Someone replied to my previous message in what seemed to be a very earnest and respectfuly Christian manner. This is what he wrote:
You sound like a very intelligent person with very valid concerns about adopting a faith in the judeo-christian God. Many people have, and still have, those same concerns. A am not a religous official or biblical scholar, but I would like a chance to address your concerns. First of all, you asked how people can believe in something that cannot be proven (paraphrasing your first statements). That is really the essence of faith and truely the definition of it. Faith is believing in that which cannot be proven. We all have faith in things, religion, people, pop science, etc. I am sure you put your faith in things or people every day, for those things have proven themselves faithful and unfaithful. So now, why put yor faith into a God that you have heard so many bad things about. Well, if that is all I had to go on, I wouldn't do it either. So you are joined by millions, and that would include me if I didn't step and try try to find out for myself who this God really is.
Some people are more sceptical than others, some more analytical, some more stubborn, etc. Thank God we are all different. I was of the more analytical group. That made me even more resistant to a faith in God, especially when I didn't analyze the facts myself. But at a point in my life ten years ago I made the choice to objectively examine the basis of this faith, namely the Bible, and find out for myself if I should put my faith in Him. Well, after hearing the evidence, inconclusive as it was for there would be no reason for faith if it was conclusive, I had no choice but to obey my understanding and accept this faith. Yes, I could have chosen to reject it still, but I would have to had rejected the process I use to examine all things in my life. I am too reasonable for that. So, I must conclude that to reject the case for faith in God, you must examine the evidence yourself, or you are merely forming your opinions and beliefs on what others say, and you seem too intelligent for that. Others will tell you you don't have to do this, but what they are not telling you is that you are placing your faith in them and what they say. I am not trying to influence you into believing ANYTHING, just trying to influence you into finding out for yourself. If you do that, like I have, and put your faith in God, like I did, you will be labeled a Nut,Jesus-Freak,Right Wing Extremeist (though my faith and politics are two different things). But hey, if using my own mind to decide what I want to believe is being one of those things, then "guilty as charged".
The other questions and concerns you have, Old Testament judgements, heaven and hell, loving God, etc. will surely be answered when you take the time to find out what God says about himself (the bible) and not what others say. Ususally these others never got to know God but just passed a judgement based on what they heard. Again, you seem too intelligent for that. It is important however, to examine the bible with someone who does know the book and can explain things that may seem unclear to you. Clarity will come with experience of the material, not manipulation by others. My suggestion is to find a bible-study group and be up front with them that you just want to know what the bible says. Most "Christian Fundamentalists" ( I like that term because it suggests that you "really" believe in your faith )will be very kind and respect your wishes to not be proseltized (sp.). I hope you may become certain in your faith, whether to believe in God or not. Both ways are a faith because either side of the issue cannot be proven. God Bless.
This is how I replied to him:
Thank you for your uncommonly gracious and thoughtful response. I’d like to address some of your points.
I agree that the essence of faith is unproven belief. We have faith in things that seem true or comforting to us but which we cannot know for sure to be true. For if we were sure of them, there would not be faith; there would be certainty.
You say that you have faith in an unproven biblical God. I say that I don’t have faith in this God. You say that you came to your faith by thoroughly examining the Bible, and you urge me to conduct this examination for myself and see what happens. But I am a busy man with many obligations and interests. The amount of time and energy I would need to spend studying the Bible to the degree that you recommend would divert me from these other activities. In order for me to do this, I must have a preliminary level of faith that it is worth doing. I do not yet have this faith, any more than you would likely have faith in my telling you that before you can legitimately embrace Christianity, you must invest at least the same amount of effort in studying the sacred texts of all the great religions traditions that you have in studying the Bible so that you can make an informed choice. I could argue that the sacred text of any religion can seem plausible and compelling when examined by itself by a mind seeking a comforting sense of purpose and security and that it is only when all the sacred texts are examined and unbiased comparisons are made between them that one even begins to be in a position to choose intelligently or perhaps decide that no established religion is sufficiently more compelling than any other to choose any of them.
You say that if I study the Bible the way you recommend, my concerns about Old Testament and other passages implying God’s indifference or outright cruelty regarding human suffering will be allayed. Do you mean that I will understand that there is no everlasting hell; that God didn’t drown innocent babies and children in Noah’s day or inflict any of the other slaughters, plagues, and pestilences attributed to him in Holy Scripture; that there really is a way of reconciling the problem of pandemic evil in the world with God’s alleged omnipotence, omniscience, supreme love, supreme justice, and supreme mercy; that we, some 2000 years afterwards, are not required to believe without proof that Jesus was the one and only son of God and that he died on the cross as a brutally bloody sacrifice that was the best way an omniscient God could devise to purchase our redemption? These alleged acts, qualities, and demands of God are so overwhelmingly implausible if not repugnant to me that unless you can assure me that they are not literally true, I could no more read the Bible looking for salvation than I could read Mein Kampf for the same reason on the assurances of others that if I really take the time and make the effort to study and understand this wonderful book, my preliminary concerns and revulsions will be dispelled.
Something tells me that neither you nor any other Christian is prepared to make this assurance. Even if you tried, you would then be faced with the onerous task of explaining why I should regard a sacred text consisting of so much myth and metaphor rather than literal truth and a religion grounded upon it as more worthy of my embrace than any other sacred text and derivative religion. Can you do this?