(2851) Samson’s animal cruelty
In one of most inglorious (and improbable) stories in the Bible, Samson used foxes as fodder to take revenge on his enemy. This is emblematic of how people at that time treated non-human animals.
Later on, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat and went to visit his wife. He said, “I’m going to my wife’s room.” But her father would not let him go in.
“I was so sure you hated her,” he said, “that I gave her to your companion. Isn’t her younger sister more attractive? Take her instead.”
Samson said to them, “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them.” So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails, lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines. He burned up the shocks and standing grain, together with the vineyards and olive groves.
When the Philistines asked, “Who did this?” they were told, “Samson, the Timnite’s son-in-law, because his wife was given to his companion.”
So the Philistines went up and burned her and her father to death. Samson said to them, “Since you’ve acted like this, I swear that I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you.” He attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them. Then he went down and stayed in a cave in the rock of Etam.
It should be obvious that one man could not round up 300 foxes. Foxes are territorial animals, so 300 of them would be spread out over many square miles of wilderness. Even so, how could Samson have corralled them, tied their tales together, and shepherded them to the grain fields? Surely this is a fictional story. But fiction still matters, and a book ascribed as being God’s message to humankind should exhibit stellar ethics. Burning three hundred foxes (whose tails are very sensitive) is not consistent with that standard.
(2852) Examining modern day headlines
Imagine that you are reading a periodical publication and see one of the following headlines:
Man Walks on Water
Man Turns Water into Wine at Wedding Party
Virgin Woman Gives Birth to Baby Boy
Man Cures Blind Man with Spit Mud
Man Multiplies fishes to feed Multitude
Man Flies into Space under His Own Power
Dead Man Walks out of Tomb after Three Days
Man Stops Storm with Voice Command
Man Sends Demons into Swine Herd; Herd then Drowns Self
Man Walks Through Solid Wall
Immediately, you would be very skeptical of these stories and assume that they are fictional. But because the gospel stories are old and written in a book that many people believe has special properties, many believe that these things actually happened. In other words, they believe fantastical stories written by highly superstitious people during the Iron Age while dismissing similar stories set in modern times. This credibility offset is alarming.
(2853) Unfalsifiable belief is invalid
No matter what people believe, if said belief is impervious to change based on receipt of new information, then the belief is logically invalid. This is evident in creationists who flippantly toss aside all evidence for evolution. It can also be seen in response to every day scenarios, as exemplified below:
A man crosses a road, is nearly hit by a car. Everyone says, “Wow, the Lord is good; he didn’t get hit.”
Same man crosses the road a year later, is hit by a car, breaks a leg. Everyone says, “Wow, the Lord is good; he only broke a bone, not killed.”
Same man crosses the road a year later, is hit by a car, dies. Everyone says, “Wow, the Lord is good; He wanted to take him home to Heaven.”
Most religious belief is rigidly held, not vulnerable to change because of any subsequent event or disconfirming information. Because of that, the perceived truth of any faith that is based on the persistent adherence of its followers should be called into question. An unchallenged truth is an ersatz form of the same.
(2854) Faith versus medical science
It is well known that many Christians avoid medical science when they are sick or afflicted and instead rely on religious faith. This is often expressed by avoiding vaccinations, blood transfusions, and surgeries or medications. Some of this resistance can be traced to the following scripture:
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
This scripture degrades the doctors who not only didn’t help the woman but actually made her worse. Then, a simple act of faith did the trick. Many Christians take this to heart, and, to their detriment, eschew doctors and rely solely on faith. Often, this ends up affecting children who are defenseless in the face of this insanity. A real god would not have allowed this scripture to be part of his message to humankind….unless he intended to supply faith healing as a matter of course….which, if he exists, he doesn’t.
( 2855) Punishment timing
Both the god of the Old Testament and the god of the New Testament (the same being according to Christianity) are focused on punishing human beings, primarily for not worshiping them enough or doing things for which they disapprove. But the timing and location of the punishment is different.
The Old Testament god is intent on punishing people in this lifetime and is seen to do this on countless occasions- killing, sending plagues, famines, etc. Once he has killed his victim, he seems to believe that is sufficient.
On the other hand, the New Testament god, although he does a little bit of temporal punishment, instead focuses the brunt of his vengeance on the afterlife, promising to torture those he dislikes for an eternity.
It has often been said that the New Testament god is kinder than he was in the Old Testament, but almost anyone would agree that eternal torture is much more severe than a quick and final death. That aside, the point of this discussion is that these two gods cannot really be the same being. This leaves the following four possibilities:
1) Both of these gods exist in some sort of cosmic competition.
2) The Old Testament god exists but the New Testament god is fictional (Judaism is true, Christianity false).
3) The New Testament god real but the Old Testament god is fictional (this one is logically problematic)
4) They are both fictional.
(2856) God is inconsistent compared to his creation
When we compare the consistency and predictability of the world around us with the same associated with the god alleged by Christianity to have created everything, we observe a major disconnect. It makes little sense that God would build a clockwork precision universe while delivering a chaotic mess of his message to humankind. The following was taken from:
The world around us follows some very basic laws and logic. Things like gravity, math, geology, biology, and physics all demonstrate their truth and functionality without hiding or demanding anything from us. All of these things are also very testable and very falsifiable. Our relationship with these things is not contingent on belief or faith. They just work.
These realities are also reproducible. Anyone from any location on earth can reproduce the findings of other people around the globe, and even in space.
We are asked by revealed theology to attribute all that we see around us to God. He designed it all. He built it all. He loves it all. He is the one and only creator. The first mover. So it’s pretty easy to see that 99.9% of God’s creation follows a very solid and verifiable existence. All except one… God’s own rules and relationship with us.
Wouldn’t it only be logical for God to also create His messaging and His laws for us in the clear and exacting way that He created everything else? Wouldn’t God want that same unambiguous clarity for us? Isn’t our relationship to God one of trust and faith? Isn’t there a lot at stake if we get it wrong?
Yet God sets aside all of those amazing natural attributes that He gave to the world and creates a cacophony of conflicting messages, laws, social structure, oppression, murder, wars, genocide, and the wholesale destruction of people and cities. These events are the legacy of our unique and unhinged relationship with God.
In all of these biblical examples of God’s wrath and God’s ways, I see no foundation of logic or clarity. Whatever God decides is moral becomes moral. There is no top or bottom with God… if God says it, or demands it, it’s suddenly unquestionably correct. There is no testability or falsifiability in God’s ways with us. God is fickle. God’s rules share no standard with each other. He demands that His commandments be relaxed for wartime and whenever He’s angry with someone. Flooding the earth and demanding women and children be put into slavery (Jericho) are not solid requests made by a supreme being. These actions seem more like the acts of desperate (regular) people trying to justify horrific acts.
I see no continuity between how God built everything and His subsequent relationship with us. We begin life as fallen, and we aren’t worthy of God’s love. God is hidden, God changes His mind. God appears to different people through completely different methods. God contradicts Himself between religions (and even within the same religion). No other construct in God’s creation behaves like the relationship He constructed for us.
One would think that a god directing the rollout of an interactive religious faith, who nevertheless allows so much religious confusion would have done so on purpose… and a purpose that is not to the benefit of innocent humans. It is hard to imagine that a god could be so precise with regard to physics, chemistry, and biology while being so careless with theology.
(2857) The Bible places women in submission
It is well understood that the Bible sees men and women in different ways, and, to be honest, there are differences between the sexes in terms of biology and psychology, but civilization has evolved over the past twenty centuries such that the Bible’s view of women has become seriously outdated. The following essay was taken from:
In this essay, I will go into depth explaining how things like trying to place a gender in submission, telling them to be silent, prohibiting them from taking any positions where they can lead or educate, blaming them when they’re raped, etc., show that the force that is doing these things (in this case Christianity) is against that gender – because apparently eight sentences, seventeen Bible verses, and a pretty clear title weren’t enough.
Trying to place an entire gender in submission is immoral. When you decide that a gender is inferior and attempt to place them in roles that are silenced and servile, insisting that’s merely the natural order of things, you’re doing them a great injury; in fact, the very site we’re debating on has quarantined or banned a number of subreddits who founded their philosophies on the insistence women were inherently weaker, inferior, less moral, and so on: this includes The Red Pill, Men Going Their Own Way, Incels, Braincels, etc. Views like these are regularly called out as harmful and misogynistic across the globe. Numerous political and religious leaders have attested as much. In many places, like the country I’m writing from, such discrimination is actively illegal in many cases. Thus, when the foundational text for a religion overtly declares that one gender should be in submission to the other, we can be justifiably concerned about its sexist nature. Here are some quotes from the Bible that do just that: “”Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Colossians 3:18 “And so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” Titus 2:4 “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” 1 Peter 3:1 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” Ephesians 5:22 “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” 1 Corinthians 11:3
Women have independent and valuable existences which are not solely for the benefit of men. In cultures where women are forced to stay in the home or remain servile, they’re often beaten, raped, denied education, publicly harassed, etc. Meanwhile, the simple act of allowing women to pursue their own interests can spontaneously lead to some of the greatest strides humanity has ever made. Did you know there’s only one human who has ever won Nobel Prizes in multiple sciences, and it’s Marie Curie, a woman? Where would we be if we had forced her and her fellow female scientists to spend their lives waiting hand and foot on men? Thus, when we have Bible verses that explicitly say women exist for men, that’s misogynistic to women and harmful to society in general: “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”” Genesis 2:18 “For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” 1 Corinthians 11:8
Women are strong. They have equaled or in many avenues outpaced the accomplishments of men, raised most of every society’s children, survived brutal physical treatment like rape and domestic abuse, and thrived despite constant social/emotional harassment. To merely assert women are weaker without a mention of any of that would surely be the move of an unreflective misogynist. Thus, when Christianity’s foundational text does exactly that, it should make you suspect the religion of being against them: “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel” 1 Peter 3:7
Women are obviously capable of teaching, speaking, and interpreting religions in a useful/intelligent manner. We invite them to do so here the same as we invite men. Everyone from political bodies to academic institutions to internet forums has found giving women equal footing to express themselves has done nothing but enrich discussion and further knowledge/justice. Thus, if someone were to merely assert women should be silenced and prevented from teaching as a way of keeping in submission, that person (in this case the authors of the Bible) would be acting against women: “The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.” 1 Corinthians 14:34 “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” 1 Timothy 2:11
Our society has a serious rape problem. As supported by academia-accepted theories of feminism backed up by numerous sociological studies, it can even be said to have a rape culture – one where we don’t just have to fear rapists themselves but also a system that defaults to views that blame women and refuses to help them. One might wonder how this could happen spontaneously – why would so many people be looking for ways to declare women were at fault for rape or that we should be able to move on without any serious penalty to rapists? One explanation would be that a large percentage of our society claims that the foundation of their moral outlook is a book that explicitly does blame women for instances of being raped (“If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not” Deuteronomy 22:23 “But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then only the man that lay with her shall die. But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death” Deuteronomy 22:25) or even allows rapists to get away with a penalty as light as a fixed monetary fine (“If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver.” Deuteronomy 22:28).
When our society discusses mutually consenting sex, we mean to say that both parties involved must be willing, capable participants. Anything else is usually recognized as an act of rape; however, many societies have trouble taking this notion seriously when viewed in the context of marriage. America for instance, an incredibly Christian country, did not have a single law against marital rape until 1975. This is hardly a coincidence, as the Bible declares that it’s refraining from sex that requires mutual consent once two people are married. It outright denies the existence of marital rape by treating single-party opposition to proceeding with sex as a sin: “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent” 1 Corinthians 7:5
Most people who believe in equality understand that not every person they meet will have the same virtues or vices; however, they put that understanding in motion by waiting until someone has done something wrong to suppose that person has poor character. If you took an entire demographic and warned people to be on the lookout for them, specifically for qualities that are described in stereotypical terms, that would indicate a bias against them. Thus, when the Bible does this numerous times, even hoping to establish these warnings as proverbs people will commonly remind each other of, we can conclude the religion that calls this book “holy” is likely against women: “Do not give your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings.” Proverbs 31:” “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” 1 Timothy 2:13 “It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.” Proverbs 21:19
In summary, trying to force half of the population into submission, silence, acceptance of rape, denial of any positions of teaching/leadership, and trying to set up a culture of inherently mistrusting them is a sign you’re against them, and the Bible’s frequent attempts to do exactly that indicates the misogyny of a religion that would revere those words as holy.
It cannot be overstated that the Bible’s teachings with respect to women no longer have relevance in today’s world. The scriptural guidance is set in time, not timeless, and this is not what would be expected of an all-knowing god who would have put gender issues on a trajectory that would coincide with a fully-evolved and elegant expression of sexual ethics.
(2858) Jesus did not voluntarily sacrifice himself
Added to the fact that Jesus returned to his great life, uninjured, and fully functional after his supposed ‘sacrifice’ on the cross, there exists a structural issue that makes the entire issue nonsensical. A sentence to death decided by others that is then called a sacrifice is insulting to the people who have actually self-sacrificed themselves hoping they were doing the right thing, such as a soldier jumping on a grenade to save his fellow platoon mates.
Jesus did not freely offer up himself- he was sentenced to death by the Roman authorities for committing sedition [or by the Jews if you accept that revisionist history]. Using Bible logic, inmates sentenced to death are honorable people who sacrifice themselves for humanity. After all, just like Jesus, it’s not the prisoner who decided to kill himself for his crimes but someone else who thought it was a justified punishment.
(2859) God and evil
There is a long-standing debate about why so much evil exists in light of the assumption that an almighty god is overseeing the world. If we restrict ourselves to monotheism, the following five possibilities exist:
1) God is omnipotent and focuses on reducing or eliminating evil.
2) God is omnipotent but doesn’t use his powers to reduce evil.
3) God is not omnipotent but nevertheless reduces evil as much as he can.
4) God is not omnipotent and does not attempt to reduce evil.
5) There is no god and the evil that we experience is a natural consequence of an unguided evolutionary process.
Option #1 is problematic because it implies that God could end all evil but nevertheless allows a lot of it to happen.
Option #2 shows God to be apathetic and uncaring, not a complementary characterization.
Option #3 is troubling for most Christians who believe that God is all-powerful, though it does address the problem of God allowing evil that he could stop.
Option #4 retains the problem of #2 while eliminating some of the blame for God allowing evil he could have otherwise stopped.
Option #5 requires little commentary because it is inevitable that a complex world without an overseeing force will contain a significant measure of evil.
Atheists and most agnostics have no problem picking #5, but what would Christians pick? Most would eliminate #’s 3 and 4 because it has been drilled into their brains that God is omnipotent. So that leaves either #1 or #2. It would probably be too distasteful for most Christians to believe that an all-powerful god would not use any of that power to reduce the amount of evil in the world. So this leaves #1 as the go-to, default Christian position.
So Christians have no choice but to admit that every occurrence of evil could have been prevented by God, including the Holocaust, the Black Death, the millions of women who have been raped and murdered, and millions of children who have been sexually abused. In light of this, it seems to be a weak argument to say that things would have been worse if God had not prevented some additional acts of evil that would have happened had he not stopped it.
But more to the point, if indeed God was actually in the business of preventing evil, would we know it? After all, if nothing bad happens, how could we realize that God had stopped whatever it was that would have happened otherwise? The answer to that is to review actuarial data. If God was manipulating events in order to reduce evil, we would expect to see statistically significant bumps in the data, such as unexplained decreases in mortality rates for certain forms of cancer, heart disease, car accidents, and the like. Instead, fatalities from these causes align along a smooth curve with trends associated with advances in science, regulations or the like. In other words, it appears that Case #1 is not true. So a more reasonable choice for a committed Christian would be #2, conceding the uncomfortable admission that God allows, against his ability to stop, the same amount of evil that would occur if he didn’t exist. Of course, at this point, #5 is looking pretty good.
(2860) Egoistic freedom vs. authoritarian compassion
Christianity presents its followers with a difficult dilemma. No matter whether or not they attempt to bring others into the faith, they suffer some significant consequences. On the one hand they are seen as being compassionless, on the other, autocratic. The following was taken from:
The majority of religions have a moral code which must be followed not only by the followers of the religion, but all the mankind as well.
So, the religious people must deal with the following dilemma: they must choose between an egoistic freedom or an authoritarian compassion. I’ll explain: the religious people can deal with other people of another’s faiths or no faith by two ways: they can defend the freedom of other people not to follow their moral code, but doing this is egoistic, because that way demonstrates that they don’t care if other people will be saved or get enlightened, and they can help other people to get saved, but they have chosen not to do that, so I called that behavior egoistic freedom. Or the religious people can try to impose other people their moral code. Although that behavior demonstrates they care about other people, that’s authoritarian, so I called that behavior authoritarian compassion.
This dilemma could have been avoided if the ‘what you believe’ requirement was eliminated and the Christian salvation plan was simply this: People who live good lives go to heaven. Wouldn’t a real god have realized this and avoided all of the strife, bloodshed, tears, and hatred that Christian exclusivity visited on the world?
(2861) The Bible is not divinely inspired
A case can be made that the Bible is not entirely divinely inspired because, among other issues, it includes a command that could not have come from an omniscient deity. The sentence of death for homosexual sex in the Book of Leviticus could not have issued by a god, at least from a god endowed with the attributes assumed by Christianity. The following was taken from:
Here is the argument, put succinctly:
1) If the whole Bible is divinely inspired, then there was a time in history when killing homosexuals was the objectively morally correct thing to do.
2) Killing homosexuals is never the objectively morally correct thing to do.
3) Therefore, the whole Bible is not divinely inspired.
In Defense of Premise 1
For the Bible to be divinely inspired, this entails that the Bible’s message ultimately derives from a Being who is always morally correct. Therefore, it is morally correct to do what he commands at the time he commands it. He commanded in Leviticus 20:13 that any man who has intercourse with another man is to be put to death. Now obviously, this doesn’t mean that killing homosexuals is the right thing to do today. But it does mean that there was at least one time in history when killing homosexuals was the morally correct thing to do.
In Defense of Premise 2
I would assume this is a premise most Christians would grant. But perhaps some will surprise me here.
You might think “what business does an atheist have in claiming that something is objectively wrong”? But read the premise again. I have not claimed that anything is objectively right or wrong. To say that “killing homosexuals is never objectively morally correct” is not the same as saying “killing homosexuals is objectively morally incorrect.” I could be a moral nihilist and say that nothing is ever objectively moral or immoral, and the premise would still stand.
Since the above argument is valid, the only way for the Christian to avoid the conclusion is to disagree with either premise 1 or premise 2.
This argument is based on an assumption that an all-knowing god would possess insight into the future trends of human morality and ethics and would avoid making edicts that would fail to survive the test of time. There is some wiggle room for apologists to suggest that penalizing gay sex was necessary at that time to ensure the maintenance of population numbers, though this is a very feeble hypothesis. It is much more likely that an uninspired, homophobic human wrote this ill-fated scripture.
(2862) QAnon and Jesus
The QAnon phenomenon in the United States and the near-deification of former president Donald Trump are current day examples of how people are prone to believe in conspiracy theories that are not backed up by sufficient evidence. In many ways, it post-shadows how a belief could have developed 2000 years ago that an itinerant preacher who survived death was actually God. The following was taken from:
QAnon online posts for the last few years reflected belief that
“…Trump was secretly spearheading a spiritual war against an elite cabal of child-eating Satanists who controlled Washington, Hollywood and the world. Believers in these false, rambling theories had counted down the hours waiting for Trump to corral his enemies for military tribunals and mass executions in a show of force they called ‘the Storm.’”
(both quotes: Drew Harwell and Craig Timberg, The Washington Post, 20 January 2021)
Despite President Biden’s call for unity—and his commitment to be an agent for that—the QAnon radicals are far too lost in their delusions. How far off the deep end do you have to be to join a mob storming the Capitol, driven by sacred obligation to keep Trump in power? Evidence made no difference—overwhelming evidence that the November election was fair and untainted by fraud. But to this day Trump loudly proclaims otherwise.
What a letdown for these insurrectionists in the wake of Trump’s failed coup; delusions may take a hit, but the danger has not passed. Harwell and Timberg, in the article cited above, mention comments made by conspiracy theory researcher Travis View, i.e., that he “…predicted that the QAnon community may shrink in the coming months but also become more fervent in their commitment to its ideas. ‘History has taught us far-right movements don’t cool off during a Democratic administration,’ View said. ‘The people who stick with it are going to become even more radicalized and potentially more dangerous.’”
Deprogramming QAnon true believers is probably unlikely; deeply embedded crazy ideas—or even banal wrong ones—are difficult to dislodge. Which brings us back to Jesus. One of the most successful of all conspiracy theories is that there is a controlling god who is angry with our species, but who, once upon a time, devised a scheme by which humans can divert this anger. It’s a complicated conspiracy theory, involving a human sacrifice and believing exactly the right things. But the centerpiece is Jesus, with whom his devotees can remain in contact. “How is your walk with the Lord going today?” This was a question that a friend—who was raised in an evangelical family—told me was a common daily greeting in his circles. The devout are pretty sure they’re getting regular input from Jesus.
It’s probably not a reach to surmise that people twenty centuries ago would have been more vulnerable to poorly-evidenced conspiracy theories than in our modern times. If QAnon is the modern-day barometer of this defect, imagine what it might have been back then.
(2863) Christian ‘miracles’ clump around probabilistic fringes
At least some of the miracles associated with an unlimited god should overshadow what otherwise would be seen as being unlikely, or even extremely improbable. That is, they should dive into the realm of the impossible. However, miracle claims associated with Christianity, excepting those of highly questionable authenticity, do not meet this standard. The following was taken from:
Imagine you meet an extremely powerful wizard who claims to be able to perform amazing miracles. Imagine he promises to take care of you if you accept him as a true wizard. You do. Now imagine becoming extremely sick. The doctors give you less than a 1% chance of survival. Yet you survive! The doctors have absolutely no explanation for your survival. You go to your wizard friend and thank him for his magical intervention. The days pass, and wizard seems to be magically healing others on the verge of death in your hospital. But you note a curious fact. Whenever there is an amputation at the hospital, the wizard is nowhere to be found. You politely ask him about this. He tells you that he could, of course, heal amputations just as easily as life-threatening diseases, but he simply chooses not to in his wizardly wisdom. You don’t want to doubt his magic, but something seems off, especially when you hear stories of others who have inexplicably survived life-threatening diseases in other hospitals, and who claim that a different wizard healed them. Your own wizard assures you he is the only real wizard. You note something else. The statistical distribution of survivors is identical for those who claim to have a personal relationship with the wizard, and those who don’t. At this point, is it wise to suspect that your friend may not actually be a wizard? What if the magic works only if you believe it works?
The following are miracle claims that are seldom made, and if made, are safely insulated from scientific scrutiny:
- A human rising from the dead after a year in the ground.
- An animal speaking in coherent dialogue with humans.
- A human spontaneously growing a new limb.
- An astronomical object inexplicably stopping or changing directions.
An actual Creator of the universe could do any of these, yet we find the biblical Creator clumping his current miracles around the suspiciously less impressive fringes of physical possibility and statistical probabilities.
You could claim the God of the Bible has an unknown reason for making his miracles clump suspiciously around what is physically and probabilistically probable. However, without introducing a coherent reason, you have a God performing miracles in a way suspiciously similar to those who would mendaciously reframe mere physical improbabilities as miracles.
One worthwhile exercise is to take your list of miracle claims, plus the standards of evidence you have used to filter out false miracle claims, and to examine the miracle claims of another religion. If your standards of evidence remain constant in that comparison, you are likely to discover either that 1) the miracle claims of other religions are just as credible as your own, or that 2) your standards of evidence are less than adequate.
When zooming in on those standards of evidence through which you filter miracle claims, you might consider the following questions:
- What is the general likelihood that humans might lie about what they say they saw?
- What is the general likelihood that the desire for a miracle is so intense among those of deep faith that they can no longer distinguish between what is real and what they have imagined?
- Does your filter include an educated understanding of probabilities?
- Accurately assessing complex probabilities is quite difficult. To what degree are human accounts of events distorted by peer pressure and other psychological motivations?
- What tools of science are necessary to adequately assess the miracle claim?
- Are the sources of the claims granted unearned credibility that exceeds what would be given other sources?
- Have you overlooked any other relevant cognitive biases and logical fallacies?
Miracle claims associated with Christianity, as well as other religions, have proliferated because followers are not asking and answering these questions. When skeptics do the same, the ‘miracles’ always fall into the categories of fabrication, mistaken identity, misinterpretation, or hallucination.
(2864) Christian belief is based on subjective reasoning
One of the ways we know that Christianity is a cult based on subjective reasoning is the way Christians react when one of their own exits the faith. The first question is never ‘what analysis led you to believe that Christianity is not true?’ Rather, it is usually a salad serving of insipid tripes that are clearly based on an assumption that the apostate is wrong in a de facto sense. The following was taken from:
What Christians say when you leave Christianity:
-“You were never a real believer” (no true Scotsman)
-“You’re weren’t doing it right”
-“You focused on yourself rather than god/jesus/holy spirit”
-“The bible doesn’t stop being true just because you stop believing”
-“Jesus loves you anyway”
-“You’ll come back around”
-“Your church hurt doesn’t mean god isn’t real”
-“Not MY church”
-“Being a Christian isn’t about church”
-“I’ll pray for you”
-“Have you read/listened to/watched/…”
-“You just want to sin”
-“I used to feel this way, too”
-“I went through that phase, too”
-“It’s common to struggle with faith when times are tough”
-“You weren’t empowered by the holy spirit” (Charismatics)
-“Your theology was wrong” (Calvinists)
-“Just follow Jesus” (Progressives)
-“Just believe, you’ll understand it someday”
-“Your personal hurt doesn’t mean religion isn’t true”
-“Jesus will welcome you back with open arms”
-“Let’s get coffee”
If someone changes political persuasions, the reaction is different. The discussion centers on the policies and facts that led to this change. The regard for religion, though, is based on a presupposition that it is true and that therefore any deviation from it must be based on factors that do not involve challenging its underlying authenticity. The reaction of Christians to those who leave signals the shallowness of the reasoning that undergirds their faith.
(2865) The cutoff
Conventional Christian salvation theory holds that to be saved you must accept Jesus before you die. Otherwise, you go to hell. It gives no credit for acceptance after death, except perhaps in cases where a person was never exposed to the message. The following was taken from:
There is also plenty of human sacrifice, (the crucifixion) cannibalism (the last supper), and just generally murdering anyone who is different like gays, women, Canaanites, Philistines (Palestinians) but you don’t have to believe for your entire life and you can murder, steal, and rape all you want. You just have to say you are sorry and that you accept the Jesus scapegoat murder that made all of your sins go away before you die. Even though your soul is eternal and heaven is everlasting, you have to accept god while you are still breathing for it to count. It makes perfect sense.
There seems to be no limit on how close to death that the prayer of faith can take place and still be effective. Perhaps after a person’s heart stops beating and in the brief moments of remaining consciousness a last ditch call to God can save a person from the very brink of hell. Imagine 80 years of licentiousness, hate, cheating, embezzlement, rape, murder, and abuse being erased by a millisecond of repentance right before taking one’s final breath. The difference between heaven and hell can literally depend on how quickly one dies- someone shot in the head has no last minute chance to confess while a cancer patient usually has months to contemplate their mortality. Which is to say, if you are not right with God, you better hope you die slowly.
It should be obvious that if a real god were to evaluate people for post-life rewards and punishments, it would consider the entire breadth of that person’s life and not base it solely on the status of one’s faith at the exact moment of death.
(2866) Insurance company actuarial statistics
Companies that issue life and health insurance rely on actuarial statistics to price their products accordingly so that they can make a reasonable profit while remaining competitive. They are aware that individuals have different outcomes of health and longevity based on sex, lifestyle, race, weight, and current age. But one factor not used is whether a person is a Christian.
If there was a God intervening in the health and longevity of Christians, would this not be detected by the increasing precision of actuarial science? Wouldn’t Christians tend to stay healthier and live longer if they are communicating directly with an omnipotent god who was intent on answering their prayers? Shouldn’t insurance companies be giving a major discount to Christians?
They don’t, even though Christians tend to have healthier lifestyles – avoiding alcohol and drug use, aberrant sexual behavior, and lawlessness more so than the average public. But any discounts are based solely on those factors, not on whether or not a person believes in Jesus. Why? Because they know that an atheist living a healthy lifestyle is a better bet than a reckless Christian. And why is that? Because there is no man in the sky offering any measure of extra protection to those who pray to him.
(2867) Body and soul relationship
In the following transcript, biblical scholar Bart Ehrman explains that the modern-day Christian belief in the relationship between the body and the soul is not how it was understood in Old Testament times or even by Jesus himself:
EHRMAN: I think one of the hardest things for people to get their minds around is that ancient Israelites and then Jews and then Jesus himself and his followers have a very different understanding of what the relationship between what we call body and soul. Our view is that we – you’ve got two things going on in the human parts. So you have your body, your physical being, and you have your soul, this invisible part of you that lives on after death, that you can separate the two and they can exist – the soul can exist outside of the body. That is not a view that was held by ancient Israelites and then Jews, and it’s not even taught in the Old Testament.
In the Old Testament, what we would call the soul is really more like what we would call the breath. When God creates Adam, he creates him out of earth, and then he breathes life into him. The life is in the breath. When the breath leaves the body, the body no longer lives, but the breath doesn’t exist. We agree with this. I mean, when you die, you stop breathing. Your breath doesn’t go anywhere. And that was the ancient understanding, the ancient Hebrew understanding of the soul, is that it didn’t go anywhere because it was simply the thing that made the body alive.
And so in the Old Testament, there’s no idea that your soul goes one place or another because the soul doesn’t exist apart from the body. Existence is entirely bodily. And that was the view that Jesus then picked up.
GROSS: Are there specific passages in the Hebrew Bible that support the notion of an afterlife?
EHRMAN: Yeah, no, it’s a good question. And people generally point to these passages in the Book of Psalms that talk about Sheol, or Sheol. It’s a word that gets mistranslated into English. Sometimes Sheol is translated by the word hell, and it absolutely is not what people think of as hell. Sometimes Sheol is talked about by people today as a place that’s kind of like the Greek Hades, a place where everybody goes after they die, and they aren’t really physical beings down there; they’re just kind of like souls, and they exist forever there, and there’s nothing to do, and they do – they’re all the same. And so Sheol is sometimes portrayed like that. The Bible does talk about this place Sheol, especially in poetry, especially in Psalms. And it’s probably not a place that people go to, per se.
If you actually look at what the Psalms say about Sheol, they always equate it to the grave or to the pit. And so it appears that the ancient Israelites simply thought that when you died, your body got buried someplace. It got put in a grave, or it got put in a pit, and that’s what they called Sheol, is the place that your remains are. But it’s not a place where you continue to exist afterwards.
Just about the only place in the Hebrew Bible where you get an instance of somebody who has died who seems still to be alive afterwards is in this very strange and interesting passage in the book of 1 Samuel, where the king, Saul, is desperate for some advice from somebody who knows, and so he calls – he has a necromancer, a woman, this woman of Endor, who calls up his former adviser Samuel from the grave. And she holds a kind of seance. And Samuel comes up and is really upset that she’s called him up from the grave, and he gets upset with Saul for doing this, and he predicts that Saul is going to die the next day in battle, which he does.
And so people often point to that as an instance that’s – well, so people are alive after they’re dead. And right, it kind of seems like that when you read it – when you just kind of simply read it. But if you actually read it carefully, it doesn’t say that. What it says is that Samuel came up, but it doesn’t say where he was, and it doesn’t say if he was living at the time. It looks like what – before he was raised up, it looks like he was simply dead, and he was brought back to life temporarily, and he didn’t appreciate that (laughter), and so he was upset.
Belief in the soul outliving the body eventually gained popularity in the nascent Christian community and so was then promoted in scriptural verses, but what should be disturbing to Christians is that this understanding was not a concept shared by the progenitors of their faith.
(2868) Homosexuality versus slavery
Almost everyone today considers slavery to be totally unacceptable and immoral. On the other hand, most people see homosexuality as being a harmless and natural expression of human emotion. The Bible expresses the complete opposite opinion, and this is a big problem for Christianity. The following was taken from:
1) The Bible clearly condones (or at the very least tolerates) slavery. Instructions are given and not once can you find a commandment or edict banning slavery in the Bible.
2) One might even argue that sex slavery is described in the Bible. When God orders one of the many massacres in the Old Testament, he commands the Israelites to murder all the men and non-virgin women, but to keep the virgins for themselves. Do you suppose that these women wanted to have sex with and become the wives of the men who just massacred their fathers, brothers, children, sisters, and friends? Would you want to do that? If you described this to a Christian but replaced “God” with “Genghis Khan” or “Xerxes,” Christians would universally condemn it as a war crime or atrocity or whatever, but because God did it it’s suddenly acceptable to essentially rape women. If the morality of murder and slavery changes just because your god commanded it, perhaps you should rethink that philosophy.
3) Homosexuality is pretty clearly a sin. God describes it as an abomination in the OT and even though Jesus doesn’t mention it, he affirms the “one man, one woman” framework and marriage and sexuality are only ever discussed positively in the context of a man marrying a woman. Homosexuality is almost universally condemned.
How is this defensible in any way? This is just completely backwards and irrational. Religion is the only mindset through which one could actually even attempt to justify that. Even Christians know that slavery is wrong. If you polled Christians about the morality of slavery, they would (rightfully) almost universally condemn it, with the exception of a few lunatics. The only problem there is that the Bible never once condemns slavery, and instead condones and even encourages it at one point. Christians really have no grounds to claim that slavery is immoral.
Using Bible logic, one can be a moral person as a slave owner and literally owning another human being as my property and also having his children as property, but the second one engages in sexual activity with a male, he’s an abomination.
From a biblical perspective, chattel slavery is not explicitly sinful. In fact, God orders the Israelites to murder the males of a nation and take their women for themselves. I’m supposed to believe that this is permissible but that two gay guys getting married and having sex (which doesn’t affect my life in any tangible way whatsoever) is some grave sin? What the hell is that? That is like Game of Thrones tier atrocities that Christians claim was suddenly not immoral just because God told them to do it. Would you accept that logic from another religion?
If you asked a Christian if he’d be okay with getting brutally killed by a soldier and and his daughter being married off to and essentially forced to have sex with your killer, would they be alright with that as long as God commanded it? Would you claim that two men having sex is more evil than that?
The Bible views homosexuality as being a much worse sin than slavery, while 99+% of people today see this comparison in the complete opposite direction. Given this fact, how can anyone claim that the Bible remains a competent moral guide for modern times? And how could a god make such a merciless mistake?
(2869) God chooses the most brutal option
If one believes the Bible to be a factual account of history, then they must accept that God planned for the people of Canaan to be eliminated so that his chosen people could thereby occupy their lands. The method God chose to accomplish this deed was for the Hebrews to brutally attack and kill them all with swords, producing piercing wounds that would result in a prolonged and an excruciatingly painful death in many cases. The point of the essay below is to question why an omnipotent and supposedly omni-benevolent deity would choose this method:
When I bring up the passages about the Israelite conquest of Canaan, most apologists will respond in some manner of “We don’t know God’s reasoning, there must’ve been a reason why they had to die”. Barring the fact that this is circular reasoning and an appeal to authority, it’s also avoiding the specific method that he chose. And one the basis for my argument that God specifically wanted them to be put to the sword, I’ll argue two main points.
One. God’s nature, omnibenevolent, omnipowerful, all knowing, and the objective standard of morality. “Nothing is impossible with God”. If God had to make a decision, that means he is constrained by the specific situation, if he was all-powerful, he could simply make a new one. The fact of the matter is that it’s a major contradiction to proclaim that God is so awesome that even praying to him “can move mountains” but at the same point in time, his hands were tied and thus genocide was the only option. If you want to argue that God is only capable of doing what is objectively moral, you must acquiesce to the claim that commanding genocide is an objectively moral, or at least, justifiable action. This makes the oft-repeated “without an objective standard of morality, how can you say murder is wrong” highly ironic, since, in order to hold this idea, you have to admit that genocide is justifiable. And if genocide, the worst war crime known to man, is justifiable, what basis does your standard have for anything being wrong?
And this leads to my second point: We know for a fact that God specifically wanted Israel to commit genocide because of God’s actions within scripture. Even if we were to believe that these people absolutely had to die, on many occasions God has shown that he is fully capable of doing the job himself. The Great Flood, sending snakes, bears, and disease, fire and brimstone, hell, why not just make the angel of death appear again so the Israelites can just move in? Ignoring the moral questions with what was mentioned above, these prove that if God really just wanted them dead, he could’ve done it in a much quicker way than systemic slaughter.
Then the question is, why? It’s only possible that he wanted the Israelites to engage in this bloodthirst. Multiple scriptures in the bible point to God reveling in bloodshed, Exodus 15:3 describes God as “a man of war”, the Levites in exodus were blessed for engaging in the mass slaughter of their own families for disloyalty to God. Hell, the entire moral of the story of the Binding of Isaac is that it is righteous to commit abhorrent acts when God commands it.
There is no rational “greater good” explanation for why God specifically wanted them slaughtered by the sword, and this is the point where most apologists will go “God has the right to treat his creation however he wants”. If God exists, that is true, simply because we don’t have the power to fight back. But this belief is not one held by those who consider their God a loving father, this is something held by a cult of fear who must follow their deity no matter what his whims are. You cannot hold this belief and still argue that God is omnibenevolent, he is more in line with a Lovecraftian horror than a loving father.
Imagine that you have two anthills that you are managing separated by a short distance. For some reason you wish for the ants in one of the anthills to take over and occupy the other anthill. To do this, the ants in that anthill must be eliminated. You have two choices – 1) you can empower your preferred ants with extra killing capabilities and send them to murder the other ants in a brutal battle, or 2) you can spray insecticide to instantly kill the ants you wish gone. Which do you chose? Yahweh chose #1.
(2870) Killing sons
When God decided to test Abraham, he instructed him to kill his son Isaac, and only had the murder stopped at the last minute. When Pharaoh was oppressing the Hebrews during their Egyptian captivity, God killed the Pharaoh’s son. When David slept with Bathsheba, God killed David’s son. And when God saw that the world needed to be saved from its iniquities, he sent his own son to be killed.
This repeated theme is disturbing. God somehow sees son-killing to be an effective means to achieve a goal or to exact punishment. But this seems to be more an outgrowth of human psychology than the tactics of an omniscient deity, as one of the most prized ‘possessions’ of a man is his son, and to end the life of a son is both unanticipated and egregious. This gives us a clue that the Bible was written without the influence of a supernatural mind.
(2871) Matthew’s Pandora box
The author of the Gospel of Matthew opened a giant hole in the foundation of Christianity’s authenticity by reporting that people who had died came out of their graves during Jesus’ resurrection. A full analysis of this scripture provides significant evidence that gospel history is on very shaky ground. The following was taken from:
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
Now, if that really happened, then Jerusalem would have been literally filled with empty tombs (pardon the oxymoron) that weekend, and people all over the city would have been experiencing the exact same thing Jesus’ disciples were – which is encountering the walking corpses of their dearly departed loved ones. Not only does this utterly diminish the uniqueness of the disciples’ experience with Jesus but the uniqueness of Jesus’ empty tomb as well. In fact, Jesus’ tomb would have been the last to open, making him rather the Johnny-come-lately of the group. Also, imagine the utter chaos taking place in the city at that time. The disciples’ experience would have been just one of many similar dramas taking place concurrently throughout Jerusalem. And how could such an extraordinarily unprecedented widespread event go unremarked upon in the histories of the time (or the other gospel accounts even)?
The big question is why was the writer of Matthew the only one who thought this event noteworthy enough to mention?
Mark is the 1st gospel written. Dead people rising and walking the streets, appearing to “many” would seem important for Mark to include, but he didn’t.
Neither did anyone else–including Paul who wrote before any of the gospel writers–mention that “many” dead holy people arose from the dead and then appeared to “many” in Jerusalem immediately after the death of Jesus on the cross. Incredible!
It’s highly unlikely that this sort of thing happened and wasn’t a big deal. Evangelical apologist Mike Licona for example has argued this was written for the purpose of emphasizing the significance of the event. First look at the text, then note that the saints are raised when Jesus dies, but come out 3 days later at the Resurrection.
What were they doing for 3 days before coming out of the tombs? Is it really accidental that you have the saints coming out of their tomb exactly when Jesus is said to of the saints exactly when Jesus does?
Read it again, carefully.
No other Gospel author, New Testament author or contemporary historian refers to this event.
One should consider the fact that there still exist at least some of the works of more than 60 historians or chroniclers who lived in the period from 10 C.E. to 100 C.E. Those writers would have been contemporaries of Jesus.
I’ve always thought Matthew’s ‘zombie assault’ on Jerusalem deserves more attention than it gets. Biblical historians and archaeologists are not trying to disprove or prove the Bible, they are merely examining to see if the evidence matches the claims. And in too many cases, the Bible falls short, and this is merely one grave instance of that. The Bible says, “God is not a man, that he should lie”, “A God of truth”, “God is true” ( Numbers 23:19, Deuteronomy 32:4, Romans 3:4).
But for a moment, if you’re willing to employ logic here instead of ‘thinking by the book’ as many people tend to do, instead of saying “Let God be true and every man a liar!” (Rom. 3:4) to rid oneself of cognitive dissonance, you will see that the Bible has given an incorrect history.
Although Matthew places that story within his passion narrative, he says that the many resurrected people came out of their graves after Jesus’ resurrection, not when he died.
Kai exelthontes ek ton mnemeion meta ten egersin autou eiselthon eis ten hagian polin kai eniphanisthesan pollois.
“And having come out of their graves after his resurrection [lit. “rising”], they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
Even John Calvin faced cognitive dissonance with this, saying:
“It is absurd for some interpreters to image that they spent three days alive and breathing, hidden in tombs. It >>seems<< likely to me that at Christ’s death the tombs at once opened; at His resurrection some of the godly men received breath and came out and were seen in the city.”
Yet this is precisely what the Bible, God’s inspired and infallible word says.
Also, the reason Calvin is facing such cognitive dissonance here is due to the fact that he was never exposed to higher textual criticism of the Bible. Those in the sphere of religion and theology may believe that the Bible is true and there is no error within it, but those in academia know that this is far from being the case.
Along with Calvin, many church fathers also believed this account to be historical, such as:
Ignatius to the Trallians
Ignatius to the Magnesians (AD 70-115)
Irenaeus (AD 120-200)
Clement of Alexandria (AD 155-200)
Tertullian (AD 160-222).
Hippolytus (AD 170-235)
Origen (AD 185-254)
Cyril of Jerusalem (c. AD 315-c. 386)
Gregory of Nazianzus (c. AD 330-c. 389)
Jerome (AD 342-420)
Hilary of Poitiers (c. AD 315-c.357)
Chrysostom (AD 347-407)
St. Augustine (AD 354-430)
St. Remigius (c. 438-c. 533) “Apostle of the Franks”
Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274)
The essential point stands. Jesus would have been just one more shambling corpse on Easter Sunday, his vacated tomb just one of many. Extraordinary that not a single living witness ever thought to mention any of that. Interesting how Christians cling to Jesus’ resurrection yet completely ignore these resurrections. Quite convenient, isn’t it? Many are willing to shout “Hallelujah the Lord is risen”, yet when it comes to these, there is a lot of silence.
Since these never happened, why would you expect anyone to take the other resurrection claim seriously? The God who “cannot lie”, and the Bible which is “God-breathed” contain lies in them.
It’s interesting that the people that were raised from the dead didn’t write about their amazing experience themselves. I just think that would be something that would be important to do, especially when I considered what I’d do if I were them. Yet there’s not even a single record from any of the people they talked to, no relatives, friends, etc.
Here is the Evangelical Christian Apologist Licona’s view of this issue:
Matthew’s story of some saints raised at Jesus’s death (Matthew 27:51–53) is a thorny matter that has left many scratching their heads, from the early church through modern scholarship. Why is Matthew the only one to report it? If these saints were raised with resurrection bodies, then Matthew contradicts Paul who stated that Jesus was the first to have been raised with a resurrection body (1 Cor. 15:20). But if they were raised in their old bodies, like Lazarus who would die again, then what happened to them after they were raised? They were homeless, without jobs, food, and shelter. And you’d think they’d have some very interesting stories to tell! Why, then, do we hear nothing about them from the early Christians until several centuries later? As a historian, I realize that a lack of data may prohibit us from affirming the historicity of a report, but does not justify rejecting it. As I read through the Greco-Roman and Jewish literature of that period, I found numerous examples of reports of phenomena similar to those Matthew reports to have occurred at Jesus’s death. These were connected to historical events having a huge amount of significance. In one case, Virgil lists 16 phenomena related to the death of Julius Caesar in what is certainly a poetic genre. So, for a number of reasons, I posited that Matthew’s raised saints may have been a poetic element of Matthew’s account of Jesus’s death — the addition of “special effects,” you might say. It’s much like we might say that the events of 9–11 were “earth-shaking”….
In his book on The Resurrection of Jesus (RJ), Mike Licona speaks of the resurrection of the saints narrative as “a weird residual fragment” (RJ, 527) and a “strange report” (RJ, 530, 548, 556, emphasis added in these citations). He called it “poetical,” a “legend,” an “embellishment,” and literary “special effects”
And he’s right.
But this fabricated event occurs in a book that presents itself as historical (cf. Mt 1:1,18)
And in addition, the resurrection of Jesus would have been one of the least extra-ordinary, he would not have been dead three days. Perhaps some of the Saints were dead maybe over a hundred years before.
A reasonable explanation of this issue, which academically I believe to be the correct one, is that this is merely another case where the Bible embellishes an account in order to help Jesus fulfill certain Old Testament ‘prophecies’. The purpose for these addendums was to make the story of Jesus more palatable to the Jewish people, similar to how Muslims evangelize Christians by telling them that they believe in many good things of the Bible, and will even quote from the New Testament to support their own religion’s claims, with the hope of converting the other into their own religious system. The New Testament Christian writers are doing this with the Jewish Old Testament.
Matthew’s source may be Daniel 12:1-2. Both speak of a resurrection of the “many.”
Daniel: “At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
Matthew: “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.”
Robert J. Miller’s “Helping Jesus fulfill prophecy”, also talks about this kind of stuff. It’s obvious that Jesus fulfilled prophecies about the promised Messiah–or so the gospels and Christians make it seem. But the real story is more complex, and more compelling. In hindsight we can see that Jesus had help fulfilling prophecy. The gospel writers skillfully manipulated prophecies–carefully lifting them out of context, creatively reinterpreting them, even rewriting them–to match what Jesus would do in fulfilling them. The evangelists also used the prophecies themselves to shape the very stories that show their fulfillment. He describes in detail how Christian authors “helped” Jesus fulfill prophecy. Miller basically concludes with an ethical argument for why Christians should retire the argument from prophecy.
Matthew made a huge mistake by suggesting that Jesus’s resurrection not unique, making it seem somewhat mundane instead of being a singularly extraordinary event. This mistake was magnified by the fact that the claim was not endorsed by any other source. It is like the canary in the coal mine, letting us know that the gospel histories are unreliable.
(2872) The two gods of Genesis
Very few Christians realize that there are two conflicting creation stories documented in the first two chapter of Genesis. Also, rarely understood is that each of these stories refers to a different god worshiped at that time by a different set of people. Only later, after they came together did they form a unified amalgam of the two gods into a singular one. The following was taken from:
The English translations, via the Greek ones, translate ELOHIM as God and Yahweh as LORD, even though they are different deities. It’s right there in the book! The creation story that we all know highlights ELOHIM/God, and right after that there’s a new creation story that is done in one day by a different kind of god. The first one is deliberate and dispassionate and the second one basically wings it, and he loves the humans he created. The thing is that those are two deities were worshiped by two different peoples, the Israelites to the north and the Judeans to the south. Once Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians, many Israelites moved to Judea and the two religions were made into one. Once Judaism became more monotheistic, the distinctions had to go away. The rise of Christianity further cemented the unification of those two gods.
Traveling back in time to the roots of Christianity is not anything a person should do if they intend to maintain their faith. To do so reveals the unavoidable polytheistic beginnings of the faith, which later evolved into a strict monotheistic religion, which then again evolved into an expression of polytheism with the introduction of a deified Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It would be expected that a true monotheistic deity would have created a religion would have gotten the story right from the start and on to the end.
(2873) Taking red letter quotations to the extreme
Some Bible translations place special emphasis on quotations of Jesus by using red typeface, as if this text is more authentic than everything else. This is a stretch considering the decades of time that passed since those words were allegedly uttered before they were written down. But there is an ever more ridiculous use of this practice in Acts, Chapter 18, where a voice in Paul’s head is taken as the authentic words of Jesus. The following was taken from:
How do we know which are the real words of Jesus? Christians themselves rush to claim that Luke got it wrong when he reported the famous “hate your family” Jesus quote (14:26). But, in fact, all Jesus quotes are suspect. Just how could the authentic words of Jesus have been preserved? Look at any text in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, which the authors present as Jesus script: when was it written down for the first time? For how long was it passed along by word of mouth, told and retold dozens or hundreds of time: we know how accurate that would be! Even after the gospels had been written, they were copied by hand for centuries, and we know that thousands of errors were made. So what are the chances we have, in our Bibles today, the real, authentic, accurate words of Jesus?
Most Bible scholars who create modern translations know about these problems, yet some of them want to encourage worship of the text, on the belief that it was magically inspired by God. Hence we find the practice of printing the words of Jesus in red. This is the case with my tattered old version of the RSV I’ve had since I was a teenager; and with the New International Version on my Kindle. It’s annoying because it’s dishonest and misleading.
But in Acts 18 the red ink is just downright silly. Here’s a Jesus quote—not from a sermon he gave somewhere in Galilee—but as heard inside Paul’s head. Maybe not even that, but as imagined by the novelist inside Paul’s head.
“One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.’ So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.” (vv. 9-11)
The red ink is meant as a guarantor that these are real words of Jesus; here in Acts 18 the translators have lied. This is no surprise, since most New Testaments scholars and translators are devout, even ordained, and thus are disposed to view the texts as “holy” even if not literally “inspired.” But the lie is not worth it.
Keep in mind that this passage was written about 60 years after the events it depicts by a person who likely never met Paul. This would be like someone writing today about John F. Kennedy, former U.S. president, stating that Abraham Lincoln, former earlier U.S. president, whispered in his ear and said. “Sir, it is incumbent on you to promote the civil right of all peoples,” and then placing this quote alongside other quotes reputably attributed to Lincoln. The audacity of Christian editors is astounding.
(2874) Yahweh as a lesser god
A gnostic view of reality attempts to resolve the conflict centered on how an omnipotent god could act in such malevolent ways as Yahweh is described in the Bible. One way is to believe that Yahweh is actually a demi-god who serves under the auspices of a Supreme Being. Only the Supreme Being is perfectly moral and just while Yahweh has flaws, and his biggest flaw is that he is dangerously narcissistic. The following was taken from:
To briefly explain it, Gnosticism places Yahweh as a lesser God to the Supreme Being. This demiurge is narcissism personified, and in the pursuit of self-glory created the universe. Of course, this is a very complicated belief system that cannot be fully explained in two sentences, but that’s basically the gist of it.
And reading scripture, especially the Old Testament, “knowing the Glory of God” is the primary motivator for many of God’s actions.
Let’s start from the beginning. With Lucifer’s fall. If God was really the ultimate being, why would Lucifer try to rebel against him? And even more so, how did he manage to convince a third of the angels to follow him on what would be the definition of a suicide mission? You can argue that “they were just that prideful, but I’ve seen cartoon villains with more depth.
Adam and Eve, God intentionally wanted to keep Mankind ignorant of what was right and wrong? Does a loving father seek to keep his children ignorant of the world, then curse them should they seek to find it? And better yet, why would he place the tree right in the middle of their home? Was it simply a test of obedience, what moral reason would there be to avoid knowing right and wrong. How could they know disobedience was wrong? It was an impossible situation for them, would a loving father place his children in a catch-22 scenario?
Abraham. God detests human sacrifice. It says so in scripture. And yet, God commanded Abraham to kill his only son Isaac. Abraham agreed and God celebrated his willingness to kill his son, simply because God commanded him to do so. The moral of this story is to trust God, even when you’re commanded to some of the most immoral things a human can commit, more on this later. Does a loving father prefer that his children obey regardless of morals, or would a loving father want his kids to do what is right no matter what? Would a narcissist prefer obedience over morality?
The 10 Plagues of Egypt. God’s ten plagues weren’t a punishment to Egypt, the Pharaoh tried to let the Israelites go almost right away, but God hardened his heart, taking away his free will and forcing him to hold on. Why? Exodus 7:3
” 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”
It was for clout. God wanted the Egyptians to know who was in charge. Would a heavenly father cause mass suffering just so they know who is powerful, or a narcissist?
Levites and the Golden Calf: Exodus 32:29
” 29 Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.”
Would a heavenly father bless those who murdered their own family out of loyalty, or would a narcissist?
Vengeance on Midian. Numbers 31:15-18
” 15 “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. 16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. 17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man. “
Would a heavenly father command the deaths of women and infant children because some women caused some men to be unfaithful to him? Or would a prideful narcissist?
The Genocides in Canaan, Deuteronomy 20:16-18
” 16 However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy[a] them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. 18 Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God. “
Would a heavenly Father prescribe mass genocide just because there is a chance some people might convert your people to another religion? Or a power-crazed narcissist. You can argue that the people in Canaan were committing immoral acts such as child sacrifice, but that defense is weaker than toilet paper considering that the response was killing all children in Canaan.
The entire story of Job. God allowed this man to be tortured for the sole reason to prove that nothing could shake his faith. And after Job lost everything, was desperate for answers, God responds to him saying: Job 40:8
” “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? “
And engages in a long poem proclaiming his own power, basically telling him, “I’m God, I do what I want.” Is this the actions of a loving father, or an abusive narcissist?
And most importantly, the entire basis of salvation by God. Involving us all agreeing that humans are collectively worthless, and the only one who’s plan matter is God. We have to “accept God” inside ourselves, lean not on our own understanding, and have him guide our very lives. Does a loving father want to control everything their child does? Does the father tell them that they know nothing and the only one whose thoughts matter are his? Does the father forgive any action of his children as long as they grovel to him, while punishing any children that refuse to follow for whatever reason?
This isn’t to say that Yahweh is outright evil, it’s to say that Yahweh is amoral. Purely driven by praise and adoration, narcissists do what they think will get them said praise and adoration. On one day, they may shower their people with gifts, on the other, they may demand genocide on the peoples that took away some of their credit. And this perfectly describes the God of the bible, if the average parent acted the way he does, they’d get their children taken away in a week.
Viewing Yahweh as an imperfect, understudy deity is one way to dissipate the cognitive dissonance that many Christians feel when they read certain Bible passages, most notably in the Old Testament. But it also muddies up the water going forward as to how to manage god-to-human interactions while maintaining a standard for morality and ethics. In other words, where Yahweh acts impertinently, does that mean that humans should avoid emulating him? The struggle to connect the dots and make Christian theology work in a consistent sense is most likely a consequence of the Bible being written by humans who neither understood the world in which they lived nor the direction that humanity would eventually take. It is not a situation that should have developed if it has been guided by an actual god.
(2875) Tracking Jesus’ body
For this exercise, we will assume that Jesus was a real person with a regular human body who was crucified and died on a cross as described in the scriptures. Now, let’s consider the possibilities of what happened to his human body:
(1) Jesus was a normal human. His body rotted away in a tomb or a ditch.
(2) Jesus was supernatural, but he arose only as a spirit, leaving his body behind to rot away. His post-death appearances fooled some who thought he was in his original body. His spirit body left the earth after a few days.
(3) Jesus was supernatural, after his death and about 36 hours later, the biological degradation of his body was reversed, and he existed the tomb as a healthy physical human. However, later he died a second time and this time his body rotted away as normal, while his spirit body exited the earth.
(4) Jesus was supernatural, and he arose in his original body. After a few days, his physical body left the earth by flying up into the atmosphere and beyond.
Atheists and agnostics will quickly pick #1 as being most likely, but what would the average Christian choose? It will be a mixture of #’s 2, 3, and 4. Liberal, scientifically-minded Christians would likely eliminate #4 (and #3 as well) as being improbable and would choose #2 instead, although it too seems a somewhat fanciful solution. Few of the more conservative or evangelical Christians would choose #2 and would also be highly averse to #3 and would therefore go with #4 because it most accurately aligns with scripture. In fact, it is likely that fewer than 1% of Christians would choose #3 as it would condemn the scriptures as being incomplete in failing to document Jesus’ second death. That leaves only #’s 2 and 4.
So, in the Christian view, Jesus’s body either suffered the fate of mortal humans, or it was physically raised and then, against gravity, left the earth for parts unknown. The problem with the former is that it reduces the spectacularity of the resurrection because standard Christian theology says that mortal humans (too) will rise as spiritual entities, just as described in #2 above. So, what’s special about Jesus? The problem with the latter is that it not only defies everything we know about science but it also places a physical human body in a location that is known to be incompatible with human life (where oxygen levels are too low), a fact unknown to gospel authors.
As there are few consistencies compatible with sectarian solutions, the most rational among us will land on one of two possibilities- that either Jesus was a fictional figure or that #1 above is what actually happened.
(2876) Personal relationship with Jesus
Christians often boast about having a personal relationship with Jesus. The following shows this claim to be hollow and non-sensical:
Imagine your friend Tom announces he has just initiated a personal relationship with actress Jodie Foster. You congratulate him, then ask for a juicy anecdote. “You don’t believe me?” Tom asks. You explain that you are more than willing to believe him, but would like some inside information about Jodie. Tom says “Jodie’s birthday is November 19th.” “Yes”, you respond, “But that info is publicly available. What do you know about Jodie that is not publicly known?” Tom says “I feel her love for me when I close my eyes and speak to her.” “But Tom”, you say, “many feelings can be conjured up at will, and don’t reflect a two-way relationship.” Tom scowls. “It is between the two of us. How dare you suggest I don’t really have a relationship with Jodie! Sure, we have never met face-to-face, but we speak to each other in a special way.” You apologize, and again congratulate him on his new relationship. But would you claim to have a relationship with someone you have never personally met, and for whom you have no knowledge other than what you have found in public records? Would not an actual personal relationship with Jesus include personal information he has communicated privately to each of his personal friends?
There are several possible ways that an actual personal relationship with Jesus might be demonstrated.
Information about the location of an artifact from the life of Jesus could be communicated, and recorded prior to a search for that artifact. If the search uncovers the artifact described, that would be excellent evidence that this person does have access to information that may have been truly personally communicated by Jesus. This would not be conclusive evidence, but would be a great start to convincing the skeptical that there is truly something to the claims of a personal relationship with Jesus.
Presumably, Jesus would relate the same pieces of information about himself to two or more individuals claiming to have a personal relationship with Jesus. For example, these individuals might all claim, having neither the means nor occasion to conspire to fabricate the story, that Jesus once turned wine into water to prank his friends. The consistency between the accounts of the story would constitute evidence that the story did, in fact, happen.
A much more robust form of evidence would be for more than one individual claiming to have a personal relationship with Jesus to provide nonpublic and nontrivial details about an unexpected future event. The fulfillment of this prediction would constitute strong evidence that these individuals had access to some omniscient source of knowledge, possibly the Jesus with whom they are claiming to have a personal relationship.
Another great way to provide strong evidence for an actual personal relationship with Jesus would be for one or more Christians to ask Jesus for the means to eradicate malaria, which still kills more than 400,000 children each year. Imagine those untrained in medicine handing the experts the detailed description of a potent vaccine against malaria. There would not only be many lives saved, but this would also make the claim of a personal relationship with Jesus far less dubious.
The powerful sensation of Jesus’ presence Christians experience, absent nonpublic details about Jesus, is unlikely to convince rational non-Christians that Christians truly have a personal relationship with Jesus.
(2877) Religions of the world
Consider the following map indicating the geographical distribution of the world’s religions:
What should be obvious is this: If there was an actual god who was interacting with humans, this map would display only one color. If gods and religions were wholly the construct of human minds, then the multi-colored map we see is what we would expect.
(2878) Judas-led arrest account in John is implausible
Many gospel stories stretch credulity to the limit, indicating that the authors of these stories were not conversant with the milieu of the times they were chronicling. One good example is the account in John’s gospel where Judas leads Roman forces to arrest Jesus. The following was taken from:
In John 18:3, Judas “takes” a cohort in Jerusalem, together with its tribunes, In addition to Jewish officers (sent by the Pharisees and the chief priests, who convened with each other against Jesus). The Greek behind what is usually translated (“band of soldiers”) or “cohort” (more typically) is speira, which is more typically used to identify a cohort (cf. Polybius, History, 11.23.1). The mention of the tribune at John 18:12 confirms that speira is referring to a cohort (or over 500 men), since “tribune” was a Roman term for the commander of a cohort (see C.K Barret, Gospel According to St. John, pg. 518). Together the Roman and Jewish soldiers combined would have consisted of up to 800 men (cf. Ernest Haenchen, John 2, pg. 164). That 800 (or even 500) soldiers arrested Jesus is implausible, and is thus another example of the unreliability of the Gospels.
John 18:3 is unrealistic for these reasons:
A cohort in Jerusalem going after Jesus would have left the city dangerously unguarded (cf. C.K Barret, Gospel According to St.John, pg. 518)
Judas “takes” (λαβών) the cohort. Judas would have had no authority to “take” any sort of military force.
There is no evidence of the Pharisees and Chief Priests, two separate entities, convening together except during the Jewish war.
John 18:29 implies that the Romans had not participated in the arrest (So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”). Pilate asks what accusation is brought upon Jesus, but he should have already known if he sent a cohort of Roman soldiers to arrest him. For this point, see ibid., pg. 518
Such an arrest would indicate that Jesus was extremely popular and had a large following that the Romans would have potentially feared, yet there are no contemporary mentions of Jesus, with the first person mentioning Jesus being Josephus, and even his passages are on shaky grounds.
The Roman soldiers would have either killed Jesus and his followers, or would have taken Jesus at once to Pilate, not to the high priest. In other words, if the Romans got involved, then they would have taken care of Jesus himself. They wouldn’t have handed him over to the high priest. For example, Josephus speaks of Theudas, another non-violent figure(though deluded no doubt), alongside some of his followers, being slaughtered by the Romans immediately. No trial. Nothing. Josephus says: “It came to pass, while Fadus was procurator of Judea, that a certain charlatan, whose name was Theudas, persuaded a great part of the people to take their effects with them, and follow him to the river Jordan; for he told them he was a prophet, and that he would, by his own command, divide the river, and afford them an easy passage over it. Many were deluded by his words. However, Fadus did not permit them to make any advantage of his wild attempt, but sent a troop of horsemen out against them. After falling upon them unexpectedly, they slew many of them, and took many of them alive. They also took Theudas alive, cut off his head, and carried it to Jerusalem” (Jewish Antiquities97-98).
This and other examples indicate that in many instances the gospel authors did not know what they were talking about. They were writing in foreign countries, armed with limited knowledge of the scene 40-60 years prior in Judea, thus creating anachronisms, implausibilities, geographical mistakes, and historical errors. Modern scholarship has produced an embarrassing large list of such problems- enough that any serious biblical student should accept the fact that the gospels are pseudo-historical at best, complete fiction at worst.
(2879) Mark’s passion story inplausibilities
The author of the Gospel of Mark wrote the seminal account of Jesus’s trial that led to his crucifixion. On very many levels, this story is obviously fictional. Clearly, he didn’t know what he was talking about, or didn’t really care about presenting an accurate account. But one clear motive was to avoid blaming the Romans for anything. The following was taken from:
There is no independent evidence outside of Mark’s Gospel that the Romans ever had a tradition of setting criminals free on local holidays, especially not people slated for crucifixion because those were the ones seen as dangerous to Roman interests. It is not remotely plausible or supported by any independent evidence that the Romans would have freed a rebel specifically arrested for killing Roman soldiers. That is like the US military in Afghanistan deciding to free a terrorist who had specifically murdered American soldiers as a gesture for Ramadan. Very few scholars outside of confessional conservatives (what I call “New Testament Fundamentalists”) believe that the Barabbas narrative could be historical. It is literary invention by Mark. As Adela Y. Collins writes: “It is generally agreed that there is no evidence outside of the canonical Gospels for the specific custom mentioned here, that is, Pilate’s (or any other governor of Judea) releasing a particular prisoner at the request of the people each year at the time of Passover (Adela Y. Collins, Mark, pg. 714).
Additionally, the trial account in Mark is implausible.
Crucifixion was used only for crimes against the Roman state, particularly for crimes of sedition and rebellion. If Jesus was crucified, it could have only been because the Romans thought he was guilty of a crime of sedition.
All four Gospels say the formal charge against Jesus was claiming to be the king of the Jews – an automatic capital crime under Roman law (as it was a direct challenge to Roman authority. The Emperor was the king of the Jews), but no crime at all under Jewish law. Anyone could claim to be the Messiah and lots of people did. They were always mistaken, but they were not breaking any Jewish law because the Jewish Messiah is not God, but just a human king. If you thought you were the heir to the throne of David, you might be wrong, but you were committing no blasphemy.
The reluctance of Pilate is unbelievable as history and is counter to the descriptions of Pilate by both Josephus and Philo as well inimical to common sense. It was literally Pilate’s job to kill rebels and collect taxes. It is not credible that he would let somebody go who was claiming to be the Messiah because that claim, all by itself, was treason and if Pilate let him go, Pilate himself could have been suspected as treason.
The Sanhedrin trial is littered with procedural errors and historical impossibilities. There could have been no trial at night or on the Passover. There could have been no trial away from the Temple. There could not be a death sentence passed on the same day as a trial and most importantly, there could be no conviction of blasphemy for claiming to be the Messiah. It was not blasphemy to claim to be the Messah.
Who is supposed to have witnessed this trial? There was nobody there but Jesus and the Sanhedrin. Who wrote the transcript?
Mark had few, if any, actual historical sources for his Passion narrative. The author was writing forty years after the facts, in a different country outside of Palestine after Judea and Galilee had been destroyed by a war. The author had no access to witnesses or reliable biographical data. There is a lot of scholarship showing that the author constructed his narratives extensively from inferences and reworkings of Old Testament narratives. Mark’s Passion is largely constructed from passages in Isaiah, Psalms and other passages (see J. D, Crossan’s The Cross That Spoke for a comprehensive analysis of Mark’s Passion and its relationship to Septuagint texts). This does not imply any deceitful or fraudulent intent on the part of the author. The evangelists looked into scripture for information about Jesus because they were sure it would be there and they thought they were guided by the Holy Spirit while looking. There was an ancient Jewish practice called pesher which was predicated on the idea that scripture has hidden, secondary meanings underneath the surface text and that you could “read” it if you were inspired. A lot of examples of this were found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Mark had every reason to try to sanitize the Romans for the execution of Jesus. For one thing he simply did not have freedom of speech. He was writing in the Roman Empire. He was not free to say the Roman government had done anything wrong. It was like North Korea. You just weren’t allowed to criticize the government. If you read the New Testament, you’ll see that it never says anything bad about the Romans anywhere in it. Not in the Gospels, not in Acts (where the Roman are always saving Paul from “the Jews,” not in the letters of Paul, who tells people that all human authority is appointed by God and that to oppose it is to oppose God.
Furthermore, Mark was writing not long after a prolonged war with the Jews that killed a lot of Roman soldiers. Jewish insurgents were seen a terrorists every bit as much as Americans see Iraqi or Afghani insurgents as terrorists. Mark had to reassure his audience that Jesus was not a terrorist and really did not want to be perceived as promoting any kind of sedition or rebellion, but he also had to explain why the Roman authorities thought Jesus was a terrorist and he had to do so in a way that was not critical of Roman authorities. So he came up with the idea of saying Pilate had been duped or leaned on by Jewish authorities.
It is almost certain that Mark did not intend to write a factual account of the man Jesus, and neither did he expect that others would interpret his work in that way. In fact, it is highly probable that First Century Christians understood his gospel to be an allegory meant to convey theological truths rather than historical ones. Only later, did allegory get morphed into fact by credulous Christians. But like paintings that have been painted over, modern biblical scholars have ‘removed the overlain paint’ to reveal the original, and we are again seeing the allegory that was meant from the start.
(2880) Gods invented for indulgent reasons
There is plenty of evidence that people invented gods to address their needs and fears, rather than modify their behavior, plans, or morals in response to interaction with a deity external to their own urgencies or desires. The following was taken from:
“It is very curious to me that gods always seem to closely resemble those that worship them”
This really resonated with me because there is a lot of truth to it. Historically speaking, societies and cultures that often waged war had war like gods, and ones that relied on agriculture had fertility gods. In fact, I think it could be accurately asserted that the concept of “gods” is always in some way associated with some human need or desire which could be concrete or more abstract depending on who is doing the worshipping. and as society and it’s values slowly changes and evolves over time, so does the gods it worships.
This is really noticeable in Christianity and in the character of the God Yahweh (I may have misspelled that) who started out as a jealous, ruthless spiteful war God and over time gradually morphed into an all caring father figure. I believe this is because gods are made in the image of people who worship them, not the other way around.
This observation is sufficient to make the assumption that every god invented during the history of humanity falls into this same category of indulgency. Never seen is a god who told his people to change what they believed to be true or to do or not do things that they weren’t currently doing or not doing. Inventing gods was a means of self-justification.
(2881) Blurred lines
Salvation under Christian theology is a demarcation between two diametrically opposed fates with nothing in the middle. This makes it vitally important that the criteria for entry into heaven and thereby avoidance of hell be made very clear. Alas, it is not, not even close. The following was taken from:
Growing up, I was in church at least twice a week, went to a Christian high school, and was involved in multiple bible study groups. During those years I had heard hundreds of different sermons and lessons about “being saved”, but I never fully understood what it meant. Everyone had their own version of what salvation was- even the different pastors within my church.
To some, being saved was as simple as believing in Jesus, to some it was completely repenting from anything sinful in your life. Some church leaders preached that if you did as much as listen to explicit music, you didn’t have a “heart seeking after God” and therefore were not truly saved. Some believed that a few slip ups were fine as long as you didn’t have “sinful habits”. Some believed you could do anything from orgies to drugs to abuse and as long as you believed Jesus died for you, you were “sealed by the Holy Spirit.”
Not to mention the fact that verses regarding salvation and the language used to preach on it was so abstract. Sayings like “Ask Jesus into your heart” seemed to have different meanings to everyone, and I feel like people never spoke directly and tangibly because deep down, they didn’t even understand what salvation truly meant.
I remember being about 15 years old and recognizing all the confusion and contradictions, and I asked several different leaders to lay it out for me specifically and clearly. They all got flustered and told me they would “get back to me.” None of them did. Shouldn’t your salvation be what Christians are most informed about?
This confusion and contradiction was one of the first reasons I began to question Christianity entirely. Why would a God who went so out of his way to save his children leave them with such blurred lines on how to accept this salvation? Or earn it, or halfway earn it, or whatever being saved is even supposed to mean.
It is incredibly improbable that a omnipotent deity would set up a binary post-life judgment system for humans given the many nuances of human behavior, but it’s even more improbable that the dividing line between those who go to the good versus the bad place would be so blurred, such that there are hundreds of contradictory theories defining where it is set. Yet, this would be the expected consequence of a religion created by and managed solely by humans.
(2882) Jesus and the ear
In one of the most enigmatic sequences of the gospels, Jesus commands his disciples to obtain a sword. When they get two of them, he says that’s sufficient. When they use the sword, he says no more of that. Here are the relevant scriptures:
He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That’s enough!” he replied.
When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
The following was taken from:
The soldiers were coming to take Jesus away, so he tells his disciples to take up swords.
One of them says, Look, here are two swords.
Two swords. For twelve men.
Jesus says, It is enough.
Clearly, he wasn’t being literal about them arming themselves.
So, the soldiers show up, and Peter slices off one of their ears.
Was he a precision swordsman, that he could take off an ear? No, he was a career fisherman. He was probably trying to take off a head. But the career soldier ducked.
Anyway, Jesus reattaches his ear. Too bad he wasn’t at the boxing match when Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear.
So: first, he tells his men to arm themselves, then, he stops at two swords for twelve men. Then, when one of them actually uses the sword (amateurishly), Jesus stops the fight and makes the enemy whole.
What’s the moral of the story?
You tell me.
We know that this is a fictional story. But shouldn’t even fiction make sense? It has been theorized that the story of the servant’s severed ear was a metaphor for the Romans being unable to hear the gospel of Christ. It was never meant to be taken literally. But Christians are very susceptible to confusing allegory with actuality.
(2883) Eight sources of morality
Christians often claim that without their faith there would be no legitimate source for defining morality. This is a pedestrian way of looking at this issue. In the following essay, religion is listed as providing only one of eight pathways for establishing morality:
What is the source of morality? There are many proposed sources of morality. Here are eight, with links to peer-reviewed resources where you can find out more about each proposed source of morality.
What? Science as a source of morality? But, but—calm yourself.
Morality may have begun as something unscientific—e.g., a way to deal with failures to cooperate as the human population grew and expanded into just about every habitable portion of the globe. However, now we can use the tools of science to determine the most reliable paths to the moral outcomes that we prefer.
What decisions, policies, etc. tend to promote cooperation and minimize violence? That’s an empirical question. And science offers the most reliable methods for answering empirical questions. At least, that’s the kind of claim you will expect from those who adopt a naturalist view of ethics. To learn more about naturalist ethics, see The Ethical Project and How Science Can Determine Human Values.
Evolution is invoked to explain many things. One of them is human morality.
An evolutionary psychological view of morality holds that ethical systems, judgments, and norms are products (or byproducts) of various forms of evolutionary selection. After all, disapproving of certain practices (e.g., killing children) and approving of other practices (e.g., cleanliness) may become more or less common depending on how they impact reproduction rates. See Morality and Evolutionary Biology for more about this.
You may be aware that much of what we consider normal has not been considered normal at other points in history and/or in other parts of the world. One source of these differences in norms is culture. Cultures change over time and differ between regions.
So cultural differences may result in differences in moral systems, judgments, and norms. For example, some cultures consider it wrong to eat certain animals that other cultures not only eat, but often take pride in eating. There are even emerging differences in whether it is ever right to eat animals. See The Culture of Morality: Social Development, Context, and Conflict for more about the relationship between culture and morality.
Much of human history involves fights to obtain and protect power. The powerful often want to maintain their power and the powerless often want to overthrow abusers of power. These power dynamics may influence the development of morality. For example, norms about property, currency, labor, and autonomy can serve as limits on how power can be wielded over others. And many of these norms seem to feature not just in politics, but in moral systems as well. For more about this, see Conflict and the evolution of social control.
Our emotional responses can condition us into liking some things and disliking others. For example, when parents reward certain behavior and punish others, their children may become conditioned to have positive feelings about the rewarded behavior and negative feelings about the punished behavior. These positive and negative feelings may influence our evaluations of what we (and others) ought and ought not to do.
Learning moral norms may also work via some sort of emotional conditioning. If parents, authorities, or society consistently shame people for certain behaviors, then we may feel disinclined to behave that way. And we may be conditioned to prioritize behaviors that parents, authorities, and society constantly praise. We may also join in these praise and blame habits. See Morality is a Conditioned Response or the book-length treatment of this topic, The Emotional Construction of Morality, for more about how emotion may be a source for morality.
Religions often involve norms that are supposed to govern behavior. Some of these norms may be construed as moral norms. For example, some of the 10 commandments seem to be not just religious norms (e.g., about God, religious days, etc.) but moral norms (e.g., about not killing or stealing). For more about the alleged relationships between religion and morality see “Morality and religion” and Chapter 4 of What Ever Happened To Good And Evil?.
- Non-natural or Supernatural
Of course, not all religions involve gods. And not all supernatural beliefs are religious. For example, one can believe in spirits or magic without believing in a god or being committed to a religion.
Some supernaturalist beliefs can inform morality. For example, you might think that what is true and good is transcendent in way that makes it inaccessible by ordinary experience. On this view of truth and goodness, what makes 2 + 4 equal to 4 is not something we discover by implying observation and the tools of science, but by accessing something beyond the realm of experience. Similarly, one may think that what makes stealing wrong is not something that can be discovered via science. Rather, stealing is determined to be wrong by something transcendent or supernatural that science is unable to study. See this encyclopedia entry on Moral Non-Naturalism for more about this.
Pluralism is an appeal to more than one thing—e.g., authorities, principles, etc. So pluralism about the sources of morality would hold that there are multiple sources of morality. Indeed, some have proposed that more than one of sources above accounts for the origins of morality. For an example of this, see Humean Moral Pluralism.
So if we discard religion, there still exists at least seven other ways for morality to be competently defined. And given the track record of religions espousing much of what is sensibly seen as being immoral, it seems like we would be much better off just dealing with those seven alone.
(2884) Belief in belief
Christianity likely started out with the belief that rightful actions were the key to a successful life as well as a favorable afterlife. But Paul took it to another dimension by substituting the belief in belief itself as the actual key to unlock the grace of God. In so doing, he contradicted the men who followed Jesus first-hand, but as it turns out, the theology of belief was likely one of the (if not the main) reasons why Christianity has been so successful, given that belief is a very malleable attribute. The following was taken from:
Religions have always peddled beliefs, of course, but the Apostle Paul took his religious tradition and made it about belief in belief itself. He reframed the story of Abraham, the founding father of his tradition, arguing that it was this man’s belief that made him righteous—not his performance of ritual observation. This innovation opened the door to anyone joining his religion, not just those willing to eat kosher.
After Paul, even the stories about Jesus have him pronouncing this mantra every time he healed someone: “Go. Your faith has made you well.” Did Jesus really say that? Many believe he was little more than a composite literary character in the first place, but who knows? What we do know is that all the surviving representations of Jesus came to us through Paul’s churches, and that explains an awful lot.
You’d think the original twelve disciples would remember if Jesus was always harping on the importance of faith. But to hear Paul talk, they still hadn’t gotten it after nearly 20 years. In Galatians, he tells a story about having to get onto Peter in front of everyone for misunderstanding the most central idea of their new faith. I’m not sure the Jerusalem Crew ever agreed with him theologically, which would explain why every time the original disciples are depicted in the gospels, they are complete and utter morons.
Maybe they really were that dense? I don’t know, but I can tell you that everything we know about them today was brought to us by the communities Paul founded, and he didn’t care much for them or their way of framing things. Better than anyone else before him, Paul understood that belief itself carries the power to determine one’s reality. And belief isn’t beholden to one time or place or ethnicity—it’s universal, available to everyone alike.
Maybe that’s why the Christian faith has endured for so long, even after being reinvented a hundred times over since it began. It’s like a highly adaptable microorganism that can move from place to place and mutate according to what’s demanded at the time.
Plus, believing in belief itself taps into the closest thing to a superpower that humans possess—the ability to shape our reality by controlling perception itself. Successful politicians understand this as do preachers and salesmen alike. Many fortunes have been created and destroyed this way. And it’s why Christians, especially evangelical Christians, make the most natural pyramid scheme material of all time.
Christian precepts have become dangerously anachronistic over the past twenty centuries, but the concept of belief has remained a steady commodity. Hence, we have Christians today who can nonchalantly dismiss the crudeness of scriptural commands to kill unruly children, for example, while extoling the sanctimoniousness of the singular act of belief.
(2885) The Bible is mired in the crudeness of its time
The Bible was written in a time when people were very different from the way they are today. Two millennia ago, it was not scandalous to kill a wayward child, or cut off the hand of a thief. Nor was it considered out of bounds to kill a woman suspected of witchcraft or men who engaged in homosexual acts. Thus, a story about God flooding the earth and drowning men, women, children, and animals barely scraped the surface of their consciousness. There existed a very crude ethos compared to the modern day.
Civilization has evolved a long way since then. Even in the past 50 years, major changes have occurred in how we deal with women’s rights, the accessibility of handicapped persons, the equal rights of people of all colors, the rights of animals, and the way we treat the planet. And now, the death penalty is on its last legs- something that would have been unthinkable 2000 years ago.
Slowly but inexorably the Bible has become an outdated text. If written today, it would have a very different feel, one that would be much more compassionate, and surely one that would not suggest that an eternity of painful punishment is a justified sentence for people who fail somehow in this life. And this fact alone is good evidence that the Bible did not emanate from the mind of an infinite intelligence.
(2886) Christianity ‘offers’ a compulsory relationship
Christians often say that God asks each of us to have a relationship with him, while ignoring the fact that refusal to do so is not without penalty, and in this case a very substantial one. So it would be best to drop the euphemistic use of the word ‘ask’ and substitute the more accurate term- ‘command.’ This situation negates any semblance of free will or personal autonomy. The following was taken from:
The cognitive dissonance when it came to my “relationship” with god and real world relationships was seriously unreal. All my life I had been taught that one just doesn’t say no to god because “he knows better”, because I should “defer to his wisdom”, and any attempt at objecting or trying to stand up for myself was seen as rebellion, pride, and just straight up sin. “Humbling myself” meant silencing and tamping down any natural instinct or sense that there is something wrong with this arrangement and it undermined my trust and confidence in myself.
Free will apologists will argue that yes, you can say no to god. Sure, but always at a threat to my safety and well-being and to be fair and honest, what kind of free will is that? And this upbringing seriously threw me for a loop when it came to building healthy relationships with people. Here I had as a foundation for my life a “relationship” where I had to accept that someone could test my love by asking me to sever relationships and ties with even my own family or ask me to sacrifice my life or well-being to prove my faith, and they could even bring about all manner of horrific events in my life for “divine reasons” and for my “spiritual growth”.
And I had to acknowledge that all these things were fine and good. But if another human being did this to me these things would be blaring red flags and I would need to get out of there as soon as possible. That disconnect caused so much confusion in me. I found myself in some extremely abusive situations because of the things that I had been taught that I should accept in the way I could be treated by god. And those around me found it bizarre that I couldn’t see the danger in certain people or respond accordingly to them. I didn’t know how to set those boundaries or make those demands in how I expected to be treated because I was never allowed to do so in faith.
That dissonance built up in me until I could no longer ignore it because it made absolutely no sense. Why does god get a pass for something that would be considered abusive behavior under any other circumstance if done by anyone else? He shouldn’t. Leaving faith and this built in abusive relationship has been monumental in me rebuilding my mental health and building healthy relationships and community.
So Christianity commands a relationship with God while at the same time disingenuously making it seem that this is a voluntary offer. As can be seen above, this dynamic does not work in real life and it shouldn’t work in a theological structure. A more compassionate faith would neutralize the effect of refusing such an ‘offer’ and maintain the dignity of personal autonomy.
(2887) Omniscience implies responsibility
Christians argue the their God is all-knowing, limitless, and all-powerful while at the same time absolving this god of any blame for tragedies, evil, and misery. This is a contradiction that is easy to explain. The following was taken from:
We will start with a simple premise, God is omniscient which means he knows all things that can be known.
When creating the universe, God also created Satan (according to most interpretations of the bible). So if God is all knowing and he created Satan despite knowing what Satan would do then he is responsible for the actions of Satan.
Think about it this way. Imagine there is a button that will kill a group of people if it is pressed. If I press the button without knowing what it does, I am not responsible for the deaths of those people because I did not know that is what the button did. So for example if I was told the button did something else and I pressed it, I would not be responsible for the deaths since I didn’t know that would be the result.
Now let’s say I am told that pressing this button will kill a large group people when pressed. Let’s say I am shown exactly how pressing the button will lead to these deaths. (for example, pressing the button sucks out all the oxygen in a room and all those people in that room will suffocate and die). If I press that button I am directly responsible for all of those deaths because I did so despite knowing exactly what the result of pushing that button would be.
Now we go back to a grander scale. If you know all things that can be known, then you know that creating Satan will lead to a massive amount of suffering and death. So if God chooses to create Satan despite knowing exactly what will happen if he does, then he is directly responsible for the actions of Satan.
In fact let’s take it one step further. If God knows all things then he knows what people will do. He knows that creating people with a certain set of biological impulses and urges will cause them to behave in a certain manner. His knowledge of these actions make him directly responsible for these actions. In the same way that knowing a button being pressed will lead to many deaths makes one responsible for those deaths if they press the button, knowing what people will do once he creates them makes him responsible for their actions.
Let’s think about it another way. Let’s say I build a robot and program to kill people. When that robot kills people, I am responsible for those deaths. Or let’s try it another way, let’s say I make a robot with the ability to kill people, but I do not make that its goal. Let’s say the AI is advanced enough that it could choose whether or not to kill people. If that robot kills someone I am still responsible. Even though I didn’t with the goal of killing someone, I made it knowing that it might be able to kill someone and therefore I am still responsible for that death.
Knowledge necessarily includes responsibility. The only way for god to not be directly responsible for the actions of mankind or Satan is for him to not know what they will do or could do.
To be intellectually honest, Christians would have to admit at least one of the following- God is not an omniscient and omnipotent being or God deliberately engineers human suffering. Both of these statements can be true, or just one could be true, but they can’t both be false.
(2888) Fallacies of a popular verse
It is instructive to place a microscope on a single Bible verse to reveal the logical fallacies that burdens its trustworthiness. The following was taken from:
“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that does good.” (Psalms 14:1)
Ad Hominem Fallacy: An argument is discounted based on attacking the character of the person making the argument. (“He is wrong when he says there is no God, because he is a fool.”)
Strawman Fallacy: Arguing against a position by creating a different, weaker, or irrelevant position and refuting that position instead of the original. (“There is no God” misrepresents “There isn’t sufficient evidence that God exists.”)
Circular Reasoning: The truth of the conclusion is assumed in order to justify the premises. (“The fool says there is no God, because anyone who says there is no God is a fool.”)
Begging the Question: The argument creates a secondary proposition that is related to the primary proposition, which requires a similar argument that is missing. (The existence of God is assumed, while addressing propositions of whether God exists.)
Fallacy of Inconsistency: The argument is inconsistent or contradictory with other arguments within the same context. In the Christian context, Jesus commands against the invective in Psalms 14:1, warning that “whoever says ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire” in Matthew 5:22.
Equivocation/Argument from Emotion: The inappropriate attribution of emotive functions to objects that do not have that capability. (Hearts are not capable of “knowing” or of feeling emotions.)
Redundancy: Psalm 53 is identical to Psalm 14.
Questionable Premise: It is obviously not the case that all atheists do nothing but bad deeds. This premise is invalidated by a single example of an atheist doing a single charitable act.
(2889) False statement becomes true
During Jesus’ trial in Mark, the first gospel, witnesses testify falsely (according to the text) that Jesus said that he would destroy the temple and raise it again in three days. This passage is repeated in Matthew but left out in Luke. But what is surprising is that the author of the Gospel of John, written some 20+ years later, put these same works in Jesus’ mouth, essentially back dating the accusers’ previously false testimony and making it true.
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’ ” Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
(2890) God’s god
For this exercise assume that the Christian god is the only god of our universe. Despite having godlike powers there still would likely be no way for this god to know whether it was created by a greater god, who we can call the Supreme Being. So, in this case, we would assume that the Supreme Being created Yahweh to be the god of our universe. There might be numerous universes all assigned a god by the Supreme Being.
So Yahweh could be an atheist, unaware that it was created by its own god. Further, Yahweh could be a low performer and not well received by the Supreme Being. In this case Christians could be worshiping a bad god who is destined to be punished for his failures, and given the sordid scriptural history, this would not be surprising at all.
Given Yahweh’s poor performance, the Supreme Being might nullify Yahweh’s decisions about where to send people after they die, and choose to award those who refused to worship him or who didn’t believe in his existence while punishing those who chose to worship him despite his evil ways. So, this vignette turns the tables on Christians with a speculative narrative no less fanciful than the one they believe in.
(2891) Extoling suffering to mask impotence of faith
Christian scriptures suggest that suffering is a gift from God, somehow a sign that the afflicted is on the right track. But this is self-serving because it absolves the faith from being criticized for being unable to provide advantages in this life. That is, it relieves the burden of explaining why allegiance to an almighty god is failing to give the worshiper any more protection and support than a non-worshiper. The following was taken from:
There have been passages expressing that God is pleased when we suffer (2 Thessalonians 1:5, Acts 9:16, Philippians 1:29)
“And God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering.”
“I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him,”
Implies that he wants it to happen (Matthew 16:25, Revelation 2:10, 1 Peter 3:17) “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.”
“For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”
Most Christians claim that God doesn’t want his children to suffer and that it’s due to our fallen world but don’t these verses say otherwise?
It is likely that scriptures celebrating suffering were written to rationalize why followers were seeing no real-time advantages over non-followers. It is like someone giving you a pill to stop arthritis, and when you get a bout of arthritis, saying, ‘See, it’s working!’ Making suffering a good thing was a deception used by biblical authors to gloss over why prayers seemed to have no tangible effect and why Christians were just as likely to suffer as anyone else.
(2892) Religion is not needed for morality
Christian leaders often claim that we need to align our morals with the Bible, but it is an easy exercise to see why this is neither how things actually work nor the best way to define optimal morality guidelines. In fact, jettisoning the Bible is the best first step. The following was taken from:
Today, we don’t stone women for having premarital sex, on the contrary, a couple living together and having sexual intercourse before marriage has become so normal, that not doing so is the exception, not the rule. According to religion, that is extremely immoral and at times worthy of death. The same applies to homosexuality, according to religion, being gay is a sin. However, many Jews, Christians, and some Muslims realized that cannot be true, and from there began to reinterpret their religious texts in a way that allows and endorses same-sex relations, and while I support this move, it does show that in the end, we are the ones who decide what is and what is not moral.
The idea of men and women equality is something that is not endorsed by religion, and while it can be said that in some instances here and there in the Bible or the Quran women were presented in a good light, it is generally accepted that men are seen as superior to women in many ways. Today, we reject that idea, and believe, at least most of us, that men and women are equal, whether at work or home.
And now to the big one, slavery. I’m aware of the historical reasons for why slavery was tolerated and even accepted in the Bible and the Quran, but that doesn’t change the fact it is immoral for us today. The Bible and the Quran have some hints in different places about how to treat slaves, but the general attitude was that slavery is not wrong, it is not immoral and it is totally natural. Then humans hundreds of years later came to conclude that all types of slavery, no matter how sugar-coated they are, are immoral, and wars fought to end it. Some Christians claim that such a move wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Christianity, but it is interesting that it took at least 1600 years after the rise of Christianity to finally start dealing with the morality of slavery.
Those are just a few examples of many instances when humans decided on morality on their own and came to conclusions that contradict religions. Making the argument that in the end, we are the ones who decide.
Morality is a collective consensus agreement among homologous communities that evolves over time to account for changing conditions and increases in knowledge. A book written by unknown persons two thousand years ago has no place in this effort.
(2893) Tiberius chronology versus Jesus
Tiberius Caesar Augustus (November 42 BC – 16 March AD 37) was the second Roman emperor, reigning from AD 14 to 37. He was reigning during the time of Jesus’ alleged ministry. Discussed below is the difference in what we know about these two men:
To provide an illustration of just how much more we know about Tiberius than Jesus, I thought it would be helpful to map out their lives in a chronology. After all, if we have a lot of historical information, shouldn’t we be able to plot it out on a timeline?
For the chronology of Jesus, there are considerable problems in assigning any precise dates or years to events in his life. To begin with, the Gospel of Matthew places Jesus’ birth before the death of King Herod in 4 BCE, but Luke states that Jesus was born during the Census of Quirinius, which took place in 6/7 CE. As historian E.P. Sanders (The Historical Figure of Jesus, pg. 87) explains:
“Possibly because there were riots after Herod’s death in 4 BCE and also at the time of the census in 6 CE, Luke has conflated the two times. This a relatively slight historical error for an ancient author who worked without archives, or even a standard calendar, and who wrote about a period some eighty or so years earlier. The most likely explanation of Luke’s account is this: he or his source accidentally combined 4 BCE (Herod’s death) and 6 CE (Quirinius’ census); having ‘discovered’ the event so that it became a reason for Joseph to travel from his home in Nazareth to Bethlehem. In any case, Luke’s real source for the view that Jesus was born in Bethlehem was certainly the conviction that Jesus fulfilled a hope that someday a descendant of David would arise to save Israel.”
Sanders’ last point about the expectation that the Jewish Messiah would be born in Bethlehem is likewise noteworthy. It is very clear that both Matthew and Luke’s accounts of Jesus’ birth were influenced by their narrative goals of depicting Jesus as a descendant of King David. As Sanders (pg. 88) elaborates:
“The birth narratives constitute an extreme case. Matthew and Luke used them to place Jesus in salvation history. It seems that they had very little historical information about Jesus’ birth (historical in our sense), and so they went to one of their other sources, Jewish scripture. There is no other substantial part of the gospels that depends so heavily on the theory that information about David and Moses may simply be transferred to the story of Jesus.”
These problems only allow for broad date ranges in estimating the year of Jesus’ birth (for a refutation of apologetic attempts to harmonize the nativity stories between Matthew and Luke, see Carrier’s “The Date of the Nativity in Luke”). On a wide range, the Gospels place Jesus’ birth anywhere from a couple years before Herod’s death (7-4 BCE) to the Census of Quirinius (6/7 CE). However, scholars have also favored a more narrow range of dates between these broader reference points. As Sanders (pg. 11) explains:
“Most scholars, I among them, think that the decisive fact is that Matthew dates Jesus’ birth at about the time Herod the Great died. This was in the year 4 BCE, and so Jesus born in that year or shortly before it; some scholars prefer 5, 6, or even 7 BCE.”
This allows for a narrow range of dating Jesus’ birth between 7-4 BCE. Dating the beginning of Jesus’ ministry is likewise problematic. Luke (3:1) states that John the Baptist began his ministry in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius (29 CE), and implies that Jesus began his ministry not long after (29-30 CE). However, Sanders (pg. 282) cautions:
“This, however, is only an estimate. Luke did not write that Jesus started precisely one year after John. Moreover, we do not know how long Jesus’ ministry lasted. Consequently, Luke’s information cannot tell us when Jesus died.”
Dating Jesus’ death raises further problems. As with Jesus’ birth, both broad and narrow estimates can be provided. Regarding broad estimation, Sanders (pg. 54) notes:
“When Jesus was executed, Pontius Pilate was prefect of Judea (26-36 CE) and Caiaphas was high priest (18-36 CE) … These dates lead to the conclusion that Jesus died between 26 to 36 CE. This broad range is based on ‘big pieces’ of information. Tiberius, Pilate, and Caiaphas: everybody in Palestine knew those three names and during what period of time they held their respective offices.”
So, in a broad sense, Jesus’ death can be placed between the years 26-36 CE. However, it is fair to say that most scholars have favored a narrower range between these dates. Sanders (pg. 283) concludes:
“Taking into account Luke’s dating of the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry, the period of Pilate’s administration, and the evidence derived from the chronology of Paul, most scholars are content to say that Jesus was executed sometime between 29 and 33 CE.”
With the cumulative analysis discussed above, the “broad range” of Jesus’ chronology may be calculated as follows:
Broad Chronology of Jesus:
7-4 BCE — 6-7 CE: Jesus is born
29-30 CE: Jesus begins his ministry
26-36 CE: Jesus is crucified
From this wider estimate, scholars have tended to favor a more “narrow range” of chronology with the following years:
Narrow Chronology of Jesus:
7-4 BCE: Jesus is born
29-30 CE: Jesus begins his ministry
29-33 CE: Jesus is crucified
In contrast, with Tiberius we have reliable and precise historical sources that furnish not only accurate years, but even specific days! In fact, the amount of information we can know about, such as when Tiberius assumed specific offices, visited various provinces, and other precise details, is so abundant that I had to cut out a lot of material from his chronology. It should also be noted that, unlike in the case for Jesus, there is no serious scholarly dispute about these dates, making them even more authoritative. Here is a greatly abridged chronology taken from Robin Seager’s Tiberius (xiii – xvi):
Chronology of Tiberius:
November 16th, 42 BCE: Tiberius is born
40 BCE: The infant Tiberius escapes the siege of Perusia
33 BCE: Tiberius’ father dies
27 BCE: Tiberius assumes the toga virilis
20 BCE: Tiberius marries Vipsania
11 BCE: Tiberius divorces Vipsania
12 BCE: Tiberius marries Julia
6 BCE — 2 CE: Tiberius’ retirement at Rhodes
4 CE: Tiberius is adopted by Augustus
September 17, 14 CE: Tiberius assumes the principate
19 CE: Death of Tiberius’ nephew and heir Germanicus
23 CE: Death of Tiberius’ son Drusus
27 CE: Tiberius retires to Capri
29 CE: Death of Tiberius’ mother Livia
October 18th, 31 CE: Tiberius executes his praetorian prefect Sejanus
March 16th, 37 CE: Tiberius dies
The contrast between these charts is drastic. For Jesus the few events we can even plot require broad date ranges, whereas for Tiberius we have not only a reliable year-by-year breakdown but even specific dates. Tiberius’ whole life is well documented in ancient sources and accessible chronologically, whereas Jesus’ is buried in obscurity. The charts above speak for themselves on just how much more we know about Tiberius than Jesus.
The total score card for contemporary written sources comes out to 14 literary, 100+ epigraphical, and ~100 papyrological for Tiberius in comparison to 0/0/0 for Jesus. When taking into account all of the available evidence over a period of 150 years, the data may be summarized as follows:
If it seems that the number of literary sources for Jesus in the furthest window of 150 years is impressive, there are two main reasons for that: 1) Christianity, in following the religious traditions of Judaism, made use of religious scripture, meaning that its followers wrote a lot of texts about its Messianic figure. But, most of those texts are theological in character and do not provide substantive, independent, or reliable historical information; 2) Jesus became an object of literary fascination, very similar to the historical Socrates, who likewise had several authors write about him in the decades following his death (even if many sources are no longer extant). Socrates was just a sculptor by profession, and yet he still had a multitude of authors write about him, and so I don’t find it miraculous if a carpenter had a similar thing happen to him.
I reiterate that the paucity of early, reliable sources for Jesus does not necessarily imply his non-existence. Tons of real, anonymous people lived in antiquity who receive no source attestation and are historically lost. Nevertheless, the scarcity of early, reliable sources does make the details of Jesus’ life obscure, embellished, and irretrievable to history. The Jesus that people believe in today, pray to, and discuss in church is a later theological fabrication, hopelessly divorced from the distant, ambiguous historical Jesus of the past.
At the time, Jesus was much less known worldwide than Tiberius, but now that equation is completely turned around. So the question is why would God allow so much documentation to exist about a long forgotten historical figure while providing so little for arguably the most important person who ever lived?
(2894) Alien abductions versus resurrection
Most Christians scoff at reports of people being abducted by alien beings. However, when we compare the evidence for these abductions against that for the resurrection of Jesus, it can be seen that the alien abductions are much more believable from an objective perspective. The following was taken from:
Thesis: There is more evidence for alien abduction than for the physical resurrection of Jesus and thus it is irrational to believe in the resurrection of Jesus but not alien abduction. We will demonstrate this by analyzing the various aspects of our evidence for the resurrection and our evidence for alien abduction.
For the purpose of this argument, let us assume that a creator God exists that is capable of resurrecting Jesus.
Physical Evidence: There is no physical evidence for either event. All we have is testimony of people who claim to have seen the event in question.
A-priori Plausibility: Both seem roughly equally plausible a-priori. We have zero concrete examples of either resurrection or alien abduction occurring in the past, but there is no logical or physical reason why either would be impossible, especially if we assume that there is a creator God. I expect that in the future with sufficient technology we will be able to perform abductions and human resurrections ourselves in a manner similar to as described by both the Bible and alien abduction witnesses.
Number of Independent Witnesses: Alien abduction has many more independent witnesses. UFO researchers estimate that they have roughly 600 mostly independent abduction reports. Of those reports, 73 of them had at least two witnesses, lending further credibility to their reports .
The resurrection on the other hand only has the four gospels and there is significant evidence that Luke and Matt are quite derivative of Mark, which shows that these gospels are hardly independent.
Quality of Witnesses: Alien abduction has very high quality named contemporary first hand accounts. We can directly interview these people and ensure that our testimony is coming straight from the source. We have also been able to test these witnesses for mental illness and researchers have verified that many of the witnesses are of sound mind .
The quality of testimony evidence available from the gospels is comparatively poor. We only have anonymous second or third hand accounts from decades after the events in question. We have no ability to interview the actual witnesses and no ability to ensure that they are not mentally ill. We also don’t know their other writings so we can’t verify their quality in other ways.
The Cost of Lying: One way to evaluate testimony is to ask whether or not the person providing it would have an incentive to lie. Both alien abduction witnesses and early Christians would not have an incentive to lie as their beliefs made them outcasts. It’s a bit difficult to compare the exact degree of shunning early Christians received vs alien abduction witnesses, but I think it’s fairly uncontroversial to say that alien abduction witnesses are looked down upon in modern society.
Conclusion: We have compared all of the primary aspects of the evidence for alien abduction and the resurrection and see that alien abduction has either stronger or roughly equal levels of quality in every aspect. This implies that it’s irrational to believe in the resurrection of Jesus but not alien abduction. Note that it might still be rational to believe in both or neither (or abduction, but not resurrection).
Christians are notoriously unconcerned about the quality of evidence supporting their beliefs. But when such quality is well below the quality for claims that most sane people reject, it reveals a disturbing detachment from reality and a failure to properly rank beliefs on the basis of intrinsic credibility.
(2895) Awkwardness of Sodom and Gomorrah
The infamous biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, commonly used to denigrate homosexual persons, is of itself worthy of denigration. In the following, eight points illuminate the awkwardness of this story and why it shouldn’t be used to bash gay people:
The famous story of Sodom and Gomorrah is one of the Clobber Texts; it shows unmistakably that God doesn’t tolerate homosexuality—or so has been said for centuries. He burned these cities to the ground as punishment for this particular sin. But fair warning, this is a case of don’t-go-there. In fact, if Christians turn to this story, I cheer them on: welcome to a quagmire of bad theology. What is the theological fallout from these two chapters, Genesis 18 & 19?
The setup for this drama is found in Genesis 18:20-21, Yahweh conversing with Abraham:
“Then the Lord said, ‘How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.’”
Their “grave sin” is not specified, but Abraham then coaches Yahweh on how to be a better God! The theologian who created vv. 23-33 was bothered by wholesale slaughter, so he presents Abraham coaxing Yahweh not to destroy the wicked cities if even ten righteous people could be found; the bargaining had started at fifty. Abraham oozes flattery to get his way with this deity modeled after tribal chieftains, who has to send scouts to the cities to verify the wickedness.
This is awkward: Point 1: are Christians today really okay with the God depicted here—in the Bible!—who has to be talked into not being so cruel?
At the opening of Chapter 19 we read that two angels arrive at Sodom and are prevailed upon by Lot to accept his hospitality for the night. Remember that Lot himself was a stranger in the city, and he welcomed other strangers to his home. Hence the trouble begins:
“…the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.’” (Genesis 19:4-5)
What did they mean by know? The Hebrew word yada can mean sexual intercourse, as in the Adam and Eve story, but it more commonly means “to know” in the sense of acquiring knowledge. What is more likely, that “the men of Sodom, both young and old…to the last man” were homosexuals determined to rape Lot’s guests, or that these citizens were alarmed about unknown strangers in their town? It all hinges on what yada means here.
This is awkward: Point 2: If you’re going to insist that this story is about rampaging homosexuals—a whole town full of them—please explain how you know for sure that yada here means sex.
What is Lot’s response? “Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” If the “men of Sodom” at his door were homosexuals, why would he offer them his daughters? Were there no male servants or slaves available?
This is awkward: Point 3: Lot, the hero of the story, offers his virgin daughters to be raped, and faces no condemnation at all from the god who sent his angels to Sodom to check out its “very grave sin.” Hasn’t Lot himself committed a really big sin? In fact, the angels proceed to save Lot and his family from destruction, as Lot proclaims: “…your servant has found favor with you, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life…” It’s probably not a good idea to use this story as an example of God’s moral outrage against gay people.
This is awkward: Point 4: Even if we could nail the meaning of yada, i.e., be sure that it’s a reference here to sexual violation, how in the world would an ancient story about mass rape have any bearing on our assessment of consensual gay relationships today?
One of the most famous tidbits in this story is the fate of Lot’s wife. The angels had warned that no one should “look back” as they fled the city, but she couldn’t resist: “Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:26)
This is awkward: Point 5: This is how God works: for the simple act of “looking back” Lot’s wife was killed. If anyone, it was Lot who deserved to be turned into salt. How is this not bad theology?
The angels kept their word:
- “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.” (Genesis 19:24-25)
- “Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord; and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the Plain and saw the smoke of the land going up like the smoke of a furnace.” (Genesis 19:27-28)
This is awkward: Point 6: Destroying everything—including “what grew on the ground”—can be called flame-thrower theology, which we find repeatedly in the Bible. God gets even; he takes revenge, killing in wide swaths. He set the precedent with the Noah flood genocide. It’s hard to argue that Jesus was an improvement; when he sent his disciples out to preach in towns and villages, he gave them this assurance: ”If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” (Matthew 10:14-15)
After their escape, Lot and his daughters took refuge in a cave, and the firstborn was worried that they were stranded without men. “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the world. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, so that we may preserve offspring through our father.” (Genesis 19:31-32) And, on successive nights, they did just that and both became pregnant by their father. Genesis 19 ends with this comment: “The firstborn bore a son, and named him Moab; he is the ancestor of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son and named him Ben-ammi; he is the ancestor of the Ammonites to this day.”
This is awkward: Point 7: Thus the Sodom story culminates with incest, with no hint of divine disapproval aimed at the drunk father or the pregnant daughters. This falls far short of being an inspiring Bible story; in fact, many readers would agree that we have reached a low point in the depiction of heterosexual morals.
This is awkward: Point 8: In fact we can see the point of this Bible version of soft porn. The Moabites and Ammonites were traditional enemies of Israel—so the author was indulging in ridicule, suggesting that these enemies were the products of incest.
It’s hard to find redeeming features in Genesis 18-19, yet it remains one of the go-to Clobber Texts. The use of this story to slam gay people is sinful hypocrisy.
The fact that this story is in the Bible and that it enjoys so much prominence in the estimation of Christian apologists is a travesty, an exercise in indulgent ‘cherry picking.’ It also begs the question of how a god could behave in a way that would be unacceptable for anyone in any setting and yet still deserve respect and worship. Any sane person reading the Bible from the beginning would stop at this point, put it down, any throw it away.
(2896) Christianity’s roots
Plumbing the roots of Christianity is all anyone has to do in order to realize that it is a fictional religion. The following is a thumbnail summary of how it came to pass:
So Yahweh started off in the Polytheistic Caananite pantheon roughly around the 2500 BC Bronze Age area. During that time he was a minor weather/state/warrior god for the nomadic tribes of Israel And had a brother named Baal and Yahweh’s parents were El and Asherah. Yahwism or the cult of Yahweh sprang up during that time for the Israelites and would morph into First temple Judaism and the construction of the First temple of Soloman in 957 BC and also usher in Monolatric/henotheistic beliefs. The temple would stand until 587 BC when the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar the 2nd destroyed the temple after he conquered Egypt and deported the Jews to Babylon. Alot of other stuff happened around this time but more or less The Israelites believed their State God Yahweh was punishing them for being unfaithful and they started to believe he was the one true god which shifted the beliefs further into monotheism and away from monolatric or henotheistic beliefs. Then after those events began the Second temple period from about 516 BC to 70 AD where the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman Emperor Vespasian during the Siege of Jerusalem
During the first temple period there was no “afterlife” or “judgement”. Just Sheol, where the human soul went upon death. The final resting place per the Hebrew bible or Tanakh. The Jews began believing in an afterlife and judgement after Alexander the Great of Greece hellenized the region with Greek ideas of an afterlife and judgement after Alexander the Great defeated the Persian empire from the region they had previously conquered right around 332 BC. This is important because the Second temple period is when Sheol began being like the Greek place of the afterlife Hades. Judgement, torture, etc.
The Old testament was written Between 1400 BC and 400 BC, then following 400 “silent years” with no prophets or any changes until The New testament with the Jesus character began and tried to use leftover Stoic ideas from the Hellenistic period and add in apocalyptic death cult beliefs and afterlife beliefs from both the Zoroastrians and the Greeks and now we have a New testament that spent that last 1000 years plagiarizing their beliefs from other cultures and ideas. The authors of the New Testament wrote in Koine Greek, which was used between 300 BC and 300 AD and you would have had to be educated in Greek culture to know how to write in that language. So more or less I believe that Christianity is completely fabricated and has no basis in reality or truth.
This would be like meeting someone who claims to be a medical doctor, but when you research his credentials, you realize that he never even graduated from high school and has been unemployed for three years. Christianity teeters on a sandy foundation of Bronze Age superstition and is kept alive only by keeping its followers uniformed about its origins.
(2897) Jesus and Pilate’s private conversation
The gospels’ depictions of conversations taking place during Jesus’ ministry are highly suspect given that eyewitnesses would have been almost impossible to find, and even if they were available, any regurgitations from their memories from decades earlier would likely have been inaccurate. But this problem is taken to another level in the Gospel of John, where Jesus and Pilate have a private conversation, meaning that the author would had to have interviewed Jesus himself or Pilate (long dead) to have known what was said.
Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”
Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.
Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”
Here we can see the difference between writing fiction versus history. If this had been an historical account, the scripture would have been written similar to this:
Jesus was taken to the palace of the Roman governor, Pilate, and was summoned inside for a private meeting. After the questioning, Pilate emerged and stated that he could find no fault in Jesus.
Instead, the author assumes the role of an omniscient narrator, a technique common to fictional writing, and this lets us know that the Jesus/Pilate conversation has no basis in history. It also signals that the entire gospel is of dubious authenticity.
(2898) Abrahamic religions destroyed egalitarianism
Prior to the emergence of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, societies characterized by pagan religions were amenable to homosexuality, masturbation, and women’s rights. These rights and freedoms were viciously attacked by those who wrote the Bible and the Quran. This begs the question of why a deity would condemn activities that were destined to become nearly universal in modern times. The following was taken from:
In Gaelic Mythology there was a female warrior named Scáthach, there have also been real Welsh warrior women such as Boudica. In Pagan Britain, it was completely acceptable for women to be warriors and rulers.
In the Abrahamic faiths though, women have been long oppressed and viewed as subservient to men, by Christian law women were viewed as property, marriage was viewed as the “Transition of ownership from father to husband of the woman” not as a loving bond.
In Islam, Traditional interpretations of Islam require a woman to have her husband’s permission to leave the house and take up employment, in the most traditional Islamic nations women are required to cover their bodies, sometimes completely because Islam does not consider them capable of choice, nor do they think Men capable of controlling their sexual urges around “Immodest” women.
It is with this I make the argument that Pagan societies were far more equal and egalitarian than even modern Liberal religious states; I believe that the Abrahamic faiths brought social inequality to the world, oppression is inherent to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and I don’t think they can ever assimilate into a Secular society. Most Pagan societies I have studied were Secular in nature, the Celtic Clans of Western Europe were Elective, meaning the people of the tribe voted on which heir would become the new king.
Masturbation was also common in ancient societies like Sumer and Rome, viewed as a completely natural activity, but it was suppressed by the coming of these religions.
In many nations there was no concept of gendered clothing, in ancient Britain and western/southern Europe, everyone wore what we would consider “Dresses.”
An omnipotent being would likely know how society would evolve on social issues and not instill recriminations against those issues that were destined to be eventually deemed acceptable. It’s doubly unlikely that a god would prohibit activities that were presently considered acceptable and which he knew would become universal at a later date. It would be like a father telling his daughter that she must stop eating ice cream even when he realizes that it will become OK to do so a month later. In other words, this is not the marker of an omniscient deity.
(2899) Martyrs for Jesus
There is a curious theme in Christianity that promotes the idea that dying for Jesus is the ultimate show of faith, and that it garners a premium reward. Yet, it seems unusual that an omnipotent god would need or desire approbation fueled by the sight of followers throwing their lives at its feet. Instead, it appears to be more of a human-centered idea that a god would be flattered by people sacrificing their lives to uphold its honor. The following was taken from:
The number one excuse [for martyrdom] from other Christians is “it’s proving your faith?” but why is that considered the ultimate test of faith? And since God already knows our hearts why must we sacrifice ourselves for him?
“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.”
Matthew 10:28/Matthew 10:33
“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell”
“But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.
1 Peter 4:19
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
Why exactly does God/Jesus need their followers to die for them?
It is not surprising that dogma built around the theory of a god-man sacrificing his life for mankind would also see the reverse- humans sacrificing their lives for God- as being laudable. Yet, it strains credulity to think that an infinitely powerful god would need to use such carnage to boost its self-esteem.
(2900) Forensic science versus evolution
Christian fundamentalists who oppose the teaching of evolution are taking a hypocritical position with respect to their otherwise acceptance of forensic science. Accepting one while rejecting the other is illogical at its core. The following was taken from:
I’m picking forensic science as an example because it seems that you Americans (and creationism is mainly an American problem, at least in the developed world) love true crime stories and similar topics. So tell me, if the only “real” form of science is the one where you can observe the effects directly and repeatedly and everything else is worthless, then every person convicted because of evidence gathered by this form of science should be freed right now. After all, who cares about DNA? like Ken Ham says: WHERE YOU THERE to observe the crime?
And while we’re on the topic, isn’t it interesting that creationists are “skeptical” about organisms changing little by little over millions of years but believe that things like a man walking on water and raising the dead are 100% true factual history. I also don’t usually see creationists attacking quantum mechanics, even though it makes claims that are far more “unbelievable” than anything evolution ever came up with, maybe it’s because QM doesn’t challenge directly their myths so they don’t have any reason to pretend they are “skeptical” about it.
The agility Christians display opposing evolution while accepting almost everything else that is based on the same analytical techniques reveals their selective bias and, in general, their refusal to face up to reality. Consistency matters.