Didn’t Jesus Say it’s Better to be Celibate than Married?

Matthew 19:3–12 records this conversation of Jesus, first with some Pharisees, then with his disciples:

Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?”

He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?”

He said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.”

His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”

But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

Traditional Christians, especially Catholic clergy, commonly point to this passage as proof that it is better to be celibate than married.

But Jesus didn’t say that.

This common misinterpretation is built on a basic error in reading Jesus’ words. It also confuses celibacy with being a eunuch. The two are not the same.

We’ll save Jesus’ words about divorce for a future article. For now, let’s take a closer look at what Jesus did and didn’t say about marriage in Matthew 19:3–12.

Celibates are not eunuchs

First, let’s point out the obvious:

Celibates and eunuchs are not the same thing.

From Wikipedia:

Celibacy (from Latin, cælibatus) is the state of voluntarily being unmarried, sexually abstinent, or both, usually for religious reasons. It is often in association with the role of a religious official or devotee. In its narrow sense, the term celibacy is applied only to those for whom the unmarried state is the result of a sacred vow, act of renunciation, or religious conviction. In a wider sense, it is commonly understood to only mean abstinence from sexual activity.

Yes, celibacy is sometimes used loosely to mean simply not having sex. But its primary meaning is a commitment, usually through a religious vow, not to get married or have sex. That is how it is used in religious circles in discussions of celibacy vs. marriage.


The term eunuch (/ˈjuːnək/; Greek: εὐνοῦχος) generally refers to a man who has been castrated, typically early enough in his life for this change to have major hormonal consequences. In Latin, the words eunuchus, spado (Greek: σπάδων spadon), and castratus were used to denote eunuchs.

To read the Greek word εὐνοῦχος (eunouchos) that Jesus used in Matthew 19:12 as referring to voluntary abstention from marriage, as some Bible interpreters do, is to ignore the basic meaning of the term, which is to be castrated. This term became associated with chamberlains and harem guards because in ancient times monarchs didn’t consider eunuchs a threat to their throne, nor could eunuchs impregnate the monarch’s wives.

It is true that in some religions men who take religious vows are castrated as part of their vows. But in ancient Jewish religion, castrated men were not even allowed to enter the Temple:

No one whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 23:1)

In ancient Hebrew society men did sometimes take vows that included temporarily abstaining from sex. But getting castrated and becoming a eunuch was contrary to Hebrew religion and culture. In fact, one of the disasters prophesied against the ancient Jewish king Hezekiah was that some of his sons would become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon (see 2 Kings 20:16–18; Isaiah 39:5–7).

Perhaps it is based on the commandment in Deuteronomy 23:1 that in traditional Christian practice, men who have taken vows of celibacy are not castrated as part of their vows. They simply abstain from sex and marriage (assuming they are faithful to their vows).

In short, eunuchs and celibates simply are not the same thing.

So right out of the gate, it’s a major stretch to think that when Jesus spoke of “eunuchs,” he was referring to celibacy as that is practiced in some Christian religious orders.

Becoming a eunuch was prohibited for religiously observant Jews. Any Jewish male who was castrated was not even allowed to enter the Temple—which was the focal point of Jewish religious life. So Jesus could only have been referring to eunuchs in the pagan world. And his disciples, who were Jews themselves, would have understood that this was a negative reference.

What “teaching” is Jesus referring to?

There is another basic error involved in reading Jesus’ words as saying that it is better to be celibate than married.

After Jesus tells the Pharisees that marriage was originally created by God, that humans should not separate what God has joined together, and that any man who divorces a wife who has been faithful to him and marries another woman is committing adultery, Jesus’ disciples say to him:

If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.

Jesus replies:

Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. . . . Let anyone accept this who can.

Since the disciples’ words come right before Jesus’ reply, it’s easy to get sloppy in our reading, and assume that when Jesus says not everyone can accept “this teaching” (Greek: λόγον logon: “word, discourse, teaching”) he is referring to what the disciples have just said: that it is better not to marry.

But what the disciples said is not a teaching. At least, it’s not anything that Jesus taught. Rather, it is the disciples’ opinion in response to Jesus’ teaching. Jesus is referring to the teaching that he himself has just given about the divine origin and inviolability of marriage, not to the disciples’ anti-marriage opinion in response to it.

The bottom line is that Jesus simply didn’t say that it is better to be celibate than married.

Jesus never said anything at all about celibacy. Rather, in response to his disciples’ opinion that if a man can’t divorce his wife it is better not to marry at all, he gave examples of people who, unfortunately, cannot accept his teaching about marriage.

Would Jesus really recommend that people render themselves or others incapable of accepting and practicing his teaching? That would be contradictory and ridiculous.

What does Jesus mean about eunuchs?

Eunuchs cannot accept Jesus’ teaching about marriage because in general, castrated men have little or no interest in sex and marriage. That, together with their inability to impregnate a woman, was why they were commonly trusted servants in the royal courts of kings in the cultures that surrounded—and in the time of Jesus ruled—the Jewish people.

It helps to know that the Greek word χωρέω (chōreō), “to accept, receive,” that Jesus uses in Matthew 19:11 has the sense of “having space for.” Jesus was not talking about people who can’t intellectually accept what he has just taught about marriage. He was talking about people who have no space in their character for marriage.

Quite simply, then, Jesus was giving examples of people who could not put his teaching about marriage into practice. Eunuchs were seen as being incapable of marriage.

The common, mistaken idea among some traditional Christians that Jesus was talking about celibacy comes especially from his final example: “eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” This makes it sound as if Jesus is recommending celibacy over marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

But once again, Jesus simply doesn’t say that. These people who “have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” are still among the people who can’t accept (put into practice) Jesus’ teaching about the divine origin and permanence of marriage.

Eunuchs did not have a positive connotation in the ears of Jesus’ Jewish listeners. In Jewish culture, there was no practice of making oneself a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom of God, nor was it considered positive to be born sterile, or to be made into a eunuch by someone else. Even in the surrounding cultures, men were most commonly made into eunuchs (castrated) against their will. It greatly reduced their social standing, and of course, prevented them from fathering children and heirs.

In some non-Jewish cultures, however, a man might voluntarily undergo castration as part of a religious rite of dedicating his life exclusively to God. Jesus didn’t endorse this practice. He simply used it as an example of people who can’t accept (“have no space for”) his teaching about marriage.

In short, Jesus was not advocating that men be castrated for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He was rebuking his disciples for their knee-jerk rejection of his teaching about marriage, using the negative example of eunuchs who, even if they may have the best of intentions, render themselves incapable of living by that teaching.

The irony is that Christian priests, monks, and nuns who erroneously think that Jesus is recommending celibacy in Matthew 19:3–12 are associating themselves with a group of people who, according to Jesus Christ himself, are incapable of accepting his teaching about marriage.

Jesus was not celibate

Christians who believe that celibacy is superior to marriage commonly say, “Jesus was celibate!”

But Jesus was not celibate. Jesus was unmarried. There’s a difference.

Celibacy in the proper sense, especially in religious usage, means making a commitment and vow to remain unmarried and abstain from sex. This is usually based on a belief that celibacy is spiritually superior to marriage. But there is no record anywhere in the Gospels of Jesus making such a vow, and nowhere does he say that celibacy is superior to marriage. The Gospels simply present him as being single.

There are many people who have never married or even had sex who would much prefer to be married. These people are not celibate. They have made no personal or religious commitment to abstain from sex and marriage. They are simply single, often for reasons beyond their control.

In the same way, there is no evidence whatsoever that Jesus was celibate. The most we can say, based on the Gospel accounts, is that he remained single all his life.

Meanwhile, his teachings show that he placed a very high value on marriage, considering it a sacred and inviolable relationship that was created and commanded by God right from the beginning. Yes, it was unusual for a Jewish man in those times to remain single right into his thirties as Jesus did. But Jesus’ teachings about marriage fully support what is presented in the Hebrew Scriptures, which Christians know as the Old Testament: that based on God’s law and intention for humanity, marriage is the preferred and ideal state for priests and laypeople alike.

What Jesus said

Here is a brief recap of what Jesus actually did say about marriage and divorce in Matthew 19:3–12:

  • God created man and woman from the beginning so that the two could join together as one.
  • If God has joined a man and woman in marriage, humans should not break it up.
  • The law of Moses allowing a man to divorce his wife for any cause was merely an accommodation to the people’s hard-heartedness; a man was not to divorce his wife unless she committed adultery.
  • Not everyone can accept this teaching about marriage; eunuchs of various types are examples of people who can’t put it into practice.

In no way, shape, or form did Jesus say that celibacy is better than marriage. Quite the contrary. He said that right from the beginning, man and woman were created by God to be united in marriage.

If, as Jesus taught, marriage was God’s original intention for us, then marriage, not celibacy, is the highest and most spiritual state and relationship that we humans can aspire to.

For further reading:


Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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218 comments on “Didn’t Jesus Say it’s Better to be Celibate than Married?
  1. larryzb says:

    Thank you Lee for this post. For Christians and non-Christians trying to understand Christianity, this is very helpful.

    That said, I would like to ask: Since those individuals who were true eunuchs were only a small fraction of the population of surrounding peoples, why did Jesus use the term to begin with? Obviously, there would be more single (as in unmarried) persons in the population than true eunuchs. I wonder if the term eunuch was introduced to the passages (verses of the Gospels) by later translators. It appears that the use of the term eunuch(s) causes much confusion.

    As a consequence of the revolt of the Maccabees, rabbis had to be married. The homosexuality of the Greeks was rejected by the Maccabees. So, even true celibacy was not esteemed by the Jews of Jesus’ time.

    One item you did not mention in your post above – as it was not germane to Jesus’ words – is that the sexual pessimism and hatred of pleasure that leads to the promotion of celibacy did not enter the Church until later. It was in the time of (and through the efforts of) Augustine, Jerome and Pope Siricius in the late 4th century that the Church adopted its attitude that celibacy is to be preferred for the religious. Yet, it needs to be pointed out that this sexual pessimism has its roots in ancient pagan schools of thought (Stoics, Gnostics and Manicheanism), and is thus not authentically Christian.

    It is sad that the effect of this is, that in Catholicism, the measure of holiness seems to be whether one lives a celibate life in a religious order or not. The married laity are second class citizens within the Catholic Church, sorry to say. (The Catholic Church anathematized any who dare to assert that the married state is of equal value to the celibate state in God’s eyes at the Council of Trent (1545 – 1563).)

    • Lee says:

      Hi larryzb,

      Thanks for your thoughts and questions. Glad you enjoyed the article!

      I don’t think it’s necessary to invoke later corruption of the text and translations to explain Jesus’ use of the term “eunuch” in Matthew 19:12. Eunuchs were well-known to the ancient Jews as a feature of many of the cultures around them. In addition to mentions here and there in the historical and prophetic sections of the Hebrew scriptures, they figure heavily in the book of Esther. They also appear in several places in the book of Acts in the New Testament. In many cases they are treated sympathetically, even if being a eunuch was not a scripturally sanctioned part of Jewish culture and religion.

      The confusion, I think, comes from the later switch in Christianity away from considering sexuality and marriage to be the preferred state of human beings in the eyes of God. Remove that rejection of sexuality and marriage as the most desirable and spiritual state, and the passage makes perfect sense—as I outline in the article above. For Jesus’ Jewish listeners, there was no stigma or second-class status attached to marriage. It was seen as good and as ordained and commanded by God. That’s why there was no practice of celibacy in Judaism. Even priests were expected to be married. There are laws in the Hebrew Bible about whom a priest may and may not marry. But he was expected to be married. So it should go without saying that being a eunuch was considered an undesirable thing. If we read Jesus’ words with that religious and cultural context in mind, there is no confusion about his meaning.

      The disciples’ response to Jesus’ teaching about marriage in that passage does show the low state of marriage at that time, however. People who have a real, spiritual marriage that is a union of hearts and minds have no desire whatsoever to divorce their wives or husbands. For them, a God-given permanence of marriage is a blessing, not a curse. So the “hard-heartedness” that Jesus spoke of as the reason for Moses giving a commandment allowing men to divorce their wives was a hard-heartedness of having no real, spiritual marriage at all, but only a social and physical-minded view of marriage in which its main purposes were to cement political and inter-clan relationships and produce sons and heirs for the husband. See my article:
      Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?

      Though I said in the above article that Jesus’ disciples had an anti-marriage response, it would be a little more accurate to say that they had no understanding or appreciation of real, God-given spiritual marriage, which is why they so quickly rejected Jesus’ teaching about the God-given origin and inviolability of marriage.

      About your other point, as originally written, the above article was twice as long as the published version, and it did go heavily into the later Catholic rejection of sex and marriage as a spiritual state of being in favor of celibacy. The original version even quoted the passage from the Council of Trent you refer to. However Annette pointed out that the article was too long, argumentative, and tedious, and would inevitably lose many readers along the way. So I cut all of that material out, heavily rewrote what was left, and focused the article more tightly on its main point: that Jesus simply did not say that celibacy was preferable to marriage. I’m much happier with the resulting article, even if it does leave out a lot of material that I had originally included. (Annette saves me from a lot of bad writing!)

      But yes, the Catholic pall on sex and marriage developed several centuries after the last books of the Bible were written. And I believe that this negative attitude toward marriage also reflects a lack of awareness, understanding, and appreciation within Catholicism of true, spiritual marriage as God originally intended it.

      It is interesting that it was at the Council of Trent, which was convened to oppose the theologians and teachings of the Protestant reformation, that the Catholic Church starkly anathematized any belief that marriage is superior to celibacy—presumably in response to Protestantism’s general embrace of a married clergy. However, practically speaking, the stance articulated in the Council of Trent had been the reigning view in Catholicism for many centuries before that time, and the basis of its priestly and monastic practice of celibacy.

      Catholicism long ago adopted a largely physical-minded view of sex and marriage. That is seen, for example, in its teaching that any sex that couldn’t potentially result in pregnancy is bad and impermissible sex. And yet, as important as creating new human beings is, sex as an expression of the oneness of two people in marriage goes far beyond physical procreation. As Swedenborg says, even without physical pregnancy and reproduction, in people who are truly married to one another in spirit sexual intercourse produces “spiritual offspring” of new love, understanding, compassion, and joy in life. See the section on “Spiritual children” in the article, “Marriage in the Resurrection: The Deeper Meaning,” and also the last section the article, “Is There Sex in Heaven?

      Thanks again for your thoughts! For one thing, it gave me an excuse to sneak back in some of the material I had to cut out to make this into a more readable and more focused article! 😀

      • larryzb says:

        Thanks Lee for your response. Not to be too long winded myself, I purposely left out many facts of the history of Catholic thinking on marriage and sex. It was in 1141, at the Second Lateran Council, that priests were forbidden to marry. It was not until Trent, 4 centuries later, that married men were forbidden from becoming priests. Some men were marrying in secret and then becoming priests prior to Trent. But, more to my point above, the sexual pessimism came in from ancient pagan schools of thought, and it is thus not authentically Christian. (At Trent, it was decided that a person could not even be allowed to assert that marriage was equal to celibacy. If one could not assert that the married state was equal in worth or value in God’s eyes to celibacy, then clearly a person could not dare assert that marriage was superior to the celibate state.)

        Your point about the value of married sexual love even without procreation is sound. The “unitive” effects and benefits of sexual love between husband and wife are present even in naturally infertile marriages. As well, since about 1827, we have known how human reproduction actually works. Thus, the Aristotlean understanding of human reproduction can be let go of. It is clear that with a non-seasonal sexual capacity and drive in humans, sexual intercourse is for more than just conceiving and bearing children. I am not anti-child, but we need to recognize and value all the goods of married sexual love.

        Lastly, it is unfortunate that the discussion of your post above has been rather hijacked by another commenter. Her comments would be more appropriate for (and relevant to) one of your other posts.

        • Lee says:

          Hi larryzb,

          You’ve clearly studied Catholic history a lot more than I have. It has only gradually come to my attention how relatively recent it was that Catholicism began to enforce a strictly celibate clergy. So this isn’t even in line with its own history. And biblically, there’s really no sound basis for it. How the primary religion of God on earth came to reject and deny its own scriptural and doctrinal history and become something that none of the figures in the Bible would recognize as anything they taught is, to me, an amazing wonder. There really isn’t much of anything “Christian” left in Christianity today.

          On the sexual and marriage front, in particular, it is amazing to me that God’s church transformed from one in which marriage was at the center of human relationships as originally created and commanded by God to one in which marriage is seen as a purely material-world relationship whose only valid purpose is procreation. It’s a sad, sad state of affairs.

          Even biologically sex as being purely for procreation among humans has very little ground to stand on. We’ve known for decades that among humans, especially, with our very long period of maturation to adulthood, creating strong pair-bonds provided an evolutionary advantage. So even secular scientists commonly believe that lasting monogamous relationships are about more than just pregnancy and procreation. In particular, the pleasures and sense of human connection provided by sexual intercourse binds couples closely to one another so that the man won’t just wander off after babies are born, leaving them unprotected and less likely to reach adulthood.

          Even that, however, is still just a biological view of sex and marriage. And it’s still generally focused on reproduction. When the spiritual aspect is added in, whole new realms of meaning and purpose are added to marriage and sexual intimacy that go beyond anything that exists in the rest of the animal realm. And though traditional Christianity pays some lip service to that spiritual aspect of marriage, in almost every case its hand is shown in claims that there is no marriage in heaven. Very few “Christian” churches really believe that marriage in a spiritual relationship. If they did, they would see it as eternal, not as temporary and limited to this earth.

          On that, see the series of articles starting with:
          Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?

          (And yes, the comments got hijacked here. But you have to talk to people where they are, not where you wish they were.)

    • kim says:

      The catholic church teaches that the church—-is the whole people of GOD,its not just the pope or hierarchy.Secondly history is littered with teachings popes or councils taught but the people rejected.This is called the doctrine of reception or the sense of the faithful.What Trent taught about celibacy is largely rejected today.Thats why the Second Vatican council didnt reaffirm this teaching. Pope Pius IX condemned democracy and hailed slavery as moral,the people rejected that.Council of Vienne hailed usury as a heresy and lthe council of Lyon refused christian burial for those who practised it,but as economics changed,millions of catholics practised a bit of usury,the vatican bank today charges usury.tHE teaching became dead letter.The hierarchy today condemns contraception but most catholics see no problem in family planning with contraception,married priests,women priests etc. One pope, Gregory 16 hailed the creation of the railroad as the work of the devil.CAtholics dont believe everything that comes down the Vatican pike—-eventually the teaching becomes dead letter,it loses its force.No catholic today goes seeking indulgences,it too has become dead letter

      • Kristi Luchi says:

        I think the problem here isn’t the idea that Catholics are bad. It’s the structer of the hierarchy and the rules they enforce aren’t based in scripture or the climate of the world at that time. There was a pope who threw sex parties, another who was into cannibalism. But, back in the day, you used to be able to buy the papal seat. Also, you could purchase indulgences that basically allowed your sin to be cleared. The point is that the Catholic Church isn’t the Church is could be or should be and that’s a sad thing.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Kristi,

          Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. I must say, you certainly do make it sound like the Catholic Church is—or at least has been—very bad! However, perhaps what you mean is that ordinary Catholics aren’t bad. If so, on that I agree with you. In any church that has been corrupted, the leadership of the church are commonly the corrupt ones, though some are good, whereas the laypeople are usually decent people for the most part, though there are some bad ones.

  2. Amanda says:

    Its better to be atheist than in the faith trap

    • Lee says:

      Hi Amanda,

      I think it’s better to have faith than to be in the atheist trap. 😛

      • Amanda says:

        It’s better to have blind faith than not to? I don’t see how

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          “Blind faith” is a contradiction in terms. If a person’s faith is blind, it’s not faith. Faith is seeing things as they really are from a spiritual perspective.

        • Amanda says:

          Why would we need faith in things that we’re sure are facts ? Isn’t that called knowing, not believing?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Real faith is knowing. But it’s knowing spiritual things that we can see with our mind rather than physical things that we can see with our eyes. The “believing” part is not about accepting things we don’t understand, but about being willing to follow the truth wherever it leads rather than rejecting the truth if it doesn’t serve our present self-interest. For more on this, see my article:
          Faith Alone Is Not Faith

          I realize that a lot of religious people have funny (and wrong) ideas about “faith.” But in reality, faith has nothing to do with believing ridiculous and tenuous things. In fact, that is the opposite of faith.

        • Amanda says:

          So if I call it faith then it’s valid? Or what constitutes something as faith and also valid?

        • Lee says:

          No, if it’s valid and you believe it because it’s valid, then it’s faith. Faith is believing the truth because it’s true.

        • Amanda says:

          So what makes your faith of choice valid? Because members of every single religion say the exact same things about their own religions

        • Lee says:

          In fact, many religions say you have to believe things because they don’t make rational sense or because the priest says you have to believe them or other things like that. So no, it’s not exactly the same as what every other religion says.

        • Amanda says:

          The doctrine of Christianity is exactly like the doctrines of all other major religions in all the ways that matter and is certainly no less toxic to society

        • Lee says:

          Most of the present-day “doctrine of Christianity” has nothing to do with what Jesus Christ taught in the Bible. Which means it is Christian in name only, and not in reality.

        • Amanda says:

          But what Jesus Christ taught (as well as Muhammad and all the other “prophets”) is irrelevant.

          Religions are what we had before we had science to explain things, and religions are quickly becoming obsolete as awareness and atheism are growing, rapidly.

        • Lee says:

          That’s your opinion. I don’t agree with it.

        • Amanda says:

          And that’s the faith trap.

        • Lee says:

          But I do think atheism is a tool in God’s hand to destroy a whole lot of false religion.

        • Amanda says:

          But doesn’t that sound a bit delusional to you?

          And all religions would say the exact same thing, your religon isn’t special.

        • Lee says:

          So you’re an expert on my religion? Do you even know what my religion teaches? And can you provide a point-by-point comparison of it with the teachings of every other religion?

        • Amanda says:

          You’re Christian right? Yeah I’d say I’m more than familiar enough with all the Abrahamic religions to compare them; It doesn’t take a life long religious scholar to comprehend doctrines written as recently as thousands of years ago.

        • Lee says:

          I would suggest learning what I believe before presuming to make grand pronouncements about it. I reject most of the key doctrines that now pass as “Christian.”

        • Amanda says:

          There is only one Christian doctrine if we’re talking about the religion itself, not how people choose to practice it.

        • Griffin says:

          If your problem is that Christian doctrine is “toxic to society,” then what Jesus taught is absolutely relevant, seeing as his teaching is at the core of true Christianity.

        • Amanda says:

          It’s relevant to the conversation; but that’s not what I meant. I meant it’s irrelevant to humanity currently and moving forward (obsolete)

        • Griffin says:

          How so? The moral lessons in the Bible are still useful in everyday life. Their purpose is not, as you suggest, “to explain things,” but rather to help us live as better people.

        • Amanda says:

          I disagree that the Christian or any religious bible contains moral lessons that are relevant or helpful to society.
          Nothing we need must be gotten from religions.

        • Griffin says:

          You don’t think its messages about topics such as loving and serving others, being honest and forgiving transgressions are relevant to society?

        • Amanda says:

          No because we don’t need religions to know how to love and serve or to be honest and forgiving.

          Those are basic, kindergarten things you shouldn’t need a religion for.

        • Lee says:

          If you live in that way, I believe you will go to heaven after you die even if you don’t believe in God.

        • Amanda says:

          But what makes you believe that there are souls and consciousness/life after death to begin with ?

          What if we don’t want to go to heaven, even if it does exist – Do we get a choice ?

        • Lee says:

          Those are good questions. But I’ll have to answer after I get home. I’m not a speed smartphone typist. 🙂

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          I’m home, but it’s getting late. So on your first question, I’ll just refer you to this article, which lays it all out:
          Where is the Proof of the Afterlife?

          I’d be happy to continue this discussion in the comment section there.

          On your second question, yes, people get to choose where they want to live in the spiritual world. However, the choice is really made by what sort of person we have decided to be, within the limits of what’s possible for us. In the spiritual world, the life we live is an expression of the person we are. Some people manage to achieve that here on earth, but many do not, so they get another chance in the afterlife.

          Heaven is not a place where angels sit on clouds playing harps. It’s a lot like life here on earth, only without most of the stuff that really sucks. See:
          Who Are the Angels and How Do They Live?

        • Amanda says:

          But what makes you believe all of that, aside from the bible of your religion of choice ?

          Why not just admit that we can’t possibly know if there’s a creator or not and go about our lives putting faith in only what we know for sure?

          Even if the god of Christianity does exist and no other god of any other religion exists – somehow – still HOW is that an incentive for people to respect or worship the creator? The god of Christianity is a sick, jealous, egotistical, narcissistic maniac, and nothing about that entity is worthy of respect.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Did you read the linked article I linked for you: “Where is the Proof of the Afterlife?” That answers your first and second questions. And I don’t want to re-type it all here, especially since we’re off-topic here on this post.

          About your third question and statement, you really should learn what I believe before lumping me in with all of that “Christian” religion that you hate.

          I actually agree with you that the “god of Christianity” as presented by traditional Christianity is “a sick, jealous, egotistical, narcissistic maniac, and nothing about that entity is worthy of respect.” In fact, I get very angry that such a horrible picture of God is being painted by churches that are supposed to be Christian. Those churches are a travesty. They can’t disappear from the face of the earth fast enough for me.

          For my part, I don’t believe for one second that the insane god they describe is the actual God of Christianity, nor do I believe that is the God that actually exists at the center of all religions. As I said previously, I reject nearly all of the key doctrines of what now passes as “Christianity,” including those that say God needed blood, blood, blood—of his own son no less—in order to forgive humanity and not send us to eternal torture in hell. Those are sick, twisted doctrines. And they’re not what the Bible teaches, nor are they what I believe.

          There are many, many articles here in which I say why those doctrines are so wrong, and what the actual Christian and biblical truth about God is. I would link them for you, but as far as I know you haven’t yet read the articles I’ve already linked for you. So I’ll just link one more for now, which happens to be the most popular post of all time on this blog:
          If there’s One God, Why All the Different Religions?

          There are good answers to your questions. But I can’t give them to you in Twitter-sized soundbites. If you actually want answers, you’re going to have to do some reading.

        • Amanda says:

          I did read it, my questions are in response; sorry I couldn’t figure out how to comment there since it redirects from wordpress

        • Lee says:

          You might have to go to the post itself and comment there first. Then the replies will show up in your reader.

        • Amanda says:

          And if you consider yourself Christian, then you believe the bible is fair, accurate, just, and true in it’s claims, correct?

          I’ve done more reading (including the bible cover to cover many times) than most Christians and religious folks I’ve met;

          Reading religious themed literature doesn’t inform one on what the bible itself says and stands for.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Most of what passes for “biblical Christianity” today has little or nothing to do with what the Bible actually teaches. It’s based on doctrines invented by various human beings through the centuries, which were then substituted for what the Bible teaches.

          And yet, the people who believe in those doctrines think it’s in the Bible. They’ll even quote passages from the Bible to support their doctrines. And yet, none of those passages actually say what these “Christians” think or claim they say. I’ve had this conversation with so many Protestants that it gets tedious:

          “Show me where the Bible says that we are justified by faith alone?”

          {quotes various passages that don’t say that we are justified by faith alone}

          “Those passages don’t actually say that we are justified by faith alone.”



          “Show me where the Bible says that Christ paid the penalty for our sins.”

          {quotes various passages that don’t say that Christ paid the penalty for our sins}

          “Those passages don’t actually say that Christ paid the penalty for our sins.”


          There are so many articles here about what the Bible actually does and doesn’t say that I can’t possibly link them all for you. But here’s a good place to start:
          “Christian Beliefs” that the Bible Doesn’t Teach

        • Amanda says:

          I know what the bible says, because I’ve read it many times in many different forms; It’s a disgrace and and absolute toxin to society.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          The Bible is a complex book, written in cultures that existed a long time ago. To read it properly, it’s necessary to sort out the cultural from the universal.

          Also, given what you’ve heard about what “Christianity” teaches, I suspect that you’re misunderstanding many of the things that are said in the Bible. The Bible has been twisted in all different directions to say all sorts of things it doesn’t actually say. Understanding it within its own cultural and historical context does away with a lot of those faulty ideas of “what the Bible says.”

          There certainly is a lot of objectionable material in the Bible. Then again, there are a lot of objectionable things in our society and attitudes today that people a few thousand years from now will look back on and be amazed at how insane and brutish we were in those dark times. That’s why, as I said, in reading the Bible you have to sort out the cultural from the universal.

          For one angle on this, see my article:
          How God Speaks in the Bible to Us Boneheads

        • Amanda says:

          I haven’t heard what Christianity teaches; I’ve read and firsthand experienced it.

          There is no justification whatsoever for promoting Christianity, the Christian bible, any religion, or any religion’s doctrine.

        • Lee says:

          For this conversation to go much farther, you’ll need to tell me some of the things that “Christianity” and the Bible teach, from your perspective. I suspect that most of them simply aren’t in the Bible, and that your understanding of the Bible has been vitiated by what you’ve been told it says by “Christianity.”

          So what are some of the things you think the Bible and Christianity teach, that you find so objectionable?

        • Amanda says:

          It’s not my perspective; The fundamental pillars and message of the religion as well as alleged miracles and prophecies are in the book – You have read the book, haven’t you?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Yes, of course I’ve read the Bible. Many times.

          As far as the miracles, whether they literally, historically happened as described is not all that important. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. I wasn’t there, so I can’t really say for sure. There are many things described in the Bible that I don’t think actually happened as described. For example, I don’t think a guy named Jonah was ever swallowed by a big fish and lived in the fish’s belly for three days. That story, from my perspective, was obviously what we today would call “fiction,” written to convey a particular message.

          For the most part, whether the things in the Bible actually happened historically literally as described is not the point. Those stories carry deeper meanings about the human condition and our relationship with God. The original writers were, for the most part, not interested in history and science. They were interested in conveying moral and spiritual truth to a recalcitrant bunch of human beings.

          Beyond that, once again, you’ll have to give me some specifics. What specific things do you think the Bible teaches that you find so objectionable?

        • Amanda says:

          The basic, fundamental, core values, rules, and lessons that have nothing to do with personal interpretation; ALL of it I find unethical, irrelevant, silly, and obsolete.

        • Lee says:

          Specifics, please.

        • Amanda says:

          Well what specifically makes you believe? I’ve asked for specifics and you just redirect to another page

        • Lee says:

          Those specifics are on the pages I send you to. There are over 300 articles on this blog. I’ve already written answers to most of your big questions. And I don’t like typing things twice, especially when you ask a good question and it requires a substantial answer. Here’s one more about why I am specifically a Christian:
          The Logic of Love: Why God became Jesus

          What, specifically makes you not believe? What are the specific teachings of Christianity or the Bible that you have rejected? Just a few key points would suffice.

        • Amanda says:

          I suppose I can redirect you to my own blog then if you want to find out why I reject religions and religious dogmas


        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Sure. I’ve converted it to a link. But please direct me to a few specific posts on the subjects we’ve been discussing here so that I don’t have to wade through the whole blog to find the relevant articles. Thanks.

        • Nina says:

          No, she won’t go to heaven unless she is born again. You don’t get to heaven by being good. You get to heaven by believing that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and rising from the dead; then you must repent of your sins, be baptized, and filled with the Holy Spirit. THAT is how you get to heaven.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Nina,

          That’s how Christians get to heaven.

          The Bible also tells how non-Christians get to heaven.

          Jesus himself tells us in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25:31–46 how the people of all the nations (not just Christians) get to heaven.

          And Paul tells us in Romans 2:1–16 how Jews, “Greeks” (pagan polytheists) and Gentiles, all of whom are non-Christians, get to heaven. He then goes on starting in Romans 3 to tell us how Christians get to heaven.

          And it’s just plain unbiblical and false that “You don’t get to heaven by being good.” See:
          Faith Alone Does Not Save . . . No Matter How Many Times Protestants Say It Does

        • Amanda says:

          Not interested in going to “heaven” or anywhere near the hypothetical creator, thanks.

        • Lee says:

          If heaven and God were anything like what traditional Christianity teaches about them, I wouldn’t want to go near them either.

          Thankfully, traditional Christianity is completely wrong about God and heaven. So you have nothing to worry about.

        • Amanda says:

          And what evidence makes you believe that?

        • Lee says:

          First of all, most of what “Christianity” teaches about God simply isn’t said anywhere in the Bible. And since the Bible is supposed to be where Christianity gets its beliefs, that’s a problem.

          Just a few examples:

          • The Bible never says God is a Trinity of Persons.
          • The Bible never says God sends all non-Christians to hell.
          • The Bible never says God requires some sort of payment or satisfaction for our sins.
          • The Bible never says God required his Son to die in order to forgive us.

          Further, much of the Bible is written in figurative language. It says so itself, especially about Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament: “Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing” (Matthew 13:34). But even much of the Old Testament is presented as being in the form of a parable. For example, Psalm 78 starts out:

          Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
          incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
          I will open my mouth in a parable;
          I will utter dark sayings from of old,

          things that we have heard and known,
          that our ancestors have told us.
          We will not hide them from their children;
          we will tell to the coming generation
          the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
          and the wonders that he has done.
          (Psalm 78:1–4, italics added)

          The rest of the Psalm goes on to give a poetic version of the history of Israel from the time of Jacob through the time of the twelve tribes. And all of this is called “a parable.”

          Biblical literalists of every stripe are simply wrong about the Bible, according to the Bible’s own words. Much, if not most, of the Bible was never meant to be taken literally. Yes, the basic commandments of not doing evil and doing good instead are meant to be taken literally for the most part. But as for the rest, it is one massive metaphor for the human spiritual journey. See:
          Can We Really Believe the Bible?

          Moving to sources outside the Bible, there is a massive amount of human literature describing people’s encounters with God and the spiritual realms, and the vast bulk of it does not support traditional Christian teachings on those subjects. I believe that the most comprehensive and reliable source is the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772). Much of what I know about the afterlife comes from his writings, especially his book Heaven and Hell, which provides a clear and systematic guided tour of the afterlife. My general view of Swedenborg’s writings and why I think they are valid is in this article:
          Do the Teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg take Precedence over the Bible?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          I just realized this comment was in response to Nina. If it didn’t come up in your reader, you might also want to see my response to her here.

    • You understand the Christian religion? Like, in its ancient historical context? So, ughh … can you explain the concept of 1st century Jewish apocalypticism, one of the most pervasive ideas of the New Testament?

      I’d also like you to define what a ‘faith trap’ is, since this is a rather vague accusation, wouldn’t ya say?

      • Amanda says:

        I’d rather not go into depth on any of the many silly biblical concepts and ideologies at this time;

        The faith trap is the indoctrination process that sucks people into religions.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda

          Atheism also involves an indoctrination process that especially inculcates the idea that only things we can perceive with our physical senses are trustworthy and believable. There is no good or rational basis for this belief. It is simply a “faith trap,” as you would say, that entangles atheists in its clutches and causes them to reject and explain away a major area of human experience that doesn’t fit into this atheist article of faith.

        • Amanda says:

          So you think religions and atheism are the only options ?
          Because rejecting religions does not mean accepting atheism.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          No, of course there are many people who believe in God but don’t belong to any religion. But are you not an atheist?

        • Lee says:

          Having said that, it is better to be an atheist than to believe some of the terribly false, irrational, and immoral things that are being taught in the name of religion in traditional Christianity. As I said to you in an earlier comment, I believe atheism is a tool in the hands of God to destroy false religion. That applies not only to old, corrupt and false religious institutions, but to false religion that has been indoctrinated into individual people from birth onward.

          It is necessary to reject what is false before we can accept what is true. Atheism involves rejecting false religion and false beliefs about God. One day, having cleared your mind of that false religion and those false beliefs about God, you may be able to see the truth about God and spirit.

        • Amanda says:

          Immoral ? What immoral and false and irrational things come along with rejecting creationism ?

          That literally has not a thing to do with morality.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Please re-read my comment that you are responding to. I was referring to false, irrational, and immoral things taught in traditional Christianity.

          Creationism is one of the false and irrational (though not particularly immoral) things taught in a significant segment of traditional Christianity.

          The idea that God required the death of his Son in order to forgive humans for their sins is one of the false, irrational, and immoral things taught in a large segment of traditional Christianity. It is also not taught anywhere in the Bible.

        • LOL. Wasn’t very difficult for me to prove you don’t understand the Christian religion now, was it? Let me know if you ever want to learn what apocalypticism is.

          The faith trap is the indoctrination process that sucks people into religions.

          Ugghh, you do know most people who are irreligious are that way because they were raised that way as well, right? Poor guys who got caught up in the irreligious trap… Anyways, I use to be agnostic. Now, after some reasoning, I’m a Christian. So where’s the trap? Ooops.

          I’m not sure this is accurate, but I think you’re an ideologue. “Irreligious people include me, and then there are religious people and they are part of a trap.” Basic tribal “us and them” mindset. You should consider abandoning this mindset, we need more people who actually engage in conversation and assume that the person they’re talking to knows something they don’t, rather than this stuff that genuinely keeps us back.

        • Amanda says:

          Don’t understand how?

          What reasoning could possibly lead to any religion ?
          There is no way anyone can know whether there is a creator or not, and even if there is, religions are all still created by people.

          All religions are “us and them”, they all literally claim to be the truth and that all the rest are wrong.

          I reject Christianity JUST LIKE you reject Islam – There is no difference.

        • “Don’t understand how?”

          How? Because you claimed to understand Christianity, and yet can’t articulate the ancient concept of apocalypticism, one of the primary concepts in the New Testament. Want to know other New Testament concepts you can’t articulate?

          There are quite a few forms of reasoning that could lead to Christianity. For one, the contributions Christianity has made to the good of global humanity is close to immeasurable — the modern university, the hospital, all products of Christianity. That seems to me to be the kind of thing that would characterize the correct religion. Not to mention, the historical reasoning behind the Resurrection accounts.

          Saying “X religion is right” is not a form of tribalism, just as much as “X scientific theory is right and all others are wrong” is not a tribal form. You’re mis-characterizing what I said. It’s tribal because you outline anyone who doesn’t fit within the section of what you deem correct thought as part of a “trap”. That’s tribal. And for what it’s worth, there’s a significant difference between why you reject Christianity and why I reject Islam. I assume you just as much don’t understand the historical context of Islam as Christianity.

        • Amanda says:

          What I said was that I don’t WANT to discuss such concepts, because it is irrelevant and a waste, such content does not deserve attention;
          I don’t need to prove anything to you or anyone.

          If you really cant see why people find your religion of choice as well as all the others to be ignorant, idiotic, and dangerous, then you are the one who needs to prove their comprehension skills.

          There is absolutely no difference between rejecting one silly religion and the next.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Of course, it’s your choice whether to discuss these things. But if you’re unwilling to back up your statements with any reasoning, they remain mere assertions, and there is no particular reason for anyone to accept or agree with them.

        • Amanda says:

          What specific statement of mine do you think I should I back up?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          So far you haven’t provided much in the way of specifics, despite my asking you for them. Mostly, you’ve just made general claims of religion and theism being silly, idiotic, based on ignorance, and so on. Without anything to back up those claims, it’s just a bunch of name-calling.

          If you want to have an actual discussion of some specifics regarding your beliefs and claims about God and religion, I would be happy to engage in that discussion with you. But if all you want to do is come here and shout, “You people are stupid for believing in God!” then that is indeed a waste of your time, my time, and my readers’ time.

          You have said that you reject certain beliefs about God and religion—most recently, Creationism—and I’ve generally agreed with you in rejecting the beliefs that you mention. So aside from a general antipathy toward God and religion, I’m not sure what beef you have with my beliefs in particular.

        • Amanda says:

          The very core fundamental idea of all religions – That people know without doubt that there is a creator and regard it as a fact – Is what I disagree with.

          So let’s start there shall we?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Sure. But “without a doubt” is a standard that even secular science doesn’t hold itself to, so it would not be fair to hold religion to that standard. Absolutism is not particularly helpful in thinking about either science or spirit.

          But to take up your issue:

          Science bases its ideas and theories on sensory experience. That’s what scientific experiments are all about.

          Religion (in a broad sense, not specific institutions) also bases its ideas and theories on experience, though mostly not on physical sensory experience. Rather, it bases its ideas and theories—beliefs, if you will—on many people’s experiences of God and the spiritual realm that come by an internal, mental path rather than by an external path from the physical senses.

          Atheists generally reject any source of knowledge aside from the physical senses. People who believe in God and spirit do not limit their sources of knowledge to physical, sensory experience.

          So really, the question isn’t whether people who believe in God and spirit have sufficient evidence for their beliefs. In fact, there is a vast amount of literature detailing people’s first-hand experiences of God and spirit, just as there is a vast amount of (scientific) literature detailing people’s first-hand experiences of material phenomena.

          The real question is: What type of evidence you are willing to accept? If you are willing to accept only physical, sensory evidence, then it is most likely you will become an atheist, because God and spirit are not perceivable with the physical senses. But if you are willing to accept non-physical sources of information, there is plenty of material on which to base a belief in God and spirit.

          Further, for those who have experienced God and spirit directly, such as millions of people who have had near-death experiences, there really isn’t any doubt about the existence of God and spirit. They’ve seen the spiritual realms with their own eyes—albeit with their spiritual eyes rather than with their physical eyes.

          Once again, all of this is covered in more detail in my article:
          Where is the Proof of the Afterlife?

        • Amanda says:

          “Without a doubt” does not need a scientific textbook definition; it’s self explanatory.

          Even with alleged evidence, if the theory isn’t a proven fact then you have no justification for claiming it is.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Contrary to popular opinion, science deals in theories, not in facts. Yes, there are facts of how experiments turned out. But those either support or don’t support theories, or hypotheses, that seek to explain the facts. The longer a scientific hypothesis is not overturned by the results of experiments, but correctly predicts the outcome of experiments, the more confident scientists become that it is a sound theory. But there is never 100% certainty. One replicated experiment may require a complete re-thinking of a scientific theory—even a long-standing one.

          This has happened very often in the history of science. For example, Newton’s theory of gravity, while it still works on most scales that ordinary people deal with in their everyday lives, completely fails when we need to calculate the correct power and trajectory to get astronauts to the moon, or a probe to Jupiter or Saturn. If we used Newton’s theory of gravity, all of our spaceships would miss their targets. To get spacecraft to the moon or one of the other planets, we have to use Einstein’s theory of gravity, which has superseded Newton’s theory of gravity. And yet, for a couple hundred years Newton was widely believed to have achieved a full explanation of gravity.

          And today, we have two major theories of reality: relativity (Einstein’s theory) and quantum mechanics. Each works beautifully on its own scale: relativity on the macro scale, and quantum mechanics on the micro scale. But they contradict each other in fundamental ways, and so far no one has been able to reconcile them to each other. So even two of the central theories in physics today that are used every day in science and technology fail to give us a full, coherent explanation of the nature of physical reality.

          In short, in science there is so such thing as a “proven fact.” There are only theories that we are more and more confident of, but that we still have to allow room for the possibility that they fail to fully and accurately describe the nature of physical reality.

          So once again, it’s not fair or rational to hold religion to a standard that even secular science does not attempt to meet.

          Yes, there are people who have no doubt of God’s existence because they have encountered God. You can write it off as hallucination all you want. They will simply say, “I was there. You weren’t.”

          For the rest of us, we have to weigh the available evidence of thousands of years of human experience of God and spirit, and decide for ourselves whether they amount to sufficient support for the existence of God and spirit. And then we try it out in reality, and see if it works in guiding our lives to a better state. Plus there are more subtle indications along the way in personal experience that indeed, the people who have directly experienced God and spirit did experience something real, and it wasn’t just a hallucination.

          Atheists who are not philosophically sophisticated (which, unfortunately, seems to be most of them) commonly think that science deals in facts whereas religion deals in mere theories. That is simply not the case. Science deals in theories, and so does theology. Both are based on the direct experience of millions of people—in one case experiences in the physical world, and in the other case experiences in the spiritual world.

        • Amanda says:

          There are most definitely proven facts as opposed to (probable and improbable) theories;

          It is a proven scientific fact that without water consumption humans quickly die.

          It is not a proven fact that there is a creator, since it is currently impossible to prove one way or the other.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          And yet, some humans manage to survive without water for much longer than they’re supposed to be able to. Beyond that, such “facts” are relatively trivial. They don’t tell us anything about why the human body needs water, and how water functions in the human body. For that, we need theories, and we need to test our theories through various experiments.

          It is also a fact that billions of people believe in God. In a way, that’s a rather trivial fact. It’s simply a reality. The more interesting question is why billions of people believe in God. One theory is that God actually exists, and that’s why people believe in God. Another theory is that people invented the idea of God in order to explain natural phenomena that they couldn’t understand.

          Both of these are theories. And they are at the heart of the difference between your theory of reality and mine.

          And once again, theories are not proven. They can be disproven by a replicated experiment whose results the theory fails to predict correctly. But if a theory does correctly predict the results of an experiment, all we can say is that the theory is still holding, and has not been disproven, giving us more confidence that it is an accurate theory.

        • Amanda says:

          Humans die without water, from water depravation, period; Everyone is an individual and would live longer or shorter than the next person without water, but everyone would ultimately die just the same.

          People believe in a creator because without the greater purpose of theism (being serving the creator like robots and being rewarded with “heaven”) depression is extremely common, and without the incentive of souls/afterlives people would be forced to accept permanent death of the consciousness, something most people are far far too weak to do.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          The fact that people die without water is not a scientific theory. It is a physical fact that forms the basis of various scientific theories. It’s simply something we observe with our senses. By itself it tells us nothing about the nature of reality.

          It is quite possible that neither people nor water exist in the form we think they do. It is quite possible that they are simply projections of our consciousness, and that nothing physical exists at all. This is something science can neither prove nor disprove. It is a theory of reality known as “Idealism” in philosophical terminology. There are many highly intelligent philosophers who have believed this and continue to believe it. And science simply can’t prove it wrong. Science can only assume that physical matter exists as physical matter, and proceed from there.

          Your theory about why people believe in God is, similarly, only a theory. You can assert it, but you can’t prove it. And I find your theory woefully lacking in its ability to explain all of the known spiritual phenomena that people have experienced and described ever since the beginning of oral and written history.

        • Amanda says:

          None of that makes any sense; it is certainly a fact, of science (meaning testable and observable and provable), that people need water to live.

          Now you’re just grabbing onto any silly philosophy to attempt to back up the fact that your religion of choice makes bold claims without justification for them.

          “Well maybe nothing exists as we think it does” is not a reason to regard the possible existence of a creator as a fact.

          “Spiritual phenomena” means nothing, it is fluffy babbling filler for when theists have no other argument out of the corner;

          You have no justifiable reason to accept that spirits or spirituality without a doubt exist, period.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          I would suggest that you spend some time studying both the philosophy of science and the philosophy of knowledge, which is known as epistemology. Your arguments show no evidence of even the most basic understanding of the history of human philosophy and knowledge. Your continual flat assertions with no rational substance or argument behind them whatsoever, plus your continual use of charged and insulting language, suggest that you really don’t have very good intellectual reasons for your beliefs about the nature of reality (i.e., there is no God and no spiritual realm).

          The fact is that you have no justifiable reason to accept that physical objects and events without a doubt exist, period. That is an unprovable assumption. And yet, you seem to think it is an established fact simply because you believe that you have physical senses that provide stimuli from an external, physical world. The simple fact of the matter is that you cannot prove “without a doubt” that anything exists outside of your own mind, or consciousness. You can’t even prove that you have a brain that thinks. That, too, could simply be a projection of your consciousness.

          The simple fact of the matter is that the only thing we know for sure, without a doubt, period is that our own conscious awareness exists. That is the only thing we directly experience. Everything else is indirect, and thus less certain—including the entirety of what we experience as physical reality.

        • Amanda says:

          So you agree that we can’t know whether a creator exists or not?

          Since you just said that there is no reason to accept that anything exists.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          No, that’s not what I said.

          I said that the only thing we know exists for sure, without a doubt, period is our own conscious awareness. Everything else, including both the existence of God and the existence of physical reality, we have various theories about that we can be more or less sure of.

          You keep asking for proof that God exists without a doubt. There is no such proof, just as there is no such proof that material reality exists without a doubt.

          That doesn’t mean we can’t know anything. It doesn’t mean we can’t know God exists. It also doesn’t mean we can’t know that material reality exists. It’s just that our knowledge of anything other than the existence of our own conscious awareness is not an absolute, or something that can be proven. Rather, it is something that we have more or less confidence in based on the sum total of our experience and of our thinking and feeling based on our experience.

          I don’t claim to be able to prove to you without a doubt that God exists. By the same token, you cannot prove to me without a doubt that material reality exists.

          What I do have is a great deal of confidence, based on decades of experience, thought, and feeling, that God and spirit are real. I also have a great deal of confidence that material reality is real, though I think of it as being less real than (a more secondary or derived reality than) spiritual reality and divine reality (God).

          Ironically, I believe that material reality is real because I believe in a Creator. If it weren’t for that, I’d likely be a philosophical idealist myself (see the Wikipedia article on Idealism that I linked in a previous comment), because really, it’s the only fully supportable position on the nature of reality from a purely rational perspective.

        • Amanda says:

          “you have no justifiable reason to believe that physical objects without a doubt exist, period.”

          If this is true then how do you have justifiable reason to not only believe, but to claim that others should believe, not only that a creator exists, but exists in the ways your religion of choice claims it does?
          Both of these claims are contradictory of your direct quote above.

          I’ve never asked for proof of a creator of any of the religion’s depictions or of a creator at all, because there is none; What I have asked, is why you guys believe it as fact and not theory like everything else you like to label as theory.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          It is a basic error of thought to think that unless we know something absolutely, we cannot know anything at all.

          You seem to want to deal in absolutes. But there really aren’t many knowable absolutes in life. Everything we know has been built up over many thousands of years of human experience, and over the decades of our own individual experience. We become more and more sure of it as experience supports our beliefs, or theories, about the nature of reality.

          And sometimes reality blasts our beliefs, or theories, to pieces and we have to start all over.

          I have never said that the existence of a Creator is a fact and not a theory like everything else. I have said that I believe there is a Creator based on a great deal of experience, thought, and yes, feeling—which is also an integral and essential part of human reality, just as thinking is.

          You are attributing absolutes to me that I have not myself said or claimed.

          Yes, I think it’s generally a good idea for people to believe in God and spirit as well as matter. That’s because I think that the existence of all three explains the sum total of human experience far better than the existence of only physical matter does.

          I also think it’s a good idea to reject most of what traditional Christianity teaches. And because that’s what most philosophical (rather than cultural) atheists are rejecting, I have a lot of sympathy for philosophical atheists. I reject the same God and religion that they reject. It’s just that I have a different understanding of God and spirit that doesn’t include the objectionable, immoral, and often downright horrific ideas that are rampant in traditional Christianity, and in different forms in other religions as well—especially in their respective fundamentalist wings.

        • Amanda says:

          But I never said we can’t know anything at all, what I’m saying is that we can’t currently know for sure whether there is a creator or not.

          That is not an absolute, it is honest acknowledgement of reality.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          It would also be an honest acknowledgement of reality to admit that we can’t currently know for sure whether physical reality exists.

          It’s the “for sure” part that seems to be causing all the problems. That “for sure” is requiring an absolute that we simply cannot have about anything other than our own conscious awareness. If you reject everything that you can’t know for sure, then the honest thing to do is not to accept the existence of anything other than the fact that your own mind (whatever that is) exists.

        • Amanda says:

          The absolute is on your end, YOU are claiming that a creator absolutely exists (unless you aren’t claiming that?).

          I’m simply rejecting your religious absolutism.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          I already said that I am not claiming that a Creator absolutely exists. I said that I believe that a Creator exists based on a great deal of experience, thought, and feeling.

        • Amanda says:

          So you don’t think (believe) a creator absolutely exists ?

        • Lee says:


          As I keep saying, there are very few absolutes in life.

          Why do you keep returning to absolutism? That is the downfall of any belief or theory of existence. Fundamentalism of every stripe (including atheistic fundamentalism) is based on an absolutism that has no basis in reality.

        • Amanda says:

          Can you answer a bit more directly, perhaps with a yes or no?
          Do you or do you not think with certainty a creator undoubtedly exists?

          And if not, how then do you honestly consider yourself a practitioner of a religion that claims a creator undoubtedly (absolutely) exists?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          You simply aren’t paying attention.

          You keep asking me to affirm something that I’ve already said I don’t affirm: that a Creator with certainty, undoubtedly exists. We humans simply can’t have that sort of absolute knowledge.

          How can you, a blogger on health, beauty, and so on, consider yourself an honest blogger if you can’t even affirm with absolute, undoubtable certainty that any of the things you talk about actually exist in reality? What if it’s all just a figment of your imagination? What if your own body doesn’t even exist, let alone the bodies of all those other people that you give advice to about diet and health?

          Since you can’t even know for sure, with absolute certainty, that any of these things actually exist, how can you keep blogging about it?

        • Amanda says:

          Blogger on beauty ? Excuse you – Why do you enjoy labeling me personally in your attempt to make an argument against my position? It’s cheap and dishonest.

          Why do you believe there is a creator, rather than believing there is POSSIBLY a creator (as I happen to believe) ?

          It’s a very simple question that you should be able to give a straightforward answer to, without smoke and mirrors.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Sorry about the “beauty” part. I remembered wrongly from what I had previously read on your blog. Here is what your “About” page actually says:

          Covers wide range of topics including health, fitness, natural living, holistic & Ayurvedic solutions, social & ethical issues, philosophy/theism, science, and literature/fiction

          How can you honestly blog about any of these things when you have no absolute, undeniable proof that the physical body exists? Or that the material world exists? Or that human society exists?

        • Amanda says:

          Because we operate under the assumption that existence is tangible and how it’s been for as long as we have lived; There is no reason to entertain such philosophy as what you’re bringing up;

          Choosing to practice a religion is taking it one step further by putting on the thickest blindfold you can and then trying to filter reality through it.

        • Amanda says:

          Why do you refuse to answer my question about why you believe there is a creator rather than possibly a creator ?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Aside from some personal experience that is irrelevant to you because it’s not your experience, I believe in a Creator because the sum total of human experience strongly suggests that there is a Creator.

          I see no good reason why human beings would have made up a non-existent entity to explain things they don’t understand. There are a lot of things I don’t understand. Usually I just shrug it off with a, “Huh?” Why would stone-age primitives come up with something for which they have no sensory experience whatsoever? That makes no sense to me at all. If they could not see God anywhere, why would that idea even enter their heads?

          It makes much more sense that they, just like millions of people in modern times, had actual experiences of God and of spiritual reality, through their spiritual senses, as I believe.

          I’ve read a number of atheist “debunkings” of near-death experiences and religious experiences in general. To me, they all look like they’re grasping at straws in an attempt to deny something that millions, if not billions, of people throughout history have experienced over and over again. To me, there is an absolutism in that denial that is both unscientific and irrational.

          I understand that many people have a bad taste in their mouth about organized religion. I find much of traditional Christianity to be execrable in its beliefs and practices (though I do also acknowledge that it has done much good as well). So I understand if people exposed to that who are thinking, feeling, compassionate people throw out the baby with the bathwater and reject God and spirit altogether. That, in fact, is one of the reasons I would be very happy to see traditional Christianity cease to exist. It gives a bad name to God, the Bible, religion, and spirit, directly causing much of the atheism in the world today.

          But that horrible God and religion have nothing to do with what I believe. I believe in a God of pure, universal love, wisdom, and power, who desires eternal life for all people, offers it to all people, and accepts into heaven anyone at all, from any religion or no religion at all, who is willing to go there based on being a decent, thoughtful person rather than being a complete asshole (if you’ll excuse my French).

          I have spent much of my life studying especially the Bible and the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, and to a lesser extent the beliefs of other Christians and non-Christians, as well as near-death experiences, dreams, visions, and so on. And while I don’t claim to be an expert on much of anything, that lifelong study, plus my own experience, has given me great assurance that God and spirit actually do exist, even if they’re nothing like what traditional Christianity says they are.

        • Amanda says:

          What makes your personal conclusion from your experiences and studies more valid or accurate than mine ?
          How do you expect people to respect an idea you hold based on that reasoning ?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          I hope people will look honestly into it for themselves, and not accept something just because I say so. If it makes sense and rings true to people, then I hope they will accept it. I believe that the truth speaks for itself for people who are truly seeking it.

        • Amanda says:

          Whether or not there is a creator is not a subjective matter;
          Just like the fact that humans need water is an absolute fact, whether or not there is a creator is an absolute fact either way, and we just happen not to know that fact right now.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          It’s not an absolute fact that humans need water. Once again, you can’t even prove for sure that water, or the human body, exist in reality and not just in our imagination.

        • Lee says:

          In our experience humans need water to survive. But we could be completely misinterpreting what we’re experiencing. It could be that we’ve constructed a whole reality in our heads that doesn’t in fact exist. We could all be living in a Matrix of unreality, blissfully unaware of the real world out there because we’re so absorbed in our own virtual reality.

        • Amanda says:

          But I reject such science fiction nonsense, it doesn’t add to the conversation, it’s completely irrelevant, and it’s insulting that you think I’d take that seriously. It has nothing to do with why you believe there is a creator.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          You’re asking for absolutes that you yourself cannot provide for your own beliefs.

          You can call these things all the names you want. But the simple fact of the matter is that you have no absolute, undeniable, undoubtable, surefire proof that anything you believe in is actually true.

          You’re insisting that I meet an unrealistic standard that you yourself cannot meet for your own beliefs.

        • Amanda says:

          I have not asked for one absolute.

          I have asked why you believe there is a creator, which is an absolute claim in itself.

          You set the standard by saying you think (believe) there is a creator, and I’m quite simply asking why, in the simplest version you have to offer, you believe that ?

        • Lee says:

          See my answer here, which was posted after this comment of yours even though it appears above it in the comments section.

        • Lee says:

          And believing in a Creator is not an “absolute claim in itself.” It is a belief.

        • Amanda says:

          The absolute claims are in the bible; So you don’t agree with everything the bible claims then ?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          The Bible is not about “claims.” It is not a textbook of science or history, nor is it a treatise on theology or logic. It is a complex, multifaceted book, but its main purpose is moral suasion: to induce and guide people to leave behind wrong and destructive ways of living, and live in good and constructive ways instead.

          In order to do this, it must address people at the cultural, intellectual, moral, and spiritual level where they are—which is generally quite low. For that purpose it often speaks in uncompromising terms, because people at a low moral and spiritual ebb don’t understand or respond to anything else. Giving a bank robber or serial rapist a finely reasoned treatise on why their behavior is morally wrong and damaging to the fabric of society will have little effect. It is necessary to be quite “absolute” with them in order to get them to stop their bad behavior.

          The Bible must also speak to people according to their own cultural attitudes and beliefs, bending people toward better ways of thinking and living rather than replacing their existing beliefs and attitudes wholesale—which people will strenuously resist and reject. So yes, the Bible often deals in rather low-level behavioral absolutes directed at cultures that we consider quite backwards today. And yes, the Bible says many things that we now know to be historically or scientifically incorrect. But that’s not the point. The point is to induce people, whatever errors of thinking or objectionable cultural practices they may be entangled in, to live a better life—meaning a life of love and service to God and their fellow human beings rather than a life of self-centeredness and greed.

          In short, in the Bible God deals with us where we are, not with some idealized version of humanity. And yet, for those who are at a higher intellectual, moral, and spiritual level, there are deeper messages embedded within the literal story that can guide us to whatever moral and spiritual heights we are willing and able to go.

          This is a huge topic, and not one I can do justice to in a comment. However, I have written many articles here on what the Bible is and isn’t all about. Here are two that I invite you to read for a fuller answer to your question:

          1. Can We Really Believe the Bible?
          2. How God Speaks in the Bible to Us Boneheads
        • Amanda says:

          So you disagree that the bible claims that a creator exists?

          Please answer yes or no, as nothing more is necessary.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Once again, you’re missing the point. The Bible is not about “claims.” The Bible simply assumes that a Creator exists, and proceeds from there.

        • Amanda says:

          And you agree with that assumption? Again, please try for yes or no

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Yes. That’s pretty obvious. I believe in God.

          And about “trying for yes or no,” some questions aren’t well-phrased, and have wrong assumptions embedded in them. Such questions cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. The wrong assumptions must first be pointed out and refuted before any answer can be given.

        • Amanda says:

          So you agree with the assumption that a creator exists, that’s a start.

          Do you mind explaining the difference between assumptions and claims that justifies taking one on faith and not the other ?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          That is all irrelevant, because your assumptions are in the same boat as my assumptions. You may “assume” no god exists. I may “assume” God does exist. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a “claim” or an “assumption,” or any of that logical reductionism. I’m not interested in playing word games. I’m interested in the truth, which we can always seek out, but never have any absolute knowledge of, scientific or theological, regardless of any “claims” or “assumptions” or logical hair-splitting.

          As I’ve already said, based on many years of experience and study, I think that the existence of God, spirit, and matter explains all of the phenomena of human experience far better than the existence of matter only. I think that rejecting God and spirit is more an article of faith than anything that can be demonstrated. I think that aside from the bad name organized religion gives to God and spirit, which I’ve mentioned previously in this conversation a a major source of atheism, the main reason atheists are atheists is because they assume and believe that only evidence derived from the physical senses is valid. I think that’s a wrong assumption and belief. I think the entire edifice of materialism and atheist thinking and belief is based on a wrong assumption that involves rejecting an extensive and important part of human experience: the experience of the human mind as compared to experience derived from the physical body and senses.

          If you want to talk about these things, I’m happy to do so. But I’m not going to be drawn off into fruitless wrangling about terminology.

        • Amanda says:

          My assumptions are not faith based the same way yours are, because I regard assumptions with different levels of validity based on their plausibility.

          Do you mind answering the simple question?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Your assumptions about my assumptions are incorrect, and thus your question is not a “simple” one. I also regard assumptions with different levels of validity based on their plausibility. And I find materialism and atheism to be very implausible assumptions.

        • Amanda says:

          What incorrect assumption did I make with that question that makes it impossible for you to directly answer?

        • Lee says:

          You’re assuming that my beliefs are based on mere assumptions and claims. They’re not. They’re based on extensive experience and evidence indicating which assumptions, or claims, or whatever you want to call them, are most plausible, to use your terms.

          You’re also assuming a definition of “faith” that I have already rejected. Did you read the article about the biblical meaning of “faith” that I pointed you to earlier? Here it is again:
          Faith Alone Is Not Faith

          I can’t answer your “simple questions” when they continually include wrong assumptions about my beliefs and how I arrived at them—even after I’ve explained how and why these assumptions of yours are incorrect—not to mention wrong assumptions about epistemology, i.e., how we know what we know.

        • Amanda says:

          The belief that a creator exists is not based on assumptions and claims ??

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          No. The belief in a Creator is based on experience. If it is based only on assumptions and claims, then it is a very weak belief.

        • Amanda says:

          Would you respect me if I said I believe in fairies and witches based on experience?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          I’d want to hear what the experience was that brought you to this belief.

          Personally, I tend to think that fairies and witches are more a spiritual than a physical phenomena.

          Then again, there do seem to be some people who are able to use forces that aren’t well understood to accomplish things that shouldn’t really be possible according to our current understanding of physical science. And there certainly are people who are able to hold others in mental thrall and bend them to their own will—which could be considered a form of witchcraft. I’ve recently been reading about Rajneesh and his ability to hold people in a hypnotic spell that over time broke down their own identity and caused them to think of him as a godlike figure (his self-applied title of “Bhagwan” means “Lord” or “God”), and to be willing to do anything he asked of them, up to and including murder, with no moral compunctions about it whatsoever. To me, Rajneesh was a figure of pure evil. It would not be inappropriate to call him a “witch” in a negative sense, according to some traditional understandings of witchcraft.

          In a positive sense, some people believe in a nature-based religion in which a “witch” is a person who uses the spiritual forces of nature to do good. That’s not necessarily a wrong idea, even if I’m skeptical of spell-casting and that sort of thing.

        • Amanda says:

          So you think there are personal experiences that validate the belief in fairies and witches? Or at least you would entertain such experiences?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          I don’t ignore or deny people’s experiences, assuming there’s no reason to believe they’re being insincere. However, I won’t necessarily interpret those experiences the same way as the people who had them.

          For example, I believe that a number of people who believe in reincarnation have had “past life” experiences. However, I don’t believe that those experiences are actually experiences of that individual having a past life.

        • Amanda says:

          Why don’t you believe those experiences are what those individuals believe they are? After all, doesn’t that cheapen the validity for your own experience based belief?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          People believe what they do for a reason. If someone needs to believe in reincarnation for their own spiritual path and wellbeing, I won’t argue with them about it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I have to agree with them and their interpretation of their experiences.

          Even though I don’t think we humans can have absolute truth, I do think there is truth and falsity, and that we can be either closer to or farther away from the truth, as well as being caught up in things that are just plain false. Still, even false beliefs can serve as “truth” for people who hold to them sincerely, and are inspired by them to live a better (more loving, thoughtful, and caring) life. Though I don’t believe in reincarnation, many people do, and they see it as being more just than the one-life view common in Western religion.

          So no, it doesn’t cheapen the validity of my own experiences in my mind. But it does suggest that I should maintain a certain level of humility, and going along with what I said in a previous comment, be open to the possibility that I may be mistaken about the meaning even of my own experiences. Over the years, as my life has unfolded, I’ve changed my views on some of my own past experiences and what they mean. That’s just part of the process of growing in emotional and spiritual maturity.

        • Amanda says:

          What about Christian beliefs specifically aligns with your experiences, that differs from all other religions?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          That’s a big question.

          Theologically, genuine Christianity differs from all other religions in believing that Jesus Christ is the unique human presence of God. (I reject the traditional Christian Trinity of Persons as unbiblical and polytheistic.) Most religions do not believe God became human, but believe that God is a purely transcendent being above and beyond human life or apprehension. In Islam, for example, the idea that God could be or become a human being is considered sacrilegious. Hinduism does believe in human avatars of God, but believes there have been and will continue to be many of these avatars throughout human history. Genuine Christianity teaches that God is both transcendent (above us) and uniquely immanent (with us) as Jesus Christ.

          In my own spiritual life, that is the most precious belief and gift of Christianity: that God is not just some unknowable being or force far beyond us, but is also present with us as an intensely human being with whom we can have a direct and personal relationship that doesn’t require any other human being, such as a priest or minister, as an intermediary standing between us and God.

          There are many other beliefs I could mention, but this, for me, is the central and most important one.

        • Amanda says:

          I think the issue for me with the religions is that they all assume the creator exists rather than just accepting that we don’t know either way;

          And to expand further, if there is a creator, all religions assume it is a moral and ethical and just and fair and loving and whatever else creator, which I again would not take on faith, but rather accept that it could be either way and we just don’t know.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          In other words, at this point you’re an agnostic rather than an atheist?

        • Amanda says:

          I mean personally I’m on the atheist end of agnosticism, yes, but the point I was trying to make is that the very fundamental core assumption of religions (that a creator exists) is a dishonest belief to promote and spread and instill in children.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Only if you reject the testimony of human experience in realms other than the physical realm. There is no particularly good or rational reason to accept only evidence that comes from the physical senses, and not evidence that comes from the human mind. This, in itself, is based on an already existing assumption that only the physical is real, and only the experience of the physical senses is worthy of credence.

        • Amanda says:

          Evidence that comes from the human mind? The human mind generates all kind of twisted bizarre far out things and there is nothing to stop sick crazy people from starting religions based off their sick minds. They’re quite good at it actually.

          So you think what the mind creates is trustworthy but what the senses experience isn’t ?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          The senses also tell us many things that aren’t the reality. For example, the senses tell us that objects are solid, when in fact they consist mostly of empty space, and the solidity is based on force fields repelling one another rather than actual solidity. And yet, billions of people walk around assuming that the desk, chair, or wall they bump into is a solid mass.

          In the same way, people who have spiritual experiences commonly misinterpret their meaning. The experience was genuine, but the conclusions drawn from it are not. That’s why it’s necessary in theology just as in science to have theories and hypotheses, and test them against the evidence of accumulated human experience of God and spirit. Just as with the evidence of the physical senses, it’s not a good procedure to simply uncritically accept ideas based on people’s spiritual experiences.

          So yes, there are many false ideas about God and spirit floating around, just as there are many false ideas about the physical world floating around. The fact that many people are deceived, either unwittingly or willfully, doesn’t negate the actual existence of God and spirit, any more than the fact that a whole group of people think the earth is flat negates the existence of the earth.

        • Amanda says:

          What I’m saying is there is no justification for teaching people from childhood that we know there is a creator for a fact (and then calling it a “belief” or “assumption” when we get called out for indoctrination).

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          There is also no justification for teaching people from childhood that we know for a fact that matter and the physical world exist. The reality is that we can’t be sure of that, because we have only second-hand information about it. From a purely reductionist standpoint, it would be most honest only to teach children that their mind exists and is a reality, and that everything else is subject to doubt.

          Once again, if absolutism is our standard, we really can’t teach children much of anything, because both in science and in religion, there is some element of doubt about everything we know.

          If you require absolute certainty before you do, say, or teach anything, you will just be stuck there in one place, living within the confines of your own mind, because that is the only thing whose existence you can be absolutely sure of.

        • Amanda says:

          So you think it’s ok to teach people a belief that claims a creator exists absolutely however it’s not ok to teach people they they will die without water and that laws of nature and physical objects exist ?

          What school did you attend? So I know where not to send my future children

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          I attended public schools in various states in the U.S. Then I went on to attend a couple different colleges, and finally my denomination’s seminary—which I doubt your children will have any interest in attending. So your (future) kids are safe! 😛

          Meanwhile, I continue to wonder why you slip “absolutely” into all of your objections.

          You seemed to like it when I explained to you that I do not claim absolute knowledge, nor do I think absolute knowledge is possible for us human beings on any subject, scientific or theological, with the possible exception of the existence of our own mind (some people deny even that).

          Why, then, have you now reverted back to absolutes in critiquing what I do here? I don’t teach God and spirit as absolutes. I teach God as a being and spirit as a reality that I have very strong reasons for believing in, just as I have very strong reasons for believing that the physical world exists.

          Sorry to be an armchair psychologist for a moment, but it seems as though you must still be dealing with absolutes crammed down your throat as a child growing up in the Catholic Church. Perhaps if you could free, not your mind, but your heart and your gut from the effects of that absolutism, you would be able to approach God and spirit from a less fraught and more objective perspective.

        • Lee says:

          Oh, and of course it’s okay to teach people that they’ll die without water and teach them the laws of nature. I never said otherwise.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          And yes, there are many false religions out there generated from the human mind rather than from any divine source. Back in the 1980s when Rajneesh’s cult was taking over the local town and attempting to take over the local county in Oregon, I was living just one state away in Washington State. Fortunately, it ended without the mass death that some other cults have perpetrated. But along the way Rajneesh’s cult terrorized the locals and did attempt to kill many people. So yes, religion, when twisted into false and evil forms, can do great damage.

          That is an example of what an old friend of mine used to call “the flipside principle”: The best things, when corrupted, become the worst things. For example, sexuality and marriage encompasses some of the closest, deepest, and most beautiful relationships between human beings. But when corrupted by evil minds and desires, it turns into some of the most horrific and destructive abuse on the face of the earth: rape, child sexual abuse, sexual abuse in general, and so on.

          We don’t reject sex and marriage because some people twist and abuse it into horrific forms. Rather, we recognize that what some people have done with it is a horrible corruption and destruction of what sexuality and marriage are meant to be.

          In the same way, it makes no sense to reject religion, God, and spirit as a whole just because some segments of religion (major segments of religion, I think) have become corrupt and are doing more harm than good. Rather, what’s necessary is to identify and deal with the corruption so that good and true religion can do its work free from that destructive corruption.

        • Amanda says:

          Let me ask this, do you think it’s of more sound reasoning to believe that the existence of a creator is MOST LIKELY THE CASE or is POSSIBLY THE CASE ?
          (Capitalized for emphasis, not yelling at you)

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Yes, please don’t use all caps. You can use basic HTML code in Wordrpess comments to add italics or bold. Here is a basic guide:
          Beginning HTML

          I prefer to use “b” instead of “strong” and “i” instead of “em” because they’re easier to type.

        • Lee says:

          In answer to your question, if I had to choose between those two, it would be “most likely the case.” But the reality is that I have very little doubt about the existence of God and spirit. It’s possible that I could be wrong about their existence. The human mind is a cantankerous thing. But at this point in my life I’m quite sure that I’m not wrong. If I thought there were a significant likelihood that I’m wrong, I would not devote my life to teaching these things.

        • Amanda says:

          But you would say that you do have some doubt of the existence of a creator if you’re completely honest, correct?
          (I doubted my family’s Catholicism from the age of fifteen on, and it’s a very common occurrence)

          I hope you don’t think I’m trying to trip you up into saying something I can argue because I’m genuinely asking these questions, not just to make a point, but to create the common ground where we can understand where the other is coming from.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Any honest and sincere seeker of truth in any area of human knowledge should always consider the possibility that he or she might be wrong. Science, as I said earlier, is not based on absolute proof, but on theories that working scientists become more and more confident in as experiments support rather than disprove the theory. But an honest scientist who sincerely wants to understand the nature of physical reality should always admit the possibility that the theory might be wrong. That’s how we humans remain open to new understanding and new insight about the nature of the world we live in.

          Similarly, anyone in theological circles who is absolutely certain of having the truth is cutting him- or herself off from gaining greater understanding and enlightenment about the nature of God, spirit, and reality. Many times during the course of my life (I’m in my late 50s) I’ve realized that some of the things I used to think were wrong, and have replaced them with other things that I believe are closer to the truth. Even my understanding of the basics of God, the spiritual world, and human moral and spiritual life have evolved over the years into something less rigid, and more broad and encompassing.

          So yes, I have to admit that I could very well be wrong about the existence of God and spirit. Like every human being, I do not have absolute knowledge. Even people who have had direct experience of God could be fooling themselves, and even they commonly go through periods of doubt in which they wonder whether their experience was genuine.

          That’s why faith is not a static thing, but something that continually ebbs and flows, and also grows over the years as doubts are replaced with new understanding and insight, and new doubts are once again worked out in the crucible of experience, giving way to greater faith.

          Speaking for myself, I have gone through this cycle sufficient times that I have as stable a belief in God and spirit as I do that the sun will rise tomorrow morning. When you experience something often enough and repeatedly enough, it ceases to be a shaky and doubtful thing, and becomes a matter of conviction.

          Now, it’s possible that the sun won’t rise tomorrow. Maybe the sun will suddenly, inexplicably go nova and the entire earth will be blasted to a cinder, and all of us humans along with it. But all of our experience indicates that the sun will indeed rise tomorrow. And all of my experience indicates that there is indeed a loving Creator and a spiritual world that we will go to and live in after our life on this earth is over.

        • Amanda says:

          Well goddamn, I can’t argue with that now can I? See all you have to do is be honest and the playing field is leveled; It almost seems like now the real conversation can begin

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Okay then. Let’s talk! 🙂

        • Amanda says:

          Well are you interested on collaborating on something? I’ll answer questions or write up something for your blog & you do the same for mine ?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          Thanks for the suggestion. I’d have to think about that. Off the cuff, I’m not much interested in turning the posts on this blog into a forum for guest posts presenting different viewpoints. That’s not the purpose or culture of this blog, as much as I do welcome conversation from different perspectives in the comments on this blog.

          Meanwhile, if our conversation here sparks something that you would like to write up and post on your blog, I’d certainly read it, and would be willing to continue the conversation either in your comments section or via a link and response in a post on this blog—which is something I’ve done in a few recent posts.

        • No, I highly doubt that you’re one of the few people that really do understand the ancient 1st century Jewish context of the New Testament, rather than simply being unwilling to spend a minute writing it out.

          “If you really cant see why people find your religion of choice as well as all the others to be ignorant, idiotic, and dangerous, then you are the one who needs to prove their comprehension skills.”

          I’m more than fully aware of the incoherent reasoning that leads to tribal claims like “you’re ideology is dangerous and idiotic.” In fact, I probably understand the explanation behind this claim better than you do. Anyways, perhaps you need to tone down your intolerance towards Christianity and tone up your acknowledgement of some of the many great things it’s given to this world. Hospitals? Modern universities? Ending gladiator battles in the ancient Roman Empire? And it also looks like you nicely stepped around the reasoning I gave behind Christianity in my previous comment. Why are you acting like such an ideologue?

        • Amanda says:

          So what makes you think that you know for a fact that, not only is there a creator, but that it’s the one your religion of choice claims it is?

          I understand considering the theory, but saying it’s a fact is as unjustifiable as it gets.

        • “So what makes you think that you know for a fact that, not only is there a creator, but that it’s the one your religion of choice claims it is?”

          Actually, I don’t know “for a fact” that there is a God and mines is the one true God (which is partly why your skepticism is justified). I just have a set of reasons in front of me, indicators perhaps, that I’m drawing my conclusion from. And I’m looking at them, and in fact, I use to call myself agnostic once. Though now, with more information, and with more certainty in my methodology, I think that it’s more probable than not that I’m correct. I’m not operating on certainty, but probability. Any form of certainty when it comes to religion or the lack thereof, unless you seriously have access to some information the vast majority of people don’t, is actually a detriment to your reasoning abilities.

          My reasoning is not fundamentalist in the least. When I left any form of agnosticism, I did lapse back into a ‘form’ of fundamentalism let’s say — for example, not accepting evolution and the inerrancy of the Bible. But with more information, I’ve realized some of my past conclusions were wrong and so I’ve revised my beliefs. I understand evolution is as well established as tectonic plate theory, that there are peripheral errors and contradictions in the biblical text (though they appear to be more or less irrelevant to the larger historical framework and especially the moral message), and I even believe that life developed as a product of physics, not being planted by God. So perhaps those are some of the agreements that you and I would share. And so I don’t think it would be at all fair to label my views as having any form of certainty in their conclusions, as my past indicates, I’m perfectly willing to revise my conclusions as I go as my information increases.

          So, I do think Christianity is true. The resurrection narratives seem to have a solid historical bedrock, and Christianity is the historical progenitor of enormous scales of good in the world unlike any other religion or mythology. Assuming you also live in a Western society, you probably also know that our culture is a big reflector of that. So I consider things like these to be consistent with what I’d expect of the ‘one true religion’. So I’m a Christian.

        • Amanda says:

          What on earth about the stories of the resurrection could you possibly think adds up ?

          The gospels themselves don’t even agree on what happened and EVEN if they did, there is no reason to believe any of it. It’s stone age psycho babble

        • Amanda, if anything, your skills at totally sidestepping practically everything I write is notable (and certainly has been noted).

          The Gospels do, more or less entirely (putting aside the possibility of one or, two at most, peripheral contradictions that can’t be solved) add up and are consistent, and when it comes to the major points of the story and not minor details, there’s no doubt about the total consistency.

          As for believing in it, perhaps it has escaped you that I’ve already linked to an actual mnonograph by an academic publisher that lays out a historical analyses of the texts, whereby one concludes that it actually happened.
          The reviews by academics in the field of this book are quite pleasant.

          “stone age psycho babble”

          The ideology speaks once again?

        • Amanda says:

          So if someone in history said that something happened, then it’s probably true ?

          How did “because someone who has a degree said that someone else said it’s true” even filter from your brain to the comment box without you realizing how stupid it is before hitting reply?

        • “And yes, I stand by the ideology that theistic claims are stone age psycho babble, what is off about that ?”

          Well, for one, theism predates the stone age, amanders.

          “So if someone in history said that something happened, then it’s probably true ?”

          Ugghh. I actually know the kind of evidence the book mentions. Nice try, make an absurd assumption without considering asking me (i.e. that I just looked at the title and accepted whatever was between the two covers) and you came to a startling error. No, it’s not true because “someone in history” said it’s true, it’s probably true because “someone in history” gave a ton of evidence that it’s true. Try writing a comment without misrepresenting what I write next time, eh?

        • Amanda says:

          Yes or no question time:

          Do you honestly think that at some point in time a virgin literally got pregnant and that her son is literally the spiritual savior of the human species who need to be saved from eternal punishment in a literal hell ?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Amanda,

          I know this was addressed to Scientific Christian, not to me, but for my own answer to this question, please see:
          The Logic of Love: Why God became Jesus

        • Do I think Mary was miraculously made pregnant by God, by which the Son of God was born? Ugghh .. Yeah. But the entire question is phrased in a dishonest way (which is why I had to rephrase it). Behold;

          “Do you honestly think that at some point in time a virgin literally got pregnant and that her son is literally the spiritual savior of the human species who need to be saved from eternal punishment in a literal hell ?”

          The entire question is phrased as to make the other side look like bonkers. Since we’re playing yes or no question time (since you can’t admit you’re wrong in every topic we’ve had so far), I’ll pose one to you to;

          Do you honestly think that everything literally poofed into existence at some time in the past and that there magically were perfect constants for the laws of physics so that life could literally develop out of a pool of chemicals and it happened to have rearranged itself into us?


        • Amanda says:

          So you refuse to answer?

        • “So you refuse to answer?”

          WHAT? LOL. Did you read my last comment?

          And besides that I answered your question, why didn’t you answer mine?

          “Religious doctrine and ideology”

          Wait, so your definition of ‘psycho babble’ is just religion? Color me surprised. Ready for a real discussion yet?

        • Amanda says:

          I asked a yes or no question

        • Once again, read my second last comment for the answer. Are you done trying to run around, like, everything I’ve said.

        • Oh yeah, and I forgot to add: What exactly do you define as ‘psycho babble’, dear amanders?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Scientific Christian,

          Please be respectful here, even if others aren’t always. Thanks.

        • Amanda says:

          Religious doctrine and ideology

        • Amanda says:

          And yes, I stand by the ideology that theistic claims are stone age psycho babble, what is off about that ?

        • Lee says:

          What’s off is that without any sound reasoning to back it up, it’s just charged language and name-calling, producing a lot of heat but no light.

  3. larryzb says:

    it is funny, I have experienced the same thing over at my blog when I have posted essays critical of atheists and atheism. It does not matter how many objections you address, there will always be one more to come from an atheist. (Christians can always pray for those who cling to their atheism.) If a person does not want to believe, the most you can do is point the way and wish them well on their life’s journey.

    • Lee says:

      Hi larryzb,

      Yes, people who want to be atheists will be atheists no matter what you say. And if they come to a belief in God, it will usually be due to some life-changing event rather than due to debates with theists. Still, if people want to ask me questions, I’ll answer them. Then they can do with it what they want. People have all different reasons for being atheists. Some might like to believe in God but can’t because of what they’ve been taught about God. I think of it as planting seeds.

  4. savednpoppin says:

    This is great and very insightful

    • Lee says:

      Hi savednpoppin,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

      Godspeed on your spiritual journey!

  5. Ana María says:

    A really great cogitation and analysis.
    of this subject. However I have a really big doubt: Jesus told a man can divorce his wife in case of “fornication”, but what considered Jesus “fornication”?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Ana Maria,

      Thanks for your kind words, and for your question.

      The Greek word πορνεία (porneia) that Jesus uses in Matthew 5:32 and similar passages is a general term for illicit sexual intercourse. In connection with marriage, it covers any form of sexual unfaithfulness and immorality. In these passages Jesus is saying that a man may divorce his wife if she is unfaithful to him.

  6. Limes says:

    Hi Lee,

    Thank you so much for writing and sharing your knowledge and experience. Recently, I had been trying to answer long-held questions about theology and came about one of your articles on marriage… then another… and another. I have been binge reading your writings everyday since then and shared your writings with my family members. I have read more Scripture in the past few days than in the past few years. You address topics and put into words things that I’ve felt, but struggle to articulate, while also shedding light on teachings which I have not understood in the purview of Christianity. Thank you for sharing in your own way the goodness of life.

    1) On this topic, I am a bit confused on your writings about the eunuchs. Under your heading, “What does Jesus mean about eunuchs?”, you wrote that eunuchs could not accept Jesus’ teaching about marriage because they have little or no interest in sex and marriage.

    After reading your blog posts about marriage, I am confused as to why this is the case and what this may entail in modern times for those who are celibate. Though castrated and thus unable to participate in sex, ‘Why would eunuchs “have no space in their character for marriage?”’ In contemporary society, wouldn’t a person have the capacity to be sexually abstinent, yet still be married and aspire to the spiritual (and love oriented) components reflected in Genesis?

    Why are eunuchs incapable of living by Jesus teaching? Is this related to the different cultural perception of marriage mentioned in some of your other writings?

    2) Later in the blog post you wrote that marriage was considered a “sacred and inviolable relationship that was created and commanded by God right from the beginning” and that “man and woman were created by God to be united in marriage”.
    Does this mean that everyone is suppose to get married in this life (or the next)? That, if presented with the opportunity, it is Gods’ will that everyone gets married so that no one is single?

    Perhaps the reason I am confused is that this writing seems to hit closer to home. Since I was young, I have felt the intuition that I was meant to be celibate, though not for religious reasons. I have felt that I am meant to remain single because that is who I am by nature, just as others feel that they were meant to work in healthcare or feel that they were born heterosexual.

    In your writings on marriage, I believe that you wrote that we as people are on a trajectory with respect to our spiritual and moral character and values such that by the time we die we are spiritually married to our ‘counterpart’ in heaven. However, does this mean that people like me would hypothetically be forced into a spiritual union with someone? Would, “Thank you God, but no thank you” be an option?

    I understand that intuitions can be wrong, however it is because of this intuition that the notion of ‘marriage as the ideal state’ seems antithetical to who I am as a person. I can’t understand what component of spiritual marriage would make me more ideal in the eyes of Christ.

    I’m looking forward to picking up some of Emanuel Swedenborg’s writings. Per chance, does he write on what happens to people who are not married or who are single in heaven?

    Thanks again for the topic. I believe that another false perception I had of Jesus has been cleared.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Limes,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and questions. I’m glad you’ve found answers and inspiration here, and that it has caused you to search the scriptures with new eyes. Thanks also for your kind words, which I do appreciate.

      In answer to your questions:

      1) As I say in the article, eunuchs and celibates are not the same thing. Eunuchs are men who have been castrated. Celibates are men or women who have voluntarily chosen not to engage in sex or marriage.

      Castrated people ordinarily have little or no interest in sex, and therefore usually have little or no interest in marriage. That is what I meant by saying that they have no space in their character for marriage, and therefore can’t accept Jesus’ teaching on marriage, in the practical sense that for the most part they simply have no interest in marriage.

      Celibates, on the other hand, may be celibate because they have taken a vow of celibacy for religious reasons, or because they have chosen to be celibate for other, non-religious reasons. Celibates normally do still have sexual drives and desires, which they deal with in various ways. These people could be married, but have chosen not to be.

      2) In the spiritual world, no one who doesn’t want to be married is forced to get married. Swedenborg did teach that marriage is the preferred state over celibacy (see Marriage Love #156). However, when speaking of what happens with various types of married and unmarried people after death, he also said:

      Those, however, who lived unmarried in the world putting all idea of marrying far from their minds, remain unmarried, if they are spiritual. (Marriage Love #54)

      In the same section he goes on to say that people who had taken religious vows of celibacy are released from those vows in the afterlife. They are then free to marry if they wish. If they wish to remain celibate, assuming they are good people, they remain celibate, but live on the edges of heaven because their atmosphere of celibacy clashes with the atmosphere of marriage that exists in the main body of heaven.

      So no, if you have no desire to be married, you will not be forced to get married in the afterlife. You can continue to live as a single person. This may mean, however, that it would be difficult for you to live in regular, married angelic society, but would instead live in a community of single people who have a mindset and pattern of life similar to yours. However, even this is not something that’s enforced so much as something that people will likely choose of their own accord for their own happiness and wellbeing.

      In any case, the most important thing is to live a spiritually oriented life, which is one of loving and serving our fellow human beings. Other issues, such as whether we are married or single, are secondary to living by the two Great Commandments of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

      I hope these answers are helpful to you. Feel free to continue the conversation if you still have questions, or other issues you want to discuss.

      Meanwhile, Godspeed on your spiritual journey!

  7. NylaTheWolf AJ says:

    Out of curiosity, why aren’t women allowed to be priests? That seems really unfair to me..

    • Lee says:

      Hi NylaTheWolf AJ,

      I’d say it’s mostly tradition from when men were considered superior to women. The church I belong to ordains women, as do many other churches today. Eventually I hope that the rest of the churches will come out of the dark ages and start ordaining women as well.

  8. Vladimir says:

    The idea of the article is correct, but I have some suggestions. Can we discuss it via email? (Will need to attach files)

    • Lee says:

      Hi Vladimir,

      You’re welcome to make some initial comments here. Then we’ll see where it goes.

      • Vladimir says:

        According to Heinrich Lewy (“Semitic Loanwords in the German Language” Berlin, 1985), Peter Jensen, Louis Herbert Gray (“Encyclopaedia Of Religion And Ethics (Vol 5”, art. “Eunuch”), the etymology of the Greek word “eunuch” has nothing to do with “eune-bed echei-keep”, but is a Hellenized Hebrew word “hanook” (Enoch, Jared’s son, who was known by his faithfulness to God), which means “faithful, dedicated, trustworthy”. Also, according to the Aramaic Bible (aka Peshitta), Jesus used the word “mhaimna” in Mt 19:12, which means “faithful”. Therefore, the correct reading of the passage is like that: But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching [that divorce without adultery is equal to adultery – act of unfaithfulness], but only those to whom it is given. For there are married men who do not divorce who have been so from birth [not inclined to divorce by their nature – normies:)], and there are married men who do not divorce due to pressure of various circumstances [Pagan Roman Law’s ban of divorce, for example, or just pressure of relatives etc], and there are married men who do not divorce by their free will for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” Thus, “eunuch” here, according to the context in which Jesus called the divorce without adultery adultery, is a married man who doesn’t divorce, because not divorcing you stay faithful – you do not commit adultery. Thus, Jesus never uttered a word in favor of what later bacame known as celibacy, especially “celibacy supremacism”. He just enumerated three cases of staying married forever withot divorce: by nature, by pressure and by free will. By the way, should he not mention the first and the second cases he would enter the history as the biggest formalist because sometimes people stay married by wordly reasons. But he mentions them to show that constant marriages are no wonder, adding that constant marriage by free will is that what matters. Free Will. For the Sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. (However, Christians are free to live single life as a personal free choice, not by the “Jesus’s commandment of celibacy” which doesn’t exist in Mt 19:3-12, and married Christians are free to divorce in case their marriage really failed). – Lee, what do you think about such an interpretation?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Vladimir,

          Thanks for taking the time to type this out.

          As for the general conclusion that Jesus never endorsed or recommended celibacy, but rather endorsed and supported faithful marriage, of course I agree, as covered in the above article.

          However, I find Lewy’s reinterpretation of eunouchos in Matthew 19:12 as meaning “faithful married men” to be unconvincing, if interesting.

          I don’t claim to be an expert on the various languages involved (Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac). However, I did spend some time consulting various reference books in print and online. So far I don’t see a strong case for Lewy’s view.

          First, the Greek word for Enoch is not much like the Greek word for eunuch. They are spelled quite differently. It seems to me to be a real stretch to connect the two.

          Second, although the Syriac word mhymn used in Matthew 19:12 in the Peshitta does have the primary meaning of “faithful,” it was also used to refer to eunuchs, either literal or figurative, as being “faithful” chamberlains, keepers of harems, and so on.

          Meanwhile, the Greek word eunouchos used in Matthew 19:12 of the Greek New Testament primarily means “a eunuch,” and from there may gain other meanings, such as chamberlains, government officials, etc.

          Therefore, it seems more likely that the Peshitta was using mhymn in the sense of “a eunuch,” since the Peshitta seems to be an early Syriac translation of the Greek New Testament.

          Further, as covered in the above article, as long as it is read carefully Jesus’ commentary in Matthew 19:1–12 makes sense without needing to reinterpret eunouchos.

          Plus, there is the principle in textual criticism of lectio difficilior potior (Latin for “the more difficult reading is the stronger”), which suggests that even if the Peshitta were attempting to make the passage simpler and easier to understand by using a word meaning “faithful” for “eunuch,” the more challenging version of the Greek New Testament is likely the original one, and the Peshitta a simplification. But I think the Peshitta was likely just using an ordinary word that, among other things, means “eunuch” to translate the Greek word eunouchos.

          For all of these reasons, I don’t find Lewy’s argument convincing, though as I said, I do find it interesting, and I thank you for bringing it to my attention.

      • Vladimir says:

        Hi again. Was contemplating about your answer. Actually, Lewy and Jensen just suggested that etymology, but the interpretation (three cases of marriage
        without divorce) is mine . Doesn’t matter. As for Eunuch and Enoch one should understand that translation and loanword are not the same. The latter normally undergoes changes. Thus, I do not see any problem with the idea that the word eunuch comes from the Hebrew word hanuk. It could happen 1000 years before the Septuagint appeared. Moreover,in all Slavic languages the word grandson is vnuk (Rus), onuk (Ukr), wnek (Pol), unuk (Slov) etc. The word is of unclear etymology (i checked) and therefore I suggest that it also derived from Enoch at some historical period. Remember, we have to Enochs: son of Jared and son of Cain who was the first grandson in the world. Thus, his proper name became common name for grandson in some languages of the area situated not so far from Israel. Moreover, I argue that the concept of marriage state is unseparable from the concept of faithfulness. Therefore, some languages have really curious euphemisms for marriage. For example in Romanian (Latin root language) married is “insurat” (insured). Check the etymology of the Latin word “sure” and you will see that it is connected with the faithfulness. Also,comparing different words in other languages like Arabic and Latin, I found that Arabic has one curious euphemism for married: mahsan – from hasan – fortress in Arabic, literally: “fortressed”. The Arabs explain it that marriage is like entering safe, secured place. Now look at the words castratus and castra (fortress in Latin). Looks like castratus could mean married in Proto-Latin , then aquired the meaning “deprived of genitalia”. And there is no wonder in it, for two reasons: ancient pagan priests used to cut off their genitalia as a literalistic sign of being faithful in their spiritual marriage to their deity. Thus a cut-off-genitalia person could be named “castratus” – “married”. Now we use this word for cut-off-genitalia only. Or the word could turn into cut-off-genitalia just because a married person and a cutoffgenitalia have one thing in common – the married symbolically dies for the rest of the women like the cutoffgenitalia literally dies for the rest of the women (in terms of marriage). Well, let’s go back to the word eunuch. Starting from the point that it means faithful there is no wonder that in all instances in the Old Testament it is used for a servant, official, because a servant is supposed to be faithful. In linguistics it is called substantivation: turning an adjective into a noun. Thus Potiphar from Genesis was called eunuch and had a wife. He was just a Pharaoh’s servant. His genitalia was safe and intsct. Also he is called spadon, but it’s a koine word for a head, official too, having nothing with cuttingoffgenitalia in itself (about spadon I also have my own comparative theory). Thus, eunuch as cutoffgen is nothing but a special case of eunuch as a faithful servant, a faithy, so to say. The reason why it became applied also to a cutofgenitalia is that a man totally deprived of testosteron becomes pariah deprived of will – ideal servant. Hence we have eunuch (faithy)for cutofgenitalia person. These two concepts exited parallelly, like the Assyrian saris (he who heads, official, faithful servant of high trust) also became applied to a cutoffgenitalia person due to faithfulness of such a person. By the way, the members of the notorious sect “Skoptsy” who cut of their genitalia were ideal workers-slaves on the factories in Sybiria belonged to their religious leaders who.. skipped self-castration (I read it somewhere). As for the word skopets, it derived from the Greek “skopus” (seer, like in episkopus – overseer), it came from Byzanthium. Skopus also means official, minister. Compare it with the Turkish word bakan – minister (bak – see, an – er,ing). Wherever we go we encounter only euphemisms for cutoffgens, meaning officials whose position implies faithfulness and dedication: saris, eunuch, skopets the minister etc. Well, one can agree with my interpretation of Mt 19:3-12 or disagree, but no one can deny the fact that the word eunuch is problematic (but not for me) and therefore all Bibles must be provided at least with footnotes pointing that the eunuches in Mt 19:12 can mean “he who doesn’t divorce” or their translations should be revised totally. … To be continued

        • Lee says:

          Hi Vladimir,

          Thanks for continuing the conversation.

          I continue to think that the Greek word eunouchos in Matthew 19:12 is, in that context, meant to refer to eunuchs in the usual sense: castrated men. However, I do understand that the Hebrew word sometimes translated “eunuch” doesn’t necessarily mean a castrated man, but may just mean a faithful official. And it’s possible that the Greek word may be used that way in some contexts as well. Words do commonly have multiple related meanings based on their roots and their varying and branching usages.

          In other words, in its plain meaning, the word “eunuchs” can have a positive or a negative meaning.

          When it comes to the spiritual interpretation of Matthew 19:12 and other passages that refer to “eunuchs,” there is a similar principle in operation: it can have a positive or a negative meaning.

          The negative meaning is connected to castrated eunuchs’ lack of any interest in marriage. Though he is not explaining the spiritual meaning of eunuchs, Swedenborg does refer to this sense of “eunuchs” in Marriage Love #151, which you can read by clicking the link.

          As Swedenborg states a few sections later in Marriage Love #156, the married state is preferable to the celibate state, and if that is denied, and Matthew 19:12 is read as advocating celibacy as a superior spiritual path, it leads to all sorts of fallacies and falsities. In this passage he also opens up the subject of “spiritual eunuchs,” which, he says, is the meaning of “eunuchs” in Matthew 19:12. However, doesn’t elaborate on it there. (Because of a numbering error in the original Latin, the link contains a whole section of duplicate numbers that aren’t relevant to the meaning of “eunuchs.”)

          However, in two other passages Swedenborg does elaborate on the positive spiritual meaning of eunuchs. The first is Secrets of Heaven (Arcana Coelestia) #394. The relevant part reads:

          The Lord had the same thing in mind when he spoke of marriage and of eunuchs in Matthew:

          There are eunuchs who were born so from their mother’s womb. And there are eunuchs who were made so by others. And there are eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of God’s kingdom. Those who can understand, let them understand. (Matthew 19:12)

          “Eunuch” applies to those who enter into the heavenly marriage. The ones who are like heavenly angels are called “those born so from their mother’s womb.” The ones who are like spiritual angels are called “those made so by others.” The ones who are like angelic spirits, who participate in that marriage not so much from charity as from obedience, are called “those who made themselves so.”

          This sounds very much like your interpretation of “eunuchs” in the Bible. (Note that in the early parts of Secrets of Heaven Swedenborg uses the term “angelic spirits” to refer to the angels of the lower “natural” levels of heaven.)

          However, Swedenborg arrives at this interpretation through a different route than you do, as he explains in his fullest treatment of “eunuchs,” which occurs in his unpublished (by him) work Apocalypse Explained #710. It’s too long to quote here. If you click on the link to read it (which I recommend), first scroll way down to subsection [25], where he quotes Matthew 19:3–12, and then scroll down a little farther and read subsections [28] – [30], where his commentary on “eunuchs” occurs.

          What he says here is that because marriage among the Jews of that time period was entirely physical-minded, lascivious, polygamous, adulterous, and divorce-prone (probably an overly harsh assessment in at least some cases, such as Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, not to mention Mary and Joseph), being a “eunuch” in that context means rejecting polygamous, lascivious, and adulterous “marriage,” and desiring “chaste” or pure monogamous marriage. So although “eunuchs” in the plain literal meaning does indeed mean people who reject marriage because they are physically castrated, since marriage was generally unspiritual and adulterous in that culture, rejecting such “marriage” actually carries a spiritual meaning of valuing pure, spiritual, monogamous marriage.

          In other words, Swedenborg’s route to arriving at the same spiritual interpretation of “eunuch” as you have outlined in your comments is not based reinterpreting the word “eunuch” from its usually accepted meaning of a castrated man. Rather, it is based on the contrariety of a castrated man being uninterested in the so-called “marriage” of the day, which was actually promiscuity and adultery. Therefore even though “eunuch” most likely does mean a castrated man in the literal sense of the Greek word as used here, in the spiritual meaning it does indeed refer to men and women who value loving, faithful, monogamous marriage.

          For some related material based on Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22:30 and Luke 20:35 that “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage,” please see these two articles:

          1. Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?
          2. Marriage in the Resurrection: The Deeper Meaning
        • Vladimir says:

          I am totally aware, that my point of view looks weak without finding an ancient manuscript in Greek in which the word “eunuch” is used in the sense of being married. Mgm… But wait! Such a manuscript exists! It’s Bible! Let’s go to Isaiah 56:3-7: Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.

          As you know, according to traditional interpretation of the passage, God here promises acceptance of the castrated persons who, according to Deuterenomy, cannot enter the Assembly the Lord.
          But it’s obvious that here the foreigners and the eunuchs are one and the same group: Proselytes to Judaism. Why should a Proselyte whine that the Lord has separated him from his people? (from his people, his people, his people, not from God). Because Proselytes were not allowed to enter the Temple, they were separated from Yahwe’s people, and had to stay in the Court of Gentiles. Of course, the phrase “dry tree” triggers certain associations, but in fact it is the symbol of a useless thing. Thus, the Proselyte (eunuch) feels that his spiritual marriage to Yahwe is fruitless. And God says unto the Proselytes: those of you who keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters (sons and daughters of God’s people, the Jews). Why should a castrated person keep sabbaths and take hold of the Covenant… which orders to exclude him? And look at the promise: I will give them in my house! Because they are not allowed in the House – the Temple. They are Proselytes, not castrated ones. God calls one and the same group by two names: foreigners (raciallywise) and eunuchs (religioslywise). Thus, the eunuchs here are spiritually married to Yahwe. And not just married, the Jews are also married to Yahwe, but they were born in that religion, it’s a different story, but eunuch is the one who joined the Covenant of Yahwe. Joined. Joined. Eunuch is always “a party which joined the union”. You join king’s service. Not born at it. You join some religion. You join your wife through marriage. In fact we deal with an ancient untranslatable term. It cannot be translated by one word because we have no one-word equivalent for it that would make sense. Eunuch is a party of contract, who joined it and stays in it. Joining Religion, Service and Marriage – are always free. It’s not slavery. That’s why the servicemen are called eunuchs in the Old Testament. That’s why the Proselytes are called eunuchs in Isaiah. And the Ethiopian from the Acts was the Proselyte from Isaiah – Foreigner and Volunteer of Faith in Yahwe (never been castrated). That confirms my interpretation of Mt 19:12 : those who married and do not divorce because they were born so… and so on.

          As for Swedenborg’s views, I recommend this:
          Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality, and the Catholic Church, by Uta Ranke-Heinemann
          from Chapter 3

          The growing tendency to place an antisexual construction on passages from the New Testament with no antiphysical, antisexual connotations was not confined to the metaphor of the Virgin Birth. This sexually pessimistic process of reinterpretation can he seen quite clearly in the case of another passage, which to this day is thought of as a comment by Jesus on celibacy and one of the mainstays of the practice. In his “Letter to All the Priests of the Church” on Holy Thursday, 1979, John Paul II refers to “celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, about which Jesus is supposed to have said, “He who is able to receive this, let him receive it” (Mt 19:12). Jesus, in fact, is not speaking here about celibacy at all, but the passage has been cut and trimmed to make it do so, and as such it has become the favorite motto of all defenders of celibacy up to and including John Paul II.
          But we need consider only the subject put before Jesus to know what he is talking about in his answer, he is not asked about celibacy, and hence is not discussing that. He is questioned by the Pharisees about divorce, whereupon he proposes a thesis that was unheard of at this time, when a man could divorce his wife simply for burning his dinner (thus Rabbi Hillel, in contrast to the stricter Rabbi Shammai), Jesus says: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery” (Mt. 19:9). Even his disciples object to this teaching; and Jesus says, “Not all men can receive this saying” (Mt. 19:11), and he adds that there is a self-castration tor the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt. 19:12). This statement, which is naturally to be understood metaphorically has an immediate grammatical connection (through the word “for”) with the preceding debate over divorce. The issue here is voluntary renunciation of remarriage, which Jesus treats as adultery . Unmarried” or “incapable of marriage” (thus the New English Bible) are common but erroneous translations of the Greek word eunuchoi.
          It must be admitted that this saying about psychic self-castration is one that has bewildered many people, and not just the disciples. Jesus himself says, “He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.” But whatever one’s response to it, it deals not with the incapacity for marriage or the principled rejection of it (as many readings of this text imply), but with renouncing adultery; and hence it has nothing to do with celibacy. Need we say that the whole institution of celibacy was based—and still is today, practically speaking—on a foolish objection by the disciples? Their protest boils down to the idea that it would be better not to marry at all because that way one loses one’s sexual freedom, and the possibility of getting rid of one’s wife.
          Thus Jesus is repudiating adultery and divorce. And the disciples object that it would be better not to get married (if you can’t get divorced). They are the sort of people who do not receive Jesus’ saying. They think it’s better to live with a woman without a strong, indissoluble bond, if that means what Jesus says it does, namely, that one may never have another woman. When Jesus thereupon says to them, “he who is able to receive it, let him receive it,” he is not making their objection into part of the Gospel—because that objection is simply a male chauvinist protest, and how pathetic that celibates are always invoking this objection—but Jesus stands by his message. He means what he said, and not the protest by his polygamously minded disciples, whom Jesus’ demand rubs the wrong way.
          What stuns the disciples is not Jesus’ teaching about the single life or celibacy, about which he says nothing whatsoever, but his teaching about marriage and divorce; and this was something new. The disciples appeal to Moses, who allowed one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away. But Jesus answers: For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” In making this case Jesus cites the story of creation “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female”, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?” What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder (Mt. 19:3-12).
          Becoming one flesh is for Jesus a total, irrevocable act of union, more than a mere temporary connection. On it is based the indissolubility of marriage. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) later grounded the permanence of marriage on concern for the children, whom the wife could not raise all by herself. But Jesus says nothing about children. Nor does he speak of becoming one flesh for the purpose of having children, this new teaching, which is the old truth ‘from the beginning, argues the indissoluble oneness of the spouses.
          Jesus’ teaching, by which he goes back to before Moses, to the origins, struck his listeners as outrageous. The alternative to Rabbi Hillel’s interpretation was Rabbi Shammai’s view, which set stricter conditions, but did not contest the possibility of divorce. Jesus’ words turned his disciples understanding of divorce upside down. The Jews understood “You shall not commit adultery” as having different implications for men and women. For the man, only intercourse with someone else’s wife was adultery; for the wife, intercourse with anyone but her husband was adultery. The man could only violate someone else’s marriage; one’s own marriage is violated only by the wife. The reason for this is that the wife was considered not a man’s partner, but his possession. By committing adultery the wife was depreciating her husband’s possession, while the husband was depreciating another man’s possession. Adultery was a kind of crime against property. Thus intercourse with an unmarried woman did not constitute adultery for the man. Jesus teaching revokes this privileged masculine concept of adultery. He also revokes polygyny, which Jews thought had been granted by God. Judaism in Jesus’ day – apart from the Qumran sect—affirmed polygamy. That meant that a man could never violate his own marriage. The wife belonged to her husband, but the husband did not belong to his wife. Jesus’ way of reading the creation story destroys the whole patriarchal position. No wonder the disciples thought that under those circumstances it would be better not to marry at all. That sort of marriage was not what they had in mind.

          P.S. I understand that it’s a big temptation to see in Mt 19 something special (except condemning divorce without a cause and enumerating some cases of non-divorce), but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Vladimir,

          Thanks for your further thoughts.

          However, I see no basis for thinking that the “foreigner” and the “eunuch” in Isaiah 56:3–8 are the same people. They are treated as distinct groups. Verses 4–5 give a promise to religiously faithful eunuchs, and verses 6–7 give a promise to religiously faithful foreigners. There is no indication that they are one and the same. The promises are both good, but they are distinctly different from one another, appropriate to the group they are addressed to.

          Are the six paragraphs after your mention of the book by Uta Ranke-Heinemann a quotation from that book? If so, I’ll format them as such to avoid confusion.

          She makes some good points. However, saying that women were “property” is overstating the case. Slaves were property. Women were considered attached to and under the authority of their husbands, but they were not property, like slaves, any more than children were property. They had their own voice and their own level of social respect even if it was lower than that of their husbands. And women often had a decisive impact on the Bible narrative. See:
          Is the Bible a Book about Men? What about Women?

          As for the rest, I agree with much of what she says, but I’d have to read it again, more closely, to fully get the drift of her argument.

      • Vladimir says:

        I would like to add, that “eunuchos” is really untranslatable without philological analyse of the word. Yes, eunuch is always party of the contract, and this contract is power of attorney where the parties are trustor and trustee. Eunuch (hanuk – trustful) is trustee. Thr relations between Deity and Adept, King (any Boss) and Servant, Spouse and Spouse – they all are special cases of one big common case: Contract of Trust. That’s the difference between a slave and a trustee: you can send your trustee even overseas on a mission, you trust him, while a slave is normally monitored each moment: he is not trusted, he will flee. A servant hired to wipe the floor is not equal to the servant to look after the treasury and other important things. The latter is always of high trust. The ancient discerned the status levels of servants, that’s why we see in the Bible different words for servants: “David summoned all the officials of Israel to assemble at Jerusalem: the officers over the tribes, the commanders of the divisions in the service of the king, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of all the property and livestock belonging to the king and his sons, together with the palace officials (eunukhos in Greek, saris – in Hebrew), the warriors and all the brave fighting men.” (1 Ch 28:1). You see, common name of the position depends not only on the functions performed but on the level of trust. Compare Plato’s Protagoras: “…Now, we wanted to first come to a conclusion and then go in, and not leave it unfinished. We stood talking on the porch until we reached agreement. I think the doorman, a eunuch, must have heard us – he was probably annoyed about visitors coming when the house was already full of sophists…” http://openprotagoras.wikidot.com/page:314. Why should Plato mention the “eunuchism” of the doorman in such a banal situation if it were not just a synonyme of a servant of trust who is not slave? He just meant: “the doorman, one of the servants” (not castrated, of course). I think Plato would be shocked if he knew that the word became such a problem later.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Vladimir,

          As I’ve said before, words can have different meanings in different contexts. In some contexts, the Hebrew saris and the Greek eunouchos are referring to palace officials, trusted servants, etc., who may or may not be castrated. In other contexts these words are clearly referring to castrated men. In Isaiah 56:1–8 and Matthew 19:1–12, the context lends itself to the “castrated men” interpretation. In other contexts, it is more likely referring to palace officials, regardless of the state of their genitals.

  9. Vladimir says:

    Yes, the six paragraphs after my mention of the book by Uta Ranke-Heinemann are from her book.

    • Lee says:

      Okay, thanks. I’ve set them off as a block quote.

      • Vladimir says:

        As for the “foreigners” and “eunuchs” in 56:3-7, you can read this article. No matter of other religious view of its author, he got really closer to the problem, however didn’t arrive on the idea that the foreigners and the eunuchs are one and the same group. http://timeofreckoning.org/category/eunuchs-isaiah-56

      • Vladimir says:

        Looks like I forgot to stress on one important thing about Mt 19:3-12. When disciples said “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry”, Jesus doesn’t switch over their remark, he just continues his thought about divorce-as-adultery-if-without-cause. That’s why when he says “not everyone can accept this word…” he means HIS (on divorce) word, not DISCIPLES`s word (better not to marry). What Uta-Ranke means (and I agree with her) is that the whole passage can be read even without disciples’s reaction. Their reaction, in fact, is what brought in all these confusion, not only the problem with the word “eunuchos”. Thus, Jeses introduces the concept of “gift of getting along with the wife and abstaining from divorce”. Disciples`s word “…better not to marry” is what made all unobservant readers think that Jesus really endorses that “better not to marry” enumerating 3 cases of non-marrying (also thanks to the wrong translation of the word “eunuch”). If you read the whole passage like that, “omiting” disciples’s putting in their two cents, and using my interpretation of “eunuches”, you will see how the passage shines, how thw whole New Testament shines, because that “better-not-to-marry endorsment heresy” is what always served as that one bad apple that spoils the whole barrel.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Vladimir,

          As covered in the above article, it is not necessary to ignore the disciples’ “better not to marry” response in order to understand that Jesus is endorsing his own prior teaching about faithful marriage, not endorsing the disciples’ fleshly-minded response that it is then better not to marry.

          The simple fact is that the disciples did say what they did, and Jesus did respond to it. He didn’t just ignore them. Even translating eunouchos in the most likely way, as “eunuchs,” the meaning is still the same: Jesus endorses faithful marriage, not the denial of marriage.

          Why would Jesus endorse the disciples’ response to his teaching in preference to his own teaching? That makes no sense whatsoever.

        • Vladimir says:

          “Why would Jesus endorse the disciples’ response to his teaching in preference to his own teaching?” – Don’t you know the traditional interpretation of it? – Jesus condemns Moses’s Divorce and introduces the gift of abstination from marriage. Two new things in Jesus’s message. Two. That is the traditional interpretation which exists not only in traditional churches but also in protestantic ones. But it was not like that always… Let’s open Clement’s Stromata, Book III, CHAPTER VI: “49. There are some who say outright that marriage is fornication and teach that it was introduced by the devil. They proudly say that they are imitating the Lord who neither married nor had any possession in this world, boasting that. they understand the gospel better than anyone else”. You see, Clement mentioned some heretical group in the II century AD which said they “imitated Jesus and understood the gospel better than anyone else”. You see? They were not some philosophers, and, probably, spent years in the first Christian communities. Their being aquainted with the Gospel in details is beyond question. Then Clement says: “50. Concerning the words, “Not all can receive this saying. There are some eunuchs who were born so, and some who were made eunuchs by men, and some who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven; let him receive it who can receive it,” they do not realize the context. After his word about divorce some asked him whether, if that is the position in relation to woman, it is better not to marry; and it was then that the Lord said: “Not all can receive this saying, but those to whom it is granted.” What the questioners wanted to know was whether, when a man’s wife has been condemned for fornication, it is allowable for him to marry another”. When Clement says “Concerning the words, “Not all can receive this saying…” he obviously is quotating the verses from Matthew on which the views of that heretical group were based. You see? Those heretics in fact understood the passage in question in the traditional way, but Clement criticizes them. And what he says? Hey, you, how can you prove that you received the gift of celibacy? No. He says: “they do not realize the context”, pointing that the disciples asked their question only “after his word about divorce”. In short, Clement means that Jesus endosed the idea “it is better no to RE-marry, after divorce of the adulteruos wife”. Better not to “Re-Marry”!. Pretty twisted way of thinking, and obviously farfetched, but thus Clement tries to debunk those heretics who believed that Jesus endorsed “better not to marry”. And it seems to me that the interpretation of those heretics became widespread, though modified, without “marriage was introduced by devil” etc, and that’s what we know now as “traditional interpretation of Mt 19:3-12”. Thus, no matter who Clement was, gnostic or not gnostic, this place in his book registers the birth of “celibacy superiority herecy” back in the II century AD.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Vladimir,

          Yes, I’m aware of the traditional “Christian” interpretation of Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:12. And I’m saying that that interpretation makes no sense whatsoever. That’s what the above article is all about.

          It is true that Jesus never married. But he also never endorsed celibacy, declared himself celibate, or anything of the sort. All of his teachings about marriage are in support of faithful, monogamous, God-given marriage. In addition to the above article, I cover this further in these two articles, which I believe I have referred you to previously:

          1. Didn’t Jesus Say There’s No Marriage in Heaven?
          2. Marriage in the Resurrection: The Deeper Meaning

          Most of what traditional “Christianity” teaches is false and contrary to what the Bible teaches. See:

          “Christian Beliefs” that the Bible Doesn’t Teach

          Because it has long since replaced the Bible’s teaching with human-invented teachings, what has passed for “Christianity” for so many centuries is not even Christian. See:

          Christianity is Dead. Long Live Christianity!

        • Vladimir says:

          Hi, Lee!
          Look at what I have found: Sean D. Burke. “Queering the Ethiopian Eunuch”.
          I do not agree with the author about “queering”, but the very fact of appearing such books proves that more and more people are unsatisfied (justifiably) with the traditional view on the “eunuches” in the Bible, and feel there is really something wrong with it. As for the author’s ideas – that’s what happens if my theory is neglected. There you can download Introduction to the book and Chapter 1 for free, and that’s enough.

        • Vladimir says:

          Hi, Lee. I understand that you might be tired of the theme, but I have to add something.
          “For the Greeks, lettuce was an anti-aphrodisiac, bringing drowsiness, loss of potency and a need to urinate… To make matters worse, the best variety of lettuce for eating is, allegedly, the worst for side-effects. Lykos the Pythagorean reports that it’s known as εὐνουχος – ‘the eunuch’, and that women call it ἀστυτις – ‘the impotent’, a fact repeated by Pliny (NH 19.38)….. ِAlso: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactuca_serriola …The Ancient Greeks also believed its pungent juice to be a remedy against eye ulcers and Pythagoreans called the lettuce eunuch because it caused urination and relaxed sexual desire….”
          You see? That’s how names appear: some Greek genius noticed similarities between the effect of the plant and a castrated man and calls it “eunukhos”. In the same way, there existed a moment in the history when some genius called a castrated man “eunukhos” thus starting the greatest confusion in the history. I am ready to give up the “testosterone theory”, and, as I pointed out before, “eunukhos” (Hellenized “hanuk”) means “trusty” (trusted-bacause-faithful), and was applied to the party of Contract, Testament, Covenant, including marriage contract. Thus, the similarity between a castrated man and a trusty-bound-by-the-marriage-contract is that the latter cannot have sex too, including spiritual sex (in isolation from his sex life within his marriage). By the way, while the plant is now called by Latin name, it is STILL called “saris” in the Middle East.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Vladimir,

          Language is a complex thing. The words we use every day have a long and storied history, including various streams and interminglings of meaning that even skilled linguists often can sort out only with great difficulty, if at all.

          Still, the speakers of any language use particular words with particular meanings, often regardless of their original complex derivation and meaning. Usually that meaning is clear enough from the context. Though studying word derivations is often enlightening and helpful as to the nuances and connotations of a word or phrase, it rarely makes a significant change in how words were used in a particular culture and time. But it may help our understanding of how and why they used the words in the way they did.

          As an example of a word that made it into common vocabulary and then created confusion in our reading of the Bible, see section titled, “About ‘sodomy’ and ‘sodomites’ in the Bible” in my article, “Homosexuality, the Bible, and Christianity.” The word “sodomy” and its variant “sodomite” didn’t come into use as a word for homosexual sex until the 6th century AD. But since it became a part of the regular vocabulary used with that meaning, it came to be used to translate various words in the Hebrew Bible that refer to male homosexual sex or to male temple prostitutes. As a result, people often think that the Bible uses the word “sodomy” to refer to male homosexual sex, when that is simply not the case. The Bible never even mentions homosexual sex in relation to Sodom, but gives other reasons why God destroyed Sodom. See:

          What is the Sin of Sodom?

          So yes, studying words and their origins can give some light on the meaning of the Bible story.

          However, when it comes to the Hebrew word saris and the Greek word eunouchos, I don’t think you and I are going to come to an agreement. You’ve stated your case quite clearly, and I’ve stated mine, and neither one of us is convincing the other of our position. At that point, further debate simply uses up valuable time that could be spent doing something more fruitful.

          Besides, on the more important issue, you and I agree: That according to the Bible, faithful monogamous marriage is superior to celibacy. We could argue about how we got there, but since we agree on the result anyway, where’s the benefit to that debate? It’s just wrangling over words when we agree upon the substance.

        • Vladimir says:

          Ok, Lee. You are right that we have to stop the futher debate. I am grateful to you for youк patience and understanding. At least, you understand my point of view without thinking that it’s just another “christo-old-testamentic idea aimed to marry everyone even without their consent”.

  10. Vladimir says:

    Hi, Lee! Remember me? I haven’t forgot our conversation. Just found the article which almost coincides with my point of view. Read it if you like

    • Lee says:

      Hi Vladimir,

      Good to hear from you again, and thanks for the link. As covered in our conversation above, though I don’t agree with all of the pathways toward the final conclusion represented in the linked article, I do wholeheartedly agree with its main premise: that a married state is more biblical, spiritual, and in harmony with God’s will than a celibate state.

  11. Kofybean says:

    Yea, I don’t see how you can say “…then marriage…is the highest and most spiritual state and relationship that we humans can aspire to.” when Jesus was clearly unmarried and attained the highest most spiritual state a human can aspire to.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Kofybean,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. That statement refers specifically to human beings who are not God. Jesus is God. And as the Bible says many times, God is (spiritually) married to the people of God as a community.

  12. Lance says:

    Hi Lee,

    I don’t think it was mentioned, but St. Paul spoke on the issues of celibacy and marriage in 1 Corinthians 7-16 and again in 1 Corinthians 25-40.

    In 1 Corinthians 8-9 he says “Here is my advice for people who have never been married and for widows. You should stay single, just as I am. But if you don’t have enough self-control, then go ahead and get married. After all, it is better to marry than to burn with desire.”

    An in 1 Corinthians 25-28 he says “I don’t know anything that the Lord said about widows or people who have never been married. But I will tell what I think. And you can trust me, because the Lord has treated me with kindness. We are now going through hard times, and I think it best to stay where you are. If you are married, stay married. If you are not married, don’t try to get married. it isn’t wrong to marry, even if you have never been married before. But those who marry will have lots of trouble, and I want to protect you have that.”


    • Lee says:

      Hi Lance,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.

      The above article is specifically about what Jesus said. I believe that what the Lord teaches us is the central teaching of the Bible. Many churches and preachers seem to think that what Paul teaches comes first, and what Jesus Christ teaches is secondary. As for me, I read Paul in light of Jesus, not Jesus in light of Paul. See:

      Jesus Changed Paul’s World

      And in 1 Corinthians 7 especially, Paul is very careful to label much of what he says as his own opinion, and not something that he has received from the Lord. Take that as you will, but it is quite striking that in the one chapter in which Paul speaks specifically about marrying vs. remaining single, he carefully states that he is giving his own opinion, however trustworthy that opinion may be as one preaching in the Lord’s name. Nowhere else in his letters does he give this disclaimer.

      It is important to pay attention to Paul when he does this, and not just brush it aside as if his words don’t matter.

      Paul doesn’t leave us in much doubt as to why he qualifies his statements on these subjects in this way. First, he tells us that he has no commandment or teaching from the Lord on these things. Then he adds that he advises people, if they can, to stay in their current condition—married or unmarried—”in view of the impending [or current] crisis” (verse 26), adding that “the appointed time has grown short” (verse 29).

      “The appointed time” is a reference to Jesus’ expected return. Based on this and other passages in his letters, Paul clearly believed that Jesus would return very soon, likely within his own lifetime. He therefore advised people not to change their current status, just as one would not, for example, begin a major renovation to one’s house if one’s country were about to enter into a state of war. It would be foolish to start any new enterprise when conditions are that foreboding and unstable.

      Paul expected there to be great tribulation during the impending return of Christ. He believed this would be more difficult to endure for married people than for single people. Married people would have to watch their beloved go through great trials and tribulations. Better not to put oneself through that terrible anguish of heart.

      All of this was very sound advice for one who believed that the entire world was about to be upended in a great cataclysm leading up to the imminent return of Christ.

      Paul correctly sensed that “the world was coming to an end.” But the world that came to an end, shortly after his death, was the world of ancient Judaism, not the Christian world.

      In 70 AD, just a few years after Paul’s death, Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple, smashing Judaism as it had existed for many centuries—a religion of sacrificial worship centered on the priesthood and the Temple in Jerusalem—and forcing Jews to completely rethink and redesign their religion into the Rabbinic Judaism that still exists to this day. That was the “impending crisis” sensed by the early Christians, who were still closely tied to Jewish religion out of which they had come.

      So yes, it is well worth reading Paul’s views on marriage and singleness in 1 Corinthians 7. But we must pay attention to what he himself says about the views he expresses there and the reasons he gives for expressing them. He said these things, not as universal teachings for all time, but “in view of the impending crisis.” That crisis has long since passed.

      Unless you are among those who still think that Jesus is just about to come (something large numbers of Christians have believed in every century since Christ himself walked this earth), then it would make sense to consider Paul’s words to be specific advice for a specific set of circumstances, rather than universal commandments for all time. This is how he himself delivers the message. It is not “Christian” or “faithful” to ignore Paul’s own provisos about his teachings in 1 Corinthians 7.

  13. Jason says:

    “In some non-Jewish cultures, however, a man might voluntarily undergo castration as part of a religious rite of dedicating his life exclusively to God. Jesus didn’t endorse this practice. He simply used it as an example of people who can’t accept (“have no space for”) his teaching about marriage.”
    Do you have examples/references of this? I can understand worshippers of pagan cults making themselves eunuchs. But I’m having trouble finding historical cases of people willingly castrating themselves for God

    • Lee says:

      Hi Jason,

      I don’t have any specifics either. But as you can see on Wikipedia->Castration->History, castration was a fairly common practice in the ancient world, including “in a number of religious castration cults.” This is also reflected in the specific rules against castrated males in the Jewish scriptures. Cultures and nations make laws against things that people do, not against things that nobody does.

      • Jason says:

        Ok, I see. What about “In ancient Hebrew society men did sometimes take vows that included temporarily abstaining from sex”. Are you referring to 1 Corinthians 7:5 here? Or is this another general statement about temporarily abstaining from sex for whatever reason?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Jason,

          There is no general commandment in the Bible about abstaining from sex, other than the Old Testament commandment in Leviticus 18:19 not to have sex with a woman during her menstrual period. In Exodus 19:15 there was a specific instruction to the Israelites to abstain from sex in preparation for God speaking the Ten Commandments to the people from Mt. Sinai. But that is a rare instance. In general, marriage, and sexual intercourse within marriage, was considered good, and commanded by God. This goes all the way back to the commandment to be fruitful and increase in number in Genesis 1:28.

          However, 1 Corinthians 7:5 reflects the reality that some Jews (as well as Gentiles) did take vows that involved temporarily abstaining from sex. Historically, there have been a few ascetic Jewish individuals and sects that regarded temporary or permanent abstention from sex as holy. Even today, observant Jews are supposed abstain from sex on Yom Kippur.

          I should also mention the common practice of abstaining from sex while going to war, as reflected in the story in 2 Samuel 11:6–13 of Uriah the Hittite avoiding sleeping with his wife while his fellow soldiers were at war.

          In short, though temporary abstinence from sex for religious purposes is not commanded in the Bible, it was a fairly common practice even among the ancient Jews.

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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