(3951) Trinity has no foundation in Hebrew Bible
Christianity had a difficult time marrying its paganistic concept of the Trinity with the Hebrew Bible, and all efforts to do this have failed miserably. There simply is no basis for a triune god in Jewish literature or scripture. It was an invention of 1st Century Christians. The following is taken from:
The Trinity has no basis in the Hebrew Bible or Jewish tradition. It is a purely pagan invention masquerading as monotheism, disingenuously and arbitrarily citing the Hebrew Bible for support.
Christian attempts to support the doctrine of the Trinity by citing the Hebrew Bible are disingenuous. Their arguments rely on linguistic and theological ambiguity and selectively choosing which ambiguities to cite while ignoring others. The doctrine of the Trinity was created by Christian theologians who overwhelmingly came from pagan backgrounds and cultures, but wanted to rationalize their pagan-Christian theology with the scriptures of the monotheistic culture their mystery cult depended on. They specifically cite scriptures referring to the “spirit of God” or the “holy spirit” (which could themselves be two separate beings) as proof that the third person of their Trinity with the same title is in the Bible. (They focus on the holy spirit because the title of the second person, the logos, is conspicuously absent from the Tanakh and comes entirely from pagan philosophy.) The spirit of God or holy spirit are ambiguous phrases, but it is easily reconcilable with monotheism by acknowledging that these locutions are either alternative names for God or created being(s) who act as emissaries for God, depending on context. The absurd and incoherent idea of coexistent, co-eternal members of a divine triad, who are somehow all one being, is entirely unnecessary.
More importantly, Christians ignore other phrases in the Tanakh that are no different from the ones they like to cite that would make their pantheon even larger. For example, Christians have not included the Evil Spirit of God (1 Sam. 16:23), the Lying Spirit (1 Kings 22:23), the Destroyer/Angel of Death (Exo. 12:23), the Burning Bush (Exo.), the Pillar of Cloud/Fire (Exo.), the Presence of God (Exo. 33:15), the Glory of God (Exo. 24:16), or the female figure of Wisdom (Proverbs) in their godhead. The language of the Bible in describing these beings is no different from that discussing the spirit of God or holy spirit. For that matter, why do they not consider Yhvh and El/Elohim to be different hypostases? The fact that Christians understand these beings as either emissaries, attributes, poetic locutions, or alternative names of God shows that they apply the same standard of interpretation as the Jews, except when they believe it will support their pagan doctrine.
Christian attempts to claim the Trinity as monotheism fail. They believe the three persons (hypostases) are one God because they share the same substance or being (homoousion). This doctrine relies on linguistic ambiguity around the word substance/being. God is definitionally a spirit, meaning not made of matter. This shared substance must therefore be “spiritual substance,” however, that is a meaningless phrase. Since a spirit is without matter, it must be a mind/will or consciousness of some sort. A shared spiritual substance would therefore be a shared consciousness or mind/will. The new testament is quite clear that the Father and Son have different minds/wills or consciousnesses, otherwise Jesus would have the same knowledge as the Father (something he denied regarding the eschaton), he would not need to say to the Father “not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42), and most importantly he would have no reason to pray at all, which he did regularly in the gospels. Since these two clearly have separate minds/wills, something Jesus himself acknowledged, they do not share a “spiritual substance.” Changing substance to being/essence doesn’t save the doctrine because they clearly exist as separate beings with separate minds. If the persons are spirits and they have their own minds/wills, then they are not one being. Claiming that they share a divine nature also fails. Humans share a common nature, but we are not one in any relevant sense. The same would be true of the Christian gods sharing a divine nature. The Trinity is polytheism that tries to proclaim itself monotheistic by using nothing more than equivocation.)
The Trinity has no basis in the Hebrew Bible or Jewish tradition. It is a purely pagan invention masquerading as monotheism, disingenuously and arbitrarily citing the Hebrew Bible for support.
It should concern Christians that a critical piece of their theology is missing from the first half of their Bibles. It makes no sense that a god would not reveal his triple personality complex to his chosen people, and then only reveal it after his chosen people had good reason to reject Jesus as their messiah.
(3952) Alien belief to replace gods
Based on current trends, it appears that belief in gods will soon be replaced by the worship of aliens. Much as visions and observation of natural phenomena caused humans to worship gods, the sighting of strange aerial phenomena, and our ever improving view of the universe will result in humans venerating aliens instead, and who, because of their alleged advanced technology, would be seen as having godlike qualities. The following was taken from:
Aliens may someday take the place of the gods in the human collective consciousness. At least, that’s according to new research presented by Dr. Diana Pasulka at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Pasulka conducted a six-year study in which she travelled around the country speaking with scientists, Silicon Valley tech gurus, professionals, entrepreneurs, and other Very Important People who admit to believing in extraterrestrial intelligence. Pasulka’s study reveals that not only is belief in extraterrestrial intelligence widespread and found in nearly all strata of society, but it has also approached levels rivaling modern rates of belief in deities.
According to a recent presentation Pasulka gave under the title The Incarnational Technological Self: The Case of the Crashed UFO Artifact, this widespread belief in aliens stems from a variety of cultural factors and scientific endeavors:
Widespread belief in aliens is due to a number of factors including their ubiquity in modern media like The X-Files, which can influence memory, and the realist effect produced by the search for planets that might support life, as well as alleged alien artifacts that have recently made news in outlets such as the New York Times.
In her new book American Cosmic, Pasulka claims that science fiction and other pop culture texts have become a means of answering questions formerly answered by religion. Through her research, Pasulka found that more than half of U.S. adults and more than 75% of young Americans believe in intelligent extraterrestrial life. Compare that to recent surveys by the Pew Research Center which have found that only around 68% of Americans are absolutely certain in their belief in God, and it’s clear to see that something is happening here. But we don’t know what it is yet, do we?
It makes total sense that advanced extraterrestrial aliens could take the place of gods in our mythologies. The similarities are many: both are omniscient beings who (mostly) live in the cosmic heavens and who are capable of near-magical abilities. Couple those with the mounting evidence that life likely began in space, and it’s safe to say that perhaps Scientology is only the beginning of what could be a wave of new religions which venerate alien beings as opposed to flying spaghetti monsters. Any potential discoveries of alien life will certainly lead to the creation of alien-worshipping religions, an idea which pops up in science fiction regularly. Is Earth ready for discovery, or will it lead to renewed clashes between and among the religious?
Learning more about the universe, with its billions of galaxies, and trillions of planets has made the existence of aliens seem much more probable. And any aliens who arrive in our solar system would have to be much more advanced than humans. This sets up a future where instead of worshiping gods, veneration and awe will be applied to conceptual aliens who may or may not be visiting us. But the science supporting the existence of aliens will continually become much more robust while the same science will make omni-gods seem far less probable. Move over Yahweh, here comes E.T.
(3953) Why would God care so much?
The description of God gleaned from the scriptures seems to paint a figure at odds with simple reason. Yahweh is supposedly all powerful and existed long before humans, but now seems to be obsessed with the idea of humans worshiping him, even to the point of torturing those who don’t. This really doesn’t make any sense. The following was taken from:
If there is one question that baffles me the most about how theists manage to reconcile their faith with the plethora of philosophical questions that religion does not give a satisfying answer to… It’s this: why does god care so much?
Consider our situation as a species: we are an insignificant species living on a tiny rock floating in an unimaginably colossal universe. And though we like to entertain our vanity and arrogance… we are all equally oblivious of a lot of facts. If there is one thing we all share it’s our insignificance and ignorance. We are creatures of incomplete knowledge and a computationally limited brain. We exist within a universe bounded by laws that we may never come close to fully comprehending. Surrounded by truths out of the reach of our limited intellect. Even the very brightest of humanity never had the full picture. We were conceived into a world without our consent full to the brim of existential and philosophical mysteries… And despite our constant prolonged efforts in pondering philosophy, some answers may forever elude us.
How is it fair, that in the face of such overwhelming uncertainty and elusive truth, we are plagued with a computationally incompetent brain and doomed to an eternity of hellfire if it fails to reach the supposedly “objective” truth of god’s existence?
In the face of such uncertainty and lack of data… It seems only logical to be humbled and simply say “I don’t know”. The default position is to reject claims without evidence, and religion – though it tries – offers no substantial evidence. The default position logically seems to be rejecting religion. And in the face of overwhelming existential and philosophical uncertainty, it’s only unpretentious and logical to simply assert: “I don’t know”.
Now my biggest objection is: why is god so adamant that this humble admission of ignorance is not enough Even if I lead an entirely moral life?
I don’t understand how the most grand being in the universe, the creator of billions of galaxies… Could possibly be so vain and narcissistic. It’s analogous to human beings obsessing about being acknowledged by mere bacteria.
His demand is simply unattainable… He does not only require his existence being acknowledged, it’s a necessary condition that the exact version of it would be correct. It’s not enough to believe in God… he has to be Christ or Allah or whatever version that exists. We are surrounded by metaphysical questions that we can only ponder but may never reach the truth of: consciousness, nature of our own existence, etc. How is it reasonable that if we struggle with such basic concepts… That we are expected to reach the truth of god, down to the very specifics of what version he happens to be according to thousands of religions that exist? Especially considering that for some reason he’s always been in hiding.
God requires too much… And is too self-absorbed to be considered a being of all-encompassing wisdom. Only vanity of human caliber could entertain the notion that disbelief is an infinitely punishable crime. Such vanity and narcissism is not divine, only human. Evidential of the fact he was created in our own image, not the other way around.
Yahweh craves worship but at the same time hides his existence, then gets angry and genocidal when lowly humans don’t acknowledge his existence. There is something seriously wrong with this story.
(3954) The case against the resurrection
The Christian religion rests precariously on the extraordinary claim that Jesus rose from the dead. But their own scriptures do a pitiful job in securing that ‘truth.’ In Michael Alter’s The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry , a strong case is made that the resurrection is a myth. The following provides an executive summary:
There are, broadly speaking, two ways of arguing for the Resurrection: first, a “minimal facts” approach (developed by Dr. Gary Habermas and Dr. Mike Licona) which sticks to facts about Jesus and his disciples which are generally accepted by historians, and then proceeds to argue for the Resurrection as the best explanation for those facts; and second, a “maximal data” approach (championed by Drs. Tim and Lydia McGrew) which first seeks to build a cumulative case for the historical reliability of the four Gospel accounts before attempting to argue for the Resurrection. Although Alter does not explicitly deal with either of these approaches in his book – he’ll be critiquing Resurrection apologetics in his second book on the Resurrection, which is forthcoming – the importance of this book which he has written is that it totally discredits both approaches.
The “maximal data” approach stands or falls on the claim that the New Testament is, if not inerrant, at the very least, historically reliable. Alter’s book assembles a mountain of evidence which demonstrates convincingly that it isn’t. In his book, Alter uncovers no less than 120 internal contradictions (relating to 113 different issues) in the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection, as well as scores of historical inaccuracies.
It turns out that the Gospels are not even historically reliable when narrating Jesus’ Crucifixion, let alone his Resurrection. To illustrate my point, try a little thought experiment: close your eyes and try to picture in your mind Jesus’ Crucifixion. Chances are you imagined a scene like the painting below by Veronese, right?
Get ready to revise your picture: Veronese’s painting may be faithful to the Gospels, but for the most part, it’s historically improbable. Nearly everything in the Gospel narratives of the crucifixion turns out to be highly dubious, when judged by the standards which a fair-minded historian would employ. Three of the Gospels tell us that Jesus was crucified on the Passover, and that the Last Supper was a Passover meal (Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-15) during which Jesus took some bread and a cup of wine, and then told his disciples to eat his body and to drink blood, which he called “the blood of the new covenant” (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20; see also 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Most New Testament historians would consider these claims highly questionable, to say the least. Even former Pope Benedict XVI admits that “the meal that Jesus shared with the Twelve was not a Passover meal according to the ritual prescriptions of Judaism.” To complicate matters, John’s Gospel disagrees with the other three Gospels in placing Jesus’ Last Supper and Crucifixion on the eve of the Passover (John 19:14, 19:31; see here and here below, for more details). Historians generally agree that this is a much more plausible date. So does former Pope Benedict XVI: he acknowledges that “one has to choose between the Synoptic and Johannine chronologies,” and he accepts that “the weight of evidence favours John.”
As for what happened at the Last Supper: Dr. Michael Cahill, Professor of Biblical Studies at Duquesne University, freely acknowledges the unlikelihood of a devout Jew such as Jesus instituting a blood-drinking ceremony, in his article, Drinking Blood at a Kosher Eucharist? The Sound of Scholarly Silence. He concludes: “Those who hold for the literal institution by Jesus have not been able to explain plausibly how the drinking of blood could have arisen in a Jewish setting.” Interestingly, the blood-drinking ceremony at the Last Supper is omitted from John’s Gospel.
All four Gospels agree that Jesus was betrayed by one of his apostles, Judas Iscariot. However, they disagree about practically everything else, when it comes to Judas – in particular, why he betrayed Jesus (was it for money, as Matthew declares, or because Satan entered into his heart, as Luke and John maintain?), when he turned against Jesus (was it two days before the Passover, as in Matthew and Mark, or during the Last Supper, as in John?), and what happened to him after he betrayed Jesus (did he return the money to the chief priests before going out and hanging himself in a fit of remorse, as in Matthew, or did he use the money to buy a field, where he suffered the mishap of his bowels suddenly bursting open, as in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles?) Matthew even manages to bungle the famous prophecy he quotes about the thirty pieces of silver Judas returned to the temple priests: it’s not in Jeremiah, as he claims, but in Zechariah, and it says nothing about Jesus, anyway: the author of the prophecy was writing about the rupture between Israel and Judah.
Again: according to the Evangelists, Jesus was condemned of blasphemy by the Jewish Sanhedrin in a hasty night trial at the residence of the high priest, Caiaphas. But something smells very fishy here: even back in the first century A.D., the trial depicted in the Gospels would have broken just about every rule in the book. It shouldn’t have been at Caiaphas’ residence, it shouldn’t have been held at night, and there should have been a 24-hour delay before a death sentence was pronounced. And nothing that Jesus said during his trial would have constituted blasphemy anyway: he didn’t pronounce the Divine name, and he didn’t claim to be equal to God. There was nothing blasphemous about claiming to be the Son of God. Mark records Jesus referring to himself as the Son of Man, seated on the right hand of God and coming on the clouds of heaven, but similar claims were made by Jews living well before Jesus was born, about the Biblical patriarch Enoch. So why did the Jewish Sanhedrin (Council) decide that Jesus deserved to die? And was their verdict a unanimous one (as in Mark’s Gospel) or were there dissenters (as Luke’s Gospel records)?
Later on, in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ Roman trial before Pontius Pilate, Pilate is depicted as being very reluctant to condemn Jesus to death, even washing his hands of the case in Matthew’s Gospel – but this contradicts everything we know about the man from contemporaneous Jewish sources (and from Luke himself): in reality, the man was a ruthless, cold-hearted butcher who wouldn’t have had a moment’s hesitation in condemning Jesus to death.
Two of the Gospels (Matthew and Mark) record that Jesus was mocked by the chief priests while hanging on the Cross: “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:32). But that couldn’t have happened if Jesus was crucified on the eve of the Passover (as in John’s Gospel) rather than on the Passover itself (as in Matthew, Mark and Luke, who, as we’ve seen, got the date wrong): on Passover eve, the chief priests would have been busy slaughtering lambs in the Temple for the thousands of families in Jerusalem wanting to celebrate Passover that evening. It was their busiest day of the year. They wouldn’t have had time to go out to Golgotha and poke fun at Jesus hanging on the Cross.
And that story in Luke’s Gospel about the good thief? Probably didn’t happen either: he’d been languishing in jail for weeks, cut off from all news of the outside world, so how would he have known that Jesus was innocent of any crime and had done nothing wrong? Doesn’t make sense.
And what about those last words Jesus is supposed to have uttered on the Cross? Leaving aside the fact that the Gospels give us three different versions of Jesus’ final words (see Matthew 27:46-50 and Mark 15:34-37; Luke 23:46; John 19:30), all of the words allegedly spoken by Jesus on the Cross are likely to be fictional. The Romans wouldn’t have allowed anyone to stand close enough to the Cross to hear Jesus’ words, in the first place – especially if he was convicted on a political charge, as Jesus was (Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38, John 19:19). And forget about Jesus crying out in a loud voice just before he died: by that time, his voice would have been reduced to a mere whisper by the asphyxiation he suffered while hanging on the Cross. Most ridiculous is the claim, found in Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels, that after Jesus uttered his final cry on the Cross (“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”, or “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”), some of the bystanders thought he was calling on Elijah. As Alter points out, there’s simply no way any Jew would mistake the word “Eli” for “Elijah.”
John’s Gospel records the presence of Jesus’ mother at the foot of the Cross, along with the beloved disciple (who is generally presumed to have been the apostle John, although about 20 other individuals have been proposed as candidates), but this, too, is probably fictional: Jesus was crucified as an enemy of the State (“King of the Jews”), and as such, the Romans would have shown him no quarter – and they certainly would not have allowed him to enjoy a final conversation with his mother. To quote the words of the late Dr. Maurice Casey (1942-2014), author of Is John’s Gospel True? (1996, London: Routledge, p. 188) and a former Professor of New Testament Languages and Literature at the Department of Theology at the University of Nottingham: “The fourth Gospel’s group of people beside the Cross includes Jesus’ mother and the beloved disciple. It is most unlikely that these people would have been allowed this close to a Roman crucifixion.” As Dr. Bart Ehrman, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has pointed out in an online essay titled, Why Romans crucified people, the whole aim of crucifixion was to humiliate the victim as much as possible. And when political criminals like Jesus were crucified, the warning to the public was unmistakably clear: this is what happens to you if you mess with Rome. No niceties were observed and no courtesies allowed.
Nor can we trust the beloved disciple’s claim to have witnessed blood and water flowing from Jesus’ side after he was pierced with a soldier’s lance (John 19:31-36): Jesus’ body had already been heavily scourged, so it would have been covered with blood. Consequently, it would have been very difficult to visually distinguish blood and water flowing from Jesus’ side unless the beloved disciple was observing it close-up (which, as we’ve seen, he wasn’t). As Alter points out, the Romans would never have allowed anyone near the Cross while they were breaking the legs of the crucified criminals, in order to make sure they were really dead. Incidentally, the story in John about Jesus managing to avoid having his legs broken by the Roman soldiers is also historically suspect: if Pilate had ordered the soldiers to break the legs of all the criminals, then they would have obeyed his orders to the letter. (John’s story appears to have been written in order to serve a theological agenda, portraying Jesus as the Paschal lamb that was slain without any of its bones being broken – see Exodus 12:46.)
How about the Gospel accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke (but not John) of the three hours of darkness preceding Jesus’ death? Unfortunately, there’s no documentation of any such event occurring in Palestine at that time. (And no, Thallus and Phlegon don’t help the Christian apologetic case: in fact, they only serve to weaken it, as we’ll see below.) And the earthquake that is said to have taken place at Jesus’ death? Only one Evangelist (Matthew) records it – and he shoots his own credibility in the foot by claiming that the tombs of many Jewish saints were opened, that their bodies were raised to life again, and that they appeared to many people in Jerusalem after Jesus’ Resurrection (Matthew 27:51-54): an astonishing claim which is found in no other Gospel. Even conservative Christian apologists such as Dale Allison, Craig Evans and Mike Licona are highly skeptical of this story.
What about the story of the tearing of the veil of the Temple immediately following Jesus’ death? Doesn’t add up either: as Alter demonstrates in his book, using maps, the veil of the Temple couldn’t even be seen from Golgotha (the place where Jesus was crucified). And while we have accounts in the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud of strange occurrences connected with the Temple around 30 A.D., neither of them mention the veil of the Temple being torn in two. That sounds very suspicious.
A prudent and impartial historian, weighing up all these difficulties, would surely conclude that the foregoing events described in the Gospels probably never happened. And if the Gospels get so many key facts about Jesus’ crucifixion wrong, then they can no longer be seen as historically reliable; instead, they must be regarded as highly embellished accounts. (I am of course aware that certain advocates of the “maximal data” approach object that an incident-by-incident approach to Gospel reliability is fundamentally wrong; I’ll be responding to their arguments in Section A below. For now, I’ll just say that when the Gospels narrate more than a dozen historically doubtful events during the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life, there’s no way they can be called reliable accounts.) But if the Gospels are not historically reliable, then Christian apologists cannot legitimately appeal to episodes recorded in the Gospels (such as Jesus’ appearance to doubting Thomas) in order to establish Jesus’ Resurrection, without providing independent argumentation that these episodes actually took place.
So much for the “maximal data” approach to Resurrection apologetics, then. The “minimal facts” approach fares no better. Proponents of this approach usually include the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb on their list of minimal facts, and they proudly cite Professor Gary Habermas’ claim that 75% of New Testament scholars accept the reality of the empty tomb. But Habermas hasn’t released his survey data, and in any case, it’s based on a biased sample: most of the scholars surveyed were committed Christians. What’s more, the survey was completed in 2005, so it’s more than a dozen years out-of-date. For a critique of Habermas’ survey, see here.
In his book, Alter shows that none of the Gospel accounts of Jesus being buried in a new rock tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea hold water, and in any case they’re mutually contradictory.
Let’s begin with Mark’s Gospel, which depicts Joseph of Arimathea as buying a linen shroud for Jesus on the Passover, a Jewish high holy day (Mark 14:12-16, 15:46). That was forbidden under Jewish law (Leviticus 23:6-7; Nehemiah 10:31). Later, after the Sabbath, the women present at Jesus’ burial buy spices to anoint him (Mark 16:1). But they couldn’t have done it on Saturday night, as the shops would have been closed (remember: there was no electrical lighting in the first century), and there wouldn’t have been time to buy them on Sunday morning either, as the women arrived at Jesus’ tomb just after sunrise (Mark 16:2). Mark’s Gospel also tells us that the tomb was sealed with a large, round stone (Mark 16:3-4), but only fabulously rich people owned tombs like that, back in those days. Luke’s Gospel fares no better than Mark’s, when it comes to historical accuracy: it depicts the women as preparing spices and ointments on a high holy day (Passover), shortly before the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath on Friday evening (Luke 23:56). This, too, would have contravened Jewish law. In any case, Luke’s account of when the spices were purchased contradicts Mark’s: Luke says it was on Friday, while Mark says it was on Sunday morning. Both cannot be right. Luke also tells us that Joseph of Arimathea had not consented to the decision by the council of chief priests and scribes to condemn Jesus to death (Luke 23:51), which contradicts Mark’s and Matthew’s express statements that the entire council voted to condemn Jesus (Mark 14:64, 15:1; Matthew 26:59, 27:1). Incidentally, Luke’s second book, the Acts of the Apostles, contradicts Luke’s Gospel on the question of who buried Jesus: in Acts 13:27-29, it is the rulers of Jerusalem (not Joseph of Arimathea) who take Jesus down from the Cross and lay him in a tomb. Matthew’s account of Jesus’ burial is even more far-fetched than Mark’s and Luke’s: it portrays the chief priests and Pharisees as visiting Pilate on the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday), asking for a guard to be placed over Jesus’ tomb, and personally sealing the stone (Matthew 27:66) – a clear violation of Sabbath law which would have merited the death penalty (Exodus 35:2; Numbers 15:32-36). Additionally, asking Gentile guards to work on the Sabbath (by guarding the tomb) would have violated the commandments of the Torah (Exodus 20:8-10): Jews were forbidden to ask even strangers to work for them on the Sabbath. It’s also preposterous to imagine that Pilate would have agreed to their request on a purely religious matter, which did not concern him – particularly after they had annoyed him the previous day by putting him on the spot and publicly pressuring him to have Jesus put to death (Matthew 27:15-26). The account of Jesus’ burial in John’s Gospel is also full of difficulties.
To begin with, there is a puzzling inconsistency: first, the chief priests of “the Jews” ask for the legs of the crucified criminals (including Jesus) to be broken so as to hasten death, so that they might be taken away before the Sabbath (John19:31; cf. John 19:21), which seems to imply that they were being granted custody of the body of Jesus, but then Joseph of Arimathea secretly (“for fear of the Jews”) asks Pilate if he can take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate allows him to do so (John 19:38). This is bizarre: why would Pilate have handed over the body of an enemy of the State to a private individual, anyway? Another man named Nicodemus also comes along to Jesus’ burial, bringing 100 Roman pounds of myrrh and aloes (or 75 of our pounds) – an amount literally fit for a king! In any case, Jesus’ body being packed in spices is historically incongruous, reflecting Egyptian rather than Jewish burial customs. Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb is also said to be situated near the place where Jesus was crucified, but as Alter points out, it is very unlikely that a wealthy man like Joseph would have a tomb in such an undesirable location. Finally, Joseph’s tomb is described in three Gospels (Matthew, Luke and John) as a new tomb, in which no-one had been laid. Once again, this is highly improbable: most likely, it would have been a family tomb, in which several generations of Joseph’s family would have been buried. In short: the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ burial are at odds with Jewish customs – and with each other – on several key points.
As if that were not bad enough, since the publication of Alter’s book, Professor Bart Ehrman has put forward some very powerful arguments (see here and here) explaining why Jesus would probably not have been given a proper burial anyway: as an enemy of the State, the Romans would have wanted to humiliate him completely, so his body would have been left on the Cross for days and been gnawed at by carrion birds and animals, in full view of the public, before being tossed into a common burial pit for criminals. To be sure, leaving a dead body hanging on a cross after sundown would have upset the Jews, but there’s no record of the Romans ever showing any clemency with the body of a political criminal, and allowing it to be given a proper burial.
But even if Jesus had managed to escaped this grisly fate, and the Jewish Sanhedrin had obtained permission to bury Jesus’ body (as suggested by Acts 13:27-29 and John 19:31), it would have been a dishonorable burial, with no family members present, no funeral procession and no rituals of mourning, where the body was most likely buried in a trench grave in a field where the bodies of criminals condemned by Jewish courts were buried, or in a burial cave owned by the Jewish authorities (less likely, as we have no record of any cave being used to bury executed criminals). (The two thieves crucified with Jesus weren’t condemned by a Jewish court but a Roman one, so their bodies wouldn’t have been buried with that of Jesus, if the Jewish chief priests managed to get hold of Jesus’ body.) However, Professor Jodi Magness, an archaeologist who works at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has suggested that there might not have been enough time to dig a trench grave on Friday afternoon, so the chief priests may have asked Joseph (a wealthy member of the council) to temporarily store Jesus’ body in his grave over the weekend. If Dr. Magness’ proposal is correct, it would certainly account for the mention of Joseph of Arimathea in all of the Gospel accounts (but not in 1 Corinthians 15:4, curiously enough). But even on Dr. Magness’ proposal, Jesus’ body wouldn’t have been placed in a new tomb where no-one had ever been laid, as the Gospels narrate, but at best, inside a new niche within Joseph’s family tomb, which would have already held lots of bodies.
Confronted with this evidence, any prudent and unbiased historian would have to conclude that if Jesus was buried at all, it was most likely a dishonorable burial with no mourners, in which Jesus’ body was either buried in a trench grave with other criminals, or placed in temporary storage in Joseph of Arimathea’s family tomb, along with the bodies of Joseph’s family members. Not only is this picture at odds with the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ burial, but it also undercuts the apologetic case for the empty tomb. In particular, the oft-repeated apologetic argument that if Jesus’ tomb wasn’t empty, Jesus’ enemies would have had no trouble in producing his body and discrediting the apostles’ claims that Jesus had risen, turns out to be totally bogus: according to Jewish religious law, corpses were deemed to be no longer legally identifiable with any certainty if they were more than three days old (see here). The apostles didn’t start publicly preaching Jesus’ Resurrection until seven weeks after the Crucifixion – by which time, even if Jesus’ corpse had still been lying in a tomb, nobody would have been able to positively identify it, anyway.
That brings us to the New Testament accounts of the risen Jesus’ appearances to his disciples, as well as his brother James and Saul of Tarsus, an early persecutor of Christianity. There are about eleven recorded appearances, and in his book, Alter manages to uncover contradictions in nearly all of them, which I’ll discuss in Section D below. For the time being, all I’ll say is that Alter’s book uncovers a lot more contradictions than one might expect, as well as some gaping holes in the Gospel narratives. I would also like to thank Matthew Ferguson for his article, Reply to Vincent Torley (April 12, 2017), written in response to my OP, Evidence for the Resurrection (The Skeptical Zone, April 4, 2017). Ferguson’s article had a strong influence over my thinking, as it made a number of telling points. Ferguson’s and Alter’s most telling points regarding the Resurrection narratives are summarized in Section B below, and presented in much greater depth in Section D.
“Whoa! Holes in the Resurrection narratives?” the reader may be asking. “What holes?” Fair question. How about these ones: first of all, why did the women go to Jesus’ tomb on Easter Sunday morning? Was it simply to visit Jesus’ body, as in Matthew and John, or to anoint the body, as in Mark? And why did they travel in the dark, before dawn, without a male to accompany them? (Not a wise thing to do, back in the first century A.D.) And how did they plan to roll back the “very large” stone at the entrance to the tomb, recorded by Mark? (Breaking into a private tomb was a crime punishable by exile under Roman law, so no passersby would have helped them.) And why would the women have gone to anoint Jesus’ dead body on Easter Sunday morning, as Mark records, if they were then going to rewrap it in dirty linen cloths afterwards? That really doesn’t make sense.
But the key point that we need to bear in mind here is that in order for an appearance of Jesus to serve as good evidence for his Resurrection, it would have to be multiply attested by witnesses whose testimonies were mutually consistent, and it would have to involve them not only seeing and hearing Jesus (as one might in a vision) but experiencing physical contact with him. As I will demonstrate in detail in Section D, the Biblical narratives of Jesus’ Resurrection appearances turn out to be highly inconsistent. If we examine the Gospel narratives of Jesus’ appearances to his apostles, for instance, we find that they contradict each other on the most basic details: who saw Jesus (was it ten, eleven or twelve apostles?), when they first saw him (Easter Sunday evening, as in Luke and John, or a few days later, as in Matthew?), and where they saw him (only in Jerusalem, as in Luke, or not until they had returned to Galilee, as in Mark and Matthew?) Additionally, most of the Resurrection appearances recorded in the New Testament fail to meet the criteria of multiple attestation and physical contact: some (like those to James and Paul) were to only one individual, while others fail to record the disciples having any physical contact with Jesus (which would rule out the hypothesis that they were having a vision, say).
An artist’s impression of a black triangle UFO. Image courtesy of Skeezerpumba and Wikipedia. If several people claimed to have seen an object like this one, investigators would want to verify that their accounts tallied. What if they claimed to have seen a man who had risen from the dead?
To be sure, there are a few accounts in the Gospels, where Jesus appears to and has physical contact with multiple individuals. Unfortunately, however, these Gospel accounts don’t contain any eyewitness interviews, so we have no way of knowing whether the various witnesses to Jesus’ Resurrection all saw, heard and felt the same thing on the occasions when they collectively encountered him. Think about it: if a dozen people claimed to have seen a UFO land on Earth, one would surely demand to see transcripts of separate interviews with each witness, and/or diagrams of what each witness saw, just to make sure that their reports tallied with one another. The same goes for modern-day Marian apparitions, such as Fatima and Medjugorje: as a routine matter, Church-appointed investigators of these visions attempt to establish whether the seers are all seeing and hearing the same thing. (Tactile apparitions are much rarer, but they have occurred.)
The best argument that Christian apologists can marshal in response to this objection is that the disciples must have all experienced the same thing, or otherwise they wouldn’t have all been prepared to die for their faith in Jesus’ Resurrection: only if they had carefully checked out each other’s accounts of what they experienced and found that they all tallied would they have acquired the courage to lay down their lives for their faith in Jesus. But that’s a psychological assumption: nowhere does the New Testament claim that the disciples cross-checked their experiences with one another. (Incidentally, the Fatima seers, who remained steadfast even after being threatened with torture and death in August 1917, didn’t all see or hear the same thing, as we can tell by examining Dr. Formigao’s interviews with each of them, regarding what they witnessed at the Fatima miracle of October 13th, 1917: their accounts are quite divergent.) A skeptic might also point out that only two of the twelve apostles are known to have been put to death, and that in any case, we don’t know whether they were executed on account of their faith in Jesus’ Resurrection, or for some other theological or political reason, as Michael Alter suggested in a radio debate with Jonathan McClatchie (March 28th, 2016) – see the segment from 1:05:00 to 1:06:20. But even if the apostles were martyred for their faith in the Resurrection, the foregoing argument overlooks the possibility that many of the apostles may have only seen Jesus, while a smaller number (say, Peter, James, John and Thomas) not only saw but heard him, and an even smaller number (say, Thomas alone) actually touched him. The apostles may have all seen the same thing (more or less), but without hearing or feeling the same thing. We just don’t know. However, in order to prove a resurrection (as opposed to an objective vision sent by God), one would need to establish that several of the disciples not only saw and heard Jesus, but made physical contact with him as well. The upshot of all this is that the Resurrection accounts would never pass muster in a court of law: there are too many holes in the stories, and they don’t meet standards of good evidence. No impartial historian would find them convincing evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection.
In short: Alter’s book does a brilliant job of eviscerating the apologists’ case for the high probability of the Resurrection. Whether one chooses to continue believing it (as I do) or not, one is forced to accept, after reading the book, that belief in the Resurrection cannot be built on the foundation of historical data, for it is a foundation of sand.
It would seem plausible to believe that if Christianity is true, and that Jesus actually rose from the dead, that God would have made sure that the written evidence for this miracle would have been accurately and consistently documented for the benefit of belief of future generations. Instead the opposite occurred, which is much more consistent with the resurrection being a fictional construct of human imagination.
(3955) ‘Personal relationship’ fallacy
You will often hear that Christianity is not a religion, but rather a ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus. The following essay lays this argument to waste:
I was brought up as an Episcopalian and went to church nearly every Sunday between the ages of about five through about fifteen. I recall many sermon topics and biblical teachings, but the topic that seemed to come up more frequently than others is the concept of a personal God. Certain priests and laypeople really gravitated to the idea that God was available on a personal level and claimed outright (and reiterated many times) that God wanted to have a personal relationship with everyone. This, of course, was coupled with the idea that God was also an all loving God. So, not only did this God want to hang out as buds, but in theory wanted the best for those folk it hung out with. Kind of like an invisible friend, but with the added bonus of being…well…Almighty. I confess, I really loved the idea of having God as a personal friend who was…well, in theory…really much cooler than any of my human friends. As you might imagine, I started to become a little annoyed and rather disillusioned when said supposed cool friend never actually did anything…well…cool. In fact, after a number of years it became quite clear (and rather disappointing) that this God didn’t do anything personal, at least not with me.
Let me be clear about something: my beef with the lack of personal interaction has nothing to do with my “requiring” this God to “prove” its personal friendship (which is a criticism some have leveled against my point in the past.) This is not a case of, “if you really were my personal friend, you’d give me a pet Godzilla for my birthday.” Rather, this is the recognition that over a good ten years, this supposed personal God never did anything personal or even anything that most people take for granted as normal acts of personal kindness. Over the years, I’ve come up with a thought experiment to illustrate the obvious paradox. The concept is pretty simple to grasp: if the claim that God is (or can be) a personal, loving friend, why are there empty toilet paper rolls?
Think about that for a minute or two. I mean, really think about it. Then consider this thought experiment.
Let’s say you are at home and you feel the urge to go to the bathroom. You waltz on in and sit down to do your business. You look over and discover (oh no!) the toilet paper roll is empty! Damn!
Now let’s say you’re not home alone. Maybe your spouse is home, or your brother or sister, or maybe one of your kids or one of your parents, or maybe a friend is visiting. It doesn’t matter who else is in the house really. The critical element is that someone who, at least on some level, cares about you and with whom you have a personal relationship is in the house.
So you call out to this person, “honey? The toilet paper roll is empty. Can you bring me a new roll?” Now, what are the odds this person, who supposedly loves you and with whom you have a definite personal relationship, is going to bring you a new roll of toilet paper? I submit that if you answered anything other than 1 (note: odds are a ratio of the number of desired or likely outcomes against the number of undesirable or unlikely outcomes. If there is no likelihood of any undesirable outcomes, then the ratio is 1. 1 is equivalent to 100%), you might want to start reevaluating your relationships.
The point is that the vast majority of people, if they are honest, all admit that pretty much any personal relationship loved one would bring them a roll of toilet paper. Even the antagonistic relationship siblings I’ve asked have universally all agreed that they’d eventually relent (after a certain amount of some kind of grief and teasing) and bring their sibling a roll.
Now, let’s take the same basic scenario, but this time none of your immediate family or a visiting personal human friend are at home. What are the odds of a roll of toilet paper appearing if you ask God to get you one?
I’m not being flippant here (well…not entirely). The fact is, this just doesn’t seem to happen. And the thing is, the “personal” in personal God has to mean “interactive” with a particular person. That’s the definition of personal. So, if this God can’t or won’t do some interactive something as simple as bringing someone a roll of toilet paper, how can it be considered “personal” in any sense of the term?
Of note, one of the most common responses I get when I offer this apparent paradox to folks – usually theistic folk – to consider is that, well…providing someone a roll of toilet paper would be incredibly trivial for a God. My immediate rebuttal is always, “but what isn’t trivial to a God?” I’ve never gotten an answer. Seriously. The moment I’ve noted that if we’re talking about an entity that supposedly is the creator of the universe and ask what act could be defined as “not trivial”, the people arguing for actions too trivial for such a God tend to realize there’s no honest argument. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that some folk haven’t tried to double down with the old, “God decides what is His prerogative” usually coupled with some variation of “and the Lord works in mysterious ways.” I just roll my eyes. Such responses strike me as more supporting of my point that this supposed God isn’t very personal.
Keep in mind too, if you really think about it, if an act like bringing someone toilet paper is too trivial for a God to bother with, in what sense would said God ever interact with anyone? I’ll be getting into more detail on the issues of omni-gods (that is, a God with omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, and so forth), but the point is that if there is some way to actually measure certain actions as trivial for some God, why wouldn’t said God just do them? I mean, what’s the loss? Unless said omnigod has limitations or some form of action parameters, then it would seem that trivial actions would actually be something a God would do with abandon since they would definitely demonstrate the personal element to its faithful and would have no actual impact on the God’s ability to do other rather more important things simultaneously (whatever those might be.)
Kind of makes me wonder why coffee isn’t just ready for drinking every morning…
If Yahweh was real, we would have evidence for his existence in the form of actual benefits flowing from the relationship with his followers. Instead the toilet paper roll never comes by as well as anything else. This ‘personal relationship’ idea has no basis within the confines of reality.
(3956) Fighting a war
Christians are fighting a war, not against devils or demons, but a battle that rages within their brains to somehow, someway, marry what happens in the world with their conceptual idea of God. This conflict is growing with time and it has caused a lot of apostasy but also a lot of ingenuous rationalization among those who stubbornly hang on to their faith. The following was taken from:
For most of us—Christians and nonbelievers alike—it was hard to get into anything resembling the Christian spirit in December 2012. On the 14th of that month, a gunman killed twenty students and six teachers at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT. The nation was in shock, grieving. Ten days later, at a Christmas Eve dinner, at the home of a Catholic friend, she said—during grace, referencing the massacre—“God must have wanted more angels.” I had to resist the temptation to throw my drink in her face. If any Catholic theologians had been present, they would have swung into action, to perform an exorcism, to get rid of the demon that had invaded her brain. Theologians work overtime to explain why their caring, powerful god wasn’t able to stop the gunman. Here was a devout Catholic suggesting that her god had engineered the killing to get more angels. This is a symptom of catechism-induced brain death.
I have told this story many times, but I return to it often because it illustrates the damage that mindless indoctrination causes: believers go to such great lengths to excuse horrendous suffering—to keep their god looking good. Most theologians these days are unwilling to embrace the biblical idea that god willingly massacres huge numbers of people to exact revenge, an idea that is firmly rooted in both the Old and New Testaments.
Hence the common resort of priests and preachers to banalities, e.g., “God moves in mysterious ways,” and “We can’t know God’s overall plan.” Both of which are guesses, speculation, theological wishful thinking, based on no data whatever. These excuses have made it easier for the laity to shrug off the most horrible events in human history, i.e., “Only god knows why these things have happened, but we can’t let our faith be damaged.” God is great, god is good, yada, yada, yada.
But no, the New Testament itself disqualifies these shallow excuses. It claims that there is nothing mysterious at all about god’s intense focus on every person.
Here is Jesus-script in Luke 12:6-7:
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Jesus-script in Matthew 12:36:
“I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Jesus-script in Mark 3:38:
“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
Paul’s warning in Romans 2:16:
“…on the day when, according to my gospel, God through Christ Jesus judges the secret thoughts of all.”
This concept of god—who is the ultimate spy—was more credible to the ancient mindset, when god’s abode was above the earth and below the moon. He/she/it could keep a close watch on everything and everyone. But it is more difficult to accept now, given the scope of the Cosmos—hundreds of billions of galaxies—and with the human population of more than seven billion. But hey, Christians are stuck with this god, who knows what every human being is saying and thinking, 24/7. He knows what every person is going through, hence this god’s tolerance of horrible suffering is inexplicable and inexcusable.
Thus is just won’t do to shrug off terrible suffering as somehow part of god’s bigger plan that we cannot know. If you take the New Testament seriously, god is aware of every hurt suffered by any human anywhere at any time. But that doesn’t stop devout believers from ignoring terrible calamities, in the battle to hold to faith.
Many former Christians have given up the fight and embraced an obvious reality- the god of Christianity is mythical. They have lost the hope of eternal life, but have gained the reward of living an authentic life free from superstition and make-believe.
Christianity is more or less founded on the principal of being fruitful and multiplying and Christian families have consistently had more children than secular families. But, based on Christian theology, the opposite should be true. The threat of hell is so overpowering that even a 99 to 1 chance that a child will make heaven is not worth the risk. The following was taken from:
For the purposes of this post, I’m talking about the version of hell commonly taught in Christianity (and possibly others too) which entails eternal conscious torment. Many sects of Christianity seem to imply that if you are another religion, don’t repent for your sins, violate the commandments, don’t believe in God, etc, you will end up being tortured for all eternity (a pretty fucking sickening concept to make up if you ask me)
I grew up Catholic and was implicitly taught this idea. However– there are so many different religions and even a bunch of different sects of Christianity, and no one knows which, if any, is “right.” There are also so many atheists. And regardless of what religion you are– let’s say for the sake of argument that the Catholics are right and everyone else is going to hell. But not even everyone who says they are Catholic actually follows the teachings of the religion perfectly. In fact barely any of the Catholics I know go to church every week or go to confession to have their sins forgiven.
If hell were real, by bringing children into the world, you would be gambling with the worst fate imaginable. It’s incredibly unlikely that most people would be able to avoid hell definitively, and in my opinion, being tortured forever– think about it, **tortured for all eternity** — is way too much of a risk.
I don’t believe in hell, nor do I believe in anti-natalism– but this was a thought experiment I’ve been thinking about. It seems crazy to me that people have the belief that so many around them are literally going to be tortured for eternity and don’t see how horrifyingly fucked up that is.
There is nothing worse or even remotely worse than being tortured for eternity. It would be like comparing gentle breeze to a hurricane. And even the slightest chance that one of your offspring might end up enduring that fate should give pause to anyone who believes in Christian doctrine. So this means that most Christians do not mentally process this problem or that they really don’t believe in hell.
(3958) Four document hypothesis
Christians like to believe that the gospels were written by people who were being guided by the Holy Spirit, but evidence reveals that instead the authors were referring to multiple and conflicting earlier sources of writings- that is their quills were being guided by terrestrial inputs, not divine ones. The following was taken from:
A Four Document Hypothesis is an explanation for the relationship between the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It posits that there were at least four sources to the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke: the Gospel of Mark, and three lost sources: Q, M, and L. It was proposed by Burnett Hillman Streeter in 1924, who refined the “Two-source hypothesis” into a “Four-source hypothesis”.
According to Streeter’s analysis the non-Marcan matter in Luke has been distuingish into at least two sources, Q and L. In a similar way he argued that Matthew used a peculiar source, which we may style M, as well as Q. Luke did not known M, and Matthew did not known L. Source M has the Judaistic character, it suggests a Jerusalem origin, source L he assigned to Caesarea, and source Q connected with Antioch. The document Q was an Antiochene translation of a document originally composed in Aramaic — possibly by the Apostle Matthew for Galilean Christians. Gospel of Luke developed in two phases (see picture).
According to this view the first Gospel is a combination of the traditions of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Rome, while the third Gospel represents Caesarea, Antioch, and Rome. The fact that the Antiochene and Roman sources were reproduced by both Evangelists Matthew and Luke was due to the importance of the Churches. Streeter thought there is no evidence that the other sources are less authentic.
This evidence strongly suggests that the gospels are not products of supernatural influence or guidance. They are subject to the same vulnerabilities as any human-created written product that uses multiple sources to flesh out a story. This is not the way scriptures should have evolved in a world where Christianity is true- that is, where the Holy Spirit was focused on creating texts for future humans to come to a belief in the faith. In that case, the Holy Spirit would select a writer and effectively ‘dictate’ the entire text error-proof- no need to look at anything previously written.
(3959) Televangelist prayer experiment
Christian scripture suggests that multiple people praying for something is more effective than just one (‘when two or more are gathered…’). This sets up a great experiment in the modern age when television preachers can command a very large audience, far greater than in any auditorium or church. It would seem that they should be able to ‘move mountains’ with the prayers that they lead with their listeners. That is, if prayer worked. The following was taken from:
Watch a televangelist show. You will see periodic appeals that first ask the audience for prayers and then for money. Sometimes you’ll see a text crawl across the bottom with the phone number euphemistically labeled “prayer request” (which sounds better than “place to give me money”).
But doesn’t that sound strange? If prayers get God to do something, then the televangelist could just pray himself. Or, if the power of prayer is proportionate to the number of voices, the televangelist could just direct the audience to turn his small voice into a holy airhorn. And God’s actions make any human generosity pointless. What could money do that God couldn’t?
Televangelists are an ongoing experiment, and they make clear the uncomfortable truth: prayer doesn’t work, but money does, as if there were no god at all. A real god who claimed that prayers work would deliver on that promise.
The failure of prayer is an ongoing, consistent, and convincing proof all by itself that Christianity is a false religion. Even when prayer is magnified, it still fails.
(3960) Abraham vs. Jesus
Much of Christianity’s legitimacy rests on the veracity of Jewish tradition, as it would appear that the ‘god of the universe’ was concerned with only one tribe of people for a thousand years (yeah, right). In particular, the existence of the father of the religion, Abraham, is critical. Many Christians believe that the evidence for Abraham being a real person is equivalent to that for Jesus. This is a mammoth misconception. The following was taken from:
There is an enormous difference between talking about the existence of Abraham vs Jesus. We have several letters of Paul, who wrote within 15 years of Jesus’s death, who personally knew several people who knew Jesus, putting him only 2 degrees of separation from Jesus. Abraham is a mythological figure about which we hear nothing until over one thousand years after he supposedly lived. With Jesus, the evidence points to a real historical figure, even if most things written about him aren’t correct. With Abraham, it’s straight up mythology about a founding father.
If Abraham is a mythical figure, then Christianity is false. And the evidence points firmly in that direction.
(3961) Uncontacted tribes
Christianity has a hard time explaining why a belief necessary for salvation took 1500 years after the time of Jesus to reach most of the world. But apologists say that as of now, there is full coverage and everyone has a chance to achieve salvation through Jesus. This is not correct. There are tribes of people remaining on earth who are still isolated from Christian theology. The following was taken from:
Uncontacted tribes invalidate the Christian god because it demonstrates that eternal life is ultimately predetermined. There are around 100 uncontacted tribes in the world. The bible is very clear on the means of getting to heaven. John 14:6 says “[Jesus is] the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Jesus]. Acts 16:31 says “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved”.
1) Uncontacted tribes have never heard of, or will ever hear of Jesus
2) The bible explicitly says there is no other way to heaven except through accepting Jesus as your saviour
3) Thus members of uncontacted tribes have no means of getting to heaven
Since we cannot chose our parents, uncontacted tribes demonstrate that god arbitrarily creates people doomed to hell, without any choice in the matter. There is also the additional fact that the country you are born in largely dictate your beliefs, 96% of people in Pakistan are muslim, and almost 80% of people in India are Hindu. This demonstrates that your belief is largely correlated to something that is comepletely out of your control. This implies the belief in god is largely predetermined, and those who go to hell are not deserving, but were just born at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Christians are welcome to answer the following question:
What happens to uncontacted tribes who never hear of Jesus? If they go to hell, please explain how god is loving and merciful for this act, if they do not go hell, please demonstrate how you know this.
It should be obvious that if Yahweh is real and that he was using the Christian model for judging people for entry into heaven (that being a necessary belief in Jesus’ resurrection), then he would ensure that EVERYBODY got the message and had an equal chance to achieve salvation. Uncontacted tribes are but the tip of the iceberg to this mammoth hole in Christian theology. How any Christian can overlook this fatal problem is mind-boggling.
(3962) Ezekiel’s prophecy invalidates Christianity
Christians should cut out Chapters 40-47 in the Book of Ezekiel because it contains a description of the End of Days that conflicts with Christian doctrine. It implies that animal sacrifice for sin remission will be a component of those times, whereas Christians claim that Jesus was the final sacrifice sufficient for all times. The following was taken from:
Unused ancient Jewish floor plans for the third and final Temple are found in chapters 40-47 of the Book of Ezekiel. In order to understand the prophet’s image of the End of Days, one has to carefully examine this eye-opening prophecy. These chapters describe, in vivid detail, the epoch when the Jewish exile will come to an end, a new city and Temple will be built and the Children of Israel will be blessed forever.
The final chapters of Ezekiel clearly state that the full order of animal sacrifices will be resumed upon the rebuilding of the Temple. If, as Paul claims, Jesus was the final sacrifice “once for all” (Hebrews 10:10), and the animal sacrificial system was merely a temporary “foreshadowing” of Calvary, then why will animal sacrifices be restored in the Messianic Era? Why will the sin sacrifice return in the End of Days?
In Ezekiel 45:22, the prophet envisions that the “Prince will offer a bull for a sin offering for himself and on behalf of the nation.” The verse is very specific in stating that these sacrifices are for “a SIN offering”, meaning that it is not just merely a memorial ritual. Ezekiel discusses the “Prince” 17 times in his final messianic chapters. The “Prince” is explicitly identified as the messiah in Ezekiel 34:24 and 37:24-25. Christianity identifies Jesus as the prince, Son of David, and as the Messiah.
According to Christian theology, why would Jesus have to bring a bull as a sin offering for himself in the future Temple? Christian scriptures clearly state that Jesus was sinless (1 Peter 2:21-22).
Why would the Messiah have to bring a lamb offering (Ezekiel 46:4), if, as the New Testament insists, Jesus himself was the lamb offering (John 1:29)?
Ezekiel is hailed as giving the most detailed messianic passages in all of the Hebrew Bible and yet there is no hint at Jesus, or a notion of the Christian understanding of the Messiah in these eschatological chapters.
This is just one of the inconsistencies between Christianity and the Old Testament scriptures. It seems that the use of Jewish scriptures and tradition as a base for the Christian faith was a mistake. It would have been far better if Jesus had come to a different part of the world, declared all existing religions to be man-made, and to proclaim a new and divinely-created faith. At least then, the embarrassing question as to why a universal god would pick a ‘chosen people’ as well as the problem of the Old Testament god being a genocidal maniac wouldn’t be hanging over its head.
(3963) Pathways to faith
It is instructive to review all of the ways that people come to a belief in something. The following lists six of these pathways, and it is certain that only one of them leads reliably to the truth. The following was taken from:
Mittelberg begins his book Confident Faith in Part 1, “Six Paths of Faith”, by speaking about approaches, or methods readers adopt to embrace their respective faiths (remember, *cough* he says we all have faith):
1) The Relativistic Path: “Truth is Whatever Works for You”
2) The Traditional Faith Path: “Truth is What You’ve Always Been Taught”
3) The Authoritarian Faith Path: “Truth Is What You’ve Always Been Told You Must Believe”
4) The Intuitive Faith Path” “Truth Is What You Feel In Your Heart”
5) The Mystical Faith Path” “Truth Is What You Think God Told You”
6) The Evidential Faith Path: “Truth Is What Logic and Evidence Point To”
“This is crucial” he says, “because the method (or methods) you use in deciding what to believe has a huge bearing on what those beliefs will actually be, as well as how confident you’ll be in holding on to them.” (p. 9) “Most people never consider this” he goes on to say. “They just arbitrarily adopt an approach–or adopt one that’s been handed to them–and uncritically employ it to choose a set of beliefs that may or may not really add up.” (p. 10)
To his credit, Mittelberg does something intellectually respectful, that William Lane Craig does not do. Mittelberg discusses other ways of knowing the truth about faith and religion. Craig participates in debates about apologetics but he only defends his own particular view in them. It’s like he’s forever in debate mode!
Almost all Christians employ one or more of the first five paths to faith listed above. Atheists use the sixth one, which is the only legitimate way to arrive at truth, or at least give oneself a high probability of arriving at factual reality. Very few Christians use pathway #6 and when they do it is in a selective manner that ignores other pieces of evidence that forcefully refute their conclusions.
(3964) Salvation for males only
There is scriptural evidence that there were pockets of early Christians who believed that only males (and possibly women who presented as males) would achieve salvation. Women were relegated to be earth-bound helpers and breeders, living a mortal life only. The following was taken from:
This question (did early Christians preach the Gospel of Thomas?) does not have a simple yes or no answer, because most of the Gospel of Thomas is not unique to it. The single unique feature that always stands out to me, however, is 114:
(114) Simon Peter said to him, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.” Jesus said, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.”
This theology that only male/masculine people can enter the kingdom of heaven is repeated in the imagery of the Acts of Paul and Thecla. A concern about celibacy, virginity, and femininity lie at the center of the story. Thecla is at first a beautiful woman who a number of men want to marry and/or use (to put it very mildly). But throughout the text, Thecla begins to present in a more and more masculine way, as if abandoning femininity is necessary for her salvation. Paul endorses her to preach after she appears wearing men’s clothes. She eventually baptized herself, and her ability to do so seems to be allowed because she presents more masculinely. I believe this incongruity is discussed at length in the Women’s Bible Commentary on the Acts of Paul and Thecla.
That need for maleness for authority and salvation seems to me to be the most prevalent teaching foreign to the canonical Gospels and present in the Gospel of Thomas that influenced at least a sizable enough group of early Christians that we still have access to the Acts of Paul and Thecla.
It is well-documented that Christianity is inherently a sexist religion, a tradition that has roots in the early Jewish scriptures. After all, it is no coincidence that there were no female disciples. But the Gospel of Thomas went one step further to suggest that only males would achieve salvation and an eternal existence in heaven.
(3965) Is Yahweh circumcised?
If Christianity is true, then God commanded that males of his chosen people should get circumcised. But his leads to a problem. If man was made in Yahweh’s image, then it would appear that Yahweh would have to be uncircumcised himself. This would also include Adam and Noah, because circumcision did not come about until Abraham. The following is an excerpt from God: An Anatomy by Francesca Stavrakopoulou. From chapter 7 titled Perfecting the Penis:
Given the concern with nudity and body-covering in the biblical story of Adam and Eve, the primeval couple’s exposed genitalia have rarely been depicted in Jewish and Christian art across the ages. And in those unusual examples in which Adam’s penis is shown (usually in European works), he appears to be equipped with a foreskin – reflecting the common assumption throughout the Christianized West that the newly created man came from the earth of Eden ‘complete’. But among Jewish communities, for whom male circumcision was divinely ordained, it had long been a more complex, serious matter. Did God create Adam circumcised or with a foreskin? The answer would reveal just as much about God’s penis as it would about Adam’s genitals.
This ancient debate was prompted by the centrality of male circumcision to Jewish perceptions of the relationship between God and his people – an exclusive bond formalized in the Torah as a covenant and specifically idealized in God’s commandment to the great ancestor, the righteous Abraham, in the book of Genesis: ‘This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a mark of the covenant between me and you.’
In the biblical story of the religious past, the sign of the covenant is the circumcised penis. And Abraham is the first man to be circumcised. In this legend, it is said to be a ritual that marks him as tamim, ‘whole’ or ‘unblemished’, and worthy to walk with God. But if circumcision marked the special covenantal relationship between God and man, the thought that Abraham’s forebear Noah had been uncircumcised was perplexing. After all, he too had walked with God – the deity who had spared him from the Flood, and to whom he was similarly bound in a covenantal relationship.3 Beyond this, it was even more absurd that Adam, the very first man himself, whom God had made and blessed as the pinnacle of his creation, should have been denied the mark of circumcision. And yet, in the Hebrew Bible, neither Noah nor Adam is said to have forsaken his foreskin.
As with many other theological conundrums, the problem was solved by careful rabbinic exposition of biblical texts. Noah, the rabbis declared in the second century CE, was clearly born circumcised, for he is described in Genesis as tamim, just like Abraham. But what of Adam? Crucially, the rabbinic answer to this question unveiled God’s genitals in the starkest of ways: ‘Adam, too, was born [from the earth] circumcised, for it is said, “And God created man in his own image” ’.4 If Adam was made in the image of God, as it is twice claimed in Genesis, he must have been circumcised, the rabbis reasoned, for God was circumcised, too.
This idea is unlikely to have been an innovative theological shift. It reflects instead much older and deeply held assumptions. The elevated religious status of male circumcision in God’s own sacred texts rendered it unthinkable that he could have had a foreskin. Culturally, too, there may have been an ancient mythic precedent for divine circumcision. God’s direct forerunner, the Late Bronze Age deity El, appears to have undergone circumcision in a ritual preparing him for marriage and sex with the two goddesses he encountered at the seashore.
It has never been satisfactorily explained why God would make human males in a way that required a part of their body to be cut off. It is also not explained that if God himself was circumcised then why are baby boys born with foreskin? Humans are supposedly made in his image. If God is not circumcised as well as Adam and Noah, then why is this barbaric ritual so important to him?
(3966) Revelation not written by John the Apostle
Much of the legitimacy of the Book of Revelation is tied up in the (wishful) assumption that it was written by Jesus’ favorite apostle, John. The evidence does not support this view. The following was taken from:
I’m going to assume your question is specifically whether Revelation was written by John the apostle. It is my opinion (and, to my knowledge, the majority opinion) that the John of Revelation was not the same person as John the apostle for a few reasons.
In the early church, there was some disagreement on whether John the apostle was the author of Revelation. Justin Martyr and Irenaeus argued in favor of apostolic authorship using a variety of observations; there are similarities between Revelation and the Gospel of John, tradition had tied the apostle to the church in Ephesus which is both near to Patmos and addressed in the texts, and Christian tradition at the time had already begun assuming the two were the same individual.
This was met with some opposition at the time, primarily from Dionysius of Alexandria, and these disagreements have been developed over time by contemporary scholars to argue against apostolic authorship. These are the arguments against; While there are similarities between the two texts, there are major differences, which include use/mastery of the Greek language, the lack of key themes in Revelation such as “eternal life,” “knowing truth,” etc, and the seeming absence of direct quotations of scripture in Revelation as they appear in the Gospel of John.
In addition, there are some curious obstacles in the way of apostolic authorship. Why would the author of Revelation refer to the apostles in chapters 4 (as the 24 elders, a different topic), chapter 18, and chapter 21, without any indication or suggestion that he belongs to the group? If we are to trust modern methodologies of dating, would the apostle have lived in old age to write the text in the ’90s and avoid Jesus’s prediction of his martyrdom (Mark 10:39)? We also must ask ourselves why the canonicity of Revelation was so hotly contested even within the early church if there supposedly had been a clear connection between the two authors.
As with all things pertaining to the Bible and its construction, there is dispute. Some modern scholars, including DA Carson, Douglas Moo, and Donald Guthrie do ascribe Revelation to the apostle. Their defense essentially hinges on the argument that when on the mainland, the apostle’s access to information and services would have been improved, resulting in a more refined Gospel of John. Once exiled to Patmos (an extrapolation from 1:9), he would not have access to, for example, a secretary, original drafts, etc. The argument is that the Gospel of John was written in near perfect conditions, while Revelation was written with little to no aide, resulting in a more disconnected text (in the sense of connection between the two).
In summary; Revelation seems to be written by a man who was well versed in Old Testament theology, imagery, and style, with particular experience with the apocalyptic genre. The text also seems to be written by somebody who lacked the mastery of Greek seen by other NT authors, including the apostle John. While the author of Revelation does seem to suggest that he was well received as a prophet in the region (Rev 1:3, chapter 22), he puts forth no effort to make any connection between himself and the apostle John, and in fact even neglects to refer, insinuate, or specifically name himself as a member of the apostles when he references them within the Book in several places.
Not only do we surmise that the Gospel of John was not written by a disciple of Jesus, but it is also evident that Revelation was written by another completely unknown person. This simply isn’t how things would go if Christianity was true- the authorship of the scriptures would be verified to known persons who were knowledgeable of the facts. The New Testament fails any test of credentialing.
(3967) God has left us
Christianity insists that God is all-seeing and all-powerful and so focused on the Earth that he monitors the thoughts, deeds, and comings and goings of every person on the planet. If this was ever true, it no longer is- the reality simply doesn’t match this claim. There is too much suffering even among Christians to believe that a prayer-answering, all-powerful God is paying attention. The following was taken from:
Margaret Downey thought Matthew 19:26—“With God all things are possible”—was a joke. As indeed it is when we consider the possible things the Christian god could/should be doing to eliminate/prevent massive human and animal suffering. Priests and preachers, theologians and apologists have developed a wide range of excuses for god that seem to satisfy churchgoers, e.g. god works in mysterious ways, we can’t know his greater plans, he’s testing us, he’s punishing us. Among other things, these excuses blunt critical thinking and can even generate guilt among the faithful: “Maybe some of the suffering is my fault.”
Our primary response is to ask the faithful to pay attention: how can this be “your father’s world” when the suffering is so massive:
(1) Thousands of genetic diseases, i.e., pain and suffering programmed into the human body.
(2) Aggressiveness and territoriality programmed into human brains by evolution, hence thousands of wars fought over thousands of years. Something is fundamentally wrong with this setup—if a god set it up.
(3) Why would a caring god put humans into a natural setting that is cursed with so much chaos, e.g., earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed perhaps 60,000-80,000 infants and toddlers: How can this have been a divine plan?
(4) Throughout the millennia, plagues have ravaged humans: so much agony and suffering. The Black Plague of the 14thcentury, the flu epidemic following World War I, Covid in our own time. And how can aging be part of a divine plan? We biodegrade while we’re still alive. So much pain and humiliation.
(5) Until the invention of modern medicine, infant and child mortality rates were horrible—for millennia. So much anguish for parents, and the burden on women to bear more children.
(6) The gods remain silent on which religion is the right one. So it’s no surprise that Christianity itself has splintered into thousands of different, competing, quarrelling brands. Moreover, one of the primary causes of war has been religions fighting over who is right. Think the Thirty Years War; think the Crusades; think the American Civil War, in which Christians massacred each other because the Bible could be used to defend slavery.
When we survey just these examples, the shallow excuses so commonly offered for god fall so far short. One way to prod the faithful to pay attention is one major piece of homework, the 2021 John Loftus anthology, God and Horrendous Suffering.
Russell Blackford, in his essay, “Unbelievable!” in 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists, states the truth eloquently:
“As we survey the vast abundance of the world’s awful circumstances, the endlessly varied kinds of exquisite pain, the deep suffering and sheer misery, inflicted over untold years on so many human beings and other vulnerable living things, it is not believable that a loving and providential (yet all-powerful and all-knowing) God would have remotely adequate reasons to permit it all. (p. 7)
If there is a god for whom all things are possible, it clearly hasn’t been paying attention to this planet. We would have been rescued from the horrendous suffering. Christians pray fervently to their god, for whom all things are supposed to be possible. They are confident that prayer works because—this is the way our brains trick us—they count the hits and ignore the misses.
George Carlin was wiser by far:
“You know who I pray to? Joe Pesci. Two reasons: First of all, I think he’s a good actor, okay? To me, that counts. Second, he looks like a guy who can get things done. Joe Pesci doesn’t fuck around. In fact, Joe Pesci came through on a couple of things that God was having trouble with.”
God has had trouble with far too much. He seems to have a raised quite a few ancient gods and heroes from the dead, and then went off to adventures elsewhere in the galaxy, leaving humanity to struggle and suffer on Planet Earth.
There is no way to match the type of god assumed by Christians with the ‘facts on the ground.’ If Yahweh exists, then he has given up on our planet and gone somewhere else- maybe to some distant planet in another galaxy. From where we stand, God is missing in action.
(3968) Murder by prayer
There are some Christians who believe so strongly in the effectiveness of prayer, that they neglect to give their children scientifically-based treatments, because, presumably, that would be an admission that prayer is ineffective. A recent case in Australia is a good example of how prayer fails to work. The following was taken from:
Four members of a religious group have appeared in court in Australia on charges of murdering an eight-year-old diabetic girl who died after allegedly being deprived of vital medication for nearly a week.
Elizabeth Struhs, who had type 1 diabetes, died on January 7 in her family’s home in Rangeville, near Brisbane in eastern Australia. Police say the home-based religious group, which comprised three families, failed to give the little girl life-saving insulin for six days before her death.
Authorities also allege that the group’s members did not seek medical assistance for Elizabeth, despite being aware of her condition, opting instead to sing, chant, and pray as she died. Nobody called paramedics until the evening after Elizabeth’s death, police say.
So this leaves the following possibilities:
1) God heard the prayers but decided to not save the girl (heartless).
2) God heard the prayers but was unable to save the girl (impotent)
3) God did not hear the prayers (not omniscient)
4) God is not there (non-existent).
Most Christians would pick #1 and come up with an excuse, such as ‘God needed another angel.’ But what this event did was to damage the reputation of his one ‘true’ religion, and it is difficult to believe that God would let that happen. Any human possessing the ability to save the girl would have done so, because if they didn’t it would have made them look evil. Of course, nothing needs explanation if #4 is true.
(3969) Paul gives up on avoiding death
It is clear from the earliest letters of Paul that he believed that he would not experience a physical death, but rather would be raised up in a rapture along with other living persons. But by the time of one of his final letters, five years or so later, he changed his tune and seemed more resigned to dying in the regular way.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
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. 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.
The following was taken from:
I found this argument in a commentary and decided to throw it out there for the sub to talk about. This comes from the Sacra Pagina commentary on Romans by Brendan Byrne SJ, edited by Daniel J. Harrington SJ.
On Roman’s 8:11 it says, “then the One who raised Christ from the dead will make alive also your mortal bodies: The object “mortal bodies” shows that the verb zǭopoiein must refer to resurrection […] The present statement complements this in the sense that believers’ faith not only looks “back” to the raising of Jesus but also “forward” to the raising of their own “mortal bodies.” Paul now appears to take it for granted that physical death will be the “normal” lot of believers before the coming of the Lord and the final resurrection; contrast 1 Thess 4:15-17; 1 Cor 15:51.”
In other words, Paul’s confidence in 1 Thess and 1 Cor has, by the time of Romans, become diminished. It seems like the consensus is 1 Thess was written around 52 CE, 1 Cor in 53 CE, and finally Romans in 57 or 58 CE.
This appears to reflect a certain amount of disillusionment on the part of Paul, as his enthusiasm for the idea that he could escape a normal death had waned. In just five years, it appears that he had adjusted his expectations, and this was likely due to his deteriorating health. This adumbrates what would come later as Jesus persistently would fail to come back- now 1970 years after Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians. Imagine how Paul would have reacted if he had been told that fact.
(3970) Trinity tribulation
It seems that anybody’s definition of the Trinity runs into a dead end and a heresy. This is why most Christians give up and call it a mystery. The following was taken from:
If you have to believe in the Trinity to be a real Christian, real Christians don’t exist.
I always heard that it’s necessary to accurately understand who God is in order to truly be a Christian because getting that wrong just means you have a different god. Every attempt to accurately understand the Trinity leads to heresy. I’ll lay out as many examples as I can think of off the top of my head:
- If you describe the Trinity as three separate persons united in purpose, that’s tritheism and therefore heretical.
- If you say that God appears in three different forms for different purposes or at different times, that’s modalism and therefore heretical. The “states of water” analogy I grew up hearing falls under this.
- If you say that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are created beings who God shares authority with or that Jesus was some kind of mirage (rare takes in the modern day but they were proposed when the canon was being assembled iirc), that’s also heretical.
- If you say that each person is part of a whole that is God, that’s partialism, and a heresy.
- If you say that the truth is that God is everywhere and everything, so all three persons are god, that’s pantheism. I don’t know if that’s a common take at all, I just saw it on a graphic someone made about this at some point so I thought I’d include it.
- I think just about any possible combination or “middle ground” between any of these is just modalism with extra steps.
So if it’s impossible to actually conceptualize the Trinity, but it’s an essential part of who God is and you have to accurately understand who God is to be a real Christian, it’s impossible to be a real Christian. If you say you don’t have to accurately understand God to be a Christian, then the Trinity isn’t this kind of problem, but at that point I think just about any theist could probably qualify as a Christian, which means that’s probably also a heresy.
The Trinity is a core principal of Christianity even though it was not taught by Jesus or Paul and can only be inferred through creative interpretation of several (likely interpolated) scriptures. To be real, it should be acknowledged that if God is a Trinity, this would have been clearly and carefully explained in scriptures starting in Genesis and ending in Revelation.
(3971) No god necessary
Christianity, as well all other religions, can be explained without having to assume the existence of gods or other supernatural beings. Human nature is by itself a probable cause of all religious beliefs. The following was taken from:
No “Divine Beings” have ever been necessary to explain the existence of any religion. All religions can be understood through secular lenses, such as anthropology, mythology, philosophy, sociology, psychology, neurology, and so on, without ever accepting the assumption that one or more of them necessarily had to receive “Divine Communication” in order to produce any aspect of their teachings or traditions.
(If you believe there really is some aspect to a given religion that could never, ever, ever be understood through any of those or other secular lenses, then please explain how exactly we could test/falsify that claim.)
We humans are the only necessary source of religious stories, practices, and doctrines.
- We humans are inquisitive and imaginative beings, so the ability to invent stories, such as creation myths with powerful characters like “gods” and “titans” and “spirits”, or even to mythologize their favorite leaders and claim these people had access to supernatural powers, is easy enough to understand. No “God” necessary.
- We humans are fallible and gullible beings, so the ability to mistakenly believe incorrect things about the world, the universe, or reality itself is easy enough to understand. (Note again that whether or not “spiritual” things are happening in a person’s life is not the issue here. Only their human capacity to misinterpret or project their own ideas onto such experiences.) No “God” necessary.
- We humans are habitual and superstitious beings, so the ability to establish rituals that become associated with “blessings” or “curses”, prayers, sacrifices, worship ceremonies, etc, is easy enough to understand. No “God” necessary.
- We humans are social and political beings, so the ability to form communal and/or hierarchical systems to maintain order and group cohesion is easy enough to understand. No “God” necessary.
- We humans are logical and empathetic beings, so the ability to generate moral codes of conduct that value treating others with basic decency and emphasize living peacefully and healthily is also easy enough to understand. Once again, no “God” necessary.
At what point in a given religion’s history, doctrines, or practices would “Divine Communication” really be necessary?
I am simply not seeing it.
It has often been noted that if there was a true religion among all of the fake ones, the difference would be startling and unavoidable. But no, they are all the same, with no one demonstrating anything beyond the realm of the natural world. Based on that observation, it is easy to conclude that all religions are man-made.
(3972) Bible condones marital rape
One the easy ways to demonstrate how human values have advanced beyond biblical ones is to examine the issue of marital rape. It was not recognized for eighteen centuries in Christians circles because the Bible insisted that the wife was the property of the husband and that she must submit to him in everything.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
The following was taken from:
Nowhere does the Bible condemn by explicit command or even by general principle a man using force to make his wife have sex in marriage. In other words, the Bible does not recognize the 19th century feminist invention of “marital rape”
Even into the 19th century that courts including English and American upheld the Biblical principal that husbands were masters and owners of their wives in keeping with 1 Peter 3:5-6 and that they upheld the husband’s right to use force and discipline to compel his wife’s obedience “in everything” (Ephesians 5:24) just as Christ compels the obedience of his church through discipline in Revelation 3:19. They even referred to these rights as ancient rights of men practiced in all cultures.
When conservative Christians call for a ‘return to biblical values’ they unwittingly introduce the specter of slavery back into the conversation as well as marital rape. What any clear person can see is that human morality has matured beyond that of the Bible, meaning, beyond any other rational explanation, that the Bible is a product of its time and has no divine credentials.
(3973) Luke copies Matthew, makes a mistake
In the following it is shown how the author of the Gospel of Luke appeared to have copied a story from the Gospel of Matthew, but then, due to editorial fatigue, made a mistake by failing to follow-up on an early change he had made in the text:
The problem is that it’s very difficult to see how Matthew could have used Luke, whereas Luke’s use of Matthew is more rational. One reason is referred to as “editorial fatigue” that is where the later redactor has changed a passage, but they slip back into the wording or context of their source. To give one of Goodacre’s examples on this (in The Synoptic Problem: Four Views 2016) consider the Parable of the Talents:
Matt 25:14-30: “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. At once 16 the one who had received the five talents went off and traded with them and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things; I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things; I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you did not scatter, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance, but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
In Matthew’s version there are three slaves and each is given a different number of talents (a talent being worth about 15 years wages for a labourer!) The one with 5 gains five more, the one with 2 gains two more, but the one with only one talent hides it in the ground and does not trade with it. The master returns and is pleased with his first two slaves promising both that they shall be put “in charge of many things”. He then rebukes the one who did nothing with his talent, instructs him to give it to the one with 10 talents, and casts him out of his household to fend for himself in the wilderness (!).
Luke 19:11–27: As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12 So he said, “A nobleman went to a distant region to receive royal power for himself and then return. 13 He summoned ten of his slaves and gave them ten pounds and said to them, ‘Do business with these until I come back.’ 14 But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to rule over us.’ 15 When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves to whom he had given the money to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came forward and said, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.’ 17 He said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.’ 18 Then the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’ 19 He said to him, ‘And you, rule over five cities.’ 20 Then the other came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 He said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why, then, did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.’ 24 He said to the bystanders, ‘Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’ 25 (And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten pounds!’) 26 ‘I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given, but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to rule over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.’ ”
In Luke’s version there are now ten slaves, and each is given a single pound (Gk mina equalling about 3 months wages for a labourer). This probably represents a far more realistic amount of money to entrust a slave with. The first slave has made ten more pounds, the second slave has made five more pounds, but “the other” has made nothing more. As in Matthew’s version the first two slaves are rewarded, this time around being put in charge of 10 and 5 cities respectively, and the third slave is rebuked and his pound taken from him and given to “the one who has ten pounds”.
Here we can see that Luke has initially changed the story to having 10 slaves, but this is not sustained and it goes back to a story about 3 slaves as it is in Matthew. Verses 24 and 25 say that the first slave has 10 pounds like the slave in Matthew who has 10 talents, however this slave actually has 11 pounds and besides he’s now in charge of 10 cities! Again this is Luke using his source and not adapting it correctly to the changes he made. This time around the master instructs his slaves to do business with the money they’re entrusted with, whereas in Matthew this instruction was not given (rebuking of the wicked slave now makes more sense). They then both conclude in a similar way (to those who have more will be given, but from those who have nothing even that shall be taken away).
So whether you have Q or not, the example above is one of quite a few examples from the double tradition where the direction of
Matthew-> Luke makes sense but the direction of
Luke-> Matthew does not.
Holy Spirit guidance of the scriptures, as assumed by most Christians, should have prevented this error. However, if we assume that the gospels are human-made projects, everything is understandable.
(3974) Paul in a basket contradiction
There exists an irreconcilable contradiction between 2 Corinthians and Acts regarding Paul’s escape from Damascus, when he allegedly used a basket to avoid a bad outcome. The following was taken from:
Okay, so, in 2 Corinthians 11, Paul is talking about all the horrible things that have come to him for spreading the Gospel, and he mentions a peculiar story about escaping in a basket, lowered from a window while a local leader in Damascus (under King Aretas) has sent the guards to arrest Paul. That’s how Paul himself tells the story.
The story is also told in Acts 9 shortly after Paul’s conversion (in Damascus). But this time, it’s the Jews that want Paul dead. Not to arrest him, but it’s a plot to kill him.
So there’s an obvious contradiction, right? Paul’s escape from Damascus in a basket through a window… One telling has him escaping an arrest warrant issued by a local leader under some king called Aretas (the people of Damascus were not Jews) and another telling of the same escape story has him escaping a murder plot by the Jews in Damascus.
So, first of all, are these accounts reconcilable? Could it be that Paul escaped both the arrest warrant and murder plot, one after another, both by hiding in a basket? Maybe he hid in basket to get out of a house, and then in a basket again to get out of the city?
Second, why the change? The author of Acts is (supposedly) a companion of Paul. Which means he would’ve heard the story from Paul, some time after it happened. Maybe Paul misremembered the details when he told the Acts author? Or did the Acts author change the details on his own? I don’t believe Acts was written by Luke the Physician. I think it is a much, MUCH later work by someone else who sorta puts himself into the story to give his book more credibility. Paul was a well known name. If your story was written by his companions, the story will spread faster.
Finally, from a strictly scholarly standpoint, why include the story at all if you’re just gonna contradict it? Why would the Acts author, claiming to be Luke, get something so wrong? 2 Corinthians already existed when Acts was written. Why not just make the details fit? Why run the risk of such an obvious contradiction that will undermine your whole intent of trying to look authentic? Couldn’t a Corinthian scholar or church leader be like “umm, yeah, this new book of Acts directly contradicts a letter we got from Paul, so this book is trash”.
Why risk that?
This is an example of much of what New Testament authors did when copying the works of other authors. They couldn’t resist the temptation to embellish the stories and add some elements that met their fancy, not realizing that future scholars of the Bible would come around and make note of the contradictions. In this case, the author of 2 Corinthians (presumably Paul) may have gotten it mostly right, but the author of Acts couldn’t contain his hatred of the Jews, so he made them the core threat that Paul was trying to avoid.
(3975) Christianity is a form of death denial
The breeding ground for religions was fertilized by an inherent fear of death that exists, at least in a purely existential form, in human animals only. It was this fear that caused people to invent ways to live on in some form of an afterlife. But the scientific facts are cold and decisive. The following was taken from:
The overwhelming evidence of medical science is that consciousness is a bioelectrical phenomenon that ceases at death. When the meat of the brain dies, that’s it—no more “you” as a sentient, sensate being. You’re done.
Humans are typically bad at accepting that. We are hard-wired to anticipate “next moments” as a survival mechanism and therefore struggle to imagine a state in which there are no next moments. The closest many people can come is to picture themselves floating in a black void forever, a terrifying but fortunately irrational image because death means no self, no sentience, no sensation.
Christianity is just another form of death-denial. It robs its followers of an authentic life by substituting fantasy for reality. As a result, they impoverish themselves by throwing money at this delusion, deny themselves many pleasures of this life, and set up barriers that damage relationships (sometimes within families) with those of a different religion or belief. An acceptance of the finality of death would cure these tragedies.
(3976) Seven strikes against the resurrection
We already know that a dead body coming back to life is a medical impossibility, especially one that has been dead for three days. But Christians who realize that fact nevertheless pull out their magic card and say that God is capable of repairing and revitalizing a dead body. Fine. But even conceding that possibility there are still good reasons to conclude that the resurrection of Jesus is a myth. The following was taken from:
I’ve got seven arguments against the resurrection that I’ll provide shortly. I’m a former Christian who no longer believes. Try to see if you can strike these arguments down.
I have seven main arguments. Here they are.
- No scholar at the time, Christian or otherwise, records the resurrection, except for a passage from Josephus that isn’t actually Josephus, it’s Christians two centuries later who add that in. And it wasn’t until centuries later than (Christian) historians finally saw fit to mention it.
- On the claim that the disciples would not die for a lie: We don’t actually know how most of the disciples died. The stories about them being brutally martyred are inspiring, but their is no evidence for them. The most likely explanation is that the Church made the story up to motivate the flocks.
- The Jews had been waiting for a Messiah, and not that many of them converted. The Jews had waited hundred of years for a Messiah, yet the Jews of Jesus’ time, by and large, stayed Jewish. This would indicate that whatever evidence they saw was not enough to convince them of Jesus’ divinity. If Yahweh’s most faithful followers weren’t convinced, why should I be?
- The apostles didn’t actually write the Gospels. Literally every scholar agrees that the Gospels weren’t written until decades later, Bible scholars included. What likely happened was that after the apostles died, somebody came along and wrote down an account of what they thought happened. And since the apostles did not write the gospels, then they should be treated as secondhand, because whoever wrote the books had no credibility if they were willing to lie about their names. And since the gospels are merely hearsay, there is no reason to believe it. If the Bible was in court on trial, it would totally get prosecuted.
- Council of Nicaea. I’m assuming y’all, being Christian, know what this is. For those of you who may not, it’s when the church met to decide what the core dogma was concerning the Church, since they had heretics like Marcion and the Gnostics going around with the their own gospels, and for other reasons as well. What basically happened is that a bunch of guys sat down and decided what would be in your book. Men decided, not God. Maybe god was asleep or something. Point is, if it was men who made your canon scripture, not God, then why should I believe anything you have to say?
- Prophecy- The OT makes many prophecies about the Messiah. I don’t have to tell you how many there are , of course, but there are a lot. And if Jesus really was the Messiah, one would expect the prophecies to line up. But this isn’t right at all. Here are two of the most quoted (sourced from Bible and Hebrew Bible) Isaiah 53- Talking about Israel, not Jesus or even the Messiah (although one could certainly interpret it that way. Isaiah 7:4 and the above verse do not mention, or even imply, a Messianic figure in any verse. And no one prior to Christianity actually interpreted these verses to mean a messiah. In addition, the prophecy also said the Messiah’s coming would end all war, which didn’t happen. They said that the Messiah would reunite the Jewish people, which obviously didn’t happen. And many more.
- Literature – Literature is a bad way to communicate, especially back then. Most of the world at the time was illiterate, and even now, millions worldwide can’t read. Why would God make his main mode of communication through books, when very few at the time could read them?
We are living in a world of science and technology, but nowhere in any observation or even theory is there a way to suppose that the entropy of a dead and decaying body can be reversed. It simply isn’t the way nature works. So what are we to believe- repeatable, contemporary science or a book written two thousand years ago by unknown authors?
(3977) Trinity belief not necessary
Christianity is built around the dogma that Jesus was not just a human, but also a god. And it is generally accepted that a belief that aligns with this concept is necessary for salvation- commonly termed the Trinity (that also includes the mysterious Holy Spirit). But there is evidence in scripture that this doctrine was unknown to Paul, who is sometimes considered the original architect of the faith. The following letter, penned by a Christian, illuminates this inconsistency:
One of the most common and fervent arguments within Christian Orthodoxy is that if you reject Trinitarianism, you are not a Christian. You can say you believe the words of the Bible, that you love God with all your heart, and that you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior – confessing that you rely on the divine sacrifice of Jesus to have forgiveness for sins, but if you embrace any form of Nontrinitarian theology whatsoever, that alone places you outside the umbrella of Christianity and excludes you from the promise of salvation.
The reason behind this, mainstream Christians will say, is because to reject Trinitarianism is to reject the divinity of Jesus. This is either due to a fundamental misunderstanding of specific Nontrinitarian beliefs, or an unwillingness to recognize any concept of Christ’s divinity which does not conform to their own. For instance, if a Nontrinitarian person says “I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. And through his divine nature as the Son of God, who lived a perfect, sinless life, who took upon him the sins of the world, we can have eternal life.”, a Trinitarian Christian will say “Your view on divinity is flawed, you embrace a false belief concerning Christ’s divinity, therefore you are not a Christian.”
Contrary to this sort of thinking is Paul’s own writings to the Romans, specifically Romans 10:9-13, which outlines quite clearly what Paul declares necessary for salvation:
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” – Romans 10:-13 KJV
Paul’s statements here are very straightforward – confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, and you will be saved. Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. It doesn’t say “Whoever confesses with their mouth the Lord Jesus, believes in their heart that God raised him from the dead, calls upon his name, and recognizes that he, the Father, and the Holy Ghost are One, shall be saved.” It says, quite simply, that to call upon his name, confess the Lord Jesus, and believe that God raised him from the dead will bring us salvation.
Please understand, I’m not knocking Trinitarianism. I don’t believe that people who recognize Trinitarianism as official Christian doctrine and believe it in their hearts are wrong because they don’t share my theology. I just don’t agree with the notion that a person can sincerely do everything Paul instructed in Romans 10 with genuine faith, and still be denied salvation simply because they are Nontrinitarian. That, to me, feels like unjustified gatekeeping. I realize that the vast majority of the Christian world is Trinitarian, but that doesn’t make Trinitarianism a determining factor in whether someone is a Christian or not, in whether someone is saved or not, at least not if we adhere to Paul’s guidelines for salvation in the simplest of terms.
If the Trinity is true, and if Paul was being guided by the Holy Spirit as he wrote, it is inconceivable that the dogma of Jesus’ divinity (and therefore the Trinity) would be missing in his letters. There is something awry, and the best explanation is that Christianity was rapidly evolving during the First Century.
(3978) Conversation with a creationist
Atheist: So you think God created this universe?
Atheist: And you believe that God wasn’t created, that he has always existed?
Atheist: OK, what was God doing before he created the universe?
Creationist: I don’t know, maybe he created different universes before this one.
Atheist: So do these hypothetical prior universes go all the way back in time? That is, do universes also go infinitely back in time, same as God?
Creationist: Well, no, they go way back in time until God created his first universe.
Atheist: So what was God doing before he created his first universe?
Creationist: Probably planning the first universe.
Atheist: So, how long do you think this planning took?
Creationist: (deer in headlights look)… uh, I don’t know.
Atheist: So you have told me that God was not created, but has always existed, and that there was a time before he created the first universe.
Creationist: Yes, that’s right.
Atheist: But if God always existed, was never created, and there was a time before he created his FIRST universe, then wouldn’t this mean that he waited an INFINITE amount of time before getting around to making that first universe?
Creationist: (deer in headlights stare)…(continuing to stare)…(more staring)…Well maybe God doesn’t go all the way back, maybe he just came to be at some point.
Atheist: Oh, so you mean he WAS created.
Creationist: No, he just appeared.
Atheist: Out of nowhere?
Atheist: So couldn’t the universe had just appeared out of nowhere, too?
Creationist: (deer in headlights)…look, you just GOTTA HAVE FAITH!
Atheist: I think we’re done here.
(3979) Gospels are not history
The gospels were never intended to reflect actual history, but were instead hero novelettes written by people who had heard about Jesus and wanted to paint him as a person worthy of worship. It is likely that early Christians understood this fact. However, in the past two centuries, Christians have come to view the gospels as accurate historical documents. The following explains why this concept is fallacious:
The historicity of the Gospels represents the most crucial element of Christianity—for either its truth or falsity. Christianity claims a specific historical relationship between God and man. If that relationship is historically inaccurate then Christianity is wrong. Or, as Paul memorably put it, “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Cor. 15:14).
As we’ve seen the Bible is often contradictory and the Gospels are not historically accurate. However, the Christian mistake is compounded by believing that the Gospels are even history—that is that they were written or designed to accurately portray historical truths. The evangelists did not intend their writings to be taken as historical truths. If they could see modern Christianity they would be shocked at the millions of Christians interpreting their writings as historically authoritative. Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying. I am not saying the Gospels were entirely made up. I am saying that they were primarily written as myths that forego historical truths (but use many of them) in favor of conveying larger, theological truths that the evangelists believed about Jesus of Nazareth.
The evangelists poured through the Old Testament and found “prophecies” that predicted Jesus’ life. After all, there had to be grander reasons why their great teacher had been executed like a common criminal. In the pages of Jewish scripture they found those reasons. They then consciously wrote their gospels in order to retroactively fulfill prophecy. That this happens at all is beyond dispute. Sometimes, while stumbling over themselves to “fulfill” prophecy, they get it horribly wrong: Mark (1:1-3), using shoddy sources, begins his gospel with “prophecy” that mistakenly conflates two Old Testament versus; Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1. Matthew (1:20-23) uses a mistranslated Old Testament, in which the Hebrew almah, (meaning “young woman”) was changed to the Greek parthenos (meaning a physical virgin), as a justification for the immaculate conception. Matthew (21:1-7) so wants to fulfill a “prophecy” from another shoddy source that has combined Isaiah 62:11 and Zachariah 9:9, that he misinterprets the passage—which only speaks of one animal (with subsequent qualifiers)—and has Jesus ride into Jerusalem, in some bizarre act of balance, on two animals. (The other gospel writers are quick to correct this grievous error.) Thus, we begin to see that not only is it a manifest absurdity to believe the Gospels are history, it becomes tenuous to believe they are even accurate.
Each evangelist had his own interpretation. The theology of the evangelists—and specifically their Christology (the nature of Christ)—developed into more grandiose claims as Jesus’ life moved further into the past. If you wish to discover this for yourself, I advise you to successively read the Gospel of Mark (almost universally agreed to be the earliest Gospel written between A.D. 65-70) and the Gospel of John (agreed to be the latest Gospel written between A.D. 90-100) in a single sitting. Ask yourself this question; are they telling the same story? In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus largely speaks in parables and evasive third-person proclamations about someone called “the Son of Man.” In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells no parables and spends most of the time talking about himself, his godly status, and what the future will bring.
So, here is a brief lesson in the development of the concept of Jesus as God—the transition from focusing on what Jesus said to focusing on who he was. We will only look at the beginning and the end; Jesus’ birth and death. Changing the birth and death of Jesus is the most direct route to altering Jesus’ status from one contained within a life to one transcending it.
First the birth narratives. In Mark there is no birth narrative. Jesus’ higher metaphysical standing begins when He is chosen at his baptism. This is a story that Jews would have known well. The Old Testament is replete with God adopting servants—sometimes even called “sons”—during a communicative moment in their lives. Mark did not believe Jesus’ status differed greatly from God’s chosen sons of the past; David, Elijah, Moses, Elisha etc. In fact, in writing for a Jewish audience, he thought it important to strongly align Jesus with the prophets of old. Mark’s Christology is thoroughly earthly and—when judged against later alterations—mundane. However, this aspect of Mark is of paramount importance; the earliest Evangelist, the one least removed from Jesus’ life, did not know what Christians now “know.” It is simply absurd to believe that, of all the things Mark knew about Jesus and with all the time he took to compose and disseminate his gospel, Mark just didn’t know that Jesus’ birth was a once-in-an-eternity miraculous event. While Mark certainly plays up the figure of Jesus, he was not willing to go that far. When Mark is taken by itself—a gospel lacking a birth narrative and a resurrection narrative (the last twelve verses are almost universally agreed to be later additions), fraught with a persistent “messianic secret” in which no Apostle is able to completely understand Jesus’ status, and Jesus’ constant, oblique, third person references to a figure called the “son of man” (almost assuredly a reference to Daniel 7:13)—no interpretation even remotely resembling Christianity can be culled from it. Instead Mark fits squarely into well-known traditional Jewish stories of chosen prophets instructing the Jews as to God’s will.
For Matthew and Luke this “Jewish Jesus” would not do. Rather than taking a modern viewpoint that the earlier source should be trusted (that is, if you care about historical accuracy which, as I’ve said, they clearly did not), Matthew and Luke (written c. 80-90) decide to insert important “facts” into Mark’s general narrative that raise the status of Jesus to a figure whose scope extends beyond Judaism. With this in mind, doctoring what he said was not as important as doctoring who he was. Thus, they go back to his birth and tell incompatible, incredible, and clearly manufactured stories of Jesus’ miraculous birth to a virgin. In doing so they both establish Jesus’ higher ontological status than the prophets of old, and—by bending over backwards to place Jesus in Bethleham—they make sure that Jesus satisfies the prophecy that the Messiah was to come from the “city of David.”
Looking at the differences between the Synoptics, we are also able to see the solution to the oft-mentioned “problem” of Jesus’ missing years. Other than Luke’s small story of a twelve-year-old Jesus teaching in the Temple, we have no other (canonical) stories of Jesus between birth and baptism. By comparing Mark with Matthew and Luke, the obvious answer presents itself; such stories didn’t exist because no one cared about Jesus until he established a ministry. Jesus’ “missing years” are no more bothersome than the “missing years” of the majority of Hebrew prophets.
But John would change everything and one-up all who came before him. Jesus wasn’t merely “chosen,” “adopted” or created from a miraculous set of circumstances. No, Jesus is something else all together. Feeling it wasn’t good enough to go back the the beginning of His ministry or the beginning of His life, John decides to go back to the beginning of time (John 1:1 “In the beginning was the word…”) to establish the nature of Jesus. Thus, Jesus has been raised to the ultimate heights; dizzying heights that would have confused and shocked Mark.
Likewise, the death of Jesus changes dramatically throughout the Gospels. The changes (of which there are many more than these) can be summed up in the three different accounts of the last words of Jesus: Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46 “My god, my god, why have you forsaken me.” Luke 23:46 “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” John 19:30 “It is finished.” The development of Christianity is encapsulated in the move from the utterance of pain, ignorance, nonacceptance, and suffering seen in Mark and Matthew to the statement of acceptance, foreknowledge, and peace that is seen in John. These are incompatible interpretations of Jesus. The character in the gospels may have the same name but it is not the same man hanging on the cross.
The Gospels are guides to belief written by believers. This is a horribly unreliable way to learn accurate information. When you already believe “The Truth,” distortions that you consciously engage in—that you see as promoting “The Truth”—are not seen as lies, but rather, as efficacious ways of getting “The Truth” to the hearts of readers. We don’t know why the evangelists believed as they did, but in the gospels they don’t give us the reasons they believe, they give us reasons to believe; an entirely different matter. But we do KNOW they invented things. We KNOW that the theological conception of Jesus changed as the believers grew more distant from his life. What Christians believe most fervently (i.e. Jesus being God, appearing after he died, dying for the sins of the world) are concepts that were developed later. They are concepts that did not exist in the earliest generations of Christian belief. They certainly did not exist when Jesus was alive.
Early Christians invented myths to overcome the “stumbling-block” (1 Cor. 1:23) of the cross. Paul knew that, for the Jews and Gentile Greeks, the execution of Jesus represented a major problem. The “king of the jews” was not supposed to be an executed lowly peasant. The “savior of mankind” was not a common criminal. Over time, theological concepts developed that explained this hang-up. Thus, an executed traitor was turned into a victorious Messiah.
To drive this point home, if the person who wrote the Gospel of Mark (the first gospel written, or the oldest surviving gospel) had lived long enough to read the Gospel of John (the last written canonical gospel), he would have thought it was talking about a completely different person. The differences are that stark. And yet Christians today consider both of these gospels to be precise depictions of actual history. The ignorance imbued in that viewpoint is startling.
(3980) Early Christians struggle to explain irregularities
Some of the earliest Christian noted inconsistencies in the gospels and became ‘adept’ at creating questionable explanations for them. The following was taken from:
These are the examples given by Strauss (Life of Jesus):
- If you read gMatthew together with gLuke, it becomes inexplicable why Joseph is surprised that Mary is pregnant. Hadn’t she told him about her angelic visitation? The Protoevangelium of James claims she forgot while later Gospel of the Nativity of Mary claims they were separated after their betrothal so she had no opportunity to tell him (p. 148).
- Origen harmonized the two genealogies of Jesus by saying that they have a mystical significance and are not historical. Augustine later claimed that Joseph was adopted and that one genealogy is of his biological father and one of his legal father (p. 131).
- The star in gMatthew is sometimes called an angel, e.g. by Chrysostomus and the Syriac Infancy Gospel. This might be to explain its strange behavior and/or to harmonize it with gLuke which doesn’t mention a star but talks about an angel (p. 225, 246)
One other example which comes to mind:
- In gJohn (8:19, 8:55), Jesus claims that the Jews have never known his father. Many early Christians, starting with Cerinthus, read this as meaning that Jesus’ father is not the God of the Hebrew Bible. See Litwa’s Found Christianities, p. 37.
Apologetics began early because the gospels selected for inclusion in the Bible did not present a harmonious picture, and anyone who had access to all four of them probably noted that fact without expending much effort. During the past century, this scrutiny has reached a crescendo and anyone privy to these studies has no recourse but to concede that the gospels contain more fiction than fact.
(3981) Human sacrifice is abhorrent no matter what
It is sometimes enlightening to step back and realize that the Christian religion is based on the human sacrifice of an unwilling victim. This manifests as a macabre foundation of what is otherwise touted as a peaceful, loving religion. The following was taken from:
Matthew 26:39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
He wasn’t willing, he was simply obedient. He didn’t volunteer, he felt compelled, coerced, or forced. For modern readers, “let this cup pass from me” means “I don’t want to do it.” He didn’t want to do it.
But the worst part of Christians telling me that he was a “willing” victim and thus a heroic figure is that it opens the door to a nightmare… “Human sacrifice is fine if the victim is WILLING!”
No. No, it’s not. It’s not fine to sacrifice anyone to a god. Willing, unwilling, or unwitting… it’s not okay. And you KNOW THAT in every area except your blind spot; your own religion.
If he were willing, it’s equally bad. It’s equally horrendous.
It’s nothing like a person running into a burning building to save someone from a fire. The fire is obvious and is a real and present danger. It’s imminent. That person has a hope of survival. They are trying to save the actual physical life of the person. There is no SACRIFICE of the hero in the scenario to an angry all-powerful but also supposedly loving demon–er, “god”.
Your god required human sacrifice. That’s evil. Period. The fact that the paradigm existed, created by that same god, where only human sacrifice could “exonerate” his creation is absolutely grotesque. Despicable. Deplorable. HORRIFIC.
Evil. Malevolent. Nightmarish.
Your religion is vile. Jesus is not a beautiful story, it’s the story of a man who had to be brutally murdered to appease his “holy father”. It’s the story of human sacrifice. In any other situation, human sacrifice would be obviously hideously evil and wrong.
Well.. it’s still obviously hideous and evil and wrong; you just choose not to recognize or acknowledge it. Jesus wasn’t willing, he asked that it not be done to him. He obeyed, that’s not the same thing as being a volunteer. “Please daddy, don’t make me die a horrible death! Okay, okay, I’ll do it since it’s the only way you’ll forgive them. 🙁 ” << Christians; “much beautiful, so lovely, must bathe in the sacrifice’s blood!”
Yeah, beautiful. /s
If there is one thing that is certain, it is that IF there is a god that has an interest in humans, and has a plan to either reward or punish humans after they DIE, then such god would not resort to the use of human sacrifice in any manner, shape, or form to carry out his PLAN. Christianity is mired in the benighted, primitive era of human civilization where it originated- a time where human sacrifice seemed like a good idea.
(3982) Witness of the Holy Spirit
One of the more telling ways to know that religions don’t have sufficient evidence to support their claims is their ‘go-to’ tactic to sell their congregants on the idea that truth can be obtained directly through prayer, or through feelings, that can be supplied by the Holy Spirit or by some other ethereal agency. This is the ‘check is in the mail’ version of mental hijacking that works disturbingly very well with gullible humans. The following discusses how the Mormons and the Protestants use the same method to ascertain the ‘truth.’:
His focus is on the Mormons who testify after a prayer that they know their god was real. Middleburg quotes from one of the chief defenders of Mormonism today, Robert L. Miller, professor of ancient scripture and former dean of religious education at Brigham Young University. Miller wrote a book called Getting at the Truth: Responding to Difficult Questions about LDS Beliefs. The following quotes are from Miller, as quoted by Middleburg:
The most tried and true method of obtaining divine direction–is prayer itself.
In a very real sense believing is seeing. No member of the church need feel embarrassed at being unable to produce the Golden Plates or the complete Egyptian papyrus. No member of the church should hesitate to bear testimony of verities that remain in the realm of faith, that are seen only with the eyes of faith.
President Ezra Taft Benson pointed out: “We do not have to prove the Book of Mormon is true. The book is its own proof. All we need to do is read it and declare it…. We are not required to prove that the Book of Mormon is true or is an authentic record through external evidences–though there are many. It never has been the case, nor is it so now, that the studies of the learned will prove the Book of Mormon true or false. The origin, preparation, translation, and verification of the truth of the Book of Mormon have all been retained in the hands of the Lord, and the Lord makes no mistakes. You can be assured of that.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley put things in proper perspective when he taught regarding the Book of Mormon…. “The evidence for its truth, for its validity in a world that is prone to demand evidence lies not an archeology or anthropology, though these may be helpful to some. It lies not in word research or historical analysis, though these may be confirmatory. The evidence for its truth and validity lies within the covers of the book itself. The test of its truth lies in reading it. It is a book of God. Reasonable individuals may sincerely question its origins, but those who read it prayerfully may come to know by a power beyond their natural senses that it is true.”
Elder Boyd K. Packer declared… “Do not be ill at ease or uncomfortable because you can give little more than your conviction. If we can stand without shame, without hesitancy, without embarrassment, without reservation to bear witness that the gospel has been restored, that there are prophets and apostles upon the earth, that the truth is available for all mankind, the Lord’s spirit will be with us. And that assurance can be affirmed to others.”
In the end the only way that the things of God can be known is by the power of the Holy Ghost… the only way spiritual truth can be known is by the quiet whisperings of the Holy Ghost. I’m grateful to have, burning within my soul, a testimony that the father and the son appeared to Joseph Smith in the spring of 1820, and that the Church of Jesus Christ the Latter-Day Saints is truly the kingdom of God on Earth.
I highlighted a few statements in what Miller wrote, of which William Lane Craig agrees. Craig advocates a duo approach to Christianity. On the one hand the Holy Spirit is all anyone needs to justify Christianity. But on the other hand, Craig says there is evidence for his faith, basically confirming the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. That’s what these Mormon’s say, especially the quotes by Benson and Hinckley above.
But a fatal problem emerges between these two types of Christianity. How can they dispute each other’s claims of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit? Each of them denies they need any evidence, so they cannot show by means of evidence that the other’s claim is wrong. Doing so would deny their claims that the evidence isn’t needed. All they can say is that the Holy Spirit testifies to THEIR OWN RELIGION, which denies the other’s religion, na na na boo boo! So surprise, that’s exactly what Craig does when asked about the Mormon’s claim! “I’m right.” “No I’m right.” They say to each other.
So it’s crystal clear that when two different Christianities (or religions) use the same “method” or “approach” or experience, and it leads them to different and contradictory Christianities, then that “method” or “approach” or experience should be rejected when honestly desiring to know which religion is true, if there is one. Period.
If two ‘fail-proof’ methods point to two different results, it can be assumed that the methods are not fail-proof. The only way that a religion can satisfactorily demonstrate its truth is through objective, verifiable evidence. And to date, no religion has succeeded in doing that.
(3983) The absence of the immaterial mind
Christianity was invented by people who had a very rudimentary knowledge of the brain. They surmised that there was an aspect of a person’s mind that was independent of their body. So to them, leaving their body and going to another place after death made sense. But it no longer makes sense. Our knowledge of the brain precludes any possibility of post-death consciousness, much less hearing, seeing, reasoning, and speaking. The following was taken from:
There is evidence that the mind is physical, a property of the nervous system. There is no evidence that the mind is immaterial.
The mind can be physically interacted with. Change a chemical in the body, whether by drugs, disease, or otherwise, and you can affect the mind in a variety of ways. You can damage specific parts of the mind by causing damage to specific parts of the brain. Damage one part, and emotion is affected. Damage another part, and language is affected, or memory, or just about any other aspect of a person’s mind. You can hold your breath and make your thoughts go fuzzy. You can physically (by blunt force, lack of oxygen, drugs, etc.) make a person fall completely unconscious. All of these are ways in which acting on the brain is acting on the mind.
Intelligence, personality, and other aspects of the mind are influenced physically by genetics.
Thoughts can be detected physically. By looking at brain activity, scientists can determine what decision you’ll make before your conscious mind is even aware, by physically looking at the brain. Scientists have been able to tell what video a person is watching by looking at brain activity through fMRI. This is physically detecting thoughts, both conscious and subconscious.
There is a unique case of two conjoined twins, Krista and Tatiana Hogan, who are conjoined at the brain. This entirely physical connection allows them to hear each other’s thoughts. There is no reason to suspect that this physical connection coincides with an immaterial connection in a similar way. Thoughts are being transmitted physically from brain to brain.
Then there is the case of people with split-brain. That is, the connection between the two hemispheres of the brain is severed. Such people can have two distinct perceptions, concepts, or impulses to act, one for each hemisphere. Does this process add a second soul to a single brain? If not, how can they have independent thought?
No one has ever detected a thought without a brain. No one has ever detected anything violating the laws of physics in anyone’s head.
The mind can be interacted with by physically interacting with the brain. It can be altered or damaged. Thoughts can be discerned by physically looking at the brain. Thoughts can be transferred by physically connecting brains. Minds can be created by physically separating halves of the brains. All of this suggests that the mind is a product of a functional brain.
There is, on the other hand, no evidence that the mind is interacting with the brain in some non-physical way, or that anything in excess of the physical exists in the mind.
If Christianity is a house built on the sand, the waves of science have long since eroded its foundation. Our current knowledge of biology invalidates the doctrine and beliefs of this outdated faith.
(3984) Evaluating the Holy Spirit
Christianity invented the implausible, amorphous, inaudible, immaterial figure of the Holy Spirit, but imbued it with immense power to guide and illuminate Christians with religious fervency and doctrinal rectitude. But the facts on the ground suggest that there is a problem with this characterization. The following syllogism is taken from:
P1: The holy spirit is an infallible source of information that guides all that believe in Jesus’s death and resurrection.
P2: Christians disagree about multiple theological concepts.
C: The holy spirit either is too weak to prevent disagreement, is trolling everyone, or doesn’t exist.
Christians must choose one of these three options or be laughed out of the room. Reluctantly, the honest ones will choose the first, thinking that there is only so much the HS can do with fallible humans. The misotheist will pick the second option, and, of course, the atheist picks the most commonsense possibility- that this unseen and evidently ineffective figure, unknown to the Old Testament authors, does not exist.
(3985) Most likely truth
No one can be sure of the truth about Jesus, but we can use whatever evidence is at our disposal to arrive at the most likely truth. The following is a good summary of a common speculation of secular scholars:
There are two main things that scholars study in order to answer that question.
- First, the cultural:
What would a Jewish itinerant preacher’s life and teachings been like in the 1st century? There are quite a few things we can bring to bear. From the writings of Philo of Alexandria, to the Hellenic/Cynic influences on Judaism, the rise of Jewish apocalypticism, the writings of Josephus, etc.
- Secondly, the textual:
There are ways of analyzing the gospels that reveal a lot about who the authors may have been. They were likely written by Greek-speaking literary elites. The gospels fit a genre of Greco-Roman biography that was quite popular amongst upper middle-class Roman citizens. The idea of a foreign, pastoral, subversive folk hero was not unpopular at the time. There was a lot of interest amongst Roman citizens in the exotic, eclectic, “strange” culture of the Jews.
A big part of Biblical scholarship is balancing the two approaches above. I’ll give you two examples:
- The author of the earliest gospel, Mark, seems to believe that Jesus is the prophesied Son of Man, and yet several quotes of Jesus in the story imply that Jesus was not referring to himself. A lot of those quotes make lots of sense when viewed through the lens of Jewish apocalypticism and not through a Christian lens. Thus, the cultural can be used to critique the textual.
- Culturally, no Jew would have invented the idea that the messiah needed to be crucified (which is why Paul constantly jumps through hoops to make sense of it—he calls it the “stumbling block” for Jews) therefore this story only makes sense by favoring the textual over the cultural—he probably was crucified by the Romans!
So what broad strokes can we conclude? There was an apocalyptic Jewish preacher who was tragically (and surprisingly) crushed by the Romans. His followers then had a choice, either believe it was all meant to be—part of a larger plan all along—or walk away from the group. Those who chose the former only became more fervent in their beliefs likely leading the texts that survive to this day.
One final note: No historian can ever say that a miracle did or didn’t happen because—by definition—a miracle is the least likely explanation for any theory. That’s just the nature of miracles. All a historian can study is the fact that several people came to believe that a miracle happened.
Given our observation of the world, and seeing exactly zero confirmed miracles, it becomes imperative to conclude that people believing in a miracle is far more likely than the miracle itself happening. For this reason, the resurrection of Jesus and all of his purported miracles should be viewed as (at least) historically implausible and, for all intents and purposes, impossible.
(3986) Jesus missing from the fabric of history
Jesus is unique among other luminous figures of his time in that his existence is discussed only by faithful believers and not by indifferent bystanders (Josephus was allegedly in this group, but his account was specious, very short, and 60 years after the crucifixion). This oddity sets him apart and suggests that he was either heavily mythologized (and therefore escaped the attention of contemporaneous historians) or he was all together a made-from-scratch mythical man-god. That is, Jesus is not reliably woven into the fabric of history. The following was taken from:
“Subsequently, in the Hellenistic age, these agricultural rituals evolved into cults of mystical initiation and spiritual rebirth…Mythicists (and other critical New Testament scholars who do not go quite so far) suggest that the Christian savior Jesus began as one of these deities (or was at least remodeled in their likeness by Christian converts from competing Mystery Religions who brought some of their familiar beliefs with them). Given the many striking similarities, it seems hard to deny that Jesus either began as a dying-and rising Mystery cult savior or became one.” (p. 297)
This complex mixture of mythologies and superstitions from which Christianity emerged is not mentioned from the pulpit; nor is it discussed in Sunday School and catechism classes. Curiosity about Christian origins is not encouraged—primarily I suppose, because “why bother”—and because there is so much dangerous information available. It becomes so easy to see that Christianity is derivative. And true curiosity should prompt the faithful to wonder how in the world the authors of John’s gospel and Colossians came up with their inflated theologies about a Galilean peasant preacher—if indeed the gospels are based on a historical person.
There are two brief sections in this essay that deserve attention especially, “Disconnecting the Christ,” and “Scripture’s Christ.” Price notes that several of the features of the Jesus story—among the favorite gospel episodes—
“…are also to be found in the stories of Cyrus the Great, Caesar Augustus, Plato, and Alexander the Great, and these were certainly real historical individuals. Might not Jesus, too, have been a real figure in history? If the others accumulated barnacles of legend on their historical hulls, why not Jesus? The difference turns out to be significant. These others are widely attested as having been integral to world-historical events. To remove them would leave gaping, unfillable holes in the historical fabric. But Jesus is in no way tied securely to the events or figures of the lifetime the gospels assign to him.” (p. 301, emphasis added)
Faithful churchgoers who, year after year, decade after decade, are told that the gospels are reliable stories about Jesus are immune to the fact that Jesus is in no way tied securely to the events or figures of the lifetime the gospels assign to him. They are not taught, encouraged to question everything. They are not prompted to wonder, to ask, “Where did this episode come from?” Isn’t “it’s the gospel truth” good enough? No, of course not. They do not appreciate the total lack of contemporaneous documentation—that is, letters, diaries, transcripts—by which the stories and teachings of Jesus could be verified. In fact, if they came across so many of the Jesus stories in other contexts, with names and places changed, they would not take them seriously at all. They are conditioned to be okay with religious fantasy literature. Price notes especially the episode of Jesus hauled before Pilate:
“…the scene is drastically out of character for the historical Pontius Pilate, whose anti-Jewish atrocities are well described by both Josephus and Philo. It is flat-out impossible for Pilate to have lifted a finger to save Jesus, much less for him to have caved before the intimidations of a crowd of nameless rabble in the streets. And to release a convicted anti-Roman insurrectionist instead? Nonsense.” (p. 302)
“Perhaps the most powerful reason to classify Jesus with Mithras and Krishna as complete fiction is that virtually every gospel episode is more naturally accounted for as a Christian reworking of older materials, most drawn from the Old Testament, though some from Homer and even Josephus.”
It seems implausible that a god intent on inflicting monstrous amounts of post-life pain on unbelievers would have allowed his ‘get-out-of-jail-card’ son to be so thinly established in contemporary historical documents. It would seem that his fleshly existence, considering the purported enormous amount of fame, should have been as robustly established as it is for Julius Caesar. But it doesn’t even come close.
(3987) Religion is not a fluid marketplace
In economic theory, products being sold in a fluid marketplace are efficiently advertised, fairly priced, and can be accurately compared with other competing products on both price and quality. Thus, if one wants to buy a TV on Amazon, it is relatively simple for someone to enjoy all of the above stated benefits of marketplace fluidity.
But religion is not like this. It is a gelatinous marketplace, where people are funneled into one product and one product only, with the explicit instruction to avoid research on other products. This leads to uninformed ‘purchase decisions’ that will almost certainly turn out to be faulty. The following was taken from:
Chances are, there are no Catholic priests who, from the pulpit on Sunday morning, will urge their parishioners to study the Book of Mormon: “Maybe the Mormons have it right, and we don’t.” Chances are, there are no Southern Baptist preachers who will suggest that, for a month, everyone in the congregation should go to a Catholic Church: “Maybe the Catholics are following true Christianity.” Chances are, no Methodist ministers will stand in the pulpit and advise that everyone should study the Qur’an—read it cover to cover: “Maybe Islam is the one true religion, after all.”
By what criteria would these Christians determine that these other religious brands are wrong—and that theirs is right? John Loftus has suggested (see his book, The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion Is True) that Christians should evaluate their own religions as objectively/skeptically, as they weigh the truths of other religions. Here’s the irony, of course: if we asked the “average” Catholic, Southern Baptist, or Methodist, “How do you know your religion is true?” —what would be hear? “My minister/priest told me it’s true.” “I learned it from my parents.” “The Bible says it’s true.” There is little inclination or incentive to probe their own beliefs, because…
There is precious little curiosity. How many “average” Christians do you know who have studied—really studied—Christian origins? Or even the Bible, for that matter? And who have come to terms with the problems that the gospels present? Peter Brancazio has called it correctly:
“The discrepancies between the synoptic gospels and the Gospel of John are rather substantial, yet the average Christian is largely unaware of them. In Christian Bible study, conflicts are generally glossed over and gospel narratives are intermingled so as to present a harmonized view. Yet the critical reader is left to wonder why the New Testament does not present a unified portrait of Jesus.” (p. 384, The Bible from Cover to Cover: How Modern-Day Scholars Read the Bible)
…the average Christian is largely unaware… Indeed, curiosity is poison to faith, and Jesus-script in the gospel of John (chapter 20) warns about exactly this: Jesus scolds Doubting Thomas for wanting evidence, for not wanting to take someone else’s word. Jesus might also have warned of the dangers of reading the gospels! If the devout studied the gospels carefully, thoroughly, skeptically, belief in Jesus would take a big hit: something is seriously wrong! Any priest or preacher who has studied the gospels knows full well that any layperson who reads these documents carefully will spot the discrepancies and contradictions. How can “the good book”—indeed, God’s Word—have so many flaws?
In a world where Christianity is real, the marketplace for religion would be similar to the following: Shopping for a TV? Here is a 35-inch spectacular 4K refined dot-pitch masterpiece. And your other options? Here is a 12-inch black and white TV that has vertical lines messing with the picture. And the other TVs are even worse. So, in effect, a world where Christianity is real would also be a gelatinous marketplace, but only because Christianity would outshine all other religions by a mile.
(3988) Human arrogance
Now that we understand the scope our universe, it becomes harder to believe that a being capable of creating and managing such vastness would care so much about humans, such that it would get in a dither about whether they were masturbating or wearing clothes consisting of two different fabrics. The following was taken from:
I am willing to believe in a god. However, it is NOT the gods created in the books or scriptures we have. Think about it, if there was a higher being out there that created life, the universe, galaxies, and planets, why in the world would he/she/it care about us?! We are ants compared to god lmao. There is no way a being as powerful as god would give a rats ass about humans. Why would an all powerful being care about some tiny humans minding their own business?
If there is a god, it would be a Cthulhu level being that is so grand and above our comprehension, that we couldn’t even fathom it.
The way that the Christian god is characterized made some sense when the earth was thought to be the centerpiece of the universe and the stars were tiny points of light in the dome in the sky, but in light of the universe as we now understand it, this man in the sky, Yahweh, does not fit the story line at all. He is clearly a product of the imagination of men who no concept of their place in the cosmos.
(3989) Age of the Earth
Christianity (for the large percentage of its followers who identify as creationists) rides on the assumption that the Earth is a special creation of God, such that it should have a prominent position in the cosmos, but also it must have been created at the same time as everything else. Well, the former has been convincingly demonstrated to be false (even for Christianity’s most fervent believers), and the latter as well has been resoundingly disproved (even if it takes a bit more brainpower and a knowledge of science to admit it). An old earth fits like a square peg into a round hole in Christian dogma. It just doesn’t fit. The following explains how we know the that Earth is much older than most Christians assume:
Lots of talk about this stuff is focused on evolution by natural selection or the Big Bang, but those don’t matter from this particular topic. The Earth (and universe) is not 10-6 thousand years old. That’s all I care about at the moment, the age of stuff, not whether stuff evolved or if the universe had a Big Bang, just the ages of stuff is under discussion. That’s it.
How do we know this? Well, let’s start with the most obvious example. We can date things using radioactive isotypes within them. The most famous of these is carbon dating. Carbon-14 is slightly radioactive, it decays into other things over time. If you had a block of Carbon-14 that had a mass of 1 kg you would have 0.5 kg of C-14 after 5,730 years. This is how we date living things. When things stop exchanging carbon with their environment the the amount of C-14 in them is fixed, you can’t add anymore. And given that the ratio between C-12/C-14 is a fixed in nature (its why a mol of carbon is 12.01 g not 12 g) if you measure that ratio it tells you how long ago that thing stopped exchanging carbon with its environment. Given the oldest thing we’ve identified with carbon dating is 50,000 years old. (Which is actually when this method stops being effective because the amount of C-16 just gets too small to detect) That sinks the YEC ship right there.
But that’s not all. The actual method we use to date the Earth is also radiometric dating, but with uranium instead of carbon. Uranium decays into lead very, very slowly, its half life is 4.5 billion years. In a certain crystal called Zirconium small amounts of Uranium slip into the latus structure of the crystal because its similar to Zircon. Lead can’t do this, it is very different than Zircon, but the uranium inside a Zirconium crystal still decays into lead, so the more lead you find, the older the rock is. We’ve found rocks in Australia that are 4.4 billion years old. Which, again, sinks the narrative that the Earth is young.
We also have a bunch of other ways to date stuff. Geology, simulations of the early solar system, tree ring dating, ice core dating, etc. I could go through them all but the important thing to note is that all these methods, developed independently and in completely different fields, all tell the same story. They all show the Earth’s age to be 4.5 billion years (give or take). They show life having started out 3.5 billion years ago, and so on and so on for the rest of Earth’s geologic history. Is it possible that all these methods are wrong? Of course, it is done by humans and humans are fallible. But for that to be the case all of understanding of fundamental physics must be wrong. Not slightly wrong, but very, very very wrong. And given it works well enough for me to type this on a computer that uses some of that fundamental physics, we probably have this right, or at least close enough to right that the we aren’t that far off the exact value.
For a final example of how the universe itself must be old. Light has a fixed speed, 186,000 miles per second or (300,000,000 meters per second if you have units that make sense). This is the fundamental principle upon which Special and General relativity, two of the best supported theories in all of science, or based. That means that any star in the sky we see must have emitted that light in the past for it to have time to reach us. There are several methods for measuring the distances to stars but the easiest one is parallax, which is just some very basic trigonometry I will do out if people want me to. Once you know the distance, you can know how old, at bare minimum, and people have used it on stars 30,000 light years away, which again kills the idea that the universe is young. Using other methods we know the stars in the recent (and really fucking awesome) JWST image was 13 billion years old.
It is possible that all of modern science is wrong on this stuff. Maybe God is playing a prank on us or maybe we just fucked up physics really really bad and haven’t noticed yet. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And we have mountains and mountains and mountains of evidence that the universe is old. So to claim otherwise you should need even more than that, which no one has.
tl;dr the Earth and Universe are old.
PS. 30% of the US are creationists, so no this is not a strawman- people really do believe the universe is 6-10,000 years old. If you are not in that group, you can move along I’m not talking about you and your beliefs, just the beliefs of people who do think the Earth is young.
To explain Christianity and remain scientifically literate, it is imperative to explain why God waited at least 9.3 billion years to create his ‘special planet’ and then to wait another 4.5 billion years to create his ultimate special animal ‘in his own image.’ The mental gymnastics needed to tie the ends of this narrative together are, or at least should be, exhausting. The position of the Earth in the universe and its age is a one-two knockout punch to this Iron Age mythology.
(3990) No shepherd in the sky
Given the amount and degree of salacious, unlawful, and ‘ungodly’ deeds of church leaders, it is amazing that most Christians remain blasé and unconcerned about why a god (who allegedly counts Christianity as his religion) would let this happen. The following refers to a book by Robert Conner- The Jesus Cult: 2000 Years of the Last Days
“In response to a tsunami of lawsuits, the Boston archdiocese closed seventy parishes and the archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Law, resigned his position. Cardinal Law had known for at least two decades about rampant sexual crimes committed by clergy, including the infamous case of John Geoghan, a priest who raped or molested over 130 children in six parishes over a period of thirty years. Relieved of his duties, Law absquatulated to the Vatican where Pope John Paul II—who was declared a saint in 2013—appointed him Archpriest of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore with a salary of $12,000 a month.” (p. 84)
We know that the apostle Paul’s magic formula doesn’t work in real life, i.e., you’ll be saved if you believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Conner wrote this in the Debunking Christianity Blog recently:
“Why aren’t Christians stunned? That’s a question I’ve asked myself for years on end. When priests by the hundreds molest kids and bishops cover it up, why aren’t Christians stunned? When nuns raffle off babies of unwed mothers, why aren’t Christians stunned? When prophecies fail to happen, why aren’t Christians stunned? When unmarked graves of children are discovered around Christian ‘schools,’ why aren’t Christians stunned? When embezzlement and sexual assault by preachers get reported on a weekly basis, why aren’t Christians stunned? When religious leaders gather to lay hands on a figure like Donald Trump or Jair Bolsonaro, why aren’t Christians stunned?”
If Christianity was true, then it would be expected that God would be capable of reining in his earthly leaders to assure that they lead exemplary lives for their flocks to emulate. It would further be expected that this god would prevent anything happening that would embarrass his church and place it in a bad light. After all, when clergy stray, it causes many to leave the faith (and thereby allegedly endangering their souls). However, if Christianity is not true, then the natural consequences of fallible human nature should play itself out. It does, and just to the degree that we know there is no shepherd in the sky managing his ‘flock.’
(3991) Vedic origins of Judaism
There is strong evidence that Judaism evolved from the Vedic traditions that existed as long ago as 1500 BCE in the northern Indian subcontinent. As it spread westward, the movement evolved into the precursors of Judaism, while the core eventually became modern-day Hinduism. Why this is a problem for Judaism and Christianity is that the ‘one true religion’ should exhibit a strong sense of independence and uniqueness. Ties to ancient faiths is evidence of a man-made religion. The following was taken from:
Even YHWH would seem to have Vedic origins, owed to linguistic and substantive similarities to the god of the dead, Yama.
YHVH was used as an epitaph for Agni, the Vedic god of fire in the Regvedic hymns. Agni is the friend and priest to Yama the Lord of the Dead.
Agni means fire which acts as a messenger to the gods, symbolized with burnt scarifies. Burnt offerings are a frequent feature of the Old Testament.
Yama is also the Vedic god of justice, who sits in judgment of all who die, to determine who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. He is even known as the lawgiver.
The Torah frequently uses the plural tense when referencing gods, leading to the idea that early adherents worshiped multiple gods. Modern theists translate the names of different gods as titles for the one God, rather than identifying them by name.
It is possible that when Abraham went to Canaan he co-opted the native religious beliefs of the Canaanites to insert his imported god, YHWH.
The chief god of the Canaanites was EL. To them, he was the father of the gods. Each divine son of EL was said to rule over a particular nation, and YHWH became the son of EL who was supposed to rule Canaan. So perhaps the Israelites used the existing mythology of the Canaanites to legitimize their own god, and eventual rule.
Then once established they recast EL and YHWH and Baal as a single deity.
Deuteronomy 32:8 is often pointed to as a clear example of this plurality.
“When EL gave the nations as an inheritance,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of [the sons of God].
But YHWH’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted inheritance.”
It also has been posited by multiple scholars that the story of Moses was born of the Mitanni and Egyptian alliance possibly as a pseudonym for Akhenaten himself.
Sigmund Freud, oddly enough, wrote a number of essays to that effect.
Another hypothesis is that Moses was the son of Akhenaten’s Mitanni wife who died in childbirth, and was raised by one of his royal sisters.
The similarities between Judaism and its neighbors could fill a textbook and is a deeply fascinating tour of comparative mythology.
The Mitanni may be little known outside academic circles, but scholars at least, have recognized the potential of the Mitanni to fill in the gaps in the story.
We can fully expect future archeological discoveries related to the Mitanni to provide new… revelations.
If Judaism is not a fresh, new faith, disassociated from older religious traditions, then it must be assumed that it is not the one true manifestation of the god of the universe. Rather, it is a branch on a tree of religious faith, and that it was fashioned by humans devoid of any connection to a supernatural source or being. When the Judaism domino falls over, it knocks down the Christianity domino as well.
(3992) The solar eclipse that didn’t happen
Bible literalists will be forced to pull out their magic card to defend the gospels’ claims of an eclipse of the sun at the time of Jesus’ death, as explained below in reference to Richard Carrier’s book Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus:
He highlights a serious problem for inerrantists that I’d like to share. In chapter three he evaluates the claim of the gospels that at the death of Jesus “there was darkness over the whole world from the sixth hour until the ninth” (Mark 15:33; Matthew 27:45; Luke 23:44-45). If it was meant to be taken literally per Luke, who claims it was an eclipse of the sun (“…for the sun stopped shining”), it could not have happened.
Why? Because a three hour eclipse over the whole world is scientifically impossible. They only last a few minutes, not three hours. They do not cover the whole earth at the same time either, since they only cover parts of it as earth revolves. An eclipse additionally could not have occurred during the Passover, for the Passover was always celebrated during the full moon. This means the moon was on the opposite side of the earth from the sun at that time. Lastly, the entire world at the time had its astrologer/astronomers and not one of them mentioned it. Carrier writes, “This is a slam dunk argument…establishing beyond any reasonable doubt the non-historicity of this solar event.”
Apparently, the gospel authors didn’t have much knowledge of astronomy or any sense that simple science would later be used to debunk their claims. Perhaps they didn’t realize that including an obviously mythical worldwide darkness in the story would inevitably cast aspersions on the truth of the resurrection itself- similarly as ‘one bad apple spoils the whole bunch.’
(3993) The case against demons
Christians are loathe to admit it, but it is a fact that if demons don’t exist, then Christianity is almost certainly false. The gospels are full of demon stories, with Jesus being an avid believer in them. But If they don’t exist why would God have allowed them to be documented in his most important scriptures, as it is sure to damage the truthfulness of his message to humankind? The following explaining how we know that demons don’t exist was taken from David Kyle Johnson’s paper Justified Belief in the Existence of Demons is Impossible:
Clearly the evidence for the “demons did it” hypothesis is wanting, which brings us to considering alternate explanations for the existence of such stories. Perhaps the “possessed” person was actually just mentally ill (Tourette’s? Bipolar?). Perhaps they are highly suggestible and were convinced (or convinced themselves) that they are possessed and were thus acting out the part. Perhaps, they are a prankster playing an elaborate joke for attention. Perhaps something simple happened, but the story was exaggerated over time. Perhaps the story was a complete fabrication.
The latter is true more often than you would expect. For example, the most famous “true” story of demonic activity, The Amityville Horror, which spawned twelve movies, was a complete fabrication. The story itself is compelling— demonic voices; a scarred, blistered priest; police calls and complaints from the neighbors; a self-animating sculpted lion; cloven footprints in the snow; doors flying off hinges; wife levitation; green slime; self-rotating crucifixes; and Indian burial grounds—but none of it actually happened. Despite the “expert testimony” of psychics Ed and Lorraine Warren, it turns out the family who lived in the house for twenty-eight days (the Lutzes) conspired with William Weber, the attorney of Butch DeFeo, to fabricate the story. This way, the family could cash in with an Exorcist-type story ( The Exorcist had recently been a smash hit), and Weber could have a new alibi for his client: the demons made him do it. You see, DeFeo had murdered his family while living in the same house.
This finally came to light when none of the story’s checkable elements checked out. All the doors were on their original hinges, no priest or police ever visited the house, no neighbors ever complained, no snow (for cloven footprints) fell during the twenty-eight days, and the house was nowhere near an Indian burial ground. In the midst of lawsuits, a judge even declared it was a fiction, and Weber admitted as much in his later years. But we didn’t even need to wait years to find this out. Stephen Kaplan, a parapsychologist who visited the home, knew it was a hoax from the beginning (Dunning 2007b). This seems to happen, more often than not, with such stories. Even cursory investigation makes them fall apart. The “Belmez Faces” (in Andalusia, Spain) were verified to be artistic forgeries (Dunning 2010). King Tut’s curse was a farce (Dunning 2008b). The Bell Witch was a product of Martin Ingram’s imagination (Dunning 2008a).
The stories of hauntings at The Borley Rectory (Sudbury, Essex) were either borrowed from horror novels or just made up by a family that was famous for hoaxing and conning (Dunning 2007a). I could go on. (Dunning has more than 500 articles, and no such story has ever checked out.) Other stories are the product of a prank or childish joke. The famous Fox sisters (1848), whose stories helped launch modern spiritualism, confessed they were simply pulling pranks on their mother—complete with flying objects, shaking furniture, and approaching footsteps (Nickell 2001). So, too, for the Davenport Brothers (1854), whose pranks included dancing cutlery, demons communicating with rapping sounds, and trance speaking and writing. They were caught “cheating” many times and even confessed to Harry Houdini that it was all trickery (Nickell 2001).
And what about the famous mass possession of the Ursuline nuns in 1632? They were faking it in a (successful) attempt to discredit their priest Urban Grandier (Gully 2009, 152–3). The same is likely true of “R”, the basis of The Exorcist story, who not only failed to convince doctors and psychiatrists but was also caught scratching words into himself with his long fingernails. (Once, after a discussion of him perhaps attending school, the message “No school” was scratched into his chest.) One should never underestimate the cleverness of children, their need for attention, or how easy such pranks are to pull and people are to fool. In fact, when you look at the details of his story, all of them could have been pulled off with simple trickery (Nickell 2001).
But one should not overlook the possibility that the person in question is simply mentally ill. Indeed, the Catholic Church admits that most professed demon possessions are simply undiagnosed mental illnesses. This is definitely the most likely explanation for the biblical stories of demon possession. The person “possessed” by “Legion” in Luke 8, if the story is true at all, most likely had some kind of personality disorder. The version of the story in Mark 5 also suggests hints of Tourette syndrome. Indeed, the Bible often expressly explains what we now know are illnesses—epilepsy (Luke 9), muteness (Luke 11), and a nonstraightening back (Luke 13)—with demonic possession. Sometimes the mental illness causes the person to believe they are possessed.
Alternatively, they may not be certifiably ill, but these people have been so religiously indoctrinated that they are convinced they’re possessed and thus act out the part. The power of suggestion and role rehearsal (especially in suggestible people) is well documented; this is what allows hypnosis to work (Rathus 2008). Belief can be so powerful, in fact, that a woman’s belief that she is pregnant can produce symptoms of pregnancy—including a distended belly. It’s called Phantom Pregnancy and is well documented (Ramachandran and Blakeslee 1999, Chapter 11 ).
Instead of intentionally deceiving others into thinking they are possessed, the “possessed” may be unintentionally deceiving themselves. It could also be that there is some core truth to the story—that it finds its origin in some real event or person—but that the more fantastical or supernatural elements of the story are the result of mistaken perception or exaggeration over time. Not only are stories are often embellished as they are passed on, but we also know how easily our mind is tricked and about the unreliability of our senses and subjective judgments. We know that people often see and remember things that never happened.
Eyewitnesses aren’t even that reliable (Arkowitz and Lilienfeld 2010). Even with multiple eyewitnesses, collusion, exaggeration, and mass delusion are more common than many realize. And last, we must consider the gullibility of the witnesses involved. Are they educated? Do they know about the other available explanations for demonic activity? The evidence that such factors have produced demonic stories, in many cases, is overwhelming. Thus, the fact that a story includes things such as levitation, superhuman strength, and the speaking of unknown languages is not compelling. (After all, if the language is truly unknown, how could it be distinguished from gibberish?)
So, with all this in mind, we can condense the competing hypotheses into one, and for any given story of demonic activity, we can compare the competing explanations for it according to the criteria of adequacy.
Those explanations are as follow:
(1) Demons did it; the story is accurate and demons caused the events of the story to occur.
(2) The story is bogus; the story was either completely fabricated or the result of a deception/misperception or an unrecognized mental illness and was perhaps then embellished over time.
Sometimes investigations into the story can be done. Hypothesis 1 predicts that one should not find evidence of lying, trickery, or mental illness. Discovering such evidence would prove Hypothesis 1 unfruitful, and would be reason to reject it. But, of course, one’s inability to find such evidence would not be a reason to reject Hypothesis 2. That’s an appeal to ignorance—a classical logical fallacy. The inaccessibility of evidence, or even your own investigative incompetence, is the more likely reason you were unable to find such evidence. (And insisting that “the demon causes the mental illness” is an ad hoc excuse that renders the hypothesis unfalsifiable and thus irrational.) But even if we are unable to investigate the origin of the story, we can still compare the hypotheses according to the other criteria.
Which hypothesis is simplest? Which requires the fewest entities or assumptions? Certainly not Hypothesis 1, which hypothesizes the existence of an entire spiritual realm and entities that possess that realm. Hypothesis 2, however, requires no such assumptions and only assumes things we already know are possible and exist: lies, exaggerations, embellishments, tricks, and mental illnesses. What about scope? Hypothesis 2 can not only explain stories of demon activity but also stories of ghosts, alien abductions, UFO sightings, Bigfoot, and any other supposed paranormal happening. On the other hand, Hypothesis 1 can only serve as an explanation for demonic stories. What’s more, Hypothesis 1 appeals to the inexplicable to explain the unexplained, and in no way does that advance our understanding.
Clearly the scope of Hypothesis 1 is limited whereas the scope of Hypothesis 2 is wide. Conservatism is where Hypothesis 2 really wins out. The notion that demons exist, and can cause things to happen in the physical world, violates established fundamental laws of science like the conservation of energy and matter. A demon causing, say, a chair to spin would add energy to the universe, yet we know the amount of energy in the universe is constant. Additionally, Hypothesis 1 makes falsified assumptions about the reliability of eyewitness testimony (and how reliability humans pass on stories), while Hypothesis 2 aligns with how readily our senses and memory lead us astray. In sum, for any given story of demonic activity, you are not justified in believing that it’s genuine because it’s more likely the story was generated by mental illness, deception, self-deception, or wholly fabricated.
Consider: For any given photo/video of a ghost that you see, no matter how seemingly convincing, it’s more likely been faked—it’s too easy to do so. That’s the more adequate explanation. Likewise, no matter how convincing a demonic story is, that it’s bogus is more likely. Therefore, hearing a story about demonic activity can never justify the belief that demons exist.
Demons are false = Christianity is false. Some (sane) Christians might try to rationalize this problem by saying that the writers of the gospels introduced some of their own superstitious beliefs into their accounts, but that the central message remains in tact. This might work, but only if God is not omnipotent- otherwise it is hard to believe he would allow such silliness to infiltrate his gospel message.
(3994) No real god would punish unbelief
Christianity proposes that people who do not believe in its doctrine will be punished in the afterlife strictly because of that lack of belief. This despite their god not making any effort to definitively demonstrate its existence. No human would react similarly in this situation- so why would a god? The following was taken from:
If a claim has any sort of supporting evidence for it, you should at least analyze it. Therefore, I see that there is apparent supporting evidence for the existence of god and validity of religion. So, I analyze all the evidence with an open mind and heart. At the end of it all, I am still not convinced, perhaps less now than ever. But…
Punishment awaits those who don’t believe, even if I really try to validate god and religion in my mind. Unless I lie to myself, I can’t believe something unless I really do.
So, if this god exists, he quite literally screwed me over. He gave me a brain that will not allow me to believe in his existence. Whatever he’s trying to accomplish from this fact, an infinitely powerful being could have done it a different way, without screwing me over in the process.
If he’s so infinitely knowledgeable, why would he ever want to punish me, a mere intellectual peasant created by him – for using my given cognitive abilities to come to a genuine conclusion?
I then conclude that he wouldn’t. It simply does not make any sense whatsoever. This elaboration then turns into supporting evidence that the Abrahamic god claim is a wild misuse of the concept. If a creator exists, he should not be worried if people believe in him or not. It would be really silly, non-sensical and irrationally emotional to do so. If a human can come to that conclusion, then so can god.
A god ethically or morally inferior to humans is either a tyrant or a myth- end of f’ing list. Christianity’s god is either one or the other, and it takes little effort to see that the latter is spectacularly more likely.
(3995) Nativity stories fashioned to counter doubt
The stories of Jesus’ birth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke used prior literary strategies to remove doubt that he was conceived normally from the seed of a human male, Joseph in this case. The following was taken from:
There are Greco-Roman stories about divine conception which are constructed so that the possibility of a human partner of the woman in question being the biological father is ruled out. In other words, they basically come with small apologetics already built in that one can point to when asked “but how do you know the father was actually the deity and not the human partner”? One of the most popular ways to go about it is to have a deity appear to the partner and instructs him to abstain from coitus until the semi-divine child is born.
An example of this is the story of divine conception of Plato, already present in Speusippus’ (Plato’s nephew) work Plato’s Funeral Feast – Apollo appears to Plato’s presumed father Ariston and instructs him to abstain from having sex with Plato’s mother Perictione until she gives birth to a child. The work doesn’t survive but the story is told by Diogenes Laërtius (3.2).
I read the nativity stories the same way – they are constructed so that the possibility of Joseph being Jesus’ biological father is ruled out (in case of Luke by the conception taking place before marriage and in case of Matthew by Joseph being instructed to abstain from coitus). If the stories were told such that Joseph and Mary were already married and no instruction to abstain from coitus was given then it would be more difficult to sell the idea that Jesus’ father is a deity and not just Joseph. Mary being a virgin is just what follows from the conception taking place before marriage (on the assumption that a woman is a virgin until her marriage is consummated with her husband).
What is interesting is that the virgin birth trope has Mary having ‘sex’ as an unmarried woman- normally considered taboo in Christianity. What’s more, is that the sex was with another ‘man’ rather than her fiancé. Such are the compromises you must make when the first priority is to make your hero the product of a miraculous conception.
(3996) Worshiping Satan
A common defense mechanism of Christians is to re-define someone’s atheism by ascribing it to a feature of their own belief system. Thus, for example, a person who doesn’t worship God must instead be worshiping Satan. The following was taken from:
In a strange way, many Christians feel safer if they can write off your atheism as a cloaked endorsement of Satan.
If you claim to worship Satan, even though he’s “the enemy”, that still is an endorsement of their pretend game of invisible friends and enemies.
But if someone points out that these invisible friends aren’t real, it threatens the basis of a Christian’s world view. So they reframe it in their mind as if you really do want to play with their imaginary friends.
One of the ways we know that Christianity is false is that the faith of ‘true’ believers’ is so fragile that they feel endangered when intelligent, well-educated people state that they don’t believe in the existence of their god or any god for that matter. They then construct an alternative explanation for your apostasy so as to protect the integrity of their own beliefs. Of course this is necessary only because the evidence for their faith is vanishingly thin. Otherwise they couldn’t care less if someone chose not to see ‘what is obvious.’
(3997) God is a liar
God is an inveterate killer, so it should come as no surprise that he is a liar as well. The following gives scriptural evidence that Yahweh uses deception and lies.
“So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.”
“So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.”
Then I said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! How completely you have deceived this people and Jerusalem by saying, ‘You will have peace,’ when the sword is at our throats!”
You deceived[a] me, Lord, and I was deceived[b];
you overpowered me and prevailed.
I am ridiculed all day long;
everyone mocks me.
“‘And if the prophet is enticed to utter a prophecy, I the Lord have enticed that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and destroy him from among my people Israel.
For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie.
All describe times where God lied/deceived. Of course that only counts if you believe the events of the Bible are true and not a lie, so theists who want to discount the possibility of the Bible containing a lie can easily do so by declaring the Bible contains lies.
If God uses deception, how can Christians be be certain of anything concerning their faith? After all, they are not only following a liar, but a genocidal terrorist as well. The promise of heaven might be a deception to get people to worship him and do his bidding.
(3998) Religion is a product of culture
Most people have a difficult time realizing that their religious faith is almost entirely the consequence of their birth location and family. After being inculcated with religion, they cannot view their faith objectively or as being on an equal footing with (or as equally probably true as) others. That is, the prejudice is hard-wired into their brains, and is permanent even if they become atheists. The following was taken from:
“We are products of our culture and interpret the world through our mental conditioning.” Thirteen countries – including nine in Europe – are officially Christian, two (Bhutan and Cambodia) have Buddhism as their state religion, and one (Israel) is officially a Jewish state.
More than one in five countries has an official state religion, with the majority being Muslim states. Christianity is the favored faith in 28 of the 40 countries with a preferred religion. More than half of the total provide funds or resources for religious education programs that largely benefit the preferred religion, and a third provide funding or resources for religious buildings.
In the Maldives, Mauritania, and Saudi Arabia, 100% of inhabitants practice Islam. In many nations, at least 95% of inhabitants identify as either Sunni or Shi’a Muslim. Countries whose populations are at least 95% Muslim: Maldives, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Algeria, Comoros, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey, and Yemen. There are 50 Muslim-majority countries worldwide.
It is hard not to dismiss a religious person’s claim that their religion is the truth when it certainly seems that that same person would believe in another religion had they been born in a different part of the world. It is not unreasonable to conclude that religions are products of culture and geography, not products of “truth” and “falsehood.”
It takes a gargantuan amount of mental energy to see ourselves as others do, and then even more energy to deprogram what has been scribbled on our brains. The only individual who can be truly objective about religion would be an alien who lands on the planet and then studies and compares all religious traditions. Unfortunately, virtually no humans have that gift of that perspective.
(3999) Five best reasons not to believe in God
Whenever somebody asks an atheist why they don’t believe in God, the usual answer is that there is a lack of evidence to compel such a belief. In fact, evidence that SHOULD be there if this god (Yahweh the Omnipotent) is real. But there are additional reasons as well. The following piece lists what might be considered the Top Five:
So now that my cards are on the table, I thought I’d lay out what I consider to be the best five reasons to stop believing. I don’t imagine that any fundamentalist Muslims or reborn Christians are going to be persuaded, but for those on the fence or open to the possibility of non-belief, this may tip you over the edge. I also, by the way, don’t hope to satisfy academic philosophers with the rigors of my case. You guys don’t need my help with this stuff anyway.
- No evidence
Most things which we accept, we accept on the basis of proof. That proof is not always rock solid (some of it is based on spurious media claims, for example) but there is a standard to which we hold most of our beliefs. Things that don’t meet that standard – the Tooth Fairy, let’s say – we discard as not impossible, but extremely unlikely.
God, however, many people accept with no proof at all. Belief in God is a product of upbringing, societal and cultural convention, a desire for comfort and intellectual laziness.
There is no evidence that God exists. You may have had some kind of personal experience – what we “anecdotal evidence” that has convinced you personally that he’s out there. But most people would concede that that kind of evidence is not evidence at all. It can’t be repeated under test conditions and there are other possible explanations for what may have happened.
Fact: no-one has ever presented one iota of persuasive evidence that there is a God.
- It’s illogical
In the absence of evidence, some people try to argue that there “must be” a God because nothing else makes sense.
This “not making sense” ranges from the naïve (“I just feel that there must be a bigger purpose to life”) to the sophisticated arguments presented by theologians, philosophers and apologists.
I cannot present and knock down every instance of these arguments here. However, I can say this: the idea that one can reason God into existence is a failed project. The best anyone has been able to do is to show that God could be an explanation for how the universe got here – and could be the “best available explanation”. I wouldn’t accept either of these, but even I did, they do not constitute a conclusive, logical position.
If you are comfortable with a “maybe”, then you are welcome to it. But the existence of God has not been logically proven by anyone, ever.
- The preponderance of suffering
In a recent interview, the British comedian Stephen Fry delivered a vicious, scathing attack on the Judeo-Christian God when asked what he would say if it turned out, after he died, that God did in fact exist. He called this God a “maniac”, pointing to the large amount of unnecessary suffering in the world which he, by definition, created and allows.
The existence of suffering is an impossible problem for believers in an all-good, caring God to solve. Even if they use the wiggle room to argue that without some suffering there can be no charity; or that people who do wrong are punished, they cannot account for the suffering of innocent children and animals, or worse, the devout believers in their faith.
What kind of God, we may ask – and Fry does, more colorfully – has created a world in which children die in floods, starve to death, perish in agony from TB and malaria? What kind of God allows people who worship and adore him to be murdered, raped, tortured and come to countless other hideous ends?
This does not preclude the existence of any God, of course. God might be, as Fry has it, a maniac. He may be a vicious, sadistic God. Or, like the Greeks and Romans before us, he may be a pantheon of narcissistic Gods who have no interest in looking out for us.
But a God who was benevolent and loving, as we are told the Christian God is, would never create the world we live in. Believing in him requires either shuttering yourself off from the carnage all around you; or crafting frankly ridiculous excuses (God works in mysterious ways?).
- We don’t need him
This isn’t exactly an argument against the truth of God, but it is a reason to stop worrying about him. We don’t require God – he is an unnecessary addition to the universe, and it can get along perfectly well without him.
The most common two arguments for why we “need” God is as a personal savior or caretaker, and that without him (and religion) we would not know what is morally right and wrong.
Let me start with the last first.
Human morality is not brought into existence by God or the Bible. We do not require a commandment to tell us that killing is wrong, and we do not need the threat of eternal damnation to make us do what is right.
To prove this I need only point out that most Western states operate on the basis of a constitution and the rule of law and have nothing to do with religion or the Bible. Killing someone has legal consequences, and most normal people with a conscience regard it as wrong without the need for a cosmic force to tell them.
Oh, but I hear you say, surely these laws and rights have a Biblical origin?
Do you really believe that? Do you think that pre-religious societies had no taboos in regard to the preservation of life, property and other things we hold dear? That a principle like “do unto others” would not naturally emerge from any group of sentient beings living in the same place?
This is quite apart from the fact that many of the laws in the Bible are just wicked. We have not, thankfully and for the most part, transferred most of Leviticus and Deuteronomy into modern law. Those Islamic states who have, and which enforce Sharia law, are widely regarded as zones of horror by most sensible people.
Then: do we need God as a personal savior? Well, some people might. The idea of God might provide comfort and an explanation for the mysteries of the universe. However, it is misleading to say he is “needed”. Many people survive and thrive perfectly well without a God concept or religion – myself being one example. We do not rampage or lose our way or become outcasts. And so, whilst certain individuals may derive comfort from a belief in God – as is their right – this is neither a necessary or a sufficient condition for living a good life.
- Life’s better without him
Religion is about control and limitation. Rules, laws and rituals that restrict and govern behavior. In some cases – say the genital mutilation of infants in barbaric rites of passage practiced by religions such as Judiasm – they actually persuade nice people to do awful things.
Which is to say nothing of the countless other horrors committed in the name of God and religion. Suicide bombings, torture, genocide, forced marriages, unwanted babies, war – the list is endless.
A life without religion and without God thus offers freedom from all of these miseries. It offers a person the opportunity to do what they like, in line with their own moral code, within the parameters of the society in which they live. Each decision to be taken is evaluated on its own merits, weighing up the pros and cons, and is not forced down a path by a pre-existing code of conduct dating from a time of ignorance and superstition.
Life is better without God and religion encouraging you to make poor choices, and validating them when you do.
The journey into escaping the God idea, and rejecting religion, can be a long one. For those deeply invested in these notions they may begin by being unable to imagine a meaningful life without them. However, it starts with a seed of doubt. With the sense that a fairy story is at work here – not the solid rock of reality.
Perhaps these five arguments will plant that small seed for some reading this piece.
These reasons can be summarized as follows- a disbelief in the Christian god is valid because if this god was real, we would be living in a different world- a world of miracles, a world devoid of intense suffering, a world where prayers worked, a world where demons were a real and present danger, a world where scripture was precise, forward-looking, and ultimately relevant to the modern day, in which slavery was prohibited, where women’s rights were heralded, where homosexuals were esteemed, and in which science unknown to humans at the time was revealed. Instead, we live in a world that is PRECISELY what we would expect to see if there was no god, or at least no god that interfered with or took any focused interest in the affairs of this planet. Given the above, it is safe to say, for all practical purposes, THERE IS NO GOD.
(4000) Questioning the core concept of Christian theology
The Christian theology of forgiveness is self-contradictory. On one hand, forgiveness requires a sacrifice, and on another hand, it doesn’t. But the biggest hole is that we humans know that true forgiveness requires nothing but a repentant heart, and certainly not the bloody execution of a human body. The following was taken from:
If God is able to raise Jesus up, after he took on our sins (becoming sin itself, as the Bible says), then God has the ability to forgive sins without sacrifice. Otherwise, who sacrificed themselves for Jesus, so that he could be considered righteous before God?
But even more than this, if sinners accept Jesus’ sacrifice, thereby transferring their sins to Jesus and receiving Jesus’ righteousness in return, then Christians could have a relationship with God like Jesus did and be able to clearly hear God, perform miracles, and prophesy. But we don’t see that happening.
This is a very important point: by claiming that God needs a sacrifice to forgive someone, Christians are being contradictory because true forgiveness requires nothing. By claiming that God must punish sin (as if God has no other choice), Christians are actually claiming that God is incapable of forgiveness.
And why would sacrifice even work in the first place? Do Christians think God is stupid? As if God will forget the wrong you have done once you make a sacrifice?
And what does sacrifice even mean to God? Does God have need of anything? And is it not the heart that God cares about? Why would external action have anything to with repentance? Indeed, many would argue that a sacrifice is simply an outward expression of an internal conviction. But does God not know the heart of man before he sacrifices? This too, makes sacrifice redundant.
Sacrifice is not efficacious for either the removal of sins or for repentance.
Christianity would be on a firmer basis if it did away with the sacrifice-for-forgiveness scheme and instead offered salvation on the basis of living a good life. That would do away with the awful problem of having bad Christians in heaven while good atheists are in hell. But to be sure, true forgiveness should not require anybody to get killed.
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