many good deeds we have done.

      Not the denomination of Jesus, however.

      September 2, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • Observer

      Esteban,

      GodPot's comment is likely a play on words, especially "fruits".

      September 2, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  15. Observer

    Belief is ALL you need for gays or others:
    – John 3:15 “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
    – John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him
    should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
    – John 3:18 “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already,
    because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
    – John 3:36 “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life:

    September 1, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Jeremy

      First point – you are taking an extremely selective stance on this one. Salvation is connected to repentance, confession, faith, baptism, perseverance, etc. Go to biblegateway.com and keyword search "salvation," "saved," and "saves" if you don't believe me.
      Second point – maybe your point works, but it depends on what you mean (and ultimately, what the text means) by "believe." If we are talking about mere mental assent, then the rest of scripture torpedoes your point. However, if by "believe" you mean a living, active faith affirmed by action then it works.

      September 2, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Esteban

      @Jeremy,

      Well said. I have strong convictions about quoting scripture out of context, which I have done. The concept of "Vending Machine God" comes to mind...picking what you want when you want it to defend a particular stance.

      September 2, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Observer

      Jeremy,

      “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

      So where do statements like that have an asterisk that says that's only one of MANY conditions for "eternal life". Your pick and choose approach is exactly what this article is all about.

      September 2, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Galahad

      Very good point. John 3:16 does NOT have fine print. I detest that conservative "christians" twist the Bible to their own agenda.

      September 6, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  16. Dayne

    There is a lot of rationalizing about our actions and commitments. As the author comments, many Christians rationalize away scriptural prohibitions about divorce, simply because it is common today. In the same way, the early esteem for celibacy was based on the belief that Jesus would return soon and a life committed to God was superior to the more worldly commitment to family – but family life was still esteemed. Maybe we should uphold biblical morality as a positive standard (and good for children and other living things) rather than rejecting all standards and just "doing our own thing."

    September 1, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Dayne

      You said: "Maybe we should uphold biblical morality as a positive standard (and good for children and other living things) rather than rejecting all standards and just "doing our own thing.""
      Then again, maybe not. May I suggest that you critically evaluate the morality espoused by your bible? I mean, actually think about it and rationally evaluate what it says.

      Here is a video that might help you get started:

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSS-88ShJfo&w=640&h=390]

      September 1, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • A Theist

      @Lin I had pause watching by minute 5 (still watching) just to count the false assumptions already made by the video. Let's start with the subtle rhetorical strategy of juxtaposing this illogical dictator with God. By decidedly admitting the dictator is a clear lunatic, and then "demonstrating" that God is exactly this person, the viewer is convinced that the God that Christians and Jewish people worship is, in fact, this dictator. However, every single verse that is produced contains a myriad of nuances and logistics left out in the "dictators" black-and-white schema.
      I am going to follow this film's advice and "think for myself" and deny that it is "disrespectful to disagree" with the creator of this film. This tactic (when used in the film) in itself has created a sort of logical "bullet-proof vest" for the rhetor, because by disagreeing with him, I am, by a weak inductive process, supposedly taking the "disrespectful to disagree" side of the argument. Simply by setting up the argument this way, the defender of a God cannot win, since he or she is considered simply "coming to the defense of a tyrant" instead of "objectively looking at the way a story played out."

      Now, if there's anyone who understands this rhetorical strategy, and it willing to move past it to provide a defense of these passages in favor of God, I will be more than happy to show that many–if not all–the passages listed are not nearly as black-and-white as the "laws" listed at the outset of the film. If you plan on writing me off as someone who is simply no thinking clearly, I ask, how did you derive this notion and is there any way to prove that I do, without necessarily agreeing with your viewpoint?

      September 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • A Theist

      *Now, if there's anyone who understands this rhetorical strategy, and it willing to move past it to provide a defense of these passages in favor of God

      EDIT: "...and is willing to move past it and allow for me to provide..."

      September 1, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • LinCA

      @A Theist

      To make the christian god look like anything but a tyrant, you will have to look past, interpret or otherwise twist the bible. The horrible things in the bible done by, and in name of, your god, remove any of its moral authority. You yourself said, "every single verse that is produced contains a myriad of nuances and logistics left out in the "dictators" black-and-white schema.", in essence trying to mitigate the horrors by reinterpreting.

      I'll pass on the bible. Thanks.

      September 2, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • Esteban

      @LinCA

      Those who read the Bible on a regular basis would disagree with your statement. Those who handpick scriptures to meet their personal beliefs (on either side) are misusing God's word.

      The "Vending Machine God" (that is, picking what you want and ignoring the rest) does not exist, but many want to believe that is a safer approach. While it is, indeed, safer, it is not accurate.

      Moral, if you want to argue for or against His divinity, knowing the entire story of the Bible is a prerequisite, not an option.

      September 2, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • LinCA

      @Esteban

      You said, "Those who read the Bible on a regular basis would disagree with your statement. Those who handpick scriptures to meet their personal beliefs (on either side) are misusing God's word."
      Fact: There are more than 30,000 different christian sect, cults and denominations.
      Fact: Each and every one of these sect, cults and denominations bases their beliefs of the wants and needs of the christian god, and with that their rituals, on some version of the same book.

      Now, if everyone used the same interpretation of the original writings, there would be only one book. If everyone used the same interpretation of that book, there would be only one christian denomination.

      Having more than one denomination means that the bible is interpreted differently. If it is open to interpretation, it isn't perfect. If it isn't perfect, it isn't the word of a perfect god.

      You said, "The "Vending Machine God" [...] does not exist, but many want to believe that is a safer approach. While it is, indeed, safer, it is not accurate."
      I agree that that is not accurate and it should probably be: God(s) do(es) not exist. But it doesn't have anything to do with playing it safe.

      You said, "Moral, if you want to argue for or against His divinity, knowing the entire story of the Bible is a prerequisite, not an option."
      If your god was perfect, there would be no debate. Everyone would believe in him/her/it, and worship in the same way. Either your god fucked up, or he/she/it doesn't exist.

      Had all christians had been united into one denomination, you may have had an argument in "knowing the entire story". Since they aren't, odds are, you don't know the entire story either. And the entire story, most likely doesn't even include any real gods, just delusions of them.

      Also, anyone who knows even half of the story of the bible will reject it as utter nonsense. The only prerequisite is to have the ability for, and willingness to use, rational thought.

      September 2, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Esteban

      @LinCA,

      Sadly, your feelings are not debatable. Nor are mine.

      There has been detractors from day 1, of The Truth. I also believe there are thousands of Worldly idols (taking the place of God); Money, Fame, Self and the list goes on.

      It is much easier to live in the World and bash God, no doubt about it. Defending something you can't see is a difficult life to lead.

      I definitely do not have all the answers. But I choose to worship God, not myself or money or movie/sports stars or.... We all get the choice to worship something or someone.

      I choose the Lord.

      September 2, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Jeremy

      @ LinCA

      Just to comment on one part of your argument, is the problem really with that which is being interpreted or the interpreter? I can misunderstand just about anything because I am not perfect. It doesn't follow to say that the reason I misunderstood was because the other thing was imperfect. The brain interprets visual information – if it mistakes what it sees, that is not the fault of that which was observed.

      September 2, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • A Theist

      @Lin Don't you see what you and the film director have done? You've discredited a potential explanationfor something just because you think it ought to be discredited! Why? From you experience in life, is anything so simple and black and white, or is it usually the case that things are complex and require a thorough understanding of the context before jumping to conclusions? You're asking God to work simply in a complex world. If the God you described existed, Atheists would be ranting on about how simple and unrealistic He is.

      My biggest issue with this film though, is that he uses rhetoric tactics more than actual arguments to make his point. He labels Christians simpletons for accepting a Good and Divine being yet in the same breath discredits them for convoluting what he claims is a simple, clear cut message.

      I can reverse the argument for you. Suppose there's a computer that is utterly complex in every way. It is so complex that onlookers are unable to understand how it works in its entirety. The logical conclusion is that somebody extremely intelligen contructed the computer, or else the computer inexplicably constructed itself. From experience and what we know, the most simple answer is, somebody built the computer, and somebody that claims that the computer miraculously built itself require some convoluted rationalisation to implement a valid explanation. Now suppose that our universe is the computer. It is so complex that nobody understands completely how it works. From our experience, however, we know that complex machinery requires some sort of mind behind it, and any other explanation requires some sort of probablistic miracle. You could take these points and argue that "through a complex set of realities, they came into existence all on their own" but you would inevitably be coming to the defense of something you believe to hold true, when in fact the more simple answer is likely what we know.

      Do you see what I did there? I used the same rhetorical strategy and have now called Naturalists simpletons for accepting a miracle, and rationalisers for attemtping to explain away something that has a more simple solution. Through weak analogies and "logical" cornering, I've established that my side clearly makes more sense than the other. But we both know the origins are much more complicated than that, don't we?

      Open your mind and understand that nothing can ever be fully known (hence the 30000 denominations–I'd love to see how they define a sect/denomination) but only best perceived. Nothing in our perception is black-in-white regardless of the potential of objectivity within the universe. God can be objective, but we could never perceive God objectively because of our ego-centric predicament (we can only know what our senses and reasoning are inclined to tell us).

      September 2, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Esteban

      You said, "There has been detractors from day 1, of The Truth."
      What you consider "The Truth" is far from it. As I've shown above, if there are over 30,000 different version of "the truth", all but one must be wrong. There is no guarantee that the last one is correct either. If there is one that is correct, how can you tell which one that would be?

      You said, "It is much easier to live in the World and bash God, no doubt about it. Defending something you can't see is a difficult life to lead."
      I don't bash any gods. They have to exist first. None do.

      Defending something for which there is not a single solitary shred of evidence is even harder than stuff you simply can't see, I imagine.

      You said, "I definitely do not have all the answers. But I choose to worship God, not myself or money or movie/sports stars or.... We all get the choice to worship something or someone.
      I choose the Lord.
      "
      That part was obvious. I don't expect to change your mind.

      September 2, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Jeremy

      You said, "Just to comment on one part of your argument, is the problem really with that which is being interpreted or the interpreter?"
      That is really a distinction without a difference in this context. If there is a god that is perfect, he/she/it would have created a perfect people and a perfect set of instructions (if the people were perfect, instructions would be redundant, but I digress). The gods that are worshiped by man are far from perfect. Not only did they manage to screw up so badly in the people department, they also failed to provide clear instructions. Ergo, they are not perfect.

      You said, "I can misunderstand just about anything because I am not perfect. It doesn't follow to say that the reason I misunderstood was because the other thing was imperfect. The brain interprets visual information – if it mistakes what it sees, that is not the fault of that which was observed."
      You, just like everyone else, are a product of evolution. We are not perfect, but we're learning (some of us, anyway).

      September 2, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • LinCA

      @A Theist

      You said, "Don't you see what you and the film director have done? You've discredited a potential explanationfor something just because you think it ought to be discredited! Why? From you experience in life, is anything so simple and black and white, or is it usually the case that things are complex and require a thorough understanding of the context before jumping to conclusions? You're asking God to work simply in a complex world. If the God you described existed, Atheists would be ranting on about how simple and unrealistic He is."
      I see the argument that you are trying to make. I'm just not buying it. Sometimes things are really that simple. A god that is perfect will not slaughter innocents. Period. Your god is far from perfect. He/she/it is no source for morality.

      You said, "My biggest issue with this film though, is that he uses rhetoric tactics more than actual arguments to make his point. He labels Christians simpletons for accepting a Good and Divine being yet in the same breath discredits them for convoluting what he claims is a simple, clear cut message.

      I can reverse the argument for you. Suppose there's a computer that is utterly complex in every way. It is so complex that onlookers are unable to understand how it works in its entirety. The logical conclusion is that somebody extremely intelligen contructed the computer, or else the computer inexplicably constructed itself. From experience and what we know, the most simple answer is, somebody built the computer, and somebody that claims that the computer miraculously built itself require some convoluted rationalisation to implement a valid explanation. Now suppose that our universe is the computer. It is so complex that nobody understands completely how it works. From our experience, however, we know that complex machinery requires some sort of mind behind it, and any other explanation requires some sort of probablistic miracle. You could take these points and argue that "through a complex set of realities, they came into existence all on their own" but you would inevitably be coming to the defense of something you believe to hold true, when in fact the more simple answer is likely what we know."
      You conveniently left out the possibility that computer was the result of billions of years of evolution. You jump to a conclusion. In short you are saying: "I'm not smart enough to know how this came about. I'm not going to investigate. I'm just going to assume it was created by someone smarter than me. My mind is made up, no matter what evidence is uncovered or what anyone says."

      You said, "Do you see what I did there? I used the same rhetorical strategy and have now called Naturalists simpletons for accepting a miracle, and rationalisers for attemtping to explain away something that has a more simple solution. Through weak analogies and "logical" cornering, I've established that my side clearly makes more sense than the other. But we both know the origins are much more complicated than that, don't we?"
      You are the one jumping to conclusion here. You choose to accept a simple solution on faith, without a single shred of evidence in support. I accept that there is a possibility that there is a creator (it can't possibly be the christian god, but there could be something). But even if there is, this creator more than likely simply set the evolutionary processes in motion and stood back. If there is a god, he/she/it is most likely outside our universe and no longer interacting with it.

      You said, "Open your mind and understand that nothing can ever be fully known (hence the 30000 denominations-I'd love to see how they define a sect/denomination) but only best perceived. Nothing in our perception is black-in-white regardless of the potential of objectivity within the universe. God can be objective, but we could never perceive God objectively because of our ego-centric predicament (we can only know what our senses and reasoning are inclined to tell us)."
      I accept that nothing can be fully know. But jumping to unfounded conclusions and taking shit on faith isn't the way to get a better understanding. Religion hinders the quest for knowledge. It doesn't contribute anything.

      We will never perceive any gods as they, most likely, only exist in the minds of the believers.

      September 2, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • A Theist

      @Lin
      Ok, I'm just going to use the words you have just used to show your self-contradiction:
      –I see the argument that you are trying to make. I'm just not buying it. Sometimes things are really that simple. </i<

      Then you said:
      -
      You conveniently left out the possibility that computer was the result of billions of years of evolution. You jump to a conclusion. In short you are saying: "I'm not smart enough to know how this came about. I'm not going to investigate. I'm just going to assume it was created by someone smarter than me. My mind is made up, no matter what evidence is uncovered or what anyone says."

      You've criticized me for not accepting the simple reality, then called me out for being too simple.
      -----------------–
      Allow me to also analyze what you've said here:

      Let's review this quote
      You are the one jumping to conclusion here. You choose to accept a simple solution on faith, without a single shred of evidence in support. I accept that there is a possibility that there is a creator (it can't possibly be the christian god, but there could be something). But even if there is, this creator more than likely simply set the evolutionary processes in motion and stood back. If there is a god, he/she/it is most likely outside our universe and no longer interacting with it.

      Do you see what you've done here? You've injected an additional as.sumption in order to defend an idea that you hold true. The same fallacy applies when we presume that God's morality is straight forward or presume that there is some inexplicable inherent morality (such as explaining that killing and eating children is inherently wrong in the universe, yet with no explanation as to why–explaining that it is a part of nature that evolved over time makes no sense, since it has been well established in other species that infanticide/matricide etc. is quite common. [consider the lion that eats its own cubs]. You can explain away these moralities as a part of some complex development process of the brain in evolution, but again you are injecting complexity to a situation–why are you willing to do this for your own case but instantly reject any explanation for things you have chosen to reject?).

      I'm saying that both the creation of the universe and the explanation of God's morality are complex. Anything is a simple as you want it to be, when you decide not to think over it. I suggest you consider the as.sumptions you have accepted in this film and ask how you came to them. I would be happy to discuss them with you, but suffice it to say shortly, I do not accept the basic premise (due to logical fallacy) that the director has made and therefore must reject any "logic" built on top of it.

      September 4, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • A Theist

      And actually that was exactly my point. I jumped to the conclusion without fully weighing the possibility for how the computer came to be–it was a fallacy intended to mirror the fallacy that was done in the video. You have done the same thing when accepting the directors premises without question and as,sumed that God's morality must be that simple.

      September 4, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • LinCA

      @A Theist

      I'm not saying that morality is simple. I'm saying that the god as described in the bible is a monster. Based on that alone, he has no moral authority. Murderers and tyrants do not get to set moral guidelines for decent people. That part is simple.

      To twist things around and starting by stating that your god is good, and that therefor you have to interpret the bible to reflect that, is ass-backwards. You state an unsupported position and proceed to twist the facts to make them fit that position. You could do the same with any tyrant or mass murderer, and people have.

      Now there is the possibility that the bible, often called the christian god's word, doesn't describe him correctly. But if that is true, then what does that mean? That must mean that this god was either incapable of conveying his message in a way that was unambiguous, or that he doesn't exist.

      So, in short, your god is a monster, he's incompetent or he doesn't exist. That leaves very little reason to worship him. Smart money, by the way, is on the last possibility as there isn't a shred of scientifically valid evidence to even suggest there are any gods.

      But, I'm glad to see that you agree that christians are jumping to an unfounded conclusion when they say that their god made the universe.

      September 4, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • A Theist

      Clearly you are so ingrained in your idea that there's no point carrying on this conversation–except to say that claiming that God is a monster is more unfounded than otherwise. Yes, He did some things that the simple may not attempt to understand, but to say it is unfounded shows blatant ignorance. A simple analysis at the character of Jesus shows that He did at least one good thing for every "bad" thing you claim he did–if not more. That is, by selecting specific moments that appear "monstrous" you have defined the entire character of God as monstrous when in reality there is plenty of evidence to support a loving God from the Bible. Because of this, I can try to understand passages that may not make as much sense if He really claims to be a loving God. Now I would agree with you entirely on your position if there was really no substance to the claim that God is good. That is, if every or even MOST of the Bible indicated a more tyrannical God, I would say it truly was wishful thinking to call him a good God, but this is simply not the reality. For every "bad" passage labeled in this film, I can find a good one to counter-balance it, so clearly there is some evidence to suggest a loving God.

      I will maintain that the Bible is God's word and does describe His character accurately. I am a little concerned with your claim that He is somehow incompetent simply because some people misinterpret the Bible. There are cherry-pickers, literals,figurative followers (people who take everything figuratively)–do these interpretations stem from inherent traits, or are they not a part of one's will to choose how to interpret the Bible? The fault for different interpretations–many times that is–is due to the person's decision on how to read the text. The Bible also says not to worry about minor differences, but that the main purpose is to accept the salvation of Christ, and to love others before themselves–I would say most, if not all Christians (true ones, that is) understand this message unambiguously.

      Lastly, you claim that scientific evidence doesn't exist to support God. I would differ with you on this as well, and say that there is no scientific proof that there is a God–nor will there ever be. I would claim that there is evidence to suggest a God–world renown physicists and other scientists would agree on this–but that's what makes belief a belief, a presumed idea that is based on ones perception of reality. I would hope you would not view the Bible or all of its followers as simpletons but understand that there is as much complexity as you allow for.

      September 4, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • LinCA

      @A Theist

      So, you say that your bible accurately describes his character? Well, here are some of the finer acts of your god:

      "And at midnight the LORD killed all the firstborn sons in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn son of the captive in the dungeon. Even the firstborn of their livestock were killed. Pharaoh and his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night, and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single house where someone had not died." (Exodus 12:29-30 NLT)

      "If even then you remain hostile toward me and refuse to obey, I will inflict you with seven more disasters for your sins. I will release wild animals that will kill your children and destroy your cattle, so your numbers will dwindle and your roads will be deserted." (Leviticus 26:21-22 NLT)

      "Anyone who is captured will be run through with a sword. Their little children will be dashed to death right before their eyes. Their homes will be sacked and their wives raped by the attacking hordes. For I will stir up the Medes against Babylon, and no amount of silver or gold will buy them off. The attacking armies will shoot down the young people with arrows. They will have no mercy on helpless babies and will show no compassion for the children." (Isaiah 13:15-18 NLT)

      "Make ready to slaughter his sons for the guilt of their fathers; Lest they rise and posses the earth, and fill the breadth of the world with tyrants." (Isaiah 14:21 NAB)

      "The glory of Israel will fly away like a bird, for your children will die at birth or perish in the womb or never even be conceived. Even if your children do survive to grow up, I will take them from you. It will be a terrible day when I turn away and leave you alone. I have watched Israel become as beautiful and pleasant as Tyre. But now Israel will bring out her children to be slaughtered." O LORD, what should I request for your people? I will ask for wombs that don't give birth and breasts that give no milk. The LORD says, "All their wickedness began at Gilgal; there I began to hate them. I will drive them from my land because of their evil actions. I will love them no more because all their leaders are rebels. The people of Israel are stricken. Their roots are dried up; they will bear no more fruit. And if they give birth, I will slaughter their beloved children." (Hosea 9:11-16 NLT)

      Your murderous god makes Hitler look like a sissy. You can keep your delusions. Anyone who worships a monster like that should have his head examined.

      September 5, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • A Theist

      @Lin Clearly your emotions have gotten the best of you. If you had read my previous comment, you would see that I said for every "bad" verse you have indicated, there is at least one equally "good" verse to counter-balance it to indicate that God is actually loving. Taken in that context, we can derive that these "bad" verses actually have an underlying "good" to them. If you'd like, I can find an alternative pas sage for each of the ones you have indicated, but something tells me you don't care to hear reason or use the Bible for any evidence that would support a loving God.

      Not to mention that half of the verses you listed are prophetic, and simply speak of other societies attacking the Israelites (they are the result of man's free will, and are in no way an "act of God."). And if you think the issue of free will is clear-cut and simple, I suggest you read "Watchmen." You will find that Christians and non-Christians alike see that there is a complexity to God that extends simple rules–try thinking out of the box for once.

      Lastly, you have still not provided for me any logical explanation to the presumptions made by the author of the film. Why do you accept the notion that there is an inherent morality, and that for some reason mankind's inherent morality often defies natures?

      September 6, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • David

      “(they are the result of man's free will, and are in no way an "act of God."”

      Yet, if your god was a loving as you are pretending it is then it could have prevented it. You are only seeing your version of the truth, what you perceive to be correct and no matter what others say you really don't care to hear reason.

      A god was created for human beings to pursue good rather than pleasure. The good was what was good for each individual. This good life is one of everyday happiness. When doing what one wants to do is the same thing as what one ought to do, one is able to thrive happily. Being virtuous can be easy for man to do because he is lead by his ego. He wants to be the best possible human being that he can. By being moral, a man is able to be the best possible person, and to build on his ego. In response to his constantly growing ego, man attempts to be moral so that he is able to constantly be more virtuous than others. By attaining happiness, human beings are able to reach the moral life. Man is being lead by his ego, he is an intelligent being that will use his practical wisdom to pursue the entities needed to live the good life and continually satisfy his ego

      September 6, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • A Theist

      @David And what, exactly, would qualify to you as me "hearing reason"? When I agree with your point? I've not only "heard" these points before, I've listened to them and thought them through on my own. Your "think for yourself" claim doesn't make any sense. If I had been spouting the words of someone else without any knowledge of what they meant, then yes, I would agree that I am nothing but a sheep. But that's not the case here. The conclusion I have reached about God came from my own reasoning....

      As for the second half of your comment, that's an interesting belief you have in the world. I tend to disagree with some of it, but that's the beauty of diverse beliefs!

      September 6, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • LinCA

      @A Theist

      You said, "If you had read my previous comment, you would see that I said for every "bad" verse you have indicated, there is at least one equally "good" verse to counter-balance it to indicate that God is actually loving."
      So if Hitler really loved his dog, and he did, you consider him "good"? Slaughtering 6 million jews can be mitigated by simply performing a kind act?

      Mass murder is not acceptable. No matter how much you want to brush it under the rug. You are worshiping a monster.

      You said, "Taken in that context, we can derive that these "bad" verses actually have an underlying "good" to them. If you'd like, I can find an alternative pas sage for each of the ones you have indicated, but something tells me you don't care to hear reason or use the Bible for any evidence that would support a loving God."
      Your bible is unconvincing that your god is good. It appears that to see the "good" in these heinous acts, you have to first believe that your god is good, then twist the story to show that you were right. Sorry, I'm not buying it.

      The fact that you and I read and interpret the bible differently, proves beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is not the word of any perfect being. And it isn't just you and I that read it differently. It's even your fellow believers that do. That alone should give you pause. Your god, if he caused the bible to be written, did a piss-poor job at directing its writers.

      You said, "Not to mention that half of the verses you listed are prophetic, and simply speak of other societies attacking the Israelites (they are the result of man's free will, and are in no way an "act of God.")."
      Free will is an illusion if you accept that your god is all-knowing. They are mutually exclusive. If everything is part of your god's creation, even those that murder in his name are his responsibility. Your god, if you believe that he is the creator of everything, to this day, is responsible for the death and misery of untold numbers of innocent people.

      You said, "And if you think the issue of free will is clear-cut and simple, I suggest you read "Watchmen." You will find that Christians and non-Christians alike see that there is a complexity to God that extends simple rules–try thinking out of the box for once."
      Until there is some evidence that there are any gods, let alone yours, there really is no reason to contemplate his complexities. If you want your arguments to have any value, show me a single piece of evidence that there are gods. Any gods. It doesn't even have to be yours.

      Until there is some credible evidence your god actually exists, his complexities are really the domain of psychiatrists.

      You said, "Lastly, you have still not provided for me any logical explanation to the presumptions made by the author of the film. Why do you accept the notion that there is an inherent morality, and that for some reason mankind's inherent morality often defies natures?"
      As social animals, humans benefit from a society that that helps them prosper. It is beneficial for humans to work together. To be able to work together, a common set of morals helps. It is simply a result of evolution.

      Also, because your god is a figment of your imagination, he can't be the source of anything. He didn't create anything, he didn't provide any morals and he doesn't listen to your prayers.

      The sooner you realize that, the sooner you can start the healing process.

      September 6, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  17. Jason

    How can you argue with an article by a blind man

    September 1, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • James

      Because it's the blind leading the blind....what does that make you? Uh, blind.

      September 1, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Timmy

      In response to Paul's comment about men with long hair. I would like to study the original language. Almost all depictions of biblical men show them with hair much longer than has been the name in our time. Using the comment about hair to debunk other ideas put forth by Paul is shakey. A different translation of "long" might shed some light.

      September 1, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  18. jeremiah

    And by pharoahs I mean pharisees ><

    September 1, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  19. jeremiah

    I too have been to theology school and I see what the author here is saying.... and to be honest it is something anybody studying the bible in depth would ask themselves. I remember asking an assistant pastor about the divorce remarrying topic since him and the head pastor had both been married, divorced, and remarried another. I never got a good answer as to why it is okay. The bible says some things that are very scary for us "sinners". I had to do a lot of soul searching and a lot more reading before I was able to sleep at night without it flittering across my thoughts. Revelations says all sinners go to hell, james says faith without deeds is a dead faith, jesus talks about the difficulty of a rich man entering the kingdom of God.

    All that to say is that the pharoahs did the same thing as a lot of christians are doing now.... somehow it becomes a contest of doing good or living sinless lives. Rather the point of all scripture is pointing to a relationship that in and of itself will start transforming oneself into the image of christ... there is no effort needed except that of branch cleaving to the vine. If the branch stays connected to the vine... it will inevitably bear fruit. I think this author missed the point on all the scripture he spent money to learn. Love God... Love People... the rest will take care of itself. I have Gay friends and I have ultra conservative christian friends.. I get along with them all, and love them all. I make mistakes and sin often, but my eyes go to the cross in those moments and I cling to the vine. You all have a wonderful day ❤

    September 1, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Esteban

      There is a lot about God I do not understand as a believer. However, if He were small enough for us to understand, He would not be big enough to worship.

      September 1, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Nicole

      Beautifully said!

      September 1, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Observer

      "if He were small enough for us to understand, He would not be big enough to worship."

      It's fascinating logically to hear that when God created man, he didn't make man smart enough to understand him.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Esteban

      Observer,

      I totally get what you are saying, or trying to say. It is very hard to wrap our heads around this very point.

      We know all the inner workings of a car, and with a little study, can completely control the speed, gear ratio's, and safety of the car.

      We, as humans, want this same understanding and control of God. It is just not how He works.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Observer

      Esteban,

      "We, as humans, want this same understanding and control of God."

      The only people I know of who want to "control" God are Christians. They offer prayers telling God what they want him to do.

      September 1, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • Geoffrey

      Well said.

      September 1, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Esteban

      Observer,

      I have no desire to try to control anything outside of myself, God especially.

      I am sorry you have been exposed to that sect of Christianity. It just shouldn't be....

      September 1, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  20. Cody

    You wanna know what i love about Christianity? You can murder 50 people a defile 20 children but in the end as long as you repent everything's okay.Dont give me bull on how its not becuase thats all i hear whenever something terrible happens...."Oh as long as you accept the lord as your savior you shall be saved".That just screams encouragement for more wrong doing.

    September 1, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Joe

      Repenting is fully turning away from it. So if he who murdered really turned to God, he wouldn't do it again genius. Think harder before you speak. God Bless

      September 1, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • Observer

      "So if he who murdered really turned to God, he wouldn't do it again genius."

      So killing 50 people is okay as long as you won't do it again, genius? Bright.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • swald91

      There is so much more to it than that. Before you go condemning people on their religion, maybe you should look a little into it first. Accepting Jesus as your savior is more than just saying "yes" to something, and then doing whatever you want. There is a whole other level that ,you, apparently do not see.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Observer

      swald91,

      "Before you go condemning people on their religion. . ."

      Nearly everything I said has been based on the Bible. Does the Bible "condemn people on their religion"?

      September 1, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Read

      Actually, if you think about it, uh... YES! DUH. I mean, like, there can only be one TRUE religion, if by true you mean actually factually correctly exact....etc. At least, Jesus is pretty explicit in saying "I am the way, etc." The only way – it is a pretty limiting phrase.

      September 1, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • Read

      Oh, and many Saints (like the Catholic cannon ones) were terrible sinners, murderers and adulterers and all that stuff, before they converted. Obviously the modern world is a bit short on real saints, albeit many people claim to be Christians. The way I see it, to be a Saint is too be an exceptionally "finished" Christian: to be what you are supposed to be, an image of God (for Christ is God, and we must be conformed to his image).

      September 1, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.