(1901) Differing baptism stories
Each of the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) contains a story related to Jesus’s baptism. What is striking is that each one is a variation from the others, as it appears that each author exercised his artistic license to push a particular agenda. The author of John opted out of this debate and simply did not mention any baptism. The following was taken from:
All three accounts of the Baptism of Jesus differ, and do so likely to reflect the different theological interests of each evangelist. In Mark 1:9-11, John does not object to Jesus seeking to be baptized by him, Jesus alone sees the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove, and the voice speaks to Jesus alone (“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased). In Matthew, John protests to Jesus, and the voice speaks to everyone, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” In Luke, John does not even baptize Jesus, he has already been imprisoned by Herod, and the Spirit descends on Jesus not while he is coming out of the water, but after he has been baptized and while he is praying.
It is virtually certain that the baptism of Jesus, if it ever really occurred, was a one-time event that happened in only one way, so it can be certain that at least two of the three biblical accounts of this occasion represent a distortion of the truth. This once again indicates that the gospel writers either worked with erroneous source material or were not reluctant to make up scenarios that fit their purposes.
(1902) Dietary law discrepancy
One would expect that a scriptural message from God would clearly delineate his expectations for mankind. There are numerous examples where this expectation is not met, including whether the dietary food laws of the Old Testament should still be followed. The following is taken from:
In Mark 7:19 Jesus “declared all foods clean,” thus overturning Kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws. However, Matthew 15:1-20 gives the same account as Mark 7:1-23 but leaves out this declaration about food laws. Most scholars assume that Matthew was writing with Mark’s gospel in hand, and so he can be said to have deliberately left out this text, thus directly disagreeing with Mark. Even if one does not accept that Matthew had Mark in hand, the fact that the text is not found in Matthew is not surprising since in Matthew Jesus declares complete commitment to the law (Matthew 5:17-18).
“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.
It can be assumed that Matthew deliberately changed the sayings of Jesus as documented by Mark to comply with his own view that the dietary food laws remain in effect. It is unlikely that such a confusing conflict would exist in scriptures that are alleged to be inerrant and the inspired work of the Holy Spirit.
(1903) Matthew covers for Mary’s indiscretion
A careful read of Matthew Chapter 1 reveals a probable effort on the part of the author to hedge his bet against what was most likely conventional knowledge about the birth of Jesus. Although Matthew describes Mary’s pregnancy as a consequence of the Holy Spirit impregnating her instead of her fiancée Joseph, he strategically placed the names of four ‘loose’ women in Jesus’ genealogy to defuse the objections of those who considered Mary to have had illicit sex before she became married. The following was taken from:
Matthew mentions four women in the Joseph’s genealogy.
- Tamar – disguised herself as a harlot to seduce Judah, her father-in-law (Genesis 38:12-19).
- Rahab – was a harlot who lived in the city of Jericho in Canaan (Joshua 2:1).
- Ruth – at her mother-in-law Naomi’s request, she came secretly to where Boaz was sleeping and spent the night with him. Later Ruth and Boaz were married (Ruth 3:1-14).
- Bathsheba – became pregnant by King David while she was still married to Uriah (2 Samuel 11:2-5).
To have women mentioned in a genealogy is very unusual. That all four of the women mentioned are guilty of some sort of sexual impropriety cannot be a coincidence. Why would Matthew mention these, and only these, women? The only reason that makes any sense is that Joseph, rather than the Holy Spirit, impregnated Mary prior to their getting married, and that this was known by others who argued that because of this Jesus could not be the Messiah. By mentioning these women in the genealogy Matthew is in effect saying, “The Messiah, who must be a descendant of King David, will have at least four “loose women” in his genealogy, so what difference does one more make?”
This shows that many Christians of the time (around 80CE) did not believe in the virgin birth and thought of Jesus as being normally conceived. It took more time for the myth of the virgin birth to become the predominant doctrine of the Christian faith.
(1904) The disappearance of important events
In legitimate historical accounts, descriptions of important events are always brought to some resolution or a further accounting of the subsequent consequences. In the gospels, this attribute is missing as stories of miraculous happenings are left hanging in midair. The following was taken from:
Prior to entry in my classics M.A. program, I wrote as a writing sample a paper about the Roman prefect Sejanus and his alleged conspiracy against the emperor Tiberius in 31 CE. Both Tacitus and Dio invest extensive portions of their narratives introducing Sejanus and explaining the steps he took in gaining power under Tiberius. Whatever Sejanus was planning, it did not come to fruition, as he was executed by Tiberius in 31 CE. Part of the accusations levied against Sejanus was that he had many allies in the Roman Senate who were helping him in the conspiracy.
Now, imagine if, after Sejanus’ death, there was no aftermath or follow-up and the narrative merely moved on to another subject. This sequence of events would not at all be logical and would leave many questions unanswered. Instead, both Tacitus (book 6) and Dio (book 58) spend a considerable amount of narrative space discussing the senators who were accused and condemned for being co-conspirators with Sejanus. This makes logical sense, as the event and its instigator were both of a very important nature and we would not expect that they would suddenly disappear from a narrative in which they played crucial roles.
And yet in the Gospels, earth-shaking events take place that then receive no follow-up and strangely disappear once they have played their symbolic role in the narrative. Take the Gospel of Matthew, for example. While Jesus is being crucified, the sky grows dark for three hours at midday (27:45). Next, Jesus’ death (27:51-53) causes an earthquake that rips the curtain in the Jewish Temple in twain. The earthquake likewise opens the tombs of the saints, from which dead people resurrect and then appear throughout Jerusalem. This is an extraordinary event, indeed, and yet there is no follow-up in the Gospels or Acts of how the city was affected by this. Then, the Jewish authorities are so worried that Jesus’ tomb will be found empty, lest people believe that a miracle has occurred (as if the midday darkness and the ripping of the Temple curtain weren’t already convincing enough), that they convince Pilate to station guards at the tomb. When the guards are foiled, however, and Jesus’ body is found missing, the Jewish authorities claim (28:11-15) that the disciples stole the body. Grave robbery was a capital offense in ancient Judea, and yet, there is no follow-up prosecution of the disciples for this charge, even when they are brought to court on other issues. Furthermore, what happened to Joseph of Arimathea? His tomb was the one that was supposed to remain occupied, and yet, when it is found empty, he is not even questioned on the matter. The Jewish authorities had gone to great lengths to ensure that Jesus’ body did not go missing, and yet, when Jesus is claimed to have risen, they do not even undergo an investigation into the circumstances.
This sequence of events does not logically make sense, if the Gospels were narrating actual historical events. Instead, the Gospels are reporting fantastical legends, where people act in bizarrely symbolic ways and do not rationally respond to what has taken place. For this reason, as I explain in my essay “Let’s Presuppose That Miracles Happen: The Gospel Resurrection Stories Are Still Unworthy Of Belief,” the Gospels are not believable accounts, even in a universe where miracles actually happen. Actual historical writing is not so abrupt, and reasonable consequences occur after events that are important to the sequence of the narrative.
Another way in which the gospel narratives drop an obvious need for follow-up is that when Jesus is restored to life, it should be noted that he would have still have been subject to a death sentence and therefore would need to conceal himself from the authorities, but there is no hint of this caution in the gospels. In fact, it is alleged that he appeared to 500 people at once, some of whom likely would have been Roman spies.
(1905) Do not call anyone on earth ‘father’
The absurdities of the Bible drip incessantly from its pages, and one of the most egregious is found in the following verses:
But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
This is one of the gospel passages that you will never hear recited in a church. Here is Jesus commanding that no earthly father should be addressed or honored as such. There are no Christians who obey this command of Jesus. But there are plenty of Christians who assert that the Bible is inerrant and that we should do what Jesus would do. In other words, they believe that Jesus actually said this, but they still call their father ‘father.’ The contradiction is overly apparent.
(1906) Shut out non-believers
Christians have boxed themselves into a corner by declaring all scripture to be god-breathed (as asserted in 2 Timothy 3:16-17). What this means is that there is no filter available to cancel out biblical passages that are distasteful or even harmful, such as the following:
2 John 1:7-11
I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.
This scripture has been used to disown children who have lost their faith and to kick them out of the home and revoke their inheritance. It has been used to fuel hate and violence against non-believers. And it certainly represents a fatal contradiction to the following:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor i and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
The only way out of this conundrum is to admit that the author of 2 John was not inspired by the Holy Spirit and was simply projecting his personal bias and hate This concession necessarily injures the authenticity of the Bible.
(1907) Bethlehem birth prophecy is false
The authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke make a big case about the messiah being prophesized to be born in Bethlehem, and they contort their accounts of the nativity beyond plausibility to make this true. The problem is that they misinterpreted the prophecy from the Book of Micah. The following was taken from:
Matthew alleges that Jesus being born in Bethlehem fulfills a prophecy. In Matthew 2:4-6 (NIV) King Herod is concerned about the birth of the “King of the Jews.”
When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ 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 be the shepherd of my people Israel.'”
While the quote from the prophet, Micah, appears to predict Jesus will come from the city of Bethlehem, he was not quoted precisely. Micah 5:2 (NIV):
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.
Several translations make it clear that Micah was referring to a clan named Bethlehem Ephrathah, not a city.
Alternately, Micah 5:2 (KJV) states:
But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.
This translation is particularly troubling for Matthew. There are not thousands of towns in Israel, much less the subsection of Judah, today. It makes more sense that thousands refers to the people of Judah, rather than the towns of Judah.
There is also evidence that Bethlehem Ephrathah refers to the descendants of Ephratah. 1 Chronicles 2:1-51 states:
These [are] the sons of Israel; Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun, [….] These were the sons of Caleb the son of Hur, the firstborn of Ephratah; Shobal the father of Kirjathjearim, Salma the father of Bethlehem, Hareph the father of Bethgader.”
The Septuagint (which Matthew usually uses, but apparently did not here) is even more explicit. Micah 5:2 (Brenton Translation):
And thou, Bethlehem, house of Ephrathah, art few in number to be reckoned among the thousands of Judah: yet out of thee shall one come forth to me, to be a ruler of Israel.
The word house was often used in Hebrew to signify a family or a clan as in “the house of Judah” or “the house of David.” It was never used in the sense of “land” as Matthew applied it here.
Thus, the “Bethlehem” spoken of in Micah 5:2 was the “Bethlehem [of the house of] Ephratah” spoken of in Chronicles above.
The Micah quote has also been taken out of context, originally showing no indication of being a messianic prophecy, instead referring to a military leader. Micah 5:6:
And they [the person from Bethlehem Ephrathah] shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders.
Micah stated this in the context of the “many nations [that] have gathered against you [Judah]” (4:11), especially the Assyrians. It makes sense to assume that Micah, rather than predicting a distant Messiah, was promoting a leader to help Judah against the contemporary Assyrian threat.
It is clear from this example and others that the people who wrote the gospels either didn’t understand Old Testament scripture or they deliberately twisted whatever they could find to build what they thought would create a plausible link between the prophets and Jesus’s life. It turns out, though, that in the end their gambit failed and their deception was laid bare to modern scholarship.
(1908) King David was a despicable person
David, assuming he is not a legend, which he probably is, nevertheless is an important figure in Christian doctrine because the Bible makes a big deal about the messiah having to be a descendant of him, and the Gospels of Matthew and Luke go to great lengths to assert that Jesus was as such (even though he allegedly had no human father). So, one might expect that David must have been a remarkably good man of superior moral rectitude. But he wasn’t, not even close. The following was taken from:
If David, beloved King of the Jews, had been tried in our current International Court of Justice, he would have been found guilty of Crimes Against Humanity as horrific as the worst mass murders in history (e.g. Hitler, Mao Ze-Dong, Stalin, Pol Pot, et. al.)
Crimes Against Humanity:
particularly odious offenses that constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings.
political, racial, or religious persecution
Not only did David violate every modern sense of morals, he also violated 5 of the 10 commandments. You can count em; we’re about to puke.
All of his crimes were committed with the blessing of God who sometimes gleefully joined in the killings. David was so successful at killing and murder (and foreskin shucking) because he had more faith in God than anyone else. Thus God rewarded David with “victory” over his enemies (some of whom lived peacefully nearby). It was only after David’s faith wavered that his killing spree ended.
MORAL: Have faith in God and anything, including being able to slaughter thine enemies, is possible.
It would be hard to find anyone in the bible that God liked more than David.
He was directly selected by God to be king, and “the Spirit of the Lord came
upon David from that day forward.”
And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. 1 Sam.16:10-13
His heart “was perfect with the Lord” and “the Lord God of hosts was with him.”
David … grew great, and the LORD God of hosts was with him. 2 Sam.5:10
He walked in God’s ways and kept his statutes.
And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days. 1 Kg.3:14
And (with the exception of the matter of Uriah the Hitite) he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord in his every act throughout his lifetime.
Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. 1 Kg.15:5
He was, according to Acts, a man after God’s own heart.
And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the [son] of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will. Acts 13:22 (See also 1 Sam.13:14)
So if we want to know what type of person God likes, we need only look at David.Those who believe in the bible should try hard to imitate David, to always ask themselves “What would David Do?” in any particular situation. The two numbers following the biblical passages will be the (estimated?) body count of that passage’s carnage and the cumulative body count.
Here is that which David did that was right in the eyes of the LORD,
- He kills Goliath with his sling, beheads him, and carries the head back to Jerusalem. 1 Sam.17:51-57 (1,1)
- He and Saul have a contest to see who can kill the most people for God, and the women act as cheerleaders saying, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” 1 Sam.18:6-7 (20,000, 20,001)
- He kills 200 Philistines and brings their foreskins to Saul to buy his first wife (Saul’s daughter Michal). 1 Sam.18:25-27 (200, 20,201)
- He shows cowardice and lack of faith in God when he acts like he’s crazy, scribbles on the gates of Gath, and lets spit run down his beard. All this he did in front of Israel’s enemies in the hopes that they would take him in and protect him from Saul. 1 Sam.21:12
- He “inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines? And the Lord said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines … So David smote them with a great slaughter.” 1 Sam.23:2-5 (10,000?, 30,201)
- He “smote the land and left neither man nor woman alive.” 1 Sam.27:8-11(20,000? 50,201)
- He had many (like Joseph Smith, no one knows how many) wives. 1 Sm.30:5
- He tells one of his “young men” to kill the Amalekite messenger who claimed to have mercifully killed Saul at Saul’s own request. 2 Sam.1:15 (1, 50,202)
- When Joab (David’s captain) kills Abner, David says that he and his kingdom are not responsible. The blame, he says, lays with Joab. So David curses Joab, his family, and their descendants forever. Let them all be plagued with venereal diseases and leprosy, starve to death, commit suicide, or lean on staves. 2 Sam.3:27-29 (100?, 50,302)
- Some of David’s men kill Saul’s son and bring his head to David, thinking that he’ll be pleased. But he wasn’t. David has the assassins killed, their hands and feet chopped off, and their bodies hung up (for decorations?) over the pool in Hebron. 2 Sam.4:6-7 (5?, 50,307)
- He says that whoever kills the lame and the blind will be his “chief and captain.” 2 Sam.5:8
- He asks God if he should kill some more Philistines. God says yes, and he’ll even help. So David and God “smote the Philistines” again. 2 Sam.5:19, 25(2000?, 52,307)
- He dances nearly naked in front of God and everybody. Michal criticizes him for it and God punishes her by having “no child unto the day of her death.” 2 Sam.6:14, 20-22
He kills two thirds of the Moabites and makes the rest slaves. He also cripples the captured horses. 2 Sam.8:2-4 (667?, 52,974)
- He kills and tortures thousands of people, “and the Lord preserved David withersoever he went.” 2 Sam.8:6, 14 (66,850, 120,000+) We give up, you get the idea.
- He sees a woman (Bathsheba) bathing and likes what he sees. so he sends for her and commits adultery with her “for she was purified from her uncleanness.” She conceives and bears a son (which God later kills to punish David). 2 Sam.11:2-5
- He tells Joab (his captain) to send Bathseba’s husband (Uriah) to “the forefront of the hottest battle … that he may be smitten and die.” In this way, David gets another wife. 2 Sam.11:15, 17, 27 (This is the only thing he ever did wrong. Everything else was “right in the eyes of the Lord.”)
- He tortured or enslaved (depending on translation) the inhabitants of several cities. 2 Sam.12:31,1 Chr.20:1-3
- He shows unusual restraint and “went not in unto his concubines.” Instead, he imprisons them as a punishment for being raped by David’s son, Absalom. 2 Sam.20:3 (Concubines? Hmm – let’s see… wasn’t this AFTER the Nth commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”?)
- To appease God and end the famine that was caused by his predecessor (Saul), David agrees to have seven of Saul’s sons killed and hung up “unto the Lord.” 2 Sam.21:6-9
Old King David tries to get some heat by having a beautiful virgin minister unto him. 1 Kg.1:1-4
- In David’s last words, he commands his son Solomon to murder Joab.
So if you believe and trust in the Bible, you should try to follow the example of David. Have total faith and trust in the Lord and he will help you in any endeavor, no matter how heinous.
Therefore, the prime figure defining Jesus’s lineage is seen to be a horrible person. This forcefully de-legitimizes the faith. It is something of a joke for a Christian to tout Jesus as having a blood connection to King David.
(1909) Christian scholarship is censored
One of the ways Christianity is trying to protect itself is to censor professors working at Christian universities. Although honest scholarship requires the freedom to follow evidence in an objective manner, those working in the field of Christian studies are not given latitude to do that. This muzzling of research indicates that Christianity is having trouble standing on its own merits. The following was taken from:
Biblical professors and apologists in evangelical institutions are not allowed to be honest scholars. That is a fact. They are not allowed to think and write freely. If they step out of line they are fired. But more and more of them are doing just that. Here’s some proof that evangelical colleges requiring their professors to sign a confessional statement cannot be trusted to be honest scholars and should therefore be ignored, all of them. Below are links with discussions about a few evangelical scholars who were fired, suffered censorship, and/or intense scrutiny because they tried to interact honestly with the wider scientific and scholarly communities.
In no particular order:
Dr. Bruce Waltke, an evangelical professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, is one such example. He had to resign his post from the Reformed Theological Seminary after endorsing evolution. Link.
Dr. John Schneider was forced to retire early from Calvin College for accepting the evidence that there was never an Adam and Eve in a Garden of Eden, Link.
Dr. Tom Oord, tenured professor of theology was from fired from Northwest Nazarene University in June of 2015. Karl Giberson said:
Oord was the university’s leading scholar, with 20 books on his CV; by most measures he was also the denomination’s leading scholar and one of a tiny number of Nazarene theologians whose reputations reached beyond evangelicalism. Oord had won multiple teaching awards and was wildly popular with students and respected by his colleagues. He had brought over a million dollars of grant money to the university—a remarkable accomplishment for a professor at a small, unsung liberal arts college. Oord, however, was controversial. He strongly supported evolution and had long been a target of creationists in the denomination. He embraced “open theism,” the view that God does not know the future but responds in love—rather than coercive control—to events as they occur, rather than foreordaining everything. Fundamentalist critics called him a heretic and had been vying for his termination for years. LINK.
Jim Stump, a professor at Bethel College in Indiana, resigned over the issue of evolution. Karl W. Gilberson: “the Bethel Board of Trustees on June 9 of this year approved a new policy specifying that college faculty must affirm the same position on Adam and Eve as the Missionary Church, namely that Adam “was created by an immediate act of God and not by a process of evolution.” The new policy further specifies that Bethel faculty should advocate this as the “official, meritorious, and theologically responsible position of the College, without disparagement.” LINK
Dr. J. R. Daniel Kirk at Fuller Theological Seminary forced to resign over intellectual integrity and homosexuality in June of 2015. LINK
Dr. Michael Licona lost his teaching position over Matthew 27 in 2011. Jeffrey Jay Lowder wisely comments:
The incident casts doubt on the ability of Evangelical scholars, qua Evangelicals, to follow the evidence wherever it may lead. To his credit, Licona apparently questioned the literal historicity of Matthew 27, without letting the perceived implications of his commitment to Biblical inerrancy get in the way. At the same time, however, I can’t help but be struck by the fact that apparently many Christian scholars were unwilling to publicly defend Licona, presumably because they were afraid they might lose their jobs, too. It is precisely because of this sort of mentality that I have previously questioned whether evangelical Christians can consistently affirm the ethics of belief required by freethought. Link
On March 27, 2008, the Board of Trustees at Westminster Theological Seminary announced that professor Peter Enns would be suspended from teaching at the conclusion of the school year. Link
Dr. Anthony Le Donne was dismissed from teaching at Lincoln Christian University in 2012, my alma matter. To see what I think of this incident and what it says about evangelical institutions as a whole read this.
Dr. Chris Rollston wrote an article for the Huffington Post on women in the Bible and lost his teaching position. Thom Stark, a former student of his, tried but failed to argue his case, which can be read right here.
The late Clark Pinnock was nearly expelled from the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) in 2002 over the nature of Biblical authority but survived the attack. Link.
In 2003 Dr. Robert Gundry was not so lucky. Evangelical scholars removed him from being a member of the Evangelical Theological Society for his views on the gospel of Matthew. Link.
Again, honest evangelical scholarship is a ruse. There is no such thing!
If Christianity was true, it would invite a full and unimpeded study of its scriptures and would expect to receive consistent confirming analyses of it. The effort to block such an approach is evidence that it is based on falsehoods.
(1910) Religion is not a perception of reality
It is enlightening to compare how people manage their religious beliefs with their positions on other subject such as science or politics. It seems that religion operates on a different paradigm, one that does not focus on a clear perception of what is real. The following was taken from:
The single strongest factor in determining what religion a person is? It’s what religion they were brought up with. By far. Very few people carefully examine all the available religious beliefs — or even some of those beliefs — and select the one they think most accurately describes the world. Overwhelmingly, people believe whatever religion they were taught as children.
Now, we don’t do this with, for instance, science. We don’t hold on to the Steady State theory of the Universe, or geocentrism, or the four bodily humours theory of illness, simply because it’s what we were taught as children. We believe whatever scientific understanding is best supported by the best available evidence at the time. And if the evidence changes, our understanding changes. (Unless, of course, it’s a scientific understanding that our religion teaches is wrong…)
Even political opinions don’t run in families as stubbornly as religion. Witness the opinion polls that show support of same-sex marriage increasing with each new generation. Political beliefs learned from youth can, and do, break down in the face of the reality that people see every day. And scientific theories do this, all the time, on a regular basis.
This is emphatically not the case with religion.
Which leads me to the conclusion that religion is not a perception of a real entity. If it were, people wouldn’t just believe whatever religion they were taught as children, simply because it was what they were taught as children. The fact that religion runs so firmly in families strongly suggests that it is not a perception of a real phenomenon. It is a dogma, supported and perpetuated by tradition and social pressure — and in many cases, by fear and intimidation. Not by reality.
Most Christians make an assumption that, somehow, they were lucky to have been born into a family that follows the one true faith. People of other faiths make the same assumption. It is troubling that so few of them see this as a fatal error in discovering what is real. Humans deal differently with religion than with any other subject, it has the seeming power to short-circuit the logic centers of the brain.
(1911) Christianity over-relies on fallible human testimony
Christianity lacks contemporary forms of objective evidence to establish its validity, such as anything that can stand up to scientific scrutiny, so it relies on human testimony to bolster the faith of its followers. Often such testimony is of the form of a personal miracle, as in ‘my slipped disc was repaired instantly by a prayer.’ The telling of these kinds of alleged miracles is common in Christian circles, and they certainly do add force to the beliefs of those who hear them. However, these stories never seem to meet the criteria needed for rigorous authentication, and therefore are believed only by those who share the same theological proclivity as the story teller. To convince a disinterested third-party requires a much higher standard. David Hume established a maxim to use for these cases, as follows:
David Hume’s Maxim and its defense comes from chapter 10 of his Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding. It’s stated in these words:
“That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavors to establish; and even in that case there is a mutual destruction of arguments, and the superior only gives us an assurance suitable to that degree of force, which remains, after deducting the inferior.” When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.
Later Hume tells us the only reasonable conclusion one can draw from his maxim: “Therefore we may establish it as a maxim, that no human testimony can have such force as to prove a miracle, and make it a just foundation for any such system of religion.” The fact that a miracle requires extraordinary evidence over and above the fallibilities of ordinary human testimony is not an unreasonable demand on Hume’s part. It’s the nature of the beast. The consistent workings of the natural world preclude miracles from happening. This natural world order is known with as much assurance as anything that can be known. It’s so well established that natural laws have been derived from its regularity and used daily in our laboratories and factories. That human testimony is fallible is also known with a great deal of assurance, especially with the discovery of a great many cognitive biases. So we need more than just human testimony to accept that a miracle happened. Human testimony alone isn’t enough to overcome what is known about how the world works. Given the nature of the world and the fallible nature of ordinary human testimony, we need sufficient objective evidence over and above human testimony (hence, called extraordinary evidence) to corroborate that a miracle occurred.
All you need to consider is what you’d think if someone testified that his amputated limb regenerated itself, or if a woman testified she gave birth to a baby deity as a virgin! Would you believe their testimony? What if a few others said the same thing? Here’s the kicker: Human testimony, second- third- and fourth handed human testimony in the ancient pre-scientific world, where miracle claims were abundant without the means to discredit them, is all we have when it comes to the miracles we find in the Bible and the religions founded on it.
Way too much of Christian truth depends on the personal testimony of a single person, Paul of Tarsus, but also from the hundreds or thousands of people who established and perpetuated the word of mouth traditions that later led to the writing of the gospels. Knowing that there was a powerful incentive to make up or exaggerate these stories, or else a naivety to be deceived, a critically-thinking person can summarily dismiss them and demand better evidence.
(1912) Unclaimed prizes for proof of the paranormal
One of the most convincing pieces of evidence against Christianity is the failure of anyone to demonstrate paranormal capabilities, even when sizable prize money is offered. To succeed in such a test would not only garner prize money for the winner but also worldwide fame that would bring millions more. If Christianity is true, with its demons, angels, a devil, saints, and the trinity of omniscient gods, it is difficult to understand why nobody has been able to tap into this source of the supernatural and demonstrate anything other than normal abilities. The Bible is full of stories of people who performed feats that would have qualified for these prizes. The following is a list of prize money currently waiting to be claimed:
|Date||Location||Challengers||Equivalent in dollars||Details||Status|
|Unknown–||Sweden||Swedish Humanist Association||$11,550||To anyone who can demonstrate a paranormal or supernatural ability for which no scientific explanation can be found.||Unclaimed|
|Unknown–||United States||Fayetteville Freethinkers||$5000||“[F]or a demonstration of supernatural claims”.||Unclaimed|
|2018–||Belgium||Mythbusters||K*2||Two full Kudos are offered to anyone who can scientifically proof you will be suggested as a friend to any give unrelated Facebook-account you often visit.||Unclaimed|
|2015–||Russia||Harry Houdini Prize||$16,096||The prize is awarded for demonstrating paranormal or supernatural abilities under conditions scientifically valid experiment.||Unclaimed|
|2014–||Czech Republic||Czech Skeptics’ Club Sisyfos||$160,671||To anyone who can prove to possess paranormal abilities in areas such as clairvoyance, telepathy, telekinesis, rhabdomancy, etc.||Unclaimed|
|2013–||Great Britain||Association for Skeptical Enquiry||$16,535||For proof of psychic powers.||Unclaimed|
|2012–||Sri Lanka||Sri Lankan Rationalist Association||$6341||Professor Carlo Fonseka renewed Abraham Kovoor’s challenge.||Unclaimed|
|2012–||United States||Fayetteville Freethinkers||Unknown||A house is offered to anyone who can catch a Bigfoot.||Unclaimed|
|2011–||Mexico||Daniel Zepeda||$1074||“To anyone who can show, under proper observational and replicable conditions, evidence of a paranormal, supernatural or occult power for which science has no answer.”||Unclaimed|
|2008–||Estonia||Eesti Skeptik||$12,147||To anyone who can prove paranormal abilities.||Unclaimed|
|2004–||Germany||GWUP||$12,147||To anyone who can prove paranormal abilities.||Unclaimed|
|2002–||Belgium||SKEPPSisyphus Prize||$30,368||The original Sisyphus Prize was €10,000. Between 2012 and 2013, for the duration of one year, an anonymous Antwerp businessman raised the prize €1,000,000, while several European skeptical organisations attached their pre-tests to it. Afterwards, the regular Sisyphus Prize was continued and raised from €10,000 to €25,000.||Unclaimed|
|2001–||United States||North Texas Skeptics||$12,000||“[T]o any person … who can demonstrate any psychic or paranormal power or ability under scientifically valid observing conditions.”||Unclaimed|
|2000–||United States||Independent Investigations Group||$100,000||“[T]o anyone who can show, ‘under proper observing conditions’, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.” The person who refers a successful applicant to the IIG earns US$5,000. Previously, the prize was US$50,000.||Unclaimed|
|2000–||Italy||Alfredo Barrago’s Bet, CICAP||$60,737||“[…] shown at least a ‘phenomenon’ produced by ‘medium, seers, sensitive etc.’ of paranormal nature.”||Unclaimed|
|1999–||China||Sima Nan||$157,913||“[T]o anyone who can perform one act of “special ability” without cheating.”||Unclaimed|
|1997–||Great Britain||Lavkesh Prasha, Asian Rationalist Society of Britain||$13,779||“[T]o any person who could prove to possess magical powers before the media and scientists.” The initial amount of £2,000 was increased fivefold in 2006 to attract more applicants.||Unclaimed|
|1996–||Canada||Les Sceptiques du Quebec||$7785||“Just a small fact, observable or verifiable through experiment” of a paranormal phenomenon.||Unclaimed|
|1995–||India||Indian Rationalist Association, Sanal Edamaruku||$1501||To anyone who could prove the 1995 “Hindu milk miracle” was, in fact, a miracle. Since 2002, it includes “anyone who can provide scientific evidence for iridology“.||Unclaimed|
|1994–||New Zealand||Stuart Landsborough, New Zealand Skeptics||$70,791||“[T]o anyone who could prove by psychic ability that they can indicate the exact location” of two halves of a promissory note hidden within an area of 100 metres inside Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World. Over the years, the search area has been reduced from 5 kilometres to 100 metres and the prize doubled||Unclaimed|
|1989–||Finland||Skepsis ry (Finnish Association of Skeptics)||$12,147||For anybody in Finland who can produce paranormal phenomena under satisfactory observing conditions or prove that she/he/it is an extraterrestrial by providing a DNA (or equivalent) sample for investigation. Money partially from astronomer Hannu Karttunen and magician Iiro Seppänen.||Unclaimed|
|1989–||United States||Tampa Bay Skeptics||$1,000||“[T]o anyone able to demonstrate any paranormal phenomenon under mutually agreed-upon observing conditions.”||Unclaimed|
|1988–||Netherlands||Stichting Skepsis||$12,147||To anyone who wants their “alternative diagnoses” (including kinesiology, electroacupuncture, bioresonance therapy, Therapeutic Touch, observing auras, clairvoyance, iridology, pendulum dowsing, astrology) to be tested; winning the pre-test earns €500. Skepsis’ first challenge in March 1988 was ƒ10,000 to any “psychic surgeon” who could remove chairman Cornelis de Jager‘s appendix.||Unclaimed|
|1985–||India||Science and Rationalists’ Association of India, Prabir Ghosh||$75,055||Prabir Ghosh will award the prize “to any person of this world who can demonstrate his/her supernormal power by performing any one of the following activities without taking help of any hoax/trick at my designated place and circumstances.”||Unclaimed. However, the challenger has admitted that they don’t possess that amount of money.|
|1984–||India||Tarksheel Society||$150,110||To anyone who can perform any of 22 specified “miracles”. The entry fee is 10,000 INR.||Unclaimed|
|1980–||Australia||Australian Skeptics||$75,820||For proof of the existence of extrasensory perception, telepathy, or telekinesis||Unclaimed|
|1976–||India||Indian Skeptic, Indian CSICOP||$1501||Formerly moderated by Basava Premanand, deceased in 2009. Offered after Abraham Kovoor fell ill with cancer in 1976. Premanand’s magazine and organization have continued the challenge after his death in 2009.||Unclaimed|
Until something of this nature occurs, the best course of actions is to remain skeptical. A religion that claims that prophecy and divination are real things needs to demonstrate these phenomena in real life to achieve any measure of credibility. So far, Christianity has failed this test.
(1913) Jewish War ended true Christianity
The religion of Jesus was most probably focused on God’s hoped-for deliverance of the Jews from Roman oppression. The theory was that by becoming more devout, God would work miracles that would restore the Jews to be self-governing. Jesus likely saw himself as being the king of this newly liberated kingdom. These seditious ideas were most probably what got him crucified. Paul, on the other hand, was focused not on overthrowing the occupiers but rather on the next life in heaven. After the brutal defeat of the Jews by the Romans in the Jewish War of CE70, the idea of overthrowing the Romans was largely abandoned. So Paul’s concept won out and the gospels were written in a way that made Jesus align with Paul’s theology of a spiritual rather than political deliverance. The following was taken from:
The sect that grew around the legacy of Jesus of Nazareth soon split into two separate tendencies. One remained committed to the Jewish revolutionary ideals of its foundation. It idealised an egalitarian, democratic community of compassion and cooperation. The other tendency was led by Saul of Tarsus, a Jewish travelling artisan and merchant, who became known by the Greek version of his name, Paul.
The Pauline Christians transformed the material demands of the radicals from a Jewish revolutionary creed into one whose appeal was universal rather than Jewish, and whose hopes lay in salvation beyond the grave. The decisive factor in which version of Christianity won out came from the uprising in 66 AD against both the Romans and their wealthy Jewish collaborators. With the defeat of the Jewish revolt and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, tens of thousands of Jews fled Palestine, and many others were enslaved.
This gave a boost to the Pauline sect in the Jewish diaspora, with its emphasis on the non-Jewish and spiritual Jesus. Salvation no longer depended on the victory of the defeated Jews of Jerusalem.
The later Gospels, and their revision to include more of the Pauline Christian views and story, were a sign of the growing influence of that sect, but also an expression of the growing class division in the Christian community as it accommodated to Roman society. Few of the communistic ideas of the earlier Jewish radical sects remained.
As Siegel puts it, “It more and more dissociated itself from Judaism and made its peace with Rome, becoming a religion that provided solace for the disheartened proletarian masses.” Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome speaks of personal salvation rather than bringing kings down or feeding the hungry. The message now is that everyone must obey state authorities, because no authority exists without God’s permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God (Romans 13:1).
The New Testament was thus a revised version of early Christianity in the aftermath of the suppression of the Jewish revolt. The violent exploitation and oppression of the Roman Empire meant both immense misery and very little possibility of effective resistance. This contradiction created a space in which Pauline Christianity could grow among the oppressed and exploited.
So, if we assume Jesus to be a real person, then we can define true Christianity as a Jewish-only sect that intended to use a spiritual revival to implore God to restore their political independence. Other Jewish sects were more focused on military means to achieve that goal. Paul’s lieutenants then used the awful result of the Jewish War to push what we might call Christianity, Version 2, on the oppressed victims of Roman rule- to acquiesce to that rule and instead seek shelter and deliverance in the life to come.
(1914) Child mothers belie interventionist god
There is a segment of Christians who believe that God is involved in almost everything that happens. This is the “he numbers the hairs on your head” crowd, and they often use this idea to support the idea that abortion is morally wrong- that it represents human interference in God’s plan. But the existence of child mothers would seem to contradict this theory and suggest that there is no divine control of human reproduction. The following lists some of the most famous child mothers:
A Peruvian Lina Medina gave birth to a baby boy at the age of five in 1939. At present, she is still considered the youngest mother all over the world and registered in Guinness World Records.
The pregnancy of world’s youngest mother progressed almost unnoticeably and impalpable and only the growing belly indicated her condition. It was found out only in her 7th month that she is pregnant. The delivery passed successfully by means of caesarean section, the newborn son was healthy, his height and weight normal: 18.8 inches and 6 pounds.
1957: a Peruvian Hilda Trujillo gave birth to a daughter at the age of 9. The father of her child is her cousin, who raped her.
1759: Anna Mummenthaler from Switzerland gave birth to a baby girl at the age of 8. The baby was stillborn. The father of the child was one of her relatives.
1884: the youngest mother in history became eight-year-old Mum-Zi from Nigeria, giving birth to a daughter. Her daughter, Zi, also gave birth at the age of 8 years 8 months, thus making Mum-Zi a 17-year-old grandmother.
1936: the youngest mother from Colombia Griseldina Acuña gave birth when she was 8 years old to a healthy boy whose weight totaled 5.1 pounds. The boy’s father was a “friend” of the family. It’s interesting that the Colombian’s sexual maturing had also started very early: her first menstruations began at the age of 3.
2001: Wanwisa Janmuk from Thailand gave birth to a baby girl at the age of nine. The father of the child is her 27-year-old husband. Strange though it may seem, but a husband! The girl got married at the age of 8, and at the age of 9 she became the youngest Asian mother.
2009: 11-year-old Kordeza Zhelyazkova from Bulgaria gave birth to a daughter, whose father was Kordeza’s 19-year-old husband. The pregnancy was taking its normal course; the birth was natural and fast.
2005: the youngest mother in Russia became Valentina Isaeva, giving birth at the age of 11 to a girl. The father was her 17-year-old friend. The baby was born healthy, its height and weight were normal (20 inches and 6.4 pounds). C-section was performed.
These occurrences suggest that God, if he exists, does not play a role in determining when a woman will become pregnant. If that is the case, the next question is what else he recuses himself from? An uninvolved god is a hairbreadth away from one that doesn’t exist.
(1915) Christianity is both false and immoral
Taking the big picture into account, it is easy to see that Christianity is both false and immoral, meaning that even if it is acknowledged that it is false, it would nevertheless still fail to stand up as a moral myth. The following is a good synopses demonstrating this fact:
Christianity embodies the notions of Paul, whose New Testament letters were written between 55 and 60 C.E. before any of the four gospels.
Paul was a Jew, brainwashed with the religion of the Jews, and therefore he believed in the tale of Adam and Eve. He accepted that sin was hereditary and he accepted the immoral and primitive doctrine that guilt for wrongdoing can be off-loaded on to an innocent scapegoat. This usually involved the shedding of blood (often human) as an atonement required to appease the ‘gods’.
Though an innocent person may, and often does, pay the penalty, this immoral doctrine, which claims to absolve the wrongdoer from personal responsibility, results in the ongoing sequence of crime, confession, absolution and its repetition ad infinitum. Responsibility for wrongdoing must remain forever with the person who committed the offence. Anything that seeks to sidestep this basic principle inflicts grievous harm on society.
After being struck by lightning, Paul conceived the idea that one of the hundreds of Jewish rebels crucified by Rome was the son of Yahweh who made the ultimate sacrifice of blood to appease the Jewish Elohim (deity).
Christianity was formalized by the murderer Constantine at Nicaea in 325 C.E. This Nicene Creed is now the benchmark used in choosing chaplains for the State schools in South Australia.
The gospel of Mark was the first and the other three in the New Testament are embellishments on Mark’s gospel. There are many other gospels besides these four.
The message of Joshua (Jesus) was for repentance before the imminent coming of the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, which would occur during the lifetime of his listeners. He was as ignorant as most people of that time and believed in a Heaven of bliss and a Hell of eternal torment. He also believed in angels, demons, prayer and the inferiority of women. He believed in a flat earth, a superior race and that the laws of nature were not immutable. He had no knowledge of the nature of disease or of effective cures. He believed that love could be commanded and that those who disagreed with him would be damned. He believed in compulsion to comply with his viewpoint.
Being a Jew, he considered that no Jewish law, however trivial, should be broken, including the law which prohibited the ingesting of blood. Obviously he could not have initiated a ritual of cannibalism which involved the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood, which is the major ritual of the predominant Christian denomination.
Christianity began at a time when belief in gods and demons was almost universal. There was little comprehension of the immutable laws of nature.
Today factual information is readily available so there is no valid excuse for believing in the myths and deceits so common two thousand years ago. There is no empirical evidence for supernatural beings or places. The evidence that the existence of all human life ends when the body dies is overwhelming.. This is the only life that humans will ever have and for the purveyors of religion to say otherwise is to engage in blatant deceit for their own benefit.
(1916) Scriptures deny free will
In order for Christianity’s system of justice to be fair, humans must be free to exercise their own decisions with respect to their actions and beliefs. However, there exist many scriptures that suggest that this is not so- that God has rigged the system such that he has pre-determined the ultimate fate of each person, whether they will end up in heaven or in hell. The following was taken from:
O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.
And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestine.… Moreover whom he didpredestine, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth. …. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. … Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? …
Here is Paul’s inane explanation of why God chooses to keep some people who “neither having done any good or evil” out of heaven:
Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestined usunto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned.
Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation.
Any concept that withdraws from humans the freedom to choose their own direction and ultimate fate can be dismissed as being unfair and well beneath the dignity of any supernatural being that might exist. It is therefore safe to say that the scriptures above were written with insight strictly limited by human intelligence.
(1917) Christian persecution by Nero is a myth
Tradition holds that Emperor Nero blamed and persecuted Christians for the fire that ravaged Rome in CE64. However, this ‘fact’ was not documented until about 50 years later and no documents closer to the time of the fire account for this happening; and so it appears to be a myth. This is a perfect analog for how to view the credibility of the gospels, likewise written decades after the fact. The following was taken from:
On the evening of July 18, in the scorching summer of 64 CE, a fire started in a shop under the Circus Maximus in Rome. The fire quickly spread to nearby homes and businesses and the Circus itself. The fire burned for six days, ravaging the city. It left only four of Rome’s fourteen quarters untouched.
The reigning emperor, Nero, a man known for his cruelty and love of theater, scapegoated the Christians for the disaster. According to tradition and later historians, as a punishment, Nero devised grotesque executions for the Christians: he covered them in animal skins and had them torn apart by dogs, and he doused them in tar and used them as human torches to light the night sky for his dinner parties. It was in the wake of the fire, Christian tradition maintains, that the most important Apostles–St Peter and St Paul–were arrested and executed. But while the fire of Rome was a devastating historical reality, did Nero actually target Christians as a result?
Most of the historical evidence for Nero persecuting Christians comes to us from the writings of the Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote between 115-120 CE, at least fifty years after the events he was describing. According to Tacitus, the people of Rome blamed Nero for the fire and Nero responded by deflecting blame onto the Christians. He writes, “Nero fastened guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on [the Christians who] were hated for their abominations.” Christians were rounded up, arrested, and interrogated for information about others in the city and, in the end, “an immense multitude” was convicted and executed.
In Roman biographies, Nero is known for murdering his own mother; he is certainly capable of this kind of cruelty, but this does not mean that Tacitus’s story is correct. In his recent Journal of Roman Studies article “The Myth of the Neronian Persecution,” distinguished Princeton classicist Brent Shaw has argued that Tacitus’s story is a later fabrication (full disclosure: I’m inclined to agree with Shaw because I argued something similar in my book Myth of Persecution).
Shaw points out that there are no references to Christians in the writings of any Roman historians prior to Tacitus. Cassius Dio, another Roman historian who discusses the Great Fire, never mentions the Christians at all, and other later Roman sources that do mention the fire are entirely dependent on Tacitus. Suetonius, the only other second-century Roman writer to mention the mistreatment of Christians by Nero, does not connect these punishments with the Great Fire. He says that they were punished for being a “new and evil superstition.”
Perhaps the most devastating piece of evidence is the use of the term “Christian.” The first followers of Jesus were Jews. By the time Tacitus was writing in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in the second century they had adopted the name Christian and caught the attention of Roman authorities, but it’s not at all clear that Christians thought of themselves or were known as Christians in the 60s. Paul, for example, never uses the word.
As University of Exeter professor David Horrell has shown, the earliest use of the name “Christian” in writing seems to be the biblical book 1 Peter, which was written at the very end of the first century. Some have argued against Shaw that the Acts of the Apostles (the book of the Bible that tells the story of the actions of the apostles after the death of Jesus) states that Christians were first called Christians in Antioch in the 50s. But how accurate is Acts? Clare K. Rothschild, a professor in the Department of Theology at Lewis University, told the The Daily Beast that while “scholars typically date Acts anywhere from 56 to 140 CE… a comprehensive study by the late Richard I. Pervo … has persuaded many that Acts was composed closer to the year 115.” What all of this means, then, is that Christians weren’t Christians in 64 CE. They were Jews. Nero could not possibly have targeted a group that didn’t yet exist.
So what actually happened? Shaw argues that after the fire there were rumors of Nero’s involvement. Nero responded by punishing some arsonists, but these people were not actually Christians, even if they were likely innocent of the charges. In the fifty years that elapsed between the events of 64 CE and the time of Tacitus, those individuals punished by Nero came to be associated with the Christians, because, by the time of Tacitus and Suetonius, Christians were known as trouble makers.
Tacitus was possibly the first writer to begin the 1900-year campaign by Christians to fudge history to make it seem that they have endured more persecution than has actually happened. This is likely because the gospels have Jesus stating that Christians who suffer for his sake are to be exalted.
(1918) God’s gender problem
The fact that the Christian god is referred to as a male shows that he is a myth created by human minds. There is simply no reason for Yahweh to have a gender.
Historically, the attributes of gods were fashioned around earthly kings, but with added supernatural accouterments. Thus it was normal to consider the most powerful gods to be male, while subordinate ones might be female. But for the Christian monotheistic god to be a male, it would imply that ‘he’ would have to exhibit some element of male morphology, meaning having a penis and external gonads, or else something physical that would distinguish him from a female. This is where Christianity runs into trouble, because although early Christians thought that God was a physical being living up ‘in the clouds,’ modern science has convincingly banished ‘him’ from the material reality of the universe and into an unseen corner of some extra dimension. The following was taken from:
I understand back in biblical times when God was thought to be a bearded man in the sky, but in modern times? Apologists argue for a vaguely defined, disembodied mind existing outside of space and time… how could such a thing even have a gender?
It is likely that if Christianity was being invented today, God would be gender-less, having no physical form, and no set location- an all-pervasive presence lurking in an extra dimension with the visual and manipulative capability to access every cubic millimeter of the universe. It seems that gods are products of their time of creation and we can see that poor Yahweh is just that.
(1919) The wasted space of the Bible
If, as Christians claim, the Bible is the direct voice of God communicating to humanity, then it seems that most of its content is a tragically wasted effort, with no redeeming qualities to impart knowledge, wisdom, or inspiration to future generations of followers. This would be like watching a one-hour interview with Mao Zedong intending to discuss his rationale for the Cultural Revolution, but spending the first 55 minutes on his gout treatments. The following was taken from:
Some years ago I worked on a website called Wisdom Commons, a library of timeless quotes and stories from many traditions. I had the idea that I would go through the Bible and pull out bits that were relevant, so I started reading.
What I found was that most of the Bible was neither horrible nor inspiring. It was simply dull and irrelevant: long genealogies written by men obsessed with racial purity; archaic stories about ancient squabbles over real estate and women; arcane rituals aimed at pleasing a volatile deity; folk medicine practices involving mandrakes and dove’s blood; superstition that equated cleanliness with spiritual purity and misfortune with divine disfavor; outdated insider politics.
On top of that, it was badly written, with some stories garbled and others repeated, though rarely in complete agreement about the facts. The Bible’s supposed author seemed like a psychological mess, and I found myself irritated. With a finite number of pages to set the course of human history, this was the best He could do?
Thank God Bible-believing Christians don’t take the Good Book as seriously as they claim to.
If Christianity is true, then the Bible is basically a haystack with only a few needles inside that are important, and they are hard to find. It’s difficult to comprehend how a god could waste so much paper and words that offer nothing of value. If Christianity is not true, then the Bible makes a lot more sense, as it then could be explained as the ramblings of uninspired and ignorant (by today’s standards)men who held biases and grudges and personal vendettas.
(1920) God’s inferior rules of evidence
One of the most convincing ways to refute the Christian god is to point out how his rules for evidence as delineated in the Bible are inferior to those created later on by progressive human governments. The following was taken from:
Even with just a minimal amount of foresight, any omniscient, perfectly good God worthy of the name would have granted people certain reasonable civil rights. Such a God would have foreseen the need to grant people the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. He would have granted people the right to be free from unreasonable search and the seizure. He would have forbidden police entrapment. He would have stipulated the corpus delicti principle, whereby a crime must first be shown to have taken place before someone can be convicted of doing it. Just because a cow died unexpectedly or a child got deathly ill does not automatically mean a crime was committed. Such a principle would have disqualified many forced witch confessions, since they admitted to crimes that did not happen or were even impossible for them to have done.
An omniscient, perfectly good God would have provided for the use of advocates who could argue on behalf of the accused, trials by a jury of the accused’s peers, and a standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt before an accused person could be convicted of a crime. Most emphatically, such a God would have forbidden accused people from being forced to incriminate themselves or face punishment if they refused to do so. He would have forbidden trials by ordeal. And he certainly would have foreseen the need to condemn torture as a means of extracting a confession. But none of these things are found in the Bible. No legal guidance on these matters can be found from a supposedly omniscient, perfectly good God.
The question that must be asked is whether God lacked the ability to communicate fair and effective rules for obtaining evidence in criminal matters, or is it just that the Bible was written by people whose ideas and values had not yet matured to the extent of matching present-day justice? Either choice does considerable damage to Christianity’s credibility.
(1921) God places his needs above ours
God does nothing to reduce harm and misery in this life and most apologists acquiesce to that concession, while countering that the importance of humans exercising free will overrides the evil that it causes. So it seems that God needs humans to have unrestricted freedom of action while humans would much prefer a protector God who would intervene at least to some extent in reducing misery and violence. So God places his needs above ours. This is not the story of a loving father. The following is taken from:
There is a horrendous amount of suffering caused by humans. This is known as Moral Evil; suffering as the result of the choices of moral agents.
Here are some examples: The holocaust, molesting, torture, beatings, and kidnappings. Drunk drivers across America regularly slam their vehicles into other cars instantly killing whole families. There are witchdoctors in Africa who tell men who have AIDS to have sex with a baby in order to be cured, and as a result many female babies are being taken from their mother’s arms and gang-raped even as I write this. Is this not horrendous? In sub-Saharan Africa nearly four million people die from AIDS each year! Just watching a re-enactment of the holocaust as depicted in Spielberg’s movie, Schindler’s List, is enough to keep Christians up late at night wondering why God doesn’t do much to help us in this life. Nearly 40,000 people, mostly children, die every day around the world, due to hunger. Then there was Joseph Mengele, who tortured concentration camp prisoners; atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Soviet gulags, 9/11 twin tower terrorist attacks, Cambodian children stepping on land mines, Columbine shootings, Jeffery Dahlmer, Ted Bundy, gang rapes, and brutal slavery. The list of atrocities done by people to each other could literally fill up a library full of books. Additionally, many theists believe there will be “many” compared to the “few” who suffer in hell.
According to A.N. Weisberger, “The free will defender must assume that free will is of such superior value that any evils which result from its use are justified.” Since this is so, “the free will defender is compelled to say why free will is of such supreme value. Instead, the free will defender merely assumes that such an assessment of free will as especially valuable is unanimous and offers little, if anything, in way of reasons for this assessment.” [Suffering Belief: Evil and the Anglo-American Defense of Theism (Peter Lang, 1999, p. 164)].
When we take into consideration the sheer massive weight of suffering in this life and the next life for the “many”, it seems entirely rational to conclude that the value of having free moral agents does not outweigh the pain and suffering caused by these free moral agents to others and to themselves.
When placed on a scale, God must think that it’s “better” that human creatures have free will than if they didn’t. But when we consider the word “better” here, we must ask, “better” for whom? If someone lives a short miserable life and then dies and is sent to hell, it surely isn’t better for that person to have been born at all. Since this is the case with so many people, surely they would wish never to be born at all. Surely; no question about it!
Is being born better for the saints who end up in heaven? Who knows how to properly evaluate this, since if they were never born in the first place they wouldn’t know the difference? Still, given the two choices they would be glad to be in heaven. But this reward, according to Christianity, merely represents the minority of people who were born. So there is more suffering for human beings as the direct result of God’s decision to create this world than if he didn’t. God’s decision to create this world caused much more suffering to the people he decided to create, than if he didn’t create any of us at all. Why did he do so, then? He did so for his own pleasure? Many many millions of people have suffered and will suffer because of what he wanted! Isn’t that what we call selfishness? Is that a recognized virtue? Can God be selfish and yet still call selfishness a virtue because he’s God? Why? I simply don’t see how, even if an act is done by God. It’s still called selfishness, and better known as self-gratification no matter who does it.
Why is it more valuable to a good God that he create free moral creatures when the results have been horrific for millions upon millions and probably billions of people down through the centuries? The Christian answer is that God wants creatures who freely choose to love and obey him, and that this justifies why he purportedly created us with free will. That is, what God wanted is more important than the fact that people will suffer. But as I just argued this sounds exactly like God is more concerned with his wants than with our wants. He wants people to freely love and obey him no matter what the consequences are for most of the people who are born into this world. And if this is true, then how can God’s love be called agape, or self-giving love? God’s wants are placed above our wants, because we do not like to experience such intense suffering in this world, or in the next one.
It is difficult to believe that a real god, both omnipotent and omni-benevolent, could be so apathetic in the face of human suffering. The way out of this quandary is to admit that God is either limited in his capabilities or non-existent, neither of which satisfies the wishful thinking of most Christians.
(1922) Why did the biblical canon close when it did?
Which books constituted the Christian biblical canons of both the Old and New Testament was generally established by the 5th century, despite some scholarly disagreements, for the ancient undivided Church (the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, before the East–West Schism). Following this time, there were a few alterations made by various groups of Christians, but, universally, it was agreed that no contemporary writings could ever be added and further that nothing written after about CE150 was eligible. The question is why was this artificial cut-off time enforced? Why couldn’t God or the Holy Spirit inspire a more modern person to write, or dictate, an update from God that could then be placed in the Bible?
Some Christians point to a verse in the Book of Revelation to argue this point:
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.
However, this was written long before there was a Bible with 65 other books, so it is obvious that the prohibition cited refers solely to this author’s book and not to anything else.
There is no logical reason to conclude that God inspired writers up to a certain time and then stopped doing that. Why would he stop? To illustrate the arbitrariness of this situation, suppose that a council was called in CE75 to determine which books and letters should be placed in the Bible. At that time all that was available were the Gospel of Mark and Paul’s letters, along with a few other currently non-canonical documents. Had this happened, the canon would have been closed at that time and everything else in the current New Testament that came later, including the Gospels of Luke, Matthew, and John, would have been excluded.
Apologists will counter that there would be no way to determine if a text written by a modern-day prophet was truly inspired by God, which is precisely the problem with the legitimacy of the books currently contained in the Bible. If we can’t make that determination today, how could the people of the 5th Century have done it then, other than making an arbitrary and obviously politically-fueled guess?
So here is the road you have to go down to accept all of this- God inspired some people, and only a few people, to write super-human texts that were essentially dictated by himself, though he gave no clues as to who these people were. Then around CE150, for reasons unknown, he stopped inspiring anybody. Then in the 5th Century, he inspired the Christian leaders of that time to make the correct final guess as to which books he had inspired. And this was the process God engineered to create his ‘perfect message’ to mankind. Of course, no real god would be this incompetent. If such a god existed and was intent on providing a book for humankind, he would do it miraculously on gold plates (sorry Mormons, which would not disappear!) in multiple languages that would be available for any necessary translations by future generations. The way the Bible came together is an ironclad clue that it is the sole product of human minds.
(1923) Cultural diffusion influenced Christianity
Virgin births and dying and rising gods were not part of Jewish theology, particularly as evidenced by the writings in the Old Testament, but then these themes became incorporated into the Jewish offshoot sect that eventually morphed into Christianity. Why did this happen? It seems that a good guess is that it resulted from cultural diffusion from surrounding pagan cultures. The following was taken from:
Ehrman says “we do not have accounts of others who were born to virgin mothers and who died as an atonement for sin and then were raised from the dead (despite what the sensationalists claim ad nauseum [sic] in their propagandized versions).” Taken strictly literally, this sentence is true. But that is misleading, and therefore disingenuous. As such, it amounts to a straw man (at least of many mythicists; some few mythicists, the more incompetent of them, make that specific claim, but attacking only the weakest proponent of a position is precisely what makes this a fallacy). No competent mythicist makes this claim. Rather, they claim that virgin-born gods were a common phenomenon in the region at the time and dying-and-rising gods were a common phenomenon in the region at the time (in precisely the way these were not anywhere else, e.g. in ancient China), and so for Jews to suddenly start claiming they have one, too, looks pretty easily explained in terms of standard theories of cultural diffusion. (See my chapter on the origins of Christianity in The End of Christianity, ch. 2, pp. 53-74.)
[He is forced to assume T]hat they “just happened” to come up with the idea of a virgin born son of god, when surrounded by virgin born sons of god, as if by total coincidence. (Can you imagine it? They independently think up the idea, then go preaching around Gentile cities and discover there are all these other virgin born sons of god…why, golly gee, what a coincidence!
The two major Christian theological themes were evidently borrowed from the Jews pagan neighbors, probably as a means for their god to compete successfully with the pagan gods. The coincidence is too blatant to be dismissed and shows that Christianity is probably not a construction of divine guidance.
(1924) Supreme act of evil
God as described in the Bible committed the supreme act of evil- killing innocent children. Virtually no one would fail to condemn a person who slaughtered children in any scenario. Yet, Christians go to church and praise a god who did this multiple times beginning with the Great Flood. They praise a god who would not hesitate to kill their own children if it suited him. It really doesn’t matter that these stories are fictional- what matters is that Christians fail to reconcile their faith with common morality. The following is taken from:
The supreme act of evil is killing an innocent person; especially when that person is an infant or a child. We all know, within our hearts that this is the most evil thing that someone can do. Also yes, there are many other evil things that are also terrible and some may say are worse but I don’t want to get into all of that. It would be reasonable here to agree with me that killing an innocent person is at least one of the worst things someone can do.
If God we’re to commit this act of supreme evil, being the worst possible thing that he can do, then how is God a good deity? If he were to commit it multiple times, how can this be justified? If God can do the worst of the worst and it is justified, then does that not mean that God can just do anything he wants to?
Let’s look at a story from Exodus where God sends down ten plagues on Egypt. Here God is punishing the Pharaoh by killing his innocent Egyptian citizens, including innocent women, children and babies, thus committing the supreme act of evil. Not only that, but he hardens the Pharaoh’s heart so that he can not let Moses’ people go to stop these plagues.
There is no possible justification for God’s actions concerning the ten plagues of Egypt. He has killed people from these plagues that were innocent by definition. Not only because there were babies and children that were clearly not culpable, but also because the Pharaoh was the perpetrator, not them. They were furthermore innocent because God hardened the Pharaoh’s heart and didn’t allow him to set Moses’ people go and stop the plagues.
Christians cry for the death penalty if someone kills a child, but they go to church and praise an alleged god who killed millions of children. It is time for them to be called out. Either admit that killing children is OK in some instances, or stop worshiping the Christian god.
(1925) Literary allusions in Mark were misunderstood
It has been discovered that parallels between the Gospel of Mark and 1 and 2 Kings indicate that the author of Mark extensively used these two books from the Old Testament to fashion his account of Jesus. It is apparent that these allusions to 1 and 2 Kings were meant to be obvious to his readers and that the man Jesus was intended to be viewed as a fictional character, but instead many people misinterpreted the allusions as being fulfilled prophecies of a real historical person. The following was taken from:
The writer of the story called the Gospel of Mark created a very clever multilayered narrative that he intended for his audience to be able to decipher and understand. The writer made extensive use of literary allusions as a vital part of the narrative, in such a way that the intention of the work was for people to recognize the literary allusions and look them up in order to understand the story. Apparently, however, this isn’t what happened. What happened was that many people believed the story to be literally true and only recognized a relatively small portion of the literary allusions. The ones they did recognize they interpreted as prophecy fulfillment instead of literary allusion.
Much of the story called the Gospel of Mark follows the story of Elijah and Elisha from 1 and 2 Kings. In fact, I would call the story of Elijah and Elisha in 1 and 2 Kings the primary template for the Gospel called Mark. The story of Elijah and Elisha was popular and would have been well known to a Jewish audience. The borrowing from this story was intentionally quite overt. In fact, the similarities between the Gospel called Mark and 1 and 2 Kings go well beyond the literary allusions outlined in the prior table. For anyone seeking to understand the Gospels, I strongly recommend reading the entire books of 1 and 2 Kings. In doing so, you will see that there are really countless parallels between them and the Gospel called Mark. After having published the first edition I was made aware that Adam Winn explores this relationship in great detail in his 2010 publication, Mark and the Elijah-Elisha Narrative.
If this theory is correct, then it appears that Christianity was born out of a misunderstanding of the intent of the author of Mark. Then the later gospel authors (Matthew, Luke, and John) used Mark as a primary source to create their own versions of Jesus’s life, which were once again mistakenly viewed as being actual historical accounts. This situation suggests strongly that Jesus, as a man who walked the earth, at least as a figure remotely approximating the gospel messiah, is a myth.
(1926) Matthew contaminates Christianity with astrology
The author of Matthew decided to use in his Jesus story a pagan, pre-scientific belief that stars and planets were associated with important human events usually involving important kings or leaders. He had an impossible star guide wise men to a certain home where Jesus was living. None of the other gospel writers went down this road, and how, in modern times, with astrology thoroughly debunked, Matthew’s gambit can be seen as a colossal mistake. The following was taken from:
Even more inept, however, is Matthew’s invention of astrologers ‘from the East’ in the first place. Why would they even bother with the birth of a Jewish messiah? How in the world could they ‘see a star’ and infer that it had anything do to with a bit of Jewish theology? Well, astrologers talk even more nonsense than theologians do, so No, Matthew, this doesn’t make sense.
And how can Christians be comfortable with the embrace of astrology anyway, especially concerning the story of Jesus? That omens in the sky relate to famous humans was a common superstition of the time; do Christians really want to go there? It would be hard to figure how astrology—the notion that human destinies are determined by star and planetary alignments—can be spliced into Christian theology. Astrology thrives where there is no grasp of confirmation bias and the capacity for critical thought has collapsed; theology has weak epistemology, astrology has none at all.
Although today astrology is a fringe belief, back in Matthew’s time, it was widely popular. He obviously didn’t know that 2000 years later people well versed in astronomy would be ridiculing his story of a birth star. For Christianity, though, combining astrology with its theology was an unfortunate error providing a lens to the fact that it is a fiction drenched in the ignorance of its time.
(1927) Matthew’s nonsensical Egypt tale
The author of the Gospel of Matthew invented an absurd story that the baby Jesus was spirited away by his parents to Egypt to avoid an impending massacre of children in the region of Bethlehem by Herod (a massacre documented by no other gospel writer, epistle writer, or any other historian). It appears that the motivation to insert this episode into the gospel story was to create the illusion of a prophecy being fulfilled. Irrespective of whether this prophecy applied to Jesus, the flight to Egypt made no practical sense. The following was taken from:
Matthew’s goofs get even worse. He is well known for his outrageous out-of-context quotes from the Old Testament to ‘prove’ that Jesus was the messiah, and perhaps the most egregious example is his use (Matt 2:15) of Hosea 11:1: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Yes, Hosea meant Israel. But Matthew wanted desperately to make this apply to Jesus. How was he to get Joseph, Mary, and Jesus to Egypt?
God told Joseph in a dream that Herod was about to go on a rampage, so they should flee to…where? Why would they go to Egypt of all places? It’s not as if the toddler Jesus had been branded somehow (the halo wasn’t added until artists worked on the story much later), so the Holy Family could have blended in among the peasantry almost anywhere away from Bethlehem. But for Matthew’s contrived plot, it had to be Egypt.
Eventually they had to go home again. But where was home? Joseph planned to return to Judea (Matt. 2:22)—back to Bethlehem, presumably—but that was still unsafe, so “…he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth…” Sounds like for the first time! Matthew’s assumption was that Joseph and Mary had lived in Bethlehem all along.
In his zeal to ‘fulfill’ prophecy, Matthew had Jesus’s parents take Jesus to a foreign country when having them go directly to Galilee would have been just as effective, easier, and safer. The trip to Egypt is told only by Matthew and it appears to suffer the same authenticity meltdown as the Bethlehem child massacre. This compels any person interested in historical accuracy to dismiss the Gospel of Matthew in its entirety.
(1928) Both Baby Jesus stories are false
There are at least six good reasons to conclude that the stories of Jesus’s nativity were later additions to the gospels and were not included in the conventional knowledge of early Christians. This convincingly suggests that they are fictional tales added to bolster the emerging consensus of the late 1st Century that Jesus was divine. The following was taken from:
1. Paul’s Silence – The earliest texts in the New Testament are letters written during the first half of the first century by Paul and other people who used his name. These letters, or Epistles as they are called, give no hint that Paul or the forgers who used his name had heard about any signs and wonders surrounding the birth of Jesus, nor that his mother was a virgin impregnated by God in spirit form. Paul simply says that he was a Jew, born to a woman.
2. Mark’s Silence – The Gospel of Mark—thought to be the earliest of the four gospels and, so, closest to actual events—doesn’t contain a nativity or “infancy” story, even though it otherwise looks to be the primary source document for Matthew and Luke. In Mark, the divinity of Jesus gets established by wonders at the beginning of his ministry, and some Christian sects have believed that he was adopted by God at this point.
Why is Mark thought to be where the authors of Matthew and Luke got material? For starters, some passages in Mark, Matthew, and Luke would likely get flagged by plagiarism software. But in the original Greek, Mark is the most primitive and least polished of the three. It also is missing powerful passages like the Sermon on the Mount and has endings that vary from copy to copy. These are some of the reasons that scholars believe it predates the other two. Unlike Paul, the author of Mark was writing a life history of Jesus, one that was full of miracles. It would have been odd for him to simply leave out the auspicious miracles surrounding the birth of Jesus—unless those stories didn’t yet exist.
3. A Tale of Two Tales – Beyond a few basics, the nativity stories in Matthew and Luke have remarkably little overlap. In both, Jesus is born in Bethlehem of a virgin Mary who is betrothed to a man named Joseph. That’s where the similarity ends.
In Matthew’s story, an unnamed angel appears to Joseph, astrologers arrive bearing symbolic gifts, a special star appears in the east, Herod seeks to kill Jesus, warnings come during dreams, and the holy family flees to safety in Egypt just before boy infants are slaughtered across Judea.
In Luke’s story, the angel Gabriel appears to the future parents of John the Baptist. They miraculously conceive, but his father is made mute as a punishment for doubting. Gabriel then appears to Mary. During a visit between the two prospective mothers, who are cousins, John the Baptist in the womb recognizes Jesus in the womb and leaps. Later when John is named, his father miraculously regains the power of speech. A census forces Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem, where there is no room in the inn. Jesus is born and laid in a manger/cradle, and angels sing to shepherds who visit the baby. After his naming, his parents take him to the Jerusalem temple where he is recognized and blessed by a holy man and a resident prophetess, and then the family returns to their home in Nazareth instead of going to Egypt.
Some Christians try to harmonize these stories but a simpler explanation is that they represent two different branches in the tree of oral tradition. The study of European fairy tales shows that different versions of the stories tend to split off, with characters and magical elements diverging over time much like an evolutionary tree. The Matthew and Luke nativity stories likely underwent a similar process, meaning that oral traditions circulated and evolved for some time before the two authors inscribed their respective versions. Scholars debate how much the authors further revisedthe stories they received.
It’s interesting to note that each author inserted a dubious historical event (an impossible census in one and an unlikely mass infanticide in the other) to make his plotline work. Dubious histories become credible only after potential eyewitnesses die off—so their presence is one more indicator that one or more generations lapsed before the stories took their present form.
4. Pagan Parallels – Luke’s story appears to be slanted toward a Roman audience, and in fact the idea of gods impregnating human womenwas a common trope that many Jews and Christians have recognized as pagan. Progressive theologian Marcus Borg argued that the point of the story was to pivot fealty from Caesar Augustus to Jesus. According to Roman imperial theology, Augustus had been conceived when the god Apollo impregnated his human mother, Atia. Titles inscribed on coins and temples during his reign included “Son of God,” “Lord,” and “Savior.” They also included the phrase “peace on earth,” which Luke has his angels sing to shepherds.
5. Say What?! – By the second chapter of Luke, the parents of Jesus behave as if they have forgotten the astounding signs and wonders that accompanied his birth. When the boy is twelve, Mary and Joseph take him to Jerusalem for a festival, where they lose him in the crowd and find him three days later among the teachers in the temple. When they scold him, he says ‘“Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them’ (Luke 2:49-50)
Wait. They didn’t know what he was talking about?! This otherwise bizarre narrative glitch, which directly follows the nativity story, suggests that the former was tacked on at a later time.
6. Divinity Rising – If we line up the four gospels in the estimated order they were written—Mark (60CE), Matthew (70-90CE), Luke (80-95CE), then John (90-100CE), an interesting pattern emerges. Jesus becomes divine earlier and earlier. In Mark, as mentioned, he is shown to be divine when he is baptized (and perhaps is uniquely adopted or entered by God at that point). In Matthew and Luke, he is fathered by the Holy Spirit and is sinless from birth. In John, he is the Logos, present at the creation of the world—though also born of a woman. This sequence suggests that theologies explaining the divinity of Jesus emerged gradually and evolved as Christianity crystallized and spread.
Christians are fooling themselves when they take elements of two incompatible birth stories and meld them into a single tableau. Reality doesn’t work that way. Jesus, if he was a real person was probably born at some time other than December, and most likely under circumstances far different than those expressed by either of the two gospel stories. Not only can we say that at least one of these birth stories must be fabricated, but the evidence provided above suggests that both are false.
(1929) Mary’s lack of consent
The story of Mary’s annunciation in the Gospel of Luke that she will bear the child Jesus is a telltale indication that it was written in accord with the customs of the time. Mary was not offered the opportunity of reproductive consent, something that would be considered essential today. This is evidence that this episode was the invented fiction of a human immersed in the traditions of his time and not the inspired product of a god who would have understood the crucial nature of consent, as well as the fact that this concept would later evolve within human society.
In the gospel stories, Mary the mother of Jesus is a humble, devout young woman of her time–which means she has little choice in the matter.
Set aside for a moment any debate about whether the Nativity stories in the Bible are history or mythology or some combination of the two. In either version, Matthew’s or Luke’s, does Mary consent to be the mother of Jesus?
During recent holiday seasons, this provocative question has been hotly argued on both sides, scandalizing conservative Christians. But our modern concept of consent would have been alien and bizarre to the gospel writers. If we could ask one of them to resolve the debate, he might say, “How could a pure young woman not want to be the mother of God incarnate?! What is this consent thing of which you speak?”
Behold, thou shalt conceive.
The New Testament contains two tellings of the nativity story. The story in Matthew doesn’t address how Mary learns about her pregnancy. She is simply “found with child of the Holy Ghost.”
Luke’s more elaborate tale includes an Annunciation scene in which a messenger angel, Gabriel, appears to Mary and makes an announcement, “Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.”
Mary asks how this can happen, given that she has yet to “know a man.”
Gabriel tells her, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
Mary humbly assents, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”
Later, in a poem patterned on the Hebrew Psalms, she exalts God, saying, “Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me.” This poem, now known as the Magnificat, became part of Catholic and Protestant liturgies.
When Christian’s argue that the nativity story includes consent, they typically point to the handmaid line and the Magnificat. But the fact that Luke’s Mary assents to Gabriel’s pronouncement, and then later during her pregnancy expresses wonder and pride, does not mean that the writer sought to convey consent as modern ethicists think of it.
More likely, given gender roles in the Ancient Near East at the time, the author of Luke sought to depict Mary as the archetypal embodiment of a devout and righteous Jewish girl or woman. His Mary recognizes that the glory of a woman is childbearing and that it is not her place to challenge a man or male angel or god in authority over her. When told that she will be “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit and will bear a son of God, she embraces her assigned role willingly and gladly, later expressing pride and gratitude that she will attain the apogee of female accomplishment: being the mother of a great man—or in this case a god-man.
Reading consent into the Luke annunciation story is anachronism.
When the Bible was written, women didn’t get to decide whether and when to have children. A young woman’s body—and specifically her ability to produce babies—belonged to her father, who then gave her in marriage to a husband, often in exchange for a negotiated bride price or to seal an alliance with another kin group or tribe. (If she was a slave or concubine, both of which Bible writers approved, her reproductive capacity belonged to her master.) In Mosaic law, rape was not a human rights offense but rather a property rights offense, and the father of a raped daughter could demand that the rapist pay a cash settlement and keep the used goods. A woman who voluntarily reduced her value by having sex before marriage could be killed. In other words, female consent was neither a necessary nor sufficient pre-condition for sex or childbearing.
The infancy stories of Jesus found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, are products of their time and culture, and neither of them depicts what most people would now consider informed or free consent. To be clear, this isn’t a question of sexual consent because—unlike some similar stories about gods impregnating human women—the insemination of Mary isn’t described in sexual terms. The question is one of reproductive consent. (Sexual consent and reproductive consent are two different things. A person can agree to have sex but not to have a baby, as in those cases when a partner lies about or sabotages birth control. Conversely, in modern times, a person may agree to reproduce but not to have sex—as when people donate eggs or sperm.)
What is free and full consent?
While we seldom talk about reproductive consent or its opposite, reproductive coercion, two related kinds of consent will be familiar to most people in modern Western culture—”informed consent” for medical procedures or research, and sexual consent. These two are quite different in some ways—for example, medical “informed consent” often requires a written agreement while sexual consent gets communicated verbally and nonverbally. But both also have the purpose of safeguarding personal autonomy, as does reproductive consent, so they offer some insights about how a nativity story with free and full consent might read. In medical and intimate settings, free and full consent generally requires the following:
-Consent precedes the action or event being consented.
-It is a response to a question or inquiry—the person is presented with a choice.
-The person giving consent is of sound mind and capable of understanding what they are saying yes to.
-They have enough information to understand risks and benefits of saying yes or no, as well as other options that may be open to them.
-The person giving consent has time enough, unpressured, to think and ask questions.
-The person giving consent is free, physically and psychologically, to say no.
-They shouldn’t expect that it is going to happen no matter what they say.
-They shouldn’t be afraid that saying no will arouse threats or punishment or withholding of needed care.
-Power differences, authority or dependency between the two parties require extra caution because these can create implicit threats or fears of harm.
-Both parties understand that consent may change over time and agree that consent can be withdrawn when possible.
We often say that consent should sound like an enthusiastic yes! In this regard, the nativity story in Luke comes through. What’s missing is that the conditions for free and full consent are not themselves fully present. The angel does not present an open question, nor does Mary treat his proclamation as such. Her future role is announced, and she responds by humbly referring to herself as a bondservant, a handmaid. One might argue, further, that any young woman raised on the stories in the Hebrew Bible might have ample reason to fear the wrath of God should she choose to say no. But no matter; for Luke’s Mary, saying no is unthinkable.
It is somewhat embarrassing to see God operating in a way that would be considered unacceptable with respect to modern ethics. But when it is realized that the Bible is solely a time-dependent, human-generated effort, this depiction of God is fully understandable.
(1930) Erasing Jesus’s baptism
In the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, Jesus submits himself for baptism by John the Baptist. However, in the Gospel of John, although Jesus encounters John the Baptist in much the same manner as described in the synoptics, the text omits the act of baptism and simply has John extolling Jesus as the savior.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”
This is an example of sanitizing the scriptures. John was the latest of the gospel books to be written and came at a time after the progressing theology of the church had made Jesus into a god. It would therefore have been unseemly for a god to submit to baptism by a mere human. So the author omitted this embarrassing fact and simply had John the Baptist acknowledge Jesus’s superior stature, while maintaining an appropriate subservient posture. This is a window into how Christian theology and its scriptures evolved over time.
(1931) The Bronze Snake Pole
It seems that modern-day methods to treat snake bites are missing an opportunity to use a method that was very effective during ancient biblical days:
They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.
It would seem that every emergency room in the world should include a bronze snake pole and then anti-venom medicines would no longer be needed. It would be especially useful for the snake-handling cults in Appalachia. These verses make it all too easy to show that the Bible is an unabashed celebration of fiction.
(1932) No writings from Jesus’s direct followers
The most glaring red herring involving Christianity is that we have no writings from the direct followers of Jesus or even any of the witnesses of his life. Everything we have is from people who never knew him nor had ever seen him. What makes this significant is that we know that there were disagreements between the Jerusalem followers of Jesus (The Way) and Paul and his followers. Paul admits to it in his letters. But this is like investigating a dispute between two persons and getting the story from only one of them- you are very likely to form a biased and distorted view of what actually happened. The following was taken from:
Paul is the single most important figure in the spreading of the Christian cult throughout the Roman Empire and into Western culture. Paul’s letters and, later, the Gospels of Mark, then Luke and Mathew, are some of the earliest Christian writings (and sources of history) we have. And they were all written decades after Jesus’ death.
We know from Paul’s letters and the Acts of the Apostles (the author of Luke’s sequel to his gospel) that there were significant disagreements between himself and James on various issues. (James was Jesus’ brother who had become the leader of the Jerusalem-based “Way Followers” of Jesus after his brother’s death.)
Because we have no writings from the Jerusalem “Way Followers” at all, we only have a summation of these disagreements from the Pauline camp. And it would not serve their interests to bring up disagreements about basic Pauline positions like the divinity of Jesus and belief in Jesus’ divinity as a requirement for salvation. Keeping the matter of these disagreements confined to issues like the need for Gentiles to obey circumcision and dietary requirements, etc., served the Pauline camp. It gave them a few areas of disagreement to point to for the historical record since it was well known there were disagreements. But if it were known there were disagreements with those who actually knew Jesus in life on Jesus’ divinity, etc., it would undermine their cult dogma on the foundational points.
Using the Pauline camp’s own history, we can guess that there may have been disagreement between the two groups on these points. How? When the Way Followers were arrested and tried by the Sanhedrin, the leader of the Pharisees speaks up for them and they are promptly freed (Acts, Chap.5).
But later, when the Hellenized Jew Stephen is arrested, he is convicted and stoned to death (Acts, Chap. 7). Despite possible Pauline obfuscation about these two incidents in Acts, this suggests to me that the Way Followers were preaching something different (and less provocative) than what the Hellenized Jews preached.
What is meant by “Hellenized” Jews? Hellas is the Greek name for continental Greece. Hellenized means Greek-speaking and Greek cultured. During Paul’s time, the Romans ruled the Mediterranean World. But they ruled a world that had previously been conquered and cultured by the Greeks. So the Roman intelligencia spoke Greek and Roman writers wrote in Greek during this period. Paul and the gospel writers also wrote in Greek.
Imagine the whole world suddenly being ruled by the Chinese today. If that were to happen, it would take years before Chinese replaced English as the most universal language in the world and longer for Chinese culture to overtake the dominance of Western culture throughout the world. (In fact, China is so Westernized now, there could be no uniquely “Chinese” culture.) Similarly, Rome ruled a Greek world.
The Way Followers in Jerusalem may simply have believed Jesus was a possible Messiah (a prophet like Elijah or king like David) who they hoped would return soon to finish his mission of redeeming Israel. But that’s very different from saying (like the Hellenized Jews) Jesus was divine which would have been regarded as blasphemy by Palestinian Jews. Again, we only have the Pauline camp’s side of the story.
Imagine if American history was based solely on writings from the colonists…oops, that’s pretty much all that we have. Or WWII only on writings from the Nazis. This is the situation with Christianity. Because we have nothing from the Way Followers, the direct and most reliable witness sources, the truth of Christianity is seriously in question.
(1933) Religiosity is correlated with science illiteracy
A recent study has established a statistically valid correlation between belief in religion and a mistrust and lack of knowledge in science. Although this might seem intuitive, it is still important to establish its truth in a rigorous manner. The following is the abstract from this study:
Past research suggests that religion and science may conflict on which is a better tool for explaining the world. This conflict implies that religiosity might negatively impact both attitudes toward science and science knowledge. However, past research has focused mostly on religious affiliation and has not consistently identified such a relation using a general religiosity measure that assesses religious beliefs and religious practice.
Using two large, nationally representative datasets as well as two original datasets, and controlling for relevant demographic variables, four studies (N = 9,205) showed that general measures of religiosity are negatively associated with science knowledge, a relation that was partially mediated by an association between religiosity and negative attitudes toward science. Study 2 also showed that parents’ reports about their religiosity and its role in their children’s upbringing predicted, some 20 years later, their children’s attitudes toward science. The studies are correlational but the longitudinal relations in Study 2 suggests that religiosity might undermine science literacy.
It can be logically assumed that if Christianity and the Bible were factual truths that science would, by and large, tend to offer confirming evidence for this. And if so, it would follow that those well versed in science would be the most fervent believers. The observed existence of the reverse situation suggests that Christianity Is not rooted in reality.
(1934) The evolution of Satan
The devil, or Satan, or Lucifer, plays a pivotal role in the New Testament as Jesus’s chief rival and tempter. If Satan is real, it would be expected that his characteristics would have been documented in a consistent manner throughout the Bible. However, this is not the case, and there’s good evidence that the final product, Satan as a supernatural prince of evil, resulted from an evolving theology that took place over the entire sweep of biblical history.
Introduced as “the most clever of all of the beasts of the field that YHWH God had made,” the serpent in the Garden of Eden is portrayed as just that: a serpent. Satan does not make an appearance in Genesis 2–3, for the simple reason that when the story was written, the concept of the devil had not yet been invented. Explaining the serpent in the Garden of Eden as Satan would have been as foreign a concept to the ancient authors of the text as referring to Ezekiel’s vision as a UFO (but Google “Ezekiel’s vision” now, and you’ll see that plenty of people today have made that connection!). In fact, while the word satan appears elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, it is never a proper name; since there is no devil in ancient Israel’s worldview, there can’t yet have been a proper name for such a creature.
Depicted here are God the Father, cherubim, angels, Adam, Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden in Domenichino’s painting The Rebuke of Adam and Eve (1626). Photo: Patrons’ Permanent Fund, National Gallery of Art.
The noun satan, Hebrew for “adversary” or “accuser,” occurs nine times in the Hebrew Bible: five times to describe a human military, political or legal opponent, and four times with reference to a divine being. In Numbers 22, the prophet Balaam, hired to curse the Israelites, is stopped by a messenger from Israel’s God YHWH, described as “the satan” acting on God’s behalf. In Job, “the satan” is a member of God’s heavenly council—one of the divine beings, whose role in Job’s story is to be an “accuser,” a status acquired by people in ancient Israel and Mesopotamia for the purposes of particular legal proceedings. In Job’s case, what’s on trial is God’s assertion that Job is completely “blameless and upright” vs. the satan’s contention that Job only behaves himself because God has rewarded him. God argues that Job is rewarded because he is good, and not good because he is rewarded. The satanchallenges God to a wager that if everything is taken away from poor Job, he won’t be so good anymore, and God accepts. Though a perception of “the satan” as Satan would make this portrait of God easier to swallow, the story demonstrates otherwise; like Yahweh’s messenger in Numbers 22, this satan acts on YHWH’s instructions (and as a result of God’s braggadocio) and is not an independent force of evil.
In Zechariah 3, the prophet describes a vision of the high priest Joshua standing in a similar divine council, also functioning as a tribunal. Before him stand YHWH’s messenger and the satan, who is there to accuse him. This vision is Zechariah’s way of pronouncing YHWH’s approval of Joshua’s appointment to the high priesthood in the face of adversarial community members, represented by the satan. The messenger rebukes the satan and orders that Joshua’s dirty clothing be replaced, as he promises Joshua continuing access to the divine council. Once again, the satan is not Satan who we read about in the New Testament.
The word satan appears only once without “the” in front of it in the entire Hebrew Bible: in 1 Chronicles 21:1. Is it possible that we finally have Satan here portrayed? 1 Chronicles 21 parallels the story of David’s census in 2 Samuel 24, in which God orders David to “go number Israel and Judah” and then punishes king and kingdom for doing so. The Chronicler changes this story, as he does others, to portray the relationship between God and David as uncompromised; he writes that “a satan stood up against Israel and he provoked David to number Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:6–7; 27:24). Although it is possible to read “Satan” here instead of “a satan” (Hebrew uses neither uppercase letters, nor indefinite articles, e.g., “a”), nothing else in this story or in any texts for another 300 years indicates that the idea of an evil prince of darkness exists in the consciousness of the Israelites.
So if there’s no Satan in the Hebrew Bible, where does the devil come into the details of Eden?
The worldview of Jewish readers of Genesis 2–3 profoundly changed in the centuries since the story was first written. After the canon of the Hebrew Bible closed,1 beliefs in angels, demons and a final apocalyptic battle arose in a divided and turbulent Jewish community. In light of this impending end, many turned to a renewed understanding of the beginning, and the Garden of Eden was re-read—and re-written—to reflect the changing ideas of a changed world. Two separate things happened and then merged: Satan became the proper name of the devil, a supernatural power now seen to oppose God as the leader of demons and the forces of evil; and the serpent in the Garden of Eden came to be identified with him. While we begin to see the first idea occurring in texts two centuries before the New Testament, the second won’t happen until later; Eden’s serpent is not identified with Satan anywhere in the Hebrew Bible or New Testament.
The concept of the devil begins to appear in second and first centuries B.C.E. Jewish texts. In 1 Enoch, the “angel” who “led Eve astray” and “showed the weapons of death to the children of men” was called Gadreel (not Satan). Around the same time, the Wisdom of Solomon taught that “through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who are on his side suffer it.” Though this may very well be the earliest reference to Eden’s serpent as the devil, in neither text, nor in any document we have until afterthe New Testament, is satan clearly understood as the serpent in Eden. At Qumran, though, Satan is the leader of the forces of darkness; his power is said to threaten humanity, and it was believed that salvation would bring the absence of Satan and evil.
By the first century C.E., Satan is adopted into the nascent Christian movement, as ruler over a kingdom of darkness, an opponent and deceiver of Jesus (Mark 1:13), prince of the devils and opposing force to God (Luke 11:15–19; Matthew 12:24–27; Mark 3:22–23:26); Jesus’ ministry puts a temporary end to Satan’s reign (Luke 10:18) and the conversion of the gentiles leads them from Satan to God (Acts 26:18). Most famously, Satan endangers the Christian communities but will fall in Christ’s final act of salvation, described in detail in the book of Revelation.
It is a general rule of thumb that when theological beliefs change over time, there is good reason to conclude that both the original and terminal beliefs are in serious error. This is because if the Bible is the true inspired word of God, it would display a consistent message delivered by an unchanging god. So if Satan was real, God would have ensured that his existence and nature would have been accurately described from Genesis all the way to Revelation.
(1935) The atonement is illogical
Part of the problem with the idea that Jesus died on the cross to provide a means for people to have their sins forgiven is that Jesus’s divine being did not die, only his human body did so. This seems to make it unnecessary for God to have taken human form, as it would therefore appear that merely a human sacrifice could have done the job. Though that alone would seem to be insufficient to absolve all of the sins of the world. Thus, the entire concept collapses in a sea of contradiction. The following is an excerpt from Ken Pulliam’s essay, “The Absurdity of the Atonement,” in John Loftus’ 2011 anthology, The End of Christianity.
The idle theological gossip intensifies with added layers of theology, which usually mean that theologians have even more ‘explaining away’ to do. Pulliam notes that the Penal Substitutionary Theory is hard to reconcile with other aspects of Christian orthodoxy.
“…according to the doctrine of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all equally God and share precisely the same attributes. If this is the case, why is it that the Bible presents only the Father as needing to be propitiated? The New Testament speaks of the Father sending the Son to die and of the Father being the one whose wrath is turned away. It never speaks of the Son or the Spirit being propitiated. If sin cannot be justly forgiven until God is propitiated, due to the holy nature of God, then how is it that it is only God the Father that is propitiated?” (pp. 189-190)
And just how it is that God died on the cross? Pulliam points out the devastating flaw: “…when Jesus died on the cross bearing the penalty for our sin, it was not his divinity that suffered and died but rather his humanity. If it was just his humanity, then why was the incarnation necessary? Could God not have just created another perfect Adam and had him pay for the sins of the world? Most theologians would say that the death of Christ is infinitely valuable precisely because he was God. But…God cannot die, so it was not his deity that died.” (p. 190, bold added)
“If the divine nature cannot die, then it cannot pay the penalty for sin. If only the human nature died, then it did not have the inherent value sufficient to pay for the sins of the whole world.” (p. 191)
Of course, theologians are paid to come up with smooth answers, and have shown immense talent for writing theobabble—the kind of stuff that only likeminded theologians can appreciate. Pulliam quotes Rustin Umstattd:
“When Jesus experienced the Father’s wrath upon the cross and he cried out from the depths of his being the lament of dereliction, the Son was not separated from the Father and the Spirit ontologically, but experientially…In this forsakenness, Jesus was left alone on the cross to bear the full weight of judgment. At this point, the Spirit is the bond that holds the Trinity together.” (p. 193)
Thanks for clearing that up. We were so worried about the Trinity! Jewish and Muslim theologians—and secular thinkers not lost in the morass of Christian minutia—wonder what the hell this means. I have written countless times in the margins of theology books, “How does he know this?” and “How do theologians learn to talk like this?” But they are slavish members of that club, Defenders of the Faith at Any Cost.
But the folks in the pews are seldom willing to think it through, and that’s why the priests and preachers keep getting away with the swindle. Pulliam’s final word: “…to accept the most fundamental Christian doctrine, namely that Jesus died for your sins, requires one to believe something that is illogical, immoral, and incoherent. In essence, it requires a sacrificium intellectus, the sacrifice of our own intelligence.” (p. 194)
(1936) Beasts in heaven
In the concluding book of the Bible, Revelation, the author gives us a look into heaven. The imagery is so frightening that you might think this was a description of hell. The reader must decide if these are the words of God or those of a deranged psychotic man.
Revelation 4: 6-11
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“ ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
It seems highly unlikely that this is the inspired product of a deity or that it approximates the scene of a theoretical heaven. This is one of the best examples showing that the Bible is an exercise in human imagination.
(1937) Christian divorces more rooted in immorality
It’s bad enough that the Christian community exhibits no better marital stability than the non-religious population, but the predominant reasons for their divorces, comparatively, tend to focus on the types of moral issues that conflict with Christian ideals. The following was taken from:
Tom Whiteman, a Philadelphia psychologist and counselor, was disturbed by the data showing that Christians were no more immune to divorce than the general population. He focused on this matter in his doctoral research. He found that even though devout Christians divorce at about the same rate as others, they did so for different reasons. Whereas the number one reason cited for divorce in the general population was incompatibility, Christians rarely use that as grounds for divorce. In the Christian population, the primary reasons are adultery, abuse (including substance, physical and verbal abuse) and abandonment. In fact, Christians tend to hang on to bad marriages longer than others.
This provides evidence that God is not playing the role of matchmaker for his followers and further that he is not involved in protecting these holy marriages. It also suggests that belief in Christianity is not eliciting greater moral behavior or having the effect of imparting the ideals of forgiveness, tolerance, compromise, and kindness.
(1938) The Law of Large Numbers
Anecdotal evidence of people experiencing miraculous events is often used in Christian circles to bolster belief in the supernatural, which then is used to presuppose that the world operates in a manner consistent with the miraculous stories of the Bible. Claims of prophetic dreams or reincarnation are examples. What is being missed by believers is that very unlikely events and seemingly miraculous ones are inevitable in a universe of large numbers. The following was taken from:
What about the phenomenon of people having prophetic dreams, such as when someone dreams about the death of a family member that happens the next day? How can an incredible coincidence like this occur without explanation? Well, there is an explanation, but it’s not supernatural. As Shermer explains:
“Each of us has about 5 dreams per night, or 1,825 dreams per year. If we remember only a tenth of our dreams, then we recall 182.5 dreams per year. Using a rounded-off figure of 300 million Americans able to remember their dreams, this generates a total of 54.7 billion remembered dreams per year…each of knows about 150 people fairly well, for a total network social grid of 45 billion personal relationship connections. With an annual death rate of 2.4 million Americans per year at all ages and from all causes, it is inevitable that some of those 54.7 billion remembered dreams will be about some of these 2.4 million deaths among the 300 million Americans and their 45 billion relationship connections. In fact, it would be a miracle if some death premonition dreams did not come true.”
This is a major point, and applies not only to death premonition dreams but to all major coincidences. As Shermer further explains:
“Then there is the Law of Large Numbers: with seven billion people having, say, ten experiences a day of any kind, even million-to-one odds will result in seventy thousand coincidences per day.”
Of course some of these events will be remembered and reported and used by someone as evidence for whatever supernatural phenomenon they’d like to believe in. But far from being evidence for the supernatural, these million-to-one coincidences are guaranteed to occur every day!
Thinking mathematically, and from a larger perspective, is also a huge problem for those who believe in reincarnation. As Shermer explains in the opening of the book, 108 billion people were born between 50,000 BCE and 2017. In contrast, 7.5 billion people are alive today, making the ratio of the dead to the living 14.4 to 1. If reincarnation is real, does each living person today contain 14.4 souls? Or is there a waiting line? The more you think about it, the more absurd the idea becomes.
And so these ‘signs’ that we live in a world enshrouded with miracles are reduced to the mundane through the use of simple mathematics. It’s like throwing a dice 10 times and stating that the result was a 1 in 60,500,000 ‘miracle’ versus understanding that some unspecified result was inevitable, a 1 in 1 chance.
(1939) The Bible diminishes God’s omnipotence
The authors of the Bible wrote that God performed many miracles, but in so doing they inadvertently reduced his status. In effect, the use of miracles made God out to be a second-rate omnipotent deity.
A fully omniscient, omnipotent god would not have had to resort to using any miracles whatever. And, in essence, since the Christian god seems intent on not providing clear evidence of his existence, desiring faith over the examination of evidence, this would seem to have been the preferred course of action.
For example, in the Battle of Jericho, God had to stop the sun from setting for an extra hour to allow Joshua to complete his conquest. In Egypt, he had to send 10 miraculous and violent plagues to gain the Jews’ freedom from the Pharaoh. In the first case, he could have easily controlled the battle scene to complete the required outcome in the normal allotted time of daylight. In the latter case, he could have simply adjusted the mind of the Pharaoh to agree to release the Jewish slaves. In both cases, this would have been simpler and much more efficient in obtaining his goals. Although some might argue that these preemptive actions could also be labeled as miraculous, they at least would not have had the outward appearance of being so.
So, the Bible unknowingly de-rates God from being a totally omnipotent being… unless you assume that God deliberately let things get out of control just so he could display his otherworldly powers- kind of like a man who watches as a woman is being chased but waits until after she had been accosted to rescue her instead of using his opportunity to cut off the attacker beforehand.
(1940) The body/spirit split
Christianity and most other religions are based on a concept that there is a palpable split between a person’s body and an immaterial, spirit that encompasses that person’s consciousness and personality. This belief led to the idea that human beings were completely separate from and superior to all other life forms.
This concept of duality also led to the idea that the body part of the human essence was sinful and prone to corruption. Thus, it was up to the spirit to constantly fight against the urges of the body. This led to thinking that almost anything that was pleasurable could be classified as being sinful, including sex, drinking, and gluttony. Another outgrowth of this doctrine was the odious concept of original sin.
These ideas originated at a time before humans understood their basic morphology. No one at that time knew about the brain, thinking it was perhaps nothing more than a heat exchanger. But science eventually discovered that the brain was the seat of consciousness and intelligence, and this began to erode the concept of the body/spirit split. The theory of biological evolution reconnected humans with all other animals, injuring the concept of human distinctness and superiority.
Thus, it can be asserted that Christianity is fundamentally based on a misunderstanding of how humans function, on the misguided idea that we have immaterial souls, and on the falsehood that we are separate from and not related to all other animals. And any religion based on a belief that has been disproved should be discarded.
(1941) Jesus’s charity sermons were self-serving
In the gospels, Jesus is alleged to have emphasized the sanctity of charitable giving. This included the idea of giving more than what is asked for when someone beseeches you, not trying to defend your possessions if someone takes them from you, and even selling all that you have and giving it to the poor. Although altruism and generosity are certainly favorable traits to promote, it is important to keep in mind the situation in which Jesus and his disciples found themselves- they were living off the charity of those around them. This fact taints the advice that Jesus was giving- it was potentially self-serving. The following was taken from:
The alleged Jesus taught to give away anything that anyone asks and to sell everything and give it away. Although charity constitutes a great service to society, to give away all would put the giver into poverty himself, thus preventing any future charitable acts.
Naturally any beggar would value such advice because he would receive the benefits of the charitable acts. And since Jesus did not work for a living, it gives reason why he might reap the rewards himself. Think about it: Jesus (if he indeed lived) and the apostles had to live off something. (I find it odd that few Christians question how Jesus and his followers survived without any Biblical acknowledgement of their proceeds.). The churches throughout history have received the scrapings of donations from the poor and have grown wealthy as a result. Receiving advice about charity from those who stand to gain from it, beggars, professional or otherwise, does not inspire one to admire them. On the contrary, wisdom teaches that one should view such people carefully and with suspicion.
This all presupposes that Jesus was an actual person and that the gospels accurately relate his teachings. But it both of these assumptions are true, then his promotion of charitable giving should be viewed critically. Either that or the gospels should be criticized for failing to document the means by which Jesus and his disciples supported themselves.
(1942) God is Satan?
There is a curious discrepancy in the Bible that suggests that one of the authors got the story, well, not just wrong, but terribly wrong. Compare the following two passages:
2 Samuel 24:1-4
Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”
So the king (David) said to Joab and the army commanders with him, “Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.”
But Joab replied to the king, “May the Lord your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?”
The king’s word, however, overruled Joab and the army commanders; so they left the presence of the king to enroll the fighting men of Israel.
1 Chronicles 21:1-4
Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.”
But Joab replied, “May the Lord multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?”
The king’s word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout Israel and then came back to Jerusalem.
It appears that these two scriptures are recounting the same event, but in 2 Samuel, the Lord incited David to conduct the census, while in 1 Chronicles, it is Satan doing the same thing. This represents a howling, embarrassing contradiction that appears to equate the Lord (God) with Satan. It is unlikely that a book inspired by God would contain a mistake of this magnitude.
(1943) The Hero Savior of Vietnam
The following analogy of a hypothetical supernatural soldier in the Vietnam War is a perfect example of why the legend of Jesus should not be casually accepted as factual history:
Suppose I told you there was a soldier in the Vietnam War named “Hero Savior” who miraculously calmed storms, healed wounds, conjured food and water out of thin air, and then was blown up by artillery, but appeared again whole and alive three days later, giving instructions to his buddies before flying up into outer space right before their very eyes. Would you believe me? Certainly not. You would ask me to prove it.
So I would give you all the evidence I have. But all I have are some vague war letters by a guy who never really met Hero Savior in person, and a handful of stories written over thirty years later by some guys named Bill, Bob, Carl, and Joe. I don’t know for sure who these guys are. I don’t even know their last names. There are only unconfirmed rumors that they were or knew some of the war buddies of Hero Savior. They might have written earlier than we think, or later, but no one really knows. No one can find any earlier documentation to confirm their stories, either, or their service during the war, or even find these guys to interview them. So we don’t know if they really are who others claim, and we’re not even sure these are the guys who actually wrote the stories. You see, the undated pamphlets circulating under their names don’t say “by Bill” or “by Bob,” but “as told by Bill” and “as told by Bob.” Besides all that, we also can’t find any record of a Hero Savior serving in the war. He might have been a native guide whose name never made it into official records, but still, none of the historians of the war ever mention him, or his amazing deeds, or even the reports of them that surely would have spread far and wide.
Besides the dubious evidence of these late, uncorroborated, unsourced, and suspicious stories, the best thing I can give you is that war correspondence I mentioned, some letters by an army sergeant actually from the war, who claims he was a skeptic who changed his mind. But he never met or saw Hero in life, and never mentions any of the miracles that Bob, Bill, Carl, and Joe talk about. In fact, the only thing this sergeant ever mentions is “seeing” Hero after his death, though not “in flesh and blood,” but in a “revelation.” That’s it.
This sergeant also claims the spirit of Hero Savior now enables him and some others to “speak in tongues” and “prophecy” and heal some illnesses, but none of this has been confirmed or observed by anyone else on record, and none of it sounds any different than what thousands of other cults and gurus have claimed. So, too, for some unconfirmed reports that some of these believers, even this army sergeant, endured persecution or even died for believing they “saw Hero in a revelation”–a fact no more incredible than the Buddhists who set themselves on fire to protest the Vietnam War, certain they would be reincarnated, or the hundreds of people who voluntarily killed themselves at Jonestown, certain their leader was sent by God.
Okay. I’ve given you all that evidence. Would you believe me then? Certainly not. No one trusts documents that come decades after the fact by unknown authors, and hardly anyone believes the hundreds of gurus today who claim to see and speak to the spirits of the dead, heal, and predict the future. Every reasonable person expects and requires extensive corroboration by contemporary documents and confirmed eyewitness accounts. Everyone would expect here at least as much evidence as I’d need to prove I owned a nuclear missile, yet the standard required is actually that of proving I own an interstellar spacecraft–for these are clearly very extraordinary claims, and as we saw above, such claims require extraordinary evidence, as much as would be needed, for example, to convince the United Nations that I had an interstellar spacecraft on my lawn. Yet what we have for this Hero Savior doesn’t even count as ordinary evidence, much less the extraordinary evidence we really need.
To complete the analogy, many other things would rightly bother us. Little is remarkable about the stories told of Hero Savior, for similar stories apparently have been told of numerous Vietnamese sorcerers and heroes throughout history–and no one believes them, so why should we make an exception for Hero? The documents we have from Bob, Bill, Carl, and Joe have also been tampered with–we’ve found some cases of forgery and editing in each of their stories by parties unknown, and we aren’t sure we’ve caught it all. Apparently, their stories were used by several different cults to support their causes, and these cults all squabble over the exact details of the right cause, and so tell different stories or interpret the stories differently to serve their own particular agenda. And the earliest version, the one told by Bob, which both Bill and Joe clearly copied, added to, and edited (which Carl might have done, too, perhaps by borrowing loosely from Joe), appears to have been almost entirely constructed out of passages from an ancient Vietnamese poem, arranged and altered to tell a story full of symbolic and moral meaning. These and many other problems plague the evidence, leaving it even more suspect than normal.
This Hero Savior analogy entirely parallels the situation for Jesus. Every reason we would have not to believe these Hero Savior stories applies to the stories of Jesus with all the same force. So if you agree there would be no good reason to believe these Hero Savior stories, you must also agree there is insufficient reason to believe the Jesus Christ stories. Hence I am not a Christian because the evidence is not good enough. For it is no better than the evidence proposed for Hero Savior, and that falls far short of the burden that would have to be met to confirm the very extraordinary claims surrounding him.
To top off the analogy, the Vietnamese people who continue to live in Vietnam, and should have witnessed these miracles, don’t believe in the story, just like Jews of Jerusalem did not accept the idea that Jesus was their savior. Christians should be challenged to explain why they believe in Jesus but not, if given the story above, in the hero savior of Vietnam, when the evidence or lack thereof for both is precisely equivalent. Why employ faith for one but not the other?
(1944) The failure of the free will argument
Christian apologists make an excuse for God’s consistent campaign to remain hidden by claiming that if he came out and directly showed himself to everyone it would violate their free will. In other words, it would make the situation so plain that they would have to accept Jesus and would no longer have the option to reject him. They would not need faith and thus effectively would become robots of God unanimously predestined to worship him unconditionally. This argument runs into trouble when one considers Jesus’s disciples, his followers, and those who witnessed his miracles. Was their free will violated? The following was taken from:
The conclusion is inescapable. If Christianity were true, then the Gospel would have been preached to each and every one of us directly, and correctly, by God–just as it supposedly was to the disciples who walked and talked and dined with God Himself, or to the Apostle Paul, who claimed to have had actual conversations with God, and to have heard the Gospel directly from God Himself. Was their free will violated? Of course not. Nor would ours be. Thus, if Christianity were really true, there would be no dispute as to what the Gospel is. There would only be our free and informed choice to accept or reject it. At the same time, all our sincere questions would be answered by God, kindly and clearly, and when we compared notes, we would find that the Voice of God gave consistent answers and messages to everyone all over the world, all the time. So if Christianity were true, there would be no point in “choosing” whether God exists any more than there is a choice whether gravity exists or whether all those other people exist whom we love or hate or help or hurt. We would not face any choice to believe on insufficient and ambiguous evidence, but would know the facts, and face only the choice whether to love and accept the God that does exist. That this is not the reality, yet it would be the reality if Christianity were true, is proof positive that Christianity is false.
The idea that direct communication from God removes a person’s free will to reject God is refuted in the scriptures themselves by the betrayal of Judas. The apologetic theory behind God’s decision to keep everyone confused and guessing simply holds no water- it is a major league excuse designed to cover up compelling evidence of Christianity’s falsehood.
(1945) Scientific reasons to disbelieve
When an objective person considers the range of scientific discoveries made over the past few hundred years and then tries to marry this knowledge with the claims of Christianity, a collision of cognition occurs. It is plainly evident that science has consistently failed to support the Bible and anything else that Christians hold dear. The following was taken from:
Astronomy has established that the universe is about 13.7 billion years old and arose out of a cosmic singularity. No account of the development of our universe can be harmonized with the creation accounts in Genesis, as the latter are pure folklore. Archaeology has found no evidence of 400 years of Israelite slavery in Egypt, Israelites who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, or an Israelite conquest of Canaan. Geological evidence in the sedimentary rock layers of a roughly 4.5 billion year old planet confirms the slow evolutionary development of life, just as astronomical evidence confirms the slow evolutionary development of galaxies, stars, and planets. Geology also falsifies that at any point in human history there was a universal flood which covered the Earth.
Neurological evidence from strokes, seizures, and other brain malfunctions falsifies that human beings possess any immaterial mind or soul. If there is an immaterial mind, where is it located? As Sam Harris has pointed out, if God had created us with an immaterial mind, then there is no reason to expect that he would have also created a brain for us. The astounding results of modern medicine have all but eliminated such superstitious and ineffective practices as exorcisms, bloodletting, and supernatural healing. As the late Carl Sagan noted:
We can pray over the cholera victim, or we can give her 500 milligrams of tetracycline every twelve hours…. [T]he scientific treatments are hundreds or thousands of times more effective than the alternatives (like prayer). Even when the alternatives seem to work, we don’t actually know that they played any role.
Voltaire said: “Prayer and arsenic will kill a cow.” Psychology confirms that who we are and how we behave are determined to an overwhelming degree before we reach the age of accountability. People are not evil so much as much they are sick. There is no rebellion against God. If God is omniscient, then like the ultimate psychotherapist he knows why we do everything that we do. There can be no wrathful God.
It can be said that if you have to fight science to defend your faith, then there is something seriously wrong with your faith. Christians are now in that position and their battle against science is something akin to someone blowing into the wind in an attempt to stop a hurricane.
(1946) Where God chose to appear
Assuming that God decided to come to earth, take human form, and deliver a message to humankind, it is illustrative to speculate where he would have decided to make such an appearance. For the sake of this discussion, we’ll assume that he selects the time of 0CE for his debut. Here are some relevant cases:
- Judaism is true and God wants to keep his special relationship with his chosen people and is not intending to extend it to other people. In this case, we would expect God to be born in Judea or Galilee (as claimed by the Bible).
- Judaism is true and God intends to extend his reach to all people. In this case (which is the claim of Christianity), we would have expected God to appear in Rome. This would have been a convincing symbol of his intention to no longer be just the god of the Jews, and choosing Rome, he would have been able to reach much more of the planet with his message. In this event, God would proclaim that he once was the god of the Jews but was now extending his grace to the entire planet.
- Judaism is not true, neither are any other religions, and God is prepared to interact for the first time with humans. In this case, we would expect God to appear in multiple locations throughout the planet and spread his message to all major civilizations. He could have done this simultaneously or in a sequential manner.
These cases are not exhaustive but it is likely that one of them is more or less true. The problem for Christianity is that it incorporates a mismatch- it endorses the consequence of Case 1 and with the assumption of Case 2. In other words, it claims that God intended to become a worldwide god but at the same time it has to concede that God made his human appearance in a place that is inconsistent with that assumption.
(1947) Christianity harms children
There is ongoing research to determine whether the development of the prefrontal cortex of the brain in children might be impeded by rigidly-taught fundamentalist Christianity. This is the portion of the brain associated with examination of evidence, comparing conflicting ideas, and being open to changing one’s mind in the wake of new information. When a child is taught to dismiss all evidence that conflicts with the church’s doctrine, it might have the effect of retarding the development of this critical portion of the brain. There are other ways that Christianity can be harmful to children, as discussed below:
* Christianity teaches children that they are intrinsically evil; they did nothing wrong, but just by being born and being alive, they are evil. This is a terrible thing to teach children, not only because it is false, but because it is the exact wrong message children should be taught, which is that they are intrinsically wonderful, noble, and lovable, and that they have boundless goodness inside them.
* Christianity teaches children that there exists a powerful, evil Devil. A most dangerous demon. Beware! This horrible falsity infuses their childhood with needless fear and dread, and teaches them that the world is a dangerous place, with a malevolent demon lurking in the wait. In my own research, I’ve interviewed many adults who describe the whole Satan thing as a decidedly traumatic element of their children, and in some egregious cases, unambiguously abusive.
* Christianity teaches children that God killed his own child to make up for our wickedness. In other words, we are evil, and by killing his own child, our evil is somehow wiped away and forgiven. Our guilt is cleansed. But how does that work? If I abuse my wife, and then a cop comes over and kills my son, does that atone for the wickedness I committed against my wife? How so? Only I can atone for my own wrongdoings and harmful actions. If I abuse my wife, I need to make amends in order to earn her forgiveness. I can’t kill our cat instead. And besides, why couldn’t God forgive us without killing his son? Does he require a blood sacrifice, like some pagan ogre? The entire story of Jesus “dying for our sins” makes no moral or ethical sense, and it is an extremely confusing/disturbing tale to tell our children.
* Christianity teaches children that those who accept Jesus as their personal savior are good/saved/going to heaven and those that do not accept Jesus as their personal savior are sinful and destined for hell. This can cause children to feel smug, superior, self-righteous, judgmental, and to look down upon and condemn others – be they kids on the schoolyard, neighbors, or even relatives.
* Christianity teaches children that masturbation is evil. It is not. It is natural, normal, and healthy. And pleasurable. Teaching children to feel guilty or ashamed of masturbating, teaching them that doing so is disapproved of by a son-slaying God, and can even land them in hell – this is all nonsense, but more than that, potentially abusive.
It is well known that brainwashing is a real phenomenon and that children are especially vulnerable to it, even without using the oppressive techniques that are commonly employed with adult victims. The argument can be made that any religion that, on balance, brings harm to children is at best a bad religion, and, at worst, a horrific man-made abomination.
(1948) Platitudes and excuses
A true religion would stand firm when its promises are tested, and believers would not have to perform mental gymnastics to defend it. The following vignette is all too typical of the way Christians vacillate when events fail to meet their expectations:
The truth is that God’s promises almost never come true. Deal with it.
Let’s say you’re a believer and you find you have Stage 4 cancer.
Your well-meaning Christian friends gather around your hospital bed and tell you to be strong. “Remember,” they say, “God has promised us in His word, ‘Truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven’” (Matthew 18: 19, 20).
“So we’re just going to agree in prayer for you and watch God act,” they will say, laying hands on you in your hospital bed and praying.
But the healing doesn’t come.
Your Christian friends advise you to be patient. God’s timing isn’t our timing. They remind you, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8.).
To encourage you, they recite Matthew 7:9-11: “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?”
But the healing doesn’t come—and you’re in pain. “Why would God allow this in my life?” you ask.
“Hmm,” they say. They don’t know, “but remember, ‘His ways aren’t our ways.’” Proverbs 3:5, 6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
But the healing doesn’t come. You tell your friends you’re really anxious about your illness. They tell you that you can have peace in the midst of this trial. James 4:8: “Draw near to God and He draw near to you.”
So you try, but you’re still a wreck. You don’t feel God’s presence.
“Hmm,” your friends say. “Sounds like you’re not trusting.” They remind you, “We walk by faith not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). They tell you to “not pay attention to appearances.” Trust that God has already begun your healing!
But the healing doesn’t come.
Now your Christian friends look at you askance. “Do you have an unconfessed sin in your life?” they ask. “You know that can block God’s healing.” They point to Psalm 66:18: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”
“I’ve confessed everything I can think of!” you say. “Everything!”
“Hmm,” they say. “Are you sure? After all, Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’”
“Yes, I think I’m sure,” you say.
“Well, let’s just wait on God’s timing,” they say. After all, Jeremiah 29:11, 12 tells us, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.’”
But then you die—and not prettily.
Then news of your passing gets to your friends and they discuss it at coffee hour after service the next Sunday.
“Well,” they say, “scripture tells us God always works in our best interests, so this must have been in his best interests for some reason we can’t understand.”
“Well, I really think there was some unconfessed sin here,” one of your friends whispers.
“Well, the important thing,” they agree, “is that he’s in a better place now. And that’s what really matters, isn’t it? After all, the Lord himself told us, ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’”
“Yes,” someone says, “and don’t forget nothing can separate us from the love of God—not even death!”
So . . . they move on. Life calls. God ends up smelling like a rose without lifting a finger.
It’s all platitudes and excuses.
If Christianity was true, Christians would be in a totally different place. Instead of explaining why such and such didn’t happen, it would be up to detractors of the faith to explain why they did. Christian apologists would be on the offense, not the defense, but this is not what we see- it is truly a house built on the sand.
Many Christians delight in the story in John Chapter 8 where a mob, prepared to stone an adulterous woman, is interrupted by Jesus who rhetorically asks the person who is without sin to cast the first stone. Setting aside for the moment that this story is not original to the gospel but was added in the 5th Century, let’s consider the implications: Christians made Jesus into God and God wholeheartedly endorsed the inhumane punishment of stoning repeatedly in the Old Testament. The following was taken from:
In the Old Testament (O.T.) we have the usual heinous crimes of adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, and, of course, blasphemy (Leviticus 20). The punishment for them is death by stoning. Why stoning? It is so that the mob will not only witness the execution, they will take part in it, pleased with their own virtue. We also read that if a son is rebellious and will not listen to his parents, if he is a glutton, the people will stone him to death. If a damsel, on being married, cannot produce the “tokens of virginity,” she will be stoned. If a man rapes a woman and she does not cry for help, both will be killed. (She was asking for it, perhaps she was dressed as a slut.) If a man rapes a woman and she does cry out but no one helps her, only the man shall die (Deuteronomy 21-22). The variety of offences and the savage punishment clearly brand these people as barbarians.
It’s more than obvious that a real god would not promote the use of stoning as a punishment. Only a barbarous people would do so. But giving Jesus credit for saving the adulterous woman while forgetting that he is allegedly the same god who in the Old Testament prescribed stoning for a whole host of transgressions, some relatively minor, is downright hypocrisy.
(1950) Israelites borrowed Yahweh from the Midianites
There is compelling evidence that the Jewish god, Yahweh, was incorporated into the Israelite pantheon of gods, and later became their only god, as a result of contact with the Midianites, an on and off enemy of theirs. This might have come about when Moses (if he existed) married a Midianite woman, or through other means. The following was taken from:
Andre LeMaire in his book, The Birth of Monotheism, puts forth compelling arguments, however, for a third hypothesis—an origin in the area of Midian. This ancient land was located on the Arabian Peninsula to the east of the Red Sea. The association of this land or set of tribes referred to as Midian or Midianites is plentiful in the Bible. Below is a partial list of references. Interestingly, Midian is also mentioned frequently in the Qu’ran. See here for a more complete list.
- Midian is the son of Abraham. (Genesis 25:1-2)
- Joseph was sold to the Midianites. (Genesis 37:28)
- Midian is where Moses spent forty years in exile. (Exodus 2:11-15)
- Moses married Zipporah the daughter of Jethro, the priest of Midian (Exodus 2:21)
LeMaire’s hypothesis rests on the following references.
1) The Mesha Stela is a basalt slab erected about 810 BCE by Mesha, king of Moab. It was made to give thanks to the Moabite god Chemosh for delivering his people from Israelite rule. Line 18 mentions cultic objects of YHWH. This is one of the earliest references to the Israelite God. Because the Amarna Letters (14thcentury BCE – correspondence between Egypt and areas it controlled including Canaan) do not mention YHWH, Lemaire believes that this deity arose between these two dates.
2) Biblical place names include areas in the Sinai Desert where the Midianites lived. “YHWH came from Sinai, and dawned from Seir upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran.” (Deuteronomy 33:2). “The mountains quaked before YHWH, the One of Sinai.” (Judges 5:4-5) Early male gods in many early religions are associated with mountains, lightening, and thunder. YHWH comports with this common cultural theme. The word Sinai has meanings as a desert and a mountain and Seir is a mountain. And Moses is said to have received the ten commandments near Mt. Sinai.
3) An inscription of Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep III (c. 1390-1353 BCE) refers to “Shosu of YHW.” The Shosu are believed to be a southern nomadic people that the Egyptians encountered and battled with. The Shosu are also mentioned in conjunction with Seir, similar to the biblical references above. Thus YHW could be a place name and could also be associated with a deity of the same name.
4) Moses married a Midianite woman. Because the Israelites battled with the Midianites, LeMaire believes that this reference is good evidence that he did marry a Midianite. If the writers had invented his wife’s origins, they probably wouldn’t have made her come from one of their enemies, given the “founding father” nature of Moses.
LeMaire further claims that this YHWH was one of the deities of the Midianites. He posits that the marriage of Moses, the later leader of the Israelites, to a Midian wife, caused him to adopt this deity.
While this evidence is not conclusive and other scholars have suggested alternatives, LeMaire makes a compelling case for the association of YHWH with the Midianites. It is YHWH who becomes the lead god and then the only Israelite god.
If this theory is true, it would be sufficient evidence to declare that Yahweh is a man-made god who was imagined into existence by an enemy of God’s ‘chosen people’ and not as result of any sort of supernatural contact with the Israelites. Thus the Christian god becomes a pedestrian deity undistinguished from the thousands of gods that adorn humanity’s past.
Follow this link to #1951