"I don't believe in religions because they can't agree." A conversation with a Friend

Hi David,

I hope you had a great 4th of July :)

David, I don't know what to reply to this person: He Believes in God, but on the other hand he does not think that the Bible is the only source to establish a relationship with him.

For example: He does not believe in Hell afterlife. He is open to other religion ideas, like reincarnation. He believes that people (Adults) can still enter heaven without Jesus.
Do you have any sources or blogs that you may have written that would help me?
Here is his response to me below in blue. (I sent him a link to this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxiAikEk2vU  The moral argument)

Thanks for your help David.

"Hey Bro,  Whats up

Thanks for the video, I saw it already, but I think this video is about something else. Or maybe our talk was not so clear. This video talks about how moral values cannot be objective without God, and raises that argument for atheists. But I´m not atheist, I do believe God exists. I also agree that morals cannot be objective without God.

So in summary I agree with everything in the video. The argument we had, was more because we both have a different view of how we should behave or what we should be in order to be closer to God, or said differently, how Gods wants us to be or behave or what he expects from us. This is where all the problems come as different religions and different people have their own definitions and different views and no one can agree on a single one.

Even people within the same religion have different opinions! and different ways of seeing a same passage or a same commandment or ideology of God’s will, and that’s a fact.

Someone can say, hey well just look at the bible and that should be everyone’s guide, but we all can interpret it in different ways (especially where there is no clear instruction and it’s a story where each person tries to identify the morale or message of the story). A pastor or a priest can come and tell you, this is what this story means, and then another pastor or priest gives you a totally different definition (ok, maybe they’ll agree on a few things), so …who is right or who is wrong? I’ve experienced that, and if you start going to different churches even within the same religion you’ll see it too.

And that’s just for the people who believe the bible is THE BOOK, as you know there are other books out there similar to the bible (some even older).

I’ve heard some religious leaders say you have to pray to God to get the answers, and I’m ok with that, cause there the info comes from god himself and not a human saying his book is the one, or his interpretation of the book is the correct one. I guess my advice to anyone about this topic would be, get your info from God, the man himself, not anyone else, he lives within you (God is everywhere actually, I think we both agree on that one) and therefore God will guide you.

What say you?"


Hey Friend,

Thanks for the question. This is a very common response—and worthwhile consideration—before committing to a particular religion.

One of the great difficulties in responding to this is that your Friend doesn’t really make any arguments. That is, he’s not coming to many conclusions. He makes many assertions, which is fine. But, it’s tough to determine what his ultimate point is. So, I’ll just quote both you and him and make my responses under each comment.

He Believes in God, but on the other hand he does not think that the Bible is the only source to establish a relationship with him. My first question is, What “god” does he believe in? Based upon what source does he reach this conclusion? I certainly wouldn’t assume that you and he believe in the same God, especially when His view of God is not based upon Scripture.

For example: He does not believe in Hell afterlife. He is open to other religion ideas, like reincarnation. He believes that people (Adults) can still enter heaven without Jesus. Again, this just demonstrates that his view of God is quite different from the Christian view. This is fine; it’s just imperative to ask him why he believes what he believes. Remember, whoever makes the claim bears the burden of proof or argument. You don’t have to prove hell exists to him. Instead, I’d keep asking him, “Why do you believe that?” Or, “Why do you think that’s true?” or “So, how you do define ‘god’?”

Your Friend said:
…how Gods wants us to be or behave or what he expects from us. This is where all the problems come as different religions and different people have their own definitions and different views and no one can agree on a single one. Even people within the same religion have different opinions! and different ways of seeing a same passage or a same commandment or ideology of God’s will, and that’s a fact. I’m not sure what he means by “problems” here, but I think he means something like “problems in maintaining unity in interpretation.” If so, I concur. It just seems like his point here is simply that people disagree on how to interpret things. OK. This is a banal point. This is a great example of my not knowing what his ultimate point is.

If his implicit conclusion is, “Therefore, all religions are false or can’t be trusted,” then this is clearly false. In no way can this syllogism hold as valid:

Premise One: Only religions whose adherents have absolute unity on interpretation are true.
Premise Two: No religion has adherents who hold absolute unity on interpretation.
Conclusion: Therefore, no religion is true.

Premise One is clearly false.

If that premise were true, I could invalidate all fields of knowledge in the known world. No one concurs on all mathematics equations, therefore mathematics is false. No one concurs on how to cook all food, therefore culinary arts is false. No one concurs on the best form of nutrition, therefore no nutritionists are telling the truth. This could go on forever. And clearly, this is nonsense.

I can’t help but think that his statement here is being used like I’ve always heard it: an attempt to avoid making any commitment to a particular religion. This way, he doesn’t have to do anything. He just keeps his version of god as distant and benign. Later in his message, he corroborates my theory.

A pastor or a priest can come and tell you, this is what this story means, and then another pastor or priest gives you a totally different definition (ok, maybe they’ll agree on a few things), so …who is right or who is wrong? This is a great question. I have a few quick comments. (1) There is a reason why Christian ministers are supposed to receive formal training. It is to help them learn the tools necessary to come to proper interpretive conclusions. Then, they are supposed to train the people in the churches. Alas, this is rarely done these days (it was done for centuries in the church). (2) The differences in interpretations are not nearly as radical as it might seem. Churches around the globe have overwhelming unity on the non-negotiables of the Christian faith. Very few churches around the globe wouldn’t ascribe to the great Creeds of the faith. So yes, we disagree on all kinds of things. But no, we don’t disagree that much on the things that matter the most. (3) I would never let these different interpretations dissuade you from pursuing the biblical text. It rarely dissuades those within the Church to do so. In fact, it can be quite stimulating to learn the various ways people have interpreted the text. God can use multiple ways to reveal Himself to us.

And that’s just for the people who believe the bible is THE BOOK, as you know there are other books out there similar to the bible (some even older). Yes, some are older (really, only the Hindu Vedas). But, again, what’s the point? Is it that older = more trustworthy? (If that's his point, that's certainly false.) I’m not sure what his point is here, unless he’s just making the observation that some texts are older.

I’ve heard some religious leaders say you have to pray to God to get the answers, and I’m ok with that, cause there the info comes from god himself and not a human saying his book is the one, or his interpretation of the book is the correct one. I guess my advice to anyone about this topic would be, get your info from God, the man himself, not anyone else, he lives within you (God is everywhere actually, I think we both agree on that one) and therefore God will guide you. This is confused on a couple levels: (1) Which god do you pray to? (2) How do you know if you’ve received a message from that god if you don’t know what kind of god it is? (3) Why do you think god is a man? (4) Why do you think “he lives within you”? That is, how did you come to that conclusion? Did your god reveal that to you? Did you learn that from some text? (The same questions apply to believing that “God is everywhere.”)

There is just so much here that is not argued or demonstrated, just asserted. And this is crucial to make clear to him: this is his interpretation of the facts and these can be just as wrong as anyone else’s. He is not immune from being wrong in his interpretations. So, it’s important that you help him see that all humans have interpretations of things: the issue is to determine whether or not those interpretations are based on sound arguments or facts, not opinions.

Honestly, I don't think this is a rational objection. I think it's emotional/psychological. It just seems to me that this is the typical relativism that plagues the Western world: “I’m spiritual. I believe in god. But, that god lives in me and can lead me when I need. But, I’m not here to shove that down anyone else’s throat because…you know…who knows anyway? As long as I’m good to people and try not to hurt anyone…you know…that kind of god is cool. But, a God that demands something of me because He tells me there is a purpose to my life that He designed, well, that kind of God isn’t attractive. Then we have to bring up words like “sin” and “wrong and right” and “repent.” No one likes being judged—especially not I.”

In any case, keep being Christian and kind! Keep being an active listener. Keep asking what he believes and why (not just to get to the punch line and jump on him, but to really figure out what he believes). Then, of course, give him clear reasons for why what you believe is actually true, not just based on random opinions.

Keep up the great work!

David


And then his brother responded to me. His response is in blue, my response is in black.

What god? Well, there is only one God to me, so it would be the same one. You and I just have different points of view on certain topics pertaining  to God and what he expects from us, but I consider it’s the same God.
If someone said that they knew my wife, and described her as a human woman, really tall with long blonde hair and blue eyes with a low voice, would you say that the person knew my wife? Yes, my wife is a human woman, but there are numerous essential features to describing my wife that are false in this person’s description (she’s shorter, brown hair, high voice). One of us is wrong. We can’t both be right. The same is true with versions of God. The Christian’s view of God is thoroughly related to history: He is the God who formed covenants with the Jews, is seen fully in the ministry and life of Jesus of Nazareth, is experienced in the Holy Spirit (= Trinitarian), etc. etc. So, for what it’s worth, you can’t get rid of essential characteristics of God and think we are talking about the same God. This is not a subjective issue: it’s an issue of logic called the Law of Excluded Middle. Either we are BOTH wrong, or one of us is right; but we can’t both be right.

What source do I have to think that the bible is not the only way to establish a relationship with God? No book or document if that’s what is meant. All of my beliefs are based on my logic, my brain, my heart, which God gave me J, therefore I believe God has given me this knowledge and information. Hope I don’t sound too crazy with that statement :P. Here is the way I see it - Does a son need  a document, an instruction manual, or something like that to establish a relationship with his father? I think not. You and I didn’t with Dad. (1) He is talking about having immediate access to God via intuition, experience, and reason. In philosophy, we call this “properly basic belief.” The great philosopher, Alvin Plantiga, at Notre Dame, also firmly believes that knowledge of God is properly basic. I actually think there is great merit here. Of course, belief that God exists, along with minimal knowledge of Him, does not mean that a person knows God (again, not according to the truth claims of Christianity, which require a host of beliefs concerning Trinity, Jesus, etc.). (2) I like the analogy about your dad, it’s just that it’s a false analogy. You have direct knowledge of your Dad. That is, knowledge of your dad is both immediately perceived (by watching him in the world) and revealed (when he speaks to you directly and when others tell you about him indirectly). If your brother is saying that he has that kind of access to God, then that is amazing! I've never met a person who has that kind of access to the Father--only Jesus Himself claimed to have that kind of direct access to that degree. Christians believe that our “direct” knowledge of the Father and Son is only mediated through the Spirit after we’re baptized. We learn about God via intuition/reason and Scripture; we learn to know God via the Spirit.

Why I don’t believe in Hell? Same reason as above. Would a father let his son burn in hell for eternity even if he is good because he didn’t follow a certain rule? Let’s say that rule is reading the bible, No I don’t believe that, would you do that to your son? How would you feel if you did?  Or let say accepting Christ as the rule, say someone who was born in a country where Christianity is not the major religion and didn’t get to know much about Christ (again, as stated in my previous email, we are taking about trillions of people here), so for this person who had no fault in being born in that country, do I think God would let him burn in hell for ever, I do not. I don’t believe God being the creator of everything, would create a Hell for the purpose of having the majority of his sons burn, would you do that for your kids? …. I think you would spank them if not following your instructions or ground them, but that’s too different from giving them eternal pain and suffering. This is a huge topic, so I’ll have to cut out so much. But, the good news is, he doesn't have to struggle with this anymore! In his other email, he said that this was the one reason why he could never believe in the Christian God. This is great news, because if this is really the only reason, he’s one small step from heading toward Christianity! Listen, Christians have various ways of dealing with what scholars call, “the fate of the unevangelized.” While all Christians believe that salvation is through Jesus alone, what we disagree on is the way Jesus’s salvation is applied to people who have never received the gospel. The New Testament has verses that support different views. There are four major views (exclusivism, inclusivism, post-mortem experiences, and middle knowledge). I’d be happy to explain these views if needed.  Your brother is reacting terribly against the “exclusivist" view (or his version of it). In any case, I concur with your brother here on this point: I am convinced that people don't go to hell because of where they're born. In fact, people go to hell because they’re sinners. Can sinners be saved through Jesus without hearing/reading the gospel? As an “inclusivist,” my view is certainly yes! There is no reason whatsoever that your brother should dismiss the entire gospel story of Jesus as found in the Gospels just because he doesn't like the idea that “people go to hell because they haven't heard the gospel.” Instead, he can be a committed Christian and not be an exclusivist.

Is my conclusion that all religions are false and can’t be trusted? It’s not like that, for example your religion, I think it’s good in the sense that it helps people to be good and follow a good path and respect other people, be kind, etc. I’m happy that a religion like yours exists, I just don’t agree with all its beliefs.

Am I avoiding to make a commitment to a particular religion? I just don’t think I need to commit to a religion, nor God needs me to join a religion. I’m not saying these things to win (like a football fan would defend his team even if they aren’t the best), or because I want to do whatever I want and not be tied to consequences, or because I don’t want to go to Church early every Sunday. No, it is more like why tie myself to a religion when I God is with me all the time, will god get angry at me for not going to church? No . will god get angry at me for not joining the Christian religion or any other religion for that matter? No.  Again, I hope he’s right for His sake! If His god doesn’t require any commitment to the teachings of Jesus, then awesome. If the God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth is the actual God, then his beliefs here will have really horrible consequences. It is in absolute disagreement with the teachings of Jesus. Jesus certainly believed that not following Him and His teachings was wrong and would end in judgment. (Of course there's more to His teachings!)


About praying to god for answers –

Which god? The only one
How do I know if I received a message If I don’t know what kind of God he is? I do know what kind of God he is, as much as anyone can know, I mean….who can fully comprehend what God is like?  No one can but God. Since Jesus is really the God-Man, then He is the only person who can tell us accurately what it means to be God.
I don’t think God is a man, I call him “he” just cause
I think he lives within me because I believe he is everywhere, how did I come to that conclusion? Again no book or document, it’s the only way I can comprehend God.