(2551) Killing the wrong Jesus
Assuming Jesus was a real person, there is an alternate scenario that could have launched the Christian faith. This theory supposes that Jesus was mistaken for another Jesus (Jesus Barabbas), who was wanted for murder and sedition according to gospel tradition. Thus, the Romans crucified that wrong man. The followers of Jesus Barabbas stole Jesus’ body from the tomb to cover up the confusion, and the empty tomb was misinterpreted as a resurrection. Then, the author of the Gospel of Mark re-arranged the facts to place the blame on the Jews for choosing the criminal Barabbas over Jesus. The following was taken from:
The earliest version of the earliest Gospel (Mark) ends with three women being upset by finding Jesus’ tomb empty three days after his death. (Later versions add material about his resurrection also contained in the later Gospels.) We have two choices here. We can believe that a corpse came back to life after three days and either transported itself back to Galilee (Mark and Matthew) or stayed around the Jerusalem area and ate a meal with Way Followers and walked through the city and out to Bethany with them without causing a major incident for the Romans who had just crucified him (Luke).
Or we can believe something less supernatural and mythological, something that doesn’t sound like the product of storytelling and legend-making around countless campfires during the decades before these accounts were written. Something like this: Mathew tells us of a man named Jesus Barabbas (some translations conveniently omit “Jesus” in the man’s name) who according to Mark was a murderous insurrectionist against Roman rule. The Romans wanted badly to capture him. On the night of Jesus of Nazareth’s arrest, they were informed by a “Judas” or someone else that Jesus was with his followers in the Garden of Gethsamane. They found a “Jesus” (the wrong one) there and arrested him. They proceeded to torture him ceaselessly trying to learn more about Jesus Barabbas’ followers and weapons caches of which Jesus of Nazareth could tell them nothing. Then they crucified him and he dies very quickly (for a crucifixion victim) as a result of the relentless torture. Someone sympathetic to the Way Followers donates a tomb and the corpse is placed within. The real Jesus Barabbas knows that if the mistaken identity gaffe is investigated he will once again be a wanted man. So his followers break into the tomb, steal the corpse (so the Romans can’t determine they got the wrong man) and their leader can escape later pursuit and punishment.
But the missing corpse is the foundation for the Hellenized Jews’ legend-making and deification of Jesus that Paul later developed into a full-blown theology. Like Churchill said, “History is written by the victors.” History, or in this case, the mythology. If we were ever to find writings from the Jerusalem Way Followers we might have a very different picture of the origins of Christianity.
The validity of this theory is not what is important. What is important is that it is infinitely more plausible than a dead man coming back to life and then rocketing himself into outer space.
(2252) The Bible’s chronology criterion
The Bible has been taken as God’s word by Christians based on a presumption that is not tied to any fact or event that would be readily acknowledged by a disinterested party. For instance, why was what Paul wrote more authoritative than what other Christian writers have written over the past twenty centuries? What if Paul’s epiphany had happened a few centuries later? The following was taken from:
The Bible has always fascinated me as a cultural artifact, because the idea is that the texts within it are somehow special. These aren’t just regular texts. These texts are a cut above. They are “sacred”, or “inspired”, or “authoritative”, or even “infallible”. For many believers, these texts have not been compiled by accident. These are precisely the texts that God wants to be included in that special compilation called “The Bible”.
Believers subsequently take a magnifying glass to each and every sentence and word within this compilation, searching for the true meaning and trying to squeeze out as much doctrine as possible. Many also believe in sola scriptura, or the idea that this compilation of texts is the sole authority for theological matters.
I think if you really inspect this idea, it starts to fall apart. What is the criteria for what makes the cut of the Bible? It’s about as clear as mud. The letters of Paul are a perfect example. Paul’s teachings constitute a huge amount of what makes up Christianity, even to the point where some people jokingly refer to Christianity as “Paulianity”. But who was Paul? Was he God? Certainly not. Was he a close student of Jesus? No, in fact there’s no reason to think he even met and conversed with Jesus for any significant length of time.
So why are Paul’s teachings considered authoritative? Well, the usual logic is that they’re in the Bible, so they must be authoritative. But why do they make the cut of the Bible in the first place? What clear criteria do they meet? There is none, or at least none that wouldn’t also apply to all sorts of later theologians. Paul’s letters (and therefore teachings) seem to have made the Bible purely because of chronological proximity.
Consider this as a thought experiment: Suppose that instead of living in the first century, Paul lived in the eleventh century. And suppose everything else about him was the same – he was a persecutor of Christians until he had a conversion experience, he became a spreader of the gospel, he advised local churches through letters, he said women shouldn’t speak in church, and so on. Would his writings and teachings have made the Bible then? No. He would just be another Church father or something like that. You would have Augustine, Origen, Justin Martyr, and so on, and Paul. Just another theologian, but not a guy whose writings made that authoritative book called “The Bible”.
Paul’s writings are by no means the only example of the ambiguous way that sacred texts are codified. There is of course the apocrypha, and another example is the book of Ecclesiastes, which has had controversy over whether it should be included in the Bible because of its bleak tone.
Christians might claim that Paul’s writings are canonical because he (claimed he) had a direct visitation from the risen Jesus. But at the same time they will dismiss any other person who has made the exact same claim. Thus, it appears that the only reason Paul’s letters are in the Bible is because he was the first one. Numbers 2, 3, and so forth need not apply. Chronology seems to be the only criterion. All of the thoughtful writings produced ever since are strictly the opinions of the authors themselves.
This idea is supported by the following thought experiment. Suppose that today another man claims that he had a vision of Jesus and produced letters to that effect. Would these letters be considered as being equivalent to Paul’s. No, and why not? Because they weren’t written in an arbitrarily-determined critical time period. Which is to concede (in a backhanded way) that God is incapable or unwilling to add to his inspired message to mankind.
(2253) Bible authors flummoxed by science
It is an historical mystery why Christianity has survived into the 21st Century given that scientific discoveries have continued to erode the credibility of the biblical authors. Christians must increasingly overlook the embarrassment of scriptural errors that have been illuminated by our ever sharpening view of reality. The following was taken from:
Let us count the ways.
- The authors of the Old Testament believed in a Biblical cosmology, with a flat Earth separated by a dome from the waters above and the waters below. This is absurd in light of our current understanding of the Earth as a sphere orbiting a spherical Sun in space.
- The authors of the Bible believed that heaven was a physical place located above the Earth. This is why characters in the Bible literally ascendinto heaven. We now know that there is no heaven in space above us. If heaven isn’t above us, where are Elijah, Jesus, etc. ascending to?
- The authors of Bible believed that the universe was created in six days in the last 10,000 years. Our current understanding of the age of the Earth and universe renders this absurd.
- The authors of the Bible believe that God created humans separately from other animals. Our current understanding of evolution and our common ancestry with every other living thing renders this belief absurd. Human speciation from our common ancestor with other apes happened very gradually over hundreds of thousands of years. At one point there were anatomically modern humans living with other species and subspecies in the Homogenus at the same time.
- The authors of the Bible believed that God created the universe expressly for humans living on Earth. Our understanding that the Earth is just one of billions of planets orbiting billions of suns in billions of galaxies renders this belief absurd.
- The authors of the Bible believed that all humans on Earth are descended from Noah and his family (and ultimately Adam and Eve). Our modern understanding of population genetics renders this absurd.
- The authors of the New Testament did not yet conceive of standards of evidence or the historical method, and so are perfectly comfortable writing about Jesus without explaining how they know the things they know, who their sources are, or what evidence corroborates the claims that they are making. We now know that the authors of the gospels were most likely not eyewitnesses, and wrote these stories about Jesus, ascribing dialogue to him, decades after the fact.
With all of this in mind, it is clear that the authors of the Bible were fundamentally mistaken about the nature of reality and the universe in which we live. If this is the case, why would an omnimax God divinely inspire a scripture that is so fundamentally wrong about all these things? And why would an omnimax God send his only son into this culture that is mistaken about the universe, and apparently fulfill the prophecies of this mistaken culture? And if this omnimax God’s goal was to send his son for the salvation of all of humanity, why would he do this at a time where it would be unlikely that any reliable proof would be preserved for future generations that understand standards of evidence and the historical method?
If God, the alleged creator of all that exists, inspired a set of writings for inclusion in a book that we would eventually take as his special message to humankind, these types of flaws would not exist. This is compelling evidence against the god of Christianity.
(2254) Christianity is a rigged scheme
Just think about it. Heaven is the only desirable destination for humans, following death. One can’t get into this heaven without God’s forgiveness. God’s forgiveness, we are assured, is simply not available or possible without a divine incarnation along with its supreme sacrifice. And one can’t get the forgiveness without personally accepting that incarnation of Christ and his salvation. One can’t accept Christ without submission and repentance. One can neither submit nor repent without first becoming convinced of Christ’s incarnation and his supreme sacrifice. One can’t become so convinced without hearing about and or reading the message of the Bible. One normally won’t hear about or read the Bible without first being born in the right place or in the right family. One can’t be born in the right place or in the right family without enjoying a measure of dumb luck. And dumb luck is not a feature of a fair judgment system.
Thus, there exists a direct linkage between going to heaven and being subject to an unfair judgment system. It takes little analysis to realize that Christianity cannot be the creation of an infinitely intelligent being. It is flawed beyond repair. It is not an equal-opportunity enterprise. Any government exercising a similarly rigged system of doling out punishments and rewards would be overrun or voted out of existence.
(2255) Natural selection of cults
In Acts 5, an important clue is revealed, suggesting that the Jesus movement was in competition with other similar movements at the same time. The following is taken from:
One of the intriguing aspects of this episode, verses 33 to 39, is Gamaliel’s mention of two other recent upstarts, Theudas and Judas the Galilean, whose movements had been crushed by the authorities. The author of Acts, perhaps unwittingly, confirms what we know from other sources: the Jesus cult had competition. A crucial paragraph in Richard Carrier’s major work on Jesus bears repeating often; Christians, please pay attention:
“Palestine in the early first century CE was experiencing a rash of messianism. There was an evident clamoring of sects and individuals to announce that they had found the messiah. It is therefore no oddity or accident that this is exactly when Christianity arose. It was yet another messiah cult in the midst of a fad for just such cults. That it among them would alone survive and spread can therefore be the product of natural selection: so many variations of the same theme were being tried, odds are one of them would by chance be successful, hitting all the right notes and dodging all the right bullets. The luck winner in that contest just happened to be Christianity.” (p. 67, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt)
In this mish-mash of messianic cults it was inevitable that one of them would emerge as the historical winner. However, the survivor of such a natural selection is not necessarily superior or truer, it often is nothing more than the random outcome of many circumstantial events. The fact that Christianity arose during the same period that other similar cults emerged suggests that it was simply the lucky one that ‘dodged the bullet.’
(2256) Ancient gods were more interesting
It is revealing to note that the ancient gods, such as Thor, Zeus, and Apollo were nothing like the god of Christianity, at least in terms of how their worshipers viewed them. These ancient gods were much more human-like with all sorts of character flaws, far from perfect, and definitely not epitomizers of morality. But over time, when gods became fewer or unitary, they suddenly became more virtuous. The following was taken from:
Ancient religions, particularly those with polytheist pantheons, did not operate under the ridiculous idea that the deities had to be perfect. They had character flaws, bad habits, were capricious as much as they were vengeful, and as such the stories about them were much, much more interesting.
Also because they explained a wider range of phenomena- now that we have science the god needs to be a whole lot vaguer.
So, by the time that the Jews were inventing their gods or borrowing them from their neighbors, no longer was lightning and thunder, for example, considered to be the angry outburst of a god. As time went on and as science began to explain natural phenomena, the gods were relegated to more subtle effects. Also, in the competition of gods between various societies, it became important for ‘our god to be better than yours.’ We can see this happening in the Christian scripture where Yahweh is shown in a much more humane light than how he is portrayed in the Old Testament.
This evolution of gods over time is evidence that they were nothing more than reflections of the human cultures that invented them. The gods became more civil just as civilizations were doing the same.
(2257) The Bible needs an update
The Bible is nearly 2000 years old and it no longer provides sufficient information relevant to modern society. It is in need of an update, and God must surely realize this. Evidently, and for reasons unknown, he must have changed his mind about ending the world in the 1st Century. Now, twenty centuries later, a lot has changed. The following guidance, for example, is needed from the Lord:
– abortion ethics
– use of stem cells for medical purposes?
– update on the acceptability of women leaders
– is euthanasia moral?
– R rated movies/pornography?
– is gay marriage OK?
– the prosperity gospel?
– which birth control methods are OK?
– guidance on which Christian denominations are legitimate
– a much-needed update on divorce ethics
– a REALLY much-needed update on the topic of slavery
– a defining statement on Mormonism
– necessary revisions to the Sermon on the Mount for a world that’s NOT ending soon
– is social nudism acceptable?
– revision to the creation story to acknowledge scientific advancements
These updates are sorely needed to provide guidance to Christians who, because the Bible is unclear on these topics, are sometimes in violent disagreement about them. But the problem is how could God accomplish this? Anybody who wrote a book claiming that it come directly from God would be dismissed as being delusional.
Given this, there seems to be no possibility that the Bible can be updated. And, of course, many Christians take a verse in the Book of Revelation (22:18) to state that God himself warned against any additions to the Bible (even though the author was clearly talking about his own work, not the entire suite of 66 books that centuries later would be compiled into the canon).
So, if the Bible cannot be updated today, how could it have been updated in the past? Meaning, how could anything written have been verified as being the word of the Lord? Truly, it was nothing more than an arbitrary committee decision. And that’s all it could be today. The ‘word of the Lord’ could only be updated by the popular vote of quarreling simple-minded humans. And given the current sectarian landscape, this method is no longer viable.
(2258) Evidence- importance mismatch
In this life, we are provided much evidence for things that don’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. But Christianity would have us believe that obtaining our salvation for the next life is not only important, but that it is just about the only thing that really matters. Given that, it seems strange that the evidence provided to support this claim is so weak. The following was taken from:
First of all, I think we can agree that within Christianity it can be said that a) God’s existence, b) Jesus’s resurrection, and c) Jesus’s payment for everyone’s sins are the most important facts in the entire universe. No knowledge is more important to human beings than knowledge of these facts. Also, Jesus’s resurrection and payment for our sins happened specifically because God wanted people to be able to achieve salvation. That means God cares about us attaining salvation. Yet the evidence for facts a, b, and c, if any, is on an extremely low level. There is incredible, easily verifiable evidence that d) the Earth is a ball. However, d is ridiculously irrelevant compared to the utmost-important issues of God’s existence, resurrection, and salvation. Why is it that at any moment I can easily verify the evidence that shows me the Earth is a ball, a fact completely irrelevant to my eternal life, while everything I have concerning evidence for a, b, and c is riddled with problematic assumptions, unsupported premises, and logical fallacies? If God cared about my salvation, there would be at least as much evidence for a, b, and c as there is for the Earth being a ball. In short, Christianity is false because there is less than an overwhelming amount of blatant, easily verifiable evidence for Christianity – and that is what we would expect there to be if Christianity were true.
Why would a god allow such generous evidence for things that don’t matter while withholding evidence for the one thing that has immense, overbearing importance? This is a strong signal that the god of Christianity does not exist or is not interested in playing a fair game.
(2259) Omniscient narration
The gospel authors wrote their accounts as omniscient narrators- in other words like a supernatural viewer who was observing and listening to everything going on- not as a localized eyewitness. But even if it is assumed that they obtained their information from eyewitnesses or what they had written, there remain at least two episodes that clearly had no witnesses to begin with. The following is taken from:
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record what is collectively called the temptations of Christ. It’s the story where Jesus goes off by himself into the dessert and is tempted by Satan. Those three gospels all record it as fact. Why should we trust that these are historically accurate documents when even they say that there weren’t witnesses to events?
And before someone says, “Jesus could have told people what had happened,” I’ll say this. We don’t just believe wild claims by individuals who were by themselves with no evidence to back up those claims. Why don’t we believe alien abduction stories? Because there’s never any evidence outside of the testimony of the one saying they were abducted. Nobody else ever sees it and there’s never any evidence to show it occurred, so we don’t believe it. Real historians concerned with accuracy wouldn’t have written about things like Jesus’s 40 days as factual events, or they would have at least justified to the readers how they knew the events were true. And that’s just one example.
Let’s also remember Jesus’s prayer shortly before he is crucified. The event is recorded in all 4 gospels, and each time it specifies that Jesus was alone, even going so far as to say that the apostles that came with him slept through Jesus’s prayer. Once again, we have events being portrayed as factual occurrences where the gospels themselves even admit that there were no witnesses whatsoever.
It appears beyond a reasonable doubt that the stories of Satan’s temptation and Jesus’ prayer in the garden are fictional accounts that were made up in an effort to embellish the narrative. But in so doing it provides a clue that the gospels do not represent true efforts at transmitting actual history.
(2260) Atheism can exist in only one world
Christianity can exist (i.e. be viable as a believable representation of reality) in an infinite number of worlds- for instance, one with demons making trouble, or with angels dancing around, or with daily miracles occurring in multiple locations, etc. However, atheism can exist in one and only one world.
For atheism to be a legitimate ‘belief system’ the following is required:
– the universe must appear as though it was not designed, meaning there must be a certain measure chaos and asymmetry. For example, orbits of planets must not be precisely circular, there must be collisions of stars and planets, there must be extra material (comets, asteroids) flying around that has no specific function, and there must be no organized placement of galaxies.
– all religions that exist or have existed must have developed in a specific time and place. In other words, there can be no instance where the same religion originated independently in multiple places.
– there can be no scientifically verified miracle of any kind, meaning that all unusual phenomena must be explained either as a natural occurrence or determined to be of unknown cause.
– prayers uttered by religious people must not show any statistical efficacy.
– multiple religions should exist and each religion should have splintered into various factions. Otherwise it would difficult to explain how humans could maintain a cohesive unity over time.
– the texts of holy books must not contain any scientific information not known at the time of their authorship. Also, they should reflect nothing beyond the ethics and morality of their time.
If any of these conditions were not met, then atheism would not be a viable ‘belief system.’ However, ALL of these conditions ARE met, meaning that atheism can legitimately exist in our world. If any religion was true, this situation would be extremely unlikely. That is, we would expect one or more of these conditions to be violated. Absent that, we can conclude that, most likely, all religions are false.
(2261) The case against omnibenevolence
Christians prefer to refer to their god as being the paragon of benevolence, a god full of love desiring the best outcome for all humans. However, their scriptures do not support this view. The following was taken from:
Premise 1: According to Christianity, a majority of people will go to hell, an absolutely awful place of eternal suffering.
1) proportion of people in hell: Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
2) hell as a place of eternal conscious torment: Matthew 25:46: “”Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
3) the torment being especially awful: Matthew 18:9 “And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” Luke 13:28: “”There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.”
Premise 2: If God is omniscient and omnipotent, he could create the world in such a way that the majority of people do not go to hell.
I understand this is a controversial premise, but if God could create any possible universe, he could create one with a certain set of factors – such as fewer temptations or a more natural disposition toward the divine – that make belief easier. He could look into the future and choose to actualize a universe with a set of conditions such that the proportion of people going to heaven would be far higher than it currently is without violating human free will. He could do this through greater amount of divine revelation, a weakening of the sin nature, a greater degree of correspondence between Earthly reward and virtue in order to encourage it, and so forth. Given how extreme and how awful eternal conscious torment is, and how the Bible describes going to hell as an easy, default condition, it seems absurdly plain that an all-powerful God could have set up conditions where avoiding eternal torture wouldn’t be described as “a narrow way.” This is so plainly awful and terrible that a truly loving God would refuse to do such a thing. Just as a loving parent wouldn’t let his foolish 2-year-old near a cliff, a truly loving God wouldn’t let his far more ignorant creatures into such a risky world with only a narrow escape and then hold them accountable on the pain of eternal torment if they fail to meet this incredibly difficult task. And none of these things require a reduction of divine justice because they are all about setting preconditions such that sin is less likely to occur. A great example of this would be abortion: make the length of pregnancy much shorter to ensure that abortion does not take place and make sex outside of marriage less pleasurable in order to reduce its occurrence. God could do these things without violating human free will.
Premise 3: An omnibenevolent or all-loving God would create a universe in which the majority of people go to heaven over one where the majority go to hell.
(Kind of a rehashing with the commentary before, but just spelling it out explicitly)
Premise 4: Since according to Premise 1 we see the Biblical God did not create a world as described in Premise 3, we can conclude that God is not all-loving.
Addendum: Given how awful hell is portrayed in both the Bible and throughout Christian history, it would be better for God not to create anything at all than to allow scores of people to suffer that much eternally.
There seems to be little wiggle room to rebut this argument. Christian theology has generated an internal contradiction- God cannot be both all-powerful and all loving.
(2262) God was not always all-knowing
Almost every contemporary Christian will opine that God is all-knowing as well as all-powerful, but this belief was not a feature of early Jewish theology. This fact is represented by the early books of the Bible where God is shown to be clueless in many occasions. The following was taken from:
Young God (Yahweh/El in the Torah) wasn’t all-knowing. He had to call out for Adam in the garden, he conferred with Abraham and Moses, was persuaded to change his mind, and could only just barely beat the Pharaoh’s priests and their sponsor-gods in the last round. He was completely caught off guard by Aaron’s blasphemy. Imagine how long it would have taken for thousands of people to gather, melt, and shape gold into a statue worthy of appeasing the local god. Yahweh was ignorant of these and many other things.
Satan was originally an agent in Yahweh’s court, and only later became synonymous with a spirit of evil after the Persians introduced such a concept during the Babylonian captivity.
The idea of God being all-knowing was a later, Catholic invention, along with being all-powerful, and the Trinity. I think the idea of God being omni-benevolent is a recent modification of the character.
Making God out to be all-knowing was probably a consequence of creating a tableau for the purpose of expressing the colloquial claim that ‘my god is better than yours.’ Thus, being all-knowing became a necessary trait along with being all-powerful. The later addition of omnibenevolence was a bow to the more recent evolution of human ethics and morals that necessitated God to be at least as nice as contemporary humans. Two problems develop from these observations: (1) God inexplicably changes over time and (2) it is inconsistent to claim that god is all-knowing and all-powerful while at the same time being omnibenevolent (given the degree of gratuitous suffering and evil in the world).
(2263) Jesus talking about himself
One of the devastating contradictions polluting the gospels is how Jesus talked about himself in the first gospel written (likely Mark) versus how he did so in the last one (John). The following was taken from:
So in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is not interested in teaching about himself. But when you read John’s Gospel, that’s virtually the only thing Jesus talks about -is who he is, what his identity is, where he came from – he came from above with the Father – where he’s going – he’s returning to the Father. And he, himself, is in some sense, divine.
As he says in John Chapter 10: I and the Father are one. Or as he says in Chapter 8: Before Abraham was, I am. Abraham was the father of the Jews, who lived 1,800 years before Jesus. And Jesus actually appears to be claiming to be a representation of God on Earth.
This is completely unlike anything that you find in Mark or in Matthew and Luke. And it – historically, it creates all sorts of problems because if the historical Jesus actually went around saying that he was God, it’s very hard to believe that Matthew, Mark and Luke left out that part – you know, as if that part wasn’t important to mention.
This contradiction is critical to the authenticity of the gospels as a whole. What it really means is that for Christianity to remain viable, it must jettison from the Bible either the Gospel of John or the Gospels of Mark, Luke, and Matthew.
(2264) Changing the reason Jesus died
Very few Christians realize that there is a critical mismatch between the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke in detailing the significance of Jesus’ death. Mark presents the standard theological idea that Jesus died to atone for humanity’s sins whereas Luke promotes it as miscarriage of justice that provides an opportunity for Jews to repent to God. The following was taken from:
This is another thing that a lot of people don’t pick up on because everybody assumes that the entire Bible must have the same view about why Jesus died. But in fact, if you read the different authors, there are markedly different views.
The earliest account we have of Jesus’s life, of course, is the Gospel of Mark. And in Mark, there’s a fairly unambiguous view. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus states -during his ministry, in Mark, Chapter 10 – that he, the son of man, came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
So this encapsulates Mark’s views, that Jesus’ death somehow brings about an atonement for sin, that because Jesus dies, people can have a right standing before God through the death of Jesus.
Luke was writing probably 15 years, maybe 20 years after Mark, and actually knew the Gospel of Mark. He reproduced a good bit of Mark’s Gospel in his Gospel, in the Gospel of Luke.
What is striking is that he took out this verse that – where it says that where Jesus says that he’s come to give his life as a ransom for many. Luke took out that verse, and when Luke portrays the crucifixion of Jesus, there’s nothing about the crucifixion scene that makes you think that this death is meant to be an atonement for sin.
In fact, Luke also wrote a second volume that we have in the New Testament. He also wrote the Book of Acts, which talks about the spread of Christianity through the Roman Empire. And there are a number of sermons in Acts in which the apostles are trying to convert people. And in these sermons, they talk about the death of Jesus, but they never mention that Jesus’s death is an atonement for sin.
Instead, what they say is that Jesus’s death was a huge miscarriage of justice. The people who did it are guilty before God, and they need to turn to God so that God – in repentance – so that God will forgive them.
In other words, the way the death of Jesus works in Luke is not that it brings atonement for sin. It’s the occasion that people have for realizing their sinfulness so that they can repent, and God will forgive them.
There can be nothing more important to Christianity than to document consistently the theological significance of Jesus’ death. However, as discussed above, this objective was not accomplished. By placing both the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke (and Acts) in the Bible, an ambiguity creeped into the canon signaling the most likely truth: early Christians did not have the same understanding for why Jesus died.
(2265) New Testament world view
Few Christians read enough of their bibles to be made uneasy by the fact that the world view of the people who wrote the Bible is not consistent with their own world view. This should be a wake-up call to anyone with a mildly curious mind. The following was taken from:
“When was the last time you offered your condolences to a neighbor whose son is demon-possessed? Demons are just not encountered in everyday life, contrary to what one would expect if the New Testament worldview still held good.” So says Robert M. Price in his new book, Jesus Christ Superstition (p. 123).
Hold that thought: “…if the New Testament worldview still held good.” We know that many Christians have moved on, and not reading the Bible has probably helped with that. In the fifth chapter of Mark’s gospel, Jesus transferred demons from a man into a herd of pigs. How many Christians would admit that this story doesn’t reflect how they view the world, much less enhance their faith? But demons transporting into pigs reflects the New Testament worldview. Again, Robert Price:
“In the synoptic gospels it seems like Jesus is thronged by ailing demoniacs on every street corner. But when a middleclass suburban Baptist gets arthritis or pneumonia, will it ever occur to him or her to call in an exorcist?” (p. 123) Yes, many Christians have moved on—not including, however, the Vatican, which has a staff of exorcists. Pope Francis doesn’t seem to mind at all.
Does it matter that contemporary Christians view the world in a way that is far different from how Jesus is alleged to have seen it? Probably yes.
(2266) The ‘sin’ of unbelief
One of the holes in Christian theology is the asymmetry between the alleged original sin of Adam and the redemptive ‘sacrifice’ of Jesus, purported as the means to gain victory over original sin. On the one hand, original sin is assigned to a person whether they accept it or not, whereas the redemption by Jesus is conditioned on one’s belief or acceptance of the same. Thus, Jesus’ death and resurrection does not erase the ‘sin’ of unbelief, while at the same time, unbelief offers no escape from original sin.
Although many Christians do not accept the concept of original sin, it is clearly spelled out in the New Testament:
When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.
Virtually every Christian denomination considers Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice to apply only to those who believe in it, accept it, or act upon it. It does not apply to persons who either don’t believe Jesus existed, or else consider him to be a non-divine individual, or, more generally, don’t believe in gods or anything supernatural for that matter. Jesus did not die for unbelievers, but Jesus did die for murderers, rapists, thieves, and liars. In other words, he died to take upon himself the penalty for actions that brought grief, suffering, and death while he didn’t die for the one thing that has no victim- the simple ‘act’ of unbelief.
This is where Christianity goes off the rails, penalizing everybody regardless of belief (Adam) while forgiving conditionally on the basis of belief (Jesus). It is inconceivable that such an unethical system of justice could have originated in the mind of the creator of the universe.
(2267) God’s racial bias
One of the persistent traits of the God of the Bible is his penchant for the Jews to the exclusion of all others. He places an inordinate importance on a person’s ethnic makeup and often condemns other who, through no fault of their own, are not Jewish. This attitude would appear to be inconsistent with what one would expect from the being that created the forces of nature. The following was taken from:
In the Bible, God generally judges a person based on his/her ethnic basis:
“This is what the LORD Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.'”
“No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the LORD”
“19 When you lend money, food, or anything else to another Israelite, you are not allowed to charge interest. 20 You can charge a foreigner interest. But if you charge other Israelites interest, the Lord your God will not let you be successful in the land you are about to take.”
“5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
“26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s (Jew’s) bread and toss it to the dogs (Gentiles).”
“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.”
” 44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. “
“39 “‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to you, do not make them work as slaves. 40 They are to be treated as hired workers or temporary residents among you; they are to work for you until the Year of Jubilee. 41 Then they and their children are to be released, and they will go back to their own clans and to the property of their ancestors.”
According to the Bible, a person must be a Jew to become a prophet/apostle. All the prophets and the apostles who came after Abraham were ONLY Jews. Barely 0.2% of the World’s population is Jewish but all the Bible’s authors were Jews. There is not even a single Gentile author.( Luke & Luke, the Jew)
It’s even more obvious if you observe how God judges Israel vs other nations. For instance, when God judged and destroyed Sodom & Gomorrah, the gentile nations of Edom, Ammon, Babylon, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, etc, he didn’t send any prophets to warn those people but every time he judged Israel, he send prophets upon prophets and gave a lot of time for them to repent.
In fact, the prophetic books of the Bible are filled with God’s hatred for some Ethnicities like Edomities, Philistines, Moabites, Babylonians, Ammonities, etc and his special love reserved only for the Israelites(Jews).
The entire Bible can be summarized in the following verse: Jew first, then Gentile (Romans 1:16).
The idea that god would exhibit such racist tendencies is wholly inconsistent with a deity who created the universe and produced humans of multiple races. On the other hand, this figure is immediately consistent with an imaginary god invented by the Jewish people.
(2268) Prayers ALWAYS answered
There is an enigma regarding several verses scattered throughout the gospels where Jesus is alleged to have stated that any prayer, said earnestly and in good faith, will be answered. There is no further condition placed on this request. Here are some examples:
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
Experience teaches us that these promises are not met, not only not always, but also not even frequently. So the question exists- why were these verses placed in the gospels? (It is also important to note that no biblical book outside of the gospels makes similar promises.) In other words, why place a Jesus quote in the gospels that is immediately subject to falsification?
It is not likely that Jesus made these statements. If he had, he would have faced immediate repudiation from his followers as they would have noted that their prayers were not being answered. So, a better theory is that the author of Mark made it up for some reason and then the subsequent gospel authors thoughtlessly copied it. But what reason could that have been? One possibility is that he wanted to kick-start the fledgling cult with an exciting reason to join it. But, in any case, it is an embarrassment for Christianity to have its savior making promises that are not kept.
(2269) Contradicting creation stories
Right out of the gate, the Bible encounters a major problem. In the first two chapters, two contradictory accounts of creation are offered. Either both are false or one is true, but they can’t both be true. This presents a challenge to Christians who assert that the Bible is inerrant. The following was taken from:
There are two quite distinct creation stories in Genesis. In one, man is created before other animals. In the other, man is God’s final creation. How do religions such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses which believe in a totally literal interpretation of the Bible deal with this contradiction?
Malcolm Mann, Athens Greece
- Given that God is in charge of the space-time continuum it’s perfectly feasible that he did it both ways in a single act of creation.
Mark, Bristol UK
- All biblical “fundamentalists” who claim to believe every word of the Bible as revealed truth are actually fibbing. If you have friends who believe the Bible is all revealed truth, tape record the Book of Numbers and send it to them as a Christmas present.
John Mullen, Paris France
- They no-doubt deal with it in exactly the same way that they deal with all the other contradictions in the Bible – they ignore it or say that God did it to make us have faith.
Pennie, Nottingham UK
- By using the same technique they use to reconcile all the other contradictions in the bible – they simply choose whichever “truth” suits their purpose at the time, and ignore all else. Basic logical facts and physical laws take second place, the Almighty always knows best……
Andy Lomax, Tromso Norway
- The same way that religious fundamentalists deal with all such contradictions – they ignore them. When considering such unbending doctrines it’s always wise to remember that the “totally literal interpretation” of the bible (or whatever book) applied is their own “literal interpretation”, so they can make it mean whatever they want it to. Is this too cynical?
Tom Booth, Hampstead Norreys UK
- Faith. This is a quality bestowed on us by God so that we are able to believe two or more totally contradictory things without asking why. Hence when a JW comes to your door, they can believe that you really want to talk to them when the evidence of their eyes tells them otherwise.
Finn Rae, UK
- Creationists believe that the first account is the general overview of the whole of creation and the second goes back into detail about man being created. Makes sense to me.
Louise, Surbiton UK
- Usually believers will either ignore these contradictions or say “God works in mysterious ways”
Maria Fanucchi, Buenos Aires Argentina
Obviously, both creation stories are mythical, but it remains an important clue that an egregious mistake appearing two pages into the document that God allegedly ‘dictated’ as his critical message to mankind lets us know that it really is nothing more than an uninspired product of misinformed Iron Age men.
(2270) Healing through objects and touch
The scriptures imply that early Christians held a superstitious concept that physical objects and touch were mystical mediums through which the healing power of the Holy Spirit could be transferred. Although this idea has survived at least vestigially to modern times, it is evidence that pre-scientific concepts contaminated the early construction of the faith. The following was taken from:
Thesis: Early Christians believed the spirit and its power could be transmitted through physical touch and through physical objects. They clearly acted as though this were the case.
Point 1 (God’s power in and through human vessels):
God performed deeds and signs “through Jesus” (Acts 2:22, cf. Acts 10:38, John 3:2, 5:36), “by the hands of Paul” (Acts 19:11), and “through the apostles” (Acts 15:12, cf. 1 Cor 12:8-11). It was ultimately God’s power and will that brought about healing, not his vessel’s power and will.
Point 2 (Transmitting God’s power in and through touch):
Jesus’ cures often involved some sort of physical touch. The normative practice of both Jesus and his followers involved the laying of hands upon the faithful (Mark 1:31; 41, 7:32-33, 8:23, Luke 4:40, 13:13, cf. Mark 16:18, Acts 19:11, 28:8). Jesus was thus widely known as one who healed with the touch of his hands (Mark 5:23, 7:32, 8:22). In similar fashion, the early Christians believed the spirit itself could pass from one body to another via touch (Acts 6:5-6, 8:7; 18, 19:6, 1 Tim 4:14, 2 Tim 1:6) or breath (John 20:22).
Point 3 (Transmitting God’s power in and through clothing):
Many people believed that touching Jesus’ clothes could effect healing (Mark 3:10, 5:27-30, 6:56, Luke 6:19). In such cases no agency on the part of Jesus was required—power “went out from him,” sometimes without him knowing (Mark 5:30). In the same way, Peter’s shadow and Paul’s napkins healed illnesses without the direct action of either man (Acts 5:15, 19:12). The spirit’s power was stored within their clothing and God could activate that power even without the wearer’s permission.
Point 4 (Transmitting God’s power in and through oil):
By anointing the sick with oil the early Christians were playing on a longstanding association dating back at least to the time of king David. Immediately after being anointed with oil by Samuel the “spirit of YHWH came powerfully upon David” (1 Samuel 16:13). Those early Christians who received the spirit were thus “anointed” with spirit as one was anointed with oil (1 John 2:20-27, 2 Cor 1:21-22, Luke 4:18, Acts 10:38). The names “Christ” and “Christian” pointed to this “anointing” with holy spirit.
Taken at face value, this suggests that the first Christians anointed their sick with oil in order transmit the spirit’s power to the patient (cf. Mark 6:13, James 5:14). The spirit moved through and/or resided in the oil just as it resided in objects Jesus and Paul wore.
Point 5 (Transmitting God’s power in and through water):
Just as Christians readily characterized the spirit as a kind of oil, so too did they conceive of the spirit as drink (Isaiah 44:3, 1 Cor 10:4, 12:13, John 4:14, 7:37-39, Acts 2:33). Once swallowed, it stands to reason that the spirit could then be regurgitated in saliva: “out of the believer’s heart will flow rivers of living water (i.e. spirit)” (John 7:38, cf. 4:14).
This perhaps provides context for the three healings in which Jesus applies his saliva to the patient (Mark 7:31-37 8:22-26, John 9:1-11). Though many have suggested a medicinal or magical background for such cures, Jesus was at his core a spirit-healer (cf. Luke 4:18); he healed by the power of the holy spirit within him, not by medicine or magic.
Consider one of these saliva healings. In Mark 8:22-26 Jesus heals a blind man in two stages. After he initially rubs saliva on the man’s eyes, he can see people as trees. When Jesus rubs him the second time, his vision is clear. The implication is that more spiritual power was needed to heal the man than the initial dose of holy spit supplied. Jesus’ insistence that certain demons can only be exorcised by prayer and fasting is similar (Mark 9:29). The physical method actually matters.
It is reasonable for modern people to assume that the miracles as described in the scriptures did not happen because such miracles would contradict scientific theories that have enormous predictive power. The assignment of agency to physical objects was part and parcel of its time, but it represents a window into the superstitious infrastructure of the early Christian faith that should cause doubt as to its supernatural origin.
(2271) Matthew’s chronological mistake
In Matthew’s Chapter 11, the author has Jesus referring to John the Baptist as having lived in the past. However, at the time Jesus allegedly made this statement, John the Baptist was still alive. It was not until Chapter 14 that John is arrested and ultimately beheaded. The author of this gospel, writing perhaps as much as four decades after the events he is attempting to document, made a mistake by having Jesus mouth a comment that would have been inappropriate at the time it was stated.
“Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison…
When is ‘now?’ Apparently, Matthew is referring to his time. This mistake in chronology is an indication that the author was not receiving a supernatural source of inspiration.
(2272) Trinity became a Binary
Jesus was positively clear that he existed before his earthbound journey:
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
So, around the Year 0, (as directed by his father?) he transported himself from wherever he was (in heaven?) into the womb of Mary, actually into a zygote (fertilized egg cell). At that point, he had no eyes, ears, or a brain. He had no consciousness and was effectively dead. So, at that time, the Trinity (him + the Father and the Holy Spirit) became a Binary. For the entire nine month gestation and well into childhood, he remained essentially unconscious, at least as far as being able to perform capably as a deity.
In fact, Jesus could only have become ‘himself’ slowly over time as his brain developed. Even when he would have realized who he was, he was still limited in his vision to his own eyes, which was an immeasurable change from being omniscient beforehand. The earthly Jesus was a mere shell of what he was in heaven.
Obviously, none of this makes sense, and that is the point. A god becoming a human is nothing more than an irrational belief rooted in man’s superstitious past. It has no place contaminating the minds of humans in the 21st Century.
(2273) Being at war with yourself
One of the criteria that would likely imbue a true religion is how it would enable its followers to self-actualize, to see themselves in a positive light, and to empower them to reach their potential, in terms of career, health, and happiness. Christianity does the opposite of this. It brainwashes its followers to believe that they are inherently defective, restricts their experience of life, and it tends to narrow the horizon of their interpersonal relationships. All of this can be summed by the term ‘being at war with yourself.’ The following was taken from:
When I was religious, I felt I was “at war with myself”. I’ll list some of the ways a person might feel at war with themselves.
If you believe you must become less so Jesus can become more, you might be at war with yourself.
If you exclaim “It’s no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me”, you might be at war with yourself.
If you feel guilty about your sexuality, you might be at war with yourself.
If you’d like to broaden your perspective but hesitate because it would conflict with your religious beliefs, you might be at war with yourself.
If you think your goodness is no better than filthy rags, you might be at war with yourself.
If you deprive yourself or do things you don’t want to in order to “make up for your sins”, you might be at war with yourself.
If you pursue a life path other than the path you want because “God wants you to”, you might be at war with yourself.
If you avoid contact with otherwise good people because they “aren’t living for the Lord”, you might be at war with yourself.
If you’d like to wear certain clothes, wear certain jewelry, have a certain hairstyle, get a tattoo, or get a piercing but decide not to because it would offend a religious entity, you might be at war with yourself.
If you abstain from foods or drink that you’d otherwise partake of because your religion “says so”, you might be at war with yourself.
If you have more children than you want, you might be at war with yourself.
If you disown or ostracize a loved one because they don’t believe as you do, you might be at war with yourself.
If you “lean not on your own understanding”, you might be at war with yourself.
You can be at war with yourself even if you didn’t start the war.
You can be at war with yourself even if you don’t want the war.
You can be at war with yourself even if the war is someone else’s war.
I used to be at war with myself. Not all of the above applied to me, but some of them did.
I remember thinking: “I’m tired of fighting against myself. This isn’t working. I’m a good person. I’m going to accept myself as I am. Even though I have faults, I am honest enough to address them. I’m going to trust my own intuition. If that sends me to hell, then so be it”.
If you are at war with yourself, realize you can stop whenever you want! Your life won’t fall apart, and you won’t go to hell.
Most ex-Christians can relate to this essay. One of the tell-tale signs of a human enterprise designed to control people is that it causes people to be at war with themselves. Christianity achieves that goal in spades.
(2274) Ten Commandments reflect ancient standards.
Christians revere the Ten Commandments and often fight against secular authorities to have them prominently displayed on public grounds. But, in reality, they should shy away from them, for they reinforce the theory that they are nothing more than human-created ideas reflecting the mores of the time. For instance the first four deal strictly with honoring God, which at the time was analogous to paying respects to the king. But what is even more telling is what is missing. The following was taken from:
Why is so much missing from Ten Commandments? Moses and those famous tablets received directly from God on Mt. Sinai—wasn’t this God’s opportunity to give us his best revelation? Yet war, slavery, racism, and misogyny are not outlawed. In other words, these famous commandments reflect the standards of an ancient patriarchal society that owned slaves, mistreated women, and savored the conquest of other tribes. No, we can’t see God behind these commandments.
Most contemporary fifth graders could devise a better set of commandments. But Christians fail to see this. They are blind to what is right before their eyes.
(2275) Religion is the earliest form of science fiction
There are many theories about what motivated humans to create religions, but one of the more prominent ones is that it was a reaction to mankind’s fearful understanding of its mortality. Consider the following quote:
The brain, knowing that a person can’t live forever in this world, rationalizes a future, or other-dimensional, world in which immortality is possible. In other words, religion is the earliest form of science fiction. …Philip Jose Farmer
Taking Judeo-Christianity as an example, it offers the following elements of science fiction
– Massless beings (demons, angels) capable of human speech
– Catastrophes beyond belief such as the parting of a sea and a worldwide flood
– A star operating as a GPS device (star of Bethlehem)
And many others not worth mentioning. What is important is to realize how much of biblical lore is analogous to the imagination of today’s science fiction writers. Seen in that light, the Bible takes on a different perspective, one that elevates it as an inventive, seminal work reflecting man’s thirst to escape the constraints of reality, while on the other hand (if we agree to this complement), it suffers an inevitable (and for Christians, a disagreeable) assignment to the category of non-history.
(2276) The sad story of the Jewish people
The Bible lays out a fanciful history of the Jewish people from their Egyptian incarceration, to their miraculous deliverance, and resettlement in the ‘promised land.’ These fictional stories nevertheless speak more of struggle and lamentation than mirth and victory. It is telling that a tribe’s traditional tales are so somber and bitter, such that it lets us surmise that they were never the chosen ones of a supernatural force. The following is a quote by Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899):
When reading the history of the Jewish people, of their flight from slavery to death, of their exchange of tyrants, I must confess that my sympathies are all aroused in their behalf. They were cheated, deceived and abused. Their god was quick-tempered unreasonable, cruel, revengeful and dishonest. He was always promising but never performed. He wasted time in ceremony and childish detail, and in the exaggeration of what he had done. It is impossible for me to conceive of a character more utterly detestable than that of the Hebrew god. He had solemnly promised the Jews that he would take them from Egypt to a land flowing with milk and honey. He had led them to believe that in a little while their troubles would be over, and that they would soon in the land of Canaan, surrounded by their wives and little ones, forget the stripes and tears of Egypt.
After promising the poor wanderers again and again that he would lead them in safety to the promised land of joy and plenty, this God, forgetting every promise, said to the wretches in his power:—”Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness and your children shall wander until your carcasses be wasted.” This curse was the conclusion of the whole matter. Into this dust of death and night faded all the promises of God. Into this rottenness of wandering despair fell all the dreams of liberty and home. Millions of corpses were left to rot in the desert, and each one certified to the dishonesty of Jehovah. I cannot believe these things. They are so cruel and heartless, that my blood is chilled and my sense of justice shocked. A book that is equally abhorrent to my head and heart, cannot be accepted as a revelation from God.
The scriptures themselves testify to the fact that the Jewish god was nothing more than an imaginary guardian of their fate, and the brutal realities that the Jews (actually) faced necessarily precluded them from painting this figure in a truly positive light. It takes nothing more than a careful read of the Torah (combined with a study of their true history) to realize that the maker of the universe did not adopt the Jewish people as his special project…. unless one is willing to concede that this god is utterly incompetent.
(2277) More faith than John the Baptist
When John the Baptist asked if Jesus was the Messiah, or emissary from God, Jesus stated the following:
When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.
John’s quarry is analogous to today’s agnostics, atheists, and those of other faiths trying to figure out whether Christianity is true. Yet, in contrast to Jesus’ use of signs and wonders to convince John, contemporary Christianity offers nothing more than a demand for faith. The blind remain blind, the lame remain lame, lepers remain lepers, the deaf remain deaf, and the dead remain dead. In other words, all the evidence Jesus cited to support John’s faith is no longer available. This implies that contemporary Christians, for some unspecified reason, must have more faith than John the Baptist.
(2278) Biblical dermatology
The bible claims that God provided rules and methods for relieving various skin problems. It is obvious that they are not the product of an omniscient deity, but rather precisely what one might expect of clueless humans in that time and place. The following was taken from:
Based on the level of detailed attention it receives in the Bible, dermatology might appear to be the most important medical specialty. Two chapters of Leviticus are dedicated to assessment and treatment of visible skin infections, which, given the descriptions, might include skin cancers, leprosy, cystic acne, or psoriasis. Such infections must be diagnosed by a priest: Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:45-46). Later, the priest finalizes the healing process by killing two lambs or doves: The priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot (Leviticus 14:14). In a second ritual the patient is sprinkled with blood that has had a scarlet string, hyssop, and a live bird dipped in it.
Treatment of skin wounds may include the use of bandages and soothing balms, but most cures recorded in the biblical texts are faith healings. In one story, a foreign military leader Naaman gets rid of his skin disease after dipping seven times in the Jordan River on the advice of the seer Elisha. (Both the number seven and the Jordan have special powers throughout the Bible.) However, the story is a tribute to the power of the Hebrew God, not any general prescription for healing.
It is not a difficult exercise to imagine what a real god would have transmitted to his chosen people who were suffering from various skin conditions. Although likely not up to today’s standards, they would at least have been effective and provide actual relief rather than useless superstitious absurdities. The question must be asked: How could God have been as stupid as the people who wrote the Bible?
(2279) Scientific defense of atheism
Applying scientific algorithms to the question of God’s existence, or the existence of angels, demons, or anything else of that sort, leads to the conclusion that we can safely assert that they do not exist, and further, that we don’t need to postulate them temporarily as placeholders for phenomena that are currently not fully explained. The following was taken from:
Scientists frequently have to make decisions of whether any entity exists or not and have arrived at decision rules for doing so. In doing so, the default position is non-existence until such time as those arguing in favor of existence can produce a preponderance of affirmative evidence to support their assertion. Sometimes provisional existence status is granted in the absence of such evidence, provided the entity is necessary as an explanatory concept. But that provisional status can be withdrawn if theories change so that the entity no longer is necessary as an explanatory concept. That is precisely what happened with the aether and phlogiston, their provisional status being withdrawn following the introduction of the theory of relativity and the oxygen theory of combustion respectively. On the other hand, in the case of the neutrino and the Higgs boson, they too were granted provisional existence status for decades because they were seen as necessary explanatory concepts but then a preponderance of affirmative evidence (arrived at after over two decades for neutrinos and five decades for the Higgs) resulted in them being granted actual existence status.
If we think god is an entity and not just an idea, then scientists should apply the same standard for its existence claim that we do for every other existence claim, because that kind of search of consistency is a key aspect of scientific practice. Is there a preponderance of affirmative evidence for the existence of any god? Is it a necessary explanatory concept for anything? The answer is no to both. Ergo, scientists can and should conclude that gods do not exist, just like we have concluded that the aether and phlogiston do not exist. To shy away from that conclusion would be, as Haldane said, intellectually dishonest.
Biblical beings not only fail to comport to any lines of direct evidence, it is not even useful to postulate them as placeholders for what is currently beyond our ability to understand. For this reason, science must conclude, at least on an interim basis pending the (unlikely) receipt of disconfirming evidence, that they do not exist.
(2280) Gospel of John issues
The Gospel of John is the favorite of a majority of Christians because it fleshes out better than the other gospels the various facets of conventional wisdom that form the foundation of Christian doctrine, particularly the idea the Jesus was God himself. But when we look ‘under the hood’ this gospel is shown to be a complete fraud. The following was taken from:
The unreliability of the gospels is underscored when we learn that, with the possible exception of John, the first three gospels bear no internal indication of who wrote them. Can we glean anything of significance from the fourth and latest gospel, the gospel of John? Not likely! It is so unworldly, it can scarcely be cited for historical evidence. In this account, Jesus is hardly a man of flesh and blood at all – except for the purposes of divine cannibalism as required by the celebration of the rite of “holy communion.”
“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with god, and the word was god,” the gospel begins. No Star of Bethlehem, no embarrassment of pregnant virgins, no hint that Jesus ever wore diapers: pure spirit from the beginning. Moreover, in its present form, the gospel of John is the latest of all the official gospels.
The gospel of John was compiled around the year 110 CE. If its author had been 10 years old at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion in the year 30 CE, he would have been 90 years old at the time of writing. Not only is it improbable that he would have lived so long, it is dangerous to pay much attention to the colorful “memories” recounted by a man in his “anecdotage.” Many of us who are far younger than this have had the unpleasant experience of discovering incontrovertible proof that what we thought were clear memories of some event were wildly incorrect. We also might wonder why an eye-witness of all the wonders claimed in a gospel would wait so long to write about them!
More importantly, there is evidence that the Gospel of John, like Matthew and Luke, also is a composite document, incorporating an earlier “Signs Gospel” of uncertain antiquity. Again, we ask, if “John” had been an eye-witness to Jesus, why would he need to plagiarize a list of miracles made up by someone else? Nor is there anything in the Signs Gospel that would lead one to suppose that it was an eye-witness account. It could just as easily have been referring to the wonders of Dionysus turning water into wine, or to the healings of Asclepius.
The inauthenticity of the Gospel of John would seem to be established beyond cavil by the discovery that the very chapter that asserts the author of the book to have been “the disciple whom Jesus loved” [John 21:20] was a late addition to the gospel. Scholars have shown that the gospel originally ended at verses 30-31 of Chapter 20. Chapter 21 – in which verse 24 asserts that “This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true” – is not the work of an eye-witness. Like so many other things in the Bible, it is a fraud. The testimony is not true.
The decision to place the Gospel of John in the Bible was a mistake. It produced a mountain of contradictions with the other gospels and left Christians with the unintended choice to worship one of two Jesuses- the one it presented or the one presented in Mark, Matthew, and Luke.
(2281) Death premonition dreams
To bolster their faith, Christians often cite ‘miraculous’ instances where someone has a dream that somebody close to them has died only to find out the next morning that they in fact died that night. This is seen as evidence that a spirit world, as claimed by their faith, does exist. But a simple mathematical argument can be used against this assertion. The following was taken from:
I once employed a similar back-of-the-envelope calculation to explain death premonition dreams, you know, the type where someone has a dream about a loved one dying and the next day they find out that a grandparent or parent or close family member or friend passed away in the middle of the night, maybe even around the time of the dream. How unusual is that? Well, the average person has about five dreams per night, or 1,825 dreams per year. If we remember only a tenth of our dreams, then we recall 182.5 dreams per year. Let’s say that there are 300 million adult dreaming Americans who thus produce 54.7 billion remembered dreams per year. Sociologists tell us that each of us knows about 150 people fairly well (the so-called Dunbar number named after Robin Dunbar who discovered this in his research on human social networking), thus producing a network social grid of 45 billion personal relationship connections.
With an average annual death rate of 2.4 million Americans per year (all causes, all ages), it is inevitable that some of those 54.7 billion remembered dreams will be about some of these 2.4 million deaths among the 300 million Americans and their 45 billion relationship connections. In fact, it would be a miracle if some death premonition dreams did not come true! Here’s an announcement you’ll never hear on television: Next on Oprah: a woman who has had numerous death premonition dreams not one of which has come true yet, but stay tuned because you won’t want to miss her incredible story.
This removes another claim that we live in a world inhabited by spirit forces. Humans naturally look for patterns and tend to overvalue coincidences that confirm their preconceived beliefs. Such a tendency is one of the major reasons that thousands of religious faiths have come and gone over the past 40,000 years. Christianity is just one of these and it is very likely that much of its energy was also propelled by dreams and misinterpreted coincidences.
(2282) Mary Magdalene diminished
There is evidence that the role of Mary Magdalene in the gospels was deliberately diminished, possibly to hide the fact that she was married to Jesus or else to make her of less importance so as to not outshine the male disciples. Either way, it reveals scriptural tampering which damages the gospel’s authenticity. The following was taken from:
Schrader’s central discovery, which she wrote about in a paper published by the Harvard Theological Review three years ago, is that Mary Magdalene’s role was deliberately downplayed by biblical scribes to minimize her importance.
Specifically, Schrader looks at the story of the raising of Lazarus told in the Gospel of John. In today’s Bibles, Lazarus has two sisters, Mary and Martha. But poring over hundreds of hand-copied early Greek and Latin manuscripts of the Gospel, Schrader found the name Martha had been altered. The scribes scratched out one Greek letter and replaced it with another, thereby changing the original name “Mary” to read “Martha.” They then split one woman into two.
Schrader argues that the Mary of the original text is Mary Magdalene, not Martha or Martha’s sister, Mary. The two sisters belong to another story, in the Gospel of Luke, that is not repeated in John’s Gospel.
The reason for the change, Schrader said, was that later scribes did not want to give Mary Magdalene too big a role in the events of Jesus’ life. Already Mary Magdalene is at the crucifixion and the empty tomb, and in the Gospel of Luke she is exorcized of seven demons and then travels with Jesus and supplies him the funds needed for his ministry.
In particular, the scribes may have wanted to avoid giving Mary Magdalene the confession of faith that follows the story of Lazarus. That confession — “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” — in today’s Bibles is uttered by Martha. Schrader argues it was meant to be said by Mary Magdalene.
“Martha is added as a way of diminishing Mary Magdalene and confusing her presentation,” said Schrader in a Skype interview from Germany. “It’s a later editor’s interference with the intention of [John] the evangelist.”
Schrader posited that Mary Magdalene caused tension with Jesus’ male disciples, especially his handpicked deputy, Peter, that is evident in several noncanonical gospels — accounts of Jesus’ works not included in the New Testament. Later scribes, Schrader said, may have been acutely aware of that.
Stephen C. Carlson, a scholar at Australian Catholic University who studies early Christianity, said Schrader does a good job demonstrating what he called “textual instability” surrounding Martha that many scholars may not be aware of.
This account reveals the fragility of biblical textual reliability, causing consternation among historians trying to ferret out the truth. It’s one more example that the apparent reliability of the gospels falls well short of what would be expected of a project orchestrated by the creator of the universe.
(2283) Jesus’ attitude to disciples trends in gospels
If the gospels are read in the chronological order in which they were composed (Mark, Matthew, Luke, John) it becomes apparent that there is a trend in Jesus’ attitude toward his disciples. In Mark and Matthew, Jesus sees the disciples as being dull and noncompliant. He shows little love. But in Luke and John, his attitude changes dramatically as he lauds and honors the disciples and even washes their feet. The following was taken from:
In our earliest source for the life of Jesus, Mark, Jesus is generally not loving toward his disciples. He is usually quite harsh, stern, and sometimes lacking in understanding. Here are some examples.
- 4:39-41—Jesus does not understand why his disciples are afraid of a storm. He implies that they have no faith at all.
- 6:48—Jesus intends to pass by his straining disciples on the water instead of helping them.
- 8:14-21—Jesus implies his disciples “still” do not understand, that their hearts are hardened, that they have ears but can’t hear, and that they can’t remember what happened a few days ago.
- 8:31-33—Jesus rebukes Peter in front of the other disciples. He calls Peter Satan.
- 9:17-19—Jesus includes his disciples among “this faithless generation.” He wonders how much longer he must be with these people and how much longer he must put up with them.
- 10:13-14—Jesus became “indignant” with his disciples when they tried to prevent people from bringing children to him. It should be noted that the disciples were trying to help Jesus here, even if misguided.
- 14:37-42—Jesus is disappointed that his disciples keep falling asleep.
- 16:14—Jesus scolds his disciples as faithless because they did not believe those who had claimed to have witnessed Jesus raised from the dead.
- Matthew 7:11—Jesus calls his disciples “evil.”
Little of this remains in Luke, much of it is softened (cf. Luke 8:25). Virtually nothing comparable is present in John.
Luke and John
Jesus’ posture toward his disciples in Luke and John, especially John, is radically different.
In Luke, Jesus pours out his blood for “you,” that is, his disciples (22:20), rather than for “many” as in Mark (Mark 10:45, 14:24). Before Jesus enters his passion he gives them as a gift the kingdom given to him (22:29).
The resurrected Lukan and Johannine Jesus greets his disciples with peace and forgiveness after they have denied and abandoned him (Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-26, 21:4-8).
In John, Jesus rarely if ever rebukes or scolds his disciples. He rather loves them as a good shepherd, washing their feet and defending them from the rhetorical attacks of the Jews. Most importantly, the Johannine Jesus tells his disciples on multiple occasions that they must love each other as he had loved them during his life (John 13:34-35, 15:12, 1 John 4:19). Jesus’ death is characterized as a death for his “friends,” that is, for his disciples (15:13).
The way Jesus sees his disciples improves with each gospel. We can generally count Mark as being the most historical because it was written first and closest in time to the events it describes. The Markan Jesus is the most disparaging, Matthew, somewhat less. And the trend continues with Luke and John. This trend line suggests that the later gospels were massaged to soften the manner in which Jesus interacted with his disciples. This tactic damages the gospels as far as providing a cohesive or unified history.
(2284) Avoiding the cruelest punishment
Christianity benefited by ‘creating’ the cruelest punishment compared to the faiths with which it was competing. This is a modification of Pascal’s Wager, which asserts that it is a good bet to believe in God because it gives you a chance for an infinite reward while protecting you from an infinite punishment, while at the same time costing a small price in this life (loss of time and money, mostly).
The modified wager is to examine all of the extant religions and then choose to follow the one that exacts the worst punishment if you fail to follow it. This insulates you from the worst case scenario. And in the First Century, Christianity promised the worst situation possible- excruciating pain and suffering in hell that would last for eternity. Clearly, nothing else could beat this.
Thus, Christianity gained adherents who followed this algorithm, many of whom did so only out of fear and not because they had reasons to believe that it was the one true faith. This damages some of the apologetic line of reasoning that if Christianity wasn’t true, why did so many people decide to follow it? It might well have been simply because it ‘invented’ the cruelest penalty for noncompliance and a lot of people didn’t want to suffer the chance that it might be true.
(2285) John’s made up story to glorify faith
By the time that the Gospel of John was written, there was likely a lot of push back against the nascent Jesus movement by others who were demanding some proof of the miraculous claims. So that author invented a story that would make it a virtue to simply believe on faith rather than asking for evidence. The following was taken from:
It’s pretty easy to spot how religion works: it usually stresses the importance of faith, urging people to skip the crucial step of asking for evidence. The author of John’s gospel is explicit about this approach. The apostle Thomas happened to be out when Jesus made a post-resurrection visit to the group, and was skeptical of their story. A week later, Thomas was present when Jesus showed up again, and the latter said to him (20:27-28): “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” And then he got a bit of a scolding from Jesus: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.
You’re blessed if you don’t care about evidence.
Not that Jesus couldn’t have said such a thing—religious leaders have always been fond of this advice—but this is a case where Christians should balk, i.e., they should doubt the whole story. It doesn’t appear in the first three gospels, but shows up here in the last gospel to the written. What was John’s source, so long after the events described? Especially in light of John’s fertile imagination, we can suspect that the story is an invention.
Caravaggio, by the way, graphically depicted Thomas sticking his finger into the sword wound in Jesus side. John’s gospel is also the only one to report that a Roman soldier stuck a sword into Jesus—on the totally phony excuse that scripture (i.e., Zechariah 12:10) was thus fulfilled; that text had nothing whatever to do with Jesus. John was making stuff up. Christians should get in the habit of being curious: what are the sources and documentation to back up the story?
Of course, this is a favorite Jesus story because it is taken as proof of the resurrection—the ultimate miracle claimed by Christians. But all Bible miracle stories, including this one, fall far short of minimal standards of evidence. Hence the appeal, forever, by religious leaders to believe without evidence. Faith is declared the supreme virtue. “Just take our word for it” has been the approach of priests and preachers forever.
This story was amplified for centuries by preachers responding to inquisitive people who were asking for evidence of the Christian claims. It most likely satisfied the curiosity of many who then became proud of the fact that they believed in the absence of proof. But in the end, the analysis is the same: Faith is the selling point of a fraudulent product.
(2286) Old Testament apocalypticism
One of the ways that we know that Judaism is not authentic (and Christianity by association) is that its view of an afterlife and judgment evolved in a manner that comports to the vagaries of human endeavor, not divine revelation. The final book written in chronological time that was ultimately placed into the Old Testament was Daniel, and it was here that influence from Greek philosophy made its way into Jewish scripture. The following was taken from:
The idea of rewards and punishments eventually found its way into Judaism as well, but not until the very end of the Old Testament period. The book of Daniel was the final writing of the Hebrew Bible. This fictitious account of a pious Hebrew young man, Daniel, presents an alternative Jewish understanding of the world, the nature of reality, and of life beyond, quite unlike the rest of the Hebrew Bible.
Scholars have called Daniel’s view “apocalypticism,” from the Greek word “apocalypsis” – which means a “revealing.” Jewish apocalyptic thinkers began to believe that God had “revealed” to them the truth of ultimate reality hidden from all their predecessor, an explanation for the horrible pain and suffering of this world. These do not come from God or even from the harmful assertion of human free will. They are the work of cosmic forces of evil. God had temporarily ceded control of the earth to powers that opposed him and were intent on making his people suffer.
But he will soon intervene in his world to destroy evil and all who side with it. A massive day of judgment is coming, and every human will be caught up in it — not just those living at the time, but all people who have ever lived. Those who have died already will be restored to life either to be rewarded or punished.
Jews in antiquity did not traditionally subscribe to the Greek view that the soul would live on after the body died.
It should be obvious that if God was the divine revelator to the Jewish people that he would not have waited hundreds of years before informing his chosen people of an end-of-life judgement. It would have been the first thing that he taught them. But with humans, myths change with time, just as we see in this instance.
(2287) Creation claim failure
Christians are often fond of rolling out an argument for the existence of a god based on the idea that the universe could not have created itself; therefore, there must be a supernatural agent that was responsible for creating it, and, of course, that supernatural agent must be the god that they worship, the god of the Bible. This claim needs to be unpacked.
The first problem is that even if we concede that a god made the universe, it is only one step in a thousand mile journey to demonstrate that this deity is the god of the Bible. But, beyond that, a more fundamental problem exists. If the Christian god is thought to have created the universe, then it must have existed before performing this task. That means that it was either created at some point in time or it has existed forever. If we assume the former, then nothing has been solved, as now the question becomes who created god? If we assume the latter, then we have god existing for an infinite period of time before he created the universe- which makes no sense. At this point, a Christian might argue that God created the universe at the ‘beginning,’ meaning that he never existed without the universe also existing. But that is just a roundabout admission that the universe, like God, has always existed. This means that a god is not needed to explain the universe, it has just always been here.
In the end, the apologetic argument for the existence of a god based on the need for such a being to create the universe fails all tests of logic.
(2288) Christianity says nothing about reality
One of the problems Christianity has with its credibility is that it allows followers to dodge refutations of its truth given any outcome of any situation, with only a couple of exceptions- those being Jesus’ promise to return to earth within the lifetime of some still alive at the time and also his guarantee that prayers would always be answered if two or more agreed. The following was taken from:
Imagine that suddenly, the sky turned blood red and hordes of winged demons emerged from the clouds and started killing and tormenting people.
Christians would say this scenario is compatible with their teachings, since “evil has made its home in this world”.
Imagine that instead, the sky turned to gold, and angels came forth, announcing that God has vanquished evil forever and everyone will be living in bliss from now to the end of time.
This scenario would also be compatible with Christianity, since some version of it has been predicted in scripture and any differences between prophecy and reality are easily dismissed by arguing about literal vs. figurative language.
Now imagine nothing happened at all, and the world continued to be as it is today.
This again is compatible with Christianity, since any rapture-type event is expected by Christians to occur “at some point in the future” – a claim that is impossible to falsify.
Imagine that DNA analysis of a piece of bread prepared for the Eucharist showed that it contains human cells whose genetic characteristics match those of a man from Palestine.
Christians would see this as a miraculous confirmation of their belief that during the sacrament of the Eucharist, bread and wine turns to the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.
Imagine instead that no such cells were found.
Christians would point out that this is to be expected, since blood and wine only become Jesus’ flesh and blood “in substance” during the Eucharist, not physically.
Imagine that a patient with terminal cancer prays to God, asking to be cured, and suddenly, their cancer vanished.
Christians would claim this as a validation of the power of prayer.
Imagine instead that despite sincere prayer, the cancer persisted and the patient died.
Christians would say that prayer is not a wish-fulfilling machine, and only God’s will is done in the end.
Christianity is compatible with every conceivable reality. With its combination of vague predictions and an unknowable God, it does not exclude any scenario that could possibly occur.
In other words, Christianity does not say anything about reality at all.
For the most part, Christianity fails to make predictions that can be tested, and in the few instances where it does, it fails those tests.
(2289) Science bests supernaturalism
An easy and effective test of the truth of religion is to compare real-life results during times that were dominated by religious therapies versus scientific ones. Up until about 300 years ago, most of humanity’s problems were addressed by beseeching the help of the gods that they believed in. After that time, more and more, a secular scientific approach was taken. The difference of results from these two methods could not have been starker. The following was taken from:
White states that despite all the prayers, rituals, and other religious activities performed throughout the centuries, the frequency and severity of plagues did not diminish until scientific hygiene made its appearance. In regard to the hygienic improvements instituted during the second half of the nineteenth century, White explains: “[T]he sanitary authorities have in half a century done far more to reduce the rate of disease and death than has been done in fifteen hundred years by all the fetiches which theological reasoning could devise or ecclesiastical power enforce.”
The superior results of using science instead of religion can be seen in many other fields. Humanists therefore accept the scientific view that this world operates under unvarying natural laws that cannot be suspended by religious rituals or other means.
And Humanists esteem highly those who study this world and provide a better understanding of it. Unlike the theologians who focus on influencing supposed supernatural powers, persons using a scientific outlook have enabled great progress to be made in reducing misery and increasing happiness.
If Christianity, for example, was true then we would expect that efforts to reduce human misery would have been most effective during the times that more people were employing the assistance of an omnipotent god, i.e., during the Middle Ages, and less so when more emphasis was placed on human-centered solutions. Of course, the opposite is true by a large margin. This is not an easy explanation for apologists because of the scriptural guarantees espoused in the Bible indicating that prayers should result in outcomes unattainable by human efforts. This leaves the question: How can humans out-perform God?
(2290) From poly- to monotheism
The transition of Judeo-Christianity before the time of Jesus from polytheism to monotheism probably resulted from a utilitarian motive rather than a theological imperative. That is, people decided that it was useful to believe in a single god after seeing the trouble caused by having multiple ones. The following was taken from:
In a historical context perhaps it would be easier to get people to join a religion of a single god. Joining a religion with multiple gods could be hard and confusing to people interested in joining. So having one god with a specific set of known characteristics makes it easier for you to know exactly what to do to please the one god and not worry about multiple beings with confusing and many preferences. It gives the religion a focus. The religion is not bogged by having multiple gods with conflicting preferences so that one religion becomes divided into multiple sects with people worshiping different idols but rather becomes a united one.
It is easy to understand that primitive people first saw the need for having separate gods to explain the many physical phenomena occurring- such as a god of the wind, a god of thunder and lightning, a god of the sun and moon, and so on. But as tribes tightened into cohesive and ever complex civilizations, it became more confusing as to which god should govern the rules, mores, and fate of the nation. Thus the transition to monotheism was likely a political strategy to simplify the situation. This explanation is far more likely than positing the existence of a single god who became upset that people were worshiping multiple gods and finally, after centuries of effort, got them to worship it as being the only one.
(2291) God refuses to address gay marriage
Christians claim that God is a unique personage who gives the same answers to prayerful followers. But a real life demonstration of the fallacy of this assertion has played out in the United Methodist Church, which is preparing to split over the question of gay marriage. Where is God in this debate? The following was taken from:
United Methodist Church leaders are proposing a split into more than one denomination in a bid to resolve years of debate over LGBT clergy and same-sex weddings, according to the church’s official news agency.
The proposal, from a 16-member group of bishops and church leaders, says a separation was “the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding, while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity, and respect of every person.”
The restructuring comes after a contentious General Conference of the second-largest Protestant denomination in the US voted last year to reinforce the church’s stance against ordaining gay clergy and performing same-sex weddings.
New York Conference Bishop Thomas Bickerton, part of the group behind the proposal, told the official United Methodist News Service that heated debate at the conference demonstrated “the line in the sand had turned into a canyon.”
“The impasse is such that we have come to the realization that we just can’t stay that way any longer,” he said.
At the St. Louis conference in February, the denomination decided that United Methodist churches and clergy could face removal if they did not affirm its stance against gay marriage and non-celibate LGBT clergy by 2021.
The proposal calls for a new traditionalist Methodist denomination opposed to gay marriage and ordination of LGBT clergy. The current United Methodist Church will allow same-sex weddings and gay clergy.
This should be considered a double failure of Christianity. God should have been able to foresee that this would become a point of contention in his church and he should have made the Bible more prescriptive, such as adding something like this: “And Jesus said, marriage is always and forever between one man and one woman. If anyone says, ‘a man and a man or a woman and a woman should be married, let them seek counsel in the bowels of Beelzebub, for they are following the way of the devil.”
Secondly, barring this fix, God should be answering the heartfelt prayers of the UMC and uniting them around a common approach to the same-sex marriage question. How could God, being the unique universal deity, be giving two different answers to this question? On the other hand, if Christianity is simply the creation of human minds, then this split is exactly what would be expected.
(2292) What Christians cannot consider
Christianity suffers a crippling conundrum when it faces the implications of a person’s birthplace and other circumstances beyond their control. They cannot consider the fact that if they had been born in a different place or time that they almost certainly would never have become a Christian. Given that fact, the entire fabric of an afterlife reward and punishment scheme unravels. The following was taken from:
Here’s one photo below. Christians in the West never honestly consider the implications of it. They cannot allow themselves to. So thinking about religion is not what they do. Honestly assessing their religion isn’t something they do either. Belief is what they do! They could believe something totally different by virtue of when and where they were born, with no way to think themselves into the true religion, if there is one. To be honest with their inherited, culturally indoctrinated religion they must force their brains to do so. But they refuse, when deep down they know they should, which is being dishonest with their religion.
If a Christian imagines himself as being one of the persons in this photograph it would immediate raise doubts about the rationale of how people are assigned to an afterlife station. An actual god would offer a universal revelation removing all worship of false gods, thereby giving all people an equal chance for salvation. Do these people go to heaven without believing in Jesus? If yes, then they are much better off than people living in Christian countries who might very well end up in hell. If no, then God is cruel and not worthy of worship. So, what is a Christian to do? Ignore, deflect, be unaware and try hard not to think logically.
(2293) Jesus encourages abandonment
Although Christianity is touted as being a family-friendly religion, there is a scripture in Matthew (and more or less repeated in Mark and Luke) that appears to be counter to that virtue:
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
Clearly, the most egregious aspect of this ‘promise’ is the idea of leaving a wife and children as a means of obtaining eternal life. Certainly this scripture has given cover to many men who did just that to pursue some aspect of ministry or mission work.
The writers of the gospels likely put these words in Jesus’ mouth because recruiting missionaries was difficult given family ties that discouraged many men from leaving their families. Although it probably worked as intended initially, this scripture has come back to haunt Christianity and is rarely cited in church today. The image of fatherless children is not good for the cult. The writer of the Gospel of John judiciously left it out.
(2294) History and fiction in the Bible
Modern Christianity has done itself a disservice by promoting the theme that the Bible is book of history throughout its pages. This simply isn’t true. Many of the stories were never meant to convey actual events, but rather to present a certain message. It is fairly easy to pick out the obvious fictions and the obvious truths, though there remains much in the middle that is historically ambiguous. The following was taken from:
One way to understand the difference between history and fiction in the Bible is through the Old Testament’s natural division into three parts”
- The world and its nature (Adam to Terah).
- The Israelites and their purpose (Abraham to Moses).
- The Kingdom of Israel and life in Jerusalem (roughly from King David onward).
Even a cursory look reveals a clear and significant pattern.
In the first section, characters live many hundreds of years, and in the second, well into their second century. Only in the third section do biblical figures tend to live biologically reasonable lives.
For example, Adam, in the first section, lives to the symbolic age of 930, and Noah lives even twenty years longer than that. Abraham, from the second section, lives to be 175, his son Issac to 180, and Jacob “dies young” at the age of 147. But the lifespans from King David onward, in the third section, are in line with generally accepted human biology.
Furthermore, historians mostly agree that only the third section represents actual history.
The reasonable ages in the third section of the Bible, and, in particular, the wildly exaggerated ages in the first, suggest that the authors of the Old Testament intended only the third part as history. Underscoring this crucial difference, some of the lifespans in the first two sections are so absurd as to defy literal interpretation. These hugely advanced ages are central clues about the point of the stories.
The Old Testament contains a wide range of texts in addition to stories: laws, prayers, moral codes, and more. But even the stories come in more than one variety. Noah and the Great Flood are not in the same category as Moses and the Ten Commandments, and both are different than King David and the First Temple.
History and fiction mingle throughout the Old Testament, so these divisions are just rough guides. Jeremiah’s historical description of the siege on Jerusalem is not the same as Ezekiel’s non-historical vision of the dry bones, just as there are historical elements (like the invention of fire-hardened bricks) even in the non-historical account of the Tower of Babel.
The interesting point here is not that some of these stories happened and some didn’t (though that’s almost certainly true). The point is that the Bible itself portrays them differently, only presenting some of them as having happened. In other words, sometimes “believing the Bible” means believing that a story in it didn’t happen.
The situation not unlike a modern newspaper, which combines news with opinion, puzzles, comics, etc. The news can be accurate even if the comics are not. The same is true for the different parts of the Bible.
The New Testament similarly offers more than just stories, and, as with the Old Testament, only some of the stories in the New Testament were meant as history. Others were intended to convey things like theology and morality. The account of Jesus’ life in the Gospels is not the same as the beast in Revelation or Adam’s life in Genesis. (The issue of different categories for Jesus and Adam is a matter of fierce modern debate because of its potential theological significance and its interaction with the theory of evolution.)
All of this is important for people who want to believe, for instance, that a man named Jesus was crucified in ancient Jerusalem (as described in the Gospels) even if they don’t believe that a donkey spoke aloud (Numbers); or that Jews lived in Jerusalem during the first millennium BC (Kings, for example) even if they didn’t leave Egypt 600,000 strong (Exodus).
More generally, this recognition that Bible stories are not all the same is part of understanding the essence of the Bible, and is crucial for people who believe that the Bible remains relevant even if parts of it aren’t true.
Like combining a newspaper’s news with its comics, painting the Bible with a single brush obscures its original nature. Unfortunately, by using the same style to dramatize all the biblical stories, the History Channel’s “The Bible” — regardless of its other qualities — distorts the Bible’s original spirit, and does a disservice both to history and to the Bible.
The presence of unambiguous fiction in the Bible is troubling for Christian dogma because it certainly brings into question the veracity of its overarching promise of heaven. That is, is heaven as it was conceived by the biblical authors also intended as a fictional story, perhaps to shine a light on man’s connectedness to God?
(2295) Elephantine papyri casts doubt on Torah historicity
The Elephantine Papyri consist of 175 documents from the Egyptian border fortresses of Elephantine and Aswan, which yielded hundreds of papyri in various dialects. referencing letters and legal documents that offer an insight into a 5th Century BCE Jewish community. As explained below, these documents bring into doubt the historicity of the Torah (first five books of the Bible).
The Elephantine papyri pre-date all extant manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible, and thus give scholars a very important glimpse at how Judaism was practiced in the fifth century BCE. They show clear evidence of the existence in c. 400 BCE of a polytheistic sect of Jews, who seem to have had no knowledge of a written Torah or the narratives described therein:
So far as we learn from these texts Moses might never have existed, there might have been no bondage in Egypt, no exodus, no monarchy, no prophets. There is no mention of other tribes and no claim to any heritage in the land of Judah. Among the numerous names of colonists, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, David, so common in later times, never occur (nor in Nehemiah), nor any other name derived from their past history as recorded in the Pentateuch and early literature. It is almost incredible, but it is true.
— Arthur Cowley, Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C. pg. xxiii
Also important is the fact that the papyri document the existence of a small Jewish temple at Elephantine, which possessed altars for incense offerings and animal sacrifices, as late as 411 BCE. Such a temple would be in clear violation of Deuteronomic law, which stipulates that no Jewish temple may be constructed outside of Jerusalem.:31 Furthermore, the papyri show that the Jews at Elephantine sent letters to the high priest in Jerusalem asking for his support in re-building their temple, which seems to suggest that the priests of the Jerusalem Temple were not enforcing Deuteronomic law at that time:
There is no hint of any suspicion that the [Elephantine] temple could be considered heretical, and they would surely not have appealed to the High Priest at Jerusalem if they had felt any doubt about it. On the contrary they give the impression of being proud of having a temple of their own, and as pious devotees of Ya’u Yahweh (no other god is mentioned in the petition) seriously distressed at the loss of religious opportunities caused by its destruction.
— Arthur Cowley, Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C. pg. xx
Upon first examination, this appears to contradict commonly accepted models of the development of Jewish religion and the dating of the Hebrew scriptures, which posit that monotheism and the Torah should have already been well-established by the time these papyri were written. Most scholars explain this apparent discrepancy by theorizing that the Elephantine Jews represented an isolated remnant of Jewish religious practices from earlier centuries,:32 or that the Torah had only recently been promulgated at that time.
Recently, however, scholars such as Niels Peter Lemche, Philippe Wajdenbaum, Russell Gmirkin, and Thomas L. Thompson have argued that the Elephantine papyri demonstrate that monotheism and the Torah could not have been established in Jewish culture before 400 BCE, and that the Torah was therefore likely written in the Hellenistic period, in the third or fourth centuries BCE.:32ff
These papyri raise the probable likelihood that the first five books of the Bible are predominantly fiction written to establish a false historical bedrock for the Jewish people. And as collateral damage, the truth of Christianity is also considerably damaged.
(2296) The collapsed bridge analogy
Christian often make the remark, “God doesn’t send you to hell, you send yourself,” as if to say that God is innocent and the blame is squarely placed on you. The following analogy destroys that ‘logic:’
Suppose that an engineer builds a bridge having full knowledge that under certain conditions, the bridge will collapse. That bridge is built and these conditions are met, the bridge collapses and people die. Now, who is responsible for this? The engineer.
God is responsible for every human being that fails to believe in him.
It’s important to note that you can’t choose what you believe in, you can’t make yourself believe that 2+2=5 or, if you are a Christian, you can’t force yourself to believe in Apollo no matter how hard you try.
Just like the engineer, the Christian god allegedly ‘designed’ the earth and the people who would eventually populate it. He set into motion the historical trajectory of the world’s religions, guaranteeing that many would innocently fall into the wrong belief systems. Given these facts, God is to blame for any person that he sentences to hell. If a real god existed intent on rewarding or punishing people after they die on the basis of their beliefs, it would not allow the ambiguity of the current religious landscape.
(2297) Murchison meteorite
Christian dogma implies that the earth was a special creation of God for the purpose of populating it with creatures in his own image. This would suggest that there would be no need to create astronomical bodies in advance of this accomplishment…. especially if it was 2,500,000,000 years in advance. But we now have in our possession a rock that comes from this time. The following was taken from:
The Murchison meteorite is one of the most studied meteorites due to its mass (>100 kg or 220 lb) and the fact that it was an observed fall. It fell to Earth near Murchison, Victoria, in Australia, in 1969. It belongs to a group of meteorites rich in organic compounds.
In January 2020, astronomers reported that the oldest material on Earth found so far is silicon carbide particles from the Murchison meteorite, which have been determined to be 7 billion years old, about 2.5 billion years older than the 4.54-billion-year age of the Earth and the Solar System.
It is one thing to determine scientifically that the universe is much older than the earth, but another to be able to touch a rock that is from this earlier time. Although this doesn’t destroy the legitimacy of Christianity, it reemphasizes the question why God would have waited so long to create his masterpiece planet.
(2298) The one-god hypothesis
Christian apologists often attempt to soften the critique offered by skeptics that the Abrahamic religions are inexplicably splintered into four factions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Mormonism) by claiming that all of these faiths worship the same god. The following destroys the logic of this hypothesis:
One favorite dodge, of course, is the claim that “we all worship the same God.” If this were true, Christians would welcome opening up the Bible to include the Qur’an. But the “same God” dodge cannot possibly we true since the concepts of God are so different. Islam wants nothing whatever to do with the Trinitarian god of Christianity. Judaism doesn’t accept—at all—that God had a son who served as a human sacrifice to enable the god’s forgiveness. Nor has there been agreement on how the god wants to be worshipped. Is eating part of the god’s body the right and proper thing to do? Or kneeling on a prayer rug several times a day? Men and women together, or men and women segregated?
Loftus points out that the one-god approach is “empty rhetoric, with no substance at all”…
“If Allah is the same deity as the one worshipped by Christians then that deity duplicitously revealed two different religions. This means God, by whatever name is used, helped to instigate the wanton slaughter of Muslims by Christians and Christians by Muslims because of his conflicting revelation.
“It also means that God duplicitously promised salvation to believers in one of them who will end up being condemned to hell for not believing according to the other one’s creed(s). These are two different gods, each of whom denies some of the things the other one claims to have done, especially with regard to the resurrection of Jesus.” (p. 41, The Outsider Test of Faith)
Either they are worshiping different gods, or the one god that they worship is inept and cruel. Neither option casts a favorable light on Christianity.
(2299) Atheists smarter than agnostics
A meta-analysis produced some interesting results considering the correlation between levels of intelligence and the various degrees of god beliefs. One of the findings was that atheists tend to be more intelligent that agnostics, suggesting that extra analytical skills makes people unsatisfied to remain uncertain about this topic. The following was taken from:
Only 14% of the world’s population declares themselves atheist or agnostic.
Since science’s strategy is to search for reliable quantitative data to test hypotheses, it is not surprising that scientists began comparing quantifiable characteristics of atheists and believers.
Intelligence versus religiosity
The first rigorous measure taken in this regard is evident: to look for the correlation between intelligence (IQ) and religiosity.
Already in the 20s of the last century, two independent pioneering works, one by TH Howells and another by RD Sinclair, found a devastating result (and, it seems, contrary to what they a priori believed, which highlights the rigor of the scientific method) : They showed that people who declared themselves atheists were significantly smarter than those who claimed to have religious beliefs.
Since then, very complex procedures have been developed capable of estimating intelligence with great precision and repetitiveness. With these improved tests, hundreds of very rigorous studies have been carried out correlating intelligence and religiosity.
In all of them there is a statistically significant negative correlation between religiosity and intelligence: people who consider themselves more religious are significantly less intelligent than people who consider themselves atheists.
An intelligence scale against religiosity could also be quantified with devastating results: people who consider themselves atheists are smarter than those who consider themselves agnostic; these in turn are more intelligent than those considered “liberal believers”; the latter are much more intelligent than those who consider themselves dogmatic believers.
The existence of this large number of scientific works relating intelligence and religiosity also enabled meta-analysis. Meta-analysis is a very powerful statistical procedure that allows you to synthesize the essential conclusions of a large collection of studies.
These meta-analyzes also allowed us to verify that not only at the individual level atheists are more intelligent than people with religious beliefs, but that at the level of all types of groups (including nations) the percentage of atheists can be predicted with great precision from of the average intelligence of the collective: the more average intelligence a group has, the greater its percentage of atheists.
In this sense, the ambitious work published by Lynn, Harvey and Nyborg demonstrating that average intelligence predicts atheism rates in 137 different nations is most relevant.
These studies also allowed us to verify that the lowest percentages of religious beliefs occur among intellectuals. Also, the degree of religious belief decreases with age as young people complete high levels of education. Even the percentage of atheism in the populations has increased during the last years, showing a positive correlation with the increase in the average level of studies.
These studies also show that intelligent people are less likely to settle for unproven explanations, and are much more resistant to dogmatic ideas in general and religious dogma in particular.
In addition, there is a positive correlation between the predominance of analytical reasoning and atheism, as well as between the predominance of intuitive reasoning and religiosity.
It cannot be forgotten that these meta-analyzes are statistical studies with millions of people: they unequivocally demonstrate that most atheists are among the most intelligent people.
That does not exclude that some religious people who are both very intelligent (although rare) or atheistic people who are not intelligent (which is also rare) can be found.
Intelligence does not always find truth, but it is usually a better pathway to truth than intuition, the main driver of religious belief. The corollary of this hypothesis is that if Christianity was true, increased intelligence would most likely correlate to increased belief, i.e., the exact opposite of what has been measured.
(2300) No comparison shopping
When faced with a shopping decision, most people investigate the various options, compare features versus price, perhaps look at user reviews, and then make a purchase. But when it comes to religion, this algorithm is rarely used. Religion tend to ‘fall into peoples’ laps.’ The following was taken from:
Would this be a good idea? From now on, all new Bibles should be expanded to include not just the Old and New Testaments, but also the Qur’an and the Book of Mormon. After all, the Old Testament is the sacred text of another religion, and it made it into the Christian canon. There are just under two billion Muslims in the world; how could that many people be wrong about the holy word of Allah? Don’t we have to take their scripture seriously? There are about 15 million Mormons in the world, roughly on a par with the number of Jews worldwide. How could we justify exclusion of the Mormon scriptures? Surely, they can’t all be wrong too. These branches of the original Abrahamic faith are confident God updates his word.
But we can be sure that Christians don’t want to add the Qur’an because—no surprise—they’re sure it isn’t the word of God. How do Christians know, however, that Islam isn’t the “true” religion? If we were to ask any churchgoer, “Why did you opt for Christianity instead of Islam?” we would not hear that both religions had been given thorough, careful study, and that hard evidence was uncovered that tips the balance in favor of Christianity. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that most Christians don’t know much at all about Islam. As Guy Harrison has said, there has been no comparison-shopping.
Christians are Christian because they’ve been brought up that way. Or if they converted to the faith as adults—they found Jesus—that’s hardly a surprise, since the marketing of Jesus is a multi-billion dollar business. In either case, very little critical thought—very little due diligence—is brought to the process. What are the criteria for deciding which religion is true?
Knockout Punch Number 5 is this: Christians cannot give us the reasons their monotheism is the right one; indeed, even their most erudite theologians cannot explain convincingly—with plenty of reliable, verifiable evidence—why and how Christianity is “truer” than Judaism, Islam, or Mormonism. If we called a meeting of the most highly regarded apologists of these major faiths, to debate the merits of their various belief systems, there’s about zero chance that any of them would switch sides. Those of us on the outside are skeptical: unless you can tell us which monotheism is correct—and explain exactly how that can be done—then you’re blowing smoke. The billions of monotheists in the world cannot agree: they don’t trust each other. Why should we trust them?
Most religious people are blissfully blind to the fact that they have made a ‘purchase’ without adequate investigation. Too much credit is given to what they were trained to believe and too little consideration is given to what they were trained to disbelieve. So, in the end, we have billions of people living in a state of delusion brought on by their human nature to mindlessly accept what is presented before them.
Follow this link to #2301