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Old 02-18-2019, 07:25 AM
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The Atheist and the Pastor


Letís talk about two people, an atheist named Adam and a Lutheran pastor named Pete.

Adam lacks any belief in the supernatural, God or gods, or any sort of afterlife. This is a provisional position, and like any null hypothesis, heís willing to revisit it if new evidence comes to light. So far, no luck. For the purposes of this thread, Iíd like to define ďatheistĒ as someone like Adam who simply lacks belief in God or gods, and makes no positive statement about the existence of higher powers, etc.

Adam is married to, uh, Eve, and they have a few kids. Eve is Pastor Peteís sister, so A&Eís kids are Peteís nieces and nephews.

Eve went to Pete when her kids were young and asked him to baptize (Christen? Whatever Lutherans call it) her kids. Pete had been trying to get Eve (a believer) to find a church where she lives and refused to baptize her kids until she did so. Eve, while still religious, had no interest in finding a local church. Other than this, Eve and Pete got along fine and he loved her and his nieces and nephews.

Now, Iím not sure what Lutherans believe, but I donít think they are universalists. So, I think that by refusing to baptize the kids, Pete was potentially damning his own nephews and nieces to hell for all eternity, according to his own belief system. I imagine itís not a permanent get-out-of-jail-free card, but I suppose the baptism would cover them until they were old enough to have the capacity to either accept Jesus as their personal savior or reject Him. Now that they are adults, and are also atheists (having simply been brought up without much church-going), it probably doesnít matter either way.

But, for a few years, these kids were in mortal, eternal danger, according to Peteís own belief system.

Whatís the debate? Based on this essentially true story, I posit that Adamís sincerity in his own lack of belief is deeper than Peteís belief in God and an afterlife. No loving uncle would put his own flesh and blood at eternal risk to make a point with his sister, not if he truly believed what he preached. On the other hand, if the atheist wasnít pretty comfortable in his lack of belief, he should have been hounding his brother-in-law to just do the baptism, just in case something terrible happened to the kids.

What say you?
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Old 02-18-2019, 07:50 AM
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I am protestant, but not Lutheran. My understanding of mainstream protestant beliefs is that 1) baptism or christening is not required for salvation, and 2) children are not in danger of damnation before they reach the maturity to make their own informed decisions about their faith.
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Old 02-18-2019, 07:54 AM
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You can't really get cut and dried answers from Lutheran pastors on the assurance of the sacrament of baptism itself saving. It isn't magic and as they believe life begins at conception, they are all putting every soul at risk in the event of a miscarriage anyway, though they would word it differently than I just did.

Let's say Pete agreed to baptize the children, the couple proceeded to live a lifestyle otherwise devoid of church and other Christian influence, and the child died at a young age. A Lutheran pastor would pray for the child's soul and offer scriptural words of consolation, however it's questionable whether a funeral would be held in the manner it would for a fallen devout believer. I am not sure a pastor following guidelines would compel a parent to find a church home before baptizing an infant, but taking some sort of Bible information class or counseling session might be a prerequisite.
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Old 02-18-2019, 08:07 AM
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It is perfectly reasonable and expected for an atheist to want to keep his kids well away from any churches, mosques, baptisms, fish-god temples, etc., but isn't that ultimately between him and his wife? What does the third person have to do with it?
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Old 02-18-2019, 08:21 AM
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This shouldn't be too surprising. A great many religious people have not really thought the implications and consequences of their beliefs through, and belief in heaven and hell are most certainly among those. See for example this thread: over half the people who voted thought that at least some people deserved to be tortured forever. Eternal torment and damnation. That's not something someone can reasonably advocate for without, in my eyes, being a goddamn monster - at least, if they thought it through. Because I don't think most of them thought it through. For most people, the idea of hell is this far-away thing. To once again quote from Unsong (and by the way, this chapter is worth reading in full if you still have any doubt that hell is not an absurd, immoral concept):

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“It seems like we’re running out of time,” said Thamiel. “But don’t worry. Later on, many of you will have all the time in the world to learn more about us. I’m not going to say if it’s ten percent or ninety percent of you; I love to watch you squirm because you don’t know. I’m not going to tell you whether you come here for believing the wrong thing, or doing the wrong thing, or what the wrong thing is, or any of that, because I want you to be totally incapacitated with fear that everything you do might be tossing yourself into my hands. I want your dreams to be haunted by the knowledge that when you die, you might very well be herded into a realm where your hunger and thirst increase as always but you will never eat or drink again. Where your body feels pain like normal but can never die; where your mind is as easily spurred to suffering as on earth but where it can never crack into the release of insanity. I want you to know you’ll be crammed into boiling hot cages, flayed, gutted, raped, lacerated, that we will rip out your eyes and pour boiling oil into the sockets and do it again and again and again.

“I want you to know that all of those people who say that Hell is the absence of God, or Hell is a name people give to their suffering on earth, or Hell is other people, or Hell is oblivion, or Hell is some nice place where atheists get to live free from divine tyranny – all of that is wishful thinking. Hell is a place full of fire and demons under the earth where you will be tortured forever. It’s exactly what it says on the tin.

Finally, I want you to know that you will sin anyway. This is the best part. For a couple of days, or a couple of weeks, you’ll be horrified, you’ll try to change your ways, you’ll be like the alcoholic promising he’ll never have another drop. Then the memory will fade, your normal habits will take over, and everyone will be back to the way they were before. You can’t save yourself. You’re not strong enough. Your basic nature will out – not to be all Calvinist about it, but it’s true – and you’ll make up some comforting excuse and get on with your life.

But you won’t live forever. And when you die, I’ll be waiting.”
(Thamiel is this universe's version of satan. Bolding mine.)

We see this all the time. Devout religiousity is no predictor of moral behavior. Just to bring up the obvious example: bishops of the catholic church, pastors and preachers of protestant denominations, high-ranking ministers of the JWs and Mormons, all have been caught raping children, with their associates all too willing to cover for them. And of course, that doesn't stop a great many people from indulging in far lesser sins. People who believe with all their heart that sinners and non-believers will be damned to eternal torture aren't willing or able to live in accordance with their own religious beliefs.

And let's not even get into the clusterfuck that is belief in heaven.

So yeah, expect that the average believer has not thought these concepts through - if they had, they probably wouldn't believe in them.
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Old 02-18-2019, 08:33 AM
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I don't know the Lutheran view, but I have a hard time imagining a Catholic priest withholding baptism in this way. For that matter, under Catholic teaching, Eve could validly baptize the kids herself, if she wants them baptized.
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Old 02-18-2019, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Crotalus View Post
I am protestant, but not Lutheran. My understanding of mainstream protestant beliefs is that 1) baptism or christening is not required for salvation, and 2) children are not in danger of damnation before they reach the maturity to make their own informed decisions about their faith.
Is this true? Then, why bother with the christening? Is it just an empty show? If this is true, then this thread no longer makes any sense. I'd love for a Lutheran, or someone knowledgeable about that sect, to speak up.

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...
Let's say Pete agreed to baptize the children, the couple proceeded to live a lifestyle otherwise devoid of church and other Christian influence, and the child died at a young age. A Lutheran pastor would pray for the child's soul and offer scriptural words of consolation, however it's questionable whether a funeral would be held in the manner it would for a fallen devout believer. I am not sure a pastor following guidelines would compel a parent to find a church home before baptizing an infant, but taking some sort of Bible information class or counseling session might be a prerequisite.
In this case, the pastor knows all about the mother's background and beliefs, since he's her brother. Seems unlikely that counseling would be needed.

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It is perfectly reasonable and expected for an atheist to want to keep his kids well away from any churches, mosques, baptisms, fish-god temples, etc., but isn't that ultimately between him and his wife? What does the third person have to do with it?
Why would you say that? Eve wanted the kids baptized and Adam didn't object or care either way -- to an atheist, it really is just an empty show of course.

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Originally Posted by Budget Player Cadet View Post
...

So yeah, expect that the average believer has not thought these concepts through - if they had, they probably wouldn't believe in them.
Of course, we're not talking about the average believer, but instead a pastor in the church. In fact, a PhD in whatever you get from a seminary.
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Old 02-18-2019, 09:06 AM
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Of course, we're not talking about the average believer, but instead a pastor in the church. In fact, a PhD in whatever you get from a seminary.
I don't know that this makes much difference, to be honest. A real conception of heaven and hell is one of those things that earnest belief and examination doesn't help you with, because the concepts are so fundamentally insane when carefully examined that it's not really possible to examine them closely and still hold your beliefs without some serious cognitive dissonance. I honestly think "I haven't thought through the consequences of my actions" is the most rational explanation here, because your summary in the OP is pretty on-point, and the dude probably isn't an insane psychopath.
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Old 02-18-2019, 09:13 AM
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Lutheran baptism is a way in which God's grace enters the world. It is not the only way and it is not required for salvation. It is an important rite that allows God's grace into your life, but it is not a 'permanent' thing, nor is it necessary for salvation. The end result of the children growing into unbelievers is the same regardless of whether they were baptized as children or not. It does not convey a magical 'get out of jail free' card to them. Baptism is desirable, but hardly compulsory. They teach that the earliest disciples were not baptized, so baptism can hardly be considered required. Lutherans also believe that merely hearing the Gospel message is a means of grace, so Pete may have felt that making the parents into liars before God would not have been worth the sacrament since merely by speaking to the children regarding the tenets of the Church, he would similarly be bringing them grace.

Last edited by senoy; 02-18-2019 at 09:15 AM.
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Old 02-18-2019, 10:16 AM
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I mean, this is just one tiny example in what seems like a bigger, more obvious fact to me.

Most Christians believe that not acting the right way will land you in punishment. For eternity. There's some disagreement about what the "right way" is, but it's a trait shared amongst almost all of them.

If you believe believe that not doing X, or doing Y, will land you in eternal torture. You sincerely believe that. Then not doing X, or doing Y, would be the most insane, ridiculous, wrong course of action you could possibly do.

Imagine, for a moment, that your child was kidnapped by a crazy person and tortured in their basement. For hours, this person raped them, cut away parts of their skin, gave them third degree burns, whatever you imagine being the most horrible stuff you could come up with. Now imagine that person kept them alive for years doing this. Now imagine that this person kept them alive for a million years doing this. Or a trillion. The trillion years of your kid being tortured is literally infinitesimally small compared to the eternal torture that the most common Christian ideologies promise.

As a parent, you would be horrified at the idea of your child being tortured for even an hour. You'd do anything to prevent it. And yet... we see Christian parents with non-believing/non-saved kids, who, do what? Hint to their kids occasionally that they should go to church? Maybe weave Jesus into a conversation here and there?

Your kid is going to suffer ETERNAL PUNISHMENT on their current path, and the best you can do is maybe spend 10 minutes or even an hour a day trying to help them out?

Of course, it doesn't have to be your kid. I would be horrified that complete strangers could potentially suffer this unimaginable fate. It's just a stronger link with kids, because you chose to bring them into this world, and you might've created a life which will spend maybe 80 years on Earth, and then a trillion trillion trillion trillion (repeating) period in the afterlife.

If you hold these beliefs, what happens in your life is utterly trivial compared to the eternity that lies beyond.

Would people commit adultery or steal or do any of the other bad things if they seriously believed that the punishment would be infinite? Would people be at peace thinking that some fraction of the human race, including some fraction of the people they love, will suffer for eternity?

If you honestly, sincerely believed these things, and you weren't a monster, you would spend every possible moment of your life trying to save people. Your family, strangers, anyone who would listen to you. Even if you only ever managed to save one person, it would be infinitely more important than anything else you could do in your life.

People who were sincerely religious would spend their whole lives trying to emulate the life of Jesus, or spend every free moment they had trying to convert people, or living the life of a monk, or some other complete amount of dedication. They would never themselves sin, because the consequences of that sin are infinitely bigger than any pleasure or gain they would get from that sin.

Which leads me to conclude - very few people actually believe this shit. If they would, it would occupy their every thought, and every goal in life, and every waking moment. As it should. Because the 80 years you have on this planet are nothing, nothing at all compared to what comes after.

People believe it just enough to get over their own fear of death, or to reinforce whatever agenda they want to believe (god told you to hate the gays!) but no further. If they sincerely believed the whole package, there's no way they would act like they do, it would be completely insane.

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Old 02-18-2019, 10:33 AM
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Part of the Lutheran rite of baptism specifically asks the parents, " do you promise to nurture this person in the Christian faith as you are empowered by God's Spirit, and to help him live in the covenant of baptism and in communion with the church?" Since Adam and Eve have both made it clear they won't, it's clear to the minister that the request for a baptism is not being done in good faith.

As noted upthread, Lutherans do not necessarily believe baptism is necessary for salvation. Baptism is a pathway for entry into "the church," and the spiritual support and commitment that includes, but individual salvation depends (according to Lutheran teaching) solely on accepting Jesus.
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Old 02-18-2019, 10:39 AM
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Lutheran baptism is a way in which God's grace enters the world. It is not the only way and it is not required for salvation. It is an important rite that allows God's grace into your life, but it is not a 'permanent' thing, nor is it necessary for salvation. The end result of the children growing into unbelievers is the same regardless of whether they were baptized as children or not. It does not convey a magical 'get out of jail free' card to them. Baptism is desirable, but hardly compulsory. They teach that the earliest disciples were not baptized, so baptism can hardly be considered required. Lutherans also believe that merely hearing the Gospel message is a means of grace, so Pete may have felt that making the parents into liars before God would not have been worth the sacrament since merely by speaking to the children regarding the tenets of the Church, he would similarly be bringing them grace.
So, what happens to kids who die before they are able to make any sort of choice to accept Jesus as their savior, according to the Lutherans? If you're under, say, four years old, you don't really have the mental capacity to make any faith decisions?

I understood baptism to be a way to get babies through their first years, before they are properly introduced to Jesus and can make their own faith decisions. Baptism would be a get-out-of-jail card if you're too young to understand. Once you're old enough to understand, if you still don't accept Jesus, you're basically out of luck. Where does this analysis go wrong?

SenorBeef, what you describe is actually sort of covered in The Good Place, in its usual amusing fashion. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll leave it at that.
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Old 02-18-2019, 10:41 AM
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Part of the Lutheran rite of baptism specifically asks the parents, " do you promise to nurture this person in the Christian faith as you are empowered by God's Spirit, and to help him live in the covenant of baptism and in communion with the church?" Since Adam and Eve have both made it clear they won't, it's clear to the minister that the request for a baptism is not being done in good faith.

As noted upthread, Lutherans do not necessarily believe baptism is necessary for salvation. Baptism is a pathway for entry into "the church," and the spiritual support and commitment that includes, but individual salvation depends (according to Lutheran teaching) solely on accepting Jesus.
I think Adam wouldn't make that commitment, but Eve would have. Whether she followed through might be a different story, but I'm sure that, at the time of the baptism, in her heart she would agree.
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Old 02-18-2019, 10:46 AM
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SenorBeef, what you describe is actually sort of covered in The Good Place, in its usual amusing fashion. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll leave it at that.

Huh. I've heard some good things, I'll check it out.
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Old 02-18-2019, 10:47 AM
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I mean, this is just one tiny example in what seems like a bigger, more obvious fact to me.

Most Christians believe that not acting the right way will land you in punishment. For eternity. There's some disagreement about what the "right way" is, but it's a trait shared amongst almost all of them.

If you believe believe that not doing X, or doing Y, will land you in eternal torture. You sincerely believe that. Then not doing X, or doing Y, would be the most insane, ridiculous, wrong course of action you could possibly do.

Imagine, for a moment, that your child was kidnapped by a crazy person and tortured in their basement. For hours, this person raped them, cut away parts of their skin, gave them third degree burns, whatever you imagine being the most horrible stuff you could come up with. Now imagine that person kept them alive for years doing this. Now imagine that this person kept them alive for a million years doing this. Or a trillion. The trillion years of your kid being tortured is literally infinitesimally small compared to the eternal torture that the most common Christian ideologies promise.

As a parent, you would be horrified at the idea of your child being tortured for even an hour. You'd do anything to prevent it. And yet... we see Christian parents with non-believing/non-saved kids, who, do what? Hint to their kids occasionally that they should go to church? Maybe weave Jesus into a conversation here and there?

Your kid is going to suffer ETERNAL PUNISHMENT on their current path, and the best you can do is maybe spend 10 minutes or even an hour a day trying to help them out?

Of course, it doesn't have to be your kid. I would be horrified that complete strangers could potentially suffer this unimaginable fate. It's just a stronger link with kids, because you chose to bring them into this world, and you might've created a life which will spend maybe 80 years on Earth, and then a trillion trillion trillion trillion (repeating) period in the afterlife.

If you hold these beliefs, what happens in your life is utterly trivial compared to the eternity that lies beyond.

Would people commit adultery or steal or do any of the other bad things if they seriously believed that the punishment would be infinite? Would people be at peace thinking that some fraction of the human race, including some fraction of the people they love, will suffer for eternity?

If you honestly, sincerely believed these things, and you weren't a monster, you would spend every possible moment of your life trying to save people. Your family, strangers, anyone who would listen to you. Even if you only ever managed to save one person, it would be infinitely more important than anything else you could do in your life.

People who were sincerely religious would spend their whole lives trying to emulate the life of Jesus, or spend every free moment they had trying to convert people, or living the life of a monk, or some other complete amount of dedication. They would never themselves sin, because the consequences of that sin are infinitely bigger than any pleasure or gain they would get from that sin.

Which leads me to conclude - very few people actually believe this shit. If they would, it would occupy their every thought, and every goal in life, and every waking moment. As it should. Because the 80 years you have on this planet are nothing, nothing at all compared to what comes after.

People believe it just enough to get over their own fear of death, or to reinforce whatever agenda they want to believe (god told you to hate the gays!) but no further. If they sincerely believed the whole package, there's no way they would act like they do, it would be completely insane.
Some Christians (Calvinists maybe?) have developed a work around for this problem. If I understand their beliefs correctly, they think that God will save them regardless of how they behave in this life. I assume that the people who developed this particular belief did so after reaching the same conclusion that you did.
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Old 02-18-2019, 10:51 AM
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Based on this essentially true story, I posit that Adamís sincerity in his own lack of belief is deeper than Peteís belief in God and an afterlife.
You can't infer that. You can only infer that it's deeper than Pete's belief that baptism (or Christening or whatever Lutherans do) is necessary and sufficient to secure the kids' eternal safety.
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Old 02-18-2019, 11:00 AM
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Some Christians (Calvinists maybe?) have developed a work around for this problem. If I understand their beliefs correctly, they think that God will save them regardless of how they behave in this life. I assume that the people who developed this particular belief did so after reaching the same conclusion that you did.
It is a standard Christian (not just Calvinist) belief that salvation is a gift, not something that we do or can earn by being good enough.
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Old 02-18-2019, 11:08 AM
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It is a standard Christian (not just Calvinist) belief that salvation is a gift, not something that we do or can earn by being good enough.
I know that Catholics donít believe this, and assumed that the churches most similar to the Catholic Church (Episcopalian, Church of England, etc.) had similar beliefs as well.
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Old 02-18-2019, 11:14 AM
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You can't infer that. You can only infer that it's deeper than Pete's belief that baptism (or Christening or whatever Lutherans do) is necessary and sufficient to secure the kids' eternal safety.
To be honest, I no longer understand what Lutherans actually do believe baptism does. Can someone clear that up for me? As usual, I'm learning new things every day at this place.
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Old 02-18-2019, 11:16 AM
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Huh. I've heard some good things, I'll check it out.
It's in the third season, which is pretty good, but I think the first two are better. They also cover the trolley problem in excellent fashion! If you like philosophy and ethics, you'll probably get a kick out of it. You really have to watch the seasons in order, though -- first two are on Netflix if you have that.
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Old 02-18-2019, 11:56 AM
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I know that Catholics don’t believe this, and assumed that the churches most similar to the Catholic Church (Episcopalian, Church of England, etc.) had similar beliefs as well.
IANAC, but, from one of the first sites that came up when I googled (catholic.com):
Quote:
We can't save ourselves, but we don't need to: Jesus Christ has paid the price for our sins. ...
The saving grace won by Jesus is offered as a free gift to us, accessible through repentance, faith, and baptism.

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Old 02-18-2019, 01:50 PM
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... that baptism (or Christening or whatever Lutherans do) ...
The answer is Baptism.

Just about everything specific to Lutherans is denoted in Luther's small catechism Chapter on baptism
or the Book of Concord
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6] In these words you must note, in the first place, that here stand God's commandment and institution, lest we doubt that Baptism is divine, not devised nor invented by men. For as truly as I can say, No man has spun the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer out of his head, but they are revealed and given by God Himself, so also I can boast that Baptism is no human trifle, but instituted by God Himself, moreover, that it is most solemnly and strictly commanded that we must be baptized or we cannot be saved, lest any one regard it as a trifling matter, like putting on a new red coat. 7] For it is of the greatest importance that we esteem Baptism 8] excellent, glorious, and exalted, for which we contend and fight chiefly, because the world is now so full of sects clamoring that Baptism is an external thing, and that external things are of no benefit. But let it be ever so much an external thing, here stand God's Word and command which institute, establish, and confirm Baptism. But what God institutes and commands cannot be a vain, but must be a most precious thing, though in appearance it were of less value than a straw.
BTW, the Pastor Pete would have baptized the kids without reservation.
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Old 02-18-2019, 02:06 PM
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I don't know the Lutheran view, but I have a hard time imagining a Catholic priest withholding baptism in this way. For that matter, under Catholic teaching, Eve could validly baptize the kids herself, if she wants them baptized.
And under Catholic teaching, the idea of "finding a local church" is pretty confusing, I don't know about Lutherans. You may like a local priest or parish better than another, or you may find it difficult to get Mass in a specific language, but if you're Catholic you're Catholic you're Catholic... finding a local church is a matter of checking the address of Catholic churches near you. In most countries (the US appears to be an outlier) you're not required to register with a specific parish or anything, you just attend or not.
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Old 02-18-2019, 02:11 PM
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The answer is Baptism.

Just about everything specific to Lutherans is denoted in Luther's small catechism Chapter on baptism
or the Book of Concord


BTW, the Pastor Pete would have baptized the kids without reservation.
Well, Pastor Pete did not actually baptize the kids IRL.
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Old 02-18-2019, 03:35 PM
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I don't know the Lutheran view, but I have a hard time imagining a Catholic priest withholding baptism in this way. For that matter, under Catholic teaching, Eve could validly baptize the kids herself, if she wants them baptized.
A Lutheran who is non-clergy may baptize someone at his or her discretion in the event they are stranded on a desert island or lost in the jungle...those kinds of scenarios.
  #26  
Old 02-18-2019, 03:44 PM
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In this case, the pastor knows all about the mother's background and beliefs, since he's her brother. Seems unlikely that counseling would be needed.
An interfaith marriage and an extended lapse in church attendance could be reasons for counseling to be offered. What would be more standard protocol in some places is the parent(s) taking a Bible information class with the pastor no matter how active in the church they may be.

The opening post suggests Pete's motive for not baptizing was to make a point as opposed to maybe, a principled decision. It seems that we don't have enough information. In being the sibling of a pastor, Eve is likely to have had connections in the church that an average member would not have. I think there's a good chance she could have contacted another pastor and a so-so chance the pastor would have conditionally denied the request for the same reason Pete did.

If you want to know what some of them believe happens to a life that dies before it can be born and baptized, see here. (I'm not sure if this is in line with the ECLA, which is larger and has become more liberal than other denominations.) I think this can be similarly applied to unbaptized, spiritually deprived children younger than some ambiguous threshold. The Lutherans don't know. They have faith in God's wisdom. His wisdom is supreme. It just doesn't make sense if you approach it with human logic.
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Old 02-18-2019, 04:31 PM
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An interfaith marriage and an extended lapse in church attendance could be reasons for counseling to be offered. What would be more standard protocol in some places is the parent(s) taking a Bible information class with the pastor no matter how active in the church they may be.

The opening post suggests Pete's motive for not baptizing was to make a point as opposed to maybe, a principled decision. It seems that we don't have enough information. In being the sibling of a pastor, Eve is likely to have had connections in the church that an average member would not have. I think there's a good chance she could have contacted another pastor and a so-so chance the pastor would have conditionally denied the request for the same reason Pete did.

If you want to know what some of them believe happens to a life that dies before it can be born and baptized, see here. (I'm not sure if this is in line with the ECLA, which is larger and has become more liberal than other denominations.) I think this can be similarly applied to unbaptized, spiritually deprived children younger than some ambiguous threshold. The Lutherans don't know. They have faith in God's wisdom. His wisdom is supreme. It just doesn't make sense if you approach it with human logic.
Eve was never a member of Pete's church -- they live in different parts of the country and he became a pastor after they had moved apart from each other. She went every time she was in town, of course.

The answer from the link was basically, "we don't know", which is honest at least.

You seem to know a lot about this, and I ask without meaning to offend: What is the point of baptizing a person, according to the Lutherans? Above, in this thread, I got the impression that it's basically an empty gesture -- is it more for the parents than the child?
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Old 02-18-2019, 05:10 PM
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Such a narrowly drawn proposition. Pete doesn't matter as much that. If Pete really understood his theology, he'd know his personal refusals are a matter for himself alone. His sister is free to find any competent theologian to do the deed, or not. The children will not remain children long, and will soon enough be able to make this decision for themselves.

Should misfortune befall the child before this, it is only the supposition of the creators of religious doctrine that any divine entity would condemn them. If one considers how intricately complicated and finely drawn this reality is, and that this Divine invented it, one would have to assume this Divine isn't so narrowminded as these doctrinaires would make him/her/it out to be.

If what Adam believes is not true, it matters not a whit how fervently he believes, or how sincere is his belief. It's a false comparison. How Adam believes what he does has no effect on Pete and his beliefs. The supposition is Adam is somehow better than Pete due to this intensity of belief and for no other cause, assuming there is a better-or-best standard in the first place. Pete can't justify his position through scripture, so using his myopic view as an example also undercuts the concept.

It seems you might have to make another attempt at devising a conundrum on this matter.
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Old 02-18-2019, 05:39 PM
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Well, Pastor Pete did not actually baptize the kids IRL.
Pete was being an ass, trying to manipulate his sister. Pastors can and do suffer lapses in judgment as can anyone.
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Old 02-18-2019, 07:28 PM
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I don't know the Lutheran view, but I have a hard time imagining a Catholic priest withholding baptism in this way. For that matter, under Catholic teaching, Eve could validly baptize the kids herself, if she wants them baptized.
On the contrary a Catholic priest not only could withhold baptism; he would be required to withhold it. Catholic canon law requires that for an infant to be licitly baptised there must be "a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion" (meaning, having a connection with the Catholic community; actively part of a parish). If there is no reasonable prospect of this, then baptism is to be deferred and the parents are to be told why.

As you point out, Eve could baptise the kids herself if she chose to, and in the Catholic (and, I imagine, Lutheran) view this baptism would be valid, but illicit - i.e. it's a bad practice, contrary to canon law, something which ought not to be done.
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Old 02-18-2019, 07:56 PM
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OK, I was not familiar with that point of canon law.

And yes, there's a difference between an act being valid and licit. In the Catholic view, literally anyone, including a non-Christian, can perform a valid baptism, and Catholics recognize the baptism of most other Christian sects as valid. But it should, licitly, be performed by a priest, if at all possible (with exceptions, of course, for when it's not possible).

As to the reason why to baptize, if it's not strictly necessary: Again, I can only speak to the Catholic view (though the Lutherans tend to be fairly close to Catholics, theologically speaking), but baptism completely cleanses the soul of all sin, including original sin. It's only temporary in the sense that, after baptism, it's still possible to accumulate other sins, which is why we're supposed to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (i.e., going to confession) on a regular basis. But it's permanent in the sense that baptism leaves "an indelible mark on the soul", and so can never be performed on the same person again, and even if you accumulate other sins, you'll still be free of original sin.

Now, it is possible to go to Heaven without baptism, since all things are possible with God. And we don't know all of the details of how that works. But it's certainly better to not have original sin than to have original sin, and so we baptize.
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Old 02-18-2019, 07:58 PM
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Such a narrowly drawn proposition. Pete doesn't matter as much that. If Pete really understood his theology, he'd know his personal refusals are a matter for himself alone. His sister is free to find any competent theologian to do the deed, or not. The children will not remain children long, and will soon enough be able to make this decision for themselves.

Should misfortune befall the child before this, it is only the supposition of the creators of religious doctrine that any divine entity would condemn them. If one considers how intricately complicated and finely drawn this reality is, and that this Divine invented it, one would have to assume this Divine isn't so narrowminded as these doctrinaires would make him/her/it out to be.

If what Adam believes is not true, it matters not a whit how fervently he believes, or how sincere is his belief. It's a false comparison. How Adam believes what he does has no effect on Pete and his beliefs. The supposition is Adam is somehow better than Pete due to this intensity of belief and for no other cause, assuming there is a better-or-best standard in the first place. Pete can't justify his position through scripture, so using his myopic view as an example also undercuts the concept.

It seems you might have to make another attempt at devising a conundrum on this matter.
I don't know what to tell you. The story is a true one as far as I know -- I'm hedging because, while I heard it directly from "Adam", he wasn't involved in any of the conversations between Eve and her brother, so I can't guarantee its accuracy.
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Old 02-18-2019, 09:10 PM
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What is the point of baptizing a person, according to the Lutherans? Above, in this thread, I got the impression that it's basically an empty gesture -- is it more for the parents than the child?
Baptism is the outward sign of a commitment to the faith and to the church. Infant baptism is, as you say, somewhat more for the parents - they are promising to raise the child in the Christian faith. And this is indeed a promise - just like marriage. Then when the child reaches the age where he or she can decide for him or herself, they are confirmed. This is called Affirmation of Baptism, where the child confirms the commitment made on his behalf.

It's not a magic ceremony.

Regards,
Shodan, lifelong Lutheran, married to a Lutheran pastor, and former seminarian (although not ordained)
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Old 02-18-2019, 09:15 PM
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Baptism is the outward sign of a commitment to the faith and to the church. Infant baptism is, as you say, somewhat more for the parents - they are promising to raise the child in the Christian faith. And this is indeed a promise - just like marriage. Then when the child reaches the age where he or she can decide for him or herself, they are confirmed. This is called Affirmation of Baptism, where the child confirms the commitment made on his behalf.

It's not a magic ceremony.

Regards,
Shodan, lifelong Lutheran, married to a Lutheran pastor, and former seminarian (although not ordained)
Thanks. Is it fair to say, then, that my supposition was wrong? He wasn't changing the potential outcome for the kids, whatever happened to them?

BTW, what you've written seems to conflict with an earlier post in this thread that said that baptism erases original sin -- seems somewhat magical to me.

And, with that, I'll be signing off for the night and will be mostly unable to post tomorrow. I'll be reading this, though, so please continue without me -- I've found this thread to be quite enlightening.
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Old 02-18-2019, 11:49 PM
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The saving grace won by Jesus is offered as a free gift to us, accessible through repentance, faith, and baptism.
That doesn't sound free. It's at best "Free*", as the phrase appears in various advertisements and on cereal boxes and whatnot.
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Old 02-18-2019, 11:50 PM
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Some Christians (Calvinists maybe?) have developed a work around for this problem. If I understand their beliefs correctly, they think that God will save them regardless of how they behave in this life. I assume that the people who developed this particular belief did so after reaching the same conclusion that you did.
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It is a standard Christian (not just Calvinist) belief that salvation is a gift, not something that we do or can earn by being good enough.
Eternal Security (which is what FlikTheBlue is describing) is indeed a fundamental belief of Calvinism (although a lot of people who don't call themselves Calvinists believe only that point and not the other points of Calvinism). It has nothing to do with salvation being a gift. On the contrary, it treats salvation as something that--while you MAY take voluntarily in the beginning--God basically super-glues it on to you, and you cannot get rid of it even if you change your mind.

Calvinists view salvation as something that God forces on you without giving you a chance to decide whether or not you even want it.
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Old 02-19-2019, 05:39 AM
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Eternal Security (which is what FlikTheBlue is describing) is indeed a fundamental belief of Calvinism (although a lot of people who don't call themselves Calvinists believe only that point and not the other points of Calvinism). It has nothing to do with salvation being a gift. On the contrary, it treats salvation as something that--while you MAY take voluntarily in the beginning--God basically super-glues it on to you, and you cannot get rid of it even if you change your mind.

Calvinists view salvation as something that God forces on you without giving you a chance to decide whether or not you even want it.
I thought that just flowed logically from their belief in an all-knowing God -- he already knows whether you're saved. Do I have that wrong? In any case, why would a believer not want salvation? It looks like you're objecting to that in your last line, but I don't see what the objection would be.
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Old 02-19-2019, 05:53 AM
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Infant baptism is scripturally not the same as what one might call the baptism that John the Baptist preformed which is a baptism of repentance. Infant baptism is seen with Samual is 1 Sam 1:26, and could be more accurately described as infant dedication to the Lord. Basically the parents giving the baby to the Lord and His purpose. As such it would seem OK for a atheistic parent not to want to do this, and also OK for the believing parent to honor that request, as well as the church. Not only OK but if the atheistic parent wanted to raise the child (as opposed to giving up custody), it would seem like that child should not be dedicated to the Lord as there could be no understanding of what that is for one parent. That position should be respected.

After that the child, when is old enough to make such a decision can get baptized with baptism of repentance and a baptism with the Holy Spirit or not.
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Old 02-19-2019, 07:48 AM
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Thanks. Is it fair to say, then, that my supposition was wrong? He wasn't changing the potential outcome for the kids, whatever happened to them?
If by "he" you mean the pastor, then no - baptism doesn't automatically change the outcome. If I understand what you are asking.

In the Lutheran tradition, baptism is a sacrament - "the outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace". It is a commitment, where the parents and sponsors promise to raise the child in the faith. The commitment is the important thing, because it is a promise by the parents to do what they can to "change the outcome" - i.e. to raise the child in the faith to the best of their abilities, and then, when the child reaches maturity, the child either confirms that it "worked", or doesn't. Of course, a lot of confirmations are just as much a matter of family pressure and expectations as baptisms are, but that's the theory. If the parents don't mean the commitment seriously, and are just doing the baptism as a social ritual or thinking that it is a magical protection spell, I can conceive of a Lutheran pastor declining to baptize if the parents aren't serious about the commitment they are making.

I can conceive of it, but it is not IME at all common. Lutherans baptize anybody, more or less, although we generally require/encourage the parents, or the baptizee if he or she is old enough, to meet with the pastor where it is explained exactly what is being promised, and that the promise is a serious one. But the default is to baptize anyone, and trust in God's grace. Having the parents show up, the baby is baptized, and then you never see them again except maybe at Christmas and Easter, is common.

We just went thru something similar at my church. A woman who was a former member of our church is now a lesbian, and requested baptism for her son. The pastor, who is relatively new to our church, consulted with the church council before he did the baptism. I was at the meeting where he did so, since I was a member of the council at the time. And the unanimous and almost instant response of the council was "go ahead and baptize - if she and her partner want baptism, then by all means let them commit their child to the faith". And we are not a gay-friendly church.

If you want to commit to the church and the faith, we will encourage you as much as we can. Keeping the commitment is between you and God.

I suppose there could be some open, unrepentant, and notorious sinner who wanted one of the sacraments for unworthy reasons, who would be refused. But I suspect we would be more likely to refuse the Eucharist than to refuse to baptize his children. But we are very reluctant even to do that. We are a lot more Luke 17:3-5 than 1 Corinthians 11:29.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 02-19-2019, 08:06 AM
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And we are not a gay-friendly church.
Are you satisfied with this state of affairs in your church, or do you think your church should be friendly to gay people? If the latter, are you doing anything to change this?
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Old 02-19-2019, 08:44 AM
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Are you satisfied with this state of affairs in your church, or do you think your church should be friendly to gay people? If the latter, are you doing anything to change this?
I think this would be an interesting topic for another thread. Thanks in advance.
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Old 02-19-2019, 09:09 AM
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I thought that just flowed logically from their belief in an all-knowing God -- he already knows whether you're saved. Do I have that wrong? In any case, why would a believer not want salvation? It looks like you're objecting to that in your last line, but I don't see what the objection would be.
That's a fundamental split between Calvinism (in which omnipotence and omniscience are foremost over free will) and Lutheranism, Catholicism or Orthodox churches to name a few (in which God chooses of his own free will to let us choose of our own free will). In the Calvinist view, the outcome is both known and decided by God; in the non-Calvinist view, the outcome is known by God (basically the dude can't avoid giving himself spoilers) but decided by each of us.
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Old 02-19-2019, 09:20 AM
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I thought that just flowed logically from their belief in an all-knowing God -- he already knows whether you're saved. Do I have that wrong? In any case, why would a believer not want salvation? It looks like you're objecting to that in your last line, but I don't see what the objection would be.
Your first sentence basically describes Arminianism, which is the other main theological camp within Protestantism. Arminians (not to be confused with the ethnic group Armenians) believe that God uses His omniscience to look forward through time and see in advance the people who will choose, of their own free will, to get saved. Calvinists believe that God chooses salvation for them, instead of letting them choose. This is called Predestination.

There are indications in the Bible that perhaps as many as 50% of all people who are truly saved will lose salvation, either through actively rejecting it (for whatever reason), or else by being careless and letting it slip out of their grasp.

Why would a believer change his mind? Because Satan is a very predatory, deceitful, vengeful entity who tries hard (and sometimes succeeds) in persuading people to change their minds.
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Old 02-19-2019, 05:07 PM
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Whatís the debate? Based on this essentially true story, I posit that Adamís sincerity in his own lack of belief is deeper than Peteís belief in God and an afterlife. No loving uncle would put his own flesh and blood at eternal risk to make a point with his sister, not if he truly believed what he preached. On the other hand, if the atheist wasnít pretty comfortable in his lack of belief, he should have been hounding his brother-in-law to just do the baptism, just in case something terrible happened to the kids.

What say you?
I find the image of an atheist hounding a priest to baptize his kids to be a really strange image - sort of like a person picketing their local supermarket for not selling unicorn food. It's not that the "lack of belief" is strong; it's that without the belief, the action in question is insane. It doesn't take strength of will to resist the lure of religion - until you already believe the religion, there's no lure. (Interest in non-liturgical aspects of the church community aside.)

Not to mention there's the issue of Pascal's Wager. To a theist there's their way, or the highway. To an atheist they're standing in the center of an intersection with a thousand roads emerging from it, none of them more correct than the other. There's no particular reason the atheist should think that a Lutheran baptism has any more eternal impact than a catholic baptism or a mormon baptism or whatever Pastafarians do to their babies. (A tomato sauce baptism?) So picture how effective dipping a baby in tomato sauce would be, and that's how much an atheist seeks baptisms.
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Old 02-19-2019, 06:08 PM
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I find the image of an atheist hounding a priest to baptize his kids to be a really strange image - sort of like a person picketing their local supermarket for not selling unicorn food. It's not that the "lack of belief" is strong; it's that without the belief, the action in question is insane. It doesn't take strength of will to resist the lure of religion - until you already believe the religion, there's no lure. (Interest in non-liturgical aspects of the church community aside.)

Not to mention there's the issue of Pascal's Wager. To a theist there's their way, or the highway. To an atheist they're standing in the center of an intersection with a thousand roads emerging from it, none of them more correct than the other. There's no particular reason the atheist should think that a Lutheran baptism has any more eternal impact than a catholic baptism or a mormon baptism or whatever Pastafarians do to their babies. (A tomato sauce baptism?) So picture how effective dipping a baby in tomato sauce would be, and that's how much an atheist seeks baptisms.
I guess what I was trying to get at, and apparently failed, was if the atheist had some doubts, foxhole-like, he may have hounded the pastor to do something about it. In this case, Adam steered clear of the interactions between the pastor and his sister.

For a weak analogy, if I put my kids on a plane, I know that it's safer than just about any other form of travel, but I'd still have them call me when they land safely on the other side. Here, the downside is eternal damnation, which is much worse than dying in a plane crash, so if Adam had any doubts, maybe he would ask the pastor to help out.

Believe me, I understand the Pascal's wager thing -- I can't believe that's ever trotted out. Homer Simpson destroyed that argument.

Regarding the strength of will, at least in America, you're surrounded by religiosity all the time. Someone might thing, hey, it's weird that all of these people could be wrong about this, what if it's me that's wrong? Anyway, that's not the case with me, so I get where you're coming from. I literally cannot come up with something that would turn me towards faith. If God wants me, he should just use his powers to make me believe. He did it with Thomas, with the Israelites and Egyptians, even with Jesus's contemporaries, performing miracles left and right.
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Old 02-19-2019, 06:46 PM
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Well, it didn't quite work with the Egyptians and Pharisees, seeing as they only got angrier the more miracles they saw. Even the Israelites, after having witnessed the Ten Plagues and the Parting of the Red Sea, still decided to build a golden calf and worship it.
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Old 02-19-2019, 06:49 PM
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I guess what I was trying to get at, and apparently failed, was if the atheist had some doubts, foxhole-like, he may have hounded the pastor to do something about it. In this case, Adam steered clear of the interactions between the pastor and his sister.

For a weak analogy, if I put my kids on a plane, I know that it's safer than just about any other form of travel, but I'd still have them call me when they land safely on the other side. Here, the downside is eternal damnation, which is much worse than dying in a plane crash, so if Adam had any doubts, maybe he would ask the pastor to help out.

Believe me, I understand the Pascal's wager thing -- I can't believe that's ever trotted out. Homer Simpson destroyed that argument.
He'd have to be having extremely specific, Lutheran-centered doubts, because the core problem of the Wager is that if an atheist were to "have doubts", he'd have no particular reason to think that Lutheranism is the solution that he's looking for. There are hundreds of different sects in Christianity alone, and half of them say that if you pick any of the others you're damned. If an atheist was plagued with fears that some unidentified, undefined, and unspecified supernatural entity had designs upon hunting his child down and torturing them forever, some random Lutheran offering baths is no salve - there are still hundreds of other possible demons out there, and providing protections against the Lutheran flavor doesn't do a thing about the others.

An atheist who's even slightly well-read has little choice but to fear none of them, since to fear any of them is to fear all of them. Without some sort of established belief that one demon can protect you from the others there's no protection in belief.

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Regarding the strength of will, at least in America, you're surrounded by religiosity all the time. Someone might thing, hey, it's weird that all of these people could be wrong about this, what if it's me that's wrong? Anyway, that's not the case with me, so I get where you're coming from. I literally cannot come up with something that would turn me towards faith. If God wants me, he should just use his powers to make me believe. He did it with Thomas, with the Israelites and Egyptians, even with Jesus's contemporaries, performing miracles left and right.
There are a few different ways to approach atheism, including claiming to be one when you're really not and are just disaffected with your sect. But if you're truly an atheist you don't have a secret lean towards one sect or another, and that homogenous wall of theists suddenly fragments into a bunch of disparate sects that all say the other is wrong. It's not a matter of saying "what if they're right" - you know for a fact that the vast majority are wrong, because they can't all be right!
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Old 02-19-2019, 07:11 PM
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You're, uh, preaching to the choir here.

I really liked South Park's take -- there's a scene in Hell and all these people yelling and screaming that they were a faithful x or a devout y, why am I here?? This assistant type comes out, checks his board and says, "The correct answer was...the Mormons!"

Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrBIm1zKhW4

Also, here, for the Simpsons devastating Pascal:

https://youtu.be/leVnnvx_kco?t=43
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Old 02-20-2019, 01:46 PM
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You're, uh, preaching to the choir here.
Well, you seemed to be entertaining the idea that a 'foxhole' atheist might leap for Lutheranism in his sudden terror about death/afterlife/whichever. I suppose if the atheist was deeply steeped in a local culture where Lutheranism was the only clear alternative to atheism then that could be a probable outcome, but I find it hard to imagine that that would be the case.
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Old 02-20-2019, 06:48 PM
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On the other hand, if the atheist wasnít pretty comfortable in his lack of belief, he should have been hounding his brother-in-law to just do the baptism, just in case something terrible happened to the kids.
This part is effectively a restatement of Pascal's Wager, and fails the same way.

The idea of the Wager is that because the consequences of a lack of religion are so bad, even if they have a very small chance of occurring, the wise choice is to go along.

The problem is that it only considers two possible cases: There is no God, and There is a God and he basically operates the way that <insert religion X> claims. But those aren't the only options. There are an infinite number of possible belief systems, and they can easily cancel out.

If I additionally consider the possible existence of Flurnghr, who devours baptized kids and digests them in his stomach for eternity, but ignores unbaptized kids because they are dirty (come on, who wants to eat the spiritually unwashed), then I should not baptize my kids or I could be damning them to eternal digestive acid!

You could point out that I just made up Flurnghr while I was writing this, so He obviously doesn't exist, but as far as this atheist is concerned, someone made up Yahwey too, just a long time ago.

So I will return to my default of not caring at all if my kids are baptized, except for the very minor consideration of not wanting to spend my Sunday afternoon on it.

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Believe me, I understand the Pascal's wager thing -- I can't believe that's ever trotted out.
I have some doubts
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