(1401) The real miracles, sacred scriptures, saints, and gods
The world of Christianity is a miniature universe that attempts to separate itself from the rest of the cosmos, claiming to be of a different and superior substance compared to the natural world and the works of man. By elevating the exploits of the ‘saints’ and Jesus, as well as the ‘sacred scriptures,’ it concomitantly denigrates at least tacitly the wonders of nature and the accomplishments of human beings. The following quote by Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899) exposes the fallacy of this Christian precept:
The men who felled the forests, cultivated the earth, spanned the rivers with bridges of steel, built the railways and canals, the great ships, invented the locomotives and engines, supplying the countless wants of man; the men who invented the telegraphs and cables, and freighted the electric spark with thought and love; the men who invented the looms and spindles that clothe the world, the inventors of printing and the great presses that fill the earth with poetry, fiction and fact, that save and keep all knowledge for the children yet to be; the inventors of all the wonderful machines that deftly mould from wood and steel the things we use; the men who have explored the heavens and traced the orbits of the stars—who have read the story of the world in mountain range and billowed sea; the men who have lengthened life and conquered pain; the great philosophers and naturalists who have filled the world with light; the great poets whose thoughts have charmed the souls, the great painters and sculptors who have made the canvas speak, the marble live; the great orators who have swayed the world, the composers who have given their souls to sound, the captains of industry, the producers, the soldiers who have battled for the right, the vast host of useful men—these are our Christs, our apostles and our saints. The triumphs of science are our miracles. The books filled with the facts of Nature are our sacred scriptures, and the force that is in every atom and in every star—in everything that lives and grows and thinks, that hopes and suffers, is the only possible god.
Christianity claims to have the only ‘eternal’ truths, the only sacred writings, the only saints, the only way to salvation, and the only miracles, but as Ingersoll has noted, there is a world outside that dwarfs these assertions and shows them to be an ersatz representation of reality.
(1402) Massaging scripture to absolve Jesus of practicing sorcery
In the earliest gospel, Mark, Jesus is often seen to be using the tricks of the trade of sorcery and magic as it existed in 1st Century Palestine. In fact, the author of Mark mentions that this charge was made against Jesus. Such an accusation was probably an embarrassment to the nascent church, because it implied that Jesus was either a fake healer or that he was accessing the powers of evil beings. So, to combat this problem, the subsequent gospel authors laundered these references out of their accounts. The following was taken from:
The editing of details such as this can be multiplied: the gospel of Mark contains thirteen healing narratives and “the largest single category is that of exorcisms.” In the reworked narratives of Matthew and Luke, however, the lurid physical effects in Mark—“Shrieking and convulsing him horribly, [the spirit] came out and left [the boy] like a corpse”—have dropped out. Matthew and Luke also edit out the Aramaic healing formulas recorded by Mark—“he cast out the spirits with a word”—but the word is never specified. Matthew and Luke also omit the story of the blind man cured with spit, a story immediately identifiable as an application of folk magic, almost certainly due to charges of sorcery. “Jesus’ opponents accused him of black magic, an accusation which stands as one of the most firmly established facts of the Gospel Tradition.”
Aune has proposed a motive for Mark’s retention of the Aramaic: “In view of the importance attributed to preserving adjurations and incantations in their original languages, these formulas were probably preserved for the purpose of guiding Christian thaumaturges in exorcistic and healing activities,” but as Hull observed in his landmark work, “Matthew has a suspicion of exorcism…This is because exorcism was one of the main functions of the magician. The magic consisted in the method; Matthew retains the fact without the method, trying in this way to purify the subject.” Matthew’s editing of potentially embarrassing details is widely acknowledged: “Matthew excised not only the more blatant thaumaturgical traits but even whole incidents, such as the stories of the healing of the deaf mute (Mark 7:31-37) and of the blind man near Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26), both of which might lend themselves to magical interpretation…Luke seems to have made an intentional effort to distance Jesus and church leaders from magical notions.” The revisions of the later synoptics were almost certainly done in response to Jewish and later pagan claims that Jesus was a sorcerer, a charge documented in Mark, the earliest gospel:
The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He has Beelzeboul! He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons!”
The pagan polemicist Celsus, writing about 180 CE, knew that Jesus had been accused of sorcery: “After being brought up in obscurity, he hired himself out in Egypt and having become experienced in certain magical arts, he made his way back and on account of those powers proclaimed himself a god.” Celsus concluded that Jesus was merely “a worthless sorcerer, hated by God.”
Fritz Graf: “…those who accused Jesus of being a magician (they were not few among the pagans) argued that he, after all, had spent part of his youth in the homeland of magic, after the escape from Palestine.” It is likely that Matthew’s infancy story, which connects Jesus both with magicians and Egypt, reflects past and current accusations that Jesus practiced magic and sought to disarm by explaining Jesus’ association with Egypt as circumstantial and not the true source of his amazing powers—“…the story of the flight to Egypt (Matt. 2:13-15), which [Matthew] strains to relate to an Old Testament prophecy…is perhaps a response to the Talmudic charge that Jesus had learned magic and sorcery in Egypt.”
Although the reason may ultimately remain a matter of speculation, exorcism is remarkable for its absence in the gospel of John. Plumer has suggested that charges of sorcery resulted in the omission of this key form of miracle, and while questioning that conclusion, Piper admits that “control over spirits …leaves Jesus himself sometimes open to suspicion and accusation” and concedes that “persons who had the capacity to perform exorcisms or control spirits in other ways were quite liable to be suspected of sorcery.”
Perhaps Celsus had the answer all along. The charge of sorcery spurred Origen into a frenzy of writing, pouring out page after page in his attempt to disprove it. It seems likely that the accusation of sorcery, which originated during Jesus’ own career, motivated the gospel writers to substantially alter the primitive tradition. Leaving aside the facticity of miracles generally, it is abundantly clear that the people of the New Testament believeddemons were real, that magic was real, and that exorcists were casting out real entities. The controversy over Jesus’ powers, as well as the defensive posture assumed by the later gospel writers in the face of accusations that Jesus practiced magic, cohere perfectly with what we know of the era from multiple sources. While all this does not and cannot prove the existence of Jesus of Nazareth, it is completely consistent with what we know about similar figures from antiquity such as Apollonius of Tyana, widely conceded to have been a real person.
The manipulation of scripture as can be seen in these examples is a flagrant marker exposing the fact that Jesus as depicted in the gospels is not a true representation of the actual man, assuming he was more than simply mythical. It lends support for adding a fourth element to C.S. Lewis’s trilemma of lord, liar, or lunatic- that being ‘legend.’
(1403) Disillusioned Christian time travelers
Suppose in the future, time travel becomes possible and one of the trips offered is to the Holy Land around 30 CE. Hyper-excited evangelical Christians sign up and arrive, then go in search of Jesus, finding his following near a clump of trees on the outskirts of Capernaum. They go up ask which one is Jesus, and are shocked when they are pointed to a short, swarthy, and not so good looking guy with short hair who is speaking a language (Aramaic) that they don’t understand.
Around Jesus are a bunch of derelicts, looking like homeless, poor people, and some of the women look like prostitutes. Jesus looks at the Christians, sneers, and tells them that he did not come to preach but to the Jews and asks them to leave. They don’t understand, nevertheless, the apostles Peter and James gesture for them to go away. They are unceremoniously pushed back from the conclave and walk away thoroughly demoralized. Arriving back from their time travel, they all quit Christianity and study cosmology, evolution, and plate tectonics.
(1404) The new Jesus trilemma
C.S. Lewis famously described what he considered to be the three possible characterizations of Jesus as being either the lord, a liar, or a lunatic- conveniently leaving out the most probable one, a ‘legend.’ But when we consider the actions of Jesus, allegedly God, in casting out demons (told in numerous gospel passages), there is another trilemma that comes into play. Here is how Robert Ingersoll (1933-1899) put it:
We know, if we know anything, that devils do not exist—that Christ never cast them out, and that if he pretended to, he was either ignorant, dishonest, or insane.
There are two possible rebuttals. Some Christians will claim that demons actually do possess people and that Jesus was performing the humane action of casting them out. Other Christians will claim that Jesus knew that demons were not causing the harmful symptoms but played along with the conventional wisdom of the time, so as not to confuse, while actually healing the persons by other means. Neither of these arguments carry significant merit.
Looking at the Ingersoll trilemma, let’s consider the odds of each one:
- Ignorant- This is very likely considering that Jesus was raised in a society that thought that demon possession was a real phenomenon.
- Dishonest- This parallels the second rebuttal argument cited above, and is possible, but not likely.
- Insane- According to the Gospel of Mark, some people did question Jesus’s sanity, but it is unlikely.
No matter which of the three it is, it portrays Jesus in an unfavorable light. If Jesus was a real person (and God at the same time), it is highly unlikely that he would have performed or even pretended to perform exorcisms. This leaves two equally problematic possibilities- that Jesus actually did cast out (imaginary)demons, or the author of Mark made up these stories. For Christianity, there is little good news that can come out of this situation.
(1405) Christianity introduced nothing new
In light of the thousands of religions, past and present, that have been practiced in the Earth’s history, the most decisive criterion for identifying which one is true, assuming they’re not all false, is that it should show unmistakable signs of uniqueness. Christianity fails in this regard as almost all of its practices and traditions were elements of previous religions. The following is a quote from Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899):
Apollo was a sun-god and he fought and conquered the serpent of night. Baldur was a sun-god. He was in love with the Dawn—a maiden. Chrishna was a sun-god. At his birth the Ganges was thrilled from its source to the sea, and all the trees, the dead as well as the living, burst into leaf and bud and flower. Hercules was a sun-god and so was Samson, whose strength was in his hair—that is to say, in his beams. He was shorn of his strength by Delilah, the shadow—the darkness. Osiris, Bacchus, and Mithra, Hermes, Buddha, and Quetzalcoatl, Prometheus, Zoroaster, and Perseus, Cadom, Lao-tsze, Fo-hi, Horus and Rameses, were all sun-gods.
All of these gods had gods for fathers and their mothers were virgins. The births of nearly all were announced by stars, celebrated by celestial music, and voices declared that a blessing had come to the poor world. All of these gods were born in humble places—in caves, under trees, in common inns, and tyrants sought to kill them all when they were babes. All of these sun-gods were born at the winter solstice—on Christmas. Nearly all were worshiped by “wise men.” All of them fasted for forty days—all of them taught in parables—all of them wrought miracles—all met with a violent death, and all rose from the dead.
The history of these gods is the exact history of our Christ.
This is not a coincidence—an accident. Christ was a sun-god. Christ was a new name for an old biography—a survival—the last of the sun-gods. Christ was not a man, but a myth—not a life, but a legend.
I found that we had not only borrowed our Christ—but that all our sacraments, symbols and ceremonies were legacies that we received from the buried past. There is nothing original in Christianity.
The cross was a symbol thousands of years before our era. It was a symbol of life, of immortality—of the god Agni, and it was chiseled upon tombs many ages before a line of our Bible was written.
Baptism is far older than Christianity—than Judaism. The Hindus, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans had Holy Water long before a Catholic lived. The eucharist was borrowed from the Pagans. Ceres was the goddess of the fields—Bacchus of the vine. At the harvest festival they made cakes of wheat and said: “This is the flesh of the goddess.” They drank wine and cried: “This is the blood of our god.”
The Egyptians had a Trinity. They worshiped Osiris, Isis and Horus, thousands of years before the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were known.
The Tree of Life grew in India, in China, and among the Aztecs, long before the Garden of Eden was planted.
Long before our Bible was known, other nations had their sacred books.
The dogmas of the Fall of Man, the Atonement and Salvation by Faith, are far older than our religion.
In our blessed gospel,—in our “divine scheme,”—there is nothing new—nothing original. All old—all borrowed, pieced and patched.
Then I concluded that all religions had been naturally produced, and that all were variations, modifications of one,—then I felt that I knew that all were the work of man.
A lack of originality combined with the absence of any other tangible demonstrations of its truth leaves Christianity in the position of being no more credible than any other faith. Antiquity and popularity are not evidences of truth.
(1406) No diverted disasters defying physics
One of the features that would suggest the presence of a supernatural force, or god, governing the universe would be an unexplained, outside-of-natural-laws, diversion of a natural disaster. On occasion, a storm or fire or other disaster has fortuitously shifted in a way that lessens the brunt of destruction, but these occurrences have never been observed to violate any physical laws. The following was taken from:
There would be no explaining away a major cataclysm being miraculously averted, say, the tsunami which thumped the island of Sumatra in December 2004, laying waste to a quarter million people, 40% of which were children. A hurricane that mysteriously changed direction or an approaching asteroid that was inexplicably deflected away from Earth, trouncing the known laws of physics: divine involvement of this magnitude would likely blow the lid off my ideological center. By contrast, the biblical Yahweh saw fit to intervene on behalf of the fleeing Israelites by parting the Red Sea, and on behalf of Elisha by issuing flesh-hungry bears to maul his antagonizers. Alas, the God of the Bible has apparently grown bored over the years.
The problem of justice in a world created by a personal force remains unsolved, though certainly not unchallenged. The moral position on matters of avertable harms declares the bystander to be guilty, and as the eternal Bystander, God is indicted as the worst offender of all.
Within the recorded history of the Earth, that there has never been an unexplained dissipation of a natural disaster, such that the physical laws of nature were obviously violated. This is despite the numerous such events detailed in the Bible (such as the sun moving backwards or a three-hour solar eclipse). In fact, these kinds of events should be fairly commonplace even today. If God has the power to manipulate the physical world, and he is compassionate and listens to prayers, it is difficult to posit his existence given this fact. Christians must concede that they are worshiping a detached bystander god.
(1407) God knows our need for evidence, fails to deliver
Each person has a threshold for the amount and type of evidence necessary for them to believe in an abstract truth, such as evolution or climate change. And a god as posited by Christianity surely knows what each of us needs to believe in him. Some people are more skeptical by nature, so they would need something extra over someone with a more relaxed attitude. But why would a benevolent god stop short of providing the type of evidence needed to convince these critical thinkers? The following is taken from:
It stands to reason that an infinitely wise god that made entrance to heaven dependent on proper belief would know exactly what criteria each of us would require. A god that craves certain convictions on the part of bipedal mammals and longs for our attention in the form of a personal relationship would doubtless find this essay of marginal utility. An infinitely capable god that cared both about our convictions and the safe haven of our souls would spare no expense, and leave no measure untaken, in ensuring our demands for evidence had been met.
That the god of traditional theism hasn’t done so may point to the thin foundation on which these belief systems rest. A god that has made himself impossible to detect, that, indeed, has apparently crafted a universe using processes indistinguishable from nature itself, and that has altogether neglected to intervene explicitly, even when it was most needed, collectively collides with our expectations of a world governed by a benevolent watchman.
This is a thorny theological issue for Christianity. Why would an all-powerful god supply just enough evidence of his existence to convince gullible, shallow-thinking people, but not enough to satisfy the evidentiary needs of deep thinkers? Is he enamored only with the simple-minded, and is content to consign the skeptics to a fiery hell? There isn’t a single atheist or agnostic or member of another religion who would fail to convert if the god of Christianity provided a robust demonstration of his presence. The non-believers are always open to such a display…waiting, waiting, waiting.
(1408) Christmas is better than Christ
Christians often assert that Christ is the reason for the season, but, of course, that is not true- there was a significant and widely held celebration of the Winter Solstice long before the time of Jesus. But more to the point- is the Jesus painted in the gospels a paragon of the Christmas spirit, or is it the pagan influences that make Christmas a special time for many people? Richard Carrier wrote an essay addressing this point:
Let’s face it. Jesus is a dick.
The Gospels portray him as a cruel, sociopathic asshole who gloats over millions being horribly tortured for billions of years at his command (Mk. 9:43-49, Mt. 13:40-42, Mt. 13:49-50, Mt. 18:7-9, Mt. 24:51, Mt. 25:40-46, Mt. 5:22, Lk. 13:23-34, Jn. 15:6, etc.) and to whom he shall never ever show even the minutest mercy (Lk. 16:22-29); who calls racial minorities dogs (Mk. 7:24-29); who murders thousands of pigs (Mk. 5:12-13), and doesn’t even say he’s sorry to the town that in result just lost its livelihood and the better part of their food supply; a guy who is so horrifically disgusted by sex he tells people to cut off their own limbs, eyes, and genitals before even so much as thinking a sexual thought (Mt. 5:27-30, Mt. 18:7-9, Mk. 9:43-49, Mt. 19:10-12); who endorses the legal execution of anyone who divorces and remarries (Mt. 5:31-32, Mt. 19:3-10), even of children who talk back to their parents (Mk. 7:7-13), and, let’s be honest (Mt. 5:17-20), even gay men and raped women (and countless others; Jesus loved killing, and was in fact convicted of the very death penalty offense he himself supported—an irony lost on pretty much every Christian then or since); who not only never condemns slavery but actually endorses it as a moral model God should be admired for following (e.g. Mt. 18:23-35, Mt. 24:44-51, Mt. 25:14-30, Lk. 17:7-9, Lk. 12:36-48); who has scary paranoid rage issues even with his closest friends (Mt. 16:21-23, Mk. 8:31-33)—even to the point of committing mass public violence (yes, Jesus is literally a criminal; and not because he was falsely convicted, but because he actually committed felony assault: Jn. 2:13-16, Mk. 11:15–16, Mt. 21:12, Lk. 19:45); and who arrogantly commands you to abandon and hate your family in order to follow him instead (Lk. 14:26, Mt. 10:34-37, Mt. 8:21-22, Lk. 9:59-60)—literally boasting that he shall tear families apart (Lk. 12:51-53, Mk. 10:29-30, Mt. 19:29). He never unites or reconciles any family. Not a single intact family ever follows or befriends him. He even tells his own family to fuck off (Mk. 3:32-35). And despite being able to eradicate all disease, he eradicates not even one of them—despite visiting a planet where more than half of all children die of one. Like I said. A total dick.
Christmas, by contrast, has long ago ceased to be significantly Christian. Everything distinctive of Christmas is pagan or secular. And in the U.S. that has been the case for over a hundred years. Christians complaining today about a “war on Christmas” are like those apocryphal Japanese soldiers stranded on islands during World War II still fighting the war forty years later because no one told them they lost—a lifetime ago.
Before almost all Americans today were even born, Christmas had already evolved into a celebration and enculturation of decency, family, generosity, kindness, joy, and gentleness. Santa Claus doesn’t charge into department stores and thrash merchants with a whip and vandalize their property; he doesn’t torture anyone; he doesn’t react to impoverished minorities with disgust; he never tells you to gouge out your eyes or cut off your balls.
The moral and cultural ideals of Christmas today are more defined by the Christmas Carol of Charles Dickens, and by such treasured films as Miracle on 34th Street and Elf, far more delightful and morally edifying myths than anything in the Gospels. Almost everything that has resulted in Christmas being widely beloved and celebrated today is not Christian, but pagan or secular. The giving of gifts to friends and family; the lights and decorations; Christmas trees and wreaths; yule logs and mulled wine; Santa Claus; Rudolph; even the Christmas Spirit, which is now all about the secular, humanist benefits of joy and generosity, and the good society it realizes that we can then all enjoy—and not what the Gospel Jesus said: a panicked way to avoid his torturing you forever.
When you think of Christmas and want to get into a loving and happy mode, think about the jolly Santa, not the Christ who summarily strangles every element of the Christmas spirit- that is unless unrelenting torture is your thing.
(1409) The failing uniqueness of human biology
Although most Christians cling to the anti-scientific myth of creationism, some of the more intelligent ones are conceding that biological evolution is a fact, and that it was the method God used to make life on the Earth. This position is not one that is well thought out as it introduces conflicts with scripture and simple common sense. But there is one way that the evolution concession could work- if God used evolution to create all of the plant and animal life other than humans, but used his magical powers to create humans from scratch. Then we could have evolution as well as the first unique humans living in the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately, this idea runs afoul of science, as discussed at this website:
Imagine the human race were composed of material utterly foreign to the rest of the cosmos. Suppose that baked into our biology were elements or unique forms of matter or energy not found in any other species, or anywhere else in the universe. Such radical discontinuity would at the very least be tantalizing enough to wax poetic about our “specialness”. Drawing a straight line from here to Jesus would be rather naïve, as scientific inquiry could lead us to other, more mundane reasons for our sui generis composition. But this would be a good launching pad for theism.
As the science shows, however, there are universal inheritance patterns linking up the diversity of all life on Earth. The DNA and RNA found in all living things—from microbes and archaea to plants and mammals—are altered over time in response to changing circumstances, with more closely related kin sharing more features (and DNA) in common than more remote kin. Our bodies are littered with echoes of Homo sapiens’ evolutionary ancestry—from retroviral DNA, pseudogenes and vestigial structures to the assortment of point mutations we share with our chimpanzee cousins. We all come from common clay, an inspiring and beautiful fact in its own right.
There is no way to disconnect people from the history of evolution, so the only way to preserve a pristine Christian theology is to espouse creationism. But with such strong and growing evidence for evolution, the future of creationist beliefs is precarious. What will follow is a watered-down version of Christianity that leaves its god even more aloof and inconsequential to the world’s history.
(1410) Shakespeare outwrites God
It is often claimed by Christians that God inspired the writings of the Bible, if not dictated them verbatim. An infinitely intelligent being should be capable of writings that would dwarf the skills employed by mortal humans, and it should be viewed as an unattainable mastery of language. Nothing is farther from the truth. In the following excerpt, Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899) compared the works of Shakespeare with the Bible:
And then I read Shakespeare, the plays, the sonnets, the poems—read all. I beheld a new heaven and a new earth; Shakespeare, who knew the brain and heart of man—the hopes and fears, the loves and hatreds, the vices and the virtues of the human race; whose imagination read the tear-blurred records, the blood-stained pages of all the past, and saw falling athwart the outspread scroll the light of hope and love; Shakespeare, who sounded every depth—while on the loftiest peak there fell the shadow of his wings.
I compared the Plays with the “inspired” books—Romeo and Juliet with the Song of Solomon, Lear with Job, and the Sonnets with the Psalms, and I found that Jehovah did not understand the art of speech. I compared Shakespeare’s women—his perfect women—with the women of the Bible. I found that Jehovah was not a sculptor, not a painter—not an artist—that he lacked the power that changes clay to flesh—the art, the plastic touch, that moulds the perfect form—the breath that gives it free and joyous life—the genius that creates the faultless.
The sacred books of all the world are worthless dross and common stones compared with Shakespeare’s glittering gold and gleaming gems.
Parts of the Bible were written by highly educated (for the time) people, but nothing therein appears to have the imprint of a divine authorship. This tends to lend credence that that Bible was written without the inspiring guidance of a divine being.
(1411) Drop-off of miracles after invention of video capture
Today, almost everyone is carrying around a device that is capable of recording video within a few seconds of witnessing an extraordinary event. This fact makes it more difficult for someone to claim that they have seen something miraculous, unusual, or unexplainable because the normal response would be ‘let me see the video you took or at least the still photos.’ Without that, it is perceived as being more likely that you have just made it all up. It so happens that reports of miracles pertaining to Christianity have fallen sharply after the invention of instant video capture, lending evidence that the previous claims were fraudulent. The following was taken from:
Contrasting the Yahweh who intervened spectacularly in ancient times—taking up residence in a burning bush, raining fire down from the sky to establish Baal’s inferiority—or the Jesus who walked on water and transformed it into wine, with the utter absence of such enchanting productions following the arrival of video capture would seem to clinch the case against Judeo-Christianity almost singlehandedly. A falloff in miracle claims at precisely the moment our technology is capable of documenting them is not what we would expect were God as active in the world as many believers proclaim.
One of the better examples of this point is the appearances of the Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal in 1917. There were reportedly multiple appearances of Mary to three shepherd children, which were later determined by the Catholic Church to be miraculous. If this had occurred today, there would be considerable doubt about the authenticity of the event if there was no video. In other words, it would be more difficult today to fake such an experience. This runs counter to what would be expected if miracles such as this actually occurred. Rather, there should be an increase in the number of verified miraculous events, as they would be supported by video evidence and authenticated much more readily.
(1412) Russel’s Teapot
The argument of who bears the burden of proof regarding the existence of the Christian god has reached an impasse, with both sides refusing to give ground. Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), however, presented an ‘opening statement’ that effectively ends all debate:
In an article titled “Is There a God?” commissioned, but never published, by Illustrated magazine in 1952, Russell wrote:
Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.
In 1958, Russell elaborated on the analogy
I ought to call myself an agnostic; but, for all practical purposes, I am an atheist. I do not think the existence of the Christian God any more probable than the existence of the Gods of Olympus or Valhalla. To take another illustration: nobody can prove that there is not between the Earth and Mars a china teapot revolving in an elliptical orbit, but nobody thinks this sufficiently likely to be taken into account in practice. I think the Christian God just as unlikely.
Neither personal feelings nor the edited and interpolated writings of anonymous Iron Age scribes constitute qualifying evidence for adducing the existence of the Christian god. Tangible indications and demonstrative signs that survive objective peer review are needed. None have been authenticated to date. Mr. Russell is correct to assert that the Christian god is no more likely than any of the thousands of others.
(1413) Genetic disorders
Something is amiss within the Christian view of a god who supposedly either designed humans from scratch or guided evolutionary processes to the same end- when compared to the genetic disorders that affect so many. Why would a god capable of creating the universe as well as the hyper-intricate micro-universe of the biological cell allow for so much calamity to perturb the human genome? The following was taken from:
If there were not 6,200 different genetic disorders (and counting).The wrong DNA in the wrong place can prove fatal to those with lackluster genetic heritage. Maladies big and small, especially those occurring throughout one’s life, can usually be traced to irregularities in one or a combination of genes. Some gene-based diseases threaten our quality of life and beleaguer us daily, while others kill us outright with devastating effectiveness. Such malfunctions of our biological makeup account for more than 150,000 babies per year in the U.S. alone who die from birth defects during or shortly after birth. That’s 411 every single day an all-powerful God must choose not to rescue.
Granted, these tragic circumstances are simply the result of evolution in action paired with imperfect cell repair mechanisms. Unless we were to short-circuit the very processes which keep us humming along, they will continue to be a part of life for the foreseeable future. But surely that doesn’t prevent God from tidying up some of the delinquent DNA we’ve accumulated across evolutionary time. Could a God who fashioned cellular superstructures not rid our species of this “natural evil” that nudges us toward mortality through no fault of our own?
The large and growing number of genetic disorders proves beyond doubt that an omnipotent god is not controlling the trajectory of the human genome. And such a disassociated god is inconsistent with Christian dogma.
(1414) Jesus acting like a tyrannical Roman Emperor
To punish someone for rules that were not clearly delineated is considered in most circles highly immoral, and yet, perfect Jesus did just that. He stated that there was a sin that could not be forgiven- a sin that would constitute a one-way ticket to Hell with no recourse, and yet he did not define this sin anywhere near clearly enough.
I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven. That sin will be held against you forever.
Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
The following is a quote from Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899):
There is another thing attributed to Christ that seems to me conclusive evidence against the claim of perfection. Christ is reported to have said that all sins could be forgiven except the sin against the Holy Ghost. This sin, however, is not defined. Although Christ died for the whole world, that through him all might be saved, there is this one terrible exception: There is no salvation for those who have sinned, or who may hereafter sin, against the Holy Ghost. Thousands of persons are now in asylums, having lost their reason because of their fear that they had committed this unknown, this undefined, this unpardonable sin.
It is said that a Roman Emperor went through a form of publishing his laws or proclamations, posting them so high on pillars that they could not be read, and then took the lives of those who ignorantly violated these unknown laws. He was regarded as a tyrant, as a murderer. And yet, what shall we say of one who declared that the sin against the Holy Ghost was the only one that could not be forgiven, and then left an ignorant world to guess what that sin is? Undoubtedly this horror is an interpolation.
It is quite unlikely that Jesus ever said this, but there must have been a reason for the author of Mark (later copied by Matthew) to place this statement in his gospel. It makes no sense if we are to believe that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are co-equal manifestations of God. Why would speaking against one deliver such a brutal and barbaric judgment while speaking against the other can be completely forgiven? Further, who at that time (or even now) had any idea of who or what the Holy Spirit was? It could be imagined by almost anyone that at some time in their lives they had spoken against this enigmatic spirit. Whatever the motivation was to place these words in Jesus’s mouth, the resulting damage and anguish it has caused is reason to doubt it was ever uttered or inspired by a holy deity.
(1415) God’s actions harm innocent people
One attribute that would be expected of an omniscient deity is that he would refrain from harming innocent people. After all, this is a precept that is followed by virtually every government of the world, and generally speaking, every citizen of the world. It is a universal concept of mercy. Yet, the god that Christians worship is documented to have caused much harm to innocents, a small sample of which is discussed at this website:
Instances of cruel and unusual behavior by the biblical God are seen in the most basic Christian doctrines. Some of God’s acts that harmed the innocent are as follows.
He damned the whole human race and cursed the entire creation because of the acts of two people (Genesis 3:16-23; Romans 5:18); he drowned pregnant women and innocent children and animals at the time of the Flood (Genesis 7:20-23); he tormented the Egyptians and their animals with hail and disease because pharaoh refused to let the Israelites leave Egypt (Exodus 9:8-11,25); and he killed Egyptian babies at the time of the Passover (Exodus 12:29-30).
After the Exodus he ordered the Israelites to exterminate the men, women, and children of seven nations and steal their land (Deuteronomy 7:1-2); he killed King David’s baby because of David’s adultery with Bathsheba (II Samuel 12:13-18); he required the torture and murder of his own son (e.g., Romans 3:24-25); and he promised to send non-Christians to eternal torture (e.g., Revelation 21:8).
It is pathetic that the Bible is proclaimed by Christians to embody the highest moral standards when instance after instance can be shown, in context, to defy that claim. Why would anyone worship a god who performed heinous acts that would otherwise result in the imprisonment of any human taking similar actions? Or acts that no government could perform without suffering the censure of the entire world? The Bible’s description of God’s treatment of innocent humans gives strong evidence that this figure Yahweh is a poorly-constructed myth.
(1416) The Bible states that the earth is flat
Writings inspired by the god who created the universe should reflect an advanced (for its time) perspective regarding the shape of the earth. Concerning the Bible, this is not the case. It simply parrots the prevailing view of the time that the earth is flat. The following is taken from:
The Bible supports the primitive notion of a flat earth. In the sixth century, a Christian monk named Cosmas wrote a book, titled Topographia Christiana, describing the structure of the physical world. Basing his views on the Bible, Cosmas said the earth is flat and surrounded by four seas.
The prophecy at Revelation 1:7 was a basis for his conclusion. It states that when Christ returns, “every eye shall see him.” Cosmas reasoned that if the earth were round, people on the other side would not see Christ’s second coming.
Further support for the idea of a flat earth is contained in the verses mentioning the “four corners of the earth” (e.g., Isaiah 11:12; Revelation 7:1) and the “ends of the earth” (e.g., Jeremiah 16:19; Acts 13:47).
Because of such Bible teachings, most of the early church fathers thought the earth is flat. In fact, the view of the world contained in Cosmas’ book was accepted for several centuries as orthodox Christian doctrine. Even in the fifteenth century, when Christopher Columbus proposed to sail west from Spain to reach the East Indies, the biblical notion of a flat earth was a major source of opposition to him.
As for the question of what holds the flat earth in place, the Bible indicates the answer is “pillars.” The pillars of the earth are mentioned in several verses in the Old Testament (I Samuel 2:8; Psalm 75:3; Job 9:6). These verses reflect the belief of the ancient Hebrews that the earth rests upon pillars.
A true religion would be transcendent and expose truths previously unknown. A made-up religion would be expected to reflect the ignorance of the people who authored its holy scriptures. Christianity fails this test spectacularly.
(1417) The naked boy and the Secret Gospel of Mark
An enigmatic, out of place story is told of a young man who fled naked from the scene where Jesus was being arrested:
A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.
To make sense of this, one needs to understand that the Gospel of Mark is actually an edited version of a longer book, termed the ‘Secret Gospel of Mark.’ Although no copies of this longer version remain, references to it contain the key for understanding the story of the fleeing naked boy. In the Secret Gospel of Mark, he was raised from the dead by Jesus and then began an affair or dalliance with Jesus. In the effort to expunge this and other offensive material from the Secret Gospel of Mark, the flight of the boy from the scene of the arrest was inadvertently left in. The following was taken from:
This [Secret Gospel of Mark] was a fuller version of the conventional Mark gospel. No copy of it has survived, though it is referred to in a letter from Clement of Alexandria (AD c.150-c.215). In 1958 Professor Morton Smith of Columbia University discovered in a monastery near Jerusalem a copy of a letter from Clement, one of the most venerated of the Church Fathers. The letter admitted that the author of the Mark gospel had written material that did not appear in the usual version of the gospel. Clement’s correspondent is instructed to lie about the existence of this missing material, even on oath. The letter quotes passages from this lost gospel, including an account of Jesus raising a dead youth. The youth “loved him and beseeched him that he might be with him”. Wearing nothing but a linen cloth, the youth visited Jesus in the evening, and spent the night with him. The letter reveals that there were rumours current at the time that Jesus and the youth had been naked together. It appears that one group of Christians (the Carpocratians — regarded as heretics by Clement) knew about this secret information and deduced from it that Christians were granted permission to engage liberally in sexual activity.
The canonical Mark gospel is an expurgated [abridged] version of this longer gospel. It is not difficult to see why people like Clement might want to promote the edited version as the true one: the fuller version was powerful ammunition not only to Carpocratians but also to a range of Gnostics. Whatever the reasons for its exclusion, the fact is that The Secret Gospel of Mark had a strong claim to be in the canon in place of the expurgated version.
The Gospel of Mark is the most important document authenticating the history of Jesus as it was the first gospel written and was used liberally as source material by later gospel authors. The fact that it is an abridged version of the original gospel spells trouble for Christianity because it is likely, based on the drama of the naked boy, that the much of the excised material would contradict conventional Christian doctrine.
(1418) Seven evidential proofs of scriptural tampering
Most Christians naively believe that the Bible contains the authentic, accurate writings of the original authors. There is overwhelming evidence that this view is false. In the following excerpt from this website, seven layers of evidence demonstrate that the scriptures are a tortured patchwork of highly manipulated texts:
The evidence that early Christians tampered with their holy texts is overwhelming. We have every sort of evidence that it took place.
First, we have the evidence of non-Christians such as Celsus who observed in the second century that the Christians were perpetually correcting and altering their gospels. We also have supporting testimony from influential Christians themselves: the scholar Origen of Alexandria remarks that both Jews and gentiles reject Christianity on the grounds that it was impossible to determine which faction was telling the truth. Origen mentioned explicitly that the factions disagreed not only on minor questions “but also in the most significant matters of great consequence”.
Second, we have the evidence of Christian sects, who routinely accused each other of such tampering. Each sect, including the one we now regard as orthodox, was inclined to “correct” existing texts to confirm the orthodoxy of their own views. Christians are known to have rewritten works to suit their own beliefs and prejudices (e.g. Marcion’s dislike of Jews and Tatian’s dislike of women ). We have no reason to believe that the texts favoured by the group now regarded as orthodox were any more reliable than others. It is known, for example, that the Matthew gospel was attacked as unreliable. We know that people saw the need to correct the versions that are now regarded as orthodox. All in all we have ample evidence from early Christians of texts being edited, added to, otherwise manipulated, and in many cases “lost”. In some cases we know that the “orthodox” faction accused an “heretical” faction of tampering with the text, when it was in fact the “orthodox” faction who had been guilty of tampering.
Third, we have circumstantial evidence concerning the state of mind of early Church leaders. They believed that Jesus was the Messiah, and they believed that the Messiah would satisfy a number of prophecies. It followed that Jesus must have satisfied these prophecies. If there was no evidence of his having done so, it was of little consequence, because the writers knew, or thought they knew, that he must have fulfilled these prophecies. If this meant that gaps had to be filled in, then true believers would happily fill them in. Christians were not exactly lying. In their own minds they were merely supplying missing details. As we shall see, it is sometimes possible to see where the gaps have been filled, for example where the authors were mistaken about the meaning of supposed prophecies. Gospel writers were remarkably free with the concept of truth. Stories could be amended to make them more convincing or more impressive. The John author makes it absolutely clear: “But these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; …” (John 20:31). So were other New Testament writers. Paul admits lying quite openly and wonders why people criticise him for it: “For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?” (Romans 3:7). What he is suggesting is that it is perfectly acceptable to make up lies if the effect is to make people believe what he believes. Church Fathers shared his views. One of them, Origen of Alexandria, believed that the prime purpose of scripture was to convey spiritual truth, and that the recording of historical events was secondary to this. It was quite acceptable for intelligent Christians to tell white lies to less intelligent Christians. After all, as Origen of Alexandria noted, God had caused the prophet Jeremiah is known to have lied. As we have seen, Clement of Alexandria is known to have suppressed material that he knew to be authentic, and we have no reason to believe that he was less trustworthy than other Church Fathers. Both he and Origen of Alexandria were prepared to pretend that Hebrews was written by St Paul, when they knew that it was not. Texts were frequently edited to bring them into line with current requirements. As doctrines developed, texts were amended to make them comply unambiguously with the latest version of “orthodoxy”. Biblical writers were clearly aware of the likelihood of their work being tampered with and often took the trouble to give warnings about doing so (e.g. at Revelation 22:18-19).
Fourth, we have the opinion of scholars. Even Christian scholars overwhelmingly accept that there is evidence of editing throughout the texts. Introductions and conclusions were added to existing stories, passages were excised, other passages were inserted, text was added to cover up the joins, key words were altered, and so on. They may be reluctant to advertise the fact, but almost no academic biblical scholars would now dispute any of this. It is often admitted in a roundabout way. Here for example is part of the Introduction to the John gospel in the Jerusalem Bible, skirting around the issue of its authorship:
It was published not by John himself but by his disciples after his death, and it is possible that in this gospel we have the end-stage of a slow process that has brought together not only component parts of different ages but also corrections, additions and sometimes more than one revision of the same discourse.
Fifth, there is the circumstantial evidence of stories not making sense. Time and again people are surprised at events, even though they ought to be expecting them. As we have seen the disciples are at a loss to imagine how a crowd of four thousand is to be fed, just a short time after a similar crowd of five thousand has been fed with a few loaves and fishes. Again, Peter is mystified when in a vision God tells him that all foods are clean (Acts 10:13-16), even though Jesus has already told him the same thing (Mark 7:18-19). Later, the disciples are thrown into confusion by the arrest of Jesus, yet they have previously been told several times quite specifically that this will happen. The Mark author spells out the prediction clearly:
…Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles. Mark 10:33, cf. Matthew 20:18-19 and Luke 18:31-33
In each case it appears that editors have inserted a passage, but failed to adapt it to its new environment.
Sixth, there are the many cases where the biblical account ought to be confirmed by independent testimony, but is not. This is particularly common for the nativity and crucifixion stories, which, as we shall see, there are good reasons for regarding as being of dubious provenance. Why should the Romans introduce a bizarre, novel, and inferior method of taking a census, involving mass migrations, without leaving a record of it? Why did no astronomer note the wondrous star in the East, when there were a number who could have done so? Why is there no independent record of such a monstrous act as Herod’s massacre of the innocents, especially since the historian Josephus was a keen recorder of Herod’s atrocities? Again, why is there no record of the darkness over all the land for three hours on the day of the crucifixion (Matthew 27:45), and why no mention of the earthquake during the crucifixion or the one when the women visited Jesus’ tomb (Matthew 27:51 and 28:2)? Also, why is there no independent record of such a wondrous thing as the dead rising from their graves as many supposedly did (Matthew 27:52-53)? Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79) was fascinated by events such as these, yet he seems to have remained entirely ignorant of them, as did Seneca (c. 4 BC-AD 65) who was also interested in unusual phenomena. Thomas Paine found it odd that only Matthew mentioned fantastic events like these, especially since the other gospel writers were apparently as ignorant of them as Pliny and Seneca. This was his comment on the dead rising from their graves, given by the Matthew author:
It is an easy thing to tell a lie, but it is difficult to support the lie after it is told. The writer of the book of Matthew should have told us who the saints were that came to life again, and went into the city, and what became of them afterward, and who it was that saw them — for he is not hardy enough to say he saw them himself; whether they came out naked, and all in natural buff, he-saints and she-saints; or whether they came full dressed, and where they got their dresses, whether they went to their former habitations, and reclaimed their wives, their husbands, and their property, and how they were received; whether they entered ejectments for the recovery of their possessions, or brought actions of crim. con. [adultery] against the rival interlopers; whether they remained on earth, and followed their former occupation of preaching or working; or whether they died again, or went back to their graves alive, and buried themselves.
His point is that the story is impressive only if one does not think about it too deeply. As soon as one does think about it, it becomes implausible. Also under this heading we might include incidents that simply do not stack up. They smack of fiction that has not been properly thought through. How were the gospel writers able to quote Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, when according to them he was alone? (His followers deserted him before he could have reported his words to them himself. Again, could the chief priests have been so stupid as to bribe guards to say that they had slept while Jesus’ body had been stolen by his disciples (Matthew 28:11-15)? Wouldn’t someone have seen the flaw in this — that if the guards had been asleep they would not have known who stole the body? Again, if the priests were so annoyed about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, why would they plan to kill him again and provide Jesus with the opportunity to repeat his miracle (John 12:10)?
Seventh, we have both circumstantial and hard textual evidence that alterations took place. When early writers quote New Testament texts they rarely use the exact words with which we are familiar. Sometimes the meaning is significantly different. Sometimes passages have been removed altogether. Worse still, extant early manuscripts simply do not agree with each other, and later manuscripts display more and more alterations. For example Acts exists in two different early versions — one about 10 per cent longer than the other.
Early editors attempted to cover up some of the contradictions between the gospels. For example how could Jesus have been born of the house of David if Joseph were not his father? One not very satisfactory solution was to try to make Mary a member of the house of David too. Luke 2:4 reports that Joseph went to Bethlehem “because he was of the house and lineage of David”, but a few manuscripts were altered to “because they were of the house and lineage of David”. It was a clumsy attempt, and has long since been abandoned, but it illustrates the sort of technique adopted.
Accounts of the Resurrection are especially suspect. The earliest known manuscripts of the gospel attributed to Mark finish before the account of the Resurrection. The Resurrection story is thus the work of a later writer. The important Codex Sinaiticus in the British Museum and the Codex Vaticanus in the Vatican, both dating from the fourth century, lack these passages. Some modern versions of the Bible acknowledge that they are additions — these passages are the ones referred to in the quotation at the head of this section. As well as confirming that the text included in the Bible contained additions, this particular example supports the theory that the story of the Resurrection was invented sometime after Jesus’ death. Additions appear to have been made to the end of the John gospel as well. Many scholars believe that the original finished at the end of chapter 20, which certainly has the ring of a final paragraph. Also, the Greek of the final chapter is in a noticeably different style from the rest of the text. To clinch matters, the final chapter is missing from a surviving Syriac manuscript.
The story of the woman taken in adultery in John 8:1-11 is also missing from the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus. It too is the work of a later editor and breaks the flow of the text. In some other manuscripts it occurs not only in the John gospel, but also in the Luke gospel at the end of chapter 21, and may have been plagiarised from the “lost” Gospel of the Hebrews.
In at least some early manuscripts it was Elisabeth, not Mary, who spoke the words of what is now known as the Magnificat. The manuscripts are lost but Irenaeus of Lyons himself confirms them, and he is not the only one to do so. Incidentally, the Magnificat (see Luke 1:46-55) is obviously based on the song of Hannah in the Old Testament}. That Jesus had 12 disciples might seem clear enough, but the question is not at all clear cut. In the first place they are mentioned remarkably infrequently. Also, Jesus is generally seen appointing only four or five disciples, and only they play any significant role. On the other hand at least 16 different disciples’ names are listed in different places. The lists of 12 given in the gospels, for example at Matthew 10:2-4 and Luke 6:14-16, are not in the earliest texts, and their mention in 1 Corinthians is also an interpolation. Why it should have been thought appropriate at some late date to give Jesus exactly 12 disciples is not obvious, though the number does have a satisfying Old Testament resonance
When the idea of the Trinity was being developed, Church leaders must have been curious as to why the concept did not clearly exist in the Bible. No matter, the omission could be remedied. In the Authorised Version, 1 John 5:7 refers to the Holy Trinity:
For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
These words come from the Vulgate, but are not in any early Greek text. The passage is now universally accepted to be an addition. Along with a few other words added to disguise the insertion it is known as the Johannine comma.The Holy Office declared it to be genuine scripture in 1897 and forbade Roman Catholic scholars to say otherwise. Nevertheless it has been quietly dropped from modern translations. It does not warrant so much as a note in the Jerusalem Bible. The reason for its introduction is clear: it confirms the doctrine of the Trinity. Indeed it was once regarded as an essential part of the Church’s case against Unitarians. Biblical passages “proving” Christian doctrine are called prooftexts, and the Johannine comma is still the most frequently cited prooftext for the doctrine of the Trinity, despite the fact that it is universally acknowledged to be bogus.
It is clear that passages from the Old Testament were sometimes used to bolster the story being told in the New. For example the account of Jesus’ baptism in Luke 3:22 contains the line ” … Thou art my beloved Son …”, which is taken from Psalm 2:7. The psalm continues “this day I have begotten thee”, and sure enough, so do some manuscripts of Luke. As in Mark 1:11, Jesus was not born a son of God in the original text of Luke, but was adopted at his baptism. But his adoption was no longer needed once the nativity story had been added to the gospel, so the phrase “this day I have begotten thee” was no longer needed, and was duly dropped from later versions of the Luke text.
Manuscripts betray a consistent pattern of amending the text to make Jesus less human and more divine. His miraculous birth is played up, while evidence of a normal birth is played down. Passages that claim that Jesus was God are inserted: passages that show him to have human weaknesses are amended. Orthodoxy is affirmed: heterodoxy is eliminated. In many places it is also easy to see why additions or deletions have been made. Sometimes it is to confirm Jesus’ status by calling him God (e.g. 1 Timothy 3:16 ), or by bracketing him with God or to identify him as the son of God. Sometimes angels are introduced to make events more impressive than the original writer had made them. Occasionally we catch someone in the act of matching up events to scripture, or casting the Jews in a bad light (Acts 28:29, which is an addition to the earlier text), or enhancing the status of the apostles (Mark 3:14-15). Uncomfortable uncertainty is removed. The original text of 1 John 2:28, for example, was somewhat vague about the Second Coming “if he should appear”, but later manuscripts are much more positive “when he shall appear”. Other changes explain Jesus’ purpose (Matthew 18:11), or improve the details of a miracle (Luke 8:43), or reduce signs of Jesus’ human weakness (Mark 15:39), or make him less dismissive of his mother and family (Matthew 12:47). Sometimes the changes have been made to bring different gospel accounts into line. These and many other discrepancies between manuscripts are confirmed by the NIV, which mentions them in footnotes.
Finally, hard scientific evidence exists of alterations. Infrared photography has revealed numerous examples of the text being changed after it had been first set down. Including simple corrections, there are about 14,500 such changes in the Codex Sinaiticus alone. This is not untypical. And it is therefore not surprising that of the thousands of Greek manuscripts that have survived, no two are identical.
The oldest texts of the gospels date from the fourth century. Christians had already had over 200 years to doctor them and there is currently no way of establishing all the additions, deletions and amendments made. Whatever the original writers set down, probably towards the end of the first century, is irretrievable. What we do have is encrusted with additions designed to make Jesus, his birth, life and death more impressive. All that can be said for certain is that we do not possess a single reliable version of any book of the New Testament.
Very few Christians are aware of these scriptural problems, but if they were, their confidence in the Bible would be seriously eroded. This situation is consistent with the expected product of many people working in an uncoordinated fashion, but it’s completely incompatible with idea that the Bible represents a direct communication from a celestial deity.
(1419) Punishing child to forgive future sins of others
There is a saying that only those absurdities taught in childhood can ring true throughout life, and for Christianity, this is certainly true. The idea that God was unable to forgive the sins of humans without the brutal execution of his son is patently absurd, yet to those raised to accept this dogma, it all makes sense. The following was taken from:
Christian theology is incoherent to the point of absurdity. God killing his son so he can forgive our future sin is like me breaking my son’s legs so I can forgive my neighbour in case she ever parks her car on my drive. It is quite ridiculous.
To anyone outside the Christian bubble, this concept is beyond the regular definition of absurd. It is all of these put together: crazy, ludicrous, preposterous, illogical, nonsensical, and just plain stupid. There is no chance whatsoever that a god who manufactured the entire universe out of nothing and devised all of the physical laws such as to make life possible would concoct the idea that the best way to forgive the future sin of humans is to have his son brutally punished.
(1420) A true religion should be growing in an information-rich world
We live in a digitally-infused information age with 7 billion pairs of human eyes watching everything going on, and we record much of that with instant, simple-to-operate, portable recording devices. Science has explored everything from an infinitesimally small quark to galaxies so huge that it takes light a million years to cross from one end to the other. Given this situation, if any religion was true, evidence supporting it should be accumulating at a rapid pace and participation in that religion should be on a similar tack. For Christianity and other religions, the opposite of this trend is occurring. The following was taken from:
By now, it’s clear that religion is fading in America, as it has done in most advanced Western democracies.
Dozens of surveys find identical evidence: Fewer American adults, especially those under 30, attend church — or even belong to a church. They tell interviewers their religion is “none.” They ignore faith.
Since 1990, the “nones” have exploded rapidly as a sociological phenomenon — from 10 percent of U.S. adults, to 15 percent, to 20 percent. Now they’ve climbed to 25 percent, according to a 2016 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.
That makes them the nation’s largest faith category, outstripping Catholics (21 percent) and white evangelicals (16 percent). They seem on a trajectory to become an outright majority. America is following the secular path of Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and other modern places. The Secular Age is snowballing.
Various explanations for the social transformation are postulated: That the Internet exposes young people to a wide array of ideas and practices that undercut old-time beliefs. That family breakdown severs traditional participation in congregations. That the young have grown cynical about authority of all types. That fundamentalist hostility to gays and abortion has soured tolerant-minded Americans. That clergy child-molesting scandals have scuttled church claims to moral superiority. That faith-based suicide bombings and other religious murders horrify normal folks.
All those factors undoubtedly play a role. But I want to offer a simpler explanation: In the scientific 21st century, it’s less plausible to believe in invisible gods, devils, heavens, hells, angels, demons — plus virgin births, resurrections, miracles, messiahs, prophecies, faith-healings, visions, incarnations, divine visitations and other supernatural claims. Magical thinking is suspect, ludicrous. It’s not for intelligent, educated people.
Significantly, the PRRI study found that the foremost reason young people gave for leaving religion is this clincher: They stopped believing miraculous church dogmas.
For decades, tall-steeple mainline Protestant denominations with university-educated ministers tried to downplay supernaturalism — to preach just the compassion of Jesus and the social gospel. It was a noble effort, but disastrous. The mainline collapsed so badly it is dubbed “flatline Protestantism.” It has faded to small fringe of American life.
Now Catholicism and evangelicalism are in the same death spiral. One-tenth of U.S. adults today are ex-Catholics. The Southern Baptist Convention lost 200,000 members in 2014 and 200,000 more in 2015.
I’m a longtime newspaperman in Appalachia’s Bible Belt. I’ve watched the retreat of religion for six decades. Back in the 1950s, church-based laws were powerful:
It was a crime for stores to open on the Sabbath. All public school classes began with mandatory prayer. It was a crime to buy a cocktail, or look at nude photos in magazines, or buy a lottery ticket. It was a crime for an unwed couple to share a bedroom. If a single girl became pregnant, both she and her family were disgraced. Birth control was unmentionable. Evolution was unmentionable.
It was a felony to terminate a pregnancy. It was a felony to be gay. One homosexual in our town killed himself after police filed charges. Even writing about sex was illegal. In 1956, our Republican mayor sent police to raid bookstores selling “Peyton Place.”
Gradually, all those faith-based taboos vanished from society. Religion lost its power — even before the upsurge of “nones.”
Perhaps honesty is a factor in the disappearance of religion. Maybe young people discern that it’s dishonest to claim to know supernatural things that are unknowable.
When I was a cub reporter, my city editor was an H.L. Mencken clone who laughed at Bible-thumping hillbilly preachers. One day, as a young truth-seeker, I asked him: You’re correct that their explanations are fairy tales — but what answer can an honest person give about the deep questions: Why are we here? Why is the universe here? Why do we die? Is there any purpose to life?
He eyed me and replied: “You can say: I don’t know.” That rang a bell in my head that still echoes. It’s honest to admit that you cannot explain the unexplainable.
The church explanation — that Planet Earth is a testing place to screen humans for a future heaven or hell — is a silly conjecture with no evidence of any sort, except ancient scriptures. No wonder that today’s Americans, raised in a scientific-minded era, cannot swallow it.
Occam’s Razor says the simplest explanation is most accurate. Why is religion dying? Because thinking people finally see that it’s untrue, false, dishonest.
White evangelicals tipped the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump, giving an astounding 81 percent of their votes to the crass vulgarian who contradicts church values. But white evangelicals, like most religious groups, face a shrinking future. Their power will dwindle.
It took humanity several millennia to reach the Secular Age. Now it’s blossoming spectacularly.
This is a litmus test for a religion’s authenticity. Christianity has made the bold claims that demons, angels, gods, and devils exist, that prayer can override the natural physical laws, that vast earth-shaking miracles, cataclysms wars, and upheavals have occurred in the past, that the scriptures are a reliable and authentic representation of the author’s (and God’s) original intent, and that Jesus would return within a very short time after his ascension. None of this has been borne out over the ensuing centuries. As a direct result, belief in Christianity is waning at an ever increasing rate. The Bible says that you shall know the truth and that the truth will set you free. We have now learned the truth and it has set us free from an Iron Age superstition-laden myth that has shackled both scientific and social progress and has caused massive amounts of unnecessary suffering and death. The post-sectarian world awaits for an awakened humanity.
(1421) Paul fails to mention virgin birth when he needed to
In Romans Chapters 5-8, Paul details the doctrine of original sin and the theological remedy for that condition- acceptance of Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross. But to buttress this argument, he needed to present Jesus as a person who was born without original sin, or, in other words, a person whose birth was not accomplished in the normal sense. He did not do this.
This provides strong evidence that Paul had no knowledge of Jesus’s virginal birth, a conception administered by the Holy Spirit, or even the later Catholic doctrine that Mary, his mother, was conceived without original sin (as well), known as the Immaculate Conception (celebrated on December 8 each year).
Paul claimed to have heard the voice of Jesus and that most of what he wrote in his letters was from a direct communication line to God. If this important concept of the conception and nativity of Jesus was not included in this received information, it begs the question, what else did God forget to tell him? Or if the virginal birth was a ruse, why did God allow it to be scriptualized and become a central Christian doctrine? Of course, what it really tells is that the legend of Jesus was a slowly moving train and Paul lived and wrote before it pulled into the virginal birth station.
(1422) Human biology is not unique
Most Christians do not accept biological evolution, favoring the concept that God poofed all life forms into existence from scratch. A minority accept the idea that God used or guided evolution to create humans, an idea that makes one wonder why God played around with dinosaurs for 160,000,000 years (for what purpose?). But there is one situation that would provide evidence that God intervened in the development of human beings- if there was something unique about human biology. The following was taken from:
Imagine the human race were composed of material utterly foreign to the rest of the cosmos. Suppose that baked into our biology were elements or unique forms of matter or energy not found in any other species, or anywhere else in the universe. Such radical discontinuity would at the very least be tantalizing enough to wax poetic about our “specialness”. Drawing a straight line from here to Jesus would be rather naïve, as scientific inquiry could lead us to other, more mundane reasons for our sui generis composition. But this would be a good launching pad for theism.
As the science shows, however, there are universal inheritance patterns linking up the diversity of all life on Earth. The DNA and RNA found in all living things—from microbes and archaea to plants and mammals—are altered over time in response to changing circumstances, with more closely related kin sharing more features (and DNA) in common than more remote kin. Our bodies are littered with echoes of Homo sapiens’ evolutionary ancestry—from retroviral DNA, pseudogenes and vestigial structures to the assortment of point mutations we share with our chimpanzee cousins. We all come from common clay, an inspiring and beautiful fact in its own right.
This can be viewed as a missed opportunity for evidence that could have pointed to the existence of some sort of a supernatural influence. Scientifically-literate Christians may concede the point that evolution is true (though God guided it), but such a concession yields a god that is much more aloof than that suggested by Yahwey’s exploits in the Bible. Further, if evolution was under God’s control, we would not expect to see retroviral DNA, pseudogenes, vestigial structures, or point mutations. A divinely guided evolution should result in a more pristine human genome, considering that we are supposedly God’s ultimate purpose for creating the earth. Wouldn’t evolution guided by God reveal something unusually exquisite or elegant? No, the evidence convincingly shows that evolution proceeded without the intervention of an outside agency, and that is one small step from negating the existence of any god.
(1423) Deity-based religion stems from hallucination
From Moses to Joseph Smith to Jim Jones, there is a long parade of individuals who have claimed that they have been visited by a supernatural being and have been graced with the wisdom, wonders, and powers of said being. There is a 100% probability that these visions are either hallucinatory or fraudulent, but nevertheless, there has always been a ready supply of gullible people willing to believe these ‘prophets.” And so, religions have sprung up in response. The following was taken from:
Empirical thinking is not the strong point in those who believe in gods. Any person who devotes their time to the worship of any god surely must be at least slightly dense. This is because there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that a god or gods exist, and religion perhaps stems from hallucination.
Religions tend to begin with a prophet, someone who proclaims to have heard the voice of ‘god’in what are called ‘revelations’. Prophets then seek to record what they have heard and propagate the teachings of the ‘god’ that ‘spoke’ to them.
Prominent prophets include: Moses, Muhammad and Abraham.
Take for example, Moses, the Christian prophet who spoke to a bush and believed that he was speaking to a god. Moses then proceeded to lay out the ‘ten commandments’ to the people of his day, and proclaim that they were the words of god.
If poor, delirious Moses had proclaimed that such an absurdity had occurred today, and started writing rules down for people to follow, he would, it is likely, be diagnosed as a schizophrenic and offered some professional help.
Consider Muhammad too.
Islamic scripture claims that Muhammad conversed with ‘God’ vicariously through the ‘archangel Gabriel’. Muhammad was visited by the archangel Gabriel for the first time in a cave, near Mecca. Upon visiting Muhammad, Gabriel told Muhammad, who was illiterate, that he must read in the name of the ‘Lord’.
Now, if my illiterate friend came to me and told me that an ‘angel’ had visited him while he was in a cave and told him to start reading, I’d be inclined to slap them on the back of the head and tell them to stop smoking hard drugs.
Another example, Abraham, has perhaps the most disturbing story. When ‘god’ visited him, he encouraged him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, in his name. Facing moral turmoil, Abraham reluctantly prepared to sacrifice his son in the name of the voice that was speaking to him.
Imagine your mother or father. Now imagine them in a state of delirium, preparing to sacrifice you in the name of the voice that speaks in their head.
It is common for people to argue that these were not mere voices, they were the divine words of an almighty being, God, who is omniscient and omnipotent. The issue with this argument is that there is no evidence to suggest that any god exists. It is fine if people want to believe in a god, it is their choice to put faith in a folly. But faith does not make what you believe in true. The only way we can be certain that things are true is when there is absolute evidence to prove so. Nil evidence exists in the favour of a god.
Due to the lack of evidence for a god or gods, it seems a logical and prudent proposition that deity-based religion stems from auditory and visual hallucinations.
Believing your own delusions is called insanity, while believing the delusions of other people is called religion. This applies directly to Christianity, as its followers are embracing the delusions of Jesus and Paul as well as the litany of ancient Jewish prophets. And in so doing, they have allowed their minds to be caged and placed in a dark corner of an otherwise extraordinarily brilliant universe.
(1424) The modern church versus the early church
One of the expected indications of an authentic god-inspired church would be that its focus remains more or less constant over time. On the contrary, a human-created church would be expected to evolve over time to account for changing mores, technologies, and the overall zeitgeist. This is where Christianity runs into a problem- the modern church is drastically different from the early church. The following was taken from:
Early church used its money to support community and the needy-(1 Corinthians 16:1-4) Modern church spends majority of tithe on salaries, building mortgages and material supplements.
Modern church is quite powerful in the USA and has backed militaristic viewpoints to defend national interests. Early Christians were never fascinated with the power of the Roman military; rather, they clung to the rhythm of the cross, where evil is conquered not by swords and spears but by suffering and love. Early church loved their enemies (Matthew 5:44).
In addition, the early church was socialistic, sharing all things in common (Acts 2:44 and Acts 4:32), whereas the modern church is decidedly anti-socialistic, particularly in its political leanings. The asceticism and antipathy toward earthly wealth of the early church has almost completely evaporated. Hierarchies and vertical administration structures predominate now in contrast to the initial egalitarian nature of the faith. All of this suggests a product of human origin, not a movement started and nurtured along by an all-encompassing supernatural deity.
(1425) A contradiction cannot exist in reality
The Wizard’s Ninth Rule from the novel Chainfire presents an argument that hits at the heart of Christian belief. It exposes the fallacy of using faith to arrive at any ultimate truth.
A contradiction cannot exist in reality. Not in part, nor in whole. To believe in a contradiction is to abdicate your belief in the existence of the world around you and the nature of the things in it, to instead embrace any random impulse that strikes your fancy? To imagine something is real simply because you wish it were. A thing is what it is, it is itself. There can be no contradictions.
Faith is a device of self-delusion, a sleight of hand done with words and emotions founded on any irrational notion that can be dreamed up. Faith is the attempt to coerce truth to surrender to whim. In simple terms, it is trying to breathe life into a lie by trying to outshine reality with the beauty of wishes. Faith is the refuge of fools, the ignorant, and the deluded, not of thinking, rational men.
In reality, contradictions cannot exist. To believe in them you must abandon the most important thing you possess: your rational mind. The wager for such a bargain is your life. In such an exchange, you always lose what you have at stake.
If Christianity is a rocket, its fuel is 99% faith and 1% arguable facts. There are innumerable contradictions in scripture, in science, and in how the world really works. Yet, over a billion people accept it as absolute truth while surrendering the most precious gift of life- the autonomy and integrity of their minds.
(1426) The Lord’s battle instructions
In the Holy Bible, God provided the Israelites instructions about how to battle against the neighboring cities. If anyone thinks these instructions actually came from God or any celestial being and not from some mortal human who was trying to justify the brutal plunder of its neighbors, then they are probably incurably brainwashed:
When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.
However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God.
The following is taken from:
What a reasonable and generous ‘God’ we have! If the town surrenders, all the citizens are made slaves… if they don’t all the men get killed, the women and children are raped, the city is plundered and then everyone is made a slave! Religion is actually very clever.. it allows people to commit atrocities while believing they are actually serving a higher purpose, thus massaging their consciences.
This is one of the verses that will never be read in any church. But it is in the Bible and it is part of Judeo-Christian heritage. It is either a fraudulent spiel ejaculated from the mind of a demented despot or else the god of Christianity is a brutal bastard. Either way, Christianity loses a huge measure of authenticity.
(1427) Paul never quoted Jesus or mentioned hell
In all of his writings, at least those available to history, Paul never quoted anything that Jesus said during his ministry. It is conceded that all of his letters preceded the authorship of the gospels, but Paul claimed to have a direct connection to Jesus through his visions, was supposedly in contact with Jesus’s disciples, and should have had some means of accessing some early writings of Jesus’s sayings or had discussions with some of the eyewitnesses. In light of his claimed position as Jesus’s 13th disciple, it would seem to be very important for Paul to learn what Jesus professed while he was in the world. But he apparently had no such curiosity.
One of the most important missing messages from Paul’s letters and the account of his statements in the Book of Acts is the doctrine of hell. Paul never mentions it although Jesus forcefully warned about hell in multiple instances in the gospels. How could Paul have had a direct connection to God and Jesus and yet fail to discuss hell? This omission would appear to be related to Paul’s lack of interest in Jesus’s statements, for if he was aware of what Jesus said, he most certainly would have made sure that his followers were aware of the brutal, heinous, eternal torment that awaited them if they did not toe the line for Jesus.
These questions are important to consider because in many ways Paul was a more important architect of modern Christianity than Jesus. He established the doctrine of atonement, separate from works, that was never a doctrine espoused by Jesus. He also established church rules and regulations, something Jesus saw no need to address. With Paul’s credibility in question, Christianity itself is called to task to justify its claims, particularly those that predominate in evangelical circles.
(1428) Early church did not revere the scripture as Christians do today
Imagine if some bible translator made a change to the following scripture:
Mark 8:33 (original)
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Mark 8:33 (revised)
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. Turning away from Peter he gazed downward and said “Get behind me, Satan!” Turning back to Peter he said “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Many Christians would agree with the intent of the changes because they do not like the idea that Jesus called his principal disciple ‘Satan,’ but they would vociferously criticize the editor for making an unauthorized change to scripture.
However, this is exactly the type of changes that were made in the early church by scribes who had no problem adding, subtracting, or changing the words in the text they were copying. These interpolations and emendations are not fully discoverable, but hundreds of them have been established. Many more remain hidden to history. But the important point is that this demonstrates that scripture in the early days of the church was not revered as being absolute and inviolate as it is today. It is true that some minor scriptural changes are still being made for various reasons, but none on the scale as exampled above, and none on the order of the major interpolations uncovered by biblical scholars (such as Mark 16: 9-20).
(1429) The impotence of a personal relationship with God
Christians routinely claim that they are not following a religion per se, but rather that they have a personal relationship with God or Jesus, complete with the ability to have a two-way conversation. This begs for a dramatic manifestation of divine insights. The following was taken from:
When I hear religious people, especially Christians, claim that they know God exists because they have a personal relationship with him, I wonder why that influence doesn’t manifest itself more recognizably. Shouldn’t someone with a personal relationship with the creator of the universe have a moral genius and ethical clarity that would be astonishing to those of us on the outside? Shouldn’t an omniscient mentor impart an ethical acumen that would inspire philosophers for decades?
Someone who has a personal relationship with the author of nature itself should have insights that simply leave us in awe of their brilliance. Instead, believers are ordinary people with ordinary talents. There’s no mark of divine wisdom evident in their behavior or ideas.
The failure of Christians to display any signs of supernatural knowledge, wisdom, or insights suggests rather forcefully that the personal relationship they are experiencing is one that is taking place internal to their own minds.
(1430) Luke plagiarized Kings in Old Testament
As was already explained in Reason #1244 about how Jesus was copied from Moses, let’s also point out the many parts where Jesus copied Elijah in the gospels.
As Dr. Richard Carrier explains in his book On The Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason For Doubt, Pages 474-476:
” This last point has been extensively demonstrated by Thomas Brodie (as I noted in Chapter 9). The parallels are sometimes direct and sometimes inversions (where Luke takes what is in the Kings narrative and reverses it or key elements of it) and are too numerous and distinct to be chance coincidence. Luke (or his source for this material, if he did not invent it himself) is thus creating a literary myth by reworking the OT, not by recording historical facts passed down to him by witnesses.”
Quoted from Thomas L. Brodie’s book The Birthing of the New Testament: The Intertextual Development of the New Testament Writings (New Testament Monographs)
Lk. 1:5-17 reverses 1 Kgs 16:29-17:1
Lk. 7:1-10 transforms 1 Kgs 17:1-6
Lk. 7:11-17 transforms 1 Kgs l7:l7-24
Lk. 7:18-25 transforms 1 Kgs 22
Lk. 7:36-50 plays on 2 Kgs 4:1-37
Here are the parallels, all of which Luke literarily modifies, merges, or improves in various ways:
From 1 Kings 17:10 and 17:17-24 | Luke 7:6 and 7:11-17
(1 Kings 17:17) It happened after this . . .
(Luke 7:11) It happened afterwards . . .
(1 Kings 17:10) At the gate of Sarepta,
Elijah meets a widow
(Luke 7:11-12) At the gate of Nain, Jesus meets a widow
(1 Kings 17:17) Another widow’s son was
(Luke 7:12) This widow’s son was dead
(1 Kings 17:18) That widow expresses a sense of her unworthiness on account of sin.
(Luke 7:6) A centurion (whose boy Jesus
had just saved from death) had just expressed a sense of his unworthiness on account of sin
(1 Kings 17:13-14) Elijah compassionately
bears her son up the stairs and asks the Lord why he was allowed to die
(Luke 7:13-14) The Lord feels compassion for her and touches her son’s bier, and the bearers stand still
(1 Kings 17:21) Elijah prays to the Lord
for the son’s return to life
(Luke 7:14) The Lord commands the boy to
(1 Kings 17:22) The boy comes to life and cries out
(Luke 7:15) And he who was dead sat up and began to speak
(1 Kings 17:23) And he gave him to his mother, “kai edōken auton tē mētri autou”
(Luke 7:15) And he gave him to his mother, “kai edōken auton tē mētri autou”
(1 Kings 17:24) The widow recognizes Elijah is a man of God and that the word he speaks is the truth
(Luke 7:16-17) The people recognize Jesus as a great prophet of God and the word of this truth spreads everywhere
The giveaway is Luke’s use of the exact same clause, verbatim, as the Septuagint text of the Elijah story, and he gave him to his mother, every word identical and in identical order. This fact, combined with all the other obvious parallels, indicates that literary borrowing has occurred. The links are simply too improbable otherwise.”
Dr. Carrier also provides examples of Elisha being copied for the Gospel of Mark in his book:
The story of Elisha from 2 Kings:
In 2 Kings (4:17-37) a woman seeks out Elisha and begs him to resurrect her son, which he does.
In Mark (5:22-43) Jairus seeks out Jesus and begs him to resurrect his daughter, which he does.
So there you have it. Evidence of plagiarism, evidence of fiction, and evidence that the stories of Jesus were not real. Just recycled fable and myth. Which adds more evidence that Jesus as described in scripture is a myth and that he probably never existed in the first place. This is a persuasive clue that Christianity is a false religion.
(1431) Jesus did not fulfil the law
Christian doctrine asserts that Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law, was sinless, and consequently through his death on the cross, he released future Christians from the requirement to observe the Law. One of the laws was presented in Exodus 20:8-11:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
But, as will almost every aspect of Christianity, there is a contradiction. Here is what is recorded in John 5:16-18:
So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
So once again, Christian apologists must contort themselves like a pretzel to explain this problem away, but it’s not going away. Jesus violated an important Sabbath law, and it doesn’t matter if he was trying to amend it, or soften it. His mission was to perfectly fulfil the Law as commanded by God and then sacrifice himself on the cross, delivering legal release to future Christians.
(1432) Christianity falls apart in the face of evil
The Achilles heel of Christianity, and any other faith system that posits an all-powerful and loving deity, is the wall-to-wall presence of evil, disaster, pain, anguish, disease, and cataclysm. All attempts at resolution have failed. The following is taken from:
In August 2016 an earthquake struck central Italy, killing 297 people and injuring more than 300. I’m sure at least some believers—especially those wandering in the rubble—were brought to the brink of cynicism in the face of such horrors: What can God be up to? In the Earthquake Control Department, isn’t now the time for almighty to mean something?
Mourners might not know of H. L. Mencken’s declaration, “The whole Christian system, like every other similar system, goes to pieces upon the problem of evil,” but looking at crushed babies, they might give Mencken a thumbs-up. If someone dared to pat me on the back at that moment and whisper, “God is here to comfort you”—my response would be an obscene version of get-out-of-my-face.
In fact Christian posturing about a benevolent Cosmos—engineered and supervised by a loving deity—is shown to be nonsense in the face of earthquakes and tsunamis, hurricanes and tornadoes (among many other things that nature throws at us).
Christian apologists have written endless streams of theobabble for centuries trying to square this theological circle. But Catholic theologian Uta Ranke-Heinemann is candid: ““The question of the origin of evil, of what causes the tears and deviltries of the world, the question that no theologian has so far managed to answer, is one that humans have always posed.” (Putting Away Childish Things, p. 62).
But Popes are in charge of the brand—they’ve got a big business to protect and defend—so pushing theobabble that supposedly sounds good is what they do best. So Francis rushed in to play the comfort card. His meaningless words qualify superbly as diversionary fluff:
“I cannot fail to express my heartfelt sorrow and spiritual closeness to all those present in the zones afflicted. I ask you to join me in praying to the Lord Jesus, who is always moved by compassion before the reality of human suffering, that he may console the broken hearted, and through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, bring them peace.”
How pathetic. Especially for those who are skepical about long-dead heroes who supposedly live in the sky (or in our hearts?). Is that the best he can do? This is theology distilled into sentimentality, something I might expect from a mediocre Bible college graduate assigned to a backwoods pulpit. I suspect that many among the devout, through their tears, give a shrug to this theological white noise.
They want to know why. People in the deepest pain imaginable have looked their pastors in the eye, pleading for answers that make sense. The answers aren’t there. In Chris Chibnall’s superb BBC drama, Broadchurch, about the murder of an 11-year old boy in a small English coastal town, the parents sit with a young parish priest out of his depth trying to ease their anguish. The father stammers a few words: “Just need some answers, don’t we? We need some help. You have a line to the Big Man, why don’t you ask him? We’re drowning down here.”
Well, if there’s anyone with a line to the Big Man, isn’t it the Vicar of Christ on Earth? Who else might have the Red Phone on his desk? “Jesus will console and Mary will bring you peace” just doesn’t cut it. If that’s the best the Pope can do, he simply demonstrates, once again, that Mencken was right.
There is a fundamental disconnect between Christianity and reality. The claims of the one do not match the observations of the other. This is not to say that Christianity could not be true (in theory) – it’s just that it cannot be true in the world in which we live.
(1433) Parallel stories in Gospel of Luke
The author of the Gospel of Luke told two stories of some significance that were not recorded in any other gospel- the boy Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52), and the risen Jesus travelling with two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). As explained in the following video (start at 35:28), there are striking parallels between these two stories indicating the author was using a fictional literary technique:
In both stories, the action takes place on the day after Passover. In both stories, a couple is leaving Jerusalem. In the boy story it is Mary and Joseph. In the Emmaus story, it is two disciples. In the first story, they find that the boy Jesus is not with them, in the other story they think Jesus is not with them (although he is with them in disguise). In both stories they are distraught about Jesus’s absence. In the first story, they quickly return to Jerusalem when they learn Jesus is absent, in the second story they quickly return to Jerusalem when they realize Jesus is present. In the boy story, they find Jesus after three days, and in the Emmaus story, they find Jesus three days after the crucifixion.
In both stories, Jesus asks a question- the boy asks ‘why are you looking for me,’ in the other story he asks ‘what are you talking about.’ He amazes with his knowledge of scripture in both stories. In both stories he states that something is necessary- as a boy he says it is necessary for him to be in God’s house, as the risen Jesus he says it is necessary for him to suffer these things. Both stories feature people not understanding what has happened, both involve a disappearance of Jesus, both climax on the third day, and both suddenly appear in the Book of Luke, literally out of the blue. In addition, in the codex of the original text, instead of Emmaus , it is Bethel, meaning ‘God’s house,’ so, in effect, in both stories, they find Jesus in God’s house (the Temple in the first story),
(1434) The curious tale of Jesus’s missing body
Biblical scholar Richard Carrier made an observation that early Christian history as told by scripture is missing what should have been a major problem for the early Christians, placing them under an umbrella of suspicion by the Roman government and the Jewish leaders who condemned Jesus to death (The Sanhedrin). The discovery that Jesus’s tomb was empty should have set off alarm bells that would have been problematic for Jesus’s followers. The following was taken from:
Carrier makes another excellent point concerning Acts. He questions what happened to Jesus’ body.
He argues that “the public history of the Christian mission begins only in Acts 2, which depicts the first time Christians publicly announced their gospel.” But what happened at that point? For some more than twenty-seven chapters that spanned three decades of the history of the beginning of the Christian movement, did any Romans or the Jews seem to have any hints, intimations or knowledge of a missing body? In addition, they never seemed to investigate what was obviously a serious crime of tomb robbery and desecration of the dead (these offenses carried death penalties), or perhaps worse? We are told by the Gospel of Matthew that there were claims that the Jewish authorities accused the Christians of such crimes before Pilate himself. (Matthew 27. 62-66; 28, 11-15.)However, biblical scholars who have studied both the external and internal evidence have discovered such claims were fictional.
Common sense would dictate that since it was Christians who were claiming Jesus’ body was missing from the tomb, they should have been the first suspects. It would be supposed that either they, or Joseph of Arimathea, apparently the last person to have custody of the body, according to Mark and Matthew, would be under suspicion. But Joseph seemed to quickly melt into thin air in those narratives. Logically, Christians should have been the next suspects. But, as Richard Carrier points out, although many of Jesus’ followers were interrogated many times over the years by both Romans and Jews, they were never questioned about the capital crime of grave robbery.
Why would the Romans ignore the missing body of Jesus?
The Christians were, we have been told, preaching that Jesus, most likely through supernatural aid, had somehow escaped execution, was observed rallying his followers, and then disappearing. Why would Pilate and even the Jewish Sanhedrin be so insouciant about an escaped convict roaming about? This Jesus was convicted as having committed treason by claiming to be god and king. All the Gospels agreed on this point. The Sanhedrin was reportedly so eager to kill Jesus that it met on Passover Eve to hold a trial, something never done and also unheard of. One cannot imagine that Pilate would have failed to bring all Christian suspects in and interrogate them. It stands to reason there would have been a massive manhunt.
Jesus was supposedly alive, was taken in by his followers, fed by them, and then they listened to his words. This man was considered a dangerous insurrectionist, a thwarter of Roman justice, and a threat to Roman authority. Does anyone doubt that the authorities, both Roman and Jewish, would be at utmost pains to stop Christian attempts to hide their leader? This tale defies common sense and logic.
This presents another reason to doubt the authenticity of the history presented by scripture. Grave robbery and the alleged escape of a convicted criminal should have dogged the early church for years.
(1435) Ring structure of the gospels
A literary technique known as chiastic structure, or ring structure, was a common theme in classic fiction before and during the time that the gospels were written. The presence of these structures in the gospels is evidence that they are predominantly fictional. The following was taken from:
Chiastic structure, or chiastic pattern, is a literary technique in narrative motifs and other textual passages. An example of chiastic structure would be two ideas, A and B, together with variants A’ and B’, being presented as A,B,B’,A’. Alternative names include ring structure, because the opening and closing ‘A’ can be viewed as completing a circle, palistrophe, or symmetric structure. It may be regarded as chiasmus scaled up from clauses to larger units of text.
These often symmetrical patterns are commonly found in ancient literature such as the epic poetry of the Odyssey and the Iliad. Various chiastic structures are also seen in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, where biblical writers used it to illustrate or highlight details of particular importance.
The following is an example of ring structure in the Gospel of Mark:
A peripheral ministry begins (1.14-34)
B people looking for Jesus to be healed
(1.35-38) (but Jesus says he needs to
teach more people)
C Jesus ventures out (throughout all
D Jesus stops at Capernaum (2.1-12)
(explains he can forgive sins)
E problems and controversies
F an important gathering on a
G Jesus is accused of being in
league with Baalzebul (3.20-35)
(and preaches those who reject
Jesus are damned)
— The Sea Narrative (chaps. 4-8)
G Jesus accuses Peter of being in
league with Satan (8.27-9.1) and
preaches those who blaspheme
Holy Spirit are damned)
F an important gathering on a
E problems and controversies
D Jesus stops at Capernaum (9.33-50)
(explains dangers of sin)
C Jesus ventures out (expands his
ministry beyond Galilee: 10.1-6)
B people looking to Jesus for boons
(10.17-45) (but Jesus teaches them the
error of their ways)
A peripheral ministry ends (10.46-52)
From Richard Carrier’s On The History Of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason For Doubt, Pg. 420.
Here is another example from the Book of Genesis:
Under “Use in Hebrew Bible”
A: Noah and his sons (Gen 6:10)
B: All life on earth (6:13:a)
C: Curse on earth (6:13:b)
D: Flood announced (6:7)
E: Ark (6:14-16)
F: All living creatures (6:17–20 )
G: Food (6:21)
H: Animals in man’s hands (7:2–3)
I: Entering the Ark (7:13–16)
J: Waters increase (7:17–20)
X: God remembers Noah (8:1)
J: Waters decrease (8:13–14)
I’: Exiting the Ark (8:15–19)
H’: Animals (9:2,3)
G’: Food (9:3,4)
F’: All living creatures (9:10a)
E’: Ark (9:10b)
D’:No flood in future (9:11)
C’: Blessing on earth (9:12–17)
B’: All life on earth (9:16)
A: Noah and his sons (9:18,19a)
Within this overall structure, there is a numerical mini-chiasm of 7s, 40s, and 150s:
Chiasm of the numbers 7, 40, and 150
α: 7 days waiting to enter Ark (7:4)
β: Second mention of 7 days waiting (7:10)
γ: 40 days (7:17)
δ: 150 days (7:24)
χ: God remembers Noah (8:1)
δ’: 150 days (8:3)
γ’: 40 days (8:6)
β’: 7 days waiting for dove (8:10)
α’: Second 7 days waiting for dove (8:12)
The two mentions of the 150 days refer to the same period, and the first 40 days (7:13,17) are part of the 150 days. All this is consistent with the date in 8:4. There was no compelling reason to repeat the first 7-day figure of waiting to enter the Ark except for the corresponding two 7-day figures for the dove. The second mention of the 150 days was also because of the chiasmus. The chiastic structure explains the repetition of these figures. Before these ancient literary conventions were recognized, followers of the Documentary Hypothesis explained the repetition by hypothesizing two different authors or redactors (J or Jahwist and P or Priestly sources). The repetition may also show the literary artistry of a single author or editor, either working from one tradition or weaving together the J and P sources in chiastic fashion.
The author of Mark was a very highly educated scholar in the Greek tradition, most likely writing in Rome, who was obviously quite conversant with the classic literature of his day, including the Iliad and the Odyssey. The influence of these literary gems is expressed in his account of Jesus, as shown above. This provides significant evidence that he never meant to produce an historical document, as we would define it today, but rather a fictional, allegorical tale that, like the Iliad, presents an intended message. Because of this fact, nothing in the Gospel of Mark can be taken as events that actually happened. We are dealing with a religion that is based upon a mountain of fictional literature.
(1436) Gospel writers were trained to produce fiction
In an attempt to understand the degree to which we can rely on the gospels as a true representation of history, it is important to understand what was happening in the places and times that they were written. The scholars of that time who were trained in literary Greek were encouraged to write fiction about legendary figures as if it were true history. The signs of this technique are sprinkled all over the gospels. The following was taken from:
It has become obvious to many biblical scholars that the Gospels cannot be considered eyewitness testimony or even a collection of such testimonies. We do know, however, that the writers, whoever they were, wrote in literary Greek, so they most likely at some point had attended ancient literary schools. Such schools taught students to invent stories about legendary people, and to create symbolic and moral messages out of collections of general rules and proverbs. David Gowler points out that the Gospels “appear to be an assembled network of vignettes” that were already identified in ancient schools as chreiai, standard and rhetorical devices, taught to all students who attended such schools.” Biblical scholars call such assembled networks of vignettes, periscopes.
Scholarly research has discovered that the Gospels are not historical records, although that is what the Gospel writers tried to claim.
They are literary constructions, intelligently designed, to communicate what each writer wanted to communicate, rather than what each one was told by genuine eyewitnesses or other reliable sources. By now, most New Testament scholars have become aware that many of elements of the Gospels have incorporated and rewritten pre-Christian Jewish tales, some pagan stories, and some “scriptures.” In fact, according to Richard Carrier and others, “… nearly the whole core of Gospel narratives can be found to be derived from scripture.” Let us keep in mind that we do not have all the early scriptures. Therefore we cannot judge how much more ‘inspiration’ we may have been able to locate concerning the sources of the New Testament Gospel literature. The Gospel authors were not ‘inspired’ by god or eyewitnesses but by earlier writings from which they freely borrowed.
Once it is understood that the gospel authors were not attempting to document actual history, all bets are off when trying to construct a timeline of the historical Jesus, or even to make the claim that he was a true flesh and blood person. It is likely that the question of Jesus’s existence will never be rigorously determined, but the recent trend is moving in the direction of him being mythical.
(1437) Tale of Barabbas symbolic of Yom Kippur
The author of Mark invented a character by the name of Barabbas as a murderer who was imprisoned by the Romans at the time of Jesus’s passion. In his account, the Jews select Barabbas to be released in lieu of Jesus in a response to a (non-existent and made-up) Roman custom to release a prisoner at Passover. Barabbas was meant to represent Israel’s sin, and the symbolic fictional tale is exposed. The following is taken from:
The Gospel of Mark, probably written sometime in the 70’s CE, is a literary construction from beginning to end. I would like to remind my audience of the tale of Christ’s crucifixion. Mark’s Gospel version added a previously unknown character, an insurrectionist, who had committed murder. Mark gave this character the name of Barabbas. The tale continued with the Jewish crowd being asked by the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate, whether they wanted Jesus or Barabbas to be released. Mark claimed that the crowd, worked up by the Jewish priests against Jesus, called for the release of Barabbas. Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judaea from 26-36 CE, acceded to their wishes and set the insurrectionist free. Does that narrative make any sense as a true account of historical fact?
There was a historical precedent of temporary parole being granted to people who had committed innocuous crimes on the Feast of Dionysius. But there was no historical precedent or evidence for Pilate’s releasing a prisoner at the Jewish Passover. A brutal prefect, such as Pilate, or any Roman magistrate, would never release a murderous insurgent for any reason.
Researchers, such Raymond Brown and Robert Merritt, state that “… the ceremony [of prisoner release] obviously emulates the Jewish ritual at Yom Kippur of the scapegoat and atonement.” Such experts believe that the allegorical nature of the Barabbas tale is quite clear. Mark’s narration had begun to merge the two rituals, Jesus’ sacrifice at the Passover, which earlier Christians believed had occurred, and the Jewish Yom Kippur. Barabbas’ name means “son of the father,” and was most likely added to in order to become “Jesus Barabbas.” Two sons of the father in one story is a rather obvious clue to the tale’s allegorical rather than historical nature.
Yom Kippur was the ritual of atonement for Israel’s sins. Origen, the 3rd Century Church Father, understood the symbolism of Mark’s tale very well. Origen wrote that Barabbas was symbolic of Israel’s sin, being a stand-in for the devil; Israel had adulterously chosen Barabbas for a husband rather than the true groom, Jesus. Jesus is spat upon, scorned and beaten during the crucifixion tale, like a scapegoat. There is no mistaking the description. The Jews blindly, according to Origen, chose sin rather than salvation when they cried out for Barabbas and condemned Jesus. Mark has brilliantly employed words and phrases from the Old Testament Psalms to depict Jesus as “the just man afflicted and put to death by evildoers, but vindicated and raised up by god.” As biblical researchers have observed, the Mark crucifixion story is obviously myth, and not memory.
Barabbas was most likely the invention of a single individual, the author of Mark, which was later copied by the authors of Matthew, Luke, and John. The story has no historical validity and divulges yet another reason to reject Christianity.
(1438) Matthew changed Mark’s relaxed theology about Torah law
There is no better way to demonstrate the fact that early Christians were not united in their theology than to show that the gospels disagree with one another. One example is the difference between the Gospels of Mark and Matthew concerning whether observation of the Torah laws were mandatory or optional. The relaxed theology of Mark was dramatically changed by Matthew to emphasize that the Jesus movement was fully within the sphere of Jewish tradition. The following was taken from:
Biblical scholars have pointed out that Matthew wrote not only to corroborate and expand Mark’s Gospel, but also to reverse the too gentile friendly attitude embedded in Mark. Mark apparently was partial to Paul’s version of Christianity, which among other factors, favored the optional observance of the Torah. But most experts agree that Matthew came from a group of Torah-observant Christians. Those Christians were most keen to proffer statements from Jesus that would oblige Gentile converts to adhere to Jewish law and become practicing Jews. Such requirements included circumcision of boys and men and adherence to Jewish dietary laws and customs. Interestingly, the Temple cult rules had been laid aside, because there was no Temple any longer.
Matthew’s Gospel demonstrated an increasing emphasis on the apostles ‘missionary activities.
The writer was additionally concerned with how to run the Church and how to live in the Church. Such details were being worked out by the early Christians and were most realistically concerns that arose after Jesus’ death. Here is an observation on Matthew’s probable invention of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. “His (Matthew’s) Sermon on the Mount fits neatly within known rabbinical debates over how Jews could still fulfill the Torah after the destruction of the Temple cult. The general consensus among the rabbis was that good deeds now fulfilled that role, especially acts of love and mercy.” According to Richard Carrier, there is the assumption in Matthew that the Temple cult did not exist any longer, meaning Jesus’ Sermon speech was composed after 70 CE, and that Jesus never made it.
If Jesus was the deity figure assumed by Christianity and he came to us to present a blueprint for how to live, worship, and be redeemed, it seems impossible that his followers would be left in doubt about whether or not the Torah laws were still in effect. But if this is myth, then contentions among various factions would likely occur, as they apparently did.
(1439) Bible numerology
In rigorous accounts of history, numbers tend to be random because of the irregular nature of reality. But in figurative or fictional literature, special numbers are often repeatedly used by the author to convey a certain significance. This is what we see in the Bible. The best example is the number 40. The following is taken from:
The Bible uses 40 to denote completion or fulfillment. It is used 146 times throughout both Testaments. It is the traditional Hebrew number for the duration of a trial of any kind, when times are hard and a person’s faith is tested. The Israelites slaved in hard bondage under the Egyptian pharaohs for 400 years, 10 times 40. God forced them to wander in the Wilderness of Sin, throughout the Sinai Peninsula, for 40 years as punishment for their “stiff-necked unbelief.” “Sin,” here, does not denote sinfulness, but the Hebrew word for the Sumerian moon god, from which “Sinai” is derived. Moses was 40 years times 3 when he died, at 120.
Moses was 40 days on Mount Sinai receiving God’s Law, another 40 days on the mountain after the golden calf sin. Elijah, some 300 years later, spent 40 days on the same mountain worshiping God.
There are tons of references to “40 days and 40 nights” throughout the Bible. The most notable are the 40 days and nights of rainfall that caused the Flood of Noah. During this time, the whole world flooded to a depth of some 15 feet above the tallest mountains. It took 375 days for the water to recede.
Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness before being tempted by Satan. Jesus remained on Earth for 40 days after his Resurrection, appearing to the Apostles and teaching them, before ascending to Heaven. At the time of his Ascension, there were about 120 Christians on Earth, or 40 times 3.
Another example is the number 12:
12 is used in a similar way to 3, 10, and 40. It indicates a kind of totality.
The most obvious example of 12 are the 12 tribes of Israel, mentioned many times throughout the Bible. Jesus picks 12 disciples. Revelation incorporates multiple uses of 12. After the Tribulation begins, Christians will have already been raptured to Heaven to spare them the horrors. 144,000 people, 12,000 from each tribe of Israel, will be converted to Christianity and die as martyrs under the reign of the Antichrist. The New Jerusalem, the city of Heaven, is described as having walls 144 cubits thick, symbolic of the 12 tribes and the 12 Apostles.
The foundations of the walls are made of 12 precious stones. The city is foursquare, with walls 12,000 stadia, or furlongs, long, wide, and high. Stadia and furlongs are not the same length, but are close. The former equates to about 1,400 miles, the latter to about 1,500 miles. There are 3 gates in each side, for 12 total. These are made of single pearls, giving us the phrase “pearly gates.” Inside, the Tree of Life yields 12 different kinds of fruits.
Daniel is also concerned with the time of the end, and Daniel has 12 chapters. Daniel 12:12 states, “Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.” 1 plus 3 plus 3 plus 5 equals 12.
When Jesus feeds the 5,000, his Disciples pick up 12 basketfuls of leftovers afterward.
(1440) The last Christian dies
If the Christian god is real and he continues to refuse to reveal any tangible aspect of his existence, and assuming current trends reach an endpoint centuries from now to where no Christians remain on earth (for example, similar to the current situation with followers of Zeus and Thor), what would God do? Would he send Jesus back to try to round up some new Christians? Or would he become so disgusted that he would just send everybody to Hell?
Most apologists would argue that God will end the world before this happens, and yet, that is probably the same thing followers of Zeus would have said back in ancient Greece. In reality, the trajectory of Christianity appears to be on the same track as that taken by the ancient Greek religions- a slow asymptotic decline to an eventual vanishing point. This may take several more centuries, but absent an intervention from God, it is certain to happen. So what is more likely- that God will end the world or at least reveal himself more definitively, or that Christianity will also become a footnote in history? All signs point to the later, as history tends to repeat.
(1441) Least righteous person in heaven, most righteous person in hell
As discussed in #144, Christianity suffers a good measure of credibility by offering only two post-life assignment stations- heaven and hell. There is no scriptural support for another option, and beilef in the non-scriptural doctrine of a sort of ‘half-way house,’ called purgatory or limbo, has faded over the past several decades. Thus, we are dealing with only the two- one unimaginably wonderful, the other unimaginably horrendous.
This is where a fundamental problem exists. In such a judgement scheme there must exist criteria that causes a person to be assigned to either heaven or hell. But not all people meet these criteria with the same degree of success. There are some who ‘make the grade’ by the seat of their pants. In fact, there must be a single individual who makes it into heaven with credentials that are inferior to every other heaven-bound person. Likewise, there must be a single individual who just missed out on heaven, though his credentials exceed every other person sentenced to hell. Given that we are talking about at least 100 billion people who will be assigned to an afterlife, it is undeniable that the least righteous person to make it into heaven would be indistinguishable from the most righteous person who is sent to hell. The dividing line would be arbitrary. This represents a singularity where Christian theology breaks down, and that is a decisive indication that it is untrue.
(1442) Peoples’ word was all they had to attest to an event
It takes a bit of imagination to sense what life was like in Palestine 2000 years ago, and it is a lack of this insight that leads many Christians to credulously accept the stories of the Bible as fact. This was an age with no photographs, videos, or newspapers (most couldn’t read anyway). Reality was reduced to the narrow horizon of what you saw, what others told you that they saw, or what others told you that someone else had seen. And what others told you tended to be believed in most cases; that is, there was a tendency to trust what was being communicated. This was a milieu perfectly designed for the birth and growth of many miraculous, mythical stories- and so it was with Christianity. The following is taken from:
Carrier has a serious point to make by citing these amusing examples. As he states, eyewitness testimony and peoples’ word were all citizens had to attest to an event. There were, he explains, no reporters, coroners, forensic scientists or even police detectives. People judged the veracity of a tale by what they believed was the sincerity of the teller and the possible rewards gained by accepting his story, such as being healed of a malady and so on. The age did not lack keen and skeptical critics, but as Carrier explains, and I quote him in full here: “Rather the shouts of the credulous crowd overpowered their voice and seized the world from them, boldly leading them all into a thousand years of darkness. Perhaps we should not repeat the same mistake. After all, the wise learn from history. The fool ignores it.”
What Carrier describes is the reason why starting a religion today that could potentially compete with Christianity would be nearly impossible. There are very few corners in the fabric of our daily reality that are not fully illuminated. The latest attempt, scientology, is suffering from a smothering of verifiable evidence illuminating its preposterousness. The age of starting new religions has passed. Christianity got in before the time limit was up. It enjoyed the protection of scrutiny combined with the gullibility of an illiterate populous. It now runs on antiquity, tradition, mystery, and childhood inculcation, even in the face of contradicting science and the repudiation of historical and textual scholarship. But from a careful understanding of the time and place of its birth, we can confidently state that Christianity is based on a mountain of myths.
(1443) Punishing unbelief is immoral
In the following verse, we see that God promises to condemn people for failing to believe in him:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
This presupposes, to have any semblance of a moral doctrine, that belief is a choice. Everyone makes a decision to either believe or disbelieve. Those who choose to believe are good and they are rewarded, and those who choose not to believe are bad and are punished. To a superficially-thinking Christian, this all makes sense.
Here is an analogy. Suppose you are captured and are told that if you believe in the Loch Ness monster, you will be released, but if you don’t believe in the Lock Ness monster, you will be killed. The captors have a machine that can determine your actual beliefs in case you lie and say you believe when you don’t. Even though, in an effort for survival, you state that you believe in the Loch Ness monster, the machine shows that you are faking. You are killed. Was not believing in the Loch Ness monster a choice that you made? No. You disbelieved because of a lack of evidence. This is precisely how Christianity works- it is a despicable mind-control scheme that tests whether a person can be so gullible as to believe in something for which insufficient evidence is provided.
It should be crystal clear that this is a fundamentally immoral system of justice. Belief is not a choice. It is something that we can’t control. Each of us has a brain that works in a specific way and it responds to information in such a way as to make whatever we believe outside of our conscious control. To punish someone for a belief or lack of a belief is an outrageous crime against humanity, and the fact that Christianity adopted this unethical concept proves that it is not the product of a celestial deity.
(1444) A Bible literalist’s nightmare
A recent survey indicates that 28 percent of Americans believe that the Bible is the literal word of God. This implies that every biblical story describes an event that actually happened. There is so much wrong with this belief that it is hard to know where to start, but this is one good place:
That night Jacob got up and took his two wives [hmm, polygamy is OK], his two female servants [wow, slavery is OK, too] and his eleven sons [lots of sex is OK] and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man [later we learn this man is God!!] wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him [I thought God was omnipotent?], he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak [God is unable to wrest himself free?].”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
The man asked him, “What is your name? [I thought God was all-knowing]”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.
(1445) The parable of the bridge builders
There was a contractor who was paid to build a bridge over a beautiful river. One of the workers was against the bridge, saying it would spoil the scenery, but he worked hard. Another worker thought the bridge was a good idea, but he slacked off most the time barely working at all. When it came time to hand out paychecks, the contractor gave one to the slacker, but withheld one for the hard worker. He said to the slacker, ‘because you have believed in this bridge I will reward you.’ To the hard worker, he said, ‘you have worked hard, but you did not believe in this bridge, therefore I am taking your wages and giving it to those who believed.’
In this parable, God is the contractor, the poor worker is a Christian who lives an unproductive life, cheats, steals, doesn’t treat people nicely, but who loves Jesus and always asks for forgiveness. The hard worker is an atheist who lives an exemplary life, is a great humanitarian who donates to worthy causes, but who does not accept the divinity of Jesus. According to most forms of Christianity, just as the contractor in the parable, God rewards belief while essentially ignoring actions and character.
Christian apologists will counter that the Bible is full of injunctions for righteous living, and this is true. But when it comes time for the final judgement, what you did during your life is cast aside, as if it doesn’t really matter, and your fate is determined by one single criterion- did you accept Jesus as your savior? This determines in God’s eyes whether you have zero sins on your ledger, or a multitude of sins that were not forgiven.
So, the parable of the bridge builders is a valid representation of Christianity, and it exposes Christianity to be a morally bankrupt ideology unbecoming any decent human, much less an omni-benevolent celestial deity.
(1446) Christianity destroys minds
One of the ways to assess the validity of a religion is to observe the effect it has on its followers. For Christianity, this results in a dismal conclusion- the exercise thereof results in the demise of the human mind. This truth is readily apparent to those on the outside, but stubbornly opaque to those afflicted. The following was written by Richard C. Miller and was posted at this website:
Consider the human mind, our one most precious faculty as a species. As rational, thinking mammals, we humans achieve the privilege (not a right) to comprehend reality.
From its inception, the Christian religion has divided humanity into the faithful and the damned. “Faith” (Gk., pistis) became the liminal conversion rite, the pass for admittance into Christian society. Both the Pauline and the Johannine traditions in the New Testament describe faith as the single requirement for divine acceptance, salvation, and eternal life. What is faith, however? A critical look at this principal tenet of the Christian religion reveals a quite disturbing circumstance. By humanistic definition, to have faith is “to indulge the mind in unwarranted inferences about reality in the face of inadequate or contrary data.” In other words, to become a Christian is willfully to violate and to vandalize the integrity of your own most precious faculty, your very mind, resulting in a volitional onset of psychosis, that is, to make public and private claims about reality that lack rational justification.
This all passes as acceptable in Christian society for any number of reasons. Draping a mythic fairy-tale world over the at times cold, unpleasant realities of the human disposition can provide some seductive (albeit, utterly false) comforts. This is what religion does at its core; religion wraps the most challenging, unsettling, and traumatic aspects of human existence in mythology. Consider where we tend to find religion intervening in society: weddings, wars, animal slaughter, births, illnesses, deaths, funerals, etc. People turn to religion to help them cope, that is, to process their most difficult experiences.
Being human is not an easy business. So, we delude ourselves with religion as a master-crutch, a fantasy world altogether buttressed by the social forces and rhetoric that comprise any religious society. Despite the fundamental claim of the Christian religion, to believe is not a virtue. Quite to the contrary! To believe, at its root, is to reject reality, to enter a degenerative, systematic game of self-deception that can only lead to suffering. Some mis-cope with the foibles and angst of human life by turning to drug abuse, others embark on the psychosis we call religion. At its base, to become a Christian is to reject the wonders and challenges of human reality, preferring instead a Peter Pan world. In the aggregate, the species cannot afford to remain in this unscientific dim, the needless continuity of the Dark Ages perpetrated by religion upon our endeavor to civilize the species.
Many Christians remain in a benighted fog of superstition, rejecting the emerging truths of science and historical research that countermand their cherished beliefs. Thinking that they have found the secret to life when in reality they have allowed their minds to be placed into a cage. This is not the manifestation expected when an infinite intelligence merges with the psyche of the human species. It smells much more like the constriction of human consciousness imposed by a scheme of deceitful human operators.
(1447) Alexander the Great/Jesus parallel
So much of the Christ story was adumbrated and plagiarized by earlier mythological traditions. One that may have escaped routine notice is a parallel between the myths heaved upon a very real historical figure, Alexander the Great (356 – 323 BCE), and Jesus , whose flesh and blood existence is the subject of an ongoing debate. Alexander may have been the most famous person to have lived only 32 years, but historians after his death were not reluctant to make him out to be even more famous than he was. The following was written by Richard C. Miller and was posted at this website:
Tis the season to debunk ridiculous claims to Jesus’ supposed historical divine conception and virgin birth!
After Alexander’s vast conquests to the East, his successors governed what came to be known as the Hellenistic kingdoms. Thus, under these empires came the “Greekification” or, in the parlance of historical study, the Hellenization of the Mediterranean East (including the present regions of Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Iraq). Until the Christianization of the Greek East, Alexander’s towering legacy defined the very tenets and codes of power in the region.
This sweeping cultural phenomenology of “Greekification” (i.e., Hellenization) of the region came to characterize most all significant cultural production in that region for the eight centuries following Alexander. Hellenization essentially entailed the deliberate imitation (or “mimesis”) of classical Greek forms and symbols, and Alexander himself understandably stood as the single most potent symbol in all of classical antiquity. With regard to this heavily mythologized emblem, the ancient historians customarily embellished his story with legends of divine exaltation. In imitation of the chief demigod of Geek mythology, that is, divine Heracles, the historians fashioned Alexander’s divine birth myth. Following prior now non-extant historians (Satyrus and Pompeius Trogus from the 3rd century B.C.E.), Plutarch wrote:
That Alexander, with regard to his lineage, on his father’s side was a descendent of Heracles through Caranus and on his mother’s side was a descendent of Aeacus through Neoptolemus, is among those things entirely trusted. And it is said that Philip, after being initiated into the mysteries on Samothrace together with Olympias, and while he was but a youth and an orphan, fell in love with her and so betrothed her, having persuaded her brother Arymbas. Then, the night before they were to consummate the marriage, the bride thought, while there was lightning, that a thunderbolt had fallen upon her womb. From the blow, a fire was ignited; thereby, as it broke into flames, the fire scattered in all directions. Later after the wedding, Philip saw himself in a dream placing a signet impression on his wife’s womb. The emblem of the signet, as it seemed, had the image of a lion. While the other diviners were distrusting the vision, namely that they needed a more careful guard for Philip of those who attended the wedding, Aristander of Telmessos said that she conceived a man, for nothing seals those things that are empty, and that she conceived a child who was courageous and as a lion by nature. There then appeared a serpent, as Olympias slept, stretched out alongside her body. They say that this most of all quenched Philip’s love and fondness [for her] such that with her he did not often have sexual rela- tions as he lay with her, either because he feared that some of his wife’s spells and enchantments may come upon him, or because he avoided the curse of intercourse, since she was joined to one greater than himself.
Now, following the tradition of Hellenization, how might one imitate and adapt this story to further mythologization of a messianic figure in first-century Jewish Palestine? I provide a full study of this by way of excursus in my own Resurrection and Reception in Early Christianity (p. 122-29). As a teaser, allow me to offer the following table from my book:
Plut., Alexander 2.1–4 and Matthew 1.1–25 Compared
Both contain. . .
1. A parental genealogical description placed at the beginning, aimed at signifying the respective hero via an established pedigree.
2. A betrothed, juvenile couple who are in love.
3. The interruption by the deity of the wedding/betrothal process, impregnating the bride through his signature, principal element, namely, Zeus’s thunderbolt of fire or Yahweh’s sacred wind.
4. The virginal conception and birth of the hero child; the surrogate father abstains from sexual relations until the womb is opened through the birth of the child, namely, the breaking of the “seal.”
5. Drama over the sexual fidelity of the bride and the legitimacy of the conception.
6. A distrust of the woman’s account of the child’s conception, precipitating the need for the groom’s divine dream, thus restoring confidence in the bride’s story.
7. A prophetic description of the child given in the groom’s dream, establishing supreme expectation regarding the destiny of the child.
8. A later association with magic, though perhaps applied differently.
As I trace in the study, these unmistakable mimetic traits inherit from Heracles and variously find their way into the divine birth myth of Jesus and, as a Roman analogue, the divine birth myth of Caesar Augustus. The argument runs much deeper still . . . including magi, divine homage, and a journey to Egypt. Mine is the first published work to have exposed these mimetic signals and to provide a full methodological analysis of the meaning of such Hellenistic adaptation in earliest Christian myth-making. See Resurrection and Reception in Early Christianity (London: Routledge, 2014).
One of the attributes expected of a divine visitation is that it would most likely be singularly unique. But around every corner of ancient literature lies another example of a mythical story that appears in similar fashion in Christian scripture. The myth of Alexander the Great adds another log to the pile, which is now a raging bonfire.
(1448) The de-mystification of consciousness
One of the last bastions of mystery that Christianity can leverage to support its assertion of God’s existence is human consciousness. Most Christians fallaciously believe that this a purely human trait given by God (most animals have consciousness, and some, including chimps, elephants, orcas, and dolphins possess self-awareness- the ability to see themselves as a separate being among many others). Be that as it may, let’s concede that human consciousness is of a higher order. Given that, if science finds that there is no physical structure in the brain that regulates consciousness, it might reveal that there is something immaterial or supernatural that drives it. This is the hoped-for outcome for Christian apologists, but this hope has just been dashed by Harvard researchers. The following was taken from:
What is human consciousness and where does it come from? Throughout the ages, some of our greatest minds have probed this question, and struggled to find answers. Today, different disciplines offer varying definitions. One theory says it is meta-cognition or our ability to ponder our own thought process. Another states it is our capacity to recognize our own mortality, and another still, to be able to imagine future scenarios, and make plans for them.
Scientists too have had difficulty, particularly in finding the source of what we experience continuously from one moment to the next, which makes us human, and which is what we lament in those stuck in a coma or a vegetative state. Those poor souls been stripped of something we feel is elemental to who we are, and worse still, they remind us just how fragile our own consciousness is.
Classical neurology defines consciousness as the ongoing process of arousal and awareness. Its origin however, has been much harder to pinpoint. Now, researchers at Harvard Medical School, along with colleagues at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, have discovered the neural network from which consciousness derives.
We’ve known for some time that the brainstem regulates arousal, what neurosurgeon Richard M. Bergland called the “spark plug of consciousness.” This is the oldest and deepest part of the brain. The starting point for the spinal cord, the brainstem controls breathing, heart function, and the sleep-wake cycle. But where awareness emanates from has long been a mystery. Previous speculations say it resides in the cortex, the newest parts of the brain, and its outermost layer.
For the first time, neuroscientists have found a connection between these two regions, according to Michael D. Fox, MD, PhD, a researcher on this study. “A lot of pieces of evidence all came together to point to this network,” he said. To conduct the study, Fox and colleagues recruited 36 patients with brainstem lesions. 12 of these were in a coma and the remaining 24 conscious.
Those subjects who were unconscious showed damage to a small area of the brainstem known as the rostral dorsolateral pontine tegmentum. “When it is damaged, almost every patient became comatose,” Fox said. Only one of the 24 conscious patients did not see damage to this area of the brainstem. Due to this, researchers established that the tiny region plays a vital role in consciousness. Next, the neuroscientists turned to a map of the human connectome to investigate the connections between regions. They found two areas in the cortex connected to this part of the brainstem. That led them to believe that these three regions make up a neural network from which, consciousness derives.
Where exactly these connections terminate in the cortex is not yet known. One ends at a part called the left, ventral, anterior insula (AI). The other concludes in the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (pACC). Both areas are associated with awareness. But this is the first time they have been implicated in a neural network, never mind one which creates and maintains consciousness. In a follow-up segment, researchers examined the brains of 45 patients in a coma or vegetative state with an fMRI. They found in all the patients that these three regions were out of commission.
Other research must verify these findings. Even so, it looks like an incredible step forward which impacts not only neurology but medicine and even philosophy. Fox and colleagues believe that someday we may better understand those who are in a coma or a vegetative state, and may even find novel treatment options to help those patients “wake up.”
This research indicates that consciousness is an evolved trait that must have played a role in providing animals with an enhanced chance for survival. It is not a ‘spark’ bestowed by a god to create awakened individuals for his pleasure or sport. Because consciousness has been shown to have a materialistic basis, it renders less likely the possibility of a soul that can survive death. This research is a blow to Christianity, so apologists will be compelled to criticize it. This reinforces that idea that if you have to attack science to defend your faith, then it’s a good clue that there is something seriously wrong with your faith.
(1449) Christianity uses coercive tools not needed if it was true
There is a saying that no one has to be convinced to believe in things that are true. This is a bit of an oversimplification, as we see many people today denying the ‘truth’ of biological evolution and climate change, but, in general, the saying holds. It is the act of arguing for what is untrue that requires the use of specious reasoning and the invention of artificial facts. And it is this convention that we see continually being used to defend Christianity. H.P. Lovecraft said it best when he said:
If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences.
A world in which Christianity was true would be one in which all facts lead to its truth, as in ‘all roads lead to Rome.’ There would be no need to fight science or historical research to defend the faith. There would be no need to inculcate the young, no need to threaten the masses with eternal punishment, and no need to discourage the learning and use of critical thinking skills. Its truth would be apparent to any sane, sincere person who even casually observes the reality of his existence.
But it isn’t like this. Belief requires indoctrination, it requires a distance from science, from biblical scholarship, from logical analysis, and from objective observation. Christianity uses the coercive tools that it would not need if it was true. And this is a decisive indication that it is false.
(1450) What if Christianity is true?
Most people reading this article are certain that Christianity is false. But there is merit in considering the possibility that it is true and to understand the implications of that possibility. The following was taken from:
What if Christianity were true? If it were, then some basic facts would need to be observed before anything else. First of all, we would have to concede that there is indeed a personal God and that his nature is indeed as it is described in the pages of the Bible (a truly unsettling thought). We would further have to concede that this God incarnated himself in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, lived among we fallen humans for a time, performed miracles, and eventually died for our sins. Oh yeah, we’d also have to concede that sin exists and that its definition is, well, basically, just look in the mirror. But don’t despair, because we would also further have to concede that this same Jesus who died for our sins also rose from the dead to conquer them, ensuring that all who believe in him and his resurrection will enjoy an unearned eternity in heaven. All very interesting points from a theological point of view, whether or not they are true. And while there are some sticky issues one might raise with these salient “facts,” there is really nothing here that causes too much alarm aside from the usual problematic jargon one might expect from a world religion’s doctrines.
But what about the lesser seen, oft hid, rarely discussed underbelly of these doctrines? What about all the horrific inevitabilities that these doctrines imply when one thinks hard about them? What about all the collateral damage that would be created in reality if these things were indeed true?
“Preposterous!” says the believer. “There is nothing here but good news!”
Good news, is it? Allow me to demonstrate to my readers exactly what reality would be like if Christianity were indeed true. (And as I do, I recall the immortal words of Voltaire: “To hold a pen is to be at war.” Alas, once more unto the breech, dear friends.)
If Christianity is true, then all of life—all of it—is nothing more than a staging ground upon which this drama of faith is to be played out, the drama that determines who will believe and who won’t. Your life has no meaning aside from what you will do with this one question: “Will you believe in what you cannot see, namely that all of these aforementioned doctrines are true even though you have no reason to assume that they are?” If you say “yes” to the question, you are transported into the realm of the special people, the “set apart” ones, the “elect.” Your life is given meaning, and you are elevated above the rest of the population in that you now have access to a supernatural telephone line connected directly to the ear of God, as well as a good standing in his sight which you did not earn.
That all sounds quite nice. But the dark flipside of that is this: Those who say “no” to the question, and who may well have had what seemed to them to be very good, legitimate, justifiable reasons to say “no,” are not transported into that realm. Their lives remain meaningless. Their destinies remain, well, hellish. Quite literally. They have no access to this God, nor do they have a good standing in God’s sight. He looks upon them with disgust because their sins have not been cleansed in the blood of his son. Never mind the fact that none of these people asked to be born. Never mind the fact that, to them, God has never seemed real. They’ve never seen any miracles. They’ve never had a single good thing happen to them. And yet not only are their entire lives meaningless, their eternities are too horrific to contemplate.
Seen from this angle, Christianity is little more than a Country Club that excludes membership to those who don’t fit a certain criteria. So, yeah, if Christianity were true, then we would have to acknowledge that nothing we do really matters. We are, in essence, nothing. And we would also have to acknowledge that anyone who isn’t a member of this Country Club is instead directed to a room of perpetual torture. It’s like reality would be saying this: “Yeah, you’re life has absolutely no meaning, and you are going to be forever tormented because of that. Praise God.”
Additionally, if Christianity is true, then we all must reconcile our minds to one distressing fact: “Suffering,” “evil,” “agony,” “sorrow,” “tragedy,” and “violence,” are not only acceptable formats in which God conducts his business; they are actually part of his “plan.”
It’s as if God, when creating the Universe, said to himself, “I’m going to make being alive in this Universe the hardest, cruelest, nastiest, most agonizing experience imaginable. And then I’ll make some lifeforms and see how they handle it. I’ll fill their lives with torment while offering an invisible way out—if they are faithful enough to believe in it, that is. I’ll make it as hard as I can for them to detect me, and I’ll obscure myself so vaguely that none of them will ever really know who I am and they’ll war about it. Some of them, in their sadness and loneliness at not being able to fully detect me, will kill others or kill themselves. But this will all serve my grand scheme of finding out who the special people are. All of this is, after all, merely a test.”
This all dissolves down to the following paradox: ‘If Christianity is true, then it could not have been created by a god.’ But if it is false, it is easy to see how humans created such a malignant theology. Ladies and gentlemen, Christianity is not the achievement of a majestic deity, it is the morass that emanated from ancient, benighted human minds.
Follow this link to #1451