(3351) God talks like an angry sociopath
In the following diatribe, God is seen to be a petulant sociopath who has insecurities because his followers are showing obeisance to other gods (which according to Christianity do not exist). His reaction is hardly admirable, showing a lack of patience and a hot streak of violence.
Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The sons gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough to make cakes for the Queen of Heaven; they pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke Me to anger. But am I the One they are provoking? declares the LORD. Is it not themselves they spite, to their own shame?
Therefore this is what the Lord GOD says: Behold, My anger and My fury will be poured out on this place, on man and beast, on the trees of the field and the produce of the land, and it will burn and not be extinguished.
We are supposed to see this behavior as becoming the god of the entire universe and who is the epitome of love and understanding. Nothing of the sort comes out in this scripture. Rather it is a tell tale sign that this ‘divine soliloquy’ is nothing but the effusion of a benighted human mind.
(3352) Jesus, the shapeshifter
The New Testament descriptions of Jesus are very scant on his appearance, but they tell many stories about Jesus changing his appearance or showing up in a completely non-human countenance. This adds to the theory that this is nothing more than mythical fiction. The following was taken from:
Let’s establish some terminology. It was common in ancient literature for both gods and humans to undergo metamorphosis, changing form from one to another. Baukis and Philemon becoming trees in Ovid’s Metamorphosis is one example. Lot’s wife turning to a pillar of salt would be a biblical example.
Polymorphism is a special category of metamorphosis. In Greco-Roman literature, it was the ability of divine beings to change their own form. (Not all scholars use this definition, but it seems the most suitable one for this article. See Lee, p. 177.) A polymorphic god can change forms sequentially, or even appear in different forms to different people at the same time.
So how does this apply to Jesus? There’s a clear example of metamorphosis in the Gospels that should immediately come to mind: the Transfiguration.
After six days, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he metamorphosed [Greek: metemorphothe] before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. (Mark 9:2-3)
After six days, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he metamorphosed before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. (Matt. 17:1-2)
And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. (Luke 9:29)
Mark explicitly tells of Jesus undergoing a metamorphosis for his three closest disciples, though he mentions only the changing of Jesus’ clothes as far as details go. Matthew and Luke both add that the appearance of Jesus’ face also changed. (John does not mention the Transfiguration.) This story seems to be based in part on Moses’ encounter on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 24 and 34, and its many parallels include the six-day waiting period and the shining face. However, Moses himself is not said to metamorphose in Exodus.
In Luke 24, we have a curious story about a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus. Shortly after a group of women find Jesus’ tomb empty, Jesus himself appears to two of his own followers (Cleopas and an unnamed companion) while they are walking to Emmaus. Jesus joins them and engages in conversation about the interpretation of the scriptures while they walk, and yet they fail to recognize him until they reach their destination, at which point Jesus vanishes. Whether metamorphosis is involved is ambiguous, since v. 16 simply says “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” Jesus’ vanishing act, however, implies that his body was not that of a normal human.
Furthermore, the long ending of Mark — which was not original, but still dates most likely to the second century — explicitly describes the encounter as polymorphism:
After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. (Mark 16:12)
John implies a similar change in Jesus’ appearance. During his first appearance to Mary Magdalene at the tomb, she mistakes him for the gardener (20:14). John’s Jesus also seemingly has the ability to change his body’s physical properties², for he twice appears to the disciples while they are in a locked room (John 20:19-29) — a miraculous act that is also briefly recounted in the aforementioned long ending of Mark. Then, in ch. 21, he shows up in Galilee while several disciples are fishing, and only “the disciple whom Jesus loved” recognizes him — probably an editorial addition, since this disciple is not mentioned in v. 2 (Bultmann, p. 702). The statement that the disciples “did not dare” to ask Jesus who he was (v. 12) implies something strange or unrecognizable about him.
There are other Gospels passages that can be explained by polymorphism even if this is not explicitly intended — and some early commentators did interpret them that way, as we shall see further on.
In Luke 4:16-30, Jesus’ speech in the synagogue at Nazara so angers all his listeners, that they attempt to throw him off a nearby cliff. Jesus makes a miraculous escape, the nature of which is left vague.
They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. (Luke 4:29-30)
John 8 narrates a similar incident which takes place at the temple. After Jesus’ words enrage the Jews, they attempt to stone him, but he somehow hides and escapes.
So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (John 8:59)
Interestingly, numerous manuscripts of John append Luke 4:30 (“he passed through the midst of them”) to John 8:59 to describe how Jesus got away (Foster, p. 75). The two incidents were clearly understood to be related. In both cases, Jesus becoming unrecognizable would be one way of explaining the escape.
Christ’s appearance to Paul on the road to Damascus in Acts is also a resurrection appearance, albeit one that takes place after the ascension (and I would argue that the resurrection and ascension were the same event in pre-Gospel theology). Here, Jesus appears to Paul in the form of a bright light (9:3), while his travelling companions see nothing at all.
Lastly, there is the matter of Judas’ kiss. In Mark, Jesus has been regularly preaching in the temple, and he has become so popular that the priests can’t arrest him in public. (“Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me,” observes Jesus in Mark 14:49.) And yet, when the priests and other temple functionaries arrive at Gethsemane, Judas has to kiss Jesus so they know which man to arrest — as if he isn’t known to them by sight. (Luke and John omit the kiss and have Jesus identify himself directly to the soldiers and priests, which gives Jesus a more direct role in the arrest but does not eliminate the recognition problem.)
There are some Christian apologists who will concede that appearance-altering antics would be a sign of mythology if it was referring to a regular human, but that Jesus was also god, and so being supernatural could accomplish the shapeshifting acts that we read in the Bible. This is employing the ‘magic’ card which actually could be a solution to every problem of this sort. But, in reality, we would have expected that Jesus, if he was an actual human, would have been limited to the regular constraints of being such, and would not have taken on multiple forms. As such, the biblical accounts of shapeshifting argue for the practice of mythology.
(3353) What is more likely?
The following presents two scenarios and asks which is more probable:
(3354) Exaggerating troop strength
It is no secret that Bible authors had a tendency to make up or exaggerate stories. One example is how they documented unrealistic troop strengths, as in the following:
1 Chronicles 21:5
And Joab reported to David the total number of the troops. In all Israel there were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword, including 470,000 in Judah.
The following is taken from:
By the end of Augustus’ reign, the imperial army numbered some 250,000 men, equally split between 25 legions and 250 units of auxiliaries. The numbers grew to a peak of about 450,000 by 211, in 33 legions and about 400 auxiliary units.
It is difficult to believe that the Israelite army could ever have been more than twice as large as the Roman army at its very peak and more than four times as large as it was during Jesus’ time. Christians who hold that the Bible is inerrant have a difficult task to explain this disparity. Also, to explain how the ‘outnumbered’ Roman army could have overwhelmed the Jews in the CE 70 war.
(3355) Illusion of immortality
Much of religious belief is derived from the inability of humans to imagine a state of their non-existence. It is difficult, for instance, for any person to conceive that the entire history of the universe could have transpired without them ever being alive. It is also hard to accept that after physical death no semblance of awareness will remain.
The following is taken from an abstract: Imagination and Immortality: Thinking of Me by Shaun Nichols Department of Philosophy University of Arizona:
Recent work in developmental psychology indicates that children naturally think that psychological states continue after death. One important candidate explanation for why this belief is natural appeals to the idea that we believe in immortality because we can’t imagine our own nonexistence. This paper explores this old idea. To begin, I present a qualified statement of the thesis that we can’t imagine our own nonexistence. I argue that the most prominent explanation for this obstacle, Freud’s, is problematic. I go on to describe some central features of contemporary cognitive accounts of the imagination, and I argue that these accounts provide an independently motivated explanation for the imaginative obstacle. While the imaginative obstacle does not dictate a belief in immortality, it does, I maintain, facilitate such a belief.
It is quite impossible for a thinking being to imagine nonbeing, a cessation of thought and life. In this sense everyone carries the proof of his own immortality within himself. Attributed to Goethe (Johann Peter Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe, 1852).
The belief in personal immortality does not require tuition. Rather, it seems to be the default presumption in children. The idea of nonexistence strikes children as bizarre, and terrifying.1 This is not merely a childhood belief of course. The belief in immortality is pervasive, both geographically and historically. Most people today, perhaps most people in the history of civilization, believe in some sort of personal immortality. In the Mahabharata, Yudhistira maintains that this is the greatest wonder of the world, that people witness death all around them, and yet they continue to believe that they are immortal. It is indeed a great wonder that we believe we are immortal. In this paper I want to explore one proposed factor in the undergirding of this belief. I want to reconsider the old idea that the belief in immortality derives from a kind of lack of imagination – that part of the reason we believe in immortality is that we can’t imagine our own nonexistence. I’ll argue that contemporary cognitive accounts of the imagination can provide an explanation for why it is difficult to imagine our own nonexistence.
The evolution of mental self-awareness and a distinct experience of the ‘I’ practically guaranteed that humans would create belief systems that posited their continued consciousness after physical death. But realizing that this perception is illusory should make one skeptical that any of these afterlife-promising faiths have any credibility.
(3356) A religion worth its name
Christianity fails many of the ideals of what a good religion should promote, as brought out in this excerpt from a comment to this website by ‘K the WANDERER’ that discusses the type of religion that virtually everyone could support:
– a religion that celebrates and encourages empathy, kindness, caring, compassion…no strings attached….for all humans, plants and animals
– a religion that never ever ever asks you to or demands or coerces you to go against your conscience, compromise your ethics, values, ideals, principles, that never asks, demands or forces you to compromise on the big stuff…..anti-killing, anti-torture, anti-brutal violence, slavery, conquest, land and resource wars etc.
– a religion that never asks you to or demands you support or agree with what your conscience and values and ethics can never support or agree with…same stuff, and that does not make you support or agree with things that grate on you, and make you highly uneasy and uncomfortable.
– a peaceful religion that strives for peace and diplomacy first, most, always, yet will defend the weak, defenseless, blameless, vulnerable, innocent and which never kills them, enslaves, kidnaps or conquers them.
-a religion that respects nature and all lifeforms fully and equally and celebrates mutual consenting sex in and without marriage as the beautiful, good, positive, natural, healthy, normal and right thing, joyful thing it is.
– a religion that is fully freedom, and liberty oriented that actually values and celebrates freedom, independence, liberty, individualism and individuality and lets you do what you want, is not controlling as long as you hurt no one.
Christianity fails on all these points, and, as such, belongs in the dustbin of failed human philosophies. It lets us know that it was definitely not the creation of an all-knowing. benevolent universal creator.
(3357) Annoying anomalies
The gospels tease us with all sorts of stories that don’t match the norms of logic or standard contemporary human lives. Here are six that seem to stand out:
(1) It can possibly be debated whether Mary was allowed consent on her pregnancy with Jesus, but it appears from scripture that her betrothed, Joseph, was not allowed to give his consent. This might be an oversight of scripture, but if this scene was being written today, for sure, the angel would have gotten permission from Joseph, as well as perhaps Mary’s parents.
(2) Jesus’ mother Mary is fairly prominent in the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, but then becomes almost invisible after the resurrection. The focus is on Mary Magdalene and the disciples. It seems strange that there is no reunion scene between Jesus and his mother (or father, if Joseph was still alive).
(3) Speaking of Jesus’ father, other than a brief mention when Jesus was 12 in Luke, Joseph disappears from the script with no mention of his apparent death, or Jesus attending to his funeral. This is strange because so much emphasis is placed on Jesus being a descendant of King David, and it was through Joseph that this credential was established (even though Joseph provided no seed for the conception).
(4) Although church tradition held for centuries (and still today in some denominations) the dogma that Mary retained her virginity throughout her life, scripture mentions the existence of Jesus’ siblings, and it was custom at the time that a marriage was not complete until it had been consummated.
(5) Although there is historical evidence that Jesus’ brother James became the leader of Jesus’ movement after the resurrection and into the CE 60’s, there is a story missing that should exist where Jesus, before ascending to heaven, anoints or confirms his brother as his successor before he ascends to heaven. Instead, the apostle Peter is given this credential.
(6) Speaking of Peter, although Jesus in scripture clearly assigns him as his representative and leader of the church, he is mostly invisible in any further leadership role. We are certain that the epistles given his name were not written by him. Instead of Peter, it is Paul, who never met Jesus, who is the prominent architect guiding the early Church. The gospels make no mention that Jesus planned to assign such a large role to Paul. What we would expect is a large number of letters written by Peter, rather than Paul, fleshing out church doctrine.
These are the sorts of problems that develop in a situation where multiple authors, each with their own motivations, write about a history that they did not witness and usually in the absence of witnesses that they can interview. These same people copy what others wrote, but make changes where it fits their agenda or makes the story more compelling. The final result is a mish mash of theobabble that leaves a rigid historian throwing his hands up trying to figure out what really happened.
(3358) Jesus of Nazareth- maybe, Jesus of Christianity- no
It should go without saying that the miracle-working Jesus is pure mythology because it relates a world that doesn’t exist except in the realm of the imagination. This does not preclude the possibility that a real man inspired this legend, a man who might have been born in Nazareth and who might have been crucified in Jerusalem. The following is taken from:
Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus of humanity, the pathetic story of whose humble life and tragic death has awakened the sympathies of millions, is a possible character and may have existed; but the Jesus of Bethlehem, the Christ of Christianity, is an impossible character and does not exist.
From the beginning to the end of this Christ’s earthly career he is represented by his alleged biographers as a supernatural being endowed with superhuman powers. He is conceived without a natural father: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When, as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. i, 18).
His ministry is a succession of miracles. With a few loaves and fishes he feeds a multitude: “And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men” (Mark vi, 41–44).
He walks for miles upon the waters of the sea: “And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray; and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea” (Matt. xiv, 22–25).
He bids a raging tempest cease and it obeys him: “And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full…. And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark, iv, 37–39).
He withers with a curse the barren fig tree: “And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee, henceforth, forever. And presently the fig tree withered away” (Matt. xxi, 19).
He casts out devils: “And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil…. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him and hurt him not” (Luke iv, 33, 35).
He cures the incurable: “And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off; and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed” (Luke xvii, 12–14).
He restores to life a widow’s only son: “And when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and much people of the city were with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier; and they that bore him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother” (Luke vii, 12–15).
He revivifies the decaying corpse of Lazarus: “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead…. Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already…. And when he had thus spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth” (John xi, 14–44).
At his crucifixion nature is convulsed, and the inanimate dust of the grave is transformed into living beings who walk the streets of Jerusalem: “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints, which slept, arose and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matt. xxvii, 50–53).
He rises from the dead: “And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed…. And, behold, there was a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door…. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail” (Matt. xxvii, 59, 60; xxviii, 2, 9).
He ascends bodily into heaven: “And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven” (Luke xxiv, 50, 51).
These and a hundred other miracles make up to a great extent this so-called Gospel History of Christ. To disprove the existence of these miracles is to disprove the existence of this Christ.
Canon Farrar makes this frank admission: “If miracles be incredible, Christianity is false. If Christ wrought no miracles, then the Gospels are untrustworthy” (Witness of History to Christ, p. 25).
Dean Mansel thus acknowledges the consequences of the successful denial of miracles: “The whole system of Christian belief with its evidences, … all Christianity in short, so far as it has any title to that name, so far as it has any special relation to the person or the teaching of Christ, is overthrown” (Aids to Faith, p. 3).
Dr. Westcott says: “The essence of Christianity lies in a miracle; and if it can be shown that a miracle is either impossible or incredible, all further inquiry into the details of its history is superfluous” (Gospel of the Resurrection, p. 34).
A miracle, in the orthodox sense of the term, is impossible and incredible. To accept a miracle is to reject a demonstrated truth. The world is governed, not by chance, not by caprice, not by special providences, but by the laws of nature; and if there be one truth which the scientist and the philosopher have established, it is this: THE LAWS OF NATURE ARE IMMUTABLE. If the laws of Nature are immutable, they cannot be suspended; for if they could be suspended, even by a god, they would not be immutable. A single suspension of these laws would prove their mutability. Now these alleged miracles of Christ required a suspension of Nature’s laws; and the suspension of these laws being impossible the miracles were impossible, and not performed. If these miracles were not performed, then the existence of this supernatural and miracle-performing Christ, except as a creature of the human imagination, is incredible and impossible.
The Bible is full of stories that violate the laws of nature- they freely flow from Genesis to Revelation. But we know, or should know, that the universe doesn’t work like that. Once it is acknowledged that miracles do not happen, that the laws of nature are rigid and immutable, then the Jesus of Christianity fades away. It takes a measure of courage to acknowledge that the fantasies of religious men two millennia ago do not relate to the realities of our current time. It is time to grow up and move onward.
(3359) Jesus endorses the beating of slaves
It has been often noted that Jesus failed to criticize the practice of slavery and used several parables that appeared to depict slavery as an acceptable enterprise, but, even worse, Jesus also endorsed the beating of slaves, as follows:
“The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows.”
Not only does Jesus find slave beating to be acceptable, but he also finds it OK to beat a slave even when the slave does not realize that he is doing anything wrong.
Many Christian apologists will make the point that Jesus is not talking about slaves, but rather voluntary servants. This only makes matters worse, as beating a person who is voluntarily working for you is ethically worse that striking something that is your ‘personal property.’
Christians largely suffer from innumeracy, which is the mathematical equivalent of illiteracy. Their minds are walled in to the extent that they see the universe as a compact reality focused on human life on planet Earth. They fail to understand the implications of the size of the universe on their religious dogma. In short, the universe is too large a setting to produce the Christian ‘play.’ It would be like filling the Metropolitan Opera House so spectators could watch two ants building an anthill in the middle of the stage. The following was taken from:
A lot of deeply religious people, content to live in a compact, human-centered universe, are able to do so largely in proportion to their inability to do math
Of course, they can add and subtract, maybe even still do some algebra, but they are woefully lacking in the tools necessary to understand the numbers that describe the cosmos.
As a result, they can’t begin to grasp the mind-boggling immensity of the universe and what that implies for the ancient god myths. It is a sad manifestation of what John Allen Paulos wrote about in his enlightening book, Innumeracy.
Innumeracy is the mathematical equivalent of illiteracy and, although many people joke about their own inability to do math, it actually has real, adverse effects on the ability to understand the universe in a rational manner.
It has less to do with the ability to do long division than it has to do with the ability to understand the scale and logical relationships.
A more practical consequence is that those who are unable to judge or even think about, numerical relationships may find themselves more easily fooled by misinformation or deceived by charlatans. Like televangelists.
If one has no mental tools for the validation of claims, then one is likely to believe in some really stupid shit.
A lot of ancient beliefs envision a small, intimate universe, one which extended only from some very toasty underground real estate to someplace above the clouds but below the canopy of stars.
Some even thought the stars could be reached with a tall enough tower. Some thought that it was possible to fly too close to the sun. Some thought it was turtles all the way down.
But everyone thought the universe centered around us and was, more or less, set up just for us. That is how men, unequipped with the knowledge and technology now available to us, thought the universe worked 3,000 years ago.
I think that dispelling that myth requires only a gentle lesson about the size of the universe, requiring nothing more than a calculator and a sense of awe.
First, a simple lesson in scale. A million is the smallest increment on the cosmic yardstick. And a million, to us, is really a lot!
To illustrate, let’s look at a million of something. Something easy to understand. Like seconds. 1,000,000 (one million) seconds = 11 days, 13 hours, 46 min, and 40 sec.
Let’s call it 11.5 days for convenience. 1,000,000,000 (one billion) seconds = 11, 500 days or 31.5 years! One billion seconds ago, Jimmy Swaggart was telling people that the Bible was the greatest science book ever written.
And banging prostitutes in Louisiana motels.
But I digress. Anyway, on to…
Let’s look at our nearest star, the sun, as a big yellow beach ball three feet in diameter. We will start all our measurements from there.
If the sun were a beach ball sitting on the goal line at Sun Devil Stadium, the earth would be a tiny round piece of pea gravel 93 yards away (93 million miles).
Mars would be a little orange bead almost 400 feet away in the seats behind the goal post (142 million miles). Jupiter would be a baseball just over one quarter-mile away (484 million miles).
Saturn would be a tennis ball about on half-mile away (888 million miles). Pluto, smaller than our moon, would be a pinhead almost two and a half miles away (3.67 billion miles).
BTW, to drive out to Pluto at 60 miles per hour would take you 6,975 years. After that, things start getting bigger in a hurry.
The nearest star, Alpha Centauri at a distance of 4.3 light-years, would be a slightly smaller beach ball, in Sydney, Australia, 12,440 miles away.
Driving time at 60 miles per hour: 47.6 million years. If one year were one second long, it would still take you a year and a half to drive there.
The nearest spiral galaxy, the lovely Andromeda, is a mere two million light-years away. Like our galaxy, the Milky Way, Andromeda is approximately 100,000 light-years in diameter and contains over 200 billion stars.
If the Milky Way were a house, Andromeda would be another house four football fields away. If you were driving at one million miles an hour, it would take you six million years to drive across our galaxy 120 million years to get to the outskirts of Andromeda.
The Milky Way is one of about 20 galaxies in our local cluster which, in turn, is part of the local supercluster that contains thousands of galaxies.
The farthest observed galaxy would be another house 2,000 miles away. Driving at the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second or 11 million times the speed limit, it would take you over 12 billion years to get there.
If the sun were a grain of sand, the stars in our galaxy would fill an Olympic-size swimming pool. If our galaxy were a grain of sand, the galaxies would fill several Olympic-size swimming pools.
From where we sit, we can see well over 100 billion galaxies beyond our own. On average, they each have over 100 billion stars and other stuff.
And that is just the stuff we can see from here. I don’t see any reason to think that everything suddenly stops just past that galaxy.
So, as you can see, the universe is, in scientific terms, freakin’ huuuge! I think that a lot of the adamantly religious have an institutionally mandated and studiously maintained level of ignorance regarding not just the size of the universe, but also our relative importance in it.
I personally do not find myself diminished by it; I find it the most fascinating thing imaginable. Perspective Isaac Asimov put things in perspective in the title of his sci-fi novel The Stars Like Dust.
Even looking around in our local neighborhood, the stars are, in some places, so numerous they look like haze.
Bertrand Russell, in his book Why I Am Not A Christian, says (and I am paraphrasing) that our inflated sense of self-importance and placement in the universe can best be cured with a little astronomy.
But I think P.W. Atkins, in a remarkable little book called, ironically, Creation Revisited, opened up a whole new perspective when he called the universe “a local outcropping of matter.”
That is the kind of scale and perspective that shows the ancient god-myths for what they truly are: local outcroppings of lunacy.
It is unusual, but perhaps a telling statement on human stubbornness, that the recent discoveries of the size of the universe and our highly unprivileged position within it have not made a bigger dent in religious beliefs. But one thing is certain- many Christians have been sheltered from learning much about science, such that many of them are functionally unaware of this fact. They still live in a fantasy world with the Earth at its center.
(3361) No Bible = a better world
There exists a strong argument that if the Bible had never existed, the world would have been better off in almost every way. Christians claim the opposite, but whatever good has come from the Bible has been more than erased by the evil it has spawned. The following was taken from:
Point out the atrocities, the millions murdered in the name of Jesus, and contrast that with the number of people killed by, say, Quakers or Jains. By very definition, Quakers and Jains cannot use their religion to rationalize murder or any evil action.
Yet Christians can cite multiple scriptures to “prove” that gays should be killed, god supports slavery, misogyny is valid, and the notion that Christians should travel the world and preach their religion while annexing all lands occupied by “heathens.”
The core of your argument can rightly be: if the Bible never existed, then early Hebrews and later Christians could not have claimed god on their side in performing their many immoral and murderous acts, still in practice today.
No Crusades, no witchhunts, no Inquisitions, no oppression of gays, apostates, non-virgin brides, or people of other belief systems. If no Bible: peace, prosperity, the continuation of Hellenistic enlightenment, and no Dark Ages.
It should be assumed that a book authored by the supreme celestial authority would redound to the benefit of humankind rather than being the source of hate, division, misogyny, enslavement, genocide, gay bashing, and the killing of witches, disobedient children, and followers of other faiths. The Bible is a powerful piece of evidence that Yahweh is a fictional god.
(3362) Deconstructing all possible gods
There are various types of possible gods- a deist god, a personal god, an intelligent designer god, and a judgment day god, the last three of which are incorporated by Christianity. But analyzing each of these possibilities renders a consistent conclusion- none of them exists. The following was taken from:
To begin our discussion, we have to classify gods. This way we can address different claims of gods individually.
I’ll call the first type deist, because that’s the most common form of belief in this type of god. Though, this god is also often discussed in philosophy as the prime mover. The Deist god put things in motion and left or became inactive or died or whatever. Regardless, the god who put things in motion and left is not here now. So, even those who believe in this sort of generic prime mover still essentially believe we live in a gods-free universe now. From a functional standpoint, they don’t expect any more god-related activity or behavior than I do as a gnostic atheist.
As such, this type of god hypothesis makes no testable predictions. A universe with such a god is indistinguishable from a universe with no such god. So, in addition to the point made above, from a scientific standpoint, we can call this a failed hypothesis, meaning that it fails to meet the criteria to be a scientific hypothesis.
Then there are personal gods. These gods are reputed to take action beyond just the creation of the universe. These are gods who demand or expect worship. They take action based on the saccharine adoration of their sycophantic followers.
If we can show statistically, that there is no effect from the saccharine adoration, worship of, and self-enslavement to such a deity, then we can show that the hypothesis that gods do respond to prayer is false and that this particular type of god does not exist.
That test has indeed been performed. God, if s/he exists does not, in fact, respond to prayer.
Intelligent Designer God:
One common hypothesis about god is that s/he (or they in the case of multiple gods) designed things. The Abrahamic God in particular, which is the most commonly discussed deity in my area of the world, but far from the only one, is even said to have created us in His image. (I do not know why anyone would assume that a god who birthed a universe is male rather than female. That makes little sense to me. But, so be it.)
If we can show that design did not take place, then we can show that there is no intelligent designer.
So, we can look for flaws in the “design” of our universe or ourselves. Looking for flaws in ourselves is the easiest thing to do because we actually know rather a lot about our flaws. And, from the human-centric standpoint that is very common among members of our species, we are the pinnacle of god’s creation (for an obviously self-centered and self-aggrandizing reason). So, we should be the least flawed creatures in the known universe.
Far from it.
For some reason, most male mammals, including humans, have nipples. These serve no reproductive function in human males. Though, some of us derive sexual pleasure from having them touched. I’m not sure how many religions would consider this a worthwhile feature.
Back pain. 80% of humans will experience back pain at some point in their lives. I know I do. Our back pain is evidence of our recent evolution from knuckle-walking apes. Their spines are straight and cause them no pain. But, we weren’t designed as bipeds. Rather we were kluged into it through evolution from quadrupeds. So, unlike bipedal birds, we have a lot of structural problems from our curved and recurved spine.
As an evolutionary kluge, it is functional enough. But, it is certainly bad design.
Knee pain. All the same applies to knee pain. Though, I don’t know the statistics on how many of us experience knee pain.
Hernias. The males of our species are particularly prone to hernias. These are caused by the fact that our testes start out up in our abdomens, where they are in the fish from which we evolved. But, for mammalian purposes, we need them to be in external sacks in order to regulate the temperature for sperm production, which must be slightly cooler than the rest of our body’s temperature.
So, if all goes well, at about 9 months old, our testes drop from our abdomen to our scrota leaving a cavity that makes us vulnerable to hernias.
Of course, good design would mandate that the testes just start out in the scrota where they belong in mammals. But, since all mammals are in the taxa sarcopterygii, the family of lobe-finned fish, our testes must drop and our risk of hernia is increased.
Though I know of no health problems caused by this bit of obvious bad design, it is a rather amusing piece of evidence that there was no designer. It’s a silly piece of human anatomy. Watch this video to see just how extremely silly this down and back nerve gets in a giraffe!
The laws of physics work. Every single time. Our most tried and proven theories such as General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics do not have exceptions in them. There are limits to the ranges at which they work, just as there are with Newton’s (so-called) Laws of Motion. But, within the realms for which they are defined, they always work.
We don’t need exceptions in our laws of physics for when some god or other intervenes.
If you drop a ball while standing on the surface of the earth, it will fall to the ground. Every single time. This is just what it means to be a scientific theory. We actually don’t have any proof that this is so. It just keeps on working every time we perform the experiment. This is how science works. It is all empirical.
With the exception of mathematics, which does in fact have proofs, everything we know about our world is empirical.
If you believe in god(s), you will never know whether the ball will fall to the ground when you drop it. Seriously. You don’t. If you believe there are god(s), you must believe that one of them might catch the ball and hold it suspended in mid-air, or cause it to fall up, or cause it to go sideways and hit you in the eye. You have no clue what will happen next in a godinfested universe.
Thank God there are no gods! /snark
Judgement Day God:
Many people believe in what, for lack of a better term, I’ll call Judgement Day God (JDG).
They worry that JDG will judge them for not believing correctly and thus will damn them to hell for eternity. There are many specific sets of rules about how to be judged worthy of heaven from the various religions, most notably the Abrahamic religion (deliberately singular), centered around a JDG.
All of these sects, subsects, and religions say that you must follow their specific instructions or burn forever. And, the instructions of each contradict the instructions of the others. So, it’s impossible to get it right.
Or, is it?
Here’s the real question regarding a JDG, what is the likelihood that the creator of the universe is a psychopathic sadist?
This is the crux of the matter, pun intended.
In order for any god to create a hell in the first place, or even to allow one to be created, god must have at least some pretty serious sadistic tendencies. But, to actually send people there for eternity, not just until they repent, and to do so for the sole crime of non-belief or of following a wrong set of rules, is just plain psychopathic and sadistic with overtones of narcissism and cruelty beyond human imagining, or more literally, right out of the worst of human imaginings.
Now, I admit that such a god might not be possible to actively disprove. A universe in which the vast majority of the volume of space would be lethal in about 30 seconds? A JDG might find this amusing. A planet where 99% or more of all species that ever live go extinct? A JDG might find this entertaining, like watching gladiators fight lions. A basic body plan that causes 80% of people to suffer from back pain at some point in their lives? Hilarious, right?
So, perhaps all that’s left for this type of god is an argument from personal incredulity.
Is there even the remotest possibility that the creator of the universe deliberately created us to torture the vast majority of us for eternity?
Or, perhaps I can also add to the incredulity the question of whether such a god is worthy of worship? Is this a bad plot line for the ultimate horror movie? Do you really see a way to avoid such a god?
If there were such a psychopathic sadist as creator for the universe, would there be One True Set of Rules of the One True Religion will escape Hell? A sick fuck of a deity who would set things up this way would probably take the most pleasure in torturing precisely the people who worshiped correctly.
Remember, this is the same god who, according to the tradition of all of the Abrahamic sects, created the tree of knowledge with the best fruit in the garden, said eat all the other fruits but not this best fruit of all that will give you what humans crave most, knowledge.
Then the sick fuck sent a talking snake to convince them to violate the rule and eat the fruit. So, of course they did!
And, this psychopath jumped out from behind a bush and yelled “Gotcha!!”
I’m not personally capable of believing in a god who taunts people into doing bad things then yells gotcha. There’s nothing anyone could do to appease such a god.
More importantly, if someone managed to find some hard scientific evidence that such a god exists, I would cease to be an atheist. But, I would not become a worshiper of such a god. I would become a misotheist instead.
Such a god is worthy of contempt, scorn, and hatred, not sycophantic worship.
Again, thank God there are no gods! /snarkety snark snark
None of the above types of gods exist in our universe today.
TL;DR: Deist God is already assumed not to exist or be powerless today, leaving us in a gods-free universe now. Personal gods are shown not to exist by the lack of effectiveness of prayer. Intelligent Designer gods are shown not to exist by obvious bad design. The concept of a psychopathic Judgement Day God who would set things up as necessary for there to be a hell and a judgement day is beyond ludicrous. There is no action you could take to prevent a sadistic JDG from torturing you, were there such a creature. Be glad there’s no evidence of this creature.
There are no gods.
Barring new information of a type never before seen, the default position is that he universe lacks a god- at least a god of any significance or that has any effect on our lives.. It is important to be open to changing this conclusion if necessary, but that day has not yet arrived.
(3363) Christian theologian on the hunt
Not alone in this ruse, the author of the Gospel of Matthew engaged in a desperate attempt to mine verses from the Old Testament to show that Jesus was the messiah spoken of from the early days of Judaism. The following shows why he’s no longer fooling objective biblical scholars:
Let’s review another of Matthew’s bad habits, and here again, readers must pay very close attention. Matthew searched the Old Testament for texts that—for him—could only have meant Jesus, but he was a Christian theologian on the hunt. We flinch at his fondness for taking verses out of context:
Matthew 1:23: “a virgin shall conceive and bear a son” is based on a mistranslation of Isaiah 7:14, a chapter that has nothing whatever to do with Jesus.
Matthew 2:6: “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.” This is a loose quote of Micah 5:2, in which a besieged Israel is promised deliverance by Yahweh. This might have made sense to Matthew, since Israel was under the boot of Roman rule, but his theology was delusional. If Micah had meant Jesus, he could have said so. And, of course, the prophecy as applied to Jesus was dead wrong: he never became a ruler to govern Israel. Matthew’s theology was mistaken in the hope that Jesus would soon initiate the kingdom of Yahweh on earth.
Matthew 2:18: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” Here Matthew plucked a verse at random from Jeremiah 31:15, to indicate that the ancient prophet had predicted Herod’s slaughter of children in and around Bethlehem. The prophet, however, had the suffering at his own time in mind.
Matthew 2:23: “And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” This is a reference to Joseph moving the family to Galilee after the return from Egypt (more about that next). Matthew here has indulged in feeble wordplay: because a couple of words sounded similar, he felt it could be construed as a “prophecy.” The word from the Old Testament is Nazirite, and referred to men who had taken vows not to cut their hair or drink wine, among other things, as signs of holiness.
Matthew 2:14-15: “And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt have I called my son.’” That is, Matthew wanted his readers to know that, because of Herod’s murderous rampage, Joseph took Mary and the baby to safety in Egypt. On the very face of it, this story is absurd. Why Egypt, of all places? Please note that Matthew invented the story of Herod’s massacre (it is not mentioned in the other gospels, nor by any historians of the time). The farfetched story of the flight to Egypt is an invention as well. Why would Matthew tell such a tall tale? He wanted to use Hosea 11:1 as a prophecy about Jesus: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” But Hosea says explicitly that Israel was Yahweh’s son. No, he would not have been thinking about a guy named Jesus, several centuries later. However, our Christian theologian, Matthew, was lost in his fantasies that Jesus had replaced Israel as Yahweh’s son.
If the Bible was the work of God and that Jesus was the savior to be sent to the Israelites, the connection between Old Testament scripture and Jesus would have been evident without requiring the conduct any slight of hand. The above is sufficient evidence to conclude that this assertion is untrue.
(3364) Jesus forgets scripture
Jesus made a big blunder when he was trying to make an analogy about how fathers relate to their sons. Somehow he completely forgot about a passage in Numbers, Chapter 21, and proverbially put his foot in his mouth. Notice the embarrassing contradiction:
What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
Then they set out from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, in order to bypass the land of Edom. But the people grew impatient on the journey and spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you led us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread or water, and we detest this wretched food!” So the LORD sent venomous snakes among the people, and many of the Israelites were bitten and died.
If Jesus was God then he must have known the Old Testament scriptures by heart, and if so, he would have realized that the statement he made in the Luke passage was a poor choice of words, reflecting poorly on his own father. Therefore, Jesus was not God.
(3365) God’s temper tantrum
In the following scripture we can see the creator of the universe acting like a berserk psychopath who is off his meds. Christians cannot run from this scripture. It is in their Bibles. This is the god that they worship.
If, however, you fail to obey Me and to carry out all these commandments, and if you reject My statutes, despise My ordinances, and neglect to carry out all My commandments, and so break My covenant, then this is what I will do to you: I will bring upon you sudden terror, wasting disease, and fever that will destroy your sight and drain your life. You will sow your seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it. And I will set My face against you, so that you will be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee when no one pursues you.
And if after all this you will not obey Me, I will proceed to punish you sevenfold for your sins. I will break down your stubborn pride and make your sky like iron and your land like bronze, and your strength will be spent in vain. For your land will not yield its produce, and the trees of the land will not bear their fruit.
If you walk in hostility toward Me and refuse to obey Me, I will multiply your plagues seven times, according to your sins.I will send wild animals against you to rob you of your children, destroy your livestock, and reduce your numbers, until your roads lie desolate.
And if in spite of these things you do not accept My discipline, but continue to walk in hostility toward Me, then I will act with hostility toward you, and I will strike you sevenfold for your sins. And I will bring a sword against you to execute the vengeance of the covenant. Though you withdraw into your cities, I will send a plague among you, and you will be delivered into the hand of the enemy. When I cut off your supply of bread, ten women will bake your bread in a single oven and dole out your bread by weight, so that you will eat but not be satisfied.
But if in spite of all this you do not obey Me, but continue to walk in hostility toward Me, then I will walk in fury against you, and I, even I, will punish you sevenfold for your sins. You will eat the flesh of your own sons and daughters. I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars, and heap your lifeless bodies on the lifeless remains of your idols; and My soul will despise you.
I will reduce your cities to rubble and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will refuse to smell the pleasing aroma of your sacrifices. And I will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who dwell in it will be appalled. But I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out a sword after you as your land becomes desolate and your cities are laid waste.
Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths all the days it lies desolate, while you are in the land of your enemies. At that time the land will rest and enjoy its Sabbaths. As long as it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not receive during the Sabbaths when you lived in it.
As for those of you who survive, I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies, so that even the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight. And they will flee as one flees the sword, and fall when no one pursues them. They will stumble over one another as before the sword, though no one is behind them. So you will not be able to stand against your enemies.
You will perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies will consume you. Those of you who survive in the lands of your enemies will waste away in their iniquity and will decay in the sins of their fathers.
This is conduct unbecoming any earthly political leader, that would result in universal censure, if not criminal court proceedings, and even conviction by a United Nations tribunal. Yet, this is God. What is the Christian response?
(3366) Mixing astrology with theology
The author of the Gospel of Matthew was not averse to employing pagan astrological themes to buttress his case that Jesus was the long awaited savior. But this seems to contaminate the Christian ideal that their faith rises above superstitious concepts. The following was taken from:
Here—and only here—do we find the so-called wise men. And these twelve verses swarm with difficulties, improbabilities, absurdities. The King James translators came up with “wise men” as a translation of the Greek word magi. Matthew seems to have meant by this word Zoroastrian priests who specialized in astrology. He wanted his readers to know that there was a sign in the heavens that Jesus had been born, and that foreign priests had come to pay him homage; Matthew was doing his job as propagandist for the Jesus cult. Hence, to this day, we have the iconic images of a star over the stable, and regally dressed visitors offering gifts to an infant.
But, oh dear, this is not a best practice! Does Christian theology really want to enlist support from astrology? Given the popularity of horoscopes in daily newspapers, many Christians would not sense the contradiction—nor do they realize that this ancient superstition has been falsified. Buttressing theology with astrology is a thoroughly bad idea. And it gets even worse. The magi saw the star, and set out to find the child. They ended up in Jerusalem, wanting to know where this “new king of the Jews” could be found. On what basis could they have surmised this precise information—that the star indicated the birth of Jewish king? Why would they have cared? But these are pointless questions because Matthew was writing a fantasy piece for his target market. And the fantasy got even better…or worse. The magi were told that this new king would be born in Bethlehem, and then the star—as Robert M. Price has pointed out—turned into Tinkerbelle, a GPS that guided them to Bethlehem, where it “stopped over the place where the child was.”
Now readers must pay very close attention. That “place” is called a “house,” and Jesus is referred to as a “child.” The word for house, oikian is found also in Matthew 7:24, “a wise man who built his house upon rock,” and Matthew 8:14, “When Jesus entered Peter’s house.” Not a stable.The word for child, paidion, is also used by Matthew at 18:2, “He called a child, whom he put among them.” While Luke also used paidion to refer to the baby in the manger, Matthew could very well have had Jesus as a toddler in mind. Remember that, at the opening of the story, we read, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judah,” the wise men made their way—from some distant place—to Jerusalem to find out where they could find the child, and some time later were sent on their way, following the Tinkerbell star, with orders from King Herod to report back to him. It was when they decided not to, that Herod ordered the massacre of children in the Bethlehem area “who were two years old or younger, according to the time he had learned from the wise men.” So Matthew’s magi were seeking a boy under two years of age. This author certainly had no intention of presenting the wise men showing up at a stable the night Jesus was born. So get them out of the stable!
There are, moreover, major plot flaws in Matthew’s fantasy story. Why have the star guide the wise men only after they’d left Jerusalem? If God was paying attention—playing an active role in these events—why didn’t the star lead them directly to Bethlehem, and thus avoid arousing the anger of Herod? And how in the world does a star “stop over the place where the child was”? Christians seem to love the imagery of the star gleaming over the stable, but doesn’t that look too much like “Christmas by Disney”?
None of this drama reads like actual history and it’s not even certain that the author in this case ever intended it be anything other than a legendary story. In either case, it is patently obvious to anyone not inculcated in the faith that this is pure myth, and nothing else.
(3367) The Q crisis
It has long been theorized that gospel authors used a preceding document known as ‘Q’ as source material for their gospel accounts. What is troubling for Christians is that a backward reconstruction of what Q likely contained did not include the resurrection of Jesus. Because it was the written effort closest in time to the events of Jesus’ life, this omission tends to suggest that the resurrection was a later add-on to the legend of Jesus. The following was taken from:
It should bring an end to the myth, the history, the mentality, of the Gospels. But nobody’s going to want to read it!” Burton L. Mack, until his recent retirement a professor of New Testament at the School of Theology at Claremont, in southern California, and the author of a best-selling book about the origins of Christianity, was drumming his palms on a table in his living room not long ago and talking about the publication of a scholarly document that he believes radically undercuts Christianity’s claim to be the religion of Jesus of Nazareth. Mack, although he taught future ministers, would not be displeased. He blames Christianity for contributing to centuries of U.S. wrongdoing, from wars against Native Americans to interventionism abroad. “They’ll have to read it!” he declaimed.
The document he was discussing is a reconstructed Greek text (with an immense scholarly apparatus) of “Q,” as biblical scholars have named a hypothetical first-century work composed mostly of sayings of Jesus. The first installment was published last spring by the Belgian firm Peeters under the series title Documenta Q. Many scholars believe that Q served as a literary source (“Q” is short for Quelle, the German word for “source”) for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, which contain numerous parallel passages. Other scholars believe it never existed — there are no manuscripts of Q or references to it in ancient literature. Contained in Q, or at least in the parallel passages of Matthew and Luke for which Q is the hypothetical source, are many of the teachings of Jesus that Christians placed near the heart of their faith: the Lord’s Prayer, the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, the Golden Rule, and the famous admonition “You cannot serve God and Mammon.” It would therefore seem at first glance as though Q were a thoroughly Christian text, not the threat to Christianity that Mack describes. Believing that something like Q might have existed does not in itself entail a rejection of Christianity. Indeed, many scholars who are Christian believers endorse the Q hypothesis.
However, according to a largely North American cadre of biblical scholars that includes Mack, who in 1993 published a book called containing his own Q rendition, and James M. Robinson, the founder of the International Q Project and a colleague of Mack’s at Claremont, the teachings of Jesus in Q hold the key to an understanding of Jesus that is fundamentally non-Christian. According to these scholars, the authors of Q did not view Jesus as “the Christ” (that is, as “the anointed one,” the promised Messiah), or as the redeemer who had atoned for their sins by his crucifixion, or as the son of God who rose from the dead. Instead, they say, Q’s authors esteemed Jesus as simply a roving sage who preached a life of possessionless wandering and full acceptance of one’s fellow human beings, no matter how disreputable or marginal. In that respect, they say, he was a Jesus for the America of the third millennium, a Jesus with little supernatural baggage but much respect for cultural diversity.
The roughly 235 parallel verses in Luke and Matthew that scholars have identified as Q material (their techniques and their reasoning will be discussed in greater detail below) do not include the Gospel narratives of Jesus’ passion and resurrection, which seem to have come from other sources, written or oral. Therefore Q partisans contend that the authors of Q knew nothing about the way Jesus died or about the stories of an empty tomb — or if they knew, they did not care. Hence there was no atonement doctrine in Q theology. And because belief in Jesus’ resurrection is the core belief of Christianity (even very liberal Christians profess faith in the Easter event, if only as a metaphor for renewal), the people who wrote Q must have been adherents of Jesus’ in Palestine who were not “Christians” — unless, as Robinson and others observe, one stretches the word to include anyone who admires Jesus. Scholars used to refer to members of the Q community as “Jewish Christians,” a term that can sometimes lead to confusion. The preferred designation nowadays for the group of which they were a part is the “Jesus movement.” It took decades, Q partisans believe, before the movement was subsumed into a “cult of Christ,” largely gentile and centered on the cross and the resurrection — a cult that became known as Christianity.
If Q was a real document, and if it did not view Jesus as a dying and rising god, this would would suggest that it can fall in line with the previous succession of Mark to Matthew to Luke to John in the building myth of Jesus, from being a regular preacher in Q to being God itself in John, with incremental steps at each juncture. This is a nightmare for Christian apologists and provides a challenge to anyone who, for instance, accepts the literal truth of what is written in the Gospel of John.
(3368) Two men in a bed
Christian homophobia and translator license combine to make an interesting situation concerning a scripture in the Gospel of Luke, that has Jesus describing a future scene of the rapture.
Luke 17:34 (King James Version)
“I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.”
This verse reads identically or similarly to the New King James Version, the NASB 1977, the American Standard Version, the Douay-Rheimes Bible, the English Revised Version, the Literal Standard Version, the Weymouth New Testament, and the Young’s Literal Translation.
But, most modern translations have changed the scene to have ‘two people’ in the bed or just ‘two’ in the bed. Here is the most popular version, the New International Version of Luke 17:34:
“I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left.”
Although ‘two men’ is indisputably the accurate English translation, modern Christianity, with its renewed attack on homosexuality, just cannot have two men being together in a bed with one of them being raptured into heaven. That would imply that God will find favor in a homosexual man and will whisk him into the glory of paradise.
“That just will not do. Certainly this was a mistake and we will change it to ‘two people’ or just ‘two,’ implying of course, a man and a woman.”
(3369) Christianity’s fault lines
Many Christians have faith in the truth of their religion. But there exist many cracks in their doctrine that beg to be exposed to objective ears. Here are a few of the major ones:
One can have faith regardless. But, the basic tenets do not stand up to any scrutiny.
1) Even ignoring the literal seven days, Genesis 1 is demonstrably and provably false, meaning if God were to exist and had created the universe, he had no clue what he created. This seems more than a tad odd and rather damning.
2) Moses and the exodus are considered myths/legends. This means the entirety of the Tenakh (old testament), including the Pentateuch and 10 commandments were not given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai.
Here’s a good video regarding the Exodus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHle49-m2Lc
3) Jesus could not possibly have been the messiah foretold in the Old Testament no matter what else anyone thinks of him as some other kind of messiah.
The messiah was supposed to bring peace. Jesus did not even want to bring peace.
Matt 10:34-36: 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
4) We are way too flawed to have been created by an all-perfect designer.
5) A just god does not punish people for the sins of their greatn grandparents. So, original sin, if it were to exist, would be evidence of an evil god.
6) With 2.6 billion Christians on a planet of 7.8 billion people, God as hypothesized in Christianity set things up such that more than 2/3 of the people on the planet would burn in hell forever. This is a god worthy of contempt rather than worship.
7) Christians had to modify the Hebrew Bible to create the Christian Old Testament to pretend that Jesus fulfilled the prophesies. This would not be necessary if he had actually done so.
There are simply too many cracks in the patchwork used by Christians to shore up confidence in their faith. A true religion would be seamless, with all the pieces of the puzzle fitting beautifully, and all criticism melting in the face of easy examination.
(3370) Jesus never intended new scripture
It seems obvious that Jesus did not anticipate that there would be a need for any new scriptures to be added to the ‘Bible’ considering that (1) the existing scriptures at that time were at least 400 years old and (2) that Jesus believed that the world order would end within the then-existing generation. It is probable that the decision by Christians to add ‘official’ scripture was in response to the disappointment that Jesus failed to return as expected. The following was taken from:
Seriously, is there any indication in the gospels that Jesus had any plans for there to be new scripture? As far as I remember, the only things he said regarding scripture is that he came to fulfill the existing scripture and that “not a single letter will be added or taken away from the law”.
There were people that wrote down the Jesus narrative, and there was Paul writing letters to different churches. But as far as I can tell, none of this was considered the authoritative word of God until all the disciples passed away and Jesus had not yet come as promised. Only then did people start saying, “well if these stories and letters are all we have left… then they must have been perfectly authored”.
Canonization was a last ditch effort to save face. There wasn’t supposed to be anymore generations after Jesus and his disciples. The only solution was to pretend that the letters and gospels were “inspired by God.”
The best way to cover up the failure of Jesus to return was to anoint new writings as being god-inspired and slapping them on the end of the Jewish scriptures. And that is what they did. So Christians, in the wake of a missing Jesus, became worshipers of a book.
(3371) Crucifixion issues
Along with several conflicts between the gospels concerning Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, there are problems even with some of the consistent details- the biggest of which is Jesus’ quick death on the cross. This would have been counter to the underlying purpose of crucifixion as practiced by the Romans. The following was taken from:
How was Jesus executed?
According to Luke 23, Jesus was tried by a Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, then crucified alongside two other criminals. In spite of the sometimes-vivid portraits of crucifixion in novels and movies, our knowledge of this form of execution is limited. Ancient literature provides no graphic representations of death on a cross. Luke simply writes: “they crucified Jesus” (Luke 23:33). Nevertheless, the picture Luke paints might be regarded as typical, since we know from limited archaeological and textual evidence that those sentenced to be crucified were often whipped and made to carry their own crossbeams to the place of execution, where they were bound or nailed to a cross with arms extended, raised up, and, perhaps, seated on a small wooden peg.
The Roman practice of crucifixion was barbaric, but not necessarily involving bloody brutality (as depicted, for example, in Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ). Indeed, the Romans wanted to leave the victim alive on the cross as long as possible. The idea was to provide the general population with a striking display of the fate awaiting those found guilty of resisting Roman rule. The Roman orator Quintillion (circa 35-90s C.E.) observed that, “whenever we crucify the guilty, the most crowded roads are chosen, where most people can see and be moved by this fear. For penalties relate not so much to retribution as to their exemplary effect” (Declamationes 274). From a Roman perspective, the horror of crucifixion was the horror of social shame. Executed publicly, situated along well-trafficked routes, devoid of clothing, denied burial, and left to be eaten by birds and beasts, victims of crucifixion were subject to vicious ridicule.
It is likely that the gospel authors were motivated by at least two reasons to get Jesus off the cross quickly- (1) it would be unseemly to have the savior of the universe being picked apart by carnivorous birds (a fate that all crucifixion victims had to deal with), and (2) the timing between the Passover and the subsequent Sunday could not have Jesus languishing on the cross for a week or more (as was true in most cases) in order to make his resurrection happen on a Christian day of worship. Adding to the concern of (1) above, it was also necessary to have Jesus be buried in a tomb instead of being placed in a communal grave pit as was the custom for crucifixion victims. Thus the gospel writers took the basic theme of crucifixion but modified it to meet certain criteria of Christian theology. Whether realizing it or not, they were not recording actual history.
(3272) Original sin failure
Much of Christian theology is based on the precept that Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden was humanity’s ‘original’ sin that brought death into the world for humans and other animals and that this sin was passed on to all humans that came later. This then required Jesus to die as a sacrifice so that people can erase this inherited sin. Much of this philosophy is based on this scripture:
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, so also death was passed on to all men, because all sinned.
However, this is a mistranslation as discussed below:
One of the main verses used in the Catholic Church’s catechism to defend the doctrine of Original Sin is Romans 5:12. They quote it as: “By one man’s disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners”: “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.” (RSVCE translation). The only problem is that the original text never said this.
The key phrase is at the end of the verse, “ἐφ’ ᾧ πάντες ἥμαρτον” (eph’ ho pantes hemarton). This is a tough syntax to interpret, but as David Bentley Hart explains in his translation, it should read, “whereupon all sinned”, referring back to death, and meaning “that the consequence of death spreading to all human beings is that all became sinners”. (DBH, The New Testament, p296)
However critically, the cause and effect has been reversed in Western translations. Instead of sin coming about as a result of death entering the world, as the Greek reads, Western translations have it reversed, that death comes about as a result of sin entering the world.
This is based on Jerome’s mistranslation in the Latin Vulgate in the 4th century (in quo omnes peccaverunt or “in whom all sinned”). Ever since, everyone in the West has used this verse as a major proof text for Original Sin. However in the original Greek it says the opposite. The RSVCE doesn’t use this exact formulation in English (as, for instance, the Douey-Rheims does), but it still makes the same fundamental mistake of reversing the cause and effect. The word “Because” retains this central mistake of the original mistranslation.
This is another example of translator chicanery, twisting and twirling scripture to make it support a theological agenda. This should make Christians nervous that they are following doctrines created by translators and not by their Bible heroes.
(3373) Comparing God to an earthly father
Comparing an existing human to a hypothetical god might be disingenuous, but nevertheless it provides an avenue for consideration. Below, God is compared to a loving earth-bound father:
Thesis: The bible says god loves us and people preach constantly that god wants a relationship with us, however he either doesn’t exist or expects an extremely one-sided toxic relationship.
Lets look at what this relationship with god looks like and compare it with human relationships, shall we? To make a simple comparison I’ll compare a relationship with a person and their nice father to a relationship between a person and god.
Relationship with the supposedly perfect, all loving, all powerful God
- God doesn’t bother proving he exists, and wants you to just believe without good evidence.
- Apparently you have to “seek out” god to find him.
- God doesn’t bother speaking to you at all.
- If you ask god for help that he is capable of providing (he can provide anything, he’s god) he will still ignore your request.
- God is perfectly fine watching you die and will do nothing to stop it.
- If you don’t worship god then he will make you suffer for eternity.
Relationship with imperfect, but kind human father
- Your kind father will obviously exist because he will be physically part of your life.
- Your kind father will be happy to be in your life, whether you try to seek him out or not.
- Your kind father enjoys speaking to you.
- If you ask your kind father for help you with something that he can help with he will be happy to help.
- Your kind father would sacrifice his own life to save you if he could.
- Your kind father never wants you to suffer unless it is absolutely necessary, much less suffer for eternity. Nor does he require you to worship him.
Christians have little to say about such matters, even though they are trained to love God the father at the expense of their own father, especially in the case when your paternal unit does not share an equal belief. The Christian depiction of God is the antithesis of a loving father, and they should quit using that analogy.
(3374) Two problems with hell
The Christian concept of hell is burdened with two essentially insurmountable problems- its existence is not readily apparent to all people, and the playing field is heavily skewed based on conditions outside of anyone’s control. The following was taken from:
1) Rejection vs Non-belief The concept of the rejection of God is often brought up to sort of justify the existence of Hell. But can you really reject an offer for salvation if you don’t feel as though you have reasonable grounds to believe in it? Frank Turek goes on about how people “spend their lives running from Jesus, and so why should they be forced into heaven against their will.” Ignoring the fact that threatening eternal torture isn’t exactly a “oh yeah love me if you’re cool with it” type scenario, what Frank seems to imply is that it is impossible to not believe in Christianity which is some real mental gymnastics. After all, how can you run from something you don’t believe in?
2) Headstarts. Now let’s take Islam. What would be expected of me as a white westerner who grew up in a secular household is to completely change my lifestyle, possibly alienating the people I love to follow a book that I don’t know if I have reasonable grounds to believe in that appears to preach the disdain and hatred of said loved ones. Surely that would be more difficult than growing up in a Muslim family who you believe you will be spending eternity with in Jannah or Heaven. I do not mean to suggest Muslims are hateful people, but from the, albeit limited, amount I have read the Qur’an, there seems to be quite a prominent hatred of non-Muslims.
An eternal binary justice system is unethical even if the criteria is clearly disseminated to everyone and that all people had an equal opportunity to successfully navigate it. It has often been noted that eternal punishment for temporal crimes is immoral. But it gets much worse with Christianity- the reality of hell itself is highly questionable, the requirements to avoid it are confusing, and everyone is given a different difficulty level to achieve success.
(3375) Jesus was portrayed to replace the pagan gods
At the time that Christianity was just developing, it was in competition with many pagan religions that revered various specialty gods, each with a certain function. It appears obvious that the legends of Jesus’ miracles were devised to mimic the talents of each of these gods. They wanted Jesus to have all of these talents, so there would be no need for the pagan gods.
(1) Jesus turned water into wine mimicking Dionysus, also spelled Dionysos, also called Bacchus or (in Rome) Liber Pater, in Greco-Roman religion, a nature god of fruitfulness and vegetation, especially known as a god of wine and ecstasy.
(2) Jesus walks on the water mimicking Poseidon, in ancient Greek religion, god of the sea (and of water generally), earthquakes, and horses.
(3) Jesus heals the sick mimicking Asclepius, Greek Asklepios, Latin Aesculapius, Greco-Roman god of medicine, son of Apollo (god of healing, truth, and prophecy) and the mortal princess Coronis.
(5) Jesus calmed the storm mimicking the most famous Roman god, Jupiter, king of all the gods, who rules the sky controlling thunderstorms, lightning, weather and air.
(6) Jesus raised dead people mimicking Thanatos who was the god or personified spirit (daimon) of non-violent death. His touch was gentle, likened to that of his twin brother Hypnos (Sleep).
(7) Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes mimicking Ceres, in Roman religion, goddess of the growth of food plants, worshiped either alone or in association with the earth goddess Tellus.
This was a ‘fight fire with fire’ strategy such that ‘my god can do what your god can do and many more things as well.’ It was a strategy to lure pagan polytheists to abandon all of their gods and adopt Jesus who ‘does it all’ as a unique ‘all-in-one’ deity.
(3376) God, the lumberjack
God is often thanked by Christians when a ‘near miss’ occurs but everything turns out OK. This overlooks that fact that an omnipotent being (who has control over everything) has effectively threatened you with what could have happened if he had deemed to do so. This is hardly a basis for giving thanks, as discussed below:
Its funny how I recognize how silly Christianity is with the more distance I put myself from it. Recently, my mom was telling me about how blessed they (my parents) felt because a tree fell near one of their rental properties, but “thank God” it didn’t hit the house. At first, all I thought was that it was a little silly to attribute the direction of the tree falling to God’s hand, but then I had an epiphany. She praises god for directing the tree, but surely he caused the tree to fall too, he at least has the power to prevent it from falling. What would you think of a person that is very powerful, but constantly is reminding you how easy it would be for them to kill or hurt you. You would conclude that this is a very evil person, and certainly not worship them for any reason other than appeasement. All I said was I happy that they didn’t have to go through much trouble to clean it up and moved on with my day, but I did have to laugh a bit to myself after realizing how silly it all is.
Think of someone throwing a knife that misses your head by one foot. Is your first thought to thank that person for missing your head? Or is it to castigate him for threatening you and putting you in danger? God could have prevented the tree from falling in the first place (if we are to accept the Christian characterization of him as being omnipotent). To thank him in this situation makes no sense. The next tree that falls will probably hit the house, but God will still get praise if no one is hurt, or if everyone survives their injuries, or if only the dog dies, or if only one person died, or if all died and God was calling them to heaven.
(3377) Deliberate deception
Christian preachers make a habit of encouraging the laity to read their bibles while actually hoping that they don’t. Their strategy is to throw out the best feel-good passages during sermons and expect that this is enough ‘bible study’ for most of the parishioners. Their biggest fear is that the people in the pews will start to read the Bible in its entirety and then start asking troublesome questions that don’t have easy answers. The following was taken from:
Don’t wait for priests and preachers to encourage you to read the Bible. They know this is asking for trouble. Last week, Chris Farnet made this comment on the Debunking Christianity Blog:
“Looking back on my twelve years of Catholic school, it’s now clear to me why the nuns and priests didn’t encourage us to read the Bible on our own. In every religion class, at every Mass, in every priestly sermon, all I ever heard were carefully selected, sweet-sounding gospel passages that fed the myths they wanted to perpetuate. Knowing what I know now about the critical New Testament scholarship—information that surely must have been available to the clergy who taught me —it’s hard to believe their deceit wasn’t intentional.”
I doubt that many preachers end their sermons with study suggestions: “Now I want you all to go home and carefully read Mark, chapter 4, and then tell me your thoughts about what Jesus said about the parables.” Or: “This week please study John, chapter 3, and let’s talk about its major theological problems.” Below-the-surface analysis isn’t generally welcomed.
The deceit of serving steak without the vegetables, which is what most preacher do, it that they are deliberately skewing the message of the Bible to serve their needs- to keep people clueless about the cruel and horrible parts so that they will remain reliable attendees. A religion that senses a needs to hide a good percentage of its ‘holy book’ is unlikely to be one that’s rooted in reality.
(3378) Did Jesus talk about himself?
It depends on which gospel you read. As far as how Jesus referred to himself, the Jesus of the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) could not be same Jesus in the Gospel of John. The following was taken from:
Ehrman, the author of Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them), tells Terry Gross that he discourages readers from “smash[ing] the four Gospels into one big Gospel and think[ing] that [they] get the true understanding.”
“When Matthew was writing, he didn’t intend for somebody … to interpret his Gospel in light of what some other author said. He had his own message,” Ehrman says.
To illustrate the differences between the Gospels, Ehrman offers opposing depictions of Jesus talking about himself. In the book of John, Jesus talks about himself and proclaims who he is, saying “I am the bread of life.” Whereas in Mark, Jesus teaches principally about the coming kingdom and hardly ever mentions himself directly. These differences offer clues into the perspectives of the authors, and the eras in which they wrote their respective Gospels, according to Ehrman.
“In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is not interested in teaching about himself. But when you read John’s Gospel, that’s virtually the only thing Jesus talks about is who he is, what his identity is, where he came from,” Ehrman says. “This is completely unlike anything that you find in Mark or in Matthew and Luke. And historically it creates all sorts of problems, because if the historical Jesus actually went around saying that he was God, it’s very hard to believe that Matthew, Mark and Luke left out that part — you know, as if that part wasn’t important to mention. But in fact, they don’t mention it. And so this view of the divinity of Jesus on his own lips is found only in our latest Gospel, the Gospel of John.”
There can be no doubt that the Gospel of John is fraudulent and that it inaccurately expresses Jesus’ personality as a consequence of the evolution of Christian theology that occurred some 50-70 years post crucifixion. Either Jesus was more or less as he is portrayed in the synoptics, or he didn’t exist. There is no room for John to be in the conversation.
(3379) Religion is a drug
Much of the success of religion is that it activate the reward centers of the brain and this acts to cloud over the critical thinking centers allowing belief in improbable things. Parkinson’s patients who have damaged reward centers thus tend to be less religious. The following was taken from:
My belief in God didn’t spontaneously combust—it faded. I lost my virginity at 16. I stopped going to church. I snuck out past curfew. As punishment, my mom made me memorize Bible verses, and I recited them like recipes.
I wasn’t the only kid who stopped believing. A record number of young Americans (35 percent) report no religious affiliation, even though 91 percent of us grew up in religiously affiliated households.
Our disbelief was gradual. Only 1 percent of Americans raised with religion who no longer believe became unaffiliated through a onetime “crisis of faith.” Instead, 36 percent became disenchanted, and another 7 percent said their views evolved.
It’s like believing in Santa Claus. Psychologists Thalia Goldstein and Jaqueline Woolley have found that children’s disbelief in Santa Claus is progressive, not instantaneous. First kids think that the Santa in the mall or library is real, then they think he’s not real but still magically communicates with the actual Santa, and so on, until they finally realize that Santa is composed of costumed actors. “Kids don’t just turn [belief] off,” Goldstein says.
Likewise, losing faith happens in pieces.
I used to love this illustrated children’s Bible my mom gave me. Long-faced Jonah inside a yawning blue whale felt warm and right. My brain made these feelings. When we enjoy religious or associated experiences, like snuggling up with Mom reading the Bible, our brain’s reward circuits activate. Over time, religious ideas become rewarding in and of themselves. This is a powerful, unconscious motivation to keep believing.
“Religion works exactly like a drug—like cocaine, or methamphetamine—or like music, or like romantic love,” says Jeffrey Anderson, a radiology professor at the University of Utah who studies religion in the brain. “All of those experiences on some level tap into rewards. The physiology is really the same.”
When I began to see my colorful Bible as boring and childish, those same reward circuits likely became less active. Religious experiences produced less pleasure. This happens involuntarily in people with Parkinson’s disease, which compromises the brain’s reward centers. In turn, Anderson tells me, people who develop Parkinson’s are much more likely to lose their faith.
In sixth grade, I learned that humans evolved over six million years, not seven days. Ironically, the brain’s evolution is what enables us to believe in religion at all. Most components of religious belief are stored in the most evolved region of the brain, the frontal lobe. This may explain why religion is uniquely human.
For many years I believed in both creationism, with a God whose hand I could shake, and evolution, a cold, scientific world that cared nothing about me. Because when we lose faith, our brain’s preexisting belief networks don’t dissolve. They’re updated, like a wardrobe. “Even if someone abandons or converts [religions], it’s not like they’re throwing out all the clothes they own and now buying a whole new set,” says Jordan Grafman, director of brain injury research at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and a professor Northwestern University. “You pick and choose what you leave and what you keep.”
New beliefs join the same neurological framework as old ones. It’s even possible that an existing belief network paves the way for additional beliefs. Woolley has found that kids who believe in fantastical beings are more likely to believe in new ones invented by researchers. “I think it’s because they already have this network that [the new belief] kind of fits into,” she explains. Sometimes the new beliefs resemble the old ones; sometimes they don’t.
As I tried to reconcile my belief in God with my growing knowledge of the natural world, I drew arbitrary distinctions. God couldn’t see me poop but he could hear me pray, I decided. Eventually I couldn’t figure out how, physically, he could do either.
This scientific descent from religion is common. Pew’s 2016 survey on why now-unaffiliated Americans lost faith yielded explanations such as, “Rational thought makes religion go out the window,” “Lack of any sort of scientific or specific evidence of a creator,” and “I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.”
But it’s not just science that sways our beliefs; it’s the culture of science. Others’ testimony critically influences our belief systems. We arduously convince young children to believe in Santa, and they do. Testimony dictates religious beliefs, too. For example, psychologist Rebekah Richert has found that if you frame a fantastical story as a religious story, children raised in religious households will believe it. If you don’t frame it religiously, they’ll call your bluff.
When we get to college, however, cultural testimony changes. An analytical, scientific view reigns, and there’s little room for God. We staggered home from parties pontificating on the pointless evil of Western religion. We made friends by cynically confessing our doubt. College is “very likely to challenge the more conservative belief systems we have in our brains,” Grafman says. It deflates our adolescent faith.
When we finally break up with religion, we rebound. Eventually, non-religious people who once had religious epiphanies get those same feelings from being in nature, or from seeing profound scientific ideas expressed, Anderson says. “The context changes but the experience doesn’t.” Most non-religious people are “passionately committed to some ideology or other,” explains Patrick McNamara, a neurology professor at Boston University School of Medicine. These passions function neurologically as “faux religions.”
The human brain is thus designed to be particularly vulnerable to ‘feel-good’ ideas even when they represent things that are very improbable. By dangling the idea of eternal life and seeing deceased loved ones, religion captures the brains reward centers and strangles out a sense of skepticism that would normally attack these beliefs. Thus, it survives even though it is demonstrably false.
(3380) Pure monotheism postdates Christianity
Almost all contemporary Christians believe that Yahweh is the one and only god in the universe (although many assert that Jesus (The Son) and the Holy Spirit along with Yahweh (The Father) comprise this ‘singular’ god). This was not necessarily the same view shared by early Christians, many of whom continued to believe in the existence of other deities, even though they worshiped only their own god. The following was taken from:
I began by discussing “the Terminology Question”, specifically debates about whether in fact it is misleading to refer to ancient Jewish or Christian “monotheism”. The problem is that (1) the term is of relatively recent vintage (18th century), and, more seriously, (2) that the standard dictionary definition is belief in the existence of only one God (or, correspondingly, denial of the existence of any other gods). All our evidence of ancient Jewish tradition is either inconclusive about whether the existence of other deities was denied, or else is pretty clear that their existence wasn’t denied. Ancient Jews (and Christians) seem to have been more concerned to refuse the worship of other deities, and not so much their existence.
I respond by noting, however, that scholars seem quite ready to refer to “pagan monotheism,” by which they refer to the notion (reflected in some elite writers of the ancient period) that there is one superior deity over all the others, or that all the various deities are manifestations/expressions of one common deity behind them. This, please note, isn’t “monotheism” (per dictionary definitions), but “pagan monotheism.” I.e., multiple deities are granted, and (very importantly) all are to be given worship. But this diversity is presented as cohering somehow in a common divine essence.
So, I continue, if “pagan monotheism” is a valid category (NB, not “monotheism,” but “pagan monotheism”), then I propose that we can also refer to “ancient Jewish monotheism,” by which I mean the notion that there is one deity alone who is properly to be worshipped. I.e., it’s not the existence of other deities that is particularly denied, but instead the propriety of giving them worship. Worship-practice is the key expression of this “ancient Jewish monotheism.” Here, also, this isn’t dictionary “monotheism,” but instead “ancient Jewish monotheism.”
Christians today would like to believe that their brand of monotheism is the same as that envisioned by early Christians, though this appears to be untrue. It was not until much later that Christians began to deny the existence of any gods other than their own.
(3381) The strange insecurity of Christians
When you observe how Christians behave, you realize something unusual- they are over-confident on the surface, but insecure on the inside. This manifests in both their spoken words and the twisted logic they use to defuse or dismiss uncomfortable facts. The following is a quote from the video game ‘Heaven’s Vault’:
And there’s a strange insecurity to those who are already certain they are right. They live in constant, desperate need of confirmation, gobbling up scraps or evidence as if they were full meals and burning all of that which does not fit. It is human nature, I suppose, just as those who are truly wealthy hoard their wealth, and only those who are beautiful fear ugliness more than false friendship. To really learn is to unlearn, to really understand is to be comfortable with not understanding.
Christians are placed in a difficult position- they are required to have unquestioning faith while at the same time being supplied with insufficient evidence to merit that conviction. Their only way to survive this situation is to filter or massage facts to maintain the façade. There is an unwritten rule in Christianity to reject any infiltration of doubt even as it foments waves of cognitive dissonance. How an actual god would place his followers in this predicament is baffling.
(3382) Satan and devils perform miracles
One of the apparent strategies of Jesus’ mission was to perform miracles to convince people that he was god or at least a true prophet of god. But the Bible is full of bad actors doing miracles as well. This would seem to dilute the significance of Jesus’ miracles. Here is a sample of these miracle-working evil entities:
- While tempting Jesus, Satan was able to take Him to the pinnacle of the temple (Matt 4:5; Luke 4:9).
- The magicians of Egypt were able to duplicate many of the ten plagues (Exodus 7-12) and there is no evidence that God gave them that power.
- Satan is able to transform himself into “an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14). If so, it would seem likely that other fallen angels can do that as well.
- The fortune-telling slave girl who was demon possessed lost the ability to tell fortunes after Paul cast out the demon (Acts 16:16-19).
- Paul says that we wrestle with principalities and rulers of the darkness of this age, a reference to fallen angels (Eph 6:12). Spiritual conflict with an unseen foe is certainly miraculous.
- God allowed Satan to hurt Job in a myriad of ways, all of which were supernatural in origin (Job 1-2). While God allowed it, Satan had the power to do these things as long as God did not stop him.
- The false prophet in the Tribulation will do many miracles, including making an idol talk (Rev 13:15).
- The spirits of demons will do signs during the Tribulation (Rev 16:13-14).
It would be much more convincing if Jesus (or God) was the only entity performing miracles. But if other actors were doing this as well, including those perpetuating evil, then it creates two problems- it means that Jesus’ miracles were not a reliable sign of his deistic qualities (he could have been a devil himself), and, because it should be assumed that anyone capable of doing miracles is a god-like life form, it becomes hard to defend the concept of monotheism.
(3383) Jesus refutes original sin
Most Christian denominations support the doctrine of original sin- the idea that everybody is born in sin and that no matter how valiant they are during their life, they still deserve the eternal punishment of hell unless they accept the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
However, in the following scripture, it appears that Jesus, or more accurately, the person who wrote the Gospel of Luke, did not get this message straight. He has Jesus saying something that appears to suggest that just living a righteous life is sufficient for salvation:
Then Levi hosted a great banquet for Jesus at his house. A large crowd of tax collectors was there, along with others who were eating with them. But the Pharisees and their scribes complained to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Here Jesus appears to be implying that the ‘righteous’ do not require repentance, but only those people who sin. It is not until the Gospel of John do we hear Jesus saying that no one comes to the Father expect through him. The person who wrote Luke (or Jesus) did not believe in original sin.
(3384) Ten Commandments no basis for civil law
Christians often insist on placing copies of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of legal or political institutions, assuming without merit that this set of commands forms the basis not only of morality but also civil law. The following discusses why this is incorrect:
Are the Ten Commandments the foundation of western civil law?
No, and for three reasons. The first is that the “commandments” in Exod 20:2-11 (the first three or four commandments, depending on the system of counting) have nothing to do with civil law. They are specifically religious. They prohibit worshiping other gods, manufacturing idols, and illicitly invoking “the name of the LORD” and require the observance of the Sabbath. The remaining “commandments” do deal with communal relations, from honoring parents to prohibiting theft. But because the first group of commandments sets the context for the second, we can see that the Decalogue as a whole, like the rest of the Hebrew Bible, recognizes no separation between “church and state,” that is, between the sacred and the secular.
The second reason is that as foundational as it may seem, the Decalogue is not rigidly fixed in the Bible itself. Another version appears in Deut 5:6-21. Here Moses recounts the giving of the law to a new generation. Moses’s retelling, however, makes one significant revision: the Sabbath commandment in Deuteronomy makes no mention of God’s work of creation as found in the Exodus version. Instead, Deuteronomy grounds the Sabbath commandment in the experience of Israelite slavery in Egypt (Deut 5:15). The opportunity to rest is itself treated as an event of liberation, not only for the Israelites but also for their slaves and livestock (Deut 5:14).
The third reason is that the Decalogue is not the only law collection in the Hebrew Bible. Immediately following its presentation in Exod 20 is a collection of miscellaneous case laws, otherwise known as “the Book of the Covenant” (Exod 20:22–Exod 23:19; for the name, see Exod 24:7), which covers some of the same legal issues found in the Decalogue, and much more. Unlike the “commandments” of the Decalogue, which do not provide punishments and thus are not a law code at all, many of the case laws specify judgment or penalty, from corporal punishment to financial restitution. Finally, the replacement tablets given to Moses after breaking the first set contain a significantly different set of laws (Exod 34:1-28). So even within the Bible, the “Ten Commandments” were never quite set in stone!
An objective review of the Ten Commandments reveal them to have been given undue significance by theists, not just based on their relative weight in the scriptures themselves, but also in their lack of globality. They do not form a basis for civil law and, being saturated with sectarian themes, have no basis for being displayed on governmental grounds.
(3385) Pseudopigraphy in 2 Peter
One evidence of deceit in the Bible is where an author pens an obvious over-the-top exaggeration in an effort to convince the reader that they are the person they are pretending to be. A really good example of this ruse is in the following scripture, where the author is pretending to be Jesus’ apostle Peter.
2 Peter 1:16-18
For we did not follow cleverly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we ourselves heard this voice from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
2 Peter was written between 90 CE and 130 CE, too late and too scholarly to have been written by the illiterate fisherman of the gospels.
The following was taken from:
It is a literary device to mitigate the letter’s use of pseudepigraphy. When it was written in the early to mid second century CE, the letter of 1 Peter had been in circulation for some time (known to Papias and others) and the new letter needed to establish its apostolic credentials. It does this by expressing what its intended community accepts as orthodox apostolic teaching (tackling problems faced by the contemporary community) and by strongly emphasizing autobiographical detail. There is another letter written around the same time called the Epistula Apostolorum (c. 117-148 CE) which displays the same traits. It is focused on contemporary sectarian disputes from “false teachers” and it insists repeatedly on its authenticity as a legitimate document written by the apostles. You can compare 2 Peter 1:16-18 with such phrases as “we do write according as we have seen and heard and touched him, after that he was risen from the dead”, “when we marveled at the miracle which was done, he said: ‘Who touched me’ “, “We did set pieces of bread before them, and they ate and were filled, and there remained over, and we filled twelve baskets full of the fragments”, and so forth. In both cases, the letters are demonstrably dependent on the narratives in the canonical gospels.
This runs counter to the concept that God guided the development of the Bible, because if so, this degree of deception would have not have occurred. If the Bible was strictly a human project, then un-policed deception such as this would be expected.
(3386) Demons defeated by medications
The Bible clearly endorses the existence of demons, and that these ephemeral and devious creatures can cause mental instability in humans. However, modern medicine has now advanced to where most if not all of these psychotic conditions can be resolved or mitigated by targeted medication protocols. This would seem to indicate that demons are too weak to overcome the introduction of these medicines. The following was taken from:
When people hear voices in their head, or are hallucinating, they are usually diagnosed with schizophrenia or some other kind of mental illness.
But instead of Schizophrenia/mental illness, some religious people believe this is caused by possession by demons/jinn.
Modern medication and treatment can help reduce the negative impact of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses effectively and can help nullify these voices, hallucinations etc. So if these mental illnesses were some powerful mystical beings like demons/jinn, how can they be easily defeated by modern medication/treatments?
Maybe demons/jinn are really weak and pathetic. Or… my theory is that demons/jinn don’t exist at all.
A demon is proposed by Christianity to be a non-material being that is capable of commandeering a human’s personality. But if so, how could a physical substance overpower this non-physical entity? The easy explanation is that demons don’t exist, and if that is true, then any faith that touts their existence in their holy scriptures must be false.
(3387) God’s four possibilities
The problem of evil is the Achilles heal of Christianity because it made the claim that God is both all-powerful and all-loving. The following discusses how these assumptions combined with real world circumstances funnels God into four possibilities, none of which are attractive to Christians:
I recently got an ad about a child with cancer, and watching the video honestly broke me. Seeing that little girl cry amidst her suffering, sobbing that she didn’t want to die.
Was it a scam charity? Probably, since they didn’t use GoFundMe. Was the ad emotionally manipulative? Yes. But it didn’t matter to me because, scam charity or not, there are children out there in the world suffering like that, needlessly. Suffering with birth defects or terrible diseases not because some human did something bad to them, but just because of their body failing them.
If I had ultimate power, I would have healed that girl instantly. I would have seen everyone suffering from such illnesses and instantly cured them. I would rewrite the laws of the universe so that such illnesses were impossible to happen anymore than it’s a physical impossibility to have a human spontaneously sprout wings or gills.
But I can’t do that because I’m not all-powerful. According to claims, God is. And yet he does absolutely nothing, despite apparently having the power to do so. Even if that is a scam charity or something, that doesn’t change the fact that there are many children suffering that way. Suffering that God could prevent but doesn’t. He could supposedly easily create a universe where it’s impossible for such things to come up. And yet they exist.
The way I see it, there are only 4 possibilities:
1) God is incompetent/not omnipotent. God wants to help, but in fact, does not have power to help anyone. His feats seemed impressive in the Bible, but there were plenty of times where he wasn’t all-powerful (not knowing where Adam and Eve were, unable to stop an army because they had iron chariots, the sacrifice of another god being more powerful, etc.). The reason for this is because historically-speaking, the early concepts of God were more akin to the Greek gods, with God having a human form, not being all-powerful, and being one of several gods (which is lost on most English translations because they translate any mentions of other gods as “The LORD” to make it seem like there’s only one God when there wasn’t).
2) God is apathetic. God sees us all more like a disillusioned scientist might see an ant farm, or bacteria. Observing what happens out of scientific curiosity, nothing more. Detatched, having little to no concern for individuals, and shrugging off any death or suffering because there’s plenty more where that came from. Everything is just a statistic.
3) God is evil. God is an actively malevolent force and revels in senseless suffering. Any good in the world is just to give us a little taste of something good before snatching it away from us. Given his actions in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, where he repeatedly demanded even children be slaughtered, this I feel would be the most Biblically accurate interpretation. He only seemed to mellow out by the New Testament because the followers realized having the war god Yahweh as their god wasn’t exactly painting the best picture. They thus changed Satan’s Old Testament role as a prosecuting attorney and made him a scapegoat to deflect any evil from God. Not to mention if any concept of Hell is an accurate reflection of reality, that further shows that God is evil. Also there’s the matter of parasites and other creatures whose entire life cycle hinges on causing untold suffering to other beings. A god that would create such things is “I’m curious so I want to see what would happen” at best and evil at worst.
4) God is nonexistent. Things just happen due to cause and effect, not a purpose. Suffering is not caused by any being, no “Fall” (which punishing people who didn’t know any better is a point more in the “God is evil” camp), but just things that happen by bad luck of the draw. This, I feel, is the option most reflective of reality, and I’d even almost prefer it to a malevolent god that people worship because they’ve been gaslit into thinking he’s good.
It would be interesting to see how Christians would respond if they were forced to chose one of these four options. It would almost certainly be #1 or #2 but neither would leave them feeling very good about their choice. The problem of evil is not going away and Christianity will eventually be destroyed by it…or else it will adapt either #1 or #2 in order to re-characterize their deity.
(3388) Same book- different beliefs
If somebody came from another world and interviewed all manner of Christians, then asked what they based their beliefs on, it would be astonished to hear that they all reference the same book. The alien would be left pondering how the same book spawned so many disparate beliefs. The following was taken from:
Let’s take Christianity for starters. All Christians operate (mostly) off of the same bible. In Catholicism, there are a few extra books, but they’re essentially the same. Furthermore, let’s say you’re a Pentecostal Protestant – one of the largest groups out there.
Right off the bat, we can eliminate 2/3rds of the world, who aren’t any type of Christian despite most of them reading the bible. Next, we can eliminate another ~63%, most of whom are Catholic and another small portion including Eastern Orthodoxy and other Christians. Then, we can find out how many protestants are actually Pentecostal. Out of about 900 million Protestants, the wikipedia article (listed below) says that 280 million of them are Pentecostal, or about 1/3rd. So, even their denomination – about the broadest group there is that all believes relatively similar things – only comprises about 1/27ths of the world population.
But wait – we can go farther! There are also many other major issues that Christians disagree about – some of which most in a certain denomination agree on, but others that they do not. Stuff like:
-Should gay marriage be allowed? Is it ethical?
-Was the Earth created 6,000 years ago, 4.5 billion, or somewhere in between?
-Was life created 6,000 years ago, 3.5 billion, or somewhere in between?
-Is evolution real?
-Does free will exist?
-Is hell real? Is it permanent? What about limbo, or purgatory, or oblivion?
-Is the bible inerrant? Is it divinely inspired?
-When will Revelation happen? Has it already happened?
-Is baptism required to be saved? Are good works required to be saved? (Usually no for both from my experience)
-Do people that have never heard of God go to hell? (Again, usually no – but you will, because you’ve heard of him and rejected him)
-Did [insert biblical event] actually happen, or is it metaphorical?
-Are people in [other denomination] going to hell?
-Did dinosaurs exist? (Yes, in biblical times. Carbon dating? Never heard of it.)
-Is [drugs/abortion/sex outside of marriage] ethical?
-Are people from other religions being tricked by Satan? How about scientists? (Easy to see why this one can lead to antivaxxers, Qanon believers, et cetera)
-Did people actually live for 965 years, or was that metaphorical too? (Side note: An explanation for this one that I’ve heard is that it was counted according to the lunar calendar, but the same part of the bible also lists people as having children at 70, so…yeah. Probably not the case)
-Is [insert bible book] canon?
And so on. The fact that people can come to such wildly different conclusions from a book that is supposed to be the inerrant word of God (or not) shows that A) God isn’t very good at getting his point across, B) People purposefully misinterpret it – except for people in my religion, we know exactly what it means and aren’t wrong about anything or C) It wasn’t actually a god that wrote it. Personally, I’m going with C.
“But wait, what about the sciences? People come to different conclusions about those all the time!”
Yes, but not the experts. People who have actually studied something like, say, quantum mechanics all agree on how it works, and they’re able to perform experiments to back that up – that’s why they’re able to avoid issues such as quantum tunneling in chip design. Contrast that with pastors or biblical scholars, who have actually spend decades studying the same material, yet come to wildly different conclusions. When I was a Christian, I attended several different churches. Each of them had pastors dedicated to their jobs, who constantly read their bibles, talked about them with other people, etc. And yet, all of them taught different things. Some supported gay marriage, some didn’t. Some believed in an old earth and/or evolution, but most didn’t. Some believed in an inerrant bible… some didn’t. And so on.
Whether the Bible was inspired or not, one thing is clear- it fails to convincingly establish a doctrine or a set of ethics that all Bible-readers agree on. This is a major flaw, and it seems unbecoming a God who supposedly ‘engineered’ this book into existence by ‘inspiring’ the authors and the folks who decided which books belong in the book. It takes little thought to realize that an omnipotent god could not be this incompetent.
(3389) Evidence Jesus was a militant insurrectionist
Reading between the lines of the gospels and comparing that to current events (particularly the January 6, 2021 invasion of the United States Capital Building), it is reasonable to make a conjecture that ‘gentle Jesus’ was not so gentle and was actually leading a band of insurrectionists in an attempt to rid Judea of Roman rule. The following was taken from:
On this, the anniversary of the Trump insurrection, I ask you to consider the following: what would an account of the Trump insurrection look like if written by a zealous Trump supporter — a Qanon follower — forty years from now, especially if reliable contemporaneous text and video records of the event did not exist? How would we expect this account to differ from reality? Certainly, Trump and his followers would be depicted as completely righteous, and the Congress and the VP as completely corrupt. It’s seems likely that the defeat would somehow be spun as a victory, a moral victory if nothing else. It might be even reasonable to assume that Trump’s role might be enhanced;; perhaps that Trump himself had marched to Congress and cleansed it of traitors.
We should expect no less from the zealous, anonymous Christians writing the gospels 40-65 years after the events took place. They are generally going to include stories that provide important moral lessons and make Jesus look good. They are also likely to generally exclude stories that make Jesus look bad, or at least provide a positive spin on such stories. They are likely to elevate Jesus’ prominence and centrality in their stories and minimize or eliminate the importance of other characters, while making Jesus’ opponents look foolish or corrupt. For these reasons, along with many others, it’s not possible to view the gospels as being historically-accurate biographies, or even being intended as such; they are hagiographies, in every sense of the word.
But even hagiographers aren’t perfect and can include enough authentic accounts to unintentionally expose some unwanted history, and such is the case with the canonical gospels. My thesis here is that the gospels — combined with external evidence — make a strong case to view Jesus not primarily as an itinerant preacher and healer, but as the leader of a failed militant insurrection against the Roman empire.
The following provides three main points of supporting evidence:
- The Gospels Provide An Account Of Jesus’ Attempted Insurrection
- The Gospels Provide Other Clear Evidence That Jesus Was A Militant Insurrectionist
- The Gospels Say Everyone Acted Like This Was A Failed Insurrection
1) The Gospels Provide An Account Of Jesus’ Attempted Insurrection
Most Christian depictions of the Cleansing of the Temple do not match the descriptions in the gospels. Far from simply “driving out the money changers”, the gospels suggest Jesus also:
- scoped out the temple complex the day before, deciding to postpone his insurrection until the following day (Mark 11:11)
- “would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts” (Mark 11:16)
- “overturned the tables of the money changers” and scattered their money all over the floor (Mark 11:15. Matt 21:12)
- “overturned the benches of those selling doves” (Mark 11:15, Matt 21:12)
- “drove out all who were buying and selling” in the temple courts (Matt 21:12)
- drove out all of the sheep and cattle being sold from the temple courts (John 2:15)
There are two major problems reconciling these accounts with the traditional depictions:
- Herod’s temple in Jesus’ day was enormous, covering about 35 acres and capable of holding 75,000 people. Scholars are fairly unanimous in concluding that the “cleansing” would have occurred in the Court of the Gentiles, the outermost and largest and least sacred court of the temple into which even Gentile pilgrims were allowed to come. The Court of the Gentiles was essentially a huge open courtyard covering an area of at least 13 acres, approximately 10 US football fields.
- The gospels indicate this happened within the week before Passover, an important Jewish religious holiday, at which point Jerusalem and the Court of the Gentiles would have been thronged with Jews from far and near, as well as large numbers of Gentile pilgrims, buying and selling in preparation for Passover. Josephus states that a quarter of a million lambs were sacrificed during Passover in AD 66, and many of those would be bought in the Court of the Gentiles.
Based on this, it would be physically impossible for Jesus — with or without a whip “made of cords” — by himself to have “drove out all who were buying and selling” or “not allow anyone to carry merchandise”, since we’re reasonably talking about many thousands of people spread over a huge area. If what the gospels claim was actually accomplished, it would have required a large force — easily hundreds of men — to effectively take control over the entire Court of the Gentiles, completely halt commerce, and expel almost all of the people — the gospels say both sellers and buyers were expelled — therein.
And there is no way this could have been non-violent. Any attempt by a bunch of rabble to take over and prevent commerce within the Court of the Gentiles — commerce that was effectively required under Biblical law — would not gone down well with the rest of the Jews present, who the gospels inform us were generally not fans of Jesus or his movement. The money changers — who likely had guards — and other sellers would not have easily permitted a disruption of their trade and a lot of the remaining Jews — likely including the guards of the inner courts — would have fought against any forced take-over of part of the temple complex.
In other words, if the gospel accounts of what was accomplished are remotely true, Jesus would have had to have been accompanied by a large force of armed men who executed an organized plan to take over the Court of the Gentiles in order to halt commerce. The gospels accounts can only be reconciled with external evidence if the “temple cleansing” is a softened account of a militant insurrection.
2) The Gospels Provide Other Clear Evidence That Jesus Was A Militant Insurrectionist
Many Christians, it seems, think that Jesus was wrongly convicted and executed by the Romans, but that clearly isn’t the case. Not only did Jesus actually lead a militant insurrection, as shown above, Jesus stated that he was a militant insurrectionist. In Mark 8:29, when asked who he thinks Jesus is, Peter responds “You are the messiah”. In Mark 14:61, when Caiaphas asks Jesus directly “Are you the Messiah?”, Jesus responds “I am”.
Based on every bit of knowledge we have about the time period, there could not have been any question in the mind of Peter or Caiphas or other Jews of the time what the Messiah was intended to do: he was to free Israel from the grip of foreign invaders — the Romans — and establish God’s righteous kingdom which would be ruled according to Biblical principles by the Messiah acting as King. The gospels themselves make clear that the Jews and Romans of the time understood that to proclaim yourself as Messiah was to make a claim to kingship over Israel and the Jewish people, which is why in Mark 15:32 Jesus is mocked — “Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross” — and why John 19:19 says that Pilate had a sign erected on the cross declaring “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews”.
Christians, of course, argue that these people misunderstood Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah, but if that’s the case, it’s clearly Jesus own fault. When Caiaphas asked “Are you the Messiah?”, if Jesus meant something other than “I am the one who will free and rule over the nation of Israel” as Caiaphas thought, Jesus should have clarified. [EDIT: As another redditor pointed out, even Jesus’ own disciples clearly thought Jesus had failed: “The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” – Luke 24:20-21].
In fact, it’s far more likely that Jesus actually claimed to be the Messiah of Jewish tradition, and that it was only after the failure of his attempted insurrection and subsequent execution that Christians began to think about Jesus’s claim in different terms: the resurrected and exalted Jesus became the Son of Man, ruling at God’s right hand until his return to establish God’s righteous kingdom. By the time the gospels were written 40-65 years later, Jesus’s failed insurrection had been watered down to become just another example of Jesus’ righteous fury against the corrupt, albeit with sufficient details remaining to expose what really happened.
For instance, we see this demonstrated by what happens immediately before Jesus’ failed insurrection: Jesus is given a triumphal, kingly entrance into Jerusalem:
- The Gospel of Mark claims that people chanted “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
- The Gospel of Luke references prophecy, “See, your king comes to you gentle and riding on a donkey”
- The Gospel of Luke claims that people chanted: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord”
And just before that, the Gospel of Luke relates a parable that parallels the belief of those later Christians about who Jesus was. It starts: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return”. After becoming king and returning to his land, the king decrees: “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me”. This Jesus is not the peaceful “turn the other cheek Jesus”, he is a ruthless leader who will kill those who do not want him to be in power.
Finally, this is especially clear if we ask, Why did Jesus cleanse the temple? The traditional answers offered by Christians don’t really hold up.
- The OT demands that Jews pay an annual temple tax using very specific “holy” coinage, which by the 1st century AD had become the Tyrian shekel, since the Roman’s prohibited the Jews from minting their own currency. Jews coming from far or near would need to convert their local currency into these shekels in order to pay the tax, so this was a required service that the money changers were providing, and there’s not good evidence that the fee charged for doing this was extortionate (certainly by modern banking standards).
- Likewise, Jews were required to provide offerings during Passover, and so would need to be able to purchase doves and lambs and cows for these offerings. Again, the sellers of these animals were providing a required service to meet the demands of the OT, and the Bible provides no evidence why Jesus would be targeting these sellers.
- The idea that any buying and selling within the boundaries of the temple was profaning a holy place seems unreasonable when you consider that this was happening the Court of the Gentiles, which was specifically the least holy part of the temple. And there’s every reason to believe that such commerce had been a longstanding practice outside of the main temple buildings; the fact that Herod enclosed those precincts in a new “court” is hardly a reason to get yourself in a tizzy.
A better explanation is that the cleansing of the temple was not about righteous indignation, but was an attempt to establish Jesus’ kingship, directly following his triumphal entry into Jerusalem as “king”. In his work “Temple Cleansing and Temple Bank”, Neill Hamilton argues that the Jewish temple functioned as a central bank — much as other non-Jewish temples did —¸and that Jesus’ attempt to interfere with the operations of this bank was a direct claim to kingship.
3) The Gospels Say Everyone Acted Like This Was A Failed Insurrection
Within a week of the failed insurrection — the cleansing of the temple — Jesus is arrested, tried, and executed. During this interim period, there’s a sudden flurry of strange exchanges and actions that are completely consistent with a recently failed insurrection but that must be seen as incongruous with earlier depictions of Jesus and the disciples as peaceful, itinerant preachers, which is generally how most Christians perceive them.
For instance, in Luke 22:33, Peter says “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death”. For what? Clearly Peter thought that he and Jesus had done something that should require imprisonment or execution. What could Peter realistically be referring to, that would result in such severe punishment, other than an attempt to overthrow Roman rule of Judea?
And what’s with all the sudden talk of weapons? In Luke, 21:36, Jesus tells his disciples “if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one”, at which point one of the disciples claims to have two swords, to which Jesus replies “That’s enough!”. And when the heavily armed “mob” shows up to take Jesus, in Luke 22:49, his men cry out “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” Mark, Matthew, and John all recount that there was even some blood shed, with Peter lopping off the ear of Caiaphas’s servant. It’s extremely hard — in light of the attempts by Republicans to downplay the Jan 6th insurrection — to not see these descriptions as a whitewash of an actual violent skirmish between Jesus and his men and those who were attacking them.
And, of course, the gospel descriptions of the “mob” that came to capture Jesus make clear that they feared that Jesus and his disciples were dangerous. Matthew describes them as a “large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people”. Luke recounts that Jesus asked ““Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs?”. Obviously, the answer was “Yes”.
And this is made abundantly clear by the Gospel of John, which states that Jesus was actually arrested by Roman soldiers, as you would expect a militant insurrectionist to be. John 18:12 claims “Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus.”. The Greek word used for “detachment of soldiers” here was “speira”, which indicates a tenth part of a Roman legion, around 600 men. And the Greek word used for “commander” here is “chiliarchos” indicating “the commander of a thousand soldiers”.
In short, the Roman’s sent a small army to capture Jesus and his men, something that would only be required if they were a large group of militant insurrectionists. And of course, what happens next is that Jesus is tried and convicted and executed for being just that.
This scenario makes more sense that the idea that Jesus was only concerned with spiritual matters, because in that case he would not have been crucified- that punishment being reserved for those who threatened the political stability of the Roman occupiers. Even if he was a militant, he still might have emphasized the need for the Jewish people to renew their spiritual lives so as to find favor with God who could then aid in their emancipation. If Jesus was an actual person, this theory holds more weight than any other, though it is a characterization that no Christian would embrace.
(3390) Unknown source of ‘divine’ messages
Because Christianity has posited the existence of evil supernatural beings (demons, devils, Satan, dominions, principalities), it has unwittingly backed itself into a corner- any message believed to have come from a divine source could actually be the disguised voice of an evil being. The following was taken from:
We can’t know the source of divine messages
The main issue I’m trying to argue is that we can’t actually know which divine being is speaking to us. If we hear a divine voice, it could be from an angel or from a demon, but we would not be able to know which one is speaking to us. (The same applies for if we are just getting a revelation, receiving a divine text, emotion, or any other form of communication)
If we receive a message from a divine being, we could ask the being who/what they are, but there’s no way to know if they are lying. A demon saying that it is an angel would be the same as an angel saying it is an angel. So the words pf the message can’t be trusted.
We could try to consult our holy books, but we run into the same problem that the words of the holy books could have been inspired by a lying spirit. It would look just the same if a demon was lying to a writer about being an angel, and told the writer what a demon looks and sounds like but is actually describing angels. A description of what to look for could be inaccurate by design.
The thought experiment
There’s a fun thought experiment in programming called the 2 General Problem that works for me to understand the issue. A quick setup: there is a war and a general needs to communicate with the other half of his army that is on the other side of the enemy camp. The general needs to send a messenger to tell the other army to attack at dawn, but he won’t attack until he knows the other army is ready.
The problem is how does the general know if the messenger has been captured? He could request the other army sends a message saying they got the message, but how then do they know that messenger hasn’t been captured?
Putting it all together
Essentially, there is no way to be sure that your message hasn’t been intercepted. And we can apply the same ideas to divine messages. If a divine being has sent you a message, how can you be sure it’s from an angel? You could have the angel tell you what it is, but you don’t know if it’s a demon lying. You could have the angel show itself, but you don’t know if your reference of what an angel looks like was a demon creating that reference.
In the end, I can’t see any way to know the source of a divine message.
A better architecture for Christianity would have been to assert that the only supernatural beings were angels as well as the trinity of gods. By giving super powers and guile to nefarious creatures, it opened a Pandora’s box for any individual trying to ascertain whether a perceived other-worldly message was received from the ‘good or bad side of the force.’
(3391) Euthyphro dilemma
The campaign of Christianity to declare that morality is objective and defined by their god runs into trouble when this assertion is analyzed logically. The following shows that the Euthyphro dilemma remains unsolved by Christian theology:
The Euthyphro Dilemma is of central importance to the debate about ethics. In essence, the dilemma asks: Are God’s commands good because they are given by God, or does God give them because they are good?
Option A: If God’s commands are good because they come from God, then senseless cruelty would become moral if God wills it to be so. This would make morality arbitrary. It would not be meaningful to say that God is good if anything can be good. This is obviously an unacceptable choice for theists.
Option B: If God gives commands because they are good, then God is following rules that he/she/it did not create and has no control over. If these moral precepts exist independent from God, then other beings can follow them independently of God. Secular morality based on these independent principles would be equally valid as morality founded on God’s goodness.
Since the dilemma is phrased in a ‘A’ or ‘B’ format, it’s possible to create an option ‘C’. The typical Christian response to this dilemma is to claim that there is a third path that solves the dilemma.
Option C: Goodness is an innate part of God’s character and all commands he gives are in accordance with this innate goodness.
To me, it looks like Christian apologists are trying to pull a fast one here. Option C pushes the dilemma back a level, but the problem is still unsolved. What determines God’s innate character? This time around, I will be careful to phrase the dilemma in the format ‘A’ or ‘not A’ so there is no wiggle room to create new options.
Let’s take a closer look at Option C to see why the dilemma remains unsolved.
Did God choose his own character traits or not?
Yes, God chose his own innate character traits
Did he base that choice on a reason or not?
Yes, there was a reason.
Conclusion: That reason is the ultimate moral standard, not God himself.
Secular morality based on reason can be equally valid as morality based on God.
No, there wasn’t a reason.
Conclusion: Morality is arbitrary and might as well be based on a coin flip.
No, God did not choose his own character traits.
Conclusion: God is subject to rules that he cannot change and has no control over.
If God has no control of his inherent nature, then he is merely fulfilling his programming, no different than a robot.
In this case, morality is arbitrary.
No being, regardless of how powerful or benevolent they are, can be the source of objective morality. Either their morality is based on reason, in which case a secular formulation of that reasoning is equally valid OR their morality is arbitrary and it is pure luck that torturing babies happens to be a bad thing.
My moral intuitions are my subjective opinion. The moral intuitions of a stronger, smarter, or nicer person would be just as subjective as my own. Superman, if he were real, would have moral intuitions that are just as subjective as any other being you could choose. I fail to see how the moral intuitions of a Supreme Being could somehow jump the gap between subjective and objective. If I were a programming/biology savant and I designed genuine artificial intelligence capable of emotion, my moral intuitions would not suddenly become objectively true.
The logical conclusion is that morality is subjective, changes with time and social progress, and is independent of any real or fictional god that might be interacting with humanity. Christians do not have a lock on the concept of morality.
(3392) God is OK with humans killing over religion
Imagine that you are God and are looking at your creation. You have sent your son to be crucified as a human sacrifice so that you can forgive people of their sins. But you notice that there are competing religions and that some of your own followers are killing people of other faiths. What do you do? Well, here is what Yahweh says:
“Only one religion is right but I won’t say which one because I want you to figure it out by hating and killing each other while I watch.”
All violence surrounding religious conflicts is the responsibility of Yahweh who could easily end it by definitively exposing the ‘real’ religion. Otherwise we must assume that either he is a sadistic voyeur who loves watching mayhem, hatred, and broken homes all for the sake of allowing humans to believe in the wrong religion, or that he doesn’t exist.
(3393) Arguments against scriptural inspiration
Christianity’s authenticity hinges on the claim that the books of the Bible were ‘inspired’ by god, and therefore weren’t just the prone-to-error scribblings of inept humans. But this argument is fraught with inconsistencies. The following was taken from:
Some Christians believe the hypothesis (H) that God exclusively inspired the original manuscripts of the books of the protestant bible. ‘Inspired’ means that God acted to ensure every part of every book, properly understood, communicates exactly what God intends it to communicate. ‘Exclusively’ means that God did not inspire any books outside the protestant bible to the same quality or degree of inspiration.
I argue that this hypothesis is probably false.
Firstly, such a belief has a low prior probability. Imagine you walk into a public library and pick a book at random while blindfolded. Someone asks you to bet on whether the book you picked was inspired by God. It is most rational to gamble that the book is not inspired, because the probability of it being inspired, given no additional information, is very low. The probability is very low because, as admitted by the believer in H, only a tiny percentage of all the world’s books are inspired.
H should only be believed if the low prior probability can be overcome with sufficient evidence to raise the probability of H above 50%.
I argue that there is insufficient evidence for the following reasons:
Arguments from fulfilled prophesy, even if successful, do little to support H
There are two types of fulfilled prophesy:
- Intended by the prophet, where the prophet knows the future and writes down their prediction.
- Unintended by the prophet. This is where the prophet intended the text to be about something in their local context, but a pattern in the text matches a future event in a statistically significant way.
Case 1, at the most, provides evidence for the reliability of the specific prophet. Case 2, at the most, provides evidence for the inspiration of the sentences constituting the prediction. Either way, negligible support is given to any other parts of the bible. For example, if the prophecy of Is 53 can be demonstrated to be inspired, it offers negligible support for the inspiration of 2 Timothy 4:13 where the author asks Timothy to bring his coat.
Claims of inspiration of scripture within the bible do not apply to the protestant canon
Supporters of H sometimes claim that biblical authors provide support for H in verses such as Ti 3:16-17. Remember that H is a claim of entirety (all verses in the canon are inspired) and exclusivity (no verses outside the canon are inspired to the same quality/degree). Therefore H is only supported by the biblical author if the author’s intended concept of ‘scripture’ exactly matches the protestant canon. It is anachronistic to suppose there is a match, since the protestant canon was formed some time after the last book in the protestant canon was written. Biblical authors could not have known about yet-to-be-written books.
‘Original manuscript’ inspiration is ill-defined and ad-hoc
Many books in the bible incorporate material from written sources outside the protestant canon. Modern biblical scholarship argues that some books, e.g the Pentateuch, was formed through an evolutionary process of compilation and editing. Since sources outside the canon were used and often modified, a supporter of H cannot argue that all the source material was inspired. Also, due to known textual issues, a supporter of H cannot argue that later copies and translations were inspired unless one agrees that God inspired corruptions of scripture like 1 John 5:7. Therefore, if H is true, one must propose there was a precise stage in the textual lineage where the text become inspired, and then lost its inspired status when reproduced. This is an ad-hoc explanation, because it posits a ‘just so’ story to rescue the hypothesis without supporting evidence. Why should any one point in evolutionary development be considered to be the original, as oppose to another point? Furthermore, even if one can identify the original, we cannot test this claim because we do not have any surviving manuscripts old enough to be original.
The claim of inspiration is not well supported by evidence. If the Bible was indeed the work of humans without any supernatural assistance then it cannot be held to the level of esteem that Christians want the world to accept. In that case, we are dealing more with conjecture than confirmation.
(3394) Delayed tomb veneration
A strong piece of evidence against the Jesus passion story is that Christians didn’t immediately identify and venerate the tomb where Jesus was laid to rest and a day and half later rose from the dead. This is inexplainable considering the significance of this event in Christian theology. The following is a quote from Dale B Martin :
If the empty tomb stories were historically true, [one] would strongly expect that the tomb would have become a place of veneration among early Christians. If they knew where it was, why didn’t they go back? It was very popular in the ancient world for people to have picnics around tombs. The family and the loved ones would get together on the anniversary of the death and they would actually celebrate the person’s memory with a picnic. If they knew the tomb where Jesus had been raised from, why did it take over 200 years for Christians to start venerating the tomb? And then they had to pick one that doesn’t seem to fit the archaeology of the Biblical narratives! It took basically Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine, to go back and choose period traditions about where the tomb might have been. [And] she said, ‘OK, this is the tomb, build the church of the sepulchure here!’ That’s in the 4th century! If [earlier Christians] knew where the tomb was, why didn’t they use it as a place to pray, as a place to hold Easter worship services? There’s no evidence that early Christians knew where the tomb was until too late to count as historical evidence.
This is likely a fatal problem for Christian apologists because there is little room to argue that early Christians would show no interest in the very spot on Earth where the seminal event of their faith took place. This probably means that the empty tomb tradition was a later invention, most likely first written about in the Gospel of Mark about 40 years after the fact.
(3395) Paul did not think Jesus was God
It becomes an immediate problem for Christian theology if the primary architect of the faith, Paul of Tarsus, did not endorse the standard tenet of Christianity- that Jesus was a divine figure, equal to the Father as part of a holy trinity. The following discusses how a review of Paul’s letters reveals that he did not endorse the idea that Jesus was God:
What Paul never does is unequivocally identify Jesus as God. Many theologically conservative scholars insist he did, but have just a few verses to cite from the entirety of his seven letters before they must reach for questionably-constructed thematic arguments. Whether these arguments are convincing I will leave to readers to decide, but my focus here is on the texts frequently used.
One is in Romans, where Paul seems to call Jesus ‘the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised’.
Rom 9.4–5 Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
Greek syntax is somewhat fluid, and lacked punctuation in Paul’s time, so we should question if the above translation (from the NIV, an extremely popular English version) accurately conveys what Paul intends to say. The first hint that something is askew is Paul’s use of the adjective εὐλογητός (‘praised’). Paul uses this word just three other times in his authentic letters, and it is found only once more in the New Testament, in a pseudo-Pauline letter.
In these four other cases, εὐλογητός is used for ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah’ (2 Cor 1.3; 11.31; Eph 1.3), and ‘God […] the Creator’ who is distinct from Jesus (Rom 1.25). This should compel us to understand Rom 9.5 in the same way. Below is another valid translation.
Rom 9.4–5 to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah. God, who is over all, be blessed for ever. Amen.
Chapters 9–11 of Romans form the conclusion of Paul’s argument that spanned all of chapter 1–8. With the above translation, 9.4–5 (the start to his concluding argument) forms a mirror of 11.33–36 (the end to his concluding argument). In these bookends, Paul turns to praise God for what he has accomplished or will accomplish through Jesus the Messiah.
The next passage is in 1 Corinthians.
1 Cor 8.6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus the Messiah, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
The Israelite creed, called the Shema, comes from Deut 6.4: ‘Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one’. The Greek translation of this text replaced the divine name with the title ‘lord’. Hence, many scholars argue, 1 Cor 8.6 demonstrates that Paul has ‘split’ the Shema (using the three key words ‘Lord’, ‘God’, and ‘one’) to include Jesus within the ‘identity’ of God. Others push back on the idea that Paul is modifying the Shema to include Jesus. The immediate problem is that the Shema begins by identifying ‘the Lord’ (Yahweh) as ‘God’, which is contrary to how Paul distinguishes the ‘one God’ and the ‘one Lord’ from one another. It would be completely contradictory to take the Shema’s insistence that Yahweh/God is ‘one’ to argue that he is actually two persons, ‘one God’ and ‘one Lord’. Just prior to this verse, Paul acknowledges the existence of ‘many gods’ and ‘many lords’ (8.4–5).
1 Cor 8.4–5 Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘no idol in the world really exists’, and that ‘there is no God but one.’ Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords.
If Paul intended for the word ‘lord’ to refer to ‘Yahweh’ per the Shema, these two verses would effectively be saying there are ‘many gods’ and ‘many yahwehs’. An interpretation of 1 Cor 8.4–6 more considerate of this context instead understands that Paul is contrasting the plurality of heavenly deities in non-Judean religions (‘many gods’) against the singular Judean deity (‘one God’), and the plurality of earthly rulers in non-Judean politics (‘many lords’) against the singular Judean ruler (‘one Lord’). Paul undoubtedly has the Shema in mind, but only in the first half of the verse:
Yahweh, the one true God, is the Father. The second half of the verse is not Paul’s inclusion of Jesus within a split Shema; it is Paul’s addition of Jesus alongside a paraphrased Shema. This construction was most likely influenced by Psa 110.1 (‘Yahweh said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool”’), the most commonly-referenced verse in the New Testament, which was used to identify the Messiah alongside God as his agent and co-regent. An overlooked component of Psa 110.1 is that the ‘Lord’ only sits at Yahweh’s right hand until all of his enemies are defeated. In common with the expectations of other apocalypticists, Paul directly says that Jesus’ rule over the divine kingdom will come to an end and Jesus will be subordinate to God along with the rest of the universe.
1 Cor 15.24–28 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For ‘God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’ But when it says, ‘All things are put in subjection’, it is plain that this does not include the One who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the son himself will also be subjected to the One who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.
The third passage where Paul allegedly identifies Jesus as God is a poetic text in Philippians.
Php 2.5–11 Let the same mind be in you that was in the Messiah Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be seized, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
On a surface-level reading, this looks like Paul says that Jesus is ‘God’, who ‘emptied himself’ to become human; the phrase ‘at the name of Jesus every knee should bend’ is even an echo of Isa 45.23, which speaks of Yahweh.
The common interpretation overlooks the nuances of what else Paul says here. To begin with, Paul says Jesus is in the ‘form of God’. The sense here is likely the same as Philo’s Logos, who is the true ‘image of God’, after whom humans were modeled. We might find a rationale for Paul’s choice of the word ‘form’ (instead of ‘image’) in another passage from Philo. He describes how the emperor Caligula tried to appear in the ‘form of a god’ (θεοῦ μορφὴ, the same as Paul’s μορφῇ θεοῦ) by dressing like Hermes and Apollo (On the Embassy to Gaius 110). Caligula’s imitation of the gods made him comparable to counterfeit money; he was superficially similar, but he had none of the qualities of the real thing.
That Paul is not saying Jesus is God should be obvious from the very next line of the poem. Contrary to versions which soften the harshness of the word (and some more idiosyncratic translations that change its meaning altogether), the verb here, ἁρπαγμός, has a consistently negative meaning in the Greek-language Judean literature of the time period, with the only real exception when it is used for a person being suddenly taken to heaven. Jesus, ‘though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be seized, but emptied himself’. The passage distantly alludes to prophetic texts condemning the king of Babylon (Isa 14.12–15) or the king of Tyre (Ezek 28.1–2, 9–10).
They each enjoyed a high station in life, but attempted to ‘seize’ equality with God, an arrogant desire for which they were condemned. Some scholars also see an allusion to Adam attempting to ‘seize’ equality with God by eating the forbidden fruit (cf. 1 Cor 15.21–22, 45–49; Rom 5.12–21). Unlike a belligerent emperor, Jesus fully manifested the qualities of God and so ‘was in the form of God’, a proper image and reflection of the divine. Contrary to an arrogant king, Jesus gave up his elevated status to serve others. And opposite the ‘first’ Adam who disobeyed God, Jesus succeeds in obeying God even to his death. This leads us into the second half of the Philippians poem, where Paul does reshape a verse from Isaiah to describe Jesus.
Isa 45.24 By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.’
Php 2.10–11 at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus the Messiah is Lord
Paul says in verse 9 that Jesus has ‘the name that is above every name’ (cf. Eph 1.20–21). The consensus is that Paul indeed means that Jesus bears the name ‘Yahweh’, and for this reason Paul says everyone will bow down to Jesus and call him Lord. Yet this is only half of what Paul says in these three verses. We cannot ignore the other half: God exalts Jesus, and gives him the divine name, and the recognition of Jesus as Lord is for ‘the glory of God the Father’. The universal praise granted to Jesus is not for the benefit of himself, but for the one who exalted Jesus in the first place. Just as Jesus cannot ‘seize’ equality with God if he already had equality, so Jesus cannot be ‘exalted’ to a status he eternally held, nor he can be ‘given’ a name that was already his own.
If Jesus was God and if Jesus actually made a posthumous appearance to Paul (as described in Acts), then it is puzzling to wonder how Paul in his many letters somehow failed to unequivocally state that Jesus was God in human form. This should have been the central point of Paul’s theology. This provides evidence that the belief in Jesus as God was a later evolution of Christian theology, initially documented by the Gospel of John, which was written about 30 years after Paul had died.
(3396) Peter’s denial confrontations
In all four of the gospels, after Jesus is arrested, the disciples flee. But Peter follows from behind the entourage and is confronted three times, during which he, as Jesus predicted, denies that he is Jesus’ disciple. However, the sequence of confrontations is different in each gospel:
In Mark, it is a slave girl, then the same slave girl, and then a crowd of people.
In Matthew, it is a slave girl, a different slave girl, and then a crowd of people.
In Luke, it is a slave girl, a man, and then a different man.
In John, it is an unspecified girl at the door, then several anonymous people, and then a servant of the high priest.
There is no question that all of these accounts are relating the same historical event (Peter didn’t perform his denials four different times – just once). The fact that they differ like this is, frankly, disgraceful.
But, to be fair, the people who wrote these gospels probably never realized that the day would come when their book would be rigorously compared to other books telling the same stories. So, as they were copying/referencing previously-written gospels, they felt empowered to make changes that they thought would make their stories more compelling. If they knew what was coming, it is certain they would have copied Mark’s (the first gospel written) denial sequence exactly.
(3397) Progressive revelation failure
Largely because of differences between the Old and New Testament as well as the gospels and epistles, Christian apologists like to use the theory of progressive revelation- the idea that God did not reveal everything all at once because people were not ready to receive it, and that for the same reason he changed some of his rules and expectations as time and society progressed. Examples of these changes are shown in this table:
|God relates only to Jews||God relates to everyone|
|Unruly children should be killed||Unruly children should be disciplined|
|Eye for an eye||Turn the other cheek|
|No mention of hell||Introducing hell|
|Dietary restrictions||All foods are acceptable|
|Justification by actions||Justification by beliefs|
|God is unity||God is trinity|
Christians often claim that God is unchanging so the progressive revelation theory requires a bit of explanation, but it is difficult to explain why God didn’t start out by being the god of everyone, or why he would ever order the killing of unruly children, or why he would ever want humans to deliver equal evil for evil, or why he waited centuries to mention the existence of hell, or why he didn’t initially advocate the importance of beliefs and faith, or why he waited so long to explain that he was composed of three, rather just one, persons.
There are two potential explanations for this situation:
(1) God decided to roll out his theology in stages, accepting the fact that he would inevitably end up often contradicting himself in the final analysis, or
(2) the Bible is a human expression of divine conjecture, and as civilization progressed, people came up with new ideas about what God is and what he wants.
It is highly unlikely that (1) is true because it contradicts the likelihood that a deity would want to be rigidly consistent and predictable in its interactions with humanity. This would seem to be the prime directive of any god in any universe.
On the other hand, (2) is very likely, if not inevitable, as humans progressed from the Iron Age to more modern times where ideas changed of what a god should be like, as well as the fact that what made sense or seemed reasonable or ethical back then no longer seemed kosher.
In the final analysis, the idea of progressive revelation is a desperate attempt to explain why God changed so dramatically from Genesis to Revelation. It fails that mission except for those who are already predisposed to dismiss any contradicting evidence.
(3398) Contradiction of Jairus’ daughter
The two scriptures below tell the story of a man who asks Jesus to heal his daughter, and Jesus’ response is interrupted by a woman who has a bleeding problem. Matthew clearly copied this story from Mark, but truncated it somewhat. What is revealing is that in Mark, Jairus tells Jesus that his daughter is near death, while in Matthew he states that the daughter is already dead.
When Jesus had again crossed by boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him beside the sea. A synagogue leader named Jairus arrived, and seeing Jesus, he fell at His feet and pleaded with Him urgently, “My little daughter is near death. Please come and place Your hands on her, so that she will be healed and live.”
So Jesus went with him, and a large crowd followed and pressed around Him. And a woman was there who had suffered from bleeding for twelve years. She had borne much agony under the care of many physicians and had spent all she had, but to no avail. Instead, her condition had only grown worse.
When the woman heard about Jesus, she came up through the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she kept saying, “If only I touch His garments, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped, and she sensed in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
At once Jesus was aware that power had gone out from Him. Turning to the crowd, He asked, “Who touched My garments?”
His disciples answered, “You can see the crowd pressing in on You, and yet You ask, ‘Who touched Me?’”
But He kept looking around to see who had done this. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him trembling in fear, and she told Him the whole truth.
“Daughter,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be free of your affliction.”
While He was still speaking, messengers from the house of Jairus arrived and said, “Your daughter is dead; why bother the Teacher anymore?”
But Jesus overheard their conversation and said to Jairus, “Do not be afraid; just believe.” And He did not allow anyone to accompany Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw the commotion and the people weeping and wailing loudly. He went inside and asked, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead, but asleep.” And they laughed at Him.
After He had put them all outside, He took the child’s father and mother and His own companions, and went in to see the child. Taking her by the hand, Jesus said,“Talitha koum!” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” Immediately the girl got up and began to walk around. She was twelve years old, and at once they were utterly astounded. Then Jesus gave strict orders that no one should know about this, and He told them to give her something to eat.
While Jesus was saying these things, a synagogue leader came and knelt before Him. “My daughter has just died,” he said. “But come and place Your hand on her, and she will live.”
So Jesus got up and went with him, along with His disciples. Suddenly a woman who had suffered from bleeding for twelve years came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak. She said to herself, “If only I touch His cloak, I will be healed.”
Jesus turned and saw her. “Take courage, daughter,” He said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was cured from that very hour.
When Jesus entered the house of the synagogue leader, He saw the flute players and the noisy crowd. “Go away,” He told them. “The girl is not dead, but asleep.” And they laughed at Him.
After the crowd had been put outside, Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. And the news about this spread throughout that region.
This poses a major problem for Christian apologists. In Mark, Jairus gives up when it is announced that his daughter is dead, i.e. he is not expecting a resurrection. But in Matthew he straight up is asking Jesus for a resurrection.
It is likely that Matthew, who was very pro-Jewish and so desired to portray Jews in a positive light, decided to show Jairus as having more faith in Jesus than how he was portrayed in Mark. So he made a slight change to Mark’s story. By having Jairus come to Jesus after his daughter had died rather than when she was just sick, he was displaying a higher level of faith. But in so doing, Matthew destroyed the ideal of biblical inerrancy and revealed the fact that biblical authors were prone to indulging their personal agendas.
(3399) Mark’s attribution error
Note the difference between Mark’s reference to Isaiah versus Matthew’s similar reference, both aimed at trying (erroneously) to claim that John the Baptist was prophesized in the Old Testament:
This is the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“Behold, I will send My messenger ahead of You,
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for Him.’ ”
This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for Him.’ ”
The referenced scripture in Isaiah is a follows:
A voice of one calling:
“Prepare the way for the LORD in the wilderness;
make a straight highway for our God in the desert.”
What is missing from Matthew’s account is not found in Isaiah, but rather Malachi:
“Behold, I will send My messenger, who will prepare the way before Me.”
Mark mistakenly attributed this scripture to the prophet Isaiah. Matthew (who copied Mark), and later Luke, both recognized the error and omitted the Malachi reference in their accounts. For anyone who claims biblical inerrancy, this is a hard one to explain.
(3400) John moves Jesus’ temple tantrum
The gospels all relate an incident where Jesus angrily turned over tables in the temple courtyard. This could have been the cause of his crucifixion. In the synoptic gospels, this event occurs just before Jesus was crucified, but in the Gospel of John, it occurs at least two years prior. It is theorized that John wanted to separate the two events (temple disturbance and crucifixion) in time so as to squelch the perception that Jesus was crucified as a result of an unlawful action. He wanted to make sure that Jesus appeared to be blameless and undeserving of punishment. The following was taken from:
It depends on which Gospel you read. In the Synoptic Gospels he does not return to the Temple, but in John’s Gospel he keeps going back for years. John’s Gospel places the Temple incident at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The Synoptics all put it in the last week. John replaces the Temple incident in the last week with the raising of Lazarus. John is the only Gospel with the Lazarus story. No Gospel has both the Temple incident and the raising of Lazarus in the last week.
There are conservative scholars who argue that there were two Temple incidents, but critical scholars dismiss largely on the grounds that it seems implausible that Jesus could stage a demonstration like that and then go on for years as if nothing happened. besides, John doesn’t say Jesus had a second Temple incident and the Synoptics don’t say that either.
The majority critical opinion is that there was only one incident, that it was probably the reason Jesus was crucified. As John Crossan puts it, he was executed as a “public menace,” (Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography) for causing a disturbance at the Temple during Passover. The Romans were especially paranoid during Passover because pilgrims poured in from not only Judea and Galilee, but other countries as well for Jews that had the means. Philo lived in Egypt but claims to have gone back for the Passover every year (and that includes the Passovers during the Prefecture of Pilate, which means Philo could well have been in Jerusalem during the crucifixion of Jesus but he never mentions Jesus or Christianity in his writings. He could have even witnessed it without the slightest idea of its historical significance). The Romans were greatly outnumbered during this time and were constantly worried about possible riots or uprisings. Josephus says the brought extra soldiers to come and stand on the Temple walls and they were big on nipping things in the bud. If anyone looked like they even might cause trouble, they stepped in immediately. Somebody knocking over tables and impeding the sacrifices was going to get taken care of swiftly, especially if it was thought he had any kind of following. All that make the Temple incident a reasonable explanation for the crucifixion and most critical scholars think John moved it to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, perhaps to minimize or draw attention away from the perception of Jesus as a militant rebel.
For that apparent reason, the author of the Gospel of John separated the temple violence away from the crucifixion, but in so doing created another headache for Christian apologists. There is no way to marry John’s version of this event with Mark, Matthew, and Luke.
So it appears that John replaced the temple incident with another and more innocuous reason for the crucifixion – the raising of Lazarus, wherein he relates within his text that this miracle incited the Jews to have him killed. That way, Jesus remained innocent of all charges.
As a side note, many scholars believe that the temple incident actually happened because John felt compelled to include it (most likely reluctantly) in his gospel even though it ran counter to his theme of Jesus being a peaceful, god-like person. Leaving it out possibly would have caused people to doubt the integrity of his account.
Thus, the best theory for why John invented the Lazarus resurrection story (which almost certainly didn’t happen- or else it would have been central to the earlier gospels) is that he needed a reason for why Jesus was crucified, and wanted that reason to be something good rather than something bad.
Follow this link to #3401