An example showing that Christian theology was not set in stone at the time of Jesus but has continued to evolve into modern times is the concept of when during human development that a soul is implanted into the fetus/child. Theoretically, this would be the time after which the individual becomes eligible for an eternal life either in heaven or hell. It wasn’t until the 19th Century that ensoulment was established at the moment of conception. The following was taken from:
The modern hysteria about abortion must be seen in this context: come up with anything to force women to carry a fetus full-term. In a recent article in Harper’s Bazaar, Jennifer Wright offers a stinging condemnation of Catholic hypocrisy about abortion, and includes this observation: “It was only in 1869 that the fetus was considered ensouled since the moment of conception, and excommunication was considered a punishment for all abortions. In other words, the idea that personhood begins at conception doesn’t date back to the time of Christ. It barely predates light bulbs.”
It really doesn’t matter when Catholics started to believe that ‘ensoulment’ happens at conception. Such talk is irrelevant theobabble, fake news. How would they possibly know that? Soul itself is a bogus idea. Where are the reliable, verifiable data to back up such claims?
Unbeknownst to Christians, the decision to insert the soul at conception created a logistical problem with their theology- why would God allow so many of these soul-imbued fetuses to miscarry? At least 50% do. And if this recently created theology is correct, then heaven is populated mostly with days-old zygotes.
(2052) Jesus dodges his hypocrisy
Study the following three scriptures and note their relationship:
‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. Whoever rejects the Son will not see life. Instead, the wrath of God remains on him.’
‘At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.’
In Matthew 19:6, Jesus is commanding that no man cause a married couple to separate from each other. In John 3:36, Jesus is saying that salvation is an individual matter, that if a person believes in him, they will have eternal life, but anyone who rejects Jesus will have the wrath of God (and go to hell). It is obvious that in many marriages, one spouse believes and the other does not, meaning that one goes to heaven and the other to hell. Thus it appears that Jesus is breaking his own commandment by separating married couples in the afterlife.
But, to the rescue, is Matthew 22:30, where Jesus is saying that there will be no marriages in heaven, that everyone will be independent and unattached like the angels. It almost seems like the author of Matthew (though none of the other gospel authors) recognized this problem and added this scripture as a way to soften the blow. But in so doing, he downplayed the fact that eliminating marriage would also be affecting the identity of family structures surviving into the afterlife, a common Christian theme and selling point.
(2053) Matthew and Luke omit Mark’s story
In Mark’s gospel, there is no virgin birth. A decade or so later, Matthew and Luke both included virgin birth stories (that were in severe conflict with each other). Both of these gospel authors used Mark as source material and copied much of it directly, but there was one Markan story that both omitted and it is easy to determine why- it conflicted with their virgin birth theme. Even modern translators tried their hand in erasing this conflict. The following was taken from:
Two different translations of Mark 3:20-21:
The NIV version reads:
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
While the RSV reads:
and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for people were saying, “He is beside himself.”
Notice that in the NIV version simply uses two pronouns – “they”. This means that the antecedent – “his family” – gets carried over for both of them. But the RSV version swaps out the second pronoun for an entirely new subject – “the people”, which changes the meaning of the text entirely. In the NIV, Mark’s family thinks Jesus is out of his mind. In the RSV, it’s unspecified “people” who think so.
As I understand inerrancy (if you remember me, I’m always trying to debate against fundamentalism and not Christian belief in general), that’s pretty problematic in and of itself, but let’s move on.
How did this happen? Well, Greek is like Spanish or French. The ends of the verbs imply the speaker. I’ll stick to Spanish because I know it and you can recognize it. The word for to speak is hablar – it’s the infinitive form. If I want to imply the first person – I speak – then I just change the ending hablo. You speak – hablas, she speaks – habla. No pronouns needed! Greek is exactly like that.
So in the original Greek of the passage, there are no pronouns. There’s just the original subject “the family”, and the verbs that come after it conjugated in the third person, which means that “the family” is implied each time as our NIV reading shows.
BUT because there are no pronouns in the Greek, the RSV guys felt they could slip in a new subject that doesn’t exist in the Greek syntactly. It’s not a complete and total stretch, obviously, because everyone was pissed at Jesus in this passage, but it definitely breaks the natural flow of the Greek.
Why on earth would they do this?
Well, this story doesn’t really square with the virgin birth stories found in Matthew and Luke. If an angel told Mary that they should be expecting a savior of sin called “God with us” after a miraculous conception, healing a paralytic (Mark 2:1-12), actually being with sinners who he was sent to save (Mark 2:13-17), claiming to be Lord of the Sabbath (3:23-28), healing more people (Mark 3:1-16), getting a following (Mark 3:7-11), and putting the band together (Mark 3:13-19) don’t seem too out of the wheel house (I skipped Chapter 1, but it’s really more of the same). But Mary and his family think he’s nuts for some reason even though everything he’s done up to this point in Mark was expressly implied by the angelic prophecies in Matthew and Luke.
So the RSV translators tweaked it so that you the reader wouldn’t be so weirded out by this nonsensical assumption Jesus’ family is making. Well, only nonsensical if you assume a virgin birth. If you hang that on the coat rack, this passage makes A LOT more sense.
And you know who else changed it?
Matthew and Luke.
Assuming Markan priority, which means that Mark was written prior to Matthew and Luke, and that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source, Matthew and Luke conveniently omitted this story from their narratives altogether. Who knows, maybe the virgin birth sequences were just taking up too much space and cuts had to be made. But if Matthew and Luke had Mark in their hands – and it seems pretty likely since they both have exactly the same parts of Mark in them while Mark contains none of the Matthew or Luke original material – then they just committed the sin of omission. And it seems pretty likely that if the producers are saying “cut it down to 90 minutes, Mel!” they’re going to leave out the parts that go against their own narratives.
This example illuminates how the story of Jesus was a work in progress for much of the First Century. Even after that, major changes in Christian theology occurred until the Fourth Century. Even today, we see changes, especially in the interpretation of verses describing hell. This is not the expected trajectory of a true divine revelation, but it fits perfectly with the expected history of one created by humans.
(2054) Peter walks on the water
The story of Jesus walking on the water is told in three of the four gospels (Mark, Matthew, and John) and is not recorded in Luke. But only in Matthew (14:22-34) is this story embellished by having the disciple Peter also walk on the water. In the account Peter walks a certain distance on the water before sinking and subsequently requiring a rescue by Jesus. The question is why Peter’s heroic effort was left out of the other two accounts. The following was taken from:
Both Matthew and Mark record the miracle of Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee. Matthew, however, includes two details that Mark does not. First, Matthew reports that the disciple Peter also walks on water when Jesus calls him out of the boat. Second, Matthew reports that the disciples all confess Jesus to be the “Son of God” after seeing the miracle. Since Mark leaves these details out, are the two accounts contradictory or inconsistent? Michael Wilkins, in The Gospels and Acts (The Holman Apologetics Commentary on the Bible), discusses the divergent accounts:
The parallel accounts (Mark 6: 45– 52; John 6: 15– 21) do not mention Peter’s venture into the water. This would be a remarkable thing to omit, if in fact both Mark and John knew it to be a fact. Does their silence call Matthew’s truthfulness into question? The key to explaining their silence is to recognize each narrator’s freedom to pursue different emphases. Matthew has repeatedly emphasized Peter and continues to do so throughout this section (e.g., 15: 15– 20; 16: 16– 23; 17: 24– 27). It is common for different narrators to draw out different details from the same or similar events. The different details often highlight each narrator’s specific purposes in writing.
This provides another example of the gospel authors adjusting the text to suit their particular agenda, which of course is not the modus operandi of legitimate historians. It is well established that Matthew copied a large portion of Mark’s gospel, and therefore where he made changes to it is open to analysis. Did he have additional factual information (that Mark didn’t have), or did he make changes to emphasize his desired emphasis? In this case, it appears that it was probably the latter, and it cannot be overlooked that Matthew added many easily debunked stories (slaughter of the innocents, earthquake and rising of people from their graves at the resurrection, etc.), indicating his willingness to add fictional elements to his work. So, in this case, it appears that Matthew added Peter’s aquatic escapade as a way to further his focused emphasis on this disciple.
(2055) Why did Jesus pray?
The gospels are replete with verses showing Jesus praying to his father, such as:
It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.
But this creates a problem: When did Jesus come into being? Most Christians believe that Jesus is eternal, same as for the Father and the Holy Spirit. If that is true, then what is the real difference between the Father and the Son (Jesus)? How can the Father and the Son both be eternal, or, in other words, how can the Father and the Son be the same ‘age?’ It would seem that the Son would have to be the later (in time) result of celestial sex with a female god.
If they both came into being at the same time, or are both co-eternal, and both are 1/3 of God, how can the Father be superior to the Son, such that the Son feels a need to pray to the Father? This makes no sense. It would seem that Jesus was really just praying to himself, or at best to his co-equal partner.
The ‘praying Jesus’ of the gospels is a vestigial feature of its time, a time before Jesus was considered to be a god, but by the time that this determination had been made it was too late to go back and change the gospels. If the gospels had been written after the time of Jesus’s ‘deification,’ then Jesus would not have been shown to pray, and he would have proclaimed himself to be in no uncertain terms the one and only god. Then there would have been no need to create the nonsensical concept of the Trinity.
(2056) Human’s defective interpretation of tragedy
One of the best sources of evidence supporting or refuting the existence of a beneficent god, as proposed by Christianity, is to observe the manner in which events unfold. Is there a general sense of artificial protection, indifference, or absence from a supposed supernatural, interactive being? More specifically, how do most people react in the face of tragedy as it relates to their belief in gods or a supreme being? Counter-intuitively, the predominant response is a strengthening of belief. The following was taken from:
Consider: the city of New Orleans was recently destroyed by hurricane Katrina. At least a thousand people died, tens of thousands lost all their earthly possessions, and over a million have been displaced. It is safe to say that almost every person living in New Orleans at the moment Katrina struck believed in an omnipotent, omniscient, and compassionate God. But what was God doing while a hurricane laid waste to their city? Surely He heard the prayers of those elderly men and women who fled the rising waters for the safety of their attics, only to be slowly drowned there. These were people of faith. These were good men and women who had prayed throughout their lives. Only the atheist has the courage to admit the obvious: these poor people spent their lives in the company of an imaginary friend.
Of course, there had been ample warning that a storm “of biblical proportions” would strike New Orleans, and the human response to the ensuing disaster was tragically inept. But it was inept only by the light of science. Advance warning of Katrina’s path was wrested from mute Nature by meteorological calculations and satellite imagery. God told no one of his plans. Had the residents of New Orleans been content to rely on the beneficence of the Lord, they wouldn’t have known that a killer hurricane was bearing down upon them until they felt the first gusts of wind on their faces. And yet, a poll conducted by The Washington Post found that eighty percent of Katrina’s survivors claim that the event has only strengthened their faith in God.
What this and other similar events tell us is that the human brain tends to misfire in the face of undesirable occurrences, and especially in the wake of spectacular tragedies. Although these catastrophes should alert us to the probable non-existence of benign and loving gods, they tend to do the opposite. This tendency suggests that human belief in gods is stronger than what it should be.
(2057) Apologist fails to explain Bible evils
In order for Christianity to be viewed as being true, there must exist a good explanation for why there is so much evil and brutality in the Bible. This is the job for apologists. One such prominent one, Dr. William Craig, attempted to perform this feat with respect to one of the most evil passages in the Bible, and, in following essay, it is demonstrated how his effort failed:
Then there is the passage in I Samuel 15 where the prophet Samuel, speaking in the name of the Lord, orders Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites: “Spare no one; put them all to death, men and women, children and babes in arms, herds and flocks, camels and asses” (I Samuel 15). What did the Lord have against camels and asses (not to mention babes in arms)? Were the Amalekites so evil, even their infants and animals, that they merited utter extirpation? Scripture is full of such atrocities. Tom Paine spoke truly:
Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon rather than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and for my part, I sincerely detest it as I detest all that is cruel (Paine, 1974, p. 60).
There is nothing to add to this but “amen.”
When confronted by such passages in debate, Dr. Craig has offered two sorts of responses: (a) God has the right to do whatever he wants to humans and (b) that this argument counts only against Biblical literalism, not Christianity per se. I find both replies woefully inadequate. First, it strikes me as monstrous to suggest that God would have the right to do anything whatsoever to us. What would give him that right? Surely not his omnipotence, since might does not make right. Is it the alleged fact that God created us? Suppose I were to create a race of sentient androids, fully as capable of suffering as humans. Would I then have the right to inflict capricious cruelty upon them? If Dr. Craig insists that I would, he must be moving in a moral universe that does not intersect my own.
The second sort of reply raises the question of just how literally we should take the Bible. Dr. Craig and other apologists often want parts of it to be taken very literally indeed (e.g., the discovery of the empty tomb on Easter morning by women followers of Jesus). Apologists cannot take scripture literally when it is ideologically convenient but as myth, allegory, or symbol when it is not. We need a consistent and independently justified set of interpretive principles. However, even if we do take the horrific passages as myth or metaphor, their spirit is still cruel and vindictive, and they still merit the censure so eloquently expressed by Paine.
This illustrates two important points. First, the moral imperative of a creator’s constraint to deal compassionately with his creation, and second, the hypocrisy of ascribing literalism to favorable scriptures while assuming figuratism for those that are unfavorable. Employing both of these injunctions, an (honest) apologist would have to concede that God did order the massacre of the Amalekites, and that, in so doing, he acted unceremoniously and shamelessly with his ‘creation.’ Once these concessions are made, the path to painting God as an omnibenevolent deity becomes a lot narrower.
(2058) Mark’s passion narrative flavored by later events
The manner in which the author of Mark cast his passion narrative (from Jesus’ arrest to his crucifixion) appears to have been influenced by the events that occurred four decades later (the Roman-Jewish War, CE66-73). It is a human tendency to award the victors (the Romans in this case) with the moral high ground, deservedly or not. So Mark, writing in the wake of this event, reflected the Jews as being inconsistent with their own practices, cruel, and vindictive, while painting the Romans as being level-headed, fair, and compassionate. The following was taken from:
The usual approach to Mark’s so-called passion narrative has been to regard it as a historical account of what really happened, but then to fret about features of it that are difficult to accept. The list of improbable features is quite long and includes such things as the trial by night, which would have been illegal; the basis for the charge of blasphemy, which is very unclear if not completely trumped up; the failure of the witnesses to agree, which would have called for a mistrial; the right of the Sanhedrin to charge with death, a sanction that they probably did not have at the time; the insinuation of crucifixion taking place on Passover, which would have been an outrage; Jesus’ anticipation of his death as a covenant sacrifice, which might be all right for a bacchic god, but hardly for the historical Jesus; the disciples falling asleep in the midst of it all; Pilate’s having Jesus executed as the “king of the Jews” without a good reason to consider him so; the high priests (in the plural!) joining in the mocking; and so on. The better approach is to recognize the whole story as Mark’s fiction written forty years after Jesus’ time in the wake of the Roman-Jewish war. If we first read Josephus’ account of the war, we can see that Mark’s retrospective on Jesus in Jerusalem would not have sounded a bit far-fetched (Mack, 1995, p. 158).
Had this gospel been written before the Roman-Jewish War it would probably have been very different, and a lot more accurate to the truth. It would likely have shown Jesus as being charged with sedition against Rome and crucified to the objection of almost all of the Jews. In other words, the Romans would have been the bad guys, not the Jews.
(2059) Mistiming the temple court cleansing
There is a curious discrepancy in the gospels regarding the timing of Jesus’ angry fit in the temple, turning over the tables of the money changers, scattering the sacrificial animals, and condemning the proprietors. Well, actually there are two discrepancies, one being that this action would have certainly resulted in Jesus’ immediate arrest by the numerous Roman soldiers who guarded the temple, though the gospels imply he went away unscathed. The second discrepancy involves the timing of this event. In Mark (11:15-17), Matthew (21:12-13), and Luke (19:45-46), it occurs at the end, during the week leading up to the crucifixion, while in John (2:13-17), it occurs at the beginning of his ministry and at least two years prior to the crucifixion.
There are two possible explanations for this. Perhaps there were two temple cleansing events, one at the beginning and one at the end of Jesus’ ministry. This would mean that Mark, Matthew, and Luke were unaware of the first, and John was unaware of the second, or else they all thought that documenting one was enough. This theory runs in to trouble if we consider that Jesus would likely have been banned from the temple after the first cleansing (assuming he somehow avoided arrest and imprisonment at that time) and therefore would not have had a chance to do it again.
The more probable theory is that although John felt compelled to include the temple cleansing in his account, he wanted to get it out of the way of his passion narrative, and so placed it at the start. This way, there would have been nothing happening in the immediate run up to the crucifixion that would have incited the Romans to crucify Jesus. This fits snugly with John’s overall anti-Semitic emphasis, and apparent attempt to place the blame for the crucifixion squarely and solely on the Jews. If this is correct, it is another example of a gospel author manipulating history to further a personal agenda.
(2060) The growing legend of Joseph of Arimathea
In the gospels, a man suddenly appears on the scene after Jesus dies and arranges for his burial, and thereafter is not heard from again. This man, Joseph of Arimathea, may or may not have been a real person, but as a reader steps through the gospels in chronological order, his status grows each time. The following was taken from:
On the contrary, we can watch the Joseph of Arimathea legend grow in the gospels. In Mark (15:43), the earliest source, he is just a “respected member of the Council, a man who looked forward to the kingdom of God.” In Luke (23:51) he is described as “a member of the Council, a good, upright man, who had dissented from their policy and the action they had taken.” In Matthew (27:57) he has become “a man of means, … [who] had himself become a disciple of Jesus.” In John (19:38) he is described as “a disciple of Jesus, but a secret disciple for fear of the Jews…” Thus in the gospels Joseph goes from a good and pious Jew, to one who actively dissented from the Sanhedrin’s policy, to an actual follower of Jesus, to a secret disciple. Clearly, we have a growing legend, one that can be explained by the early Christians’ embarrassment at the failure of the disciples to properly care for Jesus’s body.
One lesson that can be derived from observing this kind of progressive story-telling is that it likely mirrors what was happening before the first gospel was written. In other words, legends grew initially from oral re-tellings and then continued to grow through written means. To arrive at the core truth, one must navigate backwards from John to Mark and then through the murky swamp of four decades worth of story swapping among people who were all too willing to believe and not at all ashamed to embellish.
(2061) Biography of Jesus is impossible
It seems incongruous that we don’t have enough information to produce a reliable biography of the (alleged) most important human ever to walk the earth. But that is the situation that we are in. In fact, we don’t have enough evidence to state unequivocally that Jesus even existed. The following is taken from:
First, it must be acknowledged that neither the gospels nor any other source provides us with the kind or quantity of information about Jesus that would make possible the preparation of a biography. A serious modern biography tries to understand a man not only against the background of the times in which he lived, but in the light of the specific personal and psychological forces which helped to shape his decisions and to affect his response to the challenges and opportunities that confronted him. No such materials are available to us for preparing a psychological study of Jesus. We cannot determine with any certainty the order of events that are reported by the tradition, apart from the obvious fact that his baptism by John the Baptist came toward the beginning of his public career and the Crucifixion came at the end. It is impossible, therefore, to trace with any confidence a pattern of development or change in the life or thought of Jesus–another factor which would be indispensable in writing a biography (Kee, Young, and Froelich, 1965, p. 59).
Each of the four canonical Gospels is religious proclamation in the form of a largely fictional narrative. Christians have never been reluctant to write fiction about Jesus, and we must remember that our four canonical Gospels are only the cream of a large and varied literature. We still possess, in whole or in part, such works as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Philip, the Secret Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and such anonymous gospels as those according to the Hebrews, the Egyptians, the Ebionites, and so on. Jesus is the subject of a large–in fact, still growing–body of literature, often unorthodox or pure fantasy, cast in the form of fictional narrative and discourse (Helms, 1988, pp. 11-12).
And many [miracles] … are narrated according to a stereotyped form. Kasemann … notes that miracles of healing include such motifs as: i. the insistence on the long duration of the illness and the previous unsuccessful striving after a cure (for example Mark 5:25-26, apropos of the woman with a issue of blood); ii. an action which demonstrates the success of the healing (as when Peter’s mother-in-law, cured of her fever by Jesus, is immediately able to wait upon him, Mark 1:31) or the astonished cry of witnesses, which serves the same end–or both, as when the paralytic takes up his bed and walks, to the astonishment of all (Mark 2:12). Nineham … instances as a close pagan parallel, Lucian’s story that “Midas himself, taking up the bed on which he had been lying, went off into the country.” And Kasemann … observes that “the adaptation of pagan motifs becomes particularly obvious when the woman with the issue of blood is healed through the mere grasping of the virtue-laden garment of Jesus, or healing power is ascribed in the setting of Acts to Peter’s shadow or Paul’s handkerchief” (Wells, 1996, p. 66).
[A]ll the death scenes were constructed to show Jesus dying the model death and so “in fulfillment” of Scripture…. [T]he scenes have a religious and moral purpose disguised as a historical one; we are, with these scenes, in the literary realm known as fiction, in which narratives exist less to describe the past than to affect the present. In De Quincy’s phrase, “the Gospels are not so much literature of knowledge as literature of power” (Helms, 1988, pp. 15-16).
Would a god, or Jesus (being God), allow such ambiguity to exist concerning what, as we are led to believe, is the most crucial event in human history- God’s 30-year earthly reign as a human being? We have much better sources and can write reliable biographies of Jesus’ contemporaries, albeit they tend to be rulers and not itinerant preachers, but nonetheless, a god should have been able to provide us with a better biographical sketch of his ‘son’ if that knowledge was to be important for the souls of humankind.
(2062) Christianity’s genealogy subterfuge
It is almost comical the way that Christian scholars (evidently quite desperately) have tried to incorporate three things into a coherent whole- Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew, Jesus’ conflicting genealogy in Luke, and the virgin birth. In the end, the ‘solution’ was to assert, with no scriptural support, that Luke’s genealogy followed from Mary’s paternal line, not Joseph’s. This assertion is immediately debunked by citing Luke directly:
Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli,
The following was taken from:
With regard to your third question, when Christians refer to Jesus as king of the Jews, they are asserting, in essence that Jesus was the messiah, and the final heir to the throne of David. This claim, however, is self-defeating because it undermines the Christian claim that Jesus was miraculously conceived of a virgin.
According to both Matthew and Luke, Jesus was born of a virgin. This claim, however, completely shatters the core Christian claim that Jesus was a legitimate heir to David’s throne and king of the Jews. The virgin birth myth undermines this fundamental Church teaching because tribal lineage is traced only through a person’s father, never the mother. This principle is clearly stated in the Torah:
And on the first day of the second month, they assembled the whole congregation together, who registered themselves by families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names from twenty years old and upward, head by head.
According to Christian teachings, Jesus had only a human Jewish mother, and was not related to Joseph. A human Jewish father, however is essential for anyone to be a legitimate heir to the throne of David, which the real messiah will be.
With regard to your final question, Mary’s genealogy is completely irrelevant to Jesus’ supposed lineage to King David. For good reason, nowhere in the New Testament is Mary’s genealogy recorded. As mentioned above, matrilineal ancestry is irrelevant to tribe identification. Both the first chapter of Matthew and in the third chapter of Luke contain a putative genealogy of Joseph alone. Although these two genealogies completely contradict each other, neither suggests that Mary was a descendant of king of David. Joseph’s genealogy is irrelevant to Jesus because according to two out of four Gospels claim that Joseph was not Jesus’ father. The author of the Book of Mark, the earliest of the four Gospels, knows nothing of a virgin birth, and accordingly, begins his book with the baptism of Jesus. The Book of John contains no infancy narrative.
It should be noted that both Catholic and Protestant traditions hold that whereas Matthew’s genealogy is that of Joseph, Luke’s genealogy is of Mary. Although this tradition is nowhere to be found in the New Testament, it was a necessary doctrine for the Church to adopt.
Nowhere in the third Gospel, or in the entire New Testament, for that matter, is there a claim that Mary was a descendant of the House of David. On the contrary, Luke plainly asserts that it is Joseph who was from the House of David, not Mary.
To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
In fact, Luke claims that Mary was the cousin of Elizabeth, who he says was a descendant of Aaron the high priest,1 placing her in the tribe of Levi, not David’s tribe of Judah. Moreover, in Luke 2:4, the author writes that the reason it was necessary for Joseph and Mary to return to Bethlehem was because it was Joseph, not Mary, who was from the House of David.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David.
There are a number of reasons why the Church sought to claim that Luke’s genealogy of Jesus is traced through Mary’s line. To begin with, Paul claims in Romans 1:3 that Jesus was from the seed of David after the flesh. This has always been understood to mean that Paul was claiming that King David was the biological ancestor of Jesus. At the time when Paul penned the Book of Romans, he was completely unaware that Christendom would eventually claim that Jesus was born of a virgin. Consequently, the Church desperately needed Paul’s statement to correlate with the virgin-birth story.
This dilemma was solved by the assertion that whereas Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus was traced through Joseph’s line, Luke’s genealogy of Jesus was through Mary’s lineage. In this way, Jesus could now be from the seed of David after the flesh through Luke’s genealogy. Likewise, establishing Mary’s lineage to King David, Luke’s genealogy ostensibly solves the problem of what to do with Romans 1:3 (Paul), and enables the Church to claim a physical link between Jesus and King David.
Finally, it seeks to resolve an awkward discrepancy between the conflicting genealogies contained in the books of Matthew and Luke. Whereas in Matthew’s genealogy, Joseph’s father is Jacob,2 in Luke’s genealogy it is Heli.3 By claiming that Luke’s genealogy is of Mary, Heli becomes Mary’s father and Joseph’s father-in-law.
Sadly, Christendom’s far-fetched resolution to the Gospel’s conflicting genealogies has satisfied the unlettered minds of billions of parishioners worldwide.
This is another example of the attempt by Christian apologists to support the concept that the Bible is inerrant. They have learned that any explanation, whether or not it is supported by facts or common sense, is usually good enough to keep the bodies in the pews, because very few Christians take the initiative to investigate these issues on their own. This is the formula for how Christianity has survived through the centuries.
(2063) Disciples’ skepticism questioned
The gospels portray the disciples as being initially skeptical of the first reports of Jesus’ empty tomb and resurrection. The disciple Thomas is particularly shown to doubt this news. But this creates a disconnect in the story line, as discussed below:
By the time the gospels were written, they had to address the anti-Christian polemics of their enemies. The Jews charged that the Christians were telling a ghost story when they talked about the resurrected Jesus. In response, Christians made up the stories about him eating and being touched by Thomas. Enemies also accused them of gullibility, so they reacted by depicting the disciples as initially skeptical of the empty tomb reports. It is a very common rhetorical device used by True Believers in anything (UFO’s, monsters, the occult) to claim that they started out as skeptics and were convinced by overwhelming evidence.
By the way, it is very odd that the gospels depict the disciples as skeptical of the Resurrection. After all, the disciples had supposedly seen Jesus raise others from the dead, walk on water, turn water into wine, cast out demons, cure the sick, the lame, and the blind, feed thousands with a few loaves and fishes, and appear in glistening raiment with Moses and Elijah while a divine voice boomed “This is my beloved son…” By this time it should have been clear even to the slowest disciple that Jesus was a supernatural being possessed of awesome miraculous powers. After all that it would surely be a pretty simple trick to come back from the dead. So something is out of place here. Either the disciples, dumb as they were, could not have been so skeptical of the resurrection, or they had not witnessed the miracles they allegedly did. Either way, the credibility of the gospels is undermined.
The gospel authors, in their zeal to create a dramatic skeptic-to-believer tableau, made a mistake by not considering that such a tableau does not fit in a situation where the alleged initial skeptics have ALREADY been made to be firm believers by observing multiple supernatural demonstrations (including the resurrection of man who had been dead for four days (John, Chapter 11)). This is a signal that we are reading fiction, and bad fiction at that.
(2064) The donkey prophecy
Christian apologists often claim that because Jesus fulfilled prophecies from the Old Testament, then he must have been the legitimate Jewish messiah. This runs into trouble if it assumed that Jesus was familiar with the scriptural prophecies and deliberately performed actions to ‘fulfill’ them. Such might have been the case when he allegedly rode in to Jerusalem on a donkey. But even beyond that consideration, there are accompanying elements to this prophecy that do not match the Jesus story. The following was taken from:
It has been claimed that, according to Zechariah 9:9, the Messiah is to come riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and that Jesus did indeed fulfill that prophecy (Mt 21:1-7, John 12:14-15). [See also Mk 11:2-7 and Lu 19:30-35.] That ride into Jerusalem is often entitled “the Triumphal Entry”. There is a slight problem in that Matthew speaks of two donkeys, whereas each of the other three gospels mentions only one. [Matthew may have misunderstood Zec 9:9 to be referring to two donkeys, rather than just one. Also, it is unclear whether, when Matthew wrote “Jesus sat on them”, he meant to imply that Jesus rode both animals simultaneously, circus-style.] But let us not dwell on the discrepancy regarding numbers. There are more serious difficulties with the alleged prophecy, as follows:
(1) Zechariah describes the person who rides the donkey as “the king of the Daughter of Zion and the Daughter of Jerusalem” (“the king of Zion and Jerusalem” in the Tanakh). But it is hard to see how such a title could properly be ascribed to Jesus, since the Jews for the most part rejected him and he never claimed to be their king.
(2) In the next verse (Zec 9:10), it says (in the Tanakh) that the one who rides the donkey will banish chariots from Ephraim, horses from Jerusalem, and the warrior’s bow, and that “he shall call on the nations to surrender, and his rule shall extend from sea to sea and from ocean to land’s end”. It is hard to see how any of that could apply to Jesus of Nazareth. Some say that the great peace that Jesus will bring and the kingdom over which he will rule is a thing of the future, but that is irrelevant in the present context, which is the issue of prophecies already fulfilled. It seems clear that the gospel writers’ attempt to depict Jesus as the king who rides into Jerusalem on a donkey is purely contrived and is a failure, at least so far as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy is concerned.
Thus, it appears that Jesus fulfilled only a portion of the Micah prophecy and so it provides no weight to the legitimacy of Christian dogma. In fact, it is more likely that the donkey ride was a fictional tale created by the gospel authors to magnify Jesus’ pedigree. Given a full account of the scripture in question, it seems they would have been better off leaving it out.
(2065) Bible factual errors
The Christian claim that the Bible is the word of God implies that it should contain factual information and that whatever it says should eventually be confirmed even if that knowledge was not present at the time it was written. The following displays a partial list of issues that prove that this claim is false and that the Bible is work of human minds.
According to premise (7) of the Argument from the Bible, the Bible contains amazing facts about the planet earth, compatible with modern science, which were unknown in ancient times. One verse that is often cited in this regard is Job 26:7, which says that the earth is suspended upon nothing. That is indeed a remarkable insight, coming from an ancient writer. One wonders, however, what to make of it, since the same writer refers to “the pillars of the earth” (9:6, 38:6) and “the pillars of the heavens” (26:11). The idea that the earth rests on a foundation or pillars is also expressed at 1Sa 2:8 and Ps 75:3, 104:5. In addition, premise (7) of the Argument from the Bible declares that the Bible contains no conflicts with modern science or errors of a factual nature. We have already seen Biblical errors in the form of unfulfilled prophecies and contradictions. But the claim can also be challenged by appeal to dozens of other examples. Here are just a few of them:
(1) The Bible  implies that the earth is flat or that all of its inhabited surface can be seen at one time from a single vantage point, which conflicts with what we know. Related to this is the Bible’s frequent reference to “ascending to heaven”,  which implies that the Biblical authors erroneously thought of the earth as a flat plane beneath a celestial dome.
(2) The Bible (1Ch 16:30; Ps 93:1, 96:10, 104:5) declares that the earth does not move, whereas we know for a fact that the earth does move.
(3) The age of the earth according to the Bible (computed from Ge 1, 5, & 11 and Lu 3:23-38) cannot be much over 6000 years, yet scientists have determined that the earth is 4.6 billion years old. The evidence that it is way over 6000 years old comes from many different fields and is overwhelming.
(4) According to Ge 1:16-17, the earth was already in existence when the sun and the stars were created, yet scientists have determined that the stars existed billions of years before the earth and that the sun also existed prior to the earth (which revolves around the sun).
(5) The Bible (Ge 1:11-19) has fruit trees and other plants created one day before the sun, but that is impossible. The earth without the sun would have been an inhospitable place for such plants as fruit trees. They could not have survived under such conditions for one minute, let alone a whole day.
(6) According to Ge 1:20-25, birds were in existence before reptiles and insects (things which “creep upon the earth”). But science has established that there were reptiles on the earth 150 million years before there were any birds and that insects go back another 100 million years before reptiles.
(7) The Bible (Ge 1:21-24) places whales in existence before “creeping things”, but scientists have determined that the origin of whales is relatively recent, in geologic time, compared with such “creeping things” as reptiles and insects.
(8) According to Ge 1:12,21, there were fruit trees on the earth before there were any animals, but the fossil record proves that there were many animals on the earth hundreds of millions of years before there were any fruit trees.
(9) According to the Bible, there were no carnivores prior to the Fall (Ge 1:29-30; Ro 5:12,14,17; 1Co 15:21). But science has shown that carnivorous animals have existed for hundreds of millions of years. For example, some fossilized dung contains fragments of bone, teeth, and hair. The strontium content of some bones is that known for carnivores. And some fossilized teeth are sharp, as opposed to flat, etc. Even the fact that prehistoric humans had hunting tools disconfirms the Biblical account. Finally, from facts about the bodily makeup of such animals as spiders, fish, reptiles, felines, etc., it is clearly false that there was once a time when such animals were herbivorous.
(10) Genesis 1 describes the various species of animals on earth as being specially created in a short span of time. But science has excellent evidence that the various species of animals, incl. humans, have, instead, evolved over a very long span of time. [See “By Evolution, Not Creation”, above.]
(11) According to Ge 1:21-25,31, the time span from the first appearance of fish on our planet to the first appearance of mammals was one day. But science has established that the actual time span was over a quarter of a billion years!
(12) Genesis describes magical things and events, such as magical trees (2:9, 3:24), a woman being created from a man’s rib (2:21-23), a talking snake (3:1-5), etc. But we know that there never were such things or events.
(13) According to the Bible snakes eat dust (Ge 3:14) or will eat dust (Isa 65:25). But the fact of the matter is that snakes do not eat dust.
(14) Chapter 5 of Genesis has humans living more than 800 or 900 years. But we know that humans do not live anywhere near that long.
(15) Genesis describes a worldwide flood that covered all the mountains on earth (7:19-20), but such a flood is impossible. Among other problems, there is nowhere from which such an enormous quantity of water (at least a half-billion cubic miles) could have come prior to the flood and there is no place to which it could have gone afterwards.
(16) The Biblical story of Noah’s Ark must be false since it conflicts with what we know about the behavior and needs of various animals and their current distribution around the planet. It maintains that eight people cared for (what must have totaled) at least a million different animal species on a closed boat for over a year. That is impossible! It is also impossible that all the species presently distributed around the world migrated within the past 4000 years from Mount Ararat in Turkey.
(17) The Bible takes the story of Adam and Eve to be factual.  But scientists have excellent evidence that the story is factually incorrect. Apart from the inaccuracies regarding time, the fossil record shows that humans were not specially created but evolved from non-human primates.
(18) According to the Bible (Ge 11:6-9), the various languages of the earth originated all at once at the Tower of Babel. But linguists have shown that languages have evolved over time at many different geographically separate places on earth.
(19) According to Ge 17:17, Abraham’s wife bore a child at age 90, and according to Ge 19:26, Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt. But such events are physically impossible. This is also true of dozens of other alleged miracles throughout the Bible. We know they are mythical rather than factual because they are contrary to natural law.
(20) Taking the numbers supplied at Ex 12:37 and Nu 1:45-46, it could be computed that the Israelites’ total population was about 3 million. Combining that with Dt 7:1, it may be calculated that the total population of Palestine was over 21 million. But scientists know that the population of Palestine was never anywhere near that figure.
(21) Le 11:6 claims that hares chew the cud, which is known to be erroneous. Le 11:13,19 (and Dt 14:11,18) claim that the bat is a bird, which we know is false. And according to Le 11:20-23, there are four-footed birds and four-footed flying insects, but we all know that birds have two legs and insects have six legs. Also, according to Nu 22:28-30, an ass (or donkey) spoke, but we know that never happened.
(22) According to Joshua 10:12-13, the sun stood still in the sky. The author probably thought of the sun as going around the earth, but even if we take it to mean that the earth suddenly stopped rotating on its axis, objects would have been hurled off by the centrifugal force, which didn’t happen. Hence, the account is erroneous.
(23) According to Psalm 19:6, the sun goes all over the heavens and nothing can escape its heat. But that is false. Today we know that some parts of the universe are totally unaffected by our sun.
(24) The Bible contains many exaggerations. Consider, for example, the number of quail described in Nu 11:31-32. Even allowing that they came out of the sea (which we know did not happen), it has been computed to amount to 780 square miles of quail piled three feet deep. That is certainly an exaggeration. Also, we know there did not exist armies of 800,000 and war deaths of 500,000, contrary to 2Ch 13:3,17. And contrary to 2Ch 9:23-24, not all the kings of the earth visited Solomon, for at least those in China and in the Western Hemisphere did not. And it is not the case that 27,000 soldiers died when a wall fell on them or another 185,000 awoke one morning to find that they were dead, contrary to 1Ki 20:30 and 2Ki 19:35.
(25) The Bible (at least the KJV) treats such fictional animals as unicorns, cockatrices, dragons, satyrs, and fiery or flying serpents, as though they really exist. 
(26) According to Jonah 1:17, 2:10, a man lived for three days inside the belly of a fish (or a whale, according to Mt 12:40), but that is impossible.
(27) According to Mt 2:9, a star moved in the sky until it was directly over the town of Bethlehem, but we know that that is impossible.
(28) According to Mt 2:16, Herod had every child in the region killed who was under three years old, but there is good historical evidence that such an event never occurred.
(29) According to the Bible,  the cause of mental illness and various infirmities is possession by devils. But today we know that mental illness and infirmities have a different cause.
(30) According to Mt 17:27, Jesus prophesied that Peter would find a coin in the mouth of the first fish he catches in the sea by hook. It seems incredible that the prophecy was fulfilled. (The Bible does not inform us whether or not it was.)
(31) According to Mt 27:52-53, dead bodies emerged from graves and wandered around in Jerusalem and were seen by many. If such an event had ever occurred, there would have been some mention of it outside the book of Matthew. But there is no such mention by anyone else, anywhere. That is good reason to deny that the event ever happened. [It is also reason to suspect that Matthew embellished many of his accounts.]
(32) According to the Bible, the author of its first five books was Moses and the author of Psalms was David. [See references on this elsewhere.] Yet there is hardly any Biblical scholar today who would accept either of those claims. Apart from inconsistencies in style and content within those books, Moses’ own death and burial and subsequent events are recorded in Dt 34:5-9.
Many other examples of the above sort could be cited. It seems quite clear that premise (7) of the Argument from the Bible, according to which the Bible contains no conflicts with modern science and no errors of a factual nature, has been refuted.
There is no information in the Bible that is outside of the knowledge base of the time. That alone is convincing evidence that it was not inspired by any supernatural beings.
(2066) Acts-Galatians conflict
There exists an unresolvable conflict between the Book of Acts and Paul’s letter to the Galatians. In Acts, Paul is cast as a missionary under the guidance of the Jerusalem Church, led by Peter and James. In Galatians, Paul, in his own words, disputes that he owes any allegiance to Jerusalem and proclaims himself to be an independent emissary for Christ. The following was taken from:
Acts, states Bornkamm, was meant to elevate Petrine Christianity at the expense of the Church at Antioch (led by Paul and Barnabas). He states that the portrayal by Acts of Paul and Barnabas as emissaries acting under the authority of the Jerusalem assembly is impossible to harmonize with the authentic account given in Galatians 2. Paul’s terse “we to the Gentiles and they to the Jews” in Galatians 2:9 exposes the schism between them in terms of their parallel missions. Paul was not ready to concede any authority to the Jerusalem assembly and always asserted his independence. He refers to the apostolic Church in Jerusalem in vague terms like “those of repute” “who were reputed to be pillars” (Galatians 2:2,6,9), and at other times refuses to recognize them as a formally constituted authority, such as when he writes “What they were makes no difference to me” (Galatians 2:6).
Conflicts like this that make it difficult to understand the exact nature of early Christianity’s chain of command. But one thing that should be expected, but that is clearly not delivered in this case, is a consistent story. Was Acts telling the truth and Paul stubbornly rebelling, or did Acts attempt to smooth out an embarrassment that so much of early Christianity was being dominated by Paul? We don’t know.
(2067) Christianity took advantage of ignorance of evolution
During biblical times, it was universally assumed that humans were a special creation of God and that animals were not related to us, meaning that humans should not be subject to animalistic urges. This implied that anytime a person indulged in a ‘passion of the flesh,’ it was going AGAINST their designed nature, and therefore displeasing to the creator. The following was taken from:
Christianity arose before there was any concept of evolution, or our animal nature. Early human civilization just assumed humans were special and the mechanism of using guilt for experiencing animal urges to reinforce dependence on a church to absolve that guilt existed long before any sort of coherent view of human taxonomy.
Many of the ‘sins’ delineating in the Bible, including lust, gluttony, envy, anger, and greed are lingering vestiges of our animalistic evolutionary past. They are unavoidable expressions of our personalities and do not represent a failure to meet a standard intended by a god. Nevertheless, because of the ignorance of biological evolution, the people of biblical times considered these traits to be disgraceful and to represent a failure to satisfy the intent of God’s perfect design. The Church took advantage of this situation to convince people that they were sinful beings needing to makes amends to God, a service that they were all too happy to provide for a price.
(2068) God’s ethical defects
Is the Bible god a good figure to study to know how to live an ethical life? Almost any Christian will answer this question in the affirmative. But, as presented below, a strong case can be made that generally doing the opposite of this god is a better way to set a person on the right path:
According to premise (8) of the argument, the Bible contains a perfect morality and no ethical defects. But that claim seems incompatible with the fact that God is described in the Bible as killing people for no good reason. We have already mentioned the many children killed in the Great Flood, in Sodom and Gomorrah, and in the ten plagues on Egypt (especially the last). Here are some additional examples of people whom God killed:
- A man who refused to impregnate his brother’s widow (Ge 38:7-10).
- Two men who offered God incense that he had not authorized (Le 10:1-2).
- A group of about 300 people who opposed Moses politically (Nu 16:1-35).
- Another group of 14,700 who sympathized with the first group (Nu 16:49).
- More people who complained about the food and other matters (Nu 21:4-6).
- 24,000 more because of some who worshiped Baal (Nu 25:3,9).
- The Amorites who besieged Gibeon (Jos 10:10-11).
- Seventy men who looked into a box (1Sa 6:19).
- Another man who, with good intention, touched the box (2Sa 6:6-7).
- A man who refused to use his weapon against another man (1Ki 20:35-36).
- Forty-two children who called Elisha “baldy” (2Ki 2:23-24).
- 185,000 Assyrian soldiers (2Ki 19:35).
God also killed all of Pharaoh’s horsemen in the Red Sea (Ex 14:26-28). He could instead have simply made their horses lame, which would have been far more effective than removing the wheels from the chariots so that the horses had to drag the chariots slowly along the ground (Ex 14:25). That would have also spared the horsemen.
In addition to killing people directly, God also ordered several people killed (despite his commandment not to kill). Here are some examples of people who died by God’s order (and in some cases with God’s help):
- Three thousand of the Levites’ brothers, friends, and neighbors, who had become unruly (Exodus 32:27-28).
- All the men, women, and children in all seven of the tribes who were the Israelites’ neighbors (Dt 2:34, 3:6, 7:1-2,16, 20:16-17). [Some Biblical verses imply that the Israelites numbered 2-3 million, which would make the total population of their neighbors more than 14 million. What God was here ordering, then, if we could go by those verses, was a kind of Holocaust.]
- All the men, women, and children of the cities of Jericho, Ai, and dozens more cities and towns (Jos 6:21, 8:24-26, 10:26-42, 11:10-23, 21:44).
- All the Amalekites, including children, and even animals (1Sa 15:3,18), [where Saul was severely punished for sparing some of them].
- All the members of the house of Ahab and ministers of Baal within Israel, the latter accomplished through deception (2Ki 10:11-25), though approved by God (10:30).
- All the citizens of Jerusalem, including children, who did not grieve and lament over sins committed in it (Eze 9:4-6).
It seems quite unethical for God to order the execution of so many people, whatever their offense might have been, especially in the case of the children, who were presumably innocent.
Closely related to the above is the extravagant use of capital punishment among God’s chosen people. God ordered people put to death for such minor offenses as the following:
- Consulting a witch (Le 20:6; Dt 18:11).
- Blasphemy or merely having a different religion (Ex 22:20; Le 24:10-23; Dt 13:1-15, 17:2-5, 18:20; Jos 23:7,16; 1Ki 18:40).
- Gathering sticks or kindling a fire on the Sabbath (Ex 31:14-15, 35:2-3; Nu 15:32-36).
- Eating the wrong food (Ex 12:15,19; Le 3:16-17, 7:22,25-27, 17:10-16).
- Being a disrespectful or disobedient child (Le 20:9; Dt 21:18-21).
It seems unethical to have laws that harsh. The laws of the ancient Israelites are hardly the model of morality that advocates of Dominion Theology (or Reconstructionism) make them out to be. It would have been impressive if the Bible had gone against the prevailing cultural norms and had forbidden slavery and the oppression of women. But it did not do that. The Bible condones slavery.  It also contains many rules that are discriminatory against women.  It is hard to find anything in the Bible that stands out as ethically noble from our point of view today.
In addition, according to the Bible, God also deceived people and caused evil. Some examples of that are the following:
- He created communication problems between people (Gen, 11:7-9).
- He sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and certain citizens for the purpose of vengeance (Judges 9:23-24).
- He sent another evil spirit to torment Saul (1Sa 16:14).
- He put a lying spirit into the mouths of all his prophets (1Ki 22:22-23).
- He admitted creating disaster (“evil” in the KJV) (Isa 45:7). [See also Amos 3:6.]
- He permitted people to have “statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by” (Eze 20:25).
- He sent certain people a powerful delusion so that they would believe a lie (2Th 2:11).
God also apparently ordered stealing by having the Israelites plunder the Egyptians (Ex 3:22). He ordered the plundering of cities far away from Israel and the enslavement of their people (Dt 20:10-14). [The seven neighboring tribes were to be dealt with still more harshly, as indicated above.] He also ordered 32,000 female virgins to be taken as war plunder (half to go to the soldiers and half to the people) and 32 of them to be for himself (Nu 31:18-40). All of this is highly unethical, to say the least.
Even Biblical doctrines are unethical. A good case could be made that Adam and Eve were victims of entrapment and did not deserve their punishment. And the idea that children are born into the world somehow inheriting Adam and Eve’s sin also implies an injustice. As for Jesus’s alleged sacrifice for humanity, that too seems unethical. If people deserve a certain punishment, then they ought to receive it. That is what justice is. To knowingly punish the innocent is always morally repugnant. Furthermore, the exclusivist threat of “accept Christ or else be damned for eternity” is unethical. People ought to be provided some way of “opting out” of the entire system. I would say that the most unethical Biblical doctrine of all is that of eternal damnation.  It is hard to understand how anyone who interprets the Bible to say that God keeps people alive for purposes of eternal torment, instead of simply annihilating them, could also suggest premise (8) of the Argument from the Bible. And yet there are such.
The apologetic defenses of the biblical god’s ethics usually end up punting to the idea that God can do whatever he wants and that whatever he does is ethically pure, even if it seems to conflict with our common sense. This is how you play the ‘ends justifies the means’ card. Christians have fallen for this ruse over the ages, unaware that they have surrendered their intellectual integrity in exchange for preserving their non-existent fantasy.
(2069) Inventing a god to justify atrocities
It is an interesting theory that the true motivation for ancient Hebrew leaders to invent a god was as a means to justify their warring and plundering activities against neighboring tribes. It was likely that there was some feeling of remorse for killing, raping, and stealing from their enemies, so creating a god that COMMANDED them to do these things was a way to assuage their guilt and persuade their otherwise reluctant soldiers to carry out their vicious orders. The following was taken from:
In Exodus 29:45-46, God is said to have said : “And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God. and they shall know that I am the Lord their God, that brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them: I am the Lord their God.”
The Bible says most clearly that the God of the Old Testament (Jehovah) is “THE LORD GOD OF THE HEBREWS,” the God of “the children of Israel,” the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob. The Old Testament is the story of a private tribal god, whose first and only concern is for his “chosen people.” It is a god created by the priests of that tribe, to justify the atrocities that tribe committed. It is the story of a simple tribal god, and like all the other tribal gods in the world at that time, the god always reflected the people who created him. If the tribe was a warlike tribe, their god was a warlike god.
The Bible tells us the Hebrew tribes were an aggressive, hostile people, and so their God reflected their heartless ferocity. That God, and the books of the Old Testament, literally drip with innocent blood, with conquered people murdered, with raped virgins–mere children, with inhuman cruelties and unspeakable crimes–All approved by the Old Testament God! We do not need such a God in our modern world.
If this is true, then it is ironic that not only are Christians worshiping a fake tribal god of a vicious people, but also that the only reason this god ‘existed’ in the first place was to justify bloodthirsty atrocities. This is a little like exploring your family tree and discovering that your great grandfather was a mass murderer.
(2070) The widow’s mite
We expect that a book inspired by a god would give us not only lofty inspiration, but also sound practical advice. In the biblical story discussed below, it can be seen that the advice given is not only impractical, but it also carries with it a nefarious intent:
Mark 12 closes with a story I recall so well from my childhood—but who noticed the bad advice that is subtly conveyed? Jesus pointed out to his disciples a ‘poor widow’ who gave ‘two small copper coins worth about a penny’ to the Temple treasury. She had done something far more praiseworthy than ‘many rich people who put in large sums’—so says Jesus. “For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
I suspect Mark is speaking here (Yes, I’m being redundant: there is no way to identify genuine Jesus sayings), citing an example of the kind of total commitment expected from those who signed up to follow Jesus. But what Christian today would admire a destitute widow who gives away ‘everything she has, all she has to live on’ to a church? If Jesus did indeed point with admiration to a widow who gave away her last coins—to the big establishment cult—he failed on the level of practical advice. When I was a kid I assumed that this was a great Bible story, but, No, it fails to qualify.
The author’s intent of this passage appears to be two-fold, to criticize the wealthy (a common theme in the gospels) and to encourage the poor to donate a sizable portion of their holdings to the church. For Jesus to lionize the widow in giving all that she had is extremely self-serving (given that he depended on the charity of others for his and his disciples’ sustenance), but it also expresses an insensitivity as to how her action might affect her community as she then becomes destitute and must rely on the support of others. In the end, this passage is probably not something that a god-man would say, but it fits neatly within the expectations of an author furthering his agenda.
(2071) Defects of memory
The reliability of Christian scripture depends heavily on the ability of people to remember accurately what happened and what was said, especially considering the length of time elapsed from the events to the time of authorship. Unfortunately, not only are immediate memories often distorted by a built-in prejudicial filter, but even initially accurate memories will generally distort over time by various mechanisms. Some of these are discussed below:
Another psychological variable is the “source-confusion” or “source-monitoring” error where people misattribute the origin of their memories to personal experiences that never ensued. For example, claimants may remember a miracle event when, in reality, they only heard or read about the incident happening to someone else (Memon et al. 2003). There are also certain biases that affect memory, as well, such as a “retrospective bias” where people superimpose their current experiences, feelings, attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs onto past events. The reverse is also true when people perceive and interpret a current event according to earlier experiences (“schema theory”). In effect, what people expect to see and hear affects their perception of reality. Once people assimilate a new interpretation about a past event, they are likely never to remember their previous beliefs about the episode. These errors can then become established fact and will perpetuate through continual retellings of the miracle, even after individuals learn that their recall is erroneous (Schacter and Scarry 2000; Redman2010).
Miracle eyewitnesses are also susceptible to a postevent “misinformation effect,” which occurs when other people interject details into an eyewitness’s remembrance or when people mistakenly recall or speculate about event details, which then become part of the memory narrative itself. Eyewitnesses unconsciously invent details to supply information of “what must have happened” for things they did not directly observe (Saunders and MacLeod 2002; Memon et al. 2003).
Imagination inflation and fantasy proneness
Certain miracle eyewitnesses are also susceptible to “imagination inflation” where a statistically significant number of people in the general population invent past experiences simply because they imagine an event occurring (Mazzoni and Memon 2003). A similar problem involves people with “dissociation” problems, who are incapable of differentiating between actual memories and fantasies…By introducing the possibility of fantasy proneness, it becomes exceedingly difficult to distinguish between truthful miracle accounts and memories based on fantasies or overactive imaginations.
The implication for religion is that psychological variables involving memory, postevent misinformation, imagination, and fantasy proneness need consideration when assessing the accuracy of miracle eyewitness reports. The potential psychological distortion on eyewitness testimonials is true of both historic miracle reports (e.g., the New Testament Gospels) and present-day spiritual experiences.
Even if Christian apologists play the well-worn ‘scriptures were inspired’ card and claim that memory defects were thereby bypassed, say for the gospels, there still is an issue involving post-biblical miracle claims that are often used as a means to bolster faith. This pattern evolves as follows- a person experiences a spiritually-related event but suffers an immediate misinterpretation of what happened, then over time, the memory of the event changes by the mechanisms discussed above, and finally the retelling of the story is further changed by a natural tendency to exaggerate or a deliberate falsification to make it sound more compelling. The final product is usually a pale representation of reality.
(2072) Deconstructing Paul’s appearances claim
Paul’s famous statement enumerating the people who saw the resurrected Jesus is one of the most cited verses by Christian apologists in an attempt to legitimize belief in Jesus’ resurrection. In the following, it can be seen that there are significant problems with this scripture, enough to cast a lot of doubt about its evidential value:
1 Corinthians 15:3-9 ‘For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than 500 brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.’
These famous words are the earliest words we have describing the Resurrection. Let me pick this apart into tiny pieces. Notice that this evidence never mentions the time or place of any of these appearances. The most basic documentation is missing.
The Gospels are adamant that Jesus was buried in a tomb near or in Jerusalem , that there was a guard at a tomb, that women visited the tomb early, that there were earthquakes, angels, burial shrouds left behind , that Jesus was touched and ate bread etc etc.
Paul, in a letter saying what was of first importance to people who doubted that the resurrection had happened, could not be bothered to mention any of the proofs that the Gospels , 20 or 30 years later, would give. Perhaps he didn’t know of them. Perhaps he didn’t think that the Gospel stories were important.
In turn the Gospel writers leave out such convincing evidences as an appearance to 500 brethren or an appearance to James, the leader of the Christian Church in Jerusalem. The appearances described by Paul clash head-on with the appearances in the Gospels. Remember that Jesus could not have appeared to the ‘twelve’ as Paul said, as Judas was dead.
‘that he was buried’ Paul uses the word ‘etaphe’. This is just the normal word for burial. It is used in the Gospels in such phrases as ‘Let the dead bury the dead’, or ‘The rich man died and was also buried’ (Luke 16:23). There is no meaning of ‘entombed’ in the word Paul uses. There is a word for ‘entombed’, and it is used in the Gospels, but not by Paul.
‘that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures’. Which scriptures? Hosea 6:2 is probably what Paul had in mind, but it is not about a Messiah. In context, it is about Israel repenting and being restored. Note that Paul never states that Jesus was ‘raised on the third day in accordance with eye-witness testimony’. He gives no hint that any of these appearances took place on the third day.
‘according to the Scriptures’ (kata tas graphas) can be read quite naturally to mean what we mean by saying that something happened ‘according to the BBC’ or ‘according to a White House spokesman’. It could be that Paul learned of the death and resurrection of Jesus on the third day by reading the Old Testament. To see how natural it is to translate ‘kata tas graphas’ this way, remember that the Gospels are titled ‘kata Matthew’, ‘kata Mark’ etc.
‘that he appeared to Cephas’ The word for ‘appeared’ is ‘ophthe’. This is used a few times in the New Testament and it is used for other ‘appearances’ to Paul and Peter. If we look at those other appearances to Paul and Peter, we can see what Paul meant by ‘appeared’, which he uses so many times in 1 Cor. 15.
Matthew 17:3 . Moses and Elijah ‘appeared’ to Peter, James and John at the Transfiguration. Were Moses and Elijah bodily resurrected when they ‘appeared’ to Peter? If they were, what happened to their bodies? Did they die again? If they were not bodily resurrected when they ‘appeared’ to Peter, why is it beyond all doubt that Jesus was bodily resurrected when he ‘appeared’ to Peter?
Acts 2:3. Tongues of fire ‘appeared’ to Peter and rested on each one of them. Did real , physical fire come down from Heaven and rest on Peter, when it ‘appeared’ on Peter? Were the apostles heads physically on fire? If not why did Jesus physically appear to Peter when he ‘appeared’ to Peter?
Acts 6:2. The God of glory ‘appeared’ to our father Abraham. It seems that God was in the habit of making bodily appearances. Either that or ‘appeared’ in 1 Cor. 15 does not mean a bodily appearance.
Acts 16:9. And a vision ‘appeared’ to Paul in the night. This says straight out that Paul and ‘ophthe’ mean a vision. Did the man from Macedonia physically travel to Paul when he ‘appeared’ to Paul?
Revelation 11:19 The Ark of the Covenant ‘appeared’ within his Temple. The whole of Revelation is a vision, and we have another use of ‘ophthe’ to mean vision.
Revelation 12:1. A great portent ‘appeared’ in heaven. Still more visions.
Revelation 12:3. And another portent ‘appeared’ in heaven. Still more visions.
One thing the New Testament insists upon is that Peter and Paul were precisely the sort of people to have dreams and visions and to act upon those dreams and visions as though they were real. (Acts 10, Acts 16 etc.)
In 2 Corinthians 12:1-7, Paul boasts of the revelations he has received. He went up to the third heaven (Where’s that?) and heard and saw all manner of things. In fact, nowhere in Paul’s letters or in the 3 accounts of his conversion in Acts, does Paul or Luke ever state that Paul saw a bodily Jesus. He saw a bright light and heard a voice. A vision – not a physical body – exactly as the use of ‘ophthe’ in 1 Corinthians 15 demands.
In Acts 26:19, it is clearly stated that what Paul saw when he met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus was a vision.
In 1 Corinthians 15:50, Paul says outright that ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God’. How could he state more clearly that he did not consider the resurrected Jesus to have a physical body?
It is often claimed that Paul could not have been teaching about a vision as Jews could not even have conceived of a non-physical resurrection. This is refuted by 1 Samuel 28 where Samuel is brought back up. Paul would have been quite familiar with this story and would have been aware that only the witch and not Saul could see Samuel, impossible if Jews could not even conceive of a non-physical vision.
Even 2,000 years later, people still have visions of Jesus. Do these visions count as sightings of the physically resurrected Jesus? If not, why do Paul’s visions count as sightings of the physically resurrected Jesus?
The mismatch between the gospels and Paul’s testament, among other issues, is enough to discount it as a significant piece of evidence for the resurrection.
(2073) Defiling biblical values
The following biblical story reveals a gaping inconsistency in how the Bible god deals with moral issues:
In Genesis 19:30-38 Lot’s daughters got their father drunk, and over two consecutive nights had sex with him without his knowledge. They both got pregnant. The older daughter gave birth to Moab, while the younger daughter gave birth to Ammon. Lot’s daughters may have feared that they were the last humans on earth and wanted to preserve the human race. This narrative has traditionally been considered literal fact, but is now generally interpreted as recording a gross popular irony by which the Israelites expressed their loathing of the morality of the Moabites and Ammonites, although it is doubtful that the Israelites would have directed such irony to Lot himself.
The action of the daughters was not punished by god and, in fact, the offspring of this event went on to become leaders of other tribes, in effect, an honor. Here is what is at stake:
- Incest- a daughter having sex with her father
- Premarital sex- neither daughter was married and both were evidently previously virgins
- Rape- the sex was not consensual as Lot was incapacitated
- Polyamory or polygamy- sex with multiple partners
It doesn’t really matter whether this event actually occurred, or whether or not the author intended for it to be interpreted as such. What is important is that the values that Christians abide by and attempt to force on others were spectacularly violated in this story without any hint of disapproval from their god.
(2074) King David and God’s justice
The Bible contains a story about King David and a woman named Bathsheba that reveals the inner workings of God’s sense of justice. The result is a total mess for apologists to attempt to clean up. The following was taken from:
King David obtained one of his many wives through kidnap, rape and murder. The story is in the second book of Samuel, chapter 11, and verse 4 reads: “And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him and he lay with her . . .” I hope you will forgive me for repeating such filthy stories, but that is what the Bible says. The story goes on and Bathsheba is pregnant. David has her husband, Uriah, killed and in verse 26 and 27 we read: “And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. (27) And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.”
Good! Now we will have a chance to see God’s justice in action. How did God punish David for those most awful crimes? How do you think such a terrible man should be punished? Well, God’s punishment for David’s crimes can be read in the second book of Samuel, chapter 12: verse 15, it reads: “And the Lord struck the child, that Unah’s wife bore unto David, and it was very sick.” and verse 18 reads: “And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died.” Believe it or not; God’s idea of justice for the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, was for God himself to murder Bathsheba’s innocent baby. That is God’s justice according to the Christian Bible.
If the Bible is to be our source of moral values, as most Christians claim, what is the lesson that we are expected to learn from this story? It seems that there are only two options- either God is less moral than modern-day humans, or God doesn’t exist and modern-day humans are more moral than the people who wrote the Bible.
(2075) Christian god is an insult to godhood
The Christian god is too regional, too hidden, too removed, and too petty to be considered apropos to what a grand cosmological god should be. In fact, he is an insult to godhood. And this is not even to mention his insatiable blood thirst. The following is taken from:
The Bible tells us that God is small, that the Bible God is not the God of the endless Cosmos. He is not even the God of the entire Earth–small as that is; but is the God of some remote and primitive tribe, of some obscure area of our little Earth, during a limited period of time, long after the evolution of man. Such a concept of God is an insult, and is absolutely false! I might believe in a God that is incomprehensibly great, but I could never believe in a God that is disgustingly small.
It is certain that the true God of the endless Universe could not be small. The Bible describes a God too insignificant for intelligent belief.
If humans were to create a new god today, it would be so very different- gender neutral, global and all-inclusive from the start (not in some weird two-stage fashion), scientifically-astute, accepting of all lifestyles that don’t hurt others, not issuing anal-retentive rules, not threatening eternal torture, and not demanding slavish worship. Such is the god we deserve, but it’s not the god we have. Unfortunately, the Christian god was made before humans knew how to make a good one.
(2076) Hell destroys the foundations of morality
Christianity forces an otherwise sympathetic good person to accept the fact that some, if not most, people will suffer in hell for eternity, and, because it is of God, it is a just punishment. “They chose it for themselves,” or so they say. Only religion could make people believe in this way. The following was taken from:
The New Testament God has set up his torture chamber where there can be no escape, where death cannot be a welcome release. Everlasting torture, eternal burning; this terrible belief, this evil everlasting injustice, has become the heart and foundation of the Christian religion. People believe, NOT through reason, NOT through any desire to goodness or piety, NOT through any hope of making the world better, or mankind better, or themselves better, but through FEAR–simple, devastating, mind-numbing FEAR. They believe because they are afraid to think, afraid to question. They keep their minds as little children–afraid to be adult men and women. They believe simply because they are afraid not to believe!
Those who believe in hell can never know truth, for they are blinded by fear. The idea of hell was invented to establish a religious dictatorship and those who believe live under a tyranny far greater than any human tyrant could ever establish. They believe they are always under the eye of the tyrant! They believe their every word is recorded, their every action noted, even their innermost thoughts are known and judged by their cruel master of endless, unmerciful punishment. To such believers every act and thought is the result of fear. They are to be pitied.
That terrible dogma of hell has destroyed the very foundations of morality. The basic force of morality is “the power of sympathy”; feeling the hurt of others–and caring. The dogma of hell has destroyed that foundation. The mother, it is believed, could sit joyfully in heaven for all eternity and watch her wayward son or daughter burning and suffering in hell.
I detest a belief that can make people so heartless. I could never be a Christian! I could never be happy in a heaven knowing there are people suffering in a hell. I have great sympathy for people, their pain, their suffering, their feelings, their losses, and their hopes.
Hell is the most unfortunate, dangerous, heinous, brutal, unimaginable, immoral, hateful, and sick idea ever conceived by the human mind. The amount of psychological damage it has caused to billions of people is incalculable. Nothing of this sort could have come from any actual god.
(2077) Satan is morally superior to God
Most people raised in Christian churches are trained to believe that God is all good and that Satan is all bad. But this conclusion fails to hold up under scrutiny and the case can be made that, while both have bad and good traits, Satan comes out ahead in the morality department. The following was taken from:
Today there are a good number of books out there on Satan and Satanism. But we don’t even need to consider those when the works of God himself confirm my claim quite thoroughly.
To start, god is a murderer on a massive scale, honestly to the point of full on genocide. The man killed the entire planet and didn’t even stop there. Some argue that we cannot question god or know why he does what he does. Why cares? That would require you saying mass murder and genocide can be good things in the right context, which if there’s any objective morality is clearly never true.
Meanwhile Satan is not a murderer. In fact even in God’s own propaganda book Satan only harms maybe 2 people, and under the order of God himself!
God is also a malicious manipulator. From how the Bible tells it, everything about our existence was an elaborate setup to force worship out of us. We could be made not to sin, could have planted the tree of knowledge elsewhere, could have stopped Satan in the first place from tempting us – everything. Instead God saw an opportunity to manipulate constant worship and praise out of us and took it.
Satan on the other hand is nothing but open. We know him and what he’s about, and he doesn’t pretend to be some omni-powerful deity. In fact God creates us as animals with no higher thought, we didn’t even know we were naked! It is Satan who awakens and frees us from a slave existence.
God is completely controlling as well. He is comparable to a totalitarian leader, wanting to control and punish every aspect of his subject’s lives. Even the most basic healthy instincts like pride and lust are made to be evil, both so we can be manipulated into punishment and forced to beg for salvation.
Satan bestows free will itself. He teaches self-ownership and personal responsibility for one’s own life. He does not seek to control, in fact Satan seems to have no interest in sheep who follow blindly, and he doesn’t ask us to. To be sure, Satan actually encourages us to question, doubt, and test boundaries.
Just one more for time, God is a war lord. He has encouraged crusades that kill millions, Inquisitions to torture anyone who disagrees, theft of tradition and manipulation of it to make it fit his desired culture and pervert history. Everything about him is rooted in hateful, bloody violence. Even despite the fact that he could snap his finger and fix everything, this is best Illustrated by him literally torturing his own “son” and then asking people to cannibalize him! Even with Cain and Abel, god preferred the blood sacrifice over the offering of inanimate fruits.
Satan is nothing like this. He leads no wars, does not kill or order deaths, does not need to pervert history to make himself appealing. He does not encourage human sacrifice or the consumption of blood and flesh. Satan wants individuals to be themselves, own their lives and destiny. He certainly doesn’t want uniformity to the point if crusades and genocides!
In conclusion, even if we just look at God’s own works, it’s pretty clear who the good guy and bad guy are. The good guy wants free will, self-ownership, growth, knowledge, individuality, and more. The bad guy wants slaves to own, stagnation, ignorance, submission, and genocide. To be frank, this is so clear that to honor such a God boarders on making one immoral.
Although this might seem pointless, to be comparing two imaginary beings, it does have some importance for evaluating the consistency of Christian dogma. If their own scriptures fail to support their doctrinal claims, then Christians are indeed on shaky ground. They cannot worship a book that says the opposite of what they preach.
(2078) Ignorance found God
God was not found through reason or observation. Rather he was found through ignorance. God was likely patterned after revered vanquished leaders, taking on the same attributes of those leaders, and thus possessing the entire suite of human emotions. It would have seemed natural for primitive people to call upon their deceased leaders for help in their battle for survival. The following was taken from:
Throughout history mankind has sought God. Sought to find some proof, some indication, some hope, that God is; or might be.
That search goes on today.
Wisdom seeks to find a trace of God in the vastness of eternal space, seeks some indication throughout the far reaches of the cosmos–within the very heart of nature itself–that there is, or might be, some guiding intelligence–however remote–that would, perhaps, be God. Wisdom seeks, and continues to seek, a trace of God, but has not yet found that trace.
Upon this tiny, remote, speck that we call earth and home, and across the endless reaches of space, wisdom and science finds only nature and the workings of nature. Nothing more!
And yet, while wisdom seeks and searches in vain for a trace of God, ignorance found God. Or, at least, believes it has found God, Ignorance not only found God, but has direct information as to what God said and did, what God wants, what God thinks, what God likes, and what God hates.
The ignorance that found God has nothing to do with religious believers today. God, or the illusion of God, was found long ago; in the childhood of the human race. Ignorance found God long before mankind found science; even before the wheel was invented, or fire was captured and made a friend of man. In that barren, cold, dangerous world stood our remote ancestors. Humanity was in its infancy, struggling to understand the forces of nature, to escape its enemies, to feed itself, and to reproduce its kind. The human mind was emerging from the darkness of animal instincts into the beginnings of reason. Its only thought: Survival! It was a dangerous world with enemies, everywhere and always.
“How great and powerful was our leader who was killed last season” they would think. “If only his might was with us now, we would easily destroy this enemy.”
“Oh great leader help us in this time of our greatest need!”
And so ignorance created faith in the face of necessity.
And God was born!
This God that ignorance found, or formed, looks a great deal like a man. They tell us it has a face, hands, bowels, a foot (maybe two). They tell us it has nostrils and likes to smell the burnt offerings upon the primitive altar.
[NOTES: Face: Ex. 33:11,20,23; Num. 14:15. Hands: Ps. 28:5. Bowels: Jer. 31:20. Foot: Is. 37:25. Maybe two feet: Ps. 18:9. Nostrils: 2 Sam. 22:9,16. Smell burnt offerings: Gen. 8:2]
This God, that ignorance found or formed, also has remarkably human desires and emotions. It hates, it loves, it feels anger and it feels compassion. It has favorite individuals, and a chosen people. This God is definitely of the male sex, and has definite male tendencies. It is often angry, easily enraged, swears, destroys things, pouts, shouts, deceives, and often rests.
Any wife would recognize God.
[NOTES: Hates: Mal. 1-2,3, Rom. 9:11-13. Love: Deut. 7:13. Anger: Ex. 4:14. Compassion: Ps. 111:4. Favorite: Ex. 3:21. Chosen people: Is. 44:2. Angry: Deut. 9:20, 1 Kin. 11:9, etc. Enraged: 1 Sam. 6:19. Swears: Gen. 12:3. Destroys things: Gen. 6:17. Pouts: Ex. 32:9-10. Shouts: Ps. 47:5. Deceives: Jer. 20:7. Rests: Gen. 2:2]
This God that was found by a primitive and ignorant people some thousands of years ago, just happened to have the same world outlook, and the same beliefs about nature as the people who found him. This God thought the sun revolved around the earth, and that a day could be made longer by simply stopping the sun for a while. It is truly amazing, the number of similarities there are between the beliefs of God, and the beliefs of the people who discovered God.
[NOTE: Stopping the sun: Josh. 10:12]
It is not unusual to see ideas develop out of sheer ignorance, but their longevity is usually dependent on the subsequent application of wisdom, often in the form of observations and experiments, or, for lack of a better word, science. The idea of God is still mired in the intermediate zone between ignorance and wisdom. Although apologists have struggled to ‘discover’ God with logic, they have been frustrated by science’s repeated ‘refusal’ to cooperate. So it appears that God, born in ignorance, will also die in the same fashion.
(2079) God’s attitude in everyday vernacular
When you study Yahweh’s actions in the Bible and then try to match them to how they might be communicated in everyday speech, it renders an image of him that is quite distasteful. The following is taken from:
1 The serpent goes before their God and says, “Cut them some slack. These newborns don’t even know the meanings of the words ‘good, evil, knowledge, and death.” And God said, “F * *k them.”
2 Noah’s son says, “Please, spare my friends, the babies, children, and animals everywhere. They aren’t doing any harm. And give us time to work out our problems among ourselves.” But God says: “I’m pissed off with the lot of you. I’ll start over. F * *k it.”
3 A man came back from Sodom and Gomorrah with the news he couldn’t find the arbitrary amount of righteous men he was sent to find, and so God said, “You-know-what them, including women, children, pets…, whatever.”
4 Moses and the Israelites came to the end of their exodus. Moses said to his God, “Lord, you have the whole world from which to pick the Promised Land. So why must we slaughter a civilization occupying a very small fraction of it for ourselves?” And his Lord said, “screw them. You’re the Chosen People. Until I change my mind.”
5 Jesus went around ranting and raging about the hypocrisy of Scribes and Pharisees. He decided, “Screw this.” So he made possible his own line of clerical hypocrites, worse than them.
6 Jesus thinks: “For years, I’ve been restoring sight to the blind, making the crippled walk, curing illnesses, feeding them by the thousands, even raising their dead! You think they’re grateful? After all that, they still won’t accept me as their messiah! So, #*%^ the Jews forever. Whatever happens to them they’ve got coming to them.”
7 The apostle asked Jesus why the expensive perfume ready to be poured on his feet would not be better sold and the money used to feed the poor. Jesus said,”Hey, the poor will always be with you.”
8 Remember Lord, when the little girl was kidnapped, and the whole community was out looking for her? Everybody was praying to you for her safe return. All that time you knew she had been raped and killed. Yet you tortured them with hope. Did you enjoy that? And God said, “F * # k you, and them.”
9 Jesus said whoever did not accept him should be cut off and cast on the fire. He said whoever did not believe in him will go to hell. You got that message right.
10 “Oh Lord, your own son was crying out not to be tortured to death, and later, he asked why you abandoned him. You didn’t answer.” God says, “I did, but he wasn’t listening: I couldn’t care less.”
11 St. Paul and the imams, speaking for this god, say anyone not accepting their words should be considered “anathema” and cast out of society. But Islam’s god imposes much, much worse penalties. Guess what they’re all saying.
12 “Lord, what about all those ‘heretics’ who question you? They want to know: ‘What kind of truth is this, which demands you not think about it?’” And the Lord said: “Ask me if I care. They’re evil, and do you know why they’re evil? Because they won’t pretend to take everything on faith. Handle them my way. You’ve gotta torture ’em before you kill ’em. I enjoy watching suffering.”
Although hyperbolic, the hypothetical conversations above are all consistent with a straightforward reading of the Bible. The Christian image of God as a merciful, all-loving father figure is a fantasy that fails to intersect with their holy scriptures. In fact, the best advice for Christians who want to maintain their faith is to not read the Bible.
(2080) The gullibility factor
One important criterion used to measure the factuality of miraculous claims is the degree of gullibility that people possessed at the time and in the location of the alleged miracle. During biblical times, people were likely much more credulous than modern humans, and this might explain why beliefs in the supernatural propagated so efficiently during that time. The following was taken from:
Even in Acts, we get an idea of just how gullible people could be. Surviving a snake bite was evidently enough for the inhabitants of Malta to believe that Paul himself was a god (28:6). And Paul and his comrade Barnabas had to go to some lengths to convince the Lycaonians of Lystra that they were not deities. For the locals immediately sought to sacrifice to them as manifestations of Hermes and Zeus, simply because a man with bad feet stood up (14:8-18). These stories show how ready people were to believe that gods can take on human form and walk among them, and that a simple show was sufficient to convince them that mere men were such divine beings. And this evidence is in the bible itself.
Beyond the bible, the historian Josephus supplies some insights. Writing toward the end of the first century, himself an eye-witness of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D, he tells us that the region was filled with “cheats and deceivers claiming divine inspiration” (Jewish War, 2.259-60; Jewish Antiquities, 20.167), entrancing the masses and leading them like sheep, usually to their doom. The most successful of these “tricksters” appears to be “the Egyptian” who led a flock of 30,000 believers around Palestine (Jewish War, 2.261-2; Paul is mistaken for him by a Roman officer in Acts 21:38). This fellow even claimed he could topple the walls of Jerusalem with a single word (Jewish Antiquities, 20.170), yet it took a massacre at the hands of Roman troops to finally instill doubt in his followers.
Twenty years later, a common weaver named Jonathan would attract a mob of the poor and needy, promising to show them many signs and portents (Jewish War, 7.437-8). Again, it took military intervention to disband the movement. Josephus also names a certain Theudas, another “trickster” who gathered an impressive following in Cyrene around 46 A.D., claiming he was a prophet and could part the river Jordan (Jewish Antiquities, 20.97). This could be the same Theudas mentioned in Acts 5:36. Stories like these also remind us of the faithful following that Simon was reported to have had in Acts 8:9-11, again showing how easy it was to make people believe you had “the power of god” at your disposal. Jesus was not unique in that respect.
Miracles were also a dime a dozen in this era. The biographer Plutarch, a contemporary of Josephus, engages in a lengthy digression to prove that a statue of Tyche did not really speak in the early Republic (Life of Coriolanus 37.3). He claims it must have been a hallucination inspired by the deep religious faith of the onlookers, since there were, he says, too many reliable witnesses to dismiss the story as an invention (38.1-3). He even digresses further to explain why other miracles such as weeping or bleeding–even moaning–statues could be explained as natural phenomena, showing a modest but refreshing degree of skeptical reasoning that would make the Amazing Randi proud. What is notable is not that Plutarch proves himself to have some good sense, but that he felt it was necessary to make such an argument at all. Clearly, such miracles were still reported and believed in his own time. I find this to be a particularly interesting passage, since we have thousands of believers flocking to weeping and bleeding statues even today. Certainly the pagan gods must also exist if they could make their statues weep and bleed as well!
Miraculous healings were also commonplace. Suetonius, another biographer writing a generation after Plutarch, reports that even the emperor Vespasian once cured the blind and lame (Life of Vespasian7.13; this “power” being attributed to the god Serapis–incidentally the Egyptian counterpart to Asclepius; cf. also Tacitus, Histories 4.81). Likewise, statues with healing powers were common attractions for sick people of this era. Lucian mentions the famous healing powers of a statue of Polydamas, an athlete, at Olympia, as well as the statue of Theagenes at Thasos (Council of the Gods 12). Both are again mentioned by Pausanias, in his “tour guide” of the Roman world (6.5.4-9, 11.2-9). Lucian also mentions the curative powers of the statue of a certain General Pellichos (Philopseudes 18-20). And Athenagoras, in his Legatio pro Christianis (26), polemicizes against the commonplace belief in the healing powers of statues, mentioning, in addition to the statue of a certain Neryllinus, the statues of Proteus and Alexander, the same two men I discuss in detail below.
But above all these, the “pagans” had Asclepius, their own healing savior, centuries before, and after, the ministry of Christ. Surviving testimonies to his influence and healing power throughout the classical age are common enough to fill a two-volume book (Edelstein and Edelstein, Asclepius: A Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies, in two volumes, 1945–entries 423-450 contain the most vivid testimonials). Of greatest interest are the inscriptions set up for those healed at his temples. These give us almost first hand testimony, more reliable evidence than anything we have for the miracles of Jesus, of the blind, the lame, the mute, even the victims of kidney stones, paralytics, and one fellow with a spearhead stuck in his jaw (see the work cited above, p. 232), all being cured by this pagan “savior.” And this testimony goes on for centuries. Inscriptions span from the 4th century B.C. to the 3rd century A.D. and later, all over the Roman Empire. Clearly, the people of this time were quite ready to believe such tales. They were not remarkable tales at all.
As a modern-day analogy, imagine that there are reports of a weeping statue that you want to investigate. But you cannot go yourself, so you send your friend, who happens to be a devout Christian. When he reports back and says it is legitimate, you must weigh his conclusion against his innate bias. So, we must do the same for the people who reported or re-told the stories of gospel miracles. We don’t have the benefit of hearing from people who by today’s standards would be considered appropriately skeptical… because such people were few and far between two thousand years ago.
(2081) Comparing truth claims of different religions
The following presents a logical basis for declaring that all religions are probably false. It is based on the fact that evidence for each faith is generally of the same sort and is uniformly weak. The following was taken from:
- The distinctive doctrines of different religions express contrary claims.
- Hence, any evidence in favor of one religion is evidence that all other religions are false.
- If a religion is false, then the alleged evidence for it is also false (or spurious).
- Thus, any evidence in favor of one religion implies that all of the evidence for all other religions is false (or spurious). [from 2 and 3]
- Therefore, for any given evidence-claim E on part of one religion, all of the evidence-claims of all of the other religions imply that E is false. [from 4]
- So, for E to be true, it would probably need to be something special, different from all of the other evidence-claims, and particularly strong. [from 5]
- But all of the various evidence-claims for all religions are of the same sort.
- And none of the evidence-claims for any religion are particularly strong.
- It follows that any given evidence-claim on behalf of any religion is probably false. [from 6-8]
- Since the evidence-claims are contraries [from 4], and not contradictories, it is possible that they are all false.
- Hence, probably all of the evidence-claims of all religions are false. [from 9 and 10]
The corollary to this argument is that if one religion is true, then it would have strong evidence of a different nature than all other religions. Christians might think that their faith possesses evidence that meets this criteria, but outsiders and those who follow a different religion can easily see that this is not true. In fact, followers of other religions also believe that their faith is supported by strong and unique evidence that similarly separates it from all other religions.
(2082) Paul’s inexplicable scripture reference
Paul made a claim in his letter to the Corinthians that Jesus’s death and resurrection three days later was in accordance with the scriptures. There is one thing wrong with this- it is not true. The following was taken from:
The first mention of Jesus’ resurrection comes from a letter written by Paul of Tarsus. Paul appears to have had no interest whatsoever in the “historical” Jesus: “even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, we know him so no longer.” (2 Corinthians 5:16) Paul’s surviving letters never once mention any of Jesus’ many exorcisms and healings, the raising of Lazarus, or Jesus’ virgin birth, and barely allude to Jesus’ teaching. For Paul, Jesus only gets interesting after he’s dead, but even here Paul’s attention to detail is sketchy at best. For instance, Paul says Jesus “was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4), but there are no scriptures that foretell the Jewish Messiah would at long last appear only to die at the hands of Gentiles, much less that the Messiah would then be raised from the dead after three days.
The only scripture that would allude to Jesus being raised three days after his execution would not exist for at least 20 years later, in the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus makes nebulous remarks to this effect. But no Jewish scripture indicates a traditional view that the Messiah would undergo this sequence of events.
(2083) God’s limited communication
God allegedly has various means of communicating with humans, but the application of these efforts seems to be limited to those who already believe in him. To those outside of that sphere, it is a deafening silence. The following was taken from:
God communicates to humans through prayer, visions, meditations, revelations, and intense human emotions. But strangely enough, these channels work only for people who already believe in him. For outsiders, those who would welcome confirmation that God exists and wants to talk to the human species, there has never been a clear, unambiguous message from the divine realm that everyone can agree on. Never mind that religious people themselves have never been able to agree on what God has communicated. Yet we are asked to believe that visions, mediations, revelations and such really have God behind them—and that the sincerity of believers guarantees them all.
This brings up two possibilities. Perhaps God simply doesn’t care to convert people who are prone to disbelieving in his existence, so he leaves them alone. Or, God doesn’t exist and his followers are imagining these various forms of contact with him. The latter is by far the more likely.
(2084) Annotations in the Bible expose its fallibility
Christian bibles are replete with numerous annotations that are needed to explain difficult, contradictory, and erroneous verses, or even, more nefariously, to surreptitiously excuse those passages that seem unbecoming of a god. But in whole, this editorializing makes it seem that we are dealing with a human product, not that which was derived from divine authority. The following was taken from:
Every commentary and annotation on the Bible, implicitly declares its fallibility; for if the Scriptures remained genuine and entire, they would not stand in need of commentaries and expositions, but would shine in their infallible luster and purity without them. What an idle phantom it is for mortals to assay to illustrate and explain to mankind, that which God may be supposed to have undertaken to do, by the immediate inspiration of his spirit? Do they understand how to define or explain it better than God may be supposed to have done? This is not supposable; upon what ground then do these multiplicity of comments arise, except it be pre-supposed that the present translations of the Bible have, by some means or other, became fallible and imperfect, and therefore needs to be rectified and explained? And if so, it has lost the stamp of divine authority; provided in its original composition it may be supposed to have been possessed of it.
It is ironic that the efforts made by biblical editors to better showcase the Bible as a work of a supreme being actually provide evidence contrary to that purpose. A truly divine product would not need such repair, explanation, and apology.
(2085) Christianity’s big ten syllogistic failures
Christianity has played with the minds of billions of people over the past twenty centuries, twisting and contorting what otherwise should be authentic mental processes and instead turning them into an incoherent mess of shameful disharmony. Each of the following Christian concepts is seen to fail and to do so miserably. The following was taken from:
1) It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship. This quip is popular with campus evangelism groups like Athletes in Action and Cru. You might even have seen it on a bumper sticker at some point, because it’s one of Evangelicalism’s favorite ways of saying, We’re not like all those other (obviously false) faith-based belief systems. We just love Jesus and Jesus loves us, and he loves you, too.From the inside, this relationship thing feels really real and really good. But from the outside it’s a bunch of transparent hooey. Your born-again Christianity is a love relationship—with a character whose name and history you got from a set of ancient texts that were compiled and handed down by a vast hierarchical organization that once torched dissenting texts (and people). And this not-religion has sacred writings and rituals and leaders and schools of systematic theology, and it dictates what people are supposed to believe and how they’re supposed to behave. And it provides all the same social functions and structures as religions. But Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.Uh, huh.
2. That’s the OLD Testament. In my childhood Bible, the Old Testament is bound together with the New Testament in a gold-stamped blue leather cover with these words on the title page, “The words of Scripture as originally penned in the Hebrew and Greek . . . are the eternal Word of God.” This statement is followed by a verse from the Old Testament book of Isaiah. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever (Is 40:8).To Evangelicals, the Old Testament is the timeless Word of God, except when the vile atrocities described there become inconvenient or when people quote horrible verses—say those that demean women, endorse slavery, condemn homosexuality and shellfish eating, promote the idea of Chosen bloodlines, or make statements that are scientific nonsense. Then it’s just the Old Testament, and Evangelicals pull out all kinds of fancy “supersessionist” language to explain that those verses don’t really count because of the “new covenant” or the “Dispensation of Grace.” But just try suggesting that a Bible believer take the Old Testament out of the Holy Bible.
3. Yes, no, maybe. God answers prayer. Except when he doesn’t. The New Testament says, And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive (Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24). But everybody knows that in the real world that doesn’t happen. Christians face bankruptcies and bad test scores and death at the same rate as other people. God answers prayer at the margins of statistical significance, if at all—even when parents are asking for their kids to get healed from cancer, or kids are pleading that parents stop hitting them.
How does one explain that? The age-old Christian answer has been that when your prayers aren’t answered you should doubt yourself rather than God, assuming that your faith was too weak or you wanted something you shouldn’t. But Evangelicals have come up with something even more clever: God does always answer! It’s just that he sometimes says no, or maybe, instead of yes. That ask anything and it shall be done Bible verse really meant, ask selectively and he might say yes.
4. Be selfless for your own sake. If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, learn to be the servant of all, say the lyrics to one Christian song. Got that? “If you want to be great,” not “if you want to do the most good in the world.” Granted, learn to be the servant of all beats some other paths people take when they seek status, but it is a path to status nonetheless, which is why the church is full of self-proclaimed servant leaders who actually aspire to great man or woman status.
5. Christianity is humble. According to Catholic theology, pride is one of the seven deadly sins. Evangelical preachers tell us it was Satan’s original sin. Pride cometh before the fall, so humble yourself before God. Couple this claim about humility with the idea that you should preach [your version of] the gospel to every creature—and things get turned inside out and upside down.
Famed Puritan hellfire-and-brimstone minister Jonathan Edwards said, “We must view humility as one of the most essential things that characterizes true Christianity.” Edwards also expounded with righteous certitude about the torments of the wicked in hell—wicked meaning anyone who didn’t share his Puritan beliefs.
Anyone who has spent much time in an Evangelical church community knows that superior humility can be a powerful form of one-upmanship. But competitive humility aside, what could possibly be more arrogant than thinking the universe was made for mankind, that only we bipedal primates are made in the image of God, that all other sentient beings are here for us to use, that you happened to be born into the one true faith among the tens of thousands of false ones, and that the force that created the laws of physics wants a personal relationship with you.
6. Christianity isn’t sexist; God just has different intentions and rules for men and women. Just because in the Old Testament God (identified by the male pronoun) makes man first, puts men in charge (male headship), gives men the right to barter women and take them as war booty doesn’t mean they’re unequal. Just because the New Testament forbids women to speak in church, tells them to cover their heads and submit to men, and excludes them from leadership positions doesn’t mean that women are inferior to men!
The Bible may be rife with stories with predominantly male protagonists. It may show women competing to have sons. Genealogies may be determined by paternity. God may convey his word exclusively through male writers and may take the form of a male human. But that doesn’t mean men and women are unequal! They’re just “different.” All of those generations of Patriarchs and Church Fathers and Reformers and Preachers who said vile things about women—they just misunderstood the Bible’s message on this point.
7. Believe and be saved. Right belief, according to Evangelicalism, is the toggle that sends people to heaven or hell—as if we could simply make ourselves believe whatever we want, regardless of the evidence, and as if the ability to do so were a virtue. Right belief makes you one of the Righteous. Wrong belief makes you one of the Wicked. God may have given you the ability to think, but you follow logic and evidence where they lead only at your own eternal peril. If you don’t believe, it’s because you secretly just don’t want to.
Granted we all are prone to a greater or lesser degree, to what psychologists call “motivated belief,” which follows from confirmatory thinking, our tendency to selectively seek evidence for things we either want to be true or, more rarely, fear to be true. But this is hardly a sign of robust character or moral virtue. Quite the opposite.
8. God loves you and he’ll send you to hell. And once you die, it’s all irreversible. George Carlin put it best: Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man … living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you. He loves you and he needs money.
OK, Carlin didn’t have his theology right, at least not from an Evangelical standpoint. You don’t go to hell for violating the Ten Commandments. You go to hell for not accepting Jesus as your savior. But yeah, he loves you, loves you, loves you, and if you don’t love him back and worship him and accept his gift of forgiveness for your imperfection, he’s going to torture you forever. Wrap your brain around that definition of love.
9. Free choice under duress. Why is the world full of sin and suffering if God is all powerful and all good? Because he wanted us to worship him of our own free will. He loves us too much to force us, so we had to be able to choose—so the story goes.
But, but, if what he wanted was love and adoration, freely given, then why did he entice us with promises of heaven and threaten us with eternal torture? Can someone really love you if you demand their love at gunpoint?
10. Lean not unto your own understanding. Faith is just believing. Trust and obey. Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13). The fool has said in his heart there is no God (Psalm 14:1).
The idea that your own mind, logic, and the evidence in the world around you is not to be trusted may be Evangelicalism’s biggest mindfuck, because it is subtext in all the others. Any doubts are just evidence that your mind (and basic human decency) are shaky. Since doubt is a sign of weak faith—and sometimes even direct from the devil—you should never ever trust what you think, feel, see or experience over what the Bible says and the Church teaches. Walk by faith, not by sight. Stop asking questions!
It is impossible that a true religion would rely on so many inane props as its guiding doctrinal compass. To say that a mind is freed when someone exits Christianity is a mighty understatement.
(2086) Paul never wrote of his conversion
Paul’s vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus is described in the Book of Acts, written around 90CE, or about 24 years after Paul’s death. Curiously, Paul did not personally write about any details of this conversion experience. This raises questions about the historicity of Acts. The following describes all of the things that Paul wrote that can even remotely be associated with the Damascus event:
Paul briefly refers to his own conversion experience in only four places in but two of his Letters. In First Corinthians 9:1, Paul asks an emphatic question, “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” In First Corinthians 15:8-9, he relates, “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the Apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” He writes in Galatians 1:11-12 that “the Gospel preached by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” He adds in Galatians 1:15-16, “When he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles.”
It seems implausible that within the seven undisputed epistles of Paul that he did not document any of the details of his vision of Jesus, considering especially that this event was the very thing that cemented his credentials as an apostle. As far as anyone reading his letters, it might seem as though he was simply referring to a dream, not a spectacular extravaganza witnessed by several others. This makes it quite likely that the author of Acts invented the Damascus Road event to dramatize Paul’s legend.
(2087) God and the perpetual miracle
Christian apologists often answer skeptics who ask ‘where are the present-day miracles?’ by saying that the continued existence of the universe requires the never-ending effort of God to sustain it, and that this represents a ‘perpetual miracle.’ This argument implies that if God died, the universe would collapse. Although this is an artful way around the embarrassing absence of miracles in everyday life, it opens up a potential flaw in God’s character- his inexplicable inability or indifference to control the occurrences of natural disasters. The following was taken from:
When I argue that an omnipotent God should be able to do perpetual miracles, Christians ask how I can know what is metaphysically possible for an omnipotent God to do. Now it might be the case that the attribute of omnipotence is incoherent, but if we take our examples from what Christians interpret in the Bible, then we read of miracles like creation ex nihilo (out of nothing), a world-wide flood, a virgin birth and a resurrection from the dead. If such a God did those kinds of miracles then I see no problem for him doing a host of other things when it comes to naturally caused suffering. Take creation for example. Christians argue that a sustainer God is necessary for the continued existence of the universe, per Thomas Aquinas. This then, is an example of a perpetual miracle. If he can do this I see no reason he should not be able to avert all earthquakes, hurricanes and volcanic eruptions permanently.
Thus, in solving one problem, apologists create another one. If God intends for our earthly existence to be a testing ground for humans to struggle between good and evil, the existence of natural disasters appears to be counter-productive to that purpose- ending abruptly the lives of many, including children, who never live long enough to make decisions in an accountable fashion. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, sinkholes, mudslides, fires, floods, tsunamis, and avalanches are frequent reminders that the universe’s lifeline is not being upheld by a perpetual divine miracle.
(2088) Lasting versus everlasting
In Leviticus Chapter 16, the Lord tells Moses how to conduct the yearly atonement ceremony to absolve the sins of the tribe. Essentially, it entails killing one animal as a sacrifice and sending another animal, the scape goat, into the wilderness, symbolically taking away the sins as it leaves. But what is important is what it says in Verse 34. The straightforward translation states that this is to be a permanent, everlasting commandment, but the New International Version plays a subtle trick:
New International Version
“This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.” And it was done, as the LORD commanded Moses.
New Living Translation
This is a permanent law for you, to purify the people of Israel from their sins, making them right with the LORD once each year.” Moses followed all these instructions exactly as the LORD had commanded him.
English Standard Version
And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” And Aaron did as the LORD commanded Moses.
Berean Study Bible
This is to be a permanent statute for you, to make atonement once a year for the Israelites because of all their sins.” And all this was done as the LORD had commanded Moses.
New American Standard Bible
“Now you shall have this as a permanent statute, to make atonement for the sons of Israel for all their sins once every year.” And just as the LORD had commanded Moses, so he did.
King James Bible
And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year. And he did as the LORD commanded Moses.
So here we have three issues. One, the incredibly remote probability that a god would actually require such a barbaric ritual to forgive sin. Two, that the Lord supposedly said that this was to be a permanent practice for absolving sins (not saying, as Christian doctrine would imply, to do this only until I send my son as the final and ultimate (human) sacrifice). And three, that the editors of the New International Version, realizing this problem, made an unauthorized edit to replace ‘everlasting’ with ‘lasting.’ Human footprints are all over this mess.
(2089) Evidence that Jesus’ nativity is lore
The stories of Jesus’ birth are widely touted as factual occurrences by Christian apologists, who routinely overlook the numerous contradictions between Luke and Matthew’s account. So they mash the two stories together in a haphazard way to produce the familiar Christmas story expressed in nativity scenes, children’s books, songs, and movies. In the following, it is shown that these stories are almost certainly nothing more than fiction:
Six Hints that Baby Jesus Stories were Late Additions to Early Christian Lore
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.
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.
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 revised the 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.
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.
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.
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 crystalized and spread.
After the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were bundled into the Catholic Bible, the two infancy stories merged. The three astrologers became Kings riding camels. Mary got her own “immaculate conception” and became, to some, a sinless perpetual virgin. The place of Jesus birth became a stable filled with adoring animals. And the holy birthday moved to winter solstice, weaving in delicious and delightful pagan traditions including feasting, tree decorating and festivals of light. The birth of a long-awaited messiah fused with the rebirth of the sun—and their joint birthday party became, in the dead of winter, a celebration of bounty and beauty and love and hope that captivated hearts even beyond the bounds of Christianity.
Once it is established that fictional lore has made its way into the gospels, it opens a Pandora’s Box in regard to the other parts, meaning that we can’t be certain of much of anything that was written about Jesus. If his birth was just a story, then maybe the same is true of his death. If this is the best God can do to send a message to humankind, then we are dealing with either an impotent or an indifferent deity.
(2090) Magic in the Bible
The Bible is full of superstitious nonsense that made sense to the people of the time only because they lived in a pre-scientific age. Reading about it today leaves one wondering how people possessing this degree of gullibility could have written a consistently credible history. In the following, some of these ‘magical’ biblical practices are discussed:
Bible Stories Fit Common Patterns of Magic and Wizardry
The Bible, as I said, is full of magic. Divination, astrology and fortunetelling, potions, conjuring, numerology, transmutation or alchemy, spell-casting and incantations, curses, healings, charms and talismans, conjuring . . . each of these can be found in the Bible—including in stories about people and events that have God’s approval—just as they can be found in stories from around the world and in Wicca today.
Mind you, some Bible writers also warn repeatedly against many of these practices, which are associated with competing gods and cultures (see, for example, Deuteronomy 18:10-11). But even though these men seek to purge their religion of outside influences, they can’t help but fall into the pre-scientific view of their age, which is woven through with folk magic and wizardry.
Here are just a few examples.
Divination – In Genesis (44:5), Joseph has a silver drinking cup, which he uses for divining. The passage likely refers to the practice of scrying, in which a vessel is filled with water and the fortuneteller gazes into it, similar to the technique reportedly used by Nostradamus. Exodus (28:30) refers two divining objects, the Urim and Thummim, perhaps two flat stones, that the High Priest consults to determine the will of God. In other passages, lots, meaning marked pieces of wood or stone like dice, are used by more ordinary people for a similar purpose (Numbers 26:55, Proverbs 16:33, Proverbs 18:18). In the book of Daniel, the protagonist—a Hebrew prophet—is employed for a number of years by the King of Babylon as the manager of his “magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners” (Daniel 5:11).
Jumping ahead to the New Testament book of Matthew, a visit from three foreign astrologers known as the three magi or wise men gives credence to the divinity of Jesus. They bring gifts that portend later events in his life. Today, some Christians engage in a form of divination known as bibliomancy—seeking messages from God by opening the Bible to a random page and putting a finger on a random verse. Bibliomancy dates back at least to the 11th Century.
Potions – In Genesis, Rachel, the wife of Jacob, acquires magical mandrake roots to assist her in getting pregnant (Genesis 30:14-22). These may have been eaten in small bits or ground into a potion. The book of Numbers tells how a priest can make a magic potion that will cause a woman to abort any fetus she is carrying, but only if she has been unfaithful to her husband (Numbers 5:12-31). The potion is to be administered while the priest pronounces a curse.
Conjuring – When King Saul finds himself floundering in a war with the Philistines and can’t get God’s advice through his priests and prophets, he disguises himself, visits a witch and asks her to call up the spirit of Samuel, which she does. The spirit appears. (1 Samuel 28:11–15).
Numerology –Ancient peoples often attributed special meaning or significance to some numbers, and this pattern can be seen in the Bible. The number 12 (also significant in Babylonian, Zoroastrian and classical Greek religions) stands out. Think of the 12 tribes of Israel and 12 apostles of Jesus. The book of Revelation speaks of 12 pearls, 12 angels, 12×12 (144) righteous virgin men who will reach paradise, and 12 foundations of the heavenly Jerusalem, which has walls that are 12×12 stadia, 12 gates, and a size of 12,000 furlongs. Still today, some Jews and Christians analyze the numbers in the Bible for special hidden meanings.
Spell-casting and curses – In the book of Genesis (30:31-43), Jacob gets his father-in-law to agree that he can keep any spotted sheep and goats, which are uncommon. He then puts spotted sticks in front of the animals whenever they are breeding, causing them to have spotted offspring—ultimately building great flocks and becoming wealthy. In modern times, a breed of piebald sheep in England are called Jacob sheep, after the story.
Although the Bible specifically prohibits sorcery—casting spells to harm people (see, especially, Deuteronomy 18:10-11)—some of God’s messengers do just that, and they seem to do so with God’s approval. In the Hebrew book of 2 Kings (2:23-25), for example, the Prophet Elisha calls down a black magic curse on 42 boys who are taunting him, and they are killed by a bear. In the New Testament book of Acts, Paul similarly kills two people by cursing them (Acts 5:9-10) and, in another story, makes one go blind (Acts 13:6-12). Jesus himself curses a fig tree so that it withers and dies (Mark 11:12-25).
Magical healings—Miracle healings performed by Jesus are an integral part of the gospel stories. Like many other kinds of magic in the Bible, these would have fit patterns familiar at the time. From the standpoint of modern trinitarian theology in which Jesus is an avatar of God almighty, he could have eradicated an entire category of malaise like leprosy or blindness. Instead, the Jesus of the gospel writers performs healings on people in front of him. Often he cures with words or touch. One time he makes mud out of dirt and spit and then pastes it onto the eyes of a blind man (John 9:6).
Transmutation, alchemy—Turning one substance into another is another common form of magic, which Jesus performs by turning water into wine (John 2:1-11). The Roman Catholic Church will later claim that the ritual of Eucharist turns wine and bread into flesh and blood.
Magic by any other name is magic all the same.
This list just scratches the surface on biblical magic. In the Old Testament, incantations and rituals fend off evil and human sacrifice alters the course of war. Signs and wonders abound, as do curses. Supernatural messengers convey warnings and promises. And God’s chosen people develop an elaborate set of dietary and sanitary rituals aimed at avoiding divine wrath.
Are these stories of miracles? Some Christians might protest that they are different. But were any of the above to occur in modern life, the Church would most certainly proclaim that a miracle had occurred—either that or black magic.
As I have said before, separating miracle from magic creates a distinction without a difference, save in the mind of a person who thinks that one comes from God and the other does not. From the time of the early Church through the present, Christians have rejected magic that leaders perceive as drawing power from other religions or occult practices, while at the same time embracing the same kinds of magic when the source of power is claimed to be the Christian God.
If the Bible were being written today, it would be devoid of these kinds of superstitious practices. This is the reason why we know that the Bible is a period piece, a reflection of the ignorance and credulousness of the people of its time. It is not a tome for all time, and today it lies bare in the light of a scientifically awakened humanity.
(2091) Twenty centuries of misogyny
Christianity is tethered to its scriptures when it comes to evaluating the relative worth of men versus women. Modern ideas of equality between the sexes are in a constant battle with these anciently-documented ideas. But in an era of women heads of state, women CEOs, and women professors, certainly something a god would have seen coming, it marks a striking contrast to the attitudes of prominent Christians from the past and even to modern times. Here is a sample of the misogynistic attitudes spawned by Christianity:
Twenty Vile Quotes Against Women By Church Leaders from St. Augustine to Pat Robertson
Church Doctors and Fathers
Woman is a temple built over a sewer. –Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)
[Women’s] very consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame.–Saint Clement of Alexandria, Christian theologian (c150-215): Pedagogues II, 33, 2
Nor are the women to smear their faces with the ensnaring devices of wily cunning. . . The Instructor [Christ] orders them to go forth “in becoming apparel, and adorn themselves with shamefacedness and sobriety, subject to their own husbands.” –Saint Clement of Alexandria, Christian theologian (c150-215): The Instructor
In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die… Woman, you are the gate to hell. –Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225): On the Apparel of Women, chapter 1
For it is improper for a woman to speak in an assembly, no matter what she says, even if she says admirable things, or even saintly things, that is of little consequence, since they come from the mouth of a woman. –Origen (d. 258): Fragments on First Corinthians, 74
Woman does not possess the image of God in herself but only when taken together with the male who is her head, so that the whole substance is one image. But when she is assigned the role as helpmate, a function that pertains to her alone, then she is not the image of God. But as far as the man is concerned, he
is by himself alone the image of God just as fully and completely as when he and the woman are joined together into one. –Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354-430)
What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman… I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children. –Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354 – 430): De genesi ad litteram, 9, 5-9
Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his. Therefore she is unsure in herself. What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. … Thus in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man. Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good. –Saint Albertus Magnus, Dominican theologian, 13th century: Quaestiones super de animalibus XV q. 11
As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence. –Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, 13th century: Summa Theologica I q. 92 a. 1
The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes. –Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546), Works 12.94
No gown worse becomes a woman than the desire to be wise. –Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)
Men have broad and large chests, and small narrow hips, and more understanding than women, who have but small and narrow breasts, and broad hips, to the end they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children. –Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546), Table Talk
Thus the woman, who had perversely exceeded her proper bounds, is forced back to her own position. She had, indeed, previously been subject to her husband, but that was a liberal and gentle subjection; now, however, she is cast into servitude. –John Calvin, Reformer (1509-1564): Commentary on Genesis, p. 172.
Do not any longer contend for mastery, for power, money, or praise. Be content to be a private, insignificant person, known and loved by God and me. . . . of what importance is your character to mankind, if you was buried just now Or if you had never lived, what loss would it be to the cause of God. –John Wesley, founder of Methodist movement (1703-1791): letter to his wife, July 15, 1774
American Patriarchs (Puritan, Mormon, Baptist, Evangelical)
Even as the church must fear Christ Jesus, so must the wives also fear their husbands. And this inward fear must be shewed by an outward meekness and lowliness in her speeches and carriage to her husband. . . . For if there be not fear and reverence in the inferior, there can be no sound nor constant honor yielded to the superior. –John Dod: A Plaine and Familiar Exposition of the Ten Commandements, Puritan guidebook first published in 1603
The second duty of the wife is constant obedience and subjection. –John Dod: A Plaine and Familiar Exposition of the Ten Commandements, Puritan guidebook first published in 1603
The root of masculine is stronger, and of feminine weaker. The sun is a governing planet to certain planets, while the moon borrows her light from the sun, and is less or weaker. –Joseph Smith, founder of LDS movement (1805-1844): History of the Church, V, p. 211
Women are made to be led, and counseled, and directed. . . . And if I am not a good man, I have no just right in this Church to a wife or wives, or the power to propagate my species. What then should be done with me? Make a eunuch of me, and stop my propagation. –Heber C. Kimball, venerated early LDS apostle (1801-1868): JD 5:29
A wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband, even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. –Official Faith and Message Statement of Southern Baptist Convention, Summer 1998, (15.7 million members)
The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians. — Pat Robertson, Southern Baptist leader (1930-): fundraising letter July 1992
The Holiness of God is not evidenced in women when they are brash, brassy, boisterous, brazen, head-strong, strong-willed, loud-mouthed, overly-talkative, having to have the last word, challenging, controlling, manipulative, critical, conceited, arrogant, aggressive, assertive, strident, interruptive, undisciplined, insubordinate, disruptive, dominating, domineering, or clamoring for power. Rather, women accept God’s holy order and character by being humbly and unobtrusively respectful and receptive in functional subordination to God, church leadership, and husbands. –James Fowler: Women in the Church, 1999.
Women will be saved by going back to that role that God has chosen for them. Ladies, if the hair on the back of your neck stands up it is because you are fighting your role in the scripture. –Mark Driscoll, founder of Mars Hill nondenominational mega-church franchise. (1970-), sermon 2008?
Why has the main current of Christianity produced a steady diet of misogyny for over 2000 years? The answer may lay partly in human biology and culture. But it also lies in the Iron Age texts of the Bible itself. The Judeo-Christian tradition of building up men by tearing down women goes all the way back to the most ancient parts of the biblical collection, to the opening pages of Genesis, and continues unabated through the New Testament. (I’ve written elsewhere about 15 of those Bible verses because they partly explain the conservative assault on women.) As Mr. Driscoll likes to remind his followers, “Every single book in your Bible is written by a man.”
Say no more.
The denigration of women sprinkled throughout the Bible is an important clue as to the nature of its origin. That is, its terrestrial origin, the ideas of unenlightened men, and not that of a divine being who could see into the future and understand how society would eventually evolve a philosophy of gender equality. If a book triggers antiquated beliefs, it is probably not the inspiration of a god.
(2092) Christianity’s persecution complex
Ever since its inception, Christianity has encouraged its followers to perceive any resistance to its aims and desires as evil-spirited persecution. This is seen in modern times as, for example, the legalization of gay marriage, which, although it has no direct effect on their lives, Christians still see it as a form of persecution. As can be seen in the following list of scriptures, Christians have been trained to respond in this way when they don’t get their way. It is an illogical complex unbefitting the philosophy expected from an actual deity.
Why Right Wing Christians Think They are America’s Most Persecuted
Christianity, born in the harsh desert cultures of the Middle East, got its start by defining itself in opposition to both Judaism and the surrounding pagan religions of the Roman Empire. Consequently, from the get-go teachings emerged that helped believers deal with the inevitable conflict, by both predicting and glorifying suffering at the hands of outsiders. Indeed, persecution was framed as making believers more righteous, more like their suffering savior. Long before the Catholic Church made saints out of martyrs, a myriad of texts encouraged believers to embrace suffering or persecution, or even to bring it on.
This sample from a much longer list of New Testament verses about persecution (over 100), gives a sense of how endemic persecution is to the biblical world view.
- I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. . . Matthew 10:16-17
- Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Matthew 10:21-23
- You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. Mark 13:9
- Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Luke 6:22
- If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. John 15:19-20
- Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. Acts 4:27
- Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. . . . They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Acts 5:17-18,40
- On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. Acts 8:1
- Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Romans 8:35
- That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10
- For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him. Philippians 1:29
- Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. Colossians 1:24
- For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone. 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15
- In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:12
- Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:3
- But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 1 Peter 3:14
- Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 1 Peter 4:12-14
- Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 1 John 3:13
- Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. Revelation 2:10
- I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. Revelation 20:4
In the case of Christianity, the theology of persecution serves to give the faithful hope. It inspires persistence in the face of hardship, including the many hardships that life brings on all of us through no fault of our own. But it has also blinded generations of believers to the possibility that sometimes the hardships they face are due not to their faith or evildoers hating Jesus, but to the fact that they hit first. And sometimes the bewildering hostility they perceive may simply be something that the theology of persecution set them up to expect, whether it is there or not.
The question that needs to be asked is whether a persecution-centered doctrine is more likely to result from a religion created by humans or one created by a god. A religion created by a god would not need motivational suffering to further its ends because it would have an immeasurable internal power to convince followers of its truth. On the other hand, a fake religion created by humans would expect to receive a lot of resistance, such that training followers to interpret such as their being on the ‘right track’ would serve to further its success.
(2093) Sports and religion
There is a nearly exact analog between how people root for sports teams and the religions that they follow. As an example, in American football, fans do not generally research all of the teams in the league, evaluating the owners, the coaches, and the players to determine which team they will support. It is generally the team representing their home city or state.
Likewise, almost every theist follows the religion/denomination of their family, and just like sports junkies, they don’t bother to research other religions or denominations to evaluate whether the evidence for them might be superior to the one they were raised to believe.
In most other areas, this anti-research model doesn’t apply, such as determining whether AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, or T-Mobile is best suited for one’s wireless communication needs. Comparing plans, coverage, and pricing is a standard approach to making this decision.
What this means is that religious belief, like sports rooting, occupies a low register of the analytical machinery of the brain, rendering the ‘selection’ process highly suspect and deserving of, but rarely obtaining, a healthy dose of skepticism. This implies that there is virtually no correlation between the numbers of followers of a particular faith and the probability that that faith is factual, a strike against any apologetic defense of Christianity citing its overall dominance.
(2094) Biblical health care
Christians have historically been somewhat skeptical of scientifically-based health care, instead leaning heavily on their belief that God can cure any condition if sufficient faith is exercised. But when we scan the Bible, in addition to simple faith healing, there are many examples where physical procedures are applied for various conditions. It is enlightening to review these procedures, all of which were allegedly designed and prescribed by God:
Mandrakes and Dove Blood: Biblical Health Care Anyone?
If there were any room to doubt, a quick overview of biblical health care is a great reminder why Abrahamic religion should not be dictating national health policy.
Dermatology: quarantines and dove blood. Based on the level of detailed attention it receives in the Bible, dermatology might appear to be the most important medical specialty. Two chapters of Leviticus are dedicated to assessment and treatment of visible skin infections, which, given the descriptions, might include skin cancers, leprosy, cystic acne, or psoriasis. Such infections must be diagnosed by a priest: Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:45-46). Later, the priest finalizes the healing process by killing two lambs or doves: The priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot (Leviticus 14:14). In a second ritual the patient is sprinkled with blood that has had a scarlet string, hyssop, and a live bird dipped in it.
Treatment of skin wounds may include the use of bandages and soothing balms, but most cures recorded in the biblical texts are faith healings. In one story, a foreign military leader Naaman gets rid of his skin disease after dipping seven times in the Jordan River on the advice of the seer Elisha. (Both the number seven and the Jordan have special powers throughout the Bible.) However, the story is a tribute to the power of the Hebrew God, not any general prescription for healing.
Obstetrics and Gynecology: words of encouragement. Midwifery is a clear part of Bible-based medical practice, though without modern tools the power of the midwife is limited. At the birth of the patriarch Benjamin, a midwife offers his mother Rachael encouraging words right before she dies from postpartum hemorrhaging: “Do not fear, for now you have another son” (Genesis 35:17). In another story, a midwife ties a scarlet string around the hand of one twin to distinguish which came out first.
Menstrual and post-partum bleeding are considered unclean, and a woman is unclean for twice as long after giving birth to a girl as a boy. Cleansing rituals are prescribed for any man who has sex with a menstruating woman or even touches something she has contaminated, but in the absence of science-based medicine, no procedures are recommended to give women means to reduce or avoid bleeding.
Fertility: mandrake roots and prayer. The mandrake plant was widely believed to have special powers long before J.K. Rowling wrote it into her Harry Potter books. It appears in the book of Genesis as a fertility agent. In Genesis 30, two sister wives (literally) are competing to produce male offspring, and they turn to the powers of the mandrake.
Now in the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But she said to her, “Is it a small matter for you to take my husband? And would you take my son’s mandrakes also?” So Rachel said, “Therefore he may lie with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.” When Jacob came in from the field in the evening, then Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. God gave heed to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son.” (Genesis 30:9-22)
Ophthalmology: spit and mud. In the Old Testament, the primary objective in managing vision defects is to ensure that people with bad vision don’t defile sacred spaces or the halls of power. They are not excluded from town, like people with skin infections, but they are excluded from the temple. However, in the New Testament, Jesus heals several blind men. To do so, he calls on a combination of faith, spit, and mud (John 9:6). This technique would have been familiar to Greek and Roman readers of the Gospels, since the Greek god-man Asclepius was said to heal the blind in a similar fashion.
Orthopedics: isolation and exorcism. Like ophthalmology, the primary goal of Old Testament orthopedic management is to keep defective people from contaminating sacred spaces or food offerings:
No man of your offspring throughout their generations who has a defect shall approach to offer the food of his God. For no one who has a defect shall approach: a blind man, or a lame man, or he who has a disfigured face, or any deformed limb, or a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf, or one who has a]defect in his eye or eczema or scabs or crushed testicles. (Leviticus 21:17-23).
However, acute injuries were treated differently; there is at least indirect evidence that splinting was standard practice for broken bones. In the visions of Ezekiel, unsplinted broken bones are a metaphor for political weakness: “Son of man, I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and, behold, it has not been bound up for healing or wrapped with a bandage, that it may be strong to hold the sword.” (Ezekiel 30:21)
At least one New Testament story suggests that orthopedic problems can be caused by demon possession, which would suggest exorcism as a solution. And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God.
Psychiatry and Neurology: more exorcism. Psychiatric and neurological problems in the Bible are attributed to demons, which unlike the monsters of modern horror movies, almost always cause symptoms we would recognize today as medical syndromes. In the Old Testament, such accounts are rare, and an evil spirit may be sent by God himself. But in the New Testament, demon possession becomes a prominent theme. Demons can cause muteness, epilepsy, and abnormal strength; they can inhabit animals and more than one can inhabit a single person. Typically, fortunately, they leave when commanded to do so, either by Jesus or by a Christian in the name of Jesus.
It should be abundantly obvious that if the Bible was the inspired work of a god, it would not contain the pre-scientific nonsense therapies discussed therein. If it is the work of Bronze Age people, then what we see is precisely what we would expect.
(2095) Biblical view of childhood
A good way to measure the probability that the Bible is the work of a god is to evaluate the manner in which it views childhood, and to see how it measures up to the values that enlightened people later adopted as humanity matured. As can be seen in this essay, the Bible sees childhood in exactly the way that Bronze Age people saw it before the Bible was written. In other words, if God inspired the Bible, he did nothing to improve attitudes related to childhood management.
Children as Chattel–The Common Root of Religious Child Abuse and the Pro-Life Movement
In the Iron Age mindset of the Bible writers, children are not individual persons who have their own thoughts, with corresponding rights. Rather, like livestock and slaves, they are possessions of the male head of household, and the biblical framework governing treatment of children is property law, not individual rights law.
The legal term chattel refers to moveable personal property, economic assets that are not real estate. In the Bible, children, like slaves and livestock, are chattel. Male children grow up to become persons, while females remain chattel throughout their lives, first as assets of their fathers, then as assets of their husbands.
The texts bound together in the Bible were written over the course of hundreds of years, and they reflect the evolution of social and ethical norms within Hebrew culture during that time span. Some express a more compassionate and dignifying perspective toward children than others. But fundamentalists and other Bible-believers treat these texts as a package, a set of perfect and complete revelations essentially dictated by God to the authors, which is why they all too often end up pitting themselves against ethical, compassionate treatment of children. Taken as a whole, the biblical formula for parenthood is based on several core assumptions:
- Children are property of their fathers.This is why God can allow Satan to kill Job’s children during a wager over Job’s loyalty—and then simply replace them. It is why a man who injures a woman causing her to miscarry must pay her husband for the loss.
- Children are born bad.This mentality derives from idea of original sin, which posits that all humans are basically evil because Eve defied God and ate from the Tree of Knowledge. It is one reason that early Christians believed that Jesus, as the perfect “lamb without blemish” could not have a human father and so added the virgin birth story to the Gospels at the end of the 1st
- Children must be beaten to keep them from going astray.In the Gospel stories, Christ’s only teaching on the subject of physical punishment was “whoever is without blame, cast the first stone.” Unfortunately, many Christians prefer King Solomon’s “spare the rod, spoil the child” admonitions from the book of Proverbs.
- A father’s right of ownership extends even to killing his child.This is why it makes sense for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac or Jephthah to sacrifice his daughter, or even God to give his “only begotten son” as a human sacrifice. In the Torah, a man can send his child into battle or sell his child into slavery. The Torah advises that a rebellious son should be put to death.
- The primary value of adult females is to produce valuable children, meaning in particular male children of known origin.Hence, a female’s virginity is a core part of her economic value. This is why a rapist can be forced to marry the damaged goods in the Torah as is sometimes the case in conservative Islam today, or a female can be stoned for pre-marital sex. In the Hebrew Torah, the wives of the patriarchs send their slave girls to get pregnant by their husbands to up the baby count. In modern America, Evangelical girls attend purity balls and receive promise rings by which they pledge their sexual purity to their fathers until they can be “given in marriage.”
The Bible is now a fatally-flawed anachronism as it relates to how children should be viewed and treated. This is not the situation that should exist with a book developed by a supreme deity. It is, however, the book that the people of its time would have written on their own.
(2096) Did Yahweh initially fail to identify himself?
If Christianity is to be believed, then God’s nature must be assumed to be constant, not changing over time. On the other hand, it is expected that when people invent a god, over generations, the pedigree of such a god would likely evolve. But if a real god intervened in human affairs, its characterization would remain unchanged from Day 1, and if its followers formed an inaccurate view, the god would correct this situation immediately. But if Yahweh is who Christians think he is, then he failed to do this for centuries. The following was taken from:
Polytheism and Human Sacrifice in Early Israelite Religion
Well as Chris Rollston argues, there are various stages in Israel’s progression from polytheism to monotheism. Yahweh begins as a junior member of the divine pantheon. This is the view during the tribal confederation period of Israel’s history. After Israel became a monarchy, Yahweh gets a promotion to head of the pantheon, taking his father Elyon’s place. (This parallels similar ideas in Babylonian literature, in which Marduk’s ascendancy to king of the gods mirrors the rise of the Babylonian empire.)
Over time, Yahweh and Elyon are conflated, they sort of merge into one god. At this stage Yahweh starts to be seen as creator-god. But in this period, Israel still believes in other gods; it’s just that they’re not supposed to worship other gods because they owed their allegiance to Yahweh, their patron deity. Of course, Yahweh was believed to have had a wife, Asherah, and it is clear that Israelites worshiped her as Yahweh’s consort.
This seems to have been acceptable orthodoxy until the seventh century BCE or so. At that point, prophets like Jeremiah began to polemicize other gods, calling into doubt their very existence. This idea that Yahweh alone is God is solidified during the Babylonian exile in the sixth century (BC), for a complex set of reasons. This is when official Israelite religion finally became monotheistic.
The transformation of the Christian god in the minds of its followers over several centuries of time proves that Christianity is a false religion. There is no way that Yahweh would intervene with his ‘chosen people’ and allow them over countless generations to form inaccurate concepts of his true nature. No, this is the history of changes occurring in peoples’ imaginations, not of an actual living supreme being.
(2097) Christian attitude toward homosexuality
The Christian attitude towards homosexuality has inspired legions of people to commit suicide, to feel inappropriate shame, to lead disingenuous lives and enter into unhappy, unsustainable relationships with people they simply aren’t attracted to. It has relegated these beautiful people to the margins of society, diminished their civil rights, and encouraged others to ridicule, bully, attack, or even kill them. An actual god not would incite, encourage, or tolerate such malicious behavior, but would in fact change the hearts of those afflicted. And in this way we know that the Christian god does not exist.
(2098) Paul didn’t know about Judas
One thing that makes it seem that Paul didn’t know much about Jesus or the manner in which he was arrested, tried, and executed is that he never mentions within his letters knowledge of Judas, the betraying disciple. This seems somewhat implausible if Paul interacted with Peter and James, from whom he should have learned of the particulars surrounding Jesus’ arrest. In the following Q and A, Bart Ehrman considers this question:
In your list of the things Paul tells us about the historical Jesus (he was born of a woman, he was a Jew, he had brothers, he had twelve disciples, etc.) one thing you seem to have left out was the fact that he was “betrayed” on the night he had the last supper. 1 Corinthians 11:23 says
“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread,24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you…”
Why haven’t you included the betrayal as part of the tradition about Jesus that Paul knows?
Ah, good question. Many years ago when I was first teaching I did include that datum as rather important. I don’t do so any longer any more for one particular (and, in my books, very good) reason: I think the word “betrayed” is a mistranslation of the Greek of the verse I’m not alone in that. It’s a fairly widely held view. Here’s why.
The word Paul uses in the passage is PARADIDOMI. It is the word that literally means “handed over.” So the passage says “In the night in which he was handed over, the Lord Jesus took bread….” What does that mean though? Traditionally it has been thought that it means “the night Judas betrayed him.” The problem is that there is a different, and related, word that means “betrayed.” That is the word PRODIDOMI. If Paul wanted to refer to Judas’s betrayal, he would have used that word. Instead he uses PARADIDOMI.
Paul uses PARADIDOMI on other occasions, and when he uses it in reference to Jesus, it is *not* to an act of Judas, but to an act of God. Paul talks about God “handing Jesus over” to his fate. As an example, see Romans 8:32: God did not spare his son but “handed him over” for us. That appears to be what Paul is referring to in 1 Cor. 11:23 as well. It is a mistranslation, then, to translate PARADIDOMI as if it were, instead, PRODIDOMI. Paul is saying that the last supper happened the night in which God handed Jesus over to fulfill his destiny.
One related point. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul indicates the various individuals and groups to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection – Cephas, James, all the apostles, 500 people at once, Paul himself, and, interestingly, “the twelve.” But how is that supposed to work? How could Jesus have appeared to his twelve disciples if one of them was the betrayer who had hanged himself?
There are two solutions to that question that both make sense to me. I’m not sure how to decide which one is more likely. The first is that in the New Testament “the twelve” is a technical term that simply refers to Jesus’ inner group of disciples, a term that is used even if there were not exactly twelve of them at any one time. We certainly have analogies for that kind of usage. If you’re a college sports fan, you know that one of the most important leagues (for decades now) is “The Big Ten.” It was originally called that because it had ten teams in it. Except it doesn’t any more. It now has fourteen. But the league that these fourteen are in is still called the Big “Ten.” Go figure. Maybe “the twelve” was like that: it was the designation for the group, even though there were not exactly twelve in it.
The other solution seems equally plausible to me. Maybe Paul didn’t know the story about Judas betraying Jesus. He certainly would not have been familiar with the Gospels that tell the story, since the Gospels had not been written yet. In addition, Matthew is the only Gospel that indicates that Judas killed himself immediately after the crucifixion. Do the other Gospel writers know about that?
Luke knows that Judas died, because he has an account of it, not in his Gospel but in the book of Acts (same author for both books). The account is strikingly at odds with what is found in the Gospel of Matthew. Here is a great exercise, and I highly recommend it: read carefully through Matthew’s version of how Judas died in Matthew 27:3-8 and then the account of his death in Acts 1:16-19. Ask yourself: who bought the field that is mentioned in the story? What is the relationship between the field and Judas’s death? Why is it called the field of blood? And how did Judas actually die? If you don’t find discrepancies at these points, then you’re reading different versions than I am!
Luke thus knows that Judas died, but it’s not clear exactly when. Mark and John say nothing about the matter. And either does Paul. Does Paul know about Judas? If so, he doesn’t tell us. (He never mentions his name, for example.)
Maybe, then, there were alternative versions not just of how Judas died, but of everything about Judas. Maybe in some stories of Jesus’ death, there were no references to Judas. It’s possible. But it’s very hard to say.
What we can say, I think, is that Paul makes no definitive reference to Judas or the betrayal. So that’s why I don’t include it in my list of things that we know that Paul knew. I wish I *could* include it, since it would lengthen my list, and the more we can say that Paul knew about the historical man Jesus the more we can be certain that he knew about the historical man Jesus, a matter of some importance when dealing with those who claim that Paul did not even know there was such a man. But my view is that we should not accept claims or data simply because they are convenient to our arguments!
So it appears that Paul was unaware of the rogue disciple Judas, making it seem likely that he was also unaware of other aspects of Jesus’ history. This point is further reinforced by his shockingly few references to any details of Jesus’ life. Perhaps those so-called ‘details’ were not established until after Paul died. As a side note, this appears to involve another example of a biased translation by employing the word ‘betrayed’ instead of the more accurate ‘handed over.’
(2099) The Bible is a set of competing stories
Although Christians will bristle at this, the Bible is not a unified book in the sense that it tells a consistent story. It is a book of many authors, various ideas, and conflicting themes. Although it is often claimed that Bible as a whole is a work inspired by the Holy Spirit, and so, in effect, the work of a single ‘author,’ it in no way has the appearance of being so. The following was taken from:
Polytheism and Human Sacrifice in Early Israelite Religion
That’s just the thing. The Bible doesn’t really tell one story. And by that I don’t just mean that the Bible is a collection of different stories. I mean that the Bible consists of a spectrum of competing stories. The Bible is sort of like a choose-your-own-adventure book, except none of the alternative storylines ever gets resolved. They’re all particular stories, about a people called Israel, their god Yahweh, and the relationship of Israel and Yahweh to the rest of the world. They all try to explain why Israel is suffering, why the world is broken, and how through the reversal of Israel’s fortunes the world is going to be mended, but they posit different answers to those questions.
There are several different authors trying to make sense of the same basic material, but each of them arranges it in different ways, and none of them do it just right. The royal historians declared that the Davidic dynasty would last forever, but it didn’t. The prophets predicted the restoration of Israel’s national sovereignty, but Israel wasn’t restored. Jesus predicted the end of the world as we know it, but the world as we know it didn’t end.
If the Bible does tell a single story, it’s a story that transcends each of the stories its many authors intended to tell. It tells the story of a nation trying to contend for its survival in a hostile world and trying to explain the fact of suffering with reference to the only thing they thought could explain it: the will of Yahweh.
When seen in this light, we can confidently state that the Bible is not the effort of a god intending to communicate to the entire world, rather, it is the internal conversation of a small, struggling nation trying to persevere in an indifferent world and to explain its successes and failures within a sphere of ignorance and superstition. The belated effort that eventually turned it into a worldwide religion was an artificial fabrication fashioned by the whim of historical coincidence.
(2100) Paul never sought out Jesus’ teachings
It can be said that Jesus, assuming he actually existed, was the engineer of the Christian religion and that Paul was the architect. As we know, in the design of any structure, engineers must work together with the architects to ensure a sound, functional, and aesthetic finished product. But it didn’t happen in this case.
Jesus was already dead by the time that Paul had his alleged vision, so a direct collaboration was not possible between the two men. But Paul had the ability to interview Jesus’ disciples and learn the essence of Jesus’ teachings. It is evident that he didn’t do this or even consider it to be necessary. He acted as if he knew more about Jesus than the disciples, a clearly implausible claim.
If Paul had been a legitimate ambassador for the Christian faith, he would have joined up with the disciples immediately after his flash encounter and learned what Jesus did and what he said. In his letters we should read things like this:
‘My fellow warriors in Christ, remember how Jesus taught us the parable of the talents and how each of us must take what God has given us and use it for the common good. Do not hide your abilities, but let them shine for the glory of the Lord.’
‘As Jesus brought forth Lazarus from the tomb, he also brought himself forth from his own tomb. My friends, what more do we need to have faith in our own resurrection at the end of times?’
‘I heard that Thaddaeus was chastised by you for gathering logs on the Sabbath. Remember not that Jesus said the Sabbath was made for Man, not Man for the Sabbath? Allow for grace and understanding to guide your actions.’
If someone today was writing about Charles de Gaul but never bothered to interview anybody who knew him, how much credence would you give his work? This is the situation with Paul. We can confidently dismiss his writings as that of a disjointed, egotistical fanatic who interpreted his dreams and visions as an authentic facsimile of reality. Considering that his were the original writings of the New Testament and that much of the gospels were influenced by them, the truth of Christianity stands on very fragile ground.
Follow this link to #2101