Book Review: Village Atheists

Neither the village idiot nor the village atheist escaped being socially marginalized in nineteenth century America. Both distinct minorities, both pariahs, each faced discrimination, but where the village idiot was a gormless figure, the village atheist was often an intelligent threat to the religious status quo. The village idiot was gullible and harmless, the village atheist a sword in the side of Christian dogma. The idiot originated from bad genes, a simpleton often cruelly treated, the atheist hatched from choice and fiercely unwelcomed in American society. One viewed as a pathetic mistake of nature, the other ostracized and jerked around for believing unorthodoxy. Open range freethinking gave the Christian church fits, still does.

At this time in American history, being an atheist was akin to wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ cap to a Black Lives Matter protest, or being a person of color at a KKK rally. You were not welcomed. You risked scorn, ostracism, denial of basic civil rights, and the real possibility of being run out of town; life could get ugly. Through the lives of four prominent infidels, who courageously fought from a godless platform for equality and justice, Leigh Eric Schmidt, in his book Village Atheists: How America’s Unbelievers Made Their Way in a Godly Nation, traces the historical recognition of the village atheist as an American personage.

The term ‘village atheist’ was created in 1808 by a review of George Crabbe’s poem, ‘The Parish Register.’ Crabbe refers to the ‘ruffian atheist,’ but the Monthly Review changed it to ‘village atheist,’ hence, the moniker Schmidt chose for the title of his book and the early label for freethinkers (14).

Most consequential nineteenth century infidel trailblazers (materialists, philanthropists, positivists, humanists, humanitarians, atheists, freethinkers, etc.) buttressed their views on influential predecessors like Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and others, as well as the oratory superstar, ‘the champion blasphemer of America,’ Robert Ingersoll (48). Atheists needed all the help they could get as they struggled for equal standing under the law. Unbelievers believed the Christian narrative a lie and committed to campaign against it. Schmidt offers the reader an eye-opening account of this despised and demonized group of citizens striving for their place in ‘the American Dream.’

Of the four stalwarts Schmidt highlights in his book, Samuel Porter Putnam, (1838-1896), who referred to himself as the ‘Secular Pilgrim,’ (27) was the first. A son of a preacher, a Harvard graduate, and a minister of a Congregational church, Putnam painted a bumpy and colorful personal history. He left his wife and church, referred to traditional marriage as a ‘relic of barbarism, the child of Orthodoxy’ (45), and became an advocate of ‘free love.’ Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride had nothing on the roller-coaster odyssey of Putnam’s conga with faith and unbelief having had ‘two switchbacks into faith and three separate stints in Congregational and Unitarian ministries’ (27), simultaneously dangling from strings of freethinking. He became a bookkeeper, a civil servant, a free thought lecturer crisscrossing America, a novelist, a poet, an editor, a historian, becoming president of the American Secular Union, 1887.

He died a suspicious death in a hotel room from a gas leak in December 1896, with a young free-thought associate named May L. Collins (60-65). He was 58 and she 20. After a night of socializing, he escorted her to her apartment. Found dead the next morning, fully clothed, the bed undisturbed, with two empty whisky bottles, rumors exploded. Free lovers, double suicide, did he drug her then commit suicide, what really happened? A dedicated and widely known freethinker, Putnam died in a flurry of inquiries about his death, not unlike the slew of questions about the moral compass by which he lived.

The second luminary, Watson Heston, (1846-1905), was a gifted self-taught cartoonist who, having no Christian up bringing, honed a razor sharp antagonism to the Church. His ‘take no prisoners’ approach in his prolific cartoons made him a favorite with fellow infidels as his vicious anti-Christianity sketches went viral. Heston’s work appeared in a variety of godless publications of the time, and later influenced Cecil B. DeMille’s 1929 film, The Godless Girl (167). To the end Heston maintained his staunch antithesis to Christianity, but unfortunately on a par with his artistic skills was his inability to manage money, he died broke.

The third atheist highlighted by Schmidt was C. B. Reynolds, (1832-1896), an ex-Seventh-Day Adventist evangelist, who became “a Free- thought evangelist’ (171). Schmidt could not find an exact reason why Reynolds left Adventism other than ‘loss of faith,’ (circa December 1882), where it was stated he had ‘outgrown the narrow grooves of his church’ (182). There are no reports of moral collapse or character issues to explain his jump from Adventism. Reynolds attributes Mr. and Mrs. Elias Gault as a great influence on his decision, along with the newspaper Truth Seeker.

Though a widely esteemed lecturer, he is eminently remembered for his Boonton-Morristown grand jury trial in New Jersey, May 19, 1887 (195), for the high crime of holding freethinking meetings in Boonton, where an angry Christian mob trashed his famous cotton tent and drove him out of town. Reynolds’ transgression according to prosecuting Christians: his pernicious habit of distributing gobs of tracts promoting ‘blasphemous libel’ and his intent ‘to wound the feelings of the Christian community’ (196-197). The prominent silver-tongued agnostic, Robert Ingersoll, defended him gratis. A jury stacked with Christians found him guilty. The judge was lenient and sentenced Reynolds to a $25 fine plus court costs, which Ingersoll paid, returning Reynolds his freedom (198).

Schmidt’s fourth and final example of a nineteenth century freethinking infidel was the brave ex-Quaker Elmira Drake Slenker (1827-1908). Avant-garde feminist, a prolific writer, Ms. Slenker challenged society’s glass ceiling and the Church’s grip on women, and she paid a price. She advanced sexual politics, women’s civil rights, marriage reform, giving reproductive control to women, and teaching young children to be freethinkers, etc.

“Being a village atheist invited cold shoulders; being a female village atheist doubly so…embracing the marker screamed transgression – of divine order and woman’s pious nature (225-226).

Slenker wore the claim with pride and bold determination making her the ‘first woman Atheist,’ the ‘Mother of Liberalism’ (226-227), from the mid-1800 until her death. Encouraging the scanty number of fellow female atheists became her passion and vocation. She referred to herself as a ‘Materialist and didn’t believe in the Bible, Christianity, heaven, hell, devils, angels, or ghosts’ (212). She advocated sexual freedom and an interest in a variety of sexual experiments. This got her in trouble.

Her curiosity about bestiality embarrassed even fellow liberals and landed her in jail, 1887. Evidence provided by the infamous Anthony Comstock and his New York Society for the Suppression of Vice (Comstock Laws), sent the United States marshal to her doorstep in Snowville, Virginia, and arrested her. A trial ensued, October 1887 (218-220), where she was found guilty, but with some legal wrangling and to avoid further spectacle, and to the chagrin of the prosecution, the judge cut her free.

The last chapter of Schmidt’s history traced the battles that wound their way through the courts in the twentieth century where infidels fought for their rights under the law. Bookended by cases like the famous Scopes Trial, 1925 (252-253), and Town of Greece vs. Galloway 2014 (282-283), freethinkers, agnostics, atheists, secularists, liberals, finally achieved the same equal rights as believers. This legal gauntlet ended in favor of unbelievers by deciding ‘the rights and liberties of non-believers were to be wholly equal to those of believers’ (273) and ‘theistic qualifications for public office, court testimony, and jury service had been rendered unconstitutional’ (276).

The church did not go without a fight, and to this day, atheists enjoy equal rights and growing numbers, yet a preponderance of the Christian community is still uptight, some hostile (283).

What I missed seeing in Schmidt’s easy-to-read history was an exploration of why Christian theology fosters defensiveness and militancy toward unbelievers. Is this the nature of orthodoxy? Does Scripture endorse such disposition?

Being raised Adventist, reading about C. B. Reynolds’ flight from Adventism I found curious. In 1880, at the Hornellsville, New York camp meeting, he’s in a group photograph with Ellen White,[1] and by December 1882, he’s a declared Freethinker attending a memorial service for D. M. Bennett, an infidel hero for battling Anthony Comstock and founding editor of the freethinker newspaper, the Truth Seeker (182). In two years or less, he’s no longer a Seventh-day Adventist tent evangelist but a freethinking tent evangelist. What created this cryptic sea change?

Did Reynolds quit for similar reasons as D.M. Canright, who wrote about the despotic heavy-handedness of James White and Mrs. White’s blind-eye support of her husband?[2] Did he share Canright’s experience?

In 1850, Ellen White’s ‘accompanying angel’ informed her ‘time is almost finished.’ Ellen predicted only months until Jesus comes (Early Writings, pp. 64, 67), thirty years later still no Jesus. Reynolds might of grown suspicious all was not as it seemed. The Delay challenges ‘soon-coming’ eschatology.

Perhaps it was more theological? Is it possible Reynolds began to question how a ‘God of love’ could allow gratuitous suffering for thousands of years? Maybe his mind began to question the biblical stories of a ‘compassionate God’ personally exercising genocide on whole communities? Cognitive dissonance of this sort can lead to disillusionment. For some this is an insurmountable contradiction. Could such thoughts have begun to erode Reynolds’ Adventist convictions? We will never know.

God’s relationship with suffering is peculiar; He seems more ready to participate in it than to eradicate it. Jesus is born amidst the slaughter of a whole generation of infants and toddlers and dies a blood-drenched death on a cross. Indeed a mystery. God exploits violence to achieve His goals but condemns murder. Dissonance. A loving God employs the same execution methods – drowning, burning, and death by sword – as the god of Isis. Contradiction.

Schmidt’s book left me wondering why believers turn atheist and how insecure the Church’s reaction; it invoked my own doubts. Atheism is not created on a whim; it is not a frivolous response to the idea of God. On the contrary, it is serious struggle with and repudiation of an unsatisfactory Christian mega-narrative. The Christian story begins to unravel when confronted with jarring inconsistencies and contradictions.

As I speculated why Reynolds quit the Church, I saw my own reflection. How do I handle assaults on my belief in God? A benevolent God winks at torturous suffering for millennia, and then delays our deliverance? ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’[3] Can I trust the promises of Jesus?

Finishing Schmidt’s book, I mused about my journey with a mysterious God who asserts His ways and thoughts are above our understanding (Isaiah 55: 8,9). I thought what does an inscrutable God do with those who after careful analysis, honestly conclude He does not exist? Does Jesus’ death cover them too? If Jesus can forgive those who crucified Him for ‘they know not what they do,’ granting them a pass of which there is no evidence they requested, what about those who with sincere heart, truly seeking truth, cannot accept the Christian view, they too get a pass?

I have learned traditional answers and theodicies to these questions. I hail from Adventist heritage and seminary, but moth-eaten answers no longer sway, lost in a wilderness of liminality, how must I believe? How can anyone believe confronted with biting battles of doubt and worse?

Faced with debatable evidence, nagging inconsistencies and ugly biblical stories of a murderous God contrasting a loving Savior, I have elected to believe. I realize it is a leap; such is faith (Hebrews 11:1). I want to believe in a tenderhearted God and an attentive Savior, I want to believe in the Second Coming, in short, I choose to believe from hope. I hope my doubts are wrong, I hope a compassionate Creator will right this mess, and I hope there’s a final destination of genuine love and peace. In that sense, hope is my Savior. A mind game perhaps, but I am not ready to say this is all there is. I choose to believe life is not a cruel joke. Hope offers me something beyond, where even the village idiot and atheist might discover a Garden and a God of love.

[1] C. B. Reynolds/ Ellen G. White Estate Sharing the Vision ellenwhite.org/content/person/c-b-reynolds

[2] www.bible.ca/7-Seventh-day Adventism-RENOUNCED-by-D-M-Canright.htm, Chapter 2, ‘An Experience of Twenty-eight years in Adventism,’ 1914.

[3] (Rev. 22:20) New American Standard Bible, The Lockman Foundation, 1972.

Greg Prout is father of three, grandfather of three, and has been happily married for 34 years to Mary Ventresca.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7891

Well which is it? Attitude and truth is based on who’s ox was gored first. Even God is a believer in free will so the concept that Christians give 2 cents about atheists other than sorrow for their decisions makes them have no interest in what atheists do in their own homes, families or meetings.
So by default it is the atheists that are the moving part in the equation.
a·the·ist
ˈāTHēəst/
noun
a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.
“he is a committed atheist"
synonyms: nonbeliever, disbeliever, unbeliever, skeptic, doubter, doubting Thomas, agnostic; nihilist
"why is it often assumed that a man of science is probably an atheist?”

But here is the kicker. Is an atheist really just a person who doesn’t believe in God? If so then how would anyone know? How would we know about them any more than we know there are people who don’t go to church all over the country? They would just be a unknown subset of a group that does not attend church of any type. They would be out of sight and as the history of humanity shows us, largely out of mind as well.

The fact is that the modern atheist is an activist. Its not enough to have the freedom to make the choice to not believe in God as the dictionary defines. The modern atheist needs everyone to know the Christian is wrong, dull, ill educated and below him. This point is proved to the atheists reasoning by his second point, That he doesn’t need to believe in God to care for the poor or take care of the sick and needy, a position less about caring for the poor, sick and needy than it is that he is good on his own and doesn’t need God. That God cannot improve him. That he doesn’t owe God for his very existence

God is unfathomable in general but much more so to those determined to overlay their perspective and interpretation on issues such as ,"Coming quickly."
The fact is that God has given each person on earth exactly the same amount of time as it pertains to his coming. 1 lifetime. The heathen know as much. You have heard the saying that No one gets out of here alive haven’t you?

Which of these items is provable. Which is a matter of POV? Which is a matter of assembling a puzzle without all the pieces?

  1. Debatable evidence is not conclusive therefore not a reason to disbelieve.
  2. Nagging inconsistencies is a matter of POV or making a judgement without all the facts.
  3. Murderous stories in the OT? You lament “…A benevolent God winks at torturous suffering for millennia, …” Yet find the command to put certain peoples out of existence in the OT offensive. When you think of all the suffering in the last 1000 years and you realize it was caused by individuals or groups that may not have existed if the orders would have been carried out…does it leave a tiny crack that would allow for the fact that God knows the end from the beginning?

Illogic and emotional decision making has been the bane of humanity for ever. How many ex Christians or SDA’s are still in mental captivity today due to how someone in the church treated them? They quit coming to church because of a human beings flaw as if a church with flawed humans in it was an adequate excuse to renounce the commitment they made at baptism.
My Grandpa used to say there was only 1 thing wrong with the planet…people. Far better to know that from the outset than the twisted philosophies people have contrived to address it.

.

Your thoughts have given me hope. At the age of 70, having lived my entire life as a loyal Seventh-day Adventist I am struggling with doubt. It no longer makes sense to me why the second coming has not occurred. It disturbs me to hear people keep saying “soon” when Adventists have been saying that for 173 years! “Soon” just doesn’t work for me anymore. In my lifetime I’ve seen the church adamantly oppose wedding rings, women wearing pants, movies, etc. - but now those things are often accepted. (My pastor’s wife was wearing pants at church today, and they both wear wedding rings. No, they are not young, either.) I’ve learned so much about the Bible during the last 20 years that I can no longer take it all as history or a code book. (Remember, God never asked that a compilation of sacred texts be made and called “The Holy Bible”).

Yet I also choose to keep believing. Believing without having to have certainty and every questioned or doubt answered! Now I’m willing to wait and reflect Christ’s goodness as much as possible. What happens in the future and when is up to God.

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Even John the Baptist had doubts . Jesus didn’t Do the Road to Emmaus thing, He just said spend the day with me and go and tell John what you saw.
From a slave trader to a song writing pastor. Amazing Grace has untold witnesses. My brother recently leaned he had brain cancer that was untreatable. Riding home from the hospital,with that news, in dumb silence, Jack reached over and took his daughters arm and said–“It Is all right, I am in God’s hands.” There is doubt that he will reach his 93 birthday just a month away. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow, even peace of mind. TZ

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Good overview. Thanks. I believe that religion, and in the case of the West, Christianity, has a tremendous positive role to play in promoting positive human societal behaviours. Despite promoting “humongous” errors in human behaviours(murder for unbelief, crusades, executions, racism, slaughter such as on the very day Moses came down Sinai with a command saying thou shall not commit murder,veneration of clearly morally weak role models, biblical or otherwise et al)
the positives outweigh the negatives, in my opinion, breasting the tape ahead of the negatives by at least , at least… well I really can’t sayby how much. But what I think is certain is that without the restraining influence of religion mankind would be already on the road to extinction. What am I saying? it is on that pathway at this very moment. Only God can descry our near future, and I once heard a Pastor say on the pulpit that God himself does not know every detail of how humans will react as a whole when under pressure. Overall I do not believe that even a “higher animal” such as H. sapiens could have survived this long and as far as we have when armed with nuclear weapons were it not for the restraining influence someway, somehow of religion. As far as christianity goes SDAdventism is at the top with the best of the others in trying to hold close to the teachings of the Western moral exemplar “Jesus Christ”(allegedly named after a mix of a Druid british god and an Indian deityHesus- Krishna by Constantine).However one early morning some three years ago while doing some research I was led to info which woke me up like a splash of cold water. I came across a leader of an organisation which touted themselves as “atheists who believe in God” As I looked into this strange nomenclature I got their point and eventually became friends with one of their “guides” and even advised him how to arrange meetings with students of my old university and national TV stations and radio. He made some firm attachments with some students but on a whole was met with a big yawn from people as a whole. I viewed my first “Bible Lesson” on a video during which Yahweh(God)who appears to be about the age of a young teenager pointed out valuable parts as well as errors, esp in Genesis . I thank God for these teachings. However, As far as raising children is concerned I saw to it that my daughter went, and looked forward to, sabbath school and absorbed SDA doctrines. It was a pleasure to ask her what she learned and seeing her excited demo of how David slew the heathen giant Philistine.with his sling.".Dad , and round and round and round and round and the giant fell to the ground… "I almost wept at the innocence as by then I knew that leading scholars said that duel never happened. She is by nowwhat she calls an “independent thinker”.

How does one CHOOSE to believe? If I chose to believe the earth is flat (some actually still do) I have to live in total denial about many things - NASA pictures - reason we have seasons - time zones - and the list goes on to become a false perception of reality. Strangled belief is not the same as living by faith. Faith is not forcing yourself to believe the unbelievable.

Except for one of the atheists, it seems these guys came out of a Christian background - certainly C.B. Reynolds did. I would suggest their atheistic posture came from a protest of the ecclesiastical structure of what they experienced as representing God’ will. In other words, it was more a protest of their church than of God. Maybe the two can’t be separated, but separated they must, in order for faith to survive, especially in this time and age. Belief grows out of experience and information. One can not just choose to believe, contrary to trusted information. I know - I’ve tried.

It is hard to believe in a God who is willing to watch centuries of human suffering as “His church” gets perfected (and to what end); while the same God wouldn’t have abided the pain of predation as the human species evolved to perfection and was placed into the garden? Seems to be a disconnect. (And, by the way, that same predation was accepted by God’s own Son who created miracles of predation as the fishermen cast their nets; and when a hillside of followers were fed from the miracle of the boy’s basket of bread and fish.)

Keith Ward, Professor of “Science & Religion” at Oxford, in his book Pascal’s Fire, believes that among modern scientist (especially quantum physicists) God comes up more often in their pronouncements about reality. He also claims, quite convincingly, the God is losing His anthropomorphic identity - creation of a distant and ancient culture. If one were to substitute the anthropomorphic God with a God that comes out of the pages of a scientific treatise, would that be a step toward atheism?

Perhaps, as man has created God in his own image, he now has to revise that creation to include the knowledge with which God has gifted mankind. In the meantime, it does no good labelling those who no longer can rationalize discordant stories about God, in the name of faith.

first, thank you for your thoughtful response and ideas. you obviously are a thinker. now regarding a few things, for you perhaps faith is not a choice, but for many it is down to believe or not to believe. it is a choice. when doubts assail, one has the opportunity to dismiss those doubts and pursue belief or decide not to believe at all. to believe when buried in doubt is a leap of faith, and for many epitomizes illogic. Hebrews 11:1 is hardly based on cold hard evidence, quite the contrary. one is asked to believe even if his/her senses or reasoning say otherwise. ‘faith is the assurance of things HOPED for, the conviction of things NOT seen.’ it is an exercise of the mind.

but living faith also involves the exercise of the heart, more than mere intellect, it is an emotional experience based on existing in the challenging world of faith where God says, ‘i love you,’ a very emotional proposition. if prayers go unanswered over decades, the supplicant can lose trust in a Higher Power. witnessing eons of unthinkable suffering, one can lose faith in a loving God. the heart is affected, and not in a good way. you might belittle this as ‘emotional’ and weak, but i would argue if your earthly father ignored you, and stood by while you were tortured and did nothing, you would hardly find ‘daddy’ worthy of relationship. engaging the Unseen is difficult at best, that is, unless you choose to hope for something better than what your senses and reasoning powers can assure you. your heart can be broken by the God you were trained to believe in. when that happens, you either bail on God or ‘you have entered the twighlight zone’ of faith. i have chosen, decided, to do the latter. i have hope and perchance that is authentic faith.

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Thank you for your reply. I have had both pain and joy like everybody else - even occasion to credit God for saving my life at least a couple of times that I know of. But I can’t imagine He would clear the path before me while the innocents of this world suffer pain and mindless cruelty. I don’t understand it nor can I rationalize it. That takes me to the innocence on the cross and I have to deduce that that’s part of the deal, but it belies the stories we’re brought up on - before we experience reality. So yes, I understand your choice to believe since there is nothing else left to do. But is that belief or hope, as you suggest?

I could never be an atheist. Reason won’t allow that; but neither can I believe the streets of gold and crowns of victory. Religion keeps us focused on these, and honestly, they distract and wear down any faith that one can muster. On the other hand, we do need to factor the undefinable down to some basic pictures that take us from the manger to the cross. I’m OK with that too; but when the dogma gets too dogmatic I have a problem. As long as we understand that the pictures we are given are only depictions we can relate to and not the reality, we can remain humble and teachable. C.S. Lewis calls it the “shadow lands” - just enough focus to keep us going.

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Ultimate reality is a mystery which is not affected by how we approach it, but how we approach it does affect how we relate to those who do not share our particular point of view.

The one thing we should all be able to agree on is that mystery calls for humility and not the kind of in-your-face belligerence associated with the classic village atheist and his twin brother, the crusading Bible thumper (see first comment on this string).

There in an inverse correlation between certainty and mystery. The more certain we are, the less appreciation we have for the mystery at the heart of existence. Beware of the man–and for some reason, it is almost always a man–who is immune to doubt. That goes for atheists as well as believers. The greatest crimes of history were committed by people suffering from absolute certainty.

We are all atheists when it comes to other people’s deities. If you want to understand the mind of an atheist, have a conversation with yourself about why you don’t believe in Zeus or Gannesh.

We all stand face to face with an enormous mystery, the greatest of which is why something exists at all. Whether we believe that spirit or matter is eternal makes no difference. There is no magic or rational syllogism that can provide us with an answer. All we can do is stop shouting and bow our heads.

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S"Finishing Schmidt’s book, I mused about my journey with a mysterious God who asserts His ways and thoughts are above our understanding (Isaiah 55: 8,9). I thought what does an inscrutable God do with those who, after careful analysis, honestly conclude He does not exist? Does Jesus’ death cover them too? If Jesus can forgive those who crucified Him for “they know not what they do,” granting them a pass of which there is no evidence they requested, what about those who, with sincere heart, truly seeking truth, cannot accept the Christian view? Do they too get a pass, too?"

Thanks, Greg, for the interesting book review and for sharing your “musings.” I have often wondered how many Adventist and some Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christians could choose to believe, apparently without qualms, that the offer of salvation was available only through a knowledge of and an acceptance of Christ, and at the same time reject the idea of an everlasting hell as a misrepresentation of the loving nature of God, leaving non-believers and pagans out in the cold (where many of them would choose to be. ) A move toward an acceptance of a Universalist-like doctrine of salvation would seem more humane, if not theologically acceptable.

mickey, great hearing from you as always! and i appreciate your post here. i too have thought our message has been historically too focused on ‘who won’t get in’ instead of how wide and impactful was/is the death of our Savior. i questioned if He died for me then my sins are forgiven, right? certainly. if the soldiers were ‘let off the hook’ for crucifying our Lord, if our Lord’s sacrifice was good enough for them, then what are the ramifications for the rest of broken humanity? exploring grace and wondering where to locate its property lines is something that consumes my thinking. thanks, mickey for your thoughts, and know we have have much in common. peace and love, brother.

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So, Aage, you, a man familiar with the Bible, believe that Zeus and Ganesha are on the same or similar footing as far as evidence is concerned with that of the God of the Bible?

Greg, we live in a biblically illiterate age, where many peoples knowledge of the God of the Bible comes from movies such Darren Aronofsky’s twisted reinterpretation of the flood found in “Noah.” And so I would somewhat agree with your comment. But I would not grant such grace to one who is knowledgeable in the Scriptures. As a matter of fact, I find it quiet insulting.

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to a seeker with no biblical - adventist - upbringing, yes.

“So, Aage, you, a man familiar with the Bible, believe that Zeus and Ganesha are on the same or similar footing as far as evidence is concerned with that of the God of the Bible?”

Tony, the point is that those who worship Ganesh and those who sacrificed to Zeus in the past do and did so because they thought their deity was superior to any other. You believe that the Biblical God is superior because your religion is Bible-based. The Hindus worship Hindu deities because they are Hindus and revere Hindu scriptures. They would classify you as an atheist if you lived in India.

but whose biblical truth? catholics, mormons, lutheran, adventist, jewish, rastafarianism, etc.? and why would you deny grace to someone who studied scripture diligently and found it wanting? is that not possible? please explain. we are broken creatures on every level - intellectually (mentally), genetically, physically, hormonally, and spiritually!. - which means not everyone sees things alike, which i’m sure you agree. many will get it wrong, and isn’t that an argument for our need of a savior? i am not sure i know of a sin the is not covered by the grace of the Cross, perhaps even unbelief? doesn’t the Cross cover us all, or only those who agree with some orthodoxy that’s been handed down over the centuries? just wondering. i think i would rather be guilty of dispensing too much grace then withholding it from those i judge ‘off the reservation’ in their understanding of scripture. you make me think, thank you.

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two points, and forgive me for taking so long to respond. one, the assaults on my faith are not from atheists, but from real bone-deep doubt(s), emanating from my own experience with God. when consumed by doubt how do i believe is my point. btw, atheists had to be ‘activists’ in the 19th century because their basic civil rights were being denied them by the dominant christian culture. that was the whole point of schmidt’s book. they weren’t activists just to be annoying, they had a authentic valid cause to fight for, and that spirit lives on today. two, you make a good point about we only have one ephemeral life which comes and goes so quickly and which we could suggest ‘i come quickly’ suits that reality. but that doesn’t address every generation, including the one to whom those words were first spoken, believed Jesus was coming back. even egw, spoke on many occasions about her ‘accompanying angel’ reminding her time was short. in one case i posted, specifically, it would be months and Jesus would return. i have to face it, for me the Delay is a problem. thanks for engaging.

see Frank schaffer, son of francis schaffer, as an atheist who still believes in Jesus.

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Greg, I believe we will all be judged, not only on who we knew, but what we knew, and how we lived it. Someone living in 2nd century BC Iraq will not be judged in the same way as you or I.

I’m not sure I totally understand that question. But am curious as to what you mean exactly.

Amen.

That’s a difficult question. I’m sure there are many cases out there where a person was so abused growing up in a “Christian” family, that it ruined them from ever being able to see in Gods word what I, or many others for that matter, would see. It’s hard. I really don’t know.

It’s a good quality, and something I at times wouldn’t mind being guilty for.

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Really? What did they make them do? Go to church? That must have been terrible…kind of like your parents making you go over to great aunt Beatrice’s house when you were a kid. Those scars never heal. I mean sitting there is those uncomfortable seats…listening to those hymns?

As to being disappointed that God hasnt come yet what about the thief on the cross? The rest of Christendom thinks people go directly to heaven for the lack of a comma after the word Today.

you seem a tad hostile to atheists. God died for them too. i suggest you read schmidt’s book. atheists couldn’t hold civic office, testify in court, and jury service was denied, etc.