David Marshall On How NOT To Defend Christianity's Terrible Record Towards Women, Part 1

Annie Laurie Gaylor is the co-founder of the Freedom from Religion Foundation (with her late mother Anne Nicol Gaylor) and currently its co-president (with her husband Dan Barker), which does some fantastic work on behalf of a secularized world. She wrote a superior chapter in my anthology Christianity is Not Great: How Faith Fails, titled, "Woman What Do I Have to Do with Thee: Christianity's War against Women." I bid everyone to read it. Not everyone likes it though, due to the fact it means the god of Christianity is to be blamed for a war against half the people on the planet (an effective rhetorical title, I'll admit). So you'd expect a defender of the indefensible faith would try to rise to the challenge, and so enters David Marshall. For my part, I'm on record as saying,
I am against sexism and especially misogyny, most emphatically, without any doubt at all. In fact, one of the main reasons I do what I do is because of what religion has done--and continues to do--to women. I argue against religion for that reason alone.
Ever since Gaylor's chapter was published Marshall has been egging and taunting and badgering me for a debate on the topic of women in Christianity. I have repeatedly said his views have already been refuted in a few books I recommended, and that I would no more be scared of debating him on this topic than I would a flat earther. But I do think his defense contains a few lessons in how NOT to defend Christianity's terrible record towards women. So along the same lines as my book, How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist--which is the one every defender of the faith should read--I can easily show how his defenses fail, miserably.

The Most Horrible Thing I’ve Ever Heard a Christian Say


Endorsing an evil god…while saying grace
Christian theology is awesomely sabotaged by the New Testament. Its portrayal of god, so deeply rooted in ancient superstition, cannot possibly hold up under close scrutiny. And, sometimes, Christians do feel the pain of getting suckered in.

What are we told about God? It would appear, for example, that nothing escapes his notice. Luke 12:6-7 is a classic text reflecting this belief:

Reality Check Folks, Republicans Are First and Foremost a Political Party with a Political Agenda

On Twitter Dan Barker, like almost everyone who rejects Trump's Presidency and the Evangelical right, said this:
When I was a Christian minister, I used to preach that character matters. The "Moral Majority & the Christian Coalition preached the same thing. Today, most evangelicals seem to care more about politics than character. They have abandoned the moral high ground.
But I must demurr, as much as I dislike saying it. The Evangelical right's real agenda in the political sphere has been political all along. This isn't surprising nor objectionable all by itself. It's called politics. Sometimes it's downright dirty, but it always demands compromise. If one doesn't want to compromise then stay out of politics. So no, they don't care more about politics than morals. They're keeping them separate because that's how to get things done in politics.

Besides, Trump's policies do indeed support their moral agenda. So Trump could be (and is) a moral bastard, and they could still support his Presidency in good conscience, especially given the other alternative perceived in Hillary Clinton.

The First Few Pages From "The Outsider Test for Faith"

There's a great deal of misunderstanding about my book, The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion Is True (OTF). Look at the subtitle. It's proposing a test to know which religion is true. With the proliferation of a diversity of religions and sects what can be wrong with providing an objective test to know which one is true, if there is one? Nothing. Nothing I can see. Nothing at all. If you don't like this test propose a different one. My hunch is it'll look exactly like this one, if it's both reasonable and based on sufficient objective evidence. It's unbelievable that most believers object to it, or eviscerate its power to get at the truth. The reason must be they instinctively know their faith won't pass the test. THAT should say something significant! They should come out in droves to embrace it instead. That would get our attention. But they don't. The OTF allows no double standards. It requires sufficient objective evidence. It requires shouldering the burden of proof. No wonder believers don't like it, since all they have is fallacious reasoning based in special pleading, gross mischaracterization, a boatload of non-sequiturs, red-herrings, begging the question at every crucial juncture, and so much more.

Bigliest loser in Alabama: "Christian witness."

The UFO of Bethlehem, by Frank Zindler


The Inanity of Nazareth Part One, by Frank Zindler


Quote of the Day by Frank Sinatra On Religious Superstition

Frank Sinatra from a 1963 Playboy interview:
There are things about organized religion which I resent. Christ is revered as the Prince of Peace, but more blood has been shed in His name than any other figure in history. You show me one step forward in the name of religion and I'll show you a hundred retrogressions. Remember, they were men of God who destroyed the educational treasures at Alexandria, who perpetrated the Inquisition in Spain, who burned the witches at Salem. Over 25,000 organized religions flourish on this planet, but the followers of each think all the others are miserably misguided and probably evil as well. In India they worship white cows, monkeys and a dip in the Ganges. The Moslems accept slavery and prepare for Allah, who promises wine and revirginated women. And witch doctors aren't just in Africa. If you look in the L.A. papers of a Sunday morning, you'll see the local variety advertising their wares like suits with two pairs of pants.

As I see it, man is a product of his conditioning, and the social forces which mold his morality and conduct — including racial prejudice — are influenced more by material things like food and economic necessities than by the fear and awe and bigotry generated by the high priests of commercialized superstition. Now don't get me wrong. I'm for decency — period. I'm for anything and everything that bodes love and consideration for my fellow man. But when lip service to some mysterious deity permits bestiality on Wednesday and absolution on Sunday — cash me out. ~Bill Dunn, FFRF Freethought, 12/12/17

The Improbability of the Biblical God


It is from the Bible that Christians learn many of the specific characteristics of their god. They may say that they believe in God as a result of some direct experience of him, but when it comes to the belief that this is specifically their “three for the price of one” deity, they rely on scripture. It is there that they learn, among other things, that he is both the Yahweh that picked the tribe of Israel as his favorite as well as the Jesus that gave the Sermon on the Mount.

But how likely is it, if there were an omnipotent, omniscient, changeless, eternal creator of the universe, that he would be the deity described in scripture?

A Gift of Crackpottery for the Gentiles


The apostle Paul shoulda stayed at home
The gospels are a minefield: If you step on the wrong verses, your idealized Jesus gets blown to bits. For example, in Matthew 10 we are told that Jesus dispatched the disciples to do some preaching, with this caveat (v. 5): “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans…” And later, in chapter 15, he told a Canaanite woman who asked for help, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (v. 24). He even compared her to a dog. Happy ending, however: When she persisted, he performed a long-distance exorcism on her daughter.

Guest Post by Doubting Thomas, "On the God Question, Philosophy is in Over It's Head"

Submitted by Doubting Thomas who is a regular commenter here.
I'm a bit of a nerd. This often comes in handy. It certainly did on my last trip to Mexico. I was studying the local flora with a magnifying glass when I noticed something amazing. I spotted a tiny, though fully mature spider and, given my knowledge of arachnids, I was pretty certain I had discovered the smallest known spider in the world.

Upon my return home, I quickly met up with my friend from the local university whose specialty just happened to be arachnology. He was understandably excited and wanted to know more. He asked to see a specimen, but given customs laws, importing unknown animals to the country is illegal. He wanted to see a picture, but the camera on my phone wouldn't zoom in enough to get a good shot. He asked me what evidence I had to show that this wonderful new thing existed, and so I told him the following:

“Premise 1: Tiny spiders exist.
Premise 2: The law of division states that everything can be divided into something smaller.
Conclusion: Very tiny spiders exist.”

As you're probably guessing, none of this actually happened. I don't carry magnifying glasses on trips nor am I cool enough to have friends high up in the spider world, but it also shows a fundamental problem. The issue isn't that my logic is flawed or that a premise is incorrect. It's that I'm doing it all wrong. I didn't take a swing and a miss. I'm playing the wrong game.

I love philosophy. It's a wonderful tool to learn how to think better. It helps us check ideas against other ideas and against what we know about reality. But in order to gain that knowledge about reality, we turn to the hard sciences. Philosophy has never and will never demonstrate the existence of anything. Such a demonstration takes more than arguments or logical proofs. It takes observation and experimentation. Such things are not the realm of philosophy.

Einstein's general theory of relativity posited the existence of black holes back in 1916, but it wasn't until 1971 when scientist used giant telescopes and radio wave detectors to confirm their existence. When people started dying from an unknown cause in the early 80s, scientist speculated that their deaths were the result of an unknown viral infection, but it took another two years and numerous studies and analyses to actually find the virus that causes AIDS.

Now I can already hear the objections from apologists. Tiny spiders and black holes aren't analogous to God. This is true. Tiny spiders are geographically limited. They can only eat tiny bugs and spin super cute tiny webs. God, on the other hand, is everywhere and can do anything. Black holes are indifferent about us. They don't care about our lives or try to communicate with us. God, on the other hand, loves us and wants a relationship with us and has rules for us and on and on. The claims about god are vastly more grandiose than any example I have used therefore the evidence should be equally grand.

But if we want something more analogous, all we have to do is turn on any current “science” channel. There are no shortage of ghost hunters and paranormal investigators out looking for spooks and spirits. Do they do this by sitting around and thinking up nice sounding arguments? Of course not. They set up cameras and audio equipment and spectral telemetry recorders. And while all they're really good for is a laugh or jump scare, at least they understand the game and try to play by the rules.

That's more than I can say for any apologist I've ever read.

Is Vincent Torley a closet Gnostic?


Here are Doctor (of Metaphysics) Torley's "quick answers" to JP415's questions about God:

  • God only interacts with material universe remotely: "[God is] on a higher plane of reality, maintaining the entire universe in being, so he's able to act on them at will."
  • "God doesn't live anywhere. God is outside space, just as an author is outside the story he writes."
Here, in contrast, is what Christianity teaches about the presence of God: 

  • "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. (Luke 1:68)
  • "For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will live with and walk among them... (2 Cor. 6:16)
  • "What does 'he ascended' mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe." (Ephesians 4:9-10)
  • "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)
  • "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them...(Rev. 21:3)
The notion that God is incomprehensibly remote from direct human experience is an old idea, an idea included under the rubric of gnosticism, an idea the early Church declared a heresy. The idea that God lives outside the universe is Torleyanity, not Christianity. 

To quote Cyril of Jerusalem, “[Jesus] Himself declared and said of the Bread, This is My Body, who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since He has Himself affirmed and said, This is My Blood, who shall ever hesitate, saying, that it is not His blood?...is it incredible that He should have turned wine into blood?" (Fourth Mystagogic Catechism, IV, 22) Jesus' flesh is God's flesh and God's flesh is food. “The teaching of the Church is explicit on this point. The body eaten is the same as that once born of a virgin and now seated at the right hand of the Father." (Preserved Smith, The Monist 28 (1916) 161.)

Ignatius calls, “Jesus Christ our God," (EphesiansPrœmium, 18) speaks of “the spark of life renewed by "the blood of God," (Ibid, 1) and famously calls the Eucharistic bread, “the medicine of immortality, the antidote that we may not die." (Ibid, 20) By the time 1 Clement was composed—one of the earliest Christian documents outside the New Testament—“let us  gaze upon the blood of Christ" (1 Clement 7:4) has taken on the language of epiphany, the technical language for “gazing at God or for gazing at the divine." (Fisher, Vigiliae Christianae 34 (1980) 221, 223.)

If the Sacrament of the Eucharist is the "body and blood, soul and divinity" of Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, how can God be "outside space"? Does anyone seriously think "The Word became flesh" implied God was "outside space"? Has Vincent Torley painted himself into a heretical corner in an attempt to justify his aberrant theology or does he know literally nothing about the New Testament and primitive Christianity? Or has Vincent Torley, like thousands before him, simply invented his own idiosyncratic religious spinoff? According to some estimates there are 40,000 Christian sects. Make that 40,001.

Donation Time if You're So Inclined

For several years I have had just one regular reader who sends me, on average, a donation of $50 per month. With this month's donation he wrote:
Hello John, As always thanks for providing such a great website for skeptics, doubters and atheists. For years now it has been my go to site where I can find encouragement and answers. Your persistance over the years has been inspirational. The various writers and commenters make the site a great place to learn. Debunking Christianity is a five star site!! Best regards, Spencer
I agree that somehow I have attracted fantastic writers and commenters, as he said. If you agree this is a great site, it would be very helpful at this time of year for you to donate too. Use PayPal with my email address, loftusjohnw@gmail.com Along with it send me a personal message and I'll share that too, if you wish. Don't be like Mr. Scrooge. ;-) May you have the happiest of holidays this year.

Is “the Survival of the Fittest” an Empty Tautology?


A common objection to Darwin’s theory is that it depends on a truism and therefore fails to make a scientific, empirical claim. Darwin argues that those who are the fittest survive long enough to reproduce. But who are the fittest? According to creationists Henry and John Morris — and they are certainly not alone in saying this — “the only pragmatic way to define ‘the fittest’ is ‘those who survive’.”

But if “the fittest” are by definition those that survive, then “survival of the fittest” really means “survival of those who survive” — and that is completely unenlightening. Since it is a tautology, it is true no matter what, and therefore doesn’t tell us anything about the way things actually are: whether evolution or creationism is true, those that survive are those that survive.

The One True Faith: Just How Many of Them Can There Be?


If only we had a way to test them all…

In the small, rural mid-western town where I grew up—and long before my arrival—the Christian souls had been sorted into Protestant and Catholic camps; I was in the former. Naturally, this was well after the eras of armed combat, so folks got along quite well despite the religious chasm. There were frictions, of course: Protestant kids were taunted by Catholic kids that they were going to hell: only followers of the Pope had the lock on heaven. But the insults were returned; one Protestant woman, whose nephew had become engaged to a Catholic woman, with wedding to be in her church, refused to attend because she had no intention of “setting foot in that heathen temple.”

If there was anything that both camps shared it was certainty. We knew that we were right, and those on the other side were wrong. And they knew that they were right, and we were wrong. This certainty was guaranteed by faith.

Another One Bites the Dust

Chad Dunnam sent me a Facebook message describing his deconversion. This is encouraging news! Believers everywhere are losing their faith one at time.

The Essence of Our Debate About Faith

The debate over faith is whether Christian definitions of faith are consistent with each other (they're not), whether they make any sense (they don't) and whether Christians do what their own definitions say they do (they don't).

Ravi Zacharias is a Liar? Oh my!

Many of us claim Christian apologists lie to defend their faith. I have a whole chapter documenting this phenomena in my book, "How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist" (see link in the sidebar). So with regard to Zacharias, since he has knowingly lied about his credentials, why should anyone accept his apologetical defenses of the Christian faith? LINK. I don't see why anyone should.

David Marshall Now Accepts My Definition of Faith (or he doesn't even know what faith is)

Unbelievably, David Marshall now clarifies what faith is by rejecting the need for reason, based on sufficient evidence, saying:

"... having sufficient evidence is PART (not all) of having faith....Good reason to believe is a necessary, not sufficient, part of biblical faith. It really wouldn't be faith if that were all there were to it..."

Marshall is now opposed to scientific thinking, which only accepts sound reasoning based on sufficient evidence.

The only thing faith can mean at this point is that it's an irrational leap over the need for sufficient objective evidence, that is, wishful thinking. For it is the all-important undefined bottom line Marshall maintains, that can and does over-rule reason and sufficient objective evidence, whenever necessary.

What Marshall has repeatedly denied he's now been forced to admit, that my definition of faith is correct after all!

Quote of the Day, By sir_russ


The Delusion of Faith Produces Disingenuous Definitions of Faith

David Marshall:
The Christian meaning of faith is "holding firmly to and acting on what you have good reason to believe is true, in the face of difficulties." (As Timothy McGrew and I put it in "True Reason," summarizing traditional Christian thought.) I'd say 100%, or close to that number, of humans have faith in gravity in that sense.
One of my definitions of faith is that it's an irrational leap over the need for sufficient evidence. There are many others that accurately define what believers do. Christian apologists insist that our definitions of faith are faulty. This is a substantive debate, not merely a misunderstanding of terms. Non-believers define faith based on what believers actually do. Believers define faith disingenuously based on the need to appear reasonable when they're not. In the case of apologist David Marshall's comment on Facebook, summarizing his co-written book, it's never more clearly seen.

If having faith is having good reasons to conclude something is true, and if this is how reasonable people conclude we shouldn't jump off a cliff, then faith is equivalent to having sufficient evidence for a conclusion. If so, the word "faith" has no distinct meaning. Why use it then? That's the disingenuous part. It is patently obvious that believing a dead man arose from the dead 20 centuries ago in the superstitious past is not the same thing as knowing we should not jump off a cliff. Patently obvious! My claim is that faith so distorts the believing mind that it also forces believers to define it in disingenous ways that are patently false. If you're reading this and think apologists like McGrew and Marshall do a good job defending your faith on the factual issues, then you should take seriously my claim that the way they define faith is indicative of the way they defend their faith. If one is patently false and disingenuous, then so is the other. Let it be known that apologetics in defense of the Christian faith is all special pleading.

That Age-Old Story: Trying to Get Christians to Get Along


“Belonging to Jesus” doesn’t seem to help
Has Christianity ever been—as the old hymn puts it—“one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide world”? Probably not. Even at the very beginning, the gospels provide hints of discord in the Jesus inner circle.

Wouldn’t it have been a privilege to be chosen by the messiah as a disciple? I guess it’s human nature to want more—which is what happens in a story that we find in Mark 10. It’s tempting to wonder if Jesus was all that great at choosing and training his closest colleagues. In Mark 10, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, asked Jesus, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.” Jesus pointed out that this wasn’t his decision, and the reaction of the other disciples was predictable: “Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.”

Quote of the Day, by Robert Conner

To argue that Islam is a religion of peace is as patently absurd as arguing that Christianity is a religion of science.

Saudi Cleric Says the Sun Rotates Around the Earth!

This video shows why reasonable people cannot base our conclusions on any ancient pre-scientific sacred text. All of the explanations for why the earth doesn't move are ignorant ones, having previously concluded the "facts" via "revelation." Reasonable people do not proceed in this manner. Believers do it all the time.

The Ultimate Prayer Challenge to PROVE God


Go ahead, I dare you, theists! Give it a shot
In 2013, when the Boy Scouts lifted its ban on gay scouts, Executive Pastor Tim Hester, of the Louisville Southeast Christian mega-church, announced that the scouts were no longer welcome to meet at the church. The decision was based on a “lot of prayer.” That church boasts 30,000 members, so there must have been a lot a data-streaming from the divine mind to human minds.

Is anybody suspicious?

But can’t we test this, scientifically…or at least semi-scientifically? That is, let’s approach the ‘power of prayer’ with genuine curiosity, and do our best to eliminate bias and fluke.

Another Problem with the Boethian Solution


This may be beating a dead horse, but some people are convinced the horse is alive and well. So here’s something else that's wrong with the Boethian attempt to escape theological determinism.

According to Boethians, God doesn’t have foreknowledge of one’s future actions because God is outside of time. He therefore does not foresee what we are going to do, he timelessly sees what we are going to do. And that, they claim, means that we remain free to choose among different possible courses of action.

What Were the First Baptist Church Victims Praying For?


I have little doubt that last week’s mass shooting in Sutherland Springs made even many religious people question their faith. How could such a thing happen in a church, to people who were worshipping? Where was God? One preacher, however, explained it in a way that even those of us who’ve pretty much heard it all might find surprising.

According to Hans Fiene, a Lutheran pastor from Illinois, “When those saints of First Baptist Church were murdered yesterday, God wasn’t ignoring their prayers. He was answering them.”

The Triple Tragedy of a Human Sacrifice


Christian theology fails the decency test
When crucifixes are part of church and home décor—and even sported as jewelry—it’s hard to get the point across that something is terribly wrong: A horrifying belief has been normalized…and for what? Guy Harrison has made the point perfectly: “No one seems to know why a god who makes all the rules and answers to no one couldn’t just pardon us and skip the barbaric crucifixion event entirely.” (Christian in the Light of Science, ed. John Loftus, 2016)

The central doctrine of the Christian faith should make decent people shudder….no, it should make them wretch. And no, the apostle Paul acknowledging that Christ-crucified is a stumbling block doesn’t “make it all better.” These verses emerged from his troubled mind:

Why Are Atheists Mistrusted?


The first commandment doesn’t say “Thou shalt not have no gods,” but rather “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” The main concern there is not with atheism, but with competing religious beliefs. And at first it does seem that belief in rival deities should, if anything, be regarded as worse than lack of belief. Just like atheists, members of other religions fail to believe in the Christian’s god of choice. But in addition, they believe in false gods! Surely, that’s the greater crime.

And yet, that’s not how the religious see it these days. Ever since religion stopped being central to one’s tribal identity — especially in the West — those with different religious beliefs have been tolerated. “Thou shalt have no other gods” is no longer so important. Rather, it is atheists who are now viewed as the remaining enemy. And the reason seems obvious. Atheists don’t merely reject these people's religion; they reject the very idea of religion.

Plus ça change...Bible licker Roy Moore's turn?

11/9: Whoops! Women are coming forward according to a report in Washington Post.

11/10: Jerry Falwell, Jr. to the rescue! 

11/11: Steve Schmidt: "Roy Moore is a pedophile."

11/13: Roy Moore, a Biblical "family values" paragon.

11/13: “I thought that he was going to rape me,” Nelson said. 

11/13: Cops: Roy Moore banned from Gadsden Mall for hitting on teens.
11/14: 50 Alabammy preacher men!