(3501) Bad theology in John 3
Christians luxuriate in John 3:16 (For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life) without realizing how bad this theology and other verses in John Chapter 3 actually are. For one thing, God DID NOT ‘give’ his son, because he got him back ‘good as new.’ Secondly, it sets up a spectacularly unfair situation for judging people. The following was taken from:
John 3:16 itself is marred by bad theology. It states plainly that belief in Jesus is the key to eternal life, which means that most of the people who have ever lived are excluded.
As is made plain in verse 3:18, “…those who do not believe are condemned already…”
And verse 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.” This vindictive, revenge theology cancels the feel-good theology that people assume when they hear the words, “God so loved the world…”
It takes nothing more than a clear mind to realize that John Chapter 3 is a theological disaster. It introduces the concept of thought crime, but in an even worse format, seeing as how you are severely punished not so much for having a thought but for the absence of a thought (that Jesus is Lord). The idea that a ‘loving’ god would send his wrath on those who don’t believe in him, especially when he goes to great pains to keep himself hidden, is preposterous. John 3 belongs in a trashcan.
(3502) Truth discernment
In the following study it was shown that political conservatism was correlated with poor discernment of the truth of news and information. This finding is independent of the participants’ religious views which were not considered either true or false within the study. Since it is well known that political conservatism is correlated with higher degrees of religiosity (especially in the United States) it is logical to assert that people who have poor truth discernment skills tend to be more religious. Whether this is causative or only associative matters little. What matters is that, on average, religious people are more prone to believe false information and this suggests that belief in religion and the supernatural is substantially a product of the analytical deficiencies of the human brain.
Understanding and Reducing Online Misinformation Across 16 Countries on Six Continents
The spread of misinformation online is a global problem that requires global solutions. To that end, we conducted an experiment in 16 countries across 6 continents (N = 33,480) to investigate predictors of susceptibility to misinformation and interventions to combat misinformation. In every country, participants with a more analytic cognitive style and stronger accuracy-related motivations were better at discerning truth from falsehood; valuing democracy was also associated with greater truth discernment whereas political conservatism was negatively associated with truth discernment in most countries. Subtly prompting people to think about accuracy was broadly effective at improving the veracity of news that people were willing to share, as were minimal digital literacy tips. Finally, crowdsourced accuracy evaluation was able to differentiate true from false headlines with high accuracy in all countries. The consistent patterns we observe suggest that the psychological factors underlying the misinformation challenge are similar across the globe, and that similar solutions may be broadly effective.
Although average levels of belief in falsehoods did vary substantially across countries, we found consistent evidence that analytic thinking, accuracy motivations, and support for democracy were associated with greater ability to discern truth from falsehood; as well as fairly consistent evidence that fiscal conservatism and belief in God were associated with worse truth discernment. These regularities emphasize the joint importance of cognitive and social factors, and suggest that a common psychology may underlie susceptibility to COVID-19 misinformation across cultural contexts. They also help identify individuals who are most at risk of falling prey to misinformation, and thus can help those who would benefit most from anti-misinformation interventions.
If Christianity is true, then it would be expected that the people who believe in it would have better truth discernment skills than non-believers since they would presumably be better judges of the information both for and against the faith. If Christianity is not true, then we would expect believers to be more deficient in truth discernment skills, as this study demonstrates.
(3503) Real reasons people leave religion
Christians in particular have a ready set of imagined reasons for why family members and friends have left their religion, and invariably they are the types of reasons that don’t cast doubt on the veracity of their faith, but rather are focused on tangential issues related to emotions or politics. This is not the reason for most peoples’ apostasy. The following corrects this Christian misunderstanding:
Here is why we did not leave our religion:
1) Think it’s true but are looking for freedom
The great irony here is that the Christian motto is that Jesus gives freedom. In fact, there is even a New Testament verse that states “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 ). Thus if one has to leave the church in search of freedom, what does that say about the church not living up to it’s claims? Usually the “freedom” motive is proposed by people who are involved in a very authoritarian church culture (perhaps in some cases, an almost cult-like church) that tries to control every element of their members lives. Yet I have never met a person who completely abandoned Christianity because of one authoritarian church, but I know many deeply committed Christians who simply found a less totalitarian church. In any case, only a fool would wholly abandon a religion he was convinced was true, simply because there were too many rules among one group of followers of that religion.
2) Think it’s true but want to sin
Of the many dozen church-dropouts I’ve spoken with, none have become the depraved, morally nihilistic, preachers of debauchery they are purported to be. Certainly, some people follow moderately different lifestyles, a few now drink alcohol in moderation, have married people they were not formerly permitted to marry, and etc, but none have shown a radical change. Nobody divorced their wife and went on a drug induced romp through the Nevada brothels. No one has yet become a serial murderer, alcoholic, or pedophile. If these people left the church in order to sin, they certainly aren’t doing it very much. Even my anecdotal evidence aside, the very idea is nothing short of stupid. What person in their right mind would rebel against a God they know exists, by pretending he doesn’t exist, in order to justify their sin, for which they know they will pay dearly? That would be like a burglar, who is utterly certain the police are around the corner, telling himself “there is no police” in order to justify a theft that he knows will lead to his arrest and incarceration. It’s absurd! If a person merely wants to sin, they would do far better to stay the church and utilize free grace, after all, God forgives an infinite multitude of sins if you just ask.
3) Think its true but hate your particular version of God
I have been accused of this a thousand times. Usually their eyes roll around in circles, as though they are grasping for some logic to explain everything. Then, it’s as though a bright light appears, their eyes widen, they lower their voice, and out it comes. “You just hate God! You hate him and want to be your own God! That’s why you don’t believe!” Sigh. Yes, because everybody who claims to not believe in Santa Claus actually knows, deep down, that Santa is real and vehemently hates him. Because everybody who claims to not believe in Allah actually knows of his existence, but hates him desperately and is only pretending to not believe. All that aside, many of the people I’ve met told stories of deep sorrow and much weeping at the loss of faith, as though mourning for an old friend who died. As Chuck Templeton, who once was Billy Graham’s best friend and fellow evangelist, said after losing his religion, “I miss Jesus.” That’s right, some of us still miss Jesus, we wish the good parts of the story could be real, and only reluctantly admit that we don’t think they are. There is no hatred. When asked “if there was a good and loving God who revealed himself to humanity, would you rebel and hate him?” every single church drop out I’ve met says “never, what on earth for?! I’d like to meet him, but where is he?”
4) Think it’s true but are just too lazy
This whole argument rests on the premise that anyone who leaves the church or the faith is simply “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” because they couldn’t handle it. It’s similar to thinking that someone can stop believing that gravity works because their physics class was too hard. It’s utterly preposterous, and generally comes from someone sporting a holier-than-thou attitude, who just knows that you can’t have tried as hard as they have, because they have all their answer figured out. Surely if you were as committed as they, you would agree with them on everything. Alas, not only is the theory behind this premise severely lacking, so too is any real evidence of it from my experience as an exile in the post-evangelical wasteland. Nobody that I have spoken with had a faith crisis because they just didn’t try hard enough.
5) Think its true but are too hurt by people in the church
This is the most common motive I have heard ascribed, it’s as if some people simply must label me with something, lest they accidentally believe my real story. In any case, I will admit that certainly there are people in churches (as well as outside) that can be rude, unkind, and hurtful. And of course that can influence people to leave one church for another. That said, it’s highly unlikely that someone would abandon a religion they believe to be the ultimate truth because some (or even many) people in that religion are rude. To do so, a person would have be at the height of insanity, for they would have to knowingly accept the eternal torture of hell, forever, just because people were rude to them. Another variation of this (one I’ve heard quite a few times) is “you’re just upset because they didn’t give you a role.” I honestly cannot fathom how deranged a person would have to be to knowingly reject a religion they believed was true (and thereby sign up for eternal hell) because they didn’t get to lead Sunday school.
Here is why we did leave our religion
1) Sincerely don’t think it’s true, started with disillusionment by the dogmatic structure
In my conversations some said they began to question their faith after seeing that the structure of the church is very antithetical to questions. They saw religious people were very hostile to those asking the kinds of questions that curious skeptics and seekers like to ask, and in fact church authorities seemed overly aggressive in denouncing those who think differently. Wondering about why these authorities were so harsh and could not handle uncertainty began a journey of questioning those dogmatic answers, which culminated in reluctantly finding insurmountable problems in the traditional religious narrative.
2) Sincerely don’t think it’s true, started with disappointment in people
A small number (this is by far the smallest group) mentioned that it was seeing the actions of people who claimed to be devout believers that started sowing doubt about the whole endeavor. Though not even one person said they specifically left religion simply because Christians were disappointing, but rather that this began the process of critical thinking in their minds. Seeing the hypocrisy of believers made them wonder “if these people claim so loudly to be perfectly right about religion, but act so wrong, can I really trust them?” As a result these people began to inquire into their religious history,reading books, and critically examining what was taught to them.
3) Sincerely don’t think it’s true, started with higher education
The largest group of people (probably 1/3 to 1/2) said it was pursuing higher education that started their journey. Interestingly, for a handful it was actually education at various Christian colleges. This in fact correlates very well with large scale statistics that have shown that each year of schooling “reduces the propensity to attend religious services at least once a month by about 14 percentage points” (1). While this certainly does not prove the validity of any belief, it shows that somehow modern education reduces religiosity, take that as you will. In my personal experiences, the people who left the church because of education stated that what they were learning created cognitive dissonance with their religious views, they had to pick some theological dogma versus an empirical observation (i.e. biological evolution, geology/age of the earth, psychology, history, etc) and that made them start asking difficult questions about their faith.
4) Sincerely don’t think it’s true, started with the Bible
Reading the Bible is my personal reason for leaving the church. Close to a dozen people that I have talked with have also reported this as being the most important and influential factor in their journey. In my purely anecdotal experience, it seems that most of these people, including myself, were overly devout (many were or wanted to be preachers/pastors/etc). For us, it was reading the biblical texts with extreme reverence and dedication, especially those passages that people really tend to avoid spurred our critical analysis of the religion we held very dear. In my own case, reading the Bible and noticing numerous contradictions, scientific errors, and morally reprehensible actions and commands that pulled the rug out from underneath me. I very reluctantly gave up my dearest friend, my faith, only when I exerted every attempt in apologetics to defend the things I was reading in the Bible. I simply could not dishonestly placate my emotions by fallacious apologetic arguments; I sincerely love truth, and would be willing to believe in anything, as long as there is good justification and evidence, but not without it, and especially not against it.
5) Sincerely don’t think it’s true, started with critical thinking
The four groups above are composed of people whose first step was a catalyst for intellectual examination of religion, yet for a moderately sized group this was the starting point. This group includes some people who have been irreligious for a very long time and made their decisions from a fairly young age. Some mentioned that as far back as they can think, they have always been skeptical because the stories they heard of things that can’t be seen, never made sense. Others started down this journey only in their mid-twenties and thirties after beginning read and think about philosophy. Overall this group of people have the most “organic” story with nothing besides rational reflection sparking their critical examination of religion.
Most people who leave Christianity have very good reasons for concluding that it is based on myths, exaggerations, false claims, and false promises. It is usually not because they were insulted or they didn’t like the pastor or anything of that nature. Those are convenient excuses for people who do not want to face the fact that their faith is hanging by a thread.
(3504) Christian idolatry
Although the Hebrew scriptures strictly forbid the worship of an image or a physical representation of God, the Christian faith has a long history of doing just that. This non-biblical practice appears to be of pagan influence and provides evidence that the Christian faith is not (as they like to claim) intrinsically connected to its Jewish roots. The following was taken from:
The 2nd commandment clearly states:
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them
Absolutely nothing that is in heaven, be it god, angel, saint or the garden of Eden, can be represented in any images and worshiped. It doesn’t say “anything above in heaven, except for ME, the God.”
No where in the Bible does god or Jesus suggests that people should create images of them and pray to them.
Some of the quotes that i got online about the Bible’s description of idolatry.
“The first allusion to idolatry is in the account of Rachel stealing her father’s teraphim (Genesis 31:19), which were the relics of the worship of other gods by Laban’s progenitors “on the other side of the river in old time” (Joshua 24:2). During their long residence in Egypt the Hebrews fell into idolatry, and it was long before they were delivered from it (Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 20:7). Many a token of God’s displeasure fell upon them because of this sin.”
“The extermination of the Canaanites was the punishment of their idolatry, and that the calamities of the Israelites were due to the same cause (Jeremiah 2:17). “A city guilty of idolatry was looked upon as cancer in the state; it was considered to be in rebellion, and treated according to the laws of war. Its inhabitants and all their cattle were put to death.”
The Golden Calf sin.
“When Moses went up into Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24:12–18), he left the Israelites for forty days and nights. The Israelites feared that he would not return and demanded that Aaron make them “a god to go before them”. Aaron gathered up the Israelites’ golden earrings and ornaments, constructed a “molten calf” and they declared: “‘This is thy god, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 32:1–4 “
Yet today, Christians, especially Catholics, use many images of god and worship as if it is normal and part of the regular worship rituals.
First and foremost, Jesus being the representation of god in human form. According to the Hebrew text, and this may or may not be the same in the Bible, god can not be portrayed to have any form. Not only is Jesus represented as god in the bible, but his modern representation in images of him on the cross, Jesus statuettes, continues to be part of Christianity today. Every Easter service, the pope kisses the feet of the baby Jesus ceramic doll, which is the worship of an idol. And then there are numerous saints depicted in stained glass in churches or as icons in the Orthodox church. The statues of the Virgin Mary and other saints are also images of worship and are also idols.
In the contrast between Christianity and Judaism, Judaism has not a single object of worship.
It makes little sense that if God is real, and if he really has a problem with idols, then why didn’t Jesus make a definitive statement endorsing the Old Testament rules about worshiping idols? Just one clear quote from Jesus in the gospels would have done the trick, and Christianity would have been devoid of idolatry.
(3505) Jesus, the pederast
There is some evidence that Jesus, assuming he was a unique human, was a pederast, or a man who engages in sexual activity with boys. This is supported by some scriptural references as well as the conventional milieu of his time. The following was taken from:
Evidence suggests that Jesus Christ may have been a pederast.
Jesus was a Galilean Jew. His ancestors may have moved from Judea to Galilee some time after Astribolus I annexed Galilee (along with part of Ituria) to the Hasmonian kingdom in 105 b.c. Or, his ancestors may have been among those local residents who were circumcised and converted to Judaism.
Galileans may have been more influenced by Greek and Roman cultures and ideas, than were the Judeans. Sepphoris—a primarily Jewish city near Nazareth–had a Roman theater, bath-houses and mosaic floors with human figures. Jesus preached in the Decapolis, which was largely inhabited by the descendants of Gentile Greek settlers.
At the time of Jesus, Judeans recognized Galileans by their hick Aramaic accents, and possibly low levels of concern about some of the details of Jewish observance (for example, the rules of Sabbath rest).
Jesus may have taken this a step further, and, in Mark 7, basically says that you can go ahead and eat meats that were forbidden to Jews (including, presumably, pork). In Matthew 19, Jesus makes the rather astounding statement that “there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” This contrasts sharply with the traditional Jewish teaching of Deuteronomy 23: “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.” Jesus must have been giving a nod to the worship of the Phrygian goddess Cybele, which had been incorporated into the state religious practices of Rome, and which included eunuch priests (called gallī).
In intellectual Greek circles, pederasty between a teacher and a pupil was common, and possibly expected. From Plato’s Symposium: “I know not any greater blessing to a young man who is beginning life than a virtuous lover, or to the lover than a beloved youth.”
In Mark 14: “And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him. And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.” This was after Jesus’ other disciples had already forsaken him and fled, on the morning of his arrest.
The gospel of Mark was originally written in Greek. A great teacher enjoying a night with a naked pupil would not have garnered much attention to a Greek audience. The verse appears more-or-less out of the blue, without further background information or explanation given. It doesn’t appear that the author was concerned about covering up something that might arouse the suspicion of pederasty.
Clerical pederasty has been exposed recently as one of the more sordid features of Christianity. Paul was an asexual, and recommended heterosexual marriage for those who absolutely could not contain. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he states that a church leader should have a wife. Paul’s distaste for fornication, effeminacy and “abusers of themselves with mankind” seems contrary to the prevailing attitudes of Hellenistic and Roman culture, which profoundly influenced Jesus.
While Paul would have disapproved, Jesus may have been more of a libertine, and less of a stick-in-the-mud, than that for which he is usually credited. He turned water into wine, and knew how to have a good time. Probably he engaged in at least a bit of pederasty with some of his pupils, without the shame attendant upon modern practitioners who worship him. Possibly, just before his arrest.
If indeed Jesus was influenced by Greek customs, being in Galilee and sheltered away from the more conservative morality of Judea, then it is possible that he took a more libertine view of sexual activity. The surprising hint of this (the naked boy) in the Book of Mark has perplexed and worried Christian apologists who realize that a pederast savior will not fit into their conventional dogma. This is just another stray piece that does not fit easily into the Christian puzzle.
(3506) Walking on water versus flying
We learn from Acts 1:9-10 that Jesus had the capability of flight as he lifted off the earth and disappeared behind a cloud. Then we learn from the gospels (minus Luke, curiously) that Jesus could walk on water. In the following, it is wondered why the gospel authors did not have Jesus take flight to rescue the sinking Peter, who had lost his faith, or, otherwise, ever use flight at any other times:
Jesus walks on water in Matthew 14:22-33 and also in Mark 6:45-52 and John 6:16-21. In Mark and John, however, the reference to the apostle Peter walking on water is not included.
Which begs the question, if he was walking on water does he literally stand on every ripple and every small wave lifts him up and every larger wave throws him upward because his feet don’t penetrate the top surface of the water? Or is it like the movies where the actor is smoothly walking on a glass cat walk just below the surface of the waves because his feet magically know exactly how far to sink in to maintain balance.
Aren’t both examples of a man flying or at least hovering with wet feet? And if so why not just fly over to the boat superman style and scoop up Peter like Lois Lane? Why do the anonymous writers of the Bible stop at walking on water and not call it flying or hovering when that would be so much cooler of a tale? If all scenarios are equally unbelievable why stop there?
Given all of the mythical-laded stories about Jesus, it is surprising that the gospel authors did not have Jesus flying to the top of the mountain for his sermon, to avoid the crowds who were endangering him, to avoid being arrested in the garden, or simply as a demonstration of this godly powers.
(3507) Modern-day Christianity is a heresy
If any Christian of the early 1st Century could be brought back to life and then enter Christian churches or even read the entire New Testament, especially the Gospel of John, they would cringe at the way that that Christians after their time had turned Jesus into a god. That would have been a blasphemous concept to them. Morphing Jesus into a god took place several generations after Jesus and was certainly not the doctrine that Jesus taught or believed in himself. The following was taken from:
The heresy of modern day Christianity happened like a game of telephone or gossip, constantly stretching the truth with time. Jesus was not God but became God.
They say the only difference between religion and a cult is time. In the time of Jesus and shortly after his life he was not meant to be God and never said he was God. But by the time the book of John was written and 2000 years later, Christians strongly assert Jesus as some kind of man/God being.
Christians say the Bible is God inspired. So in the OT/Tanakh, Yhwh says the day he showed himself in Horeb, he had no form. He was neither male nor female. And we are forbidden from ever equating him as such or as a human. He does not even take the form of a human. The Bible ends up saying the man that Jacob wrestled with was an angel and not actually God, himself. In the chapter that God says he isn’t human, he goes on to say that if anyone ever comes to show us a God other than that one shown, we will die for believing in them. So 400+ years later, Jesus comes.
In the book of Mark that i will conservatively date to 30 years after the death of Jesus, Mark doesn’t equate Jesus as being God. Mark says Jesus was baptized and at this point, he is anointed and the spirit fills Jesus. Jesus isn’t even able to do miracles if the spirit is not willing. Jesus family thinks he must have gone crazy in Mark 3. Jesus makes the claim that he is the Jewish messiah and the son of God. It is important to note that son of God is used for mortals throughout the Old Testament but doesn’t mean the literal divine son of God. And the messiah does not mean a divine being but a king , only.
In Matthew, Jesus is born to a virgin and is a divine being. This is about 40 years after Jesus was gone so in 10 years and with a faulty translation of Isaiah 7:14, the writer thinks the messiah is meant to be born to a virgin. But in this book, Jesus is still baptized and filled with the spirit. His family doesn’t think he has gone mad in this book, because they were told by an angel that Jesus would be divine in the beginning. The game of telephone has stretched truth a bit in the 10 years between mark and matthew. A woman calls Jesus , “good” and Jesus says, “no one BUT God is good”. Now would a man who was God say this? No, they would not. So even within 40 years after the death of Jesus, he still isn’t God.
The book of John which is dated to 90 years after the death of Jesus, the writer says Jesus makes the claim of being God. There is no birth, no baptism, Jesus is all God. The writer quoted Jesus as saying , “i am”. But in 90 years, you can’t quite quote Jesus as have saying this. These are all anonymous works and the writers are not quite credible in the first place, and it’s important to note that they are writing Jesus as being whom they see him as. The biggest question i always ask myself is, “why did it take almost a century to turn Jesus into God?”. The book of John, it isn’t even all about being the messiah anymore, at this point , that isn’t important anymore since Jesus is God.
In Philippians, it tells us Jesus is over all other beings but NOT God. In Hebrews it tells us God put Jesus over all of his, “companions”. Someone whom was God or equal to God wouldn’t need to be placed over any companions. Jesus also says several times he is sent to do the will of God, he has power through God, and does works through God. Anyone whom was God wouldn’t need power nor would they be doing the will of God.
We know early Christians didn’t see Jesus as God nor having equal power with God. You have to remember for Jews this is blasphemy, and they wouldn’t of ever equated a messiah or man with God because God has already rejected this. 2000 years later, christians have disregarded everything Yhwh said, they have disregarded Jesus striking down being God, they have disregarded that early Christians didn’t think Jesus was God. When people have faith and are heavily indoctrinated, they tend to overlook the text and read with eyes that will distort things to be what they were taught or want them to be. The bulk of the Bible, Jesus flat out isn’t God. Modern day Christianity is not only heresy to ancient Christianity, it’s blasphemy and they have chosen to believe a man could ever be God. Christians have chose to serve a mortal man over God. We could get into whom the Jewish messiah was and how Jesus failed & how no sacrifice was ever once needed, but for today i think it’s important to note that even if Jesus was a messenger or angelic being, he is not God. When God says he is God and God alone, he didn’t say he was God and God alone… with a trinity. God and the Holy Spirit are present from day one, Jesus is present 400 years later. Yhwh has strict rules in the OT but Christians expect us to believe that a man can come and fulfill these & offer a sacrifice that was never even an issue for Yhwh. I was indoctrinated to believe these things but i thankfully learned the truth of why the Christian religion is a farce. God is not a MAN that he should lie… so when he said he doesn’t take human form, he didn’t change or “reveal” Jesus.
This problem is a death blow to Christianity. If modern-day Christian dogma (Jesus=God) is true, then Jesus would have taught it to his disciples and followers, and it would have been a staple of Christian thought, sayings, and scripture from the very start, not something that would emerge decades later.
(3508) God is a terrible parent
God, or more accurately the fictional being invented by Iron Age people, is a terrible parent. He exhibits the traits that would be considered abominable if practiced by present-day parents. The following was taken from:
But there’s a deeper problem that lies with the nature of the deity they worship: He is a terrible parent who shows no awareness or respect for personal boundaries of any kind. Try to imagine putting any number of his personality traits into a real human being and you’ll see what I mean.
Dysfunctional parents place unrealistic expectations on their children, as if they were born already knowing what they’re supposed to do. Viewing their offspring as extensions of themselves, they relate to children like they’re adults, reprimanding them whenever they cannot exhibit the fully-formed skill sets of an experienced grown-up.
Imagine a preschooler proudly showing off a drawing she just made only to have her father tear it up and throw it in the trash because it wasn’t any good. He deserves nothing but the best and he won’t be satisfied with anything less than perfection.
Does that sound too harsh for the Christian God? Maybe you’ve forgotten the Bible says that even our best deeds are like used menstrual rags to him. Classy thing to say, right? It manages to invalidate all human progress while simultaneously disparaging half the population for having healthy reproductive systems.
The Christian faith infantilizes us only to turn around and try us as adults.
Bad parents also fail to distinguish between their own needs and the needs of their children, while good parents encourage independence. How do you suppose the God of Christianity would score on those traits on a personality test?
As a father to four daughters, I can tell you that my goal will always be to see them become more of who they are without anyone else telling them who that should be. I adore watching their strengths develop and I celebrate their successes wherever they occur because I know they’re learning just how much they can achieve.
But that’s not how the God of Christianity relates to us at all. Take a few moments to sample the songs they taught us in church and you’ll soon discover that dependence is the goal of that faith, not independence. Sure, you’re supposed to do things, but at every step of the way you are to give credit to Someone Else for whatever you pull off, insisting you were unable to accomplish anything on your own.
This is not a healthy relationship.
This is another of those problems that Christianity possesses that would not exist if the religion was being created today. If that were the case, God would have been described to possess those traits currently considered to be ethical and moral. He would be fashioned to be an exemplary parent that all earthly parents should emulate. Instead, the biblical god is a product of its time and a template for how any modern-day mother or father should not behave. They call him ‘Father’ while hoping their own fathers behave very differently.
(3509) Christians mangling scripture to service their delusions
Once Christianity had broken away from Judaism, there was a concerted effort to mine the Old Testament to prove that their interpretation of God’s plan was superior to the standard Jewish view. So much of this effort was to find scriptures that would show that Jesus and his passion was predicted by the Hebrew scriptures, thereby legitimizing Christianity as God’s religion (that thereby had replaced Judaism). The following was taken from:
There are around 10 verses in the Jewish Bible that make direct reference to person of the Messiah. Most messianic prophecies refer to the messianic era, rather than the actual messiah. He simply is not referenced very much. This is because the Messiah is not nearly as important in Judaism as are the events that will take place during his reign. Christians have inverted this and made him the main focus. They point to supposed messianic prophecies all throughout each book of the OT. This is because, to a Christian, almost anything can be a Messianic prophecy if you imagine hard enough.
This is my argument. If you’re looking for my argument, it’s right here:
Christians do not have a set of criteria by which they can identify or exclude any given verse as being a messianic prophecy other than, “Does it sound like Jesus” or, more commonly, “Can I find a way to make it sound like Jesus”.
This is why almost any OT verse cited by a Christian as being messianic is either taken out of context, mistranslated, or, most often, heavily or totally reliant on metaphor and innuendo. These non-messianic verses are then used as part of a circular argument to prove that Jesus is the Messiah.
Here is an example of what I’m talking about: A classic example of only using, “can I make it sound like Jesus” as your criteria is John 19:36. The author notes that none of Jesus’ bones were broken, and then declares that this happened to fulfill scripture. That scripture is Exodus 12:46. Not only is this not a messianic prophecy, it’s not a prophecy at all. Exodus 12:46 contains instructions on how to kill and eat the paschal lamb. This is a clear case of taking a verse out of context. The verse has literally nothing to do with the messiah. Even the paschal lamb itself was not a sacrifice to atone for sin. It had nothing do to with sin, making it a terrible foreshadower of Jesus. Let’s not forget that the previous two sentences were instructions on how to eat the sacrifice. Obviously, Christians don’t think that part of the verse is a prophecy or applies to Jesus in any way. Finally, the verse in John is not even an accurate quote. Exodus says, “Do not break any of the bones”. John says, “A bone of him shall not be broken”. This isn’t the most egregious paraphrase in the NT, but it definitely makes it sound like a prophecy by adding the word “him” and phrasing it like a prediction, rather than an instruction. But hey, he found a way to make it sound like Jesus. And since Christians already “know” that he’s the messiah, any verse that sounds like him is a potential messianic prophecy, regardless of how little the verse has to do with the messiah or whether it is a prophecy in the first place.
The artifice of the gospel authors is plain to see, as they searched for, stretched, misinterpreted, misquoted, and took scriptures out of context in order to make it look like the Jesus story was in God’s plan all along. Any scriptural scholar cannot miss the fact that this duplicity is ingrained in the New Testament, and that it provides significant counter-evidence to the truth of Christianity.
(3510) Brilliantly-designed con game
When it comes to the hiddenness of god, combined with the splintering of the sects, as well as the lucrative business model, it easy to see that Christianity is a classical human-created enterprise designed to ensnare people through fear, give them lots of ‘flavors’ to choose from, and then rape them of their riches. The following was taken from:
This worship-craving God could clarify its intentions and conclusively prove its existence to skeptics at will, increasing its follower count to nearly everyone, yet curiously chooses not to, then tortures those who make the wrong choice forever. The entire premise reads like a story fabricated to motivate people to join.
Prospective followers can shop for belief systems and choose from among many, while still believing they are maintaining continuity with the religion they were indoctrinated into because they call it, “Christian.” They can choose from many different immutable wills of the one true God that best suits their lifestyle.
Preachers can start their own (tax free!) business/denomination and exchange charismatic speeches, falsifiable promises regarding the afterlife, and emotional catharsis, for elevated wealth and social status. This appeal to popularity has led to belief systems that go completely against the source material, like prosperity gospel.
It’s absurd and counter-intuitive unless one presumes this belief system is creation of men, not gods. Then, these behaviors all make perfect sense.
The business model of Christianity is quite exquisite- it scares people by creating the fear of hell, then provides lots of different versions of the faith from which to choose, and then takes their money, all the while saying that the big ‘payoff’ will be after they die. Suckers are born every day.
(3512) As humans grow softer, so do our gods
Throughout human history, it can be viewed that the gods reflect the current state of the people who invented them. As time moved on, the gods became more compassionate, less egotistical, and more benign, reflecting similar changes in civilization. Unfortunately for Christianity, its god was created at a relatively barbaric time and place. The following was taken from:
If there’s one thing I learned about the God of Christianity from my days in church, it’s that God is a needy Object of worship who does not like to share his place of importance with anyone else. His number one rule when he was in a rule-giving mood was that you should have no other objects of worship but him, and I don’t see any change in that exceptionalism from the old covenant to the new.
That happens to be a huge problem for a country designed to show no favoritism toward one religion over another.
To be sure, there are healthier versions of this deity out there in the world, but unfortunately, those are never the ones that sell. The ones who fare the best in a competitive global marketplace are the ones who treat you the worst and expect the most praise in return for it. I wish it weren’t that way, but it is.
The gods we worship reflect the kind of people we are, so it shouldn’t surprise us that so many of them are dysfunctional and maladjusted. We construct these supreme beings out of our own felt needs, which goes a long way toward explaining why the older ones are so brutish and the newer ones are so genteel. As humans grow softer, so do our gods.
The fact that gods seem to follow along with (not ahead of) human civilization, showing no evolved traits that exceed those of their creators, indicates that they are man-mad myths. It could have been different. If the Christian god was real, it could have shaken up things by declaring that women should be see an equals to men, that slavery was wrong, and that homosexuals should be accepted in society. It may be true that such a faith would have met much resistance early on, but by today it would provide evidence that it could have originated from a divine source.
(3512) The torturer dilemma
The following essay demonstrates that the Christian defense of the presence of evil, using the concept of non-interference with free will, is not valid:
The Free Will Defense states that it is logically possible for god to allow evil to exist. The reason for this is because god values a world where people have the free will to choose between good and evil. God cannot create a world where there is freedom and no choice to do evil, which is a logical impossibility.
Many apologists accept that the FWD is an effective answer against the Logical Problem of Evil and is one of the most common responses to the LPOE. But I don’t think this is the case at all. This rebuttal is intended to show the logical contradiction between a god who values free will and the existence of moral evils inflicted on other people. I’m probably not the first to come up with this argument, but here goes.
SCENARIO: A sadistic torturer kidnaps someone and locks them away in a dungeon, where the victim is locked in chains and flogged.
In a scenario such as this, god has two (and only two) options on how he can respond to such a situation. God can either…
1-Let the victim be tortured.
2-Rescue the victim.
God choosing either one of these options would be logically problematic.
Let’s look at the first choice: god lets the victim be tortured. According to proponents of the FWD, they believe that it is acceptable for god to stay out of such a situation for the sake of free will. But what about the free will of the victim? If god is omnipotent and considered “the greatest possible being”, then he should be powerful enough to save the victim from their suffering. Since he has the power to stop the torture but refuses to exercise it, he thus chooses to allow the victim’s free will to be restricted, which contradicts the claim that god cares about people having free will.
The same problem arises if the second option is chosen: god chooses to rescue the victim. If god decides to save the victim (regardless of how he does it), then he is restricting the torturer’s free will by depriving him of the choice to torture his victim, which also contradicts the claim that god cares about people having free will.
Escaping the Dilemma
In both outcomes, god chooses to save someone’s free will at the expense of someone else’s, both of which cannot be reconciled with the belief that there exists a god who values free will. To escape this contradiction, there are two solutions:
The first solution is to accept that no gods exist.
The second solution is to assume the existence of a deistic sort of god. Deism states that god is not involved nor interested in human affairs. Therefore, how humans use their free will is of no importance to him.
Based on multiple examples of people being tortured, it is a near certainty that if the Christian god exists, he places a higher priority on the free will of the torturer than on the person being tortured. Or, alternatively, there is no god, and, in most cases, the torturer has the upper hand in the power struggle with his victim.
(3513) Christians placate their cognitive dissonance
It has been a time-honored tradition that when new knowledge interferes with a literal understanding of the Bible, Christians, rather than questioning their beliefs, invent an explanation that shoehorns that knowledge into a new figurative view of the scriptures. This is the precise method by which people fail to grow in wisdom. The following was taken from:
Then there’s Jesus. There is absolutely no contemporaneous evidence that Jesus – at least as he is described in the gospels – ever existed. For someone who stirred up so much controversy and performed miracles in front of thousands of people, it’s rather odd that no one seemed to notice. The only records of his existence appeared decades later in the gospel narratives. We don’t have the original gospel manuscripts, but we do have many, many copies – and the copies are filled with errors, omissions and additions.
Why is this a big deal? There’s always the view that the Bible doesn’t have to be literally true, and that it doesn’t have to be inerrant. I think most Christians hold just such a view. Over at the Christian blog Wide as the Waters, Jack Hudson wrote a post where he talked about the historicity of the Old Testament. He makes an important claim:
There were no archeological controversies over ancient Greek or Roman religious beliefs because they were never understood to be historical in nature – they didn’t pretend to be. We don’t talk about Hindu archeology or Buddhist archeology because those religions are not reliant upon historical facts. None of these religions even pretends to be the product of a set of events that occurred in a particular time and place in history; only vague references to certain individuals whose actual existence is unimportant to the belief system. Biblical belief however is definitively set in a particular places and times and concerns certain individuals. [link]
Exactly. The Bible is rooted in historical claims – so since we have overwhelming evidence that many of those historical claims are false, it creates real problems for Christian theology. Were it not for the progress of science, Christians would believe all these stories to be literally true. It’s only in the face of science that Christians change their tune and say, “Oh, but of course that scripture was never intended to be taken literally!” The obvious problem is that Christians have no independent means of discerning which parts of the Bible should be taken as historical, and which should not. Science does the work for them, and they subsequently alter their theology to make it fit the facts.
This is already evident with the non-existence of Adam and Eve. Biologos has an article on it, and this is what they say:
One option is to view Adam and Eve as a historical pair living among many 10,000 years ago, chosen to represent the rest of humanity before God. Another option is to view Genesis 2-4 as an allegory in which Adam and Eve symbolize the large group of ancestors who lived 150,000 years ago. Yet another option is to view Genesis 2-4 as an “everyman” story, a parable of each person’s individual rejection of God.
In other words, just make shit up. I sincerely wonder how Christians can do this to themselves. When the facts reveal their theology as untenable, they don’t reject their theology – they just alter it with speculative nonsense to placate their cognitive dissonance. Why spend so much effort rationalizing beliefs for which there is no evidence?
Looking into the future, Christians will probably invent new rationalization when the mechanics of abiogenesis are discovered, or when the origin of the universe is shown to have a natural cause. Just recently, we saw the nonsense used to refute the scientific dating of the Shroud of Turin (shown to have been produced in the14th Century). As Christians continue to placate their cognitive dissonance by constructing far-out rationalizations, the rest of humanity will stand in awe observing how humans can be so intransigently married to their cherished beliefs
(3514) Text migration
Biblical scholars have found instances where scribes inadvertently introduced errors by ‘cutting and pasting’ scriptures in the wrong place. One of these slip-ups occurred in the following scripture:
Now after Rachel had given birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me on my way so I can return to my homeland. Give me my wives and children for whom I have served you, that I may go on my way. You know how hard I have worked for you.”
But Laban replied, “If I have found favor in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that the LORD has blessed me because of you.”
The following was taken from:
Did Biblical Authors Literally Cut and Paste? A Review of <em>The Dismembered Bible</em> by Idan Dershowitz
Dershowitz’s third example is taken from Genesis 30:25–28 — particularly the awkward statement in verse 27 spoken by Laban to Jacob. The phrase “if I have found favor in your sight” should be followed by a request, just as it is the other fourteen times it occurs in the Bible. Here, however, it is followed by a remark about divination:
Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your sight, I have learned by divination that the LORD has blessed me on your account.”
Dershowitz suggests that the proper location for the phrase “if I have found favor in your sight” is in Jacob’s speech in verse 25:
Jacob said to Laban,“If I have found favor in your sight, send me off, that I may go to my home and my country.”
If the editor was composing this passage from two source texts, as scholars generally believe, then the cut-and-paste method would explain how the snippet containing “If I have found favor in your sight” was accidentally appended to “Laban said to him” instead of “Jacob said to Laban”. Those two phrases look very similar in Hebrew (more so than in English), as they both start and end with the same words. Otherwise, it is difficult to explain how an editor would deliberately write that phrase in the position we find it now.
Christians believe that God inspired the authors of the Bible, but if that is true, why wouldn’t he also ensure that copyists would faithfully reproduce his inspired words. This and other examples belie that assumption and provide further evidence that the Bible is strictly a human project.
(3515) Cookie or a cure
The way that most Christians treat their faith is a sure sign that they see it as strictly a personal rather than a universal truth. The following analogy explains how this is manifested:
I sometimes ask Christian students if they would be willing to follow me into the streets of the nearest big city to try to convince people that chocolate chip cookies are the best cookies in the world. Unsurprisingly, students aren’t usually excited about going. When asked, they quickly admit that it seems pointless to try to convince people of something as subjective as a personal opinion about cookies. They recognize that cookie preference is a matter of subjective opinion, rather than objective truth, and none of them are typically willing to go out of their way to argue for an opinion.
I then ask students if they would be willing to follow me into a region of the city that is suffering from a Tuberculosis outbreak to convince those infected with TB to take the one known cure, Isoniazid. All the students I ask find this to be a worthy effort; they are willing to help for a cause such as this. They recognize the difference between the cookie and the cure. Cookies are a matter of subjective opinion, but cures are a matter of objective truth. If people suffering with TB don’t know about the cure, they’ll die. Personal opinions about Isoniazid are irrelevant. Some TB sufferers might, for example, prefer to take Ibuprofen. But the objective truth about TB and Isoniazid overshadows any opinion someone might hold about their favorite treatment. Cures are like that. When we are objectively convinced that a particular treatment is the exclusive cure for what is ailing us, we ignore our preferences and act quickly to save ourselves and share the truth with others.
There is a relationship between our categorization of Christian claims and our desire to share them with the world around us. Some of us hesitate to share the Gospel because (whether we care to admit it or not) we’ve come to see religious truth as a matter of subjective opinion rather than objective truth. We treat the Gospel more as a cookie than a cure.
This situation exists for one major reason- the evidence for the truth of Christianity is too scant for most Christians to see it as being a universal truth that affects (and, more importantly, imperils) everybody. If the evidence were at a more convincing level, we would see much more evangelism being practiced by the average Christian. Thus, an alien arriving by spaceship and observing the behavior of Christians would reasonably assume that Christianity is unlikely to be true.
(3516) God is a bad CEO
It is a reasonable assumption that if a deity-based religion is true, then it would have the advantage of being managed by a supernatural force, or god, of company of gods. Unlike human-created religions which would be expected to splinter and divide at a steady pace, the true religion would be collimated throughout its history because its god would ensure the lasting purity of the one true, universal faith.
This is a test that Christianity fails. We are being asked by Christian apologists to believe that their God is all-powerful and that his religion is Christianity. In effect, he is the chief executive officer (CEO) of the church, and so has the capability to shape the leaders of the faith to ensure that they correctly interpret his intentions.
So if God is the CEO of Christianity, he is doing a miserable job. There is way too much division, disagreement, factions, argumentation, name-calling, and internecine violence being perpetrated by his alleged followers. This is not the work of a competent CEO. A good CEO ensures that his employees work together in unison to produce a consistent product.
The only way for an apologist to address this problem is to proclaim that their denomination is the one true faith, and that God is willing otherwise to let the wayward sects wither in the wind. But why would God allow such confusion? The final conclusion is that if Christianity was true, there would be no Christian denominations, just one church exhibiting a lasting and pristine unity.
(3517) What would Jesus do?
Christians often ask themselves ‘What would Jesus do?’ when confronted with an important decision. But God has not made this judgment easy, by forcing Christians to scour ancient and often conflicting scriptures to try to ferret out an answer. The following was taken from:
This is an often-asked question by Christian believers. Usually, the answer they provide to their own question is a preachy sermon, extolling the wonderfulness of Jesus and the religion that is named after him. Or, it’s used to justify some action that an individual intends to take anyway.
I stumbled upon a piece recently that had a refreshing take on this perennial question. The author is a devout Christian believer, but he skewers Christians who ask this question and then prattle on about it.
The main point he makes is that Jesus (allegedly) lived two thousand years ago, and the world has changed just a bit since then. Trying to apply his teachings to situations that arise in the modern world is usually a waste of time. As the author says:
“So, when we ask ‘what would Jesus do?’ I think we miss the point if we are literally looking for something in his life that validates whatever we are about to do. It reminds me of that anti-vaxxer who went viral with her idiotic shirt about how Jesus didn’t get vaccinated. Well, duh! There’s thousands of things Jesus didn’t do that we do today.
But that’s beside the point.
”MAtthew Distefano in ‘Reframing the Question “What Would Jesus Do?”’
He also makes the point that most Christians dodge and weave around: What Jesus are we talking about? What version of the Bible? The accounts of his life differ significantly among them.
Does that mean I’m going to get a WWJD bracelet any time soon? Not a chance. I’m not really into pithy little Christian sayings. But for those who do ask this question on a daily basis, I hope this can help frame things a little better. Jesus was not a modern person, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be into solving modern problems with modern solutions should he come back today. I think he would be in favor of curbing climate change. I think he would support the Black Lives Matter movement. I think he would be in favor of LGBTQ affirmation. I think he would be against all wars, including the dreadful Drug War. But maybe that’s just the Jesus I want to believe in because these are the things that matter to me. Then again, maybe that’s exactly what Jesus would want from me.
This brings out the problem that God has not updated his holy scriptures for almost 2000 years and much has changed since them. Back then there was no gene therapy, no birth control, no campaign for gay, women’s, or animal rights, no all-encompassing environmental issues, no weapons of mass destruction, as well as no thousands of variants of ‘Jesus’ religion.’ So, what would Jesus do? We simply don’t know.
(3518) System 1 vs. System 2 thinking
Research has revealed that human thinking broadly falls within one of two systems of cognition- one that works quickly and is based in easy-to-follow rules (System 1) and a more thoughtful process that requires more time and effort (System 2). What they discovered is that when study participants were encouraged to use System 2 thinking, their belief in religion was diminished. The following was taken from:
Gervais and Norenzayan’s research is based on the idea that we possess two different ways of thinking that are distinct yet related. Understanding these two ways, which are often referred to as System 1 and System 2, may be important for understanding our tendency towards having religious faith. System 1 thinking relies on shortcuts and other rules-of-thumb while System 2 relies on analytic thinking and tends to be slower and require more effort. Solving logical and analytical problems may require that we override our System 1 thinking processes in order to engage System 2. Psychologists have developed a number of clever techniques that encourage us to do this. Using some of these techniques, Gervais and Norenzayan examined whether engaging System 2 leads people away from believing in God and religion.
For example, they had participants view images of artwork that are associated with reflective thinking (Rodin’s The Thinker) or more neutral images (Discobulus of Myron). Participants who viewed The Thinker reported weaker religious beliefs on a subsequent survey. However, Gervais and Norenzayan wondered if showing people artwork might have made the connection between thinking and religion too obvious. In their next two studies, they created a task that more subtly primed analytic thinking. Participants received sets of five randomly arranged words (e.g. “high winds the flies plane”) and were asked to drop one word and rearrange the others in order to create a more meaningful sentence (e.g. “the plane flies high”). Some of their participants were given scrambled sentences containing words associated with analytic thinking (e.g. “analyze,” “reason”) and other participants were given sentences that featured neutral words (e.g. “hammer,” “shoes”). After unscrambling the sentences, participants filled out a survey about their religious beliefs. In both studies, this subtle reminder of analytic thinking caused participants to express less belief in God and religion. The researchers found no relationship between participants’ prior religious beliefs and their performance in the study. Analytic thinking reduced religious belief regardless of how religious people were to begin with.
In a final study, Gervais and Norenzayan used an even more subtle way of activating analytic thinking: by having participants fill out a survey measuring their religious beliefs that was printed in either clear font or font that was difficult to read. Prior research has shown that difficult-to-read font promotes analytic thinking by forcing participants to slow down and think more carefully about the meaning of what they are reading. The researchers found that participants who filled out a survey that was printed in unclear font expressed less belief as compared to those who filled out the same survey in the clear font.
These studies demonstrate yet another way in which our thinking tendencies, many of which may be innate, have contributed to religious faith. It may also help explain why the vast majority of Americans tend to believe in God. Since System 2 thinking requires a lot of effort, the majority of us tend to rely on our System 1 thinking processes when possible. Evidence suggests that the majority of us are more prone to believing than being skeptical. According to a 2005 poll by Gallup, 3 out of every 4 Americans hold at least one belief in the paranormal. The most popular of these beliefs are extrasensory perception (ESP), haunted houses, and ghosts. In addition, the results help explain why some of us are more prone to believe that others. Previous research has found that people differ in their tendency to see intentions and causes in the world. These differences in thinking styles could help explain why some of us are more likely to become believers.
Why and how might analytic thinking reduce religious belief? Although more research is needed to answer this question, Gervais and Norenzayan speculate on a few possibilities. For example, analytic thinking may inhibit our natural intuition to believe in supernatural agents that influence the world. Alternatively, analytic thinking may simply cause us to override our intuition to believe and pay less attention to it. It’s important to note that across studies, participants ranged widely in their religious affiliation, gender, and race. None of these variables were found to significantly relate to people’s behavior in the studies.
Gervais and Norenzayan point out that analytic thinking is just one reason out of many why people may or may not hold religious beliefs. In addition, these findings do not say anything about the inherent value or truth of religious beliefs—they simply speak to the psychology of when and why we are prone to believe. Most importantly, they provide evidence that rather than being static, our beliefs can change drastically from situation to situation, without us knowing exactly why.
It should be evident that belief in something that is true will respond better to System 2 ways of thinking because time-consuming analysis versus rote guidelines generally aligns better with reality. To be sure, religion has exploited System 1 thinking, giving people easy to remember and recite memes (God is good, Jesus is Lord, in everything give thanks) rather than encouraging them to compare religions, analyze biblical text, or become familiar with the historical evolution of their faith. To this end, Christian pastors attempt to restrict their parishioners from using System 2 thinking about their faith. This often takes the form of saying ‘God is mysterious, we will find the answer in heaven’ in response to difficult questions.
(3519) Worship preceded religion
Worship existed before religion and it will live on afterwards. It is an innate human characteristic, and religions latched on to this fact and made their gods infatuated with it as well. The following was taken from:
All recipients of admiration, all persons esteemed, all venerated lovers—get a taste for what it feels like to be worshiped. Nothing elevates the mood better. You can skip through a day of a hundred and one trials when you know someone somewhere adores you.
And adoring someone else is almost as pleasant as being adored. Having an object of regard to lavish one’s praises upon lifts the mood. It’s a giddy thing to pen a poem to your lover’s eyebrow.
Such ‘worship’ may be the height of human disposition. And since religions deal in professed superlatives, worship was absorbed into religions as the ultimate offering to the gods and considered the most excellent state of existence for humanity, an existence projected into a perpetual afterlife of adoration of the gods.
That is, since being adored is the best experience we humans could have, humans imagined adoration must be the best experience the gods could have too—an obvious projection by humanity onto the gods.
But really, as we know, the religious injunction to worship is all about human needs and nothing at all about the gods’ needs. Why would gods need worship?
Do gods require an emotional push to get through a sullen Sunday afternoon? Do gods have ego needs? Do gods have an anemic self-image, a confused identity? Do gods need reasons to smile? Do gods get disheartened and spend their time moping when only one billion of many billions of people adore them? Do gods crave apologies and heart-shaped spiritual candies from their inattentive flocks?
The gods require none of this. It would be enough for gods to contemplate eternal verities tracing through their minds at any given moment of time. A true god would rather ponder a mathematical conundrum than be accosted by the inharmonious din of human singsong.
Worship is a human need, not a God’s. This explains the persistence of worship in the absence of actual deities. Given that Gods and otherworldly entities do not exist, though they have been worshipped by millions of people over thousands of years, we may interpret the felt urgency of worship as a deeply rooted human feature.
But how do we explain the minority of people in every age who escape religious feeling and would rather skip a flat rock on a windless pond than hinge their knees to imaginary idols? Where is a need to worship in the irreligious?
What if we say the urge to worship is the desire for awe?
Maybe, upon scrutiny, the irreligious have their surrogate Gods, their objects of desire, their diamonds in the sky. Didn’t Carl Sagan capitalize the word ‘Nature’ in his books? Maybe everyone, even the atheist, worships in the way of awe. Worship as awe could be a pre-religious and post-religious human impulse. Perhaps everybody alleluias.
Humans have adorned their gods with a human desire, not deeply considering why a god would have no use for such veneration. Worship-seeking gods is a good clue that they don’t exist.
(3520) Map of Africa
The following map presents a problem for the hypothesis that Christianity is true while Islam is false. Over time, a true religion should engulf and infiltrate the false ones making the distribution more or less homogeneous. But if Christianity and Islam are both false, then it would be expected that geographical separation would be sustained even over many centuries based on inherited tradition.
The place of your birth should have nothing to do with your eternal salvation, but if Christianity is true and Islam is false, and if only Christians make it to heaven, then the sheer luck of being born in Southern Africa has eternal consequences. And a god perpetrating such a scheme should be vilified, not worshiped.
(3521) The illogicality of moderate religion
One of the ways that religions such as Christianity have survived into the modern age is that a large number of its followers have modified their faith in a way that allows them to profess their allegiance while at the same time discarding dogma that no longer seems sensible. These ‘moderate’ Christians have their feet dangling in the pool but they never get fully in. In reality, the scriptures don’t allow for this nuanced approach. The following was taken from:
Moderates in every faith are obliged to loosely interpret (or simply ignore) much of their canons in the interests of living in the modern world. No doubt an obscure truth of economics is at work here: societies appear to become considerably less productive whenever large numbers of people stop making widgets and begin killing their customers and creditors for heresy. The first thing to observe about the moderate’s retreat from scriptural literalism is that it draws its inspiration not from scripture but from cultural developments that have rendered many of God’s utterances difficult to accept as written. In America, religious moderation is further enforced by the fact that most Christians and Jews do not read the Bible in its entirety and consequently have no idea just how vigorously the God of Abraham wants heresy expunged. One look at the book of Deuteronomy reveals that he has something very specific in mind should your son or daughter return from yoga class advocating the worship of Krishna:
If your brother, the son of your father or of your mother, or your son or daughter, or the spouse whom you embrace, or your most intimate friend, tries to secretly seduce you, saying, “Let us go and serve other gods,” unknown to you or your ancestors before you, gods of the peoples surrounding you, whether near you or far away, anywhere throughout the world, you must not consent, you must not listen to him; you must show him no pity, you must not spare him or conceal his guilt. No, you must kill him, your hand must strike the first blow in putting him to death and the hands of the rest of the people following. You must stone him to death, since he has tried to divert you from Yahweh your God… (Deuteronomy 13:7-11)
While the stoning of children for heresy has fallen out of fashion in our country, you will not hear a moderate Christian or Jew arguing for a “symbolic” reading of passages of this sort. (In fact, one seems to be explicitly blocked by God himself in [Deuteronomy 12:32] – “Whatever I am now commanding you, you must keep and observe, adding nothing to it, taking nothing away.”) The above passage is as canonical as any in the Bible, and it is only by ignoring such barbarisms that the Good Book can be reconciled with life in the modern world. This is a problem for “moderation” in religion: it has nothing underwriting it other than the unacknowledged neglect of the letter of the divine law.
Many Christians will explain that this is the Old Testament and that it no longer applies, except for the uncomfortable fact that they extend reverence for the Ten Commandments and neglect statements made by Jesus in the gospels that everything in the Old Testament remains in force. The convolution of this situation leaves secular observers astounded at the hypocrisy.
(3522) Jesus, the narcissist
If the gospels accurately portray Jesus, it is easy to diagnose that he was a narcissist, or someone who who has an excessive interest in or admiration of himself. This personality trait is endemic in the world of cult leaders. The following was taken from:
Illegitimate and adopted children, especially of humble origins, often develop narcissistic defenses to fend off persistent feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. Admittedly, it is highly unlikely that Jesus was an illegitimate child. Adulteresses in ancient Judea were stoned to death. But, equally, there is little doubt that the circumstances of Jesus’s birth were shrouded in mystery. His mother, Mary, got herself pregnant but not by having sexual intercourse with her lawfully-wedded husband, Joseph.
Early on, Jesus developed magical thinking, compensatory grandiose delusions, and fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience. A firstborn, he was much pampered by his doting mother. He was a prodigy, a Wunderkind: highly intelligent and inquisitive and more comfortable in the company of adults than with his peers.
When he was a mere 12 years old:
“(T)hey found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.” (Luke 2:46)
Even at this tender age, he showed a marked lack of empathy and a full-fledged case of pathological grandiosity:
“His mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (“My Father” being God – SV). (Luke 2:48-49)
Gurus at the center of emergent cults are inevitably narcissistic, if not outright narcissists. The self-imputation of superiority, epiphanic knowledge, and infallibility and the assumption that others need and crave the guru’s message are at the heart of an elaborate construct which often borders on the psychotic:
“… (T)he people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Matthew 7:28-29)
Referring to his 12 disciples, Jesus made clear that: “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.” (Matthew 10:24)
“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39)
Here is how Jesus, the lowly, unmarried, and itinerant son of a carpenter – an abysmal failure by the standards of his society – viewed himself:
“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats … And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” (Matthew 25:31-32 and 25:46)
“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53)
Contrary to his much-cultivated image, Jesus, like the vast majority of cult leaders, lacked empathy and was a heartless and irresponsible manipulator whose magical thinking ruined the lives of many. He instructed his followers to commit acts that must have had harshly adverse impacts on their hitherto nearest and dearest. Jesus monopolized the lives of his disciples to the exclusion of all else and all others:
“For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matthew 10:35-36)
“Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!” (Matthew 12:47-48)
“And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-22)
Consider the disastrous effects their actions had had on their fathers and their families, now left to starve. To Jesus, evidently, these were irrelevant considerations.
Jesus healed only those who visibly, volubly, clearly, publicly and repeatedly worshipped him. In other words, he extended his gift only to his sources of narcissistic supply. There are numerous instances in the four canonical gospels where Jesus actually bargains with the afflicted and demands – sometimes in anger – their unconditional adoration. He is happiest when acknowledged and affirmed as Christ, the Son of Man (son of God). Those who do not recognize his splendid grandeur, unbounded might, and implied divinity are “dogs” and “swine” (Matthew 7:6)
His much-touted love of the poor was not a match for his malignant self-love. When his disciples upbraided a woman for anointing Jesus with expensive ointment because the money could have been better used to help the poor, the great humanist, Jesus, had this to say:
“Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.” (Matthew 26:10-11)
The principles espoused by Jesus were malleable and easily bent. He professed to minister only to the Hebrews (Sons of Israel) and steadfastly refused to heal the Gentiles whom he called “dogs”. When a woman of Canaan beseeched him to cast the devil out of her daughter (“Have mercy on me!”), he retorted, shockingly:
“I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel … It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” (Matthew 15:24-26)
But he soon forgot and retracted this lofty “principle” when she adulated him:
“Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” (Matthew 15:28)
Similarly, he cured the servant of a Roman centurion after his master catered to Jesus’s by-now rampant megalomania:
“When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.” (Matthew 8:10 and 8:13)
Jesus’s initial false modesty soon gave way to bragging and outlandish, often confabulatory claims.
Whenever he affected a miracle – such as restoring eyesight to the blind, cleansing lepers, reviving the crippled, and raising the ostensibly dead – Jesus beseeched them to keep mum about the events. One of many examples:
“And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it.” (Matthew 9:30)
But Jesus was not averse to blatant self-promotion when his false modesty failed to elicit narcissistic supply:
“Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Matthew 11:2)
“I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple … For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day … behold, a greater than (the prophet) Jonas is here … behold, a greater than (King) Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12)
As a true narcissist, Jesus reprimanded others for his own brand of behavior. This psychological defense mechanism is called “projection”.
This is how he described the Pharisees, the scribes, and the Sadducees (and, inadvertently, himself and his own conduct):
“(T)hey say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.” (Matthew 23:1-6)
Narcissists are disruptive, counter-dependent, combative, and resent authority (rebellious and contumacious). They feel that they are above the law, or, rather, that they are a law unto themselves. They hold themselves to be immune to the consequences of their actions:
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)
“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:12-13)
Narcissists are ill-disposed towards disagreement and criticism. They react to the slightest hint of either with narcissistic rage and fury that knows no bounds and no mercy:
“And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.” (Matthew 11:23-24)
“He that is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30)
“For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” (Matthew 23:39)
Narcissists react particularly badly when their concocted personal myth, their False Self, is directly and effectively challenged and they are consequently discredited and humiliated in public:
“And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” (Matthew 13:54-58)
Ultimately, the narcissist pays the price for years of ill-treating others and sucking their energies dry with constant demands for attention, adulation, and affirmation. People get tired of the overbearing and overweening presence of the narcissist in their lives, of his disruptive and destabilizing influence, and of the pernicious effects he has on their nearest, dearest, and communities. Invariably, they seek to banish him and extricate themselves from his cult. The authorities usually are forced to intervene and lock the narcissist up or, worse, crucify him.
If God sent an emissary (or himself) to our world to deliver a message about how we should conduct our lives, it is more likely that the personality of this ‘god-man’ would largely consist of an emulatable version of humility, such as we see in great gurus such as Ghandi. Narcissistic tendencies don’t seem to match an individual who is already far more powerful than everybody else, but rather tends to fall to those who try to compensate for their failure to measure up to their fantasies.
(3523) Angel bazaar
One of the ways that the Bible separates itself from the world of reality is by positing the existence of angels. This separation grows even wider when we examine how these non-existent beings are described. The following was taken from:
When people think of Angels, they mostly picture a majestic human-like winged being. Cherubs, which are a type of angel also mentioned in the Bible, have been reimagined to fit the image of Cupid — cute babies with tiny wings.
However, these conceptualizations aren’t entirely accurate. Angels, according to the holy text, are a bit more bizarre.
According to the Bible, there are different types of angels which surround God. Maimonides, a Jewish scholar from the 12th century, ranked these beings in terms of importance in the hierarchy of Heaven. What arises is a description of four beings from that hierarchy that have been explained in detail in scripture, and the historical circumstances around their conceptualization.
The Cherubim, later shortened to Cherub, is the lowest in rank among the four. The Bible describes these beings as animal-human hybrids, tasked with guarding the garden of Eden against humankind.
In the Book of Ezekiel, the prophet’s vision depicts them as having four faces: that of a lion, an ox, an eagle, and a human. They have straight legs, four wings, and bull hooves for feet that gleam like polished brass. One set of wings covers their body, and the other is used for flight.
This description is far from how we imagine the Cherub now. While scholars credit its modern-day image to Greek and Roman deities like Cupid, they attribute the detail in the Bible to cultural exchanges with ancient Babylonia, Syria, and Egypt. The Cherub’s function of guarding sacred places and their mixed appearance is similar to that of the Babylonian Lamassu, Egyptian Sphynx, and Hittite Griffin.
The term Angel comes from the Greek word Angelos, which originated from the Hebrew word for messenger, Mal’ akh. The Malakim are messengers of God and are the closest looking to us humans. They are third in rank among the four.
In the Old Testament, they acted on God’s behalf, as did the angel of death in the Passover story or Michael, the archangel who protects heaven. In the New Testament, they often acted as messengers, like Gabriel, who told Marry of her immaculate conception. [Note: The author mistakenly confuses the Immaculate Conception which is the dogma that Mary was born without sin. Instead, Gabriel announced Mary’s virginal conception of Jesus] These named angels are often the ones people think of when asked to imagine one.
However, while the Malakim looked like human beings, there was no mention of them having wings in the Bible.
The earliest known Christian image of an angel from the mid-third century was without wings. It wasn’t until the late fourth century that artists reimagined angels with the possession of wings. According to some researchers, this was done to represent their sublime nature, despite artists knowing that scripture did not describe them as having wings.
According to the prophet Isaiah, the Seraphim is an angelic being that surrounds the throne of God singing “holy, holy, holy” in unison to God’s approach. The prophet describes them as having six wings, two of which are for flying, while they use the rest to cover their heads and feet. Seraphim are second highest in rank according to Maimonides’s angelic hierarchy.
One may trace the historical influences for the Seraphim from its name. Seraphim derives from the Hebrew word “Seraph,” which means “to burn” in English. Digging deeper, the Hebrew word “Saraph” means “venomous desert snake”. In ancient Egypt, people referred to the cobra as “the flaming one.” Its icon was called Uraeus, and it usually adorned the Pharoah’s headpiece.
Several historians speculate that the authors of the Old Testament derived Seraphim’s wings and flames from Egyptian imagery and associations with the cobra.
The Ophanim, or “the wheels,” is arguably the most bizarre being in the Bible. Ezekiel’s account in the Bible describes them as beings made out of interlocking gold wheels with each wheel’s exterior covered with multiple eyes. They move by floating themselves in the sky. As the highest in Maimonides’s hierarchy, they are tasked with guarding God’s throne.
There is no exact historical origin for the Ophanim. Josef F. Blumrich, a former NASA employee, theorized that Ezekiel’s vision of the wheels and other angels might have been a UFO sighting. However, critics label him as a conspiracy theorist.
Nevertheless, other authors claim that an ingested psychedelic substance caused the prophet’s vision. Scholars have also proposed that the image was merely a metaphor for God’s mystery.
It’s interesting to take a step back and observe the conception of these beings from a secular standpoint. Centuries of culture, geography, and history have shaped what we have collectively forgotten and re-imagined as angels.
The otherworldly nature of these beings is also of note to believers in Christian and Jewish scripture. If they are worthy, they’ll be spending an eternity in Heaven with God — alongside these bizarre beings.
It takes very little brain power to understand that angels belong in the world of mythology. That the Bible treats them as real entities does great damage to its authenticity. But it wouldn’t have been so bad if the biblical authors had been more cautious about how they described them. In other words, they made it too easy for us to figure out that they were ‘on drugs.’
(3524) Why ‘choosing’ to believe isn’t the best bet
Many Christians trot out the trope that because the implications of hell are so severe, it is best to decide to believe in Christianity just to be safe. This concept is still being used today as a marketing tool. The following discusses why it doesn’t really work:
This is known as Pascal’s Wager, and has been thoroughly debunked ever since Blaise Pascal introduced it. Rationalwiki has an excellent page on the topic, as does Iron Chariots, but we’ll go over some highlights.
- Which god? This assumption is a specific example of the logical fallacy of false dilemma. Humanity has worshiped between twenty-seven hundred and three thousand different gods since the beginning of recorded history, and those are just the ones we know about. The gods that could exist that we don’t know are practically infinite. Pascal himself acknowledged the weakness of this assumption, and later explained he was only speaking in terms of the Christian religion.
- Assuming we somehow manage to choose the right god, how do we know we’re worshiping that god in the correct way? There are many different sects of Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Christianity in particular has approximately forty-one thousand different denominations. Assuming that this god cares about being worshiped at all, how do we know we’re worshiping him as he demands? If the Calvinists are correct it doesn’t matter how you worship him, your salvation is pre-ordained whether or not you believe. If the Catholics are right salvation is only possible through rituals like communion and the last rites. If the Baptists are correct then only deliberate submission through prayer begging for salvation will do the trick. They can’t all be correct.
- Assuming that we have the right god and are worshiping in the manner that god requires, why would this god accept a lie? No one can force themselves to believe something they don’t genuinely think is true. Try forcing yourself to honestly believe that gravity is a myth and that you can float off your seat any time you wish. Simply claiming belief isn’t the same as believing. If this god is willing to accept such a lie, how does that make it worthy of worship? If it’s capable of being lied to, how does it qualify as a god at all?
- One should not believe in vampires in the fear that I might get bitten one day. It is irrational to believe something based on fear. Pascal’s Wager is an appeal to emotion and says nothing about the validity of the claim.
- Pascal’s wager assumes that if there is an existing god, that it rewards faith and punishes skepticism. There is no way of knowing that skepticism is the virtue being rewarded and that god does not punish faith and irrationality.
Religion takes away time and effort as well as money. If the chances of god are exceedingly low, you have wasted your life. Atheism has a lack of religious restrictions, so in a sense, atheists are being rewarded. Religion as a whole does monstrous things to society, so even if there isn’t a god, you still have a lot to lose. Atheism is the intellectually honest approach to the topic.
Nothing about this wager makes any logical sense. In another world, perhaps it could, given that there was at least some tangible evidence of the deity itself as well as the frightful torture chamber that he had built for people who failed to worship him. Fortunately, on planet Earth, we are not in that situation, and all it takes is a small measure of analysis to realize that the Christian god is nothing but a myth created by superstitious Iron Age mortals.
(3525) Four-legged insects
It is an established scientific fact that all insects have six legs. But evidently in biblical times they had only four:
All flying insects that walk on all fours are detestable to you However, you may eat the following kinds of flying insects that walk on all fours: those having jointed legs above their feet for hopping on the ground. Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket, or grasshopper. All other flying insects that have four legs are detestable to you.
This may seem like a trivial error committed by the author of this scripture, but Christians are adamant that everything included in the Bible was inspired by God or the Holy Spirit. If that is true, making such an error seems implausible. The implausibility is then multiplied to understand why God would considered flying insects to be ‘impure’ while ones that mostly crawl or hop are ‘clean.’ Does this seem like something someone who created galaxies, black holes, quasars, planets, asteroids, and comets would be concerned with?
Thus, the scripture above exemplifies both the ‘Problem of Scientific Error’ and the ‘Problem of Triviality.’
(3526) Chimps exhibit early religious behavior
Recent observations of chimpanzees has revealed that they appear to practice some of the similar rituals of early humans, thought to be the precursors to the development of religions. If true, this could undermine the idea that religion is strictly of human provenance and further show that it is a natural (and not supernatural) consequence of sentient beings gaining a measure of self-consciousness.
New footage shows chimpanzees engaging in bizarre behaviour — which might be a form of sacred ritual that could show the beginnings of a kind of religious belief.
Chimpanzees in West Africa have been spotted banging and throwing rocks against trees and throwing them into gaps inside, leading to piles of rocks. Those rocks do not appear to be for any functional purpose — and might be an example of an early version of ritual behaviour.
The discovery might help researchers learn more about the basis of human religion and rituals, and how such activities formed in our own history.
The scientist described seeing the behaviour through cameras that were set up to watch the chimpanzees. They saw them assembling piles of stones — of a similar kind of the ritual cairns that have been found throughout human history.
Chimpanzees and other apes have long been known to use stones and other materials as tools, including their use as nutcrackers to get into food that is cased in a hard shell. But the new behaviour doesn’t seem to have the same functional purpose.
“This represents the first record of repeated observations of individual chimpanzees exhibiting stone tool use for a purpose other than extractive foraging at what appear to be targeted trees,” the researchers write in their abstract.
“The ritualized behavioural display and collection of artefacts at particular locations observed in chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing may have implications for the inferences that can be drawn from archaeological stone assemblages and the origins of ritual sites.”
For humans, stone buildings and piles have symbolised a wide variety of things, which have seen them used in burials and shrines. Those examples are often among the earliest examples of religious behaviour in human history, and so the chimpanzee behaviour could represent a similar instinct.
The chimpanzee behaviour could also represent a direct connection with human religious rituals. Indigenous West African people also collect stones at sacred trees — and similar behaviour is seen elsewhere — in a way that looks “eerily similar to what we have discovered here”, one of the researchers wrote.
In a piece written around the findings, researcher Laura Kehoe described the experience of watching the chimp look around and then fling a rock at the tree trunk.
“Nothing like this had been seen before and it gave me goose bumps,” she wrote.
The discovery could offer insights into the way that humanity’s sacred rituals began, she wrote.
“Marking pathways and territories with signposts such as piles of rocks is an important step in human history,” wrote Ms Kehoe. “Figuring out where chimps’ territories are in relation to rock throwing sites could give us insights into whether this is the case here.”
If all humans were to die and chimps evolved into human-like, comparably intelligent beings, would their religions show any similarity to today’s faiths? Almost certainly not. Similarly, we would not expect aliens to be worshiping Jesus or to be practicing a religion similar to Christianity. In a sense, chimps are functionally our aliens and the fact that they seem to be forming religious beliefs should be viewed as at least a mild concern for Christians or theists of any stripe.
(3527) Jesus did not teach original sin
There is a curious disconnect when one compares the gospels to the letters of Paul. Paul very clearly promotes the idea of original sin- that the sin of Adam and Eve is passed down to every person at birth, and that it can be expunged only by accepting the ‘sacrifice’ of Jesus on the cross.
What is missing and what makes this doctrine spurious is the fact that Jesus, or more accurately, the gospel authors, did not have Jesus present this doctrine in clear, unambiguous terms. Something like the following should have appeared in the gospels:
And Jesus said, “When my Father made the first people, Adam and Eve, he granted them a beautiful paradise, but they disobeyed his command to abstain from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. So God punished them by expelling them from Eden. Their sin was then passed on to all of their descendants and so dwells in each of you. The Father sent me as the only way for you to erase this sin from your loins. Shortly, I will suffer your just punishment and be put to death, but you must accept my sacrifice into your hearts, or else your sin remains, and then no matter how many good works you do, you will be damned for eternity.”
This piece of core Christian theology is missing from the synoptic gospels and is only hinted at in the Gospel of John (the newest gospel), which is somewhat curious because they were all written decades after Paul’s letters had been disseminated throughout the Middle East. For some reason, the gospel authors did not have Jesus definitively endorse Paul’s theology. It was only later that Christendom fully settled on Paul’s interpretation of the theological significance of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.
(3528) Searching the Bible for monsters
One of the ways we know that much of the Bible is mythical is that it talks about the existence of various monsters. The authors who created these texts certainly did not think that these creatures were real, but rather used them to dramatize their fictional stories. The following was taken from:
People read the Hebrew Bible for all sorts of things — spiritual guidance, literary inspiration, moral enlightenment.
Assistant professor of Hebrew Bible Madadh Richey looks for monsters.
She finds them everywhere — in the Book of Numbers, where God sends snakes to punish the Israelites; to the mysterious nephilim, sons of God, in Genesis who cohabitate with human women; to the more well-known ones such as the Leviathan, the giant fish in Jonah, and the demoness Lilith.
Richey said monsters have traditionally gotten short shrift from Biblical scholars, who have dismissed them as incidental or irrelevant or explained them away as antiquated descriptions of real animals such as crocodiles and bison.
But ancient peoples attached huge significance to monsters, Richey said.
“They were trying to think about them and think with them,” she said.
Her research focuses on how the writers of the Hebrew Bible interpreted and reinterpreted supernatural creatures found in other cultures throughout the region. In Babylon, Assyria, Persia, Egypt, Canaan and elsewhere, monsters expressed differing views of the cosmos and the divine order.
Richey employs a school of literary criticism known as “monster theory,” applying techniques other scholars have used to analyze horror movies and Gothic novels.
Examining the Bible’s monsters offers a new way of exploring the culture of ancient Israel and the texts it produced as well as approaching the idea of God, Richey said.
“The history of biblical scholarship has trained us not to think about monsters,” she said. “There’s a tendency to lose track of the threatening, violent and chaotic aspects of the divine.”
T.J.E. asked her about two monsters she studies, the giant Goliath and, surprisingly, Job.
Goliath’s Dead Head
The gigantic champion of the Philistines slain by the biblical King David isn’t just a big guy — the Bible specifies that he’s more than nine and a half feet tall, putting him solidly in monster territory.
In a paper earlier this year in the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Richey focused on the way David decapitates Goliath and then brings his head to Jerusalem. She drew a parallel with the second-millennium B.C.E. Sumerian “Epic of Gilgamesh,” where the hero cuts off the head of the fire-breathing giant Ḫumbaba, like King David, to use it as a totem of his power.
It’s by acquiring their foe’s head, Richey wrote in her article, that David and Gilgamesh appropriate the enemy monsters’ powers.
Though David is depicted elsewhere in the Bible as flawed and intensely human, the battle scene with Goliath is meant to endow him with extra-human powers.
An abiding riddle of the David and Goliath story has been how David can go to Jerusalem when he does not yet have control of the city. But Richey said the ancient Hebrews would not have thought about such practicalities. David had slain a monster and possessed his head. His actions and behavior didn’t conform to human logic.
Job’s Rotting Flesh
The Book of Job is full of references to mysterious, powerful monsters — the sea serpent Leviathan, for example, and the gigantic land animal Behemoth.
But Richey sees something monstrous in Job himself.
Job is a wealthy, righteous and upstanding man living in a land called Uz who endures a series of horrific misfortunes designed to test whether he’ll turn against God. As Job’s suffering persists, his body decomposes. “My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust; my skin is broken and become loathsome,” Job says about himself.
Decomposition and deformity are common monster features. Think of the rotting flesh of zombies or the way Jeff Goldblum’s body transmogrifies in the movie “The Fly.”
Richey said it’s possible to think of Job as another of God’s monstrous creatures, underscoring that not everything God creates or does will be pretty, happy or understandable to humans.
The monstrous elements of Job’s body reinforce God’s message to Job at the end of the narrative, where God says He is so much greater than Job can comprehend and that Job should not seek to understand what God does.
Richey said monsters also serve as symbols of the immensity of God’s power. “The monster language in the Hebrew Bible reveals Yahweh as a deity who productively engages in forces of chaos and monstrous threat,” she said. “He doesn’t just conquer or subdue or eliminate the monstrous, but actually uses it toward his own ends.”
The Bible could have been taken more seriously from a historical perspective if it had not included living things that we know do not and never did exist. But it is a gift to secular scholars by making it much easier to summarily dismiss the Bible as an ancient fable.
(3529) The context of Christianity’s appearance
People are often cautioned to consider the context of a statement or story so as to ensure a proper understanding of the intent of the speaker or author. So, when it comes to Christianity, it is instructive to consider the context of the times in which it originated. These were very different times than the present, and it helps to explain why so many people could have believed stories and claims that were patently untrue. The following was taken from:
The context of Christianity’s appearance in the first century allows us to see how farfetched it is. Here are some crucial extracts from this Carrier article:
“We all have read the tales told of Jesus in the Gospels, but few people really have a good idea of their context. Yet it is quite enlightening to examine them against the background of the time and place in which they were written…
“There is abundant evidence that these were times replete with kooks and quacks of all varieties, from sincere lunatics to ingenious frauds, even innocent men mistaken for divine, and there was no end to the fools and loons who would follow and praise them. Placed in this context, the gospels no longer seem to be so remarkable, and this leads us to an important fact: when the Gospels were written, skeptics and informed or critical minds were a small minority.”
“…this essay is a warning and a standard, by which we can assess how likely or easily what we are told about Jesus may be false or exaggerated, and how little we can trust anyone who claims to be a witness of what he said and did.”
Carrier asks readers to consider, for example, Acts 28:6, which provides insight into prevailing gullibilities. The apostle Paul, after landing in Malta, while building a fire, found a viper clinging to his hand—which he shook off. This was the reaction of the locals who witnessed it: “They were expecting him to swell up or drop dead, but after they had waited a long time and saw that nothing unusual had happened to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.” God-gullibility is also illustrated by Acts 14:8-18, where we read that Paul, by voice command, had healed a man crippled from birth. Here the locals—in Lystra this time—were convinced that Paul and Barnabas were actually gods. They shouted, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes…” (14:11-12)
In Acts 3 we read of the dramatic events of the day of Pentecost, when the holy spirit rushed upon a diverse crowd, enabling them to “speak in tongues,” and Peter rose to the occasion to speak the new cult’s party line about Jesus as a fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies. The result?
“So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:41-42) Of course, we can recognize this as cult propaganda—written decades later, by the way. When we read Acts 2 today, we cannot be impressed. In fact, we can be depressed that three thousand people took Peter at his word: “Hey, what he says sounds pretty good! What the hell, let’s get baptized and join the cult.” No fact checking, no due diligence, no critical thinking applied to Peter’s claims.
In a major part of the essay, Carrier describes three other religious founders, Apollonius of Tysana, Peregrinus, and Alexander of Abonuteichos. Their stories illustrate how even the most bizarre beliefs can be embraced when people fail to apply critical thinking skills and “just believe.” Alexander was accepted as an intermediary on behalf of a “snake-god with a human head…born as an incarnation of Asclepius.” “With this arrangement,” Carrier points out, “Alexander gave oracles, offered intercessory prayers, and even began his own mystery religion.”
So, such rampant superstitions were the context of Christianity’s birth. Carrier’s conclusion:
“…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.”
“From this it is all the more apparent that religious crazes were a dime a dozen in the time and place of the Gospels, helping to explain why a new and strange religion like Christianity could become so popular, and its claims—which to us sound absurd—could be so readily believed.”
Christianity or anything like it could not originate today. Instead of people simply believing miracle stories, they would demand video evidence of them, and if not received, they would be skeptical. This is not to exclude the existence of gullible people who still believe fantastic stories about their faith while simultaneously applying due diligence to every other facet of their lives. But, by and large, the time has passed for any preacher or guru to start a religion that contains the type of miracles and supernatural phenomena that adorns Christianity. It is an age gone with the wind.
(3530) Interpreting the Bible
The number of variables inherent to the Bible itself and the ways that it can be interpreted represents a wide swath of possible outcomes when people try to apply it to their lives and communities. This is manifested in constant argumentation, division, and a growing plethora of different denominations. The following discusses the problems inherent to interpreting the Bible:
1) What causes a Christian to believe that the Bible is God’s Word, God’s specific written revelation to mankind? Specifically, what is the reason for that belief? The Bible itself doesn’t make this claim about the Bible, and even if certain books in the Bible make this claim (i.e. “this is the word of the Lord” type stuff) that is often only a reference to certain quotes/passages, and could–at most–refer to the particular book (and we know the Bible is a collection of books).
2) What tells a Christian how to read the Bible? The Bible doesn’t have a preface or internal indication of how it is to be read, so it’s a bit open-ended. Should it all be taken as (1) the literal, infallible, always-true Word of God, written by men but inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore perfect? Is it (2) a good book that contains the moral teachings of men from antiquity which contains some eternal truths and some accurate history, loosely inspired by God, but might also contain errors and bad stuff (because fallible humans wrote it)? Is it (3) just a mythological text of stories, none of which need be taken literally or historically, but (some of) the stories are useful as lessons for mankind. Something in between? Furthermore, if you believe anything less than option 1, how do you distinguish between or agree upon what parts are Divine Truth and what parts should likely be set aside or seen as antiquated?
3) How do you arrive at the correct interpretation of the text? Of course we all know there are many interpretations of the Bible, and many that come to very (importantly) different conclusions. For example, there are many interpretations of how you are saved among Christians, and this seems like a less-than-trivial matter. How do you know which is correct?
4) Related to the above question, is the authors intended meaning important to you in reading the text? I often hear about interpretations of passages where what seems to be the authors plain intended meaning is set aside for what is presumed to be God’s intended meaning. Example: the Bible has clear injunctions that God’s people are not to eat shellfish (Leviticus 11:10). One common meaning that Christians (who eat shellfish) will ascribe to that is that the specific law no longer applies, and what we should get from it is that God wants his people to be pure, or that he wants them to be different, etc. If the meaning God wants us to get from the text doesn’t align with what we think the author clearly and literally meant, how do we square that? When did the meaning change? How is this new interpretation reliable and not just to be disregarded as made up? And if the meaning of a passage can change simply because we, the reader, feel it should change, then what stops anyone from doing this with any passage?
5) A further issue I see here is that we may never be able to access the author’s intended meaning. It’s possible that certain passages may be up for debate for all time because we simply don’t know what was meant by them. For example, when Jesus gets mad at a tree for not bearing out-of-season fruit in Mark 11. It’s unclear what to make of that passage, and Christians may be arguing over what it means for the rest of time. In this sort of a case, how is the “meaning” derived from the text here any better than the “meaning” someone might get from say, reading their horoscope in the newspaper? (As in, it seems to be much more about what you bring to the text that what the text says to you.)
6) If tradition is the answer to any of the above questions (as with Orthodox or Catholic Christianity, where they refer to things like apostolic tradition), what makes you certain of your tradition, or certain that it cannot or should not be questioned or changed?
7) Bonus question: why do you believe the Bible is the best revelation God could give? Why not give us a new book every year, or a movie, or a direct brain download, or have prophets visit frequently, or…I could go on. If God desires that all people follow him, and the Bible is his direction for that, his means of converting people to Christianity, why did he choose this method? I say “best” because to me it seems that if God could have done better, he would have, because…he’s God, and everything he does is perfect.
If the Bible was the actual work of an omniscient, omnipotent deity, it would have been perfectly crafted to avoid these types of problems. There is much too much leeway in how a person can understand certain passages, and that is why Christianity is not a tightly bound religion. A god of the type believed by Christians would not have allowed this to happen.
(3531) Old Testament deconstruction
Most Christians are unaware or are oblivious to the raw brutality of the Old Testament, and often they dismiss the entire front part of their bibles as being irrelevant to their faith, while still acknowledging that the god of the Old Testament is the same god that they worship. In the following, a compilation is presented proving several times over that wide swaths of the Old Testament no longer meet modern standards of ethics, decency, morality, or justice:
God spoke directly to Moses and gave him commands numerous times on what to do and what laws to create. Moses never implies he invented these based on his own view of morality, that any of these are temporary, or that they would all one day be made obsolete. Saying that God’s commandments were limited by the “culture” of the Israelite tribe means God’s morality is subjective. This goes against the idea that he is perfect and holy. His law on lazy sons is absolute (death penalty) but he allows legalized rape because of their culture?
– Slavery. The Lord makes a clear distinction between actual slaves and Hebrews that enter into indentured servitude. Slaves from other nations are property for life. Hebrew servants are under a temporary work contract. Lev 25:44-46
– A slave is defined as property. You can beat slaves as long as they don’t die from it. Exodus 21:20-21
– Rape is punished depending on the status of the woman who was raped (Married, single, engaged, or another’s slave. No punishment is listed for raping your own slave). Multiple verses, some are below.
– If a man rapes a single woman, he pays a fine and has to marry her. He takes on a financial responsibility, but he is also married to her and can keep on having sex with her at his whim. It is legal, life-long rape. Deut 22:28
– If a man rapes another person’s slave, he must sacrifice an animal. Lev 19:20 (Sex with any slave is automatically rape because slaves didn’t have authority to give or withhold consent. Raping a slave was seen as a crime against the owner of the slave.
– If a woman is captured in war and you find her attractive, you can take her. After certain rituals are performed including forced marriage, you can have sex with her until you no longer take pleasure in her. After abandoning her, she’s allowed to go wherever she wants. Deut 21:10
– If a man feels jealous and even suspects that his wife was unfaithful, they can force her to undergo a special ritual. If the ritual proves that she was unfaithful, it puts a curse on her and destroys her womb**.** Numb 5
– If a man claims his wife was not a virgin, the girl’s father must show “proof” that she was a virgin, then the man is whipped and fined. If there is no evidence then she is stoned to death. Deut 22.
– Before a man enters battle, he should have sex with his wife in case he dies, specifically so no other man can be the first to “take” her. This is a frequent theme that a woman’s primary worth is her virginity. Deut 20:7
– If a man accidentally kills another, he is banished to a different city. If he walks out of the city, the surviving family can take vengeance and kill him without consequence. Numb 35:27 This is an example of a primitive society coming up with their own version of justice.
God’s Death penalty.
None of these actions deserve the death penalty.
– Cursing parents: put to death – Exodus 21:17
– Being a sorceress: not permitted to live – Exodus 22:18
– Making sacrifices to another god: devoted to destruction – Exodus 22:20
– Two men caught having sex: both put to death – Lev 20:13
– Man has sex with a woman and her mother: all 3 burned to death – Lev 20:14
– Daughter of a priest becomes a prostitute: she is burned to death – Lev 21:9
– False prophets who try to lead others away: death – Deut 13
– Anyone worships another god: stoned to death – Deut 17
– If a lazy son is a glutton & drunkard: stoned to death – Deut 18:21
– Man sleeping with someone else’s wife: both put to death. – Deut 22:22
– A man and an engaged woman are killed if the man lies with her in the city because she could’ve screamed for help but didn’t. – Deut 22
Events & attitudes that seem uncharacteristic of a loving, all-knowing God.
There are many behaviors that God immediately condemns, earning severe consequences to include death or painful plagues. These acts include making a mistake during a ritual, taking prohibited loot from a battle, and complaining about food. With things like rape, slavery or genocide, God is either silent, allows it by his law, or commands it himself.
– God commands Moses to take vengeance on the Midianites. When the women and children are brought back, Moses is very angry and orders all the male “little ones” and women to be killed because of their evil, but if it’s a virgin girl**,** they can keep them for themselves. So the evil was so bad, even the babies had to be killed, but the young virgins from the same tribe weren’t as evil and could be taken? Numb 31
– Some Hebrew men challenge Moses for exalting himself too much so God kills them and their families. Many Israelites are upset about it, and they confront Moses. God immediately starts a deadly plague on them, so Moses orders Aaron to quickly throw some incense on an altar which stops God’s plague, but only after it kills over 14,000 people. Numb 16
– The Lord says he will strike all the Israelites with pestilence and abandon them but Moses reasons with God saying, “What will the Egyptians think? They’ll think God is a failure”, so God changes his mind partially and has the older adults wander and die in the wilderness. Numb 14
– A man was gathering sticks on Sabbath day and the Lord commanded Moses to stone the man to death. Numb 15:35
– While Aaron’s sons are in the ceremony to become priests, God kills both of them instantly because there was some type of mistake in the ritual specifications. Some think maybe they used the wrong incense because it caused a “strange fire”. Leviticus 10:1-3
– People complain about not having meat, so God causes a wind to carry quail to the people who eat it. While chewing, he strikes them dead with a plague for not being thankful for what they already had. Numb 11:31
– A long section in Deut 28 lists horrible things that “The Lord will send” to someone if they fail to keep his commandments. Verse 30 says you will get engaged, but your fiancée will get raped by someone else. Verse 32 says your children will be given away. During terrible sieges, you will be forced to eat your own children and you might meet the most tender woman but she’ll refuse to sleep with you. Deut 28. God can extinguish life at any time, but if you break his rules, he’ll cause disgustingly evil things to happen to your loved ones? These verses convey a textbook example of a manipulative religious leader trying to keep his people in line with fear.
It seems the only way to be a committed Christian is to pretend that the Old Testament doesn’t exist. Otherwise, they would have to admit that their god’s character is vastly inferior to their own. It is a hard spot for any Christian to come face to face with this reality. Many simply ‘put it on a shelf’ and hope to have it explained in the next life.
(3532) Broken bones
The author of the Gospel of John made a glaring mistake in trying to find scripture to bolster the claim that Jesus was the long-awaited Jewish messiah. He took a scripture from Exodus and tried to relate it to a previously-unwritten fact about the crucifixion (not mentioned in the synoptic gospels) that Jesus’ executioners did not break Jesus’ bones- because he had already died. It is presumed that if a victim has not died on the cross in a certain period of time, his leg bones are broken so he can’t push himself up to draw in a breathe of air, and therefore would die quickly.
Now these things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of His bones will be broken.”
Exodus 12:46 (similar to Numbers 9:12 and Psalm 34:20)
It must be eaten inside one house. You are not to take any of the meat outside the house, and you may not break any of the bones.
The following was taken from:
A classic example of only using, “can I make it sound like Jesus” as your criteria is John 19:36. The author notes that none of Jesus’ bones were broken, and then declares that this happened to fulfill scripture. That scripture is Exodus 12:46. Not only is this not a messianic prophecy, it’s not a prophecy at all. Exodus 12:46 contains instructions on how to kill and eat the paschal lamb. This is as clear a case as you will ever find of taking a verse out of context. The verse has literally nothing to do with the messiah. Even the paschal lamb itself was not a sacrifice to atone for sin. It had nothing do to with sin, making it a terrible foreshadower of Jesus.
Let’s not forget that the previous two sentences were instructions on how to eat the sacrifice. Obviously, Christians don’t think that part of the verse is a prophecy or applies to Jesus in any way. Finally, the verse in John is not even an accurate quote. The full verse in Exodus, from which John cherry picks the last sentence, says, “It shall be eaten in one house: you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house; nor shall you break a bone of it”. John says, “A bone of him shall not be broken”. This isn’t the most egregious paraphrase in the NT, but it definitely makes it sound like a prophecy by changing the word “it” to “him” and phrasing it like a prediction, rather than an instruction. But hey, he found a way to make it sound like Jesus. And since Christians already “know” that he’s the messiah, any verse that sounds like Jesus is a potential messianic prophecy, regardless of how little the verse has to do with the messiah or whether it is a prophecy in the first place.
It is clear that the instruction for offering the paschal lamb to God was that its bones should not be broken- simple, that is all that it means. The lamb was an offering of thanks to God, not a way to expunge sin, so there is no analogy to Jesus dying for our sins.
Another interesting problem with John 19:36 is that crucifixion victim’s bones were broken only after they had stayed on the cross for many days, as a way to hasten their death. But Jesus had been on the cross for only a few hours, so any plan to break his bones would have been days away, and there would have been no thought of doing it at that time.
(3533) Another New Testament
A text that should alarm Christian believers is the Codex Bezae, a variant of the New Testament dated to the 5th Century. It consists of large portions of the gospels and Acts and a small part of John 3. The troubling aspect is that it contains a large number of differences from the standard Christian bibles, such as the King James and New International Versions. This brings into question which version is more accurate and also suggests that some tampering occurred during translations for text that ran afoul of the interpreters’ agendas. The following was taken from:
In 1581, Theodore Beza, the Protestant leader of Geneva, sent a gift to the chancellor of Cambridge University — a very old New Testament.
On facing pages were Greek and Latin versions of the text. Beza didn’t say how he got this remarkable volume, only that it came from a Catholic monastery in Lyon, France, where it had “lain long in the dust…”
He provided no reason for why he was sending the book to England as an addition to the Cambridge library. He ended on an odd note.
This “corrupt” manuscript is “better hidden than published.”
The ‘Bezae Codex’ —or ‘Codex Bezae’ — was a New Testament that was very different
There were new speeches by Jesus, and a longer, very different version of the book of Acts. Even small changes in wording threw familiar narratives into flux. When Jesus is a boy in Luke 2:33, Mary should be “amazed” or “astonished” by him.
In the Bezae Codex, she is “distressed” or “sorrowful.”
At Mark 1:41, Jesus is usually “having compassion,” but in the Bezae Codex he’s “becoming angry.”
In Luke 3:22, Jesus is baptized, and the voice of God speaks: “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”
In the Codex Bezae, God says: “You are my son, today I have begotten you.”
How was Jesus ‘begotten’ on the day he’s baptized? That means being born.
In no copy of the New Testament had Jesus gotten along with his disciples very well. In Luke 9:55, typically, he “turned and rebuked them.”
In the Codex Bezae, he adds: “You do not know of what spirit you are.”
What was the story of this manuscript?
It seems to be from the fourth or fifth century, lately dated to around 400 CE. It’s full of misspellings, so perhaps the scribe’s native language wasn’t either Greek or Latin?
Scholars have made many guesses. “Our scribe was a native Egyptian,” announces Allen D. Callahan in 1994. In a 1992 study, David C. Parker suggested the scribe was from Berytus, or modern Beirut, and that seems to get more traction.
Berytus was devastated by an earthquake in 551 CE., and Jennifer Wright Knust imagines “some quick-thinking monk or cleric must have helped the codex escape just in time.”
Along the way it got shortened, stained, and scarred
Originally the codex had the four gospels. Only Luke survives intact. The book of Acts cuts off at chapter twenty-two. A long gap is then apparent whose length matches the book of Revelation.
There’s a surviving sliver, finally, of the 3 John letter. It seems this was a “canon” of the New Testament for some early Christians.
The pages of the codex have jottings, with some twenty writers over the centuries leaving a kind of biography. Some marks early on relate to fortune telling — a common use for Bibles. As Bruce Metzger explains the method:
“A number would be selected, perhaps by throwing dice, and then the pages of the Gospel codex would be turned until the sentence that corresponded to the number was found.”
The ghostly fortunes remain on the pages, as people they pertain to are gone.
The codex made its way to Lyon, France
It was noted in the library of the Monastery of Saint Irenaeus in Lyon—the unusual readings of the text acting as signs of its presence. In 1546, a nearby Catholic bishop takes it with him to attend the Council of Trent, a meeting to assess Catholic doctrine.
The codex was said to have been used for a discussion of the celibacy of priests owing to a variation at John 21:22. In this passage, Jesus is discussing the unusual status of his ‘beloved disciple’ — the young man he ‘loved’.
The other disciples ask: What is to become of him after Jesus is gone?
In typical manuscripts, Jesus replies: “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?” In the Bezae Codex, Jesus says: “If I wish him to remain thus until I come…”
In a 1891 study, J. Rendel Harris notes that the Council of Trent did not focus on priestly celibacy. He offers: “We may suspect then that the question at issue was something of a different kind…”
So many Christian manuscripts have been destroyed for being ‘different’, and I have to suspect what saved this codex from that fate was—fortune telling, and homosexuality?
The codex became known to scholars
The Geneva Bible, published in 1560, cites some of its ‘readings’ in the margins. As Bruce Metzger explains, these:
“…are printed in larger type than that which is used for the numerous marginal annotations on difficult passages and for the alternative renderings, as though to suggest that the variants have almost equal validity with the Scriptural text itself.”
A ‘valid variant’? Christianity didn’t usually think such thoughts.
Then it reaches Theodore Beza, and arrives at Cambridge. At first, readers there seem oddly confused. For a 1864 study, Frederick H. Scrivener goes over the initial efforts to transcribe the codex. He writes of one:
“I am grieved that truth compels me to state that never examined a performance more inaccurate than this. Besides numberless omissions, manifest typographical errors, a looseness and carelessness of citation which is really remarkable…”
The first formal study of the manuscript was done in 1769. This scholar ends up resigned to “the enigma of the codex.”
During these early years at Cambridge, further ‘leaves’ of the codex went missing
But what was there was put to some use. It was consulted by the committee overseeing the King James Bible. The ‘KJV’ translation of 1611 used some ‘new’ Bezean readings, like Luke 9:55.
Most were overlooked, including the most famous ‘new’ scene. It takes place following the scene in at Luke 6:4 where the disciples are picking grain on the Sabbath. For Jews, the Sabbath is a time for rest, but Jesus allows this activity. In the Bezae Codex, a ‘new’ scene then takes place between Jesus and an unnamed person:
“On the same day, when he saw someone working on the Sabbath, he said to him, ‘Man, if you know what you are doing you are blessed, but if you do not know then you are cursed and a transgressor of the law’.”
You can break the rules if you “know what you are doing”?
That wasn’t sounding very Christian—or so the KJV thought. It wasn’t included.
Likewise, another ‘new’ speech by Jesus, at Matthew 20:28, was ignored. This one concerns the problem of assuming one’s ‘importance’. Jesus advises:
“…seek to increase from that which is small, and to become less from that which is greater.”
If invited to a place to dine, he adds, don’t go sitting in a prominent chair, but start from “the inferior place.”
Conflict can be felt around the codex for years to come.
Bruce Metzger writes in 1968: “There is still no unanimity of opinion regarding the many problems that the manuscript raises.”
David C. Parker notes: “Codex Bezae is a manuscript that has generally managed to provoke strong emotions.”
In the 1990s, a South African scholar named Jenny Read-Heimerdinger undertook a more comprehensive study. Was the codex so remote from Christian tradition as typically thought? As she notes, the ‘new’ readings have “support from some second-century Church Fathers, and on occasions the early Greek papyri.”
The Bezae text, she thinks, features Jewish terms not present in the traditional New Testament, as if it was being written by “a narrator who was intimately familiar with Jewish methods of exegesis…”
Many scenes are quite different in the Bezae Acts.
The disciples hold an election to replace Judas. Did they make the right choice? Read-Heimerdinger thinks the narration suggests they did not—that Barnabas was the correct choice, but he was a Jew from outside Jerusalem.
The narrative, she thinks, is a portrait of an insular religious community—Jerusalem-based Jews—who are dealing with the shock of Jesus’ prompts to open the covenant to all people. Peter attempts this course, as a new arrival on the scene, Paul of Tarsus, insists on it.
The ‘Council at Jerusalem’ in Acts 15 is convened to deal with the problems.
In the usual Christian text of Acts, as Read-Heimerdinger notes, the reader imagines that Paul has been called to Jerusalem to have “an open discussion that ends in mutual agreement.”
In the Bezae Codex, however, it’s “a court of law where James acts as the judge…”
Peter speaks on the Gentiles’ behalf. The usual text of Acts 15:7 reads: “After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them…”
In the Bezae Codex, the passage reads: “Standing up, in the Holy Spirit, Peter said…”
Then note the speech of James in 15:19: “Therefore my judgment is…”
It seems that Peter acts in the deity’s power, James in his own.
Peter bows to James’ authority, as Paul sets out to spread the teachings to all people
Paul makes errors, and changes course. This is all different, Read-Heimerdinger notes, from the narrative of traditional Christianity:
“In the usual account, the disciples understand perfectly what Jesus teaches them in his final hours before he ascends to heaven, and they are ready to begin spreading the good news exactly in accordance with the divine plan.”
In the Bezae Codex we see instead, as she notes: “fallible human beings who only gradually come to grasp the full extent of the radical nature of Jesus’ message.”
The codex is occasionally on display, last in 2016. Anyone might’ve walked by a glass case with the only copy of another New Testament.
This is another example of exactly what we wouldn’t expect to see if the Bible was the special project of an omnipotent god. A god who is determined to keep himself hidden must have considered that the Bible needed to be precise and uncontroversial, since it would be, going forward, the only ‘hard-wired’ verbal contact it would have with humans. Instead, we are awash in uncertainty as to what the original authors wrote, not to mention no assurance that their hands were actually being guided by God in the first place.
(3534) An unassailable argument
The following five-point argument succinctly demonstrates that Christianity cannot sustain its claim to be the manifestation of a benevolent deity, and therefore it must be false:
1) Christianity says that God desires that all people be saved.
2) Christianity says that God would punish an honest disbeliever (who concludes God does not exist based on the available evidence) with eternal damnation.
3) God has made it very hard even for intellectually curious Christians to maintain their faith and stave off doubt. If the evidence is less than perfectly (putting things mildly) available even to the seeking person, then evidently the evidence is not as available as it could be.
4) If God desires that all be saved, he would not engineer circumstances under which reasonable people will die with a genuine failure to be convinced of specific affirmative claims about which they lack the relevant evidence by reasonably accessible means.
5) Therefore, Christianity is false. (An Impressionistic Result From 1-4, which I could make more explicit and formal if someone insists)
A Christian apologist would necessarily have to attack at least one of these five points, or simply give up his profession, so it is an interesting mind game to figure out which one of them that might be. Most likely, they would attack #3 and say that God has revealed himself sufficiently through the Bible and nature, implying that any clear-thinking person should be able to discern the existence of a god (in general, by review of nature) that that this god is the Christian god (by review of the Bible).
But the evidence of nature does not necessarily imply the existence of a god, and the Bible has too many problems to be a convincing source of evidence for the Christian god. So, we are left with the efficacy of prayer (scientific studies reveal that they are not effective) as well as ‘just how the world works’ (it works as if there are no miracles or magic). Therefore, people are left with dwindling evidential resources to conclude that the Christian god, out of the thousands that have been imagined, is the one that actually exists.
The crux of the syllogism above is that God could have provided enough evidence to convince virtually everyone of his existence, but that he chose not to. This stubbornness will evidently send many good people to hell for no good reason. This is a violation of point #1 above, and therefore Christianity, as it is conventionally defined, must be false.
(3535) God, the neglectful parent
An analogy can be drawn between a neglectful parent who irresponsibly allows conditions for their child to harm themselves and the way that the Christian god deals with non-believers. The following was taken from:
Most people would be a better God than Yahweh.
That’s one of the main arguments I’ve made with my Christian/Catholic friends and family.
“So, you mean to tell me that God knows what I am going to do before I do it?”
“Yes, he knows everything.”
“And he knows that certain actions will lead me to hell?”
“Yes, he does.”
“And he still lets me do those things?”
“Yes, he wants you to exercise your free will.”
“Call me crazy, Aunt Brenda, but if a parent knew their child had a tendency to put everything in their mouths, but they did not bother hiding or locking up poisonous chemicals, they’d be guilty of neglect. Sounds like your god is a neglectful parent. And that is who you want me to worship?”
Christians like to refer to their god as a father, yet he does not exhibit the most important attribute of a father- to keep his family safe. Instead he allows them to walk unwittingly into a torture chamber with no exit doors.
(3536) Outside of time and space
Theists often bristle when someone asks where their god is located. It’s a question that cannot be answered definitively, and, to be sure, any definite answer, such as ‘somewhere between Jupiter and Saturn,’ would be problematic for their doctrine. So usually they retreat to saying the God is everywhere, or outside of time and space. This explanation runs into its own problems. The following was taken from:
Theists often claim that God is everywhere, that he is omnipresent, and yet in the same breath, also claim that he is outside of space and time. So which is it?
I often encounter atheists pointing out how omnipotence and omniscience contradict each other, but I seldomly see them also point out how omnipresence and spacelessness/timelessness also contradict each other. It’s like saying God exists everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
In order for someone or something to exist in objective reality, it needs to have some extension or location in space-time in some way or another. But since theists claim that God is the creator of all matter, space, and time, then he must be spaceless, timeless, disembodied mind. How is saying “God exists outside of space and time” any different from saying that “God exists nowhere and never”?
Any being that is outside of time literally cannot act or think. Because a thought or an action requires at least two distinct temporal states to happen. God literally cannot do anything (including creating a universe) if he is timeless. If he cannot do anything, then he is not omnipotent.
The way how theists bestow attributes to their God only pushes him further into the realm of nonexistence. And yet atheists are supposed to be the ones who should provide proof that God does not exist? Are you kidding me?
The question of God’s location is a major problem because it defies reality that a conscious being could exist but not be in any specific location. Putting god outside of time and space or in some other dimension is essentially another way of saying that he doesn’t exist.
(3537) Earth after the rapture
The timeline of Christianity is so out of tune with the chronology of the earth that it leaves some baffling questions about what happens to the planet after the rapture and the final judgment of humankind.
According to the Bible and most Christians, the rapture and final dispensation of humans to either heaven or hell will happen shortly. Yes, it was supposed to happen in the 1st Century, but that hasn’t deterred Christians of every century since to think it will happen in their time.
But let’s suppose that 21st Century Christians are correct, and that the end times will happen soon, say before 2100. We know that the earth will continue to exist in more or less its present form for at least another billion years before the sun gets too hot to sustain terrestrial life. But if all humans are extracted before the year 2100, what will happen to all of the non-human life? Will it go on and evolve for the next billion years?
The Bible doesn’t address the fate of non-human animals, and if the apocalypse affects only humans, will bonobos and chimpanzees continue to live and evolve after all of the humans are gone? Could it be possible that another intelligent species would evolve and then God would have to deal with and judge them as well? Inspire a new bible? Would Jesus take the form of a super-chimp and die again on a cross? Would these beings also experience end times and a final judgment? Would humans in heaven be surprised by the arrival of super-evolved chimpanzees after spending a few million years in paradise?
The answers to these questions are moot. The real point is that the authors of the Bible knew nothing of the expanse or age of the universe and encircled their drama in a tiny sliver of time on a tiny stage. What happens to a planet that had existed for 4.5 billion years after God stages his ‘end-times show’ was not something that they considered.
(3538) Born sick and commanded to be well
If Christianity is a marathon, it dies at the starting line, before even taking the first stride. There is nothing in the arena of modern ethics, morality, or justice that would ascribe guilt to a newborn baby, but Christianity does this, and it does it with conviction. A read of the gospels, epistles, and church tradition confirms that everybody is born in sin except for Jesus and his mother Mary (a product of the non-scriptural ‘Immaculate Conception’). The ritual of infant baptism re-confirms this revolting doctrine. Although non-Catholic faiths generally repudiate Mary’s sin-free birth, or infant baptism, most all of them affirm the concept of original sin.
That the sin of Adam could be cast upon all humans, or that the sins of the father can be passed on to his son as well as future generations is a repugnant concept unworthy of acceptance in modern society. Modern, because it evidently was a viable belief system in ancient times.
Imagine if a modern judge sentenced a murderer to prison while at the same time sentencing his wife, sons, daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters. This would mirror the justice espoused by the Bible.
Christianity teaches that humans are born sick and then commanded to be well (a meme attributed to Christopher Hitchens)- but only by accepting the idea that another person can be punished in their stead. This is a double travesty- that a helpless infant deserves punishment and that it’s OK to punish a third party to erase that problem. All it takes is a moment of reflection to realize that Christianity is dead on arrival in the 21st Century. Humankind has evolved well beyond thus regrettable scheme.
(3539) Jesus baptism was made up by Mark
There is some evidence/conjecture that the story of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist was the fictional creation of the author of the Gospel of Mark, and then was carried forward by future gospel authors and the historian Josephus. Historians have often ‘authenticated’ this event by the Criterion of Embarrassment- the thinking that the gospel authors would not have made up a story of the sinless Jesus submitting himself for baptism. But what is overlooked is that the author of Mark did not view Jesus as having a sinless birth. That mythology came later in the Gospel of Luke. So Mark including a baptism for Jesus was standard fare for the times. The following was taken from:
I don’t think the historical Jesus did meet John the Baptist nor do I think they were related. I think the Gospel of Mark invented the story of him and John, and that Matthew, Luke, and John just all based their stuff on Mark and took it further left field. This is a position which has been taken by a few scholars historically, as well, including some highly notable ones.
I think that scholars who claim the baptism was authentic are all basing it on nonsense methodology. They are all still clinging to the Criterion of Embarrassment as their only way to validate the baptism, and they have no good way of doing this. Only two of the texts actually contain a baptism that was rewritten, which is Matthew and Luke, and both of them base their baptism scenes on Mark. So they are not being embarrassed by historical tradition. They are embarrassed at Mark’s literary writing, and Mark shows no sign of embarrassment. Everything he writes perfectly fits within the literary stylings of the Gospel.
The Gospel of John is probably dependent on the Gospel of Mark, but if we assume he is independent, he actually hurts the case for the baptism, because now we have a tradition where the miraculous and ahistorical spirit dove sequence happens, without a baptism, which could be easily explained as a tradition where there was no baptism at all, and the miraculous stories preceded the baptism story.
The Mandaean sources provide no independent reference. The Mandaean Book of John is clearly reliant on the Gospel of Mark, as McGrath and Haberl’s recent edition indicates.
Lastly, the idea that Jesus being baptized for the remission of sins was “embarrassing” and would not have been made up assumes a view of all Christians sharing the same Christological feature of a sinless Jesus prior to baptism, which… the Gospel of Mark never once says. So we have no evidence with which to establish this.
In short, again, I don’t think the Gospels portray anything historical about John the Baptist. I think the entire thing is made up first by Mark, and then gets further legendarized by the other three Gospels. The baptism also is not in Q either, if I recall correctly, so not even the magic hypothetical document helps them. Additionally, my case is helped further by the fact that the Josephan passage does not seem to be able to be chronologically rectified with the Gospel accounts.
Leif Vaage, “Bird-Watching at the Baptism of Jesus: Early Christian Mythmaking in Mark. 1:9-11,” in Reimagining Christian Origins: A Colloquium Honoring Burton L. Mack, eds. Elizabeth A. Castelli and Hal Taussig (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1996), 280–94.
William Arnal, “Major Episodes in the Biography of Jesus: An Assessment of the Historicity of the Narrative Tradition,” Toronto Journal of Theology 13 (1997): 201–26
Eve-Marie Becker, Helen K. Bond, and Catrin H. Williams (eds.), John’s Transformation of Mark (London: T&T Clark, 2021)
Charles G. Häberl and James F. McGrath (eds.), The Mandaean Book of John: Critical Edition, Translation, and Commentary (Berlin: Walter De Gruyter, 2020), 376–8
Rivka Nir, The First Christian Believer: In Search of John the Baptist (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2019)
Thomas L. Brodie, The Crucial Bridge; The Elijah-Elisha Narrative as Interpretive Synthesis of Genesis-Kings and a Literary Model for the Gospels (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2000)
Rafael Rodríguez, “The Embarrassing Truth About Jesus: The Criterion of Embarrassment and the Failure of Historical Authenticity,” in Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity, eds. Chris Keith and Anthony Le Donne (London: T&T Clark, 2012), 131–51
Tamás Visi, “The Chronology of John the Baptist and the Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth: A New Approach,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 18, no. 1 (2020): 3–34
This point brings out one of the critical problems with Christianity- so much of the historical details of Jesus (assuming even that he was a real person) is highly dependent on one person- the man who wrote the Gospel of Mark. Any fiction included in this book was inevitably guaranteed to be believed to be fact and to be copied and embellished by future authors. It is highly likely that the iconic baptism of Jesus by John was mythical.
(3540) Early Christians engaged in ‘make-believe’
There is evidence that Christians of the early centuries were involved in a game of belief in what they knew was not historical, but as a way to be bonded cohesively to a way of thinking that proved useful for behavioral and political purposes. A similar modern analog is the group of people who follow the Harry Potter series of fiction. Indulging in an alternate reality was a way for them to feel special and bonded. Only later did Christians see the dogma as comprised of literal historical truth. The following was taken from:
As with today and throughout the history of Christianity, early Christian conversion essentially arose as a fideist transaction, a willful indulgence in a fantastical alternate reality as a means or strategy of spiritual enlightenment. Early Christian converts were not presented with proofs or evidential cases for the historical or ontological veracity of their belief system. Rather, they embraced the cultic framework of tales and cast of metaphysical figures as their conversion rite into the cultic community.
Many New Testament scholars today have utterly failed to recognize this radical foundation for the religion, instead supposing that the Gospels were written and utilized as historiae, projects in rational, authenticated portrayals of the past (also argued against in my own journal publication here). Western philosophical terminology has regrettably often served to compound this pervasive delusion, applying the term “belief” as the common epistemological operation inherent to common knowledge and the sciences. We may use the English term in that fashion, but this has obscured the New Testament term and the peculiar posturing of ancient cultic make-believe as integral to ancient religious pietas. Classical Greek pistis, in lexical terms, most closely denoted the dictional notion of “belief-in” rather than “knowing” or “comprehending” (e.g., belief in Santa or reincarnation), and entailed an a priori admission of content into one’s worldview apart from sufficient evidence.
It can be viewed that early Christians were like modern children who believe in Santa. It brought its own reward to pretend that fantastical things were real, and that they had a way to defeat death and see their loved ones again. All of this was possible even when they realized the underlying script was fictional.
(3541) Internal experiences are unreliable
Many Christians hang their faith on what they describe as miraculous personal experiences. These become important to them because there is scant evidence anywhere else to support that idea that Christianity is true and that their god, Yahweh, is real. But when examined closely, these seemingly metaphysical experiences always seem to have a mundane biological explanation. The following was taken from:
Personal experiences lead to convictions about facts about the world. An experience occurs, whether through sleep paralysis, meditation, prayer, infliction of pain, dreams, a feeling during the day, just some thing that causes a feeling to arise. It can be vivid and feel entirely real.
We should doubt these feelings and experiences because there are other reasons than a true being revealing itself to you that explain why they occur. These facts should be doubted because there are reasons beyond that they are real that explain them.
In the textbook, “The Anthropology of Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft”, the authors describe various ways in which the production of altered states of consciousness have been documented to come about:
- Reduction of external stimuli and/or motor activity such as from solitary confinement, prolonged social and stimulus deprivation, altered states while falling asleep or waking up, dreaming
- Constant exposure to repetitive stimulation such as prolonged drumming, or repetitive dance movements
- Increase of external stimulation (sensory overload and/or strenuous physical activity) leading to spirit possession states, ecstatic trance
- Increased alertness or mental involvement sustained over time such as prolonged vigilance, intense mental absorption in a task
- Decreased alertness: passive state of mind; reduction in goal-directed thinking such as states attained through meditation, daydreaming, cognitive and muscular relaxation,
- Alterations in body chemistry or physiology of nervous system through activities such as fasting, dehydration, sleep deprivation, hyperventilation, consumption of pharmacological substances
This is just a sampling. A tremendous amount of research exists which is involved in investigating these types of experiences, and which account for them through very mundane biological facts. We do not need gods to explain why I feel high or enlightened or have a grasp about the meaning of reality or am at peace and calm. Completely boring facts about the world can account for them. I am after all an animal with a very complex nervous system which can be stimulated to induce various experiences.
Since every answer to why a personal experience occurred can be provided by an answer that doesn’t involve a god then the actual experience is left in serious doubt. Those who claim the experience is real don’t know that’s what really happened, the person who experienced it has no better idea why they did than anyone else, they’re giving into their feelings, they’re capitulating instead of retaining skepticism, and grasping from there.
And therefore, because all the experiences they’ve had, can be documented to at least some high degree of similarity to occur in several different people among different cultures due to different reasons, then they should doubt that any of it occurred at all. They should realize that millions of people experience the same kinds of things, and the fact they may share a common experience does not mean they share a common sixth sense about the number of dimensions to reality or the existence of God, but that they share the same biology, and nervous system which can be stimulated to induce these types of feelings.
Depending on internal states of sensory perception is not a reliable way to ascertain the fabric of reality. Much of religious belief is centered on the misinterpretation of the cause of these types of events. If Christians could be convinced that their internal perceptions of ethereal phenomena were manufactured strictly within their own bodies, the faith of many of them would be shattered.
(3542) The downside of worship
Christianity encourages its followers to worship God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and some denominations also worship Mother Mary and some of the saints. But a closer look at the mechanics of worshiping leads one to believe that it is unlikely to be something that a real god would demand. Consider the following issues:
– it emphasizes obsession, a trait that is generally considered injurious to a person’s life, in that it removes a general focus and points it toward a very small target, causing neglect in other essential areas
-it entourages conformity, which leads to a lack of creativity
-it encourages self-denial, the feeling that one is unworthy without the presence of the worshipee
-it promotes the concept of blind trust, or the idea that anything commanded by the worshipee is alright to do
– it foments competition and hatred of others who do not worship the same being, leading to division, strife, murder, and war
– it relieves the burden of the worshipee to act in a responsible manner since anything it does will be seen as being just by the worshiper
-it damages the rational portion of the worshipers’ brain such that it retards the exercise of critical thinking and analysis
A real god would certainly not command worship, but rather would seek to be acknowledged and respected. It would not over-manage the trivia of day-to-day living, but rather would administer a hands-off approach. The way that Yahweh is presented in the Bible, an in-your-face dictator who commands worship (while hiding in another dimension) shows that he is either (1) not real, or (2) unworthy of respect, much less worship.
(3543) Jesus’ greatest miracle
When Christians think of the miracles of Jesus, they usually think of him raising dead people to life, changing water into wine, or multiplying loaves and fishes. But, the greatest miracle that he performed was propelling his body physically off the surface of the earth and flying up into space to wherever heaven is located to be seated at the right hand of God, the Father.
This miracle is documented (or is untold) in the five historical accounts of his life (the four gospels plus Acts):
Mark 16:19: [this verse is an interpolation and probably not written by the main author of Mark]
After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.
Matthew- no mention of an ascension
When Jesus had led them out as far as Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He left them and was carried up into heaven.
John- no mention of an ascension, but John provided proof that the resurrected Jesus was not just a spirit.
After He had said this, they watched as He was taken up, and a cloud hid Him from their sight.
Although Mark and Luke (who also wrote Acts) agree that Jesus ascended into heaven, the place for this event was not the same. In Mark, it happened in Galilee. In Luke, it happened in Bethany, Judea. In Acts, it happened in Jerusalem. So the authenticity of this miracle is somewhat damaged by these discrepancies.
But the bigger problem is the feat itself. Jesus, presumably a fully-grown man of approximately 160 pounds of flesh, bone, and sinew, somehow overcame the force of gravity and launched himself into the air, and presumably into space as well. He endured the cold upper atmosphere, the lack of oxygen, and harmful solar radiation as he left the atmosphere. Then, came the tumultuous journey through outer space to heaven, which must have been a very long ways away, and was able to find and occupy the chair next to the right hand (for sure, not the left!) of his father, Yahweh. This was Jesus’ greatest miracle.
2000 years ago, this flight didn’t seem so ridiculous, because at that time people believed the sky was a relatively low-hanging dome above which lies heaven. They had no idea of the fading atmosphere and the immense starkness of outer space above them. And they didn’t understand the workings of the gravitational force. So the myth of the ascension could fly uncontested during that time. But not today. The ascension story is a thorn in Christianity’s side. It would have been much better off if they had kept Jesus’ physical body in the tomb and rather had just his ‘spiritual body’ ascend into the heavens.
(3544) NonStampCollector is morally superior to Yahweh
Atheist blogger NonStampCollector ‘rewrote’ Leviticus 25:44-46 as if he was god. When you compare the two versions, his and the biblical one, it is obvious to see that there is something very wrong about Yahweh’s version, and it is easy to see that if Yahweh exists, he should be despised, not worshiped. The following was taken from:
Please take 4 minutes to watch this video by atheist YouTuber NonStampCollector. This short video is the source of the alternate version and the reason I made this post.
No more male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you, or anywhere. From them, you may never again buy slaves. Slavery is a moral outrage, and must end immediately. You may not buy any of the temporary residents living among you nor members of their clans born in your country. They’re people, just like you, and you are to treat them with the kind of respect you would want for yourself. They will never be your property. You can not bequeath them to your children because they are not your property. Take the slaves you now have, and make them free for life, and you must not ever again rule over any human ruthlessly. Have some humanity.
Leviticus 25:44-46 (NIV)
Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.
If Yahweh is real and did in fact proclaim Leviticus 25:44-46 to the Israelites, there was nothing stopping him from proclaiming something similar to NonStampCollector’s version. To maintain their faith, Abrahamic theists must argue that Yahweh’s version is superior to NonStampCollector’s, when that’s obviously not the case. Yahweh is therefore a being of moral imperfection (aka not an omnibenevolent God worthy of worship), or does not exist.
Christian apologists have to work overtime to smooth out this issue and to keep people in the pews and relinquishing their hard-earned money. Their only viable (and barely so) defense is to say that Yahweh had to work within the existing customs of the people and felt that he couldn’t introduce such a radical concept -that every human deserves to be free. Maybe so. But there is another problem attached to this theory-that Yahweh knew that the Bible would be his main mode of messaging to humankind for at least 20 more centuries, yet nowhere in this message (nowhere in the entire Bible) did he present the idea that slavery was wrong. So the apologist defense falls apart, and the Bible is stripped naked for all to see- it is nothing more than the work of unenlightened, imperfect humans.
(3545) Mark fails to mention Jesus’ father
The Gospel of Mark, the first gospel that was written, does not mention Jesus’ father, Joseph. This is a significant omission because it later became very important to Christianity to demonstrate that Jesus was the Jewish messiah prophesized in the Old Testament. Mark’s gospel mentions only the mother of Jesus (Mary).
The later gospels of Matthew and Luke, both of which relied heavily on Mark, go to great pains to establish Joseph as Jesus’ father and to provide genealogies showing that Joseph was a descendant of David, thus fulfilling the Jewish criterion for the messiah. As an aside, although connecting Joseph to the Davidic line was a good strategy for bolstering Jesus’ messiah credentials, it was simultaneously undermined by creating the virgin birth myth (eliminating the need for Joseph’s seed)
Leaving Jesus’ father out of the first gospel is very telling. It indicates that there was no tradition even 40 years after the crucifixion that established Jesus’ genealogical link to King David. Otherwise, it could be expected that Mark would have included a prominent introductory remark cementing Jesus to the Old Testament scriptures.
If Jesus was a real person who believed himself to be the Jewish messiah, he, being steeped in Jewish scripture, would have made a big deal about his father being a Davidic descendant. This should have been a prominent kernel of conventional wisdom that would not have escaped the first biographic work. It should also have caught the attention of Paul, who likewise failed to mention Jesus’ father.
(3546) Christianity adopted pagan themes to become popular
Christianity was a struggling faith even into the 4th Century, competing with a myriad of pagan religions within the Roman Empire. But what finally improved its appeal and got it to be accepted as the state religion of the empire was its willingness to compromise and adopt some of the pagan beliefs into its practices. The following was taken from:
By the fourth century, the Christian Church had established itself as the official faith of the Roman Empire through a successful grassroots campaign to dominate, and almost exterminate, paganism. But did it?
In reality, the early Church had to merge itself with pagan practices and beliefs in order to blend into Roman society. In the rites and symbols of the Roman Catholic Church, we can find surviving, though rebranded, pre-Christian myths, deities, festivals, and rituals. Here are three Catholic practices that can be traced back to ancient pagan religions and cults.
One of the more fascinating elements of Catholicism is the ritual cannibalistic consumption of their “demigod” known as Holy Communion or Eucharist. During Catholic mass, bread and wine are transformed into the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, who is considered the son of God, in a rite called “transubstantiation.” This isn’t a symbolic transformation. A core teaching of the Catholic faith is the belief in literal transubstantiation. Practitioners eat the body and blood of Christ to become one with God.
Similar rituals were practiced in the underground “mystery religions” of the Greco-Roman world. In a few of those occult religions, celebrants shared a communal meal in which they symbolically feasted on the flesh and got drunk on the blood of their god. For example, the Mithraic Mysteries, or Mithraism, was a mystery cult practiced in the Roman Empire in 300 BC in which followers worshipped the Indo-Iranian deity Mithram, the god of friendship, contract, and order. Mirroring the Catholic Eucharistic rite, the idea of transubstantiation was a characteristic of Mithraic sacraments that included cake and Haoma drink. But the ritual probably wasn’t original to Mithraism either. In Egypt around 3100 BC, priests would consecrate cakes which were to become the flesh of the god Osiris and eaten.
HOLY DAYS AND CARNIVALS
The survival of ancient communities was intimately dependent upon the fertility of the land, so their religious symbolism and festivals reflected this fundamental bond between humans and the cycles of nature. A number of Catholic holidays and myths parallel the timeline and adopt the symbols of pre-Christian fertility festivals. In Catholicism, Jesus Christ is thought to have been born on December 25, Christmas Day. In pre-Christian Roman religions, the Winter Solstice was a core sacred event that took place on December 25 at the time of the Julian calendar. The best known custom was the Roman festival of Saturnalia, which was celebrated similar to Christmas with drinking, fires, gift-giving, and tree worship.
Similarly, the Catholic Fat Tuesday, otherwise known as Mardi Gras, is rooted in the pre-Christian Roman celebration of Lupercalia. A February holiday honoring the Roman god of fertility, its customs involved feasting, drinking, and “carnal behavior.” Today, the same can be said of Mardi Gras, when Catholics (as well as non-Catholics) eat festival foods and party before abstaining for 40 days during Lent.
When it comes to Easter, celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, the symbolic story of the death of a god (or sun/son) and springtime rebirth is a tale as old as time. The spring equinox was recognized by various pagan cults as a festival marking the resurrection of light triumphing over darkness and the fresh fecundity of the land. One such festival was Eostre, which celebrated a northern goddess of the same name. Her symbol was the prolific hare representing fertility.
GODDESS WORSHIP: THE VIRGIN MARY AND SAINT BRIGID
Though theoretically monotheistic, the Catholic practice of praying to saints has been called “de-facto idolatry” and even a relic of goddess worship. Rebranded pagan goddesses can be found in the Catholic Church today in forms of Saint Brigid and the Virgin Mary.
Mary, the Virgin Mother of Christ, is arguably the most important Catholic icon save for the Holy Trinity. She’s likely the amalgamation of pre-Christian mother goddesses from antiquity whose ranks include Artemis, Demeter, Diana, Hera, Isis, and Venus. The cult of the Egyptian goddess Isis may have had a particularly strong influence on Christian myth. While historical records can not substantiate this entirely, there is physical evidence of statues of Isis cradling Horus that were converted and reused as the Virgin Mary holding Jesus.
Brigid, the beloved Celtic goddess associated with fertility and healing, is perhaps the clearest example of the survival of an early goddess into Catholicism. Practitioners, particularly in Ireland, pay tribute to Saint Brigid of Ireland who shares many of the early goddess’s attributes. Her feast day on the first of February falls around the same time as the pagan celebration of Imbolc.
The appropriation of these pagan practices and symbols by the Catholic Church shows how, as social interests change and new institutions are established, religious myths and practices are not so easily exterminated. Today, millions of Catholics eating the body and blood of their god, bowing their heads to feminine idols and celebrating natural cycles on the Liturgical Calendar are still worshiping in the ways of the ancient pagans.
Thus, Christianity had to make some concessions to the prevailing pagan traditions for it to be widely accepted as the major faith of the Roman Empire. In a sense, it sold itself out for fame and popularity rather than standing firm on its original principles. Thus Pago-Christianity spread throughout the land, and only much later, during the Protestant Reformation, did some of these pagan influences get jettisoned by the breakaway denominations.
(3547) Christianity should not need missionaries
The Christian god, Yahweh, can be binned into one of the following three possibilities:
(1) Yahweh is omnipotent
(2) Yahweh is not omnipotent
(3) Yahweh is non-existent
So, let’s examine each of these possibilities as to whether Christianity would need missionaries to spread belief in its message.
If Yahweh is omnipotent, he would have made sure that the Bible was pristine, forward-looking, advancing knowledge not known at the time, and preserving the original manuscripts to avoid any confusion concerning his message to humanity. He would be working miracles routinely, giving more evidence of his provenance and benevolence. Prayers would be effective and thus bolstering peoples’ faith. He would know the type of evidence that every person would need to believe in him, and he would deliver the same. Given these facts, there would be no need for Christian missionaries. Christianity would sell itself.
If Yahweh is not omnipotent, then the Bible may have gotten out of his hand, and it might have been altered in ways that changed the message he wished to deliver. Some of the original manuscripts would have been lost forever, but still, he could be working some miracles that could be interpreted as signs of his existence and power. He also could be working to deliver sufficient evidence to every person, so that they would be able to determine that he exists and also realize that other gods are mythical. In this case, a small amount of missionary work could be beneficial, though it would not be needed in most places of the world.
If Yahweh is non-existent, then the Bible is likely to be a mess, with all of the original manuscripts lost to history, and translations that deliver chaos and ambiguity to the original writings, which themselves would have not been inspired by any god. The Bible would contain outdated themes and ethos. There would be no contemporary miracles or statistically-answered prayer evidence. In this case, Christianity would desperately need missionaries to spread belief in its dogma. There would be a need for people to manufacture evidence, in the form of personal testimonies, and to equate inner feelings with the presence of God.
So if Christian dogma is correct that Yahweh is omnipotent, it should not need missionaries. But, uh oh, it has them. What’s wrong?
Based on the facts on the ground, that the Bible is flawed, and that miracles are evanescent, and that prayers are ineffective, the third possibility is most likely- Yahweh is non-existent, and that it needs missionaries to spread its message. This is what we see- Christianity employs an army of people witnessing to others to join its ranks, because it simply doesn’t sell itself… which it should.
(3548) Christianity is idiocy
It is long past time for Christianity to crawl back into the benighted times of its origin, for it no longer escapes description as an idiotic view of reality, fairness, ethics, morality, science, or compassion. It is mired in an Iron Age pathos that no longer plays nicely in polite company. The following is a quote from Seth Andrews’ book Christianity Made Me Talk Like an Idiot:
“…I will say with absolute conviction that Christianity itself is idiocy. The whole religion is the product of primitive times and ignorant minds…At its core, it is a fear cult shouting ‘Jesus loves you!’ against the threat of eternal torment. It is nonsense. It is offensive. It is stupid. And for two thousand years it has made believers spew nonsense designed to sound profound.” (pp. 184-185)
Other than the sheer lunacy of seas that part, suns that stand still in the sky, dead people rising out of their graves, or angels helping prisoners to escape from prisons, the greatest lunacy is precisely what Andrews expressed in the above quote- the concept that a deity can genuinely love people that he intends to torture- all for the ‘crime’ of disbelieving a ‘truth’ that he has deliberately disguised. It doesn’t get any more idiotic than that.
(3549) Synagogue anachronism in Acts
One of the ways that we know that the Bible contains uninspired text is when it uses realities existing only at the time of authorship when writing about events in the past. These anachronisms exist throughout the Bible. The one discussed below involves the author of Acts having Paul visiting synagogues that didn’t exist during his lifetime:
Acts portrays Paul going from town to town in Greece and Asia Minor, primarily attending the synagogue where he preaches his message and usually converts some Jews along with some gentiles before being kicked out after accusing them of killing the messiah. .
But when one reads Paul’s epistles, there is a glaring omission. No synagogues. The word doesn’t even occur in his writings, nor does the accusation of killing the messiah. Perhaps all his converts immediately separated from the synagogues so the subject doesn’t come up. Alternatively, the reason synagogues weren’t mentioned is that at the time he wrote, there were no synagogues there. One searches in vain for the existence of synagogues in Asia Minor and Greece prior to the second century CE. The reason isn’t complicated. The synagogue system and emerging rabbinical Judaism really didn’t take off in Greece and Asia Minor until after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD and the great diaspora following the Bar Kochba revolt ca 135 CE.
Acts, in its description of the synagogue experiences, is anachronistic. It is describing circumstances which were extant in the second century when it was likely written. It is transporting current circumstances back in time to a period when synagogues didn’t exist, just as the Pharisees, who were the progenitors of the rabbis, were misrepresented.
This would be similar to writing a story about Abraham Lincoln (16th United States president) and saying he liked to visit McDonald’s restaurants. The mistake in time regarding synagogues is significant and it provides a reason to discard the entire Book of Acts as a work of fiction.
(3550) Hebrews misquotes Jeremiah
It appears that the author of Hebrews deliberately misquoted Jeremiah to make the theological point that God was turning away from the Israelites because of their failure to honor the covenant. This ‘error’ was a strategic move used to establish the idea that God had moved on from his chosen people and now considered the Gentiles to also be his ‘chosen ones.’ The following was taken from:
Hebrews 8 misquotes Jeremiah as recorded in the Masoretic text. You can check in your bible if you’re interested:
Hebrews 8:9: “It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.”
Jeremiah 31:32: “It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, declares the Lord.”
The book of Hebrews is trying to convey that God has turned away from the Jewish people and is making the old covenant obsolete (Heb. 8:13). Jeremiah is trying to convey that God is married to the Jewish people and will not turn from them. Jeremiah continues in verse 31:37, which the book of Hebrews does not quote:
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,’ declares the Lord.”
The book of Hebrews fails to understand Jeremiah’s message, and also misquotes it. The book of Hebrews is quoting from the Greek Septuagint and not the original Hebrew. Perhaps I haven’t thought of it, but I see no way out of this contradiction since it is a direct quote.
The New Testament authors had to do something to demonstrate that the Israelites were no longer God’s only concern because Christianity was designed to be a universal religion. So one way to do that was to mangle Old Testament scripture to foreshadow this transition in God’s strategy.
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