We Can Do Better than Religious Holidays


Why not celebrate things that actually happened?

Even devout Bible scholars—aside from hard-core evangelical denialists—concede that the Jesus birth stories in Matthew and Luke are fiction. Yet they’re the focus of attention and adoration every December. Likewise, the Empty Tomb stories in the four gospels (“He is risen!”) swarm with contradictions, gaffs, and improbabilities; they fail to meet minimal standards as historical reporting. But of course, every Easter they are piously recited and celebrated; believers have been persuaded to take them seriously.

We can be grateful that secular—and less harmful—renditions of these holidays have emerged, i.e., Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, a symbol of fecundity, by the way, which humans have celebrated at springtime from time immemorial.

Humanity would be much better off in the long run if we celebrated things that we know actually happened, and that have advanced our understanding of the Cosmos and our place in it: how we happened.

Episode 7 in my series of Flash Podcasts on Things We Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said has been posted on my YouTube channel. Under 5 minutes.

Here are four holidays that could boost humanity’s grasp of reality.

Celebrating Hubble: Waking Up to Our Place in the Cosmos

It was just about 17 years before I was born that a most stunning discovery was made, which is far more awesome than any Bible folklore. Edwin Hubble, of course, is a household name, because an orbiting telescope was named after him. But why did he deserve that honor?

A bit of backstory: In April 1920, at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., there was a debate between astronomers Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis:

“Shapley took the side that spiral nebulae (what are now called galaxies) are inside our Milky Way, while Curtis took the side that the spiral nebulae are 'island universes' far outside our own Milky Way and comparable in size and nature to our own Milky Way.”

Only a century ago—just think of it—that issue was still up for debate. Enter Edwin Hubble:

“Using the Hooker Telescope at Mt. Wilson, Hubble identified Cepheid variables in several spiral nebulae, including the Andromeda Nebula and Triangulum. His observations, made in 1924, proved conclusively that these nebulae were much too distant to be part of the Milky Way and were, in fact, entire galaxies outside our own…”

Cepheid variables are rare stars that can be used reliably to measure distances, and Hubble had spotted one in Andromeda. He marked “VAR!” on one photographic plate (a negative, with the center of the galaxy appearing as a black oval); this must rank as one of the most important photographs ever taken.

He presented his findings to the American Astronomical Society on 1 January 1925: “Hubble's findings fundamentally changed the scientific view of the universe.”

Hubble opened a new era in our understanding of the Cosmos. It turns out that our galaxy is one of billions, that our Milky Way—100,000 lights years across—is but a speck on the landscape of the Cosmos. Arguably, we would be much better off if every person on earth realized where we are in the scheme of things.

The primary lesson to draw from this is not how insignificant we are; we already knew that. Our star and its trailing planets is one of billions in our galaxy alone; just one orbit of the sun around the galactic center takes 235 million years. Humans might do better to contemplate how isolated we are and how much we don’t know about the Cosmos. There might be countless thinking species ‘out there’ in our galaxy alone, who have been contemplating the Cosmos many thousands of years longer than we have. But just consider this: the nearest star to our own star, Alpha Centauri (actually a three-star system), is about 4.5 light years away. So why doesn’t NASA aim a space ship that way to check it out? Our isolation is staggering: it would take the space shuttle, going 18,000 miles per hour, 160,000 years to get there.

Even in my seminary days, I’d begun to wonder how theologians—on earth, in our profound isolation, with no hard data—could posture so confidently about God. Sam Harris has been blunt: theology must now be considered a branch of human ignorance. Theological systems that have their roots in ancient speculations and superstitions have done little more than refine their ideas, in a vain attempt to keep up. Over the centuries, with the painstaking gathering of knowledge—as Timothy Ferris’ title puts it, we have been Coming of Age in the Milky Way—theology has become irrelevant because it can offer no data whatever to back up its claims. Theology specializes in bluff and apologetics.

The human race would be better off if we had a World Holiday celebrating Edwin Hubble’s curiosity, his patient hours at the telescope, his desire to know. What an example to follow. But what’s your guess? How many people on the planet know what Hubble found out, and have absorbed it into their worldview? Carl Sagan pushed us in this direction with his eloquent description of the Pale Blue Dot.

Joseph von Fraunhofer: Figuring Our What We’re Made Of

This is definitely not a household name. Fraunhofer was an optics maker who died in 1826, at the age of 39. According to Timothy Ferris:

“He had an instinct for the essential, and his spirited research into the basic characteristics of various kinds of glass soon established him as the world’s foremost maker of telescope lenses. Fraunhofer started out using spectral lines as sources of monochromatic light for his experiments in improving color correction of his lenses, but soon became fascinated by the lines themselves. ‘I saw with the telescope,’ he wrote, ‘an almost countless number of strong and weak vertical lines which are darker than the rest of the color-image. Some appeared to be perfectly black.’

“He mapped hundreds of such lines in the spectrum of the sun, and found identical patterns in the spectra of the moon and planets—as one would expect, since these bodies shine by reflected sunlight. But when he turned his telescope on other stars, their spectral lines looked quite different.” (Ferris, Coming of Age in the Milky Way, p. 164)

A generation later, physicists Gustaf Kirchhoff and Robert Bunsen “...determined that district sequences of Fraunhofer lines were produced by various chemical elements. One evening they saw, from the window of their laboratory in Heidelberg, a fire raging in the port city of Mannheim ten miles to the west. Using their spectroscope, they detected the telltale lines of barium and strontium in the flames. This set Bunsen to wondering whether they might be able to detect chemical elements in the spectrum of the sun as well. ‘But,’ he added, ‘people would think we were mad to dream of such a thing.’” (Ferris, p. 164)

“Kirchhoff was mad enough to try, and by 1861 he had identified sodium, calcium, magnesium, iron, chromium, nickel, barium, copper, and zinc in the sun. A link had been found between the physics of the earth and the stars, and a path blazed to the new sciences of spectroscopy and astrophysics.” (pp. 164-165)

Lawrence Krauss knows that this knowledge far outclasses any awe that theology conjures:

“Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements—the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution and for life—weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way for them to get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.” (emphasis added)

Because Fraunhofer, Kirchhoff, Bunsen—and many others in their wake—were driven by curiosity, we now know what we’re made of, and how the elements in our bodies were formed. Guy Harrison: “I am made of atoms that were forged inside of stars billions of years ago. I am literally part of this vast universe. That’s a big connection, certainly enough to prevent an inferiority complex. Clearly one does not have to look to the gods to feel a connection to something grand and spectacular.” (50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God)

Why not have a World Holiday celebrating Fraunhofer’s close scrutiny of natural phenomenon—and what other careful scientists subsequently discovered? What an example to follow. But what’s your guess? How many people on the planet know this story—this epic discovery—and have absorbed it into their worldview?

Arno Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson: Figuring Out Creation

Einstein’s equations for the General Theory of Relativity indicated that the universe was expanding; he assumed that, somehow, he had it wrong. But Hubble’s study of galaxies revealed that, the farther away they are, the more their spectrums are red shifted—meaning that they’re moving away faster. Physicist Georges Lemaître—also a Catholic priest—thought that both the General Relativity equations and Hubble’s data were correct. He proposed that the universe had indeed emerged from the explosion of a primordial atom…in the inconceivable distant past. In 1949, physicist Fred Hoyle, who disagreed, derisively labeled this idea the Big Bang.

But might the residue of that Big Bang, so long ago, still be detectable? In 1964, Princeton University professors John Wheeler and Robert Dicke were on the hunt for the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). But someone beat them to it, by accident, just a few miles away in Holmdel, NJ:

“The discovery of the background radiation was a serendipitous one. In 1964, Bell Laboratories technicians Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias racked their brains for an explanation of the noisy signal recorded by their radio antenna. When it turned out that the ‘noise’ was actually radiation from the CMB, the two engineers found themselves unexpectedly pulled into the growing field of modern cosmology. The detection of the CMB earned them the Nobel Prize.” (article here)

Lemaître had been right about the inconceivably distant past: the Big Bang was 13.8 billion years ago. This also gives us perspective about humanity’s place in the Cosmos. The earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and the oldest human ancestors—i.e., can be reasonable identified as human precursors—emerged maybe 5 or 6 million year ago. Humans learned how to write and build cities 5-6,000 years ago. And decided that the gods are preoccupied with us.

We are made in God’s image—no matter how you want to define this? Lemaître, by the way, was none too pleased when he got wind that Pope Pius XII was prepared to use Lemaître’s ‘big bang’ as proof for the Genesis story. He personally intervened to talk the pope out of it. Nice try, giving God the credit, but Lemaître the Scientist knew that no cause for the primordial explosion had been identified. How like a theologian to say, “Oh, we know!”

Do cosmologists think God was behind the Big Bang? See Sean Carroll’s essay, Why (Almost) All Cosmologists Are Atheists.

This sequence of serious thought and experimentation about the origins of the Cosmos—Hubble, Lemaître, Wheeler & Dicke, Penzias & Wilson—surely merits celebration as a World Holiday. We now know so much more about our place in the Cosmos—compared to those who lived just a hundred years ago. But what’s your guess? How many people on the planet are aware of these insights and discoveries—and have absorbed them into their worldview?

Charles Darwin: Figuring Out How Life Organizes Itself

When believers have their backs against the wall defending God, we commonly hear, “Well, where did all this come from? There had to have been a creator!” Then they might move on to crediting God with complexity. One fellow recently told me, “A Rolex couldn’t just happen from an explosion in watch factory.” There had to have been an intelligent designer, hence God. In 1802 William Paley famously argued that anyone who found a watch on the heath knows for sure there was a watchmaker somewhere. But, oh dear, the craftsman had lost track of the missing timepiece: a poor analogy for God.

Charles Darwin proved to be an extraordinary observer of nature. Well before the discovery of genetics and DNA, he figured out how evolution by natural selection works. His book, whose full title is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, was published in 1859. He didn’t crave fame, nor did he savor the conflict with religion that followed in the wake of his publication. Few human beings have had more impact on the progress of our species than Darwin, and his insights have been confirmed overwhelming, especially after genetics and DNA came into the picture.

“The theory of evolution by natural selection, first formulated in Darwin's book "On the Origin of Species" in 1859, is the process by which organisms change over time as a result of changes in heritable physical or behavioral traits. Changes that allow an organism to better adapt to its environment will help it survive and have more offspring. Evolution by natural selection is one of the best substantiated theories in the history of science, supported by evidence from a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including paleontology, geology, genetics and developmental biology.” (article here)

So we know how complexity in nature occurs—just the opposite of ‘an explosion in a watch factory’—we know why design looks like intelligent design, yet religion remains the preserve of those who still rage against Darwin. Well, not all religion, clearly; outside the fundamentalist/evangelical domain, evolution is accepted. Even at the Vatican!

Abby Hafer’s book The Not-So-Intelligent Designer: Why Evolution Explains the Human Body and Intelligent Design Does Not

But what’s your guess? How many people on the planet understand what Darwin accomplished—and have absorbed it into their worldview? We already have a Darwin Day (12 February, his birthday), but it should be boosted to a widely and wildly celebrated World Holiday.

Unfortunately, so many major discoveries and events have escaped notice; have not been absorbed into the worldview of most humans. The mythologies and superstitions that took hold of human minds thousands of years ago have remarkable staying power. Curiosity, skepticism, and critical thought are the cure. Former Southern Baptist preacher John Compere points us in the right direction (Outgrowing Religion):

“The myth of Paul Bunyan makes a good story, as does the story of Jesus. But neither tale withstands factual scrutiny or gives us a clue about the meaning of life. For that, we have brains.”

David Madison was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years, and has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. His book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, was reissued last year by Tellectual Press with a new Foreword by John Loftus.

The Cure-for-Christianity Library© is here.

How Do Religious Bureaucrats Get Away With It?


The Zero-Curiosity Factor

Ironically enough, most Christians don’t seem to be all that curious about the Bible. It’s supposed to be the Word of God, after all, so why not spend as much time studying the Bible as watching sports and movies? You know: really get in tune with God. But plowing through scripture isn’t all that rewarding; there is too much tedium, there are too many bog-down points. As John Loftus has wondered: Couldn’t God have done a better job of communicating?

Guy P. Harrison has done the research:

“In 2013 a Protestant preacher told me that he estimates no more than 15 to 20 percent of his parishioners read the Bible on a regular basis. Many Christians do read the Bible, of course. Some read it on a regular basis, even daily, but how are they reading it? Are they working their way through it, page by page and line by line? Or are they merely leapfrogging from familiar sentences to comforting stories?

That Time Saint Peter Got a Demotion


“The Bible is a war-zone, and its authors are the combatants”
It’s just a fact that the books of the New Testament don’t belong together. In this disparate collection of documents, theological differences and discrepancies in the stories become obvious…well, for those who pay attention. Thus Randel Helms has warned:

“…the Bible is a self-destructing artifact…What inattentive readers call the unity of the Bible is in fact a large, and extremely fragile, cultural fiction—or rather a group of competing fictions, since there has never been even a consensus about the number of little books to which the word ‘Bible’ refers.” (Randel Helms, The Bible Against Itself: Why the Bible Seems to Contradict Itself, p. i)

“They have a terrible need for tenderness. They’re like children.”


A review of In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, and Hypocrisy

A number of years ago, in a social setting, I fell into conversation with a top Italian TV journalist. After a while, I asked him point-blank: Can it possibly be true that those in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church really believe the dogmas they peddle? He shook his head. “No, at least half of them don’t. But it’s a business. They have a product to sell and need to see the business thrive.”

I get that. But just how good, after all, is the business model? There’s far too much that works against it. Fine: your product is eternal life/salvation through Jesus Christ, but nonessentials have been grafted onto that basic framework. Try this thought experiment: How smart would it be for General Motors to require celibacy of its employees? What if top GM executives came up with this idea?—convinced that job effectiveness would be enhanced if people could be persuaded to give up sex.

End Times Prophecies


Most people realize there have been many failed prophecies regarding the Second Coming and Armageddon. A few are particularly well-known, such as Jesus’ own prediction that the end would come within the lifetime of some of his followers. Here are a few others from among the hundreds of failed attempts to predict that momentous event:

Irenaeus (2nd century), one of the important early Church fathers, said the end would come in the year 500.

Martin of Tours, a well-known 4th century bishop, claimed it would occur before the year 400, and, at the time he wrote, had no doubt that the Antichrist had already been born.

Many, of course, predicted the year 1000 would be it, including Pope Sylvester II, who was undoubtedly surprised that he lived until 1003.

Quote of the Day: "Nobody likes to be lied to” is itself a lie!

Millions want to be lied to, want to be told what they want to believe is true. Many want to be assured by lies they are afraid not to believe. Many continue to believe a man who constantly proves he is a liar. It is their learned habit. When the fact-checkers provide evidence he is lying, they side with the liar. If his lies support their own beliefs, connected to their own self-esteem, he and the lies speak for them....Nobody wants to admit to accepting lies instead of truths. One reason is because no one wants to face the fact believing someone one highly respects, or loves, is related to, or has known intimately, could have deceived one, even for years! This also applies to traditions. It's just so incomprehensible one must be in denial! It's much easier to live with lies and betrayals for the sake of emotional security, to avoid making waves. This self-defense is in not dealing with reality. Without the liars suffering the consequences of their lying, lies become acceptable. Link to Ex-Christian.net.

The Story of Loop Quantum Gravity - From the Big Bounce to Black Holes

Given that William Lane Craig was recently interviewed along with Roger Penrose, here's a new film that may be of interest. It's the story of loop quantum gravity. It's the main rival to string theory for a quantum theory of gravity. Interviewed are many of the leaders in the field including bestselling author Carlo Rovelli, Sir Roger Penrose, Einstein Prize Winner Abhay Ashtekar, Lee Smolin and others.

Although the film is primarily focused on the science, there are some moments which will be of interest to those interested in atheist/theist debates. In particular many of the scientists in this film explain why they think fine tuning is not the problem theists claim it is. They also claim the big bang is not the beginning and the universe may be eternal into the past. Abhay Ashtekar, who last year won the American Physical Society’s Einstein Prize, addresses the claims of William Lane Craig with regards to past eternal universes and the BGV theorem. There is a lot of ammo atheist can use in future debates from some of the top theoretical physicists in the world.

God Almighty, and AWOL


The system “goes to pieces”

The Bible itself sets Christianity up for failure; there is no way that its concept(s) of God can be sustained. The intensive, invasive personal theism advanced by these ancient documents reflects a control-freak deity, as Christopher Hitchens has pointed out:

“Religion is a totalitarian belief. It is the wish to be a slave. It is the desire that there be an unalterable, unchallengeable, tyrannical authority who can convict you of thought crime while you are asleep, who can subject you to total surveillance around the clock every waking and sleeping minute of your life, before you're born and, even worse and where the real fun begins, after you're dead. A celestial North Korea. Who wants this to be true?”

This, indeed, is God as portrayed in the New Testament:


I have a friend, now long retired, who spent 45 years in the business of getting people in the mass market to buy, donate, subscribe, join or petition for a wide variety of clients who measured the cost-per-result down to the penny.

He has long argued that the atheist community is missing a bet by concentrating on such subjects as miracles, the resurrection and the virgin birth, where nothing definitive – especially to most believers -- is ever conceded, when there is a far easier and impossible-to-refute case to be made that the Christian God as defined by Christians is impossible. I'm going to leave this up on top for a few days. What do you think about it? He wants to know.

Recognizing the importance of brevity he has made that case in just 108 words. This is not meant to be poetry. The layout is designed to cause special attention to every word:

Two Quotes of the Day, And More...

An apologist tried in vain to explain why his god didn't just create people in heaven in the first place.

Answers to this question make no sense no matter which "solution" is offered. But then neither do answers to questions about the Trinity, or the incarnation, or Jesus' sufferings on the cross, or even how the Bible can be inerrant yet written by free-willed human beings, or why a god didn't reveal the true revelation in the Bible so Christians themselves could understand it, who slaughtered each other over doctrinal issues during the wars following the Reformation to the tune of 8 million Christians.

True belief must accept mystery.
Trying to reason it out creates nonbelievers.

Who Invented the Last Supper?


…maybe someone who wasn’t even there
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John: This iconic lineup of ancient texts—bound together forever—has been venerated for centuries. But this gesture of homage to Jesus could very well be one of the biggest blunders of early Christian bureaucrats. The anonymous authors of these four texts could not have foreseen that this would happen, and, had they been around when the deed was done, would have vetoed it. Because, when we read the gospels side-by-side, the glaring contradictions—the theological differences—become obvious.

Why couldn’t these guys get the story straight? Because they were fantasy novelists, not historians. Thanks to centuries of positioning by the church, of course, an aura of holiness hangs over these books that supposedly tell the story of Jesus. Ordinary churchgoers, if they ever were so inclined, could dispel the aura by reading the gospels carefully, meticulously, critically. They are bound together: take advantage of that. Do the nitpicking, and don’t be surprised by so many WTF moments.

On the Naturalistic Fallacy


In addition to denying the is/ought gap (see my previous post), those who attempt to argue for the existence of a scientific morality often deny the so-called naturalistic fallacy. This is the fallacy of defining moral concepts in non-moral terms, as Sam Harris does when he says that “good” just means “that which increases the overall well-being of conscious creatures.” Other examples of the fallacy include defining the good as happiness, or as what helps promote human flourishing, or (to use a supernaturalistic example) as what God commands. And the reason this is a fallacy is that, no matter what one picks as the definition of “good,” someone can ask whether that thing is actually good without thereby making any kind of mistake.

Will Your Child End Up in Hell?

I was raised to believe in the eternal punishment of a burning hell. Many times as a child, I worried about my latter end. Long before my brain was fully formed, it was traumatized by stories so extreme, so rife with torture, so grim that it's a wonder that I was able to recover from the internalized trauma. I'm really not sure that one can truly fully recover from such a horrendous message after  having it pounded into your head from the pulpit on a regular basis. When the preacher is your dad, it becomes even more convoluted in your brain. 

Many have said that this kind of treatment constitutes child abuse, and I wholeheartedly agree. Yet, if I am to be totally honest, children fall dead last on the list of those receiving protection in the world. There were 29,000 cases of child abuse in the state of Indiana alone in 2016. More than 7000 American children are killed every year by their parents and caretakers. More children are killed than American soldiers. And, more children are tortured behind closed doors in American homes than prisoners of war abroad. Clearly, we keep having children but often we shouldn't be parents.

Hermione Granger or the Apostle Paul? Take Your Pick


The enduring appeal of magical thinking

Young Harry Potter didn’t know that he was one of the most famous wizards in the world. He found out on his eleventh birthday, when he was rescued from his despicable uncle and aunt by the enormous, gentle Rubeus Hagrid. In the hours that followed, Harry learned from Hagrid there was a school called Hogwarts and that he belonged to the world of wizards. Everyone else in the world—the non-wizards, including his uncle and aunt—were Muggles.

The morning after his rescue, Hagrid mentioned the Ministry of Magic, and Harry wanted to know what the Ministry of Magic did.

Does God Drive a Mercedes Benz or Take the Bus?

[Written by Teresa Roberts] Throughout modern history humans have denounced materialism for a variety of reasons. Whether as a path to non attachment as part of the Buddhist philosophy or from a need to find fulfillment outside the confines of mainstream life, the drive to obtain material things has often been painted in an unflattering light.

I was a child of the 60s and can easily remember a time period in America when the hippie revolution flourished upon such notions as shared living, back-to-the-earth lifestyles and the glorious goal of breaking the chains of a greed-driven world. We see this theme recycling even today with the tiny house movement and community gardens. Redefining what makes life worthwhile has driven many to form alliances. Standing alongside these soul-searching-radical lifestyles is Christianity, at least in the western world.

Dr. William L. Vanderburgh's Book Now Available, "David Hume On Miracles, Evidence, and Probability"

Yay!! Just arrived!

A major scholarly defense of David Hume's arguments against miracles has just been published by atheist philosopher William Vanderburgh. It's especially needed since John Earman's objections.

It's expensive but important. Knowing what I already know about it, any serious discussion of miracles must deal with it. LINK.

Here is a summation on the back cover:

The Jesus Nobody Wants


Or do they?
Am I allowed to indulge my fantasy that there are normal Christians? By which I mean folks who love their families, go to work every day, plan their careers, save for retirement, look forward to vacations, mom and dad enjoy consenting-adult time alone together, and they show up at church. All of these pursuits—except for showing up for church—take a hit in the New Testament.

Love their families: Luke 14:26, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”

“Ought” and “Is” Revisited


It’s nearly as predictable as if it were a law of nature: Every few years, someone argues with me online that Hume’s Law (that one cannot derive an “ought” from an “is”) is wrong. And usually, the challenge comes from an atheist who is convinced that they must set this law aside in order to defend moral realism — and thus answer critics who say that atheism cannot justify morality.

There are two basic points such people should learn about this. First, that Hume’s Law is a simple matter of logic; in the sense Hume was talking about, an “ought” cannot be derived from an “is,” period. Second, that in itself this does not show there are no moral truths. It doesn’t even show that ethical naturalism (the view that there are “natural” — and thus in principle scientifically discoverable — moral truths) is false. Anyone who wishes to maintain that there are moral facts discoverable by science is therefore welcome to attempt to do so some other way, in spite of Hume’s Law.

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

I wish Christian apologists would get their stories straight on this question. Apologists who seek to soften the problem of religious diversity, and who want to explain why a diverse number of religious believers have their prayers answered, will say Yahweh and Allah are the same god by different names. So say Paul Moser, David Marshall, Victor Reppert, Randal Rauser and many others.

Christians who seek to be honest however, will say no they're not the same god! Interestingly enough, William Lane Craig says they are not the same god! Jack Cottrell agrees with Craig. Roger Olsen's answer is both yes and no! Olsen:
Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? It’s not as simple a question as it appears and therefore no simple, straightforward answer should be given. The question itself begs analysis—before any answer can be given. I worry that people who jump to answer “yes” may be motivated more by political correctness and/or fear of persecution (of Muslims) than by clear thinking about the theological differences between Islam and Christianity. I also worry that people who jump to answer “no” may be motivated more by Christian fundamentalism and/or fear of terrorists than by clear thinking about the historical-theological roots of Islam in Jewish and Christian monotheism.
I've laid out what's at stake in several posts:

--Who Answers Prayers?
--The Empty Rhetoric of Christian Apologists.
--Do Christians Worship the Same God As Muslims and Jews Do? The Larycia Hawkins Test Case.
--It's Preposterous That Victor Reppert and David Marshall Believe in Allah.

Again, let me stress it's about being honest. Honesty has it's price though.

Neil Godfrey on "The Faith Trick"

Neil Godfrey asks why we need a middle man (or god) to do what we can do for ourselves. The answer? We don't. LINK.

How Do Theologians Learn to Talk Like This?


Fine-Tuning Christianity…Until It Vanishes
One of my seminary professors—a bit more cynical than most—wisecracked about Karl Barth’s 12-volume magnum opus on Christian theology, “Nobody knows 8,000 pages about God—not even in German.” The key word here is knows. Just how does anyone figure out God—has anyone actually done it?—based on hard evidence? It would be greatly appreciated if the legions of Christian theologians and apologists could provide just one page of bona fide God knowledge.

Hence, long ago I got into the habit of scrawling in the margins of theology books, “How does he know this?” And when I came across especially florid sentences: “How do theologians learn to talk like this?” But often I simply wrote, “Theobabble!” in response to nonsense and obfuscation.

More Blurbs for "The Case Against Miracles"

This anthology is scheduled to come out in the Fall. You can see the contents here.

----"The Case Against Miracles is the most important anthology to ever be written about miracles." By Peter Boghossian, author of A Manual for Creating Atheists and How to Have Impossible Conversations.

----"John Loftus’ The Case Against Miracles is a must read for anyone who truly and honestly wonders whether a miracle has ever occurred. Especially useful is its treatment of Craig Keener and his reports of the miraculous. Not only is the speciousness of Keener’s stories exposed, and the myriad faults of his investigate approach laid bare, but the details of how investigation into the miraculous must be approached is clearly articulated. One realizes what a monumental task it is, and how inadequate every report of the miraculous has been to date." By David Kyle Johnson, Ph.D, author of The Great Courses’ “The Big Questions of Philosophy”

----"Every John W. Loftus book is a must-read; he continues to assemble some of the finest and most insightful minds in contemporary counter-apologetics. Putting biblical miracle claims (and other shaky supports propping up the faith) under the magnifying lens, it weighs the evidence and finds them wanting. The Case Against Miracles is a superb resource and a handy field guide for any one forced to traipse through the treacherous jungles of the miraculous." By David Fitzgerald, author of Nailed, Jesus: Mything in Action and The Complete Heretic's Guide to Western Religion series.

Knowledge is the Greatest Sin of All

[Written by Teresa Roberts] In Christian theology, eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was the sin that caused the downfall of humankind. Apparently, the worst thing a human can do in the eyes of god is to acquire knowledge. Every tree bearing fruit in the garden was available to Adam and Eve except the one, the big tall tree bearing answers to their questions. That tree was strictly forbidden.

Can’t Christians Find a Better Religion?


God himself might not forgive their nasty history

The Methodist Church in rural Indiana that I attended as a kid was not too many notches above Quaker simplicity. There were modest stained glass windows, but the only other art, above the altar, was the famous Warner Sallman portrait of Jesus. There were flags on both sides of the altar, the Christian and American. No one gave much thought to the presence of the latter; how could Christianity and our patriotic certainties not be in sync? We were sure that apostle Paul had it right: “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” (II Corinthians 3:17) although Paul didn’t have democracy in mind at all.

Jesus : His Life - Did Jesus Exist?

Having reviewed the television program I wanted to address some of the content from the Jesus : His Life website as well, namely the page that addresses the historicity of Jesus. I do find it significant that they address the existence of Jesus at all, at least acknowledging the growing number of people who doubt that Jesus was a real person. This is my last post covering the His Life series.

The website for the program includes several pages that address various aspects of Jesus lore. One such page addresses the question of whether Jesus existed at all. The page notes that a survey by the Church of England found that 22 percent of Brits didn't believe that Jesus was a real person. 

We are then told, however, that of course the overwhelming majority of New Testament scholars (the majority of whom are Christians) do believe that Jesus was a real person. So what evidence does the site put forward to support the existence of Jesus? 

When God Despises Our Humanness


A Review of Vitaly Malkin’s Dangerous Illusions: How Religion Deprives Us of Happiness

A challenge that theists have never met—as far as I know they’re not even working on it—is to show doubters and skeptics where we can find reliable, verifiable data about God. The catch is that all theists must agree, “Yes, that’s where to find it.” The endeavor flounders because theists have never been able to agree on which God data are reliable and verifiable. They don’t agree on whose revelations, scriptures, visions, and prayers are authentic. Just try, for example, to get a handle on which Christianity is the right one. In other words, humans have bungled religion badly: It’s a mess.

Jesus : His Life - The Crucifixion

In a prior post I reviewed the first three episodes of the History Channel program Jesus : His Life. I've skipped the 4th through 6th episodes and will here be reviewing the final double episode that covers the Crucifixion. 

The Crucifixion episode also focuses on Mary Magdalene - leading with misinformation right out of the gate.

You Too Might Be Kneeling On The Holy Stairs Jesus Climbed...

...if you were raised a Catholic and gullible enough to believe a medieval legend that the Scala Santa, also known as the Holy Stairs, were brought from Jerusalem to Rome circa 326 AD by St. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great. It's believed Jesus climbed them on the day of his crucifixion. In a second picture look how worn these stairs are after centuries of pilgrims. "This is the first time in 300 years that the walnut wood covering over the steps has been removed. It first was placed on the steps at Pope Innocent XIII’s request in 1723 to preserve the marble. The staircase was uncovered on Thursday and will remain that way through June 9, allowing visitors to ascend the steps on their knees, as is tradition. After the two-month window, the wood covering will be replaced, meaning this will likely be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Christians to see the steps in their original form." You'd better book your trip today!!! More Religion Pics of the week here.

Jesus : His Life – A review

When I heard about the History Channel’s new TV special, Jesus : His Life, I was quite interested to see how they were going to handle the subject. As the author of the recently published book, Deciphering the Gospels Proves Jesus Never Existed, obviously I knew that my perspective on the subject would be different than whatever might be presented, but I was still quite interested to see how they were going to present the subject matter.

Comic Book Fantasy in the New Testament


Its oldest document delivers….

It’s no wonder there are thousands of different Christian brands. The New Testament itself has fueled so much heated debate, diluting the One True Faith and provoking endless irreconcilable interpretations. So pity the poor laypeople. Largely isolated from theological wrangling, they have to figure out the essence of the faith from what they’ve learned in Sunday school. One theme, of course, represents Jesus as the embodiment (literally) of I John 4:8, “God is love.” That has had staying power, and John 3:16 is probably the best PR jingle ever.

This was brought home to me recently when I had a conversation with a Christian on Facebook. Here’s what I heard from him: “Love is the main theme throughout the New Testament.” “Love is the primary message of Jesus.” Christianity’s “primary tenet is love for all humanity.” See, John 3:16 works! I suggested some of the texts that show this is not the case at all, far from it, but these made no dent in his uber-confidence about love. I might as well have been shooting arrows at a tank.