First, James here is a kind man. He questions the morality of hell and Christianity. I believe at one time he claimed "I'm effectively a Buddhist/Taoist."
I am sure its safe to say that his driving force is compassion, moderation, and humility towards others. Unlike Atheists, Buddhists may have some assemblance of moral accountability. To who is another subject to discuss.
So you would say, rather that without God there is no basis for morality, without God there would be no morality, period. So all secular or differently religious ethical systems that lead to goodness are ultimately God's doing.
...and is it fair to say that you believe it is simply impossible to be good without God, regardless of whether or not a person believes in the existence of a god?
Would it follow that the ultimate human good, in your mind, is acceptance of Jesus as god/savior, as that is what, all else excepted, "saves" you? You've written that religions that focus on works are "false," and that grace is the sole reason for salvation.
So it ultimately comes down to whether or not a person believes in Jesus as savior or not, other goodness (Godliness, to you) excepted.
...if I understand you correctly. I'm trying to figure out exactly what it is you believe so I don't ask questions of you that aren't germane to your beliefs.
Yes, I am claiming that without God there is no good. Now, does it matter if you believe it or not? Not at all. Gravity still exists even if I don't believe in it. So, even if you have a professing atheist, they will still have morality because we have consciences that was given to us by God. Your religion may call it alaya-vijnana although I don't fully understand the term.
>>So it ultimately comes down to whether or not a person believes in Jesus as savior or not, other goodness (Godliness, to you) excepted.
Not at all!! I believed in Jesus for years as a false convert. (James 2:19) The difference is what God says that He will do to save us. Like a gift given to us we have to open it to receive it. First, we must first repent (turn away) from sinning, simply as an understanding how wretched and broken and corrupt that we really are compared to a perfect and loving God. Second, we have to trust Jesus that He did do what He did in sacrifice to save us and trust Him with our lives and our Salvation. If you do that, at that moment and for eternity, you are saved by Christ and you will spend eternity in Heaven. Fight it, deny it, and reject it then there is no other avenue but Hell.
>> I'm avoiding it because theism makes close to zero sense to me and because theistic religions in general strike me as profoundly unfair should they happen to be true.
Ray says that its a legal transaction. You have violated the law (God's Law) and Jesus has paid your fine in full.
Its not just a belief, its an understanding of ourselves and a release of ourselves to Him. Because we are separate from God in sin.
Someone else over at "To The Ends" put it nicely this way "This way back to God is not just a legal transaction, but results in an inner spiritual awakening described as a "new birth" or being "born from above" (John 3:3). This is a personal, spiritual transformation in which inner emptiness and death is replaced by new life, and "all things have become new" (2 Cor. 5:17) The key to accepting this new life is accepting Jesus himself, accepting his resurrection and his claims to be God, and then submitting yourself to his absolute authority as God over your life."
Moshe over at carm.org said to me in the past, "That is, our religion is from the Creator. It is a result of our hope and trust in God. It is the natural fruit. False religions have stolen from God and not the other way around. False religions have a common denominator and that is there assault on the term "Justification." They are working toward their salvation. We are working as a result of our salvation...
A religion that is pure in the sight of God is a "discipline" which results and originates, from God. We do these things as a result of being justified. We do these things because God has declared us "not guilty" because of the passive/active obedience of the Messiah being given to us as a gift. His works are what save us. In contrast, the religions of the world who deny justification seek to bring their "religious" efforts to God to "save" them.
...We as believers have a beautiful religion because it is a fruit which comes from God. It starts with him and ends with him. Like I said; the religion we show is a result of what God did. It is an external response. For example, we love because he first loved us right? The false religions out there have a completely different gospel. As a result they bring their filthy rags and present then to God thinking they are working their way to God. We have been made clean by the word. The false religions make themselves clean."
In reference to Hell
>>because you clearly believe that this (Hell) is all not only fair, but just and merciful. Or unfair, but not to us. We're the recipients of your God's unfairness to himself...which I'm trying to make sense of.
Yes its fair. Is it fair to punish the violator of a law? Should the punishment fit the crime? If you see in the newspaper a man getting a small $20.00 fine for an infraction you would assume that the infraction was petty or small. When you find out the fine was for raping and murdering 10 woman in cold blood you would be outraged, as we all would be.
So what is the punishment for one little lie? Hell.
Why is that? Sin is always directly against God. GotQuestions.org puts it this way, "God is an eternal and infinite Being (Psalm 90:2). As a result, all sin requires an eternal punishment. God’s holy, perfect, and infinite character has been offended by our sin. Although to our finite minds our sin is limited in time, to God—who is outside of time—the sin He hates goes on and on. Our sin is eternally before Him and must be eternally punished in order to satisfy His holy justice."
I believe a sinner, without being forgiven of sins, cannot be in the presence of God because he/she would burst into flames (Genesis 32:30). God is perfect so we must be perfect to be in His presence. Without the mediator we would perish (1 Timothy 2:5). Look what happened to Saul (now Paul) he was blinded by God's holy presence of light.
The rich man is a good example of someone that understands the gravity of sinning against God and going to Hell. God loves us (John 3:16) and wants us to be saved from Hell (2 Peter 3:9).