(4751) Mark’s placement of Jesus on the cross

Mark was a writer with an eye to literary symbolism and allusions. He used this knowledge to invent the symbolic trope that Jesus was crucified between two thieves. The following was taken from:


Thomas Schmidt pointed out in this article that the two thieves are probably based on parallels to the triumphal march of Roman emperors. Here is the relevant part to your question:

Another remarkable detail reported by Mark is that Jesus is executed with “two bandits, one on his right and one on his left” (Mark 15:27). This account not only appears to be an unnecessary interruption of the narrative but also draws the attention of readers to the shamefulness of the crucifixion. Why accentuate the scandal of the cross by associating Jesus with criminals?

In the world of Mark’s audience, placement on the right and left of an elevated person signified royal enthronement. Earlier in Mark’s narration, for example, he tells us that two disciples request to be seated on Jesus’ right and left when he is enthroned (Mark 10:37). In the triumph itself, the triumphator is normally alone, but the few exceptions are notable both because they occur at the point of elevation to the rostrum and because they occur very near to the time of Mark’s writing.

Suetonius, a Roman historian of the early second century, records a triumph of the youthful Tiberius, who “took his seat beside Augustus between the two consuls.” In 44 A.D., Claudius returned to Rome after a military campaign and celebrated a triumph. “In this he followed precedent, even ascending the steps of the Capitol on his knees, with his sons-in-law supporting him on either side.” When Vitellius accepted the title “imperator” at Lugdunum in 68 A.D., he “spoke in praise of [his conquering generals] Valens and Caecina in public assembly and placed them on either side of his own curule chair.” In 71 A.D. Vespasian celebrated his triumph over the Jews with Titus beside him in the triumphal chariot and Domitian riding alongside; the three then performed together the culminating events of the triumph.

In each of these instances, a threesome appears elevated above an admiring throng in order to express power through solidarity.

There are too many obvious literary allusions in the Gospel of Mark to conclude that they are simply historical coincidences. Much more likely is that this gospel is a fictional story meant to propound on certain themes popular in its day. The early readers of this gospel likely understood as much.

(4752) Head covering interpolation

There exist strong arguments that the screed in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 was not written by Paul, but was added later by a misogynist who clearly saw women as being the lesser sex. Here is the text in NIV:

I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was ma n created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

The following was taken from:


Then there is our passage that we have been considering all summer: Very few people know about the interpolation hypothesis regarding 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, but we will discuss it here. There are a couple of variations of the interpolation hypothesis. But the main problems that give rise to the hypothesis include these:

First, some say that 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 sticks out like a sore thumb. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul discusses the problem of idolatry and eating food with idols, while bringing up the topic of the Lord’s Supper. Then in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, Paul picks up the conversation about the Lord’s Supper again. So why does Paul stick this weird passage about head coverings right smack dab in the middle of this lengthy section about the Lord’s Supper?

Second, some say that the logic of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is hopelessly impenetrable. In some places, Paul talks about the relationship between man and woman in the church. In other places, he talks about head coverings. In another place, he talks about the length of hair for men and women. For some readers, this combination of different chunks of verses is a complete mess, and there is no way to reconcile the discrepancies either internally to the whole passage, or externally to the rest of what Paul is teaching elsewhere.

For example, Paul makes a big deal about men not wearing a head covering in a church meeting in verse 4, knowing full well that the Jewish male priests would actually wear head coverings in their worship gatherings. That just seems like a contradiction, and therefore completely inappropriate for Paul. (We will come back and visit this issue in more detail in the last blog post in this series).

The last problem, and the most controversial proposition, is that 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 simply does not sound like anything else we read in Paul. While definitely a minority view, there are some egalitarian scholars who embrace the Interpolation hypothesis because they think that Paul is essentially an egalitarian when it comes to the relationship between men and women, and yet 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 sounds hopelessly patriarchal and anti-woman. Therefore, this reasoning concludes that Paul did not write 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 and was therefore added in later by another scribe, some years down the road of the copying process.

Whether Paul wrote these verses or not, they are not practiced by Christians today, and have no place in the Bible. You will never hear them being recited in a church. The inclusion of these verses is a stain on Christianity and their message has no place within modern standards of morality.

(4753) Cognitive dissonance reveals Christianity’s untruth

Christianity forces a mind game on its followers, to believe in certain truths, while at the same time unavoidably understanding other truths that are in direct contradiction. The following was taken from:


Cognitive Dissonance is the fascinating ability of humans to hold two beliefs at the same time which are contradictory to each other. This is commonly done by simply never comparing a person’s beliefs to each other, each being looked at as a separate subject on its own.

Some such contradictory ideas may be held by special pleading, that is saying certain ideas are exempt from universal beliefs that apply to everything else except the claim. Some examples of this include “It is ridiculous to think the universe came from nothing” and “God made the universe from nothing”, or “Life cannot come from non-life” and “Adam was created from dirt”. In each of these cases a universal unavoidable standard is held which makes scientific claims impossible, while having the belief that the exact thing declared as impossible was done.

Perhaps the most obvious version of this is the belief that God is all-loving, that all people are equal in His eyes, while believing that the stories of God in the OT are true and therefore the killing of people for victimless crimes (catching the falling Ark or picking up sticks on the Sabbath for example), the massacres of cities in the way of His chosen people, the killing of the first born of Egypt or setting bears to kill children are all things that a “loving” God would do.

Another common belief is that God is active in the world, cares about His followers and will actively help them in times of need, while at the same time Christians are forced to admit that prayer doesn’t work, that Christians are as likely to suffer from illness, accidents, crime or disaster. He works but He doesn’t.

Good people go to heaven when they die, but also works don’t matter and you are saved by faith alone, so a good non-believer won’t get to heaven, but a horrific Christian would. Or belief that Satan is active in the world with all of his superpowers, but also God defeated him and cast him down, but also, He’ll come back and do it again because He didn’t finish him off the first time.

You should “love thy neighbor” and “turn the other cheek”, while applying the death penalty for Sabbath breaking, being a witch or being disobedient to your parents. Did God forgive and forget when the guy failed to impregnate his brothers’ widow? No, death for such disobedience.

God is all-good and just, but also created hell, a place of infinite torture. God loves all of His creation, but also wants you to butcher and burn animals to Him. The bible is God’s word, written by or inspired by God Himself, but reading it is optional, not really that important. God is all-knowing, but failed to see how His creation would turn out so drowned the world. All other religions are false and have no evidence, I have no evidence but believe based on the witness of the holy spirit.

It is amazing what we can be taught and how little we consider our positions in regard to each other. Once we have accepted a claim as true, then confirmation bias will help us keep that idea against evidence showing it to be invalid, even when we hold contradictory positions, we will fight to hold both against logic, justifying such a position by any means and any options presented to us. It is often said that apologetics are not to convince people of the truth of Christianity but are simply there to reinforce the beliefs that you have already been taught.

A true religion would not invoke cognitive dissonance because its claims would accurately align with reality. Christianity reveals its untruth by the unavoidable cognitive dissonance that infects all of its followers.

(4754) There is nothing wrong with being gay

There is nothing wrong with being gay. The fact that so many people disagree is because they have been brainwashed by religion. Christianity’s sour relationship with homosexuality, a condition that is now scientifically proven to be beyond individual control, is powerful evidence that it was created by humans and not by a god. The following was taken from:


God’s Design. Many Evangelicals in America insist that gayness violates God’s design for the human race. Such Evangelicals say that gayness is “unnatural,” a mistake. Therefore, if it is a disorder, something can be done to get gays “back in order.” That something was conversion therapy.

Conversion Therapy maintains that something went wrong in the natural bonding between a father and his gay son. Thus, it was the dad and son’s fault for becoming gay. Such a theory has been assumed in America for the past 60 years.

The problem is that the theory is rubbish. There are countless cases of boys who bonded well with dear old dad but just happened to turn out gay. Conversely, innumerable cases of boys did not connect well with their dads but still turned out straight. Multitudes of dads blamed themselves for their son’s gayness. Armed with this erroneous theory, multitudes of sons blamed their dads for their homosexual orientation.

In reality, we do not know what makes someone gay. Or, for that matter, what makes someone straight. But we now know that men with a same-sex attraction will never be able to extinguish it.

There is nothing wrong with being gay. It is simply a different attraction.

Bible. There are five passages (to be exact) that proclaim men who have anal intercourse with other men are an “abomination” and deserving of death. Furthermore, homosexuals cannot attain the kingdom of heaven.

It is astounding how many Evangelicals in America still cite the five “clobber passages” as proof that God hates homosexuals.

In reality, each of those five Bible passages refers to horrible homosexual practices that were common in the Middle East before and during the era of Jesus. In that context, men of power (i.e., status or wealth) could anally rape a less powerful male — to humiliate the lesser esteemed male. The powerful men raped their slaves or the young boys assigned to their “care.”

Such sexual assault does not resemble today’s love relationships among gay partners.

There is nothing wrong with being gay. It is simply a different attraction.

Psychologists. In the early 1900s in America, psychologists seemed bent on explaining that gays were in an acutely disordered condition. They argued that all males were supposed to be attracted to women. Such was simply how humans operated.

It was not until the 1970s that American Psychiatrists refused to label gays as a disordered condition. Their verdict:

There is nothing wrong with being gay. It is simply a different attraction.

Government. Leaders in America declared that being gay was a threat to national security. They presumed that a closeted gay man could be faced with a situation in which he either shared top secret info or would be outed.

Thus, for decades gays were not allowed to be in the military or government positions.

In reality, no case existed where a gay man gave away national secrets to keep himself from being outed. And yet, millions of people were barred from holding governmental positions.

There is nothing wrong with being gay. It is simply a different attraction.

Education. At some point in a straight boy’s education, he is taught about sexual intercourse, safe-sex practices, and the glory of love.

However, some schools now resist teaching gay boys that same information as it applies to their gay sexuality. Certain conservative parents maintain that to teach gay-related sexuality is to teach sin. Thus it is a moral infraction to teach about gay sex.

In reality, at whatever age a straight boy is supposed to learn the facts of sexuality, then at that same age, a gay boy needs to understand the information as applied to his homosexuality. However, some states (e.g., Florida) want to withhold information about gay sexuality entirely through middle and high school!

There is nothing wrong with being gay. It is simply a different attraction.

Relationships. Straight men generally follow a “relational blueprint” wherein the man becomes attracted to a specific woman. He then dates her, and they fall in love, commit to each other in marriage, and engage in erotic behaviors.

Gay men follow that exact same blueprint: attraction, dating, marriage, and eroticism.

In reality, there is no difference in the romantic and erotic patterns of straight men compared to gays. Straight and gay alike may indeed engage in erotic behavior before marriage. Likewise, sexual abuse may occur with straights or gays. And conversely, sexual purity may be found among straights and gays.

There is nothing wrong with being gay. It is simply a different attraction.

Marriage. Straight men typically participate in an elaborate marriage ceremony. All sorts of family members and friends attend. Both pre-spouses are dressed in their finery. An officiate gives a sermon about love and commitment. Everyone cheers when the husband kisses the bride, and the darling couple proceeds back up the aisle. It is the “over the top” sealing of two lovers in matrimony.

And yet, all too often, gay couples cannot experience the above marriage ceremony bliss. Some relatives may object to their gay marriages and refuse to attend. Accordingly, sometimes the gay couple goes to a justice of the peace to gain a marriage license. This form of becoming married is hardly what romantic marriages are made of. It all seems so unfair.

There is nothing wrong with being gay. It is simply a different attraction.

Conclusion. Whenever a gay person feels ashamed of his gayness or is denied his equal rights, it is most healthy for him to remember the following mantra:


This is a hill that Christianity has decided to die on- similar to the ill-fated ‘Pickett’s Charge’ in the American Civil War (July, 1863). As more and more evidence reveals that sexual orientation is not a choice, the Christian position on this issue, frozen in place by its ‘infallible’ scriptures, will be one of the reasons that brings about its eventual demise. Clearly, a god would have known the nature of homosexuality, and therefore none of the anti-gay agenda would appear in the scriptures or in the minds of his followers.

(4755) Fallacy of the ‘true Christian’

The term ‘Christian’ has various (actually myriad) meanings because the Bible and church tradition has left so much wiggle room in how to interpret this faith. A Christian usually defines the term ‘true Christian’ by what he believes, to the exclusion of what other Christians might believe. That is, it is not definable, and this is a fatal problem. The following was taken from:


What is a true Christian? What are you required to believe or practice, and which parts can be skipped while remaining a Christian? The majority of Christians will point to Mormons as being false Christians, and yet they follow the Protestant bible (plus 3 extra books), believe in God, Jesus and the resurrection. Their heresy makes them labelled as false, and yet the core of the religion remains the same. Would God really care that people who are actively looking to have a relationship with Him have been led to believe in extra books? By such logic the Catholic church can declare the Orthodox church heretics, the Protestants can declare the Catholics heretics and the Ethiopian Orthodox church can declare all the other heretics.

There are some Christians who say you must be baptized to be a true Christian, but this is not universal and amongst those who do practice it some believe in a splash of holy water while others say it must be full immersion. Some Christians say that a failure to be baptized means you are false and won’t make heaven. This seems to make God very petty, in that being taught things, outside of your control, is enough to damn you to hell.

Perhaps you should evangelize, speak in tongues or handle snakes? Perhaps you should be circumcised, but perhaps that was only for the Jews. Perhaps you should keep the Sabbath holy, whether that be the Saturday or Sunday by your particular beliefs, but does getting the day wrong when you don’t know better, really enough to make you not a true Christian?

Several Christians have told me a failure to be “born again” means you are not a true Christian. When you try to find what this means it gets very vague, with many saying it is just a feeling you have. Others have said if you do not take a literal interpretation of Genesis and believe in a young earth then you aren’t a real bible believer and hence aren’t a real Christian. This line of reasoning both means that the majority of Christians are not “true” Christians, but also some of the most famous Christians in history such as William Lane Craig, CS Lewis, Origen, Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine are not “true” Christians.

Believing that Jesus was the Messiah but not God himself as the Unitarians do, is also apparently enough to make you not a true Christian.

Do you have to pray a certain way or a certain amount? Do you need to attend church or tithe a certain amount? Do you need to read the bible cover to cover and if so, does it matter which of the many versions? Do you need to believe in the bible being literal history, or is there some wiggle room where it is acceptable to believe parts are parables, moral stories or metaphors?

This all works to reinforce this idea of being correct as part of the in-group, while everyone else is “the others”. Of course, out of the thousands of religions and thousands of denominations, you happen to be in exactly the right one and everyone else is blind for not seeing your church as the one true way. You are a true Christian and all the others who disagree with whatever the leadership of that church deem core rules, are all false Christians.

A religion created by a god would employ a concise definition, set of beliefs, and practices. One created by humans would be all over the place.

(4756) Conception versus pre-existence christology

In Mark, Jesus becomes God’s ‘son’ at his baptism. In Matthew and Luke, this happens at his conception. In John, there is no need to examine the facts surrounding his birth, because he is pre-existent with the Father at the beginning of time. Because the gospels were written in this chronological order, we can identify this theological progression as being a product of human imagination. In the following, Raymond E. Brown briefly discusses the development of New Testament Christology, specifically the difference between conception and pre-existence christology, in Appendix IV of his volume, The Birth of the Messiah: (pp. 141-142):

Conception christology and existence christology were two different answers to adoptionism. In the former, God’s creative action in the conception of Jesus (attested negatively by the absence of human fatherhood) begets Jesus as God’s Son. Clearly here divine sonship is not adoptive sonship, but there is no suggestion of an incarnation whereby a figure who was previously with God takes on flesh. Incarnational thought is indicative of pre-existence christology (“emptied himself taking on the form of a servant”; “the Word became flesh”); and works reflecting that christology show no awareness of or interest in the manner of Jesus’ conception. For pre-existence christology the conception of Jesus is the beginning of an earthly career, but not the begetting of God’s Son. It is no accident that John never speaks of the “begetting” of Jesus,” for Jesus simply is (“I AM”). I stress this difference between conception christology and pre-existence christology, because Christian theology soon harmonized the two ideas, so that the pre-existent Word of God was described as taking flesh (John) in the womb of the virgin Mary (Matthew and Luke).

This explains why the author of John didn’t see any need to discuss Jesus’ conception or birth, since he really wasn’t ‘born’ at that time- he simply took on a human body. Given the way the legend grew, the evidence is extremely strong that Jesus, assuming he was a real person, was born in the regular way.

(4757) Why the Jews couldn’t accept Jesus as the messiah

The Christian faith has made multiple attempts to prove that Jesus was the long-awaited-for messiah to deliver the Jewish nation from its oppressors- even though, obviously, that didn’t happen. Through a devious interpretation of scriptures, and a misunderstanding of what they mean, Christianity usurped the theological theme of the Jewish religion to form their own illogical interpretation of it. The following was taken from:


One of the most vexed questions for students over the years was why the Jews never accepted Jesus as the Messiah or God. In essence, the reason why the Jews didn’t accept, indeed, couldn’t accept Jesus as a divine Messiah was that accepting him as God would have gone against the entire Jewish tradition. The Jews were monotheists, who believed in only one God. Throughout antiquity they were continually surrounded by peoples who were polytheists, who believed in many gods. It was precisely their monotheism, their belief in only one God, which set them apart from all other peoples in the ancient world.

In the face of centuries of political pressure and religious persecution, the Jews struggled to maintain their belief in one God, thereby preserving what they felt was a special revelation made to them by God. Polytheistic religions were, to the Jews, idolatrous. Accepting Jesus as a divine being would have meant that there were two Gods, not only the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their traditional God, but also Jesus, whom they were now being asked to accept also as God. All the persecution the Jews have undergone over the centuries was because they had the courage to hold on to their most sacred belief and were even willing to die for it.

Jews and Muslims believe that the belief in the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit), Mary, the angels and saints is simply a thinly disguised form of polytheism. Scholars of religion maintain that the belief in Mary as the mother of Jesus is only a variation on the Earth Mother Goddess worship widespread throughout the ancient Mediterranean world. The angels and saints are minor deities in the Christian pantheon.

Moreover, there was nothing in Jewish religious tradition that suggested that the Messiah would ever be a divine being for, again, that would have gone against the notion of monotheism. Rather, the Jewish Messiah would be a human being, a holy person, to be sure, but a human being nonetheless.

The Old Testament honorific title, the “Son of God,” didn’t mean to the Jews what Christians understand by this phrase. To the Jews, this term simply designated men who were to be accorded reverence because of their unique relationship to God, but not because they were supposed to be divine beings. When Christians read the term “the Son of God” in the Old Testament, they’re simply reading a later Christian understanding of that term back into the Old Testament, which did not have this Christian meaning at all.

To Christian claims that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament messianic prophecies, the Jews responded that, on the contrary, he had fulfilled none of them. The prophecies Christians cite as proving Jesus was the Messiah, the Jews dismissed as either too vague in nature to refer specifically to the Messiah; referring to someone other than the Messiah; as quotations wrenched out of context; as not fulfilled by Jesus at all; or as interpolations inserted later into the New Testament to create the impressions that Jesus had fulfilled certain Old Testament passages when, in fact, he had not.

Furthermore, not only did the Jews not accept Jesus as the Messiah in the Christian sense as a divine being, but they also refused to accept him as the Messiah in the traditional Jewish sense as a political deliverer from centuries of oppression by various foreign powers. According to their messianic prophecies understood in this Jewish sense, Jesus failed to fulfill any of these as well.

Jesus was not the only Messiah rejected by the Jews. There were other Messiahs as well, both before and after the time of Jesus whom the Jews also rejected, not only in the ancient world but during the intervening centuries as well, perhaps a dozen of them.

You cannot build a faith upon the foundation of another faith when the foundational faith rejects the construction. This should be a no-brainer. The Christian religion has no legitimate basis. This would be like a scientist using a study to support a new theory while the author of the original study claims that the other author misunderstood his work.

(4758) Paul’s apparent contradiction

The writings of Paul indicate that he believed that the end times (Jesus’ return) was imminent, such that it was best for people to not get married. This view is especially evident in 1 Corinthians, which is a letter that scholars are fairly certain was written by Paul. A letter written much later, perhaps as much as sixty years later, falsely attributed to Paul (who had long since been dead), 1 Timothy, gives a completely opposite view of marriage, thus creating an apparent contradiction. The following was taken from:


Both Ehrman, and the late Raymond E. Brown in his Introduction to the New Testament, see a contradiction between 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy in how Paul understands marriage:

In 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, Paul writes, “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.”

However, in 1 Timothy 4:3, the author warns against those who forbid marriage, suggesting that it is a departure from the faith. Additionally, in 1 Timothy 5:14, young widows are encouraged to remarry and manage their households.

One argument put forward by Ehrman and others is that Paul, in 1 Corinthians, has an expectation of Something Happening Very Soon, possibly even by the time the letter is sent off. There won’t be time for marriage or maintaining distinctions.

By the time someone else is writing 1 Timothy, however, almost 100 years have passed since the execution of Jesus by Rome and the Something Happening Very Soon has not yet happened. Jesus has not returned. (Marcus Borg, in his Evolution of the Word, suggests a dating for 1 Timothy of somewhere in the late 110s CE.) So Paul’s initial restrictions on marriage are loosened by this later writer, who isn’t Paul. It cannot be that Paul has changed his mind; Paul is alleged to have died somewhere around 64/65 CE. So this looks as if someone has decided to update Paul’s thinking on marriage.

This attempt to rescue Paul from his anachronistic mistake backfired when it become known that Paul did not write 1 Timothy. So we can remain certain that Paul’s view of the end times was indeed faulty.

(4759) Biblical harmonization is a futile exercise

Differences in the details of biblical events told by various authors, most notably in the gospels, presents a challenge to Christians who assert that the Bible is inerrant. So, efforts are often made to explain away the differences by harmonizing the disparate stories into a coherent whole. The following essay explains why this tactic is ineffective:


Thesis: Harmonizing various Biblical passage from different authors which appear to be in disagreement is not a rational way to read the text even if it can resolve contradictions.

Imagine you are a homicide detective. You and your partner have been assigned to a new case, the murder of a man on the street as he was walking his dog. The first thing you look at is two independent eyewitness reports of the murder taken by police officers on the scene. The first eyewitness testified they saw a short white male approach the victim. There was an argument. Then the man proceeded to pull out a handgun which was concealed on his person, shooting the victim point-blank in the head. The victim dropped dead and the murderer fled down the street, around the corner, and out of sight.

“I hope the police are already on the manhunt for the person who matches the description of the murderer,” you say to your partner. “They would be,” she says, “but there is a problem. Read the second report.” The second eyewitness testified that a tall black female jumped the victim from an alley as he was walking by. The victim was repeatedly beaten over the head with a large wrench until he stopped moving. The assailant grabbed the victim’s wallet. Then a tan Mercedes pulled up to the curb, the woman quickly got in on the passenger side, and the car sped away.

“What a mess!” you say. “We have two very different stories with different descriptions of the assailants, different weapons, different means of escape, and other details that suggest different motives for the murder. The only thing they share in common is who the victim was, that he had a dog, and when and where the murder took place. How are we supposed to determine which of these is true?” Your partner then turns to you and says something that leaves you slack-jawed: “I think they might both be correct.” “Huh?!” you exclaim in confusion. “How can that possibly be? The two stories contradict each other. It would be illogical to accept both.” “Not so fast,” she says. “Just because the testimonies differ doesn’t mean they contradict. After all, it’s not like the first report said the victim wasn’t beaten with a wrench or the second report said there wasn’t an argument.” You are at a loss. She is technically correct. You can’t argue that it’s impossible for both reports to include true statements.

“Alright then, humor me,” you tell your partner, still incredulous. “What do you think really happened?” She tells you her theory about how the two descriptions of the assailant are actually different people. Both colluded before the murder to steal the victim’s wallet as they knew he walked his dog down the same street at the same time every day. The male partner started the argument as a pretense for the murder. The bullet failed to kill the victim since it didn’t destroy any critical part of his brain, so the female partner stepped in with a wrench to finish the job. As the woman stole the wallet, the man ran down the street to collect the getaway vehicle, the tan Merceded.

You can’t deny that your partner has developed a coherent, contradiction-free narrative that includes everything from both reports. They have successfully harmonized the eyewitness statements, albeit by including things that weren’t in either. And yet you probably aren’t any closer to being convinced by your partner’s theory. Not only is it rather ad hoc, but it just seems highly implausible that both eyewitnesses would not notice or leave out so much crucial information. It’s way more likely that at least one of the reports is wrong. Maybe one of the eyewitnesses is lying or was inebriated. Maybe they made the same errors we are so accustomed to in the criminal justice system. Maybe the officers who took the statement failed to write down what one of them was saying correctly. The point is that you almost certainly would not accept that both reports are correct despite the possibility that both could be correct.

You probably see where I am going with this. There are multiple accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth within Christianity. Infamously, these accounts often contain some of the same episodes that don’t seem to line up. The death of Judas would be a paradigmatic example. There are at least three different versions of this story, all of them coming from around the same period. For the sake of brevity, I will only look at the two found in the New Testament. The first comes from the gospel of Matthew.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”
So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. (Matthew 27:3-9)

The second version is found in the Acts of the Apostles.

With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood. (Acts 1:18-19)

The two accounts are clearly different. Judas feels remorse for betraying Jesus in Matthew. This is not mentioned in Acts. Judas hangs himself in Matthew. He falls and spontaneously splits open in Acts (the implication is a supernatural demise, that God struck him down). The elders buy a field with the money in Matthew. Judas buys a field with the money in Acts. These accounts, among others in the New Testament, seem contradictory. But much like your detective partner, apologists are quick to point out that they aren’t actually contradictory and will proceed to harmonize them. Here are some examples.

Answers in Genesis

Church of the Great God

Matt Slick

So apologists can indeed disprove the skeptic’s charge of contradiction in a most pedantic fashion. But harmonization still disagrees with common sense. Hopefully, you will agree that harmonizing the two murder accounts in the story above is an unattractive solution to solving the crime. It’s not something you would gravitate towards if you were in that situation. So why do (some) Christians do exactly that when they read the Bible? Why is their first line of defense to combine stories in such an obviously ad hoc way when they wouldn’t in any other context? It must be because they assume the Bible is a harmonious text from the outset. Why believe that though? Surely the best way to determine if the Bible is harmonious would be to… read it and see if the text indeed appears harmonious. This is how we evaluate any other narrative. To not evaluate the Bible in the same way smacks of circularity and arbitrariness.

Now, I am aware that not all Christians approach the Bible this way. Some are fine with saying the Bible is not a perfectly harmonious text. They aren’t bothered by the differences in things like Judas’s death, the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke, the chronology of when Jesus visited the temple or at what hour the crucifixion took place, what happened at the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, etc. These details don’t compromise the overall historical picture and theological points or were not intended by the authors to be read historically as opposed to serving a more literary function. But if we can’t rely on the authors to be consistent on these kinds of details, how can we rely on them to agree on more challenging and substantial matters like whether or not Jesus is God? It would seem that even Christians who would avoid crudely harmonizing examples like the death of Judas are still largely partial to an uncritical “super gospel” that is more or less free of genuine disagreement between the authors which is problematic for all the reasons I have stated above. The mere possibility of consistency is a very low standard and being satisfied with anything that clears it is poor epistemology.

There is no valid way to harmonize, for example, the Jesus birth narratives of Matthew and Luke. Or, well, yes, it can be done but it achieves nothing, because it just raises more questions as to why these authors left so much critical material OUT of their specific narratives. If the Bible was the inspired text of an omnipotent god, it would require no harmonization.

(4760) Christianity’s cult calling card

If anyone wonders whether Christianity is a cult, all they need to do is to reference this scripture:

Matthew 19:29

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

Cults universally encourage their recruits to abandon their family ties. At the time this scripture was written, the nascent Christian faith was having trouble garnering new followers, largely because anyone who was proselytized would meet resistance from their family members from joining the movement. So a mantra such as this scripture was valuable to the new cult- saying essentially this- yes, you will lose something by abandoning your family, but you will gain SO MUCH MORE.

Interestingly, modern Christianity has morphed in a direction diametrically opposed to Matthew 19:29, by emphasizing the importance of familial relationships. So you will not hear this scripture being recited in any church.

It is likely that the person who authored this scripture was thinking, like all other followers, that the end was very near, and so abandoning family would not matter very much in the long run. It is but one of many pieces of evidence that early Christians were certain that the end times would occur very soon, within their lifetimes. This belief obviously could engender a lot of strange behaviors, and leaving your children and parents for some imagined greater purpose was just one of those.

(4761) Bells and whistles instead of substance

In the following it is discussed how religions, devoid of any actual supernatural elements, had to resort to gimmicks to separate their followers from the ‘others,’ and how this effort would have been unnecessary if the religion was factual:


If a religion was true and actually connected believers with a creator, the benefits would be both manifest and manifold. The lives of believers would be transformed by the knowledge they gained and non-believers would quickly join-up to enjoy the same benefits. How come that group never gets sick? The creator taught them about antibiotics. How come that group is never hungry? The creator taught them to breed hardier wheat. How come that group has more resources? The creator taught them about division of labor. Religious leaders are aware of this shortfall of benefits and that’s why they invent spurious differences to give the appearance of being “set apart”. For example: hats, rituals, irrelevant prohibitions, circumcision etc… All that theatre is just to distract from the fact that all of the real-world benefits that should accrue from following a true religion are glaringly absent.

If any religion had access to the supernatural, it would be…let me think of the word…oh, yes-OBVIOUS. So the avenue to success is to create the illusion of such a connection by devising inventive charades of symbolism. All religions resort to this tactic, and not one of them has even a sliver of access beyond the natural world.

(4762) Prayer is an attempt at deity manipulation

There is a gigantic hole in the Christian tradition of prayer- not the type of prayers that give thanks or worship, but the petitionary prayers that are pleading for a certain outcome to occur. Those types of prayers are illogical at the core. The following was taken from:


Prayer is an attempt to manipulate god, it’s you expecting a “perfect” being to change his plan because you’re not happy with it. My biggest problem is theists will teach their kids to ask this invisible sky daddy to solve their problems through prayer, failing to realize it will create an irresponsible adult that fails consistently to find solutions to their problems. Prayer is confirmed to literally work at the rate of chance so next time you want to pray maybe do a good deed or action instead then pat yourself on the back for ACTUALLY doing the work.

Petitionary prayers work only in a situation where the deity is limited in its oversight, and needs to be reminded of certain conditions that he can ameliorate. It doesn’t work with Christianity’s model of an all-seeing, all-knowing god.

(4763) The modern Satanic Panic damaged Christianity

Forty years ago, Christianity took a wrong turn, focusing on almost every non-sectarian aspect of life as being a potential avenue for Satan’s interference. It was a reprise of a similar situation that occurred in Medieval Europe. It became a running joke among non-theists that Christians had become afraid of their own shadow. The following was taken from:


The Satanic Panic was at its peak during the 1980’s, where preachers around the world jumped on the bandwagon to claim that Satanic cults existed and were inflicting sexual and physical abuse on people as part of Satanic rituals, and that almost every form of pop culture was Satanic and hence evil. Some of these claims developed into anti-elite or anti-government conspiracy theories that exist to this day, including bizarre groups such as Qanon who claim a group of the world’s wealthiest people gather to do child sacrifices, sexual abuse and child pornography.

It is thought that the start of the Panic was in large part due to the hugely popular movies The Exorcist (1973), Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Omen (1976). When people who claimed to be victims of such cults were tested, the images they commonly referred to were scenes from the movies, leading many experts to believe that people were recording the movie scenes as memories and not just fantasy.

During the same time period you had the founding of the Satanic Church (1966) and Charlies Manson’s cult which claimed 35 killings with ritualistic features. To make things worse many cases of mental illness were then attributed to demonic possession and people will real illnesses suffered severe abuse and exorcisms which never helped and, in several cases, led to the death of the person.

Preachers pointed to rock and roll music as inflaming lust, and the idea that if you played records backwards you could hear Satanic messages had thousands of people scouring every record for perceived voices. Any movie or book which promoted magic was deemed as trying to lead people to the Satanic dark arts, with a famous example being the protests against the Harry Potter books (first released in 1997) and the panic that the tabletop game Dungeons and Dragons (released 1974) would lead people into real life witch covens and demonic magic use.

It was finally pushed back in large part due to targeting so much, with people getting more incredulous as the Satanic claims encompassed more and more pop culture. It was to the point where people jokingly said if it was fun, it must be Satanic. This ridicule helped to break the fear and led by new movies showing exorcisms stopping mental illness diagnoses and several lawsuits. Carl Sagan released the book “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark”, as well as many experts coming forward to show that false memories could be planted and believed by victims, as well as massive investigations into the claims of cult abuse and Satanic rituals which found no such thing ever occurred barring some drug gangs using such imagery to hide their real reasons for killing.

The Satanic Panic did great harm to Christianity’s believability, with some followers seeing it being the old stuffy preachers complaining about everything the young kids loved, with many saying the church was unable to separate fiction from reality. When people played D&D and found it to just be a fun bit of make believe, an imaginary story with no real-world consequences, but were being told by people they were meant to trust and believe that this game was terrible and would lead to real world magic, it makes those preachers the laughingstock. Their claims were ridiculous and harmful, driving people away from their churches and away from their teachings. Sadly, some exist to this day trying to sell exorcisms, or label the latest pop culture craze as Satanic, thankfully they aren’t taken as seriously as they were 40 years ago.

It became clear that teaching people to believe in the nefarious being of Satan can have real-world hazards, especially when such a belief is taken to the extreme, and actions are taken to confront this imaginary foe. Christianity’s ‘invention’ of Satan is one of its many low-lights, and a sure sign that it was the product of human, not divine, minds.

(4764) Conflicting messages

An all-powerful god should be able to align his followers into a consistent view of theological rectitude- that is, if he is really communicating with those who worship him, we would expect that such messaging would be the same for everyone. But the exact opposite exists. The following was taken from:


As a kid growing up in the Evangelical church, I never questioned the fact that God communicated with his people. All the adults around me were conversing fluently with the Lord in their daily lives, praying and hearing from him on matters great and small.

And I would wonder: if God is talking to millions of believers on a daily basis, why are we not keeping one big record of everything he says?

We could have another thousand Bibles filled with more of his words if we were taking notes! Not of the personal messages for individuals, but of the prophesies and visions and little revelations and bits of wisdom. That way everyone could share in the knowledge God was imparting. After all, if it came from God, it must be a universally applicable truth.

It seemed to me that if everyone could just put their little piece of God-inspired knowledge together, we would know so much more collectively than we did individually.

Then I got older, and realized that would never work.

For one thing, people seemed to be hearing different words from God. It wasn’t consistent at all. From small human matters, like drinking wine and wearing jewelry, to big ticket spiritual issues like predestination and the rapture, absolutely no one was getting the same messages, even though they were all purportedly consulting the same deity.

For another, it turned out that people didn’t seem to believe each other.

One day a bereaved woman stood up in church and talked about a vision she’d had of her daughter, healed of MS and dancing with Jesus in heaven. Afterward, my dad said she couldn’t have had such a vision because none of us will go to heaven until the second coming.

A friend of my dad’s kept hearing from God and prophesying about the imminent Apocalypse, but very few people believed him. We did. But then nobody we knew believed us.

There was the year my pastor said that God had revealed a preference for head coverings for woman during worship. Very few wives besides his started wearing hats to church.

And on it went. Not just in my church, but in other churches and in the Baptist college I briefly attended and in Christian online spaces everywhere I went. No one was coming to the same conclusion about anything. And everyone was constantly writing each other off.

“Oh, they’re not real Christians.”

“His walk with the Lord isn’t as strong as he thinks.”

“Her faith is so misguided. I’ll be praying for her.”

Imagine you’re friends with two devout Christian men. Pastors for forty years, faithful all their lives. They both say that they regularly hear God speaking to them through prayer and scripture, and they use those messages to form their convictions and carry out his will.

Their congregants trust them. No one who knows them would doubt that their belief is strong, or that they live in accordance with Biblical principles and Christian truth.

But they differ on one major point. One of them believes that God views all abortion as murder, and the other believes that it’s a woman’s choice and God will guide each individual according to his plan. Each believes the Bible supports the word he’s received, and has verses to provide support.

How do you decide who has truly heard from God and who has not?

“We live in a fallen world. Some people’s faith has been corrupted by lies.”

I moved from circle to circle and heard the same whisperings from within them all. Like the blind men and the elephant, each was convinced they alone had it right, while the others had it wrong.

Now, I think about the Christian belief in hearing from God as a paradox.

Getting back to those two pastors: let’s say you locked them in a closet with their Bibles and instructed them to pray over the morality of abortion until they heard from God, in whatever way he chose to speak, and settled it once and for all.

They’re talking to the same God, with whom they’ve had a direct line of communication for forty years. He should have the same answer for both of them. It’s not a moral gray area like drinking or swearing; it’s a matter of life and death. Their opinions could carry massive weight for a congregant facing an unplanned or dangerous pregnancy.

But when you open the door and let them out, how likely is it that either of them will come out and say that God has spoken contrary to what they previously believed?

Won’t they each say, “He confirmed that I was right”?

Who do you believe? How do you decide who heard “the most” from God, or who discerned “correctly”?

For those two Christian pastors to reconcile the difference, each of them has to believe something about the other: that for whatever reason, when he says he heard from God, he really didn’t. He’s got sin in the way, or he doesn’t really know how to listen, or God isn’t choosing to reveal the truth to him right now.

If they don’t find some way of excusing the other person, it’s their own communion with God that is called into question.

This is the assumption Christians have to make about every other believer who asks God for guidance and discernment as they navigate the world and comes to a different conclusion about God’s laws and values.

That would mean that every Christian in the world is both hearing from God and not hearing from God, depending on who you ask.

Statistically speaking, they can’t all be right.

But they can all be wrong.

Christians might respond, “We’re all fallen and corrupted by sin. We hear imperfectly. We’re just doing our best.”

If that’s the case, and you’re aware that there’s such a great chance that the conclusions you and your brothers and sisters in Christ come to might be wrong, then no Christian has any business forcing their own convictions on another person or persons.

But ultimately, I would think that an all-powerful God who was truly speaking to people would be able to provide more clarity than he apparently does. Especially when the lives of his own children are at stake.

This is a fatal problem for Christianity. There are two major reasons for why Christians cannot ‘get on the same page’- their Bible is not a precise instruction manual, and their god does not exist.

(4765) An omni-god would prevent religious diversity

The argument can be made that a world full of religious diversity can only exist when there is no singular, absolute all-powerful god in existence. Otherwise, such a god would have a vested interest in curtailing delusions of non-existent deities, and would manifest itself in ways to prevent that from happening. The following was taken from:


If there is an omni-God he should have made it a priority to prevent religious diversity by clearly revealing himself in this world such that only people who consciously refuse to believe would do so. There would be no such thing as reasonable nonbelief in the one true sect-specific religion, regardless of when and where we were born, or how we might be culturally indoctrinated otherwise. Such a God would have made his revelation available to every culture and buttressed it with some astounding evidence-based miracles.

This deity would provide a naturalistic moral code for everyone that excluded all religions that were misogynistic, racist, homophobic, nationalistic, and otherwise barbaric. In this way, he’d prevent religiously motivated wars, crusades, inquisitions, witch burnings, suicide bombers, and terrorists. Given the horrendous suffering caused by religious diversity, the probability that an omni-God exists is indirectly proportional to the amount of religious diversity that exists, and there is way too much of it to suppose he does.

Yahweh could shut down religious diversity at the ‘drop of a hat.’ But that would be possible only if he actually existed- which he clearly doesn’t.

(4766) To touch or not to touch

A contradiction appears in John 20 as to whether it was acceptable to touch the risen Jesus. In Verse 17, Jesus appears to make a blanket statement that he should not be touched because he had not yet ascended to the Father (a bit confusing because it would difficult to touch him after he had taken such a flight). But just 10 verses later, he is seen commanding the doubting Thomas to touch him.

John 20:17 (KJV)

Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

John 20:27 (NIV)

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

The King James Version is quoted for Verse 17 because it is the most accurate. Later translators, no doubt eyeing the contradiction, changed the wording to say ‘do not cling on me’ or ‘do not hold on me.’

Although this is a minor point, it does indicate that the author overlooked the problem, which easily could have been avoided by removing the prohibition in Verse 20:17.

(4767) Torture negates free will

The Christian idea is that everyone has free will. But if someone who doesn’t figure out which god is real and then fails to worship that same god is tortured for eternity, then the concept of having a free will is mute. The following was taken from:


I don’t understand the concept of free will when there’s a punishment as a result.

We’ve all heard this too much.

“God gives you free will. It’s your choice to follow x religion. God doesn’t send people to hell, people send themselves to hell”.

That doesn’t sound like free-will. Why would god create me, knowing that I couldn’t convince myself (even if I tried) to believe in him? Why do I deserve eternal damnation?

Creating me and creating an inevitable reward/punishment system and calling it free will just doesn’t make sense to me.

I’m born. I’m told life is a gift from god. I have to not only figure out which god, but I have to then fully convince myself to believe in that god even if I mentally could not. I’m then told it’s my fault I couldn’t believe or that I’m not trying hard enough. “It’s because you haven’t opened your heart”. Do you think I wouldn’t believe if I could? I wish I could convince myself there was a pure-hearted, all loving being who watched over me and genuinely wanted the best for me… but I just can’t. No religious place or holy book or exorcism will change that.

As a result of that, I should burn for eternity? Why? Have you ever been burnt by something hot even for a second? It hurts, right?

Do I deserve to experience that level of pain multiplied by a million for eternity?

That’s doesn’t sound like free will. It’s extortion and dictatorship. ‘My way or the highway’…

The ideology of Christianity is becoming more and more exposed when it is compared to modern-day ethics. Perhaps twenty centuries ago it made more sense. To torture a person for earnestly making a decision that happens to be wrong is something that no human justice system could ever countenance. But Yahweh, in his supreme benevolence, can?

(4768) Evolution of Marian tradition

Like almost everything else in Christianity, the quasi-worship of Mary, the mother of Jesus according to scriptures, was a slowly-developing tradition, with layers of increasing devotion added on century by century. The final product of this process left modern Christians seeing Mary completely differently than those in the First Century. The following was taken from:


S.J. Shoemaker’s Mary in Early Christian Faith and Devotion (2016), is a standard work on the topic and the source for a lot of this post.

Starting with the first century, there’s very little material on Mary. Particularly in Luke she’s portrayed as highly obedient to God and is called kecharitōmenē (“favoured one”) in Luke 1:28 when visited by Gabriel, but aside from the virgin birth stories she has a very small role and there’s no evidence of Marian devotion.

The main development in the second century comes from the Protevangelium of James, an apocryphal virgin birth narrative, which presents Mary as especially divinely favoured and pious, she is miraculously born from a barren couple, grows up in the Jerusalem temple, is betrothed to Joseph at the high priest’s instruction, gives birth to Jesus in a cave, and miraculously keeps her physical sign of virginity after the birth (presumably her hymen remaining intact). The Protevangelium also portrays Jesus’ brothers as children from Joseph’s previous marriage, possibly indicating an early belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity (although it doesn’t say either way if she had later children with Joseph). Other second century evidence from Justin Martyr (Dialogue 43, 67, 68, 71, 84) and Irenaeus (Against Heresies 3.22.4) indicates that she was seen as the new Eve because her obedience and chastity reversed Eve’s disobedience. However, there isn’t yet any evidence of devotions to Mary, nor asking for her intercession.

In the third century there isn’t a huge amount of patristic interest in Mary. Tertullian had a surprisingly low view of her. He strongly defended the virgin birth and her being the new Eve but rejected the belief in her perpetual virginity (On the Flesh of Christ 23.2; On Monogamy 8.2) and even said that she was rejected by Jesus for not believing in him, based on Mark 3:21-35 and Luke 11:27-28 (On the Flesh of Christ 7.13; Against Marcion 4.26.13). Clement of Alexandria approved of the Protevangelium’s view that the physical sign of her virginity remained miraculously intact (Stromata 7.16). Origen thought she remained a virgin in her marriage with Joseph (On Luke 7) but on the negative side he says that she was filled with doubt after Jesus’s crucifixion like the disciples were, meaning she needed Jesus’s death to atone for her sins (On Luke 17), contrary to the later belief that Mary was sinless (eventually defined as Catholic dogma by Pius IX in 1854). A later source claims that Origen was the first to call Mary the Theotokos (“the one who gave birth to God”, later translated into Latin as Dei Genitrix “Mother of God”) but the evidence for that isn’t clear.

A fragmentary papyrus from Egypt dated to the end of the third century, or fourth century, might be among the earliest evidence for Marian devotion. It contains a Greek prayer to Mary that appears in later liturgies, and seems to be written for a congregational context. It’s reconstructed as follows:

We take refuge beneath the protection of your compassion, Theotokos. Do not disregard our prayers in troubling times, but deliver us from danger, O only pure and blessed one.

— “Sub tuum praesidium” Rylands 470

A fourth century eucharistic prayer also asks for Mary’s intercession along with that of the saints and martyrs, including the following line:

Especially at all times the holy and glorious Mary, the Theotokos; and by her prayers have mercy on us all

–“Anaphora of Egyptian Basil”

S.J. Shoemaker speculates that this combination of a lack of 3rd century patristic interest in Mary and evidence of liturgical prayers to her indicates that Marian devotion developed from popular worship and only later entered “orthodox” theology.

A very significant third or fourth century text is The Book of Mary’s Repose, an esoteric narrative about Mary’s soul being taken up to heaven and receiving revelations from the celestial Christ, she then teaches some of these divine mysteries to the disciples, and her body is taken up to heaven after her death. This is the first mention of the popular belief that Mary’s body ascended to heaven which was much later defined as Catholic dogma by Pius XII in 1950. When compared to the later narratives about Mary, it’s a strange mixture of extremely high and low views of her character. On one hand she is so special that she’s taken up to heaven to see divine secrets (cf. the Apocalypse of Peter and Apocalypse of Paul), and is asked for intercession along with the other saints. But on the other hand there’s an entire section about her sin of faithlessness while fleeing to Egypt with Joseph, which results in the divine Jesus telling her that all sins are imputed to her (Ethiopic version §41).

It should be obvious that any theology that evolves over time, especially if that evolution involves a steadily increasing degree of spectacle, is an indicator of myth-making. The way that Mary was aggrandized over time is emblematic of Christianity’s man-made fantasy.

(4769) Resurrection theory evolved later

There is good evidence that the earliest Christians did not believe in or celebrate a resurrection of Jesus, but rather continued his movement philosophically within their Jewish faith. Later, a myth evolved that Jesus had risen from his tomb and ascended into heaven, giving him a godlike status. The author of Mark put Jesus into a historic setting, and then the movement essentially became divorced from standard Judaism and appealed only to the Gentiles. The Jewish Christians died out in time. The following was taken from:


Burton Mack argues in A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins (1988) that resurrection wasn’t really a part of the original Jesus movement, but it emerged during the process of mythologization that occurred in the Christ cults from which Christianity sprang. He describes this mythologization as “a combination of Hellenistic views of the divine man and Hellenistic-Jewish myths of Moses and the prophets” (p. 93) that arose from a milieu of people with mixed ethnic and religious backgrounds. Similar mythologizations had already taken place regarding other Jewish figures, like Moses; just look at the writings of Philo, for example.

In other words, you have something like this process playing out during the first and early second centuries: (1) a Jesus movement centered around a figure regarded as a prophet who dies a martyr’s death → (2) a Hellenistic-Jewish mystery cult where Jesus is transformed into a transcendent being whose death and ascension promise cosmic salvation and transformation to followers → (3) the development by “Mark” of a passion and resurrection narrative placed in a historical setting and consciously linked to Jewish messianism.

It is easy to see that Christianity was and is a work in progress from the time of Jesus all the up to the present. All along the way, new traditions were invented about Jesus, the disciples, Mary, angels, and the saints. None of this comfortably fits within the genre of reliable history.

(4770) The Lego analogy

Christianity is such a malleable concept that any attempt to define it in absolute terms inevitably ruffles the feathers of virtually every person who calls themselves a Christian. The following analogy is taken from:


Most Lego® sets are intended to make a particular thing. One set makes a playground, another makes an airport, and yet another makes a replica of an Atari 2600 game console (really.) In each case, there is a set of mostly clear instructions on how to build the intended thing. With Lego® bricks, though, you can deviate from the instructions any time you wish. You can even ignore the instructions entirely, and make whatever you feel like making, using those bricks alone or combining them with all the other Lego® bricks you may have accumulated over the years. There is no guarantee that what you end up with will resemble the picture on the box, but there’s also no requirement for it to do so.

In my observation and experience, most people who call themselves Christians treat Christianity much like a set of Lego® bricks. When I was part of the in-crowd of devout Catholics, people used to deride what they called “cafeteria Catholics” — those who called themselves Catholic but decided to ignore particular teachings they didn’t like. The truth is, however, that every person who goes by the name Christian practices “cafeteriaism,” as do the denominations to which they belong.

Part of this is due to the clarity of the instructions (the bible.) In each box of Lego® bricks, there is one set of instructions. If you follow the instructions, you get the promised result. In contrast, there are many different translations of the bible, and none of those translations are based on “original” texts. The earliest extant manuscripts are thought to have been created almost 10 centuries after the originals were written. It’s possible that each copy made in that interval was a perfect reproduction of the previous copy, but we’re talking about hand copies, not photocopies, and sometimes copying included translating from one language to another, so the chances are pretty good that some changes slipped in. As a result, one can only speculate on what the original bible may have said.

The murkiness of the bible allows for many different interpretations, even of a single passage. Deriving doctrinal statements from the bible is, as a result, a very creative process, which is why there are now hundreds of Christian denominations, each of which is “right” in their own eyes, and mistaken or misled in the eyes of all the other denominations. The upside for the cafeteriaists [Grammarly really doesn’t like this word] is that if you aren’t happy with a particular doctrine, you can usually find a passage to refute it or an “expert” who will provide the desired re-interpretation of the relevant bible passage(s.) The instructions can be modified to suit one’s individual preference.

At the brick level, I as an individual Lego® builder can choose which bricks I want to use and which bricks I don’t want to use. There may well be Lego® purists who would take exception to using a yellow brick in a place that clearly demanded a blue brick, but in fact, one can use whatever color one wants.

In my Lego® analogy, the bible is both the instructions and the bricks. With the possible exception of a few extreme fundamentalist groups, the vast majority of denominations do a similar thing. If particular biblical declarations can’t be made palatable by re-interpretation, they can choose to simply push them to the side. A popular example is the New Testament declaration that in church, women are not supposed to speak and must have their heads covered. While women still can’t be Catholic priests or Southern Baptist pastors, they are not prohibited from speaking in church, and even the Catholics gave up the head-covering rule long ago. If one goes back to the Old Testament, there are many more examples of passages and doctrines that Christians choose to ignore (Martin Sheen as the president in The West Wing does a beautiful job rattling off some of those in episode 3 of season 2, although he barely scratches the surface.)

Within a denomination that has already decided which parts of the bible to follow, individuals practice additional “cafeteriaism.” I knew a very devout Catholic woman who had been abused as a child. When I asked her how she could reconcile her experience with the basic Christian teaching that god is all-powerful and all-good, she said that she thought god wasn’t really omnipotent — there were some things god couldn’t do. In Lego terms, she replaced a red brick with a yellow brick. Her substitution was a serious, possibly even heretical, deviation from Christian doctrine, but it allowed her to continue to see herself as a devout Catholic and to hang on to whatever good things she experienced from that self-identification.

There is much in the bible that is indefensible, much that runs contrary to most notions of morality. There is also much in the bible that, if followed, would make life very difficult (and much less enjoyable) for the Christian in the pew. As a result, picking and choosing is the norm, not the exception. So what does it mean to be a Christian? Pretty clearly, it means whatever you want it to mean. Christianity is very much like a big box of Lego® bricks. Take what you want, make whatever you want, and leave what you don’t want. If something you made becomes inconvenient, change it. If something you made no longer pleases you, take it apart and start over again. Christian orthodoxy? Pretty much an oxymoron.

So what? Who cares if every Christian has a different opinion about which doctrines are non-negotiable, and which are more along the line of suggestions? One reason to care is that the term “Christian” still connotes all sorts of virtuous things to a distressingly large portion of the US population. Thus, some pretty horrible people can call themselves Christians (I bet you are thinking of Donald Trump right now, too) and gain support from other “Christians.” Simply saying you are a Christian (and perhaps showing up at church once in a while) is enough, even if your life actions tell a very different story.

Christians can justify all manner of bigotry and hatred based on their, or someone else’s, interpretation of specifically chosen biblical passages, even though there could be several equally plausible interpretations. For anyone who pays any attention to the world around them, the multiple examples of this fact in current events are almost impossible to miss.

If the definition or popular usage of any word or phrase has such a broad scope that it encompasses pretty much anything and everything, then in practical terms it means nothing. “Christian” is such a word. Perhaps it’s time to stop treating the word as if it has a precise meaning and stop pretending that Christians are a cohesive, like-minded group. If someone wants to call themselves a Christian, they have every right to do so. That declaration, however, should not be taken to say anything else about the person — evaluation of a person’s character should be based on actions, not nebulous labels.

Further, treating Christians as a single bloc, for example in polls, inflates their significance, and risks assigning too much power and leverage to those people in terms of defining our day-to-day lives, the laws of the land, and the structure of our government. Let them call themselves whatever they want. Let them build whatever they want, using whatever color, shape, or style of bricks they want. Let them proclaim how amazing what they built is, but let them, in fact insist that they keep it for themselves.

A god would produce a religion with defined criteria. One invented by humans would be a mish-mash of conflicting ideas and doctrines. Christianity clearly lies in the second category.

(4771) In defense of David Hume

In the following, John Loftus discusses the line of argument used by David Hume, an 18th Century philosopher, to prove, in a virtual sense, that miracles do not happen, and how modern technology has, in many ways, superseded the use of such arguments. Nevertheless, Hume’s ideas remain relevant because they can be more persuasive to many people who eschew scientific explanations. The following was taken from:


David Hume (1711-1776) offered some good philosophical arguments against miracles that still resonate today. His arguments focused on the unreliability of human testimony on behalf of miracles. He did not live in a technological age like ours with modern forensics that include blood analysis, such as blood tests that can determine one’s blood type, detect diseases, and detect poisons, drugs, or alcohol. We also have X-ray technology, DNA evidence, CAT scans, dash cams, and security cameras at convenience stores, on street intersections, and at neighborhood homes. Especially noteworthy are the ubiquitous number of cell phones that give us immediate access to the police by a 911 call, cameras that can capture any event on video, and GPS tracking capability showing where we are at any given time. So Hume didn’t have the capability that we do to either establish or debunk miracles.

In our day the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) once offered a one-million-dollar prize “to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.” In the half-century that JREF offered the challenge, from 1964 until 2015, no challenger had even gotten past the preliminary test. While this doesn’t show that all paranormal and miracle claims are false, it’s what we would expect to find if all of them were false. Furthermore, science has advanced precisely because it rejected miraculous explanations using Ockham’s razor. This, too, is what we would expect to find if all such explanations were false. Biologists, for instance, are convinced that biological evolution has occurred. Geologists are convinced that plate tectonics is true. Climatologists are convinced that global warming is driven by human choices. And so on. Furthermore, psychologists are not convinced that souls exist, or that telepathy works. Science is a show-stopper for miracle-mongers who put on a show.

One might ask why we even need philosophical arguments here. Why not just teach how science works and why the methods of science are the best means we have to get at the truth? In a real sense we don’t need philosophical arguments, per se, including those from Hume. However, given so many possible existential threats to life on our planet, we should do everything that we can to reach people who value blind faith over scientific evidence. So practically speaking, some believers might be more attentive to listen to Hume than to Charles Darwin, Carl Sagan, Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins, and the like.

Hume remains relevant 250 years after his death. His contribution to secularism has been an important step toward humankind’s escape out of the darkness.

(4772) Probability explains miracles

In the following, it is discussed how the perception of miracles is based on the unrecognized probable occurrence of rare events coupled with a bias to credit one’s belief system:


Common hearsay goes like this…such and such was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and called upon leading experts who all gave him/her no more than six months to live. After exhausting all “modern” medical options, this person turned into a shaman/religious guru. And lo and behold! He is well and alive, ten years going, with no trace of the tumor. Scans and blood reports are clean as a whistle. Hallelujah! We have just witnessed a miracle.

Or was it something else?

This, of course, is an extreme scenario, but a plain vanilla version of this story could be heard around the water cooler:

I/someone I know….(lost a loved one/was battling anxiety, depression, or drug abuse/was cheated/didn’t have peace in life/lost all my money/was homeless, etc.) tried everything, looked everywhere, was living out of my van, was suicidal and finally found peace in this faith (not any faith but a very specific one).

I have written about the statistical probability of someone being in the right faith and the consequences of picking the wrong one.

This person then tells their story of survival against the odds and discovery of “the truth” to others, reinforcing the beliefs of existing believers and converting more to the cause. These stories are like testimonials or Amazon product reviews, which we all have to come to rely on. These individuals are highly valued by the church or other religious groups and are often given the podium to share their stories because of their potential to increase group membership. A five-star-reviewed product on Amazon sells more. As simple as that.

But there are many problems with these stories.

First, there is the apparent fraud aspect of it that is telecast on TV where staged actors stand up from wheelchairs to which they were hopelessly condemned to by “leading” doctors (Its always leading experts for dramatic effect).

A simple common sense check debunks this fraud. Ask yourself, why don’t the healers start hospitals and cure everything? why do healers ever die if they have the capacity to save others? even this guy ended up under the scalpel in a hospital after touting herbs and yoga as the cure-alls.

If they can “heal” and are deliberately letting thousands of children die all over the world, how can that person possibly go to heaven?

No matter how you think — as long as you think — the nonsense is readily apparent.

Why doesn’t the all-powerful god defuse bombs mid-air so that no one ever dies from wars and atrocities?

And no, believing in a particular religion does not save you. Christians, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, and others. All of them die of all kinds of diseases at all ages.

And some defy the odds. Defying the odds is not specific to any faith.

Let me focus on the cases where the person was genuinely cured (these are never the standup from the wheelchair drama queens. These are more along the lines of someone battling chronic illness and gradual recoveries or surviving beyond the deadlines given by doctors)

There are six possibilities:

1. The shaman/guru/priest is indeed some genius who has developed a secret cure. The probability of this is extremely low, and it’s easy to verify this through clinical trials.

In this case, it wasn’t the “faith” that healed, it was the “secret cure” that the healer had developed.

or a fraud of another kind that is yet to be exposed. Some magicians’ tricks take a bit longer to uncover, but, rest assured, these are tricks.
I used to know a “faith” healer who ran an “alternate” medicine business. He used to give out healing pastes in which he added powdered paracetamol and other active ingredients.

2. When doctors say a person has “x” months to live with stage 4 cancer, they are indicating a probability, but not a guarantee that it must happen. It means most people with that condition tend to live up to a certain time. There will be some who will live much beyond that and others who will live much shorter duration than that. Our minds struggle to grasp the concept of probability

Like many other large-scale phenomena, the survival curve is a bell curve. There will be many in the “belly” of the curve (fall within expectations), but there will always be a few in the “tails” of the distribution (rare event but still possible).

Let me remind you that EVERY religion has its survivor stories that it attributes to the truthiness of the religion. Such and such got “saved” because he/she believed in the right god.
The fact that EVERY religion has such stories debunks the notion that only those believing in the RIGHT god got saved.
Being “saved” is merely a statistical probability.

3. Beware of the survivorship bias. The victors write history. Survivors live to tell their story (may not be in the way it happened, but the way they like to or are encouraged to or incentivized to tell it).

Of the, say, one hundred people that went to the shaman, maybe 90 died and didn’t live to tell the tale. But the ten that did live told the story.

The testimonial of the 90 that didn’t make it was conveniently discarded.

4. In the end, everyone dies. Gods and prophets only exist in the past. The priests and shamans you go to get cured are also subject to disease and death. Simple logic reveals how someone can save you when they can’t save themselves?

5. Beware the healing power of time. Our bodies have survived millennia; before there were doctors and hospitals. That should tell you that our bodies have built-in self-healing mechanisms for a variety of common ailments. Most fevers, headaches, and other conditions self-resolve given enough time. Increases in body temperature, nausea, diarrhea, sneezing and coughing are all part of the healing mechanism by which pathogens are expelled from the body and the body self-repairs. In the meantime, we can’t sit tight. We must visit the doctor (and church), who promptly take the credit.

6. Beware the placebo effect. The act of believing that something heals has a positive effect. You don’t have to believe in any particular thing. Just try telling yourself, this too shall pass — should work just as well!

If you DO believe in miracles, you are still faced with the distinct possibility that “your faith” is not the only one that is claiming such miracles. How do you account for that?

Your likely response is — others are lying. Only your god is true and has the ability to produce miracles. A convenient conversation killer and akin to hitting yourself in the head with a log to silence your inner voice.

Unfortunately, you must keep hitting yourself your entire life to silence that pesky inner voice.

Brain’s hardware isn’t wired for that nonsense. You can manipulate the software (mind), but it’s a lifelong battle. But don’t worry. Your church/mosque/temple study group is there to help you silence the pesky inner voice of logic and rational thought.

Be prepared to make this a lifelong subscription.

Human minds have trouble understanding the implications of probability while possessing a tendency to falsely credit unseen agents for favorable outcomes. This is a recipe for developing ideas of supernatural beings and religions in general.

(4773) Five OT verses that are racist and immoral

The following five Old Testament verses that promote the idea that non-Jewish nations will serve the Jews are racist and immoral:

Isaiah 14:1-3 “The Lord will have compassion on Jacob; once again he will choose Israel and will settle them in their own land. Foreigners will join them and unite with the descendants of Jacob.Nations will take them and bring them to their own place. And Israel will take possession of the nations and make them male and female servants in the Lord’s land. They will make captives of their captors and rule over their oppressors. On the day the Lord gives you relief from your suffering and turmoil and from the harsh labor forced on you,

Isaiah 49:22-23 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: See, I will beckon to the nations. I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their hips. Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”

Isaiah 61:5 “And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.”

Isaiah 60:10-12 “Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you. Though in anger I struck you, in favor I will show you compassion. Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that people may bring you the wealth of the nations. their kings led in triumphal procession. For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined.

Jeremiah 16:18-21 “I will repay them double for their wickedness and their sin, because they have defiled my land with the lifeless forms of their vile images and have filled my inheritance with their detestable idols.” Lord, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in time of distress, to you the nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, Our ancestors possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good. Do people make their own gods? Yes, but they are not gods! Therefore I will teach them—this time I will teach them my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the Lord.

Zechariah 12:12-13 This is the plague with which the Lord will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. On that day people will be stricken by the Lord with great panic. They will seize each other by the hand and attack one another.

Christian apologists have trouble with this problem. They can take several tacks- (1) These verses were not inspired by God and shouldn’t be in the Bible, (2) The neighboring nations were evil and therefore had no rights, or (3) God had a higher purpose beyond human understanding for devaluing the rights of non-Jewish nations in favor of his ‘chosen people.’ Comment: (1) is to admit a major issue with the Bible’s authenticity, (2) is to speculate a fact without any evidence, and (3) is the all-to-common punt to ‘God’s ways are not our ways.’

The atheist has a much easier argument- these scriptures were written by racist men unattached to any supernatural agency who believed that their tribe was superior to all others- an all too common theme that exists even to this day.

(4774) The concept of God is inherently narcissistic

The root of religion is the concept that humans are the epitome of the universe, the ultimate creation of God, and that everything revolves around what humans think and do. But that idea withers when we compare it to what we have learned about the universe. The following was taken from:


The idea behind the concept of god is inherently narcissistic as it places humans at the center of existence. In the lens of the Abrahamic religions for example we are the ultimate focus of the creator of EVERYTHING. The creator of the universe is somehow concerned with who we have sex with, what kind of clothes we wear, what we believe, etc.

Why would an all-powerful, all-wise creator of existence itself be concerned with such petty things? To me this line of thought is one of the main giveaways that religion/god is an entirely man-made thing. The DNA behind it all screams “a human(s) made this”.

Think about the size of the universe. There are millions of galaxies with millions of planets, and somehow WE are the center of the universe in the eyes of the creator? There are millions of plants but Earth is the only one that matters?

At the end of the day we are still animals. We are an advanced species of primate. We are not special just because we happened to become extremely intelligent. We are not the center of existence as religion appears to frame it. It just doesn’t seem plausible to me. Does it seem plausible to you? Really think about it.

If elephants could create a religion, God would look like an elephant, and elephants, but no other species, would be judged and sent after death to their reward or punishment. After humans developed a sophisticated form of intelligence they imagined religions into existence and foisted the idea that they capture practically all of God’s attention.

(4775) The teachings of Jesus are ignored

Christians tote their bibles to church and consider them to have a caliber well beyond any other book. The Bible states many passages that allegedly were spoken by Jesus, but most Christians simply ignore them because they are INCONVENIENT. The following was taken from:


It doesn’t take too much digging on Google to find out that 20-25% of American Christian marriages end in divorce, and many of those separated get remarried. Thus a teaching of Jesus is ignored, considered irrelevant:

Matthew 5:31-32:

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’  But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

This is restated in Matthew 19:9:

“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

It should be noted, by the way, that when Matthew copied this text from Mark, he added the words, except for sexual immorality. In other words, he tampered with the text to bring it in line with his theology. Maybe the Christian divorcees who violate this Jesus teaching pray for forgiveness, but the Catholic Church has invented convoluted ways to subvert this pronouncement on divorce. I know a devout Catholic man, married for many years, father of three children, who was able to purchase an annulment from the church. Jesus teaches, but the church makes a few bucks by evading the clear meaning of this text.

Matthew 5:38-39:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you: Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also…”

How many devout Christians, since the very beginning of this religion, have become pacifists in obedience to this teaching? So many Christians have marched fiercely off to war, to clobber evildoers. Some Christians have waged savage wars against other Christians whom they perceive to be evildoers. Dr. Martin Luther King put himself at the forefront in combating racial hatred. And how do evangelical Christians justify their aggressive campaigns against gay people, feminists, and abortion advocates—if they follow Jesus’ command not to resist evildoers?

Matthew 5:40-42, this quote continues:

“…and if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, give your coat as well, and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.”

Of course, “go the extra mile” has become a cliché for being especially helpful—and that’s perfectly fine. But Matthew’s text may have been a reference to the practice of Roman soldiers commandeering local peasants to carry burdens for them. In that case, go the second mile seems a more onerous requirement. Verse 40 is especially hard to take. I suspect we’re unlikely to find Christians who, upon being sued, would be willing to hand over more than they were sued for. “Do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” is also likely to be ignored, especially if money is involved. According to Matthew’s imagination, it seems Jesus was an itinerant preacher who expected the kingdom of his god to arrive soon, so common human concerns could be set aside.

Matthew 10:5-8:

Speaking of the kingdom—we find this text:

“These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Do not take a road leading to gentiles, and do not enter a Samaritan town, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near. Cure the sick; raise the dead; cleanse those with a skin disease; cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.’”

Bearing Matthew 5:17-20 in mind especially (i.e., not a single Old Testament law can be ignored), it is likely that this author was resisting the influence of the apostle Paul, who wanted to bring gentiles to this new sect—a breakaway Jewish sect. Hence Matthew’s Jesus was focused just on the lost sheep of Israel. “Do not take a road leading to gentiles, and do not enter a Samaritan town…” Of course Christian missionaries have always ignored this text, because Matthew wrote different Jesus-script for the resurrected Jesus:

Matthew 28:19:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Here Matthew’s imagination has wandered into cult fanaticism: “We have the one true religion, so make sure everyone in the world knows about it.” That is, convert them to our faith, “…make disciples…baptize.” This text has caused so much suffering. David Stannard’s book, The American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World, is an account of European arrogance upon encountering the native peoples of the Americas:

“Following Columbus, each time the Spanish encountered a native individual or group in the course of their travels they were ordered to read to the Indians a statement informing them of the truth of Christianity and the necessity to swear immediate allegiance to the Pope and to the Spanish crown.” (Kindle, p. 65)

In Matthew 10:5-8 above, the author was influenced by ancient miracle folklore, i.e. Jesus ordered his disciples to raise the dead and cast out demons. So we cannot be surprised at this Jesus-script in the Sermon on the Mount, another layer of superstitions, which is hard for contemporary laity to notice. This is the proper way to pray:

Matthew 6:9-10, “Our Father in heaven, may your name be revered as holy. May your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Father: How can it possibly make sense to assign a human gender category to a god? Of course, religions had been doing this for a long time before Christianity came along. And Catholicism couldn’t resist the temptation to add a female counterpart, namely The Virgin Mary. She became the Queen of Heaven, a softer, gentler, kinder representation of god. Your name is holy: Even today, Christians commonly say, “In Jesus’ name we pray.” This too is a magic spell, i.e., a name has special power. In heaven: which was thought to be above the clouds, where this god’s throne was located—and Jesus would go to take his seat beside his father god. May your will be done on earth: why does a god need to be constantly reminded to make this happen? Given so much horrendous suffering in the world, this plea makes no sense: why has god delayed so long to enforce his will on earth? This highly cherished prayer begins with such pathetic theobabble.

We can’t be too surprised that the Vatican still has a staff of specially trained exorcists, given this text in Matthew 12:43-45. Again, the author’s imagination was influenced by common superstitions of the time:

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it returns, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So will it be also with this evil generation.”

There may be many contemporary Christians who believe in demons, while few specialize in casting them out. Penetrating analysis of causation hasn’t caught on.

One final text to consider, Matthew 18:3-4:

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Here again, the author was stressing the ground rules for the cult. Critical thinking was not allowed. We can suspect that Matthew himself didn’t know what that was. This text is a good match for Jesus-script in John’s gospel, in the story of Doubting Thomas. Once Thomas got the chance to touch Jesus’ resurrected body, he gave up doubting that Jesus had risen, but he got a scolding from Jesus: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29) Not too long ago an elderly Christian woman told me that the priests had advised their young charges not to think about what they’d learned in catechism. I suppose it’s a charming idea: be naïve and accepting as children are: that’s the ticket to heaven! But the primary casualty of that approach is the failure to adopt critical thinking. And thus hundreds of religions have thrived in human history—until the absurdities finally become all too obvious.

There is so much Jesus-script in the gospels that can prompt awareness of the absurdities.

It should be noted that a book inspired by an omnipotent god would not contain anything that modern people would consider ‘unworkable.’ But a book written by fallible men just might contain the same.

(4776) Musings on early Christianity

In the following, the author speculates on the course of early Christianity, how Jesus’ crucifixion might have coincided with a solar eclipse, and how Paul might have fabricated encounters with Jesus’ disciples as a way to artificially authenticate his teachings, among other issues:


I’ve written elsewhere of my opinion that Jesus was likely a historical figure, a well liked rabbi and advocate for change, who ran afoul of the state, and was executed by crucifixion. It is my opinion that during Christs crucifixion, a solar eclipse passed, which was the most pivotal event in Western history: people associated this rare , but dramatic and even frightening event , with Jesus. This real world event, documented by NASA was the bridge from man to miracle worker. Perhaps he wasn’t much more than a typical prophet of his day, and were it not for the coincidence of the eclipse at his crucifixion, there would have been no further cause for mystic belief. It was the rare, impressive coincidence of an eclipse that caused people to have a foundation, that Jesus was truly sent by God. It is easy to see , from this standpoint, how the crucifixion, and associated myth would gain so much traction. If the Gospels are correct, and Jesus died at the onset of an eclipse, it is easy to conceptualize as to how many who saw the eclipse would have interpreted his resurrection then and there: a glorious entry to heaven.

The best proxy we have of early Christian beliefs is from Paul’s writings, perhaps 15-20 years after the crucifixion. We know Paul believed that Christ was resurrected, and was buried. He makes no mention of a tomb, this development is not to be present until Mark.

The apostles in Judea, whom were under Jesus teachings would have had little reason to change anything from their teachers sayings.

Paul, in claiming to be an initial oppressor of Christianity, would have been familiar with its beliefs. We have no idea what they were, save for what snippets Paul tells us are of his gospel. He had little to say on the life, sayings, and deeds of Jesus, as he never met him. Instead he constructed a theology. This apocalyptic prophet was sent by God. Paul’s object was to convert Gentiles, or fellow Romans. His, and epistles in his name, mainly focus on theology.

Christianity , in its recognized form, would never be acceptable to devout Jews; for it abandons the law, and offers a co-diety to worship. Christianity’s concept of three gods is considered blasphemous and idolatry to both Jews and Muslims. Expecting either to worship a co-diety is as repelling to them as asking a Christian to include the worship of Shiva or Perun. Thus, it is doubtful that the early Christian architects had much desire to convert devout Jews, instead, the religion was manufactured for Gentiles.

The centrality of Christianity is the resurrection of a god-man, and via blood-magic did this prophet save the world. Paul’s insistence that belief is central for this magic to work. The promise was a blissful afterlife, which would be understandably thirsty for by those whom are oppressed. On the contrary, failure to belief brings the threat of eternal suffering.

Paul, in trying to win over gentiles, abandoned the Law, including the need for circumcision, which most gentiles found unpalatable. Meanwhile, he had to develop a system where this new God man was predicted and prophecised from the past, such that he had essentially reduced Judaism to a mere prologue to Jesus. Most devout Jews would have found this notion repugnant, but Gentiles, would have easily accepted this new reframing.

It is unclear what his motives for doing this: why did Paul invent a new religion? We shouldn’t be too quick to assert that he invented any of the concepts at all, but rather consider he likely took credit for them.

It makes sense that Jesus’s followers would likely have bee. Illiterate peasants, even Peter’s letters are considered forgeries. While disagreements are noted, it is Paul’s theology that triumphs over Peter, which makes little sense—since Peter was supposedly Jesus right hand man.

Thus , it is likely that Paul fabricated encounters with Jesus disciples: who was there to challenge him?

Still, we wonder what we’re his motives? Why did this man choose to abandon the faith he was raised and start a branching cult? Perhaps it is the same reasons why we cult leaders of any time. A mix of charisma, narcissism, desire to control others, and financial gain are all motives to start a cult. We see evidence of these traits in Paul’s letters.

He would have had remarkable charisma, to get his travels, lodging, funded by churches.

His presence, his new religion, was likely very different from what was believed and practiced in Judea. What is striking is that while Jerusalem is considered a holy city, it should have been the center of Christianity, not Rome.

The reason for this was Christianity was intended for pagans, mixing polytheism, blood magic, and mystery. It’s only tie to Judaism is it claimed ancient, respected roots , so as to give it authenticity.

It seems that the most successful of new religions spring from one that is already well established: from Aten: Judaism; from Judaism: Christianity; from Christianity: Islam, Mormonism , and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Paul’s religion strikes me as not necessarily something he, or even his contemporaries (fellow well educated, elite, wealthy) personally believed in, but rather it is a religion, deliberately invented, for the segment of society he wasn’t actually a part of, namely the poor, uneducated, and enslaved.

Paul speaks much of being a good citizen, serving authority, and so on. His religion focuses on promises in the next world, if one is righteous. Christianity teaches to reject self, to submit fully to God, or at least God’s spokesman. It makes faith the highest virtue, over even reason. Thus , this religion would be -at least initially-rejected by pagan contemporaries, as we see in Celsus. However, if we view Paul’s new religion as a deliberate construct as a means to pacify the underclass, the poor, the slaves, it makes much more sense. Christianity has almost nothing to offer in this world—its main focus and lure is heaven, attainable by all, for the cost of belief , and submission.

Thus Christianity may have been created as a tool, an updated religion to pacify the masses. This took some time, but became exceedingly powerful : the church was the central European authority for perhaps a millennium, and to this day, has much control over thoughts, beliefs, actions, and finances.

Christianity is a powerful tool for subjugation, as it teaches its believers that even certain thoughts are sinful. It is easy to control people if you can control their thoughts, telling them what God disapproves of.

This is perhaps Paul’s motive in crafting Christian theology, a means to control the thoughts, actions, beliefs, and finances of others. It was remarkably successful, and to this day, we see preachers who are as wealthier than kings of antiquity.

It is not difficult to conjecture how Christianity formed without a single miracle occurring, in a venue of scientific ignorance, devoid of reliable information, and lacking even the means to transmit such information. Paul is likely the central figure of the ultimate trajectory of this faith, and he had many reasons to make up whatever redounded to his advantage. Modern Christians swallow the entire story, hook-line-and-bait, without ever considering the vulnerabilities of such belief.

(4777) Six reasons to dismiss the empty tomb

The empty tomb is a central tenet of the Christian faith. There is now a scholarly consensus, perhaps a growing minority, that the author of Mark invented this tradition and that it was carried forward by later gospel authors. The following summarizes the research of Peter Kirby in his book The Case Against the Empty Tomb.


Kirby makes the following arguments:

1. The empty tomb accounts in Matthew, Luke, and John are dependent on Mark’s account, with modifications being made according to each author’s agenda. Along with this, he states that there is no indication of any pre-Mark empty tomb tradition in Paul’s writings.

2. There are indications of fictional elements in the Markan account. He links the ‘no body’ trope to, as a prominent example, Elijah’s disappearance in 2 Kings 2. He also sees Joseph of Arimathea as a fictional character, which is implied by the fact that Arimathea seems to mean something like “best disciple town” (and that no place by that name is known to have existed). He also cites Lüdemann’s position that the “young man” character is intended to be the author of Mark himself, such that the author is then presenting himself as the only faithful eyewitness of certain events including the empty tomb (since everybody else failed — the male disciples at Jesus’ arrest fled and the female disciples at the tomb failed to relay the message they were given). Kirby then uses the women’s failure to relay the message as support for the account’s recent origin, since, had the women relayed the message and the empty tomb account become widely known, the author of Mark would not have been able to end the account (and the Gospel) the way he did (with the women not saying anything).

3. There are several improbabilities in the account. For instance, the women were aware of the stone blocking the entrance but went to the tomb without first considering how they were going to move it; they went there with the intent to anoint the body, but there was no reason to anoint a body that had already been anointed and wrapped (he also points out that Matthew and John, who have more knowledge of Jewish customs, omit this detail); and Pilate is unlikely to have allowed a proper burial of Jesus’ body as that would’ve invited veneration of the tomb.

4. There are other traditions concerning the burial of Jesus that do not involve an empty tomb. For example, the Secret Book of James has Jesus buried “in the sand,” while the Gospel of Peter has his body removed from the cross by “the Jews” and the Epistula Apostolorum has his body removed along with those of the thieves (implying a common burial for them all). He also cites the Parable of the Tenants in Mark 12 as possibly preserving an early tradition in which Jesus’ body was removed and disposed of by those who killed him. He also argues for the tradition of the body’s removal by the Jews/Sanhedrin being early on the basis that there would have been no reason to make such a shameful claim if the body had truly been given an honorable burial by Joseph of Arimathea.

5. An analysis of the development of the appearances narratives shows that their original form had Peter and the other disciples seeing Jesus in Galilee following their return after the Feast (with the shift to Jerusalem being contrived by the later Gospel writers). Thus, there is no indication that they had been given any evidence of Jesus’ resurrection prior to leaving Jerusalem.

6. As “one last argument,” Kirby uses James Dunn’s apologetic argument, that the tomb of Jesus was not venerated at an early date, against him. While Dunn claims that this is because the tomb was empty and therefore there was nothing there to venerate, Kirby argues that the site of Jesus’ resurrection (the empty tomb) would’ve been all the more deserving of veneration, also stating that it’s an indication that early Christians did not know where the tomb was (in support of the contra-Mark tradition that Jesus was buried in a common grave by the Sanhedrin).

The empty tomb tradition is withering in the face of countervailing evidence. Without it, Christianity crumbles into another mystery faith that fades with time and eventually evaporates into the dustbin of history. It would seem that if God actually created the Christian faith, that he would have provided posterity with much more reliable documentation of this seminal event.

(4778) Four elements of every religion

When we analyze the essential components of every religion ever invented, it reduces the artificially perceived specialness of Christianity- it is nothing more than a remake of an age-old formula. The following was taken from:


All religions are made up of the same elements.

    1. They define God

The first and foremost task of a religion is to define god.

Some religions worship natural objects like the sun, moon, forests, animals, etc. Some others create mythical creatures, half-man half-lion, among other forms and shapes, and attribute unique powers and domains, like in a superhero movie.

As history progressed, religion tended to consolidate and declutter and became increasingly monotheistic. Today, more than fifty percent of the world’s population believes in a monotheistic god (Jews, Christians, and Muslims). This monopolization under one god is expected to continue. It is cumbersome to manage so many gods; let’s just vest all the powers in one and keep it simple.

2. Moral code — spell out what is right and what is wrong

Once god(s) has been defined, the next immediate order of business is to define right and wrong. Most religions have a book that is a direct diktat from god to man about how to conduct himself. This comes in the form of the Bible, Quran, Torah, etc.

This part of religion is appealing to many. They feel that without these rules about right and wrong, they (and, more importantly, others) will be savages. They fear their (and others’) animal tendencies without being bound by inviolable rules. A clever way to make rules inviolable is to attribute the rules to a supreme, punishing, and unquestionable god. The prescriptive nature of the religion is appealing to many. Many will revert to religion after a wayward life, citing that they felt lost and needed direction and guidance.

But, why feel unsafe in a modern world with police and military forces?

Imagine living in a city without a police force. Will you feel safe? I can’t think of any city in the world without a police force, at least in name. Even the most religious countries and cities have a police force.

Now, imagine a long long time ago when there was no concept of state and no police force, the only way to have an orderly community was via self-policing. (Our most entrenched tendencies didn’t evolve yesterday; they are catering to the needs from thousands of years ago.)

Self-policing is, perhaps, the most important practical reason for the development of religion. All other constructs, including god, came about to support self-policing to ensure order in rapidly expanding human societies.

A divine moral code gives a sense of safety through collective belief in a set of mutually agreed-upon rules. But rules have rule breakers. You can make the rules stickier and minimize rule-breaking by attributing it to harsh and unspeakable punishments in the afterlife by a god who is always watching you. (God is the policeman)

Rules are only effective when they are collectively believed and uniformly applicable. Hence our tendency to live in religious ghettos. This has now somewhat eased with the advent of the modern state and secular laws. Even today, 73% of the world’s population lives in places where it makes up the majority population.

These divine revelations contain many moral stories; some versions of Aesop’s Fables, making moral points through storytelling. Essentially moral stories tell us to be nice to each other (believers).

There are stories of how good actions are rewarded and how bad actions are punished. There are morale-boosting stories to deal with bad luck, oppression, and poverty (Here, religions are catering to the mass audience — the poor. Most religious adherents are poor- wealth inequality has been a permanent feature of post-agrarian human societies). The book extols the virtues of patience, exalts the poor and the pious, and demeans the rich and corrupt. Significantly, it shifts rewards and punishments to the afterlife. Meaning, don’t expect to be rewarded for your deeds and don’t hold god accountable for whatever is promised in the book. You may (will) not see it play out in this life. You will have to die first for the final settlement. Sorry!

A considerable amount of page space is dedicated to preserving and glorifying hierarchies such as parent-children, king-subjects, priest-followers, etc. This is a significant incentive to the one who is a benefactor in the hierarchy to propagate this religion, like a pyramid scheme. For instance, many religions elevate the status of the mother, which buys her lifelong obeisance and obedience from her children. This is a strong incentive for the mother to induct the child into her religion and enforce compliance.

Then there are things about what not to eat, when to sleep, how to piss, how to have sex, etc. Then, there are cultural elements of local cultures that have been picked up and incorporated into the holy book. For instance, cow urine is considered sacred by Hindus, and camel urine is considered curative by Arabs.

3. Rituals —give me a purpose

Now comes the fun part. All this moralizing is boring if you don’t have a bunch of friends to do it with. All religions encourage congregations big and small. They aim to fill up the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly calendars with a wide variety of rituals to keep you busy. You now have something to do and feel purposefulYour life has found purpose!

The key advantage of groups is that collective delusion doesn’t feel like delusion at all. You all have each other to tell each other that this is all not just made up. This is all for real. How could so many be so wrong? Study groups, congregations, conferences, and group prayers are all designed to overcome the pesky inner voice of reason that we are all born with. Proselytizing is an important part of many religions. The more the merrier when it comes to drowning out the inner voice.

4. The messenger — the hero of the story

What’s a story without a protagonist? What’s a message without a messenger? There had to be a strong incentive for someone to do all the initial leg work to set this all up in the first place. The religion’s entrepreneur!

A messenger is a mix between a great author, a great politician, a great orator, and a great leader. That is some superhero. They only come far and few. Hence we have about five thousand or so religions over thousands of years.

He is now a legend, a hero, a demigod for eternity. He has transcended death. This is why you do it. To transcend death. To live forever, may not be here, but somewhere else.

Religion allows us to extend ourselves beyond our physical existence. Transcending death (as a means of overcoming the fear of death) is a key reason for religion’s appeal. Though it is brutally obvious, when we attended the pastor’s funeral, that the casket awaits us ALL.

To summarize:

Me: Let’s be nice to each other.

You: OK, but how?

Me: Let’s come up with a set of rules

You: OK, but how will we ensure everyone follows the rules?

Me: Those who don’t follow the rules are not welcome in our group. We will kick them out

You: OK. Who will catch the cheaters? Someone needs to keep a watch constantly. We are all busy hunting and foraging.

Me: I have an idea. I will make up a powerful entity that will punish transgressors with unspeakable punishments in the afterlife. I am a great storyteller, I will come up with a glorious story to make everyone believe in this entity. They will love it.

You: OK. I am not sure if it will work, but what the hell, let’s give it a go!

And like that, it stuck!

One of the most telling markers of Christianity is its promise to inflict pain on people after they die- this is so clearly something a human would make up to scare people into compliance, but also clearly NOT something a universal god would become involved in. So we should thank the inventors of Christianity for giving us good evidence to know that it is untrue.

(4779) Origins of Judaism disproves all Abrahamic religions

All it takes to dismiss Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Mormonism is to learn about the way that early Judaism evolved over time. As such, it can be seen easily that Yahweh worship is nothing more than an accidental occurrence of coincidental history. The following was taken from:


Canaanite Mythology

Canaanite mythology was the pantheon that resided over the region of Canaan which is now Israel and the surrounding area. El (quite literally meaning “God”) was the creator deity, father of all the other gods in this polytheistic pantheon. El eventually became conflated with the god Yahweh, who was an incomer into the religion. One person told me that Yahweh was the god of a nomadic tribe that found itself in the land of Canaan, and introduced its god into the religion. But how true that is I do not know.

Merging Baal, El and Yahweh

At some point, the gods Baal, El and Yahweh, having all become chief deities at some point in time, the Israelites merged the three gods together into Baal-Adon-Yahweh-Elohim, but the Israelites decided to simply call the deity Yahweh, keeping the name of their patron god. Worshipping three deities that represented basically the same thing was redundant, so they opted for the fusion.

The Babylonian Exiles

So, this is one of the main reasons the religion became monotheistic. In 722BCE, the Assyrians invaded the Israelites and in 587BCE the Babylonians invaded Judah. The destruction that this left caused many people to be exiled from their homeland. Yahweh was the protector god of these kingdoms, but since the invasion happened and he did not save them, it was assumed by Priests and Clerics that Yahweh let the invasion and destruction happen because the kingdom was worshipping other gods at the time, and so it was commanded to worship Yahweh and only Yahweh, lest destruction and war be upon the Israelites once more. Worshipping other gods became outlawed. To avoid destruction, you had to rid yourself of the “unclean foreign gods”.

This became a prominent rule in later Judaism and then Christianity, that you must only worship Yahweh aka God (“thou shalt not have any idols before me”). It was made out in the bible that God always commanded his followers to worship him and only him, but historically that wasn’t true, as Yahweh was a part of a polytheistic pantheon, and even had his own wife called Asherah. Asherah became a sort of “exiled god” from the religion after the Babylonian exile.

This is why other gods are now viewed as “demons”.


King Cyrus was a ruler of the Persian empire, and contributed to the expansion of the empire. He was also an absolute chad ruler, one of the best in history, being kind to the Judaians and fixing their temples. The Persian empire became liberators, and such their religion, Zoroastrianism, was not frowned upon. It began to get incorporated into Judaism, which is where the whole idea of Heaven, Hell, Angels and Demons came from. In Zoroastrianism, Ahura-Mazda was the head God, and other gods that are his children, or “thousands of separate parts of himself” were more denoted as Yatazas, servants of Ahura-Mazda that worked to maintain order and balance in the world on his behalf. That’s where angels come from in Abrahamic religion.

Conclusion and Pointers

I do not believe in the Abrahamic Faiths because if you look at the history of how these religions came about, you see the religion is not based on fact. My argument is that Yahweh is no more than another member of a polytheistic religion that became monotheistic after the Babylonian Exile. Judaism, the precursor to Christianity, was an evolving religion open to fluidity and change, as we know that mythology and religion is never set in stone and monolithic. Gods change, religion changes, people, climate, empires change. The Christianity we know today is far more diverse the Christianity of when it first came about. The bible is a compendium of stories from many different people, and it can be bias. Even the Theology can change across the books.

Your God, Yahweh, is no more real than Dagon, Moloch, El, Asherah, Astarte, Ishtar, Baal, Mithras and so on. This religion has roots way back into polytheism.

This site lists many reasons why Christianity is false, but if it were to be reduced to just one, this would be it. There is simply no apologetic escape from this problem- Christianity, along with Judaism, Islam, and Mormonism, is FALSE.

(4780) Religious belief has trended to the philosophical

Gods used to be corporeal entities that interacted physically with the world. But when science was able to explain everything in natural terms, the belief in gods was forced to take on a more philosophical approach. The following was taken from:


Thousands of years ago, gods and supernatural figures were concrete entities that interacted with humans. You see this is in many myths throughout history:

Norse gods would interact and even take the form of humans through out Midgard. At one point Loki took the form of an otter. Sköll and Hati chased the Sun and Moon back and forth, bringing morning and night. Thor was responsible for thunder, with the thunderous booms being the sound of his chariot wheels rolling across the sky. The giant serpent Jörmungandr’s movement caused the ocean waves. Zeus’s lightning was indicative of his anger. There were also stories of lightning being the impregnation of human females. Cereberus was a three-headed dog that guarded the entrance to Tartarus, a supposedly real place. Ra was viewed as the Sun, bringing light and warmth as he traveled across the sky. Hecatoncheires and Cyclops were actual beings that were birthed by Gaia after being r@ped by Uranus.

These deities were believed to literally exist in corporeal form, but as time went on and the three Abrahamic religions took over, arguments for the biblical god have become so unbelievably convoluted, personal, philosophical, and metaphysical. Essentially, in order for theists to reaffirm their beliefs in God and science has explained away naturalistic phenomenon that were originally attributed to gods or God, they has resorted to such tactics.

Objective, subjective, empirical, absolute truths, [un]deniable proofs, etc. Why do theists have to bend over backwards to prove a God that is supposedly obvious and physically interacts with the world, let alone literally created it, by utilizing ambiguous philosophical statements that more often than end up being meaningless words. Many theists I’ve seen that resort to philosophical arguments for a supposedly objectively true claim acknowledge they can’t provide empirical evidence for the claim and simply bombard the other person with gibberish.

There should be no need to spin philosophical arguments about the god that is described by Christianity. If it was real, the physical evidence would be overwhelming. But seeing how underwhelming (or actually non-existent) it is, we should not be surprised by the word salads being tossed up by Christians.

(4781) Conflation of El and Yahweh

The ancient Hebrews worshiped both El and Yahweh at a time before most of the Old Testament was created, the conflation of the two being observed only in very ancient biblical writings. They gradually became monotheistic after a period of believing in multiple gods. The following was taken from:


El and Yahweh are typically considered to have been conflated by the time the Hebrew Bible was written, redacted, and compiled, except in some very old poetry. Most famously, Deuteronomy 32:8-9 and Psalm 82 preserve this older separation. So by the time the creation accounts were written, it would have just been Yahweh. The JPS Jewish Study Bible utilizes exclusively the official Masoretic Text (MT) for translation, based on late antiquity/early medieval versions of the Biblical texts. Here’s their translation of Deut 32:8-9:

When the Most High gave nations their homes
And set the divisions of man,
He fixed the boundaries of peoples
In relation to Israel’s numbers.
For the LoRD’s portion is His people,
Jacob His own allotment.

But they note in their commentary that there is an earlier reading of this passage preserved in the Dead Sea Scrolls:

Almost certainly, the unintelligible reading of the MT represents a “correction” of the original text (whereby God presides over other gods) to make it conform to the later standard of pure monotheism: There are no other gods! The polytheistic imagery of the divine council is also deleted at 32.43; 33.2-3, 7.

And here’s how the Robert Alter translates it, taking into account this earlier reading:

When Elyon gave estates to nations,
when He split up the sons of man,
He set out the boundaries of peoples,
by the number of the sundry gods.
Yes, the LORD’s portion is His people
Jacob the parcel of His estate.

In this case, Elyon and the LORD (Yahweh) appear to be functioning as separate gods, with Yahweh being subordinate. So you are right that El and Yahweh were once separated, but by the time the creation accounts were written, that syncretization was long in the past, visible only in older poetic traditions.


Mark S. Smith – The Origins of Biblical Monotheism
Theodore Lewis – The Origin and Character of God

It can be stated that if Yahweh is the only god in the universe, it is certain that the ancient Hebrews would have been apprised of the same. That is, Yahweh would have ensured that they had the correct understanding from the very beginning. The conflation of two gods into one is a sure marker of a human-created theology.

(47pp) Christianity did not start with Jesus

There might have been a unique person that inspired others to create the religion of Christianity, but the Christianity that we know today did not originate until several decades after that person died. The following was taken from:


It should perhaps be emphasised that Christianity did not start with Jesus, again a common misconception, reinforced by the way in which the Gospel stories were written to appear to be retrospective. Paul’s Jewish sect wasn’t called Christianity until several decades later, at a place called Antioch (Antakya in modern Turkey). This was a time when the views of this sect had deviated even further from established Jewish orthodoxy and had effectively become a new religion in its own right.

This beginning of the Christian religion is referred to in the Bible in Acts 11:26 — ”The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch”. In this instance, the reference to the disciples referred to the followers of Paul, who’d fled to Antioch from Jerusalem in the year 70 CE, following the destruction of the second temple, a well evidenced event.

Regardless of whatever later Christian beliefs and interpretations might be, Jesus (or rather, Yeshua) would have been born, lived, and died a Jew, and would have been utterly unaware of what was to subsequently occur in his name.

Jerusalem: The ‘Jesus Theme Park’

None of the places in what can only be described as a ‘Jesus theme park’ in Jerusalem, which supposedly relate to places connected to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and which are visited by hundreds of thousands of people every year, are real. In fact, many didn’t even exist at the time.

As just a couple of examples: The Stone of Unction, a large slab of stone inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where it’s claimed that Jesus’s body was laid and prepared for burial. Bearing in mind earlier remarks about the availability of the bodies of crucified people, this stone didn’t even exist, and the church itself wasn’t built until some 300 years later.

As a second example of this religious charade, in the Gospel of Matthew 27:59–61, Joseph supposedly took Jesus’s body, wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and laid it in his own new tomb which he had hewn in the rock. In reality, the tomb open to the public and which attracts hordes of religious tourists, is of Bronze Age origins, dating back to several hundred years BCE, and has no known connection to burials during the 1st century CE.

But the religious need somewhere to see and touch to reinforce their beliefs; a physical place, real or not, where they are told ‘this happened’. And they willingly believe it, and the religious authorities in Jerusalem, willingly capitalise on it; it earns them millions of shekels a year!


Over the decades, biblical literalists, fundamentalists, and conservative apologists have come up with a plethora of contrived ways to try to reconcile all these problems, and the many other inconsistencies and assumptions contained in the New Testament, in particular in the Gospels. But virtually all biblical scholars now agree that the Gospel and other stories about claimed events in the life of Jesus, simply can’t be taken seriously as history.

Although we don’t know for certain, it’s widely believed by biblical scholars that the Gospels were written (at various times between the early 70s and the late 90s CE) to further enhance Jesus’ appeal at a time when the new religion of Christianity was facing significant opposition. This opposition was from both the local Roman and Jewish authorities, and by way of competition from other religions such as the Cult of Isis, Mithraism, and the cults of both Simon Magus and Apollonius of Tyana.

In other words, the Gospels were what we’d today call publicity or marketing material for the still new, and somewhat beleaguered, religion of Christianity, emphasising its similarities to, but its perceived advantages over, the extant strict orthodox Judaism. But these texts were publicity material written at a time without any of the legal, factual, or moral constraints which we today know and accept.

So, in summary, we have no direct evidence whatsoever that Jesus, as described in the Bible, ever existed. All we have is a biblical narrative, written by largely unknown authors decades after the described events supposedly occurred. This would have been to promote the then new Christian religion to the naïve, superstitious, and scientifically ignorant Jewish people of the time and place.

However, it’s almost certain that the biblical Jesus was based on a real person, albeit a person who was no more significant than any one of many other messianic Jewish preachers of the time, whose life and death are totally unrecorded by history. The rest, in other words, Jesus’s entire life as described in the New Testament, is purely allegorical and is little more than an early attempt at religious marketing, expanded and adapted over the following centuries to suit changing audiences and beliefs.

But, as with so many things, the faithful will continue to believe what they’ve been told by their church, and what they want to believe. This is despite historical evidence and the motive of self-interest in maintaining its position of power, authority, and wealth by the Christian church itself, to the contrary.

Christianity exists today only because of the lazy indifference to evidence and the impaired critical thinking that inflicts most believers. It really doesn’t matter whether a unique Jesus figure lived, or whether there were several ‘Jesus figures,’ or none at all- Christianity could have developed out of any of these scenarios- the fix was in, and all it took was the innate human capacity to create pomp and myth.

(4783) Christians are selectively irrational

Deep down, religious Christians doubt their faith when faced with real-world problems. This is a clue that even they realize the flimsiness of the evidence supporting their beliefs. They are selectively irrational whenever their faith is vigorously tested. The following was taken from:


Why this plea is not used often is beyond me.

I recently watched a movie from the popular Conjuring franchise by the same title.

Though horror movies stopped working for me a long time ago when I realized that the horror is in my head and not on the screen, I watched this movie because of its tantalizing title, and to follow “the devil made me do it” defense argument. And why it did or didn’t work. While the movie did not go into the details of the defense, I was intrigued by the fact that this was not a work of fiction and that the legal events did indeed take place.

We live in a largely religious world. Presidents complete their oaths with “so help me god,” and the foundation of law is based on witnesses swearing upon their holy books to tell “nothing but the truth.”

Religion, of course, engenders belief in good and evil, with god and the devil representing each side, respectively. Something primal about that belief seems to attract people. Even those who call themselves atheists believe in angels.

Then, why was this such an odd case that warranted attention at all? In a country where 9 out of 10 continue to believe in god even today, the devil made me do it should be as natural as god created me. And this case took place more than four decades ago.

One possibility is that we want to keep religion out of public life. But that doesn’t hold up because we have made god very much a part of public life (take a look at the dollar bill) while choosing to leave the devil out.

Another explanation is that we selectively filter out aspects of beliefs that can have material consequences on our well-being. It is one thing to believe that god is the ultimate healer and another thing to act on it by sitting at home while having a heart attack. We clearly know what parts of beliefs to act on and what not to.

The concept of the devil helps us make sense of religious stories by blaming the devil for all evil things. Devil helps us answer the question: If god is a force for all good then why is there so much evil on earth? The concept of the devil helps answer that.

But, if we let that concept into public life, then we will have to let criminals get away. It will be chaos. Our family’s safety will be compromised by acting on that belief. Hence, we filter that out.

You can see other examples of it too. For instance, every believer believes that god is the healer. You can even see preachers on TV healing live. However, most believers are not stupid enough to show up at churches or see a TV healer when they are sick. They go to a doctor, not a preacher. In a 90% religious country, if most didn’t show up at hospitals when they were sick, the healthcare system would have been out of business by now. On the contrary, it is doing rather well.

So, my conclusion from all this is that we are selectively irrational. We believe in stories but are smart enough to know what part of the story to let affect our material well-being. We certainly don’t want criminals walking around Scott-free claiming that the devil made them do things, although we claim to believe that to be true.

A religious existence is an out-of-body, logic-defying, and mind-bending one. Not one for the faint-hearted, simple-minded, and evidence-seeking rationalist.

Christians generally act the same as all rational people, dismissing the actions of the devil or the effectiveness of saying prayers when faced with the nuts and bolts of everyday life. It is a show, a sham, and a disgrace to the human species.

(4784) Christianity’s shameful use of hell fear

Almost any person raised in the Christian faith can remember when they first learned about hell, and how that engendered copious amounts of angst. Even if one becomes an atheist, a small whisper of fear remains – ‘what if I’m wrong?’ Hell has been Christianity’s best selling strategy because the fear of pain is more powerful than the hope for pleasure. And it is a shameful tactic that should never have been invented.

To give an example of how it was used to corral people into the faith, American revivalist preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) preached a sermon entitled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God at Enfield, Connecticut on July 8th, 1741. Here is a portion of that sermon:

It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long forever, a boundless duration, before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your souls; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance’s, and end, any mitigation, any rest at all; you will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains.

Civilization has become vastly more empathetic than it was in biblical times, so we no longer countenance slavery, rape, or female inferiority, as it was back then. We also know that if a universal god existed, it would be even better than us when it comes to compassion, fairness, and love. By this, we know that hell was a strictly human invention, and its stain on Christianity is growing by the years.

(4785) Problems with the rogue apostle Paul

More and more research, speculation, and analysis is being placed on Paul, the person whose writings are the closest in time to Jesus. There is a distinct possibility that Paul invented the identity of Peter, the apostle, and James, brother of Jesus, as a way to authenticate his connection to Jesus, whom he claimed to have seen in a vision. If true, then the gospels might be nothing more than a fleshing out of Paul’s unrestrained imagination.


If churchgoers skim the gospels now and then, they show even less interest in the letters of Paul. And who can blame them, given the ranting and delusion we find in what he wrote. Moreover, there is a lot to be alarmed about, such as his bragging about how he knew about Jesus. In Galatians 1:11-12, we find this extraordinary claim: “For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin, for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” There is not a hint in the New Testament that Paul ever met Jesus, so this through a revelation is a reference to his visions. That is, his active imagination, or more bluntly, his hallucinations. “Oh, but Paul’s visions were the real thing!” The devout who insist that this is the case must explain why Mormon or Islamic visions are not the real thing. Protestants must explain why Catholic visions of Mary—all over the world—are not the real thing. Paul states a few verses later in Galatians 1 that he once visited Cephas (i.e., Peter) for fifteen days, but he emphasized lack of contact with those who knew Jesus: “… but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother. In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!”

But who was this Cephas/Peter? We have ideas about Peter based on the gospels, but these documents were written later, and their accounts of Peter may be factious: we have no way of verifying them. Strange that Paul visited with Peter for fifteen days, but came away with scant information about Jesus. In all his letters, Paul doesn’t mention the Empty Tomb on Easter morning, and based on what he wrote in Romans 13, he seems to have been unaware of the gospel accounts of Jesus being executed by Roman authorities. In all of Paul’s letters we find no mention of the teaching, deeds, or miracles of Jesus. This is strange, suspicious, indeed. And why rogue apostle seems appropriate.

Paul was obsessed with a Jesus who reigned in the heavenly realms, and appeared to him in visions. This is so far removed from the Jesus presented by the gospel authors. And his personal hang-ups (e.g., regarding sex) seem to have impacted his theology. In Galatians 5:24 he states, “And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” This is so blatantly false. Who more than ordained priests can affirm that they “belong to Christ”—yet the Catholic church has taken so many hits as the many scandals of priests raping children have come to light. By a very careful reading of the authentic letters of Paul, we see his rage and bad temper: in Romans 1 he includes gossips and disobedient children among those who deserve to die. Such texts lend substantial weight to the charge that the New Testament is a disaster. And isn’t it a disaster that so much early Christian theology was invented by a man who never met Jesus, and who avoided the disciples who knew him?

It is possible that Paul invented his encounter with Peter. Otherwise, it would seem that he learned nothing about Jesus during the 15 days they allegedly spent together. He might also have simply imagined Peter into existence, giving the author of Mark reason to write about this figure in his gospel. Regardless of the truth of these speculations, it is certain that Christianity would be very different, or nonexistent, if Paul had stayed in his lane as an observant Jew.

(4786) Religious rules are the handiwork of men

An examination of most religious injunctions reveals, almost assuredly, that they are the creation of mortal men, not that of divine beings. This certainly applies to the Ten Commandments, as discussed below:


A key turning point in my journey away from religion was the realization that all religious diktats are the handiwork of men, not god. All divine books, without exception, carry the indelible signature of men.

I am willing to bind myself to societal moral rules, I don’t need to do that under the pretense of divinity. Morality originated to foster cooperation among humans. Religions have hijacked the moral inclinations we are born with and appropriated these innate tendencies to form ingroups and outgroups to fight, kill, steal territory, and commit all sorts of atrocities in the name of manufactured divinity.

Infants demonstrate the ability to begin reasoning about actions that have moral underpinnings at a very early age, within the first year of life.

In a series of articles, I will reveal how to find the hand of man behind the divine puppet show.

Let us start with the most famous diktats, the Ten Commandments.

    1. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

If god is all-powerful and all-knowing and beyond the need for a two-bit human to recognize or not recognize him, it does not show here. This commandment shows an authoritarian and jealous god. Both are human qualities, not divine. God is supposed to be above and beyond petty human feelings.

A more god-like version of the first commandment would have been;

“I don’t care who or how you worship (or not); just be nice to each other.”

2. “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.”

This is so vague that the believers go to town with this. One even says it is taken to mean worshipping cars and houses. Are you kidding me? (I suppose not).

Call it nitpicking or extreme possessiveness; either way, these are human qualities, not godly.

3. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

Why does it bother god so much if a drunk guy swears somewhere? Is he not busy running the world?

Of course, you could make up a million excuses as to why it’s important to stop someone from taking the lord’s name in vain, but that, again, would be a human endeavor, not divine.

4. “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

The first four commandments thus far can be summarized as:

Worship only me and nothing else (one and two), don’t abuse my name (three), and praise me (four).

Does that sound like an all-powerful god who runs the world? Or is it more like an insecure religious founder trying to fence out his opponents?

These commandments carry the hallmarks of the work of men, not god.

5. “Honour thy father and thy mother.”

This is a brilliant commandment as a means to incentivize parents to induct their children into religion. This commandment is a means to ensure a perpetual supply of adherents from generation to generation. I have written here in detail about why most people practice their parent’s religion.

We are dependent upon our parents at least until adolescence for food and nurturing. In return, parents want us to love, honor, respect, and obey them.

This commandment incentivizes the parents to raise their children in the same religion as them. In doing so, they would have secured their honor as a divine commandment, not as a selfish act in return for birthing and caring for us.

This trick is used by many religions which exploit the vulnerability of children and incentivize the parents to indoctrinate the child as a means to secure obedience and allegiance. In return, the religion gets a steady supply of followers generation after generation.

6. “Thou shalt not kill.”

7. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

8. “Thou shalt not steal.”

9. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

10. “Thou shalt not covet.”

6, 7, 8, and 9 are mandated by all societies, regardless of beliefs. There is nothing divine about these commandments. Not obeying these will invite immediate consequences from our fellow beings. Violate these commandments at your own risk!

In other words, you don’t follow these commandments because you are afraid of god but because you are afraid of men!

About 10, you can covet all you want, just don’t do 6 through 9 to get what you covet, otherwise, you will face very human consequences.

If a magnanimous and all-powerful god were to command, it would just be a single commandment — Be good; nothing more and nothing less.

The redundant elaborations and minutiae are the handiwork of men, not god. It is no secret that several versions of the Bible exist. So humans have been revising it as per their convenience.

What is not acknowledged is that humans wrote the very first draft too.

I hope this article prompts you to reflect on the alternate possibility of the divine origin of religious books. It will help you look at religion in a whole new light.

Christianity, as well as other religions, have laid down the tell-tale markers of a human-created enterprise, devoid of any connection to divine beings, and certainly not to a god who is in control of the entire universe. If such a religion was being created today it would likely avoid the concept of a jealous god, or one that was concerned about the minute details of human experience, but rather would expect, just as the author stated above, that we just be ‘good people.’ Period.

(4787) People are held to a higher standard than God

The following makes the case that people are held to a standard that appears to be more strict that what Christians allow for their god:


Moral Expectations of Humans vs. God: Humans often hold each other to high moral standards, expecting empathy, fairness, and compassion in their interactions. However, the concept of God in Abrahamic religions presents a deity who is sometimes depicted as endorsing or even committing actions that humans would universally consider immoral, such as ordering genocide (as seen in certain passages of the Bible) or allowing the eternal damnation of souls.

Accountability and Judgment: While humans are held accountable for their actions and are subject to judgment by society and, in many religious beliefs, by God, the accountability and judgment attributed to God in the Abrahamic religions often seem disproportionate. For example, a human who commits a finite transgression is often judged to deserve eternal punishment, which many consider excessively harsh.

Omnipotence and Responsibility: The Abrahamic God is typically described as omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. As such, one might argue that God should be held to a higher standard than humans precisely because of these attributes. This begs the question- What is god responsible for? And what does responsibility mean to it if anything at all?

Evolution of Moral Standards: Human societies have evolved moral standards over time, often progressing toward greater inclusivity, empathy, and justice. However, the moral standards attributed to God in ancient religious texts may seem outdated or even morally repugnant by modern standards. This suggests that humans are capable of holding themselves to higher moral standards than those attributed to the divine. Despite their imperfections, humans often strive to improve themselves and their societies, seeking greater moral understanding and ethical behavior. In contrast, the actions and commands attributed to God in religious texts are often seen as immutable and beyond question, discouraging critical examination or moral progress. If anything is beyond questioning, that is the first thing you should question.

This does not entirely disprove the existence of a god, but it brings into question how low are the expectations for God? And why would this god “give” me an intelligent mind and moral compass that shouldn’t be used to morally judge the god of the bible. The argument that “he is just” “he is goodness” are redundant and make no sense. I can use that same reasoning to defend any dictator because they are made in God’s image. Unlike god though, they are capable of change.

The problem should be obvious- the Christian god is stuck in Bronze Age literature, captured for eternity by how people at that time saw him. Of course, people today have higher standards of behavior and values, so it was inevitable that human values would someday exceed those of a god who is described by ancient scriptures.

(4788) A world devoid of design and purpose

Humans have an innate desire for the existence of an agency that is overseeing their lives and offering a measure of protection, love, and comfort. This predilection is the reason for the thousands of religions that have been created over the past few millennia. The following essay explores this phenomenon and explains how this grand desire masks what otherwise would be obvious- WE ARE ALONE AND LIVING IN AN INDIFFERENT WORLD.


Being an adult is scary. Being children meant that someone else was in charge. For people with nurturing or at least non-abusive parents, it meant that someone was looking out for them, taking care of them, and ensuring their needs were met.

Before long, however, we are expected to take care of ourselves. And yet, we live in a big, complicated world, where very little is within our control. To a large extent, we are pushed around by forces we can hardly identify, let alone tame.

I suppose, then, that it isn’t too surprising that many people feel an intense desire to still have a mommy or daddy. The desire is so great that they are quite susceptible to those who tell them that there is such a being, and all they have to do is put their faith in that being to have everything taken care of. The desire for protection supersedes their intellect, and they ignore the inconsistencies, self-contradictions, and claims for which there is no proof.

I was not protected and watched over as a child, but still, or perhaps as a consequence, the prospect of being a child in a loving being’s arms was irresistible, at least for a time. However, like many others, I realized that the story that sounded so wonderful wasn’t consistent with the realities of life.

Many who ultimately reject conventional religion still cling to some idea of a higher power or purpose. They talk about “the universe” sending them messages or showing them things, or talk about “love” as something like a person, with whom they can converse and from whom they can learn. Or they talk about being “exactly where I’m supposed to be,” or state that “everything happens for a reason.” There is no more factual basis for these claims than for those of religion, yet again the ache to make sense of things, to be cared for, overwhelms rational thought.

I see no evidence of intent in the universe. The diversity and beauty of the natural world are amazing and humbling, but that doesn’t mean it was someone’s art project. If sometimes things seem to happen just when you need them to, there are as many or more times when what you need doesn’t happen. For each time you feel as if “the universe” gave you direction, there are as many or more times when cries of despair, cries for help or guidance or wisdom, elicit no discernible response.

This is identical to the situation with those who cling to religion — the one prayer that seems to have been answered is much more important than all the prayers that weren’t. We grasp at straws and defy logic, to allow ourselves to believe in something greater.

What if there is no higher power, no hand on the wheel, no entity guiding or running the whole big universe? What if there is no higher purpose or meaning, nothing that binds us together and makes sense of the world and our experience of it, other than the fact that we’re all living here?

A universe without intent is a universe without malice. It is a universe where the concept of fairness, in terms of what happens to any particular person, is not relevant. Things happen randomly, or because a chain of other things happened. The starting point is not a deity’s decision or a grander purpose, but a random event.

I have two children with significant health challenges. I hate that they are suffering as they are. If I believed there was some entity in charge, I would be enraged at that being for afflicting two such fine people who have so much to give to the world. But there is no such being.

It may be that their health issues are the unanticipated consequences of one or more decisions we made at some point, the choice of a particular house location, for example, or it may be that they are just unlucky. I hate that, and it doesn’t make their struggles any less heartbreaking or tragic, but it’s the truth.

Taking out the intent, the higher power, the grand purpose, is, for me, actually somewhat reassuring. Things don’t have to make sense. There is no need to try to understand why a deity didn’t act, or how a tragedy fits into some grand plan. Bad things happen — it’s just the way the world works. It sucks, but at least not maliciously.

There are no supernatural agents working for or against us. It is a humbling realization that humans are not special, just one of perhaps billions of life forms that have evolved in the universe. And there will come a time when humans no longer exist- it could happen tomorrow, or billions of years from now, maybe even tens of billions of years if we are able to escape the heat death of the earth, but it will happen someday. As John Lennon expressed- ‘no hell below us, above us only sky.’

(4789) Yahweh’s missed opportunity

Never in the history of our planet has one tribe of people encountered, for the first time, another tribe just to discover inexplicably that they both shared a similar theology. Through brute force, the two disparate theologies might eventually merge or one might overcome the other, but those initial meet-ups have never yielded even a close agreement.

This fact represents a missed opportunity for a god to have made his existence and dogma easier for humans to believe. If, for instance, settlers in the New World (Americas) had encountered native populations worshiping Jesus, or Yahweh, it would suggest that something miraculous had occurred- that God has spread his message far and wide, beyond human capabilities of the time. Otherwise, the only explanation would have been that other peoples, unknown to those voyagers, had made their way to these faraway lands before them. However, absent any evidence to suggest a prior encounter, it could have been safely assumed that such earlier encounters didn’t happen.

In this case, the best guess would be that this god planted a seed of his existence in more than one location. It would give humans a good measure of reason to conclude that this god was real.

If we assume that the Christian god Yahweh is the true and sole god of the universe, then it is undeniable that he chose to pass up on this faith-enhancing tactic. Effortlessly he could have spread his message to many disparate human societies.

Instead, this did not happen, and it is therefore easy to conclude that every local tribe made up their own gods and that none of these gods have any manifestation in reality. If, on the other hand, Yahweh is real, then he missed this easy opportunity to convince us of his existence.

(4790) Passover evil

The celebration of Passover is an abomination. The better name for it would be the Slaughter of the Innocents, where God killed the first-born sons of the people of Egypt as a way to compel them to allow the captive Jews to return to their homeland. The fact that this is a fictional story is not what is important. What’s important is that modern people, Jews and Christians alike, celebrate the day that their imaginary god acted out as a mass murderer. The following was taken from:


Passover began yesterday, the time when God struck down every Egyptian firstborn, both man and animal.

Passover always bothered me as a kid growing up in church. God, or his agent actually, skimming over the rooftops like Santa Claus but instead of dropping off gifts, Death Claus took souls of the firstborn. So, these children could have been any age because it was not the newborn but the first born Egyptian child, the teenagers, perhaps, or pre-teens, and yes, maybe a few infants, if that was the first born.

Christians celebrate Passover, as do Jews, yet I’m struck if they are truly bothered their holiday is essentially the celebration of “Yeah, my kids weren’t killed by Yahweh! Let’s celebrate that and the death of the Egyptian kids!”

The entire argument of God’s love is really strained if people, namely Christians, would read their Bible closer and more analytically.

If there could be a worse manifestation of evil, it cannot be imagined. How people can continue to celebrate this holiday is beyond belief. Anyone reading the Bible (even if somehow they made it this far) should close it at this point, and place it in the trash can.

(4791) Satan’s multi-century conceptual development

If Satan was real, it would have been communicated by God to his followers at the ‘get-go,’ but no, the conception of this nefarious figure developed slowly over several centuries, giving objective modern-day people a virtual assurance that he/it is mythical/fictional/not real. The following was taken from:


The conception of “Satan” or “the Devil” as a singular figure and a fallen angel (“Lucifer”) largely developed in Second Temple Judaism, and those ideas were then taken over and further developed in early Christianity. A lot of these conceptions were solidified in Jewish texts that are now often referred to as “pseudepigrapha” (see esp. text printed in translations with great introductions in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth, 2 vols. (Garden City, NJ, 1983, variously reprinted). During the Second Temple period, as Judaism was influenced by outside ideas from other Near Eastern cultures and Hellenistic Judaism developed, there was an increasing interest in explaining or expanding on parts of the Hebrew Bible, and a lot of this cohered around theological questions about evil, angels, demons, and so on.

Some of the developments in Second Temple Judaism meant extrapolating various passages in the Hebrew Bible (the serpent in Genesis 3, “Lucifer” in Isaiah 14, the adversary figure in Job) and explaining them or expanding on them, which led to the development of the idea of a demonic evil figure as a sort of foil to God. Interests in angelology (lore about angels) and demonology (lore about demons) also cohered around some of these issues and helped to spur on the conceptions of a single distinctive figure and the story of the fall of the rebel angels, especially Lucifer who was then called Satan.

Eventually, a lot of these ideas solidified in fairly orthodox Christian theology, and by the fourth and fifth centuries, the idea of “Satan” as a figure something like we know him was pretty well established, and that idea was further developed and discussed throughout the Middle Ages and into the early modern period–especially with authors like Thomas Aquinas and Dante Alighieri (in his Inferno). Eventually, John Milton wrote his Paradise Lost, which (like Dante’s Inferno) has had a major influence on literary representations and culture more generally.

All of this is a relatively simple overview of the development, but it gives a general sense. It happened over several centuries, across many texts written in different places (some in Palestine, others in places where Jews lived in diaspora, like in Egypt), first by Jewish authors and then Jewish-Christian and Christian authors, in a range of interrelated texts.

For more, a great starting point is Henry Ansgar Kelly, Satan: A Biography (Cambridge, 2006). For a deeper dive, check out Jeffrey Burton Russell’s entire academic series about these developments: The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity (Ithaca, NY, 1977); Satan: The Early Christian Tradition (Ithaca, NY, 1981); Lucifer: The Devil in the Middle Ages (Ithaca, NY, 1984); and Mephistopheles: The Devil in the Modern World (Ithaca, NY, 1986). There is other, more recent scholarship, but these are all accessible, helpful introductions to the subject generally.

For many, the realization that Satan does not exist was the gateway to discarding the entire theology of Christianity, just as when one domino in a chain tips over and causes all of the other dominoes to fall. Satan exists only in the brainwashed minds of Christians, who, if they understood how the legend of this figure developed, would at least encounter a shadow of a doubt (and cause that first domino to become unstable!)

(4792) Message from God to humans

The following message was received, allegedly from Yahweh himself:

Dear human beings,

I love you so much, so I offer you eternal bliss in paradise after your natural life ends. But only if you turn your back on the logic and reason I gave you that separates you from the other animals I created, and believe in my existence based solely on copies of copies of ancient scripture filled with implausible miracles or rumors you hear from other humans.

Sorry, but I refuse to make it easy and just reveal myself, even though it would be very simple for me to do so. No, that would not be ‘sporting,’ and it would be boring to see everyone believe in me without using a certain measure of mind-numbing blind faith.

Humans in power have been deceiving you with false gods for the purpose of gaining more power for hundreds of thousands of years before I finally said to myself ‘OK, that’s enough of that,’ and decided to let myself be known to you- again, admittedly, in a very indirect and uncertain sense. But, nevertheless, you just gotta believe that this time, which in reality is no different than any of the earlier times, they’re telling you the truth.

Now, if you don’t believe, you’ll be tortured for eternity. You see, just letting you die and cease to exist would, again, not be ‘sporting’ of me. I mean, it would not be right to let you off the hook just because you used your critical thinking skills to understandably conclude that I don’t exist. Right?

Also, I have a book on the best-seller list- so how can it not be true?


p.s., To all those who disagree, go to hell! Ha ha.

(4793) Heaven and hell invented to compensate for unfairness

People have long believed in gods that not only observe human activities, but influence and interfere in them as well. So it must have been puzzling to them to see that, in a substantial number of cases, evil people seemed to enjoy wonderful lives while righteous people suffered mightily.

This sense of unfairness likely weighed heavily on their faith in these supernatural beings, who, as much as they wanted to see them as being loving and fair-minded, it just didn’t seem right that the good people were not obtaining the favors that should be due to them, and that the bad people were thriving all along.

This conundrum could only be ‘corrected’ if one could conceive of a life that will follow this life, an afterlife, during which good people would be rewarded and bad people would be punished. This was likely the impetus to invent the concept of heaven and hell. This allowed people to believe that all will be settled fairly in the end, even if iniquity abounds in this life. And it was a way to retain belief in their gods.

People imagined heaven and hell into existence so that they could continue to believe that their gods were just and admirable. In a sense, they were band-aids to repair the disillusion caused by living in a world that appears insensitive to our innate sense of fairness.

(4794) Minimal facts in reverse

Apologists often trudge out their minimal facts argument to defend the truth of Christianity. They usually go as follows:

Crucifixion: Jesus was killed by crucifixion. Virtually every historian on earth who has specialized in studying the life and death of Jesus will agree that Jesus was killed by crucifixion.

Appearances: Jesus’ disciples believed they saw Jesus resurrected from the dead. Non-Christian scholars don’t believe Jesus actually rose from the dead, but they do acknowledge that Jesus’ disciples believed they saw Jesus risen from the dead.

Skeptics: Paul, an enemy of Christ, and James the brother of Jesus, a skeptic, both became followers of Jesus after what they believed to be resurrection appearances. It wasn’t just Jesus’ friends and initial followers who were convinced; early skeptics and even enemies of Christ were convinced that Jesus was the risen Lord.

Early: Jesus’ resurrection was proclaimed very early on after his crucifixion, beginning in Jerusalem where the events themselves took place.

But, this game can be played in reverse. In the following, 12 minimal facts are discussed that explain how Christianity could have come about, easily, without the occurrence of any miracle:


Although the scholarly defense of each point could easily fill a full chapter in a book, the “Minimal Witnesses” hypothesis can be succinctly expressed as descriptions of twelve relatively uncontroversial naturalistic events that, in turn, gave rise to the Jesus Movement, which eventually evolved into modern Christianity.

1. In the early first century, among the apocalyptic preachers active in Judea was one Jesus of Nazareth.

For the sake of this discussion, we’re assuming Jesus was a historical figure.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, along with Josephus and Philo of Alexandria, and the wealth of apocalyptic literature like 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, Jubilees and Daniel, tell us that Jewish apocalypticism and apocalyptic preachers, such as John the Baptist, Judas of Galilee and Theudas, were not uncommon in first-century Judea.

For over a hundred years, scholarship has held that historical Jesus is best understood as an apocalyptic preacher. His earliest and most reliably attested sayings consistently align with apocalyptic themes, including the imminent arrival of God’s kingdom, the call to repentance, and the anticipation of an eschatological reversal in which the righteous are rewarded and the wicked are punished.

2. This Jesus said or did controversial things which led to his crucifixion on a cross, a common practice at the time.

While the infraction could have been anything, actions ascribed to Jesus – such as disturbing the peace in the Temple or challenging Roman authority by claiming to be the Messiah or “King of the Jews” – would have been sufficient to warrant the death penalty under Roman rule.

Medical research and historical record tell us death was all-but certain for crucifixion victims.

3. The resting place of Jesus’ body was unknown to his followers.

Apologists often focus on the timing of Jesus’ body’s removal, but the crucial question is who disposed of it.

If the Romans were responsible, the body would have been left on the cross, possibly to be eaten by animals, as this humiliation was considered part of the punishment.

If a Judean religious exemption existed (despite explicit records to the contrary regarding Jesus’ case of treason), the responsibility would have fallen to the family to successfully petition those in power. Mary, being of modest means and lacking influence, would have faced significant obstacles in securing the body and transporting it from Jerusalem to Nazareth for a simple pit grave.

In the absence of family, the priesthood would have taken charge. However, Jewish law mandated that criminals be left in separate, designated Graveyards of the Condemned in a dishonorable and secretive manner.

In the expected scenarios, the location of Jesus’ body remains unknown. For it to be otherwise would require the same authorities who condemned Jesus to honor him mere hours later—a notion nearly as implausible as a resurrection.

4. This Jesus had some followers while he was alive, but most disappeared into lives never recorded by reliable history, never to be heard from again… all except Simon Peter and possibly John.

Despite self-serving and often fanciful church traditions arising centuries later, only Peter and John of “The Twelve” are regularly mentioned in events after Jesus’ ascension. In his comprehensive study [, Sean McDowell acknowledges that Peter is the sole member of “The Twelve” for whom there is high confidence of martyrdom.

5. Distraught after the death of his mentor, Simon Peter became sincerely, albeit mistakenly, convinced that Jesus had appeared to him.

While potential causes are innumerable, a post-bereavement hallucinatory experience (PBHE), involving sensory perceptions of a deceased loved one, is a likely cause of Peter’s mistaken belief. Estimated to affect 30-60% of bereaved individuals during their grieving process, PBHEs can manifest through various sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and gustatory sensations, and may present as dreams, vivid memories, or hallucinations. PBHEs are common among grieving individuals, and do not necessarily indicate mental illness.

6. James the brother of Jesus became part of Peter’s Jesus Movement. Perhaps also one of the disciples named John.

In Galatians, Paul describes meeting James, Peter and John in Jerusalem, so we know they were all involved in the church. We don’t know what any of these men believed about resurrected Jesus, nor what their motivations might have been for joining the movement, since they left no first-hand accounts telling us.

Assuming they came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection, that could be explained by “social contagion”: a model of influence and persuasion. Peter’s claim of witnessing the risen Jesus gave the shocked and grieving group hope, which they readily accepted due to bias, predisposition, and the power of Jesus’ message. Peter’s influence, group dynamics, and cultural factors convinced them of the resurrection through faith… just like every Christian believer since.

Or maybe James just took over the family business. The possibilities are endless.

7. Stories about Jesus spread through person-to-person evangelism, with the focus on recruiting new followers rather than accurately transmitting historical events.

Details were embellished or invented to eliminate obstacles to belief, and the narratives most successful at winning converts were repeated. As the movement grew, Peter was not personally present to confirm or correct the adopted narratives.

The Jesus Movement grew for many decades before the first gospels were written, so scholars generally agree that it spread primarily through personal evangelism and word-of-mouth, rather than through written texts or formal institutions.

8. Paul (Saul), a Pharisee who had been persecuting the new Christians out of a sincere belief that he was serving God, experienced a non-veridical vision of the allegedly-resurrected Jesus.

Profoundly affected by this experience, Paul became a believer and began recruiting for Christianity and writing letters outlining his theology.

Per his own letters, Paul had multiple visionary experiences throughout his life, which significantly influenced his ministry and teachings. He was prone to them.

His persecution of Christians may well have caused him profound guilt and cognitive dissonance. This psychological distress, possibly resembling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), could have triggered a psychotic break, manifesting as a vision of the resurrected Jesus. Paul’s subsequent conversion to Christianity may have served as a coping mechanism to resolve his inner turmoil, alleviate guilt, and find a new purpose in life.

9. Paul met Peter (and John), but they didn’t see eye-to-eye.

Paul went to Jerusalem to gain approval from Peter and the church for his Gentile mission, which allowed converts to forgo Jewish law. Despite apologists’ claims, Paul’s visit was not to learn about Jesus’ life or resurrection, as evidenced by his letters’ scant knowledge of Jesus’ ministry. When Paul states the apostles “added nothing” to his message, it suggests they provided no information beyond his divine revelations.

10. Several decades later, Greek-speaking individuals who had never met Jesus or Peter began documenting the circulating stories about Jesus, the sayings attributed to him, and their interpretations of these narratives.

The case against the traditional authorship of the gospels is strong, though too involved to argue here. (Fortunately, this blog’s founder has a course available.)

The case is nearly ironclad that the gospels are complex literary works shaped by various factors, rather than straightforward historical accounts. These include the recording of oral traditions about Jesus that circulated for decades (which may contain some historical truth), as well as motifs borrowed from familiar classical Greek literature. The gospels also feature “intertextual” elements from the Old Testament to emphasize Jesus’ fulfillment of prophecies, and polemical passages addressing arguments and objections to early Christian beliefs.

11. Occasionally, some early Christians engaged in disruptive behavior and faced consequences as a result.

However, early Christians generally lived relatively peacefully, rarely facing ideological persecution, although it did occur at times. They were accepting of others, kind to the poor and widows, and consequently grew in numbers.

Historical evidence suggests that the key figures in our hypothesis – Peter, Paul, and James – were likely killed in the 60s AD. If second-century historian Tacitus is correct, Emperor Nero blamed Christians for a devastating fire in Rome and executed Peter and Paul as scapegoats, whose recanting would not have saved them. The same is true for James the brother of Jesus, who was killed as part of a power-grab by a politically ambitious new high priest.

Beyond these three, there is no reliable evidence that any other eyewitnesses to Jesus’ claimed resurrection faced martyrdom or significant danger for their beliefs. The deaths of later non-witnesses, while unfortunate, do not serve as a guarantee of veracity of resurrection claims.

12. Centuries later, in 303 AD, Christianity was temporarily outlawed in Rome, but it gained legal protection ten years later and soon became the Roman Empire’s first official religion, marking its transformation toward the institution we know today.

In short, to account for the established history of Christianity (and indeed, Gary Habermas’ “minimal facts”), we need only a single disciple to believe Jesus rose, a later convert who hallucinated the same, and a well-marketed legend to spread.

Supplemental embellishments like an empty tomb, group appearances, and suffering of other witnesses are not facts to be explained, but mere story artifacts of the legendary development described above.

When you compare two plausible explanations, with one including miracles and other not, it is best to side with the non-miraculous explanation. This adage, a corollary to Occam’s Razor, has worked quite well throughout the sweep of human history.

(4795) Crushed testicles

Nothing indicates a human rather than divine concept than the idea that a man with damaged testicles has lost the right to perform religious ceremonial duties. Consider the following scriptures:

Deuteronomy 23:1 – No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.

Leviticus 21:16-20 – And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron, saying, None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God.  For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles.

Leviticus 22:24-25 – Any animal that has its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut you shall not offer to the Lord; you shall not do it within your land,  neither shall you offer as the bread of your God any such animals gotten from a foreigner. Since there is a blemish in them, because of their mutilation, they will not be accepted for you.

Deuteronomy 25:11-12 – When men fight with one another and the wife of the one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of him who is beating him and puts out her hand and seizes him by the private parts, then you shall cut off her hand. Your eye shall have no pity.

It is inconceivable that a god who created the entire universe would be especially concerned with the status of a man’s testicles, such that it would cause such a god to degrade that person’s status in his eyes. Imagine if a boss fired an employee if he lost a testicle to cancer. This is so obviously a human-made, non-divine, scriptural theme that few apologists are willing to take it on.

(4796) Jesus’ crucifixion imagined as Roman triumphal march

The author of the Gospel of Mark took great liberties in describing the crucifixion procession of Jesus, making it appear analogous to a Roman triumphal march. This artifice is well understood by objective scholars who can decipher what the author was up to- creating a fictional version of history to extol the hero of the story. The following was taken from:


Scholars have long recognized that the Evangelists do not simply report the events of Jesus’ life. They select, arrange and modify material at their disposal to stress important themes—like the connection between Jesus and the Old Testament, the inclusion of gentiles in the kingdom and the nature of discipleship.

Mark’s gospel was probably written for gentile Christians living in Rome. Could this audience have understood the various allusions to the Hebrew Bible worked into Mark’s narrative? On the other hand, Mark’s contemporaries might well have grasped a pattern of meaning that has gone unrecognized by modern Bible commentators: In Mark’s gospel, the crucifixion procession is a kind of Roman triumphal march, with Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa replacing the Sacra Via of Rome. In this way, Mark presents Jesus’ defeat and death, the moment of his greatest suffering and humiliation, as both literally and figuratively a triumph.

Here we will examine more closely the crucifixion procession as described in Mark 15:16–39 (see the sidebar to this article). But first let’s look at the triumphal march, especially the features with which Mark’s first-century A.D. Roman contemporaries would have been familiar.

The triumph was a celebration in which victorious generals and emperors paraded through Rome, putting their accomplishments on display for the populace. It evolved from Etruscan and Greek ceremonies calling for an appearance, or epiphany, of Dionysus, the dying and rising god.1 In the Athenian New Year festival, Dionysus, portrayed in costume by the king, was carried into the city in a formal procession, which culminated in a cry for the epiphany of the god (in Greek, thríambos; in Latin, triumpe). A bull was then sacrificed, and the king appeared as the god. In Greece, Zeus eventually supplanted Dionysus; the shift probably occurred because of Zeus’s position as king of the gods.

The Roman historian Dio Cassius describes an early Roman triumph after which subsequent processions were patterned. First, the soldiers proclaimed a victorious general imperator, and the senate decreed a triumph. The triumphator appeared “arrayed in the triumphal dress and wearing armlets, with a laurel crown upon his head, and holding a branch in his right hand.” He called together the people, praised the gathered soldiers, distributed gifts and then mounted a tower-shaped chariot, where a slave held a crown over his head. The triumphator was preceded into the city by captives displaying graphic representations of his victories. Finally, “the victorious general arrived at the Roman Forum, and after commanding that some of the captives be led to prison and put to death, he rode up to the Capitol. There he performed certain rites and made offerings and dined in the porticos up there, after which he departed homeward toward evening.”2

The connection between the triumphator and Jupiter (the Roman equivalent of Zeus) is remarkable. The triumphal robe, a garment of regal purple embroidered with gold, and the gold laurel wreath were both borrowed from the statue of the god in the temple Jupiter Capitolinus. The face of the triumphator was painted red in imitation of the same statue. The crowd cried triumpe, a call for the manifestation of the god. During the Roman republic, however, the triumphator was only recognized as under the tutelage of the god. The identification of the king with the deity would come later.

In the latter period of the Roman republic, as successive triumphators attempted to align themselves with, and even upstage, military heroes of the past, the processions became more complex, overlaying traditional ceremonial elements with increasingly gaudy and lavish displays.3 After about 20 B.C., the triumph became the exclusive privilege of the emperor. Now it was a tribute to an all-powerful individual, who, upon his accession, might well celebrate his conquest of Rome rather than his conquest for Rome or might manufacture any pretense for a display of power. Ultimately, for the mid-first-century tyrants Gaius (more familiarly known as Caligula) and Nero, this privilege brought the triumph together with the notion of the imperator’s own deification. Thus the ceremony became reconnected with its roots as a display of the ruler as a god.

It is in this relation between triumph and deity that the most profound connection with the Gospel of Mark emerges. Even prior to Mark’s gospel (before about 70 A.D.), Christ was understood as a triumphator. In 2 Corinthians 2:14–15, Paul proclaims:

Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.

Even the references to scent may evoke the image of first-century triumphs, which included the distribution of aromatic substances along the route of the procession to signify the preservation of the life of the triumphator and possibly the death of his captives, some of whom would be killed.4 Whether or not Paul extends the metaphor, there can be no mistaking his allusion to Christ as triumphator.

Mark’s crucifixion narrative contains a number of striking parallels to the Roman triumph. While the cumulative force of the comparison is significant, the most obvious allusions are made at the beginning of the narrative, perhaps signaling to Mark’s audience that there is more to come for those “on the inside” (compare Mark 4:11).

Mark’s narrative begins with the Roman soldiers leading Jesus into “the courtyard of the palace.” The word Mark uses to refer to this place is praetorium, which could apply to military headquarters in general (for example, in Acts 23:35) but was also the common designation in Rome for the place and personnel of the imperial guard. The praetorian guard, which made or broke the power of emperors, was invariably present on the occasion of a triumph, and, significantly, it was called together en masse. If it were not for this custom of mustering the praetorian guard, we might think that Mark’s naming of the palace courtyard as the praetorium is simply an incidental detail. But Mark then tells us that “they called together the whole cohort.” It would be extremely odd for the entire soldiery (at least 200 men) to be called together to mock and beat a single prisoner. Rather, we should consider the details here as carefully chosen to evoke a familiar occasion, namely, the gathering of the soldiery in preparation for a triumphal march.

Contemporaneous accounts of Roman triumphs suggest that Mark’s description of Jesus’ clothing (“They clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him” [Mark 15:17]) follows a formula. In one source after another, the triumphator is introduced clad in a ceremonial purple robe and a crown.5 The wearing of purple was outlawed for anyone below equestrian rank. The only available robe of this kind for Jesus would belong to Pilate, but it is inconceivable that he would lend his garment to be spat on by soldiers. Along similarly practical lines, one wonders where in the courtyard of a palace thorns would be available to make a crown. Are we to imagine that the soldiers delayed their mockery while someone went to look for a thornbush? The strangeness of these details, their likeness to the ceremonial garb of a triumphator and their combination with other details of the narrative suggest purpose rather than coincidence.6

Before the procession began, when the triumphator appeared in ceremonial garb, he would meet with the soldiers to receive their accolades. So in Mark’s gospel the immediate sequel to the appearance of Jesus in royal garb is the mock homage of the soldiers (“They began saluting him”). Their shout, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Mark 15:18), may in fact correspond to a formulaic response in a triumph.7

As the soldiers lead Jesus along the Via Dolorosa, they compel an onlooker, Simon, to bear the cross. Simon is identified as from Cyrene (a Greek colony in North Africa) and as the father of Alexander and Rufus, who were probably known to Mark’s audience as church figures (Romans 16:131 Timothy 1:202 Timothy 4:14). The account of Simon’s requisition by the soldiers as cross-carrier may serve simply to suggest the wearying effect of a prolonged procession. But it may also suggest another formulaic element in a triumph. A consistent feature in the numerous monuments depicting triumphs is the sacrificial bull, led along dressed and crowned to signify its identity with the triumphator. But the bull is not alone. In nearly every one of these depictions, walking alongside the bull is an official who carries over his shoulder a double-bladed ax, the instrument of the victim’s death. The parallel might appear to be coincidental, but two remarkable details—Simon’s link to the community of faith via his sons and his having just arrived from out of town—suggest that Mark envisions his role as divinely planned. Like the official who bears the ax, Simon carries the instrument of the sacrifice’s—in this case Jesus’—death: the cross.

Crucifixions were common enough in the Roman world that major cities set aside special places for them. The crucified bodies, in various stages of suffering or decomposition, provided a public warning to potential malefactors. In Rome, the place was the Campus Esquilinus; in Jerusalem, it may have been either the site of the present Church of the Holy Sepulchre or on the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley from the Temple. Mark gives the name of the place, Golgotha; then, untypically, he translates it for his readers: “which means the place of a skull.” In Hebrew Golgotha denotes not an empty skull but more generally the head. This is also true of the Greek translation. Therefore, “place of the head” or perhaps “place of the death’s-head” would be a more accurate rendering.8

Mark may be offering this translation simply to heighten the sense of the macabre. But there is a remarkable coincidence in the name of the place that may constitute another allusion to the triumph. Dionysius of Halicarnassus records the legend that, during the laying of a foundation for a temple on a certain Roman hill, a human head was discovered with its features intact. Soothsayers proclaimed:

“Romans, tell your fellow citizens it is ordered by fate that the place in which you found the head shall be the head of all Italy,” (and) since that time the place is called the Capitoline hill from the head that was found there; for the Romans call heads capita.9

The temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, or more simply the Capitolium, was the terminus of every Roman triumph. The procession would wind through the streets to the Forum, culminating in the ascent of the triumphator to the place of sacrifice—the place named after a death’s-head. The name “Golgotha” (head) may simply be a linguistic and historical coincidence, but to an audience prepared by the context of Mark’s gospel to look for double meanings, it would be a glaring and meaningful coincidence: Golgotha was the Capitolium (head) to which the triumphator ascended.

Before reaching Golgotha, the soldiers offer Jesus myrrhed wine, but he refuses to drink (Mark 15:23).10 Why the offer of this expensive delicacy, why the refusal, and why interject this seemingly trivial detail here?

The supreme moment of the triumph is the moment of sacrifice, depicted in detail by numerous sculptors of the period. Just prior to the sacrifice of the bull, or in a few cases simultaneous with the sacrifice, the triumphator was offered a cup of wine, which he would refuse and then pour on the altar (or, more rarely, on the bull itself). The wine obviously signifies the precious blood of the victim, and the links between triumphator, wine and victim signify their connection—which is also confirmed by the similar dress worn by both the triumphator and the bull. In other words, the bull is the god who dies and appears as the victor in the person of the triumphator.

All of this is shorthand for a long process of ritual development, but for our purposes the formulaic element is clear. At the crucial moment of a triumph, the moment of sacrifice, expensive wine is poured out. Significantly, the very next words in Mark’s account are “and they crucified him.” This again suggests a close association between wine and sacrifice. In an earlier scene in Mark’s narrative, the Last Supper, Jesus himself makes the connection between the drinking of wine, sacrifice and triumphant renewal: “He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God’” (Mark 14:24–25). The refusal of wine is one of the many details suggesting that the painful humiliation of the crucifixion is in fact a victorious triumph.

Another remarkable detail reported by Mark is that Jesus is executed with “two bandits, one on his right and one on his left” (Mark 15:27). This account not only appears to be an unnecessary interruption of the narrative but also draws the attention of readers to the shamefulness of the crucifixion. Why accentuate the scandal of the cross by associating Jesus with criminals?

In the world of Mark’s audience, placement on the right and left of an elevated person signified royal enthronement. Earlier in Mark’s narration, for example, he tells us that two disciples request to be seated on Jesus’ right and left when he is enthroned (Mark 10:37). In the triumph itself, the triumphator is normally alone, but the few exceptions are notable both because they occur at the point of elevation to the rostrum and because they occur very near to the time of Mark’s writing.

Suetonius, a Roman historian of the early second century, records a triumph of the youthful Tiberius, who “took his seat beside Augustus between the two consuls.”11 In 44 A.D., Claudius returned to Rome after a military campaign and celebrated a triumph. “In this he followed precedent, even ascending the steps of the Capitol on his knees, with his sons-in-law supporting him on either side.”12 When Vitellius accepted the title “imperator” at Lugdunum in 68 A.D., he “spoke in praise of [his conquering generals] Valens and Caecina in public assembly and placed them on either side of his own curule chair.”13 In 71 A.D. Vespasian celebrated his triumph over the Jews with Titus beside him in the triumphal chariot and Domitian riding alongside;14 the three then performed together the culminating events of the triumph.15

In each of these instances, a threesome appears elevated above an admiring throng in order to express power through solidarity. It is probable, then, that the crucifixion of criminals on either side of Jesus is a conscious expression of the mockery of his kingship on the part of the soldiers. That is, they are the mock equivalent of those displayed on either side of an enthroned ruler.

To summarize Mark’s narrative as now decoded: The praetorian guard gathers early in the morning to proclaim the triumphator. They dress him in the purple triumphal garb and place a crown of laurel on his head. The soldiers shout in acclamation of his lordship (“Hail, King of the Jews” [Mark 15:18]) and perform acts of homage to him. They accompany him through the streets of the city. The sacrifice walks alongside a person who carries the implement of the victim’s death. The procession ascends to the place of the (death’s) head, where the sacrifice is to take place. The triumphator is offered ceremonial wine. He does not drink it but pours it out on the altar at the moment of sacrifice. Then, at the moment of being lifted up before the people, at the moment of the sacrifice, the triumphator is again acclaimed as lord (“The King of the Jews” [Mark 15:26]), and his viceregents appear with him in confirmation of his glory. The epiphany of the triumphator is accompanied by divine portents (“The curtain of the Temple was torn in two” [Mark 15:38]), confirming that he is one with the gods.

The story of Jesus’ crucifixion and his parade to Golgotha is reminiscent of romantic literature, but in no way does it describe that truth of what happened, or how the Romans conducted their crucifixions. The author of Mark has taken us on an imaginative journey to see what might have happened if Jesus was really the son of God and, in consequence, the Romans were divinely compelled to make major deviations from the norm of how their crucifixions were orchestrated.

(4797) Christianity breeds artificial certainty

One of the more deleterious effects of religious belief, specifically referring to the various sects of Christianity, is that it tends to make people absolutely certain about what they cannot actually be certain. This ‘mind virus’ not only infects modern-day Christians, but also the proto-Christians who wrote the Bible, leading us to be very suspicious of what they wrote. Paul is a sterling example of this. Christianity is built on a mountain of artificial certainty. The following was taken from:


Once religious fanatics have become convinced they’ve discovered the one true faith, their arrogance takes over. In the final chapter of Mark’s gospel, we find this Jesus-script, vv. 15-16: “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved, but the one who does not believe will be condemned.” Only in modern times was it discovered that vv. 9-20 in Mark 16 are a fake ending, that is, they were not in the original manuscript. But they’ve been there for centuries, contributing to Christian arrogance: you’ll be condemned if you don’t get baptized and believe as we do.

There’s also Jesus-script at the end of Matthew’s gospel, the so-called Great Commission (28:18-20): “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.’”

Religions in the ancient world commonly claimed to worship sons or daughters of god(s), and the gospel authors stressed that their son of god was the real thing. At the opening of Mark (1:11), at the baptism of Jesus, a voice boomed from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” Matthew (1:1-18) traced Jesus’ ancestry back to Abraham, while Luke presented a genealogy (3:23-38) that goes all the way back to Adam. What credentials! The author of John’s gospel, a true champion of theological inflation, boasts that the Galilean peasant preacher was present at creation. Moreover, John’s author pressed the point that the Christian son of god was the only one who mattered; he imagined this Jesus-script (14:6-7): “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” The author of John also suggested ghoulish magic potions. In his gospel, strangely, there is no Eucharist at the Last Supper, but in his chapter 6 he claims that eating the flesh, and drinking the blood of Jesus will assure eternal life.

When the major Christian European powers set off on their campaigns for empire and colonies, no doubt one of their justifications was the Jesus-script at the end of Matthew, “…make disciples of all nations, and baptize them…” The invasion of the Americas was brutal indeed, and included forced belief. “Following Columbus, each time the Spanish encountered a native individual or group in the course of their travels they were ordered to read to the Indians a statement informing them of the truth of Christianity and the necessity to swear immediate allegiance to the Pope and to the Spanish crown.” (David Stannard, American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World, p. 65, Kindle)

Christian missionaries of all brands have set off for foreign lands determined to “bring people to Christ”—knowing for sure that he is the only way to salvation. They don’t notice their own arrogance. We all sense, however, that this arrogance is not welcome, if we are subjected to it ourselves. Protestants would be outraged if teams of nuns and priests invaded their Sunday services to proclaim the truth of Catholicism. Or if Mormons or Muslims did the same thing. Indeed, when we find Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons knocking at our doors, we wish they’d mind their own business. These days too, hardline Christian nationalists are pushing hard for theocracy: “We want to impose our business on you” has been a core Christian ideal from the beginning. When Jesus sent his disciples out to preach in villages, we find this Jesus-script in Matthew 10:14-15: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” In other words, they’ll be burned to the ground.

If the Christian god exists, it would have to be concerned about the numbers of people who express absolute certainty about their beliefs, when, mathematically speaking, most all of them harbor major elements of untruth. A real god would have incentive to corral his followers into a consistent set of beliefs and actions. On the other hand, given human nature and the non-existence of the Christian god, we would expect the faith to splinter into many pockets of gratuitous certainty.

(4798) 1 Clement fails to support martyrdom

Christian apologists have routinely used the book of 1 Clement to claim that Peter and Paul were put to death as martyrs for their allegiance to Jesus. Peter and Paul died in the CE 60’s while 1 Clement was written around CE 95. No other accounts exist to suggest that Peter and Paul were martyred, but the truth of the assertion is one of the tactics used by apologists to claim that these men would not have died for a lie, but only for their direct knowledge of the ‘miraculous son of the living god.’ The following provides evidence against this martyrdom theory:


Candida Moss, Political Oppression and Martyrdom, writes: “As Brent Shaw has recently argued, apart from Tacitus (c.115-120) there is very little reason to think Christians were ever blamed for the the Great Fire. This is in large part because Christians were not known as Christians in the early 60’s. To outsiders and, indeed to themselves, they were Jews. Most remarkable, if Christians suffered so publicly so early, is the absence of explicit references to these events in extant Christian literature. The book.of Revelation, composed around 90, refers only to a single martyr.”

The language of 1 Clement on the trials and tribulations of Peter and Paul is more ambiguous than apologists like to imply. Paragraphs 3-6 contain a review of of the troubles of biblical figures, including Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Moses and Pharaoh, and David and Saul. That Peter and Paul bore “witness” (Greek martys) does not actually mean they were executed. Paul himself discusses his own trials and tribulations in 2 Corinthians 24-26, referring to beatings, lashings, and stonings, yet there he is alive and writing about it. The “forty lashes minus one” flogging was a distinctively Jewish punishment (Deuteronomy 25:2-3).

B. Shaw, The Myth of the Neronian Persecution, Journal of Roman Studies, 105: 73-100 (2015)

In Philips Ensler, ed., The Early Christian World, 2nd ed. (2017)

Using the argument that the disciples died for their belief in Jesus, thus bolstering the likelihood that Christianity is true, is on very shaky ground. If God intended to leave humanity with this tidbit of evidence supporting the religion he created, he did a miserable job.

(4799) Morphing tomb

The growing legend of Jesus’ burial is observed by reading the gospel accounts in chronological order. First Jesus is placed in ‘any-old’ tomb, then the tomb becomes ‘new,’ then finally the tomb becomes a place where no corpse has ever been laid:

Mark 15:46

So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock.

Matthew 27:59-60

Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock.

Luke 23:53

Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.

John 19:41

At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.

The following was taken from Mark Goodacre’s essay ‘How empty was the tomb?


The key point that emerges from the study of Jerusalem’s necropolis is that rock-cut tombs of the kind mentioned in the gospels are always multi-person tombs. The tombs house families. They contain multiple bodies and multiple ossuaries. They never appear to have been built to contain just one body. Although no two tombs are identical, they are generally cut out of the limestone and often feature multiple kokhim (loculi), as well as benches formed around a standing pit. Some tombs also feature arcosolia, niches cut with a flat bottom and a curved top.

The very mention of the ‘new tomb’ presupposes a typical first-century Jerusalem family tomb hewn from the limestone. If every tomb were a single-person tomb, then every tomb would be a new tomb. The note that it was a ‘new tomb’ suggests something unusual, something worth the special remark. But Matthew’s revealing redaction of Mark still raises questions. How new is ‘new’? Is this ‘new’ as in ‘New Labour’ or ‘the new perspective on Paul’ or New College, Oxford? How recently should the reader imagine that Joseph had hewn the tomb from the rock? Chiselling a tomb into the rock is not something that one does overnight. Shimon Gibson estimates that it would take at least 50 days. Did Joseph have relatives at death’s door? Is that why he cut a new tomb into the rock? Even a ‘new’ tomb could have bodies in it, and Matthew’s redaction of Mark keeps open the possibility that Grandma Joan of Arimathea was lying on one of the benches. However Matthew imagines the scene, even talk about a ‘new’ tomb may not be enough. Luke now clarifies that in fact it was a virgin tomb, one in which ‘no one had ever been laid.

The plausibility that Joseph of Arimathea could have anticipated the death of Jesus at least 50 days in advance, and made a new tomb, unused and directed toward the use of a single individual (opposite the prevailing custom of tombs housing families) is beyond believability. But when you are writing fantasy literature, giving your hero a new and previously unused tomb would be one way to promote his special status. And that is what the gospel authors did.

(4800) Implications of Paul’s pseudepigrapha

Much analysis has been conducted on the letters in the New Testament that were previously assumed to have been written by the Apostle Paul, but, for various reasons, are now thought to have been written by others. This is not a problem only for defining matters of Christian doctrine, but it also exposes the fact that God, allegedly omnipotent, failed to assure that the Bible remained authentic to its purpose. The following was taken from:


As we can see not a single scholar things that Paul wrote Hebrews and less than 25% believe that he wrote 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus and >50% believe he did not write that while the rest are uncertain.

And before anyone rejects this as secular liberal 21st century scholarship, this is an opinion that has been in circulation since the start of the 19th century and widely accepted amongst scholars before the turn of the 20th century

Evidence for non-Pauline authorship

Here’s a summarized list of arguments for the non-Pauline authorship

    • The oldest manuscript of the Pauline epistles P46 dated to 175-225 AD does not include the pastorals
    • The earliest attestation of Pauls work comes from Marcion who can only be described as a Pauline fanatic so much so that he viewed Paul to be the one true Apostle of Christ. Despite his infatuation with Pauls theology and works the Pastorals are not included in the Marcionite canon and there is no evidence that he even knew about them up until his death around 160 AD
    • Early Christians rejected 1 and 2 Timothy according to Origen and Clement of Alexandria
    • Uses an entirely different set of phrases, letters and text not seen in any of Pauls previous works (Bart Ehrman has a long list of these)
    • A different linguistic style
    • The letters especially in Timothy discuss church structure, ordinance and management. Something that was not a concern until well after Pauls execution at least a century after Pauls death.


1 Timothy

    • Timothy has a different view of theology that is at odds with Pauline letters
    • The treatment of women. In 1 Timothy 2:12 we get the infamous “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” This directly contradicts Romans which is confidently Pauline where he writes about the involvement of Pheobe and Junia (2 women) as disciples of Christ and highly regarded in the church through their works. Pauls authentic letters do not show him raising any objection to women and their role in the church yet the author of 1 Timothy is very strictly opposed to it.
    • In 1 Timothy 4:14 the author states charisma is delivered by laying of hands from elders. In Romans 6 Paul states the charisma is through baptism.

2 Timothy

    • Similar to 1 Timothy, Romans is again contradicted through the transmission of the charisma by elders rather than baptism
    • Pauls life situation is at odds which the chronology attested to Paul. 2 Timothy. If it were genuinely Pauline he should be in prison or facing trial yet none of the text correspond to that making it nigh impossible to attribute it to him.

There is also Ephesians

    • Theres quite a lot to synthesize but I will link to this thread in r/AskBibleScholars as its far more comprehensive than I can hope to write.


    • The author of the text knows that Crete has been Christianized 1:15, something that wouldn’t happen until the 2nd century at the earliest well after Paul’s death.

Evidence of Intentional Deceit

So far I have only built a case for pseudepigrapha at the very least. From now on I will add context that allows me to make the assertion that this is not only pseudepigrapha but is intentional deceit in writing hence a Forgery

1, 2 Timothy, Titus, Ephesians all start of from the directly presented as letters from Paul the Apostle to Timothy and to Titus in the opening texts. I can’t be bothered pasting them all but you can search for yourself to confirm. The author does not claim to be a disciple of Paul or one of Paul’s students the author explicitly states he is Paul and that he is writing to said audience. These claims are LIES and there are no two way around it. You cannot claim to be someone who you are not, if you do you are lying and it does not matter if you are in actuality the student of someone (withstanding the fact we have no evidence the author ever met Paul).

Bart Ehrman points out (and other scholars) that 2 Timothy is littered with verisimilitudes, that is the author claiming to be Paul continuously barrages the reader with biographical detail in excess that is commonplace in forgeries. Just read through 2 Timothy and contrast it with something like Romans or Philemon. Paul constantly appeals to his backstory and status whereas his other letters are straightforward and to the point assuming that whoever on the receiving end knows who he is for granted.

Refuting Objections

The most commonplace: objection is that pseudepigrapha was commonplace in the Christian world therefore not deceitful. First of all just because something is commonplace it does not change the fundamental fact that a lie is a lie.

Also this is just patently false and is actually rejected by Paul himself!

In 2 Thessalonians 2:2 and 3:17 a book that a majority regard as authentic to Paul, he warns of those false teachers who may use Paul’s name. Something the Pastorals and Ephesians clearly do which is rebuked by Paul himself. This also goes against everything and anything we know about Early church tradition as there is an entire list of books that were rejected by the early Church fathers due to their message and authorship, this includes works such as 3 Corinthians which was correctly identified to be a forgery as well as the Epistle of Barnabas. We have surmounting evidence that false attribution of texts was viewed as a horrific action by early Jews, Christians and Paul himself. People who state that this practice was well accepted have nothing but apologetic nonsense with no real world evidence to back it up.

We also have evidence that scribes who lie when recording matters of faith disobey God and commit sin as well as taint the message and the law to be followed to the believer(s).

How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely? Jeremiah 8:8-9

Hence we know that even within Jewish thought this practice is a great evil.


There are works in the Biblical cannon that are forgeries littered with deceit, many of which begin the text by stating a lie and claiming a false author.


Unless one can surmount a case that not only refutes a plethora of data and facts that univariably point towards forged authorship of works that are falsely attributed to Paul as well as long withstanding academic consensus for other a century, the believer has to accept one or more of the following as they naturally follow.

    1. God lies and promotes lies and liars through divine inspiration.
    2. The work(s) of the New Testament are not divinely inspired
    3. Only some of the New Testament Canon is divinely inspired, the forged texts are not
    4. God divinely inspired both Authors (2 at a minimum) Paul and the author of the non-Pauline letters to write about matters of faith including directly contradictory passages where Paul affirms and recognizes the role of women in church whilst simultaneously having pseudo-Paul reject a woman to teach in church. Not even mentioning contradictory views on charisma, faith, the flesh and works between Paul and Pseudo Paul.
    5. Last but not least, the most simple conclusion. None of it is divinely inspired whatsoever.

The evidence suggests very strongly that #5 is the correct conclusion. It makes no sense to posit that an omniscient, omnipotent god could allow his message book to humanity to have so many critical defects. If Yahweh was real, we would have a very different Bible.

Follow this link to #4801