Another Case Study In How To Defend Obfuscate The Christian Faith, Part 2

Previously I had written a post titled, Subjective Private Religious Experiences Prove Nothing! Randal Rauser objected to it, so I wrote another one titled, Another Case Study In How To Defend Obfuscate The Christian Faith, Part 1. I'm finally getting around to Part 2, where I offer four tests for the veracity of private subjective miracle claims.

David Slade wrote an Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion entry on Miracle Eyewitness Reports, containing a wealth of information packed into a small entry. It speaks to what remains of any attempt to say someone experienced a private miracle. There are way too many distortions and psychological variables that the so-called witness himself should question his own judgment on the matter. If the so-called eyewitness himself cannot find any independent third party objective corroboration of the alleged miracle, not even he should believe it occurred.

Quotes from Slade on weighing the accuracy of miracle reports:

Dr. Paul Copan: "De-Conversion: Why People Leave the Christian Faith and (Re)Turn to It"

Paul Copan is a friend of mine. Like me, he earned a master's degree under William Lane Craig. Then like me, he went on to study at Marquette University for his PhD. He also wrote a few books, as I have done. See his Wikipedia page for more.

Recently Paul gave a talk with the above title. Apparently he's feeling the heat from polls showing what appears to be the demise of evangelicalism. In his talk he discusses several important ex-Christians and why they left the fold. He includes me at 8:10, and then again when discussing The Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) at 22:10.

Copan considers the challenges that ex-Christians present for the Christian faith. He considers mine to be challenge #1. He does not object to the OTF in his talk. He's embracing it, so it seems, just as Dr. Wallace Marshall has done. That's very significant since Copan served for six years as the President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Here are his slides on the OTF:

Christianity and the Witch-Hunt Mentality


It’s alive, potent, and dangerous

It isn’t hard at all to come up with a hundred verses in the gospels and epistles that would shock Christians. We would hear, “How can that be?” or “Well, I don’t believe that!” or “That’s not part of my religion.” Robert Conner doesn’t exaggerate: “The overwhelming majority of Christians know bupkis about what’s in the New Testament.” Even if, at one time or another, they’ve come across the alarming texts, they become masters of denial; their ‘nice religion’ remains invincible. Jesus too remains intact, despite many of the despicable things he (supposedly) believed and said.

Why Do Humans Crave Domination?

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 
— John 15:14 

Anyone who embraces the above scripture as the central theme to their relationship with a god must be a submissive at heart. The kind of friendship described in the verse has never appealed to me, but then I have a fairly dominate personality. 

They say the world can be divided into cat lovers and dog lovers, beer drinkers and wine drinkers or dominants and submissives.

Another Bible Chapter that Wouldn’t Be Missed


Somebody please get the scissors

My challenge to Christians—my plea, actually: Read the gospels and epistles carefully, meticulously, critically. Bring to these texts the same due diligence that you would apply when reviewing a mortgage or employment contract; you don’t want to be cheated or fooled. Let’s face it: pastors and priests are paid propagandists; yes, I keep saying this, because their urgent concern is to make all the stories come out right and banish doubts. Christians, you can do better than that: do the tough homework. The pews might empty fast—except for the folks who want to be conned, and don’t even notice that it’s happening.

Debunking Christianity, One Graphic at a Time! (Installment 2)


What Richard Carrier said!

What Guy Harrison said!

What David Madison said!

For Installment 1, click here.

Hey, feel free to copy these and spread them around!

Could You Think Your Way Out Of These Religions?

Here are some more religion photos of the week. Let's say people who don't believe in Jesus go to hell when they die. Then how would you go about convincing yourself you were born into the wrong religion? Try the Outsider Test for Faith. If your faith is the true one then your god should make it pass the test while others will fail it.

Debunking Christianity, One Graphic at a Time!


What John Loftus said!

What Robert Conner said!

What David Fitzgerald said!

Hey, feel free to copy these and spread them around.

"The most charitable thing we can say about faith is that it's likely to be false."

The title quote above comes from a talk by Peter Boghossian. He also said "We are forced to conclude that a tremendous number of people are delusional. There is no other conclusion one can draw." In this week's religion photos of the week you should see why. LINK. Christian, just ask what if you were them? You could've been.

When True Christians Beat Up on True Christians


A review of Tim Sledge’s Goodbye Jesus
How was it possible? How did I fall from grace so totally, i.e., go from being a Methodist pastor—with a PhD in Biblical studies no less—to denying the reality of God? Well, that’s no mystery according to some devout folks. One Christian blasted my story of how it happened: “‪If he can write a book this full of lying opinions, he could never have been a Christian to begin with! Answer to God if your book leads even one soul astray!”

‬‬‬‬ We can assume that this irate believer hadn’t actually read the details of my departure from the faith, but, had she done so, she would have said, “Aha, I knew it!” From the get-go, as a youth, my approach to Christianity was bookish, and I never had anything like an alter-call moment, ‘giving my life to Jesus.’ Eventually, when I saw through the Christian version of the cosmos, I was able to walk away from it—without too much anguish. I had never ‘belonged to Jesus.’ So by that measure, I admit to the snobbish True Christians, “No, I wasn’t a ‘Christian to begin with.’”

Did Jesus Predict the Resurrection?


Believers claim that the resurrection not only happened, but did so in accordance with what Jesus taught his followers about himself and his mission. And there are several passages in God’s supposed autobiography that back up this claim. For example, Matthew 16:21 states that Jesus told the disciples he must go to Jerusalem to be killed “and on the third day be raised.” And in 27:63-64, the priests tell Pilate about the prediction, and suggest that the Romans guard the tomb lest someone steal the body to make it look like it came true. Supposedly, then, Jesus’s followers expected the resurrection, and many of his enemies knew about this.

God and the Wizard of Oz are One and the Same

Dorothy: We want to see the Wizard of Oz. 
Gatekeeper: That’s impossible. No one has ever seen the great wizard. 
Dorothy: Then how do you know he exists? 

And, as it turned out, he didn’t exist. Dorothy was on her own, as we all are, and responsible for her own actions and consequences as well as how she treated others. No one has ever seen the great wizard.

Was this a movie with a hidden message — a great atheist or humanist tale?

The Day Jesus Cursed a Fig Tree


…and followed the deed with bad theology

When the gospels are experienced in short bursts—carefully selected bursts—Jesus comes off as the good Lord he’s supposed to be. But when you read a couple of chapters straight through, there will likely be a few how-can-that-be moments: did Jesus really say that; did Jesus really do that? Theologians and preachers earn their keep by cleaning up Jesus, and artists have helped. The negatives about Jesus don’t usually end up on the stained glass windows, and for centuries painters and sculptors have naturally favored the ‘good Jesus’ stories.

We are often surprised by what the gospel writers felt made Jesus look good. Little did they know that their documents would come under intense scrutiny many centuries later. The average lay person today—hearing the gospels read from the pulpit—has not been tipped off that the gospels are not history. Even devout New Testament scholars (other than strident evangelical apologists) grant that uncovering fragments of history is, to put it mildly, problematic.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Suffering But Was Afraid to Ask

I'm not a Buddhist nor am I a Christian, but there are a few ideas from the Buddhist philosophy with which I can more easily relate. I recently had a conversation with a devout Christian who was suffering immensely from the tragic loss of an eye. She was clearly depressed and no amount of faith seemed to give her hope, because her prayers had failed to intervene with the god she claimed to trust. 

How Could God Botch the Bible So Badly?


An epic failure of communication
Confident, enthusiastic believers assure us that God inspired a book to guide humanity. Indeed, since the Holy Spirit has never ceased its work—how could it be otherwise?—this sacred book has expanded continually. Take a look at that Bible on your bed stand; or flip through the magnificent copy on the church alter: Heeding the wisdom of devout theists everywhere, the Christian holy book now includes the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Qur’an, and the Book of Mormon.

Christianity Is Not Too Big to Fail, 4


Helping it along…off the cliff
While claiming the moral high ground, Christians keep making the news for doing nasty things. The Debunking Christianity blog has been amassing the arguments against this malignant religion for a long time. There are so many great articles in its archives that deserve to be kept front-of-mind.

I asked John Loftus to nominate some of his own favorite articles from the last few years, and we will be re-presenting them, a few at a time. This installment includes:

Just Who Can Be Accused of Having Closed Minds?

Addressing the Accusation: “You Were Never a Real Christian!

On Justifying the Use of Ridicule and Mockery

Enough of This Utter Nonsense, On Knowing the Supernatural

On the State of the Case for Christian: It’s Abysmal

Installment One of this series can be found here. Installment Three is here.

Please feel free to share these articles on social media. Keep them going! David Fitzgerald has said that Christianity not too big to fail. Let’s help that process along.

David Madison was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years, and has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. Two years ago he was invited by John Loftus to write for the DC Blog.

The Cure-for-Christianity Library can be found here.

Photos Highlighting Different Rituals and Traditions For Religious People!

This episode of religion photos of the week highlights the different rituals of people sharing basically the same religion. Different rituals. Different traditions. What we see is the result of different histories of basically the same religion. They show us that religion is cultural all the way down. Religious rituals like religious traditions and religious doctrines are relative, just like the cultures in which they reside. Why is this so hard to comprehend? Why do so many people still grip their doctrines, traditions, and even rituals with iron fists? It's both baffling and ignorant.

Religion and Morality

It is often claimed that morality comes from religion — that without the Ten Commandments and such things, we would not know right from wrong. On this view, atheists can be moral, but only because we “borrow” our values from the religious principles that permeate society. Even some who aren’t religious, or aren’t in any sense orthodox about their beliefs, sometimes say such things. Thus, the influential psychologist Jordan Peterson argued not long ago that Sam Harris is “fundamentally” a Christian because “he doesn’t rob banks, doesn’t kill people, doesn’t rape.”

Yet there’s a simple argument that shows morality doesn’t originate in religion: If it did, we wouldn’t find anything in religion to be morally problematic. In other words, if we learned right and wrong from the Bible, then we wouldn’t find any of the moral pronouncements there to be disturbing. The religious wouldn’t struggle with how it could be that God commanded the mass killing of infants, for example. They would simply accept that as yet another instance of God’s perfect justice and goodness.

“Let Us Pray.” Not, God Forbid, “Let Us Think.”


Faith thrives when curiosity doesn’t

I welcome being called a firebrand atheist, but even so I try to behave on social media. On Facebook, for example, I never visit Christian pages or groups to advocate atheism. It would be a waste of time and keystrokes, but it would also be akin to my walking into a church on Sunday morning to argue with the preacher. Bad manners. I don’t want to be a firebrand troll.

But on the Facebook page for my book, Christians show little restraint. They drop in to vent and, sad to say, spew hate. The subtitle of my book, “A Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith”—combative, yes, intentionally—draws their spleen. They are stunned, moreover, at the suggestion that there are any problems with their faith, let alone ten.

Did Moses Exist?

[First posted 5/23/16] I was asked if Moses existed. The answer is no. For detailed answers look here:

1) Read chapter 11 "The Credibility of the Exodus" by Rebecca Bradley in my new anthology.

2) Read this book by Robert M. Price, Moses and Minimalism.

3) Read this book by Murdock D.M. titled, Did Moses Exist?: The Myth of the Israelite Lawgiver.

4) Watch this excellent documentary The Bible Unearthed.

5) Listen to the YouTube podcast below of Robert Price and Hector Avalos discussing the historicity Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and Jesus.

Scientists have established a link between brain damage and religious fundamentalism

Well lookee here. Scientists have established a link between brain damage and religious fundamentalism. LINK. I knew it!

Turning the Argument from Reason On its Head

I was asked to comment on CS Lewis:

We can trust of the conclusions of our brains precisely because we evolved. The fact that we can think correctly means we had the survival skills that got us here. Other species died out because they didn't think correctly. Evolution has the unintended consequence that it weeds out species whose thinking skills didn't allow them to survive.

However, since evolution is continuing we're far from having the precise logical thinking skills of someone like Spock in Star Trek. Compared to Spock we are but babes. For our brains lie to us in favor of comfortable truths that help keep us within the safety net of our social tribes. The list of cognitive biases that hinder our brains from knowing the truth is very real, very long, and they affect us all, all the time, especially on matters we are passionate about. So our brains are not that reliable as good guides to the truth, apart from demanding hard sufficient objective corroborating evidence for truths about the nature of nature, its workings and origins. That our brains are flawed is the reason why people still believe in supernatural entities likes gods, goddesses, ghosts and ghouls without sufficient objective evidence. It's also the reason why those of us who understand the flawed nature of our brains look for science to circumvent the biases of our brains. There is no higher authority than having an overwhelming consensus of scientists working in a field. There is no lower authority than people who rely on subjective feelings for the truth.

The Arrogance and Unreasonableness of Christian Apologists

I think a rite of passage to becoming a Christian apologist should be to follow the advice of Rene Descartes, a good Catholic, who is widely known for being the father of modern philosophy. He embarked on a quest for knowledge that began by doubting everything he could doubt. He wrote: "If you would be a real seeker after truth it is necessary that at least once in your life, you should you doubt, as far as possible, all things."

No one has to doubt everything. But everyone should doubt most everything once in their lives. Most people hardly doubt anything at all throughout their lives. They were raised to know the truth, the whole truth, so help them god. If they do doubt something significant it could be a real life changer, especially something near and dear to them, like religion. Christian apologists should especially do what Descartes said. It would humble them. It might force them to hold to fewer claims with certainty, at the least.

All Gods Are Parochial

Culturally speaking all gods are parochial. They live in separate geographical areas on the planet just as they have always done. Some gods claim to rule over the whole earth while others are content to rule over just a small patch of land. Others are vying for more land. Still others are just being born with no land yet. Don't think so? Well I've got the pictures to prove it! Here's one. You too could be a Hindu if you were born and raised as a Hindu. What advice would you give them in hopes of helping them know which religion is true if there is one?

Human Testimony to Miracles Is Insufficient to Believe

A potential natural explanation for a given miracle tale in the Bible, even if below the threshold of probabilities, is still preferable to a miraculous explanation since it's a nearly impossible one given the nature of nature and the physics built on it. What we know is that the miraculous events in the Bible did not take place, per David Hume, since all we have is human testimony without sufficient objective corroboration, and human testimony alone is not enough for reasonable people to believe nature was violated. Even the very best quality of human testimony can only call for a suspension of judgment, should it ever be actually found. But what we find exclusively in the Bible is human testimony alone, ancient pre-scientific superstitious human testimony, second- third- fourth-handed human testimony, conflicting human testimony filtered by editors, redactors, and shaped by early Christian debates for decades and/or centuries.

It's not that I need to claim Balaam's ass didn't talk. It's that someone believed his story. Did an axe head float on water? A wise person, a reasonable person, should not believe nature was violated without sufficient objective corroborating evidence, and there is basically no good corroborating evidence for any miracle in the Bible. Now, true, there is evidence consistent with a biblical miracle, such as the archaeological finding of the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem where Jesus told a blind man to go and be healed. But that's not considered corroborating evidence. At best what Christians have are archaeological findings that are consistent with what they believe, in the same way as the city of Roswell confirms the existence of aliens, or as the city of Bethlehem confirms that Jesus was born of a virgin there. But this kind of evidence is negligible at best.

Christians, Your Faith Needs a Make-over


A good start: Just say NO to the apostle Paul. Please.
It’s part of the sacred script Christians have heard forever, and resonates especially when heard from the pulpit:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)

That’s advice from Jesus, or so Mark would have us believe. But is it true that the ordinary folks who claim to be Christians—those who have jobs, pursue careers, cherish their families and hobbies, enjoy sports and who look forward to vacations—are into extreme God-love?

On Indoctrination One More Time, Plus the Josh McDowell Test for Faith!

Hey you who are indoctrinating your children. [See "Indoctrination" tag below] Yes you! What have you done to make sure you're religious faith is correct that's different from what other believers have done, who were raised to believe differently, and are equally sure they're religious faith is correct? If you have done NOTHING but accept your indoctrination then you are ignorant fools. If you have done NOTHING DIFFERENT than others you have no warrant to indoctrinate your children.
David Marshall showed up on Facebook with something irrelevant, saying: "Maybe the inability to persuade is why atheists have among the least success in passing their beliefs on to the next generation." But surely, if he read what I wrote and thought about all the religious parents indoctrinating their kids out there, he should agree with me. Otherwise, what's the problem?

As to who's losing this intellectual war of ideas goes, the polls say faith is. Christians admit it too. Famed apologist Josh McDowell says one of the big reasons for this is due to the access of ideas!! What else could he mean?

Dustin Lawson was Josh McDowell's protege. McDowell goes around to churches telling them to try to disprove Christianity. I think that's really good advice for adults interested in knowing whether their indoctrinated faith is true. Well, Dustin listened to him and followed his advice! Guess what happened? He no longer believes, surprise!

Immoral Theology at the Heart of Christianity


Why are the faithful okay with it?
I don’t know how Christian apologists can live with themselves. They are on a fool’s errand: will it ever dawn on them?

They belong to that elite club of Defenders of the Faith at Any Cost, and the super devout of dozens of different religions are members of the club; they make their livings showing that their own religion is the right one. There are fervent apologists for Catholicism, for example; they can prove beyond a shadow of any doubt that their brand of Christianity has a lock on the truth about the Cosmos. But then we can turn to fervent evangelicals—who know how wrong the Catholics are—as well as to the champions of hundreds of other Christian brands, including, ahem, the Mormons. And where, by the way, do Jews and Muslims fit on the scale of absolute truth?

You Too Could Have Been a Hindu Monk!

These Hindu monks are wrong about God and salvation, right? Enough to go to hell? Why do correct beliefs save anyone? That makes no sense.  

For more religion photos of the week click here.

O Holy Night! How Matthew Screwed Up the Christmas Story


Get those Wise Men out of the stable…
We can imagine the literary agents for Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John meeting for drinks one Friday evening after work. They all get texts that the church’s Authorized Bible Committee has decided to publish the four gospels together, back-to-back. They all wince. Not a good idea! This will encourage the faithful to compare the four Jesus accounts. Matthew and Luke plagiarized (and altered) Mark extensively—without telling anyone—and the author of John’s gospel was pretty sure that the other three hadn’t told the story well at all, and made up stuff to ‘improve’ to tale. What a mess.