(3401) Timothy’s delusion
A favorite scripture that Christians throw at atheists in 2 Timothy is nothing short of a boomerang that comes back around and hits them in the head. It is projection at the extreme. The following was taken from:
I’ve had this passage [2 Timothy 4:3-4] quoted to me many times, and I always found it ironic and wanted to vent. For those wondering this is the passage:
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
Turning your ears from the truth and believing in myths. Who does that? Who ignores established science, and instead believes all of humanity was cursed when a talking serpent tricked a naked woman made out of a rib into eating fruit from a magical tree.
Pesky atheists should stop believing in the myths of science and reasoning, and instead believe the Bible’s clearly “sound doctrine”, which at no point makes any unrealistic, immoral, or outright impossible claims. Claims like people living for hundreds of years, 9 foot tall giants, sacrificing your virgin daughter to appease god, fitting 2 of every animal into a wooden box, sending bears to kill 42 children for making fun of a bald man, or people gaining hulk level super strength from uncut hair are all perfectly moral and the definition of sound non mythical doctrine. Also, Christians believe in eternal life from Jesus because it’s true. Not at all because it just suits their own personal desires.
The Christian campaign against the ‘wisdom of this world’ is starting to lose its teeth. Science and the information age are like a cancer to religion and just to survive, Christianity must funnel their children into ‘safe’ Christian schools where they will be shielded from humanly wisdom, like cosmology, evolution, and religious history. Timothy’s taunt is a ‘self-own’ for Christians today.
(3402) Yahweh’s con game
Just before God was to inflict the final plague on the Egyptians, by murdering all of their first-born children, he set up a grift whereby the Israelites were to go around to their Egyptian neighbors to borrow any gold or silver they could obtain. God softened the hearts of these people to they would be more willing to give away or lend these articles. Of course, God knew that the Israelites would escape their captors the next day so that they wouldn’t have to return or pay back for any of this:
Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will bring upon Pharaoh and Egypt one more plague. After that, he will allow you to leave this place. And when he lets you go, he will drive you out completely. Now announce to the people that men and women alike should ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.”
And the LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.
If someone borrowed your vacuum cleaner and said they’d return it the next day, but the next day you find out that they had moved to another state, what would you think? This is Yahweh in a nutshell. and this is what he thought was appropriate.
Now, obviously this is a fictional story, but it tells a lot about how the Jewish people saw their God- as someone who was willing to cheat and be unfair to help out his ‘chosen’ people. Yet, this is the god that Christians are commanded to worship.
(3403) God the dictator
An analogy can be made between Yahweh, the Christian god, and a dictator who issues an unfair and brutal edict to his people. The following was taken from:
Sending a person to hell if they die in the wrong religion/irreligious, is like a dictator imposing law that every single citizen must be a millionaire by the time they reach 30, or they die.
Imagine a dictatorship, where the law and the codes are absolute, is being forced to the people living there. in this dystopia lets just say that the dictator create a law that every person must be a millionaire. if they doesn’t reach the target, they will get executed. This apply to everyone no matter their socio-economic condition. Doesn’t care if they’re born into a poor family, an aristocrat, a billionaire, everyone must have the same target. we all know that the one who were born into a rich family would have significant chances of not getting executed later. they could just… INHERIT their parents wealth and be a millionaire.
But how about the poor? the ones who are born from parents who collect scrap for a living ? they will have a significant chances of failing to meet their target. expecting this poor young kids to become wealthy or die if they didn’t is extremely unrealistic and cruel.
People are made by their circumstances and upbringing, which is in this case is what kind of family you were born into. it is an undeniable fact that majority of religious people, if they still believe in god by them time that they die, will have the same faith as their family. By god creating literal billions of humans and put them in a circumstances where they will believe the same faith that is of their family, and expecting them to find the correct religion, and send them to hell if they die as infidel, is the most evil thing someone could ever do. At least with the dictator example, he still clearly gives his command directly, unlike god who just plays where’s waldo and expect his creation to find him through an obscure old book.
It has often been noted that for Christianity to be fair God would have to grade humans ‘on the curve’ taking into account each individual situation. But Christian scriptures are not geared to that approach, stating unequivocally that acceptance of Jesus is necessary for salvation regardless of any good deeds anyone has performed or how well they lived their life. This arbitrary and unfair ‘grading system’ is strong evidence that it was not devised by the mind of a god.
(3404) God is inert
There is a massive mismatch between how Christians describe their god and what we can observe him doing. This would be like Mr. Olympia impressing us by lifting a one pound weight. If God is so impressive why doesn’t he do ANYTHING? The following was taken from:
The God proposed by the Christian hypothesis is not a disembodied, powerless voice whose only means of achieving his desires is speaking to people, teaching them to do what’s right. The Christian God is an Almighty Creator, capable of creating or destroying anything, capable of suspending or rewriting the laws of nature, capable of anything we can imagine. He can certainly do any and every moral thing you or I can do, and certainly much more than that, being so much bigger and stronger and better than we are in every way. All this follows necessarily from the definition of mere Christianity, and therefore cannot be denied without denying Christianity itself.
It’s a simple fact of direct observation that if I had the means and the power, and could not be harmed for my efforts, I would immediately alleviate all needless suffering in the universe. All guns and bombs would turn to flowers. All garbage dumps would become gardens. There would be adequate resources for everyone. There would be no more children conceived than the community and the environment could support. There would be no need of fatal or debilitating diseases or birth defects, no destructive Acts of God. And whenever men and women seemed near to violence, I would intervene and kindly endeavor to help them peacefully resolve their differences. That’s what any loving person would do. Yet I cannot be more loving, more benevolent than the Christian God. Therefore, the fact that the Christian God does none of these things—in fact, nothing of any sort whatsoever—is proof positive that there is no Christian God.
If God at least did something, however much we might still argue about what that action meant about his ability, character, and desires, we would at least have evidence (and therefore reason to believe) that a God existed, maybe even the Christian God. And there are many things any god could do. He could make all true bibles indestructible, unalterable, and self-translating. He could make miraculous healing or other supernatural powers so common an attribute of the virtuous believer that they would be scientifically studied and confirmed as surely as any other medicine or technology. He could, as I’ve already explained, speak to all of us in the same voice, saying the same things. He could send angels to appear to us on a regular basis, performing all manner of divine deeds and communications—exactly as the earliest Christians thought he did.
The possible evidences a God could provide are endless, though none might be sufficient to prove we have the Christian God. To prove that, this evident God would have to act as the Christian hypothesis predicts. For example, only those who believe in the true Christian Gospel would be granted the supernatural powers that could be confirmed by science; only true Christian Bibles would be indestructible, unalterable, and self-translating; and the Divine Voice would consistently convey to everyone the will and desires of the Christian message alone. But God does none of these things—nothing at all.
If God is all-powerful then he must be stubbornly determined not to use that power. How else on earth can such a mighty deity make it look like he doesn’t exist? Could it be perhaps because he doesn’t?
(3405) Ten reasons for women to exit Christianity
In the following, ten issues are listed as reasons for why women should leave Christianity. What this suggests is that this religion was not created by an all-knowing, all-powerful god but rather by mortal men who believed that they deserved a position of authority over women. The following was taken from:
1) Eve picked for blame
Most Christians believe that God is omnipotent which means all powerful. Most also believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God with some going further to state that it is the inerrant word of God with every word being true. Given these assumptions, God had a choice in choosing a woman, Eve, to be the person to eat of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, to be the cause of original sin, and to suffer pain in childbirth. Would an omnipotent God choose half of his creation to be maligned, abused, and subordinated throughout most of human history? Couldn’t he have come up with a better story to talk about making the right choices?
Or could Eve have been chosen in this story of Genesis because this book is not sacred or the inspired word of a deity, because it was written by men who believed women were their property, and because it was used to suppress the worship of the Canaanite goddess Asherah? A tree or pillar as well as a snake, often represented Asherah, as well as many other goddesses in other religions. Both of these symbols are found in the Biblical story of Eve lending credence to this latter view.
Deuteronomy 22:21 states the following. If a man married a woman and the “tokens of her virginity” could not be proved, she would be killed. “Then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones.”
A woman’s virginity is lost when she has sex with a man. In this story, nothing happens to the male half of this equation. It is thus the law of God to treat women as inferior to men and to blame them solely for an act that it takes two to commit. In the Bible, only in the case of adultery is the man punished in equal measure to the woman. What untold horror has beset women because of this “law of God?”
In Genesis 19:8, Lot offers his two virgin daughters to the mob threatening to rape the two angels he is harboring. His daughters are used simply as barter.
Is this the story of parental love that you want your children to read? Wouldn’t you do anything to save the lives of your children? Yet this story resides in a book in church pews across the world. What does it say about a religion whose deities would sacrifice a man’s daughters to save themselves (as the angels did nothing to intervene)?
4) Women as cause of a plague
In Numbers 31:17-18, God tells Moses to “avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites.” After the battle Moses rebukes his soldiers because they let the women live. Because they were the cause of the plague, he orders his soldiers to “kill every woman who has known man by lying with him.” He allows the soldiers to spare the virgins and keep them for themselves.
How can this be interpreted as anything less than a lack of knowledge about disease and an opportunity for men to rape virgins? Today we know a virus causes the plague. Why wouldn’t an omnipotent God know that? Why would he let women be killed? Why didn’t he stop Moses?
5) Jephthah’s daughter
Jephthah makes a vow to God to give him the first person that comes out of his house if he returns victorious from fighting the Ammonites. He wins and sacrifices his virgin daughter who is the first person to greet him.
Isn’t this a vow to God? Couldn’t God have told Jephthah to go and sacrifice a lamb instead like he did in the case of Isaac? Why didn’t God act the same when a daughter was involved instead of a son?
6) Sacrifice of Isaac
Abraham is willing to follow the dictates of God to kill his son. Fortunately, in this case, God intervenes and Abraham is allowed to sacrifice a lamb instead.
Should any woman or man believe in a deity that would ask a father or mother to sacrifice their children to him? If this is a test, it is a cruel test indeed. And where is Sarah the mother? She is not present, she is not consulted, and she has no say in the matter. This is a book written by men and for men to justify their power over women. Isn’t it interesting how Sarah is barren and God even takes over the power to cause pregnancy?
7) Harlots and prostitutes
If a daughter of a priest “plays the harlot,” the punishment is severe – “She shall be burned with fire.” (Leviticus 21:9)
This concept of blaming the woman for sex outside of marriage still endures today. Prostitution is not legal in most of the United States and prostitutes are regularly arrested. It is the rare case, where the men who frequent prostitutes are arrested and charged with a crime. Isn’t this just another example of men’s power? Is this really something a loving God would condone? Or is it the means by which men maintain control of women?
8) Mary is a Virgin
Matthew states that Jesus was born of a virgin who is called Mary. Matthew explains in Chapter 1:23 that Jesus’ birth fulfills the Old Testament prophesy – “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” This virgin birth is a key tenet of Christianity today.
Unfortunately, Matthew used a mistranslation of Isaiah 7:14 to compose his text. The word in Isaiah in the original Hebrew means young woman, not virgin. The Revised Standard Version of the Bible now correctly translates Isaiah using the words young woman. Doesn’t this lend credence to the fact that men wrote these gospels? Wouldn’t God have known the correct translation? Why didn’t Jesus write down his own story?
9) Men Are in Charge of Women
1 Corinthians 11:3 states that the “head of every woman is the man.” This passage, as well as many others, has been used to keep women in a subordinate position throughout most of the last 2000 years.
Do women support this inferiority today? If they do feel they are men’s equals, how can they square that with the teachings of Christianity? While things have moved in a positive direction for women, there’s still a long way to go. Women should reject the place that’s expected by them from Christianity, and always keep positive self-esteem instead in relationships.
10) Women Should Be Submissive
In 1 Peter 3:1-2, women are told to be submissive to their husbands.
Women and men should be equal. Religion and particularly Christianity in the United States has been used throughout this country’s history to subjugate women. Even today, men use the Bible to justify their beliefs on issues such as access to birth control or abortion. It’s time for women to acknowledge that this religion, like most others, was created by man and by man alone.
If Christianity had come out and advocated sexual equality, given the climate of the era where it originated, it would be evidence for a supernatural influence. But the fact that it simply endorsed the conventional wisdom of its time suggests that it is a product of humans exclusively.
(3406) The Bible is a library of disagreeing books
It is best to see the Bible as 66 separate books compiled under a single binder rather than being just one book. The authors were not collimated by any external influence (god or gods) to align their narratives in any cohesive sense. This argues strongly against the Christian concept of divine inspiration. The following was taken from:
The Bible is an extremely varied library of books, written by people who lived in different times, in different places, in different cultural contexts and with different theological beliefs. I hear this narrative really often that the Bible tells a single coherent and unified story, with all authors being completely in accord and any perceived disagreement being explained away by employing a particular hermeneutic lens and doing some hand waving.
You can read the Bible this way, I myself used to and it made sense through the theological framework I had at the time. I believed that even though most of these authors didn’t know each other, God guided the writing of each and every text that made it into my 66 book Protestant canon, so there’s no possibility God would have allowed disagreement. But I don’t think this should be the only way you read the Bible. In the Jewish tradition (as I understand it), the other texts produced after the Old Testament mostly consist of commentary on the Torah/Penatateuch. The rabbis explicitly and openly disagreed with each other, and their opposing views were recorded in the Talmud. Jews can look at any of the interpretations of a given passage and apply which makes the most sense to them in their context, with revisions and clarifications as needed. Debate and disagreement is acknowledged, even celebrated, in Judaism.
In many ways the Old Testament itself can be viewed as multi-voiced commentary on itself. 1/2 Chronicles is (partially) a retelling of Samuel/Kings from the perspective of a post-exilic Israelite author who (among other goals) wanted to further rehabilitate the image of David and Solomon in the wake of the authorization to rebuild the Temple (e.g. all the scandalous details of the affair with Bathsheba are totally absent). As is well known at this point, the consensus of biblical scholars consider the Pentateuch itself to be comprised of three or more sources spliced together across multiple redaction layers. The actual authors behind the text sometimes had very different conceptions of God and very different memories of the same stories.
The archetypal example of this is the two creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2. In the first, we see a cosmic God who seems fairly impersonal that speaks things into existence and orders creation by separating and filling it. In the second, we see a God (who has a different name) that creates with his hands, forming man out of dust and planting a garden, taking a rib and fashioning it into the first woman, walking in the garden, etc. There are also inconsistencies between the stories, which you can immediately see when you start asking simple questions about the order in which different things were created. Some books are written directly in opposition to another. In the priestly writings of the Torah, there is an emphasis on the sacrifice being absolutely essential for following God, but many of the prophets tell us God desires mercy and charity, not sacrifice. Qohelet (Ecclesiastes) seems to have the view that neither sacrifice nor righteous deeds make any difference at all in the end.
You could even switch to the New Testament and find much of the same thing going on. John’s retelling of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is in many ways a counter narrative to Mark–In public, Mark’s Jesus speaks only in parables and is insistent that no one tell anyone who he is or what he can do, John’s Jesus never misses an opportunity to tell everyone exactly who he is and instruct his listeners to pass it along. Mark’s Jesus died in agony, feeling completely out of control and abandoned. John’s Jesus died at peace, completely in control of the situation and ready to do what he came into the world to do. Luke and Matthew’s birth narratives barely line up at all, and have several apparent contradictions. The book of Revelation looks very much like a direct rebuttal to Paul’s letters, the author rebuking people in churches Paul founded who were abandoning Jewish law.
My point in all this is, if you read the Bible as a set of books, several of which are in (sometimes adversarial) conversation with one another, you can make sense of all the disagreements without having to jump through hoops and make up (or parrot) implausible harmonizations. It disrespects the biblical authors when church leaders insinuate a given author’s message was completely in harmony with their opponents. And it disrespects skeptical readers of the Bible when we are presented a book filled with contradictions and disagreements, then told that there are no disagreements in it.
Saying that the Bible is consistent and has no contradictions and is more or less the product of a single entity (God) is tantamount to saying that grass is red. We can clearly see that grass is green so the statement ‘grass is red’ does not change reality. And the reality of the Bible is that it is a discordant collection of writings by mostly unknown authors describing 66 versions of reality.
(3407) Hebrews keeps Jesus in the sky
The Book of Hebrews, allegedly written by Paul, though most scholars now consider it to be pseudopigraphical, is a problem for theologians who consider Jesus to have been an earth-bound man as he was described in the gospels. This book sees Jesus exclusively in an ethereal realm. The following was taken from:
As Doherty points out, the Letter to the Hebrews is the second longest epistle in the New Testament (after Romans). Even in antiquity, there were doubts that it was written by Paul, whose name does not appear in the text. At the outset of his essay, Doherty notes: “Who the writer is, where he writes, whom he is addressing remain unknown.” (p. 239) And the ancient writer betrayed no knowledge at all of any stories about Jesus of Nazareth that supposedly were cherished in Christian circles:
“In Hebrews 9:11 the author says that ‘Christ has come,’ but is this a reference to his life on Earth? Rather, the context indicates that he is referring to Christ’s ‘entry’ into the new tent of his heavenly priesthood, the spiritual sanctuary…This Christian writer can speak of Christ’s ‘coming’ and yet not say a word about any of his works on earth, only of what he did in heaven.” (p. 264)
Devout scholars have had to deal with this silence about Jesus of Nazareth in the letters of Paul as well. We search in vain in Paul’s letters for mention of Jesus’ birth, his teachings and miracles. Paul doesn’t even mention the empty tomb, and boasted in Galatians that he received no information whatever about Jesus from the people who knew him. He found out about Jesus exclusively from his visions. Word-of-mouth stories didn’t reach him either—or if they did, he ignored them.
If there was no oral tradition—and we lack any contemporary documentation to verify the words and deeds of Jesus—then just how did the gospel writers come up with their stories? The opening sentence of Mark’s gospel indicates what we’re dealing with: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The gospel writers were theologians, not historians; their goal was to win converts to the small Christian sect. Careful readers can see how the theologians who copied Mark’s text—Matthew and Luke—wrote from their own theological perspectives. And the author of John was in a world of his own; as I have written elsewhere, he contributed mightily to theological inflation about Jesus.
The author of Hebrews took this to his own extreme, well illustrated by the opening four verses of his treatise:
“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”
It would be hard to find a more glowing description of an idealized superhero, but in the whole letter the author makes no attempt to place his holy hero in Galilee or Jerusalem. But this letter does illustrate how ideas and philosophies current at the time shaped this particular brand of Christianity. In an article here last month, I discussed Derreck Bennett’s essay in this new Loftus/Price anthology about Christianity in the context of other dying-and-rising savior gods at the time. Doherty discussed the influence of Platonism:
“…Hebrews provides perhaps the best example in the New Testament of how Christ belief arose spontaneously out of currents and trends of the day, in independent expressions, each taking its own characteristics as a result of local conditions and the people involved. The epistle is what it is because a distinct group formulated their own picture of spiritual realities.
“They searched scripture for information and insight about the Son of God, under the influence of the wider religious and philosophical atmosphere of the first century, especially Alexandrian Platonism, and this is what they came up with.” (p. 255)
They searched scripture. My tattered old RSV—now held together with tape and glue—includes a very handy tool: at the bottom of each page there are footnotes cross-referencing other scripture verses that apply. In the thirteen chapters of Hebrews, there are 98 references to Old Testament texts. This is where the author of Hebrews was sure information about his Jesus could be found.
He wasn’t interested in what went on with Jesus of Nazareth; Doherty makes these points:
“In Hebrews, there are no sayings of Jesus quoted; there are no events of his life as recorded in the Gospels which the writer draws on to explain his interpretation of Jesus as High Priest. Not even the central concept of Jesus’ sacrifice as the establishment of a new covenant has been illuminated by the slightest reference to the Last Supper or to the words Jesus is said to have spoken on that occasion inaugurating such a covenant.” (p. 256)
“The sacrifice of Christ in the heavenly realm is laid out in Hebrews 8 and 9. The structure of this thought is thoroughly Platonic, though it mirrors some longstanding Jewish ideas as well.” (p. 256)
“The ‘event’ which the writer constantly focuses on seems not to be Christ’s death itself, but his action of entering the heavenly sanctuary and offering his blood to God.” (p. 258) Doherty refers to this as “the center of gravity” of Hebrews.
So here was an ancient theologian who was certain of his own version of Christ, but he seems to have been unaware of the Jesus depicted in the gospels. How could that happen? For one thing, there was no quality control, as Doherty notes:
“Hebrews provides strong evidence that independent expressions of belief in the existence of the divine Son and his role in salvation were to be found all over the landscape of the first century, with no central source or authority and little common sharing of doctrine and ritual. Just where the community which produced Hebrews was located, or the year in which this unique document was written, it is impossible to tell, but that it owed its genesis to any historical events in Jerusalem, or anywhere else, is very difficult to support.” (pp. 252-253)
Given the standard assumption of Christian theology, the Book of Hebrews should not exist. If Jesus was the historical figure of the gospels, then any reference to him should have him grounded in Judea and Galilee, performing miracles, delivering sermons, and enduring a crucifixion. We should not see anyone writing about Jesus strictly as a celestial personage.
(3408) Four moral concerns
The concept of worshiping an all-powerful and all-good god while observing the world as it is leaves a wide gap in expectations- one that is the job of Christian apologists to fill in. But their efforts have been dismal. The following lists four moral concerns about the Christian god:
Moral Concern One: Human “free will” is often used by theologians to get god off the hook—he can’t help it if we behave badly—but, no, god isn’t off the hook at all:
“A perfectly good, all-powerful, all-knowing god could keep us from abusing our freedom by creating us with a stronger propensity to dislike wrongdoing, just like we have an aversion to drinking motor oil. We could still drink it if we wanted to, but it’s nauseating. Such a deity could easily keep a person from molesting a child or raping someone if at the very thought of it the person began to suffer from severe nausea.” (pp. 6-7)
Moral Concern Two: From the get-go, god could have made the world a less dangerous place. Was it beyond god’s powers to make a planet that isn’t so violent? How dare he put humans and animals in an environment in which hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, famines, etc. etc. have been so common? A moral deity would certainly have arranged things more carefully. Loftus notes that animal predation is a major part of this moral failure: “The extent of animal suffering cries out against the existence of a good god. This ubiquitous suffering is perhaps the most difficult problem of all.” (p. 8)
Moral Concern Three: A morally capable, responsible god could have done a much better job designing human bodies! There are thousands of genetic diseases: that “perfect” newborn you hold in your arms may be far from perfect. Why are we so ravaged by disease? Here above all, Christians should be able to intuit that something is wrong; so many of their intercessory prayers are pleas with their god to intervene, to make changes to his basic setup. Loftus notes, as well, one of god’s biggest mistakes:
“A perfectly good, all-powerful, all-knowing god could have created all human beings with one color of skin. There, that was easy! There has been too much killing and slavery, and there have been too many wars because we don’t all have the same color of skin.” (p. 8)
Moral Concern Four: Why didn’t god set the record straight about himself from the very beginning? Let humans know which religion is the right one! So much strife and anguish could have been avoided. How simple it would have been, as Loftus points out; god
“… could have made his revelation available to every culture in the same way, with no discrepancies and buttressed by some astounding evidence-based miracles. This deity would provide a general revelation for everyone in the world, or a naturalistic ethic, that excluded all religions that were sexist, misogynistic, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, narcissistic, tribalistic, patriotic, war mongering, and otherwise barbaric.” (pp. 9-10)
It is probably true that anybody who was gifted the powers allegedly possessed by Yahweh would have done a better job to manage human behaviors, to create a more benign planet and alleviate unnecessary suffering, to better engineer human bodies and reduce genetic defects, and to make a better presentation to humanity of their existence and expectations as a means to reduce religious-based terror. Yahweh falls short on all of these points and, at best, deserves a grade of D-. If there are multiple gods in multiple universes, it is likely that Yahweh is an under-performer.
(3409) Timing of the Great Commission
There is a significant contradiction concerning the timing of when God/Jesus decided to become the god of everyone instead of just the Jews. If you read the gospels, it happened just before the resurrected Jesus rose up into the sky, but in Acts it happens much later. The following was taken from:
In the Synoptic Gospels, after the Lord’s resurrection and right before his ascension, he commissioned his disciples to “Go ye therefore and teach ALL nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19).
Again, in the Gospel of Mark, the Lord commanded, “Go ye into ALL the world, and preach the gospel to EVERY CREATURE” (Mark 16:15).
Finally, in Luke’s Gospel, Christ again commissioned that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among ALL nations” (Luke 24:47).
Christ, in these verses, made it very clear that the gospel message of salvation and repentance should go forth to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people (Gentiles). Jews are no longer the lone recipient of the Lord’s Gospel; the Israelite-Gentile barrier was finally broken at this very moment, before Christ’s departure from our earthly realm.
However, we see that in the beginning of the Book of Acts, which took place after the Lord’s departure, the good news about Christ really had only gone to the Jews. Even when the believers were scattered abroad after the stoning of Stephen, the early disciples spoke the word only to Jews. It is not until chapter 10, that we see a change. The apostle Peter receives a vision in which he sees all of the unclean animals, prohibited to Jews by the Law, come down from heaven and a voice telling him to “kill and eat.” Peter interprets this dream as God telling him to extend the message of the gospel outside of Israel, for “the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.”
Did the apostles suddenly forget about Jesus Great Commission? Why would God have to give Peter a vision about preaching to Gentiles when Jesus already commanded them to do so at the end of each of the Synoptic Gospels? In trying to reason out this small contradiction, I came up with two scenarios:
- The apostles forgot about Christ’s commission, which would be irresponsible of them and shows a certain sign of stubbornness and disobedience on their part.
- The Commission of Christ was inserted into the Gospels by later Christian scribes after the Apostles passed away and the gospel message was already in circulation among the Gentiles.
The second choice is the more likely truth. It became politically convenient to have Jesus definitively announce the change in God’s business plan- that he was to become the god of all earthlings. Even if Jesus was real, and even if he actually resurrected after being crucified, it is unlikely that he announced the Great Commission, given what we know from history about 1st Century Christianity. And besides, it would have been a major departure from what Jesus alleged said pre-crucifixion- that he had come only for the lost sheep of Israel.
(3410) Three points for mythicism
Christian theology depends on Jesus being a real person, but there exist some very good reasons to doubt that Jesus was a flesh and blood man who roamed the Middle East 2000 years ago. This situation did not have to happen. There could have been hundreds of mentions of him in secular documents surviving to the present time. In fact, this would be expected if the gospel accounts are accurate. The miracles, the drama of the passion sequence, the resurrection claims would certainly have been a good subject for contemporary historians. Yet, all of this is lacking. The following was taken from:
Here is Richard Carrier’s case for mythicism, as he presented it in three simple points on a recent episode of the MythVision Podcast:
1) The earliest Christian literature—in particular the letters of Paul—never places Jesus in history; instead, he is only ever seen from revelation. For example, Paul has no knowledge of Jesus picking disciples; he only knows about apostles who received a revelation of Jesus. In Romans 16, Paul straight up says that the teachings of Jesus were known only from scripture and revelation.
2) Jesus only appears as a real person in texts that are highly mythological, i.e., the Gospels. This basically means we only have one book that talks about Jesus as a real person, which is the book of Mark. The other gospels were written after Mark by authors who embellished the story while clearly lifting significant portions directly from Mark. And Mark is written by an unknown author who cites no sources for his information. Notably, a lot of ancient mythical characters were also given elaborate biographies that placed them in history with parents, siblings, birth-places, etc. This includes characters like Moses, Romulus, and Dionysus. In contrast, figures in history who are known to be real people either did not begin as revelatory beings, or we have clear evidence of their historicity.
3) Attempts to get around these two points do not hold up. For example, there is an argument that Jesus must have really come from Nazareth because there is no other reason to attribute such an unlikely origin to him (Christopher Hitchens, for instance, finds this argument convincing). But the premise of this argument is false because there are many good reasons why that specific town would have been contrived for a mythical messiah. Also, many mythical figures were given obscure towns as their origin. For example, Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome, were given the birthplace of Alba Longa, an ancient city in Central Italy.
This case could be expounded upon in numerous ways. Slate, for instance, provides five reasons for questioning the historicity of Jesus. A more in-depth case from Carrier can be found in his 700-page book on the subject or in his talk “Why Invent Jesus.” But even as a quick, three-point argument, the case against Jesus’s historicity seems eminently reasonable. And yet it has not been given a proper hearing by either religious scholars or the public.
As mythicist author Earl Doherty shows in a survey, historians rely on the consensus view to brush aside the mythicist theory rather than to examine it. Carrier has also observed that most scholars who study Jesus are biased against the mythicist view because they are essentially trained to presuppose that Jesus existed as a real person. In a 2017 talk, Carrier explained, “Even secular experts in this field have been trained with a body of Christian faith assumptions that are this lens through which you look at this evidence and select which evidence to look at.” As a result, the consensus that Jesus was a real person is based on this framework of Christian faith assumptions. And those assumptions, he argues, do not hold up to scrutiny.
It is possible that Jesus was a real person who was later mythicized to have supernatural powers, but it is also possible that he was imagined into existence, first as a celestial being, and later grounded into the realm of regular history. But one thing is certain, if God had wanted humans to be certain of Jesus’ existence, he did a miserable job of making that happen.
(3411) Three strikes for Christianity
Christianity has so many problems that picking out three for a baseball strikeout analogy is not easy to do. In the following John Loftus chose the ones that he thought had the greatest impact, in a synergistic way:
In the context of first-century religious beliefs, the genesis of Christianity is hardly a surprise. It was a breakaway Jewish sect that adopted belief in a dying-and-rising savior god. There were several such cults, whose strong appeal was the promise of eternal life through a god who had the power to overcome death; devotees of the cults could share in this benefit. For more on this ancient superstition see Derreck Bennett’s essay “Dying and Rising Gods” in the anthology edited by John Loftus and Robert Price, Varieties of Jesus Mythicism: Did He Even Exist? and Richard Carrier’s essay “Dying-and-Rising Gods: It’s Pagan, Guys. Get Over It.” The folks in the pews haven’t caught on. When I once asked a devout woman where her beliefs came from, she responded proudly, “From my grandmother!” There was no curiosity at all about first-century Christian origins.
Nor is there much curiosity—or so it would seem—to discover Jesus as depicted in the gospels. This would require careful, thoughtful examination of all the Jesus quotes, but the majority of the faithful (as surveys have shown) aren’t up to this task. Jesus as presented in ritual, hymns, art, and stained glass is what sustains them—and, of course, the nice Jesus quotes read from the pulpit. A high percentage of the laity would probably look for another religion if they confronted honestly so many of the alarming words of Jesus that they disagree with. So how’s this for irony: Jesus himself is Strike Two!
Strike Three: The Big One
James A. Haught, author of Religion Is Dying: Soaring Secularism in American and the West, punctured God’s reputation:
“Horrible occurrences such as the Indian Ocean tsunami that drowned 100,00 children prove clearly that the universe isn’t administered by an all-loving invisible father. No compassionate creator would devise killer earthquakes and hurricanes—or breast cancer for women and leukemia for children.”
Think of it: thousands of infants, toddlers, and children crushed and drowned. It is obvious that a caring, powerful god—the one idolized by Christians—was paying no attention whatever. But Christians don’t seem to be able to process that. A devout colleague of mine at the time commented on how horrible the tsunami was, and I responded: “Yes, God overslept again.” I will never forget the look on his face—a blend of horror and anguish—when he heard these words. He knew exactly what I was talking about. But, of course, he was not able to integrate harsh reality into the naïve god-is-love worldview that had been pounded into his brain since infancy.
Indeed, the church is one of the most powerful propaganda engines ever invented, and it’s big business as well, highly invested in diverting attention from harsh reality. Thus its apologists come forward with excuses for God, even in the wake of colossal tragedies like the Indian Ocean tsunami. In fact, the catalogue of colossal tragedies in human history should, by now, have wiped out belief in kind, attentive gods. But Christian apologists—priests, preachers, theologians, and other professional spinmeisters—do their best to explain away the problem of horrendous suffering, this Big Strike Three against Christianity.
If only the laity could be coaxed away from the shallow, contrived excuses; if only they were willing to do serious homework, namely, show some backbone to examine critically the excuses for God and hold the apologists accountable. Yes, this does require homework.
Christianity, properly examined, never leaves home plate, much less makes it all the way home. Any person who approaches its claims in an objective mindset can see easily that it is a mythical faith that was never grounded in reality. Excuses may be offered for every problem, but the assumption that it is a false religion offers the best explanation for every observation.
(3412) Historical error in Chronicles
An indisputable error exists in the Book of 1 Chronicles that should by itself lay to rest any discussion of biblical inerrancy. The following was taken from:
The bible makes the claim that a coin named ‘daric’ was used at the time of King David.
1 Chronicles 29:7:
They gave for the service of the house of God 5,000 talents and 10,000 darics of gold, 10,000 talents of silver, 18,000 talents of bronze and 100,000 talents of iron.
However, historians have found out that this coin was named after a Persian leader named “Darius the Great,” who lived hundreds of years after King David which makes the transaction which is described in the verse impossible.
This error is mentioned in the Jewish encyclopedia (1905) Volume 9, Page 350.
It is interesting to note that the Jewish people admit to this error while many Christians hold that the entire Bible contains no errors. This supercilious Christian attitude is spawned by the syllogism that God ‘wrote’ the Bible, God is perfect, therefore the Bible is perfect.
But if the Bible is not perfect, then using the same Christian logic either God did not ‘write’ the Bible or God is not perfect, neither of which are digestible for fundamentalist Christians.
(3413) Timothy corrects Jesus’ cult manifesto
The author of Matthew puts words in Jesus’ mouth that are quintessential cult leader jargon, and it took the author of 1 Timothy to refute what Jesus said and to place everything back on a stable setting. If everyone did what Jesus demands, civilization would implode into unmanageable chaos. Note the disparity between these two passages:
Do not assume that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
A man’s enemies will be the members
Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
1 Timothy 5:8
If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Essentially, Timothy is saying ‘No, Jesus, that will not work. We must maintain stable, cohesive, and supportive relationships within each family.’
It can be conjectured that Matthew wrote these words because the fledgling Jesus cult was having trouble recruiting members because of resistance from fellow family members who did not want their relatives to join it. So, making Jesus give permission to effectively ‘divorce’ your family was a way to overcome that problem. Timothy had to come to the rescue to fix this embarrassment.
(3414) Acts Seminar
A ten-year effort to sort out the historicity of the Book of Acts delivered disappointing results for Christians, who had long romanticized this work as an inspirational depiction of the early Christian movement. The seminar concluded that Acts contains mostly ideological fiction. The following was taken from:
Acts is the first and most successful attempt to tell the story of Christian origins. It is a story so well told that it has dominated Christian self-understanding down to the present day. Yet today the historicity of much of the story Acts tells can be challenged. Part of that challenge derives from a new awareness of the complex diversity of Christian origins—the story in Acts simply cannot successfully account for that diversity. But the most significant challenge to Acts’ story of Christian origins derives from a critical study of Acts itself. Today we are convinced that Acts is a work of imaginative religious literature exhibiting the characteristics of other such literature of its day. When critically examined, it is unable to support the high level of trust that Christian interpreters have traditionally placed in the accuracy of its story.
The Acts Seminar met twice a year beginning in 2001 and concluded its work at the spring Westar meeting in 2011. Dennis Smith, the seminar chair, compiled a list of the top ten accomplishment of the Acts Seminar:
- The use of Acts as a source for history has long needed critical reassessment.
- Acts was written in the early decades of the second century.
- The author of Acts used the letters of Paul as sources.
- Except for the letters of Paul, no other historically reliable source can be identified for Acts.
- Acts can no longer be considered an independent source for the life and mission of Paul.
- Contrary to Acts 1-7, Jerusalem was not the birthplace of Christianity.
- Acts constructs its story on the model of epic and related literature.
- The author of Acts created names for characters as storytelling devices.
- Acts constructs its story to fit ideological goals.
- Acts is a primary historical source for second century Christianity.
While the Jesus Seminar, in sifting through the Jesus tradition, was able to find a credible core set of data about the historical Jesus, the Acts Seminar has not found a core historical story of Christian beginnings in Acts. This is not to say that Acts is totally unhistorical, but to observe that it is less helpful in the historical reconstruction of Christian beginnings than previously assumed. Its story has long dominated Christian imagination and shaped critical scholarship, but we must now rethink how we reconstruct Christian origins in the absence of the Acts default.
It has to be questioned why a book that fails to report factual information would be included in the Bible, given the assumption levied by Christians that the Bible is the ‘work of God’- both the writings themselves and the choice of which books should be included.
That Acts was chosen to be included in the New Testament is a clue that 4th Century biblical scholarship was rather crude compared to the present day, and that it was seen at that time as a reliable historical document. Now it is viewed by objective scholars as the proverbial ‘turd in the soup bowl.’
(3415) Religion endangers children
It is often thought that Christianity and religion in general tends to make people more understanding, compassionate, and peaceful, but the facts on the ground say the opposite. The following lists many of the ways that religion causes children especially to be imperiled:
Children throughout the US and the world suffer child abuse or neglect enabled by religious belief every day. The impacts of this maltreatment can have serious longterm effects and can even be fatal. Whether a child is raised Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or of any other faith, he or she is at risk, particularly if the adults responsible for their wellbeing are part of an authoritarian culture.
Religious organizations in the US collectively have paid billions of dollars settling lawsuits with those they have harmed. High-profile cases of religious child maltreatment regularly appear in the news. You can find memoirs written by survivors who grew up in just about every religion, spiritual group, and cult.
Consider these statistics:
- A 1984 study reviewing the health status of children in cults showed that these religious groups had unusually high incidences of physical abuse, sleep deprivation, and medical neglect.
- A 1984 survey of Quaker families revealed that Quaker fathers reported more acts of violence toward their children than did fathers nationally, and Quaker sibling violence was significantly higher than sibling violence rates reported nationally.
- A 1995 study that surveyed mental health professionals found that certain kinds of allegations of abuse fell under 3 categories: torturing or killing a child to rid him or her of evil, withholding needed medical care for religious reasons, and abusing a child under the cover of a religious role.
- A 1998 study published in Pediatrics looked at 172 child deaths occurring in church groups that strongly promoted “faith healing” to cure illness and found that the medical conditions of 140 children would have yielded a 90% survival rate had they received medical care.
- A 1999 study showed that the more ideologically conservative parents are, the more likely they are to have positive attitudes toward physically punishing children and the more important religion is to parents, the more likely they are to have attitudes that devalue and verbally abuse children.
- A 2003 study showed that adults who experienced “religion-related” abuse in childhood suffered from more serious psychological problems than those who experienced abuse in which religion was not a factor.*
- A 2005 study showed that individuals who are extrinsically religious (viewed religiosity as a means for attaining other goals rather than as an end in itself) have an increased risk of perpetrating child physical abuse.
This is a piece of counter-evidence for Christianity, which if true, should result in higher measures of child safety. That is, the power of God imbued in parents, teachers, and others should result in greater measures of compassionate treatment of the most vulnerable members of society. The fact that the opposite is true suggests that Christianity is man-made and offers no supernatural guidance or insights.
(3416) The Julius Caesar analogy
If Christianity is true, then belief or disbelief in Jesus is highly consequential- in fact, more so than any other aspect of life. But if matters little if one believes or disbelieves that Julius Caesar was a real person. But when we compare the strength of evidence for Julius Caesar to Jesus, it is beyond argumentation that Caesar is better grounded in history (see #1160). Why would the Christian god allow this to be the case? The following was taken from:
If we find out tomorrow that Julius Caesar didn’t actually exist, absolutely nothing would happen to our civilization other than some errata.
Nobody’s asking us to reorganize our laws and society based on the belief that Julius Caesar was a real person the way that Christians do with Jesus. Nobody’s condemning you to Hades for thinking that Julius Caesar didn’t exist.
The burden of proof for Jesus *should* be way higher than any other historical figures because Christians want him to be so consequential.
This poses a problem for Christianity- why is the most consequential figure of the universe, the being upon which eternal consequences ride, less well attested in history than a political figure who matters little to contemporary life? To put it more succinctly- why would the Christian god permit a situation where he judges people based on their belief in a figure whose existence raises any doubt whatsoever in even the most skeptical minds? Jesus’ nebulous reality is near proof that Christianity is false.
(3417) God endorses sexual slavery
If the Bible is the word of God then we should be able to peruse it to find out what God considers to be moral or immoral. In so doing, we can discover that God finds it morally acceptable to capture young women and to enjoy them as sexual slaves. The following was taken from:
Here’s something I have yet to hear literally any Christian try and defend. First I’ll give you the passage from the Bible and then my thoughts on it.
Numbers 31:17 – 18
17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.
Basically kill all the little boys and and women that have had sex but all the young girls who have not keep your yourselves. This comes from the book of God. Supposedly his word, and how he communicates his will to us. You basically have two options here.
1) Either God endorses Sexual Slavery on little girls which I really hope you don’t believe. But if it is true you have to accept it is morally right to do so since God has deemed it morally right.
2) The Bible is fallible and this is not the will of God. However, if this is indeed the case then you must admit that the Bible isn’t perfect and therefore cannot be trusted at all. Since the only thing proving the validity of the Bible is the Bible. So if one part of the word of God is not valid, then none of it is. And therefore it is not the word of God and thus you should not believe or have faith in the Bible and its teachings.
Christians will balk at having to choose one of these two options, and will move the goalposts, saying something on the order of ‘there were not enough women in the tribe to birth enough children, so taking young girls was a means to alleviate that shortage.’ This kind of cop-out uncovers the stench of this religion and reveals the reluctance of Christians to face reality when it comes to owning up to their scriptures. The verses above by themselves should cause Christians to walk straight to the exit of their church.
(3418) MLK view of virgin birth
In 1949, Dr. Martin Luther King, while in seminary, wrote an article about the mysteries of Christianity. The following is a summary of his discussion about the virgin birth. It reflects a per-fundamentalist view that in later decades would metastasize into a full-on belief in the literal interpretation of the (contradictory) virgin birth stories in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. The following was taken from:
The second doctrine in our discussion posits the virgin birth. This doctrine gives the modern scientific mind much more trouble than the first, for it seems downright improbable and even impossible for anyone to be born without a human father.
First we must admit that the evidence for the tenability of this doctrine is to shallow to convince any objective thinker. To begin with, the earliest written documents in the New Testament make no mention of the virgin birth. Moreover, the Gospel of Mark, the most primitive and authentic of the four, gives not the slightest suggestion of the virgin birth. The effort to justify this doctrine on the grounds that it was predicted by the prophet Isaiah is immediately eliminated, for all New Testament scholars agree that the word virgin is not found in the Hebrew original, but only in the Greek text which is a mistranslation of the Hebrew word for “young woman.” How then did this doctrine arise?
A clue to this inquiry may be found in a sentence from St. Justin’s First Apology. Here Justin states that the birth of Jesus is quite similar to the birth of the sons of Zeus. It was believed in Greek thought that an extraordinary person could only be explained by saying that he had a father who was more than human. It is probable that this Greek idea influenced Christian thought.
A more adequate explanation for the rise of this doctrine is found in the experience which the early Christians had with Jesus. The people saw within Jesus such a uniqueness of quality and spirit that to explain him in terms of ordinary background was to them quite inadequate. For his early followers this spiritual uniqueness could only by accounted for in terms of biological uniqueness. They were not unscientific in their approach because they had no knowledge of the scientific. They could only express themselves in terms of the pre-scientific thought patterns of their day. No laws were broken because they had no knowledge of the existence of law. They only knew that they had been with the Jesus of history and that his spiritual life was so far beyond theirs that to explain his biological origin as identical with theirs was quite inadequate.
Dr. King understood what many Christians today refuse to admit-that the Bible is not a rigorous compilation of factual information. Rather it is a celebration of mystery, fantasy, superstition, and creativity. Taking it literally is like driving down a one-way dead end street.
(3419) Skeptics have always been right
When we look through history, every religion that has developed and enjoyed popular appeal, has also included skeptics. Often these non-believers have been punished or killed, forcing many to hide their beliefs. But in the end, the skeptics have always been right- the religions they scoffed are now all gone. No one believes in them any more. Given the past success, is it any wonder how the current breed of skeptics will fare against Christianity and other extant religions? The following was taken from:
An ancient skeptic would have been anyone unsure of the Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, or Norse Gods.
Imagine several ancient Egyptians who doubted the existence of their epoch’s deity-packed pantheon. Suppose these skeptics were subjected to a barrage of criticisms from defenders of the Egyptian faith.
Suppose they had to support his skeptical position and offer reasons for their incredulity. Suppose defenders of the ancient faith offered credible arguments and the skeptics offered weak arguments.
It wouldn’t matter how inept these ancient skeptics might have been in presenting their views. And it wouldn’t matter how they mishandled the internal dissonance and public isolation resulting from rejection of childhood indoctrination. Nor would it matter how marginal these ancient skeptical Egyptians were. It wouldn’t matter if they were indeed the only skeptics in the entire multi-thousand-year epoch of Egyptian religion.
None of that would matter because we know from the distance of two thousand years since Egyptian religion died out that ancient Egyptian skeptics were correct. No gods actually graced the ancient Egyptian pantheon.
Other such skeptics surely arose during the multi-thousand-year epoch of ancient Sumerian-Akkadian-Babylonian religion. These skeptics were right too. None of those gods existed.
And yet another skeptic, let’s say she was a teenage girl surrounded by ancient Norse theology. She doubted that epoch’s god. She too was correct. Time proved she was right.
And on and on—all those skeptics in the past were correct when they disbelieved the deities of their now-dead religions.
Ancient skeptics doubted because there was something incredible in the theologies of their epoch. Most people cannot espy a cause for doubting the religions that are in full flourish during their lifetime. Only a skeptical few can see ample cause for doubt.
(I say skeptical few, but there could have been hundreds or thousands of ancient skeptics in any given era. There may indeed be a steady state of five percent or ten percent or twenty percent of a population in any epoch that is skeptical about their epoch’s idea of God).
Emerson said one epoch’s religion is the next epoch’s literary entertainment. We enjoy ancient Greek religion as a literary event called mythology, but ancient Greeks didn’t call their religion mythology; they called it theology.
They believed in those gods. Visit Greece and you’ll see it’s in ruins. And the ruins are the very real remains of ancient temples to Greek gods that did not exist.
And yet the epoch of ancient Greek religion lasted for two thousand years—and then it died out and became utterly unbelievable.
Plato thought it the utmost sacrilege that his philosophical contemporaries denied the gods of Greece given the ancient pedigree of those Gods. Plato could not know that a few hundred years after he lived everyone everywhere, including every Greek, would deny the gods he found credible.
Aware as we are of the fate of ancient religions, should our epoch be any different than epochs past? Is it part of our temporal myopia to think our religions will escape judgment thousands of years from now?
Will a distant future prove that our current skeptics are correct? Do skeptics of all ages divine the future of all gods?
It would seem so. It would seem that time is on the skeptic’s side.
Time is currently running out for Christianity. It’s claims can no longer be supported in a highly-immersive and scientifically-advanced information age. The trends of the past 20 years suggest that Christianity will be nothing more than a minor sect by the turn of this century. The skeptics will be right… again.
(3420) Jesus age discrepancies
It is only slightly more than a trivial matter, but still it would be expected that the gospels would be consistent in telling us how old Jesus was when he performed his ministry and when he was crucified. Using the first four books of the New Testament, a case can be made that he was as young as 23 or as old as 48. The following was taken from:
The gospels speak of Jesus’ age, and each says something different.
The Gospel of Luke chapter 2 says Jesus was born during a census enacted by Augustus Caesar. We know from other ancient sources that an Augustinian census occurred in 6 CE, although there was no Roman practice of requiring people to return to their ancestors’ hometown. So, according to Luke, Jesus was born in 6 CE.
In Luke, Jesus begins his public ministry after John the Baptist begins his. Luke chapter 3 says that John emerged in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s rule, which would have been 29 CE. Jesus would therefore have been 23 or 24 years old when he, Jesus, began his public ministry.
And yet Luke chapter 3 says Jesus was ‘about 30’ when he began his ministry, a discrepancy with his own dating of Jesus’ birth and John’s emergence.
With one Passover mentioned in Luke’s gospel, and Passover being a once-a-year event, Jesus’ ministry could have been anywhere from several months to a year long. So, for Luke, there are two possibilities for Jesus’ age when Jesus dies.
If Jesus was 23 or 24 when he began his public ministry, then Jesus was between 23 and 25 years old when he died. If Jesus was 30 when his ministry began, he was 30 or 31 when he died.
The Gospel of Matthew chapter 2 says King Herod died when Jesus was between infancy and a toddler. We know from other ancient sources that King Herod died in 4 BCE. So, for Matthew, Jesus was born somewhere between 6 and 4 BCE.
Jesus died sometime during the reign of Pontius Pilate, who we know from other ancient sources ruled between 26 CE and 36 CE. So, for Matthew, Jesus was between 30 and 42 years old when he died, with his public ministry beginning several months to a year earlier, since only one Passover is mentioned in the gospel, and Passover is a once-a-year event.
The Gospel of John chapter 8 tells of a person encountering Jesus during Jesus’ public ministry and saying that Jesus is “not yet fifty” (i.e., 45 years old ?). In John, Jesus has a three-year ministry (three Passovers mentioned). So, for John, Jesus was maybe 48 years old when he died.
The gospels are four biographies supposedly about the same person, so it would be expected that there would be at least a semi-consistent portrayal that should establish the age of the person highlighted. The age discrepancies noted above destroy confidence in their historical reliability.
(3421) The problem of the eternal soul
Christian dogma claims that there is a conscious entity that inhabits our existence that is completely separate from the material structure of our body, termed the ‘soul.’ This concept was needed in order to sell the idea that there is life after death, because without a soul it is pretty clear that death is final. The problem is that evidence strongly suggests the non-existence of the soul. The following was taken from:
In philosopher Robert Spaeman’s work Persons, he argues for non-reductive physicialism; the idea that mental properties cannot be reduced to physical properties. Although it appears like he is arguing for mind-body dualism, that is only partially true. He goes onto say that although the mind (or soul) and the physical body are qualitatively different the mind is dependent on the body/brain for its continued existence.
This can be understood by examining the case of Phenias Gage; the man who had a large iron rod struck through his head. Although he survived, his personality was altered due to parts of his brain being damaged. If parts of our mental-selves can be altered by altering parts of our brain (our physical-selves) than what is left after removing the other parts of the brain piece by piece? If the soul is not our personality, our identity, our ideas, our feelings, our mind, etc. then what are the contents that make up a soul? What qualities would it have and what continued purpose would it serve? Furthermore, if parts of our mind disappear after parts of our brain our removed then isn’t it highly likely that our entire mind/soul will disappear once our entire brain ceases to function?
COMMON OBJECTION: Some will argue that the mind and the soul are qualitatively different. My response is: what can the soul do that the mind doesn’t already do? You will be hard pressed to find a unique quality that a soul possesses that a mind is incapable of possessing.
P1: The mind and soul are the same entity.
P2: The mind is dependent on the brain in order to continue to function and exist.
C: Therefore, the soul does not continue to exist after the brain ceases to function.
If souls don’t exist, then Christianity is false. Evidence supporting the existence of a soul, which should be ubiquitous, is utterly lacking. That is, we should observe a persistence of personality despite any physical injury or disease to the brain. This persistence is not observed, and so the concept of the soul is likely to be a fictional artifact of religious thinking. This strongly indicates that death is final.
(3422) Failed prophet or unreliable scripture
The gospels are clear that Jesus was preaching an imminent apocalypse that would occur very soon after his resurrection. This didn’t happen. So there are only two choices- either Jesus was a failed apocalyptic preacher, or the scriptures do not depict him accurately. Either way, Christianity dies. The following was taken from:
Mind you, knowing what Jesus actually taught is beyond our reach. The problems are insurmountable, trying to figure that out—just from the nature of the gospels. Scholars have been guessing and speculating about the “real” words of Jesus for a long time. But the church can’t wiggle out of the negatives about Jesus, especially the embarrassing gospel depiction of him as an apocalyptic prophet; that is, he himself would soon descend through the clouds to bring the Kingdom of God to earth, forever erasing all rulers and regimes.
That’s what he promised at his trial, Mark 14:62: “…you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” The imminent arrival of the kingdom was his primary message in Mark’s gospel. Why isn’t this mistake enough to make Christians realize something isn’t right? Did they pick the wrong holy hero?
Loftus states the case bluntly:
“Either Jesus was a failed prophet or the NT isn’t even somewhat reliable. Either way, this falsifies Christianity. If we cannot trust the NT, then the basis for Christian beliefs fails. But if Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet, then surely he wouldn’t get something so important so dead wrong.” (p. 316)
One way out of this problem is for Christian apologists to say that the scriptures exaggerated on the timing of the second coming/apocalypse, and that Jesus always knew that it would be a long time. That is to say, some of the quotes in the gospels were not what Jesus said. But this runs back to the other problem- that the scriptures are unreliable. Once you admit that Jesus was misquoted, it opens up the possibility that anything he says in the gospels is likewise misquoted. Christianity is in an ‘all or nothing’ posture, but taking the ‘all’ side of the equation runs up against what everyone can readily see- Jesus didn’t return as he promised.
(3423) Different authors is not an excuse
Biblical contradictions and differences in themes or emphasis are often excused by Christians as being an artifact of there being so many different authors. But the underlying assumption of divine intervention of scripture weighs against this rationalization. The following was taken from:
I’ve seen all too often that when certain topics are addressed, Christians begin by saying, the person presenting the other side of the argument is wrong, when more scholarship is brought in, they begin to change the goalposts and then finally settle by saying, “well, it’s written by people with different perspectives so some things will be different”.
Just because the NT is written in different perspectives for different people, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be aligned and accurate.
The NT reads like a farce, especially the book of Matthew. He is trying so hard to get Jesus to fulfill prophecy that he misunderstands, has Jesus fulfill prophecies that are long done OR has Jesus fulfill things that aren’t prophecies to begin with.
For starters, anyone whom has information can tell it without needing to copy the work of others. Matthew is a 93% copy of Mark and Luke is an 88% copy of Mark. The writer of Luke begins by saying he has second hand information, but clearly the eyewitness testimony he has, is the book of Mark. This is one of the first problems and anytime Matthew and Luke aren’t copying from Mark, they contradict. Let’s begin with the birth.
Anyone whom says these stories are able to be reconciled, are not being honest. In Matthew, Jesus is born before King Herod died in 4 BC. In Luke he is born during the reign of Quirinus in 6 AD. The writer of Luke says the family traveled to Judea for a census because they were of the “house of David”. A census doesn’t require people to travel to be counted because of their ancestors. The family living in Galilee, they weren’t even living in an area that was under Roman control. The writer is quite clearly trying to MAKE Jesus fulfill prophecy of being born in bethelhem & get him back to Nazareth where he is known to be from. The birth stories are NOT eyewitness error, they are completely different. A birth story being told via perspective, doesn’t get to change the date year. A birth story being told via perspective, doesn’t change where your family lives. In Luke, they live in Nazareth . In Matthew, they live in Bethlehem. Herod cannot be dead and alive for Jesus birth.
In Matthew, king Herod is said to kill babies so the family needs to flee. There is no historical evidence to support Herod did this. Matthew then sends them to Egypt before Galilee so he can say “out of Egypt, i called my son”, is a fulfilled prophecy. It never was a prophecy. In Luke, the family shows Jesus off at the temple. Writing stories in your perspective wouldn’t change this fact. Either Bethlehem was or wasn’t killing small babies.
In Mark there is no divine birth and Jesus is filled with the spirit later. Thus his family thinks he’s crazy and possessed. In Matthew & Luke, the family knows beforehand that their baby will be divine & there is a virgin birth. So even though they copy mark, they leave out the part where the family thinks Jesus is crazy as in Matthew & Luke, that wouldn’t work for their stories since the families have prior knowledge. This isn’t a perspective issue & problematic. As time passes, the writers give higher Christology. He was either divine and planned beforehand or he wasn’t like Mark said.
Isaiah 7, we all know the word in Hebrew isn’t virgin. But when the writer of Matthew wasn’t copying Mark, he was copying the OT. Misusing and abusing the OT as i call it. The Hebrew word is Almah which means young woman. It is used elsewhere in the OT for women whom aren’t virgins. Betulah which is Hebrew for virgin is used when speaking on virgins. While a young woman can be a virgin, it’s safe to say betulah would’ve been used. Even if the word were virgin, God is talking to King Ahaz. He tells him when the child is born, he won’t let Assyria lay his kingdom to waste. Jesus can’t do this 400+ years later. Hezekiah is born and the prophecy is fulfilled in 2 Kings 19. This isn’t eyewitness error, this isn’t Matthew’s perspective, this is him misusing and abusing any prophecies he could find to have Jesus fulfill.
Telling stories in different perspectives, doesn’t change the facts. Telling the birth story of a close friend wouldn’t allow two rulers (Herod & Quirinus), wouldn’t allow two birth years, wouldn’t allow entirely different PATERNAL lineages (they can’t even get Joseph’s dad right.) perspectives may add and subtract minor details but it doesn’t change the whole story.
These problems are not consistent with the idea of a single source of inspiration. Some differences could be expected among the different writers, but certainly not to the extent that exists. If someone assumes that the Bible is a conglomeration of writings by different authors without guidance from an external force, the issues discussed above would strongly support that assumption.
(3424) Language evolved, meaning changed
One of the fallacies of the use of modern Bibles as the undisturbed ‘voice of God’ is that languages have evolved over the centuries in ways that produce some subtle and not so subtle changes in the meaning of the original text. Thus, God’s word is generally not preserved in its pristine format for later generations. The following shows how the famous Psalm 23 has evolved in its English translation:
THE 23RD PSALM—HOW ENGLISH HAS CHANGED IN THE LAST 1000 YEARS. Annalisa sent me this example of how English has changed in the last 1000 years.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He lets me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me to still waters.
King James Bible (1611)
The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
Middle English (1100 to 1500)
Our Lord gouerneth me and nothyng shall defailen to me.
In the sted of pastur he sett me there.
He norissed me upon water of fyllyng.
Old English (800 to 1066)
Drihter me raet ne byth me nanes godes wan.
And he me geset on swythe good feohland.
And fedde me be waetera stathum.
The following discusses how the evolution of English has introduced changes in this psalm’s meaning:
What’s really interesting is how, even if you don’t speak Old or Middle English, you can just make out enough to see how the literal meaning of the phrases are changing.
It starts out as ‘he sets me down on fertile pastures’ to ‘He makes me lie down’ to, finally, ‘He allows me to lie down’. At first, the sheep is being carried by the shepherd, then he’s being directed by the shepherd, and finally, the shepherd is just guiding the sheep and allowing him to make the choice himself. The shepherd is growing less in direct control, and becoming more passive as the passage evolved.
It starts out ‘He feeds me (fedde= feed, norissed= nourished) besides calm waters’ to ‘He leads me to calm waters’. In the first two, the shepherd himself makes sure that the sheep gets what he needs. In the second versions, he just leads the sheep there, and it’s up to the sheep to take advantage of it.
Just minor changes, but, considering how the sermons I heard in church always made such a big deal over the nuances of each sentence of passages like this, it’s interesting to me to see how ‘God’s Unchanging Word’ does, indeed, change between translations. What one language says clearly, another might infer something else completely.
The only way to overcome this problem would be for God to inspire a new modern Bible, but how could he do this in a way that would not be controversial? The everlasting voice of God is simply no match for the inevitable way that human languages evolve. What is left in many instances is just a faint shadow of what was originally intended.
(3425) God is evil
There are many facets of the Christian god and the religion he allegedly spawned that would be considered evil by any objective observer. Unfortunately, most Christians are brainwashed to the point of not recognizing this obvious fact. The following was taken from:
I think Christianity is an inherently evil religion. I think this for multiple reasons.
1) Christianity is based on the horrific death of someone. Crucifixion is a terrible way to die. If Christianity was based on love and peace as Christians claim, then the crucifixion would not have happened, as it is not peaceful, but incredibly violent.
2) As per several verses in the Bible, the non Christians will burn in eternal fire, along with people who have done things I do not even consider immoral, such as being an idolater. Why would a God, if he is loving as Christians claim condemn certain groups of people to Hell forever? I understand there are many different views on salvation, but every view I have studied does, in my view seem evil and incompatible with a loving God, especially given the sins of humans are finite.
3) God is jealous. I understand that some people claim there can only be one version of religious/philosophical truth, but even if people believe in the “wrong” God, why would the real God be upset by this? Surely, if he created humans with free will and the ability to reason, the first commandment would not exist? It doesn’t make sense to me why some Christians claim that worshiping/believing in other gods is bad. Incorrect does not necessarily mean immoral.
4) The Bible is full of genocide, rape, slavery, animal sacrifice etc. Although there are some verses discouraging violence, there are also many that reward or encourage it. If Christianity was a religion of love, and God was loving, why would the Bible contain violence? Again, I can understand there being various views on this and different hermeneutical views (views on how the verses should be interpreted), but again, if Christianity was good, and God were loving why would the Bible contain so many instances of violence?
5) The Bible and Christianity have been used to justify homophobia, including killing homosexuals, simply because they engage in sex acts. In my view, any God that controls the sex lives in any way of consenting adults, does not deserve to be worshiped and is incredibly immoral. Two people having protected, homosexual sex, in private, does not harm anybody, if performed with due regard to safety, and therefore should not be immoral.
6) Christianity has been a factor in many wars across the ages. Christianity was spread by fighting a long tine ago. In my view, evangelism and proselytizing is in my view immoral and rude, and thus in my view, any individual who advocates for evangelism and proselytizing, is, in my view advocating a horribly immoral position, and the immorality increases if the proselytizing and conversion attempts include threats of death. I understand this criticism applies to other religions and denominations too.
7) This criticism only applies to some groups of Christians. Faith healing, especially when used in lieu of any evidence based medical treatment is harmful, can result in death and is incredibly pseudo-scientific. Any denomination claiming that faith healing is superior to medical treatment, or teaches their followers to deny any form of evidence based medicine, based on religious claims is immoral. I understand this criticism applies to other religions and denominations too. Note: This does not apply to individuals/denominations who believe in a combination of faith healing and medical treatment, only those who reject medical treatment completely in favor of faith healing.
8) Psalm 14:1 says “The fool says in his heart there is no God”. It also says that atheists (or depending on your interpretation, non Christians, are corrupt and do vile deeds. This based on my understanding, not only perpetuates the idea that atheists/non Christians are immoral, but also can inspire people to hate them. This is another reason why I find Christianity/The Bible to be an evil religion – it is not accepting of other viewpoints, especially atheism, if we take The Bible at face value.
There can be little doubt that the net effect of Christianity has been to bring more strife, more killing, more division, more hatred, more wars, and more torture to the world than if it never existed. That this track record could have come from a religion inspired by the creator of the universe is highly improbable.
(3426) Ancient Christians and pandemics
It would be expected that God would have supplied through prayer some guidelines on how to remain well during a pandemic, but the evidence indicates that early Christians were just as clueless as their pagan counterparts, dying at about the same rate. The following was taken from:
Ancient Christians knew epidemics all too well. They lived in a world with constant contagion, no vaccines, medieval medical practices, and no understanding of basic microbiology. Hygiene was horrendous, sanitation sickening. People shared “toilette paper”(a sponge-on-a-stick). Besides that, in the second and the third centuries CE, two pandemics rocked the Roman World. The first, the so-called Antonine Plague, was perhaps a strain of smallpox that, with intermittent outbreaks, persisted for decades (ca. 165-189 CE). It was said that in Rome, a city of roughly a million people, 2,000 often died a day. Those who could, practiced social distancing by retreating to the countryside. Those who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, escape were instructed by doctors to fill their nostrils and ears with sweet-smelling perfume and herbs, which would expel the polluted air. If only it were that easy. Across the Roman world, the usual rhythms of life were interrupted as people fled—or died. Tax revenues dried up. Building projects broke off midway. The economy froze.
The second pandemic, two generations later, was perhaps worse. Thought to have been a filovirus — a zoonotic pathogen causing hemorrhagic fevers (think Ebola) — one source records that in Rome and in cities of Greece up to 5,000 men died a day. This Plague of Cyprian, named after the Christian bishop who witnessed and wrote about it, lasted for over a decade (ca. 249-262 CE). It must have felt like an eternity. The empire, according to one historian, never fully recovered.
In both pandemics, Christians were afflicted like everyone else. But based on the writings that have come down to us, their responses were largely defensive.
For people in antiquity, public health was an extension of religion. Honoring the Roman gods was a duty that ensured stability in the natural world. Even if Christians usually abstained from worshipping Roman gods, generally everyone got along. But when a plague erupted, Christians then appeared — to some — as irreverent, irresponsible, and more threatening to all. It seemed like Christians didn’t care about their civic duty.
At best, the result was social and political wrangling over the cause of, and response to, the plagues. In the face of such relentless mortality, tensions were high. People looked for answers, cast blame, and scapegoated. At worst, Christians could be easy targets. Christians cause calamities because they do not worship the Roman gods, the accusation went. Local persecutions sometimes followed.
Christian apologists responded in kind. No, they countered, you worship demons. And it’s because you don’t worship our God that we all suffer from the pestilence. Tertullian of Carthage even argued that the human race has always deserved the malice of God anyway, but actually the disasters now are lighter than in previous ages, thanks in part to Christians — God’s gift to the world. To blame Christians, Tertullian said, is counterproductive. In the midst of the third-century pandemic, Cyprian bishop of Carthage touted apocalyptic explanations. Well, the earth is old. It’s declining, Cyprian reprimanded the governor of Africa. Plus, this is the sentence that God has passed on the world: that evils should be multiplied in the last times. Judgment day is near. The plagues are God’s stripes and scourges. So stop your superstitious nonsense and worship the one true God, says Cyprian, before it’s too late.
For some Christians, though, the pandemic raised doubts. Despite Cyprian’s own ideas about the true cause of the plague, it was disturbing that believers died just like nonbelievers. How can that be, they asked, especially if the ‘heathen’ don’t worship God? Unfortunately, Cyprian tried to console them, while we are here in this world, everyone will be equally afflicted—Christians more so since they are already weakened by fasting. But Cyprian, apparently, was not completely callous. His biographer Pontius says the bishop instructed his churches to care for the sick — whether Christian or not. Some surely did.
Others were less sympathetic. During the same pandemic, bishop Dionysius of Alexandria circulated a letter among Egypt’s brethren, boasting about how Christians were caring for fellow Christians, even though they also became infected. Many then died. Such a fate was second only to martyrdom, he said. By contrast, Dionysius claimed, the heathen (literally, “gentiles”) were heartless, casting the sick into the roads half-dead and leaving their corpses to rot. Whether the Christians in Alexandria ever thought to nurse the heathen as well as the brethren, Dionysius doesn’t say.
He probably didn’t care. If he needed to, he could justify stepping over the sick heathen dying on the street (Matthew 10:5-8). He had it out for them already. Earlier he had been forced to flee to the desert for his refusal to worship their gods.
Dionysius was a partisan. And to what extent Christians actively sought to care for nonbelievers during the pandemics is unclear. Outside of Matthew 5:43-48 and Luke 6:27-36, the blueprint from Christian scripture is ambiguous. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus is known for curing his own people (Mark 1:29-45; 2:1-12; 5:24-34). Healing one gentile woman was the exception (Mark 7: 24-30; Matthew 15: 21-28). In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples to not heal the sick among the gentiles (Matthew 10:5-6; compare Luke 9:1-6), whereas in the gospel of Luke, Jesus is much more open to healing gentiles (Luke 7:1-10; 10:25-37).
If anything, Dionysius’s report weakens a common narrative today: Because Christians cared for their sick — as well as perhaps the pagans, too — outsiders noticed and converted. And in the long run, the two pandemics helped spread Christianity in the Empire. In Africa, at least, the opposite seems to have been true. Cyprian vents his frustration to the governor because people don’t convert when they should.
On balance, Christians would have had various responses to the pandemics, running the gamut from self-preservation to self-sacrifice — responses not too different from their non-Christian neighbors.’ In such crises, each group turned to their god(s) for help. We can only wonder what their responses would have been if we could tell them that such a massive scale of death was due to submicroscopic particles of RNA or DNA, coated with protein and capable of self-replication within the cells of an organism, where its effects are often pathogenic — in short, if we could tell them that it was a virus. Maybe instead of being at each other’s throats they would have shown more solidarity.
This is one of the acid tests of a religion that purports to be supported by an omnimax god who listens to and answers prayers, and who inspired the writings of men that later comprised the Bible. Wouldn’t a god watching the terrible tragedy of a pandemic have provided a bit of wisdom about the cause and preventive actions needed to at least to his faithful followers? That this didn’t happen is evidence of this god’s absence.
And it’s worth noting that what happened in ancient times has been repeated in current times with the COVID -19 Pandemic of 2019-2022, though in this case Christians fared worse because secular science was mature enough to alleviate the threat to those willing to embrace it.
(3427) More likely ‘resurrection’ story
Some Christian apologists use what is known as a minimal facts argument for Jesus’ resurrection, that he was crucified, laid in tomb that was later found to be empty, and that his disciples saw him alive after these events and went on to preach the gospel at their personal risk. But there is another and more believable way that could have resulted in the same resurrection myth, as discussed below.
The problem is we’re ostensibly being asked to investigate a historical event, and in history you don’t always have as much information as you’d like. Generally, the more information you have, the more certain you can be about what happened. Somehow, with the minimal facts argument, apologists think they can achieve more certainty with less information, which just doesn’t make any sense at all.
The counter is just to come up with literally any other explanation for the presented facts – not to make the case that it’s the explanation, just that it’s pretty much guaranteed to be more likely than a supernatural resurrection from the dead. My go-to is:
Jesus was crucified and was thrown in a mass grave. Joseph of Arimathea tried to claim the body but was unable to do so. Not wanting to admit his failure, he told Jesus’ followers he buried the body in a tomb. Thus the tomb was found empty.
One or more of the disciples did indeed experience “something” – a relatively common grief hallucination. They told the others, and desperate for any shred of hope, the others believed them. Heartened, they began to spread the story (not lying – they sincerely believed). In the years until the gospels were written down, the legend grew that all the disciples saw Jesus at the same time, and others did also.
Given the experience that most of us have in this world, where logic, consistency, and uniformity are the norm, and by just observing the way that things work, it seems much more probable that something like the above happened rather than a miraculous resurrection. If so, it is easy to imagine how the original story, fueled by personal hopes and wishes, spread and became more spectacular over time.
(3428) Luke and Matthew’s tug of war
It is evident when comparing the Gospels of Luke and Matthew that one of them was pushing back against the other, with Matthew being pro-Jewish and Luke being anti. One of the best examples of this conflict is in the description of Judas’ (the betrayer) death. The following was taken from:
For another example of Luke appearing to deliberately push back against Matthew, compare Matthew’s description of the death of Judas with that in Acts. This is Matthew:
When Judas, his betrayer, saw that he was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 5 And throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself. 6 But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.” 7 So they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 (Mt. 27:3-9).
as compared to Acts (which was written by the same author as Luke):
Now this man bought a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong[b] he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Akel′dama, that is, Field of Blood. (Acts 1:18).
There are differences here, contradictions even, but they appear to be intentionally so. Matthew has Judas repent, give the money back to the Temple and kill himself, after which the priests used the money to buy a potter’s field. Luke says Judas was not sorry, bought the field himself and then was killed (it is implied) by God.
The details like the name “field of blood,” and the elements of the priest, the silver, etc. indicate that Luke must have known Matthew’s version and just changed it to deny any repentance or reconciliation for Judas.
Bear in mind that Judas was often seen as an allegory for Jews in general (the name literally means, “Jew”) and this fits right in with Matthew and Luke’s tug-o-war over Judaism.
This and other conflicts between these two gospel authors are a testament to the theory that they were not playing the roles of objective historians, but rather they were injecting a good deal of creative fiction to further their theological agendas. None of this gives us confidence to anything they wrote, and it leaves contemporary historians to wonder who might be telling the true story, or the truer story, assuming that any shred of truth appears in either gospel.
(3429) Circumcision-marriage analog
Many people wonder how it could be that a god would insist on having the tips of human male penises snipped off. These are the same people who believe that God designed the human body and so deliberately placed foreskin around the penis. So why take it off- a painful and risky procedure? It seems that the Jewish people developed this tradition as a way for men to be symbolically married to god as an analog to men marrying a woman – the marital deal is sealed by the man breaking the woman’s hymen during sex, and so the ‘marriage’ of the man with God is sealed by breaking his foreskin. The following was taken from:
It seems to me that Judaism is the only religion in which the union of the chosen people with God is a basic aspect. Moreover, this union is similar to the marriage union, which, in ideal ideas, is sealed by the defloration of the bride. I think male circumcision is, in fact, the same defloration transferred to a man. Religious male circumcision has no other meaning than the symbolic fastening of the union with God. And a man had to be circumcised, even if God also has something to circumcise, because this is a matter of subordination in the union. In this sense, the Jews are the feminine side of the union. This is probably why the chosen people in the Bible often have the image of either a wife or a harlot.
The best way to consider the practice of circumcision is to see it as an outgrowth of human thought about the physical act that cements a married couple together. Someone thought of way to perform a similar physical act for a man to ‘marry’ God and then it became tradition. It is highly unlikely that a God would design a body part that he would later demand removed, or that he would ever even be so parochial as to entangle himself in such a barbaric and unnecessary procedure.
(3430) The murky evidence of martyrdom
Much of the confidence that Christians place on the physical resurrection of Jesus is that if it didn’t happen, nobody would be willing to die for professing it. So stories of martyrdom are used as a way to bolsters one’s belief that this miracle actually occurred. But the evidence is lacking, confusing, and in many cases contradictory. The following lists all of the various sources that either suggest or fail to suggest that biblical luminaries were martyred:
This should be complete. Unless states otherwise in brackets, martyrdom is explicitely mentioned or at least strongly suggested in the text but no circumstances of death are given. Otherwise details are specified in brackets.
John 21.18 (90-100; martyrdom implied), 2 Peter 1.13-15 (100-160; martyrdom not implied), 1 Clement 5.1-4 (80-140; martyrdom implied), Ignatius: Letter to the Romans 4 (105-115; martyrdom not implied), Ignatius: Letter to the Smyrnaeans 3 (105-115; martyrdom not implied), Apocalypse of Peter 14 (Coptic version) (100-150; martyrdom not implied), Apocalypse of Peter (Greek version) (100-150; martyrdom implied), Ascension of Isaiah (112-138; not clear it’s Peter), Acts of Peter 35(6) (180-190; crucified upside down, explicitly not by Nero), Secret Book of James 5 (150-200; crucified), Dionysius of Corinth (165-175; quoted by Eusebius), Irenaeus of Lyon: Against Heresies 3.1.1 (175-185; martyrdom not implied), Tertullian: The Prescription Against Heretics 36 (197-220), Muratorian Fragment 35-38 (170-200), 2 Clement 5 (130-160; might not be literal), Lactantius: Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died 2 (303-316; by Nero), Eusebius: Church History 3.1.2 (300-340; crucified upside down), Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 1 (date unknown; “by Nero”), Aphrahat: Demonstrations 23 (334), Gregory of Nyssa: Second Homily on Stephen the Protomartyr (386; crucified upside down), A Syriac Martyrology (411)
Mark 10.35-40 (65-80; martyrdom implied), Acts 12.1-2 (80-130; by king Herod), Papias of Hierapolis: Expositions of the Sayings of the Lord fragment 2 (120-130; “by the Jews”), Aphrahat: Demonstrations 23 (334; martyrdom implied), Gregory of Nyssa: Second Homily on Stephen the Protomartyr (386; beheaded), A Syriac Martyrology (411), Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 4 (date unknown; beheaded “by Herod the Tetrarch”)
Mark 10.35-40 (65-80; martyrdom implied), Papias of Hierapolis: Expositions of the Sayings of the Lord fragment 2 (120-130; “by the Jews”), Acts of John 115 (150-200, dies peacefully), Irenaeus of Lyon: Against Heresies 2.22.5, 3.3.4 (175-185, no martyrdom mentioned), Polycrates of Ephesus: Letter to Victor of Rome (185-195; called “martyr”/”witness”, quoted by Eusebius), Tertullian: The Prescription Against Heretics 36 (197-220, no martyrdom mentioned), Acts of John the Theologian (200-500; no martyrdom mentioned, only his sandals remain), Eusebius: Church History 3.1.1 (300-340, no martyrdom mentioned), Aphrahat: Demonstrations 28 (334; martyrdom implied), History of John (350-400), Gregory of Nyssa: Second Homily on Stephen the Protomartyr (386; some manuscripts add that he didn’t die), A Syriac Martyrology (411), Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 3 (date unknown, no martyrdom mentioned)
Acts of Andrew (150-200; crucified), Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 2 (date unknown; “suspended on an olive tree”)
Heracleon, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (150-180; quoted by Clement of Alexandria), Polycrates of Ephesus: Letter to Victor of Rome (185-195; quoted by Eusebius, no martyrdom mentioned), Acts of Philip (300-500; crucified upside down), Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 5 (date unknown; crucified upside down)
Acts of Philip 137 (300-500; crucified), Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 6 (date unknown; crucified upside down)
Heracleon, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (150-180; quoted by Clement of Alexandria), Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 7 (date unknown, no martyrdom mentioned)
Heracleon, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (150-180; quoted by Clement of Alexandria)
Heracleon, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (150-180; quoted by Clement of Alexandria), Acts of Thomas 168 (200-225, pierced by spears), Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 8 (date unknown, pierced by spears)
James, son of Alpheaeus
Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 9 (date unknown; stoned “by the Jews”)
Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 10 (date unknown, no martyrdom mentioned)
Simon the Zealot
Dorotheus: Synopsis de Apostol (300, crucified and slain in Britain), Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 11 (date unknown, no martyrdom mentioned)
Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 12 (date unknown, no martyrdom mentioned)
James the Just
Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.1 (93; stoned by Ananus and the Sanhedrin for breaking the law), Secret Book of James 5 (150-200, crucified), 2nd Apocalypse of James (120-180, stoned), 1st Apocalypse of James (180-250; text damaged, seems to be a martyrdom account), Hegesippus: Memoirs 5 (165-175; clubbed by a fuller, Quoted by Eusebius), Clement of Alexandria: Hypotyposes 7 (182-202; clubbed by a fuller, Quoted by Eusebius), Origen: Against Celsus 1.47 (203-250; refers to Josephus, put to death by the Jews), Origen: Against Celsus 2.13 (203-250; refers to Josephus), Origen: Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (203-250; refers to Josephus), Eusebius: Church History 2.23.1-24 (300-340; by the Jews or by the Sanhedrin, quotes Clement of Alexandria, Hegesippus and Josephus), Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions 1.66-71 (320-380; incident instigated by Paul), Jerome: On Illustrious Men 2 (392; misquotes Josephus), Jerome: On Illustrious Men 13 (392; misquotes Josephus), Jerome: Against Jovinianus 1.39 (393; no martyrdom mentioned, misquotes Josephus), Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 12 (date unknown)
1 Clement 5.5-7 (80-140; martyrdom implied), Ignatius: Letter to the Romans 4 (105-115; martyrdom not implied), Ignatius: Letter to the Ephesians 12.2 (105-115; martyrdom not implied), Polycarp: Letter to the Philippians 9.1-2 (110-140; maybe implied), Dionysius of Corinth (165-175; quoted by Eusebius), Acts of Paul (170-180; by Nero), Irenaeus of Lyon: Against Heresies 3.1.1 (175-185; martyrdom not implied), Tertullian: The Prescription Against Heretics 36 (197-220), Lactantius: Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died 2 (303-316; by Nero), Eusebius: Church History 3.1.2 (300-340; “under Nero”), Aphrahat: Demonstrations 23 (334), A Syriac Martyrology (411), Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 13 (date unknown, beheaded)
One trend that should be noted is that as time goes on, the tales of martyrdom become more numerous or dramatic. This is something that would be expected as it is human nature to exaggerate tales that they have heard from others. Taken as a whole, it seems unlikely that many if any of Jesus’ disciples were killed for their faith, and much more likely that if they were in fact executed, it was for sedition or the act of leading people to disregard the authority of the Roman government.
(3431) Fake Testimonies
Much of the belief in Christianity comes not from the Bible but from the testimonies of regular Christians. What the following reveals is that personal testimonies are almost always products under construction based on the results of their prior use. The typical Christian refines their testimony to have the greatest impact and highest probability of influencing their listeners.
But truth is usually a victim in this process and we are left with a world full of fake or at least greatly embellished testimonies. A gullible person would likely have no understanding of this process, believe the stories literally, and then be influenced to make a decision to become a Christian, later to make their own fake testimony. The following was taken from:
Starting around the late 1950s and 1960s, it suddenly became very important for Christians to impress people with testimonies. Evangelical pastors began seeing their flocks drifting away. Being Christian at all became slightly more voluntary — so salesmanship began to matter.
This necessity combined with the flocks’ trained-in gullibility. Evangelicals simply accepted whatever testimony-tellers had to say. No matter how wild the claim, nobody ever publicly challenged it. And even if someone knew for 100% sure that a testimony was made up, a liar-for-Jesus knew nobody would ever expose the truth. For reasons I’ll elaborate in a moment here, sales mattered far more than truthfulness.
Among Christian audiences, as well, the same Christians who denied themselves worldly entertainment could thrill to these made-up accounts. Often, over-the-top testimonies contained huge doses of illicit sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, and other such debauchery in their first act. Then, by the end, the testimony-bearer could slam down on all that naughtiness and tell the tribe that their lives were actually way better.
So the risks of lying were nonexistent, while the rewards were exponential. The real surprise here just might be how few over-the-top liars there were in evangelicalism.
Very quickly, opportunists like Mike Warnke saw potential in how the tribe engaged with testimonies. They soon began wowing audiences everywhere nonstop with their completely made-up Satanic Panic testimonies. The tribe ate this stuff up with a spoon.
It didn’t take long for other opportunists to adjust their testimonies likewise. By the late 1970s, it was rare indeed for a popular young evangelist not to have a Warnke-style Satanic Panic-flavored testimony.
The problem was that normies knew these testimonies were complete fabrications. Really, the only people who responded to these fish stories were people who already believed in the various claims that informed them.
Not much has changed. I still regularly see evangelists bearing obviously fake testimonies.
There is an unspoken rule among Christians that lying is not sinful if it results in bringing another person into a state of salvation. This understanding releases Christians from their normal focus on truthfulness and allows them the freedom to be creative in what they have to say. Therefore, there is a torrent of ‘fake news’ going around about miracles, life changes, and current states of happiness that are somewhat or totally detached from reality. If every Christian was 100 percent truthful about their faith experience, Christianity would fade into the background static of random throwaway philosophies.
(3432) Fact checking the virgin birth
The concept of a virgin giving birth to a supernatural progeny is not unique to Christianity and predates it by many centuries. This alone spawns doubt about the Christian nativity story. But even beyond that, there are many good reasons to dismiss it out of hand, and leave it only to the gullible to embrace. The following was taken from:
There is an oft-repeated argument that marijuana is the gateway drug leading to dangerous drugs. There is another gateway, one that leads to doubting the whole Bible. I focus on the virgin birth miracle because it’s the gateway to doubting the Gospel narratives, just as Genesis 1-11 is the gateway to doubting the Old Testament narratives. It was for me, anyway. The objective textual evidence from the Bible shows that, contrary to the virgin birth narratives: (1) The genealogies are inaccurate and irrelevant; (2) Jesus was not born in Bethlehem; (3) there was no worldwide census as claimed; (4) there was no slaughter of the innocents; (5) there was no Star of Bethlehem; (6) the virgin-birthed prophecies are faked; and (7) the belief that Jesus was born of a virgin most likely derived from pagan parallels in those days. It was concocted in hindsight to explain how their belief in an incarnate god came into the world to redeem sinners.
The fact is there is no objective evidence to corroborate the Virgin Mary’s story. We hear nothing about her wearing a misogynistic chastity belt to prove her virginity. No one checked for an intact hymen before she gave birth, either. After Jesus was born, Maury Povich wasn’t there with a DNA test to verify Joseph was not the baby daddy. We don’t even have first-hand testimonial evidence for it since the story is related to us by others, not by Mary or Joseph. At best, all we have is second-hand testimony reported in just two later anonymous gospels by one person, Mary, or two if we include Joseph, who was incredulously convinced Mary was a virgin because of a dream—yes, a dream (see Matthew 1:19-24). We never get to independently cross-examine them or the people who knew them, which we would need to do since they may have a very good reason for lying (pregnancy out of wedlock, anyone?).
Now one might simply trust the anonymous Gospel writers who wrote down this miraculous tale, but why? How is it possible they could find out that a virgin named Mary gave birth to a deity? Think about how they would go about researching that. No reasonable investigation could take Mary’s and/or Joseph’s word for it. With regard to Joseph’s dream, Thomas Hobbes tells us, “For a man to say God hath spoken to him in a Dream, is no more than to say he dreamed that God spake to him; which is not of force to win belief from any man” (Leviathan, chap. 32.6). So the testimonial evidence is down to one person, Mary, which is still second-hand testimony at best. Why should we believe that testimony?
On this fact, Christian believers are faced with a serious dilemma. If this is the kind of research that went into writing the Gospels—taking Mary’s word and Joseph’s dream as evidence—we shouldn’t believe anything else the Gospel writers wrote without corroborating objective evidence. The lack of evidence for Mary’s story speaks directly to the credibility of the Gospel narratives as a whole. Since there’s no good reason to believe the virgin birth myth, there’s no good reason to believe the resurrection myth, either, since the claim of Jesus’ resurrection is told in those same Gospels. If the one is to be dismissed, so should the other.
There are other tales in those same Gospels that should cause us to doubt, like tales of resurrected saints who allegedly came out of their tombs and walked around Jerusalem, but who were never interviewed and never heard from again (Matthew 27:52-53). Keep in mind we’re talking about miracle claims from an ancient superstitious era, as Richard Carrier described:
The age of Jesus was not an age of critical reflection and remarkable religious acumen. It was an era filled with con artists, gullible believers, martyrs without a cause, and reputed miracles of every variety. In light of this picture, the tales of the Gospels do not seem very remarkable. Even if they were false in every detail, there is no evidence that they would have been disbelieved or rejected as absurd by many people, who at the time had little in the way of education or critical thinking skills. They had no newspapers, telephones, photographs, or public documents to consult to check a story. If they were not a witness, all they had was a man’s word. And even if they were a witness, the tales tell us that even then their skills of critical reflection were lacking.
In another place, Carrier is unmistakable:
When we pore over all the [early Christian] documents that survive, we find no evidence that any Christian convert did any fact-checking before converting or even would have done so. We can rarely even establish that they could have, had they wanted to. There were people in antiquity who could and would, but curiously we have no evidence that any of those people converted. Instead, every Christian who actually tells us what convinced him explicitly says he didn’t check any facts but merely believed upon hearing the story and reading the scriptures and just “feeling” it was right. Every third-person account of conversions we have tells the same story. Likewise, every early discussion we have from Christians regarding their methodology for testing claims either omits, rejects, or even denigrates rational, empirical methods and promotes instead faith-based methods of finding secrets hidden in scripture and relying on spiritual inspirations and revelations…. Skepticism and doubt were belittled; faith without evidence was praised and rewarded.
Hence, when we look closely, we discover that all the actual evidence that Jesus rose from the dead consisted of unconfirmable hearsay, just like every other incredible claim made by ancient religions of the day. Christian apologists make six-figure careers out of denying this, but their elaborate attempts always collapse on inspection. There just wasn’t any evidence Jesus really rose from the dead other than the word of a few fanatics and a church community demonstrably full of regular hallucinators and fabricators.
Fact checking the virgin birth story of Christianity is not a difficult endeavor. It is beyond doubt a myth and even possibly a double-myth if as some scholars assert- that Jesus was likely a mythical person. If the virgin birth of Jesus is not factual, then Christianity crumbles- not so much that God couldn’t have inserted himself into a conventionally- conceived fetus, but rather because it is presented as fact in the gospels- right alongside other claims likewise presented as fact, many of which are more critically needed to support the underlying dogma.
(3433) Does God exist?
Nobody can be certain that anything doesn’t exist, but rational thinking can narrow down the possibility of the existence of many things. And one of those things is the Christian god. The following examines this question:
Does God exist? Well, it depends on what you mean by God.
The universe is a maze of mysteries. How can gravity—an invisible, unexplainable force—pull the Milky Way into a spiral? How can atoms contain such awesome power that an amount of matter smaller than a dime produced the energy in the bomb that killed 100,000 Hiroshima residents? How can the double-helix thread of DNA create all living things, from bacteria to trees to Beethoven? How can electrons, dormant in every atom of your body, explode into violent lightning bolts when they’re detached? Finally, why does anything exist at all?
If you say that the power of gravity, atoms, DNA, lightning, and all the rest is God—that God is E = mc2—then God exists. Those baffling forces are undeniably real.
Or if you say, as some do, that God is the love and pity in every human heart, then God exists. Those feelings are real—just like the paranoid capacity for suspicion, hate, jealousy, anger, and the like.
But if you mean church-type deities—the three gods of the Christian Trinity, the 330 million gods of Hinduism, the wrathful Jehovah of the Old Testament, the multitudinous Greek and Roman gods, the invisible feathered serpent of the Aztecs, etc.—you’ve entered the Twilight Zone.
Human logic can find no trustworthy evidence to prove, or disprove, the existence of unseen spirits. Weeping statues and holy apparitions aren’t reliable proof. So the only truthful answer for an honest person is: I don’t know.
But honest people can go farther and speculate intelligently: Do demons exist? Angels? Leprechauns? Fairies? Vampires? Werewolves? Lack of tangible evidence leads educated people to laugh off these imaginary beings. It’s a small step to apply the same rationale to holy ghosts, resurrected saviors, blessed virgins, patron saints, etc. You can’t prove they aren’t hovering invisible in the room with you—but it’s unlikely.
Sigmund Freud said the widespread belief in a father-god arises from psychology. Tiny children are awed by their fathers as seemingly all-powerful protectors and punishers. As maturity comes, fathers grow less awesome. But the infantile image remains buried in the subconscious, and attaches to an omnipotent, supernatural father in an invisible Heaven. Without knowing it, Freud said, believers worship their hidden toddler impression of the biological father, “clothed in the grandeur in which he once appeared to the small child.”
That makes sense to me. It says the father-god is just a figment of the imagination. But you can’t prove it’s true.
Through logic, you can see that the church concept of an all-loving heavenly creator doesn’t hold water. If a divine Maker fashioned everything that exists, he designed breast cancer for women, leukemia for children, cerebral palsy, leprosy, AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, Down’s syndrome, etc. He mandated foxes to rip rabbits apart (bunnies emit a terrible shriek at that moment) and cheetahs to slaughter fawns. No human would be cruel enough to plan such horrors. If a supernatural being did so, he’s a monster, not an all-merciful father.
When you get down to it, the only evidence of God’s existence is that holy men, past and present, say he exists. Priests have built worldwide, trillion-dollar empires on their claim that an unseen deity waits to reward or punish people after death. But such priests once said that witches exist, and burned thousands of women on charges that they flew through the sky, copulated with Satan, changed into animals, and so forth. Priests later dropped this claim (but never apologized for the witch-hunts). If their assertion about God is as valid as their assertion about witches, their trillion-dollar empires rest on fantasy.
A god cannot be imagined into existence, or spoken, dreamed, or declared to be real. It must exist on its own, independent of what any human might think. The problem with the Christian god is that it is fundamentally a product of the misinterpretation of the universe and the assignment of agency to natural phenomena. It exists at the cross-section of human ignorance and fears and could only have been born, as it was, in a pre-scientific age. That is to say, it is virtually certain that any new god ‘invented’ today would fail to gain any traction.
(3434) The faith pool
The analogy of a person’s faith as a swimming pool that has both inlets and drains is very compelling. It represents the idea that every day brings with it a number of faith-enhancing moments as well as thoughts or events that tend to diminish belief. The following was taken from:
But for most people, religious belief is a big huge pool with many taps and drains. It takes a lot to fill it, and it usually also takes a lot to empty it.
The taps feeding water into the faith pool
When I was Christian, I thought all kinds of things confirmed my beliefs:
- Miracles, oh so many miracles (big and small)
- Feelings of sublime, divine connection
- Apologetics arguments
- So-called “common sense”
- The example of martyrs
- Many early historical references to Jesus
- Fulfillment of prophecies of various kinds
- The Bible being right about everything (at least metaphorically)
To borrow Luke Skywalker’s assessment, every single item on that list is objectively wrong. But at the time, I thought they were valid. So, they fed into the taps filling my faith pool.
Other Christians might add to this list Creationism and who even knows what else. Others still might delete out some things I thought confirmed my faith — because they’d already figured out what reality had to say there.
Suffice to say, a belief that big has a lot of elements feeding into it.
What drains away the water
As I mentioned above, Christianity’s faith pool drains 24/7. Just living in this world constantly contradicts every single claim the religion makes. Interestingly, it seems to me that the most damning contradictions aren’t really found in the religion’s history claims. Christians can massage away those errors in countless ways.
But these contradictions speak volumes, and no Christian has ever figured out a way to square these circles. (That’s why they’re called capital-P Problems, like the Problem of Evil.)
- The Christian god could change terrible people into good people, but just doesn’t.
- He also could stop natural disasters, accidents, and diseases from killing his followers at the same rate as outsiders, but just doesn’t.
- (And he could make his existence and demands completely, 100% crystal-clear, but just doesn’t. Or he could just ensure that all humans go to Heaven, but apparently chooses for most of us to suffer forever.)
- The vast majority of Christians can’t even pretend to take their own rules seriously. This particularly includes Jesus’ so-called “Greatest Commandment,” which all too many Christians have warped to allow themselves to harm and seek to control others.
- Heck, Christians have never even been able to completely agree on any single element, practice, piece of lore, or tenet of their own religion. Yes, including exactly who and what Jesus might be.
- All too often when Christians claim their god told them to do something or that something would definitely happen by a certain date, it doesn’t work out or doesn’t happen.
- Prayer very clearly has about as much of an effect on reality as any magic spell does, which is to say none.
- No religion makes only true claims. But Christians definitely have a response to challenges that outshines the fact that their religion, like all religions, makes untrue ones.
- The more we learn about Christianity’s earliest history, the less divine it looks.
- And weirdly, the more fervent a Christian seems to be, the worse of a hypocrite they turn out to be. (Why can’t this tribe find any decent mascots?)
Looking at this list, it’s easy for me to understand why Christians vastly prefer to squabble about Creationism. Compared to the Problem of Evil alone, that must look entire worlds easier for them to deal with.
Draining the Christianity faith pool
So yes, like all other Christians throughout history, I lived and moved through a world that constantly, 24/7, continually contradicted my beliefs. No, miracle claims never turned out to be supernatural. No, Jesus never changed anyone, nor healed anyone, nor talked to anyone. All those historical references turned out to be pure wishful thinking or outright fabrications.
As I slowly discovered the truth about one confirmation-source after the next, those corresponding taps turned off one by one. But I still existed in a world that constantly contradicted my beliefs, so the water in my faith pool was always draining away.
It took a while to fully accept the truth that reality had been showing me for some time. My deconversion probably took place over about a year, and it probably took another year for me to start divesting myself of the major components of my non-supernatural beliefs. But the realization itself, the moment of acceptance, was momentous, immediate, and defining.
It seems like ex-Christians go in a lot of different directions here. Some realize the truth very early and quickly, then pare away both the supernatural and non-supernatural stuff immediately. Others “kick against the pricks” for years before accepting reality. That said, most of us seem to have similar general experiences as we deconvert and begin to deconstruct our indoctrination.
What should be noted by any objective person is that the inlets to the pool are all spurious and the drains are all substantial. So it takes a measure of credulity and lack of curiosity to keep the inlets operational and a degree of close-mindedness to keep the drains clogged. But once someone gives up any preconceived or inculcated beliefs, it becomes easy to see that the drains from the Christianity pool are passing much more water than is being supplied by the inlets. The Christianity pool is leaking like a sieve.
(3435) 2 Timothy 3:16 is mistranslated
The go-to scripture often quoted by Protestants (in particular) to support the claim that the Bible is infallible is actually a mis-translation of the original Greek. A proper translation does not achieve the goal of proving or demonstrating that the entire Bible is divinely perfect. The following was taken from:
2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,”
Yet I ran into this very compelling and scholarly article titled “The Real Story Behind the Translation of 2 Timothy 3:16” that makes an excellent case that a much better translation to English would be:
“Every scripture INSPIRED OF GOD (is) also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness”
Notice that the focus here is that those scriptures (writings) that are inspired of God, are the ones that are also profitable for various uses.
This seems to be a case where ‘translation creep’ over time altered the meaning of Paul’s letter and now this mistranslation is used in many places (from the pulpit, here on this subreddit to name a couple) to hammer home a point that is based on, in essence, misquoting Paul.
Although Paul did not write this letter according to consensus scholarship, it still made it into the Bible based on the ignorance of the biblical collators of the 4th Century. The translation of this verse was deliberately distorted so that it could press the point of biblical perfection. But, in reality, all the author was saying here is that there are some scriptures (out there) that are inspired by God and that they are useful for many purposes.
And to be sure, it is extraordinarily certain that the author did not think that the letter he was writing fell into that category, although it did subsequently make it into the Bible, and was therefore itself (undeservedly) given the credentials of being divinely perfect.
(3436) Argument from results
The best way to evaluate the truth or lack thereof of the Christian religion is to take a high-level survey of the history of every religion that ever existed, a look that reaches back several dozens of centuries. When compared to all that came before, during and since, it becomes clear that Christianity fits the pattern of all ‘presumed’ false religions invented by humans. The truth lies in the results. The following was taken from:
Here’s a new argument for atheism. I call it the Argument from Results.
1) People invent gods
2) This looks like a world in which all gods are manmade
3) Conclusion: probably, all gods are manmade
Note that because of the qualifier “this looks like” (rather than “this is”) in proposition 2, the conclusion must itself be qualified with “probably.” Nevertheless, “probably, all gods are manmade” is a powerful conclusion.
I think we can agree that step 3 is a reasonable conclusion that follows from 1 and 2 (that is, the argument is valid), so let’s consider those premises one at a time.
Premise 1: People invent gods
Sometimes the invention of the supernatural is deliberate. Joseph Smith created the Mormon religion. His story claims that he received golden plates from an angel and translated them into King James English. The story doesn’t hold up, and the skeptical view is that he invented it.
Sathya Sai Baba (d. 2011) was an Indian guru who demonstrated his divinity with clairvoyance, resurrection, healings, materializing small objects, and more. Skeptics say that these were at best magic tricks.
L. Ron Hubbard was quoted as saying in 1948, “If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.” And so he did, with Scientology.
These men seem to have deliberately created false stories, but sometimes the invention is inadvertent. One explanation for the gospels is that individual authors documented their Jesus story as their local church believed it. Oral tradition gradually changed the story, and in different places and different times, the story was different.
(Just for completeness, I’ll note that Robert G. Price argues that that everything in the gospels comes from previous writings—Paul’s epistles or the Jewish Scripture. With this view, the gospels are also deliberately invented. For more, see Price’s comment here.)
Shiva, Quetzalcoatl, Odin, Amun-Ra—mankind has invented thousands of great and lesser gods. On a smaller scale, Christianity has 45,000 denominations with many significant differences in the properties of their gods.
Almost all Christians will happily agree that some gods in the world’s religions aren’t real but were invented by people. Therefore, the premise “People invent gods” is sound.
Premise 2: This looks like a world in which all gods are manmade
Not only do people invent gods, they invent all gods, including the Christian god. Said another way, Christianity isn’t an exception to the “people invent gods” premise.
- Compare how ideas work within religions vs. science. A new scientific idea gets a hearing, and it becomes accepted (and possibly improved) or rejected. While this process can take years or even decades, compare this with religion, where “Here’s a new idea that better explains the facts!” counts for nothing. New religions come into existence, but it’s not because they explain the evidence better. And religions go extinct but not because their claims weren’t backed up with sufficient evidence or their predictions didn’t come true. (More: Why Map of World Religions but not World Science?.)
- The Christian message looks manmade. Christianity is far too complicated to be the message from an omniscient god. Seen another way, an omniscient god who wanted to interact with us would give us a simple, clear, and unambiguous message. To take a quantitative example, the Christian site GotQuestions.org currently brags, “497,388 Bible Questions Answered!” No omniscient god would be proud of that mess. (More: Argument from Simplicity.)
- Christians claim that God loves us and passionately wants a relationship with us. That is contradicted by his hiddenness. (More here, here.)
- Even if believers say that religious truth isn’t clearly perceived but only dimly so (one wonders why god(s) couldn’t clearly convey the message, but ignore that for now), shouldn’t religions be converging? In this scenario, religions worldwide would be sifting clues for evidence of the supernatural. Bits of evidence from religious seekers worldwide could gradually be collected, like jigsaw puzzle pieces. Religions would converge. But, of course, that’s not at all what we see. Christianity alone creates denominations at a rate of two per day, and we see that fertility across religions worldwide, illustrated in the tree of world religions.
- The tree of world religions is like a family tree of world languages. Languages are put close to other languages that they’re related to by history, geography, and linguistic similarities. Similarly, religions can be arranged in a family tree by how they’re related to others by history, geography, and dogmatic similarities. But, like languages, these religions are all manmade. For Christianity to be radically different, as the only one based on a real god, it wouldn’t fit into the tree at all. Nevertheless, ancient Yahweh worship fits in nicely with other Canaanite religions of 3000 years ago, with Christianity as an unsurprising offshoot. (More here.)
- There are lots more reasons here: 25 Reasons We Don’t Live in a World with a God.
In all these examples, Christianity doesn’t stand out from the other, manmade gods. It’s the biggest, and that’s about it.
Conclusion: Probably, all gods are manmade
Nevertheless, God might still exist despite the strong evidence for these two premises. God might be deliberately invisible. He could be the Gnostic Demiurge, the builder of the Earth who’s not perfectly good and not all that interested in a relationship. He could be shy or deceitful or evil. He might be a deist god—a clockmaker who wound up the universe and then walked away. For the Christian to carve out a spot for God with any of these attributes, however, is to abandon the Christian conception of God.
A popular Christian response is to flip the argument: “You haven’t proven that God doesn’t exist!” That’s true, but the wise person doesn’t hold beliefs because they haven’t been proven wrong; they hold them because there’s good evidence that they’re right.
World-famous apologist William Lane Craig makes a lot of flimsy arguments, and he’d like the bar set low to make his arguments more credible. All right—let’s lower the bar for this Argument from Results using his logic. Craig advises:
The premises surely don’t need to be known to be true with certainty (we know almost nothing to be true with certainty!). Perhaps we should say that for an argument to be a good one the premises need to be probably true in light of the evidence. . . . Another way of putting this [is:] you should compare the premise and its negation and believe whichever one is more plausibly true in light of the evidence.
Premise 1 is, “People invent gods.” I think most Christians would agree that that’s likelier than “People don’t invent gods.”
Premise 2 is, “This looks like a world in which all gods are manmade.” Is that likelier than its converse, “This looks like a world in which one or more god(s) is real”? I argue that an honest following of the evidence points to the original premise as more likely.
In other words, don’t tell me that you believe the Christian god exists. The question is, what does this world look like? It looks like a world full of made-up gods.
Christians agree that people invent religions. That’s how they explain all those other religions. But in explaining away these other religions, they’ve explained away their own. Christianity looks like just one more manmade religion.
When I do good, I feel good;
when I do bad, I feel bad.
That’s my religion.
— Abraham Lincoln
The bottom line is this: If Christianity is true, it would not fit within the template of the entire sweep of human religions. It would possess some blatantly obvious characteristics that would set it apart. The fact that it falls in line with all competing false religions gives us great confidence that it is just another one of them.
(3437) Guards at the tomb
The author of Matthew assigning guards at the tomb of Jesus unlocks a good deal of the mystery surrounding Jesus’ resurrection. It most clearly provides evidence that the empty tomb belief did not exist until Mark, 10 to 15 years before Matthew, put it into his gospel. The logic is that Matthew, and not Mark, had to deal with naysayers who were suggesting that the existence of the empty tomb simply meant was that someone stole the body. So Matthew felt he could dispel that theory by placing a 24-hour guard at the tomb. The following was taken from:
I’ve written before on why the guards at the tomb of Jesus, included only in the Gospel of Matthew, are almost certainly invented by the author of that Gospel. Today I will tell you how they fit into a larger narrative construction of the Jesus story, and that their invention tells us an awful lot more than you might think.
Let’s go back to the beginning. What does Matthew tell us?
62 Now on the next day, that is, the day which is after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63 and they said, “Sir, we remember that when that deceiver was still alive, He said, ‘After three days I am rising.’ 64 Therefore, give orders for the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise, His disciples may come and steal Him, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” 66 And they went and made the tomb secure with the guard, sealing the stone.
…11 Now while they were on their way, some of the men from the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and [e]keep you out of trouble.” 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews and is to this day.
Matthew 27 & 28
The standard criticism of this passage is that it appears in no other Gospel, which is odd because these guards are arguably the first (or only) witnesses of the actual Resurrection of Jesus. It is odd because they have just seen the resurrected Godmanspirit first hand and, rather than convert and believe in the most amazing thing they have experienced, they go back to their superiors, tell them of what they have seen, and are bribed to keep quiet.
I could bore you with details about whether these were Roman or Sanhedrin (Jewish Council) guards, and other more nuanced arguments, but I don’t want to distract from my main point. Please see my book The Resurrection: A Critical Examination of the Easter Story.
Suffice to say that Matthew’s guards are a polemic created by the author to answer criticisms (that Matthew himself expresses, but that we also see elsewhere in early church writing) from Jews that it is more likely that the body was stolen. Matthew’s inclusion here is a counter-counter-argument.
So the questions are: Why Mark didn’t include this claim? Why does the guard narrative only appear in Matthew?
And this is where it gets really interesting.
The simple answer is that Mark made up the Empty Tomb claim. We can infer this from three data points:
1) Paul says absolutely nothing about the Empty Tomb even though he would have had good reason to do so. There is a stark absence of pretty much any Resurrection anrrative detail in Paul’s writings implying that he did not know those details (they had not been invented yet). If he had known them, they would almost certainlky have appeared as supporting evidence for his claims in his epistles. Instead, he uses Hebrew Bible quotes to support his claims.
2) Mark’s last original uninterpolated claim is that the women witnesses left the tomb and told no one. (Mark’s original account ends at 16:9—everything after that is an interpoklation and appears in most bibles in brackets).
3) Mark has no need to invent the guards because no counter-polemic existed yet from the Jews because the Jews did not know this claim yet precisely because Mark is inventing it.
This second point is very important. All the other Gospels flatly contradict the claim that the women run off and tell no one. Very obviously. They have the women leave the tomb and straight away tell people.
What purpose does the “telling no one” motif serve for Mark?
Mark needs to explain to his audience, in writing just after 70 CE, why none of them have ever heard the story of the Empty Tomb. He is introducing the idea of the Empty Tomb to them for the first time. This is because he (or his community he is drawing from) created the narrative, It didn’t exist before Mark’s Gospel, so Mark had to explain why no one knew about the Empty Tomb: the women told no one, he explains.
The next three Gospels, written from 15 to 50 years after Mark and his claims, no longer need to explain why the Empty Tomb was not known because it was now known, due to the already-circulated Mark. Everyone now knew about the Empty Tomb due to the circulation of Mark’s Gospel throughout the early church communities, so the later Gospel authors (Matthew, Luke, and John) didn’t need the women to leave telling anyone. Instead, they had the women going straight out to get verification, further supposedly proving the Empty Tomb narrative.
Their women promptly told all the right people as soon as they could!
Let’s look at point 3. Mark mentions nothing of the guards at the tomb because there is not yet a counter-argument. Imagine Mark writing 40 years after the Jesus narrative after Jesus had died. If the Empty Tomb story had been about for 40 years, there would have been Jewish counter-claims all over the shop. Mark would need to be dealing with them in his own writing. Matthew reports these claims, and he is writing some 55 years after Jesus’ death. We also hear such claims from early church fathers.
Yet Mark mentions nothing. There are no Jewish counter-claims, so Mark needs no counter-counter-claims. The lack of a pre-existing empty tomb narrative is the only thing that makes sense of the lack of guards in Mark, and their addition in Matthew.
In other words, the guards’ claim is far more important than you might think. It shows that Mark made up the empty tomb, and Matthew was the one left to deal with the counter-arguments.
Luke and John don’t include them at all, which is a very good argument for their lack of authenticity. After all, they were possibly some of the only witnesses to the actual resurrection, or at the very least the angels rolling the stone away and announcing it. Presumably, Luke and John omitted them because they saw it for what it was—an obvious polemic mechanism.
Matthew’s guards aren’t just evidence that Matthew made up an element of the story (just as he did with the zombie saints parading around Jerusalem that many people supposedly saw, and an earthquake—two things not recounted anywhere else inside or outside of the Bible). Rather, this is evidence of a far larger narrative creation throughout the Gospels. It shows that Mark made up the whole Empty Tomb narrative.
Thus Matthew’s guards are more important than people give them credit for.
The lack of knowledge of an empty tomb also elegantly explains why Paul never mentioned it in his letters, all of which preceded the Gospel of Mark. It simply wasn’t a belief at that time. So that leaves us with a critical element of Christian dogma being unknown to most of the early Christians (those who died before Mark was written). If you bring them back to life now, they would be bewildered by talk of an empty tomb.
(3438) Made-up speeches in Acts
The gospels (especially John) are full of long speeches that stretch credulity that they could have been reproduced accurately decades after the fact. The crown jewel of this artifice is in Acts 24 where a debate occurs between Paul and his accuser while each pleads their case. The fictional aspect of this exchange literally jumps out of the page. The following was taken from:
Other chapters in the New Testament seem to be free of problems, appear to be polished, well-done pieces, such as Acts 24, in which Paul appears accused before the Roman governor Felix at Caesarea. The bulk of this chapter consists of two speeches, one in which Tertullus, a lawyer, states the case against Paul, and the latter’s response. There are no miracles here, nothing that has the flavor of fantasy literature; it all looks matter-of-fact. Nevertheless, it’s still important to ask the right questions.
Historians always want to determine what really happened, thus their primary concern would be: how did the author of Acts find out about these two speeches? Where would the author have located the contemporaneous documentation—for example, transcripts—to accurately report what Tertullus and Paul said? Mainstream scholars think that Acts was written perhaps forty to fifty years after the events depicted in chapter 24, so the question of the author’s sources is critical. But he has left us in the dark on this, and we cannot trust his posturing in Luke chapter 1 that he was providing reports handed on from eyewitnesses. For one thing, so much of what he wrote can be classified as fantasy and folklore.
But to take Acts 24 seriously, we would have to know for sure that someone was there taking notes as Tertullus and Paul spoke. In addition, did these notes end up in a Roman archive? Above all, however, how would Luke have gained access to such an archive decades later? A Roman archive in Caesarea might indeed have survived the devastating First Jewish-Roman War (66-73 CE) in which Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed. But would the author of Acts—who is anonymous, despite being called Luke—have had the privilege of walking into a Roman archive to do research on a 50-year old trial? Even by the end of the first century, Christianity still was a tiny break-away Jewish cult, and Luke was writing propaganda to promote the cult. Would the Roman archivists have considered that sufficient reason to open their doors to him?
Even the sympathetic Catholic scholar, Father Joseph A. Fitzmyer, doesn’t entertain this idea. In his monumental commentary on Acts (800-pages, The Anchor Yale Bible, Volume 31), he is far more practical in his analysis. Well, almost practical. It is a common fallback position that the gospel authors had their “sources”—they must have received reliable information from somewhere, right? Hence, Fitzmyer writes:
“Details about Tertullus and the trial may have come to Luke from the Pauline source, but the speeches are his own composition.” And in the very next paragraph he repeats this claim:
“The speeches of Tertullus and Paul are Lucan compositions; details in them may possibly be derived from the Pauline source…” (page 732, emphasis added)
“…may have come from the Pauline source” and “may possibly be derived from the Pauline source.” But there is no contemporaneous documentation to prove that there was, in fact, a Pauline source. And this is a major admission by Christian scholar: the speeches in Acts 24 were composed by the author. He might as well have said that Luke just made them up, which might have been too brutal for his readership. In fact, in all of the Book of Acts, how is it possible to tell the difference between what might have come from reliable, verifiable sources and what Luke just made up?
I have quoted these words of Richard Carrier in other articles in this series, and I repeat them again here because Luke—whoever he may have been—cannot be trusted. For devout folks on the quest to understand their Bible, these hard facts must be faced:
“The book of acts has been all but discredited as a work of apologetic historical fiction. Nevertheless, its author (traditionally Luke the author of the gospel) may have derived some of its material or ideas from earlier traditions, written or oral. But the latter would still be extremely unreliable and wholly unverifiable (and not only because teasing out what Luke inherited from what Luke chose to compose therefrom is all but impossible for us now). Thus, our best hope is to posit some written sources, even though their reliability would be almost as hard to verify, especially, again, as we don’t have them, so we cannot distinguish what they actually said from what Luke added, left out, or changed.” (Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt, p. 359)
Luke, the propagandist, wrote to advance the cause of the small Christian cult, and this meant inflating the importance of his hero, Paul. We have a right to suspect that Acts 24—despite the polished speeches and seeming plausibility—is indeed “apologetic historical fiction.” In the first place, would Paul, promoter of a small sect, have been given an armed escort to Caesarea (200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen—see Acts 23:23). And would Felix have “sent for Paul and heard him speak concerning faith in Christ Jesus”? (Acts 24:24) Felix didn’t like Paul’s message that much:
“And as [Paul] discussed justice, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, ‘Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity, I will send for you.’” (Acts 24:25)
Again, any curious, astute reader will want to know: who was taking notes on this conversation, and how did Luke get ahold of those notes decades later? Without reliable, verifiable contemporaneous documentation, how can we not suspect that Luke was making it up?
This drives home the point that the Bible cannot be trusted even in areas where it doesn’t include implausible violations of the laws of nature. Acts 24 is clear of that problem, and could possibly have happened, but the evidence strongly suggests that it was simply made up.
(3439) Jesus goes from spirit to physical after resurrection
When we examine all of the available records from the time of Jesus’ crucifixion until the end of the 1st Century, it becomes evident that Christian belief changed dramatically concerning the manner in which Jesus resurrected from the dead. The early belief did not include the idea of an empty tomb or the idea that Jesus had come back to life in his earthly body, but rather that he came alive again in a spiritual body. Early Christians would have had no problem if someone had pointed out to them Jesus’ s cadaver or bones.
But by the time we get to the end of the century, things changed, and in the last two gospels, Luke and John, Jesus suddenly gets a physical body capable of eating a fish. This change in the view of resurrection also influences how Christian dogma deals with the resurrection of the faithful, whereas initially it was thought (and confirmed by Paul) that Christian saints will have spiritual bodies in heaven, later on, based on Jesus’s (now) corporeal resurrection, the belief in a physical resurrection became prominent. The following was taken from:
This has everything to do with the earliest Christian view of Jesus’ resurrection, the resurrection hope his followers had, and our Talpiot tombs. That is why the presence of bones—even the bones of Jesus, next to statements of faith in resurrection, were not a contradiction. The confusion has come over the accounts in the gospels of the empty tomb of Jesus, and his “appearances” to his followers following his resurrection–all of which were written after 70 CE when the links with the faith of the Jerusalem community had been severed.
The evidence we have found in the Talpiot tombs is primary evidence of what the first Christians believed about resurrection faith. It is not theology, but it is firm archaeological testimony that allows us for the first time to reconstruct the full picture. The tomb evidence agrees completely with the teachings of both Jesus and Paul about the new spiritual body. The confusion has come in the gospels because of a fundamental misunderstanding of the empty tomb. There was an empty tomb—but it was the first tomb, the temporary one in which Joseph of Arimathea placed the corpse of Jesus until the Passover and Sabbath were past. The Talpiot Jesus tomb was not empty—the “Jesus son of Joseph” ossuary held his bones, and as we will see, we have been able to even do DNA tests on those remains. This is no threat to the original Christian resurrection faith, it is actually an affirmation of that faith.
Paul knows nothing of that first empty tomb. He knows that Jesus died and was buried and on the third day he was raised up. He then appeared to his followers, not as a resuscitated corpse, but in Paul’s words, as a “life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). These words of Paul are our earliest testimony to faith in Jesus’ resurrection—until now. We now have testimony by his original followers that predates Paul, and predates the gospels by many decades. Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John were written between 70-100 CE. The names on the books are traditional. They are not included in the text but added later as “titles” to the manuscripts. In other words, Mark does not begin, “I Mark, having witnessed these things, do hereby write…” Nor does Matthew, Luke, or John. In that sense all four gospels are pseudonymous—we don’t know their real authors.
What is particularly telling is that if you take the gospels in order, beginning with Mark there are no appearances of Jesus—just the statement that he will “go before them to Galilee.”[v] Several scholars have seen this as a reference to his second coming. In Matthew the women at the tomb see Jesus and later the eleven apostles on a misty mountain top—but some doubted. He gives them their commission to take the gospel to the world (Matthew 28:18-19). Here we have clearly left the world of history and entered the world of theology. The “Great Commission” is Matthew’s view of the Christian mission until the end of the age. Scholars do not take these as words as those spoken by the historical Jesus. Luke expands things further and first introduces the idea that Jesus came back in a physical body—wounds and all and asking for food to eat. He includes Jesus appearing to two men on the road to Emmaus, and then to the eleven apostles and other disciples. They mistake him for a ghost, but he lets them know that he has “flesh and bones” and is not a spirit. He then eats fish in front of them (Luke 24:39). John, like Luke, promotes this same view—that Jesus shows his wounds to Thomas and later meets a group of the apostles on the Sea of Galilee and is cooking fish on the shore on a charcoal fire (John 20:24-25; 21:9-14). See Deborah Thompson Prince “The ‘Ghost’ of Jesus: Luke 24 in Light of Ancient Narratives of Post-Mortem Apparitions,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament (March 2007) 29:3, pp. 287-301.
What Luke and John introduce here, namely that Jesus appeared in the same body that had been placed in the tomb represents a major departure from early Christian resurrection faith. This understanding of Jesus’ resurrection has led to endless confusion on the part of sincere Christians who do believe Jesus was raised from the dead. These stories are secondary and legendary. We know this because Mark, who wrote decades earlier, does not know them, and Paul, who is still earlier says plainly that the new body is not “flesh and blood” (1 Corinthians 15:50). Apologists have tried to reconcile these accounts by saying Jesus had “bones and flesh” but it was somehow “different” bones and flesh—it was “spiritual” not physical. They have compared it to stories of the appearances of angels or messengers in the Hebrew Bible, who appear, even eat, and then depart (Genesis 18:1-8). The parallel is not valid. The angelic messengers in the Hebrew Bible are often humans, spoken of a mal’akim—the normal word for messenger but mistranslated “angel.” Other times they are portrayed as beings from the other realm who appear and disappear at will, sometimes rising in a puff of smoke (Judges 6:19-22).
These accounts of Luke and John are quite different. They were written for apologetic purposes against pagan critics like Celsus who charged that the “appearances” of Jesus to his followers were merely based on hysteria and delusion. By the time Luke and John wrote, at the turn of the first century or even later, the battle the Christians were fighting was with the non-Christians and Jews who did not accept Jesus born of a virgin or raised from the dead. The pagans charged that the resurrection appearances were delusional but within Jewish tradition it was known that the body was moved.
That the perceived manner in which Jesus resurrected from the dead changed over the first several decades after the crucifixion indicates that we are dealing with mythology. This is to be expected when the event itself did not take place, but rather that it was imagined into existence. If Jesus had returned to life in his original body, it is highly unlikely that there ever would have been a belief that his resurrection was instead in a spiritual body.
(3440) Persistence of false belief
There exists a modern day analogue for how a large percentage of the population can persistently embrace a belief even after it has been rebutted forcefully and repeatedly over months and months of review and analysis. This relates to the 2020 United States presidential election, where the losing sitting president claimed that the election was fraudulent. If this happened in the 21st Century, imagine how a false belief could gain widespread traction in the 1st Century. The following was taken from:
I’ve always believed that America had a modest but important exceptionalism about it, a unique American form of common sense. That our country, for all its faults and foibles, was at core a sensible nation, one that eventually got things right.
For a country to be rational obviously doesn’t mean that its citizens have to hold the same values or share the same policy nostrums. But it does mean that a comfortable majority of its citizens must be able to assess a situation similarly enough that there is some common ground of understanding.
If, like me, you’ve clung to the notion that most Americans eventually see reality more or less for what it is, the last year has been a disconcerting one.
A significant segment of our population seems unable to evaluate a situation realistically and dismiss as groundless counter-realities that range from extraordinarily unlikely to completely absurd. As an example of the latter, no rational person would believe the QAnon-sense about a cabal of satan-worshipping cannibalistic pedophiles who control the supposed deep state. But millions of Americans have seemed to buy at least some part of that bizarre delusion. It’s hard to pinpoint the perceptual failing that enables that kind of susceptibility to the ridiculous, but it certainly reflects a lack of a realistic understanding of how the world works.
Part of that perceptual problem is obviously catalyzed, if not caused, by partisanship. There, we come to the stolen-election nonsense. No one familiar with the low rate of fraud in American elections or aware of election processes and safeguards — or the difficulty of orchestrating, let alone keeping secret, massive skullduggery — would ever have judged it plausible that there had been a successful multi-state effort to rig the 2020 presidential election.
And in the 15 months since that election, scores of lawsuits filed by the Donald Trump team have gone nowhere and proved nothing. Not only that, but GOP officials in Georgia and Arizona have issued detailed rebuttals of far-fetched election-fraud claims. Even the clownish Cyber Ninjas audit of Maricopa County, Ariz., reluctantly confirmed that yes, Joe Biden did indeed win there. Most recently, an exhaustive Associated Press investigation of all allegations of voter fraud in the six states whose results Trump has disputed found next to nothing.
Given the absence of any credible evidence supporting Trump’s claims, a believer in voter rationality would expect those views to change. But so far, they have held pretty steady, with 65 to 70 percent of Republicans continuing to say the election was stolen or illegitimate.
Further, stolen-election beliefs appear to be genuinely held and not just a political statement, says University of Massachusetts political science professor Alexander Theodoridis, associate director of the UMass Amherst Poll, which has probed the sincerity of those positions.
“I suspect they are not going to change very much,” Theodoridis said in an interview. “I don’t know that the lack of evidence is really penetrating.” Why? Because Trump has managed to persuade millions of his followers that mainstream reporting refuting his claims of fraud is itself fraudulent.
That compounds the problem for democracy in this way: If you honestly but falsely believe the election was stolen, it becomes easy to justify Trump’s attempts to subvert the results as an effort to right a real wrong, rather than as scheming that was completely beyond acceptable democratic norms.
Here the political apocalypticism so resonant on the right comes into play. For conservatives, a Democratic victory doesn’t just mark an electoral loss. In hyper-heated conservative alarmism, such a victory portends the triumph of socialism or even communism and, in one oft-repeated right-wing trope, the end of America as we know it. Embrace that and you’re more likely to accept an authoritarian attempt to overturn the election.
All of which raises the question of whether we as a nation lack the demagogue-and-charlatan-resisting skepticism so essential to a healthy democracy.
“This is a case where people in large, large numbers seem unable to distinguish real information from disinformation,” said Theodoridis. The phenomenon itself is hardly surprising; as Theodoridis notes, political scientists have long recognized the lamentable success of propaganda, disinformation, and misinformation in other countries around the world.
“The only surprising thing about it is that we see it happening here in the United States,” he said.
The lingering hope is that as more and more information is revealed, particularly through the vital work of the House’s Jan. 6 committee, a broad majority of American voters, regardless of their political leanings, will come to realize how reprehensible Trump’s attempts at election-subversion were. A 2024 presidential primary season where one or more Republican challengers take aim at Trump’s election lies might also bring that into focus.
That’s a hope I cling to — but one that, like a candle in a growing wind, is starting to gutter.
Christianity and other religions depend heavily on the frailties of the human brain, that often contains an error code that filters information to access a desired end result. If something like this can happen in modern times within an information-rich, fact-checking news sphere, then it is easy to see how early Christians could have persisted in their belief in a resurrected Jesus even in the face of devastating counter evidence. The misfiring of human brains is the fertilizer that grows religions.
(3441) Lord or Satan?
The question of who incited David to take his ill-advised and ultimately deadly census of the Israelites is not clearly stated. In one reference, it was the Lord himself. In another reference, it was Satan. Bible readers are left confused:
2 Samuel 24:1-3
Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He stirred up David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”
So the king said to Joab the commander of his army, who was with him,“ Go now throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and register the troops, so that I may know their number.”
But Joab replied to the king, “May the LORD your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?”
1 Chronicles 21:1-3
Then Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan and bring me a report, so that I may know their number.”
But Joab replied, “May the LORD multiply His troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all servants of my lord? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?”
Christian apologists (inerrancy types) try to massage this clear cut contradiction by saying that God ‘allowed’ Satan to incite David. So, in effect, both were responsible. But it is this type of hand-waving and refusal to face obvious problems that de-legitimizes their entire profession.
(3442) One out of seven
When you dig for the unvarnished truth about Christianity, there appears to exist about seven possibilities. In the following list, any truth other than the first would be devastating to over 90 percent of self-professed Christians. The following was taken from:
1) Every word of the Holy Bible is the Divine Word of God as revealed to Man, and is literally true. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, fully human and fully divine at the same time. The Bible is a 100% flawlessly accurate account of His life and the Miracles He performed. Christ died for our sins and lives forever at his Father’s right hand. (The Fundamentalist Position)
2) The Bible is a mostly true account of Jesus of Nazareth’s life, but the miracles and parables are clearly allegorical and metaphorical. There really was a person named Jesus, son of Joseph of Nazareth, who was born in Bethlehem in 33 BCE and was crucified, died and was buried. (The Mainstream Position)
3) There probably was a Jesus of Nazareth, but there is very little contemporary evidence of his life, and most of what was written was well after his death and relies on unreliable narrators. After his death, he became heavily mythologized. This Jesus was a person who bore little resemblance at all to the biblical Jesus.
4) There probably wasn’t a single person named Jesus, but later writers wrote about composite character (almost like a Homer) about various preachers in ancient Palestine who called themselves Jesus or Joshua. These Jesuses spanned decades and had different preaching styles, which explains why Jesus has so many radical personality shifts. One of them may have been crucified, or it is an allegory.
5) There never was a Jesus. Decades to centuries later, Hellenistic authors wrote about the equivalent of a fanfiction OC and his exploits in ancient Palestine. Jesus was fiction, but original fiction.
6) There never was a Jesus. The Jesus stories are a rehash of Jewish, Greek, Roman, Persian, Egyptian and other myths with different characters, centuries after the supposed death of “Jesus”.
7) There never was a Jesus. Christianity was invented wholecloth as a pious fraud by charlatans centuries after the supposed death of Jesus.
It did not have to be like this. The history of Jesus could have been much better attested with contemporary eyewitness accounts and much better alignment of all of the historical sources. In that case, only number 1 or 2 would have been viable possibilities. Instead, most objective (non-Christian) historians would choose number 3, 4, or5 as being most likely. It is hard to conceive that a god would leave such an important question wallowing in such an unsettled state of validity. A man-made theology, though, fits this pattern nicely.
(3443) Christians treat God like a baby
One of the ways to assess the likelihood of God’s existence is to see how its most ardent followers relate to it. For Christians, it is obvious that their image of God is that of an untouchable being, immune to criticism, and unfalsifiable no matter what happens. In a sense, they treat God like they would treat a baby- never challenging, always praising, never critical, always positive,. The following was taken from:
My oldest granddaughter is now four years old, and I remember playing with her in her first year. I found myself treating her like I did my dog. Neither understood English very well, but they could understand tone. She grabs her toy? “What a smart girl!” She rolls over? “What a clever girl!” She bites Piglet’s nose? “What a talented girl!” She burped, she pooped, she has a wet diaper? “What a good girl!”
This is surprisingly analogous to how many Christians treat God. You get what you wanted in prayer? “Thank you, God!” You didn’t get what you wanted in prayer? “Thank you, God!” God is too emotionally fragile to handle constructive feedback. Christians aren’t supposed to say, “God, the next time you think it’d be instructive to give a five-year-old leukemia, get back on your meds and think again.” God is (supposedly) omni-everything and so could achieve any goal without the human cost. God’s actions are assumed to be good at the outset, and any negative reaction is your fault for not seeing the hidden good.
God is either giving you great stuff or teaching you important lessons, and no matter what happens, God gets the credit. God is praised, regardless—whether you got the perfect parking space when you were late or God dealt some tough love by not giving you that promotion, he can’t lose. When bad things happen, God is never blamed. That’s man’s fault. Even natural disasters are recast as part of God’s marvelous, inscrutable plan. And when bad things happen to someone, they endured the ordeal only with God’s support.
Empty and groundless platitudes like “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” or “God must’ve needed another angel” or “Everything happens for a reason” litter the internet. Doubt is discouraged, and faith (in the sense of belief despite poor evidence) is put forward as a great virtue.
God is always perfect and infallible, especially when you conclude that before you start. There is even the scholarly discipline of theodicy to add somber scholarly support to this claim. Christians give all the other supernatural beliefs (unicorns, Xenu, Zeus) the critique of a skeptical adult, but their god can only handle baby food. And just like a baby, he’s never called to account, never has to clean up his messes, never has to explain himself or follow adult rules. God doesn’t even need good evidence that he exists.
This represents a true psychological disorder, similar to the Stockholm Syndrome, where the oppressor (God) has convinced the oppressees (Christians) that everything he does or allows to happen is for their own good, and therefore he deserves their continual respect, adherence, and worship.
It is well established that theories that are not vulnerable to be shown to be false are of no value- they add nothing to human understanding. Christians treating God like a baby (who also can do nothing wrong) is a way of forming an impregnable mental construct that deflects reason or analysis. It adds nothing to our grasp of reality- it is strictly a mind game for the gullible, for those who fear facing life head on without regard for the final verdict.
(3444) Prayer is problematic for Christianity
It doesn’t matter whether prayers are effective or not, either way it creates a problem for Christian theology. The following provides an example of this point:
Let’s consider the generic “cancer removal surgery” hypothetical for my thesis. A man is about to be operated on and he has been prayed for. Is this prayer effective? The structure of the question demands either Yes or No as the answer. So let’s explore both.
If the answer is Yes or at the very least “possibly,” this is a substantial blow against the morality of god. If he does indeed enhance the skill of the doctors, the durability of the patient, or some other factor when the surgery is prayed over, that means he does NOT do that for surgeries that aren’t prayed over or at the very least is less likely to do so. This means that god withholds potentially necessary enhancements from the non-blessed surgeries, meaning the end results are more likely to be negative. Deciding life or death over the presence of prayer or lack thereof is morally troubling. A loved one dying because they were not prayed for is very hard to reconcile with the statement that god is love.
If the answer is No, that makes prayer a worthless, futile exercise. If god will do what he wants in the way he wants it to happen regardless of prayer, then there’s no point in praying. Since prayer is demanded of Christians, this calls into question the logical integrity of the religion.
Either way, a substantial blow is dealt against Christianity. Either god is malevolent or a primary activity for the religion is utterly pointless.
Christianity would be on a better footing if prayer had been promoted solely as a way to acknowledge god, or to sing his praises, but it got into deep water when it touted it also as a way to get things you want. Claiming a god who can answer needs or wants-based prayers doesn’t work whether he answers them or not.
(3445) Paul’s view of homosexuality
Christians often take passages from Paul’s canonical letters to nail down the charge that God disapproves of homosexuality. But there is a nuance that they are missing, and thus, even if we take what Paul wrote as being somehow the true message of God, there is little support for a sweeping divine condemnation of same-sex relations. The following is a quote from biblical scholar David Bokovoy:
Religious readers of the Bible would be wise to adopt a historical critical approach, reading it as a springboard for enlightenment rather than a manual that perfectly defines God and morality. This is especially true when encountering texts that appear to condemn homosexuality.
The most famous being Paul’s statement in Romans 1:26-27:
“For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error”
This statement needs to be read in context. The second we take the passage out of its historical and literary context, by definition, we change its meaning.
Paul’s understanding of homosexuality derives from traditional Jewish “decline narratives”. His condemnation of male same sex acts reflects his belief that all of humanity was once entirely monotheistic, worshipping the one true God. Then, at a later point in history, the Gentiles turned to polytheism and idolatry. According to Paul, God handed over the Gentiles to the “degrading passions” as punishment. For Paul, this narrative explains the origins of homosexuality.
Homosexuality did not exist until the sudden invention of polytheism. Hence, according to Paul’s logic, homosexuality never existed amongst the Jews or Christians because they were monotheists.
Given the fact that we know that Paul’s “decline narrative” is simply not true,i see no reason why Christians should ever use this statement as a justification for the condemnation of homosexuality. Paul was wrong. Monotheism was a later historical development, even in ancient Israel, and we obviously know that if all gay people were monotheists they wouldn’t just stop being gay. Moreover, if Christians are going to use this passage to condemn homosexuality, then they not only have to adopt Paul’s decline narrative, they’re going to have to accept the fact that he says something about heterosexual relations too.
Paul’s epistle reflects typical Greco-Roman and first century Jewish cultural ideals regarding the male’s domination over the female. According to what Paul is saying, men are not to take the passive role of the subordinate or a woman to take the role of the superior, which would obviously affect the type of sexual positions Christian heterosexual couples can enjoy.
Context is important as well as understanding the world view of the author and the zeitgeist of the times in which he lived. Taking Paul’s words independent of that understanding is dangerous. And it should be stated that his letters have no business being in the Bible in the first place, since they were targeted to individual churches and their specific issues. A broad-based application of them to all of Christendom is a mistake.
(3446) God claims are made up
Thorny issues for Christians are often massaged over by hypothesizing a way out of the problem that, if true, would resolve or mitigate the matter. However, these ‘solutions’ often have little or no backing from the scriptures. Nevertheless, as they are repeated and promulgated over time, they gain the deceptive semblance of being established dogma. The following was taken from:
When debating Christians, many defenses they offer to common issues raised are offered merely because they would solve the issue, not because it has any theological basis or evidence.
Take, for example, the ever popular Free Will defense to the Problem of Evil. It basically says that God allows evil because he values free will more than preventing evil.
One may be prompted to ask where this can be found in the Bible. The funny thing is that it can’t be. Nowhere in the Bible is it claimed that God allows evil because he values free will so much. Jesus never mentioned it. No prophet ever stated it. God sometimes even revoked people’s free will, such as when he declares that he will harden the heart of the pharaoh so that he can show his wonders.
Now, obviously, there’s no regular old evidence for this claim about God’s character. Nobody in real life is able to ask god and get a direct answer. Most Christians, aside from some that most Christians would call crazy, don’t think they can have direct conversations where god tells them things word for word. Nobody can read God’s mind.
So how do they know God values free will enough to allow evil? They don’t, but if that were the case, it would to their satisfaction defeat the Problem of Evil. The claim is made merely because it must be true for them to be right.
This happens in other areas too. I simply chose one that this sub is quite familiar with. The Christian apologists and theologians seem to often use this methodology:
- A potential problem for Christian beliefs is observed or presented.
- A solution is created that is hypothetically and logically possible despite there being no evidence or theological backing.
- The problem is said to be defeated, implying that the hypothetically and logically possible explanation should be treated as true despite it lacking evidence.
- It is treated as part of the theology so that over time, it appears more and more legitimate to adherents despite it lacking any initial theological backing.
Many Christian theologians and apologists assert things without evidence or theological backing. It is merely asserted because if it was true, it would solve a problem. It is then later incorporated into the theology to give it further appearances of legitimacy.
Outside of the Bible, everything about Christianity is pure speculation, and even inside the Bible, there are too many contradictions to establish certain doctrinal elements. Apologetic actors realize that the Bible doesn’t contain all of the answers they need, so they make up whatever they can to patch over the problems big and small. This creates an extra-biblical source of dogma that has no inherent authority to speak for God, who, if he was real, would have made sure to craft the Bible so it could answer the questions of that time and those that would arise in the future.
(3447) John fishes to support Jesus’ divinity
The author of the Gospel of John had an agenda, distinct from the other three gospels, to present Jesus as being God himself, or at least a divine figure connected intimately with the Father God in heaven. In so doing, he felt a need to find a scripture in the Old Testament that could be used to show that there could be more than one god (more than just the Father= Yahweh), or at least more than just one manifestation of God. In so doing, he chose a scripture that utterly failed to make his point. Consider the following two scriptures:
“We are not stoning You for any good work,” said the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because You, who are a man, declare Yourself to be God.”
Jesus replied, “Is it not written in your Law: ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken—then what about the One whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world? How then can you accuse Me of blasphemy for stating that I am the Son of God?
The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.
They walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
“I said, ‘You are “gods”;
you are all sons of the Most High.’
But you will die like mere mortals;
you will fall like every other ruler.”
The problem with Jesus’ reference to Psalms is that the preceding verse says that that the gods know nothing, they understand nothing, they walk in darkness, and further that the psalmist is referring to all the people, not a unique individual. And that these ‘gods’ will fall like any other ruler. The last part of the Psalm could be used to say that Jesus died like a mortal and fell on the cross, but to say he fell like any other ruler is not consistent with Christian doctrine. This is a clear case of taking a scripture out of context and out of its original meaning to support the author’s (in this case John’s) agenda.
(3448) Jesus down the middle
If you could dissect down the middle all of the scholarly opinions about who Jesus was or even if he was a real person, you might get something similar to what is presented below. As with most topics, the truth usually lies somewhere near the center of all expressed opinions. The following was taken from:
There’s no point of the Bible where Jesus openly claims to be God’s literal son, and the virgin birth idea was likely invented some time after his death since it didn’t make it into Mark.
What we see as him saying he is the son of God, after Christian tradition got a hold of it: He characterizes God as a father. It happens in the tanakh, so that doesn’t contradict any Jewish tradition of the time. The more literal interpretation of actual biological son of God is added later, and for a long time it was very up for debate whether Jesus was just a man, entirely divine, or a mixture.
When it comes to the messianic thing it’s important to remember that the Jewish concept of the messiah was and still is that it’s going to be a person who is chosen by God to be a king of the physical country of Judah and restore its people. There’s some evidence to show that he probably was really crucified, and crucifixion typically was punishment for betraying Rome in a political sense. If he or his followers did say he was the messiah that would make sense with the punishment – if his followers rumored that he was the messiah it would essentially be the modern day equivalent of telling the government, “so someone just declared himself king of the state of Texas, and he’s opened up his own court to give legal rulings”. Modern day prison time, ancient Roman crucifixion.
He probably did preach fairly politically radical claims (ignoring taboo with Samaritans, and passively refusing to acknowledge judean inferiority to Roman citizens with the ‘turn the other cheek’ command). There’s generally no reason to fake unpopular or dangerous teachings like these – they didn’t increase popularity with Jewish communities and they didn’t help with Romans either.
There’s also a lot of support from early Christian movements that indicate it was very ascetic – not just that monasticism was developed but that many early Christians lived ascetic lives with fasting, chastity, no wealth, etc. The “no rich man will go to heaven” style teachings were more in focus for sure.
What is lacking in the Jesus historical record is a consistent start to finish view that should prevail if Jesus was really God and if God really intended to bring salvation to the world. Leaving a hazy, shifting, evolving dogma for people to sort through and scratch their heads seems to be either the legacy of a human enterprise or the work of an incompetent god.
(3449) Strike Four
In the course of a few sentences, Jesus made four mistakes or controversial statements that didn’t age well in modern society. Consider the following scripture:
Matthew 19: 9-12
Now I tell you that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman, commits adultery.”
His disciples said to Him, “If this is the case between a man and his wife, it is better not to marry.”
“Not everyone can accept this word,” He replied,“but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way; others were made that way by men; and still others live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
Jesus makes a ridiculous and unworkable statement that says that a man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, unless she cheated on him. This alleged statement by Jesus is ignored by almost all Christians, including evangelicals who claim that the scripture are inerrant. These same people routinely divorce and remarry and it’s not because their wives had an affair. No Jesus, this will not age well in the future- you should not have not said this.
Jesus says that some people are born eunuchs- that is, without the necessary male organs needed for reproduction. No, Jesus, you just invalidated scripture:
He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” when they were created.
This is the go-to scripture used by evangelicals to bash homosexuals, but Jesus has admitted that some people are born half-way between male and female, which implies, analogously, that some people are also born homosexual. This is a scripture that causes pain in evangelical circles.
Jesus then recalls people who are made to be eunuchs by other men. There are two ways this happened and neither was very good- those that the king wanted castrated so that they could guard his harem and so he could be assured that he wouldn’t desire or engage in sex with his concubines, and those who took to heart Jesus’ command that if your eye offends you, pluck it out. In this case, men who couldn’t control their sexual desire would self-castrate to remove the temptation. The fact that Jesus appears to semi-endorse either of these two barbaric practices is alarming, and the inclusion of this gospel statement has led to many men being unnecessarily castrated throughout history.
Jesus then refers to men who retain their sexual status but who decide to live as though they were eunuchs (that is, they decide not to use their sexual organs at all). This statement laid the groundwork for the celibacy tradition of the Catholic Church. The history of priests who forgo their natural sexual natures has led to many atrocities, including millions of acts of pedophilia that has damaged the psychological health of children throughout the past two millennia. A god would have anticipated this fact and would have avoided any encouragement for instituting this priestly restriction. Instead, Jesus was clueless.
So, in the space of one minute, Jesus swung and missed four times. We even gave him one more swing of the bat just to be nice. But, no, he failed, and was sent back to the dugout.
(3450) Why people believe and why they shouldn’t
There exist several significant reasons for why people believe in Christianity, though most tend to be non-evidence based. In the following, some of the reasons for why people stay or become Christian are presented followed by reasons for why they shouldn’t.
Some faulty reasons why people believe.
- People don’t really examine their god belief. They are taught it as children, they accept it, they never really think through the contradictions inherent in heaven, hell, omnipotence, etc.
- People want it to be true. They want there to exist a loving presence that cares for them, and gives meaning to their life. It’s literally wishful thinking.
- Social ostracism for disbelief. Everybody they know is a believer. If they leave the church, they fear losing their friends and family.
- People have no idea about other religions, differences between religions. They may not have seriously considered that there are people who hold different religious beliefs with equal sincerity. They may not even be aware that atheism is a thing, that you don’t have to believe in god.
- Demonization of atheism. Believers are often explicitly taught that atheists are bad, evil people, that they have “no morals”, etc.
- Christians have no idea of the history of the Bible; they assume the Bible was handed down as a whole complete unit at one time, the inerrant word of God, accepted by all Christians the world over. In fact it was written over a long period of time as separate writings, written by multiple authors with their own agendas, which were compiled much later by committees of people with their own agenda. Various sects supported various scriptures, and they disagreed as to which scriptures should be included in the Bible. In the end, many scriptures “lost” that battle and were left out entirely, not because “god” wanted it that way, but because committees of men wanted it that way.
I have compiled a few of my favorite arguments here, with an emphasis on Christianity:
1: The simpler explanation would be that the universe is what it appears to be rather than being just the part we can perceive of some much more elaborate type of universe.
2: If there was an all-powerful deity who wanted humans to know about its existence, then why doesn’t this deity simply reveal its existence in an unambiguous way to everyone? I mean, that should be well within the capability of an all-powerful or maximally powerful deity, right? No faith would be required. There would be no reason to be atheist. The deity would be as observable, testable, and provable as hurricanes, Australia or oak trees. Since this is not the case, it is reasonable to conclude that no such deity exists, or if a deity exists, it is not concerned with being detected.
2a: (related) Christians believe god sent one illiterate emissary at one point in time to one location on the earth to spread god’s message, then expected fallible humans to relay this message (by worth of mouth) to all humans in all places for all time. Does this make sense? Is it a good strategy? Are you familiar with the “game of telephone?” We can’t even always get reliable information about important things happening right now in today’s world; what’s the chance that a message spread by word-of-mouth would remain intact for thousands of years? (my guess: zero) Wouldn’t an all-powerful god come up with a better method for spreading the most important message of all time?
2b: Personal revelation was good enough for Paul/Saul, but why not me or you? Why doesn’t god reveal his existence personally to all humans on a regular basis?
3: “Who created the Universe?” argument. One of the most common theist arguments I’ve heard is “the universe must have a cause, and this cause must be a sentient, thinking, conscious agent.” Well, firstly, I don’t see why we couldn’t assume the Universe always existed. But even if I concede the first part (something caused the universe), I don’t see how you can conclude the second part (sentient superbeing did it). Humans used to believe the same thing about hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc. Who caused the volcano? Obviously the Volcano God. Well, then we learned that the causes of these things are complicated natural processes. In fact, everything we investigate appears to be caused by complicated natural processes. It seems highly likely to me that the Universe, too, if it was in fact “caused”, those causes would be complicated natural processes.
4: The Muslim and the Hindu and the Christian all believe with equal fervor. Each has a list of personal reasons why they believe, and believe that they couldn’t possibly be wrong. As an outside observer, how can I figure out which of them is right? What tests can I conduct to figure out which religion is true? Are there any such tests?
4a: (related to 4) of all the hundreds of religions that have existed through the centuries in different parts of the world, most people believe that they were born into the one that is the one true religion. That is to say, the main factor which determines what someone believes is the religion of their parents, and to a great extent geography. Does this at all have any bearing on what is true?
4b: Showerthought: if you were to switch a baby born to Muslim parents with a baby born to Christian parents, the children would each likely grow up believing the other religion. Their entire worldview is shaped by their upbringing, and has no relation to what is actually true.
4c: Showerthought: what if the “true” religion is one you were never even exposed to? Or one that died out centuries ago? There’s a big “oops.” (which gets back to #2; if god wants everyone on earth to believe, why be so coy about it?)
5: In order for a deity to be the cause of something, first we have to demonstrate that a deity exists. The time to believe in a deity is after one follows the evidence to that conclusion, not before. Theists generally start with the assumption that the deity exists, then cherrypick the data that appears to support it, and ignore data which appears not to support it, which is logically fallacious.
6: All the “proofs” of god which are based on argument alone necessarily fall short. You cannot determine facts about the world just by thinking about it. You cannot theorize a deity into existence. You can’t “prove” a god using math. The best you can get is a theory or proposition. You still need to demonstrate it with evidence.
7: The explanation “god did it” is not really an explanation for anything. It’s just words, it’s as much of an explanation as if I said “fairies did it” or “magic did it.” To say that god did something tells you nothing about the nature of that god, what it is, what it wants, why it did the thing. It’s basically a placeholder for “I don’t know.”
There exists a lot of social pressure to believe in Christianity, at least in certain countries or parts of those countries, and certainly within family structures. Also, it is hard to walk away from an offer of eternal bliss. But the reasons to disbelieve are extremely strong and they have not been successfully debunked by anyone. Facing reality is better than bathing in fantasy.
Follow this link to #3451