Is Free Will an Illusion? A Response to Sam Harris

In a recent comment, a reader named K asked me to respond to this article: “Why You Probably Don’t Have Free Will,” by Jack Maden. Here is the article’s opening synopsis: “Neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris argues that free will is an illusion. In his view, we are the mere conscious witnesses of decisions that deep in our brains have already been made.”

In particular, K wanted a response to this statement by Sam Harris, as quoted in the article:

Sam HarrisThese findings are difficult to reconcile with the sense that we are the conscious authors of our actions. One fact now seems indisputable: some moments before you are aware of what you will do next—a time in which you subjectively appear to have complete freedom to behave however you please—your brain has already determined what you will do. You then become conscious of this ‘decision’ and believe that you are in the process of making it.

Here is my brief response to this statement, edited from a reply to K that I posted here:

The basic error in this quote is the idea that we make decisions with our “brain,” meaning our thinking mind. The reality is that we make decisions in our “heart,” meaning our love/emotional self, and then our thinking mind confirms and supports the decision we have already made in our heart. That’s what’s really going on in the phenomenon that Sam Harris is describing.

However, Western intellectuals such as Harris generally can’t see or understand this because they are trained to think that human intellect is primary, when in reality love and emotion is primary, and intellect is secondary, following what love tells it to think and do. Their fundamental misunderstanding of how the human psyche works leads them into all sorts of errors, including the denial of human free will.

Ordinary people who make decisions every day understand human reality better that these so-called “rational” intellectuals.

The rest of this article is an edited and expanded version of a longer follow-up comment that I posted here, after reading the article itself.

Atheists and Calvinists

Harris is the atheist equivalent of a Calvinist predestinarian. He contorts himself into positions just as unnatural philosophically as Calvinists do theologically, all in an effort to say that there is no free will, but you’re still responsible for your actions and you should still make good choices, but then again, you’re really not responsible for your actions because it’s all predetermined—in Harris’s mind by genetics; in Calvinists’ minds by God. Here is the resulting philosophical gobbledygook from the linked article:

But it’s important not to mix determinism—the view that all events are completely determined by pre-existing causes—with fatalism, the view that we are powerless in the face of ‘destiny’.

Our choices matter. What we decide to do shapes the paths we take in life. The point is that we cannot decide what we will decide to do. As Harris summarizes:

You can change your life, and yourself, through effort and discipline—but you have whatever capacity for effort and discipline you have in this moment, and not a scintilla more (or less). You are either lucky in this department or you aren’t—and you cannot make your own luck.

Yes, according to both Harris and Calvinists we both do and don’t have the ability to change our life. We must make choices, and our choices do change the course of our life, but we aren’t really making choices at all because free will is an illusion, and the choices have already been made for us by our brain, or by God.

Harris may think he’s being scientific and rational, and that he has gone beyond the irrational and unscientific theists that he ridicules. But really, he is just rehashing the same old irrational, self-contradictory arguments that Calvinists have been making for almost five centuries now. These arguments make no more sense coming out of the mouth of an atheist than they do coming out of the mouth of a Calvinist.

Once again, ordinary folks who make choices every day are smarter about these things than “smart” people like Harris and Jack Maden, the author of the article, who tie themselves in hopeless self-contradictory Gordian knots on issues that are beyond their materialistic scope and ken.

Oh, and speaking of atheists who think they’re smart and everyone who believes in God is stupid, please see:

God Is Unconvincing To Smart Folks? – Part 1

Current science no longer supports determinism

Harris’s view that there is no such thing as free will because everything is predetermined is not only part of the old Newtonian scientific paradigm, but leads to absurdities such as the idea that the Mona Lisa was predetermined and inevitable at the time of the Big Bang. On these subjects, please see:

God: Puppetmaster or Manager of the Universe?

Science itself no longer posits or even supports the sort of strict determinism that would be necessary for Harris’s rejection of free will to have a sound scientific basis.

Trivial vs. major decisions

The neuroscience experiments that Harris and the article cite are all about relatively trivial choices that don’t have much impact on a person’s life, such as whether to eat beef or lamb for supper tonight. The big, determinative choices in life are nowhere near so simple.

The big choices in our lives usually happen when we are under extreme weight and pressure of one sort or another, to the point that our life seems to be spinning out of control. The Christian term for this is “temptation.” Spiritual temptation is not about whether or not to eat one too many cookies. It’s about whether to give up in despair and allow our life to go to ruin, or whether to do the hard work of moving forward with integrity even when there seems to be no benefit in it to ourselves. These choices cannot be reduced to milliseconds of cortical activity before we become conscious of the choice we have made. These are decisions we agonize over, go back and forth about, backslide and then press ourselves forward again. No analysis of neural activity will throw any light on these big, life-changing choices that determine whether our life will go down to ruin or up to better things.

Our day-to-day decisions about what to eat and what to wear flow from the “ruling” or predominant love, and the subordinate loves, that we have put at the center of our soul, and surrounding it, through these big choices in life.

I do think we have free choice even in what we will eat for dinner tonight. I do not think these choices are just an illusion, no matter what neuroscience says about neural firings in the brain that seem to precede our choices. Correlation does not equal causation.

But as I said above in my initial short reaction to the Sam Harris quote, our conscious, thinking mind is not where we make our choices. Rather, we make them in our heart, and then they are communicated to our thinking mind. We are the ones who decide and have decided what our ruling love will be. We put that ruling love in place as the ruler of our life, and then proceed to make choices based on it, which our thinking mind then apprehends, supports, and carries out. The big choices have already been made before these little choices are made. And realistically, many of our little moment-to-moment choices are made on autopilot.

However, even when it comes to food, we decide upon a dietary plan of one sort or another, and then proceed to carry out that plan. Eating beef or lamb may be just one of the small choices made in our unconscious mind, not requiring much of our conscious thinking and effort, pursuant to the bigger choice we have made about our plan and guidelines for feeding ourselves.

The four basic loves

But our biggest choice in life is what sort of love we will put at the center of our life. And the basic choices of what to put there are:

  1. Love for God
  2. Love for our fellow human beings
  3. Love for material possessions and pleasures
  4. Self-love

All of these loves are good and healthy if we keep them in the proper order, as listed here. But if we put love for ourselves or love for material possessions and pleasures ahead of love for God and/or our fellow human beings, then our life will go on a downward trajectory spiritually—and probably materially also in the long run.

Whatever we place in the center of our soul as our “ruling love,” that’s what will determine the shape of our whole life: our heart, our thinking mind, and our actions. That is the biggest and most important choice we make in life. And no amount of neural firings can make that choice for us.

In the most important matters of spiritual life and death, we very much do have free will. Everything else is a lesser form of free will.  Even if some of our day-to-day choices may be automatic and not matters of conscious choice and control, as Harris believes, the fundamental free will to determine the overall shape and direction of our life remains. That fundamental choice is where all the rest of our choices flow from.

Materialist vs. spiritual views of humanity

Beyond that, materialist viewpoints do tend to lead people to a denial of our free will, and of our humanity along with it. It leads people to believe that we are simply animals with bigger brains that make it possible for us to have a self-conscious awareness of our actions, unlike lower animals. Take away the spiritual realm, and it’s hard to argue against this view. (Though as I said above, current science simply doesn’t support the type of strict, Newtonian-style determinism that Harris apparently espouses.)

Once we recognize that humans are not purely material beings, and that there is a part of a human being that exists beyond the physical brain, Harris’s views become even more foolish and irrational. Not only do ordinary people know that intellectual big-shots like Harris are full of . . . manure, but once we add in the spiritual dimension, Harris’s views become hopelessly narrow and small-minded.

Once we recognize that our consciousness is not physical, located in the material brain, but is spiritual, located in our spiritual mind, then neuroscience, while still telling us interesting things about how the human physical body functions, ceases to give us sound conclusions about how human thought, emotion, love, ideas, decisions, and so on, work. From a spiritual point of view, none of our decisions are made in our physical brain. All of them are made in our spirit, and are then communicated to our brain, which proceeds to instruct our body to carry them out.

Unfortunately, most people these days are not very spiritual, and not very self-reflective. Many people make their “choices” by default, allowing themselves to be led along by their desires without consciously taking charge of those desires.

Our original fall from spiritual life

This goes back to a theme present in the opening chapters of the Bible. When God first made humans on earth, God told them:

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28)

In the spiritual sense, having dominion over the rest of Creation means attending to our own thoughts and feelings, represented by fish, birds, and other animals, and directing them from our higher spiritual self, which is represented in the Bible story by “Adam,” which is a Hebrew word meaning “humankind.”

Unfortunately, we quickly failed to follow God’s directions on this point. In Genesis 3, Eve, then Adam, allowed their outward senses—represented by the serpent, and by Eve seeing the tree of knowledge of good and evil as “a delight to the eyes” (Genesis 3:6)—to direct their actions rather than having their actions directed by their inner spiritual self and their connection with God, represented by the tree of life, and by God walking with them in the garden. As a result, they fell into “slavery to sin,” as Jesus terms it much later in the New Testament (see John 8:34).

Our slavery is self-imposed

By definition, being a slave means not being free. In allowing ourselves to be led by our physical senses and desires, we do indeed abdicate our true, spiritual human free will, and become “slaves”—or Harris’s predetermined beings. If Harris is talking about materialists such as himself, of which there are many, then his arguments do have some merit. Such people have the human ability to be spiritually free, but they are not using it to best effect.

However, to people who have made the choice not to be led by outward, physical things, but by spiritual things and by God, Harris’s arguments are mere chaff that the wind drives away (see Psalm 1). The wheat of free will is in our spiritual self, not in our physical body and brain. But since Harris believes that our physical body and brain is the sum total of who we are, he easily falls into an irrational denial of the free will that we all experience every day.

So let Harris think that free will is an illusion. His spirit is still making choices about what he wants to believe, what he loves most, and how he wants to live. His spirit is still communicating those choices to his physical brain, which then marshals and orders his physical body to execute them.

What awaits Harris in the spiritual world?

Here’s where I’m supposed to breathe out dire threats that when Harris dies and stands before God’s judgment seat, God will judge him to eternal torture in hell because he rejected God and religion.

But that’s not at all what will happen.

When, much to their surprise, Harris and his fellow atheists find themselves very much alive in the spiritual world after their physical death, the angels who receive them will know just how spiritually foolish they have been. But those angels will still welcome them into the spiritual world, love them, answer all their bewildered questions, and care for all their needs.

In particular, when Harris finds himself in the spiritual world after his death, the angels who receive him will look for the good in his heart, hoping that it will be enough for him to recognize just how ignorant and foolish he has been on spiritual subjects, all the while thinking of himself as so much smarter than all those irrational and superstitious people who believe in God and heaven.

If, underneath all the bluster, he does have a good heart, then he, too, will accept the truth about God, spirit, and human free will that you and I have known in our heart all along.

Then Sam Harris will find his place in heaven, where he can continue to study, write, and speak on the subjects he is smart about.

For further reading:

About

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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81 comments on “Is Free Will an Illusion? A Response to Sam Harris
  1. notabilia says:

    Lee, you’ve got to stop with this gibberish. Nothing of what you say makes the slightest bit of sense in view of the facts of neuroscience.
    You are free to make wild speculations about supernatural inventions, but in the realm of the reality that we humans with our consciousness reside in, you’re also going to hear back that these religious claims go nowhere.

    • Lee says:

      Hi notabilia,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. I understand that these are your opinions, and the opinions of Sam Harris, who is an excellent neuroscientist, but a terrible theologian.

      Harris’s belief that there is no God causes him to jump to all sorts of conclusions about God, spirit, and the human psyche, which he then calls “facts.” But most of it is just opinion and speculation. This is what regularly happens when scientists elevate themselves to expert status on spiritual subjects, which is not their area of expertise.

      As for gibberish, I don’t think anything could top the gibberish in the second quotation from the linked article, and from Harris, in the above post. We both do make choices and don’t make choices. We must make choices, but they’re not really choices. Sounds like gibberish to me!

      • notabilia says:

        We’re in agreement on Sam Harris – whatever value he had as a thinker in the beginning, he’s now an Intellectual Dark Web guru ripe for dismissal.
        Consciousness is not an easy problem to solve as to its origins and nature, so we can keep forging ahead with contradictions and dead-ends abounding. But when you’re using terms like “angels” and “heaven,” you’re not really in the modern conversation.

        • Lee says:

          Hi notabilia,

          I wouldn’t go quite that far on Sam Harris. He still has some interesting things to say. But I do tend to think that the fame related to his public stance on atheism has gone to his head a bit too much. It is unfortunate that what he’s famous for is not his intellectual forte.

          Yes, consciousness is a hard problem from a position of materialism and pure science. I, for one, do not believe it will ever be solved from that perspective. However, it does challenge scientists to keep moving forward in their knowledge of the human brain and mind. Even from a spiritual perspective, consciousness is a complex phenomenon, not easily reducible to simple formulas.

          Of course “angels” and “heaven” are not part of the modern materialistic conversation, except to dismiss them out of hand. But that is not the only conversation being had in the modern world. This is a spiritual blog, meaning that angels and heaven are very much a part of the conversation here. See:

          Where is the Proof of the Afterlife?

      • Hoyle Kiger says:

        I got the feeling from reading Sam’s quote, that perhaps he was talking about the time interval, nano-seconds, between the time our brain makes a decision and the time it takes for our neuro-muscular system to react? However, the statement that our brain has already made the decision, resulting in the absence of free-will, is absurd simply because it ignores our ability to change our minds. Discussions about free-will, often revolve around how that concept is defined and it seems to be abstract. Lastly, and as a matter separate from Sam’s quotation, I cannot relate to Lee’s statement, ” . . . when scientists elevate themselves to expert status on spiritual subjects, which is not their area of expertise”. I think either everyone is an expert in “spiritual subjects” or no one is. “The world is awash in expert opinions regarding matters of uncertainty, especially those that concern religion and spirituality”. hk The unknown is the genesis of all religions, spiritual reckoning, and a great number of philosophical type beliefs and discussions; the ground is fertile for both misconception and deception.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Hoyle,

          No matter how various atheists and materialistic scientists attempt to deny free will, our common experience of “changing our mind,” as you say, will cause the vast bulk of people to reject the rejection of free will.

          However, I think that the intent of the Sam Harris quote is that the decision is made before we become consciously aware of the decision, not before our neuro-muscular system reacts to the decision. He’s basically saying that “we” don’t make the decision at all; our brain makes the decision, and then “we” (meaning our conscious mind) become conscious of it. I discussed this in the article, so there’s no need to respond to it further here.

          Why, in your view, is spiritual knowledge uniquely unaffected by the general rule that people who study a subject intensively, and especially people who are engaged in the practical application of the knowledge in that subject area, know more about that subject area than people who don’t study and apply knowledge in that subject area?

          Would you say that all people are equally expert on automotive technology or heart surgery or animal husbandry? That it doesn’t matter that some people have studied and worked in these areas all their lives, while others have only dabbled in them? Should we just ignore automotive designers and heart surgeons and ranchers, and consult any old person for knowledge about their areas of expertise?

          And would you say that the unknown is the genesis of all these areas of knowledge? That we really can’t know anything about them, so we just come up with our own theories, of which one is just as good as another? Perhaps we should put ranchers to work designing automobiles, and automotive designers to work running cattle? Because it’s all based on ignorance anyway, so what difference does it make?

          The whole idea is absurd.

        • Hoyle Kiger says:

          Understanding the concepts that form the various religions requires study. Spirituality only requires a certain internal awareness and is unique to every individual. ” . . the recognition of a feeling or sense or belief that there is something greater than myself, something more to being human than the sensory experience . . . ” Dr. Maya Spencer. Spirituality is abstract. It’s not possible to “study” and put into words individually experienced abstract awareness for to do so would take it out of the realm of being abstract. Granted, there are those who study how an abstract concept might be explained in the sensory world, but the “internal awareness” of spirituality is beyond the abilities of mortal man to put it into words; “a feeling or sense or belief . . .” As I’ve mentioned in some of my earlier comments, those on Earth who claim to be experts on spiritual and religious matters will be just another person in line to move through the “Pearly Gates”.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Hoyle,

          And yet, people have been describing their spiritual experiences in words for thousands of years. This is the basis of the great religious texts of humankind. Words can’t do full justice to the original experience. But they can convey some reflection of it, as in a mirror.

          Spirituality and spiritual experience are not abstract any more than materiality and material experience are abstract. People who have spiritual experiences commonly say that they are not wispy and abstract at all, but are much more real than experiences in the material world.

          Also, having spiritual experiences is not the same as understanding spiritual experiences. Billions of people experience rainbows. Most of them cannot explain the science behind a rainbow. It is true that people can and do have spiritual experiences without any significant spiritual understanding. But when they want to understand what they have experienced, they will turn to people who have studied and understood the nature of God and spirit.

      • I feel there should be a distinction made between the conscious and sub-conscious thought processes. As Dr Joseph Murphy claimed, our subconscious is susceptible to our conscious thought processes. Our conscious thought processes in the main, are influenced by our emotions. Even factual, logical information is filtered through our subjective, emotive and experiential lenses. These elements filter through to our subconscious. So even our decision-making at this level is influenced by our emotions (heart thinking). What we feed into our executive or subconscious functioning is indeed “choice”. There is never “nobody” at the controls.

        • Lee says:

          Hi leeannemeredith,

          Thanks for this. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

        • notabilia says:

          Could you kindly supply a picture of this “somebody” you say is “at the controls”?
          I assume, if you can provide me with this picture or photo, this would be the famous homunculus residing in the brain that author-scientist Robert Sapolsky asks for, and never gets.
          The heart does not “think,” of course. And what we “feed into” our tumultuous subconscious is highly dependent on the environments we fall into, the worlds we inherit. “Choice”? Perhaps as a necessary illusion, and that will have to do.

        • Although I never mentioned a “somebody” at the controls, I had hoped to make clear the notion of free will in our decision making processes and the clear involvement of heart/mind/emotion in our actions. Whilst the heart is not a thinking brain, it’s very closely interlinked with our neurogical processes. There’s a simplified explanation at this link:

          https://www.drlamcoaching.com/nem-therapy/cardionomic/the-heart-brain-system/

        • Lee says:

          Hi leeannemeredith,

          In support of what you’re saying, here are a couple of sections from Swedenborg. The first one is part of a conversation Swedenborg had with some angels in heaven about the nature of spiritual marriage. I’ve extracted out the relevant part, in which he is recounting what the angels told him:

          Your soul not only does things deep within your head, but also deep within your body. The same goes for the mind, which is in between soul and body. It seems to be in your head, yet it is also active in your whole body. They said, “This is why actions that the soul and mind intend spring instantly from the body. And this is why souls and minds, after leaving their bodies in the former world, are complete humans. Now, soul and mind are closely connected with the flesh of the body, so that they participate in and cause the body’s actions.” (Marriage Love #178)

          In short, our soul and mind do not act only in our brain, but in our whole body at once. This, of course, includes the heart, or the seat of our emotions.

          Related to that, here is a fascinating passage about the relationship between love and wisdom in us. To summarize it in more contemporary language, Swedenborg notes that people commonly think it is our thinking mind that makes us who and what we are, but really it is our love and emotion that make us who and what we are; our thinking mind follows their lead. Here it is:

          The quality of the love determines the quality of the wisdom and therefore the quality of the person. This is because the quality of love and wisdom determines the quality of will and understanding, will being the vessel of love and understanding the vessel of wisdom, as already explained; and these two constitute us as humans and give us our quality.

          Love is highly complex, so complex that its various forms are without limit. This we can tell from the human race on earth and in the heavens. There is not a single individual or angel so like another that there is no difference. Love is what makes the difference, each individual being her or his own love. People think that wisdom is what differentiates, but wisdom comes from love. It is love’s form, for love is the underlying reality of life and wisdom is the manifestation of life from this underlying reality.

          The world believes that intelligence is what makes us human, but people believe this because our understanding can be raised up into heaven’s light, as already explained, and it can seem as though we were wise. However, any understanding that goes too far, that is, understanding that is not wisdom of love, appears as though it were ours. This makes us seem like intelligent people, but that is only an appearance. The understanding that goes too far is actually a love for knowing and being wise and not at the same time a love for applying our knowledge and wisdom to life. So in this world it either ebbs away over time or waits around temporarily on the edges, outside the contents of memory. After death, then, it is separated from us, and nothing is left but what agrees with the real love of our spirit.

          Since love does constitute our life and therefore ourselves, all the communities of heaven and all the angels of those communities are arranged according to the passions that come from their loves. No community and no angel within a community is located by any gift of understanding apart from his or her love. The same holds for the hells and their communities, but that depends on loves that are opposite to heavenly loves.

          We can tell from this that the quality of the love determines the quality of the wisdom, and that these determine the quality of the person. (Divine Love and Wisdom #368)

        • Hoyle Kiger says:

          “It’s better to be lost and know it than it is to be on the wrong path thinking you are right”. hk

          I wrote this quote while thinking about those who follow, profess, and advocate a particular spiritual/religious pathway as if they were correct. I am truly flabbergasted when I consider that some of these same people have convinced themselves they speak for God by interpreting his motives, conduct, and word as if they were God themselves; Swedenborg comes to mind.

          Swedenborg’s attempts to take abstract concepts such as love, soul, spirit, the human mind, wisdom, angels, free will, etc., and then connect them to God in concrete terms, is absurd. His explanation for the timing of the Incarnation is illogical, as I’ve penned previously. Swedenborg can only speak for himself. Deceivingly, his intellect, mostly logical arguments, self-righteousness, and superb writing abilities have convinced many of his “correctness” including himself. It would be refreshing sometimes to hear these “enlightenment experts” simply say, “I don’t know”.

          I believe in a “Creating Life Force” to justify my own existence. Beyond that, I really don’t know any of the particulars After much internal struggle .earlier in my life, I find it rather peaceful to admit and accept that the vast majority of existential questions will and perhaps should remain unanswerable.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Hoyle,

          Your opinion on these subjects is duly noted.

        • Lee says:

          Hi notabilia,

          If you think of consciousness in physical terms, you will never understand it. And you’ll deny free will, too, even though you exercise it every day. These are the absurdities that inevitably accompany materialistic thinking about spiritual things.

  2. What about slave to sin?
    Is it Biblical to say “I’m no longer a slave to sin; I am a child of God”? That’s lyrics of some song.

    • Lee says:

      Hi WorldQuestioner,

      This is based especially on Jesus’ statement in John 8:31–36:

      Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

      Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

      See also Romans 6:15–23.

  3. Joe Roberts says:

    If given the choice to have a genius IQ and amazing intellectual capacity or the love, dependence, and trust of a child in my heart guiding my choices, decisions, and actions, I choose to be a little child of Jesus, my Creator, my Master, my Savior, the King of the Universe.

  4. no free will in the bible. As soon as this supposed omnipotent being interferes with human action, free will dies. And when it murders people, they have no free will at all.

    Per both Jesus and Paul, this god has already chosen who it will allow to believe in it and then damns the rest for no reason. You might not like your fellow christians who claim this, but alas your claims have no more evidence than theirs do.

    • Lee says:

      Hi clubschadenfreude,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.

      It fascinates me that atheists read the Bible in exactly the same way that fundamentalist and evangelical Christians do, only the fundamentalists and evangelicals accept it, whereas atheists reject it. One day I’m going to have to write an article about this fascinating phenomenon.

      The Bible is a complex book that, if taken entirely literally, contains all sorts of inconsistencies and contradictions, not to mention scientific impossibilities. But the Bible never actually says that it is meant to be taken literally. Jesus, especially, was a master of metaphor and parable.

      Today’s heavy, committed biblical literalism among a significant segment Christians only goes back a couple hundred years. Ironically, it arose only after the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific revolution that followed in its wake, began to raise questions about the historical and scientific accuracy of the Bible. But the Bible was never intended to be a historical and scientific textbook in the first place. See:

      Can We Really Believe the Bible?

      The Bible certainly does present humans as having free will, even if some verses, read out of context and without any real understanding, seem to say the opposite. For example, in the Old Testament, God says to the Israelites:

      I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him, for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (Deuteronomy 30:19–20)

      And in the New Testament, the post-resurrection Jesus says:

      Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with you, and you with me. (Revelation 3:20)

      Obviously, these statements have no meaning if humans do not have free will.

      Both Jesus and Paul say that people will be saved or damned based on their actions. See Matthew 25:31–46 and Romans 2:1–16. It is very clear from these passages that this applies to all people, not just to Christians. Over the centuries the so-called “Christian Church” has replaced what the Bible actually says with all sorts of doctrines made up by various human theologians and councils. See:

      The Christian Church is Not Christian

      And about human free will vs. God’s omniscience, see:

      If God Already Knows What We’re Going to Do, How Can We Have Free Will?

      • It is common for chrsitians attack each other and to claim that they and only they have the “Right” answer. Unfortunately, not one christian can show this to be the case.

        I read the bible as it is written, with no presuppositions I must fit in like all Christians do. Unsurprisingly, christians can’t agree on what their bible “really means”, so you have a problem when you try to insist that yours is the only way. It also shows your god to be quite incompetent for not being able to make itself understood.

        Christians all disagree on what parts of the bible are to be taken literally, as metaphor, as “exaggeration”, etc. How is one ot know which of you have the right version, Lee? Not one of you self-proclaimed christians can do what Jesus promised to his true followers, so it seems you have quite a problem in that too.

        That is quite false about Jesus and paul since neither say it is by their actions in Matthew 13 or Romans 9.

        You claim that there is free will in the bible, and I’m supposedly taking things out of context and don’t have a “real understanding”. Christians do love to claim these things, and don’t support their claims. What is this context that I have wrong? and again, do show how I should know that only you have the “real” understanding.

        Every christian claims what you do, Lee, and they contradict your claims.

        IF this god has put in place everything, as christians claim, then nope, no free will, since it knows what will happen and has not changed its mind in its parameters. It isn’t simply a problem of knowing.

        Oh and do show how there is free will when this god of yours kills David’s son. Where is the child’s free will when an omnipotent being kills him?

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          Except for your last paragraph, this is all generalities and standard atheist talking points.

          I quoted you two passages from the Bible that clearly demonstrate that free will is in the Bible. Did you read them? Did you respond to them? Did you attempt to show that these passages don’t involve free will?

          None of the above. You just ignored them, and parroted your original atheist talking point about there being no free will in the Bible. But really, it is a Calvinist talking point, because for several centuries now Calvinists have been making the very same arguments against free will, based on their very selective and faulty reading of the Bible. As I said previously, atheists—and specifically you—read the Bible the same way that fundamentalist and evangelical Christians do, only you reject what you derive by reading it that way instead of accepting it.

          I linked you to two passages in which Jesus and Paul specifically say that we will go to eternal life or eternal damnation based on our actions. Since you don’t seem to have read them, but once again just went back to parroting standard atheist talking points, here is a section from the Romans passage:

          But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life, while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but injustice, there will be wrath and fury. There will be affliction and distress for everyone who does evil, both the Jew first and the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, both the Jew first and the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:5–11, emphasis added)

          Here Paul says very clearly that people will receive glory, honor, and immortality if they have done good deeds, but affliction and distress if they have done evil deeds. And he says very clearly that this applies to people of different religions (Jews and “Greeks,” or pagan polytheists), not only to Christians.

          Did you consider this passage, and attempt to show that it doesn’t say we will be judged according to what we have done, and that it doesn’t mean both Christians and non-Christians can be saved? No. You just fell back on standard generalities and atheist talking points. But really, you’re making the same arguments that Protestants make. You read the Bible the same way that fundamentalist and evangelical Christians do, only you reject what you derive by reading it that way instead of accepting it.

          In fact, all of your arguments so far are based on a fundamentalist and evangelical reading of the Bible. This, once again, is quite fascinating. You’re not really making any new arguments. You’re just reversing the arguments that literalist Christians make.

          For example, you say:

          Christians all disagree on what parts of the bible are to be taken literally, as metaphor, as “exaggeration”, etc. How is one ot know which of you have the right version, Lee?

          This is precisely how fundamentalist and evangelical Christians argue for their stance that the Bible must be taken in a thoroughly literal manner. So it is clear that this statement of yours is not correct:

          I read the bible as it is written, with no presuppositions I must fit in like all Christians do.

          You do have at least one presupposition, which is that the Bible is to be read literally, not metaphorically, just like some Christians do. You have accepted a particular Christian reading of the Bible, to the exclusion of others. In this, you are no different than the Christians you criticize.

          How can you justify having adopted the particular way of reading the Bible that fundamentalist and evangelical Christians have adopted? Really, you’ve just uncritically accepted a particular Christian approach to the Bible, and used it to reject the Bible instead of accepting at as those Christians do. Your arguments are just warmed-over and reversed Christian arguments. Everything you’re saying is reactionary. You’re not thinking for yourself at all.

          I challenge you to find a single verse or passage in the Bible itself that says we must take everything it says literally.

          I know you can’t produce any such passage, because for several decades now I’ve been making this same challenge to fundamentalist Christians, who think the same way you do about the Bible. None of them has ever been able to produce such a verse or passage.

          If anything, the Bible, especially the New Testament, is full of suggestions that we should not read everything it says literally. Here are just a few examples:

          Psalm 78 opens with these words:

          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,
                                           (Psalm 78:1–2)

          What follows after this is a poetically expressed history of the Israelites from patriarchal times to the settlement in the Holy Land. And yet, this is all referred to as a “parable,” and as “dark sayings from of old.” How is a historical recounting of the Israelites and their relationship with God a “parable” and a “dark saying from of old”? Your literalist and fundamentalist viewpoint fails to answer this question.

          Moving to the New Testament, it is said of Jesus:

          With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples. (Mark 4:33–34)

          And indeed, the bulk of Jesus’ public teaching in the Gospels is in the form of parables, which are obviously not meant to be taken literally. In John 6, after goading his listeners with provocative statements about the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, thus driving away a number of erstwhile followers, Jesus makes it clear that he was not speaking literally:

          It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:63)

          Jesus has just told his listeners that they must eat his flesh. Now he is saying that the flesh is useless, and that it is the spirit that gives life. Clearly his words about eating his flesh are meant to be taken metaphorically and spiritually, not literally. For more on this, see:

          Eat My Flesh, Drink My Blood

          And one more for now. Paul says:

          God . . . has made us qualified to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit, for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:5–6)

          Paul could hardly have been clearer that we are not meant to take everything in Scripture literally, but spiritually.

          What is your response to all this? How do you justify, from the Bible itself, not from the beliefs of the fundamentalist and evangelical Christians that you have adopted, that we must take the Bible literally throughout? Where does the Bible itself say that we must read it literally?

          Really, you have just internalized fundamentalist and evangelical Christian dogmas, and then rejected them. It has nothing to do with what the Bible says, because the key evangelical and fundamentalist beliefs and doctrines are stated nowhere in the Bible. We know the historical origins of all of them in the long and sordid history of institutional Christianity. Even the oldest of these unbiblical doctrines, the Trinity of Persons, still originated and was codified several centuries after the last books of the Bible were written.

          You lazily say that all Christians just fight with one another, and none can demonstrate their claims. This is not true. The Bible says specific things. It either says something or it doesn’t. In particular:

          • The Bible never says that God is a Trinity of Persons.
          • The Bible never says that Christ satisfied the Father’s honor, or justice, or wrath.
          • The Bible never says that Christ paid the penalty for our sins.
          • The Bible never says that we are saved or justified by faith alone.
          • The Bible never says that only Christians can be saved.

          If you don’t believe me, then please show me the passages where the Bible says any of these things. Vague generalities and platitudes won’t cut it. The Bible either does or doesn’t teach these things. If it does teach them, you will be able to show me the passages where it does.

          But I know you cannot show me any such passages, because once again, for several decades now I’ve been challenging Protestants (and for the first two, Catholics) to show me any passages in the Bible that say any of these things. None has ever been able to produce a single passage. Oh, they’ll quote and cite passages. But when you read them, they don’t actually say what these Protestants and Catholics claim they say.

          Don’t give me your vague generalities. Show me from the Bible itself where it teaches all these conflicting things that various Christians claim are taught by the Bible. You reference Matthew 13 and Romans 9 as saying this or that, but you don’t show any particular verses that say what you claim is there. Your arguments are nearly identical to the arguments I have been hearing from traditional Christians for decades, except you reverse them.

          You’re not thinking for yourself. You’re just reacting against traditional Christians’ faulty beliefs. I suspect that you grew up in a fundamentalist or evangelical household and church, and that’s why you’re so butt-hurt about all this. If so, I can’t say I blame you. But you’ve got to break away from the stranglehold those false and destructive beliefs have gotten on your mind. You’ve got to get out of reactionary mode, and start thinking for yourself.

          Today, scientists argue about many things related to the nature of the physical universe. To use just one example, in the field of cosmology one of the big questions is whether there is life elsewhere in the universe. Scientists are sharply divided on this point. Some believe it is quite common. Others believe it is quite rare. Still others believe it is unique to earth. And they have big debates about it.

          Does all of this disagreement and debate mean that it’s impossible to know whether there is life elsewhere in the universe? Should we just throw up our hands say that there are no answers? That there is no truth?

          That is not what scientists do. Instead, they spend billions of dollars and millions of hours designing ever more sophisticated telescopes, robotic probes, and scientific instruments in an attempt to get better answers on this big question. They don’t say “no one can know, and one opinion is just as good (or bad) as the other.” No. They do the hard work of searching and researching, refining their theories, eliminating ones that the evidence has disproven, and attempting to strengthen or disprove theories that are still standing.

          Like the evangelical and fundamentalist Christians whose beliefs about the Bible you have been infected by, you attempt to make the Bible a simple, black-and-white text whose entire meaning is obvious on the surface. And obviously that meaning conforms to your particular beliefs, which happen to be fundamentalist reactionary atheist. How are you any different from those Christians? Vague generalities and standard atheist talking points won’t get you any farther than scientists would get if they just stood around arguing without doing the hard and painstaking work of investigating the nature of the universe to gain a clearer knowledge of the answers that it holds to their big questions.

          You can stand around shouting your generalities while swallowing whole the boneheaded beliefs of the evangelicals and fundamentalists about the Bible, as you have been doing so far.

          Or you can do the hard work of engaging with the text of the Bible, paying close attention to what it does and doesn’t say, and learning with precision what it teaches and what its message is.

          Your choice.

        • Yep. They are common atheist points, and unsurprisingly, Christians still have no rebuttals to them.

          There is no free will with a god that will torture you eternally if you don’t obey it. That is not a choice. The verse from Deut 30 does get close but in the context of your bible, it doesn’t work since this god repeatedly interferes with human activity and mind controls people so this god has an excuse for killing them. Christians love to claim “context!” except when it doesn’t work for their baseless claims.

          The verse from Revelation has nothing to do with free will ,since your jesus has already established that this god does not accept everyone and intentionally keeps the supposed “truth” from them, in Matthew 16, etc. There’s quite a long list of verses that support predestination https://www.openbible.info/topics/predestination and that is why there are Calvinists. Funny how your god hasn’t come down and said they are wrong. Unfortunately for you, Jesus has long earlier claimed that he won’t be knocking on everyone’s door.

          Unsurprisingly, you Christians don’t agree on the most basic things, and yep, you are all frauds in your claims that your particular version of this cult is the only right one. Yep, you hate Calvinists and they hate you, and you are all quite the circular firing squad, with each Christian claiming the next is wrong.

          You then claim that yet again, only your way to read the bible is right, and alas, you can’t do what jesus promised just like the rest. Why is that, Lee? How can I tell which TrueChristian™ is the right one?

          Why should I accept baseless nonsense that even self-proclaimed Christians can’t agree on?

          Yep, you gave yet more verses and these contradict the ones I mentioned. How problematic for you.
          As paul and jesus both said, we don’t go to our afterlife based on our actions. Paul is the source of the silly sola gratia nonsense that Christians claim is true.

          Yep, Paul claims this “6 He will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7 to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life, 8 while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but injustice, there will be wrath and fury. “

          and then funny how he also claims this: “16 So it depends not on human will or exertion but on God who shows mercy. 17 For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I may show my power in you and that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.” Romans 9

          And yep, in Matthew 25, this jesus claims that it depends on actions, and funny how he claims otherwise earlier in Matthew: “” 10 Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets[b] of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance, but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 13 The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ “ Matthew 13.

          and here: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” John 15

          And Here: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6

          And other bits “And all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” Revelation 13

          “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” Acts 13

          “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1

          “15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born,[d] and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to[e] me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;[f] 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.” Galatians 1

          You have yet to show that the passage from Romans isn’t about no works needed. Why is that Lee? You claim I’m wrong, but where is the support for that claim?

          Happily, no god and no wrath, just the sadistic fantasies of humans who are upset people don’t agree with them and don’t give them the validation they crave. Again, you Christians can’t agree on what a “good” deed even is. As for Jews, pagans, etc being forgiven for not believing in this supposed messiah, well Revelations, Hebrews, etc all contradict those verses in Romans 2.

          I consider your bible to be a hilarious mess of contradictory claims and chrisians to be inept since they pick and choose to create a god in their own images.

          Yes, dear, repeating that you are the only TrueChristian™ is what you do and that doesn’t make it true.

          Unsurprisingly, you can’t answer my question “Christians all disagree on what parts of the bible are to be taken literally, as metaphor, as “exaggeration”, etc. How is one ot know which of you have the right version, Lee?” Why not? I am asking why you Christians can’t agree on how to read your bible and why anyone should think one version any better than the other. I’m still waiting on your answer.

          I have no presuppositions that I need to read the bible literally. I know that quite a bit of it is indeed metaphor and exaggeration, since I know that the claims within it are largely false. Again, it is Christians who cannot agree.

          You ask me how can I adopt one version over another? Well, since I haven’t, your question fails for me. However, I can ask you the same question and have earlier: how can you know your version is the right one?

          Christians all claim that different parts of the bible are indeed to be taken literally. You just disagree, Lee. Let’s see, verses that say that one doesn’t have to read into the bible but take what it says:

          “All the words of my mouth are righteous;
          there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.
          9 They are all straight to one who understands
          and right to those who find knowledge.” Proverbs 8

          of course any Christian can claim that only they are the “one who understands”.

          “ 2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor [a]handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” 2 Corinthians 2

          Same here.

          I’ve found some quite Christian arguments that the bible must be taken literally since Jesus took it literally, including the silliness of the noah flood, etc. The website “Got Questions” has an entire essay on this “Can/should we interpret the Bible literally?

          Well, you were wrong in your claim, Lee. You’ve ignored what other Christians claim, sure that only you have it right.

          Yep, your bible contradicts itself yet again with indeed saying it shouldn’t be read literally. This is nothing new. I am glad that you do admit that this Jesus intentionally keeps information from people. Why would this character do this if it supposedly wans “all” to come to it? Again, just another contradiction.

          Unsurprisingly, some Christians do take the “Flesh” literally, and yet again we see how Christians don’t agree on the most basic things.

          There’s nothing in the second Corinthians verse that says not to take things literally. If I take it as you claim, I can ignore anything I want in the bible as literal, including the resurrection.

          Every Christian claims that they and they alone know what this god “really” meant, and yep, you do all claim this is through some “spiritual” revelation. Funny how you all claim this and give different and contradictory answers. Why is this, Lee? The ol’ Holy spirit tells each of you something different? Again, how do I know which version is the right one since you all make the same claims?

          Your beliefs are just as evangelical and fundamentalist, Lee. You just choose different things to be that about. Yep, your religion is hilariously incompetent with its claims of “truth”, the “trinity” included.

          You have demonstrated just how chrsitians fight with one another, and I thank you for that. Again, still no demonstration from you that your version is the right one. You are a antitrinitarian, and gee, other Christians aren’t. Hmm, are you a Jehovah’s Witness? Or some other invented version of this nonsense?

          Your claims of what the bible says are just baseless opinions like every other Christian, dear.

          “The Bible never says that God is a Trinity of Persons.”

          I agree with this. It never does.

          “The Bible never says that Christ satisfied the Father’s honor, or justice, or wrath.
          The Bible never says that Christ paid the penalty for our sins.”

          That’s quite a fail. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2

          “The Bible never says that we are saved or justified by faith alone.”

          that’s false “16 So it depends not on human will or exertion but on God who shows mercy. 17 For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I may show my power in you and that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.”

          “16 You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. “ John 15

          “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2

          “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” Titus 3

          “The Bible never says that only Christians can be saved.”

          False. ““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3

          “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2

          “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16

          “13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”” Romans 10

          “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14

          “12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men[c] by which we must be saved.”” Acts 4

          “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3

          Your prediction has failed. No surprise there. Happily, I am thinking for myself.

          You then lie about scientists which is no surprise. Yep, big debates about if there are aliens. We don’t know yet and no one is claiming to have some “truth” like Christians claim. If you all acknowledged that your claims were simply opinion, I’d have no leg to stand on. You don’t and your claims of “truth” are false. Not one Christian has any evidence their “truths” are that at all. You aren’t scientists.

          You try to make the bible a black and white text that only you understand “correctly” just like very other Christian. I’ve engaged with the bible and I have concluded that it is a set of myths that chrisians can’t agree on when they claim their baseless nonsense. You claim to have the right “message” and I know you lie just like the rest.

          BTW, still waiting for you to tell me why I should think your baseless nonsense is true.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          I’m curious: How many of my articles have you actually read? Did you even read the article you’re commenting on?

          I ask because you seem to think you know everything about what I believe, apparently without having done your homework, because you’re wrong about most of it.

          Discussing these things with you will probably be useless. Your charged language suggests that you’re too butt-hurt about religion to have a reasonable discussion about it. But here is a list of articles for you to read that answer some of your questions:

          1. Can We Really Believe the Bible?
          2. Is Jesus Christ the Only Way to Heaven?
          3. Does John 3:18 Mean that All Non-Christians Go to Hell?
          4. Faith Alone Does Not Save . . . No Matter How Many Times Protestants Say It Does
          5. Response to a Calvinist Critique of my article “Faith Alone Does Not Save”
          6. Why does God Harden our Hearts, and Why are We Held Responsible?
          7. What is the Wrath of God? Why was the Old Testament God so Angry, yet Jesus was so Peaceful?
          8. How did Swedenborg interpret 1 John 2:2: “He is the propitiation for our sins”?
          9. Does Doctrine Matter? Why is it Important to Believe the Right Thing?

          There are plenty more I could link for you, but that’s enough for now.

        • I’ve read quite a few of them, and you say nothing new that apologsits haven’t been lying about before, Lee.

          Unsurprisingly, you try to chance the subject and don’t answer my questions or rebut my points.

          Yep, you are a christian who isn’t a calvinist. There are millions who are. You are an antitrinitarian, and there are millions who are. You can’t do what Jesus promised to this true believers, just like every other self-proclaimed Christian.

          You calim that only you have the “right” version, just like millions of others. Your cult leader, Swedenborg made up garbage just like every other christian cult leader, from the “early church fathers” that catholics whine about, to Calvin, to the various leaders of the anabaptists like Zwingli, to Joseph Smith and his mormons, to Russel and his JWs.

          I can discuss religion with no problem. Theists like you don’t like when I show that your cult isn’t any different from the rest. You make the same baseless claims. You are the same charlatans.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          Most of your questions I’ve already answered in the articles I linked for you. And most of what you’re saying in this latest response is just over-the-top silly. So far, you haven’t given any evidence that you’ve read any of my articles. It’s just a whole bunch of standard pot-boiler atheist talking points, blended in with the usual insults. Yawn. I’ve heard it all before.

        • Yep, claiming my questions are “over the top silly” but you can’t answer them or explain why you think they are “silly”. Hmm, why is that? Alas, yet again, your articles don’t answer my points. You may indeed think they do, like all failed apologists, Lee.

          Take for example your claim about jesus being required for salvation. Yep, you’ve made up your own version, just like any Christian does. Is that claim true? Nope, it’s just as baseless as those Christians whom yuo claim are wrong. Making yet one more baseless claim doesn’t make your claims true at all.

          Or how about your claims about sola gratias? YEp, just more baseless nonsense by a theist who picks and chooses through his bible, just like al other christains. Paul and Jesus are quite clear but yuo don’t like this parts, so you claim otherwise, just like other Christians.

          You claim thath Paul never says “faith alone” but he does, just not in exactly those words, a common whine amongst christains who don’t agree. Paul says that no one comes to this god without this god’s “grace” – “the spontaneous, unmerited gift of the divine favour in the salvation of sinners, and the divine influence operating in individuals for their regeneration and sanctification.” aka “14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. ” and “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day”

          oh, I know you’ve heard it all before. So have I, and still not one self-professed chrsitian can do what Jesus promised. You are all frauds.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          You have still given no evidence that you have read any of the articles where I answer your questions. It appears that you have only read the titles.

          Your questions aren’t silly. But your rhetoric is. Clearly you’re more interested in rhetoric than in answers. This is typical of militant atheists. There are good answers to all their questions, but they’re too busy spouting their atheist dogma to listen to any of them.

        • you now counter your own words, Lee. You said “And most of what you’re saying in this latest response is just over-the-top silly.”

          You give baseless opinion as answers. unfortunately for you, I have read your articles and yet again, I am not impressed. There is nothing new in them, Lee. You are one kind of christian. You attack others insisting they are wrong with no evidence, just as they attack you and claim you are wrong with no evidence. I quote from your claims about there being no sola gratias in the bible, and show you are wrong.

          I’ll quote your nonsense again “Although Protestant theologians insist that Christians must live a good life, average Christians who hear that salvation comes 100% from believing in Jesus naturally assume that the way they live is not so important. After all, the preacher has told them over and over again that it’s their faith, and not their good works, that saves them.”

          funny how that’s exactly waht Paul says: “14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. ” and exactly what Jesus says 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. ” and “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day”

          I do love this bit “In other words, God used these people’s own limited and faulty ideas about God’s anger and wrath to cause them to follow God’s commandments, such as, “You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:13–16). God’s main concern is to make us into better people, and ultimately, into angels of heaven.

          Now perhaps it is clearer why the Bible says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart—and yet in other places it says that Pharaoh hardened his heart against God.”

          funny how this god did harden pharaoh’s heart to do no more than show off. This showing off slaughtered people who had no choice in their king. And the pharoah is only spoken of hardening his own heart *once*, not as you claim. That is in Chapter 9, and that still fails since in Chapter 7, this god has hardened his heart and the story doesn’t change that status in chapter 9.

          Then you hilariously try to make your god ever so concerned and adding things to your bible that it never says, to make yourself feel better about this vicious and ignorant character.

          and we see that right here “Since only about one third of the world’s population is Christian, this would mean that at least two thirds of the world’s population is going hell simply because they were born into the wrong religion.

          That makes God look pretty bad”

          yep, the christian must ignore what his bible says to not have an idiot god like that bible repeatedly presents. You’ve made up quite a version of christianity, just like every other christian.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          Once again, I’ll pass over the silly rhetoric and focus on the substance.

          Here is the short version:

          1. The Bible passages you quote do not say what you claim they do.
          2. Your errors are based on reading the Bible literally.

          This is exactly the same reason Christian fundamentalists’ arguments are consistently wrong. As I said to you in an earlier response in this thread, your arguments are indistinguishable from fundamentalist Christian arguments, except that instead of accepting what you see in the Bible based on a literal reading of it, you reject it.

          Now on to the specifics.

          Romans 9:14–16, which you quote, does not say that it is our faith, not our good works, that saves us, as you claim it does based on the Protestant arguments you have adopted. The word “faith” does not occur in this chapter until the last few verses. And the term “good works” does not appear in this chapter at all; only “works,” which is not the same as “good works.”

          If you read Paul’s entire argument carefully in all of his letters, you will find that he never says that we are saved by faith without good works. Only that we are saved by faith without works, which the context of his usages shows refers to “the works of the Law,” or in plain terms, being an observant Jew who obeys the ritual Law of Moses, commonly referred to in Paul’s letters as “circumcision,” as compared to “uncircumcision,” which refers to non-Jews who do not obey the ritual law of Moses.

          Romans 9:6–29 is a general argument for God’s sovereignty and power over human life. It doesn’t say anything about whether an individual is saved by faith or by good works, or by both, or by neither. Whatever else it says, it simply doesn’t say what you and the Protestants claim it does: that we are saved by faith and not by good works.

          Even Romans 9:30–33, which are the final verses of the chapter, does not say that we are saved by faith apart from good works, as you and the Protestants claim. These verses do mention faith and works, but they do not mention good works. I covered just above what Paul means by “works.” It is explained more fully in this article:

          Faith Alone Does Not Save . . . No Matter How Many Times Protestants Say It Does

          To sum up, your claim that Romans 9:14–16 says that it is our faith, not our good works, that saves us is false. These verses say nothing of the sort. You have uncritically accepted Protestant dogma, which is the source of your error.

          You then quote John 6:44. This verse also does not say that we are saved by faith and not by good works. So your claim about what this verse says is also false. Like the Protestants whose arguments you have adopted, the verses you quote to support those arguments simply don’t say what you claim they say.

          You then move on to a similarly Protestant-derived argument about the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. I already dealt with these arguments in the article you are quoting from, so I won’t repeat them here. That article, for those reading in, is:

          Why does God Harden our Hearts, and Why are We Held Responsible?

          However, I will point out that your statement, “And the pharoah is only spoken of hardening his own heart *once*, not as you claim. That is in Chapter 9,” is false. Exodus 8:15, 32, 9:34, and 1 Samuel 6:6 all say that Pharaoh hardened his heart. That’s four times, not once.

          Beyond that, your entire interpretation of the Exodus story is based on a fundamentalist Protestant style literal reading of the Bible. Biblical scholars generally do not accept the Exodus account as representing historical events because there is no evidence, documentary or archeological, outside of the Bible itself that such an event ever took place. Yet you and the fundamentalist Protestants from which you derive your arguments read the story as if it is telling a literal, historical story.

          A much more plausible reading of the story is that it represents a culturally developed origin story for the Jewish people. As such, it does not represent something God actually did historically, but a cultural myth that represents something of the Jewish people’s understanding of God and of God’s special relationship with the Jewish people.

          The implications of this much more plausible reading of the story are vast. But to stick to the issue you are raising, it means that God did not, in fact, harden Pharaoh’s heart, nor did God send plagues upon the Egyptians, nor did God destroy the Egyptian army that was pursuing the Israelites into the desert. These are all things that the Bible story attributes to God, but that is not the same thing as saying that God actually did those things literally and historically.

          It is only a literalistic, fundamentalist Christian reading of the Bible that insists that God actually did these things. Once again, your arguments are exactly the same as those of the fundamentalist Christians, except instead of accepting those arguments, you reject them.

          If you were able to raise you mind above the literalism and materialism of the fundamentalists whose arguments you have adopted, you would be able to get a better understanding of all the passages you quote from the Bible. But since your mind is stuck in the same pit of literalism as fundamentalist Christians’ minds are, you misread and misunderstand every Bible passage you quote, just as they do.

        • And unfortunately, you choose not to tell me what these passages supposedly “really” mean and how you know your interpretation is the only right one when other christians interpret them differently.

          Every christian reads the bible literally and fundamentaly, the parts they want to, and each christan has a different set.

          Alas, Romans says what that it is grace alone, aka it is only god’s choice, not any effort on a human’s part. you have yet to show that is not the case.

          “f you read Paul’s entire argument carefully in all of his letters, you will find that he never says that we are saved by faith without good works. Only that we are saved by faith without works,”

          Wow, lovely demosntration of how a Christian twists things. I also enjoy that you ignore what your bible says about your god’s actions with the pharoah. Happily, a lie doesn’t mean the words disappear from the bible. I know what you have claimed in your articles and your bible itself shows you wrong.

          Exodus 8 “15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.”

          see that “as said”. That refers back to This in chapter 7, you know, context: “The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and I will multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. ”

          that is also he case for versse 32 “2 But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also and would not let the people go.”

          and in chapter 9, we have yet again you failing and your god forcing its will on someone “34 But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned once more and hardened his heart, he and his officials. 35 So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had spoken through Moses.”

          “just as the lord had spoken”.

          As for 1 Samuel 6, funny how that’s a later report of a lie told since this didn’t happen at all as claimed by the author of this book.

          So, again you fail.

          Yep, actual historians know that the bible claims are just stories, and not literal events, showing that evidently jesus was an idiot since he is written claiming they were actual events, including the magic flood, creation, etc.

          No reason to think a “second adam” was needed if there was no first, or to think that some repeat of this god’s wrath in the flood will ever happen again.

          Taht’s what comes from picking and choosing like all Christians do, you all demonstrate your set of myths is a house of cards. One is claimed as just a story and the rest fall.

          Poor TrueChristians(tm), you all fail.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          Am I right that you grew up evangelical or fundamentalist Christian? You seem to have all the mental programing of a conservative Protestant.

          Neither Romans nor any other book of the Bible says that we are saved or justified by grace alone. By grace, yes. But not by grace alone. Ditto for faith alone. The Bible just never says this. In the one and only place where the Bible speaks of faith alone, it specifically rejects it:

          You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:24)

          Paul never uses the term “faith alone.” The term “grace alone” does not appear anywhere in the Bible. It was Luther who said that we are justified by faith alone—and he said this a millennium and a half after the last books of the Bible were written. Ever since then, Protestants have claimed that the Bible says this, but it just . . . doesn’t. Not anywhere. Now you’re making the same mistaken claim, demonstrating that you have accepted and internalized the Protestant mind programming.

          I have linked for you many articles that say what these passages really mean.

          Meanwhile, I’ve never actually said that my interpretation is the only right one. This idea seems to be part of your Protestant programming. What I’ve said is that the Bible does not say what Protestants claim it does, and that therefore the key Protestant teachings are not Christian teachings. I’ve said the same about the Catholic Church. If you can show me places where the Bible actually does say these things, then you might have a leg to stand on.

          For starters, where does the Bible say that we are saved by grace alone, as you claim it does?

          And, those four passages do indeed say that Pharaoh hardened his heart. Just because it says something different in other passages, that doesn’t change the fact that these four passages do say that Pharaoh hardened his heart. For a biblical literalist such as yourself, that’s a problem. But for people who do not feel the need to read everything in the Bible literally, it is not.

          Where did Jesus say that these things are literal events?

          Really, you must have been brought up by fundamentalists. You’re repeating all of their false claims. Jesus never said any such thing.

          You attack Christians, but your own view of the Bible is thoroughly Protestant fundamentalist. You are not thinking for yourself at all. You believe the same things about the Bible that you were taught growing up, only now you think they’re bad instead of good. You have never broken out of your Protestant programming.

        • And lee still can’t show his christanity is the right one or that any other one is wrong. I’ve quoted the bible to you, Lee ,and you are quite funny in watching you desperately try to ignore your bible.

          I also enjoy when you claim “Meanwhile, I’ve never actually said that my interpretation is the only right one.”

          that’s quite a lie there, Lee. You keep saying that protestants, evangelicals, etc are wrong. “It is only a literalistic, fundamentalist Christian reading of the Bible that insists that God actually did these things”

          It’s also sweet that you are quite ignorant of your bible.

          “36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of [f]heaven, but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. ” Matthew 24

          “26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” Luke 17


          And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.” Matthew 17

          “9 He said to them, “All too well you [e]reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ ” Mark 7

          you fail yet again.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          This is actually quite funny, if it weren’t so sad. Your fundamentalist Protestant programming is so strong that you can’t even read and understand what I wrote, nor can you read and understand what the Bible says.

          It’s too bad that you were so badly confused by the so-called Christians who brought you up. I feel sorry for you having had your mind so thoroughly programmed by your upbringing that you can’t even see that your mind has been programmed, let alone break out of that programming.

        • and gee, every other christian says it is sad that you follow a cult leader like Swedenborg.

          it’s hilarious that you yet again claim your veresion is the only right one and that you lie that I can’t read or understand the bible since I dare not agree with you.

          I do love when christians call each other “so-called christians” when not one of you poor dears can do what your bible has jesus promising to his true believers.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          More silly stuff from you that ignores both what I said and what the Bible says. You’re so programmed by your fundamentalist upbringing that you can only spout dogma. Maybe one day you’ll jettison the programming and start thinking for yourself.

        • And yet again, the member of one cult can’t show that his claims are true, or that the others are false.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          This is also a result of the Protestant brainwashing that you still have not been able to get rid of, even though you’ve become an atheist.

          Just to confirm my surmise that you were brought up Protestant/literalist, I looked around on your website, and found your “atheist testimony” document. Given the vehemence of your rejection of Christianity, I am not at all surprised that you were brought up Presbyterian, which is a Calvinist outfit.

          Among mainstream Christians, Calvinism is the absolute worst doctrinally. Not only does it accept Luther’s false and unbiblical doctrine of justification by faith alone, but it adds Calvin’s false and blasphemous doctrines of total depravity and double predestination. Now the particular tracks that your phonograph keeps skipping back to over and over again make much more sense.

          Honestly, I feel sorry for you, having had such horrendous stuff fed to you as “Christian truth” when you were too young to critically evaluate it. If I had been brought up with that theological sewage, I would also have become an atheist.

          It does my heart good to know that you were able to break out of that institution and have a good marriage and a happy life. (Incidentally, my wife Annette is also a cat person.)

          I only wish you could break out of the mental prison that your upbringing imposed upon you. Decades later, you’re still fighting the same old battles against the theological brainwashing of your childhood. Physically and organizationally, you have left your old Presbyterian church behind. But mentally and emotionally you are still tied firmly to it, like one gladiator chained to another, condemned to fight each other to the death.

          But back to my initial point, your focus on “members of cults” showing “that his claims are true, or that others are false” is just one more symptom of your Protestant brainwashing.

          In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther propounded his doctrine of justification by faith alone, even though the Bible explicitly rejects it (James 2:24). Most of the doctrinal underpinnings of that doctrine came from his Catholic background. He only brought to their logical conclusion the doctrinal falsities of Catholicism based on its satisfaction theory of atonement, whose origins and development began with Anselm of Canterbury in the eleventh century.

          Long story short, under satisfaction theory, including its Protestant penal substitution variant, it is not how we live, but what we believe that determines whether we are saved or damned. Hence Protestants are insistent that those who believe the wrong thing are damned to eternal punishment in hell. Specifically, they believe that anyone who does not believe that Jesus died to pay the penalty for their sins will be dammed to hell. The Bible never says any of this, but that’s what they believe.

          And in believing it, they are dead wrong.

          Here is what our church’s great theologian, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) said about this over two centuries ago:

          It is an insane heresy to believe that only those born in the [Christian] church are saved. People born outside the church are just as human as people born within it. They come from the same heavenly source. They are equally living and immortal souls. They have religions as well, religions that enable them to believe that God exists and that they should lead good lives; and all of them who do believe in God and lead good lives become spiritual on their own level and are saved. (Divine Providence #330)

          So you see, it is a basic doctrinal tenet of my church, right from its beginnings in the late 18th century, that people of all religions can be saved if they live a good life—meaning a life of love and service to their fellow human beings—based on their own beliefs. Whether those beliefs are entirely true is a secondary consideration. Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Native Americans, Rastafarians, Pastafarians, and yes, even atheists can be and are saved if they live a good life based on their own beliefs.

          This is also what the Bible teaches, such as in Romans 2:1–16 and Matthew 25:31–46.

          It is your Protestant brainwashing that causes you still, all these years later, to focus on who’s right and who’s wrong doctrinally. The Bible does not focus on this, but on how people live their lives. The only function of “faith,” or belief, is to lead people to live a good life of love toward the neighbor.

          As it is, when you read the Bible, you read it through such a thick lens of Calvinist dogma that you cannot even see what it says. You are continually telling me that the Bible says this or that, and then quoting passages that don’t actually say that. This is exactly what Protestants do in supporting all their false doctrines. You still think about the Bible exactly as you were brought up to think, only now you reject that false understanding of the Bible instead of accepting it.

          For example, in one of your comments (here) you say, “Alas, Romans says what that it is grace alone.” That is what Protestants say that Romans says. But Romans itself never says that. In fact, the term “grace alone” does not appear anywhere in the entire Bible. And in the one place that it uses the term “faith alone,” it specifically rejects it:

          You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:24)

          Protestants have spewed out millions of words arguing that James didn’t really mean what he said. But his words are as plain as day. And there are no other places where the Bible says that we are justified by faith alone. The Bible literally never uses the term “faith alone” anywhere else.

          This is how I know that even though you have been an atheist for many years, your mind is still in captivity to the Calvinist brainwashing of your childhood. You still think that the Bible says what you were taught it says, even though it never actually says those things.

          Only when you have broken out of your Calvinist brainwashing will you be able to read and understand the Bible.

          As far as I can tell, you’re a good person who treats your fellow human beings well. On that basis, I believe that you will spend eternity in heaven, not in hell, even if you remain an atheist to your dying day. I therefore have no need to “convert” you or “save” you.

          However, if you ever become interested in breaking the brainwashing and gaining the ability to read and understand what the Bible says, and what it means, I would be happy to walk that path with you.

        • I do enjoy when yuo claim other christians have “brainwashed” me. So much for your false claims that you’ve not said your version is the only right one.

          As always, the christian claims that everyone but his version of this nonsense is “horrendous”. Yours is no better. Swedeborg’s made up nonsense is no different from Calvin’s, or Augustine’s, etc.

          I am indeed a good person. No god or cults to it needed.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          Your brainwashing is clear from your pet issues, which you return to over and over again, even when they have nothing to do with anything I’ve said or anything I believe.

          For example, I did not say that “everyone but my version . . . is horrendous.” I said that Calvin’s doctrine is horrendous. Calvin is not “everyone but my version.”

          Once I realized you’d been brought up Calvinist, all your pet issues, and your great hatred of religion, suddenly made sense. Calvin completed the centuries-long doctrinal destruction of Christ’s beautiful teachings. He was the absolute worst. Unfortunately, you were on the receiving end of that destruction.

          Augustine was also pretty bad. Some of the most destructive doctrines that got adopted later by various Christian sects were first suggested by Augustine—including Calvin’s horrendous predestination doctrine. Study Augustine’s biography. You’ll see why he was such a font of bad theology.

          Your statement that “Swedeborg’s made up nonsense is no different from Calvin’s, or Augustine’s, etc.” only shows your ignorance of Swedenborg’s theology. That’s about like saying, “Albert Einstein’s scientific nonsense is no different from Ken Hamm’s scientific nonsense.”

          You’ve shown by your silly mischaracterization of my beliefs that you have no idea what Swedenborg taught. You just assume that he’s the same as all the others. That assumption only demonstrates your ignorance.

          If you wish to continue in your brainwashed state, unable to tell the difference between Swedenborg’s theology and Calvin’s theology, that’s your choice. If you were tasting wines with that attitude, you’d be unable to distinguish a $10,000 bottle of fine French wine from a bottle of red wine vinegar.

        • Again with the false claims and Lee being unable to show his version of Christanity any better than the rest.

          I’ve not mischaracterized anything. You are one more cult member who is sure that only his version is the right one.

          I know what Swedeborg taught since I can read it quite easily. Again, nothing different than any other cult leader who comes iup with his “right” interpretation.

          Unsurprisingly, you can’t show that Swedenborg’s version of Christanity is any better than Calvin, Knox or Augustine or any other OneTrueChristian(tm).

          You, and he, demontrate how you are just frauds since yet again, you can’t do what your supposed savior promises.

          Oh and lovely, now comparing your version of chrsitianity to wine and others to vinegar. How niceof you to again insist only your version is the right one.

          “Finally, if you are going to assert that I have said that only I am right, and everyone else is wrong, please quote me the place where I said this. You have made a claim, but you have failed to support it, as usual.” this was just a lie.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          You’re still going round and round on the same old circular track that you’ve been stuck on ever since you got brainwashed by Calvinists growing up. Very sad.

          Now you say:

          I know what Swedeborg taught since I can read it quite easily. Again, nothing different than any other cult leader who comes iup with his “right” interpretation.

          First of all, you didn’t even spell Swedenborg’s name right (not the first time you’ve made that error), which suggests that you have only the faintest notion of who he was.

          But since you’ve made this bold claim, here is a simple assignment to test it:

          1. What are Swedenborg’s five “specifics of faith”?
          2. What are the five “TULIP” points of Calvinism?
          3. How are these “nothing different than” one another

          Based on your claims, this should be a very easy assignment for you. If you are able to complete it for me, then I will know that you are not just full of hot air.

        • oh dear, I made typing error.

          Funny how anyone can cut and paste answers to your questions.

          and when I say nothing is different I mean that they are the baseless claims by christians who can’t show that they are true. Of course they aren’t the same claims, since christians don’t agree on their supposed “Truth”.

          Still waiting for you to show how your version is the only right one and all others are wrong.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          Yep, I knew it was just hot air.

        • and poor lee didn’t realize that his “test” was garbage.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          You don’t know the first thing about Swedenborg. You don’t even know the most basic tenets of the church you grew up in. Your claims are just empty rhetoric.

        • And more lies from Lee, who thinks that I don’t know things since I won’t play his “test” and cut and paste the TULIP nonsense and ol’ Swedenborg’s claims that also fail.

          sigh.

          “(1) There is one God,
          the divine Trinity exists within him, and he is the Lord God the Savior
          Jesus Christ. (2) Believing in him is a faith that saves. (3) We must not do
          things that are evil—they belong to the Devil and come from the Devil.
          (4) We must do things that are good—they belong to God and come
          from God. (5) We must do these things as if we ourselves were doing
          them, but we must believe that they come from the Lord working with
          us and through us. ”

          and

          “total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints.”

          both as silly as the other, with nothing to support their claims. just like I said.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          You got the first two questions correct. But you failed the last question, which is to show they are “nothing different from” each other. As anyone can see just from reading them, they are very different from each other. Final score: 66%. Not quite a fail, but that’s a D by the American grading system.

        • and again, Lee can’t comprehend that these beliefs are no different from each other since they both make up nonsense and fail. it’s always good when someone intentionally ignores what I’ve said in order to attack a strawman.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          Ah, more rhetoric without substance. I always love it when the strawman charge pops up. It’s rhetoric, all the way down.

          You said the beliefs were nothing different than each other. Then you quoted them, making it clear to any objective reader that they are vastly different from one another.

          I’ll let my readers judge who is making up nonsense and failing.

          It’s too bad. You could break free of the old Calvinist brainwashing and begin thinking for yourself. Instead, you choose to continue tilting at the same old windmills over and over again.

        • Hoyle Kiger says:

          We agree and disagree with one another because we’re attempting to provide explanations and understanding for subjects that are abstract; God, freewill, spirituality, etc.
          Their are many so called “books of God” that have appeared at various times throughout history; Bible, Koran, Book of Mormon, etc. All of them have both commonalities and divergence in the matters we are speaking of herein. Two of the most telling similar attributes are first, the content was supposedly derived from direct contact with “God” or one of his ‘official spokesperson’. The second likeness is, those ‘revelations’ were recorded by man. One exception is the Mormon claim that the words of God were inscribed on Golden Plates but they’ve never been produced, of course. Although I wouldn’t rule that out as the Mormon’s have had over 100 years since their founder Joseph Smith made such a claim.
          My point is, no one really knows except what they know and feel within themselves. The arguments/discussions about the reliability of published religious material is never ending and in vain if someone is looking for objective truths.
          Granted, some of Swedenborg’s stories and conclusions are both outlandish and illogical. However, the same can be said for Allah and Joseph Smith.
          The conflicts that arise within Spiritual Insights discussion seem to be most prevalent when the respective author attempts to persuade the reader that their point of view is true and correct. Abstract concepts don’t work that way. This is true despite the claim that God isn’t an abstract concept as advanced by some of this sites participants. No man speaks for God. God as each of us understand that concept, would never be so ‘narrow’ minded to allow only a chosen few to speak on ‘his’ behalf. “Perhaps we should look no further than our questions when seeking answers to existential questions “? hk

        • you all make the same claims, and you all claim you have the truth.

          Yep, your claims are indeed outlandish and illogical, just like any theist’s.

          “We agree and disagree with one another because we’re attempting to provide explanations and understanding for subjects that are abstract; God, freewill, spirituality, etc.”

          these are aren’t abstract at all. They each have a definition. The problem is that each theist thinks that only their definition is the right one, and cannot show that to be the case at all.

          I seems you are trying to make your god as vague as possible as all theists doso they can claim no one can show it doesn’t exist. Am I correct? you also seem to be trying to use the common “sophisticated theology” argument, that anyone but you doesn’t “really” understand this god.

          You also seem to think you can speak for this god since you insist that your version, that this god “would never be so narrow minded to only have a chosen few speak on his behalf.”

          why think your version is any better than the next?

        • Hoyle Kiger says:

          When it concerns existential subjects in particular, I sometimes offer an opinion but nothing more. My opinions for the most part form my beliefs in that regard. I attempt to word my posts in a way that invite discussion rather than argument although I’m certainly not adverse to robust discussion.
          I was struck by your comment that some of my perceptions about the subject matter wasn’t abstract because the words I used could be defined. Can you clarify? To the best of my understanding, words chosen in explaining an abstract are subject to definition, as are all words, but that doesn’t take them outside the realm of abstraction.

        • Words have definitions. Theists do like to think they can make up new definitions when the words they want to use don’t work.

          There is nothing to put words *into* the realm of abstraction.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          But to deal with the specifics:

          Your quoting of these passages only shows how strong your Protestant programming is. Nowhere in these passages does Jesus say that the Bible must be taken literally, and that these things literally happened.

          In particular, your quoting of that passage from Luke 17 shows that your mind has been programmed by Christian fundamentalists. Jesus quotes the Old Testament, which to them was the Bible, to illustrate what it will be like when the kingdom of God comes. And he could hardly have been clearer that these things are not going to happen literally and physically:

          Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20–21)

          Jesus said this to introduce what he said in the verses you quoted. It takes a thoroughly programmed literalist mind to read his words there as if the things he is describing will be “coming with things that can be observed.” But that is precisely what fundamentalst Christians, and fundamentalist atheists such as you, are doing.

          This is just one more reason it is clear to me that your mind has been thoroughly programmed by Protestant fundamentalists, and that despite your embrace of atheism, you have been unable to break free from your original fundamentalist programming. Fundamentalist and evangelical Protestants thump the Bible, but ignore what it actually says. You are doing exactly the same thing.

          But for what these things really mean(TM), please see:

          Is the World Coming to an End? What about the Second Coming?

          And also:

          The Evangelicals are Right: The World IS Coming to an End!

          About Moses and Elijah appearing with Jesus at the time of his transfiguration (your quote from Matthew 17), how does this show that everything in the Old Testament is to be taken literally? I happen to think that there probably were historical figures of Moses and Elijah. But this doesn’t mean that everything that is said about them in the Bible happened literally as it is described in the Bible.

          Even if they weren’t actual historical figures as many secular Bible scholars believe, they were still important cultural and religious figures in the Jewish faith in which Jesus and his disciples were raised. The Transfiguration itself was clearly a visionary experience. And in visions, people see many things that didn’t, or don’t, exist in physical reality. Just consider all of Ezekiel’s wild visions, which included many creatures that do not exist in physical reality.

          In short, when Jesus’ inner circle of disciples saw him in a resplendent vision surrounded by Moses and Elijah, this does not demonstrate that everything in the Old Testament happened literally as it is described there.

          In the mind of a Jewish person, Moses and Elijah represent the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah), which, at the time of Jesus, were the two primary divisions of Scripture. That’s why Jesus is always referring to “the Law and the Prophets,” or “Moses and the Prophets,” which means the same thing. (The remaining books, which now form the Jewish Ketuvim, or Writings, had not yet been fully collected and canonized at that time.)

          This is why Peter, James, and John saw Moses and Elijah accompanying Jesus. These two figures represented a living scriptural endorsement of Jesus as the Messiah.

          And when Jesus points out the inconsistency and hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees in Mark 7, this doesn’t mean that he literally endorses everything the Old Testament says, including the commandment to execute the death penalty on people who curse their father or mother. There are many passages in the Gospels in which Jesus reinterprets or even abrogates the literal application of Old Testament commandments, such as in his words and actions about the Sabbath, adultery, and divorce.

          Once again, your quoting of these passages only shows that your Protestant programming is so strong that you cannot even read these passages, and understand what they mean.

          Specifically to the claim you were attempting to support, in none of these passages does Jesus say that the Bible must be taken literally. If anything, he continually urges people to think spiritually rather than literally about his words, and about the words of Scripture. For one example, please see:

          Eat My Flesh, Drink My Blood

          Finally, if you are going to assert that I have said that only I am right, and everyone else is wrong, please quote me the place where I said this. You have made a claim, but you have failed to support it, as usual.

          The Bible is a complex book. I have pointed out on this website that the key doctrines of the main branches of historical Christianity are not stated anywhere in Scripture, and I have provided extensive scriptural support for those statements. But I have never said that my interpretation is the only right one.

          For an example, the famous or infamous Jordan Peterson has posted on YouTube his extensive lectures on the psychological meaning of the stories of Genesis. His interpretations of those stories are not the same as Swedenborg’s interpretations. There are some points of agreement, and some points where Peterson interprets it quite differently than Swedenborg did.

          Does this mean that Peterson is wrong? Not necessarily. The Bible is a deep and complex book. It is capable of yielding different meanings for different people, especially when it is read spiritually rather than literally. I have watched the first few of Peterson’s lectures on Genesis. I find them quite fascinating and insightful, even though his interpretation is not the same as mine.

          In short, your claim that I believe only my interpretation is correct, and everyone else’s is wrong, is simply false. I have never said that, nor do I believe any such thing.

        • christians can’t agree on what parts of theh bible to take literally or to claim they are metaphor, or claim they are “exaggeration/hyperbole”, etc.

          You are all making this nonsense up. And yep, you all think that you and only you have the right version.

          No wonder not one of you can do what jesus promised.

          gee, since you guys can’t agree on what’s literal, we can safely say that there was no actual resurrection, no actual miracles, and god and jesus are just metaphorical characters.

          Your claim of what “But for what these things really mean(TM)” are no differnt than any other christians. Thanks for confirming yet again that you indeed to think only your version is the true one, despite your claims otherwise.

          and every christian claims to read the bible “spiritually” so you have nothing special with that either.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          You also can’t take a joke. Come back when you’ve deprogrammed yourself from your fundamentalist upbringing, and are ready to talk sensibly.

        • a joke? where?

          Again, still unable to show that I am incorrect, including when I can point out how you claim that only your vesion is the right one.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          Ugh. Explaining jokes is the worst. But since you asked . . .

          My “But for what these things really mean(TM)” was a joke riffing off your “Poor TrueChristians(tm)” and your “christians can’t agree on what their bible ‘really means.’” Instead of getting the joke, you took it as “confirmation”(tm) that “you indeed to think only your version is the true one, despite your claims otherwise”(tm).

          Another sign of programming, aka brainwashing, is not being able take a joke, and indeed, not being able to see humor at all. People whose minds have been affected by cults (in your case, the Calvinist Presbyterian cult) rarely have a sense of humor about their own beliefs.

          The Bible is full of humor. Jesus, in particular, had a razor-sharp wit, and was not afraid to use it. But Poor TrueAtheists(tm) take it all just as seriously, and literally, as Poor TrueChristians(tm). See the section titled “18. God is not funny (and that makes God unconvincing)” in this post:

          God Is Unconvincing To Smart Folks? – Part 4

        • hmm, seems that there was no joke there.

          Alas, no, brainwashing doesn’t have the inability to suposed take a joke as a “sign”. But nice try to make up more nonsense.

          I do enjoy that yuo have no sense of humor about your own beliefs either.

          There is no humor from jesus, but that’s quite a claim. Do demosntrate it. What verses is jesus this “wit”, you claim?

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          More silliness that has nothing to do with reality. There are quite a few things in Swedenborg’s writings that I find very funny.

          And if you can’t see the humor in Jesus’ saying to the scribes and Pharisees, “You strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24), then you really are a sad, humorless person. Once again, please see the section titled “18. God is not funny (and that makes God unconvincing)” in this post:

          God Is Unconvincing To Smart Folks? – Part 4

          There you will find a reference to a whole book (a classic) on the humor of Christ.

        • It’s nice analogy but it’s not funny.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude.

          An analogy to what? It’s not analogy. It’s satire.

        • wow, you have no idea what satire is.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          If Jesus’ devastating takedown of the scribes and Pharisees for their extreme hypocrisy isn’t satire, then I don’t know what is. Any modern secular screenwriter parsing it for a lively, non-dogmatic script would read and render it as satire.

        • Hoyle Kiger says:

          There is a never-ending stream of philosophical and religious points of view offering “answers” for what defines the “self”, “existentialism” and “God’s” role therein.
          Perhaps the “answers” and “truths”, as those terms are assessed by each individual, are contained more in the questions we ask rather than in the “answers” provided by others.
          Personally, I feel that each individual must answer to themselves first or their attempts to find “answers” from outside sources will be in vain.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Hoyle,

          Of course, we must each arrive at answers that satisfy us. But we are not islands unto ourselves. We live embedded in human community, including human intellectual community. We arrive at better answers when we put our minds together than when we go it alone.

        • Yep, you have no idea what satire is.

        • Lee says:

          Hi clubschadenfreude,

          I could say the same thing about you.

        • Hoyle Kiger says:

          “What we say of others, is self-revealing”. hk
          I do admire you for the restraint you show when dealing with those who seem only to want to argue.
          Keep up the good work and the good fight.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Hoyle,

          Thanks. Yes, it was clubschadenfreude’s standard, repeated attacks that clued me in to her own issues. In hindsight, based on her specific issues, I should have realized right from the start that it was Calvinism that did her in. Of all the mainstream “Christian” sects and heresies, Calvin’s are the worst.

  5. Regarding your comments Lee. It can be very difficult to break out of one’s indoctrinated programming. I have no love of Churches and the dangerous entrapment they create. I have struggled my whole life with this Protestant paradigm in which I was raised. And which made little real sense. I’m grateful that you have the patience and willingness to engage on this site without rancour or judgement. One of the hardest things is beginning to find a way out of the systemic mind imprinting and then feeling absolute fear in case one has it wrong. Once damaged in this way from early formative years, the recovery to finding Truth is a lifelong enterprise. I liken it to the plight of substance abusers who face a similar battle to free themselves.

    • Lee says:

      Hi leeannemeredith,

      Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, it is very difficult to break out of early programming. Even those who leave these churches are still imprinted with the ideas and attitudes that they imbibed there from before they were able to think critically.

      I have begun to think that perhaps several more generations must go by in which traditional “Christianity” dies out in people’s minds, and people are no longer brought up “Christian,” before real, spiritual Christianity can re-establish itself among the many. Perhaps this period of growing atheism is a necessary stage in humanity’s spiritual journey.

      Meanwhile, for those who seek a healthier version of Christianity, I keep on offering one here on this humble little website.

  6. K says:

    A related argument that the metaphysical naturalist may use against the soul is, and I paraphrase:

    “If one damages the brain a little, mental functioning can be reduced. If one damages the brain more, more functioning can be lost. So how can there be an immortal mind if all of the brain is damaged with death?”

    Also there’s the case of Phineas Gage (1823-1860), where brain damage changed his personality, which the metaphysical naturalist could argue shouldn’t happen with an immortal spirit.

    (BTW thanks for making an article addressing the “neurological processes means no free will” argument)

    • Lee says:

      Hi K,

      You’re welcome. That was a fun one!

      On the question of the relationship between the brain to the mind, the mind-body problem is one of the classic debates in human philosophy. I won’t be able to do it justice in a brief comment.

      However, it is quite clear that as long as the spirit inhabits the physical body, it is integrally connected to the physical body, and depends upon it for its effective functioning. Any kind of mental or physical damage, dysfunction, or illness will affect the mind and spirit as well. For example, Swedenborg says that in cases of extreme brain dysfunction—what doctors today call severe mental illness—the process of regeneration stops, and if the dysfunction persists until death, the person picks up in the afterlife where s/he left off at the time the mental illness first struck.

      We are born into the physical world, in the physical body, because our spiritual development requires a period of existence in the physical world. Our time in the material world is analogous to our time in the womb, without which we cannot develop into a human being. So our time in the physical body is an essential part of our developing into an angel, meaning a spiritually mature human being.

      If our physical body, including our physical brain, malfunctions, our spirit does not have a sound channel through which to express itself and develop itself. The classic analogy of the radio receiver captures this idea in part: if the receiver is broken, the signal gets garbled, or cannot get through at all. Only in our case, the transmitter (the spirit) and the receiver (the body) are integrally connected to one another during our lifetime on earth. This is where the analogy of the radio receiver breaks down.

      So yes, our spirit does require a working physical body for its development. This is one reason why physical and mental health professionals are doing God’s work—assuming they’re actually helping people to regain their physical and mental health.

      However, even if a brain malfunction causes our spirit not to be able to go through its full process of development here on earth, or even seems to turn a good person into an evil person, none of this will prevent a person from becoming an angel. Instead, as Swedenborg says, what happens is that a person’s spiritual development is arrested at that point, and continues in the afterlife, in the person’s spiritual body, after the person has been freed from the malfunctioning physical body through death. In some cases, they may have to develop all the way from a state of infancy or childhood.

      The good news is that all such people who die in a state of mental infancy or childhood make their final home in heaven, and none of them in hell. And assuming people who did reach an adult mental state were good people before some brain malfunction distorted their spirit’s ability to function in this world, they will also make their eternal home in heaven, not in hell. The only people who make their bed in hell are those who, with a functioning rational mind, freely choose evil over good through their life choices here on earth.

      For a related article, please see:

      Will Sick or Disabled People Return to Good Health in the Spiritual World?

      I hope these few thoughts help. Of course, this is a complicated issue. Feel free to continue the conversation if you still have unanswered questions, or further thoughts.

      • K says:

        “For example, Swedenborg says that in cases of extreme brain dysfunction—what doctors today call severe mental illness—the process of regeneration stops, and if the dysfunction persists until death, the person picks up in the afterlife where s/he left off at the time the mental illness first struck.”

        So I take it that if someone has a disability where they have the mind of a baby in an older body (which I have witnessed IRL), they could manifest in the spirit body of a baby after death? And the same for someone who has a severe mental disability from the start?

        (thanks for reply)

        • Lee says:

          Hi K,

          Possibly. But I tend to think that they will still have the adult body they had developed on earth, only without the physical dysfunctions. After all, that’s what they are used to, and it’s become part of their identity.

        • K says:

          I think what could happen is in the 1st state after death one who has a child mind in an adult body could resemble their biological Homo sapiens form from Earth, but once they their outer nature is gone (2nd state), they could appear as children on the outside in their true form.

        • Lee says:

          Hi K,

          Possibly. But keep in mind that people who die as infants and children grow into adults in heaven, and they do so more rapidly than on earth. Also, it can take up to two or three decades worth of perceived time for people to go through those stages before entering heaven. At any rate, it’s an interesting question.

          I recall one developmentally disabled man I knew years ago who had a mental level somewhere in the single digits. He was a big, burly man, and used his size to hold down a job doing simple physical labor. I just can’t imagine him reverting back to the body of a seven or eight year old boy in the afterlife. It wouldn’t fit with the life he had lived on earth.

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

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