(2901) Noah’s interwoven stories
The story of Noah and the Flood is a curious mixture of two stories interwoven into a whole that contains disturbing and confusing contradictions. It provides a template for how the Bible was engineered absent any historical guardrails. The following was taken from:
Read the Noah story—the whole thing, from the very end of Genesis 5 and not just from the beginning of the parashah—and you will immediately sense that there is a problem. Why are there so many repetitions, tensions, and outright contradictions? Why are we told twice about Noah’s offspring (5:32 and 6:10)? Why does the story offer two explanations for God’s decision to destroy all creatures, removing them from the face of the earth—one explanation relating to the transgression of the divine/human divide and the wickedness of the human heart (6:1-7), and the other relating to human violence (6:11-12)? And why, in almost a single breath, does the Torah contradict its own representation of God’s command to bring animals onto the ark, first requiring two of every species (6:19) and then requiring seven of each pure species and only two of each impure species (7:2-3)?
These are the problems that made the Noah story one of the primary foundations of the so-called Documentary Hypothesis of biblical origins. In fact, if you divide the story according to the name of God used in each part (Elohim [E] or Jahweh [J]), you will find that the division produces two neat and almost complete stories, each with its distinct version of the Noah tradition. For this reason, many modern critical readers of the text have concluded that what we have here is two original documents (E and J) combined to create a larger whole, but with relative disregard for the issues their combination creates. To be sure, dividing the story eliminates the problems exemplified in the paragraph above, but it does nothing to make sense of the Torah’s story as we have it, whatever its origins.
In the world before the invention of the printing press, a world that was largely illiterate, the tensions and even contradictions we see today when reading the Torah’s text would mostly not have been a problem. When people experience a text orally and aurally—read out loud by a reader whose words they hear but do not see—they tend not to hear tensions or even contradictions, and they certainly cannot go back to compare what they hear now to what they heard before. Consequently, they tend to modify their memory or understanding of the earlier in light of the latter. Repetitions are assumed to be there for emphasis or simply because orality demands repetition for clarity, and tensions or contradictions are smoothed over without the listener even being aware that a problem was there to be solved. In the world where people heard but did not read the Torah, our Genesis 2 (the “second Creation story”) would have been heard as a specification or filling out of Genesis 1 (our “first Creation story”), and the Noah story would have been worked out with similar lack of difficulty.
This does not mean, however, that the difficulties do not exist, and we as readers should pay attention to them. I would like to suggest that the Documentary solution provides us with an important key, but not because separating the stories solves the readers’ problems. When we read the part of the story in which God is referred to by the J name and compare it with the part of the story in which God is known by the E name, we find that the two strands offer us two very different pictures of who God is and the nature of God’s relationship with humanity. First separated and then combined, these two parts offer us, in the end, a very complex theology, one from which we can all learn.
In the J story, God wants to protect God’s status vis-à-vis human beings and other creatures. It is in this story that the “divine beings” sleep with human women, provoking God’s wrath. One expression of God’s wrath is to limit the length of human life to one-hundred-and-twenty years, ensuring a clear distinction between humans and divine beings who live forever. It is in this story that God requires Noah to bring onto the ark seven of every pure animal, because it is in this story that God will demand animal sacrifices of Noah when he emerges from the ark. The God of the Jstory is appeased by the sweet smell of the sacrifices, because they are an expression of human subservience and obedience. All told, this is a God who demands a clearly superior position with relation to God’s creation; the Supreme King to whom all creatures are radically subjects.
The God of the E story is portrayed very differently. The sin that this God sees is human violence; being concerned for human welfare, this God acts against that violence, but S/he never limits the length of human life (this God requires no such radical division between God and humans). This God requires only two of each species—male and female—to board the ark, because S/he will not demand sacrifices; the animals are needed only to perpetuate their species. Instead of demanding sacrifices upon Noah’s exit from the ark, the God of the E story begins by blessing the humans, and then gives them laws. The most important of these laws is the one that protects human life.
Crucially, the God of E then goes on at length to express God’s covenantal commitment to humanity, ensuring that flesh will never again be destroyed by a flood. The fact that this commitment is covenantal—the word covenant (brit) appears in this context (9:8-17) seven times!—is significant. A covenant is a contract, one in which two parties commit to one another by mutual agreement. The fact that this God can enter a covenant with humanity means that S/he views humanity as a worthy partner, not necessarily an equal but also not a radically submissive subject to be commanded and little more.
These are two very different Gods, one jealous and superior, the other caring and available for relationship. How could they have been put together? What is the meaning of the two when represented as one? The answer, I think, lies in our own need for different Gods or, to be more correct, for one God differently imagined. My guess is that most of us are more immediately and naturally attracted to the God of E, the one who respects us enough to make a covenant with us. But such a God would be only partial. We also need a God—the God of J—who is radically superior, one totally unlike us, one to whom we can submit. Perhaps better expressed, sometimes we need the God as represented in one of these stories, at other times the God represented in the other. Put together, as in the Noah story, we have a fuller God, one we can address in all of our complexity, even if God is, in reality, much simpler (i.e., more singular) than these stories express.
Just like in the creation stories of Genesis Chapters 1 and 2, we see evidence of two gods in the story of Noah. For a purported monotheistic religion, this creates a problem. Having one god too many is a sign that they are probably all fictional.
(2902) Another miracle gives way to chemistry
Christian belief is sustained partly by the reporting of alleged miracles that can take many forms- a cancer suddenly disappearing, an image of Jesus or Mary appearing out of nowhere, or the sun behaving in a strange way. None of these supposed miracles have ever met the test of scientific scrutiny. And another such miracle recently met its doom- the immortal blood of San Gennaro. The following was taken from:
San Gennaro is the patron saint of Naples (Italy) and 2 ampoules which supposedly contain his blood are preserved there. One ampoule is taken out once a year and carried around in a procession. The ‘ blood’ looks like a solid but once in a while it liquifies to become a thick liquid like blood. This is considered a miracle and a good omen.
The Church has never allowed analysis of the substance in the ampoules but for Chemists, the phenomenon can be explained simply.
Some substances exhibit thixotropy. These are substances that exist as solids but change to liquids when they are shaken. Some chemists tried to replicate this phenomenon and succeeded. In fact I did this myself wit the help of another chemist many years ago. We used Ferric Chloride and Calcium Carbonate as the main reagent and we subjected them to a process involving common table salt. The resulting substance was then allowed to stand and it solidified. Several days later it slowly liquified when shaken – this is thixotropy.
During the religious procession the vial is shaken and this is what causes the contents to liquify.
This is another example where science explains away a ‘miracle’. The Catholic church has become very cautious about these things and in fact it is nowadays giving very little importance to these so called ‘miracles’.
It is likely that the blood of this patron saint was tampered with to create the apparent ‘miracle.’ Subterfuge such as this is tolerated to some degree in sectarian circles if it causes more people to acquire or strengthen their belief. But its use even in small amounts is a calling card that they are promoting nothing more than a myth.
(2903) Problems defending the canon of scripture
Christianity is essentially a book-centered faith, given that there are no real-time interactions with deific personages, at least not that the entire Christian community can agree upon. Therefore, the Bible is the coalescing source upon which the faith rests. But there are problems defending the decisions that were made as to which books belong in the Bible and which do not. This pollutes the concept of the Bible being a sacrosanct theological foundation for Christianity. The following was taken from:
All justifications for a particular canon of scripture result in a standard that is not consistently applied, a circular argument, or an argument that simply kicks the problem down the road.
How do you know what the canon of scripture is? There’s clearly a list of books that you consider to be scripture. But how do you know that list the correct list? The answer to that question seems to result in one of three problems: the standard used is not consistently applied, the argument is circular, or the answer just kicks the problem down the road. A solution with any of these problems is not really a solution worth taking seriously.
Note here that I am NOT discussing what makes a book scripture. I understand that the answer to that questions is that a book is inspired/God-breathed. I am discussing how you know that this list of books is God-breathed. After all, maybe there are some God-breathed books but it is not exactly the list of books you recognize as scripture.
Let’s go through the various reasons given for believing your particular list of books is canon and I’ll demonstrate why each solution falls victim to one of the three problems I mentioned above.
The Holy Spirit inspired me to choose these books.
How do you know it’s the Holy Spirit inspiring you? Perhaps it’s a demon. Or perhaps the feeling of inspiration is not the same thing as actually being inspired. How would you know otherwise? After all, the Mormons seem pretty convinced that the Holy Spirit is telling them that the Book of Mormon deserves inclusion in scripture. If they are mistaken, why couldn’t you be? At this point, you might be tempted to quote scripture to justify your position, but note that this is circular reasoning. And if you have no good standard for determining when it is the Holy Spirit speaking, then your applying your solution inconsistently by not allowing Mormons to engage in the same behavior.
The Church has always recognized these books as scripture.
This is answer is basically “I think these books are canon because someone else said they were.” But this just kicks the problem down the road. Now we have to consider the obvious follow up question: But how do you know that they got it right? Maybe the early church made a mistake. Paul claims that Peter made a doctrinal mistake in Galatians 2:11-13. And apparently Peter wasn’t alone, as Paul states that Peter had followers, including Barnabas.
But to make matters even worse, we have no evidence of a standard canon in the early church. The canon appears to have been in flux for hundreds of years.
The Church is infallible/Church tradition is infallible.
Once again, this kicks the problem down the road. How do you know the Church is infallible? And your answer shouldn’t be that it’s Biblical. If you use the Bible to justify your belief in the Church and the Church to justify your belief in the Bible, then you’re engaging in circular reasoning.
The New Testament proves the Old Testament is true because it quotes and references the Old Testament. And the Old Testament proves the New Testament by foreshadowing it and prophesying the events in it.
This is clearly circular reasoning. The Old is true because the New is true because the Old is true.
Why does a record of the prophesied events have to be scripture? Are all written accounts of fulfilled prophecy canon? If not, then this isn’t a reliable means of choosing canon and you are applying your standard inconsistently.
The New Testaments also quotes and references books from outside the canon (like Jude with the Book of Enoch). Does this make those books canon? Once again, you are applying your standard inconsistently.
Then how do you know the Book of Esther is canon? And what prophecy is fulfilled in 3 John? Yet again, you are applying your standard inconsistently.
The books are completely consistent with each other. It’s one message.
Wouldn’t the message still be consistent without 3 John? If so, this doesn’t really solve any canon problems. If any set of book with one message can be canon, then a lot of books should be recognized as canon. This is applying your standard inconsistently.
Additionally, if you are trying to harmonize everything in what you perceive as canon, you will be smoothing over any rough spots and looking for ways to make it into one message. For example, you almost certainly would see Ephesians 2:8-9 as contradicting James 2:24 if you weren’t trying to find a way to harmonize the two texts. And maybe there is a way! But if you are in fact attempting to harmonize a group of texts, then you really shouldn’t be surprised when those texts appear harmonized to you. Thus, unless you attempt to harmonize all potential canonical books, you are applying your standard inconsistently.
Because the ecumenical counsels said so.
Additionally, this is basically “I believe this list of books is canon because some group of dudes said it was.” in other words, it kicks the problem down the road. But why trust that group of dudes? And your answer shouldn’t be that it’s Biblical. If you use the Bible to justify your belief in the counsels and the counsels to justify your belief in the Bible, then you’re engaging in circular reasoning.
It really boils down to this- for a book-centered religion to be legitimate, the book would had to have been created in a supernatural way. For instance, God could have miraculously made and distributed Bibles to all nations in their native languages. In that case, there would have been no disputes about what should be included or how the text should be translated. It seems that a god intent on having all people receive a clear message would have done it that way.
(2904) Paul’s influence on the gospels
Most Christians believe that the gospels are eyewitness historical accounts of Jesus’ ministry. But they are wrong on both counts- they were not written by eyewitnesses, nor are they historical. The latter point is partially evidenced by the influence of the Apostle Paul (and other epistle authors) on the gospels. A man who never met Jesus and who was well versed in the mystery cults of his time bled some of this experience into the letters he wrote. Decades later, his writings became templates for what was written in the gospels, with the Last Supper being a prime example. The following was taken from:
“All mystery religions had an initiation ritual in which the congregant symbolically reenacts what the god endured (like Christian baptism: Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12), thus sharing in the salvation the god had achieved (Gal. 3:27; I Cor. 12:13) , and all involve a ritual meal that unites initiated members in communion with one another and their god (I Cor. 11:23-28). All of these features are fundamental to Christianity, yet equally fundamental to all the mystery cults that were extremely popular in the very era that Christianity arose.” (Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus, p. 99)
We are becoming increasingly aware of the influence of Paul’s letters on the gospels. Two books especially are worth careful attention: Tom Dykstra, Mark Canonizer of Paul: A New Look at Intertextuality in Mark’s Gospel, and David Oliver Smith, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul: The Influence of the Epistles on the Synoptic Gospels.
So, back to a fundamental question: “How in the world can we figure out who Jesus really was?” This quest is hampered—it’s actually damaged—by the knowledge that first writers about Christ, who created the most influential epistles, were focused on a theology that shared elements with other mystery cults, and thus had wide appeal. They weren’t all that interested in the historical Jesus; history was their least concern, and they would have impact on the stories created by the gospel writers.
Packaging the epistles along with the gospels in the canon was a blessing for modern sleuths who have been able to trace influences—and gaffs. But for the survival of this ancient theology so rooted in superstition, it has been a blunder. What an embarrassment that Mark’s Last Supper script can be traced to Paul’s hallucinations.
Refer to this link for more information on this topic:
Christianity would be on much firmer ground if the gospels had been written before the epistles, putting the proverbial horse before the cart. Instead, it is obvious that the commentary of what happened preceded the actual documentation of what happened. So the commentary was used to drive the historical account, and because Paul and the other epistle authors were familiar with the practices and rituals of the existing mystery cults, these same themes found a home in the gospels.
(2905) Jews never detected the Trinity
If we are to believe Christianity, God is composed of three personages, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But it seems wildly implausible that God’s chosen people, the Jews, over thousands of years have failed to detect this fact. How could God have concealed this very important attribute from the very people that he favored over all others? The following was taken from:
Thesis: The trinity is a Christian invention and has no basis in the Old Testament (the foundation of Christianity).
If God is a trinity comprising of Father, son and Holy Spirit then that concept would have been made clear in the Old Testament. But that is not the case. Had it been so then Jews would have been Trinitarians long before Jesus.
Judaism predates Christianity by 1500 years and Jews have written volumes of literature on Jewish theology, tradition and beliefs. Yet, not a single Jewish Rabbi (not Messianic Jewish “rabbis” who are Christians in faith) has interpreted the Old Testament to mean God is a trinity of Father, son and Holy Spirit.
Whenever Christians try to prove the trinity with the Old Testament they only present their interpretations of certain verses. But ultimately, the Old Testament is a Jewish scripture and if Jews don’t interpret it to find a trinity, then why should it be assumed that Christians have the correct interpretation of the OT?
Why should we take the Christian interpretation of the OT (That it teaches God is a trinity) over the Jewish interpretation of their scripture (that God is ONE)??
This is a fatal problem for Christianity. Once it sunk its roots into Judaism, it had to answer to this contradiction and there is very little wiggle room to achieve an adequate solution. Either God himself changed or peoples’ perception of him changed.
(2906) Jesus was not his name
A man by any other name who did the same would suffice, but still getting the name right is a big deal. And Christians failed to do that simple task when it comes to the central figure of their adoration. The following was taken from:
My name is Mark. If I move to Mexico my name does not become Marcos, it will always be Mark. I understand that Jesus’ name was Yeshua in the Hebrew language, which translates to Joshua in English. Where did the name Jesus come from? Jesus, this supposed all important figure in the history of Western civilization, and yet Jesus was not this man’s name in his native tongue. This man, Jesus, the alleged word of God, the Bible, states that he was the only begotten son of God. It seems to me, that if this were true that his name would be extremely important. So, even before any critical investigative inquiry of the Christian religion, the name Jesus is fraudulent from the start.
I believe, of course I don’t know, that there very well may have been a man, Yeshua, but he was no Christian and probably had no intention of starting another religion. According to the biblical account he was a Jew. He transcended his own religion. But he was no Christian and his name was not Jesus.
So we don’t know for sure if he was historical or legendary, but either way we do know that his name was Jeshua or Joshua, not Jesus. The name of Jesus came about in the Year 1769 with a translation that mangled the translation of an original Hebrew name. If Christians want their religion to be taken seriously then they need to get their names straight.
(2907) John replaces Eucharist with feet washing
In the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) Jesus’ last supper with the disciples is highlighted by the ritual cannibalistic act of eating Jesus’ body and drinking his blood. But in the fourth gospel, John, there is no mention of this. In fact, it is replaced with something that is in many ways functionally the polar opposite. Jesus humbles himself by washing the disciples’ feet.
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Most Christians are unaware that the celebration of the Eucharist was left out of what is generally considered the most popular gospel. Plus, there is a disconnect between the two portrayals- in the synoptics, Jesus glorifies himself by showcasing the sanctifying power of his body and blood, while in John, he presents himself as a humble servant. The stark difference in the way the gospels portray this seminal event is a troubling challenge for Christian apologists.
(2908) The life of John
Christian theology collapses under certain scenarios that expose its inequity. Somehow the people who fashioned it didn’t think it through completely. The following story is a good example of how it fails to work in a real-life situation:
Let’s have a religious view of the life of an average guy named John. He went to school, graduated, went to a prestigious college, and became an accountant for a large company. He has a wonderful wife who he loves with all his heart, they’re newlyweds, still in their honeymoon phase, living the happiest prime years of their lives.
Years later, they have a 6 year old daughter and another on the way. One day, John is called to his boss’s office and he is informed that he will be receiving a promotion for his outstanding work for the company, and offered a short one week business trip to a foreign country. He accepts, and on the day of his business trip, he kisses his wife and daughter goodbye while they sleep as he must leave for an early flight.
A week later, the trip is over. It went very well, the co-workers at the sister company were friendly, they showed him around, taught him some simple phrases, took pictures of him at landmarks, and introduced him to some delectable foreign dishes. John has a lot to tell about the wonderful trip, but as he opens the door to his home, the color red stains his vision.
John is horrified at the sight of the blood stained naked bodies of his wife and daughter. John is traumatized at the sight of this and will never forget it, as well as the feeling that comes with it. It will forever haunt him in his nightmares, their dead bodies reminding him it was his fault for choosing to go on the trip. The man responsible for this, a serial killer, was found and prosecuted. He is given eight life sentences for his crimes, which included breaking into houses at night, torturing, killing, and raping the corpses of his victims. At the courthouse, it took all John’s willpower to stop himself from tackling the man and gouging his eyes out with his bare hands.
Flash forward decades later, the man never gets out of prison, and with all his free time, he finds God, as the only form of literature he was provided was a Bible. He prayed for forgiveness, and fasted 10 days for each person he killed. The man prayed before every breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and preached God’s word to all the other inmates with a Bible in his hands.
Meanwhile, John’s life is ruined. He becomes an outcast at his job, loses faith in the existence of a God, and never ever forgives the man who killed his wife, daughter, and unborn child, wishing him eternal torture every day. John eventually finds himself out of a job, and starves to death on the street as a depressed, alcoholic mess.
According to religion, the murder-rapist enjoys eternal pleasure in heaven, for accepting Gods light and repenting for his sins, while the victim finds himself burning in hell for rejecting Gods word and turning to alcoholism.
Religion is clearly very sensible and believable, and this situation is incredibly fair. Thanks, God!
One of the fatal problems with Christianity is that it focuses its judgment decision on a person’s status at the moment of death, rather than on a balanced consideration of the person’s entire life. Because of this, it suffers the absurd result of the story above. It is as ridiculous as awarding victory to the team that scores last in a football game regardless of which team scored the most points overall.
(2909) Petran priority
There exists a discrepancy between the letters of Paul and the gospels about whether or not the risen Christ first appeared to Peter. This spawns some interesting theories about why this happened. The following was taken from:
One of the fascinating things about reading the NT is that you can read the same verses over and over again for decades and then, one day, a major discrepancy jumps out that you never noticed before. I’m sure this happens to Christians, but in general their response is to bury it or explain it away (as I’m sure some will attempt here). But for those of us who aren’t wed to the dogma that the NT needs to be consistent or true, it’s like finding a pearl, because it tells us something interesting about the evolution of early Christianity and the NT.
As you know, the Pauline epistles are widely considered to have been written in mid 50s AD and to have formed some of the earliest written scripture available to Christians. It’s widely assumed that, decades before the gospels were written, Paul’s letters to his churches were being copied and distributed to early churches across the Near East. Given this, it’s hard to believe that the four evangelists were not aware of what Paul wrote. And here’s what Paul — who himself claims to have met at length with Peter — writes in one the seven Pauline epistles considered to be genuine (actually written by Paul):
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.” – 1 Corinthians 15:5
So why is it that Paul’s witness that Jesus appeared first and solely to Peter — I’m going to refer to this as Petran Priority — is not included as an event in any of the post-resurrection narratives in any of the four gospels? This cannot be an accidental oversight — it would have been trivial for them to have inserted a sentence that said exactly what Paul claimed, “Jesus first appeared to Peter” — so this has to be an intentional omission. And this is especially problematic in some cases:
- While Mark was written anonymously, Christian tradition holds it was written by a close companion of Peter, so if anyone was going to uphold Petran Priority, you’d expect it to be Mark. But this gospel originally ended at Mark 16:9, with no account of Jesus appearing to Peter (or anyone else), and even the subsequent addendums by later Christians fail to mention it. The narrative explicitly has no Petran Priority.
- Like Mark, Matthew says that the women were told in the empty tomb to relay a critical message to the eleven: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” On their way home, Jesus then appears to the women just to repeat the same message. Presumably they do, because the next we hear about the disciples is this: “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted”. The narrative explicitly has no Petran Priority.
- In John, there’s no message about going to Galilee, but the women tell Peter and the DWJL about the empty tomb, and they have a footrace to see who can get there first (Peter loses … this is apparently very important). Neither see Jesus, they go home, and Jesus then appears that night in the locked room to all the disciples at once. The narrative explicitly has no Petran Priority.
- In Luke, the women tell the disciples about the empty tomb, but they disbelieve, so Peter rushes to the tomb, but does not see Jesus and then goes away. We then get the first appearance by Jesus, to two minor disciples on the road to Emmaus; when they recognize it’s Jesus, he disappears, and they go to Jerusalem to tell the eleven, at which point Jesus appears to all of them. The narrative explicitly has no Petran Priority.
These discrepancies highlight an important point that is frequently overlooked by Christians; if writers of later gospels had access to earlier gospels and epistles, and if those later writers explicitly modified or excluded relevant testimony of these earlier writers, there’s really only three reasonable options regarding why this was done:
- One option is that the earlier writers actually reported authentic events and later gospel authors are intentionally lying about them in order to cover up something embarrassing or detrimental to the nascent religion. In this case, it could be that Peter was actually the only one who had a vision of the resurrected Jesus, and it was only much later — after this vision became a cornerstone of the Christian movement — that others would themselves claim to have had the same experience, and that such claims would be gradually exaggerated until we end up with Paul’s “he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time”. By lying about Peter as the sole initial visionary, they are choosing to strengthen the argument that the resurrection was not just one person’s hallucination.
- Another option is that earlier writers actually reported authentic events and later gospel authors are intentionally lying about them for political or theological reasons. In this case, it could be that other disciples had grown resentful that Jesus had actually appeared to Peter first and alone. Or maybe other Christians had felt that Peter had grown too powerful in the movement and wished to explicitly undermine his primacy. By lying about Petran Priority, they are denying a claim by Peter to be the cornerstone and de jure leader of the movement.
- But it’s also possible that the later gospel authors simply thought that the earlier testimony was wrong, that these earlier witnesses were simply inaccurate about the events they reported. For instance, there’s really no other way to understand Luke’s excision of Mark’s commandment that the disciples were to go to Galilee to first see Jesus — which Matthew witnesses is what happened — in favor of Jesus appearing, on the same day the empty tomb was discovered, to disciples on the road to Emmaus and in Jerusalem. Clearly, Luke thought Mark and Matthew were wrong about this.
In the case of Petran Priority, I think there’s a good argument for the third case: that Peter told Paul that Jesus appeared to him first and alone, and Paul recorded this in 1 Corinthians, but that other disciples had explicitly told their followers that Peter was lying, that Paul’s claim was not correct, and that this had become the consensus by the time the gospels were written. There are two additional pieces of evidence that support this conclusion:
- Paul goes to surprising lengths to distance himself and his ministry from the tradition of the disciples. Immediately following his conversion, Paul tell us that he avoided the disciples for three years, and then basically only met with Peter, who was apparently his sole source of direct information about what actually happened:
“… my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. cThen after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.” – Galatians 1:16-20
- Second, the one outlier to the universal omission of Petran Priority comes from Luke, who Christian tradition holds was a close companion of Paul. While Luke’s narrative explicitly omits any description of Peter actually seeing the resurrected Jesus first and alone, it does preserve Peter’s claimto have done so: when the two disciples arrive in Jerusalem and say that they’ve seen Jesus on the road to Emmaus, the eleven respond:
”’ It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.'” – Luke 24:34
Here, Luke is giving a shout out to his mentor Paul’s claim of Petran Priority, while still explicitly excluding the event itself from his narrative, since he (like the other gospel authors) had become convinced it wasn’t true.
But the bottom line here is that there’s only two possibilities: either Peter lied to Paul about Petran Priority, which is why the gospel authors decided to exclude it, or the gospel authors are lying about Jesus actually appearing to Peter first and alone, by omitting the event and showing Jesus as first appearing to the eleven as a group.
[Edit: I should also point out that Paul’s claim of Petran Priority is also undermined by the two gospels that claim that Jesus first appeared to Mary. But Paul would naturally exclude them as being relevant witnesses.]
The myriad discrepancies found in the gospels, Acts, and epistles concerning the actions of Jesus post-resurrection denote not only historical inaccuracies but also political infighting that likely infected the early Church. Who was the standard bearer of the new church? Was it Peter, Paul, or somebody else? The scriptures tell us that this was an open question.
(2910) Where did Jesus go?
The story of Jesus’ ascension is mired in a Bronze Age misunderstanding of the cosmos. It literally vocalizes the fact that it is pure mythology. The following was taken from:
Where did Jesus go? I mean, surely, there is no heaven above the earth. The bible presupposes an ancient cosmology where the earth is flat and heaven is literally above the earth. The ascension in Luke-Acts has Jesus literally and bodily go up into the air (Acts 1:9-11) and into heaven which they thought was above the earth. Commentators that I’ve looked at note the similarity between Jesus’ ascension and that of Elijah in the OT( 2 Kings 2:11-12) and with similar journeys to and from heaven that occur in other texts from that period, such as the journeys of Jesus and Isaiah in Ascension of Isaiah and the journeys of Enoch in 1 Enoch and 2 Enoch. It seems like the understanding of the cosmos by the Greek New Testament writers is more like the Hellenistic model described by Philo, and obviously there is no celestial temple up in outer space that one can reach through physical ascension.
But all of this seems wrong to modern readers. Surely, if the NT meant for this passage to be literal in that Jesus literally went up into the air and past the sky where the ancients thought heaven was, the ascension could not have happened historically/literally, since we know their cosmology was wrong. And since the NT seems to portray it literally, the NT seems wrong, which could open a can of worms for the resurrection and NT reliability in general.
Biblical writers had a problem in figuring out a way to get Jesus’ physical body off of the planet once he had resurrected. Some of them, like Mark, simply ignored the problem. But Luke, in Acts, went all in on a physical ascension into the sky. This no longer works in a science-literate world. Perhaps the best strategy would have had him materially disappear (like in Star Trek) and teleport straight to heaven.
(2911) Mark follows Paul on taxation
The New Testament contains two curious references on the subject of taxation, as levied by the occupying Roman forces. One is in Paul’s letter to the Romans and the other is in the Gospel of Mark. There is evidence that Mark got the idea to have Jesus say the words ‘render unto Caesar’…because he was aware of what Paul had written in Romans 13. But if Jesus had actually said this, then Paul should have known to couch his argument as a ‘commandment of the Lord’ instead of just his opinion. The following was taken from:
In Romans 13, Paul writes up his own opinions about taxation, arguing Christians should dutifully pay their taxes. We know these remarks are just his own opinions; not only because he represents them in no other way and has to contrive arguments for them—yet never resorts to the most potent argument of all (“the Lord said!”)—but also because so far as we can tell, everywhere else when Paul had “a commandment from the Lord” on something he was arguing for, he said so. For example: 1 Corinthians 7:10-12, 1 Corinthians 7:25, 1 Corinthians 9:14, 1 Corinthians 11:23, 1 Corinthians 14:37, 1 Thessalonians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 4:15 (see Ch. 11.6 of OHJ). So when we find a clever story about Jesus promoting the paying of taxes in Mark 12:13-17, where did Mark get that story? Why had Paul never heard of it, even after decades of “preaching Jesus” and engaging with other Christians, even the first Apostles, across a dozen or so provinces?
It’s quite obvious that Mark has taken Paul’s teaching and simply rewritten it into a pithier teaching from Jesus. Before Mark did that, there was no teaching from Jesus on the subject.
This is another example of how Paul seemed to know very little about Jesus other than that he shared a final meal with his disciples and that he was crucified and was resurrected. The evidence suggests he was unaware of Jesus saying anything about taxation. Further, it’s likely that Mark didn’t either but that he sought to sacrosanctly solemnize what Paul had written a generation earlier.
(2912) Satan beats God in the game of salvation
A cursory look at scripture drives an unavoidable conclusion that the Devil (Satan) will eventually have his desires fulfilled to a greater extent than God himself. This unintended effect was overlooked by those who wrote the scriptures, but perhaps it was a consequence of the biblical authors’ effort to ensure that the primary emotion generated by their work was fear.
The premises for this argument are based on biblical scriptures.
- The Christian god does not will for any to perish (2 Peter 3:9) and he loves the world so much that he gave Jesus The Son not to condemn the world but so that through him the world might be saved (John 3:16-17).
- The devil deceives the world (Revelation 12:9) and many will not make it on the narrow road to life but will end up on the wide road of destruction (Matthew 7:13-14) and even though many will try to make it to be saved, they won’t make it (Luke 13:23-24), and even many who thought they were Christians and called Jesus “lord, lord” will not make it (Matthew 7:22-23).
- If a person commits even one sin then they are guilty of breaking all of the Christian god’s law (James 2:10), and no one will be justified by works (Galatians 2:16), and even just thinking of sin by looking at someone in a sinful way could be enough to say that they sinned because it was a sin done in their heart (Matthew 5:28).
In conclusion, this suggests that the devil is more powerful than the Christian god, because these verses say that one good deed cannot save but one bad deed is as bad as doing them all, and the Christian god does not will that any should perish but that the world might be saved but the devil’s will to deceive and lead many to hell is the will that will be done.
It is pure irony that the angel who rebelled against God and was banished from heaven to suffer in a hellish wasteland for eternity in the end wins more souls to his cause than the omnipotent god of the universe. Satan wins the game, God loses, and according to the gospels the score will not even be close.
(2913) Mark invented the idea of parables
There is evidence that the conventional wisdom that Jesus taught in parables was the invention of the author of the Gospel of Mark, as no documents preceding his work had any mention of this method of communication. This adds to the suspicion that much of what Christians believe about Jesus was a product of the imagination of one man- Mark, whose work became a template for everything that followed. The following was taken from:
Depicting Jesus as teaching through “parables” appears to be an invention of Mark. It’s nowhere in Paul (or 1 Peter or Hebrews or 1 Clement or any earlier account of how and what Jesus taught). Mark is thus the most likely inventor of that technique, which later Evangelists picked up and riffed on, building their own parables on Mark’s model and attributing them to their versions of Jesus. Occam’s Razor leads to no other conclusion. No evidence of any kind leads to any other conclusion.
Most scholars still confidently assume parables were distinctive of Jesus…on a basis of no evidence at all, and some evidence against. More likely the parable was simply one of the innovative ways Mark chose to “reify” the teachings of Paul and the Pauline community by creating a version of “Jesus the clever preacher,” in much the same way as other ancients relied on cleverly contrived sage myths (from Aesop to The Seven Sages to legendary Rabbis) to communicate their own thoughts, values, and mores. It’s how Mark even composed his own Gospel, as merely a system of parables featuring Jesus as a character (as rightly argued in J.D. Crossan’s The Power of Parable).
Luke and Matthew sustained the use of parable-telling in their gospels and even expanded on the concept, though it is interesting that John did not follow suit. John was probably correct- Jesus, assuming he was historical, most likely did not speak in parables.
(2914) Reprobate mind
Romans 1:28 speaks of a reprobate mind as being the curse of those who do not follow the Jesus cult:
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
But a fuller understanding of how this concept is interpreted by Christian theology leaves one wondering which side of this accusation is the more virtuous. The following was taken from:
“Yahweh will give them over to a reprobate mind” talking about people who leave the religion.
And that’s true, since a ‘reprobate mind’ in their viewpoint includes:
- Considering homosexuals and other LGBTQ+ people to be human beings with equal rights to straight white American upper-middle-class Christians
- Believing that no matter your personal views of abortion, homosexuality, promiscuity, masturbation, etc., you have no right to force your own views of them onto other people
- Making moral decisions based on your feelings, especially empathy, or on logic and compassion–they say morals must come from a book only
- Seeing poverty as a tragedy instead of a special gift from god that makes you holier than others as long as you give your last two cents away
- Seeing grotesque levels of wealth in preachers and the Vatican etc. as predatory behavior instead of their “just rewards for being god’s messenger”
- Masturbating whenever you damned well feel like it
- Taking responsibility for yourself and your life instead of waiting around for some “sign” that you’re “on the right path”
- Feeling proud of your accomplishments instead of saying god did it and you’re useless dung on the bottom of his shoe that, after your years of hard effort, he deigned to allow to have a college degree–only because he’s nice like that and took pity on you, not because you earned it
- Thanking and appreciating the efforts and kindness of compassionate humans instead of saying it all came from god and people are just mindless tools he uses and discards as he sees fit
- Taking action when you can rather than only offer “thoughts and prayers”
- Warning people about the dangers of purity culture, rape culture, self-loathing, denying one’s self safe sexual expression, etc.
- Having the belief that freedom is freedom, while slavery is slavery = mindless obedience to an evil book’s main character
- Thinking that love is kindness, compassion, treating the other person with dignity, allowing people the space to learn and grow in… rather than love being controlling, manipulating, neglecting, hating, human sacrifice, and terrorizing people as Christianity teaches– not only in its god but in its adherents
Reprobate mind? I think I’ll keep it.
The turbidity of Christian reasoning is unveiled here. It doesn’t comport to a pinnacle of ethereal philosophy, but rather to a mundane expression of benighted human thought that was fashioned by a rough and unfriendly Iron Age existence. An all-knowing god would surely promote the bulleted actions above.
(2915) Pious fraud in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians
There is a growing consensus that the segment of Paul’s writings most often cited in the defense of the resurrection of Jesus is actually an interpolation added later by a different person. Observe the following scripture with the italicized portion in question:
1 Corinthians 15:1-14
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
Note that the letter reads more smoothly without the italicized text. This appears to indicate that it was added for some reason by a different person – likely to provide additional support for the resurrection. The following was taken from:
The core of the 1 Corinthians passage—“that Christ died…that he was buried…that he was raised…that he appeared”—almost certainly derives from early Christian liturgy like a similar passage in 1 Timothy 3:16, falsely attributed to Paul: “Who was manifest in the flesh, vindicated by the spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on by the world, taken up in glory. ”The phrasing of the text of 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 raises several questions. First, did Paul even write it?
Citing “tensions” between the passage and its context, Hans Conzelmann concluded, the “language is not Paul’s.” (Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 20 (1966), 22.) The inconclusive debate over what, if any, part of the five hundred-witness story could be traced back to Paul raises the possibility that none of it was written by Paul and that it is instead an interpolation, a pious forgery inserted into a genuine letter to bolster belief in the resurrection. As Peter Kearney observes, the mention that “some have died” marks the letter as addressed to “a community moving toward an expectation of fulfillment, but already marked by death.” (Novum Testamentum 22 (1980), 282.) Indeed, 1 Corinthians 15 addresses what appears to be acute anxiety provoked by the death of believers who expected an imminent Parousia as a comparison with 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 suggests.
Scholars have proposed as many as seven instances of interpolated text in 1 Corinthians—a forged passage inserted into a genuine letter or a marginal note included in the text due to careless copying. (Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 43 (1981), 582-589.) Robert Price has identified a number of reasons for regarding the 1 Corinthians passage as suspicious: Paul’s dependence on “revelation” rather than “historical” sources, the absence of the five hundred witnesses in the gospels, and the speculative and unconvincing efforts by apologists to harmonize Paul’s account with the gospel material. (The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, 69-104.)
In short, there is no way to know if the texts in our copies of the New Testament are reliable representations of what the authors—whoever they were—originally wrote. Eldon Epp, a respected textual scholar, calls the surviving form of the New Testament text the “interpretive text-form,” noting that “it was used in the life, worship, and teaching of the church” and therefore subject to “reformulations motivated by theological, liturgical, ideological, historical, stylistic, or other factors.” (Harvard Theological Review 92 (1999), 277.) Anyone who doubts this was the case can take a gospel parallel in hand and compare how Matthew and Luke alter Mark, adding, subtracting, and editing Mark’s text to suit their whim, even while preserving much of Mark’s original wording and timeline.
Textual scholars believe Paul wrote 1 Corinthians around 55 CE. Our first continuous-text manuscript that contains the passage in question is P46, tentatively dated from the late 2nd to early 3rd century (175-225 CE)—there is no known original of any New Testament document or, for that matter, of any book of similar antiquity. So we have, at the very least, a century between the composition of 1 Corinthians and our first surviving copy of real significance. To claim, as apologists usually do, that the text in question is authentic and that it reliably reflects “what happened” is a convenient assumption, nothing more.
If 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 is a fraudulent interpolation, then it significantly damages the Christian apologetic line of defense against doubters of the resurrection. The fact that this appears to be the case should strike fear in the hearts of Christians because it separates Paul from having any knowledge of the flesh and blood Jesus that was later documented in the gospels.
(2916) Wandering Jew
Compensation for failed prophecies has been a full-time job for Christian apologists, requiring the goalposts to be moved to retain a semblance of legitimacy. The mother of all failed prophecies was the following statement allegedly spoken by Jesus shortly before his crucifixion:
“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
It’s not easy to massage away this missed timeline, though many attempts have been made. One of the most creative solutions was to engineer a myth about a Jewish man who was ‘cursed’ to wander the world until the time that Jesus returned. This man supposedly was standing there when Jesus uttered these words, and will supposedly (at an age of 2,000 years and counting) witness his return. The following was taken from:
In popular folklore, the Jew who hurried on Jesus when he was led to Crucifixion. As punishment, he was compelled to wander about the world, homeless and restless, until Judgment Day.
There are several variations of this story.
The first tells of Kartaphilos, the door-keeper of the Judgment Hall and employed by Pilate. He struck Jesus in the back with his fist as he led Him forth, saying, “Go on faster, Jesus”; whereupon Jesus replied, “I am going, but thou shalt tarry till I come again. “It goes on to add that Kartaphilos was baptized by Anannias and received the name Joseph. He falls into a trance at the end of every hundred years and wakes up as a man of about thirty.
The second legend relates that Jesus, pressed down by the weight of the cross, stopped to rest in front of door of a cobbler named Ahasuerus. The craftsman pushed him away, shouting “Get off! Away with you, away!” Jesus replied, “Truly I go away, and that quickly, but tarry thou till I come.”
A third variant has it that it was Ahasuerus, the cobbler, who dragged Jesus before the judgment seat of Pilate, saying to him, “Faster, Jesus, faster!”
There is a German legend in which the “Wandering Jew” is associated with John Buttadaeus. He was seen in Antwerp in the thirteenth century, again in the fifteenth century, and again in the sixteenth century. His last appearance was in Brussels in 1774. Leonard Doldius of Nünberg writes that Ahasuerus is sometimes called Buttadaeus.
The French call him Iscaac Laquedem or Lakedion.
This provides an excellent example of how religions can perpetuate even when they make predictions that do not come true. Simply make up a story that reconfigures the landscape of the problem to negate or otherwise make it negligible. In this case, the existence or discovery of this man is irrelevant to the faithful. It is sufficient merely to suppose that he might be out there.
(2917) Signs you might be in a cult
It can be presumed that a real religion would not show attributes of being a cult; rather it would transcend aspects of human frailties and biases and reveal a global harmony. Christianity, as practiced by most of its followers, exhibits symptoms of being a cult, as listed below:
I might be in a cult if my religion is more important than my friends.
I might be in a cult if my religion makes me feel like a chosen one.
I might be in a cult if I feel compelled to outwardly show off my religiosity to my friends and family.
I might be in a cult if I can’t fathom how someone could live a good life without my religion.
I might be in a cult if my pastor tries to influence how I ought to vote and which social matters to attend to.
I might be in a cult if I feel like I’m with the good guys.
I might be in a cult if my religion tells me that I’m unloved without it.
And it might be a cult if I chose my religion over my own children.
There is a popular adage that ‘the proof is in the pudding.’ You can have a beautiful pudding maker and brag about how great the engineering was that went in to making it, but if the pudding is less than stellar, none of that really matters. Likewise, Christianity can be placed on a pedestal as occupying the highest pinnacle of human existence, but when you analyze the end effect it has on peoples’ lives, and realize that so much of that effect is detrimental to the way people interact with each other, it leaves a sense that the ‘pudding speaks to a problem with the pudding maker.’
(2918) Mark’s main source was Paul
There is evidence that the author of the Gospel of Mark (the oldest gospel) was heavily influenced by the writings of Paul, a person who never met Jesus. The following lists some of the parallels:
There are many more examples. Just consider the following list, adapted from a list collected by Michael Turton that David Oliver Smith also subsequently worked from, and which I’ve expanded with a few examples from other scholars I listed, especially Dykstra and Nelligan:
- Mark 1:1uses Paul’s phrase “the beginning of the Gospel” verbatim (Philippians 4:15); and “Gospel of Christ,” otherwise unique to Paul (e.g. Romans 15:19, 1 Corinthians 9:12, 2 Corinthians 2:12, Galatians 1:7, 1 Thessalonians 3:2).
- Paul then goes on to talk about how he was sent forth to preach it; likewise Mark immediately follows with a quotation of Isaiah declaring God hath sent his messenger, only switching the reference from Paul to John the Baptist introducing Jesus, the Gospel-reified. Dykstra also makes a good case that Mark has modeled his John the Baptist after Paul (Mark, pp. 147-48).
- Mark 1:14uses Paul’s phrase “Gospel of God,” verbatim (Romans 15:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:2), and when introducing the rest of his narrative purpose (just as Paul does in Romans 1:1).
- Mark then immediately juxtaposes the Gospel with manual labor (in Mark 1:16-20) just as Paul does (in 1 Thessalonians 2:9).
- Mark 1:29-31indirectly reveals Peter was married, just as Paul indirectly reveals Peter was married (1 Corinthians 9:5).
- Mark 2:16describes Jesus being wrongly chastised by Pharisees (Mark’s principal stand-in for any arch-conservative Jews) for eating and drinking with “sinners and tax collectors” (i.e. Gentiles), just as Paul describes Peter being wrongly chastised by conservative Jews for doing the same thing (Galatians 2:11-14). Mark and Paul’s message is the same.
- Mark 3:1-5borrows themes and vocabulary from Paul’s discussions of the very same issue: Jesus looks upon his Jewish critics “with anger [orgês] and grieved [sullupoumenos] at their hardness [pôrôsei] of heart”; in Romans 9 Paul said he was for that very same reason grieved [lupê, 2] and God was for that very same reason angry [orgên, v. 22] at their hardness [v. 18], which Paul later describes with the same word used by Mark [pôrôsis, 11:25].
- Mark 4:10-13relates Mark’s model for the whole Gospel as disguising deeper truths allegorically within seemingly literal stories (“parables”); and in doing so declares that the uninitiated will not be allowed to see or hear the real meaning, just as Paul says (in e.g. Romans 11:7-10, 1 Corinthians 2:9-10, etc.).
- Mark 6:7imagines Jesus sending missionaries in pairs; Paul often says he was paired with someone on his missions (1 Corinthians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 9:6; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Philippians 2:22; Philemon 1:1).
- Mark 6:8-10has Jesus assume missionaries will be fed and housed by others, reifying into visceral and poetic terms Paul’s mention of the fact that “the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14).
- Mark 7:20-23lists as the sins that make one unclean “sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.” Accordingly, Paul says, “Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) and likewise those who pursue “envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice” and are “gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful” (Romans 1:29-31); and elsewhere says those will be excluded from the kingdom who pursue “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Galatians 5:19-21). The other lists are nearly identical, Mark only ending with the catch-all “arrogance and folly” to encompass the otherwise-unmentioned idolatry, God-hating, insolence, drunkenness, strife, boasting and gossiping and so forth (while lewdness is a catch-all that would include “men who have sex with men” and “orgies” etc.).
- Mark 7:26-29reifies into a whole story the sentiment of Paul that God’s rewards must go to the Jew first, the Gentile second (Romans 1:16).
- Mark 8:12has Jesus lament to the Jews, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it,” reifying Paul’s declaration of the very same thing, that only in their folly “Jews demand signs,” which renders the Gospel “a stumbling block” to them (1 Corinthians 1:22-23).
- Mark 8:15has Jesus warn against “the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod,” thus reifying into allegorical story-form Paul’s more general warning against “the leaven of malice and wickedness” (1 Corinthians 5:8).
- Mark 8:17-18has Jesus declare, “Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?” echoing Paul’s citation of scripture on the same point, that only insiders will correctly see and hear, and thus “get the point” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10); a concept I just noted Mark had reified earlier in Jesus’s explanation of secret teachings (Mark 4:10-13), which really is a key to Mark’s entire Gospel, including the scene in Mark 8, which isn’t really about Jesus having historically created food, but is an allegory for the Gospel itself.
- In that same passage, Mark has Jesus seemingly quote Isaiah 6:9, just as Paul does in making the same point in Romans 11:8. But in Isaiah the order is hearing, then seeing; Paul switched the order to seeing, then hearing. Thus the fact that Mark alsodid that further evinces his reliance on Paul.
- Mark 9:34-35has Jesus say, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and the slave of all” (and Mark 10:43-44 likewise); Paul said he was the “last” of those chosen and “the least” of the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:8-9) and had made himself “a slave to all” (1 Corinthians 9:19).
- Mark 9:43-47 has Jesus advocate cutting off your hand or foot or eye that provokes you to sin, lest you be cast into hell; but this may be an allegory for banishing members of the community who provoke brethren to sin—because Paul likened the brethren to limbs of a body (1 Corinthians 12:12-31), and recommends banishing sinners from the community, literally “handing them over to Satan for destruction of the flesh” (1 Corinthians 5:4-7), just as Mark has Jesus speak of sinners being cast into hell to destruction.
- Mark 9:50 has Jesus declare “be at peace with each other,” which teaching comes from Paul, not Jesus: Paul says “be at peace with each other” (1 Thessalonians 5:13), again without any knowledge of Jesus having said this.
- Mark 10 has Jesus give the same reason God burdened the Jews with Torah law that Paul does (e.g. in Romans 7 and Galatians 3).
- Mark 11:22-26 has Jesus claim faith can move mountains, as long as one has belief and forgivenessin one’s heart. Paul wrote, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).
- Mark 12:35-37quotes the same messianic verse that Paul does (1 Corinthians 15:25-26).
There is actually a great deal more than that. If one surveys all the literature I listed at the beginning, one will find numerous other parallels analyzed (e.g. on shared vocabulary, see Dykstra, Mark, pp. 143-47), as well as further and corroboratory analysis of the examples I have listed. The extent of them is simply too vast to be accidental.
It’s thus also notable that many of Mark’s central constructs about Jesus can be derived from Paul: Jesus’ crucifixion and burial; his rising “on the third day”; his status as a “son of David”; engaging the Eucharist the night he is delivered up, even reimagining that deliverance as a betrayal by using a play on Paul’s choice of words; and, as we already saw, the idea of there being “twelve” first apostles, led by a Peter, whose right-hand men were a James and a John; and so on. Even Jesus’s having family. For even if Mark understood Paul to mean only cultic family, for instance, Mark could still get the idea of a literal family from it to teach what having a cultic family meant—which is precisely what Mark does with the device (Mark 3:31-35 & Mark 6:1-2, the only appearances Jesus’s family ever make in Mark’s Gospel), showing no knowledge of any brothers of Jesus subsequently being apostles, but imagining Jesus had simply renounced them.
Frankly, when you add everything up, it looks like Mark’s only source of knowledge about Jesus are the letters of Paul. Combined with a creative reading of ancient scriptures, and his own imagination, he appears to have required none other.
This creates a problem for Christians arguing for the historicity of the gospels. If Mark got most of his inspiration from Paul’s letters and then Matthew, Luke, and John got most of their inspiration from Mark, then practically the entire New Testament was inspired by a single individual, Paul, who never met Jesus and based his theology on nothing more than visions and voices in his head.
(2919) Absurdity of human worship
Christianity has habituated people to seeing persons prostrating themselves, worshiping, and praying to the image of another human – to the point where it seems plausibly normal. But by shifting the focus to another animal species, the sight suddenly becomes abnormal and bizarre.
Just imagine seeing a horse kneeling and praying to a photo/statue of another horse. What would you think of that horse? Exactly.
You can replace that horse with any other animal in the world and it will still be equally absurd. Except for…
Humans bowing to an image of Jesus, or Mary, or a saint is common practice in several Christian denominations. Like the obsequious horse above, it reveals a cringe worthy dimension of Christian behavior.
(2920) Tomb raiders
If we assume two ‘facts’ that Christians unanimously hold to be true- that Jesus was a real person and that his tomb was found to be empty, then there still exists a much more plausible explanation for why the tomb was found to be empty- tomb raiders. It seems that this was a common practice at the time. The following was taken from:
T. Wright’s thinks that tombs were robbed “often” in Palestine (cf. Wright, Resurrection, 688). It’s pretty clear to see why. Even without considering wealth, the remains of the dead were useful for necromancers, because body parts were ingredients used in recipes for magicians. For example, Apollonius of Rhodes writes that sorceresses wander:
“in search of corpses and noxious roots from the earth” (Argon. 4.51-53)
B. Bat. 58a says this:
“a certain magician used to rummage among graves”
Horace in Sat. 1.8.17-22 mentions:
“witches who gather bones are, like thieves, near tombs.”
Lucan, in his Phar. 6.531-68 relates an account of a witch and her interest in corpses and their pieces. Tacitus, in An. 2.69 writes that human remains are among “malignant objects” for magical use.
In addition, the Nazareth Inscription shows that grave robbery was an issue in first century Palestine. The penalty for rummaging through tombs was death. Furthermore, magicians and necromancers had a special interest in those who died violent deaths (The directions for casting a magical spell in PGM 4.1872-1927 include this: “place in the mouth of the dog a bone from the head of a man whose has died violently”), and these people probably would have found the body of a reputed holy man tempting. This is a much more probable explanation than resurrection.
The prevalence of tomb raiding in First Century Palestine creates a lot of suspicion that the empty tomb was anything but miraculous. And it’s very easy to explain how the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb could have launched the belief that he had been raised from the dead. All it would have taken would have been people who claimed to have seen him (like Elvis) and then having these stories retold, embellished, and later documented in scripture.
(2921) God doesn’t care about everybody equally
A just god of the Christian variety would ensure that everybody is given evidence sufficient for them to accept the reality of the situation and to therefore have an equal chance to accept or reject the offer of salvation. We know conclusively that this dynamic does not exist. The following was taken from:
But Jesus’ sacrifice alone doesn’t save anyone from hell. At least according to most Christian doctrines each person must also believe that this sacrifice took place, or at least believe that God is real. And many people try their best to pray, study, and examine the evidence to the best of their ability but wind up being forced to conclude that God probably doesn’t exist.
So I think God also owes us all some reasonable basis for concluding that he actually exists and that the stories of Jesus are real. I acknowledge that according to Christian beliefs he does provide a reasonable basis to some people, but I would say if he cares about everyone then he owes this to everyone and I would say this is the least he could do. Then everyone would at least have the option of accepting or rejecting the gift of Jesus. Since he doesn’t provide it to everyone, we know that if God exists he doesn’t care about everyone equally.
Taken at face value, there is no way to configure Christian theology in a way that results in everyone receiving a fair chance to attain heaven. If this god exists, it is content to have humans work out their fates on a tilted playing field.
(2922) The simpler explanation for religious decline
There is an undeniable decline of religious belief in the United States, as well as in Europe, Australia, and other places. Much has been conjectured about why people are abandoning sectarian lifestyles in such numbers. But as discussed below, the answer is really quite simple. The following was taken from:
By now, it’s clear that religion is fading in America, as it has done in most advanced Western democracies. Dozens of surveys find identical evidence: fewer American adults, especially those under 30, attend church — or even belong to a church. They tell interviewers their religion is “none.” They ignore faith.
Since 1990, the “nones” have exploded rapidly as a sociological phenomenon — from 10% of U.S. adults, to 15%, to 20%. Now they’ve climbed to 25%, according to a 2016 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). That makes them the nation’s largest faith category, outstripping Roman Catholics (21%) and white evangelicals (16%). They seem on a trajectory to become an outright majority. America is following the secular path of Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and other modern places. The “Secular Age” is snowballing.
Various explanations for the social transformation are postulated: the Internet exposes young people to a wide array of ideas and practices that undercut old-time beliefs: That family breakdown severs traditional participation in congregations. That the young have grown cynical about authority of all types. That fundamentalist hostility to LGBTQ+ persons and abortion has soured tolerant-minded Americans. That clergy, child-molesting scandals have scuttled church claims to moral superiority. That faith-based, suicide bombings and other religious murders horrify normal folks.
All those factors undoubtedly play a role. But I want to offer a simpler explanation: In the scientific 21st century, it’s less plausible to believe in invisible gods, devils, heavens, hells, angels, demons — plus virgin births, resurrections, miracles, messiahs, prophecies, faith-healings, visions, incarnations, divine visitations and other supernatural claims. Magical thinking is suspect, ludicrous; it’s not for intelligent, educated people.
It is really quite simple- what worked in a pre-scientific age no longer works in a post-scientific age. People have matured in their thinking about the universe and have realized that their traditional religions are based on the fantasies of people who were not as well informed as they are. It is becoming harder and harder to bridge the gap between the world of the Bible and the world as modern people observe it.
(2923) Lions in the den
In the Book of Daniel, Chapter 6, Daniel is thrown into a lion enclosure for the purpose of having him killed, but, miraculously, the lions act in a tame fashion, sparing him a certain death. In 1991, a self-proclaimed ‘prophet’ tried to reenact this scene at a zoo in Nigeria. The following was taken from:
One of the most visited tourist destinations in Ibadan, Nigeria is the University of Ibadan zoological garden which proudly houses different animals ranging from lions to rabbits.
It is one popular custom of many families living in Ibadan to visit the zoo during festive periods. On a fateful (later bloody) day in the Easter season of the year 1991, visitors stormed the U.I zoo as usual to enjoy the serene environment of the enclosure and have fun seeing different animals they have only seen on screens.
Of all the animals in the zoo, the lions attract the highest number of visitors. It can even be concluded that a visit to U.I zoo without seeing the lions is not complete.
As aforementioned, on that day, everybody was at the zoo to have a nice time seeing the animals and taking pictures, except a man, a bold and daring prophet by the name Daniel Abodurin who wanted to show people the ‘work of God of Daniel‘ by walking into the lions’ cage to touch them like Daniel did in the bible without getting mauled.
OldNaija gathered that Prophet Abodurin’s intention was to recreate the biblical story of a young man named Daniel who out of envy was thrown to some lions that turned out to have been mysteriously tamed. The biblical story has it that God sent down some angels to shut the mouths of the lions.
The determined Prophet Daniel Abodurin walked up to some staffs of the zoo and pleaded to gain entry into the lions’ cage. No one in his or her right senses will give ears to this kind of plea, so the prophet was turned down.
But after much disturbance and persuasion, the prophet’s insane wish was granted. Another account has it that Prophet Abodurin sneaked into the lions’ cage.
Sneaking or no sneaking, he eventually found his way into the cage. Many people present at the scene could not believe what their eyes were seeing, and realizing it was not a dream, they prepared their mind for the worst result.
Prophet Daniel Abodurin was clothed in a red robe and under his armpit was a big bible. As he entered the cage, he began reciting bible verses and speaking in tongues and calling unto the ‘God of Daniel’ to perform wonders. OldNaija gathered that he was shouting jah, jah, jah which was believed to be a shortened form of Jehovah.
At first, the lions retreated to a corner of their cage. Unknown to the to-be African version of Daniel, retreating is the first thing lions do when they see something unusual in their territory and later they get rid of it.
Prophet Abodurin thought his faith was really working. He moved nearer to the lions and kept chanting bible verses, then in a flash, the lions pounced on the bemused, confused and horrified prophet.
A cold stream of shock ran down the spines of the terrified onlookers. Prophet Daniel Abodurin battled for his dear life but his strength was no match for that of the hefty lions, and in a moment, he was torn into pieces and devoured.
His bloody red robe laid in shreds and his bible which he had flung away at the beginning of the attack was covered in dust. Stampede ensued in the zoo as people took to their heels after seeing such a horrible sight they will never forget in their lives.
The prophet’s remains were collected and later buried. That was how Prophet Daniel Abodurin met his bitter and horrible end.
Many people condemned the prophet for such a bizarre act while others believed the lions were possessed by demons stronger than the prophet and demanded that they should be killed.
If we credit the existence of the god that Christians believe in, then this god must have been watching this in real time and had the power to control the outcome. There were three available responses:
1) God could have discouraged Mr. Abodurin from trying this foolhardy act or else enable the zoo workers successfully to keep him out of the enclosure.
2) God could have tamed the lions to allow Mr Abodurin to survive.
3) God could have let natural circumstances play out, as they did.
So God chose #3. Most Christians will defend this situation by claiming that no one should test God. The corollary to this claim is the concept that God refuses to do anything that makes it too easy to believe in him. With that in mind, let’s consider why God didn’t choose #1 or #2.
Had God chosen #1, nothing would have happened, so there would have been no negative or positive implications. Surely, though, this would have been superior to #3.
Had God chosen #2, there would have been no fatality, zoo customers would not have been traumatized, and, as a bonus, the faith of many spectators would have been enhanced. This seems like a win-win. So why would God have not chosen this response? Christians might hint that it would have been too obvious to the onlookers, making it too easy to see the hand of God. This is a very tepid rationalization. Perhaps a better one is to say that God did not want to encourage this type of religious heroism in the future and allowed this gory scene to play out so as to prevent future shenanigans.
But what should be noted is that the outcome of this scenario was consistent with there not being a god, or a god that is not omnipotent. It provides a kernel of evidence against the God that Christians worship.
(2924) Christianity’s greatest crime
The idea that a person deserves eternal punishment for earnestly seeking truth is Christianity’s greatest crime. Even if such a threat is mythical, its effect still lingers over everyone, Christians included, who can never be totally sure that they are on the safe side of God’s vengeance. The following was taken from:
Threatening humanity (and carrying through) with eternal torture and violence for the crime of being honest with yourself and your own thoughts is perhaps the greatest crime ever committed.
In all of human experience, being punished for thinking/believing something has never been considered ethical or moral. Taking this punishment to the height of eternal torture is maniacal on a scale that can’t even be carried out with the tools we have.
Humanity doesn’t even have the technology to carry out such an evil punishment. Stalin, Pol Pot, and Hitler himself lacked the ability to conduct violence on this level. Yet we’re reminded that this threat is carried out by an entity that can’t sin, is infallible, and is composed of 100% love.
This violent threat looms over the head of all believers who also believe in the concept of hell. A constant gnawing doubt about everything that’s done in the past, or will be done in the future. The threat of judgement upon an atheist or agnostic is often the first line of defense that a theist will use when confronted with differing views. I can’t imagine living life constantly concerned if God is pleased or angered by your actions. That in itself is extreme torture.
If a God exists who engages in this kind of behavior, He’s not a god.
A religion that operates principally on fear does not deserve respect. As such, Christianity is the worst offender. It introduces the possibility, however remote, that anyone could experience the absolute worst possible fate- an unending agony of torture. No one, not even the most earnest Christian, is fully immune. For example, a Christian may hear whispers in the head “Have I committed the unpardonable sin?” There is no guaranteed security. This is Christianity’s greatest crime.
(2925) Questions answered
Answering questions commonly asked of atheists by Christians is a good way to see through the fallacies that often bias the minds of the faithful, and it provides a path to unravel the twisted mental processes that tend to perpetuate religious belief. The following was taken from:
1) Are you absolutely sure there is no God?
No. When you dig deep into the philosophical nature of knowledge (Which the phrase “are you sure” implies) we cannot honestly say we absolutely know anything. You might be very convinced, but that doesn’t mean you know in an absolute sense. This question also reeks of a Pascals wager inference which basically says you should believe in God just to be safe. If you believe and there is no God, no harm done, if you don’t believe and there is God then you spend eternity in hell. There are massive problems with Pascal’s Wager that I explore in detail in other sections.
So while I am not absolutely sure there is no God, I am fairly confident there isn’t one. Certainly not the God Christians propose, as there is no evidence for such a God. Claims made by Christianity can be falsified (Shown to be untrue). The same goes for any of the Abrahamic Gods.
2) What happens when you die?
That’s it, you die. As far as we can tell, once a person dies they are gone. Their consciousness ceases, and their physical body decays.
3) What if you are wrong and there is an afterlife?
Much like question 1, I’m not absolutely sure there is no afterlife, but if there is then I’d be pleasantly surprised. If the afterlife existed and also a hell then that would prove that the God who created said hell is an immoral dictator who punishes people eternally for the simple crime of not believing on bad evidence. If that is the sort of God you wish to worship, then so be it. At that point I could only rest knowing that I had been honest with myself and others to the best of my abilities.
4) Where do you get your morality from?
Not the Bible! I get it from the same place as anyone else which is the human ability to feel empathy towards others, and ability to make conscious informed decisions about what is good and right. We can see what happens when a person lacks empathy – they commit terrible crimes, or hold horrific views of others while justifying it as moral because an ancient book says it’s bad. Homosexuality is probably the best and most visible case of a dichotomy between emphatic morals and biblical morals, though there are many other cases. The problem with this question is the inference that only God can give people morals. Yet Christians do not stop to think that this lowers humans to worse base morality than other animals. If God is the only thing that gives you a moral compass then you are, but a puppet on a string who is at the mercy of whatever mortal code God imposes at any time. And if God is the only thing keeping you from being immoral then you already are immoral!
5) If there is no God can we do whatever we want?
This is very similar to question 4 with the inference that without God there is no absolute morality therefore killing and raping isn’t objectively wrong. Again, if you think this then you are already lost – even if you are a born again Christian! We can’t do whatever we want, nor should we. Most people have the innate ability to imagine and feel what it would be like being raped or killed and so knows that is a terrible thing that they wouldn’t wish on anyone. What is interesting though, is what people who claim to have God on their side are capable of. Hitler’s religious views are shrouded in the mists of time. This real opinions lost to history. But we do have his writings, and in them he indicates strongly that he believed, at some stage, in the Bible God. It is likely as he became more unhinged he replaced God with himself. Religious to the end. An important fact to note here is that belief in any God has never stopped bad people from doing bad things, just as nonbelief has never stopped good people from doing good things.
6) If there is no God how does your life have meaning?
This question makes me sad, because it implies that the only thing giving people who believe in God any meaning is their belief. They care not whether that belief is true or not. My life has more meaning since not believing in God. Why is this? Well instead of believing I am a predestined son of God going to Heaven for Gods glory one day, I realize that I have but one lifetime to experience life itself. To be the best person I can, to care about others, to live and let live. Once you realize this life is the only life you get, it makes it all the more meaningful. We don’t sit around waiting for God to come take us to heaven. We enjoy life and embrace if for the few short years we have.
7) Where did the Universe come from?
Do you mean the local observable universe, or all possible universes? The cosmos as a whole? We don’t really know, and if there is one thing people hate it’s not knowing. Our best current science indicates our universe came into space and time from a singularity 13.7 billion years ago. Had anything existed before, will anything exist again? We just don’t know, and I don’t know is sometimes the best and most honest answer to give. The implication of this question is that it all had to start somehow, and the Christian answer to that is God. However if we apply the same logic then we have to ask the question: Where did God come from? At this point most people will do some hand waving and declare that God doesn’t need an explanation, he always existed. This is special pleading. If the question of where did the universe come from demands an answer, so the question: Where did God come from?
8) What about miracles?
There are no genuine recorded miracles that can be confirmed, that are not explainable by natural causes. The Biblical stories are just stories without any way of verification. Personal testimony and witness is one of the worst for of verification. Why? Because the human mind is susceptible to all manner of dysfunction that makes people think, see, and hear things that are not real. Also miracles are report across all religions, not just Christianity. We cannot therefore isolate Christianity and declare it is special. How does the Christian respond to other religions miracles? Strangely enough the same way a non-believer responds to Christians claims of miracles – doesn’t believe until verification is provided. If you believe in miracles then ask yourself; why has God never healed an amputee? Cancers are healed, keys are found, people are saved. Yet a limb never grows back. Why? Because all other ‘miracles’ occur naturally, even if they are improbable. Improbable is not the same as impossible. For a miracle to be confirmed it would have to be impossible to occur naturally.
9) How come every society has religion?
Rather a strange question considering that if God was real, and has truly revealed himself to everyone as is claimed in the bible, then one might wonder why there are other religions. The real answer however lies in evolution, and man’s discomfort with not knowing. The evolutionary side comes in with the ability for humans to formulate answers to questions we can’t answer. We hate not knowing, so we come up with an explanation. If a natural one is not readily available we will create a supernatural one. Lightening: Bolts from Zeus, earthquakes: God is angry. Crops failing: punishment for not pleasing a God. As time has progressed, so has religions. Religion shows up outside a belief in a particular God: political ideology comes close to religion at times, as does cultural movements. Humans find it advantageous o gather around others who share the same beliefs -this creates a bond in societies where everyone knows what everyone else believes in. When this is taken away people get extremely uncomfortable. That is why societies across the world have created religions.
10) Do you really believe the world would be better off without religion?
I find this a complicated question. Religion has done much harm – and the religious need to acknowledge that. However, religion has also done much good. Some people need a religion in order to function in their daily lives. It gives their lives meaning. Certainly the belief in a higher power has taken people off the streets, and given them purpose and meaning. Given the resources and numbers available to religion this is perhaps not surprising. The day may come when secular resources are just as well equipped for dealing with people’s needs and religion ceases to play such an important role. I certainly think that if fundamental literalist religion disappeared the world would be better off. These are the religious views that allow people to fly planes into buildings, and deny science in the face of facts in order to cling to a literal interpretation of their particular holy book. These versions of religion certainly do much harm and humans would be better off without them.
Answering questions such as these provides a basis for understanding how the world works fine without having to posit the existence of a watchful overlord. In fact, it can be seen that the world can be easier explained without making that assumption.
(2926) God and Joseph Mengele
During World War II, Joseph Mengele (1911-1979) (a.k.a. Angel of Death) served as an officer and physician at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, located in occupied Poland. One of Mengele’s duties was to separate newly arriving Jewish prisoners between those who would be directed immediately to the gas chambers and those who were sent to the prison barracks. He made these decision on the fly using a basic algorithm, and was able to process about 2 prisoners per second as they came off of the trains.
Likewise, God sits in some celestial war room, watching as human beings die, and needing to separate them for delivery either to hell or heaven. Like Mengele, he must deal with about 2 people every second for every second of the year, as that is the approximate rate of death of humans on planet Earth. And this presupposes that there are no other beings in the universe that need to be judged. This is an arduous full time job and it explains why he has no time to answer prayers.
(2927) Claimed sources of god-knowledge are not credible
It takes little insight to realize that the sources of evidence that religious people use to defend their faith are not credible. There are myriad reasons to be strongly skeptical. The following was taken from:
“God has chosen to reveal himself to us.” So say theologians, but when they cast their eyes on revelation claims endorsed by other theologians, they can’t agree on whose revelations are authentic. The sources of the revelation might be visions, scripture, prayer, meditation—even séances for all I know—but theologians are in perpetual denial when these experiences are used to validate other religions. Catholics are enthusiastic about the ongoing appearances of Mary around the globe, but these are denied by Protestants, who are generally dismissive of the Catholic cult of saints. But how could Catholics be so wrong about such real visions experienced by real Catholics? Christianity has splintered endlessly because devout believers cannot agree. We suspect pious fraud.
But such disputes within Christianity pale in comparison to strife among competing monotheisms. John Loftus draws attention to this:
“If Allah is the same deity as the one worshipped by Christians then that deity duplicitously revealed two different religions. This means God, by whatever name is used, helped to instigate the wanton slaughter of Muslims by Christians and Christians by Muslims because of his conflicting revelations. It also means God duplicitously promised salvation to believers in one of them who will end up being condemned to hell for not believing according to the other one’s creed(s). These are two different gods, each of whom denies doing some of the things the other one claims to have done, especially with regard to the resurrection of Jesus.” (John Loftus, The Outsider Test of Faith, Kindle, loc 558)
We occasionally see leaders of major world religions getting together to “dialogue” and exchange smiles, hugs, and kisses, but not for a moment would they be able to agree on theological fundamentals. Even laypeople are fond of sentimental banalities, e.g., “We all worship the same God, don’t we?” Not at all; there is no movement afoot to expand the Bible—that magnificent artifact on the altar at church—to include the Qur’an and the Book of Mormon. Even the Old Testament seems to be unwelcome much of the time when its dreadful descriptions of God are faced head-on: “Well, that’s the Old Testament, you know.”
Moreover, Christians cannot agree on Bible interpretation. How can it be revelation when its meaning is ambiguous—and indeed has produced wildly different ideas about God? Dan Barker has captured what a mess it is:
“Believers regularly take opposing positions on such matters as capital punishment, abortion, pacifism, birth control, physician-assisted suicide, animal rights, the environment, the separation of church and state, gay rights and women’s rights. It might be concluded from this that there is either a multitude of gods handing out conflicting moral advice, or a single god who is hopelessly confused.” (Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist, 1992)
Theology is long on speculation, guesswork, and yes, pious fraud, but short on actual data about God, i.e., something that independent observers could confirm. All of the claimed sources of God-knowledge don’t work—which also became obvious to me in seminary when I grappled with epistemology at a deeper level. There was endless discussion and argument about what this or that theologian suggested about God. My question became: how do they know about any of this stuff?
It is curious to hear some Christians claim that Muslims are worshiping the same god as they are, without realizing that this makes their god out to be a monstrous deceiver, delivering two conflicting theological packages to humanity for no apparent reason other than to create conflict, misery, violence, and death. If all of this was reduced to the proverbial ‘writing on the wall’ it would say ‘connect the dots, people, this is all made-up bullshit.’
(2928) Mark of the beast is no longer possible
A Bible prophecy that has run out of time to be fulfilled is found in Revelation Chapter 13. The ‘mark of the beast’ could have happened at earlier times but has become impossible in modern times, as explained below:
1.) The Bible has quite the list for the mark.
The Bible describes a few things about the mark of the beast. They can be found at the end of Revelation chapter 13.
16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
Revelation 13: 16-18 KJV
So as we can see from this passage, we can see that there are some things are noted about the mark. Everyone gets it regardless of their status. It goes in either the right hand or the forehead. No one may buy or sell without it. And it has something to do with the number 666.
And so far, nothing has met these requirements. Whether they be social security, bar-codes, credit cards, debit cards, computer chips, 5G, vaccines, or whatever. All have fallen short of this biblical description.
Let’s take the vaccine as an example as that is one of the more recent things to be claimed to be the mark. If it truly was such a biblical mark, then how come not everyone has it? How come it does not go in the right hand or the forehead specifically? How come we can still buy or sell without having taken the vaccine? It’s questions like these that tell me the vaccine is not the mark of the beast as described in the bible.
Something I have been known to tell people online is that, if something is the mark of the beast, they should go out and buy something without the so-called “mark”. It can be anything they want. (Though, personally, I would sooner recommend you get an item as you can have both the item in question and the receipt as evidence in your favor.) If they manage to buy something without it, then either the Bible is wrong or it is not the mark.
Normally, this would’ve been where the post would end. But I found more holes in the claims then I previously thought.
2.) Wacko conspiracy theorists.
This one shouldn’t take much text like the last one. Suppose someone tells something to another person. They say that something is the mark of the beast. Now, they are supposed to watch out for it, right? After all, it will basically damn you to hell. So they avoid taking this “mark” with the belief in mind that the end times have started and that they want to avoid an abysmal fate in fire. I understand that. But then, they go and buy and/or sell without this object. In turn, they have debunked the bits about the mark of the beast in where everyone gets it and cannot buy or sell without it. Therefore, again, either the Bible is wrong or it is not the mark of the beast.
3.) Online shopping.
It’s a pretty obvious one when you stop and think about it. There are just so many ways to get around it when you want to shop online. It’s just something you can’t enforce there. For example, people online aren’t checking to see if you have the vaccine when you are in checkout on Amazon. And if they are, guess what? They don’t have the means to do so. And even there, I’m sure there would be a means to bypass it, legally or otherwise. (I’d rather it be the former. Let’s not go breaking the law to get what we want.)
Now, let’s go back to a previous question I had. If something is truly the mark of the beast, how can I buy or sell without it? Is it truly the mark of the beast then?
At the end of the day, we can’t have the mark of the beast in today’s day and age as there is a list of things it has to fulfill in the bible and we have ways of getting around it.
I hope you can rest easier now that I have demonstrated my reasoning as to why I see no way the mark of the beast can happen today.
This is an interesting case where a prophecy that had a legitimate chance of being fulfilled at the time it was rendered is not possible under conditions that develop later. This creates an anachronism that renders a portion of the Bible obsolete. This is more of an observation than a criticism of the author of Revelation who certainly could not have anticipated the establishment of online shopping.
(2929) Divine mysteries should not exist
Theists often luxuriate in the intrigue of what they call divine mysteries, as somehow the quality of being unknown is a confirming condition for how a god would present itself to humankind. But this is a self-serving cover-up for declaring something that is either purposefully hidden or non-existent. Mysteries should not exist with an actual god who is intent on interacting with humans. The following was taken from:
Christians claim God cannot fully reveal himself to us because he is too far beyond our comprehension.
But even if he is beyond our comprehension, it shouldn’t matter. As an all-powerful God, he would know how to configure our comprehension in such a way that we could understand him. This would be no effort for him.
Christians also claim God cannot reveal himself to us because he is blindingly glorious and it is too dangerous or terrifying for us to see him.
Again, this ought not be a problem for an all-powerful God who should know how to suppress any negative impacts of his glory on the creatures he designed.
A man-made religious text would need to resort to mysteries, because a manmade religion would lack the ability to explain a god above humankind.
A text inspired by an all-knowing God, on the other hand, would not need to have mysteries, as the author would know everything – including how to explain otherwise inexplicable concepts.
Men need mysteries to fill in plot holes. An all-powerful, all knowing God has no need for mysteries.
A true god would fill in the gray areas and let us know precisely who it is, where it is located, what it intends to do, how it will judge, and what if any supplications can be answered via prayer. A make-believe god would be shrouded in mystery.
(2930) Early Christians denied the Trinity
It what should be a devastating blow to Christianity (that is, if general rules of logic applied), the doctrine of the Trinity (God in three persons) was not accepted as being an accurate portrayal of God for at least two centuries after the time of Jesus. It is inconceivable that Jesus would have failed to explain this vitally important fact or for it not to appear in explicit terms in the gospels. The following was taken from:
Thesis: I have two arguments concerning the Christian doctrine of Trinity. Firstly, this doctrine was denied by the majority of early Christians until at least the early to mid-3rd century CE. They actually perceived it as polytheism. Secondly, the earliest description of the Trinity from Christian literature did not define it per the traditional, orthodox conception of ‘Father, Son, Holy Spirit’.
It is plainly evident that there is no explicit mention of the Trinity in the Christian Bible. Christian theologians apparently attempted to extract the substance of this doctrine through their interpretation of various passages—interpretations that are in fact challenged by non-Trinitarian Christians and others who regard the Bible such as Jews.
Regarding my first argument, I shall quote one of the so-called Church Fathers, Tertullian, who died circa 220 CE. In Against Praxeas, in the third chapter, he wrote: “The simple, indeed, (I will not call them unwise and unlearned) who always constitute the majority of believers, are startled at the dispensation (of the Three in One), on the ground that their very rule of faith withdraws them from the world’s plurality of gods to the one only true God; not understanding that, although He is the one only God, He must yet be believed in with His own dispensation. The numerical order and distribution of the Trinity they assume to be a division of the Unity; whereas the Unity which derives the Trinity out of its own self is so far from being destroyed, that it is actually supported by it. They are constantly throwing out against us that we are preachers of two gods and three gods, while they take to themselves preeminently the credit of being worshipers of the One God; just as if the Unity itself with irrational deductions did not produce heresy, and the Trinity rationally considered constitute the truth. We, say they, maintain the Monarchy (or, sole government of God).”
From this quote it is evident that: 1. Tertullian is speaking about fellow Christians, whom he refers to as “believers”, 2. he refers to them as the simple-minded who always constitute the “majority” of the believers, 3. he says they are startled at the concept of the Trinity because their faith makes them rebel against any notion of plurality of gods, 4. he says they assume the multiplicity of persons within the Trinity to be contrary to the Divine Unity, 5. he says they accuse “elite” theologians like him of preaching belief in two or three gods, 6. he says they claim to be worshipers of only One God
Interestingly, as mentioned in my first point, Tertullian considered these people “believers” though evidently they rejected the Trinity doctrine as an expression of polytheism. Contemporary Trinitarian Christians, however, consider denial of the Trinity to be a serious heresy and certainly won’t regard those who reject the Trinity to be believers.
For my second claim, I shall quote as evidence the 2nd century Christian theologian Theophilus of Antioch (d. 183 CE). He is literally the first person in history to describe the Christian doctrine of Trinity, but he did not define it as ‘Father, Son, Holy Spirit’ rather as “the Trinity, of God, and His Word [Logos], and His Wisdom [Sophia]” (Apology to Autolycus)
I consider my second argument to be stronger than my first, for it can be said that Tertullian made a mistake in assessing the situation that the majority of early Christians rejected the Trinity. However, this argument can only be conclusive if it can be demonstrated to the contrary that the early Christians, before the mid-3rd century, did overwhelmingly subscribe to the Trinity doctrine. However, my second argument is solid because it is a demonstrable fact that the first description and mention of the Christian Trinity doctrine was made by Theophilus of Antioch. This argument can only be invalidated if someone quotes a source mentioning the Christian Trinity prior to Theophilus according to its “orthodox” conception, namely, “Father, Son, Holy Spirit”
Doctrines that change over time are highly suspect because they appear to be the remnants of an evolving theology that is being manipulated by human hands. When a critical element of a religion’s theology was not believed by the very people who first engineered it into existence, it provides a revealing clue that this religion has been veiled with a mythical overcoat.
(2931) God’s mystifying thought process
What is God thinking? What is his problem? Consider the following:
You can be a person as good as Gandhi. You can be a prime example of a good human being. Volunteer to help the sick or elderly. Volunteer to help animals. Donate to charity on a regular basis. You can be compassionate and kind. You can be able to inspire the masses to follow your example. You can raise a child with love and care, same goes for a pet. You can openly advocate against homophobia, trans-phobia and many other things. What I am trying to say is that you, the reader yourself, can be the best you can be. Despite all of your shortcomings or past mistakes, you can evolve past them and work yourself through the mud into the sun. You can even give others the courage to follow you. But there is a deity that apparently still deems you unworthy of peace after your death and wants you to feel eternal suffering because you didn’t give him attention.
Herein we question God’s thought process and what he holds to be important. He is like a parent who has two children, one is obedient, cheerful, helpful, compassionate, and righteous but who declines to go to church. The other is hateful, dour, selfish, and spiteful but agrees to go to church. The parent punishes the obedient child and rewards the hateful child strictly on the basis of church attendance. There are few who would call this good parenting, but it is a relevant analogy to the Christian god. What is he thinking? Apparently nothing, because a celestial tyrant as such is most surely nothing more than a poorly-constructed myth.
(2932) First goal of a god
When we consider the thousands of gods that humans have believed, it is insightful to realize that none of them has ever achieved universal belief to the exclusion of all other gods. There’s never been a god that has convinced everyone alive that it exists, though it is certain that an omnipotent god would have no problem making this happen.
So the question comes down to whether an actual god, specifically one that is omnipotent, would intend to reveal itself in a way that every person would acknowledge its existence. Arguably, this would seem to be its first goal. Additionally, dispelling belief in false gods would be paramount.to a fair-minded deity.
If the Christian god exists, and is omnipotent, then it has inexplicitly not prioritized this seemingly ‘no brainer,’ easily-achieved task. Given this observation, it can be concluded that it’s likely the Christian god does not exist or else is not omnipotent.
(2933) Angel wings
It’s bad enough that the Bible claims the existence of massless creatures (angels) capable of interacting with humans through speech and even having the capability to move objects (Jesus’s tomb rock), but to depict them with having wings reveals a further lack of scientific knowledge. The following was taken from:
It’s odd that angels are described/depicted as having wings when they can flap those things as fast as they want, there’s no way they’re getting even an inch off the ground. Maybe they have hollow bones?
I’m being a bit silly with the hollow bones thing, but it does raise a legitimate question about angels believed to have wings.
The religious defense I’ve heard for this is that angels in this form are limited to works of art — the human interpretation of what angels could be like (mainly Renaissance-era works). However, the Bible and Qur’an describe at least some specific angels as having wings. Gabriel, for example.
Another defense I’ve heard is that the wings are symbolic and represent the journey they make between heaven and earth. Although, they’re also described as humanoid with arms and legs and so on. So are the limbs also symbolic? Wouldn’t that be superfluous? It’s not as if a supernatural being would actually need to rely on gripping objects and conveying themselves through bipedal movement and all the functions (very limited functions with all kinds of design flaws and inefficiencies) of mammalian limbs.
Of course I know that the simplest explanation is that it’s ancient humans creating gods and angels in their own image and through their very poor understanding of anatomy and physics.
It should not be lost on persons possessing a healthy dose of skepticism that if angels are nothing more than imaginary beings, then the whole Jesus story is likely imaginary as well. The silly way they are portrayed having useless wings is just another clue in that direction.
(2934) Expansion of the universe
Scientific measurements are converging on the rate at which the universe is expanding, and it is being observed that this rate is increasing. It is predicted that in the far future distant galaxies will fall behind the light curtain and will be invisible to astronomers on Earth, excepting the Milky Way, Andromeda, and other local galaxies. This situation does not have the appearance of design. The following was taken from:
By nature, we are a very inquisitive species. The early explorers like the Vikings and Polynesians, etc. sailing around the globe as soon as we possibly could. In addition, we explore the micro/macro worlds. This has helped the human species tremendously.
But now we look outside our world and face a number of issues: distances are incredibly vast, the fastest universal speed is finite and anything with mass (us) cannot even get close to this anyway, cosmic rays, and most troubling, the universe is expanding and this expansion is accelerating. This would be like the early explorers finding that the distances to travel between continents getting greater and getting greater faster.
And if the research is correct; that the universe is inflating faster than the speed of light so it just disappears at great distances, then what’s the point in all this? So if this is designed, then it’s a terrible design especially since we were designed inquisitive.
The physics of the universe appears to be inconsistent with intelligent design, and this indicates a lower likelihood that an all-powerful god designed it.
(2935) Champion conspiracy theory
History teaches us that 95% of conspiracy theories are untrue. And the main reason for this is that things that are true rarely need to be supported by theories. They are self-evident or else backed by reliable evidence. One of the most celebrated conspiracy theories is the core tenet of the Christian faith, as paraphrased below:
The champion conspiracy theory of all time is that our world is under close surveillance by an all-powerful cosmic spirit that monitors the behavior of every human being (“I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter,” Matthew 12:36)—even our thoughts don’t escape the spirit’s notice (“…according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all,” Romans 2:16.) To escape the wrath of this all-powerful spirit—it maintains a fiery hell—belief in a human sacrifice that the spirit arranged is required.
This theory is unlikely to be true not only because it lacks confirmatory evidence, but also that it violates known laws of physics and other scientific facts. For one, the concept that thoughts can leave a person’s brain and be received and decoded by another being. It is telling that Christianity can be explained only by jettisoning science and invoking magic.
(2936) Argumentum ad populum is invalid for Christianity
This argument states that something that is believed by a large number of people is more likely to be true as compared to an opposing thing that has a lesser following. In some cases, this is a good assumption. For example, if more people drive a certain make of vehicle than another vehicle, it might well mean that the more popular vehicle is superior overall.
Christian apologists will often use this argument to say that Christianity is more likely to be true than atheism because there are many more Christians than atheists. But this is overlooking two important factors. First, childhood indoctrination can be extremely powerful and it is often very difficult throughout adulthood to overcome its effects.
Second, once you are subsumed into the Christian world and later begin to question its truthfulness, it is not always easy to leave. The following barriers are at times formidable:
1) Giving up the chance for eternal life and incurring the lingering worry that your apostasy could lead to a fiery future in hell. However small, these two elements of relinquishing hope and accepting a new fear often keep people in the fold, even if they really have lost their belief.
2) Family pressures (as a minor or young adult) that might include, depending on your age, being banished from the home, losing emotional and financial support, and losing out on inheritance.
3) Often when one spouse becomes an atheist, it destroys the marriage, leading to emotional stress, divorce, and a reduced financial standing.
4) Losing friends, especially if they have been centered around your religious activities. Often becoming an atheist requires the acquisition of new friends.
5) Professional career concerns, as bosses might discriminate against you (if they find out) or if you are a business owner, Christians might boycott your business.
Scaling these barriers can be difficult. It is nearly certain that many atheists never admit it and continue to go through the motions for the remainder of their lives. The world (at least in the U.S. and other countries} is not finely tuned to make being an atheist easy.
Because of these reasons, the argumentum ad populum is not a legitimate reason for concluding that Christianity is more likely to be true than atheism.
(2937) Omnipotence is a ridiculous claim
Christians are blasé about championing their god as being omnipotent. As discussed below, it is not possible that enough evidence could be presented to support this claim, and this would be the case even if there existed miraculous phenomena orders of magnitude above the ones that Christians credulously claim are happening today. The following was taken from:
I see people often argue about minute things such as Noah’s ark, miracle healers, prophets, ect, ect, but I want to take this time to discuss that in my opinion none of that proves in God.
The claim that God exists is a massive one, a claim of infinite scale. Claims need proof equivalent to their magnitude to be taken seriously.
I often see people talk about how unlikely evolution or even basic existence is, but never realize what they are comparing it to. Omnipotence is a pretty massive claim, and one that comes with a burden of proof so massive that no human could ever replicate it. If I think there is a nonexistent chance of replication from any other entity.
Time travelers, aliens, magicians, and transdimensional beings are all more likely claims than an omnipotent being no matter how many prophecies come true, no matter how many miracles happen past, present, or future. Even if all prayers resulted in a response spelled out in stars in the sky, it would be proof of a being with quintillioms of yottatons of power, but never one of omnipotence. Agnostic is the only logical to go even if you wake in hell.
Omnipotence is beyond human comprehension, and Christians are correct in one sense- God would have to be omnipotent for Christianity to work as generally believed. A non-omnipotent god would be unable to fairly adjudicate the sentencing of newly dead people. But saying that an omnipotent spirit exists is nothing more than a wishful thought. It can never be demonstrated and it violates all of the science that we understand. To be omnipotent a being would have to occupy every cubic centimeter of the universe and be able to see, think, and act without any supporting physical structure.
(2938) Problem of evil is irreconcilable
Attempts by Christian apologists to defuse the problem of why God allows so much evil to go unchecked is easily debunked by using the same strategy to reconcile acts of evil perpetrated by humans. The following was taken from:
I’m sure that most people here know what the Problem of Evil is, but for those who don’t, it’s this:
How does one reconcile the existence of evil and suffering with an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent god?
“God has morally sufficient reasons, we just don’t know them”, or “We don’t/can’t know the mind of god” or “It’s all for the greater good” or other responses in this vein, are some of the most common responses I hear to this, along with “God gave us free will”, which I won’t be getting into in this post.
The problem is that this kind of response can be used to excuse pretty much any evil act in human history, e.g:
“Hitler had morally sufficient reasons for the Holocaust, we just don’t know them.”
“We can’t know the minds of rapists, so they might have had morally sufficient reasons to rape people, we just don’t (or can’t) know them”
“Pol Pot killed millions for some greater good we just don’t know about yet”
I could keep going, but I think you get the idea. If you are going to use this response to reconcile the existence of evil and suffering with an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent god, you are opening up the door to condoning almost every evil act every human has ever committed.
The problem of evil will continue to dog the church because it can never be fully reconciled to the claim that God is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent. Some concession is needed. Perhaps God is sinister or perhaps he doesn’t exist and evil is an unavoidable consequence of unguided evolution. But in the end, it is not fair to excuse God while condemning humans for the same thing.
(2939) The kidnapping paradox
It’s often discussed how one’s birth usually defines what religion you will follow, but this can be taken to a different dimension when considering a kidnapping situation. An infant taken from its birth parents and raised in a different religion would have no recourse but to follow the local faith. The following was taken from:
Consider a white Christian in Texas. He’s been raised in a devout Christian household since he was born, feels a deep spiritual connection to Christ, goes to Church unwaveringly and defends his beliefs strongly. God and his son Christ do exist! he claims. I felt it!
Consider a brown Middle-Eastern Muslim. He’s been raised in a devout Muslim household since he was born, feels a deep spiritual connection to Muhammad, goes to Mosque unwaveringly and defends his beliefs strongly. God and his prophet Muhammad do exist! he claims. I felt it!
Which one is right? What is there to differentiate their beliefs, except maybe deeply scrutinizing their books and rules? What if you were the Texan Christian and were debating the Middle-Eastern Muslim? Aren’t you only so connected to your religion because you were raised so? It’s all you’ve known?
What if the Texan Christian was kidnapped at only a few months old, and was raised to be a devout Muslim? The same person who in a different timeline may have been Christian is now an Islam advocate.
Why, then, do people look at other religions as wrong? Could you honestly say you would feel the same way about that religion if you were _born into that religion? Then, doesn’t that cast doubt onto the authenticity of your beliefs and conviction?
So, a baby born to Christian parents and labeled by Christians as a Christian baby (who knows, with Christian DNA?) kidnapped as an infant and raised by Muslims would almost assuredly become a Muslim. The victim of this crime would reject Jesus as its savior and then be subject to hell through no fault of their own. This scenario highlights a problem with Christian theology.
(2940) Putting pets to sleep
Pet owners are familiar with the agonizing decision to euthanize their beloved pets when their lives become so wracked with pain and misery that continuing to live no longer holds any meaning. This act of killing an animal is seen as being compassionate and doing what is best for the pet. It is generally understood that they are not sending their pet on to some afterlife, but rather that they are ending its life permanently.
In contrast, the Christian god does none of this. He allows purposeless intense pain and suffering to continue unabated not only with people but with animals as well. There is no euthanasia in his playbook. And his followers are almost singularly against the concept of assisted suicide.
But also in sharp contrast to pet owners, the Christian god does not send suffering people who die to a permanent state of nothingness, but rather most get sent to another place, where the pain and suffering is intensified by orders of magnitude. For a Christian, this should resonate- the god that they worship cannot hold a candle to a regular pet owner who loves his little companion. If God is love, then pet owners are love taken to the nth degree.
(2941) God’s letter
According to Christianity, God inspired approximately 40 men to write a letter (the Bible) to be used as a moral reference until he decides to end the world. Being omnipotent, he would have known the consequences of how humans would interpret this letter. Given what actually happened, it becomes difficult to believe this idea. The following is a quote from Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899):
According to the theologians, God, the Father of us all, wrote a letter to his children. The children have always differed somewhat as to the meaning of this letter. In consequence of these honest differences, these brothers began to cut out each other’s hearts. In every land, where this letter from God has been read, the children to whom and for whom it was written have been filled with hatred and malice. They have imprisoned and murdered each other, and the wives and children of each other. In the name of God every possible crime has been committed, every conceivable outrage has been perpetrated. Brave men, tender and loving women, beautiful girls, and prattling babes have been exterminated in the name of Jesus Christ.
Men and women have been burned for thinking there is but one God; that there was none; that the Holy Ghost is younger than God; that God was somewhat older than his son; for insisting that good works will save a man without faith; that faith will do without good works; for declaring that a sweet babe will not be burned eternally, because its parents failed to have its head wet by a priest; for speaking of God as though he had a nose; for denying that Christ was his own father; for contending that three persons, rightly added together, make more than one; for believing in purgatory; for denying the reality of hell; for pretending that priests can forgive sins; for preaching that God is an essence; for denying that witches rode through the air on sticks; for doubting the total depravity of the human heart; for laughing at irresistible grace, predestination and particular redemption; for denying that good bread could be made of the body of a dead man; for pretending that the pope was not managing this world for God, and in the place of God; for disputing the efficacy of a vicarious atonement; for thinking the Virgin Mary was born like other people; for thinking that a man’s rib was hardly sufficient to make a good-sized woman; for denying that God used his finger for a pen; for asserting that prayers are not answered, that diseases are not sent to punish unbelief; for denying the authority of the Bible; for having a Bible in their possession; for attending mass, and for refusing to attend; for wearing a surplice; for carrying a cross, and for refusing; for being a Catholic, and for being a Protestant; for being an Episcopalian, a Presbyterian, a Baptist, and for being a Quaker. In short, every virtue has been a crime, and every crime a virtue. The church has burned honesty and rewarded hypocrisy. And all this, because it was commanded by a book — a book that men had been taught implicitly to believe, long before they knew one word that was in it. They had been taught that to doubt the truth of this book — to examine it, even — was a crime of such enormity that it could not be forgiven, either in this world or in the next.
It should be obvious that God’s letter was interpreted in many different ways by many different people and that these differences led to an unrelenting scourge of discrimination, banishment, torture, and death. Given this result, it is far more likely that this ‘letter’ was a work developed by human minds absent inspiration from any omniscient deities.
(2942) The Satan dilemma
It is difficult to make sense of the role that Satan plays in Christian theology. The conventional wisdom is that Satan was an angel in heaven who rebelled against God for some reason and then was banished along with his accomplices (who became demons) to the underworld. He now works to destroy peoples’ faith and thus recruit them for hell, which he will or currently does command.
But putting all of that aside, there has to be an explanation for why Satan and his demons are free to turn people away from God’s salvation. There seems to be only two rational conclusions:
1) Satan is equally powerful to God and so God can’t take him out, or
2) Satan is an accomplice to God who has charged him to carry out a sinister mission.
If (1) is correct, then God is not all-powerful. If (2) is correct, then God is not all-good. There seems to be no way to acknowledge Satan’s existence and assumed mission while rendering god both omnipotent and omnibenevolent.
No Christian will be happy with (1) or (2) above, but what is the alternative option (3)? Perhaps something along the line of God permits Satan freedom to tempt people as a way to test them for worthiness to enter heaven, but even this seems to reduce God’s omniscience, and therefore his omnipotence as well.
These mental gymnastics are easily resolved by adopting the most reasonable option: (4) God and Satan are imaginary.
(2943) Bible literalism is impossible
Many Christians claim to take the Bible literally, such as to suggest that it gives a singular consistent message that can be interpreted in only one way. This is nonsense. The Bible is open to interpretation subject to the biases of its readers. The following was taken from:
Lots of people running around saying they believe in the Bible literally, but this is technically impossible based on functions of language (among other things).
As an example when Jesus says “…it’s better to cut out your eye than to lust…” he literally said “cut out your eye” but by virtue of language we understand (or hope) that he is speaking metaphorically, and the moment you add even one metaphor you are forced to make a personal judgment about what the metaphorical words actually mean. now you are forced to reckon with the entire text, if this one verse was actually metaphorical then its possible (if not likely) that other bits of the text might also be metaphorical, so you now have to devise a way to determine what’s metaphor and what isn’t, and without being able to talk to the author you can never claim full certainty (reasons for this uncertainty include antiquated terms, jokes, colloquialisms, or other rhetorical devices we may be unfamiliar with and so miss the authors true intention)
“ah!” you say “but I CAN talk to the author, I communicate with the spirit of god, the ultimate author behind the text” – well… everyone claiming biblical truth also says they’re hearing the “correct” interpretation from god, only they all conflict with one another. We can’t determine which of these interpretations are correct or truthful without consulting the text to see what it says, which was the thing we were trying to determine in the first place.
This is a good example of why a god would not likely use a written text to communicate to humanity. More likely, it would instill its message directly into the hearts and minds of everyone, leaving no room for controversy. But even more likely, it would stay out of the scene completely and just ‘let it be.’
(2944) God demands both faith and non-faith
To attain heaven, God requires some people to maintain the faith of their family while at the same time expecting others to abandon their family faith. This appears to be discriminitory. The following was taken from:
This is kind of to any religion who claims to be the supreme truth. For example, take 2 kids. #1 is born in Texas and is raised by Protestants. #2 is born in Iran and is raised by Muslims. To my knowledge, both Allah & God are supreme truth, tell their followers to have strong faith, and condemn nonbelievers to hell. So, the Christian God “tells” #1 that he must have faith no matter what, and that even though the world will tempt him, he must always believe. This God wants #1 to ignore all other persuasions, and keep faith in him. This same Christian God “tells” #2 that he must abandon his faith in Allah, and convert to Christianity to be saved from hell. How can God tell #1 to never be persuaded, yet require #2 to be persuaded to be saved from eternity in hell? Assuming both have strong faith, why is it ok for God to tell #1 that he’ll go to hell if he doesn’t have strong faith, but tell #2 he’ll go to hell because he has strong faith.
This is another version of the argument that Christian salvation criteria does not work in the real world. Demanding some to maintain their childhood beliefs while demanding others to abandon them is a literal definition of hypocrisy.
(2945) The robot analogy
Imagine that a person builds a robot, very sophisticated, such that it has self-awareness and a protocol for how to behave. The robot is sent out into the public to interact as programmed. But it has a flaw. It sees a person who has something that it wants, and it kills the person to get it.
At the murder trial, the robot and its builder are co-defendants, but their trials are split. At the trial of the robot builder, the defense counsel states that his client is innocent because he didn’t do anything violent and that the robot of its own free will performed the murder.
At the trial of the robot, the defense attorney argues that the builder is to blame because he failed to program the robot to understand that feelings of intense desire for something do not merit the application of violent action against persons possessing such.
Who is convicted and who is exonerated? If we apply Christian rationale, the robot is guilty and the builder is innocent. Further that the builder can ‘punish’ the robot by destroying it or even programming it to experience intense pain.
If we apply rational thinking to this problem, the builder is guilty because the entity that he created was flawed and was bound to do something like this.
In this analogy the builder is God and the robot is a human being. For God to create flawed humans and then punish them for making mistakes makes no sense. So, in a perfect world, the builder is convicted of murder and the robot is exonerated though ordered to be modified to eliminate the programming flaw. But Christianity does not define a perfect world; rather, it posits the existence of a celestial dictator who feels justified to punish his imperfect creation when they do something that isn’t perfect.
(2946) Jesus envisioned a patriarchal government
One of the aspects of Christianity that tends to date it to the period of time it was developed is its strict patriarchal approach to authority. It was understood that men and only men were to be in charge of official affairs. The following was taken from:
Thesis: Exclusively male figures possess authority in God’s kingdom as envisioned by Jesus.
1) At the top of the kingdom’s hierarchy is Jesus’ God, the God of Israel. As is consistent with the Hebrew scriptures, the God of Jesus is characterized as a male figure, whether as a father, as a slave master, or as a king.
2) Jesus himself, understood as God’s Davidic Christ, rules at God’s behest over God’s kingdom. He is, of course, a man.
3) Under Christ, Jesus establishes his male disciples as heirs of the kingdom.
- Jesus chose twelve men to rule and judge a tribal (and thus patriarchal) Israel when God’s kingdom prevailed upon the earth: Jesus said to [the twelve], “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” In choosing twelve disciples Jesus evokes the twelve exclusively male leaders of Israel’s twelve tribes (cf. Exodus 18:13-27, Numbers 1:1-16, 1 Chronicles 27:16-22).
- Jesus installed another seventy men (οἱἐργάται) as apostles whose names are “written in heaven” (Luke 10:20) (meaning they would be men of high standing in the kingdom of heaven; cf. Rev 21:14). These seventy men recapitulate the seventy male elders recruited by Moses to help lead the people of Israel (Numbers 11:16-30).
- Jesus commends such men for leaving (Luke 18:29-30) and hating (Luke 14:26) their “wives” for the sake of their difficult gospel mission and promises them rewards for their commitment. No mention of female disciples leaving or hating their husbands is made (cf. Matthew 5:27-32).
According to the Gospels, Jesus calls no woman apostle or disciple and he invites no woman into his missionary guild (cf. Mark 10:17-27, cf. Luke 9:57-62). Righteous and believing women would stand to benefit from God’s kingdom when it arrived but they would have a subordinate role in its administration (as was perfectly normative in ancient Jewish and Mediterranean societies).
It could be said that Jesus had to work with what he had and that it would have been disruptive to have introduced the concept of female leadership. On the other hand, being God (supposedly) he would have known that future trends would establish the same. Certainly if Jesus had promoted women to positions of leadership it would have provided some evidence for the truth of Christianity as well as to accelerate sexual equality.
Christian apologists will say that doing this would have been impossible and that the entire movement would have failed in trying to transition to sexually neutral politics. But they are at the same time surrendering the concept that Jesus (as God) is all powerful and can change peoples’ minds at will.
(2947) Jesus did not believe in the Christian heaven
Jesus, if he was a real person, did not share the Christian belief that the afterlife would entail matter less spirits living in a celestial paradise. Rather, he believed people would be resurrected in their physical bodies and live forever on the Earth. The following was taken from:
Billions of Christians around the world believe that on Easter, Jesus was raised from the dead and taken up to heaven to live with God. They also believe that when they die, their own souls will go to heaven. The great irony is that this is not at all what Jesus himself believed.
Jesus did not think a person’s soul would live on after death, either to experience bliss in the presence of God above or to be tormented in the fires of hell below. As a Jew of the 1st century, Jesus did not think the soul went anywhere after death. It simply ceased to exist with the body.
Most Christians today view the soul as an immaterial essence inside the physical frame of the body; once the body dies, the soul lives on, intact, forever. That is the view handed down to us not from the Bible but from ancient Greek thinking known best from the writings of Plato.
The Bible portrays the human as a creation of God that is one unified entity: an animated body. The soul does not exist once the body dies. When God created Adam, he gathered “dust from the ground” and made it alive by breathing into it the “breath of life.” This “breath” did not exist as an independent entity (the “soul”) outside the body. It was simply what made the body alive. That is why in the Old Testament we are told that at “death,” or in the “grave,” the “pit,” or “Sheol” — all used as synonyms — no one can worship God and God no longer remembers them. Once the breath/soul left the body, the person did not and would not exist anymore.
It was only many, many years after the Old Testament, in the days of Jesus, that some Jews came to see things differently. The shift in thinking arose largely because of the problem of suffering. Why is it that so many people who follow God experience such pain and misery, but others who live godless lives prosper? Is there no justice? Death cannot be the end of the story. Otherwise, how can God himself be just?
These Jews ultimately concluded that there is something to come after this life, but they did not believe, as the Greeks did, in an immortal soul that would live on, apart from the body. Their view instead developed within the Jewish framework of the unified human. Life to come would involve body and soul in tandem. How? Human bodies would be brought back to life to be rewarded or punished. There would be a bodily resurrection of the dead and eternal life would be lived here on Earth.
This was the view found among a wide array of Jews in Jesus’ day: the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, various apocalyptic prophets, the Pharisees and regular folk. It was also the view of John the Baptist and Jesus himself.
Jesus based his preaching of the coming “kingdom of God” on this doctrine of bodily resurrection. This world had become wicked, but God was soon to bring salvation by intervening in history and destroying the forces of evil. God had originally designed a paradise for humans, a Garden of Eden. Humans had botched the arrangement, but God’s purposes would not be thwarted. Paradise would return to Earth and God’s people would inherit it — in their bodies, just as he originally planned.
This divine justice would come not only for those who happen to be alive at the time, but for all those who sided with God throughout history. They would be vindicated for their faithfulness.
Jesus urged people to repent in preparation. Some did. Most did not. Jesus’ enemies considered his teachings of coming destruction a threat to the existing social order. They had him arrested. The Roman authorities executed him for declaring that God would destroy the world that they themselves ruled.
And then came Easter. Soon after Jesus’ death, his followers came to believe that his own body had been brought back to life. For them, that meant the resurrection he had anticipated had started. God was soon to raise all people from the dead to be physically rewarded or punished. Only those who followed Jesus would be saved.
Thus began the momentous changes that would transform the Jewish beliefs of Jesus himself into the Christian beliefs about Jesus.
By the end of the 1st century, most Christian converts came from pagan rather than Jewish stock. As inhabitants of the Greco-Roman world, they brought with them their own “Greek” ways of thinking about bodies and souls, not the Jewish views of Jesus and his followers. This new generation of non-Jewish Christians continued to believe that justice would be done after death. But it would not be a bodily kingdom on Earth; it would be a spiritual kingdom in heaven above. For them, eternal life comes to souls after death, without the body. The souls of those who are not saved will also live on, in the torments of hell. This view (which first appears in two of the late writings of the New Testament, Luke and John) rapidly became the standard belief throughout all Christendom.
Jesus himself did not share these beliefs. But within a century, the vast majority of Christians believed that a soul would be judged after the body had died. Those who believed in Jesus would have eternal life, not in a bodily kingdom on Earth but in the spiritual realm above. This remains the belief of billions of people today.
If this is correct, it presents a huge problem for Christianity. It is difficult to sell something that your founder did not accept.
(2948) Jesus’ Saturday adventure
Despite scant scriptural evidence, most Christian denominations believe that Jesus made a trip to hell after he died on the cross Friday and before his resurrection Sunday, during a period of approximately 36 hours. This despite the fact that Jesus is alleged to have told one of the men crucified next to him “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) The belief in this doctrine is so strong that it is included in the creeds that most Christians recite every time they attend a church service. Supposedly this trip was made to preach to those who had already died and to give them a chance to attain heaven.
There is an important question to ask Christians who believe in this doctrine- did Jesus’ body vacate the tomb during this trip to hell, or was the visit strictly a voyage of his spirit? Most Christians will say they don’t know. But this is a cop out because a problem is created however they answer the question.
If Jesus went bodily to hell, then the Sunday morning resurrection was the second time he left his tomb, his second resurrection so to speak. Jesus would have had to exit the tomb and then return back to the tomb (to die again?). Then resurrecting on Sunday would be his second time. As you can see, this starts to get messy.
If Jesus’ body remained in the tomb on Saturday then it would make it seem that Jesus never really died because this would imply that his spirit was separate from his body throughout the time of his sacrificial death. This would mean that Jesus’ physical body died but he remained alive all along in his spirit body.
Neither option works- a classic case of picking A or B results in failure, so when one says they don’t know it is just a way to avoid the question for which no good answer exists. In that situation, the claim can be dismissed unless a viable answer C exists…which it doesn’t.
(2949) Jesus bodily resurrection missing from 2nd half of NT
It is curious that the second half of the New Testament seems to drop the idea of Jesus’ physical body resurrecting from the tomb. For the most part, these texts were written after the books of the first half. In terms of myth-making, this is a retrograde trend, as the claims become less rather than more (as is typical) spectacular. The following was taken from:
Approximately half of the texts of the New Testament–as many as 14–know nothing of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. By “Jesus’ bodily resurrection,” I mean that specific tradition (or proclamation) according to which Jesus’ dead body (a) was miraculously removed from its tomb, (b) appeared in living form to his disciples and/or the apostles, and (c) was exalted to heavenly glory. Each of these three aspects is fundamental for the 4 Gospel writers (including the author of Mark’s Gospel, let us suppose) and for Christian belief in general. It is a bit more complicated for the Pauline epistles (e.g. 1 Cor 15 and Philippians 2), but for the sake of argument let’s just assume that Paul’s account is essentially consistent with that of the Gospels and Acts.
The texts that know nothing of Jesus’ bodily resurrection include 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and Revelation.
These are the final 14 books of the New Testament, in their traditional (i.e. medieval) order. That’s quite a large chunk of the Christian Bible.
Geza Vermes, in his book The Resurrection: History and Myth (Doubleday, 2008), puts it more diplomatically. After writing 129 pages on the Gospels, Acts, Paul, and the Jewish background to the idea of resurrection, he observes laconically that “the remaining books of the New Testament contribute remarkably little to the problem of the resurrection” (emphasis added).
It should be noted that, in the weightiest of these 14 texts, Hebrews and Revelation, as well as in 2 Thessalonians, Jesus is indeed an exalted savior figure, who transcends death. But there isn’t a trace of the bodily resurrection narrative. Likewise, the Johannine letters do not mention the words “resurrection” or “risen,” or anything to do with the resurrection story. Nor do the epistles of the supposed brothers of Jesus, James and Jude.
The silence of 2 Thessalonians is particularly striking, since this text is widely thought by scholars to have been modeled explicitly on the structure, vocabulary, and theme of 1 Thessalonians. (Consensus opinion is that 1 Thss is authentic Paul, whereas 2 Thss is a forgery based on 1 Thss.) The proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection is prominent in the first letter, but entirely absent in the second. If 2 Thss was in fact a cleverly crafted rejoinder to 1 Thss, then the omission of the resurrection theme must have been a conscious choice and not some sort of accident.
Some of these 14 NT books, in particular 1 & 2 Timothy and 1 Peter, seem to pass on a tradition of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. But on closer inspection, it is evident that they do not. (Remember, the bodily-resurrection-of-Jesus narrative involves an empty tomb, appearances to disciples/apostles, and the heavenly exaltation. All three elements are involved, but the appearances are the most important.)
Let us consider the most prominent passages:
Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great:
He was revealed in flesh, vindicated in spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory.
(1 Timothy 3:16)
This is perhaps an early creed. But “vindicated in (the) spirit” is extremely vague language for so important an event. “Taken up in glory” is the generic language of apotheosis. Nothing here suggests the bodily resurrection tradition.
Grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher… (2 Timothy 1:9-11)
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel. (2 Timothy 2:8)
It is according to Paul’s gospel (“it has now been revealed”) that Christ “appeared” and that he “abolished death” (abstract) and “brought life and immortality” (generic). These are no more than vague assurances about an afterlife, based (through forgery) on the authority of Paul.
Of all these 14 texts, 1 Peter has the best claim to a bodily resurrection narrative, so let’s examine it in detail.
By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable… (1 Peter 1:3-4; cf 1:11, 1:21)
The name of the thing is here, certainly, but nothing more.
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him. (1 Peter 3:18-22)
Once again, “made alive in the spirit” is vague language. If Peter knew of a bodily resurrection tradition, as surely he did if we are to believe the Gospels and Acts, why be so vague about it? The heavenly exaltation is affirmed, but without any of the narrative context of the resurrection story. It is simply a bare doctrine.
We could say a lot about this “descent into hell” discourse, which only appears here in all of the NT. But all we need to point out is how mythological it is, and how far we are from any “eyewitness testimony.”
Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you… (1 Peter 5:1)
The author claims to be an “eyewitness,” but not of the resurrection: only of the sufferings of Christ. The only glory that this Peter knows of is either in heaven, or is to be revealed in future times.
While it is true that the bare idea of Jesus’ resurrection, or the assertion of his heavenly exaltation, is found in many parts of the New Testament, we must recognize that such claims amount to little more than what is found in the OT stories about Enoch, or Elijah, or the general resurrection prophesied in the Book of Daniel. As Christian theologians and apologists have always asserted, no such vague or general ideas about an afterlife can be compared with the tradition of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. That tradition is dominant in the “front part” of the New Testament, but starkly absent from the “back part,” i.e. from 2 Thessalonians to Revelation.
It is difficult to explain this dichotomy in the New Testament other than to hypothesize that belief in Jesus’ bodily resurrection waned in the early parts of the Second Century CE, when skepticism may have caused more people to see it more as a spiritual event. Nevertheless, this presents a consistency issue suggesting that doctrinal alignment was fragile in the early goings of the church.
(2950) Legitimate worthiness tests
There is a good argument that Christianity is not focused on a true measure of morality when it comes to the final judgment of human souls. It appears to bypass other more legitimate ways to assess personal character and values. The following was taken from:
Theists whose world view is centered around the world being a test to judge who is worthy of heaven, usually posit the following two assertions:
1) There is evidence available to humans to find out about the test
2) There isn’t ample, overwhelming, unanimous, conclusive evidence available to humans
With the former being relatively self-explanatory, I will shortly expound the latter: If there were overwhelming, unanimous, conclusive evidence available, the test would not really be a test. Almost everybody would believe in it and try their best to live a pious life.
So the usual claim is that there is some evidence; not ample, not conclusive but yet existent. But why judge people based on whether they believe a claim based on some inconclusive, at best ambivalent evidence? Why does it warrant punishment when people require strong evidence and are generally hesitant to deem something true? Why does it warrant a reward when people are naive and believe claims on sketchy evidence? If anything, the reverse should be true: skepticism should be rewarded and championed whereas naiveté should be punished.
If one assumes the two above mentioned proposition, the only logical conclusion is that the test revolves around credulity. Many theists object and falsely claim that the test rather gauges the individual’s morality. But if we tried to come up with the best test of morality an omnipotent omniscient being could present us, what would we arrive at? The best test I can think of would be God not intervening in the world at all, letting us live our lives as we wish and judging us based on how our morality stands up compared to the morality we were surrounded with. If you grew up and lived in a very immoral environment but personally assumed a less bad albeit still bad morality, you did fine in the test. If you grew up and lived in a very moral environment but developed less morally, you did bad. You get the idea.
I challenge you to propose a better test for morality an omnipotent omniscient God can employ. It is fair to conclude that any such “test of worldly life”-religion that doesn’t present a better or equivalent test for morality either:
1) isn’t concerned about morality and rather judges other traits.
2) is centered on a conception of God that allows him to pose inferior tests.
3) is false.
Judging people on a curve, taking into consideration their particular circumstances, is a much fairer test than what Christianity uses for deciding who goes to heaven. This fact supports the likely truth of #3 above.
Follow this link to #2951