(4051) Debating the Tenth Plague
Although the tale in Exodus where God kills the first born sons of Egypt is fictional, the fact that it remains in the Bible is significant. The relevant question is why would an omnipotent, benevolent god allow such a heinous story to ‘pollute’ his holy book? The following was taken from:
Hello y’all! I’ve recently been pondering a particular avenue of challenge to biblical literalism and even tried to discuss it on the Christian sub (didn’t go well.) As such, I wanted to present the facts as I see them and then challenge you to steelman it as morally good. Here’s Exodus 12:29 from New International Version
“At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well.”
This is far from the only event of mass bloodshed in the Bible or even the deadliest, but I chose it for a reason. Let’s treat this under modern war ethics as a solid baseline. God is effectively waging war on another country for enslaving the Israelites. I’ll also be generous and assume for now that violence was necessary in some regard: teleporting the Israelites out or any other infinite option doesn’t work. I’ll even go so far as to say God won’t violate free will in any way (assuming it exists)
But here’s the problem. God targeted non-combatants. That guy in a dungeon wasn’t going to fight and there’s no reason to think many more, including children, weren’t affected. On top of that, you can’t even make the looser justification that the casualties were from a bio weapon gone loose like the other plagues. God specifically killed the firstborn, and depending on how you interpret it, only firstborn sons. Every life taken must have been intentional
As I said, God has infinite options. If combat was necessary, then sending an angel to protect the Israelites or even attack the armies of Egypt was an option. But instead, God double dips and kills the armies at sea while the firstborn die. All of this in violating of not only modern war crime law, but his own commandments. Even under “Thou shalt not murder”, this is pretty hard to justify.
Here are the main defenses I’ve found at a cursory Google
- The Egyptians deserved it because they supported evil and enslavement
- God only killed the firstborn while the Pharaoh killed all the Hebrew sons
- Only bad Egyptians died because some were clearly not affected (mixed people left Egypt, even though that could still include women and secondary sons or adults)
- It was a justified last resort after 9 other plagues failed to convince Pharaoh
- The kids go to Heaven because they didn’t have moral choice
- God has unique moral privileges, either by being omniscient, omnipotent, creating humanity, or a mix of the above
- God painfully sacrificed a firstborn son too (Christ)
None of these excuses make a dent in the horror of this story. It doesn’t matter whether it really happened. The fact that it is presented as factual history in the Bible reduces by a great deal the probability that this book is the inspired product of an omnipotent god, or at least one that would be worthy of worship. There is no legitimate defense for killing children or even plausibly presenting it as something that actually happened.
(4052) Ripping families apart
Christians base their life on the Bible except when it becomes inconvenient for them to do so. In the following it is shown that, when it comes to familial love, a person who rejects biblical teachings attains the higher moral ground:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” -Luke 14:26
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” -Matthew 10:34-36
My parents and I got in a heated discussion tonight over my having left the faith. In these talks, I try to always guide them back to the Bible.
“Mom, Dad, I can’t be a Christian, because I love you both very much. Jesus wants me to hate you, but I choose to love you rather than follow a man who boasted about ripping families apart.”
Stay with the scriptures in these arguments and never depart from them. The Bible does the best job in advocating its own wretchedness.
Most Christians have been robotized to never question whether anything in the Bible is wrong, unethical, unloving, or immoral. But all of those problems are there and in plain sight for anyone who has a free mind. This book is most definitely NOT the product of a divine intelligence.
(4053) Flaw in the human psyche
There are good current-day examples of how the human psyche can be manipulated to have otherwise intelligent people believe in absurd claims. To believe this has happened only recently and didn’t happen in biblical times is an exercise in naïveté.
Christian thought is based on a flaw in the human psyche that allows individuals to believe things that are demonstrably untrue. The evidence for it is overwhelming, but the best three examples as it pertains to religion are:
- Mormonism – A religion started by a convicted con man that insists civilizations existed for which there is no evidence (and for which considerable counter-evidence does exist).
- Scientology – A pernicious cult that seeks to exert control over its faithful and which is based on the most ridiculous claims of science fiction.
- North Korea – While not having a god, the North Koreans venerate the Kim family as far more than mere mortals and ascribe to them superhuman powers and abilities. You don’t need god to have a religion.
What these three institutions are evidence of is there exists a thought process in the human psyche that will cause people to believe things that are obviously untrue, defend these untruths (even going as far in some cases to give up their lives for them) and pass along these delusions to their children. These children will, in turn & with the best of loving intentions, pass along the same delusions to their offspring and so on.
How this mechanism works isn’t the point of this thread. The evidence shows it to be true so let us simply accept it and move on. I’m not a neurobiologist, but likely neither are you. I can’t tell you exactly what happens in your brain to cause you to be hungry. Likewise, insisting that hunger doesn’t exist is a fruitless exercise. Just like looking at mormonism, scientology, and North Korea and insisting they don’t evidence this flaw in our thinking.
My question to Christians is how you can live in the age of information and still fall prey to this “bug” in our proverbial programming. Supernatural thinking has proven to be true exactly zero times in the history of ever. And when you see people believing in outlandish things with such confidence why isn’t this causing you to pause and discard the nonsense claims that you’ve been shackled with?
Until at least one supernatural phenomenon meets scientific scrutiny, the best mindset is to assume that we inhabit a strictly natural reality. But if that ever happens, then the door can open to explore what exists in the universe that caused the observed violations of the laws of physics. The Bible claims that these laws were violated over 500 times in the ancient past but to date we have seen no evidence for even a single one in modern times. Still, all it will take is just one…and we are still waiting.
(4054) Adam and Eve story still damages humanity
The obviously fictional story of Adam and Eve is still believed to be historical by many Jews, Christians, and Muslims. But even those who consider it mythical are influenced by the associated themes. The following explores ways that this story has had a net negative effect for humans and the planet:
Storytelling is the most powerful tool we have for influencing humanity’s views and behavior, and is behind the value systems of every major religion. The story of Adam and Eve is arguably the most influential story in Western culture, and can be read as an innocent children’s tale with a talking snake in a garden, but there’s a more adult interpretation that has been tied to problematic perceptions of nature, women, and humanity at large.
I was taught the Catholic version as a child in Sunday school, but even if you weren’t raised with it you probably know the basics: — God created Adam, then Eve and they lived together in the Garden of Eden. — God told them not to eat fruit from the forbidden tree or they would die. — A conniving serpent tempted Eve, saying she would gain knowledge if she ate the fruit. — Eve ate it and gave some to Adam. — This caused God to kick Adam and Eve out of the garden for disobeying him, and he gives them each unique punishments. Here are the 3 main reasons why we should stop telling this harmful story:
Reason 1: It sets us up to believe humanity should dominate nature.
In the very first pages after God created Adam in his image, God instructs him, “Let [man] have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.” In the next verse, God says to man “Fill the earth and subdue it… I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth.”
This message that humanity is above nature and God gives man permission to dominate and subdue it has landed man in a troubled relationship with nature where we bite the hand that literally feeds us. Our focus could have been on developing a symbiotic relationship with nature, but in part as a result of this story, we’ve taken advantage of it and as a society we put profits over sustainable use of the planet’s resources. How could Western culture have been different if the story influencing our behavior taught us to exist in an appreciative relationship with nature instead of teaching us we exist above it?
Reason 2: It sets us up to believe men should dominate women.
Next, Eve was created by God from Adam’s rib after plants and animals in what reads like an afterthought because none of the animals “proved to be a suitable partner.” Later, the serpent told Eve she would have God-like knowledge if she ate the fruit. So in pursuit of knowledge, which shouldn’t be a sin but that’s a different story, she ate the fruit and gave some to Adam. God punished Eve saying, “I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband and he shall be your master.” (Yes, folks, that’s a direct quote from the Bible.)
In the New Testament, The First Epistle to Timothy uses Eve’s “misdeed” to expand on the idea that women are not to be trusted in positions of power: “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” The most authoritative text in Western history suggests women should not be trusted in leadership positions, and that’s reflected in today’s world. Women represent over 50% of the U.S. population, yet 24% of the U.S. Senators are female, 8% of fortune 500 CEOs are female, and 0% of religious leaders in the Catholic Church are female.
Reason 3: It sets us up to believe humanity is inherently sinful.
Though Eve takes most of the blame, God doesn’t spare Adam from punishment. He says to Adam, “Cursed be the ground because of you… By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; for you are dirt and to dirt you shall return.” And just like that, God banished our original ancestors to Earth as a punishment for their sins. This banishment has led to the perception that Earth is a cursed place of exile, and suffering. Humanity’s inheritance of this original sin has led us to believe we’re born with a proclivity towards bad behavior. Recent scientific evidence proves the opposite – humans feel most rewarded by helping one another.
These lessons, passed down through generations, lurk in our subconscious influencing our behaviors and it’s time to acknowledge the messages are antithetical to our modern belief systems. Continuing to share them perpetuates damage to future generations. We should be teaching the inverse of the lessons from the Adam and Eve tale: the pursuit of knowledge is noble and humanity is not inherently sinful but inherently complex and highly capable of good. Men are not dominant over women and humanity is not dominant over nature; women and men are partners in the creation of and caring for life, and we’re infinitely lucky to be able to celebrate earth as our home.
A fourth reason could be that it has encouraged caution against trying to gain too much knowledge, something that caused the church to be suspicious of and sometimes to punish scientists for discovering ‘inconvenient’ facts about nature. So one conclusion might be that a real god would not have had this story put in ‘his book’ in the first place. A more scientifically accurate portrayal of mankind’s emergence on the planet would have resulted in much better results overall.
(4055) Christian behavior signals it’s not from God
There are many ways to evaluate the truthfulness of Christianity, such as biblical analysis, studies of prayer effectiveness, and review of scientific findings. But one additional way is to evaluate the behavior of Christians to see if being connected to the ‘creator of the universe’ elicits a personality that transcends normal human characteristics. Well (short answer)…it doesn’t. The following lists nine types of Christians that are not good people:
In fact, there are certain kinds of Christians that I completely avoid these days because, well… I find their brand of Christianity a bit toxic. Let me tell you about them:
Hell-Fire Hector believes it is his duty to tell anyone who doesn’t believe the same things he does that they are going to Hell… because he loves them, of course.
Now, most people would tend to believe that telling someone they are going to Hell is NOT, in fact, a loving thing to do. Personally, I am not so confident in my own ability to determine who gets into Heaven and who does not. I prefer to leave the job of being God to God. But not Hell-Fire Hector.
Hector knows who goes to Hell.
And he will make sure you know too, either on a street corner, via a passive-aggressive barb at your family Christmas Dinner, or through heartfelt pleading for you to “choose life!”
Of course, Brother Hector doesn’t realize that the threat of Hell only does one of two things: It either drives a person away or causes a person to make some kind of commitment to God to avoid the consequences of not making some kind of commitment to God… which is not a real commitment, by the way. Love ain’t got nothing to do with it!
Misogynist Mike believes that having a penis automatically qualifies a person for special privileges within the church, and he’s got scriptures to back himself up. Never mind that they are esoteric biblical texts removed from their cultural context, Brother Mike takes them and applies them verbatim to the modern-day. “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority” (1 Timothy 2:12) is his favorite Bible verse.
Yes, out of all the Biblical laws that brother Mike could commit himself to, he has chosen to zero in on those parts of the Bible that perpetuate his personal bias for white male leadership. The pulpit is the domain of men. Women are to be silent in church. Brother Mike is highly committed to these ideas — so committed that you have to wonder if he thinks this is a core part of the Christian message.
Sin watching Sally is always keeping a close eye on everyone else’s behavior with the intent of pouncing on them if she sees them make a mistake.
Carey Nieuwhof says, “You can’t judge someone and love them at the same time.”
But Sister Sally believes that she shows her love by judging everyone’s behavior and keeping them all accountable. She has set herself up as a kind of moral gatekeeper, policing everyone else’s behavior.
She notices when you fall asleep in church. She is watching what you post on social media. She is checking to see how well-behaved your kids are.
And she passes on her list of your sins to church leaders and elders so that you can be disciplined… while patting herself on the back for faithfully admonishing her brothers and sisters in Christ toward greater Godliness.
Gossipping Glenda is a friend of Sin-Watching Sally, and they often work together. At first, Sister Glenda comes across as a lovely human being. She sidles up to you and is personable and nice, but it’s all done under false pretenses.
What Sister Glenda really wants is to find out some juicy tidbits about your life that she can spread around to make her own colorless existence slightly more interesting for a few days. Often she will ask you about your personal life under the guise of pastoral care.
“Do you have any prayer requests?” is the calling card of Gossipping Glenda. And sure, not everyone who asks you this question is a gossip. However, when other people who have no right to know about your business come up to you as you’re trying to enjoy your post-church coffee and biscuit and start asking you about the personal struggles you shared in confidence, you’ll know that Sister Glenda has been at work.
Fundamentalist Fred — or Fundie Fred for short — believes that the Bible is the 100% inerrant, perfect, divinely inspired word of God. What is more, he believes that, in an ideal world, everyone would believe in the Bible as much as he does.
And the best way to achieve this lofty goal is to vote Christians just like him into power so they can force all the non-Christians to live more “Christianly.” (Those pesky non-Christians clearly don’t know what’s good for them). Of course, the content of a political candidate’s character is unimportant as long as they support Fundie Fred’s goal.
Jesus is more a convenient figurehead for Fundie Fred’s political aspirations than a person to be followed. After all, those red-letter parts of the Bible are slightly too loving, gracious, and compassionate. Bring on the rocks and stone the heathens to death because Fundie Fred also has a particular fascination with the Old Testament and a penchant for applying archaic laws written for ancient Palestinian life to the modern day.
Fundie Fred also has a wall hanging of Donald Trump and Jesus above his bar, next to his gun cupboard, where he proudly displays his collection of AR-15s.
When Joyless Jeff enters the room, the fun stops.
Joyless Jeff’s life is marked by strict discipline and firm restraint. He believes that it is a spiritual discipline — nay, a spiritual virtue — to abstain from all forms of pleasure, comfort, and self-indulgence.
If it were up to Jeff, the pews would be lined with nails so that people can suffer through the service even more than they already do. Joyless Jeff likes to remind himself and everyone else that they are depraved and wicked sinners — and that even our very best is nothing more than filthy rags to God. Jeff spends a lot of time repenting. In fact, he’s not really happy unless he’s miserable.
You won’t find Jeff with a beer in his hand, but you will find him scowling at those who do. He doesn’t like gluttony, he doesn’t like dancing, he doesn’t like loud music, he doesn’t like horseplay and mindless banter, he doesn’t like joking around, and he doesn’t want fun. Whenever his face threatens to break out into a smile, he quickly suppresses it as if it were as unwelcome as a fart in an elevator.
Christian faith is a weighty and serious matter — not a joke.
Dualistic Doug has a neatly packaged answer for every question you could ask about God, life, and the universe. Brother Doug has everything placed into a two-columned table with one column labeled “good” and the other column labeled “bad.”
Anything connected with the sacred, the spiritual, and the divine is good. Everything else is bad. There are no shades of grey in Dualistic Doug’s black-and-white world. Doug has reduced everything down to just two options, where one is the right way and one is the wrong way. Brother Doug uses descriptive words like good/evil, black/white, and in/out, not realizing there may be a hundred degrees between the two ends of each spectrum.
Brother Doug’s universe makes sense because it has been simplified to exclude the immense subtlety of actual personal experience. Blanket rules cover everything. He is incapable of taking into account the story of an individual person without realizing that this is precisely the opposite approach to that of Jesus Christ.
Sister Penny is walking in the glorious victory that the Bible promises, and she makes sure everyone else knows it. She believes that all negative emotions are ungodly, and therefore, she works tirelessly to always be pleasant, agreeable, and happy…. or else perhaps Christ is not at work in her life.
Negative experiences and emotions have no place in Sister Penny’s world, so she covers them up with Bible verses and self-denial. Sister Penny must find a silver lining in every situation, so she uses religious platitudes like “God has a plan,” or “God won’t put you through anything you can’t handle,” or even “All things work together for our good.”
It doesn’t matter that your kid just died from Leukemia because God must have a plan… right?
Mr & Mrs. Patriarch and Matriarch
Mr. and Mrs. Patriarch and Matriarch are a married couple who have been in the church since that very first Sunday service. Heck, they might even be the couple who started the church. Consequently, they have come to believe that they virtually own the place.
There may be several Mr & Mrs. Patriach and Matriarchs within the congregation. If there are, all of their children have intermarried to create a mafia-like grip on the power structures of the church. The pastor, the elders, and even the organist are probably all part of the mob.
People don’t realize this, of course, because the gang talks the talk about church growth. In reality, though, they treat everyone new who walks through the door as a potential threat to their power and influence in the church. And if the reception is frosty enough, those new people sense the mood and drift away, leaving Mr. and Mrs. Patriarch and Matriarch to maintain the status quo.
A note about avoiding people
I’ll admit that the “Christians” I’ve described in this article are caricatures. However, each and every one of them represents a real-life person that I once knew and went to church with.
There were interspersed among the genuinely wonderful and sincere Christians who would also grace the chapel on a Sunday morning. So, what is one to do?
Ignore the good because of the bad?
There is a temptation in life to avoid people who you find a little bit difficult. Logically, it’s just easier to hang around people with whom you agree all the time. However, the problem with avoiding difficult relationships is that we miss an opportunity for growth.
So, I try to show a good deal of grace and patience toward people who annoy me.
The Christianity of the people in this article isn’t just “a little bit difficult.”
And it’s okay to have nothing to do with this kind of religion.
Christianity is supposed to make someone into a new person, not perfect, but a new creation that shines out above non-Christians. In general, we observe the opposite. Non-Christians and non-theists generally show more compassion, understanding, and grace. If God is guiding his followers, he is doing a miserable job.
(4056) Perfect scapegoat
Christians have been programmed to interpret anything that happens as being confirmatory to their beliefs, meaning that their faith never faces a legitimate challenge unless they think outside the boundaries of their indoctrination. The following exemplifies this deceptive mind warp:
Today I just realized how Christians justified their faith was because Jesus was the only historical figure on earth to proclaim he’s a god. And from CS Lewis trifecta, he’s either a liar, an insane person, or actually a god. Not only that but he’s the only one that was resurrected. Furthermore, it’s all according to the Bible, which they claim is a reliable source due to the accuracy of the Bible compared to its earliest manuscript + something about the Dead Sea scroll.
I then challenged that thought and say it’s all perspective. Every religion in the world have their own historical manuscripts, transcripts, historical figures and events to prove their faith is real, so what makes theirs the one true correct religion? They countered with “in my perspective the Bible is real, so my perspective is correct, and in the Bible, Jesus say there’s no other way for salvation which means no other religion in the world is correct”. I’m just left speechless.
I then interjected again when they discussed the topic of the devil is in control of our physical realm hence we need salvation. I said if they believe god is all loving all knowing and all powerful, how could god just let the devil control our physical realm?
Their answer? “God has his own timing. We won’t know why he don’t interject earlier, now, or later, but god has his own timing. Like a parent taking their kid to a dentist. Why would they let their kid go through such pain was because it’s beneficial for them”. And once again, these are all according to the Bible, which the ultimate source of truth.
Once again, speechless. They’ve just unlocked the perfect excuse for everything happening in this world and letting god get away with it.
Anything bad that happened? A baby born with cancer and suffers its whole lifetime before dying? That’s the devil’s fault.
Anything good that happened? Found a parking in a car park? Sore muscles miraculously gone? Praise god for his intervention.
Any other things in between? Good has his timing, his reason.
What’s the point of questioning anything then if there’s a perfect scapegoat, a perfect excuse?
What most Christians don’t realize is that followers of Mormonism, Islam, Hinduism, and others are programmed to use the same system of forced confirmation, such that every single event is interpreted in a manner that confirms their faith. If a Christian could ever acknowledge this, it would and should weaken their faith.
(4057) Myth of the loving god
Christians have been trained to see their god as being a loving fatherly type while ignoring scriptures that belie that image. This is a case where the Bible is like a buffet and only those feel-good scriptures ever make it into sermons or being read. However, the Bible paints a different picture of this deity. The following was taken from:
Christians who are sure that the New Testament reveals a loving god aren’t paying close attention. One of the charter documents of the Christian faith is Paul’s Letter to the Romans. In the opening chapter we find a list of people who deserve to die, because they don’t acknowledge God. The list includes gossips and rebellious children, “…since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct.” (Romans 1:28). “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness…” (Romans 1:18) And there’s more: “…by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Romans 2:5) “…for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.” (Romans 2:8)
The later Christian author who penned Matthew’s gospel, reports that John the Baptist warned religious leaders about what the coming of Jesus meant: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7) Luke’s gospel includes this Jesus-script: “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already ablaze!” (Luke 12:49) The devout adore John 3:16 (“God so loved the world”), but other verses in chapter three undermine that sentiment: “…those who do not believe are condemned already…” (v. 18) and “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life but must endure God’s wrath.” (v. 36) And there’s this Jesus-script in Matthew 12:36-37: “I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” The bad-tempered Yahweh of the ancient scripture is still calling the shots here.
Is this really how the god who runs the Cosmos, with hundreds of billions of galaxies under management, feels about humans? He’s always inflamed with rage about our behavior, and itching to get even? We can be sure there are thousands of different Christian opinions on the nature of god—and what annoys him the most—since this major world faith has splintered endlessly. Based on my experience, serving as pastor of two Methodist parishes, I know there are plenty of the devout who discount such severe versions of god. The kindly “man upstairs” is the god to whom they pray, and worship with hymns of praise. Burning in hell—the wrath of god hovering above them—never gained much traction.
Nevertheless, the severe, punishing god is firmly imbedded in Christian theology. There has always been a tendency to describe god in ultra terms. That is, there can be nothing more powerful or more knowledgeable than god: this creative force is omnipotent and omniscient. When theologians are locked onto to these concepts—and heavily invested in them emotionally—they can be driven to extremes. Never mind that the omnipotence and omniscience of god are unevidenced; there are no reliable, verifiable, objective data to back up the claim that these attributes are, in fact, true. These terms are part of the theobabble created by professional theologians, and sometimes the consequences are devastating.
It is hypocritical for Christians to tout their Bible as the ultimate guide to everything while they dismiss much of its content as being inconvenient to their image of God. If it seems like this god acts more like a human ruler, it’s because that was the mindset of the people who created him. They had no idea of the scale of the universe or the advanced set of ethics and morality that would evolve over the ensuing twenty centuries. Yahweh is a product of his time, but he no longer exhibits today what would be considered a kind or loving ruler.
(4058) Gnostic gospels
The Gnostic gospels are writings by early “Christian” Gnostics. After the first century of Christianity, two primary divisions developed – the orthodox and the Gnostics. The orthodox Christians held to books we now have in the Bible and to what is today considered orthodox theology. The Gnostic Christians held a distinctly different view of the Bible, of Jesus Christ, of salvation, and of virtually every other major Christian doctrine. But the fact that they existed indicates that the truthfulness of orthodox Christianity was not an overwhelming reality. The following was taken from:
In 1945, a large clay vase filled with ancient manuscripts was discovered in Northern Egypt. These manuscripts are now known as the Gnostic gospels, or alternatively as the lost books of the Bible. When Christianity was first becoming an official and standardized religion, the Romans omitted some books from the standard version of the Bible that were already in circulation. Around 52 of those books were found in the clay vase.
The reason most of these books were not included in the official biblical text was because they, in some cases, directly contradicted other books of the Bible. The Gnostic Christians viewed their religion differently than most modern-day Christians do, and their perspective was often much more colorful – and more intense – in ways that the Romans didn’t appreciate.
Some of these Gnostic books, such as the Gospel of Philip, contain alarming subtitles such as “God is a Man-Eater,” and “The World Eats Bodies.” There are stories about Jesus’s youth that paint him as slightly demonic, and that not-so-subtly suggest that Mary was not actually a virgin.
Most churches today will vehemently deny that these books contain any merit. For the people who originally wrote and read them, however, they were God’s word and the truth.
In another world, the Gnostics would have prevailed and their version of Christianity would now be considered orthodox. And it should be understood that ecclesiastical victory does not always go to the sect with the most accurate version of the truth.
(4059) The Bible’s communication problem
It goes without saying that the ‘most important news’ of all time should be presented in a clear, unambiguous manner, especially if it was authored or inspired by an omnipotent intelligence. This is where the Bible fails the test of being the product of an actual deity. The following was taken from:
Clear Communication is a two-way process: 1) the message (whether written or verbal) of the communicator must be clear, and 2) the receiver of the message must understand what the communicator is conveying.
The problem is, as you can see on this sub and on contradictory publications written by the most seasoned apologists of the faith, there is so much division, confusion, and disagreement.
If you write computer code on a compiler, the code will simply not compile if your “message” isn’t clear or has a typo. Legal documents attempt to be explicitly clear too. Thus, there do exist forms of communication that are absent of ambiguity. However, the Bible does not communicate this way and is filled with ambiguities at best, errors at worst. Our salvation and eternal destiny rides heavily on these Scriptures, and it is problematic that such ambiguities exist, especially if a Creator has input and can divinely inspire man to write the document in any way He pleases.
I assume many of you will say that the Bible was written so that an uneducated Shepherd can understand it. However, for thousands of years, Rabbi’s, Priests, and Pastors were frequently needed to interpret the law and scriptures. Also, it wasn’t until more recently in human history that a commoner had access to the full Bible in their homes. If the scriptures were written in a clear manner, even if the message were to be difficult to understand, there would be no ambiguity in the clarification of the message.
The contradictions, ambiguities, and general confusion of the scriptures is easily explained if it was the creation of many human authors, each with their own talents and limitations, and each with a different view of the almighty, his doctrines, and his plans for human afterlife. What it doesn’t match is a book written or overseen by an unlimited intelligence intent on providing a critical message to humankind, a message that will determine whether they enjoy an eternity in ecstasy or suffer the same in agony.
(4060) Luke conflates events a decade apart
The author of Luke loses much credibility in light of his story of Jesus’s nativity. He made the mistake of combining Herod’s death and Quirinius’ census into being concurrent events although they actually happened 10 years apart. Furthermore, he mischaracterized the census as applying to Galilee, where Jesus’ family resided, as well as incorrectly stating that citizens had to travel to their birth city when in fact that they would not have been required to leave their homes. The following was taken from:
According to Sanders Luke may have conflated the census with events after Herod died due to their being riots at both times. While ppl often use the correct date of the census as the basis for dating Jesus birth, Sanders points out that Luke starts his story “In the days of King Herod of Judea”
Rome did take a census of people who lived in Judaea, Samaria and Idumaea – not Galilee, and not by asking them all to travel Luke’s Mary and Joseph, who lived in Galilee, would not have been affected by Quirinius’ census, which covered only people who lived in the two Roman provinces, Judaea and Syria. Galilee (we recall from ch. 3) was independent and not a Roman province. Further, ancient census-takers wanted to connect land and landowners for tax purposes. This meant that the census takers, not those being taxed, would travel. Possibly because there were riots after Herod’s death in 4 BCE and also at the time of the census in 6 CE, Luke has conf l ated the two times. This is a relatively slight historical error for an ancient author who worked without archives, or even a standard calendar, and who wrote about a period some eighty or so years earlier. The most likely explanation of Luke’s account is this: he or his source accidentally combined 4 BCE (Herod’s death) and 6 CE (Quirinius’ census)…;
- The Historical Figure of Jesus, pg 87
If Sanders is right then Luke made a ” relatively slight historical error” in setting Jesus birth and that would factor into one’s assessment of his status as a historian. The problem is that this is only one detail in the census story. We see that Luke’s understanding of how the census would have worked and whether Mary and Joseph would have needed to participate, much less travel can not withstand “the keenest or even the most casual scrutiny” Appeals to what other historians in the ancient world, may have done, is clearly beside the point. Even if Ramsay’s view was accepted when he published, we’d still want to know if this judgment holds up in light of recent scholarship.
Bible inerrantists struggle mightily to explain these anomalies and ultimately convince only themselves. If Luke got this wrong on so many points, what in his book can we confidently credit as being true history? Luke’s nativity tale is an embarrassment to Christianity.
(4061) God’s forgiveness failure
Forgiveness is a very prominent feature of Christianity, as Christians are continually commanded to forgive those who ‘sin’ against them, both by scriptures and during sermons in church. It is perhaps the most prominent meme of the faith, as exemplified by this scripture:
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’ “
But when it comes to a person who leads a good, loving, giving, and compassionate life but does not receive enough evidence for them to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, or that he died and resurrected, no forgiveness is offered for that ‘sin.’ God fails to follow his own directive. Instead we get the following:
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Why is it that God commands us to forgive those who sin against us but at the same time he refuses to forgive those who justifiably do not believe in Jesus based on the extreme paucity of evidence supporting the claim? God is either guilty of extreme hypocrisy or he is just a fictional being invented by the minds of superstitious, Iron Age humans.
(4062) Evolution of demons
The idea that there exist massless entities or creatures that influence human lives predates Christianity, but it was Christianity that borrowed this superstition and modified it to invent the evil (Satanic) demons that are talked about in the Bible and that continue to confound the thoughts of modern Christians. The following was taken from a paper authored by Hailey Fuller, From Daimon to DemIon: The evolution of the demon from antiquity to early Christianity:
When one hears the word demon, it is difficult not to bring to mind images of grotesque, damned creatures; the kind that could only be found in the deepest recesses of the underworld, or the Christian Hell. These images still resonate today not only in religion, but in popular culture as well. In both, demons are seen as something to be feared. The image of the demon holds deeply religious connotations, but the idea itself invokes fear in many individuals, regardless of faith. The demon in today’s popular culture is an important staple of the horror film. Movies from The Exorcist to Hellraiser depict evil forces of demons that are “hell-bent” on the destruction of the “good” in the world. It is hard to extricate the idea of the demon from its now evil connotations, but was this entity always considered to be malicious? Upon looking at sources from antiquity, it seems that this is not the case. The evolution that culminated in the demon that we know today occurred over a great deal of time, and had its swiftest change with the emergence of early monotheistic religion, especially Christianity.
In antiquity, the entity known today as the demon was called a daemon or daimon. Throughout this thesis, it will be referred to as a daimon. This simply meant that it was a lesser being, not quite equal to those in the ancient pantheons. E.R. Dodds, in The Greeks and the Irrational, writes that there were three distinct categories of the daimon. The first category was that of “those irrational impulses which arise in a man against his will to tempt him.”1 Within this category would fit, for example, the thoughts of Theognis, a Greek poet who saw the feelings of hope and fear as dangerous daimones. Thus, he shows the daimon as an almost personification of emotions. This seems to be akin to other spiritual forces of ancient religion which shall be seen later. Dodds’ second category encompasses “daemons projected by a particular human situation.”2 In this case, the daimon could represent things such as pestilence, famine, or drought. These were things that had a profound and negative effect upon the people themselves, but could not be explained. Therefore, they would be attributed to the “gods”, and in these cases, minor ones. The daimon was thought to be of a more chthonic, or earthly, nature and while strict forms of dualism – an extreme good versus an extreme evil – were not quite present in early antiquity, the daimon had both positive and negative influence. Just as the ancient gods could hold human qualities, so too could the daimon. The final category, which plays a larger role in the history of the daimon, is that of the daimon who is “attached to a particular individual, usually from birth, and determines, wholly or in part, his individual destiny.”3 This category itself represents a great deal of what the daimon was thought to be in earlier periods, and can still be seen in later versions of the entity. It is reminiscent of the Christian idea of the “guardian angel”, which may stem from these original Greek ideas, as the daimon would eventually split into good and evil, angel and demon, with the rise of monotheistic religion.
The daimon itself is an entity with a rather convoluted history. As noted above, the daimon undergoes an evolution over from antiquity to the emergence of early Christianity; however the daimon is not limited to just those three categories. While this evolution has been chronicled by some, many historians have simply just mentioned the daimon in passing, or have even conflated its existence with that of ghosts or theoi, minorgods themselves. This is a problem, because even if the distinction between daimones and ghosts, or daimones and minor gods was not something entirely clear in earlier periods of antiquity, the daimon does become acknowledged as an entity in its own right, which had major influence on the way it would subsequently be thought of after Christianity’s influence. If the evolution of the daimon is recounted by historians, the task at hand for them is to pinpoint the change in the daimon that made it the demon that we know today. This is important because the demon plays a very significant role in the religious culture of medieval Europe. The conclusion of most scholars is that the most momentous change to the daimon came in the 4th century B.C.E with the ideologies of Plato and Xenocrates. This thesis disagrees with that conclusion because, as will be discussed later, while the postulations of Plato and Xenocrates do change the daimon, it just becomes a more human entity. This thesis argues that, in fact, the most significant points of change to the daimon actually occurred with the rise of monotheism, especially Christianity, and culminate in the opinions of Augustine of Hippo.
The fact that Christianity latched onto a preexisting delusion and added new features to serve its needs gives much evidence to its lack of authenticity. Christianity did not invent the idea of a demon, rather it borrowed it from antiquity, and thus contaminated its legacy by perpetuating an Iron Age mythical legend. A religion started by a real god would have discarded this nonsense.
(4063) Christian apologetic problems signals it’s a false religion
It is expected that if one religion was true, the arguments and demonstrations of the same would be immediately productive, resulting in conversions greatly exceeding de-conversions. In other words, its growth would not be solely dependent on the birth rate of its followers (childhood indoctrination). This is not what we observe with Christian apologetics. Despite all of the arguments, de-conversions are well in excess of conversions. Further, they fail to explain real life situations, are fraught with insincere tactics, and, unlike science, they never progress or coalesce around a ‘true or correct’ doctrine. All of this is not emblematic of a true faith.
Several Problems with Apologetics:
- First and foremost, study after study shows that conversion itself is not what is driving the growth of most major religions. Thus, religions that are growing globally are mostly growing due to factors that are unrelated to people converting to those religions, namely, birth rates of particular religious groups. This fact alone is a problem, since it undercuts the claim that apologetics is vital in the growth of a religion. In fact, in the case of Christianity, conversion rates are overwhelmingly negative, meaning that conversion rates are negatively impacting Christianity to start with.
- Secondly, apologetics is often out of touch with the religious experiences of most ordinary believers. The reason people doubt their religion is often because of its apparent or actual inconsistency with the secular world they live in, difficulty believing claims of the gospels/Quran in light of some academic examination etc. Apologetics takes these issues and turns them into a chess game that is mostly interesting only to people into academic philosophy. “Proper epistemic warrant” and objections to it are irrelevant to the simpler questions troubling people who doubt their religion. Even the more emotional objections people have are philosophized beyond recognition. Take for example the problem of evil. A person hears that a loved one has cancer. They pray, go to church/mosque/synagogue/temple, they feel the comforting feeling, they experience a ray of sunshine and believe everything to be fine, but suddenly, the person passes away, and this creates a deep confusion for the religious person. This is the *actual* problem of evil troubling most religious folks. But apologetic arguments and debates dealing with the problem of evil are often nothing like this. They once again resemble a highly theoretical chess game, where the questions are concerned with highly philosophized subjects dealing with epistemic defeaters, undercutting defeaters, the question of whether skeptical theism falls prey to the Pandora’s box objection etc. – in other words, mostly of interest to a philosophy nerd who has the interest in seeing a chess game between two camps. There are books written about how to reconcile abstract objects with the aseity of God, except that only 0.2% of folks who doubt the existence of a Christian/Muslim God would ever be primarily troubled with abstract objects.
- Thirdly, apologetics is fraught with salesman tactics. I wish to note here that I have no problem of any kind with apologists, ministers or anyone else asking for money from their listeners. There is nothing unethical about this, in my view. The salesman tactics however, are noted when we observe how all major apologetics have the same outline: There is a “crisis” happening around the world. College campuses, liberal professors, trans high school teachers, politicians are attacking the faith (which may to some degree be true) and the way to face this challenge is to be “equipped” by learning more of these highly philosophized answers. But this is a bad solution. For the most part, the reason people are attacking the faith has to do with societal trends, not lack of knowledge of Aquinas’ arguments.
- Finally, apologetics makes no progress. Take for example the apologetic debates between Catholics and Protestants. Certain debates between these groups have a history of around 500 years, and yet, we are no closer to knowing which of these groups is correct. Is justification by faith alone through Christ alone true or is it untrue? We are no closer to answering this question than we were 500 years ago. If you go to Catholic apologetics websites you will see an “easy proof” that Protestants are wrong, and if you visit Reformed baptist apologetics websites you will see an “easy proof” that Catholics are wrong. And this applies to pretty much all fields of apologetics and counter-apologetics. Does motion/change prove God exists? Depends which website/philosopher of religion you read. Now, some argue, that the way apologetics makes progress is by “advancing the dialogue” i.e., representing the arguments/counter arguments and laying out the landscape better and more charitably, but this is simply not how we measure progress in any other field. What do we mean when we say that archaeology has progressed? We mean that we discovered new evidence, that has led us closer to answer the questions we have had. After 500 years of discovery of which patristic writings are forgeries, New Testament manuscripts, commentaries, entire sects of Christianity, we are no closer to figuring out who got it right on soteriology. Apologetics is making no progress that can be measured in any objective way.
A true religion would be a gold mine for apologetics- the points and arguments would be consistent with explaining how the world works, making for a very convincing story. Christian apologetics fails this test miserably. The continuing failure to convert large numbers of non-Christians, while at the same time losing many more of its own, indicates that Christianity is not a true religion.
(4064) Christianity is a system of escaping morality
Does being a Christian make you more moral? No, it does not. What it offers is an escape from morality by shoveling your failures onto an innocent party. The following was taken from:
Fear is one of the greatest tools for control. That’s why the religious invented hell, as a means to control the believers from either leaving or questioning their orders. Christians believe that being religious makes you moral, when in fact Christianity is in itself a system of escaping morality. I say this with confidence, because any honest Christian who has read the bible will readily admit that the only unforgiveable sin is non-belief or “denial of god”. It says explicitly in 3 different chapters in the bible that every sin will be forgiven if asked for, except non-belief. So that means you can spend your whole life being a complete maniac…raping, murdering, being a pedophile, going on genocidal rampages…and so long as you pray before you die and beg forgiveness, this god will forgive you…so long as you never denied his existence.
That’s nor morality, that’s scapegoating….but then again, that’s what Christianity is all about, which is scapegoating. Jesus was the ultimate scapegoat, because he took all of “humanity’s sins” and put it on himself so people could be forgiven and go to heaven…that’s not moral, because it’s not taking responsibility for your own actions, you are simply passing them to an innocent party. There is no morality in Christianity or Islam and what little you can find is cherry picked. You need not fear hell, because there isn’t a shred of evidence that it exists….nada, zilch, zero. When we die, it’ll be like before we were born, we won’t even know we existed at all.
If we could hypothesize that a god exists and that it has an interest in humans and plans to reward or punish them based on some criteria, it is nearly certain that those criteria would be based on how moral and ethical the life was lived, not on whether the subject worshiped it or believed some miracle story about a god-man. It would look at the morality demonstrated by each life and would not offer a trick to get immoral people ‘off the hook,’ nor to punish moral people who disregarded the trick. Christianity does not teach morality- it teaches how to escape it.
(4065) Neither God nor the universe can self-create
Christians often use the argument that the universe could not have created itself, and therefore it must have had a creator, which they conveniently assume is the god they worship. But as the argument below demonstrates, there is no difference between a conscious god and an unconscious universe when it comes to the capability to self-create.
This is one of the most persistently used double standards in theological debates, in my experience. One of the hallmark objections from theists to a secular worldview is asking the question “well, what created the universe then? Why is it here at all?” alongside misconceptions that the Big Bang is supposed to be a model for how the universe got here, when it isn’t.
Point blank, nobody knows how the universe got here. The matter and energy currently present in the universe has always existed as far as we can tell, and if it ever didn’t exist, we have no idea why it came into existence. It is a simple fact that the origin of matter and energy is unknown to current science, and I don’t anticipate it will be known in our lifetimes (and possibly not anyone’s lifetime).
The fact that theists have an answer to this question does not mean their theory wins out over the assertion that we do not know. The fundamental origin of existence is a complete mystery to mankind.
More importantly, this quasi “God of the gaps” gotcha question just passes the buck. Even if we did accept the idea that the universe was created, and further accepted that it was created by a conscious deity, this does not resolve the fundamental problem of “how did it get here” because that chain of questioning has simply been transferred from the universe to God.
How did God get here? All answers to this question can also apply to the universe. There is no reason why eternal existence, or self-creation, or anything else, becomes more plausible and valid when applied to a hypothetical conscious deity. There is nothing about consciousness that makes you capable of creating yourself, and if there is a conscious God, the idea that he has existed eternally does not make more sense than the universe existing eternally.
The mystery of how the universe came into being is equivalent to the same for God, with one exception- we know that the universe exists. So the question of how God was created is easily explained by the plausible fact that he has never existed. We can’t say the same about the universe.
(4066) Biblical history is a mess
Many Christians have been brainwashed to believe that the Bible is the most accurate book in existence since it was ‘authored’ by an infallible, omnipotent deity. But all it takes is a surface level examination to explode that idea into smithereens. The following was taken from:
I noticed this past week, that several people (both ones I know personally and those on the internet) are of the honest impression that The Bible is historically and scientifically accurate. I know it’s way easier to just roll our eyes and silently pity their obvious disillusionment but I still firmly believe that by actually calling out members of this aggressive, narrow minded cult on their BS (firmly yet respectfully) we can eventually stem the influence they collectively have on our everyday lives. Here are some counterpoints I’ve complied from various authors online to combat the dangerously ignorant claim that the The Bible is nothing more than a series of books written by men whose ideas and understanding of the world have long since been surpassed by the scientific community.
For starters, there was never a global flood. There is no way that the extant biodiversity we have today could even survive such an event. Genesis (6:14-16) mentions the specific dimensions of the Ark pretty clearly and we know from an engineering perspective it not only would fail to have been buoyant but that it also would’ve be structurally unsound.
The human population didn’t come from just two people, and certainly was as never low as 8 (the claimed number from the Noahide flood myth)- scientific analysis of our genes shows that the human population couldn’t have dropped below around 1500 unrelated individuals and still have the genetic diversity we see now.
The Jews were never held as slaves in Egypt, thus no Exodus. They were never even IN Egypt en masse, and the Egyptians of the pharaonic period didn’t have slaves as suggested in the bible. The monuments of the pharaohs were build by farmers and similar workers in the flood season of the Nile. There is not only zero evidence of the Jews there, but corroborating evidence (from other historical tribes of the Levant area, language analysis, etc) that the Jews never left the Levant at all. There is no evidence of an Exodus of a million odd people as claimed in the bible, and in fact many of the places cited didn’t exist until centuries after the time period. The Exodus account was an eighth century BCE justification narrative for a land war with Egypt. Also there is no evidence that Moses parted the Red Sea. The shear amount of rapid erosion this would have caused should still be observable even today.
The Jewish “kingdom” of David and Solomon was nowhere near the size claimed- it was a minor tribal area at best, and even that’s a bit shaky. There was no Soddom and Gomorrah- no other culture ever mentioned these allegedly large and prosperous cities, and no trace has been found in the area claimed.
The Gospels are even full of historical problems. Even if one discounts the utter lack of contemporary evidence for Jesus or any of his supposed miracles, there are other issues. The census NEVER required anyone to go to town of origin of their lineage- that would have collapsed the economy of the Empire. Roman censuses counted just the head of household IN their household- they were for tax purposes, so they cared where you lived, not where you came from. They were also done by province, not empire-wide, and usually subcontracted to the publicans. Further, Matthew states that Jesus was born under the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4BCE. Luke claims it was during the census of Israel conducted when Quirinius was governor of Syria- a post he did not take until 6CE, 10 YEARS after Herod the Great died. So both Matthew and Luke contradict themselves- the census literally could not have occurred at the same time as Herod was alive, yet both describe them as simultaneous. Luke also says that Augustus Caesar decreed “all the world should be registered”, which is false.
Herod the Great never slaughtered infants as described in Matthew- despite there being many chroniclers of Herod’s abuses, this little gem appears NOWHERE but the bible. Even Flavius Josephus, who extensively recorded Herod’s evils, mentioned nothing of this event, which he would have if it actually occurred.
There were many minor errors showing the Gospel writers (Greeks, for the most part) had no clue of the geography of the area- like the story of the Gadarine swine, which Jesus supposedly drove into the Sea of Galilee, despite Gadera being kilometers from the sea. And that’s just Matthew, since Mark’s said “Gerasa”, which was 30 kilometers away. Mark’s descriptions of Jesus’ movements made no geographical sense and are at times impossible.
No historians of the time, despite living in the area, ever recorded any major earthquakes or skies going black as was claimed happened during Jesus’ death.
Interestingly, early scholars that even mentioned what early Christians believed- like Tacitus, Philo, Pliny, Suetonius, Epictectus, Cluvius Rufus, Quintus, Curtis Rufus, Josephus, the Roman Consul, Publius Petronius- never mentioned any crucifixion. In fact, the crucifixion seemed to be unknown even to early Christians until the Second Century!
The trials would never have occurred as claimed in the bible, either. Rather hilariously, a nineteenth century scholar, Rabbi Wise, searched the then-extant records of Pilate’s court to find a record of Jesus’ trial and found nothing. Pilate was depicted by the Gospels as a good man who only reluctantly agreed to the condemnation of Jesus- but history shows he was cruel and corrupt. It was a likely attempt after the First Jewish revolt to place blame on the Jews, rather than the old tradition of blaming Rome for all their ills. The Romans also had no custom of releasing a prisoner at Passover, and Pilate was known to be far too ruthless to have ever caved to a mob (in fact, there are many records of him brutally subduing mobs). Never mind that it was claimed in the Passion narrative that the Sanhedrin met on Passover night to have Jesus arrested and condemned- when in reality the Sanhedrin were forbidden by Jewish law to meet during Passover at all.
In the stories of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac Jacob) we read about camels and caravans of camels, although the stories happened before the camels were domesticated in the Levant region and before the trade routes of camel caravans opened. The reason it was even mentioned was that the books were written later, in the days of the camel trade, by people who did not know it was a relatively recent development.
You would think that the book that God left us humans would present a factual historical account of the events surrounding the time of his focused involvement with the Jews and later the Gentiles. But, as can be seen above, this book is disastrously inaccurate, and clearly the work of clueless humans.
(4067) Golden Rule is a horrible ethic
Christians extol the Golden Rule as if it has a divine status (beyond human capability to create), even though it was borrowed from previous traditions. But there is a dark side to this rule. The following was taken from:
“In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you..”
I’m sure we were all taught how glorious of an ethic the “Golden Rule” is. It’s even adopted by those who aren’t Christians, so even the heathens can see the sense in this ethical principle.
However, when you think about the “Golden Rule,” is it really that great?
My argument is that not only is the “Golden Rule” a horrible ethic, but that it has actually led to (and is used to justify) the crazy, fundamentalist Christians who are making the most noise today.
The reason it is horrible is that is completely selfish. You can follow the “Golden Rule” without practicing empathy or sympathy. You can follow it without even thinking about the other person, because you only have to think about what you want.
It gives people a license to walk around in society without considering what other people want. You only have to think about how you want to be treated and then act thusly.
It gives people a license to shut out alternative voices and opinions…because they don’t matter. The only thing that matters is you and how you want to be treated. You don’t have to learn about other people, you don’t have to open your mind to other viewpoints, you don’t have to consider other people. You only have to worry about your own life, your own viewpoints, and your own desires.
You can see a direct line from following this rule to the state of Christianity today: close-minded, only thinking about their own desires, and then treating everyone else as Christians want to be treated.
An extreme example: a rapist could honestly follow the “Golden Rule.” All they would have to do is consider themselves. Do they want to have violent sex? Yes? Cool, then according to the “Golden Rule” you just treat everyone else in that manner.
It’s nonsense. And the fact that the “Golden Rule” is celebrated is a very sad state of affairs.
A better replacement is “In everything, do to others what they would want done to them.” This is what some people call the “Platinum Rule.”
This leads to having to be empathetic, sympathetic, unselfish, and open-minded. It forces you to get to know “the other” and truly understand what their desires are and how they want to be treated.
It’s a much, MUCH better ethic than the selfish “Golden Rule.”
Here is a good example of why the Golden Rule is flawed. Suppose a Christian believes that same-sex attraction is sinful. He might then tell his friends that if he ever became attracted to another male that he would want them to cut him off, shun him, or kidnap him and send him to conversion therapy. So, if this same person meets a homosexual, the rule tells him to treat this person just as he would want his friends to treat him in a similar situation- that is, to discredit, dismiss, disown, and shun. The Golden Rule is flawed. Scriptures inspired by a real god would have presented the Platinum Rule instead.
(4066) Christianity de-legitimizes its own foundation
It is often observed that the story of Judeo-Christianity is not seamless, that is, there exists a major disconnect that is hard to explain. Why God would not have told his Jewish followers about his son, or that he had made a heaven for them to enjoy in the afterlife, or that he had a plan to have his son murdered so that they can go there. There is no explanation for this problem. The following was taken from:
Rather than try to come up with some bespoke definition for “The Christian Message”, I’ll use John 3:16 as a decent summation of the message of Christianity. It’s easily the most famous verse in the Christian Bible, and it covers the main tenants of Christianity: God loves his creation, he had a son, that son died for our sins as a sacrifice, anyone who believes in him will go to heaven. I’m sure it doesn’t cover everyone’s particular favorite Christian doctrine, or the one they think is most important, but It’ll do for this argument.
That being said, the message of John 3:16 is not found anywhere in the Jewish Bible in a way that is clear and unambiguous. When I say clear and unambiguous, I mean something that is a major theme, is stated multiple times in plain language, and is addressed directly. This isn’t a perfect, concrete definition, but it’s a good rule of thumb. I’m open to other definitions.
Here’s an example of something clear and unambiguous: “Jews should not act like other nations”. This message is found throughout the entire Jewish Bible. Jews are told explicitly not to emulate the rituals and customs of other nations. There are specific examples listed of things they are not to do and nations they should not emulate. It’s very clear and not ambiguous.
Here’s an example of something unclear and ambiguous: “What is the afterlife like”? There is scant mention of the afterlife in the Jewish Bible. It’s not completely absent, but no details are ever mentioned and the subject is not common throughout the text. It’s so ambiguous, in fact, that many Jews don’t even believe in an afterlife.
Anyway, the message of John 3:16 is not mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament. Nowhere does it say that God would have a son. Sure, there are verses that, if you squint your eyes in the right way and don’t pay attention to the surrounding chapter and what it’s actually about, can be made to sound like God was hinting or giving clues about having a son, but a plain reading of the text would never lead anyone to believe that God had or would have a son unless you go into it with that idea already in your head. That’s why the idea didn’t exist before Christians needed it to. I don’t even think Christians themselves would claim a clear, unambiguous message about God having a son. The usual tactic is to take isolated verses from passages that have nothing to do with the thing they’re trying to prove and weave them together to make a mosaic of Jesus. The line I’ve heard most often is that no single verse is a slam dunk. It’s the accumulation of hundreds of verses that combine to form the most convincing evidence. Unfortunately, these hundreds of verses are composed of misinterpreted, mistranslated, and out-of-context passages that amount to nothing, even when combined together.
Remember, we’re talking about the most important message God could possible give man kind. If we were talking about some esoteric Christian dogma, I wouldn’t have an issue, but this is the entire point of the Bible. Christians believe that literally everything in the Bible leads up to, and is pointing to Jesus. It’s literally the most important topic in the Bible, but somehow God chose to leave a trail of breadcrumbs, and not say it explicitly, even once.
Just so I can say I addressed the entire verse:
God loves his creation: Clear and unambiguous, but not unique to Christianity
God has a son: See above
That son would die for our sins as a sacrifice: Not found in the OT
Anyone who believes in him will go to Heaven: Not found in the OT
Imagine that someone writes a book and then writes a sequel, but the sequel contains important facts and events that SHOULD have been mentioned in the original book. Critics would pan this literary duo as a complete failure. The second book would destroy the reputation of the original. This problem haunts the Bible- the Old Testament cannot stand as being authentic if the New Testament is assumed true. That is, they can’t co-exist under the same cover. Because the New Testament hijacks the Old Testament, it is necessarily false, though the Old Testament could still plausibly be true. So, in essence, Christianity is false because it rests on a doctrine that undermines the legitimacy of its own foundation- the Old Testament.
(4069) Defining God
The fact that the word ‘God’ is so hard to define, and that almost everyone has a different view, lends much credence to the concept that no such being exists. This assumes that a supernatural being that interacts with humans would have clearly-defined attributes, behaviors, rules, and would be known to inhabit a certain location in space. The term ‘interacts with humans’ is an important qualifier. A god that fails to do that would be indistinguishable from no god at all, and such a god would obviously not conform to Christian theology. The following was taken from:
In fact, for a long time theologians have been knocking the rough edges off the god portrayed in the Bible. This god required the death penalty for breaking the sabbath, but that rule was dropped; so many of the harsh rules of the Old Testament were rubbed out. All of the many regulations for correct animal sacrifice were abandoned after the Jerusalem temple—where animal sacrifice was big business—was destroyed by the Romans in 70CE. Christian theology galloped off in the wrong direction when it embraced human sacrifice as its cornerstone, e.g., John 1:29, referencing Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Christian theology adopted a few extremes in attempting to create the best of all possible gods: its triune god was proclaimed to be all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), all-good (omnibenevolent). But this created too much tension: all-powerful and all-good cannot be reconciled when we see so much horrendous suffering in the world. Which means that Christian apologists have had to work overtime—an ongoing endeavor—to come up with excuses to make god look good. They do it because doubt is always gnawing around the edges, even among the most devout, who can identify with the man who, in great distress, yelled at Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
One way theologians, priests and preachers try to secure faith—when there are assaults from different directions—is to remind the devout that god is real because there had to have been a creator. That’s just common sense, right? The world just didn’t get here somehow: a god is behind it all; it’s no surprise that many human cultures have their myths depicting gods in the act of creating.
Secular thinkers are quite right in suggesting that these stories are the product of human speculation and imagination: theologians have been making things up forever. And they pose this question to Christian theologians who are so confident that their god is the creator: Where did this god come from? “Well, god just always was, god is eternal—that’s the nature of reality!” Bertrand Russell wasn’t convinced. He suggested that it is just as easy to believe in a cosmos that has aways existed, as it is to believe in a god that has always existed.
Moreover, Christian theologians who insist on the necessity for a creator god are stuck with two problems:
(1) Even if cosmologists find evidence for a creator god, how can theologians prove that their god-related doctrines—so many of which assign human-like characteristics to god—apply to a creative force that cosmologists might identify? How would they be able to determine that? Establish it beyond doubt? Many theologians are sure that god has personality and emotions, (modeled, obviously, on human personality and emotions). Is that what cosmologists are likely to find in a force that ignited the Cosmos some 13 billion years ago?
(2) Cosmologists have been researching/studying cosmic origins for quite some time now—using increasingly sophisticated space-based instruments—and achieving amazing insights (for example, check out the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe). But so far there has been no hint that a god is discernable.
Best practice: follow the work of those who are looking for hard data, i.e., cosmologists, astronomers, physicists. Don’t pay attention to the speculations of theologians who have an agenda, namely to preserve, protect, and defend god-ideas that derive from the ancient world.
Christianity proposes that an unlimited, supernatural being exists and that it is intimately involved with (at the very least) the planet Earth and its inhabitants. Given those two attributes, it would be nearly impossible for billions of people to each have different views about this deity. This fact alone suggests that if there exists an unlimited, supernatural being, it is not measurably involved with human beings. This means, in simple terms, that Christianity is false.
(4070) Christian Laws of Behavior
One of the ways to determine if Christianity is a true religion is to examine the behavior of Christians. If true, Christianity should make its followers into stellar citizens of impeccable comportment. Let’s see how that works out:
CHRISTIAN LAWS OF BEHAVIOR:
McQuade’s Law: In America, no group feels more persecuted than Christians do. In America, no group is less persecuted than Christians are.
Gentle’s Law: Every time a Christian expresses sorrow for someone, it’s merely to make them feel superior to others.
Jackson’s Law: The more a Christian claims to love the Bible, the less likely they are to have read it.
Gregg’s Law: Since Christians believe they are going to heaven already, personal improvement and self reflection are difficult skills for them to master.
Whitfield’s Law: Christians are masters at marketing even the most hateful ideas as being loving.
Teeple’s Law: Christians will see even the most gentle of resistance as being the most grievous of insults.
Moyer’s Law: There is no “proof” for the existence of god that can’t be easily refuted with a single Google Search.
Walker’s Law: Honesty is not of great importance to Christians during debates, only winning. Lying for Jesus is highly encouraged in Christian circles.
Steel’s Law: Christians are only capable of examining any issue at surface depth, and are never motivated to challenge their personal biases.
Mander’s Law: Every time an atheist quotes from the Bible, Christians will claim the quote was “taken out of context”.
Akin’s Law: Christians will happily beat someone to death with a Bible, but won’t actually read the Bible.
Frink’s Law: All accusations from conservative Christians are actually confessions in disguise.
Damerio’s Law: When translated from Christian doublespeak, phrases like “I’ll pray for you,” or “God Bless” actually mean “F*ck you” when said to a non-believer.
Werner’s Law: Christians will demand you be polite at all times, even if they are promoting genocide, because their feelings matter more to them than the mass murder of millions.
Green’s Law: Christians look forward to heaven, and being able to watch with earnest as their friends and family members who didn’t accept Christ are tortured forever.
Dee’s Law: Christians say the word of god never changes, and also say to ignore the Old Testament, with the exception of passages about gay people.
White’s Law: When Christians talk about loving freedom, they are speaking only of their own freedom, and are perfectly willing to strip others of their freedoms.
Neff’s Law: Christians will offer up “thoughts and prayers” when they don’t care at all, but still want to exploit a tragic event to make themselves appear pious.
Love’s Law: No one thinks about gay sex more than straight white conservative Christians.
Sloan’s Law: Christians hate the mere existence of people who don’t believe the same way they do, while showing love to child molesters, as long as the molesters claim to love Jesus.
Long’s Law: Christians will complain about having people shoving things down their throat while they attempt to shove their religion down someones throat.
Alvis’s Law: No one will come to the defense of Christians that want to murder gay people faster than the perfectly reasonable Christians who will say “Not all Christians..”
Schultz’s Law: A Christian will value the human rights of a fetus more than they will value the human rights of the person the fetus is inside of.
Sham’s Law: Christians believe that all human beings accept the authority of the Bible, including people who identify as non-believers.
Vaughn’s Law: Christians are fortunate that their god hates the same people they hate.
Tracy’s Law: Despite the First Amendment making it clear that there is no established religion in the United States, Christians believe that “In God We Trust” on the currency means America is a Christian Nation.
Dawkin’s Law: Christians actually believe that atheism is a religion, rather than the lack of religion.
Maxwell’s Law: The more Christian one claims to be, the less “Christian” they will act.
Samuel’s Law: Most Christians are so good at deflection that one could easily mistake them for professional tennis players.
Valentine’s Law: Anytime a Bible verse clearly goes against their existing beliefs, a Christian will then say that it is being taken out of context, but will never provide the proper context when asked.
And one extra:
Kyroot’s Law: A Christian will vote for any person, no matter how wicked or depraved, as long as they feel that they will vote to make gay lives miserable and make women forced breeders.
To say the least, the way that Christians behave lends little insight into demonstrating that they are somehow connected to the ultimate intelligence of the universe. Rather, it seems that their personalities have been hijacked by a putrid, man-made belief system that makes them out to be insincere, unaccepting, hypocritical, and yes, even hateful at times. Take a hundred atheists at random and compare them to the same sample of Christians and you will gain all of the insight that you need.
(4071) Isaiah 7:14 is not about Jesus
Christians felt compelled to legitimize their faith by mining Old Testament scriptures in a desperate attempt to prove to themselves that Jesus was prophecized all along by their Jewish forebears. In so doing, they made many mistakes and even took some deceptive actions. One good example is how they tried to adopt Isaiah 7:14 as being a prophecy about Jesus. The following was taken from:
This verse is set within a particular historical situation: 8th century BCE Jerusalem, which is jointly besieged by Assyria and Israel. Isaiah is informing King Ahaz of Judah how long it will be before the city is saved from the attackers by means of a “sign,” the birth and development of a child by a particular young woman known to both men. The prophecy’s point is that salvation from the siege will come to Jerusalem when the child, to be named Immanuel, knows how to refuse evil and choose the good (v. 16). This will be a matter of a few years, or perhaps a decade or so, depending on when one thinks children develop their moral sense. (Modern psychology shows that children begin to develop a moral sense extremely early.) The prediction is not a matter of seven centuries because then the prophecy would be irrelevant to Ahaz. It is entirely time bound to a particular political situation over the course of a few years. And so this passage is unequivocally not a messianic prediction, nor is it about Jesus.
Furthermore, the virginal status of the woman is largely irrelevant. Even if Isaiah had used the word virgin, which he did not, it would merely be a reference to her current status pre-conception, not an indication that she would be a virgin after the necessary intercourse to conceive the child. (Something so obvious it wouldn’t need to be said.) There is no indication that Isaiah intended this to be understood as parthenogenesis. The relevant aspect of Isaiah’s prophecy is the timeframe of their redemption from the siege, not a miraculous conception.
Further proof of the basic argument is that the young woman is referred to by the article “the,” indicating that she was known to Isaiah and Ahaz, perhaps even in the room as Isaiah was speaking. The sentence states “Look, the pregnant young woman will birth a son and call his name Immanuel.” (The word “hineh” often translated as ‘look’ or ‘behold’ could be translated “here is,” so this sentence could be translated as “here is the pregnant young woman [who] will birth a son and call his name Immanuel,” showing that she was present during the conversation.) The young woman was already pregnant and known to both men. It is therefore not a prediction about Mary and Jesus.
Likewise, the child’s name was to be Immanuel, not Jesus. The theophoric meaning of the name Immanuel (God with us) is a reference to Isaiah’s message that God is with the Jerusalemites and will deliver them from the siege. The Christian contention that it is a vague prediction of the incarnation is anachronistic and merely an attempt to rationalize the fact that Jesus’s name was not Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14 is not about Jesus or the messiah. Christians have misinterpreted this text by yanking the verse out of context and relying on a mistranslation of the word “Alma” (young woman), while ignoring/misunderstanding the entire point of the prophecy.
The bottom line is that the Old Testament did not know of Jesus, and furthermore it never anticipated that a human sacrifice would be utilized by God as a means of sin forgiveness. This creates an impassible gulf between the Old and New Testaments- meaning that Christianity is a separate religion from Judaism, while at the same time deceptively claiming it as its foundation.
(4072) Pauline interpolation in 1 Corinthians
One of the major problems with Christianity is that their holy book is saddled with numerous questions about its authorship. There was a period of time before the texts were more or less settled during which the original texts were tampered with by unknown actors. The following is a good example:
Many people regard 1 Corinthians 11 as authoritative and an inspired writing of the apostle Paul. Regardless of the doctrinal controversies surrounding this verse, I do not believe the part on head coverings (2-16) can be said to be written by Paul and below are my arguments as to why. This is not something talked about in scholarly sources but I think I have sufficient evidence from the text itself to prove it.
- Evidence for a non-Jewish author due to contradictions
- Non-Paulian style of writing.
Let’s start with 1. The contradictions are so immense that not only do I not believe that Paul, a highly educated and very thorough Jew, did not write this, but I am convinced that the author may not have even been Jewish at all. Let’s list each of the contradictions and their verses.
- “4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. ” as well as “7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 ” each say that a man must uncover his head when prophesying. This is despite the fact that the old testament law, something Paul would have been very familiar with says this: “4 He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on.” Leviticus 16:4 It would seem strange that Paul would forget such a law.
- “14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him,” There is no way in God’s green earth that an educated Jew like Paul would forget the story of Sampson the Nazurite. The man whose vows to God Himself where bound up in his long hair only to be put to shame when it was cut. Could a very thorough and educated Jew like Paul have forgotten this?
- 7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9″ These verses with regards to if a woman is made in the image of God are borderline blasphemy. It is clearly suggesting that women are not made in the image of God when Genesis clearly says they are. A Jew of all people would not have crossed this line least of all Paul.
- “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12″ This contradicts what Paul himself wrote when he famously wrote in 1 Corinthians 7 just a few chapters before “8 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.”
Each of these contradictions do not sound like the Paul we know to be well versed in scripture. But even the style itself doesn’t sound like Paul. Take the following verse:
“10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels.” The text provides no clarification on what “because of the angels is supposed to mean. Paul was always careful, not only to ground his teachings in scripture but also almost always quotes the scripture directly or at least paraphrases it. When teaching a new teaching he makes sure to give lengthy explanations and quotations as his position was often question and so he felt the need to reference scripture more than other and more thoroughly than the other writings. This thorough style clashes with this inexplicable “because of the angels” argument which has been the author of much confusion. Given that we are given no direct quotes from other scriptures, this makes it a lot less likely to be Paul.
In conclusion, I believe that this part of 1 Corinthians 11 was some sort of addition which is not inspired, based on evidence from the text itself and what we know about the authors.
This should leave Christians wondering if God really disapproves of men having long hair (despite in 99 percent of depictions of Jesus, he has long hair) or whether they should not cover their heads or whether women should keep their heads covered. It is truly a mess. Confusion like this is emblematic of a human-created enterprise, not something orchestrated by an omnipotent god.
(4073) Evangelism is not about saving people
The only situation where evangelism is necessary as a means to ‘save’ people is if God is a monster who sends to hell or eliminates from existence those who have either not heard about Jesus or who have been raised in a different faith.
This illuminates one of the pressing quandaries about Christianity- what does God do with people who never had a fair chance to be ‘saved?’ There seems to be three options. The first and most populous group of Christians believe that they will be given a chance after death to accept Jesus, but it’s hard to conceive how such a ‘chance’ would not be so obvious as to be irrefutable, making it much more likely to achieve heaven if you die without salvation knowledge than if you were exposed to it in real life (when you are much more likely to reject it). The second group believes you will be annihilated, cease to exist, as if that’s a big ‘gift’ for avoiding hell. The third and most extreme group of Christians assign such people to hell.
So how can evangelism be important unless the second or third group above is correct? You can only ‘save’ people who are otherwise bound for hell or annihilation. If the first group is correct, and people will get a post-life chance to be saved, then evangelism is not only not effective, but actually a means to send people to hell (those who reject the message) who otherwise (with an easy-to-see post-life chance) would achieve heaven.
What this means is that Christian evangelism is at odds with its own theology. In fact, it could only make sense in a scenario where this is the only life that humans will ever experience, and that this life can be enhanced with knowledge of a prayer-answering god. But that’s not Christianity.
So, the bottom line is that evangelism is effective only if God is morally bankrupt and penalizes people who, at no fault of their own, fail to learn about Jesus or who are inculcated into to different faith tradition. Otherwise, as noted above, if God is good, and he gives these people a chance after death, then evangelism does more harm than good.
(4074) Being gay worse than slavery
If Christianity is true, then Yahweh is a homophobic, slaver god who, if he became incorporeal today as a man, would be despised, shunned, if not imprisoned. It takes only a superficial look at the scriptures to prove this point. The following was taken from:
Leviticus 20:13 describes two men having sex with each other as an “abomination” and sentences the participants to death.
Meanwhile, Leviticus 25:44-46 allows for enslaving someone for life (so long as that someone isn’t an Israelite), and Exodus 21:20-21 allows for beating owned slaves, so long as they don’t die from it. There is an unspecified punishment for beating a slave to death, but said punishment likely isn’t death, given how the Bible is hardly shy about explicitly naming death as the penalty for a wide variety of other actions.
Given that gay sex would result in the participants being executed, whereas a slaveowner buying someone and abusing them into submission would result in no punishment whatsoever so long as the slave doesn’t die, it seems abundantly clear that the Bible paints gay sex as being worse than enslaving human beings.
Now, what’s more likely?
- The universe was created by a homophobic slaver god who passed these edicts down to us from on high
- The god of the Bible was created by homophobic slaver humans in their own image, just as humans have created thousands of other gods in their own image.
I consider option 2 far, far more likely to be true.
Yahweh has lost a lot of support as time has been an enemy to him. Over the centuries, slavery has steadily become more and more taboo, while at the same time, homosexuality has become more and more acceptable. It appears that Yahweh’s time has passed. He was doing just fine during the Iron Age Middle East, but he no longer makes good company practically anywhere in today’s world. Civilization has moved on, but Yahweh remains stuck within the benighted pages of the Bible.
(4075) Fiction cancer
When it comes to the nativity stories of Jesus, in the two gospels of Matthew and Luke, the contradictions are fatal- one or both of these stories are completely non-factual. But these legends were not good enough for church officials- they needed to add more fiction to their story, in fact, the fiction became out of control, like a cancer. First, they made Mary into a perpetual virgin (sex was seen as being too dirty and sinful). Second, they had to make her birth also miraculous (sexless), or immaculate, so she could avoid original sin and therefore not pass it on to Jesus. Then third, as if that wasn’t enough, they had Mary at the end of her life ascending bodily into heaven, just as Jesus allegedly did. The following was taken from:
“There was Theagenes, the Olympic champion, who was regarded as divine for being one of the greatest athletes in the ancient world. Hercules was the most widely revered hero of the ancient world. He was promoted to divine status after his death, and it was said he was fathered by Zeus. Alexander the Great was believed to be conceived of a virgin and fathered in turn by Heracles. Augustus Caesar was believed to be conceived of a virgin and fathered by Apollo, as was Plato, the philosopher. Apollonius of Tyana was believed to be a holy man born of a virgin and fathered by Zeus. Pythagoras the philosopher was believed to be a son of Apollo. There were also savior-gods, like Krishna, Osiris, Dionysus, and Tammuz, who were born of virgins…” (page 127, Kindle)
So it’s no big surprise that some early Christian writers felt that Jesus had to be assigned the same high honor. But a couple of the earliest Christian authors hadn’t absorbed this idea. There is no mention of virgin birth in the letters of Paul, and Mark’s gospel gets along quite well without it. The author of John’s gospel had no use for it either. These writers had no way of knowing that science would one day agree, as Loftus notes: “ ..one cannot even have a human being without the genetic contributions of both a male seed and a female egg.” (p. 121, Kindle)
But in the wake of the virgin birth tales in Matthew and Luke, “theological ignorance with wings” got a big boost. The Catholic Church decided that Mary remained a virgin her whole life. The idea of Mary—the mother of the God—having sex was too distasteful. But they had to deal with Mark 6:3: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” The church has claimed that these were children of Joseph from an earlier marriage—based on no evidence whatever. But that didn’t stop even more ignorance with wings.
It dawned on theologians that virgin birth explained how original sin had not been passed on to Jesus: he didn’t have a human father. Problem solved! Well, not quite. Could not Jesus have been tainted with original sin through his mother? This issue was debated by medieval theologians, and in 1854—wasn’t this a little late in the game? —the Vatican announced the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, i.e., when Mary herself was conceived, miraculously that conception was clean of original sin. Based on no evidence whatever. And it gets even more ridiculous: in 1950, the Vatican announced this: “We proclaim and define it to be a dogma revealed by God that the immaculate Mother of God, Mary ever virgin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven.” It didn’t provide any evidence that this was revealed by God. Faithful Catholics assume that the Vatican is perfectly tuned into God, so why bother?
Imagine concocting a story like this today! It would be laughed into oblivion. Yet, there are over a billion Catholic Christians who believe these painfully-obviously-fictional fantasies about Jesus’ mother. Only religion can hijack a human mind and leave it so defenseless.
(4076) Identification of scripture should’ve been obvious
If Christianity is true, then Yahweh must have inspired the scriptures that he planned for inclusion in the Bible. Because he is omnipotent, and can guide human actions, there should have been no controversy as to which writings were inspired and those that were not. Unfortunately for Christianity, this is not the way things worked out. The following was taken from:
Christian authority is based upon its scriptures. Christianity, as defined by its scriptures, claims that its scriptures were written by YHWH and are suitable guidance for Christians (2 Timothy 3:16). Christians refer to their scriptures as “the word of god” and similar terms. If the Christians’ scriptures were truly written by YHWH and Christians were guided by YHWH, then they would be easily able to distinguish YHWH’s scriptures from lesser writings. After all, YHWH, according to the Christians’ scriptures, cannot lie (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18).
But Christians cannot agree about what constitutes their scriptures, which in turn suggests that YHWH’s alleged wisdom and writing cannot easily be distinguished from human writings – in turn undermining the justification for trusting the Christians’ scriptures as special and worthy of trust by Christians because they were written by YHWH.
The Roman Catholics add to the scriptures used by Protestants the following texts: Tobit, Judith, portions of Esther, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (also known as Sirach), Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children to the Book of Daniel, the story of Susanna to the Book of Daniel, and the story of Bel and the Dragon to the Book of Daniel.
The Eastern Orthodox churches have added the following texts in addition to what the Roman Catholics have added: 3 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees (Georgian church only), 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras (Georgian church only), Odes, Psalm 151, Psalms 152-155 (Syriac Peshitta only), Baruch 2 (Syriac Peshitta only), and the Prayer of Manasseh.
The Ethiopian Orthodox add the following texts in addition to the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Texts: Books of Enoch, Book of Jubilees, Rest of the Words of Baruch (aka Paralipomena of Baruch), 1 Meqabyan, 2 Meqabyan, 3 Meqabyan.
And in the past, Christians have had even stranger conflicts about which texts should be regarded as scripture. For example, a text claiming to be Paul’s Epistle to the Laodiceans was included in some early Latin texts of the New Testament, and was cited by Pope Gregory the Great and included in John Wycliffe’s translation, but Jerome and many others believed it to be a forgery – which modern Christianity agrees with even as it agrees about little else. Yet a Pope thought otherwise!
The disagreements and controversies surrounding the designation of biblical scripture is evidence that an omnipotent god was not involved in the process.
(4077) Faith: Giving up the game
Things that are true don’t require faith. So it is revealing that Christianity extols the ‘virtues’ of having faith while at the same time dismissing the careful process of examining evidence to derive a conclusion. In a sense, begging for faith is giving up the game- ‘just believe because that is what we want you to do.’ The following is an excerpt from Matt McCormick’s book Atheism: and the Case Against Christ, Chapter 11, The F-Word:
“To take something on faith or to believe by faith is to believe it despite contrary or inadequate evidence. It is to believe anyway when there’s not enough support from evidence and reason to clear the way.”
“The overcoming of doubts or counter-evidence is the essential feature of faith.”
“If someone’s reaction to my arguments against the resurrection and other religious beliefs is that she has faith, then she is conceding the central point. In effect, she is acknowledging that in order to believe those religious doctrines, one must ignore the inefficiencies in the evidence and believe anyway.”
“If there is sufficient evidence to justify the conclusion, then faith isn’t needed. So to suggest that faith and evidence jointly justify is acknowledging that the evidence by itself isn’t enough, and I will ignore that gap and believe anyway.”
“In fact, the need to invoke faith to bridge the gap affirms the inadequacy of the evidence.”
“In effect, the faith response amounts to, ‘I’m going to believe anyway, despite those objections.’ That’s just dogmatic irrationality, not a serious consideration that the critic must give some further objection to.”
Whenever anyway says ‘just have faith,’ alarm bells should ring. It means that what they want you to accept has not been sufficiently supported by evidence. Faith is the engine that keeps Christianity afloat. Evidence supporting its claims is orders of magnitude less than what would be needed to generate belief in any other proposition.
(4078) Peter letter forgeries
The Bible is discredited to include two clear forgeries where authors were pretending to be Peter, the apostle. The following was taken from:
Biblical scholar Bart D. Ehrman says this of First Peter in his book Forged:
1 Peter is written by a highly literate, highly educated, Greek-speaking Christian who is intimately familiar with the Jewish Scriptures in their Greek translation, the Septuagint. This is not Peter.
Acts of the Apostles describes Peter as illiterate, but even if he spent his latter years learning to read and write Greek, he could scarcely have written such a polished letter. And Ehrman points out:
Peter could not have dictated this letter in Greek to a secretary any more than he could have written it in Greek.
That would have required him to be perfectly fluent in Greek, to have mastered rhetorical techniques in Greek, and to have had an intimate familiarity with the Jewish Scriptures in Greek.
Peter could not have dictated the letter in Aramaic and have the secretary translate it into Greek. The letter does not read like a Greek translation of an Aramaic original, but as an original Greek composition with Greek rhetorical flourishes.
As for the epistle’s reference to Babylon, Ehrman says:
Babylon was the city that was seen as the ultimate enemy of God among Jews, as it was Babylon that had defeated Judah and destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple in the sixth century BCE. By the end of the first century Christians and Jews had started using the word Babylon as a code word for Rome, the city that was the enemy of God in their own day, which also destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple in the year 70. The author, then, is claiming to be writing from the city of Rome.
This makes sense, given the later traditions that associated Peter with the city of Rome, but tradition also indicates that Peter was martyred in Rome under Nero in 64 CE. Would it make sense that he would be calling Rome “Babylon” before the Romans had destroyed Jerusalem in the year 70?
The question asks what modern scholars have to say, and I have only cited one scholar on the authorship of First Peter, but there are many others who make very much the same observations. The evidence points strongly away from Peter as the epistle’s author.
Most New Testament scholars regard Second Peter as a very clear forgery. In The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, Bart D. Ehrman says:
The vast majority of critical scholars agree that whoever wrote the book, it was not Jesus’ disciple Simon Peter. As was the case with 1 Peter, this author is a relatively sophisticated and literate Greek-speaking Christian, not an Aramaic-speaking Jewish peasant.
In Forged, Ehrman says of the epistle:
The author of 2 Peter goes out of his way to insist that he is Peter, as he not only names himself Simeon Peter (1:1), but stresses that he was personally present with Jesus on the mount at the transfiguration (1:16-19).
In 3:2, the author slips and refers to “your apostles” as if he is not one of them. [This has been ‘corrected’ in KJV, which replaces “your apostles” by “us the apostles”]
2 Peter 3:16 refers to Paul’s epistles and ‘other’ scriptures. He thinks Paul’s epistles are already scripture [This could not have been during Paul’s lifetime]
The assault on his opponents, the ‘false prophets’, contains numerous verbal similarities to what can be found in the New Testament book of Jude. The parallels are so numerous that scholars are virtually unified in thinking that the author has taken Jude’s message and simply edited it a bit to incorporate it into his book.
In Who Wrote the New Testament, Burton L. Mack also describes some of the clues that 2 Peter was not written by the apostle Peter and says:
Scholars have traditionally assigned it a date from 124 to 150 CE.
This would obviously be long after Peter was dead.
It goes without saying that ‘God’s perfect message to humankind’ should be free from forgeries. Peter was allegedly the preeminent disciple of Jesus, so anything written by him should eclipse anything written by Paul, who never met Jesus. Therefore, the fact that both letters attributed to Peter are forgeries represents a significant lost opportunity for the legitimacy of Christian scriptures.
(4079) God didn’t know what he created
The Bible is full of explanations for why things are as they are. But, in each case, the explanation is archaic and pre-scientific, reflecting the ignorance that permeated human societies 2000 to 3000 years ago. So the question that should be asked is why did God allow such nonsense to pollute a book that he allegedly inspired? The following was taken from:
Scientists like Darwin discovered evolution as an answer to why there are so many species, including human beings. It undercut the creation accounts in Genesis 1 & 2, Psalms 104, and Job 38-42, which can no longer be taken as straightforward accounts, but are now considered non-historical myths. The Bible can no longer be considered as a scientific textbook, to say the very least.
So the question of the origins of life itself is not something to be answered in the Bible. This question is proving to be as elusive as the origins of species. But if it is to be solved, scientists will solve it.
Q. Are we sure the Bible was ever specifically authored as a scientific text book?
A. It offers the pre-scientific mind knowledge about those areas it talks about. In Genesis we learn why people die, why there are rainbows, where rain comes from, and why snakes slither across land. We also learn that stars are hung in the firmament just above the mountains. They teach how the universe originated, which god created it, why women were subservient to men, why there is pain in childbirth, why we live with thorns, why work is hard, and why there are different languages. Just picture this before the rise of science that could dispute it all. God didn’t know anything about the universe yet he allegedly created it.
Christians are left to ponder the quandary of how an omnipotent deity could create a universe and yet remain clueless about the causes of various phenomena. It is almost as if the Bible was written by humans without any input or inspiration from a supernatural source.
(4080) Cave psychosis and Revelation
The Book of Revelation was allegedly written by John of Patmos, and it is generally regarded that his revelation occurred while he was in a cave, likely under the influence of locally-available psychedelic plants. The following was taken from:
Patmos is a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea. A cave on that island is the exact location in which John is said to have had the visions that allowed him to write Revelations. That location is so universally agreed upon, it’s now an historic center known as the “Cave of the Apocalypse.” Caves also happen to be at the center of a new debate in the archaeological community because several of world-reknown archaeologists who’ve put forth a controversial theory that caves are where some of humans’ earliest thoughts in relation to gods and spirituality were born.
As I’ve explained in other articles, a sudden leap in our mutual evolution occurred sometime around 32,000 years ago, coinciding with the appearance of strange paintings deep inside caves of France and Spain. A number of these paintings depicted half animal-half human creatures, unusual scenes that did not correlate to daily events, as well as spirals and other geometric patterns that have since been classified as classic stages of a an altered state of consciousness known as a trance state.
By their very nature, caves are conducive to altered states of consciousness. The darkness and isolation is the perfect recipe for sensory deprivation. With sensory deprivation often comes vivid imagery, and this imagery can be made even more vivid through a number of techniques that can include include everything from simple repetition of a mantra or prayer, to hyperventilation, to the ingestion of psychoactive substances, to dancing to the point of exhaustion, to sleep and/or food deprivation.
Also, an entheogen known as “Gramofonche”, or Morning Glory, is a part of the flora of Patmos. The question of whether Morning Glory was ever used ritualistically in this area is often widely debated. But all it takes is speaking to a local Shaman, or simply looking to artwork from early cultures such as the Mayans and the Aztecs to see that Morning Glory was indeed a key part of Shamanic ritual as clearly seen in this image below of Ololiuqui and an Aztec Shaman:
Also, near the island of Patmos is the island of Kos. It’s been widely publicized that Kos has several species of psychedelic mushrooms. It’s thought that since Kos and Patmos are part of the same island chain, there’s a statistical chance that the same psychedelic mushrooms were available on Patmos as well. Even though attempts were made to rid most of them by the ruling elite very early on, there are still many scattered pieces of evidence if one simply looks. Countless temples I’ve visited have clear depictions of psychedelic mushrooms, including frescos of Amanita muscaria in a few early Christian churches like this image below in the Basilica of Aquileia in Italy:
Mind you, it was built over a Roman Temple sometime in the 3rd Century, but that means at least the Romans or the Christians were aware of or working with Amanita muscaria for sacramental purposes. They are not just decorative; they are singled out from other elements by being pictures in a basket, which is a clear indication that they were ingested. By reading Revelation it seems vividly apparent to those who have experienced altered states of consciousness, that John of Patmos may have been documenting a vision seen through the eyes of someone in a profoundly altered state of consciousness. I know, it’s wild speculation, but let’s see if it would even have been possible for John to be experiencing a trance state that is a common feature to almost every mystical and religious system on the planet:
Were there entheogens or at least an altered state of consciousness available to John on Patmos? The answer to that question is not only a resounding “yes” but there were likely more than just one possibility in relation to how this trance state could have been arrived at.
The Caves of Patmos
First, let’s explore the natural structure and features of the environment John wrote Revelation in. Oddly enough, because the imagery within Revelation is so vivid, more than one scholar has suggested the structure of the cave in which John received his visions may have had more than a minor impact on his state of mind. This “more than a minor impact” reportedly could have been due to the inhalation of easily-verifiable cave gases. Although the cave has now been turned into a temple of sorts, one can still make out the original structure from old photos of the cave. Many theories surrounding Paleolithic cave art posited that the cave itself, the lighting, sound echoes, and so forth, would assist ancient Shaman, Priests, and Practitioners in entering trance and creating art, while also communicating with the rock walls.
And, indeed, John was said to receive his revelations from a triple fissure in the rock, through which he was spoken to by his divine being. John is also said to have lain near the fissures, holding himself up, as he dictated the book, indicating perhaps physical discomfort. Was this discomfort caused by the consumption of an entheogen or perhaps the inhalation of certain cave gases leading to intoxication and trance?
The Book of Revelation is an outlier in the New Testament, almost as if it belongs to a totally different genre of religious text. Indeed, there was much controversy surrounding the decision to include it the canon. But if it is true that cave psychosis and psychedelic plants were involved in this so-called ‘revelation,’ then the contents of this book should be discarded as having any reputable disclosure of true religious concepts. It is, in fact, nothing more than a bad trip.
(4081) Side of Jesus Christians ignore
Every Christian has their own image of Jesus, and usually it is a facsimile of perfection- moral, ethical, compassionate, loving – the very paragon of what everyone should emulate. These Christians have not read the gospels carefully. The following discusses the side of Jesus that Christians ignore:
Assuming, for the sake of argument, that a historical Jesus existed more or less as described in the gospels, and that the gospels are a more or less accurate picture of his teachings, he was an asshole. Those teachings are neither particularly coherent nor particularly nice.
The nicest of the things he said (eg: the Golden Rule) had been said by other philosophers for centuries, and represent common-sense platitudes that are neither particularly original nor particularly profound. The Sermon on the Mount (regarded by millions of people who have never really sat down and thought about it, even many non-christians, as one of the most enlightened works of philosophy ever written) just goes downhill from there. It establishes thought crimes and careless speech as the equivalent of murder, forbids divorce, and even forbids such basic activity as “storing enough food for tomorrow”.
Notably, he affirms that “he has not come to abolish the Old Law, but to fulfil it”, that “not a single jot or tittle of the law will change until Heaven and Earth pass away” (Matthew 5:17-18, Luke 16:17). He specifically calls out a group of Pharisees as hypocrites for cherry-picking the laws so that they don’t have to murder disobedient children (Matthew 15:3-12). If you have ever found yourself arguing “But that’s the Old Testament!“, Jesus explicitly disagrees with you. This is especially amusing given how many of these laws he breaks himself.
He’s rather astoundingly racist. In two separate stories, he is approached by a woman of an “inferior race” (a Caananite woman in Matthew 15:22-27, a Greek woman in Mark 7:25-27), who asks him to use his healing powers to help her. In both stories, he calls the woman a “dog”, refusing to heal her unless she begs like one. He repeatedly and explicitly endorses the institution of slavery as moral. For a paragon of nonviolence and asceticism, he also had serious issues respecting other people’s property, destroying someone else’s fig tree because it wouldn’t bear fruit out of season (Matthew 21:18-20, Mark 11:12-14), killing a herd of someone else’s pigs by filling them with “unclean spirits” (Mark 5:13, Luke 8:33), directing his disciples to steal horses and donkeys (Matthew 21:5-7, Mark 11:1-6, John 12:14), wasting a jar of precious ointment which one of his disciples had just told him could be sold to feed a lot of poor people (Matthew 26:8-11), and leading that famous armed raid on the Temple complex that managed to go unrecorded by absolutely any historian (Mark 11:15, Matthew 21:1-13, Luke 19:36-45, John 2:15).
And all that before I even get started on the whole “eternal punishment” thing. Even if the rest of his ministry really DID represent the most enlightened work of moral philosophy ever written (rather than the unremarkable ravings of a third-rate apocalyptic loonie), his psychopathic torture fetish ought to be a complete deal-breaker.
Anyone who thinks that such a person should be considered a good moral role model is either deeply disturbed, or has never actually opened a Bible.
Of course, you’re free to argue that your Jesus would never do any of these things. But at that point, we’re no longer talking about the main character of the Gospels – we’re talking about your personal imaginary friend who just happens to share a name with him. As the character we’re now talking about exists solely in your imagination, you are of course the final authority on what he does or doesn’t believe… but he’s also completely irrelevant to anything that takes place outside your imagination.
Keep in mind the gospel authors were all fans of Jesus, so it would be expected that they would try to paint him in the best light. This means that if he was a real person, he was probably even worse than how he is portrayed in scripture.
(4082) Christians lack faith in divine inspiration
Christians believe the scriptures are divinely inspired and also insist that they were written by eyewitnesses or people who had direct access to eyewitnesses. If the first proposition is true, then the second would have no importance- anybody with a hand and a pen could be used by God to write his holy message. But because Christian apologists insist on the reputation of the authors, they are unwittingly admitting that the scriptures are not divinely inspired- that is, they needed to be written by persons close to the source. The following was taken from:
There is no evidence from the NT that the gospels were authored by eyewitnesses: they are undeniably written anonymously and in the third person and contain no accidental or intentional references by the authors to suggest that they were present for the events or dialogue related there. Furthermore, the consensus of academic scholars is that the earliest gospel (Mark) was written two generations after Jesus’ death, the last (John) written three generations after.
Furthermore, even by tradition, two of the gospels (Mark and Luke) were not authored by eyewitnesses, and “Luke” was a merely a companion of Paul, who himself was not an eyewitness. Furthermore, the Gospel of John contains text that suggests the author(s) were not eyewitnesses. Finally, the earliest reliable reference to the gospels we have under the names of the four evangelists comes about a century after the synoptics were written**, suggesting that the “authors” were an invention of much later Christians.
In other words, there are very good reasons to believe not only that the gospel were not authored by eyewitnesses — let alone the ones whose names they bear in modern Bibles — but that we literally have no idea who wrote them, which is the consensus of academic scholars, which means we have no idea if they even got their information from eyewitnesses.
Despite this, most Christians insist that the tradition handed down by earlier Christians concerning who wrote the gospels is unquestionably accurate**. This is what most Christians teach their children, it a common “fact” cited in Christian stories and sermons, and Christians apologetics frequently rely heavily on the assumption that the gospels were written by the named eyewitnesses (Matthew & John) or their close companions (Mark & Luke). For instance, see “The Case for Jesus Christ Rests on the Evidence of Eyewitnesses”.
But it seems extremely odd that Christians feel the need to insist that this is true. After all, the gospels undeniably contain accounts of events and dialogue that the named eyewitnesses could not have been (or were very unlikely to be) present to witness. Examples include events related to Jesus’ birth and baptism, events related to Jesus’ arrest and trial and execution, events on the day of the discovery of the empty tomb.
Many Christians believe that the gospel accounts of these events are completely accurate — and for large numbers of Christians, that these events even literally happened as described — despite the lack of eyewitness testimony. Why? Because both Protestant and Catholic Christians generally believe that the NT was “authored” by God, who used the Holy Spirit to divinely inspire the authors of the gospels to write only what God wanted written and to write it completely accurately. For instance, here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic church says
” God is the author of Sacred Scripture because he inspired its human authors; he acts in them and by means of them. He thus gives assurance that their writings teach without error his saving truth”
And here’s what the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board has to say:
“God breathed out His Word by using godly men to write down exactly what He wanted them to write. … The Bible is inspired: God is its ultimate author. The Bible is inerrant: God used human authors to write exactly what He wanted without error. The Bible is infallible: It is incapable of error and will accomplish exactly what God wants.
But here’s the problem: if Christians really believe this, why does it matter who wrote the gospels, why does it matter that the authors of the gospel were eyewitnesses? Anyone could have written the gospels inerrantly if in fact it was ultimately God who was telling them “exactly what to write” and was ensuring that what they wrote was “without error”.
I propose that the only reasonable explanation is that — lip service aside — these Christians who insist the gospels had to be written by eyewitnesses no longer actually have faith that the NT was divinely “authored” by God via the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which is understandable, because it’s frankly hard to reconcile such a belief with the numerous discrepancies (and other problems) that are obviously present in the gospels (as we see presented on virtually a daily basis in this sub). In other words, they lack faith that these texts were actually divinely inspired, and so hope to bolster the reliability of the gospels by claiming they are eyewitness testimony, something that should be completely unnecessary if they were divinely inspired.
As an aside, let me also explain why I think this is unethical / dangerous:
- It’s a common tactic for religious cults to hide their dirty laundry from their children and new recruits, to lead them along with simple and easy stories and beliefs until they are safely “in the fold”, only for them to later discover that the reality is not what they were taught. As one of many examples, we know Scientologists hid information about Xenu from the rank and file for decades, only exposing it to a select few. Obviously, such behavior is deceptive and unethical.
- It’s also extremely brittle. Just like it’s very easy these days for Scientologists to learn about Xenu, it’s very easy these days for Christians to get exposed to the academic consensus concerning the authorship of the gospels — a consensus that’s generally pretty easy to validate on your own by reading the relevant portions of the NT and 2nd-century references — which means that this alone can act as a wedge that starts Christians questioning the truth of what they have been taught.
In my opinion, this is one of several serious clefts in Christian belief that is adding to the exodus of Christians from the faith. Christians need to decide whether the NT is accurate because it’s divinely inspired — in which case they need to come up with a reasonable explanation for how it can be so problematic — or that it is accurate because it was written by eyewitnesses or people relying on the direct testimony of eyewitnesses — which is going to be a tough sell — or some other TBD explanation.
There are three elements that tend to repel each other- (1) the idea that scripture is divinely inspired, (2) the fact that there are obvious errors, and (3) the concept that the authors were close to the action. ‘2’ contradicts ‘1’ and ‘1’ obviates the need for ‘3,’ while ‘2’ indicates that the authors of ‘3’ were neither divinely inspired nor were they close to the action. So, in total, nothing makes sense except that scripture was not divinely inspired, there are multiple errors, and that the authors were far removed from the action.
(4083) Victor Hugo analogy
Many Christians believe that the extraordinary event of Jesus rising from the dead is supporting by ‘extraordinary’ evidence provided in the gospels. But if we apply the same pedigree of evidence to a claim that French author Victor Hugo (1802-1885) rose from the dead, the result is strikingly dissimilar. The following was taken from:
Carrier brings considerable humor to his explanation of what’s going on here. He asks his readers to imagine that there had been a Victor Hugo cult:
“… if a bunch of well-dressed men went around knocking on doors claiming Victor Hugo rose from the dead, and all they had to prove it were their own creepy convictions, some wild miracle tales written decades after the fact by unknown persons who never even say how they know anything they claim to know, and some vaguely obsessive letters written by one guy who claims he saw Hugo’s heavenly ghost, you’d tell them to go away. And you never feel any need to inquire further. Because we all know poppycock when we hear it.” (p. 296)
Why do we even have to hunt for extraordinary evidence?
If a god really wanted to save the world through this resurrection, why not make it a spectacular, sensational, high-profile resurrection? Robert Conner has noted that, according to the confused, contradictory resurrection accounts in the gospels, no one actually saw it happen! Isn’t that mighty strange? Especially since Jesus had told the disciples several times that he would resurrect. Carrier points that Jesus should have shown himself to more than a few people in the original cult: “He would not appear only to one small group of believers and one lone outsider, in one tiny place, just one time, two thousand years ago, and then give up.” (pp. 309-310)
Indeed, why didn’t Jesus knock on Pilate’s door on that first Easter morning: “Hi, it’s me again!” That would have increased the chances that there would a Roman record of the resurrection. If god’s motivation had been to save as many people as possible, why make belief dependent on such feeble accounts that ended up in the New Testament?
This seems to be a two-pronged problem. First, the documentation supporting the resurrection is painfully deficient. Second, it is obvious that if Jesus actually resurrected that he could have appeared in places that would have resulted in this feat being recorded to a much higher level of authenticity- within the well-crafted arena of Roman historical literature. What this means is that God was satisfied to have Jesus appear only to a few of his followers and to allow the documentation of these visits to be easily challenged for their truth. This was a significant missed opportunity for God, assuming he earnestly wanted people of distant generations to believe that the resurrection occurred.
(4084) Satan worked for God in the OT
Christians might be shocked to learn that Satan was an employee of Yahweh in the Old Testament. It was not until later that Christians re-imagined this figure into an evil adversary. The following was taken from:
There are only two books in the entire Hebrew Bible where the word śāṭān is clearly used to refer to a specific supernatural entity: the Book of Job and the Book of Zechariah. In both of these works, in all instances in which the word clearly describes a specific supernatural entity, it is accompanied by the Hebrew definite article, making it הַשָּׂטָן (ha-śāṭān), which means “the satan” or “the accuser.”
In both the Book of Job and the Book of Zechariah, the satan is portrayed a divine being who works for Yahweh. His job is to try to trick or seduce humans into sinning in order to test whether they are truly faithful to Yahweh and then, if they do end up sinning, prosecute them in the heavenly court for their sins. There is not a single reference anywhere in the entire Hebrew Bible to the notion of Satan as the fallen Prince of Darkness or the cosmic enemy of God. These ideas do not appear until the New Testament at the very earliest.
In first-century Jewish belief, Satan was the ‘Adversary’ who tested the righteous, but was not the wholly evil being he soon became in Christian belief. As the very first New Testament gospel to be written, Mark’s Gospel was transitional: the author still seems to view Satan as a benign adversary.
When Jesus called Peter “Satan” in Mark 8:33, he was comparing him to this Jewish concept of Satan, not calling him a wholly evil person. Peter had rebuked Jesus, so Jesus rebuked him as an adversary, for his lack of spiritual understanding.
So the question must be asked: If Satan is as Christians believe and as he is portrayed in the New Testament, why was he mis-characterized in the Old Testament? Why were God’s ‘chosen people’ clueless about the true nature of this being?
(4085) DNA points to lack of a designer
Human DNA does not look like the designed product of an omnipotent god, but rather like the haphazard consequence of unguided evolution. This creates a problem for Christianity, which proposes that humans were God’s special creation. Could an all-powerful god be so inefficient? The following was taken from:
The Argument from Design says life on earth looks designed. A single microscopic cell divides and differentiates into a full-grown cypress or zebra or human, and its internal machinery is marvelously complicated. This argument says that nothing but God could explain this and points to DNA as the prime illustration of design in life.
We must avoid the temptation to think that complexity means design. Elegance might, but mere complexity—especially unnecessary or sloppy complexity—gives little support to the design hypothesis. The cell, marvelously complicated though it is, is more a convoluted Rube Goldberg machine than the elegant and sophisticated product of an all-knowing designer.
The Argument from Design imagines we see the hand of a designer in life. Since the only designers we know are human designers, it says life looks as if a human designer with sufficient capability built it.
What guides a human designer? Consider the design criteria human designers use for a bridge, smartphone, or engine. These criteria fall into a handful of categories: cost, strength, speed of assembly, durability, constraints on allowed materials, beauty, and so on. But a criterion you never find in a human design is that the finished product should have added junk. You may not care for the Art Deco design at the top of the Chrysler building, but it was put there deliberately to follow the criterion of beauty. You may find a design that was poorly built or left unfinished, but that was never a goal of the designer. Useless junk is never in a design on purpose.
Contrast this with the debris in human DNA. Every cell in your body has a broken vitamin C gene as well as 20,000 other nonworking pseudogenes taking up space. Nonworking DNA injected by viruses over millions of years makes up another eight percent of our genome. Atavisms (archaic genes that are accidentally switched on, like legs in snakes) and vestigial structures (structures that have lost ancestral function, like eyes in cave fish) are DNA flashbacks to body features from ancestor species in the distant past.
You might imagine humans need the most DNA of any living thing since Christianity says we’re made in God’s image, but we’re not even at the top of the list of mammals. Cows, mice, and bats have more. There are grasshoppers, beetles, ticks, worms, and snails that have more DNA than humans. There are plants that have more. The record holder, with 400 times more DNA than humans, is a protozoan.
Maybe those animals with more DNA are just more complex than we are, but then how can Man be God’s greatest creation? The alternative explanation is that there’s a lot of waste in DNA, but that rejects the idea of a designer. Neither is a good option for the Christian who sees God’s design in life.
The Design Argument fails when applied to DNA. No, human DNA does not look like it was designed by an omniscient Designer. This doesn’t prove God doesn’t exist. What it does make clear, however, is the difference between mere complexity, which we find in DNA, and evidence of a careful and skillful designer, which we don’t.
Suppose we found that DNA was 100 percent efficient, with no waste at all. That would have confounded scientists to explain how such could have occurred naturally. They may have come up with some explanations, but this fact alone would grant greater probability to intelligent design. Consider this as a missed opportunity for God to have left a calling card for us to discover.
(4086) Reasons Judas was likely mythical
There is sufficient evidence to conclude that Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, was probably a mythical character. The following was taken from:
We have no extra-biblical evidence that either attests to or refutes the existence of Judas Iscariot, so we must look for evidence in the Bible.
The gospels tell us that Judas betrayed Jesus for money and after the betrayal ceased to be one of the twelve. According to Matthew’s Gospel, he repented and committed suicide on the day of the crucifixion. In any case, he certainly became estranged from the remaining group of apostles. According to Acts, his replacement, Matthias, was appointed fifty days later, after the ascension of Jesus, so until that time there were only eleven apostles.
Although not conclusive evidence on their own, we have two reasons from Paul’s epistle (which elsewhere seems to have been known to the gospel authors) to believe that Judas Iscariot may have been a literary invention created by the author of Mark’s Gospel and then carried forward into the later gospels. On the basis of this evidence, there may have been no betrayal:
- In 1 Corinthians 11:23, Paul does not even appear to say there was a betrayal. The word used (παρεδίδετο) is commonly translated here as “he was betrayed”in order to harmonize with the later gospels, but would more usually be translated as “he was handed over” — which does not require a traitor. (Susan Gubar, Judas: A Biography and Peter Stanford, Judas: The Most Hated Man in History)
- Paul wrote of the risen Jesus, saying in 1 Corinthians 15:5 that he was seen “by Cephas and then by the twelve”. Paul had no first-hand knowledge, but was telling us that he believed there was still an inner group of twelve to whom Jesus appeared. This is very much at variance with the gospel account.
John Shelby Spong says, in Jesus for the NonReligious, that there were twelve disciples, just as the Old Testament says there were twelve sons of Jacob. He says Judas is a variant of Judah, which thus links his name to the Old Testament Judah who sought money and received 20 pieces of silver for betraying Joseph (Genesis 37:26–27).
Spong also points out that there are other literary fragments from the Old Testament that appear in the Judas narrative:
- The king was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zech 11:14), which he hurled back into the temple, just as Judas did.
- Ahithophel ate at the table of the “king’s anointed” (maschiach – messiah). When Ahithophel’s betrayal of King David was discovered, he hanged himself (2 Sam 15:12-17:23), just as Judas did.
David Oliver Smith says, in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul: The Influence of the Epistles on the Synoptic Gospels:
The arrest and betrayal of Jesus is based on the story of David fleeing from Absalom in 2 Sam 15-16, which also occurred on the Mount of Olives.
This gives us credible evidence for the possible inspiration for the story of Judas Iscariot.
If Judas was fictional, then it casts doubt on the entire passion story. Without the betrayer, it eliminates the alleged ties to prophecy, recasts the arrest sequence of events, and increases the probability that the Barabbas figure (prisoner released in lieu of Jesus) is also fictional.
(4087) Why just one god?
Christians assert that there is only one god (well, actually three but they are somehow just one). This assertion is not proven and even their own scriptures suggest that there are a multitude of gods. The following was taken from:
The believer insists that the universe requires a maker, a god. I would ask him, “How do you know there is only one god?” From what we can see and measure in this world, how can we be sure there are not many gods; perhaps 3 or 4, or 5 or 10, or 30 or 40? How could we know? Perhaps one god created the stars, another created the oceans, another the land, another the plants, another the animals, etc. How could we know? Can we be sure this is not the case?
Even the Bible suggests there is more than one god. In the Psalms, there are these passages:
“There is none like you among the gods, O Lord” (86:8);
“For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods” (96:4);
“Our Lord is above all gods” (135:5);
“He is exalted above all gods” (97:7);
“For Yahweh is a great god, and a great king above all gods” (95:3).
In Exodus Yahweh predicts that he will execute judgments
“on all the gods of Egypt” (12:12).
And the author of Numbers then declares that that is indeed what happened:
“Yahweh executed judgments against their gods” (33:4).
What method or methods could we use to prove definitively that there are not many gods? Any ideas?
Yet, while there is talk of many gods in the Bible, isn’t it curious that nowhere in the Bible is there a proof of the existence of any gods, not even one. Think about it.
The Bible begins, “In the beginning god created the heavens and the earth,” and it just goes on from there to the creation of everything else, and chapter after chapter of the “history” of god’s interactions with man, and instructions on what god abhors and what god demands from us. Nowhere in the Bible is there any attempt to prove that this god exists. Nowhere is there a sentence that begins, “We know there is a god because…” Nor is there a sentence that even resembles this… with one exception.
In Romans 1:20 (KJV) Paul writes:
“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”
But this is really nothing but an assertion. Paul speaks of “the creation,” but how do we know the universe was created? Maybe it has always existed. Or, maybe the universe came into existence as the natural product of the laws of physics. Maybe there was no creator. There really is no evidence on where the universe came from. There are just assertions, unfalsifiable claims.
Watch closely and you will see that the Bible’s authors merely ASSUME there is a god and they go from there. They merely make ASSERTIONS. They never offer a proof of the existence of a god. I find that telling.
Of course, no one else in the several thousand years since the Bible was written has brought forth a compelling proof either. So, perhaps we could forgive the Bible’s authors for their sloppy work? No, I can’t, because they obviously and KNOWINGLY just made shit up! I mean, how the hell could anyone know what happened “in the beginning?”
If the universe contains magical beings, there is no compelling reason why there would be only one. This is an unsupported assumption that runs contrary to simple reasoning and, most importantly, the Bible itself.
(4088) Christian or Paulinian?
Everybody who reads the New Testament must make a choice- do you go with the theology of Jesus or rather with that of Paul. As can be seen below, this is not a trivial distinction or a casual decision- the difference is stark between how these two men crafted their salvific message:
Christianity is bifurcated into two camps- one side accepts the Old Testament as being still valid and actionable (Jesus’ religion), while the other (and most dominant) rejects the Old Testament as being superseded by a ‘new covenant.’ (Paul’s religion). What should be obvious is that if Paul actually interacted with the resurrected Jesus and was inspired by him, his message would have aligned with that of Jesus. Instead, it appears that Paul was following voices in his head and knew little if anything about what Jesus taught.
(4089) Christians lie about biblical slavery
To protect their image of God, Christians have been fed lies about biblical slavery, with most of them believing, as they are told, that slavery in the Bible was contractual and voluntary, similar to indentured servitude. This overlooks the fact that God also supported involuntary chattel slavery. The following was taken from:
The United States had two kinds of servitude. With indentured servitude, Europeans would come to America to work for fellow Europeans. Masters paid for their servants’ transportation, and they provided food, clothes, shelter, and training. In return, the servants were usually obliged to work for five years. Roughly half of the European immigrants to the thirteen colonies came as indentured servants.
The other form of servitude was chattel (ownership) slavery. These slaves were rarely Europeans, and they remained slaves for life, as did any children.
The Old Testament defined the same two categories. Fellow Jews could be slaves, but only for a limited time. God said, “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free.”
Many Christians have heard that this indentured servitude is the extent of biblical slavery. This ignores the other kind, about which God says, “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you…. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life.”
God approved of slavery in the same way he approved of commerce by regulation. The book of Proverbs admonishes merchants to use fair weights and measures. God’s regulation of commerce makes clear that he approves of it when honestly done, and his many rules about slavery make clear that he approves of that, too. For example, “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or slave two, since the slave is their property.”
Again, this sounds very much like slavery in America, which also had rules to “civilize” it. For ex- ample, the 1833 Alabama law code stated, “Any per son who shall maliciously dismember or deprive a slave of life, shall suffer such punishment as would be inflicted in case the like offense had been committed on a free white person.”
Christians may defend God by saying that social conditions of the time constrained him, though God didn’t feel bound by the status quo when he imposed the Ten Commandments. They weren’t the Ten Suggestions, and the death penalty backed most of them. If God had room for “Don’t covet,” surely he could find room for “Don’t enslave anyone.” Slavery clearly wasn’t a problem to God in the Bible.
Another response is that Christians helped abolish slavery in the West. That’s true, but the Bible was a tool for Christians on both sides of the issue. During the American Civil War, some in the South argued that abolitionists were apostates for denying the clear meaning of the Bible.
The fact that God, as documented in the Bible, supported involuntary slavery should disqualify ‘him’ as being a personage deserving of worship. Rather, he should be seen as a primitive Iron Age war god who did nothing to improve the morality and ethics of his time. Any Christian who reveres this god is doing so out of either ignorance or obstinance or fear.
(4090) Judge sentencing analogy
Comparing God to an earthly judge who is sentencing people convicted of crimes illuminates the bizarre and unworkable doctrine of Christian salvation. The following was taken from:
A common analogy offered by many religious people is to think of God like a judge. And to say that a just judge would not forgive wrong doings on account of good deeds, and since we are all supposedly guilty of sin, we need someone else to take the blame because we cannot be forgiven through any good we do.
But what kind of just judge would forgive someone’s transgressions on account of that person believing that a god exists? Imagine if a human judge was about to sentence someone, and they ask the person “do you believe x” (x can be anything that is irrelevant to the persons responsibility of the given crime) and the person answers yes. The judge then says “in that case, your sentence is community service”. The judge then sentences someone else and they answer “no” and the judge sentences this person to life in prison (which is an infinitely kinder sentence than hell). This makes no sense. Everyone would say that this is absurd and that what you believe has nothing to do with accountability, and they’re right. No just judge would have someone’s beliefs as a factor for how that person should be sentenced.
This is where Christianity went off the rails, and it was likely Paul who sent it on this unfortunate trajectory. If Christianity had merited actions over beliefs the world would have been a much better and more peaceful place to live. And any god worth its name would value how a person lives their life in lieu of the nature of their beliefs.
(4091) Demons recede under investigation
Belief in demons was rampant during Jesus’ time and it appears that he believed in them himself. But if demons are real, wouldn’t our belief in them be even stronger today given more tools for their detection, such as the spectacular proliferation of smart phones and security cameras? No, the opposite has happened. They are believed only by a dwindling population of literalist Christians. The following was taken from:
When I stopped turning a blind eye to all the problems with the Bible and Christianity and started applying the same skepticism that I applied toward other religions, the usual response that I got from Christians was, “You are under spiritual attack! The devil is whispering in your ear. These doubts are all lies!”
Oddly enough, other religions use the devil as an excuse too when members start questioning their religion. It’s also the devil when you start questioning the doctrines of the church you go to. Where do these questions and doubts come from? From a place of honest inquiry and desire to know the truth? Or are spirits and ghosts telling you that your faith and holy book is irrational?
You have yet to demonstrate that demons and the devil exist. When people attempt to prove this, they always have stories lined up about “demonic oppression.” When pressed for these stories, they usually come back to the source of
1) Someone had scary dreams or sleep paralysis.
2) The person was “lost” at the time, but was conveniently was under the influence of hallucinating drugs.
3) They knew of someone who got possessed, which more than likely had a mental disease. I had someone who worked at a mental facility say “it’s interesting how all these ‘demon possessed’ people seem to improve after medication.”
4) They will attribute arbitrary life experiences to demons: just like they do to God. Most have perfectly natural explanations. (We all know that one lady who blames demons for everything!)
In Mark 9:17-27, there is a story about a supposed demonic possession in the Bible. One main aspect of Jesus’ ministry was casting out demons. Demon possession, so it seems, was a relatively common occurrence in those days. Demon possession was also super common in the hundreds and of years after that. There were so many reports of possessions and exorcists that you will lose count of them! Oddly enough, reports of demon possession started to dwindle as our understanding of mental illness increased.
It seems rather odd that the descriptions of the demon possession in the Bible seem to fit with someone with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Thought: Why does the occurrence of demonic possessions seem to decrease with our ability to scientifically investigate?
Demon possessed people were a dime a dozen back in the day, but when is the last time you encountered someone who you knew was demon possessed? I can’t think of a time.
Jesus believed in demons. Demons don’t exist. Therefore, Jesus was not god.
(4092) Biblical morality is no longer relevant
Although many Christians consider the Bible to be the ultimate guide to morality, even a casual examination reveals that it speaks to a different people from a different time. Biblical morality had its day, but it is no longer relevant. The following was taken from:
Many Christians say that they get their morality from the Bible, but this cannot be true because as holy books go the Bible is possibly the most unhelpful guide ever written for determining right from wrong. It’s chockfull of bizarre stories about dysfunctional families, advice about how to beat your slaves, how to kill your headstrong kids, how to sell your virgin daughters, and other clearly outdated practices that most cultures gave up centuries ago.
Consider the morality of the biblical warlords who had no qualms about taking multiple wives, adultery, keeping concubines, and fathering countless children from their many polygamous arrangements. The anthropologist Laura Betzig has put these stories into an evolutionary context in noting that Darwin predicted that successful competition leads to successful reproduction. She analyzed the Old Testament and found no less than 41 named polygamists, not one of which was a powerless man. “In the Old Testament, powerful men—patriarchs, judges, and kings—have sex with more wives; they have more sex with other men’s women; they have sex with more concubines, servants, and slaves; and they father many children.” And not just the big names. According to Betzig’s analysis, “men with bigger herds of sheep and goats tend to have sex with more women, then to father more children.”
Most of the polygynous patriarchs, judges, and kings had 2, 3, or 4 wives with a corresponding number of children, although King David had more than 8 wives and 20 children, King Abijah had 14 wives and 38 children, and King Rehoboam had 18 wives (and 60 other women) who bore him no fewer than 88 offspring. But they were all lightweights compared to King Solomon, who married at least 700 women, and for good measure added 300 concubines, which he called “man’s delight.” (What Solomon’s concubines called him was never recorded.)
Although many of these stories are fiction (there is no evidence, for example, that Moses ever existed, much less led his people for 40 years in the desert leaving behind not a single archaeological artifact), what these biblical patriarchs purportedly did to women was, in fact, how most men treated women at that time, and that’s the point. Put into context, the Bible’s moral prescriptions were for another time for another people and have little relevance for us today.
If God is who Christians think he is, and that he inspired the creation of the Bible as his gift to humankind, then we would expect it to promote moral values that would have stood the test of time. But if the Bible was written by people who were solely products of their local culture, then we would expect twenty centuries later for it to be outdated- as it is. No god could have been this short-sighted.
(4093) Civil War soldier analogy
It it illustrative to view the Jesus resurrection story by imagining a modern-day analog of the same story. In this case, a story about a Civil War (United States 1861-1865) soldier who came back to life:
Imagine if there was a Civil war report that a soldier had died and come back to life after being tortured, stabbed, and then put in the grave. No one would believe this story in the modern day. And they definitely wouldn’t believe it if all they had were anonymous accounts that were written 40 years later filled with internal contradictions with little corroborating evidence. Maybe not even if there were no contradictions or errors. If, however, they had been raised from birth to believe this ridiculous story, and went to gatherings to celebrate it, and were threatened with Damnation for not believing it, that would be quite a different story.
Christianity runs on two main engines- childhood indoctrination (along with the fear of hell) and a person’s inherent desire to avoid death. The story of a man reviving after being dead for three days is so preposterous that it could never be accepted by the masses without those two engines running full throttle.
(4094) Colossians and Ephesians not written by Paul
It seems reasonable to assume that if Jesus picked Paul to be his emissary to the gentile world that he would have assured that all of the letters to be included in the Bible (as claimed to be written by Paul) would have actually been written by Paul. This makes sense if the theology of Paul was designed to be transmitted without distortion. In the following it is shown that Colossians and Ephesians were likely not the products of Paul and that they present a theology that varies from his authentic letters.
In Raymond E. Brown’s Introduction to the New Testament he cites multiple studies of hundreds of scholars and says that about 80% of critical scholarship believes Ephesians is pseudonymous, while around 60% of critical scholarship believes Colossians is pseudonymous. Now his book was published in 1997, so these numbers may have changed, but likely not too much.
The arguments for Colossians that Brown presents are:
1) Colossians has a slightly different style than the more authentic Pauline letters. It’s sentences tend to be much longer than Paul usually writes, and it’s been described as a particularly “liturgical hymnic style”. Brown mentions the idea that this could be due to a scribe (Timothy is named as a co-sender of the epistle in its introduction after all). Perhaps he shaped its style more? However, Brown also brings up that most scholars reject this, since the different style is still heavily present in key-arguments, meaning it’s about as unlikely that Paul dictated it as it is that he just wrote it himself.
2) Colossians presents a slightly different theology. An example of this would be a heightened emphasis on “creation through Christ and his preeminence” that’s absent from the more authentic Pauline letters. Brown mentions that this may be emphasized in order to deal with the specific “false teaching” that Colossians addresses (which Brown further addresses as either Gnosticism, syncretism, or mystery religion). Brown further addresses that some scholars would date the appearance of these groups later into Christian history, after Paul’s death (and even into the second century), but also states that those datings are, in large part, guess work and estimations. Another difference in theology is that Colossians tends to demonstrate a more “realized eschatology” as opposed to the “future eschatology” that Paul often seems to hold. However, again, Brown refutes this by saying Colossians’ realized eschatology is often overstated, and points to verses like Col 3:4 to show that the author of Colossians did have some kind of future eschatology.
3) It presents a more developed ecclesiology. In many of the more authentic Pauline letters, the focus is on individual churches while in Colossians, we see for the first time the idea of a more universal Church, it’s role in the “heavenly powers”, and how this broader Church is the body of Christ. Brown does address however, that Colossians, if authentic, would be one of Paul’s later letters chronologically. He then leaves it a bit open ended on whether the ecclesiology could have developed to that point within Paul’s lifetime.
With all of this, Brown says the evidence “favor[s], but not conclusively, an author other than Paul”, which seems to be fairly representative of the 60% previously discussed. As for Ephesians, it suffers from much the same problems. So why do less scholars favor it? Well, it shares the same problems because (like you said) it likely copies extensively from Colossians. Of the 155 verses of Ephesians, between one third to one half directly parallel Colossians in both order and content, and one third of the words found in Colossians are also found in Ephesians. This is unprecedented among Paul’s authentic letters. Further, it amplifies some of the previous problems that Colossians had, with Brown saying that “the florid style is like that of Col but even more expansive and hyperbolic (e.g., almost fifty uses of “all”), producing sentences of remarkable length… There are piled up adjectives and genitives, and redundant style and terms quite uncharacteristic of the Pauline usage in the undisputed letters.”
So with all of that, to answer your questions, I’d say it’s quite likely Ephesians is not actually written by Paul, while honestly, Colossians could more reasonably go either way. There are definitely scholars who support both of them being authentically Pauline letters (Jerome Murphy-O’Connor comes to mind in his Paul: A Critical Life) but also I wouldn’t be surprised if Ephesians soon loses its “disputed” status and more squarely falls from “deutero-Pauline” to “pseudo-Pauline” some time soon.
If the Bible is solely man-made, then problems like this are understandable, but if, as most Christians assume, that God oversaw its development, then forgeries like these two should be absent.
(4095) Satanic panic
Over a period of 300 years in Europe as many as 100,000 women were executed (sometimes gruesomely by being burned alive) because they were suspected of being witches. This amounts to nearly one per day. The executioners were Christian men who felt they were doing the Lord’s work in accord with scripture (for example Exodus 22:18- ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.’). Of course witches don’t exist and all of these women were innocent of their charges. It becomes difficult to square this atrocity with the concept of an omniscient, omnipotent god who had a stake in protecting the reputation of his church. The following was taken from:
Some version of the word witch is found in all languages and cultures and it generally refers to a person, often female, who is thought to affect people and the material world through benevolent or malevolent magic.
The problem for the word in American and European usage is that it is so laden with connotations of malevolence and mischief that it actually aids in the mis-understanding of non-American, non-European witchcraft, which was often only benign shamanism or herbalism.
Which witch to pursue? Since most readers are familiar with the European witch, that is the witch I’d like you to think about.
The European witch had her heyday in the calamitous fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries when, as British scholar Norman Cohn definitively showed in his remarkable book Europe’s Inner Demons, no witch actually existed in Europe, except as a fantasy of ecclesial brains.
There had been precedent in earlier Christian centuries for official incredulity concerning witches. And yet by the 1400s witch belief was growing in Europe.
According to Cohn, Christian ecclesiastics of the witch centuries dreamed the whole witch thing up, even the bit about witches flying on broomsticks. (How else would thousands of women discreetly travel to forest groves miles and miles from their villages for a Thursday night debauch at a witches’ sabbath, including sexual intercourse with the devil, and then get back home for Friday morning chores? Note: the phallic properties of the broomstick were not lost on ecclesiastics.)
Dubbed the witchcraze, this three-centuries-long mass hysteria and mass delusion is truly one of history’s mysteries. How, in that period of Europe, did one hundred thousand witches, who were not even witches at all, get executed for being that which they were not?
Here are five scholarly explanations:
- ‘Witches’ were targets of villainous villager envy or revenge. A mere accusation of witchcraft could destroy a person and get them out of the way.
- ‘Witches’ were targets of compassion fatigue since many ‘witches’ were old beggars, and a charge of witchcraft would certainly thin society of its beggars.
- ‘Witches’ were tortured and forced to name names of others they saw at the witches’ sabbath. They named many other innocent people, and this is how the number of executed multiplied to 100,000—a conservative estimate.
- ‘Witches’ were targets of misogyny aimed at strong women who were called ‘scolds.’ Any woman who was articulate and opinionated might be a witch. The witchcraze terrorized these women to keep them in their place. A thick, pseudo-scholarly witch-finder manual called the Malleus Maleificarum (containing a Papal Bull from Pope Innocent VIII confirming the existence of witches) was in continuous print for nearly 300 years, providing guidance for the identification, torture, and execution of witches. One famous section delineates why women more so than men were especially susceptible to the devil’s wiles. That book has been called the most misogynist work ever written.
- ‘Witches’ were victims of an idea—not the idea of the witch but the idea of the devil, the idea that God has an opponent who at every stage tries to thwart the good intentions of God. And this opponent enlists human co-conspirators in an effort to derail God’s plans. In the Christianity of this period, any religious dissent was not merely error; it was malevolent error and the work of the devil.
Yes, the devil made them all do it—witches and witch finders alike. The ferocious three-hundred-year European witchcraze, with its faint echo in America’s Salem, can be traced like a white rope across the black sand of a Hawaii’s Punalu’u beach and right to the foot of ‘Satan,’ in which case we see why the three-hundred year witchcraze has also aptly been called the satanic panic. Not one of the executed witches was a witch, wicked or otherwise, though each was perceptibly, conspicuously, clearly, and without a doubt, the work of ‘Satan.’
Orthodox keepers of the totalizing system that Christianity had become during these centuries feared the disintegration of the totality, even when no credible threat presented itself. And so paranoid ecclesiastics and theologians, nervously protecting the edifice of orthodoxy, conjured up the existence of witches, and they imagined that each witch made a conspiratorial pact with the devil to overthrow Christendom.
This was a classic move on the part of those holding power: target a minority to support the integrity of the power structure. The targeted minority could be external, as was the case in the centuries-long singling out of Jews and Muslims as enemies. But with witches, the enemy was ‘the enemy within,’ from inside Christian civilization, from your city, your town, your hamlet, your church, which was even scarier.
A Christian must concede that God (Yahweh) saw this happening but decided to just let it happen and did nothing to stop it. This despite the fact that he allegedly had the capability of influencing the thoughts and actions of his followers. No Christian can get around this problem. And for secularists, it is evident that this one outrageous tragedy is sufficient by itself to prove Christianity false.
(4096) Three possibilities
Whenever someone speaks or writes about an incredible claim, one that appears to have involved a violation of the laws of nature, there are three possibilities of what lies at the core of the claim- they are lying, they are mistaken, or they are telling the truth of what actually happened. A review of the history of such claims reveals the later to be the least likely. The following was taken from:
There are 3 reasons for a person to claim something to be true: they’re lying, they’re mistaken, or it is actually true. For the purpose of this post, “supernatural” means suspending physics in order for some being to decide something that wasn’t going to happen anyway.
The number of credible demonstrations of people lying and being mistaken is enormous
The number of credible demonstrations of supernatural phenomena is non-existent
Plenty of people talk to God though. The overwhelming likelihood is that they are mistaken.
It is virtually certain, if Christianity was true, and Yahweh/Jesus are real supernatural, omnipotent beings, that instances of the third category- supernatural claims being verified– would be plentiful if not ubiquitous. That they are non-existent demonstrates that Yahweh/Jesus either don’t exist, or they have decided to get out of the game of influencing anything whatsoever on planet Earth.
(4097) Why no god would demand worship
The Christian god is infamous for being jealous and proud of it. He demands that people worship him or else he will assign them to a torture chamber that he has constructed to be their eternal home. But if we step back a moment, we can see that the very nature of worship is nonsensical.
Worship implies a suspension of a critical examination of the person being worshiped. In other words, it suggests that no matter what the person does, it doesn’t matter, because as long as they are being worshiped they can do no wrong.
So, for example, if Yahweh were to go rogue and start doing evil things (hint- he’s already done a multitude of them if you believe the scriptures) then Christians would nevertheless continue to worship him and make excuses for why he had to do these things for some ‘greater good.’
The very nature of worship means that ‘I will accept whatever you do, whether or not it seems right to me, and will continue to love, respect, honor, and yes, worship you.’ This is a complete suspension of one’s integrity. No wife or husband would say the same to their spouse even if they were in a loving relationship. Respect is conditional, but worship is unconditional and that’s why no ‘real’ god would ever demand it.
(4098) Christianity’s overuse of absolutes
The men who invented Christianity, and before them, Judaism, were guilty of over-exaggerating the various elements of their faith. They had to make god not only powerful but actually omniscient and omnipotent. They made Satan the pure embodiment of evil. They made Jesus not only an exalted human and prophet but also a god himself. And, of course, they had to make the afterlife into an infinite affair- and even made it into a dichotomy of total absolutes- you either spend an eternity in a wonderful paradise or a gruesome torture chamber. When it comes to the latter, the use of the eternal is especially morbid when you consider the numbers. The following was taken from:
Mustn’t we all, atheists or not, existentially shudder at the thought of eternal damnation, the incomprehensibly disproportionate magnitude of God’s wrath:
If a googol (1.0 x 10100) is about ten billion times the number of grains of sand that would fill the entire universe, imagine the number of those grains representing the number of years spent in hell. Forget the number of grains filling ten billion universes, forget even the number of those filling one universe—take a cubic meter filled entirely with grains of sand. To suffer in hell for as many years as the number of grains in that one cubic meter is to suffer for as long as there’s been a universe. How wicked could anyone be to deserve that, and infinitely more?
Only humans could come up with such comic book view of reality. It can be certain that a real god would have produced something much more sublime.
(4099) Harry Potter angst
It is well known that many Christians have problems with the Harry Potter series, commonly discouraging any participation in this cultural phenomenon. The following provides a possible explanation for their angst:
The miracles reported in the gospels are dangerous territory, because they look so much like the outcomes of magic spells. In Mark 5, Jesus transfers demons into pigs—is that really a thing, or just superstition? Remember: the cultural context of the time. In Mark 5:25-34, a woman is healed by touching Jesus’ garment. It’s really hard to argue that this isn’t a bit of magic folklore. Christians: be careful in celebrating the miracles of Jesus. Be prepared to explain how they differ from the magic commonly accepted in the ancient world. I suspect one of the reasons conservative Christians have so much angst about Harry Potter is because the things that Harry and his pals do look so much like what we find in the gospels. What’s the difference?
The magic in Harry Potter comes too close to matching the same within Christian scripture, and since it is well understood that Harry Potter is a fictional fairy tale, this shines a disturbingly revealing light on their faith. So it’s better to ignore it and discourage others from viewing it than to face the uncomfortable ramifications.
(4100) Yearning for mother
A neuroscientist has developed a theory that the human tendency to seek comfort and security from God, or gods, results from a reactivation of neural networks that are laid down in the brain during infancy, when a newborn is fully dependent on its mother. The following was taken from:
The intense feelings that believers in religion describe as the sensation of being in the presence of — or being embraced by — God, but where do those strong intuitions come from?
A neuroscientist-turned-computational biologist lays out a provocative theory in his new book, where he argues that the connection to God that some people feel comes from the same neural circuitry behind an infant’s love for their mother.
Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald spoke with John Wathey, author of The Phantom God: What neuroscience reveals about the compulsion to believe, about the evidence for this theory.
The feelings believers describe as their connection to God originates from the same parts of the brain involved in a newborn’s innate model of their mother, according to the author of The Phantom God.
I argue the selective evolutionary pressure is for the survival of helpless human infants. Human infants are born completely dependent on their mothers, especially in the first few days, because she’s their source of food, warmth, protection and all the rest of it.
What I argue is that the human brain has been shaped so that a newborn infant expects the existence of another being who is nurturing and protecting, and who will respond to cries. And this innate neural circuitry survives in the brain into adulthood, but normally lies dormant.
Yet, especially in situations where a person is in a moment of crisis or helplessness that mimics the helplessness of infancy, this circuitry can be triggered. And when it is, it gives rise to this vague sense of the existence of some amorphous primordial savior out there somewhere.
Whenever a naturalistic explanation is advanced to explain human tendencies to believe in supernatural caretakers, it lessens the probability that these beings actually exist. When humans feel the presence of gods they perhaps are subconsciously yearning for their mothers.
Follow this link to #4101