(2701) Another reformation is in progress
The last important reformation of Christianity occurred in the 16th Century (the Protestant Reformation) and caused a major and permanent rift between the Roman Catholic Church and a panoply of Protestant churches that have themselves split multiple times. But the case can be made that another important reformation is occurring in the 21st Century, as Christian beliefs are being contaminated by secular values that have gained significant traction over the past quarter century. The following was taken from:
A new report released Tuesday by the Cultural Research Center (CRC) of Arizona Christian University has a troubling conclusion. American Christians are undergoing a “post-Christian Reformation,” says Dr. George Barna, Director of Research at the CRC. Unlike the Protestant Reformation, whose goal was to return to the foundational teachings of the Bible, this modern movement is one where Americans are redefining biblical beliefs according to secular values.
“While the survey cannot determine if churches are failing to teach biblical truth or whether congregants are exposed to such teaching but rejecting it, the bottom line is that we are a society that has strayed far from the path of biblical truth,” said Dr. George Barna in a summary of the findings. “It certainly seems as if the culture is influencing the Church more than the church is influencing the culture.”
In January 2020, the CRC surveyed 2,000 adults in the U.S. from four major groups: evangelicals, Pentecostals and charismatics, mainline Protestants, and Catholics. The study was part of the American Worldview Inventory 2020, and the estimated margin of error was plus or minus two percentage points.
Researchers asked respondents about their views on 51 topics, including marriage, absolute truth, the sanctity of human life, and the authority of the Bible. While there were notable differences among the four Christian traditions, researchers found that all of them showed a clear trend away from the teachings of the Bible and toward a secular worldview.
“The irony of the reshaping of the spiritual landscape in America is that it represents a post-Christian Reformation driven by people seeking to retain a Christian identity,” said Dr. George Barna. “Unfortunately, the theology of this reformation is being driven by American culture rather than biblical truth. The worldviews embraced by the adherents of these distinct religious communities reflect contemporary, worldly influence, rather than biblical influence.”
“The most startling realization” about this secular reformation, said Barna, “is how many people from evangelical churches are adopting unbiblical beliefs.”
Evangelicals have traditionally emphasized the importance of seeing the Bible as the infallible, inerrant Word of God. Now, however, 52 percent do not believe in objective moral truth, which “equates to most evangelicals believing that the Bible is either not inerrant or trustworthy in its content.” That, said Barna, “is a radical and critical departure from the traditional teachings and biblical reliance of evangelicals.”
In addition to their shifting views on absolute truth and the authority of the Bible, evangelical views of God and humanity are also becoming more secular. Seventy-five percent believe that people are basically good instead of basically sinful, 43 percent believe Jesus sinned during his time on earth, and 58 percent believe that the Holy Spirit is merely a symbol rather than a person. A majority of evangelicals do not believe it is important to follow the Christian faith exclusively. Sixty-two percent said that having some faith of any kind was better than having none at all.
Other findings from the survey include that 44 percent of evangelicals believe the Bible’s teachings on abortion are ambiguous, 40 percent do not believe human life is sacred, 34 percent do not believe marriage is between one man and one woman, and 43 percent do not believe that God has a unified purpose for all people.
The study also found that significant minorities of those who identify as evangelical do not confess their sins daily, worship God daily, or pursue God’s will for their lives. Said Barna, “While some of the ideas gaining traction in evangelical congregations may not reflect a majority perspective, the fact that one-third to one-half of those adults embrace these ideas can only be viewed as alarming for evangelicalism.” Finally, Barna found that 28 percent of people who attend evangelical churches are not born-again Christians.
The findings on the other three Christian traditions are even more stark than those on evangelicals. Dr. George Barna said the survey reveals the “theological demise” of those who are members of Pentecostal and charismatic congregations. Sixty-nine percent do not believe in absolute moral truth. Even larger percentages of people from this tradition do not believe that human life is sacred and do believe the Bible is ambiguous about abortion. The “most unexpected perspective,” however, among Pentecostals and charismatics is how many people welcome the government’s involvement in their lives. For example, 69 percent said they preferred socialism to capitalism. And the study found that 45 percent were not born-again Christians, which Barna described as an “unexpectedly large proportion of people.”
Barna found mainline Protestants to be “the most secular” out of the four Christian traditions surveyed. Nearly two-thirds (60 percent) of the beliefs of those who attend mainline Protestant congregations “directly conflict with biblical teaching.” Said Barna, “The worldview possessed by most mainline church attenders revolves around three concepts.” These concepts are 1) individuals determine their own truth and morality, 2) there is no objective, transcendent purpose to life, and 3) traditional Christian practices (such as confessing sin, praying, and reading the Bible) are not important to one’s faith. Fifty-nine percent of those who attend mainline Protestant churches are not born-again.
Catholics, said Barna, “are the segment of the Christian community most likely to believe that a person can earn salvation by being a good enough person or by doing enough good deeds throughout their lifetime.” Catholics are also the most likely group to accept behaviors such as lying, speeding, and premarital sex. While mainline Protestants are the least likely Protestant group to be born-again, Catholics are the least likely group out of the four to be born-again—Barna found that 72 percent were not.
“What may be unexpected, though,” said Barna, “is that the most common answer given by Catholics regarding their eternal consequences is that they will experience Heaven because of their confession of sin and embrace of Christ as their savior (i.e., being spiritually born-again).”
Dr. George Barna hopes that shining light on these disturbing developments within American Christianity will prompt a reformation akin to that initiated by Martin Luther rather than the “post-Christian Reformation” that is currently taking place. He said,
It’s one thing for Americans to be confused on the finer points or even hotly debated elements of theology, but for Americans to misunderstand or to flat out reject the Bible as a foundational source of truth and moral guidance, to reject salvation by grace alone, and to reject core doctrines of the Christian faith points to a major crisis in our society. Hopefully, bringing these issues to light can generate greater attention being paid to what matters and how to fix what’s clearly broken.
The more Christianity morphs to keep itself relevant and consistent with the changing mores of society, the more it appears that it was of human construction all along- a product of its time. The Christianity of 2120 will likely look very different from what it is today- most likely endorsing same-sex marriage, abortion rights, and pre-marital sex.
(2702) Neanderthals and Denisovans, had they survived
A simple thought experiment reveals that our current world religions are somewhat a quirk of nature, and that they would likely be much different if evolution had taken a different turn. Specifically, if the hominid species Neanderthals and Denisovans, both of which became extinct by about 30,000 years ago, had survived to the present day, Homo sapiens would likely not have seen themselves in the same light- that is, as separate beings from the remainder of the animal kingdom. It would have been much more difficult to believe in creationism and much more likely to believe in biological evolution. Also it would have been difficult to separate who is eligible for an afterlife and who isn’t. The following was taken from:
There’s two theories of what happened to the other Homo groups. One is called the interbreeding theory, and the other is called the Replacement theory.
But imagine if we still lived alongside these other species of humans today. What kind of cultures and political structures would emerge? How would religious faiths have unfolded? Would the book of genesis have declared that Neanderthals descend from Adam and Eve? Would Jesus have died for the Denisovans? They were a different species after all?
Homo sapiens have been so accustomed to being the only species that it is hard for us to imagine otherwise. Our lack of cousins make it easier to imagine that we are the epitome of creation and that a wall seperates us from the animal kingdom.
When Charles Darwin said that Homo sapiens were just another animal, people were outraged. Had the Neanderthals survived, would we still imagine ourselves to be a creature apart? Perhaps this is why our ancestors may have wiped out the Neanderthals.
They were too familiar to ignore, but too different to tolerate.
It is interesting to conjecture that evolution on other planets may have resulted in what is conjectured above- that there was a persistent shallow gradation of intelligent lifeforms that precluded the ‘top’ beings from seeing themselves as being uniquely special in any deity’s eyes. On those planets, religion may be progressing in a very different way, if at all. Confronted with the stark reality of evolution from the very beginning, these beings may have bypassed religion altogether and gone straight to a scientific age.
Although it is not possible to assess the truth of a religion based on the behaviors of its followers, when the leaders of a church act in ways that are clearly sinister, it leads evidence to that end. In the following, several practices of the early church were especially egregious:
As we have seen, when Christianity gained influence in the Roman Empire, clerics started sitting as judges. The Church developed its own law, canon law, concentrating on those areas that proved most financially rewarding. One of many scandals in the early Church was that of clerics drawing up wills for people, and then assigning everything to themselves, an abuse that was stopped by the non-Christian Emperor Julian. But Julian was exceptional. Under later Christian emperors the abuse started again, and grew worse. Time and time again clergymen were criticised for frequenting the houses of rich widows and other women, for fawning over them and attempting to have themselves or their Church named as a beneficiary under their wills. In July 370, the Emperor Valentinian was obliged to tell the Bishop of Rome that he should stop male clerics and ascetics hanging around women’s houses and worming their way into their affections. The abuse continued, families continued to see their inheritances disappear into the hands of the Church, and the next emperor withdrew Valentinian’s ruling. The abuse of writing and executing wills grew even greater in the Middle Ages. Below is the first verse of a work by Peire Cardenal called Tartarassa ni voutor, with an English translation from the original Occitan.
|Tartarassa ni voutor
No sent tan leu carn puden
Quom clerc e prezicador
Senton ont es lo manen.
Mantenen son sei privat,
E quant malautia-l bat,
Fan li far donassio
Tel que-l paren no-i an pro.
|Neither Buzzards nor vultures
smell out stinking flesh
As fast as clerics and preachers
smell out the rich.
They circle around him, at once, like friends,
and as soon as sickness strikes him down
They get him to make a little donation,
and his own family gets nothing.
In the centuries after Christianity was brought to the Anglo-Saxon occupants of the British Isles, native laws were amended and extended. New offences were created. Penalties were introduced, and became increasingly severe, for the crimes of fornication, adultery, eating meat during Christian fasts, and worshipping non-Christian gods. Servants who worked on a Sunday were liable to huge fines, and when they could not pay they were flogged with a three-thonged whip. Crimes committed on Sundays or on other Christian holy days attracted penalties that were twice the ordinary rate. By the laws of the Christian King Alfred, a man who stole property from a church was to have a hand chopped off in addition to the ordinary penalties — generally a fine equal to 12 times the value of the goods stolen. Payments by miscreants found their way into bishops” coffers. On the other hand bishops and other clergymen were granted legal immunities. A bishop’s word, even unsupported by an oath, was incontrovertible.
It is clear that much of the motivation of early church officials was to obtain wealth and power, rather than administer aid and salvation to its congregants. To a lesser extent, it has continued to modern times. This is outside expectations of religion populated with God-inspired representatives of the faith.
(2704) God’s moral compass
One of the ways that we know for certain that the Christian god, Yahweh, is a fictional being is that his moral compass is so far off target as to be implausible when compared to even the least moral humans of our day. A god who hates gay people for engaging in consensual sex while condoning slavery, rape, and the killing of innocent people as well as the theft of their land and possessions represents a moral character unimaginable by today’s standards. Consider for example the following scriptures:
If a man lies with a man as with a woman, they have both committed an abomination. They must surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
So they sent twelve thousand warriors to Jabesh-gilead with orders to kill everyone there, including women and children. “This is what you are to do,” they said. “Completely destroy all the males and every woman who is not a virgin.” Among the residents of Jabesh-gilead they found four hundred young virgins who had never slept with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.
They attacked Midian just as the LORD had commanded Moses, and they killed all the men. All five of the Midianite kings – Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba – died in the battle. They also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. Then the Israelite army captured the Midianite women and children and seized their cattle and flocks and all their wealth as plunder. They burned all the towns and villages where the Midianites had lived. After they had gathered the plunder and captives, both people and animals, they brought them all to Moses and Eleazar the priest, and to the whole community of Israel, which was camped on the plains of Moab beside the Jordan River, across from Jericho.
If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her.
Christians are playing a game of ‘look here but not there.’ Imagine a world leader who hunts down gay people and sentences them to death, while at the same time, allowing men to rape women and encouraging his fellow countrymen to raid neighboring countries to kill, steal, and take slaves. Such a brute would have all the armies of the world at his doorstep to stop the carnage, yet, he would be acting in accord with the Christian god. It is time for Christians to acknowledge this problem- either admit that Yahweh is fictional or admit that the Old Testament scriptures are likewise. This shell game is no longer acceptable.
(2705) The problem with sin
The Christian concept of sin is greatly flawed. It is based more or less on the idea that humans are innately sinless but, for selfish reasons, deliberate do things that override their natural instincts. In fact, this logic is directly reversed from reality. The following was taken from:
Here we get to the root of many of Christianity’s problems. As someone who trusts science I think the concept of original sin is flawed and does not conform to the facts. We are evolved from great apes and are part of the animal kingdom. For millions of years we and our fellow primates have done things by instinct that Christians would consider sinful – withholding resources from others to save ourselves, fighting and/or killing to acquire resources, eating too much in advance of hard times, having sex with as many partners as possible to propagate the species, etc. There was never a magic moment in time when early humans were not doing these things. There will never be a point at which we stop doing these things. There was no “Fall of Man” event because there were no conditions under which a fall would have even been possible.
Given that this is part of the human condition and is inescapable it raises the question: “Is it just for a god to damn his creation for performing acts that are innate to their nature?” I would argue that only an evil and capricious god would do that to their followers. If I make an object and it is flawed it is not the object’s fault that it is flawed. It is my fault as the creator. A good and reasonable god would not project their own failures onto their creations. They certainly would not demand torture and blood sacrifice of a human being as the only possible expiation. Suffering often is random and indiscriminately cruel in its application. There is nothing redemptive about the suffering of someone else. To accept it as salvific for ourselves is to transfer our own moral responsibility to other people. There are variants of belief as to whether this salvation is permanent or not based on one’s actions but there is no getting around the scapegoating that is at work here. On this issue I cannot decide which is worse: the terror of potentially losing one’s salvation through moral failure or the complete abandonment of one’s responsibility via permanent salvation. Either alternative seems ruinous. The first is the route of the Catholic and the Orthodox – to abase yourself continuously while observing the rituals and forms with the proper obeisance while doubting its efficacy the entire time. This creates a morass of self-hatred and unworthiness that you cannot escape. The second is to follow the guidance of Martin Luther and his descendants and ‘sin boldly’. Under this mode of operation you can treat people like garbage because you have invoked the magic words that cover a multitude of sins with the blood of Jesus.
Christian dogma regarding sin was developed in the absence of knowledge of how humans evolved. Instead it was based on the stylized fantasy of a miraculous creation event and the concept that God does not make defective products.
(2706) Early Christianity fueled by hallucinogens
There is some evidence that early Christians used spiked beverages in their liturgical services, lending speculation that some of their ethereal experiences were caused by chemical substances rather than any connection to a supernatural source. The following was taken from:
Could the communion wine of history’s earliest Christians have been a hallucinogen? This is the question that The Immortality Key, a new book by religious scholar, archaeology sleuth and classicist Brian Muraresku, aims to answer.
Drawing on more than ten years of research across six countries, Muraresku links the drug-fuelled rituals of Ancient Greece and the Mediterranean to the simultaneous outgrowth of Christianity in first-century Israel.
The bottom-line is that it’s far from absurd – and perhaps entirely reasonable – to think that some early Greek-speaking Christians had hallucinogens in their ritual wines.
Armed with Vatican archives, Greco-Roman texts, and the innovations of archaeochemistry – a new discipline that can isolate the exact chemical makeup of ancestral food and drink – Muraresku traces the rich and vined history of “spiked” wine through the ages. He suggests that the wild parties of Greek Mystery sects – which occurred thousands of years before, and at the time of Jesus – were powered by wines likely imbued with drugs, later making their way into Christianity’s early sacred cups.
It’s a controversial claim to make. The communion wine has been a fixture of Christian worship since the Last Supper, and stands as a core ritual for its 2.5 billion adherents around the world every week of the year. Called to sip the wine and invite the presence of Jesus, Christians believe that the wine becomes the blood of Christ (metaphorically or literally, depending on the sect) during the Eucharist phase of a church service, when special Biblical blessings are cast on the drink by the vicar, priest or pastor.
Of course, the vast majority – if not all – of Christianity’s predominant sects would place strong injunctions against hallucinogenic drugs altogether. But as researchers continue digging up the boozy remnants of our ancient past, it may well be that the Church is in for a big and truly shattering surprise.
VICE: The Immortality Key makes a complex case. Could you outline your basic thesis?
Muraresku: The Ancient Greek world was full of secret rituals called Mysteries, where a sacrament of one kind or another was consumed. I question whether some version of the pagan wine sacrament of Dionysus (the Greek god of ecstasy and mystical rapture) was passed along to the earliest, Greek-speaking Christians.
The wine of the ancient Greeks wasn’t really ‘wine’, was it?
Ancient Greek wine was nothing like the wine of today. For a period of well over a thousand years from Homer to the fall of the Roman Empire, wine is consistently referred to as a pharmakon (drug). It was routinely spiked with plants, herbs and toxins, making it unusually intoxicating, seriously mind-altering, occasionally hallucinogenic and potentially lethal. No less than 56 detailed recipes for spiked wine can be found in Book V of Dioscorides’ Materia Medica, an ancient pharmacopoeia, whose author lived at the exact same time that the Gospels themselves were being written in the first century AD.
So the Greeks may have been sampling something far stronger than wine. But why would Christians have wanted to follow a Greek or Greek-tinged lineage? What’s the connection?
The world into which Jesus and the earliest Christians were born was swimming with Greek influence. Especially around Dionysus: the quintessential Greek god of wine and ecstasy. John’s Gospel goes to great lengths, as a matter of fact, to portray Jesus as a kind of second coming of Dionysus. The well-known water-to-wine miracle, for example, has been described by biblical scholars as the “signature miracle” of Dionysus. I dedicate a chapter to comparing the wine of Dionysus – which was described as “blood” by several ancient authors, including Timotheus of Miletus 400 years before Jesus – with the wine of Jesus, which becomes the literal “blood” of Jesus during the Mass. Some Greek Christian would have interpreted the Last Supper – which occurred indoors – as an invitation to bring Dionysus’ [spiked wine] sacrament into their own homes.
The book discusses an unusual finding in Pompeii, dated to around the time of Mount Vesuvius’ eruption in 79 AD. Why is it so important?
In 1996, a farmhouse named the Villa Vesuvio was excavated in Scafati, on the outskirts of Pompeii. Seven large vessels were unearthed, with a “thick organic deposit” at the bottom of each. The “yellow, foamy matrix” from one vessel in particular contained something fascinating.
The archaeologist Marina Ciaraldi found over 50 species of plants, herbs and trees in the sample. Alongside remnants of willow, beech, peach and walnut, she found a distinctive medley of opium, cannabis, and two members of the nightshade family: white henbane and black nightshade. The nightshade plants contain many tropane alkaloids known for their hallucinogenic effects, including scopolamine, which is known rather ominously as ‘The Devil’s Breath”. Ciaraldi also found lizard bones. The presence of grape remains suggests the whole witchy mixture was steeped in wine.
There isn’t enough context to prove why this wine would have been consumed, but it does demonstrate the existence, I believe, of the kind of potentially hallucinogenic potion that texts like Dioscorides’ Materia Medica have only ever hinted at.
To the best of my knowledge, this is the first hard scientific evidence of “psychedelic” wine in classical antiquity. And, for some reason, it has gone unreported. The spiked wine is dated to a time when the earliest Christians were just beginning to fill the house churches and catacombs of Rome and southern Italy, a region known as Magna Graecia or “Great Greece”. Perhaps this was the kind of Eucharist that would have suited some early, Greek-speaking followers of Jesus. A congregation that wanted the wine of Christianity to resemble the wine of their Greek ancestors.
How far back could this tradition of spiking drinks go?
Perhaps all the way back to the Stone Age. We just don’t know. But it raises the prospect of what I call the “religion with no name”: a prehistoric tradition of ritual plants, herbs and fungi that seems to have survived from our cave-dwelling ancestors to the civilisations of Ancient Greece and Rome. There’s some evidence for a kind of infused beer being consumed 13,000 years ago in Israel. This could have morphed over time into the hallucinogenic kukeon of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and by inheritance to the first, Greek-speaking Christians.
How did the “spiked” wine tradition – and “the religion with no name” – evolve with the growth of the Church? And why isn’t wine spiked anymore?
From the very beginning of Christianity, there was always a “right” Eucharist, and a “wrong” Eucharist. St. Paul, for example, chastised the Corinthians for drinking from a “cup of demons” – a glass of wine that was apparently lethal. And later Church fathers like Irenaeus and Hippolytus would rail against the “love charms” and “love potions” used by heretics and splinter Christian groups like the followers of Simon, Valentinus and Marcus. The “right” Eucharist was dispensed by men for formal congregations. The “wrong” Eucharist, one that may have been spiked, was unacceptable to a Church in the midst of finding its feet.
With communion wines so powerful in the past, could we call the wine of the church a mere “placebo” today?
I would be careful about calling the Eucharist a “placebo”. In its present form, the Eucharist works for many people. But it doesn’t seem to be working for 69 percent of American Catholics, who say they don’t believe in the Catholic Church’s central doctrine of transubstantiation – that the bread and wine of the Eucharist literally becomes the body and blood of Jesus.
For many, the power of the Eucharist has lost its meaning. How could that kind of Eucharist have converted half the Roman Empire, some 30 million people, to the new Christian faith in only 350 years? How did early Christianity compete in a world filled with magical wine?
The aim of the book was to amass the hard evidence – mainly from archaeobotany and archaeochemistry – that provides proof of concept for much further study and analysis. It doesn’t claim anything definitive about the earliest days of Christianity. Science will have to lead the way.
But we should all be paying attention to Andrew Koh, the MIT scientist who’s researching “spiked” wine and other pharmacology and medicine across the ancient world and beyond. Part of his work is tracking down fresh, uncontaminated vessels in Galilee, and elsewhere across the Mediterranean where the first Christian communities took root.
To me, the ergotized beer at Mas Castellar de Pontós and the psychedelic wine at the Villa Vesuvio are some of the most compelling finds that have ever emerged in the hunt for the original sacraments of Western civilization. I think they are game changers. Not because of their intrinsic value, or our ability to speculate on the wider use of psychedelic potions among the Ancient Greeks and early Christians. But because they should excite the academic community, our religious institutions and the public at large to find out more. Over the next ten years, this new science may actually find the Holy Grail, so to speak. And Andrew Koh is the guy who’s going to do it.
Christians using psychotics might explain a lot of their beliefs in spiritual beings and supernatural events. It should lead to some concern that what they experienced, talked about, and wrote did not conform to an objective depiction of reality.
(2707) Early tampering
Right off the bat, in the first gospel ever written, in the first line, an editor took liberty to make an edit to elevate Jesus to godly status by inserting the words ‘the son of God.’ This edit proliferated and now is printed in every gospel produced. If it was so important to identify Jesus as such, and if the Holy Spirit was truly inspiring the original author, why didn’t he write those words himself? The following was taken from:
Mark 1: (KJV)
1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;”
The earliest extant manuscript, Sinaiticus, omits “the son of God”. Most early manuscripts include it. Normally I don’t claim a translation error if a majority of modern translations are supported by a majority of early manuscripts. Here though, every early Church Father who quoted Mark 1:1 omitted “son of God” without indicating an awareness of any textual variation making it clear that “son of God” was a later addition. “Son of God” was an important statement to Christian theology at the beginning of “Mark” because Mark has no virgin birth story and compared to the other Gospels presents Jesus as more human than divine leading the reader to believe that when “Mark” used “son of God” later in his Gospel it was used as a title of a position that had been achieved.
Origen, Irenaeus, Epiphanius, and Victorinus all quote Mark 1:1 without “son of God”. No Christian author quotes Mark 1:1 with “son of God” before the fourth century. Origen was the most important Church Father of his time and one of the most important Church Fathers of all time. Origen wrote in “The Commentary On The Gospel Of John”:
“14. …”For the same Mark says: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet, Behold I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way.”
Origen discusses textual variation in his writings but shows no knowledge of any textual variation in Mark 1:1 and surely whether “son of God” was present or not would have been of interest to him.
It seems that as Jesus’ status was raised from prophet to being God himself that something had to be done to the Gospel of Mark because it was lacking in its expression of this evolving theology. This provides us with more than a hint that gospel manipulation was rampant from the very beginning.
(2708) Multiple authors for John
It is conjectured that the Gospel of John was written by multiple authors and there is little doubt that the entirety of John Chapter 21 was a later addition. Another strong hint comes from a contradiction that appears in consecutive chapters (15 and 16), as follows:
John 15: (KJV)
15 “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”
Compare to John 16: (KJV)
12 “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.”
Either John’s Jesus forgot what he told the disciples in the previous Chapter or we have two different John’s Jesuses (multiple authors). Since the context of John’s Jesuses’ speeches here is eternal judgment for the entire Universe do you think it’s asking too much for them to get their stories straight?
It is interesting to note that the translators who developed the New International Version noticed this problem and did something about it. All translations to that point for John 16:12 used essentially the same wording as shown above (using the word ‘but’). The NIV version for this verse became:
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.’
This softens the contradiction somewhat. Nevertheless, what this shows is that different authors most likely wrote these two verses as it is not probable that a single author would forget what he had written just a few lines earlier. And multiple authors is problematic for biblical literalists because it opens the Pandora’s Box for evidence of manipulation and destroys the fantasy that a disciple of Jesus had written this material as an eyewitness.
(2709) Matthew’s prophecy mistake
The author of the Gospel of Matthew decided to embellish Jesus’ credentials by having him correctly prophesize (in approximately 30 CE) the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 CE by the Romans. Writing remotely in approximately 80 CE, he was going by available reports of the temple destruction and ended up getting one important detail wrong. The following was taken from:
Matthew 24: (KJV)
1 “And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
The author of “Matthew” was likely aware that Caesar ordered the whole city and the temple razed to the ground but apparently this was never accomplished as the Western Wall partially survived the Roman destruction of the Temple buildings.
The Western (wailing) Wall today:
The author (of the Gospel of Matthew) wrote for a community of Greek-speaking Jewish Christians located probably in Syria (Antioch, the largest city in Roman Syria and the third-largest in the empire, is often mentioned).
Writing from Syria, Matthew likely did not personally visit Jerusalem prior to writing his gospel, and therefore this mistake was not his fault. But it does point to the presence of human error in the construction of the gospels. Had he traveled to Jerusalem after 70 CE he likely would have refashioned Verse 24:2 to read:
(2710) Mark’s omission of the virgin birth
In the gospels of Matthew and Luke, two (contradictory) stories are told of Jesus being born of a virgin. But the Gospel of Mark has no mention of it. Apologists tried to explain this omission by arguing that Matthew had already written about it so Mark didn’t need to repeat the story. This line of defense was destroyed when scholars determined that Mark was written before Matthew. Now the explanation becomes more difficult. The following was taken from:
What “Mark” doesn’t have is any mention of a virgin birth of Jesus. Traditionally Christianity has explained that “Matthew” was written first and “Mark” was intended to be a supplement to “Matthew” and didn’t mention the virgin birth because “Matthew” had already described it. That’s why editors added “son of God” to Mark 1:1 implying that Jesus had already been described as such in “Matthew’s” gospel. Modern Bible scholarship has determined that “Mark” was written before “Matthew” though and if this is true then the author of “Mark” either had never heard of the virgin birth story of “Matthew” or others or had heard of it but didn’t believe it. Apologists claim that there is no contradiction here because “Mark” doesn’t say that there was no virgin birth. A force more powerful than apologists though, common sense, says that if “Mark” thought there was a virgin birth he definitely would have mentioned it in his Gospel because it would have been an incredible piece of evidence that Jesus was special and should be believed in which was the point of his entire Gospel. The fact that there is no mention of a virgin birth in “Mark” supports the conclusion that the original author didn’t believe there was one.
This adds more evidence that the virgin birth of Jesus is mythical. First, we know that virgin birth myths were rampant in the First Century for both gods and human rulers. Second, the stories in Matthew and Luke are irreparably contradictory. And then third, it is inconceivable that the author of Mark knew about the virgin birth but elected to leave out of his book. So we must assume that Mark was unaware of the virgin birth tradition. Since he was writing in defense of the Christian faith, it would be assumed that he was apprised of the beliefs of fellow Christians. From this we can deduce that as of approximately 70 CE, Christians had not yet created the myth of Jesus’ virgin birth. It likely was a product of the decade between 70 and 80 CE and then became a staple of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. As a potential fourth reason to dismiss the virgin birth, the author of the Gospel of John, a decade or so later, also left it out of his work.
(2711) Christians should hope faith healings are fake
Christians who celebrate stories of miraculous faith healings are not thinking things through. In reality, they should hope that these stories are fake. Because otherwise, they are fashioning their god to be a de facto monster. The following was taken from:
According to Scott Price of Pikes Peak Christian Church, he was diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer in 2017 and given six weeks to live. Scott says that his oncologist put “poison” in his body (chemo?) but that his wife also made him drink a lot of green tea, which he believes aided in the healing that, allegedly, took place. Shortly after starting chemo, Scott and his wife “fell to their knees in prayer” for ten days. After that time, Scott felt a flash go through his body, and told his wife that he had been healed. He returned to the oncologist, without a wheelchair, and, much to the doctors surprise, Scott was completely free of cancer and had no side effects of chemo. Thus, he was healed! By God! Hallelujah!
As a skeptic, I could approach this alleged healing from any number of angles. For one thing, where are Scott’s medical records, and who is the oncologist that treated him? And even if Scott did experience a spontaneous remission, cancer remains a poorly understood condition, and spontaneous remissions do happen. We also know that the placebo effect can be unusually powerful in some people, even in serious conditions.
I’m going to set all that aside, however, and throw a really big bone to the christians on this one: I’m going to concede that Scott was healed, supernaturally, by a supreme being. Because, frankly, I think that conceding this point only strengths my position as an atheist, and I’m going to tell you why.
Let’s say Scott was healed of cancer. Okay, cool. Why are we talking about it at all? No seriously, what’s the big deal about Scott’s case? What makes it unusual?
Here’s what: the vast, vast majority of cancer cases go unhealed.
Single mothers. Children. Infants. Fathers, sons, husbands. Doting grandparents. All slowly eaten alive from the inside out no matter how much they cried out to god.
And now you want to tell me that this one missionary guy being healed is a sign of god’s mercy? How sadistic. How unspeakably cruel. That a single father of four can be torn away from his children, that an infant can be born into this world riddled with cancers, but hey, Scott feels better!
What kind of god is this? He’s like a Mesopotamian despot taxing his subjects into squalor, but occasionally parading through villages and giving out a little gold from the palace purse. Systematically creating cruel conditions for his “children”, but sprinkling some crumbs from the table once in a while to maintain the illusion of mercy.
I want nothing to do with such a cruel and possibly egomaniacal being, and neither should anyone else. If every single ounce of Scott’s story is true, I spit on the being that thinks it’s merciful to heal a random missionary, while ignoring the millions of others who needed healing. There are people dying of prostate cancer today. Where is god?
Is it not torture to give a starving man a crumb of bread to prolong his suffering? It is not ethical to worship this being. It is ethical to reject them, to deny them the satisfaction of having their existence acknowledged. My atheism holds firmer than ever in light of supernatural healing– which, by the way, does not actually exist.
One thing is clear to me: theists don’t have a relationship with God, they have Stockholm Syndrome with their sadistic captor.
Paradoxically, it’s better for the theists to question Scott’s miracle so they can maintain their nebulous ideas about a merciful supreme being. Because if we acknowledge the reality of Scott’s miracle, we acknowledge the divine abandonment of millions of cancer sufferers who died cruelly and alone.
My message to my fellow atheists is this: when a theist pulls an alleged medical miracle out of their ass, call them on it. Ask them why that one person received mercy when millions of others didn’t, and whether that really is a sign of god’s kindness.
If a person enters a burning building with 10 infants inside and carries one of them to safety, then lazily sits around and watches the building burn, killing 9 babies that he just as easily could have saved, would we call him a hero? This is analogous to the Christian god saving a few while letting millions die who had just as much reason to want to live and just as many people praying for a healing.
Christians have two choices and neither is very attractive- either their god is capricious and saves only a few for show but cares little about the remaining bulk of suffering humans, or these healings are fake and their god has no power or willingness to heal. The second option is preferable and they actually would be better off repudiating those isolated stories of miraculous healings.
(2712) Christianity was used to murder women
Fostering widespread believe in demons and witches, Christianity was a primary motivator for men to punish women and in many cases kill them because they were thought to be in league with the devil. A religion of truth would never be complicit in such an atrocity. The following is a quote from Swedish artist and songwriter Fia Forsström:
“It was not witches who burned. It was women. Women who were seen as Too beautiful Too outspoken Had too much water in the well (yes, seriously) Who had a birthmark Women who were too skilled with herbal medicine Too loud Too quiet Too much red in her hair Women who had a strong nature connection Women who danced Women who sung or anything else, really. ANY WOMAN WAS AT RISK BURNING IN THE SIXTEEN HUNDREDS Sisters testified and turned on each other when their babies were held under ice. Children were tortured to confess their experiences with “witches” by being fake executed in ovens. Women were held under water and if they float, they were guilty and executed. If they sunk and drowned they were innocent. Women were thrown off cliffs. Women were put in deep holes in the ground. The start of this madness was years of famine, war between religions and lots of fear. The churches said that witches, demons and the devil did exist and women were nothing but trouble. As we see even today, there is often a scapegoat created, and the chaos escalated in Sweden when the Bible became law and everything that did not line up with what the church said became lethal. The Bible fanaticism killed thousands of women. Everything connected to a women became feared, especially her sexuality. It became labeled as dark and dangerous and was the core of the witch trials throughout the world. Why do I write this? Because I think the usage of words are important, especially when we are doing the work to pull these murky, repressed and forgotten about stories to the surface. Because knowing our history is important when we are building the new world. When we are doing the healing work of our lineages and as women. To give the women who were slaughtered a voice, to give them redress and a chance of peace. It was not witches who burned. It was women.”
Apologists face a long journey to explain how belief in Christianity, assuming it to be the true expression of the one and only god, could have caused people to be so detached from reality as to murder innocent women in defense of their faith. A real god would have anticipated this reaction and would have fashioned the scriptures in a way to preclude it from happening.
(2713) Making a dying daughter dead
Throughout the chronological sequence of the gospels, from Mark to John, we see a steady enhancement of Jesus’ powers. One of the best examples is how Matthew ‘improved’ on Mark’s tale of Jesus healing Jairus’ daughter. The following was taken from:
Mark 5: (KJV)
22 “And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, 23 And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.”
Matthew 9: (KJV)
18 “While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live.”
According to “Mark” the daughter was dying and according to “Matthew” the daughter was dead. That’s typical of Matthew to upgrade the reported miracles in Mark.
It is a mighty jump to go from healing a sick child to raising one from the dead. Even if what Mark reported was somewhat accurate, we can assume that Matthew’s was not- writing 10 years later with Mark as his source, Matthew could not have been correcting this story. He deliberately and deceptively made it more miraculous to boost the stature of Jesus.
(2714) Physics of consciousness
It can be strongly asserted that Christian belief in an afterlife is anti-scientific. In fact, it flies in the face of everything we know about how the brain produces a sense of consciousness. And as far as we know consciousness cannot exist without electrical signals traveling through matter, whether it be neurons or computer chips. The concept of life after death is pure metaphysics and mythology. It was created by people who thought that the brain was nothing more than a heat exchanger. The following was taken from:
Decades of research have brought us to the conclusion that the consciousness lies in the brain and in the brain only. If you cut off or damage certain parts of it you can influence a person’s memory and even their personality. By measuring the brain waves it’s even possible to get a rough idea of what a person is thinking about.
We still have a long way to go until we really understand how exactly the brain works but one truth is already beyond doubt:
The consciousness lies in the brain and is absolutely inseparable from it. Consciousness is bound to our body with no way to leave it. There is no such thing as a soul. Every conscious process is simply electrical signals going through our brain.
Therefore we can ascertain the following truth without a shred of doubt:
If there are no electrical signals flowing through your brain at the moment then you are currently not conscious of anything, you are currently not feeling anything, you are not seeing anything, you are not thinking anything, etc.
It is also true that there are no electrical signals flowing through a dead person’s brain. In fact there will never again flow electrical signals through a dead person’s brain. So not only are dead people currently not conscious of anything at all, they will in fact never again be conscious of anything. This of course includes a hypothetical afterlife.
Consciousness is not an on-off switch. It comes in various degrees of strength, starting slowing and building during childhood and then declining as we age. It also goes through a diurnal cycle with sleep and wake patterns. But one thing we know for sure- when we die, the signal stops, the ‘computer’ is turned off, and we no longer are aware of anything going on. Once a person realizes this sobering fact, it becomes clear that Christianity is selling a fraudulent product.
(2715) The Christianisation of the Roman Empire
It would be enlightening for a Christian to study how the Roman Empire over a period of approximately 150 years converted from predominantly pagan religions to Christianity. The following summarizes how this happened. It shows that the process was not straightforward, was highly political, and in the end mercilessly violated individuals’ freedom of conscience.
Constantine died in the year 337, just as the oldest people born after his conversion were beginning their professional lives. These children of the age of Constantine built their careers under Constantine’s three sons, all of them convinced Christians who were less hesitant than their father to use the power of the state against traditional religion. Constantius II, the longest surviving of the brothers, proved the most aggressive. He issued a series of laws banning sacrifices, closed some temples, transferred others to bishops who converted them into churches, and did his best to encourage Christianity in public life. These changes were real and substantive, but the sheer amount of surviving pagan religious infrastructure meant that Constantius couldn’t dismantle public paganism in a generation. This was a particular problem because many administrators charged with implementing his orders moved slowly or neglected to enforce the emperor’s anti-pagan laws.
All of the surviving monuments, temples, statues and festivals dedicated to the old gods reassured pagans such as Libanius and his peers. They didn’t like what Constantius was doing, but opposition to the regime was risky. They had no interest in endangering their prominence and wealth by speaking out against objectionable policies that could amount to nothing. And these men promptly recast their complacency as prudence when Constantius died unexpectedly at the age of 44. He was replaced by his cousin Julian – who immediately announced that he was a pagan.
Powerful critiques of the injustice and religious fanaticism of Constantius poured from the mouths of the middle-aged men who had voiced no public criticism while that emperor lived. They also praised Julian as nothing less than a philosopher-king superintending a revival of traditional religious life. The inertia of the Roman administrative system had preserved the old rhythms of Roman religious life under the Christian emperors. Now a pagan emperor could repair what damage they had done.
Julian had grand plans for what this pagan restoration would look like. He envisioned an integrated, hierarchical pagan priesthood that organised religious life across the empire and performed charitable activities, much like the Christian church did. He restored property to the temples, sponsored reconstruction projects and started work on a third Jewish temple in Jerusalem. In an action that alarmed nearly everyone in the empire, Julian even tried redesigning the Roman education system. Under his direction, the schools that served as the entry point to the imperial elite would focus their curricula on teaching about the old gods. He barred Christians from teaching in these schools because, Julian claimed, Christians who refuse to teach ‘that neither Homer nor Hesiod nor any one of these, the authors about whom [they] lecture and explain, is guilty of any impiety’ are liars who can’t offer good moral examples to their students.
The reforms had only just begun when Julian died in the summer of 363, killed by Persian troops in a skirmish near what is now the Iraqi city of Samarra. For most of the next two decades, his successors focused on matters other than the Christianisation of the empire. The emperors were Christian, but they devoted little time or energy to destroying paganism or eliminating its practice. Pagans such as Libanius then slipped back into their old, oleaginous ways. They praised the emperors in public, muttered about their autocratic tendencies in private, and happily collected their public salaries.
It was in the 380s only, when Libanius and his peers reached old age, that the bill for a lifetime of sycophancy and complacency came due. Theodosius came to power in 379, promising to crush an army of barbarian Goths that had killed the emperor Valens, his immediate predecessor. Instead, Theodosius first lost to the Goths in humiliating fashion in 380 before concluding a peace treaty with them in 382 that seemed like a surrender. He desperately needed to change the perception that he was a failing emperor.
Libanius probably understood that it was already too late to save the world he treasured
This is why, soon after his retreat from the Gothic forces in 380, Theodosius energetically embraced the idea that he would lead Rome to a new, Christian future by attacking pagan practices. He first issued a series of laws that restricted pagan activities. Sacrifices would be punished with the death penalty, temples would be closed and imperial officials who neglected to enforce these laws would be severely punished. Many of these early laws reinstated prohibitions that Constantius first put in place in the 350s, but Theodosius ruled over a different empire than the majority-pagan one of Constantius. Theodosius’s empire was nearly majority Christian, with the youngest Romans the most likely to be Christians. The emperor knew that these eager Christians could help him accelerate the pace of Christianisation if they were allowed to work outside the constraints of an imperial administrative system designed to move slowly and deliberately.
This is why Cynegius rampaged across the Roman east with his band of soldiers and monks. Cynegius was an imperial official, but many of those who travelled alongside him had no place in government. They were Christian militants who accompanied the prefect precisely so that they could violently attack pagan shrines in a fashion that allowed Theodosius to avoid taking direct responsibility for their actions. They weren’t empowered by the state, but they were protected by a Roman prefect and his troops, fearsome travelling companions who ensured that they would not meet serious resistance from angry pagans.
Old men such as Libanius didn’t quite know how to respond effectively. They had spent their entire lives learning how to compete and thrive in a geographically and religiously diverse imperial system that rewarded loyalty and buffered the worst effects of radical changes in imperial policy. They were unaccustomed to operating outside of its rules and they struggled to respond to an emperor willing to empower paramilitaries to destroy pagan property and lives that the Roman state was supposed to protect.
This is why Libanius addressed his speech to Theodosius in 386. He could think of no better course of action than to appeal to the emperor who sat atop the administrative apparatus through which Libanius had been conditioned to work. But what, at first glance, looks like a defiant condemnation of an unjust political order, now appears to be the desperate pleading of an old man who finally recognised the true import of the transformational events that had been going on for his entire life. Despite his powerful call for reform, Libanius probably understood that it was already too late to save the world he treasured.
The pagan world didn’t yet look all that different from decades past. Many temples were still there, though the disinterest of worshippers and the decay of the buildings meant that the number of useable ones dropped steadily. Statues of the gods remained in public places and people still prayed to them in private homes, but fewer did this each year. Religious processions and public sacrifices continued in cities where local pagan authorities remained strong and in pious towns so remote that they attracted little attention, but more and more places stopped meeting these criteria.
The traces of the old gods that dotted Roman cities, towns and villages once seemed reassuring. Now they seemed like the ghostly echoes of a nearly dead pagan past. The state had turned against paganism and, as the 4th century gave way to the 5th, the restrictions on pagans increased greatly. So too did the pace of temple closures until, by the middle of the 5th century, not enough pagan temples remained in use to bother with efforts to close them. The Athenian Parthenon, one of the last major temples to operate openly, closed around 440. The goddess Athena then decamped to the house of the philosopher Proclus and, Proclus claimed, they cohabitated until his death in 485.
Proclus and others like him were devoted pagans – more devout, in fact, than Libanius and many of his peers ever had been. But there remained no meaningful sense of pagan community to bind them, even after the threat to paganism became clear. Instead, pagans often condescended to or exploited one another. Urban, educated pagans such as Proclus travelled to rural areas, informed the ‘rustics’ they found there that they had been worshipping incorrectly for centuries, and tried to force them to change their practices. The rustics living in areas that tacitly permitted the worship of the old gods reciprocated by profiting from gullible urban-pagan spiritual tourists.
How then should one think about this generation that so completely failed to imagine the future?
We shouldn’t blame the arrogant and opportunistic pagans of the 5th century for paganism’s demise. It was already in a terminal decline, helped along by complacent 4th-century pagans who did little to stop the transformation of Roman society. They were the last pagans with the opportunity to perhaps stop the Christianisation of the Roman empire, but they organised no sustained pagan resistance to Christianisation. We do see isolated incidents in which the pagans of a single city rallied to defend a particular temple, but none of these events sparked wider protests by pagans across the empire. Someone who prayed to Athena in Athens or Jupiter in Rome might have been sincerely troubled by the Christian destruction of the Alexandrian Serapeum in 392, but they didn’t feel strongly enough about that god to fight on his behalf in their home cities. Nor would one expect them to. Fourth-century pagans were a unified community only in the imaginations of Christians.
How then should one think about this generation that so completely failed to imagine the future? Things might have turned out differently if Libanius and others like him had spent their life battling Christianisation with the same all-encompassing vigour that the monks alongside Cynegius showed in promoting it. But Christianity was new and, in many ways, more attractive than the old cults. Christians sought out converts, taught them what the religion promised, and supported them both spiritually and, if necessary, monetarily.
Pagan cults were particularly ill-prepared to respond to a monotheistic religion that actively worked to permanently take worshippers away from the old gods. This wasn’t how paganism worked. It wasn’t rare for pagans to add a new god to the list of deities to whom they prayed, but most traditional cults didn’t ask their adherents to stop worshipping other gods when they prayed to a new one. This tolerance made a great deal of sense in Rome’s diverse pagan religious marketplace, but it also meant that pagan cults had no experience fighting for the loyalty of their followers when the Christian church told Romans that they must choose to worship either Christ or the old gods. Once state support turbocharged the church’s ability to reach across the empire, many Romans naturally preferred the promise of a new Christian empire to the traditions of the past. When they were asked to choose, Romans overwhelmingly chose Christianity.
The final pagan generation’s shortsightedness still stands out. They acquiesced to the rule of Christian emperors pursuing the elimination of paganism in exchange for a few decades of government salaries and fancy titles. These men could have fought against a change they fundamentally disagreed with. They got rich instead. Everyone tempted to believe that future generations will have time to address difficult issues that we selfishly choose to ignore should remember their sour legacy.
Christianity won because it was politically expedient, not because it possessed superior evidence, a more cogent theology, or any actual supernatural support. Paganism was too loose, too democratic whereas Christianity offered a tighter belief system that could be used as a hammer to root out apostates. It became a useful tool to control the masses.
(2716) Religions based on faith fare better
Although it might be presumed that a ‘real’ god intent on rewarding or punishing people in an afterlife would be more concerned about how people lived their lives as opposed to the content of their theological beliefs, a case can be made that religions that promote faith over works will, in the long run, regardless of their truth, succeed over those that emphasize works. Thus, the success of Christianity should be viewed with some suspicion. The following was taken from:
1) Most religions deal with some sort of afterlife that often involve divine reward or retribution (often eternal). This ranges from the Greek fields of Elysium to Christian heaven. (This argument excludes religions that involve reincarnation and the like, but I imagine similar points could be made for them as well). Some promise divine retribution or reward in your current lifetime.
2) The criteria for getting reward or retribution is often based off faith (believe in the religion, be a part of the religion), or “works” (ie: be a good person in life and youll be rewarded for it, be bad and you’ll be punished).
3) In a *naturalistic world (*ie one where atheism is “correct”, and religions are man made), there would be no divine evidence (no miracles, no burning bush, no rising from the death) that people could see. People would have to make decisions on what religion to follow based on what they’re told about them and based on their social climate (ie: maybe they’re in a region where they could be killed for not following everyone else).
4) It is way more likely that a given person will choose a religion (given no hard evidence to either side) that rewards or punishes based off FAITH as opposed to based off WORKS, for two reasons. First, it’s obviously easier. And second: *you can still fit the criteria for any religion that cares about works* (a Christian who lived a good life would not get punished in a religion that only cares about works).
5) Therefore (in our naturalistic world), we would expect that the religions that survive and are the most successful are the ones that reward faith as opposed to ones that reward works.
The fact that religions like Christianity and Islam that require faith (as opposed to again, stuff like Greek mythology) are the biggest ones is a little bit suspicious and lightly implies an environment that favors religions like these.
An analogy would be to run an experiment to determine which food is healthier. You give people an option to eat either ice cream or broccoli, and you conclude that ice cream is healthier based on it being chosen by most of the test subjects. Choosing a religion that rewards faith is a better bet than one that rewards works because it covers more bases, giving you a better chance of a favorable outcome. And the icing on the cake is that it is easier to follow. This represents counter-evidence that Christianity’s success is a reflection of its truthfulness.
(2717) The five options
There are 5 options when it comes to the Bible.
1) God is perfect and his message was relayed perfectly.
This option is easily debunked by pointing out the numerous contradictions that exist in the Bible, literally thousands in number, plus many places where it was fraudulently edited.
2) God is perfect and his message was relayed imperfectly.
This option runs into trouble because it creates unnecessary confusion that a perfect god would certainly avoid. How to determine what parts were relayed perfectly versus those that were imperfectly transmitted would require an outside agency that doesn’t exist.
3) God is imperfect and his message was relayed perfectly
This option is a non-starter for most Christians who cannot conceive of God being imperfect. Even if his message was relayed perfectly, it would be impossible to detect which parts corresponded to areas where God was correct versus areas where he was incorrect.
4) God is imperfect and his message was relayed imperfectly.
This option is a mess of chaotic uncertainty that leaves a Christian in a hopeless state of doubt as to what to believe. It is not an acceptable option for any Christian.
5) The Bible is entirely man made.
This option is not available to a Christian unless they somehow believe that God had no intention to have anything written and deliberately stayed out of the entire process of developing the Bible. This would be very unusual for a god intent on interacting with humans to allow a holy book to be written without any divine guidance, leading inevitably to confusion among his followers.
(2718) The misconstrued cornerstone
One of the most iconic Christian references to the Old Testament is in reference to Psalm 118 where Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (and Matthew) makes the following statement:
Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written:
“ ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’?
Jesus is referring to a parable that he has just recited where a land owner sends somebody to fetch some fruit from his vineyard but the workers there kills him. This repeats, and finally the owner sends his son and he is killed as well. So, according to the Christian interpretation, the first people sent to the vineyard are the prophets of old and then the son is Jesus. The builders are the Jews and they have rejected both the prophets and Jesus, and then Jesus becomes the cornerstone of the Christian faith. This would all work out nicely except for the fact that the quote from Psalm 118 says the opposite, explicitly and implicitly- it says the Jews will survive as God’s people and be protected from the Gentiles. This can be seen by observing the context:
Open for me the gates of the righteous;.
I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord
through which the righteous may enter.
I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation.
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
The Lord has done it this very day;
let us rejoice today and be glad.
(2719) Religion is obviously a scam
There is a saying that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it is probably a duck. Religion is the most successful scam of all time. The following discussion illuminates the telltale traits:
Many people believe they are immune to scams. They think only those of lesser intelligence would fall for them. The vast majority of those people, however, are victims of a scam that has taken the entire world. That scam is religion. This may come as a surprise to some, but after reading this article, I hope you can see just how much of a scam religion is. There’s no evidence any religion is true except for personal anecdotes and hearsay, neither of which is evidence for anything. There’s no absolute truth, so anything claiming to be the absolute truth is lying by default.
The biggest sign that something is a scam is the offer is too good to be true. The idea of living in a place of eternal joy with no pain, worry, or sadness for all eternity after you die when all you have to do is follow some instructions sounds amazing. That doesn’t make it true. You likely have seen ads of impressive products that go beyond the bounds of modern technology with a very low price tag, but you likely can see that those are scams. An eternity of joy and peace is too good to be true. There’s no reason to believe such a place is even possible, much less, probable.
In contrast, scammers will often threaten you if you don’t comply. One example is when the scammer will call you pretending to be from the IRS and tell you that you need to pay a fine because you filed your taxes incorrectly. They will threaten to arrest you for tax fraud if you refuse. Although the threats are empty, many people fall for them. Nevertheless, many more people fall for the scam of eternal damnation. If you don’t comply and follow a specific doctrine, you’ll suffer for all eternity. Not only is there the promise of paradise, there’s also the threat of a fate worse than death. The threat of Hell is greater than the threat of any other scam, but it’s just as empty.
The third sign of a scam is a strong sense of urgency. If you don’t act now, you may never get the offer again. If you don’t accept Jesus now or start following Allah now, you may never get the chance again. What you do in your short, limited life determines your fate for all eternity, so you better act now before it’s too late. This sense of urgency is the reason why people who fall for the scam of religion introduce it to their children. They don’t want their children to go to Hell, so they will try to get them to accept their deity. This scam tactic is the hardest to detect because there are times when an offer is limited. However, in those circumstances, there are no consequences of not acting quickly enough except that you don’t get the product. With religion, if you don’t act quickly enough, you could end up suffering for all eternity. Just like how you won’t get arrested for not paying the fine within 24 hours, you won’t go to Hell for not accepting Jesus in your short lifetime.
Even signs that seem too obvious to hoodwink anyone exist in religion. One of those signs is not having any evidence the product exists outside of what the seller claims. Imagine you came across an ad of a robot that promises to do all your chores from picking up trash to washing, drying, and putting up the dishes, and it only costs $99.99. Obviously, that sounds too good to be true, so you research it and find out that such a robot doesn’t exist. Surely, if it was legitimate, someone would have made a video about it or mentioned it somewhere, but nevertheless, you can’t find anything. The only place you hear about this product is from the seller and maybe some reviews that have no evidence of being legitimate. Similarly, there’s no evidence of paradise after death except from the Bible or Quran and from the claims of people who follow those religions.
Billions of people aren’t even immune to the greatest sign something is a scam. That sign is that it’s from a shady source. When you have no reason to trust that the seller is legitimate except from claims on their own website, it’s pretty obvious you’re dealing with a scammer. Religion is no different. Believers of various religions will claim their holy texts don’t mean what they say and that you have to read it a certain way or do something to truly understand it as if you already believe it, but this requires you to assume the source of the claim is true without any reason to believe it is. Naturally, if you convince yourself something is true, it’s going to sound believable, no matter what it is. That’s how lucky charms work. Every holy text gets so many things wrong that we can’t use it as a valid source, even if it gets some things right.
These are only the major red flags of religion. Even with all these red flags, billions of people fall for it. When you’re surrounded by religion your entire life, it’s easy to believe it. Maybe you were introduced to it by someone who never lies, or maybe religion helped you in some way. That doesn’t mean the claims of religion are true in any sense, and you should not devote your life or give your money to something that has so many red flags. If these red flags were present for anything except religion, virtually no one would fall for it. So, why is religion the exception?
In response to the final question, it seems that religion enjoys a few qualities that make it hard to expose its fraud. First, there is no way to falsify the existence of a paradisiacal afterlife. No one can come back from the dead and tell us there is nothing there. Second, no other scam is drilled into the skulls of defenseless children who will then struggle for a lifetime to uncover the truth. Third, no other scam is a de facto requirement for inclusion into many of societies’ social and employment circles. Fourth, no other scam is rooted so far back into antiquity that it enjoys the benefit of mystery and obscurity. Because of these built-in advantages, religion is the most successful scam of all time.
(2720) Analogy of the colored squares
The following analogy exposes the central reason why Christianity, and any other religion for that matter, should be rejected:
Say you were a person whose parents never taught you the names of colors. If they showed you green you wouldn’t know the name for it. Your mom gives you five different colored squares and tells you to pick the red one, and if you pick wrong you go to hell. You pick the wrong one because you have no information as to what you should pick, and your parents never taught you. You have zero information, the squares tell you nothing, and although your parents know that choosing wrong will lead to eternal suffering and could at least give you a hint, they refuse to say a peep.
God is your parents. The colored squares are the different religious texts.
Christianity claims the existence of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent deity, yet who capriciously plays the game of the colored squares. The parents in the analogy would be forcefully punished for tricking and deceiving their children, but God gets a pass for doing the same thing? The only way for Christianity to be true is to concede that God is deliberately making it difficult to choose the correct religion and is intent on punishing those who innocently fall victim to his subterfuge.
(2721) Atheist prayer
If an open-minded atheist (as most are) were to say a prayer, it might sound something like this:
God, I have carefully examined the evidence that you have provided for your existence and found it lacking. I have studied your word and found it dry, contradictory, and strange. I have looked for evidence of miracles and found that there is always an alternative, materialistic explanation. I have observed great suffering in the world, like the Rape of Nanking, and found myself wondering how a loving deity could allow such horrors.
God, I know you want me to accept you and your son, Jesus, on simple, childlike faith. But is not misdirected faith dangerous? Why should I have faith in Jesus but not Mohammed, or Zeus, or Zoroastra? How can I be sure that I have faith in the correct thing? After all, the only precursor to faith is the decision to have it, even in the face of conflicting evidence.
Please, God, I do not want to burn in hell. I know that you, having infinite love for all your children, do not want me to go to hell, either.
So God, I humbly come before you today asking for a sign of your existence. A sign that cannot be ignored or refuted with a rational explanation.
There is nothing in this prayer that is open to earnest criticism. God can either play fair or otherwise inflict unlimited punishment on innocent victims of his cat and mouse game. Humans have limits, so anyone seeking the truth of this existence should not apologize for expecting sufficient evidence to be presented before making what might amount to a momentous and eternally significant decision. The atheist prayer is one to which any actually-existing, fair-minded deity would respond. Given that prayers of this nature have invariably gone unanswered is good evidence that such a god does not exist.
(2722) Consensus reality
Humans tend to construct a fashion of reality much as a hurricane forms in the ocean, beginning with disorganized showers and winds that over time slowly develops into an organized storm system. This is called consensus reality, where a certain view of the nature of things begins to predominate that then begins to relentlessly suck in those with alternate beliefs. When the numbers become large enough, the consensus view becomes standard and its popularity is seen as proof of its truth. Christianity became a consensus reality in this manner. The following was taken from:
The appeal to consensus arises from the fact that humans do not fully understand or agree upon the nature of knowledge or ontology, often making it uncertain what is real, given the vast inconsistencies between individual subjectivities. We can, however, seek to obtain some form of consensus, with others, of what is real. We can use this consensus as a pragmatic guide, either on the assumption that it seems to approximate some kind of valid reality, or simply because it is more “practical” than perceived alternatives. Consensus reality therefore refers to the agreed-upon concepts of reality which people in the world, or a culture or group, believe are real (or treat as real), usually based upon their common experiences as they believe them to be; anyone who does not agree with these is sometimes stated to be “in effect… living in a different world.”
Throughout history this has also raised a social question as to the effects of a society in which all individuals do not agree upon the same reality.
Children have sometimes been described or viewed as “inexperience[d] with consensus reality,” though are described as such with the expectation that their perspective will progressively form closer to the consensus reality of their society as they age.
Objective reality and consensus reality do not always coincide. This is because true reality and the reality that humans wish for are not normally the same. Thus, a consensus reality that allows people to live eternally is likely to develop even in the midst of strong evidence to the contrary. Christianity rides the crest of this wave- the idea that because so many believe in it, it must be true.
(2723) United States presidential election 2020
A real time test of the power of prayer was conducted in the United States starting in various states during October and concluding on November 3, 2020. This was a presidential election between the incumbent Donald Trump and the challenger Joseph Biden.
Although prayers were uttered for both potential outcomes, by far, the most numerous, the strongest, the most sincere, and the most urgent prayers were spoken by the evangelical Christians supporting Donald Trump. If God was listening and tallying prayer ‘votes’ he would have observed it to be a landslide for Trump. He easily could have manipulated the votes in such a way to deliver the desired result of his most ardent followers. But he didn’t.
What does this mean? There appears to be only two likely possibilities- that God does not interfere in political elections, even though the outcomes of these contests in the U.S. have a direct impact on the visibility and growth of the Christian faith, or that God does not exist. The 2020 election is good evidence that, even if he exists, God is not as involved in human affairs as devout Christians assume.
(2724) Gospels do not assign unbelievers to hell
It has been well established in mainstream Christianity that failure to believe in Jesus as one’s savior will send a person to hell. This view runs into problems when one studies the gospels. Although John emphasizes the requirement for belief, it does not even mention hell. The other gospels place plenty of focus on hell but never suggest that belief per se is necessary to avoid going there. Rather the critical element is avoiding sin. The following was taken from:
Setting aside for a second that Dante’s Inferno eternal punishment is pretty hard to suss out of the Gospels, let’s just focus on who goes to hell and who doesn’t.
I will start with John. Of the Gospels, John is the one to emphasize belief as an essential component for salvation:
For 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. (John 3:16).
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31).
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, (John 1:12)
The list goes on. The Synoptics really don’t spend much time at all on this idea at all that salvation is had through belief. In fact, the word for miracle in John is different than the word for miracle in the Synoptics. In the Synoptics the word means “demonstration of power”, because miracles were often performed in order to illustrate Jesus’ authority or ability to resist sin. In John, they are “signs”, because they reveal who Jesus is so that one might believe. (The Bart Ehrman Blog Jesus’ Miracles in John and the Synoptics).
You won’t find this emphasis on belief anywhere in the Synoptics.
You also won’t find any mention of hell anywhere in John.
I can’t demonstrate negatives, so you’ll just have to read them with this lens if you don’t believe me.
John’s speaks of perishing as a result of unbelief. But this is hardly a synonym for hell as modern Christians believe it or the Synoptics depict.
Now let’s turn to the Synoptics, to see who actually goes to hell.
Matthew 25: 41-46 lists the Christian’s treatment of categories of societally marginalized individuals as a benchmark for hell, stating clearly that if you mistreat the hungry and thirsty, the immigrant, the destitute or the imprisoned you go to hell:
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Matthew 10:28 says:
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
This is in response to Jesus telling the disciples not to worry about the potential pushback from proselytizing. It has nothing to do with belief for salvation, and everything to do with trust God and being free of anxiety.
“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
Here it is for immoral behavior. The only thing that will save you? Being of the righteous.
Mark 9:42-28 talks starkly about hell:
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where
But once again, it is not for unbelief. Again, it is for immoral behavior as well as false doctrine.
Luke 16:19-31, the rich man goes to hell while the beggar goes to heaven:
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
I’ll assume that the rich man didn’t go to hell for being rich (though the text bears that out), but for not caring for the beggar at his gate.
Time and time again, hell is reserved for social injustice and impurity. And never once in any of the Synpotics does belief save you. In the Synoptics, it is always not doing the bad thing that let’s you dodge hell.
It seems that the unbelief/hell doctrine was based more on Paul’s letters than the gospels themselves. What this means is that Christian dogma regarding hell is in a state of confusion. If you read John, you assume that you must believe in Jesus to attain eternal life, but if you fail to do so, you will simply no longer exist (you perish). Reading the synoptic gospels causes you to assume that if you avoid doing terrible sins that you will achieve heaven and avoid hell, even if you don’t believe in Jesus as your savoir. This illustrates one of the reasons why the synoptics (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) do not belong under the same cover as John.
(2725) Luke embellishes the ascension story
It is a consensus view that the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. This is based on a similar salutation to Theophilus in each book and an identical writing style. Given that, it is interesting to see how the same person wrote about Jesus’ ascension to heaven in approximately 80 CE (Luke) and 90-100 CE (Acts).
In Luke, approximately one day after his resurrection, Jesus ascends into heaven as described by the following verses:
Luke 24: 50-53
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
In Acts the scene occurs 40 days after the resurrection and new details are added:
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
So in Acts, Jesus is around for 40 days instead of just 1 before leaving the planet, a cloud now plays a role in obscuring his ascending body from the view of the disciples, and an a couple of angels get a speaking role in the scene.
This is the same person writing about the same scene approximately 10-20 years apart. The added details might have been the result of Luke learning more about what happened, but because there were essentially no eyewitnesses still alive even when he wrote the gospel, it is unlikely that he would have received any additional reliable information in the 80-100 CE time frame. Much more likely, he was guilty of documenting an evolving mythical tradition, emblematic of the otherwise easy-to-detect trend of the Jesus story becoming more spectacular over time.
(2726) Jesus plays a game with signs
In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, but notably not in Mark or John, Jesus is seen to be condemning various cities for their failure to repent, despite the fact that he had performed ‘mighty works’ in them. Then, later on, in direct contradiction, he claims that he won’t personally provide any signs but that people would have to depend solely on the sign of Jonah.
Matthew 11: 20-24
Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.
It is unlikely that Jesus, as a god, would condemn cities as a whole instead of judging people individually. It would be like sending an entire family to prison because one of the parents and one of the children had violated the law. It simply doesn’t make sense.
Furthermore, the author of Matthew seemed to like the idea of Jesus concealing signs from the Jews to help explain why the Jews did not believe in Jesus. But, alternately, he also liked the idea of Jesus performing many signs for the Jews to make them guiltier for not believing in Jesus. He was playing both sides of the equation, as can be seen in the verses quoted above. This creates a great confusion- did Jesus want to provide signs to the Jews, or not? It seems he provided signs to some to make them more guilty and withheld signs from others so they wouldn’t be saved.
(2727) God’s trinity of personality disorders
The people who wrote the Bible clearly had no interest in making their god out to be a good ‘person.’ It seems that their primary motivation was to create a god that people feared, and loved only in the sense that it was a necessary response to alleviate that fear. The god they created possessed a synergistic set of three disorders that render him to be loathed by anyone with a sense of decency. The following was taken from:
Narcissistic personality disorder:
God is extremely narcissistic, every second of every day he wants you to praise him, worship him, and “he” wants you to know that everything around you was made by him, that he is the most intelligent, compassionate, powerful being to ever exist, and when you die and go to heaven that you will spend all eternity worshiping and praising him. If you ever question or go against his batshit ego or ways, or ever dare pop his bubble of narcissistic value, he will punish you with eternal torture.
God wants you to think that he is a loving, compassionate, and forgiving God, but he is far from it. In a blink of an eye God would simply send you to the depths of hell for all eternity just because you didn’t acknowledge his existence. He lets the world get soaked in poverty, war, and disease, families torn apart, children dying of hunger, none of this even slightly fazes him, and if he is so powerful he could end all the suffering, but he won’t because he has no conscience, and he enjoys watching people suffer and claims it’s all just a “test.”
God loves humiliating his enemies, he loves putting people through the most intense hardships of life, he wants to watch you cry and grieve, and he created hell, because he enjoys watching you suffer, he enjoys watching you burn, he will leave you to fry for all eternity, while he is worshiped by brainwashed submissive people.
It is difficult for a Christian to argue this diagnosis. “God is good, but it’s a mystery we don’t fully understand” is often the response. The secular view is that the intent of creating the Jewish god Yahweh was not to establish a model to teach people how to behave, but rather to provide a means for controlling them.
(2728) Forged letters present a problem
It is reasonable to expect that God would have taken an interest in persuading clerical leaders to choose the correct books to place in the Bible. Also, he would have wanted to make sure that the writers of the material were correctly identified. If these premises are correct, then the Bible faces a multitude of problems. One in particular is the New Testament letters that were fraudulently ascribed to Paul. The reason this is important is that extra weight should be applied to what he wrote and less weight to those we don’t know. The following was taken from:
It seems reasonable that the word of God cannot be based on a lie. The following books in the New Testament are considered to be forgeries.
1 & 2 Peter
According to Acts 4:13, Peter is a fisherman who was agrammatoi, a Greek word that literally means “unlettered,” that is, “illiterate.”
The books of 1 & 2 Peter is written by a highly literate, highly educated, Greek-speaking Christian who is intimately familiar with the Jewish Scriptures in their Greek translation, the Septuagint.
Scholars have pointed out that in the hundred or so sentences in Ephesians, 9 of them are over 50 words in length. Compare this with Paul’s own letters. Philippians, for example, has 102 sentences, only 1 of which is over 50 words; Galatians has 181 sentences, again with only 1 over 50 words. The book also has an inordinate number of words that don’t otherwise occur in Paul’s writings, 116 altogether, well higher than average (50 percent more than Philippians, for example).
The differences between this letter and Paul’s writings are striking and compelling. Here are examples:
How often the letter uses “adversative conjunctions” (e.g., “although”): Galatians, 84 times; Philippians, 52; 1 Thessalonians, 29; Colossians, only 8.
How often the letter uses causal conjunctions (e.g., “because”): Galatians, 45 times; Philippians, 20; 1 Thessalonians, 31; Colossians, only 9.
How often the letter uses a conjunction (e.g., “that,” “as”) to introduce a statement: Galatians, 20 times; Philippians, 19; 1 Thessalonians, 11; Colossians, only 3.
The Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, & Titus)
There are 848 different words used in the pastoral letters. Of that number 306—over one-third of them—do not occur in any of the other Pauline letters of the New Testament. That’s an inordinately high number; especially given the fact that about two-thirds of these 306 words are used by Christian authors living in the second century. That suggests that this author is using a vocabulary that was becoming more common after the days of Paul, and that he lived much later than Paul.
This problem causes confusion because it is unknown if an author pretending to be Paul should be given a measure of authority. There are two approaches- to eliminate the forgeries from the Bible or simply not quote them, or to assume that God was OK with forgeries as long as they presented sound doctrine. Most Christians will choose the latter approach, though, still, it presents God as having participated in an avoidable instance of imperfection.
(2729) A movie director’s nightmare
Imagine a director making a movie that includes the scene of Jesus’ resurrection. He is approached by four co-producers. The first tells him to make sure that the scene is consistent with the Gospel of Mark. The second says the same about the Gospel of Matthew. The third and fourth, the same about Luke and John. He studies the relevant gospel passages, throws up his hands, and quits. The following was taken from:
Mark: Mary and Salome go to the tomb. They see the stone has already been rolled away. They saw a young man in a white robe sitting inside the tomb who told them that Jesus is risen, and to tell everyone. They ran away and didn’t tell anyone, because they were afraid.
Luke: “The women” went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Suddenly, TWO men in white appeared to them and said that Jesus was risen, and to tell the others. The women ran back and told the disciples, who did not believe. But Peter ran back to the tomb and saw that it was empty. Jesus later appeared seven miles away to two men, who did not recognize him until he rebuked them.
Matthew: Mary and the other Mary go to the tomb. Suddenly, when they arrive, they see an angel of the Lord come down with a great earthquake and roll the stone away. The guards are so frightened that they collapsed. The angel tells them that Jesus is risen, and to go tell the disciples. They then bump into the resurrected Jesus on the way back. They grabbed his feet and worshipped him. Jesus tells them to go tell the others.
John: Mary went to the tomb, alone, and found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. She ran back and told John and Peter, who rushed to the tomb and found it empty. They departed, and Mary remained outside the tomb crying. Two angels then appeared and asked her why she was crying. Then she turned and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognize him, mistaking him for a gardener. She asked him where he put the body of Jesus. Then Jesus said “Mary”, and she recognized him. Jesus told them not to touch him, because he had not yet ascended to the father. Jesus told her to go tell the others.
(2730) Modern-day Ten Commandments
If people were to invent a religion today similar to what happened 2500 years ago in the Middle East, it is certain that there would be a lot of differences. Much progress has been made over that time in understanding the nature of our existence and in creating a fairer, more compassionate sense of justice. In the following, a good estimate is made of what a modern-day Ten Commandments would look like:
I have been helped by reading and trying to incorporate the commands and/or language used from other attempts to better the Ten Commandments, as suggested by Bertrand Russell, Christopher Hitchens, Valerie Tarico, David Madison (in his chapter for my anthology The Case Against Miracles), the Seven Satanic Precepts, and a few I wrote in my book How to Defend The Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist.
By doing this I am suggesting God was ignorant, incompetent and inconsiderate when he gave us his ten big ones! Had he given my suggested commands instead, he would have saved untold numbers of lives, immensely decreased the amount of suffering in the world, and exponentially increased human knowledge, and with it produced a safer, healthier world to live in.
Criticisms and suggestions are appreciated.
1) You should not prohibit the freedom of conscience, the freedom of expression, the freedom of assembly, or allow taxation without representation. Every single adult should have a voice in their government by voting for representatives who must answer to the voters who elected them, or be voted out of office.
2) You must treat every human being with the utmost dignity they deserve by treating them as they want to be treated, including the mentally and physically handicapped, and those who are blind, speech impaired or hearing impaired. This means you should not harass, oppress, enslave, or beat into submission anyone anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances, especially for the express purpose of slavery. You must be truthful, keep your promises, legal obligations, and oaths in court. You must not defraud others, or steal from them, or murder them.
3) You should not treat women as inferior to men, nor shall you rape them, or force them to marry, or commit adultery, or kill them if they dishonor you, but rather treat them with equal respect and dignity as equally valued members of society with equal rights and equal privileges afforded to men.
4) Raise your children in love who should be taught to respect their parents and elders. Do not molest them, or beat them into submission, or treat them as mere commodities, or as hired hands, or treat them badly in any way. Teach them to love others and respect this world and care for the environment. Teach them to value truth and objective evidence in the pursuit of truth, by modeling it in your own life with patient admonition, instruction and loving kindness.
5) You should not despise, discriminate against, condemn, torture, or kill witches, or people who have a different gender, or different sexual orientation, or race, or religious faith, or no faith at all.
6) You should not engage in wars to spread the influence of your religion, or to gain converts, or territory, power, fame, goods, money, women, or to assume I’m on your side if do, even if you must defend yourselves from the aggressors.
7) You should wash your hands before eating, and boil the drinking water that has been defiled by pollution. What you think and do should always conform to the best scientific understandings of the world.
8) Do not discourage honest questions, or answers based on objective evidence, nor feel absolutely certain about the conclusions you’ve reached. Instead, think exclusively in terms of the probabilities based on the strength of the objective evidence.
9) You should not abuse animals, trap them, raise them in intensive factory farms, hunt them just for their furs or tusks, or needlessly experiment on them.
10) Renounce any god or any religion that contains inspired writings or holy oracles that oppose or reject any of the above commandments.
There can be no doubt which set of commandments reveals a greater depth of wisdom, understanding, and insight. Any Bible-believing person should question why God did such a poor job inscribing his commands for humankind, missing an opportunity to place humanity on a safer, healthier, and more peaceful and compassionate trajectory.
(2731) Criterion of embarrassment
Christian apologists often use what is termed the ‘criterion of embarrassment’ to add evidential weight to the truth of Jesus’s resurrection. The concept is that a made-up story would likely not include elements that make it seem untrue. In the case of the resurrection, women are the first to make the discovery of the empty tomb. Since women’s testimony at that time carried less weight than men’s, this suggests that the gospel writers were most likely being truthful because they were making what would amount to an unnecessary concession if they were simply writing fiction. There are problems with this line of reasoning. The following was taken from:
Using the criterion of embarrassment, Christians claim that women discovering the empty tomb was embarrassing and thus was not invented by the authors of the New Testament.
First, the criterion of embarrassment is not accepted by all historians as valid. It is used extensively in New Testament studies but not in other areas of study in history. One reason is that people can invent embarrassing teachings to ensure they attract people who are strongly devoted to their religion and demanding people believe embarrassing stories is a good test of faith.
Second, while the testimony of women might not have been accepted in court it was accepted in other areas of life. According to the New Testament, the testimony of a woman was able to convert many people in a town to Christianity.
“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” – John 4:39
Third, it was the job of women at the time to take care of the dead body. Therefore, if you are going to invent a story about the empty tomb you must ensure women are playing the role to make your invented story acceptable.
Pastor Tim Keller: “It was quite a nasty thing to do. It was a cadaver, it was a dead body, it probably stank, it was incredibly unpleasant. So who did it? Slaves and women. Men, respectable men, never did something like this.”
Another reason to doubt the evidential value of this criterion is to conjecture that the person who wrote the Gospel of Mark (later copied by Matthew and Luke) understood the idea that if he wrote that women were the first discoverers of the resurrection, then later readers would use the embarrassment concept to enhance the apparent veracity of his story. In other words, he might have thought ‘if I make women as the first to see the empty tomb, it will seem like I am not making this up.’ In summary, the criterion of embarrassment is a worthless apologetic strategy.
(2732) Listening to the silence
Living in the din of everyday life, Christians often fail to ‘hear’ the silence that emanates from their imagined deity. ‘Listening’ to this silence is often the first step someone takes in suspecting that the god they have been told to worship does not exist. The following was taken from:
As I sit here writing these very words, I’m listening to what many Christian would consider being New Age music, drinking a wonderful and refreshing alcoholic beverage, and talking with friends on Facebook about burning incense for calming and meditative purposes.
What a journey I have been through, to end where I am now.
I remember praying earnestly and sincerely to god that I wouldn’t lose my faith. That my faith would continue to grow by leaps and bounds, that my entire life would be in devotion and loving sacrifice to him.
I remember soaking up the bible and then similarly forcing it down other’s throats. I remember speaking in a crazy mumbo-jumbo and calling it the purest form of prayer – tongues. I remember being convinced by my old church, believing whole heartedly, that Dinosaur bones were planted by Satan to draw people from the truth of Christianity.
I remember hearing at the pulpit what to wear, what to do, what to listen to, what to say, how to pray, how to worship, and how to go about my life in a service of devotion to god; but, at the same time, being told I could never measure up to this god that I was devoting my entire life to.
I remember being told how within me there was nothing good. That I was deemed for an eternity in hell unless I gave my life to Jesus. That at the very core I was sinful, but god died for me anyway. That I could never measure up to the standards of god, but should try anyway.
Most of all, I remember two times I needed my god most, the two times I whole-heartedly stepped out in faith and utter believe, were indeed the two most atrocious times in my life to date.
I remember being on the floor of my dorm room: crying, shaking, and calling out for help while hugging my worn bible like a comforting teddy bear.
I remember the silence.
There was nothing from god. When I needed him most, there was utter silence.
This is when something broke inside of me. It was my faith being broken, the beliefs that I held for years that suddenly came crashing down, like the crack of a whip.
I remember the silence.
The silence: of those people who wanted nothing more to do with me, once I had nothing to offer. The silence: of those people whom I had once loved, and entrusted my entire life with. The people worshipping, praying, and serving a church that turned away when I needed encouragement and love the most.
A church that told me this was exactly where god wanted me.
If god wanted me: broken, suffering, with no confidence, depressed, full of anxiety, fearful, lost in the world, and suicidal – he received it.
I made the conscious decision to step away from the lies and the road to death. I stepped into the light.
My purpose now?
Truth, happiness, joy, love, peace, courage, honor, fun, respect, tolerance, respect, and to live life to the fullest.
So god…thanks for the silence.
If someone told you that a dog lives in the backyard next door, but you have never seen it, and, even more importantly, you have never even heard it barking, then it is likely that you would have some doubts about what you were told. This is the situation with the Christian god. His silence is the best evidence of his non-existence.
(2733) Hell and geography
Humans have for a long time dreamed up ways in which evil people will be punished after they die. There is good reason to believe that these imaginary torture settings are a function of where they live and the climate to which they are subjected. The following was taken from:
Hell in Norse mythology was imagined as a cold, dark, and misty place instead of a hot and fiery place of torment. While People in Middle East, a desert, imagined hell as a hot place. People in Scandinavia, an extremely cold region, imagined hell as a cold place.
Niflheim, Old Norse Niflheimr, in Norse mythology, the cold, dark, misty world of the dead, ruled by the goddess Hel. In some accounts it was the last of nine worlds, a place into which evil men passed after reaching the region of death (Hel).
It really goes to show how abstract thinking and one’s notion of the afterlife are strongly tied to the geographic origin of said myth.
Now every time a Christian tells me I am going to burn in hell I can tell them they are going to freeze in Niflheim.
Anytime theological beliefs are a function of local conditions, customs, or, in this case, climate, we can be assured that we are not dealing with a universal deity. Instead we are witnessing an ejaculation of human imagination.
(2734) Faith in hearsay
Most Christians are blissfully unaware that the faith that supports their belief is rooted in hearsay- what others have written or have told them. This type of evidence would be insufficient for them to believe any other claim. The following was taken from:
Christian, your faith is not really in god and Jesus. Your faith is really in those men who wrote those ancient texts that now comprise the Bible. Now I’m not going to ask you to believe anything without providing evidence; I wouldn’t insult your intelligence that way. But let me show you the other side of this “faith” coin.
Let me repeat my thesis; your faith is really in those men who wrote those ancient texts. This is a very important point which, I’ll wager, you have never seriously analyzed. As you well know, you learned about god and Jesus from another human who told you about them. God and Jesus did not just appear to you. Someone told you about them, and you may have learned more by reading about them in the Bible and other books. This is what our courts call hearsay evidence, which can be defined as “evidence based not on a witness’ personal knowledge but on another’s statement.” It’s all about what other people have said or written. There’s nothing out in the world that we can all see together or test with instruments and come to the same conclusions about (this is why there have been so many gods claimed to exist). It is vitally important that you recognize that all anyone today really “knows” about god or Jesus is based on what was written by primitive people that you never met and know almost nothing about.
Neither god nor Jesus has ever shown himself to you directly in an unambiguous way. You may have had feelings, but feelings are just emotions and the only thing emotions can prove is that you’re human. When the Muslim says he has felt the presence of Mohamed, are you convinced? Couldn’t it just be a shot of adrenaline in his brain that caused his skin to tingle and the hairs on his neck to rise? Couldn’t that explain your feelings just as well? Could the Muslim suicide bomber blow himself up if he didn’t have convincing feelings? Yet, you know for certain that the Muslim is wrong about Allah and Mohamed.
You may argue that you have a “relationship” with Jesus. But how does one have a relationship with a being who has never acknowledged your existence? Have you actually seen him? Has he talked to you or left you a phone message? Is that really a relationship? Isn’t that pretty much the same kind of “relationship” I had with Marilyn Monroe when I was a teenage boy?
All you have learned about god and Jesus comes directly or indirectly from the Bible. Now how do you know these Biblical authors were telling the truth? How could you? They wrote about things that supposedly happened thousands of years ago; things that left little or no archaeological evidence, no confirmation by unbiased contemporary historians, and there are no photos, film, or DNA. And don’t just read apologist literature to prove I’m wrong here, read the other side too. You must know that the apologists only see what they want to see and ignore the rest.
And what do you really know about these Bible writers and the quality of their testimony? Can you be sure that they weren’t just drunk or eating mushrooms, or schizophrenic, prone to epileptic visions, delusional, or simply con men seeking power and influence? Do you really know for sure? How could you?
Yes, I’ve heard the story that Jesus’ disciples were willing to die for him, so that proves he was the real thing. This is really a silly argument. Jim Jones’ followers in Guyana were so convinced he was a genuine prophet that they drank the Kool-Aid. Does this make him a prophet? History is full of examples of people willing to die for things that weren’t true.
You are perfectly aware that these authors wrote some incredibly unlikely stories about things that you wouldn’t believe if you read about them in any other book. You would not believe that knowledge of good and evil could reside in a piece of fruit if you read it in any other book. And if you think those stories weren’t meant to be taken literally, then how do you know that for sure? The Bible itself never provides a clue except on those few occasions when Jesus announces he’s going to discuss a parable. And if those other wild Bible stories are just metaphors, then how can you be sure that the Resurrection was not also meant metaphorically – or heaven and hell, for that matter? Was Jesus just a metaphor? And what about god?
Obviously, everybody will draw the fact-fiction lines in different places if the Bible is full of metaphor. How could a god actually teach the facts, the truth that way? Isn’t that why there are so many different Christian sects, because everyone makes his own determination of what’s real and what’s metaphor, and what’s important and what’s not? Why would a god leave so much up for interpretation about stuff that’s vitally important, even life and death important? Wouldn’t that be rather careless for a god? Doesn’t all this suggest pretty strongly that men wrote this stuff all on their own? Wouldn’t a real god have done a much better, much clearer job of it?
If you take the Bible stories literally, then how do you hold down the doubts? Those writers wrote about talking animals and magical fruit trees and food falling from the sky and dragons and unicorns and 900 year-old men. How can you read of such things and not have serious doubts about the accuracy of those authors? Why do we never see any of these amazing things today? Did the world used to be full of magic and now it’s not? If god used these awesome signs to convince people in those ancient times, then why does he expect us to just take these writers at their word for them? If god thought he needed to show those primitive people signs, then wouldn’t it be pretty unfair of him to expect us much better educated, more skeptical people to just believe without any signs?
And surely you know that some of the things they wrote have been proven to be scientifically wrong or impossible. For example, they wrote that the world is flat (Daniel 4:10-11), but we now have pictures that prove it’s a sphere. They wrote that the earth is fixed, didn’t move (1 Chronicles 16:30), but we now know the earth moves very fast as it orbits the sun. The Bible authors wrote that all those tiny points of light called stars would someday fall to the earth, but they’re billions of objects which are all vastly bigger than the earth. They wrote that disease is caused by demons. We have since proven that disease is caused by microorganisms, congenital defects, or toxic chemicals. They wrote, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree (22 Matthew 13:31-32).” We now know many other plant’s seeds, such as orchids, are smaller, and shrubs do not grow into trees. They also wrote about 4-legged fowl (there never were any) and rusting gold and silver (they don’t rust – never have).
These writers were obviously very ignorant about how the world really works. Isn’t it likely that they made stuff up to fill the gaps in their knowledge? In fact, haven’t we just proven that they did so, given their theories of the flat, immovable earth, tiny stars, 4-legged birds, etc.?
Of course, the Bible says you just have to have faith. But, if someone says to you, “Just take my word for it,” aren’t you suspicious? Shouldn’t you be? Doesn’t that suggest pretty strongly that he can’t make a very good case for whatever he’s selling? Don’t you suspect that he might be hiding something? This is the same tactic used to fill the mosques and Hindu places of worship, you know; people are told, “You just have to have faith.” Does it really make sense to you that a god created human intelligence and curiosity, but wants you to just shut it off when it comes to religion?
Everything that has been said or written about god or Jesus in the past 2,000 years and more is based on the writings of these ancient, unknown primitives. EVERYTHING! You see, your faith ultimately depends on these writers, one-hundred percent. Your faith is not really in god and Jesus, your faith is in these anonymous scribes and the hope that they were telling you the facts, the real truth about things. If they were wrong, then so are you. How can you have so much faith in people you never knew, people who may have been utterly whacko or devious, people who have, in fact, been proven to be wrong about so much? That is a faith with a pretty shaky foundation, isn’t it? What did those writers do to deserve such trust from you? Shouldn’t you think about this some more?
The human brain is highly vulnerable to religious claims, needing very little low-quality evidence to embrace them. Any other ancient book written by unknown people and littered with thousands of magical tales would be thoroughly dismissed by these same religious believers.
(2735) Churches do not exhibit supernaturalism
There are a good number of Christians who are on the lookout for signs of the supernatural, such that they can bolster their faith in Christianity. Often they delude themselves into thinking they have detected such, but, unanimously, upon further examination, natural explanation suffice. In the following, a pastor describes how he determined that the Christian world is natural, but not super:
The Christian faith is supposed to be supernatural.
Experiencing a new birth through Jesus is supernatural.
Being made a new person by having Jesus and the Holy Spirit living inside you is supernatural.
Talking to the creator of the universe and believing he hears, answers, guides, and changes things is supernatural.
Accepting the Bible’s teaching that we are surrounded by an unseen spiritual world involved in a spiritual battle is supernatural.
Having faith that God will show you the special plan he has for your life is supernatural.
Believing that everything happens for a reason is supernatural.
After living and leading in the church for decades, I saw no consistent evidence of an ongoing supernatural presence—and I wanted to see that evidence with all that was in me.
I found a rather simple test for the presence of supernatural power in church congregations. One of the predominant characteristics of any non-supernatural volunteer organization is expressed by the 80/20 Rule. The 80/20 Rule holds that roughly 20% of the people will accomplish about 80% of the work. As it turns out, this 80/20 estimate works well for any Christian congregation. Ask any minister from any denomination.
A faithful few do most of the work and give most of the money. If the church were truly a supernatural organization, shouldn’t we expect a different standard—a dramatically higher percentage of hard-working and involved members than the norm for any other volunteer organization, religious or not? Otherwise, churches are not super, just natural.
Observing the behavior of church members led me to stop believing that Christians are supernaturally changed by a new birth experience when they pray the commitment prayer to Jesus.
An oft memorized verse from the New Testament states, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (1 Corinthians 5:17, King James Version). Conversion is a point-in-time rebirth that, by its very nature, is supposed to instigate dramatic, supernatural change. Otherwise, what does “new creature” mean?
Another hint that nothing supernatural is happening can be seen in the consistent failures of congregations to agree on how God is leading them. Born-again believers can talk to God and sense his leadership. A large aspect of prayer is “seeking an answer from the Lord.”
Now take a group of these born-again, new creatures in Christ—to whom God is giving directions and guidance for day-to-day life—put them in a small church and wait. Eventually, they will get into a disagreement about something. Sometimes, they will work it out, but often, no matter how much prayer has taken place, one group will get angry and leave to start another congregation. Wait a little longer, and the process will repeat—over and over and over—that’s why there are thousands of Christian denominations.
How can individuals who are supposedly connected to the same God—changed by him, talking and listening to him, and using the same book he has provided for guidance—be so at odds with each other so often?
Ironically, over time, as a pastor, I became most uncomfortable with church members who were absolutely certain that God was speaking directly to them—people who believed God regularly guided them to an open parking space at the mall or occasionally heard God whisper some snippet of special insight they were supposed to share with me so I could act on it. Too often these individuals seemed to be a little off-kilter, while those who didn’t take the concept of God speaking to them quite so seriously—and who typically practiced faith with a measure of moderation—seemed more normal, sane, and safe. Faith was supposed to function in direct proportion to how much of it you exercised, but too much “faith” could backfire and cause someone to seem “a little off.”
It was in noting patterns like these that I ceased believing that Jesus and the Holy Spirit inhabit Christians as a supernatural source of spiritual power. And, I wasn’t just looking at the lives of the people I served, I was also looking at myself—painfully aware of my own failures.
What I saw in churches over the years required no supernatural explanation. Yes, good things happened. Yes, a healthy church is an excellent place to find people who are working hard to be good, to do good, and to help others. But you don’t need anything supernatural to explain it.
I had to admit to myself that most of the Christians I knew, like everyone else, were shaped by genes, childhood experiences and training, education, mental health issues, and cultural norms more than by praying to receive Jesus as lord and savior. In addition, if I appraised the church without the supernatural component, everything fell into place more easily and made more sense than it did when I had—repeatedly—worked to view it as something driven by supernatural power from God.
I had spent more than five decades trying to impose a primitive, oversimplified view of existence on a very complicated world. Ironically, life became simpler when I let go of my faith-driven perspective, and with a rational mindset, embraced life’s complexity.
I now understood that sometimes movements and organizations work, but not for the stated reasons. In the church, positive acts and positive feelings are powered by the energy and mutual support of the church’s human members, not by a supernatural force.
The way Christian churches operate provides convincing evidence that a supernatural being is not involved in the process. When churches conduct their business in a manner indistinguishable from secular entities, it suggests that they are being run by humans and nobody else.
(2736) The ‘we’ passages of Acts
There is an intriguing situation in the Book of Acts, where, out of nowhere, starting in Chapter 16 and repeating intermittently until Chapter 28, the author inserts statements referring to the pronoun ‘we.’ Christian apologists are fond of claiming that this indicates that the author was a direct witness to the events and thus that it represents a first-person account. In actuality, the use of the ‘we’ pronoun tells us the opposite- by not defining who ‘we’ is, and by reference to other similar authorial tactics, it can be asserted that this technique was used as an artificial way to masquerade authenticity, giving us evidence that instead renders the accounts less believable. The following was taken from:
Back to Acts 16: Verse 10 has sparked considerable interest because it introduces the “we” sections in Acts (16:10–17; 20:5–15; 21:1–18; 27:1–37; 28:1-16). Could it be that these represent recollections of someone traveling with Paul? It turns out it’s not that simple:
“It is sometimes argued that the ‘we’ passages (portions of Acts where the author inexplicably switches from third person to first person plural and back again, without ever explaining why, or who ‘we’ are) indicate an actual source. Some even argue these prove the author was an actual companion of Paul, but few scholars believe that’s likely—it isn’t what the author himself ever says, yet it was standard practice of the time to say so, if that is what the author to be understood.
“But fabricating a fictional narrative using ‘I’ or ‘we’ is already evident in the pre-Christian book of Jubilees, a made-up rewrite of OT history adapted from Genesis, passed off as a revelation given directly to Moses, even though it was actually composed around the second or third century BCE. So the motif has an established precedent in historical fiction. A more famous model for writing fiction in the first person is the Odyssey of Homer…” (Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus, p. 361)
Just like how the Shakespearean trope of ‘he who protesteth too much’ indicates guilt, the use of an established scheme of historical fiction indicates a writer who is not being truthful. Of course, there are many other features of the Book of Acts that telegraph it’s a work of fiction, but this just adds one more element to the list.
(2737) Divine hiddenness
One inescapable failure of Christianity is that its fundamental structure of judging humans for afterlife sentencing is logically faulty. It simply does not add up to a reasonable or fair system of justice- unless major concessions are made concerning the characteristics of God, something most Christians would find unacceptable. The following was taken from:
The version of the divine hiddenness problem that I am using is based on the following premises:
1) God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent
2) God cares about the wellbeing and salvation of every human soul and wants to maximize the number of people who freely choose to accept his gift of salvation.
3) Belief, faith, or trust that Jesus was God and that he died for our sins has some impact on a person’s prospects for salvation.
4) There are some people who try their best to be Christians, but upon honestly evaluating the available evidence to the best of their ability, they wind up concluding that God probably doesn’t exist.
The problem is that it’s not possible for all 4 of these premises to be true. This is because if God wanted people to be saved, and believing in Jesus was important to salvation, he would provide everyone with a reasonable basis for at least thinking that God likely exists. This is because belief that God exists is obviously a prerequisite for believing the story of Jesus. So I think Christians in order to answer the problem of divine hiddenness must claim that one of these premises is false.
I haven’t heard of many Christians willing to give up premise 1, although it would certainly allow for the other premises to all be true if 1 were false. But this isn’t a good answer from the Christian point of view.
Some Christians are happy to say that premise 2 is false. I think Calvinists would fall into this category. If God only cares about the salvation of some people (such as the elect in Calvinism) then the other premises can all be true. But many Christians have a strong conviction that God wants everyone to be saved and therefore spreading the gospel and saving souls is what God wants them to do. Some might also say that if premise 2 is false then God isn’t really omnibenevolent (though I acknowledge that omnibenevolence is not a well-defined concept).
Some Christians are also happy to say that premise 3 is false, and in this regard I am thinking of Christians who believe that everyone goes to heaven no matter what they believe. I have spoken to Christians who hold this view. But this would be a problem for many Christians who believe that faith in Jesus is either required or beneficial in some way in terms of achieving salvation. These Christians would also probably point to bible passages that teach the importance of faith in Jesus and accepting his sacrifice on the cross as being necessary for salvation.
And finally there are some Christian who would deny premise 4, usually on the basis of the Apostle Paul’s claim in Romans 1 that everyone knows God exists, but some people due to their own wickedness claim not to believe. The problem is that denying premise 4 means you are denying something that is evidently true in the reality we are all able to observe. There are countless numbers of people (just go to r/exchristian if you want to hear their stories first hand) who were Christians, but upon their honest evaluation to the best of their abilities were forced to conclude that God probably isn’t real. These are people who were praying to God to give them any reason to believe he’s real, who have a vested interest in wanting God to be real, but their evaluation of the evidence led them to a different conclusion. There are also many people (like myself) who were not raised Christians, but would love for Christianity to be true and would happily become a Christian if there were any reasonable basis for thinking it were true. To deny that any such people exist would be alleging a vast silent conspiracy of millions of people who secretly all believe God exists but who are all acting and saying otherwise. I realize that for some Christians reality denial is not a problem (eg. flat earth, Noah’s ark, young earth creationism, etc.) so they will happily say premise 4 is false. But many Christians do place value on evidence and would have trouble denying a premise that is so evidently true.
As can be seen, there is no logical path for reconciling all of the claims of Christianity into a narrative that most people would find consistent and fair. There is something wrong here. The most obvious conclusion is that either the god of Christianity does not exist or that his playbook is not accurately described by conventional Christian dogma.
(2737) Yahweh and Satan’s hostage crisis
Christianity paints a ridiculous scenario where two deities (let’s be real) are fighting to win the soul of every earthly inhabitant. Yahweh is supposedly more powerful than Satan, but to be ‘sporting’ he gives Satan some space to work his devilish deeds. Everyone becomes an unwilling hostage in this scenario that produces a jaw-dropping guffaw that any intelligent mind could believe this makes sense. The following was taken from:
I am now an unwilling hostage in a fight between two deities. And why have I been set apart for this? Because once upon a time, a man and a woman once ate from a magic tree thanks to a serpent possessed by the devil (somehow) tricking the woman into eating from it. This god tells me that Eve disobeyed his order (despite god allowing the serpent to be there in the first place AND recklessly allowing the tree of knowledge to be within reach of his creation) and that because of her disobedience the world was cursed to evil, including its inhabitants. I must pay the price for her sin. But instead of using its own free will to forgive its creation and understanding that descendants can’t be guilty for someone’s crime, it decides to fix it by sending its own child (who is himself) into a virgin women to be born, perform some miracles, and preach to people before being killed for our “sins”, only to be dead for a weekend, descend to hell to rescue lost souls, before coming back to life to declare that it is the son of god, and go back to heaven to rule forever. If I want to be saved from the devil’s fire, I must accept the authority of the son of god as sovereign because of a single conversation in a magical garden. And that because of this outrageous scenario, I must choose unwillingly between heaven and hell, neither of which I get to see with my own eyes until after I return to the same nonexistence I sat in for millions of years before I was born. For generations, this process of unwilling captivity of human souls will persist until god’s bloodlust is finally satisfied and his ego is fully stroked.
If you are a believer, you must accept the above story without question. You must accept that you have been sent right into a cosmic fight between these two otherworldly forces negotiating your eternal fate, unwillingly. And that without plausible explanation, an innocent man had to be killed to allowed you and millions of others atonement. And that in exchange for this security, you must be willing to terrorize children with horrific descriptions of eternal torture, hate gays and lesbians for their sexual immorality, consider women inferior to men, and defend a god who sanctioned genocide, slavery, rape, blood sacrifice, and a promise of seven years of bloodshed, torture by the Antichrist, disease and disaster before destroying earth and its inhabitants, but not before re-establishing his “chosen” nation of Israel and creating a New Jerusalem in The Book Of Revelations (never how a god who created an entire galaxy has one chosen nation and one chosen people.)
I am no longer a Christian because I am no longer allowing myself to be considered a hostage or a slave to either to Jesus or Satan, nor to their respective creator, Yahweh. I don’t consider myself a retched creature who was born in filth and sickness thanks to the sin of Adam and Eve, I am a million to one chance of evolutionary biology whom nature selected to win his shot at discovering the universe as it is. I am not a hostage to gods, I am a human being who was born without debt. I declare myself free from tyranny, because my mind belongs to me. And it feels so good to be free.
There can be no more comprehensive feeling of freedom than for a former Christian to realize that all of the bullshit is just that. Humans are free to chart their own path through life without paying obeisance to a dictatorial deity who spies on them, hides from them, throws an evil force at them (just for fun), and then judges them for using their intellect in a manner consistent with every other decision process they encounter in their lifetime. It is time for humans to refuse to be a hostage in this imaginary game.
(2739) John the Baptist geography problems
In Mark, we learn about the location that John the Baptist was baptizing people, purportedly to prepare the way for the arrival of Jesus as the savior:
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
The Jordan River, seen below as the blue line on the right side of the map lies about 20 miles east of Jerusalem, but the road to get there was through Jericho, making the journey approximately 25 miles from Jerusalem. This terrain is a hilly desert, so getting there by foot would have required at least a 12-hour effort. To say ‘all the people of Jerusalem went out to him’ is obviously a huge exaggeration. It certainly could not have been a simple day trip since it would have required a lot of water, food, and overnight tenting equipment at the least. Even if accommodations could have been accessed in Jericho, it would have been a 10-mile round trip to the river and back from there. The last mile to the river would have been over many hills. Overall, the journey for a Jerusalem resident would have been daunting.
The writer of the Gospel of John made a significant error in describing the location where John the Baptist was operating:
This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
As can be seen on the map, Bethany was very close (2 miles) to Jerusalem and nowhere near the Jordan River, and certainly not on the ‘other side’ of it. The following was taken from:
The manuscript evidence indicates the city was Bethany which a majority of Christian translations have. The problem is that Bethany was a suburb of Jerusalem and would not be on the other side of the Jordan from Jerusalem. Relatively early Christians such as Origen testify that there was not and never had been a Bethany on the “other” side. Subsequent manuscripts altered the name of the city to try and fix this problem. Apparently John the Baptist not only didn’t know who he was, he also did not know where he was.
The gospel authors made many other geographical mistakes in their work, but this one showed a lack of understanding of the ardors that people would have faced making such a long trek over desert terrain. It is possible that the author of John realized this and relocated John the Baptist in Bethany, an easy trip for Jerusalem residents, but then he made the mistake of relocating Bethany on the eastern shore of the Jordan River. All of this lessens the likelihood that the stories of John the Baptist reflect accurate history.
(2740) The bridge collapse analogy
When engineers design a bridge they are tasked with predicting service and weather conditions, and applying a factor of safety. If the bridge collapses, the engineers are taken to task for a faulty design. God can be seen as an engineer who is tasked with making contact with humans and to ensure that each person gets an equal opportunity to respond favorably to his message. Like the bridge above, God’s plan has collapsed. The following is taken from:
Ask yourself, “Why are religions predominately popular based upon geographic locations?”In North America you will find Christianity as the predominate religion, in Saudi Arabia it’s Islam, in India it’s Hinduism, etc. Please make note that there is no such thing as a singular monolithic belief system within the above-mentioned religions, but many variations of the religions that we can call subsets. With all this in mind ask yourself, “How can people know with reasonable certainty they are born into or talked into the “one true religion”?”
Are we all fated by an accident of birth to make our way through life? All the while there is only “one true religion” that is indicative of a Creator’s or Creators’ plan for us and must we search through the pages of every religious book to make sure we are in the “one true religion”?
If we hear or see this “one true religion” how can we distinguish it from other “false religions”? What method do we use to make this determination? If you are a believer in any god or gods or subscribe to any religious views have you ever asked yourself these questions? If not, please ask yourself, “Why is this the case?”
Now ask yourself, “Why is there religious diversity at all?” If there were one true Creator or Creators, then would not there be only one religion? Wouldn’t a responsible Creator or Creators make sure that everyone understood this divine plan? Why do religions blame humans for a poorly designed plan that does not do what a Creator or Creators intended it to do? If the plan is that all people be saved, then why aren’t all people saved?
If a bridge collapses, do bridge designers blame the pedestrians that walk on the bridge? Shouldn’t the blame, if there be any, be hoisted upon the designers of the bridge itself? Especially if the result of the failure was a poor job of engineering? Many legal experts would reply with a big, “Yes!” If this is the case, ask yourself, “Why is it that Divine Creator’s or Creators that supposedly have knowledge and abilities far beyond humans are not being held responsible for their designs or plans for failing?” Ironically, many religious people will talk all about the value of personal responsibility but will excuse their Creator or Creators from taking personal responsibility for the lack of insight. Why the *double standard?
Humans doing something irresponsible equals bad and perhaps deserving some punishment. A god or gods do something irresponsible equals them being given excuses or a pass from theists. There are professional apologists (defenders of a belief) that exist solely for this purpose.
If there is a god, his effort to make himself known to humanity has completely failed. The bridge he designed connecting divine to mortal has collapsed in a sea of confusion. This lets us know that we are dealing either with an incompetent celestial engineer, or one that exists only in the imagination of superstitious people.
(2741) Flash episodes of atheism
Even devout Christians face brief moments of doubt when, for example, a prayer goes unanswered, an atrocity occurs, or when something happens in a way that seems counter-productive to the glory of God. One of the most recent examples is the failure of U.S. President Trump to be re-elected despite the claims of an overwhelming number of Christians that he had been purposefully selected by God to lead the nation. The church has defensive methods on call ready to assuage these doubts and to bring the person back to a state of total belief. The following was taken from:
I’m pretty sure that even the most devout Christians experience flash episodes of atheism; that is, they see for a few moments, with clarity, that God doesn’t exist. One of the most famous of these flash episodes actually made the news some years ago. In March 1996, a gunman massacred 16 kids and their teacher at a school in Dunblane, Scotland. The United Kingdom was stunned, and in the days following thousands of flowers were placed as a memorial outside the school. One bouquet was accompanied by a Teddy Bear, with a note attached: “Wednesday, 13 March 1996—the day God overslept.” (Reported in the New York Times, 23 March 1996.)
Maybe it was a believer who had written the note, stunned into disbelief by the horror of it all; “God overslept” is a way of saying that God just wasn’t there. We wouldn’t be surprised if this was just a flash episode of atheism…or it could have meant a permanent loss of faith.
A few years later, 26 December 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami killed almost a quarter of a million people. The following day, one of my devout Catholic co-workers expressed his anguish at this horror, to which I responded, “Yes, God overslept again.” He looked straight at me, terrified. There it was: he had experienced a flash episode of atheism; at least for a moment he grasped that there is no God.
The church is well aware that flash episodes of atheism are real, but employs euphemisms to blunt them, e.g., “Oh, it’s normal to have doubts.” Corrosive doubts can pop up all over the place because there is so much incoherence in Christian theology, as real world events—such as massacres and tsunamis—illustrate.
Here is the problem in a nutshell. Flash episodes of atheism would likely not occur in a world where the god imagined by Christians exists. A compassionate, all-powerful god focused on interacting with the minute details of human life would not permit these types of events to occur. On the other hand, a less-powerful, limited god could be consistent with such occurrences, but this would be a different type of religion. Christians are trying to claim both heads and tails of a coin flip when only one of them can be true.
(2742) Turin shroud was debunked 700 years ago
There are many Christians who venerate the Shroud of Turin as a piece of physical evidence validating their faith. It represents something outside of the Bible that supports their belief in Jesus’ resurrection. But even if we discount all of the scientific evidence that it is a 14th Century forgery, there exists an eyewitness testimony from the time it first appeared testifying to its fakery. Fact-averse Christians are oblivious to anything that disconfirms their wishful thinking. The following was taken from:
The Turin shroud is probably the most famous relic of all. What more could you want than the cloth in which Jesus’ body had been wrapped? It seems to be confirmation that the gospel stories about the death of Jesus are true—not that the people who venerate the shroud doubt anything in the gospel accounts. But verification of the shroud runs into the same problem as verification of the gospels: the provenance is unknown. In the art world, a painting up for sale must have documentation; the seller has to provide evidence that the painting is authentic: Yes, it really is a Van Gogh, for example.
Nickell’s essay is a great example of an expert on the hunt for facts; he reminds us that religious veneration blocks critical analysis. He describes the pile of evidence that debunks the shroud—and the debunking began long ago, even in the 14th century when the shroud first showed up. He quotes the text of a report sent to Pope Clement VII by a man who became a bishop:
“The case, Holy Father, stands thus. Some time since in this diocese of Troyes the dean of a certain collegiate church, to wit, that of Lirey, falsely and deceitfully, being consumed with the passion of avarice, and not from any motive of devotion but only of gain, procured for his church a certain cloth cunningly painted, upon which by a clever slight of hand was depicted the twofold image of one man, that is to say, the back and the front, he falsely declaring and pretending that this was the actual shroud in which our Savior Jesus Christ was enfolded in the tomb…” (p. 338)
Hence the Pope ordered that a disclaimer be announced when the shroud was displayed: “It is not the True Shroud of our Lord, but a painting or picture made in the semblance or representation of the Shroud.” (p. 338)
But, of course, as the shroud changed hands and was handed down—by those who stood to gain from its veneration—these warnings were lost in the archives and forgotten.
Nickell provides a nice summary of insights and research in modern times that demonstrate the shroud’s 14thcentury origins. For example:
(1) The shroud can be located in art history. “There are many additional image flaws that point to artistry. For example, the physique is unnaturally elongated—like figures in Gothic art!” (p. 340) It is “…most suspicious that a ‘shroud’—its whereabouts unrecorded for 1300 years—should suddenly appear, bearing an image of Jesus looking exactly like artists had come to imagine him.” (p. 341) “…from an iconographic point of view, these various traditions come together in the Shroud of Turin and suggest that it is the work of an artist of the thirteenth century or later.” (p. 341)
(2) The blood is fake. “This had remained bright red,” Nickell points out, “which itself is suspicious, since real blood eventually blackens with age. In fact, the red stains failed all the sophisticated microscopical, chemical, biological, and instrumental analysis. The preliminary tests for peroxidase (a blood enzyme) and traces of hemoglobin and hemoglobin derivatives were negative, as were attempts to detect corpuscles or any other blood components.” (p. 342)
(3) Radiocarbon dating. In 1983 the shroud ended up at the Vatican, which authorized the radiocarbon tests. Nickell describes the controls in place for the test, to eliminate bias, and the result: “The age span of the Shroud of Turin was determined to be 1260-1390 CE, and the results gained added credibility by correct dates being obtained from the controls…And that date was further supported by the shroud’s lack of provenance before that time, its medieval iconography, the weave and condition of the cloth, as so on.” (pp. 344-345)
But once an idea has been embraced with religious fervor—let the evidence be damned. Nickell points out that there is the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP): “…the members are invariably billed as impartial scientists, chosen for their expertise, in fact they lacked experience with art forgery, most were religious and even shroud enthusiasts, and both of their leaders and some members served on the Executive Council of the Holy Shroud Guild, a Catholic organization devoted to the ‘cause’ of the supposed relic. Having such people examine the shroud is akin to asking the Flat Earth Society to investigate the shape of the planet.” (p. 343)
Shroud believers, Nickell notes, were devastated by the carbon dating, and attacked the results. “They used a method they had always employed, what I call ‘shroud science’: that is, beginning with the desired answer and then, with ‘confirmation bias,’ only seeking evidence that appeared to favor authenticity…Some unscientifically invoked the supernatural, suggesting that an imagined burst of radiant energy at the moment of Christ’s resurrection had altered the carbon ratio.” (p. 345)
There has always been a steady stream of fraudulent relics that have been foisted on credulous Christians who are understandably hungry for any piece of evidence that can confirm their faith. This is because, outside of the Bible, there is there is very little substance to their beliefs- that often hang precariously in a sea of doubt. This creates a ‘voltage’ between money-hungry con artists and sincere but uncertain believers who are vulnerable to those who fuel their hopes. The shroud remains in the minds of many Christians a confirmation of their faith- despite the evidence and despite the fact that somebody on the spot knew that it was a fraud and immediately informed the pope of such.
(2743) Progressive antipathy toward Jews
It is well known that the Jesus cult began as a Jewish sect but that over the balance of the First Century it became largely a Gentile faith. During this time, Christians developed a growing antipathy against the Jews, the progress of which is documented within the chronological writings of the gospels from Mark to John. By far, John is most anti-Semitic gospel. One of the best examples of this progression is by examining the story of the widow’s mite- where Jesus extols a poor widow who gives out of her need as compared to others who donate from their surplus. Notice in the earliest gospel, Mark, that rich people are acknowledged for giving lots of money:
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
In a later gospel, Luke, although the story was essentially copied from Mark, the complement for the magnitude of the rich people’s generosity is removed.
As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.
This story is completely left out of the gospels of Matthew and John, although Matthew had otherwise copied 90% of Mark virtually verbatim. This appears to be an effort to not only dismiss the largess of the rich Jews, but also the idea that a poor Jewish woman would sacrifice to such an extent. The tale of the widow’s mite is a small window allowing us to see how Christianity began to pull away from its Jewish roots and to set up the groundwork for a twenty-century campaign of anti-Semitism.
(2744) God, the detailist
Given that we would expect a true god to focus on the big picture, it becomes difficult understand why Yahweh became so engrossed in controlling the minute details of the lives of the Jewish people. He gave them 613 commandments, most of which appear to have little to do with propriety, justice, or compassion. Note especially those bolded below:
The Talmud tells us (Tractate Makkot 23b) that there are 613 commandments (mitzvot) in the Torah; 248 Positive Commandments (do’s) and 365 Negative Commandments (do not’s). However, the Talmud does not provide us with a list of these commandments.
Several great Jewish scholars have compiled a complete listing of these mitzvahs. Although they all agree on the vast majority of the commandments, they do disagree concerning a number of them. The arguments are for scholastic purposes only, for they do not disagree over any actual commandment whether it is mandatory or forbidden—they only disagree whether certain commandments are independent commandments, or perhaps they are part of another commandment and are not counted on their own.
The following list follows the opinion of Maimonides, as he lists them in his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah. It must be noted that many of these commandments (such as all the commandments associated with sacrifices) are not practicable as long as there is no Temple in Jerusalem.
The Full List of the Mitzvot
- To know there is a G‑d—Exodus 20:2
- Not to entertain thoughts of other gods besides Him—Exodus 20:3
- To know that He is one—Deuteronomy 6:4
- To love Him—Deuteronomy 6:5
- To fear Him—Deuteronomy 10:20
- To sanctify His Name—Leviticus 22:32
- Not to profane His Name—Leviticus 22:32
- Not to destroy objects associated with His Name—Deuteronomy 12:4
- To listen to the prophet speaking in His Name—Deuteronomy 18:15
- Not to test the prophet unduly—Deuteronomy 6:16
- To emulate His ways—Deuteronomy 28:9
- To cleave to those who know Him—Deuteronomy 10:20
- To love other Jews—Leviticus 19:18
- To love converts—Deuteronomy 10:19
- Not to hate fellow Jews—Leviticus 19:17
- To reprove wrongdoers—Leviticus 19:17
- Not to embarrass others—Leviticus 19:17
- Not to oppress the weak—Exodus 22:21
- Not to gossip about others—Leviticus 19:16
- Not to take revenge—Leviticus 19:18
- Not to bear a grudge—Leviticus 19:18
- To learn Torah and teach it—Deuteronomy 6:7
- To honor those who teach and know Torah—Leviticus 19:32
- Not to inquire into idolatry—Leviticus 19:4
- Not to follow the whims of your heart or what your eyes see—Numbers 15:39
- Not to blaspheme—Exodus 22:27
- Not to worship idols in the manner they are worshiped—Exodus 20:5
- Not to bow down to idols—Exodus 20:5
- Not to make an idol for yourself—Exodus 20:4
- Not to make an idol for others—Leviticus 19:4
- Not to make human forms even for decorative purposes—Exodus 20:20
- Not to turn a city to idolatry—Exodus 23:13
- To burn a city that has turned to idol worship—Deuteronomy 13:17
- Not to rebuild it as a city—Deuteronomy 13:17
- Not to derive benefit from it—Deuteronomy 13:18
- Not to missionize an individual to idol worship—Deuteronomy 13:12
- Not to love the missionary—Deuteronomy 13:9
- Not to cease hating the missionary—Deuteronomy 13:9
- Not to save the missionary—Deuteronomy 13:9
- Not to say anything in his defense—Deuteronomy 13:9
- Not to refrain from incriminating him—Deuteronomy 13:9
- Not to prophesize in the name of idolatry—Deuteronomy 18:20
- Not to listen to a false prophet—Deuteronomy 13:4
- Not to prophesize falsely in the name of G‑d—Deuteronomy 18:20
- Not to be afraid of killing the false prophet—Deuteronomy 18:22
- Not to swear in the name of an idol—Exodus 23:13
- Not to perform Ov (medium)–Leviticus 19:31
- Not to perform Yidoni (magical seer)–Leviticus 19:31
- Not to pass your children through the fire to Molech—Leviticus 18:21
- Not to erect a column in a public place of worship—Deuteronomy 16:22
- Not to bow down on smooth stone—Leviticus 26:1
- Not to plant a tree in the Temple courtyard—Deuteronomy 16:21
- To destroy idols and their accessories—Deuteronomy 12:2
- Not to derive benefit from idols and their accessories—Deuteronomy 7:26
- Not to derive benefit from ornaments of idols—Deuteronomy 7:25
- Not to make a covenant with idolaters—Deuteronomy 7:2
- Not to show favor to them—Deuteronomy 7:2
- Not to let them dwell in our land—Exodus 23:33
- Not to imitate them in customs and clothing—Leviticus 20:23
- Not to be superstitious—Leviticus 19:26
- Not to go into a trance to foresee events, etc.–Deuteronomy 18:10
- Not to engage in astrology—Leviticus 19:26
- Not to mutter incantations—Deuteronomy 18:11
- Not to attempt to engage the dead in conversation—Deuteronomy 18:11
- Not to consult the Ov—Deuteronomy 18:11
- Not to consult the Yidoni—Deuteronomy 18:11
- Not to perform acts of magic—Deuteronomy 18:10
- Men must not shave the hair off the sides of their head—Leviticus 19:27
- Men must not shave their beards with a razor—Leviticus 19:27
- Men must not wear women’s clothing—Deuteronomy 22:5
- Women must not wear men’s clothing—Deuteronomy 22:5
- Not to tattoo the skin—Leviticus 19:28
- Not to tear the skin in mourning—Deuteronomy 14:1
- Not to make a bald spot in mourning—Deuteronomy 14:1
- To repent and confess wrongdoings—Numbers 5:7
- To say the Shema twice daily—Deuteronomy 6:7
- To serve the Almighty with prayer daily—Exodus 23:25
- The Kohanim must bless the Jewish nation daily—Numbers 6:23
- To wear Tefillin on the head—Deuteronomy 6:8
- To bind tefillin on the arm—Deuteronomy 6:8
- To put a Mezuzah on each door post—Deuteronomy 6:9
- To write a Sefer Torah—Deuteronomy 31:19
- The king must have a separate Sefer Torah for himself—Deuteronomy 17:18
- To have Tzitzit on four-cornered garments—Numbers 15:38
- To bless the Almighty after eating—Deuteronomy 8:10
- To circumcise all males on the eighth day after their birth—Leviticus 12:3
- To rest on the seventh day—Exodus 23:12
- Not to do prohibited labor on the seventh day—Exodus 20:10
- The court must not inflict punishment on Shabbat—Exodus 35:3
- Not to walk more than 2000 cubits outside the city boundary on Shabbat—Exodus 16:29
- To sanctify the day with Kiddush and Havdalah—Exodus 20:8
- To rest from prohibited labor on Yom Kippur—Leviticus 23:32
- Not to do prohibited labor on Yom Kippur—Leviticus 23:31
- To afflict yourself on Yom Kippur—Leviticus 16:29
- Not to eat or drink on Yom Kippur—Leviticus 23:29
- To rest on the first day of Passover—Leviticus 23:8
- Not to do prohibited labor on the first day of Passover—Leviticus 23:8
- To rest on the seventh day of Passover—Leviticus 23:8
- Not to do prohibited labor on the seventh day of Passover—Leviticus 23:8
- To rest on Shavuot—Leviticus 23:21
- Not to do prohibited labor on Shavuot—Leviticus 23:21
- To rest on Rosh Hashanah—Leviticus 23:24
- Not to do prohibited labor on Rosh Hashanah—Leviticus 23:25
- To rest on Sukkot—Leviticus 23:35
- Not to do prohibited labor on Sukkot—Leviticus 23:35
- To rest on Shemini Atzeret—Leviticus 23:36
- Not to do prohibited labor on Shemini Atzeret—Leviticus 23:36
- Not to eat Chametz on the afternoon of the 14th day of Nissan—Deuteronomy 16:3
- To destroy all Chametz on 14th day of Nissan—Exodus 12:15
- Not to eat Chametz all seven days of Passover—Exodus 13:3
- Not to eat mixtures containing Chametz all seven days of Passover—Exodus 12:20
- Chametz should not be seen in your domain seven days—Exodus 13:7
- Chametz should not be found in your domain seven days—Exodus 12:19
- To eat Matzah on the first night of Passover—Exodus 12:18
- To relate the Exodus from Egypt on that night—Exodus 13:8
- To hear the Shofar on the first day of Tishrei (Rosh Hashanah)–Numbers 29:1
- To dwell in a Sukkah for the seven days of Sukkot—Leviticus 23:42
- To take up a Lulav and Etrog all seven days of Sukkot—Leviticus 23:40
- Each man must give a half shekel annually—Exodus 30:13
- Courts must calculate to determine when a new month begins—Exodus 12:2
- To afflict and cry out before G‑d in times of catastrophe—Numbers 10:9
- To marry a wife by the means prescribed in the Torah (kiddushin)–Deuteronomy 24:1
- Not to have relations with women not thus married—Deuteronomy 23:18
- Not to withhold food, clothing, and sexual relations from your wife—Exodus 21:10
- To have children with one’s wife—Genesis 1:28
- To issue a divorce by means of a Get document—Deuteronomy 24:1
- A man must not remarry his wife after she has married someone else—Deuteronomy 24:4
- To do Yibum (marry childless brother’s widow)–Deuteronomy 25:5
- To do Chalitzah (freeing a widow from yibum)–Deuteronomy 25:9
- The widow must not remarry until the ties with her brother-in-law are removed—Deuteronomy 25:5
- The court must fine one who seduces a maiden—Exodus 22:15-16
- The rapist must marry the maiden (if she chooses)—Deuteronomy 22:29
- He is not allowed to divorce her—Deuteronomy 22:29
- The slanderer must remain married to the wife he slandered—Deuteronomy 22:19
- He must not divorce her—Deuteronomy 22:19
- To fulfill the laws of the woman suspected of adultery (Sotah)–Numbers 5:30
- Not to put oil on her meal offering—Numbers 5:15
- Not to put frankincense on her Meal Offering—Numbers 5:15
- Not to have sexual relations with your mother—Leviticus 18:7
- Not to have sexual relations with your father’s wife—Leviticus 18:8
- Not to have sexual relations with your sister—Leviticus 18:9
- Not to have sexual relations with your father’s wife’s daughter (from your father)–Leviticus 18:11
- Not to have sexual relations with your son’s daughter—Leviticus 18:10
- Not to have sexual relations with your daughter—Leviticus 18:10
- Not to have sexual relations with your daughter’s daughter—Leviticus 18:10
- Not to marry a woman and her daughter—Leviticus 18:17
- Not to marry a woman and her son’s daughter—Leviticus 18:17
- Not to marry a woman and her daughter’s daughter—Leviticus 18:17
- Not to have sexual relations with your father’s sister—Leviticus 18:12
- Not to have sexual relations with your mother’s sister—Leviticus 18:13
- Not to have sexual relations with your father’s brother’s wife—Leviticus 18:14
- Not to have sexual relations with your son’s wife—Leviticus 18:15
- Not to have sexual relations with your brother’s wife—Leviticus 18:16
- Not to have sexual relations with your wife’s sister—Leviticus 18:18
- A man must not have sexual relations with a beast—Leviticus 18:23
- A woman must not have sexual relations with a beast—Leviticus 18:23
- Not to have homosexual sexual relations—Leviticus 18:22
- Not to have homosexual sexual relations with your father—Leviticus 18:7
- Not to have homosexual sexual relations with your father’s brother—Leviticus 18:14
- Not to have sexual relations with a married woman—Leviticus 18:20
- Not to have sexual relations with a menstrually impure woman—Leviticus 18:19
- Not to marry non-Jews—Deuteronomy 7:3
- Not to let Moabite and Ammonite males marry into the Jewish people—Deuteronomy 23:4
- Don’t keep a third generation Egyptian convert from marrying into the Jewish
- Not to refrain from marrying a third generation Edomite convert—Deuteronomy 23:8-9
- Not to let a Mamzer (“bastard”) marry into the Jewish people—Deuteronomy 23:3
- Not to let a eunuch marry into the Jewish people—Deuteronomy 23:2
- Not to castrate any male (including animals)–Leviticus 22:24
- The High Priest must not marry a widow—Leviticus 21:14
- The High Priest must not have sexual relations with a widow even outside of marriage—Leviticus 21:14
- The High Priest must marry a virgin maiden—Leviticus 21:13
- A Kohen must not marry a divorcee—Leviticus 21:7
- A Kohen must not marry a zonah (a woman who had forbidden relations)–Leviticus 21:7
- A Kohen must not marry a chalalah (party to or product of 169-172)–Leviticus 21:7
- Not to make pleasurable (sexual) contact with any forbidden woman—Leviticus 18:6
- To examine the signs of animals to distinguish between Kosher and non-kosher—Leviticus 11:2
- To examine the signs of fowl to distinguish between kosher and non-kosher—Deuteronomy 14:11
- To examine the signs of fish to distinguish between kosher and non-kosher—Leviticus 11:9
- To examine the signs of locusts to distinguish between kosher and non-kosher—Leviticus 11:21
- Not to eat non-kosher animals—Leviticus 11:4
- Not to eat non-kosher fowl—Leviticus 11:13
- Not to eat non-kosher fish—Leviticus 11:11
- Not to eat non-kosher flying insects—Deuteronomy 14:19
- Not to eat non-kosher creatures that crawl on land—Leviticus 11:41
- Not to eat non-kosher maggots—Leviticus 11:44
- Not to eat worms found in fruit once they have left the fruit—Leviticus 11:42
- Not to eat creatures that live in water other than fish—Leviticus 11:43
- Not to eat the meat of an animal that died without ritual slaughter—Deuteronomy 14:21
- Not to benefit from a beast condemned to be stoned—Exodus 21:28
- Not to eat meat of an animal that was mortally wounded—Exodus 22:30
- Not to eat a limb torn off a living creature—Deuteronomy 12:23
- Not to eat blood—Leviticus 3:17
- Not to eat certain fats of kosher animals—Leviticus 3:17
- Not to eat the sinew of the thigh—Genesis. 32:33
- Not to eat meat and milk cooked together—Exodus 23:19
- Not to cook meat and milk together—Exodus 34:26
- Not to eat bread from new grain before the Omer—Leviticus 23:14
- Not to eat parched grains from new grain before the Omer—Leviticus 23:14
- Not to eat ripened grains from new grain before the Omer—Leviticus 23:14
- Not to eat fruit of a tree during its first three years—Leviticus 19:23
- Not to eat diverse seeds planted in a vineyard—Deuteronomy 22:9
- Not to eat untithed fruits—Leviticus 22:15
- Not to drink wine poured in service to idols—Deuteronomy 32:38
- To ritually slaughter an animal before eating it—Deuteronomy 12:21
- Not to slaughter an animal and its offspring on the same day—Leviticus 22:28
- To cover the blood (of a slaughtered beast or fowl) with earth—Leviticus 17:13
- Not to take the mother bird from her children—Deuteronomy 22:6
- To release the mother bird before taking the children—Deuteronomy 22:7
- Not to swear falsely in G‑d’s Name—Leviticus 19:12
- Not to take G‑d’s Name in vain—Exodus 20:7
- Not to deny possession of something entrusted to you—Leviticus 19:11
- Not to swear falsely in denial of a monetary claim—Leviticus 19:11
- To swear in G‑d’s Name to confirm the truth when deemed necessary by court—Deuteronomy 10:20
- To fulfill what was uttered and to do what was avowed—Deuteronomy 23:24
- Not to break oaths or vows—Numbers 30:3
- For oaths and vows annulled, there are the laws of annulling vows explicit in the Torah—Numbers 30:3
- The Nazir must let his hair grow—Numbers 6:5
- He must not cut his hair—Numbers 6:5
- He must not drink wine, wine mixtures, or wine vinegar—Numbers 6:3
- He must not eat fresh grapes—Numbers 6:3
- He must not eat raisins—Numbers 6:3
- He must not eat grape seeds—Numbers 6:4
- He must not eat grape skins—Numbers 6:4
- He must not be under the same roof as a corpse—Numbers 6:6
- He must not come into contact with the dead—Numbers 6:7
- He must shave after bringing sacrifices upon completion of his Nazirite period—Numbers 6:18
- To estimate the value of people (when someone pledges a person’s worth) as determined by the Torah—Leviticus 27:2
- To estimate the value of consecrated animals—Leviticus 27:12-13
- To estimate the value of consecrated houses—Leviticus 27:14
- To estimate the value of consecrated fields—Leviticus 27:16
- Carry out the laws of interdicting possessions (cherem)–Leviticus 27:28
- Not to sell the cherem—Leviticus 27:28
- Not to redeem the cherem—Leviticus 27:28
- Not to plant diverse seeds together—Leviticus 19:19
- Not to plant grains or greens in a vineyard—Deuteronomy 22:9
- Not to crossbreed animals—Leviticus 19:19
- Not to work different animals together—Deuteronomy 22:10
- Not to wear Shatnez, a cloth woven of wool and linen—Deuteronomy 22:11
- To leave a corner of the field uncut for the poor—Leviticus 19:10
- Not to reap that corner—Leviticus 19:9
- To leave gleanings for The poor—Leviticus 19:9
- Not to gather the gleanings—Leviticus 19:9
- To leave the gleanings of a vineyard—Leviticus 19:10
- Not to gather the gleanings of a vineyard—Leviticus 19:10
- To leave the unformed clusters of grapes for the poor—Leviticus 19:10
- Not to pick the unformed clusters of grapes—Leviticus 19:10
- To leave the forgotten sheaves in the field for the poor—Deuteronomy 24:19
- Not to retrieve them—Deuteronomy 24:19
- To separate the tithe for the poor—Deuteronomy 14:28
- To give charity—Deuteronomy 15:11
- Not to withhold charity from the poor—Deuteronomy 15:7
- To set aside Terumah Gedolah (tithe for the Kohen)–Deuteronomy 18:4
- The Levite must set aside a tenth of his tithe for the Kohen—Numbers 18:26
- Not to improperly preface one tithe to the next, but separate them in their proper order—Exodus 22:28
- A non-Kohen must not eat Terumah—Leviticus 22:10
- A hired worker or a Jewish bondsman of a Kohen must not eat Terumah—Leviticus 22:10
- An uncircumcised Kohen must not eat Terumah—Exodus 12:48
- An impure Kohen must not eat Terumah—Leviticus 22:4
- A chalalah [see Mitzvah 174] must not eat Terumah—Leviticus 22:12
- To set aside Ma’aser (tithe) each planting year and give it to a Levite—Numbers 18:24
- To set aside the Second Tithe (which is to be eaten in Jerusalem)–Deuteronomy 14:22
- Not to spend its redemption money on anything but food, drink, or ointment—Deuteronomy 26:14
- Not to eat the Second Tithe while impure—Deuteronomy 26:14
- A mourner on the first day after death must not eat the Second Tithe —Deuteronomy 26:14
- Not to eat Second Tithe grains outside Jerusalem—Deuteronomy 12:17
- Not to eat Second Tithe wine products outside Jerusalem—Deuteronomy 12:17
- Not to eat Second Tithe oil outside Jerusalem—Deuteronomy 12:17
- The fourth year crops must be totally for holy purposes like the Second Tithe—Leviticus 19:24
- To read the confession of tithes every fourth and seventh year—Deuteronomy 26:13
- To set aside the first fruits and bring them to the Temple—Exodus 23:19
- The Kohanim must not eat the first fruits outside Jerusalem—Deuteronomy 12:17
- To read the Torah Portion pertaining to their presentation—Deuteronomy 26:5
- To set aside a portion of dough for a Kohen—Numbers 15:20
- To give the shoulder, two cheeks, and stomach of slaughtered animals to a Kohen—Deuteronomy 18:3
- To give the first sheering of sheep to a Kohen—Deuteronomy 18:4
- To redeem the firstborn sons and give the money to a Kohen—Numbers 18:15
- To redeem the firstborn donkey by giving a lamb to a Kohen—Exodus 13:13
- To break the neck of the donkey if the owner does not intend to redeem it—Exodus 13:13
- To rest the land during the seventh year by not doing any work which enhances growth—Exodus 34:21
- Not to work the land during the seventh year—Leviticus 25:4
- Not to work with trees to produce fruit during that year—Leviticus 25:4
- Not to reap crops that grow wild that year in the normal manner—Leviticus 25:5
- Not to gather grapes which grow wild that year in the normal way—Leviticus 25:5
- To leave free all produce which grew in that year—Exodus 23:11
- To release all loans during the seventh year—Deuteronomy 15:3
- Not to pressure or claim from the borrower—Deuteronomy 15:2
- Not to refrain from lending immediately before the release of the loans for fear of monetary loss—Deuteronomy 15:9
- The Sanhedrin must count seven groups of seven years—Leviticus 25:8
- The Sanhedrin must sanctify the fiftieth (Jubilee) year—Leviticus 25:10
- To blow the Shofar on the tenth of Tishrei (Yom Kippur of the Jubilee year) to free the slaves—Leviticus 25:9
- Not to work the soil during the fiftieth year—Leviticus 25:11
- Not to reap in the normal manner that which grows wild in the fiftieth year—Leviticus 25:11
- Not to pick grapes which grew wild in the normal manner in the fiftieth year—Leviticus 25:11
- Carry out the laws of sold family properties—Leviticus 25:24
- Not to sell the land in Israel indefinitely—Leviticus 25:23
- Carry out the laws of houses in walled cities—Leviticus 25:29
- The Tribe of Levi must not be given a portion of the land in Israel, rather they are given cities to dwell in—Deuteronomy 18:2
- The Levites must not take a share in the spoils of war—Deuteronomy 18:1
- To give the Levites cities to inhabit and their surrounding fields—Numbers 35:2
- Not to sell the fields but they shall remain the Levites’ before and after the Jubilee year—Leviticus 25:34
- To build a Sanctuary (Holy Temple)–Exodus 25:8
- Not to build the altar with stones hewn by metal—Exodus 20:22
- Not to climb steps to the altar—Exodus 20:23
- To show reverence for the Temple—Leviticus 19:30
- To guard the Temple area—Numbers 18:3
- Not to leave the Temple unguarded—Numbers 18:5
- To prepare the anointing oil—Exodus 30:31
- Not to reproduce the anointing oil (for personal use)—Exodus 30:32
- Not to anoint with anointing oil (a non-Kohen or non-king)–Exodus 30:32
- Not to reproduce the incense formula (for personal use)—Exodus 30:37
- Not to burn anything on the Golden Altar besides incense—Exodus 30:9
- The Levites must transport the ark on their shoulders—Numbers 7:9
- Not to remove the staves from the ark—Exodus 25:15
- The Levites must work in the Temple—Numbers 18:23
- No Levite must do another’s work of either a Kohen or a Levite—Numbers 18:3
- To dedicate the Kohen for service—Leviticus 21:8
- The Kohen work shifts must be equal during holidays—Deuteronomy 18:6-8
- The Kohanim must wear their priestly garments during service—Exodus 28:2
- Not to tear the priestly garments—Exodus 28:32
- The High Priest’s breastplate must not be loosened from the Efod (priestly apron)—Exodus 28:28
- A Kohen must not enter the Temple intoxicated—Leviticus 10:9
- A Kohen must not enter the Temple with long hair—Leviticus 10:6
- A Kohen must not enter the Temple with torn clothes—Leviticus 10:6
- A Kohen must not enter the sanctuary of the Temple indiscriminately—Leviticus 16:2
- A Kohen must not leave the Temple during service—Leviticus 10:7
- To send the impure from the Temple—Numbers 5:2
- Impure people must not enter the Temple—Numbers 5:3
- [Certain] impure people must not enter [even] the Temple Mount area—Deuteronomy 23:11
- Impure Kohanim must not do service in the temple—Leviticus 22:2
- An impure Kohen, following immersion, must wait until after sundown before returning to service—Leviticus 21:6
- A Kohen must wash his hands and feet before service—Exodus 30:19
- A Kohen with a physical blemish must not enter the sanctuary or approach the altar—Leviticus 21:23
- A Kohen with a physical blemish must not serve—Leviticus 21:17
- A Kohen with a temporary blemish must not serve—Leviticus 21:18
- One who is not a Kohen must not serve—Numbers 18:4
- To offer only unblemished animals—Leviticus 22:21
- Not to dedicate a blemished animal for the altar—Leviticus 22:20
- Not to slaughter it—Leviticus 22:22
- Not to sprinkle its blood—Leviticus 22:24
- Not to burn its fat—Leviticus 22:22
- Not to offer a temporarily blemished animal—Deuteronomy 17:1
- Not to sacrifice blemished animals even if offered by non-Jews—Leviticus 22:25
- Not to inflict wounds upon dedicated animals—Leviticus 22:21
- To redeem dedicated animals which have become disqualified—Deuteronomy 12:15
- To offer only animals which are at least eight days old—Leviticus 22:27
- Not to offer animals bought with the wages of a harlot or the animal exchanged for a dog—Deuteronomy 23:19
- Not to burn honey or yeast on the altar—Leviticus 2:11
- To salt all sacrifices—Leviticus 2:13
- Not to omit the salt from sacrifices—Leviticus 2:13
- Carry out the procedure of the burnt offering as prescribed in the Torah—Leviticus 1:3
- Not to eat its meat—Deuteronomy 12:17
- Carry out the procedure of the sin offering—Leviticus 6:18
- Not to eat the meat of the inner sin offering—Leviticus 6:23
- Not to decapitate a fowl brought as a sin offering—Leviticus 5:8
- Carry out the procedure of the guilt offering—Leviticus 7:1
- The Kohanim must eat the sacrificial meat in the Temple—Exodus 29:33
- The Kohanim must not eat the meat outside the Temple courtyard—Deuteronomy 12:17
- A non-Kohen must not eat [certain] sacrificial meats—Exodus 29:33
- To follow the procedure of the peace offering—Leviticus 7:11
- Not to eat the meat of minor sacrifices before sprinkling the blood—Deuteronomy 12:17
- To bring meal offerings as prescribed in the Torah—Leviticus 2:1
- Not to put oil on the meal offerings of wrongdoers—Leviticus 5:11
- Not to put frankincense on the meal offerings of wrongdoers—Leviticus 5:11
- The meal offering of a Priest should not be eaten—Leviticus 6:16
- Not to bake a meal offering as leavened bread—Leviticus 6:10
- The Kohanim must eat the remains of the meal offerings—Leviticus 6:9
- To bring all avowed and freewill offerings to the Temple on the first subsequent festival—Deuteronomy 12:5-6
- Not to withhold payment incurred by any vow—Deuteronomy 23:22
- To offer all sacrifices in the Temple—Deuteronomy 12:11
- To bring all sacrifices from outside Israel to the Temple—Deuteronomy 12:26
- Not to slaughter sacrifices outside the courtyard—Leviticus 17:4
- Not to offer any sacrifices outside the courtyard—Deuteronomy 12:13
- To offer two lambs every day—Numbers 28:3
- To light a fire on the altar every day—Leviticus 6:5
- Not to extinguish this fire—Leviticus 6:5
- To remove the ashes from the altar every day—Leviticus 6:3
- To burn incense every day—Exodus 30:7
- To light the Menorah every day—Exodus 27:21
- The High Priest must bring a meal offering every day—Leviticus 6:13
- To bring two additional lambs as burnt offerings on Shabbat—Numbers 28:9
- To make the show bread—Exodus 25:30
- To bring additional offerings on the New Month (Rosh Chodesh)–Numbers 28:11
- To bring additional offerings on Passover—Numbers 28:19
- To offer the wave offering from the meal of the new wheat (on the 2nd day of Passover)—Leviticus 23:10
- Each man must count the Omer — seven weeks from the day the new wheat offering was brought—Leviticus 23:15
- To bring additional offerings on Shavuot—Numbers 28:26
- To bring two loaves to accompany the above sacrifice—Leviticus 23:18
- To bring additional offerings on Rosh Hashanah—Numbers 29:2
- To bring additional offerings on Yom Kippur—Numbers 29:8
- To bring additional offerings on Sukkot—Numbers 29:13
- To bring additional offerings on Shmini Atzeret—Numbers 29:35
- Not to eat sacrifices which have become unfit or blemished—Deuteronomy 14:3
- Not to eat from sacrifices offered with improper intentions—Leviticus 7:18
- Not to leave sacrifices past the time allowed for eating them—Leviticus 22:30
- Not to eat from that which was left over—Leviticus 19:8
- Not to eat from sacrifices which became impure—Leviticus 7:19
- An impure person must not eat from sacrifices—Leviticus 7:20
- To burn the leftover sacrifices—Leviticus 7:17
- To burn all impure sacrifices—Leviticus 7:19
- To follow the procedure of Yom Kippur in the sequence prescribed in the Torah—Leviticus 16:3
- One who profaned holy property must repay what he profaned plus a fifth and bring a sacrifice—Leviticus 5:16
- Not to work consecrated animals—Deuteronomy 15:19
- Not to shear the fleece of consecrated animals—Deuteronomy 15:19
- To slaughter the Paschal sacrifice at the specified time—Exodus 12:6
- Not to slaughter it while in possession of leaven—Exodus 23:18
- Not to leave the fat overnight—Exodus 23:18
- To slaughter the second Paschal Lamb—Numbers 9:11
- To eat the Paschal Lamb with Matzah and Maror on the night of the 15th of Nissan—Exodus 12:8
- To eat the second Paschal Lamb on the night of the 15th of Iyar—Numbers 9:11
- Not to eat the Paschal meat raw or boiled—Exodus 12:9
- Not to take the Paschal meat from the confines of its group—Exodus 12:46
- An apostate must not eat from it—Exodus 12:43
- A permanent or temporary [non-Jewish] hired worker must not eat from it—Exodus 12:45
- An uncircumcised male must not eat from it—Exodus 12:48
- Not to break any bones from the Paschal offering—Exodus 12:46
- Not to break any bones from the second Paschal offering—Numbers 9:12
- Not to leave any meat from the Paschal offering over until morning—Exodus 12:10
- Not to leave the second Paschal meat over until morning—Numbers 9:12
- Not to leave the meat of the holiday offering of the 14th until the 16th—Deuteronomy 16:4
- To be seen at the Temple on Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot—Deuteronomy 16:16
- To celebrate on these three Festivals (by bringing a offering)–Exodus 23:14
- To rejoice on these three Festivals—Deuteronomy 16:14
- Not to appear at the Temple without offerings—Deuteronomy 16:16
- Not to refrain from rejoicing with, and giving gifts to, the Levites—Deuteronomy 12:19
- To assemble all the people on the Sukkot following the seventh year [the king publicly reads portions of the Torah]–Deuteronomy 31:12
- To set aside the firstborn animals [to be eaten by the Kohanim, and sacrificed unless they are blemished]—Exodus 13:12
- The Kohanim must not eat unblemished firstborn animals outside Jerusalem—Deuteronomy 12:17
- Not to redeem the firstborn—Numbers 18:17
- Separate the tithe from animals [to be eaten by the Kohanim, and sacrificed unless they are blemished]–Leviticus 27:32
- Not to redeem the tithe—Leviticus 27:33
- Every person must bring a sin offering for his transgression—Leviticus 4:27
- Bring an asham talui offering when uncertain of guilt—Leviticus 5:17-18
- Bring an asham vadai offering [for certain sins] when guilt is ascertained—Leviticus 5:25
- Bring an oleh v’yored offering (if the person is wealthy, an animal; if poor, a bird or meal offering) [for certain sins]–Leviticus 5:7-11
- The Sanhedrin must bring an offering when it rules in error—Leviticus 4:13
- A woman who had a running issue must bring an offering after she goes to the Mikvah—Leviticus 15:28-29
- A woman who gave birth must bring an offering after she goes to the Mikvah—Leviticus 12:6
- A man who had a running issue must bring an offering after he goes to the Mikvah—Leviticus 15:13-14
- A metzora (“leprous” person — see According to the Torah is Leprosy a hygienic problem or is it something spiritual and miraculous?) must bring an offering after going to the Mikvah—Leviticus 14:10
- Not to substitute another beast for one set apart for sacrifice—Leviticus 27:10
- The new animal, in addition to the substituted one, retains consecration—Leviticus 27:10
- Not to change consecrated animals from one type of offering to another—Leviticus 27:26
- Carry out the laws of impurity of the dead—Numbers 19:14
- Carry out the procedure of the Red Heifer—Numbers 19:9
- Carry out the laws of the sprinkling water [of the Red Heifer]–Numbers 19:21
- Rule the laws of human tzara’at (Leprosy, see Mitzvah 439) as prescribed in the Torah—Leviticus 13:12
- The metzora (leper) must not remove his signs of impurity—Deuteronomy 24:8
- The metzora must not shave signs of impurity in his hair—Leviticus 13:33
- The metzora must publicize his condition by tearing his garments, allowing his hair to grow and covering his mustache—Leviticus 13:45
- Carry out the prescribed rules for purifying the metzora—Leviticus 14:2
- The metzora must shave off all his hair prior to purification—Leviticus 14:9
- Carry out the laws of “leprous” clothing—Leviticus 13:47
- Carry out the laws of leprous houses—Leviticus 14:35
- Observe the laws of menstrual impurity—Leviticus 15:19
- Observe the laws of impurity caused by childbirth—Leviticus 12:2
- Observe the laws of impurity caused by a woman’s running issue—Leviticus 15:25
- Observe the laws of impurity caused by a man’s running issue (irregular ejaculation of infected semen)–Leviticus 15:3
- Observe the laws of impurity caused by a dead beast—Leviticus 11:39
- Observe the laws of impurity caused by the eight shratzim (rodents, amphibious creatures, and lizards) [specified in the Torah]–Leviticus 11:29
- Observe the laws of impurity of a seminal emission (regular ejaculation, with normal semen)—Leviticus 15:16
- Observe the laws of impurity concerning liquid and solid foods—Leviticus 11:34
- Every impure person must immerse himself in a Mikvah to become pure—Leviticus 15:16
- The court must judge the damages incurred by a goring beast—Exodus 21:28
- The court must judge the damages incurred by an animal eating—Exodus 22:4
- The court must judge the damages incurred by a pit—Exodus 21:33
- The court must judge the damages incurred by fire—Exodus 22:5
- Not to steal money stealthily—Leviticus 19:11
- The court must implement punitive measures against the thief—Exodus 21:37
- Each individual must ensure that his scales and weights are accurate—Leviticus 19:36
- Not to commit injustice with scales and weights—Leviticus 19:35
- Not to possess inaccurate scales and weights even if they are not for use—Deuteronomy 25:13
- Not to move a boundary marker to steal someone’s property—Deuteronomy 19:14
- Not to kidnap—Exodus 20:13
- Not to rob—Leviticus 19:13
- Not to withhold wages or fail to repay a debt—Leviticus 19:13
- Not to covet and scheme to acquire another’s possession—Exodus 20:14
- Not to desire another’s possession—Deuteronomy 5:18
- Return the robbed object or its value—Leviticus 5:23
- Not to ignore a lost object—Deuteronomy 22:3
- Return the lost object—Deuteronomy 22:1
- The court must implement laws against the one who assaults another or damages another’s property—Exodus 21:18
- Not to murder—Exodus 20:13
- Not to accept monetary restitution to atone for the murderer—Numbers 35:31
- The court must send the accidental murderer to a city of refuge—Numbers 35:25
- Not to accept monetary restitution instead of being sent to a city of refuge—Numbers 35:32
- Not to kill the murderer before he stands trial—Numbers 35:12
- Save someone being pursued even by taking the life of the pursuer—Deuteronomy 25:12
- Not to pity the pursuer—Numbers 35:12
- Not to stand idly by if someone’s life is in danger—Leviticus 19:16
- Designate cities of refuge and prepare routes of access—Deuteronomy 19:3
- Break the neck of a calf by a stream following an unsolved murder—Deuteronomy 21:4
- To neither work nor plant that river valley—Deuteronomy 21:4
- Not to allow pitfalls and obstacles to remain on your property—Deuteronomy 22:8
- Make a guard rail around flat roofs—Deuteronomy 22:8
- Not to put a stumbling block before a blind man (nor give harmful advice)–Leviticus 19:14
- Help another remove the load from a beast which can no longer carry it—Exodus 23:5
- Help others load their beast—Deuteronomy 22:4
- Not to leave others distraught with their burdens (but to help either load or unload)–Deuteronomy 22:4
- Buy and sell according to Torah law—Leviticus 25:14
- Not to overcharge or underpay for an article—Leviticus 25:14
- Not to insult or harm anybody with words—Leviticus 25:17
- Not to cheat a sincere convert monetarily—Exodus 22:20
- Not to insult or harm a sincere convert with words—Exodus 22:20
- Purchase a Hebrew slave in accordance with the prescribed laws—Exodus 21:2
- Not to sell him as a slave is sold—Leviticus 25:42
- Not to work him oppressively—Leviticus 25:43
- Not to allow a non-Jew to work him oppressively—Leviticus 25:53
- Not to have him do menial slave labor—Leviticus 25:39
- Give him gifts when he goes free—Deuteronomy 15:14
- Not to send him away empty-handed—Deuteronomy 15:13
- Redeem Jewish maidservants—Exodus 21:8
- Betroth the Jewish maidservant—Exodus 21:8
- The master must not sell his maidservant—Exodus 21:8
- Canaanite slaves must work forever unless the owner amputates one of their limbs—Leviticus 25:46
- Not to extradite a slave who fled to (Biblical) Israel—Deuteronomy 23:16
- Not to wrong a slave who has come to Israel for refuge—Deuteronomy 23:17
- The courts must carry out the laws of a hired worker and hired guard—Exodus 22:9
- Pay wages on the day they were earned—Deuteronomy 24:15
- Not to delay payment of wages past the agreed time—Leviticus 19:13
- The hired worker may eat from the unharvested crops where he works—Deuteronomy 23:25
- The worker must not eat while on hired time—Deuteronomy 23:26
- The worker must not take more than he can eat—Deuteronomy 23:25
- Not to muzzle an ox while plowing—Deuteronomy 25:4
- The courts must carry out the laws of a borrower—Exodus 22:13
- The courts must carry out the laws of an unpaid guard—Exodus 22:6
- Lend to the poor and destitute—Exodus 22:24
- Not to press them for payment if you know they don’t have it—Exodus 22:24
- Press the idolater for payment—Deuteronomy 15:3
- The creditor must not forcibly take collateral—Deuteronomy 24:10
- Return the collateral to the debtor when needed—Deuteronomy 24:13
- Not to delay its return when needed—Deuteronomy 24:12
- Not to demand collateral from a widow—Deuteronomy 24:17
- Not to demand as collateral utensils needed for preparing food—Deuteronomy 24:6
- Not to lend with interest—Leviticus 25:37
- Not to borrow with interest—Deuteronomy 23:20
- Not to intermediate in an interest loan, guarantee, witness, or write the promissory note—Exodus 22:24
- Lend to and borrow from idolaters with interest—Deuteronomy 23:21
- The courts must carry out the laws of the plaintiff, admitter, or denier—Exodus 22:8
- Carry out the laws of the order of inheritance—Numbers 27:8
- Appoint judges—Deuteronomy 16:18
- Not to appoint judges who are not familiar with judicial procedure—Deuteronomy 1:17
- Decide by majority in case of disagreement—Exodus 23:2
- [In capital cases] the court must not execute through a majority of one; at least a majority of two is required—Exodus 23:2
- A judge who presented an acquittal plea must not present an argument for conviction in capital cases—Exodus 23:2
- The courts must carry out the death penalty of stoning—Deuteronomy 22:24
- The courts must carry out the death penalty of burning—Leviticus 20:14
- The courts must carry out the death penalty of the sword—Exodus 21:20
- The courts must carry out the death penalty of strangulation—Leviticus 20:10
- The courts must hang those stoned for blasphemy or idolatry—Deuteronomy 21:22
- Bury the executed [as well as all deceased] on the day they are killed—Deuteronomy 21:23
- Not to delay burial overnight—Deuteronomy 21:23
- The court must not let the sorcerer live—Exodus 22:17
- The court must give lashes to the wrongdoer—Deuteronomy 25:2
- The court must not exceed the prescribed number of lashes—Deuteronomy 25:3
- The court must not kill anybody on circumstantial evidence—Exodus 23:7
- The court must not punish anybody who was forced to do a crime—Deuteronomy 22:26
- A judge must not pity the murderer or assaulter at the trial—Deuteronomy 19:13
- A judge must not have mercy on the poor man at the trial—Leviticus 19:15
- A judge must not respect the great man at the trial—Leviticus 19:15
- A judge must not decide unjustly the case of the habitual transgressor—Exodus 23:6
- A judge must not pervert justice—Leviticus 19:15
- A judge must not pervert a case involving a convert or orphan—Deuteronomy 24:17
- Judge righteously—Leviticus 19:15
- The judge must not fear a violent man in judgment—Deuteronomy 1:17
- Judges must not accept bribes—Exodus 23:8
- Judges must not accept testimony unless both parties are present—Exodus 23:1
- Not to curse judges—Exodus 22:27
- Not to curse the head of state or leader of the Sanhedrin—Exodus 22:27
- Not to curse any upstanding Jew—Leviticus 19:14
- Anybody who knows evidence must testify in court—Leviticus 5:1
- Carefully interrogate the witness—Deuteronomy 13:15
- A witness must not serve as a judge in capital crimes—Numbers 35:30
- Not to accept testimony from a lone witness—Deuteronomy 19:15
- Transgressors must not testify—Exodus 23:1
- Relatives of the litigants must not testify—Deuteronomy 24:16
- Not to testify falsely—Exodus 20:13
- Punish the false witnesses with the same punishment they were seeking for the defendant—Deuteronomy 19:19
- Act according to the ruling of the Sanhedrin—Deuteronomy 17:11
- Not to deviate from the word of the Sanhedrin—Deuteronomy 17:11
- Not to add to the Torah commandments or their oral explanations—Deuteronomy 13:1
- Not to diminish from the Torah any commandments, in whole or in part—Deuteronomy 13:1
- Not to curse your father or mother—Exodus 21:17
- Not to strike your father or mother—Exodus 21:15
- Respect your father and mother—Exodus 20:12
- Fear your father and mother—Leviticus 19:3
- Not to be a rebellious son—Deuteronomy 21:20
- Mourn for relatives—Leviticus 10:19
- The High Priest must not defile himself through contact with a relative—Leviticus 21:11
- The High Priest must not enter under the same roof as a corpse—Leviticus 21:11
- A Kohen must not defile himself for anyone except relatives—Leviticus 21:1
- Appoint a king from Israel—Deuteronomy 17:15
- Not to appoint a convert—Deuteronomy 17:15
- The king must not have too many wives—Deuteronomy 17:17
- The king must not have too many horses—Deuteronomy 17:16
- The king must not have too much silver and gold—Deuteronomy 17:17
- Destroy the seven Canaanite nations—Deuteronomy 20:17
- Not to let any of them remain alive—Deuteronomy 20:16
- Wipe out the descendants of Amalek—Deuteronomy 25:19
- Remember what Amalek did to the Jewish people—Deuteronomy 25:17
- Not to forget Amalek’s atrocities and ambush on our journey from Egypt in the desert—Deuteronomy 25:19
- Not to dwell permanently in Egypt—Deuteronomy 17:16
- Offer peace terms to the inhabitants of a city while holding siege, and treat them according to the Torah if they accept the terms—Deuteronomy 20:10
- Not to offer peace to Ammon and Moab while besieging them—Deuteronomy 23:7
- Not to destroy fruit trees even during the siege—Deuteronomy 20:19
- Prepare latrines outside the army camps—Deuteronomy 23:13
- Prepare a shovel for each soldier to dig with—Deuteronomy 23:14
- Appoint a priest to speak with the soldiers during the war—Deuteronomy 20:2
- He who has taken a wife, built a new home, or planted a vineyard is given a year to rejoice with his possessions—Deuteronomy 24:5
- Not to demand from the above any involvement, communal or military—Deuteronomy 24:5
- Not to panic and retreat during battle—Deuteronomy 20:3
- Keep the laws of the captive woman—Deuteronomy 21:11
- Not to sell her into slavery—Deuteronomy 21:14
- Not to retain her for servitude after having relations with her—Deuteronomy 21:14
To be a Christian, you have to believe that the god who created the universe, with hundreds of billions of galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars and planets and moons, took interest in the planet Earth, and after 150,000 years of human evolution, decided to pick a desert tribe as his ‘chosen people,’ became interested in prescribing hundreds of very detailed instructions for how they should live their lives, but then, after sending his son on a suicide mission, gave up the idea of being so prescriptive, deciding that all of those rules really don’t matter anymore. This is a big pill to swallow even for gullible individuals.
(2745) Bible’s three strikes
It seems improbable that a god’s principal means of communicating with humans would be by having a book to be written by human hands before there were reliable means of protecting the fidelity of the text or disseminating it worldwide. But this is the situation facing Christianity. The following discusses three problems with this strategy:
This book is responsible for our salvation. It’s a guide on how to avoid the eternal torture that this “loving” God has for us if we don’t behave to his standards, but in the far flung corners of the world, there are millions of people who have never seen a bible in their life and never will. Are they just destined for hell, because of the fact that the gospel hasn’t reached these locations? Seems unfair.
This one is similar to the first reason, but this is a different regard. An all-powerful creator should have a more efficient way to disseminate his message. He can literally yell into the universe, “Hey I’m God, I exist, follow me and worship me.” Instead he’s invisible, inaudible and expects people to discover who he is…….with a book. Also, there are language barriers. An all-powerful God should have a universal language that can be understood by everyone, but no, we need multiple translations.
The modern Bible is an edited and revised version of something that was no longer original, long ago. Mistranslations, both by mistakes and intentions, parts of the Bible have been omitted. Things have been added and removed to alter its original message for political agendas or different points of view, depending on culture and time periods. The Bible is flawed and God allowed it to happen. How can a believer trust a book that has been in the hands of flawed mortals? It’s obviously because that is who created the Bible in the first place and it isn’t inspired by any intelligent, omnipotent creator.
An all-powerful god would have been capable of enacting a much more efficient method for alerting humans to his intentions and expectations. The Bible narrative suffers from three fatal flaws unbecoming a god of the talents claimed by Christians.
(2746) Eusebius lies about Mark
One of the reasons historians have learned to distrust accounts of early Christian history is that much of the material is poorly sourced. A good example is what Eusebius (260-339) wrote about Mark’s (the gospel writer) alleged church in Alexandria, Egypt. It was obviously a fraudulent account designed to buttress the authenticity of the gospels.
Eusebius claims that Mark, the author of the Gospel, founded and governed the Alexandrian church; and then Eusebius appears to have used some list of “bishops” who succeeded Mark up to his own time. But Eusebius cites no sources for any of these claims, and evidently knows exactly nothing about any of these men or the Alexandrian church in the first hundred plus years—all he has to relate is a bare list of names and dates of accession (that someone may well have simply fabricated). Notably he can describe no writings, not even letters or sermons or edicts, nor even anecdotes or stories, of any of these men. Nor is he willing to tell us where his mere “list” comes from or why we should trust it.
When we see how extensively Eusebius cites documents, works, and sources for so much else across his history, the complete absence of any of that here is a clue: Eusebius knew nothing about the first hundred and fifty or so years of the Alexandrian church. He had no sources. No books. No letters. No documents. No stories. Nothing. And yet Origen surely would have brought some of that into the library at Caesarea if he had had any such materials. So…evidently, he didn’t either. The history of Christianity in Egypt before Pantaenus was simply forgotten; no one preserved it, no one knew anything about it. Which entails it was quite small and tenuous; and that the truth of it became long forgotten.
Which is one obvious reason we can doubt Eusebius’s claim that “Mark” founded the church there. Not least because we have no evidence any such person existed—he appears to be entirely legendary, a fabrication of the late second century to fill an annoying hole in tradition and to tender renewed authority to what actually began as an anonymous Gospel. But also because Eusebius can cite no source for this. Guess how he identifies the information? “They say that this Mark was the first that was sent to Egypt” and “proclaimed the Gospel which he had written, and first established churches in Alexandria” (Eusebius, History of the Church 2.16). Ah. The proverbial “They.” Right. Remember? That’s code for “I have no citeable source; you might want to be skeptical.” This historian who loved citing and quoting books and documents and sources everywhere he could…and the best he could do here is “they” say. Who? How do they know? Never mind.
It’s worse than that. Because of course it is. Immediately after claiming “they” say Mark started the Alexandrian church (and, Eusebius later asserts, without even citing a “they,” governed it all the way into the 60s A.D.), Eusebius goes on to pull this stunt:
And the multitude of believers, both men and women, that were collected there at the very outset, and lived lives of the most philosophical and excessive asceticism, was so great, that Philo thought it worth while to describe their pursuits, their meetings, their entertainments, and their whole manner of life.
That’s right. Not only does Eusebius in fact have no sources saying Mark was ever even there, much less running the church there for decades, he fills his chapter with a bogus source: he tries to pass off Philo’s description of a pious Jewish community as a Christian community—and not only that, but as Mark’s Christian community. Which means Eusebius literally did not know Mark was ever there or had anything to do with it. He had no writings from Mark or that community about it; nor had he any outsiders writing about it. So he had to fake up some evidence even of there being a church there at the time, by misrepresenting Philo’s treatise.
This was an example of how early Christian historians fabricated histories to increase the credibility of Christianity. It might have worked well during its time, but as modern scholarship uncovers the deceit, it now serves as a tell-tale indicator that much of what passes as pious history is simply made up.
(2747) Hell is a mirror of prison justice
There are some crimes that are so heinous that simply putting the perpetrator to death seems too merciful. Rather, they need to be tortured, such that the punishment equates to an ‘eye for an eye.’ This human emotional response to vicious crime was likely the genesis of the concept of hell. The following was taken from:
Mankind can be a very cruel animal. When we think of cruelty it’s easy to distance ourselves from that reality because most of us are not actually subjected to cruelty. For instance, who here has served time in an interrogation room being water-boarded? Who has seen their family massacred as part of a political statement? Who among us has had the women in our family raped in front of our eyes for a burglar’s personal amusement? These things, these atrocities against one another, are typically headline news that are soon forgotten.
A particular case of this comes to mind. The burglary, assault and murder of the Petit family. To skip to the details, the mother cooperated giving the robbers $15,000 from her savings to their assurances they would leave the family unharmed. Soon after one of the criminals raped her in her living room and strangled her with her fine silk scarf until her face turned purple and eyes literally bulged from her skull. This was after molesting her 11 year old daughter and taking cell phone pictures of it. After murdering the mother the two criminals poured gasoline over the mother’s two daughters faces and bodies, one 17, the other 11, and lit them on fire. The two burned alive.
These two criminals are on death row and will be for awhile appealing their conviction, though they were caught immediately after they set the house and family on fire and confessed to the slaughter.
Mankind can be a very cruel animal.What, then, should we do to these two criminals? If you read the full report online you’d be tempted to give them the worst punishment you could imagine, for they deserve no less and no mercy. One member of the jury didn’t believe they deserved the death penalty. They even have supporters. Yes, men who rape 11 year old girls and set them on fire have supporters.
Again we return to the question of ‘what do we do to these two when death isn’t enough?’
Many who oppose the death sentence immediately opt for them being put in jail for the rest of their lives and given ‘prison justice’.
We can imagine the details of prison justice but what we fail to recognize is the lack of responsibility on our part to punish these people. Rather than punish we put them in the hands of human ‘devils’ so to speak, who do their bidding for the eternal remainder of their life on Earth.
Does this sound anything like the bible’s description of hell? A place where WE have no bloodshed on our hands. We hand that over to God and his ‘hell’ device.
Hell, to me, seems like a mirror of prison justice. We need not feel any guilt because ‘we’ aren’t responsible for what goes on inside- right? It’s all God’s decision.
Just as I feel allowing prisoners to rape and kill one another is fundamentally wrong I feel that the idea of hell is wrong. It is an extension of human thought, clear and simple, and we know human thoughts are not divine, no matter how inspired they may be. If God existed as he is written to be in the bible there would be no hell for there would be no allowing criminals to allow themselves choices which lead to hell. Why allow the birth of a murderer? To send them to hell?
It’s more fair to say we do not understand what happens to us when our lives end on this Earth. There may be a god who may punish but the bible does a very poor job in describing such a phenomenon in a divine manner devoid of human interference.
Christianity could have had unsaved people simply die and vanish- i.e., given the ‘death penalty’ after they die. But somehow that was seen as being too lenient, so it went the other direction, not only delivering post-life punishment, but making it last for eternity. Hell is a mirror of the (obviously human) idea that simply executing people for serious crimes is not enough of a punishment- they deserve worse.
(2748) Christianity’s war on women
It can be assumed that a universal god would recognize an inherent equality between the sexes, while a god invented by men would view men as being superior. Christianity has all of the trappings of the latter. The following is an excerpt from a speech delivered by Annie Laurie Gaylor in April 1998:
Virtually every vocal opponent of contraception and abortion for the past 30 years argues against these rights on the basis of God and the bible. There were many fine organizations working for women’s rights, but none–we felt–getting at the root cause of women’s oppression–patriarchal religion and its incursions upon our secular laws. So that’s why I’m here today.
The primary organized opposition to reproductive rights in this country always has been religion. In fact, we are in the midst of a religious war not just against abortion rights, but women’s rights in general, not just in our country, but worldwide.
In this country, the religious terrorism is directed at birth control and abortion clinics, their patients, medical providers and staff. In Alabama, it is the Army of God bombing abortion clinics. In Algeria, it is terrorists from similarly named groups who are shooting schoolgirls on the streets for not wearing veils.
In America, the foot soldiers of the Religious Right are engaged in their campaigns of terrorism, harassment, stalking, arsons, bombing, murder, trying to close down legal abortion clinics by force. They do all these things in the name of God. In Afghanistan, the radical Islamic Taliban that has taken over that country is literally halting all medical care for women–the hospitals in the capital city are already closed to women. They’ve done this, and worse, in the name of Allah.
Islamic fundamentalist theocrats openly talk of jihad, a holy war. So does Patrick Buchanan, who has called for a Christian jihad in this country.
Whether declared or undeclared, there is nothing new in this religious war against women. After the organized women’s movement was officially launched 150 years ago this year, Elizabeth Cady Stanton said the “bible was hurled at us on every side.” Every freedom won for women in this country, small or large–from wearing bloomers to riding bicycles to not wearing bonnets in church, to being permitted to speak in public, to attend universities, to enter professions, to vote and own property–was opposed by the churches. In the nineteen seventies and eighties, it was the churches–Catholic, fundamentalist Protestant and Mormon–which marshalled political forces to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment.
And the most important right women have strived to obtain is the right to decide if and when to become a mother. Foes of women’s freedom know that controlling women’s reproduction is the ultimate way to control women. That is why when it comes to abortion, religious opponents are not just hurling bibles. They are hurtling bombs.
This is a religious war against women because it relies on threats, force, violence, harassment, terrorism. Pascal said: “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” And Voltaire said people who believe in absurdities will commit atrocities.
The problem is not just that Christianity placed doctrinal blockades to women seeking equal rights, it’s also that it has been forced to backtrack from those positions, not because of divine revelation, but because of a necessity to remain relevant to changing times. So the question is: did God change or did people? The answer should be obvious.
(2749) Religions have outlived their usefulness
It would be expected that a religion developed by a god would retain its usefulness even as human societies develop new technologies and cultural norms. This has not been the case for Christianity and other similar faiths. They have progressively descended into a pool of irrelevance as secular forces fill the functions they once dominated. The following is a quote by Yuval Noah Harari in his book Homo Deus:
“Islam, Christianity and other traditional religions are still important players in the world. Yet their role is now largely reactive. In the past, they were a creative force. Christianity, for example, spread the hitherto heretical idea that all humans are equal before God… Jesus went further, insisting that the meek and oppressed are God’s favourite people, thus turning the pyramid of power on its head, and providing ammunition for generations of revolutionaries.
Christianity was responsible for important economic and technological innovations. The Catholic Church established medieval Europe’s most sophisticated administrative system, and pioneered the use of archives, catalogues, timetables and other techniques of data processing. The Vatican was the closest thing twelfth-century Europe had to Silicon Valley… the monasteries – which for 1,000 years spearheaded the European economy and introduced advanced agricultural and administrative methods. Monasteries were the first institutions to use clocks, and for centuries they and the cathedral schools were the most important learning centres of Europe, helping to found many of Europe’s first universities, such as Bologna, Oxford and Salamanca.
Today the Catholic Church continues to enjoy the loyalties and tithes of hundreds of millions of followers. Yet it and the other theist religions have long since turned from a creative into a reactive force. They are busy with rearguard holding operations… They now mostly agonise over the technologies, methods and ideas propagated by other movements. Biologists invent the contraceptive pill – and the Pope doesn’t know what to do about it. Computer scientists develop the Internet – and rabbis argue whether orthodox Jews should be allowed to surf it. Feminist thinkers call upon women to take possession of their bodies – and learned muftis debate how to confront such incendiary ideas.
…what was the most influential discovery, invention or creation of the twentieth century? That’s a difficult question, because it is hard to choose from a long list of candidates, including scientific discoveries such as antibiotics, technological inventions such as computers, and ideological creations such as feminism. Now ask yourself: what was the most influential discovery, invention or creation of traditional religions such as Islam and Christianity in the twentieth century? This too is a very difficult question, because there is so little to choose from. What did priests, rabbis and muftis discover in the twentieth century that can be mentioned in the same breath as antibiotics, computers or feminism? Having mulled over these two questions, from where do you think the big changes of the twenty-first century will emerge: from the Islamic State, or from Google? Yes, the Islamic State knows how to put videos on YouTube; but leaving aside the industry of torture, how many new start-ups have emerged from Syria or Iraq lately?
Billions of people, including many scientists, continue to use religious scriptures as a source of authority, but these texts are no longer a source of creativity. Think, for example, about the acceptance of gay marriage or female clergy by the more progressive branches of Christianity. Where did this acceptance originate? Not from reading the Bible, St Augustine or Martin Luther. Rather, it came from reading texts like Michel Foucault’s ‘The History of Sexuality’ or Donna Haraway’s ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’. Yet Christian true-believers – however progressive – cannot admit to drawing their ethics from Foucault and Haraway. So they go back to the Bible, to St Augustine and to Martin Luther… They read page after page and story after story with the utmost attention, until they find what they need: some maxim, parable or ruling that if interpreted creatively enough means that God blesses gay marriages and that women can be ordained to the priesthood. They then pretend the idea originated in the Bible… The Bible is kept as a source of authority, even though it is no longer a true source of inspiration.
Their scriptures don’t have anything to say about genetic engineering or artificial intelligence, and most priests, rabbis and muftis don’t understand the latest breakthroughs in biology and computer science. For if you want to understand these breakthroughs, you don’t have much choice – you need to spend time reading scientific articles and conducting lab experiments instead of memorizing and debating ancient texts.”
It is difficult to think that an all-powerful god would countenance such a dismissal of ‘his’ communication with humanity without sending ‘updates’ intended to remain in the conversation. However a religion formed by man and pinned to an ancient scripture would certainly be expected to lose its relevance as society progresses culturally and scientifically well beyond the bounds of yesteryears.
(2750) Thomas Fairchild and social pressure
Christian apologists often brag that science was promoted by Christianity in an attempt to re-write history and to whitewash the many episodes of the church persecuting scientists who discovered inconvenient truths (such as Galileo). Often unseen, other than placing a strong-handed clamp on ‘out-of-control’ scientists, was the application of a subtle form of social pressure. The case of botanist Thomas Fairchild is a perfect example. The following was taken from:
Another way in which Christian teaching inhibited scientific progress was though social pressure. As the Churches lost power, the threat of death diminished. The range of threat included clerically inspired mob violence (eg Joseph Priestly), loss of occupation (eg 19th century geologists), and social ostracism (eg William Godwin). This is one reason why almost all scientific progress up to the mid-nineteenth century was made by noblemen and rich scions of noble families. They moved in educated circles where traditional Church teachings were already held in contempt, and rich and powerful circles where the power of the Church was limited.
For others, social pressure could be enormous. One spectacular example of this was provided by Thomas Fairchild, a celebrated eighteenth century gardener in Hoxton, near the City of London. Fairchild was the first to create a plant hybrid in (perhaps before) 1717. He placed the pollen of sweet william (Dianthus barbatus) on the style of a gillyflower (Dianthus caryophyllus). A new hybrid flower, a type of carnation, looked like neither of its parents, establishing sexual reproduction in plants. This infertile flower became known as “Fairchild’s Mule.”
Hybrids had existed for a long time already (Shakespeare makes reference to a debate as to their natural or unnatural qualities in “The Winter’s Tale”) but what Fairchild was doing was clearly blasphemous. It was “playing God”, presuming to tamper with God’s Creation (exactly the same religious objection still made by traditional Churches to modern genetic science). Fairchild worried about a backlash occasioned by his taking the power over creation into his own hands. To compound his crime, Fairchild had recognized that plants had sexes. He corresponded with the great Linnaeus who also recognized the existence of plant sexes. For Christians this was an abomination. Cross-pollinating species manually was obscene as well as blasphemous, and another cause of criticism of both Fairchild and Linnaeus.
The significance of Fairchild’s work was enormous. He became celebrated in scientific circles for his experiment, and presented a dried flower from his hybrid to the Royal Society in 1720. His work should have triggered much further research, but it did not. Outside the scientific community it was blasphemous to attempt to create a new species, because God had already created all the species he wanted on Earth. Fairchild did not pursue the obvious lines of further research, and neither did anyone else until his ideas were taken up again by horticulturalists a century later when the influence of Christianity had diminished further.
Fairchild, a devout Christian, should have been a national hero. Instead he would live in fear of God’s wrath for the rest of his life. He died in 1729, apparently still terrified about the prospects for his soul. He bequeathed twenty-five pounds to St Leonard’s Church in the Hackney Rd for the endowment of an annual Whitsun sermon on either “The wonderful works of God in Creation” or “On the certainty of the resurrection of the dead, proved by certain changes of the animal and vegetable parts of creation”. This annual event, a form of atonement for his sins, became known as the “Vegetable Sermon” and is still held each year, attended by the Worshipful Company of Gardeners. It provides a baleful reminder of the influence of the Anglican Church in Eighteenth century England.
This is another example of the church having to surrender another feature of its erstwhile dogma- that God was the only authorized agent for creating species of living things. The social pressure that hamstrung scientists of this period points to the untruth of the theology that engendered it.
Follow this link to #2751