Why is disbelief a sin?


#1

Maybe this thread will not go to hell in a handbasket, one can only hope. Many apologists keep repeating that atheists will reap the “rewards” they have sown, and the “reward” is eternal damnation.

They also say that atheists “reject” God, and therefore they can blame only themselves for their fate. Let me clarify the issue: I don’t “reject” God, I am simply unconvinced of his existence. Whether you believe in something or not is not subject your volitional control. No one can force oneself to believe in something. Beliefs are predisposed by experience, they cannot be changed volitionally.

So why should God punish atheists for something they have no control over, of which they are literally innocent?

I could go through the motions and join a church, go to mass, pray etc., but that would be a set of empty motions if I could not believe in the rituals, which I cannot. Even if I liked to believe them, it would be impossible for me.

Do you think that God would be pleased by my “subterfuge”, by my attempt to display the “surface” of believing, while knowing full well, that it is just a pretense and not real? I don’t think so. But maybe you disagree, I don’t know. So get out the big guns. :slight_smile:


#2

I agree that He would not be pleased if you acted falsely.

However, He did tell us that we must become like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Little children do things that their parents tell them without demanding to know why. Little children trust their parents, and do not rely strictly on their own understanding, which they know is incomplete. Little children ask questions for more understanding, but are content when not always given a clear answer, because afterall, everything they need is provided for them. Little children often pretend to do things they don’t understand yet - trusting that they will one day know enough to do it properly.

Thus, if you were to become like a child and “pretend” to know what you are doing with the understanding and faith that you will one day be given the proper understanding, then I would stand up for you as doing something pleasing to God. For we must not rely solely on our own understanding, but we must also allow our faith to form our perspective, since it “sees” more. We must progress in our faith, because it grows with us.

hurst


#3

If they truly had no control, then there would be no sin. But are there atheists like that? Ones I know have bragged about being able to do as they please due to not having to follow any religious obligations. For them, the desire to have control of their own lives shows that they think they do have control. And so they can’t claim innocence on that point. But not all atheists are alike.

Still, they would be wiser to act according to the obvious fact that they do not really know everything, while yet finding themselves in a world that changes yet stays in order. The fair and just thing to do is to give our will back to whoever gave it to us. We clearly do not belong to ourselves.

hurst


#4

Mainly because you refused to find out the truth. The answers are not concrete enough for you.

There is an old joke that goes like this.
A man is in the ocean drowning, a boat comes by, the man refuses to hop in since he is sure God will save him.
So a helicopter comes along and yet the man still refuses stating God is going to save me.
A ship comes by with the same result.
The man dies and stands in front of God. He asks God I was drowning why did you not come save me.
God looks at St. Peter and says didn’t you send the two boats and a helicopter?

The moral we have had many of boats come by but won’t believe.


#5

[quote=hurst]I agree that He would not be pleased if you acted falsely.

However, He did tell us that we must become like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Little children do things that their parents tell them without demanding to know why. Little children trust their parents, and do not rely strictly on their own understanding, which they know is incomplete. Little children ask questions for more understanding, but are content when not always given a clear answer, because afterall, everything they need is provided for them. Little children often pretend to do things they don’t understand yet - trusting that they will one day know enough to do it properly.

Thus, if you were to become like a child and “pretend” to know what you are doing with the understanding and faith that you will one day be given the proper understanding, then I would stand up for you as doing something pleasing to God. For we must not rely solely on our own understanding, but we must also allow our faith to form our perspective, since it “sees” more. We must progress in our faith, because it grows with us.

hurst
[/quote]

The trouble with this line of reasoning is that it presupposes that atheists are somehow insincere in their disbelief. Many a time I heard that atheists “know” that there is a God, but they refuse to sumbit to him. This is simply false. Speaking for myself (of course!) I find the arguments for God unconvincing, illogical and unacceptable. So my disbelief comes from lack of conviction, not a desire to antagonize. But, according to some apologists that does not matter.


#6

[quote=Toni]Mainly because you refused to find out the truth. The answers are not concrete enough for you.

There is an old joke that goes like this.
A man is in the ocean drowning, a boat comes by, the man refuses to hop in since he is sure God will save him.
So a helicopter comes along and yet the man still refuses stating God is going to save me.
A ship comes by with the same result.
The man dies and stands in front of God. He asks God I was drowning why did you not come save me.
God looks at St. Peter and says didn’t you send the two boats and a helicopter?

The moral we have had many of boats come by but won’t believe.
[/quote]

The joke is good, but of course not new. I heard it many times before. The fact is that the answers are not convincing. I am using my intellect and it refuses to accept the “evidence” which is offered, because it is insufficient - in my eyes.

You have to understand that “sufficient evidence” is not an objective measuring rod, it requires that both the evidence giver and his audience view it equally. I have heard of alleged “evidence” for God’s existence many times, and it simply was not enough to take it seriously.


#7

Perhaps you are not convinced of what you think “God” means. But what about as Creator of your consciousness and soul? What about as creator of the physical world and its forces? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that no creature on earth could have put the moon in its place, or that random splashing of paints does not make anything beautiful.

Surely you believe you have a mother, even if you don’t remember your birth. Do you believe you were born of someone beside yourself? Do you believe you were once non-existent? As far as you know, your parents are your God, for you came from them. But did you obey them as such? So you will be judged on that score. But if you assert that they are not your God, then on what basis do you do so? Is it because you recognize a higher authority than them? Or because you just wanted to follow your own will? Your unbelief is inherently unjust and unfair for you know you did not come from yourself, yet you have set yourself up as your own authority. But if you have obeyed your parents in all things as if they were God, then you would be pleasing to the true God, for it reflects how you will treat Him once you discover the truth.

hurst


#8

Neither can we pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps. But we can indirectly control it.

When we are tied up in knots, we have to try to get out by making use of the parts of us that are still free. We who are enslaved by error must seek for truth, which will set us free. We can still pray, call out for help, and listen to instruction. But to be free from this we must learn to not rely on our own strength, whether physical or mental. We must cooperate with external help. It takes a certain humility to do that. We must not make our goal in life to be able to brag about our own accomplishments. If we do that, then we will naturally rely more on ourselves and get tied up again.

hurst


#9

[quote=Hitetlen]The trouble with this line of reasoning is that it presupposes that atheists are somehow insincere in their disbelief. Many a time I heard that atheists “know” that there is a God, but they refuse to sumbit to him. This is simply false. Speaking for myself (of course!) I find the arguments for God unconvincing, illogical and unacceptable. So my disbelief comes from lack of conviction, not a desire to antagonize. But, according to some apologists that does not matter.
[/quote]

You sound more agnostic than atheist to me in that you seem to hold out the possibility that God exists. You just haven’t seen the proof to satisfy your reason. I don’t agree that you should pretend. God knows your heart. Perhaps you could offer some proof that He doesn’t exist. Pretend instead of straddling the fence, that you’re firmly on the “God doesn’t exist side.” What evidence of this do you have? It is a huge majority that believes in the existence of God. What are we missing that you in the vast minority have discovered? What is your basis for this truth?


#10

[quote=Hitetlen]The joke is good, but of course not new. I heard it many times before. The fact is that the answers are not convincing. I am using my intellect and it refuses to accept the “evidence” which is offered, because it is insufficient - in my eyes.

You have to understand that “sufficient evidence” is not an objective measuring rod, it requires that both the evidence giver and his audience view it equally. I have heard of alleged “evidence” for God’s existence many times, and it simply was not enough to take it seriously.
[/quote]

Well may I suggest looking for another boat or helicopter. Just because you do not understand God’s existance now does not mean that you just stop searching.


#11

First, let me thank you for such candor. It is commendable that you have a belief to begin with. To not believe in God is a belief that requires a faith. Truthfulness is important to any discussion. I desire you to only consider the answers of God’s children and ask that you first recognize that we are merely thirsty children bringing another thirsty child a drink of water. We may not say something that makes sense, we rely on God himself to do that.

Second, you would not be here unless God called you. The great apostle Paul was called by Our Lord. Our Apostles were all called by Our Lord. You too are being called. You feel a desire for answers. May God bless you and your desire.

When God called me, I was so depraved and evil and wicked. I am a sinful man, and I am a proof of God’s mercy. Anyone who is truly a child of God is a new creature. We want you to feel the way we do.

Lastly, for ,me anyway, is when you finally realize the call, you may turn it down. Don;t resist Him, for He wants nothing for you but your love. The things of this world are nothing to compare.


#12

[quote=hurst]Perhaps you are not convinced of what you think “God” means. But what about as Creator of your consciousness and soul? What about as creator of the physical world and its forces? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that no creature on earth could have put the moon in its place, or that random splashing of paints does not make anything beautiful.
[/quote]

I don’t believe in the concept of “soul” either. My consciousness (mind) is just the electro-chemical working of my brain, which will cease to function at my death.

[quote=hurst]Surely you believe you have a mother, even if you don’t remember your birth. Do you believe you were born of someone beside yourself? Do you believe you were once non-existent? As far as you know, your parents are your God, for you came from them. But did you obey them as such? So you will be judged on that score. But if you assert that they are not your God, then on what basis do you do so? Is it because you recognize a higher authority than them? Or because you just wanted to follow your own will? Your unbelief is inherently unjust and unfair for you know you did not come from yourself, yet you have set yourself up as your own authority.
[/quote]

When I was a kid, of course I obeyed my parents. But that ceased when I grew up, they respected me, and did not want to control me beyond that point.

[quote=hurst]But if you have obeyed your parents in all things as if they were God, then you would be pleasing to the true God, for it reflects how you will treat Him once you discover the truth.
[/quote]

In the recently closed thread this is precisely what I asked, and I was told that by the time I actually meet God, it is already too late, and that I will be sent to hell, and I deserve it.


#13

[quote=StCsDavid]You sound more agnostic than atheist to me in that you seem to hold out the possibility that God exists. You just haven’t seen the proof to satisfy your reason.
[/quote]

Sure, it is possible that a higher power exists. Of course it cannot be outside the universe, because the universe is all there is. But the definition of atheism is simply a lack of belief in a god, any god.

[quote=StCsDavid]I don’t agree that you should pretend. God knows your heart. Perhaps you could offer some proof that He doesn’t exist. Pretend instead of straddling the fence, that you’re firmly on the “God doesn’t exist side.” What evidence of this do you have?
[/quote]

I am not interested in this thread to prove that the God of Christianity does not exist.

[quote=StCsDavid]It is a huge majority that believes in the existence of God. What are we missing that you in the vast minority have discovered? What is your basis for this truth?
[/quote]

Sorry, majority or plurality does not make decisions about true or false statements. If you think about it, Catholics are a minority if you compare them to the vast majority of everyone ever lived. That would be a compelling evidence against Catholicism, if the only mearuring stick would be the number of people who believed in a specific doctrine.


#14

[quote=Toni]Well may I suggest looking for another boat or helicopter. Just because you do not understand God’s existance now does not mean that you just stop searching.
[/quote]

As I said before, I am open to suggestions.


#15

[quote=Hitetlen]As I said before, I am open to suggestions.
[/quote]

I do not know your journey, but I’d like to make some suggestions:

The Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Kreeft & Tacelli, as well as the Peter Kreeft website:

peterkreeft.com/featured-writing.htm

(Upper right hand corner).

I’d ask that you don’t dismiss the site because you’ve read other like-titled arguments presented by someone else.

Take your time. :wave:

An excerpt:
The eighth and last argument from history is from our own individual history and life’s experiences. The Christian faith is verifiable in a laboratory, but it is a subtle and complex laboratory: the laboratory of one’s life. If God exists, he wants to get in touch with us and reveal himself to us, and he has promised that all who seek him will find him. Well, then, all the agnostic has to do is to seek, sincerely, honestly, and with an open mind, and he will find, in God’s way and in God’s time. That is part of the hypothesis, part of the promise.

How to seek? Not just by arguing but by praying, not just by talking about God, as Job’s three friends did and did not find him, but by talking to God, as Job did, and found him. I always tell a sceptic to pray the prayer of the sceptic if he really wants to know whether God exists. This is the scientific thing to do, to test a hypothesis by performing the relevant experiment. I tell him to go out into his backyard some night when no one can see and hear him and make him feel foolish, and say to the empty universe above him, “God, I don’t know whether you exist or not. Maybe I’m praying to nobody, but maybe I’m praying to you. So if you are really there, please let me know somehow, because I do want to know. I want only the Truth, whatever it is. If you are the Truth, here I am, ready and willing to follow you wherever you lead.” If our faith is not a pack of lies, then whoever sincerely prays that prayer will find God in his own life, no matter how hard, how long, or how complex the road, as Augustine’s was in the Confessions. “All roads lead to Rome” if only we follow them.


#16

To believe in the NT Greek sense (Gk *pisteuo, *[size=2]peitho)[/size], is to “commit, intrust, trust, obey.” The opposite (Gk apisteo, apeitheo), in the NT Greek sense, is to “disbelieve, disobey.” It is primarily a function of the will, not merely that of the intellect. Consequently, a faith of a child is that which is the model presented by Jesus to his disciples.

Sin (Gk hamartia) literally means “missing the mark,” is the deliberate transgression of a law of God.

Understanding these terms in the Christian sense, it is more clear that “disbelief” is a sin, because it necessarily involves a lack of committment to God, a lack of trust in God, and disobedience to God, all of which are required by the law of God.

For those who do not even believe there is a God, it is admittedly difficult to commit to Him, trust in Him, and obey Him. Yet the word “deliberate” is important. It involves voluntariness.

To the extent that voluntariness is diminished, culpability for the guilt of the transgression is diminished. Thus, acts of commission or omission done by those invincibly (ie. unconquerably) ignorant, lack culpability for their sin. Vincible (ie. conquerable) ignorance may diminish culpability, but if one is voluntarily ignorant of things they ought to know, given sufficient time, capability, and opportunity, then they are fully culpable.

Thus, vincible ignorance is always culpable ignorance, but may not be fully culpable dependent upon the extent of voluntariness of their ignorance.

Pius XII teaches that some may have an “unconscious yearning or desire” to be joined to the Church, and as such are indeed joined, although perhaps not in body. Nonetheless, even those joined to the Church must persevere in supernatural faith and love to attain eternal life. Whether or not faith need be explicit is speculative within Church doctrine.

John Paul II wrote: “**In the very search for faith an implicit faith is already present, and therefore the necessary condition for salvation is already satisfied.” **(John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope). This book is a work of speculative theology, however, and not an official pronouncement of Catholic doctrine.

The ignorant, then, are shown mercy by God, insofar as voluntariness is dimished by ignorance.


#17

Here is a quote from scripture that reveals God’s sentiments in the matter:

Jeremias 13 Thus saith the Lord of hosts the God of Israel: Go, and say to the men of Juda, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Will you not receive instruction, to obey my words, saith the Lord? 14 The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, by which he commanded his sons not to drink wine, have prevailed: and they have drunk none to this day, because they have obeyed the commandment of their father: but I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, and you have not obeyed me. 15 And I have sent to you all my servants the prophets, rising early, and sending and saying: Return ye every man from his wicked way, and make your ways good: and follow not strange gods, nor worship them, and you shall dwell in the land, which I gave you and your fathers: and you have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened to me.

16 So the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have constantly kept the commandment of their father, which he commanded them: but this people hath not obeyed me. 17 Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts the God of Israel: Behold I will bring upon Juda, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the evil that I have pronounced against them, because I have spoken to them, and they have not heard: I have called to them, and they have not answered me. 18 And Jeremias said to the house of the Rechabites: Thus saith the Lord of hosts the God of Israel: Because you have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and have kept all his precepts, and have done all that he commanded you: 19 Therefore thus saith the Lord of host the God of Israel: There shall not be wanting a man of the race of Jonadab the son of Rechab, standing before me for ever.

So God punishes those who knew Him yet disobeyed. And He rewarded those who did not know Him, yet obeyed the father they did know.

Obedience is a very important virtue, and God rewards it.

hurst


#18

[quote=Hitetlen]As I said before, I am open to suggestions.
[/quote]

May I suggest a few good books then. Here’s just a few to start with.
Socrates Meets Jesus — History’s greatest questioner confronts the claims of Christ
Christianity for Modern Pagans: Pascal’s Pensees — Explicates Pascal’s surprisingly modern insights on contemporary life and powerful arguments for Christianity
Best Things in Life — Socrates probes the contemporary values of success, power and pleasure.
Between Heaven and Hell — A dialogue between C.S. Lewis, John F. Kennedy and Aldous Huxley (all died within hours of each other) investigating Christ
Catholic Christianity — A complete commentary on the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven — An unexcelled look at one of the most popular, yet least understood subjects
Faith and Reason: The Philosophy of Religionhttp://www.peterkreeft.com/images/external-link_icon.gif — NEW AUDIO CDs!
Fundamentals of the Faith — Inspiring essays in Christian apologetics
The God Who Loves You — RE-RELEASED and UPDATED!
Heaven, the Heart’s Deepest Longing — Fascinating exploration into the search for total joy
The Journey — Lively dialogues dealing with moral dilemmas and philosophical impasses along life’s path
Philosophy 101 by Socrates — An introduction to philosophy via Plato’s Apology
Snakebite Letters — Devilishly devious secrets for subverting society as taught in Tempter’s Training School
Socrates Meets Machiavelli — The father of philosophy cross-examines the author of The Prince
Socrates Meets Marx — The father of philosophy cross-examines the founder of communism
Socratic Logic — A unique, comprehensive logic lext using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, and Aristotelian Principles
Three Philosophies of Life — Inspiring and unique insights into Ecclesiastes (life as vanity), Job (life as suffering), and Song of Songs (life as love)
The Unaborted Socrates — A dramatic debate on the issues surrounding abortion
What Would Socrates Do? — 8 AUDIO CDs! — A history of moral thoughts and ethics (Portable Professor Series)
Yes or No? — Straight answers to tough questions about Christianity
You Can Understand the Bible — RE-RELEASED and UPDATED! — A Practical Guide To Each Book In The Bible


#19

[quote=Hitetlen]Sure, it is possible that a higher power exists. Of course it cannot be outside the universe, because the universe is all there is. But the definition of atheism is simply a lack of belief in a god, any god.
[/quote]

You seem so sure in your assertion that the universe is all there is…prove it. Okay, that’s rhetorical. Obviously you can’t prove that the universe is all that there is. You can theorize about it. You can weigh the evidence, but you can’t really prove it. You have faith in the accuracy science created by a falliable man that tells you the universe is all that there is.

Clarify one thing for me…this is just semantics so I know we’re singing from the same sheet of music…do you equate higher power with a god?

[quote=Hitetlen]Sorry, majority or plurality does not make decisions about true or false statements. If you think about it, Catholics are a minority if you compare them to the vast majority of everyone ever lived. That would be a compelling evidence against Catholicism, if the only mearuring stick would be the number of people who believed in a specific doctrine.
[/quote]

That’s fair 'nuff, but what I was trying to find out is what you base your disbelief upon? Is it your feelings, a philosopher, what? The reason I ask it in the form of what the plurality says is that most folks have seen the evidence and concluded that God does indeed exist. I’m just searching for your evidence that He does not.


#20

[quote=Hitetlen]Maybe this thread will not go to hell in a handbasket, one can only hope. Many apologists keep repeating that atheists will reap the “rewards” they have sown, and the “reward” is eternal damnation.

They also say that atheists “reject” God, and therefore they can blame only themselves for their fate. Let me clarify the issue: I don’t “reject” God, I am simply unconvinced of his existence. Whether you believe in something or not is not subject your volitional control. No one can force oneself to believe in something. Beliefs are predisposed by experience, they cannot be changed volitionally.

So why should God punish atheists for something they have no control over, of which they are literally innocent?

I could go through the motions and join a church, go to mass, pray etc., but that would be a set of empty motions if I could not believe in the rituals, which I cannot. Even if I liked to believe them, it would be impossible for me.

Do you think that God would be pleased by my “subterfuge”, by my attempt to display the “surface” of believing, while knowing full well, that it is just a pretense and not real? I don’t think so. But maybe you disagree, I don’t know. So get out the big guns. :slight_smile:
[/quote]

If you don’t believe in God, why do you worry about what would please Him?

Belief is not fully under our control, but it’s not completely separate from the will either. I think William James described it best. He argued that for each person there are some beliefs that are “live options” and some that are not. For me, for instance, Mormonism is not a live option–neither I think is Islam. Hinduism or Shintoism, on the other hand, I could conceivably believe if I weren’t a Christian. For other people, polytheism is not a live option. For you, perhaps theism of any kind is not a live option.

You can’t force yourself to believe something that is not a “live option.” Similarly, there are some beliefs that force themselves on us with total certainty, so that we couldn’t conceivably choose not to believe them. But there are many beliefs regarding which we don’t have perfect intellectual and/or psychological certainty. Again, this is going to vary from one person to another. But in the end we have to choose every day to believe or disbelieve all sorts of things about which we don’t have perfect evidence.

The great lie of modern agnosticism (represented by people like T. H. Huxley) is that if you don’t have convincing evidence of the sort that could prove a scientific theory, then you shouldn’t believe anything. This is purely ridiculous, in my opinion. This is not the way any normal person lives. It’s a peculiar insanity of modern industrialized civilization.

Choosing which “live option” to believe does involve an act of the will and it is to some extent in our power. It is going to be influenced by our desires, hopes, fears, prejudices, etc.

So my answer to your question would be–if belief in God is genuinely impossible for you, then you are not culpable. But if you find within yourself a desire to believe in God, and a suspicion that God might be real, and you stamp that desire and that suspicion out–then that is going to do very bad things to your soul. I think that the Catholic Church would generally agree with what I’m saying, though I’m not Catholic myself. (

Edwin


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