(4301) Female gods gave way to male gods
In ancient times, before Judaism and other similar religions, most deities were assumed to be women. One possible theory is that before people understood reproduction, it was thought that women reproduced all by themselves without any male input (giving them a godlike status)- that is sex was not associated with reproduction. Once this connection was made, it became more justified to make gods male. The following was taken from:
Although Adam, Eve, and a nasty serpent define images of origin in this culture, historical, mythological, and archaeological evidence indicates:
- a male-oriented view of divinity can claim only about 5000 years of history.
- female deities were worshiped at least 7000 bce, thousands of years before Abraham served as prophet of Yahweh, and some say as far back as 30,000 bce (based on Upper Paleolithic figurines, cave paintings, and other archaeological finds in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa).
The Goddess would have been thought of as the original creator (since this makes sense as a female role) and as patroness of sex and reproduction. These early social and religious structures, when acknowledged to have existed, have traditionally been dismissed as “fertility cults.”
The serpent of Genesis was a deity in its own right, revered in the Levant for at least 7000 years before Genesis was written. Trees and gardens were involved in these early religions also, with no associations concerning guilt, sin, disobedience, or unpleasantness.
The serpent’s divine association has been insistently (and hopefully) interpreted as phallic, but the serpent was revered as female in the Near and Middle East (based on Sumerian and Babylonian texts, artifacts from Crete). (Did pre-dynastic Egyptians flee to Crete in 3000 bce with their belief in the cobra goddess?)
In ancient myths, the female deity was often symbolized as a serpent or dragon. The picture of the cobra as symbol of mystic insight and wisdom is used as a hieroglyphic sign signifying goddess, and it precedes the name of any goddess in Egyptian writing.
THEORIES OF EVOLUTION
Previous theorizing as to what happened, how did the shift to male deities occur, include the so-called “big discovery” which assumes that the ancients were in awe of reproduction (Hebrew and Aramaic terms for “magic” derive from words meaning serpent). But eventually people came to realize men’s role in reproduction. Lately this theory has been seen as absurd since these same early peoples were animal breeders.
Actually, sporadic invasions from the north seem to be responsible. During the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age came the violent entry, massacres, and territorial conquests of the cattle-herding Indo-European or Indo-Aryan tribes with their own concepts of light and good vs. dark and evil, and worshiping a male storm god often conceived of as residing high on a mountain and blazing fire (volcanoes?). (To some extent also, Semitic sheep-and-goat-herders from the south also invaded.)
These invaders either subjugated and suppressed, absorbed, or eliminated goddess worship. Male became valued above female, kings and priestly classes were established. In these new religions, goddesses/women were more likely to be associated with darkness/evil. Sometimes, as with the Greeks invaded by the Indo-Europeans between the 14th and 12th centuries bce (Homer’s “Achaeans”), the female was symbolically included into male god myths, but as reduced and conquered. Here the patriarchal gods marry instead of exterminate the goddesses indiginous to the land they conquered.
The Hebrews retain a shady memory of the mythic battle between Yahweh and the primordial serpent, Leviathan, although this has mostly been removed from scriptures; but see Job 26:13, Psalms 104, 74. Leviathan was known in northern Canaanite texts as the foe of the storm god Baal at least as early as the 14th century bce (var. Lotan, Lawtan, and Lat = goddess in Canaanite).
This mythic battle of male antropomorphic god and serpentine goddess emerges indirectly again in the Greek myth of Heracles/Hercules killing the serpent-dragon Ladon, said to be guarding a sacred fruit tree of a goddess.
Other Greek indications of cultural dominance include Athena born from the head of Zeus so that the male takes the role of creator (and Zeus is one of the few Greek gods never appearing with a snake), and Aphrodite being born from the genitals of Kronos. The Amazons are worrisome, perhaps reflecting the memory of a goddess-worshiping people who fought the initial seizure?
In Hebrew texts, Yahweh advocates the destruction of the shrines to female deities, so they did continue to exist, attract fans, and offend the Levite priests who established male authority and revised circulating creation myths. The shrines themselves probably involved a priestess who would give divine revelations of the goddess. The tree involved would probably have been a fig tree, the fig = “flesh and fluid of Hathor the goddess” in Egyptian texts, and fig leaves are mentioned in the story of Adam and Eve, displaced, with the fruit they ate unspecified. There may have been a type of communion with the goddess involved in eating the sacred fruit. The snakes involved may have been used for their bites, known in some religions to be used like sacred mushrooms — the venom acts like an hallucinogen, yielding mystical perception changes.
As humanity evolved, so did their view of the gender of supernatural beings, sliding gradually from feminine to masculine deities. In modern times, there are only a few religious faiths that place the female form above the male form as representing godlike beings. Judaism and later Christianity eventually eliminated its concept of female gods and used only male figures (Yahweh and Jesus), though some sects of Christianity consider Mary (Jesus’ mother) to be quasi-deific.
(4302) Mark as companion of Peter refuted
Many Christian scholars support the idea that the author of the Gospel of Mark was a companion of Peter (based on writings of Papias) and that this fact gives historical authenticity to his writings- since Peter as a disciple would have given Mark first-hand information. However, this theory is damaged by the fact that Mark’s gospel ended (minus the forged ending added much later) without providing any accounts of the resurrection. But the other gospels, Acts, and Paul’s letters all state that Peter was an eyewitness to the resurrected Jesus. So if Mark was writing under Peter’s guidance, why would he have excluded the most important biographical fact about Jesus that Peter had witnessed? The following was taken from:
Papias claims that Mark was recording the teachings of Peter. If you accept the short ending of Mark (near scholarly consensus?) then isn’t this discordant with what we know of Peter’s teaching. Acts 2 records Peter’s speech at Pentecost (focused on the resurrection) and 1 Corinthians 15 makes Christ’s resurrection appearance to Peter a bedrock of early Church belief. It would then be beyond credulity to think that Mark recorded Peter’s teachings and left the resurrection appearances out?
If we discount Mark as having a relationship to Peter, then it brings into question whether his gospel is nothing more than a fictional account of his own device. If so, the other gospels which borrowed heavily from Mark, would likewise be mythical in nature. That is, if Mark is fiction, then Matthew, Luke, and John are also fiction, and Christianity goes up in smoke.
(4303) God enjoys the scent of burning animals
Early believers in Yahweh thought that he was located just a little bit over their heads in the clouds, such that he could smell the waft of smoke rising from ground level. This led them to believe that Yahweh enjoyed the aroma of smoldering animals being sacrificed to him. The following was taken from:
Why would a perfect loving God enjoy the smell of smoke that comes from butchered animals being roasted?
Leviticus 8:21 After he had washed the entrails and the legs with water, Moses offered up the whole ram in smoke on the altar. It was a burnt offering for a soothing aroma; it was an offering by fire to the Lord, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.
Leviticus 1:17 Then he shall tear it by its wings but shall not sever it. And the priest shall offer it up in smoke on the altar, on the wood which is on the fire; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord.
Numbers 18:17: But the firstborn of an ox, the firstborn of a sheep, or the firstborn of a goat, you shall not redeem; they are holy. You shall sprinkle their blood on the altar and offer up their fat in smoke as an offering by fire, for a soothing aroma to the Lord.
More to the point…would a good and loving god ever create a food chain whereby the vast majority of his creatures would be required to kill and eat each other if they desired to live and/or feed their babies? Would it not have been a simple thing for a kind and smart god to just place solar panels in their ears to provide the necessary energy each animal and insect would need? And, if He really enjoyed the smell of the smoke, could he not have made it from a different source? After all, smell is basically nothing more than an arrangement of molecules in gas form.
Assuming he has the power to stop watching animals kill and eat each other such as his parasitic wasps who devour their hosts from the inside out, (some of their victims remaining alive for weeks as the heart is often programmed to be the last part that is eaten…thus keeping their food nice and warm) why doesn’t he? Why would he intentionally allow this mass and unnecessary suffering to untold millions of innocent creatures every day to continue? Why did he ever allow it to start in the first place?
Now that Christians have relocated God to some timeless ‘other dimension,’ it no longer makes sense that he would savor the smoke coming from burning carcasses. But the bibles they carry around that they insist are fully accurate still say that he does. This is one of those embarrassments that you will never hear preachers recite or discuss. It is simply swept under the rug.
(4304) God’s brutish behavior
Christians are taught personal responsibility for their actions and that God will answer earnest prayers. Both of these ideals were demolished by Yahweh in the following scripture, where he punished a child for its parent’s actions and then refused to honor a week-long ordeal of prayer and fasting:
2 Samuel 12:14-23
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for a the Lord, the son born to you will die.”
After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth b on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.
On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.”
David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked.
“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”
Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.
His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”
He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
It matters not that this is fiction. What matters is this is how God is portrayed in the Bible- behavior that if performed by a human would be seen as deplorable. This would be a like a boss who is unhappy with his employee kidnapping the employee’s son, holding him hostage for a week, ignoring pleas from the father to release him, and then killing the child. What would we think of this boss? What should be think of Yahweh- fictional or not?
(4305) Satan originated in non-canonical books
The evil godlike individual called Satan, a very important figure in Christian theology, did not originate in the Old Testament- ‘he’ is missing there- but rather was ‘born’ in other books that never made it into the Bible. This non-canonical origin demonstrates that Satan is a product of human rather than divine inspiration. The following was taken from:
I will argue that the concept of the devil is a human invention rather than the result of divine revelation. The argument consists of three steps:
– There is no devil in the Old Testament
– The concept of the devil develops in non-canonical books
– There is a devil in the New Testament
This means that the concept of the devil from the New Testament has theological foundations in non-canonical books rather than the Old Testament. Since the non-canonical books are not divinely inspired, the concept of the devil comes from humans rather than from God.
The Old Testament
When people think about the devil in the Old Testament, one of the first places many think about is Genesis 3. Genesis 3 describes the fall of humanity and the deception of the serpent. Nowhere in the narrative is the serpent identified with anything other than an animal. None of the names of the devil appear anywhere in the book of Genesis. Some later interpretations identify the serpent as the devil, but that’s not in the text itself.
Another place where people think the Old Testament talks about the devil is in the opening chapters of the book of Job. It is true that the word ‘satan’ appears several times in the opening chapters of the book of Job. It should be noted that the word ‘satan’ always appears with the definite article. The NRSVUE consistently translates this as ‘the accuser’. Most other translations leave this word untranslated, remove the definite article and capitalise the word to get ‘Satan’. This is done for theological reasons and results in a bad translation. Thus, we see that the accuser is simply a member of the divine council, not the enemy of God.
The term ‘satan’ appears several other times in the Old Testament. Examples of this are Numbers 22:22, Numbers 22:32, 1 Samuel 29:4, 2 Samuel 19:22, 1 Kings 5:4, 1 Kings 11:14, 1 Kings 11:23, and so on. The word ‘satan’ is translated as the adversary in these verses. It applies to the angel of the Lord as well as to humans.
The only time when the term ‘satan’ occurs without the definite article is in 1 Chronicles 21:1. Here Satan is the proper name of the accuser, but this is still just a member of the divine council. There is no identification as the enemy of God, the serpent from Genesis, or a fallen angel. In every instance of the term ‘satan’, the heavenly being acts I accordance with God’s will.
In the book of Tobit we find the wicked demon Asmodeus. Since Protestants consider Tobit non-canonical but other Christians consider it canonical, I didn’t know where to put this book. It was written later than most Old Testament books and we can see the development towards a devil figure with Asmodeus. Asmodeus is etymologically linked to Aeshma Daeva, an evil spirit related to Angra Mainyu from Zoroastrianism.
This development continues and becomes more clear in several texts that were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The first example of this is the Community Rule. It talks about the Angel of Darkness, which is in cosmic conflict with the Prince of Lights. All sins, iniquities and transgressions are the result of the dominion of the Angel of Darkness. This Angel of Darkness is named Belial. Thus, we have an enemy of God who tempts people to sin.
The War Scroll goes even further. It describes a battle between the Sons of Light and Sons of Darkness. Belial leads these Sons of Darkness. The battle between good and evil and good and evil angels is central to this text.
The Book of Enoch describes the evil angelic character with a different name. It names it Shemihazah or Asael, which are later associated with each other. In the section called the dream vision, the angels appear as stars. Asael is the first star to fall. The fallen angels are also called Satans in verses like 1 Enoch 40:7.
The Book of Jubilees presents yet another character, namely prince Mastema. He has the title of the accuser or adversary, or in Hebrew, ‘satan’. He has the same characteristics as the other devil-like figures.
What we see here is that in all of these texts there is a development towards the concept of the devil. Unlike the Old testament, these texts are all about a cosmic battle between good and evil and they describe a specific angelic leader of the evil side. This leader is named Belial, Shemihazah, Asael, Mastema, or Satan. In the New Testament period, Satan will become the most common name for this enemy.
The New Testament
Satan appears many times in the New Testament. The name Belial/Beliar is used in 2 Corinthians 6:15, but usually the name Satan or simply devil is used. I assume you’ll all be familiar with the examples of Satan in the New Testament.
The New testament frequently mentions the devil. The theological foundations for the concept of the devil don’t come from the Old Testament, but instead come from non-canonical books. Since those books are non-canonical, they are not considered to be divinely inspired by Christians. Thus the concept of the devil is adopted from humans rather than from God.
Christianity depends on the existence of Satan, so any evidence suggesting that humans, without God’s inspiration, imagined it into existence is a major strike against the probability that Christianity is true.
(4306) Returning savior was a common theme
The idea that a miraculous figure who has died or left will return in a display of glory is not unique to Christianity. It is a common theme among many religious faiths. The following was taken from:
In connection with the idea of the Christ as the divine judge of men, certain sects of Christians have advocated that of his return to earth at some future period, which will terminate all terrestrial life as it is known to-day, basing this belief upon Jesus’ own proclamation of his second advent, although in his prophecy he declared the coming of the kingdom of heaven to be soon after his death. He even told his disciples that they could not visit all the cities of Israel before he should come again (Matt. x, 23); that their own generation should see these things (Matt. xxiv, 34; Mark xiii, 30); that some of those then listening to him should live to see his kingdom (Matt. xvi, 28; xxiii, 36; xxiv, 34; Mark viii, 38; Luke ix, 1–27; xxi, 32). Such were his words, and it seems strange that people, believing these words, can still regard him as a very part of God. Such improbabilities did Jesus gradually grow to preach, and so wild did he become in his exhortations that even his disciples at times appear to have believed him mad (Mark iii, 21), an opinion in which his enemies agreed (Mark iii, 22; John vii, 5–20; viii, 48–52; x, 20).
They certainly had good cause for their suspicion. Was not his conduct in cursing the fig tree for not bearing fruit out of season an act of lunacy (Matt. xxi, 19–20; Mark xi, 13–14), and likewise his arrogant assertion of the power of faith (Matt. xvii, 20; xxi, 21; Mark xi, 23; Luke xvii, 6)? It is, however, quite probable that this idea of a second advent was copied from the Persian theology, it being one of the tenets of the Zoroastrian religion that in the end Ormuzd, God of Light, should conquer Ahriman, God of Darkness, and that he should then summon the good from their graves, remove all evil from the face of nature, and permanently establish the kingdom of righteousness and virtue upon the earth.
But such ideas are not unique to Christians and Persians. The Hindus believe that Vishnu will have another avatar; the Siamese live in constant expectation of the second coming of Codom; the Buddhists are looking forward to the return of Buddha; the Jews are awaiting the messiah; and the disciples of Quetzalcoatl expected that deity’s second advent—and most unfortunately thought their dream realized on the arrival of the Spaniards, who took advantage of their consequent submissiveness to exterminate them.
Most of these saviors are now long overdue. By all accounts Jesus should have returned at least 1950 years ago. Needless to say, none of them are returning at all. When humans come to realize this, we will enter a more rational phase of civilization.
(4307) Google Bard on the Bible
Bard (Google’s AI platform) was asked to name the most controversial verse in the Bible. This was the response:
The most controversial verse in the Bible is a matter of opinion, but some of the most commonly cited contenders include:
- Leviticus 25:44-46: These verses allow for the enslavement of foreigners.
- Deuteronomy 22:28-29: These verses require a man who rapes a virgin to marry her and pay her father a dowry.
- Exodus 21:20-21: These verses allow for a man to beat his slave, as long as the slave does not die within a day or two.
- 1 Timothy 2:11-12: These verses say that women should not teach or have authority over men.
- Romans 1:26-27: These verses condemn homosexuality.
These verses have been interpreted in a variety of ways, and there is no one definitive answer to the question of what they mean. Some people believe that these verses are simply outdated and no longer apply to modern society, while others believe that they are still relevant and should be followed. Ultimately, it is up to each individual to decide how they interpret these verses and whether or not they agree with their message.
It is important to note that the Bible is a complex and multifaceted text, and it is not always easy to understand. There are many different ways to interpret the Bible, and there is no one right way to do it. It is important to be open-minded and to consider different interpretations before forming your own opinion.
The last paragraph is significant. The Bible should not be ambiguous if it is the primary means by which God intended to communicate a message to humankind. But it is ambiguous, and also dreadfully out of date with modern morality. These facts lead to the probable conclusion that the Bible is a work of (uninspired) men describing the mores of their own time.
(4308) The Godless Girl
Google Bard was tasked with writing a story about an atheist girl. This was its response:
The girl was raised in a religious household, but she never really believed in God. She went to church every Sunday, but she always felt like she was faking it. She didn’t understand why she had to believe in something that she couldn’t see or touch.
When she was in high school, she started to question her faith even more. She read books about atheism and evolution, and she started to think that maybe there was no God after all. She was scared at first, but she also felt relieved. She was finally free to think for herself.
In college, she studied philosophy and religion. She learned about different religions from all over the world, and she started to appreciate the beauty and diversity of human faith. She still didn’t believe in God, but she was no longer afraid to admit it.
After college, she got a job as a social worker. She worked with people who were struggling with poverty, addiction, and mental illness. She saw firsthand the suffering that people go through, and she realized that there is no easy answer to the question of why bad things happen to good people.
She still doesn’t believe in God, but she has come to believe in the power of human compassion. She believes that we are all connected, and that we have a responsibility to help each other. She is grateful for the people in her life who have loved and supported her, and she is committed to making the world a better place.
What is important about this story is that it illuminates the stark difference between common decency and the theology of Christianity. Under the latter, this girl is to be tortured for eternity for failing to believe in God and Jesus. But to any decent human being, deserving of that title, this girl/woman has led an exemplary life and deserves to be admired (and not tortured).
(4309) Bible fails to justify male supremacy
The Bible infers that men are more important than women, and that they, in all cases, should be the leaders of their wives and of churches and communities. Other than stating this, it provides no reasons for this dictum. This misogynistic attitude is either the concept of God or else the people who wrote the Bible. The following was taken from:
The bible fails to provide any rational or logically-sound reason as to why (or how) men are automatically qualified to lead and to be the “head” of women in marriage. Instead, the bible pretty much either relies on the justification “Because God said so”, or on the authority of man-made metaphors that arbitrarily uses the alleged hierarchy between Jesus and the Church, or the chronological order between the creation of Adam and Eve, or the methods used to create Adam and Eve, or Eve being deceived into eating the forbidden fruit (even though Adam was deceived as well), to justify a gender hierarchy within heterosexual marriage, where men are given divine authority over women. This means that one would have to assume that the stories in the bible are true (like the talking snake in the Garden of Eden), in order to even justify the belief that women “should” submit to their husbands, and to justify the belief that men are magically born as more qualified to lead others, and to lead women in particular. Based on this, I can only conclude that these beliefs primarily rely on the presumption that a particular set of religious claims are true and on other forms of mythology (religious and secular), and should therefore be seen as irrational.
The following are bible verses that command women to submit to their husbands:
- Ephesians 5:22-24 – Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
- 1 Peter 3:1;5-6 – Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.
- Colossians 3:18 – Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
- 1 Timothy 2:12-14 – But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
- 1 Corinthians 11:3;7-10 – 3 Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.
If someone said that all elementary school teachers must be women, but failed to provide any reasons for this position, they should be ignored. Likewise, Yahweh should be ignored about ‘his’ male supremacist attitude- at least until ‘he’ gives us good reasons for this edict.
(4310) Religion delivers well-being only where it is ubiquitous
Christians often cite statistics showing that religious people score higher on societal health scores than non-believers. However, multiple studies have shown that this correlation holds true only in areas where religious belief is widespread and that the reverse is true in more secular societies- that is, religious people score lower when they are in the minority. The following was taken from:
The “culture-fit” model posits that the relationship between religiosity and well-being as well as with prosociality varies as a function of the predominant beliefs of the cultural milieu (Stavrova, Fetchenhauer, & Schlösser, 2013). Religiously involved individuals display, on average, greater well-being than secular people in regions where religiosity is the norm, whereas the opposite is true where secularity is the norm (Diener, Tay, & Myers, 2011; Gebauer et al., 2017; Stavrova, 2015).
This also applies to more circumscribed contexts such as within families. Adolescents’ mental health is contingent upon whether they share the religious views of their parents, not whether those youths are themselves religious or nonreligious (Kugelmass & Garcia, 2015). Thus, well-being is attributable to contextual “matching” rather than the presence or absence of religiosity itself.
Taken together, findings on the secular influences of social support, culture-fit, and conviction indicate that beliefs, whether religious or secular, are associated with mental health if they are confidently held and consensually validated.
These studies refute the argument that Christianity, through presumably supernatural means, renders Christians healthier both physically and socially than non-believers. The differences are related to local demographics, and it works both ways.
(4311) Debunking Luke’s historical claim
Scholars have long criticized the Bible authors for not providing any personal credentials or sources for how they obtained their information. In other words, their works generally read like typical works of fiction. With one exception- the author of the Gospel of Luke. This person did profess to meet some of the standards of non-fiction literature. However, it is easy to debunk his flimsy claims. The following was taken from:
We find a good example of a gospel propagandist posing as historian in the opening of Luke’s gospel. Here are the first four verses:
“Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I, too, decided, as one having a grasp of everything from the start, to write a well-ordered account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may have a firm grasp of the words in which you have been instructed.”
There are several problems with this text. Devout scholars have been delighted that Luke claims that his material was derived from eyewitnesses, but we have to be suspicious—and skeptical. How would that process have worked? Consider a few problems:
(1) The author of Luke’s gospel copied so much text from Mark’s gospel (according to Encyclopedia Britannica, 50 percent) without mentioning that he had done so, which we call plagiarism. In other words, he doesn’t mention his sources. Did this author assume that Mark’s account was based on eyewitness testimony? There is, in fact, nothing in Mark’s gospel that can be verified as eyewitness accounts. It contains so much fantasy and folklore, with a heavy dose of magical thinking as well, e.g., in Mark 5 Jesus—presumable using a magic spell—transfers demons from a deranged man into a herd of swine. Nor does Luke identify the sources for his non-Marcan material.
(2) There is wide consensus among New Testament scholars that the gospel of Mark—upon which the gospels and Matthew and Luke were heavily dependent—was written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 CE, i.e., during the devastating First Jewish-Roman war (this catastrophe is reflected in Mark, chapter 13). Guesses vary as to when Luke was written, perhaps ten years or more after that, i.e., a full fifty years after the time of Jesus. Would any of the eyewitnesses to Jesus-events have survived that long? Would they have survived the war? That’s a stretch.
(3) Maybe the eyewitnesses wrote down their experiences? How would such documents have been preserved, cared for? How would the author of Luke’s gospel, so many years later, have had access to them—after the catastrophic war?
(4) The author claims that he is “one having a grasp of everything from the start,” yet never identifies himself! Never cites his credentials. But we do know that he wrote propaganda for the early Jesus cult—his gospel certainly qualifies as that. Which means that it’s hard to trust his gospel as authentic history.
And he gives away his game in the first two chapters of the gospel. Here we read about how both John the Baptist and Jesus were conceived and born. Since an angel is given a speaking role, right away we know we’re dealing with religious fantasy literature. Informed adults today know right away that the Fairy God Mother in Cinderella is fantasy, but it’s harder to break away from angel-fantasy learned in Sunday School and catechism. Devout folks may nod in approval as they read about the angel speaking to Elizabeth and Mary in Luke 1, but there is no evidence whatever—reliable, verifiable data—that angels are real, despite thousands of vivid depictions in religious art.
Moreover, the propaganda element is prominent, for example, in the angel’s promise to Mary about Jesus (Luke 1:32-33): “…and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” This never happened, the angel here was dead wrong; but the author was promoting his cult theology. In Mary’s “Song of Praise” (Luke 1:46-55, as the RSV translation labels it—also known as the Magnificat), verse 50 is a description of Luke’s god: “…his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.” This god is nice to those fear him, which reflects the vindictive god of the Old Testament.
This is a helpful exercise: read Luke 1-2 carefully, and try to identify which parts of this text could have been based on eyewitness testimony. Also ask: who was there taking notes? —upon which the story could have been based as it was written down decades later. One evangelical scholar has suggested that the author of Luke took the time and trouble to interview Mary—an idea based on no evidence whatever. His desire to make the story credible was all that mattered.
When Zechariah was alone in the temple (no eyewitnesses) he was spoken to by the angel, i.e., the promise that his elderly wife Elizabeth would conceive. And so it happened (this episode is a recrafting of the story of Abraham and Sarah), Luke 1:24-25:
“After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, ‘This is what the Lord has done for me in this time, when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.’”
If she remained in seclusion, how could there have been an eyewitness who heard what she said? Maybe she wrote a diary? Where was it archived, and how would the author of Luke have accessed it?
Reading the gospels as informed adults requires curiosity, the willingness to question everything, as well as skepticism about documents that were clearly intended to enhance belief in an ancient cult. That’s why it’s important to ponder carefully every gospel episode. Study it, read what scholars have written about it—and don’t be satisfied with “study guides” written by preachers and apologists. They can highlight positives and deflect attention from negatives—and even be deceitful. This is how The Message Bible renders Luke 1:1-4:
“So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story’s beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught.”
This is not a translation or a paraphrase, but rather an expression of the theology of the pretend-translator, who wants to make sure his readers get the message as he imagines it.
The Bible could have been written in a fashion that we require of all works of non-fiction. In other words, Luke’s gospel could have started something like this:
“My name is Luke Bartemous, from the city of Corinth. born in the year 783 Ab Urbe Condita. Although I never met Jesus, I traveled to Jerusalem and interviewed many people who were eyewitnesses to this man. From what I learned I also traveled to Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, to learn what I could from the current residents. I found that only the oldest residents there remembered Jesus when they themselves were quite young, but they still gave me some good information. I also interviewed many Romans, some of whom remember Jesus’ crucifixion, once again when they were children. From all of these and several written sources, I compiled what I believe is a mostly factual account of Jesus and his ministry.”
This would be a much better prologue to Luke’s gospel, and if it was just like this, we would certainly expect it not be a regurgitation of Mark’s previous gospel. But, given what we have, it must be conceded that Luke was not a historian and what he wrote should be placed in the fiction section of the library.
Christians will counter this with their ‘magic card’- that the gospel authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit and thus didn’t need to investigate anything. But if the Holy Spirit actually inspired these authors, then we would not expect to find any contradictions- that is, all of the gospels would agree on every point, even if some provided fewer or extra details. This degree of consistency does not exist-not even close.
(4312) Reasons to disbelieve in angels
Angels play an important part in the Bible, such that if they don’t exist, it would create a major credibility problem for the Bible and for Christianity is general. There are many reasons to believe that angels do not exist, including the following:
- There is no scientific evidence to support the existence of angels. Science is the study of the natural world, and it has not been able to find any evidence to support the existence of angels. This does not mean that angels do not exist, but it does mean that there is no reason to believe that they do.
- The concept of angels is often inconsistent with modern scientific understanding of the universe. For example, angels are often depicted as having wings, but there is no evidence that such creatures exist in the natural world. Additionally, angels are often said to be able to perform miracles, such as healing the sick or raising the dead. However, there is no scientific evidence to support the existence of such powers.
- The concept of angels is often based on religious texts, which are often open to interpretation. For example, the Bible contains many references to angels, but it does not provide a clear definition of what they are or how they work. This can lead to different people having different beliefs about angels, which can make it difficult to know what to believe.
- Some people believe that the concept of angels is simply a way of explaining things that we do not understand. For example, in the past, people may have believed in angels to explain why some people were healthy and others were sick, or why some people lived long lives and others died young. However, with the advancement of science, we now have better explanations for these things. As a result, some people believe that the concept of angels is no longer necessary.
- There is no reason to believe that disembodied entities can function as sentient beings. Angels are depicted in the Bible as having all of the capabilities of humans, including sight, speech, hearing, and the ability to move objects or even to kill people- all without having a physical body. If this was true, it would mean that our knowledge of science is woefully incomplete.
It should seem obvious that if angels were real it would have become a well-understood reality by now, or actually by many centuries ago- but especially in the era of instant photography. If one were to rewrite the gospels without angels, it would damage the entire drama, since they play a major role in the birth and resurrection of Jesus. Also, they are prominently found in the Old Testament. If angels don’t exist, it almost certainly means that Christianity is false.
(4313) Gospels didn’t require an historical Jesus
The way that the gospels were composed makes the question of whether Jesus actually existed irrelevant. Jesus or no Jesus, they invented stories for a specific purpose- most likely to advance the aims of a new cult of believers. The following is a quote from Richard Carrier that should be placed in every Bible and every church:
Richard Carrier specializes in the literature of the ancient world, including the New Testament. Here is his analysis—I have bolded key elements—that puts the gospels into perspective:
“Each author just makes Jesus say or do whatever they want. They change the story as suits them and neglect to mention they did so. They craft literary artifices and symbolic narratives routinely. They frequently rewrite classical and biblical stories and just insert Jesus into them. If willing to do all that (and plainly they were), the authors of the Gospels clearly had no interest in any actual historical data. And if they had no interest in that (and plainly they didn’t), they didn’t need a historical Jesus. Even if there had been one, he was wholly irrelevant to their aims and designs. These are thus not historians. They are mythographers; novelists; propagandists. They are deliberately inventing what they present in their texts. And they are doing it for a reason (even if we can’t always discern what that is). The Gospels simply must be approached as such. We have to stop thinking we can use them as historical sources.”
(On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt, Kindle, p. 556)
Preachers, priests, and apologists also qualify as propagandists: they earn their livings by promoting their particular versions of the Christian faith (hence Catholic priests won’t promote Mormonism, Baptist preachers won’t promote Catholicism—so many of the rival Christian brands detest each other!)
It would be such a blessing—please excuse the term—if these champions of the gospels could be honest enough to publish this long Carrier quote in the church bulletins and newsletters, under the heading: Food for Thought: Let’s Discuss. But thinking about the gospels would be lethal to their purpose.
This would be similar to writing a story about Paul Bunyan. You wouldn’t need this person to have been real to compose stories about him- which many authors did. Jesus or no Jesus, the gospel stories would have been the same, coming from the imagination of the writers with little or no regard to any hard facts.
(4314) Reasons not to worship Yahweh
Here are some reasons (developed by Google’s AI platform Bard) why you probably should not worship Yahweh:
- Yahweh is a jealous god who demands your exclusive worship.
The Bible says that Yahweh is a jealous god who will not tolerate any other gods before him. He demands that his people worship him alone, and he will punish those who do not. This is a very controlling and demanding attitude, and it is not something that everyone is comfortable with.
- Yahweh has committed genocide, infanticide, and other atrocities.
The Bible is full of stories about Yahweh committing violence against humans. He has killed entire cities, including women and children. He has also ordered the killing of innocent people, such as the firstborn sons of Egypt. This kind of violence is not something that everyone can accept, and it is understandable why some people would not want to worship a god who is capable of such things.
- Yahweh is not a loving god, but rather a vengeful and capricious one.
The Bible also portrays Yahweh as a vengeful and capricious god. He is quick to anger, and he often punishes people for things that they did not do. He is also known to change his mind on a whim, and he often makes promises that he does not keep. This kind of behavior is not something that everyone can respect, and it is understandable why some people would not want to worship a god who is so unpredictable.
- The Bible is full of contradictions and inconsistencies.
The Bible is a collection of books that were written by many different authors over a long period of time. As a result, it is full of contradictions and inconsistencies. This makes it difficult to know what to believe, and it can be frustrating for people who are looking for clear and consistent answers.
- There is no scientific evidence to support the existence of Yahweh.
Science is the study of the natural world, and it has not been able to find any evidence to support the existence of Yahweh. This does not mean that Yahweh does not exist, but it does mean that there is no reason to believe that he does.
- You can find fulfillment and meaning in life without worshiping a god.
There are many ways to find fulfillment and meaning in life, and worshiping a god is not the only way. Some people find fulfillment in their relationships, their work, their hobbies, or their community. There is no one right way to find meaning in life, and it is up to each individual to find what works for them.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to worship Yahweh is a personal one. There is no right or wrong answer, and everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. However, it is important to be aware of the reasons why some people choose not to worship Yahweh.
Christians worship Yahweh not out of any conscious consideration, but mainly because they are trained that this is what they are supposed to do. Generally, we consider that someone should be admired for one of two reasons- they expended a lot of effort to become who they are, and that they are doing a lot to better the world and relieve suffering. Yahweh (if he exists) fails on both of these accounts.
(4315) Making Paul subservient
There existed a problem in early Christianity (that actually exists even to today) that so much of Christian doctrine was a product of a person who had never met Jesus (Paul). To diminish this issue, it appears that someone inserted an interpolation into one of Paul’s letters to make it appear that he was placing his authority lower than Jesus’ disciples. Here is the passage in question (NIV):
Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.
Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me.
The following was taken from:
I recently saw an interesting argument that the last paragraph of the first chapter of Galatians, Galatians 1:18-24, which describes Paul’s first trip to Jerusalem, is an interpolation. The argument went approximately:
- We have 5-10 manuscript quotations of Galatians 2:1 with the word “again” missing. The again obviously is referring to the trip in Galatians 1:18-24.
- Galatians 1:18-24 is not attested in Marcion’s Apostolikon. Most notably, Tertulian in arguing against Marcion goes into great detail describing the contents of Galatians 1 and 2 and seems to completely skip over Galatians 1:18-24 despite that it seems extremely likely that he would have wanted to comment on it. In particular it is hard to imagine how Tertulian would have skipped over the mention of James the Lord’s brother in Galatians 1:19 and not come up with some way to work that into an argument against Marcion.
- The message of the surrounding text flows well and arguably better with the first trip to Jerusalem removed. One of Paul’s major points that he is trying to impress on his audience is that the gospel he preached comes from no man. If you remove the paragraph, then Paul is saying that he spent 14 years preaching his gospel before ever going to meet those who were esteemed as pillars before him.
- Having spent a notable amount of time with Cephas a decade before the second trip, it’s a little weird that Paul states that one of the core reasons he went to Jerusalem for the second trip was to confirm that he had not been running in vain and that his gospel was true and matched what those before him were preaching. Obviously if he spent a bunch of time hanging out with Cephas, he should already know before the second trip whether his gospel is in line with Cephas and associates.
- This paragraph is easy to view as an attempt by later orthodox Christians to subordinate Paul to Cephas, so we have a clear potential motive for aln interpolator.
- Stuff I’m not as clear on: there are a few weird Greek grammatical things about the passage.
- The claim “I swear I’m not lying” is a classic thing a liar or someone concerned about potential accusations of lying would say. Paul is boldly making all sorts of claims in Galatians 1 with great confidence, so it’s a little weird that he would go out of his way to defend this particular claim. Why would Paul be concerned about someone calling him out on his claim to have met only Cephas and James on the trip? Why would he think anyone a thousand miles away in Galatia 20 years later in the 50s would have evidence that Paul is lying about this particular claim or be in contact with someone who knew Paul was lying about only meeting Cephas and James on the trip? Paul’s claim that his gospel comes from no man is undermined whether he only met Cephas and James or whether he also met some other apostles.
It appears that someone realized that Paul was too prominent in developing Christian scripture and decided to make it seem like what he wrote was not of his own creation, but was based on what he had learned from the disciples. This effort fooled people until this present day.
(4316) Messiah prophecies are poor evidence
The gospel authors struggled to connect Jesus to prophetic statements in the Old Testament in a (for the most part) failed attempt to characterize Jesus as the long-awaited Jewish messiah. Never mind that the Jews themselves didn’t buy it. The following reveals the weakness of this claim:
In this post, I will show that prophecies of the Messiah did not clearly point to Jesus, and some prophecy fulfillments were most likely fabricated or exaggerated in order to make it look like Jesus fulfilled prophecy.
Most Christians know that the Jews were not expecting the Messiah to be like Jesus. One major difference in expectations that Christians cite is that Jews at the time expected the Messiah to destroy their enemies and establish an eternal kingdom on Earth. This mismatch between expectation vs actual Jesus is also mentioned in the gospels. Some Christians even give an apologetic that many Jews at the time of Jesus were devout, did not expect the Messiah to be like Jesus, and yet they converted anyway, so they must have seen something very convincing. But if we grant that these Jews were devout and did not expect the Messiah to be like Jesus, then that means that the prophecies in the Jewish sacred texts did not predict Jesus in a way that even devout Jews would interpret. This significantly weakens the Christian claim that the Torah/old testament clearly prophesied of Jesus. In fact, if there could ever be a test for whether something is a post-hoc rationalization, this would be categorized as a post-hoc rationalization.
Christians sometimes say that you have to have the Holy Spirit in order to interpret the prophecies correctly, but that’s a much weaker argument, and essentially just saying “the prophecies are true for me”, which isn’t very convincing, and arguably also a post-hoc rationalization.
Two specific prophecies are that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and “my son” would be called from Egypt. The Bethlehem story is extremely problematic. It’s very strange to think that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and grew up in Egypt and yet was called “Jesus of Nazareth”. The gospels say that Jesus’ parents went to Bethlehem for a Census. People back then and today do not go to their ancestral homes for censuses, historians generally agree that while the censuses happened, people did not go to their ancestral homes for it. Historians today also generally agree that King Herod did not slaughter thousands of babies as claimed in the New Testament. The best explanation for the claims that Jesus of Nazareth was born in Bethlehem and raised in Egypt, and claiming that King Herod slaughtered babies is that they were fantastical stories fabricated by faithful people to make Jesus look like he fulfilled prophecies about being born in Bethlehem and being called from Egypt.
Another specific prophecy that Christians claim is Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a colt. Most gospels say Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt, but it’s obvious that in an attempt to fulfill prophecy of Zech 9:9, Matthew 21:7 says that the disciples put their cloaks on a donkey AND a colt, and Jesus awkwardly rode into Jerusalem on both. The best explanation for this is that it’s an absurd story fabricated to make Jesus look like he fulfilled Zech 9:9.
Christians have apologetics about these things where they say that it’s POSSIBLE that these things happened as recorded in the gospels if you think about it the right way and assume that historians are incorrect, but they are not the best explanation. The best explanation for these is clearly that they were fabricated to make it look like Jesus fulfilled prophecy.
In summary, Christians themselves argue that devout Jews of the day did not think that Jesus fulfilled prophecy, and the best explanation for some claims of prophecy fulfillment is that they were fabricated to make it look like Jesus fulfilled prophecy. So prophecies about the messiah are poor evidence for Jesus.
Christianity cannot take credit of Old Testament prophecies of the messiah if the ‘owners’ of those scriptures say it isn’t so. This is essentially saying that Christianity’s separation from Judaism makes it invalid. If the messiah prophecies were accurately forecasting a future king, and if Jesus was that king, then there would not be a Christianity- there would simply be a new manifestation of the Jewish faith.
(4317) De-Jewing Jesus
As the antagonism built between Jews and the new sect of Christians, the latter came to re-characterize Jesus as being a Jewish renegade. They tried to portray Jesus as a person who criticized not just Jews, but the Jewish religion itself. Some of these arguments made their way into the scriptures, but much resulted from an extra-biblical campaign of influencers who fired up animosity against the Jews, leading to many inevitable atrocities. All of this was fiction. If Jesus was real, he was a dedicated follower of the Jewish religion and would be outraged to see how contemporary Christians view him. The following was taken from:
The continued presence of Jews is a reminder to Christians that Jesus was a Jew, and calls attention to the fact that 75% of the Bible (the Protestant version, calculated from word counts in the original languages) is Jewish. And Jews “stubbornly” resist the (often violent) Christian efforts to make them abandon their religion and adopt Christianity (Ruether, 1997, pp. 198-203; Troki, 1633/1851, p. 189, 273, 279).
One aspect of Christian antagonism toward Jews has been to ignore (McGrath, 2011, p. 5, 265), minimize, and even deny Jesus’ Jewishness (Griffith, 2009, pp. 7-32; Wilson, 2009, pp. 176-177). This behavior reached a high point in the Nazis’ adoption of the notion that Jesus was an “Aryan” or “Nordic” person, and not a Semite (a transformation that had been begun by the Protestant churches in Germany) (Carroll, 2001, pp. 71-72; Steigmann-Gall, 2003, pp. 27, 31, 37, 39, 50, 86, 95-96, 101, 108, 125, 131, 243, 262-263). Christians have distorted Jesus’ reported criticisms of certain Jews for oppression and hypocrisy into criticisms of Judaism itself and its adherents. Christians have even depicted him as anti-Jewish (Steigmann-Gall, 2003, pp. 18-22, 30-32, 36-37, 107, 126, 254-255, 258, 265-266). Present-day Christians need to be reminded, or even informed, that Jesus, his family, his followers during his life, and the majority of his followers for some time after his death, were Jews (Carroll, 2001, pp. 71-74; Fredriksen, 2018; Maccoby, 1986, pp. 126-127; Wilson, 2009, pp. 261-265).
As soon as Christians acquired political power, in Rome in the 4th century, they began to act on their hatred of Jews. The history of Christians’ persecution of Jews is well known (although ignored or denied by their churches), has been described by numerous authors (e.g., Carroll, 2001; Cohn-Sherbok, 1992; de Rosa, 1989, pp. 266-284; Kertzer, 2002), and need not be recounted here.
A reconstituted Jesus would be insulted by the denial of his Jewishness and his devotion to his religion. He would be horrified and enraged by what countless bigots, saying that they are acting on his behalf and claiming his authority for their cruelty and violence, have done to his coreligionists for some 1700 years (an interval as long as the scriptural period from the birth of Isaac to the birth of Jesus).
Because the Jews rejected Christianity en masse, it became necessary for Christians to rebrand their hero as being an ex-Jew or even a non-Jew. They needed him to be like them- rejecting the kosher laws, circumcision, and all of the Jewish holidays. And they needed to make him white. In short, they took a devout Jewish man and made him into devout Christian white man. Jesus must be rolling over in this grave.
(4318) Christianity uses domestic violence tactics
Because it is selling a false product, which is obvious to any unbiased, critically-thinking person, Christianity is forced to use similar tactics of a domestic abuser to keep people sitting in the pews. The following was taken from:
Hassan points out we can see analogous cases where people have been subjected to undue influence in other areas:
The Brandle/Heisler/Steigel model:
This model is based on domestic violence relationships, stalking, and sexual assault. It assumes that undue influence parallels these other religious situations.
There are eight factors:
- The victim was kept unaware.
- The victim was isolated from others and information.
- The Influencer tried to create fear.
- The influencer preyed on vulnerabilities.
- The influencer tried to create dependencies.
- The influencer attempted to make victims lose faith in their own beliefs.
- The influencer tried to induce shame and secrecy.
- The influencer performed intermittent acts of kindness.
(Hassan, 2020, p. 18)
It should be obvious to anyone that this is the very heart of Christianity. The potential convert is supposed to do a thorough self-inventory until they come to see how broken they are, which then provides the ground for the reconstructive starting point: the Sinner’s prayer. Religious self-help groups function in the same way, like through the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) getting you to start alcohol abstinence by admitting that you are completely lost in an addiction that you can’t fight unless you let God transform you.
There is no difference between a religion and a cult, just that religion is a cult grown larger. In this way, we can see the features of the brainwashed cult member achieved in religion.
The “thought reform” or “cult” model of Margaret Thaler Singer, PhD developed from her work on the tactics used by cults and cult leaders and has been widely referenced. The model proposes six stages: creating isolation, fostering a siege mentality, inducing dependency, promoting a sense of powerlessness, manipulating fears and vulnerabilities, and keeping the victim unaware and uninformed. The model also specifies certain tactics as follows:
- keeping the victim unaware of what is going on and what changes are taking place;
- controlling the victim’s time and, if possible, physical environment;
- creating a sense of powerlessness, covert fear, and dependency;
- suppressing much of the person’s old behavior and attitudes;
- instilling new behavior and attitudes; and
- putting forth a closed system of logic, allowing no real input or criticism.
Hassan argues that Robert J. Lifton has been instrumental in identifying the most effective look-fors in identifying environments of brainwashing/undue influence. To begin with, we can see the hallmark of the religious mindset in the first of the eight concepts below: that the in-group has the only way to view reality. (see link for the eight concepts)
Christianity does not promote self-actualization, independence, critical thinking, obtaining a broad perspective of all religions, studying the history behind the construction of the Bible, or researching the history of the Christian faith (replete with atrocities). No, it wants to keep you in the dark, just like an abused spouse, or a mind-numbed cult follower. Why does it do this? Because if you are selling a false product, you must be deceptive to succeed.
(4319) Evidence against Pilate’s acquiescence to Jesus
The gospels paint Pontius Pilate as being sympathetic to Jewish sensitivities surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus, ‘washing his hands’ of his sentencing and allowing him to be buried ceremoniously by his followers, contrary to how virtually all other crucifixion victims were treated (hanging on the cross for a week and being eviscerated by birds of prey). The following provides two examples of Pilate’s mindset that occurred at approximately the same time as the crucifixion:
Two other sources may give us a more accurate description of Pilate. Philo of Alexandria, a Jew who chronicled 1st-century Jewish life in the Levant, describes Pilate as “a man of inflexible, stubborn and cruel disposition” and recalls an incident that may have occurred in the very same year as the Crucifixion itself. Pilate had commissioned some golden shields to be made honoring the then-emperor Tiberius, which he displayed at his palace in Jerusalem. Local Jews protested at the tribute to a figure regarded as a deity, or at least a ‘son of god,’ by Romans, and requested their removal. Pilate flatly refused. He refused again when members of King Herod’s family intervened, only eventually agreeing to move them out of Jerusalem when the Emperor himself intervened after being petitioned by the Herodians.
The Jewish historian Josephus tells of Pilate using treasure looted from the Jewish temple in Jerusalem to pay for an aqueduct. Pilate had those taking part in the subsequent protest beaten with clubs, with many dying from the brutality of the punishment or through being trampled by horses. Both events suggest that Pilate was a much more intransigent figure, unsympathetic or even ignorant of Jewish sensitivities. The suggestion that he would show compassion towards a Jewish sect’s wishes towards a leader that he had put to death for sedition seems implausible.
It seems more plausible that the gospels were written in pro-Roman fashion, in the wake of the Jewish-Roman War and as a consequence of by whom and where they were written than that Pilate made a huge concession to his normal modus operandi. In this case, the gospels appear to be relating fantasy history.
(4320) The missing forty days
Although the synoptic gospels imply that Jesus left the earth very soon after his resurrection, usually within a day or two, the Gospel of John and the Acts of the Apostles indicate that he remained for a much longer time. In John, it can be construed that he remained for much longer than one week and in Acts, this period of post-resurrection appearances is stated to be forty days.
There are several problem with this. Obviously if Jesus survived the crucifixion or rose from the dead, it would seem that he would be subject to being crucified again if he was caught by the Roman officials. There is no mention in the scriptures of anyone being concerned about this danger.
Also, it would seem that after Jesus had resurrected, the disciples would have seen him in a new light, meaning that they would have placed more emphasis on what he was doing and saying. But there is very little documentation of this post resurrection period. If we eliminate the obviously forged Chapter 21 of the Gospel of John and the interpolation following Mark 16:8, all that remains is the following:
Matthew- a quick trip to Galilee and the Great Commission
Luke- staying in Jerusalem for a day or two, following two people on the road to Emmaus, one final appearance to the disciples and eating a fish, explaining the meaning of what had happened
John- appearing to Mary Magdalene, then the disciples, then a week later to Thomas
Acts- allegedly hanging around for forty days, but only telling the disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait to be imbued with the Holy Spirit, and explaining that his return was to be timed by the Father
So, what happened during those forty days? They should have been documented in a much more robust manner. Given what we have, it seems consistent with the idea that Jesus never resurrected, and all the gospel authors could dream up was a few inconsequential, non-miraculous interactions. Instead of taking up only a part of the final chapter of each gospel, this forty day period should be at least one half of them. And the Book of Acts should have included at least several chapters chronicling this period instead of just one small portion in the first chapter.
The forty post-resurrection days are missing- they should have been the main event, not just a brief denouement. The best explanation is that the forty days never happened, and neither did the resurrection.
(4321) Homosexuality and obsolete sins
Virtually no Christians observe all of the commandments in the Bible, meaning that many of the sins therein have become obsolete. Yet, most Christians select certain ones and even elevate them to prominence- such as being LGBTQ. However, there are reasons why this ‘sin’ should also be considered obsolete. The following was taken from:
Even though the Bible labels homosexuality as a sin, there are no logically-justifiable reasons to deem homosexuality as inherently bad, immoral, or harmful in the contemporary world, and therefore, Christians should completely disregard the belief that homosexuality is a sin, just as they disregard other “obsolete” sins, like wearing clothes with mixed fabrics (Lev 19:19) or slaves disobeying their masters (Eph 6:5).
*In this post, homosexuality = consensual sexual activity between people that share the same gender
There are plenty of “sins” in the bible that today’s Christians view as irrelevant to modern-day life, either because of evolving cultural and philosophical values, or because of the introduction of new information that dispels prior ignorance, or a mix of both these things. We can see an example of this even in the Bible, where Paul lifts all food restrictions on God’s people (1 Tim 4:3-5) – even though the same God also previously made it a sin to eat shellfish and pork (Lev 11). And then, there are even Biblical commands that 21st century Christians openly discount or ignore, largely due to the morally-indefensible nature of these commands (such as the New Testament telling slaves to obey their earthly masters).
What all of these obsolete sins (and biblical commands) have in common, is that they are morally, ethically, rationally, or scientifically irrelevant to the contemporary world; or that is, that there is no factually sufficient reason that justifies holding people to the morality of these laws, or that even proves such laws are capable of accurately determining a person’s moral or ethical character in the first place. Unlike, say, the sin of commuting murder, which most certainly could provide an accurate determination of a person’s moral/ethical character, and that would also be relevant to contemporary society.
I argue that homosexuality is an obsolete sin, and that the immorality assigned to homosexuality in the bible has no actual relevance to modern society, either morally, ethically, logically, or scientifically. There isn’t anything inherently immoral/unethical about homosexuality, just as there isn’t with wearing mixed-fabrics. There’s no logically-justifiable reason (meaning, based on scientific principles ) that inherently leads to the conclusion that homosexuality is wrong, bad, or harmful. Therefore, Christians have no reason to continue viewing homosexuality as a sin.
The fact that obsolete sins exist is itself an indictment of the Bible. Everything in a book inspired by an infinite intelligence should stand the test of time. When determining what is obsolete, objective criteria should be used.
To be fair, Christians have proposed a few quasi-reasonable reasons to maintain homosexuality as a sin, such as it more readily spreads disease and if everyone was LGBTQ the human race would become extinct. The former is questionable but hardly a sound reason to deny someone the right to love who they want. The latter makes little sense as if everyone was a doctor, there would be no one to grow food, and, so again, the human race would become extinct.
(4322) Tacitus and Vespasian
The Roman historian Tacitus (CE 56-120) wrote a story about an alleged miracle performed by the Roman Emperor Vespasian. This was written at approximately the same time that the gospels were being composed. It reveals the ubiquity of fantasy miracle literature during this time.
Tacitus Histories (4.81)
“During the months while Vespasian was waiting at Alexandria for the regular season of the summer winds and a settled sea, many marvels continued to mark the favour of heaven and a certain partiality of the gods toward him. One of the common people of Alexandria, well known for his loss of sight, threw himself before Vespasian’s knees, praying him with groans to cure his blindness, being so directed by the god Serapis, whom this most superstitious of nations worships before all others; and he besought the emperor to deign to moisten his cheeks and eyes with his spittle. Another, whose hand was useless, prompted by the same god, begged Caesar to step and trample on it. Vespasian at first ridiculed these appeals and treated them with scorn; then, when the men persisted, he began at one moment to fear the discredit of failure, at another to be inspired with hopes of success by the appeals of the suppliants and the flattery of his courtiers: finally, he directed the physicians to give their opinion as to whether such blindness and infirmity could be overcome by human aid.
Their reply treated the two cases differently: they said that in the first the power of sight had not been completely eaten away and it would return if the obstacles were removed; in the other, the joints had slipped and become displaced, but they could be restored if a healing pressure were applied to them. Such perhaps was the wish of the gods, and it might be that the emperor had been chosen for this divine service; in any case, if a cure were obtained, the glory would be Caesar’s, but in the event of failure, ridicule would fall only on the poor suppliants. So Vespasian, believing that his good fortune was capable of anything and that nothing was any longer incredible, with a smiling countenance, and amid intense excitement on the part of the bystanders, did as he was asked to do. The hand was instantly restored to use, and the day again shone for the blind man. Both facts are told by eye-witnesses even now when falsehood brings no reward.”
Writing about the miracles of Jesus or a Roman emperor seems to be nothing more than made-up fiction used to embellish the reputation of an esteemed figure. In today’s world, if someone wrote about a miracle performed by, for instance, Gandhi, most people would be highly skeptical. But in the First Century, people were generally credulous, though others (more learned) understood these stories to be apocryphal and accepted them as a subjective reality. Thus, the stories of Jesus’ miracles should be taken in that latter subjective sense today.
(4323) Vicarious redemption from another angle
Christianity was founded on the concept of vicarious redemption- that a person can be absolved of their sins by way of another human (Jesus) being put to death in their place. This is troubling on its face, but in the following it is shown how taking this theology to another level reveals just how absurd it really is:
Okay so I’ve been out of Christianity for like 2 years now, so I’ve had a lot of time to ponder and something that always comes up in my brain and drives me crazy about Christianity, is the whole courtroom analogy about us being guilty before a holy god and Jesus the perfectly innocent being paying our crime. On its face that is already fucked up but I can see how a Christian can romanticize it and make it work in their head, but only due to certain notions they have locked in their head that when broken, completely blow the lid off any chance this “innocent dying for the evil” has of being viewed as morally acceptable.
So basically, it only works because the innocent perfectly sinless being that is being “sacrificed” to pay for the crime, is a 33 year old dude. Christians can play pretend all they want but nomatter how hard you try, you can never view a dude in his 30s as being wholly pure and innocent, like a baby. And the “evil sinner” in the situation is you, the non-criminal, friendly average Joe that tries their best and doesn’t actually do horrible things. The only reason why it’s okay in anyone’s head for Jesus to die in their place is bc they know deep down that they don’t deserve an eternity in hell and that they aren’t truly evil.
But if we replace Jesus with an ACTUAL innocent being, a 1 month old baby. And replace you or your grandma or your neighbor with an actual evil person like Jeffery Dahmer (a cannibalistic murderer), you immediately see how fucked up the idea of vicarious atonement is.
Any religion worth its salt, if it had designs on punishing or rewarding individuals in some form of an after-death re-animation experience, would do so on the basis of how they managed their lives- how they treated others and whether they left their world a better place than when they were born. The idea that you can punish another person for another’s transgressions goes against all logic and every single justice system in every single country in the world. Killing a baby to save Jeffery Dahmer?- yeah, that’s pretty much the same thing.
(4324) Theists react the same as atheists
When it comes to life outside of the church, theists behave identically to atheists. If their belief in a supernatural helper/comforter/miracle-working deity is correct, this equation of behaviors would not exist. The following was taken from:
Hypothesis: Regardless of where we are spirituality (belief, no belief or in the middle) both theists and atheists live their lives as if God were powerless and incapable of helping anyone.
Our Kids: Whether it’s illness, their safety, academics, their future, their friends, bad people, drugs, accidents, danger, TV shows, the news, movies or books, theists act just like atheists. Theists act as if there were no God, and that they are their kids only protector.
Every one of us: Our lives are riddled with possible disaster. Our jobs, our health, money, insurance, gas, groceries, relationships and being a good person are always breathing down our backs.
From every angle that I’ve looked at this, atheists and theists both sweat these things equally. Yet only one group claims to get help and strength from a god. If this were true for theists only 5% of the time, statistically, theists would stand out in every category of how life and happiness is measured. They’d live longer lives, have better marriages, have fewer problems raising kids, they’d earn more money, they’d get sick less and generally have more stability. However, we don’t see any of this.
We all act the same and we take the same daily precautions. Theists strap helmets and knee pads on their kids just like atheists do. We all worry about side effects of medicine and cancer, we worry about the same things, yet one group claims to have a relationship with a creator god who is all powerful and loves them unconditionally. This creator answers their prayers and looks over them.
Regardless of church denomination, amount of offerings, charitable donations, numbers of prayers or strength of belief – when things get real, curiously, theists take the same actions that atheists do. Why do theists feel the need to watch over and protect that atheists do?
But it gets even more interesting. Despite an unshakable level of faith. Many theists work hard to keep their kids away from anything secular. Many deny their kids access to vaccines. Some theists work very hard to keep their kids away from modern medicine. Are these actions on par with having strong faith in a loving protector?
We see some theists taking serious measures to keep their kids away from situations where they might be exposed to lifestyles or thinking that runs counter to their scriptures. Why would any of this be necessary when God is protecting and helping? Is God so weak that parents must do all of the heavy lifting?
The fact that theists navigate the challenges of this life in the same manner as atheists indicates that their god is either much less powerful than they and the Bible profess it to be, or, more likely, that it doesn’t exist at all.
(4325) Dialogue between God and Satan about slavery
The following is a hypothetical dialogue generated by ChatGPT between God and Satan questioning why the Bible does not prohibit slavery. The responses illuminate why there is no defense for this glaring problem within the Bible:
PROMPT: Write a letter from God explaining why the Bible does not prohibit slavery.
My beloved child,
I am the Christian God, the Creator of all things, and the Father of all humankind. I am writing to you today to address your concerns about why I did not forbid slavery in the Bible.
I understand that the concept of slavery is abhorrent to you, and I share your distaste for it. However, you must understand that the Bible was written in a different time, in a different culture, and to a different audience. The ancient Israelites, for whom many of the Old Testament laws were written, lived in a society where slavery was an accepted practice. As a result, the Bible contains instructions on how to treat slaves fairly and humanely, rather than forbidding the practice outright.
In the New Testament, I sent my son Jesus to preach a message of love and equality for all people, regardless of their social status. He taught that we should love our neighbors as ourselves, and that all people are equal in the eyes of God. While slavery was not explicitly condemned in the New Testament, the teachings of Jesus and the early Christian Church laid the foundation for the eventual abolition of slavery.
It is important to understand that the Bible is not a static document, but rather a living testament to my ongoing relationship with humanity. As society has evolved and progressed, so too has our understanding of what is just and right. The abolition of slavery is just one example of this ongoing process of growth and enlightenment.
I want you to know that I love all my children equally, regardless of their social status or circumstances. I do not condone the mistreatment of any person, and I grieve for the suffering that has been inflicted upon those who have been enslaved throughout history. My hope is that you will continue to seek understanding and compassion for your fellow humans, and that together we can work towards a more just and equitable society for all.
With love and blessings,
PROMPT: Write a letter from Satan explaining why the letter above is not a sufficient response.
My dear mortal,
I am Satan, the adversary of God and the prince of darkness. I have read the letter that you received from God, and I must tell you that it is not a sufficient response to your concerns about slavery in the Bible.
You see, God may claim to love all of his children equally, but the fact remains that he allowed the practice of slavery to continue for thousands of years, even though it caused immense suffering and injustice. The fact that he did not forbid slavery outright in the Bible is a clear indication that his moral compass is flawed, and that he is not the all-knowing, all-powerful being that he claims to be.
Furthermore, the argument that the Bible was written in a different time and culture is a weak excuse for condoning such a heinous practice. If God truly loved all of his children equally, he would have made it clear from the beginning that slavery was unacceptable, and that all human beings are created equal.
As for Jesus, his message of love and equality is certainly admirable, but it does not excuse the fact that the Bible contains passages that condone slavery. The fact that the Christian Church took centuries to recognize the inherent evil of slavery is a testament to the flawed nature of the Bible and its teachings.
In conclusion, I urge you to question the teachings of the Bible and to seek your own moral compass. Do not be swayed by the empty promises of a deity who condones such a barbaric practice as slavery. Remember that true morality comes from within, and that it is up to each of us to stand up for what is right, regardless of what the Bible or any other religious text may say.
PROMPT: Write a response letter from God.
My dear child,
I am writing to respond to your concerns about the issue of slavery and the letter you received from Satan. First, I want to acknowledge the pain and suffering caused by the practice of slavery throughout history. Slavery is an abomination, and I grieve for the countless individuals who have been subjected to its horrors.
In regards to Satan’s letter, I must emphasize that he is a being of deception and lies. His words are meant to sow doubt and confusion in your heart, and I urge you to be cautious in accepting anything that he says. The fact is, Satan is the one who promotes slavery, oppression, and injustice. He seeks to destroy all that is good and true, and to lead you away from the light of my love and grace.
As for the issue of slavery in the Bible, I must reiterate what I said in my previous letter. The Bible was written in a different time and culture, and its teachings reflect the social norms and values of that time. However, it is important to note that the Bible also contains teachings on justice, compassion, and equality that have been instrumental in shaping the moral conscience of humanity.
It is true that the Bible does not explicitly forbid slavery, but it does contain instructions on how to treat slaves with fairness and respect. Furthermore, the teachings of Jesus and the early Christian Church laid the foundation for the eventual abolition of slavery, as they emphasized the inherent dignity and worth of every human being.
I want you to know that I am a God of justice and mercy, and that I care deeply for the well-being of all my children. While I cannot undo the injustices of the past, I am working to bring healing and restoration to a broken and wounded world. My hope is that you will continue to seek truth and understanding, and that you will find comfort and guidance in my love and grace.
With love and blessings,
PROMPT: Write a response letter from Satan.
My mortal friend,
It is I, Satan, and I must say that I am disappointed in the response you received from God. It is typical of him to offer vague platitudes and empty promises, without addressing the real issues at hand.
Let us be clear: God is not a god of justice and mercy. He is a god of arbitrary rules and punishment, who delights in the suffering of his own creation. The fact that he allowed slavery to exist for thousands of years is proof enough of his cruelty and indifference.
You speak of seeking truth and understanding, but how can you do so when your very beliefs are based on a flawed and contradictory book? The Bible is full of contradictions and inconsistencies, and its teachings have been used to justify everything from slavery to genocide.
As for my own teachings, I must emphasize that I do not promote slavery or oppression. My goal is to empower individuals to make their own choices and to live their lives according to their own desires. It is God who seeks to control and manipulate his followers, to impose his will upon them and to punish them for their supposed sins.
In conclusion, I urge you to question everything that you have been taught, and to seek your own truth and understanding. Do not be swayed by the empty promises of a deity who values blind obedience over critical thinking and free will.
As can be seen, without a doubt, Satan wins this ‘debate.’ The tolerance/promotion of slavery in the Bible is convincing evidence by itself that the Bible is a product of human minds and not the inspiration of the god imagined by Christians.
(4326) Reasons why Christianity deserves no respect
Christians are taught to believe that their faith should not be criticized, much less ridiculed. They consider any slight to be a mean-spirited attack on their fundamental beliefs. In other words, they contend that Christianity must be respected by everyone. Well, there are good reasons for disrespect, as follows:
Here’s a list of my top 10 reasons (listed in no particular order) why Christianity shouldn’t be given the respect it demands (and in many cases, should be ridiculed):
• Suspension of Critical Thought – Have “faith like a child” and “lean not on your own understanding”. Basically, don’t think for yourself, and if you question any logical fallacy, your pastor and fellow flock members can give you plenty of explanations.
• Promotion of Scientific Illiteracy – Evolutionary biology in it’s entirety is as much a fact as the earth’s orbit around the sun. It’s not a matter of opinion, and there is no “alternative” explanation. The bible is not by default correct, nor does it have the authority to trump scientific evidence. Humans were not “created”, and it’s unlikely that some unseen intelligence put everything into motion (and if you have some tangible evidence to the contrary that is testable, replicable, and not from scripture, I’d love to see it).
• Willful Ignorance and Mistrust of the Scientific Community – When I’ve asked Christians to define the theories they oppose (evolution, abiogenesis, and universe origins), it’s clear that they don’t understand them (or the scientific method for that matter). When I offer resources to clarify the theories (with evidence), the usual response is “I’m too busy”, or an outright “I don’t care to know, and wouldn’t believe it if I did see it”.
• Intricate Maneuvering of Tough Questions – Ask a Christian the tough questions about contradictions, the suspicious origins, historical inaccuracies, and downright absurdities of the bible, the nature of god, and so on. Most likely you’ll get a wide range of parroted responses that are rather elaborate, and in turn create more questions than answers. If it were all true, wouldn’t it be pretty simple and straightforward?
• Blatant Dishonesty – Creationist propaganda alone is enough to prove the point. There’s no way around it; creation apologists blatantly lie without excuse. What does the scientific community have to gain by lying about its evidence and theories? Nothing! A better understanding of our world helps us make progress, and it improves our quality of life. What do creationists (and subsequently churches) have to lose? A whole lot of tithing, that’s what. There’s also blatant political propaganda on which party you should vote for (ever so subtle), that gays and lesbians are detrimental to family values, and that our wars are justified because we have god on our side to help us eradicate evil.
• Extraordinary Claims – Do I really have to present the long list of absurdity? To believe in any of it, your critical thought process has to pretty much be eliminated. Christianity claims to factually know the origins of the universe, the earth, life on the planet, and ultimately the future of humankind without sufficient tangible evidence. Christianity also rejects any reasonable argument and tangible evidence against their claims, while demanding respect. And apologists say non-believers are arrogant and closed minded?
• Repulsive Attitudes – What is god’s obsession with blood? For millennia he required blood sacrifices for atonement of sin. Of course the ultimate blood sacrifice of Jesus was a human one (and it changed all the rules!). How is a bloodthirsty god who accepts human sacrifice (if you look in the old testament, there are plenty of other human sacrifices) better than any other god? And why does god need to sacrifice Jesus (who is also himself) to appease himself when he created humanity fallible in the first place? Also checkout the long list of atrocities (rape, genocide, slavery) that are condoned (no matter which testament you read).
• Cherry Picking Theology – As we become more civilized, the bible becomes less palatable, but apologists will continue to preach the divinely inspired universal truth of the bible, frequently claiming the new testament trumps the old. The good things Jesus said (like the Beatitudes) are highlighted, but you forget that Jesus is also god (and the same god of the old testament). As mentioned above, that old testament god condoned slavery, rape, and genocide (and within any context is repulsive). Even Jesus condoned (not condemned) slavery. Yes, Jesus was passionate about his ideals (that were well ahead of his time), but he also had a lot of crackpot ideas that most modern Christians don’t follow (like abandoning your family, killing people who deny Christ, selling your home and all worldly possessions to give to the poor).
• Atonement – God created humans, knowing that they weren’t going to be perfect. When the first humans sin, all subsequent generations are cursed because of this. So basically you’re born a rotten human being, repulsive in god’s eyes, but he loves you so much, you just have to believe in Jesus so that he won’t have to torment you in hell for all eternity. That really can’t be good for anyone’s self esteem.
• Absurd Worldview – Christians are apparently not citizens of this world, as it’s just a temporary place to prepare for the afterlife. Why bother making this world a better place for humanity when it’s all going to be destroyed soon once the rapture happens and the apocalypse destroys the planet? I know from personal experience that most evangelical Christians view a global economy and government as a sign of the antichrist appearing. It explains why so many Americans (dominated by Christian ideals) are notoriously opposed to globalization (although you’d think they’d be all for it, if it would speed up Christ’s return). Personally, I’d like to see the evidence for an afterlife. Modern science shows us that there’s no reason to believe that consciousness continues after our brains die (because the mind is the function of the brain).
Christianity not only deserves no respect, it deserves ridicule. This is not to say that individuals who believe in Christianity should be mocked or made uncomfortable. But if they use their faith as a bludgeon against non-believers, then it is fair game to show how Christianity is built on a ridiculous fairy-tale concept that has no basis in reality.
(4327) Seeing the forest
‘You can’t see the forest for the trees’ is an expression used of someone who is too involved in the details of something to look at the situation as a whole. Most Christians are locked in on seeing one tree at a time and fail to see the forest. In the following, a ‘forest-looking’ big picture view of the Bible exposes why any un-indoctrinated, clear-thinking person
believes knows that Christianity is complete bullshit:
I was a Christian for a dozen years. The following is my attempt to summarize in a nutshell what I read in the Bible:
- God creates the universe. Billions of years later, he tells humans that he did it in six days: first the earth, then light, and then the sun and stars to serve as calendar.
- God forbids the knowledge of right and wrong to Adam and Eve. Then, he blames them for their wrong choice, and condemns them and all their offspring to death.
- Ever since Adam and Eve’s fall, God hides himself from most of mankind. But he blames anyone doubting his existence.
- God drowns all living creatures in a flood, including koalas, giraffes, kids and grannies, minus the eight members of Noah’s family and couples of every species. Later, he provides the commandment “You shall not kill.”
- Abraham is willing to sacrifice his son at God’s command, and God praises his faith. Later, Jesus blames believers for blindly observing God’s commandments, saying that “God wants mercy, not sacrifice.”
- Abraham’s nephew Lot offers his two daughters to appease a rapist mob. Later, he has sex with them while drunk. He is what God calls a righteous man.
- God delivers his people Israel from slavery and genocide in Egypt. Then, he allows them to own slaves, and commands them to exterminate the Canaanites, the Jebusites and the Amalekites.
- God gives the Israelites a law that commands them to kill homosexuals. In another law, he allows them to sell their daughters as sex slaves.
- God sends Jesus to offer his life as a sacrifice. Then, God gives Jesus his life back. Perhaps, he cancelled the condemnation of Adam and Eve’s offspring and the need for Jesus’ sacrifice when he decreed that the sinner alone would die for his own sin.
- Jesus promises that whatever we ask in prayer will be granted. He has not yet given us a cure for cancer, though. Fortunately, human medical research is advancing.
- Jesus tells his disciples to sell all their possessions and give everything to the poor, as he will return within “this generation.” The first generation of his disciples does so, but the current 80th generation holds on retirement plans.
- God is love and commands us to love one another. If we don’t, he will torture us forever in hell.
- God inspires penmen to write all the above–plus a few stories about stopping the sun for one day and spending three days in a fish–in a book. Then, he expects us to use that book as a guide for our life, hope, ethics and family values.
That’s it. How come I needed twelve years to come to my senses? How come that book is still taken seriously today?
It is indeed astounding that modern-day, well-educated people still see the Bible and Christianity as having a reasonable chance of being true. But once you see the forest, no tree can obstruct your view. Beyond any doubt, Christianity is false.
(4328) Question of Barabbas.
The gospel stories about Barabbas, the prisoner released in lieu of Jesus, strain credulity to the extreme. There can be no doubt that this is a fictional account invented by the person who wrote the Gospel of Mark, which was then copied and modified by the other three gospel authors. As discussed in the following essay, received from a reader of this site, the Barabbas story is nothing more than a made-up legend:
The story leaves many questions un-answered. Apart from the commonly recognized fact that there was no such custom in Jerusalem, or anywhere else in the Roman empire for a popular prisoner to be released at Passover, it is hard to rationalize Pilate releasing a condemned insurgent just on the whim of the people. Imagine if just those few years ago, the American commander in the Middle East had asked a motley group of Islamics if they would like him to release Saddam Hussein? It is surely unthinkable that such a Governor, Pilate the cruel and nasty Prefect, would interrupt the trial of a messianic claimant in order to consult with a street mob, and furthermore go on to act on their advice.
There is no suggestion that Barabbas received any kind of pardon. In fact we are assured that no-one but the emperor could issue such a pardon. Note too that Pilate is described as finding Jesus completely innocent. Now the Roman soldiers in Jerusalem would be constantly on the job of rooting out rebels, messianic claimants and ‘freedom fighters’ from the region since they always caused trouble. Pilate’s authority and standing with his soldiers would hardly have been strengthened if one of their prisoners who had been rightfully condemned to crucifixion for insurrection and murder, and who was only captured at considerable trouble and maybe after much violence, was to be set free at the behest of a pesky Jerusalem mob. Also, on his lucky release Barabbas would not miraculously become a reformed character who would be any sort of a decent citizen, subservient to Rome. In any case, can we really ignore the certainty that soon following the release, the guards would be marched out on the lookout with the determination to take him in again?? In any case, just where is he going in the meantime? Are his friends and colleagues who are calling for his release going to bear him away and is he just going to fade away in the crowd, ready to participate in more violence for the cause as he rejoins his compatriots?
When you think of it, the mob calling for Barabbas is hardly a representative gathering of common people of Jerusalem. Some have speculated that this crowd was hastily assembled by the High Priest in order to make sure that Jesus was tried and executed as he wanted. Now, just what sort of persons would actually want an insurgent killer like Barabbas to be spared execution? And just why we might ask, were the other two ‘thieves’ ignored for release in this transaction? The individuals in this mob, we are told, are specifically wanting to see a popular felon who is an enemy of the State, released. Thus it is obvious that every one of them too is an enemy of Rome! They would from then on be marked men.
When Pilate, most unrealistically and uncharacteristically asked the mob “Shall I crucify your king’, this mob of Jews (Rome haters) shouted back ‘We have no king but Caesar!!!’ Now just about the only persons in Rome who could think and speak like that, would be the Sadducees who totally relied upon their good favor with Rome for their privileged positions. Just repeating my previous point, – this is a mob right in front of the governor, who set out to protect and care for a violent insurgent, a sworn enemy of Rome, actually declaring that Caesar is their king!!
Once more, we find a popular Biblical story just totally untenable.
It makes little sense that a mob professing their allegiance to Rome would at the same time request the release of a person who an insurgent against the same. This, and so much more, lets us know that the story of Barabbas belongs in the fiction section of the library.
(4329) Paralysis as a consequence of sin
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus promoted the debunked concept that a person’s paralysis was a result of sin. The following was taken from:
In chapter 2 we find the famous story of the paralytic who was lowered through the roof, so that he could get access to miracle-working Jesus. Indeed, Jesus heals the man—no surprise that this story gets into children’s Bible books—but what he says doesn’t sound right at all: Jesus heals him by forgiving his sins. This angers the religious bureaucrats present, because they’re sure that only God can forgive sins. This Jesus-script is based on the assumption that disease is caused by sin (vv. 9-12):
“Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic— ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat, and go to your home.’ And he stood up and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’”
The author of Mark’s gospel was pressing his theology here, i.e., Jesus has authority, just as much as god does, to forgive sins. But how much damage has this text caused? We can be sure that many devout folks have been convinced that their sins have caused illness to themselves and loved ones. But pathologists who study paralysis know for sure that sin has nothing to do with it. Maybe the guy took a bad fall, or suffered from a genetic disease. No doctor who is trying to help a paralyzed patient will ask for a list of sins the person has committed—to figure out what went wrong. Superstitious thinkers of the ancient world would have blamed sin, but we know better. If modern readers think it through, they realize that this Jesus-script is wrong.
The Bible can only promote so much anti-science themes before it is seen as a product of a pre-scientific society. Paralysis and sin have nothing in common, and if Jesus was God, he would have known that.
(4330) God experienced sex or Jesus was solely human
Most Christians would be alarmed if Yahweh was a sexual being, feeling arousal for women, and enjoying orgasmic ejaculation. But the Christian doctrine of the Trinity marries Jesus to Yahweh as co-experiencers while at the same time making Jesus out to be both fully human and fully divine. This mangles the theology resulting in one of two things being necessarily true- either God is a sexual being or Jesus was exclusively human (not God) during his 30-year life on the planet. The following was taken from:
If Jesus was fully man, then he must have experienced the full physiological nature of being human. If Jesus was the same, single being as God, then it would be true to say that God experienced the physiological nature of being a man.
If X = Y
and X = Z
then Y = Z
Some common aspects of human physiology experienced by the “incarnate God,” such as huger, thirst, sleep, pain, etc. are not only accepted by Christians, but commended. Other common aspects of the human experience, sexuality in particular, is taboo and even considered blasphemous to associate with God. Therein lies the problem with the hypostatic union.
If Jesus was “fully” man, then he would have experienced the natural sexuality of that species (not specifically intercourse). For example, a properly functioning man would produce sperm and semen which gets expelled from time to time. He would experience the tension of sexual desire. He would experience spontaneous arousal both awake and at sleep. He would experience orgasm and ejaculation during nocturnal emissions.
Those kinds of sexual experiences occur with all healthy men. There is nothing inherently immoral about such things, its just how men, as a species that reproduces sexually, are designed.
If Jesus had those kinds of sexual experiences, then it would entail that God experienced aspects of male human sexuality according to Trinitarian doctrine. That conclusion would universally be met with opprobrium by mainstream Christians as blasphemous and not befitting of God.
On the other hand, if Jesus did not experience major aspects of manhood, then he cannot be said to be “fully” man (being deficient in a major aspect of it.) In that case, the hypostatic union would be compromised.
The only viable solution would be if Jesus was fully human, full stop. In which case such pervasive and natural sexual experiences would not be worthy of note.
There is no way to defend the Trinity and the theology that Jesus was simultaneously ‘fully human’ without running into the problem of Yahweh’s sexuality. It is nearly certain that no authors of the New Testament, or even subsequent Christian clerics ever considered this issue. One of the following five things must be true: the Trinity is false, Yahweh experienced sex, Jesus was only partly human, Jesus was just a regular human, or Jesus was a mythical person. Christians will answer ‘no’ to all of these but to be honest, they much concede on at least one.
(4331) How does God exist?
It is difficult to pin down Christians to describe the exact nature/attributes of the god they worship. But it generally goes similarly as follows:
Every time someone explains to me what god is, they always say “he exists outside of space, time, and matter” and that statement makes absolutely no sense. For something to exist, it needs space to exist in. For something to exist, it needs time to exist in. And for something to exist, it needs to be made of matter. And Christians concede that God has 0/3 of these attributes, which is hilarious to me. It proves how God is an illogical concept.
If a woman said that her boyfriend was located outside of space and time and wasn’t composed of matter, it would be a simple conclusion that she was delusional. Yet, there are billions of Christians essentially saying the same thing about their god while at the same time demanding privilege and respect. A departure from reality on this scale is astounding.
(4332) Reversing theist argument
Theists often goad atheists by presenting moral arguments designed to make it seem like true justice cannot exist outside of the Christian model of reality. One example below indicates how such an attack can boomerang back in their face:
Atheists, since you don’t believe in an afterlife, don’t you feel bad to know that many evildoers will never face punishment for their atrocities?
When I think, based on your beliefs, that a rapist, child-molesting murderer can find Jesus on his deathbed and bask for an eternity in glory while the 16-year old atheist girl he kidnapped, raped, and murdered must burn forever in a lake of fire for her sins, it fills me with a sense of moral outrage.
That’s what you meant, right?
Uh…hmmm…OK… so, what did you think about that game last night?
(4333) Brain activity in dying people
Near-death experiences, where a person senses a dramatic episode when they are near death, has been used by many theists as evidence for a life after death, thus giving some credence, for example, to Christianity’s claim that humans will go on living after their physical death. However, science continues to intrude on this belief. In the following, research has shown that people who actually die tend to experience energetic brain activity just before death, suggesting that this is a normal physiological response to dying. The following was taken from:
We’ve all heard eerie stories about people who almost perished, but survived to tell the tale of the strange visions and emotions they experienced when they were close to death. Now, scientists have observed a surge of energetic activity in the brains of dying patients, a discovery that reveals that our brains can be active even as our hearts stop beating, reports a new study.
The results challenge a longstanding assumption that brains become nonfunctional as they lose oxygen during cardiac arrest, and could eventually open a new window into the weird phenomena associated with near-death experiences (NDE).
Jimo Borjigin, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Michigan, has been interested in these questions since she first observed surges of activity in the brains of dying rats a decade ago. The surges consisted of gamma waves, the fastest oscillations in the brain, which are associated with conscious perceptions, lucid dreams, and hallucinations.
Now, Borjigin and her colleagues have discovered similar gamma activity in the brains of patients who died in the hospital while they were monitored by electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors, which record neural activity. The researchers examined EEG readings from a small sample size of four unresponsive patients who were removed from life support with the permission of their families. During cardiac arrest, two of the people experienced complex gamma activity in a “hot zone” of the brain that is critical for conscious processing.
The new observations “demonstrate that the surge of gamma power and connectivity observed in animal models of cardiac arrest can be observed in select patients during the process of dying,” according to a study published on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The findings could also help explain near-death experiences, which the study described as “a biological paradox that challenges our fundamental understanding of the dying brain, which is widely believed to be nonfunctioning” during death.
“The dying brain was thought to be inactive; our study showed otherwise,” said Borjigin, the senior author of the study, in an email to Motherboard. “The discovery of the marked and organized gamma activities in the dying brain suggests that NDE is the product of the dying brain, which is activated at death.”
“As far as I am concerned, our study may be as good as it will ever get for finding neural signatures of near-death consciousness,” she added. The “only thing better than this is to have the patients survive to tell the tale that correlates with the detected neural signatures.”
It’s impossible to know what the patients felt as a result of the enhanced activity in their brains, though Borjigin said the data hints at a subjective experience that might involve visual or auditory dimensions. In this way, the study may have provided an empirical counterpart to reports of near-death experiences, which often include strikingly similar phenomena, such as the presence of light, or a sense of levitation, or a highlight reel of memories.
The study is part of a recent wave of research that complicates our typical idea of death. A recent study monitored the vital signs of over 600 people as they died, and found evidence of cardiac activity minutes after a patient flatlined. The researchers said the observed activity would not support brain function, however.
More research will be needed to establish a link between death and gamma activity in the brain, in part because the study is based on a small sample size, making it difficult to draw broader conclusions. It’s also not yet clear why only two of the four patients experienced gamma activity during death. Both of those people had a history of seizures, which could account for the findings, though neither patient had experienced a seizure in the hour leading up to their deaths.
Given her work on animal models, Borjigin was not surprised that the dying human brain can also undergo a surge of activity. However, the patterns and intensity of the brain waves contained some unexpected details that will need to be examined in future research. For instance, the brains of dying rats were active in all EEG channels, while the human brains were active at specific frequencies.
“The gamma activation in the dying patients was detected in only two patients; this needs to be confirmed in more patients,” Borjigin said. “The activation patterns differed even among the two patients; does this mean the two patients had somewhat different subjective experiences internally at their final moments? What exact EEG features correlate with ‘seeing light’ or ‘seeing relatives,’ ‘out-of-body sensation’ or ‘life review? How are these potential sensory percepts encoded back to the brain for later recall if they survived? These are all unsolved questions in need of further studies and in need of funding support to do so.”
To solve these riddles, Borjigin and her colleagues plan to collect more observations of dying brains, which might help to expose the underlying meaning of these gamma surges. This line of research could shed light on the deeply mysterious phenomena of near-death experiences, which have sparked widespread fascination among experts and the public alike.
“What excites me most is to probe the role of the brain in cardiac arrest from these studies,” Borjigin said. “Our data reveals that the dying brain is far from hypoactive. Then, why would a dying brain be activated? What is the function of brain activation at near-death?”
“Producing an internal state of consciousness (NDE) cannot be its sole function when survival is truly at stake,” she concluded. “Much of my future research will focus on the role of the brain in cardiac arrest, including covert consciousness.”
Dreams, visions, and even intuition were once considered to be mystical manifestations of a world outside of our own, and this belief led to many of the world’s religions. This included the phenomenon of near-death experiences. But science is closing the window on this myth to the extent that every single episode of such occurrences can be explained as the physical workings of the dying brain. This removes a chunk of the evidence used to buttress Christian theology.
(4334) Existence of angels makes no sense
The Bible’s New Testament (more so than the Old) makes a case for the existence of angels, which are described as being supernatural helpers to God’s mission. Right off the bat, there is a problem- why would an omnipotent being require ‘helpers’?
This is an example of how biblical authors envisioned god in the same sense as an earthly king. Kings have servants, and more powerful kings have more servants. So they conceived that God was like a very powerful king, so he must have very many servants.
An omnipotent being sending out representatives to advance his agenda is both inefficient and problematic. Inefficient in that it would take time to indoctrinate or program the angel to do what God wants it to do. Problematic in that the angels could make mistakes. In many instances in the Bible, we see Yahweh taking actions all by himself without the assistance of angels, so why couldn’t he do this in every situation?
The ‘creation’ of angels by the biblical authors was ultimately a mistake, and not only for the reason described above. It was inevitable that civilization would mature to the point where the existence of matter-less beings would be questioned and summarily dismissed as being scientifically unsound. So it creates a credibility problem- can Christianity still be true if angels don’t exist- perhaps, but very unlikely.
(4335) Ten ways to change believers’ minds
There is great resistance in the minds of believers to let go of their beliefs. This applies to all areas of life, but religion in particular. In the following, John Loftus provides 10 angles of attack to penetrate that defense shield:
Belief is a product of ignorance in varying degrees. So there’s much to inform them about. As you proceed, inform them about what you know, whatever that is. You will learn as you go. Study as you go, too. The more that you know, the better that you’ll do.
(1) I would start in some cases by informing believers of the role cultural indoctrination plays in the adoption of Christianity, and why it’s an unreliable guide for adopting the correct religious faith, if there is one. Given the accidents of when and where we were born, and how we were raised, our religious faith was unthinkingly adopted just as surely as was our nationality and preferred cuisine. So at least once in their lives, believers should seriously question what they believe. Consider it a rite of passage to adulthood if nothing else.
(2) I would inform believers how hard it is to break free from one’s cultural indoctrination, like quitting smoking but much harder. Research professor of psychology Jonas Kaplan did a study of the human brain and concluded: “The brain can be thought of as a very sophisticated self-defense machine.” He added: “If there is a belief that the brain considers part of who we are, it turns on its self-defense mode to protect that belief.” Accordingly, “the brain reacts to belief challenges in the same way that it reacts to perceived physical threats.” To honestly seek the truth we must determine to disarm the brain. Analogous to Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step to recovery is to recognize that we have a brain problem. It won’t allow us to entertain facts that disrupt our comfort zone, our tribalistic beliefs. It will do everything it can to reject them.
(3) I would inform believers about the cognitive biases that act like viruses on our brains. They adversely affect the ability of our brains to honestly evaluate our religious cultural indoctrination. Just knowing this is significant. Knowledge serves as a vaccine. It helps disarm the brain.
Confirmation bias is the mother of all cognitive biases. We are in constant search of confirmation; hardly ever do we seek disconfirmation. We reject and dismiss out of hand what does not comport to existing beliefs, and easily embrace that which does. There are other relevant biases, like anchoring bias, in-group bias, belief blind spot bias, belief bias effect, illusory truth effect, agent detection bias, objectivity illusion bias, the ostrich effect, hindsight bias, and so on.
These biases lead us to reason fallaciously. Believers are susceptible to fallacies like tu quoque (“You too!”—an appeal to hypocrisy/whataboutism), possibiliter ergo probabiliter (“possibly, therefore probably”), straw man/person, argument from ignorance, appeal to popularity (ad populum), equivocation, false analogy, post hoc ergo propter hoc (Latin for “after this, therefore because of this”), cherry picking, hasty generalization, circular reasoning, red herring, non sequitur, and especially special pleading.
(4) I would inform believers that the only way to disarm the brain (yes, basically the only way) is to adopt the perspective of a nonbeliever, an outsider to our indoctrinated religious beliefs. More than anything else, this can help the brain avoid cognitive biases in the honest search for truth. It will help force the believer’s brain to follow the objective evidence wherever it leads. Treat your own religion the way that you treat all other religions, with no double standards and no special pleadings. Assume that your own religion has the burden of proof. See if your faith survives.
(5) At this point inform believers about their holy book and the theologies built on it. Most believers don’t read their Scriptures, or understand the doctrines of their sect-specific faiths. So encourage Christians to read the Bible. Have them read Judges 19-21 to see what the god of the Old Testament instructed the Hebrews to do. Then ask why anyone should trust anything that these bloodthirsty barbarians wrote down. Also ask them why that god commanded genocide and child sacrifice.
The Bible debunks itself. It contains forgeries and borrowed pagan myths, and is inconsistent within itself. It tells a plethora of ancient superstitious tales that don’t make any sense at all. It has a god that evolved from a polytheistic one who lives in the sky above the Earth, who does both good and bad, who makes room for both angels and demons, and who thinks that a god/human blood sacrifice can magically ransom us from the grip of the Devil (the first widely accepted atonement theory).
(6) Inform believers about the Church. The history of the Church, and of the people claiming to have the alleged Holy Spirit inside of them, reveals a continuous spectacle of atrocities such that its history is a damning indictment upon the god that they profess to believe in.
(7) Inform believers about science and how it works. It’s answering the very mysteries that produce religious belief in the first place. The fewer mysteries that we have in the world, then the less we feel the need to believe.The crowning discovery of science is evolution. On this issue, as with everything that I’m saying, it helps to provoke believers to do further research. Ask them what would make Richard Dawkins say:
Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact…. It is the plain truth that we are cousins of chimpanzees, somewhat more distant cousins of monkeys, more distant cousins still of aardvarks and manatees, yet more distant cousins of bananas and turnips … continue the list as long as desired…. It didn’t have to be true, but it is. We know this because a rising flood of evidence supports it. Evolution is a fact…. No reputable scientist disputes it.
Be sure to point out the implications of evolution: that there was no Adam & Eve, no original sin, and no need for a savior.
(8) Inform believers about the need for objective evidence in support of the miracle claims in the Bible. There is no objective evidence for any of them, just a few ancient testimonies that we cannot verify.
The way to honestly evaluate miracle claims is to focus on clearly obvious concrete test cases like a virgin-birthed deity. It’s not to construct hypothetical miracle scenarios, to wrestle with questions over what we consider to be objective evidence, or to specify the exact demarcation point between ordinary claims and extraordinary ones.
For instance, believers will claim that nonbelievers have no objective criteria for what counts as extraordinary evidence. To cut to the chase, I respond that I know what does not count as extraordinary evidence. Second-, third-, or fourth-hand hearsay testimonial evidence doesn’t count, nor does circumstantial evidence or anecdotal evidence as reported in documents that are centuries later than the supposed events, which were copied by scribes and theologians who had no qualms about including forgeries. I also know that subjective feelings or experiences or inner voices don’t count as extraordinary evidence; nor do tales told by someone who tells others that his writings are inspired; nor does putative divine communication through dreams or visions. Once these facts are acknowledged, call on believers to do the math. Just subtract and see what’s left.
(9) Inform believers about statistics. Statistician David Hand shows us that “extraordinarily rare events are anything but. In fact, they’re commonplace. Not only that, we should all expect to experience a miracle roughly once every month.” He is not a believer in supernatural miracles, though. “No mystical or supernatural explanation is necessary to understand why someone is lucky enough to win the lottery twice, or is destined to be hit by lightning three times and still survive. All we need is a firm grounding in a powerful set of laws: the laws of inevitability, of truly large numbers, of selection, of the probability lever, and of near enough.” There is a growing list of books making this same point. Extremely rare events are not miracles. Period. We should expect extremely rare events in our lives many times over. No gods made these events happen.
(10) Inform believers about the problem of horrendous suffering. This evidence is as close to a refutation of an omnipotent, omniscience, omnibenevolent God as is possible. The way to honestly evaluate the compatibility of God and horrific suffering is not to specify the exact demarcation point when the suffering in our world is too much to coexist with a perfect deity. Nor is it to fuss much about whether God and horrendous suffering are logically impossible. Those questions are interesting, but in order to honestly evaluate this difficulty, the best arguments are evidential ones about clearly obvious concrete test cases like the Holocaust, or the massive numbers of children who suffer from malnutrition and die every year, or the kill or be killed law of predation in the animal world.
If a believer addresses all ten of these approaches, it would likely cause them to at least question the commitment to their faith, and at most result in complete apostasy. The foundation upon which Christianity rests is unstable and unreliable. There are too many holes in the theology for it to be the construct of an omnipotent being who is intent on giving every person a fair shot at attaining entry into his realm of glory.
(4336) Negative aspects of religion
A prompt for the AI platform ChatGPT to discuss the negative consequences of religion in our society yielded the following:
Religion has been a powerful force throughout human history, shaping culture, ethics, and politics. However, the use of religion in society has also led to many negative consequences, including intolerance, discrimination, and conflict. Here are some arguments against the use of religion in society:
- Religion can be used to justify discrimination and oppression: Throughout history, religion has been used to justify discrimination and oppression against groups such as women, racial and ethnic minorities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Religious beliefs have been used to support slavery, segregation, and other forms of inequality.
- Religion can promote intolerance and conflict: Religion can be a source of conflict when different groups hold conflicting religious beliefs. Religious intolerance has been the cause of many wars and conflicts throughout history. Even within a single religion, different interpretations of religious texts and practices can lead to disagreement and conflict.
- Religion can be used to justify violence: In some cases, religion has been used to justify violence against others. Religious extremists may carry out violent acts in the name of their faith, leading to terrorism and other forms of violence.
- Religion can hinder scientific progress: Some religious beliefs conflict with scientific discoveries and theories. When religious beliefs are given priority over scientific evidence, it can hinder progress and lead to misunderstandings about the natural world.
- Religion can be used to control people: Religion can be used to control people’s behavior and beliefs. Religious leaders may use their authority to exert control over their followers, leading to the suppression of individual freedom and independent thinking.
In conclusion, the use of religion in society has led to many negative consequences throughout history. While religion can provide comfort and a sense of community for believers, it can also be used to justify discrimination, promote intolerance and conflict, hinder scientific progress, and control people’s behavior and beliefs. It is important to approach religion with a critical and thoughtful mindset, and to recognize the potential negative consequences of using religion in society.
Somehow, you would think that Yahweh would have understood how religions could produce profound negative consequences for humankind. Knowing that, the best way to have resolved MOST of these issues would have been for him to make his existence plainly known to everybody on the planet, rather than hiding himself and having most people following a false religion, or having his own religion being carved up into tens of thousands of denominations. The current state of world religions suggests that none of them are true.
(4337) The pigeon god
The following story, generated by AI, is a good analogy for how Christians are kept in the dark so that they will not question their faith. In the analogy, they are pigeons living at a Home Depot with a tradition (religion) that their god lives in another part of the building (universe).
Every morning, the pigeons of the garden center would gather on the roof of the home depot and look at the sun rising over the horizon. They would flap their wings and coo in praise of the pigeon god, who they believed lived inside the home depot, beyond the lumber yard. They had never seen him, but they had heard stories from their ancestors about his power and glory. He was the one who created the home depot and all the things inside it. He was the one who provided them with food and water and shelter. He was the one who protected them from the dangers of the outside world.
The pigeons of the garden center had a strict code of conduct. They were not allowed to enter the home depot or fly over the lumber yard. They were not allowed to mingle with other birds or animals. They were not allowed to question or doubt the pigeon god or his will. They were loyal and obedient followers, and they trusted that the pigeon god knew what was best for them.
One day, a young pigeon named Peck was curious about what lay beyond the lumber yard. He had heard rumors from other pigeons that there were more wonders and mysteries inside the home depot than they could imagine. He wanted to see for himself what the pigeon god looked like and what he did all day.
He decided to sneak away from his flock and fly over the lumber yard. As he crossed the forbidden boundary, he felt a surge of excitement and fear. He saw rows and rows of wooden planks and metal pipes and tools and machines. He saw people wearing orange aprons and carrying carts and boxes. He saw signs and labels and colors and shapes. He was amazed by everything he saw, but he also felt a pang of guilt. He knew he was breaking the rules and disobeying the pigeon god.
He flew deeper into the home depot, hoping to catch a glimpse of the pigeon god. He passed by different sections and departments, each with its own theme and purpose. He saw lights and fans and faucets and toilets. He saw paint and wallpaper and tiles and carpets. He saw plants and flowers and seeds and pots. He saw appliances and furniture and electronics and toys. He finally reached the end of the home depot, where he saw a large glass window that looked out into a parking lot. He saw cars and trucks and buses and bikes. He saw people coming in and out of the home depot with bags and boxes and carts. He saw a big sign that said “Home Depot” in red letters. He realized that he had not found the pigeon god.
He realized that there was no pigeon god. He realized that everything he had been taught was a lie. He felt angry and betrayed. He felt foolish and naïve. He felt lost and alone. He flew back to the garden center, hoping to find some comfort in his flock. But when he arrived, he saw that they were all staring at him with fear and disgust. They had seen him fly over the lumber yard. They had seen him break the rules. They had seen him disobey the pigeon god. They shunned him and rejected him. They called him a traitor and a heretic. They told him to leave and never come back.
He tried to explain what he had seen and learned, but they would not listen. They said he was lying or crazy or possessed by evil spirits. They said he was a danger to their faith and their way of life. He realized that he had no place among them anymore. He realized that he had no friends or family or home. He flew away from the garden center, feeling sad and lonely. He did not know where to go or what to do. He wondered if there was more to life than what he had known.
In the analogy, the adventurous pigeon is a Christian who is not content to blindly accept what he has been told, but investigates the claims of Christianity using history, the Bible, science, common sense, and observations, and coming to the conclusion that it is not true. Then suffering the shunning of his family and friends.
(4338) Jesus was a dangerous cult leader
If the gospels more or less accurately depict the personality of Jesus, then it is an easy calculation that he was a prototypical cult leader who espoused many dangerous ideas while inflating his own importance. The following was taken from:
He demands absolute obedience, even to the point of death, commands you to hate your own family, says that people who don’t believe in him will be tortured forever, and says he’s God’s son. How are these not the characteristics of an unstable cult leader, such as Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard, Muhammad, David Koresh, Rev. Moon, and others? His command to sell everything and give to the poor is not only illogical but actually dangerous- if anyone practiced this literally they would become poor themselves, living in squalor and suffering. Roman and Greek philosophers that predated Jesus, however, developed rational, practical, and systematized approaches to philanthropy that blow Jesus’s quixotic, haphazard philosophy out of the water.
If Jesus came today and tried out these same themes, he would have been condemned as a crazy man best left to his own devices. His movement would have been seen as a threat to the social order and his popularity would have been evanescent. But because he is depicted in ancient scripture, Christians today worship him without thinking through the ramifications of what he taught.
(4339) Christianity was injured by cosmos discovery
Christianity enjoyed a long period to time when people believed that the earth was the only large object in the universe, with a small sun, moon, and stars hovering overhead. This specialness dovetailed nicely with the idea that God had made humans as his prized creation and that all of the eschatological drama was localized to the present time and place. But a few centuries ago, the concept of the universe changed dramatically and it become much more difficult to retain those previous views of uniqueness or the concept of God’s favorite planet or people. The following was taken from:
Across the Western world, the feast of the Ascension is coming up, celebrating the day Jesus rose up into heaven. It is the final story in his life that included him being killed and then, miraculously, returned to life. And now…he’s in outer space? The tale starts to look strange when put into the cosmology of modern science.
What else might be strange in light of our newfound knowledge of the universe?
The story of a deity on Earth, born in a particular hovel, may have a wide following today, but how much wider could the story be told among the stars? Some have speculated there are other worlds that have not yet heard the tale, as they are stupendously far away. This is in fact a scientifically-grounded theological quandary because of our knowledge of the size, age, and plausible habitation of the universe.
In recent years, with renewed interest in alleged evidence of encounters with technology from the stars, there has been an increased reflection on how the rest of the universe is supposed to fit into the narrative of a man in Judea bringing peace and universal salvation. Does this theology only apply to humanity, or do extraterrestrials also have a chance to go to heaven? Do they have their own Messiah. Or perhaps there are even incarnations of Vishnu galivanting across the galaxy instead?
The problems that the Christian story has with the existence of other intelligence species were realized centuries ago by Thomas Paine, imagining if Jesus had to go to each world, die, and be resurrected. With the vastness of the universe, Jesus would be coming and going, reincarnating into alien bodies for billions of years across billions of galaxies, all the while new civilizations were coming into existence and others turning to dust.
Conversely, one may posit only humans get to have the greatest story ever told, while the trillions of alien souls get left out of paradise. This runs contrary to what science has indicated: We are not the center of the universe, nor even the center of the Milky Way; we are a cul-de-sac of a sprawling galactic city, a city that is one of hundreds of billions in the observable universe. Did the Truth really arrive only at one address on our cul-de-sac? Suggesting that the creator of the universe entered into history in such a parochial fashion strikes of human egocentrism, not just geocentrism, a sort of homo sapiens chauvinism. Neither a singular Jesus nor a legion of Messiahs makes sense.
This was not a problem in the early days of the faith. Before modern science, the universe we knew was small, specially crafted for us. Indeed, suggesting there were other habitable worlds was heretical, declared so by gifted theological minds like St. Augustine, among others. In 1600, one person was burned at the stake for advocating such a heresy—the famous Giordano Bruno. But now Bruno’s heresy is vindicated by the thousands of known planets around other stars, though we await proof that any of them have people.
While we may lack definitive evidence that extraterrestrial intelligence exists, probability favors us not being alone as trillions of worlds are potential harbors for life. (It is easy not to comprehend the size of these numbers, notwithstanding that there are theories that see the universe as infinite.) Our place in the cosmos must take this into account, both scientifically as well as religiously. Astrotheologians ponder how to fit dogmas and deities into this grander view of the cosmos. While they have attempted to answer issues about communion and salvation, extraterrestrials still make no more sense to them than the archaic words said in the Latin Mass do to the average believer.
For now, in this intersection between science and religion, the theologians appear unable to give clear, undeniable answers. The chances of reaching a consensus in these matters is on a par with the probability of waltzing through a black hole unscathed.
But science might be able to do something that the theologians may not be able to: show us if we have a long, great future. When scientists attempt to estimate how many active civilizations are in our galaxy (the Milky Way), they use an estimator called the Drake Equation. The factors in the equation suggest how many active and advanced civilizations are around us now. One of the factors is the lifetime of such an advanced extraterrestrial (E.T.) civilization. If it is short, then even if life emerges on every possibly habitable world, the galaxy would be eerily silent. However, if it is long-lived, then instances of intelligent life would be more numerous. If there are more civilizations, the more likely one is nearby and discoverable.
A detection would tell us something about E.T., but also about ourselves. If E.T. were to be detected around a neighboring star, then this would indicate being able to thrive for millennia, perhaps even longer. And because we are not the special people of the universe, this gives us hope. We should expect to be neither expectational nor degenerate, but average (this is known as the Copernican Principle). If the average civilization lasts for tens of thousands of years, then that tells us that we should expect to be like them.
To listen for signs from the stars, using scientific rather than magical or religious means, and finding out we are not alone should give us hope that the troubles existing now can be overcome. Because if another civilization has found a way, then we too can overcome our foibles and troubles. Our worries about war, climatic decay, and technology run amok lead many into despair, but the scientific demonstration of intelligent life beyond Earth would tell us we might just be able to have a glorious future.
The Ascension caps off the hope for everlasting life after death, based on the story of one special person returning from the dead. What could be an even better, more impactful story, is that we, in our mediocrity rather than our specialness, have a reasonable hope? This would be a hope justified by the most powerful tools of discovery we have ever known—the scientific process. Scientific curiosity, rather than revelation, about the universe is both our way of discovering that glorious future as well as our best path to get there.
Somehow, Christianity survived this dawn of discovery, but nevertheless it didn’t help its longevity one bit. In fact, it hastened its demise. The drama is simply too small for the stage. There must be a reality that swamps that of an ancient cult that was mired in the ignorance of our place in the universe and how we came to be. Christianity eventually will die out completely, but it will be replaced by the awe and wonders revealed by science.
(4340) Timing of Satan’s fall
Most Christians believe that Satan has been around as long as humans have existed, asserting, for example, Satan’s presence in the Garden of Eden, taking the form of a snake. In other words, they consider Satan to have fallen from grace and become the adversary to God before human existence. They often refer to Isaiah 14:12 as evidence of Satan’s fall at least before the time of Jesus:
How you have fallen from heaven,
morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
Now this is really talking about the king of Babylon, but that has not stopped Christians from practicing creative scriptural interpretation.
Where this theology runs into trouble for Christians is in Revelation 11:1-9:
A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.”And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
In this scripture, it is implied that Satan fell during Mary’s pregnancy or shortly after delivering Jesus, and during his rebellion he took 1/3 of the angels (to become demons) with him to earth. If so, there would be no place for Satan to have acted as an adversary anywhere in the Old Testament (not in Genesis, Isaiah, Job, or elsewhere).
Now, it’s obvious that Satan is a fictional character, but good fiction should be at least be somewhat consistent with what it makes up.
(4341) Fallacy of ‘free’ gift of salvation
A familiar mantra of Christian evangelism is that salvation (which can mean either getting to heaven or avoiding hell) is a free gift. Free in most lexicons means you don’t need to do anything to get it. But in Christianese it means it is full of conditions, and cost, and anxiety. The following was taken from:
I see Christians say this all the time usually with the word Free all in CAPITALS just in case you missed it or something ha
I genuinely don’t understand how exactly it could be a free gift. It’s up there with ”god loves us unconditionally” and they just watched a 60-minute video literally explaining all the conditions?!
If they mean it doesn’t cost money then that isn’t true because people tithe or spend money and other donations on their ”salvation/faith.
But even if you set aside the issue of money it seems very expensive to me in other ways. If time was money then it’s definitely not a free gift. All those hours spent worshiping, praying, repenting, preaching, and having to do it over and over every day.
It costs a lot in personal freedom, pleasure, and choices too with various rules and restrictions (which I know a lot of Christians don’t follow any way but still all that time spent worrying if this or that sin will lose them their salvation).
Time spent trying to ”save” that aunt you love dearly but oh dear she isn’t a believer so now you have to try and ”save” her or she’s going to hell. Emotional worry, guilt, and shame, all eating up your time.
Or do they mean you’re free to choose salvation? Between only two options and neither sound appealing.
Very strange for a ”free” gift. Religion always seems so controlling and narrow and authoritarian to me. The words ”free” and ”unconditional” really shouldn’t be used to describe anything to do with religion and the so-called salvation.
Not only is Christian salvation not free, it is ambiguous, such that nobody can be 100 percent certain that they will earn it after they die. If salvation was truly a free gift, it would be bestowed to everyone- full stop. The Christian definition of ‘free’ is a bastardization of the term.
(4342) Jesus’ ascent
Christian mythology includes a description of how Jesus left the earth after he resurrected following the crucifixion- Act 1:9-11:
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.“ Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
To be fair, this was written long before knowledge of the earth’s atmosphere and the space beyond were well understood. (And also a time when people thought nothing of angels appearing out of the blue.) The following provides a scientific outlook on Jesus’ ‘flight.’
“In the course of his ascension, at around 15,000 feet Jesus began to wish he had brought a sweater. At 30,000 feet he felt weak from lack of oxygen. By 100,000 feet his bodily fluids were boiling away from every orifice. If he ever did return, it would be as a fifty-pound lump of bone and frozen jerky.”
This is a problem largely overlooked by apologists and Christians themselves. The ascension of Jesus is problematic. If Jesus’ body did not ascend in this un-scientific way, then it must have remained on earth. This would require that Jesus must have died a second time. But if he did, then why was this important event not described in scripture?
(4343) God may kill you for taking communion unworthily
Paul suggests in his letter to the Corinthians that God will make you sick or even worse (dead), if you take communion while in an unworthy state of grace:
1 Corinthians 11:27-30
So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.
‘Asleep’ is a metaphor for death in this context. This is a more a condemnation of God for killing someone over such a trivial matter than for a person who, most likely unwittingly, takes communion when they are supposedly not worthy of doing so. It should seem obvious that any god that would kill over this ‘sin’ would not be worthy of worship.
(4344) The disregarded minimal fact
Christian apologists like to strut out the concept of minimal facts, arguing that the best explanation for these ‘facts’ is that Jesus rose from the dead. ‘Facts’ are in italics because these are not facts at all, but just deductions derived from a set of contradictory scriptures. But even if we take them as facts, there is another ‘fact’ that reduces greatly the probability that this man actually came back to life after being dead. The following was taken from:
The doctrine of the physical resurrection of Jesus is sometimes defended with the following minimal facts:
- Jesus died by crucifixion
- Jesus’ corpse was missing from the tomb
- Jesus’ followers believed Jesus appeared to them after his death
- The Christian faith grew rapidly after Jesus’ death
The defender will argue that the physical resurrection is the best explanation for the facts, beating out competing explanations. Here “physical resurrection” is taken to mean that Jesus’ dead corpse was reanimated/transformed into an alive, imperishable body, such that it was no longer a corpse.
I will attempt to argue that there is an important minimal fact which has been overlooked, and counts, to some degree, against the physical resurrection hypothesis: Within a matter of weeks after his death, Jesus was no where to be found on the earth. This fact is supported by:
- The gospels claim Jesus went away to heaven 40 days after his resurrection. We should not expect the story to contain this detail if Jesus were still present physically after this.
- The gospels claim Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, partially because Jesus will no longer be with us physically. Again, this story element wouldn’t make sense if Jesus was still here physically.
- The absence of Jesus appearing as a physical human walking the earth in the book of Acts or any other writings describing a time period after when the Gospels are set.
This fact is surprising on the physical resurrection theory, because, in the absence of any contrary minimal facts, we would expect the resurrected Jesus to physically remain with his followers indefinitely. Instead, we require additional non-minimalist gospel narrative based explanations to account for the fact, which partially undermines the claimed benefit of the minimal facts case: that it does not require belief in general reliability of the gospels.
The fact that Jesus was no where to be found shortly after his resurrection is not surprising on alternative explanations. This is relevant because it is sometimes claimed by apologists that non-physical based resurrection theories require an additional ad-hoc explanation for the empty tomb, making the theory more complex. While this charge may be valid, it seems to be balanced out by the physical resurrection theory requiring an ad-hoc explanation for why the alive Jesus was no where to be found (other than in the occasional brief encounter such as Jesus’ appearance to Paul). The apologist may argue that the gospel narrative based explanation of Jesus going away to heaven is not ad-hoc, since it is in the text, however if we approach the text from a critical historical point of view, the “going away to heaven” story may have been added precisely as an ad-hoc explanation for why the resurrected Jesus was physically no where to be found.
While this is not a knock-down argument, it weakens the minimal facts argument for the physical resurrection, and strengthens a non-physical resurrection account where Jesus appears to his followers through visionary appearances, but does not have an earthly physical body.
The empty tomb requires a physical resurrection, and a physical resurrection requires a physical body, which, absent magic (see #4242), means his animated body remained on the earth. So the facts that Jesus was no longer around and that there is no account of his ‘re-death’ comprise a fifth minimal fact that tends to negate the four presented above- and suggest that any ‘resurrection’ was actually just visions experienced by his followers and further that the empty tomb is nothing more than a myth.
(4345) Jesus’ attitude to slaves
Christians generally tout Jesus as being the quintessential model for human behavior, showing grace, kindness, forgiveness, and compassion, and they use the moniker ‘what would Jesus do’ to model their own conduct. But his attitude to slavery erases all of that. Not only did Jesus condone the practice of slavery, but he also promoted the rough and insensitive treatment of slaves. The following was taken from:
Been aware of quite a few verses on slavery, but thanks to Joshua Bowen (from Digital Hammurabi) for pointing this out.
7 ‘Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here at once and take your place at the table”? 8 Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink”? 9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!”’
So, Jesus thinks that slaves who were toiling in the fields don’t even deserve to be thanked for their service. Instead, they are commanded to just continue serving the master, and the slaves aren’t allowed to eat until the master has finished eating. And not only that, considers them worthless slaves.
We treat people in food service better than Jesus treats a slave.
Why do people consider Jesus to be a good person again?
The ecclesiastical enterprise built around the assumption that Jesus was an exemplary person who should be admired and emulated is so out of touch with reality as to be laughable. The real Jesus, or more accurately the mythical figure depicted in scripture, is a person who should be loathed, not loved.
(4346) Unreliability of the Gospel of John
Probably more than half of what Christians know about the gospels comes from the Gospel of John, because it, much better than the other three gospels, casts Jesus as God himself, in line with conventional Christian dogma. That being the case, this gospel is also the least reliable, as discussed below:
The unreliability of the gospels is underscored when we learn that, with the possible exception of John, the first three gospels bear no internal indication of who wrote them. Can we glean anything of significance from the fourth and latest gospel, the gospel of John? Not likely! It is so unworldly, it can scarcely be cited for historical evidence. In this account, Jesus is hardly a man of flesh and blood at all – except for the purposes of divine cannibalism as required by the celebration of the rite of “holy communion.”
“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with god, and the word was god,” the gospel begins. No Star of Bethlehem, no embarrassment of pregnant virgins, no hint that Jesus ever wore diapers: pure spirit from the beginning. Moreover, in its present form, the gospel of John is the latest of all the official gospels.
The gospel of John was compiled around the year 110 CE. If its author had been 10 years old at the time of Jesus’ crucifiction in the year 30 CE, he would have been 90 years old at the time of writing. Not only is it improbable that he would have lived so long, it is dangerous to pay much attention to the colorful “memories” recounted by a man in his “anecdotage.” Many of us who are far younger than this have had the unpleasant experience of discovering incontrovertible proof that what we thought were clear memories of some event were wildly incorrect. We also might wonder why an eye-witness of all the wonders claimed in a gospel would wait so long to write about them!
More importantly, there is evidence that the Gospel of John, like Matthew and Luke, also is a composite document, incorporating an earlier “Signs Gospel” of uncertain antiquity. Again, we ask, if “John” had been an eye-witness to Jesus, why would he need to plagiarize a list of miracles made up by someone else? Nor is there anything in the Signs Gospel that would lead one to suppose that it was an eye-witness account. It could just as easily have been referring to the wonders of Dionysus turning water into wine, or to the healings of Asclepius.
The inauthenticity of the Gospel of John would seem to be established beyond cavil by the discovery that the very chapter that asserts the author of the book to have been “the disciple whom Jesus loved” [John 21:20] was a late addition to the gospel. Scholars have shown that the gospel originally ended at verses 30-31 of Chapter 20. Chapter 21 – in which verse 24 asserts that “This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true” – is not the work of an eye-witness. Like so many other things in the Bible, it is a fraud. The testimony is not true.
The Gospel of John should not have been included in the Bible because it exposes un-rectifiable contradictions with the other gospels. The New Testament would have appeared to be more authentic if it contained (1) Mark, Matthew, and Luke only, or (2) John only. Putting them all together under one cover was a colossal mistake.
(4347) Paul lends little to the historicity of Jesus
If someone were to read the New Testament in the order in which the books were written, they would start out with the letters of Paul. It would seem strange how little biographical information was provided in them about Jesus, his parents, birth, childhood, ministry and disciples, death, and resurrection. Since the gospels bearing these details are placed in front of these letters, it creates an allusion that this doesn’t matter. But to a historian it matters a lot- the earliest writings are considered most likely to be accurate. The following was taken from:
Having eliminated the OT and the gospels from the list of possible biblical “evidences” of the existence of Jesus, we are left with the so-called epistles.
At first blush, we might think that these epistles – some of which are by far the oldest parts of the NT, having been composed at least 30 years before the oldest gospel – would provide us with the most reliable information on Jesus. Well, so much for blushes. The oldest letters are the letters of St. Saul – the man who, after losing his mind, changed his name to Paul. Before going into details, we must point out right away, before we forget, that St. Saul’s testimony can be ignored quite safely, if what he tells us is true, namely, that he never met Jesus “in the flesh,” but rather saw him only in a vision he had during what appears to have been an epileptic seizure. No court of law would accept visions as evidence, and neither should we.
The reader might object that even if Saul only had hearsay evidence, some of it might be true. Some of it might tell us some facts about Jesus. Well, allright. Let’s look at the evidence.
According to tradition, 13 of the letters in the NT are the work of St. Saul. Unfortunately, Bible scholars and computer experts have gone to work on these letters, and it turns out that only four can be shown to be substantially by the same author, putatively Saul. g These are the letters known as Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Galatians. To these probably we may add the brief note to Philemon, a slave-owner, Philippians, and 1 Thessalonians. The rest of the so-called Pauline epistles can be shown to have been written by other and later authors, so we can throw them out right now and not worry about them.
Saul tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:32 that King Aretas of the Nabateans tried to have him arrested because of his Christian agitation. Since Aretas is known to have died in the year 40 CE, this means that Saul became a Christian before that date. So what do we find out about Jesus from a man who had become a Christian less than ten years after the alleged crucifixion? Precious little!
Once again, G.A. Wells, in his book The Historical Evidence for Jesus [pp. 22-23], sums things up so succinctly, that I quote him verbatim:
The…Pauline letters…are so completely silent concerning the events that were later recorded in the gospels as to suggest that these events were not known to Paul, who, however, could not have been ignorant of them if they had really occurred.
These letters have no allusion to the parents of Jesus, let alone to the virgin birth. They never refer to a place of birth (for example, by calling him ‘of Nazareth’). They give no indication of the time or place of his earthly existence. They do not refer to his trial before a Roman official, nor to Jerusalem as the place of execution. They mention neither John the Baptist, nor Judas, nor Peter’s denial of his master. (They do, of course, mention Peter, but do not imply that he, any more than Paul himself, had known Jesus while he had been alive.)
These letters also fail to mention any miracles Jesus is supposed to have worked, a particularly striking omission, since, according to the gospels, he worked so many.
Another striking feature of Paul’s letters is that one could never gather from them that Jesus had been an ethical teacher… on only one occasion does he appeal to the authority of Jesus to support an ethical teaching which the gospels also represent Jesus as having delivered.
It turns out that Saul’s appeal to the authority of Jesus involves precisely the same error we found in the gospel of Mark. In 1 Cor. 7:10, Saul says that “not I but the Lord, [say] that the wife should not separate from the husband.” That is, a wife should not seek divorce. If Jesus had actually said what Saul implies, and what Mark 10:12 claims he said, his audience would have thought he was nuts – as the Bhagwan says – or perhaps had suffered a blow to the head. So much for the testimony of Saul. His Jesus is nothing more than the thinnest hearsay, a legendary creature which was crucified as a sacrifice, a creature almost totally lacking a biography.
The content of Paul’s letters is consistent with the theory that Jesus was not a real person, but rather a legendary spirit sent by God to provide a means of salvation to believers. To Paul, the only thing that mattered was that he died and rose again. There was no need for speeches, parables, sermons, healings, or miracles- just that he died and revived. This is not to say that Jesus wasn’t a real person, but if he was Paul was unaware of almost everything about his life.
(4348) Mark’s geographical error
There are many clues that the person who wrote the Gospel of Mark, the oldest gospel, was not familiar with the land of Jesus. He made a glaring mistake in his (fictional) account of Jesus casting demons in to suicide-prone pigs (Mark 5:1-17). The following was taken from:
The most absurd geographical error Mark commits is when he tells the tall tale about Jesus crossing over the Sea of Galilee and casting demons out of a man (two men in Matthew’s revised version) and making them go into about 2,000 pigs which, as the King James version puts it, “ran violently down a steep place into the sea… and they were choked in the sea.”
Apart from the cruelty to animals displayed by the lovable, gentle Jesus, and his disregard for the property of others, what’s wrong with this story? If your only source of information is the King James Bible, you might not ever know. The King James says this marvel occurred in the land of the Gadarenes, whereas the oldest Greek manuscripts say this miracle took place in the land of the Gerasenes. Luke, who also knew no Palestinian geography, also passes on this bit of absurdity. But Matthew, who had some knowledge of Palestine, changed the name to Gadarene in his new, improved version; but this is further improved to Gergesenes in the King James version.
By now the reader must be dizzy with all the distinctions between Gerasenes, Gadarenes, and Gergesenes. What difference does it make? A lot of difference, as we shall see.
Gerasa, the place mentioned in the oldest manuscripts of Mark, is located about 31 miles from the shore of the Sea of Galilee! Those poor pigs had to run a course five miles longer than a marathon in order to find a place to drown! Not even lemmings have to go that far. Moreover, if one considers a “steep” slope to be at least 45 degrees, that would make the elevation of Gerasa at least six times higher than Mt. Everest!
When the author of Matthew read Mark’s version, he saw the impossibility of Jesus and the gang disembarking at Gerasa (which, by the way, was also in a different country, the so-called Decapolis). Since the only town in the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee that he knew of that started with G was Gadara, he changed Gerasa to Gadara. But even Gadara was five miles from the shore – and in a different country. Later copyists of the Greek manuscripts of all three pig-drowning gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) improved Gadara further to Gergesa, a region now thought to have actually formed part of the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. So much for the trustworthiness of the biblical tradition.
A mistake of this magnitude lends any objective person to doubt the authenticity of a scripture that, according to Christians, was fashioned by a supernatural entity (the Holy Spirit). But it lets that objective observer realize that the Bible is just a book written by fallible humans, and that it is no more supernatural than any other book every written.
(4349) Christianity’s science grade card
Christianity was born in a pre-scientific age when people were clueless about the universe and many aspects about the earth. So a lot of faith was necessary for people to believe it. But the age of science was coming, and it should have provided the new religion with a lot of evidence to lessen the need to exercise faith. If Christianity was true, then science would have:
(1) confirmed the age of the earth to be in the range of 6,000 to 10,000 years
(2) shown that humans are structurally different from (not genetically related to) other animals, thus confirming a creation independent of the existence of previous animals (evolution)
(3) confirmed the historical world-wide flood (Ark and emergence of wildlife from a single point)
(4) found the missing one hour when the sun stood still
(5) confirmed the earthquake/solar eclipse at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion
(6) located the primeval Garden of Eden
(7) confirmed the diversification of languages from the area of Babel
(8) found evidence of the conflagration at Sodom and Gomorrah
(9) confirmed the period of Jewish enslavement in (and escape from) Egypt
(10) confirmed the existence of angels and demons
(11) confirmed the effectiveness of Christian prayer as opposed to non-Christian
(12) confirmed that homosexuality is a choice, not anything innate
(13) confirmed that some personality aspects are independent of a physical brain (evidence for a soul)
(14) found irrefutable evidence of Jesus’ existence based on multiple reliable, contemporary historical accounts
(15) confirmed the accuracy of scriptural prophecies
(4350) Problems with the empty tomb
Even if one concedes the unlikely fact that Jesus’ crucified body was placed in a tomb (well outside of the norm), there still exists major problems establishing that the tomb was found empty a few days later, thereby evidencing a resurrection. The following discusses the historical obstacles with this claim:
Let’s assume for the sake of this post that Jesus’ burial in a tomb has been established as a historical fact. I’m aware that there is still a lot of debate about this historically.
Many Christians attempt to establish that there was an empty tomb by using Matthew 28:11-15. The logic here is that regardless of the truth of the story, Christians would not have needed to address the claim the Jesus’ apostles stole his body if the Jewish people at the time Matthew was written (AD 80-90) were not actually making that claim. It is assumed that the Jewish people would have been able to check to see if the tomb was actually empty, since they typically traveled to Jerusalem annually for Passover, and if the tomb wasn’t actually empty, they would not be making a claim that explained away it’s emptiness.
I see several problems with this logic though.
1) As far as I know, there is no evidence that the average Jewish person, or even anyone at the time Matthew was written, knew where Jesus’ tomb was. The earliest account of a location for Jesus’ tomb (The Holy Sepulchre) comes from traditions dating back to the 4th century.
2) I also don’t have a high degree of certainty, given the nature of people, that people would have gone back and checked the tomb to make sure it was actually empty. It seems likely to me that many people may have just accepted what they were told and looked for another way to explain it.
3) If the prime opportunity for Jewish people to check the Christian claim was Passover, they would probably have been unlikely to do so, since touching bodies or graves was considered to make a Jewish person ritually impure. Many Jewish people would probably not want to be rendered ritually impure before an important holiday like Passover, and thus would have stayed away from any tombs.
4) Even if the tomb was initially empty after Jesus’ burial, it very well may have been used by someone else by the time Matthew was written. If it was an expensive stone cut tomb meant for a rich man, that man himself may have been buried there, and if it was a family tomb, another member of Jesus’ family would likely have died by this time, and they may have been buried in it. This would leave someone who is trying to determine whether the tomb was empty after Jesus’ burial with no way to do so, as the tomb being full at the time Matthew was written does not necessarily mean it was full after Jesus’ burial, and no person at the time would have the tools to identify any remains they found.
5) Lastly, there was a Jewish-Roman war in the AD 60s, and by the time Matthew was written, a good portion of Jerusalem was destroyed, and many Jews had fled. There is no way to know whether the tomb Jesus had been buried in even still existed, as it could have gotten destroyed along with much of Jerusalem. Also, I don’t know what effect this war had on the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for many Jews, but I am guessing many no longer made the pilgrimage anyway.
Therefore I don’t think that an empty tomb can be historically established based on Matthew 28:11-15. This argument requires the Jewish people of the time to be both able and willing to examine Jesus’ tomb, and I don’t think we can have reasonable certainty that they would have. If an empty tomb is to be historically established, it must be established in another way.
An additional question that should be asked is that if a miraculous resurrection had actually taken place, would it not have been expected that the tomb would have immediately been revered, protected, and promoted as a holy relic site? In other words, the early Christians should have been making visits/pilgrimages there from the very start. There is no evidence that anything like this happened. The knowledge/legend of the empty tomb was never mentioned/documented until late in the First Century.
Follow this link to #4351