(2101) An irrational designer
Christian dogma mostly ascribes to the theory that the universe was created, was designed, and is controlled by God. But what is puzzling is why a designer would design something that looks like it wasn’t designed? The following is taken from:
Theists rightly note that even simple life requires such dizzying complexity that its appearance by accident seems unbelievable. Therefore, God must’a done it. Their mistake is in the math. Not the premise. Life does require the spontaneous formation of dizzying complexity. And locally, that is effectively impossible without intelligent design. But we aren’t an isolated locality. There are countless trillions of localities. Trillions of galaxies even. Which are just the ones we can see. And “the spontaneous formation of dizzying complexity” is actually probable on such scales.
In fact, this is really good evidence there is no designer god responsible for life at all. Because a god supposedly can just create life. He does not need all the things that are required for a godless universe to do it without him. Indeed it’s extremely weird that a god would make the world look exactly like a world without a god in it; and then expect us to conclude it was designed. In fact, I’d say that would be positively insane; fundamentally irrational. Hardly the behavior of anyone smart and capable, who was intent on being recognized or listened to.
The universe as it exists represents a failed opportunity for God to have showcased not only his existence but his brilliance as well. A truly designed universe would be an undeniable astronomical marker that something other than blind natural forces had formed it. Such a universe would stand as strong evidence for a divine creator. But this is not the universe that we live in- not even close, the one we inhabit looks exactly like a world without a god, but God expects us to believe otherwise?
(2102) Paul didn’t view Jesus as being born of a mother
There is an ongoing controversy between apologists and skeptics about whether Paul saw Jesus as a flesh and blood man or as a spiritual being inhabiting a celestial world. There is evidence both ways. But one of the verses used by apologists to support their view, Galatians 4:4, has been revealed to not only not support their view, but actually to suggest the opposite. The following was taken from:
The phrase “born of a woman, born under the law” in Galatians 4:4 is an allegory for world order. As Paul explicitly says, the “mothers” he is talking about in his argument in Galatians 4 are not people but worlds (Galatians 4:24). In both cases Paul does not use the word he uses for human birth, but the word he uses for divine manufacture (“was created/made”), the same word he uses of God making Adam and our future resurrection bodies (1 Corinthians 15:37 and 15:45), neither of which are “born” to actual human mothers (or fathers).
Later Christians knew this and tried to change the words to what they needed to be there (and what Evans needs to be there), altering them both (simultaneously here and in Romans 1:3) to Paul’s preferred word for “born” rather than “made,” but we caught them at it, and those doctored variants are excluded from the received text. Experts now know that what Paul actually originally wrote in both passages was his preferred word for “made.” So we can’t tell if Paul means God manufactured Jesus a body out of Davidic seed, or if Jesus was born to some human father descended from David; nor can we tell if Paul thought Jesus was born of a real mother or only an allegorical one. So there is no usable evidence here. At all. Certainly not substantial evidence.
This removes a critical link in the theory that Paul believed Jesus inhabited a terrestrial male body. This becomes important in light of the fact that he divulged no references to Jesus having an earthly ministry and that his own ‘experience’ of Jesus was as a spiritual entity. If he had believed otherwise, it is likely that he would have tracked down where Jesus was born, where he lived, where he traveled, who he talked to, where he had performed miracles, where he was killed, where he was buried, and where he ascended into heaven. Given his apathetic approach to these facts, one can only assume that he believed that his ‘experience’ of Jesus was similar to and no less tangible than everybody else’s.
(2103) Prayer ineffectiveness sullies promise of heaven
The Bible makes a lot of promises to the faithful, and, of course, the most important one is the conditional, after-death reward of eternal life in a paradisaical setting. But when we judge the trustworthiness of this promise, we must look at the validity of other lesser ones, particularly the promises that favorable outcomes will result from earnest prayer. The following is taken from:
Devout Christians send requests heavenward both privately, as they go through their daily lives, and as a community ritual during Sunday morning services. In fact, the Bible tells them to, and it makes some concrete promises about how God will respond.
Consider the following verses from the New Testament:
Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! –Matthew 7:9-11 NIV
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. –Matthew 7:7 NIV
I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. –Matthew 17:20 NIV
Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. –Matthew 18:19 NIV
If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. –Matthew 21:22 NIV
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. –1 Timothy 2:1-2 NIV
Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. –James 5:14-16 NIV
If these claims are true, prayer should have tangible, important real world effects. For both believers and secularists, that’s a big deal, because these promises also offer some evidence about the trustworthiness of other promises made in the Bible. If I say that I will cure your illness or give you money when you ask and then don’t, why would you believe me when I say that I will make you healthy and wealthy after you’re dead?
Most people know that prayer doesn’t have the dramatic effects that these Bible verses seem to suggest. It seems rather easy to point out that if prayer worked that well, Christians wouldn’t have needed to convert Europe and later Latin America to Christianity at sword point; they could have simply prayed and preached, “for the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12).
From the above, this line deserves to be repeated:
If I say that I will cure your illness or give you money when you ask and then don’t, why would you believe me when I say that I will make you healthy and wealthy after you’re dead?
This, in a nutshell is what Christianity is hawking- ‘Pay no attention to the fact that your prayers are not being answered, but trust us that we will get you into heaven.’ It takes a naive person to drink this Kool-Aid.
(2104) Over-reactive facial recognition
Our brains have a genetic, functional-at-birth system for recognizing faces, which is an evolved trait that aided survival by giving us the ability to recognize familiar faces versus those of strangers. But sometimes this function works in situations that it was not designed for. And this mis-firing is one of the reasons why humans are so susceptible to religious belief. The following was taken from:
Our brains have a specialized facial recognition module. Studies of infants and brain injuries have taught us much of what is known about the inborn structures of our minds, and we know about the facial recognition module from both. Shortly after birth, babies are uniquely attracted to two round circles with a slash beneath them. Later on, brain injury or developmental anomalies can produce a disorder in which people cannot recognize faces, including their own(!)—even though other kinds of visual processing are perfectly intact. This is called prosopagnosia. Most of the time, though, our facial recognition module overfunctions rather than underfunctioning. In ambiguous situations—looking at clouds, rocks, lumps of clay, or ink blots–we have a tendency to see faces. Our brains automatically activate the facial recognition machinery even though it doesn’t really apply. Through history people have seen gods, demons, ghosts looking at them. Christians, whose interpretation of hazy shapes is further shaped by belief in specific supernatural persons see Jesus, the Virgin Mary, an angel, a demon, or even Satan.
This illustrates a broader point that cannot be overemphasized in understanding the psychology of religion: when faced with unknowns and ambiguities, our brains activate inborn information modules even when they don’t really apply. We take unfamiliar situations and even random data and perceive patterns that are inherent, not in the external world, but in our own minds. Furthermore, our pattern recognition systems err on the side of being overactive rather than underactive. This is called apophenia. It is alarming to look at a face and not see it immediately as a face; it is quite common to see a face in an array of leaves or shadows.
Belief in ghosts, angels, demons, gods, devils, and other extra-natural beings is largely due to this module in our brains tricking us into seeing beings that don’t exist. The adage ‘seeing is believing’ works well in these situations, except that what we ‘see’ is not always a reliable picture of what actually exists. But because belief can easily overpower the objective elements of reality, religion can flourish in a purely natural world.
(2105) Christianity’s brilliant marketing strategy
It is human nature to follow the path of least resistance to obtain a desired outcome. In a sea of pagan religions in addition to Judaism, Christianity developed early in its existence a brilliant marketing strategy- the promise that favors in this life and a ticket to a pleasurable afterlife could be had simply by possessing the right belief. It is certainly easier to believe something than to do something. The following was taken from:
It is helpful to understand why belief is so important in Christianity. For traditional Christians— belief is the heart of the Christian religion. Our beliefs matter enormously to God. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved and your house.” Belief is the toggle that sends people to heaven or hell. No matter how kind and compassionate your life may be, no matter that you strive to love your neighbor as yourself, no matter what great things you may accomplish in the service of humanity or the world at large – if you believe wrong you are doomed. Only if you believe correctly do virtue and service become relevant. Creedal councils, the canonization of scripture, inquisitions, purges and centuries of conversion activities can be understood only in this context.
This focus on belief is not characteristic of all religions. In the Ancient Near East, the birthplace of Christianity, pagan religions placed little emphasis on belief. The existence of a supernatural world was broadly assumed because there seemed to be little other way to explain the good and bad things that happen to people or natural events like storms, earthquakes, illness, birth and death. But the point of religion wasn’t belief; it was to take care of the gods so that they would take care of you and your community. The word “cult” (Latin cultus, literally care) is related to the word “cultivation.” We talk now about cultivating ground so that it will bear fruit. Nonprofits talk about “cultivating donors.” That was what the gods cared about, and so it was the heart of religious practice.
From the beginning, Christianity was different. Jesus worshipers cared tremendously about right belief, also known as orthodoxy. Bart Ehrman’s book, Lost Christianities, offers a fascinating window into the struggles that went on during the first and second centuries as groups with different beliefs about Jesus criticized and competed with each other, and one of them won out. Some of groups (for example the Ebionites) believed that Jesus was a fully human Jewish messiah and that Jesus worshipers must follow the law. Others (such as the Marcionites) believed that Jesus looked human but wasn’t. Still others (known as Gnostics) believed that the human Jesus was inhabited by a divine “Eon” during the years of his ministry—revealing to his followers secret knowledge that would let them escape this corrupt mortal plane. Others, now known as proto-orthodox or Roman, had ideas about Jesus that lead to the views of Christians today. (“Roman Catholic” means Roman universal.) What all of these groups agreed on was that it was tremendously important to believe the right thing about who Jesus was and what Christianity should be.
This emphasis on right belief was and is unique to monotheism. It existed in a rudimentary form in Judaism, but even today Judaism is more concerned with living right than believing right. Christianity’s exclusive truth claims and emphasis on right belief helped it to out-compete other religions in the Roman Empire. Polytheists often are quite agreeable to adding another god to their pantheon. Christians could persuade pagans to add the Jesus-god and then could wean them off of the others. Today, in India, for example, Evangelical missionaries tend to target Hindus rather than Sikhs or Muslims who would have to immediately abandon their primary religion in order to embrace the idea of Jesus as a god.
Eastern religions don’t share Christianity’s concern with belief. The emphasis is more on practice or “praxis” –spiritual living, self-renunciation, insight or enlightenment. Ordinary people practice a sort of cult or caretaking of the gods like that practiced by ancient pagans. Right belief isn’t what lets you move up through cycles of reincarnation or attain nirvana. Nor is it what gets you divine favor.
Just as biological organisms have many different adaptive or reproductive strategies, so religions compete for human mind-share in different ways. An emphasis on marketing belief, in other words, evangelism and purity of belief, which we call orthodoxy, is only one combination.
Apologists who tout the success of Christianity as evidence of its truth are overlooking how its low doctrinal standard might have led to that triumph. Instead of followers fretting over ‘have I done enough?,’ they could rest assured knowing that they believed the right thing.
(2106) Christian creationist illogicality
Christian creationists reject the sciences of geology, cosmology, genetics, paleontology, biological evolution, and climate change, but believe:
-a snake and a donkey spoke a human language
-plants grew before there was sunlight
-people lived to be 900 years old
-a rod turned into a snake
-a sea parted, allowing people to cross on dry land
-a man lived in a fish
-a woman turned to salt
-a disembodied hand wrote on a wall during a party
-a man rode a tornado to heaven
-blowing a horn and yelling will make city walls collapse
-the earth stopped revolving for an hour
-a billion cubic miles of rain fell for 40 days
-millions of animals lived on a 500 foot boat
-water droplets didn’t refract sunlight until the time of Noah
-a virgin gave birth to the creator
-demons entered pigs and caused them to commit suicide
-zombies wandered around Jerusalem
It takes religion for otherwise smart people to be this stupid. What is amazing is that the human brain is susceptible to such an extreme degree of dysfunction. Although humans generally speaking are rational animals, they can be programmed to hold irrational beliefs, which the unafflicted observe with a sincere sense of pity.
(2107) God has traits of an abuser
God as portrayed in the Bible has all of the traits associated with abusive persons. It is likely that the people who invented him were also abused by their kings and leaders whom they feared and admired, so it was natural for their god to be of a similar personality. The following was taken from:
From the article 12 Traits of An Abuser, published by the Christian Broadcasting Network.
An abuser is typically:
- I don’t think I have to prove that God is appealing, so I’ll move on.
- Exodus 34:14 “Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
- Exodus 20:5 ” You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me “
- Deuteronomy 4:23 ” “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. “
- Deuteronomy 32:16 ” hey made Him jealous with strange gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. “
- Deuteronomy 6:15 ” for the LORD your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; “
- Psalm 78:58 ” For they provoked Him with their high places And aroused His jealousy with their graven images. “
- Exodus 7:3-4 ” “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt he will not listen to you “
- Exodus 9:12 ” But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses. “
- 1 Samuel 16:14 ” Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him. “- (This was so he’d bring David to his palace.)]
- Joshua 11:20 “For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses. “
- Deuteronomy 2:30 ” But Sihon king of Heshbon refused to let us pass through. For the LORD your God had made his spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him into your hands, as he has now done. “
- Ezra 1:1 ” In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lordspoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing: “
- 2 Thessalonians 2:11 ” And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: “
- Deuteronomy 11: ” Love the LORD your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always.”
- 2 Corinthians 10:5 “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. “
- John 14:15 ” If you love me, keep my commands. “
- Colossians 3:22 ” Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. “
- Romans 13:1 ” Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. “
- A Victim (“He is never at fault. “You make me hit you.”-From the passage)
- Deuteronomy 8:5 ” “Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.”.
- Colossians 3:6 “For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience”
- John 3:36 ” “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” “
- Leviticus 26:27-28 “‘Yet if in spite of this you do not obey Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with wrathful hostility against you, and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins.”
- 2 Chronicles 36:16 ” but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy. “
- Zechariah 7:12 ” “They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the LORD of hosts. “
- Proverbs 1:24-26 ” “Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; And you neglected all my counsel And did not want my reproof; I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, “
- Deuteronomy 10:17 ” For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. “
- Exodus 4:11 ” The LORD said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD? “
- Deuteronomy 32:4 “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.”
- Deuteronomy 7:21 “You shall not be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.”
- Inconsistent (Oh boy, here we go)
- Numbers 23:19 States that ” God is not human, that he should lie,not a human being, that he should change his mind ” But at the same point in time Genesis 6:6 states “The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. “
- John 13:34, Jesus says ” Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. ” but at the same point in time in Luke 14:26, he says ” “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. “
- Matthew 19:19 says ” Honour thy father and [thy] mother:” but previously in Matthew 10:35, Jesus stated ” For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother”
- In Matthew 10:34 Jesus said, ” Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. ” and in Luke 22:36 he said ” He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. ” but in Matthew 26:52, Jesus states :” Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. “
- In Matthew 5:44 Jesus states ” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, ” but in Luke 19:27, he states ” But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay [them] before me. “
- Ephesians 2:8-9 states ” For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. ” but at the same point in James 2:24 it’s written ” 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”
- Genesis 32:30 says ” And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. ” but John 1:18 states ” No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[a]is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. “
- Romans 3:23 says ” 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” but Job 1:1 states ” There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. “
- Proverbs 26:4 states ” Do not answer a fool according to his folly,or you yourself will be just like him. ” but right after that in Proverbs 26:5 it states ” Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. “
- Romans 3:23 says ” 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
- Jeremiah 10:14 ” Every man is stupid, devoid of knowledge; Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols; For his molten images are deceitful, And there is no breath in them. “
- Ecclesiastes 7:20 “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.”
- John 3:19 ” “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. “
- Galatians 5:19 ” Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,”
- Luke 14:26 ” “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. “
- Leviticus 21:18 ” No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; “
- Exodus 32:29 :” Then Moses told the Levites, “Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the LORD, for you obeyed him even though it meant killing your own sons and brothers. Today you have earned a blessing.”
- 2 Kings 2:23-24 ” He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” 24And he turned around, and when he saw them, che cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. “
- Vicious and Cruel
- Numbers 31:17 “Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”
- Numbers 11:33 ” But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. “
- Exodus 11: 5 ” and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the firstborn of the cattle as well “
- Genesis 38:9 ” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother.10What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also. “
- Hosea 13:16 ” The people of Samaria must bear their guilt,because they have rebelled against their God.They will fall by the sword;their little ones will be dashed to the ground,their pregnant women ripped open.” “
- Leviticus 26:27-29 ” And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me; Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins. And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.”
- 1 Samuel 6:19 ” But God struck down some of the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they looked into the ark of the LORD. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the LORD had dealt them. “
- Deuteronomy 22:28-29 “If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29he shall pay her father fifty shekels[a] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives. “
- Insincerely Repentant
- John 3:17 ” For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him”, but still has a “Judgement Day” where the World gets judged.
It should be obvious that an actual god would not be burdened with a corrosive human disposition, but would instead embody the highest ethical and moral standards. At least that is true of the god that Christians claim to worship. It’s just that their image of him does not comply with their scriptures.
(2108) Christianity isn’t really monotheistic
At some point in the religious history of the world, polytheism acquired the negative stigma of being simpleminded superstition. Thereafter, belief in a single, exclusive god became in vogue as being the more sophisticated, learned, view of the unseen world. The new emerging Christian faith struggled to remain in this lane.
But Christianity isn’t really monotheistic is it? There are angels, archangels, principalities, seraphim, cherubim, thrones, ophanim, dominions, demons, Satan, the Holy Spirit, God the Father, Jesus and a whole bunch of saints, including the frequently appearing Virgin Mary. Calling that monotheism is just Orwellian double speak.
Christianity alleges the existence of all of these supernatural beings, none of which have ever been confirmed to exist. But despite holding to this claim, it seeks to separate itself from the polytheistic pagan traditions it replaced. It ‘succeeds’ in this effort only by utilizing baseless wordplay.
(2109) Mark inadvertently leaves a clue
In the following, the author of the Gospel of Mark leaves an important clue about the nature of his writing:
“When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.
The phrase ‘let the reader understand’ is certainly not something that Jesus would have said to his disciples, but it would be something that an author might place in his work if he intended to emphasize something that he wanted his readers to pay particular attention. Yet, in red-letter Bibles, we are led to believe that this is exactly what Jesus said. It is a revealing mistake, where the author let down his guard and briefly forgot that he was supposed to be quoting Jesus directly.
(2110) Mark makes Jesus prescient
In Mark, Chapter 13, Jesus is seen to predict the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, which happened in 70CE, or about 40 years after this alleged prophecy. There are two possible explanations- either Jesus was able to see the future and actually made this prediction as written, or the author of Mark used his literary license to put these words in Jesus’ mouth in order to embellish his fan fiction of the man. The following was taken from:
When was Mark’s gospel written? The first two verses of chapter 13 offer a clue:
As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
Like first-time tourists to the big city, the disciples are in awe, “What large buildings!” But the point of this text is to show that the cult hero Jesus was prescient; he knew that the temple would be destroyed. New Testament scholars, however, consider this a tip-off that Mark’s gospel was written after 70 CE, when the Temple had indeed been leveled by the Romans. Mark was fully aware that this had already happened, and put this script into Jesus’ mouth.
Most scholars agree that Jesus probably didn’t make this prediction, but rather that the author of Mark used this contrivance to inflate the image of Jesus. If this is correct, it is serious blow to the trustworthiness of the gospels. It indicates that rather than being rigorously historical, they are polluted with agenda-laden fiction designed to persuade potential converts.
(2111) Christianity borrowed baptism from pagan traditions
It is important to understand that the Christian ritual of baptism was not a continuation of a similar Jewish practice which Jesus would have been familiar, but rather was adopted from the mystery pagan faiths of the time. This alerts us to the problem of why God would have changed the method and purpose of baptism from that which he had promoted for hundreds of years among his chosen people. In other words, it makes no sense that the Christian baptismal rite differed from the Jewish one, assuming that we are witnessing a continuation of the same god’s interaction with humanity. The following was taken from:
Long before Christianity the Eleusinians instituted the ritual of baptism as part of initiation into the mystery. The initiates were required to undergo a preparatory purification; they marched in a procession to the sea and washed their sins away by baptism. The Roman historian Livy (64/59 BCE to 17 CE) mentions that ceremonial washing preceded initiation into the mysteries of Dionysus. Through baptism they secured glorious immortality in the afterlife. Their message was “new life grows out of every grave.”
For the Eleusinians being born again and securing forgiveness of sins by submersion in water was a mystery. Baptism symbolized the purification of the soul. Tertullian wrote, “ in the Apollinarian and Eleusinian rites they are baptized, and they imagine that the result of this baptism is rebirth and the remission of the penalties of sins …”
The mystery religion ritual of baptism was adopted first by the Essenes and then by the Christians. The Essenes borrowed the ritual of baptizing either from the Eleusinians or the Pythagoreans. During their initiation they made a covenant with God, which included baptizing and repentance. The Manual of Discipline (a.k.a. Rule of the Community) required sincere repentance before baptism and entering the covenant. (1QS 5:13-14) “Those [candidates] will not enter into the water [of baptism] … for they are not purified except they repent from their wickedness.” The Manual describes the procedure of entering the covenant. (1QS 3:8-9, 12 ) “… through the submission of his soul to all God’s ordinances … he may purify himself with the water-for-impurity and sanctify himself with rippling water … this will become for him a covenant of eternal Communion [with God].”
Ritual purification with water was part of early Judaism. For the most part it involved ceremonially washing the hands, while in a few instances it required washing the whole body. It was done to remove uncleanness after touching something unclean, such as a corpse. There are distinct differences between the Hebrew rituals and the Essene rituals of baptism. The Hebrews washed their bodies whereas the Essenes practiced total immersion. The Damascus Document forbade baptism in bodies of water insufficient for immersion. The Hebrews did not perform such ritual for those who entered Judaism whereas the Essenes did. Sometime during the first century CE proselyte baptism was introduce to Judaism.
The Essenes and John the Baptist practiced baptism before the early Christians. John was in many ways was an Essene. He lived like the Essenes of Qumran and preached similarly. Mark indicates that he did not baptize “in the name of Jesus Christ.” John was not a Christian, yet Mark implies that the sins of his converts were forgiven. (Mark 1:4) John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission [forgiveness] of sins. (KJV) Josephus, too, wrote that John the Baptist urged the Jews to baptize for the remission of sins and the purification of the soul. Baptism for the forgiveness of sins was an established practice before Jesus. The early Christians borrowed baptism from John the Baptist.
The difference in the baptismal ritual between Jewish and Christian practice along with the similarity the Christian method had with pre-existing pagan faiths is evidence of a disconnect between Christianity and Judaism. This removes a pillar of Christianity’s foundation and suggests that it is more of an evolved pagan religion rather than a continuation of Judaism.
(2112) What it would take to convert an atheist
It is instructive to consider what evidence would be needed to convert an atheist to a theist. Then to compare those criteria to any of the current or former world religions. The following was taken from:
I recently challenged Christians to consider what it would take to convince them that their religious beliefs are wrong, and now it’s the atheists’ turn.
A good article on this question is The Theist’s Guide to Converting Atheists, written by fellow Patheos blogger Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism. I’ve used it here as a starting point for my own exploration on this question.
Here’s a tentative list of what would convince me of a religion’s claims.
Many occurrences that are widely accepted by the scientific establishment as miracles. Note that “Science can’t explain it” isn’t necessarily a miracle—it’s just something science can’t yet explain.
Alternatively, a single crowdsourced miracle. On one day, everyone in the world sees “Yahweh exists” spelled out in stars or pebbles or lines in the sand. Or, one night, everyone has the same dream in which a god explains his plan. If either happened just to me, the obvious explanation would be that my mind (or someone) was playing tricks on me.
Scientific knowledge in holy books that wasn’t available at the time. The scientific knowledge in the Bible is no more advanced than would be expected from any non-divinely inspired book of that time. There’s no e = mc2, no f = ma, no Big Bang, and no heliocentric solar system. What’s really surprising is the absence of any good health advice: no “boil your drinking water,” no “dig latrines far from the water source,” and no recipe for soap. (More on the Bible’s confused relationship with science here.)
Believers changed in a way unexplainable by natural causes—good things would tend to happen to them more often than for nonbelievers, problems would be resolved quicker, prayers are answered, or in some other way we would see the deity assisting his people.
Necessary Traits of a Divinely Inspired Religion
This list of traits aren’t evidence for a religion, but they respond to arguments against. They are traits of a religion with a real deity behind it.
The holy book and the dogma would be perfect—no errors, no ambiguities, no inconsistencies. Not much to ask from a perfect deity, right? For example, with Christianity we have a god who deeply desires a relationship with us but who won’t get off his butt to even show us that he exists.
As a corollary, there would be nothing in the holy book to which believers say, “I must admit that I can’t explain that. I guess I’ll just have to ask God when I get to heaven.” We often get this in response to conundrums like why God commanded genocide or allows famines, but this is just running away from the problem. A holy book has no purpose except to explain to people here on earth what reality is and what the rules are. “God will explain that in heaven” won’t do.
The religion would have no internal divisions or doctrinal conflicts. To take a Christian example, Docetism (the idea that Jesus only seemed to be a human) was put to rest only at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. Other heresies took centuries more to resolve. One could pretend that the various twists and turns taken by Christianity were divinely guided, but where is the evidence for that? Instead, we see religions continuing to diverge.
The religion would not only celebrate reason, it would provide necessary evidence and wouldn’t require faith.
I wouldn’t add to this list that the god must be praiseworthy, judged by modern moral standards. The god might encourage genocide and allow slavery, but he doesn’t necessarily have to be good. (For example, the Gnostics imagined a not-so-good creator god).
Of course, you can cobble together rationalizations for religion without these properties—a religion where faith is required, where the holy book is ambiguous, where religion is split by doctrinal controversies, and so on, but don’t expect that to be a compelling argument.
Here’s a short list of general religious arguments that won’t get you out of the starting gate.
Curious things with natural explanations like speaking in tongues or other ecstatic experiences
Personal conversion stories, miracles, or anything else that only you experienced
Things that can be explained as coincidences
Revisiting the List of Convincing Arguments
Let’s return to the first list. I said that it was a tentative list because of Shermer’s Last Law: “Any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God.” How could I distinguish alien technology a million years more advanced than our own from the supernatural actions of a god? And if the aliens identified themselves, they might portray themselves as gods to get us to react in a certain way. Who knows—they might even be intergalactic practical jokers who just want to mess with us.
Given the choice of God or aliens as explanations, the aliens are more plausible because they’re intelligent life forms with technology. This isn’t hard to imagine since we are intelligent life forms with technology. By contrast, we have no commonly accepted examples of a supernatural anything.
I must then admit that to the Christian’s challenge “What would it take to get you to believe in God?” it might be that no evidence would. But anything that would provoke Shermer’s Last Law would be vastly more evidence than we’ve had to date, where Christianity fades into the general background of thousands of manmade religions.
Let’s pull back and consider two situations: (1) the atheist given substantial evidence of God’s existence (the present slate of arguments by Christian apologists doesn’t come close to being “substantial”) and (2) the Christian given substantial evidence that their faith is incorrect (discussed in a recent post). I’m saying that the atheist would be reasonable in not changing to accept the supernatural, but reason compels the Christian to change and reject the supernatural.
Is this a double standard? I don’t think so. In each case, the natural argument wins. The atheist goes with the natural explanation (it’s aliens, it’s a trick, I’m mistaken, I’m crazy, etc.), and the Christian also goes with the natural explanation by following the evidence. Science has shown us myriad examples where a natural explanation trumps a prior supernatural explanation, so it’s reasonable to bet on the natural explanation where it exists.
Perhaps the reason that Christianity isn’t compelling to many atheists is that they have no particular motivation (besides wanting to believe true things) to see it as correct.
Is wanting it to be true also a requirement for Christian belief?
Christianity fails every single element of this test. The evidence for it is so deliberately sparse that one can conclude that the Christian god, assuming such exists, is a trickster of the first degree and not deserving of admiration, praise, or worship. A real god could do better than this.
(2113) The condensed history of religion
It is sometime instructive to simplify a complex situation and view it in simple terms. The following graphic allows us to do this. The history of religion on the Earth is probably similar to that on all planets in the universe where intelligent life has evolved. That is, it is probably an inevitable component of the emergence of consciousness. The human species is just now entering the final square, the one that finally reveals to us that the natural world is all that exists.
(2014) Doctrine of Hell engendered unspeakable cruelty
In one of the most powerful arguments against Christianity, it can be inferred that its doctrine of post-life punishment in hell gave license to (if not encouraged) its followers to inflict torturous atrocities against non-believers. ‘If God is going to burn them in death, why can’t I do the same in this life?’ The following is a quote from Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899):
It is claimed that God wrote a book called the Bible, and it is generally admitted that this book is somewhat difficult to understand. As long as the church had all the copies of this book, and the people were not allowed to read it, there was comparatively little heresy in the world; but when it was printed and read, people began honestly to differ as to its meaning. A few were independent and brave enough to give the world their real thoughts, and for the extermination of these men the church used all her power. Protestants and Catholics vied with each other in the work of enslaving the human mind. For ages they were rivals in the infamous effort to rid the earth of honest people. They infested every country, every city, town, hamlet and family. They appealed to the worst passions of the human heart. They sowed the seeds of discord and hatred in every land. Brother denounced brother, wives informed against their husbands, mothers accused their children, dungeons were crowded with the innocent; the flesh of the good and true rotted in the clasp of chains; the flames devoured the heroic, and in the name of the most merciful God, his children were exterminated with famine, sword, and fire. Over the wild waves of battle rose and fell the banner of Jesus Christ. for sixteen hundred years the robes of the church were red with innocent blood. The ingenuity of Christians was exhausted in devising punishment severe enough to be inflicted upon other Christians who honestly and sincerely differed with them upon any point whatever.
Give any orthodox church the power, and to-day they would punish heresy with whip, and chain, and fire. As long as a church deems a certain belief essential to salvation, just so long it will kill and burn if it has the power. Why should the church pity a man whom her God hates? Why should she show mercy to a kind and noble heretic whom her God will burn in eternal fire? Why should a Christian be better than his God? It is impossible for the imagination to conceive of a greater atrocity than has been perpetrated by the church. Every nerve in the human body capable of pain has been sought out and touched.
It matters not whether Jesus taught the doctrine of hell, or whether it was a later invention of Christian followers. What matters is that the religion that is allegedly the product of the Christian god became contaminated with this odious concept. A god would have foreseen the horrible implications of this belief as it became impressed on the minds of humans and would have manipulated history to ensue that it did not materialize.
So we are left with three possibilities: (1) God and Hell are both real, and God is cruel, (2) God is real but Hell was made up by humans, and God is criminally detached by allowing such a doctrine to foment centuries of human cruelty, and (3) God and Hell are imaginary. Note that this does not leave Christians with a comfortable choice.
(2115) Faith stripped down
The fuel that runs Christianity is 99% faith and 1% low-grade evidence, so it is instructive to understand what faith really is in order to evaluate the strength of Christianity’s foundation. In the following, the cloak of faith is removed to reveal its true inner core:
Faith is agreeing to believe what others around you also agree to believe.
Faith means not asking the questions others around you don’t want you to ask.
Faith means not thinking because others around you tacitly don’t approve of thinking.
Faith means you and others have found support for your prejudices.
Faith means not making fun of the ridiculous nonsense in holy books because those around you take them seriously.
Faith is a method by which a common man may feel himself superior to other common men.
Faith is a fear ignorance may not be bliss after all.
Faith has many bizarre beliefs that contradict one another, thus should not be taken seriously.
Faith is proudly supporting your (faith) team even if its members lie or rape children.
Faith is nurtured by indifference that comes from not caring to know what is true.
Faith means going into the courtroom with hearsay for “evidence.”
Faith is looking at a billion-piece jigsaw puzzle of evolution and denying the picture because a few of the pieces are missing.
Faith is intellectual laziness passing itself off as wisdom.
Faith alone tells you you’re hopeless without faith.
Faith means using several thousand year old law books to judge and to punish your private twenty-first century thoughts and feelings.
Faith means ignoring uncomfortable evidence.
Faith tells you you’re “steadfast in faith;” when you’re only being bullheaded.
Faith is dread fear / you have been warned / of a jolt / that will come / if you touch the fence / around the faith / tied together by lies / which live in the church / that hope built.
Faith means never having to explain.
Faith means being “played with” by an invisible cat named God, while telling yourself you’re better off in, than out of, his grasp.
Faith is the hope you will not end up in Hell, while living with the uncertainty you just might.
In the final analysis, faith is the selling point of a fraudulent product. If Christianity was true, faith would not be needed to believe in God’s existence, which would be a given fact. The only required exercise of faith would be to trust God to deliver on his promises. But in reality, not only is faith needed to believe in God’s existence, but also the faith to trust God on his promises is eroded by a continual failure for this to happen.
(2116) A world made for man
It seems inescapable that early man would fall into the trap of concluding that not only does a god exist, but that this god made the world for him. It is analogous to the puddle after a rain concluding that the pothole in the road was made for it, just the right size and all. The following was taken from:
Where does the idea of God come from? Well, I think we have a very skewed point of view on an awful lot of things, but let’s try and see where our point of view comes from. Imagine early man. Early man is, like everything else, an evolved creature and he finds himself in a world that he’s begun to take a little charge of; he’s begun to be a tool-maker, a changer of his environment with the tools that he’s made and he makes tools, when he does, in order to make changes in his environment. To give an example of the way man operates compared to other animals, consider speciation, which, as we know, tends to occur when a small group of animals gets separated from the rest of the herd by some geological upheaval, population pressure, food shortage or whatever and finds itself in a new environment with maybe something different going on. Take a very simple example; maybe a bunch of animals suddenly finds itself in a place where the weather is rather colder. We know that in a few generations those genes which favour a thicker coat will have come to the fore and we’ll come and we’ll find that the animals have now got thicker coats. Early man, who’s a tool maker, doesn’t have to do this: he can inhabit an extraordinarily wide range of habitats on earth, from tundra to the Gobi Desert – he even manages to live in New York for heaven’s sake – and the reason is that when he arrives in a new environment he doesn’t have to wait for several generations; if he arrives in a colder environment and sees an animal that has those genes which favour a thicker coat, he says “I’ll have it off him”. Tools have enabled us to think intentionally, to make things and to do things to create a world that fits us better.
Now imagine an early man surveying his surroundings at the end of a happy day’s tool making. He looks around and he sees a world which pleases him mightily: behind him are mountains with caves in – mountains are great because you can go and hide in the caves and you are out of the rain and the bears can’t get you; in front of him there’s the forest – it’s got nuts and berries and delicious food; there’s a stream going by, which is full of water – water’s delicious to drink, you can float your boats in it and do all sorts of stuff with it; here’s cousin Ug and he’s caught a mammoth – mammoth’s are great, you can eat them, you can wear their coats, you can use their bones to create weapons to catch other mammoths. I mean this is a great world, it’s fantastic.
But our early man has a moment to reflect and he thinks to himself, ‘well, this is an interesting world that I find myself in’ and then he asks himself a very treacherous question, a question which is totally meaningless and fallacious, but only comes about because of the nature of the sort of person he is, the sort of person he has evolved into and the sort of person who has thrived because he thinks this particular way. Man the maker looks at his world and says ‘So who made this then?’ Who made this? – you can see why it’s a treacherous question. Early man thinks, ‘Well, because there’s only one sort of being I know about who makes things, whoever made all this must therefore be a much bigger, much more powerful and necessarily invisible, one of me and because I tend to be the strong one who does all the stuff, he’s probably male’. And so we have the idea of a god. Then, because when we make things we do it with the intention of doing something with them, early man asks himself , ‘If he made it, what did he make it for?’ Now the real trap springs, because early man is thinking, ‘This world fits me very well. Here are all these things that support me and feed me and look after me; yes, this world fits me nicely’ and he reaches the inescapable conclusion that whoever made it, made it for him.
Given the number of times that belief in a god arose independently across multiple cultures and through countless centuries, the theory that god belief is an inevitable outcome seems to be confirmed. Not only god belief, but also that the god had mankind in mind as his principal concern. If we can backtrack through this logical fallacy, we can begin to view our existence in more authentic terms.
(2117) Moralizing gods came after civilization growth
A new study has shown that the birth of religions sporting gods who were concerned with the morals of people did not arise until civilizations became large enough for people to have frequent transactions with total strangers. This situation did not occur early in human evolution as most people until relatively recently lived in small tribes where everyone knew each other and that fact alone was sufficient to keep matters in check. With increased complexity it was necessary to posit gods who kept an eye on people and what they did and meted out rewards and punishments appropriately. In this way, a person could better trust the unknown person they were dealing with. The following was taken from:
When you think of religion, you probably think of a god who rewards the good and punishes the wicked. But the idea of morally concerned gods is by no means universal. Social scientists have long known that small-scale traditional societies – the kind missionaries used to dismiss as “pagan” – envisaged a spirit world that cared little about the morality of human behavior. Their concern was less about whether humans behaved nicely towards one another and more about whether they carried out their obligations to the spirits and displayed suitable deference to them.
Nevertheless, the world religions we know today, and their myriad variants, either demand belief in all-seeing punitive deities or at least postulate some kind of broader mechanism – such as karma – for rewarding the virtuous and punishing the wicked. In recent years, researchers have debated how and why these moralizing religions came into being.
Now, thanks to our massive new database of world history, known as Seshat (named after the Egyptian goddess of record keeping), we’re starting to get some answers.
One popular theory has argued that moralising gods were necessary for the rise of large-scale societies. Small societies, so the argument goes, were like fish bowls. It was almost impossible to engage in antisocial behaviour without being caught and punished – whether by acts of collective violence, retaliation or long-term reputational damage and risk of ostracism. But as societies grew larger and interactions between relative strangers became more commonplace, would-be transgressors could hope to evade detection under the cloak of anonymity. For cooperation to be possible under such conditions, some system of surveillance was required.
What better than to come up with a supernatural “eye in the sky” – a god who can see inside people’s minds and issue punishments and rewards accordingly. Believing in such a god might make people think twice about stealing or reneging on deals, even in relatively anonymous interactions. Maybe it would also increase trust among traders. If you believe that I believe in an omniscient moralizing deity, you might be more likely to do business with me, than somebody whose religiosity is unknown to you. Simply wearing insignia such as body markings or jewelry alluding to belief in such a god might have helped ambitious people prosper and garner popularity as society grew larger and more complex.
Nevertheless, early efforts to investigate the link between religion and morality provided mixed results. And while supernatural punishment appears to have preceded the rise of chiefdoms among Pacific Island peoples, in Eurasia studies suggested that social complexity emerged first and moralizing gods followed. These regional studies, however, were limited in scope and used quite crude measures of both moralising religion and of social complexity.
Seshat is changing all that. Efforts to build the database began nearly a decade ago, attracting contributions from more than 100 scholars at a cost of millions of pounds. The database uses a sample of the world’s historical societies, going back in a continuous time series up to 10,000 years before the present, to analyse hundreds of variables relating to social complexity, religion, warfare, agriculture and other features of human culture and society that vary over time and space. Now that the database is finally ready for analysis, we are poised to test a long list of theories about global history.
One of the earliest questions we’re testing is whether morally concerned deities drove the rise of complex societies. We analyzed data on 414 societies from 30 world regions, using 51 measures of social complexity and four measures of supernatural enforcement of moral norms to get to the bottom of the matter. New research we’ve just published in the journal Nature reveals that moralising gods come later than many people thought, well after the sharpest rises in social complexity in world history. In other words, gods who care about whether we are good or bad did not drive the initial rise of civilizations – but came later.
This research implies that religions like Christianity with gods that focused on how people behaved did not arise from an actual deity appearing on the scene, but rather was a natural outgrowth of an expanding and mobile population that resulting in an increasing number of anonymous personal interactions. A moralizing god like Yahweh was a useful tool to keep people honest when dealing with strangers that they might never see again.
(2118) Evidence for the resurrection
Many Christian apologists use two main arguments for supporting the truth of Jesus’ resurrection- that the apostles were willing to die for their beliefs and that women, not men, made the initial discovery of the empty tomb. In the following essay, these arguments are shown to be vapid when comparing the analogous argument for Islam or Buddhism:
According to many Christian apologists, we have good evidence for the truth of the resurrection. Two things in particular are usually mentioned: First, that many of the followers of Jesus were willing to risk their lives in order to spread the gospel. And second, that the discovery of the empty tomb was made by women.
That the disciples risked their lives, and in the majority of cases ended up being executed, shows they really believed in Jesus’ resurrection, for who would be willing to take things that far for something they did not believe? That women were the ones who found the empty tomb shows that the story wasn’t made up, since women weren’t trusted as sources of information in those days — and thus, if anyone were making up the story, they would have said it was men who made the discovery.
These arguments are, of course, extremely weak. But rather than criticizing them directly (for that, see for example my book The Truth about God, pp. 68-72), I’d like to pose a question regarding miracle claims in other religions. Let’s take Buddhism and Islam as examples.
Here are some of the claims made about the Buddha:
Immediately after birth, he was able to walk and talk, and in addition, every place he set his foot a lotus flower immediately appeared. Perhaps more amazing, he was able to shoot flames out of one half of his body while water emitted from the other half, then switch halves and repeat. All of which shows, I’m sure we can all agree, that the Buddha was a pretty cool dude. But even these miracles cannot measure up to those of Muhammad.
Some claims made about Muhammad:
The prophet, as everyone knows, flew to Jerusalem on a winged horse (or horse-like animal), then up to heaven and back. Less known is that he could understand the language of animals and that his body did not cast a shadow. Most amazing of all, he once split the moon in two, so that one half was in front of a mountain and the other on the back.
Now, most of these claims are comparable to those made about Jesus, and to the resurrection in particular. My question, then, is this: If you maintain that the above evidence is good enough to show that Jesus rose from the dead, would you accept the same kind of evidence for any of the claims of these other religions? In other words, if it had been women who reported seeing Muhammad flying on a winged horse, or if Buddha’s original followers were willing to die for their belief that lotus flowers bloomed wherever he walked, would that convince you of the truth of those things?
Note that to reply that women didn’t report any of these things, or that followers didn’t die for any of these claims (or did they?) would be beside the point. The question I’m asking has nothing to do with what actually happened. Rather, the question is whether that type of evidence would be sufficient for such claims.
If the “fact” that women discovered the empty tomb, along with the disciples willingness to die for him, is sufficient to show that Jesus came back from the dead, then women reporting Muhammad’s amazing flight, along with his followers willingness to die for that claim, should be sufficient to show that there really once was a flying horse. But would it be?
Keep in mind that the fact of the apostles’ martyrdom is highly suspect, given the incentive by early Christians to fabricate these stories, and also that the women’s discovery of the empty tomb may have been used by the author of Mark to score a backhanded way of making the story more believable. But even if these two things are true, the amount of evidence that they provide is vanishingly little.
A chimera is defined as a thing that is hoped or wished for but in fact is illusory or impossible to achieve. This is the engine that has driven religious belief in humans for tens of thousands of years. It takes a measure of personal honesty to see religion in this light and to amend beliefs accordingly. The following describes the chimeric foundation of religion by referencing excerpts from Vitaly Malkins’ book Dangerous Illusions: How Religion Deprives us of Happiness.
“Faith is a particular psychological state that is characterized by a readiness to accept any idea at face value. Sometimes it is even worse than that, and an idea that is a priori un-provable is accepted as true. Faith doesn’t want to be encumbered by the burden of proof. Usually, faith doesn’t just accept an entirely unfounded thesis as true, but actually sees the absence of evidence as valuable in itself.” (p. 20)
“Theologians claimed that once Man has been shown absolute and universal divine truth through Revelation, commandments, and dogma, he has no need to waste time on further enquiries into philosophy and science. All truths have been discovered already and further searches simply detract Man from God. Divine truth must be accepted without any discussion or investigation.” (p. 26)
Malkin surveys this general attitude as expressed in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, The faith-theology approach to discovering truth accounts for the mess that religion has become. Once people are secure in their own version of the truth, and are heavily invested in it emotionally—especially the theologians—the realities of the world are ignored or rationalized. But religious ‘truths’ are chimeras:
“Chimeras are dangerous illusions, because they are imposed on people by ethical standards that are contrary to common sense and biological nature. When one tries to live by these standards the results are internal neuroses and poorly controlled aggression; departing from them creates a sense of guilt in the face of society in general.” (p. 52)
But theologians—those with heavy emotional investment in God—can’t let go of the chimeras, one of which is theodicy. Laypeople commonly don’t know the word, although they know a few clichés for the exoneration God in the face of suffering. Theologians have worked overtime on theodicy because they sense that suffering is the major threat to personal theism:
“The main purpose of theodicy was to combine the uncombinable—the idealized world of the divine with the real world of evil. What was required was to offer decisive and irrefutable proof that the existence of evil in no way contradicts the religions definition of God as almighty and good.” (p. 63)
I hope (against hope?) that Malkin’s book falls into the hands of Christian laypeople, although I have found them, overwhelmingly, to be an incurious bunch. I urge them to pay attention to his forty-page review of theodicies. In my writing I have focused on how Christians stumble in their efforts to make excuses for God, hence I was stunned to read Malkin’s review of Jewish theodicies in the wake of the Holocaust; he offers a blunt rebuke. What could be more obvious?
“The Holocaust is an example of the evil which is not compatible with God’s existence. After the Holocaust it is impossible to justify Yahweh. The Holocaust has carved a wide and infinitely deep crevice between Jewish religious doctrine and practical life, over which one could never leap or build a bridge…
“So why not bring this whole project to an end—not just the question of theodicy but the whole God question too? Why not return God to the place whence He came—the place of non-being?” (p. 102)
Human brains are vulnerable to chimeras as can be attested by the existence of so many religious faiths, each contradicting the others in either subtle or significant ways. But one thing is certain- if the Christian description of god was correct, being all powerful and routinely active in human affairs, no chimera would be needed to solidify faith in him- it would be obvious to everyone.
(2120) The fallacy of the ‘free gift’
The preponderance of Christian theology proposes that a person is saved simply by accepting the gift of salvation and that it is not earned by anything that the person does. Other than de-valuing good works to the detriment of society, the very meme itself is seen to be ridiculous. The following was taken from:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV
Christianity promises salvation from something called sin and sin’s consequences: eternal damnation. Christianity promises this salvation is paid for in full by the crucifixion of an ancient Jewish, 30-something-year-old, itinerant preacher who, come to find out, was the direct offspring of Yahweh, the ancient tribal god of the Jews. Christianity maintains there is nothing anyone can do to earn this salvation. It is a free gift. It cannot be bought. It cannot be earned. It cannot be acquired by any actions on our part. It is freely given gift, again, paid for by the tortured death of Yahweh’s offspring.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. — Romans 10:9-10 New International Version (NIV)
The only way to receive this free gift that cannot be purchased or bartered for is to say out loud Jesus is Lord and sincerely believe he was raised from the dead. Saying Jesus is lord and believing in your heart isn’t actively doing something, it’s just a sort of little thing that indicates you’ve accepted the free gift (which also isn’t doing anything) or something. It’s not exactly a requirement for salvation — it just shows you are already saved. I guess.
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. — Acts 2:38
Oh, and repent and be baptized. You also have to repent and be baptized. Repenting and being baptized also isn’t really like doing something, it’s just something you do to uh, uh… hmm.
Also! Go to church every Sunday. And, give money.
Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. — 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 NIV
And then, be sure to have orderly meetings where women should have their heads covered. 1 Corinthians 11
Let’s not forget witnessing, reading the Bible, having regular family devotionals, voting Republican and participating in every church activity.
Remember, however, that none of these requirements contradict the fact that there is nothing you can do to earn eternal salvation. In fact, performing all the requirements don’t earn you anything, but none-the-less are still requirements. All these activities just help show that you really are saved. If you don’t do these things, then you undoubtedly haven’t really received the free gift of eternal life.
All this make sense?
So, only one thing left to do. Make sure you accept the correct version of Christianity, because if you don’t find the real deal, you’re screwed. Like for instance, ancient Arminians and Gnostics will be joining modern Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons in hell. There is also severe doubt about the eternal security of Catholics (if you’re Protestant) and Protestants (if you’re Catholic.) Baptists would maintain they have the real, correct version and so would most of the other 33,000 competing Christian denominations out there.
Just remember, it’s all a free gift and there is nothing you can do to earn or acquire this gift. But you better get it right, or you are totally fucked. I mean, totally. Forever like.
I’m sure glad God gave us this free gift, aren’t you?
There are two salient points to be made- the lack of emphasis on good works has caused a significant portion of the Christian population subconsciously to de-emphasize efforts to help other people, and that this theological doctrine is itself a contradiction of many other scriptures in the Bible, not to mention common sense. So the question should be asked- is this the handiwork of a supreme deity?
(2121) Mark written to discredit the disciples
Christian scholars have often wondered why the seminal gospel, Mark, characterized the disciples in such a poor light, making them appear to be slow in understanding and so ready to abandon Jesus at his arrest. Also, and even more baffling, is that the original ending to this gospel has the women discovering the empty tomb and then inexplicably telling no one. R.G. Price, in the following, argues that Mark was written specifically to discredit the disciples and to elevate Paul as the true recipient of the revelation and as the legitimate ambassador of Christianity:
We’re told in the opening that Mary Magdalene is arguably the “beginning of Christianity” and that she was a disciple. We’re told that “the first time we meet Mary Magdalene in the Gospels” is in a scene where she was possessed by demons and cleansed by Jesus. I suppose that depends on what is meant by “first time”.
First let’s get a few things straight about Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene is barely mentioned in any of the Gospels. The first Gospel that was written is of course the Gospel of Mark, so in that sense, the first time we “meet” Mary Magdalene is in the Markan story. In Mark, Mary Magdalene is mentioned for the first time at the Crucifixion. In the original ending she is then mentioned as one of the women who find the empty tomb and that’s it. Now the Gospel of Mark has a longer ending that was added later by a different writer, in which it is said that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene, whom he had previously cast demons out of.
What appears to be the case here is that the longer ending of Mark was added after Luke had been written, in which Luke had expanded on the character of Mary Magdalene . The longer ending of Mark incorporates several additions that were made by Luke. Even still, Mary Magdalene is barely mentioned in Luke either.
At any rate, there is nothing in any Gospel that says Mary Magdalene or any woman was a disciple of Jesus. Despite this, the program tells us that one of the things that was so remarkable about Jesus is that he had female disciples. Nothing in the Gospels supports this and as we will see, this shows a misunderstanding of the story. The idea that perhaps Mary was a disciple is taken from the Gospel of John, which mentions a mysterious “beloved disciple” who goes unnamed. Some have speculated that this “beloved disciple” is Mary Magdalene. This idea is built on by later non-canonical stories that describe Mary Magdalene as a disciple.
Yet, what is true is that women do play an interesting role in the Gospel of Mark (and consequently all the other Gospels as they copy from Mark). This issue is difficult to address because it gets at the heart of how to interpret the Gospel of Mark and deals with many layers of misinterpretation. You see, the “Gospels” (plural) are a product of literary evolution. We have the story of Mark that was written with one perspective and one agenda that was then altered and changed by later writers as they took the Markan story and transformed into a story with a completely different perspective and agenda.
The “Gospel of Mark” (a name assigned to this story by later generations) is not a story that was written for the purpose of edifying the origins of the Jesus movement. Indeed quite the opposite. The Gospel of Mark is a polemic against the leaders of the Jerusalem cult – James, John and Peter. The Gospel of Mark essentially portrays the movement as a failure. In the Gospel of Mark all of the disciples fail to understand Jesus. All of the disciples abandon Jesus. Peter fully betrays Jesus; Peter is not being cast as a leader of the Jesus movement, he is being cast as a failure who should be seen as a discredited figure with no right to authority at all. This is all because the Gospel of Mark is a story written from a Pauline perspective, and the apostle Paul was in conflict with Peter and the other leaders of the Jerusalem church. The Gospel of Mark is all about actually promoting Paul’s vision and Paul’s leadership.
Now, how do Mary and the other women play into all this? Well, “Mary” (not Mary “Magdalene”) is one of the very few women mentioned in the letters of Paul. I believe that Mary Magdalene represents the Mary mentioned by Paul in Romans 16. In Romans, Paul states that several women were benefactors of his that helped to support him and churches in the region through donations and such. So what appears to be the case is that in the Gospel of Mark the writer of that story portrays the disciples as fools who abandon Jesus and these women as the ones who actually support the church – support the movement. These women, in actuality, were likely something like housewives of wealthy or middle-class men, and they were patrons of Paul’s cult.
What’s interesting in Mark is that women are universally portrayed positively and men also almost universally portrayed poorly. It’s not just Mary and these supporting women that are given positive roles, we also have the Gentile woman from Mark 7, whose daughter Jesus saves. This Gentile woman has one of the most meaningful interactions with Jesus of any character in the story. She is one of the few people in the story who really understands him and actually convinces Jesus to take action because of her understanding. So, clearly the writer of Mark was making some point with all this. What exactly this is all about I don’t know, but it’s certainly some theme in the Gospel of Mark that is much deeper than just the character of Mary Magdalene or even of the supposed female helpers. I think that a part of this theme in Mark has to do with juxtaposing these women against the male disciples, whom the author is trying to discredit in every way possible. This is the irony of Mark. The story of Mark is actually meant to fully and totally discredit the disciples. That this story was transformed into a narrative that edifies the disciples by later writers is a great irony.
So anyway, back to the program. In the program they are trying to build Mary up as a disciple. This is ironic because the Gospel of Mark was meant to discredit the disciples and Mary is never associated with them. Indeed Mary Magdalene is introduced after all the disciples have abandoned Jesus. This is very significant (and completely bungled by Luke). The women in Mark are supposed to actually be better than the disciples. So calling Mary and the other women “disciples” actually misses the point of the original story.
We are told in the program that the women come to the forefront of the story during the Crucifixion because at that point the disciples had to flee for their lives because the authorities were after them. Again, missing the point. No, the Gospel of Mark makes it very clear that the disciple’s abandonment of Jesus is a failure on their part. Peter doesn’t just flee for his life, he betrays Jesus. In the story of Mark what we are told is that the disciples all totally fail to understand Jesus, they all abandon him, they all fail to receive the mystery – the revelation.
It is the women who receive the mystery of Christ but, “They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” This is the final line of the original ending of the Gospel of Mark. The women receive the revelation and they tell no one. Now again, the Gospel of Mark is a story written by a Pauline follower, from a Pauline perspective. The women tell no one, so who is the person that reveals the revelation to the rest of the world? It is Paul.
This is the “secret mystery” of the Gospel of Mark. The Gospel of Mark is filled with clues about Paul and this is what the ending is about.
This is the most elegant solution the ‘Markan problem.’ If true, it reveals again that the gospels are not efforts at reconstructing history but are instead articles of propaganda, each having a different focus.
(2122) Mark misinterpreted as actual history
R.G. Price made the argument in his book Deciphering the Gospels Proves Jesus Never Existed that the Gospel of Mark was never intended to be interpreted as actual history but rather was presented as an allegorical tale based on the author’s study of Paul’s letters. Unlike other mythicists, he claims that the author of Mark never thought that readers would see it as a reflection of history, but rather a story that fleshed out the theological elements of what was at that time a belief in a celestial deity who had sacrificed himself as the Jewish messiah. Later, Roman scholars mistakenly thought it was literal and from there Christianity took a new pathway to a belief in an historical Jesus. This would be similar to taking Dickens A Tale of Two Cities as being a true story.
What I do in Deciphering the Gospels is start with the Gospel of Mark to show that Mark is a wholly fabricated story in which the character of Jesus is based heavily on Paul and the scenes are concocted from literary references to the Jewish scriptures. I propose that this story is an allegory that was written in reaction to the First Jewish-Roman War. I then build on that to show that every other account of Jesus the man is derived from the Gospel of Mark. Once having established that the Gospels are not based on the life of a real Jesus, I then go on to show that everything anyone has ever “known” about Jesus comes from the Gospels. I show how the way the Gospels were written led Roman scholars to believe that the Gospels were reliable accounts of real events that perfectly fulfilled many prophecies from the Jewish scriptures, and how this is what led to the adoption of Christianity by Roman elites.
Once having established that all of the material we have about Jesus the person is based on a fabricated story, I then show that the pre-Gospel Jesus was a heavenly deity derived from prophetic scriptural interpretation. I show that there were many mythic stories about figures very similar to the spiritual Jesus preached by Paul the apostle prior to the origin of Jesus worship, along the lines of the case made by Doherty. I then address supposed non-Christian accounts of Jesus and other forms of supposed evidence to show how confusion about basic facts regarding Jesus set-in among early Christian scholars in the second through fourth centuries. I then conclude with a survey of early Christian accounts of other figures from Christian lore, such as Peter, Mary, and various saints and martyrs, to demonstrate that the whole narrative of early Christian history is mythical and ahistorical.
So by doing this, my book walks through this specific model of Christian origins step-by-step to present a coherent explanation for the origin and development of Jesus worship without there ever having been a real Jesus person. Where I differ from Carrier is, he proposes that Jesus was consciously historicized in order to achieve some goal. I, on the other hand, propose that the Gospel of Mark was the origin of the idea that Jesus was a real person, but that the Gospel of Mark was written as an allegorical tale that was only misinterpreted as real history. This misinterpretation of the story of Mark is what led to the belief that Jesus was a real person. Thus, the historicization of Jesus wasn’t a conscious effort, it was the result of a mistaken interpretation of a fictional story.
Price’s effort furthers the scholarship and credibility of historians who are uncovering evidence that Jesus is a fictional character. One thing can be certain- if God intended to come to our planet and plant his footprint on humanity, there would not be any serious discussion about this event being a simple allegory. Any claims of mythicism would be seen in a similar realm as a flat earth.
(2123) Why no written account?
We are informed by Christianity that Jesus was a part of the triune godhead, therefore all-knowing, and we are told in the Gospel of Luke that Jesus could read, so it is left as a major conundrum why he didn’t leave us with any written records of his life and theology. This is a massive red herring for Christianity. The entire New Testament was written by people who never knew or met Jesus. The following was taken from:
We’re then giving some account of Jesus returning to his home town where he “reads” from the scriptures a passage that implies he is the Messiah. This then causes an uproar and leads to his rejection. This account comes from Luke, and essentially builds on a much simpler account of Jesus being rejected by his family in his home town that comes from the Gospel of Mark. The irony of this passage is that, while the Jesus of the Gospels is clearly portrayed as someone who would had to have been literate, this scene in Luke is the only scene that explicitly states that Jesus could read. But this, of course, raises a huge question (that is not addressed in the program), which is that if Jesus could read then he of course could also write, so why then wouldn’t such a person have left any written record of himself?
The Jewish faith at least purports to have writings from Moses, the Islamic faith claims to have writings from Mohammed, and Mormons claim to have writings from Joseph Smith, but Christianity is left hanging with just third party accounts. It seems inconceivable that God would join us humans to impart a thunderously critical message and yet leave all of the documentation to people who were detached from the scene.
(2124) The rabbit’s foot
A lot of Christians scoff at people who hold superstitious beliefs about charms or amulets that supposedly offer protection or good luck. Yet, in the following, it can be seen that there is a strong parallel between belief in these objects and belief in Christianity:
I have a wonderful lucky rabbit’s foot. I don’t know what I would do without it.
I try always to keep it with me.
My rabbit’s foot is magical: I can ask it for anything I want, I can ask it to do anything I want, or to make anything happen, and it will make it happen. I can’t explain how it does this, but I know, because it works. I have seen it work many, many times.
Of course, it only grants the requests that are best for me. Sometimes I foolishly ask for things that I shouldn’t have, and so it wisely does not grant those requests. I have no idea how it “knows” what is best for me, but it does! It is a lot smarter than me, because a lot of things I ask for that I think would be good for me, it won’t let me have them. So somehow they must be not good for me.
My rabbit’s foot is also very protective of me. It keeps so many bad things from happening to me. I shudder to think of all the terrible things that would have happened to me if I hadn’t had my rabbit’s foot to protect me!
Once in a while, of course, my rabbit’s foot does let something bad happen to me. That’s to test me, to see if I will stop believing in my rabbit’s foot. (I have to really, really believe in my rabbit’s foot, because if I don’t, it will stop working!) I guess it has to test me pretty often, because a lot of bad things have happened to me. But that’s OK, because I do trust its better judgment 100%!
Some of them, I’m sure, are not the rabbit’s foot’s fault, but are caused by the demons and galactic aliens that would completely overcome me if it weren’t for the rabbit’s foot. It is just making sure that I don’t forget that they are out there, waiting for me to give up relying on my foot for protection.
And sometimes bad things happen to me because I begin to think that it’s silly to rely on a rabbit’s foot so much. Boy, do I soon get reminded that I have to shape up! Usually the foot reminds me with some little thing, like making me spill a cup of coffee, or making me run out of gas, or sending a real bad thunderstorm. But I know! It’s the foot, gently prodding me to trust it and not to stop believing!
But that’s not the most amazing part about my rabbit’s foot. I have thought a lot about it, and I realize that the reason the foot is so powerful is that the rabbit gave its life so that I could have its foot. I certainly don’t deserve such a wonderful foot – I am fundamentally not a very good person sometimes – but the rabbit died for me anyway, so that I could have its foot with me always. And I’m sure that it has forgiven me for having had to die just for my sake.
But then I had to figure out how the rabbit could do that? And I did figure it out! That was no ordinary rabbit! That was some power or force that had entered into the rabbit so that it could be killed. And what power or force do you suppose could do that? It could only have been the very same power that made the whole world and everything in it. Isn’t that awesome?
The same rationalizations made for the rabbit’s foot are offered for God whenever the ‘lucky charm’ fails to deliver the desired outcome. In both cases, therefore, there is no easy way to break the spell and to realize that the charm is completely ineffective.
(2125) Judas was not a real person
The figure of Judas was first introduced in the Gospel of Mark, written around CE 70, as the disciple who betrayed Jesus and led the Roman guards to his arrest. The story has been a problem for apologists because of the improbability of the Romans needing assistance to find Jesus and the unlikelihood that a disciple would be motivated to perform this act. But there is good reason to conjecture that Mark used the fictional character of Judas as a way of symbolically blaming Jesus’ death on the country of Judea. The following was taken from:
The name ‘Judas’ is a mistranslation, just as the name ‘Jesus’ can be considered a mistranslation, and not the proper name. The name ‘Judas’ is the English translation of the Greek translation of the original name, which was ‘Judah’. The correct name of ‘Judas’ was ‘Judah’. This is important for ‘Judah’ was also the name of a country, and it is synonymous with the term ‘Judea’. So then the name of character we call (wrongly) ‘Judas’ was the name of a country. Now keep in mind that the Gospel of Mark consists of fictional parables and fictional symbolic inventions arranged in chiasmus to address historical controversies, and right away, when you realize that the name ‘Judah’ is the name of a country, you then begin to realize that what we have here is another one of those symbolic inventions of the author of the Gospel of Mark. ‘Judas’, as we call him, was never a real person, who actually existed, but rather was a symbolic character, who represented the entire country.
Just to make the point clear, let us suppose that the story was set in America, and then suppose that we are told that Joshua had twelve disciples, and one of them, who was named America, was a traitor. Yes, America, was a traitor, and just by coincidence, America had the same name as the country America. If people understood that when they read the Gospel of Mark they were not reading a history, or a biography, but rather that they were reading a literary work, when they heard the story of the disciple ‘America’, who was a traitor, they would immediately understand that this was symbolic, and the meaning was that the nation was the real traitor.
This is exactly the point being made by the author of the Gospel of Mark, and it echoes one of the main themes of his Gospel. Throughout the Gospel of Mark, Joshua never sets foot in Judea, until the very last days of his life, when he enters the country, and within days he is crucified. That is just what a traitor that country really was, he is suggesting, in that within two or three days he was dead. This is the meaning of the parable of ‘Judah’, a disciple who was named after the country, and it echoes one of the main themes of the Gospel of Mark, which is that the entire country was a traitor.
This and many other features of the Gospel of Mark, which was the foundation of all of the canonical gospel books, indicate that the author used literary license to present his intended messages. It was only later that church leaders and followers began to take the narrative literally.
(2126) The absurdity of the ‘free choice’
Christianity presents its offer of salvation as a free choice, you can simply take it or leave it, it’s your decision. This would work only if the offer was probable and that the alternative offered a neutral or positive outcome. Instead, the offer is dubious and rejection of it results in the most awful situation imaginable. The following was taken from:
From numerous discussions with Christians, my understanding is that Christian doctrine boils down to the idea that a person has a choice between accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, or eternal damnation (in one form or another, be it the fires of hell or “merely” the unbearable separation from God).
Calling this a choice, or even worse, a “free” choice, is absurd bordering on insulting.
You don’t say that people have a choice between paying taxes and going to prison, you say that they have no choice except to pay taxes. When a robber demands “your wallet or your life”, the “choice” offered is a humorous one at best – what he actually intends is to force you to hand over your wallet. And losing one’s liberty or even one’s life is nothing compared to eternal torment.
Simply put, a choice between two options, one of which is vastly more unpleasant than the other, is not a choice but rather an attempt to coerce a person into “choosing” the less unpleasant option. This is universally understood in everyday life, but religions, and particularly Christianity with its claimed foundation of human free will, try to frame such non-choices as genuine free choices.
When somebody pays a ransom to free a loved one who has been abducted, it would be laughable to claim that this person paid “of their own free will”. Similarly, somebody who accepts Jesus into their life has effectively had their free will overruled, considering what the alternative is.
Indeed, this calls into question the motivation behind every committed Christian’s devotion. People are rightfully unimpressed when they hear that somebody actually paid their taxes – after all, they had no (real) choice.
Not only is the validity of Christianity’s offer mired in improbabilities, but it isn’t really a choice at all. It is an extortion for those who think the offer is real, leaving these people with no real choice. For the others, those who conclude that the offer is fake, there is no choice to be made. Either way, calling it a free choice is laughable.
(2127) The Croatian Holocaust
If the Christian god is who we are led to believe by the faithful, then he should be in direct contact with the leaders of the church, and what happened in what is now Croatia during WWII would not have happened. The following was taken from:
While the concentration camps run by the Nazis during World War II are probably best known today, there were many similar concentration camps in other countries, including some in Yugoslavia run by Catholic priests.
After the Axis Powers occupied Yugoslavia in 1941, a new fascist government was formed called the Independent State of Croatia, which is considered to have been a “Nazi puppet state.” The new government was run by the Utashe, Croatia’s version of the Nazis, headed by a dictator named Ante Pavelic. The Utashe were defined by ultraconservative Catholicism and racism.
After Pavelic took power, the Catholic archbishop Aloysius Stepinac held a banquet for the dictator, proclaiming him “God’s hand at work.” Pavelic was also received by Pope Pius XII himself. Four days before Pavelic met the Pope, the Utashe had locked hundreds of Serbians inside an Orthodox church and burned it to the ground. Yugoslav diplomats warned the Pope of the atrocities and asked him not to meet with the fascist dictator, but Pope Pius XII refused their request.
Months later, an Utashe leader suggested destroying Croatia’s Serbian population by “killing one third, expelling the other third, and assimilating the remaining third.”
Such genocidal ambitions soon became a horrifying reality. Concentration camps were set up across the country, including one of the largest camps in Europe at Jasenovac, where as many as 800,000 Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and political dissidents were killed. Croatian Catholic clergymen served as guards and even executioners in the camps. At Jasenovac camp, a former student priest named Petar Vrzica won a contest by slitting 1,350 throats in a single night.
The slaughter wasn’t contained in the camps either. The Ustashe would descend on villages with hatchets and knives. One attack in 1942 was led by a priest and may have killed as many as 2,300 Serbs. A survivor of the attack described how the Utashe beheaded young children then threw the decapitated heads at their horrified mothers, cut open the stomachs of pregnant woman, and raped young girls as their horrified families watched.
As all of this went on, Pavelic continued to exchange “cordial telegrams” with Pius XII. The Catholic press in Croatia published propaganda for the fascist regime. The Vatican never once spoke out against the massacres.
After the war ended and Yugoslavia was liberated by communist partisans, Archbishop Stephinac was convicted of war crimes and sent to Lepoglava prison. However, the new Yugoslavian state later released him after pressure from the Vatican. Stephinac was later appointed a cardinal by Pius XII. In 1998, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II.
Only a religion formed by mortals could have supported, dismissed, or failed to prevent an atrocity on this scale. If Christians are correct that their god is omniscient and omnipotent, then they cannot be allowed to claim that he is omni-benevolent as well.
(2128) The prayer conundrum
Christians believe that their god is the only god and that any answered prayer is his work alone. But they must concede that people praying to other gods seem to enjoy a similar degree of success. The only way out of this is to assume that the Christian god answers prayers of non-Christians out of a sense of compassion. But by doing so, he is reinforcing their belief in a false religion and so leading them to fail to accept Jesus as their savior, with possible dire consequences. The following was taken from:
Christians claim that any prayer request granted for other believers in different religions is done by their God out of compassion, because only one God exists, theirs. The reason Christians think this, despite the fact that only prayers offered in Jesus’ name are to be prayed, is because their own answered prayers have no more evidence for them as the others. So their God becomes the explanation for the answered prayers of a Muslim, or an Orthodox Jew, or a Fred Phelps, or a Roman Catholic, or a liberal Christian, or a Jehovah’s Witness, or a Mormon, or a Satanist, or a Hindu. But believers in these other religions will take answered prayers as evidence that their faith is true. This means God, the Christian God, is providing confirming evidence against the truth of Christianity to other believers in false religions who will be condemned to hell. So Christian, either give up the belief that your God answers the prayers of other believers, or admit he is helping to send them to hell. And if you give up the belief that God is answering the prayers of other believers, then show us why your own answered prayers have more evidence for them than theirs.
There really isn’t any easy way to explain this away. Either God is actively encouraging people to remain non-Christian, or else, given the lack of evidence that Christian prayers are answered at statistically higher rates than others, none of these gods exist and what are perceived as answered prayers are simply coincidental events.
(2129) Jesus approved of corporal punishment
Humanity’s evolving sense of ethics, especially over the past 50 years, has mostly dismissed the morality of beating subjugated people, such as students and children, as a means of punishment. In its place, time out or loss of privileges, for example, is commonly used. But Jesus, as documented in Luke below, clearly believed that beating slaves was an acceptable method of enforcing discipline.
“The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
This is another example that Jesus or the people who wrote the gospels were inextricably immersed in the zeitgeist of their times, not capable of imagining the future enlightenment of mankind. This is not what we would expect of a god who should have promoted a more civilized and enlightened means of punishment.
(2130) Jewish apocalypticism influenced Jesus
Whether Jesus was a real person, or whether he was fashioned around a hypothetical preacher, it is certain that he was a product of his time. The First Century saw a fever pitch among Jewish society that the world was approaching a major upheaval and would be transformed in a way that would favor them exclusively. Jesus, or his surrogate, was likely influenced by this erroneous idea. The following was taken from:
“The best interpretive framework to understand Jesus is within the context of the Jewish apocalypticism of his day, if we’re to understand him at all. We see Jewish apocalypticism everywhere, stemming from such texts as Isaiah 24-27, Daniel, Zechariah 9-14, parts of Enoch 1, Sibylline Oracles, the Testament of Moses, 4th Ezra, 2nd Baruch and the Apocalypse of Abraham. The Dead Sea Scrolls show apocalyptic elements in them, especially in the War Scroll, where there is a war between the ‘children of the light’ and the ‘children of darkness,’ during which God intervenes in the seventh battle and the Sons of Light are given their victory.” (pp. 318-319)
See what I mean by homework…if Christian folks want to see Jesus’ apocalyptic message in context.
Loftus quotes scholar Paula Fredriksen (From Jesus to Christ): The Essenes “saw themselves as living on the edge of time, in the very last days, and they dedicated every moment and aspect of life to preparing, after their fashion, for the coming Kingdom of God.” He adds, “in this contextual milieu, it’s not difficult at all to think Jesus believed and taught what others did in his day. In fact, this is what we would expect to find.” (p. 319)
It is a testament to ingenuity that Christianity survived the failure of its initial core belief. It took some well thought-out apologetics to make people forget the failure of the early prophets, including Jesus, to predict accurately the throw of history. Somehow, for most of the past twenty centuries, the ‘just around the corner’ belief in Jesus’ return has been maintained, though it disintegrates slowly with each passing year. One thing, though, is certain- if Jesus was a real person (a critical truth for Christianity), he was indoctrinated to believe a falsehood and did not correct it as he should have if he was God.
(2131) The unlucky date of birth
There are few Christians who believe that Moses and Abraham, as well as most of the prophets of the Old Testament, were not welcomed into heaven by God, despite their obvious lack of knowledge of Jesus and subsequent de facto failure to accept his ‘sacrifice’ and have their sins washed in his blood. But does that exemption apply to current day Jews?
John 14:6 is very clear on this matter:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Most present-day Christians believe that passage into heaven absolutely and without exception requires faith in Jesus at the very least, if not other good works. This implies that post-Jesus Jews who don’t worship Jesus will be left out. So, in other words, a Jew who was born in BCE 100 who faithfully followed the Jewish law will gain access to heaven, but a Jew who was born in CE 100 who faithfully followed the Jewish law will be denied heaven. This is where the ‘Jesus is the only way to heaven’ doctrine breaks down, makes no sense, and sends the entire Christian theory of salvation into the depths of nonsense.
(2132) Prayer is the adult manifestation of infantile crying
In the following, it is shown that when adults pray, they are channeling the same emotions that they verbalized when they were infants crying for food or comfort. Prayer is basically an extension of childhood helplessness. The following was taken from:
I suppose that, in proportion to increasing awareness of our place in the Cosmos—incredibly small and isolated—the desire for prayer to be a real thing has increased.
But as is the case with all magical thinking, there is no known mechanism by which prayer could work. How can it possibly be true that the organic matter inside human skulls—as we thrive in the thin biosphere of one small planet—has the capacity, the power, to communicate with gods? Especially a cosmic deity that works on the scale of galaxies? And who, we are now told, resides ‘outside of time and space.’ How do our brainwaves, cast in the form of prayers, get outside our skulls, let alone escape time and space?
Prayer made more sense—but not much more—when gods were assumed to be just a few miles overhead, or hovering around us in a realm of spirits and demons. Prayer is based on impulse, a desire to be connected to, and to manipulate, elemental forces. John C. Wathey made the correct call: “Prayer is the adult manifestation of infantile crying.” (The Illusion of God’s Presence: The Biological Origins of Spiritual Longing)
It’s very handy that the prayer claim cannot be falsified: how can it be tested? Indeed, there have been tests that show prayer has zero results, but how in the world do you establish control groups? It’s very handy too that apologists fall back on “it’s a spiritual thing”—and the faithful nod approvingly—but there is no hard evidence whatever (data that all theists agree on) that a spiritual realm even exists.
I suppose it’s harmless that people think that they talk to God; but it’s truly dangerous when people claim that God talks to them. Billions of believers have claimed answers from God that are hopelessly contradictory, yet they want to tell the rest of us what God thinks about abortion, birth control, homosexuality, and dozens of other social issues.
The super devout especially know very well that the prayer claim is vulnerable.
One of the hallmarks of those who pray is confidence. Consider these two quotes:
“For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. And nothing will be impossible for you.” Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 17:20)
“When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you.” Jiminy Cricket
Can you tell any difference? Neither can I.
So, in essence, just as babies grow up to be toddlers, teenagers, and young adults, and learn to handle misfortunes with more composure, so do some adults mature to the point where they realize that they must face reality on their own, with no parent or god that can come to their assistance. Thus, they stop praying and start using that time to work out solutions. Others remain mired for life in juvenile magical thinking.
(2133) The absence of logic
When you boil it down, Christianity makes no sense, no logic, and it can’t possibly be the product of an infinite intelligence. Christians are brainwashed to intellectually bypass this very easy thought process, as described below:
The premise of orthodox Christianity is boiled down to the following points:
1) that we are all destined — and fully deserve — to roast in Hell for all eternity, because in the eyes of a “all good and perfect” Creator, telling small lies or stealing a candy bar is just as bad as killing millions of people and therefore we’re doomed just by being alive;
(In some denominations, this goes even further by saying that the reason why we’re all evil is because two people ate a magic apple, and now their genetic sin is our problem)
2) That somehow the above scenario is justified because “God is so perfect that even a small sin is infinite,” and although he lacks common sense and compassion he is somehow still perfect and to be worshipped;
3) that the ONE and ONLY way to avoid our fully-deserved fate of Hell is to believe in a story written in an ancient book 2,000+ years ago, and to fully believe that the supernatural and bizarre events described (God came down as a person, was born to a virgin, sacrificed himself for a blood sacrifice that’s never explained why it’s needed, he rose from the dead, etc) are actually real.
4) That God’s sacrificing his son was a benevolent thing to do. Think about it — if your neighbor committed a horrible crime and was going to prison, and the only way to bail him out was to have your own son crucified, would you do that to your child to pay for someone else’s problems? Any decent parent and person would say hell no!!
How can you take this seriously? First off, points 1 and 2 and 4 show how morally wrong the whole premise is, and how unethical and evil this religion’s portrayal of God is. And point 3 is basically saying that the way to be saved in the afterlife is to believe an unbelievable story – like trying to force yourself to believe in Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy, long after you’ve hit the age of critical reason (around age 7) where those types of childhood magic characters are no longer believable.
When I was 7, I grew out of believing in Santa. I wanted to believe, but I simply couldn’t buy it anymore. So if an adult has this reaction to the Bible story, they deserve hell, and this lines up with a benevolent God?
Please explain how this is:
1) Ethical, in way that lines up with God being the all-good and all-loving being he’s claimed to be
2) Logical/rational as something that is likely to be real
The human minds that came together to develop the orthodox Christian religion lacked sufficient insight to create a realistic god-human interface. What they concocted was beyond the bounds of logic, but, fortuitously, it left a calling card for future introspective people to dismiss it without reservation.
(2134) Atheism is free from seduction
There is one main reason why atheism is a more believable world view than theism. It’s that there is no thought of ‘being an atheist just in case atheism is true.’ Theists often tout this superficial point as a reason to remain in their belief in God. In truth, becoming an atheist is hard and it is often accompanied by harsh side effects. But this tribulation, as opposed to the rose-colored dressing of theism, provides a badge of authenticity to its adherents. The following is an example of the trials of theism to atheism conversion:
I wish Christianity was true. I wish there was a benevolent God looking out for us who would listen to our prayers. Not having God in my life has left me feeling empty and depressed. I have gone from feeling like an immortal being made in the likeness of God to simply an evolved monkey, nothing more than a collection of cells, alone in the cruel world. This change in belief has certainly humbled me. The church can be so seductive, but in my heart I can no longer call myself a Christian. The decision to live in reality has not been an easy or happy one.
We all see the world differently, but each of us must make a determination of our beliefs based on the limited range of our intelligence and experience. Therefore, it is instructive to look to other people as to how they have tackled the question of theism. In a sense, this extends the range our experience. It is here that we see a great number of intelligent people becoming atheists, with no great reward for doing so. This is evidence against Christianity. On the other hand, those who stay in the faith provide less evidence for the truth of Christianity because their stance is tainted by the seductive lure of immortality.
(2135) Mark had no reliable sources
Mark was the first gospel written and it became the template for the ensuing three, leaving it as the most important for arguing historical accuracy of the entire gospel suite. But, as discussed in the following, it is clear that Mark had no reliable sources for documenting the life of Jesus and had to use his imagination, writings by the non-eye witness Paul, and excerpts from the Old Testament to flesh out his story:
It is in Mark 14 that we find the account of the Last Supper, and surely here, it is commonly assumed, we have recollections of eyewitnesses: Jesus’ famous words as recalled by those who were there. But is that the case? Remember: are accurate quotes possible after forty years of telling and retelling, until Mark committed them to writing? Maybe it didn’t happen that way at all.
Just where did the script of the Last Supper come from? There’s a major clue in I Corinthians, at 11:23-25, in which we find Paul’s report of the famous Jesus script:
“…the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”
This letter was probably written some twenty years after the death of Jesus, and at least 25 years before Mark’s gospel was written. In other words, Paul couldn’t have ‘looked it up’ in Mark’s gospel because it didn’t exist yet. And since Paul never, anywhere else, repeats a verbatim saying of Jesus, how likely was it that this script came from ‘reliable oral tradition’ supposedly in circulation?
Actually, Paul tells us where he got these ‘words of Jesus’: “…I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you…” Since Paul was not at the Last Supper—he never even knew Jesus—here he assures his readers that these words came from the best possible source, his own personal visions of Jesus, his hallucinations, which he proclaimed as widely as possible. It is by no means farfetched that Mark used Paul’s letter as his source.
The author of John’s gospel, by the way, deleted this scene entirely from his version of the Last Supper, during which, in his account, Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. But earlier, at 6:52-57, by many degrees of magnitudes, he enhanced the ghoulishness of the Eucharist script.
Again, Richard Carrier: “There are strong verbal similarities with the scene in the Gospels (whose accounts all derive from Mark 14:22-25), indicating dependence on this passage in Paul.” (p. 558, On the historicity of Jesus)
So it would seem that we’ve tracked down the words of the Last Supper. And, oh dear,we’ve strayed pretty far from history. Aren’t the foundations for this central Christian ritual getting wobbly? Cult propaganda, aka religious fantasy literature, is not very reliable.
Religious fantasy literature? How can I be so flippant, or even insulting? This is the holy story of Jesus. But is it asking too much of grownup readers to be honest about what they find in Mark’s gospel? How would they evaluate these stories if they came across them in other forms of folklore—anywhere other than the Christian gospels?
(1) Jesus talks to demons who have possessed a mentally ill man, and gives them permission to flee into a herd of pigs;
(2) Jesus glows on a mountaintop while talking to Moses and Elijah;
(3) Twice he feeds thousands of people with just a few loaves of bread;
(4) The primary message of this Galilean preacher is the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God, and it will be violent, i.e., most people on earth will be killed.
When Jesus, after his arrest, was interrogated by the high priest, we find this in Mark 14:61-62:
“‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said, ‘I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’”
The immediacy of this prediction is unmistakable. Yet we can be pretty sure that the high priest never did, in fact, see Jesus seated next to God or ‘coming with the clouds.’ Hence, of course, Jesus was wrong; or Mark, who authored this delusional theology.
This again raises the issue of the author’s sources, which any curious reader should want to know. None of Jesus’ disciples were there at the interrogation (Peter had tagged along at a distance, after the arrest—and would soon betray him). How did Mark know what happened?
I highly recommend David Chumney’s analysis of this scene, in his book, Jesus Eclipsed: How Searching the Scriptures Got in the Way of Recounting the Facts. The heavy fantasy element in Mark’s gospel is a strike against him as a historian. In the creation of his Jesus story, he was confident that the primary elements could be gleaned from the Old Testament. Here’s what Chumney has to say:
“Throughout the passion narrative, events unfold ‘in accordance with the Scriptures.’ Consider, for example, the events between Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, events that ostensibly occurred behind closed doors.
“How does Mark know that ‘the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death’ (14:55)? He infers their intent from Scripture: ‘The sinner watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death’ (Psalm 36:32).
“How does Mark know that ‘some stood up and gave false testimony against [Jesus]’ (14:57)? He finds confirmation of such perjury in Scripture: “[F]alse witnesses have risen against me” (Psalm 27:12).
“How does Mark know that Jesus ‘was silent and did not answer’ those charges (14:61)? Jesus’ reticence is anticipated in Scripture: ‘He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth’ (Isaiah 53:7).
“How does Mark know that the Romans flogged Jesus (14:15), struck him, and spit on him (14:19)? He finds evidence for such abuse in Scripture: ‘I have given my back to scourges and my cheeks to blows, but I did not turn away my face from the shame of spittings’ (Isaiah 50:6) In each instance, Mark’s account is derived not from the testimony of eyewitnesses but from the testimony of Scripture. Therefore, such information is not historically credible.”
“The passion narrative in Mark’s gospel—the foundation for what is found in the other three—is comprised largely of allusions to the Old Testament…But why did Mark rely so heavily on such material? He did so, critics have concluded, because that is all he had.”
Bear in mind that by the time Mark created his gospel, Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Roman army (which is the background of Mark 13), substantially decreasing the chances that any of those who remembered Jesus were still around—or that there were archives (e.g. with court and trial records) to be consulted.
Mark had his imagination, of course, and his skills as a theological novelist. Paul’s script for Jesus’ words at the Last Supper was good enough for him, and he knew that the story Jesus was imbedded in random verses in the Old Testament. All he had to do was fill out the framework of the story. It appears also, from a careful study of his texts, that his knowledge of Greek literature came in handy. See especially, Dennis R. MacDonald, The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark.
Considering these facts, the only objective analysis of the Gospel of Mark is that it was a literary construction that combined imagination with arcane references to create a fan fiction of a man, who if he ever existed, was a mere shadow of his heroic representation. It becomes impossible to think that a god would allow his critical message to mankind to be contaminated with this degree of ambiguity and dubiousness.
(2136) Jesus said Moses will send Jews to hell
In John 5:36-47, Jesus is quoted as saying that the Jews who do not accept him as their savior will be accused by Moses, not by Jesus himself, before the Father. This presumes that they will be sent to hell.
“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
“I do not accept glory from human beings, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”
What this appears to say is that after Jesus had appeared on the planet, the method by which God judges the Jews changed, such that acceptance of Jesus was now required for their salvation.
This point is further supported by John 14:6
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Now it is true that Jews do not believe in hell the same way that Christians do, but this does not negate its potential existence. Very few Christians believe that current-day Jews are bound for hell, but their scriptures suggest that this is the case. It is hard to believe that God would turn his back on his ‘chosen people,’ and thus these scriptures are seen as being highly improbable. It is well known that the author of John’s gospel was an anti-Semite, as seen here and in many other verses.
(2137) The USA is not a Christian nation
There are many Christians who believe that the United States is God’s favored nation and that this is the reason that it succeeded historically and economically. But when the myth is examined, the facts shred it to pieces. The following is taken from:
Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli between the United States and Libya, drafted by George Washington and signed by John Adams states, “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion…” Thomas Jefferson wrote “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.” He also took a razor to a bible and removed all of the miracle stories. And more recently, Catholic president John F. Kennedy said, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”
Do you think the United States is a Christian nation? How could it be a Christian nation if Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, James Madison, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson were not Christians? Was it patriotic of Reverend Duche, the prayer leader of the continental congress, to flee to England and urge George Washington to abandon plans for independence? Why did only three or four people at the constitutional convention want a prayer which was therefore never said? Why isn’t God mentioned anywhere in the U.S. Constitution? How could the founding fathers have launched a rebellion against the British authorities, if they were Christian and the Christian Bible says that you must obey the authorities (Romans 13:1)? Why wasn’t “under God” in the pledge of allegiance until 1954? Why wasn’t “In God, we trust” on the back of dollar bills until 1956? How many Bible quotes and Christian images are contained in architecture in Washington D.C.? How much pagan imagery is there? Why did Presidents John Quincy Adams and Franklin Pierce swear on law books at their inauguration?
Where does the Bible teach democracy, consent of the governed, peaceful protest, freedom of speech, habeas corpus, separation of powers, innocence until proof of guilt, protection from self-incrimination or gender equality? Where does the U.S. constitution enshrine the biblical principles of cruel, unusual punishment (Hell), vicarious redemption, heritable fault, chosen people, compulsory love, capital punishment, misogyny and slavery?
Although there is currently a concerted effort to make the United States into a Christian theocracy, the claim that it was originally based on Christianity does not stand up to the salient facts. It is simply another myth that gullible Christians swallow without thinking- a modus operandi that religious leaders have encouraged for ages.
(2138) The incomprehensible Bible god
One of the big problems with Christianity is that its god is not well defined. This is odd since this figure is the central king pin of the faith. In fact, not only is this god not well defined, it is described in many contradictory ways. The following is taken from:
What is the evidence that the god described in the Bible exists, created the entire universe in six days for the sole purpose of being worshipped by human beings on Earth, changes, does not change, punishes children for their parents’ sins, does not punish children for their parents’ sins, tempts people, does not tempt people, is all-merciful, is all-just, cares whether you believe in it, does not care whether you believe in it, forbids killing, requires killing, supports slavery, opposes slavery, loves gay people, hates gay people, is good, creates evil, loves everyone, hates Esau, loves everyone equally, has one chosen race, can be seen, cannot be seen, dwells in the light, dwells in darkness, demands human sacrifice, does not accept human sacrifice, knows the future, has free will, supports war, supports peace, feels transient feelings, exists outside of time and space, can do anything logically possible, cannot kill itself, cannot defeat Satan or people who have chariots made out of iron, cannot have multiple sons, cannot lie or sin, cannot not punish people for sin without dying on a cross and being dead temporarily, makes no mistakes, regrets mistakes, exists outside of time and space, is omnipresent, has a face, has a right hand, has back parts, gets jealous, cares about the condition of the testicles of sacrificed animals, cares about how to make curtains and underwear for priests, cares about grain offering recipes, likes the smell of burning animal flesh, hates foreskins, chose methods of incarnation and death common throughout prior mythology, reads your thoughts and judges you for them, loses its temper, has a master plan, responds to our pleas, acts in the world on a daily basis to serve our interests, and defined, by direct, transcendental inspiration of many different, unrelated, anonymous human authors, the rules, rewards and penalties for our behavior in precisely those ancient texts chosen out of many candidate texts by a particular group of primitive, fallible human clerics for inclusion in the Bible?
It almost seems that the Bible authors are each describing a different god, or a god that acts more like a human than a supernatural deity. Could it be that this god’s attributes aren’t a feature of reality but rather are the product of the limited knowledge and imaginations of Bronze Age humans?
(2139) The prayer- free will conflict
Christian apologists often defend God against the scourge of evil in the world by saying that he does not interfere with peoples’ free will, and that, in doing so, evil things are bound to happen. But they also claim that God answers prayers, which in most cases would necessarily involve interfering with other peoples’ free will. The following was taken from:
“Let’s now suppose God cannot interfere with free-will human choices. If he cannot interfere, then Christians should stop all petitionary prayers whenever free-will human actions are involved.
“They should stop praying for safety in their cross-country travels, since reckless drivers have free will, since criminals we meet at highway rest stops have free will, since bungling mechanics with free will may have worked on our vehicles, and since incompetent factory workers with free will have made them. At what point in this process could God ever grant prayer requests for safe travels if doing so involves so many free will choices?
“A whole host of other requests could not be granted either, like getting a job promotion or an award in an art contest or the lover we so desire. Nor can he change the course of anything else in human history.”
(2140) Freak accidents
There is a category of accidents that seems to defy the normal way that events converge to cause an unfortunate incident. They are often termed ‘freak accidents.’ Given the claims of most Christians that God is all-seeing, all-powerful, and omnibenevolent, it becomes difficult for apologists to explain them. The following was taken from:
On 25 July 2000, a strip of metal fell off a DC-10 passenger jet as it took off from Charles de Gaulle airport. Five minutes later, when a Concorde jet was taking off, the metal strip punctured one of its tires and ruptured a fuel tank. Within seconds, the plane was engulfed in flames and crashed, killing all 109 passengers and crew.
Just a strip of metal. So trivial.
Please, theists, tell us why an all-powerful God, who knows when even a sparrow falls to the ground, couldn’t have arranged a gush of wind to blow away the metal strip. No one would have been the wiser, and so many prayers for a safe journey would have been answered. And please don’t tell us that it’s a mystery that God neglected to do such a little thing; it’s what we would expect of the attentive Godyou claim is real: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…”
Christian apologists often try to explain the apparent lack of supernatural influence in the world as part of God’s strategy to ensure that at least some measure of faith is required to believe in him. But when it comes to freak accidents, like the Concorde crash, that explanation does not hold water. These types of events seem to fit more comfortably in a godless (or limited god) universe.
(2141) Prominent atheists leading people to hell
In the following, Jesus was quite clear that anyone who influences a Christian to abandon their faith is in very big trouble:
“If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
If Jesus actually said this, then it becomes problematic to explain why he is currently allowing so many prominent atheists to write books, hold seminars, make YouTube videos, and design websites, all of which have the direct effect of ‘causing the little ones to stumble.’ This army of atheists is broadcasting a message that, according to Christian theology, is leading millions of people to hell. Why is God allowing this? Some may claim that God killed Christopher Hitchens before his time, but not before he enjoyed a long career of advancing secular thought, and even today his videos are still enjoying a high rate of viewership.
Some will say that God does not interfere with free will, but the free will of those who are ‘led astray’ by these messages is being affected, not to mention their eternal destiny. This leads to one of two conclusions- God doesn’t care about peoples’ salvation, or he doesn’t exist.
(2142) Mountains of bad decisions
If God is real and has any concern about the performance of his earthly representatives, we would expect him to guide and inspire them to make decisions that lead to the glory of himself and the benefit of humanity. But we observe the opposite. The following was taken from:
When will the Church apologize for, in the 16th century, burning at the stake William Tyndale, whose only crime was translating the Bible into English? for signing the Concordat treaty with the Nazis which dissolved the Catholic opposition party? for signing the Lateran pact with Mussolini that pledged the Pope’s perpetual neutrality in international relations? for the rule of Father Jozef Tiso in the Nazi puppet state in Slovakia and his aid in deporting Jews to extermination camps? for the heresy conviction and sentencing of Michael Servetus for correctly describing pulmonary blood flow? for harboring Ante Pavelić, the banished fascist Ustaše Croatian leader and orchestrator of terror against Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and anti-Fascist Croats and Bosniaks? for supporting Spanish dictator Francisco Franco and Portuguese president Antonio Salazar in their brutal authoritarian takeovers? for helping to provide free legal defense for Tariq Aziz, torturer, mass-murderer and Saddam Hussein’s right-hand man and spokesman? for killing pagans and destroying pagan art, cultural treasures and scientific documents? for Fr. Diego de Landa’s extermination of every last person who understood Mayan heiroglyphs?
This only touches the surface of the awful choices and judgments made by church leaders throughout the past two millennia. Where was God while all of this was going on? Does he simply not care that those who speak for him will be judged harshly by history? Where is his infinite wisdom and inspiration that we would expect to be imparted generously? Does it not make better sense to assume that these leaders made decisions based on their own flawed knowledge and sensibilities, and were thus not connected to a supernatural guiding presence?
(2143) Programmed beliefs
A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center determined that a person’s religious orientation is heavily influenced by their parent’s religion. Further, the consequence created by this situation is strongest when both parents are of the same persuasion. This suggests that religious belief is more of a programmed response rather than the result of an independent analysis of theological evidence. The following was taken from:
Among those who say they were raised exclusively by Protestants, roughly eight-in-ten now identify with Protestantism, including 80% of those raised by two Protestant parents and 75% of those raised by a single parent who was Protestant. Most who were raised exclusively by Protestants but who no longer identify as such are now religious “nones,” with smaller numbers now identifying with Catholicism or other religions.
Among those raised by one Protestant and one religious “none,” 56% now identify with Protestantism, while one-third are religiously unaffiliated (34%). Those who were raised by a Protestant and a Catholic, meanwhile, are divided among those who now identify with Protestantism (38%), Catholicism (29%) and no religion (26%).
Roughly six-in-ten people who were raised exclusively by Catholics now identify with Catholicism, including 62% of those who were raised by two Catholic parents and 58% of those raised by a single parent who was Catholic. By comparison, only about three-in-ten people raised by one Catholic and one non-Catholic parent identify with Catholicism today, including 32% of those raised by one Catholic parent and one religious “none” and 29% of those who come from a mixed Catholic/Protestant background.
If Christianity is true, this would indicate that salvation is a trial that is carried out on a nonlevel playing field. It is heavily influenced by the uncontrolled happenstance of being born to unselected parents.
(2144) Conscious mind goes along for the ride
In Christianity there is an implied assumption that each person is in total conscious control of what they think, do, and believe. That is, we all captain the operation of our brains in the direction of our choice, such that whatever that choice might be, it is our lot and our responsibility. Recent discoveries in brain chemistry have shown this assumption to be untrue. In fact, we have little control over what we like, think, or believe. The following was taken from Eagleman, David. Incognito (Enhanced Edition) (pp. 4-5).
In a recent experiment, men were asked to rank how attractive they found photographs of different women’s faces. The photos were eight by ten inches, and showed women facing the camera or turned in three-quarter profile. Unbeknownst to the men, in half the photos the eyes of the women were dilated, and in the other half they were not. The men were consistently more attracted to the women with dilated eyes.
Remarkably, the men had no insight into their decision making. None of them said, “I noticed her pupils were two millimeters larger in this photo than in this other one.” Instead, they simply felt more drawn toward some women than others, for reasons they couldn’t quite put a finger on. So who was doing the choosing? In the largely inaccessible workings of the brain, something knew that a woman’s dilated eyes correlates with sexual excitement and readiness. Their brains knew this, but the men in the study didn’t—at least not explicitly. The men may also not have known that their notions of beauty and feelings of attraction are deeply hardwired, steered in the right direction by programs carved by millions of years of natural selection. When the men were choosing the most attractive women, they didn’t know that the choice was not theirs, really, but instead the choice of successful programs that had been burned deep into the brain’s circuitry over the course of hundreds of thousands of generations.
This is one small example revealing the surprising truth of how our brains operate. What this means for Christianity is that its macabre threat of hellfire for non-believers is incredibly cruel if belief itself is outside of the conscious control of its victims. Nobody writing the gospel books had any inkling of this situation. Perhaps if the faith were being developed today, it would kinder and gentler.
(2145) Giant Nephilites
The Bible speaks of a time when the ‘sons of God,’ presumably angels or other supernatural creatures, had sex with human women and produced giant people, called Nephilites. Here are four translations of Genesis 6:4
Good News Translation:
In those days, and even later, there were giants on the earth who were descendants of human women and the heavenly beings. They were the great heroes and famous men of long ago.
New Living Translation
In those days, and for some time after, giant Nephilites lived on the earth, for whenever the sons of God had intercourse with women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes and famous warriors of ancient times.
King James Bible
There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
New International Version
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days–and also afterward–when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
There is no evidence to support this preposterous claim and so it can safely be placed in the mythical realm among many others in the Bible. What is interesting is that the latest Biblical translation, the New International Version, can be seen to subtly apologize for this verse’s existence by watering down the precise message of the original Greek- gone are any references to giants or the suggestion that the ‘sons of God’ were anything other than human men. When translators play this game, it is a good clue that we are dealing with something other than reality.
(2146) Humans worship themselves
Throughout history, humans have created gods that, in one form or another, represent the highest achievements of themselves. Thus, in effect, their religions are a means to worship themselves. The following was taken from:
The last people to realize that they profane the concept of the divine are theists. As the saying goes fish are the last to realize they are surrounded by water. Theism invariable creates god(s) that are based upon exaggerated human forms. Often referring to God as a father, king of kings, lord of lords, a warrior. The god of theisms has human motivation and characteristics – desires glory and submission of his subjects, is wrathful and jealous, sits on a throne, comes down from heaven, etc. The list is long.
The more you study actually practiced religion one comes away with the impression that humans never really worship anything but themselves. We make god in our image and turn god quite literally into a monkey. Nontheists do not profane the concept of the divine in this manner.
Any true god would transcend human characteristics, but such a being was beyond the imagination of the men who created all of the earthly religions. So we are left with the pedestrian, all-too-humanlike gods of our time. Given the maturation of society over the past several centuries, it is possible that a new god could be invented that would merit the title of the divine, but such an effort would ultimately fail in an information-infused world where proof of existence includes photographs and falsifiable evidence.
(2147) Paul and Mark conflict
Paul wrote the epistles before any gospel was written and so he seemed to be uninformed about what would later become conventional wisdom concerning Jesus’s history. In the following, a fatal contradiction exists between what Paul wrote and what Mark would later document as his story of Jesus’s death:
The problems abound when the gospels are studied against the background of the epistles. The apostle Paul, for example, wrote his letters well before the gospels existed, and seems to have known precious little about Jesus—and had no interest in finding out. Paul blustered along, writing reams of theology, little suspecting that he was undermining stories that the later gospel writers would tell.
Consider, for example, an excerpt from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 13:1-4:
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but too bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good.”
The governing authorities are the good guys. For Paul, that meant the Roman authorities. He seems to have been unaware that Jesus was crucified by the Roman authorities, prodded to do so by the religious governing authorities, at least according to the story that the author of Mark’s gospel would make so famous, and that the other gospel writers would build on.
It’s difficult to reconcile the writings of these two men, other than to conclude that Paul was unaware of the circumstances of Jesus’s death, or that Mark was unaware of this passage in the Romans epistle. In any case, the contradiction exists and it’s not going away.
(2148) Post-internecine slaughter revelation?
If Christians are correct and God is watching all that is going on, he certainly must have been witnessing the warfare that was being waged among various groups of Christians in the past few centuries, each having a different view of the correct Christian faith. Obviously, God would not want this ‘in-house’ slaughter to continue, so he would make a revelation to clear up the disagreements and set his church on the right heading, right? The following was taken from:
Matthew 10: 34-36. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be the members of his own family.”
I found a connection between lessons of personal experience and the lessons of history. I was watching, “The Real War of Thrones: The Wars of Religion,” online at Curiosity Stream. It was about wars fought for dominance by Christian denominations, with thousands upon thousands killed. And it wasn’t only between nations dominated by different interpretations of what the one true faith meant. They were also within nations. In England, Queen Elizabeth I, the Protestant, was conflicted against her Catholic sister Mary, Queen of Scots. Then there’s Catherine de Medici in France, one moment issuing a decree guaranteeing the religious rights of Protestants, and the next, rescinding the decree, re-starting their slaughter. Also, in France, there were two royal brothers belonging to different faiths, one Catholic, the other Protestant. While one brother’s armies slaughtered Catholics, the other’s slaughtered Protestants. If a king or queen changed from one sect to another and back to the original, each time it happened it was woe to those who did not belong to the preferred sect! These were Ages of Faith.
Protestant, Roman Catholic, Calvinist, Huguenot, etc.; each claimed to be the “one true faith,” and each used the same scriptures held in common to justify their tortures, enslavements, and slaughters. Many became martyrs, each dying horribly for their chosen faiths. That Jesus claim of “sword, not peace” extended outside families, as the flames of faith were devouring nations. After all the destruction, bloodshed, and torturing, did they prove who was right, who was wrong, or were they all wrong? You know the answer. They were wars fought over opinions. My friend wisely refers to them as wars fought over hearsay.
What was the ultimate outcome of Jesus’ “sword, not peace?” Well, after those decades of wars fought in face-to-face-combat, of persecutions, tortures, burnings at the stake, beheadings, and so on, God couldn’t stand it any longer, so he, in his compassion and peace-making, revealed which is His One True Faith, didn’t he?
Once again, what transpired within this tragic period of history is fully consistent with Christianity being a false, man-made, construction of tangled ideas about the nature of God. And it is fully inconsistent with an all-seeing, all-powerful god who oversees the entire scope of human history.
(2149) Christian sarcophagi contradicts scripture
The carved images of early Christianity tell stories that often depart from what is recounted in the earliest manuscripts. This offers a window that illuminates the actual theologies that existed at that time, mainly because editing carvings was more difficult than doing the same with written texts. It was easy to destroy or modify texts that did not match what was later determined to be orthodox dogma, while the stone art was simply there, on the buildings, and remain to this day for investigation. It is these stories told in stone, many of which cast Jesus into the role of a wand-carrying magician, that allow us to conclude that early Christianity was not as uniform as Christians would like to assume. The following was taken from:
Jesus commonly appears on ancient Christian sarcophagi in the role of a magician. This comes as a surprise to many modern viewers. Catholic tradition holds that the diversity in early Christian belief stems from heresies that branched out from an original kernel of orthodoxy. This view of the roots of the early diversity in Christian belief is difficult to reconcile with the books of the New Testament – which presumably represent the earliest Christian writings – let alone the heretical works refuted by early apologists like Justin Martyr and Tertullian. Christian history also holds that, while Gnostic sects like the Valentinians existed in the city of Rome, they had died off there or conformed by the third century, and that Christian belief at that time was very similar to that of today. In contrast, the imagery from ancient Roman sarcophagi, carved in stone, is evidence of incompletely-formed Christianity in Rome late into the 4th century. This funerary imagery clearly shows the problem with interpreting the ancient Christian community solely through texts of the clergy.
Christian sarcophagi have been grossly overlooked as a tool for studying early Christianity. They’re much less vulnerable to being revised to alter their details or meaning to conform to current theology than are written materials. This is true despite the merciless “restoration” work visible on many of the sarcophagi, performed, for example, by antique dealers seeking to increase an item’s value or perhaps by 18th century apologists nervous about the lack of crosses in early Christian art. These restorations are usually very apparent, and rarely obscure the original composition (occasionally providing humor, when the deceased woman’s portrait is recarved as Jesus, or when a soldier is recarved as Peter). Furthermore, extant sarcophagi have come down to us through a much more random (less selective) process than have Christian texts, which, independent of any rewriting, have been selected for their suitability to ecclesiastic agendas while others were either banned or abandoned and forgotten. Where we have only tiny scraps of the earliest Christian manuscripts, there is a wealth of ancient information written in stone that can be inspected first-hand by anyone with access to the world’s great museums and churches. To be sure, some sarcophagi have been reworked and others are modern forgeries, but many exist, particularly in Rome, with imagery that can be solidly identified as 3rd and 4th century work. Surprisingly, the stories told by sarcophagus imagery are often different from those of the gospels.
No Christian sarcophagi can be firmly dated to earlier than the third century, and even these are rare and disputed. Various theories have been proposed for this lack of evidence of early Christianity. Some suggest, on the basis of Exodus 20:4 (“shall not make for yourself an idol”), that the earliest Christians rejected icons like the Jews of the same period. This seems unlikely, especially since evidence shows that Judaism was not completely aniconic during the same period. For example, 20th century excavations at Dura Europos revealed an early synagogue with rich iconography. The earliest Christian writers report that Christian clothing and household objects were richly decorated with biblical illustrations. These early writers, such as Tertullian (On Modesty, 7.1) and Clement of Alexandria (The Instructor, 3.11.59 – “let our seals be either a dove, or a fish, or a ship scudding before the wind, or a musical lyre…”) did not appear to be critical of such usages of Christian art. Charles Murray, in his exhaustive investigation, concluded that there was no real condemnation by early church fathers of non-idolatrous iconography in the early centuries of Christianity. Archaeological evidence suggests that lively art was a prominent feature of early Christianity.
A more likely reason for the lack of Christian art before the fourth century is that the number of Christians was very small. Written accounts describing Christianity as an important component of first and second century Rome are now increasingly thought to be later forgeries. Analysis of the authenticity of secular mentions of Christianity are beyond the scope of this discussion, but a few summary points are useful. For example, the brief mentions of Christianity in Josephus, and Suetonius are sufficiently problematic (e.g., brevity, inconsistent language, lack of citation by subsequent writers whose point would benefit from citing it) to raise questions of their authenticity. Likewise, Tacitus’s description of the “vast multitude” of Christians persecuted by Nero is inconsistent with other contemporaneous Roman histories, Even the descriptions of Paul’s ministry in Rome in the Acts of the Apostles suggest that Christianity was a tiny club at the time of Nero. If authentic, Tacitus’s passage indicates his disgust with Nero and perhaps the attitudes toward Christians in Tacitus’ time. Against its authenticity, Eusebius, the church historian of the fourth century, makes no mention of the passage when it clearly would have been in his interest to do so.
From the study of the stone figures, it can be concluded that Jesus was popularly seen to be a magician, that Christianity was not uniform in its theology at least until the 4th Century, and that Christianity was a much smaller sect during the first three centuries than is typically assumed. The stones tell a different story than the scrolls, and their permanence makes them a more reliable source of the truth.
(1250) Is the Bible really holy?
When you strip the Bible of its virtually impenetrable veneer of imputed sacredness and view it as a regular book, it leads one to question how it could be categorized as holy, or even as being inspired by a transcendent divine creator. In the following, this leads to a dead-end non sequitur:
Suppose I told you that I considered a particular book to be holy and/or sacred. Suppose I told you that I considered it to be the inspired word of some sort of god(s). Now imagine that you were curious and decided to read this particular book. To your horror, you discovered that it contains passages that seem to instruct people to kill people like you. What would you think of such a book? And more importantly, what would you think of me for claiming that such a book is holy?
When you confront me with your discovery, I attempt to explain away the disturbing passages you found. “They aren’t intended to be taken literally,” I insist. Do you find that particularly comforting? After all, I’ve been telling you that this book is holy, sacred, etc. “These words were meant for a different people living in a different time,” I say. But the words strike you as being very clear and unambiguous instructions. And once again, I’m the one who has been claiming that this book is something special, divinely inspired even. I’ve even gone so far as to claim that this book is a guide for how one should live one’s life. “You are just taking it out of context,” I exclaim. But you have read the words for yourself. You have seen the context around them and found their meaning to be obvious. “Oh, I just ignore that part,” I explain. I selectively ignore parts of my own holy book? Isn’t this the same book that I claim to be divinely inspired?
The book I claim to be holy, sacred, and/or divinely inspired contains unambiguous passages stating that people like you should be murdered. Maybe you don’t believe in the right gods. Maybe you walked away from a particular faith tradition (i.e., apostasy). Maybe you are gay or lesbian. Whatever the case, my “sacred” book says you should be killed. Even if I try to reassure you that I don’t aim to kill you and that I would not condone others killing you, how could you possibly not think less of me for promoting such a book? Remember, I’ve been claiming that this book is holy and/or sacred. How could you ever feel truly safe around me?
Now imagine how much worse things might seem to you if you were to learn that countless people had actually been killed by those using my book as justification, that this had been going on for centuries, and that it was still happening today. That is, people like you are still being killed because of this book and others like it. Even if you were persuaded by the suggestion that the only ones still doing this were “extremists” or “fanatics,” I think we can agree that this would give you pause. And I think you might be justified in thinking less of me for extolling the virtues of such a book.
Fortunately, I am an atheist. I recognize that no books are holy or sacred. I am aware of no book that instructs me to kill people like you. And if I were to learn of such a book, I would certainly not go around claiming that it was holy, sacred, divinely inspired, or a perfect guide for how to live one’s life.
This would be like walking into a room with a carpet that is stained in one section by a wine spill, and exclaiming, ‘What a beautiful carpet!’ while ignoring or even refusing to look at the stain. You might acknowledge the stain, but say that the rest of the carpet looks great, so the stain doesn’t matter at all. In other words, you are not seeing in a holistic fashion, but rather playing a game of selective vision. That is exactly what every Christian is doing.
Please follow this link to #2151