“A Relationship with God”

On the day before my 18th birthday, I realised something that in combination with all of my other doubts pushed me over the edge and made me an atheist. The being I claimed to love more than anything else in the world, the being who I worshipped, the being who I lived for and the being I claimed I would die for, may as well have been a stranger to me in terms of our relationship. I knew God no better than I did 14 years ago when I was first indoctrinated.

This was major to me. In church I, like many people learned that “Christianity is a relationship and not a religion” and that “God wants to have a relationship with you”. It became fundamental to my beliefs, which is why realising how false it was in my life was so crushing.

Obviously, Christianity is a religion, and not a relationship. All you need to do is look at the difference between you and God in terms of a real relationship, and what each of you contribute. From the age of 4 years old, I had prayed to God, worshiped God, defended God, tried to talk to God constantly, read his book, and tried to persuade others to become Christians on behalf of God. What had God done for our relationship? The only thing that I can think of was give me things I thought were miracles that I now look back on as simple probability.

The important thing to state is not what he had done, but what he hadn’t done: talk to me, actually confirm his existence to me, laugh with me, cry with me, show himself to me, make plans with me, or do anything at all anyone in a relationship would do.

How could you possibly call this a relationship? Saying you want to be in a relationship, and then doing absolutely nothing at all is the equivalent of ghosting someone. Actions speak louder than words, and words of action mean nothing when no action actually happens.

If someone is in a relationship where one does nothing while the other worships the other person, sacrifices so many things for them, gives them 10% of their money, and lives life only by their rules in fear of being punished by them forever, that’s not called a relationship, that’s called abuse. Yet when it’s God who does the abuse, it somehow gets a free pass.

As the meme above puts it so brilliantly, having a relationship with God isn’t exactly a free choice, but a threat. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, you will suffer for it and be tortured forever and ever until the end of time.

Don’t think this situation is abuse? What about original sin? The idea that you are born sick and commanded to be well. What about “We don’t deserve love, but God loves us anyway”? So now we don’t even deserve love? We are only loved because God is so good that he doesn’t care whether we deserve it or not? That’s crap, anyone claiming you don’t deserve love is not worthy of your time, respect or patience. They are someone you should run from, never be close to, and never let into your life. The notion that you don’t deserve love is absurd. What does it say about God if he believes with all of his heart and soul that no human deserves love?

Being in a relationship with someone who believes you don’t deserve to be loved by them is just insulting and degrading, irrespective of their behaviour towards you. It’s like God is wanting to be in a relationship with you as a favour, despite the fact that he knows you’re actually horrible, not because he actually thinks you deserve it. If I found out that anyone was in a relationship with me as a favour, I would stop the relationship immediately, it is a waste of time to be in a relationship with someone who thinks you don’t deserve them.

But that’s not even the worst of it. What happens when you are surrounded by people who claim to be in a loving relationship with God? You feel guilty, weak, ashamed and inferior due to your lack of relationship when in actuality relationships are only possible if they go both ways, and you’ve been more than doing your bit.

It’s often said that the best way to get to know God is to read the bible, but clearly you cannot talk to a book, and reading someone’s book, only tells you about them, it doesn’t mean you’re in a relationship with them. Apologies if you thought that reading Barack Obama’s book meant you were actually in a relationship with him, relationships are not the same as studying people. Knowing about someone is different to being in a relationship with them. Quite clearly. That’s why I said that from the age of 4-18 I knew God no better than I did at the start, despite of course knowing more about him.

As another side point, reading about someone is very likely to give you a completely incorrect idea about them. I saw this demonstrated when one of my really good friends found my blog and started reading it. He came back to me with things that I said that were completely wrong and not at all what I thought. Literally everything he said to me about my blog was something I thought was incorrect and wrong, yet I perfectly understood why he was led to think that way.

Image source: DarkMatter2525 – Do you Know God?

The same thing can be said about the bible. If everyone reads from the same book, then how come so many Christians reach vastly different and contradictory conclusions, even going so far as to claim that they have the true Christianity while everyone else is wrong?

How many times have I heard Christians argue about the same issue e.g. abortion, gay rights with the phrase “God told me” – if this is true, then he’s a lying backstabber who is happy to tell you one thing and then completely go behind your back to tell someone else a completely different thing. In other words, a traitor, a bad friend, and someone who is willing to tell someone anything, even if it’s wrong, in order to make them love them.

Actions speak louder than words, I don’t care how many times God states that he loves you and wants to have a relationship with you because his actions don’t demonstrate it in the slightest. What do you call someone whose words don’t reflect their actions? A liar.

I don’t think I’m being too demanding of God. If he is real, he is his own person who doesn’t owe a relationship to anyone. But if God does indeed want a relationship with everyone just as he claims, he has missed one very important step: learning what a relationship is.

I’d like to finish with a very important question. If God is like this, why have a relationship with him at all? I don’t believe that simply creating everything is enough to excuse disgustingly horrible actions. I also don’t believe being defined as perfectly good is good enough reason either, if goodness is so arbitrary that it can change on the whim of what someone says, then we honestly don’t need it and are better without it. The only possible good reason is to avoid the horrible abuse of hell which comes as a consequence of not having a relationship with him.

The thoughts that were going through my mind at the time of my deconversion were “How long am I going to waste my time trying to have a relationship with someone who obviously doesn’t want to have a relationship with me?” – It was time to move on, and as soon as I did, I felt a huge sense of relief. I no longer had to be in submission to a celestial dictator in the sky, nor worry about what he was going to do to me. I didn’t need to worry about living up to an impossible standard, to pray to someone who never answered. Everything that I would ever do and get in my life would not be because of praying to a God, but because of me. It’s impossible to describe the sense of empowerment I felt in that moment. You deserve better than this.

52 thoughts on ““A Relationship with God”

    1. I guess you only have a burden if you want people to believe what you tell them. If you don’t care about people believing you, I suppose you can tell them all you like and make absolutely zero difference to anyone. So well done for that.

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  1. I envy people who can read what you just wrote, or discover within themselves those same thoughts, and ignore them. I envy them their happiness.

    But I would not places with them for even an instant.

    Remember when we talked about the Trilemma in another one of your posts? That’s the most succinct distillation of the problem I’ve ever seen.

    Everything you brought up is entirely understandable. Most importantly, i think, it’s the result of an honest inner journey. None of us will get anywhere if we don’t undertake that. So, kudos for being brave enough to give it a shot.

    The problem I’ve seen in most of how Christianity is expressed, at least in the US where I live, is that it is utterly, completely, demonstrably, wrong. Mixing in guns and the US flag and calling it Chistianity?

    Did those folks never even bother to open the Bible?

    Let me back down a bit from that confrontational approach, because I’ll tell you this for free: As someone who holds a degree in Roman Catholic theology (concentrations in moral systematic theology, Christology, and Eschatology), I live in almost constant fury at what people are doing in the name of Christianity.

    The meme you included in your post is just a down payment, let me tell you.

    Instead of being confrontation, let me make an observation that I think we’ve discussed from another perspective, here on your blog. Christianity pre-Constantine (the Roman Emperor, not the Keanu Reeves movie, which was a lot of fun) is very, very different from the post-Constantine Christianity.

    Remember in the Gospels where Jesus laid into the Scribes and Pharisees? It’s because they perverted what Judaism was supposed to be. In the same way, the Roman Empire started a process of taking religious symbology and tying it to the machines of state power. That’s why almost every Christian faith craves state power. That’s what they’ve been taught. Look at the Evangelical response to the Trump presidency. They lauded that president not because he was holy — and let’s not even start that conversation! — but because to maintain power, he was willing to give them the semblance of state power.

    I say semblance because nothing is farther from the heart of Christianity than temporal power.

    So, we’ve been handing down a shattered model of religion since the early 300s. If you had to sum up the entirety of Christ’s teaching, you have to look no father than his own words: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

    I see nothing there about seizing power and murdering anyone who disagrees. Nor do I see any indication we should make the lives of others difficult, or denying them health care, or the right to vote.

    Just to name a few.

    So, if you take the things that are on your mind and recast the same questions from the perspective of that single New Commandment, it might help. As I’ve worked through the issues you’re wrestling with (and again, kudos — it’s appallingly rare anyone gets this far!), understanding where Christianity went off course was very helpful.

    But it’s only another couple of steps. Removing any divine imperative rather makes arguing for good treatment of folks outside your own tribe exponentially more difficult. But the road changes; the sign posts are different. I don’t know if I’m on the right track or not, but if I know one thing, it’s this:

    Stopping sucks. So I ain’t gonna do it. I’m going to push forward to see where this road leads.

    I know what’s behind me, so if there’s an answer, it’s ahead of me.

    If there is an answer.

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    1. It sounds like you’re really on an honest inner journey yourself, so I have to extend the same kudos to you for your honesty, most people aren’t like this.

      I think it’s true that Christianity has changed a lot, this post was entirely about what I was told by my church, ignoring whether or not they were right about what Jesus actually said. I still think there’s a lot of value in criticising current versions of Christianity if it needs criticising which is why I still felt it was worth writing about.

      I don’t know my bible history very well in terms of what believers believed, so I’m very willing to believe that what they believed was more in line with what Jesus preached before the year 300. My concern is that things like the trilemma would still have existed as well as all the horrible passages in the bible.

      I, like you really like the idea of “Love one another as I have loved you.” but I think it exists better outside the concept of religion, which as you explained is seriously and ridiculously open to corruption and change.

      If God is real, he must have known what would happen 300 years after Jesus, so that begs the question of why?

      When it comes to God there are two issues for me. The first is that I feel there are so many problems with the concept that if he did exist it would be terrible. The second is that I just don’t feel there’s any compelling existence for his existence, i.e. If I thought God being real would be a good thing, I still wouldn’t believe that he was.

      Re-examining everything, throwing out all of the bible passages that didn’t match with “Love one another as I have loved you.” would convince me of the first, but not the second.

      If God is real, I am then in the dilemma of having only a partially correct book, how are we to know that “Love one another as I have loved you.” is the one most important part of the book and not incorrect like the other parts of the book? How can we know this isn’t cherry-picking based on our own moral values instead of Gods?

      I’m not going to stop either, it’s part of the reason why I release posts. It’s too easy for me to get trapped inside an echo chamber with people who agree with me that I almost feel the need to have what I think criticised. It’s what’s most likely to make sure I’m not stopping.

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      1. I appreciate that. So, let me do something I’ve never, ever done before, and put my cards on the table.

        This is as far as I’ve been able to get. Apologies in advance for the stunning boredom you’re about to encounter.

        Keep in mind that at heart, I am an Aristotelian Thomist. That means I see the world through a combination of Aristotle’s philosophy (as opposed to Plato’s, who I more or less abhor) and Aquinas’ theology (as opposed to Augustine’s, which is okay, I suppose…).

        Homo Sapiens came onto the scene about 250,000 years ago. As far as I can tell, Neanderthal predated us, and it was the transition between Neanderthal and Homo Sapiens that marked the events of the Garden of Eden. Which is to say, the dawn of the full human intellect.

        This is important because I can see how, from the perspective of evolution, humans are moving from a state of not knowing anything to become aware of a Creator. That’s why, in the earliest Judaic scriptures, we see multiple schools of thought, like the Elohist and Yahwist traditions. Did Israel need a King, or Judges? Scripture itself is divided, and that’s because the writers didn’t know. They represented different factions that were trying like mad to understand.

        Basically, the Old Testament was the story of the Creator revealing himself to humanity. Humanity, new to the whole “god” thing, interpreted it as “Hey, you’re my tribe’s god, so I get to kill everyone else.”

        Hence the ban. And legal slavery.

        the gradual reveal makes sense, from an evolutionary perspective. However, it leaves a gigantic question unresolved: If the Creator could do anything (and by definition, that should be the case), why design a sentient race who needed to slaughter themselves by the bushel to figure out the basic idea that “Hey, the creator loves all of us?”

        But if I set that aside as an act of faith, it raises the question of “Okay, if there’s no way around that Because of Reasons, then what would a Creator do?”

        Why, send a messenger!

        So, the introduce of Jesus the Christ makes sense. He goes so far as to say that he must die to atone for the sins of humanity. If I reinterpret that to be, “Look, I know we designed you so that you need saving, so let me die to establish a duplex communication with the creator,” it makes sense. It’s a runtime adjustment. It’s a software patch. Humans had been estranged, and for reasons you’ve already explored, it’s insane to blame the created beings for design flaws.

        “But they failed because of their bad choices!”

        Then freaking design the system so it’s self-correcting. Make bad decisions feel bad. Don’t want people to have illicit sex? Make it feel like getting your teeth drilled without anesthetic. There. Problem solved. No more teen pregnancy, etc. etc.

        I said I can see how a runtime correction in the form of the Christ makes sense. But then why did everything go straight south under Constantine? Did the Creator never even once meet his creations? Didn’t he foresee the myriad ways we’d screw this up?

        The most important message in the entirety of creation. From the perspective of sentience, nothing is more important.

        And a single emperor, with the help of a corrupt layer of church leaders, was able to derail it?

        That’s not what’s blocking me.

        Let’s say I accept on faith that there must be some reason. If I look back through humanity’s exploration of this idea, one possibility comes up more than the others. It’s the concept of free will.

        Free will is so important, these philosophers and theologians say, that it’s worth the risk of what has happened.

        And there I’m stuck.

        What is so worth the risk that a) the Creator had to send his Son to be slaughtered at the hands of the created and b) makes it cool to torture and kill so many humans? Because a full duplex relationship with the creator would have been completely skipped every religious war and persecution ever.

        Oh, but humans have to learn themselves! Or the lesson doesn’t take hold or some such.

        Then the created were designed poorly. Free will’s importance is not predicated on the need for such slaughter.

        But humans won’t grow without their own efforts!

        Then again, we were created poorly.

        Oh, but you’re just a stupid human. You can’t understand The Mystery!

        You have to read that last part in a reverberating voice.

        In that case, I’d have to answer: What part of “poor design” wasn’t clear?

        That’s as far as I’ve gotten. I don’t know how to go father, but I’m not going to give up. And at this point, I have no idea why.

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        1. Very coherent, readable and honest essay. However accurate, your motives are true. We’re all agnostics because we simply don’t know everything.

          My guess is that God orders everything as is, and takes responsibility for it all in his Cross. Why? I don’t know, yet, I’m all in. I’m resting in the Christ.

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        2. I am not really as well read/studied as you on the bible. So saying something like “Keep in mind that at heart, I am an Aristotelian Thomist” is impossible to me as I have no idea how to keep that in mind as I don’t know what it means. So apologies for that, and if I get things wrong because of this, apologies in advance.

          I would have seen the old testament as more of a paving the way for Jesus, but that is also another really plausible way of putting it.

          This really raises some critical questions when you put it like that, and of course you can’t blame us for design flaws in the same way we don’t blame robots for their design flaws.

          Free will is a good explanation, and obviously what happened is so much better than a perfect world, but someone else controls everyone to create it. The thing we disagree on is that with or without a God, I don’t think free will is real, as in, given the exact same circumstances, every time we will do the exact same thing. I feel like this has huge implications on God’s plan and role in all of this.

          To me, the big, really infuriating “I don’t know” questions are “How did the universe come into existence?” and “How did life begin?”

          I don’t see our scientific theories or claims of God to be a satisfying answer due to the lack of evidence to prove any of them. So I am in the position of not knowing. Which sucks by the way, so I am holding off judgement until it’s proven or I am strongly convinced one way or the other.

          Thank you for sharing this, it’s really interesting to look at it from the beginning until now, and not at all boring like you said it would be! This is very personal too so I respect you a lot for being willing to share this with me.

          I feel it’s fair to share my notes as well, so I will.

          Forgetting the immorality of it all, the trilemma, this post, etc. I don’t find the evidence compelling enough for Christianity. I am of course willing to believe and change my mind in light of new discoveries and arguments, but this is where I am now. So I essentially think of history as not having the influence of God and everything just happening naturally.

          I feel bad that it’s not as interesting as yours, but I’m really struggling for things to write here!

          Thank you for this, it’s so interesting, and I really hope if nothing else, this can help us both in developing and learning about our beliefs.

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    2. I like your thoughts on Christianity. Far removed from Christ. You’re loyal, a hard worker and personable.

      Christ is personal or he would not have taken on flesh and blood. I believe him, that he did so to give us his Spirit (Jn14:18).

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    3. I don’t know where to comment so I will just reply:
      (p.s sorry that if I sound too rude or mean, I have to work on my empathy. I applaud you so openly sharing your inner journey, that takes guts!.)

      I respect your opinions, however (in the most respectful and nicest way I can phrase it) rebelling against God is futile. I know this for a fact. That’s why so many influencers and actors say they are so blessed on social media. They understand the basic principals of giving and tithing and such, but are reluctant to give their lives in faith to Christ. I don’t mean to sound mean or harsh, but opinions about God don’t change who He is.

      I don’t want to just come against you like this without proof, so let me give you an example. Nothing in this world will ever fill you up. Do you think billionaires are content with their businesses and enterprises? No! If they were, they’d be happily out of the media and spending everyday with their families, without a care and a world or a huge business. The best and most rewarding relationships? Nope, not that either. The truth is, we all have holes in our heart, that nothing can fill, and no one will be completely satisfied. That’s when addictions, obsessions, and lusts ruin people’s lives.

      Let me ask you something: how do you prove something to exists? Could you prove that you exist? One of the easiest ways to prove something exists is to have something or someone else acknowledge you. The fact that you made this blog proves that very well. But what about the 7.6 billion people you don’t know? What about those people that have no one to account for them? They still exist, even though they aren’t known or have been forgotten by anyone, by the fact that they are living. So being physically seen doesn’t prove existence.

      Here’s a better example, wind. Wind is an invisible force, and is only seen by it’s impact on the earth, hurricanes, trees swaying, breeze on your skin, and blowing sand or leaves. You can try to explain why it happens, but it you still can’t see it. Same with emotions, which is energy in motion. These motions are expressed by actions, facial expressions, and events. So does fear exist, even though you can’t see it? Yes, it is an unseen presence. So is joy, love, and peace.

      The presence of God has moved mountains, both unseen and literal. There are millions, perhaps BILLIONS of testimonies of the actual presence of God changing generational and regional patterns in the world. So many have seen His face. Try listening to a radio program called Unshackled, which shows how the most broken people eventually found their ways back to Jesus Christ, because they were tired of trying to handle things on their own.

      We humans don’t know how to create babies. I mean, most adult humans know the events that have to happen in order for a birth to occur, but we don’t know how to make a heart beat, blood pump and organs develop. We can’t make eyes, ears, nose and a mouth. Other organisms don’t either, even asexually reproducing organisms. That’s why it’s called the miracle of life. Living things are giving instructions to reproduce, and the offspring comes after. Only God could do something that good. We just can’t see him happening.

      Jesus talks a lot about the unseen kingdom of heaven, and how God is invisible. But when all is said and done, no matter what you believe, everything you could ever own will eventually pass away. Nothing on this Earth will last, (the book of Zechariah in the Bible) talks about this. That’s why Christians invest their efforts and praises in the kingdom of God, rather than a political party or fandom. It will endure forever.

      This is a fallen world. The church is the hospital of humanity. Whoever repents and receives this free treatment will live forever, while those who reject it will perish. Whether you believe in hell or not (but trust me, hell is real. Some people are already living in it.)

      I really think you should open up to coming back to Jesus’ family, there’s always room here! I gotta bounce but I will be praying for you.

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  2. God contributes the people, places and things in your life for YOU. See Christ, come in the flesh; see what his Father put in his path. Same goes for us — when we walk with him he laughs and cries right beside us. He knows us and greatly wants us to know these things about him. To know him.

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      1. First off, believe Christ is who he said he is. The knowing comes from learning, and living the learnings. If you don’t believe him, forget it.

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        1. The burden of proof is on the one who is making the claim, you claim that Jesus was the son of God, so it’s your job to prove that.

          You cannot believe, and you certainly cannot expect other people to believe without being convinced first.

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  3. I have a few things I would like to say. In no particular order:

    I have a personal relationship with God. Because He has cried with me, comforted me, laughed with me, directed me, encouraged me, cautioned me, praised me, censured me, planned with me, and somehow, despite all of my mistakes (and they are many) He has never given up on me.

    He does not say, “Let me in so I can save you from everything I will do to you if you don’t let me in.” He says, “Let me in so I can give you everything, more than you can yet comprehend. Let me in so I can keep you from the misery you are heading towards, and let me give you endless joy instead. Let me in so I can make of you more than you ever thought possible.” It’s not a threat at all, though many have mistakenly (or deliberately) garbled that message. And it very much is a choice, whether we will take everything he has to offer us, or just part of it, or none of it at all.

    We often feel unworthy of being loved. And sometimes we are even right about that. But that is not how He sees us. He sees us as His precious family, and His love is unconditional. It is His favor, not His love, which is conditional. It is the rewards He promises which are conditional, not His love.

    It is understandable to feel… uneasy, unworthy, or… “wrong,” for lack of another way of putting it… but however one puts it, it is understandable to feel that way when surrounded by people who say they have a personal relationship with God. Much like it’s natural to feel that way if you are under-dressed at a formal occasion, or overdressed in a casual one. That, however, is not the fault of either God or the other person. It just means that we have something to work on, and we all have those.

    Reading the Bible is not the best way to get to know God. It’s *part* of how we come to know Him, but it is incomplete without also earnest, honest communication with him, and doing his will by helping those around us.

    There are a few reasons why the various Christian sects argue over what the Bible means. One is because it has been translated so many times that it can be difficult to get at the original meaning. Another is that the scriptures were deliberately altered by power-hungry apostates, stripping many simple truths from them. And yet another – and this goes particularly into the doctrine of my own religion – none of them have proper authority from Him to receive direct revelation for the purpose of preaching his word, answering questions, and clearing up misunderstandings (or deceptions).

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    1. Interesting! Thank you for the comment. I am really interested to know how God has done these things with you, what did he do? Is it something that you know was definitely God?

      I get that a relationship with God has more to it than just a threat, but what happens if someone doesn’t want the things that Jesus is offering, or just feels content without them? If there is a consequence for rejection, then it has to be considered a threat, even if the reward is incredibly good and it’s not what God intended. Are there consequences for not having a relationship with God in terms of actual negative things that will happen to you and not just missing out on the positives?

      If someone feels inferior because they don’t have a relationship with God, I feel like it’s up to both parties to work on it. If someone is trying as hard as they can to have a relationship with God, it’s surely God’s responsibility to try as hard as he can to get through to them as well.

      In what way does the bible help you to develop your relationship with God? I know you said that it’s a part of the process, and useless without doing other things, but what role in the process does it play?

      I would go further to say that not only have many things been removed from the bible, but many forgeries have been added in. The first thought that leaps to my mind is the last chapter of Mark. You have to take the bible with a lot of salt, there is a lot about it that we don’t know e.g. origins, writers, date written and a lot that is inaccurate. We have to treat it in the same way as any other ancient text.

      Thanks for the discussion!

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      1. Well, you must understand that a number of the experiences I have had are very, very personal, so I tend not to share them too freely. However, I am comfortable in sharing that He has answered my prayers and comforted me in the very worst moments of my life. I have been directed in ways which are unmistakable, including some which made no sense to me at the time, and which were not easy to do. I have asked questions and had them answered in ways I did not expect and could not have predicted. I have been warned away from dangers. I have felt His Spirit in ways so strong and clear (though not “loud”) that I can scarcely describe it, the denying of which would require me to deny reason itself within me.

        The key is to be open to it. It takes patience, humility, trust, and practice to attune oneself to the Holy Spirit. Which is part of what the study of scripture accomplishes, including both the Bible and other scriptures more unique to my own religion. In addition to helping us understand our history and how God has operated, and still operates, in His relationships with His children, the simple, everyday acts of study and prayer help us to align our spirit with His, thus opening the way for more, and clearer, communication. Most of all, the scriptures testify of Christ and explain the pivotal role He plays in all of this.

        And it is perfectly ok to start small as we strive to understand and practice everything He teaches us. Trying our hardest isn’t a matter of anything grand, but a matter of patience and faith in doing the little things first and foremost, day after day after day. The Lord knows what He is doing when he waits to answer us, but He does answer us, in His own way and in His own time. Developing our connection to Him, much like strengthening out bodies, takes time, and it does us well that He starts small, and lets us see what we will do with what He gives us.

        Of course, you are correct, many things have been changed in the Bible. This is why – and this, again, is a particular point of my religion – He has given us other scriptures as well, to restore the whole of the truth to us and answer so many questions. He spent a number of centuries arranging for that, such is His love for us.

        Speaking of which, when you talk about, “if there are consequences,” I have to say: there are always consequences. Everything we do, every choice we make, comes with consequences. There are consequences to getting too drunk and driving. There are consequences to holding a gun incorrectly. There are consequences to picking one’s nose too much! Every choice has results. Sometimes those results are favorable, like when you help someone in need, or do your job right, or say a kind word. Sometimes they’re not so favorable, like when you antagonize a wild animal, or speak too harshly too fast, or overdose on drugs. But whether one likes it or not, there is always a consequences of some sort.

        There was a young-ish man, some sort of journalist, I think, who went to Africa on business. He was taken into the wilds by the local guides, people who knew this land quite well. When they weren’t out and about together, he was instructed to remain in camp, within a certain enclosure that had been erected, because there were predators very nearby, especially crocodiles. But the man couldn’t see these crocodiles, and couldn’t see where they might be hiding. He climbed over the fence and left the enclosure at a moment when his guide was distracted. Within just a few steps, and a few seconds, the crocodiles got him. He died a painful death before anyone could help him.

        He made a choice, and there was a steep consequence. Was it anyone’s fault but his own? Did the guide whose warning he ignored arrange for the crocodiles to be there? Should the guide have chained him down or something? Should they have hunted all the crocodiles to extinction before he ever arrived in Africa? Or should he, himself, have made a different choice?

        There is a consequence to rejecting everything God offers us, including when He advises us to stay within certain boundaries. Sometimes it can be very painful, but it is not the same thing as God being abusive. It is simply the result of our own choice. You walk into a wall, you run into it. You handle a rose too carelessly, you get pricked by a thorn. You refuse a legitimate opportunity to make money, you don’t make that money. You work hard, you get exhausted. You refuse what God offers you, you don’t get it.

        Our choice, our consequence, our responsibility.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s ok, I understand and respect that. The difficult thing for me is that without knowing the story and details it’s very hard to be convinced by it.

          If it takes patience, humility, trust, and practice I can see why I might have had difficulties. Does God want to know you for who you are? Some people are not patient, some people are arrogant and distrustful, or really lazy and can’t be bothered to practice. Are people expected to change their personality to have a relationship with God?

          Why does it have to operate in this way when God is the one wanting the relationship? If I wanted a relationship with someone, the last thing I would do is tell them to study my blog, change their personality and then talk to them only in the times they want to talk to me. You would think anybody acting in this way is horrible. I feel like it’s always up to the person who wants the relationship to be proactive. If you both want it, then that’s great. But many people don’t want/even know about the possibility of having a relationship with God, it seems like a high demand to ask them to change.

          That’s a good point, as there is a consequence to everything, and not everything like choosing what cereal to eat has agency to force a choice upon you. So, let me explain what I meant.

          God doesn’t have to brutally torture you if you reject him, nor put you in a place where you are tortured, nor create a system where this happens to you. In the case of your story, he doesn’t need to put the crocodiles there to eat the man who chooses to leave.

          The difference is that the man chose to go into a place where there were crocodiles, but God builds the fence around you and puts the crocodiles outside of it. Now you are being forced into this situation where you are told to love him or leave and die.

          The threat comes from this situation being completely, truly, and utterly avoidable.

          God created the consequences for rejecting him. He imposes the consequences on you when he doesn’t have to and created the whole situation in the first place.

          God neither has the moral high ground nor the authority to force this horrible situation on you. In a situation where someone is holding a gun to your head and asks you for money, if you refuse, you have not chosen to be shot. Hell acts as the gun, and God acts as the robber, forcing the choice onto you when you never would have wanted it.

          That’s what I mean by calling it a threat. It’s our choice to reject God, it’s God’s choice to inflict consequences on those who reject him. This is harsh, but it’s the nicest way I can possibly put it, I can’t describe it in a nicer of friendlier way because it’s just outrageous to me.

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          1. Basically what you are essentially saying is that you’d rather want to choose to go in the face of danger and death, so

            God doesn’t create the problems. He uses them to draw the person back to him. Satan will try to kill, steal, and destroy anyone at any chance he gets. Using your gun example, Satan actually is the one holding the gun and the robber. Let’s add some depth to the example, say you walk by a certain street everyday to get to work. That street has an alleyway, where drugs are dealt, gangs meet, and people dispose of dead bodies. There’s always one robber that eyes your briefcase, and everyday as you go to work, but some unseen force is the only thing stopping him from jumping you. Nothing about your lifestyle or preferences, class, race or good works keeps that robber from killing; he is swift to shed blood to anyone and everyone.

            Where is God in all this then? He is the unseen force keeping that robber at bay. Even with all our mistakes, God still protects us. In the book of Psalms, chapter 136 verse 1 sites: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassion fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”

            Anything bad can happen to any single person, no one is exempt. However, the only reason it doesn’t is because the Lord gives mercy and grace everyday. But that doesn’t exempt us from dying or becoming injured, because as it says clearly in Romans 6:23 and many other places: “the wages of sin is death.” That means if you choose to live to reject God, even after his mercy and grace, that you will surely die.

            You have the choice to reject God, but that means that the natural consequences will follow: sickness, death, and things are stolen from us. God doesn’t do that, why would he? He instead allows these things to happen, because it has the opportunity to bring us closer to Him. God has used conflict to establish some of the greatest redemption in history. His son, Jesus, who was not conceived by man but by the Spirit, (all this means is that his mother was spiritually, morally, and sexually pure and the Holy Spirit [God’s Spirit] that conceived Him was perfect. Read Mark and maybe some summaries online to understand further.) gave himself up to be tutored, mocked, spit on, and then killed so that we would have a way to get right with God. And He did this on a maybe, because not everyone will follow Him. He’s not forcing you to choose anything, more or like bringing about situations to make you choose on your own to establish a relationship with Him. Because He loves you like nobody else in the world could.

            God is not the one who brings about these situations. They are always there, ready to happen, destroy, steal, and kill anybody. But God wants us to be sheltered under His wings, and protected from all evil that may come our way, as long as we submit to His plans, which are always good. He can turn anything that’s meant for evil for good, as He did with the crucifixion of His perfect son, Jesus, who was destined to fulfill the law and bring eternal life to us humans. The reason he allows bad things to happen is because that builds growth, and it allows us to trust Him more, know that we need God, and bring glory and praise to His name. God already had a world without conflict, it’s just humans that ruined it all. (The Fall, see Genesis 3)

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            1. Add on to the first sentence:

              *Basically what you are essentially saying is that you’d rather want to choose to go in the face of danger and death, rather than except freedom. I understand what you are struggling with, but this isn’t exactly true. God is control of everything that happens, yes, but he doesn’t intentionally allow bad situations to come to pass. He is perfect in all of His ways: (Psalms 92:15, Job 34:10, Roman 9:14)

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          2. I don’t mean to spam, but I apologize for the terrible example that the church can set in general. With the illustration you included, Jesus actually warns about that, and so does Paul (which was a strong spiritual leader of the first generation of Christians) in a message to the Corinth area, which was one region that early churches started to spread. In 1st Corinthians 1:10-17 he writes:

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            1. “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

              Jesus also brought in unity, not to bring them apart. He brought union to the Jews and Gentiles, and of course wanted to unite his followers under one church. That’s why many churches are considered non-denominational: because they want to be seen as what God uses to show His glory, not a sect of Jesus that preaches it’s own version of what exactly Jesus was saying. None of these are “bad”, it’s really tricky to describe, but I know Jesus tells me in the Bible to argue like the fools do back and forth, so I don’t want to get to controversial about the specifics. (I’m not calling you guys fools!) Jesus is God, and God is Jesus, so connecting to the vine is the closest way to see His works be done on the earth, and lived a blessed life. Just though I would add that. Great posts both of you

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          3. God already knows us, and He knows what we can be. What He asks isn’t really easy for anyone. We all have our difficulties. But it’s possible for anyone and everyone, as long as one has the mental faculties for it (there is exception made for those rare souls with disabilities that impair their cognitive functions).

            There’s a show I recently reviewed, Girl Meets World. One of the recurring themes of it is that people change people. We change each other through the influence of our relationships, what we learn from each other, how we treat each other, etc. We grow, we learn, we become different than we were before, sometimes by choice, and in some ways we stay the same, also sometimes by choice.

            So, picture, if you will, someone who means something to you. Someone important. Someone whose opinion of you actually matters to you. Someone you trust to have good criteria in that regard. Now… are you going to just deviate away from everything they approve of, or might you try to be your best self, to have good esteem in their eyes?

            In particular, if you respect their judgment and they tell you that something you are doing is going to hurt you terribly if you don’t stop… do you listen? Do you change that part of your behavior?

            There are all sorts of personalities in my church, as there are in most. We all bring to the table something which is uniquely ours, and we all benefit from the sharing of it. What we all have in common is not our personality, but our commitment. We all strive to follow God and obey His commandments and do His will.

            As for your question, why does God do this when He is the one wanting this relationship? Because He’s not the only one wanting it. And we more than want it, we *need* it. We need Him, and in order for Him to help us, we need to trust Him. He knows what He is doing.

            The major difference in our perspectives about consequence is that… well, there’s the natural result of one’s actions, and then there’s deliberate punitive actions, like reprimand or punishment. If I understand correctly, then, as you see it, there is no difference between the two when it comes to God. Would that be fair to say?

            As I see it, no, God does not simply inflict consequence willy-nilly. Even though any parent knows that sometimes a child must learn from the school of hard knocks, it’s still not all some deliberate punishment. It is the result of our own choices, and even the Almighty can only protect us from so much… unless he were to rob us of our free will completely, which would be exactly the tyranny you seem to think Him guilty of. What He does is teach us as much as we are willing to learn, and He lets us choose. He lets us choose anything, good or evil, and we are held accountable for what we do and why we do it, and in accordance with what what know (ie, the man in ancient China who knows nothing of Christ is not punished for his ignorance).

            He always lets us choose. Even when we choose to do terrible things and hurt others, which grieves Him terribly. Even when we commit atrocities and invite His anger, as any father would have to be angry if one of his children did unspeakable things to their brothers and sisters. Justice and mercy both demand action, both demand the punishment of those who prey on the innocent and refuse to repent. If there were no consequence to such, then could God even be called good at all? No. There has to be *some* place for the souls of the truly evil to go, if they cannot be allowed back into Heaven alongside the innocents they slaughtered.

            Now, a common idea in many religions is that there is a Heaven and a Hell, of some sort, and people tend to fixate on those. But there are also places, other levels of salvation, if you will. My religion preaches much the same, where there is a place for those who are absolutely faithful to God’s commandments, and one for those who refuse what is offered for whatever reason but remain good people, and one for those who are wicked and do much harm, and, finally, the place for those truly evil souls who outright knowingly rebel against God. (I am greatly simplifying, but that’s the basic idea) Now, with exception to that last, all of these places are nice, peaceful places, not at all unpleasant. But each level below the topmost is still missing out on whatever greater joys may be found in the higher levels. There is a time of suffering for the wicked, yes, but it generally ends, and the worst eternal consequence that most will have deal with is simply that they miss out on what more they could have had. Which won’t be entirely pleasant but won’t be “burn in eternal flames” either.

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            1. If God is real, then I would agree with the concept of everyone being able to get to know him. I would extend it further to people who will be killed if they change to Christianity or have been so thoroughly indoctrinated that it’s impossible for them to change (from a different religion) and also people who have just never heard of God and had zero chances to ever find out about him.

              We do change people in our relationships, and that’s normally a good thing. What seems bad to me is denying a relationship until they change. To me it would seem much better for God to act as a good example/role model/therapist, not approving of their sin, but still staying in the relationship instead of only meeting with people who believe in him and meekly and humbly pray to him first.

              I of course would listen if a friend told me about something I was doing that was going to hurt me terribly. When talking with friends, I don’t just blindly obey orders that they tell me. We discuss the issue, give our own perspective trying not to cause conflict. The conversation will likely always change me at least a little, but doing radicle change would mean understanding the fault, feeling bad about it, and wanting to change. I think this is much healthier than obeying orders as the difference between the two people is that one is someone you want to have a relationship with and the other is someone you don’t.

              It always feels to me that God is ordering without explaining whereas it would be much better for the relationship if it was like this instead.

              I’m sorry but I don’t really understand your reprimand vs punishment question. I don’t think hell is a cause of one’s own actions. Not being with God in heaven isn’t a punishment for rejecting God but the reward you didn’t get for accepting him. Essentially there are no consequences for rejecting God except for the rewards you miss; you just die and existence to you feels exactly as it was before you were born… unless God has something to say about it.

              When you are the one who designs the entire system of what happens when you die, you have the choice to either let people go through what would just happen to them naturally or punish them for their decision against you.

              In the same way that there is no crime for rejecting a friend or a suitor, it is not a crime to decide that you just don’t like God. Not everyone likes everyone.

              Due to this, the consequences of rejecting anyone is not that big a deal morally because we all have this understanding. But if you do the exact same actions to a different person, you are burning forever eternally. That is not only unfair but completely unequal.

              “There has to be *some* place for the souls of the truly evil to go” – I don’t think so, it would be nice if we could get justice overall, but that doesn’t mean it actually happens, or that souls exist. I don’t really believe in eternal punishment and from what you wrote, neither do you, which really makes me glad to hear.

              Did you mean to say that the place for people who do wicked things is better than the place for those who simply rebel against God? That means I could be going to the worst place in hell for moral disagreements! I feel like this is a fault of the system. I think rebelling against God is more morally permissible than rebelling against a human because if you rebel against God, you don’t actually think he’s real, and he can take much more than any human can. It seems that at most rebelling against God should be treated in the same way as if you rebelled against anyone else.

              If God created us to be equal, then it shouldn’t matter hugely who we did bad towards, what matters is the bad that we did. If you change the target to God, it seems radically unfair to punish someone significantly more.

              I hope this makes sense, and I’m sorry about being unsure of that question, I hope I talked about what you said in a way that answered it. If you would rather I answer it before talking about anything else first just so that we have more understanding then I would be happy to if you just explain the question more. Thank you for the response, it’s always interesting to learn about difference in perspectives like this!

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              1. First point: I think we agree. I’m not quite sure I followed the entire paragraph right, but, basically, it is only fair for everyone to get a fair chance, regardless of surrounding circumstances over which they have no control. Yes, everyone gets a fair chance. That is a huge thing in my religion, where we all get a fair chance, universally, to know the undiluted truth.

                That whole section that starts after, “it would seem much better for God to,” is not so far distant from what He does. He is constantly reaching out to His children by every means He can. He is our friend and confidante and healer and helper. And He does often explain things, but He also lets us learn for ourselves through experience. Much like any teacher worth the name lets their students figure out answers to various difficult questions instead of telling them everything.

                Ok, I have to run, but a quick detail about what it means to really rebel against God:

                It’s not a polite refusal. It’s not a “moral disagreement.” It is outright rejection of what one knows is good (does it make logical sense? No, humans are not logical). It is an active godlessness that displaces light with darkness, love with hate. To be so truly godless as that… well, such are people who commit unspeakable atrocities.

                I’m reminded of a scene from the Daredevil show, where a priest shares a story of a man that was so good that all who met him had a natural reverence towards him. Even hardened killers did not want to harm such a holy man, even after the briefest of exchanges with him. Then one man sat with him, talked with him for hours… and proceeded to drag him outside and murder him and his entire family most brutally, without hesitation, pity, or remorse.

                *That* is what rebellion against God and goodness looks like. It’s not simply disagreeing with Him.

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                1. It seems we are largely in agreement.

                  I don’t think there is anyone in that lowest level of hell from what you describe, because even extremely evil people who commit horrific acts think that they are doing the right thing, or at the very least think that they’ve done some good things.

                  To be honest, you’ve convinced me. In the world view that my church had, and in the world view Christianity has in general, I still think hell is a threat. But what you have described is simply if you do bad things, you are punished accordingly, and after that punishment is over, you go back to living a normal happy life. If you reject God and don’t have a relationship with him, nothing bad happens to you, you just miss out on the “good stuff”

                  I take back what I said about the threat of hell in relation to the LDS church. I’m not trying to say I’m ok with this version of the afterlife in general, but I can’t honestly and reasonably call it a threat.

                  So thank you, this is the best outcome that could have happened, and honestly something I really hoped would happen. And reading this comment has also made your other comments much much clearer to me.

                  Would you be open to talking more about the LDS afterlife in general or sharing me information about it? To simply find out more and also to make sure I’ve not made a mistake here.

                  Thank you once again! I really appreciate this a lot.

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                  1. One thing to keep in mind, in regards to our view of the afterlife, is that everything is a continuation of what has come before. My storytelling and story-obsessed brain came up with an analogy comparing it to a series of books or movies. Of course, this particular series would be much more coherently planned, with a good deal of spontaneity to be found in the details but still having an overall direction to go in from the very beginning. There are lots of small endings and important beginnings, but generally it’s all one, single story. It’s a bit like that.

                    When I think of it as a quartet, mortality is the second volume, not the first. The first is about our pre-mortal lives, when we were spirits. The third volume would detail our post-mortal lives up to a certain point, and the fourth one would begin after we have decided our eternal fates, which outcome begins back in the first volume and is influenced by all the choices we make up until that point.

                    For instance: before we were born, we made the choice to *be* born, to come here and endure things we didn’t really understand at the time, and to undergo a test not of our minds, but of our spirits. We all knew the risks, and yet we all chose to follow God’s plan. In that light, it makes all the sense in the world for us all – with a few exceptions – to have *something* when the story is over. It might not be all we *could* have had, but the plan is called “the Plan of Happiness.” Ultimately, we’ll have the greatest amount of happiness which our souls can accept.

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                    1. Interesting. Before we were a spirit, did we have a choice to become a spirit? In what way does our spirit life before becoming human impact us when we are born? It seems that babies know nothing when they are born, and that our choices are based on past experiences that we can remember, not ones that we don’t – so how does the spirit come into it?

                      When you die, do you forget everything the same way when you move on to the next stage? Would the stage before you become human and the stage after be located in the same place, and would spirits pre and post-test be able to talk?

                      The link between the stages interests me a lot, especially when it seems like we have no memories of what happened in the previous. Or is part of the LDS doctrine unlocking those spirit memories similar to the doctrine of scientology? But of course, the things you would be trying to unlock are very different!

                      Thanks for getting back to me!

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                    2. Those are some very good, interesting questions. 🙂

                      Did we choose to become spirits? Possibly. Someone with a greater depth of knowledge than I have could probably give a more thorough answer, but most of what I can do is speculate. Kind of like a kid that doesn’t yet know about human growth and development might speculate about where babies really come from. Generally, they don’t really need to know just yet, but once they develop a bit themselves, then they learn about it and are especially cautioned about using such knowledge responsibly. I certainly don’t know much about “divine growth and development,” if you will. I don’t know the exact process by which we were made into spirits, the offspring of heavenly parentage, from whatever we were before. There’s reference to “intelligences,” which would suggest some form of existence that probably could make decisions, choose whether to remain as is or become something more. Maybe it’s something like an AI from science fiction that gets to become human, so to speak. Or maybe that’s barking up the wrong tree entirely. Maybe there’s “intelligence” of a sort in all things, like when Jesus told the storm to be still, was there something intelligent which obeyed Him?

                      As you might guess, there are many things that have not yet been illuminated. But the memories are there, merely covered for a time behind a veil. That is part of the trial of this life, veiling our memories of our past life. One day, that veil will be drawn back and we will remember everything again, but there is still some carry over. For instance, our scriptures tell us that anything we learn, all of our knowledge gained in this life, will remain with us forever. Taking that and speculating a bit, this may explain things like people with remarkable talents, child geniuses and prodigies, those who seem to grasp concepts, absorb knowledge, or be simply be “gifted” in any number of ways. Perhaps they learn and master this knowledge so easily because they’re actually re-learning it. Maybe certain inventors dream up certain inventions because they learned about them once before. Maybe certain friendships and other relationships are so natural and enduring in this life because they’re continuations of what came before. I mean, we are told in our scriptures that when we die, the same associations and connections we have here will continue on. We’ll still be friends and family, still have our personalities and wits and senses of humor, still be going more or less in the same eternal direction that we were going before.

                      People are not just the sum of the experiences they remember in this life. You can take two people with extremely similar backgrounds and education and all that (heck, they can be twins), and put them into identical situations, and still get vastly different choices, leading to different results. How does spirit come into it? Because there is both nature and nurture to us. The same parent can raise vastly different children, not simply because of small differences between how the children are treated, but because there is something deeper in their personal nature which drives them to respond differently to the same things. There is something more than just what we remember, what we have experienced in this life, which defines each of us in a separate and unique way in relation to everyone else, and most especially in how we react to the light of God in our lives. While it takes practice to attune ourselves to His spiritual influence, there is still an automatic light which we are born with, often called our conscience though it goes a bit deeper than that, which drives us towards doing what is right, as best we know it. Sometimes, for reasons that we don’t entirely understand, people can simply turn away from what is good, or suddenly turn towards what is good. Some people simply do not have it in them to make a particular bad choice, and some don’t have it in them to repent of a bad choice. Some souls are simply foul beyond comprehension, while others become unflagging spiritual pillars in their community. The ultimate difference lies within the spirit.

                      As for forgetting things when we die… in short, no. No, we do not forget things again. On the contrary, there comes a time (I forget at the moment if it’s very soon after we die or a bit later) when the veil is pulled back entirely, and we remember everything of our mortal and pre-mortal lives very clearly. Indeed, it is this perfect remembrance, of everything we did and why, which determines our short-term (relatively) state of being after we die. Those who did well and have nurtured more light within themselves will be much happier for it, while those who did evil and wallowed in darkness will be miserable under a perfect recollection of their guilt. But they won’t necessarily be in two places. Indeed, those who served God in this life will be able to teach those who never learned of Him, and that is when they have their fair chance to accept or reject the gospel (for whatever reasons).

                      There is, I believe, a good amount of overlap between the Before and After waiting areas, so to speak. The exact details of how much they interact, I do not know, but I am fairly certain they are not rigidly separated, at least.

                      We typically don’t “unlock” the memories of our past life in this one. That is taken care of on its own in due time. The point, I believe, is that there is something about us, about who we truly are and what kind of people we are, which simply endures, even through the loss of memories. This is why and how God is able to set certain tasks for some of us, like prophets, even before we were born, because even though our memories are veiled, we are still ourselves. He knows us quite literally better than we know ourselves right now, LOL.

                      Thank you for the questions! They are most interesting! 🙂

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                    3. No problem, it’s often just interesting to learn about, even if you don’t agree.

                      I get that we shouldn’t need to speculate before spirits, but is what you are saying about spirits also a speculation? To me it’s as if both things haven’t been revealed to us yet and we don’t know. Would you give a high probability to us being spirits before we were born?

                      Since our spirit memories are merged together at the end, it’s sort of like two people coming together right and merging memories? I would hate to be a spirit and then find out that I was Hitler when I went down to earth. With all your memories wiped is there a sense that your bad things done can only be attributed to one part of your life? And a certain part of you is immune from judgement?

                      I’d also like to say that memory has been proven to be really bad, with many people losing it and also creating false memories – if we cannot keep all of our knowledge in this life, then how can we take it to the next? Or is it more of a general thing rather than an everything thing? – You answered that later in your response with saying that it is everything, so I guess false memories are corrected and your brain changes to remember everything correctly.

                      The way I would explain that is with the butterfly effect, very minor and small differences can lead to major differences, and with the world being so massive and so many changes possible, it seems natural that people from the same environments would be very different, even if you only change really small things. I think nature applies for the butterfly affect as well, the most minor changes to the body can add up to produce a huge effect. I don’t feel like we need to say “there’s something more” when we have this explanation. What are your thoughts on expressing this idea in natural terms?

                      I realise that there has been a big misunderstanding of stage 3, I thought that this would be when God revealed himself to everyone so that they could make an informed choice? It’s just other spirits telling you that he’s real instead? That is really not a fair chance at all because the evidence for God is still exactly the same, with the addition of the fact that you know you are a spirit. Is there more to it than spirits telling you that God is real?

                      It is interesting how before and after could possibly communicate, it makes you wonder how people don’t cheat on the test!

                      Maybe he does know more about us due to the spirit life we led before, but I really don’t think that’s fair to say because I don’t feel like that is actually me. Having a spirits’ memories fused into mine after death would just feel like getting someone else’s’ memories – a spirit in my past life (Ross the spirit) feels so unrelated to me (Ross the man) that it seems only right to call us separate people.

                      Let’s say someone loses all of their memories and goes back to being like a baby mentally, but the body is still the exact same. I think it’s fair to say that they are the same person despite the personality change because they have the same body. But if they morphed into a different body, to me it would be becoming someone else, much like what a spirit might do. Is an extremely loose link that the vast majority of people don’t see something to change that? I’m trying to imagine if it was there, and I still can’t treat it as if that is also me.

                      Asking questions feels great as the answers are always interesting, and you learn something new. I much prefer it to an argument as it’s more respectful and prompts me to think more. Thanks!

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                    4. As far as being spirits go… um, yes, we were all spirits before. Technically, we still *are* spirits, but now we have physical bodies of flesh and blood and bone. When we are born (we’re not sure at exactly what point during the process of conception and birth) we, as spirits, gain these physical bodies, and we leave them when die, and then, come the resurrection, we have our bodies permanently restored to us, but without the many imperfections we deal with now.

                      The person we are may change through our experiences, but we are still the same person, just at a different stages. In that spirit (pun not intended, but I’m keeping it), we aren’t two separate people whose memories merge. We are one person whose memories are unveiled. Hitler doesn’t find out that he became Hitler in this life, he remembers that all the people he hurt weren’t strangers, but siblings, fellow children of our Heavenly Father, and comrades who fought alongside him in that pre-mortal war with Lucifer. And that’s the tip of the iceberg. The agony isn’t having someone else’s memories, it’s knowing who he truly is and what he has truly done.

                      Though, as for being spared any judgment… well, there is a great deal of mercy to be found in the Plan of Happiness, such as the consideration given to all who chose to follow through with the plan, and all of us, with rare exception, still having something at the end of it. But there is also justice. I cannot really say where Hitler or anyone under his command will go. I just focus on where I want to go, and do my best to encourage others towards the best of all destinations.

                      Dwelling on the idea of spirits and whether we’re the same or different people… there is a story I read once, called The Golem and the Jinni. In it, there’s a man, an old mystic, sort of like a dark rabbi. He was clever even when he was very young, and his teachers had great hopes for him, but then he had a dream where he was entering paradise and was told, unmistakably, by a great voice that he had no place there. He was confused by this, so went out into the world. He proceeded to do many bad things, not caring a bit about the people around him except as he might use them, though he also kept up a decent facade of being a good person. He learned ancient secrets, things wise men only learned about that they might counter them, and he became powerful. Many things happened and he eventually found a way, he thought, to become immortal. When he enacted the magic necessary, however, he began to remember… he remembered that he had lived another life before… and another before that one… and another before that… for centuries. His first life was much the same: he was a clever young man who sought power and immortality, and found a way to bind his soul to the mortal world. Small detail, he failed to make *that* life last forever, and so he has lived and died again and again, doing exactly the same things every time: seeking out the forbidden secrets of whatever culture he was born into, always looking to avoid death and the judgment beyond. The exact details varied, but he always did the same thing. He was always the same person in each life.

                      That’s a bit more like what it is. Rather than a merging of two people’s memories, it is the recollection of our own past, and the revelation of who we really are, with no available facade.

                      Expressing things in natural terms is… well, I am more of a storyteller and a poet, more than a scientist, so it doesn’t really come easy to me, I think. I know that our spiritual bodies are made of matter, as surely as our physical ones, but that matter is “more pure” in some way we don’t have the scientific terms to describe at the moment. I mean, you read the Biblical account of the creation, and there’s a lot of overlap between that and what modern science tells us of the world’s creation, but I only know that because, as a poet, I see them trying to describe things they don’t have terms for. It’s like a caveman trying to describe a gun, a crossbow, a defibrillator, or a car. They didn’t have the words we might use to describe the creation of the world, and I daresay we don’t have the words to describe everything in the universe either.

                      I do know that who we are is more than just whatever happens to us, and we are very much accountable for what we do in response. Fortunately, we also have the ability to change, and become better than we have been, and that, too, is a revelation of who we really are.

                      Ah, concerning Stage 3, some clarification.

                      When we die, our scriptures tell us that we stand before the God who gave us life, and account for ourselves. There’s no longer a question, at that point, of His reality, and what is good or bad in His sight. However, preaching isn’t just telling people that He exists, it’s explaining what we still need to do, and following through with such as best we can. It’s organizing ourselves and administering in the ordinances of the gospel. These include physical acts like getting baptized, which one needs a physical body to do. Since the dead can’t get baptized themselves, the members of my church go to our temples to perform the ordinances for them by proxy. As we go through such multiple times, our understanding of it increases, our spirits are more aligned with our Heavenly Father, and the dead are given the chance to accept or reject these ordinances as we perform them on their behalf. So, whoever has that job on the other side of the veil helps to preach the gospel by finding and approaching the spirit in question and asking them if them if they want to accept what has been done for them.

                      So, it’s not like they’re left without knowing anything more than they already do, it’s just that there is still work to be done prior to everyone’s eventual resurrection.

                      Heh, and people don’t cheat on the test by forgetting everything. I mean, smuggling a cheat sheet into a math test might be possible, but if you forget you even have it… well, it’s going to be worth much, eh? 😉

                      In regards to Ross the Spirit and Ross the Man… well, one could say the same about Ross the Baby, Ross the Teen, Ross the College Student, Ross the Employee, and Ross the Eighty-Year-Old (eventually, hopefully). When you’re eighty and remember what you did when you were eight, how separate are those two people, really?

                      Liked by 1 person

                    5. Apologies for taking so long to respond – it’s been so busy and there was a good amount of thinking I needed to do.

                      I’m not sure how much you can relate to this, but suddenly trying to imagine myself as a spirit who lost their memories and got a body is really difficult for me to do. I’m trying, but as this massively conflicts with who I believe I am – it is seriously very strange.

                      I’m trying to imagine it as if I got to the age of 40 and forgot all of my memories, and then suddenly remembered all of them when I was 80. It is such a huge feeling of dissonance. If you had lived an amazingly kind life helping people from age 40-80, but killed a lot of people before you lost your memories, it’s not at all like those crimes can just go away and not count against you because you are a better person now. Though at the same time, that person would feel so different to you, so unlike you and something that you in yourself would feel so detached to that it would feel unfair.

                      In a scenario where God is real, it seems as if it might be possible to punish the version of you before you were 40 but not the version of you after. That seems like a good solution, but I am still really unsure of that.

                      Like say for example a murderer in real life. He killed a tonne of people, but right before he got sentenced, he was shot in the head, lost all of his memories, and had no idea what was going on. Is it justice to punish him for the crimes against others, I think yes it is because he did kill all those people, but to me at the same time, it also just doesn’t make any sense because he is just not at all the same person, he’s not capable of doing what he did again, and he doesn’t even know what he did.

                      I honestly have no idea how to treat this question. I think the punishing different versions of the self might be a good solution, but I really don’t know.

                      From what you say, you make it sound like this is a situation that will never happen as people will do the same things due to their spirit being the same. This is however something that I couldn’t disagree with more.

                      Take me for example. I think I would have turned out very different if the moment I was born I was raised by terrorists instead of my parents – I would have become a terrorist, attacking people who disagreed with me instead of having polite conversations with them. I strongly believe that if you had a time machine and was able to test development and personality repeatedly by swapping babies and putting them in different environments you would get radically different results. I don’t think the spirit can influence everyone to be the same in each life because our environments are so influential.

                      I agree with you that it’s as if the bible writers didn’t know the right words to describe the creation, but that makes me wonder why they tried to write a book about it despite this and why God didn’t teach them the words and the science. I did write a huge post about this, but Genesis also gets much more wrong about science than it gets right, and in terms that they did know how to describe e.g. time, sun and moon, stars, plants and animals.

                      Ross the spirit, Ross the man, teenager, baby etc. are all very different people, and I do think they are different people. I am not the same person I was 10 years ago. I, like everyone have forgotten nearly all my memories from when I was young. But if I were to suddenly remember every single thing, I would treat it as memories being unveiled rather than being merged, so I do see what you mean there. My complaint is the idea of being accountable for things that you did when you were so different that the person can’t even fairly be described as you. This brings back the idea of punishing different versions of you which I’m still thinking about.

                      Even after death, when you are standing in front of God, there is still the question of which God you are standing in front of. It’s hard to know. What is the timeline roughly in this process of discovery, it seems very unfair to not know anything about God and then suddenly be asked to justify yourself in front of him. Most people are also not part of the LDS religion, so what does that mean for people with no one to baptise them?

                      It was a joke about cheating, but thinking about it, it could actually be possible to cheat if you had the answers and knew that whatever personality you had a spirit would be transferred to you in some way when you were born as a human, so you could work on cultivating the perfect personality to pass the test.

                      This has made me think a lot, and it’s really strange trying to actually imagine this, but I’m trying. I’ll still carry on thinking about this but hopefully clarification from you would make it easier for me.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    6. It’s been a bit, I know, but you ask very good, thoughtful questions, the sort which warrant taking time to think about my answers. (plus, life is busy when you’re helping to raise a teen)

                      To address probably the simplest point first, about why God wouldn’t just teach us all the words and such to start with… well, that’s not really the point of what He does. When he showed the prophets the creation of the world, the point wasn’t to flood the ancient world with scientific knowledge, it was to give us the tools to know who we are, why we are here, where we are going, and what the meaning of life is. And, really, as I’ve thought about it… well, you know how various churches have had tremendous conflicts over pretty much every possible point of doctrine? All of that was not His will, but the will of men with their own agendas. I can only imagine that having scientific knowledge included in that would have only added to the number of points over which people could argue. Better, I would say, to keep one’s eye on the prize, so to speak, and stick to the point, namely: teaching us the principles of His gospel.

                      Now, as for the rest…

                      Your analogy about losing one’s memory after doing bad things is a little backwards. It would be more like if you did as you were supposed to until you were 40, and then did bad things *after* losing your memory, not before. That may seem like an irrelevant distinction, but it’s important. You are alive in a mortal body right now because you already *did* the right thing once, when you had all your previous memories, but did you do it for the right reason? It’s not simply who you have been before, but who you become now and in the future, which is important.

                      As I think about it, it may be a little inaccurate to say we “lose our memories,” precisely. There is a veil placed over them, which has a very similar effect, but even so, they aren’t entirely “gone.” There are times when we seem to just recognize each other and get along, or not, for no apparent reason. There are times when, with no prior experience in this life, we simply recognize something very strongly, and *almost* remember it. There are some instances (this is not universal) where it has been intimated that certain couples and their children chose each other. And there’s my pet theory about the talents and knowledge that some people simply have a knack for, as if they’re not learning it so much as remembering it.

                      Would you really be such a different person in a different setting? Maybe, maybe not. You might be a terrorist if you were raised by terrorists, or you might be a revolutionary peacemaker. Or maybe you’d be a terrorist and then *become* a revolutionary peacemaker. What I do know is that we are not only the sum of our experiences, and the sum of what we are taught.

                      Back in the days of slavery in America, there was a young boy who witnessed a line of slaves being taken to whatever fate awaited them. The boy’s father thought it was entirely normal, and sought to impress such upon the boy. But the boy did not accept that. He grew up to begin the Underground Railroad, which many men and women, also raised by parents and a society which thought this to be normal, risked their lives to participate in.

                      If you were in and entirely different setting, with entirely different values, priorities, and goals, would even that make you an entirely different person? If you are a soul who dedicates himself wholly, with zeal and passion, to one cause, would that be different if you were part of another cause? Heck, by your own argument, that ought to be true anyway, if one really is the product of how one is raised.

                      To use a somewhat flawed, but relevant, comparison, we have the Biblical story of Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul the Apostle. As Saul, he was fiercely passionate and dedicated to what he believed was right, with a zeal and skill for oration that took him fairly far fairly fast. Then he had a transformative experience, when the Lord visited him and it was made abundantly clear that he was on the wrong side. He had such regret for what he had done to innocent disciples of Christ that he changed his name, casting off the identity of Saul entirely. But he was still dedicated and passionate, still zealous and possessing all of his oratory skills.

                      Not a perfect comparison, as I said, as we are discussing if we are the same person with or without our memories, and Paul still retained all of his. But relevant because he became a different person, but still he was the same person, with the same talents and drives and such which he had previously possessed. And, above all, he ultimately had the same inclination to do what was right, the best that he knew how.

                      Which, by the way, is the criteria for which one first stands before God after death. The most important question is what we did and why, and whether we followed the promptings of His spirit, whether we knew that’s what it was or not.

                      And on that note, a quick answer to your question about the people who have no one to baptize them… well, we have at least a thousand years to work with during the Millennium after Christ’s Second Coming, and no one – *no one* – will be left unaccounted for by the time it’s all over. *Everyone* will have the opportunity presented to them, even if they have to be a bit patient to receive it.

                      One thing I notice, throughout what we have been talking about, is that you seem… well, concerned about the ideas of punishment and consequence (as well one should be, of course). I must admit that my most reflexive inclination, when I find myself pondering this subject, is to focus on my own welfare, rather than contemplate the fates of others. Meaning, rather than judge others, I try to improve myself, to do better, to be better. So, admittedly, I may not have given proper consideration to how I might adequately explain such to others, to people with differing perspectives. What I *can* say, with confidence, is that we are spirits, and children of our Heavenly Father. We are accountable for the truth of ourselves and our lives, and it is ours to determine how that experience will go. There is justice and mercy alike in the plan, and ultimately everything will simply be… fair.

                      It is a part of my personal testimony that I know, things will work out all right in the end. We don’t need to fear eternity nearly as much as one might think. Of course, we should also not take it lightly, but there’s a balance to be found there. 😉

                      Liked by 1 person

                    7. That really means a lot to me, I’m so glad! I really like answering thoughtful questions as well so I’m glad you feel mine are of that quality! Honestly, people who look after kids are amazing, I don’t have any, but with my job I already feel so incredibly busy that I respect people who take the time to do it so much. Keep up the good work, and I understand very much being busy so don’t worry about it.

                      I think that’s perfectly reasonable to say, a God could prioritise that aspect more. The book of scientific knowledge would have been much more of a gift than a guide. I feel still though that since it wasn’t God’s intention to teach science, it should all have been left out, especially the inaccuracies. I suppose would men apposing their own agenda be the reason for why these inaccuracies are in the bible?

                      Does this mean that only good spirits can become human? That’s a very interesting thing to learn, and of course, it does change things. The period of time where you were good, is of course worthy of merit, but that person doesn’t exist anymore as they became the bad person. So I guess you would punish them still?

                      The difficult thing for me is the losing your memories. I feel that someone’s sense of self is so closely tied to their memories that if they lose literally all of them (including sight and all the things about the word from when they were a baby) they are not the same person. It’s the idea of me not being at all the same if I was raised by terrorists. Still, the good spirit is gone at this point anyway, so practically, you couldn’t really give the reward to the spirt only as they have changed.

                      If that’s true, then it would be very hard to know. Some people are naturally better at things than others and it’s not easy to explain why. There are natural things like your size as gender as well as what you do everyday that could impact it, but I suppose there’s no way to know if it is a spirit or not as well. Would the fact that people can’t learn things to full mastery without a lot of time and effort be evidence against this, or is the veil just that difficult to cross?

                      I think we would only be entirely different if we had entirely different memories as well. This is why I’m having problems thinking about this, I don’t think we have the same definition of self and who we are. To me who we are is tied to our memories, personality, and experience, that if it’s all lost, we aren’t the same person. If our personality changes completely, I’d still say we could be considered the same person, as long as you have memories of who you were and a sense of continuation and knowledge of how you changed. So, if the spirit exists, it’s something that we would all have right now. This means if we were to lose all of our memories, the person and spirit combination would be a different person to the previous spirit and person combination in my mind.

                      If you are talking about the idea that we are the same person because of our physical body and spirit, regardless of anything else, then I would have to accept that definition. I struggle to accept that we are the same person if only the body/spirit is the same, so I would like to know your thoughts on that.

                      I see what you mean, he kept his passion and zeal before and after, just directed in different directions. That was important to say as it made me realise I see the continuation of experience and memories as vital to what the self is.

                      Say for someone like me, living in the age of reporting, I feel like I wouldn’t be missed if people were that insistent on following this up. But how are the people who died in the caveman times going to be remembered and prayed for? Nobody would know their names, or what they did or what they looked like. Would it be digging up every spot of ground and praying for every skeleton? That would be one way, but what if someone had every single part of them burned, how could we find that and baptise them later? I am very glad to hear you say that everyone will be baptised, I like that a lot, and it is quite equal.

                      Well punishment and justice is a very good way to judge the morals of a religion, if a religion claims to have a perfect, all loving, all moral God, then judging them by the system they created and assessing it’s quality is a really good way to identify how all perfect they really are. Yeah I think it’s quite easy to make assumptions, I’m of course guilty myself, which is why that whole “is hell a threat” idea was such a good thing to talk about with you.

                      Yeah, that sounds ok to me! Thank you for your thoughts, especially for the question of self and spirits it’s been so thought provoking.

                      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Rossi, thank you for getting your thoughts out here. I’m a Christian (Roman Catholic) and I think the points you raise are excellent ones. It takes a lot of guts and maturity to make such a break with the world you were raised in. Stay strong, friend! 💪

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello! Yes it is often controversial, but it’s always better to be talking about stuff like this than not having the conversation in the first place.

      Part of what makes me enjoy these posts so much is having conversations with people who disagree, because if I’m wrong it’s better to know and find out.

      I was a protestant (Technically Anglican but we were very inclusive and kind of all over the place) so this was said a lot to us. Is this the same with the catholic church? Do they support having a relationship with God in the same way?

      Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree on both fronts: It’s better to have these conversations in the first place, and it’s quite enjoyable to talk with people who have different perspectives. Also, I love the meme about Jesus knocking! XD

        Does Catholicism support having a relationship with God *in the same way*? I think that last phrase is key. There’s no doubt that the whole point of Christianity is to have a relationship with God; it’s what that’s actually supposed to look like that’s the question.

        There are, in fact, Catholics who take that kind of view that you described, but it’s hardly a core part of the faith. Like Anglicans, Catholics are all over the map in terms of practices and beliefs, and they can all still be considered Catholic. One of the things I appreciate about my religion is that, despite its reputation, it isn’t all that dogmatic in most areas. Catholicism prefers to let its members work out and try out different approaches to life within pretty broad limits. If you look at the Eastern Catholics (as opposed to the Roman Catholics), you’ll find some very different expressions of faith, and very different language used to talk about God. It’s all still Catholic.

        One point that the Church *is* pretty clear on, though, is that the goal of everything we do is to attain union with God. “God became man so that man could become God” is how the Catechism puts it. It sounds to me like that’s pretty different than the “relationship” you’re describing. The center of this process of unification is the Eucharist, which we believe is, quite literally, Jesus’s Body and Blood. So it’s an extraordinarily intimate encounter with God.

        So much for doctrine. What follows is just my experience, i.e., what for me is my relationship with God. In the Eucharist, I do (at least a lot of the time) experience the presence of God in a unique way. That experience is not the center or foundation of my faith, but it is a very precious part of my experience of God. So too in other forms of prayer, to a lesser extent. Learning how to engage in Lectio Divina made a great impact on my ability to encounter God in prayer, for what it’s worth. I don’t know whether I could put that experience adequately into words, but for me these encounters serve to show that God is putting in the time to get to know me as well as vice-versa.

        So in sum: I think Catholicism provides scope for a personal relationship with God, but not necessarily in the terms you gave. I’m not a theologian, and I’m still learning about faith, God, etc. So I apologize in advance if this is not particularly well-articulated!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I am very happy you find the meme funny; I hope not because you think it’s true!

          I suppose this is only natural when there is such a large group of people, and it makes sense to not divide each other over differences. My church was just the same, all forms of Christianity with the exclusion of crazy cults had the right idea and heart even if they did other things strangely.

          So, do you consider yourself to have literally eaten Jesus? When you say literally, is it literally as in you are a cannibal? If someone were to eat your body, would you consider it an “extraordinarily intimate encounter” with the person? It just seems like that’s not what you mean, and I’ve missed something . For example, if you did a DNA test on the wafer, you wouldn’t expect to find 100% human DNA right?

          What was it like before and after learning Lectio Divina? Could you relate to my experience of not feeling like God was there at all? And I am also very interested in what your experiences are/were like? What shows you the effort that God is putting in?

          I see what you mean in terms of the differences. In Protestantism it’s more of a best friend kind of thing instead of what you seem to be describing. Attaining a union with God is more of a thing you yourself have to work towards, there’s not the idea that God wants a relationship with you and will come looking with arms wide open.

          To this I would object with “Why is God making people work so hard to be with him when he could so easily be with them?” But I am at least glad there isn’t the false promise and expectation, at least expectations are more realistic.

          I am no scholar either, and I don’t articulate myself well, this post needed 16 revisions before I was happy with it! You may disagree based on my reply, but I found your comment very interesting, and thought it was well articulated, and it’s having the conversation which is important mostly, which is why I’m really happy to be having this discussion with you. Thank you!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I assure you that I like the meme on its own merits and humor, not because I think it true! In fact, it never occurred to me that someone might think it true until I read your post. But now I can definitely see how that could be the case. And I know *plenty* of people (myself included) who have developed ideas of an abusive God because of how we were taught or treated by those who represented God to us (like priests or preachers). I’ve been un-learning my own set of these ideas for years.

            Re the Eucharist: Wow, you really got to the heart of it! XD So, um, yeah: I believe I’ve eaten God. Years ago I asked a Catholic friend of mine how he would respond to the “Are you a cannibal then?” question; his response was to get a crazy gleam in his eye and say, “That’s right, I *am* a cannibal!” To my mind, it honestly doesn’t matter: There’s enough of a difference between the Eucharist and ‘everyday’ cannibalism.

            For starters, the Eucharist is a sacrament: The point of it is not physical nourishment, but spiritual nourishment (i.e., grace, the life of God). Normal food, when eaten, becomes assimilated into us; we, eating God, become assimilated into him. To eat normal food requires breaking it apart. But in receiving the Eucharist, Jesus’s body is not broken: Every piece of the sacrament is his entire and complete body. When the material components of the Eucharist are digested, Jesus remains physically whole and complete. (There are theological reasons underpinning these beliefs; I’m trying to limit myself only to the most important points for reasons of space! Happy to discuss more on any of these points if you like. Suffice it to say that we understand the Eucharist to be *literally* the physical body and blood of Jesus, but in a supernatural way—a “sacramental mode” of being that differs from normal physical modes of being.)

            And part of the nature of the sacrament is that, yes, it still appears to be bread and wine (whether under a microscope or otherwise). Having said that, there are numerous reported cases of the Eucharist visibly becoming a piece of flesh and/or some blood. In a handful of cases, they were indeed placed under a microscope and shown to be human flesh and blood. I myself have seen two of the remains of these alleged miracles, but of course I wasn’t able to personally verify that they had originally been bread or wine. These cases notwithstanding, however, I do not consider them important to my faith: My belief must be first grounded in reason and experience, not miracles, unless those miracles be confirmed by my reason or experience. And of course, when dealing with alleged miracles, skepticism should be the default starting position.

            Now, all of this begs the question, “why?” And thousands of books have been written on this. My personal take is simply that it’s a really intimate experience to encounter someone on a deep physical level. It has a kind of similarity to my experience of having sex. In both cases, there’s an interpenetration of bodies, a physical union but without the destruction of one or the other. And in both cases, it’s not simply about the body: The encounter of bodies merely mediates an encounter between persons. There’s communication there on a deeper level than mere words can express. (It’s not a coincidence that the Church has also made sex a sacrament.)

            Lectio Divina is a way for me to encounter God in a similar way outside of the Mass. And once I understood how reading contemplatively could create room for that encounter, I realized that any kind of contemplative experience can be “read” in the same way. Watching the sunset and enjoying a cigar, for example.

            While I have definitely felt at times that God was not present to me, I don’t really think of my relationship with him in terms of “effort” that either of us is putting into it. If anything, the effort on my part is not of doing, but of ‘not-doing’, of calming my mind and giving myself space from distractions so as to be more in tune with him. God is always ‘doing’; all I need to “do” is ‘not-do’ so as to create a space in my heart for his doing to take effect. One way I’ve described it before is that it’s 1% me, and 120% God. Make of that what you will. 🙂

            Finally, I will say that I think my God would prefer your sincere atheism to insincere worship or ‘faith’. We have no reason to fear the truth, wherever our encounter with it may lead us.

            Always a fun discussion with you, my friend! Thank you for inviting this conversation. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            1. And thank you for continuing it! Sometimes I’m worried I’ll say something like that, and the person won’t respond, and that the comment will just be on my blog forever.

              I think it’s a fair to say that representatives of God are often wrong and teach bad things, and it’s true that I may not be arguing about what the bible actually says, but about what my old church said the bible says. And what you said about un-learning abusive beliefs about God is really encouraging, doubt and questioning can only be a good thing as it will lead to a more correct answer.

              It’s very obvious to me that you wouldn’t eat Jesus if he came back to Earth. I agree with your skepticism completely. And I am in the same boat as you where I wouldn’t believe that it turned into the body of Christ physically until it was completely proven. To the best of my knowledge though, it’s not been proven to become the body of Christ spiritually as well. So why hold off judgement on the physical part but believe the spiritual part when the amount of evidence is the same?

              I have the same philosophy of starting from skepticism so I would need both or at least one of these things to be proven to believe it, so this is sort of my way of asking for proof/why you believe this.

              I am slightly worried about those bread to flesh investigations. Significant evidence (for me at least) for the bread turning into flesh would be many experiments in many different countries all producing the same DNA. In the experiments that you saw, was the DNA the exact same? The alternative is that (assuming the results weren’t faked or caused by error in the test) somebody would have had to have self-harmed in order to fake a result, and that just sounds horrible, and easy to find out by doing a DNA test on the researchers and close friends/family.

              I didn’t expect you to compare Eucharist to sex, but it does help me understand what Eucharist is like to you. What is the “communication there on a deeper level than mere words can express” like? I know you can’t describe it, but does it all feel internal or does it feel like God is coming to you externally? What is the communication like e.g. just one emotion, or many different kinds of feelings? Do the emotions change each time – one time might it be God telling you something you should do in your life while another time he might do something different like praise you?

              I think that’s a really good point, and a good explanation for why people may not have encountered God if he is real.

              I unfortunately didn’t have the same experience as you. In these quiet times, and times of prayer, I would never feel anything. In my head I would always consider it a brick wall blocking my route to God because that’s exactly what it felt like. Why do you feel God would repeatedly give me zero signs of his presence when you know we both wanted a relationship?

              After so many attempts without getting anything back from someone who supposedly wanted a relationship with me, I had to conclude that he never wanted one. Potentially that’s why I classed it as effort because it felt as if I was trying so much, and God wasn’t trying at all. It’s not easy to find a quiet space and have a quiet time, so that is something I consider to be effort.

              I think that’s true – it’s much better to be honest with yourself and try to find truth. If you have a doubt, it’s much better to look into it as you will either find a answer to change your beliefs or find out the reason why there’s no reason to doubt and never have the doubt again.

              Thanks for the discussion! Really glad we can have this conversation.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. So WordPress didn’t notify that you’d replied to my comment. Glad I checked!

                For sure, anyone who speaks for God runs the risk of screwing up! (I mean, you’d have to live under a rock to not know how much Catholics have made a mess of people’s lives in the last few decades alone…) But the truth can be spoken by a screwed-up person, whatever that truth might be. Conversely, I’m not going to discount atheism just because someone terrible like (say) Stalin was an atheist. Truth is truth wherever it’s found.

                You’re right that I wouldn’t eat Jesus if he showed up in front of me in the form of a human being. Catholic theology uses the phrase “Body of Christ” in several different and clearly defined senses. The way Jesus was present during his earthly life we would call his “natural” body. All Christians, we say, belong to his “mystical” body (this is the divine union that I mentioned earlier). And the Eucharist helps to bridge the two: as the “sacramental” body of Christ, it helps us to be more closely united to and assimilated with his mystical body. This is a really short summary of the theology the Catholic Church worked out over about 900 years!

                Why do I believe any of this? Well, it’s complicated, and I don’t have a set or pat answer. For me, the discovery of truth is not something you finish and then move on: It’s rather a dialogical process, constantly considering options and re-evaluating the old in light of the new. Generally speaking, I accept the Eucharist as the sacramental-physical body of Christ because I accept the authority of the Church *and* because it seems consonant with my experience (as I’ve described previously). But mystical experience isn’t something that is easily communicated to someone else, so I don’t consider it a sufficient answer to your question as to why I believe, even though it’s part of a sufficient answer to me. So the key question becomes, why do I accept the authority of the Church?

                Again, it’s a dialogical process. I was raised Catholic, so that determined my starting point; but it didn’t determine that I would stay here. There are plenty of people, after all, who were raised the same way and left Catholicism (even in my family). In high school I compared Catholicism to other Christian groups, and it seemed to me that Catholicism had the most solid historical grounds for its claim to preeminence among the Christian churches. I also at various times explored non-Christian religions and, again, found that Catholicism made the most sense to me. Though if I were not Catholic, I would probably turn to Hinduism: It’s the other religion that seems to me to best combine the mystical and the rational. I’ve also developed a strong appreciation for Taoism and Buddhism, and to an extent have incorporated the former’s philosophy (though not ritual practice) into my Catholicism.

                There’s also been an evolution in what simply ‘being Catholic’ means to me. It wasn’t until I was a young adult, for example, that I learned that (according to the Church) we’re created to become divine. That changed my outlook on life quite a lot! Exploring the thought of the Church also led me, through a long process, to disentangle myself from the religious and political conservativism of my family: I found political parties and people espousing principles that contradicted what I knew of Catholic teaching, and upon examination the latter appeared to me more coherent and consistent.

                And my evolution isn’t done yet. It’s entirely possible that I might evolve out of Catholicism someday. What matters is following the truth.

                With respect to alleged Eucharistic miracles: I share your concern that self-harm could be committed to fake evidence! Since I don’t consider these events essential to my faith, I’m not really well-read on the subject. However, there is a website that gives a *lot* of information on it, from a Catholic perspective naturally, at http://www.miracolieucaristici.org/en/Liste/list.html; you might start with one of the most famous alleged miracles, that of Lanciano, Italy (http://www.miracolieucaristici.org/en/Liste/scheda_b.html?nat=italia&wh=lanciano&ct=Lanciano,%20750%20D.C.). Incidentally, the creator of the website, now deceased, was a young man who is known for his love of anime and video games, especially Pokemon; and he is now considered a Catholic saint! 🙂

                As far as my own experience with the Eucharist goes, I would say that only very, very rarely have I experienced strong emotions in connection to it (or in connection to anything spiritual or mystical). It’s almost the opposite, like something so subtle it’s below the level of an emotion or a feeling. If I had to put a word to it, it might best be described as “knowing”, but of an immediate and not dialectical kind: the kind of knowing you get from direct experience of a reality and not from reasoning about it. Usually, of course, immediate knowing occurs through the senses, and in this case it doesn’t.

                “Communication on a deeper level than words”: Have you ever had a friend that you were so close to that you could just sit in each other’s company for hours without doing or saying anything? I’ve only had a couple, and it’s a precious experience. It’s something kind of like that.

                As for your own experience—I believe you! 🙂 And I think the differences in experience that people have is a good reason not to rely on it too much as a guide for religion, life, or what have you. At the end of the day, what matters is what is true, whatever the cost to accept it.

                Thank you as always for the enjoyable and respectful conversation!

                Liked by 1 person

                1. It’s sometimes weird like that and I have no idea why. Anyway, I’m extremely glad you did check back! Thanks!

                  Yeah agreed, and what we see today is the natural extension of religion being like Chinese whispers. I’m not going to discount Catholicism just because Hitler was a Catholic either. It seems like these things happen for reasons far removed from religious beliefs/lack of beliefs.

                  I think I get it. Jesus’ sacramental body helps your natural body assimilate to Christs mystical body (The body of the Christ who is now in heaven) while Jesus’ natural body is decayed/gone/not relevant depending on if you think it was a spiritual resurrection or a full body resurrection. I know there are disagreements on this so don’t want to assume anything.

                  I agree with that. It’s also harder to accept personal testimony without being there. A lot of stories are in the telling. I would passionately tell people the miracles God did for me, leaving out the details of how the events were actually quite likely to happen. Not to say you’re like this, but I understand why you would want to leave it out.

                  I really admire that investigation process and knowing things about other religions like that. I don’t really have a backup choice in mind, potentially Christianity as I’m still in the closet to most of the people I knew before University about my beliefs, and not being in that might be nicer.

                  You don’t have to be in the Catholic church to believe what the Catholic church believes right? Have you considered having the beliefs of the Catholic Church, without being associated with all their controversies?

                  I couldn’t agree more, there’s always more truth to find, I find it incredibly rare to read a comment that doesn’t change my perspective even slightly or make me think.

                  I read the second experiment that you linked to. it’s more researched than I expected it to be, but it didn’t seem thorough enough to remove alternative explanations. If this is the best experiment, it doesn’t encourage me to read the others, so apologies for that. We are in a world where this experiment is ridiculously easy for us to do, and therefore we live in a world where it’s ridiculously easy to prove the existence of God. It could be done tomorrow. I feel like something more recent and thorough would need to be what proves it, and we could literally do that and convert everyone so quickly. It’s amazing how far science has come.

                  It’s always nice to know when a saint likes Pokemon! It doesn’t feel like that long ago that Pokemon were the equivalent of demons. I got our Youth Worker into a lot of trouble once for re-creating a video of the Christmas story where (because we were boys and had no baby dolls) we used a Pikachu toy to represent Jesus. It didn’t go down very well at all, but I still think the video was pretty funny.

                  Interesting, due to your last comment I would have thought that it was always very strong. It sounds similar to when you’re in a situation with a friend where something happens, and you know each other so well that a simple look or expression is enough to communicate exactly what you want to say at that time. Could this feeling be something that occurs naturally? Or is it something that you feel could only happen in someone in a supernatural way?

                  Truth is universal, so pursuing it is important. I’m not sure if we can find it for certain in terms of religion – “How can we rule out super advanced aliens trying to mess with us?” – but it’s absolutely worth trying and not stopping.

                  Thank you! Respectful conversations are what I’m looking for, so this makes me happy. It’s not always easy when it’s so personal, but it’s always worth trying. This post itself could be considered quite offensive, but I hope it comes across that I’m only intending to criticise ideas and that I’m not out to target anyone personally.

                  Interesting as always, I also had no idea how little I knew about the Catholicism belief structures as well so this is a really great discussion for me! Thanks!

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. I greatly appreciate your understanding in this conversation: from not judging Catholicism by Hitler to WordPress’s inconsistent notification system! And I’m chuckling over here over your Pikachu Jesus story! XD But I’m sorry to hear that you can’t be “out” as an atheist to those around you. I wish there were something I could do to support you in this.

                    I’m glad you’re enjoying learning about the Catholic theology we’ve discussed! Catholicism really is a very different kind of entity than the evangelical Christianity that most Americans think of when they hear the word “Christian”. (Your story sounds a lot to me like an experience of American Christianity, so I’ve assumed you’re American; if not, please excuse me.) That can lead to a lot of misunderstandings.

                    You’re basically right about the sacramental/natural/mystical Body of Christ. I would just note that the Eucharist assimilates the human *person* (not merely the human body) to the Mystical Body. As far as Jesus’s natural body is concerned, Catholics believe that he was raised from the dead and his natural body now exists in heaven, not our universe. (Whether heaven has some sort of space or time constituent to it is a question far more speculative than I care to get into here! The Catholic Church, at any rate, has never taught one way or the other.)

                    No worries if you’re not interested in pursuing the Eucharistic miracles thing further. As I said, it’s not something essential to the Catholic faith. I will note that the Lanciano miracle that I linked to is not necessarily the best set of experiments, just (as I stated previously) one of the better known ones: it’s more famous. I think it’s cool if some of these are true, but I’m not going to lose sleep over them one way or the other. It’s a big universe, after all, and even if something can’t be explained by our current understanding of science, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a miracle. There was a book some years ago published by an atheist medical doctor who verified a miraculous cure for the Vatican: She can’t explain how the cure took place, but she also correctly pointed out that this doesn’t prove it was a miracle.

                    I like your analogy for my experience of prayer: like knowing what a friend is thinking simply with a glance. Yeah, that’s kind of like it. As for whether it’s natural or supernatural, I’m not sure how to address that without getting into a philosophical discussion into the meaning of “nature”. If, as the Catholic faith teaches, human nature is fulfilled in union with God’s divine nature, then there’s nothing unnatural about experiencing it in some way. But what I think you’re really asking is, does it prove to me that God exists? Well, I would say no. It’s possible for there to be another explanation for what I experience. I’m interpreting my experience in accord with the principles I believe to be true; and if those someday change, I’ll reinterpret accordingly.

                    Catholicism doesn’t place as high a priority on individuals’ supernatural experiences as it seems to me American protestant churches tend to. It’s very rare for someone to have a “Paul on the road to Damascus” moment of encounter with God in a way one can sense; and even if they do, that’s just an encouragement to explore Catholicism, not the foundation of their faith. Catholicism wants us to be constantly asking the “Pontius Pilate Question”: What is Truth?

                    Now, you asked me a very intriguing question: “You don’t have to be in the Catholic church to believe what the Catholic church believes right? Have you considered having the beliefs of the Catholic Church, without being associated with all their controversies?” When you say “controversies”, are you referring to things like the sex abuse scandals? Just want to make sure I understand what you mean.

                    It’s true that I could pick some subset of Catholic articles of faith to believe and follow them without belonging to the Catholic Church. However, Catholicism is very communal in a way that American Protestantism is not: Salvation is as much as for a group as it is individual; the individual is saved by belonging to the group (i.e. the Mystical Body of Christ discussed earlier). So there are some doctrines that I absolutely couldn’t hold to be true while not belonging to the Church, such as “There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church.” Leaving the Church would necessarily entail getting rid of that belief.

                    Hope you are well and enjoying the new anime season!

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. For staying in the closet, the main worry is really my job, for other things, it’s just to avoid a weird conversation. Nobody has seriously asked me are you an atheist? If they did, I’d probably tell them if I knew them well. I did come close to telling people once or twice, but the conversation changed, and I seemed to lose the moment.

                      So, this is UK Christianity, generally what you would find in most churches in the UK. A fair amount of this was based on a huge Christian event with many people from all kinds of different churches, so this is fairly standard beliefs in the UK. The main difference is that many Americans are Fundamentalists whereas in the UK very few people are or have the confidence to admit it. They don’t exactly embrace science if it disagrees with them, when the big bang theory was first emerging, many people were opposed to it, but I would say most people eventually come to accept the science.

                      That’s good to know. It’s hard to believe I knew so little about it. I was friends with a few Catholics, but we never really discussed the differences very much.

                      That’s true actually, we can’t just rest on “there is no other explanation” where there are many things we simply don’t understand. We have to positively prove it rather than prove it by taking away the alternatives. Even after it’s proven there is a huge matter of understanding what was happening that would need to be looked at further.

                      As for what is natural and what isn’t, I would say that natural is stuff in science that we know for a fact is real, so I was more asking if it could be explained by things that we know are real rather than stuff that isn’t. You did answer the question, but I just wanted to clarify what natural meant to me. It wasn’t so much that I was asking for proof (although that would be great!) but more that I wanted to ask if there were other explanations.

                      Of course, now that you have said that I must ask you “What is Truth?”

                      Yes, I am referring to those scandals: sex abuse, covering up paedophiles, no condoms as a method of contraception, treatment of gay people, women in the priesthood, making children terrified of hell, and even stuff like the crusades and their agreement with Hitler. I am of course not saying that any Catholic is happy with these events, nor that I expect controversies like this to continue (I hope the opposite) or that anyone in the catholic church supports these controversies, but they are things that have happened, and are things that could make people want to continue doing what the catholic church believes without actually being a part of it.

                      “There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church.” Is a problem to me. You could do everything else correctly but because you are not in the catholic church you will not be saved. It sounds like something that the church would make up in my opinion to make people stay. It also brings the implication that most people in the UK and America, despite praying to the same God, will go to the same place as everyone else for not joining an organisation.

                      I’m doing well, had a week’s holiday from work so feeling relaxed. Hope you are doing well too. The only thing I’m watching is the way of the household husband. I’ve stopped watching anime nearly entirely but will occasionally watch if I happen across it and it looks good. Thanks for the discussion!

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                    2. So you’ve asked a some questions that have given me food for thought. 🙂 I’ll try to answer them in order from easiest (for me) to most difficult.

                      “There is no salvation outside the Church” may have been an unclear example. I just meant it as one sample of doctrine that I can’t very well adhere to while also leaving the Church, since you were asking about leaving the Church but believing the same things. But it wouldn’t really keep me in the Church on its own: If I believe the Catholic faith, I’ll stay regardless of that tenet; and if I lose my faith, well, I wouldn’t believe that idea either!

                      Having said that, “No salvation outside the Church” does not mean non-Catholics can’t be saved: It means that their salvation is accomplished through the ministry and prayers of the Church. Believing that there is a heaven, I also believe it is entirely possible you can go there even if you die as a committed, sincere atheist. I imagine it would be a great pleasure to meet all of my aniblogger friends there in person and continue these delightful conversations (albeit on a more transcendent level)!

                      Regarding scandals, especially abuse in the Church (sexual or otherwise), yeah: It’s a tragedy beyond words—but hopefully not beyond action. Among all of the people who have left the Church as a result, there is not one I fault for it; nor do I believe God will judge them critically for doing so. For my part, I have been privileged to find greater good within the Church than evil, and so here I remain. And I am happy to work alongside anyone, Catholic or not, trying to bring an end to these atrocities.

                      (For the record, I consider all of the examples you gave scandals with only two exceptions. One is Catholic teaching on contraception: It is difficult, but I do not see any logical or ethical problem with it. The other is women as priests: While I won’t object if the Church ever gives it the green light, the real issue to me is that the Church needs to allow women—or rather, non-priests—to have more authority and say in it. The priest’s role has become one concentrated with power, but it doesn’t have to be. An alternative could be divesting the priesthood of authority, leaving it only a ritual role, and allowing lay people to fill positions of authority instead. That’s a very short take on a very deep discussion!)

                      Now, what is Truth? 🙂 All I meant previously was to contrast the search for truth with the search for “signs and wonders” or miracles or things that can’t be explained by nature. These latter things do not play a huge role in the Church’s understanding of itself or in its case for its truthfulness. We believe God prefers to work through nature (as you defined it, more or less) than against: After all, we believe he created natural laws in the first place! The only exceptions the Church firmly acknowledges are those from the lives of Jesus and his apostles—basically what we see in the New Testament. Outside of that, well, you can believe in any miracles you want; but the Church doesn’t rest her case or put her authority on them.

                      The Church takes the view that in the ultimate sense, Jesus aka God the Son is the fundamental Truth that we humans can encounter. Everything else it teaches is built around understanding who he is and facilitating our encounter with him (primarily through the sacraments). And that, I suppose, leads us full circle back to your original topic, namely having a relationship with God! XD

                      Glad you had a relaxing vacation! I’m happy because the new anime season is bringing lots of quality goodies! 🙂 If I wrote half as much for my blog as I’ve been doing for yours, you could see some of my recommendations!!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. I’m glad for that! Apologies for the long response time, it’s been so busy recently.
                      To be honest that does sound really good, heaven was the one thing that I was so excited about as a Christian, so I do still like that idea of eternal paradise (who wouldn’t) – as long as I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to i.e. worship God then that sounds great to me! I guess we would mostly be in agreement however, as surely being in heaven would change my mind, either that or you would have to convince me I don’t have a mental illness!
                      Yes, all organisations including the Catholic church can change for the better, and I hope this continues to always be the case. The reason why the Catholic church’s stance on contraception was so controversial was because it was directed to the aids crisis in Africa. Abstinence prevents the spread of aids, being faithful does as well, but the pope also said that using condoms increases the chances of aids, when it is completely not the case, leading to significantly more people having the disease.
                      The second one about reducing the power of the priests is an idea I really like; I think it would be a great solution. Either one of those choices would be great for promoting and supporting equality. I feel the current inequality is still quite serious – I don’t see a good reason for it to have continued to this year with women being treated as less equal, when we know it shouldn’t be the case.
                      Interesting. An encouragement for the search of truth is something I can definitely agree with. The miracles that Jesus did are very fundamental to the belief so I would see why that would be the case. Is there any reason given by the church as to why the miracles performed by Jesus are more likely to be correct than the more recent miracles by saints?
                      I would like to know why Jesus is the most fundamental truth you can encounter, and I’ll use an example to show what I mean. A criticism against the laws of logic is that you are using the laws of logic to justify the laws of logic, so it’s circular, which is true. However, we use logic because it has consistently been proven to produce effective results, and as soon as it stops doing so, that’s when we will stop using it.
                      In the same way, you can’t use Jesus saying “I am the fundamental truth” to show that he is the fundamental truth, so is their other ways that you know this, and if so, what?

                      I know what you mean, I mostly write comments as well! If you want it differently, I’m very happy to talk on Twitter DM’s (I think we have added each other) or if you were to write your thoughts in a blog post I’d really want to read and comment there!

                      I’m glad you’re doing well and enjoying anime! I finished the way of the household husband and started watching Baki and Avatar the last air bender – so maybe I’m more into anime than I thought! I’m having quite a good time with both. If you do write anything, feel free to let me know (I don’t really look at blogs unless they share their posts on Twitter) and there’s no harm in me trying something out!

                      Liked by 1 person

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