(3851) The scam of equating feelings and evidence

Christianity has so little external evidence of its truth, that it has to instill the idea that the internal feelings of people is a witness to the truth of their dogma. Then they simply ignore that followers of every faith use the same tactic. The following was taken from:


O’Neal notes that “…virtually all religions claim a subjective experience which authenticates the truth of their faith.” (Kindle, p. 496) He notes the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 8:16, “The spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Which no doubt prompted the lyrics of the popular hymn, “You ask me how I know he lives, he lives within my heart.” As if that settles it. This is why we keep asking theists where we can find reliable, verifiable, objective data about god(s). What religious folks feel in their hearts is evidence for what they’re feeling. There are no data at all to confirm that they’re in touch with the power that runs the cosmos. O’Neal takes aim at the shallow thinking of a major Christian apologist:

“Well-known Christian scholar, William Craig, asserts, ‘the way we know Christianity to be true is by the self-authenticating witness of God’s Holy Spirit.’ He goes so far as to claim this experience is so ‘immediate’ and ‘unmistakable’ that it rises to the level of ‘objective knowledge.’ One is incredulous that a scholar of Craig’s stature could be unaware or ignore that devotees of virtually every religion say the same thing.”  (Kindle, p. 496)

Virtually every religion. Occasionally leaders of the world’s so-called great religions get together to demonstrate ecumenism, with smiling photo-ops and hugs. But in truth, each one of these leaders is confident that his religion (it’s usually men) is the right one because of what they feel in their hearts. They would never be able to agree on theology! “But, what the hell, let’s hug each other for the cameras.” When we see the photo-ops, we want to say, “What are you guys playing at?”

But O’Neal knows what they’re playing at, based on his knowledge of how Christianity works. Here is his definition of one of its primary tools:

“Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to make people doubt their intelligence, memory, perception, and sanity. It seeks to undermine trust in one’s own mind and instead rely on the judgement of someone else, usually an authority figure who seeks to control the individual or group.” (Kindle, p. 498)

 Doubt their perception: a classic example of this is the story of Doubting Thomas in John 20. Thomas wanted evidence, rather than trusting the word of the disciples who claimed to have seen the risen Jesus. So Jesus showed up again a week later, with Thomas in the room. Here’s your evidence! Now he believed! But was scolded by Jesus: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29) Authority figures who seek to control have always made that appeal: turn off your mind, take our word for it.

O’Neal cites several scriptures that urge mindless devotion:

Proverbs 3:5:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.”

Isaiah 55:8-9 (which he notes gets the gaslighting prize):

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

The apostle Paul certainly is a champion of bad theology, as O’Neal notes in reference to I Corinthians 1: 18-20 & 25:

“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart’… Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scholar? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

He also notes that these texts are “…a frequent refuge for preachers and teachers when reason and faith conflict.” (Kindle, p. 498)

Gaslighting escalates, as O’Neal notes in his description of Gaslighting 3.0: This “…is the most disturbing and dangerous stage of all. This occurs when believers are so certain of their convictions, they condone, justify, and may even commit acts of violence in service of them.” (Kindle, p. 500, emphasis added) Indeed, the history of Christians fighting one another, often to the point of bloodshed, is a scandal—and is a significant part of the horrendous suffering described in this Loftus anthology. “This is the seductive and pervasive human tendency—despite overwhelming scientific evidence we are 99.9% genetically identical—to be certain one’s particular race, nation, religion, family, tribe, caste is superior.” (Kindle, p. 500)

It’s such a shame, such a tragedy, that religion is a major contributor—as it has also has been to the dumbing down of humanity, as we are seeing: conservative Christians leading the way in science denial as we try to fight a pandemic. In fact, science denial in so many areas. The world doesn’t need billions of people who are simply unaware—and happy to remain so—of the cosmos and how it works, as revealed by science. O’Neal’s example of the frontal cortex vs. the amygdala contributes so much to our understanding of human behavior. No original sin required: it’s the haphazard way our brains developed in the evolutionary process.

Many religions use the tactic of praying to god and asking him to let you know what is true, and of course, he always says that the faith that you are praying for is the right one, while simultaneously ‘telling’ everybody else that their preferred faith is also true. This must be the most unreliable way to arrive at truth, but it is really pretty much all that any religion has to offer in the way of ‘proof.’

(3852) Forty reason to not be religious

In the following, the author listed forty reasons to not be religious or to be a Christian. These together make a compelling case to approach life in a secular manner. The following was taken from:


40 reasons I’m not religious

1) The Biblical creation story is impossible.
Physical evidence makes it clear that the world was not spoken into existence 6–10,000 years ago. Living organisms evolved over billions of years. Even if the story is regarded as mythological, it appears that Jesus and Paul believed it literally, so their credibility is questionable.

2) Mythology is not a reliable source of factual information.
Christian fundamentalists insist that the Bible is an infallible, errorless document, but any critical analysis demonstrates that much of it was intended to be mythological fiction and not to be taken literally. A worldview that depends on mythology being factual is inherently at odds with reality.

3) Mythology is not particularly inspiring to me.
Some believers do not rely on a literal interpretation of the Bible, but instead find deep personal meaning in the metaphors and the descriptions of who God is. Even so, the message seems to be that God is a monster and humans are vile. I do not feel uplifted by these ideas. I can appreciate certain aspects of Jesus’s story, and certain proverbs, but I’ve found other philosophies that hold more personal meaning for me. If religion provides me with neither literal truth nor emotional resonance, I don’t see a reason to spend time on it.

4) Humans invented religions everywhere, it’s what they do.
People have come up with many thousands of belief systems over the course of history. Similar themes run through most of them. They give us answers to unanswerable questions and erase the discomfort of uncertainty — but that doesn’t mean they’re true. People are easily convinced of the unshakable truth of whatever religion they were raised in. This suggests to me that religious thinking is part of how the human brain evolved, and that none of these religions has special access to the truth of our origin story.

5) he “guidance” of the “Holy Spirit” is generated internally.
It’s nice to imagine that the creator of the universe is directly guiding you, but it’s probably just your own intuition and a creative voice inside your own head, reaffirming your own convictions. If the Holy Spirit was real it wouldn’t reveal mutually exclusive ideas to different people. Mormons and mainstream Christians couldn’t both rely on it to reveal truth (but they do).

6) A “relationship with Jesus” is probably just a tulpa.
There is a phenomenon by which people can create seemingly autonomous personalities in their brains through the practice of speaking to an invented character and imagining it to be real. These characters are called tulpas. Practitioners experience their tulpas speaking back to them in an audible voice, consider them to be real people, and feel a great sense of loss if they “die”. I think some brains are more capable of this feat than others, which explains why some believers unwittingly create a Jesus tulpa through years of prayer and that’s why it can feel like a real relationship. Others (like me) cannot create this imaginary friend and are assumed to be less spiritual when they say they feel nothing from God.

7) I’ve never seen or felt any evidence for God’s existence.
For years I begged God to be present with me and show me some sign of his love — reassurance that I wasn’t just talking to myself all those countless hours. Nothing like that ever happened, so I gave up on trying, which seems fair to me. If a god is real and wants a relationship with me, it knows where to find me.

8) I don’t need supernatural threats or rewards to choose good behavior.
Empathy is a widely occurring phenomenon in mammals. It gives us the basic intuition that we ought to do good to others because they’re conscious beings just like us. I do my best to be loving and respectful to people simply because I enjoy it and I want to see them be healthy and happy.

9) The “Holy Spirit” doesn’t give people the “fruit of the Spirit.”
The Bible says that the Spirit is the source of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, etc., while unbelievers are doomed to live in wickedness and misery. However, no such dichotomy exists between Christians and other people in the real world. Which religion a person follows is not a significant predictor of their positive or negative behavior, their health, or their happiness.

10) The “Holy Spirit” doesn’t unify believers.
If it did, there wouldn’t be hundreds (or thousands) of denominations inside Christianity that all think the other ones are wrong. We’d see a church that easily agrees on major points of theology, because when they disagree they would just ask the Holy Spirit, who would give them all the same clear answer. Instead, there’s almost nothing that Christians universally agree on, and human error can’t account for that level of discord. (These divisions in Christian theology are further confirmation that the “guidance” of the Holy Spirit is an internal voice.)

11) The human sacrifice of Jesus for sin isn’t valid.
According to the old testament, the sacrifice of children is detestable to God. One person cannot take on the sins of another. Lambs sacrificed to God were supposed to be female, uninjured, and offered on the altar in the temple. Jesus’s sacrifice violates all of these. For a more thorough analysis check out this essay.

12) “Answered prayer” is an illusion.
Between confirmation bias, coincidence, placebo, and the willingness to accept literally any outcome of “yes, no, or maybe” as a response from God, it’s very easy to see patterns in what is effectively random chance. You could pray to any object or person you want and get the same results. If God wanted to demonstrate the power of prayer, all he would have to do is heal one amputee. I’m still waiting to see that video.

13) “Sin” is a silly idea.
Part of being human is the fact that we sometimes do destructive things. We need to find ways to avoid these things if we care about getting along as a society; that much is true. But it’s unfortunate to be limited in life by an obligation to follow rules against harmless things — rules that might have made sense to a bronze age tribe who worried that an invisible person in the sky was watching and getting upset; rules that have no utility today. Outdated ideas of sin have an unfortunate impact on society as well. Christian beliefs about sin cause major problems for those in the LGBTQ+ community, for example.

14) “Bondage to sin” is not actually broken by Jesus.
Many Christians believe that they were powerless to resist Satan’s influence and stop sinning until Jesus came into their heart and set them free from Satan’s control. Upon being saved, they supposedly gained the ability to stop sinning, but none of them ever stopped. Either they’re still in bondage to sin, or they continually choose to offend God, which is strange if they love him so much.

15) Eternal hell is never a fair punishment.
An infinite punishment for a finite crime is not justifiable by any logic. Recognizing and worshiping the correct identity of God, during our few short years on earth, is not a reasonable basis for assigning eternal consequences. There are many legitimate reasons a person might not find the “correct” religion. People say that God’s justice doesn’t have to make sense to us and our logic doesn’t apply, but that’s an easy excuse, a non-answer. Biblical descriptions of the afterlife are vague and ideas about hell have evolved dramatically over the course of history. It’s far more likely that the idea of hell is a mental hack — a very effective way to use fear to control people.

16) A loving God would not create hell.
No loving parent would torture their child for doing the wrong thing. If God is all-powerful and perfectly loving he could simply eradicate hell and forgive everyone upon their death, or at least create a different afterlife option that is more merciful. According to some scriptures, God is the one who decides who will believe in him; he’s the one who hardens hearts and sets out the grand plans that we all follow. If some people’s destiny is to play an evil role in his plan and then be sent to hell forever, that’s sadistic, not loving. There’s no way to reconcile hell with the idea of a loving God.

17) Religion demonizes natural bodily functions.
Sex is the one activity that all of our ancestors have in common, going back about 2 billion years to the dawn of sexual reproduction. Suddenly, religion wants to tell us that sex is evil unless performed in religiously-approved circumstances. Even masturbation and the desire for sexual contact are considered wrong by many. Virginity is praised, yet without sex none of us would be here. Why would God be offended when we use the bodies he gave us?

18) The path to salvation is basically a brainwashing tactic
Many evangelicals are taught “the Romans road to salvation”: You are a sinner by nature, which means you deserve eternal punishment. But God is lenient! At great cost to him, he has given you a way out, if only you promise to love and obey him forever. Similar tactics are used in “re-education” camps: get someone to believe their identity is intrinsically repulsive and that they deserve punishment, then give them relief if they reject their former beliefs and adopt the ones you want.

19) Prophecy is fake.
If an old testament prophecy seems to predict Jesus, it is regarded as proof of his messiahship. If it has nothing to do with Jesus, but resembles something else in Israel’s history which has already come to pass, then it was a historical prophecy. If it doesn’t resemble Jesus or anything historical, it’s not accepted as a failed prophecy as you might expect; it’s assumed that it must be about the “end times” which will yet come to pass. Thus, it’s impossible for a prophecy to fail. Prophecy must come true because it’s the infallible word of God, yet prophetic reliablity is also given as evidence of the Bible’s authenticity, so it’s circular logic.

20) The Bible has a lot of contradictions.
I’ll just leave this here. Doesn’t look like a perfect book to me.

21) Christianity is a cult of Judaism, which is obvious to Jews.
In the same way that Mormons added new scriptures to the “complete” Bible and radically altered the theology, Christians co-opted the Jewish scriptures, turned a monotheistic God into three entities, and changed the entire premise of God’s plan for the earth. Worshipping Jesus as God was heretical for faithful Jews.

22) Holy books are considered eternal and divine but they are human artifacts.
The books of the Bible were written decades after Jesus died (at the earliest), probably by people who were not eyewitnesses. Disputes about important theology were prevalent from the very beginning of Christianity. It was hundreds of years before some guys decided which books deserved to be in the Bible, a decision tied in with politics. It was translated and re-interpreted many times. Holy books the world over are subject to many of the same issues, if not more. I think if a deity wanted to convey a crucially important message to us, it would find a more reliable route.

23) The Epicurean Paradox is a good point.
Epicurus reasoned: if God were all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfectly loving, then he would stop evil from happening. The fact that he allows terrible things to continue to happen means that he either doesn’t care if we suffer, cannot prevent evil, or isn’t aware that it happens. The logic is perhaps overly simplistic, but I think the core of it is valid.

24) God is said to be both loving and jealous.
The Bible makes 3 claims that cannot all be true at the same time: 1) God is love. 2) Love is not jealous. 3) God is jealous. Which of these is the lie?

25) It means little if someone is 100% convinced that their religion is true.
Humans readily dismiss hundreds of religions yet cling fervently to the one they were raised in. When people say “I know this is true” they really mean “I think this is true”, they just don’t know the difference. That’s how our brains work unless we are very careful to understand cognitive biases. So, all the sermons and personal testimonies in the world don’t mean very much unless I can see a reason to believe it based on something that makes logical sense to me.

26) Science is more productive because it uses direct observation.
The scientific community is vulnerable to corruption like any other, but the method itself relies on things that literally exist and we can run tests on. This bears real results, as evidenced by the explosion of technology in recent centuries. Science made it possible for you to read this article right now, not religion. Nobody can prove or disprove religious claims about intangible entities, but we do have ways of testing hypotheses related to physical reality and coming to consensuses about how it works.

27) Science is constantly filling in the gaps we used to attribute to God.
There was a time when people thought that thunder and lightning came from an angry god banging around above the clouds. Now we understand that electricity exists and that it is a better explanation. Creation myths used to be the only explanation of human origins, but now we know about evolution. Speaking in tongues and epilepsy were thought to be evidence of God and demons, but now we know about their neurological origins. This trend can be expected to continue.

28) Religions are not repeatable.
If religion vanished today and people had to start over, the Bible and other holy books would never re-materialize. On the other hand, if all scientific knowledge vanished, we’d eventually relearn everything we know today, because the laws of nature are embedded in reality and waiting to be discovered.

29) There’s no reason to think souls are eternal.
Even the most spiritual people don’t think it’s wrong to kill millions of microbes whenever you wash your hands, because bacteria are thought of as biological machines that do not have eternal souls. Most Christians would say the same about ants, lizards, birds, squirrels, dogs, and even monkeys and dolphins. If those amazing creatures don’t go to an afterlife, why should we? We’re just one notch above other primates. Conscious awareness correlates closely with brain activity, and when the brain is destroyed, our awareness probably is too.

30) I care more about truth than comfort.
I used to find solace in the idea that after I die, I will begin a new, eternal life in paradise. If I’m honest, I still find the idea of non-existence uncomfortable. It would be nice to be convinced that something magical awaits me after death. However, I’d rather accept reality the way it is, as best as I can tell, than trick myself with a fiction. At this point I’ve come to terms with my mortality enough to realize that it’s better for all of life to be finite than for me to go to heaven while most of humanity suffers in hell forever.

31) The universe is way bigger than we ever realized.

Religion was invented in a time when we thought the Earth was the biggest thing, a flat, stationary object around which everything else revolved. So it might have made sense that God cared deeply about us and that we were made in his image. Then we realized the earth is a spheroid that spins and circles the sun. Then we realized all the stars in the sky are other suns. Then we realized the cloudy patch in the sky is actually billions of other stars in our massive galaxy. It’s only in the last 100 years that we realized the universe contains over 100 billion galaxies like our own, and that the universe has existed for 14 billion years. The idea that God created the universe just for us and that we’re made in his image seems to stem from a primitive understanding of our place in the universe.

32) The world seems to be ruled by chaos, not an all-powerful loving God.
Being a believer, praying for safety, and living a holy life doesn’t protect you from random tragedies. Your house can still burn down. You can still be killed by a drunk driver. Sometimes wonderful people get brain cancer and disgusting people become billionaires. These things just happen at random, and it sucks, but it’s what you’d expect in a world that is ruled by chaos rather than an all-powerful, loving God.

33) Religion has promoted many harmful ideas over the millennia.
The Bible describes women and slaves as property, includes many stories of xenophobia and genocide, and condemns homosexuality for no reason. “Jesus is coming back soon anyway” justifies a neglect of the environment, and “God gave us dominion over the animals of the earth” leads people not to care about the suffering of the billions of animals we kill for food every year. Religious teachings have enabled systems of abuse that normalize brutality, such as colonialism and slavery. There might be moral good in some of the teachings, but I’m not sure that the overall effect is positive.

34) Religion abuses power.
Leaders within religious organizations hold positions of social power over their congregants and sometimes they intentionally abuse the trust of vulnerable people, as we’ve seen in pedophilia cases within the Catholic church for example. Then, the organization often covers up for the abusers. Many people have been hurt by this dynamic.

35) Religion is a tool for control.
Just look at how it works out in US politics — Trump can play the religion card and evangelicals fall in line, despite how contrary Trump is to every ideal Jesus held. That’s just one small example compared to the thousands of years of people being held captive by the fear of damnation and ex-communication.

36) Religion leads to tribalism.
There’s often a strong “us vs. them” mentality between religions. Fundamentalist Christians and Muslims are very similar in their dogmatic belief and even worship the same God, yet they are sworn enemies, and it leads to violence. We don’t need anything else in the world that encourages that kind of division, because we’re a globally interconnected species now and we need to get along.

37) Religion often takes priority over health.
The top priority of religion is continued belief. If you are doubting the truth of your faith, if you feel that it is leading to bad mental health outcomes or restricting you from being the person you know you are, you will likely be told that you need to deepen your faith and squash your concerns rather than consider alternatives. This results in many people feeling trapped and miserable for years.

38) Religion encourages unrealistic thinking.
Children who believe in Santa Claus usually realize he’s fictional at a fairly young age. Imagine if all the trusted adults in their life continued to insist he was real and said that belief in Santa was the most important thing in life: they created separate schools specifically designed to perpetuate that belief, made them worry for their eternal safety if they stopped believing, told them not to associate with Santa Claus deniers, and came up with huge books of apologetics to “debunk” all those physicists who say it’s impossible to visit billions of homes in one night. Would this system produce a well-reasoned adult?

39) Religion hurts kids.
I remember calling my pastor at age 6 to request to be baptized. I had already integrated the idea that I was essentially bad; I was dirty and unworthy to God, and to have any hope of being a worthwhile person, I needed to identify with the brutal torture of an ancient man, to “die to myself” so that I could be filled with his life instead. I was apparently so horrid that God had to kill himself to forgive me, and I was encouraged to think of myself as powerless and utterly dependent on him. If I didn’t do this, I would deserve eternal torture. I now believe this is a damaging and often deeply traumatizing set of ideas to present to innocent children who have no option but to trust the adult authorities in their lives.

40) I don’t want to waste my one life.
Upon considering all the evidence available to me, my honest conclusion is that it is very unlikely for any religion to be correct. God as described by any of these religions almost certainly doesn’t exist, and I expect that my consciousness will blink out of existence when I die. Therefore, with such limited time, I want to be free to seek the fullest use of my existence as determined by myself. I didn’t find fullness in religion. I found confusion, emptiness, and limitation. Giving up on God was the biggest relief of my life, and since that time I’ve found other ways of thinking that resonate with me more deeply.

The doctrine, dogma, beliefs, and scriptures of Christianity do not mesh well with the observations of reality we make every day. There is something seriously amiss. Most Christians try not not to think about these things, but secularists have no such reluctance, can see clearly, and feel confident that they are on the ‘right path.’

(3853) Where’s the magic?

We should be seeing magical things happening every day if Christianity is true. Christian dogma cannot be separated from this expectation. But the world is bereft of such. The following was taken from:


If the Bible is true, we should expect the world to be full of magic. The Bible presents magic and the acts of spirits and gods as real occurrences that should be detectable.

I’ll start with Exodus 7:10-13, where Egyptian magicians turn staffs into snakes by secret arts. They also turn water into blood in Exodus 7:22 and raise frogs from the land in Exodus 8:7.

This suggests that even prior to Moses, Egypt had been studying the art of sorcery. They had experts and could select from among the best in the field. These experts could literally turn dead wood into living animals, creating life. If the Egyptians were independently able to discover such magic, it should be discoverable by others.

Exodus 22:18 says to kill witches/sorceresses. This would be a silly thing to command if they were not real.

Leviticus 20:27 says to kill female mediums and necromancers. I can’t be certain what necromancy entails, but again this implies these sorceresses are real. Women are supposed to be somehow interacting with the dead.

1 Samuel 28:5-19: Saul gets a witch to summon the deceased Samuel’s ghost in a seance. He has to convince her God won’t punish her first. It works. Samuel’s ghost appears, knowing God’s will and the future. Witchcraft is real and powerful.

There are prohibitions against magic and mentions of practicing magic (divination, necromancy, sorcery, charms) in Leviticus 19:26-31Leviticus 20:6Deuteronomy 18:10-121 Samuel 15:232 Kings 17:17, and Isaiah 8:19. These seem to be acknowledgments of their reality.

And much later, Acts 8:9-24: A magician, Simon, had impressed (with magic) all of Samaria into following him religiously. This suggests that even at the time of Jesus, magic was prevalent outside of Yahweh’s magic. Jesus was not the only miracle worker in town. No reason is ever given for this kind of magic ceasing.

Acts 16:16-24 tells of a slave girl possessed by a spirit that can make money telling the future.

This isn’t the common fortune telling scam. The Bible treats this as a real, magical event. They exorcise the spirit and people are very upset at her loss of ability. They imprison the exorcists.

Mark 5:1-17 and Luke 8:26-39 say that human beings can become possessed by demons who speak through their mouths. These demons can give humans superpower strength, so that they can break through any chains. They are also capable of controlling animals. They can make a creature kill itself directly. This is a terrifying threat to humanity that we somehow see very little of 2,000 years later, or elsewhere in human history.

But 1 Timothy 4:1 declares by the Holy Spirit that demonic activity would actually increase as time went on, and according to Matthew 8:16, they were very common back then.

Which leads to the next point, that there should be Yahweh-generated magic surrounding Christians too. James 5:14-16 clearly says that if anyone is sick, they should call the church elders to pray over them and put oil on them. If they do, they will be raised up from illness. 17-18 goes on to say that praying for physical things like rain can be effective.

Many other verses ensure that God will magically grant requests: 1 John 5:14-15James 4:3John 15:715:16Matthew 21:21Matthew 7:7-8Mark 11:24John 14:13-141 John 3:22.

In Mark 16:16-18, Jesus himself delivers a parting message. He says that signs will accompany those who believe in him, like laying hands on the sick and healing them, drinking deadly poison and being unharmed, and casting out demons.

These magical expectations are mostly absent from Christianity today.

Paul talks about spiritual gifts as though they could produce real magic. Romans 12:6-8 includes prophecy in the common gifts of the church members, alongside generosity and teaching.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 says that the spirit of God will empower people to heal, prophecy, do miracles, speak and understand foreign languages, and discern between spirits.

1 Corinthians 14:4-6 says that those who can prophecy are greater than those who speak in tongues unless someone is there who can interpret the person speaking in tongues. He says the church may be built up on prophecy and asks what value a gift even has if it isn’t backed by prophecy or revelation. This obviously sets an expectation of prophecy among Christians.

In John 16:13 Jesus says the Spirit will tell people the future.

Acts 1:8 says this spirit will persist until the end of the Earth.

All of this describes a world full of magic. If any of this is true, we should expect history to be full of evidence of magic, and we should expect magic to be persistent today.

But the world we observe is not that world. It isn’t full of magic except where unverified or discredited. Christians don’t summon miracles. So why the disparity?

The only defense for this problem is to conjecture that after the time of the prophets and the writing of the New Testament, God shut down all of the magical elements of life in order to test the faith of the generations that would follow. This explanation might work for indoctrinated Christians, but it lacks credibility with everybody else. The lack of magic in our daily lives is a proof in and of itself that Christianity is not true.

(3854) Yahweh’s OT focus was on THIS life

When you read through at least the early books of the Old Testament, it becomes evident that God (Yahweh) was acting very worldly, as if this existence and this life was all that mattered. It wasn’t until later that he began to focus on what happens after people die. The following was taken from:


I was re-reading Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Judges yesterday, and was struck by the “non-spiritual” nature of Yahweh’s interactions with Israel. He seems over and over again to base the entire interaction on military victory if He is worshiped correctly, and military disaster if He is not. No one is “cast into Hell”, and there doesn’t seem to be a spiritual dimension whatsoever – just earthly gain if rules are followed, earthly loss if they are not.

Yahweh didn’t change (he remained a non-existent deity), but rather it was people who changed, being influenced by neighboring civilizations, to believe in an afterlife, and that this was what everyone should be focused on. Yahweh of the OT is not Yahweh of the NT, and Christians should not be allowed to gloss over this fact.

(3855) Scripture indistinguishable from fiction

Of all the holy books ever written, each religion designates theirs as legitimate while dismissing all others. This determination is made strictly by convention- it is not backed up with any evidence. Because of this, none of the books of any religion can be confidently stated to be the inspired work of any god. The following was taken from:


Whichever books you might identify as “divinely inspired”, someone else can identify yours as “false”, “incomplete”, “inaccurate”, and so on, while their other book is “true”, for any number of reasons. Or they may even claim that your specific interpretation of the same exact book is “false” while theirs is “true”, for any number of reasons.

The biggest differences in how a person decides what qualifies as “scripture” seem to depend on which tradition they were raised to accept, having little to do with what these books actually claim about reality, or what external evidence might be provided to accept those claims.

So I ask:

      • On a practical level, how exactly does one tell the difference between “true scripture” and “just another work of fiction”?
      • Are we to simply accept one book as “divinely inspired” through faith, while rejecting all others as “not good enough” by the same exact faith?
      • What is to stop me from claiming that the “Lord of the Rings” books are “scripture”, to the exclusion of all other books?

If your answer to these questions is something to the effect of “by their fruits ye shall know them”, then you will also need to address all the “bad fruits” that have been brought forth by following the words of your books as if they were literally true. (As well as all the other books which arguably have better “fruits”.)

If your answer is something to the effect of “those parts are just metaphorical”, then the same could be said about any other book ever written, and your definition of “scripture” is effectively meaningless.

If your answer is to try and thoroughly examine supporting evidence external to the books themselves, then you will quickly realize what a tangled mess the definition of “scripture” becomes. The “true prophet” of one person can too easily be the “false prophet” of another.

If you believe there is sufficient evidence to support the claims to “divine inspiration” made by your favorite books, to the exclusion of all other contradicting religious texts, then please don’t just tell me about it. Submit your evidence to universities and scientific journals for peer review. You could change the world!

So what would we expect if a god actually did provide a book for humans? There are three interesting possibilities- (1) miraculously make books appear out of thin air in the appropriate languages, or (2) have information in the books that would be impossible for humans at the time to know (for example, ‘light travels nearly a million times faster than sound’), or (3) make sure that the inspired books contain no errors. None of these conditions are true for any religious book in existence, and what is taken to have been inspired is strictly determined by the religion in which one is raised.

(3856) Luke’s fatal mistake

In his zeal to jazz up his crucifixion story, the author of the Gospel of Luke made a colossal mistake that invalidates his entire account. He had Jesus promise a criminal being crucified next to him a trip to paradise (Luke 23:43) merely in response to a casual request for the same.

There are four major problems- (1) this account appears in no other gospel, (2) Jesus states that the criminal will be in paradise that day even though Jesus will remain dead in the tomb for the next 36 hours, (3) it invalidates standard Christian dogma regarding the requirement for being saved, which requires an admission of and confession of sins and acceptance of Jesus’ death and resurrection (which hadn’t yet happened) as propitiation, and (4) it is patently unfair for a wanton criminal to be saved by making a casual side remark while good, responsible, loving people are sent to hell.

The following was taken from:


The Bible tells a story about how when Jesus was crucified, there were two other men (criminals) crucified with him. One of those criminals said to Jesus

“Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (Lk 23:42)”. Jesus replies to saying, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

That’s it! That’s all it took for that criminal to gain access to heaven. He could have been a rapist, pedophile, killer etc and at that moment it wouldn’t matter.

Meanwhile someone else who’s lead a better life (relatively speaking) than that criminal could end up in hell.

There’s an obvious flaw in this system of “justice” because you could be the worst human being, but sneak into heaven by repenting at the last moment. How can an infinitely wise being not recognize this obvious flaw?

So no need to repay the person he stole from, no need provide comfort, aid, and money to the woman he raped, and no need to help rebuild the house that he burned down- just say one sentence and you are on your way to heaven. It is impossible to construct a more unjust system of justice.

(3857) Mark’s fraudulent ending influenced by Luke

It is commonly assumed that the original author of Mark ended his account at verse 16:8 where the women saw that the tomb was empty but didn’t tell anyone about it. A later editor added verses 9-20. One particular verse in the addition is 16:12

After this, Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them as they walked along in the country.

This is a clear reference to Luke 24:13-35, which tells the improbable story of a resurrected Jesus walking along with two disciples in the countryside, but where these two individuals did not recognize that it was Jesus until the end of the walk.

It has been well established that Luke was written about 10-20 years after Mark, so the question is whether Mark 16:12 or Luke 24:13-35 was written first.

There are two reasons to conclude that the Luke passage was written first- (1) the oldest manuscripts of Mark end at 16:8 and the oldest commentaries on Mark do not know of anything beyond this verse, and (2) it is unlikely that an author would include a reference to Jesus appearing in a ‘different form’ without offering more explanation, especially if this was the first time this incident was being documented- that is, the author might truncate this story if he knew that it was fleshed out in another document.

This implies that Mark 16:12 was written after the Gospel of Luke, or likely at least 20 years after Mark’s original composition. It was an apparent effort to make Mark and Luke more consistent with each other, when in fact this would be about as effective as putting a band-aid on a volcano.

(3858) Editing the infallible

The Catholic Church has had a long-standing uncomfortable relationship with the scientific theory of evolution, seeing it appropriately as a threat to their dogma. Acquiescence to the growing consensus has been a long, difficult road for the church, as it has been forced to give ground time and time again to keep from looking foolish. But one episode recounted below involved an editing of the words of the INFALLIBLE pope in a way that completely changed the meaning of what he had said. The following was taken from:


For nearly a century and a half after the 1859 publication of On the Origin of Species, the Catholic Church did a coy dance with evolutionary theory, deciding at last to accept it in the same way it decided Galileo deserved an apology—glacially and partially.

I at least give the Vatican credit for noticing something too often denied by others: that evolution, properly understood, presents a fatal problem for some of the most fundamental assumptions of their religion.

Since Darwin, a few popes had skated at the margins of the question. They rarely mentioned evolution in the last decades of the 19th century but repeatedly affirmed “the special creation of man”—one of the fundamental assumptions that evolution quietly eviscerates.

In Providentissimus Deus (1893), Leo XIII decried “the unrestrained freedom of thought” (his actual words) that he saw running rampant as the 20th century approached, warning that religion and science should stay out of each other’s sandboxes.

Whatever sharpens your hat, I guess.

A step forward came in 1950 with Humani generis, in which Pius XII said “the Church does not forbid” research and discussion related to biological evolution. But the encyclical contains a self-canceling message typical of papal pronouncements: “Men experienced in both fields” (science and theology) are free to study the issue, so long as their conclusions do not contradict certain assumptions—that “souls are immediately created by God,” for one, and that humans cannot have ultimately come from non-living matter.

Excluding possibilities out of hand before you begin is one of the best ways to get things wrong, of course. But before we jeer too much at the Vatican for taking 91 years to get it even half right, we should recognize that much of the scientific community had only fully accepted evolutionary theory in the previous decade. It was the modern synthesis with genetics, articulated by (among others) Ernst Mayr in 1942, that answered the most serious remaining questions and cemented the scientific consensus on evolution.

Then came the strongest concession. In an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1996, John Paul II improved on Pius XII. He noted that Pius had recognized evolution as a “serious hypothesis…worthy of a more deeply studied investigation and reflection on a par with the opposite hypothesis. [But] today,” he continued, “more than a half-century after the appearance of [Pius XII’s] encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis.”

Ignoring the fallible math, here’s where it gets interesting: The original speech was in French, with the last sentence rendered thus:

Aujourd’hui, près d’un demi-siècle après la parution de l’encyclique, de nouvelles connaissances conduisent à reconnaître dans la théorie de l’évolution plus qu’une hypothèse.

Like all major papal holdings-forth, the address was translated into several other languages. The English language edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the papal paper, translated it like so:

Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of more than one hypothesis within the theory of evolution.

(*gasp*) Somebody diddled with His Holiness!

The difference in the two translations is enormous. If the pope said there is “more than one hypothesis within the theory of evolution,” that’s a yawn. If he said “Evolution [is] more than an hypothesis,” that’s an earthquake.

A correction appeared three weeks later, but you know how that is. The faithful worldwide jumped on the translation they preferred. Some major media stories even got it backward, claiming that “more than an hypothesis” was the original error, and that “more than one hypothesis” was the correction. Answers in Genesis and other creationist organizations accepted the correct translation as evidence against the Catholic church. That’s all the expected gum flapping, none of it as interesting as the initial act of mistranslation.

In the correction, the English edition editor explained that they had taken an “overly literal” translation of the French text. But one enterprising media outlet ran the text by four French language experts, none of whom saw any possible reading other than “evolution [is] more than an hypothesis.”

Whether the switch was intentional is the fascinating question here. It’s always safe and fun to play the cynic and assume the conspiracy, but it’s pretty hard to picture anyone in the Vatican having sufficiently well-developed cojones to intentionally scramble the Pope’s words, something that was easily discovered. The fact that the editor in question was transferred from Rome to a parish in Illinois seems at first to suggest retribution, but that was five years after the bungle. And he was returning home.

Anyone tracking the lineage of popes and wondering if they really were God’s representatives on earth will wonder why God allowed them for so long to resist what God certainly knew was true from the very start. Why would God have allowed his church to endure the embarrassment of resisting science when he knew they would eventually have to capitulate? Either this god doesn’t exist or the popes have not been on his list of contacts.

(3859) Nine illogicalities concerning hell

Christian hell is illogical, cruel, and ineffective. It stains the faith with an indelible mark of disgrace. The following discusses nine ways that the concept of hell damages the Christian faith:


1) God’s perfect justice

A common Christian position states that God’s perfect justice obliges him to judge us severely, but what is “perfect justice”? Fundamentalists imagine that it’s a mindlessly inflexible demand for perfection, but there are other possibilities. Perfect justice might mean not a rigid justice but a judge that is perfect in his evaluation.

Why would justice be binary, with only heaven and hell as the possible options? Can’t it be a spectrum? Couldn’t your life be graded on a scale? A wise human judge would understand that we are imperfect and wouldn’t demand perfection. That judge might evaluate each person’s life against their potential to see how morally they played the hand that life dealt. Enlightened justice along these lines sounds more appropriate for an omniscient god than Christianity’s barbaric and inflexible justice.

We’re told that God’s perfect sense of justice is offended by our petty imperfections, but why would it work that way? We can’t hurt Superman physically, for example, so how can we hurt God’s sense of perfect justice? Is he emotionally a fragile flower who goes to pieces when he sees someone say an unkind word or leave too small a tip?

A finite human can be injured, offended, or overpowered, but not so an infinite God.

2) God can just forgive

Why can’t God just respond to insults and infractions the old-fashioned way—by forgiving? That’s what we do. That’s the lesson Jesus gives with the parable of the Prodigal Son.

It turns out that God can just forgive, and we find evidence in the Bible. God makes a new covenant with Israel and Judah in Jeremiah 31:33–4 and says, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

In Isaiah 43 (after much whining about how Israel hadn’t made enough sacrifices), God concludes, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Is. 43:25).

What’s all this handwaving about how God’s perfect standard of justice requires Jesus as a human sacrifice? If God can forgive, the crucifixion wasn’t even necessary.

3) One size fits all

God takes a baggy, one-size-fits-all approach to judgment. If you’re perfect (or if you’ve accepted Jesus, which makes you effectively perfect), you go to heaven. Otherwise, it’s hell.

That’s a simple rule, but we don’t do it that way in the West. The rejection of “cruel and unusual punishment” dates back to the English Bill of Rights in 1689. Even in its harshest interpretation, where justice should be retributive and criminals should suffer, justice is proportionate to the crime.

Don’t tell me that God’s hands are tied. If he made his one-size-fits-all justice rule in a momentary lapse, he can just make a new rule. He changed his mind and forgave Israel, so he can do the same thing today. He’s omnipotent, right?

Or if God is wedded to the idea of a binary decision (you’re in heaven or you’re not), he could just annihilate the bad people. Eternal torture is so 1000 BCE.

4) Substitutionary atonement

Substitutionary atonement (the idea that Jesus’s punishment substitutes for the punishment we deserve) is another way in which God is out of step with a modern sense of justice.

Christianity tells us that we’re bad. In fact, we’re so bad that we can never deserve heaven, no matter what good we do in our miserable little lives. But lucky for us, Jesus took on our sins-to-be in a Bronze-Age-style human sacrifice, satisfying God’s justifiable rage. Now we’re washed clean and can deserve heaven, but more questions arise. Why was Jesus an afterthought in God’s perfect plan? Shouldn’t Jesus have been there from the beginning? How can an all-wise and all-loving god get angry at imperfect beings’ imperfections? How can an omniscient god be angry at something that he foresaw before he even started the project?

But those questions are tangents. Think of how wrong substitutionary atonement would be for Western justice. In cases where the justice system discovers that the wrong person was imprisoned for a crime, no one says, “Well, someone received punishment, and that’s all that matters.”

5) Free will

Apologist Norm Geisler argued that atheists wouldn’t like a world with God as a cosmic nanny, always clearing any dangers from the path ahead. Atheists are outraged when God lets people die from injustice, he says, but what if God gave them their wish? The murderer’s bullet would turn to butter, the wall would turn into a bungee-cord net just before the car crashed into it, and so on. There would be no moral consequences and no chance for moral development in such a world where free will is constrained to permit only good actions.

But our free will is already constrained. I can’t read minds, I can’t fly, I can’t see x-rays, I don’t have telekinetic killing power, and I don’t have laser eyes. Nevertheless, I muddle along despite all these constraints on my free will. There’s no evidence that a loving god carefully tuned the traits of our reality to give us a just-right Goldilocks world where we have some character-building challenge but not too much. Instead, this is just one more Christian attempt to paper over the lack of evidence for God.

You’d think that Christians would find the opportunity to show evidence for God, but here as with similar issues, Christian apologists are only eager to rationalize away the lack of evidence.

What about here?” we ask. “Shouldn’t we see evidence of God here?”

No,” the Christian replies, “there again things look just like there’s no God at all.”

And let’s not imagine God as a champion of free will. When God doesn’t constrain the free will of the murderer or rapist, that imposes on the free will of the victims.

Tell the person who is locked in hell that God is the champion of free will. The Bible itself tells of God deliberately trampling people’s free will.

    • He hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he wouldn’t yield to Moses (Exodus 9:12), and he hardened the hearts of the Jewish opponents of Jesus so that they wouldn’t believe (John 12:37–40).
    • God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9:18).
    • The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples” (Psalms 33:10).
    • For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses” (Joshua 11:2

6) What’s the point of life on earth?

As explored in part 1, we know that our world isn’t the greatest possible world. Heaven is far better, so why didn’t God skip a step and make us in heaven? Or if life on earth is like heaven except without the wisdom to use free will, God could just give us that wisdom.

Earth as a winnowing test is a ridiculous notion. God already knows who’s naughty and who’s nice, and he could avoid making bad people in the first place. Sure, one could handwave that the good people only get that way because of the existence of the bad ones, but (1) there’s no reason to imagine that (this is the Hypothetical God Fallacy), and (2) again, God could’ve just made us in heaven and avoided creating earth.

7) God is a poor teacher

Jesus told his followers to choose the narrow road, because most people would take the broad road to destruction (Matthew 7:13–14).

Is God so bad a teacher that most of his students fail? Many human teachers pass all their students. You’d think that an omniscient and omnipotent teacher would do a better job.

8) God’s responsibility

If everything happens according to God’s plan, then God makes most of humanity knowing that they’re destined for hell. This doctrine of predestination is made explicit in Calvinism. While the opposite view of Arminianism rejects predestination, it’s hard to imagine an omniscient God who is nevertheless surprised and saddened when anyone is sent to hell.

9) Heaven is hellish

How can you be happy in heaven, knowing of the billions of people in torment in hell, especially if heaven gives you wisdom or enlightenment to more clearly perceive justice and injustice? One response is that our human compassion must be deadened so that we’re no longer concerned about the suffering. Thomas Aquinas’s twisted logic went like this: “Whoever pities another shares somewhat in his unhappiness. But the blessed cannot share in any unhappiness. Therefore they do not pity the afflictions of the damned.” By this view, heaven is so horrible a place that one must be anesthetized to endure it.

When Christians imagined heaven and hell into existence, they didn’t didn’t think very deeply about the repercussions of how these places of post-life reward and punishment would work in a practical sense. In the short term, using first-order thinking, it made sense to incentivize and scare people into following the faith, but once society reached a higher level of sophistication, the entire concept became untenable. A post-Christian world will relegate these fictional places to the dustbin of history.

(3860) By all accounts, Satan wins

If we are to believe that God and Satan are competing for human souls, then scriptural evidence indicates that Satan is cruising toward a big win, and God for a humiliating loss. Christian dogma has the vast percentage of people bound for hell. The following was taken from:


God has a battle to win over Lucifer at the end of time and he is obviously prophecized to win. But the problem is that he lost most of his creation to Lucifer by them being deceived and thrown into the lake of fire by God on judgement day. Approximately 32 percent of the world proclaims to be Christian’s today not to mention the amount of people who passed away and did not hear of Judaism or Christianity which is most of the human population up until the industrial revolution. So let’s say and this is most likely generous 20 percent of humanity is able to get into heaven. Even Jesus him self says few will get to heaven.

Matthew 7:13-14

Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the. way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter in by it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Contrary to popular belief not all Christian’s go to heaven

Matthew 7:21-23

21 “Not everyone who calls me Lord will enter God’s kingdom. The only people who will enter are those who do what my Father in heaven wants. 22 On that last Day many will call me Lord. They will say, ‘Lord, Lord, by the power of your name we spoke for God. And by your name we forced out demons and did many miracles.’ 23 Then I will tell those people clearly, ‘Get away from me, you people who do wrong. I never knew you.’

Also no God does not give you a pass if you have not heard the gospel or the Torah. The Bible says multiple times that everyone knows God no matter what which is a stupid claim I don’t think your average dude in Africa is thinking about Jesus being crucified.Also only middle eastern people are the only ones to have created a one God religion.

Here is an article about it


So this means that out of the 100 billion humans that have existed probably 90 percent of them are going to hell how exactly is this a win for God?

The people who wrote the Bible supposedly thought that God was more powerful than Satan, and that God wanted everybody to be saved, but right inside their sacred scriptures they pulverized these ideals, unknowingly giving the final victory to Satan by a large margin.

(3861) Jesus and his angels

According to the following scripture, Jesus made the following statement at the time of his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Matthew 26:53

“Are you not aware that I can call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”

This creates some problems:

1) Jesus is threatening to call on massless beings that modern (sane) people know do not exist.

2) He is intimating that these massless creatures can somehow deliver him from his fate.

3) This statement by Jesus appears in no other gospel.

4) A Roman legion is approximately 5600 men, so 12 legions of angels would be 67,200 angels. If this is the total number of angels that Jesus had access to, we can figure out how many angels existed at the beginning because we know from the following scriptures that 1/3 of the angels fell into disgrace by following Satan:

Revelation 12:3-4

Then another sign appeared in heaven: a huge red dragon with seven heads, ten horns, and seven royal crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars from the sky, tossing them to the earth.

Revelation 12:7-9

Then a war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But the dragon was not strong enough, and no longer was any place found in heaven for him and his angels. And the great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

This implies that the original number of angels was X=67,200/(1-1/3) = 100,800 angels.

This means that God was so abrasive that in the beginning, 100,800 (1/3) = 33,600 angels rebelled against him and followed Satan (Lucifer) instead.

It is assumed that these angels became demons, so that would imply that there were 33,600 demons in the beginning, but more might have been spawned since then.

That any of this foolishness has any kernel of truth is a stretch that only very gullible people can stomach.

(3862) Bible should have been more concise

A cleaner, more concise book, that describes God and his associates, if any, and a listing of rules and expectations about how to live would not only have sufficed, but would have shielded the Bible from criticism for its many overtly magical and contradictory elements. The following was taken from:


I’ve always wondered why the Bible wasn’t simply just a rule book of what not to do and what to do. Why include these stories of Jesus and Moses and Adam and Eve when they have even the slightest chance to be proven wrong and then the whole book’s honesty is called into question?

Simply maintaining “God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent” would give non belivers less to argue about. Less chance for the supposedly all loving God’s children to disbelieve.

– But we are given stories that contradict our understanding of the world and history (Young Earth, Sun standing still, water becoming wine)

– We are given stories of crooked yet “holy” characters (Jesus says he’s return soon but didn’t, God interrupting Pharoah’s free will to show off with plagues, the evil bet on Job’s livelihood)

– And we get stories that would seem to us to be unnecessary (Extra commandments not emphasized or else destroyed, bears mauling children who poke fun at baldness, instructions on slave-beating)

Even if these stories teach a moral, it’s God we’re talking about. He could make moral rules like he does with the commandments without a potentially fallible narrative attached.

In this case, less would be more. There is too much obvious fiction in the Bible for objective persons to take it seriously as being the product of an infinite mind. A shorter and more readable version would have been a much better, and more believable, communication tool.

(3863) Failure of the empty tomb trope

Christian apologists often use the empty tomb as a useful piece of evidence to support the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, but there are too many alternate explanations for this slice of theology to draw any definitive conclusions. The following was taken from:


Miller shows that bodily disappearance was a widely recognized sign that an individual was taken to live with the gods. Sometimes, these individuals disappear while alive and sometimes, their remains disappear. Given how widely attested this trope is ancient literature, why think Jesus was the only exception whose body actually disappeared? What if the empty tomb story is just another such story also signalizing heavenly translation? Isn’t that a much better explanation?

Also, the empty tomb narratives specifically are a nice illustration of how the Gospel authors felt free to invent new narratives. E.g. in the Synoptics, the women bring spices to annoint Jesus’ body. But the Gospel of John doesn’t include that because in that version of the story, Jesus’ body has already been annointed by Joseph and Nicodemus. Or, in the Gospel of Luke, the two angels who appear at the tomb don’t direct the disciples to go to Galilee (something which the author of the Gospel of Luke purpusefully chose to ignore when he was copying from a manuscript of the Gospel of Mark) because in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus only appears around Jerusalem. And then there is of course the Gospel of Peter which actually narrates Jesus’ resurrection witnessed by a crowd, including Jewish elders and a contingent of Roman soldiers. Given this narrative flexibility, why think that the empty tomb story itself isn’t just another product of it?

Another consideration is that the kind of burial Jesus, a crucified criminal, recieves in the Gospels (in a large tomb with enough space to enter and stand in, multiple loculi and enclosed by a stone) was reserved only for the highest elites because it was insanely expensive to cut into solid rock. This is definitely not how crucified criminals were normally handled even when they were buried (that would be a burial in a communal plot of land specifically set aside for that purpose). While it’s at least somewhat unexpected that someone in Jesus’s position would end up like that (I’d say very unexpected), there’s an obvious explanation as to why the Gospel of Mark would depict that kind of a tomb – it’s precisely the kind which can be discovered empty.

Goodacre shows that various elements of the empty tomb story were added by various Gospel authors to “rule out” competing explanations of what happened with the body (e.g. the tomb is new and/or Jesus is the only one buried there to avoid a case of mistaken identity; the guards are put in place to prevent body theft, obviously).

The bottom line is that the mystique of missing humans or bodies was quite common at the time, and the gospels present too many inconsistencies to conclude that there ever was an empty tomb, and even if there was, there are alternative and more likely explanations beyond a human reviving from death.

(3864) Jesus’ predictions were watered down

There is biblical evidence that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher who predicted an end to the world in a very short time (less than a generation). When that appeared to be untrue, later writers had to make some adjustments to these expectations. The following was taken from:


Thesis: Jesus preached the apocalypse coming during his generation (within 40 years) and later Christian writers and early church fathers watered down his original teaching and reinterpreted his message.

Both Paul and Jesus expected the apocalypse to come in their lifetimes. Apocalypticism was a view common to many Palestinian Jews during that time. See the dead sea scrolls and contemporary prophets mentioned by Josephus. see the following verses:

Matt24:34-35: Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Matt16:28: Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

Matt10:23: When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Matt 26:64: You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.

Mark9:1: And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

Mark13:30: Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

Mark 1:15: The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Thess 4:16-18: For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Or just read all of 1Corinthians 15.

Why do you think the resurrection of Christ is so important to Christianity? Didn’t Jesus raise others from the dead and perform dozens of other miracles? He could have and did (according to the bible) demonstrated his divinity 10,000 other ways so why is this miracle the most important part?
The reason is because Paul was a Pharisee and Pharisees believed during the near coming apocalypse all the dead would come back and be judged by God and the wicked would be destroyed and the righteous would live on earth with God forever. Thus, Jesus resurrection was the “first fruit”. Farmers reap the first fruit and know that the general harvest will follow soon after. This would also explain the odd verse in Matt 27:52 where all the dead of the earth rose from their tombs, which somehow was missed by the other 3 gospels and all other living writers at the time.

And in both the epistles I quote Paul talks about “those who are asleep” and “we who are awake” referring to the dead and the living. He never says “those who are awake” but “we who are awake.

This is also why you so often hear Jesus talking about the Son of Man in the 3rd person, because in the older text and likely in his original message, the Son of Man was the judge sent from heaven spoken of in Daniel 7:13-14 and Enoch ch 37-71. He was not referring to himself.

Put into this context, radical forgiveness and completely abandoning your property and family also make sense. There isn’t even time to bury the dead or say goodbye to your family (Luke 9:59-62) the end is nigh. This was never intended to be the morality of a just society or a reasonable way to live your life.

Jesus ministry begins with his baptism by John, who preached a near apocalypse, see Luke 3:7-9. and the earliest Christian writer, Paul also preached a near apocalypse. The only link between the apocalyptic John and the apocalyptic Paul is Jesus. The apocalyptic sayings have a high probability of being authentic because they make sense in context, in other words apocalypticism was a common view in that time and place. There is multiple attestation. many of these predictions would have been both dissimilar to teachings and embarrassing to slightly later Christians who would not be likely to make up these sayings.

This has been a mainstream view among scholars for the last century. The older Christian texts are the more apocalyptic they are and it gets gradually watered down. Compare mark 9:1 to Luke 9:27 where Luke drops the words “in power” because he still believes the end is near but is writing by the time that the first disciples are dead.

Compare mark 14:62 to Luke 22:69. Jesus originally predicted the high priest condemning him would see the end times but this prediction is changed in Luke.

This happens gradually until we get to the gospel of John, written over 50 years after Jesus’ death (Jews considered a generation to be exactly 40 years). the church interpreted all of this as a spiritual resurrection and judgment at the point of death. see John 11:23-26 where Jesus corrects Mary (sister of Lazarus) for saying her brother will be “raised on the last day” and says that “though he die yet shall live” through faith in him.
Jesus was a Jew. Most Jews didn’t even have a concept of the after life and they certainly didn’t expect the messiah to be crucified, much less be God incarnate/ the son of god. The messiah was to be king of the earth during a time of global peace. The charge that Jesus claimed to be king of the Jews makes sense if he had claimed that he would be king after this resurrection. There was no king of the Jews so long as Rome ruled them, it wasn’t a metaphorical title it was a literal title held by previous Jewish kings thought to be chosen by God.

Watering down the expectations of Jesus’ return and the new world order has been a perennial pursuit of Christians for the past 1950 years. The explanations for Jesus’ absence have gone through many iterations. ‘Certainly it will happen by 2000’ but that came and went. For some reason Christians don’t realize that Jesus’ failure to return in his expected time frame is proof that Christianity is false.

(3865) What a god-created world would look like

There might be a healthy debate about whether the world we live in looks like what we might imagine a god would create. But going a little deeper, we can see how an old television show might give us some clues. The following was taken from:


“You’re so smart?” the Christian apologist says. “You think you can read God’s mind? Then tell us what life on earth should look like if God created it.”

I’m glad you asked. If an omnipotent and all-loving god created human life here on earth as a way to develop us into better people who would deserve eternity in heaven, our world would look like “Leave It to Beaver:

Image result for leave it to beaver

Leave it to Beaver was a sitcom that ran from1957 to 1963 featuring Theodore (Beaver, on the right), his brother Wally, and parents in a suburban setting where all challenges were easily manageable and completely fixed by the end of each episode.

Who graduates from God’s classroom?

First, let’s view life from the Christian perspective. Jesus makes clear that few will make it to heaven.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13–14)

Making it through that small gate is our purpose in life. I’ve heard Christians give different metaphors for our world. God made a challenging life on earth as a test to see which people are made of the right stuff. Or it’s a proving ground where the good souls get a chance to prove their worth. Or a crucible where the dross burns away to improve our character and prepare us for heaven.
But let’s imagine life as a classroom. God apparently is so poor a teacher that he only graduates a few of his students.

If you were the president of a college, you might think that if 80% of the freshmen graduate, that’s a decent fraction. It’s too bad about the rest, but it’s not possible to make that fraction zero. But God could. God would know exactly what the problems were and how to fix them. Is it a lack of motivation? A lack of funds? Classes not relevant or interesting enough? With God in control, he could create colleges with a 100% graduation rate.

God isn’t president of an ordinary college; he’s president of the Ultimate College—life. What fraction of people graduate from God’s college into heaven? Not even half.

Is this the best of all possible worlds?

Eighteenth-century German polymath Gottfried Leibniz argued that this must be the best of all possible worlds. How could God allow all the bad that we see in the world—famine, plague, violence, and so on? Leibniz simply assumed that God would give us the best of all possible worlds, that God couldn’t improve one part without making the overall worse. QED.

God can’t make things better than what we have now? Let me suggest some ideas.

Tips for God

Here’s how an omnipotent and all-loving God could better organize life. I propose a world with a 100% graduation rate where everyone gets into heaven. It would be a world with gentle correction for errors, like in “Leave It to Beaver.”
To see what that world would look like, here are some of the plot summaries from that sitcom:

    • Beaver and Wally are in charge of the neighbor’s cat, but then a dog chases it away (“Cat Out of the Bag”).
    • Beaver discovers his old teddy bear and reluctantly discards him after his father and brother tell him he’s too old for dolls. Beaver changes his mind, but he’s too late to save it before the garbage truck comes. He tries to get it back (“Beaver’s Old Friend”).
    • Beaver is scheduled to receive an award at school and argues with his parents about whether he needs to wear a jacket and tie (“Beaver’s Football Award”).
    • Beaver must write a book report on The Three Musketeers and decides to watch the movie on TV instead of reading the book (“The Book Report”).
    • Beaver and a friend are in charge of the class cookie fund, but another student steals three dollars (“The Cookie Fund”).
    • Beaver rips his suit pants and lies about it. He’s scolded for the lie and then tells the truth when he rips the pants of his other suit, but his parents won’t believe him (“Beaver’s Bad Day”).

There are 234 episodes. In each, the stakes are low, and there is learning at the end. Beaver gets a little wiser as he’s gently nudged toward adulthood. Not everyone reaches their goals in each episode, but nothing particularly bad happens. Sure, embarrassment during a date or punishment after a mistake is traumatic, but it’s not cancer. Things are black and white, just like the show itself. It’s life with training wheels.

Contrast Beaver’s life with plausible plots from our reality:

    • Little Suzie gets smallpox and then dies (“Suzie’s Bad Day”).
    • Frank is at work when he feels an earthquake. He makes his way home, but he’s too late—a tsunami has swept away his entire town, including his family (“Frank’s Bad Day”).
    • Jamey is tormented by homophobic bullying in school and online. He hangs himself at age 14 (“Jamey’s Bad Day”).

The Christian demands, “Aren’t you the arrogant one? You think you can tell God how to arrange the universe?” But of course that’s not the question. We don’t take God as a presupposition and then rearrange the facts to support it. Instead, we just follow the facts. And this world certainly looks like a world without a god.

This plays a little bit in the problem of evil, the problem of senseless suffering, and the general chaos of earthly life. Everything makes sense if this is a godless, evolved ecosystem that never had any favored respect for humans. But once you introduce god into the equation, excuses become necessary. The simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

(3866) Fire from heaven

The author of Luke created a story likely in response to an embarrassing scripture in the Old Testament where fire is summoned from the heavens killing over 100 men. Compare the following two scriptures:

2 Kings 1:9-12

Then King Ahaziah sent to Elijah a captain with his company of fifty men. So the captain went up to Elijah, who was sitting on top of a hill, and said to him, “Man of God, the king declares, ‘Come down!’ ”

Elijah answered the captain, “If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.”

And fire came down from heaven and consumed the captain and his fifty men.

So the king sent to Elijah another captain with his fifty men. And the captain said to Elijah, “Man of God, the king declares, ‘Come down at once!’ ”

Again Elijah replied, “If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.”

And the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed the captain and his fifty men.

Luke 9:51-55

As the day of His ascension approached, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He sent messengers on ahead, who went into a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But the people there refused to welcome Him, because He was heading for Jerusalem.

When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do You want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”

But Jesus turned and rebuked them. And He and His disciples went on to another village.

It is very likely that the author of Luke was cognizant of 2 Kings 1:9-12 and created this vignette to distance Jesus from the brutality and craziness of this scripture. It appears in no other gospel, and it seems consistent with the idea that Luke was a more compassionate person than the other gospel authors (remember that his version of the Sermon on the Mount (or Plain) used the term ‘blessed are the poor’ rather than ‘blessed are the poor in spirit’ (in Matthew)). This was an effort by Luke to distance Jesus from his daddy Yahweh.

(3867) Maybe God used evolution to make humans?

There are some Christians who accede to the overwhelming evidence that life evolved on this planet over almost four billion years, but state that God guided the process to ensure that humans in his image would eventually emerge. But once this concession is made, many others follow as discussed below:


let’s hypothetically suppose evolution is how God created life,
and accretion is just how God created solar systems,
and stellar fusion is how God caused suns to emit light,
and magma convection is how God caused plate tectonics to occur,
and plate tectonics is how God created mountains and earthquakes and volcanoes,
and evaporation is how God created clouds,
and the water cycle is how God created rain and rivers and oceans,
and refraction is how God created rainbows,
and letting science discover soap is how God cured diseases,
and letting men build the Internet is how God created Reddit,
and letting men invent religion is how God revealed himself to the world,
and doing nothing is just God’s way of accomplishing all his great works.

Now, is anything of value lost if we just stop believing in God altogether? Maybe you’ll ask, what does it hurt if we believe in him? Well, if religion is actually using God’s name to manipulate and exploit people, then sustaining religion is sustaining fraud. That hurts society. So, where do you draw the line? Do you study naturalism but arbitrarily pick a few miracles to believe anyway, and suppose they are sufficient to establish a need for God?

The problem is that with so many events evidently occurring naturally, where can you draw the line between naturalism and the supernatural? Can we suppose that some events that seem natural are really supernatural? It seems that putting God into the equation is just adding another cause that is not needed. Mathematically:

Naturalism = What we observe

Naturalism + God = What we observe

We solve for God = 0 and discard the hypothesis.

(3868) Choosing to go to hell

Christians often defend God’s (macabre) plan to send atheists to hell by asserting that this is a conscious choice that the atheists have made. The following destroys this logic:


I feel like the ‘you send yourself to hell’ is a really bad argument for justifying hell. Because this means that Muslims decide to go to hell. Christian’s decide to go to Jahannam and both Christian’s and Muslims decide to go to Naraka. No matter what religion you decide to follow you have to accept that you risk some chance of being wrong and going to the hell of that other religion.

Which brings the problem of the faith over deeds doctrine to a hard question. Is this really justifiable that my God would punish people who helped me through life fed me and comforted me in eternal punishment while I get to rest in bliss. If a God does not give sufficient evidence of their existence they have no right to punish you for not believing them. Even then it is ridiculous to do it for an eternity. Most people who disbelieve a certain religion aren’t intentionally going against that God they just don’t find it believable so how is eternal punishment justified here?

Christianity cannot justify eternal punishment for someone who earnestly disbelieves in Jesus, so they manufacture the idea that atheists actually do believe but that they have made the choice to go their own way, and in some measure of twisted logic that they have actually chosen to be tortured in hell. But once you realize that hells exist in other religions, the Christian finds himself in the same spot as the atheist with respect to those other religions.

(3869) Praising God is illogical

Christianity made a mistake by requiring its followers to praise and worship God, because those measures of devotion should be reserved for individuals who had to work hard to deserve it. But for Yahweh, everything must be effortless. The following was taken from:


The truth is, what really determines whether or not a good deed is worthy of praise is the expected abilities of the one doing said good deed. This applies to nearly all feats that we give people credit for, not just moral ones. Take the idea of saving someone’s life with CPR, if a nurse does that in a hospital, that’s par for the course and it happens countless times every day. But if a 10-year-old boy scout saves someone’s life with CPR, that child is liable to get a medal of honor. Because a child is not expected to be capable of going around saving lives. In a similar vein, cases of animals showing kindness and empathy will often go viral, even when it’s doing something basic like sharing food. Because as far as we know, that’s not something we would think those animals could do. If a poor family scrounges to raise one thousand dollars to support a local cause, that will very well be newsworthy. But if a billion-dollar company donates a thousand dollars to a charity, most people would consider that to be insulting.

And the thing is, this is a phenomenon that was admitted by God himself. Jesus Christ gave the parable of the poor woman. The poor woman was surrounded by rich benefactors that gave “out of their riches”, but the two pennies that she gave were all the more worthwhile because those two pennies were all she had.

So what does this mean for an all-powerful entity? He’s capable of anything, nothing is impossible, nothing is difficult. Any feat of power is something we expect him to be capable of, so by the very nature of his being, he isn’t worthy of being praised for it. Even in cases where we think of someone doing something that we would expect them, like a weightlifter being strong, we think of that as praiseworthy because that athlete took years and years of intense training to get to that point. Was God always all-powerful, did he have to train to get his abilities, or was he always just like that? Did God put in any work to get to his position, or was it just by his nature of existence? If God has no control of his current status, then it’s no different than praising someone for being able to breathe. But even then you can praise someone for being able to breathe if it meant that they were fighting to live after some major accident.

So, to reiterate the points. Praiseworthiness is determined by what would the one doing the action would normally be capable of. But if God is an infinite, all-powerful being, all of his abilities are just normal for him. Thereby, if God is all these things, then by the nature of his being, he’s not worthy of praise.

To be more logical, Christianity should have expected its followers to fear and respect God only, and left praise and worship out of the equation. The other alternative would have been to portray Yahweh as a god who had to educate himself, perform many tasks, and work hard to eventually become an omnipotent god. As is, praising God is like praising a car every time it starts.

(3870) Christianity’s boogeyman

In western cultures a boogeyman is a fictional person, usually a mysterious man who lurks in the shadows, and who will abduct children who misbehave or who venture too far away from home or stay out too late. Parents use this meme to scare children into obedience.

Christianity has its version of the boogeyman in the Devil (Lucifer, Satan) as a means of scaring adults into obedience.

In both cases the boogeyman has the same characteristics:

– lacking a clear description

– lacking a consistent motive

– lacking evidence for its existence

– ready to pounce and do evil if given an opportunity (Satan lures you into hell, the boogeyman abducts, imprisons, abuses, and kills you)

– lacking a clear reason for why it is allowed to exist (why an all-powerful god doesn’t kill Satan?, why parents don’t call the police to round up and arrest the boogeyman?)- that is, the authorities (God, parents) only warn you of the hazard but do nothing to remove it.

An omnipotent, loving god would contain and immobilize Satan if he was real, and parents would do all they could to get the boogeyman off their streets if he was real. And for this reason, we can conclude that Satan is not real, and that the boogeyman is similarly non-existent (at least as a known specific local hazard).

(3871) Matthew 28:19 is a textual corruption

One of final verses in the Gospel of Matthew was corrupted by a later editor in an attempt to bolster the concept of the Holy Trinity. The following was taken from:


Traditional reading: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Variant reading: Go, and make disciples of all the nations in my name, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you (Eusebius, Demonstratio 3.6)

I will make several arguments in favor of the variant reading;

1) The earliest manuscripts we have of this verse are found in Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. These are both 4th century manuscripts and there are no earlier papyrus manuscript fragments containing this verse. These contain the verse as written in the traditional reading. However, Eusebius, writing in the 4th century as well (probably a few years before these manuscripts) has a different quotation of the verse. This means that in our earliest records, 1 of 3 contain a varied reading. This is significant, as it shows that either Eusebius forged this reading himself, or he is quoting an earlier tradition before himself which was in the manuscripts before Codex sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus.

We have an early record for a variant reading contemporary with our earliest manuscripts.

2) While it is argued that the traditional reading of Matthew must be original, as this version of the text appears in the Didache (chapter 7). However, this does not prove that the Didache quoted this from the Bible. It is just as likely that a scribe who transcribed Matthew was familiar with the reading of the Didache and inserted it into the text. This is a known and common problem in textual criticism, so much so that this has happened in another place in the manuscripts in the same book, from the same source. In Matthew 6:13, we have a variant reading in the manuscripts which comes from scribal insertion of a reading from the Didache into the manuscripts which we know is not the original.

If a scribe took a reading from the Didache and put it in the manuscripts in Matthew 6:13, a scribe could have done the same in Matthew 28:19, giving us a variant textual reading different from the original.

3) Looking at internal evidence and wider contextual evidence, we find that in the Bible, baptism “in the name of” is usually in the name of Jesus alone.

Acts 10:48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Acts 2:38 Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.

See also:

Galatians 3:27, “for all of you who were baptized into Christ

Acts 8:12, “proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized,

Colossians 2:12, “having been buried with him in baptism

Romans 6:3, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?”

Ephesians 4:5, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism;”

Luke 24:47, “and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations

(Matthew 12:21, 24:9, Acts 9:15, 10:43, 22:16, Romans 1:5, and 1 Corinthians 1:13)

The common theme of baptism is one baptism into one lord, Jesus, and in his name. It is obvious that the “name of the Father” is not Jesus, and “the name of the Holy Spirit” is not Jesus, unless modalism is to be believed. However, the reading of Eusebius, “in my name” would be consistent with this line of thought.

4) Immediate contextual evidence. Verse 18 just before reads: “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.'” When we see the term “name” used in the Bible, it commonly refers to authority. To pray in the name of Jesus is to pray in his authority. To be sent in the name of God is to go in God’s authority as his representative. The topic in these verses is the authority Jesus was given. If he says “all authority has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples in my name,” the idea is that we can make disciples in his authority now because he has been given it. The connecting term “therefore” means that this act is as a result of what came before. We can baptize in his name because he has now been given all authority. By what authority was John the Baptist baptizing in before Jesus entered his ministry? Baptism into the name and death of Jesus Christ is new, as a result of his authority being granted.

5) Eusebius’ quotation appears in different writings at different times and are all consistent (Oration in Praise of the Emperor of Constantine, 16, History, Book 3, chapter 5, Demonstratio 3.6). The chances of all these being forged or mistaken is very unlikely. It is much more probable that Eusebius is quoting a manuscript tradition he is familiar with, which is different than a tradition he is unfamiliar with, which appears in the codecies. We see an example of this in John 1:18, which appears to have two variant readings (“only begotten God” vs “only begotten son”, and less often, “only begotten”) found in the early church fathers. Irenaeus quotes both versions (though, it is assumed one version is forged into the text) while the church fathers are mixed on their reading of it. Dr. F. C. Conybeare notes that it seems Origens quotation of Matthew 28:19 seems to have appeared to originally match Eusebius’ reading (“The Eusebian form of the text of Matthew 28:19,” ZNW 2 (1901): 275-88).

In other words, just as we see two early versions of John 1:18 floating around in the early church fathers quotations, it should not surprise us to find two versions of Matthew 28:19 in the early church writings as well.

6) We do not find the apostles baptizing in the name of the Father, son, and Holy spirit. If this were a commandment from Jesus to his apostles, we have no evidence that they ever did. All of our evidence points to their baptism “in the name of Jesus” as outlined in the quoted scriptures in argument 3 above.

7) Matthew 28:20: and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely *I am with you *always, to the very end of the age.

If the Father, son, and spirit are three persons, then it seems to follow that Jesus would use plural pronouns in this verse. “Baptize in the name of the Father, son, and spirit, teaching them all that we have commanded you.” Instead, we have singular pronouns and nouns throughout the passage, if the variant reading is correct, this makes sense.

“All authority has been given to me, go and make disciples in my name teaching them all *I have commanded” you.”

If the traditional reading is correct, then Jesus should be speaking of the shared authority of the whole Trinity. One authority, yet three persons commanding us in their authority.

Closing statement: It is my argument that the text of Matthew 28:19 we have today in most of our Bibles comes from these 4th century manuscripts, which copied earlier manuscripts, based on a textual variant, possibly taken from the Didache. The original reading as preserved by Eusebius, is the other variant found in the 4th century and earlier. Based on immediate context, and greater context through internal evidence, we find great consistency for the phrase “in my name” being a reference to Jesus alone, making this reading far more consistent than a phrase never used by the apostles anywhere else, even in the parallel in Luke (24). Theological assumptions should not dictate the opinion of the reading but rather evidence should be king.

The Trinity is already a preposterous concept that’s only exiguously supported by scripture, but when one of those alleged sources is shown to be fraudulent, the support become even more tenuous. The fact that Matthew 28:19 was tampered with is evidence that Christian doctrine was evolving over time and that efforts were made to edit the Bible to support the changes.

(3872) Hell discrepancy yields four possibilities

In the following, it is advanced that the stark change of afterlife consequences from the Old to the New Testament leads to one of four possibilities being likely to be true. The following was taken from:


I know that a lot of Jews believe in Gehinnom a form of hell but it is not eternal and people are sent their temporarily to be punished for their sin. Muslims could just wave this off as corruption of the Torah so I guess this is more of a question for Christians. In the Old Testament God says the wages of sin are death, not hell, to Adam. It is pretty clear the idea of eternal conscious torment was introduced in the New Testament. I am aware it is a debate with Christian’s on whether eternal conscious torment is really the doctrine taught in the Bible. The closest you get to a mention of hell in the Old Testament is Hades- it is viewed as a cleansing phase that last no more than 12 months, there is no fire just a deep feeling of shame. For the most wicked, their soul is either destroyed or cut off form the world to come. I’m not sure if this is correct but it shows my main point of how hell developed in Christianity. This means one of the following.

1) Jews misunderstood the afterlife endorsed in the New Testament.

2) God decided to create hell after the Old Testament was written.

3) Christianity is a false religion and Jesus wasn’t divine or the messiah.

4) Both Judaism and Christianity are false religions.

Christians will choose #1 mostly, though a few will pick #2. Jews will pick #3. Everybody else will pick #4. It should be obvious that if hell exists, God would have made that known to his chosen people ‘right off the bat.’ Building hell only after Jesus arrived makes no sense. Christianity being false but Judaism true is possible but infinitesimally improbable. This leaves #4 as your 99%+ best bet.

(3873) The tax collector problem

The synoptic gospels refer to Jesus interacting with a tax collector, but there are inconsistencies with these stories that make it impossible to construct a single compatible scenario. This is a good example of how the gospels are prone to error. The following was taken from:


The synoptic problem is huge. So many New Testament scholars focus their entire careers on this. It isn’t even really a single problem in a sense. So many individual pieces of the synoptic gospels tie into various different explanations.

Although it may seem to be a super minor facet, every time I get into this, the calling of the tax collector is the one I find the most inexplicable.

Starting with the gospel of Mark,

Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax-collection station, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

So not a terribly complicated pericope. Jesus sees a tax collector, calls him, eats with him, some others comment that Jesus is eating with sinners, Jesus remarks that he came to save the sinners. The first oddity is the patronymic. This tax collector, Levi, is identified as a son of Alphaeus. What makes this unusual is the author of Mark uses this same patronymic in the list of the twelve for one of the disciples, James, yet never connects him in any way to this tax collector, Levi.

So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder), and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who handed him over.

A little strange. You would think his audience would be a bit confused why this man Levi, who was called, and also apparently had a brother that was a disciple, never appears again in the narrative. But not terribly odd all things considered.

Moving on to the gospel of Matthew, we see quite a shift in this story.

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax-collection station, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

So the author of Matthew changes the name of this tax collector to Matthew, and positively affirms that he does intend for this to be the same person as the disciple. He also does add a bit to Jesus’ dialogue in this scene.

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

The only thing that strikes me as odd is the dropping of the patronymic. The disciple Matthew is given no other patronymic in gMark, or in any other tradition I’m aware of, Furthermore, the author of gMatthew keeps this patronymic for the disciple James. This isn’t terribly odd though, as he may have already had some tradition now lost to us of who the disciple Matthew’s father was. All in all, Matthew’s account reads a bit better, as this tax collector does appear again throughout the story, he is Matthew, the disciple.

Where it gets odd and completely befuddles me is the gospel of Luke.

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the tax-collection station, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up, left everything, and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others reclining at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Luke then does not have the disciple Matthew identified as a tax collector in his list of the twelve.

Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

This is where I can’t quite find a satisfactory answer under either Two-Source or Farrer. If Luke doesn’t know Matthew, then we have two authors independently deciding to drop the patronymic of this tax collector. In Luke’s case it is even stranger, as he doesn’t identify this tax collector Levi as one of the twelve. The argument could be made that this patronymic was just too unknown so it was dropped because it might confuse his audience, but the patronymic is there in the list of the twelve. On the other hand, if Luke does know Matthew, Matthew’s account seems much better as in Mark we are left with the question of who this Levi is and why he doesn’t appear anywhere else in the narrative. Matthew’s account reads much, much better, Luke reverting to Mark’s version, yet still changing it by dropping the patronymic (again, a patronymic that is still used in the narrative) is a strange decision.

Where it really becomes inexplicable to me is Luke has an apparent variation of this entire story.

Luke 19:1-10

He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

The rough gist of this story is the same. There is a tax collector, Jesus calls him, they go to his house, some people remark that Jesus is associating himself with sinners, but Jesus remarks it is the sinners/lost that he came to save in the first place. This version with Zacchaeus appears only in gLuke.

If Luke was going to include this, and also not identify the tax collector Levi with one of the twelve disciples, what in the world even made him want to keep that earlier pericope with Levi in the story in the first place? It’s almost as if he had his own variation of a story about Jesus staying with a tax collector, but for some reason saw the Levi pericope in Mark and kept it too. Oh, but he by coincidence made the same editorial decision of dropping the used-again-in-the-narrative patronymic that the author of Matthew made. Or alternatively, he had Matthew’s account in front of him, which would fit this apparent doublet much better because in that version the tax collector that gets called is one of the twelve disciples unlike this man Zacchaeus, but strangely chose to go with Mark’s instead which is more confusing, especially in light of this apparent doublet much later.

The gospel of John has no mention at all of a tax collector, a disciple named Matthew, a man named Levi, or a man named Zacchaeus.

I know scholars go over much, much more interesting and significant aspects of the synoptic gospels and how they relate to the synoptic problem. I’m sure for them there are like, 100 other facets of the synoptic problem far more interesting than this. But every time I get back into reading about it, this right here is the one that sticks out to me.

Christians who proclaim the Bible to be inerrant need to work overtime to explain all of these inconsistencies, though realists who consider the Bible as the work of fallible humans see it as confirmation of their view. If the Holy Spirit inspired the gospel authors, it must have been just as confused as anyone who reads these scriptures.

(3874) Eternal hell serves no logical purpose

The creators of Christianity thought that the threat of an eternal hell would be a good strategy for recruiting members into their movement. However, their thinking didn’t reach the point of making logical sense. The following was taken from:


Punishment serves a few key functions: teaching, retribution, and simply keeping dangerous people away from others. So does eternal hell accomplish this?

If the purpose of hell is to teach sinners and non believers that they were wrong, definitely not- these people are in hell forever. If God wanted restorative justice, why wouldn’t he have non believers and sinners undergo purgatory or reincarnation until they are ready to accept him, just like how a prisoner will be released once he serves his time?

Is it appropriate retribution? Absolutely not. The worst person to have ever lived has committed a finite amount of sins. They could have earned millions, billions, or trillions of years of suffering, but not an infinite amount. If we saw, say, Joseph Mengele suffering in hell for a second, our first thought might be “serves him right”. But eventually, that thought will be replaced with “isn’t that enough already?” Remember, being burned alive is one of the most painful experiences in existence.

Finally, does it serve the purpose of keeping dangerous people away from others? Perhaps, but there are so many less cruel ways God can go about this. He could simply create a place of neutrality, or annihilate the soul, or literally anything besides eternal torture.

Christianity could have avoided this problem simply by saying that un-saved people cease to exist after death. This would have served their purposes almost as well, and it would have skirted around the problem of promoting unnecessary and barbaric suffering. Instead, they shot themselves in the foot.

(3875) Christianity as a video game

If we think of God as a video game designer and look at the ‘game’ that he produced for humankind, it reveals some stark problems. His ‘game’ would be seen to be very poorly constructed. The following was taken from:


Okay, imagine a video game like this:

You start in the first level. It is randomly generated for each player, so sometimes it is really challenging, but sometimes it is really easy. Some players get no instructions. Some players get incorrect instructions. Other players get long meandering text boxes to read that sort of have instructions for what to do, but there is a whole bunch of confusing lore mixed in.

You only get one chance to beat the first level.

If you beat the first level, then the difficulty plummets. The game becomes totally easy and relaxing. You get an infinite number of lives and get to explore and do whatever you want.
If you lose the first level, then the game console locks up and you can’t play another game ever again. Also, the console emits a deafening whistling noise to punish you because lost.

Games are not designed that way. Nobody would agree to that.

This reveals two important points- (1) God set up a challenge for humans to decide their eternal fate but made it so unfair that some have it super easy while others find it almost impossible to win, and (2) it sets the time of one’s death as an arbitrary point for the game to end- that is, even though there is life after death for everyone (according to standard Christian theology) there is no ‘gameplay’ possible in the post-life environment. Since death can come at any time and any age, this is patently unfair. For example, someone who dies young should be given more time after death to achieve salvation.

The Christian god is a poor game designer and because of that we can be certain that he doesn’t exist.

(3876) Author of Luke softens view of Romans in Acts

It is embarrassing for Christianity that it became centered in Rome rather than Jerusalem, where Jesus focused his ministry, was crucified, and allegedly rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. Jesus detested the Romans and would have been appalled that the church attached to his name became established in Italy.
There is some scriptural evidence of when this geographical switch occurred. The same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke and later the Acts of the Apostles seemed to have softened his view of the Romans from his first to his second book. The following was taken from:


Luke-Acts confuses me. In the beginning, we not only get Mary’s Magnificat with language about bringing rulers down from their thrones, but Zechariah talks about “salvation from our enemies, from the hand of all who hate us,” which is an obvious reference to Rome. Then Jesus says “Woe to you who are rich!” Wouldn’t that include the Roman ruling class? But by chapters 24-26 of Acts, Paul is arguing before Roman authorities that The Way poses no threat to Caesar (or any sociopolitical authority). How does that square with deliverance from enemies and “woe to you who are rich.”?

Assuming it was indeed the same author, it is evident that dis-confirming, evolved theology can be person-specific.

(3877) Fine tuning failure

Many Christian apologists trot out the argument that the universe is fine tuned for the development of human life and therefore it must have been designed by a supernatural being. But when we consider the following facts, this assertion begins to look lame. The following was taken from:


Our World in Data & World Bank.org did a study of the following

Before the 20th century, throughout history:

Youth mortality rate (before the age of 13) was at a whopping 46%

Infant mortality rate was at 26%

Thanks to medical advancement, today, approximately 15 out 100,000 women die in Childbirth

In the 15th and 16 century? 600 to 800 deaths out of 100,000 births worldwide

Reflection Time: Back then, a kid had almost a 50% chance of dying before puberty and newborns had a quarter chance to survive after birth, at the same time, putting the mothers life at risk.

All of this simply because of a biological disadvantages, sickness, disease, and other external factors.

This planet may meet the threshold to harbor life, but by no means is it hospitable.

Our planet is one rogue asteroid away from a mass extinction event. Our Sun is going to eventually grow into a Red Giant and either consume the Earth or burn it to a dead cinder. Our galaxy is either going to collide, or have a near miss, with the Andromeda galaxy, and the collision or gravitational forces will completely disrupt our solar system and kill our planet. The entire universe is likely to eventually die from heat death, the big crunch or some other big finale.

The universe is the most remarkable thing in all of existence (it should be – it is existence!) – but made for us? Pffft…

The fine tuning that we observe in the modern world was fashioned by humans practicing science, not by any god. If Yahweh is a fine tuner, then he is rather incompetent.

(3878) Dismissing alternate explanations

Christians routinely dismiss alternate explanation for their beliefs even when they are much more likely than what they believe. The following was taken from:


Let’s take, for example, this alternate explanation: everyone who says they saw Jesus returned from the dead lied.

Christians will often debunk this by saying that it wouldn’t be beneficial to anyone to lie about this and would in fact be costly. In short, they debunk this by saying it’s just really unlikely that people would act this way. It just doesn’t happen.

You know what else is really unlikely? People coming back from the dead. It just doesn’t happen. Christians in fact emphasize how this shows Jesus was divine specifically because it’s just so unlikely and unique that only god could make it happen.

Take any alternate explanation and you’ll see them logic it away by saying those explanations are too wild or too unlikely. And yet, they ignore how unlikely a resurrection is.

They essentially say that people lying, people hallucinating, people being wrong about what they saw, etc are just too wild and nonsensical, but someone being the physical incarnation of a deity and resurrecting themself is perfectly reasonable and in fact somehow the most reasonable conclusion.

It’s simply unfair and illogical. It almost feels like it’s from a comedy sketch.

Imagine someone says they fell from a building and got saved by a flying magical superhero who moved extremely fast and flew without using machinery. You ask if Superman saved them. They reply, with complete seriousness, that you have asked a stupid question because Superman isn’t real.

That’s what Christians sound like dismissing alternate resurrection hypotheses for being too unlikely or unreasonable.

When someone possesses a belief in something while dismissing alternate explanations that are much more likely to be true, it is a sign that they have been brainwashed. Cherished beliefs are usually immune to probabilistic arguments or counter-evidence.

(3879) Imagine what a godless world would look like

Let’s suppose that the universe is not governed by gods, but only by natural processes. If this was true, how would things appear on this planet? The following was taken from:


Let’s imagine we live in a godless world.

Would this world really be different from our own? I don’t think so.

Would religions still exist? I think so, yes. Absolutely.
In this godless world, there exists an animal species more intelligent than the other animals and they even are able to communicate with each other through speech. They call themselves “humans”. Now, how do you think these humans, who experience strange phenomenon like rain, thunder, earthquakes, the sun, the stars, the moon, births, death, etc and don’t have the tools to study them yet will react? They will fill the voids of their knowledge with their imaginations. How do you think they will react to this cruel endless cycle of life and death and the sorrow that ensue? They will try to make sense of it. No way could this be a pointless natural occurence in their logical minds. Also, how did they come to exist? Heck, how did everything come to exist? There must be “something” that created it all, right? You can’t have an egg without a chicken after all (and let’s forget the idea that this creator would also need to have been created by something else, most people won’t like to get too meta).

Eventually, the best theories for all this give rise to a religion and to a book. Governments also see these as a tool to help them govern / keep their places as governments. A way to control the people, keep public order, prevent chaos and insurrections. Too long have people killed & stolen from each other for their personal gains, and this religion and its book help them to keep people in check. Live well, follow the rules, and after death you’ll reach Heaven – an afterlife of infinite pleasure. Commit crimes and you will be sent to Hell, an afterlife of infinite pain. Fear gets people in check. And they also help direct the people’s hatred towards their human enemies (the other tribes, then countries, …).

I’ve never seen anything that contradicts that what I just described is our world.

Christianity claims that there are three (in one) gods, a devil, angels, demons, and even some saints that that can be called upon. Yet, our world shows no sign of these beings. Everything that we observe is consistent with the assumption that there are no gods or other supernatural creatures. Using simple logic, this means that almost certainly they do not exist.

(3880) Flaw with Kalam cosmological argument

The Kalam cosmological argument has been a principal defense of Christianity used by many of its defenders. But a closer look and exercise of reason reveals it to be impotent in making any argument for the existence of God. The following was taken from:


The most prominent form of the argument, as defended by William Lane Craig, states the Kalam cosmological argument as the following syllogism:

    1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Given the conclusion, Craig appends a further premise and conclusion based upon a philosophical analysis of the properties of the cause of the universe:

    1. The universe has a cause.
    2. If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists who sans (without) the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful.
    3. Therefore, an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful.

The following rebuttal was taken from:


The universe is everything – all space, all time, all reality. There is nothing outside the universe, literally nothing – not even the laws of physics. The entire concept of “before” or “outside” the universe is nonsensical. This does not preclude the existence of other universes (a multiverse), it just mean that each universe is its own reality and there is no superset of universes.

Any requirement they place on the universe, I can place on their god. Any attribute they give to their god, I can give to the universe. So, if they say the universe requires a creator, then I can say their god requires a creator. If they say their god does not require a creator, then I can say the universe does not require a creator.

Simple logic refutes this ‘go-to’ theist argument. It is a testament to how little evidence exists to reveal their god that they have to resort to such amateurish logical structures to ‘demonstrate’ this deity. The fact that apologists use of the Kalam cosmological argument is strong evidence that this god does not exist. This is to say that if this god actually did exist there would exist numerous and much more powerful points of evidence at their disposal.

(3881) Genes affect a person’s religiosity

A study has demonstrated that a person’s genes play a larger role in determining their involvement with religion later in life, while their upbringing is more of a factor in their childhood. Christians generally assume that a person is responsible for their approach to Christianity even if they have been raised in an atheist family or in a different religion, given that once they leave their parents’ home they can act independently to see the ‘truth.’ But the results of this study indicate that even in that post-childhood environment, their genes prevent an even-field opportunity for salvation. The following was taken from:


Genes may help determine how religious a person is, suggests a new study of US twins. And the effects of a religious upbringing may fade with time.

Until about 25 years ago, scientists assumed that religious behavior was simply the product of a person’s socialization – or “nurture”. But more recent studies, including those on adult twins who were raised apart, suggest genes contribute about 40% of the variability in a person’s religiousness.

But it is not clear how that contribution changes with age. A few studies on children and teenagers – with biological or adoptive parents – show the children tend to mirror the religious beliefs and behaviors of the parents with whom they live. That suggests genes play a small role in religiousness at that age.

Now, researchers led by Laura Koenig, a psychology graduate student at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, US, have tried to tease apart how the effects of nature and nurture vary with time. Their study suggests that as adolescents grow into adults, genetic factors become more important in determining how religious a person is, while environmental factors wane.

Religious discussions

The team gave questionnaires to 169 pairs of identical twins – 100% genetically identical – and 104 pairs of fraternal twins – 50% genetically identical – born in Minnesota.

The twins, all male and in their early 30s, were asked how often they currently went to religious services, prayed, and discussed religious teachings. This was compared with when they were growing up and living with their families. Then, each participant answered the same questions regarding their mother, father, and their twin.

The twins believed that when they were younger, all of their family members – including themselves – shared similar religious behavior. But in adulthood, however, only the identical twins reported maintaining that similarity. In contrast, fraternal twins were about a third less similar than they were as children.

“That would suggest genetic factors are becoming more important and growing up together less important,” says team member Matt McGue, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota.

Empty nests

Michael McCullough, a psychologist at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, US, agrees. “To a great extent, you can’t be who you are when you’re living under your parents’ roof. But once you leave the nest, you can begin to let your own preferences and dispositions shape your behaviour,” he told New Scientist.

“Maybe, ultimately, we all decide what we’re most comfortable with, and it may have more to do with our own makeup than how we were treated when we were adolescents,” says McGue.

About a dozen studies have shown that religious people tend to share other personality traits, although it is not clear whether these arise from genetic or environmental factors. These include the ability to get along well with others and being conscientious, working hard, being punctual, and controlling one’s impulses.

But McGue says the new work suggests that being raised in a religious household may affect a person’s long-term psychological state less than previously thought. But he says the influence from this early socialization may re-emerge later on, when the twins have families of their own. He also points out that the finding may not be universal because the research focused on a single population of US men.

A person has no control over their genes, so if they have an influence on their religious views, it would mean that Christianity is unfair. And so it is. The judgment scheme of Christianity is inherently flawed.

(3882) Whitewashing slavery in the Bible

One of the signs that the Bible is not the infallible word of an infinitely intelligent, benign deity is that contemporary translators have felt a need to ‘correct’ some of its language. Below it is discussed how efforts have been made to extract biblical references to slavery, now that that industry has become taboo:


Your paper examines how a recent Bible translation was successively revised to tone down and ultimately erase language supporting slavery and antisemitism — in effect, to make the Bible more “politically correct,” more in tune with contemporary moral sensibilities, although those doing so would surely object to that characterization. How would you characterize their work?

It’s a fascinating story. All Bible translations have to navigate these waters, so the English Standard Version is really just an example of it, and they’re kind of a fascinating example because they have marketed themselves as an essentially literal translation that resists the PC push. The general editor, Wayne Grudem, had for years denounced contemporary Bible translations, like the New International Version, for doing those kinds of things: becoming PC, changing the language to conform to modern sensibilities, that kind of thing, especially with regard to gender.

So for years they have said, “Hey, we’re not going to translate certain things in a gender-neutral fashion, because we want to be as literal as possible, and if you like that it’s capitulating to the feminist PC culture.” So ESV has marketed themselves as a very popular evangelical translation that is used most faithfully by complementarian Protestant Christians for that reason: because it’s conservative and because it’s supposed to be literal.

But at the same time, the fact that that the “slave” language in the New Testament is so obvious creates a real apologetics problem, because of all this talk about “slaves obeying your masters,” and how slaves should subject themselves not only to good masters but bad masters, and how slaves should stay in the station of life where they were called. It creates this really ugly impression of the New Testament, and especially Paul advocating for slavery.

So what you can see in the English Standard Version is that with each successive wave, from the 2001 revision of the Revised Standard Version to the 2011 revision and then finally in 2016, our most recent revision, was that they started by introducing a footnote in 2001 to the “slave” word, and then in 2011 they replace the slave word and put it in a footnote, and then they said, “We’re going to call this a bondservant. So it’s different from a slave.”

By 2016 they didn’t use slave language at all. If you read that translation you would have no idea that the original translation — and I think the most appropriate translation — would be “slave.” All you see is this kind of Christian-used churchy word “bondservant,” which you never hear outside of a biblical reference. Nobody knows what that means, but it’s a way that the English Standard Version and other Bibles like it can kind of say, “Hey, these are slaves, but they’re not real, real slaves. They’re not really bad slaves like we think of in the antebellum South, like chattel slavery. It’s something different.”

This is something that we can be absolutely sure about- if God is as claimed by Christians, he would have made sure that references to slavery would never have made it into the Bible, so as to avoid the embarrassment to the faith that has become more salient as time goes on. No, he would have made sure that the Bible condemned the practice of humans owning other humans. This point alone comes within an eyelash of disproving Christianity.

(3883) Peter’s father

A discrepancy exists in the gospels regarding the name of Peter’s father:

John 1:42

Andrew brought him to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated as Peter).

Matthew 16:17

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven.

Although many Christians might assume that this difference if trivial, it is important to note that they are not variations of the same name. Jonah comes from the Hebrew word for dove, while John comes from the Hebrew word for Yahweh’s grace.

Considering that Peter is Jesus’ principal disciple (the ‘rock’ upon which the church is to be built), it would seem that getting the name of his father straight would be at least a second-order priority.

(3884) Paul’s Parousia

It is evident that Paul wrote his story about Jesus returning to the Earth by modeling it after the way that an emperor of that time would visit a city.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will be the first to rise. After that, we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.

The following was taken from:


In his book, The Birth Of Christianity (1998), John Dominic Crossan explains that passage in first Thessalonians as a kind of an extended metaphor. Paul is explaining the coming of Christ as a Parousia.

A Parousia was a formal visit of an emperor to an important city. It had a ritual that went with it. As the emperor approached the city, he would first pass through the graveyard that was always to be found on the outskirts. Thus Paul says that the dead will be the first to meet Christ when he comes.

Next all of the leading citizens of the city would come out of the city in order to meet the emperor on the road and escort him into the city. That part of the ritual is what Paul is referring to when he talks about believers meeting Christ in the air. It is just a replication of the ordinary practice of parousia but, since Christ is approaching from heaven rather than coming down the road, they have to meet him in the air.

I find that to be a rather helpful way to understand what Paul is doing in this passage. It would mean, however, that we cannot take the language very literally.

This is another example of how religious people of this time fashioned much of what they believed about gods after their kings and leaders, such as the expectation of worship and veneration. It provides a good reason to doubt the literal truth of their assertions.

(3885) Mormon manufactured miracles

The Mormon Church has promoted several ‘miracles’ as proof that they are God’s official church. It is interesting to check the details of these ‘miracles’ to see if alternate explanations are feasible. In each case, they are. The way Mormons made miracles out of natural events was likely similar to the way Christians did the same thing 2000 years ago. The following was taken from:


I was raised in a very orthodox Mormon family and was myself very active in the faith until my late 30s. There are several well known miracles that were often recounted to me growing up and some were even made into short videos and shown in Sunday school. The more famous of these are the transfiguration of Brigham Young, the Seagulls and the Mormon Crickets, and the St. George tithing miracle. It turns out these miracles are based on some actual events but the fictional miraculous parts were introduced into the stories over time. IMO through more recent religions like Mormonism we can see how people can add faith promoting fictional elements to stories which become part of the core belief system. The difference with Mormonism vs the gospels is we have so many more historical documents to compare against the dominant narrative. The transfiguration of Brigham Young is but another Mormon myth used to undergird the validity of a church that has no solid foundation. Mormons (as well as those investigating Mormonism) might do well to consider the words of Seventy B.H. Roberts:

“…since these things are myth and our Church has permitted them to be perpetuated … might not the other fundamentals to the actual story of the Church, the things in which it had its origin, might they not all be lies and nothing but lies.” (quoted in Van Wagoner, 24)

The Miracle of the Gulls


The miracle of the gulls is an 1848 event often credited by Latter-day Saints (“Mormons“) for saving the Mormon pioneers‘ second harvest in the Salt Lake Valley. While absent in contemporary accounts,[1] later accounts claimed seagulls miraculously saved the 1848 crops by eating thousands of insects that were devouring their fields.

Seagulls did come and eat many of the crickets in 1848. However, several things should be noted regarding the event, specifically regarding how common the event was and how people perceived the event at the time.

    • Records predating the arrival of the Mormon pioneers show that various types of gulls, including the California gull, inhabited the Great Salt Lake area. These gulls fed on various insects, including crickets.
    • Gulls regurgitate the indigestible parts of insects, similar to how an owl regurgitates pellets. While this behavior seemed strange to the pioneers, it is normal for gulls.
    • The crickets did major damage to the crops prior to the arrival of the gulls. Then after the arrival of the gulls, even after weeks of the gulls feasting on the crickets, the crickets were still a massive problem.
    • The damage to the crops in 1848 were due to frost, crickets, and drought, and the gulls only had a minor impact on one of those factors.
    • No one considered the action of the gulls to be “miraculous” at that time.[disputed – discuss] The First Presidency of the church, while mentioning the crop damage, frost, and crickets, made no mention of the gulls at all in their official summary of the first few years of the Mormons living in the Salt Lake Valley.
    • Gulls regularly returned to feast on the crickets for years afterwards (and presumably for years before), making 1848 unremarkable.

Tithing miracle


When Lorenzo Snow became president of the Church, the church was in big financial trouble.

For many years, the Church’s enemies had been causing problems, and the Church spent lots of money in court costs and legal fees.

The Church was almost bankrupt, and President Snow didn’t know what to do

He prayed and asked Heavenly Father what he should do.

Heavenly Father told him to visit the members of the Church in the city of St. George, Utah.

President Snow didn’t know what this had to do with the church’s money problem, but he obeyed anyway.

So, at the age of 85, he set off to make the 300-mile trip from Salt Lake City to St. George.

Along the way, he saw lots of dry land and dead animals. It hadn’t rained for a long time in that part of Utah. Since almost all the people were farmers, they were worried that their crops would fail.

When President Snow arrived at St George, the people were hoping he would tell them how to solve their rain problem.

On Sunday morning, most of the town gathered in the St. George tabernacle to listen to President Snow.

President Snow got up in front of everyone to give his talk, but he still had no idea what he was supposed to say. He began with a few general remarks.

Then, all of a sudden, he stopped talking. The room fell very silent, and everyone stared at President Snow. He seemed to be looking up at someone that they couldn’t see.

After several moments, President Snow returned to his speech. The Lord had spoken to him during those moments of silence. Now President Snow knew exactly why he had to come to St. George.

Even though the law of tithing had been taught in the Church for over 60 years before this, the people had not been paying tithing like they should. President Snow told them they needed to start paying tithing. If they would pay their tithing, the Lord would send rain- and their plants and animals would live.

The people in St. George obeyed the prophet. They began paying tithing.

President Snow visited several other cities on this trip and he told everyone in the Church to pay tithing.

After a few weeks, it began to rain in St. George. Their farms were saved. Heavenly Father kept His promise.

Now that the members of the Church were paying tithing, the Church paid off all its debts.

The Church has been financially secure ever since. [note: How is it a miracle that when people started paying ten percent of their gross income that the church became solvent?]

In each case, once the details of the supposed miracle are examined, the miraculous facet of the event fades away. The Mormons have been active for only about 200 years, compared to Christianity’s 2000 years. It is certain that it would have been easier to ‘manufacture’ miracles as you go further back in time. Mormon ‘miracles’ are a good template for what Christianity claims as its miracles.

(3886) Conversation about faith

The dialogue that follows demonstrates a good example for why faith is not a pathway to truth and why it would not be promoted by any deity who is concerned about playing fair with humans. The following was taken from:


I was almost thirty and had already lost my faith in faith before I had this conversation with my mom:

    • “How do you know that faith is a virtue?”
    • The bible said so, and we have faith in it.
    • “If a Muslim has faith in Allah, is that virtuous?”
    • Of course not. Only faith in the one true God is virtuous.
    • “But Muslims believe they have faith in the one true God.”
    • It doesn’t matter, faith is only a virtue when you have faith in true things.
    • “But how do we know that what we believe is true, but not what the Muslim believes?”
    • We have faith that God would not mislead us.
    • “But if I’d been born to Muslim parents, they would be telling me the exact same thing about Allah. How would I know to switch to Christianity, which is true, so that my faith is in a true thing?”
    • The Lord would move in your heart to reveal the truth.
    • “But faith would tell me any doubt of Allah was a sin, and I would reject it while thinking I was being virtuous for doing so.”
    • When God shows you the truth, it would reach your heart in a way that a lie never could. False faith couldn’t keep you from it.
    • “Then why are so many people Muslims if God can just show them the truth?”
    • Because God wants people to come to faith in him by their own free will.
    • “But how can they use their free will when they are trying to be virtuous by avoiding thoughts that might lead them to exercise their free will?”
    • They just can.
    • “Then why don’t they?”
    • They just don’t.
    • “Why is faith the only virtue that’s only a virtue under the right circumstances?”
    • It just is.

Consider that the exact same (slightly dramatized) conversation could have happened with the two religions reversed, and you will maybe see why I have grown to have disdain for the idea that it’s somehow a “virtue” to have faith.

A Muslim parent could be involved in the same discussion with their children. There is no reason to conclude that their theology is inferior to a Christian, or that their faith is more likely to be misguided. A true religion would rest its authenticity on established evidence, and a true god would supply it in sufficient quantities. Christianity’s emphasis on faith tells us that it is not true.

(3887) Markan reburial hypothesis

In the following it is conjectured that Joseph of Arimathea retrieved the body of Jesus from his tomb sometime before the Sunday morning visitation by the women and placed it into the community graveyard. The empty tomb then was later mythologized into a resurrected Jesus. The following was taken from:


I will be discussing a naturalistic explanation for why women may have not found Yeshua (transliterated as ‘Jesus’ in Greek) in the tomb that they thought he was buried in. A feature of this particular hypothesis is that it presumes all of the facts in the Gospel of Mark relating to the death, burial, and women visiting the tomb with the only exception being the dialogue in chapter 16 verses 6 and 7, which the author admits is speculation in the subsequent sentence

The empty tomb narrative is the most conflicting story in all of Christian canon and apocrypha: How many women went—one, two, three, or at least five? Was the tomb open or closed when they arrived? Were there guards present? How many men or angels were inside or outside the tomb? Does Joshua appear and do they recognize him? Did the women tell the disciples? etc. To answer these questions, I’ll defer to the Gospel of Mark, which is unanimously considered the earliest gospel and was copied by the authors of Matt and Luke (John may have known it as well) according to all modern scholars who have published on the Synoptic Problem. I’m not interested in debating this point, but if you have any peer review from the past 30 years to the contrary, please share it

To summarize the story in Mark ch. 15-16, Joshua is crucified at 9am on Friday and dies at 3pm. With evening approaching, Joseph of Arimathea, ‘a prominent member of the council’, asks Pilate for the body. This is required by Jewish law (Deut. 21:23) as Shabbot begins at sunset. Pilate is surprised that Josh is already dead—crucifixion is a slow death by suffocation and organ failure (often taking days)—and a centurion confirms that he is. Joe takes the body, wraps it in cloth, and brings it to a large, multi-chambered tomb. Mary of Magdala sees this, and on Sunday morning, she and two other women go to anoint the body. Upon arriving, they find the tomb open with a man inside who tells them:

“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Yeshua of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. [The End]

Let’s first discuss Joseph of Arimathea. His name implies he’s from a small town and likely a relative newcomer to Jerusalem. Joe may have chosen to give Josh an honorable burial as he himself was from a rural area and more exposed and perhaps sympathetic to the apocalyptic ideas that Joshua of Nazareth preached. The Sadducees, the minority sect who ran the temple, were the only significant group who didn’t believe in resurrection—the Essenes and Pharisees (including Paul) practiced some form apocalypticism. Many of them, including Paul, Josh, and John the Dipper, believed that the end of the world was very near, in their lifetime: see Mk. ch. 9 and 13

Joseph may have been appeasing the crowd or perhaps took pity on Joshua, but it was almost certainly not meant to be a permanent resting place. Inside his family tomb was the decaying body of a crucified rebel, and Joe would surely feel pressure to move the body as soon as possible. This would’ve occurred on Saturday evening, or if he employed the help of non-Jews, any time on Saturday; or on Sunday before the women arrived. Joshua’s closest followers had already left for Galilee. Wherever the body was moved (likely a mass grave for criminals as posited by Ehrman), it would’ve been nearly unrecognizable within days if it were ever dug up. While the guards in Matthew 28 are most likely not historical, it could represent a memory of centurions being present around the tomb

Next, the witnesses (or lack thereof). The women are the epitome of an unreliable narrator in Mark: they flee, frightened, and never tell anyone what they saw. This makes the accuracy of the retelling highly suspicious, and one can presume that when they were questioned by the disciples, their story of seeing a man who scared them wasn’t believed, so a story was imagined, which changed over time from a man in Mark to the guards and angel in Matthew, two angels in Luke, and Josh appearing to Mary but not being recognized in John. A single, unified story could not have created such discrepancies in the narrative, and Paul’s silence on the topic suggests that he was not aware of the story or didn’t believe it was useful for spreading his gospel

Post-resurrection visions are beyond the specific scope of the hypothesis, but I’ll note that it’s very curious that in the earliest description of Joshua’s appearance in Matt 28:16-17, not everyone believes: “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Yeshua had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted”. In Luke 24:13-16, Josh appears to two disciples, but they don’t recognize him, and Mary doesn’t recognize Josh in John’s tomb narrative. This suggests there were traditions that the disciples doubted their own visions of Joshua.

Although the gospels are fan fiction, they offer clues that help to detract from the pericope of Jesus’ actual resurrection. Even if they are semi-accurate history, the default analysis is that Jesus did not rise from the dead.

(3888) Why is God concerned about non-believers?

When you look at the recent photos from the Webb Space Telescope, it makes you wonder why a god who made all of this and controls every aspect of it would become upset if someone doesn’t believe in ‘him.’ It seems that the people who created this religion thought that the earth was the biggest and most important place in the universe.

See the source image

The following was taken from:


It’s just a question I have. If god does exist, the Christian god, and let’s say that he does for the sake of argument – why is your belief in him so immensely important to him?

I could understand punishing bad people. In this instance though, let’s say a guy is a good person, and lives in the lines of what modern Christians tout as being moral and right, with just one exception. He doesn’t believe.

How does his lack of belief justify an unending torture ? It seems almost petty for such a powerful & intelligent entity to be so worried about whether people think he is real or not, especially when all he has left us to believe him for the most part is an old book.

As we learn more about the universe, it makes a ’pouting or angry’ god look even more ridiculous. Christianity made some sense in its time, but now it is like a square peg trying to insert into a round hole.

(3889) Mark hedges on resurrections

It is evident that the author of the Gospel of Mark was skeptical about the reality of physical resurrection. In his account, he tells of two people rising from the dead (Jesus and a daughter of Jairus), but in each case he leaves open the possibility that it didn’t really happen (discounting the interpolation produced by another author after Mark 16:8). The following was taken from:


Mark is an Evangelist, but he is not dogmatic. I think he would be appalled at how his gospel is read today in churches. Yeah yeah I know I’m repeating what MacDonald says here but trust me I’ve been saying this a while now. The way that Spong put it was that Mark knew that he wasn’t writing literal history and so he did not expect his readers to literalise his text. As many people point out though, Mark is actually careful in his gospel to leave room for doubt. There are only two resurrections in Mark, the first is the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and the second is Christ’s. People would do well to read and understand both of these passages: Jesus denies that Jairus’ daughter is dead! “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.”

Likewise when we get to the resurrection of Christ it is announced by a shameful deserter who nobody would believe – the young man. There’s no Empty Tomb in Mark and the tomb is already open with this guy sitting inside it when the female disciples arrive. Very few people point this out – but narratively speaking the young man has entered the tomb when nobody else was around, he has failed to locate the body of Jesus, and he has inferred that a resurrection has occurred and has believed (Busch 2008). Reading it as “participation of women is proof …” is absolute nonsense and not at all understanding the text.

As Mark is the template for the remaining gospels, it is telling that he wasn’t sure himself that anyone had actually come back from the dead. Contrast that with John who has a 4-days dead person (Lazarus) being reanimated by Jesus. It should be said that if Mark, only 40 years after Jesus’ death had doubts, given that there would have been a few remaining eyewitnesses, then twenty centuries later, so should we.

(3890) Jesus should not have resurrected physically

It is certain that few Christians believe that Jesus is now sitting in heaven in his earthly male body, or that he originally came to earth in a physical body, but rather that he acquired it thought the normal gestation process, after Mary’s egg was fertilized by a divine sperm cell. Then his spiritual body, the one he’s had since eternity, fused with the fetus.

But it is a problem that the gospel authors had him resurrecting and ascending to heaven in the same body that he had while he was here alive (pre-crucifixion). Why is he taking a body to heaven that he didn’t have before coming to the earth?

They should have had Jesus resurrect in a spiritual body- the same body that he presumably had before his earthly sojourn. This would have been consistent with the idea that those who have died, with their bodies decayed or cremated, will also rise in spiritual bodies, consistent with the Pauline ascension theory.

Having Jesus in a strictly spiritual body after the resurrection would have solved a lot of problems, set a proper example for what will happen to the faithful, and avoiding the issue of past Christians whose bodies are essentially gone.

But then we know that spiritual bodies are an impossibility, so maybe there was never any good solution.

(3891) Events without a cause

Christians often claim that everything must have a cause and that the stream of causes eventually ends up with God at the top of the pyramid. But in the following, it is shown that some events have no causes:


Dr. Alex Rosenberg is the R. Taylor Cole Professor of Philosophy at Duke University and head of the philosophy department. This comes from his debate with William Lane Craig, “Is Faith In God Reasonable”:

–From his first statement:

Many of the arguments that Dr. Craig gave tonight and which he has given repeatedly in the past rest on the first cause argument. An argument that goes back certainly to St. Thomas Aquinas and probably to Aristotle and it rests on, of course, the principle of sufficient reason. The principle that everything that exists must have a cause. Now, the remarkable thing about this argument and the principle of sufficient reason as it is called on which it rests is that the principle is plainly false. OK? It is refuted trillions of times every second throughout the universe. It is refuted in this room and I will give you a pretty full explanation of why. Take two uranium-238 atoms that are absolutely indistinguishable. In a given moment these two indistinguishable atoms – atoms of exactly the same mass and energy state – have the following difference: one produces an alpha particle spontaneously and the other doesn’t and there is no cause whatsoever for that difference. That is what quantum mechanics tells us. Suddenly one emits an alpha particle and the other doesn’t and there is no cause whatever for that difference between them.

Now, you might think that that is not a very important fact of nature but one mole – one Avogadro’s Number of uranium-238 molecules – emits three million alpha particles a second. And every helium atom on this planet is one of those alpha particles. And the smoke detectors that operate all through this auditorium to protect us from fires – those operate because of the indeterminate, unexplained, completely spontaneous appearance of an alpha particle out of a uranium atom in these systems. For Dr. Craig to insist on the arguments that rest on the claim that every event had a cause that had to have brought it into being is just bluff. It is not a principle accepted in physics. And you can’t argue from its intuitive attractiveness.

One counter-example is sufficient to destroy the claim that all things must have a cause. Of course, the Bible authors had no concept of quantum mechanics. This is another example of how advancements in science continue to smother religious dogma.

(3892) Diverse Christian communities

It would be expected that if Christianity was the product of an omnipotent deity that the early Christians would have been aligned cohesively to believe in the same doctrines. But instead, there were many different sects that developed even before the turn of the First Century. Only one of these at best espoused the correct doctrine. Would a god have allowed such chaos this quickly? The following was taken from:


The canonical gospels and the authentic and inauthentic Pauline texts were mostly crafted between (perhaps as early as) 60 and 185, and were created to advance the positions of Christians who sought to advance their own ideological, philosophical, and theological agendas.

During this timeframe, several distinct and influential groups contributed to the later orthodoxical Christian paradigm.

Below are the sects which were probably most influential to the emerging Christian orthodoxy:

The Nasaraeans – The Nasaraeans were a heretical Jewish sect not explicitly attached to Christianity. Hippolytus and Epiphanius describe a sect leader named Elxai, who in the late 1st/early 2nd century, led a band of Nasaraeans, Nazarenes, Ebionites, and Essenes; this group believed the Christ was a masculine, 96 mile tall figure in the sky, and had a feminine counterpart, which was the Spirit. The Nasaraenes rejected the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Old Testament), believed scribes had corrupted Moses’ teachings, and they claimed to possess Moses’ true teachings. Epiphanius also said they resembled the Hemerobaptists, which, coupled with these other details, implies they might be the source of the John the Baptist sect. Epiphanius puzzled over how the Nasaraeans could be Jewish in nationality, practice Jewish customs, yet reject Judaism’s tenets as he understood them. My speculation is that these Nasaraeans were derivatives of a Queen of Heaven cult, which revered a long-lost deity which was purged during King Josiah’s Deuteronomic reform in the 7th century BCE.

The Cerinthians – Cerinthus and his followers were placed between Ephesus and Galatia by early heresy hunters, notably Irenaeus of Lyon and Epiphanius of Salamis. Cerinthus appears to have been one of the first heretics who interjected the notion of a Demiurge, or a lower God/angel who created Earth, into Christianity. Several groups, over hundreds of years, claimed Cerinthus contributed authorship to Revelation and the Gospel of John. Cerinthus believed that the spirit descended onto Jesus in the form of a dove after Jesus’ baptism, and left him prior to his death on the cross. In this sense, Cerinthus saw Jesus as a regular man who was separate from the Spirit which was embodied within him. According to Irenaeus, Cerinthus’ followers might have found common ground with the Gospel of Mark. Epiphanius claimed the Cerinthians used the Gospel of Matthew; my speculation is that this earliest Matthew resembled Mark a great deal, and eventually, the Gospel diverged into extant Mark and Matthew. If one presumes that Cerinthus was a consumer of Revelation, then Revelation 12:17, Revelation 5:8, and Revelation 8:3-4 might suggest that he was a derivative of the Nasaraenes.

The Ebionites – A Jewish sect which, like Cerinthus, believed that the Spirit and Jesus were separate. Unlike Cerinthus, the Ebionites believed that the most high God (Elyon) was the same God who created the Earth – this is presumably the reason why the Ebionites followed Jewish law; yet, Irenaeus connects the Ebionites to the Cerinthians, in terms of their Adoptionist theology (where Jesus and the Spirit were separate). In this sense, the Ebionites broke from the Cerinthians; Irenaeus specifically pointed out that the Ebionites rejected Paul, which makes them the prime candidates for being “men from James” Paul described in Galatians. Given the contrast between the Ebionites and (both) Cerinthus and Paul, one might speculate that Cerinthus and Paul had other connections not noted by early Christian historians. For example, Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12 makes reference to a man who was taken up to heaven and saw unspeakable things. The Ebionites rejected the notion of the virgin birth, but used (and probably authored) an early version of the Gospel of Matthew. This matrix may also suggest Cerinthus and Paul’s Cephas were the same person.

The Carpocratians – Mentioned in Against Heresies 1.25, the Carpocratians seem to be something of a synthesis between the Cerinthians (AH i.26.1) and the Ebionites (AH i.26.2); they had Gnostic elements within their theology, and espoused the view that a broad set of experiences must be had, perhaps across multiple lifetimes (transmigration of souls), in order to get out of the material realm and resurrender one’s material elements back to the rulers of this world. They appear to have used the blurb about the “very last penny”, which can be found in the Ebionite/Nazarene Matthew, as well as Luke, which makes them candidates for being the proxy between the Cerinthians and the Marcionites.

The Marcionites – Marcion appears to have been a 3rd generation Docetist, which posited that Jesus was not quite flesh; he rejected Jewish law and elevated faith above acts. Marcion also claimed that Jesus was sent from a previously unknown God, not the God of the Old Testament, whom he called Yaldabaoth. In this sense, Marcion had much in common with Cerinthus, and like Paul, would have faced the Ebionites’ disdain. Marcion rejected the notion that Jesus occupied any flesh, or suffered on the cross, because Marcion saw Jesus as a phantom. The Marcionites elevated Paul as the highest apostle, and the centerpiece of the Marcionite canon (which appears to be the first ever formalized canon) was Paul’s epistle to the Galatians. In fact, Marcion appears to have been the first Christian to use Paul’s letters in his theology, which makes him a primary candidate for Pauline authorship. The Marcionite canon also included a “modified” version of the Gospel of Luke, along with the other Paul letters, except for the Pastoral letters (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus).

The Johannines – located in Western Turkey, in Smyrna, Ephesus, Sardis, and other cities mentioned in the Book of Revelation. The Johannines supposedly authored the extant John-centric texts, including Revelation and John’s Gospel. Great care was taken among early Christian leaders, including Irenaeus, to purport that John the Apostle (son of Zebedee), moved to Ephesus from Jerusalem around the time of the destruction of Jerusalem (C. 70CE) – Against Heresies 3.1.1. Several Marcionite notions trickled into some early Johannine literature, notably the Acts of John, which had John saying that he used to walk side-by-side with Jesus, but never saw his footprints. Jesus’ statement to Mary, telling her not to touch him because he had not yet returned to his father (John 20:17), also seems to invoke a Marcionite Docetism. The Johannines, like the Marcionites, had a robust notion of the Demiurge, but unlike the Marcionites, the Johannines said the Demiurge was the Logos (or the Word). In the Gospel of John, Jesus’s first miracle was preceded by his mother rendering authority to Jesus; prior to Jesus’s death on the cross, Jesus turned over his disciples to his mother; this might suggest a connection between the Queen of Heaven cult (and by extension, the Nasaraeanes and Cerinthians) and the Johannine community.

The Thomasites – Wrote the Gospel of Thomas, and several other Thomas-centric texts. The Gospel of Thomas is important because, as it is a “sayings gospel” rather than a depiction of Jesus’s acts, it might have preceded the Synoptic Gospels. Similar to the Johannines, with the possible exception that they put more emphasis on mystical visions; this Christian evolution, which decreasingly relied on mystical visions, might indicate an evolving power structure which de-emphasised an inheritor of the Spirit (Paraclete), and simultaneously relied more on church hierarchy. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus seems to indicate that the Paraclete would not be born of a woman; an interesting parallel is that Paul claimed to be born of a miscarriage in 1 Corin 15:8. Traditionally placed in Syria, to the South of the Johannines. Potential Syrians were Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Tatian (who was a student of Justin Martyr, and later became a Valentinian), and a generation later, Theophilus of Antioch, who was a potential recipient of the prologues in Luke and Acts after 160. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus told his followers to follow James, which perhaps suggests that there was an emerging anti-Paul polemic.

The Nazarenes – Very similar to the Ebionites, with the notable difference being their acceptance of the virgin birth and bodily resurrection; this detail makes them the likely authors of the virgin birth narrative in the Gospel of Matthew, along with the introduction of Jesus’ familial lineage. They seemed to undergo a co-evolution with the Johannines.

The Sethians – Were either located in Syria or Alexandria – perhaps both. They had a robust, 5-stage baptism, called the “five seals”. Though not much is known about the specifics of the five seals, it might resemble Mandaean baptismal rites. Had a very robust cosmology which proposed that there was a fall from the Godhead, and this fall gave rise to the material realm. In this case, the Sethians resembled the Marcionites and Cerinthians. Yet the Sethians’ cosmology was more complex than either Marcion or Cerinthus. They seemed to have taken much influence from Platonists and Pythagoreans of the day, as their creation myth was similar to those Greek philosophers, which proposed that the Monad formed immaterial ideals in a higher realm, and from that realm emerged an imperfect material copy. They were likely forerunners to the Valentinians.

The Valentinians – Similar to the Marcionites, in that they saw the God of the Old Testament as the creator of the world, but a different God as the highest. Like the Marcionites, the Valentinians revered Paul and referred to the middle-man Demiurge as Yaldabaoth. This makes the Valentinians likely 2nd generation Marcionites who introduced notions that were inherited from Alexandrian and Syrian Gnostic sources. One possibility is that these alterations to earlier theologies were brought on by increasing political strife between Christian groups in different geographic locations. They consumed the Gospel of John, and there are indications that they had multiple tiers of initiation. Clement of Alexandria claimed that Valentinus received instruction from Theudas, a disciple of Paul. Another possibility is that Paul was a hearer of Theudas, which creates a compelling connection between the Valentinians and John the Baptist.

The Naassenes – A Gnostic James-centric sect, which appears to have been as early as the early 2nd century CE. Perhaps an offshoot of the Ebionites, who revered Mariamne (Mary), who was said to have taken instruction from James. The Naassenes revered the serpent, similar to the Sethians and the Ophites (and the Eleusinians, who were not Christian). This reverance for Mary is similar to the Johannine concern for Jesus’s mother.

The Melchizedekians – According to the Melchizedekians, Christ was in the image of Melchizedek, and therefore, was inferior to Melchizedek; there are similar themes like this in Sethian mythology as well, as it pertains to Adam, Seth, and Jesus. Theodotus, a Valentinian, held that Melchizadek was higher than Jesus. One implication is that the Melchizedekians believed they ought to replace the Aaronic priesthood. This notion is found in Hebrews 7. Melchizadek gave wine to Abraham when he was expecting water; in John 2, Jesus performed an analogous act.

The Montanists – Also referred to as the Phrygian heresy and the New Prophesy. Originated in Central Turkey, to the south of the Marcionites, sometime in the early-to-mid-2nd century. The most prominent defender of his heresy was Tertullian, the staunch anti-Marcionite, who supposedly joined their sect around 207CE. Often compared to modern Pentacostals, in terms of the “trances” members were under, in which they were “possessed” by the spirit. Seem to have been influenced by the Johannines in Western Turkey, as well as the Syrian community to the south; however, the view is that the Phyrgians were less influenced by Hellenization than their counterparts.They were millenialists, and believed that there would be 1000 years of peace after Jesus’s return; this suggests they consumed Revelation, as this idea is found in Revelation 20:1-6.

This kind of division would not be expected of a religion that was orchestrated by a god or any supernatural figure (who seemingly would have the capability of controlling the thoughts and beliefs of his followers), but rather of a human creation.

(3893) Gospels fail every measure of reliable history

The gospels have been given special privilege as being historically reliable when it is a fact that any other historical account of the same pedigree would be dismissed summarily as being untrustworthy. The following was taken from:


The gospels cannot be considered historical accounts for a whole laundry list of reasons.

We discount the Gospels as at all reliable on standard historical methodologies that would produce the same result in every other field:

    • They’re late, post-dating any evident witness known to still be alive;
    • and written in a foreign land and language;
    • by unknown authors of unknown credentials;
    • who cite no sources, and give no indication they had any sources;
    • never critically engage with their material but only credulously (e.g. they never discuss conflicting accounts or reasons to believe their information, unlike rational historians of the era);
    • and about whose texts we have no reactions, critical or otherwise—whatever people were saying about these Gospels when they came out, we never get to hear, not for many more decades, by which time we see those reacting have no other information to judge them by;
    • all the earliest of which texts just copy their predecessors verbatim and change and add a few things;
    • and which contain in every pericope patent implausibilities or wholly unbelievable stories (from a random guy splitting the heavens and battling the devil and wandering out of the desert and converting disciples to instantly abandon their livelihoods after but a few sentences, to mystically murdering thousands of pigs, miraculously feeding thousands of itinerants, curing the blind, calming storms, and walking on water; from having a guy arguing against Pharisees with arguments that actually were the arguments of the Pharisees, to depicting a trial and execution that violates every law and custom of the time; and beyond);
    • which stories have obvious and rather convenient pedagogical uses in later missionary work;
    • and often emulate and “change up” the prior myths of other historically dubious heroes, like Moses and Elijah;
    • and often contain details that can only have been written a lifetime later (like the Sermon on the Mount, which was composed in Greek after the Jewish War; or prophecies of Jerusalem’s destruction, likewise; or Mark’s emulation of the passion of Jesus ben Ananias or Luke’s confused cooption of The Antiquities of Josephus; and so on).
    • and for none which do we have any prior corroboration.

There is no field of history—absolutely none—where such sources as these would be trusted as history at all.

Any honest historian would grade the gospels as being only one slight sliver above pure fiction. But because it is revered as a holy text, the usual rules of authenticity have been jettisoned. It is beyond belief that millions of people believe it provides a precise account of true history. Those same people would poo-pah any other book possessing the same credentials.

(3894) Jesus undermined the credibility of his messiahship

Jesus instructed his followers to trust what the Pharisees taught them. However, at the end of Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees concluded that Jesus was not the messiah. Thus, Jesus inadvertently undermined his claim to be the Jewish messiah. The following was taken from:


Matthew 23: 1-3

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it.”

If you lived in the 1st century and were to ask a Pharisee about the Messiah and whether Jesus fulfilled the conditions of the Messiah, they would say, “No. We had a trial, and we, from the seat of Moses, judged him not to be the Messiah. He contradicted our teachings about the Messiah and we believe that he broke the law and blasphemed. He was therefore executed as a criminal. Like other false Messiah claimants, he died and did not rule Israel, and so we naturally must move on to the next candidate.”

Well, since Jesus commanded that I must listen to “whatever” the Pharisees teach, which would include their beliefs about the Messiah, then I cannot be a Christian. I must stay a Jew. Shalom?

The author of the Gospel of Matthew likely did not realize the contradiction that he created regarding Jesus’ credentials. Beyond that, he also didn’t understand the requirements for the Jewish messiah, or else thought them to be irrelevant. But it is certain that Jesus failed to meet those requirements, and that is why the vast majority of Jews did not convert to Christianity.

(3895) Obedience over morality

Although many Christians view the near sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham as a beautiful demonstration of faith, there are odious implications associated with this Bible story. It stresses the dangerous theology that obedience to an authority figure is more important than defending an intrinsic sense of morality. The following was taken from:


I realized something about the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac recently.

Well, two things actually. The first is that god values obedience over morality. Consider: “they sacrifice children” is short for “those people are pure evil;” in other words child sacrifice is evil. As someone pointed out, the correct answer to “sacrifice your child to me” is: “begone, evil spirit!” So the point of this story is to perform the most evil of acts if god tells you to and not act morally. Obedience>Morality in his followers.

And that god is not only NOT worthy of worship, but is the enemy of all moral people.

The second thing i noticed was that Abraham doesn’t seem shocked by this. Or surprised. Or even particularly upset by this request since he doesn’t even protest it. Which tells us that child sacrifice is a thing that the god of the bible would command.

And that’s not someone i can praise. Or want to be around. Or even respect. Actually, they’re an enemy.

Which is why the common apologetic is that “God doesn’t require human sacrifice anymore!” rings hollow, because it’s totally unacceptable in the first place. Like, so what if he says he’s not going to demand it any more? He never should have asked for it in the first place.

It is virtually certain that any religion being created today would not include a story such as this. Civilization has become more refined and compassionate over the past twenty centuries and would find anything like this to be repulsive. The Bible continues to become less relevant every day.

(3896) God and the pink elephant

Given the attributes that Christians have given to God, the formula for salvation appears to hold him guilty if anyone is sent to hell. In this analogy, a pink elephant is a metaphor for the opportunity to see convincing evidence that is tuned to each persons’ sensibilities. The following was taken from:


Lets say, for the sake of the argument, that God exists and is omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent. Lets also say that he wants as many people to go to heaven as possible.

Joe is an atheist. Through his entire life, he will continue to be an atheist, and die as one. God doesn’t want that. God knows the future, because he’s omniscient.

Now, Joe will only start believing if he sees a pink elephant. If Joe were to ever lay eyes upon a pink elephant, he would instantly be converted to Christianity/Islam/etc. Joe will, however, never come into contact with a pink elephant. What can God do? Well, God could make it so that Joe will see a pink elephant, because he knows that this is the only way, since he already knows Joes entire life. This results in Joe believing and going to heaven.

If god shows him a blue, green or yellow elephant, Joe might not convert, or convert to another religion.

By not showing Joe the pink elephant, god is dooming him to an eternity in hell.

So, this means one of 4 things: – (1) God is unable to show him the elephant (not omnipitent) – (2) God cant predict Joe (not omniscient and by extension not omnipotent) – (3) God doesn’t care about Joe (Not benevolent) – (4) God doesn’t exist.

A typical Christian will claim that a fifth possibility exists- that God grants free will to each person and that this free will is independent of God’s foreknowledge. Furthermore, that he does not desire to force belief on anyone, but simply lets everything play out naturally. This overcomes some of the objections, but where it fails is that the playing field is heavily tilted, such that for some becoming a Christian is very easy while for others it is virtually impossible. So they invent the idea that God ‘grades on the curve’ -which violates a lot of their revered scriptures (whosoever believes will be saved and whoever doesn’t will be damned). But in the end, there is one simple and elegant solution to all of this- #4.

(3897) Breaking a commandment for breaking another

The logical structure of the Book of Exodus can be called into question, as it requires the breaking of one commandment to apply a penalty for breaking another commandment. The following was taken from:


10 Commandments:
Exodus 20:3 (King James): “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. “
Exodus 20:13 (King James): “Thou shalt not kill.”

Reasonable Summary of Subsequent Events:
Aaron builds a golden calf for the people of Israel to worship while Moses is on Mt. Sinai receiving the 10 commandments from God. The people of Israel are violating one of the commandments, which angers God even though the people of Israel have no knowledge of what God’s commandments are. Moses talks God out of retribution but then commands his people to commit murder on behalf of God.

Exodus 32:27 (King James): “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. “

This presents a problem:
Within the same book (Exodus), God commands his people to break his commandment (murder) because his people were breaking another commandment (false gods) which they had not yet seen. The command to murder was issued by a human on behalf of God.

This leaves me with a few questions I cannot answer:

    1. Is killing another person acceptable or not? I was always told people resolve discrepancies in the Bible via guidance in prayer. If God speaks to one of his followers tomorrow and that follower in earnest feels God is commanding him to slay his neighbor for violating a commandment, is it justified?
    2. If the commandments aren’t absolute rules, how does one interpret them? If resolution requires prayer, please address question #1 as well.
    3. If the penalty for violating one commandment requires violating another, does this mean the commandments are relative? How does one determine the relative weight of each commandment. What if two people disagree?
    4. If God is all powerful, why is this so confusing?

If the final analysis, it can confidently be stated that a religious text originating from the mind of an actual god would not command anyone to kill anyone. The dogma of the Book of Exodus is clearly a product of the human mind.

(3898) Two letters, two results

Suppose that a letter was discovered, written in the First Century, that was verified to have been written by one of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, John, or James perhaps, that said the following:

“There are many of us who are claiming that Jesus rose from the dead, but it is just dreams and imagination. I saw his body taken down from the cross a few days after he was crucified and it was taken to a common graveyard. Now, many of us have claimed to see him in visions, but I wonder how real that could be? Nevertheless, because of his wonderful message and teaching, I will preach that he did rise from the dead and appeared to us in visionary form.”

Such a finding would not necessarily destroy Christianity, but it would cause considerable damage.

Now, consider a letter that was verified to have been written by Charles Darwin, perhaps on his deathbed, that said the following:

“I wish to let everyone know that my theory of evolution was just made up by me. It is not true. It is obvious from observing the great diversity of life, the lack of intermediate forms, and the way that all of life is finely tuned to be a harmonious symphony, that it was created by a supernatural being, that being as most us believe, the God of Moses and Abraham.”

Would this destroy or even slightly damage the theory of evolution? No, not in the least. There is so much evidence that has been developed to support this theory that this letter would be dismissed as just the ramblings of a senile man who before had been sagacious and brilliant.

Christianity relies on the truthfulness of a just a few men living two thousand years ago. Evolution relies on the meticulous work of millions of scientists. Anyone who thinks that Christianity is true and evolution is false is living in a fantasy world.

(3899) Golden Rule not original

There are many Christians who believe that Jesus invented the Golden Rule and that it reveals a philosophy so brilliant that it must have come from the mind of a god. Little do they know that this rule has many forms that preceded the writings of the gospels. The following was taken from:


So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

The teachings of Jesus are not all immoral, of course, otherwise he would have never earned the reputation for moral perfection in the first place. But if Jesus came only to fulfill the Law and the Prophets—and that “doing to others what you would have them do to you” sums up the Law—then Jesus is simply advancing a pre-existing moral imperative found in several established cultures and traditions—the golden rule.

Consider the following examples of the golden rule that predate Jesus by centuries, taken from Harry Gensler’s book Ethics and the Golden Rule and its companion website:

    • Homer (700 BCE) – the goddess Calypso tells Odysseus: “I’ll be as careful for you as I’d be for myself in like need. I know what is fair and right.”
    • Thales (6th century BCE) – according to Diogenes Laertius, the ancient Greek philosopher Thales said that one can live virtuously “by never doing ourselves what we blame in others.”
    • Buddha (6th century BCE) – “There is nothing dearer to man than himself; therefore, as it is the same thing that is dear to you and to others, hurt not others with what pains yourself.” (Dhammapada, Northern Canon, 5:18)
    • Confucius (6th century BCE) – “Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.” (Analects 15:23)
    • Jainism (500 BCE) – this Indian religion teaches that “a monk should treat all beings as he himself would be treated.” (Jaina Sutras, Sutrakritanga, bk. 1, 10:1-3)
    • Laozi (500 BCE) – “To those who are good to me, I am good; and to those who are not good to me, I am also good; and thus all get to receive good.” (Tao Te Ching 49)
    • Zoroaster (500 BCE) – “That character is best that doesn’t do to another what isn’t good for itself.”
    • Plato (4th century BCE) – “I’d have no one touch my property, if I can help it, or disturb it without consent on my part; if I’m a man of reason, I must treat the property of others the same way.” (Laws)
    • Hinduism (400 BCE) – “One who regards all creatures as his own self, and behaves towards them as towards his own self attains happiness. One should never do to another what one regards as hurtful to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of righteousness. In happiness and misery, in the agreeable and the disagreeable, one should judge effects as if they came to one’s own self.” (Mahabharata bk. 13: Anusasana Parva, §113)
    • Aristotle (4th century BCE) – “As the virtuous man is to himself, he is to his friend also, for his friend is another self.” (Nicomachean Ethics 9:9)
    • Seneca (1st century CE) – “Let us give in the way we would like to receive.”

These examples only scratch the surface; the golden rule was present in virtually all ancient ethical and religious systems across Egypt, Greece, Persia, India, China, and more. Of particular note is Laozi; notice how in the Tao Te Ching, Laozi instructs us to “love our enemies” half a century before Jesus was born and within an entirely different culture. Clearly, human nature—including our innate capacity for reason, sympathy, and empathy—has led thinkers across the globe to reach similar conclusions—without the necessity of divine intervention.

The ancient Stoics, for example, believed that the basic moral laws were accessible to everyone via our shared capacity for reason, and could be discovered by those sufficiently educated in philosophy, and then practiced as a way of life. The development of one’s character, or the cultivation of virtue, was considered both a necessary and sufficient condition for living the good life.

It was only Jesus who introduced the idea that you should treat everyone as you would like to be treated—or else suffer an eternity in hell.

So not only was Jesus not original, and not only that this rule appears to have no divine origin, but Jesus added on a terrible penalty for failure to comply (if we accept a works-based mode of salvation, ala the Book of James). We can thus safely say that Jesus, or his biographer (hagiographer?) deserves no credit for this ‘golden’ nugget of philosophy.

(3900) Promoting obedience over intelligence

One of the ways that the gospels present Jesus as being a poor moral teacher is the way that he tried to dumb down his followers to be like children, to not question his authority or commandments, and to not use their intellect. This is a time-honored strategy of cult leaders. The following was taken from:


At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. (Matthew 11:25-26)

The great twentieth-century philosopher Bertrand Russell—himself a model of moral behavior and generosity of spirit—made the following observation: “So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.” Jesus certainly doesn’t seem to value it; his only requirement is for you to live a life of obedience to his commandments. While obedience is a fine trait among dogs and other domesticated animals, it seems a rather unworthy trait for a human being to center a well-lived and complete life around.

The psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton has spent a lifetime studying cult leaders, or those “who claim ownership of the minds of others.” Reflecting on his research, he had this to say about “thought reform” (a.k.a brainwashing) in his book Losing Reality: On Cults, Cultism, and the Mindset of Political and Religious Zealotry:

Indeed, I have come to view the thought reform process as a form of psychological apocalypticism, of bringing about the “death” of all ideas and ideologies prior to those of [the cult leader].

There’s a reason that there are so many references to children in the Gospels; Jesus wants you to adopt the permanent mindset of an ignorant, obedient child. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3-4). Through the suppression of our intelligence—and by bringing about the “death” of all other ideas and ideologies—we will thereby never come to challenge any of Jesus’s teachings. This is cult psychology 101.

But it’s immoral for another reason. If we are to believe Aristotle, Jesus is suppressing the very characteristic that separates us from the other animals—our rational faculties (which are presumably God-given if one believes in Him). Jesus is therefore quite literally stripping away our humanity by promoting the type of life Socrates told us wasn’t even worth living.

If Jesus were morally perfect, he would grant us the greatest freedom of all—freedom of thought and conscience.

Telling adults to be like little children is a very poor philosophy and one that can be used in a dangerous fashion by any person intent of exercising control over others. The gospel authors (or Jesus himself?) should never have avoided using this metaphor. Instead, they should have gone with what Paul wrote (which was probably available for them at that time)- When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up my childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11).

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