(4501) Historicity of Jesus
Though most scholars believe that Jesus was a real person, there are arguments that cast doubt on this assertion. Further, even if the Jesus character in the gospels was based on a real person, if the characterization of such person was dramatically distorted and enlarged, can we still say that it describes that real person? For example, if we write a story about Michael Jackson, but have him flying around Neverland, is this still the real Michael Jackson?
Allow me to address an argument you will hear from theists all the time, and as a historian I find it somewhat irritating, as it accidentally or deliberately misrepresents historical consensus. The argument is about the historicity of Jesus. I imagine it should cause quite a debate here.
As a response to various statements, referencing the lack of any contemporary evidence the Jesus existed at all, you will inevitably see some form of this argument:
“Pretty much every historian agrees that Jesus existed.”
I hate this statement, because while it is technically true, it is entirely misleading.
Before I go into the points, let me just clarify: I, like most historians, believe a man Yeshua, or an amalgam of men one named Yeshua, upon whom the Jesus tales are based, did likely exist. I am not arguing that he didn’t, I’m just clarifying the scholarship on the subject.
Firstly, there is absolutely no contemporary historical evidence that Jesus ever existed. We have not a single testimony in the bible from anyone who ever met him or saw his works. There isn’t a single eyewitness who wrote about meeting him or witnessing the events of his life, not one. The first mention of Jesus in the historical record is Josephus and Tacitus, who you all are probably familiar with. Both are almost a century later, and both arguably testify to the existence of Christians more than they do the truth of their belief system. Josephus, for example, also wrote at length about the Roman gods, and no Christian uses Josephus as evidence the Roman gods existed.
So apart from those two, long after, we have no contemporary references in the historical account of Jesus whatsoever.
But despite this, it is true that the overwhelming majority of historians of the period agree that a man Jesus probably existed. Why is that?
Note that there is tremendous historical consensus that Jesus PROBABLY existed, which is a subtle but significant difference from historical consensus that he DID exist. That is because no historian will take an absolute stance considering the aforementioned lack of any contemporary evidence.
So, why do Historians almost uniformly say Jesus probably existed if there is no contemporary evidence?
1: It’s an unremarkable claim. Essentially the Jesus claim states that there was a wandering Jewish preacher or rabbi walking the area and making speeches. We know from the historical record this was commonplace. If Jesus was a wandering Jewish rebel/preacher, then he was one of Many (Simon of Peraea, Athronges, Simon ben Koseba, Dositheos the Samaritan, among others). We do have references and mentions in the Roman records to other wandering preachers and doomsayers, they were pretty common at the time and place. So claiming there was one with the name Yeshua, a reasonably common name, is hardly unusual or remarkable. So there is no reason to presume it’s not true.
2: There is textual evidence in the Bible that it is based on a real person. Ironically, it is Christopher Hitchens who best made this old argument (Despite being a loud anti-theist, he stated there almost certainly was a man Jesus). The Bible refers to Jesus constantly and consistently as a carpenter from Galilee, in particular in the two books which were written first. Then there is the birth fable, likely inserted into the text afterwards. Why do we say this? Firstly, none of the events in the birth fable are ever referred to or mentioned again in the two gospels in which they are found. Common evidence of post-writing addition.
Also, the birth fable contains a great concentration of historical errors: the Quirinius/Herod contradiction, the falsity of the mass census, the falsity of the claim that Roman census required people to return to their homeland, all known to be false. That density of clear historical errors is not found elsewhere in the bible, further evidence it was invented after the fact. it was invented to take a Galilean carpenter and try and shoehorn him retroactively into the Messiah story: making him actually born in Bethlehem.
None of this forgery would have been necessary if the character of Jesus were a complete invention they could have written him to be an easy for with the Messiah prophecies. This awkward addition is evidence that there was an attempt to make a real person with a real story retroactively fit the myth.
3: Historians know that character myths usually begin with a real person. Almost every ancient myth historians have been able to trace to their origins always end up with a real person, about whom fantastic stories were since spun (sometime starting with the person themselves spreading those stories). It is the same reason that Historians assume there really was a famous Greek warrior(s) upon whom Achilles and Ajax were based. Stories and myths almost always form around a core event or person, it is exceedingly rare for them to be entirely made up out of nothing. But we also know those stories take on a life of their own, that it is common for stories about one myth to be (accidentally or deliberately) ascribed to a new and different person, we know stories about multiple people can be combined, details changed and altered for political reasons or just through the vague rise of oral history. We know men who carried these stories and oral history drew their living from entertainment, and so it was in their best interest to embellish, and tell a new, more exciting version if the audience had already heard the old version. Stories were also altered and personalised, and frequently combined so versions could be traced back to certain tellers.
4: We don’t know much about the early critics of Christianity because they were mostly deliberately erased. Celsus, for example, we know was an early critic of the faith, but we only know some of his comments through a Christian rebuttal. Celsus is the one who published that Mary was not pregnant of a virgin, but of a Syrian soldier stationed there at the time. This claim was later bolstered by the discovery of the tomb of a soldier of the same name, who WAS stationed in that area. Celsus also claimed that there were only five original disciples, not twelve, and that every single one of them recanted their claims about Jesus under torment and threat of death. However, what we can see is that while early critics attacked many elements of the faith and the associated stories, none seem to have believed Jesus didn’t exist. It seems an obvious point of attack if there had been any doubt at the time. Again, not conclusive, but if even the very early critics believed Jesus had been real, then it adds yet more to the credibility of the claim.
So these are the reasons historians almost universally believe there was a Jewish preacher by the name of Yeshua wandering Palestine at the time, despite the absolute lack of any contemporary evidence for his existence.
Lastly, as an aside, there is the ‘Socrates problem’. This is frequently badly misstated, but the Socrates problem is a rebuttal to the statement that there is no contemporary evidence Jesus existed at all, and that is that there is also no contemporary evidence Socrates ever existed. That is partially true. We DO have some contemporaries of Socrates writing about him, which is far better evidence than we have for Jesus, but little else, and those contemporaries differ on some details. It is true there is very little contemporary evidence Socrates existed, as his writings are all transcriptions of other authors passing on his works as oral tales, and contain divergences – just as we expect they would.
The POINT of the Socrates problem is that there isn’t much contemporary evidence for numerous historical figures, and people still believe they existed.
This argument is frequently badly misstated by theists who falsely claim: there is more evidence for Jesus than Alexander the Great (extremely false), or there is more evidence for Jesus than Julius Caesar (spectacularly and laughably false).
Saying that Jesus was a real person is mute. Even if the stories about him were originally based on a real human, the way he was lionized, given magical powers, including the victory over death, we can no longer say it refers to this real person. A real person may have inspired the Bible Jesus, but the Bible Jesus is still a fictional character.
(4502) Christian atrocities
A religion created by a benevolent god would inspire its followers to strive for peaceful and compassionate solutions to its problems. The history of Christianity is the opposite of this. The following lists its eleven greatest atrocities:
History is full of atrocities committed by Christians for Christ, against not just other religions but against Christians themselves. Let’s take a look at some of them, shall we?
11. Central African Republic Genocide (2012 – Present)
This is an ongoing conflict, and it’s my first go-to when I need to shut down a teabagger on a rail. While the UN hasn’t called it a genocide yet, Reuters acknowledges that what the Christians are doing is ethnic cleansing against a Muslim minority. The conflict is very much one of Christians working to expel Muslims from the country, and by all accounts, they’ve been very successful so far.
10. Bosnian Genocide (1992 – 1995)
I vaguely remember this genocide, but it’s worth noting because of how the pieces fell. There isn’t a huge language distinction; Serbian, Bosnian, and Croat are part of a dialect continuum. The difference is in the religion; Bosnian Serbs are Orthodox, while Bosnia Muslims were, well, Muslims. And that was what got them targeted during the collapse of the former Yugoslav Republic. The term “Ethnic Cleansing” gets thrown around to describe this one, too, and it was an extremely effective example of one (which is why it coined the term) — one of the worst ones in Europe since the Holocaust targeted everyone outside the Nazi paradigm for the ideal state. Speaking of which …
9. The Holocaust (1933 – 1942)
Make no mistake, there were Christian collaborators with the Holocaust. The real kicker, though, is knowing that the Holocaust didn’t happen in a vacuum. In many ways, the Holocaust was the child of centuries of Christian Antisemitism in Europe. “Christ Killer” is a common Christian slur thrown at Jewish people, and the Blood Libel didn’t come from Muslims, it came from Christians. Martin Luther, the father of Protestantism, was a raging anti-Semite; in addition to his theses, he also wrote a book called On The Jews and Their Lies. While the religious outlook of the Nazis is questionable, what’s not in question is that centuries of Christian Antisemitism allowed it to happen.
8. The Pogroms (1881 – 1884; 1903 – 1906; 1917 -1921)
While I’m talking about Jewish abuse at the hands of Christians, let’s discuss the Pogroms. Pogrom is from Pogromit, a Russian verb meaning “to create a desert.” The Pogroms were a series of violent attacks carried out against the Jews by the Christians in Russia and Poland over the dates listed. The 1880s pogrom was triggered by anti-Jewish propaganda that the czar had been assassinated by Jews. Notice the date for the last one: 1921, and note how close that is to 1933; the pogroms were fresh on the mind of the Nazis when they seized power.
7. American Slavery (c. 1619 – 1865)
American slavery is a special beast; when you discuss slavery, you have to do it while acknowledging that American Slavery is a superior brand of evil. While all slavery is wrong, there was something perversely worse about American Slavery that, up to that point in history, makes it stand out. It’s that American Exceptionalism I keep hearing about. During the era in the lead up to the Civil War, both pro- and anti-slavery advocates threw Bible verses at one another, but the pro-slavery advocates where coming at it from a stronger position if they considered themselves “Biblical literalists”. In fact, some have argued that the notion of “Biblical Literalism” sprang up in defense of Slavery — meaning that the slave holding mentality is still with us to this day every time someone “takes the Bible literally” to defend Creationism or bash LGBT+ folk.
6. Native American Cultural Cleansing (c. 1500s – c. 1800s)
It’s no secret that Christians did everything they could to eradicate the Native American traditions via boarding schools. You might just live in an alternative reality if you deny that. In 1872, the “Christanizaiton” of the Native Americans was still ongoing. Early Christian colonists referred to them as “devils” and “heathens,” and ever since the first Catholic Spaniard set foot in the New World, were working to wipe any last trace of their culture from the face of the world. And this is to say nothing of the brutality they visited on Native Americans in the form of violence and murder.
5. Thirty Years’ War (1618 – 1648)
The Thirty Years’ War led to the Treaty of Westphalia, which is the single genesis for the modern state as we know it. But the Thirty Years’ War is also known for being one of the bloodiest religious wars in Europe’s history, when Catholics and Protestants turned their blades on one another and decimated a full 20-40% of Europe’s population. There were witch hunts and mass burnings throughout Germany, and the period is generally regarded as the peak of European Witch Hunting, itself another popular Christian pastime. About the same time, Catholics sacked the city of Magdeburg and slew about 30,000 Protestants; according to the poet Fredrich Shiller, “In a single church fifty women were found beheaded, and infants still sucking the breasts of their lifeless mothers.”
4. The Inquisition (c. 1100 to Present)
I know what you’re thinking — to the present? Yep. The Office of the Inquisition still exists today; in 1965 they made it the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. They stopped their formal Inquisition duties sometime after the Napoleonic Wars, but up until that time, the Inquisition was in full swing, hunting down Jews, Heretics, and Witches. There were actually several Inquisitions, but the most famous is the Spanish Inquisition, whose brutality needs no introduction. When you think of Christian violence in the name of Christ, there’s a reason the horrors of the Inquisition spring to mind first.
3. The Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229)
The Albigensian Crusade happened in Southern France and was an effort of the early Church to stamp out a competing ideology — in this case, Catharism. It ran from 1209 to 1229, spanning 20 brutal years. At heart, Catharism was a form of gnosticism, and was labeled a Manichean heresy by the church. It kick-started with the Massacre at Béziers, where the Church massacred the entire population.
2. The First and Second Crusade (1096 – 1102; 1147 – 1149)
I’m listing the First and Second Crusade here for another reason than the typical one. Right wing Christians like to claim that the Crusades were a “defensive” conflict, which is all well and good, but it overlooks the violence done against Jewish people in Europe at that time — executed, of course, by Christians. After all, the Christians were liberating the Holy Land from the “Christ Killers,” which, if you look above, I noted is a common slur against Jewish people. There was plenty of violence in political cluster that would later become Germany, for example. Accusations of ritual murder flourished and brutal religious violence was the retort; the Rhineland Massacres were just some examples of it.
1. Hypatia and the Library at Alexandria (415)
Hypatia was the last librarian at the Library of Alexandria. She incurred the wrath of a Christian Preacher named Peter; one day, on her way to the Library, Peter and a mob of hysterical Christians ambushed her and flayed her alive. They then proceeded to burn down the greatest reservoir of knowledge in the Classical World up to that point, performing what Carl Sagan described as “radical brain surgery.” Hypaitia wasn’t the first pagan that Christians killed; in 356, Pagan ceremonies were punishable by death in Christian kingdoms, and Christian Emperor Theodosius would decree that children playing with pagan statues should be executed.
Absent Christianity, these atrocities would either not have occurred or they would have been far less severe. This is not the historical footprint of what we would expect a true religion to sponsor. Christianity by its own deeds speaks to its own untruth.
(4503) Changing the definition of adultery
The ‘unchanging’ god changed how he defined adultery. The following was taken from:
From the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary:
In the OT, adultery had a precise and limited definition: sexual relations between a married (or betrothed) woman and any man other than her husband. Adultery, therefore, was committed only against a husband, never a wife.
[…] In the NT period, it appears that the definition of adultery was extended in its scope. For example, the teaching of Jesus was understood to mean that a husband could now be held responsible for committing adultery against his wife.
It is interesting to note, in light of the above, that the 7th Commandment (Thou shalt not commit adultery) rests squarely in the Old Testament and therefore refers only to the situation where a married or betrothed woman has sex outside of marriage or engagement, and not to men doing the same. So a man could claim that it does not apply to his extra-marital affairs.
(4504) Polytheism more likely than monotheism
Based on an objective analysis of how the world works, the most likely situation is that no gods exist. The second most likely is that multiple gods exist, and the least likely is that only one god exists. The following explains why polytheism is more likely than monotheism:
Polytheism is both more reasonable and more practical than Monotheism. Most of the problems that arise from Monotheism don’t inherently apply to Polytheism.
- Monotheism has to special plead in order to explain contradictory divine experiences, where only experiences of their god are valid. Alternatively any such experiences are sometimes explained away with manipulative, negative entities (ie demons, jinn). The problem is people experience many other gods than the “one”, and if a person accepts spiritual entities who can manipulate, lie, etc., the supposed “one” may be such a lying, manipulative being. The same is true for contradictory NDEs, contradictory religious texts/traditions, etc.
- If there was one, perfect, omni-mono god we would not expect such diversity and lack of uniformity in existence. From good to evil people, theists to atheists, happiness to sadness, calm to stress, and everything and everyone else, consciousness can be volatile, contradict others, etc. If all came from one source it would all have identical properties, uniformity, per the Law of Identity. And if that one source was flawless reality should be flawless, if it was loving reality should be loving. This is clearly not the case, but does nothing against the existence of many limited beings.
- The problem of evil poses absolutely no problem for Polytheism, as the gods are limited and not omni-anything. Meanwhile it has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that if only one god exists it either is not all loving or not all powerful. If god just torments us for our own good he is no better than an abusive parent. If sin exists due to our actions it was only god who planted the tree within reach, with full foreknowledge, and let us eat from it, meaning he is at fault. If god could not create a world with no evil AND free will, he cannot do “anything”, same as how if he is bound to logic then he is not all powerful. Further is divine hiddenness, the supposedly omni god is said to desire a relationship with us, which is for our benefit, but then does not prove himself to the world. With limited beings that are not omni- this is no problem. If you reach out to Yahweh for a relationship and there’s no answer, it causes a whole slew of problems when you’re then punished for not believing. But if you reach out to, say, a Norse or Egyptian god and they do not answer, perhaps they just do not care, perhaps they might even dislike you.
- The very concept of “chosen people” or “nonbelievers” is irrelevant to Polytheism. Different gods might choose different people who are opposed to each other, some people may never hear from the gods at all (which is only a problem if there is one omni-god who supposedly wants everyone to believe in him). Scriptural stories where a god’s chosen people are defeated make sense because the gods are not omni, real events like the Holocaust against a god’s chosen people also don’t need explaining unless the god claims to be omni-, which Polytheistic gods do not do.
- Even if we accept there is a first cause, this does not imply one specific god, or even a single god at all. In fact, the lack of uniformity in reality (especially consciousness), along with the flawed nature of it, suggests contradictory and/or limited sources. Monotheism also cannot explain the flaws of existence without running into the problems already mentioned above, meanwhile of course many limited, imperfect deities would create a limited, imperfect world. Something like the existence of cancer is detrimental to an omni-mono-god capable of perfect design, but has no impact on Polytheism.
- Even if we accept the universe is “fine-tuned” for life this does not imply it was a single, all powerful god. Again the flaws of reality, lack of uniformity, etc. show the universe is NOT perfectly and flawlessly designed by a single, perfect source with a single goal in mind. But if we grant teleology for a moment, it still does not imply one specific god, and runs into the same problems as numbers 1 and 5.
- Modern Polytheism doesn’t teach we are broken, awful people born sinful and in need of salvation. It does not threaten us with eternal suffering if we disagree with a certain deity or authorities. It does not instill us with guilt if our path ends up different than what we were born as. It does not force us to convert others. It does not demean and even demonize the traditions of others unless they have done something to earn that notoriety (like converting en masse by propaganda and the sword), at least not in the modern day. Polytheism does not reject and shun individuality in favor of groupthink, at least not inherently. It does not need to have sacred cows in the forms of texts since these are just human attempts to understand limited gods. One does not need to adhere to external dogma to be a Polytheist, they can act pragmatically without fear and doubt without condescension. Finally, Polytheism allows us to see ourselves as more than servants or slaves to the whims of a tyrant.
The existence of multiple gods has a lot of explaining power that overcomes many of the theological problems associated with monotheism. Unfortunately, Christianity cannot take advantage of this situation and must struggle with difficult apologetics defending the existence of a single god.
(4505) Rolex watch analogy
It can be conjectured that if a god actually existed and that he had the intent to bring people back to life and judge them for either an eternity of bliss or an eternity of torture, that he would make his existence positively known as well as the basis he will use to make that determination. The following is an analogy using a Rolex watch salesman:
As an example, suppose a street vendor offers to sell me a Rolex watch for $50. A check online shows Rolex watches selling for $12,000 and up (way up). By coincidence, the street vendor’s “Rolex” comes with no kind of certification. Instead the street vendor says “Trust me.” The vendor provides no other evidence of authenticity. I would have to take the vendor on faith, since I have no evidence that the “Rolex” is real.
A watch whose authenticity I must take on faith is less perfect than a watch whose authenticity carries a bit more heft, such as appraisals by multiple independent experts (who don’t stand to benefit from the sale, and who stand to lose if they can be shown to be wrong), along with a certificate of authenticity from a credible organization that has an incentive to be honest (such as being sued for damages if it issues false certificates). In the event of a dispute, I could probably get a court of law to rule on the authenticity of an expensive watch.
While I would never actually buy a Rolex when a $20 digital watch keeps time well enough, this example shows how something I can verify as genuine to a high probability beats something I have to take entirely on faith.
You can see where I’m going with this. A God whose only evidence is the preacher’s command to “trust me” is less perfect than any God (or, perhaps, any thing) that doesn’t require faith. Especially when the preacher or vendor who says “trust me” stands to gain if I do.
Thus if I imagine a perfect God, in line with the Ontological Argument, I imagine a God who doesn’t require me to rely on faith.
The requirement for faith is a red flag- signaling the likelihood that you are being scammed. It is virtually certain that a real omnipotent god involved in adjudicating human afterlives would not use faith as a criterion. It would make its presence known and fully explain the ‘rules of the game.’
(4506) God makes Satan obsolete
Christians are trained to believe that God is all-good and that Satan is all-bad, but a casual read of scripture refutes that claim convincingly. God lies and kills children, something that would make Satan blush. The following is taken from:
Yahweh is an infanticidal, filicidal, deceptive deity. He makes Satan look obsolete.
For starters, there are numerous occasions where God is demonstrably a deceptive deity.
in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began
Where does God lie, or cause deception in the Bible?
And if the prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. (Ezekiel 14:9)
This is the first occasion where God openly admits that he deceives prophets, or provides false prophecy.
Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets. The Lord has declared disaster concerning you.” (2 Chronicles 18:22)
The first glaring occasion of God sending a deceptive spirit in the mouth of false prophets. He openly declares disaster, which all contradicts the biblical concept that God is all-good and doesn’t lie/cause deception.
This happens in another verse in 1 Kings 22:22-23.
And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.”
Here God openly encourages a lying spirit to be sent to Ahab. The lying spirit was essentially responsible for Ahab’s death as well. Based on this, you can conclude that one of God’s deceptive acts lead to the death of an individual. This once again contradicts the concept that God is all-good and cannot lie.
God is openly accused of deception in another verse as well.
Then I said, “Ah, Lord God, surely you have utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, ‘It shall be well with you,’ whereas the sword has reached their very life.” (Jeremiah 4:10)
This is evidently an accusation of deception as a contrasting set of information is presented. The speaker highlights the fact that Yahweh said “it shall be well with you”, whereas the deception was that God let the sword “reach their very life.”
There is also the story of the Tower of Babel, where humans are unanimously just working together. God evidently feels threatened by humans in Genesis 11, due to the following verse:
Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. (Genesis 11:6)
God openly declares that this is the beginning of humanity’s advancement. Arguably, the Tower of Babel has no negative connotation to it, as humans are just working together, with the “God-given” traits that they have, of curiosity and likewise. Obviously, this causes God to “confuse their language” so that they can no longer advance. I don’t understand why a tower up to the sky threatens God, but clearly, he wants to maintain his power, which leads him to confuse humanity.
Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Genesis 11:7)
There is also the occasion of God in the garden of Eden declaring that:
in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)
“It” referring to the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Evidently, the serpent was right, they did not die in the day that they ate of it. This once again deconstructs the idea that God doesn’t lie.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)
And of course, they didn’t die. They went on to supposedly have a mass incest that lead to 8 billion humans being born in totality over 6000 years, which is, of course, physically impossible.
Where does God kill children (including infants) in the Bible?
Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. (Numbers 31:17)
Samaria shall bear her guilt, because she has rebelled against her God; they shall fall by the sword; their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open. (Hosea 13:16)
In other words, the children were killed, along with the unborn infants. This once again happens in 2 Kings 15:16.
At that time Menahem sacked Tiphsah and all who were in it and its territory from Tirzah on, because they did not open it to him. Therefore he sacked it, and he ripped open all the women in it who were pregnant.
Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” (1 Samuel 15:3)
And the king asked her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ So we boiled my son and ate him. And on the next day I said to her, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him.’ But she has hidden her son.” (2 Kings 6:28-29)
Cannibalism of children.
Look, O Lord, and see! With whom have you dealt thus? Should women eat the fruit of their womb, the children of their tender care? Should priest and prophet be killed in the sanctuary of the Lord? In the dust of the streets lie the young and the old; my young women and my young men have fallen by the sword; you have killed them in the day of your anger, slaughtering without pity. You summoned as if to a festival day my terrors on every side, and on the day of the anger of the Lord no one escaped or survived; those whom I held and raised my enemy destroyed. (Lamentations 2:20-22)
Here God gets angry and mercilessly kills a lot of people, including children.
Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished. (Isaiah 13:16)
God is significantly more evil than Satan. He demonstrably lies and kills children.
It should seem obvious that if someone was making up a religion that they could have done a better job of making their god appear admirable. That fact, ironically, makes Yahweh slightly more likely to exist, but it also makes him a poor target for worship. With God, there is no need for Satan.
(4507) John’s theological inflation
In a 4-chapter (14-17) burst of imaginative inspiration, the author of John infused the Jesus character with a theology that overstepped anything seen in the synoptic gospels. It leaves a careful reader wondering if this is talking about the same person. The following was taken from:
As I pointed out in my article here last week, the author of John’s gospel is, by far, the worst offender. This would be obvious to any churchgoer—no matter how devout—who bothers to carefully compare the gospels. John imagined a theologically obsessed Jesus. I have often pointed out that this author is guilty of theology inflation, and in this article I invite readers to study John 14-17, with critical thinking skills fully engaged. In these four chapters, this author created a Religious Fanatic’s Training Manual, a prototype cult playbook for making sure that followers remain dedicated to the holy hero who commands their loyalty.
These four chapters come at the end of the last supper. Jesus has washed the feet of the disciples, but omitted any mention of the famous eucharist scene found in the earlier gospels. He has also predicted that Peter will deny him three times. Then this extensive theology monologue begins. A critical reader—a curious reader—would want to know: how did the author of this gospel know that any of this is true? To the devout who might object, “But he was inspired by God to write these words,” the same question applies: How do you know this is true? You may have been taught this from your earliest years, but by what means can it be verified? “I take it on faith” comes right out of the cult playbook, by the way. Countless cults have kept people in their thrall with this mindless advice. We also have to ask: Why did the earlier gospel writers fail to include this major Jesus monologue—weren’t they inspired too? Was there a flaw in their inspiration?
At the outset, the author wants his readers to know that their holy hero is the real thing—in fact, the only real thing, 14:6: “Jesus said to [Thomas], ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” Other cults, other religions, are useless. Fear of death has always been a motivator for attaching oneself to a set of beliefs, to a religious icon, hence that promise is here too, 14:2-3, KJV: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
This chapter is big on promises, 14:9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, 14:11: “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” 14:13: “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
And this major promise, tied to the hero’s ego, 14:19-21:
“In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me, and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
There is also a text that no doubt played a role in development of trinitarian theology—“god in three persons”—14:25-26: “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.” This sounds great, but it would seem that the Holy Spirit has done a sloppy job of “teaching everything,” given the long, painful history of Christians
disagreeing with each other—sometimes to the point of warfare and bloodshed. Dan Barker has pointed out that Christians today are deeply divided on a huge range of social and political issues, so much so, as Barker puts it, “there is either a multitude of gods handing out conflicting moral advice, or a single god who is hopelessly confused” (Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist, 1992).
Full-blown cult fanaticism is obvious here—and well as the holy hero’s full-blown ego, 15:1-4: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you.”
Those who are in the cult have “been cleansed”—and a grim fate is in store for anyone who isn’t fully, enthusiastically devoted to the cult, 15:6: “Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”
Cults are often despised, because of the weird beliefs and behavior—publicly displayed—of those who belong. This author expected such rejection, but that’s a consequence of being selected by the holy hero—so it’s actually a good thing, 15:18-21:
“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you…If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”
By far the vast majority of Jews at the time of Jesus did not believe claims of the breakaway sect that Jesus was the messiah. Thus it’s no surprise that the author of John’s gospel portrays Jews as the enemy—even accusing them of being children of the devil (see 8:44—a text that has caused so much damage). He begins this chapter with a warning, 16:2: “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me.” And more ego, 16:15: “All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
The cult is assured that suffering and pain will be annulled:
“So you have pain now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”
The disciples buy into it all—they set the example for other cult members to follow— 16:30: “Now we know that you know all things and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.” There is no need to ask questions: classic cult propaganda.
But to avoid being fooled, duped, the opposite approach is necessary: question everything.
Now back to the crucial promise, the eternal life gimmick, expressed in Jesus’ prayer, 17:1-3: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Yes, this cult is tuned in to the “only one true God.”
This is the essence of cult fanaticism, that god himself gave this cult to Jesus, 17:6-8:
“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you, for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.”
I challenge churchgoers: please read John 14-17 carefully, analyzing every sentence, every claim, and answer honestly: “Is this what your Christian faith looks like?” And go beyond this: question everything. Are these chapters based on revelation, imagination, or hallucination? How would you know? The apostle Paul bragged in his letters that he learned nothing about Jesus from the people who had known him—everything he knew about Jesus came to him through visions/hallucinations.
Did the author of John’s gospel operate any differently? There is no evidence whatever—none at all—that he had any way of knowing the “real words” of Jesus. He claims at the very end of the gospel, 21:24, that the “beloved disciple” is the one who witnessed and reported all the events described. But this disciple is not mentioned at all in the earlier gospels; we suspect that he is an invented character, also derived from the author’s active imagination—active decades after the death of Jesus.
Cold, hard, blunt fact: there is no contemporaneous documentation (e.g., letters, diaries, transcriptions contemporary with Jesus) by which we can verify any of the words of Jesus found in the four gospels. That’s why, for a long time now, I’ve used the term Jesus-script. In the ancient world it was common for writers to make up the speeches attributed to leaders and heroes.
It was also common for theologians to wildly imagine the wonders of the gods they adored. The New Testament is an example of that, and there are many chapters—such as John 14-17—that make us wonder why a good, wise god couldn’t have intervened to put a stop to excessively bad, manipulative theology.
This is another example of how the synoptic gospels and John are not compatible. Christians must choose one or the other. They cannot be allowed to pretend that all four gospels reliably detail the biography of their hero.
(4508) Babel tower too soon after the Flood
There are many implausibilities concerning the story of the Tower of Babel in the Bible. But there is one aspect of it that has commonly been missed- there wouldn’t have been enough people to build it at the time it was allegedly constructed. The following was taken from:
Recently, when asked, a Christian stated that the bible is “inerrant”, the conversation moved on to the historicity of the stories contained within its pages which he confidently endorsed. So I raised the subject of the Tower of Babel, a short little story contained in only eight verses but has so many glaring problems.
The story tells of a people who decide they will build a city and a tower “to reach into the heavens” (this varies dependant on which translation you read). Consider the logistics of undertaking such a project, brick making, construction work, the feeding of the workforce, the agriculture required to produce the food and the many other tasks in order to get this done. How many people would such a project require? We are talking about an entire city and a very tall tower, several thousand?
My Christian friend agreed it would take many thousands of people to carry out the task.
So I had to ask, where did all these people come from? We are told that this epic building program was being carried out THREE generations after EIGHT adults disembarked from a big imaginary boat carrying all the animals needed to repopulate the earth. And why would such an endeavor piss off Yahweh so much, what was his problem? It states he didn’t like people “cooperating” so he acted like a dick and “confused their languages”
His answer? He didn’t have one, he couldn’t account for the number of people that sprang up out of nowhere. So much for “historicity.”
The Flood and the Tower of Babel are fictional stories, but good fiction is characterized by paying attention to the plausibility of what is being presented. In the this case, the writers of Genesis were caught making an anachronistic mistake.
(4509) Nine failed prophecies
It is well known that some of the ‘fulfilled’ prophecies in the Bible were written after the fact, meaning that they were disingenuously made to look like accurate predictions. But when biblical authors decided to not ‘play is safe’ and predict something that would happen in the future, they failed dismally. The following lists nine failed prophecies:
2 Kings 3 tells the story of Moab revolting against the northern kingdom, and Israel, Judah, and Edom all ally to fight them. Elisha prophecies that God will give Moab into the hand of Israel. At the last moment, the king of Moab sacrifices his son to Chemosh, and it says “And there came great wrath against Israel, and they withdrew from him and returned to their own land.” I am not a scholar, but I have heard that the word for wrath that is used almost always refers to divine wrath. Whether that is true or not, it still seems like Elisha made a false prophecy.
Isaiah 19:18-25 prophecies about a time when Egypt will worship God. It says they will worship him with sacrifice and offering, which is no longer an acceptable way to worship God, but this prophecy has not been fulfilled yet, so isn’t it failed?
Ezekiel 26 prophecies against Tyre, that Nebuchadnezzar will take the city, and that it will be destroyed and never be rebuilt. Tyre still stands to this day, and Nebuchadnezzar didn’t take it. It specifically says that Nebuchadnezzar will enter the gates of Tyre, and it specifically says it is talking about the island city.
Ezekiel 29 prophecies that Egypt will be conquered by Nebuchadnezzar. It says they will be carried off for 40 years and that Egypt will be a wasteland. Then they will return and be the lowliest among the nations. This did not happen.
Isaiah 13 says that the Medes will take Babylon and it will be like Sodom and Gomorrah, and it will never be rebuilt. The Medes did not conquer Babylon, instead Cyrus the Persian conquered Babylon. And Babylon remained a city until 1000 AD. Some people try to say that the prophecy was fulfilled because now Babylon is abandoned, but the prophecy seems to be saying it the Medes will destroy it. Also, if I say that New York will be destroyed and never rebuilt, and New York is abandoned in 3500 AD, that is not much of a prophecy because sooner or later, all human cities will be abandoned.
Isaiah 17:1 Says that Damascus will no longer be a city, but it will be a heap of ruins. The population of Damascus today is 2 Million
Ezekiel 37 was written during the exile, and it predicts that when the people of Israel come back from exile, they will be one kingdom and the Messiah will reign over them. This did not happen, and most Christians would say that this will happen in the new heavens and the new earth. But taking the text at face value, if you were reading it at the time it was written, you would read it as God promising that after the 70 years, he will restore Israel’s glory.
Matthew 16:27-28: “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” There are lots of doomsday cuts that say things like “Judgement day will be on May 21!” and when it doesn’t happen they reinterpret it and say “well that wasn’t what the prophecy actually meant.” How are Christians any different?
Mark 13:28-30: “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Ditto what was said for Matthew 16.
(4510) Destroying the free will argument
Christian apologists often deflect the criticism of their god concerning the amount of evil in the world by saying that God’s overriding principle is to allow humans to have free will. The following essay explores the reasons why this apologetic is nonsense:
People often use preserving free will as an argument for why god does or doesn’t do certain things as though this is the single rule god holds himself accountable to, but several things he does aren’t consistent with this.
(This is the context of my post. I am responding to the, ‘Because free will’ argument. I feel the need to say this a second time because almost every single time I make a post in response to an argument theists use, I get responses that refuse to consider my points in context and it’s really frustrating.)
- For starters, god denying us certainty so that we get to choose to have faith in him is not free will. I already made a post about this earlier, but basically, this is just manipulation. Yet, the god of the bible has a consistent pattern of being vague and taciturn while expecting people to just blindly listen to him and punishing them when they don’t. Right from the freaking book of genesis.
- God creates us without our permission and immediately thrusts us into this inescapable system where we either follow him and go to heaven, or disobey him and go to hell. This is something that bothered me about Christianity even when I was a Christian. There is seemingly no way to just choose to escape the system. You are forced to participate in it and the closest thing to escape (suicide) is met with punishment. I know that that some people don’t believe suicide is a sin and that some people believe hell disinigrates you instead of torturing you, but those are not the standard beliefs.
- God could easily design humans such that we never experience emotions or thoughts that compel us to commit evil. He could make us all universally compassionate and understanding in such a way that we wouldn’t even know what evil is. He wouldn’t need to directly interfere. So arguing that denying us from committing evils is denying us free will is saying that god denying us any abilities at all is denying us free will. Why don’t I possess the ability to sprout wings because I want to?
- If you believe in any event where god wiped out a civilization, you believe that god killed babies, fetuses and children because statistically speaking, there’s no way every single person there was a non-pregnant adult.
- God allows the devil to exist and he allows him to affect us. Even if you argue that he wants the devil to have free will, he could easily design us in such a way that we are mentally protected from the devil. And giving us protection when we ask for it isn’t good enough. We should’ve never been vulnerable in the first place if he’s going to punish us for listening to him.
- There are several stories in the Bible where god does choose to directly interfere with people and punish them when they don’t listen, so he clearly didn’t have an issue with it in the past.
- It’s not possible for god to simultaneously have a plan that we can’t deviate from and for us to have free will. Especially if this plan involves interference with people.
- If you believe in original sin and that it has anything to do with the fall of man, then you believe that god is punishing us for the actions of people we never even knew and is making us atone for their sins.
(4511) Why is God bound by human characteristics?
The people who wrote the Bible displayed a lack of creativity in describing their god, making him out to be a gendered human with way too many human characteristics- such as anger, wrath, and desire. But what we now know of the size of the universe, it is almost certain that many intelligent lifeforms exist and that humans are likely just one of many. Why would the god who made the entire universe be a human ‘he.’ The following was taken from:
If there really was a god or gods, why would they stick to the boundaries of the human existence?
Let’s use Christianity for instance, why is god written as a man, if ‘he’ made people in ‘his’ image? Why would this god need to conform to our understanding of sex and gender? And how did it magically tell its followers that it prefers to be referred to as a man- as priests argue when asked this question. Why is god rendered in any human form whatsoever? Why would it have a gender, race, sex, size, or any other human features?
Almost all other religions have done this throughout time, almost always referring to a singular god as a man, or at least the more powerful gods. Why on earth would gods conform to a human, semi-human, or even animalistic form, or anything that can be conceptualized by humans? Even if they can choose and change their forms- why do they always magically choose to be a man for the most part? Why wouldn’t they all be androgynous at least? And why are they always given human emotions and expression?? Why would a god feel anger or any other human emotions? Why would god ever need to interact in the human world if it already has a plan for everything??
So many questions and hypocrisy within Christianity and religion in general that will never actually be answered. Because once people tend to enter that school of thought and really think about it without just picking up their religious texts, they see the holes in it. That is the reason that many college students blossom when they finally get away from their parents.
(4512) Parables were creations of Gospel writers
By comparing the genre and context of the parables within the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) [John suspiciously has no parables] it is easy to see that each author had his own agenda for writing them. That is, they appear to be the creation of the evangelists themselves rather than Jesus himself. The following was taken from:
Why does Jesus speak in parables? The very word itself has become inextricably linked to Jesus because of how much that rhetorical style dominates the first three Gospels. As a method of teaching, it is a bit eccentric, but the images it conveys are memorable.
It is commonplace for Bible scholars and theologians to take church tradition as their starting point and assume that the Gospel parables actually originated as stories told by the historical Jesus in more-or-less the same form we read them today. How they found their way into the Gospels — whether recorded by eyewitnesses, preserved as oral history, or produced through divine inspiration — is trivia for specialists to quibble over. However, early critical scholars like David Friedrich Strauss and the emergence of the Synoptic Problem opened a breach in the defenses of traditionalism, as it became undeniable that copying, revision, and creative invention figured heavily in the construction of the Gospels. Debating the authenticity of specific sayings and parables became a core focus of scholarly initiatives like the Jesus Seminar.
But what if the Gospel parables were simply the creation of their respective authors? Michael Goulder (1927–2010), one of the greatest Bible scholars of the past century, described arriving at that realization in his memoir, Five Stones and a Sling:
Mark’s parables were mostly agricultural: the Sower, the Seed Growing Secretly, and Mustard Seed. This was rather in line with Old Testament parables, which are said often to be about trees, “from the cedar in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall.” Matthew’s parables are about people, mostly kings or wealthy merchants. Luke’s parables, on the other hand, are about more down-to-earth characters: a prodigal son, an unjust steward, a widow, a beggar, a Samaritan… I therefore had a theme ready made for my Oxford seminar: the parables in the Gospels were not the parables of Jesus, as was assumed by almost everyone… rather they were the creation of the evangelists, each of whom has produced instances in his own style. (Goulder, pp. 58–59).
Christians should be worried about this problem, though very few are aware of it. This is because a) they don’t read the Bible, b) or if they do they don’t compare each gospel to the others, and c) their pastors would never mention it even if they knew. Staying in the dark is the best way to remain a Christian.
(4513) Mark wrote sower parable to explain lack of converts
It is often seen as an enigma that Jesus in the Gospel of Mark would recite a parable and then tell his disciples that he was using parables purposefully so that other people couldn’t understand and be saved. But in the following it is conjectured that the author of Mark made up the parable of the sower as a way to relieve the anxiety that people of his community were feeling as a result of the failure of their missionary efforts. The following is taken from:
Let’s very briefly recap the structure of Mark 4:1–34:
- We are told Jesus is teaching a “very large crowd” through the use of parables.
- Jesus tells the crowd the parable of the Sower.
- Later, Jesus explains to his disciples in private that he uses parables so that “those on the outside” will not understand and will not seek forgiveness. This is accompanied by a quotation of Isaiah 6:9–10.
- Jesus explains the parable of the Sower to the disciples.
- Jesus tells three more parables: the Lamp Under the Bushel, the Seed Growing Secretly, and the Mustard Seed.
So let’s consider Mark first at the narrative level. The obvious problem is this: what exactly is Jesus teaching the crowd? Yes, he’s telling them parables — the parable of the Sower, specifically. But by his own admission, he speaks in parables (perhaps “riddles” is more accurate) so that the crowd won’t understand. And in a remarkable bit of irony, his own disciples, who are supposed to be the insiders at the narrative level, don’t understand either, forcing Jesus to explain it anyway. Already, absurdity and irony abound.¹
Even if the crowd did understand the parable, what would the message be? The soil is a metaphor for different types of people, but the soil cannot change its own nature, nor can it avoid the birds, the thorns, and the scorching sun. This is not the parable you would tell if you were calling people to action, because it presents a deterministic view of humanity. Drury explains:
For the apocalyptic mind…salvation could only be at the end of history and by means of some victoriously annihilating divine act from without, the dies irae. To correspond with this, apocalyptic vision sees people as predestinately set in their ways. […] The same determinism informs the parable of the sower. As people are, so they must and will be. And so it is all through Mark. (p. 53, emphasis added)²
However, at the meta-narrative level, this parable makes perfect sense if it is aimed at Mark’s community—especially those discouraged by a lack of success in their preaching and missionary work. The parable reassures them that the rejection of the gospel message is part of a divine plan to blind or harden the hearts of outsiders—an idea also found in John (12:37–40), Romans (9:6–23, 11:1–10), and Acts (28:26–27), often backed by the same citation from Isaiah. As Heikki Räisänen observes, “It is clear that the idea of a divine blinding of those who are unrepentant has arisen as a reaction to negative experiences in the work of mission.” (Räisänen, p. 131) Burton Mack agrees: “The parable makes good sense about the kingdom of God Jesus announced, but only in retrospect upon some adverse history of its failed attempts to take root.” (Mack, p. 155) Other scholars note that the reference to persecution leading to the apostasy of converts (verse 17) must refer to a situation well after the time of Jesus (Hendrickx, p. 25; Wells 2009, p. 45). More generally speaking, the idea of the sower a missionary who spreads the word or kerygma fits very well with the passage in 1 Corinthians where Paul refers to himself as the “sower” of the churches he has evangelized.
Throughout Mark, the crowds seem to be little more than props. Jesus repeatedly³ tells them they must believe and obey the Word, yet he never tells them what the Word is. (Dykstra, p. 17) As Robert Fowler notes, “Interpreting the sower metaphor by saying that the sower sows ‘the word’ merely introduces another metaphor that requires yet another effort at interpretation.” (Fowler, p. 183) When the rich man in chapter 10 demands specifics on how to inherit eternal life, Jesus’ response is not the Gospel message but a tepid recap of the Jewish commandments. As Dykstra sees it, “One must conclude that Mark’s purpose in writing the Gospel could not have been to preserve any teaching or teachings that might have been new, unique, or special to Jesus.” (p. 19).
(4514) Luke says no resurrection for the married
There are some bizarre doctrines lurking in the gospels that most Christians are unaware of. One of those is found in Luke, Chapter 20, where it is directly stated that people who get married will not be resurrected in the afterlife. The following is taken from:
A few weeks ago, Stewart Felker wrote an article about what he suggests may be “the true most embarrassing verses in the Bible” — quoting a remark famously made by C.S. Lewis regarding Mark 13:30 (“This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place”). What Felker has in mind, though, is a statement by Jesus about marriage and the afterlife found in Luke. In fact, when I first saw him mention it in an online discussion, I almost didn’t believe it was actually in the Bible.
The remark occurs in a well-known Synoptic pericope. To understand it, we should look at Mark’s version first. The context, chapter 12, is a loosely-connected series of sermons and other opportunities for Jesus to dispense wisdom. In vv. 18–27, some Sadducees, “who say there is no resurrection,” pose a trick question to Jesus, perhaps in the hopes of discrediting him and the Pharisaic belief in a resurrection.
The scenario they pose is one in which a widow ends up marrying seven brothers in succession due to the Mosaic law on levirate marriage. Since polyandry is not allowed in Judaism, these Sadducees demand to know which of the brothers would be married to her in the resurrection (afterlife).
The challenge is easily met by Jesus. His response is that marriage will not exist after the resurrection:
For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage¹, but are like angels in the heavens. (Mark 12:25)
Matthew (22:30) follows Mark’s text closely with no change in meaning. Luke’s version, however, changes Jesus’ response to something quite astonishing:
The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those accounted worthy to obtain that age and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, for they are equal to angels and are children of God, being sons of the resurrection. (Luke 20:34b-36)
So while Mark and Matthew describe a difference between the present age, when people marry, and the resurrection, when they do not, Luke describes present-day humanity as being divided between the “sons of this age” who marry, and “those accounted worthy to obtain resurrection” who do not marry. In other words, Luke’s plain meaning is that only those who are not married are worthy to be resurrected in the next age! As New Testament scholar David E. Aune (Notre Dame) puts it:
The correctness of this interpretation is assured by the fact that it is difficult to conceive of an act of “being counted worthy” as occurring at any time subsequent to physical death. This logion, then, reflects the view that humanity is currently divided into two classes, the “sons of this age.” who marry, and “those who are counted worthy to attain that age and the resurrection from the dead,” i.e., “sons of God” or “sons of the resurrection,” who do not marry. That is, celibacy is regarded as a prerequisite for resurrection. (p. 121)
The notion of being deemed worthy of the age to come due to one’s actions in this age is well-attested in other Jewish literature, as Felker notes, citing examples from Dale Allison. Luke makes a similar distinction in 16:8 between the “sons of this age” and the “sons of light” (righteous followers of God), who both exist in the present day. And yet, the majority of biblical scholars until recently have ignored or simply failed to notice Luke’s implications here.²
How does this fit into Luke’s overall theology? Did early Christians really believe that non-marriage was a condition for resurrection? Furthermore, what ramifications does — or should — the presence of such a teaching in the Bible have for modern Christian doctrine?
There are next to no Christians who believe that they are sacrificing their chance for an afterlife when they go to their wedding. Yet, a scriptural case can be made for just that. This is another example where Christians ignore some scripture while claiming that the entire Bible is relevant to their lives.
(4515) The rise and fall of Asherah
Asherah, Yahweh’s consort, had a brief period of existence in the minds of ancient Israelites, but because there was a disciplined push to make their religion monotheistic, she faded into the backfields of history. The following was taken from:
In ancient Canaanite and early Hebrew traditions, Asherah was a prominent deity, revered as the consort of the chief god, Yahweh. Over time, with the rise of monotheistic beliefs, her worship waned, and she gradually faded from mainstream religious consciousness. This essay aims to explore the historical significance of Asherah and advocate for her recognition in modern Judaistic religions. By embracing Asherah as a symbol of divine feminine energy and fertility, contemporary faiths can foster a more inclusive and balanced understanding of spirituality.
Asherah in Ancient Canaanite Religion:
Asherah’s origins trace back to ancient Canaanite religion, where she was venerated as a mother goddess associated with fertility, love, and the cycles of nature. She was often depicted as a nurturing figure, symbolizing the generative powers of the earth. Asherah’s worship involved sacred groves and trees, where devotees sought blessings for fertility and prosperity.
Asherah as Consort of Yahweh:
As the Israelites encountered the Canaanites, they adopted elements of their religious beliefs, including the recognition of Asherah as the consort of Yahweh. Ancient texts and archaeological evidence suggest that Asherah’s presence was intertwined with early Israelite practices. However, with the gradual evolution of monotheism, the worship of multiple deities, including Asherah, faced opposition.
The Decline of Asherah Worship:
The move toward monotheism in ancient Israel led to efforts to suppress the worship of Asherah and other deities. The religious reforms under kings such as Hezekiah and Josiah aimed to centralize the worship of Yahweh and eliminate perceived “idolatry.” As a result, Asherah’s significance diminished, and her symbols and sacred sites were either destroyed or repurposed.
Rediscovering Asherah’s Legacy:
In recent years, archaeological findings and the reinterpretation of ancient texts have shed new light on Asherah’s historical presence. Scholars and theologians have revisited her significance in the context of ancient religious practices, leading to a growing interest in acknowledging her role in Judaistic history.
Recognizing Asherah in Modern Judaistic Religions:
1. Embracing the Divine Feminine: By recognizing Asherah, modern Judaistic religions can reclaim the importance of the divine feminine in spirituality. Balancing masculine and feminine aspects of the divine can promote a more inclusive and holistic understanding of God.
2. Valuing Nature and Fertility: Acknowledging Asherah can reaffirm the significance of nature and fertility in religious beliefs. This recognition can inspire a greater sense of stewardship for the environment and an appreciation for the cycles of life.
3. Historical and Cultural Understanding: Recognizing Asherah’s historical role can deepen our understanding of the diverse religious landscape that shaped ancient Judaistic practices. It fosters a richer appreciation of the complexity of religious traditions.
The recognition of Asherah in modern Judaistic religions offers an opportunity to reevaluate ancient religious practices and restore a more inclusive spiritual narrative. Embracing Asherah as a symbol of divine femininity and fertility can enrich contemporary faiths by promoting a balanced understanding of spirituality, valuing nature and nurturing, and acknowledging the historical roots of Judaistic traditions. By acknowledging Asherah, we can rediscover an important aspect of our religious heritage and cultivate a more encompassing spiritual path for the future.
(4516) The origin of the belief in hell
The Christian belief in hell can be traced back to Jewish traditions surrounding a low area in the outskirts of Jerusalem that had a deplorable reputation for being a venue of child sacrifice. This notorious spot was thought to be the final resting place of evil people who would be burned in perpetuity. The following is an excerpt from Bart Erhman’s book Heaven and Hell:
The valley is mentioned several times in the Old Testament, first in Joshua 15:8, where it is called “the valley of the son of Hinnom,” which in Hebrew is gei ben Hinnom. We don’t know who Hinnom was, but his son apparently owned the valley at one point. A later reference calls it instead Hinnom’s own valley—that is, in gei-hinnom. Later, that term, gehinnom, came to be Gehenna.
It is normally identified as the ravine southwest of Old Jerusalem. Scholars have long claimed that Gehenna was a garbage dump where fires were burned—which is why its “worm never dies” and its “fires never cease”: there was always burning trash in there. As it turns out, there is no evidence for this claim; it can be traced to a commentary on the book of Psalms written by Rabbi David Kimhi in the early thirteenth century CE. Neither archaeology nor any ancient text supports the view.9 On the contrary, the place was notorious for ancient Jews not because it was a dump but because it had been a place where children had been sacrificed to a pagan god. We are told in 2 Kings 23:10 that the Canaanite deity Molech was worshiped in “Topheth, which is the valley of Ben-hinnom” (= valley of the son of Hinnom = Gehenna), where even some Israelites had made “a son or a daughter pass through fire as an offering” to him.
Human sacrifice occurred elsewhere in the ancient world, but it was obviously anathema to the writers of the Hebrew Bible, and Gehenna was the place best known for the hideous practice. And so, according to the passage, when the good king Josiah instituted a religious reform, bringing the people of Judah back to the worship of Yahweh, the God of Israel, he “defiled” the place, making it impossible for child sacrifice to be practiced there. In many ways this desecrated valley represented the polar opposite of what was on the heights right above it: the Temple of God dedicated to Yahweh, where God himself was believed to dwell, in the Holy of Holies. Gehenna, by contrast, was the place of unfathomable cruelty and nefarious practices connected with a pagan divine enemy of the God of Israel, literally an unholy, blasphemous place.
The Israelite antipathy for Gehenna is captured in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, which makes numerous woeful predictions of the coming destruction of the nation of Judah. At one point the prophet declares that God was determined to destroy his people because Judeans had put up an altar in “the valley of the son of Hinnom” in order to “burn their sons and their daughters in the fire.” Jeremiah announces that now the name will be changed. It will be called “the valley of Slaughter: for they will bury [there] until there is no more room. The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the animals of the earth; and no one will frighten them away” (Jeremiah 7:29–34). This most unholy of all places will be where God will slaughter those who are disobedient among his own people. Animals would feed on their bodies. Think about the “worm [that] never dies.” (See also Jeremiah 19:6–9.)
The earliest evidence from outside the Hebrew Bible for Gehenna as a place of divine punishment comes in 1 Enoch 27, written, as we have seen, at least two centuries before the days of Jesus. In one of his encounters with the angel Uriel, Enoch asks why such an “accursed valley” lies in the midst of Israel’s “blessed land.” The angel tells him: The accursed valley is for those accursed forever; here will gather together all those accursed ones, those who speak with their mouth unbecoming words against the Lord.… Here shall they be gathered together, and here shall be their judgment in the last days. There will be upon them the spectacle of the righteous judgment, in the presence of the righteous forever. And so, well prior to Jesus, Gehenna was seen as a desecrated place of slaughter for God’s enemies at the Last Judgment. This judgment is said to last “forever.”
So too for Jesus: the dead corpses of God’s enemies will be cast into this horrible, ungodly place, where they will be destroyed, permanently separated from God and his goodness.
It seems clear that Jesus was a believer in this eschatology and that later Christian writers and editors transformed the same idea into a new, ill-defined and non-located place called hell that is slated to be the final resting (and torture) place for those people (both good or bad, it really doesn’t matter) who did not accept Jesus as their ‘savior.’
(4517) Will God admit he was wrong?
We are led to believe that God inspired the writings of the Bible and that he possessed all of the positive attributes that can be had. And yet, there is a quandary about certain matters that call all of this into question. If God was the one who inspired the Bible, then he was far less moral than humans are today. So the question is- will God admit he was wrong and try to learn from humans and make amends? The following was taken from:
Was the Christian god omnipotent, all-knowing, all-loving, timeless, and “good” during biblical times? Because if he was, he would have known that slavery was immoral…
…that incest is immoral
…that drowning the entire human race (including infants) aside from Noah & his family was immoral
…that promising eternal suffering & damnation for non-belief is immoral
…that the concept substitutionary atonement/original sin is immoral
…that asking a father to murder his son to prove his loyalty to god was immoral
I’m “still waiting” for the ‘New Testament part II’ where god declares how he’s been so wrong in the past and has taken some lessons in morality from the progress of his earthly children. I guess he’s having a hard time finding a good publisher or an economical copy editor.
If you want some lessons in IMmorality all one needs to do is read the bible.
The only legitimate way for apologists to attack this problem is to admit that much of what was written in the Bible was not inspired by God, and, in fact, would have been anathema to God. But that concession in itself destroys the underlying theology. In other words, there really isn’t any way out of this problem- Christianity is dead on arrival in the 21st Century and can be believed only by non-thinking, brainwashed people.
(4518) Bible’s confused view of marriage and divorce
Despite claims by preachers and theologians that the Bible is sufficient to present God’s commandments regarding sex, marriage, and divorce, all it takes is a close examination of scripture to reveal that this is not true. The following was taken from:
It is commonly taught from the pulpit that something called “biblical” sexual morality exists — in other words, that the Bible universally teaches a rigid code of sexual behaviour that includes a strict definition of marriage and a prohibition against all extramarital sex. Prominent evangelical theologian Wayne Grudem, in a recent tome on systematic theology, endorses the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture — meaning, for example, that “it is possible to find all the biblical passages that are directly relevant to the matters of marriage and divorce” (a specific example of Grudem’s) and thereby find out “what God requires us to think or to do in these areas” (p. 100).
One doesn’t have to read much of the Old Testament to have such illusions shattered. There are numerous stories of male heroes who have multiple wives and concubines (sometimes in the hundreds), who sleep with prostitutes, and who otherwise conduct themselves in a manner we would fine deplorable — without any condemnation from the text. Virginity is treated primarily as a property matter, and premarital sex is never prohibited by the Old Testament.⁶ In fact, the Song of Songs seems to celebrate it!⁷ Some laws, like levirate marriage and the prohibition on a widow remarrying a man she previously divorced, are simply too culturally bound for the modern Christian to even comprehend. Needless to say, no pastor has ever instructed the men in his congregation to have sexual congress with the wives of their deceased brothers because the Bible said so.
More often, church leaders quote from the New Testament to support their doctrines on marriage and divorce, but even here, they are inconsistent. Often, the same Protestant churches that close their doors to gay couples on the basis of Jesus’ appeal to Genesis 2:24 (“a man shall leave his parents and cleave to his wife”) welcome divorcees despite Jesus’ condemnation of divorce in the very same Synoptic passages.⁸ Churches with stricter views of divorce still exploit the adultery loophole in Matthew’s version of the divorce pericope, even though Mark’s blanket prohibition is certainly more original. Southern Baptist theologian Dan Heimbach, in a book on biblical sexual standards endorsed by Grudem, harmonizes Mark and Matthew in order to assert that “all evangelicals agree that God … allows some sort of exception [to the prohibition of divorce].” Yet when he tries figuring out just what Matthew’s exception of porneia can include and when divorce can be initiated, he finds himself in a morass of biblically defensible yet incompatible positions (pp. 203ff). The sufficiency of Scripture seems to have failed him.
Note the complete lack of attention given to Luke’s own distinctive view of marriage. Luke’s apparent endorsement of celibacy (not merely as an ethical ideal, but as a requirement for salvation!) surely must be addressed by any serious analysis of biblical ethics — even if just to dispute or debunk it — yet none of the examples I looked at did so. Heimbach’s book completely ignores the Lucan version of the resurrection question and Luke’s tacit approval of divorce. An even more comprehensive work on Christian sexual ethics by Köstenberger (also endorsed by Grudem) makes nary a mention of Luke’s views in its analysis, focusing instead on NT passages with positive views of marriage and what the conditions for permitting divorce according to Matthew are (pp. 227ff).⁹ Interestingly, Köstenberger does mention Luke’s lack of a divorce exception, but fails to divulge that Luke lacks the divorce prohibition entirely! (p. 236) He repeatedly implies, incorrectly, that both Mark and Luke give absolute prohibitions of divorce (pp. 242, 244) — a truly remarkable case of reading the text through one’s own theology. In the summary his chapter on divorce and remarriage, he summarizes four different views held by evangelical theologians — all based on compromises between Mark, Matthew, and the Pauline epistles, and none based on the actual views of Luke discussed above.
In online religious forums, I often see frank admission by more progressive Christians that their own views on sexuality (including gay marriage, extramarital sex, and divorce) do not accord with the Bible, while more conservative Christians with similar ethics will try reinterpreting the Bible to obtain justification for their views. I suspect that if such Christians took a closer look at the diversity of views endorsed by the Bible and practiced in early Christianity — including practices we would find difficult or distasteful — they would abandon the pretense of strict adherence to the Bible. They might even deal more graciously with those whose views differ.
If the Bible was inspired by a single divine source, it would provide consistent instructions covering these matters. If it was written by various people who had no inspiration from such a deity, then we would expect to see a conflicted mess of ideas- in other words, just what we see.
(4519) Progressive religions become regressive over time
Any religion, even though progressive for its time, that does not benefit from periodic updates will, over time, lose its effectiveness and become regressive in the midst of a civilization that steadily progresses toward a more compassionate and egalitarian view of humanity. We are seeing that today, for example, with Christianity’s determined view of homosexuality being a sin. The following was taken from:
Imagine a small town mayor in 1992 as the town gets internet for the first time. Whereas every other town around him scoffs at the novelty or finds it absurd, the mayor is amazed by its potential utility and has it put into the town charter that the town must always have fastest dial up internet available to aid its citizens. The mayor puts “dialup” in the phrasing as that’s all they’ve know and all he can imagine. Eventually they die and as cable, DSL and satellite become available the town’s council says we must update the town’s internet in accordance with their charter, but the town’s lawyers point out the charter says “no it must be the fastest dialup internet so none of these options are available to us.” So the town remains trapped with 56kbs internet while the towns that never wanted internet in the first place pass them by as they continue to adopt the latest technology reaching gigabit speeds.
That’s an extended metaphor for religion. A lot of the most popular ones might be considered progressive for their time, even extremely so, but they lag behind modern secular society in its respect for the human person, their dignity, and rights, especially in regard to the treatment of women and children.
For example, Islam limited men to four wives at a when they could have an unlimited amount of wives. However, polygyny is now considered misogynistic in the rest of the modern world, so it’s no longer limiting men to four wives but rather allowing men to have four wives where any other society would see that as degrading to each of his wives. Similarly Islam limited men’s power over women in many regards, at a time when it was often considered unlimited, but now the limitation is instead an elevation of men over women compared to the secular world that treats them as equals. Quran 4:34 let’s men discipline their wives, with a bunch of qualifiers, but it still lets them control them. Obviously that was a step up many years ago but now it’s incredibly degrading to women in the modern world who can’t leave the house without an escort, and must obey their male overseers. I can list all the atrocities committed against women in the Middle East but you’re likely already familiar.
The same is true for Christianity. Women are told to submit to their husband (Ephesians 5:22) but at the time it was a given, and the revolutionary update was men were to love their wives at a time when they were treated as servants and sex objects. That was very progressive for 2000 years ago. Now you look at the modern world where women are treated as equals and you still see women in the church treated as secondary who are not given the same freedom, rights, and opportunities as men. Look at Russia that used the Eastern Orthodox faith as justification to decriminalize domestic violence, or the abuse prevalent in the various fundamentalist communities scattered around America.
All of this is to say that as long as religion finds its rules in the past they will eventually hurt more than they ever help.
The only way for Christianity to have remained relevant in the modern world would have been for it to become a progressive revelation, where God would inspire new books to be added to the Bible. But that is not happening, and barring a truly remarkable revelation by God himself, nobody would agree if someone were to take up this challenge. Christianity becomes more irrelevant with each passing year as human civilization moves on to a more compassionate and egalitarian view of humanity.
(4520) Six ways out of the faith
The following essay lists six actions that presumably should bring someone closer to believing in Christianity, but actually tends to lead them out of the faith. This shows that one should not take Christianity too seriously if they desire to retain their faith:
1. We took the Bible seriously. We read the Bible. We studied it both formally and informally. Many of us achieved graduate degrees in theology, biblical studies, missiology, you name it. From conservative seminaries, even.
We read it devotionally and we read it prayerfully. Some of us even prayed our way through extended portions of the text. We studied passages and their historical contexts for months on end, even learning the biblical languages so that we could go right to the original sources themselves.
This was a big mistake.
Maybe you did this, too, and it only strengthened your faith. But speaking for myself and so many of my post-Christian friends, it was our reading of the Bible that put us on our journey out of the faith entirely.
I think the Catholics have the best strategy: Don’t make too big a deal about being biblical, because people might actually start reading it for themselves. The smartest thing the church ever did was to keep both the scriptures and their worship in a language that nobody but the priests could understand, much less critique.
For some, it’s the violence, either commanded by Yahweh or else carried out directly by his own hand. You have read the story of the flood, right? For others, it’s the blind eye the Bible turns toward systemic injustices like slavery or viewing women as property to be bought and sold to the highest bidder.
These were all cultural norms at the time, to be sure, but you would think that divine revelation could overcome such limitations. It would seem that God is only able to reveal to us whatever our cultural context has already predisposed us to know and understand. If that’s the case, though, I’m not sure what’s so revelatory about it.
2. We prayed for the things the Bible told us to pray for. We didn’t pray for a pony. We didn’t pray to get rich or drive better cars. No, we prayed for our loved ones to overcome illness just like Jesus and James told us to do.
But nothing out of the ordinary happened. The people we prayed for either got better or they didn’t, but at exactly the same rates as people who weren’t being prayed for at all. As someone once put it: “Believing actually led to the demise of my faith because it caused me to expect God to do things.”
It turns out the Bible writes a lot of checks that reality simply can’t cash. The Christian faith overplays its hand, making promises of provision, health, and security which no one with their eyes open would say get met unless they happen to be affluent.
And it’s not just about healing, although unambiguous assurances about that are everywhere. It’s also about prayers for things like spiritual fruit, personal character, peace and harmony between people, and guidance or protection. Seeing that even the prayers of Jesus didn’t come true, you’d think we would finally learn our lesson.
As another friend quipped: “There’s a reason one needs faith the size of a mustard seed: any larger and it will destroy itself.”
The only prayers that reliably get answered are the ones we can answer ourselves. We learned this through repeated experience over the course of our lives.
3. We shared our faith with others. Boy was that a mistake. More often than not, it’s a fool’s errand to share your ideology with people who don’t already accept all the same fundamental beliefs that you do. They ask really good questions for which you won’t find good answers.
I don’t mean the answers are elusive, I mean they don’t exist. Some inconsistencies really can’t be reconciled, and the only way to make those questions go away is to bury them. Just learn to live with the slow dull ache of pervasive cognitive dissonance.
Now, evangelism does work–as long as you restrict it to those people and places where everyone already thinks the same way you do. They call this preaching to the converted, and as pointless as that sounds, that’s the only kind of preaching that reliably works. If you branch out and try to introduce the Christian faith into a context in which it’s not already culturally privileged, you’re gonna have a bad time.
4. We believed God was a person who wants to be known through an intimate, personal relationship. This, for me personally, was the fatal error of my religious upbringing. I realize there are many different ways of viewing God, even the Christian God in particular, and not all traditions stress this idea of an intimately personal God, much less a “personal relationship with Jesus.” But mine did, and that to me was the biggest mistake of all.
As a young Christian with a heart full of passion and idealism, I cut my spiritual teeth on the Wesleyan pietism of A.W. Tozer, who instructs us in The Pursuit of God:
We have almost forgotten that God is a Person and, as such, can be cultivated as any person can. It is inherent in personality to be able to know other personalities…Religion, so far as it is genuine, is in essence the response of created personalities to the Creating Personality, God. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
They should have gone with the absent God, like the God of Deism who set the universe on its course and then promptly disappeared into the Upside Down never to be seen again. Or maybe like Spinoza’s God, who isn’t really a “who” at all, but more of a metaphor for Nature, or physics.
What this miscalculation did for me was it set up an expectation that I should be able to sense, perceive, hear, and know this Person through direct, immediate contact, spirit to spirit. I operated within that paradigm for two decades, and for a long time the narrative held together.
I felt God. I heard God. I knew God, in personal experience.
There’s just one problem. If you take this relationship too seriously—if you come to it with too much expectation that reality will match what you were told to anticipate—you may one day fall hard upon the cold ground of self-honesty. One day you may finally admit to yourself that you have been conjuring this relationship through your own imagination your entire life.
Talk about a disorienting realization. In the end, what made us see through the illusion was our sincere expectation that it wasn’t an illusion at all. We trusted it. We leaned into it. No, we dove headlong into it, and we found in the end that there was nothing there. Just our own thoughts, feelings, and imaginations, adept though they were at creating our own Creator.
5. We landed in leadership positions and got to see how the sausage was made, so to speak. Be careful how far you advance in your faith. If you do things too well, they put you in charge.
Before you know it, you’ve become a part of the machinery that produces the experiences that everyone else takes for granted as manifestations of divine presence. The show must go on, and it’ll soon become your responsibility if you’re a gifted person who can “make Jesus real” for everyone else.
If you’re not careful, like Dorothy in Oz you’ll push your way through to meet the Wizard only to discover it’s just an old guy pulling levers and pushing buttons. Or worse, one day you look in the mirror and discover that you’ve become that person yourself.
6. We loved people the way our faith told us to, but got kicked out of the club for doing so. A prophetic tradition runs through the Bible exhorting the people of God to advocate for social justice. It repeatedly tells them to look out for the poor and the infirm, taking care of those who are less fortunate.
“I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” the Bible says in a phrase Jesus loved to quote.
But that didn’t go over any better in his day than it does in our own. A funny thing happens when you try to emulate his example: You become an outcast yourself, even from among those who are supposed to represent Jesus to the rest of the world. Like another friend said:
I tried to live my life according to the “god is love” philosophy and it turned out that the closer I got to completely loving others and myself, the further I had to go from the teachings of the Bible until all that was left was the love part and not the god part.
If Christianity was true, doing these six things would definitely bring someone closer to believing in their faith. But, invariably, it does the exact opposite. Christianity, when closely examined and tested, fails at the exact rate that any mythical religion would. If true, it would stand out in a dramatic way, but instead it fades meekly into the arena of all other human myths.
(4521) Aliens and Angels
A major percentage of humans believe in angels, and only slightly fewer believe that aliens have visited the earth during their lifetimes. Yet the evidence for both is precisely the same- non-existent. This seems to reflect a contagious failure mode of the human brain- ‘I don’t need no stinkin’ evidence, I feel it in ma bones.’ The following compares the likelihood of alien visits and angels:
Thousands of people claim to have seen, spoken with, or witnessed aliens from space. We have literally hundreds of eye-witness records. And yet none of these people who claim to have been in touch with aliens has ever bothered to reliably photograph them, or video them, or record their voices. We live in a technological age where more than half the world’s population has access to smartphones with cameras and microphones; yet nobody has ever pointed these at an alien. Nobody has ever Skyped a friend and said: “Hey, I’m with some aliens now. Watch this!” And despite thousands of hours of alleged contact with aliens with advanced technology, nobody has come back with one single fact of any interest to biology, to physics, to astronomy. This is exactly what you would expect if ‘aliens’ were merely a product of human imagination. It’s not what you would expect if they were real.
And the same applies to angels. According to Christian and Muslim tradition, angels are repositories of vast power and enormous wisdom; and yet despite all their alleged contacts, no human has come away from one knowing anything that they couldn’t have known before. Even angels who are supposedly keen on proving their existence, or the existence of their god, don’t seem to realize that the best way to do that is to come up with the closing Dow Jones stock market figures for the next five days or so. That would do it. One week — and all doubt gone! And yet the best they can come up with is platitudes, reassurances and bromides that always reflect exactly what the person concerned would have expected to hear from them.
Does that sound like a real encounter with a sentient extraterrestrial to you?
There is too much information-age technology roaming the entire habitable portions of the planet for something to exist that evades all of these devices. To that end, we can confidently state that aliens have not visited our planet (at least not in recent years) and that neither have angels been making contemporaneous appearances. We are still waiting for the first authenticated photo/video of either one.
(4522) Apologists greatest challenge
The ‘hate’ verse in Luke is the greatest challenge for apologists to decipher:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”
In the following it is seen how Nathan Cook failed to rescue this verse:
The Jesus quote that probably causes the most angst to apologists is Luke 14:26: hatred of family is required if you want to follow Jesus. I’ve come across churchgoers who don’t even know this verse exists, and they get flustered when it’s brought to their attention. Which means that apologists have to do their best to make it go away.
I recently came across an article by a devout fellow named Nathan Cook, titled, A Radical Call: The Challenge of Discipleship in Luke 14:26. Cook is described as “Mission Pastor” for Christ Church Memphis, with a twenty-year career in “church planting and missionary work.” Apparently this focus has enabled him to master double-speak—and to remain ignorant of the work of mainstream Bible scholars.
According to Cook, the Jesus of Luke’s gospel “emphasizes the need for self-sacrifice, service, and a transformed heart in order to participate in God’s kingdom.” And: “Jesus is inviting His followers to join Him in His mission of bringing hope and healing to a broken world.” Just how does hating your family bring healing to a broken world? Cook’s solution—he is so in sync with Jesus that he can read his mind: “It’s hyperbole”!
“This verse does not mean that we should literally hate our family members or ourselves. Instead, Jesus is using hyperbole to emphasize the importance of putting Him first in our lives. Our love and devotion to Jesus should be so great that, in comparison, our affection for our families and ourselves seems like hatred.”
Really? Is this how most devout Christians make their way in life? Loving Jesus so much that their feelings for family “seem like hatred”? Does Cook actually believe this himself? Moreover, Luke 14:26 stipulates that followers of Jesus must hate life itself. Most of the Christians I know are happy to be alive, and want to enjoy the experience. When we come across people who hate life, our impulse it to get them into therapy. Luke 14:26 collides with reality in too many ways.
I suspect that Cook’s study of the gospels has been limited to what other apologists say, to what evangelical/fundamentalist interpreters have written. He should consider the work of scholar Hector Avalos instead. There’s a 40-page chapter titled, “The Hateful Jesus: Luke 14:26” in Avalos’ 2015 book, The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics. It would be hard to find a more thorough analysis of Luke 14:26, and it’s clear that some devout scholars, as Avalos puts it,
“…do not fully reckon with the nature of the linguistic evidence. Often these discussions reflect theological rationales that are being substituted for linguistic and historical ones…Although the text seems as clear an expression of literal hate as any text found anywhere, Christian apologists have attempted to erase or lessen its negative connotations.” (p. 51)
The hyperbole excuse doesn’t work. Cook’s essay should get a prize for resorting to theological rationales—and a prize for dishonesty. Translators who delete or disguise the word hate also deserve a dishonesty prize.
Avalos bluntly calls attention to the bad theology here:
“How would we judge a modern religious leader who said that we should prefer him over our families? Why would we not treat such a person as an egomaniacal cult leader who does what all cult leaders do: transfer allegiance from one’s family to him or her. In other words, that demand would be viewed as unethical in itself” (p. 89).
What great moral teacher resorts to such grim hyperbole to make a point? Hate your family. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
(4523) Two scenarios, two different destinies
Here are two hypothetical scenarios demonstrating the futility of making sense of the Christian plan for sending people to heaven or hell. The following was taken from:
Imagine the following scenario:
A man, in his twenties, commits a crime worth of going to hell, let’s say murder. He is young and arrogant, he doesn’t care at all and kills unnecessarily a person with no remorse. He deserves to go to hell.
After committing the crime, he runs away and crosses the road. Here there are two “alternate universes”:
Universe 1: the man escapes, he is never caught. He lives a long life and with the years he recognizes the mistakes of the past, sincerely asks God for forgiveness and goes on to help others for the rest of his life. He is now saved and when he dies he’ll at least go to Purgatory if not Heaven directly.
Universe 2: while crossing the road, the breaks of a car malfunction and the man is killed on the spot. He goes to hell.
The destiny of this man heavily depends on something which he doesn’t have control over. How is that just?
The example may be a bit unlikely but still for all sinners who deserve to go to hell the length of your life, on which you can have quite little control, plays a major role in your possibility of redemption.
Whatever is outside of your control should not affect how you are judged. Yet, taking Christianity at face value, it seems that a person can be bound for heaven at certain periods of their life and bound for hell at others, and just the luck of when they die determines their eternal destiny. Put simply, Christianity does not work.
(4524) Children are fungible to god
In the Book of Job, God ingloriously plays a bet with Satan questioning whether Job would continue to honor God if he lost many of his cherished possessions. Whoever wrote this story overplayed his hand by making it seem like losing a child and then replacing it with another is no different than losing a house and then getting another. The following was taken from:
God: I know you lost your house.
God: But here’s a better one.
Job: Thanks, God.
God: And I know you lost your livestock.
Job: I needed those.
God: But now you have even more.
Job: Thanks, God.
God: And I know you lost your children.
Job: I’ll never get over losing my own flesh and blood.
God: But now you have more children.
Job: Is this a fucking joke to you?!
This represents a gaping plot hole in the Book of Job, that no doubt escapes the notice and attention of brainwashed Christians. Imagine telling someone that they killed their child but have found another similar one that they can adopt- no crime, no foul?
(4525) Coercive belief
True propositions stand on their own merit with no need to use threats or coercive tactics for them to be believed. False propositions, on the other hand, must use some measure of psychological force in order to be accepted. This is exactly what Christianity has done. The following was taken from:
True claims tend to be supported by confirmation, not by coercion. Imagine Alice claims proposition P is true and Bob expresses doubts. If P is actually true, then Alice will tell Bob where she learned P so that Bob can go there and learn P. If P is false then Alice cannot do this since she never actually learned that P is true, but she does have other options. She can use threats to coerce Bob into believing, like claiming that Bob will be tortured, or die a second death, or be eternally separated from God if Bob does not believe P. She can use promises of rewards, like claiming that Bob will live in paradise if he believes P.
When someone uses such coercive tactics to support a belief, she is tacitly admitting that she does not actually have good reason for people to believe her claims. If a teacher were to threaten her student for asking where some information in a textbook comes from, the student would be right to distrust that teacher. A good teacher should know where the information comes from and explain it to the student, or at least a good teacher should admit to not knowing. To demand belief without understanding the reasons for belief is not a tactic of a competent teacher.
No one is threatened with torture if they do not believe that Proxima Centauri is 4.2 light-years from Earth. A good teacher has no reason to care if the students believe what they learn. The goal of teaching is only to make the information available and to expand the horizons of the student, not to enforce conformity.
If a religion comes from a supreme being, we should expect it to be more competent at teaching than the best human teachers, not less competent. Consider how the Bible talks about belief.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” — John 3:16
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”–John 3:18
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” — Acts 16:31
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” — John 3:36
The above verses promise rewards and punishments based on belief instead of explaining why we should believe. If this religion is actually true and this is not just a coercive tactic to trick people into believing a false claim, then what could be the purpose of these rewards and punishments? If God has some good reason for punishing and rewarding us based on what we believe, then we should expect that as a good teacher God would explain those reasons instead of just giving us the bald threats and promises.
False religions naturally use the tactic of threatening people with punishments and promising people rewards. It is quite a coincidence that a true religion would use the same tactics that are common among false religions.
Christianity would not need coercive tactics if it was true. In that case, prayers would regularly be answered in a statistically-significant way, the scriptures would be self-evident to supply knowledge unknown at the time of its authorship, suspension of natural forces (miracles) would be happening in a manner that would be objectively validated, and so on. But no, Christianity doesn’t have those things so it has to threaten people with the most hideous consequences if they fail to believe its fairy tale.
(4526) Christian beliefs too subject to external forces
The evolution of Christian belief in the United States ever since Donald Trump rose to political power highlights the malleability of this faith. The core tenets espoused by Jesus are being pilloried by evangelical Christians as being too liberal or ‘woke.’ This is an astounding development. It reveals a fundamental weakness in how Christianity is practiced and how its underlying truth is missing. The following was taken from:
A recent Newsweek article has priests lamenting that their teachings are being challenged as being too liberal by their own parishioners – where “some Christian conservatives are openly denouncing a central doctrine of their religion as being too “weak” and “liberal” for their liking”. Much of this has been laid at the feet of Trump who complained that evangelical leaders that he said displayed a “great disloyalty” by being reluctant to back his 2024 presidential run.
This weakening of religion, attack at its very source by its very believers, in realtime has been going on for a number of years now, with QAnon co-opting religion along with Trump. Other than exposing that religion is largely a social exercise of common belief, the challenge of the actual words of Jesus is highlighting that religious canon or dogma is largely meaningless too: they are not only being rejected but challenged on their merits.
It highlights the following weaknesses of theism in general:
Fluidity of Interpretation: The article showcases that religious teachings, even foundational ones, can be open to vast interpretation and change. This malleability suggests that theism often relies on subjective interpretations rather than objective truths. If even the teachings of central figures like Jesus can be questioned or rebranded as “liberal talking points”, it demonstrates the inherent instability and variability in religious understanding, even after lifelong indoctrination
External Influences: The fact that political figures, such as Donald Trump in this instance, can influence religious beliefs to the point where core tenets are rejected, implies that religious beliefs can be shaped or molded by external sociopolitical forces. This susceptibility further suggests that religious beliefs are not universally constant or immutable, which could be seen as a weakness in the foundation of theistic beliefs. This runs deeper than politicians weaponizing religion – it means that politicians can attack known doctrine, even as the espouse their own belief of it.
Division Within: The disagreements and conflicts within the evangelical community, as highlighted by Moore’s disagreements with other evangelical leaders, showcase the lack of unity or common understanding even within a single religious group. This fragmentation can be seen as an inherent weakness, as it indicates that even those who subscribe to the same overarching belief system can’t find common ground on its basic tenets.
Selective Adherence: The rejection or selective adherence to certain teachings based on contemporary views or political climate (like viewing some teachings as “weak”) showcases a selective approach to religious principles. This selective adherence could be seen as a sign that religious beliefs are sometimes convenience-based rather than rooted in unwavering faith.
While the article focuses on a specific segment of Christianity, the arguments derived could be applied to theism in general, suggesting that religious beliefs can be influenced by external forces, open to wide interpretation, and might not offer a universally consistent or stable moral foundation.
If Jesus were to return, he would have nothing to do with American evangelicals, who decry immigrants, love guns, embrace wealth, and hate any sort of liberal kindness offered to the disadvantaged, LGBTQ+, the poor, etc.
(4527) Translation narrative
The literary theme used by the author of the Gospel of Mark (original ending at Verse 15:8) is indicative of Greco-Roman literature when the storyteller made his subject disappear and thereby wished his audience assume that this individual was taken up into a heavenly realm. This is probably the best way to explain why Mark ended his gospel so abruptly. The following discusses how this literary device was common during the 1st Century CE:
The book Resurrection and Reception in Early Christianity (Routledge Studies in Religion Book 44) by Richard C. Miller discusses the “translation narrative” in Greco-Roman mythology. This is a ‘trope’ where a famous or powerful human dies and is ‘translated’ up to some heavenly realm. The author lists numerous classical stories where the hero or character dies or disappears and ends up… in a heavenly realm, with the gods, where they belong. The author states “As has been shown, for the Hellenistic and Roman cultures, the tradition functioned in an honorific capacity; the convention had become protocol for honoring numerous heroes, kings, philosophers, those whose bodies were not recovered at death.”
The author discusses many such myths – a famous one being the death or disappearance of Romulus, who (per myth) disappeared during a religious ceremony, his body never found, and was thought to have been taken up to heaven by the Gods ( … or perhaps murdered by other jealous senators who wanted to get rid of him … ).
So yes, the finding of an ’empty tomb’ was, according to this analysis, a well known literary tool in Greco-Roman culture, indicating that the decedent had been “translated” or resurrected to go be with the gods.
Mark was essentially teasing his readers to assume that Jesus was taken up into the heavens without specifically stating that fact. It was almost as if he was hedging his bet, not wanting to appear incredulous while also not wanting to affront those who truly believed in Jesus’s resurrection. It appears that Mark was unsure whether Jesus rose, or else he would have stated it without hesitation.
(4528) Opiate of the masses
There is a lot of evidence and justification for how Karl Marx characterized Christianity, as being an opiate for people who otherwise would be wallowing in angst having to deal with the real world. The following was taken from:
Another popular criticism of Christianity, made popular by Karl Marx, is that it is the “opiate of the masses”, an allusion to the pacifying and stupefying effects of its doctrines. Indeed, by redirecting a believer’s overall locus of control from the believer to their false savior, and by perpetrating an intentional and cunning series of obfuscations, misrepresentations, lies, and threats of eternal damnation, Christianity has managed to terrify and confuse Western countries for hundreds of years, largely based on the threat of eternal punishment for noncompliance and insufficient faith.
For many Christians, even some clergy members, being raised from birth to misinterpret plagiarized and corrupted Jewish scriptures suggests that their predicament is an honest mistake. However, reviewing the history of the early Church reveals that Christian leaders intentionally pulled Jewish scriptures out of context and warped them to suit their needs.
Even more brazenly, the three sections of the Jewish Bible were rearranged to better suit the Christian salvation narrative, in addition to many Jewish prophecies being falsely attributed to Jesus and words like Torah being stripped from the Psalms and replaced with law. The result is a veritable wall of “proof” and sophisticated argumentation that the average layperson has almost no hope of deciphering, much less refuting.
For the clergy members responsible for propagating these falsehoods, many of them are willing conspirators, at least to some degree. If asked the right questions, they will admit that something is a “mystery”, or that they have heard this issue before but have no answer. Many ministers in Canada and the Netherlands will privately admit to being agnostic, despite leading worship services each week and exhorting their congregants to believe. Many Christians, if shown the evidence of their religion’s falsehood, will experience tremendous cognitive dissonance and ignore the facts, perhaps inspiring Marx’s opium metaphor. However, hundreds of Christians per day find their way to resources and evidence that they have been caught up in the world’s biggest lie, indicating that this cult’s days are numbered.
In the same way that drug addicts avoid confronting reality by using hallucinogenic substances, Christians do the same with their fantasies about an ancient human savior. They are remaking their world into a make-believe one where they are special and have a fantastic eternal future lying directly ahead, while deliberately ignoring all of the facts that definitively refute that dream.
(4529) God’s stance on human sacrifice is inconsistent
Throughout the Bible, God presents different opinions about human sacrifice, abhorring it, using it as a test, and then feeling like he must have it in order to forgive sins. The resulting incoherence seems like the disparate beliefs of various authors discussing a non-existent being. The following is taken from:
What does the God of the Bible think about human sacrifice?
These are the statutes and ordinances that you must diligently observe in the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you to occupy all the days that you live on the earth…take care that you are not snared into imitating [other nations]…because every abhorrent thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods. They would even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods (Deuteronomy 12, vv. 1, 30, 31).
It’s not clear whether God is against  burning one’s sons and daughters as an offering or  burning one’s sons and daughters as an offering to gods other than Yahweh.
Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you (Genesis 22:2).
Of course, Abraham never ended up burning Isaac. But God was pleased to see that Abraham was willing to offer his son as a burnt offering:
Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me (Genesis 22:12).
One wonders why God would be impressed by Abraham’s willingness to do something that “the Lord hates” (according to the Mosaic Law).
According to Ezekiel, God commanded the Israelites to sacrifice their children in order to ‘horrify’ them. By God’s own admission, these statutes ‘were not good’:
Moreover, I gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live. I defiled them through their very gifts, in their offering up all their firstborn, in order that I might horrify them, so that they might know that I am the Lord (20:25-26).
God hates human sacrifice, yet He orders people to sacrifice their children in order to ‘horrify’ them, and He wants His followers to be willing to sacrifice their children. Then, in the New Testament, God offers salvation via human sacrifice:
…it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…Christ had offered for all time a single [human] sacrifice for sins…(Hebrews 10, vv. 10, 14).
In the end, God’s stance on human sacrifice is completely incoherent:
He ‘hates’ it, but He might order you to do it in order to ‘horrify’ you and/or test your commitment to Him, and He can’t forgive your sins without it. None of this makes any sense.
Ordering people to do something you hate in order to horrify them seems very bizarre.
Reasonable people don’t test loyalty by asking somebody to do something abhorrent, e.g. “Would you be willing to burn your house down and punch your wife in the face for me? Yes? Oh, yay! What a devoted follower you are!”
Jesus’ death on the cross makes absolutely no sense, coming from a God who is disgusted by parents who sacrifice their children: “I totally don’t want you to sacrifice your son to me. But I can’t forgive you or be near to you without some sort of human sacrifice, so I’ll have to become a human and sacrifice my son to myself.” What’s the message here?
The message is simple. The Bible is a mess. The more you study it, analyze it, reason it, the more you realize that it makes no sense. This cannot possibly be the inspired work of an infinite intelligence. And one thing should be clear- any god that commands or needs humans to be sacrificed, for whatever purpose, is a god that either does not exist, or a god that humans should hate.
(4530) Implications of apologetics
Transcendent knowledge passed on from an omniscient source should be clear, concise, and non-controversial. Those three attributes are missing from the Bible, requiring large measures of interpretation. The following was taken from:
If religious doctrines were truly divinely inspired truths, one would expect the original texts to be clear, coherent and compelling on their face requiring no layers of scholarly interpretation and argument to convince adherents. The endless debates surrounding core theological concepts and their changing interpretations over millennia suggest a remarkable lack of unambiguous revelation from an omnipotent deity.
Rather than the divine messages standing on their own merits, believers have found it necessary to develop entire fields of pseudo-philosophy devoted to making post-hoc cases for religious propositions that can neither be proven nor disproven. This exercise appears to be an implicit admission that holy texts do not provide rationally persuasive evidence for their extraordinary supernatural claims.
As a skeptic and formal theist, I can’t help but question why this supposedly perfect and infallible divine wisdom would require so much human-crafted rationalization? the mental acrobatics of apologists to reconcile doctrine with science and history only serve to highlight internal inconsistencies and conflicts with facts and reason. Their arguments seem to be concessions that faith is not self-justifying and must constantly defend itself against skepticism.
A further issue I see with the reliance on apologetics is that it opens the door for cherry-picking interpretations and arguments, apologetic defenses are often complex and multi-faceted, using nuanced philosophical reasoning, and this allows adherents to selectively emphasize certain defenses over others when convenient, or abandon arguments that are refuted, if the core doctrines were self-evidently true, there would be no need for such a varied toolbox of rationales. The flexibility and subjectivity of the apologetic process undermines the notion that religious truths are absolute, singular and unambiguously conveyed, by developing diverse lines of argument, apologists acknowledge the doctrines they are defending do not speak for themselves and require human framing that can shift over time, and this flexibility is inconsistent with the idea that divine revelation provides clear, objective and timeless truths.
The need for varied and changeable human explanations and frameworks suggests the doctrines themselves may be products of human interpretation rather than direct transmission of transcendent knowledge.
(4531) Debunking Jesus dying in our place
The core theology of Christianity, a meme created by Paul (not Jesus or his disciples), is that Jesus died in our place, that is that he took the punishment that otherwise would have been levied against us. But the logic of this substitutional redemption falls apart when it is realized that someone dying for someone else must die from the same cause. The following was taken from:
Some Christians claim that Jesus died in our place on the cross. I will argue that this is historically implausible.
My argument is as follows:
- For person X to die in the place of person Y, there must be a set of circumstances whereby a threat is redirected from <killing Y and not killing X> to <killing X and not killing Y>. This is self-evident; if I were to claim that a historical figure, say Napoleon Bonaparte, died in my place, this can be easily dismissed because I was never threatened by the cause of death that killed Napoleon, and Napoleon’s death does not prevent a counterfactual reality in which I am killed by the same cause.
- It is historically implausible that the threat that killed Jesus was redirected from killing us. Historically we know that Jesus was killed by the Roman government, and we have no reason to believe the Roman government would have killed us if Jesus had not died. One may claim that God killed Jesus to prevent God from killing us, however there is no credible historical evidence that God killed Jesus. Furthermore, since most evangelicals believe Jesus is God, such a view would mean God killed himself to stop himself from killing us, which also lacks historical evidence.
- Therefore, it is historically implausible that Jesus died in our place.
Responding to possible objections:
- Objection: Jesus dying in our place is a metaphor. Response: This is fair enough, however my argument is responding to the literal claim made by many conservative/evangelical Christians, not the claim taken metaphorically.
- Objection: Jesus dying in our place is a theological claim, not a historical one. Response: Did the claimed event happen or not? If one is claiming that the event happened, then it happened in history. if it happened in history, then it is subject to the same epistemological criteria of any other historical claim. If the event did not happen in history, then it did not happen, and there’s no debate.
- Objection: The Bible teaches that Jesus died in our place. Response: The bible gives no historical evidence to support this claim, giving us no good reason to believe this claim is true unless we accept biblical inerrancy. If one does accept biblical inerrancy, that simply pushes the problem back a step requiring all the claims of the bible to be substantiated.
It is somewhat ridiculous to base a person’s redemption on a belief in a human sacrifice, rather than a comprehensive evaluation of that person’s life history. Paul got his idea from the prevalent practice of his time to sacrifice animals for sin forgiveness, and brainstormed the idea that Jesus was the ultimate sacrificial ‘lamb.’ What might have made sense to Paul makes no sense to anyone who carefully considers the implications of this theology.
(4532) Trouble ‘off the bat’
If someone picks up a Bible and starts reading, they will encounter a problem by the time they get into the second chapter of Genesis, literally just a few minutes after they start reading the book. The creation story in Genesis Chapter 2 contradicts what is written in Chapter 1. The following explains that the account in Chapter 1 post-dates Chapter 2 and notes the differences between these two creation myths:
The following is an excerpt from the New Interpreter’s Bible:
The later creation story in Gen 1:1–2:3, the Priestly version, likely came together in its present form at a later time than the Gen 2 creation account, probably during or after the Babylonian exile of the sixth century BCE. The key differences between the Priestly (P) creation story and the earlier non-Priestly creation story include the following: the divine name (“God” in P; “LORD God” in non-P); the state of the world before creation begins (watery chaos in P–1:2; dry desert in non-P–2:5–6); the order or sequence of what is created (six days with man and woman created together at the same time as the last of the creatures in P; the man created first, then the animals, and finally the woman in non-P); the mode of God’s creating (by divine words of command in P–1:3, 6, 9; by God “forming,” “planting,” “making” in non-P–2:7, 8, 19, 22); the arena of creation (cosmic with the heavens and the earth in P; a smaller scale and localized garden of Eden in non-P); the portrayal of God (in full control, orderly and transcendent in P; more intimate, hands-on, and experimental in non-P); and in literary style (a carefully ordered framework of seven days with a litany of repetitions in P; a more haphazard narrative of trial and error in non-P).
(4533) Mark’s counter-virgin-birth story left out by Matthew and Luke
In Mark, the first gospel, it is revealed that Jesus’ family thought he had gone mad when he first began preaching in a manner that suggested his divinity or close ties to such. This story was later seen to conflict with the emerging belief that Jesus was born of a virgin accompanied by miraculous elements- annunciation by an angel and a star, for example. So when Matthew and Luke wrote their gospels that included (conflicting, by the way) virgin birth accounts, they deliberately left out the story of Jesus’ family questioning his sanity, even though they copied almost everything else from Mark. The following was taken from:
Our earliest christian writings are some of the letters of the Apostle Paul. He seems entirely unaware of the virgin birth story as he makes no reference to it.
Our earliest gospel Is Mark (writing around 70) and its author similarly makes no reference to a virgin birth. Theologically, its author seems to believe that Jesus was adopted as the Son of God at his Baptism and so he’s only focused on Jesus’ adult life. Additionally, there is a story in Mark that was not included in the later gospels that would seem at odds with the virgin birth narratives in Luke and Matthew. Jesus has just begun his ministry and this is how his family responds: But when his relatives heard about it, they went out to lay hold of him, for they were saying: “He has gone out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21). If an angel had appeared to Mary and told her she would give birth to Gods son and that he’d do amazing things, why would she think he’d gone crazy?
The authors of Matthew and Luke (both typically dated at least a decade or more after Mark) had access to Mark as both copy from it frequently, but seem to be aware how this story would be problematic to their virgin birth stories, so they seem to have intentionally removed it from their gospels.
Given we have no evidence of virgin birth stories being accepted by Christians for more than half a century after Jesus died, it would seems that earliest Christians did not believe he was born of a virgin. But it’s a view that became the predominant view a couple of generations after his birth.
(4534) Satan’s wandering
It is an indisputable fact that the figure of Satan changed over time from an agent used by God for various purposes to an adversary that aggressively seeks to undermine God. The following was taken from Neil Forsyth on Satan’s wandering, from his book The Old Enemy:
The final stage in the transformation of the Satan from official of the heavenly court to independent adversary had not yet been reached. The passage in Chronicles is isolated, and one such reference is not enough to indicate a common belief. It was the apocalyptic movement in its most extreme form that completed the metamorphosis of subordinate official into rebellious angel, of agent provocateur into a sinister and mysterious spirit at loose in the universe.
A revealing illustration of the difference is the following brief, almost casual allusion in the New Testament. The First Letter of Peter concludes with a standard series of injunctions to the young churches of Asia Minor, one of which is: “Be pure, be on the watch: for your adversary the devil [ho antidikos humon diabolos], like a roaring lion strolls about [peripatei], seeking whom he may devour.” The Greek verb peripatei is equivalent to the Hebrew verb for what Satan does at Job 1.7, hithallek, to stroll or walk about. And in the context of the lion seeking prey, the whole passage may be an allusion to Job, who at 10.16 berates Yahweh because “Bold as a lion you stalk me.”
But notice the contrast. In Job the Satan is still in God’s service; he roams (sut) and strolls about with God’s permission. Furthermore, it is Yahweh whom Job compares to a lion stalking his prey. But by the time we reach the New Testament, the adversary has become entirely separate from Yahweh, an independent threat for the faithful to beware. […]
The evolution of Satan is indicative of progressive mythology. It is possible that Satan changed over time and became an adversary after initially being an ‘employee’ of God, but that is quite a stretch. Much more likely is that Satan is a figment of the imagination and does not exist in any shape or form.
(4535) God and mental illness
In the following essay, the author, an aggrieved father of a son who died by suicide, makes the case that the prevalence and persistence of mental illness is a sign of a god who doesn’t exist or one who gives out managed care like a for-profit health maintenance network- and not like an omnipotent benevolent deity.
Charles Darwin famously wrote, “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae [parasitic wasp] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars.” As a psychiatrist, I argue from mental illness.
Take schizophrenia. The prevalence is the same worldwide (0.5-1.0%), so this is not a disease of industrialization. It’s not those kids and their durn cellphones. It doesn’t discriminate on the basis of nationality or social status. It’s an equal opportunity affliction.
Schizophrenia typically has its onset in the late teens or early 20s. I’ve treated college kids and high schoolers, even a former medical student, who were full of aspirations when they started getting paranoid. When derogatory voices assaulted their senses, when the television began sending them messages.
Even with the best medications and psychosocial rehabilitation, the disease lingers. The hallucinations and paranoia usually persist to a lesser degree. Social skills and motivation normally don’t return to their previous baseline. An estimated 10% of sufferers ultimately take their life.
I could speak similarly of devastating effects of depression, autism, addiction, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, and PTSD. With advances in neuroimaging, we know these conditions are based in brain structure and function. They don’t happen because of poor choices or moral failure. (Although many religious believers the world over assert otherwise, shaming the ill and erecting barriers to care.)
If more treatable than schizophrenia, these other conditions still induce great suffering and increase a person’s suicide risk. So, where is that “beneficent & omnipotent God” in all of this? Schizophrenia and the illnesses that killed my son are Ichneumonidae making their home in the brains of young humans.
Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky began a revolutionary but ended a Christian nationalist. (And look how well that’s playing on the world stage!) But he got it right in this dialogue between two of the Brothers Karamazov:
Tell me straight out…answer me: imagine that you yourself are building the edifice of human destiny with the object of making people happy in the finale, of giving them peace and rest at last, but for that you must inevitably and unavoidably torture just one tiny creature, that same child who was beating her chest with her little fist, and raise your edifice on the foundation of her unrequited tears—would you agree to be the architect on such conditions?
Even the devout Alyosha had to answer his brother Ivan with a “no.”
Christians are left with two choices. Either their God is not all-powerful, or He is an omnipotent managed care executive. The conclusion I reached years ago, now reinforced by my son’s death, is that we live in a world without gods. It is left to us to imagine a healthier world and create it ourselves.
The writing is on the wall and in the distressed thoughts plaguing millions of mental health victims. God as described by Christianity CANNOT EXIST. Another god with lesser attributes… maybe, but by far the best and simplest explanation is that planet Earth is not being affected by any supernatural beings.
(4536) Cookbook of crazy
The following discusses material in Robert Conner’s new book The Death of Christian Belief. It is implied that much of the reason that Christianity survived for so long was that followers were either illiterate of not encouraged to read the Bible. That has since changed with high literacy rates and people becoming more inclined to read scripture. As a result, many former Christians learned how crazy their religion really is- something that their pastors tried hard to conceal. The following was taken from:
Conner notes that so many Jesus-believers “couldn’t pass a basic quiz about what the gospels say about Jesus.” (p. 106, Kindle) He points out that “the New Testament is a cookbook of crazy,” a primary example being Jesus-script in Matthew 18:3: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” This is typical cult technique: please don’t think about what we’re telling you—just take our word for it. One result of this approach is that so many laypeople don’t bother to read the gospels, and remain unaware of so much in the cookbook of crazy.
Here’s a sample: In Mark, Jesus transfers (presumably by a magic spell) demons from a man into pigs; he glows on a mountaintop while god speaks from water vapor (a cloud); in Matthew, at the moment Jesus died, dead people came alive in their tombs, then on Easter morning walked around Jerusalem; in Luke, the resurrected Jesus appeared to two of his followers on their way to Emmaus—but they didn’t recognize him. At dinner, as he broke bread, they suddenly knew who he was, and—poof—he vanished. (See Conner’s book, Apparitions of Jesus: The Resurrection as Ghost Story) Luke also has the extreme cult teaching that hatred of family, and of life itself, is required for Jesus followers. In John, we find the ghoulish pronouncement that eternal life happens when cult members eat the flesh of Jesus, and drink his blood.
This is just a sampling—and many more examples will jump out—the more folks read the gospels carefully, confirming Conner’s verdict that the New Testament offers “crazy with a side order of extra-crazy crazy.” (p. 120, Kindle)
Maybe the death of Christian belief is on the horizon because people are reading the cookbook of crazy. “In 2022, polling showed that ‘among all U.S. adults, only 20% say the Bible is the literal word of God, which is a historic low… A record 29% of Americans say the Bible is a collection of ‘fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man.’ Only 30% of Protestants and 15% of Catholics currently believe the Bible is literally true.” (p. 114, Kindle)
If reading the Bible causes people to back away from Christianity, then this implies that there is something critically wrong with this religion. And it is just this- it has ridden the ‘scripture concealment game’ for as long as it could, but this tactic is losing its effectiveness. The Bible itself is causing Christianity’s death as it craziness is no longer in the dark.
(4537) Bible is less moral than other religions
Although most Christians tout their religious text as the ultimate guide to morality, they are wrong. The ‘bibles’ and tenets of other religions far outshine Christianity. The following was taken from:
In the Sam Harris book, “Letter to A Christian Nation” Sam tries to make the point that the Bible cannot be the ultimate source of morality. He does this by comparing it to several other religions. For example, Jainism is known for its rule of Ahimsa, meaning non-violence. Zoroastrian scriptures are also quite peaceful, as are the Buddhist discourses. You will never read anything in Jain texts that imply that genocide is acceptable, but Numbers 31, 1st Sam 15, etc, all command it as a good way of dealing with pagans. Death for idolatry is also a draconian punishment that is alien to those 3 religions. So is slavery, but Lev 25 44-46 and Ex 21, among others, say it’s ok as long as they aren’t Israelites. The texts of Jainism (and other religions) are much more moral than Christianity, so the Bible cannot be the ultimate source of morals. After all, there are other religions that do it much better.
If western Europe had embraced Jainism instead of Christianity, the world would have been a much more peaceful place. The Bible is a failed moral document and should be discarded as a model for morality.
(4538) Universe not made by the Christian god
In the following essay a comparison is made between a human who makes something and then makes a manual for how to use it and a god who does the same with his created universe. This seems to eliminate the Christian god, even if it is conceded that a god or gods were responsible:
Some Christians argue that if we look at the planet and the universe at face value, it follows that someone must have created them. They argue that life and certain natural monuments are so complex and striking and beautiful that they simply cannot have formed on their own. Of course, there are many brilliant arguments against this idea. However, I will not be focusing on those. I want to demonstrate that even if we were to concede that the universe would had to have been created, the very same basic “common sense” logic chain that we use to arrive at that conclusion must also lead us to conclude that said creator cannot have been the Christian god.
If we simply think about what we know about creators, we know that god cannot have been the creator of the universe. When someone creates something, they design said thing to fulfill a specific purpose. Usually they write a manual so that users know exactly how to use the product or program. If you pick up any manual, whether its a manual on how to build a chair or play a video game, the instructions are as clear as they can possibly be. If a manual is well written, people do not debate which parts of the manual are true and which are not. They do not skip steps, or argue that certain parts of the manual were not meant for users to actually read or take literally. A manual does not include useless, confusing, or contradictory information. And most importantly, if a creator explains in the manual how the product or program was created, they do not include information that a user can easily find to be incorrect. If they said their product or program worked one way, but someone took it apart and found it worked differently, that person would be accused of plagiarism.
The Bible is guilty of all of these sins of creation. There are many many branches of Christianity. So if we take the Bible as a manual on how to “use” god’s creation, it is not a clear or concise manual. Many users have read the Bible, but quite a few disagree on which parts are important, what certain parts of the manual mean, and which parts of the manual are even supposed to be included (see the apocrypha). Furthermore, certain branches of Christian such as Catholicism, believe the manual is not enough, and agree that a ton of extra stuff needs to be added on by the church in order to make the program work correctly.
When human creators design something, they usually design it to be used for as long as possible. They try to write the manual in plain language so that whether you read the manual when the product was invented, or you read it thirty years later, you can still understand how to use it. They do not fill it with slang or contemporary language. If god is the ultimate, most intelligent, most powerful creator ever, he should have been able to write a simple, plain language manual that does not require debate, addition, or update on how to use it. It should be exactly as easy to understand to a person now as it would have been thousands of years ago.
Secondly, a creator does not fill their manual with useless info. If you read a manual on how to use Microsoft word, it will not take a few pages to explain how to make an apple pie. Anyone who has read the old testament knows it is bogged down with tons of boring genealogies and confusing and bizarre stories. Ministers mostly disregard these and do not teach sermons on them, as people neither want nor need to hear about how Jobab begot Zebedee and Zebedee begot Tormund or whomever. And what about the story where god sent two bears to maul 42 kids because they made fun of a bald man? What was that about? I’ve never heard of a pastor giving a sermon on that part. The Bible also contains multiple stories of the same event. No book written by a competent creator would give two contradictory accounts of the same event or step in a process.
And finally, no creator would say that a certain part of their invention worked by a certain process when it was easily provable that it did not. The Bible says that the earth was made in seven days, and is only a few thousand years old. However, looking at the geological record seems to tell us that this is not the case. Why would god include things like rocks that are millions of years old, and dinosaur bones, and all of that when it seems to make his own book look incorrect? The Bible also talks about magic and witches, and says “though shalt not suffer a witch to live.” We know now of course that witches are not real, and that magic is not real either. However, this line about witches caused tons of innocent women to be hung or burned at the stake! Seems like quite the oversight on God’s part. Why would he say magic and witches were real, and that they should be killed, when it’s quite simple to find out in the modern day that that is not true?
Imagine if you took a look in your car’s manual and it told you that your car ran on magic and pixie dust, and that if it broke down, you should kill your neighbor, as they likely cast a spell to make it stop working, but then you opened the hood to find not magic and pixie dust, but an engine and battery. And then when you took it to the shop, someone explained to you that your car actually runs on gasoline. You’d think that the person who wrote the manual did not build the car, or that they were just completely incompetent.
If god is a perfect creator, he should be able to overcome simple pitfalls that human creators are able to avoid. He should want to overcome these pitfalls as well, because doing so would cause more people to believe in and obey him, which is his stated end goal.
So therefore, on the face of it, it appears that the creator of the Universe is not god. If a creator did make the universe, and they had the power and skill to make it conform to their will, it seems most likely that they created the earth and the living things on it as an experiment, or for their own amusement, and just let it play out. Or perhaps they got locked out of their creation, and can’t interfere with it anymore, so they have to let it run it’s course. Or perhaps, the downfall of their creation was the very same downfall that plagues so many of our own projects, group work. Too many cooks will spoil the stew after all. So many things in our lives are confusing, or strange, or inefficient that it makes more sense that rather than there being one creator, there are many. We don’t need an appendix or tonsils, but if something goes wrong with them they need to be removed or we die. Steve from research and design wanted an appendix that was useful, but Dave from the visual design department thought it looked stupid, Pinhead from the Pain department wanted the appendix, but wanted it covered in spikes and chains to cause suffering, so they all compromised and put the appendix there, but made it useless, made it cause pain sometimes, and made it so it could be removed at some point.
They all approached the earth project with their own ideas, and they argued, fought, added in features they wanted that negated their coworkers additions, and in the end ended up with a mixed up, bizarre mishmash compromise of a planet, and nobody was really happy. We’ve seen this happen with tons of video games and movies over the years.
But hey, at least the designers manage to throw in a few great features like pizza, sex, video games, etc.
As per Christianity, the story does not match the ‘facts on the ground.’ What we have learned in the past two centuries should have resulted in the death of this religion, but stubbornness, wishful thinking, and a determined refusal to think critically has kept it afloat at least for now. But its days are numbered as it slowly fades away.
(4539) God sacrificed humanity for himself
Much is made of the suffering of Jesus, who allegedly died for humanity. But the several hours Jesus suffered is paltry compared to the many-years-long suffering of most humans, both in this life and supposedly in the next life in hell. So, in effect, God sacrificed humans for his enjoyment/edification. The following was taken from:
God created man, man didn’t create God. This implies god needed or desired something and then everything else followed, including suffering. This means that God desired something, then permitted suffering to achieve it. This means that every being that has ever suffered, thousands upon thousands of years of every life form suffering, is the price god paid to get what he wants. God wanted something, then paid for it with our suffering. We were forced to endure suffering in a life we didn’t ask for to fulfill his desire. That’s means that god didn’t sacrifice himself for us, god sacrificed us for himself.
Humanity’s suffering and blood was the price god happily paid to do the thing he desired. And in the end, only a select few will even benefit, the majority will not and will in fact even continue to suffer for eternity afterward. A larger portion of humanity will suffer for eternity, than will live in bliss for eternity. Meaning the experiment was a net-negative event/experience for humanity. The majority will suffer in life and then also after death. God permitted this net-negative event for humanity in order to create a desired outcome.
Of course, none of this makes sense. Humans evolved within a convoluted matrix of living organisms where survival was the supreme goal, whether of not that entailed the suffering of other life forms. It should be obvious that humans as well as other animals have much more capacity for pain than for pleasure- not exactly what you would expect of a world designed by a benevolent, infinitely powerful and intelligent being.
(4540) God gives way to angels
God’s method of communicating with people changed from early biblical times when he did so directly to later using angels as his go-between. This shift is most likely the result of mythological progression. The following was taken from:
In older sections of the Hebrew Bible, such as the Deuteronomistic History and the prophets, that portrayed God as communicating directly with prophets and priests, there was little need for intermediaries to convey God’s message. In later texts, however, God was more distant, and the role of the divine messenger — mal’ak in Hebrew — became important. When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek, these beings were described using the term angelos (angel), which was already in use in Greek religion. For example, Hermes is described as the angel of the gods in The Odyssey (5.29), and numerous inscriptions in Asia Minor honour divine angels alongside gods such as Zeus. Such references to angels are often thought to represent Hermes or Hekate, who were both messenger deities (Arnold, pp. 70ff).
According to Philo, the angels of Jewish scripture were the same beings that other philosophers called demons (Somn. 1.41), and they were needed as intermediate beings because mankind could not endure direct contact with God (Somn. 1.142–143; see Feldmeier, p. 558). Philo himself did not mind calling angels daimones. He said the air reaching from earth to the moon was full of them, equal in number to the stars. They were the words (logoi) and ministers of God to humanity (Brenk, p. 2099). Philo’s writings represent a novel and influential attempt to interpret Jewish religion into a Middle Platonic cosmological framework.
Angels became instrumental both in conveying God’s messages and carrying out his will in late texts such as Daniel, 1 Enoch, Tobit, Jubilees, and 2 Maccabees (“Angel II”, DDD, p. 51). Belief in a Great Angel who could mediate on behalf of Israel and oppose the forces of evil also emerged during this period. The archangel Michael acts as the mediator and saviour of the Jews in Daniel; in 3 Baruch, he is the only angel who can directly approach God as the heavenly high priest; and in the War Scroll from Qumran, he is the Prince of Light who fights on behalf of God. Testament of Levi 5.5–6 and Testament of Dan 6.1–3 both speak of an angel who serves as the sole mediator between Israel and God, interceding on Israel’s behalf. In the Prayer of Joseph, an angel named Jacob is the firstborn of God’s creation who serves as a mediator of some kind (the full text is not extant). Philo called this angelic mediator the Logos, God’s Firstborn and the Son of God (Confusion of Tongues 146–7 and De Agricultura 51) who served as high priest in the cosmic temple. Several other examples could be given.
One theory is that it was difficult to retain belief in a directly-interacting omnipotent deity, given the obvious lack of evidence for this, but much easier to allude to ghostly, evanescent beings that flitted about, facilitating the retention of peoples’ credulity. The problem with this strategy is that in the modern world, the belief in angels is colliding with the realities of a scientific information age. If angels were real, we would have photos of them coming out every day. In this way, we know that angels are either invisible or they don’t exist. But in reality, invisibility and non-existence for a sentient, vocal life-form is really the same thing.
(4541) Paul remained a Jew
Many Christians consider Paul to have converted from Judaism to Christianity after seeing his vision on the road to Damascus, but the following essay argues that he remained fully within the Jewish faith while at the same time courting Gentiles to follow his version of Second Temple Judaism:
For more than 19 centuries, Paul was understood as the champion of Gentile Christianity over and against Judaism. But when modern scholars began to appreciate the vigorous variety of late Second Temple Judaism—and the implications of Paul’s apocalyptic commitments (which allowed for no extended future)—perspectives shifted. Interpretations now run the gamut from Paul against Judaism, to Paul and Judaism, to Paul within Judaism. Where does Paul stand?
Paul initially fought the Jesus movement, but he then joined it (Gal 1:13-24). In so doing, did he leave his ancestral religion, Judaism, for something else? Did Paul “convert”? Not in any usual sense of the word. The most singular Jewish practice—the exclusive worship of Israel’s god—remained the touchstone of Paul’s “Gentile” gospel. Christ, Paul taught, had come to fulfill God’s “irrevocable” promises to Israel as preserved in Jewish Scripture (Rom 11:26-29; see also Rom 15:8). Paul saw his mission to Gentiles through the analogy of working in Jerusalem’s temple (Rom 15:16). All of the building blocks of Paul’s gospel are quarried from Jewish tradition.
When Paul speaks against circumcision, he speaks against circumcision for Gentiles (Letter to the Galatians). When Paul speaks against sacrifice, he speaks against sacrifices to Gentile gods (1Cor 10). When Paul speaks of “justification” apart from the Law, he speaks to and for Gentiles (Letter to the Galatians). When Paul speaks about “the law of sin” and death, he contrasts it specifically with the Law of God, by which he means the Torah (Rom 7:22-24). Only the Jewish Scriptures are God’s “oracles” (Rom 3:2); only Israel’s is a “living and true God” (1Thess 1:9). His “kindred according to the flesh” are God’s “children”; the temple, the covenants, the Law, and the sacrifices (weakly translated as “worship” in the New Revised Standard Version) are all marks of the Jewish people’s God-given special status (Rom 9:3-5). All of these elements constitute Torah.
Paul does insist that Gentiles-in-Christ do not need to “become” Jews (that is, for men, to circumcise, as he says in his letter to the Galatians). But he also insists that baptized Gentiles must assume a singularly Jewish public behavior: they must not worship pagan gods any longer. Depending on the point he pursues, in brief, Paul says both that Gentiles are “free” from the Law and that they must live according to its requirements (see especially Rom 13:8-10).
But why would Paul still live as a Jew if he worked with and for Gentiles? Jews in general did not hold non-Jews responsible for upholding Jewish custom. And Jewish apocalyptic traditions actually looked forward to Gentiles entering the kingdom of God as Gentiles. Paul’s “Law-free” mission was thus, from both of these perspectives, a traditionally Jewish message. The point is this: a Law-free Gentile mission gives us no reason in itself to assume that Paul himself was also Law-free. His teaching Gentiles that they did not have to live according to the Law tells us nothing about his own level of observance. And, as we have seen, the Gentile mission was not exactly Law-free either.
The Gentiles’ inclusion in the Jesus movement was one more proof, for Paul, that God was about to accomplish the “mystery” of Israel’s salvation (Rom 11:25-32). It was only long after his lifetime that Christianity developed into a culture that was in principle non-Jewish, even anti-Jewish. But in his own generation—which Paul was convinced was history’s last generation—the Jesus movement was yet one more variety of late Second Temple Judaism.
Christian theology eventually diverted away from Paul’s intent and fully separated from and even became antagonistic against the Jews. Paul would have likely rejected the most popular brands of modern Christianity and claim that his ecclesiastical mission had been misunderstood.
(4542) Christians’ image of Jesus versus the Bible
The way Christians view Jesus and the way he is depicted in the gospels is usually a sizable difference, fueled in part by failing to carefully read scripture and being groomed by pastors, priests, and the like to imagine an idealized version of this person. The following discusses a more accurate view of Jesus:
Assuming, for the sake of argument, that a historical Jesus existed more or less as described in the gospels, and that the gospels are a more or less accurate picture of his teachings, he was an asshole. Those teachings are neither particularly coherent nor particularly nice.
The nicest of the things he said (eg: the Golden Rule) had been said by other philosophers for centuries, and represent common-sense platitudes that are neither particularly original nor particularly profound. The Sermon on the Mount (regarded by millions of people who have never really sat down and thought about it, even many non-christians, as one of the most enlightened works of philosophy ever written) just goes downhill from there. It establishes thought crimes and careless speech as the equivalent of murder, forbids divorce, and even forbids such basic activity as “storing enough food for tomorrow”.
Notably, he affirms that “he has not come to abolish the Old Law, but to fulfil it”, that “not a single jot or tittle of the law will change until Heaven and Earth pass away” (Matthew 5:17-18, Luke 16:17). He specifically calls out a group of Pharisees as hypocrites for cherry-picking the laws so that they don’t have to murder disobedient children (Matthew 15:3-12). If you have ever found yourself arguing “But that’s the Old Testament!“, Jesus explicitly disagrees with you. This is especially amusing given how many of these laws he breaks himself.
He’s rather astoundingly racist. In two separate stories, he is approached by a woman of an “inferior race” (a Caananite woman in Matthew 15:22-27, a Greek woman in Mark 7:25-27), who asks him to use his healing powers to help her. In both stories, he calls the woman a “dog”, refusing to heal her unless she begs like one. He repeatedly and explicitly endorses the institution of slavery as moral. For a paragon of nonviolence and asceticism, he also had serious issues respecting other people’s property, destroying someone else’s fig tree because it wouldn’t bear fruit out of season (Matthew 21:18-20, Mark 11:12-14), killing a herd of someone else’s pigs by filling them with “unclean spirits” (Mark 5:13, Luke 8:33), directing his disciples to steal horses and donkeys (Matthew 21:5-7, Mark 11:1-6, John 12:14), wasting a jar of precious ointment which one of his disciples had just told him could be sold to feed a lot of poor people (Matthew 26:8-11), and leading that famous armed raid on the Temple complex that managed to go unrecorded by absolutely any historian (Mark 11:15, Matthew 21:1-13, Luke 19:36-45, John 2:15).
And all that before I even get started on the whole “eternal punishment” thing. Even if the rest of his ministry really DID represent the most enlightened work of moral philosophy ever written (rather than the unremarkable ravings of a third-rate apocalyptic loonie), his psychopathic torture fetish ought to be a complete deal-breaker.
Anyone who thinks that such a person should be considered a good moral role model is either deeply disturbed, or has never actually opened a Bible.
Of course, you’re free to argue that your Jesus would never do any of these things. But at that point, we’re no longer talking about the main character of the Gospels – we’re talking about your personal imaginary friend who just happens to share a name with him. As the character we’re now talking about exists solely in your imagination, you are of course the final authority on what he does or doesn’t believe… but he’s also completely irrelevant to anything that takes place outside your imagination.
Human nature compels us to idolize certain people that we admire and to become blind to their faults. In this case, we are talking about a fictionalized version of the real Jesus (assuming he was in fact real) that is documented in the gospels, which is then massaged to an even more fictional version of the man, taking out all of the bad and over-emphasizing the good. So, the final product is a revised version of a mythical account of a Middle Eastern rabbi- a departure from reality that is as much astounding as it is disturbing.
(4543) Paul didn’t write the pastoral epistles
The Bible presents letters from Paul the Apostle to Timothy and to Titus. They are generally discussed as a group and are given the title pastoral because they are addressed to individuals with pastoral oversight of churches and discuss issues of Christian living, doctrine, and leadership. The following lists reasons why bible scholars no longer believe that Paul wrote these letters:
These are some of the reasons that Calvin Roetzel (pp.183-185) lists in his introductory book (The Letters of Paul: Conversations in Context):
- There was dispute about their authenticity (Marcion omitted them; Origen didn’t think Paul wrote them). It’s not exactly decisive evidence in itself but does reflect that they were already looked at with suspicion in antiquity.
- A big reason that Roetzel thinks the Pastorals aren’t Paul is due to language. First, the Pastoral Epistles use language found nowhere else in the New Testament (meaning including the undisputed letters). For instance, terms like eusebia (piety), anosios (irreligious), or agoge (way of life). Second, the pastoral epistles do not use language typically found in the undisputed letters of Paul. For instance, the Pastorals never mention euangelizestai (to proclaim the good news).
- The social situation appears different. In the Pastorals, the church appears to have an institutionalized hierarchy that Paul never discusses, and probably never would have (As far as we know, Paul never stopped thinking the end was near so it wouldn’t make much sense to institute an elaborate ecclesiastical hierarchy). Roetzel states, “For Paul, church leadership was charismatic or Spirit-endowed; for the Pastor, the leadership was institutional. For Paul, “faith” was usually understood in an active sense (e.g., trust in God, acceptance of God’s work in Messiah Jesus); for the Pastor, “faith” was a body of Christian truth to be guarded and defended. For Paul, the church was the body of Christ; for the Pastorals, the church was a fortress that defended its treasured “deposit” (1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:12, 14). For Paul, error was corrected by forceful debate; for the Pastor, the correction came through a calm comparison with truth. For Paul, the imminent return of Christ suffused all of his thought; for the Pastor, the second coming played an insignificant role. We see, therefore, that in their understanding of the church and its organization, purpose, and function, Paul and the Pastor were poles apart.”
Basically I think there is strong evidence that the Patorals aren’t written by Paul (or to put it another way, if it is Paul, it is so different from his earlier letters that it might as well be a different person).
Why a book inspired by an omnipotent intelligence would include portions that are wrongly attributed to a certain author is highly questionable. It seems something that is more likely the outcome of a limited human endeavor.
(4544) Revelation is an anti-Christian polemic
Many Christians revel in the wild iconography of the Book of Revelation as being both an assurance of their eternal fate as well as the awful fate awaiting non-Christians. But author Elaine Pagels makes the case that it really is about the author’s disdain for the Jesus movement becoming too Gentile-centered. The concern is that it is being ripped away from its Jewish roots. The following was taken from:
The Bible, as every Sunday-school student learns, has a Hollywood ending. Not a happy ending, certainly, but one where all the dramatic plot points left open earlier, to the whispered uncertainty of the audience (“I don’t get it—when did he say he was coming back?”), are resolved in a rush, and a final, climactic confrontation between the stern-lipped action hero and the really bad guys takes place. That ending—the Book of Revelation—has every element that Michael Bay could want: dragons, seven-headed sea beasts, double-horned land beasts, huge C.G.I.-style battles involving hundreds of thousands of angels and demons, and even, in Jezebel the temptress, a part for Megan Fox. (“And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.”) Although Revelation got into the canonical Bible only by the skin of its teeth—it did poorly in previews, and was buried by the Apostolic suits until one key exec favored its release—it has always been a pop hit. Everybody reads Revelation; everybody gets excited about it; and generations of readers have insisted that it might even be telling the truth about what’s coming for Christmas.
In a new book on those end pages, “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation” (Viking), Elaine Pagels sets out gently to bring their portents back to earth. She accepts that Revelation was probably written, toward the end of the first century C.E., by a refugee mystic named John on the little island of Patmos, just off the coast of modern Turkey. (Though this John was not, she insists, the disciple John of Zebedee, whom Jesus loved, or the author of the Gospel that bears the same name.) She neatly synopsizes the spectacular action. John, finding himself before the Throne of God, sees a lamb, an image of Christ, who receives a scroll sealed by seven seals. The seals are broken in order, each revealing a mystical vision: a hundred and forty-four thousand “firstfruits” eventually are saved as servants of God—the famous “rapture.” Seven trumpets then sound, signalling various catastrophes—stars fall, the sun darkens, mountains explode, those beasts appear.
At the sound of the sixth trumpet, two hundred million horsemen annihilate a third of mankind. This all leads to the millennium—not the end of all things but the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth—which, in turn, finally leads to Satan’s end in a lake of fire and the true climax. The Heaven and Earth we know are destroyed, and replaced by better ones. (There are many subsidiary incidents along the way, involving strange bowls and that Whore of Babylon, but they can be saved, so to speak, for the director’s cut on the DVD.)
Pagels then shows that Revelation, far from being meant as a hallucinatory prophecy, is actually a coded account of events that were happening at the time John was writing. It’s essentially a political cartoon about the crisis in the Jesus movement in the late first century, with Jerusalem fallen and the Temple destroyed and the Saviour, despite his promises, still not back.
All the imagery of the rapt and the raptured and the rest that the “Left Behind” books have made a staple for fundamentalist Christians represents contemporary people and events, and was well understood in those terms by the original audience. Revelation is really like one of those old-fashioned editorial drawings where Labor is a pair of overalls and a hammer, and Capital a bag of money in a tuxedo and top hat, and Economic Justice a woman in flowing robes, with a worried look. “When John says that ‘the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear’s and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth,’ he revises Daniel’s vision to picture Rome as the worst empire of all,” Pagels writes. “When he says that the beast’s seven heads are ‘seven kings,’ John probably means the Roman emperors who ruled from the time of Augustus until his own time.” As for the creepy 666, the “number of the beast,” the original text adds, helpfully, “Let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person.” This almost certainly refers—by way of Gematria, the Jewish numerological system—to the contemporary Emperor Nero. Even John’s vision of a great mountain exploding is a topical reference to the recent eruption of Vesuvius, in C.E. 79. Revelation is a highly colored picture of the present, not a prophecy of the future.
What’s more original to Pagels’s book is the view that Revelation is essentially an anti-Christian polemic. That is, it was written by an expatriate follower of Jesus who wanted the movement to remain within an entirely Jewish context, as opposed to the “Christianity” just then being invented by St. Paul, who welcomed uncircumcised and trayf-eating Gentiles into the sect. At a time when no one quite called himself “Christian,” in the modern sense, John is prophesying what would happen if people did. That’s the forward-looking worry in the book. “In retrospect, we can see that John stood on the cusp of an enormous change—one that eventually would transform the entire movement from a Jewish messianic sect into ‘Christianity,’ a new religion flooded with Gentiles,” Pagels writes. “But since this had not yet happened—not, at least, among the groups John addressed in Asia Minor—he took his stand as a Jewish prophet charged to keep God’s people holy, unpolluted by Roman culture. So, John says, Jesus twice warns his followers in Asia Minor to beware of ‘blasphemers’ among them, ‘who say they are Jews, and are not.’ They are, he says, a ‘synagogue of Satan.’ ”
Balaam and Jezebel, named as satanic prophets in Revelation, are, in this view, caricatures of “Pauline” Christians, who blithely violated Jewish food and sexual laws while still claiming to be followers of the good rabbi Yeshua. Jezebel, in particular—the name that John assigns her is that of an infamous Canaanite queen, but she’s seen preaching in the nearby town of Thyatira—suggests the women evangelists who were central to Paul’s version of the movement and anathema to a pious Jew like John. She is the original shiksa goddess. (“When John accuses ‘Balaam’ and ‘Jezebel’ of inducing people to ‘eat food sacrificed to idols and practice fornication,’ he might have in mind anything from tolerating people who engage in incest to Jews who become sexually involved with Gentiles or, worse, who marry them,” Pagels notes.) The scarlet whores and mad beasts in Revelation are the Gentile followers of Paul—and so, in a neat irony, the spiritual ancestors of today’s Protestant evangelicals.
Pagels shows persuasively that the Jew/non-Jew argument over the future of the Jesus movement, the real subject of Revelation, was much fiercer than later Christianity wanted to admit. The first-century Jesus movement was torn apart between Paul’s mission to the Gentiles—who were allowed to follow Jesus without being circumcised or eating kosher—and the more strictly Jewish movement tended by Jesus’ brothers in Jerusalem.
The Jesus family was still free to run a storefront synagogue in Jerusalem devoted to his cult, and still saw the Jesus or “Yeshua” movement within the structure of dissenting Judaisms, all of which suggests the real tone of the movement in those first-century years—something like the gingerly, ambiguous, now-he-is, now-he-isn’t messianic claims of the Lubavitchers’ Menachem Schneerson movement, in Brooklyn. “On one side are movement officials who say the promotion of Judaism throughout the world is the heart of continuing Schneerson’s work,” the Washington Post reported several years ago. “On the other are the messianists, whose passion is preparing the world for the coming of Schneerson himself. They are two distinct missions from within one movement—each in the name of the same man.”
Apparently, when you have made up your mind to believe that your rabbi is God, neither death nor disappearance will discourage you. His presence is proof; his non-presence is proof; and non-presence can be conjured into presence by wishing it to be so. (“At recent Sabbath services, an older woman along the front row of the women’s section smiled and pointed to the chair. ‘He is Moshiach,’ she said, using the Hebrew word for messiah. ‘We can’t see him with our eyes, but that doesn’t mean he’s not here. He is.”) The two approaches—the Pauline, which says he’s already here in our visions; the “Johannine,” which says he’ll come back if we stay true to our practice—seem to be the pillars of any messianic movement.
The author of Revelation would certainly have had problems with Paul’s theology, and it is ironic that Paul’s letters and Revelation are under the same cover. As mentioned, Revelation came very close to not making the canon. It probably survived only because of its re-directed interpretation as being a description of the end-times. Few Christians realize it is actually a polemic against the Jesus movement becoming too contaminated with Gentile influence.
(4545) Origins of early Christian literature
The gospel authors certainly never met Jesus and probably didn’t even have access to any eyewitnesses, but they had Paul’s letters and the thoughts of early Christians concerning the figure of Jesus. In Robyn Faith Walsh’s Origins of Early Christian Literature, she explains the likely manner in which the gospels were written:
By way of conclusion, let us engage in an exercise that imagines the author of a text like the Gospel of Mark – or any other first-century writings about Jesus – without placing undue emphasis on the notion of communities. With a patent interest in the interpretation of Judean literature, our gospel writer, living postwar, is allied to Judaism in some measure and has read, among other things, a good deal of Greco-Roman literature (e.g., Homer, some philosophy, bioi). Presumably male, his ability to read and write at a reasonably high level indicates that he has received a Greek education and possesses both a specialist’s knowledge of texts and an awareness of current issues being discussed among other cultural producers – such as the significance of the destruction of the Temple, Stoic physics, genealogies, territories under imperial control, legislation, and the Mediterranean gods.
He is also interested in certain kinds of esoteric or paradoxographical materials: riddles, teachings, signs, and wonder-workings. He is outside the dominant cultural field; he is not Vergil. But he has enough skill, means, and training to try his hand at a creative piece of writing. Aware of the civic biographical tradition of distinguished statesmen, philosophers, and other leaders, he wants to engage that literary genre, offering a bios of another notable figure and philosopher who came to an ignoble and untimely end. However, here is he faced with a problem.
He would like to write about a Judean figure – perhaps one of the many rural teacher-types and wonder-workers who claimed to be a son of god – but none of them (John the Baptist, Honi the Circle Drawer, Jesus of Nazareth) is a member of the dominant leadership or aristocracy. Yet, among his collected texts, our author has some material expressing an interest in Jesus, including copies of the letters of another elite cultural producer who is a Pharisee and a divination specialist by the name of Paul. There he finds talk of Jesus as Christ, possessing divine pneuma (Rom. 8:9; Mark 1:10); a divine lineage of Abraham (Rom. 3, 4, 9; Mark 1); “pneumatic” demonstrations (1 Cor. 2:4–5; Mark 2:8, 5:1ff., 5:41ff.), including divination; demonstrations of power over demons, archons, and unclean pneuma (Rom. 8:38–39; 1 Cor. 15:24; Mark 1:23, 39, 5:2ff., 7:25); Jesus as a prophet for a new age (Rom. 3:21–22; Mark 1:1–15) or a New Adam (1 Cor. 15:45; Mark 1:12ff.); a failure to recognize Jesus as the messiah during his lifetime (1 Cor. 2:6–8; Mark 4:41, 6:2, 8:29, 11:27ff.); and an active principle of God’s pneuma bounding people “in Christ” through baptism (Rom. 6; Mark 1).
He even finds talk of fellowship meals and a meal hosted by Jesus anticipating his death (the so-called Last Supper) with dialogue (1 Cor. 11:23–25; Mark 14:22–25) and mention of other characters like James and Peter (e.g., Gal. 2; Mark 3:20–21, 31–35, 8:31–33, 14:26, 66). The proper interpretation of Judean law and allegory also looms large in these letters (e.g., Gal. 1:6–11; Rom. 1:16–17; 1 Cor. 9:16; Mark 1:1, 2:18ff.), as one might expect from a Pharisee. Perhaps our writer also finds through exchanges within his literary network other Jesus material or a collection of related teachings in the style of Pythagoras’ Golden Verses. He then begins to write his bios engaging a certain set of issues that are important to him. Those issues might include esoteric teachings, food laws, Stoic ethics, or constructing a new, divine genealogy that subverts the one continually being reified by the Roman imperial family (e.g., the Aeneid).
Any gaps in his narrative can be filled with references to other bioi of heroes, philosophers, or divine figures like Alexander the Great, or other established literary authorities (e.g., Plut. Mor. 718a: “[Plato instructs that beings born of God] do not come to be through seed [οὐ διὰ σπέρματος], surely, but by another power of God [ἄλλῃ δὲ δυνάμει τοῦ θεοῦ]”). As for other demonstrations of pneumatic ability or power, there is no shortage of testimony about afflictions and healings at the hands of gods like Isis and Asclepius (IG, IV 1.121.3–9; Mark 5:24–26), including in popular literature (Apul. Met. 1.9). He may even add some original plot device or anecdote to demonstrate literary skill. Something like the so-called Messianic Secret conveys to the reader why they may have never heard of Jesus before, while also arguably acting as a thauma in the tradition of paradoxography, Horace, or Vergil’s Camilla.88 Luke’s worldwide census under Augustus, passing reference to the Syrian governor Quirinius (2:1–7), and convoluted references to Capernaum (4:31) are all seemingly fallacious details, but they make for great storytelling. Like Philoxenus’ octopus, elements of Jesus’ bios like his location, teachings, wonder-working, and death provide ample opportunity for the practice of literary allusion.
Our author may be aware of other “Jesus people.” He may even loosely or strongly hold an identification with a particular group who share an interest in Jesus, the writings of Paul, the significance of Jesus’ death, and so on. However, this group alone does not dictate the content of his writings. Instead, he is engaged in a writing practice that views other literature and fellow writers as chiefly formative. He exchanges his work among these other writers for comment, critique, and discussion. Some within this network begin to make copies of his writing for circulation.
The issues he addresses attract a variety of different kinds of readers – for instance, those interested in subversive figures or in examples of Judeans who offered teachings that were not centered on Temple cult. These writings might even catch the attention of someone in an intellectual circle like Pliny the Younger’s – someone who is flummoxed by those with an interest in this figure called Christ and who wants to know more, perhaps for his own writing. Thus, our imagined author goes on engaging with a network of readers and writers.
There should be no doubt that the gospels are not biographies in the sense they are understood today, but rather predominantly fictional stories used to convey a message to certain communities. They were written with a hint of plausible history but also included many literary and fanciful tropes that were likely understood even at the time to be mythological.
(4546) Morality based on God is bankrupt
Most Christians believe that morality is objective, completely defined by God, and documented in the Bible. This theory runs into problems at every turn. The following was taken from:
It’s stated throughout the Bible that God is perfect and that God’s morality is perfect. When faced with difficult moral dilemmas within biblical text, most (if not all) Christians default to the position that we aren’t in any position to judge or criticize God’s morality because we are imperfect beings and not capable of knowing God’s plan or thinking. His is justified because he has perfect morality.
If anyone’s morality is beyond question, that morality becomes the gold standard. Meaning that whatever comes from this entity is 100% morally correct, and I argue that this makes morality meaningless and without bounds. There is no top, bottom or center to a system that cannot be questioned, criticized or judged.
From flooding the earth, to condoning slavery or ordering murder and genocide, God must have his reasons. All of these things becomes completely moral for that brief time and place. Plagues, the destruction of crops leading to starvation, wiping out entire cities, the testing of Job, Jericho and the ordered killing of non virgins. Jericho and the rounding up of virgins to be enslaved and distributed to the victors. The ordered plundering of gold. Favoring on race of people above another. The exclusion of women from virtually any positions of power or influence. The dooming of those who simply choose the wrong religion. All of these actions point to a lack of any moral compass and they seem endless.
Theists argue that non believers could not know morality because they deny a morally perfect God. I argue that believing any entity to posses perfect morality that cannot be questioned is the definition of not knowing morality. Occam’s Razor points to the claim which introduces the least amount of unknowns and the least amount of complexity as the most likely to be correct. I believe that the best explanation for morality falls into this as well. If we could explain morality naturally, and without introducing supernatural forces, that natural explanation always wins.
It’s my belief that our sense of morality, as imperfect as it is, can be explained naturally by our history. As we grew in numbers, and the survival of our groups became more and more dependent on the actions of others. Certain behaviors stood out as helpful and some stood out as dangerous and detrimental to surviving. When people acted in ways that benefited others, that group stood a far better chance of surviving droughts, famine, sickness, wars and infighting.
Over hundreds of thousands of years, we’ve gained incredible knowledge about how cooperating and acting in moral ways benefits almost everyone, therefore we select for it in our mates. This imperfect system would accidentally create exactly what we see today – moral efforts that draw on our imperfect, but best educated, beliefs.
Claiming that morality has a supernatural cause only invites unnecessary complexity and introduces a slew of unknowns – like the existence of the supernatural itself. If morality is supernaturally driven, than why do we keep making new (natural world) discoveries regarding what’s moral? Just 160 years ago, chattel slavery in the US was seen as being highly moral because many believed that slaves lacked he intellect and common sense to care for themselves. The Bible was also used at this time to defend slavery. Yet somehow we managed to figure this out on our own.
It takes little effort to single out the issue of slavery, find that the Bible does not condemn it, and then to realize that no omniscient, omni-benevolent god had anything to do with its construction. If humans were strictly rational animals, Christianity would have died on this point alone.
(4547) Christians picking cherries
Acknowledging that ‘Christian logic’ is an oxymoron, it is disturbing to see how modern Christians have formulated their own personal religion by taking parts of the Bible as ‘eternal truths’ while dismissing others as being pertinent only to biblical times. The ‘all of nothing’ adage escapes their mentation. The following was taken from:
When someone brings up the fact that the Bible allows slavery, genocide, rape, killing “witches,” and other acts that we in modern times find horrific, Christians are quick to fall back on the old “those were the times back then” defense. They argue that god could only make rules that people could understand back then, and that doing away with slavery entirely would’ve been just too much. They say that the Bible must be taken in its historical context, and seen as a liberal document and a product of its time. But as soon as someone criticizes a rule the Christian likes as being outdated, the Christian will turn around and say “no but that one is meant to followed for all time.” However, the Bible never states which rules are temporary and which are permanent. Christians just pick and choose which rules sound nice to them.
And please don’t use the whole “Jesus made a new covenant” defense. Jesus said in Matthew 15:18
“For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
So we can assume that none of the laws change unless Jesus says they do specifically. Jesus doesn’t say “oh slavery is wrong now guys” or “ you can boil a baby goat in its mother’s milk now if you want.” Sure, Paul later says that Christians could eat whatever they want, but where did the rule against wearing mixed fabrics change? Where did Jesus say “slavery is wrong now?” Where did he say “hey guys, witches and magic aren’t real! Stop burning those innocent women alive?!” Where did Jesus say “you can’t kidnap women and force them to marry you anymore?” As a matter of fact Jesus actually said “slaves obey your masters!”
Christians pick and choose what rules from the Bible are true now based on how they feel about those rules. The Bible is outmoded and full of laws of the times, right up until gay people want to get married. Then immediately it’s a relevant and contemporary text that we should base our legal system on. “Yes, THOSE rules that make no sense in a modern society and seem cruel and unfair are wrong, but those OTHER rules that make no sense in a modern society and seem cruel and unfair are the good ones.
As time goes on the ‘cherries’ begin to rot on the vine- such as the promotion of slavery, burning witches, and taking young women as sex slaves- so Christians don’t ‘pick’ those anymore. And now, faced with changing mores about homosexuality, that ‘cherry’ too is beginning to rot. So what is left? A book that contains some good and some bad, but ignoring the bad cannot be allowed. If God was involved in the construction of the Bible, how can humans edit it and improve it? It makes ZERO SENSE, and that is why Christianity is dying among people who try to think with their brains instead of their emotions.
(4548) The Trinity is more polytheistic than monotheistic
Christianity is playing a game with terminology, touting three divine figures, each with its own mode of operation, while at the same time saying that there is really only one. They want the mantle of respect that allegedly is attached to monotheistic belief, but at the same time want the benefits of the three persons of the trinity. This is not credible. The following was taken from:
I find the concept of the Trinity in Christianity fascinating, but it’s always struck me as more polytheistic in nature than monotheistic. The Holy Trinity, for those not familiar, is the belief in Christianity that God exists as three persons but is one being. Those persons are traditionally identified as the Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and Holy Spirit. While Christians hold that these three are not separate gods but are rather different expressions of the same divine being, it’s tough to square this with the strong monotheistic traditions that Christianity insists it’s part of.
Separate Identities and Roles: Each component of the Trinity seems to have its own identity and role. God the Father creates and governs, the Son redeems, and the Holy Spirit sustains and sanctifies. If you were to remove one from any action or storyline in the Bible, the action wouldn’t make sense. Isn’t this division of labor among different entities characteristic of polytheistic systems?
Distinct Personal Relationships: The Father sends the Son into the world. The Son prays to the Father. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. If they are all one, then who are they talking to? It feels more like a divine committee than a single deity.
Scriptural Accounts: In the New Testament, especially in the baptism of Jesus, all three persons appear separately. The Father speaks from the heavens, the Son is being baptized, and the Holy Spirit descends like a dove. If they are all one, why the need for separate appearances?
Historical Perspective: The concept of the Trinity was hotly debated in the early Christian church. It was not universally accepted until councils like Nicaea and Constantinople ironed out the “official” doctrine. The very fact that it required so much debate and “definition” suggests that it’s not as monotheistic as it seems.
Comparison with Other Religions: In Hinduism, there’s the concept of Brahman manifesting as different gods and goddesses. This is considered polytheistic by many. How is the Christian Trinity fundamentally different?
Look, I get it. Christians will say that it’s a “mystery of faith,” and perhaps it is. But from a logical standpoint, saying you have a monotheistic religion with a three-person God feels like having your cake and eating it too.
Saying that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost is a single god is like saying that a husband and his wife is a single individual. In theory, you could argue that a married couple is a merger of two into one, unified by purpose and outlook, but still they are separable, capable of disparate thoughts and opinions, and thus, for all practical purposes, they are two separate people. So let’s be honest- Christianity has three gods, not one.
(4549) Questions for the ages
Christianity has fewer answers than questions, or perhaps it should be stated that its answers do not merit the intent of the questions. The following is a small sample of questions that befuddle the theology of Christianity:
Why is there are so many religions out there?
Why did god create sin? I mean he is the one who gave humans the ability to sin.
What is the purpose of worshiping a god. What will he gain from it?
Why is no religion is right about the beginning of the universe?
If nothing can exist without a creator, then who created the god?
How can god allow evil and suffering? (People thank god for giving food everyday. By that logic I feel like it is okay to curse him as so many people are suffering from hunger)
Why is the god of old testament is completely different from the god of new testament?
What made god stop performing miracles?
How is virgin birth even possible? (It seems like god created y- chromosome out of nowhere. But i guess he didn’t have the power to create a human baby out of nowhere)
Why did god send his only son knowing that his people (Jews) are going to reject him?
And of course, the old standby- Why would a god promote slavery, genocide, war rape, and the killing of homosexuals? So, when all the questions are asked, Christianity is left meekly whispering its pseudo-answers hoping that none in their flock will detect the hypocrisy.
(4550) Christianity as a lottery
When you compare Christianity to a normal lottery, look at the costs and vulnerabilities, you realize that it is a really bad deal, and one that should be avoided. The following was taken from:
Thought experiment. Imagine a lottery with a 1 to 2 chance of winning. In other words, one third.
The prize for victory is eternal happiness. In case of loss, the organizers promise eternal suffering. Also, during an active and even slightly aggressive PR campaign, the organizers, with the help of a megaphone, assure all passers-by of future eternal suffering if they refuse to use the services of their office. It is noteworthy that such a move works especially well on passing by children, and the client base is gradually growing.
The organizers also say that there is some entry restriction. To participate, it takes about 70 years to obey some set of rules.
And the last point – you are politely warned that in fact the chances of winning are lower than 1/3. If you still turned out to be the very lucky one of the three participants, it’s not time to rejoice yet. It turns out that after participating in the main round of the lottery, an additional sub-lottery is added. During it, according to unknown criteria (which the organizers refuse to name), how you followed the rules is evaluated.
Only after that you receive your coveted prize.
Ah, I completely forgot. With a probability of 50%, the office turns out to be fraudsters – you do not receive any prize or punishment, regardless of what you have done.
The question is: are you participating?
This brings out the fact that nobody knows for sure if Christianity is dealing out actual rewards, further nobody knows for sure what are the precise requirements for ‘winning,’ and that the failure to win is an outcome far worse than if the offering had not been made at all. This should compel someone to exit the game, realize it is all a scam, as no competent god would become entangled in such inane foolishness.
Follow this link to #4551