Why Do Most Christians Believe?

Here's me summing up a discussion I saw here on Debunking Christianity:

Jim: "I believe what I was raised to believe and/or what a set of ancient pre-scientific writings say and/or what I feel must be true about the origins of the universe. In other words, what I believe is based on utterly unreliable means with little or no objective evidence."

Him: "When it comes to the origin of the universe I will wait for the final results of science since it has solved, and continues to solve, so many unanswered questions."

On Solving The Problem of Induction, Revisited

Many times I'm accused of not understanding a particular problem merely because I disagree with how it's best answered. In today's case I'm accused of being ignorant about the problem of induction. I understand a great deal about the philosophical quandaries involved, which I briefly wrote about earlier, and which can be read at the Online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. My Christian self reveled in this problem along with other apologists, since our goal was to show that science is only possible given a creator god of the Christian kind, and that even scientists need faith. I now vehemently disagree with my former Christian self on these counts.

I think the problem of induction is just a philosophical puzzle for philosophers interested in solving philosophical puzzles, and that's it. The philosopher who can solve it wins, you see. But solving it in it's current form means coming up with a theory of everything and/or in explaining the problem of our existence itself, that is, why this particular universe exists rather than nothing at all. Philosophers will never solve these problems because only scientists can solve them, if they can be solved at all.

Does inductive reasoning work? Most emphatically it does. In fact, no scientist has ever documented a single case where it didn't work to increase our knowledge of the universe. Could good inductive reasoning fail to work? I don't see how it could, for to show it didn't work at a given time means using inductive reasoning to show that it didn't work. At the very best, the odds of my being wrong about inductive reasoning are almost infinitesimally small (and even if I'm wrong about this, it doesn't change the fact that scientists should continue reasoning inductively).

Faith is not involved in reaching this conclusion, nor do I need certainty before claiming to know something, anything. All that reasonable people must do is the one thing most believers cannot bring themselves to do. They should think exclusively in terms of the probabilities based on solid objective evidence. When reasonable people think this way there's no room for faith, nor any need for certainty which usually goes with it.

So can I explain why inductive reasoning works in our particular universe? Basically, yes.

Inductive reasoning works in this universe
because it works in this universe, and that's it.
In other universes it might not work.


Any questions?

On Solving the Problem of Induction

[Redated post from 11/27/13]
Vincent Torley takes on Sean Carroll, Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins and myself when it comes to justifying scientific knowledge. He spends some time on the dreaded problem of induction and goes on to pretend to know things he doesn't know, by asserting his particular god makes science possible such that, without pretending to know what he does, science has no justification. LINK.

The problem of induction was brought to the attention of intellectuals by David Hume. Atheist philosopher Stephen Law is on record as saying:
Hume’s argument continues to perplex both philosophers and scientists. There’s still no consensus about whether Hume is right. Some believe that we have no choice but to embrace Hume’s sceptical conclusion about the unobserved. Others believe that the conclusion is clearly absurd. But then the onus is on these defenders of “common sense” to show precisely what is wrong with Hume’s argument. No one has yet succeeded in doing this (or at least no one has succeeded in convincing a majority of philosophers that they have done so). LINK (see his conclusion).
Law concludes that no one has succeeded so far, which includes Vincent Torley's god hypothesis. Law refuses to pretend to know things he doesn't know, which I find admirable. However, we shouldn't forget that Hume lived in an era where philosophers were looking for certainty, following in the footsteps of Descartes. Hume brought the quest for certainty to an end though, showing that if we seek after certainty we cannot observe cause and effect, or that we have a self either (as opposed to a bundle of sensations). This is the difference that makes all the difference. The quest for a certain foundation for knowledge is, or should be, dead. But because of the lack of certainty Torley erroneously inserts his unevidenced mysterious miracle god-hypothesis into the equation.

"My modernized compassionate God is the true deity. Christians are to blame for the wrong done in his name."

I edited a huge book of 558 pages attacking such nonsense, called, Christianity is Not Great. In an announcement I made when it went to print you can see the chapter titles and authors. Below you can see a few recommendations/blurbs:

Former Pastor Joseph: "It was all in my mind. God doesn't talk to people."

After 40 years as an insider, what I saw was:

1) a legion of believers fervently praying to "know the will of God" only to end up making their own decision that they "sensed" God was "leading them" to make. The reality: It's all in their mind. God doesn't talk to people.

2) Ditto to everything above but from another angle. Since God was not saying anything to them, they sought the counsel of the "aged saints" to instruct them on what to do. The reality: It's all in their mind. God doesn't talk to people.

3) A common complaint that I heard over four decades was "God seems so far away." To which the "great saints" would retort "This is a normal occurrence in the life of a believer. This is why its faith." The reality: It's all in their mind. God doesn't talk to people.

4) No two believers agreed on all matters ethically and doctrinally. There are roughly 1000 commands in the Bible. No two believers observe and ignore the same ones. The reality: It's all in their mind. God doesn't talk to people.

5) believers would hold dearly to the invented tenant that the Bible is "how God talks to us now." Why? Because of reality. It's all in their minds. God doesn't talk to people.

Without exaggeration, I have spent hundreds of hours in prayer during my lifetime. It truly was one directional. Any feedback internally was nothing more than imagined and conditioned amygdalan responses.

I'll never forget the awakening moment I had walking as a pastor in a forest preserve in the burbs of Chicago. It was at that time that I realized there was no one of the other side of my prayers. It was all in my mind. God doesn't talk to people.
In a 2009 study done by Nicholas Epley from the University of Chicago we now know it's all in the mind of the believer. "God" (the English name of the Christian god) doesn't talk to people. Believers simply create their own religion, their own Gospel, and their own God in their own image. This has been shown TO BE A FACT. The study, as reported by Discovery magazine, needs to be shared more widely than it has BEEN so far. It proves that it's all in the mind of the believer. God doesn't talk to people. Why? Because its been shown he agrees with every single believer on a host of different unrelated issues. Given that God cannot agree with everyone then God doesn't talk to anyone. To continue maintaining God talks to any given believer, or any select group of believers, is utter madness, a delusion, given the number of people God agrees with in the world.

“Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance.”


It remains the study of human guesswork about god(s)

I was a Bible geek when I was in high school and college, but when I arrived at graduate school, Boston University School of Theology, my study of the Bible moved into higher gear. In my PhD program, among other things, I had to achieve reading competency in German, because German-speaking scholars were at the forefront of biblical studies and theology (if theology can be said to have a forefront)—and had been for generations.

Quote of the Day by Karl Gilberson (with comment)

Gilberson wrote a nice blurb for my book, How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist. Yesterday on Facebook he wrote this gem:

Given all that science has explained from its inception, what are they waiting for, the day science can explain everything? *Sheesh* So what would they say if it could explain everything? Will believers say their god created the universe perfectly without any gaps at all?

Where is the Virgin Mary When You Really Need Her?


There’s some really big sin to slap down

One of the bullets that struck Pope John Paul II on 13 May 1981 is now attached to the crown of the Lady of Fátima statue in Portugal. The thirteenth of May, you see, happens to be the Feast Day of the Lady of Fátima, and the pope had been an ardent devotee of the Virgin Mary his whole life. So he was convinced that Mary had saved his life; she had guided the bullet to miss a major artery. We’re tempted to wonder if Mary’s effort hadn’t been half-hearted: why didn’t she guide the bullet to miss the pope altogether? Piety has a way of blunting common sense.

I do have to wonder what prior century I’m living in—or may have been suddenly transported to—when I read a National Geographic article titled 500 Years of Virgin Mary Sightings in One Map.

At the top of the map we find this explanation:

“Starting in the 16th century, the Roman Catholic Church instituted a strict vetting process for miracles like the 2,000 sightings of the Virgin Mary claimed since A.D. 40. To be worthy of belief and church support, apparitions must be deemed miraculous with a high degree of certainty and in line with church doctrine, and found to have had a positive impact.”

“…deemed miraculous with a high degree of certainty…” ? They only wish.

I don’t know if the ardent Catholic investigators check out all reports of Mary appearing on tree bark or toast—one piece of Virgin Mary toast brought $28,000 at auction—or if they seek to verify all of the Mary statues that supposedly bleed or weep.

If this is how Mary chooses to use her time and talents, I suggest that she should apply for a job upgrade. There are much bigger things to worry about. Yes, an attempted papal assassination is worthy of attention, but is there any way we can petition the Holy Mother to take her role as Queen of Heaven more seriously?

THIS is where she really needs to show up: every time a priest is about to rape a child, Mary should pop up in the room, scowling like the most severe nun ever. There could be variations on her message, “You will rot in hell,” “Put it back in your pants,” “Don’t even think about it,” “Not even my son can save you if you do this.”

The problem, of course, is that the Holy Mother doesn’t have a strong role model. Pope Francis, that smiling master of public relations, has fallen down on his job as well. He likes to have informal chats with reporters on the papal plane, but it would be far better to hold monthly news conferences at the Vatican, with the sole purpose of bringing the world up to date on what he’s doing to prevent priests from raping kids. We need to know how many priests have been handed over to local police; how many predator priests have been fired after being moved on to other parishes; how many bishops and cardinals have been fired for helping with the cover-ups. The pope also needs to give the world an update on how the church has improved its vetting processes to detect priest candidates who remain stuck in sexual adolescence; also, Holy Father, describe the resources that have been gathered to help celibate clergy understand human sexuality.

Maybe we’re expecting too much of a church that counts on Mary worship to coddle the gullible; actually, Mariolatry is big business, so no doubt they deem it best to keep that product as far away as possible from the criminal activity responsible for the collapse of the church’s moral authority.

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

Who the Hell Hired Matthew to Write a Gospel?


No, it is not okay to just make stuff up

Gospels are sacred things. In some churches it is the custom for the congregation to stand when the gospel lesson is read. The worshippers are surrounded by stained glass windows that depict the cherished stories found in the Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—and those same stories, in illuminated manuscript form, have become works of art. When we say that something is “the gospel truth”—well, who could ask for more?

Dr. Valerie Tarico Interviews Former Minister David Chumney

David Chumney writes for us here at DC, so it's good he's getting some more attention. LINK.

Our Differences Are Not Worldview Differences. Believers Are Simply Ignorant!

I have come to the conclusion I was duped so badly by faith that up until the last few years I adopted some of its obfuscationist rhetoric aimed at hiding the truth. I used to say the problem between believers and non-believers isn't ignorance but rather a different way of seeing the evidence, that it was a problem of having different worldviews. Now I see the difference between believers and non-believers is not mainly a worldview problem, although it is that. It's not about seeing the evidence differently through different worldviews. It's not because we view the evidence differently due to different background knowledge either. It's because of ignorance, sheer ignorance, sometimes massive ignorance, and even willful ignorance. The difference between us is that believers are simply ignorant. There's no such thing as background knowledge leading believers to see the evidence differently, since that which is not true isn't considered knowledge at all. So this isn't a case of merely seeing things differently. The evidence is decisively against faith. The problem is that believers don't know how to think logically. They don't know they are controlled by cognitive biases that prohibit them from desiring the truth. So they don't know how to counteract these cognitive biases by demanding hard cold evidence based in scientific thinking. Even their best apologists defend their faith by special pleading. They don't even know they do so, but they do, all of them to some degree. They begin with faith then seek to confirm it in almost every case. They'll grab anything off the internet that defends it, even from a one hundred year old encyclopedia (as one ignorantly did here recently), if it says what they need it to say. More sophisticated apologists don't do that, but they're not really different in that they are experts in obfuscationist philosophy.

I wrote three books to educate believers on how to seek the truth. The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion is True shows honest believers how to approach their faith consistently without any double standards or special pleading. How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist shows Christian apologists how to correctly defend their faith, if it can be defended at all. Apologists should read it before writing another sentence in defense of their faith. In it I challenge apologists to stop doing what they're doing if they're serious about defending the Christian faith. The risk is that if they stop it they cannot defend their faith at all. But the risk is worth it if they're serious about knowing and defending the truth. Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End shows philosophers of religion and other intellectuals, whether atheist or Christian, how to properly evaluate religious faith itself. What I cannot teach Christians however, is to desire the truth. That comes from within. Taken together these three books are the antidote to faith. The problem is that, numerically speaking, almost none of them desire the truth. Here's hoping a few honest believers are reading who desire the truth. Cheers.

All Christian Apologetics is Special Pleading

I wrote a whole chapter in my book, How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist on special pleading (chapter 7). In it I argue that all apologetics is special pleading. Apologists should read it before writing another sentence in defense of their faith. They fail to see a fundamental point in the utter failure to defend their sect-specific brand of Christianity. They are special pleading. That's all they ever do. I've never seen them do anything different. In that chapter of mine I challenge apologists to stop doing it if they're serious about defending their Christian faith. The risk is that if they stop it they cannot defend their faith at all. But the risk is worth it if they're serious about knowing and defending the truth.

Christians Pretend to Know Things They Don't Know. Do Atheists?

What exactly are atheists pretending? We know the brains of humans are infected with a host of cognitive biases that force us to believe what we want to believe, so we take them seriously by demanding hard cold evidence before asserting anything about the nature of nature, its workings and origins, or which religion is true, if there is one. We consequently think exclusively in terms of the probabilities about the available evidence. When the evidence is inconclusive we suspend judgment. We are open-minded rather than closed-minded to the consensus of scientists working in their respective fields, especially when it comes to evolution and its implications for religions. We're informed enough to know that adopting the faith of our parents and their cultures is a notoriously unreliable way to know which religion is true, if there is one. We treat religions as reasonable adults should, as outsiders. We know that at best faith-based reasoning, as opposed to scientific-based reasoning, is a notoriously bad way to reason. We're not pretending anything when it comes to judging the supposed evidence for the so-called "divinely revealed" theistic religions inadequate either, no more than a criminal court is pretending when it judges the accused is not guilty.

How is this preaching anything? We reason based on sufficient evidence. One way to know believers don't reason based on sufficient evidence is that they don't demand hard cold evidence, nor do they think exclusively in terms of the probabilities, nor do they suspend judgment when they should, nor are they open-minded, nor are they informed about how utterly unreliable their upbringing is when it comes to religious faiths, nor do they treat their own faith as outsiders, nor do they use scientific-based reasoning when searching for the truth.

Atheists may judge the probabilities differently but that's doing something quite different than singing hymns to the universe and praying to our religious sect-specific conclusions, feeling 100% certain we're right.

“Reality,” a therapist friend once remarked…


…is what goes on OUTSIDE the patient’s head

The Bible is revelation, so we’re told. The word of God, the mind of God, can be discovered in its pages. Holy men of old—tuned in to God—put pen to paper (well, whatever they used at the time) and created a monumental record of the Almighty’s outreach to humankind.

Really? A long time ago serious thinkers began to suspect that it’s not that simple. Don’t we have to wonder: as the ancient author was scrawling the words onto the scroll, were those words sparked from his own brain, rather than through his brain from a divine source? That is, were those words the product of imagination or hallucination, rather than inspiration? And how in the world can we tell the difference, so many centuries later? I actually posed this question in seminary, of all places. I suggested that we ran the risk of giving mundane stuff divine status—and thus taking it too seriously (and misleading people). I was basically saying, Aren’t we taking a big risk, preaching the Bible as “the Word of God”? One of my seminary pals ridiculed me for not being bold enough to take the “risk of faith.”

Jesus Eclipsed: Part 3

As I noted in my second post, the real thrust of my book, Jesus Eclipsed: How Searching the Scriptures Got in the Way of Recounting the Facts, can be summed up in this sentence: Many stories about Jesus likely owe their existence not to genuine recollections of actual events handed down (distorted?) by oral tradition (as historical Jesus scholars have typically claimed) but to invented memories of fictitious events worked up from Old Testament texts.

Here I want to show why that happened by examining the belief that prompted this approach to telling the story of Jesus—the belief that Scripture provides a script for the gospel.

Quote of the Day by Dr. Hector Avalos, Chiding Pop Christian Apologists For Pretending To Know Things They Don't Know

Don Camp has roosted here at DC, viewing himself as an apologist whose primary goal is not to learn from us but rather to dismantle our arguments against his faith. He's posted so often I limited his comments to ten per day. What Camp should tell us is why his god was so incompetent he enlisted apologists like him to set us all straight. Enter Dr. Hector Avalos. Camp had strewn together a lame response to a video Dr. Avalos made, so Hector responded here. Undeterred, Camp thought he could respond further. So Hector chided him in a letter below, which also serves as a warning to other pop Christian apologists and professional apologists as well.

Dr. Peter Boghossian has defined faith as "pretending to know things you don't know." It's a stipulative definition, one that's polemical in nature yet accurate from the perspective of atheists and skeptics. No, we emphatically do not have to use a word such as "faith" in the same way Christians use it, when the concept behind it is the debate itself. Although, if faith is trust, as they say, there is no reason to trust faith. Anyway, just like the sophists in the days of Socrates, who pretended to know things they didn't know, most all apologists for Christianity do likewise (otherwise they wouldn't be apologists). By contrast Boghossian wants us to practice the intellectual virtue of authenticity, whereby we admit we don't know something if we legitimately don't know it. No one can know everything. So apologists who are pretending are not authentic people. The question is why anyone would take seriously the pontifications of an inauthentic person? The lack of authenticity, all by itself, should tell us such a person is indoctrinated, brainwashed and delusional.

Jesus Eclipsed: Part 2

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

Jesus Eclipsed: Part 1

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

Clan or Thousand? A Response to Dr. Vincent Torley

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

Gosh, Why Is THAT in the Bible?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Evidence That Jesus Existed is Weaker Than You Might Think

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

Seeing Through the Christian Faith Is Hardly New


Many Voices of Reason Are on Record

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

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

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

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

The New Testament Peddles an Ancient Gimmick


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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