(4001) Jesus dying was only the prelude
Jesus dying on the cross, supposedly to save humanity, was not a turn-key operation. It was only the beginning. There were other conditions and requirements that would eventually become ‘needed’ to complete the transaction. The following was taken from:
According to Christianity (I know there are exceptions, I’m talking about the main teachings) God killed his Son so that salvation is available:
- you believe in the right version of Christianity
- your belief is sincere enough
- according to some, you were predestined for salvation before you were born
- according to some you perform enough good works
- according to some you follow a Byzantine system of behavioral codes relating to all aspects of life
- according to some your theology is correct
- according to some, you undergo a ritual water sprinkling or dunking
- according to some, you formally confess your sins to a man in a box
- you don’t start to doubt and then unluckily die during that time of doubt/disbelief.
So he sacrificed his son so that humanity would have many many hoops to jump through in order to be saved??!!!! And he never clarified, in a clear way, which of these hoops are important and which are BS???? At the very least it seems a bit anticlimactic- a god was sacrificed for humanity by another god for this result? Snooze. Christian Universalism goes way back to some of the very very early Christians- since it wasn’t good for business it was deemed a heresy. Too bad.
Christian universalism refers to an early belief that Jesus’ crucifixion had saved literally everybody, but clerics could not exercise control over people or enrich themselves in that scenario, so the rules listed above were trotted out and out enshrined in church dogma.
(4002) Acts-Galatians conflict
Although many Christians view the Bible as being without error, there are many examples denying that claim. One of the more salient ones is how Paul’s associations with Jesus’ disciples are described. As can be seen below, there is an irreducible conflict between how this subject is described in Acts and Galatians:
What conclusion may we draw from reading Acts 9:26-28 and Galatians 1:15-20 back-to-back?
“When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples, and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.”
“But when the one who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the gentiles, I did not confer with any human, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterward I returned to Damascus.Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days, but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother. In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!”
Yes, do please compare Acts 9:26-28 and Galatians 1:15-20. These Galatians verses are Paul’s own words about the aftermath of his conversion. The text in Acts was written decades later by an author who created narrative to portray the event—or more correctly, to dramatize the event. He was an early expert in special effects, e.g., blinding lights and voices from the sky, with Paul being struck blind. None of which is reported by Paul in Galatians, or anywhere else in his letters. Critical historians have long been skeptical about the Book of Acts. The author never mentions his sources, and there are too many elements of fantasy literature, i.e., roles given to holy spirits and angels. Moreover, the author depicts Paul being welcomed by the original disciples, while Paul is emphatic that this didn’t happen. When Acts 9 and Galatians 1 are read back-to-back, it’s clear someone is lying.
The author of Acts obviously didn’t want to describe Paul as meeting only one disciple (after 3 years no less) and one relative (Jesus’ brother), but rather wanted to depict Paul as immediately integrating into the fullness of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples. This would give him additional credentials as being a spokesperson for Jesus.
(4003) Life expectancy vs. church attendance
In 2020, the Pew Research Center developed a graph plotting church attendance versus life expectancy for each state in the United States. The result was counter-intuitive under that assumption that Christianity is true and that people who attend church are more likely to attain health and safety through the exercise of prayer:
This is a result that doesn’t prove that Christianity is false, but it adds weight to the evidence suggesting that a supernatural being is not interacting with the followers of this faith.
(4004) God is either not omniscient or sadistic
The horrid and embarrassing Old Testament story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son Isaac leaves us with one of two options- God is either not omniscient or he is a sadist. The following was taken from:
If the Abrahamic god is all knowing, didn’t he know that Abraham did truly have blind faith and loved him more than his own son? Why did he ask Abraham to behead his son then? This would obviously be very traumatizing and put a lot of anxiety on any human including prophets so why even test him that way? There are many other ways to test one’s faith in a less sadistic way.
Also, since god knows and can predict the future didn’t he know that once he asks Abraham, that he would do it? Again, this proves the Abrahamic god loves to play mind games and is sadistic.
It is probably certain that if Christians had the option they would remove this story from their Bibles. It no longer plays well in polite company and it presents a theme that is no longer consistent with modern ethics or even standard Christian dogma that God is both benevolent and omniscient. It is also a story that traumatizes children who fear that their fathers might ‘hear’ God’s command to do the same to them.
(4005) Paul’s vs. Luke’s idea of salvation
Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman has detected a fundamental difference in the way that Paul conceived of salvation versus how Luke (who wrote both Luke and Acts) saw it. The following was taken from:
In Ehrman’s less technical discussion (than in the blogpost), in “Peter, Paul and Mary Magdalene,” he contrasts the Luke/Acts view of salvation with Paul’s own view as expressed in his letters:
“According to Paul, Christ’s death provides an atonement for sins; according to Luke, Christ’s death leads to forgiveness of sins. These are not the same thing.
“The idea of atonement is that something needs to be done in order to deal with sins. A sacrifice has to be made in order to compensate for the fact that someone has transgressed divine law. The sacrifice satisfies the just demands of God, whose law has been broken and who requires a penalty. In Paul’s view, Jesus’ death brought about an atonement: it was a sacrifice made for the sake of others so that they would not have to pay for their sins themselves. This atonement purchased a right standing before God.
“The idea of forgiveness is that someone lets you off the hook for something you’ve done wrong, without any requirement of payment. That’s quite different from accepting the payment of your debt from someone else (which would be the basic idea of atonement). In Paul’s own way of looking at salvation, Christ had to be sacrificed to pay the debt of others; in Luke’s way of looking at it, God forgives the debt without requiring a sacrifice.
“Why then, for Luke, did Jesus have to die, if not as a sacrifice for sins? When you read through the speeches in Acts the answer becomes quite clear. It doesn’t matter whether you look at Paul’s speeches or Peter’s, since, if you’ll recall, all these speeches are pretty much alike (they were, after all, written by Luke). Jesus was wrongly put to death. This was a gross miscarriage of justice. When people realize what they (or their compatriots) did to Jesus, they are overcome by guilt, which leads them to repent and ask for forgiveness. And God forgives them.
“Thus Jesus’ death, for Luke, is not an atonement for sins, it is an occasion for repentance. It is the repentance that leads to the forgiveness of sins, and thus a restored relationship with God (see, for example, Peter’s first speech in Acts 2:37-39). This is fundamentally different from a doctrine of atonement such as you find in Paul.” (pp.143-144)
Because salvation is the core product of Christianity, it would be expected that the two most prolific authors of the New Testament (Paul and Luke) would deliver a consistent message on this subject. The difference observed is best explained by the assumption that they were writing as humans devoid of any celestial inspiration.
(4006) Virgin birth is a minority opinion
Most versions of Christianity observe the tradition that Jesus was not born in the usual manner. Rather, his mother was impregnated by the Holy Spirit. While Catholics maintain that she remained a virgin for life, Protestants for the most part do not, but they almost all believe that Jesus was conceived in a miraculous way- or else they discount the two gospel accounts of the same. But what is pressing to note is that the virgin birth itself is a minority opinion in the New Testament. The following was taken from:
Today, especially in Catholic brands of Christianity, the Virgin Mary remains high profile and big business. She’s Queen of Heaven and has put in thousands of appearances around the globe. But in the very earliest days of Jesus belief, she wasn’t even on the map. In all of Paul’s letters—and in those forged in his name—the virgin birth of Jesus is not mentioned; these are the oldest Christian documents we have. The author of Mark’s gospel apparently knew nothing about it, and the author of John’s gospel—who surely was familiar with the earlier gospels—didn’t feel it was worth mentioning.
So it is a minority opinion, found only in Matthew and Luke. And just exactly how would they have known that Jesus was virgin-born? Matthew says that Joseph got this information in a dream—how’s that for credible evidence! —and Luke imagined that an angel brought the news to Mary. Curious readers, those inclined to critical thinking, know this doesn’t work. John Loftus, on Christmas day in 2016, wrote on this blog:
“How might anonymous gospel writers, 90+ years later, objectively know Jesus was born of a virgin? Who presumably told them? The Holy Spirit? Why is it that God always speaks to individuals in private, subjective, unevidenced whispers? Those claims are a penny a dozen.”
If Christian were forced to concede that the virgin birth is a myth, it would remove a veneer of holiness from the Jesus figure, and it would make it seem more likely that he was a regular human who died and remained dead. Thus, the accounts of the virginal conception in Matthew and Luke are important to most Christians for this reason. But this theme is not a consistent or majority message in the New Testament…and that is a problem.
(4007) Matthew embellishes Jesus’ glory
When Matthew was copying Mark while writing his gospel, he took liberties to re-engineer the story to make Jesus look better.
In the following instance he changed the disciples’ reaction to Jesus’ walking-on-water trick from having ‘hardened hearts’ to proclaiming Jesus the Son of God:
Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.
Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.””:Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
In the following instance, Matthew changed Mark’s depiction of Jesus being unable to perform miracles because of the peoples’ lack of faith to a simple refusal to do any miracles (which he presumably was capable of doing otherwise).
And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them.
And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.
These are examples of progressive theology, where an author takes what has been written previously but then exercises an agenda to make the changes he sees fit, in this case to present Jesus in a more powerful fashion.
(4008) God not needed for origin of life
A recent scientific discovery has taken God completely out of the formula for the origin of life. A bottleneck in the sequence of events needed for the naturalistic development of life forms has been erased…in fountains. The following was taken from:
Purdue University chemists have discovered a mechanism for peptide-forming reactions to occur in water — something that has baffled scientists for decades.
“This is essentially the chemistry behind the origin of life,” said Graham Cooks. He is the Henry Bohn Hass Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry in Purdue’s College of Science. “This is the first demonstration that primordial molecules, simple amino acids, spontaneously form peptides, the building blocks of life, in droplets of pure water. This is a dramatic discovery.”
This water-based chemistry, which leads to proteins and ultimately to life on Earth, could also lead to the faster development of medicines to treat humanity’s most debilitating diseases. The team’s discovery was published today (October 3, 2022) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Scientists have theorized for decades that life on Earth began in the oceans. However, the chemistry behind this remained an enigma. Raw amino acids — something that meteorites delivered to early Earth daily — can react and latch together to form peptides. These are the building blocks of proteins and, eventually, life. Strangely, the process requires the loss of a water molecule, which seems exceedingly improbable in a wet, aqueous, or oceanic environment. For life to form, it required water. However, it also needed space away from the water.
Cooks, an expert in mass spectrometry and early Earth chemistry, and his research team have uncovered the answer to the riddle: “Water isn’t wet everywhere.” On the margins, where the water droplet meets the atmosphere, extremely quick reactions can take place, transforming abiotic amino acids into the building blocks of life. Therefore, fertile landscapes for life’s potential evolution were in places where sea spray flies into the air and waves pound the land, or where fresh water burbles down a slope.
The chemists have been using mass spectrometers to examine chemical reactions in droplets containing water for more than 10 years.
“The rates of reactions in droplets are anywhere from a hundred to a million times faster than the same chemicals reacting in bulk solution,” Cooks said.
The swift rates of these reactions make catalysts unnecessary, speeding up the reactions and, in the case of early Earth chemistry, making the evolution of life possible. Decades of scientific investigation have been focused on figuring out how this mechanism works. The secret of how life emerged on Earth can help scientists better understand why it happened and guide their search for life on other planets, or even moons.
Understanding how amino acids built themselves up into proteins and, eventually, life forms revolutionizes scientists’ understanding of chemical synthesis. That same chemistry may potentially help synthetic chemists identify and create novel medications and therapeutic treatments for illnesses by accelerating key processes.
“If you walk through an academic campus at night, the buildings with the lights on are where synthetic chemists are working,” Cooks said. “Their experiments are so slow that they run for days or weeks at a time. This isn’t necessary, and using droplet chemistry, we have built an apparatus, which is being used at Purdue now, to speed up the synthesis of novel chemicals and potential new drugs.”
This research provides an additional and perhaps final, fatal blow to the theist argument that God was needed for the origin of life (even if the basic evolutionary process was conceded). Science again has pushed God to the sidelines in our understanding of the universe. Now that life can be seen to form naturally, theists will have to retreat to their last bastion of hope- the Big Bang, and even that is under serious attack by scientists.
(4009) The stolen jewelry analogy
The following analogy strips naked the core of Christian theology that promotes a so-called ‘sacrifice’ as the ultimate solution to the sins of mankind. The following was taken from:
Ah, God and Jesus and their so-called sacrifice. Granted, crucifixion is no cakewalk, but death came within 12–36 (extremely miserable) hours — and then the ordeal was over forever. Of course it’s an excruciating end for a mere man. But Christ? After being deadish for a few days, he woke up, rolled the stone from his tomb, and happily floated upstairs to live with Dad.
We are asked to fall on our knees in awe of God sacrificing His only son, but since Jesus readily assumed his divine, hyper-privileged status in less time than it takes to binge-watch a season of Friends … well, in this case it’s hard to grasp the difference between eternal sacrifice and painful inconvenience.
I’ll put it another way: If my wife’s jewelry was stolen, and the thieves returned the entire loot three days later, ultrasonically cleaned and better than they’d found it, I don’t think I could get many people to empathize forever with our briefest of traumas.
But that’s Christianity to a †.
This is the sandy soil that Christianity is built upon. The ‘jewelry’ was returned better than before. THERE WAS NO SACRIFICE.
(4010) Four mythical persons in one verse
There is no verse in the Bible that displays its mythical nature better than Jude 1:9:
But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
Here we have an archangel (angels don’t exist), the devil (who doesn’t exist), Moses (who didn’t exist), and the Lord (who doesn’t exist even if Jesus was a real person).
The following provides commentary on this verse:
The source of v. 9 is generally thought to be the Assumption of Moses, on account of patristic comments making this identification as well as internal evidence. The best discussion of this is Johannes Tromp in his commentary on the book (Brill, 1993). Richard Bauckham also gives a good analysis of the evidence in his WBC volume on Jude-2 Peter, although I think Tromp’s argument is more convincing. The Assumption of Moses is preserved only in a single Latin manuscript and it is missing its ending. In the portion that is still extant, when Moses was about to die, Joshua implied that no one was fit to bury Moses and no place on earth was fit to hold his body: “Who, being human, will dare to carry your body one from place to another. For all who die when their time has come have a grave in the earth. But your grave extends from the east to the west, and from the north to the extreme south; the entire world is your grave” (11:5-8).
This may imply that Moses would be buried by angels and that the monument of his tomb would be so grand it would have to cover the whole earth. Tromp notes a close Hellenistic parallel in Thucydides, “the entire world is the grave of excellent men” (2.43). We don’t have Moses’ reply or the narrative of his death and burial, but this is what we know: (1) Michael the archangel was responsible for Moses’ body and had a dispute with the Devil about it (Jude 9), (2) there was some uncertainly in Second Temple Judaism over whether Moses died, as Josephus presented Moses as hidden by a cloud and disappearing. (3) Clement of Alexandria and Origen both relate the story, possibly from the Assumption of Moses, that there was a double Moses, one dead who was being buried and one alive being escorted to heaven, (4) the term in the title of the work, ἀνάληψις, is the same term used in Luke-Acts to refer to the ascension of Jesus to heaven, which is in a similar manner to that in Josephus (Jesus hidden behind a cloud and disappearing from view).
This comports well with the description of the ascension of Israel to heaven in the same work: Israel “will mount the neck and wings of an eagle and they will be filled and God will exalt you and make you live in the heaven of the stars, the place of his habitation, and you will look down from above, and you will see your enemies on the earth” (10:8-10).
There are many biblical scholars who wonder why Jude was selected for the New Testament canon. But because it was, they must defend it. The apologetics needed for this purpose are complicated and ultimately ineffective.
(4011) Reacting to hell
The Christian idea of hell is one of the most compelling pieces of evidence against its truth. Not only would a god not create such a place, but it would ensure that its ‘holy book’ would not be polluted with such a hideous concept. The following is the best way to view this gruesome meme:
Just understand that any true loving god would never even think to create a concept like hell.
Any omnipotent creator would necessarily have to understand that they’ve engineered an unwinnable situation with religion until they actually reveal themselves. How can they begin to consider punishing someone for not believing in them when there are literally thousands of different religions that all claim to be the word of god?
You are literally scared of god hurting you for being honest with what you know. You’re scared of god hurting you because he refuses to reveal himself to you.
This is what religion does. It convinces you that you are sick and then offers you the homeopathic remedy. There is no reason to fear hell because any reasonable creator would never have conceived such an immoral concept.
And, if it is real, then I will sit in hell knowing that I am morally superior to the creator of the universe. I wouldn’t want to spend eternity with an entity that condemns billions of humans to suffer for eternity for not believing in him on bad evidence, and I sure as hell would never worship such a being.
Worshiping a being with an inferior morality to themselves is a full-time occupation for Christians. It is quite fortunate that this god, Yahweh, does not exist, and that this unspeakable evil is not woven into the fabric of reality.
It is obvious that early Christians thought that Jesus would return in a matter of a few years while they were still alive. The earliest gospel, Mark, is replete with this short-time theme. But later gospels, written after many of the faithful had died, had to mollify this disappointment without conceding the underlying fidelity of the dogma. So we get the process of de-apocalypticizing, as discussed below:
In Mark 9:1, Jesus says:
“Truly I tell you, there are some who are standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come in power.”
When Luke writes his version of gMark, he copies this quote but leaves out the last few words, so that now Jesus says:
“Truly I tell you, there are some who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:27).
Note that the kingdom no longer “comes in power.” This is consistent with Luke’s framing of the kingdom as having already been here, present in the person of Christ.
Another example of this de-apocalypticizing process is at the trial before the Sanhedrin. Jesus states to the high priest:
“You will see the son of man seated at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62).
Once again, Luke writing long after the high priest was dead modifies Jesus’s words:
“From now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:69).
In other words, Jesus no longer predicts that the high priest himself will be alive when the end comes. The gospel according to John pushes this even further so that when Mary, the sister of Lazarus, tells Jesus that her brother will “be raised on the last day,” Jesus corrects her by saying that he himself, is “the resurrection and the life”!
I won’t belabor the point, but it’s also been argued the Paul softens or modifies his theological message as people in his churches begin dying out.
Aside from the fact that Jesus is dead and will not return, even those who believe in him must concede that God did nothing to dissuade his early believers from harboring a wrong belief about the timing of his return. It would seem that the gospel authors and later Paul or whoever else was allegedly ‘receiving inspiration from the Holy Spirit’ would have gotten it right and put in scripture something like this:
“God has ordained that many generations of new humans must be born before Jesus returns. There are many souls waiting for bodies, so we must be patient for the Lord’s glorious arrival.”
(4013) Christianity is an abusive relationship
Abusive relationships are a hallmark of family and friendship dynamics, something that virtually everyone experiences sometime in their lives. But few Christians see their religion as being abusive. The following lists some of the ways Christians interact with their god that meets the standard definition:
- plays tricks to test the relationship (e.g., Abraham/ Isaac)
- claims they hurt you because they love you
- demands you do as they say without question
- if you behave or believe in a way in which they disapprove, they threaten you with harm
- isolates you from those who disagree
- tells you this is what true love is
- hides evidence of things but demands that you believe in them anyway
- demands full allegiance over any other persons/entities
- discourages you from exploring competing options
- considers anyone who disagrees with them to be liars
- tells you to surrender your time, money, and possessions to them
- demands constant attention, admiration, and adoration
- tells you that you are inherently worthless without them
- encourages you to abandon family ties
- discourages you from learning ‘too much’
- will not forgive until you or someone else suffers
If there really was a god who for some (unknown) reason felt compelled to raise people from the dead and either reward or punish them in some form of an afterlife, it is certainly more probable that this god would simply tell us to live decent, lawful, and loving lives and that is enough. All of these petty rules, pressure, and threats just cheapens and sullies the product.
(4014) Three of four gospel authors don’t mention Paul
It is well established that Paul wrote most of his letters in the 50’s CE and was a prominent figure in the realm of early Christianity. Given that fact, it is somewhat illuminating to observe that the authors of the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and John fail to mention him, given that they wrote in the 70’s to 90’s CE. Luke is the only gospel author to mention Paul in the Book of Acts, but notable not in the Gospel of Luke.
Why this is a salient point is that if Luke was writing factual history, then in the 30’s CE, Jesus made another appearance on Earth to Paul on the road to Damascus. This would represent a proto-second coming. Therefore if this fact was known to the three gospel authors, it would have been natural for them to mention this post-resurrection appearance of Jesus.
What drives this point home is that Paul himself never mentioned the visitation by Jesus. It was only documented by Luke in the Book of Acts. If Paul had been promoting the fact of this appearance (which we would certainly expect if it actually happened), it would have become common knowledge in Christian circles, and the gospel authors would have wanted to add another chapter to their work, documenting that Jesus returned and made another earthly appearance after his resurrection to anoint Paul as his 13th disciple.
The bottom line of this discussion is that it is extremely likely that Paul’s Damascus road vision of Jesus was the invention of one person- the person who wrote Luke-Acts.
(4015) Epistemology does not work in religion
Over time, theories about scientific matters have converged such that scientists all over the world generally agree on most aspects of the natural world. Religion, on the other hand, has diverged over time, with each religion continually spouting new and conflicting denominations. This is a question of epistemology, the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion, and how it works. The following was taken from:
Epistemology is the method in which we obtain knowledge, and religious ways of obtaining knowledge can never move us closer to the truth.
Religious epistemology mostly relies on literary interpretation of historic texts and personal revelation. The problem is, neither of those methods can ever be reconciled with opposing views. If two people disagree about what a verse in the bible means, they can never settle their differences. It’s highly unlikely a new bible verse will be uncovered that will definitively tell them who is right or wrong. Likewise, if one person feels he is speaking to Jesus and another feels Vishnu has whispered in his ear, neither person can convince the other who is right or wrong. Even if one interpretation happens to be right, there is no way to tell.
Meanwhile, the epistemology of science can settle disputes. If two people disagree about whether sound or light travels faster, an experiment will settle it for both opponents. The loser has no choice but to concede, and eventually everyone will agree. The evidence-based epistemology of science will eventually correct false interpretations. Scientific methods may not be able to tell us everything, but we can at least be sure we are getting closer to knowing the right things.
Evidence: the different sects of religion only ever increase with time. Abrahamic religions split into Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Christianity split into Catholics and protestants. Protestants split into Baptists, Methodists, Mormons, etc. There’s no hope any of these branches will ever resolve their differences and join together into a single faith, because there is simply no way to arbitrate between different interpretations. Sikhism is one of the newest religions and already it is fracturing into different interpretations. These differences will only grow with time.
Meanwhile, the cultures of the world started with thousands of different myths about how the world works, but now pretty much everyone agrees on a single universal set of rules for physics, chemistry, biology etc. Radically different cultures like China and the USA used identical theories of physics to send rockets to the moon. This consensus is an amazing feat which is possible because science converges closer and closer to truth, while religion eternally scatters away from it.
If you are a person that cares about knowing true things, then you should only rely on epistemological methods in which disputes can be settled.
Religion does not comport to epistemological methods because evidence that is indisputable does not exist to support any particular view. What this means is that any new offshoot of an existing religious tradition never has to face a day of reckoning-where it becomes obvious to all, including themselves, that they are wrong. This is something scientists, albeit reluctantly sometimes, are often forced to concede. This is why science is much more reliable than religion as a means of discovering truth.
(4016) Broken promises
The Bible promises a lot to the Jews and later to the Christians, but the delivery of these promises never seemed to materialize. From a rational point of view, this should have resulted in the demise of both Judaism and Christianity, but of course that didn’t happen. The following was taken from:
The deal was simple, you polytheists accept me as your only God and i will consider you my special people. Here’s some rules, in fact lots of rules. Here’s what I want you to slaughter, what, why, how many and when (animal sacrifices and other tribes) When you fuck up, and you will, I will kill lots of you, when you repent we go back to our original agreement. You are my “chosen people” and I will look out for you.
Despite all the above the Jews had their arses handed to them time and again. The Assyrians, Babylonians, the Greeks and the Romans to name a few, all invaded and conquered. The God of the Jews, Yahweh, broke his promise to his special people. By 70 CE, and after a few revolts, the temple was completely destroyed and the Jews cowled. The house where their God resided was leveled never to be rebuilt.
Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven was soon to descend, that the Romans would be defeated and peace would reign. He also promised that some of those he was preaching to would be alive to witness it, a message repeated and preached by Paul. Jesus was to return “in glory.”
For both Jews and Christian’s it has been, and still is, a litany of broken promises. Yahweh was not as powerful as he boasted, 2000+ years have passed and Jesus is a no show.
The question of how an omnipotent god could make promises that were not kept is one that few that Christians consider. To an objective observer, it would seem that this god is either not all-powerful, deliberately made promises it never intended to keep, or simply doesn’t exist.
(4017) Christianity’s mark on the world
It would be expected that if the god of the universe made contact with humans that the effect, orchestrated by the religion that he promulgated, would have had a very positive result. It should have engendered an era of peace, harmony, and stability. But a realistic assessment of Christianity’s influence (assuming it to be God’s religion) does not comport to that expectation. The following was taken from:
For the first three centuries the Church was relatively powerless and did little harm. It taught brotherhood, tolerance, peace, love, justice, mercy, and so on, to the extent of encouraging Christian soldiers to desert the Imperial armies. For the next 1,500 years it was extremely powerful and harmful throughout Europe. It caused division, persecution, war, hatred, and injustice, and practised the most spectacular viciousness and brutality.
The Church, in its numerous guises, has a less than enviable record on a wide range of social issues. It has befriended and supported totalitarian, authoritarian, and extreme right-wing regimes. It has abused its power and opposed legal, political and educational reform. It has also opposed liberties and human rights. It has opposed science and rational medicine and taught a wide range of nonsense, insisting that illness was caused by evil spirits, witchcraft and sin. For many centuries the Church maintained its position by a combination of fraud and terror, opposing advances in learning and suppressing the truth. Where Christian dogma has been strongest, so has poverty, misery and ignorance. Christian Churches were wholly responsible for the deaths of millions whose only crime was to dissent from their current version of orthodoxy.
In its heyday the Christian Churches practised routine persecution. They tortured, mutilated, branded, dismembered and killed as a matter of course. They condemned to death any who questioned their dogmas. They burned Jews, heretics, apostates and pagans in large numbers. They imagined enemies everywhere and had them exterminated. Among their countless victims were women whose chief crimes seem to have been living alone, looking old, keeping pets, and knowing something about herbs and midwifery. Christians even persecuted their fellow believers. It is sobering to reflect that over almost 2000 years Christians have never been persecuted by any of their supposed enemies as viciously as they have been persecuted by fellow Christians.
Over the last 200 years the Churches have been losing power and have become relatively harmless again in proportion to their diminishing influence outside the USA. They have sought to obliterate the evidence of their behaviour, substituting sympathetic histories with their members as heroes. In this they have been largely successful. Most people in the developed world, even non-Christians, have a largely positive view of Christianity and its historical record.
Once again Churches preach brotherhood, tolerance, peace, love, justice and mercy. One is reminded of a dangerous recidivist criminal. When in custody he is mild, reasonable, plausible and friendly. But as soon as he is at liberty he commits the same crimes again and again. At the moment he is in the custody of secular society, but he is looking forward to his next parole. At all times and in all parts of the world, mainstream Churches have oppressed people exactly to the extent that they have been able to. This pattern could continue in the future. There is no reason to doubt that it will.
If Christianity is the true religion of the living god, then this god executed a miserable failure. It would have been much better if he had just left all of us alone.
(4018) Spanking causes brain damage
It is well established that Christian parents deliver corporal punishment to their children in greater numbers than non-religious parents. Often this is because of biblical scriptures that tend to endorse this means of discipline. Here are two examples:
Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.
“The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
This biblical endorsement of spanking has come under greater scrutiny now that research has shown that it causes permanent damage to its child victims. This brings into question why Yahweh didn’t see this coming and therefore made sure this disciplinary tactic was proscribed in his ‘message to humankind.’ The following was taken from:
Research has long underscored the negative effects of spanking on children’s social-emotional development, self-regulation, and cognitive development, but new research, published this month, shows that spanking alters children’s brain response in ways similar to severe maltreatment and increases perception of threats.
“The findings are one of the last pieces of evidence to make sense of the research of the last 50 years on spanking,” says researcher Jorge Cuartas, a Ph.D. candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who coauthored the study with Katie McLaughlin, professor at the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. “We know that spanking is not effective and can be harmful for children’s development and increases the chance of mental health issues. With these new findings, we also know it can have potential impact on brain development, changing biology, and leading to lasting consequences.”
The study, “Corporal Punishment and Elevated Neural Response to Threat in Children,” published in Child Development, examined spanked children’s brain functioning in response to perceived environmental threats compared to children who were not spanked. Their findings showed that spanked children exhibited greater brain response, suggesting that spanking can alter children’s brain function in similar ways to severe forms of maltreatment.
The study looked at 147 children, including some who were spanked and some who were not spanked in the beginning years of their lives, to see potential differences to the brain. By using MRI assessment, researchers observed changes in brain response while the children viewed a series of images featuring facial expressions that indicate emotional response, such as frowns and smiles. They found that children who had been spanked had a higher activity response in the areas of their brain that regulate these emotional responses and detect threats — even to facial expressions that most would consider non-threatening.
Perhaps surprisingly, says Cuartas, spanking elicits a similar response in children’s brains to more threatening experiences like sexual abuse. “You see the same reactions in the brain,” Cuartas explains. “Those consequences potentially affect the brain in areas often engaged in emotional regulation and threat detection, so that children can respond quickly to threats in the environment.”
While we tend to think of spanking as an “outdated” practice, it’s still an incredibly common form of discipline used among parents and even in schools — despite the research linking the practice to negative results. There are only 62 countries — not including the United States — with a ban on corporal punishment, Cuartas points out. Additionally, nearly one-third of parents in the United States report spanking their children every week, often to detrimental effects and implications.
“Preschool and school age children — and even adults — [who have been] spanked are more likely to develop anxiety and depression disorders or have more difficulties engaging positively in schools and skills of regulation, which we know are necessary to be successful in educational settings,” he says.
It would have taken little effort for an omnipotent, omniscient being to have a scripture similar to the following to be placed in his holy book:
And Jesus said, ‘you have heard it said that if you spare the rod, you spoil the child. But I say to you to never strike the child, for violence only breeds more violence. Be gentle and be kind to your children and never use violence when punishing wrongdoing.’
If this verse has appeared in even one of the gospels, billions of children would have enjoyed better mental health.
(4019) Five Jesus’s
There are five different versions of Jesus in the New Testament. Some Christians choose one that suits them and go with that, while others try, with great difficulty, to mesh them all together as a single individual. The following was taken from:
We must always remember that there are at least five Jesuses in the New Testament. There is the Jesus of Mark- smart guy, and sincere in his mission, but hardly divine. There is the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount- and this is the Jesus that is usually invoked when we talk about Jesus’ teachings. There is the Jesus of the Gospel of John- modeled after the Dionysian Mystery experience. There is the Jesus of Paul- who validates whatever his believers want to do. And there is the Jesus of the Apocalypse. This is the Jesus that the MAGA/Christian Nationalists worship. This Jesus does not forgive.. This Jesus does not back down. This Jesus blows things up. And that’s how they like it. The problem arises when they- and the rest of the world- thinks all those Jesuses are the same person. Then the Sermon on the Mount is seen as establishing Jesus’ moral superiority, and that’s where they stop. Here’s a hint: they are not the same individual.
If Jesus was a real god-man, a part of God himself, and actually came to this planet to minister to a small subset of Iron Age Middle Easterners, and if God wanted to leave humanity with an authentic record of his actions and deeds, then we can be confident that the Jesus portrayed in the New Testament (a book that an omnipotent god would certainly have had a hand in crafting) would be consistently described throughout. In other words, the scriptures would portray ONE JESUS, NOT FIVE.
(4020) Today’s Christians wouldn’t recognize early Christians
If a Christian alive today could time travel back to the First Century and witness the services of Christians of that time, they would think they were observing a different religion. Much has changed over the past twenty centuries, with new beliefs and practices added on while old ones have been discarded. The following was taken from:
Early liturgical developments show that worship closely resembled what you’d see at a second temple Jewish synagogue. Stephen DeYoung (PhD biblical studies) gave an interview discussing this.. He’s discussing his book Religion of the Apostles.
Besides the first century, as liturgical developments gained with the legalization of Christianity, they developed robustly and closely resembled Jewish temple practices (processing Scripture, vestments, altar tables, and heavily centered on the Eucharist). Robert Taft’s The Liturgy of the Hours gives an excellent breakdown of the development of liturgical rites within Christianity over time. Nothing you see resembled what we see in evangelical circles.
Basically.. it was a highly sacramental worship that closely resembled Jewish worship because, well, they thought Christ was the fulfillment of OT prophecies and that did not require them to stop their temple practices. The Apostles maintained temple attendance after Christ’s resurrection in scripture.
An evolving religion is a hallmark of one that has been created and modified by humans. A religion that remains static over time could be an indication that it is being guided by a god. Needless to say, Christianity does not meet that criterion.
(4021) Jawed vertebrates
Recent research has strengthened the scientific theory that humans evolved from sea creatures. This injects another dagger into the heart of Christianity, seeing as how their scientifically-literate followers perennially have trouble explaining why God didn’t just make humans from scratch as portrayed in Genesis. The following was taken from:
Perhaps the greatest question driving science—and human thought in general—is the mystery of origins. This question has manifested itself in myriad shapes and sizes: our fascination with the Big Bang, the birth of our Earth, the evolution of our own species, and even our own individual genealogies. Especially as many have turned away from religion—the “why” of our existence—we are drawn to the equally enigmatic “how.”
Recently-uncovered ancient fish fossils bring us a little bit closer to one “how”: our species’ evolution from sea creatures. In Southwest China fossil beds, scientists discovered preserved fish fossils from the Silurian Period—a climatically chaotic time in Earth’s history from which few whole fossils remain—helping to piece together the origins of the jawed vertebrate.
“Nearly all the backboned animals or vertebrates you know—for example, those you see in zoos and aquariums, and even including ourselves—are jawed vertebrates,” said Min Zhu, one of the researchers involved. “We can trace almost all our organs in the human body to the first jawed fishes. That’s why it is important to look back, tracing the origins.”
While scientists had speculated that jawed vertebrates evolved some 450 million years ago, the earliest fossils we had were from the late Silurian (425 million years ago). These newly discovered fish species date back to the early Silurian (about 436-439 million years ago), working to fill in the gaps.
One of these new species is based solely on twenty-three tooth whorls, the oldest vertebrate teeth ever discovered. This new species was dubbed the Qianodus duplicis—Qian is the ancient Chinese name for the province in which it was found, while dus comes from the Greek word for tooth. The Q. duplicis fossil provides the earliest evidence of a jawed fish, given their notable similarities to the teeth arrangements of modern jawed vertebrates.
Another remarkable finding on the evolution of jawed vertebrates came from a jawless fish. The group to which the species—Tujiaaspis vividus—once belonged is now extinct, but is nonetheless a close ancestor of jawed vertebrates living and dead. Thus, studying this group may provide “key insights into the evolutionary assembly of the gnathostome [jawed vertebrate] body plan.” Until now, these insights were limited to scraps of fossils, mostly comprised of fish heads, but the T. vividus fossil was nearly complete. T. vividus’s long, sloping fins back up the “fin-fold” theory that describes how fins were first developed, eventually morphing into the paired limbs we know and love.
Part of what is so special about science is its ability to bypass the forward momentum of time. Whether studying the fossil record or peering into space, we can revisit the far reaches of the past, gradually retracing our steps to how it all began.
Anytime evidence builds for evolution, it reinforces the probability that Christianity is untrue. Why God would have vertebrate fish jaws take 439 million years to evolve into a human jaw doesn’t fit the narrative that God made man in his own image and anointed him as his ultimate, most special creature in the universe. This leaves two possibilities- (1) an ultra-patient god or (2) one that doesn’t exist. The other option is to deny this research, but that leads to the following: If you have to fight science to defend your faith, it’s a good clue that there is something seriously wrong with your faith.
(4022) Persistence of demon belief
David Kyle Johnson has written an article explaining why it is impossible to have a justified belief in the existence of demons, but first he has documented the alarming statistics of how many people still believe in demons despite the discovery of natural causes for the activities previously ascribed to them. The following was taken from David Kyle Johnson’s paper Justified Belief in the Existence of Demons is Impossible::
Belief in demons was once nearly ubiquitous in the Western world. They were the “go-to” explanation for almost every bit of suffering we couldn’t explain, from diseases to natural disasters and much more. But finding natural explanations for such things—viruses, bacteria, plate tectonics and the like—did not make belief in demons disappear. An alarming 63% of Americans between eighteen and twenty-nine years old today believe in demonic possession, and that number is on the rise despite the fact that fewer and fewer Americans belong to an organized religion (Wilson 2013). Belief among Christians of any age seems to be around as high, and belief in the American population is just over half (BarnaGroup 2009).
Contrary to expectation, however, belief in demons is not reserved for the unlearned or the “ignorant layperson”. Christian philosopher J. P. Morgan (Biola) and Catholic philosopher Thomas Flint (Notre Dame) believe (Kuhn 2010), as does Asbury New Testament scholar Craig Keener (2011).2 In 2014, the Catholic Church set to training more clergy in exorcism to deal with (what they see as) a rise in demon possessions (Catholic Online 2014). The church may no longer exorcise demons from infants because “every newborn [is] possessed by an indwelling demon because of its intimate con-
tact with its mother’s birth canal” (Robinson 2010), and it may even admit that many apparent possessions are really just mental illness, but the church still takes the existence of demons very seriously (Robinson 2010).
Why do so many still believe? Although some will point to the obvious causal explanation of cultural and religious influence, for epistemic justification many cite stories of demonic activity, such as that during exorcisms. During such episodes, it’s thought that the “possessed” writhe around and exhibit superhuman strength, speak and understand unknown languages, are averse to holy water, spit, curse—and perhaps even levitate. There certainly isn’t a shortage of such stories—Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican’s chief exorcist, alone says that he dealt with 70,000 cases of demonic posses-
sion in twenty-five years—and demonic possession is thought to be the best explanation for them (Owen 2010).
Others don’t need stories; they’ve seen evidence of demons for themselves. Many have professed to have awoken from sleep, only to find a demon 176 David Kyle Johnson sitting on their chest, keeping them from moving. Other experiences include those of scholars like the aforementioned J. P. Moreland and Asbury New Testament scholar Craig Keener. After his talk, “Miracles Reports in the Gospels and Today”, at the Oxford Conference on Divine Action in 2014, Craig admitted to me that he believed in demons because of (anti)miracles he had personally witnessed in Africa. He had not believed before, but his experiences finally forced him to admit that belief in demons was only inconsistent with his Western beliefs—not his Christian beliefs. (He’s obviously misinformed about how many Westerners believe in demons.) And in his interview with Robert Lawrence Kuhn (2010), J. P. Moreland claimed to “know” that such entities exist because “I myself had an encounter with three angels”. (Since demons are classically thought to be fallen angels, Moreland clearly thinks evidence for the former would be good evidence
for the latter.)
And that brings us to our main question. Someone can know that demons exist only if they can be justified in believing they do; knowledge requires justification. So, is justified belief in the existence of demons possible? Do, for example, stories of demon possession or personal experiences of seeming demonic activity provide sufficient evidence for such belief? As we shall now see, the answer is “no”. It is perhaps too generous to say that I argue that this is the case; I merely explain why the method of reasoning that must apply to such cases entails that it is impossible for belief in the existence of demons to be justified.
Any alien would be alarmed at the percentage of people who believe that they are living in a reality where mass-less entities are terrorizing them. This would appear to them to be a mass hysteria. For those with objective minds, it is obvious that demons don’t exist and that this fact comes within a whisker all by itself of proving that Christianity is untrue. Jesus is portrayed to believe in them to such an extent that no rationalization is sufficient.
(4023) Without excuse
One problem that Christian theologians struggle with is what to do about people who are raised in different religions or no religion. Should they be sent to hell or given a chance after death (which would seem to be a slam-dunk)? One solution was encoded in the Book of Romans, but it has been determined to be an interpolation. The concept advanced by the fraudulent editor was that everyone knows God and thus has no excuse for not worshiping him. Here is the scripture with the interpolation italicized:
Romans 1:18- 2:1
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
The following explains how it is known that this passage is an interpolation:
I agree much more with P.N. Harrison, Adolf Harnack, and Jason BeDuhn in regards to that passage. They have all argued that Romans 1.19-2.1 is an interpolation.
In BeDuhn’s The First New Testament he gives the best, thorough examination at Marcion’s canon, and the textual differences between it and the canonical texts. It’s rather evident based on Tertullian’s witness that Marcion lacked 1.19-2.1 entirely (p.296). Furthermore, BeDuhn throughout the book defends that Marcion’s text most likely reflects more closely the original texts. This is because he would actually predate almost all of our current manuscripts, the “omissions” Marcion has don’t reflect his supposed theological bias (according to the old heresy hunters) while Marcion also didn’t seem to omit many things you’d expect him to (for instance references to Abraham), and the fact a lot of textual variants reflect some of Marcion’s specific differences.
This fraudulent scripture has been used to justify sending non-Christians to hell whether or not they were born into it or otherwise had a chance to learn about it. Further, it has been used to condemn homosexuality. It is telling that God did not protect the fidelity of Paul’s writings (assuming Paul was his legitimate mouthpiece), but allowed an interloper to inject mean and vengeful threats, polluting his ‘sacred’ message to humankind.
(4024) Argument from ambiguity
It can be argued that a book ‘written’ by a God that had high stakes implications for the eternal fate of humans would be very clear in its message, leaving little room for various interpretations. Its ambiguity quotient should be very low. But that is not what we observe in the Bible. The following was taken from:
Christians are always blathering on about how the Bible is flawless, but something without flaw is by definition something you can’t improve. But I, a mere mortal, could vastly improve the Bible by adding just one page to it. I’m not even talking about pushing any liberal beliefs. I could improve it by just adding a bit of fucking clarity.
Baptism shall be done by complete immersion at the age of 14.
Jesus is God in a human body, neither less than nor more than God,
and the Holy Spirit is God also, neither less than nor more than God.
These Old Testament Laws are no longer applicable: <insert list>
These Old Testament Laws are still binding: <insert list>
Literally, that’s it. People have been fighting over this shit for 2000 freaking years! All it would take is one page of clarification to fix literally millennia of doctrinal disputes. Throw in another page titled “Everything you ever needed to know about salvation and exactly how it works” and you’ve already improved upon the supposedly divinely inspired work of Yahweh.
The Bible fails in its effort to guide Christians onto a unified path, as can be attested by 40,000 different denominations. All it would have taken is text similar to the above to provide clarity and consistency for the practitioners of the faith. The lack of such is indicative of a human rather than divine work.
(4025) Healing with bones
It takes little thought to realize that the Bible contains a lot of ridiculous magical myths, but one of the best examples of this is when a dead man was made to touch the bones of another dead man, he came back to life. How does a Christian believe this really happened? The following was taken from:
The book of 2 Kings has a brief story about Israelites burying a man (2 Kings 13:20–21). When they saw bandits approaching, they threw the body into the tomb of the prophet Elisha and fled. The body touched the bones of Elisha, and the man came to life.
This two-verse story fills me with questions! Consider how it impacts the Christian worldview.
- Were Elisha’s bones permanently curative, or was the cure haphazard like a slot machine, or did this happen only once? Why is there no mention of other people using this marvelous discovery? Surely word would have spread, and others would have taken advantage of this cure.
- How many ancient sages’ or prophets’ bones had this property? Do we have any today that can do this, or does the magic fade with time? Besides bones, what other body parts were magical? And what could they do besides restoring life? You’d think that something that can restore life would be able to perform lesser cures like fix a broken bone or cure a cold. Could they cure baldness? If so, that would be surprising since Elisha was famously bald.
- Surely some holy relics in churches today have magical properties. If they can’t restore life, maybe they can perform lesser miracles. Which relics are real, and which are fake? Why aren’t these used to reliably cure people today (especially today, since we know that we are saddled with the trials of life, unlike Jesus, who thought that the End was just around the corner). And if relics can’t reliably do anything, why revere them?
- If the communion wafer and wine, once blessed, become the body and blood of Jesus (in the Roman Catholic church, anyway), what magic can we expect from that? As an aside, if consuming the eucharist and wine have an effect in the supernatural world, why consume it every time it’s offered? Shouldn’t once be enough?
- The dead man was restored to life by touching Elisha’s bones, but isn’t it odd that Elisha himself stayed dead?
We can wonder why this miracle story was put in. But now that it’s in, the Bible must justify it.
Imagine a biologist dropped onto an isolated island who wanted to catalog the strange new plants and animals. That’s who I feel like—I want a taxonomy of this magical world we apparently live in. Perhaps the bigger question is, why isn’t everyone else similarly intrigued? Why don’t they ask the questions above?
It seems that Christians see these Bible miracles as a hierarchy. There are the big ones: the parting of the Red Sea, the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus, the raising of Lazarus, and others are central to the Christian belief. It’s hard to be a Christian and not know these stories.
Christianity is saddled with hundreds of miracle stories in their holy text that reasonable people realize never happened. The problem comes on where to draw the line between fantasy and truth. Bible literalists don’t even have a line, while atheists place the line very near the point where there is very little truth. But it should be realized that if an omnipotent god inspired his textual message to humankind, it would contain all reality, and no fantasy- and there would be no line.
(4026) Secular humanists speak
In a world where Christianity was true, there would be few intelligent humans resisting what would be (in that case) overwhelming evidence of its truth. But that is not the world that we inhabit. Instead, the evidence for Christianity is vanishingly weak. And this lends to the existence of the following quotes by famous people who realized that fact:
“Secular humanists suspect there is something more gloriously human about resisting the religious impulse; about accepting the cold truth, even if that truth is only that the universe is as indifferent to us as we are to it.” ~ Tom Flynn
“My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” ~ Thomas Paine
“Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.” ~ Seneca the Younger
“It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” ~ Mark Twain
“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” ~ Douglas Adams
“Take from the church the miraculous, the supernatural, the incomprehensible, the unreasonable, the impossible, the unknowable, the absurd, and nothing but a vacuum remains.” ~ Robert Green Ingersoll
“Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.” ~ Madalyn Murray O’Hair
“Faith: not wanting to know what is true.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
“I’m not against religion in the sense that I feel I can’t tolerate it, but I think written into the rubric of religion is the certainty of its own truth. And since there are 6,000 religions currently on the face of the earth, they can’t all be right. And only the secular spirit can guarantee those freedoms and it’s the secular spirit that they contest.” ~ Ian Mcewan
“A man’s ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.” ~ Albert Einstein
“I have no religion, and at times I wish all religions at the bottom of the sea. He is a weak ruler who needs religion to uphold his government; it is as if he would catch his people in a trap. My people are going to learn the principles of democracy, the dictates of truth and the teachings of science. Superstition must go. Let them worship as they will; every man can follow his own conscience, provided it does not interfere with sane reason or bid him against the liberty of his fellow-men.” ~ Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
“History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
None of these quotes would have been uttered in a Christian universe. It is unlikely that there is anything in the universe that would be categorized as ‘supernatural,’ but if such does exist, it is certain that it is not associated with Christianity.
(4027) Bible reboots
It should concern Christians that the Bible records a sequence of reboots, or changes in strategy, that their god has engineered over the centuries. If Jesus was to be the final answer for human salvation, then why wasn’t he sacrificed in the Garden of Eden?- it would have simplified everything. The following was taken from:
God in the Bible will make a covenant with his people, and you’d think that since he’s made the sale, the book will end. But then the Bible stories keep coming. In part 1, we saw how God made covenants with Adam, then Noah, and then Abraham. After each one, you’re ready to read The End or “And they lived happily ever after” or some other wrapup. Perhaps after the covenant with Abraham we’re finally finished?
Nope—God wants to reboot this story yet again.
The Bible, take four (Moses)
Abraham begets Isaac, who begets Jacob, who then begets twelve sons, one of whom is Joseph. Joseph is annoying, and his brothers sell him into slavery. Joseph winds up in Egypt, but you can’t keep God’s man down, and God makes Joseph the Pharaoh’s right-hand man. That’s a nice bit of luck, because famine forces Jacob and sons to Egypt, and they could do with a family member with lots of power.
Generations go by, with Jacob’s descendants happily living in Egypt, still divided into twelve tribes according to the lineage of Jacob’s sons. But somehow the Israelites go from being guests to slaves.
And then Moses is born. He goes from the child of slaves to member of the royal household when he’s found floating in a basket (as coincidentally happened to Sargon, the founder of the Akkadian Empire, centuries before).
Moses first hears from the Almighty through a burning bush. Now on a mission from God, Moses and his brother Aaron haggle with Pharaoh for the freedom of the Israelites. The ten plagues helped. Weighed down with gold and silver taken from the Egyptians, they’re off for a quick trip across the Sinai to Canaan that takes forty years.
At Mount Sinai, God tells the Israelites (Exodus 19), “If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession,” and the people agree. One chapter later, God gives what’s popularly known as the Ten Commandments. The covenant is confirmed with sacrifices and blood sprinkled on the people (Exodus 24).
So we’re good?
Nope—we need lots more laws and rules. Moses is finally ready to return from Mount Sinai, but by this time the impatient and fearful Israelites (with Aaron’s help) have made a golden calf to comfort themselves. God wants to press the Big Reset Button in the Sky again, but Moses talks him out of it by referring to the perpetual Abrahamic covenant. (It must not have been that great a plan if God let himself be talked out of it.)
Moses smashes the stone tablets of the Law on the golden idol. The people are punished, and Moses goes back up for a duplicate set of Ten Commandments (which isn’t even close to being the same set), and that set is stored in the Ark of the Covenant.
There’s plenty more about the Mosaic covenant being a perpetual contract. The priesthood of Aaron’s descendants is “permanent” (Numbers 25:13, also Exodus 40:15), the Day of Atonement is a “lasting ordinance” (Leviticus 16:34), God says about the laws, “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of Yahweh your God that I give you” (Deuteronomy 4:2), and so on.
Finally! We’ve got to be done now, right?
The Bible, take five (Jesus)
You’d think that if Jesus were the point of God’s story, if he were the person necessary for people to avoid hell, Jesus would be in the Garden of Eden in Genesis, and it wouldn’t take a bunch of reboots and irrelevant covenants to get here. As it is, the Old Testament becomes just long-winded throat clearing, and much of the New Testament must rationalize away the incompatibility.
We read in the Law, “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal” (Psalm 119:160). But God’s words aren’t particularly eternal according to the author of Hebrews, which weaves a legal case that Jesus was a priest “in the order of Melchizedek.” Since Abraham honored Melchizedek long before Moses, Jesus trumps the Levitical priesthood that was created from the Mosaic covenant. Or something.
This New Testament reboot upsets a lot of assumptions from before. What does it say about God that Jesus had to come down to straighten out his story? You’d think that an omniscient creator of the universe could convey things clearly. Here are a few things Jesus had to clarify.
- The afterlife is no longer a vague existence in Sheol but is either bliss or torment, depending on your beliefs (or maybe depending on your works).
- God isn’t just a monotheistic Yahweh but has become a Trinity (in Christianity though not in the New Testament).
- In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes several corrections of the “You have heard it said … , but I tell you” form. Jesus redefines murder, adultery, divorce, the correct response to injustice, prayer, and so on, making one wonder if it makes sense to correct the omnipotent creator of the universe.
- The “death” of Jesus is said to be the sacrifice to (literally) end all sacrifices. (Let’s ignore the fact that no provision in the Law is ever given to permit the sacrifice of a human; Jesus wasn’t burned, which was required for any sacrifice; Jesus wasn’t part of any tribe and so couldn’t hold the office of Levitical priest to offer a sacrifice; and Jesus wasn’t physically unblemished, as was required for any sacrifice.)
- And that whole Chosen People thing for the Jews? No—Yahweh is now everyone’s god.
But surely this is the last reboot, right?
Nope—Islam was another reboot, Mormonism was another, and Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church was another. Even the form of God evolving from Jewish monotheism into a Trinity at the First Council of Nicaea (325 CE) and the First Council of Constantinople (381) could be seen as a reboot.
Christians can hardly criticize reboots when their own religion was built on them.
What explains this?
There are at least four possible explanations for why we see these reboots in God’s instruction manual.
First, God kept changing his mind. This doesn’t put omniscient God in a good light if he kept forgetting the point or changing his mind.
Second, humanity kept changing, and God’s plan had to adapt. This makes no sense since a baby taken from an Israelite family 3000 years ago and raised in the modern world would have the same potential as other babies growing up in its new environment.
Third, the fault is with the human scribes and keepers of the Bible, and if it had just been written and copied correctly, it would make sense. One wonders, then, why God would allow his message to become so muddled.
Finally, God doesn’t exist, and the Bible is just the blog of a desert tribe from long ago. It’s no more accurate than the pre-scientific musings of hundreds of other religions.
I think this last interpretation paints the most dignified picture of God. Instead of a forgetful dolt or an inept manager, God was just the best explanation that one tribe could put together in a frightening and insecure time.
This story is just too convoluted to be the choreography of an omnipotent god. It seems much more likely the product of generations of humans who had new ideas as time progressed. The concept that Christianity was made solely by humans satisfactorily answers every theological question.
(4028) God’s strange hiding habit
One of the strangest aspects of Christianity is the assumption that God loves everyone and wants them to be ‘saved’ but at the same time withholds the demonstration of his existence to such an extent that many assume he is not real, and therefore presumably go to hell. This is a quandary. The following was taken from:
God knows that if we don’t understand and get on board with his plan, we will go to hell. He doesn’t want that. So what does God do to give us the basic information we need to know that he simply exists?
Christians might find God in the basic facts of nature—happy things like sunsets and puppies—but they ignore unpleasant things like tornadoes and cholera. Puppies and tornadoes point to the Flying Spaghetti Monster (or Satan) as much as they do the Christian God.
Or the Christians might quote Bible passages (“Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities … have been clearly seen … so that people are without excuse” from Romans 1:20), ignoring that the Bible is not binding on non-Christians.
God is a billion times smarter than me, and he can’t convince me he even exists? A slug can convince me that it exists by just lying there. This existence thing apparently just flummoxes God.
A popular Christian response is to say that God’s making himself known would violate our free will. As C. S. Lewis said in Screwtape Letters, “[God] cannot ravish. He can only woo.”
Nonsense. This is one of the weakest Christian apologetic responses in a vast arsenal of substandard responses. Our request is a reasonable one, and we shouldn’t apologize for it. God should have made his existence (and properties) known to all. That he doesn’t is just one more reason to think we’re not living in God World.
Divine hiddenness it what we would expect of a god that doesn’t exist, and this seems to fit the bill for this Yahweh character. Otherwise, we must assume he is playing tricks on us and is not all loving.
(4029) Christians use deist arguments
In defense of their faith, Christians invariably use arguments that could apply to any religion. This is termed deism. If Christianity was real, they would have ammunition to differentiate themselves from all other religions and present a compelling case. The following was taken from:
What’s common among the most popular Christian apologetic arguments? They’re all deist arguments. That means they argue for Islam, Mormonism, or Satanism as much as they do Christianity.
A Christian appeal for the existence of God typically brings up arguments such as these.
- The Moral argument: How can there be objective moral truth without God?
- The Cosmological argument: The universe had a beginning, which requires a cause, and that cause was God.
- The Fine-Tuning argument: The constants in the universe are fine-tuned for life, and that must’ve been done by God.
There are lots more arguments like these—the Ontological Argument, the Design Argument, the Transcendental Argument, and even the Argument from Mathematics. These are all deist arguments, which means that the god behind them might have been nothing more than a clockmaker who created and wound up the universe and then walked away. And if the creator god actually does interact with our world, nothing in these arguments points to the Christian god any more than to Marduk, Allah, Brahma, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
If we lived in God World, the go-to arguments would unambiguously identify this god, not be one-size-fits-all arguments that point to no god in particular—not Yahweh any more than the Invisible Pink Unicorn.
And just so no one is confused, the arguments in the list above fail.
- The Moral argument needs to first establish that objective truth exists.
- The Cosmological argument fails in many ways.
- The Fine-Tuning argument also fails. A universe made by God wouldn’t need fine tuning since God can make life anywhere (he’s God, remember). And there’s the multiverse, which is predicted by the theory of cosmic inflation, which is well supported by evidence. The multiverse could accommodate a vast number of universes with arbitrary settings of the universal constants.
Christianity is devoid of evidence that could demonstrate its reality to the exclusion of all others. If it was true, such evidence would be plentiful ‘low-lying fruit’ that they could sling in every direction. Instead, they default to impotent deist arguments that apply universally.
(4030) A true religion would not need faith statements
Christian universities often employ mandatory statements of faith for its faculty and students. This constrains any exploration of evidence that might contradict their doctrine, something that otherwise would be encouraged if they were confident they possessed the truth. The following was taken from:
Faith statements (doctrinal statements) are contracts that Christian scholars must commit to at many Christian universities and ministries. These statements might, for example, declare that God exists as a Trinity, life didn’t evolve but was designed by God, or they might state that Jesus had a virgin birth.
The problem is that these statements are not a commitment to follow the evidence but a commitment to a predetermined conclusion regardless of the evidence. Suppose a professor has signed a doctrinal statement that includes the virgin birth and then writes an article arguing that the virgin birth was historical. What good is that article when we knew beforehand that they were obliged to reach that conclusion and that their job was at risk if they published the wrong conclusion? The professor has no reputation for honest scholarship, and readers must critique the argument themselves, which is beyond most readers’ ability.
A university that constrains its professors with a doctrinal statement has created a straightjacketed environment. Even if scholars honestly followed the evidence where it led, readers could only think that they were parroting their doctrinal statement.
More importantly for our purposes, that university has created scholarship with training wheels by prohibiting all that pesky contrary evidence. Their arguments can’t take the critique that historical arguments must face in the real world, so they have created their own parallel kindergarten with a low bar of evidence.
If we lived in God World, no one would need to discard rigorous standards for scholarship because the evidence for God would meet those standards. Said another way, the mandatory low standards for Christian “scholarship” and its inability to compete with other disciplines makes clear that we don’t live in God World.
This situation would be similar to a university 200 years ago having a statement of faith saying that the Milky Way is the only galaxy in the universe. This would preclude anyone from exploring evidence to the contrary. Only false religions need dogmatic faith statements.
(4031) Bible heroes rejected Jesus on better evidence
Today’s Christians are expected to accept the Jesus story on the basis of evidence far weaker than Paul, John the Baptist, and the disciples had in hand when they doubted the same. Shouldn’t contemporary Christians insist on getting the same opportunity to see the things that turned these people into believers? The following was taken from:
Christian apologists was us to accept their weak evidence for the divinity of Jesus. But why should we when Paul, John the Baptist, and even the disciples didn’t accept even more compelling evidence?
The gospel story is from long ago and far away, and yet Christians insist it’s history. Even if we could accept the gospel story as true, why should we accept any element of the story that wasn’t convincing at the time?
The gospel story didn’t convince Paul
Paul was a dedicated Pharisee (the Pharisees were an influential Jewish group during the time of Jesus), and he emphasized in his letters how enthusiastically he persecuted Christians. Though he didn’t make his motivations clear, we can assume that he was offended by this upstart Christian movement within Judaism. That suggests that he understood Christianity’s claims but wasn’t convinced
He certainly had the opportunity. Paul heard Stephen’s long speech just before he was killed and was unmoved by Stephen’s reference to Jesus. Paul had the opportunity to discuss Christianity with the Christians he arrested.
Only after the death of Jesus, on a trip to Damascus to arrest more Christians, did Paul become a Christian. If Paul was unconvinced by the arguments of Christians of the time, at least one of whom had been a disciple, why should they convince us when we are far more separated from Jesus by language, culture, and time? If Paul was only satisfied by a personal vision from Jesus, why should we be satisfied with less?
The gospel story also didn’t convince John the Baptist
The skepticism of John the Baptist is even more remarkable. John knew exactly who Jesus was when he baptized him. He heard God’s voice from heaven proclaiming Jesus as God’s son and saw “the Spirit of God descending like a dove” (Matthew 3:16–17). He reported afterwards, “I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One” (John 1:34; see also 1:29).
John knew this even before he was born. Mary (when pregnant with Jesus) visited her relative Elizabeth (when pregnant with John). We read, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:41), and she was filled with the Holy Spirit.
But John apparently forgot all that. During Jesus’s ministry, John was in prison, and he sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus said that he was, and he pointed to his healing miracles to support his claim (Matt. 11:1–5).
John needs to ask if Jesus is the One despite having heard the voice of God and seen the Holy Spirit descend to Jesus?! If John was entitled to question given that banquet of evidence, what are we to do with the watery gruel that we’re given?
Jesus explains the end game to the disciples and they … forget?
The end of the gospel story is pretty remarkable: Jesus will die by crucifixion and then rise from the dead. That is probably not the way the disciples expected it to end. But that’s okay, because Jesus explained it all to them.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matthew 16:21)
When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” (Matt. 17:22-23)
“We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Matt. 20:18-19)
Crucified, three days, raised back to life—the key points are all there. And that’s just Matthew. The other two synoptic gospels explain this three times, and John has a few instances as well.
Since this was public knowledge, at least among the disciples, why the sad faces after the crucifixion? Why did the women go to the tomb with spices? The disciples should’ve been camped out in front of the tomb with picnic baskets and blankets to witness the most remarkable miracle since the creation of the world.
And if the disciples can get it this wrong, no one can fault modern Christians for being very skeptical given that they have the faintest whisper of evidence compared to what the disciples had.
In the absence of compelling evidence, Christianity has raised the exercise of faith, believing without seeing, as the gold standard- more exemplary than if you witness a miracle. Christians are being commanded to have more faith than Paul, John the Baptist, as well as Jesus’ disciples. If something sounds strange about this, it is because it is. Faith without evidence is just faith. It can be used to (erroneously) justify belief in literally anything.
(4032) The ice cream shop analogy
Christians try to make it seem like there are only two choices- to believe in and worship THEIR god or not to do so. This is a logical fallacy. The following was taken from:
Some Christians say that there are two options. Either choose god, or choose not to worship him and go to hell. However, this isn’t a fair choice, because it is impossible to make a fully informed choice if you aren’t sure if one of the options is even available.
For example, imagine you go to an ice cream place, and chocolate and vanilla are the only two kinds of ice cream on the menu board. There is no mention of strawberry anywhere, but your friend keeps pressuring you to ask for strawberry. He insists it’s there. You ask the workers there, and they say yeah, they think there may be strawberry back there, but they’ve never seen it. If you pick a different flavor, is it accurate to say that you were fully informed, and picked chocolate or vanilla OVER strawberry?
No. You weren’t even fully aware strawberry was a choice. It was impossible for you to make a choice properly when you didn’t know all the facts. If it turns out that later there was some strawberry ice cream in the back, and maybe you could have gotten some, it wouldn’t be fair to blame you and say “it’s your fault for not believing strawberry was available and continually insisting that you get it.” No, you’d blame the store for not being clear about the choices.
In the same way, atheists and agnostics aren’t choosing something else over god, because no one can ever really make an informed choice to follow god, because it’s impossible to know for sure that he is an option. It isn’t fair to portray this as a black and white choice, and a simple matter, because it isn’t one.
This underscores a reality that Christians overlook- if there really was a god of the type they believe in, one that intends to handsomely reward or severely punish people depending on whether they worship ‘him’ -then there would be no ambiguity as to ‘his’ existence. The only thing that could be legitimately considered a ‘choice’ would be to either worship or refuse to worship a KNOWN deity.
(4033) Malleus Maleficarum
If we know that witches don’t exist, then certainly an omniscient god would know that as well. Such a god would be in communication with his followers and be able to influence their beliefs, thoughts, and actions. So when the book Malleus Maleficarum was published in the 15th Century giving erroneous information about how to detect witches, surely this omni god would prevent his followers from believing its content and using to to convict and kill innocent women. Right? Wrong! Yahweh let it happen right under his nose. It was a deplorable time for the human species. The following was taken from:
Books have always had the power to cast a spell over their readers – figuratively.
But one book that was quite popular from the 15th to 17th centuries, and infamously so, is literally about spells: what witches do, how do identify them, how to get them to confess, and how to bring them to swift punishment.
As fear of witches reached a fever pitch in Europe, witch hunters turned to the “Malleus Maleficarum,” or “Hammer of Witches,” for guidance. The book’s instructions helped convict some of the tens of thousands of people – almost all women – who were executed during the period. Its bloody legacy stretched to North America, with 25 supposed “witches” killed in Salem, Massachusetts, in the late 1600s.
As a reference librarian and adjunct professor at the General Theological Seminary in New York, I have the rare opportunity to hold an original copy of the “Malleus” in my hands and share this piece of history with my students and researchers. Much has been written about the contents, but the physical book itself is a fascinating testament to history.
The “Malleus” was written circa 1486 by two Dominican friars, Johann Sprenger and Heinrich Kraemer, who present their guide in three parts.
The first argues that witches do in fact exist, sorcery is heresy, and not fearing witches’ power is itself an act of heresy. Part Two goes into graphic detail about witches’ sexual deviancy, with one chapter devoted to “the Way whereby Witches copulate with those Devils known as Incubi.” An incubus was a male demon believed to have sex with sleeping women.
It also describes witches’ ability to turn their victims into animals, and their violence against children. The third and final part gives guidelines on how to interrogate a witch, including through torture; get her to confess; and ultimately sentence her.
Twenty-eight editions of the “Malleus” were published between 1486 and 1600, making it the definitive guide on witchcraft and demonology for many years – and helping the prosecution of witches take off.
The authors of the text reluctantly admit that men can be agents of the devil, but argue that women are weak and inherently more sinful, making them his perfect targets.
Accusations were often rooted in the belief that women, especially those who did not submit to ideals about obedient Christian wives and mothers, were prone to be in league with the devil.
The authors detail “four horrible crimes which devils commit against infants, both in the mother’s womb and afterwards.” They even accuse witches of eating newborns and are especially suspicious of midwives.
Women on the fringes of society, such as healers in Europe or the slave Tituba in Salem, were convenient scapegoats for society’s ills.
Yahweh failed miserably to clean up this ignorant mess of humanity’s fatal superstitions. Or maybe he just doesn’t exist. Wonder which is more likely?
(4034) Natural disasters
The following essay explains why natural disasters with natural explanations are evidence that God doesn’t exist:
God’s marvelous plan is not that marvelous. Eight million people have died from natural disasters since 1900. If God approved of those natural disasters, then he’s not worthy of praise.
When we fight against natural disasters—stack sandbags against a flood, create vaccines, or warn people about hurricanes—are we subverting God’s plan? How can Christians hold in their heads these two contradictory ideas, that God’s plan is to kill millions by natural disasters and that we should do our best to subvert that plan? What does it say about the vagueness of God’s plan that we must ask that question?
Christian apologists trot out a couple of flabby responses to God’s embarrassing lack of interest in stopping natural disasters. First, if God exists, he has good reasons. In other words, just trust God. Don’t second-guess him. But with this argument we meet our old friend, the Hypothetical God Fallacy. The key word is the if. Yes, if God exists, then you Christians win the argument! You can just stop there.
But you know that you can’t assume God into existence; you must provide evidence. Assuming God into existence doesn’t support your argument. If you want to argue that God has good reasons, you must first show us that God exists.
An alternative argument you could make is to enumerate possible good reasons God might have for allowing the disaster. And don’t say, “Well—who knows?—it might be this.” No, you must make a convincing, non-hand-waving argument showing us how things could plausibly be objectively better after the disaster. Otherwise, why imagine God might have good reasons if you can’t come up with any?
Second, apologists look at the value of natural disasters. Maybe they’ll say that earthquakes are part of a natural process that recycles minerals. Or that hurricanes are just part of the weather cycle, and we don’t complain about that part of the weather that’s gentle spring rains and warm summer sun, do we?
This is the inept argument that desperate apologists like John Lennox make to assist his impotent god. It’s actually humans’ fault, he’ll add, because we build in flood plains or near coasts or on fault lines.
(Okay, today we can blame humans for some of this, though it would’ve been nice for God to have guided city placement centuries ago, before we knew the science.)
And if earthquakes are necessary, God could just clip their magnitude. The energy of a magnitude 8 earthquake could be channeled into 30,000 magnitude 5 earthquakes (the second option is a gentler way to release the same amount of energy). Tornadoes could be steered away from towns. Rainstorms could be spread out to avoid flash floods. Droughts and locusts could just be eliminated. God is magic, remember?
Natural disasters with natural explanations are evidence that God doesn’t exist.
Christians have struggled to explain how an omnipotent god can seem so callous as to allow natural disasters to kill, main, injure, and displace millions of people every year when such a god would have the ability to easily prevent them. It almost seems as if this god doesn’t exist.
(4035) Bible’s questionable origins
You would think that the most important book ever written, a message from the creator of the universe, would have impeccable credentials, with text written by Jesus himself, and eyewitness accounts from his disciples, and with the originals rigorously preserved. But the reality is far different, with the entire New Testament being written by non-eyewitnesses, and much of it written after all of the original apostles were likely dead, in a language that they wouldn’t understand. The following was taken from:
It is common to celebrate the heroism and determination of the apostle Paul, especially as he is portrayed in the Book of Acts. But then we hit a brick wall: this apostle, whose writings are the first we have about Jesus Christ, never met or knew Jesus—and bragged that he didn’t learn anything about Jesus from those who had followed him: “For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin, for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:11-12) Paul had no problem claiming it was “a revelation,” but we can be properly skeptical about getting messages from the spiritual realm: where is the reliable, verifiable data that this actually happens? A better explanation is that Paul suffered from hallucinations. So this is not good: the Christian religion received a major primary boost from the hallucinations of a man who never met Jesus. This must qualify as a distressing reality.
Nor can Christians fall back on the gospels as a firm anchor for the truth about Jesus. There is scant evidence that they were written by eyewitnesses. The broad consensus among Christian scholars—outside of fundamentalist/evangelical circles—is that the gospels were written after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE during the First Jewish-Roman War. This ferocious conflict brought widespread devastation; it is highly improbable that anyone in the original Jesus-sect, i.e., eyewitnesses, would have survived. Thus one of the agonizing dilemmas in New Testament scholarship: there is no way to verify any of the words and deeds of Jesus reported in the gospels. Especially since the gospels read so much like fantasy literature. Devout readers may think this is okay—after all, they believe in miracles. But each miracle story, each bit of folklore and magical thinking, forces historians to concede that the gospels fail as history. They qualify rather as propaganda literature for the early Jesus cult. And they worked so well in this capacity for centuries, until critical, skeptical analysis of the gospels began to take over.
The fact that the gospels were written in Greek points to even more complications in figuring out Christian origins. Dennis MacDonald has shown, in several of his books, that the gospel writers were influenced by Greek literature in creating their stories about Jesus. Thus it’s no surprise that themes common in other religions were grafted onto the Jesus narratives, e.g., a hero or divine son born of a virgin, a dying-and-rising god bringing salvation to followers; so many of the wonders attributed to Jesus are similar to miracle folklore found in other religious traditions.
Yet all these factors that influenced the birth and evolution of Christianity remain outside the awareness of those who show up for church—for the worship experience. Many priests and preachers may be in the dark themselves. They were trained to “spread the gospel,” not to encourage probing, skepticism, and doubt. The literature on the complex origins of the Christian faith is now vast; scholars have been studying it for a long time. But almost none of this has filtered down to the laity.
This situation is not consistent with the concept that God is a Christian and intended to give us a book to document what we need to know. Rather, it looks very much like what would be expected if the whole enterprise was just a weakly-organized, cobbled-together effort by a long lineage of disagreeing humans.
(4036) Early to Middle to Late Traditions
A careful read of the gospels in chronological order of creation gives us a good picture of how the Jesus tradition evolved. This insight lets us know that any real history was at best accurately depicted strictly in the early traditions and that the end product is almost entirely mythical. The following was taken from:
Example of early traditions (maybe shortly after his death?):
- Jesus was born as a human and not much is known about his early life (Mark 1 for example)
- Jesus gained many followers in his Jewish community
- Judas betrays Jesus without really any motive given
Example of middle traditions (maybe around the time of Paul?):
- Jesus was born from a woman, but through a miraculous virgin birth
- Jesus gained many followers in his Jewish community, but some of the Jewish leaders opposed him
- Judas betrays Jesus because he was filled with the devil
Example of late/current traditions (maybe the end of the 1st century/beginning of 2nd century):
- Jesus existed since the beginning and came down in human form from the heavens
- Jesus gained many followers, but many of “The Jews” (John 8) opposed him
- Judas betrays Jesus, but Jesus already knew about it since the beginning and it was all part of the “plan”
Mythologizing is not just an ancient tradition. This also occurred recently with such figures as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and John F. Kennedy. It seems that humans like to add embellishments to their memories of long dead heroes. It just happened that Jesus was the recipient of an especially large dose of the same.
(4037) Three reasons why faith persists
We are now living in a scientific age and have long since discarded belief (for the most part) in witches, ghosts, and the like. But one superstition that remains strong is the various religious faiths that have been sustained over many centuries. It is illuminating to understand why these religions have survived this great awakening of human consciousness. The following lists three reasons why faith persists:
- CULTURAL IDENTITY
This is by far the biggest point, in my opinion. Contrary to popular belief, religion isn’t a choice. It’s given to you like a language. Religion plays a huge part in a society’s culture and an individual’s sense of identity. We see it all the time in history. For an example, in the Balkans, being a Turk=Muslim and being a Greek, Serb, Bulgarian=Christian. In Western Europe, Irish=Catholic and English=Protestant. Or in Eastern Europe, Polish=Catholic and Russian=Orthodox. If you converted to another faith, you were seen as a traitor to your people and are no longer considered a part of the community. Even in the modern secular world, this sense of identity with religion still remains. Many people in Europe still identify with their ancestral church even though they don’t care about the religion. Or in the Islamic world, the religion plays such a huge role in identity that even whole countries are based around it, an example being Pakistan.
- FEAR OF HELL
This is also a very valid reason why many theists continue to believe in their religion. With all the doubt and contradictions in the verses, the fear of eternal torment after death spikes a very primal instinct in many people. When, under a rational analysis, a loving God sending people to eternal torment makes no sense. But emotions usually overdrive reason. Theists get the idea and brutality of hell drilled into their brains at such a young age, that it often lasts a lifetime. The idea that you’ll be tortured forever after you die is a very frightening concept. It helps keep many Muslims and Christians faithful to their God. Speaking of which, isn’t it funny that Christians do not fear Jahannam and Muslims do not fear the Lake of Fire? Which the brings me on to my next point.
- ACCEPTING THAT YOU WERE LIED TO
Let’s face it, most Muslims are Muslims because they were born in Muslim families. And most Christians are Christians because they were born in Christian families. The idea that your parents, school, priest, and whole society lied to you about “The Word of God” can cause an existential crisis in many. These are the people and institutions which educate and care for us in our youth, so we put our trust into them. When you realize that these religions were simply man-made, you would feel your whole worldview shatter. And as silly as these religions can be, Christianity and Islam do have a very long history with much art, philosophy, and empires as a core part of it. So you are not only accepting that you were lied to by your community, but that for over a thousand years all of those empires, artworks, philosophies were built on lies and is no more true than any other religion.
Those are my three main reasons on why theists keep believing in their religion. To me and many atheists, Christianity and Islam are simply silly mythologies with nothing to back it up. No more true than the Ancient Greeks, Aztecs, and other dead religions.
The secularization of the world is fighting against these strong headwinds of religious inculcation such that its progress is slow and much less than what could be predicted. It will take several more centuries for this process to be complete. And even then, there are bound to be left a few pockets of delusional humans hanging to their highly implausible hopes.
(4038) God’s Place
Christians assume that God is located in some place, perhaps heaven?, but this assumption comes without any sense of evidence, and further it faces problems with the way physics works- particularly the speed of light or information transfer. To avoid that issue, they say that this place is outside of our observable universe in some timeless realm. Remember- this is a god who Christians used to believe lived just above them in the clouds. The following was taken from:
I don’t think this is only a weakness of theists since atheists also make this assumption but many debates about the existence of god rely on various assumptions and axioms that are implied on both sides. There are many of these presuppositions but we’ll focus on one set:
- The place where god “lives” actually exists. Theists like to put this Place outside of the universe, which makes sense, but atheists take that this Place just exists without question. Without agreeing that such a Place exists first, the existence of god moot: after all if the place doesn’t exist then neither could god.
- Speculating that this Place is outside of the universe is precisely that – an assumption; but theists go further and make even more claims that this “outside of the universe” is eternal, since god is also supposedly eternal. This Place is timeless and infinite, other properties that this Place will also have to share the same properties as god.
- Another property of this Place is that is is broken up into various realms – the part that god exists in, heaven, hell, purgatory, and probably other miscellaneous places for various purposes. So now we have a third-level of speculation – the first being The Place exists, then properties about The Place, and then how The Place is organized
All of these claims have to be accepted on both sides as being a reasonable starting point of understand what universe/multi-verse/mega-verse we’re talking about. But it never is. And when you do, we are now faced with three levels of speculation even before we’re really qualified to talk about god in the first place.
Theists rely on a rest-of-the-owl approach and go straight to arguing for the existence of god in the hope that the rest of the dots will be filled in (or not even mentioned). The mistake in that approach now is that we’re more prepared to challenge this Place that’s “outside of the universe” and ask where theists get to claim anything at all about it. Where’s the evidence that it is infi38nite, or eternal, or timeless? Why would it be disconnected from our natural world in terms of its physics? What justifies that whatever is outside of our observable universe isn’t a direct continuation of what we already understand?
This issue should be a deal killer. Even if we assume that God lives outside of the universe in a timeless realm, it would be impossible for him to have immediate access to the entire universe is real time. The inability to identify or even creditably guess where God is located means that this religion is nothing more that make-believe.
(4039) Tri-Omni failure
It can easily be demonstrated that Christianity oversold the attributes of its god by claiming that ‘it’ is simultaneously omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent. The following was taken from:
Sending people to an eternity of torment for the supposed “sin” of not having faith in him counts as evil in my book. If we’re taking about the tri-omni deity, then I’m meant to accept that he’s omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent.
He knew ahead of time that I would leave evangelical Christianity as a teenager, and would grow into the atheist adult I am now. He knows, right now, that if I’m expected to believe in him, that I need evidence that doesn’t depend on pre-existing faith in that claimed existence.
If he’s omnipotent, providing that evidence is trivial. If he’s omniscient, he knew, presumably billions of years before I ever existed, that I would need such evidence, in order to accept a claim that he exists.
No such evidence exists.
If he’s sending me to hell anyway, then he’s not benevolent.
All of that before we get to a claim that my marriage is going to land me in hell, that “blaspheming” him will also land me in hell, and so on, and so on.
There seems to be a human tendency that when you imagine a god into existence, you are reluctant to assign any limitations to this being, because, for one thing, you don’t want the god that other people create to be grander than yours. This ‘god inflation’ is seen universally. But, as we can see above, it runs into trouble when you apply a real world scenario.
(4040) God, the inefficient messenger
This point cannot be overemphasized and it is a sufficient reason all by itself for concluding that Christianity is not true- no omnipotent god could have been so inefficient in spreading its critical message to humankind. The following was taken from:
Why was god so inefficient with spreading his message?
God wanted to reach the whole world with his message, to give everyone an opportunity to know him, so he only sends one son/prophet to preach in only 1 small pocket of the earth. And that’s totally somehow a religion which is intended for everyone in the world, and not just the superstitions of ancient peasants.
It then takes over a thousand years for his message to be heard by people in Australia, Latin America, etc, when he supposedly died so people can be saved and have a relationship with him. Isn’t it convenient how he divinely influences the expansion of Christianity, is all powerful, and literally killed his own son for his message (he clearly has the power and intent to make his message be spread to as many people as fast as possible so they can experience the best thing ever aka a relationship with him and be saved) , but for some reason he divinely spread his message in such a way that generations upon generations upon generations of people for thousands of years didn’t even know who he was let alone had a ‘relationship’ with him?
Up until the 1500s Latin America knew nothing of Jesus. Generations upon generations knew nothing of the god that was intent on having a relationship with them. Australian Aboriginal people knew nothing of Christianity until the late 1700s. The indigenous peoples of Canada and USA also only found out relatively recently about Jesus.
Were generations of people just not worthy of having a relationship with god? Did he not die for them too?
There are still small tribes that have no contact with the modern world, that have no idea about Christ. Does god not want a relationship with them? The same god that believes all humans are supposedly equal?
How does this make sense?
Of course, this doesn’t make sense unless it is assumed that Christianity is a human-created religion. In that case, the failure to quickly alert the world of the ‘most important news of all time’ is understandable.
(4041) JWST opens a door to the universe.
The James Webb Space Telescope is offering some astounding views of the universe that, even more than before, shows how insignificant our earth and solar system are in relative terms. This continues a trend over the past few centuries to destroy the Christian dogma that we are a special creation of the creator of the universe. This was a religion that developed when humans believed that the earth was the biggest thing in existence and positioned in the center of everything. That understanding was spectacularly incorrect. The following is a quote from a JWST scientist:
Astrophysicist James Bullock is a member and former Chair of the JWST Users Committee, which ensures operations proceed as expected to maximize the observatory’s scientific performance. Bullock is also Dean of the School of Physical Sciences and professor of astrophysics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Irvine.
“JWST is going to help our understanding of cosmic evolution in almost every field of astronomy, from the nature of black holes to the origins of life,” he said:
‘One key question is how and when did the first stars, black holes, and galaxies form after the Big Bang? How do beautiful spiral galaxies like the Milky Way assemble themselves over cosmic time? When and how did the heavy elements form and how did they come to assemble themselves in planets over time? How do the atmospheres of exoplanets compare to those of planets in our solar system? JWST is both a scientific and engineering marvel, one that we can take pride in as a species. The universe we’re poised to unlock is 100,000 times older than us. We’re going to see images of galaxies that existed before the Earth formed, before the atoms of carbon and oxygen in our bodies even existed. There are several things we know we’ll see with JWST, but the most exciting thing we’re likely to learn is something no one has imagined yet. Whenever we open a new window into the cosmos we learn something totally unexpected. That’s why we’re all so excited to see what this telescope can do.’
The bolded quote above is relevant to the question of Christianity’s truth. Would a god who created a universe wait 99,999 units of time to produce his special creature ‘in his own image’ in that final unit of time, and then within that last unit of time, wait an additional 49 subunits of time, before sending his son to be killed in the last subunit of time, and then in order to complete his ‘salvation plan’ for homo sapiens wait another 3 sub-subunits of time before having the news of his son’s death to reach the entire planet in the last sub-subunit of time? This seems highly implausible to say the least. The JWST will continue to advance the progress of science to the ultimate demise of religion.
(4042) Religion shift in Canada disproves Christianity
In the last ten years, in Canada, Christianity has lost followers while at the same time other religions have seen gains or lower-percentage losses. This is counter-intuitive if we assume that Christianity is the only true religion and therefore should be the only one where followers receive inspiration, guidance, and prayer-answering benefits from a supernatural source. In fact, if all of that was true, it would have been impossible for this result to have occurred. The following was taken from:
2021 census results (compared to 2011 census results)
Christianity: 19,373,325 (decline from 22,102,700 in 2011)
53.3% (decline from 67.3%)
No Religion: 12,577,475 (increase from 7,850,605) 34.6% (increase from 23.9%)
Islam: 1,775,715 (increase from 1,053,945) 4.9% (increase from 3.2%)
Hinduism: 828,195 (increase from 497,960) 2.3% (increase from 1.5%)
Sikhism: 771,790 (increase from 454,965) 2.1% (increase from 1.4%)
Buddhism: 356,975 (decline from 366,830) 1.0% (decline from 1.1%)
Judaism: 335,295 (increase from 329,495) 0.9% (decline from 1.0%)
Indigenous Religion: 80,685 at 0.2% of the population
Other Religions: 229,015 at 0.60% of the population
This is another argument involving the inference reasoning that in the competition of religions, if one is truly connected to a supernatural deity or source of power, and the others are fake human-made scams, the playing field would be tilted firmly in the direction of the true religion. A result resembling the past 10 years in Canada would obviously not have occurred if Christianity was that one true religion.
(4043) Analytical thinking is poison to Christianity
The following describes a study that was conducted using just three questions to test the analytical capability of test subject and then to correlate the results to their religious beliefs. The result was enlightening. The persons who scored best on the test, demonstrating superior analytical capability, were less religious than those who scored poorly. The following was taken from:
1. A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? ____cents
2. If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets? _____minutes
3. In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake? _____days
OK, done? Make a note of your answers. If Gervais and Norenzayan’s thesis holds, your responses to these brain teasers may just predict whether you are a religious believer.
This cognitive reflection test was first penned by Yale Professor and psychologist Shane Frederick in 2005. It was used as the basis of a study conducted with 179 Canadian college students. After completing the quiz task, the students were asked about their intrinsic religiosity, religious beliefs and beliefs in supernatural entities (including God, angels and the devil). The results followed expectations:
[A]s hypothesized, analytic thinking was significantly negatively associated with all three measures of religious belief, rReligiosity = –0.22, P = 0.003; rIntuitive = –0.15, P = 0.04; and rAgents = –0.18, P = 0.02. This result demonstrated that, at the level of individual differences, the tendency to analytically override intuitions in reasoning was associated with religious disbelief, supporting previous findings.
To translate: the more religious the undergrads were, the less likely they were to have demonstrated effective analytical reasoning on the three questions. And the better the students did on the questions, the less likely they were to have strong religious beliefs.
At this point you are wondering how well you did on the questions. Did you get the right answer or the wrong answer? All three logic riddles are deceptively simple problems; that is, when encountering each question an obvious answer springs quickly to mind. Those answers are 10 cents, 100 minutes and 24 days. Any of those sound familiar? If those were your answers, which Gervais and Norenzayan characterize as the “intuitive” responses, chances are you are one of America’s 230 million people who believe in God.
If, however, you got a perfect score, your answers were what the authors label “analytical” (also known as “correct”), you are probably in the quarter of Americans who do not profess religious belief.
Question 1: Though the quick intuitive answer is 10 cents, a moment’s reflection leads to the realization that 10 cents is not a full dollar less than $1.00. (If you’re sleepy: 10 cents is 90 cents less than $1.00.) The correct answer can be reached through a little 8th grade algebra:
If the cost of the ball is x, the cost of the bat is x + 1.
x + (x+1) = 1.10
2x +1 = 1.10
2x = 0.10
x = 0.05, or 5 cents
Answer: the ball costs 5 cents and the bat costs $1.05, for a total of $1.10.
Question 2: Your brain screams at you that the answer must be 100, because your intuitive side sees the 5-5-5 pattern in the first example, and 100-100-100 just looks right. But if it takes 5 minutes for 5 machines to make 5 widgets, it doesn’t take 20 times as long for 20 times as many machines to make 20 times the widgets. It will take the same 5 minutes for 100 machines to make 100 widgets, and it will take 5 minutes for 1000 machines to make 1000 widgets, and so on, because each machine spits out one widget every five minutes. That is the rate of widget production for the machines, and it doesn’t change no matter how many machines you are running at once.
Answer: it would take 5 minutes for 100 machines to make 100 widgets.
Question 3: This trick here is that the lily pads grow at an exponential rate, not an arithmetic rate. On the day before the 48th day, the pond was only half-covered in lily pads; the day before that, one-quarter covered; the day before that, one-eighth covered; the day before that, one-sixteenth covered. Go back two weeks from the 48th day (day 34) and you will be hard-pressed to find any lily pads on the lake. It will be only 1/16,384 covered on that day. This means only .006% of the surface will be covered by a lily pad patch. Imagine how powerful a microscope you’d need to detect any lily paddage at all on day 1.
Answer: the pond will be half-covered in lily pads on the 47th day.
Are the authors implying that religious people are unintelligent, or that atheists have greater cognitive ability? No. Despite appearances, this is not the world’s shortest IQ test. The authors insist that they take no position on whether intuitive or analytical decision-making is the superior mode:
[W]e caution that the present studies are silent on long-standing debates about the intrinsic value or rationality of religious beliefs…or about the relative merits of analytic and intuitive thinking in promoting optimal decision making.
Instead, Gervais and Norenzayan draw on Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s view that human cognition can best be conveyed as the interaction of two “systems.” System 1 is the fast, almost instinctive process that makes instant, gut-response, unreflective judgments, while System 2 is the slow, effortful process that draws on our powers of analytical reasoning. Of the two processes, one (System 1) relies upon frugal heuristics yielding intuitive responses, while the other (System 2) relies upon deliberative analytic processing. Although both systems can at times run in parallel, System 2 often overrides the input of system 1 when analytic tendencies are activated and cognitive resources are available…
Available evidence and theory suggest that a converging suite of intuitive cognitive processes facilitate and support belief in supernatural agents, which is a central aspect of religious beliefs worldwide…Religious belief therefore bears many hallmarks of System 1 processing.
The authors reason that since “religious belief emerges through a converging set of intuitive processes, and analytic processing can inhibit or override intuitive processing…analytic thinking may undermine intuitive support for religious belief.” Seeing people through the Kahnemanian lens thus “predicts that analytic thinking may be one source of religious disbelief.”
There are many other reasons people might decide not to believe in God, of course, and it would be a mistake to construe religious believers as unreflective, shallow-thinking fools. (That would itself be a snap, narrow-minded, System-1-style judgment.) But the research from Gervais and Norenzayan turns a useful lens on a puzzling aspect of human psychology.
Once a person is raised in a faith from childhood, the only way out is to exercise good analytical reasoning to see the inherent fallacies. Those who use more analytical and less intuitive thinking are better at achieving such an escape. And the result of analytical thinking is better correlated with reality.
(4044) God is the real Satan
Most Christians view Satan, the devil, as being all bad, and Yahweh, their god, as being all good. But it is interesting to see how the ‘tables turn’ when you confront them with biblical ‘facts.’ The following was taken from:
The devil ordered his followers to kill firstborn children. The devil curses women and makes them ‘inferior’ to men. The devil committed mass genocide and cursed humanity through floods, wars. The devil made women marry their own rapists. The devil makes millions of children be born only to suffer and die as adolescents. The devil wants you to submit to him, give your whole life over to him, and have every single part of your life controlled by his rules.
Oh wait, that’s god! It was god who commanded to have the firstborn children of Egypt killed. It’s god that cursed the entirety of the human race to suffer die and live in misery, including millions of children each year, all for the actions of their ancestors that we had no control over (Adam and Eve). God drowned Old Testament people because they dared disobey him (including babies, small innocent animals, and even fetuses zygotes and embryos since they care so much about them). God made Old Testament women marry their own rapists (how perfect😍). Oh, and let’s not forget it’s god who demands you surrender all of your life and critical thinking skills to WORSHIP and grovel before him for your entire mortal life (and your existence in heaven too if he doesn’t deem you worthy of eternal torture)
And yet Christians will tell you about how much they trust this very same god, to give them an eternal paradise.
Tell Christians how the devil loves killing newborn babies and starting wars, how the devil wants you to grovel before him, they will nod in agreement.
Tell them the same about their god, and they will go on a rampage of mental gymnastics, trying to justify the putrid things their beloved god has done.
Many early Gnostic Christians believed that Yahweh, the god of the Bible was evil, and just wanted to get you to worship him so he can eternally trap your soul. That makes infinitely more sense than whatever mainstream Christianity believes about Yahweh.
Their own book paints the god they worship as being more evil than the devil they despise. What is it about this picture that makes sense? It almost seems like Christians are mindless zombies, unable to see what is literally right under their noses, in black and white, within the book they carry to church every Sunday.
(4045) Messy fix to a contradiction
It takes a lot of mental gymnastics to make the gospels agree with each other, but some of these ‘fixes’ stretch credulity to the very limit. In the following, it is shown what must be assumed if the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus are historically true in both Luke and the other gospels:
According to Luke, the apostles were told to “tarry in the city of Jerusalem” until Pentecost. But Matthew tells us that they went into Galilee (Matt. 28:10).
Matthew, Mark, and John have Jesus saying the disciples are to rendezvous with him in Galilee, about three days journey away. In contradiction to this, Luke’s two books—The Gospel of Luke and The Book of Acts, have Jesus planning to rendezvous in Jerusalem.
To make the Matthew account fit, you have to assume that in the middle of Luke’s account of meeting Jesus in Jerusalem, you get this timeline:
- Jesus tells the women that he’s going on ahead to Galilee and that the disciples should meet him there.
- Jesus meets them that evening in Jerusalem instead, proving to them that he’s actually alive again.
- Jesus leaves the disciples.
- The disciples go to Galilee where they meet Jesus and again doubt that he’s alive.
- Jesus tells them to go to all nations.
- The disciples go back to Jerusalem where Jesus meets them again.
- Jesus tells them to stay in the city until Pentecost, then leaves.
All of these questions aren’t an issue, unless you try weaving Matthew and Luke’s accounts together into a single whole. Then the contradiction shows up.
Is it easier to say that the seven-step sequence above occurred, or that one or more of the gospels got it wrong? Actually, it is an easy answer. And, in fact, dismissing all of them makes even more sense.
(4046) Bible as literature
If one reads the Bible and ignores the purported divine imprimatur of its origin, it becomes clear that it was a human effort devoid of divine inspiration. At least if we presume that God or the Holy Spirit would possess, if they existed, exquisite writing skills. The following was taken from:
Does anyone else ever read the Bible through the lens of just evaluating it as literature?
Since God abandoned me I’ve started reading the Bible off and on just as a piece of literature the same way I’d read literally any other book.
I’ve come to 2 conclusions:
1) The Bible is HILARIOUS. The events, the characters, the way everything unfolds is just priceless. Believing it’s all made up let’s me laugh at it constantly.
2) It is an absolute worthless piece of shit by any literary standards. If it didn’t exist and a student wrote the Bible even in modern day translations, they would fail any assignment in any academic setting at any level. It’s nearly incoherent at times and extremely hard to follow. Too many characters, yet not enough details on any characters to be able to accurately know who they are as people outside of their purpose relating to God. Key plot details missing and often times contradictory. I could go on all day…
I’d say the Bible reads like it could’ve been written by a paranoid schizophrenic on acid, but it would be offensive to schizophrenic people and acid users as I’m sure both groups have written immensely better books.
Despite all of its words, the Bible fails to provide a consistent message (leading to thousands of different interpretations), and is loaded with contradictions, superfluous as well as incomplete information, and many examples of poorly written prose. If this is a product inspired by the creator of the universe, then we have to wonder where he ‘went to school.’
(4047) Prayers for Hurricane Harvey
When Christians pray while in the path of a natural disaster, and their prayers are not answered, instead of admitting a problem they recast the result in a way that saves their image of a god that is not only there, but who is benevolent and cares for them- ‘He’s just letting some bad to happen for a greater good.’ This mindset inoculates them having to admit that their god does not exist. The following was taken from:
Evangelical blogger John Mark Reynolds wrote “Prayers amid Hurricane Harvey” a few days after that hurricane hit Houston, Texas in August 2017. He writes of being huddled (with his family, I presume) in an interior closet in his house. They were doing what they could to stay safe from Harvey, which made landfall in Texas as a category 4 hurricane. It killed 106 in the U.S. and is second to hurricane Katrina as the costliest U.S. natural disaster ($141 billion).
How did he respond to this frightening experience? He begins, “Prayer is the best action one can take in a storm” but soon admits, “We prayed to be spared this test, but God said ‘no.’ ”
God said no? Did Odin say no, too? Why pray to God if Odin (or even a jug of milk) delivers the same results? And if you say that praying to God produces better results, show us. Give us evidence.
Here’s where wishful thinking about prayer gets tripped up by reality. Instead of getting what you pray for, which is what Jesus promised, and instead of prayer at least improving the probability of getting what you need, prayer must be redefined. Prayer is now asking for something and then reframing the result so that God looks good whether you got what you asked for or not. Apparently, God is sensitive. He must be treated like a baby.
We see more rationalization when he says:
Hurricane Harvey came despite our prayers—and that is good. It is good for us to ask, and God helps as He can.
God helps as he can? There’s some limit to what he can do? This world is the best that he can produce, and he would have done a better job if he could have? I must have a higher estimation of what omnipotence can do.
We asked that the storm would pass over us.
Do you ask that for every hurricane? Or only the ones that hit the United States? Or only the ones that hit you? Who does the disaster hit if God nudges it to avoid you (and can you live with that)?
Taking a step back, what’s prayer (even this watered-down version) good for? You aren’t telling God something he doesn’t already know, and you can’t be so arrogant as to ask God to change his perfect plan for you. Prayer doesn’t work as advertised.
God can’t lose
Reynolds rationalizes why God would allow a hurricane Harvey.
[God] is all powerful, but He is also good. He will not do a superficial good for us today at the cost of greater evil tomorrow…. If He who can does not, it must be better so.
This is an empty and meaningless claim. Without evidence, are we supposed to accept that Harvey was a net good? Give us examples of what might have offset the cost of $141 billion and 106 lives.
Here again, I have a higher estimation of what omnipotence can do. A hurricane was as surgical as God could be? He needed to destroy something, but he couldn’t do it precisely with magic and avoid the collateral damage of a category 4 hurricane?
Sure, a god might exist who used a hurricane for a good that we can’t yet understand, but why imagine this? Where’s the evidence? Why is this anything more than a rationalization to help Christians maintain their unevidenced beliefs?
Don’t give us a hypothetical. Support your claim with a specific situation where God allowed (or caused) harm to prevent a worse harm later. Can’t do it? Then you’re making the Hypothetical God Fallacy.
To squarely address the Problem of Evil—why an omnipotent and good god would allow so much evil in the world—the first step is admitting that God does indeed look terrible. Natural disasters, childhood diseases, cancer, and all the rest would not happen on the watch of a good god.
The consistent failure of prayer to match the promises Jesus made in the gospels is reason alone to conclude that Christianity is not true. Christians who refuse to admit this fact are fooling themselves and playing word games to salvage their comforting delusions.
(4048) God failed to reveal vastness of the universe
If the Bible is the inspired word of God, then God failed to inform humans of their place in the cosmos, and, in fact, deluded them into thinking that they were in the center of everything. Why would a god have done this, knowing that eventually the true scale of the universe would be discovered, causing people to question or abandon the faith? If the Bible revealed the true vastness of the universe, it would have been an important piece of evidence that it was a product of more than human minds, and would have avoided the embarrassing way that clerics treated scientists for many centuries when their discoveries became ‘inconvenient.’ The following was taken from:
Why didn’t a god who created a vast cosmos didn’t tell humans where they were in the scheme of things?
If the Bible is the revealed word of the creator god who launched the Cosmos, why is the Bible so deficient, so limited in its understanding of the world? As Loftus points out:
“The evidence from Christian history, based upon Biblical passages, is that they did in fact think the Earth was the center of a small universe with man the apex of creation. An overwhelming number of Christians prior to the rise of modern science believed they were on a fixed planet in the center of a very small universe compared to what we have more recently found.” (p. 165 Kindle)
I wonder, even today, what percentage of churchgoers have absorbed Hubble’s discoveries into their worldview. Do they grasp what we have learned about the Cosmos and our place in it? Have they come to terms with it? This is a puzzlement: Why didn’t the creator-god use the Book of Genesis to explain the our real place in the universe? What was his purpose in promoting belief that the earth—and humans—are the center of his attention? Why wait to have the stunning grandeur of the Cosmos be discovered early in the twentieth century?
It’s almost as if god didn’t want humans to make these discoveries! Centuries before Hubble, Galileo got into big trouble for looking at the sky through his primitive telescope, as Loftus points out:
“The church tried and convicted Galileo for his astronomical ideas and placed Galileo’s book on the banned list…Does that not count as slowing down the progress of science? … In fact, given the Galileo debacle as propagated by the Philosophes of an earlier day, precisely because God did not communicate to his people accurate information about the true size and scale of the universe, the Bible and the church lost credibility in the eyes of many people. The Galileo debacle has been used rightly or wrongly as disastrous for the credibility of the church and the Bible as a whole. Because God failed to tell us about the scale of the universe, it has led many to see the Bible as written by non-inspired superstitious people.” (pp. 166-167 Kindle)
Loftus offers another example of this god “not effectively communicating with his people.”
God not only did not create our bodies with a stronger immune system, he didn’t even give us instructions from the get-go on how to discover penicillin, much less even tell us that such a thing is possible and that we should look for it (because millions of people would needlessly die before we were to discover it). And that’s just one such discovery… The evidence is that there is nothing in the Bible that could not have been said by a human being living in that day and time…nothing. The Bible is a human product coming from superstitious ancient people.” (pp. 170-171 Kindle)
If the Bible was the product of human minds only, then we would expect it to reflect the relatively-limited knowledge of its time- and this is EXACTLY what we observe.
(4049) Satan is a later invention
Contemporary Christians believe in Satan as an independent adversary to God who is trying to gather as many souls as possible to bring them to hell. But this is not biblical, and this view isn’t even consistent with what early Christians believed. The following was taken from:
Painting with a very broad brush, Judaism doesn’t have an analogue of what modern Christians call “Satan” or “the Devil”. For them, broadly speaking, the serpent that deceived Adam and Eve was just that—a serpent. The “satan” in Job was a member of God’s divine court who accused/prosecuted those who sinned—very much an employee on God’s payroll to do a job God wanted done, as it were, not some cosmic, spiritual enemy. In fact, “satan” was a job description, not a particular being.
The notion of Satan as a singular entity that was a fallen angel and the leader of Evil in a cosmic, spiritual battle with Good didn’t come until much later in neo-Platonic Christian tradition, possibly due to influence from Zoroastrianism and maybe even some Gnostic notions. Much later on, non-theological works such as Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost popularized the notions that would eventually evolve into our modem ideas of “Satan” and “the Devil”.
So to answer your question: the Bible itself doesn’t answer what your asking because the modern notion of Satan didn’t exist then. The original Biblical authors and redactors didn’t remotely have what modern Christians think of as Satan/the Devil in mind, early Christians (coming from Jewish Apocalyptic communities) didn’t either, and it wasn’t until Christianity had distinctly diverged from Judaism and become thoroughly Hellenized that such modern notions began to emerge and various passages of the Bible were then interpreted with those understandings in mind.
Satan is the ‘boogie man’ for adults, likely invented to explain why bad things happen to good people, or generally, whey evil exists in god’s ‘perfect’ world. But it is inconceivable that if Satan is as contemporary Christians believe that the Bible (‘God’s inerrant word to humanity’) would not have endorsed this view from Genesis onward.
(4050) Christianity looks invented
Using the theory that a religion created by a god would likely be radically different than religions invented by humans, it is easy to see that Judeo/Christianity, which clearly belongs in the second group, is most like a product of human invention. The following was taken from:
Let me propose this axiom: a human-invented religion will look radically different from the worship of a real god. That is, human longing for the divine (or human imagination) will cobble together a very poor imitation of the real thing.
Let’s first look at an example in the domain of languages. Imagine that you’re a linguist and you’re creating a tree of world languages. Each language should be nearer languages that are related and similar, and it should be farther from those that are dissimilar. Spanish and Portuguese are next to each other on the tree; add French, Italian, and others and call that the Romance Languages; add other language groups like Germanic, Celtic, and Indic and you get the Indo-European family; and so on.
Here’s your challenge: you have two more languages to fit in. First, find the spot for English. It’s pretty easy to see, based on geography, vocabulary, and language structure, that it fits into the Germanic group. Next, an alien language like a real Klingon or Na’vi. This one wouldn’t fit in at all and would be unlike every human language.
Now imagine a tree of world religions. Your challenge is to find the place for Yahweh worship of 1000 BCE. Is it radically different from all the man-made religions, as unlike man-made religions as the alien language was to human languages? Or does it fit into the tree comfortably next to the other religions of the Ancient Near East, like English fits nicely into the Germanic group?
You’d expect the worship of the actual creator of the universe to look dramatically different from religions invented by Iron Age tribesmen in Canaan, but religious historians tell us that Yahweh looks similar to other Canaanite deities like Asherah, Baal, Moloch, Astarte, Yam, or Mot. What could he be but yet another invented god?
Yahweh’s resemblance to the various Canaanite gods is a damning piece of evidence disarming the probability of his existence. Otherwise, one must assume that clueless individuals just happened to get lucky and create their gods, and the worship thereof, in a fashion that almost exactly duplicated the actual creator of the universe.
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