(3051) The credulity test
Suppose your neighbor rings your doorbell and excitedly tells you an amazing story:
“Just a few moments ago, a young woman walked across my swimming pool!”
“Yeah, she just entered my backyard and walked on the water!
“Did you get any video?”
“No, didn’t have time to get my phone.”
“Are you sure she was walking ON the water”
“Yes, the entire 40 foot length!”
“Is she still around, can we locate her?’
“No, she left and when I looked around I could no longer see her.”
“Can we see her footprints in the pool deck?”
“Not sure, let’s go look….Yes, here are some footprints leading out of the pool and they appear to be too small to be a man and too big to be a child.”
Let’s assume you have known this neighbor for many years, and he always seemed sane and sensible. This is the first time he has told a story such as this. Do you believe what he said?
Compare this to the gospel story of Jesus walking on the water:
The story you have just heard was told by a live eyewitness, a person you have known and respected for years, telling of something he observed only minutes earlier, and with a degree of physical evidence.
The story of Jesus walking on the water was written by an unknown author, a person who did not witness the event, which allegedly happened at least 40 years earlier with no physical evidence.
Yet, if you are a true Christian, you will likely disbelieve your neighbor but emphatically believe the gospel story.
This credulity test is a telling sign that you are brainwashed.
(3052) Preaching a non-Christian gospel
The Bible definitively states that Jesus sent his disciples out among the villages to preach the gospel. However, this happened before Jesus was crucified and resurrected, so wouldn’t it be true that this ‘gospel’ must have been somewhat non-Christian in nature? Here is the scripture:
Then Jesus called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and power to cure diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. “Take nothing for the journey,” He told them, “no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that area. If anyone does not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that town, as a testimony against them.”
So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.
It seems strange that Jesus would send his disciples out as missionaries before the seminal act of sacrificing himself for the remission of sins- the central core of the Christian faith, and the only way for people to get to heaven. So what gospel were they preaching? And wouldn’t this (interim?) gospel have become obsolete a few weeks later when Jesus was crucified and resurrected? Did the disciples have to go back to these villages and essentially say, ‘Just one more thing, and, by the way, it’s the most important thing!’
Taken at face value, it would appear that Jesus was preaching to his disciples a gospel that he felt was complete and ready to be disseminated to the public- one that had nothing to do with his dying and rising. Thus, he was broadcasting a gospel that was inconsistent with present-day Christianity.
(3053) Jesus as the new Moses
[Note: a more detailed description of this issue is presented in #1244.]
There is a lot of evidence that the person who wrote the Gospel of Matthew was historicizing the theology that Jesus was the new Moses, and, in fact, was greater than Moses. In the following, it is revealed that the events of Jesus’ life are portrayed as a mirror to those of Moses:
The parallels are shown in this chart:
Exodus 1:1 – 2:10
Crossing of water
Exodus 16:1 – 17:7
Exodus 19:1 – 23:33
Mountain of lawgiving
Reciprocal knowledge of God
Commissioning of successor
Matthew’s audience was the Jews, and his goal was to convince them that Jesus was the new Moses, but even greater. This was the most direct way to get Jews to convert to Christianity. His success rate among the Jews was limited, but what he wrote soon became sacred scripture for the Gentiles who were much more credulous and less steeped in knowledge of the Jewish faith. Had they been, they would have known that human sacrifice, eating of the flesh of a human (even symbolically), and having multiple gods (even if partitioned into a trinity) would have been anathema to Jesus.
(3054) Judas’ betrayal was fictional
One of the most recognized passion themes of the gospels is the betrayal of Jesus by one of his disciples- Judas. But as can be seen in the following, there are many reasons to doubt the historicity of this tale. The following was taken from:
All four gospels mention Judas Iscariot, but since most scholars believe Mark’s gospel was the first written, and subsequent gospels used Mark as a template for their gospels, this fact is hardly surprising, and does not add any credibility to the narrative.
A lot of Mark’s narratives are considered by many scholars to be dubious or fictitious and probably designed to illustrate some theological agenda. For instance, many believe that the Trial before the Sanhedrin, the Barabbas incident, and the “Empty Tomb” were all inventions of Mark, carried over into later Gospels.
One clue to Judas fictive origin comes from Paul’s epistles where the famous passage in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 reads:-
“For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters[c] at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.[d] 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me”
Here, he specifically mentions “the Twelve”, so he seems totally unaware that Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus & then committed suicide.
Additionally, in 1 Corinthians 11:23 Paul says:-
“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread…..”
Scholars have disputed the word “betrayed”, as elsewhere it is translated as “handed over”. It seems some translators have retroactively inserted this meaning into Paul’s epistles from their knowledge of the later gospels. “Handed over” could refer to the Chief Priests handing over Jesus to the Romans as they considered him a “trouble-maker” threatening the status quo of the understanding between the Jewish hierarchy and the Romans which allowed many of their traditions to continue under Roman rule.
There are differences in the Gospels, as to Judas’s motive for betrayal.
Mark:- Judas went to the Chief Priests and offered to betray Jesus, and they promised him money, but no mention of how much and whether they paid him straight away (“promised” seems to indicate he would get paid after the betrayal).
Matthew:- Judas went to the Chief Priests and asks “what will you give me if I betray him to you”, and they paid him “30 pieces of silver” before his betrayal.
Luke:- “Satan” apparently entered Judas and he went to the Chief Priests to betray Jesus and they “agreed” to give him money, but no mention of how much and when it was to be paid.
John:- Again, “Satan” apparently enter Judas, and he left the “Last Supper” to betray Jesus but no mention of how this was done.
There are two versions of what happened to the “30 pieces of silver”:-
According to Matthew 27:3-8 Judas Iscariot is filled with remorse, and returns the money by throwing it into the temple, and then leaves to hang himself. The Chief Priests use the “blood money” to purchase land, and call it “The Field of Blood”.
However, in Acts 1:17-20 Judas uses the money, himself, to buy the land, and then apparently “falling headlong,[a] he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out.” The field is later called “The Field of Blood’”
So who, exactly, bought the land?
Some scholars have suggested that Judas is supposed to personify “the Jews” as the evil opposition to Jesus since Judas is the Greek version of “Judah” which could relate to the “Kingdom of Judah”, part of Jewish Palestine.
It is important to consider the context of when the Gospels were written.
Mark (considered to be the first gospel) is normally dated to 70 CE, which was after the devasting Jewish war of 66 – 70 CE when the Roman army overran the city of Jerusalem, destroying the Temple, and consigning the population to exile or slavery.
Some early Christians interpreted this defeat as “The Wrath of God”, and punishment for the Jews for not accepting Jesus as the “true” Messiah. Thus, the blame for Jesus’s death was placed directly on the Jews, and this attitude pervades the Gospels.
With this in mind, it seems to me that, the whole Judas Iscariot narrative is an invention of the Gospel writers needing a “scapegoat” for the capture & execution of Jesus.
In reality, there were probably twelve disciples who were loyal to Jesus, and Jesus was just arrested for being a “trouble-maker” and summarily executed. If this was not the case, it looks as if Jesus exhibited very poor judgement when he picked his Disciples (not a good look for “The Son of God”).
Writing fiction (intended to be taken as fact) is perilous because, in that you’re not recounting what actually happened, it is likely that you will end up writing things that lack elements of realism. In this instance, the author of Mark made up the story of the betrayal probably to promote the theme of Jewish guilt in the death of Jesus- but at the cost of staining credulity and spawning as collateral damage doubt on everything else he wrote.
(3055) Christians don’t believe in NT demonics
Christians, many of whom hang on every word of the New Testament, show they don’t really believe it by the way they handle their children’s psychological problems. They use psychiatrists and medications instead of exorcists. The following was taken from:
At the height of my belief, I was always very uncomfortable with the frequency and symptoms of so called “demon possessed” people in the New Testament.
It seemed like a given that any village would have a handful of known demoniacs. They were like local characters back then. They ranged from strong cave men breaking free from chains to kids with speech issues. When was the last time in these particularly “wicked times” you’ve seen any “demon possessed” person whose issues couldn’t be diagnosed and treated by modern medicine? Curiously, the NT demoniacs who were just a part of everyday life don’t seem to exist any more.
Show me which Biblical symptom of “demon possession” could not be put down to an episode of treatable psychosis or mental illness. In other words, Christians: Which of the symptoms of the Biblical demoniacs, if present in your children, would cause you to go to an exorcist/pastor instead of a doctor? If none or very few, then I would argue you don’t really believe the people in the NT were demon possessed.
Hospitals see many similar “demoniac” cases daily. Not one of them is treated with exorcism, and not even Christians – except the most nutty and fringe Christians – would dare to go down that route today.
If someone told you that they believed in the healing power of brown rice, but when you went to their house you discovered that they had no brown rice, and hadn’t eaten it for over a year, what would you think? A person’s actions are more important than their words. The way that Christian parents handle their children’s behavior problems lets us know that they don’t really believe in the demon stories of the New Testament.
(3056) John and Mark in one day
Most Christians deliberately or inadvertently separate their reading of the gospels into isolated silos- for instance reading one of them for a week and then a few weeks later reading another. This separation allows them to avoid the cognitive dissonance that would occur if they read them consecutively. The most pregnant problem arises when one reads the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John on the same day. It would dawn on all but the mentally impaired that they are reading about two different Jesus’s The following was taken from:
Now, finally, what do we do with the gospel of John?
Its author took theology inflation to a whole new level. I have often suggested that Christians read Mark’s gospel in one sitting, straight through, carefully; this takes about as much time as watching a movie. Then take a break, have a big glass of wine. Then read John’s gospel straight through. It’s a tougher go: you’ll need the wine. It’s especially troubling that Mark and John created two different Jesuses.
In Mark, Jesus comes out of nowhere to be baptized for the remission of sins. John would have none of that. Jesus doesn’t set foot in the water. Why would this be necessary, since John’s Jesus had been present at creation?—it was through him that everything was made.
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus was in agony praying in Gethsemane,
“…he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him….Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” (Mark 14:35-36)
John deleted that too.
If you’ve not been brought up in the Christian faith, the bragging of Jesus in John is jarring: “No one comes to the father but by me,” … “the father and I are one,” “…I am the resurrection and the life.” And here perhaps is a high point in John’s theology inflation:
“Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son.” (John 6:21-22)
Since the promise of eternal life is pushed relentlessly in this gospel, this Jesus has remained popular.
But John didn’t abandon a wrathful God, and non-belief is a crime. John 3:16, “God so loved the world” is a favorite, cherished verse, but look at John 3:18, “Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already…” and John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.” This is theology inflation typical of cult fanaticism: our way is the only way.
These texts result in an unrealistic view of the world. At one point John’s Jesus proclaims, “But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (16:33). Now when I read this line I think of Leonardo DiCaprio on the bow of the Titanic, yelling, “I’m the king of the world.” It is delusional theology inflation to present Jesus of Nazareth saying that he has conquered the world. As human history has unfolded, there is no evidence of that at all.
Let me mention also that John deleted the famous words of the Eucharist from his version of the Last Supper. Instead, in his chapter 6, following the feeding of the 5,000, we find these ghoulish words:
“Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.” (John 6:53-57)
Again, there’s too much hint of Halloween here. What better example of ancient cult superstition? This is theology inflation that embraces magical thinking. Eat this, drink that, and you’ll live forever. These are magic potions.
This is a critical, unrecoverable fault with Christianity that passes acknowledgment only by ignoring it. The double-daily-gospel read is a good challenge for any Christian to explain how these gospels were both selected for inclusion in the Bible. What were they thinking? We live in a world with one reality- not two.
(3057) COVID proof test
One of the ways to test the strength of prayer and to measure God’s healing powers is to see how well some of “His” representatives on earth fared in the face of the Great Pandemic of 2019-2021. Many religious leaders dismissed COVID-19 as either a hoax or as nothing for a god-fearing person to be concerned with, and have further discouraged the use of the remarkably effective vaccines. Many of their followers have died unnecessarily as a result. But even more poignant, many of these clergy have died themselves, indicating presumptuously that their prayers for personal protection were not answered. The following is a partial list of those who died from COVID-19.
Rev.Dr. Ron Hampton
Sister Ellen Lorenz (one of nine nuns to die in the same outbreak)
Rev. Jorge Ortiz-Garay
Rabbi Yaakov Perlow
Televangelist Frederick K.C. Price
Pentecostal Pastor Wade McArthur Danner
Evangelical pastor Bishop Gerald Glenn (Stated He would hold service “Until I’m in Jail or in the hospital”, I guess he got his wish)
Bishop James Scott
Assistant Presiding Bishop Phillip A. Brooks
Bishop Timothy Scott
Bishop Robert E. Smith Sr.
Bishop Robert L. Harris
Brother Fred Wolfe
Pastor Bob Bryant Wade Morris, a popular Southern Baptist youth speaker
Pastor Landon Spradlin (Called media coverage of COVID “Mass Hysteria”)
Pastor Fred Thomas
Pastor Michael “Grizzy” Griswold
Evangelical pastor Irvin Baxter (He said COVID was caused by premarital sex)
Pastor Jeff Fuson
Reverend Vickey Gibbs
Pastor Joseph Atiles
Bishop Harry Jackson (unknown if COVID related, though he was at white house super-spreader event 2 weeks prior to his death)
A perfect chance for God to demonstrate his protective powers has gone to waste. It would seem that an omnipotent deity would as a first priority protect his dedicated representatives, the very people that he relies upon to bring people to the Christian faith. What a missed opportunity!
(3058) Binding of Isaac
The story in Genesis 22 where God commands Abraham to kill his son Isaac as a test of faith reveals an uncomfortable truth about the foundation of the Christian faith- its god is either immoral, or the Bible is inaccurate, or the killing of a child is moral if so commanded by God. In other words, there is no wiggle room for apologists to squeeze out of this predicament. The following was taken from:
You hear a voice and witness a miracle accompanying a message. The message: “Kill your child. I am the Lord your God.”
What do you do?
Personally, I would not do it. I know that killing children is wrong. I believe that anything that would create a miracle and give me such a message would be evil.
However, the Bible says differently. Read Genesis 22. God directly tells Abraham to kill his son. When Abraham attempts to do so, God says,
Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.
God declares Abraham’s actions as good, not evil. What proof did Abraham have that this was God speaking, not a devil? Abraham has seen miracles at this point. He has heard the voice of God. But he has no proof that this is God speaking.
I do not see a categorical distinction between Abraham’s actions and what I described above.
If you believe it is wrong to kill your children by the command of a mystical voice and a miracle, then do you disagree with the Bible that Abraham was “faithful” by not withholding his son from God?
How much proof would you need before being convinced that God was the one telling you?
I only see three options:
1) Accept that God is immoral
2) Reject the Bible as a trustworthy source of information about God
3) Accept that killing an innocent child is moral if you hear a voice and see a miracle telling you to do it.
Of course, this is a fictional story. But if Christianity is true, God must have approved of it being included in his holy book. Therefore, the trilemma holds and Christians, to be honest with themselves, must pick one of the three options above. If not, a fourth choice is waiting: God is imaginary.
(3059) Where are the gods?
One of the mysteries of theism is not only what gods are like but also where they are located. It seems that the conventional answer to this question has been changing over time. The following is taken from:
Ask your religious friends that simple question: where is your god located? You will hear amazingly diverse answers.
“Heaven, of course.”
“He lives inside me.”
“He’s all around us. He’s everywhere.”
“Don’t be stupid.”
But where are gods really? In the beginning, gods were everywhere. They lived in trees and rivers and animals. Then, over time, we chopped down the trees and swam in the rivers and realized there were no gods there, and gods had to move.
So gods came to inhabit the tops of tall mountains, like Mount Olympus. Then, over time, we climbed the mountains and realized there were no gods there. Gods had to move again.
So for a long time gods lived in the sky. They were in heaven, just above what we could see from here on earth. But then we created telescopes and satellites and rockets, and now we know there are no gods in the sky either. They’ve had to move again.
These days it sounds gods live in some kind of ethereal world, not in the same way that you and I do. Gods have gotten metaphysical. They have had quite a trip.
It should seem obvious that for a being to see, hear, speak, think, or store memories, it must have a material structure, like a brain or a computer chip. This means that it has to have a definite location. Saying God is everywhere is a cop-out. And seeing that there is no god anywhere near our planet rules out the concept of omniscience, as the limits of space-time preclude the ability see everything happening in real time. This suggests that either the god of Christianity is impossible or else our knowledge of science has a major miscalculation.
(3060) Anti-semitism in Acts
It should be assumed that if Christianity is true, Yahweh would ensure that his holy textbook would not toss disparaging aspersions upon his ‘chosen people’ the Jews. Notoriously, this problem contaminates the Gospel of John, but it also appears in Acts, as explained below:
But devout readers should be on the alert for texts that have caused considerable harm. Here are two verses from Acts 20 that we wish weren’t there:
· “He was about to set sail for Syria when a plot was made against him by the Jews, and so he decided to return through Macedonia.” (v. 3)
· Paul’s own words, “…I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears, enduring the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews.” (v. 19)
The early Jesus movement was a breakaway Jewish sect, so “the Jews” became the enemy, especially in John’s gospel, known for its horrid fueling of anti-Semitism. These two verses in Acts 20 are part of that pattern. This is a major flaw in any attempt to position the Bible as “inspired word of God.” Couldn’t God have foreseen how much damage would result from such texts?
How could God allow the Bible to contain verses such as these that have caused generations of suffering among the Jewish people, supposedly the very ones he specifically ‘chose’ among all of the people inhabiting the earth? A god should have foreseen this problem and prevented it from happening…that is, a god that actually exists. But if, as apologist like to suggest, Yahweh used this as punishment for the Jews’ failure to follow Jesus, culminating in the Holocaust, can he still be considered omnibenevolent?
(3061) Matthew cheats to protect his numerology
For unknown reasons, the author of the Gospel of Matthew was obsessed with the number 14, believing it held some special significance. He wanted to show that exactly 14 generations had passed between the most significant events in biblical history. But to maintain this illusion, it is apparent that he purposefully omitted three generations during one of those periods to artificially support his thesis. The following was taken from:
According to Matthew (v. 8), Joram begat Ozias (also known as Uzziah). But, according to 1 Chronicles 3:11-12, 2 Chronicles 26:1, and 2 Kings 14:21, three kings reigned between Joram and Ozias—Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah—and Ozias did not become king until Amaziah had died. How is the omission of these three intervening kings to be explained? Some have argued that the similarity between Ozias (or Uzziah) and Amaziah caused Matthew inadvertently to confuse one for the other. That cannot be ruled out a priori. But another much more likely explanation clamors for our attention.
Given Matthew’s fascination with the number fourteen, the threefold omission of these kings would have enabled him to maintain fourteen generations between David and the Babylonian exile. That, of course, means that the omission was intentional—a fact which casts some doubt on the integrity of the author of Matthew. But until a better explanation comes along, this seems to be the least problematic interpretation of the texts.
This seemingly insignificant deception nevertheless carries a taint that should be admitted by even the most ardent apologist. It is difficult to trust anything someone has written given that one portion of it reflects strong evidence of deliberate deceit.
(3062) Four hurdles to martyrdom
There is a substantial subset of Christians who have serious doubts about the veracity of Christianity, but hang on one last thread of argument- that Jesus’ disciples would not have died heroic deaths for something that wasn’t true. This reasoning has some merit in general, but to get there, you must straddle four hurdles, as follows:
1) Was Jesus a real person, or perhaps a legendary figure like Hercules, who was more a product of imagination or visions than being flesh and blood? Although this remains a minority view of scholars, it carries a substantial amount of weight given the utter lack of historical accounts that were contemporary to his alleged lifetime.
2) If Jesus was real, and for the sake of argument, we will concede that he had a band of disciples, were these men actually killed by Roman authorities, or perhaps were stories of this genre simply made up by Christians of later times as a way to promote the faith?
3) If the disciples were killed by the Romans, was this sentence carried out strictly because of their belief in Jesus, or was it more related to the fact that their preaching was seen as a threat to Roman rule? In other words, were they influencing Roman citizens to place faith in Jesus above allegiance to the emperor. This would imply that their belief in Jesus had nothing to do, directly at least, with their deaths.
4) If the disciples were indeed killed because of their refusal to denounce their belief in Jesus, then, to be honest, they would have been no different that scores of followers of other religions that have been martyred over the long course of history. Who is to say that non-Christian martyrs were somehow any more delusional that Jesus’s disciples?
It is easy to see that failure to scale any one of these hurdles would eliminate this line of apologetics, which is often the last lifeline that maintains belief for many people. It is highly likely that at least one of these four represents a dead-end for the martyrdom defense of Christianity.
(3063) Use of false beliefs to establish loyalty
Research has shown that humans, by way of their evolutionary past, use the act of rallying around false narratives as a way to create cohesion and loyalty within their group. It is likely that Christianity followed this model by developing outlandish beliefs that only those within the group could hold, thereby creating an advantageous us-verses-them paradigm. The following was taken from:
Humans are constantly focused on signals of loyalty: “Are they loyal members of the group?” and “How can I signal that I’m a loyal member?” There are al sorts of ways in which we do that. We take on particular clothes, we have gang tattoos and all sorts of physical ways of expressing loyalty with the group.
But because we humans are exceptionally complex, another way to signal our loyalty is through the beliefs that we hold. We can signal loyalty to a group by having a certain set of beliefs, and then the question is, “Well, what is the type of belief through which we can signal that we belong?” First of all, it should be a belief that other people are not likely to have, because if everyone has this belief, then it’s not a very good signal of group loyalty. It needs to be something that other people in other groups do not have. The basic logic at work here is that anyone can believe the truth, but only loyal members of the group can believe something that is blatantly false.
There is a selection pressure to develop beliefs or develop a psychology that scans for beliefs that are so bizarre and extraordinary that no one would come up with them by themselves. This would signal, “Well, I belong to this group. I know what this group is about. I have been with this group for a long time,” because you would not be able to hold this belief without that prehistory.
I believe we can see this in a lot of the conspiracy theories that are going around, like the QAnon conspiracy theory. I think we can see it in religious beliefs too, because a lot of religious beliefs are really bizarre when you look at them. One example that we give in the text is the notion of the divine Trinity in Christianity, which has this notion that God is both one and three at the same time. You would never come up with this notion on your own. You would only come up with that if you were actually socialized into a Christian religious group. So that’s a very good signal: “Well, that’s a proper Christian.”
Bizarre stories abound in the Bible with concepts such as talking snakes, stationary suns, a virgin birth, water becoming wine, and dead people coming back to life. These preposterous tales helped to establish a Christian community that was separated from the remainder of society and thus could present itself to prospective congregants as being something special. What this unfortunately means is that successful religions tend to be based on false information while those that wither away are the ones that approach reality objectively.
(3064) Plato puts words in Socrates mouth
There is an analogue to the gospel authors ‘quoting’ Jesus. It was after Socrates death that Plato penned some of Socrates quotes, but in retrospect, it can be assured that many of these quotes were fictional because they do not comport to the positions of Socrates based on more reliable sources. This effort to put words in someone’s mouth, especially posthumously and for self-service, is what happened in the gospel accounts. The following was taken from:
Just watched a fascinating lecture on Plato’s “Republic”. Plato presents some characters posing questions and presenting theories to his teacher Socrates, the character would present his position or conclusion and then Socrates would counter the idea or argument.
The thing that struck me the most was that fact the lecturer made it very clear that some of the counter arguments posited by Socrates were in fact the position held by Plato, that in fact Plato was putting words on Socrates lips, in some cases Socrates would not have agreed with some of the statements Plato was saying Socrates would have made or supported. The “Republic” was published after the suicide of Socrates who was not in a position to correct or admonish Plato.
This, I think, is where we are with the gospels. NT Scholars mostly agree that the earliest of the gospels, Mark, was written around the year seventy CE, at least forty years after the crucifixion of Jesus, and the others following much later. We cannot possibly be sure of any of the things that Jesus was reported to have said.
All four gospels are “putting words on Jesus’s lips” to reinforce and support the theological message of the individual gospel writers. Historically then they are unreliable hogwash.
It’s already highly dubious to quote a person who lived 40+ years ago, but beyond that, even in the synoptics, there is evidence that each author made Jesus say things that fit their individual agenda. This highlights one of the biggest failures of Christianity- Jesus did not write anything himself. Being God, this should have been a no-brainer, to leave us with a highly verifiable book written by the man himself.
(3065) Absence of evidence is evident of absence
Christians have been trained to say the absence of evidence of god does not constitute evidence of his absence. But they would be the first to admit that the absence of evidence for unicorns strongly suggests that they don’t exist. The following was taken from:
This argument applies to a god with these traits:
- This God desires all humans to know it exists
- This God has omni traits
If the god you believe in lacks one or both traits listed, this argument doesn’t apply.
The argument from absence of evidence is simple.
P1: If a god with listed traits 1 and 2 exists, then there would be sufficient evidence for everyone to believe this god exists.
P2: It is not the case that there is sufficient evidence for everyone to believe this god exists.
C: Such a god with those traits does not exist.
I’ll mostly focus on objections to this argument, since the argument itself is simple enough.
If god gave too much evidence, it would violate free will, and people having free will is important to god
This argument is basically that too much evidence, such as overt miracles, god talking directly to you, etc, violates your free will and forces you against your will to believe god exists. For this god, his desire to be known conflicts with his desire for free will to exist, and the desire for free will wins out.
Firstly, I would argue that sincere belief is never a free choice. Belief simply occurs. The easiest demonstration is a thought experiment where a person is asked to hold a specific sincere belief they normally wouldn’t. For example, someone might be asked to choose to believe that the world will end if they do not jump off the top of a skyscraper, and that they will not be harmed by doing so. Obviously nobody of sound mind is then going to jump to their death, which means they could not give themselves the sincere belief. A more mild example is asking a theist to set a five minute timer and choose for those five minutes to sincerely believe theism is false, or to have a straight person choose to sincerely believe their own gender is sexy and their opposite gender is gross and undesirable. It cannot be done. Given this, free will wouldn’t be violated by god making people believe in him since belief is never a free choice anyways.
Secondly, god could do A LOT more without doing so much as to make it impossible for anyone to think god doesn’t exist. Imagine someone with a missing limb prays to a god and then had their limb instantly regrow. Suppose it’s proven to not be a hoax. Guess what: still doesn’t conclusively prove a god. Imagine a man walks around claiming to be god. This person consistently performs feats that seemingly violate the laws of physics. Guess what: still doesn’t conclusively prove a god. Alternate explanations are ALWAYS possible, so the argument that you are forced to believe at some evidence threshold where you aren’t forced below that threshold is silly.
Note: this works equally well against “god wants you to have faith” arguments.
God isn’t obligated to follow your commands and provide the evidence you demand
This argument is basically that god could provide any evidence he wanted, but he doesn’t have to and it’s us humans being selfish dicks by demanding he give more evidence.
This falls flat because such a god has omni traits. He doesn’t have to put in more effort to give more evidence. It’s not a hassle for him It’s not annoying. It means nothing to him on his end. It’s a very human concept to be offended when people ask you to do more when you think you’ve already done more than enough. This concept does not apply to an Omni god though, since doing more isn’t even doing more. From god’s perspective, there is no difference other than that doing more gets more believers, which god wants. It’s like if people ask to borrow money from you. You like giving away money and helping. If you have limited funds, then you will not just give your money to everyone, and the more you give, the less you’ll want to or be able to keep giving even though you like giving and like helping. But imagine you have infinite funds, and somehow this doesn’t cause inflation. Why wouldn’t you just keep giving away money? That’s god’s situation.
God did give enough evidence to convince everyone. You’re just stubborn or bad or whatnot
This argument is basically that there is enough evidence, but some people are just choosing not to accept it as enough, and god giving more wouldn’t change that. God knows this and so doesn’t even bother.
On the surface this is strong, but it fails because it’s impossible to prove and there is good evidence that it’s not true.
For example, on one side we have me saying I would believe in god if I had more evidence. On the other side, we have people saying I would not. Who is the best expert on what I find convincing to myself? That’s right: me. Since god has not provided more evidence, and specifically had not provided specific evidence I might claim would convince me, theists have no proof that this extra evidence wouldn’t convince me. To claim to have proof is to claim the ability to see into the future. Thus, this argument does not have enough evidence to be believed true.
I think I’ve addressed the major objections to the absence of evidence argument.
The endpoint of this logical argument is that if God has unlimited traits then he does not want everyone to believe in him. Or if he wants everyone to believe in him, then he is not unlimited. Given these devastating implications, some apologists will attempt to ‘thread the needle’ by claiming that God HAS given everyone sufficient evidence but many are too stubborn to admit it. This is a failed argument on all counts as very few atheists or members of other religions lack a sincere desire for truth. It is clear that for almost all of them the evidence for Christianity is insufficient. To be honest, a Christian should choose to support one the two sentences that start this paragraph.
(3066) Another evolution of paganism
A strong case can be made that Christianity is just another evolution of paganism. What made it unique is that if was of Jewish origins and therefore took advantage of a bedrock of ancient scriptures, giving it perhaps a higher sense of respectability. But, overall, it was just another pagan religion. The following was taken from:
Carrier hammers home the point that Christian theology emerged from this milieu:
“The Christians were not selling something new. They were actually getting in on an already popular game. Indeed, the pre-Christian historian Theopompous wrote that ‘according to the [Zoroastrian] Magi, men will be resurrected and become immortal’ in the apocalypse. The notion of resurrection itself, especially of the whole world at a designated end-times, was itself pagan. It only entered Judaism in the centuries before Christianity arose. By then, Christians might not have even known the idea had originally been pagan; though the Zoroastrian teaching remained widely known across the Empire…”
“In these worldviews at the time, it was essentially being taught that we too would rise from the dead to become gods. Christianity was not unusual in suggesting the same. Even its use of a model example in its savior figure, was likewise emulating a popular practice of constructing dying-and-rising savior gods, in whose triumph over death we too can share, through baptism and communion.”
“Resurrections were everywhere. The type of resurrection could vary (it could be an eternal resurrection in a supernatural body, like Romulus, or back to a merely mortal life again, like Aristeas), but that’s simply a matter of esoteric theological tweaking of a more generic yet ubiquitous concept: that men and gods could be, and often were, raised from the dead.”
Esoteric theological tweaking. Theologians of all brands have specialized in this—trying to keep their products marketable—even as the scientific revolution undermined mindless speculations about the gods. As humans have come to understand how the world works—and even in modern times as theology has failed to identify credible epistemologies—apologists seem more determined than ever to salvage the Ancient Jesus Mystery Cult (but…why not stick up for all the others that Carrier describes?). Robert Conner has called them out:
“The Evangelical Resurrection Industrial Complex (ERIC) has churned out scores of scholarly tomes, hundreds of erudite disquisitions in professional journals, dissertations and commentaries, as well as debates and conferences beyond numbering, and the tsunami of dishonest verbiage shows no sign of receding.” (On this blog, 6 September 2017.)
In a companion article about the virgin birth, published in September 2016, (Virgin Birth: It’s Pagan, Guys. Get Over It), Carrier said this—and it applies to both of these Christian doctrines about the beginning and end of Jesus’ life:
“Christians just need to get over this, and accept that their religion is just another evolution of paganism, one more splinter sect of competitive superstitions and mythologies. Its ideas have been cobbled together from the dismembered parts of other religions that preceded it.”
This Carrier essay takes aim at just one aspect of the resurrection fable, but so much else has been written about it:
· John Loftus’ essay, The Resurrection of Jesus Never Took Place, in his anthology, The Case Against Miracles.
· Robert Price’s essay, Explaining the Resurrection without Recourse to Miracle, in the Loftus anthology, The End of Christianity.
· And recently published, The Resurrection: A Critical Examination of the Easter Story, by Jonathan MS Pearce. Richard Carrier’s evaluation: “This book is the definitive starting point for anyone intent on questioning or defending the resurrection of Jesus. Introductory and aimed at a broad audience, but thoroughly researched, all the key works are here cited and arguments addressed, and with sound reasoning. If this book cannot be answered, belief in the resurrection cannot be defended.”
Defenders of the Jesus Resurrection Event are in the same category as flat earth advocates and anti-vaxxers: we know how wrong they are, but as Jonathan MS Pearce has noted in his new book, “apologetics is an inexhaustible well of post hoc rationalizations.” The errors of all these obsessively held beliefs have been demonstrated massively. For the resurrection especially, there has been one epic takedown after another.
Unfortunately for Christian defenders the veil of history has been lifted and the pagan architecture of the faith in inarguable. So, to keep members in the pews, they must do their best to keep them ignorant.
(3067) God is a moral relativist
Attempts to justify genocide in the Bible eventually end up in a dead end, as it can be revealed that God prescribes genocide for the same acts, in other situations, that he approves. The following was taken from:
Another approach to defending biblical genocide centers on the charge that the Canaanites deserved it because they were sinful. Glenn Miller provides such a rationale in a lengthy blog post titled: How could a God of Love order the massacre/annihilation of the Canaanites? Specifically, Miller says that the Canaanites deserved the killing of their women and children because they engaged in these activities:
- Child sacrifice
- Homosexual sex
First, let’s recall that the very notion that “sin” and sexual depravity can justify genocide is also similar to Hitler’s rationale in combating miscegenation: “To bring about such a development is, then, nothing else but to sin against the will of the eternal creator.” Hitler, it should be observed, also wanted to eliminate homosexuality, something that marks him again as more similar to some biblical authors (e.g. Leviticus 20:13) than he is to Darwin.
Moreover, Miller assures us that God treats everyone the same for such sins:
And God allowed no double standards. When Israel began to look like ‘Canaanites’, God judged them IN THE SAME WAY…and ‘vomited’ them from the Land as well. This expulsion was also accompanied by the harsh measures of warfare faced by the Canaanites.
However, the Israelites were not treated the same as the Canaanites. The Canaanites were to be completely annihilated (Deuteronomy 20:16: “you must not let anything that breathes remain alive”) not just expelled from the land. There is no similar punishment that demands that, when a Hebrew commits a sexual sin, all Hebrew women and children should be killed so that nothing is left of them.
If incest is a reason for genocide, it does not appear to be so in the case of Abraham, regarded as of the most blessed man on earth, despite the fact that he married his half-sister (Genesis 20:12), and had multiple sexual partners (Hagar and Sarah in Genesis 16).
Moreover, incest with a sister or a half-sister is to be punished by death according to the Mosaic law (Leviticus 20:17), which would have applied to Abraham, who married “the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother” (Genesis 20:12).
So Miller ends up trying to convince us that a whole city, including children, should be burned in Sodom (Genesis 19) because God did not like certain sexual acts to be performed, but yet God blesses a man that commits sexual acts that are explicitly prohibited in the Mosaic law. If the objection is that the Mosaic law was not in effect at the time of Abraham, then we should note that it was also not in effect at the time of Sodom’s demise. God is the biggest moral relativist of all in biblical literature.
It’s hard to criticize a non-existent deity, but biblical authors should be taken to task for characterizing their god in such an inconsistent manner. It was always extremely tenuous to justify genocide for any reason, but to base it on behaviors that met God’s approval, as long as they were done by his chosen ones, makes it all the more despicable.
(3068) Great news
It is not difficult to parody the Christian story, because once you remove cloak of pomp and mystery, what is left is a putrid piece of manure. The following was taken from:
Hi, everyone! Great news! You’re saved! Saved, I tell you!
Look, here’s the deal. I’m very disappointed in you. Your great great great great great great grandparents stole my milk. I was really mad. So I decided to kidnap and torture them and every one of their descendants. Let it be known that I am perfectly justified in doing so. After all, you stole my milk!
Now, I really don’t want to torture any of you. It makes me sad. However, I am morally obligated to since you all stole my milk. I pride myself in being perfect and just in every way, so I can’t just not punish you when you deserve it!
Now I know this may be shocking to you, but here’s where the good news comes in! My son volunteered to be tortured and kidnapped on your behalf! Isn’t that wonderful? So I took my son and tortured him. I made him feel more pain than anyone else has felt or ever will feel combined. I whipped him, beat him, starved him, mocked him, and locked him in my basement for three days, lying and bleeding in a pool of gasoline.
But now, my thirst for punishment is quenched! I don’t have to punish you anymore! You don’t need to be tortured! Isn’t that great?
But see here, you can’t just take all of this for granted. I mean, that would be almost as bad as stealing my milk! So if you don’t want to be tortured for a really, really long time, you have to follow these rules:
- You must believe that my son was tortured despite a complete lack of evidence.
- You must write me a really nice letter every night before you go to sleep.
- You must come to my house every Saturday to tell me how great I am.
- You must invite someone else to come to my house every Saturday to tell me how great I am.
- You have to eat my son’s remains and drink his blood every other Saturday while you’re at my house telling me how great I am.
And there you have it! You just received my wonderful news! And if you follow those rules, you’ll get plenty of time to tell me how great I am in the future!
It takes religion to make people see absurdity as a reflection of divine brilliance.
(3069) Doubting Thomas contradiction
The story in John of Thomas doubting the resurrection of Jesus is inconsistent with the Gospel of Luke. In Luke, Jesus makes his first appearance to the entire group of 11 disciples (minus Judas) whereas in John, Thomas is allegedly missing from this first appearance. The following was taken from;
I just noticed something interesting. John 20:24 says:
“Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.”
Then Jesus physically presents himself and invites Thomas to touch him and Thomas believes. But wait a minute! Aren’t we told that all the disciples (minus Judas) already received a very similar physical appearance in Luke’s gospel?
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.
The Eleven includes all the disciples except for Judas (Mt. 27, Acts 1:16-22), right? Therefore, the Eleven must include Thomas. In Acts 1:13 a total of 11 names are given then in Acts 1:26 it says Matthias was added to the Eleven previously named. So it’s more probable, given Luke’s usage, that it refers to the actual number. If Thomas was already part of this very similar physical appearance of Jesus in Luke, why would he require another physical appearance in John? Notice the parallels in John 20 and Luke 24 that seem to imply it’s the same exact appearance.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
On the first day of the week,…
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.
Both appearances happen on the same “first day of the week.” Jesus says “Peace be with you.” Shows them his hands and feet/side. Disciples are overjoyed. Now if both John and Luke were talking about the same appearance but Jn. 20:24 says Thomas “was not with the disciples when Jesus came,” this generates an explicit contradiction with the Lukan story because Luke does have Thomas included there for the appearance.
So, besides the obvious contradiction, tell me why would Thomas need a second appearance which is almost exactly the same as the first one he already received in Luke? Doesn’t this point in the direction the Doubting Thomas story is just a later fictional development because it’s redundant and superfluous? If the answer to this is yes, then the statement in Jn. 21:24 “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true” is false as well.
Apparently, the author of John wanted to promote the theme that belief without evidence was superior to having evidence- ‘don’t be like Thomas, believe without seeing.’ But in so doing, he didn’t adequately read Luke to realize that Thomas was at the meeting where Jesus first revealed his resurrected glory to his disciples. Therefore the Doubting Thomas story contradicts the Gospel of Luke.
(3070) Christianity is not a recipe for ethical living
There is a canard that claims that a person who has no religious faith cannot be as moral or ethical as one who places his trust in God. This view is easily debunked by simple observation of how the religious and irreligious react to the challenges of everyday life. The following was taken from:
Two recent events have shed an illuminating light on who is and who isn’t moral in today’s world.
First, Cardinal Raymond Burke, a leader in the U.S. Catholic Church and a staunch anti-masker/vaxxer, was put on a ventilator as a result of his suffering from COVID-19. Second, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations released its latest data-rich report, warning that “unless there are rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5 degrees Celsius or even 2 degrees Celsius will be beyond reach.”
The global pandemic and the rapidly warming of our planet — these dire phenomena are, above all, deeply moral matters in that they both entail care for the well-being of others and a desire to alleviate misery and suffering.
Now, while most people assume that such a morality is grounded in religious faith, and while it is certainly true that all religions contain plenty of moral ideals, in our nation today, it is actually the most secular among us who are exhibiting a greater moral orientation — in the face of deadly threats — than the most devout among us, who are exhibiting the least.
Before proceeding, let me make it clear: When I say the “most secular among us,” I mean atheists, agnostics, people who never attend religious services, don’t think the Bible is the word of God, and don’t pray. Such self-conscious and deliberatively irreligious people are to be distinguished from the lackadaisically unaffiliated — often called “nones” — who simply don’t identify with a religion.
And by the “most devout among us” I mean religious fundamentalists who believe in God without any doubts, who attend church frequently, who consider the Bible the infallible word of God, who pray a lot, and who insist that Jesus is the only way, the only truth, and the only life. These strongly religious folks are to be distinguished from moderately religious Americans, who are generally liberal and tolerant.
Think of it like two ends of a spectrum, with one end representing the staunchly secular and the other end representing the deeply devout. Most Americans fall somewhere in the middle; both the “nones” and the moderately religious together comprise the majority of Americans. But as to those who occupy the end points of the spectrum, it is — as stated above — the affirmatively godless who are exhibiting greater moral proclivities in our nation today than the proudly pious.
We can start with the global pandemic. COVID-19 is a potentially deadly virus that has caused — and continues to cause — dire woe. Surely, to be moral in the face of such a dangerous disease is to do everything one can — within one’s limited power — to thwart it. No moral person would want to willfully spread it, bolster it, or prolong its existence. And yet, when it comes to the battle against COVID-19, it is the most secular of Americans who are doing what they can to wipe it out, while it is the most faithful among us, especially nationalistic white Evangelicals, who are keeping it alive and well. Taking the vaccine saves lives and thwarts the spread of the virus. So, too, does sheltering in place as directed and wearing protective face masks. And yet, here in the U.S., it is generally the most religious among us who refuse to adhere to such life-saving practices, while it is the most secular who most willingly comply. For example, a recent Pew study found that while only 10% of atheists said that they would definitely or probably not get vaccinated, 45% of white Evangelicals took such a position.
Consider climate change. The best available data shows that — as a direct result of human activity — we are destroying our planet. The results are already manifesting with greater and deadlier frequency: poisoned air and water, massive wildfires, stronger hurricanes, brutal mudslides, quickly melting glaciers, rising sea levels, the wanton disappearance of forests and coral reefs. Such developments do not bode well for the future; more suffering and death are on the rapidly approaching horizon. And, yet again, what do we see? It is the most staunchly secular among us who understand the science behind climate change and want to do what needs to be done in order to prevent it, while it is the most pious among us who dismiss the science and don’t want to address the dire threat. For example, a recent PRRI study found that over 80% of secular Americans accept the evidence that human activity is causing climate change — and they place addressing climate change at the top of the list of their political priorities — while only 33% of white Evangelicals accept such evidence, and thus place is towards the bottom of their list of political priorities.
But it’s not just the pandemic and climate change that illustrate this widening religious/secular moral divide. Take gun violence. Currently, more Americans die annually from firearms than automobile accidents; since 2009, there have been 255 mass shootings in the U.S.; every few hours, a child or teen dies from a gun wound. When the founders of the country passed the Second Amendment, they couldn’t have imagined the instantaneous devastation a semi-automatic rifle can do in the hands of one vicious person. And there is no question that Jesus — who taught an unmitigated message of non-violence — would denounce the existence of such weapons. And yet, who is more pro-gun in today’s America? Not the hardest of atheists. Rather, it is the most fervent of Christians. For but one example: While 77% of atheists are in favor of banning assault rifles, only 45% of white Evangelicals are.
In terms of who supports helping refugees, affordable health care for all, accurate sex education, death with dignity, gay rights, transgender rights, animal rights; and as to who opposes militarism, the governmental use of torture, the death penalty, corporal punishment, and so on — the correlation remains: The most secular Americans exhibit the most care for the suffering of others, while the most religious exhibit the highest levels of indifference.
The overall pattern remains clear: When it comes to the most pressing moral issues of the day, hard-core secularists exhibit much more empathy, compassion, and care for the well-being of others than the most ardently God-worshipping. Such a reality is necessary to expose, not simply in order to debunk the long-standing canard that religion is necessary for ethical living, but because such exposure renders all the more pressing the need for a more consciously secular citizenry, one that lives in reality, embraces science and empiricism, and supports sound policies — not prayer — as a way to make life better, safer and more humane.
The idea that human morality is a byproduct of a direct interaction with God is shown to be false by this data. Unbelievers are the most aware and committed. If Christianity was true, we would expect to see the opposite, as surely God would guide the consciousness of his followers to set an example of moral and ethical living.
(3071) Religions disqualify themselves
For a religion to survive it cannot over-define its god or over-predict what this god will do. It must keep everything murky and mysterious. If a god actually existed, none of this would be necessary and all that would be needed would be to amplify what things were plainly evident. The following was taken from:
Hypothesis: If god existed, there would be no need for any religion. Because of this, all religions must employee tactics that keep the definition of god hidden and malleable in order to hold onto their numbers and remain relevant. These efforts to adjust, explain away, hide god, manipulate followers and add unnecessary complexity eventually exposes and disqualify every religion. I say this because reality needs very little help.
Consider how humans react to objectively real things. Real things require no constant explanation, shifting of rules, conditions, apologetics or praise. It’s real, we accept it, and we move on with our lives. We don’t waste money or any other resources trying to constantly argue in favor of it, or against opponents of reality. In fact, arguments against real things (like COVID being fake) sound insipid, ignorant and are unsustainable over time. In fact, the more compounding and converging evidence in favor of something that’s real, the less complexity is needed to explain or understand it. This is the opposite of how religions work.
By their nature, religions require an opponent to slay and a reason to exist. Religions need to be supported intellectually, psychologically and financially. Because of this, religions need god to remain hidden. Think about what would happen to religion if a living breathing god showed itself. That god would, most likely, be perfect and require no go-between. However, all religions must constantly adapt and adjust to new thinking and better arguments – or they perish. The constant massaging and apologizing about mistakes, or the past, are red flags indicating holes in the fabric of that religion. Remember, any true religion would have no reason to manipulate people or outcomes.
This expensive, vigilant, oddly human and repetitive maintenance loop, that is religion, accidentally exposes the mountains of flawed logic in each religion. Every scandal, lie, mistake, apologetic, or breathless argument only serves to disqualify the religion that makes it because reality is self-evident and needs very few cheerleaders.
A true religion would need no apologetics and would encounter no resistant competition, it simply would exist as a branch of science that studies the machinations of a supernatural force that interacts with human activities.
(3072) Places mentioned in the Bible
The following map highlights all of the areas of the earth that are mentioned in the Bible:What needs to be asked is this: If a god were to make contact with humans at a point in human evolution where civilizations exist across and throughout six of seven continents (North and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, minus Antarctica), how likely is it that the breadth of Bible history will be confined to small portions of three of these continents? Why would God be confined to the limited geographical knowledge of people living in the Middle East? Why would his message be confined by the ignorance of biblical authors?
One thing that should be recognized- if a god decided to communicate with homo sapiens, the red color of the map above would encompass the entire habitable range of such humans.
(3073) Nativity anomalies
The author of the Gospel of Matthew lost focus while writing about the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus. In the following it can be seen that Joseph, unlike others, suffers no repercussions for disobeying God, the author invents a prophecy out of thin air, and he portrays Herod’s son as being inexplicably unaware of Jesus:
Having reported Herod’s monstrous command with astonishing matter-of-factness, Matthew drops the subject, thereby revealing his total lack of interest in chronological continuity, and briskly reports that Herod died two years later, after which “the angel of the Lord” appeared to Joseph in yet another dream, assuring him that it was safe for him to leave Egypt and to return to Bethlehem since “they are dead which sought the young child’s life” (Matthew 2:20). However, when Joseph finds out that Herod’s son Archelaus was reigning in his father’s place, he was not so sure about that. Afraid to return to Judea, in spite of God’s explicit assurance of safety, he decided to go to Nazareth instead. At this point, the attentive reader is in for another surprise. Unlike Zacharias, who was struck dumb for doubting the words of the angel of the Lord, Joseph was not so much as scolded.
The final destination of Nazareth provides Matthew with yet another alleged fulfillment of prophecy: Joseph settled there “that it might be fulfilled by the prophets [plural], He shall be called a Nazarene” (v. 23). There are two problems here. The first is that there is no such prophecy in the Old Testament. The second is that the city of Nazareth is not so much as mentioned. Nazareth was a despised city and the general impression one gets is that the less said about it, the better. In fact, when Philip tells Nathaniel that “we”—i.e., he and the other disciples—“have found him of whom Moses and the prophets had written”—namely—Jesus of Nazareth—the monumentally unimpressed Nathaniel replies, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). In addition to misinterpreting and mistranslating passages from the Old Testament in order to extract prophecies of the birth of Jesus from them, Matthew here manufactures one out of thin air.
Before moving on, it is worth pointing out that Joseph’s fears (and God’s warning) were groundless. Puzzlingly, the author of the Gospel of Matthew knew that perfectly well. Matthew 14:1-2 makes it very clear that Archelaus had never even heard of Jesus; and when he finally did, he thought he was John the Baptist risen from the dead. This is decidedly odd in view of the fact that, according to Matthew 2:3, when Herod heard of the birth of the king of the Jews, he was troubled and “all Jerusalem with him.” Are we being asked to believe that everybody in Jerusalem knew about the birth of Jesus, king of the Jews, except Herod’s own son and heir to the throne? And that he also knew nothing about his father’s attempt to do away with this new-born king by ordering the Slaughter of the Innocents? That would tax the credulity of even the most gullible reader. The moral is clear. The author of a Gospel really ought to refrain from telling stories which contain statements that he himself knows are false.
One thing that you would expect of a document that has been inspired by the creator of the universe is a correct and internally-consistent work. When anomalies are present as discussed above, it reveals that such inspiration did not occur, that it was a product of a fallible man, that there is no reason to see it as being anything supernatural, and, in fact, there are reasons to relegate it below other writings of the same time and place.
(3074) Ten thought patterns that trip up ex-Christians
Even after people leave Christianity, there remains some residual psychological damage that is not always easy to overcome. It usually takes some time to work though these unproductive ways of thinking. The following was taken from:
Perhaps it’s been years or even decades since you left biblical Christianity behind. You may have noticed long ago that there are human handprints all over the Good Book. It may have dawned on you that popular Christian versions of heaven would actually be hellish. You may have figured out that prayer works, if at all, at the margins of statistical significance—that Believers don’t avoid illness or live longer than people who pray to other gods or none at all. You may have clued in that Christian morality isn’t so hot and that other people have moral values too. (Shocking!) You may have decided that the God of the Bible is a jerk—or worse.
But some habits of thought are hard to break. It is a lot easier to shed the contents of Christian fundamentalism than its psychological structure.
Here are ten mental patterns that trip up many ex-Christians even when we think we’ve done the work of moving on. None of these are unique to former Christians, but they are reinforced by Bible-belief and Christian culture, which can make them particularly challenging for recovering believers.
- All or nothing thinking. In traditional Christian teachings, no sin is too small to send you to hell forever. You’re either saved or damned, headed for unthinkable bliss or unthinkable torment, with nothing in between. Jesus saves only because he was perfect. Moderate Christians are “lukewarm.”
This kind of dichotomous black-and-white thinking seeps into us directly from Bible-believing Christianity and indirectly from cultures that are steeped in Protestantism. Sports? Enjoying the activity isn’t enough; you need to be all in. No pain no gain. Work? You’re a real worker only if you get back on the computer after dinner. Bragging rights start at 60 hours per week. Political? The more absolutist your proclamations, the more you’ll gain a following.
- Good guys and bad guys. One consequence of black-white thinking is that we put people into two mental boxes—good guys and bad guys. You are either with us or against us, a patriot or a socialist, an anti-racist or a racist, one of us or one of them. Disagreement becomes synonymous with schism and heresy.When we discover the personal failings of a public figure like Bill Gates, we may move them from one box to the other, good guy to bad guy. Christianity offers no mental model in which people are complicated and imperfect but basically decent—we are just fallen (“utterly depraved” in the words of Calvin) and either washed in the blood or tools of Satan.
- Never feeling good enough. Since we are acutely aware of our own failings, it can be hard internally to stay out of the bad-guy box. Some of us toggle between “I’m awesome” and “I suck.” Others have a nagging internal critic that tells us nothing we do is ever quite good enough. After all, it isn’t perfect, and that’s the biblical standard.
- Hyperactive guilt detection. Biblical Christianity gives tremendous moral weight to all of this, and the practice of “confessing our sins one to another” turns believers into guilt-muscle body builders. We live in a world of shoulds and should-nots, and in the Protestant ethic, those daily failings are moral failings. A nagging sense of guilt can become baseline normal, with little bursts of extra guilt as we notice one thing or another that we have left undone or goals where we have fallen short.
- Sexual hangups. For many former Christians, particularly for women or queer people but also straight guys who like sex, it’s impossible to talk about guilt without talking about sex, because sexual sins are the worst of the worst. When it comes to the Bible, getting and giving sexual pleasure are more matters of temptation than of intimacy and delight. Idolatry and murder share the top 10 list with coveting your neighbor’s wife. Then there’s virgin-madonna-whore trifecta. And don’t forget God hates fags.
- Living for the future. Sexual intimacy isn’t the only kind of pleasure that biblical Christianity devalues; the consecrated life focuses broadly on the future rather than the moment. The small every-day wonders that comprise the center of joy in mindful living are mere distractions for a person who has their eye on the prize of heaven. As former believers grow convinced that each person gets one precious life, those individual moments can become treasures. But the habit of focusing on the future can make it really hard to center in the moment, breathe in, and bask in the ordinary beauties and delights around us.
- Bracing for an apocalypse. Even worse than being drawn by the lure of heaven is being braced constantly for some impending apocalypse. We may no longer expect a Rapture or the Mark of the Beast or Jesus riding in on a horse. But the idea of a cataclysmic disruption in history looms large nonetheless. A sense of nuclear doom or pandemic doom or overpopulation doom or underpopulation doom may nudge us to action or be paralyzing. Either way, the experience is very different from being driven by a sense of curiosity and discovery as we face the unknown.
- Idealizing leaders. Living in a cloud of anxiety makes us more susceptible to demagogues and authoritarians, people who exude confidence we lack, who convey that they know what’s right and true and how to solve problems. They prey on our fears and on our desire to do good and be good. They prey on our sense of ourselves as sinners and tell us how to atone. (Sound familiar?) They prey on dichotomous thinking, reinforcing our sense that people who don’t share our worldview must be evil and so must be silenced or defeated.
- Desperately seeking simplicity. Biblical Christianity tells a story about us as individuals and about human history that is clear and simple. Multi-dimensional causality? Moral ambiguity? Conflicts with no good side and bad side—just sides? Problems with no right answer? Blurry boundaries between human beings and other sentient species? No thanks!Fiction from Western cultures often mirrors and reinforces older Christian templates and tropes and specific types of oversimplification. And it’s all to easy to project these in turn onto the hard-to-parse and hard-to-solve challenges of the real world. We know deep down that things aren’t so simple, but it’s easy to act as if we live in a world of saints and sinners, elves and orcs.
- Intrusive what-ifs. And so we struggle, with new and old interpretations of reality and thought habits competing in our brains. We tell ourselves it’s ok; that we’re ok. But often nagging doubts persist. What if I’m wrong? Many years ago I told a therapist that I didn’t believe in the Christian god anymore, but I didn’t talk to anyone about it because I didn’t want to take them to hell with me. He laughed and I laughed at myself, but it also felt very real.The journey out is . . . a journey. Along the way people second guess themselves, especially if Bible-belief got inside when they were young. Years after quitting a former smoker may crave a cigarette. That doesn’t mean they were wrong to quit. It just means those synaptic connections got hardwired, soldered in place, and some of them are still there.
In the real world, growth is gnarly. It happens in fits and starts, with forward leaps and sideways turns and backward skids and times of stasis. Change is rarely linear. Flip-flopping often serves truth-seeking. Certitude is rarely a virtue. We seldom know where we are headed. Nonetheless, sometimes we can look back and say with confidence, Not that. I may not know exactly what is true and right and real, but there are some things I can rule out.
I often find myself quoting one former Bible believer who made a comment but left no name: I would rather live with unanswered questions than unquestioned answers. Embracing uncertainty about the future and the big questions frees us to live more in the small delights of the near and present—a nest of blue jays, a hug, the smell of butter on toast. That may be as good as it gets.
Christianity imparts these games on innocent minds and they tend to persist even when one no longer believes the dogma. This indicates the source for them as being influential people who devised faith rules that allowed them to control others.
(3075) Angel’s Glow
A phenomenon that occurred during the American Civil War that had been thought to be of supernatural origin turned out to have a mundane scientific explanation. This exemplifies how everything thought to be a miracle eventually surrenders to a natural resolution. The following was taken from:
The Battle of Shiloh was one of the bloodiest of the Civil War. Union forces led by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant gathered near Shiloh, Tennessee to prepare an attack into Mississippi.
However, Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston had been gathering troops in Corinth, Miss., and they launched a surprise attack on April 6, 1862, driving the Union forces back against the Tennessee River. Grant was able to hold his position, and that night he received 20,000 reinforcements led by Gen. Don Carlos Buell. The Union forces resumed the fighting the next day, and were able to force the Confederates into retreat. However, the victory was hard won, and over 20,000 causalities were amassed between the two sides.
On the night of April 7, after the fighting was over, many wounded soldiers remained in the middle of the muddy field, waiting for rescue. During the night, some of the men noticed that their open wounds began to glow in the dark, displaying a greenish-blue color.
The men had no explanation for the strange glow, but doctors soon discovered that soldiers who had reported seeing their wounds glow had a higher chance of survival than soldiers who did not. Not only that, they also seemed to have lower rates of infection. Moreover, their injuries appeared to heal much faster than their non-glowing counterparts. This unexplained healing caused the soldiers to dub the phenomenon “Angel’s Glow.”
The cause of the glow wasn’t discovered until 139 years later in 2001. That’s when 17-year-old high schooler Bill Martin toured the Battle of Shiloh and learned of the so-called Angel’s Glow. As part of a school science project, he, his mom (and microbiologist_ Phyllis, and his friend Jonathan Curtis, decided to investigate. They began by identifying types of bacteria that glow in the dark. Then, they cross-referenced these with historical records to determine if any of those same bacteria might have been present in Shiloh in 1862.
It turns out there was indeed a bioluminescent bacterium for which Shiloh was quite hospitable thanks to the presence of nematodes, which are parasitic worms that burrow into the blood vessels of larvae. Inside these nematodes is a bacterium called Photorhabdus luminescens.
Once they have found a suitable host larvae, the nematodes vomit up the bacteria, which produces a chemical that kills the host and all the surrounding microorganisms. This bacteria produces the faint green glow. Once the host has been killed and eaten, the nematodes eat the P. luminescens and begin their search for a new host.
The Martins and Curtis posited that in addition to producing the glow, the bacteria was also most likely responsible for the increased survival rate. The chemical produced by the bacteria while eating the microorganisms probably also consumed other bacteria or pathogens that might enter the wound, thus lessening the likelihood of deadly infection.
Although the bacteria cannot normally live in an environment as warm as the human body, the trio studied the conditions of the battle and concluded that, on a cool April night near swampy terrain, the nighttime temperatures by the river would have dropped low enough to cause hypothermia.
The cold and the wet conditions likely lowered the soldiers’ body temperatures enough to be hospitable to the bacteria, which then most likely entered the open wounds through the soil and survived, creating the Angel’s Glow that helped the soldiers live through the night until they could receive medical attention.
This is not the world that we should observe if Christianity was true. With gods, devils, angels, and demons flitting about, there should be many ‘miraculous’ occurrences such as Angel’s Glow that science fails to explain. There should be a long list of such phenomena that are still puzzling scientists and challenging them to find ‘solutions.’ Instead, this list is vacant.
(3076) Lazarus missing in the synoptics
Apologists have been hard pressed to explain why the most impressive miracle in the gospels, the raising of Lazarus, is not mentioned in the first three gospels that were written (Mark, Matthew, and Luke), especially considering that many of them insist that these gospels were written by Jesus’ apostles and they therefore should have been eyewitnesses to this miracle. In the following the attempts to explain this anomaly are discredited:
But this ground of doubt falls with incomparably greater weight, on the narrative of the resurrection of Lazarus in the fourth gospel. If the authors or collectors of the three first gospels knew of this, they could not, for more than one reason, avoid introducing it into their writings. For, first, of all the resuscitations effected by Jesus, nay, of all his miracles, this resurrection of Lazarus, if not the most wonderful, is yet the one in which the marvelous presents itself the most obviously and strikingly, and which therefore, if its historical reality can be established, is a pre-eminently strong proof of the extraordinary endowments of Jesus as a divine messenger; whence the Evangelists, although they had related one or two other instances of the kind, could not think it superfluous to add this also. But, secondly, the resurrection of Lazarus had, according to the representation of John, a direct influence in the development of the fate of Jesus; for we learn from xi. 47 ff., that the increased resort to Jesus, and the credit which this event procured him, led to that consultation of the Sanhedrim in which the sanguinary counsel of Caiaphas was given and approved.
Thus the event had a double importance—pragmatical as well as dogmatical; consequently, the synoptical writers could not have failed to narrate it, had it been within their knowledge. Nevertheless, theologians have found out all sorts of reasons why those Evangelists, even had the fact been known to them, should refrain from its narration. Some have been of opinion that at the time of the composition of the three first gospels, the history was still in every mouth, so that to make a written record of it was superfluous;others, on the contrary, have conjectured that it was thought desirable to guard against its further publication, lest danger should accrue to Lazarus and his family, the former of whom, according to John xii. 10, was persecuted by the Jewish hierarchy on account of the miracle which had been preformed in him; a caution for which there was no necessity at the later period at which John wrote his gospel. It is plain that these two reasons nullify each other, and neither of them is in itself worthy of a serious refutation; yet as similar modes of evading a difficulty are still more frequently resorted to than might be supposed, we ought not to think some animadversion on them altogether thrown away.
The proposition, that the resurrection of Lazarus was not recorded by the synoptists because it was generally known in their circle, proves too much; since on this rule, precisely the most important events in the life of Jesus, his baptism, death, and resurrection, must have remained unwritten.
Moreover, writings, which like our gospels, originate in a religious community, do not serve merely to make known the unknown; it is their office also to preserve what is already known. In opposition to the other explanation, it has been remarked by others, that the publication of this history among those who were not natives of Palestine, as was the case with those for whom Mark and Luke wrote, could have done no injury to Lazarus; and even the author of the first gospel, admitting that he wrote in and for Palestine, could hardly have withheld a fact in which the glory of Christ was so peculiarly manifested, merely out of consideration to Lazarus, who, supposing the more improbable case that he was yet living at the time of the composition of the first gospel, ought not, Christian as he doubtless was, to refuse to suffer for the name of Christ; and the same observation would apply to his family. The most dangerous time for Lazarus according to John xii. 10, was that immediately after his resurrection, and a narrative which appeared so long after, could scarcely have heightened or renewed this danger; besides, in the neighbourhood of Bethany and Jerusalem whence danger was threatened to Lazarus, the event must have been so well-known and remembered that nothing was to be risked by its publication.
It appears then that the resurrection of Lazarus, since it is not narrated by the synoptists, cannot have been known to them; and the question arises, how was this ignorance possible? Hase gives the mysterious answer, that the reason of this omission lies hid in the common relations under which the synoptists in general were silent concerning all the earlier incidents in Judæa; but this leaves it uncertain, at least so far as the expressions go, whether we ought to decide to the disadvantage of the fourth gospel or of its predecessors. The latest criticism of the gospel of Matthew has cleared up the ambiguity in Hase’s answer after its usual manner, determining the nature of those common relations which he vaguely adduces, thus: Every one of the synoptists, by his ignorance of a history which an apostle must have known, betrays himself to be no apostle.But this renunciation of the apostolic origin of the first gospel, does not by any means enable us to explain the ignorance of its author and his compeers of the resurrection of Lazarus. For besides the remarkable character of the event, its occurrence in the very heart of Judæa, the great attention excited by it, and its having been witnessed by the apostles,—all these considerations render it incomprehensible that it should not have entered into the general tradition, and from thence into the synoptical gospels.
It is argued that these gospels are founded on Galilean legends, i.e. oral narratives and written notices by the Galilean friends and companions of Jesus; that these were not present at the resurrection of Lazarus, and therefore did not include it in their memoirs; and that the authors of the first gospels, strictly confining themselves to the Galilean sources of information, likewise passed over the event. But there was not such a wall of partition between Galilee and Judæa, that the fame of an event like the resurrection of Lazarus could help sounding over from the one to the other.
Even if it did not happen during a feast time, when (John iv. 45) many Galileans might be eye-witnesses, yet the disciples, who were for the greater part Galileans, were present (v. 16), and must, so soon as they returned into Galilee after the resurrection of Jesus, have spread abroad the history throughout this province, or rather, before this, the Galileans who kept the last passover attended by Jesus, must have learned the event, the report of which was so rife in the city. Hence even Lücke finds this explanation of Gabler’s unsatisfactory; and on his own side attempts to solve the enigma by the observation, that the original evangelical tradition, which the synoptists followed, did not represent the history of the Passion mainly in a pragmatical light, and therefore gave no heed to this event as the secret motive of the murderous resolve against Jesus, and that only John, who was initiated into the secret history of the Sanhedrim, was in a condition to supply this explanatory fact.
This view of the case would certainly appear to neutralize one reason why the synoptists must have noticed the event in question, namely, that drawn from its pragmatical importance; but when it is added, that as a miracle regarded in itself, apart from its more particular circumstances, it might easily be lost among the rest of those narratives from which we have in the three first gospels a partly accidental selection,—we must reply, that the synoptical selection of miracles appears to be an accidental one only when that is at once assumed which ought first to be proved: namely, that the miracles in the fourth gospel are historical: and unless the selection be casual to a degree inconsistent with the slightest intelligence in the compilers, such a miracle cannot have been overlooked.
The logical conclusion is that the raising of Lazarus did not happen. It was not meant to convey an historical event, but rather to make a theological statement. Obviously, this casts suspicion on all of the other miracles documented in the gospels.
(3077) Jesus was not a good Christian
Most Christians have an image of Jesus as being loving, compassionate, understanding, and a big proponent of family values. All it takes is to study the gospels to dispel this portrayal. Jesus was a decidedly poor example of how today’s Christians believe Christians should behave. The following was taken from:
While Jesus is generally thought of as being kind, considerate and forgiving, there is another side to him that is rarely mentioned. Contrary to popular perception Jesus is a warmonger, racist, a proponent of thought crime, a defender of the Old Testament, a believer in devils, someone who made failed prophecies and a man who threw hissy fits when he didn’t get his way.
Jesus is view as the Prince of Peace, as an inspirational pacifist. However, Jesus himself seems to have disagreed with this view. He declared
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:34-37)
Jesus the war maker? This seems to completely contradict the traditional view of Jesus as something close to a hippie. Instead he seems to be someone who invites and desires hatred. I mean he’s telling people that they must hate their families. Why? Who does that? Isn’t religion supposed to be about family values? Just in case you think this is a one off quote (unlikely in the supposedly perfect and divinely written Bible) Luke 14:26 and Luke 12:51-3 also have similar passages quoting Jesus telling his followers they must hate their families. I’m sorry but that’s a pretty jerkish thing to do. This sounds less like a peaceful and kind Jesus, and more like an arrogant, egomaniac warmongering thug.
Jesus said that lusting after a woman was the same as committing adultery. “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) Not only is this daft, (there is obviously a huge difference between thinking something and actually doing it) but it is also an attempt to penalise thought crime. Not only are your actions controlled by religion but so are your thoughts. This is horrendous. The most important freedom we have is freedom of thought, yet Jesus himself his attempting to punish this. I bet you never thought Jesus spoke like an Orwellian character from 1984?
Whenever I criticize the Old Testament for justifying genocide, sexism, homophobia, racism etc, I am told, well that doesn’t count, Jesus replaced the old laws. However, he made it clear that his job was not to replace the old law but to work with them. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” (Matthew 5:17) He rarely criticized the Old Testament and in fact agreed with some of the old barbaric stories such as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the mass extermination of Noah’s Flood (Matthew 10:14-5) (Luke 17:26-32) .
Jesus was also bit of a racist. In Matthew 15:22-8 a woman asks Jesus to heal her daughter, but Jesus refuses to even speak with her as she is a Canaanite declaring he has only been sent to help the Israelis. She continued to beg him and he compared her to a dog. Only after she continued to grovel and called herself a dog looking for scraps, then he helped her. This is disgusting bigotry from the last place you would have expected it.
When I used to go to Mass I would be bored out of my mind by the sermons that were so meaningless and useless in the real world, that I would forget them almost instantly. However, there is one I remember for its mixture of the bizarre and the barbaric. It is Matthew 18:8-9 (also told in Matthew 5:30 and Mark 9:43-48),
“If thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.”
What the Hell does that mean? Are we supposed to self-mutilate? Even if it is a metaphor, what sort of metaphor involves chopping off our limbs? Perhaps it means we should cut off our unholy actions and habits, but it could also mean we should cut off our unholy friends and colleagues. This language is disturbingly similar to that used to justify a purge. Tyrants have often claimed its better to kill a couple thousand people rather than see the whole country suffer. This language has been used to defend genocide, so it is disturbing to hear it from Jesus’ mouth.
Jesus also made terrible prophecies about his return. He openly stated that his second coming would occur during the lifetime of his listeners. “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27) This failed prophecy is quietly brushed over when discussing Jesus and it’s only the fundamentalist Christians who are still waiting for the Second Coming, the other churches know it’s not going to happen.
He is known for his quotes to help the poor, but these are contradicted by his quotes that said that God will make the rich richer and the poor poorer. “For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.” (Mark 4:25, Matthew 13:12, Matthew 25:29)
Jesus believed that illness was caused by devils trapped inside people (for the Son of God he was a bit of an idiot). This nonsense set the medical world back centuries and for the next 1500 doctors treat patients in the daft belief that they were not ill but rather possessed by devils. As a result countless people unnecessarily suffered. Good job Jesus.
Jesus said a lot of silly stuff about prayer. He claimed that “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” Matthew 17:20 Now this is obviously silly drivel. Even the most religious person can’t move a mountain and in fact studies show prayer is completely useless. Some claim prayer has saved lives, but these miracles always seem to happen in the presence of well trained doctors and quality healthcare.
He made a lot of outlandish claims which are obviously untrue (it’s funny how quick Christians are to claim that they are only metaphors) He claimed that “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. “Mark 16:17-18 Need I point out that Christians cannot speak new tongues simply by being Christians? Or handle snakes? Or heal magically people?
Jesus was prone to throw hissy fits and temper tantrums. One day (according to Matthew 21:19 and Mark 11:13-4) he saw a fig tree and decided to take some figs. However, it wasn’t the right time of the year so there were no figs on the tree. So Jesus threw a temper tantrum like a little child. He cursed the tree and made it barren so that no figs would ever grow there again. Real mature Jesus.
A town rejected Jesus and instead of winning them over with love, compassion and a few miracles, Jesus loses his temper and curses them to be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 11:21-4, Mark 6:11, Luke 10:10-5). So if he doesn’t get his way he exterminates entire cities including innocent men, women and children. Remind me why do we think this guy is so great?
Jesus has an enormous influence on many people’s lives. Even non-religious people generally think he was a pretty great guy. In fact he wasn’t. He was just as narrow minded and ignorant as the Church is (they obviously got it from somewhere). He was not the great teacher and peaceful man he is often made out to be. Instead he told silly stories and preached dangerous nonsense that didn’t help us and probably made us worse off.
The best way for Christians to see Jesus as an exemplary Christian is to keep their bibles locked up in a drawer. Otherwise, they will encounter a lot of cognitive dissonance. The image of Jesus painted by clergy and evangelists is inconsistent with what is written in the gospels. Jesus was a poor Christian.
(3078) Zero energy
Victor Stenger’s essay in Christopher Hitchens’ anthology The Portable Atheist explains why the universe does not necessarily require a creator. This puts pressure on the common Christian apologetic claim that something cannot come from nothing and that therefore a creator is necessary. He explains that the universe appears to have the qualities consistent with an initial state of zero energy. The following are excerpts from this essay:
“In the Comprehensible Cosmos, I presented a specific scenario for the purely natural origin of the universe, worked out mathematically at a level accessible to anyone with an undergraduate mathematics or physics background. This was based on the ‘no boundary model’ of James Hartle and Stephen Hawking. In that model, the universe has no beginning or end in space or time. In the scenario I presented, our universe is described as having ‘tunneled’ through the chaos at the Planck time from a previous universe that existed for all previous time.
“While he avoided technical details in ‘A Brief History of Time’, the no boundary model was the basis of Hawkings oft-quoted statement: “So long as the universe had a beginning, , we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning or end, it simply would be. What place then, for a creator?
“Prominent physicists and cosmologists have published, in reputable scientific journals (Nature, Physical Review, General Relativity and Gravitation), a number of other scenarios by which the universe could have come about “from nothing” naturally. None can be ‘proved’ at this time to represent the exact way the universe appeared, but they serve to illustrate that any argument for the existence of God based on this gap in scientific knowledge fails, since plausible natural mechanisms can be given within the framework of existing knowledge.”
[For those that wish to argue the First Law of Thermodynamics, that energy must come from somewhere, Stenger brilliantly acknowledges that matter did not have to exist at the beginning of the universe, and actually is perfectly balanced mathematically between negative and positive gravitational energy]:
“Remarkably, the total energy of the universe appears to be ZERO. As famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking said in his best seller ‘A Brief History of Time’: “In the case of a universe that is approximately uniform in space, one can show that the negative gravitational energy exactly cancels the positive energy represented by the matter. So the total energy of the universe is zero.” The mean energy density of the universe is exactly what it should be for a universe that appeared from an initial state of zero energy.”
This is another example of science intruding into theological territory where theism struggles to survive inside the gaps of human knowledge. These gaps continue to narrow or disappear as science relentlessly gains ground in this centuries-old tussle.
(3079) Jesus wasn’t the Son of God
All it takes is a casual reading of the gospels to realize that Jesus as he is portrayed could not have been the Son of God, or God himself, and yet have stumbled on so many important issues. The following was taken from:
Have you ever wondered why there is no Gospel of Jesus? Surely if Jesus was sent to Earth to teach humans a new testament he would write it down? He would have to be an idiot to think that it would be best to leave it to unknown people decades after his death to record his sayings. Obviously parts of the story will be lost or changed in the retelling; it’s obvious that it’s best to hear it from the original source. Why didn’t he give clear rules and guidelines instead of vague parables? In fact, for someone who supposedly planned to set up the world’s largest religion, he did next to no actual planning. There is only one or two vague quotes from the Bible that imply Jesus even wanted to set up a new religion. He gave no advice on how this religion should be run or rules about it and as a result there are roughly 41,000 branches of Christianity. He should have seen that coming.
I think it’s strange that Jesus didn’t particularly act like the son of God. Instead he resembled an ordinary guy. Nothing particularly happened in the first 30 years of his life, it was normal and uneventful (why did the Son of God have to be born couldn’t he just descend from Heaven? It would be faster and more impressive than being born like a mere mortal). He then spent his time in tiny villages, performing petty magic tricks (convincing drunk people that a glass of water is wine isn’t an achievement) and praying (what was the point of praying, didn’t he already know he was the Son of God?) He didn’t visit the great centres of civilisation where most the world’s population lived and could have properly recorded his words and deeds. In fact the saviour of the world mainly stayed in a tiny and insignificant province. Are you telling me that is what the Son of God would do?
He told parables that had little meaning and have been mostly forgotten now. He did not declare any great scientific, cultural, social or medical principles or advance humanity at all. He did not condemn the great evils that have plagued humanity like slavery, racism, sexism, famine, poverty etc. Nothing that has been claimed about him hasn’t also been claimed about pretty much every other deity. He didn’t settle the question of what was the one religion, instead left us to fight countless wars over it. He was a simple man who told little stories, had some friends and toured the neighbouring villages. That was all. It wasn’t great, he wasn’t the Son of God, and he didn’t have magical powers.
The Jesus of the gospels does not even come close to what we would expect if a god-man actually visited our planet. It is time to say ‘next’ and wait for someone who can actually fill the bill.
(3080) Opening the floodgates
In the following, biblical scholar Bart Ehrman recounts how a single sliver of doubt led to a cascading realization that the Bible was not inerrant, and was, in fact, not even close to being so. This eventually led him down the path to agnosticism. The following was taken from:
A turning point came in my second semester, in a course I was taking with a much revered and pious professor named Cullen Story. The course was on the exegesis of the Gospel of Mark, at the time (and still) my favorite Gospel. For this course we needed to be able to read the Gospel of Mark completely in Greek (I memorized the entire Greek vocabulary of the Gospel the week before the semester began); we were to keep an exegetical notebook on our reflections on the interpretation of key passages; we discussed problems in the interpretation of the text; and we had to write a final term paper on an interpretive crux of our own choosing. I chose a passage in Mark 2, where Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees because his disciples had been walking through a grain field, eating the grain on the Sabbath. Jesus wants to show the Pharisees that “Sabbath was made for humans, not humans for the Sabbath” and so reminds them of what the great King David had done when he and his men were hungry, how they went into the Temple “when Abiathar was the high priest” and ate the show bread, which was only for the priests to eat. One of the well-known problems of the passage is that when one looks at the Old Testament passage that Jesus is citing (1 Sam. 21:1-6), it turns out that David did this not when Abiathar was the high priest, but, in fact, when Abiathar’s father Ahimelech was. In other words, this is one of those passages that have been pointed to in order to show that the Bible is not inerrant at all but contains mistakes.
In my paper for Professor Story, I developed a long and complicated argument to the effect that even though Mark indicates this happened “when Abiathar was the high priest,” it doesn’t really mean that Abiathar was the high priest, but that the event took place in the part of the scriptural text that has Abiathar as one of the main characters. My argument was based on the meaning of the Greek words involved and was a bit convoluted. I was pretty sure Professor Story would appreciate the argument, since I knew him as a good Christian scholar who obviously (like me) would never think there could be anything like a genuine error in the Bible. But at the end of my paper he made a simple one-line comment that for some reason went straight through me. He wrote: “Maybe Mark just made a mistake.” I started thinking about it, considering all the work I had put into the paper, realizing that I had had to do some pretty fancy exegetical footwork to get around the problem, and that my solution was in fact a bit of a stretch. I finally concluded, “Hmm… maybe Mark did make a mistake.”
Once I made that admission, the floodgates opened. For if there could be one little, picayune mistake in Mark 2, maybe there could be mistakes in other places as well. Maybe, when Jesus says later in Mark 4 that the mustard seed is “the smallest of all seeds on the earth,” maybe I don’t need to come up with a fancy explanation for how the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds when I know full well it isn’t. And maybe these “mistakes” apply to bigger issues. Maybe when Mark says that Jesus was crucified the day after the Passover meal was eaten (Mark 14:12; 15:25) and John says he died the day before it was eaten (John 19:14) – maybe that is a genuine difference. Or when Luke indicates in his account of Jesus’s birth that Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth just over a month after they had come to Bethlehem (and performed the rites of purification; Luke 2:39), whereas Matthew indicates they instead fled to Egypt (Matt. 2:19-22) – maybe that is a difference. Or when Paul says that after he converted on the way to Damascus he did not go to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before him (Gal. 1:16-17), whereas the book of Acts says that that was the first thing he did after leaving Damascus (Acts 9:26) – maybe that is a difference.
This exemplifies the difference between faith and investigation. Christians are taught to have faith that the Bible is inerrant and they are discouraged from evaluating this assertion on their own. But once a crack develops and a seed of doubt is sown, the walls of faith begin to crumble and, finally, they can see the Bible as the deeply flawed work that it is.
(3081) Most powerful argument against Christianity
God’s failure to make his existence known to an impartial, objective observer is the most damning evidence against Christianity. Efforts to explain this problem don’t just fail; they fail spectacularly. The following was taken from:
Why is evidence for God so sparse? If God wants a relationship with us and knows that hell awaits those who don’t know him, why doesn’t he make his existence obvious? I’ve always found this Problem of God’s Hiddenness to be the most powerful argument against Christianity.
The Wintery Knight blog cites Prof. Michael Murray, who argues that God’s hands are tied. He just can’t reveal too much:
God places a higher value on people having the free will to respond to him, and if he shows too much of himself he takes away their free choice to respond to him, because once he is too overt about his existence, people will just feel obligated to [believe] in him in order to avoid being punished.
But that’s not how belief works. There might be benefits to belief, but that’s not why you believe. You believe if and only if you have convincing evidence. When you’re convinced, then you believe. This, by the way, is the failure of Pascal’s Wager (“I’ll believe in God, just in case, so that if he exists I’ll go to the Good Place when I die”).
Murray claims that God wants us to desire to know him and then reach out to connect rather than act out of fear of what will happen if we get on his bad side (which sounds like a tricky juggling act).
If it is too obvious to us that God exists and that he really will judge us, then people will respond to him and behave morally out of self-preservation.
On this topic, Christian apologist Greg Koukl is an unlikely ally in our fight for reason. He rejects this argument from free will by noting that in the Bible, God did appear to people, precisely what apologists like Murray say God refuses to do. God appeared as smoke and fire to the Israelites during the Exodus. Jesus did miracles, he healed people, he multiplied food, he controlled nature, and he raised the dead.
And consider the apostles—did witnessing the miracles of Jesus make their belief and love counterfeit? Did Paul’s Damascus road experience disqualify him from being a proper believer? (If not, then how about some of that evidence for us today?)
Because of Jesus, was the free will of everyone in Palestine violated, with many turned into mindless robots who said nothing but, “I . . . love . . . Jesus”? No, the Bible makes clear that belief in God doesn’t coerce one to follow God. John 6:66 says, “Many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” Or consider the authorities who acknowledged that Jesus raised Lazarus—they still plotted to kill him. All the angels believe in God, and yet a third of them rebelled.
The Bible itself makes clear that being convinced of God’s existence and being compelled to worship him are two very different things. And the problem of God’s hiddenness remains. Clearly free will and overwhelming evidence can coexist.
The free will argument above was just a tangent to the main question, raised by skeptic Matt. Here is his version of the Problem of Divine Hiddenness: nonresistant unbelief exists. This is unbelief by honest seekers who are eager to know God but reject God’s existence for lack of evidence. Assuming that God desires to have a relationship with us, merely knowing that the other person exists is the mandatory first step in a relationship. God’s existence should be obvious to these seekers and yet it isn’t. This is easily explained by concluding that God doesn’t exist.
Koukl pushed back by observing that, in his Bible examples, not everyone believed. People had miracles done in front of them, and yet they still didn’t believe—so much for the compelling power of evidence.
First, let’s clarify what “believed” means. According to the stories, everyone believed that miracles had been done, so Koukl presumably means that not everyone became a Christian. Let’s then be careful to distinguish these two very different kinds of “believe”: “I accept that God exists” vs. “I worship God.”
Second, he’s probably right that not everyone would believe if God made his existence plain today, but that’s a helluva lot more evidence than we have now. Maybe not everybody, but surely millions or even billions more would be convinced and believe if God made his existence clear. Matt’s argument about nonresistant unbelief would be gone, but God apparently has no interest in making that happen.
Koukl complains about what would happen if God made himself plainly known, but God already has made himself plainly known (just not to everyone), according to his own argument. Jesus did miracles to prove his divinity, and Koukl will tell you he has gotten compelling evidence of God’s existence. Sounds like more souls for God, so how can he defend God not showing himself? This looks much more like God isn’t there rather than that he’s just playing games we can’t understand.
Apologists are burdened with a Bible that is no more convincing than other ancient religious writing. If God made himself apparent so that Christianity were the only religion backed by a real god, you can be sure that Christians’ pious handwaving about the importance of faith would go out the window, and they would gleefully point to the only obvious deity—theirs—that proved that they had been right all along. It’s not that Christians dismiss evidence; it’s that they don’t have any to speak of.
Let’s make clear what compelling evidence for God would look like. This wouldn’t simply be the clouds parting one day just as you wondered if God existed. It wouldn’t be unexpectedly coming across a photo of a beloved relative who had died and feeling an emotional connection. I’m talking about something really compelling—something like everyone in the world having the same dream the same night in which God simply and clearly summarized his plan. Could that be dismissed as alien technology or mind-control drugs rather than God? Perhaps, but this evidence would be vastly more compelling than the feeble arguments apologists must work with today.
Koukl complains that this wouldn’t be a perfect plan, but what does he propose that’s better? The skeptic’s demand for evidence is quite reasonable.
The probability that an omnipotent god who (allegedly) vigorously interacted with humans in very open, palpable ways in the past would then retreat into utter silence as the means of communication and methods of documenting events became more robust is virtually zero. This is the most damaging evidence against Christianity- the god of the Bible and the god of the present day are two different animals.
(3082) Visual depiction of the Bible’s depravity
This painting by the French artist Léon Comerre, entitled “The Flood of Noah and Companions,” shows a hypothetical but wholly realistic scene of desperation and death associated with the biblical story of the Flood. It should be incumbent on Christians, particularly those who take the entire Bible literally, to look at this image and try to maintain their belief in a benevolent god.
It should be acknowledged that a holy book associated with an actual (non-evil) god would most definitely not contain a story (fictional or not) that could be legitimately pictured as this macabre scene, as people and other animals cling to the final piece of high ground before dying in the most painful and traumatic way possible.
(3083) The slavery verses
Christians often bristle at the accusation that the Bible supports slavery. All sorts of rationalizations have been floated to deflect the criticism. But in the following, where the verses related to slavery are listed in chronological order, the impact is unmistakable- the Bible supports the practice of human trafficking, something that has become abhorrent in modern times.
I recently read “Slavery: Scriptural and Statistical” by Thornton Stringfellow.
In it, he makes a very compelling argument that the Bible not only endorses, but instructs slavery. Each time I came upon a reference, I read the context of the several chapters surrounding it. Below you will find a list of these Biblical references organized chronologically. Alongside each there is a short description of what the reference says.
Patriarchal Age : the period of time stretching from Noah, until the law was given to Abraham’s posterity at Mount Sinai
Genesis 9:18-27 — Noah (the only righteous man on earth) decrees that his son Ham and his descendants shall be slaves. (This is punishment for Ham’s crime of seeing his father naked)
Genesis 12:5 — Abram (God’s anointed prophet) purchased slaves in Harran.
Genesis 16:1-9 — Sarai’s slave fled after being mistreated. God’s angel instructs her to return and submit to her mistress anyway.
Genesis 17:12-13 — All males must be circumcised, including those who were bought.
Genesis 20:14 — Abraham (God’s anointed prophet) happily accepts slaves as a gift.
Genesis 47:13-26 — Joseph purchases the entire population of Egypt for the Pharaoh, making them his servants for life.
Exodus 12:43-45 — God instructs Moses and Aaron that their slaves may only eat food at the passsover meal after they have been circumcised.
Legal Dispensation : the period of time from the giving of the law until the coming of Christ
Exodus 20:17 — God provides a list of belongings which are not to be coveted, including servants (implying that they are property).
Exodus 21:2-6 — Israeli slaves must be set free after 7 years unless you trick them into wanting to stay by giving them a wife.
Exodus 21:7-11 — How your daughter must be treated after you sell her into slavery.
Exodus 21:20-21 — You may beat your slaves as long as they do not die within a couple days of the beating.
Exodus 21:26-27 — You have to let your slave go free if you destroy their eye or knock out one of their teeth.
Exodus 22:2-3 — A theif must pay restituion. If unable, he himself is to be sold.
Leviticus 19:20-21 — God tells Moses and Aaron what to do with a man who sleeps with another man’s female slave.
Leviticus 22:10-11 — A priest’s hired servant may not eat the sacred offering, but his slaves can.
Leviticus 25:44-46 — You may buy slaves from the nations around you and bequeath them to your children as inherited property (except if they’re Israelites).
Numbers 31 — After the Israelites conquer the Midianites, Moses orders the execution of everyone except the virgin girls (including the male children). God then instructs Moses on how the 32,000 virgins are to be divvied up and given to the Israelites as their property.
Deuteronomy 15:12-18 — Free your Hebrew slaves every 6 years. Do not consider this a hardship because their service was worth twice as much as a hired hand.
Deuteronomy 20:10-11 — When attacking a city, offer them the option of being your slaves rather than being slaughtered.
Joshua 9 — Joshua “saves” the Gibeonites from being slain by the Israelites. Instead, he makes them slaves to the Israelites in perpetuity.
Gospel Dispensation : the period of time from the coming of Christ to the end of time
Luke 17:7-10 — Jesus says servants (i.e. slaves) should know their place and not expect thanks for the duties they are required to perform.
Ephesians 6:5-8 — Slaves are to obey their masters as they would obey Christ.
Colossians 3:22 — Paul tells the slaves of Colosse to “obey your earthly masters.”
Colossians 4:1 — Paul says masters should be fair to their slaves. (Tacitly endorsing the existence of slaves and masters)
1 Timothy 6:1-2 — Slaves should consider their masters worthy of full respect.
Titus 2:9-10 — In his letter, Paul instructs Titus to teach slaves to be obedient.
1 Peter 2:18 — Slaves, submit to your masters; even the harsh ones.
There is little room to debate whether these references to slavery point to something different than what has existed worldwide until about 200 years ago. Either Yahweh supports slavery, or the Bible does not reflect his values, or Yahweh is fictional….Christians, that’s all of the possibilities- now take your pick.
(3084) DNA speaks
DNA tells a story of the inter-relationship between living organisms. To an objective person, it destroys the concept of creationism. The following was taken from:
Like fingerprints, the patterns recognizable in [certain sections of DNA] are unique to individuals. They are similar in relatives, and less similar in distant relatives. This is the basis of DNA fingerprinting. And since these sequences are passed down from parent to child, finding the same sequence in the same place in two different organisms is direct evidence that the two organisms have a common ancestor. Biologists have used this idea to demonstrate exactly how different species are genetically related.
If all life is genetically related, then species that are closer to humans on the evolutionary tree (based on physical characteristics) should also share a higher percentage of DNA compared with species that are less similar. Sure enough, we now know that humans share approximately 99.5% of genes with other humans, 98% of genes with chimpanzees, 93% with monkeys, 92% with mice, 90% with cats, 84% with dogs, 80% with cows, 60% with chickens, 44% with fruit flies, 26% with yeast, 18% with plants, and 7% with bacteria. Creationism couldn’t have predicted that we would share any genes with other species, much less that the percentage of shared genes would align with the evolutionary tree.
The only way out of this problem for creationists is to propose that God deliberately engineered the DNA for various species to make it look as though they had evolved in a natural process. If this is true, God is a deceptive trickster, designing the genetic blueprint in a way that causes many intelligent people to think that he likely doesn’t exist, thereby consigning them to a fiery afterlife.
Although creationism would be sufficient to demonstrate the existence of a god, it is not necessary. However, the ‘patient god theory,’ that God was willing to wait billions of years before lifeforms had evolved into a structure mimicking his ‘image,’ is a bit far-fetched. Christians who believe in evolution have to keep these two concepts in separate locations of their brains. If they were to overlap, the combustion would ignite an explosive case of cognitive dissonance.
(3085) Satan is double fictional
The Bible’s characterization of Satan is wildly unrealistic. Even for a fictional narrative, the process of building a unique, three-dimensional character with depth, personality, and clear motivations is expected of competent authors. But in the Bible, the development of the ‘prince of darkness’ is a pathetic failure. Satan becomes a fictional individual operating in a fictional theater (he’s double-fictional). The following was taken from:
So this guy lives with God since – well, we don’t know. A long time. Possibly even forever. Perpetually surrounded by the glory of the Creator of the universe, no other being has more direct exposure to the unveiled splendor and terrible majesty of the King of Kings. Who has been more illuminated to the nature of the Supreme Being, and who has been better endowed to understand the utter futility of rebelling against such an unbeatable entity?
Regardless, Lucifer, along with 1/3 of the angels in Heaven, decides it’s worth a shot. Unsurprisingly, he loses, and the stupid stunt sees him cast down and consigned to Hell.
Still having not learned his lesson, Satan decides to provoke God again by successfully tempting his image bearers and causing the Fall of Man. If by this point Satan still hadn’t understood he cannot win, God reiterates via prophecy that he’s definitely going to lose.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
- Genesis 3:15
Later, Satan – somehow still oblivious to the fact God knows and controls everything anyway – challenges God to a bet regarding Job. Predictably, Satan loses this as well.
The dense dragon has learned little by the New Testament. Around this time, his minions are busy making him look bad by picking on kids and leading people directly toward his nemesis. In possibly his least effective plan yet, Satan tempts Jesus with paltry earthly kingdoms they both know already belong to God anyway. As everyone but the dark lord himself could foresee, this plan also fails.
“Think of it! The devil – the prince of sharpers – the king of cunning – the master of finesse, trying to bribe God with a grain of sand that belonged to God!
Is there in all the religious literature of the world anything more grossly absurd than this?”
- Robert G. Ingersoll
We are told by Christians that Satan is supposed to know and understand scripture to the point where he can manipulate it with unparalleled cunning. We see him twisting God’s words both in the garden and during Christ’s temptation. We are expected to believe this Devil is an expert scholar of the book that specifically mentions him by name and explains how he will definitely lose, yet in light of this elects to continue his folly and amplify his guaranteed punishment.
“Is it possible the Devil was such an idiot?”
- Robert G. Ingersoll
This crafty, conniving trickster, this terrible, scheming enemy of God and mankind, seems to be an idiot. Even to this day, Satan seems incapable of grasping the obvious truth that opposing the unopposable is impossible. His apparent inability to realize the futility of rebelling against the God he has known face to face since before the creation of the world makes him more stupid even than lowly humans, who, without the advantage of having ever beheld God directly, prove capable of understanding an omnipotent God by definition cannot not be bested. If these events were true, the decision of Satan to rebel against an unbeatable god who he was in perfectly good standing with was not only foolish, it remains the stupidest decision any conscious being has ever made.
What then is to be feared regarding this perennial loser? In what way is this being, wholly subservient to God’s designs, intimidating in the least? If the universe will always operate according to God’s plan, the idea of an antagonist attempting to disrupt those plans is absurd. None has ever been better equipped to understand this than the antagonist himself.
“I ask myself the question, “How could angels possibly rebel?” I mean, what were they rebelling against: an absolutely holy God, an absolutely blissful situation? They had intelligence. They looked at the situation that they existed in. They must have seen that it was an absolutely glorious situation. They had the ability to communicate. They had the ability to respond to God, and God to respond to them. They had emotions. They spent their time praising God. They were creatures who were responsible, they weren’t robots. They were intelligent, emotional. They had will, as evidenced by their choice. But they rebelled. I don’t know why.”
- Pastor John F. MacArthur
The truth of Christianity somewhat hangs in the balance on whether Satan is a real individual. If he is fictional then a lot of the Bible’s credibility suffers alongside. And the inconsistencies in how he is portrayed strongly suggest that he is not a real thing.
(3086) Questioning gospel sources
Christians read the gospels like they read the newspaper, assuming that everything in it is accurate, well-sourced information. But there are serious questions about how the gospel authors could have learned of the details they documented. The following was taken from:
Another question needs to be asked. From whom did the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke get their information about these alleged events? McDowell (Ready, 187-90) and Geisler (ST, 461-93 and I Don’t, 251-74) confidently assert that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses. Were they? As we have seen, the author of Luke admits that he was not an eyewitness and that he got his information from people who were? So, in the case of the birth of Jesus, that leaves the author of Matthew. Who were his sources?
Actually, a long list of very specific questions needs to be asked. Precisely who told him about the star, the magi, the house where Jesus was found, the meeting between the magi and Herod, his jealousy and rage, his order to kill all male children under the age of two, the dreams, the warnings, etc.? Who was present when Herod issued the command to kill all male infants under the age of two? It certainly could not have been Matthew (or whoever wrote the Gospel ascribed to him). Was somebody else eavesdropping in Herod’s palace and taking notes? If so, who was it? Moreover, such a command could not possibly have been issued and carried out without there being some record of it. So there had to be some kind of document. What did it say? Who read it? What happened to it? Why did every ancient historian fail to mention it?
The same questions need to be asked about the author of Luke. His story is so familiar that few readers pause to reflect about how strange it is and to ponder the many questions it raises. Precisely who told him about the shepherds, what the angel told them, how they reacted, and what they said to each other afterwards, namely, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us” (v.15)? These words were allegedly spoken by the shepherds “abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.” Unfortunately, we are not told who else was out there “abiding in the field” and close enough to hear what they said, so they could later report it to the author of Luke’s Gospel. Was somebody out there all night long keeping the shepherds under twenty-four hour surveillance? Was somebody also present at the nativity scene jotting down who came to worship the newborn king of the Jews? If so, who was it? If not, who imparted this information to the author of Luke?
Other questions deserve answers. What became of the sheep after the shepherds abandoned them or, for that matter, of the shepherds themselves if they had been hired by somebody to watch over the sheep and later found themselves called upon to explain why they had abandoned their charges and disappeared into the dead of night in search of a newborn king whose birth had been reported to them by a “heavenly host” which had illuminated the entire sky but yet had been seen them alone? Furthermore, what was the purpose of the angelic apparition to the shepherds? The obvious answer is: to proclaim the birth of Jesus. Luke explicitly says that the shepherds, having seen Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, “made known abroad” the birth of this child. He adds that “all who heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds” (v. 17-18). But if that is true, why does Matthew say that it was the magi who first reported the birth of Jesus and that their news “troubled” Herod and “all Jerusalem with him”? What happened to all the people who had allegedly heard about it from the shepherds? Furthermore, why was the announcement made to them in a deserted field in the middle of the night? Why not publicly, openly, and before masses of people? The privacy of the story—bordering on secrecy—is suspicious: dreams (in the case of Joseph and the magi) and angelic visitations to solitary individuals (in the case of Zacharias, Mary, and Joseph) with not a single corroborating witness. These are precisely the circumstances and lack of confirming evidence one would expect if the entire story were a legend.
Questions like these should not be dismissed as the idle quibbles of an irritating troublemaker bent on “picking the Bible apart.” They are precisely the kinds of questions that need to be asked if we are ever to make even minimal sense of these stories. When Lieutenant Colombo or Detective Chief Inspectors Morse or Tennison closely interrogate a suspect, they are not trying to be irritating or difficult; they are trying to construct and piece together a coherent account of the matter under investigation. They cannot rest content with generalities and vagaries. However, if anybody closely examines the synoptic Gospels—the birth of Jesus in particular—they will be accused of doing precisely that. They will also be accused of spoiling the story and destroying its beauty and simplicity. What these defenders of the Gospels fail to see is that the beauty and simplicity depend on hushing up the details. Nor do they see that it is they rather than critical readers who are not taking the Gospels seriously. If a scrutiny of details destroys the beauty and simplicity of a story, then its beauty and simplicity were much too fragile and hence not worth preserving. Such defenders of the Gospels are like amateur historians who like to chatter about “the ancient Greeks and Romans” and grow irritated the minute a real historian asks for specific names, dates and places. If such people are make-believe historians, such Christians are make-believe students of the New Testament.
It seldom occurs to readers of the synoptic Gospels to ask these kinds of questions. The fault is not completely theirs. They have excellent role models. It apparently never occurred to the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke either. Having written their very different, inconsistent, and wholly undocumented accounts of the birth of Jesus, it never occurred to them—as it surely would have to responsible Greek historians like Herodotus and Thucydides, responsible Jewish historians like Josephus, and responsible Roman historians like Tacitus, Seutonius, Pliny, and Galen—to provide posterity with some reason for thinking that what they said is true beyond their having said so.
When you believe in magic, there is always a get-of-jail card, and Christians can simply claim that the Holy Spirit provided the gospel authors with all of the necessary information. Certainly, that is possible, but one major refutation of that theory is that the gospels contradict themselves on many important points. It is hard to imagine the Holy Spirit being so incompetent.
(3087) Deism is the only rational theism
If we do live in a theistic universe, then an easy thought process renders a conclusion that any real gods cannot be the ones enshrined by the world’s religions and instead are likely to be distant and aloof, such that they have not interfered in the workings of our planet or, presumably, other life-bearing planets as well. This form of theism is called deism. The following was taken from:
It’s irrational to believe that the All-Powerful Creator of the Universe would stake the eternal fate of humanity on words that had to be memorized and transmitted orally or written on parchment and animal skins.
Furthermore, it is utterly irrational that the Creator of the Universe and the Laws of Nature would require humans to believe in phenomena and events that are utterly inconsistent with the Laws of Nature without any evidence. The Being would understand that as subjects of the Laws of Nature, our scale of believability for phenomena and events would measure them according to said laws.
God would have to be irrational to expect us to believe in “scriptural” reports of a man parting a sea, a man being taken up to heaven in a flaming chariot, a man surviving inside of the belly of a whale for three days, a man converting water to whine or walking on water or being resurrected from the dead, or a man traveling to the “Seven Heavens” on a winged donkey-like creature, etc. However, God cannot be irrational, hence all “scriptures” and the religions that they prop up must be false.
The concept of deism became popular a few centuries ago when people began to view the claims of the world’s religions to be absurd, but at the same time they could not conceive how the universe could have come into existence through natural means. Although this question remains unanswered, there is much more evidence available today to at least postulate how a universe could have come from nothing. As science progresses in this field, the current level of belief in deism may begin to diminish in favor of atheism.
(3088) Peter schooled or unschooled
There is a contradiction is scripture as to how well educated the Apostle Peter was and whether he was capable of writing a well-composed letter. Note the following verses:
When they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they marveled and took note that these men had been with Jesus.
1 Peter 1:1-2
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To the elect who are exiles of the Dispersion throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by His blood:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
On one hand, Peter is said to be unschooled, meaning he’s illiterate- not capable of reading, much less writing elegant prose. On the other hand, Peter claims to be the author or a well-written letter.
Apologists attack this contradiction by saying that Peter dictated his letter to a highly-educated scribe. This is plausible, but how could an illiterate man even conger up such elegant prose? Also, biblical scholars generally agree that 1 Peter was written early in the 2nd Century so that Peter would have been long dead by that time.
The existence of a forgery in the New Testament points to the unlikelihood that God would have permitted such deception. It suggests that the Bible is a work of human effort.
(3089) God speaks in second or third person
There is a contradiction in the gospels as to how Jesus addressed the scene at Jesus’s baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. In one account (Matthew) God addresses the bystanders so that they will know that God approves of Jesus. In two accounts (Mark, Luke) Jesus instead directly addresses Jesus and tells him that he approves of him. The following was taken from:
As we have seen, when he was about thirty years old Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River. All three synoptic Gospels depict this momentous event—some in greater detail than others. John alludes to it very obliquely (John 1:29-34) In Mark everything goes smoothly: Jesus asks John to baptize him and he does (Mark 1:9-11). Immediately after he is baptized, he heavens open, the Holy Ghost descends upon him in the form of a dove, and a voice from heaven is heard pronouncing a benediction on the proceedings. What the voice said is reported differently. According to Matthew, it said, “This is (Houtos estin) my beloved Son in whom (en ho) I am well pleased,” implying that God was addressing those present and informing them that he approves of Jesus. However, according to Mark and Luke, it said, “Thou art (Su ei) my beloved Son, in thee (en soi) I am well pleased,” implying that God was addressing Jesus and assuring him of His approval. (The KJV mistranslates Mark’s “in thee” as “in whom” (v. 11).
This objection cannot be dismissed with magisterial assurances that all three authors agree about the main point—that God approved of Jesus—and so these trivial discrepancies do not matter. In fact, that reply is not available to evangelical Christians. According to Geisler, as we have seen, the doctrines of verbal and plenary inspiration guarantee the complete accuracy of every individual statement in the Bible as well as the complete consistency of each individual statement with every other. This accuracy and consistency extends even to matters of syntax and grammar.
Every word is “God-breathed” and exactly the word God wanted the authors to write. If those doctrines are true, there should not be any discrepancies—not even trivial ones. In fact, given those doctrines, there is no such thing as a trivial discrepancy. While the discrepancy between “This is” and Thou art” and between “in whom” and “in thee” might seem trivial, when considered in themselves, when considered in relation to the doctrines of verbal and plenary inspiration, they are momentous. Any discrepancy, however tiny, undermines those doctrines, according to which there are no discrepancies. But there they are—clearly and undeniably. The problem can be posed in the form of a dilemma: Either the voice from heaven addressed those present and spoke about Jesus in the third person or it addressed Jesus himself and spoke to him in the second person.
Since not even an omnipotent God can address two different audiences in two different grammatical persons at the same time, He had to employ either the second or the third. If he employed the second, Matthew got it wrong; and if he employed the third, Mark and Luke got it wrong. Although there is no way of knowing who got it wrong, sheer logic compels us to acknowledge that somebody did.
Actually, the bigger problem here is the idea that God sent his audible voice down to the Earth’s surface, indicating that he somehow was able to compress air molecules with his immaterial(?) body? God speaking from the heavens is an obvious feature of religious fantasy. And the contradiction explained above makes this story all the more unbelievable.
(3090) John the Baptist is/is not Elijah
The gospels contain a contradiction concerning whether or not John the Baptist was the prophet Elijah reincarnated. The following was taken from:
As we saw in chapter six, when Gabriel appeared to Zacharias in a vision, he instructed him to name his son John (Luke 1:13). However, there is a problem here. Although the child was, in fact, named John and was also said to be the son of Elizabeth and Zacharias, two passages in Matthew seem to tell a different story. Here is the first:
And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? . . . A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yes, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare the way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of woman there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist . . . For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 11:7-15).
In short, John the Baptist was Elijah (the KJV calls him “Elias”).
The second passage contains the same claim:
And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist. (Matthew 17:10-13)
A parallel passage in Mark repeats this claim (again the speaker is Jesus): But I say unto you, That Elias is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed. (Mark 9:13)
If we take these passages seriously, we must conclude that, according to Jesus, John the Baptist was the prophet Elijah.
On the other hand, if we take John 1:21 seriously, we must conclude that, according to John, that was not the case. When explicitly asked, “Art thou Elijah? Art thou that prophet?” he replies, “I am not . . . No.” In short, the very proposition affirmed by Jesus three times is categorically denied by John. Clearly, both statements cannot be true. Either John the Baptist was Elijah or he was not. However, the synoptic Gospels teach both. In short, Jesus and John flatly contradict each other.
Predictably, evangelical Christians insist that there is no contradiction here. In support of this unpromising contention, they offer two arguments: first, to say that John the Baptist was Elijah is to say that Elijah was reincarnated in John, but “the Bible” does not teach the doctrine of reincarnation, therefore John could not have been Elijah; second, according to Luke 1:17, John will not be Elias; rather, he will be filled with “the spirit and power” of Elias.
The first argument can be disposed of very quickly by pointing out that it begs the question. If the synoptic Gospels contain even a few passages in which John the Baptist is said to have been Elijah, which they clearly do, then “the Bible” does teach (or imply) the doctrine of reincarnation (or a doctrine very similar to it). One cannot deny this on the ground that “the Bible” does not teach the doctrine of reincarnation.
The second argument fares no better. Two points must be conceded at once. First, it is true that, according to Luke 1:17, the angel Gabriel does not say that John the Baptist will be Elijah, but only that he will be filled with “the spirit and power” of Elijah. Second, it is also true that, according to John 1:21, John the Baptist denies that he is Elijah. The fact remains, however, that, according to the three other passages just cited—Matthew 11:7-15, 17: 10-13, and Mark 9:13—Jesus said that he was Elijah. One cannot appeal to the passages from Luke and John to refute the claim made in the passages from Matthew and Mark. One could equally appeal to the passages from Matthew and Mark to refute the claim made in Luke and John. So unless there is independent confirmation for one set of passages as opposed to the other, neither can be used to refute the other. Since there is no such independent confirmation, we are left with two sets of contradictory claims: John both is and is not Elijah.
It is interested to note that although reincarnation is not a Christian doctrine, the gospels seem to suggest that it is a real phenomenon. Although other scriptures refute this claim, the fact that it is promoted at all is an embarrassment to Christianity. It is clear that some of the gospel authors believed in reincarnation and that they were, according to Christian defenders, being inspired as they wrote by the Holy Spirit. Could the Holy Spirit have made this mistake?
(3091) Crediting other religions to credit Christianity
Early Christians took advantage of peoples’ belief in other miracle-working and dying and rising saviors to market Jesus as being just as legitimate. It is likely that some of these Christians actually believed that these similar miracle-men were legitimately supernatural as claimed. It’s just that they saw Jesus as being divinely superior. The following was taken from:
This observation that the Gospel authors may have been consciously embellishing parts of Jesus’s story in order to boost his credibility as a prophet provides a perfect explanation for why certain passages in the New Testament contradict each other – like why Luke 6:17-20, for instance, says the Jesus’s first sermon was delivered on a flat plain, while Matthew 5:1-3 claims it was delivered from a mountaintop. It also explains why the narratives surrounding Jesus’s birth and death are such a mess; scholars believe that they were largely contrived as “legends designed to fulfill Jewish expectations about the Messiah.” So the Gospel authors would have wanted to throw in lots of details that would have “confirmed” Jesus’s identity as the true messiah, even if those details produced contradictions or historical inaccuracies. And likewise, they would have wanted to include stories about the most impressive miracles they could think of – including some that had previously been attributed to other prophets and deities – in order to show that Jesus could not only compete with these older gods, but could prove superior to them.
Again, though, the reason for pointing all this out isn’t to say that Christianity was just a blatant rip-off of earlier religions, or that it was outright “copying” from them. The point here is just to show that legends like those attributed to Jesus were everywhere at the time the Gospels were written. Religious superstitions and fantasies of divine wonders and miracles absolutely dominated people’s thinking back then. So to say that it wouldn’t have been possible for a story like Jesus’s to have taken root unless it had actually happened, as some modern-day Christians claim, is just demonstrably untrue. We know that it would have been perfectly easy for entire populations of people to falsely convince themselves that their favorite prophet had been born of a virgin, performed miracles, and rose from the dead – because it had already happened so many times before the Gospels were written, and would continue happening afterward. Jesus was just one in a long line of miracle-working savior figures – and in fact, the first Christians even acknowledged this openly; one of the ways they tried to convert people who believed in the traditional Roman gods was to point out that Jesus was actually just like the Roman gods. Here’s Church father Justin Martyr:
When we [Christians] say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter [Zeus]. For you know how many sons your esteemed writers ascribed to Jupiter: Mercury, the interpreting word and teacher of all; Aesculapius, who, though he was a great physician, was struck by a thunderbolt, and so ascended to heaven; and Bacchus too, after he had been torn limb from limb; and Hercules, when he had committed himself to the flames to escape his toils; and the sons of Leda, and Dioscuri; and Perseus, son of Danae; and Bellerophon, who, though sprung from mortals, rose to heaven on the horse Pegasus. For what shall I say of Ariadne, and those who, like her, have been declared to be set among the stars? And what of the emperors who die among yourselves, whom you deem worthy of deification, and in whose behalf you produce some one who swears he has seen the burning Caesar rise to heaven from the funeral pyre? And what kind of deeds are recorded of each of these reputed sons of Jupiter, it is needless to tell to those who already know.
The early Christian Church would continue to deliberately blur the line between Christianity and other religions, too, by adopting the beliefs and customs of rival sects and incorporating them into Christian doctrine. Beliefs like Jesus being born on December 25th, or even the depiction of him having a beard, weren’t originally part of Christianity and aren’t mentioned anywhere in the Bible, but were taken from other religions in order to make the process of converting to Christianity feel like less of a dramatic leap to those who had previously worshiped other gods. If people could believe in these other religions, the thinking went, then they could just as easily believe in Christianity, and vice-versa – because these religions were all making the same kind of claims. And the Church fathers were even more right than they realized; the miracle claims of Christianity really are just like the miracle claims of all these other religions. The fact that Jesus’s miracles seem so extraordinary does nothing to prove that they “couldn’t have just been made up” – because people believed all kinds of extraordinary things back then that were just made up. And just to drive the point home here, people still believe all kinds of extraordinary things that are just made up, even today.
It should worry Christians that the Jesus stories emanated from a milieu replete with similar tales about other miracle workers and that it was so easy to convince people to believe them. This greatly increases the probability that the stories about Jesus are no more credible that the similar stories about other so-called divinely-inspired emissaries of approximately the same time.
(3092) God follows, not leads, humans
Although it seems obvious that a god would transcend human mores and ethics, the god of Christianity seems to follow them, as seen in the scriptures, and as characterized by persons who claim to speak for God. Yahweh, it appears, learns from humans as they progress and build a better world, The following was taken from:
Hypothesis; As a perfect and omnipotent deity, God’s nature toward all things would be pure and stand above human pettiness and atrocities. God’s reasoning and actions would be sound and without the shortsighted racial, greedy, murderous, shameful behavior demonstrated daily by his/her/its’ creations. It would be impossible for any perfect being to take sides between two morally ignorant individuals or governments. God‘s nature would not allow his/her/its’ perfection be marred by ugly and futile human endeavors.
Yet we see the exact opposite in the scriptures of all revealed religions. God will actively support one group over another when that dispute itself is over pointless and short sighted things like land and money. We see a very transparently provincial and intolerant god involving his/her/itself in the petty arguments of the day without the foresight to see the folly in these actions. Just like a manmade god would.
The ordering of genocide that happens to coincide with the human views at the time. The ordered sexism which was (interestingly) the norm of all religions at the time of God’s teachings on this. God’s ever-changing and evolving on social issues which also ran concurrently with society’s evolution in the same. God’s slowly growing understanding on the horrors of slavery that seems to matched the majority of human understanding if the same.
Never do we see the Abrahamic god teach or otherwise instruct on issues in ways that demonstrate great moral or ethical understanding beyond the time in which his/her/it’s creations are firmly grounded. At the time of great inhumanity, god echos these sentiments. At the time of great wars, god jumps in and “favors” one morally bankrupt side over the other morally bankrupt side. God often orders one army to go far beyond winning a battle and to take (and sometimes kill) women and children – just like the moral code of that era. Do we ever hear the god of either testament speak out against the oppression of women in that time? Oddly, many people today hear god‘s clear and unwavering support for equality and enculturation.
During times of human sexual confusion, god spoke out against women for dressing, dancing, or otherwise acting in ways that men couldn’t resist. It wasn’t the men that god spoke against, it was always the victim. Now that society has managed to grapple with the insanity of this position, god is suddenly supporting the victims and condemning the assailant. Just like every other woke aspect of God’s nature.
Today, according to most US preachers, priests, and others claiming to know God’s heart… god supports your right to own as many automatic guns as you want. God currently dislikes slavery or prejudice of any kind. God supports America dispite how America came to be, or who was oppressed. God also dislikes radical Islam, but god seemingly had no issue with the crusades or the killing those who were homosexual at the same time humanity had no issue with it. Yet many Islamic leaders state that god hates the US and that his/her/it is answering their prayers and bringing the US to its knees.
I think that theists agree that god stands alone in his/her/it’s perfection and foreknowledge. Why then would God’s nature and moral understanding so closely and unapologetically mimic ours?
This represents credible evidence that God was created by humans and that it is humans who are continually modifying God to make sure that he remains equally honorable to themselves. If Yahweh was a real god, this process would have been reversed.
(3093) Sam Harris smackdown
In the following transcript of a 2013 debate with William Lane Craig, Sam Harris laid out some very compelling arguments for why belief in the Christian god is irrational:
Nine million children die every year before they reach the age of five. Picture an Asian tsunami of the sort we saw in 2004 that killed a quarter of a million people – one of those every ten days, killing children only under five. That’s twenty-four thousand children a day, a thousand an hour, seventeen or so a minute. That means before I get to the end of this sentence, some few children very likely will have died in terror and agony.
Think of the parents of these children. Think of the fact that most of these men and women believe in God and are praying at this moment for their children to be spared; and their prayers will not be answered. But according to Dr. Craig, this is all part of God’s plan.
Any god who would allow children by the millions to suffer and die in this way, and their parents to grieve in this way, either can do nothing to help them or doesn’t care to. He is therefore either impotent or evil. And worse than that, on Dr. Craig’s view, most of these people – many of these people, certainly – will be going to Hell because they’re praying to the wrong god. Just think about that: Through no fault of their own, they were born into the wrong culture, where they got the wrong theology, and they missed the revelation. There are 1.2 billion people in India at this moment. Most of them are Hindus; most of them therefore polytheists. In Dr. Craig’s universe, no matter how good these people are, they are doomed. If you are praying to the monkey god Hanuman, you are doomed – you’ll be tortured in hell for eternity. Now is there the slightest evidence for this? No. It just says so in Mark 9 and Matthew 13 and Revelation 14.
So God created the cultural isolation of the Hindus; he engineered the circumstance of their deaths in ignorance of revelation, and then he created the penalty for this ignorance, which is an eternity of conscious torment in fire.
On the other hand, on Dr. Craig’s account, your run-of-the-mill serial killer in America, who spent his life raping and torturing children, need only come to God, come to Jesus on death row, and after a final meal of fried chicken, he’s going to spend eternity in heaven after death.
One thing should be crystal clear to you: This vision of life has absolutely nothing to do with moral accountability.
And please notice the double standard that people like Dr. Craig use to exonerate God from all this evil. We’re told that God is loving and kind and just and intrinsically good. But when someone like myself points out the rather obvious and compelling evidence that God is cruel and unjust, because he visits suffering on innocent people of a scope and scale that would embarrass the most ambitious psychopath, we are told that God is mysterious. Who can understand God’s will? Yet this merely human understanding of God’s will is precisely what believers use to establish his goodness in the first place. If something good happens to a Christian – he feels some bliss while praying, or he sees some positive change his life – we’re told that God is good. But when children by the tens of thousands are torn from their parents’ arms and drowned, we are told God is mysterious.
This is how you play tennis without the net.
And I want to suggest to you that it is not only tiresome when otherwise intelligent people speak this way – it is morally reprehensible. This kind of faith really is the perfection of narcissism: “God loves me, don’t you know? He cured me of my eczema; he makes me feels so good while singing in church; and just when we had given up hope, he found a banker who was willing to reduce my mother’s mortgage.” Given all this God of yours does not accomplish in the lives of others, given the misery that’s being imposed on some helpless child at this instant, this kind of faith is obscene.
To think in this way is to fail to reason honestly, or to care sufficiently about the suffering of other human beings. And if God is good and loving and just and kind, and he wanted to guide us morally with a book, why give us a book that supports slavery? Why give us a book that admonishes us to kill people for imaginary crimes, like witchcraft?
Of course, there’s a way of not taking these questions to heart. According to Dr. Craig’s divine command theory, God is not bound by moral duties. God doesn’t have to be good; whatever he commands is good. So when he commands the Israelites to slaughter the Amalekites, that behavior becomes intrinsically good because he commanded it.
Here we’re being offered – I’m glad [Craig] raised the issue of psychopathy – we’re being offered a psychopathic and psychotic moral attitude. It’s psychotic because this is completely delusional: There’s no reason to believe that we live in a universe ruled by an invisible monster Yahweh. But it is psychopathic, because this is a total detachment from the well-being of human beings. This so easily rationalizes the slaughter of children.
Just think about the Muslims at this moment who are blowing themselves up, convinced that they are agents of God’s will. There’s absolutely nothing that Dr. Craig can say against their behavior in moral terms, apart from his own faith-based claim that they’re praying to the wrong god. If they had the right god, what they were doing would be good, on divine command theory.
Now I’m obviously not saying that Dr. Craig or all religious people are psychopaths and psychotics – but this, to me, this is the true horror of religion: It allows perfectly decent and sane people to believe by the billions what only lunatics could believe on their own. If you wake up tomorrow morning thinking that saying a few Latin words over your pancakes is going to turn them into the body of Elvis Presley, you have lost your mind. But if you think more or less the same thing about a cracker and the body of Jesus, you’re just a Catholic.
And I’m not the first person to notice that it’s a very strange sort of loving God who would make salvation depend on believing in him on bad evidence. If you lived 2000 years ago, there was evidence galore – he was just performing miracles – but apparently he got tired of being so helpful. And so now we all inherit this very heavy burden of the doctrine’s implausibility. And the effort to square it with what we now know about the cosmos and what we know about the all-too-human origins of scripture becomes more and more difficult.
And it’s not just the generic God that Dr. Craig is recommending; it is God the Father and Jesus the Son. Christianity, on Dr. Craig’s account, is the true moral wealth of the world. I hate to break it to you here at Notre Dame, but Christianity is a cult of human sacrifice. Christianity is not a religion that repudiates human sacrifice; it is a religion that celebrates a single human sacrifice as though it were effective: “God so loved the world he that gave his only son” – John 3:16. The idea is that Jesus suffered the crucifixion so that none need suffer Hell – except those billions in India, and billions like them throughout history.
This doctrine is astride a contemptible history of scientific ignorance and religious barbarism. We come from people who used to bury children under the foundations of new buildings as offerings to their imaginary gods. Just think about that. In vast numbers of societies, people would bury children in postholes – people like ourselves – thinking that this would prevent an invisible being from knocking down their buildings. These are the sorts of people who wrote the Bible.
If there is a less moral moral framework than the one Dr. Craig is proposing, I haven’t heard of it.
For Christians to hear these issues and then to casually offer the defense of ‘mystery’ is a testament to the vacuousness of their belief system. There is a palpable mismatch between the claims of Christianity and the ‘facts on the ground.’ To say that this is not a real problem because God is mysterious is to fall on a sword that pierces the legitimacy of one’s integrity.
(3094) Origin of afterlife myths
Christianity was in no way the first faith to advance the belief in life after death. It was a late comer to the party, as myths surrounding the afterlife have consumed the thoughts of human for a large percentage of their existence. In the following quote from Bill Flavell it is speculated that these myths were inspired mostly as a way to control behavior rather than to assuage a fear of death:
The earliest belief in an afterlife we know of is associated with the pyramids of the ancient Egyptians beginning 4,600 years ago but there are tantalizing hints that humans prepared their dead for a journey 40,000 years ago or more. I doubt anyone believes these distant ancestors “discovered” the afterlife–they invented it. And the widely diverse descriptions of the afterlife since then are evidence of creativity, not discovery.
All this raises the question of why did ancient humans invent the afterlife?
One popular answer is we invented the afterlife because we became smart enough to contemplate our own mortality and fear of death led us to make up stories that avoided death forever. My opinion is different.
If fear of death was the primary motivator of afterlife myths, why did we make the afterlife frightening by introducing hell?
Hell suggests that afterlife myths were introduced to promote behavior control. It works in two ways: the possibility of a wonderful afterlife is promised as a reward for following social rules and hell serves as a deterrent for those who are tempted not to.
The ability to contemplate our mortality was, IMO an enabler, not the driver, of afterlife myths. After all, millions of humans are smart enough to know they will die and to accept death as a fact of life that cannot be avoided indefinitely.
The carrot (heaven) and the stick (hell) have served Christian leaders as highly effective tools to keep the sheep (congregants) in the pen (church). Take away either one, and their ability to retain and control their members would be greatly reduced.
(3095) Bronze Age beliefs
Although this fact has been clouded by generational indoctrination, the Bible is mired in Bronze Age beliefs that have been thoroughly debunked by human progress. Stepping outside the box and looking objectively reveals an unmistakable truth- The Bible is a celebration of man’s ignorant past. The following is a quote from Bill Flavell:
Always remember, Judaism originated in the late Bronze Age. It was intended for Bronze Age people. It fitted a culture in which life was cheap, where human rights were rudimentary, where women were the property of men, where owning slaves was unremarkable and where so little was understood about the universe, diseases, ethics, life and death that superstition was ubiquitous. Hidden agents were believed to be responsible for everything, good or bad, that happened to us.
Judaism spawned other religions, most notably Christianity and Islam. These new Iron Age religions introduced their own variations but their fundamentals were little changed from their Bronze Age parent.
Today, almost all our religions have Bronze Age roots yet our understanding of the universe has progressed in an extraordinary, exponential way. The hidden agents that were the bedrock of these ancient religions are no longer required. For example, most people understand epilepsy is not caused by demons and crop failures are caused by microorganisms and not by witches, earthquakes are the result of tectonic activity, not angry deities and so on.
So why do so many people cling to these old, outdated religions? There is a simple answer. There was evolutionary benefit in parents passing beliefs and knowledge to their children and we evolved to do that brilliantly. Now we call it culture and it is still held in high regard. Children soak up culture and, as parents, pass it to their children.
Nowadays, we know these religions are a mess of false beliefs and we see they can result in religious conflict that is entirely unnecessary. They leave millions of people vulnerable to exploitation, guilt and fear, and susceptible to superstitions. They divide families and communities. They are no longer fit for purpose.
Let’s leave Bronze Age beliefs to our Bronze Age ancestors–we have no need of them.
If a book written 200 years ago asserted that the continents were fixed in place, that the plague was caused by dirty air, that the moon was the same distance away as the sun, and that Mars was a lush planet, how would such a book be viewed today? Well, the Bible is in essentially that same spot. Belief in it survives only because of vigorous cultural conditioning.
(3096) One miracle short
Christians luxuriate in the concept of Jesus dying on the cross and then resurrecting. But there was another way that Jesus could have played out the crucifixion scene that would have placed humanity on a more peaceful and harmonious trajectory. Jesus was one miracle short of changing the course of history. The following is a quote by Bill Flavell:
If the Bible is to be believed, Jesus performed many miracles during his brief ministry, from walking on water to raising the dead. Things that are impossible for humans, Jesus could do without breaking sweat.
But apparently, he was killed by three humble blacksmith’s nails. What happened to his miracles? Could he perform miracles for others, but not for himself?
All we are left with is stories that Jesus lived, that he died and resurrected. We have stories but absolutely no evidence. We all know stories can be invented, exaggerated, redacted, elaborated and confused–especially when they circulate by word of mouth for 40 years before being written down.
There is a simple way Jesus could have persuaded everyone that he was the real deal. Instead of dying on that cross, he should have stayed alive and resisted all attempts to kill him. He should still be there today alive and well, leading community singing, advising world leaders, helping us to solve the most intractable problems from science and maths, and telling the world’s funniest jokes. The UN would declare him a World Heritage Site.
If Jesus had accomplished this final miracle, who could doubt his claims of deity? He would be his own evidence. Muhammad could not have denied Jesus’ relationship to God and we would have no Islam today. Indeed, it’s unlikely any other religions could have survived the unarguable evidence hanging on a cross in Jerusalem. Even Jews would have to admit he is a credible Messiah candidate!
Just think how different the world would have been. There would not have been 1,000 years of Islamic wars of conquest, no Jihadists, no Crusades, no religious wars, no religious persecution and probably no Inquisition.
All this because of one thing, evidence trumps stories. All religions are founded on hard-to-believe stories but no evidence. If Jesus had really existed and was God, he could have changed everything.
But he didn’t.
The way the gospels tell it, Jesus surreptitiously came back to life, and briefly appeared to several people, mostly friends, and then immediately flew into outer space, thus assuring that religious conflict would ravage humans for centuries. This final miracle or anything similar, allegedly well within his powers, was not performed and as a consequence, a violent, bloody history has ensued.
(3097) Yahweh chose the vent
The following presents an analogy comparing Yahweh’s communication method to that of a security guard who is observing a potentially deadly building fire:
Divine characters like Allah and Yahweh are conceptualized as all-knowing. If they existed, they’d know that people indoctrinated into other religions are generally immune to all but their own religion’s revelation stories. They would therefore also know that to get through to those people in other religions, a much more powerful method of persuasion was needed than revelation stories – i.e. proof that has the power to transcend all religious biases and barriers. Proof that has the power to reach every individual.
For all the centuries of lip-flapping about all-powerful gods, not one single religion has produced the goods. By an astounding coincidence, every single one of them has instead required their followers to take their word for it.
So, in the absence of proof, what do we have? Here we come to the biggest problem so far. Taking just Islam and Christianity, in both cases we have a divine character who’s content to do nothing while millions of human beings, through no fault or desire of their own, are indoctrinated into other faiths. It knows that this indoctrination will create powerful biases in those humans, immunizing them against its religion. It then watches as these humans descend to unspeakable torment in Hell as punishment for not believing.
What we’re talking about is a holocaust bystander. To describe this behavior as “callous” limboes beneath understatement. But what I want to highlight is its sheer stupidity.
Imagine the following situation: You’re a night security guard for an apartment block. You’re stationed in a small hut attached to the block, with CCTV screens and speaker access to all areas. There’s a fire in the building that forces everyone down to a basement area, where they find a red door and a yellow door. They debate which one to take. They can hear traffic noises behind the yellow door. But then someone sees the faded word “EXIT” above the red door. The group becomes sharply divided into Reds and Yellows, each rejecting the arguments of the other. You watch all of this on your CCTV screen, knowing that the red door leads to freedom, while the yellow door leads to a dead-end and certain death. There’s a vent next to your desk connected to a vent in the basement. You can see that one of the Reds is standing near it. If you shout down the vent, “Take the red door,” she’ll just about hear you, and she’ll report receiving advice from a disembodied voice. You know the Reds are already predisposed to believe her. But you also know the Yellows will easily dismiss this ridiculous ghostly message. Alternatively, you could use the public address system at your disposal to give an announcement over the basement speakers that’ll be clearly heard by everyone, identifying yourself as the guard from the security hut and telling them to take the red door. So, do you choose the vent or the PA system? Allah and Yahweh chose the vent.
I’ve said it before: All-knowing gods should be geniuses. But the ill-conceived system of private revelation employed by prophet-based religions has the grubby fingerprints of limited human thinking all over it. If you want to overcome the doubts of serious thinkers, you seriously need to up your game.
Humans create gods and due to lack of insight make these gods out to be somewhat stupid. We should expect more of our gods, or at least we should fashion them in our fantasies to be more brilliant.
(3098) God used to respond to tests
Christians are often taught that you should not test God. In other words, don’t think like a scientist when you are dealing with God. But the Bible indicates that God in the past was willing to cooperate with people who wanted to test to see if he was really there. The following was taken from:
In chapter 6 of the Book of Judges, we find a guy named Gideon having a little conversation with God. Gideon, being a skeptical fellow, is not sure if it’s really God he’s talking to or an imagined voice in his head. So he asks the Unseen to sprinkle a little water on a fleece. “If You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said,” he says to the Voice, “look, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there be dew on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the ground, then shall I know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said.”
What Gideon is proposing here is a test: If this is indeed God he’s talking with, He (or She) should be able to make the fleece wet, while keeping the rest of the ground dry. What happens? Gideon gets up the next morning, discovers that the fleece is wet, and squeezes a whole bowlful of water out of it. But Gideon is a clever experimentalist. He is not certain if what happened was just by chance, whether this pattern of wetness occurs often, or whether it happens every time he leaves a fleece on the ground overnight. What Gideon needs is a control condition. So he asks God to indulge him again, only this time he runs his experiment a different way: “And Gideon said to God: ‘Do not be angry with me, and I will speak just this once: let me try just once more, I ask You, with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew.’” Gideon’s control condition turns out to be successful. Lo and behold, the rest of the ground is covered with dew and the fleece is dry. Gideon has all the proof he needs, and he has learned a very important research skill.
There are still more biblical examples of God providing proof of his existence on demand. In 2 Kings 20:8-11, when Hezekiah asks for proof that God has healed him, God moves the sun backward ten degrees (which would have killed everyone on Earth if it had actually happened, since it would’ve required reversing the rotation of the planet, but never mind). In 1 Kings 18:16-40, when Elijah is arguing with his fellow Israelites over whether to worship Yahweh or Baal, he challenges them to a miracle contest, and God rains down fire from the sky to prove that he’s real. (Baal fails to match this miracle, so Elijah has 450 of Baal’s followers killed.) In 2 Kings 1:9-12, the same thing happens again, with God raining down fire (and killing over 100 people) to prove his superiority to Baal. And the Bible continues to describe miracle after miracle, in which God is not just willing but positively eager to reveal his existence as visibly as possible. The problem of divine hiddenness isn’t a problem at all in the Bible; God is all too happy to intervene constantly in earthly affairs and to make his existence known to anyone who asks.
So the question remains: Why does God not give us the same definitive proof that he so willingly gave to Thomas and Gideon and everyone else in the Bible? Why did he spend thousands of years readily intervening and performing all kinds of massive, earth-shattering miracles in front of countless onlookers in order to prove his existence, only to abruptly change his mind and decide that he had to remain hidden as soon as humans learned how to reliably record and verify these miracles?
Evidently, God has tired of responding to test requests, and now he just lets any testing fall to chance. It is uncertain why this change has occurred, but the best guess is that the biblical accounts, and God himself, are fictional.
(3099) Pseudepigrapha evidence
Biblical scholars are virtually certain that several of the letters in the New Testament, purportedly written by Paul and Peter, were actually written by somebody else. The term ‘pseudepigrapha’ describes this deceitful tactic. In the following a list of reasons is provided describing how some of these letters contain clues pointing to their fakery:
“How did these fake letters from Peter and Paul end up in our Bibles?”
Well, that’s easy: Because the Christians who decided which books were in or out of the Canon – around 400 AD – didn’t make their decisions using textual criticism. Usually, the decision was made by consensus, or based on opinions.
In fact, in some cases, they just prayed and waited for God to move the scrolls that were not authentic on to the floor. [Nope. I’m not making that up].
Summary of reasons to doubt Pauline authorship of Ephesians:
- The language and style are different. Ephesians contains 40 new words, e.g. 1:3 “heavenly places”; “family, or fatherhood” (3:15). 1:19 has four different words for “power”
- Ephesians and Colossians use a different word for “reconcile” from Paul’s word (Col 1:20, 22; Eph 2:16).
- Ephesians is similar to Colossians at many places. Eph has 155 verses, 73 of which are similar to ones from Col: e.g. Eph 4:1-2 ≈ Col 3:12-13, Eph 5:19-20 ≈ Col 3:16-17, Eph 6:21-22 ≈ Col 4:7-8.
- Ephesians takes many key ideas from Colossians. Wisdom, mystery. The word of truth. Gospel of salvation. Saints of God.
- Ephesians also refers to most of the other letters of Paul. In many ways it seems like a summary of Paul’s ideas, written by a disciple of his, and brought up to date for the Church of his own time.
- Metaphors, or illustrations in Paul are turned into actual objective realities in Ephesians (and sometimes in Colossians also). E.g. faith, gospel, word of God, reconciliation, salvation, human resurrection and glorification, the Church as the Body of Christ, Minister, Saints of God.
- Ephesians shows that the Church is becoming an advanced and powerful universal institution (rather like the Church today). In Paul’s time there was no universal Church in that sense, but only informal gatherings of individual believing communities.
- Ephesians contains no mention of charismatic gifts.
- Ephesians shows Jesus acting on his own account and by his own authority without making explicit that he is acting on God’s behalf and with God’s blessing; in Paul’s other letters, this is more explicit.
Summary of reasons to doubt Pauline authorship of Colossians:
- The basis for the early objection was that the letter aimed at refuting Gnosticism, a heresy which had not reached its ascendancy until the early 2nd century.
- Another argument centers on differences in style and vocabulary with significant stylistic differences between Colossians and Paul’s other works, such as unusual genitive constructions.
- The extensive theological development in the epistle compared to other epistles has also led to skepticism concerning Pauline authorship.
Summary of reasons to doubt Pauline authorship of 2 Thessalonians:
- Much of the dispute concerns the linguistic similarity between 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians. For example, 1 Thess 2:9 is almost identical to 2 Thess 3:8.
- Reflects knowledge of the synoptic gospels, which, according to the current scholarly consensus, had not been written when Paul wrote his epistles.
- Actually makes the specific claim not to be a forgery, which is a typical claim of forgers at the time.
- The eschatology of each letter to the Thessalonians is considerably different.
Summary of reasons to doubt the Pastoral Epistles of Paul:
- Marcion’s canon [the earliest of all] does not include them and there is no evidence he had ever heard of them
- The vocabulary and phraseology used in the Pastorals is often at variance with that of the other epistles.
- Over 1/3 of the vocabulary is not used anywhere else in the Pauline epistles, and over 1/5 is not used anywhere else in the New Testament, while 2/3 of the non-Pauline vocabulary are used by 2nd-century Christian writers.
Summary of reasons to doubt that Peter wrote 1 Peter:
- The language, dating, style, and structure of the letter has led many scholars to doubt its authenticity.
- The writer appears to have had a formal education in rhetoric and philosophy, and an advanced knowledge of the Greek language, none of which would be usual for a Galilean fisherman.
- The letter lacks all reference to any personal details regarding the historical Jesus of Nazareth.
- The author references the Septuagint translation which would’ve been an unlikely source for historical Peter to reference.
Summary of reasons to doubt that Peter wrote 2 Peter:
- The second epistle of Peter identifies the author as Peter but uses a different spelling than 1 Peter and the rest of the New Testament.
- There are significant linguistic differences from 1 Peter
- The author references the book of Jude
- The epistles makes allusions to 2nd-century gnosticism
- The letter encourages the church in the wake of a delayed Second Coming of Christ.
- The letter has the weakest amount of scholarly and external support than any other New Testament epistle.
BOTTOM LINE: Your Bible is chock-full of pseudepigrapha.
This is a critical problem for Christianity because the authorship of a significant portion of their scriptures is in question. And this problem includes the gospels. It would certainly seem that God or his Holy Spirit, if they were real, would have prevented such an embarrassing situation.
(3100) What is not extraordinary evidence
It is generally agreed that the more spectacular or unlikely a claim is, the more vigorous the evidence needs to be to support it, or to make it believable. In other words, the evidence needs to be extraordinary for theses types of reports. Many stories of biblical miracles fall into this category. The following describes what is not extraordinary evidence and why none of the miracles in the Bible should be considered as likely to have occurred:
I know what does not count as extraordinary evidence. Second- third- fourth-hand hearsay testimonial evidence doesn’t count, nor circumstantial evidence, nor anecdotal evidence as reported in documents that are centuries later than the supposed events, which were copied by scribes and theologians who had no qualms about including forgeries. I also know that subjective feelings or experiences or inner voices don’t count as extraordinary evidence, nor someone who tells others his writings are inspired, nor divine communication through dreams, or visions.
The intractable difficultly is that there is no miracle claim in the Bible that has any–and I mean any–objective evidence for it at all! None! At all! Much less sufficient objective evidence. LINK. So I find it strange that anyone–and I mean anyone–takes the miracle claims in the Bible seriously, like apologists who defend them despite not having any–and I mean any–objective evidence for them.
Given the lack of extraordinary evidence, the default position should be to doubt the veracity of all biblical miracles, consider them to be exceedingly unlikely to have happened, but stay open to new evidence or the potential occurrence of similar miracles in the present day that could be objectively proven. That is, for example, if someone changes water into wine today, it might mean it was more likely to have happened in the past. Until then, we should assume that biblical times were like our current time- a world without miracles where the laws of nature are never violated.
Follow this link to #3101