Christianity: Ten Knockout Punches, Number 5

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Which Monotheism? Which Christianity?

Would this be a good idea? From now on, all new Bibles should be expanded to include not just the Old and New Testaments, but also the Qur’an and the Book of Mormon. After all, the Old Testament is the sacred text of another religion, and it made it into the Christian canon. There are just under two billion Muslims in the world; how could that many people be wrong about the holy word of Allah? Don’t we have to take their scripture seriously? There are about 15 million Mormons in the world, roughly on a par with the number of Jews worldwide. How could we justify exclusion of the Mormon scriptures? Surely, they can’t all be wrong too. These branches of the original Abrahamic faith are confident God updates his word.

Was Jesus Born of a Virgin? A Debate.

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An interesting topic for debate. It should be a good one. From my experience with William Albrecht he'll nitpick me to death on an issue or two.

Bart Ehrman Argues For Agnosticism

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Suppose you WERE to think (whether imperialistically or arrogantly or not) that we are talking about levels of existence, from lower to higher: rocks, trees, non-human animals, and humans. The fact is that the lower ones can never know about the higher ones, what they really are, what they are capable of, how they exist, what they do, and so on. They can’t even conceptualize their existence.

Then what in the blazes should should make me think that I could possibly know if there was a higher order above me, superior to me in ways that I simply can’t imagine? Not just one order above me, but lots of orders? If there are such orders, there is no way I could ever know. Literally. Duh.

And so really, agnosticism is the ONLY option. Not in the sense of a shoulder shrug, “Hey, how would *I* know?” but in the sense of a deep thoughtful response – I have precisely no way to adjudicate the view, one way or the other. Facebook LINK.
My Response: Bart argues for a possibility. So, yes it might be possible that some nebulous god exists. But possibilities don’t count, especially when they lack objective evidence. You might as well say it’s possible we’re living in a Matrix or dreaming too. But it’s probable we aren’t. We should think exclusively in terms of the probabilities.

Such a god solves no problems that we cannot solve ourselves through science, nor does s/he act in the world in ways we can detect, nor does s/he guide our behavior with discernible morals we can learn from nature, nor does s/he set a good example for us given the amount of horrendous suffering in the world.

Ask yourself how your god-hypothesis might help us solve any problems that we cannot solve on our own. Without any utility such a god is unnecessary. Consider also what such a god has failed to do in the world and it’s clear s/he is an uncaring and even a terrible being, so that god isn’t worth our reverence or awe. If such a god exists we should ignore him/her or adopt Protest Theology, where we shame such a god for his/her lack of care. [Discuss].

Metaethics for Atheists

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There's a lot of confusion out there about metaethics. Case in point: I recently ran a promotion of my book Atheism: Q & A, and as a result received a one-star review on Amazon, apparently for no other reason than that the reviewer does not understand what I mean when I claim that morality is subjective. The review makes it clear he sees me as a relativist, for he objects to my position by pointing out that (contrary to what I supposedly imply) slavery is always wrong.

Part of the reason for that misunderstanding may be because many atheists do in fact espouse the kind of relativist view that my critic finds objectionable. But the main problem is the over-simplification that is common in popular discussions and writings on this topic. Most people seem to think there are only two main positions one can take: absolutism/objectivism, which states that there are moral principles that are true for everyone at all times, and relativism/subjectivism, which roughly says that what's right for one person may not be right for another. What's worse, some atheists appear to associate the absolutist view with religion (in effect implying that if one adopts such a position, it is only because of one's religious beliefs), and as a result insist on relativism. And of course, the religious more often than not criticize atheism on the grounds that it is incompatible with objective values, and thus can only lead to relativism.

In addition to all this, the terminology involved isn't used in a consistent way even by philosophers. There are specific views which everyone basically agrees on the meaning of (e.g., non-cognitivism, emotivism, intuitionism), but some of the broader terms are definitely used in more than one way — and none more so than “subjectivism.” No wonder, then, that there is so much confusion.

Isn’t This the Biggest Embarrassment in the New Testament?

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…and it’s a dangerous one too


How would many Christians today handle these two scenarios?

• Walking down the street, they approach a busy corner, where a man is yelling his message, “Please, people, pay attention, I promise you Jesus is going to arrive any day now. We’ll see him coming through the clouds! He’ll welcome you if you have repented.” Do they stop to listen, shake his hand, and thank him for spreading the word?

• The preacher on Sunday morning, surveying his/her well-dressed, suburban congregation, has a message that no one is expecting: “Please, everyone here, stop having sex. That goes without saying for you single folks, of course, but I mean married couples. Give up sex, right away, right now, because Jesus is coming soon, and you should focus only on that!” Do they shake the preacher’s hand eagerly as they exit the church, and thank him/her for the warning?

How Does One Avoid Bias? What If it's Impossible to Corroborate the Resurrection?

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From time to time I'll add some discussion about my anthology The Case against Miracles. Click on the Tag Case against Miracles below for more entries.

This comes from a discussion on Bart Ehrman's blog, which I've been made a temporary moderator.

Question:
How does one deal with and avoid a specific bias towards secularism in one’s intellectual work? I ask because there is no doubt such a bias exists, and there is no doubt that it debilitates rational thought just as readily as any other bias. The question is this: how do those of us who experience such a bias make sure our conclusions are not affected by a prejudiced reading of the evidence?

Loftus: The bias in deference to sufficient objective evidence is far superior to the bias in deference to what one was raised to believe, or in deference to mere 2nd 3rd 4th handed TESTIMONIAL evidence in the ancient pre-scientific superstitious world, which cannot be cross-examined for truth or consistency. Yes?

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Question: What if it's impossible to corroborate the resurrection of Jesus with objective evidence as you require?

Loftus: When it comes to believing in a resurrection from the dead in the distant superstitious past it requires strong and/or numerous pieces of corroborating objective evidence, unlike ordinary events. We don’t have it for the resurrection so there’s no reason to believe it.

It may even be impossible to corroborate a resurrection in the distant past, but that doesn’t change our need for sufficient objective evidence. Such a god should have waited until modern science had arrived for the ability to confirm it.

Reason itself demands this. If your god is a reasonable deity who desires us to be reasonable with the evidence, then when I say reason itself demands this, your god demands it. Or, your god created us to be reasonable people yet desires us to be unreasonable.

Religion Photos of the Year and Their Implications

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LINK. Here's one photo below. Christians in the West never honestly consider the implications of it. They cannot allow themselves to. So thinking about religion is not what they do. Honestly assessing their religion isn't something they do either. Belief is what they do! They could believe something totally different by virtue of when and where they were born, with no way to think themselves into the true religion, if there is one. To be honest with their inherited, culturally indoctrinated religion they must force their brains to do so. But they refuse, when deep down they know they should, which is being dishonest with their religion.

It is Hell for real, not just Dante's imagination…

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…This bottomless intellectual sewer…


I here reprint comments made by Robert Conner, responding to my article posted here yesterday, The Why-Bother Bible Factor. His reply was prompted by my observation, "But academic Bible study is a large, sturdy industry."

ROBERT CONNER:

The Why-Bother Bible Factor

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“…one of the curiosities of a tragic bibliolatrous age…”


In the dark interior of a cathedral in Spain, I once saw women, intensely in prayer, touching the frames of paintings depicting saints. The sense of touch must be helpful, a technique for connecting with divine power. No doubt this accounts for the appeal of relics, most of which are now kept behind glass. At least people can gaze at items that holy people have touched or owned—even parts of their bodies. Is this act of piety a way to ward off doubt, a safeguard against disbelief, i.e., venerating a fragment of God in full view? God has become visible.


When Miracles Don’t MEASURE Up

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God can’t quite manage to SHOW up

It’s pretty easy to spot how religion works: it usually stresses the importance of faith, urging people to skip the crucial step of asking for evidence. The author of John’s gospel is explicit about this approach. The apostle Thomas happened to be out when Jesus made a post-resurrection visit to the group, and was skeptical of their story. A week later, Thomas was present when Jesus showed up again, and the latter said to him (20:27-28): “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” And then he got a bit of a scolding from Jesus: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Miracles and Hume's Reasoning about Testimonial Evidence

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On his blog Dr. Bart D. Ehrman posted Michael Shermer's Foreword to my new anthology The Case Against Miracles. You can see teasers on his Facebook page (Dec. 22nd and 23rd). He has made contributor Darren Slade and myself temporary administrators, which is cool. Ehrman has three more selections to post about the book.

In the first one on his blog (not the one on Facebook) I got into a discussion with a believer, brenmcg. I think it went rather well, and helps clarify and expand on why we need objective evidence before we should believe any miracle tales. Enjoy.

Evangelicals are Unprincipled People, In Bed With "Satan"

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I think evangelical Christians are in bed with "Satan". What? Don't they believe in God anymore, and that if they remain faithful to his moral principles he will straighten out their political problems? I think not. By embracing "Satan" they are forsaking any help their god might give them.

But not all evangelicals are faithless: Christianity Today gets this.

Dr. Bart Ehrman is Posting Excerpts of My Book!

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Five separate excerpts of my book on miracles will be posted by Professor Bart D. Ehrman for comment, beginning today. The first one is from Michael Shermer's Foreword. A big thanks goes out to Ehrman for doing this. Please share. Facebook link.

The Evangelical Flagship Magazine "Christianity Today" Calls For Trump to be Removed From Office!!

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Finally!! There is Hope! Get rid of the Mutherf*cker. I wouldn't allow that bastard to babysit my grandkids, would you? Link.

Christianity: Ten Knockout Punches, Number 4

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The confusion and incoherence of theism


Belief in God might be sustainable if folks could just settle on a simple affirmation, such as “God is…” Perhaps an unknowable Force or Power that ignited the cosmos exists, and we can take heart that cosmologists are on the hunt to discern what actually happened. However, theologians and laity alike—from ages long ago to the present—have never been satisfied with “God is…” They have decided, without telling us how they know for sure, that God has multiple traits. “God is…” e.g., all-powerful, loving, knows everything, is slow to anger, has a plan for everyone, picked out a promised land, had a son; the list goes on forever. Unfortunately there never has been a Supreme Religious Council to say, “Stop! What a mess! All of these things can’t be true.”

Weekly Religion Photos Show Animal Slaughter and Animism

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Judeo-Christian theologies aren't the only ones requiring blood sacrifice! So does Hinduism. That's crazy! More crazy is a human sacrifice! It's unbelievable people still believe this is necessary. The only explanation is that they were raised to believe it, by parents who were raised to believe it, stretching back parent by parent to a previous barbaric superstitious century. Likewise with the animism of Shintoism, even though its worship of nature stands opposed to such sacrifices.

“The Bible Is a Self-Destructing Artifact”

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The resurrection can be found in the rubble


The appeal of holy books, according to John C. Wathey, is that

…it does not matter what they say. As long as they are perceived as imparting divinely inspired instructions and wisdom, they will evoke in readers the infantile solace and comforting emotions of a small child receiving help and instruction from a parent—the less comprehensible, the better.” (p. 133, The Illusion of God’s Presence: The Biological Origins of Spiritual Longing)

Of course, preachers and priests draw attention to Bible texts that make the faith look good. These texts are read from the pulpit, set to sacred music, and embedded in stained glass—and the Bible itself, in splendid binding, is adored on the altar. None of which means that it is comprehensible—in fact, far too much of defies comprehension, which doesn’t take too much digging to discover. But the laity commonly settle for devotional study of the Bible, hence they are in a category Randel Helms has called “inattentive readers,” those who would be

"Send a copy of 'The Case Against Miracles' to your favorite Christian apologist!!!"

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"Send a copy of 'The Case Against Miracles' to your favorite Christian apologist!!!" So challenges Gary M, a former conservative Lutheran, who is now a counter-apologist. He writes for his blog Escaping Christian Fundamentalism, which I highly recommend everyone visit.

On Amazon Gary wrote a 5-Star review of my anthology The Case Against Miracles (CaM), saying:
I am a counter-apologist and have read a long list of books by Christian scholars, apologists, and fellow skeptic counter-apologists. This book, The Case Against Miracles, is absolutely devastating to the theistic belief in miracles, and more specifically, absolutely devastating for the greatest alleged miracle of all, the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The convoluted arguments made by Christian apologists for their belief in the supernatural are disassembled. Order this book for yourself and send a second copy to a Christian friend or family member! Help to facilitate the demise of fear-based, superstitious thinking.
To see the books he's read, just check out his current top post! It's pretty impressive. He likes CaM so much he sent copies to several top Christian apologists whom he names:

Christianity: Ten Knockout Punches, Number 3

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The scripture fallacy

It took me a long time to detect the fatal flaw in the claim that the Bible is the revealed Word of God. I was well beyond my teenage-Bible-geek years when it happened. While I had never been a fundamentalist—I could admit the flaws and errors in scripture—I studied the Bible because I assumed that God’s thoughts and wishes for humanity could be discerned in its pages. In some sense, God had inspired the authors; the ideas they had committed to writing were God’s ideas.

But eventually I had to come to grips with the mechanics of that. Just how would inspiration work? It turns out to be beyond verification, and other problems pile on as well, virtually eliminating the Bible as a source of trustworthy information about God. It has no standing whatever; Christianity is without famous anchor. Demonstrating that, in detail, is Knockout Punch Number 3.

Doesn't It Take Just as Much Faith to Be an Atheist?

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[The following is an excerpt from my small book, Atheism: Q & A, the Kindle version of which is, for promotional purposes, free December 4 through December 8. The book consists of short entries (like this one) that answer common criticisms of atheism. The paperback isn't free, but it is inexpensive — and might make a nice Winter Solstice gift for anyone who holds misconceptions about your views.]


The complaint that it takes just as much faith to be an atheist is a strange one. After all, it seems to imply that there’s something wrong with believing on faith — even though in every other context faith is regarded by believers as a virtue. Maybe all that is meant, however, is that everyone is in the same boat, ultimately basing their views on something other than reason and evidence, and that the atheist therefore has no right to single out the religious for criticism.

But is this really true? Does atheism rest on no firmer foundation than religion?

Greg Koukl's "Tactics" Strategy is to Obfuscate the Truth By Substituting Fallacies for Sound Reasoning

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This meme is floating around apologetics sites with a huge number of likes and positive comments. It is the brain child of Greg Koukl, who is training Christians in the tactics of debate.

The point of this meme is that we believe the religion (or nonreligion) of the relatives who raised us. Koukl is stating the obvious as if this is significant. He ends by rhetorically asking atheists "Now what?" as if it takes away our thunder. Koukl's answer to atheists is to use the fallacy of tu quoque, known as the “you too” fallacy, which is claiming an argument is flawed by pointing out that the one making it is not being consistent with the claims of the argument. The reason why this is a fallacy is that the one who argues in this way, as does Koukl, is skirting the argument by not dealing with it honestly. For example, if someone argues "Your Mom is a bad cook", it does nothing to show your Mom is a good cook by retorting, "Your Mom is a bad cook too." Yet that's exactly what Koukl does.

This is the kind of tactical advice Greg Koukl offers. We've seen it before [click on the Tag below]. Koukl explains what he's doing with these kinds of meme's in the introduction to his book Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions:

My Ten Books

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With the recent release of my anthology, "The Case against Miracles", I've noticed a small spike in sales of my other books. So if you want more of them here are all TEN, listed in order of publication date.

There Aren’t Any Winners in the Miracle Contest

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The on-going erosion of Christianity

“When was the last time you offered your condolences to a neighbor whose son is demon-possessed? Demons are just not encountered in everyday life, contrary to what one would expect if the New Testament worldview still held good.” So says Robert M. Price in his new book, Jesus Christ Superstition (p. 123).

Hold that thought: “…if the New Testament worldview still held good.” We know that many Christians have moved on, and not reading the Bible has probably helped with that. In the fifth chapter of Mark’s gospel, Jesus transferred demons from a man into a herd of pigs. How many Christians would admit that this story doesn’t reflect how they view the world, much less enhance their faith? But demons transporting into pigs reflects the New Testament worldview. Again, Robert Price:

"Crying Won't Help you, Praying Won't Do You No Good"

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Here is a discussion I had with a guy who continues to pray for me despite the fact that I have committed the unpardonable sin of blasphemy the Holy Spirit. I inform him that his faith will eventually die and I show it might take the extinction of life as we know it, but it will die.

You Can Now Look Inside the Book On Amazon At "The Case against Miracles"

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From what I saw you can read the first 93 pages before you decide. LINK

"The Case against Miracles" Will Be Released This Friday, 11/22/19

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This new anthology just may be the crowning work of my publishing career. It should be interesting to watch apologists deal with it. Here are links to the paperback edition, and the Kindle edition, which at this time is ranked #1 in the Agnosticism category.

Now I want to do a bit of pleading. I'm asking our readers here at DC to do one small favor. Please buy this book. Now! Help us out. Consider it a donation, the one time you can easily do it, plus get something in return. A high number of initial copies sold will help throw it on top of online lists, so others will take notice. Also, please share this news on your websites and forums. Then write reviews of it as soon as you can. I personally have put a great amount of time on it. Make it worth it. Below are a select few blurbs:

St. Peter Flunks Anger Management

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His private versus public persona

How bad does the Bible have to get before you toss it? “That’s quite enough of that!” The Bible has been so well sold that laypeople usually are unprepared to be that brazen. But theologians and laity alike—were they to be honest about it—would admit that they embrace or disown Bible texts based on their own moral sensibilities. Yes, indeed, they do judge the Bible.

My Interview With Freethought Radio About "The Case Against Miracles"

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Here's the LINK to my Freethought Radio interview with hosts Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor. I talk about my new book being released tomorrow, The Case Against Miracles.

Amazon Rankings of "The Case against Miracles" (CaM)

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Currently it's ranked 1st in Atheism Kindle New Releases and 3rd in Atheism Kindle Best Sellers over-all! Be the first kid on your block to get it! ;-) It'll be released this Friday I'm told.

Dr. Josh Rasmussen Offers To Trade Books With Me

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I have initiated these types of requests. I also receive these types of requests. Some I accept. Others I don't. It depends mainly on whether I want the offered book.

I was honored by the request of Dr. Josh Rasmussen to exchange a copy of his book, How Reason Can Lead to God: A Philosopher's Bridge to Faith, for a copy of my book, The Case against Miracles. But I declined the offer. I really have no interest in his book. Here is how that pleasant exchange took place: