Christian Apologist Vincent J. Torley Now Argues Michael Alter’s Bombshell Book Demolishes Christian Apologists’ Case for the Resurrection

Dr. Vincent J. Torley is no stranger to us at DC. We've dealt with him plenty of times before. To his credit he engages us in an intelligent and civil manner.

Not too long ago I challenged him to read Michael J. Alter's book Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry as the best book on the resurrection, by far. He read it. Alter's book changed his mind. Torley offered three reasons why he changed his mind about the resurrection and credited me with the first one! He now says:
It is not often that I encounter a book which forces me to undergo a fundamental rethink on a vital issue. Michael Alter’s The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry is one such book. The issue it addresses is whether the New Testament provides good evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead. Prior to reading Michael Alter’s book, I believed that a Christian could make a strong case for Jesus’ having been raised from the dead, on purely historical grounds. After reading the book, I would no longer espouse this view. Alter has convincingly demolished Christian apologists’ case for the Resurrection – and he’s got another book coming out soon, which is even more hard-hitting than his first one, judging from the excerpts which I’ve read.

Diehard skeptics will of course dismiss the Resurrection as fiction because they reject the very idea of the supernatural, but Michael Alter, a Jewish author who has spent more than a decade researching the Resurrection, isn’t one of these skeptics. Alter willingly grants for the sake of argument the existence of a personal God Who works miracles and Who has revealed Himself in the Hebrew Bible. Despite these generous concessions to his Christian opponents, I have to say that Alter’s book is the most devastating critique of the case for the Resurrection that I have ever read....reading Alter’s book will make you realize that what historians know about Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and post-mortem appearances to his disciples is very little: far too little for a Christian to base their belief in the reality of Jesus’ Resurrection on the historical evidence alone. I now believe that only the grace of God could possibly justify making such an intellectual commitment.
If you think that's stunning you won't believe what Torley says next, about the minimal facts and the maximal data approaches to defending the resurrection:

God’s Big Screw-up of Intelligent Design


He isn’t in the details after all

“This is the day that the Lord has made,” so said the ancient psalmist (118:24), “let us rejoice and be glad in it.” The certainty that God makes things is firmly imbedded in the religious psyche. The apostle Paul was sure he knew what God was like, and the beginning of this wisdom could be found by observing the world: “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.” (Romans 1:20). If you push most people of faith to explain why they believe in God, sooner or later you’ll hear, “Well, this world didn’t just happen. Someone had to make it!” And, of course, Genesis 1 tells how it all happened.

Sometimes we’ll even be reminded of William Paley’s famous 1802 analogy of a watch found on the ground, “while crossing a heath.” Of course the complicated timepiece had a maker, so how can we not see that nature itself—so much more intricate—must have had a maker as well? These days, of course, Intelligent Design crowd is in our face to push the fine-turning argument.

The Modal Ontological Argument


The ontological argument that is most touted these days is Alvin Plantinga’s modal version. There are several videos defending it on YouTube, and more than one caller to The Atheist Experience has used it to make his case. (One online defense of it can be seen here.)

The argument begins with the innocuous-sounding claim that it is possible that God exists. This is something most atheists would readily admit. After all, atheists — even positive atheists, who claim that God does not exist — don’t usually say that God couldn’t possibly exist. There may not be a God, but we can imagine a different reality in which there was one. And if it is logically possible for there to be a God, then there is a possible world in which God exists — even if in the actual world he doesn't.

But this of course depends on what is meant by “God.” Plantinga defines it as a being with “maximal greatness.” To have maximal greatness is to have every great-making property (power, goodness, and so on) to the greatest possible degree in every possible world. (After all, being perfect only in some possible worlds isn’t quite as outstanding as being perfect in every possible world.) In other words, a being that would be omnipotent, perfectly good, etc., in every possible world, would be maximally great.

But now, if it is possible for God (a maximally great being) to exist, then God exists in some possible world. But if God exists in some possible world, then it follows that he exists in every possible world — otherwise, he wouldn’t be maximally great in that one world. And if God exists in every possible world, then he exists in the actual world. Plantinga therefore contends that, given the possibility of God, you must accept that he exists.

This is a bit confusing, but perhaps what Plantinga’s claiming here can be better understood by means of an analogy. Consider Goldbach’s Conjecture, which is the most famous of all unsolved mathematical problems (it states that every even integer greater than two is the sum of two primes). Now, given that mathematical truths are necessary, it follows that if Goldbach’s Conjecture is true, then it is necessarily true — that is, it is true in every possible world. Suppose then that we claim it is possible that the conjecture is true — and that we mean, not merely epistemically possible (that for all we know it might be true), but logically possible. Suppose, in other words, that the conjecture is true in at least one possible world — say, that in World 435873, a mathematician has found a valid proof of it. If so, then, because what that mathematician has proved is a necessary truth — true for all possible worlds — Goldbach‘s Conjecture must be true in the actual world. Thus, the mere claim that the conjecture is logically possible implies that it is true. And that is what Plantinga is arguing for God’s existence. Given the way he defines things, the mere assertion that God is logically possible means that God exists.

As I said, the argument begins with an innocuous-sounding claim: that it is possible that God exists. However, as I also pointed out, the reasonableness of that claim depends on how “God” is defined. And so we need to ask whether as defined by Plantinga, God is possible.

In the YouTube video linked above, the presenter points out that one might argue against the possibility of God by claiming that the concept of God is contradictory — e.g., by raising the paradox of omnipotence. Can a God create a rock so heavy that even he couldn’t lift it? He then dismisses the paradox and concludes, at least provisionally, that God is after all possible — and therefore, given Plantinga’s argument, must exist. But that hardly touches upon the real problem. Plantinga defines God as maximally great — not merely as omnipotent — and the question is whether maximal greatness is possible.

Let’s consider Goldbach’s Conjecture once more. It may also seem innocuous to claim that it is possibly true — and it is, provided we mean epistemically possible. After all, it may be true. (In fact, there are good reasons for thinking it is.) But to claim that it is logically possible isn’t innocuous at all. For as we’ve seen, that is equivalent to claiming it is true. And yet that is exactly what Plantinga is doing with regards to the existence of God.

To claim that a maximally great being is logically possible is to claim that such a being actually exists. If a maximally great being doesn’t exist, then it isn’t even possible for it to exist (just as if Goldbach’s Conjecture isn’t true, then it isn’t even possible for it to be true). Thus, the question whether it is in fact possible cannot simply be ignored. Furthermore, unlike with Goldbach’s Conjecture, there are good reasons for claiming that it isn’t true that such a being exists. For it can only exist if in fact there is no possible world without an omnipotent, perfectly good being in it. And why would that be? Why isn’t there a possible world with nothing in it except, say, Alvin Plantinga’s beard?

The funny thing about all this is that Plantinga himself has admitted that his argument doesn’t prove there is a God. Even though the argument is valid — that is, the conclusion follows from its one premise — and Plantinga believes it is sound (since he believes the premise that God is possible is true), he admits that it is not a good argument. For, as we’ve just seen, an atheist who understands it is just going to deny the possibility of such a God. Plantinga has even compared it with arguing “Either 7+5 = 13 or God exists; 7+5 ≠ 13; therefore, God exists.” This, too, is a valid argument. In addition, Plantinga believes it is a sound argument (since he believes God exists, and thus regards both premises as true). But even if it is sound, it is not a good argument. After all, an atheist isn’t going to accept the first premise.

You might think that Plantinga himself admitting his argument doesn’t prove God’s existence would be enough to make theists stop using it. But you'd be wrong.

Franz Kiekeben is a former lecturer in philosophy and the author of two books on atheism, The Truth about God, and Atheism: Q & A. He has also written for Skeptic magazine and published academic articles on determinism and on time travel.

Religion Photos of the Week -- We Could Be Indoctrinated Differently


Each week Religion News Service presents a gallery of photos of religious expression around the world. This week’s gallery includes images from Rosh Hashana, Ganesh Chaturthi, Muharram and more.

LINK: "Religion News Service Photos of the Week"

Must Watch! This is Why Believers Refuse to Look At Their Own Religion As Outsiders Do!!


God’s “Emotions” … Are They Actually a Thing?


So many wrong guesses about God
It’s my hunch that sitting in church in the 18th century was not much fun. I doubt if there were cushions on the pews, there was no air-conditioning, the preachers were long-winded and dour. One of the classic sermons of that era is Jonathan Edward’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” He wanted folks to know how mad God was…at almost everyone, it would seem.

“The reason why [wicked men] do not go down to hell at each moment, is not because God, in whose power they are, is not then very angry with them; as he is with many miserable creatures now tormented in the hell, who there feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath. Yea, god is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation, who it may be are at ease, than he is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell.” 

Yes, you read that right. Reverend Edwards said that God was angrier with some of his parishioners than he was with many of the folks already in the ‘flames of hell.’ He had read the New Testament accurately, of course. In Matthew 25:45, for example, Jesus seethed against people who failed to show sufficient compassion: “And these will go away into eternal punishment…” Talk about harsh. His cousin John the Baptist was good at seething as well: “John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” (Luke 3:7) The apostle Paul was confident that God’s default emotion was wrath. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness…” (Romans 1:18) That wrath was permanently in place, and only the select few will escape: “…now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.” (Romans 5:9)

Two questions should come to mind.

Look At What You Could've Been Raised to Believe and Ask How You Could Come To The Truth?

Each week Religion News Service presents a gallery of photos of religious expression around the world. This week’s gallery includes images from Indian celebrations, an Orthodox Christian conference and more. My question to honest believers is this one: Look at what you could've been raised to believe, then ask yourself how you could come to know the truth if you were raised incorrectly? I'm here to remind you there's a way to know which religion is true, if there is one. You can find it explained right here if you dare.

Do Christians Consider Curiosity a Sin?


The impact of “…distrust for deep thought…”
A Christian recently posted a comment on the Facebook page for my book: “You seem to have prayed for something and didn’t get it. Isn’t that the main reason people turn atheist?” There are certain situations in which unanswered prayer could be a reason—and I’ll get to that in a moment. But this suggestion about the ‘main reason’ was a clue that this guy remains inside a hard plastic bubble to protect the faith. If he had made serious inquiries about atheism, he would have discovered many other reasons for which people reject belief in God. But why bother? He wasn’t that curious.

This is a common pattern. During the last six years Christians have dropped by the Facebook page to offer their protests and objections—as well as amateurish analysis of my critiques of their faith. One thing has stood out, constantly: They don’t know much about their own religion. I see so little evidence that serious investigation of faith has been attempted. Life inside their hard plastic bubbles doesn’t include curiosity. They know what they know, and that’s enough.

Einstein on Miracles?


As Abraham Lincoln famously said, “the problem with quotes on the internet is that very often they are not authentic.” In spite of this, one of my Facebook friends recently posted something supposedly said by Einstein which many find inspirational. It goes like this: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.”

As this was obviously not something Einstein would have said, I did a Google search to see if I could find its actual origin. What I found, though, ended up being more interesting: comments by quite a few people who were upset about the description of the quote as fake, and as “sugar coated garbage.” The comments, it seems, say a lot about religious mentality. Here are a few examples:

“I’ll take the sugar quoted garbage. Happiness is my goal in life and too often the ‘get real’ advice gets in my way.”

“Regardless of the veracity we all invest our own meanings and have our own needs. For me the quote is about gratitude, wonder and belief.”

“If something is meant to be positive, constructive and inspiring. What is the harm?... Let’s rejoice in great quotes that can uplift and put some sunshine in our days. Let’s celebrate those daily miracles. I know I do :)”

What is striking about these comments is their blatant lack of concern with the facts. These people openly admit that they don’t care whether what they believe is true so long as it makes them feel good.

Of course, this doesn’t prove that all religious people are like this. But even those who claim to have reasons for their beliefs often show that they really aren’t all that concerned with truth. When faced with a clear contradiction in the Bible, for example, they will jump through logical hoops to avoid facing it.

Acceptance of “sugar-coated garbage” is probably more common than is generally acknowledged.

Source of above comments:

Regarding possible origin of fake Einstein quote:

Franz Kiekeben is a former lecturer in philosophy and the author of two books on atheism, The Truth about God, and Atheism: Q & A. He has also written for Skeptic magazine and published academic articles on determinism and on time travel.

DC Books Cover 2018

Our new header for now.

If Cultural Influences Were Different We Would Believe Differently

Let me be very clear without any fear of dispute. If we want to know the truth about religion, or anything else important about the nature of our world and its workings, we must demand sufficient objective evidence for it. Then we should think exclusively in terms of the probabilities by proportioning our conclusions according to the strength of the evidence. Period. In cases where the evidence doesn't exist, or is minimal at best, we must reject the ideas we hold dear, regardless of how cherished they are, and regardless of how many people hold them. This is what adults do with data. Be an adult. Desire to know the truth. Live in the real world rather than a preteen imaginary fantasy world. [The fact that we never hear believers say these things shows they prefer their imaginary fantasy world, despite their smoke screen obfuscations].

Jesus and his Team of Traveling Exorcists


Reading the gospels can be a bumpy ride
It would be cool to throw down this challenge to the folks who are sure the Bible is God’s Wonderful Word: See how many chapters you can get through without having to make excuses for what seems to be the plain meaning of the text. We commonly hear, “Well, you can’t take that literally,” or “It’s not as strange/bad/silly as it sounds…” There are plenty of on-line apologist commentaries to help knock off the rough edges and ‘make straight the way of the lord,’ so to speak. Of course, one can breeze through the gospels on the hunt for the familiar, comforting texts, but a careful, thoughtful reading sometimes can put strains on faith.

Where Did Life Come From by CW Brown, Mark W. Gura, and John W. Loftus


We each had a part in writing a explanation for this meme. LINK.

Why Would We Reject God?


There are quite a few believers out there who argue that the existence of a Creator is obvious to all, and that the only reason atheists deny this is because they don’t want to submit to his authority. For those in this theistic camp — those who, as one might say, don this particular religious attire — God is evident from the world he created. As Romans 1:20 puts it, “his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.” Furthermore, this supposedly explains why belief in some god or other is found in every human society.

Atheists, however, reject the Creator because they don’t want there to be divine judgement; they want the freedom to do as they please. Thus, they cannot accept the idea of a higher power with moral demands on them.

Look what you'd be doing this week if you were born somewhere else!

LINK. Notagod just reminded me of this map of world religions. Yep, the odds are you would have adopted one of them, and believe in it just as fervently as you do yours. Back before planes, trains and automobiles religious monopolies were more pronounced than this map shows. [Roll your cursor over it.]

“Let’s Study the Bible,” they said. “It’ll Be Fun,” they said.


So Many Blows to the Faith
A few years ago a devout Catholic friend told me she wanted to go to Israel, “…to see all the holy sites, the famous Jesus places.” Heavy sigh. I told her about Helena, the mother of Constantine, who had visited the Holy Land—some 300 years after the stories related in the gospels—and selected the sites where she supposed the Jesus events had taken place. They have been tourist traps to this day. There is no documentation whatever to support any of the guesses she made 300 years after the fact.

I suggested to my friend that if she really wanted to walk where Jesus had walked, her best chance for that would be at Capernaum; check out the ruins of its ancient synagogue. Not that the accounts can be trusted, but Mark, for example, says Jesus taught in that synagogue. But, of course, there’s no documentation for that either. Mark’s story—based on unknown sources, some 40 or 50 years later—doesn’t count as reliable evidence.

The Pure Sophistry and Obfuscationism of Philosophy of Religion and Why the Evidential Requirement Changes Everything

Earlier I had posted this link. I then reminded believers that had they been born differently due to the lottery of birth they would be raised to believe differently. Their religious rituals would be different too! On Facebook it was called the genetic fallacy. Nope. Look at what happens when the sophistry of philosophy of religion is used to obfuscate the impact of the lottery of birth, and why the requirement for evidence changes everything:

My New Forthcoming Anthology!

The Case against Miracles ed. John W. Loftus

Part 1 Problems with Miracles

On Miracles, by David Hume
Philosophical Problems with Miracles, by David Corner
Evidential Problems with Miracles in the Ancient Past, by John Loftus
Why Would God Even Do Miracles?, by Matthew McCormick

Part 2 Christians and Miracles

Why Miracles are Exceedingly Improbable, by Evan Fales
The Historian vs Craig Keener’s Methodology, by Matthew Ferguson
Craig Keener’s Faulty Case for Miracles, by Edward T. Babinski
Why Christians Believe in Miracles, by Valerie Tarico
From Deism to Fideism: Apologists Tacitly Admit the Lack of Evidence, by John Loftus

Part 3 Biblical Miracles under Scrutiny

The Creation Miracle?, by Abby Hafer
Old Testament Miracle Genres as Folklore and Legend, by Randall Heskett
Old Testament Messianic Prophecies?, by Robert J. Miller
The Miracle of an Incarnate God Born of a Virgin?, by Robert M. Price
The Miracles of Jesus?, by Robert Conner
The Miracle of Inspiration?, by David Madison
The Miracle of the Resurrection of Jesus?, by John Loftus
The Credibility of Paul and His Revelations, by Robert Conner
New Testament Prophecies of the Coming Son of Man?, by Robert Conner

Quote of the Day By Raol Martinez and Adam Smith (1723-1790)

The particulars of our birth largely determine who we become and the representations of reality we construct in our minds. Our environment channels our vast potential into a particular identity. How we end up speaking, thinking, feeling and acting owes much to the examples, opportunities and ideas to which we are exposed. From childhood until the day we die we are subject to a steady stream of influences – familial, corporate, state, school, religious, cultural – working to shape our habits, beliefs, assumptions, ideals and aims: our picture of reality.

The goals that appear valuable to us, and the best route to achieving them, emerge from the confluence of these forces. Standing between reality and our understanding of the world is the arbitrary process by which our identity is formed. If we are not to be misled by the mental constructs we inherit, we have to question them. This is easier said than done.

Anyone setting out to understand themselves and society – why it is the way it is and how it could be different -- faces obstacles at every turn, many of which exist precisely to mislead and misdirect.

By the time we’ve developed the capacity to begin questioning our identity, much of who we are has already been established. The emotional loyalties we develop towards our family, friends and community are entangled with ideas they pass on to us. To question effectively we need to place a higher value on the elusive ideal of truth than on loyalties to nation, religion, race, culture or ideology – in short to our inherited identity. We need to be able to cultivate enough doubt and uncertainty to look at our beliefs – our definitions of success, failure, love, family, good, bad, right and wrong – with skepticism.

Faith in every authority, expert and tradition needs to be put on hold long enough to be interrogated. As our mental faculties mature and strengthen, to challenge is to focus them not just on ideas that clash with our inherited identity, but on the very process that generated it.

Pretending We Don’t Know No Longer Works

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been baffled by human nature. Thus, even as a child I wondered what makes us do the things we do, why our behaviors often contradict what comes out of our mouths and why we predictably react the same way over and over again. One very peculiar behavioral theme that appears universally across cultures is that although the masses always outnumber those in power, they rarely use that fact to their advantage. Think about it. Those in power need us more than we need them. Whether in religious institutions, political organizations or corporations, nothing will get accomplished without our cooperation. Our cooperation can almost always be counted upon. In one way or another, we usually support their churches, do their work and fight their wars. Atheists may have exposed the myths and lies behind all religions, but that doesn’t mean they are savvy or openminded when it comes to all the other cultural expectations based on fairy tales that cause us to conform without question, often to the death and destruction of our own children.

Religion Photos of the Week & The Lottery of Birth

Again, had you been born differently due to the lottery of birth you would be raised to believe differently. Your religious rituals would be different too! See for yourselves.

Can’t We Put the Brakes on ‘Good Jesus’ Propaganda?


The gospels can help with that

For well over a thousand years, the laity did not have access to the Bible. The few cherished copies were in churches and monasteries; there were no printing presses or translations into the vernacular. The folks who filled the pews learned about Jesus through paintings, sculpture, architecture, stained glass, music and the Mass. And, following the lead of the apostle Paul, the focus was on the risen Christ, the celestial figure who was the key to salvation.

The gospels were written to tell the story that Paul virtually ignored, or perhaps more accurately, wasn’t even aware of. He made a point of not learning about Jesus from the people who had known him; even his ‘account’ of the Last Supper was based on his hallucinations—or as he put it, “For what I received from the Lord…” long after Jesus had died. (I Cor. 11:23)

Robert J. Miller's Book, Helping Jesus Fulfill Prophecy, Is a Rout

This book should end the faith-based claim that prophecy is evidence for the biblical God.
This book describes in detail how Christian authors "helped" Jesus fulfill prophecy...This book analyzes how the belief that Jesus fulfilled prophecy became an argument to justify a new notion: the view that Christians had replaced Jews as God's chosen people...The book concludes with an ethical argument for why Christians should retire the argument from prophecy. [It may be a bit expensive but it's the only book you'll need on Messianic prophecy.

Is Life Really a Gift, Let Alone a Gift from God?

There’s as much cultural nonsense surrounding the idea that life is a gift as any other uncomfortable topic that human’s try to explain away in order to feel secure. After all, we came into this world without our consent and certainly weren’t handed a road map. From the first traumatic push through the birth canal, we landed in a situation not of our choosing. I contend that everyone is suffering from some form of PTSD due to the birth process alone, but when you factor in the total randomness of the lottery of birth, the deck really is stacked against many of us.

Quote of the Day By Robert Conner on Ridicule

Ridicule the ridiculous, laugh at the laughable has been my approach. Lucian of Samosata made a career out of publicly ridiculing philosophers, Christians, Greco-Roman gods, frauds, superstitions, and nonsense in general. Folly, willful stupidity, studied ignorance, hypocrisy, pomposity, puffery, lying and eagerness to be deceived should be laughed to scorn, scalded to death with derision just as thieves should be horsewhipped, particularly when they also happen to be bankers, and murders hanged.
He joins so many others, LINK.

Religion and Falsifiability


Atheists have for a long time pointed out that evil makes the existence of a perfect God at least less likely, and theists of course have attempted to explain why that is not the case. One interesting aspect of this debate is that, given the way theists argue, there cannot possibly be any amount of evil that would make their God less likely. Their answers to the problem of evil aren’t designed to account for a particular amount of pain and suffering, but for whatever pain and suffering there happens to be.

The free will defense, for example, says that evil is the result of the choices made by fallen human beings (and angels), and that is meant to explain away terrible things no matter how bad they are. The Holocaust, the Black Plague, cancer, atheism — all of these things and more can be blamed on us rather than on the all-powerful being in charge. (The buck has to stop somewhere.) Or consider soul-making theodicies, which argue that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (and, come to think of it, that even what does kill you makes you stronger). Or the view that it is simply a mystery why God allows pain and suffering, but that there must be some reason which we puny humans are too dumb to understand. None of these explanations attempts to account only for a certain amount of evil, but rather for any amount we might encounter. No matter what evil may befall us, we should remain confident that there is an all-loving God who has a reason for allowing it.

Just a Sober Reminder About Our Intellectual Obligations

Don Camp?

Just a sober reminder. These photos could have been of you, if you were born in a different place. Like them, you too would be just as sure your religion is the one true one. You too would special plead your case and not realize that's all you do. You too would scoff at the intellectual requirement to subject your faith to the same standards you use when dismissing other religions. You too would do everything you could to dismiss that requirement by calling on atheists to do the same thing, even though that red herring does nothing to alleviate your own intellectual obligations.

Was Jesus a Hippie or a Hoarder?

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Matthew 19:21

Remember those stirring words? They were spoken by Jesus not me. So, don’t kill the messenger, please. I’m only repeating the words of a god. And, oh my, how hard those words hit home when our culture pretty well insists upon the complete opposite. Our standard of success is to live as big as we can. Kings and popes have always done so without so much as a pinprick to their conscience. The masses look upon them with envy. Whenever a common man raises himself out of poverty, he gains instant respect and notoriety regardless of how he managed to accomplish this transformation. We adore the rich. In fact, in the modern world being rich and living a lifestyle of obese opulence is touted as The American Dream. Ha! It doesn't matter that roughly 80% of all Americans are head over heels in debt.

Christianity’s Guilty Pleasure: Magical Thinking


The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 5: Where’s the Delete Key?
It’s too bad J. K. Rowling didn’t write the gospels. Jesus could have used the Invisibility Cloak on the night he was betrayed; Judas wouldn’t have been able to find him to give him that famous kiss. But the four guys who penned the most famous Jesus stories—whom later tradition named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—were no slouches in the magical thinking department.

One of the mysteries of the Christian faith is that devout folks don’t notice this, or don’t grasp it; or, in explicably, they’re just not too concerned about it. Some evangelicals are tuned in enough to be alarmed by the Harry Potter stories—it’s sorcery, after all—without noticing the irony: Harry is competition; they trade in the same genre.

For a little fun comparing the Jesus stories and J. K. Rowling’s hero, see Derek Murphy’s Jesus Potter Harry Christ: The Fascinating Parallels Between Two of the World’s Most Popular Literary Figures.

Dr. Graham Oppy On the Five Best Atheist Philosophy of Religion Books

The team at Five Books interviews experts on their five best book choices on anything from language, sport, and art, to science, philosophy and the environment. I love this site and encourage everyone to subscribe to its bi-weekly updates, where they "ask experts to recommend the five best books in their subject and explain their selection in an interview." The site has over a thousand interviews.

They decided to ask Dr. Oppy to suggest and talk about the five best atheist philosophy of religion books. Specifically he was asked to suggest and discuss the five books "that have been the most influential" to him in his work as an atheist philosopher of religion. I've previously said what five books changed my life right here, and none of them were philosophy of religion books, even though I basically majored in that area of study for three of my master's degrees. [I'll not begrudge Oppy for failing to suggest my book in his list, Why I Became an Atheist, even though at least one informed atheist ranked it as the best atheist book of the past decade over some other top philosophy of religion books. Hey, don't shoot me, as I'm just the messenger! ;-)

Here are Oppy's choices. There are some surprises to be had in them. I have five important questions to ask him. See below for them and a link to his interview: