(4551) God needed for being bad

Although Christianity claims that becoming a Christian makes you a better person, more likely to be kind, compassionate, and to help those in need, in actuality it does the reverse of this. The following was taken from:


This is why I argue that, while there are good people who are religious, it’s not their religion making them better. You never need God to justify why you should be kinder to your fellow human beings. You never need a holy book or a priesthood to explain why you should be fair, why you should be compassionate, why you should be empathetic. All we need to ground morality is the simple principle of reciprocity, which even a child can see the sense of.

On the other hand, you do need God to justify why you should treat others worse. Belief in God is like a sheet you can throw over all manner of atrocities to cover them in a disguise of sanctity. It offers limitless justifications for cruelty: it’s for the victim’s ultimate good in the afterlife; it’s a deserved punishment for sin, and everyone is a sinner; and last but not least, because God said so, and God is ineffable and his will may not be questioned.

It takes little effort to explore history and to see how much cruelty was imparted because of peoples’ belief in Christianity. It is certain that if the world was populated strictly with atheists that most of these atrocities would not have been committed. Burning of ‘witches,’ killing homosexual, raping the women of vanquished tribes, and so forth would not have been so common without religion. So it seems, an actual god would have observed this and taken measures to stop it. One of the most effective ways would have been to place a commandment in the Bible stating, ‘Thou shalt not affect violence against any other person.’

(4552) Christ is an angel

Galatians 4:14 reads:

And even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself

In the following Bart Ehrman makes the case that Paul considered Jesus to be an angel who took on a human form:


I had always simply read the verse to say that the Galatians had received Paul in his infirm state the way they would have received an angelic visitor, or even Christ himself. But in fact, the Greek grammar is suggesting something quite different. As the Gieschen has argued and has now been affirmed in a book on Christ as an angel by New Testament specialist Susan Garrett, the verse is not saying that the Galatians received Paul as an angel or as Christ. It is saying that they received him as they would an angel, such as Christ. By clear implication, then, Christ is an angel.

As I indicated, the reason for reading the verse this way has to do with the Greek grammar. When Paul uses the construction “but as … as” he is not contrasting two things; he is stating that the two things are the same thing. We know this because Paul uses this grammatical construction in a couple of other places in his writings, and the meaning in these cases is unambiguous.

For example, in 1 Corinthians 3:1 Paul says this: “Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people, but as fleshly people, as infants in Christ.” The last bit “but as…as” indicates two identifying features of the recipients of Paul’s letter: they are fleshly people and they are infants in Christ. These are not two contrasting statements; they modify each other. The same can be said of Paul’s comments in 2 Cor. 2:17, which also has this grammatical feature.

Christ is Being Equated to an Angel

But this means that in Galatians 4:14 Paul is not contrasting Christ to an angel; he is equating him to an angel. Garrett goes a step further and argues that Gal. 4:14 indicates that Paul “identifies [Jesus Christ] with God’s chief angel” [p. 11].

If that’s the case, then virtually everything Paul ever says about Christ throughout his letters makes perfect sense. As the Angel of the Lord, Christ is a pre-existent being who is divine; he can be called God, and he is God’s manifestation on earth in human flesh. Paul says all these things about Christ, and in no passage more strikingly than in Philippians 2:6-11, a passage that is often called by scholars the “Philippians Hymn” or the “Christ Hymn of Philippians,” since it is widely thought to embody an early hymn or poem devoted to celebrating Christ and his incarnation.

My friend Charles Cosgrove, a life-long scholar of Paul who is also one of the world’s experts on music in the early Christian world, has convinced me that the passage could not have been an actual hymn that was sung, since it does not scan properly, as a musical piece, in the Greek. And so it may be a poem or even a kind of exalted prose composition. But what is clear is that it is an elevated reflection of Christ coming into the world (from heaven) for the sake of others and being glorified by God as a result. And it appears to be a passage that Paul is quoting, one with which the Philippians themselves may well have already been familiar. In other words, it is another pre-Pauline tradition (see the discussion of Romans 1:3-4 on pp. xxx).

So there’s this grammatical argument that in a couple of passages Paul is saying Jesus is an angel. And that this view fits Paul’s statement that Jesus was a divine being, incarnated as a human being, and then at his resurrection was appointed the Son of God. Categorically the Jesus fits in with some kind of powerful angel who was promoted to divine sonship. That view makes sense to me, although of course not all scholars agree.

If this is correct, Paul’s view of Jesus conflicts with conventional Christianity which imagines Jesus as a pre-existing god who took on human form for 30 years, and not an angel of any kind or shape. But this fits perfectly with the observation that Paul knew next to nothing about Jesus’ life, ministry, family, or earthly history. Seeing Jesus as an angel makes sense from Paul’s perspective.

(4553) Credulity in time of Jesus

The following discussion provided by biblical scholar Richard Carrier explains the fact that people suffered much greater measures of credulity in the time of Jesus before modern means became available for viewing and recording information:


The age of Jesus was not an age of critical reflection and remarkable religious acumen. It was an era filled with con artists, gullible believers, martyrs without a cause, and reputed miracles of every variety. In light of this picture, the tales of the Gospels do not seem very remarkable. Even if they were false in every detail, there is no evidence that they would have been disbelieved or rejected as absurd by many people, who at the time had little in the way of education or critical thinking skills. They had no newspapers, telephones, photographs, or public documents to consult to check a story. If they were not a witness, all they had was a man’s word. And even if they were a witness, the tales tell us that even then their skills of critical reflection were lacking.

In another place, Carrier is unmistakable:

When we pore over all the [early Christian] documents that survive, we find no evidence that any Christian convert did any fact-checking before converting or even would have done so. We can rarely even establish that they could have, had they wanted to. There were people in antiquity who could and would, but curiously we have no evidence that any of those people converted. Instead, every Christian who actually tells us what convinced him explicitly says he didn’t check any facts but merely believed upon hearing the story and reading the scriptures and just “feeling” it was right. Every third-person account of conversions we have tells the same story.

Likewise, every early discussion we have from Christians regarding their methodology for testing claims either omits, rejects, or even denigrates rational, empirical methods and promotes instead faith-based methods of finding secrets hidden in scripture and relying on spiritual inspirations and revelations…. Skepticism and doubt were belittled; faith without evidence was praised and rewarded.

Hence, when we look closely, we discover that all the actual evidence that Jesus rose from the dead consisted of unconfirmable hearsay, just like every other incredible claim made by ancient religions of the day. Christian apologists make six-figure careers out of denying this, but their elaborate attempts always collapse on inspection. There just wasn’t any evidence Jesus really rose from the dead other than the word of a few fanatics and a church community demonstrably full of regular hallucinators and fabricators.

Absent any means for verifying claims of a supernatural nature made in the First Century, the default position should be to assume that they are mythical. Other-worldly stories polluted all religions at that time and this extended even to the exploits of kings and other political rulers. Making up miraculous stories was a common pastime of these people who had deficient critical thinking skills and few means to verify such claims. In that light, the miracles in the Bible should not be accepted as being factual.

(4554) The Bible endorses racism

One of the way that we know that the Bible is not the inspired creation of a universal god is that it treats certain people differently strictly because they are of a different race. It can be certain that a real creator god would see all of his created people as being equal. The following was taken from:


The Bible explicitly endorses and teaches racism –  First of all there is the constant claim that Jews are the “chosen people”. Now surely a history of the Jews should teach a strong lesson of the dangers of declaring one group of people superior to all others. It always ends in trouble. Just ask the Germans. The Bible seems to have one rule for the Israelites and one rule for everyone else. Hebrew male slaves were to be released after six years while non Hebrew slaves were slaves for life that could be handed down to your children as inheritance. If you don’t see what’s wrong with this remember that America had one-rule-for-us-another-rule-for-you laws.

Treating people different because they are from a different tribe or ethnic group is racist. In Deuteronomy chapter 7 God tells the Israelites that there are other ethnic groups living in the promised land. Does God tell them to live in peace and harmony with them, with everyone respecting each others’ differences? No, he tells them “to smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them nor show mercy unto them. Neither shalt thou make marriages with them.” (This isn’t the only time the Israelites exterminated others) God orders the Israelites to destroy over 60 cities and their people, not for any crime but merely because they are a different ethnic group with a different religion. This exceeds even the Ku Klux Klan level of racism.

A human-created bible would very likely express racist ideas, as the ones who created it would see themselves as being superior. A bible inspired/dictated by a god who created the entire universe would VERY UNLIKELY discriminate on the basis of race, considering that nobody has the ability to select the circumstances of their birth. This is a huge clue that the Holy Bible has absolutely no connection to any god that might exist.

(4555) Defending God’s silence

One of the most powerful arguments against the existence of the Christian god is that he seems to be doing next to nothing in modern times, a stark departure from the aggressive actions he allegedly took during biblical times. The attempts to explain this change are always lacking. The following was taken from:


One common defense that became popular in the late 20th century is “God doesn’t want to interfere with your freedom to choose.” This does not hold up because the Bible is full of examples where God did intervene and violated people’s agency. In the New Testament, one obvious example was Paul. Paul/Saul had made a very deliberate choice to persecute Christians. God violated Saul’s choice by giving him a vision. There are other examples in Acts, such as the famous “Doubting Thomas” situation. If you go to the OT, there are many, many examples. The story of Jonah as all about Yahweh violating Jonah’s specific choices. The case of the Pharoah may be the most egregious example. According to Exodus, the Pharoah had decided to grant the request of Moses, but Yahweh “hardened Pharoah’s heart” and made Pharoah refuse.

Another popular refutation used by apologist is that God wants you to come to him because of faith. Christians treat faith as a virtue. They assume that faith is a great virtue and do not question that assumption. I have had Christians get angry when I did question whether faith is a virtue. Simply put, faith is not a virtue. It is easy to believe in things that are false.

An older argument Christians resort to is that “God doesn’t do that kind of thing now.” That is very hard to defend. There is nothing in the Bible to support the assertion. in fact, Jesus and Paul promise things to followers of Jesus. They do not qualify it as “this only applies for the next few years.” They made flat-out promises.

The other criticism of the “God doesn’t do that anymore” is Christian testimony. Both Catholics and Protestants do claim modern miracles. Some of the miracles they claim were alleged to be open, public, and supported by objective evidence. There are ministers like Pat Robertson and Kat Kerr who claim to be modern prophets. There are ministers like Benny Hinn and Peter Popov who claim to do public healings and miracles. Any Christian who wants to argue that God doesn’t do miracles anymore will find themselves standing in the middle of a minefield.

If we take the Bible as being literal truth, then it is a legitimate argument to say that SOMETHING HAS CHANGED. This god has either died, lost interest in the Earth, or has seen his powers diminished. Christians will bristle at any of these explanations and argue one of these two points- (1) God is still doing great miracles- just look at all of the people healed by Benny Hill (sic), or (2) God has purposely chosen to hide himself in order to test the faith of his followers. There is always an explanation for someone who has decided to believe no matter what. But for people who have chosen to live evidence-based lives, the Christian god lies squarely in the land of fiction.

(4556) Male genitalia defies intelligent design

Many Christians believe in the concept of intelligent design, that God either constructed humans from scratch or that he guided evolution to eventually fashion his perfect human design. There are many examples where it can be conjectured that an omnipotent designer could have done better. One of those is the morphology of male genitalia. The following was taken from:


Biology teaches us that in humans, the optimal temperature for the production of sperm is 34 to 35 °C. Not the average body temperature of 36,5 to 37,5°C. This is why testicles are outside of the body and the temperature is actively being regulated.

If there was an omnipotent or omniscient hypothetical being, aka our creator. Why would he go for such a complicated solution? Also, why design a solution that makes a male more vulnerable. Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said:

A designer knows he has achieved perfection, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away..

So, back to my statement; why do male genitalia prove the absence of intelligent design? Well, if there was an omnipotent or omniscient creator, he would have adjusted the optimal temperature for sperm production to our body temperature and placed the genitals inside of the male body. A place where they are easily kept on temperature and are protected without the elaborate regulating system we currently have.

Once you eliminate the possibility that a divine being engineered biological evolution, it greatly decreases the chance that the Christian god exists. Instead it appears that evolution occurred without the oversight of a designer- a position consistent with atheism.

(4557) Heaven’s three unsavory options

The concept of the Christian heaven, along with its concept of hell, is a situation that doesn’t work no matter how you adjust the variables. Whoever made up this fantasy did not think it all the way through. The following was taken from:


A big selling point of Christianity is the idea of eternal life. Christians believe that if you believe in Jesus you go to heaven. Some of them believe that of you don’t, you go to hell. In any case, heaven is supposed to be a source of comfort when one loses a friend or family member, or when one is dying oneself. Atheism is portrayed as cold and cruel, as what do atheists have to hope for when they die? However, an atheist view of death seems far more comforting and merciful than a Christian one.

Heaven is supposed to be a paradise, but it has one fatal flaw. Awareness. When you go to heaven, do you know your non-Christian friends or relatives have gone to hell?

The way I see it there are three possibilities. You are aware, and you care that they are in hell. You are aware, but you don’t care that they are in hell. Or, you don’t know they are in hell and as a result don’t care.

The first option would make heaven rather awkward. How could you love god knowing he’s allowing your loved one to endure unimaginable torture? It be like being forced to rent an apartment out with the serial killer who tortured and murdered your wife as your roommate, but about a million times worse! Who could live like that? I don’t care how much fun I’m having, if my best friend were off being tortured somewhere I couldn’t enjoy it.

Like think about it. Could you be like “wooo! My cousin Jane is getting her toenails pulled out with pliers right now, but this waterpark is awesome!” No. At least I hope you couldn’t.

The second two options, that you know but don’t care, or that you don’t know, necessitate that god alter your personality or wipe your memory. But if god has to fundamentally change who you are as a person and make you forget what he did to your loved ones so you don’t hate him, he’s obviously the bad guy. And heaven won’t be much of a “life” after death if you can’t remember any of your previous life and reminisce. It’s more like a strange reincarnation.

And isn’t caring about other people’s suffering like, a key component of Christianity? Shouldn’t all of the moral people in heaven want to save the people in hell? Or do morals and empathy stop mattering once you get to heaven? You have to care about people and help them right up until you die, but as soon as you kick the bucket it’s just “Yeah, screw those people it’s time to paaaaartay!”

None of these three options sound great, and none of them are really all that hopeful. Alot of Christians like the idea of heaven specifically so they can see their dead relatives again. “Atheists have no hope of seeing their dead loved ones again” they might say.

But if you believe in hell, Christianity is much worse. If your relative who died went to hell, not only will you not see them ever again, you’ll also have to live with the knowledge that their suffering didn’t end with their death. In fact, it’s much worse.

Some Christians believe that we won’t even know who is in heaven with us. This creates the same problem in that if we can’t recognize anyone, we won’t see our dead relatives again either. Is this the hopefulness Christians promise? Because it doesn’t exactly seem warm and fuzzy. I’ll take oblivion any day.

Many Christians skirt around this problem by imagining the non-biblical concept that hell does not involve pain and suffering, is just a separation from God, or else it doesn’t really exist and that non-Christians are simply annihilated. That last option seems okay, but what mother would enjoy heaven knowing that her daughter is dead forever? Or even just separated forever? So the final ‘Hail Mary’ option is to say that everybody eventually goes to heaven, but once that point is conceded, then the whole salvation scheme of this religion falls apart. There simply is no way to resolve this problem.

(4558) The youngest person in hell

In classrooms across the world, people are given tests, and in each case everyone has the same length of time to complete the test. But in Christianity and Islam, the time of the test is not uniform, and, as discussed in the example below, can vary by a much as 100 years. This cannot be fair.


“The youngest person in hell… I wonder how old they are?
At what age, if a person is sent to hell, can it be said, “Yes, this person has had enough time to be tested, if they have not converted to our religion and followed the rules in this long time, of course they deserve to burn in hell forever”?

Now, Muslims will not give the logical answer to this question in line with their beliefs, but will try to evade the issue by saying “only Allah can know this, I’m sure he has a great idea.”

However, how can someone who has no idea about this matter claim that their faith is real?

If they have no idea what is fair, how do they know their religion is fair?

Let’s take a 7-year-old girl for example. Early puberty is common in places with warm climates, and girls enter puberty even earlier. As you know, according to religions, the exam begins with puberty.

When a 7-year-old girl gets her period for the first time, her exam starts. Since the exam has started, there must also be people who lost the exam. If everyone passes, there is no exam, right? So how much sense does it make for a 7-year-old child be told, “How can you not convert to our religion? You were given enough time on dunya, you deserve to burn in hell forever”?

Or let’s think about the opposite, how old is the oldest person who repented and went to heaven the latest? Let’s say 107 years old? Now, can it be said that these two (person who repented and entered heaven at the age of 107 and the one that was sent to hell at the age of 7) were tested fairly under equal conditions?

It is relatively easier to give an explanation on the 107-year-old. People usually say, “How do you know if you will live to be 107?

(Which is very likely that you will not) you should repent immediately.” What about the 7-year-old child who grew up in a society and family that believes in a false religion? Who can claim that she has had enough opportunity?

At what age does a child deserve to burn in hell for eternity? Don’t worry about the age I gave as an example, this is just my guess. I’m just curious about others’ guesses. 3 years old? 14 years old? How old? After what age does the Muslim conscience, shaped by Islamic beliefs, accept it as a fair test?”

Suppose a teacher says to her class: “This is a timed test, but some of you will have 10 minutes to complete it while others will have 30 minutes or 60 minutes. Whether you get 10, 30, or 60 minutes will be determined randomly.” Is there any way that such a plan can be fair? No, and neither can the Christian/Islam heaven/hell scheme.
In the example above the seven-year old who dies and goes to hell is deprived of the extra 100 years of life that the 107 year old needed, just before dying, to start to believe the right thing. No matter how the question of the youngest person in hell is answered, the scheme does not work.

(4559) The rape of Dinah

In Genesis Chapter 34, a story is told that should cause anyone to declaim the book and toss it into the fireplace. It is the story of a woman being raped and the subsequent genocide that took place against the city where this happened. The story is presented as if it was fully justified to kill and plunder an entire city because of the indiscretion of a single inhabitant. The following was taken from;


Dinah was the daughter of Jacob, who would later be called Israel, and was also the ancestor of the Israelites. The book of Genesis describes how Dinah visited the town of Shechem and caught the eye of Shechem, the son of Hamor, the prince of the land. Schechem took Dinah and raped her. Shechem asked his father to arrange a marriage with Dinah. Hamor then went to Jacob to ask for Dinah’s hand.

Jacob’s sons were outraged and insulted by both the rape and the subsequent offer of marriage. Deceitfully, they claimed that they would accept the proposal of marriage only if the men of the city would agree to the rite of circumcision. The men of Shechem conceded.

Levi and Simeon, two sons of Jacob, awaited three days following the circumcisions when the men of Shechem were most in pain. Upon this day, they came into the city and, in surprise, killed all the males. They murdered Hamor and his Shechem, took Dinah, and went away. They did not end there, however, as they plundered the city, its wealth, and all that was in the houses of the inhabitants.

This story is topical to the horrific stories of the Old Testament. It is not the only mention of rape within its pages. What is telling and sorrowful is that although it was Dinah that was raped, there is no mention of her intent and wishes concerning the fate of all involved. Beyond the horrors of rape, the story tells freely of the massacre of a whole city, including those who were hardly involved in the tragedy.

Christians claim we need to read our bibles so we will know how to behave. Rather, it seems we should read it determine how we should not behave. How this story polluted ‘God’s word’ is a mystery to anyone who still has a questioning attitude. Those who are brainwashed can surely find a way to defend it.

(4560) The vaccicidal god

Yahweh had a thing about killing livestock. It seems that he had no compassion for these animals and that killing them was nothing more than collateral damage that didn’t matter to him. The following lists a few of his vaccicidal exploits:


I will destroy all its livestock from beside abundant waters.

1 Samuel
Attack the Amalekites . . . put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheepcamels and donkeys.

The hand of the Lord will strike with a deadly pestilence your livestock in the field: the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks. . . . And on the next day the Lord did so; all the livestock of the Egyptians died.


You must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. You must destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock.


At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well.


I will destroy all her cattle from beside abundant waters no longer to be stirred by the foot of man or muddied by the hooves of cattle. . . . When I strike down all who live there, then they will know that I am the Lord.


The total number of animals for the burnt offering came to twelve young bulls, twelve rams and twelve male lambs a year old, together with their grain offering. Twelve male goats were used for the sin offering. The total number of animals for the sacrifice of the fellowship offering came to twenty-four oxen, sixty rams, sixty male goats and sixty male lambs a year old.


Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.

Someone should ask themselves: Would a god who created the universe instruct some of his created beings to kill other of his created beings? Or is it more likely that a religion invented by humans would have their invented deity endorse whatever they were doing anyway? This is not a difficult choice.

(4561) Expected evidence is missing

An event of such cataclysmic importance, a god who visits our planet, should elicit gobs of confirming evidence. But instead, all we are left with is hearsay, contradictions, and implausibilities. Could a god have been so incompetent to allow his grand show to be so poorly documented? The following was taken from:


We can assume that some (many?) churchgoers read the gospels, but, it would appear, without critical thinking skills fully engaged. When the devout come across Mark 14:62, does it bother them that Jesus was wrong? At his trial, Jesus was asked point blank if he was the messiah, to which he replied: “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” The main thrust of Mark’s gospel was that the kingdom of his god was so close. But obviously those at his trial did not witness the arrival of Jesus on the clouds. The apostle Paul was confident too that Jesus would arrive in the sky soon. He promised members of the Thessalonian congregation that their dead relatives would rise to meet Jesus—and that he too would be there to join them (I Thessalonians 1:15-17). So Paul was wrong as well.

Paul was pumped for years by his delusions, which show up continually in his letters: he knew for sure that Jesus spoke to him in his visions. Is there any better foundation for all those “words of Jesus” in the gospels?  We have no way at all to verify that the Jesus-script in Mark 14—or anywhere else—is authentic. Any historian would want to know how the author of Mark’s gospel—written some forty years after the death of Jesus—knew what was said at the trial. Was there a transcript that Mark could access? It’s very doubtful, in the wake of the very destructive first Jewish-Roman war (66-73 CE). It’s much more likely that this author created scenes as he saw fit: he was writing to promote the beliefs of his cult.

This is but one aspect of the problem of evidence that hobbles Christianity. The gospels are so highly esteemed by churchgoers, who have been raised to believe that these documents “got the story right.” But on close examination—with critical thinking skills fully engaged—it’s hard to make the case for that. There is wide consensus among devout scholars—outside of fundamentalist circles—that the gospels were written several decades after the death of Jesus. The anonymous authors never identify their sources, not even the author of Luke’s gospel, who claims in his opening verses that his stories can be traced back to eyewitnesses. But these are never identified. So historians are stumped: there is no way to verify anything we find in the gospels.

How do historians do their job? Here’s one example: in Helen Langdon’s 391-page biography of Caravaggio (1998), at the end we find a 27-page fine-print list of her sources: details about the documentation her work is based on. That’s how historians operate. But they can’t operate that way when they take up the challenge of accurately reporting the story of Jesus. There are no letters, diaries, transcripts, stenographer notes contemporaneous with Jesus that corroborate the gospel accounts. To make matters worse, these accounts are chock full of errors, contradictions, and conflicting agendas: the four gospel authors were intent on correcting each other, culminating with John, who created a very different Jesus.

They couldn’t even agree on the resurrection stories. Just read the four accounts of Easter morning, and you can appreciate the mess. I suspect the apostle Paul would have been horrified by John’s account of Doubting Thomas sticking his finger in the risen Jesus’ sword wound. No, no, no: our risen bodies will be different:

“Look, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (I Corinthians 15:51-53).

Where is the evidence to verify Paul’s claim (I’m being generous: his delusion) that the dead will be raised imperishable? Where is the evidence that John’s Doubting Thomas story (missing from the other gospels) didn’t come from the author’s imagination? —after all, he was a master at making things up! There have been memes floating around Facebook and Twitter: “This comic book is the proof that Superman is real!” “These Harry Potter books are the proof that Harry is real!” The challenge for Christians is to show how and why the gospels deserve a higher historical ranking than comic and fantasy fiction books. No, I’m not kidding. Jesus studies have been in turmoil for a long time now—totally unnoticed by the folks who attend church— because devout scholars cannot agree on which gospels texts should/can be taken seriously.

Richard Carrier has stated the problem:

“…the NT underwent a considerable amount of editing, interpolation and revising over the course of its first two centuries, and not merely as a result of transcription and scribal error, but often with specific dogmatic intent…This is not something to sweep under the rug. It makes a real difference in how we estimate probabilities. Unlike most other questions in history, the evidence for Jesus is among the most compromised bodies of evidence in the whole of ancient history. It cannot be said that this has no effect on its reliability.”  (On the Historicity of Jesus, pp. 275-276)

Are we going to have any better luck with evidence for god?

Christians will claim that the lack of evidence was a purposeful outcome by a god who intended to test our faith, to see if we could believe in something that was not supported by compelling evidence. This is a cop out. The same excuse could be used for any religion, or any other idea that is poorly sourced. It is an admission that their god was more interested in blind faith than in intellectual honesty.

(4562) Reasonable disbelief disproves Christianity

If it is true that someone can study the Bible and come to a reasonable conclusion that Christianity is untrue, then it becomes problematic to assume that a benign, fair god would penalize that person with either eternal separation or, even worse, eternal torture.

So the salient question is whether it is reasonable to disbelieve Christianity. This involves a subjective determination. However, there are several points that support that premise, such as:

1) The Bible makes claims of a supernatural nature from Genesis all the way to Revelation, but the world that people live in today has nothing happening that appears to be miraculous.

2) The Bible contains many crucial contradictions, such as the incongruent nativity stories of Jesus.

3) The gospel stories were written at least four decades after the events they discuss.

4) Scientific studies have consistently shown that prayers have no effect.

5) Religions other than Christianity flourish when it would seem that in a competition with Christianity they should wither.

Any god that intended to eternalize human life into a good or a bad place and based that assignment on a belief in its existence would not set up a situation where sincere, intelligent people would come to the conclusion that it doesn’t exist. In other words, such a god would provide sufficient evidence of its existence to preclude that situation. On this basis alone, we can conclude that the god of Christianity does not exist.

(4563) Why we believe in gods

The science of religious belief has advanced dramatically in the past few decades, and it is showing that belief in gods is an inevitable outcome in the evolution of intelligent beings. The thousands of gods that humans have invented is a testament to that fact. The following discusses a book by Dr. J. Anderson “Andy” Thomson Jr., a practicing psychiatrist at the University of Virginia with credentials in forensic psychiatry and evolutionary psychology:


In his new book, “Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith,” Thomson offers a succinct, yet comprehensive theory of how and why humans generate religion and create a god or gods – and, pointedly, not vice versa.

With local writer Clare Aukofer, Thomson adds his voice to the public debate about evolution and God’s existence, drawing evidence from psychology, the cognitive neurosciences and related fields and presenting it in an easily readable and sensitive tone. Instead of making arguments about the irrationality of religious belief, as some other scientists have done, Thomson presents religious belief as a natural phenomenon that can be explained by the complicated processes in our brains.

“A way to think about religion is like reading and writing. We don’t have reading and writing modules in our brain,” Thomson said. “Reading and writing … is a cultural creation utilizing basic biological adaptations. We use vision, we use fine motor skills in our hands and we use innate language and innate grammar.”

Similarly, he said, “Religion is not heaven-sent; it is man-made. We have made it, we have sculpted it out of basic mechanisms that were originally evolved for other purposes.”

Thomson began exploring scientific evidence for religious belief after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. “My son, Matthew, was training for a new job in a building next to the World Trade Center; he witnessed firsthand the nightmare. My response to his brush with death was to study suicide terrorism,” Thomson writes in the book’s preface.

He sought to write the book because religions are becoming more intrusive and destructive in political and social systems around the world, he said. Raised Presbyterian, he said he stopped practicing the religion a long time ago. The suffering of patients he witnessed in medical school made him question the idea of God.

Humans are capable of changing their dangerous tendencies. The founding fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, were adamant about the separation between church and state, he said.

Part of what motivates suicide terrorists are the strong bonds that develop among the mostly male members of small groups, or terrorist cells, he said. They are brothers banding together who are led to believe their religion, Islam, is threatened and must be protected. Creating ties of kinship in religious groups is a common feature and can even trump blood ties.

“The appeal of such martyrdom is not just the sexual fantasy of multiple heavenly virgins,” Thomson said. The other part of the belief is that the suicide bomber is allowed to choose kin members who will also automatically get to go to heaven, he said.

Religious believers and questioning individuals, as well as non-believers, who take the short time of a few hours to read “Why We Believe in God(s)” will find examples of familiar things people do that can be linked to religious beliefs through scientific explanations of how human brains work.

People have all kinds of relationships – or form attachments, as psychology describes it – with parents, children, siblings, friends, spouses and partners, and even strangers. In the early times of human development, these attachments provided protection and help and survival. Neuroscientists have found networks of neurons in the brain, powered by oxytocin, that are dedicated to forming familial and social bonds.

Humans don’t just need caretakers in some vague emotional sense; our brains are hardwired to create protective and cooperative relationships for survival, Thomson said. That neural equipment gives us the ability to go one step further in an uncertain world and create an all-knowing, loving caretaker.

“Think of a 2-year-old child reaching out to be picked up and cuddled. He extends his hands above his head and beseeches you,” Thomson and Aukofer wrote in the chapter, “Our Daily Bread: Craving a Caretaker.”

“Think now of the Pentecostal worshipper who speaks in tongues. He stretches out his hands above his head, beseeching god in the same ‘pick-me-up-and-hold-me’ gesture. We may lose human attachment figures through death, through misunderstandings, through distance, but a god is always there for us.”

He noted that in the Catholic religion, priests are called “Father,” monks are “brothers” and nuns “sisters,” led by a “Mother Superior,” for another example.

Although people can’t see God (why some have thought they could has another scientific cognitive explanation, Thomson said), they can imagine a father figure and/or a mother figure, like the Virgin Mary. In prayer, people talk to this invisible caretaker, and do essentially the same thing when they talk to dead ancestors or loved ones or even imaginary friends, as many children do.

To take another aspect of religion – encouraging moral behavior – studies show humans have an innate morality that developed to aid in survival, Thomson said, like the innate ability to learn language. Sophisticated imaging that shows certain areas of brain activity when someone is having different thoughts, emotions or beliefs supports scientific research about brain mechanisms.

“It appears that our emotional moral processes reside in the orbitofrontal cortex, at the bottom midsection of our brains. Those areas constantly monitor our environment, particularly our social environment, and our place in it.

“Religion, while not an adaptation in itself, derives from the same mind-brain social adaptations that we use to navigate the sea of people who surround us. These adaptations formed to solve specific social and interpersonal problems as humanity evolved. Almost incidentally, but no less powerfully, they come together to construct the foundation of every religious idea, belief and ritual. Religious beliefs are basic human social survival concepts with slight alterations.

“That religion is a byproduct of adaptations that occurred for other reasons does not negate its incredible power.”

Thomson is a staff psychiatrist at U.Va. Student Health and a clinical faculty member at the Institute for Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy. He also maintains a private practice of adult and forensic psychiatry. He serves as a trustee of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

The evolution of intelligence appears to go through three stages:

(1) Beings develop advanced cognitive skills to re-shape their environment for survival and enjoyment.

(2) Beings develop beliefs in supernatural beings as helpers, protectors, and to enhance group cohesion.

(3) Beings develop the self-reflective capability to view their cognitive biases and to question their beliefs in gods.

We are in the transition phase between (2) and (3). Once the mechanics of religious belief become widely understood, the gods will disappear.

(4564) God and the trickster bomber

If Christian theology is true regarding human salvation, then the tactics of its god are analogous to a bomber who deliberately supplies insufficient information for avoiding the wrath of the bomb. The following was taken from:


God choosing not to supply his book with hard and undeniable proof of the religion being true is like a killer placing a bomb in a place he knows is quite hidden, writing a set of instructions to defuse it while voluntarily avoiding giving actual proof that would convince the reader it is not just a prank, and then when the reader gets blown up he blames the victim for not defusing the bomb.

First part: god is the one who puts the trap. The trap is everlasting suffering in hell (or annihilation), for the crime of disbelieving. The bomber could very well go on with his life without putting a trap in a victim’s apartment: but he chooses to do so anyways. God could very well use his omniscience to only create people to would submit to him, but he chooses not to. And since he can potentially create an infinite array of humans, it is a very simple task.

But since the killer is so “generous”, he drops a letter in which he explains everything. However, he writes the letter in such a way that it can be confused for a page from a fiction book by some people, despite having the ability to make it more convincing. He could put VERY specific events in it from the future to show his existence, but no book does.

And guess what? The bomber could use the same argument as god: there was enough evidence to believe, the victim had more than enough evidence to believe and should have trusted that it was true. Are we going to let that stand in court? If the answer is no, I do not see why we can justify god and disbelief = evil.

This represents a gigantic hole in the Christian salvation scheme. God is playing games with peoples’ eternal destiny, withholding evidence to such an extent that most will end up in hell, while a flick of his hand could save virtually everybody.

(4565) Ten reasons to disbelieve in Yahweh

Yahweh, the Christian god, seems to have laid down sufferingly little evidence of its existence, such that reasonable intelligent people have come to see him as a mythical character. The following discusses ten reasons why a disbelief in this deity is justified:


1: The consistent replacement of supernatural explanations of the world with natural ones.

When you look at the history of what we know about the world, you see a noticeable pattern. Natural explanations of things have been replacing supernatural explanations of them. Like a steamroller. Why the Sun rises and sets. Where thunder and lightning come from. Why people get sick. Why people look like their parents. How the complexity of life came into being. I could go on and on.

All these things were once explained by religion. But as we understood the world better, and learned to observe it more carefully, the explanations based on religion were replaced by ones based on physical cause and effect. Consistently. Thoroughly. Like a steamroller. The number of times that a supernatural explanation of a phenomenon has been replaced by a natural explanation? Thousands upon thousands upon thousands.

Now. The number of times that a natural explanation of a phenomenon has been replaced by a supernatural one? The number of times humankind has said, “We used to think (X) was caused by physical cause and effect, but now we understand that it’s caused by God, or spirits, or demons, or the soul”?

Exactly zero.

Sure, people come up with new supernatural “explanations” for stuff all the time. But explanations with evidence? Replicable evidence? Carefully gathered, patiently tested, rigorously reviewed evidence? Internally consistent evidence? Large amounts of it, from many different sources? Again — exactly zero.

Given that this is true, what are the chances that any given phenomenon for which we currently don’t have a thorough explanation — human consciousness, for instance, or the origin of the Universe — will be best explained by the supernatural?

Given this pattern, it’s clear that the chances of this are essentially zero. So close to zero that they might as well be zero. And the hypothesis of the supernatural is therefore a hypothesis we can discard. It is a hypothesis we came up with when we didn’t understand the world as well as we do now… but that, on more careful examination, has never once been shown to be correct.

If I see any solid evidence to support God, or any supernatural explanation of any phenomenon, I’ll reconsider my disbelief. Until then, I’ll assume that the mind-bogglingly consistent pattern of natural explanations replacing supernatural ones is almost certain to continue.

(Oh — for the sake of brevity, I’m generally going to say “God” in this chapter when I mean “God, or the soul, or metaphysical energy, or any sort of supernatural being or substance.” I don’t feel like getting into discussions about, “Well, I don’t believe in an old man in the clouds with a white beard, but I believe…” It’s not just the man in the white beard that I don’t believe in. I don’t believe in any sort of religion, any sort of soul or spirit or metaphysical guiding force, anything that isn’t the physical world and its vast and astonishing manifestations.

2: The inconsistency of world religions.

If God (or any other metaphysical being or beings) were real, and people were really perceiving him/ her/ it/ them, why do these perceptions differ so wildly?

When different people look at, say, a tree, we more or less agree about what we’re looking at: what size it is, what shape, whether it currently has leaves or not and what color those leaves are, etc. We may have disagreements regarding the tree — what other plants it’s most closely related to, where it stands in the evolutionary scheme, should it be cut down to make way for a new sports stadium, etc. But unless one of us is hallucinating or deranged or literally unable to see, we can all agree on the tree’s basic existence, and the basic facts about it.

This is blatantly not the case for God. Even among people who do believe in God, there is no agreement about what God is, what God does, what God wants from us, how he acts or doesn’t act on the world, whether he’s a he, whether there’s one or more of him, whether he’s a personal being or a diffuse metaphysical substance. And this is among smart, thoughtful people. What’s more, many smart, thoughtful people don’t even think God exists.

And if God existed, he’d be a whole lot bigger, a whole lot more powerful, with a whole lot more effect in the world, than a tree. Why is it that we can all see a tree in more or less the same way, but we don’t see God in even remotely the same way?

The explanation, of course, is that God does not exist. We disagree so radically over what he is because we aren’t perceiving anything that’s real. We’re “perceiving” something we made up; something we were taught to believe; something that the part of our brain that’s wired to see pattern and intention, even when none exists, is inclined to see and believe.

3: The weakness of religious arguments, explanations, and apologetics.

I have seen a lot of arguments for the existence of God. And they all boil down to one or more of the following: The argument from authority. (Example: “God exists because the Bible says God exists.”) The argument from personal experience. (Example: “God exists because I feel in my heart that God exists.”) The argument that religion shouldn’t have to logically defend its claims. (Example: “God is an entity that cannot be proven by reason or evidence.”) Or the redefining of God into an abstract principle… so abstract that it can’t be argued against, but also so abstract that it scarcely deserves the name God. (Example: “God is love.”)

And all these arguments are ridiculously weak.

Sacred books and authorities can be mistaken. I have yet to see a sacred book that doesn’t have any mistakes. (The Bible, to give just one example, is shot full of them.) And the feelings in people’s hearts can definitely be mistaken. They are mistaken, demonstrably so, much of the time. Instinct and intuition play an important part in human understanding and experience… but they should never be treated as the final word on a subject. I mean, if I told you, “The tree in front of my house is 500 feet tall with hot pink leaves,” and I offered as a defense, “I know this is true because my mother/ preacher/ sacred book tells me so”… or “I know this is true because I feel it in my heart”… would you take me seriously?

Some people do try to prove God’s existence by pointing to evidence in the world. But that evidence is inevitably terrible. Pointing to the perfection of the Bible as a historical and prophetic document, for instance… when it so blatantly is nothing of the kind. Or pointing to the fine-tuning of the Universe for life… even though this supposedly perfect fine-tuning is actually pretty crappy, and the conditions that allow for life on Earth have only existed for the tiniest fragment of the Universe’s existence and are going to be boiled away by the Sun in about a billion years. Or pointing to the complexity of life and the world and insisting that it must have been designed… when the sciences of biology and geology and such have provided far, far better explanations for what seems, at first glance, like design.

As to the argument that “We don’t have to show you any reason or evidence, it’s unreasonable and intolerant for you to even expect that”… that’s conceding the game before you’ve even begun. It’s like saying, “I know I can’t make my case — therefore I’m going to concentrate my arguments on why I don’t have to make my case in the first place.” It’s like a defense lawyer who knows their client is guilty, so they try to get the case thrown out on a technicality.

Ditto with the “redefining God out of existence” argument. If what you believe in isn’t a supernatural being or substance that has, or at one time had, some sort of effect on the world… well, your philosophy might be an interesting one, but it is not, by any useful definition of the word, religion.

Again: If I tried to argue, “The tree in front of my house is 500 feet tall with hot pink leaves — and the height and color of trees is a question that is best answered with personal faith and feeling, not with reason or evidence”… or, “I know this is true because I am defining ‘500 feet tall and hot pink’ as the essential nature of tree-ness, regardless of its outward appearance”… would you take me seriously?

4: The increasing diminishment of God.

This is closely related to #1 (the consistent replacement of supernatural explanations of the world with natural ones). But it’s different enough to deserve its own section.

When you look at the history of religion, you see that the perceived power of God has been diminishing. As our understanding of the physical world has increased — and as our ability to test theories and claims has improved — the domain of God’s miracles and interventions, or other supposed supernatural phenomena, has consistently shrunk.

Examples: We stopped needing God to explain floods… but we still needed him to explain sickness and health. Then we didn’t need him to explain sickness and health… but we still needed him to explain consciousness. Now we’re beginning to get a grip on consciousness, so we’ll soon need God to explain… what?

Or, as writer and blogger Adam Lee so eloquently put it in his Ebon Musings website, “Where the Bible tells us God once shaped worlds out of the void and parted great seas with the power of his word, today his most impressive acts seem to be shaping sticky buns into the likenesses of saints and conferring vaguely-defined warm feelings on his believers’ hearts when they attend church.”

This is what atheists call the “god of the gaps.” Whatever gap there is in our understanding of the world, that’s what God is supposedly responsible for. Wherever the empty spaces are in our coloring book, that’s what gets filled in with the blue crayon called God.

But the blue crayon is worn down to a nub. And it’s never turned out to be the right color. And over and over again, throughout history, we’ve had to go to great trouble to scrape the blue crayon out of people’s minds and replace it with the right color. Given this pattern, doesn’t it seem that we should stop reaching for the blue crayon every time we see an empty space in the coloring book?

5: The fact that religion runs in families.

The single strongest factor in determining what religion a person is? It’s what religion they were brought up with. By far. Very few people carefully examine all the available religious beliefs — or even some of those beliefs — and select the one they think most accurately describes the world. Overwhelmingly, people believe whatever religion they were taught as children.

Now, we don’t do this with, for instance, science. We don’t hold on to the Steady State theory of the Universe, or geocentrism, or the four bodily humours theory of illness, simply because it’s what we were taught as children. We believe whatever scientific understanding is best supported by the best available evidence at the time. And if the evidence changes, our understanding changes. (Unless, of course, it’s a scientific understanding that our religion teaches is wrong…)

Even political opinions don’t run in families as stubbornly as religion. Witness the opinion polls that show support of same-sex marriage increasing with each new generation. Political beliefs learned from youth can, and do, break down in the face of the reality that people see every day. And scientific theories do this, all the time, on a regular basis.

This is emphatically not the case with religion.

Which leads me to the conclusion that religion is not a perception of a real entity. If it were, people wouldn’t just believe whatever religion they were taught as children, simply because it was what they were taught as children. The fact that religion runs so firmly in families strongly suggests that it is not a perception of a real phenomenon. It is a dogma, supported and perpetuated by tradition and social pressure — and in many cases, by fear and intimidation. Not by reality.

6: The physical causes of everything we think of as the soul.

The sciences of neurology and neuropsychology are in their infancy. But they are advancing by astonishing leaps and bounds, even as we speak. And what they are finding — consistently, thoroughly, across the board — is that, whatever consciousness is, it is inextricably linked to the brain.

Everything we think of as the soul — consciousness, identity, character, free will — all of that is powerfully affected by physical changes to the brain and body. Changes in the brain result in changes in consciousness… sometimes so drastically, they make a personality unrecognizable. Changes in consciousness can be seen, with magnetic resonance imagery, as changes in the brain. Illness, injury, drugs and medicines, sleep deprivation, etc…. all of these can make changes to the supposed “soul,” both subtle and dramatic. And death, of course, is a physical change that renders a person’s personality and character, not only unrecognizable, but non-existent.

So the obvious conclusion is that consciousness and identity, character and free will, are products of the brain and the body. They’re biological processes, governed by laws of physical cause and effect. With any other phenomenon, if we can show that physical forces and actions produce observable effects, we think of that as a physical phenomenon. Why should the “soul” be any different?

What’s more, the evidence supporting this conclusion comes from rigorously-gathered, carefully-tested, thoroughly cross-checked, double-blinded, placebo- controlled, replicated, peer-reviewed research. The evidence has been gathered, and continues to be gathered, using the gold standard of scientific evidence: methods specifically designed to filter out biases and cognitive errors as much as humanly possible. And it’s not just a little research. It’s an enormous mountain of research… a mountain that’s growing more mountainous every day.

The hypothesis of the soul, on the other hand, has not once in all of human history been supported by good, solid scientific evidence. That’s pretty surprising when you think about it. For decades, and indeed centuries, most scientists had some sort of religious beliefs, and most of them believed in the soul. So a great deal of early science was dedicated to proving the soul’s existence, and discovering and exploring its nature. It wasn’t until after decades upon decades of fruitless research in this area that scientists finally gave it up as a bad job, and concluded, almost unanimously, that the reason they hadn’t found a soul was that there was no such thing.

Are there unanswered questions about consciousness? Absolutely. Tons of them. No reputable neurologist or neuropsychologist would say otherwise. But think again about how the history of human knowledge is the history of supernatural explanations being replaced by natural ones… with relentless consistency, again, and again, and again. There hasn’t been a single exception to this pattern. Why would we assume that the soul is going to be that exception? Why would we assume that this gap in our knowledge, alone among all the others, is eventually going to be filled with a supernatural explanation? The historical pattern doesn’t support it. And the evidence doesn’t support it. The increasingly clear conclusion of the science is that consciousness is a product of the brain. Period.

7: The complete failure of any sort of supernatural phenomenon to stand up to rigorous testing.

Not all religious and spiritual beliefs make testable claims. But some of them do. And in the face of actual testing, every one of those claims falls apart like Kleenex in a hurricane.

Whether it’s the power of prayer, or faith healing, or astrology, or life after death: the same pattern is seen. Whenever religious and supernatural beliefs have made testable claims, and those claims have been tested — not half-assedly tested, but really tested, using careful, rigorous, double-blind, placebo-controlled, replicated, etc. etc. etc. testing methods — the claims have consistently fallen apart. Occasionally a scientific study has appeared that claimed to support something supernatural… but more thorough studies have always refuted them. Every time.

I’m not going to cite each one of these tests, or even most of them. This chapter is already long as it is. Instead, I’ll encourage you to spend a little time on the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer websites. You’ll see a pattern so consistent it boggles the mind: Claimants insist that Supernatural Claim X is real. Supernatural Claim X is subjected to careful testing, applying the standard scientific methods used in research to screen out bias and fraud. Supernatural Claim X is found to hold about as much water as a sieve. (And claimants, having agreed beforehand that the testing method is valid, afterwards insist that it wasn’t fair.)

And don’t say, “Oh, the testers were biased.” That’s the great thing about the scientific method. It’s designed to screen out bias, as much as is humanly possible. When done right, it will give you the right answer, regardless of the bias of the people doing the testing.

And I want to repeat an important point about the supposed anti-religion bias in science. In the early days of science and the scientific method, most scientists did believe in God, and the soul, and the metaphysical. In fact, many early science experiments were attempts to prove the existence of these things, and discover their true natures, and resolve the squabbles about them once and for all. It was only after decades of these experiments failing to turn up anything at all that the scientific community began — gradually, and very reluctantly — to give up on the idea.

Supernatural claims only hold up under careless, casual examination. They are supported by wishful thinking, and confirmation bias (i.e., our tendency to overemphasize evidence that supports what we believe and to discard evidence that contradicts it), and our poor understanding and instincts when it comes to probability, and our tendency to see pattern and intention even when none exists, and a dozen other forms of cognitive bias and weird human brain wiring. When studied carefully, under conditions specifically designed to screen these things out, the claims vanish like the insubstantial imaginings they are.

8: The slipperiness of religious and spiritual beliefs.

Not all religious and spiritual beliefs make testable claims. Many of them have a more “saved if we do, saved if we don’t” quality. If things go the believer’s way, it’s a sign of God’s grace and intervention; if they don’t, then God moves in mysterious ways, and maybe he has a lesson to teach that we don’t understand, and it’s not up to us to question his will. No matter what happens, it can be twisted to prove that the belief is right.

That is a sure sign of a bad argument.

Here’s the thing. It is a well-established principle in the philosophy of science that, if a theory can be supported no matter what possible evidence comes down the pike, it is useless. It has no power to explain what’s already happened, or to predict what will happen in the future. The theory of gravity, for instance, could be disproven by things suddenly falling up; the theory of evolution could be disproven by finding rabbits in the pre-Cambrian fossil layer. These theories predict that those things won’t happen; if they do, the theories go poof. But if your theory of God’s existence holds up no matter what happens — whether your friend with cancer gets better or dies, whether natural disasters strike big sinful cities or small God-fearing towns — then it’s a useless theory, with no power to predict or explain anything.

What’s more, when atheists challenge theists on their beliefs, the theists’ arguments shift and slip around in an annoying “moving the goalposts” way. Hard-line fundamentalists, for instance, will insist on the unchangeable perfect truth of the Bible; but when challenged on its specific historical or scientific errors, they insist that you’re not interpreting those passages correctly. (If the book needs interpreting, then how perfect can it be?)

And progressive ecumenical believers can be unbelievably slippery about what they do and don’t believe. Is God real, or a metaphor? Does God intervene in the world, or doesn’t he? Do they even believe in God, or do they just choose to act as if they believe because they find it useful? Debating with a progressive believer is like wrestling with a fish: the arguments aren’t very powerful, but they’re slippery, and they don’t give you anything firm to grab onto.

Once again, that’s a sure sign of a bad argument. If you can’t make your case and then stick by it, or modify it, or let it go… then you don’t have a good case. (And if you’re making any version of the “Shut up, that’s why” argument — arguing that it’s intolerant to question religious beliefs, or that letting go of doubts about faith makes you a better person, or that doubting faith will get you tortured in Hell, or any of the other classic arguments intended to quash debate rather than address it — that’s a sure sign that your argument is in the toilet.)

9: The failure of religion to improve or clarify over time.

Over the years and decades and centuries, our understanding of the physical world has grown and clarified by a ridiculous amount. We understand things about the Universe that we couldn’t have imagined a thousand years ago, or a hundred, or even ten. Things that make your mouth gape with astonishment just to think about.

And the reason for this is that we came up with an incredibly good method for sorting out good ideas from bad ones. We came up with the scientific method, a self-correcting method for understanding the physical world: a method which — over time, and with the many fits and starts that accompany any human endeavor — has done an astonishingly good job of helping us perceive and understand the world, predict it and shape it, in ways we couldn’t have imagined in decades and centuries past. And the scientific method itself is self-correcting. Not only has our understanding of the natural world improved dramatically: our method for understanding it is improving as well.

Our understanding of the supernatural world? Not so much.

Our understanding of the supernatural world is in the same place it’s always been: hundreds and indeed thousands of sects, squabbling over which sacred texts and spiritual intuitions are the right ones. We haven’t come to any consensus about which religion best understands the supernatural world. We haven’t even come up with a method for making that decision. All anyone can do is point to their own sacred text and their own spiritual intuition. And around in the squabbling circle we go.

All of which points to religion, not as a perception of a real being or substance, but as an idea we made up and are clinging to. If religion were a perception of a real being or substance, our understanding of it would be sharpening, clarifying, being refined. We’d have better prayer techniques, more accurate prophecies, something. Anything but people squabbling with greater or lesser degrees of rancor, and nothing to back up their belief.

10: The complete lack of solid evidence for God’s existence.

This is probably the best argument I have against God’s existence: There’s no evidence for it. No good evidence, anyway. No evidence that doesn’t just amount to opinion and tradition and confirmation bias and all the other stuff I’ve been talking about. No evidence that doesn’t fall apart upon close examination.

And in a perfect world, that should have been the only argument I needed. In a perfect world, I shouldn’t have had to spend a month and a half collating and summarizing the reasons I don’t believe in God, any more than I would have for Zeus or Quetzalcoatl or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. As thousands of atheists before me have pointed out: It is not up to us to prove that God does not exist. It is up to theists to prove that he does.

In a comment on my blog, arensb made a point on this topic that was so insightful, I’m still smacking myself on the head for not having thought of it myself. I was writing about how believers get upset at atheists when we reject religion after hearing 876,363 bad arguments for it, and how believers react to this by saying, “But you haven’t considered Argument #876,364! How can you be so close-minded?” And arensb said:

“If, in fact, it turns out that argument #876,364 is the one that will convince you, WTF didn’t the apologists put it in the top 10?”

Why, indeed?

If there’s an argument for religion that’s convincing — actually convincing, convincing by means of something other than authority, tradition, personal intuition, confirmation bias, fear and intimidation, wishful thinking, or some combination of the above — wouldn’t we all know about it?

Wouldn’t it have spread like wildfire? Wouldn’t it be the Meme of All Memes? I mean, we all saw that Simon’s Cat video within about two weeks of it hitting the Internet. Don’t you think that the Truly Excellent Argument for God’s Existence would have spread even faster, and wider, than some silly cartoon cat video?

If the arguments for religion are so wonderful, why are they so unconvincing to anyone who doesn’t already believe?

And why does God need arguments, anyway? Why does God need people to make his arguments for him? Why can’t he just reveal his true self, clearly and unequivocally, and settle the question once and for all? If God existed, why wouldn’t it just be obvious?

It is not up to atheists to prove that God does not exist. It is up to believers to prove that he does. And in the absence of any good, solid evidence or arguments in favor of God’s existence — and in the presence of a whole lot of solid arguments against it — I will continue to be an atheist. God almost certainly does not exist, and it’s completely reasonable to act as if he doesn’t.

Yahweh is a fictional war god of the ancient Middle East, imagined into existence by people who didn’t know where the sun went at night. It is time, beyond time actually, to let go of this mythology.

(4566) Modern values did not rise from Christianity

Christian apologists like to convince us that most of our moral values stem from Christianity, as if it took God, working through the scriptures, to inform humans how they should behave. But the truth is the direct opposite of this argument. Modern-day values arose in spite of Christianity. The following was taken from:


Many Christians believe that “Western Values,” meaning concepts seen as important in Western countries such as equality, freedom, democracy, equal opportunity, tolerance, etc. all arose out of Christianity. ( Disclaimer: the idea that these are “western” values is inaccurate and racist, as many countries inhabited by people of color also adhered to similar values, but that is not the point of this argument.) In any case, the values we think of as important in countries like the U.S. did not arise from Christianity, and are often in direct conflict with it.

Many of the things we consider as morally abhorrent aren’t even mentioned in the Bible. For example, in the U.S., people consider child marriage or sexual relationships between adults and children as completely unacceptable. We want to protect the rights and safety of children. However, the Bible never mentions any sort of age of consent. Not once. The Bible doesn’t really place any sort of importance on clarifying that pedophilia is wrong. How then, did we arrive at this conclusion? Certainly not through Christianity.

Modern people in the U.S, most Christians included, also disapprove of child abuse. However, the Bible does not only not discourage it, but actually encourages abuse.

Christianity placed great importance on children obeying their parents completely, without question, to the point that children are to be stoned to death if they disobey.

Deuteronomy 28

“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear”

Matthew 15

For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.

Christians have been interpreting the Bible to mean that child abuse was ok for thousands of years as well. Wasn’t as if a bunch of people picked up the Bible and suddenly had the revelation that child abuse was not ok. They used the Bible to defend it! For thousands and thousands of years right up until the end of the 1900’s, no one questioned this. The Christian interpretation was that beating was ok and even natural. How can we say that our modern respect for the rights of children, and our efforts to protect them are Christian when Christians held the exact opposite position for centuries ? We can’t.

And what about the Bible’s treatment of women? In the US we value the fact that women can work jobs and vote. The Bible does not endorse this. In fact there are Bible passages about taking women as your property without their consent.

Deuteronomy 21

“When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, 11 if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife.”

There are Bible passages about how women must be silent and obey

1st Timothy 2

“11 A woman[a] should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[b] she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women[c] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety”

Not only that, the Bible does not consider a spouse raping their partner to be rape. Nor does it state that a man can be raped, or that a woman can be a rapist. In the Bible, rape is only viewed as a crime a man can commit against a woman he is not married to.

The bible considers rape a crime of property. If a man rapes an unmarried woman, he must merely pay a fine and then marry her. This is a slap on the wrist, and the rapist in this case may even want to marry the victim anyway. Rape ie only punished with death if done to a married woman. This is because the woman is considered her husband’s property, not because rape is a horrible ble crime in and of itself.

And indeed, marital rape was not considered a crime for centuries. Christian judges did not consider it a crime, and the Bible was often used to support the idea that marital rape did not exist. But eventually we came to the conclusion that it was wrong, and that married women have rights to their own bodies.

All of these omissions in the Bible are rather horrific. But most people in the U.S. seem to agree that “Western Values” include things like equal rights, protection from abuse, and lack of discrimination. But these things clearly did not stem from Christianity, as the Bible directly contradicts them.

Now sure, one could say that vague general principles in the Bible mean that certain acts such as discrimination or sexual assault are wrong. However, this is all a matter of opinion. What is loving? What is kindness? Some men might say “telling my wife to be quiet because she has no authority over me is loving, and it’s what I would want her to do if she were in my position. If I broke god’s rules, I would want to be corrected.”

And many fundamentalist Christians consider it a wife’s duty to give her husband sex if he wants it. These Christians have of course heard the lines about loving others as yourself. Those are the most famous lines in the Bible. It’s not that they are unaware of these rules, they simply interpret them differently. General principles do not outweigh what the direct text says, and clearly those principles are not strong enough or clear enough to get us to our modern understanding of human rights. Rather, I believe Christians project their 21st century secular morals onto the bible, twisting its words and meanings to what they want it to mean. But the truth is that to get where we are today, a lot of resistance to and defiance of traditional Christian norms had to be committed.

When conceding this point, it is incumbent on Christians to explain how God, who supposedly has infinite intelligence and insight, failed to inspire his holy scriptures in a manner that its moral values would stand the test of time. Surely such a being could have foreseen the end of slavery, the end of corporal punishment, and the equality of women. It almost seems as if this god doesn’t really exist.

(4567) Jesus’ bizarre promotion of eunuchs

In the Gospel of Matthew, a very strange scripture (19:11-12) has had Christian theologians looking for an exit strategy- some way to make this go away or to consider it in another context. Taken at face value, Jesus is promoting the practice of male castration, as if somehow this appalling practice was a positive way to display devotion to God. The following was taken from:


In the Gospel of Matthew we hear of a strange, early Christian practice that indicates perhaps that the followers of Jesus contemplated this world of phallo-dominance with a critical eye. Matthew 19:11–12 reads as follows: “And he said to them, ‘Not everyone can receive this saying, but those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and eunuchs who have been castrated by people, and there are eunuchs who have castrated themselves for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone who can receive this, receive it.’”

Scholars squeamish at the thought of Christian castrati have sometimes insisted that this passage must be referring metaphorically to celibacy. But that is nonsense. If Matthew’s author had meant to speak of celibates (parthenoi), he knew perfectly well how to do that. In a religious context, eunuch had to mean eunuch, else he would simply have confused his audience. In the Book of Matthew, Jesus advises men (who can) to emasculate themselves!

Who were these Matthean eunuchs for the kingdom? They were men who believed that following Jesus had nothing to do with masculine dominance and power. Eunuchs in a religious context were the opposite of manly men.

Most people would have known about eunuchs in the various cults of the Roman east. Mostly they served the Mother Goddess as feminized male priests, no longer male, but more female, like the deity they served.

Matthew’s eunuchs were not the only early Christians who gave thought to breaking down the patterns of male dominance in antiquity. One of the earliest Christian creedal statements declares that in Christ “there is no longer male and female” (Galatians 3:28), and in Corinth the apostle Paul felt compelled to oppose a practice whereby male prophets were beginning to wear their hair long and flowing, so that one could not easily distinguish between male and female cult leaders (1 Corinthians 11:2–16). Paul liked his men and women to look like men and women, but his Corinthian protégés had taken “no longer male and female” to heart.

Matthew’s eunuchs were clearly the most extreme form of this conviction. Here were men who, in the eyes of their peers, “became women” in the most graphic and demonstrative way imaginable. They emasculated themselves, removing the thing that ancients most associated with male power and dominance. This is how they chose to embody the kingdom of heaven on earth.

This is an outlier scripture with no counterparts in any other gospel or New Testament book (other than Philip converting a eunuch in Acts 8), so it likely is an invention by the original author or better yet an interpolation by someone trying to promote the practice of castration. But one thing that we can be safe to understand- this was never said by Jesus. It is very telling that the New International Version deliberately softened this scripture by changing the gist of the statement:

For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

Instead of the King James:

For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.

As if to imply that Jesus was talking only about men who eschewed sex, but retained their male genitals. There is much in the NIV that is a deceptive translation and this is a good example.

(4568) Martyrdom chaos

Many Christians state that one of the reasons they believe the gospel stories to be true is that the disciples of Jesus were willing to be killed as martyrs rather than deny the resurrection of Jesus. The presumption is that they would have saved their own lives rather than to defend a myth. But the evidence for this alleged martyrdom campaign is very thin. The following table lists the sources that refer to the deaths of the disciples, including Paul. As can be seen, there was no consensus of what happened:

Apostle Source Date Location Means Notes
Peter John 21.18 90-100 (unknown) (unknown) Martyrdom implied
Peter 2 Peter 1.13-15 100-160 (unknown) (unknown) Not implied
Peter 1 Clement 5.1-4 80-140 (unknown) (unknown) Implied
Peter Ignatius: Letter to the Romans 4 105-115 (unknown) (unknown) Not implied
Peter Ignatius: Letter to the Smyrnaeans 3 105-115 (unknown) (unknown) Not implied
Peter Apocalypse of Peter 14 (Coptic version) 100-150 Rome (implied) (unknown) Not implied
Peter Apocalypse of Peter (Greek version) 100-150 Rome (implied) (unknown) Implied
Peter Ascension of Isaiah 112-138 (unknown) (unknown) Not clear it’s Peter
Peter Acts of Peter 35(6) 180-190 Rome Crucified Crucified upside down, explicitly not by Nero
Peter Secret Book of James 5 150-200 (unknown) Crucified NA
Peter Dionysius of Corinth 165-175 (unknown) (unknown) Quoted by Eusebius
Peter Irenaeus of Lyon: Against Heresies 3.1.1 175-185 (unknown) (unknown) Not implied
Peter Tertullian: The Prescription Against Heretics 36 197-220 (unknown) Crucifixion implied NA
Peter Muratorian Fragment 35-38 170-200 (unknown) (unknown) NA
Peter 2 Clement 5 130-160 (unknown) (unknown) Might not be literal
Peter Lactantius: Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died 2 303-316 Rome Crucified By Nero
Peter Eusebius: Church History 3.1.2 300-340 Rome Crucified Crucified upside down
Peter Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 1 (unknown) Rome Crucified “By Nero”
Peter Aphrahat: Demonstrations 23 334 (unknown) (unknown) NA
Peter Gregory of Nyssa: Second Homily on Stephen the Protomartyr 386 (unknown) Crucified Crucified upside down
Peter A Syriac Martyrology 411 Rome (unknown) NA
James Mark 10.35-40 65-80 (unknown) (unknown) Implied
James Acts 12.1-2 80-130 Jerusalem Beheaded By king Herod
James Papias of Hierapolis: Expositions of the Sayings of the Lord 2 120-130 (unknown) (unknown) “By the Jews”
James Aphrahat: Demonstrations 23 334 (unknown) (unknown) Implied
James Gregory of Nyssa: Second Homily on Stephen the Protomartyr 386 (unknown) Beheaded NA
James A Syriac Martyrology 411 Jerusalem (unknown) NA
James Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 4 (unknown) Probably Judea Beheaded “By Herod the Tetrarch”
John Mark 10.35-40 65-80 (unknown) (unknown) Implied
John Papias of Hierapolis: Expositions of the Sayings of the Lord 2 120-130 (unknown) (unknown) “By the Jews”
John Acts of John 115 150-200 Ephesus Natural death NA
John Irenaeus of Lyon: Against Heresies 2.22.5, 3.3.4 175-185 Ephesus Natural death implied NA
John Polycrates of Ephesus: Letter to Victor of Rome 185-195 Ephesus Natural death implied Called “martyr”/”witness”, quoted by Eusebius
John Tertullian: The Prescription Against Heretics 36 197-220 (unknown) Natural death implied NA
John Acts of John the Theologian 200-500 Ephesus Disappears Only his sandals remain
John Eusebius: Church History 3.1.1 300-340 Ephesus Natural death implied NA
John Aphrahat: Demonstrations 23 334 (unknown) (unknown) Implied
John History of John 350-400 Ephesus Natural death NA
John Gregory of Nyssa: Second Homily on Stephen the Protomartyr 386 (unknown) Killed by boiling water Some  manuscripts add that he didn’t die
John A Syriac Martyrology 411 Jerusalem (unknown) NA
John Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 3 (unknown) Ephesus Natural death NA
Andrew Acts of Andrew 150-200 Patras, Achaia Crucified NA
Andrew Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 2 (unknown) Patrae, Achaia Crucified “Suspended on an olive tree”
Philip Heracleon, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 150-180 (unknown) Natural death Quoted by Clement of Alexandria
Philip Polycrates of Ephesus: Letter to Victor of Rome 185-195 Hierapolis Natural death implied Quoted by Eusebius
Philip Acts of Philip 300-500 Hierapolis Crucified Crucified upside down
Philip Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 5 (unknown) Hierapolis Crucified Crucified upside down
Bartholomew Acts of Philip 137 300-500 Lycaonia Crucified Crucified upside down
Bartholomew Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 6 (unknown) Armedia Crucified Crucified upside down
Matthew Heracleon, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 150-180 (unknown) Natural death Quoted by Clement of Alexandria
Matthew Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 7 (unknown) Hierees, Parthia Natural death NA
Levi Heracleon, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 150-180 (unknown) Natural death Quoted by Clement of Alexandria
Thomas Heracleon, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 150-180 (unknown) Natural death Quoted by Clement of Alexandria
Thomas Acts of Thomas 168 200-225 India Pierced by spears NA
Thomas Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 8 (unknown) Calamene, India Stabbed to death NA
James, son of Alpheaeus Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 9 (unknown) Jerusalem Stoned “By the Jews”
Jude Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 10 (unknown) Berytus, Asia Minor Natural death NA
Simon the Zealot Dorotheus: Synopsis de Apostol 300 Britain Crucified and slain NA
Simon the Zealot Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 11 (unknown) Jerusalem Natural death NA
James the Just Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.1 93 Jerusalem Stoned By Ananus and the Sanhedrin for breaking the law
James the Just Secret Book of James 5 150-200 (unknown) Crucified NA
James the Just 2nd Apocalypse of James 120-180 Jerusalem Thrown from the top of the stairs (implied), stricken, stoned NA
James the Just 1st Apocalypse of James 180-250 (unknown) (unknown) Text damaged, seems to be a martyrdom account
James the Just Hegesippus: Memoirs 5 165-175 Jerusalem Thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple and clubbed to death Clubbed by a fuller, Quoted by Eusebius
James the Just Clement of Alexandria: Hypotyposes 7 182-202 Jerusalem Thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple and clubbed to death Clubbed by a fuller, Quoted by Eusebius
James the Just Origen: Against Celsus 1.47 203-250 (unknown) (unknown) Refers to Josephus, put to death by the Jews
James the Just Origen: Against Celsus 2.13 203-250 (unknown) (unknown) Refers to Josephus
James the Just Origen: Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew 203-250 (unknown) (unknown) Refers to Josephus
James the Just Eusebius: Church History 2.23.1-24 300-340 Jerusalem Thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple and clubbed to death or stoned By the Jews or by Sanhedrin, quotes Clement of Alexandria, Hegesippus and Josephus
James the Just Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions 1.66-71 320-380 Jerusalem Thrown from the Temple stairs but not killed Incident instigated by Paul
James the Just Jerome: On Illustrious Men 2 392 Jerusalem Sentenced to stoning, thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple and clubbed to death Misquotes Josephus
James the Just Jerome: On Illustrious Men 13 392 (unknown) (unknown) Misquotes Josephus
James the Just Jerome: Against Jovinianus 1.39 393 (unknown) (unknown) Doesn’t mention martyrdom, misquotes Josephus
Matthias Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 12 (unknown) Jerusalem Natural death NA
Paul 1 Clement 5.5-7 80-140 Unknown, possibly Spain (unknown) Implied
Paul Ignatius: Letter to the Romans 4 105-115 (unknown) (unknown) Not implied
Paul Ignatius: Letter to  the Ephesians 12.2 105-115 (unknown) (unknown) Not implied
Paul Polycarp: Letter to the Philippians 9.1-2 110-140 (unknown) (unknown) Maybe implied
Paul Dionysius of Corinth 165-175 (unknown) (unknown) Quoted by Eusebius
Paul Acts of Paul 170-180 Rome Beheaded By Nero
Paul Irenaeus of Lyon: Against Heresies 3.1.1 175-185 (unknown) (unknown) Not implied
Paul Tertullian: The Prescription Against Heretics 36 197-220 (unknown) Beheading implied NA
Paul Lactantius: Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died 2 303-316 Rome Beheaded By Nero
Paul Eusebius: Church History 3.1.2 300-340 Rome (unknown) “Under Nero”
Paul Aphrahat: Demonstrations 23 334 (unknown) (unknown) NA
Paul A Syriac Martyrology 411 Rome (unknown) NA
Paul Pseudo-Hippolytus: On the Twelve Apostles 13 (unknown) Rome Beheaded NA

What any unbiased historian must admit given all of these textual sources is that we don’t know what happened to the men who followed Jesus. The historical record is too jumbled to arrive at any measure of certainty. And what this means is that citing disciple martyrdom as evidence for the truth of Christianity fails to advance that argument.

(4569) The Christian god acts like a subordinate

Rather than a supreme, omnipotent being who has full control over the whole extent of reality, the Christian god acts as if he is a subordinate to a superior (and very evil) god who has created hell and collects souls to be condemned there.

It is stated in scripture that God wishes everyone to be saved, while at the same time acknowledging that most will go to hell. Omnipotence implies that wishes will come true.

This is analogous to Hitler (the superior god) assigning Jews to the gas chambers while Nicholas Winton, the British man who saved 670 Jews from that fate, is analogous to the Christian god. He was able to save a few but 6 million were murdered.

It is as if Yahweh observed the dire situation beyond his control that had essentially all of humanity going to hell and devised the best strategy to save some of them.

And to extend this analogy even further, it would have the superior god placing restraints on Yahweh so that Yahweh is unable to openly display his existence and the truth of his salvation plan, thus making his efforts less effective.

Although this theology would be blasphemous to Christians, it is in fact the only way to absolve Yahweh from being a sadistic purveyor of evil. By giving up omnipotence, Christians can save their god’s reputation- from being an evil Hitler to being a good Winton.

(4570) Perceiving reality

If Christianity is true, then it would be expected that people who embrace this faith would be more able to accurately perceive other elements of reality, one of those being the overwhelming scientific consensus that the earth is warming due to human activity, principally from to the introduction of carbon dioxide (and to lesser extent carbon monoxide) into the atmosphere. However, the following poll indicates the opposite:

Chart shows nine-in-ten atheists say the Earth is getting warmer mostly due to human activity

How to interpret this is certainly up for discussion. But one legitimate way is to associate the ability to objectively analyze information with a higher probability for coming to conclusions that match reality. So, for example, if atheists are better at seeing the truth of climate science, they might also be better at analyzing facts supporting the existence or non-existence of supernatural beings. Because atheists are right about climate change, it suggests they are also probably right about gods.

(4571) Hyper-grace movement

Christianity is not a static religion, it is constantly changing. A century ago, it was populated by preachers who were over-emphasizing the agonies of hell to scare people into compliance. That phenomena soon became untenable, as society abolished things like slavery and adopted more ethical techniques in the treatment of prisoners as well as non-human animals. So a gentler form of Christianity emerged (example: Joel Osteen).

But now, and even friendlier version of Christianity is emerging- called hyper-grace, the idea that God acknowledges that humans are not responsible for their actions because they are inherently flawed and act according to their nature. Therefore, everybody will be forgiven in the end. The following was taken from:


Hyper-Grace is not biblical.

“He gets us!” and “God has your back!” Are two examples of hyper-Grace.

So what is Hyper-Grace? The term hyper-grace has been used to describe a new wave of teaching that emphasizes the grace of God to the exclusion of other vital teachings such as repentance and confession of sin. Hyper-grace teachers maintain that all sin, past, present, and future, has already been forgiven, so there is no need for a believer to ever confess it. Hyper-grace teaching says that, when God looks at us, He sees only a holy and righteous people. The conclusion of hyper-grace teaching is that we are not bound by Jesus’ teaching, even as we are not under the Law; that believers are not responsible for their sin; and that anyone who disagrees is a pharisaical legalist. In short, hyper-grace teachers “pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality” (Jude 1:4) and flirt with antinomianism.

What is antinomianism? Theologically, antinomianism is the belief that there are no moral laws God expects Christians to obey. Antinomianism takes a biblical teaching to an unbiblical conclusion.

Hypergrace, according to a mainstream Christian news magazine, is a dangerous and unbiblical teaching. By proclaiming the unconditional love of God and forgiveness for all, hypergrace preachers have taken grace too far. We have made grace unbalanced and radical.

Hypergrace, according to a mainstream Christian news magazine, is a dangerous and unbiblical teaching. By proclaiming the unconditional love of God and forgiveness for all, hypergrace preachers have taken grace too far. We have made grace unbalanced and radical.

I feel hypergrace is unbiblical and dangerous. It’s a modern invention based on a few scriptures taken out of context, and it does not reflect the whole gospel.

We have come a long way from the ‘take no prisoners’ wrathful god of the Old Testament, to a god who excuses all forms of human behavior and sends everybody to heaven. But such is the evolution of a human-created religion- it can morph into whatever the prevailing sensibilities direct it to. The gulf between what the Bible says and how Christians view God continues to become wider.

(4572) Revised history of Christianity

Biblical scholar Frans Vermeiren has developed a plausible alternate history of the origins of Christianity that eliminates the miracles and places Jesus, a fully human Essene priest, in a later time frame. The following was taken from:


The Gospels tell us that Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead under the rule of Pontius Pilate. His disciples then recognized him as the long awaited Messiah, the Son of God, and went to preach the Gospel throughout the then known world. That’s how Christianity was born.

However, this story raises important issues that were never resolved. Why did the disciples of Jesus wait for 40 years to write down these startling events? And how do we explain that Paul, the main propagandist for Christianity, doesn’t speak about the life and final days of Jesus in his letters? Could it be possible that the events of the Gospels are placed in the wrong historical context?

While reading the report on the Jewish-Roman war by the Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus, Frans Vermeiren found remarkable similarities between the Jesus of the Gospels and the Jesus from Josephus, whom the historian saved from the cross, are the same person. In an over three decades of research he read the Bible from cover to cover. He studied the early Christian texts apart from the Gospels as well as the work of important Roman historians and he immersed himself in contemporary research on the historical Jesus and the first century CE. So arises an intriguing but historically much more plausible version on the origins of Christianity.

Jesus was an important Essene priest who was crucified by the Romans during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. He was still alive when he was taken from the cross through the intercession of Flavius Josephus and he recovered from his injuries. The Essenes, who had long been expecting a Messiah, regarded these events as the realization of their dreams, by which the defeat of the Jews against the Romans could be bent into a victory, albeit not on earth but in the afterlife. Christianity is the exponent and continuation of the Essene movement in Judaism.

This theory might sound rather controversial, but the author can justify his claim with very solid arguments. At first he presents the most important arguments in favor. Aside from the historical reports of Josephus, there are a lot of further clues that the traditional chronology of the origin of Christianity was antedated and that Jesus survived his execution. Moreover, there is a striking link between the belligerent messiah concept in the Jewish Essene texts and the description of Jesus as messiah in the New Testament.
In the second part of the book it becomes clear that there are good reasons to reject the principal objections against his theory. After critical review the epistles of Paul can be reconstructed as pre-Christian messianistic texts. There is also sound evidence that fragments outside the Bible are interpolations from a later date.

To portray Jesus as no more nor less than a historical human being certainly will hurt people who wholeheartedly believe in the teachings of traditional Christianity. A historical correction, however, does not destroy the spiritual message of Christianity. Moreover, this study shows that there are absolutely no grounds for Christian anti-Semitism since it was not the Jewish establishment or the Jews as a people that were responsible for Jesus’ execution.

There might remain some details to explain, but the arguments in favour of this daring and controversial claim are supported by varied and expert sources and provide the theory with a high degree of probability. Moreover, the theory exposed in this book is far more realistic than the supernatural assumptions claimed by traditional Christian belief and therefore is much more credible. Finally, the text is very well written and accessible to all readers. This fascinating book is highly recommended to everyone interested in religion and history.

Although this is speculative, it indicates how murky are the historical facts surrounding Jesus- that such a theory can be taken seriously. It is plausible that the entire story was simply made up and adorned with all sorts of fantasy elements that were probably never meant to be taken literally.

(4573) Medieval Christianity

The following discusses how Christianity went through several distinct stages from the time and place of Jesus and Paul, to the Roman Empire, and then to Northern Europe:


There are historical reasons why the Jesus of Paul and the gospels, and the Jesus of the type of Christianity that came to northern Europe were not seen in the same way.

Peter Heather, “Christendom: The Triumph of a Religion” (2022), discusses the conversion, first of northwestern Europe, England and Ireland, and from there Scandinavia, and central and eastern Europe, as a third iteration of Christianity. The early church, its practices and ideas, in its first phase, differed from the second phase Christianity that took shape in the late Roman Empire. When it came to the frontiers beyond the Empire, Christianity had to appeal to warrior cultures. It was no longer a religion just of personal transformation and salvation, or an appendage of Empire. It had to adapt to a totally new situation.

Heather writes: “This new iteration of the faith had to differ in key respects from what had gone before, since it’s main target audiences not only had to kill each other in battle, but were tied to honor systems that charged them to kill in defense of the interests of their kin groups. None of this should have sat easily alongside gospel teachings to love and forgive your enemies and turn the other cheek, but a few light penances and modified teachings squared the circle…This capacity to reinvent itself in new contexts is a key component in Christianity’s capacity to spread so widely, and no particular form of the religion — at least in analytical terms — be considered more true than any other.” (p.295)

Peter Brown, “The Rise of Western Christendom,” 2nd ed., (2003), writes of the remarkable Saxon verse epic, “Heiland, The Savior,” which depicts Christ “as the Lord, in a heavy, Carolingian style (not in the looser manner of an Old Saxon chieftain). The apostles were his war-band. At first reading, the ‘Heiland’ seems to have sprung straight from the woods of Germany,” while at the same time delivering a harmonized gospel (p.452).

The idea of Christ as ruler in the military style of Charlemagne, appealed to the warrior elites and kings who spread the Christian message. The Christianizing of Europe was a “top-down” process, where the rulers wanted to emulate their powerful Christian neighbors, and make all their subjects Christian.

In Sweden, at least at first, the process seems to have been a little different. Rimbert’s ‘Life of Anskar’ (9th century) describes Swedish warriors talking about how the God of the Christians frequently helps those who appeal to him. After divination reveals that Christ will help them, they adopt Christian fasts and almsgiving as acceptable to Christ in return for his help. After 900, powerful kings rose, and in the manner of nearby kings, enforced widespread Christianization (Brown, pp.470-471).

A wrathful Christ would not be out of place in a society dominated by warrior kings.

It should become apparent that a religion that evolves through stages that are adjusted to be consistent with the pre-existing conditions of the territory it invades is probably not a religion that is tied to a supernatural being, but rather is a human-generated project.

(4574) Out-of-date scriptures

Christians, when asked the question, ‘Why does your faith rely on scriptures that were written 2000 years ago?,’ usually reply that God’s word as written in the Bible is perfect and was designed to stand the test of time for all eternity. Yet, there are good examples where this is obviously not true. Consider:

Ephesians 5:22-24

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

In almost every country of the world, this scripture is no longer relevant. Almost all familial laws hold the wife and husband on equal ground in all areas, and, yes, marital rape is now punishable in nearly every part of the world. In fact, due to men being normally stronger physically, some laws now protect wives to an extent greater than husbands.

If this scripture were to be written today, it might read:

Wives and husbands, submit to each other equally for God sees you as being partners. For the wife and the husband make a unit of excellence in the eyes of God as the merger of two souls into one. Neither one nor the other is superior. Therefore, go forth, hand in hand.

The Bible fails the test of being a timeless document, and Christians are wrong that it doesn’t need to be revised. Wouldn’t an omni-god have known that sexual equality was the inevitable endpoint of social evolution and have fashioned his scriptures accordingly?

(4575) Guessing about God

David Madison, in his new book, expounds on the fact that there is little evidence for the Christian god and that what is available is of inferior quality. It exposes the problems of God leaving the local scene of human existence and the concept of Jesus living a sinless life without any documentation of his teenage and early adult years. The following is taken from:


In the newly-released Guessing About God, David Madison and Tim Sledge take a common-sense approach to a discussion of Christian belief. Although many counter-apologetic works assume some familiarity with psychology, biblical criticism, church history or philosophy, Madison asks little more of the reader than a degree of open-mindedness, access to a Bible, some familiarity with the Christian liturgy, and a willingness to argue in good faith. Like Madison, I spent part of my childhood in Indiana: “Christianity was in the drinking water where I grew up…God was just there, a given.” Questioning what is taken for granted is often painful and occurs in stages, a process tacitly acknowledged by Madison’s thoughtful and empathetic approach.

For the people of the Bible, Yahweh was never far away—an animal ritually slaughtered and burned produced “an aroma pleasing to the Lord.” (Leviticus 3:5, 16) God was close enough to Earth to smell the smoke of sacrifice, to hear the prayers, receive the praise, and observe the actions of his worshippers. The biblical God “makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.” (Psalm 104:3) Yahweh even accompanies his followers into battle: “God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” (Deuteronomy 20:4) However, as Madison points out, these days the God of the Bible is nowhere to be found. Modern theologians are forced to claim that God is “outside space and time,” an assertion that would have been quite incomprehensible to the Bible authors who clearly write about a God that has both location and history.

“If, say, the Space Shuttle were sent speeding toward Alpha Centauri at about 18,000 miles per hour, the journey would take about 80,000 years. And that’s to the nearest star!” Humanity no longer inhabits the biblical microcosm where “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” can be viewed from the top of “a very high mountain.” (Matthew 4:8) Indeed, the incomprehensible vastness of the universe threatens to reduce the biblical world and its gods to an invisible, irrelevant speck.

In “Problem 2 — The Bible Disproves Itself,” Madison discusses what I regard as the most fundamental problem of religious belief: sacred books as self-authenticating documents. Philosophy, history, or probability aside, “proving the Bible’s authenticity by quoting from the Bible is closed-loop reasoning…no document on the planet can be self-authenticating.” Truth claims made for a sacred book cannot be substantiated simply by quoting from that book. “This irony is not lost on atheists. The theists, in fact, are among those who deny that the Word of God comes in book form—when it’s the other guy’s book. They are like kids in a playground taunting others, ‘My book is holier than yours!’”

As Madison notes, “Without question, the Bible is the most researched and minutely studied book ever written. There are countless books, articles, scholarly journals, doctoral dissertations, and sermons about the Bible.” Bible study is an industry: “Most lay people, the average individuals in the pews, are unaware that thousands of scholars make their living studying and writing about the Bible.” Likely few believers have reflected on the economic implications of seminaries and departments of religion in secular universities, the Christian broadcasting and publishing empires, or multi-millionaire celebrity preachers with private jets. Religious conviction aside, churches are big business, motivation enough to keep theologizing, philosophizing, preaching, broadcasting and publishing. For many thousands, religious belief is a matter of employment.

The third section of Guessing About God addresses the vexed question of vetting the bona fides of sinless Jesus: “Let’s suppose that in the course of your research, you found that no information was available on this man’s life between the ages of 13 and 29. Wouldn’t this give you pause?” In point of fact, it is well known among scholars that apart from the New Testament, no contemporary evidence confirms the life and career of Jesus of Nazareth. Which raises some additional questions: “Are the Gospels accurate in their portrayal of Jesus? Is their content reliable? Are they history, or something else?”

Until relatively recently, even skeptics thought the gospel accounts retained some historical core of information based on oral traditions about Jesus. It is now known with near certainty that Mark was the first gospel written and that it is a literary construct “that has nothing to do with contemporaneous documentation.” In short, we are back to self-authenticating stories again, a claim that simply won’t bear examination. “It’s no surprise that many church leaders have about as much use for Bible scholars as laypeople do. The task of such leaders is to keep the Jesus brand alive.”

The third section confronts the reader with the present state of the Jesus Studies debate: “Enter stage left The Mythicists. The people-of-faith New Testament scholars, those who cling to Jesus, even if only by a thread, now face a phalanx of scholars who argue that the whole story of Jesus could be fiction.” At this point, Madison focuses on the best internal support for the mythicist position generally: “In the earliest of the New Testament documents, penned long before the Gospels, Jesus of Nazareth isn’t there. That is, the epistles of Paul and others don’t speak at all about Jesus of Nazareth. Their focus is a divine Christ. There seems to be no awareness of Jesus’s preaching and parables, his miracles, his disputes with religious authorities, or even the Passion narratives. It’s almost as if the real Jesus hadn’t been invented yet, which would not happen until the Gospels had been created.”

Paul is perfectly clear about the source of his gospel: “For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:12) This statement is not a confession; it’s self-satisfied boasting. Paul and his house churches had little use for a historical Jesus: “Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.” (2 Corinthians 5:16) If this represented the attitude of the primitive church, there is even less reason to expect that believers treasured and transmitted details of Jesus’ life or that those details would eventually be enshrined in the text of the gospels.

I’m in complete agreement with Madison’s conclusion: “The managers of the Christian brand have to hold onto the Gospels for dear life and to believe there must be shreds of evidence in Gospels to underwrite the reality of Jesus. If the Jesus-was-real folks want to paint themselves into this corner, that’s fine with me. I’m delighted with the Gospels as the playing field. I want to stick with the Gospels. They are the best tool for showing that the case for a credible Jesus is weak.”

The question that should be asked is this: If the Christian god is real, and that humans must accept his existence to gain a great reward and avoid an awful punishment, how ON EARTH could he have left such a confusing set of clues that not only confound those who wonder if he even exists but further confuse those who do as to his true nature. In other words, the Christian god, as imagined by Christians, cannot be real.

(4576) Jesus finally speaks

Below is a fictional story that is very unlikely to happen, but nevertheless resides within the realm of the possible, and it reflects on certain aspects of the plausibility of the Christian faith:

(AP) June 12, 2032, 08:59 EDT

A document found early this year in a cave near Saint-Laurent-Chabreuges, France has upended the Christian faith, and is a potential game-changer in how it will be perceived in the future. It is purportedly a letter written by Jesus of Nazareth, who, according to the writings, survived his crucifixion and relocated to the area of present-day France in the immediate aftermath. The document has been radio-carbon dated by three independent labs to the period from CE 60-110. It is translated from Aramaic to English below:

I, Jeshua bin Joseph, of seventy-six years age, write this letter to whomever will find it in the future. I was born in Galilee and worked as a day laborer until I was 28 years old. At that time, I became very interested in the scriptures. I felt a calling by God to bring about a resurgence of faith among my Jewish heritage and traveled about Galilee and Judea to exhort my people to renew our commitment to God, our Yahweh, as it would be the only way that we could escape from the Roman forces that occupied our land.

[at this point in the letter, the text was indecipherable to the extent that about three lines of text were lost]

I had five close followers, disciples as it were, who were with me during this time. After about one year of traveling and preaching, I entered Jerusalem. Becoming upset with the buying and selling of goods and animals in the Temple courtyard, I started [text unintelligible] merchants. I was arrested and sentenced to death.

I recall being flogged and tied to a pole with a cross-beam, but soon lost consciousness. Some time later, I awoke in a tomb in a very weakened state. I was unable to exit the tomb, but when I heard someone pass by, I pounded on the capstone and this person helped me to move the stone just enough so I could squeeze out. I never saw this person again.

I immediately realized that if the Roman authorities found me that I would be put back on the pole. I knew where to find my followers, and met with them. They were extremely astonished to see me, and wanted me to stay with them to continue our mission, but I told them that it was impossible. I had to leave the area and stay away as long as the Romans were in control.

I was able to find passage on a boat that sailed west from the coast and ended up in a distant land where I was a total stranger and knew nothing of their customs or language. But I was able to find some friends there who helped me to find employment [text unintelligible] their language. This I did for the past 35 years.

[text unintelligible for about four lines]

… writing this is what happened just recently. I came across a scroll that was written by a man named Paul of Tarsus. It seemed to be talking about me, or at least it seemed to be about me. But presenting me as a divine figure, or someone who had been sent by god and who had returned to be with god after being killed. It seemed very strange, because I am nothing more than a regular human.

After seeing this, I tried to find more information. I was able to travel back to Judea only to find to my horror that the Temple had been almost totally destroyed, with only one wall still standing. I learned that there had been a terrible war with the Romans. While there, I also found a scroll that once again seemed to be talking about me. But it was impossible. It had me performing miracles of all sorts, such as walking on water, and having me say things that I never said. Like I said, I am not a god or any divine person, just a regular human who tried to better my world. I am Jew and will be one until the day that I die.

I also found [text unintelligible] who were worshiping this person in the stories, but it wasn’t me. They had taken my life and made it into something that is not real. I even tried to communicate to some of these people that I was the person in the story, and that it was not real, but no one believed me. I was laughed at and dismissed. I returned to my adopted home and will stay here until I die. I hope that some day this letter will be found and that it will correct the story of my life.

Yeshua bin Yosef

Christian authorities have roundly condemned the letter as a pious fraud, challenging not only the content but also the dating of the parchment. However, multiple labs have determined that it was written in the First Century. Some Bible scholars have conjectured that it might be a legitimate communication from the figure of Jesus of the scriptures, as it relates a possible way in which the Christian faith could have originated without the need to incorporate any supernatural elements. Of course, it could also be a fraudulent letter written by someone who disdained the emerging Christian religion. Regardless, this letter will receive much more analysis and discussion as time goes on.

There is nothing in this postulate that is impossible to happen, as unlikely as it might seem. However unlikely, it is orders of magnitude more likely than that a man died, came back to life, and then flew up into the sky on his own power.

(4577) How do adults believe in heaven/hell?

In the following essay, it is wondered how modern-day, intelligent people can believe in the literal existence of heaven and hell:


How do millions of American adults still believe in heaven/hell?

I realize that I’m preaching to the choir here, but the entire concept is so silly that it’s hard for me to believe that millions of American adults actually believe in this nonsense. It’s like an adult who still believes Santa Claus delivers millions of presents to children around the world in one night. The entire thing falls apart if you just apply a little bit of logic to it.

This all-loving all-knowing all-powerful god created us to spend ~76 years on earth and then spend eternity in heaven or hell (depending on how well we behaved)?

Since 76 years is essentially nothing compared to eternity and god is all-knowing, why bother with the time on earth? He supposedly already knows how it’s going to turn out. Why not just send people directly to heaven or hell so they can get on with their eternity? Why belabor the point?

If the time on earth is a test and we’re expected to behave in a certain manner in order to win a trip to heaven, why are there not crystal-clear instructions on what’s expected of us from the all-loving god? People spend their entire lives studying the bible and come up with vastly different interpretations. Not to mention all the other religions that have their own versions of rules and heaven/hell. An all-loving god would want to provide crystal clear instructions to people if their decisions are going to influence how they spend eternity.

Why would an all-knowing god create me in the first place if he knew I was going to spend ~76 years confused on earth and then eternity in hell? I would rather not be created at all and an all-loving god would never do that.

If there’s only a single religion that has it correct, then no matter which one it is that means at least 75% of the people created were wrong and will now spend an eternity in hell. What kind of all-loving and all-knowing god would create people knowing the vast majority of them were going to spend eternity in hell?

Originally, ALL people created by the all-loving god were going to spend eternity in hell. But then the all-powerful god created a son through a virgin birth. And because that son allowed himself to be crucified on a cross, that means that people who believe in him can now spend eternity in heaven instead of hell. How specifically does the son dying on a cross open up a path to heaven? If Jesus had stabbed himself to death, would that have worked? Why would an all-powerful god create such a system? Why not just create a clear path to heaven from day 1?

God supposedly wants us to pray to him every day, but he already has a plan for each of us. What’s the point of prayer? It won’t change anything if god is all-knowing and already has a plan for each of us. Some people seem to believe that prayer can change the outcome, but that would make no sense whatsoever if god is all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful. He already planned how things would work out best for billions of people and the prayer from a single person isn’t going to cause all-knowing god to rethink his plan.

What is it our “soul” is supposed to do in heaven to begin with? Without a working brain, the soul has no memories. People who have Alzheimer’s supposedly have a soul, but that soul can’t remember their own children because their brain is no longer functioning correctly. Wouldn’t that be the same in heaven? Not to mention that our souls can’t communicate with each other without a working mouth. I guess we’ll just be floating around with no memories of anything, unable to see anything and unable to communicate with any other souls for eternity. Sounds joyful.

Ever notice how the people who firmly believe in god1 can’t understand how other people could have possibly believed in god2/god3/god4? I mean, those Greeks who believed in Zeus were morons, right? And the Norse who believed in Odin? And the Mormons with their plates and magic underwear? That’s all crazy talk. But my god created a son through a virgin birth who turned water into wine, died on a cross, rose from the dead and only showed up to talk to his apostles. Unfortunately he didn’t think to show himself to all the other people in the world at the time in order to definitely prove there is life after death. And he didn’t think to write down explicit instructions on how to get to heaven, instead leaving his confused followers to write unclear instructions that had to be interpreted by others hundreds of years later.

The analytical portions of the human brain can be hijacked by the emotional centers. People believe in heaven and hell because they are conditioned to do so, and they have lingering fears of becoming non-existent. They also hope for a better life in a paradisaical setting. Hopes and fears are a powerful motivation to distort the observation of the real world.

(4578) Rebutting the ‘84 facts’

Scholar and historian Colin Hemer has identified 84 facts in the last 16 chapters of the Book of Acts that have been confirmed by historical and/or archaeological research. This list was made to convince the reader that the Book of Acts presents factual history. A solid rebuttal to this assertion is provided below.

The ‘facts’ are as follows:

1. the natural crossing between correctly named ports [Acts 13:4-5]
2. the proper port [Perga] along the direct destination of a ship crossing from Cyprus [13:13]
3. the proper location of Lycaonia [14:6]
4. the unusual but correct declension of the name Lystra [14:6]
5. the correct language spoken in Lystra-Lycaonian [14:11]
6. two gods known to be so associated-Zeus and Hermes [14:12]
7. the proper port, Attalia, which returning travelers would use [14:25]
8. the correct order of approach to Derbe and then Lystra from the Cilician Gates [16:1; cf. 15:41]
9. the proper form of the name Troas [16:8]
10. the place of a conspicuous sailors’ landmark, Samothrace [12:14]
11. the proper description of Philippi as a Roman colony [16:12]
12. the right location fro the river [Gangites] near Philippi [12:13]
13. the proper association of Thyatira as a center of dyeing [16:14]
14. correct designations for the magistrates of the colony [16:22]
15. the proper locations [Amphipolis and Apollonia] where travelers would spend successive nights on this journey [17:1]
16. the presence of a synagogue in Thessalonica [17:1]
17. the proper term [“politarchs”] used of the magistrates there [17:6]
18. the correct implication that sea travel is the most convenient way of reaching Athens, with the favoring east winds of summer sailing [17:14-15]
19. the abundant presence of images in Athens [17:16]
20. the reference to a synagogue in Athens [17:17]
21. the depiction of the Athenian life of philosophical debate in the Agora [17:17]
22. the use of the correct Athenian slang word for Paul [spermologos, 17:18] as well as for the court [Areios pagos, 17:19]
23. the proper characterization of the Athenian character [17:21]
24. an alter to an “unknown god” [17:23]
25. the proper reaction of Greek philosophers, who denied the bodily resurrection [17:32]
26. Areopagites as the correct title for a member of the court [17:34]
27. A Corinthian synagogue [18:4]
28. the correct designation of Gallio as proconsul, resident in Corinth [18:12]
29. the bema [judgement seat], which overlooks Corinth’s forum [18:16ff.]
30. the name Tyrannus as attested from Ephesus in first-century inscriptions [19:9]
31. well-known shrines and images of Artemis [19:24]
32. the well attested “great goddess Artemis” [19:27]
33. that the Ephesian theater was the meeting place of the city [19:29]
34. the correct title grammateus for the chief executive magistrate in Ephesus [19:35]
35. the proper title of honor neokoros, authorized by the Romans [19:35]
36. the correct name to designate the goddess [19:37]
37. the proper term for those holding court [19:38]
38. use of plural anthupatori, perhaps a remarkable reference to the fact that two men were conjointly exercising the functions of proconsul at this time [19:38]
39. the “regular” assembly, as the precise phrase is attested elsewhere [19:39]
40. use of precise ethnic designation, beroiaios [20:4]
41. employment of the ethnic term Asianos [20:4]
42. the implied recognition of the strategic importance assigned to this city of Troas [20:7ff.]
43. the danger of the coastal trip in this location [20:13]
44. the correct sequence of places [20:14-15]
45. the correct name of the city as a neuter plural [Patara] [21:1]
46. the appropriate route passing across the open sea south of Cyprus favored by persistent northwest winds [21:3]
47. the suitable distance between these cities [21:8]
48. a characteristically Jewish act of piety [21:24]
49. the Jewish law regarding Gentile use of the temple area [21:28] [Archaeological discoveries and quotations from Josephus confirm that Gentiles could be executed for entering the temple area. One inscription reads: “Let no Gentile enter within the balustrade and enclosure surrounding the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will be personally responsible for his consequent death.”]
50. the permanent stationing of a Roman cohort [chiliarch]at Antonia to suppress any disturbance at festival times [21:31]
51. the flight of steps used by the guards [21:31, 35]
52. the common way to obtain Roman citizenship at this time [22:28]
53. the tribune being impressed with Roman rather than Tarsian citizenship [22:29]
54. Ananias being high priest at this time [23:2]
55. Felix being governor at this time [23:34]
56. the natural shopping point on the way to Caesarea [23:31]
57. whose jurisdiction Cilicia was in at the time [23:34]
58. the provincial penal procedure of the time [24:1-9]
59. the name Porcius Festus, which agrees precisely with that given by Josephus [24:27]
60. the right of appeal for Roman citizens [25:11]
61. the correct legal formula [25:18]
62. the characteristic form of reference to the emperor at the time [25:26]
63. the best shipping lanes at the time [27:5]
64. the common bonding of Cilicia and Pamphylia [27:4]
65. the principal port to find a ship sailing to Italy [27:5-6]
66. the slow passage to Cnidus, in the fact of the typical northwest wind [27:7]
67. the right route to sail, in view of the winds [27:7]
68. the locations of Fair Havens and the neighboring site of Lasea [27:8]
69. Fair Havens as a poorly sheltered roadstead [27:7]
70. a noted tendency of a south wind in these climes to back suddenly to a violent northeaster, the well-known gregale [27:13]
71. the nature of a square-rigged ancient ship, having no option but to be driven before a gale [27:15]
72. the precise place and name of this island [27:16]
73. the appropriate maneuvers for the safety of the ship in its particular plight [27:16]
74. the fourteenth night-a remarkable calculation, based inevitably on a compounding of estimates and probabilities, confirmed in the judgement of experienced Mediterranean navigators [27:27]
75. the proper term of the time for the Adriatic [27:27]
76. the precise term [Bolisantes] for taking soundings, and the correct depth of the water near Malta [27:28]
77. a position that suits the probable line of approach of a ship released to run before an easterly wind [27:39]
78. the severe liability on guards who permitted a prisoner to escape [27:42]
79. the local people and superstitions of the day [28:4-6]
80. the proper title protos tes nesou [28:7]
81. Regium as a refuge to await a southerly wind to carry them through the strait [28:13]
82. Appii Forum and Tres Tabernae as correctly placed stopping places on the Appian Way [28:15]
83. appropriate means of custody with Roman soliders [28:16]
84. the conditions of imprisonment, living “at his own expense” [28:30-31] [1]

The following was taken from:


In the book ‘The book of Acts in the setting of Hellenistic history’, Colin Hemer presents 84 verified facts from the last 16 chapters of the book of Acts. These facts can be found here.

For a long time I believed this to be one of the best arguments for the historical reliability of the historical books of the New Testament (the gospels and Acts). Of course it only deals with one of those books, but since the same author also wrote one of the gospels the argument could have implications there too. The preferred conclusion of many Christian apologists is that the author of Luke/Acts was a traveling companion of Paul and that he wrote careful and accurate history. Here I will present a different and in my opinion better explanation for the observations of Hemer.


The book of Acts often speaks about synagogues. It mentions synagogues in Damascus, Salamis, Antioch, Iconium, Thessalonica, Beroea, Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus. We have archaeological evidence for 3 of them. It’s an easy guess that there would be a synagogue in larger cities, so these aren’t hard facts. This means that facts 16, 20, and 27 are easily explained.

Roman citizenship

The author of Luke/Acts almost certainly lived in the Roman empire. He could easily have been a Roman citizen himself, or otherwise have known Roman citizens. Any fact about Roman citizenship is easily explained regardless of where in the Roman empire the author lived and travelled. This explains facts 52, 53, 60, 61, 83, and 84.


In the ancient world, books had to be copied by hand. This created textual variants and error, but most of the text would still be reliably transmitted. Now, think about how you would preserve geographical knowledge. If you would draw a map, someone would have to make a copy by hand. With every copy, the map would get worse. After just a few copies, the map would be inaccurate already. Because of this, there was a need for a different way of preserving geographical knowledge. This was done with a periplus. A periplus is a written document describing geographical features, usually focused on coastal cities. Here is the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a periplus from the first century.

My hypothesis is that the author of Luke/Acts used a periplus similar to the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, but obviously from a different region. This periplus contains the exact same kind of information as we find in most of the 84 facts of Hemer. I will refer to the numbers in the link.

A periplus contains the correct names of ports and the right distances between them, as found in almost all points. The locations of ports and cities are mentioned in the correct order. All of the cities and locations are also correctly named. This explains facts 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 12, 44, 45, 47, 56, 64, 65, 68, 72, 74, 75, and 82.

A periplus contains detailed information useful for sailors. This deals with the specifics of harbors (point 3), the strength and direction of the wind (points 25, 39, and 57), the status of particular ports (point 52), and potential dangers for sailors (points 12, 20, 39, and 46). This explains facts 10, 18, 43, 46, 63, 66, 67, 69, 70, 71, 73, 76, 77, and 81.

A periplus contains information about the character of local people (points 4, 8, 20, 33, 62, and 65), their language (points 16, 20, 33, and 50), the names and titles of local rulers (points 14, 19, 20, 22, 23, and so on), as well as some information about what cities are known for (points 6, 7, 8, and so on). The periplus I linked above doesn’t say much about the gods being worshipped in different places. However, in this periplus, gods are often mentioned (points 4, 14, 38, 49, and so on). This explains facts 5, 6, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 48, 55, 57, 62, 79, and 80.

This leaves us with facts 3, 22, 25, 40, 41, 42, 49, 50, 51, 54, 58, 59, and 78. Facts 3, 40, and 41 should be easily known. The names of ethnic groups and decently sized regions are generally known. Fact 49 deals with Jewish law and is confirmed by Josephus. It has nothing to do with being a travelling companion of Paul. The same holds for fact 54. Fact 59 is also confirmed by Josephus. Some scholars think the author of Luke/Acts used Josephus, which would easily explain this. Even if the author didn’t use Josephus, you wouldn’t need to be there to know these kind of things. The remaining facts (22, 25, 42, 50, 51, 58, and 78) are rather vague and hard to verify or falsify.

Is it plausible that the author of Luke/Acts had access to a periplus? We know that the author had access to Mark, Q (or Matthew), and at least one other source for the gospel of Luke. In addition, the author also had access to the Septuagint, as he quotes it regularly. Finally, we know that both books are written in advanced Greek, even more advanced than most other books of the New Testament. This means that the author had a good education and had access to a number of other sources, so it is plausible that he also had access to a periplus.

I think this hypothesis better explains the 84 facts of Hemer than the hypothesis that the author was a travelling companion of Paul. If he was a traveling companion, we wouldn’t necessarily expect them to know all the details about the ports he wrote about. I have travelled by boat I the past, but I couldn’t give all of those details myself. It’s possible that the author would know all of those details, but that wouldn’t be necessary.

Another indication against the hypothesis that the author was a travelling companion of Paul is the lack of detail in other part of the book. He writes about the region of Phrygia and Galatia twice (Acts 16:6, 18:23). I both cases, the author doesn’t describe any details and he doesn’t name any cities in those areas. Why would he record so many details in other locations and not in these areas? An easy explanation is that Phrygia and Galatia are not coastal regions, so they would not appear in a periplus.


A popular argument for the reliability of the book of Acts is that it contains 84 verified facts that would be hard to know if the author wasn’t a travelling companion of Paul. However, I have argued that the use of a periplus better explains those facts. These facts are exactly the kind of facts that are contained in a periplus, and there are few hard facts that would not be contained in a periplus.

Given the number of absurdities and fantasy elements of the Book of Acts, it cannot be considered a reliable historical record. Rather, it follows a script similar to other fictional works, such as the Iliad and the Odyssey. Simply because an author refers to an actual location does not mean that he has relayed something that actually happened there. In this case, a periplus and an active imagination was all that was needed.

(4579) The implausibilities of heaven and hell

In the following essay, it is wondered how modern-day, intelligent people can believe in the literal existence of heaven and hell:


How do millions of American adults still believe in heaven/hell?

I realize that I’m preaching to the choir here, but the entire concept is so silly that it’s hard for me to believe that millions of American adults actually believe in this nonsense. It’s like an adult who still believes Santa Claus delivers millions of presents to children around the world in one night. The entire thing falls apart if you just apply a little bit of logic to it.

This all-loving all-knowing all-powerful god created us to spend ~76 years on earth and then spend eternity in heaven or hell (depending on how well we behaved)?

Since 76 years is essentially nothing compared to eternity and god is all-knowing, why bother with the time on earth? He supposedly already knows how it’s going to turn out. Why not just send people directly to heaven or hell so they can get on with their eternity? Why belabor the point?

If the time on earth is a test and we’re expected to behave in a certain manner in order to win a trip to heaven, why are there not crystal-clear instructions on what’s expected of us from the all-loving god? People spend their entire lives studying the bible and come up with vastly different interpretations. Not to mention all the other religions that have their own versions of rules and heaven/hell. An all-loving god would want to provide crystal clear instructions to people if their decisions are going to influence how they spend eternity.

Why would an all-knowing god create me in the first place if he knew I was going to spend ~76 years confused on earth and then eternity in hell? I would rather not be created at all and an all-loving god would never do that.

If there’s only a single religion that has it correct, then no matter which one it is that means at least 75% of the people created were wrong and will now spend an eternity in hell. What kind of all-loving and all-knowing god would create people knowing the vast majority of them were going to spend eternity in hell?

Originally, ALL people created by the all-loving god were going to spend eternity in hell. But then the all-powerful god created a son through a virgin birth. And because that son allowed himself to be crucified on a cross, that means that people who believe in him can now spend eternity in heaven instead of hell. How specifically does the son dying on a cross open up a path to heaven? If Jesus had stabbed himself to death, would that have worked? Why would an all-powerful god create such a system? Why not just create a clear path to heaven from day 1?

God supposedly wants us to pray to him every day, but he already has a plan for each of us. What’s the point of prayer? It won’t change anything if god is all-knowing and already has a plan for each of us. Some people seem to believe that prayer can change the outcome, but that would make no sense whatsoever if god is all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful. He already planned how things would work out best for billions of people and the prayer from a single person isn’t going to cause all-knowing god to rethink his plan.

What is it our “soul” is supposed to do in heaven to begin with? Without a working brain, the soul has no memories. People who have Alzheimer’s supposedly have a soul, but that soul can’t remember their own children because their brain is no longer functioning correctly. Wouldn’t that be the same in heaven? Not to mention that our souls can’t communicate with each other without a working mouth. I guess we’ll just be floating around with no memories of anything, unable to see anything and unable to communicate with any other souls for eternity. Sounds joyful.

Ever notice how the people who firmly believe in god1 can’t understand how other people could have possibly believed in god2/god3/god4? I mean, those Greeks who believed in Zeus were morons, right? And the Norse who believed in Odin? And the Mormons with their plates and magic underwear? That’s all crazy talk. But my god created a son through a virgin birth who turned water into wine, died on a cross, rose from the dead and only showed up to talk to his apostles. Unfortunately he didn’t think to show himself to all the other people in the world at the time in order to definitely prove there is life after death. And he didn’t think to write down explicit instructions on how to get to heaven, instead leaving his confused followers to write unclear instructions that had to be interpreted by others hundreds of years later.

The analytical portions of the human brain can be hijacked by the emotional centers. People believe in heaven and hell because they are conditioned to do so, and they have lingering fears of becoming non-existent. They also hope for a better life in a paradisaical setting. Hopes and fears are a powerful motivation to distort the observation of the real world.

(4580) The god of classical theism is not YHWH

The imaginary god that Christians worship is not the god depicted in the Old Testament, YHWH, or Yahweh. This ancient Jewish tribal war-god of the Old Testament has limitations that collide with the assumed traits that Christians attribute to their god. The following was taken from:


Classical theism is the view that holds God as being transcendent, immutable, omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, simple, eternal, etc. It is the view held by most modern Christian apologists. But even if we were to accept the existence of the God of classical theism, we can be fairly confident that that God is not the same as YHWH, the patron god of ancient Israel:

Here are a few explicit differences we can point out between the two:

    • The classical God is conceived of as being abstract, transcendent, and ultimately simple. Yet YHWH seems to have human-like passions and is deeply invested in the affairs of the ancient Israelites. He even displays personal traits like jealousy, anger, regret 🎭
    • The classical God is immutable and unchanging, whereas, in the Hebrew Bible, there are instances where YHWH changes in response to human action.
    • The classical God is omniscient — He knows all. But YHWH is often portrayed in the Bible as not knowing things and needing to acquire more information. You can see an example of this in Genesis 18 where YHWH sends angels to “investigate” the level of evil in Sodom and Gomorrah before destroying it.

Whoever the classical God is, it’s not YHWH. Yet the arguments for God’s existence used in Christian apologetics are all arguments for the classical God.

So if Christians don’t worship YHWH, which god is it that they extol? To be honest, Christians should cut the Old Testament out of their Bibles, and admit that the god of that testament is not the same god that they worship. But they are hamstrung in doing this, because the gospels indicate that Jesus clearly worshiped this god himself. So they are stuck, and thus end up becoming walking contradictions.

(4581) Incompatibility of answered prayers and science

Christians fail to realize that a god who can override the physical laws of the universe would result in a world very different from the one we all inhabit. Our lives run on an assumption that everything that happens has a natural cause. If this were not the case, then science, which requires repeatability, could not exist. The following was taken from:


If outside influences like prayer or meddling gods cannot be excluded, then science cannot proceed – it won’t work. The same experiment will get different results depending on who was praying somewhere in the world, or on the whim of some god. Science doesn’t just assume that we only use natural explanations, it actually requires that only natural phenomena exist. Otherwise you can’t reliably replicate a result. Replication is fundamental to science, and even more important for industries built on science, which replicate the same products billions of times.

Thus the very existence of science is strong evidence against the kinds of gods people worship – gods who intervene routinely in the natural order. The burden of proof is therefore on the theist to explain how we can have science and smartphones that undeniably exist, and at the same time we have their God whose existence and behavior would make science impossible. The plain fact that during the past two centuries the intellectual elite (i.e., those who actually have some claim to expertise on matters of religion, philosophy, and science) have indeed become overwhelmingly skeptical in regard to the existence of a ‘conscious Creator.’

We do not live in a world that contains a god who answers prayers. If there is a god, it is not interfering with our reality. This allows us to practice science, and make reliable predictions.

(4582) God allowed errors in the Bible

If God exists, he cannot be excused for allowing errors to be placed in the Bible which ended up causing unnecessary misery and deaths to millions of people and the proliferation of hundreds of years of anti-science superstition. The following was taken from:


Christians posit that the Bible is divinely inspired by god. Some Christians (Catholics and Orthodox) believe that the Bible requires interpretation by high ranking members of the church, but that these interpretations are infallible. However, the Bible contains inaccuracies that are inexcusable for an all-powerful, infallible deity.

For example the Bible tells us that we must “not suffer a witch to live.” (Exodus 22:18).

However, witches do not exist. No one can actually cast magic spells or summon demons. The idea that they can inspired tens of thousands of executions of innocent people. Furthermore, it caused the Satanic Panic, a scare that resulted in many people being falsely accused of crimes they did not commit .


Neither god nor any church intervened to prevent this or correct this idea.

The Bible also posited that ghosts and demons exist. Jesus himself drives demons out of people in the Bible.

Luke 8: 27-31

“ 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.”

This led people to believe that mental illness was caused by demons, leading to exorcisms. These exorcisms are still being performed today! And demand for them may be increasing!


The idea that people with mental illnesses may be refusing actual, effective, empirically supported treatments such as therapy and medication, and instead turning to superstitious nonsense, is terrifying. And yet the Catholic church does not condemn these practices, and god allowed it to be written into the Bible that such things do happen.

Why would god allow such fantasy into his holy book, when he must’ve known it would not be accurate and would lead to incredible amounts of death and harm?

Some may argue that god allows us free will. However, we cannot exercise our free will properly if we do not understand how the world works. God cannot be angry with humans for exercising their free will to follow what his instructions say. If god wants people to follow his commands, he must only make commands that he actually wishes them to follow. Being all-knowing, his commands should line up with what we can observe in reality, rather than directly contradict it. By leaving lines in the Bible that lead his followers to execute thousands of innocent people and traumatize thousands more, he appears to discredit himself and make it appear more likely that he doesn’t exist.

Therefore, god must either not exist, be hopelessly incompetent, or be an evil being who wishes to trick people and cause death and destruction.

There is no valid excuse for this to have happened, though Christians will try to claim that God did this to test humans and encourage them to discover, on their own, the truths of disease and psychosis. This is such a weak rationalization that it doesn’t even deserve a rebuttal.

(4583) The Divine Council of Beings

The Bible speaks of a council of divine beings that is assumed to be a collection of gods, each working under the primary god, El, and each assigned to a different nation. This belief among the Israelites preceded the revision to their theology that made Yahweh, the god assigned to their nation, as the only god in existence. The following was taken from:


It seems that, in some of the earlier Biblical works, the Divine Council was thought to be made up of the patron deities of the various nations.

For example, in Psalm 82, YHWH condemns the Council members for allowing injustice to occur in their jurisdictions. He then sentences them to death and assumes their lands. In doing so, he says:

“You are gods, children of the Most High [elyon], all of you” [NRSV]

Scholars such as R. E. Friedman have pointed out this is an allusion to a tradition preserved in the Qumran version of Deuteronomy 32:8-9:

When the Most High [elyon] apportioned the nations… he fixed the boundaries according to the number of the gods.

Basically, El gives each of his sons a nation and YHWH, one of these sons, gets Israel. Assuming Psalm 82 is alluding to Deuteronomy (IMO it is), it would seem that the author thought the Council was comprised of the various nations’ patron deities, the sons of El. Job 1:6 uses similar terminology to describe members of the council.


        • Jewish Study Bible, JPS
        • New Oxford Annotated Bible, NRSV
        • Smith, The Early History of God
        • Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament
        • Zakovitch, From Gods to God
        • Friedman, The Exodus


It should be obvious that the Israelites would never have been polytheists if Yahweh was indeed the only god in existence. All that can be argued in that case is that Yahweh, for some uncertain purpose, allowed his ‘chosen people’ to harbor incorrect theological beliefs for hundreds of years.

(4584) The definitive refutation of the Trinity

Although Christian apologists will defend the idea that their theology is monotheistic, their belief in three separate divine beings cannot be squared with that characterization. The following essay eviscerates the concept of the Trinity and rightly calls Christians what they are- polytheists:


Trinitarianism has long been criticized by Muslims, Jews, and skeptical rationalists. To those outside the Christian fold, nothing could be more obviously irrational, self-contradictory, and idolatrous than the doctrine of the Trinity. And while other, more intelligent, people have tread this path before, to no avail in convincing Christians that their position is nonsensical, it is the topic I’ve been thinking about lately.

The absurdity and irrationality seem so blatantly obvious to me, that I find it difficult to understand how anyone takes it seriously. But many people do take it seriously, and so it remains relevant and important to continue pointing out the inconsistencies at the foundation of Christianity. This must be done to both promote rationality and to counter the irrational and demagogic influence of conservative Christianity in our society.

The Christian Definition and the Most Common Trinitarian Heresies

The Christian definition of the Trinity is very precise, and Christians often demand the use of exact terminology when anyone attempts to discuss it in a critical way. So, it is best to simply put forward the Christian definition in the form of an extended quotation followed by some explanation. Since the Catholic Church represents half of the world’s Christians, and their understanding of the doctrine established the standard of orthodoxy for most Protestants, I will use the definition provided by the Catholic Church:

The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity”. The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: “The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e. by nature one God.” In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), “Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature.”

The divine persons are really distinct from one another. “God is one but not solitary.” “Father”, “Son”, “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: “He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son.” They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: “It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.” The divine Unity is Triune.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 253, 254

This definition states that God is one in substance, essence, or nature (these terms are interchangeable according to catechism 252) and three in person. It is important to notice that this definition denies four of the most common heresies related to the Trinity: Tri-theism, partialism, Arianism, and modalism. The persons are not three different gods. The persons are not merely parts that conjoin into one God (partialism), nor is there one God merely playing three roles (modalism). Contrary to Arius, the Son and Holy Spirit are not created beings but are coequal with the Father. Christians claim that the persons are distinct, not constituent parts, coequal in divinity, and yet there is only one God.

It is important to point this out because Christians often resort to analogies to try to explain this doctrine in a rational way, but the analogies are usually committing to one version of heresy or another. For example, legends about St. Patrick portray him using a shamrock to explain how God can simultaneously be one and three. Each leaf of the shamrock is distinct from the others, but together they constitute one shamrock. This analogy is the heresy of partialism.

Another common analogy is to say that the Trinity is like H20, which can be liquid water, ice, or steam. This is the heresy of modalism because the same molecules of water cannot be simultaneously liquid, solid, and gas. The underlying substance can only be in one state at a time, whereas the persons of the Trinity are supposed to be coexistent.

St. Augustine famously compared the Trinity to human beings. Humans have being, knowledge and will. Being, knowledge, and will are distinct and yet an individual is still one, a unified person. This is supposed to parallel the nature of God with the Father (being), Son (knowledge), and Holy Spirit (will). This is another example of partialism with each part joining the others to create a single whole. Alternatively, another common example of a person being a mother, wife, and friend is committing to the heresy of modalism again.

Why the Christian Definition Fails

The Christian concept of the Trinity is clearly self-contradictory. It claims that three is equal to one. It claims that God is both uncreated, in the case of the Father, and created in the case of the Son and Holy Spirit which “proceed” or are “begotten” from the Father. They deny that the procession and begetting are forms of creation, but this is nothing more than special pleading on their part. If the Son and Holy Spirit ultimately have their source in the Father as Christians claim, they are created beings and not coequally divine.

And the doctrine claims that the three persons are simultaneously distinct from one another and not distinct because each is entirely God. Allow me to demonstrate. If there is only one God and each member of the Trinity is entirely God, then they must be identical to one another, i.e. not distinct from one another, according to the logical law of identity. If A is C, and B is C, then A is B (If A=C=B, then A=B). Similarly, if the Father is fully God, and the Son is fully God, then the Father is the Son. Christians accept the premises but deny the conclusion.

Insofar as Christians proclaim the existence of three divine persons, their claims to worship one God fail. The doctrine of the Trinity is ultimately relying on linguistic ambiguity and denialism. In order to demonstrate the linguistic problems, let’s examine the meaning of substance, essence, and nature, which are used interchangeably “to designate the divine being in its unity” (CCC 252).

The word substance can have multiple meanings. It most commonly refers to a “particular kind of matter with uniform properties.” By definition, God is not composed of matter, but is rather a spirit. For this definition to apply, we would have to assume that we were discussing some sort of “spiritual matter,” which is nonsensical. Another definition of substance is “the essential nature underlying phenomena, which is subject to changes and accidents.” This touches on the idea of a shared divine nature, which we will discuss below. The final definition of substance is “that which can exist by itself, not needing anything else as a substratum for its existence.” This final definition is closest to what is meant in the context of the Trinity.

To claim that the three persons of the Trinity coequally share the divine substance is to claim that all three are not dependent on another for their existence. This is clearly not the case for the Son and Holy Spirit. The Son is begotten of the Father, and is thus dependent on the Father for his existence. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, and is therefore dependent on both. Therefore, the Son and Holy Spirit cannot be said to share in the divine substance on an equal basis with the Father. Neither is capable of existing by himself.

The word essence is another way of saying “being.” To say that the persons share a divine essence is to say that they share a common being. The 19th century Unitarian minister William Ellery Channing addressed this issue so well in his sermon “Unitarian Christianity” that he must be quoted here at length:

Each of these persons, as described by theologians, has his own particular consciousness, will, and perceptions. They love each other, converse with each other, and delight in each other’s society. They perform different parts in man’s redemption, each having his appropriate office, and neither doing the work of the other. The Son is mediator and not the Father. The Father sends the Son, and is not himself sent; nor is he conscious, like the Son, of taking flesh. Here, then, we have three intelligent agents, possessed of different consciousness, different wills, and different perceptions, performing different acts, and sustaining different relations; and if these things do not imply and constitute three minds or beings, we are utterly at a loss to know how three minds or beings are to be formed. It is difference of properties, and acts, and consciousness, which leads us to the belief of different intelligent beings, and, if this mark fails us, our whole knowledge fall; we have no proof, that all the agents and persons in the universe are not one and the same mind. When we attempt to conceive of three Gods, we can do nothing more than represent to ourselves three agents, distinguished from each other by similar marks and peculiarities to those which separate the persons of the Trinity; and when common Christians hear these persons spoken of as conversing with each other, loving each other, and performing different acts, how can they help regarding them as different beings, different minds?

Clearly, the word essence doesn’t get trinitarians around their problems. It is absurd to claim that three distinct beings are in fact one being.

Which brings us to the idea that the three persons share a common divine nature. Nature in this context refers to shared qualities, characteristics, or attributes. Humans share a common nature, but we are not “one” in any relevant sense. The same would be true of the Christian gods sharing a divine nature. Even if they have in common the nature of being divine, they are not one in any relevant sense. Zeus and Apollo also (allegedly) shared a divine nature, but Christians rightly recognize that as polytheism.

We also have issues with regard to the definition of the divine nature. Christians and Jews have long held that at least one aspect of the divine nature is that God is not created; he is the creator and source of all existence. But as pointed out above, two thirds of the Christian deity is created and thus cannot be said to be divine. Similarly, insofar as the Bible is an authoritative source of doctrine about God’s nature, at least one part of the Christian pantheon cannot be considered divine. The Hebrew Bible is quite clear that God is not a man (Num. 23:19, Hos. 11:9), and Christians believe that God became a man. And obviously, men are created beings. To say that God is a man, is to say that God was created, which goes against the definition of the divine nature.

Clearly the unitive principle of the Trinity falls apart under scrutiny. To say that God is one must entail that God is only one person, one mind, one being. Trinitarians cannot affirm this so long as they hold onto the distinctiveness of the persons. Trinitarianism must therefore slide into one heresy or another or be abandoned altogether. The incoherence of Trinitarianism is the reason why all Christian metaphors for the doctrine end up endorsing some form of heresy. And given the seemingly endless list of heretical metaphors, and psychological impossibility of believing contradictory things at the same time, it may be justified to believe that no one truly believes the doctrine of the Trinity at all. All that’s left are meaningless verbal formulas (the creeds) and bad analogies.

Christians worship three gods, but because of the stigma attached to polytheism, they staunchly deny what they are. It seems that they should just admit it- and why would it be such a problem?

(4585) Early chaos in the church

Christianity has experienced a lot of splintering over the past two thousand years into various sects and denominations, now numbering over 40,000. But it would be untrue to view the early Christian Church as being a tight, uniform theology that only later became multi-dimensional. Actually, it was quite chaotic ‘right off the bat’ and it wasn’t until the Council of Nicea in the 4th Century that some degree of standardization was introduced. Thus, the best picture is to see Christianity as being a wide funnel that was winnowed down by the Council and then expanding back out afterwards.

The following is a book review of Bart Ehrman’s Lost Christianities:

The early Christian Church was a chaos of contending beliefs. Some groups of Christians claimed that there was not one God but two or twelve or thirty. Some believed that the world had not been created by God but by a lesser, ignorant deity. Certain sects maintained that Jesus was human but not divine, while others said he was divine but not human.

In Lost Christianities, Bart D. Ehrman offers a fascinating look at these early forms of Christianity and shows how they came to be suppressed, reformed, or forgotten. All of these groups insisted that they upheld the teachings of Jesus and his apostles, and they all possessed writings that bore out their claims, books reputedly produced by Jesus’s own followers. Modern archaeological work has recovered a number of key texts, and as Ehrman shows, these spectacular discoveries reveal religious diversity that says much about the ways in which history gets written by the winners.

Ehrman’s discussion ranges from considerations of various “lost scriptures” including forged gospels supposedly written by Simon Peter, Jesus’s closest disciple, and Judas Thomas, Jesus’s alleged twin brother to the disparate beliefs of such groups as the Jewish Christian Ebionites, the anti Jewish Marcionites, and various “Gnostic” sects. Ehrman examines in depth the battles that raged between “proto orthodox Christians” those who eventually compiled the canonical books of the New Testament and standardized Christian belief and the groups they denounced as heretics and ultimately overcame.

Scrupulously researched and lucidly written, Lost Christianities is an eye opening account of politics, power, and the clash of ideas among Christians in the decades before one group came to see its views prevail.

If Christianity is true, then it would have been expected that its theology would have remained consistent throughout. This is because the faith posits the existence of a supernatural source of inspiration, the Holy Spirit, that would have, if it really existed, kept all Christian followers in line. The Council of Nicea was a human effort at this goal, but it eventually failed and now Christianity is a complicated skein of competing theories- just what any human-generated concept would be expected to become.

(4586) Two challenges to Jesus and miracles

Most Christians accept at more or less face value the miracle stories of Jesus in the gospels. But there are two good reasons to challenge this blasé acceptance. The following is taken from:


Holy heroes the world over, and through the centuries, have attracted followers because of the wonders they perform. And the Jesus whom Christians know in their hearts is no exception. The power of Jesus flowed through his garments, so that a sick woman who touched his hem was healed. He restored sight to a blind man by mixing his saliva with mud, and smearing it on the fellow’s eyes. He transferred demons from a man into a herd of pigs, and glowed on a mountaintop while chatting with Moses and Elijah. Changing water into wine, walking on water, raising Lazarus from the dead, feeding vast crowds with a few loaves and fishes—these were also in his repertoire of wonders. If you’re already supercharged with Jesus-belief, these stories stoke your enthusiasm.

My challenge to believers is two-fold.

(1)  Read all of these stories carefully, critically. Are they to be taken seriously? The problem, of course, is that the gospel writers failed to provide sufficient evidence (e.g., documentation) for those of us in the modern world to say, “Sure, these things happened as described.” A careful study of the Lazarus story provokes suspicion. It is found only in John’s gospel (chapter 11)—how were the other writers unaware of it? Jesus says he was glad he didn’t get there in time to save Lazarus, because he seemed eager to score points: this miracle illustrates that he is the resurrection and the life. It looks contrived—no surprise whatever in John’s gospel.

The Jesus enthusiasts should be aware that such gospel stories reflect the miracle folklore that existed in the ancient world. These were the things holy heroes did, so the gospel authors included them in their accounts. What is more probable: these were bona fide miracles—or borrowings from common folklore? In Jesus: Mything in Action, Volume 1, David Fitzgerald states to issue clearly:

“Like the pagan miracle workers, Jesus cast out demons and healed the blind, deaf, and mute with mud and spit, using the same spells, incantations and techniques taught in many popular Greek magic handbooks of the time.” (p.105)

(2)  Boasting about miracles to prove a god’s power is risky business; such claims present too many problems. For insights into this, I recommend Matt McCormick’s essay, “God Would Not Perform Miracles,” in John Loftus’ 2019 anthology, The Case Against Miracles. Why does an all-powerful, loving, caring god, who knows when even a sparrow falls to the group, put up with such massive suffering in the world? If it was god’s miracle that Jesus fed 5,000 people, why are there hungry people in the world today? If Jesus healed a blind man, why are there blind people anywhere today? McCormick states the theological dilemma precisely:

“…millions of people suffer horribly from disease, famine, cruelty, torture, genocide, and death. The occurrence of a finite miracle, in the midst of so many instances of unabated suffering, suggests that the being who is responsible doesn’t know about, doesn’t care about, or doesn’t have the power to address the others.”  (p. 67)

None of this stands up to even a casual exercise of critical thinking. It is obvious that Jesus, assuming he actually existed, did not perform ANY miracles- none whatsoever. We know this for several reasons. First, we know that the physical laws of the universe operate without violation. Second, we know that if the gospels accurately describe Jesus’ deeds and words, such that he claimed his followers would perform such miracles and even greater ones themselves, then we should be seeing Christians performing these types of miracles today. We don’t. And third, we should find it unconscionable for an omnipotent god, who while in Jesus-form allegedly was able to alleviate all manor of suffering, could stand by and observe the ongoing tsunami of human (and animal) suffering and do nothing. We live in a world without miracles, and also most likely without a god of any type, shape, or form.

(4587) Ten reasons believers don’t question their faith

A major reason why Christianity has persisted into an advanced information age, with all sorts of disconfirming evidence being readily available, is because there are intense psychological pressures that keep people from rationalizing away their belief in the faith. The following lists ten of them.


Why don’t most believers seriously question their faith? Does it take a special type of individual? Does it require some personality trait that believers don’t have? Does that make skeptics different people? Could it be intelligence? Could it be that skeptics have a higher self-esteem than others? Is it that we don’t need social approval? Is it that life’s experiences have shown us we cannot accept the dominant opinion on a matter? Is it that we question what we’re told in general? Perhaps, but when we look at skeptics in general there doesn’t seem to be a set pattern. Perhaps a scientific poll might help answer that kind of question. What I do think is that the following ten reasons are almost certainly necessary conditions even if they are not sufficient ones:

1) The lack of critical thinking. I cannot tell you how often believers respond to skeptical arguments with informal fallacies in favor of their faith, which includes special pleading, non-sequiturs, all or nothing thinking (i.e., the “either/or” and “black and white” fallacies), begging the question, the “you too” fallacy, and especially appeals to ignorance. They don’t even know that’s how they are responding. And this is what I see coming from some Christian scholars I have dealt with, even those who teach critical thinking in the colleges, which nearly stuns me. Their responses are bad, really bad, and they don’t/can’t see it.

2) There is an explanation for why believers reason so badly: They have been enculturated, or indoctrinated to believe, a phenomenon that can best be described as being brainwashed. Christians can acknowledge this with others who believe differently in religions they consider bizarre. Why can’t they see it in themselves? The reason is the same one for why the others can’t see it in themselves. It’s because they too are brainwashed. Only the brainwashed do not know it.

3) A very large percentage of believers do not seek out disconfirming evidence for their faith, which can be decisive. They are sure of their faith so they only look for confirming evidence. This can only make them more entrenched in whatever they were raised to believe in their particular culture. But it’s an utterly wrongheaded approach to their faith.

4) Ignorance is another reason, sometimes willful ignorance. The more we know the more we should doubt. Any educated person will tell you this. Socrates even said he was wise because he knew one thing others didn’t, that he didn’t know. The more we know the less we claim to know.

5) This ignorance is due to the fact that believers fear to doubt. It’s the very nature of faith in an omniscient mind-reading God that he is displeased when they doubt his promises. So in order not to displease him they do not seriously question their faith. Believers also fear to doubt because they reside in a Christian community of like-minded believers, their friends, who can be counted on when in need, and who would ostracize them if they walked away from the faith. Social pressure among one’s main group of friends keeps them in the fold and blissfully ignorant of the need to test their faith.

6) The biggest reason believers don’t seriously question their faith is because of where it could lead them, to hell. They cannot bring themselves to travel down a road that might eventually lead them to eternal torture (or however they conceive the final judgment). The thought never occurs to Christians that they don’t have the slightest fear of Allah’s hell, or the many sects within their own faith who claim all others are going to hell.

7) Believers conversely have a hope they cannot bring themselves to do without, living eternally in heaven with their deceased loved ones. This hope is so intense they cannot entertain they might be wrong, otherwise they might have to admit they will never see their dead mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters again. That’s simply too painful for them to even consider.

8) The nature of faith itself. Faith is a parasite on the mysterious. Without mystery faith couldn’t exist. Wherever there is mystery there will always be room for faith because as humans we seek an explanation for the mysterious, and for believers their particular God-concept fills in the gaps. This is one of the informal fallacies I mentioned earlier. Believers require nearly all mysteries to be solved before they will consider their faith unreasonable, and that’s an unreasonable epistemic standard since there will probably always be mysteries. Faith is therefore an irrational leap over the probabilities, something no thinking person should ever do with the probabilities given the available evidence. One should only conclude what the probabilities show and never assert more than what the evidence leads us to think is probably the case.

9) Then too, there is the concept of an omniscient God which is used to solve all problems. I call this the Omnscient God Escape Clause. Because theists believe in an omniscient God skeptics must prove their faith is nearly impossible before they will consider it to be improbable, which is an utterly unreasonable standard of proof, making their faith pretty much unfalsifiable.

10) Morality seems to be another issue, that if believers walked away from their faith they would ipso facto have no reason to be a good people who care for the common good of a society. But the overwhelming evidence is against this, best seen in the demographics.

Most of this comes down to wish fulfillment. People are likely to vigorously defend beliefs that provide them comfort. Relishing in a cold, objective, and indifferent reality is not a popular pastime. This has provided a lifeline to Christianity’s evidence-free theology.

(4588) Jesus timeline

The best way to decipher the Jesus story is to construct a plausible, most likely scenario, that eliminates magical elements, and still explains how we arrived at this moment in Christendom. Because we live in a world without magic, it is fair to assume that there was no magic 2000 years ago either. The following was taken from:


    1. Jesus is a traveling Jewish rabbi who, like others during his time, preaches that the Messianic Age is coming very very soon. He also denounces strict adherence to some Jewish laws ( like not working on the Sabbath) and instead preaches just being a good person, forgiving and repenting, and having faith in God. [Note, according to the gospels, Jesus was strict about some laws…i.e., inconsistent]
    2. His followers adore and trust him and think he’s the greatest thing ever. They may or may not think that Jesus himself is the Messiah at this point. He might even claim to be. Who knows.
    3. Jesus is crucified, and his followers are completely thrown, heartbroken, and confused.
    4. His followers, trying to cope with the crucifixion by reading the scriptures about the Messianic Age, come across Isaiah 53 and the suffering servant. They realize that this could explain Jesus’s crucifixion. They decide that Jesus is definitely the Messiah, his message about the Messianic Age is still applicable, and that he must be the first resurrection of many resurrections about to come. They do not actually see him, but they trust his message and the scriptures so much that they are convinced he must be resurrected.
    5. Peter and James form a church in Jerusalem and preach that the Messiah has already come and the Messianic Age is starting.
    6. They convince Paul, who sees a vision of Jesus – the only firsthand account of a vision we have. When Paul writes that Jesus came to Peter and James and a lot of other people, he is not speaking literally but metaphorically.
    7. Paul completely changes the message as he evangelizes, writing that Jesus is the son of God, he died for our sins, and we can be saved through faith alone (which was never part of Peter or James’s church).
    8. Paul convinces a lot of Gentiles to convert. He comes into some conflict with Peter and James over this, as Peter and James are still very Jewish.
    9. Paul’s letters and the oral stories of Jesus are then used by various other converts to write rest of The New Testament, adding in a lot of prophecy/miracle/resurrection stuff to make the Messiah message more cohesive.

This description of events not only uses only natural phenomena, but also is sufficient to explain how the Christian religious movement unfolded as it did. As often termed Occam’s Razor, the simplest set of assumptions that will account for a circumstance or event is the most probable explanation of what happened.

(4589) Dying faith in a non-existent god

The recent trend of Christianity losing followers and its overall power over society is a firm piece of evidence that it is untrue. When a theory collides with the advent of the information age, the good theories will survive and thrive while the bad ones will wither. The following was taken from:


In recent years a number of American states have passed legislation to open Lookback windows that extend the statute of limitations in cases of sexual assault. Vermont passed such a law in 2019, followed by Nevada and Louisiana in 2021, Colorado and Arkansas in 2022, and California, New York, and Maine in 2023. Lookback windows allow previously silent victims of sexual abuse to file civil claims that often result in substantial financial penalties for organizations that harbored sexual predators.

Faced with hundreds of claims for clergy sex abuse, in 2023 the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Dioceses of Oakland and Santa Rosa, California, filed for Chapter 11 protection. According to reports, the Diocese of San Diego also plans to file for bankruptcy protection. Extending the statute of limitations for sexual assault, which Catholic leaders have vigorously opposed, has resulted in a bankruptcy stampede across the U.S.; since 2019, 6 of the 8 New York dioceses have filed for Chapter 11 protection. Despite paying north of $3 billion to settle sexual abuse claims and enduring tidal waves of bad press, the culture of obstruction within the Catholic Church doesn’t appear to have materially changed. Mary Pat Fox, president of Voice of the Faithful, a group working to promote “transparency and accountability” in the Church, recently observed, “Just when we think we might be making strides in recovering from the clergy abuse crisis, we are reminded that the Church has not yet moved off the dime where clerical culture trumps the protection of our children and vulnerable adults.”

Although the Catholic Church has earned its well-deserved reputation as an international viper’s nest of serial pedophile predators protected by their bosses, Protestant denominations are running a strong second place. Rarely a week passes without reports of arrests, indictments, and prison sentences for child pornography, solicitation of minors, and sexual assault by preachers, youth ministers, and teachers in Christian schools. Indeed, the frequency of such reports risks reducing them to a commonplace of public life, a form of national background noise.

An extensive survey of sexual offenders in Protestant churches points out that there are 314,000 Protestant churches in the U.S. with 60 million members versus 17,000 Catholic parishes with 51 million members. Lacking the national hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church, “instances of sexual abuse within Protestant Christianity might appear isolated when they could be part of a larger overall pattern of offender and offending behaviors.” The author notes that “35 Southern Baptist ministers were hired at churches, despite being accused of sexual misconduct or abuse, demonstrating a pattern of institutional issues in responding to alleged sexual abuse.” Given that there are 18 times as many Protestant churches as there are Catholic parishes, it would seem statistically likely, mutatis mutandis, that sexual abuse of children is more common in Protestant churches.

We do have to wonder why all this is happening—indeed, has been happening for a long time. Is it unrealistic to expect that those who become Christian clergy know Jesus in their hearts more perfectly than the rank-and-file of the congregations? But this Jesus-in-their-hearts fails to have the desired impact. The apostle Paul stated confidently that “…those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). But Christianity doesn’t seem to work this way, does it? Is this just one of many goofs in the New Testament? We also have to wonder how the churches manage to survive, with the many ongoing scandals.

Speaking of which…

Equally stunning, although nearly unreported in the national media, are the recent trends in Christian academia, epitomized by the fates of the top three evangelical seminaries in the U.S., Fuller, Trinity Evangelical, and Gordon-Conwell. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary saw enrollment decline from 1230 students in 2012 to 633 in 2021. According to news reports, the seminary plans to downsize and sell off a portion of its campus in order to continue operating. Fuller Theological Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School have been forced to consolidate their operations and cut faculty. “Since the 21st Century began, Gordon-Conwell’s FTE [full time equivalent] total is down 34%, Fuller’s by 48% and Trinity’s by 44%.”

Seminaries have merged with other institutions in order to survive; McCormick Theological Seminary and the Lutheran School of Theology merged with the University of Chicago due to falling enrollment. After 66 years of operation, the Claremont School of Theology closed shop and moved to the campus of Westwood United Methodist Church in Los Angeles. Naturally, school officials have tried to put a positive spin on empty classrooms and vacant properties, but the handwriting is on the wall even if it’s gone from the blackboards — the era of the sprawling divinity school campus is over; both the money and the enrollment are drying up.

Other schools, such as Andover Newton Theological School, affiliated with the American Baptist Churches and the United Church of Christ, have closed completely. The roll call of the fallen now includes schools across the denominational spectrum: Iowa Wesleyan University, Cardinal Stritch University, Finlandia University, Holy Names University, Alliance University, Chatfield College, Alderson Broaddus University, Oregon’s Concordia College, Marymount California University, St. Louis Christian College, Ohio Valley University, and Holy Family College in Wisconsin. Other religious schools are planning to merge to save themselves, and failing that, to close.

Even prior to the pandemic, more churches closed annually than opened. The pandemic clearly accelerated that process, but the root cause is simple: “The biggest reason for church closings is a decline in church membership. A March poll from Gallup found that fewer than half (47%) of Americans say they belong to a church, synagogue or mosque, down from more than 70% in 2000.” By current estimates, some 2.7 million people leave church each year in the U.S. and the problem for the American churches is compounded by another factor: “Of course the centre of gravity for global Christianity is shifting, with Asia, Latin America and Africa now the places where church growth is taking place.”

The New Christendom is the global South, the area of the world widely considered to be the most vulnerable to the ravages of global warming, violent political movements, social instability, and the eruption of new epidemic disease, in the countries millions are desperately attempting to escape. Whatever the future holds for Christianity globally, its future in North America appears increasingly bleak.

If Christianity is true, then Yahweh is watching his church leaders driving people away from the faith with their licentious behavior. Further, he is seeing people who are using objective reasoning to conclude that Christianity is untrue. Does this trend concern him? If not, why not? Couldn’t he ‘do something’ to reverse this trend? Is he upset that he will have to send more people to hell? Of course, none of this makes sense. Yahweh is a fictional character.

(4590) Jesus world was full of demons and spirits

Humans had not acquired an accurate understanding of their world in the time of Jesus, as they were filled with superstitious beliefs, including, as well-documented in the scriptures, a belief in demons and evil spirits. If these scriptures are to be believed, Jesus himself was enamored with the same impressions- meaning that he could not have been a divine figure. The following was taken from:


The Jesus movement as understood from our only written works of the New Testament, early Christianity and Early Church beliefs, as well as Judaism prior to the time of Jesus all point to a widespread belief of a world infested by demons and evil-spirits. These demons actively played a role in the fate of human-beings, being the cause of many miladies from fevers, plague, miscarriage, and possession. Today, with the knowledge of illnesses and injury, we know with little doubt the origin of these issues are not caused by some unseen forces, but instead from very physical and explainable origins. The ancient belief is a clear example of a god of the gaps, gaps in the understanding of disease ancient religious movement filled with their god and demon-spirits.

With modern knowledge of disease and illness, a scientifically literate population should not and cannot take seriously an ancient religious movement that believed in demon-possession. This post is aimed primarily at the majority of Christians who play in the arena of modern scientific belief but tend to ignore these serious issues.

Social Beliefs at the time of Jesus:

Book of Tobit 6 tells the story of an Angel teaching medicine from the entrails of a fish. “[the] gall, heart, and liver are useful for medicine.” “[…] Then the young man asked the angel this question: “Brother Azariah, what medicine is in the fish’s heart, liver, and gall?” He answered: “As for the fish’s heart and liver, if you burn them to make smoke in the presence of a man or a woman who is afflicted by a demon or evil spirit, any affliction will flee and never return. As for the gall, if you apply it to the eyes of one who has white scales, blowing right into them, sight will be restored.”From findings at Qumran, we find a number of texts describing demons being the cause of a range of illnesses and issues. 4Q560 describes demons attacking pregnant women to cause miscarriage or “evil madness.” Male and female demons attack them in their sleep, causing fever, chills, and “fire of the heart.” Another text, 4Q242, describes an “evil ulcer,” removed by an exorcist who “removes” his sin.

These beliefs likely stem much earlier into the history of the Hebrews. From Exodus 15, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians, for I am the Lord who heals you.” There are many more examples of physical healing of sickness from the Hebrew bible itself.

New Testament:

The New Testament describes a world infested with demons, Jesus spends much of his time as a healer, going from town to town healing the sickness and removing their demon possession. Gospel of Matthew describes these actions and the historical precedence set by Jesus’ actions.

“That evening they brought to him many who were possessed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

Mark 1 describes similar stories. “Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed by demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons, and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.”

This practice continues to Jesus’ followers themselves. Mark 6, “They cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” Or later in Acts 5 and Acts 19, Paul’s handkerchief and tunic are healing agents, his shadow falling onto people is described as magical healing, casting away the unclean spirits.

The Gospel of Luke makes the connection of “healing” to the casting out of demons as explicit. 7:21, “Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, afflictions, and evil spirits and had given sight to many who were blind,” Luke 8, “The twelve were with him, 2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,” Luke 6, “They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases, and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.”


Healing the sick is seen as one of the powers of Jesus and his disciples, not because he is a simple healer, but due of the relationship between the divine, demons, and their involvement causing sickness. You call a doctor when you want to heal a sickness, you call a priest when you believe these issues are caused by a metaphysical power.

Should any modern man attempt to claim a healing power by touch or even “shadow” of their clothes, they would rightfully be mocked. We know far too much about the origins of disease and illness to believe these are caused by a demon-possession. And our knowledge of these ailments ought to call into question this so-called evidence presented of demon possessions and curing of fevers as evidence that Jesus is a divine agent.

It would have been impressive if Jesus was documented to have said that demons don’t exist, along with a long list of things he SHOULD have known- such as the importance of washing hands before meals. But, of course, the Bible was written by people who were products of their time, so putting modern-day knowledge into Jesus’ sayings would have been impossible.

(4591) Disqualifying the metaphysicians

The following is a quote from a book (The Iron Heel) by Jack London (1876-1916), American author, that captures the difference between metaphysicians (the purveyors of religious truths) and scientists (the purveyors of empirical truths):

“There is another way of disqualifying the metaphysicians,” Ernest said, when he had rendered Dr. Hammerfield’s discomfiture complete. “Judge them by their works. What have they done for mankind beyond the spinning of airy fancies and the mistaking of their own shadows for gods? They have added to the gayety of mankind, I grant; but what tangible good have they wrought for mankind? They philosophized, if you will pardon my misuse of the word, about the heart as the seat of the emotions, while the scientists were formulating the circulation of the blood. They declaimed about famine and pestilence as being scourges of God, while the scientists were building granaries and draining cities. They builded gods in their own shapes and out of their own desires, while the scientists were building roads and bridges. They were describing the earth as the centre of the universe, while the scientists were discovering America and probing space for the stars and the laws of the stars. In short, the metaphysicians have done nothing, absolutely nothing, for mankind.

Step by step, before the advance of science, they have been driven back. As fast as the ascertained facts of science have overthrown their subjective explanations of things, they have made new subjective explanations of things, including explanations of the latest ascertained facts. And this, I doubt not, they will go on doing to the end of time. Gentlemen, a metaphysician is a medicine man. The difference between you and the Eskimo who makes a fur-clad blubber-eating god is merely a difference of several thousand years of ascertained facts. That is all.”

The religious claim a direct connection to an unlimited cosmic intelligence, and yet they have contributed nothing to our understanding of the universe or the issues that affect our daily lives. In fact, they have retarded our advances in knowledge. Jack London has nailed the irony of this fact- that human-originated knowledge has vastly surpassed that supplied by those who claim a dialogue with what they assert to be an ‘infinitely-intelligent’ deity.

(4592) Jesus was not born in Bethlehem

It was an inconvenience for the people who developed the Christian faith that Jesus was from Galilee. The author of the first gospel, Mark, had nothing to say of his birth. The next two gospel authors, Matthew and Luke, made up (conflicting) stories about Jesus’ birth so as to fulfill prophecy that the savior was to be born in Bethlehem. But then, along comes the Gospel of John, which seems to be an effort by the author to correct the errors in Matthew and Luke, at least with respect to the birthplace of Jesus. In the following it is shown that the author of John knew that Jesus was born and raised in Galilee:


The 7th chapter of John might support this notion. This was a contention among the Jewish people about whether Jesus could be the Messiah. Some dismissed the notion because they thought Jesus was born in Galilee:

When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, “This is really the prophet.” Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But some asked, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” (John 7:40-42)

Christians will dismiss this saying that these people were obviously mistaken about the details of Jesus’ birth. The difficulty, though, is that earlier in the passage it seems that Jesus affirms their belief:

Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I am from.” (John 7:28)

This is the conundrum – Jesus said that the people knew where he came from. But the passage makes it clear that the people thought he came from Galilee. Jesus never corrects this assumption. In fact, nowhere in the gospel of John does it say that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

Some scholars believe that John was the ‘anti-Gospel’, i.e. it was written to correct some notions about Jesus that Matthew and Luke had invented. If so, it seems clear that one of the notions that needed ‘correcting’ was that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. John seems to make it clear that he was born in Galilee.

If Jesus was born in Galilee, then the prophecy in Micah 5:2 is not fulfilled and Jesus has no birthplace claim to the messiahship. To fundamentalist Christians, this is blasphemy and cannot be tolerated. But their own fourth gospel is choking their complaint.

(4593) Ten verse contradiction

In the Gospel of John, the risen Jesus seems confused, first telling Mary Magdalene not to touch him because he had not yet ascended, and then ten verses later inviting Thomas to touch him even though he had not yet ascended. The following was taken from:


In John 20, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene & says to her:

20:17 Jesus said to her, “Do not touch me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”

Then a few verses later, when visiting his disciples, we know that Thomas was allowed to touch him:

20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”

(All verses NRSV)

This suggests one of two things- either the author got confused or else either Verse 20:17 or Verse 20:27 is part of an interpolation. The latter/later is more likely because is it well known that early Christian theology included a group of followers who considered that Jesus rose only in spirit and not in body. Therefore, someone intent on dispelling that notion would have had incentive to add a story to the gospel about one of the disciples directly touching Jesus’ body.

(4594) Breaching the fortress walls of faith

Christian leaders have developed defense mechanisms to keep their laity from questioning what they are being taught. In the following essay, three methods are conjectured that could penetrate this wall of resistance- encouraging a more careful inspection of the Bible, raising questions about why Christianity has splintered into so many sects, and getting people to think about how (on earth) the Christian faith can still be consistent with what we have learned about the universe.


But are there ways to breach the walls of the Mighty Fortress of Faith? Something must be working, since the church—at least in North American and Western Europe—is losing ground. For details on this, see Robert Conner’s recent article here, The Lingering Death of the American Church, and his book, The Death of Christian Belief.

If we could just build little fires of curiosity, prodding the faithful to be suspicious about the plea of clergy to take their teaching “on faith”—to go ahead and think about what is taught in Sunday School and catechism. Three things come to mind when I wonder how to breach the fortress walls.


What a novel idea: let’s start with the Bible! How could people object to that? Well, it’s risky. Catholic clergy don’t urge their parishioners to read the Bible, and despite the central role of the Bible in Protestant belief, its preachers don’t make a habit of giving Bible reading assignments every Sunday, perhaps at the end of the sermon: “Please be sure to read Paul’s Letter to the Romans this week—and write reports to hand in next Sunday.” This doesn’t happen because it is risky. Any layperson who reads the Bible carefully can detect the problems, errors, contradictions, and too much silliness—and then go running for explanations to the clergy, who don’t want that burden.

Here are a few examples:

In Mark 4, Jesus tells his disciples that he teaches in parable to prevent people from repenting and being forgiven; his chapter 13 is a frightful depiction of the arrival of the kingdom of god. Matthew claims that, at the moment Jesus died, lots of dead people came live in their tombs, then walked around Jerusalem on Eastern morning. Luke includes the alarming Jesus-script in which he states that his followers must hate their families and even life itself (Luke 14:26), and that his mission is a destructive one: “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already ablaze!” (Luke 12:49)

So much of Jesus-script in the gospels is risky—here’s a list of specifics.

In Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (5:24) he teaches that “…those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” How many Christian couples, on their wedding day, have Galatians 5:24 in mind as they look forward to their honeymoons? In Romans 1, Paul includes gossips and rebellious children in his list of those who deserve to die. In fact, it would be remarkable for clergy to urge the folks in the pews to read the Letter to the Romans. It’s a dense, daunting patch of scripture. Conservative Christian scholar Ben Witherington III, in his massive commentary on Romans (Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary), states on page 1: “…the goal of understanding this formidable discourse is not reached for a considerable period of time.” Isn’t this a dangerous thing to admit? Isn’t the Bible supposed to be the accessible Word of God—perfect for placement in millions of hotel rooms?

The Bible is a perfect tool for inciting devout believers to doubt their faith.


The state of Christianity today should make the faithful wonder, “What the hell happened?” What does it mean (1) that this religion has splintered into thousands of different, quarreling brands, and (2) no one is working toward reconciliation? The ecclesiastical bureaucracy of each brand—enjoying prestige and power—doesn’t seem to mind. There are no serious negotiations under way for Southern Baptists and Catholics to work out their disagreements about god and worship—and merge. Every Christian should be wondering, asking: “How can I be sure that my denomination is the right one—a true representation of the religion of Jesus?” No, it won’t do to assume that your clergy have it right. What would be the basis for that assumption?

The scandal of Christian division and disharmony should prompt deep skepticism, should be a tip-off that cherished beliefs might be dead wrong. Maybe this is another way to breach the walls of the Mighty Fortress. One tool to help with this coaching is John Loftus’ 2013 book, The Outsider Test of Faith: How to Know Which Religion Is True.


Does the biblical god concept fit with our contemporary knowledge of the Cosmos? I suspect it will be hard to get people to think seriously about this. Of the eight billion humans now on this planet, how many of the adults know what Edwin Hubble discovered a hundred years ago? Are five percent aware? Ten percent? Using one of the most powerful telescopes of his time, Hubble collected the data demonstrating that the Andromeda galaxy is indeed another galaxy, far beyond the Milky Way. Many astronomers at the time argued that our galaxy was the universe.

Our perspective was changed forever: there are indeed billions of other galaxies. In December 1995, the telescope named after Hubble photographed for ten days a tiny patch of sky (about the size of a tennis ball viewed from 100 meters). The result is known as the Hubble Deep Field, and revealed almost 3,000 galaxies.

So this is a fair question to pose to our churchgoing friends: Do you know how humanity rates in the Cosmos? The Bible deity who keeps a close watch on every human, who enjoys the aroma of burning animal sacrifices—is this idea compatible with what we now know about the universe? Theologians have worked so hard at reinventing Bible-god, to make this deity less local, provincial, tribal, petty. But we come back to the question that all theologians must answer: where can we find the reliable, verifiable, objective evidence for the god you’re constantly updating?

It’s unlikely we can breach the Mighty Fortress of faith with this approach, but it might work with a few folks.

The fortress is crumbling and the clergy are fighting a war of attrition as they see their long-time attendees leaving the pews in droves. The game is almost over. Christianity faces a dire future because when something that is untrue meets the full thrust of an emerging information age, it dies.

(4595) Pedophilia complacency in Bible defeats objective morality

The fact that the Bible failed to ban pedophilia and child marriage, now considered part of basic morality, indicates that if objective morality exists, it is not fully embedded in the Christian faith. This defeats the apologist claim that the Bible is the final authority on morality.


As an atheist, I believe that god had no influence in the writing of the bible, or any other religious text. As such, these texts can not show us any sort of “objective morality” that comes from a god. The only morality within these books is the subjective morality of the authors, who were products of their environment. When you go back a hundred or more years, you see widespread pedophilia and child marriage in almost all cultures. Given that the major religions have histories going back a thousand years or more, it comes as no surprise that virtually none of these old religions have a history of condemning pedophilia. It was an accepted and normal part of life for the majority of the history of virtually all ancient religions.

Today, molesting a child is considered one of the most immoral things you can do. Why? For 3 reasons. The first is that we now have a deep understanding of psychology and the human brain. This means we have a better idea of how a child’s brain develops. It’s clear from the research that an 11 year old child does not have the capacity to be a consenting partner in a sex act, and few today would deny that.

The second reason is because women are not treated as livestock or property anymore. We allow women to speak to men as equals. As a result, we are more exposed to women’s stories, and are more prone to feel empathy towards them when we hear the things they go through.

The last reason is that we view children as more innocent and more undeserving of suffering than people did in previous generations. Whether it be punishment for the children themselves, or punishing the parents of the child by committing atrocities against their kids, cruelty against children was totally normalized in centuries past. And thus, it was also normalized within religious teachings of those eras.
You know what’s not a reason for why we think pedophilia is immoral today? Religions telling us that pedophilia is wrong.

No religion led the charge against pedophiles and child marriage. Rather, we’ve seen child marriages be most prominent in the modern era in Muslim countries like Yemen, where nearly 10% of women have been married off before the age of 15. We’ve seen wide scale sexual assault in Christian communities, including several churches like the FLDS, who seem to have made pedophilia a founding tenet of their entire belief structure, and have had to be federally investigated from top to bottom.

We’ve seen the Catholic church as an institution move pedophile priests around like they are in the witness protection program, hide evidence, and try to protect the church rather than protect the victims of sexual assault. And we’ve seen fundamentalist Jewish rabbis putting little boys penises in their mouths as part of sick, ancient rituals that have no place in the modern world. And that’s just recent examples. If you go back centuries, you can see even more appalling examples of religions condoning pedophilia on a wide scale.

Maybe you could argue that when it came to things like “don’t murder,” and “don’t steal,” that the old religions played a role in developing our human conception of morality. But in the modern era, religion is a passenger at best when it comes to the development of morality in society, and an outright impediment at its worst. Secular, democratic governments today have a better grasp of morality than the authors and early leaders of any of the major religions. This proves that if there is objective morality, none of these religions has any insight into it.

If Yahweh was a real god, or if Jesus was the son of this god, it is nearly 100 percent certain that scripture authors would have been inspired to write down clear and unambiguous prohibitions of pedophilia and child marriage. A god would have understood child psychology even if humans at the time did not.

(4596) Beasts, monsters, giants, and demons

The Bible delivers a major clue that it is steeped in mythology, as it is filled with references to mythical creatures that modern (un-indoctrinated) people rightly see as not existing (or having existed) in real life. The following was taken from:


The Bible is filled with ancient mythology of beasts, monsters, and demons, explained as history and truth. This is evidence the bible should be disbelieved in the same ways we do not believe in other mythological stories. [By “no different,” I mean categorically, not that there are not differences between religions.]

To the ancient Greeks, giant Titans once ruled the world before they were vanquished by the Olympians, multi-headed dogs protect the underworld, gods copulate with human-beings, fire-breathing hybrids of snakes and lions. For the Assyrians, great beasts with the body of lions and bulls, wings, and the face of a human. Demons spread sickness and infected humans with disease.

The Biblical world is no different. It is a world filled with monsters, beasts, and demons. Great sea-monsters, beasts, giants, all roamed the Earth interacting with humans, and defeated by God in his conquest of the chaotic planet. And in a number of these cases we can make a DIRECT connection with the mythological monsters from surrounding religions and cultures.

Behemoth – The book of Job describes a beast first-born at the beginning of creation. “Look at Behemoth, which I made just as I made you; it eats grass like an ox. Its strength is in its loins and its power in the muscles of its belly. It makes its tail stiff like a cedar; the sinews of its thighs are knit together. Its bones are tubes of bronze, its limbs like bars of iron.” This beast lives among the mountains, his strength is described that only God can approach with a sword. This beast is tied to the other major chaos-monster Leviathan.

Leviathan – The Biblical Leviathan is a great sea-beast described in multiple verses, contradicting whether it still lives in the sea or whether god killed it in the beginning of creation. It is a large, “wriggling,” slithering beast with seven-heads. This is a shared belief throughout the ancient near east. To the Caananites, this beast was described as Lotan, defeated by the god Hadad. We have a near-direct translation of earlier text within Isaiah 27.

From Ugaritic: “Though you smote Litan the wriggling serpent (ltn.bṯn.brḥ), finished off the writhing serpent (bṯn.ʿqltn), Encircler with seven heads” (KTU 1.5 i 1-3) to our Isaiah verse, “On that day Yahweh with his cruel and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent (lwytn nḥš brḥ), Leviathan the twisting serpent (nḥš ʿqltwn), and he will kill the dragon that is in the sea” (Isaiah 27:1)

Additional sea-monsters exist in the bibles. Rahab shows up in similar description as our Leviathan monster, “You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them. You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.” And Tannin, described as one of the beasts created in the beginning of creation, also among the Deep, that god displays his strength, “Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters.” This tannin has etymological connections to both Canaanite and Babylonian traditions. Tunnanu was defeated in the story of the Baal cycle.

Nephilim – The Nephilim are the great giants of the bible, towering over human beings with great power, who looked onto humans as if they were “grasshoppers” (Num 13). They had children with human women making “men of old,” and descended into “Sheol with their weapons of war. They placed their swords beneath their heads and their shields upon their bones, for the terror of the warriors was upon the land of the living.” Moses comes into contact with descendants of these giants. His scouts report the land of Canaan is filled with these giants, “The land that we have gone through as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great size. There we saw the Nephilim (the Anakites come from the Nephilim), and to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” Later this is a physical place the later reader of the bible can still see evidence of. Numbers 21, “(King Og of Bashan was the last survivor of the giant Rephaites. His bed was made of iron and was more than thirteen feet long and six feet wide. It can still be seen in the Ammonite city of Rabbah.)”

The list of mythical creatures includes angels, which, if they actually existed, we wouldn’t be debating the point. As of now, it is necessary to conclude that we live in a natural world devoid of beings of an unnatural nature. Once that fact is understood, it is immediately obvious that the Bible is a quasi-historical document filled with fictional and mythical elements.

(4597) Belief in God or not makes no difference

The Christian faith has a logical fallacy that pins much significance on a belief in God/Jesus without addressing the subsequent implications. It can be argued that no matter if this god exists or not or whether it is good of bad, belief in it makes no real difference. The following was taken from:


Suppose you are an atheist who does not believe in God for lack of convincing evidence.

    1. Either God exists or he does not.
    2. If he doesn’t exist, whether or not you believe in God makes no difference.
    3. If God exists, either he cares that you believe in him or he does not.
    4. If he doesn’t care, whether or not you believe in God makes no difference.
    5. If God exists and cares that you believe in him, either God is good or is not good.
    6. If he is good, then he will understand you not believing in him for lack of convincing evidence, so whether or not you believe in God makes no difference.
    7. If he is not good then all are in trouble whether or not they believe in God.
    8. If all are in trouble whether or not they believe in God then whether or not you believe in God makes no difference.
    9. Therefore, whether or not you believe in God makes no difference.

This syllogism illuminates the fact that no good, all-knowing god would penalize a person who rejects its existence on the basis of sound reasoning [which Yahweh would be responsible for by withholding evidence of his existence]. So for this god to penalize non-believers would imply that it is evil. And an evil god would not bode well even for those going to heaven.

(4598) Four problems with Pascal’s Wager

The most famous Christian apologetic tactic is Pascal’s Wager, that tries to convince non-believers to believe- just in case. It is easily dismantled, as in the following:


I’m sure we’ve all heard Pascal’s Wager eleventy-twelve tunasandwichillion times, since it seems like literally every Christian is literally two nanoseconds away from repeating it literally all the time, literally. For those of you innocent enough not to know the argument by name, it’s the one that goes “If Christians are right, they go to heaven, and if they’re wrong, they lose nothing, but if atheists are right, they gain nothing, but if they’re wrong, they go to hell, so it’s safer just to be a Christian.”

Having thought about this argument more than the people who use it, I’ve identified four massive flaws in it, every one of which is a deal-breaker. Perhaps you’ve thought of additional flaws that I missed, and if so, please share them. But here are the flaws I’ve seen:

    1. It assumes that the only possibilities are “my specific version of the Christian god exists” and “no gods exist,” which is an assumption that neither you, Mr. Bad Faith Christian Apologist, nor I, nor Pascal, nor anyone else, is qualified to make.
    2. The logical extension of Pascal’s Wager is to believe in every religion simultaneously, which is impossible, since all religions make mutually exclusive claims, and since most religions claim that all other religions are false (and that people who follow other religious should be murdered).
    3. To believe “just in case” purely for the purpose of covering your ass, out of pure, naked-self interest (and ain’t THAT ironic) is not actual faith, and any god that both requires actual faith and can read your mind, as the Christian god supposedly can, would not be deceived by that.
    4. It is not true that if you’re a Christian and you’re wrong, you lose nothing. If some other religion is right, you could go to that religion’s hell (see #1). But even if there is no god and no afterlife, and this life is all we get, you still don’t lose nothing. You lose the only existence that you will ever have, because you wasted it trying to please a being that does not exist, and in so doing, you denied yourself the only opportunity you will ever have to enrich that existence, and instead you only made your own life, and the lives of everyone around you, and the society in which you lived, and the world itself, worse.

And if your Bad Faith Christian Apologist isn’t moved by any of that, you could always just counter with the Rascal’s Wager, wherein it’s safer to not believe in any gods in case there exists a god that only rewards people who didn’t believe in a false god.

Pascal’s Wager is a failed apologetic stratagem that rightly should be put to rest. The only legitimate reason to believe in Yahweh is if there is sufficient evidence to do so. As of today, that evidence is sorely lacking.

(4599) Disguising what the Bible says

Christian clergy and translators realize that there are parts of the Bible that do not comport to the concept of one unique, single god that overseas the universe. So they had to devise stratagems to keep this information from reaching their offering-giving followers. The following was taken from:


Christian apologist Bible translators take on the task of disguising what the Bible actually says, and Avalos offers examples.

It took a long time—as the Bible documents were being written over the centuries—for the concept of ONE powerful god to emerge as orthodox. But this wasn’t the case in Deuteronomy 32:8-9; Avalos quotes the Catholic New American Bible:

“When the Most High assigned the nations their heritage, when he parceled out the descendants of Adam, He set up the boundaries of the peoples after the number of the sons of God; while the LORD’s own portion was Jacob, his hereditary share was Israel.”

Avalos comments: “Most readers will miss the fact that ‘the Most High’ and the ‘LORD’ are two different gods, among many different gods, here. The term translated as ‘the Most High’ is probably the name of a god, pronounced as Elyon, and the term translated as ‘LORD’ corresponds to the Hebrew name we pronounce as Yahweh, ancient Israel’s main god.” (p. 43, The End of Biblical Studies)

The same translator trick, Avalos notes, is used in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning when God created…”

“The word ‘God’ is probably best translated as the name of the specific god named ‘Elohim.’ If one were to be even more literal, one might note that Elohim is actually a plural noun, which could be translated as ‘gods’.” (p. 45, TEBS)

Since humans began imagining gods thousands of years ago, deities were given names. And the god who eventually stood out as the primary god of the Hebrews was Yahweh. Christians pay homage to this practice with the common formula, “In Jesus’ name we pray”—and even in the opening of the Lord’s Prayer, “…hallowed be thy name…” I suspect, however, if we asked Christians what their god’s name is, most would draw a blank. Yahweh wouldn’t be the first thing that comes to mind—primarily because translators have disguised it. Whenever we see the word Lord—in the Old Testament—in all caps, i.e., LORD, this is their substitution for Yahweh. Perhaps pious translators suspect that their god having a name makes him look like other gods.

A literal reading of the Bible is dangerous to the intents of Christian leaders, so they must massage the text in a way that presents a consistent and favorable message to the people in the pews. One thing they must camouflage in the fact that early Jews believed in multiple gods.

(4600) Three-pack deconstruction

Religious inculcation is like a building that is constructed in your brain. It is difficult to take down this building because it rests on a determined foundation. To escape requires removing the bricks one by one. In the following the author removes three of those bricks and begins his personal deconstruction:


Ex-Christian here. In short summary, I lost my belief in the Christian God because:

    1. When I looked into the evidence for the reliability of the Gospel accounts, I discovered that Christian pastors, theologians, and apologists are basically lying about the supposed evidence. Contrary to what Christian teachers often claim, the Gospel accounts were not written by eyewitnesses; they were written anonymously and are full of serious contradictions, fabrications, and historical inaccuracies. There is no good evidence to support the reliability of the Gospels, but plenty of evidence to preclude their reliability. Although Jesus of Nazareth may have been a historical person, the Jesus of the Gospels is a legend, and I find it foolish to treat a legend as if it were authoritative for life and society.
    2. I discovered that contrary to what Christian teachers often claim, the Bible does defend very brutal chattel slavery, rape, and genocide. I find this morally heinous and it precludes the Bible’s supposed inspiration by an all-knowing and loving god. The Bible has too many moral problems for it to be taken as a source of moral authority.
    3. The Bible completely fails to resolve the philosophical problem of evil, and instead relies on victim-blaming and gaslighting to suppress cognitive dissonance, and I find this totally unacceptable. I believe that the problem of evil is too serious to ignore and is best resolved by an admission that the God of the Bible doesn’t exist.

This three-pack deconstruction is sufficient by itself to cause any objective-minded individual to leave Christianity behind. Yet, it is only a drop in the bucket. But, just to address these issues, we can be sure that if Christianity was true, then the Bible would have a much more rigorous and reliable pedigree, it would condemn slavery, genocide, homophobia, etc., and it there would be much less evil present in our world today. By all markers, Christianity is false.

Follow this link to #4601