(1751) Afterlife would not be of interest to a god
Most Christians cannot conceive of a religion that does not offer the chance for obtaining a second life beyond this one. And, even further, they can’t conceive of an afterlife that is anything short of eternal. This is because they have been conditioned to assume these ‘facts.’ But, in reality, it is easy to understand that a real god, if one exists, would have no need or motivation to resurrect billions of people and maintain them for eternity.
A Christianity without the promise of an afterlife would look very different from its current version. It would certainly place much more emphasis on prayers and obtaining divine aid for living in this world. There would be no more ‘he’s in a better place’ quips.
Even if a creator had the ability to monitor the lives of every human, there is no reason for him to see to it that they go on living after death in some altered reality. It would be enough to oversee their temporal earthy lives. It would be similar to a person owning an ant farm and watching as ants are born and die. There would be no motivation to resurrect the dead ants as the focus would remain on the currently living ones.
Let’s reveal the true motivation for the afterlife doctrine- it is a human (not divine) desire for life to be eternal and it was a tremendously successful ploy to increase the number of followers. The Rosetta Stone of this question though is staring every Christian in the face, though they try to ignore it- there is no afterlife in the Old Testament. Why if this reward was so special did God not communicate it to his chosen people?
(1752) Christians don’t believe the Bible is the word of God
There Is a saying that what you do speaks louder than what you say, or alternately, where the rubber meets the road, but in the case of Christians, including almost all evangelicals, the way they ignore the Bible shouts loud and clear that they don’t really believe it to be the word of God. The following was taken from:
In a post on Facebook I wrote:
Most all Christians believe the Bible is the word of their god. But they don’t read it, and can’t quote anything more than a popular verse or two. Listen up, they don’t really believe it’s the word of their god! They can’t! How is it possible to have direct communication from god and not read it often, systematically and to memorize large parts of it? I submit to you they are in denial about this. Which means they are in denial about their faith as a whole, most all of them!
I was told polls show that many evangelicals read the Bible through one time (who trusts what liars for Jesus say, anyway?). But if these evangelicals are satisfied with just one reading of the Bible, they are merely curiosity seekers, not true believers. Some Christians will say they agree with me. One pastor friend of a church I served, back when I was his youth minister and he was a child, is using what I wrote as the topic of next Sunday’s sermon! But this agreement means unbelief in his very own church–the one I served–is very high! Eric Gorall said in response: “If I “knew” this was the ‘Word of God’, and convinced it forms the basis of all reality for me… I’d memorize EVERY WORD, every phrase, every verse, of Every book.”
This can be explained that Christians are simply lazy, but more likely that in their subconscious they realize that the Bible contains too many bizarre, cruel, and contradictory stories to have been authored by God. So the question is this- if Christians themselves don’t believe the Bible is the word of God, why should anyone else?
(1753) The closed world of god belief
There is a correlation between belief in a god and a tendency to short-circuit the pursuit of natural explanations. Examples: ‘It’s a comet, a sign from god’- end of investigation. ‘The sun has darkened, a sign from god’- end of investigation. The following was taken from:
Again, on a national news feature, a young man who was in a vegetative state (in a hospital) recovered. There he was on camera, telling us he “went to heaven.” He and his mother proclaimed his recovery a “miracle.” If you’re a member, like them, of the “closed-world,” you understand exactly what they meant. If not, you want to find out what really happened; to discovering evidence in order to help everyone. You want to learn in order to prevent the illness or help other victims recover from such an illness. You’ll support those who find a cure, such as those doctors who eradicated smallpox.
One of the evils of the (comforting?) ”closed-world of religions”: they stifle discovery, investigation, and creativity. To call a recovery from a vegetative or apparently-dead state a “miracle” is a dead end; it says no further explanations needed. That’s it? Do people who say such things think? Do they think of what killers of joy they are? I say to hell with miracles, divine intervention, prayers answered, and all that doctrinal crap. I want to know what happened to this kid’s brain to begin with, what happened to it during its trials and activities/inactivity, what synapses were firing and were not, and how. What kind of indoctrination led him and his mom to accept the closed-world of “heaven” and “miracles” and no other answers? We have the tools necessary to help us discover these things now.
Throughout the ages, belief in Christianity has retarded the accumulation of knowledge that could have been used to resolve many of mankind’s tribulations. A good example is how for centuries Christians believed that illness was caused by demons and that prayer and exorcism were the only remedies.
Belief in miracles also ends the thought processes that would be useful to understanding what happened and what could be done in future instances to gain a similar outcome, such as a person who survives a coma, near drowning, or a burn. It seems highly ironic that human contact with the god of the universe, a source of all-knowing wisdom, would result in the retardation of human knowledge- but that is exactly what happened in the world of Christianity- a definite sign that it has nothing to do with a celestial deity.
(1754) Christianity is not the basis of Western law and values
Christian leaders have perpetually claimed that the laws and values of Western civilization were formed around the tenets of Christianity. This meme has been used extensively in the United States to argue against the concept of the separation of church and state and often results in efforts to place religious artifacts on public grounds- most notably depictions of the Ten Commandments. It takes little effort to prove this assertion is wrong. The following was taken from:
Let’s look at the Ten Commandments:
- Thou shall not have other Gods before me.
- Thou shall not worship idols.
- Thou shall not speak God’s name in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
- Honor your parents.
- Thou shall not murder.
- Thou shall not commit adultery.
- Thou shall not steal.
- Thou shall not bear false witness.
- Thou shall not covet your neighbor house, wife, slave etc.
Let’s see if they contradict Western values.
1 and 2 contradict the idea of freedom of religion and freedom of thought which are essential to Western societies. 3. It contradicts the idea of freedom of speech. 4. No laws against skipping the Church. 5. No laws against not honoring your parents. 6. There are laws against that before Christianity. 7. No laws against adultery, fornication, masturbation and other sexual sins. 8. There are laws against that before Christianity. 9. Same. 10. This is what moves the economy. Western societies are capitalistic. When you see that your neighbor is successful you want to be like him and you work hard.
In fact, Western laws and values are vastly superior to those represented by Christianity, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Over the past 2000 years, humanity has made considerable progress in creating a more equal, fair, and compassionate society, whereas Christianity was created by people who were still mired in the relative backwater of antiquity. The fact that Western values exceed those of Christianity suggests rather strongly that Christianity is a product of its time and not the timeless emanation of divine wisdom.
(1755) Childhood indoctrination destroys Christian justice
It is universally uncontroversial that children are highly vulnerable to being be inculcated with the religion of their parents, and, possessing little critical thinking skills, they rarely turn away from their faith until possibly later in life. However, most, it is assumed, stay with their childhood indoctrination for the remainder of their lives.
Here is where Christianity fails an important test of logic and fairness. If the criterion for entry into heaven is as suggested by the Apostle Paul and the Gospel of John, that acceptance of Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross is both necessary and sufficient to spend eternity in heaven, then those children born into hon-Christian homes are at a decidedly unfair disadvantage. Unlike the pre-programmed children, they have to somehow extract themselves from their family faith, often suffering severe domestic repercussions, and discover the ‘truth’ of Christianity. This is like running a race while giving some a big head start. It is inconceivable that a supreme deity could set up a system as unethical as this.
This all could have been avoided if the scriptures simply had Jesus saying that each person will be judged according to their deeds. In fact, this is pretty much the way it started out:
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
But along the way, this concept was seen by church leaders as being too universal and didn’t serve their purposes for gaining power and riches. So the concept was developed that that the path to heaven was through Jesus exclusively. This was reflected in later scriptures and adopted as standard Christian dogma. And with that maneuver, eternal exaltation became an arbitrary crap-shoot of where you were born.
(1756) Jesus suffering on the cross foreshadows hell
Christianity has its roots in blood and death. The most prolific author of the New Testament, Paul, said that there is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood. But, beyond that, it appears that the Christian god is a sadomasochist who enjoys meting out suffering and torture.
Throughout the Bible we see examples of God serving large helpings of agony from Job to the Egyptians to the Amalekites. And when he made himself into a human to save mankind, he couldn’t simply just die, he had to be tortured, bleed, and suffer, because dying by itself was not enough to adorn his ‘sacrifice.’ Never mind that such a sacrificial methodology does not conform to orthodox Judaic law; that is, whenever they sacrificed a dove or a lamb, there was never an effort to torture the animal before killing it.
But what is most significant about Jesus enduring a painful and torturous death is that it supposedly represents the suffering that was otherwise due for sinful humans. That is, he took on the torment so that those who accept him wouldn’t have to endure the same fate in hell. Thus, it becomes clear that the Christian god believes that the ethical punishment for sin is the application of agony, suffering, and torture- that is, he believes in cruel and unusual punishment. Such a deity is not deserving of respect, much less worship.
(1757) There is no art (or moral) guru
A standard Christian apologetic defense is that morality is an absolute, unchanging entity created by god and that the existence of human morality is therefore evidence for the existence of god. This argument can be metaphorically shown to be invalid by looking at the art world. The following was taken from:
Morality is subjective. To understand this, let us look at a thought experiment: the great art guru. Now I will freely concede that this metaphor isn’t 100% perfect. But it’s plenty good enough to get the point across.
To understand morality, we have to look at the art world. We’re going to focus on the dollar value of any given piece of art. In our metaphor the dollar amount of a painting, for example, is analogous to the moral value we place on a given action. So the way we say, “This painting is worth $10,000.00” is akin to saying “The act of teaching a child to look both ways before crossing the street is a very GOOD thing to do for said child.” Another example could be “This painting is worthless. It’s barely even a painting. It’s just a line on some canvas.” That could be analogous to “Pre-meditated cold blooded murder is terrible, wrong, and has absolutely no place in any society.” Since we want to know if morality is subjective or objective let’s delve into our metaphor and look at how we determine the price of art.
Imagine you and I are in a fancy art gallery and hanging on the wall is a gorgeous painting on sale for $10,000.00. Why is that painting $10k? It’s just canvas and ink. You could buy a television for a tiny fraction of the price and have far more entertainment. The components of the painting are available at any art supply store for perhaps $100.00 (if that). It’s not a life-saving pill nor a vehicle that offers transportation. It’s not particularly durable and could easily be destroyed. It’s hard to transport, but not so hard it can’t be stolen. What about the painting makes it valuable?
The answer is that the art community has collectively determined that it has value. That’s it. There is no inherent value to it other than what we give it. And that value can go up or down depending on a variety of circumstances. If the painter passes away, the value can go up. If the painting turns out to be a forgery, the value can plummet. And that ability to change is a good thing. It allows us to find the best value of the art and helps to avoid being scammed.
That’s how morality works. On a societal level, we determine the moral value of actions. It’s subjective which allows us to compare and refine our morality. If morality were absolute and objective, that would be like saying “There’s a great art guru who magically assigns values to every piece of art. If you try to say his price is wrong for any reason, then you’re just wrong!” There is no great art guru. And that’s a good thing. Morality changes over time and that has allowed us to make it better. Even on big things like rape and murder. Through subjective morality, we’ve been able to say things like “We shouldn’t let men in their 30’s marry 12 year old girls” which is a thing that used to happen. We’ve been able to say things like “We shouldn’t drop bombs on civilian targets in war” which is a thing that was happening as recently as WWII.
The morality argument is one of the weakest defenses of the Christian faith, not only because of the fact that morality is clearly subjective and ever-changing, but also because the morality presented in the bible is several orders of magnitude inferior to the general expression of morals in present-day society.
(1758) Four reasons to disbelieve in God
After focusing on specific trees, it is enlightening to step back and observe the forest as a whole. And so, in an attempt to ascertain the truth about Christianity and religion in general, it is advantageous to consider the reasons why a belief in a god or the supernatural should be questioned within a high-level expression of deductive reasoning. The following ’30,000- foot high’ points collectively make a decisive case:
- Lack of evidence
The lack-of-evidence argument for atheism is possibly the most famous, and although it is possibly overused by atheists and possibly over-attacked by theists, it is a substantial reason for not believing in God.
I believe that what you consider to be evidence depends on your own nature; it depends on your faith and your skepticism. The reason that some theists are so bothered by us saying “there is no evidence for the existence of a god” is because many of them consider everyday things to be evidence of god. What counts as evidence of a god varies for everyone; love, beauty, existence itself, for some, even the bible is good enough evidence.
As a skeptic though, the evidence that would convince me would be more substantial. If the Christian god were real, then I would expect to see God interfering in our lives in the same way that he did in the Old Testament, or I would expect answered prayers or direct interference. If this god existed, I would expect such clear evidence that it would be ridiculous for me not to believe. Of course, many Christians reading this will think “he’s right in front of your eyes, and it is ridiculous of you not to believe.” Consider this, my friend: what is clear evidence to you is not clear evidence to me. I need more.
Although belief in the Christian god would take more substantial evidence like in my examples above, the existence of a vague, unknown “deist god” or deity is harder to pinpoint. Such an ambiguous entity cannot be entirely proven or disproven, but to this end I will say this: a silent deity sure looks a whole lot like a deity that isn’t there at all. As a skeptic, I have no reason to believe that it is there, even if it is and cannot or does not show itself.
- Lack of necessity
There are plenty of arguments for the existence of a god, some of the most prevalent among them being the arguments from morality, from design, and from beauty. Among these and the other theistic arguments that I’ve seen, I have yet to come across one that convinces me. One might say that I’m biased towards naturalism, but keep in mind that I was raised with a bias towards Christianity, and I came across atheism on my own with no one prompting me in its favor.
One of the most popular stances taken by apologists is “as an atheist, how do you account for (insert phenomenon here)?” A lot of what I have read and what I plan to read focuses on just this: how atheists can explain phenomena and why God isn’t the necessary explanation he once was thought to be. Although I have yet to extensively read about them, there are naturalistic explanations for things like the beginning of the universe, morality, and the illusion of an intelligently designed world. These explanations deem an all-powerful entity unnecessary.
- Inherent contradictions
One of my greatest qualms with Christianity is the idea of a god that is all-present, all-perfect, and all-powerful. Inherently following these statements about their deity comes the problem of evil (or problem from amount of evil), the problem of unanswered prayer, and the problem of God’s inability to make people believe in him. To see more of my thoughts on this paradox, see my post Playing with Fire.
It’s worth noting that this reason deals only with my disbelief in the God of the Old Testament, but I’ve already mentioned my reason for not believing in a general deity who doesn’t claim to be all-present, all-perfect, and all-powerful. In any case, it’s rare to see atheists and deists arguing over a belief in an ambiguous entity, so it was worth including this argument that is specific towards the Abrahamic god.
- My own skeptical nature
If you happen to be reading this post in order to be persuaded that there is no god, I’m afraid that this final reason will be least convincing. A big part of why I don’t believe is because to me, I personally find the existence of a god to be outrageous and impossible. One may call it a gut feeling; however, before you think “atheists always tell Christians that a gut feeling isn’t a good enough reason to believe, so why is it good enough for you?” keep in mind that it’s in combination with my other three reasons.
When I see something beautiful in nature, there is nothing in me at all that is inclined to attribute that beauty to a god. When I look up in the sky, I get no sense of a presence “out there” or that there’s someone watching over me. When I think of some super-powerful detached mind snapping his fingers and setting the Big Bang into motion, I snicker. I see reason in reductionism, and the idea that there’s some incredible conscious being who can speak without a mouth or know without a brain or see without eyes merely strikes me as ludicrous. I know that this isn’t much of an argument, but I was asked to explain why I’m an atheist, and at the end of the day, my gut instinct and my skeptical nature play a big part.
The only way a human mind can be exposed to these thoughts and retain a belief in God is because that mind has been tampered with and is hard-wired to reject evidence of God’s absence. Whether a god exists or not, the evidence predominantly supports the atheist position. Given the claims attached to the god of Christianity it can be said that if atheists are wrong, there would be no atheists- because the existence of the supernatural would be a regular interloper into our natural world.
(1759) Leviticus originally did not condemn homosexuality
The Christian war against homosexuality had its origin with writings that were documented in the ancient Hebrew book of Leviticus. It can be argued that all subsequent biblical prohibitions, such as in the epistles of Paul, stemmed from this original text, viewed ever since as being the word of God. However, recent scholarship has revealed that the blanket condemnation of sex between men was not part of the original book, but was a later interpolation. Originally, it only condemned sex between men who had a certain relationship status. The following was taken from:
No text has had a greater influence on attitudes toward gay people than the biblical book of Leviticus, which prohibits sex between men. Before Leviticus was composed, outright prohibitions against homosexual sex — whether between men or women — were practically unheard-of in the ancient world.
Chapter 18 of Leviticus contains a list of forbidden incestuous acts, followed by prohibitions against sex with a menstruating woman, bestiality and various other sexual acts. In Verse 22, we find its most famous injunction: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Leviticus 20:13 repeats this law, along with a punishment for those who violate it: “They shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.”)
Like many ancient texts, Leviticus was created gradually over a long period and includes the words of more than one writer. Many scholars believe that the section in which Leviticus 18 appears was added by a comparatively late editor, perhaps one who worked more than a century after the oldest material in the book was composed. An earlier edition of Leviticus, then, may have been silent on the matter of sex between men.
But I think a stronger claim is warranted. As I argue in an article published in the latest issue of the journal Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel, there is good evidence that an earlier version of the laws in Leviticus 18 permitted sex between men. In addition to having the prohibition against same-sex relations added to it, the earlier text, I believe, was revised in an attempt to obscure any implication that same-sex relations had once been permissible.
The chapter’s original character, however, can be uncovered with a little detective work.
The core of Leviticus 18 is the list of incest laws, each of which includes the memorable phrase “uncover nakedness.” This is typically understood as a euphemism for sexual intercourse, so “you shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister” would mean something like “do not have sex with your father’s sister.”
Most of the incest laws are presented in a straightforward manner, but two are not. The first exception is: “The nakedness of your father and the nakedness of your mother you shall not uncover; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness” (emphasis mine). At first, this verse appears to outlaw sex between a man and either of his parents. However, the italicized explanation, or gloss, suggests that the law actually addresses only one parent: the mother. It is difficult to reconcile the two parts of this sentence.
The same thing happens again a few verses later: “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s brother.” Simple enough, right? The following gloss, however, may give you whiplash: “you shall not approach his wife, she is your aunt.” By the time we’ve finished reading the gloss, a prohibition against intercourse between a man and his paternal uncle has transformed into a law about sex between a man and that uncle’s wife.
Each verse in Leviticus 18’s series of incest laws contains a similar gloss, but the others are merely emphatic, driving home the point. (For example, “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son’s wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness.”) Only in these two cases — the father and mother, and the father’s brother — do the glosses alter our understanding of what is prohibited. A law prohibiting sex with one’s father fades away, and a law against sex with one’s uncle is reinterpreted as a ban on sex with one’s aunt.
What we have here is strong evidence of editorial intervention.
It is worth noting that these new glosses render the idiom “uncover nakedness” incoherent. The phrase can no longer denote sex if uncovering the nakedness of one’s father is an act that also involves one’s mother — as the gloss implies.
But more strikingly, the two exceptional verses are the only ones that address incest between men — all the others involve women. Once the new glosses were added to the text, the prohibitions in Leviticus against incest no longer outlawed any same-sex couplings; only heterosexual pairs were forbidden.
If a later editor of Leviticus opposed homosexual intercourse, you might wonder, wouldn’t it have made more sense for him (and it was probably a him) to leave the original bans on homosexual incest intact?
No. The key to understanding this editorial decision is the concept of “the exception proves the rule.” According to this principle, the presence of an exception indicates the existence of a broader rule. For example, a sign declaring an office to be closed on Sundays suggests that the office is open on all other days of the week.
Now, apply this principle to Leviticus 18: A law declaring that homosexual incest is prohibited could reasonably be taken to indicate that non-incestuous homosexual intercourse is permitted.
A lawmaker is unlikely to specify that murdering one’s father is against the law if there is already a blanket injunction against murder. By the same token, it’s not necessary to stipulate that sex between two specific men is forbidden if a categorical prohibition against sex between men is already on the books.
It seems that with the later introduction in Leviticus of a law banning all male homosexual intercourse, it became expedient to bring the earlier material up-to-date by doing away with two now-superfluous injunctions against homosexual incest — injunctions that made sense when sex between men was otherwise allowed.
This editor’s decision to neutralize old laws by writing new glosses, instead of deleting the laws altogether, is serendipitous: He left behind just enough clues for his handiwork to be perceptible.
One can only imagine how different the history of civilization might have been had the earlier version of Leviticus 18’s laws entered the biblical canon.
If, as Christians claim, the books of the Bible were inspired by God, why didn’t God get it right the first time, and not have to rely on a subsequent editor to communicate his idea that all homosexual sex is an abomination? What appears to have happened here looks much more like the work of several disagreeing human minds. The repercussions for gay men have been crushing.
(1760) God can no longer answer prayers
If it assumed that God has decided to interact in our world in a way that does not conclusively reveal his existence, then his ability to answer prayers has been severely restricted. This is because within the past century elaborate and comprehensive statistics are being collected and compared world-wide, meaning that meta-analyses can easily be used to compare outcomes in predominantly Christian countries against countries where a large percentage of the population is atheist. If God is answering prayers of Christians to the exclusion of others, his existence could be scientifically demonstrated. This would defeat his apparent goal of requiring followers to exercise faith rather than studying evidence to be a heaven-bound Christian.
God was free to answer Christian prayers selectively for many centuries because this effort would have been concealed by the lack of data, but as of today, such a way to hide his influence has largely disappeared. Although there might be some gaps where he can still honor his scriptural promise to answer prayers, those gaps can close at any time by someone who undertakes an effort to compile the necessary data. This leads to the irony of a human statistician being able to thwart the will of God.
Of course, when such comparisons are made, we see no indication that God is selectively answering Christian prayers. In fact, we often see the opposite. For example, the maternal death rate in the United States is 26.4 per 100,000 compared to 4.4 in Sweden. Given that both countries have a similarly robust medical system, and the fact that Sweden is measurably less religious than the United States, we can confidently state that God is not selectively answering the prayers of his followers in the maternity wards.
In conclusion, God no longer has the ability to answer prayers of Christians on any large scale while maintaining any degree of hiddenness. Therefore, he simply must give up and let nature take its course, which it certainly seems to be doing these days.
(1761) Failed defenses of the Bible’s embarrassments
Throughout the ages, Christian apologists have devised various ways to explain the difficult and often cruel passages in the Bible, in a desperate attempt to redeem the moral integrity of their god. It is instructive to list them and assess their credibility. The following was taken from:
a) Humanity isn’t qualified to judge God
We certainly have our flaws but humans are the most rational/compassionate beings whose existence can actually be proven. We make moral judgements all the time and collectively we test each other’s reasoning and over time discover answers no lone genius could. To argue we’re not qualified to judge a being whose existence has no verifiable evidence but who according to Biblical accounts frequently fails to show basic tolerance/empathy/compassion seems like an argument that has it all backwards.
b) Morality is whatever God says it is so he’s inherently good/can’t be wrong
If morality is whatever God says it is then morality is meaningless and right and wrong can change at his whims. By that definition morality is no longer a useful concept distinct from unquestioning obedience and we’re asked to neglect our intelligence and ability to think critically about right and wrong in favour of blind faith.
If you do step back and think critically, God being inherently good is an attribute the Bible tells us God has but that the examples of God’s morality don’t point to. There’s no rationale for him to be inherently good. Might certainly doesn’t make right and neither does age or the created owing a debt to the creator.
A more useful concept of morality is that it’s something we can arrive at through empathy/compassion and a logical preference for happiness over suffering and God – if he existed – could be held accountable just like everyone else.
c) Most of the disturbing passages are from the Old Testament and Christians no longer follow those laws.
This argument has three flaws in my view 1) whilst the New Testament establishes a New Covenant it doesn’t condemn the morality of the Old Testament, in fact it praises it. 2) the New Testament also has disturbing passages all of its own. 3) Christians still believe the events of the Old Testament happened. This means they believe that at one point in history the God they worship commanded the morally disturbing things the Old Testament talks about.
d) The passages are metaphorical/have been distorted in translation
Since the oldest known translations often include these disturbing passages and since the disturbing passages are found throughout the Bible it’s just not convincing to say they’re all distortions of God’s word without leaving yourself open to accusations of cherry picking. Admitting the Bible is flawed obviously brings the whole scripture’s trustworthiness into question. As for metaphor, the passages I find disturbing are almost invariably written as commandments/factual accounts and don’t really work as metaphors.
e) When you understand the context these Bible passages aren’t morally disturbing.
I’ve seen people argue killing the children of rival tribes was better than leaving them to starve/letting them grow up and take vengeance, that making rapists marry their victims meant they had to support them, that being an Israelite slave wasn’t that bad etc. Trying to defend every disturbing passage in the Bible this way requires either barbaric values or an extreme willingness to give God the benefit of the doubt via intellectual contortion; especially since challenging historical circumstances shouldn’t force a supposedly almighty God to make moral compromises.
This isn’t an exhaustive list but these are the kinds of passages I’m referring to:
God kills every firstborn son in Egypt to punish Pharaoh (Exodus 11:5)
selling your daughter into slavery is fine (Exodus 21:7)
beating your slaves is fine as long as you don’t kill them (Exodus 21:20)
people should be put to death for working on the Sabbath (Exodus 31:14)
God punishes children for the sins of their ancestors for three to four generations (Exodus 34:7)
women on their periods are unclean (Leviticus 15:19)
homosexuality is an abomination (Leviticus 18:22)
cripples, dwarfs, hunchbacks and blind men are forbidden from entering churches (Leviticus 21:17-23)
blasphemers should be stoned to death (Leviticus 24:16)
women suspected of adultery have to drink dirty water, if they fall ill they’re guilty (Numbers 5:11-31)
The Israelites take Midianites as prisoners of war. Moses is angered and has the Israelites kill the non-virgin women and male children, but keep the virgins as spoils of war.(Numbers 31:7-18)
God helps the Israelites wipe out a rival tribe, including children. (Deuteronomy 2:32-35)
God demands you kill your wife, brother, children or best friend for worshiping other gods (Deuteronomy 13:6-10)
disobedient sons should be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)
cross-dressing is an abomination (Deuteronomy 22:5)
In cities, women have to cry out for help otherwise she’s as guilty as her rapist and should be stoned to death as well (Deuteronomy 22:22-27)
rapists have to compensate the victim’s father and marry the victim (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)
God helps the Israelites destroy Jericho, killing “men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.” (Joshua 6:20-21)
A tribe of Israelites are killed by the others for not appearing at an assembly. The virgins are spared so they can be given out as wives (Judges 21:1-23)
God kills 70 people for an act of curiosity, after they look into the ark of the covenant (1 Samuel 6:19)
God orders the genocide of the Amalekites, specifically including children (1 Samuel 15)
God kills Uzzah for touching the ark of the covenant when he steadied it with his hand to prevent it from falling (2 Samuel 6:6-7)
God allows Job – who we’re told is an exceptionally good man – to be tortured by Satan to settle an argument about his character (Job 1:6-12) including the deaths of his children (Job: 1:20-22) but in the end we’re told God made it right by returning his wealth and giving him new children (Job 42:13-15)
Jesus strongly approved of the law of Moses and the prophets. He had no objection to the cruelties of the Old Testament (Matthew 5:17)
Whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Matthew 5:32)
Most people are destined for fire/destruction after death (Matthew 7:13-14)
Jesus still believes in the idea of a chosen people and discriminates accordingly. He compares helping a Canaanite to “taking the children’s bread and tossing it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:23)
If you need to abandon your family – even children – to follow Jesus you’ll be rewarded (Matthew 19:29)
Jesus evokes the flood which wiped out most life on earth and doesn’t disapprove (Matthew 24:37)
Homosexuality is shameful (Romans 1:26-27)
Runaway slaves should be returned to their owners (Philemon 1:12)
Women should keep silent in the churches (1st Corinthians 14:34)
Wives should submit to their husbands as unto God (Ephesians 5:22)
In the end, all of the rationalizations fail, and one must conclude that either the Bible is not factually true or that the Christian god is a cruel being not worthy of worship, and, for all intents and purposes, not likely to exist.
(1762) The death of female gods
Throughout ancient history, female gods played a large role in mythology and enjoyed a parity with male gods. This changed when the Israelites, for some reason, decided to elevate their war god, Yahweh, to the status of being the only real god, relegating all of the female and other male gods to oblivion. In particular, the ‘death’ of the female gods caused problems for women going forward. The following was taken from:
Clay figurines from 50,000 years ago may be our earliest example of the human understanding of the importance of childbearing. If the clan or tribe didn’t reproduce itself, it would not survive. Most of these clay figurines are of women. The ones with large bellies or breasts might have been made to resemble pregnant or breastfeeding women. How they were used in the life of the tribe will never be fully known, but it is not far-fetched to say they in some way show the awe and mystery about human life.
Fast forward to 10,000 years ago to the development of agriculture. Fertility of the earth becomes as important of the fertility of the tribe. If the crops don’t grow, people die. Similar female figurines continue to be found in the earliest settlements where agriculture was practiced. Eventually, a pantheon of gods becomes the norm and it is usual the female deity that assume the role of fertility. The Greek goddess Demeter is known as the grain goddess for her role in propitiating the harvest. Ceres fulfills the same role in Roman mythology. Juno is the Roman goddess of marriage and childbirth equivalent to the Greek goddess Hera. And the list goes on.
However, when monotheism is developed by the Israelites in Canaan, a curious switch begins to occur. Because the Israelite god, Yahweh, is portrayed as a male and the only god to be worshipped, the goddesses disappear. Human mythmaking up to this point had always acknowledged the role of the female as vitally important. It is she who gives birth. But there are several instances in the Torah, or Old Testament as it is known in Christianity, where the male god takes over this role by making barren women give birth. Both Sarah and Abraham were elderly and had no children. In this instance, god “intervened” and caused Sarah to bear a child who was Isaac. Isaac’s wife was also barren. After twenty years of marriage, god again intervened and twins were born to Rebekkah, one of which god loved and the other he hated. The New Testament repeats this theme when Elizabeth bore John the Baptist. The Holy Spirit comes to Mary and lets her know she too will bear a child without the intervention of a human male.
While the theme of god’s intervention in childbirth is used to foretell a story of great leaders of the Israelites in the Old Testament, it also is used to show that there is no need for a female deity for this purpose, the male god can handle it. But what is the impact of these stories? Not only are female goddesses eliminated, but the male god even usurps the women’s role in bringing forth new life. This is a far cry from the revered role played by women in other myths. Does this impact women? Of course it does. Does it further reinforce the patriarchy which dominates the Judeo-Christian tradition? Of course it does.
When gods are made up and then discarded, it makes the gods retained far less likely to be real, and so is the case with Yahweh. When gods take on one particular sex, it also makes them less likely to be real. When all female gods are discarded, it lets us know that male patriarchy and chauvinism has leaked into the world of mythmaking and that what is left over is a creation of human males for their own selfish purposes.
(1763) Problems with biblical prophecy
Christian apologists often refer to fulfilled prophecies as evidence of the truth of their faith. This argument would be legitimate if it were not for the fact that each claim can be easily refuted. The following was taken from:
I’ve been told that fulfilled prophecy is one of the strongest evidences that the Bible is divinely inspired. However, every piece of supposed prophecy seems to be less than convincing for one or more reasons.
Let’s look at one of the most popular messianic prophecies – Isaiah 53 (really starting at Is. 52:13). Christians see Jesus all over this passage. “He was pierced for our transgressions” clearly refers to the cross, right? But, it could also refer to any number of things. Jesus could have been stabbed, or gotten a nose ring. When the number of ways a prophecy can be fulfilled increases, it becomes less impressive. And the bible is filled with vague prophecies that can be interpreted in a hundred ways to make it fit.
The very next sentence reads “He was crushed for our iniquities”. So piercing clearly refers to the cross, and crushed refers to … what exactly? Maybe we’re talking about Jesus’ lungs being crushed under his weight on the cross. And I thought ‘pierced’ was vague. In verse 7, the prophecy states he will be persecuted but not speak out. He will remain silent. Except, Jesus certainly talks a lot. He cries out on the cross. He does speak before Pilate. The typical interpretation here is from Matthew where Jesus does not answer to the accusations against him. As long as there’s a single instance of Jesus not speaking, we’re good. And even if there isn’t, it probably just wasn’t recorded, but it definitely still happened.
- Cherry Picking
When throwing out a bunch of vague prophecy, it’s easy to latch on to the hits and brush aside the parts which don’t match up very well at all. Take Is. 53:10, for instance. Where this prophesied figure will have children. Somehow this part never gets very much mention. Standard apologetics will say this part is metaphorical, but if any prophecy can now be fulfilled metaphorically, it becomes hard for prophecy to NOT be fulfilled.
- Prophecy After the Fact
I know of a collection of books, written over a long period of time by multiple authors. They are filled with prophecies of a savior who will deliver the world from evil. And indeed, Rand al’Thor fulfilled every single one of these prophecies. Amazing.
We have no way to corroborate the details of the gospel accounts, other than the other gospels, and they often have trouble remaining internally consistent. There’s no real way to verify that the gospel writers didn’t embellish or outright fabricate parts of the story to align with what they knew of old testament prophecy.
- Failed Prophecy
When the Bible does get specific about its prophecies, it tends to not do so well. Take Ezekiel 26 where Nebuchadnezzar is prophesied to completely destroy the city of Tyre such that it will never be rebuilt. Or Ezekiel 29, where Nebuchadnezzar would invade and destroy Egypt such that no one would live there for 40 years. Well Nebby never invaded Egypt and Tyre still stands to this day.
Rabbinical scholars debate whether or not Isaiah 53 is even a messianic prophecy. Not only is the prophecy internally vague, it’s not even clear what it’s supposed to be prophetic of. Or, if we want better examples, the new testament authors fill their writing with supposed “prophecy” fulfilled by Jesus. Seriously, read Isaiah 7:14 or Hosea 11:1 in context and tell me these are messianic prophecies. And yet, the new testament writers use this as proof that Jesus is the messiah.
Thus it can be seen that biblical prophecies provide no evidence of the truth of Christianity. In fact, the lack of specific prophecies that were precisely fulfilled is evidence that Christianity is false, and that the prophesizing authors were simply regular men writing about what they thought or wished would happen.
(1764) The Bible’s most obvious contradiction
Throughout the Old Testament, God is highly concerned about tribal issues, government, wars, and the capture of land for his chosen people, including the taking of slaves and property from the surrounding tribes. Everything is focused on this life on this planet, with no concerns about an afterlife or the existence of any eternal consequences.
But all of this changes in the New Testament. Now God is no longer concerned about politics, petty rules, land, wars, or anything related to the particulars of this life. Everything is focused on a second life that is to come after this one. He teaches his followers to eschew the material aspects of this life, to not marry, or accumulate possessions. The earthy life is seen as nothing more than a test for entry into the next one.
It is more than obvious that the god of the Old Testament is not the same as the god of the New Testament. This disconnect is not a solvable problem for Christianity. If the god of the Old Testament is fictional, then the god of the New Testament is also fictional, but there is no reasonable means to conclude that they are both factual. Because of this dependency, the mathematical conclusion is that the god of the Old Testament might be true, but the god of the New Testament is definitely false.
(1765) Absurdities of Jesus’s conception
Depending on what kind of Christian you are, you either believe that Jesus was miraculously conceived by God, or that he was conceived in the regular way, perhaps by an illicit lover or a rapist, and then Jesus somehow came to inhabit the fetus. Mostly the former dominates Christian doctrine, so let’s examine that possibility.
First of all, the scriptures are somewhat inconsistent on this issue. The first gospel written, Mark, did not address Jesus’s birth. The last gospel written, and the most revered, John, also did not mention it. In addition the Apostle Paul seemed to have no idea how Jesus was conceived, so we can assume he thought that it was done in the normal fashion. Only the two middle gospels, Matthew and Luke, document the virginal birth, but they give conflicting accounts of how it happened. But that aside it is instructive to consider how it might have happened.
God and possibly Jesus must have surveyed the Earth to find a suitable female to carry the baby Jesus. So he selects a virginal teenager living among his chosen people, the Jews. She is selected because her fiancé is supposedly a descendant of King David, and for some reason that is important to God, even though there will be no male father for Jesus. This woman, Mary, is just a regular human girl (discounting the after-the-fact manufactured dogma of the Catholic Church that she was conceived immaculately). So she has a nest of eggs containing 23 chromosomes. So God has to manufacture a sperm cell or equivalent that also contains 23 chromosomes, evidently out of thin air. He must design the genes in a fashion to mimic the Semitic heritage of Mary’s homeland. Then he must get this sperm cell into Mary’s uterus, either by penetrating her vagina and supposedly intact hymen or by building it inside the uterus to begin with. He must be aware of Mary’s fertility cycle so as to get the timing right. In the meantime Jesus is patiently waiting in heaven for his transport to the earth.
After all of this planning, the god-created sperm cell mates with Mary’s egg cell, and a blastula is formed. At this point, Jesus must somehow disintegrate from his heavenly post and enter into the developing fetus. It is unknown if Jesus remains a god fully cognizant of all that is going on, or does he lose consciousness and become unaware of anything, consistent with normal early-developing fetuses?
If we are being honest, it is obvious that this never happened. The entire story was concocted many decades after Jesus lived to make him measure up appropriately to the pagan gods that were popular at the time. Making Jesus into a god necessitated that he have this type of a birth and Jesus’s ascension to godhood didn’t happen until about 50 years after he died. The whole fable disintegrates like a sand castle in a rising tide. It is pure fiction.
(1766) Missing footprint of demons
Christianity has married itself to the concept that demons exist, that they cause physical and psychological harm, and that getting rid of them (exorcizing) is an important activity. Jesus is credited by the scriptures to have been a highly successful exorcist and he empowered his disciples to do the same. Based on this, the fact that demons exist is necessary to retain credibility in Christianity. But to establish the existence of demons, some degree of evidence is needed and the absence of any such evidence is indeed evidence that they don’t exist.
The existence of demons is a scientific question, not simply a matter of faith. Because the scriptures clearly show that demons have the capability to inflict humans and to even hijack their vocalizations, the scientific study of demons should be an ongoing area of focus. However, there is no reputable investigation either completed or in progress.
If demons existed, there should be numerous instances where a dramatic step change in a person’s personality occurs or a similar instant change in a person’s physical health. Unlike organic diseases which progress slowly, a demon entering a person should cause an instantaneous change in that person’s psychological or physical status. Therefore, if demons existed, these kinds of dramatic overnight changes should be a ubiquitous part of our world. We should be seeing this happen over and over again and it should be a major concern for all of us. Instead, we don’t observe this happening. From this we can conclude that demons don’t exist and that Christianity is false.
(1767) Ten steps to God’s nonexistence
Although it is impossible to prove that there is no god in our universe, it is possible to demonstrate the extraordinarily likely truth that the Christian god does not exist. This is because the dogma makes many specific claims about this being- including that he is all-seeing and all-powerful. From such claims, a reasonable test can be devised to evaluate the truth of the claim. In the following, the Christian god is seen to fail ten reasonable tests of his existence:
1: There is no god:
There never has been. I have never seen, heard or felt one (or many). That alone should be sufficient evidence for a reasonable conclusion. If anything exists, there is evidence to support it, period!
2: If there were a god, why are there so many different religions?
Wouldn’t a real god unify the world into the common knowledge of who the big guy really is?
3: Would a real god expect his followers to rely on such a weak basis for belief as FAITH?
Faith and wishful thinking are inseparable in a religious context.
4: The god of the Bible spoke to Adam, Noah and Moses, but what about the rest of us? Are we just chopped liver?
Can there be any better evidence for the non existence of a god than silence?
5: The known universe is now believed to be 14 billion years old and millions of light years in size. The earth, compared to the universe, relatively, isn’t the size of a virus.
Isn’t that a big waste of space?
6: The only source of information for any of the world’s religions is from vague and unknown authors without any substantial historical verification.
The writings of Homer and Dr, Seuss have more credibility.
7: Nothing fails like prayer (Thanks, FFRF).
Praying alone should be sufficient evidence that no one is listening. Praying is intended to humble, humiliate and self flagellate oneself into a state of dependence to the extent of loosening purse strings and being manipulated. Self bondage is demeaning and loathsome.
8: Religious wars:
If god can’t stop wars, what can he do? The ‘good book’ shows that god supports and encourages war. A god of love? … Rubbish! Is there any difference between a god that could, but won’t, and a god who won’t, but could?
9: Disease and suffering, especially among children:
This is too obvious to make even one comment.
10: The reason for religion?
For the answer to this, I’ll rely on a quote from that great statesman and philosopher, Jesse Ventura. As Jesse so eloquently stated: “Religion is a crutch for those too lazy to think for themselves.” How could I add to that?
Conclusion: Man has a very imaginative and fertile mind. Man’s gods have man’s emotions. If frogs had a god, he’d be green.
In light of the above, if the Christian god exists, then he is nothing like what most Christians believe him to be. He would be a cowering, callous, impotent figure who stuck his toe in the water, found it to be too cold, and left.
(1768) Japanese defy Christian logic
It is often claimed by Christians that without God there is no standard for ethics, morality, or behavior and that a godless society would be a chaotic mixture of evil and violence. There is no better example to completely destroy this argument than what happened following the March 11, 2011 Japan earthquake:
I recently received an email, alluding to the exemplary behavior which had been observed and widely reported following the recent earthquake and subsequent disaster in Japan, which included the following list:
Not a single visual of chest-beating or wild grief. Sorrow itself has been elevated.
Disciplined queues for water and groceries. Not a rough word or a crude gesture.
People bought only what they needed for the present, so everybody could get something.
No looting in shops. No honking and no overtaking on the roads. Just understanding.
Fifty workers stayed back to pump sea water in the N-reactors. How will they ever be repaid?
Restaurants cut prices. An unguarded ATM is left alone. The strong cared for the weak.
The old and the children, everyone knew exactly what to do. And they did just that.
They showed magnificent restraint in the bulletins. No silly reporters. Only calm reportage.
When the power went off in a store, people put things back on the shelves and left quietly.
One of the persistent arguments offered against atheism is the view that without religious guidance, humanity would descend into a pit of immorality, devoid of ethical conduct. Pundits for the various faiths argue that without the carrot and stick approach of a supreme being with magic powers, humans would inevitably revert to a state where ruthless competition and self interest would be the only logical ways to live one’s life. If this were true, it is only logical to assume that these pundits themselves would, were it not for their religious faith, behave like psychopaths – i.e. devoid of any conscience, morality or empathy.
If only we had real examples to test this hypothesis. Oh wait! We do:
Japan is largely an atheistic nation, with 2/3 of the population not believing in any god. Can you imagine this highly moral and ethical behavior occurring in similar circumstances in ANY deeply religious nation – e.g. Brazil, Mexico, USA, Iraq, Yemen or Iran?
Moreover, compare the behavior of the Japanese when they were fiercely religious, believing in the divinity of the Emperor – their God – who dictated what was good and bad. I am referring in particular to the first half of the 20th century, which includes incidents such as the Rape of Nanjing in 1938 when 250,000 citizens (including children) were beheaded, and 50,000 women and girls raped, by the Imperial Japanese army. Such behavior would be inconceivable in post-Imperial Japan.
A counter-example this strong is sufficient to demonstrate that religion is not a necessary component of a civilized society, and in fact, in many ways, it is the reverse- it often makes for a more violent and uncompassionate world. The atheist survivors of this tragedy have shown the world that we don’t need to ‘create’ a god to explain the moral behavior of humans.
(1769) No angels equals no Christianity
The question of whether angels are real is critical to the legitimacy of Christianity. This is because stories about them abound throughout the scriptures from the Garden of Eden all the way to and beyond Jesus’s resurrection. If angels don’t exist, then it can be confidently concluded that Christianity is a mythical belief system. In the following, five scriptural manifestations of angels are considered as to their likelihood to be factual:
The most common role of an angel is as a messenger, to deliver a message, leave some food, point out the right direction, etc. They do a bunch of useful tasks not really requiring a supranational entity. I mean if god is all powerful, couldn’t he just speak out of the air to these people who need a message? Or if he can read our thoughts, can’t he speak to us in our minds? Couldn’t he have a bush talk, burning or otherwise? Or a donkey? There is a talking donkey in the Hebrew Bible already. Why send an angel? It seems a pretty worthless job for something supposedly as powerful as an angel. It’s sort of like delivering the mail in a Lexus. It doesn’t make any sense why god needs a third party to do this.
Some Jewish writing considers angels to be necessary because if YHWH appeared himself then he would burn up the people he was speaking to with his celestial majesty. Well, that makes perfect sense. You mean he can’t control his own magnificence? Doesn’t he have an “off” switch? I thought he was all-powerful, so surely he can tone down his own brilliance so as not to incinerate his followers. It all sounds suspiciously like the Greek myth of Zeus and Semele, mother of Dionysus, to me. But in that myth, even Zeus could control his majesty, and it was only when Semele asked to see his full majesty that she burned up. Also, if god is omnipresent, as both Christians and Jews believe, then he is there already beside whomever he wants to communicate with. He doesn’t have to decamp from the seventh heaven and come down to earth, he is already there. So why can’t he deliver his own message? He has to wait for an angel to fly down from one of the six heavens beside him and deliver the news? Lame.
In the Hebrew version of the story, angels supposedly were responsible for the Assyrians being ravaged during the siege of Jerusalem around 700 B.C. (2 Kings 19:20-24). An angel was sent to destroy Jerusalem because David ordered a census of the people, but god really hates a good census. God called him back at the last minute (2 Samuel 24). And of course, angels were responsible for the murder of the Egyptian first born after god hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 11:1-12). This last murderous rampage in the Hebrew Bible is actually being done by YHWH himself, but Christians and later translations have sometimes added a proxy in the form of the “angel of death.” Winged angels with flaming swords guard the entrance to the Garden of Eden like supernatural bouncers so humans can’t sneak back in (Genesis 3:23-24). Angels always seem to have swords, never a Bushmaster, Glock 9mm, or AK-47s, not to mention “swords of light” – as in Jedi lightsabers, or even a muzzle loader. And there is no indication that they know kung-fu, although they may wrestle as in Genesis 32:22-32. I think that the clear language of the text says Jacob/Israel is wrestling with YHWH, but many believers can’t seem to swallow this, and contrive ways to claim the text is really referencing an angel – but they can’t defeat a human except by grabbing his genitals. Many translations miss the typical euphemistic reference (see comment on Genesis 32:25). There are a number of other similar references, as the Hebrews seemed to have some hang-ups about talking about men’s genitals except when it comes to cutting off the top bit.
So, god doesn’t always want to take the blame/praise for his killings, so he sends his hit men. Who is he kidding? Does he think people won’t blame him because the angels did it? He wiped out all humanity except one inbreeding family with a flood, but can’t get his hands dirty with some thuggish Assyrians? He sends the Babylonians to punish the Judeans and take their leaders into exile. He sends the Romans to punish the Jews and destroy their temple to YHWH, but won’t do it himself? Destroying the temple seems like ruining his own fun, since YHWH loves the smell of burning dead animals and grains (hold the yeast) and the sprinkling of blood around the altar. I wonder what he did for fun instead once the sacrificial altar was gone? Maybe he discovered the joys of marijuana or opium instead of sniffing the smoke of burning goat and wheat?
Any if you have a host of sword wielding thugs at your service, what about sending a winged angel with a flaming sword to guard from the rapacious Germans the mass of naked, cowering Jews about to be gassed in an extermination camp? How about the Cathars and Huguenots massacred by the French Catholics? YHWH will spare an angel to guard a garden, Eden, but he lets his chosen people get gassed like cockroaches or termites in an infested house? YHWH seems to spend more time beating up on his own people than he does protecting them with his bully boy angels. And then you have the bloodbath of the American Civil War, where each side claimed to have god on its side. So why not send a sword wielding angel to one side, just to make it clear where god stands on slavery?
Be that as it may, Christians and Jews consider god to be omnipotent, so he basically controls the life and death of everything. So what are the enforcer angels doing then? If god wants you to die, does he send an angel every time, to each one of us? And what is the point? If he wants you dead, you die, right? Does he really need some guy with wings and a healthy sexual appetite for human women with fashionable hairstyles to fly down from heaven and do you in with his sword? I would note that there is a real shortage of “death by sword stroke” cases in the world,. Either the angels are not so active or else they have swapped the sword in for something more applicable, like a biological weapons kit, which would help explain the Black Death and the Spanish Flu. Again, if god does control the world and has your life in his hands, why send an angel with a sword? People die in millions of different ways, but sword wounds do not appear to be one of the more frequent nowadays. Yet even modern visionaries of heaven claim that angels are still keeping their flaming swords (see “Heaven is for Real” by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent).
These sorts of angels are not in the Testaments, but they are very popular in the imaginations of believers. These are the angels I tried to touch as a kid. They are ALWAYS beside you, just like god in his omnipresent form. So think about it, you have god and at least one angel beside you at all times. They are there for every instance of defecation, fornication, masturbation, regurgitation, expectoration, urination, and of course every male’s favorites burping and farting.
Why are the guardian angels there? Are they a substitute for seat belts in cars? No, Christians and Jews who don’t buckle-up in cars without airbags go through the windshield face first, same as everyone else. Going into the water without a life vest and the swimming skills of a brick take Christians and Jews straight to the bottom, same as everyone else. OK, so maybe the guardian angels don’t save us from god’s ordained harm to our persons, but what about guarding us from temptation? Can Christians and Jews resist the temptation of illicit sex, of drugs and rock and roll, of homosexuality, of a desire to work on the Sabbath, of the all-consuming hunger for thick sliced, smoke cured fried bacon, because of the presence of their guardian angel? Nope, no evidence of it at all. Christians and Jews engage in these activities, except maybe for the bacon, at the same rate as everyone else.
So what exactly do guardian angels guard us from? Any ideas? Maybe they help us find our lost car keys? But in terms of dangers to our lives, there doesn’t appear to be anything. If they helped with our health, then people would pray to the guardian angel for a cure for their cancer, and avoid the hospital. We all know that this just gets you closer to god, meaning death, and doesn’t help your health at all. And Christians and Jews stub their toes, fall off the ladder, drop dishes, and go through all the other ordinary daily tribulations same as non-believers, so the guardian angels don’t seem to be doing anything except watching and listening.
Someone told me that the guardian angels are there to save you from the perturbations of or possession from demons. OK, so maybe each one of us also has their own demon who is seeking to enter our body and the guardian angel is battling them to keep us demon free. So we have three beings walking around with us; god the omnipresent, the guardian angel and a demon. Don’t they get bored? Again, if this is the case, why can’t god do it himself, or just get rid of the demons in the first place. It should be pretty simple for the creator of the universe. It’s not a question of human “free will” if you have an angel fighting the demon, and you are not aware of either. And if this is the case, then I guess demons are pretty wimpy, since they never seem to beat any guardian angels – except in a few cases when a Hollywood movie deal is on offer. I wonder if guardian angels get days off? Do they work 12 hour shifts? As the number of people increases, does god make new angels to keep up with the growing demand for guardian angels? What do they think about while they watch you sleep, shower, drive, work, etc.? Can you possibly imagine a more boring, mentally deadening job than this? Especially when you never get to do anything when there is some excitement by your guarded human, like a car crash, or falling into a piranha pond, or getting a new selection of odious STDs. Maybe they guard people from a belief in evolution? If so, that would explain quite a bit of the rampant idiocy in certain parts of America.
Furniture Or Draft Animals
When Ezekiel meets with YHWH, he sees four angels holding up the throne of god.
“And out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. And every one had four faces, and every one of them had four wings. And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot; and they sparkled like burnished brass. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings [thus]: their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. As for the likeness of their faces, they had the face of a man; and they four had the face of a lion on the right side; and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four had also the face of an eagle. And their faces and their wings were separate above; two [wings] of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies. And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; they turned not when they went…” (Ezekiel 1:5-12 American Standard Edition).
Does the creator of the universe really need four, four winged, four faced, calf footed, angels to cart around his throne in the seventh heaven and down to earth for the purpose of awing the local illiterates? How about a helicopter? Of just floating on a cloud? Why does he need angel propulsion? Admittedly, it’s very unclear from Ezekiel just what is going on here, as the whole description sounds like a bad LSD trip. And while we are at it, why does YHWH need a throne? Does his back get sore if he stands up all the time? Does he sit on a cushion? If YHWH appeared today in a vision to some desert living, sheep loving herder, would he be riding a Humvee with angels for tires? Since he sits on a throne, does this mean he prefers kings to the detriment of democracies or republics? He’s god the all-powerful, and he presumably doesn’t need angel powered locomotion to move about.
Angels in the Testaments and in popular imagination are always singing god’s praises. If you ask a Christian what are 5 things they will do in heaven, one of them is sure to be singing. It’s the only fun thing that isn’t a sin really. And they encircle YHWH in their multitudes singing his praises in succession, according to many Jewish thinkers. But others claim that they don’t actually sing, they just praise god and occasional shout joyously. You have to wonder about someone who needs to be constantly reminded how wonderful they are.
It might seem obvious that if angels existed, there would be considerable evidence for them, including numerous videos on youtube as well as a field of science that studies them. But even if we discount the lack of contemporary evidence and concede that angels played a part in biblical times but then, for some reason, left the earth, we are still left with the insurmountable problems that are listed above. In other words, we can confidently state that angels don’t exist today and neither did they exist in the past. This leads to the logical conclusion that Christianity is false.
(1770) Brain injury changes moral judgment
Many Christians assert that the moral behavior of people determines their ultimate fate after death. This behavior is dependent on the moral judgments that are made in numerous circumstances throughout life. It has now been shown that damage to a particular part of the brain can have a significant impact on how these brain-damaged individuals manage their morality.
Damage to an area of the brain behind the forehead, inches behind the eyes, transforms the way people make moral judgments in life-or-death situations, scientists are reporting today. In a new study, people with this rare injury expressed increased willingness to kill or harm another person if doing so would save others’ lives.
The findings are the most direct evidence to date that humans’ native revulsion for hurting others relies on a part of neural anatomy, one that likely evolved before the brain regions responsible for analysis and planning.
The researchers emphasize that the study was small and that the moral decisions were hypothetical; the results cannot predict how people with or without brain injuries will act in real life-or-death situations. Yet the findings, published online by the journal Nature, confirm the central role of the damaged region — the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is thought to generate social emotions, like compassion.
Previous studies showed that this region was active during moral decision-making, and that damage to it and neighboring areas from severe dementia affected moral judgments. The new study seals the case by demonstrating that a very specific kind of emotion-based judgment is altered when the region is offline. In extreme circumstances, people with the injury will even endorse suffocating an infant if that would save more lives.
“I think it’s very convincing now that there are at least two systems working when we make moral judgments,” said Joshua Greene, a psychologist at Harvard who was not involved in the study. “There’s an emotional system that depends on this specific part of the brain, and another system that performs more utilitarian cost-benefit analyses which in these people is clearly intact.”
The fact that morality, the central feature of Christian righteousness, can be altered by physical damage to the brain indicates that a flaw exists in the Christian system of individual judgment. A person through no fault of their own could incur damage to their brain and thereafter behave in a manner that changes their post-life residence from heaven to hell.
(1771) Jesus came to send people to hell
Christians claim that Jesus came to save humanity from its sins. But using standard Christian apologetics, it is not difficult to make the case that the net effect of Jesus coming to the earth was to send a huge number of people to hell. This is because most Christians believe that someone who never heard of Jesus will get a free pass to heaven, or else ‘get a chance to accept Jesus after death,’ which is pretty much the same thing. Those targeted for eternal punishment are the unlucky ones who heard but rejected the message. The following discusses this kink in Christian logic:
The second doctrine I would like to challenge is that concerning the eternal destination of the souls of those ignorant of the gospel, through no fault of their own. According to fundamentalist Protestant beliefs, every soul will spend eternity in either Heaven or Hell (for this article, I will neglect to consider the Catholic belief in Purgatory).
One must be completely foolish or willfully deluded in order to deny that countless people have lived and died without ever hearing even the name Jesus. So I ask, are the souls of these people sent to Heaven or Hell? Again, I perceive my question to only allow for two entirely comprehensive possibilities. One must concede that those ignorant of the gospel are either sent to Heaven or Hell. If the believer affirms that these poor souls are indeed condemned to the tortures of Hell, then I argue that God has to be a sadist.
Although I’m sure this belief poses no real difficulty for the Calvinists, most reasonable people could never conceive of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent god that would predestine anyone for the tortures of Hell without AT LEAST presenting them with the chance for salvation. If God allowed people to live and die without providing them with the opportunity for salvation, one would be forced to conclude that he created those people solely for the purpose of sentencing them to Hell. All of human history has failed to produce a better example of sadism.
If, on the contrary, the believer asserts that those ignorant of the gospel are admitted into Heaven by default, I would argue that he/she has unwittingly negated the foundation of the entire Christian belief system. The idea that God grants salvation to those ignorant of Jesus insinuates that Jesus’ coming and death were entirely unnecessary! If God is indeed capable of granting salvation to those who have not heard of Jesus, then the need for redemption and reconciliation is negated. What purpose could the coming of Jesus have served? The only logical conclusion I can draw is that Jesus must have come simply so God could punish those who knowingly reject him. However, this would directly contradict John 3:17. Clearly, either answer to my question seems to require the employment of fatally flawed logic. So once more, another dogma must be disregarded because it is absolutely unreasonable.
The only way to argue around this point is to condemn those who didn’t hear of Jesus to either hell or oblivion, but this doesn’t make sense. It should be obvious that if a god actually intended to set standards for each human’s eternal destiny, it would have entailed a universal communication, giving each person an equal chance for glory.
(1772) God couldn’t have been fully human and fully god
Standard Christian dogma asserts that Jesus was fully a man and also fully god. This is apparently important in order validate his sacrificial mission for humankind. However, this theory runs into a major logical logjam, as is discussed below:
Countless times I have been subjected to a sweating, riled up, Pentecostal preacher shouting with enthusiasm his profession of faith in mid sermon. This declaration of belief often contained the statement that Jesus Christ was “both fully God and fully man”. Although I suspect that many pastors I have heard make this profession were unaware of its origin, it is perfectly supported by the Chalcedonian Creed (451 AD).
However, consensus among church leaders does not necessarily prove a doctrine to be perfectly reasonable. I contend that the characteristics of fully God and fully man are actually mutually exclusive by their very nature. In order to solidify my position, I would like to ask a very simple question. Was Jesus CAPABLE of sin? The answers “yes” and “no” are entirely comprehensive, therefore the Law of Excluded Middle prohibits any cleverly construed middle ground. If the reader asserts that Jesus was not capable of sin, then I say it is impossible that he was fully human. By biblical definition, human nature is inherently sinful (Gensis 6:5, Psalm 14:1-3, Romans 3:23).
If Jesus was actually incapable of sin, then he could not have been fully human because he did not share the curse of original sin and sinful nature alongside the rest of humanity. Suppose the believer argues that Jesus was in fact capable of sin, but that he abstained from it. I would then argue that it is entirely impossible that he was fully God. The defining line between humans and God is supposedly that God is incapable of sin (James 1:13, Hebrews 6:18). The notion of being fully human and fully divine is a paradox. On the basis of logic, the belief in the simultaneous humanity and deity of Jesus must be disregarded because it is completely nonsensical.
It would be very difficult for a Christian to concede this point and claim that Jesus was really just half-human and half-god. The theology would not work well under that assumption. Thus, they are stuck with a non sequitur, among many others that they must simultaneously juggle to remain as believers.
(1773) God is not required to stop evil but humans are
In perhaps the greatest double standard of Christian thought, we humans are expected to stop evil whenever we have the capability to do so, and can, in some cases, be prosecuted when we fail to do so, but God is never taken to task when evil acts happen on his watch (which is allegedly everywhere, at all times). The following was taken from:
If God exists it is an indisputable fact that he allows evil to happen. He does not intervene to stop it. For example, suppose a man is randomly beating a homeless person for sport. If you or I find this happening, it is generally thought that we are obligated to try to stop it. If we do nothing, and just let it happen, we are moral failures.
However, according to theists, God is completely off the hook for allowing these things to happen. God does nothing to stop instances like these. Why is he not thereby a moral failure? What is it about God that makes it okay when he does nothing? The theist needs to tell us a story of the form “God is special in that he possesses property X, which makes it okay that he does nothing to intervene”. I contend that upon examination, there is nothing about God that should give him a pass. There is no story the theist can tell us that exempts God from having to intervene. Let’s examine the unique properties of God to see why:
1) Omnipotence – The theist might say “We humans are obligated to stop evil, but God is really powerful, so he doesn’t have to stop evil”. This is obviously a bad argument. Having power doesn’t exempt someone from moral obligations.
2) Moral perfection – The theist might say “We humans are obligated to stop evil, but God is morally perfect, so he doesn’t have to stop evil”. Another bad argument. Being morally perfect doesn’t exempt someone from moral obligations. Moral perfection just is perfectly fulfilling your moral obligations.
3) Immateriality – The theist might say “We humans are obligated to stop evil, but God is immaterial, so he doesn’t have to stop evil”. Obviously a very bad argument. There’s just no conceivable connection there.
4) Eternality – The theist might say “We humans are obligated to stop evil, but God is eternal, so he doesn’t have to stop evil”. Again a very bad argument. The fact that one has always existed doesn’t exempt one from moral obligations.
5) Necessary existence – The theist might say “We humans are obligated to stop evil, but God is necessary, so he doesn’t have to stop evil”. No good. The property of not being able not to exist doesn’t exempt one from moral obligations.
6) Omniscience – The theist might say “We humans are obligated to stop evil, but God knows everything, so he doesn’t have to stop evil”. There’s no clear connection here. But the theist might say it’s not the fact that God knows everything per se, but the fact that God sees all ends, and knows that evil will lead to greater goods, which justifies his non-intervention. But the problem here is that for the theist, God’s knowledge that evils will lead to greater goods is not a unique property that God possesses. The theist also knows that all evils will lead to greater goods. This is just an essential belief to theism. So the property God has which justifies his non-intervention is a property that theists also have. Consequently theists should likewise be justified in allowing evil to happen to create greater goods. (But of course, theists don’t believe this. They believe they are obligated to stop evil)
7) God as creator – The theist might say “We humans are obligated to stop evil, but God created everything, so he doesn’t have to stop evil”. This is no good. The fact that you create something doesn’t make it okay for you to do anything you want to your creation. If God created a sentient creature just to torture it forever, God would be an unspeakable moral failure.
So in conclusion, when we consider the qualities that make God unique relative to humans, we don’t find anything that gives him a free pass on allowing evil. If we are obligated to stop evil, then so is God. And presumably, we are obligated to stop evils like people beating the homeless for sport. All of this is to say that the problem of evil succeeds. The fact that we don’t see the intervention of God to stop evil entails that there either is no God, or that God is evil, and/or impotent, and/or ignorant, in which case he isn’t really God.
If God allows evil to occur, why should humans attempt to intervene? It would seem that an act of mercy is tantamount to defeating God’s plan, which seems to include a lot of accidents and brutal attacks. As much as Christians attempt to explain this conundrum, it remains a red herring to their professed faith. God simply can’t be all that they have claimed, and it is much more palatable to assume that he simply doesn’t exist.
(1774) Rapture problems
Most Christians including nearly all evangelicals believe that the second coming of Jesus will be a dramatic event with the elect followers of Christ being ushered miraculously off the earth into heaven, leaving those of a different religion, lukewarm self-professed Christians, and atheists on the earth to suffer in some sort of tribulation. This is an idea that is well supported by scripture, as the following two examples (among many) suggest:
1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
Luke 17: 34-35
I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”
However, the inventor of this doctrine- likely Paul after he imbibed some mushrooms (he was the first to write about this), did not fully think it through. Because when the rapture occurs, it will send a powerful and convincing signal to those left behind that Christianity is the one and only true religion. There will be little remaining doubt after such a miraculous event occurs, largely because of its specificity in that only devout Christians will have disappeared from the planet.
It has always been a definitive Christian doctrine that as long a person remains alive, they have a chance to accept Jesus as their savior. Therefore, the ones left behind after the rapture, including Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and atheists, will almost unanimously accept Jesus and should therefore have their sins forgiven and also be accepted into heaven.
If this is exactly what happens, that those left behind from the rapture are accepted into heaven after they (by default) accept Jesus, then this seems quite unfair to those who died just previous to the great event and were sent to hell. Maybe, ‘timing is everything’ applies to Christianity? If everyone currently alive will eventually go to heaven, why even do the rapture in the first place? On the other hand, if God de facto denies heaven to those left behind, what about a 10 year-old girl who grew up in an atheist family who is now consigned to hell and loses her remaining opportunity over the next 70 years or so to accept Jesus?
There is no way to logically connect this theology to any semblance of consistency and fairness. The rapture is most likely the invention of a fanatical man (Paul) and is most certainly an event that will never happen.
(1775) Jesus planned for most people to go to hell
In perhaps the most unfortunate scripture of the Bible, Jesus is seen stating that most people will go to hell, while only a few will make it to heaven:
Matthew 7: 13-14
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
As long as Jesus was seen as just a messenger of God, this could make sense. He knew the criteria for heaven and realized that most people were not meeting these marks. But when Jesus was elevated to the status of being god, it becomes more problematic, because now he is the one who created the criteria as well as the one who engineered the overall characteristic traits of humans- meaning that he maliciously designed in the failure rate from the beginning (the fix was in). The following is taken from:
According to Christians (Calvinists aside), God sincerely wants all people to go to heaven. And yet, he already knows the vast majority will not, as per Matthew 7:13-14; if you’re a Christian, this isn’t just a prediction: it’s a guarantee. And therein lies the problem: God, being omniscient, clearly knew that the parameters he set up for eternal life (and consequently, to avoid eternal punishment, whatever that is) would be so difficult for humans to achieve that very few would make it and the vast majority would go to hell. Furthermore, this same God designed the evolutionary process (and/or allowed for “The Fall,” however you construe it) such that human desires are so naturally bent against those criteria.
If God truly loved his creation, he could make going to heaven easy and ensure the vast majority, if not all, could make it. The fact that he doesn’t in the Bible shows that such a God is not truly loving or good.
(1776) Bible authors were in the dark
Unless one takes on faith a viewpoint that that the Bible was written vicariously by the deity that made the universe, it becomes problematic to credit the authenticity thereof in light of the knowledge base that existed at that time and place. This is where reason and wishful thinking collide. The following was taken from:
How do we know when truth claims are correct? Christopher Hitchens once stated that “Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.” What could be more extraordinary than claims about the creation of existence? How do we know that the ancient people who made incredible religious claims were correct? It is enough to just to make a claim and say that God did it, to inspire faith?
The Bible was written by ancient people who believed that the sun moon and stars were created on the fourth day after the earth was created. Which leads to the question, “How can four days pass without the existence of a sun?”
Ancient Israelites believed that diseases were inflicted on creatures by God, Satan, and evil spirits. They were clueless about basic biological functions. They did not know that human babies resulted from the union of a human egg and sperm. They did not know that rain, snow, heat, and cold was caused by meteorological conditions. They seemed to think that battles were won or lost due to God’s will rather than due to the skills, tactics, and numbers on the battlefield. They were clueless about germs, viruses, vaccines, antibiotics, antihistamines, and anesthesia. They were clueless about the causes of floods, volcanoes, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, comets and sunspots. They had no idea what electricity, magnetism, sound waves, tidal waves, and the laws of motion were. They had no idea how many elements there were, nor the scale of the universe, nor the inner workings of the atom, nor even a rudimentary idea of what matter is. They hadn’t developed telescopes, microscopes or spectroscopes. They were especially clueless about evolution.
They couldn’t explain how most natural phenomenon occurred, but rather than admitting “We don’t know,” they claimed that natural phenomenon was the work of God. Given the cluelessness exhibited by these ancient men, and the staggering results that are now given to us by scientific discoveries, it’s obvious that ancient goat herders are not knowledgeable enough about reality to serve as ultimate authority figures.
In the same way that university researchers do not study and dissect the writings of Middle Age sorcerers to develop treatment strategies for diseases, we should not take the writings of people ignorant of much of the physical world as either a guide for conducting our lives or as a source for understanding true history. It makes much more sense to exercise skepticism than to give in to naked gullibility.
(1777) Manipulating prophecy
In his book Helping Jesus Fulfill Prophecy, Robert J. Miller shows how the authors of the gospels manipulated scripture to make it appear that Jesus fulfilled many of the prophecies of the Old Testament. This was an important goal for them because connecting Jesus to the Abrahamic faith was critical to establishing Jesus as the promised savior. The following book review was taken from:
It’s obvious that Jesus fulfilled prophecies about the promised Messiah–or so the gospels make it seem. But the real story is more complex, and more compelling. In hindsight we can see that Jesus had help fulfilling prophecy. The gospel writers skillfully manipulated prophecies–carefully lifting them out of context, creatively reinterpreting them, even rewriting them–to match what Jesus would do in fulfilling them. The evangelists also used the prophecies themselves to shape the very stories that show their fulfillment. This book describes in detail how Christian authors “helped” Jesus fulfill prophecy. Studies of Greek oracles, the Dead Sea Scrolls, translations of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek and Aramaic, and the writings of Josephus explore the interpretive techniques that paved the way for the New Testament’s manipulation of prophecy. This book analyzes how the belief that Jesus fulfilled prophecy became an argument to justify a new notion: the view that Christians had replaced Jews as God’s chosen people. An aggressive anti-Judaism is analyzed in chapters on patristic theologians such as Justin Martyr and Augustine, who embedded it into the argument from prophecy. The book concludes with an ethical argument for why Christians should retire the argument from prophecy.
It is often seen that Christians defend their faith in Christianity largely because of the perception that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Jewish scriptures. Once this defense is stripped away, and justifiably so as detailed in this book, it leaves very little upon which to hang one’s faith in Christianity.
(1778) God’s grievous error
According to the Gospel of Matthew, God made a horrific mistake that eventually led to the slaughter of babies and infants located in Bethlehem and the surrounding region. The relevant scripture is as follows:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
The following is taken from:
It would appear, moreover, as the story is related, that God made a horrifying mistake. Just think about it for a moment, as Tobin explains:
“It is also interesting to consider this story from the framework of the problem of evil. Note that God intervened by revealing to the wise men in a dream not to go back to Jerusalem so Herod would not know exactly where the baby Jesus was to kill him. It was because of not knowing this that Herod had all male babies below two years of age in Bethlehem slaughtered.”
Tobin notes that 19th century scholar, David Strauss (1808-1874) saw that God was at fault: “… if God wanted to avoid the massacre of the innocents, he could easily have intervened supernaturally at the beginning by making the wise men avoid Jerusalem altogether and head on to Bethlehem directly. That way Herod would never have heard of the birth of the Messiah.”
The fact that this story is pure fiction is irrelevant to the point being made. It is important because it reveals that the author of Mathew was a poor writer of fiction in that he failed to see the inconsistencies in his narrative. In an effort to be dramatic he made God out to be appallingly incompetent and an accessory to manslaughter.
(1779) Test for supernatural power in churches
Churches offer an excellent laboratory to test whether Christianity imparts any semblance of otherworldly influence as compared to secular institutions of a similar nature. The following was taken from:
I found a rather simple test for the presence of supernatural power in church congregations. One of the predominant characteristics of any non-supernatural volunteer organization is expressed by the 80/20 Rule. The 80/20 Rule holds that roughly 20% of the people will accomplish about 80% of the work. As it turns out, this 80/20 estimate works well for any Christian congregation. Ask any minister from any denomination.
A faithful few do most of the work and give most of the money. If the church were truly a supernatural organization, shouldn’t we expect a different standard—a dramatically higher percentage of hard-working and involved members than the norm for any other volunteer organization, religious or not? Otherwise, churches are not super, just natural.
Observing the behavior of church members led me to stop believing that Christians are supernaturally changed by a new birth experience when they pray the commitment prayer to Jesus.
An oft memorized verse from the New Testament states, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (1 Corinthians 5:17, King James Version). Conversion is a point-in-time rebirth that, by its very nature, is supposed to instigate dramatic, supernatural change. Otherwise, what does “new creature” mean?
Another hint that nothing supernatural is happening can be seen in the consistent failures of congregations to agree on how God is leading them. Born-again believers can talk to God and sense his leadership. A large aspect of prayer is “seeking an answer from the Lord.”
Now take a group of these born-again, new creatures in Christ—to whom God is giving directions and guidance for day-to-day life—put them in a small church and wait. Eventually, they will get into a disagreement about something. Sometimes, they will work it out, but often, no matter how much prayer has taken place, one group will get angry and leave to start another congregation. Wait a little longer, and the process will repeat—over and over and over—that’s why there are thousands of Christian denominations.
How can individuals who are supposedly connected to the same God—changed by him, talking and listening to him, and using the same book he has provided for guidance—be so at odds with each other so often?
Ironically, over time, as a pastor, I became most uncomfortable with church members who were absolutely certain that God was speaking directly to them—people who believed God regularly guided them to an open parking space at the mall or occasionally heard God whisper some snippet of special insight they were supposed to share with me so I could act on it. Too often these individuals seemed to be a little off-kilter, while those who didn’t take the concept of God speaking to them quite so seriously—and who typically practiced faith with a measure of moderation—seemed more normal, sane, and safe. Faith was supposed to function in direct proportion to how much of it you exercised, but too much “faith” could backfire and cause someone to seem “a little off.”
It was in noting patterns like these that I ceased believing that Jesus and the Holy Spirit inhabit Christians as a supernatural source of spiritual power. And, I wasn’t just looking at the lives of the people I served, I was also looking at myself—painfully aware of my own failures.
What I saw in churches over the years required no supernatural explanation. Yes, good things happened. Yes, a healthy church is an excellent place to find people who are working hard to be good, to do good, and to help others. But you don’t need anything supernatural to explain it.
I had to admit to myself that most of the Christians I knew, like everyone else, were shaped by genes, childhood experiences and training, education, mental health issues, and cultural norms more than by praying to receive Jesus as lord and savior. In addition, if I appraised the church without the supernatural component, everything fell into place more easily and made more sense than it did when I had—repeatedly—worked to view it as something driven by supernatural power from God.
I had spent more than five decades trying to impose a primitive, oversimplified view of existence on a very complicated world. Ironically, life became simpler when I let go of my faith-driven perspective, and with a rational mindset, embraced life’s complexity.
I now understood that sometimes movements and organizations work, but not for the stated reasons. In the church, positive acts and positive feelings are powered by the energy and mutual support of the church’s human members, not by a supernatural force.
When church communities are burdened by the same limitations, controversies, and labor problems as secular ones, it leaves a gaping hole in the arguments that apologists must employ to explain why. How can the influence of an unlimited deity be so sublime and undetectable? How can any explanation be more plausible than to assume the non-existence of this celestial being?
(1780) Christianity was born out of End Times failure
Early Christianity was nothing more than a sect of synagogue-attending Jews who believed that Jesus was a prophet signaling that the End of Times was approaching. Although not all Jews subscribed to this theory, these early Christians were still fully Jewish and did not at all consider themselves to be members of a new religion.
The early Christians were convinced that the End Times were imminent, as can be seen in multiple textual references throughout the New Testament and in the Apocrypha. But then something happened, or didn’t to be exact- the End Times did not appear.
So, the creation of Christianity out of whole cloth would appear to be a case of making lemonade out of lemons. After the Last Days did not appear, there was a pressing need for Jesus’s followers to explain what all the fuss was about. As a result, Christianity became a religion about Jesus himself as opposed to being about the religion that Jesus followed. Christianity is therefore a concoction manufactured to mask over a failed prediction.
(1781) Ancient science texts are more reliable
When comparing scientific texts from antiquity with those associated with religion, a stark difference is seen- the scientific ones are easy to verify their accuracy and fidelity to the original work of the author while the religious ones are so riddled with alterations, edits, and additions, that such a reconstruction is often difficult. The following was taken from:
No doubt that future versions of Bibles will surface in the future: revisions of previously revised Bibles and newer revisions of new versions. The history of the many versions of the Bible stories, from the ancient Mesopotamian myths to the varied interpretations, interpolations, and versions of the Bible speaks volumes about the reliability of their interpretations and the alleged “truth” they claim the Bible holds, because it shows that the Bible comes not from supernatural agents but rather from human imagination.
We have not one shred of evidence for the supernatural influence on human written works (and mostly from unknown authors), but we do have an abundance of evidence for human recorded beliefs and myths. This shows a marked difference between those of scientific works and those deriving from religious minds. For example, Euclid’s Elements written around 300 B.C.E. has changed little since its inception. Scientists don’t argue and debate about its meaning because they know it doesn’t represent an absolute or fixed work. It only provides a step in the understanding of geometry.
Most Christian apologists, on the other hand, view the Bible as fixed and absolute, if only they could only just get the interpretation correct. But regardless of how much they want the Bible to reflect their particular beliefs, they can never dislodge the violence and atrocities described and condoned by their God in the stories in the Old Testament. Nor can they dismiss the even more horrific result of the horrors of Hell as amplified by the words of the alleged Jesus in the New Testament where almost everyone on earth dies in eternal fire. In short, Bible belief influences horror, not by the majority but by the few that actually believe in its macabre prophecy and have the power to force their beliefs onto the majority.
This phenomenon results from a fundamental difference between science and religion. Science is an iterative process, never professing to be the exact or final answer to any question, whereas religion purports to be the ultimate and final word proffered by an infallible divine being. Because of this, works of science from the past are more easily verified than those associated with religion- why? Because there is more motivation to revise a text that is seen by the editor as a means to advance a doctrine that will stand the test of time and not be challenged.
(1782) God fails to arrest apostasy
If Christianity is true, then God is continuously monitoring this planet and all that goes on here. Certainly, he is aware of the world-wide diminishing belief among humans that he exists. After giving so much evidence of his existence in prior times, why is withholding it now, now that it is needed more than ever? The following was taken from:
Throughout the old and new testament God speaks to many people which allowed for these testaments to be written. If you are a believer, why is it that god no longer finds it beneficial to speak to men and women on earth and continue to spread his wisdom?
The world has changed so much in the time since the New Testament, surely some more direct guidance, affirmations or spread of goodwill would be a boon to his cause of loving everyone and wanting them all in the kingdom of heaven?
Is it fair to expect the human race to believe in God via the corrupted institutions that have followed in the two millennia since his death?
The Irish (arguably very pious people in today’s age) are losing their faith at rapid speed and it’s hard to blame them when the authorities of their faith were shoveling babies into mass graves, raping children, telling wives to put up with their husbands beatings and being happily complicit in a woman dying of sepsis rather than allowing an operation to remove an unviable pregnancy. In 30 years mass attendance has fallen from 90% to about 18%. I believe looking at the Irish people alone, if God was still in contact with his people, he would undoubtedly be able to arrest this figure and bring those people back to him. I wonder what would be God’s expectations of the Irish people now.
Some apologists will say that God is simply letting the human race go reprobate to presage his triumphant return and vicious judgment of the damned. But this leaves a thorny issue- that people being born today have a much diminished chance of believing than those of previous centuries, simply because the zeitgeist has shifted so significantly to secularism. It seems unfair to judge nonbelievers who have grown up in a skeptical world while rewarding those who lived their lives in a predominantly sectarian time. Unarguably, if Christianity is true, God could arrest this trend and save more souls, but he has elected not to do so.
(1783) False beliefs hard to shake
New research has shown that when reassuring false beliefs develop, the possessors of those beliefs tend to abandon any sense of curiosity or investigation that might shed light on the truth. This has implications for Christianity. First, it helps to explain how a belief in Jesus’s resurrection could have thrived with no more evidence other than an empty tomb. Once the belief in the resurrection developed, it was simply accepted as truth without further exploration for evidence. Second, this phenomenon explains how a child indoctrinated with Christian doctrine can through adulthood dismiss counter-evidence or simply incuriously avoid it. The following was taken from:
Once a belief takes hold, it can be hard to make it budge, even with reams of data and evidence. Now, a new study hints at one reason why: When a person gets just a few jolts of positive feedback for their belief, they feel very certain they’re right.
This certainty persists even if the overall body of evidence suggests the person is wrong, researchers reported Aug. 16 in the open-access journal Open Mind. This certainty can be a curiosity killer, said study co-author Louis Marti, a doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley.
“If the answers you have happen to be wrong, but you have a very high certainty that you’re correct, you’re probably not going to go out and seek out other information,” Marti told Live Science.
Marti and his colleagues were interested in how misinformation takes hold, a hot topic in an era when false information spreads rapidly online. In the face of firm evidence, people hang onto false beliefs like that the Earth is flat or that climate change is a hoax, with obvious implications for politics and policy. [7 Ways to Prove the Earth Is Round (Without Launching a Satellite)]
The researchers knew from previous studies that curiosity drives the search for new information. The question, then, was this: What keeps people from becoming curious? How do they become so certain that they already know it all?
To find out, the team ran three experiments using online participants recruited from Amazon’s pay-by-the-gig website, Mechanical Turk. In three separate experiments with more than 500 different participants in each, the researchers presented a variety of colorful shapes on a computer screen and asked whether each was a “daxxy.” A “daxxy” was defined as a structure with a particular color, shape and size, but the participants had no idea which color, shape and size were right. They had to guess and then use the feedback on whether they were right to reason their way to the correct definition of “daxxy.”
The advantage of this method, said study co-author Celeste Kidd, a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, is that the researchers could statistically determine how certain any given participant should be about the definition of “daxxy” at any given point, based on how much information had been presented. They could then ask the participants how certain they felt and compare the two answers.
People are pretty good at using feedback to figure out what “daxxy” means, Marti said. But it turns out, they’re not so good at knowing when they’ve got the answer right. [Top 10 Conspiracy Theories]
The main factor determining how certain someone was in their definition, Marti said, was how well they’d done in their most recent answers — no matter how abysmally they’d performed otherwise.
“You might get the first 19 trials wrong but get the last five trials right,” Marti said, “And if that happens to you, you’re probably going to say you’re certain, even though you got 19 wrong.”
Something like climate change denial or belief in a flat Earth is likely more complicated than a simple learning task like the daxxy experiment, Marti said. But this confusion over certainty might still matter in those cases, because it could keep people from seeking out new information that might upset their preconceived notions.
Take a flat-Earth believer, Kidd said. Their belief can explain why the horizon looks flat from most vantage points and why it doesn’t feel like you’re spinning through space. That positive feedback might be enough to keep someone from searching for the real explanations (the immensity of the Earth’s curvature and the constant nature of its rotation, respectively).
The findings pertain to more than just fringe conspiracy theorists, though. Everyone holds false beliefs of one kind or another, Marti said. He added that he now hopes to study whether there is any way to “snap people out of” their misconceptions about certainty.
“If we can get people to realize there is a gap in their information, our theory would predict that would then raise their curiosity, which would then make them more likely to research things themselves,” he said.
It seems that the human brain is designed perfectly for religious and other false beliefs to thrive. The reward center of the brain is a powerful filter that reinforces confirming evidence for what is self-pleasing while shutting out everything else.
(1784) Origins of YHWH
It appears that YHWH, the god believed by Christians to be the only god that exists in the universe, was actually a deity that was not original to ‘God’s chosen people,’ the Israelites, but rather was incorporated by virtue of contact with another tribe. The following was taken from:
In fact, it seems that the ancient Israelites weren’t even the first to worship Yhwh – they seem to have adopted Him from a mysterious, unknown tribe that lived somewhere in the deserts of the southern Levant and Arabia.
The first mention of the Israelite tribe itself is a victory stele erected around 1210 BCE by the pharaoh Mernetpah (sometimes called “the Israel stele”). These Israelites are described as a people inhabiting Canaan.
So how did this group of Canaanite El-worshippers come in contact with the cult of Yhwh?
The Bible is quite explicit about the geographical roots of the Yhwh deity, repeatedly linking his presence to the mountainous wilderness and the deserts of the southern Levant. Judges 5:4 says that Yhwh “went forth from Seir” and “marched out of the field of Edom.” Habbakuk 3:3 tells us that “God came from Teman,” specifically from Mount Paran.
All these regions and locations can be identified with the territory that ranges from the Sinai and Negev to northern Arabia.
Yhwh’s penchant for appearing in the biblical narrative on top of mountains and accompanied by dark clouds and thunder, are also typical attributes of a deity originating in the wilderness, possibly a god of storms and fertility.
Support for the theory that Yhwh originated in the deserts of Israel and Arabia can be found in Egyptian texts from the late second millennium, which list different tribes of nomads collectively called “Shasu” that populated this vast desert region.
One of these groups, which inhabits the Negev, is identified as the “Shasu Yhw(h).” This suggests that this group of nomads may have been the first to have the god of the Jews as its tutelary deity.
“It is profoundly difficult to sort through the haze of later layers in the Bible, but insofar as we can, this remains the most plausible hypothesis for the encounter of Israelites with the Yhwh cult,” says David Carr, professor of Old Testament at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
It is troubling to Christianity that the Israelites used to worship multiple gods, but it is even more of a problem that the god they eventually elevated to a unique monotheistic status was not even a creature of their own making.
(1785) People are using a flawed method to find God
It is enlightening to observe how people come to believe in the religion that they follow and compare that methodology to how they determine other facts about their existence. This effort comes to an important conclusion- religious belief is based on a method that is counter to every other aspect of the religious person’s search for the truth. The following was taken from:
First, we need to look at how people get their understanding of their religion.
With Christianity, first and foremost they get it from other people. People they trust. People who tell them that they know things about god or the supernatural. People who claim to speak for god.
Secondly they get it from a holy book, which is just a less direct way of getting it from other people.
And thirdly, they have personal experiences, including intense emotional experiences, that they believe come from their god.
The problem is that this is not unique to Christianity. All over the world, people of all different religions are getting their understanding from other people, holy books, and personal experience. And there is no one majority religion in the world, no consensus about what god is or what god wants. That means that people are using the same method for arriving at truth, and reaching different conclusions.
When people are using the same method, but getting inconsistent answers, this points to my first conclusion:
The method itself is flawed.
In science, if people were using some particular method for determining, say, the speed of light, and one group got an answer of 100,000 miles per hour, another group got an answer of 10 mph, another got an answer of -7 with no units, and yet another got an answer of “lumpy”, we would quickly realize that this was a terrible method and we shouldn’t trust it. Perhaps one group would accidentally have an answer that is more correct than another, but this method gives us no way of knowing which answer is the correct one. They may well all be completely wrong. We need to throw out the flawed method, and find something else that gives more consistent results.
So if we have an unreliable method for arriving at the truth about religion, there is no reason that we should trust any particular religion’s version of truth. Not unless they can show that they have a different and more reliable method of arriving at their answers.
And this leads me to my second point. Millions and millions of people all over the world are using a flawed method to arrive at truth, and not getting consistent answers. Yet those millions of people all feel confident that their method is working and giving them correct answers, and that the fact that other people are getting different answers from the same method is not concerning to them. They don’t recognize that they are using a bad method, even though the evidence of this is so abundant. So my second conclusion is:
Human brains are really bad at this.
In a way, it’s like the Dunning-Kruger effect on a global scale. We evolved to be good at many things, including tracking animal migrations and remembering which plants are edible in which seasons. We are good at working in groups, adapting to new environments, telling stories, creating tools to solve problems, and teaching skills to our children. But we have no natural talent for discovering correct information about whether a god or gods exist, and if so which ones, or what they want from humans. We are so terrible at this that we aren’t even able to recognize just how bad at this we are.
The answers that one group of people are completely convinced of are no more likely to be correct than the different set of answers from another group. Religions cannot all be right, since many of their beliefs contradict each other. But they can all be wrong. If you pick one at random to believe in, or just follow the religion of your parents or your geographical area, the odds are high that you have chosen the wrong one.
So my final conclusion is:
It is reasonable to withhold belief in all religions until a better, more consistent, method of determining the truth has been devised.
So far, no religious group has been able to produce such a method. I’m not holding my breath that they ever will.
An objective method to find out if there is a god, the nature of that god, and whatever interaction that god has with humans would necessarily be repeatable and convincing to all observers. This has never happened in history and until it does, this is a good reason to remain on the sidelines, waiting, and always open to new evidence.
(1786) Christian exclusivism
Conventional Christian theology assumes that it is exclusively the one true religion and that no other faith can supply the ultimate reward of an afterlife in paradise. However, there are many inconsistencies with this belief, some of which are discussed below:
The concept that the bible is the inerrant word of God
There are countless contradictions in the bible that are obvious (and many more that are not as evident). One just has to read the bible (not even study it in detail) to find these. I recall a pastor tell me that if the bible is not inerrant then we might as well just throw the whole thing out. The bible is an important book like others books. And inspired by God is a much more accurate manner to describe the bible. However it is far from inerrant.
While there are many discrepancies in the bible, here are just a few examples of some; let’s start with Genesis chapters 6-9 about Noah and the flood, there are two stories combined. One account has two, a pair of every kind of animal. Another account says seven pairs of the clean animals and only two of the unclean animals. Another one from the Old Testament is Psalm 145:9 and Jeremiah 13:14 where in the prior God is good and merciful to all and in the latter God will destroy all that worship a different deity.
In the New Testament, Matthew 10:34-36 describes Jesus telling the disciples that He came not to bring peace to the world, but a sword. However, in Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus says to love your enemy. Paul of Tarsus in Galatians 3:28 wrote: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” However 1st Timothy 2:11-15: says “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent…”. Religious scholars unequivocally agree that Paul wrote Galatians but did not write 1st or 2nd Timothy. The historical Paul of Tarsus was well known for supporting women’s equal rights.
Warped theology by Christian exclusivists which includes ignoring the human rights violations in the Middle East
A friend of mine, a professor of theology recalled a disturbing event while on his trip to the Middle East in the 1980s; a Christian fundamentalist attempt to bomb the Dome of the rock to somehow start the events for the second coming of Jesus. This action was endorsed by American Christian fundamentalists. Christian Zionists or dispensationalists believe Jews should control the Middle East to set the stage for the second coming of Jesus. Yet Christian Zionists do not endorse Judaism.
Jerry Farwell believed that a Jew would be the Anti-Christ. Of course if he had really studied his theology he would understand that Roman ruler Nero during the time of antiquity was considered by the early church to be the anti-Christ. Nero was persecuting early Christians. “666” was a code used by John of Patmos to disguise his criticism of the Emperor Nero—-the Greek alphabet assigns a numerical value for each letter, and Nero Caesars full name adds up to either 666 or 661, depending on how you translate the name.
To understand the biblical gospels academically, the second coming of Jesus and the end of the world were thought to have been within or shortly after his lifetime. As one example, Jesus is quoted as saying in Luke 9:27 “But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” So for Christian Zionists or dispensationalists to act in this manner (ignoring the atrocities) is not only unethical but also prophetically erroneous. The conflict in the Middle East involves a denial of the right to vote, segregation, violence and the death of innocent civilians, and many are children. This type of warped theology is demeaning true Christianity which include, first and foremost the care of innocent women and children.
Refusal to get acquainted with people of other religions
Exclusive Christians have generally no interest in learning another religion. I spoke to a local pastor suggesting I give a short lecture on Islam. He replied that this would be polarizing to Christians. This pastor wasn’t really criticizing Islam with this statement but instead was acknowledging that many Christians know almost nothing more than the propaganda by certain media outlets that Islam is equated with terrorism. On the contrary, two of the ‘Five Pillars’ of Islam include the concern and charity for the needy and the other is fasting to remember those, especially children that don’t have enough (or anything) to eat.
According to Buddhist scholar Edward Conze, Buddhist missionaries had been proselytizing for centuries (before and after the time of Jesus) around Alexandria, Egypt. To say Buddhism influenced early Christianity is not by any means unprecedented. Yet exclusive Christians have little or no knowledge of Buddhism and for the few that do, to say to them that Buddhism likely influenced Christianity would result in a staunch rebuttal.
More concerned with legalism than humanism
Some Christians are overly concerned with legalism (rules) and forgetting all together the concern and well-being of one’s neighbor (humanism). Which should include all neighbors of all faiths. The legalistic perspective has sin being perceived as disobedience to God and/or offending God and the humanistic one describes sin as what degrades or harms the person. But in reality, there is really no difference; disobedience to God is like disobeying a father or mother with the child doing something to harm themselves or others. A father or mother is seldom stunned with being offended directly. As an example, it is commonplace for a child to occasionally say they hate us (as parents).
Parents typically want the child to learn to adapt within society and respect all persons. If parents tolerate misbehavior, then the child will believe it to be acceptable in society. Since humanity was made in the image of God, then it would be logical to assume we would mimic His actions as parents. Sin is about what harms ourselves and subsequently others, not so much about offending God. God is concerned about the well-being of all of his children.
Thoughts, quotes, philosophies, and music from other religions have no merit
In the social media, and news, one will rarely (if ever) see an exclusive Christian quote someone like Rumi, the Dalai Lama or Gandhi. Why is this? Is it really because they are considered to have no merit by these people? Additionally, if a famous Christian musician becomes ill or dies, the exclusive Christian will ask for prayers yet if a Hindu or Muslim with similar fame faces a tragedy, seldom will there be the same request for prayers.
Overly concerned with homosexuality as being a serious and grave sin
Seldom do we hear in the conservative Christian media strong condemnations of frivolous sexual activities. Society has a tendency to elevate in status the irresponsible sexual undertakings of the young male, despite it being highly discouraged in the bible. This is not at all the case of homosexual activities. The bible clearly discourages irresponsible sexual activities but this is not exclusive to just homosexuals.
The responsible homosexual couple is much more likely to adopt orphans than the heterosexual couple simply because they cannot conceive. All of the synoptic Gospels quote Jesus saying “whoever may cause to stumble one of the little ones, better is it for him if a millstone is hanged about his neck, and he had been cast into the sea.” The proper nurture and care of children is central in Christianity. Jesus certainly didn’t say cast into the sea the homosexual as a consequence for their sins. As a matter of fact, Jesus never even once mentioned homosexuality in the gospel accounts of his life.
Belief that religious/theological academia is somehow falsehood, destructive and/or distorted
An article in the Christian post from John Piper where he reveals “Why PhDs in Theology Commit Adultery; Says They Cheat ‘Probably More’ Than ‘Less-Educated People’” is just complete nonsense. According to the Associated Press Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 54-57% of spouses commit adultery and the large majority of these people do not have Phds in theology.
It is a belief by many exclusive Christians that biblical scholars like Dr. Bart Ehrman or Dr. Michael Coogan agenda is to attack Christianity. Instead of understanding their results are from dedicated and countless hours of honest research and academia. Both are top scholars in their field of study. What exactly might either of these scholars or others like them gain by trying to undermine Christianity or another religion? I mean really? Bart Ehrman reads Hebrew and Greek and Michael Coogan reads Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. I doubt most of their critics have even the smallest grasp of these ancient languages.
Their concept of being “saved”
Countless times over the years, I’ve been approached by evangelical Christians in their effort to ‘save’ me as if I just fell off the boat. “I was raised Roman Catholic” I say; yet they still ask me if I’m saved, and I often respond with “saved from what”? Then when they get to know me and that I am a scholar of religion, it stifles them. One has to wonder if some of these people are too consumed with the being saved concept forgetting the importance of love your neighbor and enemy. If every Christian in the world including those overly concerned with personal ‘sin’ and being ‘saved’ would adopt (or foster) just one orphan, there would be no orphans and a lot less hungry children.
The truth of Christianity is locked into the assumption that it represents the one and only ultimate truth of our existence, but when examined, as elucidated above, this concept appears to disintegrate into a convoluted concoction of non-sequiturs. Such inconsistencies should not appear if exclusivity was in the unique possession of the Christian faith.
(1787) Once saved, always saved?
The doctrine of ‘Once Saved, Always Saved’ (OSAS) is a source of major dispute among Christian denominations. Most of the evangelical churches teach that salvation is a one-time gift that cannot be subsequently lost, while many mainline Protestant churches and the Catholic Church teach that salvation can be lost or forfeited later in life though sin or apostasy. There are scriptures that support either position.
The problem for Christianity is that neither position makes sense. If one supports OSAS, then it gives a newly saved people an unlimited license to sin freely for the remainder of one’s life or to declare that they no longer believe in God. On the other hand, if one rejects OSAS, then nobody can be certain at any time whether they are still saved, and it also makes for an arbitrary eternal assignment to either heaven or hell depending on the chance circumstances and timing of one’s death. In fact, it would mean that the best outcome after a person is saved is to immediately die, and not risk the chance of losing his eternal reward.
The problem for Christianity is enormous. Why does such an important theological question remain so uncertain and a point of contention among Christians? Why would God not have clarified this critically-important point and made it absolutely clear in the scriptures, or absent that, why won’t he clear it up by maneuvering the minds of all present-day Christian leaders to the ‘correct’ position? Since salvation is essentially all that Christianity is about, skidding on this issue is a mammoth failure.
There is one way of out the conundrum, but it entails the use of a known fallacy- ‘No True Scotsman.’ The way this works is to say that a person who is truly saved would never depart the faith or sin profusely afterwards, while claiming that those who do fall away were never truly saved in the first place. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence refuting this idea based on the large number of previously- dedicated pastors who have become atheists. They would strongly argue against the idea that they were not previously ‘saved’ in accordance with Christian doctrine.
The lack of a coherent, logical answer to this question leads to the conclusion that the entire doctrine of salvation is inherently flawed at the surface and that it makes no sense in the big picture. The immediate way out of the fog is admit that humans live, they die, and that’s the end of the story.
(1788) A more plausible explanation for the empty tomb
Christian apologists have long used the gospel story of the empty tomb as one of the ‘facts’ that support the historical truth of Jesus’s resurrection. But even if it is conceded that the tomb was indeed found empty, there exist many scenarios that are more probable than a person miraculously being raised from the dead. Is there a way that the tomb could have been found to be empty without any witnesses or the existence of anyone knowing what caused it or why it happened? Yes, as discussed below.
Why was the tomb supposedly empty? I say supposedly because, frankly, I don’t know that it was. Our very first reference to Jesus’ tomb being empty is in the Gospel of Mark, written forty years later by someone living in a different country who had heard it was empty. How would he know?…Suppose…that Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea…and then a couple of Jesus’ followers, not among the twelve, decided that night to move the body somewhere more appropriate…But a couple of Roman legionnaires are passing by, and catch these followers carrying the shrouded corpse through the streets. They suspect foul play and confront the followers, who pull their swords as the disciples did in Gethsemane. The soldiers, expert in swordplay, kill them on the spot. They now have three bodies, and no idea where the first one came from. Not knowing what to do with them, they commandeer a cart and take the corpses out to Gehenna, outside town, and dump them. Within three or four days the bodies have deteriorated beyond recognition. Jesus’ original tomb is empty, and no one seems to know why.
If this hypothesis is accurate, then the remaining details of how Christianity branched off from the Jewish faith become transparent. The unexplained empty tomb would have caused considerable excitement and would have been seen as evidence of a miracle. Dreams and visions of Jesus, whether real or fabricated, would have circulated like wildfire and eventually a tableau of Jesus’s resurrection story would have become conventional wisdom and been shared throughout the land. Given the time and place, fact checking would have been impossible. Simply accepting the claims on faith, a group of people self-identified as ‘The Way’ would have started an offshoot Jewish sect that would later be co-opted into a Gentile religion under the auspices of the Apostle Paul.
(1789) Luke rejects atonement doctrine
The author of Luke copied many elements of the Gospel of Mark and probably the Gospel of Matthew into his text. By comparing the three gospels it can be seen that Luke disagreed with Mark and Matthew that Jesus’s death and resurrection was for the purpose of atonement- the forgiveness of sins. The following is taken from:
Both Mark and Matthew understand the death of Jesus as an atonement, “a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, Matthew 20:28). Luke, however, omits all such language from his gospel (including Mark 15:39). If we assume that Luke has a copy of Mark while he is writing his own gospel, something the author of the gospel himself suggests (Luke 1:1-3), then Luke has not just failed to present an atonement understanding of the death of Jesus, he has deliberately rejected such an understanding. The only time one finds atonement language in Luke is at the last supper when Jesus says, “This is my body, which is given for you” (Luke 22:19), and “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (22:20). However, in one of the oldest Greek manuscripts of Luke, as well as multiple Latin versions, this language of atonement is entirely missing, suggesting an addition to the original in order to make it more consistent with the Mark and Matthew.
This is certainly not a minor discrepancy given that atonement is central to conventional Christian doctrine. It is also enlightening to see the difference in the following verses:
And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
When the centurion saw what had happened, he gave glory to God, saying, “Surely this was a righteous man.”
The fact that the gospel writers disagreed on a critical theological element is evidence that the gospels were not inspired but were subject to the whims of the authors’ personal concept of the truth.
(1790) Divergence of style in John
Defenders of the gospels take note of the differences between the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) and the Gospel of John, by claiming that John Is simply the same story told with a difference emphasis or that the synoptic gospels are a distillation of the more fleshed out John. But a studied analysis of the style and word usage leads to the inescapable conclusion that they are telling a completely different story. The following was taken from:
An additional point which tells against the historicity of John’s Gospel is the divergence in style between John and the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). In the words of the late Professor Maurice Casey: “These differences are so extreme that both cannot be right.” (Is John’s Gospel True?, 1996, London: Routledge, p. 80). We are not talking here about John merely rewriting the content of Jesus’ speeches in his own fashion; rather, what we find is that there is almost no overlap in content, or even in theme, between the teachings of Jesus recorded in the Synoptics and John’s record of Jesus’ teachings. Words such as “preach,” “repent,” “repentance,” “sinners,” “tax collectors” and “scribe,” common in the Synoptics, are absent or virtually absent from John’s Gospel, as is the word “parable.” The word “kingdom,” mentioned 57 times in Matthew, 20 times in Mark and 46 times in Luke, occurs a paltry five times in John. On the other hand, words like “love,” “true,” “truth,” “light,” “reveal,” “believe,” “scripture,” “Father,” “Son” and “witness” are far more common in John than in the Synoptics. Scholars such as Richard Bauckham have argued that Jesus’ aphorisms and parables, recorded in the Synoptic Gospels, were “the carefully composed distillations of his teaching, put into memorable form for hearers to take away with them,” whereas John more realistically depicts Jesus as speaking in longer discourses and dialogues. Undoubtedly the Synoptic Gospels are a distillation, but they are not a distillation of John, whose account of Jesus’ teaching is very different in its content. Defenders of the historicity of John need to explain this striking divergence.
To be fair, consistent, and logical, Christians should concede that either the synoptic gospels are non-historical or that the Gospel of John is such. One or the other should be deleted from the Bible.
(1791) Blood and Water
There are many good reasons for concluding that the story in the Gospel of John of Jesus being pierced while on the cross and bleeding both blood and water out of the wound is non-historical. The following is taken from:
IMPROBABLE CLAIM #14: That Jesus’ legs were not broken by Pilate’s soldiers, but that he was pierced with a lance instead, causing blood and water to issue forth from Jesus’ side. John’s story of Jesus’ legs not being broken, and of blood and water coming out of Jesus’ pierced side is almost certainly fictional. As Alter points out (2015, p. 182), if Pilate had ordered his soldiers to break the legs of the crucified criminals, then they would surely have obeyed his command to the letter: the penalties for disobedience in the Roman army were very severe. As for the blood and water recorded in John: while it is quite possible that a Roman soldier may have pierced Jesus’ side as an act of malice, there would have been no friends of Jesus standing close enough to verify that both blood and water had exited the wound. The Romans would never have allowed anyone near the crucified criminals, while they were being put to death by having their legs broken. And even if both blood and water had both exited the same wound, they would have comingled, so it would have been very difficult even for a bystander to distinguish them, as Jesus had previously been heavily scourged and therefore would have been bleeding all over his body. Consequently, John’s account is unlikely on both historical and medical grounds.
However, we do have a plausible explanation for how the story of blood and water flowing from Jesus’ side may have arisen. St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, describes how the Israelites who followed Moses in the wilderness were all “baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink,” and he adds by way of explanation: “For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:2-4, ESV). The Bible tells us that when Moses struck the rock at Meribah in the wilderness, as recorded in Exodus 17 and in Numbers 20, he actually struck it twice. In Jewish midrash, there is a story that the first time Moses struck the rock, it gushed blood; and the second time, water flowed out (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, Numbers 20:11; Midrash Rabbah on Exodus 17). Jesus was the rock; blood and water gushed out of his side when he was struck with a soldier’s lance. The parallels are obvious. To be sure, the earliest Jewish texts containing these narratives date from several centuries after the Crucifixion, but if stories like these were circulating orally in Jesus’ time, then it is not hard to imagine how they could have been applied to Jesus, for in St. Paul’s words, “the Rock was Christ.”
The Dominican Biblical scholar Pierre Benoit also mentions that the Midrash Leviticus Rabbah, 15 (115c) “contains the information that man is made half of water, half of blood: if he is virtuous, the two elements are in equilibrium” (The Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, translated by B. Weatherhead, 1970, New York: Herder & Herder, p. 222, n. 2).
The account of blood and water flowing from Jesus’ side claims to be based on eyewitness testimony (John 19:34-35), but as with the account of Jesus and his mother standing at the foot of the Cross, there are very weighty reasons for believing that the story cannot be true. On the other hand, the hypothesis of a legendary origin for this account poses no special difficulties for the historian. A bystander, observing from a distance, may have seen a Roman soldier pierce Jesus’ side with a lance, as a vindictive act of humiliation. In subsequent years, after the Resurrection, Christians reflecting on the incident may have decided that this act was no humiliation after all, but actually a sign from God, thereby transforming a story of the Roman degradation of Jesus into a story of his Divine vindication. For these reasons, an unbiased historian would deem it prudent to conclude that the story of blood and water flowing from Jesus’ side is not a historical narrative but a theologically motivated embellishment.
John’s Gospel goes on to say that Jesus’ legs were not broken, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken” (John 19:36). We have already seen that the Roman soldiers who were charged with the task of breaking the legs of the crucified criminals would certainly have done so; thus we can safely reject the historicity of this account, as its theological motivations are obvious: Jesus, who was killed on the eve of the Passover, is the Paschal lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7), which is meant to be eaten without breaking any of its bones (Exodus 12:46). Finally, in his book, Alter points out (2015, pp. 181-182) that even if Jesus’ legs had not been broken by the Roman soldiers, we could never be sure that none of his bones were broken without performing an X-ray, as the nails used in Jesus’ Crucifixion may have shattered the bones in his wrist; additionally, the beating and scourging that Jesus was subjected to prior to his Crucifixion may have also broken some bones.
This is a good example of the method and motivation that governed the effort of the gospel authors. These men were not historians in the strictest sense, but rather story tellers, who wanted their recounting to be adorned with symbolism and strategic threads connected to the Jewish scriptures. This is the primary reason why there are so many discrepancies across the gospels when they refer to the same event or else why they include an event that is not mentioned by the others. Each author had his individual agenda. Agenda-led authors cannot be considered objective historians.
(1792) Embellishing Jesus’s burial
As we go from the first gospel written, Mark, to the later gospels and the epistles, the details related to the burial of Jesus get progressively more impressive. This is a classic study in mythical evolution and creates much doubt about what really happened. The following was taken from:
Virtually all studies agree that as the tradition develops, every detail in the story is enhanced and improved upon. Mark begins the written tradition by saying that on Friday evening, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, requested the body of Jesus from Pilate, wrapped it in linen and sealed it in a rock-cut tomb. Never again would the story be told so simply. Joseph of Arimathea becomes a “good and righteous man” who did not consent to the action against Jesus (Luke 23:51), and then evolves into a secret disciple of Jesus (Matt 27:57; John 19:38). The “rock-cut” tomb in Mark becomes a “new” tomb (Matt 27:60), “where no one had yet been laid” (Luke 23:53). John not only combines those descriptions – the tomb is both “new” and “where no one had yet been laid” (John 19:41) – but also adds that the tomb was located in a garden. In Mark Joseph wraps the body in linen — nothing more – but subsequent Gospels describe the linen as “clean” (Matt 27:59) and claim that the body was bathed in vast quantities of perfume (John 19:39). By the time of the Gospel of Peter, during the mid-second century CE, Christians were going so far as to assert that Jesus had been sumptuously buried in the family tomb of one of Jerusalem’s most powerful and wealthy families. (1998, p. 447)
Generally speaking, when actual historical events are put in writing, the ones completed closest in time to the documented events contain the most details, while those of later authorship provide more generalized information. In the case of Jesus’s burial, the opposite effect is observed. Almost definitely, the subsequent embellishments can be dismissed as fiction.
(1793) Christianity is more irrational than Judaism or Islam
Among the three Abrahamic religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the case can be made that Christianity is the most irrational. Consider the following:
- The idea that three persons, the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, each with separate qualities and missions, and who communicate with each other, are somehow just one God
- The idea that drinking the blood and eating the flesh of the Son is important for obtaining salvation
- The idea that Jesus is God, but then having him complain to God for forsaking him while he was dying pinned to the cross
- The idea that Jesus dying on the cross was a sacrifice, when three days later he came back unscathed good as new
- The idea that newborn babies are born with sin because Adam and Eve sinned thousands of years previously
- The concept that a person’s belief is more important than his actions
- Jesus’s command to love one’s enemies while simultaneously promising to torture those who don’t worship him
- The absurdity of arranging for people to kill God’s son so that he can forgive them
- The idea that diseases are caused by evil spirits that must then be cast out
- The rapture, where people will actually fly up into the clouds to join Jesus
No matter how one feels about the three Abrahamic religions, it must be admitted that Christianity stands out in the pack as being the one with the most outlandish, absurd, and preposterous ideas. It easily wins the irrationality contest. Some Christians might see this as evidence that it is God-inspired, but anyone with logical thinking skills can see that this makes Christianity the least likely of the three Abrahamic religions to be true.
(1794) Exorcism by telepathy
The Jesus of Scripture already loses huge does of credibility by professing his belief in demons, that demons are the cause of most afflictions, and that the demons can hear, understand, and obey his commands. This today would only be observed in a person considered seriously demented. But, incredibly, in the following scripture, another layer of incredulity is added on:
Mark 7: 24-30
Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”
She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
In this instance, the demon cannot hear or even sense the presence of Jesus, but nevertheless it obeys Jesus’s thoughts? The author’s mistake in this instance was to truncate his account, lazily failing to write that Jesus traveled to where the child lay and then performed a legitimate exorcism. The use of telepathy to control what today we know does not exist does not bode well for the historicity of the Jesus of scripture.
(1795) Luke changes Jesus’s words for failing to return
By the time Luke was writing his gospel, around 50 years after the alleged crucifixion, Christians were becoming restless because Jesus had not returned in the time frame the scriptures had promised. It became important to explain this anomaly to prevent the collapse of the faith. The author of Luke, in an effort to settle everyone down, made a slight but very strategic change to one of Jesus’s statements and added an explanatory parable. The following is taken from:
The two earliest accounts of Jesus, the letters of Paul and the gospel of Mark, both indicate a belief that Jesus will be returning very soon. In Paul’s oldest letter, 1 Thessalonians, a major problem that Paul must address is a concern of the members of the church that some members of the church have died, but Jesus has not yet returned (4:13-18). It is hard to understand this problem arising unless Paul had given the Thessalonians reason to believe that the return of Jesus was imminent. In Mark, Jesus at his trial tells the high priest he will “see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62).
However, not only was the return of Jesus not imminent (he hasn’t yet returned), even by the time the gospel of Luke is written the emphasis on the imminent return of Jesus is eliminated. Thus, instead of having Jesus declare that the high priest would see Jesus coming with the clouds of heaven, Jesus now says “from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:69). Elsewhere in Luke, Jesus explicitly tells the parable of the pounds because the people “supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately” (19:11). Thus, in Luke, Jesus himself denies any immediate coming of the kingdom.
Here are the relevant scriptures, note the subtle change in Luke:
“You have said it yourself,” Jesus answered. “But I say to all of you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”
In this parable (only partially quoted here), Luke has Jesus explain that that he will not return immediately:
While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
The first test of the truth of Christianity was the early return of Jesus within the lifetime of many who directly witnessed his ministry. By the time Luke was writing his gospel, this test had failed. Instead of calling it quits, some Christians decided to re-interpret or change what Jesus had allegedly said to explain away this problem. Luke, in his gospel, was the first to document this adjustment. It should be obvious that if you have to manipulate the quotations of your prophet to cover up a problem, it is likely that your prophet was not legitimate.
(1796) Paul distorts Deuteronomy for his agenda
Paul was the architect of modern Christianity and his writings most famously shoehorned the doctrine of most Christian sects into a “faith alone saves” mentality, i.e. ‘you don’t work your way into heaven, rather it is strictly a gift of faith.’ Given this fact, it is intriguing to see how he manipulated the quoting of a Jewish scripture to further his agenda. First note what he wrote:
Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Here is the scripture he was referencing:
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
Paul conveniently left out the phrases “so we may obey it” in all three instances, obviously because that would suggest some element of works being necessary for salvation. What is ironic here is that Paul referred to a passage from the Torah, the scriptures that Jesus venerated, and deliberately distorted it to change the message of salvation- a change that had God intended for it to be would have resulted in Jesus plainly stating the same in the gospels. Thus, it is evident that the so-called ‘New Covenant’ is simply the creation of a psychotic man who never met or saw Jesus.
(1797) Gnostic Christians
The existence of a large group of early Christians that today would be considered heretical is evidence that today’s Christianity was not so much the creation of a god as it was the final result of a competition among many groups who each held separate concepts of the truth. One of the larger groups of early Christians were the Gnostics, as discussed below:
As well as the Jewish and Pauline factions, numerous other groups flourished in the early years. These were principally Gnostic sects, claiming that Jesus” true message was not available to all, but granted only to an inner circle of initiates. Such claims were not unreasonable since the gospels represent Jesus as saying as much himself. These Gnostic sects seem to have originally been Samarian offshoots of the main Jewish Church, and at least some of them had existed before the time of Jesus, anticipating the coming of a Redeemer. They seem to have competed widely with other forms of Christianity, and in some areas, notably Egypt and eastern Syria, they enjoyed a virtual monopoly.
Because the Gnostic sects were so numerous and widespread, some of their writings have survived the attentions of later Pauline Christians. Such writings provide interesting background information about the development of early Christianity. Paul himself often made snide and slighting references to Gnostics and Gnosis.
As the Pauline line gained predominance, Gnostic views came to be regarded as heretical. Their heresies amounted to holding definite views on matters about which there was little factual evidence, or laying particular stress on one aspect of the religion. Like the Ebionites, some believed that Jesus was a mortal prophet, born by natural conception. Others, called Docetes, denied his humanity. To them it was inconceivable that the son of God could have been executed like the most contemptible criminal. They held therefore that Jesus had been a divine phantom. He had descended from Heaven to the banks of the Jordan in the form of a man. He had had the appearance of flesh and blood, but this was a deception for he was incorporeal and could not therefore suffer. His death on the cross likewise was only an illusion. The Basilides in Egypt and the Valentinians in Rome were both Docete sects. Soon such Docetes were being condemned by the Pauline line as poisonous, and their opinions those of the antichrist.
Many such sects were rooted out and destroyed by the Pauline Christians on the grounds of being heretical, and yet the same basic ideas have emerged time and again over the centuries. Each new sect to resurrect the ancient ideas has been in turn persecuted into oblivion. Whether there are any true heirs to this early Gnostic line today is doubtful, though there are certainly claimants.
One fact that should be considered undeniable is that if an omniscient god made contact with humans and set up a religion, the one and only true one, it would have been done efficiently and in a manner that resulted in only one main sect, not many disagreeing ones. If Pauline Christianity was the intention of the universal god, then Gnostic Christianity would have never existed.
(1798) Christians concocted original sin our of thin air
The doctrine of original sin, that Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden doomed all of humanity to be born with this sin attached to their name, became a foundational principle in the marketing of Christianity and was used as a lever to enforce the idea that belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus was needed to overcome this deficit. But what is critically inconsistent is that nowhere In the Old Testament is this theology discussed. If not there, then how did Christianity retroactively score a point on this matter?
In desperation, some apologists will point to Psalm 51:5 as evidence that the doctrine of original sin was known to the Jews, though it remains the only possible reference.
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
This was spoken by David to the prophet Nathan after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
But surely, if God had intended to inflict all humans with the stain of original sin, this fact would have been plainly communicated in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. It is simply missing, and conspicuously so. [The Jews believed that Adam’s sin caused death and struggle to be introduced into the world but not that it resulted in all of mankind to be born with this sin.] This fact underscores the inevitable conclusion that Christianity hijacked an event documented in the Jewish scriptures and re-characterized its significance in such way as to make it fit with their refurbished theology. Such a rape of intellectual property is the sign of a fraudulent enterprise.
(1799) The history of hell
Hell, as a place of eternal punishment for the damned, has been both a blessing and a liability for Christianity. A blessing because it has scared many people to join and remain in the faith, a liability because it seems to portray God as a brutal butcher. But it takes only a cursory investigation into how the ideas of hell evolved over time to realize that it is simply the product of human imagination. The following is taken from:
So, how did Christian Hell become such a gruesome concept? It didn’t start out like that. Let’s reach far back into time. Some four thousand years ago. In “The History of Hell” by Alice K. Turner we have a resource that shows the beginnings of the concept of an underworld. At least, the first accounts about an Underworld that were put into writing in the area of the Middle East and Mediterranean.
The Sumerians [and the Babylonians] write of a goddess, Inanna, who visits her sister, Ereshkigal in the underworld.Inanna arrives from the world above and descends through seven gates to confront Ereshkigal. The sisters fight and Ereshkigal is the winner. She hangs Inanna on a stake for three days and nights. Inanna’s faithful vizier petitions the gods for Inanna’s return and Ereshkigal reluctantly permits her sister to return to the upper world provided Inanna provides a substitute or a ransom for herself. So, Inanna’s shepherd consort Dumuzi is given in ransom. [Geez, this all sounds so familiar for some reasonJ]
Do you see an eternal Hell here? I didn’t think so.
Classical Hades was the belief of the Mediterranean peoples for more than 1,000 years prior to the fifth century BC. There was a pantheon of gods and the gods had both good traits and bad traits. The Underworld was a place of mythological gods that came and went. There were monsters and demons that lived in Hades and punishment for wrong doing in the old Greek stories was not generally an after death affair. A handful of mortals went into Hades and come back out again.
Do you see an eternal Hell here? Me neither.
Amazingly, almighty God did not direct any one of the earliest writers from 4,000 years ago until 2,500 years ago to speak of eternal Hell. In the only areas that Bible God seems to know about -the Middle East and Mediterranean. [Let’s be real. God doesn’t seem to know that there is an arctic or a New World or even China.] It would seem like, if eternal, unending Hell was to be the keystone concept for the Christian faith, it would have gotten some attention immediately.
But the beliefs we hold today about God and Christianity actually rest solidly on the shoulders of the Old Testament. What does the Old Testament have to say about Hell? Nothing, nada, zip, zilch. In the Old Testament you went to Sheol.
“The Jews, judged solely by the evidence of the Old Testament, were either the least morbid or the least imaginative of the Mediterranean peoples. Unlike their neighbors, they had no relationship with the dead; they did not worship them, sacrifice to them, visit them, hope to reunite with them in an afterlife, nor anticipate any kind of interaction with Yahweh after death – quite the contrary…The dead were, in fact, unclean.” The History of Hell Alice K. Turner
And that is the way the Jews thought until the Apocryphal era. In Sheol you were just plain dead.
I ask again, if eternal, unending Hell is the most important reason to accept the Christian faith, why isn’t it mentioned in any form whatsoever until hundreds and hundreds of years after the Old Testament began to be written? Wasn’t the God of the Bible a bit remiss? Or is unending torturous Hell a modern concept that took on a lot of steam once the priests of the new religion of Christianity realized just how potent threatening people with unending torture after death really is? What a great psychological tool they had stumbled onto. But I get a little ahead of myself.
From the first century through the fifth century many Christians did not believe in an eternal Hell. Origen c. 185-c.254, Ambrose, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazanzus did not believe in eternal Hell. It was not until Augustine (354-430) that eternal Hell was solidified as a church doctrine. That is the fifth century. So, I ask again, if fiery and eternal Hell was THE important concept of Christianity, why wasn’t the concept of Hell widely incorporated into Christian belief immediately during or after Christ’s mission on Earth? So, though the concept of Hell as a torturous place had been introduced to the Christians by the second century, it was not necessarily a widely held belief nor was it considered eternal.
The whole Hell concept started gaining momentum around the Middle ages with graphic paintings and tall tales written by gifted artists. No doubt the dire wars and the bubonic plagues affected people’s psyches as well. But here is what I want you to get out of this very brief synopsis on “The History of Hell” by Alice K. Turner. Hell was invented by humans. It started small and grew ever larger as time went on. The Old Testament was devoid of Hell. The Apocrypha of the centuries just before Christ barely mentions an afterlife. The earliest writings of the New Testament have little or nothing that can be considered eternal hell; only dire warnings of punishment. That is about it.
Why do I, an exChristian, still care about Hell? The reason is because so many people are still so worried or even down-right frightened by this horrid and much abused concept. People live in fear of going to eternal Hell; that their loved ones are going to eternal Hell; that strangers are going to eternal Hell. All of it is nonsense. In my first article [Hell-Revisited] I showed you why some modern Christians do not believe in eternal Hell. The word eternal is not used with punishment in the Bible. And the word Hell is never used at all.
My beef is with the Christians who use eternal Hell- this irresponsible and immoral concept – and use it to great effect. Christians who do not believe in Hell are sent packing. They are scorned by most Christians. Most of Christianity wants Hell as a doctrine. They can’t give it up. It is a tool of control; a weapon to keep those who join the Church from leaving; a motivator to get the sheeples to do as the pastor/preacher/minister/priest desires. I have no doubt that there are sincere Christians but I also have no doubt that Hell is a baseball bat aimed at the knee caps of anyone who would dare walk away. It is this concept of Hell that makes so much of Christianity a destructive cult. And it is this concept of Hell that makes so much of Christianity an abusive cult. That is what I want to talk about the next time we meet on the topic of eternal Hell.
In the meantime, to get over your fears of Hell, stay in the rational. It is not real. It is an exaggerated myth. Whether you are newly leaving Christianity and you are quaking in fear or whether this is just a niggling fear at the back of your mind, I say push through it and keep going forward. This is the only life that you are guaranteed to have, the life you are living today – so live it in the here and now.
And so it is. Hell is an invention of superstitious minds that evolved over time into a place of greater significance and greater brutality. In a more benighted era it was a useful tool for controlling peoples’ minds, but in a more enlightened era it has become the focus of apology and revision by Christians who can’t fail to see the unmistakable contradiction that it poses.
(1800) Paul and the empty tomb
The Apostle Paul, in all of his writings, never mentioned that the tomb of Jesus was found empty, as alleged by all four of the gospels. This is curious because the empty tomb was and still is the celebrated tableau of the truth of the resurrection. This most likely means that the myth of the empty tomb was not prominent in the CE 50’s while he was writing the epistles, but only became conventional wisdom after the first gospels were written about 20 years later.
However, there is a good reason to understand why Paul was not interested in an empty tomb nor felt that it was even a necessary piece of evidence. The following was taken from:
When the Apostle Paul was asked “How are the dead raised? With what sort of body do they come?” he answered “that which you sow is not the body that will come to be” but “God supplies a body as he pleases” (1 Corinthians 15:35-38). I believe Paul meant what he said: God supplies a new body at the resurrection, and that is not the body we bury. I’ve made the case for this elsewhere, and have only space to summarize here. Since Paul believed Jesus was raised the same way we would be (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:13-16, 20-23, 49; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; Philippians 3:21; Romans 6:5), he must also have believed that Jesus did not rise in the body that was buried (“that which was sown”), but that God gave Jesus a new body (“the body that will come to be”). Since transferring Jesus to a new body would not require the transformation or disappearance of the old body, Paul would not need to believe there was any missing body, and there’s no definite evidence he did. So even if the body of Jesus remained in its tomb, this would prove nothing against the claim that he rose from the dead.
Several scholars have agreed with this conclusion and defend it. Even noted scholar N. T. Wright, though he doesn’t agree, nevertheless admits it might be correct. And we know Paul did not have to innovate to believe this, for there were many pagans and Jews who held a similar view, believing the best resurrection was one in which the earthly body of flesh is left behind and a new, superior body rises to eternal life. There is thus solid and respectable precedent for my conclusion, in both ancient evidence and modern scholarship.
For Paul, if someone had produced the body of Jesus to disprove the resurrection, he would have summarily dismissed it as being irrelevant. What this shows it that the empty tomb was a later invention to satisfy those who did not ascribe to Paul’s resurrection theory, meaning further that, because Paul would otherwise have been apprised of it many times during his travels, the empty tomb was almost certainly not an historical event.
Please follow this link to #1801.