Thanks again for taking the time to write back with an interesting, intelligent reply. Was the main passage about the numinous from C.S.Lewis? Maybe you should put a link on the Witness to the top books you recommend. Maybe I'll get that on kindle. I find the atheist writings to be refreshingly sceptical, asking the questions that Christians don't dare to, examining the side of the argument that the churches I've been to pretend doesn't exist. I feel like my thinking has grown & matured by reading Hitchens & co. I don't agree with all they say.
I will never accept that a loving, good God could ask for Ab to sacrifice Isaac. In the Bible I see many times people mistaking their feelings of the numinous as being messages from God. Many religious leaders have done abominable acts following such feelings- look at Samuel killing Agag 1 Sam 15v33 or ordering the slaughter of all the animals 15v19etc. Look at the Ayatollahs. We never got any useful science from such feelings. I got my strongest sense of the spiritual & numinous when my thinking started to change & I started to conclude that there was no way the Bible could fit together, when I started comparing it closely with science fact and history of religion. When I read the Papyrus of Ani and saw the similarities in langugae & ideas. I think I get funny feelings when my brain finds new interesting ideas. I had never read atheist books before I concluded myself that there was no supernatural. I thought I had made a great new discovery for the world but then when I read Dawkins & co I discovered that it had all been thought of 100s of years ago..
I believe a competent good God wouldn't have allowed a hell to come into existence or send anyone there. Eternal suffering for a 70 years life of human existence isn't fair or just. I think a good God wouldn't have acted like the Bible stories suggest.With Pharaoh Moses message should have been, ' Let my people go or you will die within the week and anyone who takes over will also die within the week if they fail to comply- from heart attack'. No need to wipe out others. It's just folklore anyway. God could have just made the Egyptians infertile, as Dan Barker points out- no need for any death.
I still think the most important thing is to work for the well being of humanity, their welfare, health, happiness, to protect everyone from being abused, used as slaves, damaged by poor work practices, etc. The greatest of these is love. Or maybe it is science, technology & reason. Getting your plumbing fixed or car started is more useful than telling them you care but you can't fix stuff for them or feed them. There are however no easy solutions to a sustainable future. It is a trade off. Few seem willing & less are able to make a difference.
I think part of the problem stems from language, it is just too easy to generalize. Each side of the religious debate uses the same name calling, exaggerations, non specific, generalizations. Each calls the other evil or Biblically illiterate or calls each others arguments vacuous, facile. The atheist criticism of Christianity points to the murders done over doctrine,or 'failure to obey the Lord's command' but then the atheist side kick calls for Christians to be killed. I think that killing people & destroying books is absolutely not the answer. The answer is for everyone to read everything to get a balanced view. I think that people should try to be caring & not hurt anyone as a default position. As Richard Dawkins points out you really need to have read the Bible in order to understand where so many ideas in literature & song etc come from. Atheist comedians would be short of material if it wasn't for our religious past. I can see points in the bible i agree with, If you want to be told not to do something you will probably find a verse in the Bible telling you not to do it.
I think these do not exist: demons, ghost, spirits, angels, resurrection. I am a Sadducee (act 23v8 , matt 22v23). Evil spirits do not exist. The ancient people guessed about why people get ill & die & do bad things and came up with the evil spirit hypothesis. Now adays we have other explanations. Evil spirits aren't required for the equation. The Jews probably got their idea of demons from the Greek daemon idea. The Bible is a complete muddle about evil spirits anyway. I spent most of my life in crippling fear of the possibility of getting possessed by demons because my minister uncle supposedly had exorcised someone of a demon- he acted like they were real. You will only be troubled by such notions if you give them credence, I have no doubt some people have gone mad from the fear of the non existent. Just like people go round the bend with worry about hell- which I'm sure also does not exist, it is a myth from the Greeks & persians & Egyptians- the cultures Yahweh called evil. I have tested my theory that demons don't exist. I have prayed to be demon possessed, for them to come into me. Nothing happened. Did I not believe strongly enough? I was crippled by worries about evil spirits when I was credulous of the idea, but when I became sceptical, questioned & investigated and found another hypothesis about where those ideas come from then I was healed. I am not troubled by those notions any more. Atheism healed me where trying to believe the promise from 'God' "do not fear for I am with you' didn't. i think I had a neurotic, fearful temperament from childhood anyway, that didn't help.
I am a bit apprehensive about death inspite of my conclusion that I will probably cease to exist. Well this world is so bizarre, how can the universe have a beginning? But I will hold to all the reasons I have learned & that Christianity never did make sense to me. The night when I was 9ish that I feared hell & asked God into my life was for me a step down the road to paranoia. I think some christians have closed the doors from the inside and have locked themself into a fantasy world that doesn't exist. I have opened the dungeon doors and stepped out from Christianity into the light of reason. I still enjoy the Hillsongs & Witness tunes etc & I believe in the verses that point towards being loving & caring & law abiding. Infact I can see me heading for the same attitude as Robert Price where you enjoy the fantasy of it, the pagent, then you close the book or turn off the music and say "well that isn't reality". You can't make a joke about Christianity unless you know the believing view. I don't worry abou the lyrics in heavy metal cause I think Satan is just a fantasy, but i wouldn't listen to stuff that had noticeable lyrics about being abusive, murdering, swearing alot.
If you got down this far, hope I haven't upset you too much. You seem like quite an open minded, sensible sort.