Jesus Eclipsed: Part 2


In my initial post, I shared a bit about who I am and what led me to write Jesus Eclipsed: How Searching the Scriptures Got in the Way of Recounting the Facts. Here, I want to discuss what the book tries to accomplish.

The book begins with some preliminary matters. The first chapter introduces several pioneers of historical Jesus studies, and the second chapter clarifies the historian’s task, which is to establish probabilities. What most often compromises historical Jesus research is the failure to maintain a clear distinction between what is plausible and what is probable. Let me clarify the problem with two examples that receive more detailed treatment in the book.

Most historicists have acknowledged that the story of Jesus creating a disturbance in the Temple is completely implausible given what is known about the vast dimensions of the area involved and the strong likelihood that Roman troops and Temple guards would have intervened. Even so, many of these same scholars insist that some such event must have occurred because they see no way to account for the story otherwise. In their attempts to salvage the historicity of the incident, they minimize the scope of the disruption by removing implausible elements and then speculate that the Gospels must have exaggerated what really happened. Proponents of this approach seem quite confident that this patchwork of supposition provides sufficient evidence to label the event “probable.” I disagree.

Most mythicists have gone to extraordinary lengths to raise doubts about the meaning of Paul’s reference to “James the Lord’s brother” (Gal 1:19). They admit that the phrase appears in what critics agree is an authentic Pauline letter. They note that the apostle often uses the word brother in a spiritual sense (true, though no contextual clues support that usage in the present case). Then they insist that there is no reason to think that Paul is talking about a person whom he knows as a biological sibling of Jesus. Proponents of this approach call this sort of speculation “probable” not because it is the best explanation of the evidence but because it provides an excuse to ignore inconvenient evidence. I disagree.

No discussion of the ongoing debate between mythicists and historicists would be complete without rounding up the usual non-Christian sources (Pliny, Suetonius, Tacitus, and Josephus) and evaluating what they can add to the conversation, and my book has fulfilled that obligation. Scholars agree that—with one important exception—those writers provide no independent evidence for the historicity of Jesus. That exception is Josephus’ second reference to Jesus (Ant. 20.9.1). Of course, the consensus of scholarship is not evidence, but recent efforts to challenge that consensus have not adequately refuted the traditional arguments.

For those unfamiliar with the debate about Jesus’ historicity, my book also offers a chapter that details what the letters of Paul say about Jesus (almost nothing) and then a subsequent chapter that catalogs various gospel traditions that historians have always regarded as dubious: factual inaccuracies, anachronisms, contradictions, and miracles or other incidences of the supernatural.

Three chapters of my book involve an important insight that few scholars have taken seriously enough. In his classic study, The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined (first published in 1835), David Friedrich Strauss points out an effective criterion for identifying materials in the Gospels that should be viewed as mythical. He observes, “[W]hen we find details in the life of Jesus evidently sketched after the pattern of [earlier biblical] prophecies and prototypes, we cannot but suspect that they are rather mythical than historical” (89).

In his book Poetry, Narrative, History [1990], British literary critic Frank Kermode notes the prevalence of this technique: “[T]he creation of fictive history or historicized fiction by the development of ancient narrative germs…is a dominant characteristic of New Testament narrative” (47). In his book Who Killed Jesus? [1995], Dominic Crossan sees the same thing and dubs it “prophecy historicized” (1-4). In his book The Christ Myth Theory and Its Problems [2011], Robert Price demonstrates that numerous stories found in the Gospels derive from a use of this technique, which he designates as “Old Testament midrash” (59-263). Clearly, the idea is not new; yet, for some reason, it receives far too little attention.

The real thrust of my book focuses on the significant implications of this one insight, which I have summarized this way: Many stories about Jesus likely owe their existence not to genuine recollections of actual events handed down (distorted?) by oral tradition (as historical Jesus scholars have typically claimed) but to invented memories of fictitious events worked up from Old Testament texts.

Once we realize how many stories about Jesus owe their existence to this practice of recasting some earlier scriptural passage, we will find it rather difficult to argue that the myth surrounding the man relies in any meaningful sense on existing pagan beliefs about dying and rising gods.

Contrary to mythicist claims, the evidence found in early Christian sources suggests not devotion to a divine figure who gradually came to be seen as human but devotion to a human figure who rather quickly came to be viewed as divine. This mythologizing of Jesus took place as the gospel writers tried to show how events in the life of Jesus fulfilled what was written in the Scriptures. The telltale scriptural influences found in so many stories about Jesus have largely obscured whatever it was that Jesus may have said and done to attract a following in the first place.

In the second edition of The Quest of the Historical Jesus, Schweitzer anticipates what is almost certainly now the case: “Modern Christianity must always reckon with the possibility of having to abandon the historical figure of Jesus” (402). That should not be taken to suggest that Jesus never existed; instead, it simply means that it can no longer be shown that the protagonist of the Gospels has any meaningful connection to the man behind the myth. Therefore, in answer to the question, “Is Jesus simply a myth?” a historian can respond, “Probably not, but for all we know, he may as well have been.”

Let me close this post with a word of thanks to John Loftus for allowing me to share my ideas here and with an appeal to those who may find my ideas of interest: “Sir or madam, would you read my book? It took me years to write—won’t you take a look?

Jesus Eclipsed: Part 1

For several years, I have posted comments here on Debunking Christianity, most often when the discussion has involved the mythicist/historicist debate. A few weeks ago, I published a book, Jesus Eclipsed: How Searching the Scriptures Got in the Way of Recounting the Facts, which is now available on Amazon. John has kindly invited me to write a series of guest posts discussing some of what I have written. In this initial post, I want to share a bit about who I am and what led me to write the book.

Clan or Thousand? A Response to Dr. Vincent Torley


Dr. Vincent Torley responded to my post on “The Use and Abuse of the Amarna Letters by Christian Apologists” in the comments section.
Torley’s response is fundamentally flawed and exhibits a lack of training in Hebrew and Semitic philology. He cites sources that he himself is either not evaluating critically or is unable to evaluate because of a lack of knowledge of Semitic and Hebrew linguistics. 
I will focus on this statement to illustrate my point: "In summary: some 600 families, or clans, left Egypt, consistent with the 70 that entered, the length of stay, and the births there."

Gosh, Why Is THAT in the Bible?


One big chunk of the New Testament can go in the trash

The authority of the papacy took a major hit in the wake of the Protestant Reformation. Those who broke away from Rome, however, failed to free themselves from a tiresome superstition that plagues us to this day. No, there is no such thing as a Holy Man who is privy to God’s thoughts, but Protestants made the mistake of substituting one superstition for another: they transferred their loyalty and devotion to a book. Spurned Catholics derisively referred to the Bible as The Paper Pope.

Dr. Vincent Torley: "The Bible Says So. I Believe it. That Settles it."

Unbelievably this is his exact attitude toward the Bible! Here is his quote:
Jesus' resurrection is attested in St. Paul and all of the Gospels. The episode which John Loftus wrote about in his OP [regarding the devastating problems with the Zombies story told in Matthew 27:51-54] is related in just one Gospel, in a passage which may not be original, anyway. Hence my skepticism. However, if it were recorded in Luke as well as Matthew, then I would have no trouble in believing it. LINK.
Given the problems I highlighted in my OP, what else can Torley mean but that "the Bible Says So. I Believe it. That Settles it"? So Torley, let's say for the sake of argument this Zombie text was recorded in Luke as well as Matthew. Then answer the problems I mentioned in my OP.

The Use and Abuse of the Amarna Letters by Christian Apologists: A Response to Don Camp

Pharaoh Akhenaten, founder of Amarna
Don Camp, a blogger who often comments on DC, has written a critique of a video lecture, “How Archaeology Killed Biblical History,” that I presented in Minnetonka, Minnesota for the Minnesota Atheists on October 21, 2007. 

Camp objects principally to some of my statements about the lack of historical and archaeological evidence for the Exodus. Camp appeals to the famous Amarna letters, which date from the middle to late 1300s BCE, to refute some of the claims I make in the video lecture.
Camp purports to present a researched post with footnotes. In particular, Camp appeals to this website to document his claims about the Amarna letters.
For the sake of clarity and brevity, I will address the main points of Camp’s blog post with two principal questions:
I. Does archaeology support the large numbers of people mentioned in Exodus 12:37, which claims that 600,000 men on foot were part of the Exodus? (Approximately at 17:06 in my video lecture).
II. Does the Amarna correspondence, dated to the mid-late 1300s BCE, support the historical claims of the Bible concerning the conquest of Hazor and Shechem by the Israelites?       
I will explain why Camp not only misunderstands the Amarna correspondence, but also why he lacks a proper understanding of both the Bible and archaeology when he makes his case. On a broader level, this essay explains why we cannot use the Amarna correspondence to confirm the Exodus or Conquest narratives.

"Can Bacteria Help Us Understand Religion?" by Psychologist Valerie Tarico

"Some ideas, like some microbes, are more contagious and parasitic than others. Can a better understanding of how ideas proliferate help humanity reduce the harms of religion while keeping the benefits?" Tarico writes:
As viral self-replicators, ideas have a life of their own. Human beings have a cognitive immune system that seeks to identify and eradicate false ideas because misinformation tends to cause us trouble. Some false ideas evade our bullshit detectors and so get passed socially from person to person. In this context, when religious notions take root in human minds and get passed on despite containing maladaptive falsehoods that do us harm, they may be considered socially transmitted pathologies or, to use my earlier term, socio-pathologies.

The term pathology implies illness and disability—but not all forms of religion seem to cause harm.

This appears to be the case irrespective of their truth value. All of the world’s great religions fail the “outsider test of faith,” meaning they fail to meet any normal bar for credibility when scrutinized by an outsider applying the same rigorous standard of evidence to each. In their traditional forms, all contain rational and moral contradictions or factual inaccuracies that insiders can justify only with Olympic feats of mental and moral gymnastics. Many rely on sacred texts that reflect the precise combination of knowledge and ignorance that characterized the culture in which they were written. All make claims for which there is no proof and none possible. LINK.

Matthew 27:51-54 and the Credibility of the Resurrection of Jesus

Couched in a chapter in Matthew where Jesus is tried before Pilate, Judas hangs himself, Barabbas is spared death, and Jesus is crucified between two thieves, died and buried, we find these sobering words:

Sobering? You bet. Christians don't read their own Bibles. They play lip service to it. One thing for sure is that preachers don't preach from sobering texts like these. They prefer instead to be drunk with delusion. It's better you see. The emotional high is worth it!

None of these claims are corroborated by any texts of that period, or by the astronomers. Nor are they corroborated by any other NT writer. In fact, since the writer of Luke's gospel left this out of his account, and since he investigated it all carefully (1:1-4), even he didn't think they happened!

This is the stuff of non-historical myths. But imagine for a second if the saints were raised up from the dead at the death of Jesus, who subsequently walked around Jerusalem three days later. How would they be identified? How could Moses or Elijah or Isaiah be recognized by the townsfolk? Did they do miracles? Did they predict some events to take place? Did they call down fire from the sky? We just don't know. But let's say there were neon signs or halos above their heads, okay? Then surely the crowds would flock around them asking for advice on everything from ethical duties to politics or what to expect in the future. Now are we to believe this really happened and no one wrote any of their sayings down? Are we to expect no one in the canonical NT would quote from them when writing their gospels or epistles, that as far as the rest of the NT goes, they never said anything quote-worthy? Doesn't that stretch the bounds of credibility too far, even for believers!?

What about the rest of their lives? Wouldn't some of them have become missionaries for Jesus and/or establish churches? Wouldn't others become leaders in the existing churches? Wouldn't the letters they wrote be put into the NT? Some would surely have children. But none of their children did anything noteworthy. There are no tombs with their remains in them either, as far as we know. Epitaphs like, "Here lies the prophet who wrote 2nd Isaiah, who was raised to life at the resurrection of Jesus, who died again in the year of our Lord 60 AD."

No way to identify them. No miracles at their hands. No quote-worthy sayings from them. No writings. No missionaries from the lot of them. No church leaders among them. No noteworthy children. No existing tombs. No telling epitaphs.

Why, it's almost as if they never existed at all! Yet, in Matthew's gospel it's written matter-of-factly, next to other matter-of-factly described stories. "It's inspired you know, because well, it's in the Bible, which is inspired. You godless heathens just refuse to believe! Repent and do things my way from now on, er, my god's way!" :-)

To believers of a more liberal bent, who cannot believe Matthew's gospel on this either, what say ye about the credibility hit Matthew's gospel as a whole takes? How is it possible to believe Matthew 27 as a whole, when it contains such obvious fiction? Why wouldn't you want everything corroborated outside the texts of the Bible at that point?

The Evidence That Jesus Existed is Weaker Than You Might Think

LINK. Read a summary co-written by Valerie Tarico along with David Fitzgerald, author of Jesus: Mything in Action.

Seeing Through the Christian Faith Is Hardly New


Many Voices of Reason Are on Record

Christianity has two thousand years of momentum. It has prestige, the weight of tradition, people well placed in power, a far-flung empire of churches and cathedrals—and millions of paid propagandists, e.g., ministers, priests, nuns, evangelists, missionaries and doorbell ringers. A colossal—though fractured—bureaucracy supports all this.

Quote of the Day by Dale Allison On the the Resurrection of Jesus

I quoted this before in my book, Why I Became an Atheist. Matthew Ferguson just reminded me of it.

Dr. Dale Allison in his book (Resurrecting Jesus, pp. 337-339) wrote:
Most of the past – surely far more than 99 percent, if we could quantify it – is irretrievably lost; it cannot be recovered. This should instill some modesty in us. Consider the weeks following the crucifixion. We have only minuscule fragments of what actually transpired. What, for instance, do we really know about the resurrection experience of James? First Corinthians 15:7 says that he saw the risen Jesus. And that is it. What Jesus looked like, what he said, if anything, where the encounter took place, when precisely it happened, how James responded, what state of mind he was in, how the experience began, how it ended [Edit by JWL: whether he ever recanted] – all of this had failed to enter the record. Almost every question that we might ask goes unanswered … Yet they are the sorts of questions historians often ask of old texts. The fact that we cannot begin to answer them shows how emaciated historically – as opposed to theologically – the Gospel narratives really are. Even if we naively think them to be historically accurate down to the minutest detail, we are still left with precious little. The accounts of the resurrection, like the past in general, come to us as phantoms. Most of the reality is gone … Even if history served us much better than it does, it would still not take us to promised land of theological certainty.

The New Testament Peddles an Ancient Gimmick


An old tradition of selling a product you don’t have

I grew up on the northern Indiana prairie in the 1950s, in a small town where there might as well have been a wall between the Catholics and Protestants; people got along, of course, but we were so aware of the deep divisions in belief. One woman refused to attend her nephew’s wedding in the Catholic Church because she had no intention of “setting foot in that heathen temple.” I thrived in the Methodist subdivision on the Protestant side.

"Blame the Victim" A Review of "The Most Hated Woman in America"


 A Review of The Most Hated Woman in America, a Netflix film directed by Tommy O’Haver and written by Tommy O’Haver and Irene Turner (24 March, 2017). By Frank R. Zindler, former president of American Atheists and managing editor of American Atheist Press.

I looked in vain for the label “based on a true story.” After an excruciatingly painful hour and 46 minutes of watching the film, I checked the Web-site for the film and discovered the claim that it was “A true story of the much debated rise and demise of a woman, named Madalyn Murray O'Hair, who was known as the head atheist activist of America. She founded the organization, American Atheist,…” A true story? Not THE true story? One of many possible true stories? Just when did she found an organization named “American Atheist” [singular]? Her first organization was named “Other Americans,” then “Society of Separationists,” and much later, when I was already on the board of directors, did her organization’s name legally become “American Atheists, Inc.” [plural]. As William J. Murray, Jr., has noted in the media, no significant research went into the writing of this film.
As one who lived through the anxiety, worry, fear, attempts to discover what had happened to Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Jon Garth Murray, and Robin Murray-O’Hair—and then the grief and sorrow when the case was solved five years later—I am hard pressed to determine how to deal with the cloud of misrepresentation, fiction, conflation of actual events and persons, distortions, anachronisms and subtext animus that will surely be defended as “artistic license.” In fact, that would be a hopeless task.  Let me try to set the record straight as to the most crucial parts of the story.

Dr. Vincent Torley Argues there’s about a 60-65% chance that Jesus rose from the dead

Vince has dogged my steps for a few years in the best possible way. Unlike David Marshall, who comes to taunt us with brief unsubstantiated comments from time to time, Torley tries to be as fair as possible with what I write and responds with some serious thought and writing. This time he's criticizing my arguments regarding the resurrection of Jesus. There are a few things Torley expresses and argues for that are creative and new. His case for the resurrection does not depend on a burial by Joseph of Arimathea or the empty tomb on Sunday (although he believes these myths). He distinguishes between a Type A an B skepticism and deals with them separately, saying,
I propose to distinguish between two kinds of skepticism: Type A and Type B. Type A skepticism casts doubt on people’s claims to have had an extraordinary experience, while Type B skepticism questions whether a miraculous explanation of this extraordinary experience is the best one. In the case of the Resurrection, Type A skepticism seeks to undermine one or more of the key facts...whereas Type B skepticism doesn’t question the key facts, but looks for a non-miraculous explanation of those key facts.
He's also laudably trying to think in terms of the probabilities.

Readers can read his essay. I'm just going to quote from his conclusion and begin responding there.

"Why I Am Not a Christian" Essays Found On The Secular Web

Why I Am Not a Christian" essays following in the footsteps of Bertrand Russell, written by Richard Carrier, John W. Loftus, Graham Oppy, Keith Parsons, and Kenneth W, Daniels. LINK.

Madalyn Murray O'Hair on Civility

[First Published on 2/16/2013]
I'll tell you what you did with Atheists for about 1500 years. You outlawed them from the universities, or any teaching careers, besmirched their reputations, banned or burned their books or their writings of any kind, drove them into exile, humiliated them, seized their properties, arrested them for blasphemy. You dehumanized them with beatings and exquisite torture, gouged out their eyes, slit their tongues, stretched, crushed, or broke their limbs, tore off their breasts if they were a woman, crushed their scrotums if they were men, imprisoned them, stabbed them, disemboweled them, hung them, burnt them alive. And you have the nerve enough to complain to me that I laugh at you?

What Would Convince Atheists To Become Christians?; The Definitive Answers!

I've kept track of some atheist answers as to what would convince us to believe. Christians say we refuse to believe due to our unwillingness to repent from immoral behaviors. I suppose ISIS could say the same damned thing while chopping off a head. Now don't get me wrong, I think we can legitimately reject religions based on how they treat living things, especially disenfranchised minorities under their control, like slaves, women, children, gays/lesbians, the poor, the aged and animals to mention a few. That's the main point of my anthology that everyone should read, which also explains why atheists spend so much time and effort debunking religion. Still, in order to answer Christians who claim we only reject their god because we are in rebelling against his/her moral demands, several of us have said what would convince us to believe.

The most comprehensive list of answers I've found is by Daniel Bastian, who offered 20 examples in his essay, What Would Convince You?
The purpose here is to offer 20 examples that would move a jury, namely me, beyond reasonable doubt. In so doing, we will look at a number of expectations that could be considered consistent with the claim that God exists and then see how those expectations correspond to the world we actually observe. As noted above, most of the following will interface with the generic God of theism and in the process make direct contact with Christianity in particular. My personal view is that a wider appreciation of reality reveals a universe that does not appear the way we would expect if theism were true, leaving non-belief as a supremely rational position to hold.
I've already weighed in on this question myself, along with Greta Christina and Adam Lee. Our contributions to this question can be read here.

The Video From My Co-Hosting the Atheist Experience TV Show

If you watch just a portion this video then consider staying through to the end of the first caller from Iran, who's very courageous in what he's doing.

Dr. John Dickson To Me: "You are the 'Donald Trump' of pop-atheism"

Dr. John Dickson (@johnpauldickson) is the Director, Centre for Public Christianity; Minister, St Andrew's Roseville; Honorary Fellow, Ancient History, Macquarie University. Yesterday he said that I'm the Donald Trump of pop-atheism. *Ouch* I mean *ouch*!! Now I'm not one to highlight such an utterly ignorant slam on me, but I think it's instructive of the lengths some Christian apologists will go to try to discredit me. The question for my readers is what I said or did deserving of his slam, except that I'm truly a gadfly in the Socratic sense of someone who laid to waste his claims to certainty. Doing what I did to shock deluded people into reality will not be regarded kindly by them. So they will lash out. You'll notice I was polite but forceful. The question is why he lashed out at me. Barring any reasonable explanation, he did so because he could not answer me.

Now there are many atheists who consider having a friendly discussion with scholars like Dickson as a badge of honor. It makes them feel important when someone like Dickson speaks to them. That places all of the power in the apologist's lap. So these atheists can be like lap dogs, trying to gain their approval. The apologists therefore are in the position of determining for the rest of us who are the important atheists. So an additional question is why we should bow to them and their delusions in order to feel worthy? Consider apologists for Scientology or Mormonism. Why is it considered a badge of honor when they take notice of us and then say it was pleasant having a conversation, when they're bat shit crazy like Christians? They are all deluded. They are all massively wrong. In fact, the evangelicals I deal with like Dickson, are to be likened to the Trumps because they support Trump in America.

These completed discussions took place on Twitter separated by dotted lines.

One Miracle—Among Many—that God Didn’t Do


There’s a long list of ‘coulda-shoulda’ divine interventions

Based on prayer activity alone, we can assume that Christians believe God meddles regularly in human affairs—otherwise, why would they pray so much? Even on Facebook, devout folks muster prayer marathons to bring God’s attention to those who might have fallen off the divine radar.

I'll Be the Co-Host of The Atheist Experience TV Show This Sunday!

I've been invited to co-host The Atheist Experience TV Show, live from Austin, Texas. It's the most watched atheist TV show as far as I know, with tens of thousands of views per episode. So I'm excited and grateful to be on it. You might find it announced on their blog, or their main site. You may see where Don Baker is to co-host it. But it's to be me instead. We're going to discuss my book How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist at my request. Then we'll take calls.

If there's just one book of mine I want everyone interested in the believer/non-believer debates to read, it's that one. It isn't a huge book, it's written in fairly easy prose, and it exposes Christian apologetics for the sham that it is. I think it's the best introduction to my body of work. I also think readers who like it will become interested in reading the rest of my books. Please spread the word. If you care, share.

Madalyn Murray O’Hair took on the Supreme Court to get prayer out of schools, started a culture war, and was violently murdered for it. A new Netflix film finally tells her story.


Robert Conner: "Was the Savior Just Nuts?"

Here's a teaser quote from his recent essay:
In Book Six of his Wars of the Jews, Josephus briefly relates the story of a certain Jesus son of Ananias, a rustic from the hinterlands, who began incessantly proclaiming a series of woes upon Jerusalem several years before the Romans attacked. Regarded by the Jewish leaders as demon possessed, this Jesus was hauled before the Roman governor Albinus and flogged to the bone with whips. Albinus eventually pronounced the wretched man insane and released him. During the siege of Jerusalem, while still preaching judgment on the city, a stone from a Roman catapult struck the unlucky Jesus, killing him instantly but confirming his predictions.

Jesus son of Ananias bears a striking similarity to Jesus of Nazareth, another rustic from the hinterlands—“No prophet comes from Galilee!” (John 7:52)—who likewise pronounced a series of woes on Jerusalem: “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2) Jesus was considered insane by his family and also regarded by the Jewish leaders as demon-possessed.
What say ye? It's possible, that I know. Why not?

Robert studied Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic at Western Kentucky University in 70’s, then decided to do something worthwhile with his life and changed majors. He has authored four books on ancient Christianity, one novel, and too many essays.

Does God Exist? Michael Nugent Debates William Lane Craig


Michael Nugent sent me this link, thanking me for helping him prepare for the debate. I couldn't really detect how my advice helped him, but then that's the way it's supposed to work, lest someone merely use my words. Nugent did well. In watching debates we not only learn about the issues being debated but also how to better debate someone. This particular debate is very instructive in learning how to better debate (the thing I'm most interested in at this point). I have heard Craig's opener stay the same in most of his debates, and this one was no exception. It's polished, well-spoken, and adequately covers the important territory as Craig sees it. Nugent went second. To anyone who thinks the person who goes second in a debate is at a disadvantage I don't think that's true, not in Craig's case anyway. In Craig's case we already know what he'll focus on. Nugent should probably have briefly debunked the five points in Craig's opener because of that.

People claim Craig Gish Gallops through a ton of arguments so his opponents cannot possibly respond to them all. But I strongly disagree. Craig offered five arguments. His opponents have enough time to offer rebuttals to them. The real Gish Galloper in this particular debate is Nugent, which isn't anything bad in my opinion if the goal is to win a debate. I don't think any other opponent has done this in a debate with Craig (well, maybe Eddie Tabash, or Frank Zindler). So I was a bit excited to see how Craig would respond to Nugent's opener. To my dismay Craig responded to each one of Nugent's arguments, even if I think he may have lost his listeners from time to time in doing so. But because Craig did this, later in the debate he could say Nugent failed to make any of his arguments stick. When Nugent didn't defend one of these arguments, then in a subsequent rebuttal Craig would say Nugent's defense of it dropped off. This, folks, is how we deal with a Gish Galloper. I stand continually amazed at Craig's debating and rhetorical skills. The only way someone can be this good is by starting off young and constantly debating throughout life. Craig started debating on a High School debate team and has been debating all of his life. He's the best defender of that which cannot be reasonably defended I've seen.

One final note. Being the top ranked Christian debater Craig can decide who he debates, just like a champion boxer can choose who to fight. He won't debate me. There are others who won't debate me, like Michael Licona, who did debate Matt Dillahunty. Since I beat up on Randal Rauser in our co-written book God or Godless, Rauser decided to stop dealing with me and stick to philosophical argumentation with Justin Schieber in debates and their co-written book, An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar: Talking about God, the Universe, and Everything. [Justin, as it stands, is a community college student]. So it occurs to me that in some, and maybe many cases, Christians decide who they'll deal with. That is to say, they are in charge. There's nothing new about this. But I don't see any of them chomping at the bit to debate David Eller, for instance, who would tear them a new one (if you know what I mean). As Sargent Schultz in Hogan's Heroes would say, "very interesting."

Theology Written Under the Influence of OCD


When you don’t bother to have your work checked…

"Can Appeals to Free Will Solve the Problem of Evil?" by Marilyn McCord Adams (1943-2017)

Marilyn McCord Adams has recently died. She had taught at Rutgers University, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Yale University, and UCLA. She was an important Episcopalian philosopher of religion. Some of her work focused on the problem of suffering (as I prefer to call it).

In the video below Adams dismantles the attempt to shift responsibility for the suffering we experience off from God's shoulders unto human shoulders by appealing to human free will. From the outset I find her focus on the Christian Adam and Eve myth to be both ignorant and parochial. It's ignorant, because there never was an Adam and Eve. Shouldn't that bring an end to this myth, leaving philosophers of religion nothing to discuss based on it? [Source: Christianity in the Light of Science, Chapter 7]. It's parochial, because there are many different global beliefs that deal with suffering, and she doesn't give a thought to them, leading us to think this Christian myth is the only one worth discussing. [Her example justifies my call to end the philosophy of religion discipline in the secular universities. Source: Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End.] For Christians who accept this mythical story though, Adams does a good job. She finds two major reasons why free will solutions do not work.

1) The size gap. God is very very big. We are very very small. God's personal capacities far outstrip ours. Take for example good parents. They are ultimately in charge of their children, and therefore responsible for what they do under their charge. Likewise, God is ultimately in charge of us, and therefore responsible for what we do under his/her charge.

2) Human beings lack the relevant knowledge of pain and suffering to make fully responsible choices. Ignorance diminishes responsibility. In the garden of Eden therefore, Adam and Eve didn't have the relevant knowledge or experience to enable them to be fully responsible for what they chose.

Quote of the Day, by Sir_Russ


The DC Debunking Christianity Team Is the Best!

If you aren't reading the comments here at DC you're missing out on some superior thoughts and arguments by people who comment. I've said this before. See for yourselves then join them! Take a look at the three most recent comments (as of this writing):

Here's Zeta kraut on the Hebrews being asked by their god to slaughter the Canaanites so they could take their land away from them:
Since coveting the land of others is supposedly a no-no for the ancient Israelites, what better excuse is there to claim that their god gave the land to them? Why is it that an omnipotent god who could simply speak into existence trillions and trillions of celestial bodies in less than a day could not create a piece of new land for his "Chosen People" instead of exterminating the Canaanites? It is very obvious that this is simply fabricated history arising from wishful thinking.

I also find the racist concept of "Chosen People" obnoxious. Maybe Yahweh had no choice because he was assigned by a higher god (Deuteronomy 32:8-9) to take charge of the ancient Israelites?

Quote of the Day by Stephen Hawking On God and the Big Bang

GearHedEd introduced this quote by saying: Hawking doesn't see God in imaginary time. He says so explicitly:
...if one knows the state of the universe in imaginary time, one can calculate the state of the universe in real time. One would still expect some sort of Big Bang singularity in real time. So real time would still have a beginning. But one wouldn't have to appeal to something outside the universe, to determine how the universe began. Instead, the way the universe started out at the Big Bang would be determined by the state of the universe in imaginary time. Thus, the universe would be a completely self-contained system. It would not be determined by anything outside the physical universe, that we observe. [Source requested in the comments].

How the Brain Tricks Us into Knowing about God


The payoff, of course, is that we don’t

When believers set out to defend the faith, they commonly find themselves entangled in Christianity’s multiple, messy contradictions. When backed into a corner, we may hear—with sighs of exasperation— “Well, how did all this get here? It didn’t just happen!” God-the-creator is the default, retreat defense. “Whew, that should settle it! Don’t be daft, you silly atheists, you’re talking nonsense to claim there isn’t a Great Engineer behind it all.”