What to Do about Your Dead-Again Jesus?


The New Testament excels at self-sabotage
Knowing what we do about the Cosmos, what happens with cherished Bible stories? The British scholar A.N. Wilson remarked, about the Ascension of Jesus in Act 1, “…a man ascending vertically from the Mount of Olives, by whatever means of miraculous propulsion, would pass into orbit.” (Jesus, p. 3) In response to my Flash Podcast on the ascension, Scott McKellar wrote, “In the course of his ascension, at around 15,000 feet, Jesus began to wish he had brought a sweater. At 30,000 feel he felt weak from lack of oxygen. By 100,000 his bodily fluids were boiling away from every orifice. If he ever did return, it would be as a fifty-pound lump of bone and frozen jerky.”

Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson On Losing One's Religion

A few weeks ago bestselling author Joshua Harris announced he's renounced his religion, saying "I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is 'deconstruction', the biblical phrase is 'falling away.' By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian." LINK. Then more recently Marty Sampson of the worship team Hillsong announced his religious faith "is on incredibly shaky ground." LINK. He names a few atheists he's been listening to. Guess who is one of them!

After Marty made his announcement I contacted him, and we're messaging a bit. I told him I know it's a struggle. I was there at one time. It's gut wrenching with lots of confusion and disappointment to consider my life was build on a delusion. I wept and prayed daily to god for months to help me and even send me a sign if he would. I received nothing in response.

People who wonder about the evidential weight of Conversion/Defection stories might be helped by reading what I've written previously.

For the record, in the years 1992-98 when I was in the throes of doubt myself, there was one song I played hundreds of times in hopes my god would reach out to me as I shouted out to him, "Shout to the Lord" (1994) by Hillsong:

Do Atheists Steal Key Concepts From the Christian Faith?

This is the claim of Frank Turek, who made it into a list of the top ten Christian apologists. Franz Kiekeben, who writes here for DC, informs us that
Frank Turek...believes that, in order to make any meaningful claims, atheists have to appropriate concepts that only make sense if there is a God. That is why we “steal” from God — and why on his view atheism is self-defeating.

But even though presuppositionalism strikes me as rather desperate, I have to admit that the idea behind Turek’s book is pretty clever. In six chapters, he considers six areas in which the atheist supposedly steals from the Christian worldview: causality, reason, information and intentionality, morality, evil, and science. These six form (well, almost) the acronym C.R.I.M.E.S. – the crimes against theism.
If you want to read a blow by blow rebuttal of these atheist "CRIMES" then read what Kiekeben said (first published here on DC). LINK. Pass it on. Refer to it when these claims come up. Refer to it often.

Christianity Gets Slam-Dunked


A review of Tim Sledge’s Four Disturbing Questions with One Simple Answer
The Richard Dawkins 7-point scale, for rating the strength of belief or non-belief, has been widely referenced. Number 1 is Strong Theist, “I do not question the existence of God. I know he exists.” Number 7 is Strong Atheist, “I am 100% sure there is no God.” This is a useful guide, far more than many atheists realize. I am sometimes scolded by other atheists for ‘wasting my time’ debunking Christianity. “They never listen,” so I’m told. But note that Number 3 on the Dawkins Scale is Weak Theist, “I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.”

I’ve long maintained that Christians exist on a scale of 1 to 10, although I’ve never bothered to define each of the numbers, other than to say that the 10s are probably unreachable; these are the evangelicals and fundamentalists. Good luck trying to penetrate. But then there are the 5s, those who go through the motions out of habit, show up at church, but who have unvoiced doubts. They have noticed things that don’t make sense, and are skeptical of Preacher Answers. Just one book, just one article—about a big flaw in the faith—coming to their attention, somehow, can start the process of walking away.

Snake Worshippers! This Could Be You!

All it would take is for you to be born in a Hindu family in Prayagraj, India. Then you too would worship snakes! You would be convinced they heal you when ill. You could not be talked out of your culturally adopted religion. And you would be going to hell for not believing in Jesus, according to theology. Wouldn't you want to know which religion is true, if there is one? There is a way. Reject it at your own peril.

“A Simple Misunderstanding that Changed the Course of History”


The deep roots of Christian apologetics
“Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool.” There is some truth to this claim, but not enough. Our distant ancestors—those who first believed that priests could channel gods—were not fools: they managed to survive in perilous environments, and that took some doing. Fools no, but not gifted with critical thinking skills either. They did have imaginations, however, and were thus very susceptible to stories—as we are today.

It seems we’re wired to become heavily invested emotionally in stories; modern examples include The Hobbit, Game of Thrones, Downton Abby, Harry Potter, and comic book superheroes; the characters grab us. We can’t get enough. But what if you can convince people that God himself had written a particular story? And that believing the story is the key for escaping death: you win eternal life if you accept the story with all your heart, mind, and soul. Religious professionals of all genres exploit this level of emotional investment.

The Amount of Horrific Suffering Makes The Existence of God Improbable

Recently I participated in an online debate on an omni-god and suffering. My Catholic opponent mostly quoted from the Bible and Church fathers. Like so many others he had a strategy of nitpicking and using up my time in the cross-examination. Here are my opening and closing statements.

My 10 minute Opening Statement:

Believers will argue that not even a god could create a world without some minimal level of suffering in it. But what about the amount of horrific suffering that exists? That’s my focus.

Here’s the problem: If a god exists who is all-knowing, all-powerful and perfectly good, then the amount of horrific suffering in our world needs an explanation. Either this god isn’t smart enough to eliminate it, or isn’t powerful enough to eliminate it, or doesn’t care enough to eliminate it. The reason is that an all-knowing god would know how to eliminate it, an all-powerful god has the power to eliminate it, and a perfectly good god would want to eliminate it.

For the sake of argument what if such a god exists?

Is a Real Jesus Hiding Anywhere in the New Testament?


A Review of R. G. Price’s Deciphering the Gospels Proves Jesus Never Existed
It’s standard practice for art dealers to provide documentation that the works they sell are the real thing; ideally there will be a paper trail showing ownership back to the original artist. At the end of movies there are several minutes of rolling credits, hundreds of names, of all the people who helped make the film. At the end of any biography, the reader can find the sources used, commonly hundreds of them: this is where the information comes from—and any curious researcher can find them as well.

A couple of hundred years ago, Bible scholars began to grapple with the inconvenient truth that the gospels—those iconic titles, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—have no such anchors: No documentation, credits at the end, or identified sources. They seem to position themselves as history, but what’s the evidence for that?

The Claim That There Are No Atheists


Instead of answering atheists' arguments, some believers just deny that there is such a thing as atheism. On their view, everyone knows that there is a God, and so-called atheists simply block out that fact because they don't want there to be someone who makes moral demands on them. (As everyone knows, we atheists just want to be able to do whatever we feel like, morality be damned — which explains why we are always robbing banks and torturing puppies.) But what reasons are there for thinking this is the case? Several have been suggested.

One common argument states that no one can consistently live like an atheist. So-called atheists obey moral rules, for example, which they should have no reason to obey. For according to atheism, it is said, it is no better to be kind and help those in need than to be a serial rapist and murderer. Yet many so-called atheists speak out against injustices in the world, and in doing so reveal that they are not true heathens.

Daniel C. Maguire, My Other Professor, Is Much Closer to the Truth

Some say I haven't considered liberalism. Hogwash! My major professor for my PhD program at Marquette University was Daniel C. Maguire, author of this book: "Christianity Without God: Moving Beyond the Dogmas and Retrieving the Epic Moral Narrative" (SUNY, 2014). Forget William Lane Craig. Maguire is much closer to the truth. LINK. My problem with him is that he's an enabler to the kinds of Christianity that cause harm.

Dr. Robert Price's Newest Book is in the House!

World renown biblical scholar Robert M. Price just stunned me by dedicating his latest book to me (see below)! I have to admit what he said is also a brilliant two-way slam against the Bible and William Lane Craig! Thanks Bob, it means a lot to know you love what I do! I never saw that coming. The book looks fantastic too. I hope others get it and read it. LINK. I must say Bob is a super duper wonderful guy as well as a first class biblical scholar whom I consider a personal friend.

Heads up, together we're making plans for an anthology on Jesus Mythicism. So stay tuned!

Religion is Cultural All the Way Down

More photos. When asked why one's religion is true over others, believers will typically point to their unique differences. But religious differences are only evidence of differences.

Differences don't show the truth of a religion, since all different religions have differences by definition!

Shame on Us for Flaunting Atheism?


…as long as Christians are reigning-champion flaunters?
I think it would be really cool to have a T-shirt made for myself:

Back: A picture of the cover of my book.

But where could I wear it without running the risk of getting beat up? Especially these days when religious folks are enflamed about being persecuted. At the very least, I’m sure I would be scolded for flaunting my atheism. “Why do you have to be so in our faces about it? Please keep it to yourself!”

Christians have enjoyed majority status for so long, it’s hard for them to grasp that they are champion flaunters: it’s part of what they do! They want to be noticed, they insist on being noticed, and they spare no expense getting noticed. Atheists have a long way to go before we can match flaunt for flaunt.

Was Jesus Potty Trained? by Jack Pyle

Now this is a hilarious question, which now claims the title to a book, Was Jesus Potty Trained? Professor Dale Allison recommends it. Here is the description:


One hundred twenty-six million American citizens have stated they believe Jesus will return to this earth by 2050. Most of them await his arrival with mental pictures and images obtained from the blockbuster Left Behind series of books of LaHaye and Jenkins, or Hal Lindsey's portrayals in his book The Late Great Planet Earth. Both books are fictional images of the end of the world created from the nightmarish and ghoulish descriptions of the author of the book of Revelation who wrote of events he believed were to occur in the Roman world before the return of Jesus. It was to be a time of unimaginable horrors to come upon the world. We read daily of alleged apocalyptic signs occurring now which individuals believe point to the end of the age of which Jesus spoke.

Stephen Hawking On the Nonexistence of God

It’s my view that the simplest explanation is that there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realisation: there is probably no heaven and afterlife either. I think belief in an afterlife is just wishful thinking. There is no reliable evidence for it, and it flies in the face of everything we know in science. I think that when we die we return to dust. But there’s a sense in which we live on, in our influence, and in our genes that we pass on to our children. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that I am extremely grateful.
Hawking also explains himself in his last book of questions and answers, which can be seen in this excellent write up by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings

Things We Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said


A Series of Flash Podcasts, Episodes 1 to 12

A challenge for Christians: If you’re so sure Jesus existed, then you have some explaining to do. A major frustration is that, while believers are indignant at all the talk about Jesus not existing, they don’t know the issues that fuel the skepticism—and are unwilling to inform themselves.

For the sake of argument, I’m willing to say, okay, Jesus was real and, yes, we have gospels that tell the story. But Christians are in just as much trouble. An observation by Dr. Jaco Gericke should snap them to attention:

A Bible Book Of Blunders


Introduction to a new series of articles
It doesn’t take much for the religious impulse to kick in. The thousands of gods that humans have imagined is proof of that, and there’s an episode in the Book of Acts that shows how easy it is to say, “Hey, there’s a god at work here.” In the final chapter of Acts (28), we read that, following shipwreck, the apostle Paul made it to the shores of Malta.

“Paul had gathered a bundle of brushwood and was putting it on the fire, when a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, 'This man must be a murderer; though he has escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.' He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They were expecting him to swell up or drop dead, but after they had waited a long time and saw that nothing unusual had happened to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.” (vv. 3-6)

Dr. Chris Gadsden Obfuscates On The Outsider Test for Faith

Dr. Chris Gadsden
I must admit it's kind of gratifying when Christian philosophers take a look at the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF), which I've defended online and in my book. Recently Dr. Chris Gadsden decided to look at it. He has earned two master’s degrees and one PhD in philosophy (University of Missouri). He appears to be some sort of expert on proper belief formation, as seen in his PhD dissertation, Epistemic duties and blameworthiness for belief. He also appears as the kind of guy who doesn't hunker down in the trenches willing to die rather than admit he might be wrong about something. We'll see, because he begins with a misunderstanding by saying, "Lots of internet atheists promote the 'outsider test' (OTF) as a potent weapon against Christians. But how potent is it? Let’s have a look."

Not-Your-Pastor’s Tour of Mark’s Gospel


The falsification of Christianity made easy
I recently completed, here on the Debunking Christianity Blog, my series of articles on all sixteen chapters of Mark’s gospel. Here are the links:

Introduction: Getting the Gospels Off on the Wrong Foot

Chapter 1: Did Jesus Graduate from Hogwarts?

Chapter 2: A Charming Bible Story and Its Bad Theology

Chapter 3: How Come Jesus Didn’t Know Better?

Rejecting The Outsider Test Means One's Faith Lacks Objective Evidence!

Summing up the main goal of my book The Outsider Test for Faith, I would say its goal is to get believers to think exclusively in terms of the objective evidence, and to proportion their beliefs based on the strength of that evidence. That's it! If it appears to be a threat to Christianity and other religions, it's not the fault of the test. It's the fault of the woeful lack of evidence for these religions. The OTF seeks to peel back the blinders of indoctrination and bias so believers can *see* for the first time that which they see when looking at other religious faiths. When looking at other religious faiths believers require sufficient objective evidence for them, or at least, they see the reasonableness of this evidential requirement. Believers need to see this same requirement with regard to their own religious faith. The OTF seeks to do away with confirmation bias as much as possible, so believers can start requiring objective evidence commensurate with the religious beliefs they were taught on their Mama's knees.

But this isn't what most believers see when it comes to the OTF. That's because they tacitly realize their faith would fail the test of objective evidence. So by disagreeing with the OTF they are disagreeing with the requirement for objective evidence for one's faith. To the degree then, that believers see the OTF "as a potent weapon against Christians", they're admitting there isn't sufficient objective evidence for their doctrines.

Dr. Darren Slade Disavows Liberty University, His Alma Mater

Professor David Eller first informed me of Darren Slade, who took some classes with him before attending and earning a PhD in theology from Liberty University, the one founded by Jerry Falwell. Dr. Slade has written a chapter for my anthology "The Case against Miracles" to be released in September (hopefully). He has also disavowed his alma mater! Read his testimony to understand why.

His testimony mirrors mine and many others who study in Evangelical colleges. It expresses the need for thinking outside the box of one's culturally adopted religious faith. He wrote:

Why Are Christians Okay with Torture?


“Sinners in the hands of an angry God”
When I was quite young I asked my mother if hell was at the fiery center of the earth. Devout Christian that she was, I never heard her talk much about hell, and she gave a hearty laugh to my question. No! was her response. She could say, about a lot of things in the Bible, “You can’t take that literally.”

Born in 1905 in southern Indiana, she had somehow escaped fundamentalism. She’d never gone to college, but read voraciously her whole life. She had picked up enough knowledge of the world to realize that neither heaven nor hell had locations in the geography of the cosmos. They were states of nearness to, or alienation from, God—or so she said. Maybe she’d heard some preachers with a touch of common sense. But alienation is watered-down hell; it is hard to deduct wrath from the Christian equation.

A Challenge for Christian Apologists

Here is a challenge to Christian apologists. How much time do you set aside reading books and essays outside your comfort zone? Let me be specific here. I have this book coming out in the Fall. Are you planning on reading it? There is no better way to become an apologist than to know the arguments of the opposition better than they do. You should try it. Here's some other helpful advice:

The Weakness of Christian Explanations of Evil


Here are a couple of the “reasonable Christian responses” (as he calls them) that apologist John M. DePoe offers for the existence of natural evils (True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism, ed. Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer, pp. 218-219):

(1) There cannot be free will in any meaningful sense unless the world is governed by laws that make it behave in a sufficiently regular manner. These laws, however, “are also the cause of various phenomena, like hurricanes, tornadoes, and diseases.” It follows that one cannot avoid the existence of such natural disasters without eliminating our ability to exercise free will.

(2) Natural evils aren’t intrinsically evil; they are only bad when they harm moral agents. It follows that “if people had not chosen to settle in an area prone to tornado activity or on a fault line, there would be no associated evil event.”

How to Tell If You’re a Real Christian


The fast-track answer in Mark’s gospel
New Yorkers in a rush tend to be impatient with strolling tourists gawking at the skyscrapers…“Welcome to New York, now go home.” No, we don’t say it. But then there was the tourist I saw recently, whose t-shirt was a testimony: “You‘all Need Jesus.” So many things I wanted to say to him…but didn’t. I wanted to bang by head against the nearest wall…but didn’t.

Christians especially seem be clueless about the problem of Jesus. The glaring negatives about Jesus are on full view in the gospels. Is this the Jesus we need? Which Jesus are we supposed to believe?

Norman Geisler, Christian Apologist Extraordinaire, Dead at 86

Just two months into retirement Norman Geisler died Monday at age 86. See here. He will be missed. He was quite the accomplished apologist having influenced a generation of evangelical apologists, including William Lane Craig, who was my mentor for my Th.M. degree in the Philosophy of Religion, when I studied at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) from 1982-85. you can think of this progression, from Geisler to Craig to me! Actually there were two evangelical thinkers who had a good deal of influence on Craig, Geisler and Stuart Hackett, whom I also studied with at TEDS. The biggest influence on me was James D. Strauss. [Click here to see a photo of Strauss with Craig and me in 1985.]

You can hear Geisler's story of how he became a Christian in an interview with Justin Brierley on the Unbelievable program in 2008. Listen to it here beginning at 16:40.

While I didn't study with Geisler he tried to convince me I was wrong to leave the faith in a series of back and forth emails in 2007. He read my magnum opus Why I Became an Atheist, and recommended it using these words:
A thoughtful and intellectually challenging work presenting arguments that every honest theist and Christian should face.
Below you can read William Lane Craig's indebtedness to Norman Geisler (seen on the Reasonable Faith Facebook page):

One Ad Hoc Built On Top Of Another, Greg Koukl On People Who Have Never Heard the Gospel

This video was posted on Facebook by Cameron Bertuzzi who interviewed apologist Greg Koukl. It was on how their god could send people to hell who never heard the gospel. How could a good god do that? It's instructive of the ways on an apologist. You should watch it. There are plenty of things to learn, most notably how to obfuscate, or hide the truth.

Yes, yes, yes, there is so much to say, and not enough time. Regardless, here are several of my comments put into one response below (along with a link):

Questioning the Resurrection, Part 3 (of 3)


By Robert Conner, with interpolations by David Madison
[Note from David Madison: This article was written by Robert Conner, who asked me to review it and add whatever comments I wanted. I contributed about 15 percent of what you’re about to read.]

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

In the era in which Christianity appeared, a clear majority accepted visions and the appearance of ghosts as real events, and lived in the expectation of omens, prophetic dreams, and other close encounters of the supernatural kind. Like many people of the present, they were primed for self-delusion, expecting the inexplicable, accepting the uncanny. Given the mass of contradictions and implausibility in the resurrection stories, who bears the greater burden of proof, the apologist who claims the gospels record eyewitness history or the skeptic who can point to modern “sightings” such as apparitions of the Virgin Mary?

Questioning the Resurrection, Part 2 (of 3)


By Robert Conner, with interpolations by David Madison

[Note from David Madison: This article was written by Robert Conner, who asked me to review it and add whatever comments I wanted. I contributed about 15 percent of what you’re about to read.]

Part 1 is here.

If you still have questions, that’s understandable. For starters, if a hoard of dead men proved Jesus had risen, why didn’t Jesus His Own Damn Self just show up in Jerusalem? What could have been more convincing than Jesus Himself back from the dead, clothed in shining raiment, appearing to the Jewish and Roman leaders? After all, when the high priest asked Jesus, “Are you the Christ, the son of the Blessed One?” didn’t Jesus finally break silence and tell the court, “I am! And you (plural) will see the son of man seated at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven!” (Mark 14:61-62) Whatever happened to all that I’ll-show-you-and-then-you’ll-be-sorry blow and jive from Jesus’ trial? Why didn’t Jesus appear post mortem to his persecutors and settle the question of his resurrection then and there, once and for all, as he promised at his trial?

Why Doesn’t Bible Chaos Bother Christians?


…enough for them to just say, “NO”

In The Adventure of the Final Problem, published in 1893 in The Strand magazine, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes. Twenty thousand enraged fans canceled their subscriptions to the magazine. When Doyle published The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1901 (he set the story before Holmes’ death), there were 30,000 new subscribers instantly. It is just a fact that humans make huge emotional investments in stories; more modern examples include, of course, Downton Abby, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones.

Good fun, right? But religion has demonstrated a particular talent for exploiting our attachment to stories; even I appreciated Father Andrew Greeley’s charming description of the role of stories in Catholic piety. Obviously, however, many different, competing religions have claimed that their stories hold the key to achieving favor with the gods, and above all, for escaping death. Christianity has specialized in the eternal life promise: “You’ll get there if you just do this.”