(2351) The gospel is bad news
Christians often refer to the gospel as ‘good news.’ However when considered from an impartial perspective, it is actually quite bad news overall. It is so bad that if we could determine that Christianity is not true, then that would be wonderful news. The following was taken from:
An understanding of human life based simply on what we can observe would indicate that we cease to exist when we die. That’s not good news, that’s not bad news; that’s just news. But don’t worry! Here comes the gospel with some good news:
The good news is that Jesus came down, died and rose again so that if we believe on Him, we m̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶e̶t̶e̶r̶n̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ ̶t̶o̶r̶t̶u̶r̶e̶d̶ ̶b̶y̶ ̶d̶e̶f̶a̶u̶l̶t̶ will be saved!
Ok, so while it’s true that most people will be literally tortured by God with fire forever, some people will make it out of this predicament, and that is good news, right?
The news that all men, women and children are doomed to fiery torment for all eternity is not good news just because a handful will make it out. If a train of 1000 people crash but 10 make it out alive, that’s still terrible news. If a disease kills 90% of the population, that’s disastrous news, even if 10% survive.
The news of the gospel is not just news of salvation. It’s also inseparable from the revelation that everyone you know is likely doomed to hell. That news is (literally) infinitely worse than the idea that everybody you love will simply cease to exist.
The gospel surpasses all hard truths about life and death by introducing concepts that are infinitely more horrible than anything we can observe from nature. If the gospel is true, it’s not good news, it’s disastrous news for nearly everybody.
From a third party view, measuring the value of Christianity being true versus atheism being true, there is no contest. For everyone to cease to exist is a far better outcome than to throw most of humanity into hell, even considering that some will make it into heaven.
(2352) The Johannine Community
Much of prior biblical scholarship had assumed that the Gospel of John, and the epistles, 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John had originated from a community of followers that were led initially by a disciple of Jesus. However, the lack of any trace of an historical footprint of this community combined with textual clues has led some researchers to conclude that these four books represent a chain of forgeries that should not have been placed in the Bible. This is especially troubling because the Gospel of John is used as the primary template of modern Christianity. However, for historians, it helps to explain why this gospel is so fundamentally different from the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke). The following was taken from:
There are four versions of the life of Jesus in the New Testament but, let’s face it, everyone has a favorite. For most people, that preferred version is the Gospel of John. Not only is the fourth Gospel the most poetic and ‘spiritual’ of Gospels, it’s also the most theologically weighty.
It’s in John that Christians find the evidence for many of the dogmatic claims that form the bedrock of Christian belief. And it’s John that supplies the pithy quotes about faith, eternal life, and love that you find on coffee mugs and laminated bookmarks.
Now new research, which claims that the Gospel of John is an ancient forgery, is poised to overturn much of what we know about everyone’s favorite biography of Jesus.
When it comes to the authorship of this story, Christian tradition attributes the Gospel to an apostle, known in the text as the disciple “whom Jesus loved” and identified by early church writers as the disciple John.
It is this beloved disciple who keeps watch with Mary the mother of Jesus at the cross. As Jesus draws close to death, he sees his already-grieving mother and devoted follower standing together and says “woman, here is your son” and, to the disciple, “here is your mother.” It’s a scene of great compassion in which Jesus encourages his mother and dearest friend to take solace in their relationship with one another. The supposed closeness of Jesus and the beloved disciple has meant that the beloved disciple (AKA John) is a central figure in Christian art. In Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” for example, it is the beloved disciple who sits beside Jesus.
The Gospel presents itself as the work of an eyewitness to the events of Jesus’ ministry and death. It doesn’t say it was written by John but instead states that it is the work of a “disciple whom Jesus loved,” who “testifies” to what he has seen (1:14; 19:35; 21:24).
Eyewitness testimony here is an important point in the Gospel. It is because the one who wrote the Gospel had seen these things happen and written them down that “we know that his testimony is true” (21:24).
In addition to the fourth Gospel, Christian tradition maintains that John also wrote three “Johannine” letters (1, 2, and 3 John), which are also a part of the New Testament and are evidence of John’s leadership among early followers of Jesus. Like the Gospel of John these letters are anonymous: the author of 1 John claims to be an eyewitness who “testifies” to what he has “seen and heard” (1:2–3). The author of 2 and 3 John identifies himself only as “the elder” (2 Jn 1:1; 3 Jn 1:1), but also suggests that he was a witness to the Jesus story.
Since the 1960s many scholars have argued that ‘John’ (it might have been a different disciple because the text doesn’t give a name) founded his own community and wrote the Gospel. Academics, who have recognized that the Johannine letters are thematically similar but stylistically distinct from the Gospel, don’t think that they were written by the author of the fourth Gospel but that they were nevertheless the product of the same “Johannine Community.” The picture painted here is one in which a community of followers of Jesus, led and founded by someone who knew Jesus personally, produced all of these texts. There are numerous academic books and articles out there that try to chart the history of this community, its literary output, its social structure, location, and origins.
A provocative and well-argued article published this week in the Journal for the Study of the New Testament threatens to turn this argument on its head. Hugo Mendez, an assistant professor of religious studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, argues that the so-called “Johannine community” never existed and that the Johannine literature are forgeries that claim to be written by a disciple even though they were not.
Mendez told The Daily Beast, “I find it telling that we’ve never found a trace of anything like a ‘Johannine Christianity’—no mentions in other ancient writings and no archeological traces. I think there’s a reason for that; I think the community never existed.”
Instead, Mendez told me, “the Gospel of John, and the letters of 1 2, and 3 John are a chain of ancient literary forgeries.” Forgeries like this were, as Bart Ehrman showed in his Forgery and Counterforgery, very common among early Christians. Two second-century early Christian texts—the Gospel of Thomas and Gospel of Peter—claim to have been written by disciples of Jesus but were actually written by others.
In his article Mendez argues that the author of the Gospel of John used the same strategy in order to endow his work with greater credibility. The “beloved disciple” and “elder” referred to in the Johannine corpus are what he calls “literary masks.” There’s no point trying to reconstruct a community of followers around them “because they never existed.”
The article is sure to elicit some disagreement, but it also has supporters who welcome the introduction of new perspectives to the study of John and appreciate the way in which he dismantles the idea of a “Johannine community.”
Harold Attridge, the Sterling professor of Divinity at Yale Divinity School told The Daily Beast, “Mendez has offered a vigorous challenge to the scholarly impulse to infer social realities from the texts of the Gospel and Epistles of John. His work will no doubt provoke a useful debate about the methods of analyzing early Christian social realities and literary practices.”
Adele Reinhartz, a professor at the University of Ottowa and current president of the Society of Literature, agrees. She called Mendez’s arguments “important contributions to the ongoing discussion about the aims and historical contexts of Johannine literature.”
Reading the New Testament closely reveals that Mendez has some textual support for his argument. The famous scene at the cross, when the disciple whom Jesus loved stands with Mary and the women (19:25-27) never appears in any of the other gospels. In Mark and Luke, only women keep vigil at the cross. And while in John the disciple runs on ahead to Jesus’ tomb, in Luke Peter goes there alone. Mendez calls this the “Forrest Gump effect”: this character has been inserted into the narrative events in order to give them a first-person eyewitness flavor.
The fact that this character is so idealized—he always does the right thing, behaves appropriately and serves almost as a model for the audience—gives him a very artificial feel. In the Gospel of Mark, by contrast, the disciples have an almost pathological ability to disappoint their leader. Jesus’ favorites—Peter, James, and John—habitually say the wrong thing, fall asleep when they are supposed to be awake and, in the case of Peter, even deny knowing him.
According to Mendez, the same kinds of false authorial claims made by the author of the Gospel of John are also being made in the Johannine epistles. The texts present themselves as the words and work of an eyewitness who “saw” the miraculous presence of Jesus and “testifies” about it. But, of course, whomever wrote these letters never knew Jesus directly.
The author of these letters uses the same rhetorical apparatus as the Gospel in order to claim the same enigmatic authority for his writing. Mendez shows that the authors of the letters were trying to “cash in” on the popularity of the Fourth Gospel by deliberately copying its style. Even the famous opening to the Gospel of John—“In the beginning was the word” (John 1:1)—is mimicked by the author of 1 John 1:1-4. Both texts describe Jesus as “the Word,” attest to his existence “in the beginning,” claim that he was “with the Father,” and that he has “life.”
None of this is accidental, said Mendez. “One text is clearly imitating the other.” What we have here is a chain of forgeries that build upon one another in order to claim the religious authority of an eyewitness and disciple. One forger copies the strategy of another. Mark Goodacre, a professor of religious studies at Duke University described Mendez’s article as “destined to become a classic.”
All of this would mean that America’s most popular Bible quote—John 3:16 “But God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”—wasn’t written by someone who knew Jesus.
But does it matter? This statement isn’t something that the author claims Jesus told him; it’s a theological statement by the author. In fact, much of what makes John distinctive and historically influential is its philosophical pronouncements on the nature of God. These don’t rest on a personal acquaintance with Jesus and you don’t have to have been an eyewitness to the crucifixion to have insights like this.
By contrast, the Gospel of John’s most disturbing and anti-Semitic statements are placed on the lips of Jesus. When Jesus calls “the Jews” the “sons of their father the Devil” modern readers should recoil in horror (John 8:40-48). Verses like this one nurtured, if not spawned, violence and anti-Semitism from the medieval period until the present. Perhaps it’s better for everyone if Jesus never said this.
Nevertheless, for some Christians, the news that their favorite Gospel is a forgery will be disturbing. Mendez admits as much: “It’s hard to confront the idea that the biblical authors might have been lying or misrepresenting themselves. It’s all the more troubling when those misrepresentations frame a book as religiously and culturally significant as the Gospel of John.”
Some modern Bibles omit or at least annotate many of the verses that are known to be forgeries. To be consistent with this new research, the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John should be removed from the Bible. Although this would be painful, it would nevertheless resolve a lot of the contradictions that these books represent in comparison to other books of the New Testament
(2353) Waiting at the bar
It is enlightening to think how deciding which gospels to include in the Bible might play out in the modern day. Consider the following hypothetical scenario:
The concept—the excuse—that “these are holy writings” diverts attention from the haphazard way in which the New Testament was put together. Let’s imagine Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John sitting together in a bar, awaiting news about which of their gospels will be selected for the Bible. They don’t especially like each other, and wrote their gospels because they also didn’t like the way the others told the Jesus story. Matthew wanted to correct Mark; Luke freely changed what he found in both, and John—well, John, was sure the others had it all wrong.
Their iPhones buzz at the same time; they receive identical texts: the Bible Selection Committee has decided to accept all four gospels, and will print them side-by-side. These four authors glare at each other: “What are those stupid bureaucrats thinking?” What a disaster. Of course, most of the folks in the pews won’t even notice, for centuries, because they had no access to the Bible. The full scope of the disaster would become obvious when close scrutiny of the gospels finally happened with the advent of critical scholarship.The Bible Selection Committee made other goofs as well. Critical thinking skills hadn’t kicked in yet, and “fact checking” didn’t occur to anybody. If one Bible passage blatantly contradicts another—well, wasn’t that just part of the divine mystery? And piety carried on; loving the divine savior was all that mattered.
Even Christian apologists know that the Divine Mystery Excuse no longer carries much weight. They devote their careers to grappling with the contradictions, trying their best to make the Bible “come out right.”
Any editor who produces an anthology of the writings penned by various authors knows not to include accounts that contradict the major themes or produce errors in the presentation of critical facts. The men who chose the canonical gospels completely missed this point. They did not imagine that centuries later, biblical scholars would eviscerate the competency of their choices.
(2354) Sin forgiveness contradiction
The New Testament is all about the forgiveness of sins, but it contains a crucial contradiction as to the question of whether there are sins that are unforgivable. The gospels say yes, but Acts and the epistles say no. The following was taken from:
Is there an unforgivable sin?
According to Jesus, you can be forgiven all kinds of sin and blasphemy, except for one: blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.
Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. Matthew 12:31-32
But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation. Mark 3:29
But unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven. Luke 12:10
Those who deny Jesus will be denied by Jesus. (Which implies Jesus will never forgive them for denying him.)
Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.Matthew 10:33
According to these verses, believers can be forgiven all things.
Through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. Acts 10:43
And by him all that believe are justified from all things. Acts 13:39
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses. Colossians 2:13
The great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity. Titus 2:13-14
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
This question has perplexed biblical scholars for centuries, trying to define exactly what blasphemy of the Holy Spirit entails, wondering what a person who has evidently done so should do (just give up?), and whether or not to promote the theological idea that some sins cannot be forgiven. Clearly, the Church would have an incentive to say that there is no sin beyond the power of God to forgive, but they are fighting against the headwinds of those troubling gospel verses. This is another example of why the Bible is not the perfect achievement of an omnipotent deity.
(2355) God’s flood plan failed
It’s obvious to all but fundamentalists that the story of the Great Flood in the Book of Genesis is a myth, likely borrowed from earlier traditions. Nevertheless, we should expect biblical fiction to have a structure of consistency- in other words, it should make sense. But what doesn’t make sense is that an omniscient god would formulate a plan to purify mankind and have it end up doing precisely not that. The following was taken from:
In Genesis 6, God was tired of man’s evil ways. He regretted making them and decided to destroy them off of the face of the earth.
He picks Noah’s family as the sole survivors, because Noah was righteous (Gen 7:10). Already the original plan has changed. God had said he regretted making mankind, and said he would destroy them and all the beasts, creeping things, and fowls of the air off the face of the earth, but he doesn’t do this. In fact, He goes to extraordinary lengths to preserve mankind, and the beasts, and the creeping things, and the birds. Supposedly the plan has shifted from wiping them out completely to simply resetting them. The Bible doesn’t suggest that a single species was actually wiped out in the flood.
Three chapters later, one of the first thing Noah does after getting off the ark is make a vineyard, get drunk, and expose himself to his son who is then cursed. Humanity multiplies again in the next chapter and the earth is filled again. The very next activity humans do is try to defy God with a tower to Heaven which God has to punish them for. Then a little later we read about Sodom and Gomorrah; towns so evil that Abraham has to haggle with God about the number of righteous people he needs to find there (which he doesn’t think even exceeds 10.) Then the whole town literally tries to rape an angel.
So we’re not even out of Genesis, and mankind is back to being completely evil. Not a single thing about mankind’s state changed after the flood. God didn’t actually end up wiping mankind out, and they straightaway went back to acting how they acted when God initially regretted making them. The earth was filled with an utterly evil human race pre-flood, and it still was almost right after. The Bible is clear there are still “none righteous.”
It seems that the only notable change to the world after the flood was that rainbows existed.
God’s flood plan didn’t actually do anything.
The failure of God’s plan to purify humanity within the structure of a fictional account leads one to conclude that the imagination of these superstitious authors hit a dead end. It leads one to conclude that the Bible is not only not the work of an omni-powerful deity but also not the work of competent story-tellers.
(2356) Acts and Galatians collision
Acts, Chapter 9 and Galatians, Chapter 1 tell different stories about Paul’s post-conversion travels and the degree to which he conferred with the apostles. These two cannot be reconciled and, because Galatians was written by Paul himself, it points to the fabrication of details spelled out in Acts. The following was taken from:
The Book of Acts, chapter 9, is one of the most cherished texts in the New Testament. Here we read of the dramatic conversion of Paul—his famous Road to Damascus vision of Jesus. He was rendered blind for three days, but his sight was restored by a certain Ananias, who also had been visited by Jesus in a vision. Ananias followed orders, found Paul, and by the laying-on-of-hands, restored his sight.
It was a dramatic turnaround for Paul, who had been fiercely persecuting the Jesus cult. Now he preached in the synagogues and “…confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.” (v. 22) This didn’t go over well, and Paul had to make this escape by being lowered in a basket through a hole in the city wall.
This article is another in my series on each chapter of the Book of Acts. The Introductory article is here. The one on chapter 8 is here.
As we might expect, Paul—still known as Saul—was eager to get back to Jerusalem to make amends, hence we read, vv. 26-30:
‘’And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus.”
This was written several decades after these supposed events.
And now we can watch the head-on collision, between Acts 9—author actually unknown—and Galatians 1, written by Paul himself (vv. 15-20):
“…when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother. In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!”
He didn’t go to Jerusalem. He went to Arabia, then back to Damascus—and finally three years later went to Jerusalem to stay with Cephas/Peter for 15 days. He makes the point that he didn’t mingle with the other disciples (i.e., as Acts puts it, “coming in and going out with the disciples”); he highlights his visit with Peter as a rare occurrence. And he swears “before God” that he is not lying about this.
Why is Paul so emphatic? He seems to be making the point that his gospel is superior because it came directly from his personal visions of Jesus, not second-hand from the disciples (Galatians 1:11-12): “…the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” It’s clear that his audience would be more impressed by his personal link to Jesus through visions. Hence he insists that he didn’t learn about Jesus from the disciples.
Much of Christian faith is pinned on the veracity of the Book of Acts because it fleshes the early history of the church and provides evidence that the movement was based on real events that motivated people, including eyewitnesses to Jesus, to undertake activities that put them at personal risk. Therefore, a demonstration of how Acts misconstrued history is somewhat damaging to Christianity as a whole.
(2357) Christianity misconstrued Judaism
Christianity’s ties to Judaism gave it some early credibility, but increasingly it has become a liability because of an emerging understanding that it misused Jewish scriptures, laws, rituals, customs, and theology. Whether this happened inadvertently or deliberately doesn’t matter. What is important is that you cannot base your religion on another religion while divorcing yourself from the essential elements of that base. The following was taken from:
Now, I’ve seen quite a number of people try to deny this, but Christianity is obviously Jewish in origin. The bible makes it clear that Jesus was a Jew and that the Jewish scriptures are also the Christian scriptures. As a religion that originated from Judaism, Christianity naturally defines itself using Jewish concepts, like the prophets of the Old Testament or the idea of angels. Christianity also naturally tries to justify the validity of itself, often by using Judaism or Jewish scriptures. The problem is that many of these justifications are actually the result of taking verses out of context or ignoring verses that clarify a concept.
For example, the most basic concept in Christianity is that we inherit Original Sin, for which we deserve to be damned. However, this is blatantly contradicted by Exodus 34, which says that God only punishes to the fourth generation. This is even more problematic in light of Ezekiel 18, where God is quoted as saying that people would now only be punished for the sin that they have committed.
Another example is the idea that everybody has sinned against God because the Law is too burdensome for a person to obey. First of all, this directly runs counter to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, shown in Matthew 5-7. In this, Jesus not only tells his followers to continue following the law of the Old Testament, but actually makes it far more burdensome by adding absurd conditions like lightly insulting someone becoming equivalent to murder. For its part, the Torah says that the law was designed to be easy to follow in Deut 30. It must also be noted that the vast majority of the laws in the Torah are only meant for Jews, as opposed to the Christian teachings, which say we are all guilty of violating the Ten Commandments that were never given to 99+% of the population. The only rules all of mankind have to follow in Judaism are the Noahide Laws. According to the Oral Torah (more on that later), there are seven Noahide Laws. Most Christians don’t accept the idea of Noahide Laws because they rely on the Oral Torah, but the bible itself directly mentions two of the Noahide Laws in Genesis 9. As such, even if you disagree with the numbering of the Noahide Laws in the Oral Torah, you must at least accept the existence of Noahide Laws that are distinct from the laws of the Jews. These laws are noticably more lenient than the Mosaic Law, which itself is described as not being overly burdensome. To say that non-Jews are incapable of following these simple rules is simply wrong.
Yet another Jewish concept that Christianity gets wrong is the idea of Hell. In Christianity, the idea is is that everybody will get resurrected to be judged by Jesus and sent to either Heaven or Hell. In Judaism, it’s a much different story. For starters, Hell doesn’t even really exist in Judaism. This is a very understandable mistake, since many Christian translations of the Old Testament (like the KJV I’ve been linking) mistranslate Sheol to Hell. However, they are two very different concepts. Unlike the fire place of punishment, Sheol is the ultimate destination of all mankind, where you are “gathered onto your ancestors”. In fact, it’s even considered a punishment to be deprived of Sheol, which is why the Torah threatens sinners with being “cut off from their ancestors”. Hell, known as Gehenna in the New Testament, comes from the aforementioned Oral Torah. In the Oral Torah, Gehenna is more of a purgatory where the soul is punished for a maximum of 12 months. Some Christians may argue that the Oral Torah is a heresy or otherwise not applicable to Christianity, but it is telling that Jesus seemed to have relied on it. The Oral Torah was developed by the Pharisees, which was the precursor to modern Rabbinical Judaism and a common sect of Judaism in the time of Jesus. Matthew 23 even has Jesus saying that the Pharisees sit in the seat of Moses (i.e. they reveal the Oral Torah) and that his followers are divinely obligated to obey them. If this is to be believed, as Christians do, then Jesus was a Pharisee who believed in the Oral Torah, albeit one who was critical of the leaders’ behavior. We have no reason to doubt that Jesus was referring to the temporary purgatory mentioned in the Oral Torah and not the eternal hellfire that Christianity interprets it as.
Finally, there’s the issue of Jesus’ sacrifice. The Torah has a large number of rules about sacrifices that I will not get into, but sin-offerings do not allow God-made-flesh to be valid. Even if it did, the crucifixion of Jesus would still not count as a valid sacrifice. One of the central themes on 2 Kings is how Israel continued to sin by sacrificing at places other than the Temple. Calvary is quite a bit away from where the Temple was, and the “sacrifice” didn’t meet the proper criteria to be valid even if it was (e.g. Jesus was blemished from his beating). In light of this, Jesus could not have been a valid sacrifice.
Christianity is so far off the mark of Judaism that their Bible should not contain the Old Testament. It should be understood that Christianity is a pagan religion formed by distorting the views of a Jewish rabbi to create a theology more or less consistent with other Old World religions of its time. This is a severe disconnect- using a Jewish preacher to create a religion that is decidedly non-Jewish.
(2358) The missing keys analogy
Christians typically hold a bias that the belief in Jesus’s resurrection by early Christians arose from the supernatural event itself and not as the result of any natural explanation. They rarely analyze the comparative probabilities of these two cases. In the following, an analogy is provided that sheds light on how to compare the likelihood of natural versus supernatural explanations:
So, I lost my keys last week. Nothing else is missing, just my keys. I looked everywhere, I can’t find them. No one has been in my house, the doors and windows have been closed and locked except when I’ve walked in and out.
At what point should I assume a ghost stole my keys, or some other supernatural explanation like that?
Let’s set up an implausible situation. Maybe a thief stole my keys. But that’s implausible, because nothing else is missing. The keys were last seen right next to my wallet, which isn’t missing, nor is any other valuable thing. The keys also have no real value to them, they simply unlock my locker at the gym. The only thing in there is a pair of shorts. A thief wouldn’t even know what the keys are for.
So, is the thief explanation less plausible than the ghost explanation? Should I believe a ghost stole them?
How does this work?
To offer my position, I cannot think of a way in which to say that yup, I should believe a ghost stole my keys. Even if my next door neighbor thinks his house is haunted. Even if his whole family (there are 4 members of his family) believes the ghost that haunts their house probably stole my keys.
I’ll say one last thing: I have chosen the missing key scenario to talk about, and not the resurrection, for two reasons. One, it should hopefully remove bias. I’m not accusing all Christians of having bias, but I’m saying any bias that a Christian might have towards the resurrection probably won’t be present in the scenario of my missing keys. Second, this makes it not tied to any specific religion.
What this points out is that when hearing a story that seems at face value to have miraculous implications, it is best initially to assume a natural cause. When all natural causes are evaluated and determined to be false, it is still not time to assume a supernatural one because there might be other natural causes that were either neglected or that might exist beyond the current state of conventional knowledge. Thus the hurdle to the supernatural is very high and should only be assumed following the most stringent investigation. And, what is important to note here- there has never been an event where a supernatural explanation has stood the test of scientific scrutiny.
(2359) The Bible preserves superstition
Though civilization has moved to an analytical, scientific approach to all phases of our lives, the Bible holds on to the superstitions that permeated humanity twenty centuries ago. It should not go unnoticed just how antiquated these ritualistic beliefs have become. The following was taken from:
Though we lament the common failure of Christians to read the Bible—say, spend as much time studying God’s Word as they do watching movies—it has had an impact nonetheless on how believers size up the world. It’s damn hard for scientific thinking to get a foothold when the revered holy book preserves so much superstition; Tarico provides a list:
“Divination, astrology and fortunetelling, potions, conjuring, numerology, transmutation or alchemy, spellcasting and incantations, curses, healings, charms and talismans…each of these can be found in the Bible—including in stories about people and events that have God’s approval.” (p. 205)
In a quick three-page survey at the outset of the essay, she provides examples of some of these, e.g., potions that cause abortions (Numbers 5:12-31); King Saul’s visit to a witch to conjure the spirit of the dead Samuel (I Samuel 28:11-15); the killer curses uttered by Peter in Acts 5. But then Tarico zeroes in on cherished gospel fables, the miracle healings done by Jesus:
“Like many other kinds of magic in the Bible, these would have fit patterns familiar at the time. From the standpoint of modern trinitarian theology in which Jesus is an avatar of God almighty, he could have eradicated an entire category of malaise like leprosy or blindness. Instead, the Jesus of the gospel writers performs healings on people in front of him. Often, he cures with words or touch.” (p. 207)
It should be difficult if not impossible for a modern human to use and acknowledge the latest technology and scientific advancements while at the same time honoring the Bible as being a factual expression of reality. Yet they do, while conveniently disregarding or remaining blissfully ignorant of the irrational foolishness that pollutes and dates the holy scriptures.
(2360) Soft polytheism
Christianity’s claim of three gods in one opens up the idea that any religion previously considered polytheistic could make a similar claim and then consider it to be monotheistic as well. The following was taken from:
If one can accept the idea of three separate persons as being of the same substance or essence in one god, there doesn’t seem to be anything that would preclude four separate persons from also being one god. Neither five, nor ten, not even a hundred. One could potentially argue for one God in a thousand persons, one God in a million persons, and so on.
If you had a hypothetical religion that considered its entire pantheon to be all one god in reality, is it still monotheism? Where and how do you draw the line? Pretend I’m from ancient Greece or a modern Hellenist. I argue that the Olympian gods are all one God in twelve persons. Am I a monotheist or a polytheist? Who’s to say this form of claiming multiple entities as being one god in essence isn’t just simply soft polytheism?
It seems probable that Christian clerics painted themselves into corner when they made Jesus and the Holy Ghost into being gods. There was a general disdain for the existing polytheistic religions and a credentialing preference for monotheism had been passed down from Judaism. So the construct they made- the Trinity- solved that problem but also created an argument for every other religion to claim the same, and introduced to the world the concept of soft polytheism.
(2361) God is the author of confusion
Christian apologists assert that the reason there is much disagreement among Christians, and a multitude of conflicting denominations, is because sinful humans have rebelled against a unified truth that was provided by God. But given the status they assign to God, all-seeing and all-powerful, this argument fails any test of logic. God is, in fact, the author of this confusion. The following was taken from:
God Is The Author Of Confusion
The fact that there are so many gods that people believe in and religions and the fact that there are so many denominations within the Christianity, this proves God is either the author of confusion or that he has allowed confusion.
If the evidence for Christianity is so evident, then there would not be so many religions and gods. People would be able to see the evidence and believe but they don’t.
The Christian will site, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” – 1 Corinthians 14:33 But the fact that there are protestants and Catholics proves that there isn’t harmony in the churches. Most of them disagree with one another.
“He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12
Therefore, the fact that there are so many religions and gods and denominations and that God himself sends powerful delusions, proves that God is in fact the author of confusion.
This is a fatal defect in Christian theology- a God who creates and abets confusion over his very existence as well as his expectations, and then brutally punishes people who remain confused. This would be like killing people who believe in the string theory of physics versus loop quantum gravity. (The evidence for both is comparable.) It makes no sense whatsoever and paints God as the most wicked figure in the universe.
(2362) Yahweh is not omnipotent
There is a story in 2 Kings that lets us know that the author did not consider Yahweh, soon to become Christendom’s god, to be omnipotent nor omniscient. It is a window highlighting a step in the theological evolution that would eventually elevate Yahweh to his ultimate status. The following was taken from:
Would you believe that sometimes Yahweh actually loses to other deities or armies in the Bible? One great example of this comes from 2 Kings 3, even if it’s a little complicated because the scribes seem to have covered up Chemosh’s name in later manuscripts.
In 2 Kings 3, Moab was a vassal to Israel, and it decided to rebel against Israel. (v. 4-5) Israel, Judah, and Edom decide to strike back. They stop by the prophet Elisha to get Yahweh’s word on whether they will be victorious. Elisha prophecies that “(Yahweh) will also deliver Moab into your hands. You will overthrow every fortified city and every major town.” (v. 18-19)
This appears to be the case, and every major city is destroyed except Kir Hareseth, or “Fortified City of Dirt.” Over and over, Moab is defeated. But, suddenly, in verse 27, the Moabite king sacrifices his own child, and “divine wrath” fell on Israel, causing them to retreat. The Hebrew word there, קֶצֶף, is exclusively used in Classical Hebrew to describe the wrath of a deity. But which deity?
Certainly not Yahweh. Why would he respond to a Moabite human sacrifice, break his own prophecy of victory, and force his own armies into retreat? Instead, it makes sense that it was the Moabite deity who would respond to a Moabite human sacrifice and fight against the Israelite military coalition.
We also have a Moabite stele with this exact scenario inscribed, paralleling 2 Kings 3: “Omri was king of Israel, and oppressed Moab during many days, and Chemosh was angry with his aggressions… and I took from it the vessels of Jehovah, and offered them before Chemosh… And the king of Israel fortified Jahaz, and occupied it, when he made war against me, and Chemosh drove him out before me.”
This parallel is clear. in 2 Kings 3, Yahweh’s prophecy of victory is a failure, and a Moabite god’s wrath drives Israel into retreat. In the Moabite Inscription, Chemosh’s wrath ends in Yahweh’s defeat and the fleeing of Israel. Yahweh is not some sort of omnipotent being in much of the Bible. He is one of many gods, and he is a god that can be beaten.
‘Real’ gods don’t acquire unlimited powers after having limits to their power. That is, gods are either omnipotent or not, but that doesn’t change with time or with the winds of human thought. But mythical gods do evolve, and that is what we observe in the Old Testament.
(2363) Particle physics disproves the resurrection
A recent scholarly article uses physics and Bayesian mathematics to argue that a belief in Jesus’ resurrection is not only ill-founded, but that any resurrection from the dead is practically impossible. The following is taken from:
What you’re about to read may very well be the biggest game changer in the history of discussions on the resurrection of Jesus. In fact, what you’re about to read is likely going to change the way theologians, scientists, apologists, and philosophers view the probability that any corpse, at any point in history, revivified back to life.
In what is already poised to become the most influential counterapologetic argument against the physical resurrection of Jesus, philosophers of religion, Dr. Robert Greg Cavin and Dr. Carlos Colombetti, recently published a 60-page report entitled, “The Implausibility and Low Explanatory Power of the Resurrection Hypothesis.” The article was part of a debate featuring Christian apologist and philosopher, Stephen T. Davis, hosted by the peer-reviewed academic journal, Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry (SHERM).
In the article, Cavin and Colombetti provide a detailed explanation of what is called the “Standard Model” (SM) in particle physics to argue that the resurrection hypothesis surrounding Jesus of Nazareth not only has low explanatory power, but it actually conflicts with SM so much that a miraculous resurrection would have been completely impossible. Indeed, according to the authors, the Standard Model of particle physics is so relevant and decisive in establishing the implausibility of the resurrection that it can be confidently asserted “no agent supernaturally interferes” with the physical world … ever.
Their conclusion states, “We have shown through multiple arguments that … Christian apologists are wrong in saying that they are within their rights to believe R [the Resurrection hypothesis], or that R is probable, or even that R is the best explanation of the evidence. We have established that R has an exceedingly low plausibility—even if God exists. We did so by justifying the relevance of the Standard Model (SM) to the assessment of R and showing that R is inconsistent with SM … because the equations of SM have only natural inputs and natural outputs….Contrary to the ‘common sense’ view of believers and skeptics alike, we showed that R cannot explain the resurrection appearances of Jesus to the witnesses. For the body of the Risen Jesus—being a metaphysically transformed soma pneumatikon—is not physical as this term is defined in SM and so cannot be seen, heard, or otherwise detected by witnesses. It is comprised, not of the ordinary atoms of SM but, rather, of some mysterious ‘schmatoms’ that according to SM cannot interact with the physical world….We thus reaffirm our statement … that ‘almost any naturalistic hypothesis is superior to the hypothesis that God supernaturally raised Jesus from the dead.’”
Christians who are firm in their beliefs are not likely to be moved by this article, but those who retain a measure of skepticism should see it as an opening to launch a sincere search for the truth. In the end they are likely to find that Jesus rising from the dead is the least likely explanation for the belief that he did.
(2364) The emperor is naked
Most are familiar with the story of an emperor who decided to appear naked in front of his subjects while bragging about how he was wearing a gorgeous raiment. Everyone sycophantically praised the emperor and expressed admiration for his clothing, but one child suddenly spoke and said “He is naked!” The emperor turned red and ran away. The moral of the story is that it took the innocence of a child to register the truth.
In the following, a (real) story is told of a child who when first exposed to the celebration of a man being nailed to a cross expressed the disgust that registers the truth about Christianity- it is a cult of human sacrifice.
How do you explain torture to children? Author Phil Zuckerman faced this challenge on a day that was supposed to be a pleasant family outing:
“Our older daughter had a school assignment to visit a California mission. Built by the Catholics in the 1700s and 1800s, the California missions are a vital part of California history. And so we were excited to take our daughters to check one out, about 20 miles from our home. “And the mission was lovely: beautiful landscaping, old buildings, indigenous flowers, a trickling fountain. And then we walked into a large hall—and that’s when my younger daughter lost it. The space was full of crucified Jesuses. Every wall, from floor to ceiling, was adorned with wooden and plaster sculptures of Jesus on the cross: bloody, cut, and crying in pain. Some were very life-like, others more impressionistic. But all exhibited a tortured man in agony. My daughter had no context to understand it; she had no idea what Christianity was all about and had never been exposed to this most famous killing in history. She just saw what it objectively was: a large torture chamber. And she burst into tears and ran out.
“I followed her outside, and once I had caught up with her in the courtyard, she wanted any explanation. But how does a secular parent explain such gore to a five year old?
“Um, well, you see…there are millions of people who think that we are all born evil and that there is an all-powerful God who wants to punish us forever in hell — but then he had his only son tortured and killed so that we could be saved from eternal torture. Get it? The whole thing is so totally, horrible, absurdly sadistic and counter-intuitive and wicked. Not to mention baldly untrue.” (Excerpt from a Zuckerman article in Psychology Today)
The only reason that Christians have no problem with their principal symbol being an implement of torture is that they have been enculturated to accept it as a normal element of faith. When viewed outside the milieu of this preconditioned mentality, it is truly disgusting- an absolute travesty of common decency.
(2365) Harms of the supernatural outlook
The Bible gave Christians the idea that supernatural forces were at play in their daily lives, and, because of that, much of their thinking and actions revolved around this theme. If correct, we would expect that this outlook would have resulted in a benefit to humankind, but the opposite is actually true. The following was taken from:
Because of believing that supernatural beings control the world, people have often misdirected their energies in attempting to solve problems. Instead of studying the world to discover scientific solutions to problems, they performed religious activities in an effort to obtain the assistance of benevolent supernatural beings or thwart the influence of malicious ones.
This misdirection of energies is seen, for instance, in the history of the attempts to prevent the outbreak and spread of diseases in Europe. The historian Andrew White relates that, during many centuries in the Middle Ages, the filthiness of European cities repeatedly caused great plagues that sent multitudes to their graves.
Based on biblical teachings, Christian theologians during those centuries thought the plagues were caused by the anger of God or the malevolence of Satan. The Bible gave them ample support for their belief. It contains numerous instances of God punishing people by means of pestilence (e.g., Exodus 32:35; Numbers 16:44-49; Jeremiah 21:6). And in describing Jesus’ healing miracles, the New Testament attributes the following afflictions to demons: blindness (Matthew 12:22); muteness (Matthew 9:32-33); lameness (Luke 13:11,16); epilepsy (Matthew 17:14-18); and insanity (Mark 5:1-13).
Those teachings led the early church leaders to promote the idea that demonic activity is the primary cause of disease. For example, St. Augustine, whose views strongly influenced Western thought for over a thousand years, said in the fourth century: “All diseases of Christians are to be ascribed to these demons. . . .”
With the coming of the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, there was little change in the Christian attitude toward the causes of disease. Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism, repeatedly attributed his own illnesses to “devils’ spells.” He also stated: “Satan produces all the maladies which afflict mankind, for he is the prince of death.”
As a result of believing in supernatural causes of disease, theologians taught that plagues could be averted or stopped by seeking supernatural assistance. And the way to obtain God’s help, they thought, was to perform religious acts. These included repenting from sin; providing gifts to churches, monasteries, and shrines; participating in religious processions; attending church services (which often only increased the spread of disease); and killing Jews and witches (since it was thought Satan used them as his agents in causing illness). Religious leaders largely ignored the possibility of physical causes and cures of diseases.
None of these misjudgments, cruelties, and executions would have occurred in response to a book overseen by an omniscient god, who, in all likelihood, would have reversed the ill-conceived actions of misguided humans acting in what they thought was faithful service to God. But if the Bible was the sole creation of pre-scientific human brains, then everything that happened makes perfect sense.
(2366) Heavenly signs
The Bible drove humanity in a backwards direction when confronted with momentous stellar and atmospheric phenomena. The interpretation of these events were linked to biblical stories that matched what they observed, thereby leading them to dismiss and fail to investigate the underlying natural physical causes. The following was taken from:
Bible stories led the Christian world to believe – for centuries – that God sends humankind signs in the heavens.
Christians thought comets warn of divine anger and imminent punishment; stars and meteors portend beneficial events such as the birth of heroes and great men; eclipses signify divine distress in response to events on earth; and storms and other destructive weather result from the anger of God or the malice of Satan.
The significance of this point is that a book written by the hand of God should have caused humanity to rendezvous closer to the core of reality rather than causing it become further divorced. However, a book compiled by unenlightened magical thinkers would be expected to produce this exact result.
(2367) Christians must desensitize themselves
The Christian concept of hell, which implies at a minimum an uncomfortable eternal existence or at worst a very painful one, necessitates one of two coping strategies- either tacitly assume it probably doesn’t exist (and thus face a formidable amount of cognitive dissonance) or desensitize oneself to the inevitable doom facing most of the people they know (as the scriptures clearly indicate that only a minority will reach heaven). This dilemma is described below:
My neighbor is a seven year old boy called Alex. He’s a nice kid, but he doesn’t believe in God. He knows the difference between right and wrong, and at times he has chosen to do the wrong thing. He has sinned. If he died today, he’d die in unbelief. The Christian God would send him to Hell forever.
Plenty of Christians live their life apparently believing this. With this knowledge in the back of their minds, they go to work, mess around with their kids, play Xbox, and laugh when their dog’s lips get stuck behind their teeth and make it look like they’re pulling a weird face. Life goes on for the Christian as Alex’s finite seconds on this earth count down to the moment he slips into eternal damnation.
But if I was to announce at church tomorrow I plan to kick in the door of little Alex’s house, seize him by the hair, drag him back to my house and press his face against the BBQ hotplate for, oh, I don’t know, 30 seconds, there would be outrage among the Christian community. There would be panic. Christians would condemn it loudly, and these people of God would physically try and stop something so awful happening to poor Alex. Authorities would be called, I’d be arrested. It’d probably be on the news.
The reasons why Christians would stop this happening to Alex is because they actually believe in the reality of a human male acting cruelly to a child. It’s within the realm of possibility. They’ve seen or heard about it happening before. With Hell, however, they have the luxury of never actually having seen real physical evidence of such a possibility, and therefore in the deep, dark recesses of their rational minds, a kernel of doubt exists. I’s not something they’d ever actively openly admit or entertain, but in some small way it’s a comforting backup belief that at the end of the day, Hell probably actually doesn’t exist. This belief gives them the comfort to continue working their 9-5 job and laugh at their pets among all the damned souls around them. They’re calmed constantly by this subliminal doubt that Hell exists, because if they actually believed in it – if they actually believed that Alex, or Alex’s mom, or Mel from the corner store, or Kevin from marketing were all heading to an eternal hotplate, any empathetic person would be in utter emotional ruin at the inability to stop such inevitable horror.
But for anyone who truly, truly believes that Hell is real, the only remaining option is to dull your empathy – to love people less and engineer a belief system that states that Alex next door somehow deserves the hot plate – and so much more.
If you actually believe that almost everyone you know is going to Hell, you are forced to reduce the degree of concern you have for them. The idea that billions of humans will suffer with real fire becomes much less horrible if you conclude those humans – those 7, or 5, or 3 year old humans – did something to deserve it.
And so the hardcore Hell-believer has to develop a Westboro-like inoculation against being moved by the suffering of others. They have to reduce their empathy (their love) and the natural instinct they have to be repelled by the pain of their fellow humans and turn it into something glorious and celebratory (I’ve seen this indifference manifest especially with Calvinists, whose belief in total sovereignty force them into this position).
But the even the most hardcore Hell-spewer would still hate what I plan to do with poor Alex. They’d betray their true feelings about what Alex actually deserves when every instinct in their soul would drive them knock me out and lift poor Alex’s bubbling face off that terrible plate. Then, once Alex was in hospital and the ordeal was over, they’d go home again, play their Xbox, laugh at their dog and be at peace, because deep down, they’d know Alex was now safe.
Most Christians don’t actually believe in Hell, and the small percentage who do have to train themselves out of caring about the people who are going there.
So, the problem for Christians is that they must pick one of two unappealing options- either assume that a major tenet of their faith (the existence of hell) is false, or live life under the assumption that many of their family and friends are facing the most terrible fate imaginable. There is no easy way out of this predicament, and it’s all because Christian theology is a product of clueless human brains.
(2368) The gravity analogy
Christians claim that there are unseen forces in our world that are caused by God, angels, demons, and whatever else. This is analogous to gravity. It is an unseen force. But what is different about gravity is that we can observe its effects, measure its potential, and form scientific calculations that reliably predict future events (such as eclipses). In like manner, the unseen entities of Christian theology should also create effects that can be measured. But they don’t. The following was taken from:
The spiritual realm is beyond this physical one — we shouldn’t expect to see evidence of it.
Yeah. See, here’s the problem with that.
The problem is that religion makes claims about this world. The physical one, the one we live in. It claims that God sets events into motion; that guardian angels protect us; that our consciousness is animated by an immaterial soul; etc.
So if there really were a non-physical world affecting this physical one, we should be able to observe those effects. Even if we can’t observe the causes directly.
My favorite analogy for this is gravity. When Isaac Newton developed his laws of motion, he had no clue what gravity was. For all he knew, gravity was caused by demons inside every physical object, all pulling at each other by magic. He tried for years to figure it out, and eventually gave up.
But even though he had no idea what gravity was, he was able to observe its effects. He was able to describe the laws of motion that govern those effects: laws that to this day make startlingly accurate predictions about the behavior of objects. He wasn’t able to see or even understand the cause — but he was able to observe and describe the effects.
I could give a zillion other examples. We can’t see subatomic particles directly, either. Magnetic fields. Black holes. But we can observe their effects. We can make accurate predictions about them. We know they’re there.
If there really is a non-physical, spiritual world affecting the physical one… why can’t we come to an understanding about the nature of that world, and how it affects this one? Why, after thousands of years of religious belief, are we still no closer to an understanding of the spiritual realm than we ever were? Why do religious beliefs still all boil down to a difference of opinion?
The obvious answer: Because the spiritual realm doesn’t exist. Because the spiritual realm is a human construct: invented by human minds that are strongly biased to see intention and pattern even where none exist, and to believe what they already believe or want to believe.
And believers only fall back on this “The spiritual is beyond the physical, so we shouldn’t expect evidence of it” trope because there isn’t good evidence. This argument isn’t really an argument. It doesn’t support the claims of religion. It merely serves to armor religion against the expectation that it support its claims.
There has yet occurred a single scientific observation that can be attributed to God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, angels, demons, saints, Satan, or any other unseen entity claimed by Christian theology. If these characters are real, they are not only unseen, they are unfelt. Unlike gravity, they produce no observable phenomena that can be measured. The best explanation, and really the only rational one, is that they don’t exist.
(2369) Church viral spread
It is not surprising that many church pastors have balked at efforts to promote social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic and have defiantly continued to conduct their regular services. This is an expected behavior of people who believe in the presence of a supernatural power that can provide unnatural forms of protection. Also fueling noncompliance is an assumption that God’s law supersedes man’s law, that worship is an essential aspect of life, and that orders to cease and desist are unconstitutional.
But what is surprising, when examined from the preconception that Christianity is true, are reports indicating that numerous church gatherings have spawned mini-epidemics among the attendees and surrounding neighborhoods. If God is as indicated by Christian theology, he is able to view these services and is capable of shielding his followers from becoming infected. There are very few Christians who would disagree with these assumptions. So, understanding the reason for these church-fueled outbreaks is complicated.
It finally comes down to one of three things. Either God is incapable of viewing the services or providing protection, and thus is not omniscient or omnipotent, or he does possess those capabilities but for reasons unknown has not exercised them, or he doesn’t exist. The simplest explanation is normally correct, so we should tentatively assume the latter.
(2370) Number of post-resurrection witnesses
It is crucial for the Bible to get one thing right- an accurate account of who and how many people were eyewitnesses to the resurrected Jesus. But it fails this test. Consider the following two scriptures:
1 Corinthians 15: 3-6
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep
Acts 10: 39-41
“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
The following was taken from:
“God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses…” (By-Us-Who-Were-Chosen-by-God, by the way, is a sure mark of cult fanaticism.) It’s almost as if the author of Acts had already encountered skepticism, i.e., isn’t it suspicious that the Risen Lord didn’t appear to anyone outside his circle of acquaintances?—at least in the gospel accounts, which betray no knowledge whatever of Paul’s claim that Jesus appeared to “more than 500” (I Corinthians 15). Why not appear to Pilate or to those who were present at his trial? After all, Jesus promised at the trial that they would see him coming on the clouds of heaven. Yet only the original cult devotees of Jesus saw him. Even then, no doubt, there was skepticism about the farfetched resurrection tale.
Acts was written at least several decades after Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. In the interim there was likely a lot of people who were wondering: “Who were these 500 people that Paul spoke of? We want to talk with them and hear about what they observed of the resurrected Jesus.” Well, this presented a problem because Paul obviously lied about this event and there was nobody around who seemed to know anything about it. So the author of Acts decided to ‘correct the record’ and mitigate the skepticism that was developing around this claim- “He appeared only to his apostles and that is why you haven’t found these 500 witnesses, Paul was wrong, sorry.”
(2371) God is either good or mysterious
Christians often dismiss evil by stating that God works in mysterious ways, while at the same time praising God for when good things happen. This is a glaring red herring. If God is good when good things happen, then he must also be evil when evil things happen. This conclusion is unavoidable if we credit this deity, as Christian claim, with the properties of omniscience and omnipotence. The following was taken from:
If you are a Christian you are probably rolling your eyes because you’ve heard it time and again. Why don’t we atheists understand that: [A] God works in mysterious ways, [B] God gave us free will which allows us to commit evil and good, [C] the world is in a fallen state, and [D] Satan represents a real presence in the world?
No, we don’t understand because: [A] clearly God doesn’t work in ways that are too mysterious for you to be unhesitant in calling something “He” did “good” and asking him to do “good” things in the world on your behalf. You can either use moral qualifiers to describe God’s actions or you cannot; you can’t have it both ways. [B] Not only does this point not jibe with argument “A” (if God works in mysterious ways we couldn’t claim that free will is a “good”) it is difficult to see how, if free will is good, the using of free will to take away another’s free will (i.e. murder) is not intensely problematic in God’s eyes. Hitler used his free will to take away the free will of 10 million others. Thus, if, in 1919, God flipped the “become an artist” switch in Hitler’s mind, the result would have greatly added to the net amount of freedom in the world. [C] This is a non-starter if the Old Testament is not accurate but, even if it is, a God who holds great-great-great… grandchildren responsible for their ancestor’s actions does not pass even the bare minimum test of human morality. Without a defined concept of desert, morality is a completely empty concept. It seems God is playing fast and loose on this count. [D] If this objection is forwarded seriously, then it is little more than ditheism (dual theism). Otherwise, in the Christian universe the only power Satan has is that which God lets him have.
If you believe in the traditional Christian conception of God you must believe that, ultimately, everything is His fault. Everything. This in a world where rocks fall out of the sky onto innocent people and babies are eaten by dingoes.
This is a strong argument against God’s ‘tri-omni’ accreditation (omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent). If he is omniscient and omnipotent, he cannot be omnibenevolent. If he is omniscient and omnibenevolent, he cannot be omnipotent. If he is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, he cannot be omniscient. Christianity has foolishly over-credited its deity and this has caused reasonable skeptics to doubt its existence.
(2372) Gospels were written by believers
The gospels were not written by objective historians, who might have provided an accurate portrayal of the man Jesus, his mission, his accomplishments, and the particulars of his death sentencing. These details have been lost to history. What is left is nothing but a work of biased believers- a one-sided, mostly fabricated fiction of what they thought would present Jesus in the most favorable light and that would promote their individual concept of Christian theology. The following was taken from:
The Gospels are guides to belief written by believers. This is a horribly unreliable way to learn accurate information. When you already believe “The Truth,” distortions that you consciously engage in—that you see as promoting “The Truth”—are not seen as lies, but rather, as efficacious ways of getting “The Truth” to the hearts of readers. We don’t know why the evangelists believed as they did, but in the gospels they don’t give us the reasons they believe, they give us reasons to believe; an entirely different matter. But we do KNOW they invented things. We KNOW that the theological conception of Jesus changed as the believers grew more distant from his life. What Christians believe most fervently (i.e. Jesus being God, appearing after he died, dying for the sins of the world) are concepts that were developed later. They are concepts that did not exist in the earliest generations of Christian belief. They certainly did not exist when Jesus was alive.
Early Christians invented myths to overcome the “stumbling-block” (1 Cor. 1:23) of the cross. Paul knew that, for the Jews and Gentile Greeks, the execution of Jesus represented a major problem. The “king of the Jews” was not supposed to be an executed lowly peasant. The “savior of mankind” was not a common criminal. Over time, theological concepts developed that explained this hang-up. Thus, an executed traitor was turned into a victorious Messiah.
The first objective historian to remark about Jesus was Josephus in CE94 (60 years post-crucifixion and after all eyewitnesses were dead), in his work Antiquities of the Jews. This small snippet of ambiguous references to Jesus and his followers is woefully inadequate to provide any flesh to the story or to correct any mistakes or fabrications in the gospels. Additionally, there is good evidence that this reference was an interpolation added to his work at a later date. So, the bottom line is that there exists no objective reporting of Jesus, who, if he actually existed, will remain an enigma for the balance of time.
(2373) Fictional story to change dietary laws
One problem that early Christian evangelists faced was push back from non-Jewish prospects who demurred from the requirements of circumcision and Jewish dietary laws. So something had to be done. Paul took care of the circumcision requirement in his letters, and the author of Acts did the same for the dietary laws. In the following we can see that a story was concocted in Acts, Chapter 10, to say that all foods are now kosher.
The hero in this text is Peter, who, since he is soon to disappear from Acts, gets good press in this chapter. Gone is the strident, vindictive Peter whom we encountered in Acts 5; there he scolded two people death—literally—for not giving all of the money from the sale of property to the church.
Here, however, we find a Peter whom angels recommend. We read that a pious centurion in Caesarea named Cornelius—he was generous and “prayed constantly to God”—was visited by an angel, who instructed him to summon Peter from Joppa; straightaway he sent two slaves and a soldier to fetch Peter.
The next scene is Peter’s famous vision of a large sheet descending from heaven: “In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air.” (vv. 11-12) This is not a text for vegetarians: “Then he heard a voice saying, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.’ The voice said to him again, a second time, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.” (vv. 13-16)
We can give demerits for a couple of things in these first sixteen verses, if our hope is to defend Acts as history. An angel is given a speaking role, and both the centurion and Peter have visions in which they receive instructions from God. Visions are certainly real, in the sense that hallucinations are real—bizarre stuff does go on inside the heads of religiously inclined folks. But in this case we can suspect that the visions/angels/voices are simply literary devices. The author is being creative, using the omniscient perspective of a novelist.
But we can appreciate that the author is taking sides in the struggle of the early Jesus movement to decide if it would remain a breakaway Jewish cult—bound by Jewish laws and traditions—or if it should embrace the wider world. This author advocates the latter. Cornelius is not Jewish; he is a Roman centurion praised for his piety. He prayed constantly to God and was favored with an angel visitation: “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.”
The Old Testament dietary laws take a hit in Peter’s vision of the sheet lowered from heaven: “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” In this way the author also smacks down the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:18, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” It would seem Matthew was more sympathetic with the “keep it Jewish” faction—and he alone created this Jesus script; it is missing from the other gospels.
This was the modus operandi of biblical authors- identify a message that you want to disseminate, then create a story that presents that message. The story did not have to be realistic and, in fact, the author probably had no intention for anyone to believe that it was factually true, just that they understood the embedded divine directive. The author of this story would have been astounded that people 2000 years into the future would see it as being literal truth.
(2374) Pornography in the Bible
It would be expected that a written message from God would be free of racy or pornographic references, given that sexual purity is a hallmark of Christian principles. But when such material ‘leaks’ into the scriptures, it gives us a hint that, apart from the Creator’s word, we are simply seeing human sexual desires being expressed. The following was taken from:
The Bible has some lovely stories in it about kindness, empathy, and loving one’s fellow humans. But for every part about “not casting the first stone” and “doing unto others as you’d have them do unto you,” there are also a LOT of stories about other kinds of “stones” (the nether kind), and “coming in unto” people (meaning sex) as well. Below are some of our favorite filthy references from the Good Book.
- Dildos and dil-don’ts
One of the weirder books in the Bible (and we say that with a pillar of salt) is Ezekiel, who is a visionary and possibly God’s first experiment with LSD. In Ezekiel, God is pissed about Israel’s idolatry and immorality, such as all the jewelry that Judah (the town, who is described as an adulterous wife-prostitute for some reason) is turning into dildos.
“You also took the fine jewelry I gave you, the jewelry made of my gold and silver, and you made for yourself male idols and engaged in prostitution with them.” (Ezekiel 16:17)
Wives! So inconsiderate, amirite? You take the time and money to give some nice bling to your doting lady, and she goes and turns them into dongs and whores herself out with them. Next time, you should probably go with flowers, Zeke.
- Women are the worst, part two
Deuteronomy is basically a big, weird pep talk from Moses where he explains God’s rules, such as when to marry your sister-in-law (if you’re confused, here’s a breakdown in Legos), when to muzzle one’s ox, and when to never seize a man’s genitals:
“If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity.” (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)
So, wait a minute. Two bros are out fighting and then a wife comes to rescue her husband who’s getting beaten up, but then tries to initiate a menage a trois? There’s a time and a place, girlfriend! And it is not during Fight Club. There’s no orgies in fight club, as the little known third rule goes. We think, perhaps, that the real reason this gal is slated to get her hand cut off is because she caught her hubby having some gay sex with his fellow countryman and was like, “When in Israel…” and tried to join, but they were having none of that. But that’s just our guess.
- Boobs and dongs
Ezekiel is back and with weirder sexual imagery than a David Lynch/Mitchell Brothers film.
“When she carried on her whoring so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned in disgust from her sister. Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after her lovers there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses. Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts.” (Ezekiel 23:18-21)
Men were hung like donkeys and boobs were ripe for fondling? How awful. We totally see why you would want to leave that place.
- More boobs
In an attempt to avoid “loose” women who will surely ruin you with their words of oil and honey, Proverbs tries to teach men to love their wives whom they’ve had since they were young: “A loving doe, a graceful deer — may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.” (Proverbs 5:19)
Aww, that’s kind of sweet. Unless we’re still talking about the deer. Then, um.
- Still more boobs
Solomon’s Song of Songs could put any Fifty Shades of Grey passage to shame. The book is supposed to be an allegory for God’s love, but it reads very much like an erotic poem. As a friend put it, “Song of Solomon particularly puzzled me as a child. My Bible school teacher tried to tell us it was a man’s love letter to God. Well, God apparently has nice tits.” Here’s a small sampling:
“Your breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle.” (7.3)
Again with the deer imagery. And now, gazelles!
“Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit.” (7.7)
“My lover is to me a sachet of myrrh resting between my breasts.” (1:13)
Okay, my boobs are woodland creatures, palm trees, and myrrh. We’re getting confused here, Solomon. Are we playing twenty questions? Is “mineral” next?
“I am a wall, and my breasts are like towers. Thus I have become in his eyes like one bringing contentment.” (8:10)
Towers? Well that’s kind of a stretch, but we guess it’s better than grapes.
“Blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread abroad. Let my lover come into his garden and taste its choice fruits.” (4:16)
If that’s not cunnilingus, we don’t know what is.
And then there’s this: “My beloved put his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.” (5:4)
Holy crap — literally.
- A marriage dowry in foreskins
In Samuel, King Saul’s daughter had the hots for David (of Goliath-slaying fame) and, though Saul was not fond of David (he thought David was trying to steal his throne), Saul still planned to use his daughter to ensnare David, and so agreed to the marriage. But David was skeptical. He said “Do you think it is a small matter to become the king’s son-in-law? I’m only a poor man and little known.”
When Saul’s servants told him what David had said, Saul replied, “Say to David, ‘The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies.’” (1 Samuel 18:20-30)
Dowries ARE rather old-fashioned, but well, would you settle perhaps for something less brutal than a hundred Philistine foreskins? It’s just that we’re rather strapped for time, Saul. We hear Bed Bath and Beyond is having a sale on monogrammed towels, for instance.
- More foreskin
Zipporah, the wife of Moses, has a tale in Exodus that is pretty universally agreed-upon as crazy. What happened is that, after the burning bush incident, Moses is headed back to Egypt to free the slaves. While en route, God tries to kill Moses in their tent, for some reason. So Zipporah, during the scuffle, grabs God’s genitals and then he cuts off her hand! Just kidding, sorry, we can’t get over that Deuteronomy bit. No, she takes a rock to their baby son’s genitals and circumcises him that way. It’s written as such:
“Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and threw it at Moses’ feet, and she said, ‘You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me.’” (Exodus 4:25)
It’s surmised that Zipporah did this because circumcision was how God knew who his chosen peeps were. Yet, you would think God would have simply told Moses that instead of trying to kill him in the night. Though we can’t entirely blame him. We, too, have been surprised by an occasional dong coozy surprise in the night, and reached for the nearest rock.
- A “Lot” of trouble
Most people only think of Lot in terms of his wife, whom God turned into a pillar of salt as he “rain[ed] destruction upon Sodom and Gomorrah.” (You don’t like it, eh? Poof! You are now an incredibly useful preservative!) But Lot’s story is also very weird and raunchy in its own right. Let’s (s)examine.
Attempted angel rape
Most have probably read or heard about the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Feel free to read the whole thing in Genesis if you’re so inclined). To paraphrase: God sent two angels to Sodom to see if it was really as wicked as he read on PerezHilton.com. The angels (in the guise of old men) stayed with Lot, and once word got out, the entire city came to Lot’s door demanding to “know” the angels. (Genesis 19:5) (“Know” in this instance probably means sex. The same Hebrew word was used in Judges in regard to a group of men raping a woman to death, which scholars are fairly sure doesn’t mean “They asked her about her Etsy blog.”
Lot, ever the good host, offered his virgin daughters to the angry mob instead (and this was BEFORE they date-raped him — more on that to come — so really, someone take Lot’s Father of the Year award away), but the mob refuses. The angels, at this point, are like, “Enough, guys,” blinds them, and then God destroys the city.
Somehow this story is used to condemn homosexuality, even though why would you offer a mob of angry gay men two women to appease them? Also, not that we don’t find silver foxes bangable, but well, this seems more like a case of insane violence than, you know, a fun gay orgy. But let’s continue.
Incest-y date rape
After Sodom was destroyed, Lot took his two daughters to live with them in a cave (like ya do). One day, his older daughter said to the younger:
“Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children — as is the custom all over the earth. Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.” (Genesis 19:30)
This plan worked out so well that the younger daughter did it the following night, with Lot being entirely unaware of it again, somehow!
“So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father.” (Genesis 19:35)
That’s the end! Nothing bad happens to these folks. They bear sons and name them Moab and Ben. To recap: Roofie-ing one’s elderly father and raping him = fine. Agreeing to lead a slave rebellion for God but forget to circumcise your infant son = DEATH.
These and other similar references to sexual themes is evidence that human authors created the biblical books without the guidance or inspiration of a deity. They suggest that the Bible is the work of man, not a celestial providence.
(2375) Illusory features of an imaginary world
Recent research has shown conclusively that a high percentage of intelligent people can see things that aren’t there while being fully awake and not under the influence of mind-altering substances. This tendency to see an imaginary world provides fertile terrain for the growth of religions. The following was taken from:
My research group has been privileged to publish articles in SI in which supposedly rational adults have demonstrated firm beliefs in Bigfoot, aliens, ghosts, and the 2012 return of the ancient Mexican god Quetzalcoatl. But we’ve never seen anything like this.
In the present study, 30.16 percent of our supposedly rational respondents provided completely imaginary accounts of structures they interpreted for us based on a blank white disk. These interpretations ranged from “fire which creates light” to “yellow and purple rays of light” to “many dots, evenly spaced” to “yellow object, mountain ranges, canal, hills, buildings” from a person who apparently wasn’t kidding. The interpretations were flying high and free. These were interpretations of a blank, white, round stimulus object. It could have been an illuminated golf ball. But about one-third of our respondents created false interpretations of what they believed they saw anyway.
Over one-third (34.92 percent) of our respondents reported seeing some kind of “structure” on this structure-free orb, and 25.40 percent reported colors, ranging from violet to yellow, on this purely white object. The color factor has precedent; Douglass (1907) reported many chromatic anomalies with his refractive telescopes. However, no such factors could have influenced these results. This was a simple white disk, presented by PowerPoint, with no chromatic aberrations inherent in the system. (No respondents identified this disk as the moon, although one person wondered whether it might be.)
The crux of these results: We presented reasonably educated people with a round white blob. About a third of them saw features, structures, and colors on this blob that weren’t there at all and provided wholly erroneous interpretations, essentially stories, about what they erroneously believed they had seen.
What this means is that the earnest testimony of alleged eyewitnesses does not always comport to a reasonable approximation of reality. It is likely that beliefs that started many religions and other superstitions were formed in part by this phenomenon. Humans are not always reliable observers and when they miss it is commonly in the direction of preconceived notions.
(2376) The power of conversion stories
Recent research has shown the existence of a bias for people to agree with the position of a person who once held an opposite view versus somebody who has always held a consistent view. This conversion bias is likely an important reason for why Paul received so much following in the early days of Christianity, as he represented the quintessential conversion- from persecuting Christians to being their chief theologian. The following was taken from:
A recent study conducted by Benjamin Lyons and colleagues, published in the peer-reviewed journal Public Understanding of Science (Lyons et al. 2019), offers a potential answer. The authors aimed to determine whether presenting participants with “conversion stories”—descriptions of individuals who once held an unsubstantiated belief but who later changed their minds—might be an effective, albeit underutilized, persuasion technique.
To test this hypothesis, they showed participants video clips from a 2013 conference talk by Mark Lynas, a British author and environmental activist who was initially a staunch opponent of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) but later became persuaded that GMOs were safe. Participants, who were 727 American adults recruited for an online survey, were randomly assigned to view three different clips of Lynas: (1) one in which he simply advocated for GMOs, (2) one in which he advocated for GMOs and noted that he had initially been opposed to GMOs, and (3) one in which he advocated for GMOs and explained what had prompted him to change his mind. Both conversion conditions (2 and 3) led to more positive attitudes toward GMOs than did condition 1, with no significant differences between conditions 2 and 3.
The bias that accompanied the preaching of Paul was probably a large boost for early Christianity and much of the faith continues to this day to enjoy the benefit of conversion stories- atheist to Christian- in the modern literature. Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ is a good example. What we can glean from this phenomenon is that people are generally unaware of the influences that shape their beliefs and that much of the faith in Christianity owes itself to the biased perception of the testimonies or former non-believers… vice a structured analysis of the evidence.
(2377) Telltale clues of a false religion
There are many religions and many subdivisions of religions, so the chance that any specifically-defined faith is true is very low. Even though Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses are technically Christian, one or both of them must have the details severely wrong. Given the theological landscape it is a daunting task to find the true faith, assuming it exists, but there are telltale markers that might offer clues. The following was taken from:
There are at least 4,200 religions in the world today, and countless more have been lost to history. It’s obvious there’s a 0% chance all of them are the true word of God. Some thinkers have speculated that each religion is at least a little divinely inspired and holds a piece of the puzzle left to us by God to put together. But the only way to come to that conclusion is to ignore huge tracts of doctrine in each religion. Ultimately, none of them are compatible. If any religion is true, there’s only one.
This means at least over 6 billion people alive today believe in a religion that was written 100% by human beings and 0% dictated by the creator of the universe. A belief system written by human beings that has no bearing on the factual nature of reality is mythology. The cold, hard truth of reality is that the vast majority of the people alive today believe in mythology and dogmatically refuse to even consider the possibility that’s true. So if you believe in religion, there’s automatically a 99% chance you believe in mythology. If you refuse to question your beliefs, there’s no way for you to know if they’re true, which increases the chance that you believe in mythology to 99.9%. This number is increased to 99.99% if your religion contains any of the following:
1: Human sacrifices
2: Moral values that reflect the needs and wants of a specific primitive culture
3: Instructions to hurt, kill or look down on other people
4: Reasons to look down on yourself
5: A pyramid-shaped authority structure
6: Scientifically inaccurate statements
7: Magical beings, powers or events that no longer exist
Some people have speculated that it doesn’t matter what religion you believe in as long as you believe in something that gives you meaning, instructions and peace. But believing in something that isn’t real is the definition of insanity. It’s not okay to be insane just because you like it because it holds you and society back.
Believing in mythology is counterproductive if for no other reason than it’s a waste of time. It keeps you busy going through meaningless motions while ignoring real world issues that have real consequences to you and the rest of mankind. Your life and everyone else’s would be improved by you focusing on real problems.
Religions would largely vanish if believers stepped back to Square 1 and reassessed the evidential basis for their beliefs. For Christians, one way is to notice that Christianity hits every one of the seven telltale markers of a false faith listed above. This alone should get the faithful to reconsider the probability that what they have been told to believe is in fact factual.
(2378) Switching babies
A simple thought experiment reveals the absurdity of Christianity’s post-life, reward/punishment scheme. Take a baby born to professional parents in Stockholm, Sweden and exchange it with a baby born to an ISIS terrorist family in Afghanistan. Will the Swedish baby grow up to discard terrorism and become a productive member of society? Will the Afghan baby rebel against Swedish values and become a terrorist? The following was taken from:
There’s no doubt in anybody mind that there are some pretty horrible people in this world. When we think about what they have done we like to think that if there is a hell then they deserve to burn in it for an eternity. The thing I struggle with is that when you look into the lives of these people you find that if you were born into their shoes you would have most likely done the same things.
Yeah it’s no wonder 99% of people born into a stable home commit no crimes. As for that 1% who managed to commit an atrocious act I am almost certain that their brains did not properly develop the ability to feel empathy or feelings of remorse, which is something out of their control. Looking at the people who commit crimes horrendous enough to warrant one to say that they “deserve to go to hell”, in every case, they were either neglected as a child, psychopathic/sociopathic, brainwashed through the culture they grew up in, or a mix of these all.
You could take any cookie cutter individual with not even a speeding ticket and if you took them as a child into a small village under the control of a terrorist group then there’s no doubt they will turn out to follow and kill in the name of these ideologies. Likewise, if you take a terrorist and change where he was born to Stockholm Sweden then there’s a 99% chance that he would grow up to be a loving person who contributes to society.
Christianity overestimates the freedom that each individual possesses to chart their path in life and underestimates the shaping forces that are beyond personal control. As such, it delivers an eternal judgment that is neither deserved nor justified.
(2379) Paul was wrong about the second coming
Paul believed that the second coming would occur during the lifetimes of those he encountered in his ministry. Unlike the situation with Jesus (who is documented in the gospels to have believed the same thing, but recounted only by unknown authors decades later), with Paul we have his direct words in letters he wrote (within letters verified to have been written by Paul). This raises the question of whether Paul had an actual spiritual connection to God and further makes all of his other prophecies and proclamations suspect. The following was taken from:
1 Corinthians 7:29-31, has Paul say:
I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
This seems pretty clear. Earthly things have become irrelevant, because ‘the present form of this world is passing away’. In fact, it’s coming so quickly, that you ought to live as if you were not going through whatever earthly trials you are going through.
1 Corinthians 10:11, concerning the trials of the ancient Hebrews, states:
These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come.
That seems pretty clear. ‘Us’, i.e, Paul and his readers, are those upon who ‘the end of the ages have come’, as opposed to the figures of the Old Testament, upon who the end had not yet come.
Needless to say, Paul and everyone he ever knew are long dead, and the end has yet to come.
Then there is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.
Here Paul is addressing a concern of the Thessalonians, about what will happen to those who die before the return of Christ. It follows this is something they think they ought to be concerned about, which should not be the case if they had been taught (presumably by Paul) that they might all very well die before the second coming.
One might say that Paul is speaking in general terms, saying that some Christians would still be alive when Christ came, not necessarily those he was speaking to. But that seems to be saying not much at all. I don’t think any Christians ever worried no one would be left when Christ returned.
Not to mention, he begins by speaking of ‘those who have died’, evidently speaking of specific dead known to these Thessalonians who have passed away, not just generally ‘dead Christians’. Then he goes on to say that “we who are alive and remain” will not precede “those who have died”. Presumably he is still talking about the same ‘those who have died’. Naturally, ‘those who are alive and remain’ would have to be those who once shared the earth with these 1st century dead Christians.
Remember, Paul had already evangelized to these people. Unless he had taught them that they should not expect to die before the end, there is little reason for them to be dismayed/shocked by the death of some of their number.
Finally there is Romans 13:11-12
Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;
This is not, I don’t think, quite as heavy a piece of evidence as the other verses. But it does still suggest, to me at least, the expectation of an imminent apocalypse. I can’t imagine that when the intended readers of this letter received it they could possibly have taken “the day is near” to mean “2000+ years from now”. That would have had absolutely no meaning to them. Why would that even be put into a ‘letter to the Romans’?
Furthermore, ‘nearer to us now than when we first believed’ becomes rather vacuous if turned into ‘it was 1960 years in the future, now it’s 1950 years in the future’. The time between the conversion of Paul and his followers and the writing of Romans has to be a significant portion of the time between the conversion of Paul and his followers and the second coming for this particular verse to have any impact.
Ultimately, if Paul was flatly wrong about the timing of Christ’s return, why should he be given any credence on any other matters?
This is a bigger problem for Christianity than most apologists admit. Paul clearly had an erroneous idea about the end times, and it is hard to imagine that God would have permitted him to disseminate bad information, given that he was allegedly selected as God’s spokesman in a revelation on the road to Damascus.
(2380) The Bible anesthetizes skepticism
Most people are skeptical of miracle claims and demand proof of them..unless they are in the Bible. Then they are taken at face value, even though they are ancient stories written by people who did not directly observe them. But if today somebody tells you that they just observed a miracle, full force skepticism is applied. This dichotomy is expressed below:
I think most of us are suspicious of miracle claims. If your neighbor came home from a healing service at church and claimed that 500 people had witnessed the preacher regrow a man’s amputated leg, you would probably not be convinced. Your first response might be, “Wow, how many people got a video of that?” In other words, you’d be skeptical. You’d want evidence to back up such an extraordinary claim.
But if it’s in the Bible, people let their guard down. Once a Christian friend mentioned the reading of I Corinthians 15 on Easter Sunday—and how impressed he was by Paul’s report:
“…Christ appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.”
I asked my friend: “What was Paul’s source for this information?” Is his word to be trusted? In the same text Paul also claims that Christ appeared to him as well: Paul claimed that a dead man spoke to him. It’s not all that uncommon for people to hallucinate the dead appearing to them; in fact, it’s common in dreams. Anyone who wants to resist being taken in by religious fantasy would also ask for something more than Paul’s hearsay report; for example, it would be good to know how many of the 500 were interviewed about the experience. Whether it’s a regrown amputated leg or a body coming back life, we’d like verification based on hard data.
But those who are hooked on religious fantasy—as found in the Bible or contemporary versions of piety—commonly skip the request for verification. Testimony is good enough for them.
Historically, there has always existed a bias for people to believe the written over the spoken word. There was a time when a story wasn’t fully accepted as truth until it could be read in a newspaper. This bias worked in favor of the Bible, seeing as how its readers were predisposed to believe it strictly because it was written down. In modern times, the written word is usually insufficient to instill belief in unusual events such that an accompanying photo or video is also required. But the Bible retains its special status as an infallible reflection of reality despite a disturbing lack of confirming evidence and a plethora or reasons to doubt it.
(2381) Paul understated disagreements with Jerusalem followers
There is evidence that Paul had a greater scope of disagreements with the Jerusalem-based sect than what is documented in his epistles. This raises the possibility that those who knew Jesus, assuming he was an historical figure, did not ascribe to Paul’s theory of Jesus’ divinity and substitutional redemption that forms the core of contemporary Christianity. The following was taken from:
Jesus’ brother James became the leader of the Jerusalem-based “Way Followers” after Jesus’ crucifixion. We know from Paul’s letters and The Acts of the Apostles that there were significant disagreements between James and Paul on various issues. We have no writings from the Jerusalem “Way Followers” at all. We only have a summation of these disagreements from the Pauline camp. And it would not serve their interests to bring up disagreements about basic Pauline positions like the divinity of Jesus and belief in Jesus’ divinity as a requirement for salvation. Keeping the matter of these disagreements confined to issues like the need for Gentiles to obey circumcision and dietary requirements, etc., served the Pauline camp. It gave them a few areas of disagreement to point to for the historical record since it was well known there were disagreements. But if it were known there were disagreements with those who actually knew Jesus in life on his divinity, etc., it would undermine Paul’s cult dogma on the foundational points.
Using the Pauline camp’s own history, we can guess that there may have been disagreement between the two groups on these points. How? When the Way Followers were arrested and tried by the Sanhedrin, the leader of the Pharisees speaks up for them and they are promptly freed (Acts, Chap.5).
But later, when the Hellenized Jew Stephen is arrested, he is convicted and stoned to death (Acts, Chap. 7). Despite possible Pauline obfuscation about these two incidents in Acts, this suggests to me that the Way Followers were preaching something different (and less provocative) than what the Hellenized Jews preached.
The Way Followers in Jerusalem may simply have believed Jesus was a possible Messiah (a prophet like Elijah or king like David) who they hoped would return soon to finish his mission of redeeming Israel. But that’s very different from saying (like the Hellenized Jews) Jesus was divine which would have been regarded as blasphemy by Palestinian Jews. Again, we only have the Pauline camp’s side of the story.
These clues underscore a critical problem with Christianity- its founders were not those who experienced first-hand the ministry of Jesus or whoever first devised this breakaway sect of Judaism. It is entirely the product of non-eyewitnesses and it runs counter to those who were actually in the trenches.
(2382) Paul should have seen Jesus
There is convincing evidence that Paul should have known of Jesus and probably should have met or at least seen him during Jesus’ ministerial visits to Jerusalem (the Gospel of John documents three visits to the city over three years). This is because Paul was the student of Gamaliel, who was a leading authority in the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem during the early First Century CE. He died in 52 CE. He is recognized as the law teacher of Paul the Apostle (who went by the name Saul at that time), as documented in the Book of Acts. This would have placed Paul in Jerusalem during the years before and after CE 30, the time of Jesus’ sojourns to the city.
Then Paul said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city [Jerusalem]. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
This raises the question why Paul was not an eyewitness to Jesus’ movements in Jerusalem. The following was taken from:
Saul of Tarsus/Paul the Apostle never knew the living Jesus. Which is strange because he was living in Jerusalem during the years Jesus was supposedly stirring up Judea culminating in His execution. As the personal student of Gamaliel, a leading Pharisee legal authority in Jerusalem, Saul was well connected in that Jewish sect, supposedly Jesus’ sworn enemies and instrumental in His death. Yet he knew nothing of Jesus when He was alive. He only ‘met’ Him in visions on a journey to Damascus many years later.
The absence of any mention by Paul that he met or had even seen Jesus in the flesh, when it appears that this could not have been avoided if the gospel stories are true, provides evidence that Jesus was not a flesh and blood historical figure, but rather a celestial deity, which is the way Paul portrays him throughout the course of his writings. Assuming this is correct, two decades later the author of the Gospel of Mark brought Jesus down to the ground and gave him a fictionalized historical footprint.
(2383) The summer camp analogy
Imagine there is a summer camp with lots of children. It is a typical one-week affair with a staff of administrators. On the first day, a child finds a letter that states, “On the third day I will arrive at the camp. Every child who paints a star on their forehead will be taken to an amusement park while those who don’t will stay behind and spend all day cleaning the camp.” It is signed ‘Bob.’ Nobody knows who Bob is, assuming he is a real person, or whether he or someone else wrote the letter. Most of the children dismiss this as a prank and take no note of its requirement. In fact, they later find other letters signed by other names making similar promises. However, a few kids, who somehow believe ‘Bob’s’ letter is possibly true while the others are fake, paint the star ‘just in case.’ Sure enough Bob shows up on the third day and takes them to an amusement park. The disgruntled remainder, some of whom followed the direction of the other (now shown to be fake) letters, morosely do clean-up duties, and rightly claim that they are being treated unfairly.
It should be obvious that the reward/punishment scheme is inequitable because the evidence supporting the letter’s authenticity did not match the magnitude of the consequences. This would be different if the letter stated that children with stars on their forehead would be given a Popsicle. In that case the limited evidential credentials of the letter would be somewhat commensurate with the consequences of compliance.
Applying this analogy to Christianity, the letter would be the Bible (and the other letters other holy texts) and the amusement park would be heaven while the clean-up duty is hell. Like the letter, the Bible is almost entirely of unknown authorship and the existence of God (Bob) is not definitively known. Yet the purported consequences of either complying with or rejecting it is incalculable. This exposes a titanic disconnect– the quality of evidence supporting Christian theology is woefully insufficient to legitimize its plan to divide humanity into heaven and hell. A real god intent on doling out massively significant post-life rewards and punishments would positively make sure that EVERYONE was given solid, incontrovertible evidence of the factual truth of this divine plan. Based on this fact alone, we can be assured that Christianity is false.
(2384) Leptogenesis and why our world exists
One of the favorite apologetic arguments is that the universe could not exist absent a supernatural creator. They argue that matter cannot come from nothing. In standard physics models it is known that matter and antimatter can arise from nothing, but that these particles would eventually annihilate each other, again leaving nothing. But results from a recent scientific experiment has lent evidence that a natural process could explain why more matter than antimatter was created in the early universe, leaving something instead of nothing- a process termed ‘leptogenesis.’
Alysia Marino and Eric Zimmerman, physicists at CU Boulder, have been on the hunt for neutrinos for the last two decades.
That’s no easy feat: Neutrinos are among the most elusive subatomic particles known to science. They don’t have a charge and are so lightweight–each one has a mass many times smaller than the electron–that they interact only on rare occasions with the world around them.
They may also hold the key to some of physics’ deepest mysteries.
In a study published today in the journal Nature, Marino, Zimmerman and more than 400 other researchers on an experiment called T2K come closer to answering one of the big ones: Why didn’t the universe annihilate itself in a humongous burst of energy not long after the Big Bang?
The new research suggests that the answer comes down to a subtle discrepancy in the way that neutrinos and their evil twins, the antineutrinos, behave–one of the first indications that phenomena called matter and antimatter may not be the exact mirror images many scientists believed.
The group’s findings showcase what scientists can learn by studying these unassuming particles, said Zimmerman, a professor in the Department of Physics.
“Even 20 years ago, the field of neutrino physics was much smaller than it is today,” he said.
Marino, an associate professor of physics, agreed. “There’s still a lot we’re trying to understand about how neutrinos interact,” she said.
Neutrinos, which weren’t directly detected until the 1950s, are often produced deep within stars and are among the most common particles in the universe. Ever second, trillions of them pass through your body, although few if any will react with a single one of your atoms.
To understand why this cosmic dandelion fluff is important, it helps to go back to the beginning–the very beginning.
Based on their calculations, physicists believe that the Big Bang must have created a huge amount of matter alongside an equal quantity of antimatter. These particles behave exactly like, but have opposite charges from, the protons, electrons and all the other matter that makes up everything you can see around you.
There’s just one problem with that theory: Matter and antimatter obliterate each other on contact.
“Our universe today is dominated by matter and not antimatter,” Marino said. “So there had to be some process in physics that distinguished matter from antimatter and could have given rise to a small excess of protons or electrons over their antiparticles.”
Over time, that small excess became a big excess until there was virtually no antimatter left in the cosmos. According to one popular theory, neutrinos underline that discrepancy.
Zimmerman explained that these subatomic particles come in three different types, which scientists call “flavors,” with unique interactions. They are the muon neutrino, electron neutrino and tau neutrino. You can think of them as the physicist’s Neapolitan ice cream.
These flavors, however, don’t stay put. They oscillate. If you give them enough time, for example, the odds that a muon neutrino will stay a muon neutrino can shift. Imagine opening your freezer and not knowing whether the vanilla ice cream you left behind will now be chocolate or strawberry, instead.
But is the same true for antineutrinos? Proponents of the theory of “leptogenesis” argue that if there were even a small difference in how these mirror images behave, it could go a long way toward explaining the imbalance in the universe.
“The next big step in neutrino physics is to understand whether neutrino oscillations happen at the same rate as antineutrino oscillations,” Zimmerman said.
That, however, means observing neutrinos up close.
The T2K, or Tokai to Kamioka, Experiment goes to extreme lengths to do just that. In this effort, scientists use a particle accelerator to shoot beams made up of neutrinos from a research site in Tokai, Japan, to detectors in Kamioka–a distance of more than 180 miles or the entire width of Japan’s largest island, Honshu.
Zimmerman and Marino have both participated in the collaboration since the 2000s. For the last nine years, the duo and their colleagues from around the world have traded off studying beams of muon neutrinos and muon antineutrinos.
In their most recent study, the researchers hit pay dirt: These bits of matter and antimatter seem to behave differently. Muon neutrinos, Zimmerman said, are more inclined to oscillate into electron neutrinos than their antineutrino counterparts.
The results come with major caveats. The team’s findings are still quite a bit shy of the physics community’s gold standard for a discovery, a measure of statistical significance called “five-sigma.” The T2K collaboration is already upgrading the experiment so that it can collect more data and faster to reach that mark.
But, Marino said, the results provide one of the most tantalizing hints to date that some kinds of matter and antimatter may act differently–and not by a trivial amount.
Although much remains to be learned, nevertheless, early experimental results combined with theoretic physics models suggest that our universe actually did come from nothing and that we no longer have a need to postulate that a supernatural conscious being created it.
(2385) Declaration versus demonstration
Faith in Christianity is a declaration, not a demonstration. Something is claimed to exist without the normal need (as in every other walk of life) to show why or how it exists. It is the equivalent of pointing to an empty room and asserting that it is not really empty. It is no different than a child having an imaginary friend. The following was taken from:
Believers are not pointing at a being which demonstrably exists and is demonstrably super-powerful, and merely arguing about the difficult-to-test upper limits of that power. What they are doing is pointing into an apparently empty room and asserting that not only have they determined that the room contains an invisible being, and that not only have they (somehow) determined the identity of this invisible being as the omnipotent omniscient omnibenevolent creator of the universe, but that they have also determined that this silent invisible being has strong opinions about what one particular species (out of millions) on one particular planet (out of billions) in one particular galaxy (out of trillions) does with their genitals… and that these opinions so happen to align perfectly with their opinions on the topic. And yet, when asked how they made these extraordinary determinations, they offer no supporting evidence at all for even the first of their conclusions, let alone the other two.
There is a vast difference between a declaration and a demonstration. Things that are declared without being demonstrated are rightly rejected by even the least skeptical persons, except when it comes to religion- then, no demonstration is required and belief is purchased at a penny on the dollar.
(2386) OT god is not omnipresent
At some point during the evolution of Christianity theologians decided that in order for God to be omniscient and omnipotent he would also have to be omni-present, or, in other words, occupy every cubic meter of space and further he would have to be able to see and apply forces within this space. A localized god would necessarily be limited to control just those things that could be seen from his location, and, although it wasn’t known at the time, a localized god would also be hamstrung by the physical constraints of space-time- the speed of light necessitating that everything observed would have occurred some measure of time in the past.
Right off the bat, in Genesis, we learn of God walking in the Garden of Eden looking for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8) and then he physically wrestles with Jacob (Genesis 32:22-32). This does not seem like an omnipresent god. The following was taken from:
The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to another.
God has a face and speaks like a man.
He said, “Oh, let me behold Your Presence!” And He answered, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim before you the name Lord, and the grace that I grant and the compassion that I show. But,” He said, “you cannot see My face, for man may not see Me and live.” And the Lord said, “See, there is a place near Me. Station yourself on the rock and, as My Presence passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and shield you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you will see My back; but My face must not be seen.”
God has a face, you can see him, he has a hand, he has a back.
Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel ascended; and they saw the God of Israel: under His feet there was the likeness of a pavement of sapphire, like the very sky for purity. Yet He did not raise His hand against the leaders of the Israelites; they beheld God, and they ate and drank.
You can see god, he has feet and maybe a hand.
The Lord came down in a pillar of cloud, stopped at the entrance of the Tent, and called out
God can be contained within a pillar shape, and can stop at specific places. He is not omnipresent. He wasn’t already present at the entrance of the tent.
The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and wait there
Again god is at specific locations.
With him I speak mouth to mouth, plainly and not in riddles, and he beholds the likeness of the Lord. How then did you not shrink from speaking against My servant Moses!” Still incensed with them, the Lord departed.
God has a mouth, you can maybe see something of him, and he can move from place to place.
In my examples I’ve tried not to include poetry or songs, or dreams. These all seem like straightforward descriptions of events. (I could probably be persuaded that the ones about speaking face to face are metaphorical, but that doesn’t make much of an impact on my argument.) They seem to show a god who has attributes which can’t be applied to immaterial beings. He has body parts, he’s visible, he occupies locations, and he can move from one location to another. I don’t think immaterial beings can have those properties.
It seems then that if you believe in an immaterial god, you believe in a different god from that described in the Old Testament.
The conventional wisdom that God is immaterial and is everywhere is controverted by many references in the Old Testament, and even in the New Testament where one-third of the Trinity, Jesus, is clearly bound to a specific location on earth. What this means is that, although it has been correctly recognized that God must be everywhere for him to have his purported unlimited capabilities, this attribute is not supported by the scriptures and is in fact directly contradicted.
(2387) Twelve Jesus’s
Over the past 20 centuries, various versions of Jesus have been hypothesized. The following lists the most popular ones:
The nature of Jesus has caused much debate over the years. Various views include:
- Jesus had only one, divine nature. (Monophysitism)
- Jesus existed as two different persons, the mortal man and the divine Logos, which co-existed in one body. (Nestorianism)
- Sort of a compromise between the two, decided at a conference called the Council of Nicaea(325 CE) and the later Council of Chalcedon (451 CE), resulting in the Chalcedonian or orthodox Christian view.
- Jesus was a divine being, but separate from, created by and subservient to God the Father. (Arianism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses)
- Jesus was wholly God and his human form an illusion. (Docetism)
- Jesus had two natures in one person, a human and a divine, but only one will. (Monothelitism)
- Jesus was a prophet of God, but not divine in any way. (Ebionitism, Islam)
- Jesus was a psychic man.
- Jesus was some kind of guru who’d been to India, Tibet, etc.
- Jesus never existed— which suggests that Jesus was more of a concept than a person and that there were numerous people called Jesus in the first century CE.
- Jesus was just this guy, you know. This version does get a nice consolation prize.
- Jesus was an alien- explains how he was able to fly into space unaided.
For most of the Middle Ages option #3 gained popular favor, partly due to the slight risk of being executed if on the losing side of the argument.
It is probable that Jesus was, more or less, accurately described by one of the above, but which one is open to conjecture and contention. What should be gleaned, though, is that if Jesus was God himself or a messenger sent by God, then God would most likely have assured that the human interpretation of him would have been accurate and consistent throughout history- not split into a dozen competing versions. This is based on the reasonable assumption that a god as claimed by Christianity would ensure that his intended message to humankind would not become muddled.
(2388) Jesus and hate
Christians have traditionally associated Jesus with the ultimate expression of love, being willing to die (for a weekend, at least) to take on the punishment for their sins. Often they will use the term ‘agape’ to signify a type of love that is on a celestial level. Therefore, it remains a source of embarrassment that a verse in the Gospel of Luke has Jesus expressing a sentiment 180 degrees out of phase with this image. The following was taken from:
These verses are followed by the ultimate demand of a cult leader, Matthew 10:37-39:
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
Well, not quite the ultimate demand.
When Luke found this text, he felt it wasn’t strong enough, and reworked it, 14:26: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”
Christians committed to the ideal Jesus conjured by the church may protest, “Jesus couldn’t possibly have said that!” But for sure we know that the author of the gospel wrote it—and attributed it to Jesus; and the Greek work for hate, miseo, is right there.
If these two texts from Matthew and Luke were projected above the altar at every Christian church, would the pews empty? Would the crowds disappear? Maybe, maybe not. Focused on the promise of heaven, people seem willing to overlook teachings they would ordinarily reject, on the basis of common sense and decency.
There is really no excuse for Luke 14:26 to be in the Bible, the ‘Good Book.’ Christian apologists have scrambled to recast the interpretation of this verse to mean simply a relegation of family ties in favor of the ultimate allegiance to God. But there is no doubt that the Greek word for ‘hate’ is there and that it connotes the same meaning as expressed in colloquial usage. Why Luke decided to escalate Matthew’s version is a mystery, but it seems certain that he was more strongly encouraging people to cut ties with family and join the cult of Jesus. It is a verse that Christian pastors sweep into a dark corner while at the same time parading out Exodus 20:12 (“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.)
(2389) Christianity is Yahwism 2.0
Christian pastors have to do a good job to prevent their congregants from exploring the fact that the god that they worship is a relic from the distant past- a tribal war god who has no more footprint in physical history than Superman. The following was taken from:
How embarrassing: a tribal god from the ancient past, whom no one should take seriously, got his boost into Western history through the Jesus cult. But the brutal, arbitrary Yahweh eventually had to be toned down and cleaned up. Gericke makes the point that philosophical rehabilitations of god disguise what actually happened:
• What the Western world means when it refers fuzzily to “God” is not some untouched, ineffable ultimate reality beyond the grasp of human rational faculties that will one day catch up with unbelievers, making them recognize their cognitive blindness. Rather, the entity most readers refer to when they speak of “God” is actually an upgraded, mysteriously anonymous version of what actually used to be a relatively young, quite particular, and oddly hybrid Middle Eastern tribal deity called Yahweh.” (p. 132)
Yes, this is where Christian monotheism has its roots, and Gericke suggests that weighty philosophical arguments against the existence of God are overkill.
• “…in trying to prove that “God” does not exist, so long as “God” is in any way related to the entity worshipped in modern (or postmodern) biblically derived forms of theism (no matter how sophisticated), the only thing needed is to show that representations of Yahweh in ancient Israelite religion do not refer to any ultimate reality outside the text. (p. 134)
• “It’s not unlike trying to prove there is no Zeus. Not even Christians can do it, but you can demonstrate belief in Zeus to be absurd by pointing out the ridiculously superstitious nature of the representations of the entity in question (i.e., his human appearance, his less than scientifically informed mind, and his nonexistent divine world), thus exposing his artificial origins. Well, the same can be done with ‘God,’ aka Yahweh.” (p. 134)
Gericke brilliantly skewers Yahweh as a cartoon character, although the god is not nearly as benign and pleasant as the character he mentions!
• “…there are those of us who realize that what we have in the text is the character Yahweh who, as depicted, can for various reasons not possibly exist outside the stories in which he acts. Yahweh is like Donald Duck, who is real is some fictionalist sense. He does not exist outside the cartoons about his character (except people in consumes, I suppose).” (p. 135)
Many Christian theologians are honest enough to admit that God/aka Yahweh in the Old Testament, as candidly depicted in the texts, is not to be believed. Hence it is urged that the texts can be understood as symbols and metaphors: just look for the ‘spiritual truths’ hidden beneath or behind them. But it’s overwhelmingly probable that the ancient authors meant exactly what they wrote. So read them that way.
And it’s a startling experience.
• “If you read the scriptures and are not shocked out of all your religious beliefs, you have not understood them.” (p. 137)
• “Believers in God need to repress the fact that their deity used to be Yahweh, whose entire reality is so obviously absurd that it needs continual revising…” (p. 145)
Early in the essay Gericke states his purpose:
• “The focus will be on the Old Testament, and if the discussion to follow does not open your eyes to the Bible as fantasy literature, the God of the Bible as nothing more than a memorable old monster, nothing will.” (p. 137)
Gericke devotes 13 pages to a discussion of Yahweh’s body and mind, and his world, with a wealth of citations to illustrate what the ancient authors thought about their god. They seem to have taken for granted that Yahweh had a body, and that being “made in his image” was understood literally; but theologians have balked:
• “They have insisted that the obvious meaning of the words—that God was believed to look like a male human because it was thought that God created humans to look like himself (see Gen. 5:1-3; 9:6)—cannot possible be what was intended. Sophisticated apologetics notwithstanding, this is what Genesis 1 seems to be saying, and I wish to take it seriously.
• “Most references to Yahweh are not symbolic. It cannot be denied that there are a number of textual references to the body (and body parts) of Yahweh that, in the context of the biblical narratives, seemed to have functioned as nonmetaphorical descriptions of what the deity supposedly actually looks like.” (pp. 137-138)
The thoughts of Yahweh, as reflected in the texts, cannot be reconciled at all with any modern ‘refined’ theology that serious thinkers are comfortable debating.
• “…the mind of the god in the Bible exhibits a library of provable errant knowledge…the deity is often depicted as making statements that include references to historical, cosmological, geographical, biological, and other types of phenomena that today we know are not factual. (p. 140)
• “What betrays the all-too-human origins of the divine mind is the simple fact that the ideas Yahweh entertains about reality are hardly better than the superstitions and misconceptions in the indigenous knowledge systems of the people who worshiped him.
• “Yahweh needs to limit his direct and personal contact with the general population and, for the most part, prefers to act through intermediaries, agents, messengers, and armies. He enjoys and demands being feared. More than anything, Yahweh yearns to be worshiped and to have constant reminders of how powerful, and great he is…Many people take this need of God for granted but never bother to ask why God wants—no demands—to be worshiped.” (pp. 141-142)
The very limited cosmos or world of this small-time god is also no surprise:
• “The oldest evidence of Yahwism dates faith in this god back no more than 3,000-3,500 years. This explains why “God,” aka Yahweh, acts, speaks, and behaves like a typical late Bronze and early Iron Age god and cannot but play the role of that type of character in the stories about him. He is a slave to the divine nature as conceived of in the theatrical roles available for godhood at that time.” (p. 145)
• “The reason Yahweh rides the fast clouds (Isa. 19), why thunder is literally the divine voice (Job 37), is because he and his worshippers believed he was literally up there. That is why Jesus allegedly went up with a cloud and will return on one—because heaven was literally up there.” (p. 146)
• “Believers today simply have not taken seriously the absurdity in the Old Testament’s understanding of the cosmos as a kind of city-state ruled by a monarch in the sky whose every whim has to be catered to on the penalty of death. Christians are so brainwashed that the idea that humans are servants of a cosmic dictator still appears comforting to many.” (pp. 147-148)
• “Not only was Yahwism (now upgraded to Godism) a latecomer in the history of religions, it was also a very local affair. Yahweh and his worshippers were limited to a sacred space east of the Mediterranean.” (p. 148)
Christian theology is pinned to a barbaric cartoon character that once held sway with only a very minute percentage of the world’s population. There is no way for it to extricate itself from this embarrassing connection. Ultimately it will become a fatal association when enough people get educated enough to conclude that Yahweh is undeniably fictional.
(2390) Paul’s was the only first-hand account
Paul, a man who never met Jesus in his ‘first’ life, wrote the only first-person account of ‘seeing’ him after the resurrection. The other accounts are third person by unknown non-eyewitnesses. Yet the way Paul described his encounters with Jesus sounds more like visions than physical sightings. And the way Paul equates his experiences to those of the apostles leads to the suspicion that in his mind visions of the resurrected Jesus was all that ever happened. The following was taken from:
Even though Paul wasn’t there at the beginning, he is our most important witness to the resurrection, because he provides the only incontestable firsthand eyewitness testimony to an appearance of the risen Jesus we have. That in itself is astounding—and seldom appreciated by apologists—but an even bigger problem arises from the way Paul describes his experience.
In 1 Corinthians 15:8 Paul says Christ appeared to him after the resurrection just like he appeared to Peter, James, and the other apostles. He seems to distinguish this experience from subsequent visionary experiences by the phrase “last of all”—a phrase which, when taken together with 1 Corinthians 9:1, suggests that Paul believed he had truly seen the risen Jesus, not in a symbolic sense as in the visions of Daniel or Revelation, but in a normal, this-worldly sense just like you can see any living person.
According to Acts 26:19, however, Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus was in fact a “heavenly vision”—a vision which, according to Acts 9:7, Paul’s traveling companions could not see. The usual apologetic response is to say that Paul’s word must take priority over Luke’s word here, since 1 Corinthians is earlier than Acts and Paul is the one who had the experience in the first place. And yet even Paul himself, when recounting his conversion experience elsewhere, seems to use language more appropriate to a vision than to a physical appearance (Gal. 1:12, 16; cf., Gal. 2:2; 1 Cor. 14:6, 26; 2 Cor. 12:1, 7).
In Galatians 1 he describes his experience as “a revelation of Jesus Christ,” using the same language he uses throughout his letters to describe non-bodily visions. The Greek word for “revelation” there is apocalypsis. It’s the same word he uses in 2 Corinthians 12 to describe his experience of being caught up to the “third heaven,” and in that case he says he doesn’t know whether it was “in the body or out of the body”. And in Galatians 1:16 he says that this revelation took place “in him”—not “to him”, but “in him”.
In other words, we have very little reason for thinking that Paul’s experience was a physical appearance of the risen Jesus like the ones described at the end of Matthew, Luke, and John. Paul places his experience on par with the experiences of the other apostles, but the only depictions we have of his experience are completely different, and—let’s face it—much less compelling than the ones we find about the other apostles in the Gospels.
As soon as we pull at this thread, however, it threatens to unravel the whole cloth. For as D. F. Strauss observed long ago, if the fundamental nature of Paul’s experience is called into question, the fundamental nature of the other “appearances” Paul mentions are called into question with it. Especially given that 1 Corinthians 15 is the earliest text recounting these traditions, and that Paul’s experience is the only incontestable firsthand eyewitness testimony we have, what basis is there for thinking that the experiences of the other apostles weren’t similar in character to Paul’s?
It should be asked what is more likely- that a dead man came back to life, or that those who were emotionally connected to a man had dreams or visions of him post-death? With respect to Jesus, Paul left clues that the latter is the more plausible explanation.
(2391) Accounts before versus after crucifixion
There are five canonical accounts of the passion of Jesus (roughly from a day or two before the crucifixion until a few days after)- the four gospels plus Acts. What is revealing is that these stories are roughly consistent up to the time of Jesus’ death, but wildly divergent afterwards, from the resurrection to the ascension. This provides a measure of historical currency to the idea that a holy man (Jesus, possibly) was crucified, more or less as scripturalized, but that there was no actual resurrection- the diverging stories being the consequence of numerous authors documenting a mythical event. The following was taken from:
Reading the different accounts of Jesus’ ministry, death, and burial in each Gospel side by side, we can see a significant degree of overlap between the accounts. In each account of Jesus’s final night, for example, we learn that Judas betrayed him, that Peter denied him, that the Jewish leadership condemned him, that Pilate delivered him over to be flogged and crucified, and that he died on a cross between two other men with the inscription “King of the Jews” above his head. Details differ, but the gist is the same.
Turning the page to the resurrection narratives, however, we are confronted by a staggering lack of agreement. There are no appearances in Mark, just the mysterious expectation of a meeting in Galilee (Mk 14:28; 16:7). Only Matthew tells of an appearance to the eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee (Mt 28:16-17). Only Luke tells of an appearance to a pair of disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-31), and he is the only one who narrates the ascension (Lk 24:51; Acts 1:9). Only John tells of the appearances to Thomas and the seven disciples by the Lake of Galilee (Jn 20:24-29; 21:1-22). In none of the Gospels do we see an appearance to James or the “more than five hundred brothers” mentioned by Paul (1 Cor 15:6-7). And of all the things the risen Jesus is reported to have said, only one stock phrase—“Peace be with you”—is recorded by more than one Gospel writer (Lk 24:36; Jn 20:19). How could memories diverge so widely on something as unforgettable as the words of the Messiah from beyond the grave?
And the problem isn’t just the lack of corroboration between the accounts; it’s the numerous irreconcilable conflicts between them. At the end of Mark the women flee from the tomb and “said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid,” yet in Matthew they depart from the tomb “with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples” (Mk 16:8; Mt 28:8). Mark’s Jesus tells the disciples that he will meet them in Galilee, and he does so in Matthew, but Luke’s Jesus appears only in or around Jerusalem, and he actually tells the disciples not to leave the city (Mk 14:28; 16:7; Mt 28:16-17; Lk 24:6-7, 49). In Luke, moreover, all the appearances take place on Easter day, while in Acts they take place over a forty day period!
This scriptural dichotomy is a window into the past that elevates the potential historicity of the crucifixion narrative while at the same time dismantling the reality of the resurrection. Given that the resurrection and ascension are the most seminal events in Christianity, the reverse should be expected- that these scenes should be documented more consistently than the crucifixion.
(2392) Dissonance reduction
Christian apologists often roll out a ‘minimal facts’ argument that if the resurrection had not occurred it would have been very unlikely that the Christian movement could have gotten off the ground, let alone flourish as it eventually did. But what is overlooked is the very well-known phenomenon that when people become emotionally invested in a prophetic movement, they will almost always reconstruct their interpretation of it in the wake of events that fail to meet their original expectations. As in ‘our leader was to become the king, he died, but now we realize he meant to become a king in heaven.’ The following was taken from:
Of course, the disciples would have experienced Jesus’ death as more than just the loss of a loved one. After all, they had hoped that he was the long-awaited deliverer of Israel (Mk 8:29; Lk 24:21; Jn 1:41; Acts 1:6) and he was crucified precisely because he encouraged that association (Mk 14:61-62; 15:2, 26). As far as they were concerned, then, his death would have been experienced both as the loss of a dear friend and as a crushing blow to their eschatological expectations.
Based on what we can tell from the sources, in other words, the situation of the disciples in the days after Jesus’ death was very similar to that of other apocalyptic movements after the failure of their eschatological expectations. Which invites the question: How do such groups typically respond in those situations? What usually happens when prophecy fails?
As it turns out, social psychologists and historians have been asking precisely this question for over half a century, and they haven’t come back empty-handed. In a 1999 survey of some of the most important studies on the social and psychological dynamics of failed prophecy, Jon R. Stone observes that “disappointed believers tend to adjust their predictions and beliefs both to fit such disconfirmations and to fit changing empirical conditions.” Instead of completely abandoning their expectations, apocalyptic groups tend to “reconceptualize the prophecy in such a way that the element of ‘failure,’ particularly the failure of the Divine to perform as promised, is removed.” The two primary ways they do this are (a) by reinterpreting the prophecy to better fit with reality through a process of “spiritualization” and/or partial fulfillment, and (b) by projecting the still-unfulfilled elements (usually the most important parts of the prophecy) into the future.
One of the best examples of this phenomenon is the response of the Millerites to William Miller’s proclamation that Christ would return to the earth on October 22, 1844—a date commonly referred to as the Great Disappointment. Like the disciples, many of the Millerites gave up everything in anticipation of the imminent arrival of the kingdom. After the expected day came and went, however, many Millerites came to believe that the prediction had in fact come to pass, but that instead of Christ coming to the earth as they previously thought, October 22, 1844 marked his entering the inner sanctuary in heaven in preparation for his return to the earth. These reinterpretations were accommodated by the creative exegesis of several biblical texts and bolstered by a series of visions reported by Ellen G. White—and they are now a central pillar of Seventh-Day Adventist theology.
Also instructive are the responses of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to the failure of their eschatological predictions in 1878, 1881, 1914, 1918, and 1925. Despite their initial disappointment, in all five of these instances the Witnesses discovered through a closer reading of Scripture that the predictions had, in fact, been partially fulfilled, or that significant developments related to the predictions had actually occurred on the dates in question. Unlike the original predictions, however, the “events” identified to substantiate this claim were of a heavenly (read: nonempirical) nature and therefore not open to falsification. Thus, 1878 marked the time when the “nominal Christian Churches were cast off from God’s favor”; 1881 marked the point at which “death became a blessing” to the saints; 1914, the year WWI began, marked the “End of the Time of the Gentiles” (i.e. the Christian nations); 1918 marked the moment Christ “entered the temple for the purpose of judgment”; and 1925 marked the establishment of a “New Nation” with Christ as its head. The unfulfilled portions of the original predictions were simply projected into the future.
What relevance do these examples of ex eventu rationalization have for the study of Christian origins? More, I think, than many apologists care to admit. The parallels are striking, for instance, when we see the NT writers talk about the present experience of the kingdom in terms of Christ’s exaltation to the right hand of God in heaven, sending the Spirit, establishing the new covenant, and other largely nonempirical events, while leaving more concrete aspects of Jewish eschatological expectation (like the salvation of Israel, the general resurrection, and the restoration of creation) firmly in the future. We see it again in the way they habitually reinterpret OT prophecies along these same lines, finding the most malleable parts fulfilled in the birth of the Christian movement while projecting the most substantial parts into the future. We see it in the way Matthew and Luke spiritualize Jesus’ declaration that the high priest would “see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” by adding the phrase “from now on.” And we see it in the ascension narratives of Luke-Acts, which provide a suspiciously easy answer for why the appearances of the risen Jesus eventually ceased.
In other words, as much as defenders of the resurrection resist the implications of comparative research, the evidence strongly suggests that the early Christians engaged in the same adaptive strategies as other apocalyptic movements after the failure of their expectations. Faced with the dissonance between expectation and reality, they “adjusted their predictions and beliefs both to fit such disconfirmations and to fit changing empirical conditions.”
Occam’s razor teaches us that the simplest explanation is more likely to be true than more complicated ones serving the same purpose. In this case, dissonance reduction is orders of magnitude more likely than that a dead person came back to life and lifted himself bodily off the face of the earth.
(2393) The Gospel of Peter
The non-canonical Gospel of Peter is a Rosetta Stone for interpreting the trajectory of legendary development that infected the canonical gospel accounts. It is similar to drawing a line connecting two points and then extrapolating that line in the reverse direction. It reveals that Christ legends were growing at a good pace well into the second century. The following was taken from:
Christian apologists often claim that the Gospels cannot contain significant legendary accretions because they were written within a generation of the events they ostensibly record, while legends generally take centuries to develop. Given the nature of the evidence we have, however, there is good reason for wondering whether this claim itself is an apologetically motivated myth.
To illustrate why, consider the resurrection narrative in one of the non-canonical sources, the Gospel of Peter, which most scholars (both liberal and conservative alike) date to the early or mid second century.
According to the Gospel of Peter, at the time of Jesus’ resurrection the tomb was being watched, not just by a couple guards as in Matthew, but by a whole troop of soldiers, a centurion named Petronius, the Jewish scribes and elders, and (just for good measure) by a “multitude from Jerusalem and the region round about” (31-33). All together this crowd witnessed “three men come forth from the tomb, and two of them supporting one, and a cross following them: and of the two the head reached unto the heaven, but the head of him that was led by them overpassed the heavens. And they heard a voice from the heavens, saying, ‘Hast thou preached to them that sleep?’ And a response was heard from the cross, ‘Yea’” (39-42).
Whatever their conclusions about the canonical Gospels, most scholars wouldn’t hesitate to say that Peter’s resurrection narrative is chock-full of legendary accretions, accretions that rest on but go far beyond earlier traditions (e.g. Matthew’s guards, Luke’s two angels). So whatever generalizations might be made about how long it usually takes for legends to develop, the Gospel of Peter (and the same point could be made from other non-canonical writings from around the same time) gives us a specific example that is directly relevant to the subject at hand.
And here’s the problem: Peter was written only a few decades after John. It stands, in fact, at relatively the same distance in time from John (the latest canonical Gospel) that Mark (the earliest canonical Gospel) stands from Jesus himself. So if we are in agreement that Peter’s resurrection narrative is largely legendary, by what rationale of dating can we still insist that the canonical Gospels must be categorically different?
The plain and simple fact of the matter, established by a close reading of each Gospel side by side, is that the canonical Gospels clearly do contain numerous examples of legendary development. Even Mike Licona, a conservative Baptist scholar, tacitly admits this, citing the angel(s) at the tomb and the resurrection of the saints in Matt. 27:52-53 as possible examples of what he (euphemistically?) calls “a literary device” on the part of the Gospel writers, which they employ to drive home “their belief that a divine activity had occurred.”
But what Licona and others like him fail to do, despite all their best efforts, is to show how these “literary devices” are not part of a larger trend of legendary development. If the Gospel of Peter can turn Matthew’s two guards into a hundred, then why can’t Matthew (or Matthew’s source) be just as creative? Why can’t the two guards be another example of the elasticity of ancient biographical standards, showing Matthew’s belief that a divine activity had occurred? Given the lack of independent corroboration for that detail, and the clear apologetic value it holds for Matthew’s narrative, there is good reason for thinking that it too is probably legendary.
Legendary development is plainly seen from Mark to Matthew to Luke and to John. The Gospel of Peter represents another point along this line of accretion. It provides a clue that not only do the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John include a lot of fictional material, but that Mark itself likely accumulated a lot of the same over the approximately 40 years that passed before it was put into writing.
(2394) The God gene
Research conducted in 2005 isolated a gene mutation that correlated with expressed spirituality. It offered another perspective on the theory that religiosity is not a free will exercise of objective reasoning, but is rather due largely in part to organic neural properties outside the control of the individual. The following was taken from:
Walters also speaks with scientists, who say they’re beginning to understand why so many people believe in heaven. Still, they have yet to come up with the proof that it exists.
For most people, proof of Heaven’s existence is not necessary. Faith is all they need. Dr. Dean Hamer, a geneticist at the National Institutes of Health, thinks he has figured out why this faith comes easily to some, but eludes others. “Whether a person is spiritual or not is not necessarily a matter of their will. It may be something innate about their personality,” Hamer tells Walters.
Hamer suspects spirituality might be a personality trait encoded in our genes. He began his research by asking more than 1,000 people to answer a series of questions about faith and spirituality. He then tested DNA from the study participants and found that those who scored highest on his survey had a mutation of at least one gene that seemed to affect their level of spirituality. He named it “the God gene.”
“It’s a gene that’s called VMAT2 and we can isolate it, and we can study it in detail. … This particular gene controls certain chemicals in the brain. And those chemicals affect how consciousness works. They affect the way that our feelings react to the events around us,” he tells Walters.
Hamer also notes that researchers have been able to detect changes in the brain when people are in the midst of intense prayer or meditation.
Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroradiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, is one of those researchers. Newberg says his research shows a marked increase in brain activity in the frontal regions of the brain. “At the same time,” he adds, “the parts of the brain that monitor our sense of time and space became less active.”
Newberg says this contributes to an individual’s feeling of “losing that sense of self.” The feeling, he said, is “attributed to God, for example. And then they feel that God is providing them that energy, that feeling.”
But for Ellen Johnson, president of the American Atheists, science or no science, heaven is a myth.
“Heaven doesn’t exist, hell doesn’t exist. We weren’t alive before we were born and we’re not going to exist after we die. I’m not happy about the fact that that’s the end of life, but I can accept that and make my life more fulfilling now, because this is the only chance I have,” she tells Walters.
It is somewhat disappointing that this research has not been pursued in the intervening years, but it does provide further evidence that some individuals have inherent, unearned advantages (or disadvantages) at meeting the criteria to enter the Christian heaven. These, including many others such as birth place and parental beliefs, render the eternal consequences of Christian judgment illegitimate and ruthless.
(2395) God’s killing strategy makes no sense
The Bible portrays God as killing machine, but the criteria that he uses for deciding who to kill does not even come close to matching what modern humans would see as being fair or justified. He kills for minor and silly things while letting acts of great evil go unpunished. The following was taken from:
A quick skim over the Old Testament throws up a lot of examples of god directly intervening to kill people. I’m interested in when he kills people and when he doesn’t. Just a few examples:
Leviticus 10: Two of Aaron’s sons offer strange incense to the Lord. He kills them.
Numbers 11: Israelites complaining bitterly before the Lord (saying they were better off in Egypt). God kills them with fire, and then sends a plague.
Numbers 16: Some Israelites insist they’re just as holy as Moses and Aaron. They are swallowed by the ground, then more are consumed by fire from the Lord.
Numbers 21:4-9: Israelites grow restive again so god sends snakes to kill them. Although the snakebites can be cured with magic.
Numbers 25: The Israelites worship a different god and are whoring with the Moabite women. God sends a plague which kills 24,000.
1 Samuel 6: The people of Beth-shemesh see the Ark of the Covenant and rejoice. God kills them.
2 Samuel 6: Uzzah touches the ark to steady it when the cart-ox stumbles. God kills him.
2 Samuel 24: God incites David against Israel. David takes a census. Then David reproaches himself. God kills 70,000 Israelites.
Acts 5: Ananias lies. God kills him and his wife.
So god kills people for doing rituals wrong, for touching or looking at the Ark, for worshipping other gods, for getting fed up with traipsing through the wilderness, and once in a trillion, for lying.
Now, when does god not kill people?
I started listing instances of great evil when the perpetrator wasn’t struck down by fire from the Lord, but the list is essentially endless and really depressing. So just keep in mind things like the Holocaust, the Cambodian genocide, rapes, serial killings, and so on.
How do we explain this? I can see a few options.
God doesn’t care about rape victims, murder victims, and genocide. As long as the rapists don’t touch the Ark of the Covenant, they’re fine with him.
God cares about rape victims, murder victims and so on, but not very much. Not nearly as much as he cares if you look at the Ark or complain about his plan for your people.
God isn’t very powerful. He can do a bit of killing but not very much. He can’t keep up with the number of humans he’d like to kill. But this means he’s used his limited power on petty ritual-infractions.
God is very localized. Geographically limited to the Near East. Temporally limited to millennia ago.
So either god doesn’t care about victims of horrific crimes, or he’s as powerful and petty as you’d expect one tribal god to be, in a sea of other tribal gods.
Painting god as being petty and jealous is what you would expect of a tribe of ancient humans who are competing against other tribes who worship other gods. Then, any displays of disrespect to the local deity would be seen as being treasonous and even more punishable than brutal acts of violence. Having Yahweh kill in such a capricious manner is a convincing clue that he is a fictional character.
(2396) The Bible is unfit for high school study
The decision by lawmakers in West Virginia, United States, to conduct bible study classes in high schools highlights the blind spot infecting the vision of most Christians to the horrors that are contained in the ‘good book.’ The following was taken from:
Here in Appalachia’s Bible Belt, lawmakers are attempting to have public school children study the bible — without fully realizing the implications.
The West Virginia Legislature recently voted to start bible classes in the state’s public high schools, and Gov. Jim Justice signed it into law on March 25.
I wonder how such classes will handle a number of biblical commands.
First, the bible decrees that gay males must be killed. Leviticus 20:13 says:
“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
Imagine classroom disputes that could erupt between bible-believing students and others. (Oddly, lesbians aren’t mentioned.) Now that the United States allows same-sex marriage, would classes conclude that the country officially violates the bible?
Next, the bible decrees that those who work on Sunday must be killed. Exodus 31:15 decrees: “Whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.” Exodus 35:2 is almost identical.
Would teachers apply this mandate to police, firefighters, doctors, nurses, hospital aides, paramedics, snowplow drivers, power repair crews, bus drivers, airline crews, radio and television staff, store clerks and others who must work on Sundays? What about cooks and waitresses serving Sunday food? Come to think of it, ministers and church organists work on the Sabbath, don’t they?
The 22nd chapter of Deuteronomy commands that brides who aren’t virgins must be taken to their fathers’ doorsteps and stoned to death. (But non-virgin grooms aren’t mentioned.) With millions of unwed American couples living together, will students debate whether the execution decree applies to females among them?
The bible also endorses slavery. Leviticus 25:44 says: “Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.” Exodus 21:7 gives rules when “a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant.”
Would high school students discuss buying slaves — and selling daughters into servitude?
In 1 Samuel 15, God commands Hebrew soldiers to attack a neighbor tribe “and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” Numbers 31 does likewise, with this exception: “But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”
Would classes apply these decrees to U.S. soldiers today?
Many other bible sections contain similarly controversial commands. The West Virginia legislators who voted to have bible taught in schools don’t seem to have studied the book themselves.
What happened in West Virginia and other places highlights the danger of granting special privilege to any book. It anesthetizes people to the extent that they lose objective perspective and trains them to overlook or rationalize those parts that are repulsive. Any un-indoctrinated person reading the Bible for the first time would immediately see it for what it is- a snapshot into humanity’s revolting, uncivilized past.
(2397) Jesus is laconic after the resurrection
When one reads the gospels it becomes apparent that Jesus is very loquacious before the crucifixion often giving long sermons, but speaks only in a few brief sentences afterward. This is especially true when we eliminate Mark 16:9-20 and John, Chapter 21, both of which were later interpolations and not the work of the original author. Brief interactions is what people normally experience with a vision as compared to a real person. The following was taken from:
One of the more puzzling features of the resurrection narratives is how the appearances of the risen Jesus are all short-lived and sporadic: Jesus appears in the middle of a room, gives a brief word of comfort or exhortation, and then disappears just as quickly as he appeared (Lk 24:31, 36-37; Jn 20:19, 26). Equally puzzling is why the appearances should be constrained to the days immediately following the crucifixion with few to none at all occurring soon afterward.
Strange features like these underscore the stark difference in both the quality and the quantity of the descriptions of Jesus prior to his death and those after his death. Indeed, such features seem unrealistic and eerie for someone who is supposed to be physically resurrected. And yet, as Dale Allison has shown at length, they perfectly fit the phenomenon of bereavement hallucinations or visions of the recently deceased. “Whether or not they are persuasive, the truth of the matter, welcome or not, is that the literature on visions of the dead is full of parallels to the stories we find in the Gospels.” In other words, there is ample evidence to suggest that the experiences of the other apostles were in fact similar in character to Paul’s.
This textual partition provides evidence that the apostles ‘met’ the risen Jesus in the same way that Paul did, through a vision only. In fact, based on his letters, Paul appeared to have had the same understanding. This, apart from the opinions of desperate apologists, is the leading theory for why the apostles believed that Jesus had resurrected- that is, if Jesus was a real person.
(2398) Argument from inconsistent revelations
One of the ways to estimate the probability of the Christian god, or any god for that matter, is to observe reality and compare that to what one should expect given the existence of the same. And what should be expected, given the grave eternal consequences tied to Christian theology, is a consistent revelation that would offer earnest seekers the confidence to know that they are on the right track. This also necessarily implies an effort by this divine force to eliminate nuisance attractors- that is, similar revelations that look and seem just as authentic as the real one. The following was taken from:
The argument from inconsistent revelations, also known as the avoiding the wrong hell problem, is an argument against the existence of God. It asserts that it is unlikely that God exists because many theologians and faithful adherents have produced conflicting and mutually exclusive revelations. The argument states that since a person not privy to revelation must either accept it or reject it based solely upon the authority of its proponent, and there is no way for a mere mortal to resolve these conflicting claims by investigation, it is prudent to reserve one’s judgment.
It is also argued that it is difficult to accept the existence of any one God without personal revelation. Most arguments for the existence of God are not specific to any one religion and could be applied to many religions with near equal validity. When faced with these competing claims in the absence of a personal revelation, it is argued that it is difficult to decide amongst them, to the extent that acceptance of any one religion requires a rejection of the others. Further, were a personal revelation to be granted to a nonbeliever, the same problem of confusion would develop in each new person the believer shares the revelation with.[
Christians believe that Jesus is the Christian Messiah, Savior of the World and the divine Son of God; Jews and Muslims do not. Similarly, Muslims believe that the Qur’an was divinely authored, while Jews and Christians do not. There are many examples of such contrasting views, indeed, opposing fundamental beliefs (schisms) exist even within each major religion. Christianity, for example, has many subsets (denominations), which differ greatly on issues of doctrine. Hinduism, with its conception of multiple avatars being expressions of one Supreme God, is more open to the possibility that other religions might be correct for their followers, but this same principle requires the rejection of the exclusivity demanded by each of the Abrahamic religions.
Additionally, faith-confirming events such as visions and miracles are reported within all faiths with regularity. A single deity associated with a single exclusive existing faith or sect would either have to have caused adherents to other faiths to have visionary or miraculous experiences which lead them to continue to reject the true faith, or at least allowed some other agency to cause these same effects.
A real god would not allow fake revelations to confuse people in a way that increases the probability that they would chose the wrong faith trajectory. This is a solid piece of evidence that the Christian god, (and all others as well) is not real.
(2399) Christianity bends to science, not vice versa
Throughout the history of the Christian Church, concessions have been made, reluctantly and belatedly, to advances in science. Examples are the posthumous pardoning of Galileo for his theory of the structure of the solar system, that witches are not real things, the Catholic pope’s admission of the truth of biological evolution, and the agreement that microscopic bacteria and viruses are the causes of disease rather than demons.
On the other hand, science has progressed more or less linearly without ever needing to admit that it was wrong while Christianity was correct. It’s never had to concede that the earth is only a few thousand years old, or that there was a world-wide flood, or that the Jews were enslaved in Egypt, or that there’s a missing hour in the solar cycle, or that all languages originated from a singular place, or that people who speak in tongues are voicing actual languages, or that demons and angels exist, or that mustard seeds are the smallest, or that there was ever a 3-hour worldwide darkness, or that a virgin can birth a male child (parthenogenesis can only result in female offspring).
If Christianity is true, the reverse would be happening. As science progressed, given human fallibility, it would commonly fall into false theories that would eventually come to light, resulting in a correction that would then align itself with God’s ‘perfect’ word. Man’s wisdom (science) would be continually coming up against God’s wisdom (the Bible) and coming up short.
(2400) Jesus became a god along with the emperor
First Century Christian followers found themselves in a milieu where the Roman occupiers had begun to characterize their emperors as gods. This appears to have been the impetus for them, in a spirit of competition, to likewise call Jesus a god, even though there is plenty of evidence that Jesus himself never made this claim. The following was taken from:
During his lifetime, Jesus himself didn’t call himself God and didn’t consider himself God, and … none of his disciples had any inkling at all that he was God.
You do find Jesus calling himself God in the Gospel of John, or the last Gospel. Jesus says things like, “Before Abraham was, I am.” And, “I and the Father are one,” and, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” These are all statements you find only in the Gospel of John, and that’s striking because we have earlier gospels and we have the writings of Paul, and in none of them is there any indication that Jesus said such things. …
I think it’s completely implausible that Matthew, Mark and Luke would not mention that Jesus called himself God if that’s what he was declaring about himself. That would be a rather important point to make. This is not an unusual view amongst scholars; it’s simply the view that the Gospel of John is providing a theological understanding of Jesus that is not what was historically accurate.
Right at the same time that Christians were calling Jesus “God” is exactly when Romans started calling their emperors “God.” So these Christians were not doing this in a vacuum; they were actually doing it in a context. I don’t think this could be an accident that this is a point at which the emperors are being called “God.” So by calling Jesus “God,” in fact, it was a competition between your God, the emperor, and our God, Jesus.
When Constantine, the emperor, then converted to Christianity, it changed everything because now rather than the emperor being God, the emperor was the worshipper of the God, Jesus. That was quite a forceful change, and one could argue that it changed the understanding of religion and politics for all time.
It appears possible that a stroke of historical coincidence resulted in Jesus being considered a god, even though we can be certain that no Jewish rabbi would ever have made that claim. If the Romans had not declared their emperors to be gods, it is likely that Christians would also have not done so and Jesus would be seen today as simply a prophet like Elijah (who was also allegedly carried into heaven). In that event, contemporary Christianity would be more like a branch of Judaism and would have remained strictly monotheistic (no Trinity).
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