Christianity Is Not Too Big to Fail, 4

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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!

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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

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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.”

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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?

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[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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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!

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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

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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.

Ravi Zacharias, Another Liar for Jesus Exposed

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I've commented on the growing evidence against Ravi Zacharias before (see tag "Liars for Jesus"--which now has 24 posts). Now Steve Baughman, who was trained as a lawyer, presents his case in his book, Cover-Up in the Kingdom: Phone Sex, Lies, And God's Great Apologist, Ravi Zacharias. It's a self-published book. Prometheus Books didn't want it. Neither did the board of Secular Nation want an article on it. Lots of Christian media outlets and magazines rejected a story on it as well. Apparently Zacharias became too rich and powerful to expose, for fear of reprisals and lawsuits. 

So Baughman published the story himself. The book reads like what you'd expect from a legal mind, complete with all the tweets, legal documents, emails (from Zacharias) along with several appendices. All of this evidence provides a solid case against the well-known influential apologist Ravi Zacharias. He's a habitual liar and deceiver. He has lied about his credentials and accomplishments for decades. He had carried on an illicit relationship with a married woman named Lori Anne Thompson. He also tried to bully her into not coming clean about their relationship to her husband by threatening suicide if she did. There's more. If you wish to read a more detailed primer to the book, Randal Rauser wrote one up, called, The Lying Apologist: A Review of Cover-Up in the Kingdom.

Rauser explains why he wrote the story when others didn't:
Baughman notes that Zacharias’ defenders have tended to dismiss his allegations, chalking them up to Baughman’s own hatred of God (4). While this is unfortunate, it is hardly surprising given the tribalistic nature of many Christians....

Over the last few weeks, several Christians have asked me why I want to review Cover-Up in the Kingdom. The question seems to be based on that same tribalism that I referenced above. In other words, don’t criticize our guys.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but a habitual liar and fabulist is not my guy. And it doesn’t stop with Zacharias. Perhaps the most disturbing lesson of Cover-Up in the Kingdom is that Zacharias has been enabled by the silence and complicity of many other Christians including apologists like John Lennox and Os Guinness, megachurch pastor Mac Brunson, professor Jeremy Begbie, and countless functionaries at institutions like RZIM and the CMA denomination.

I like to say that in Christian apologetics, good arguments are important but a winsome presentation is even more important. I’d now like to add that one’s moral integrity is most important of all. And moral integrity requires Christians to speak out and denounce Ravi Zacharias and his enablers. If we claim to follow He who is the Truth (John 14:6), how could we do anything less?
Good on Rauser! When it comes to this issue I'm in his tribe.

The Arrogance of Faith!

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In response to this Meme on your left, David Poling sarcastically said on Facebook: "What could be more arrogant than a child asking his father for an ice cream cone when he didn't even take him to Disney World?"

My response: There is a huge magnitude of difference between averting the Holocaust and averting mild hunger pains. There should be no gratuitous horrendous kinds suffering in our world. Kind parents would never allow them. They would quickly put a stop to them and/or shelter their kids. Good bureaucrats/judges in a civil society would never allow them. They would put killers, rapists and gangsters in jails and prisons away from the rest of us.

Every bit of suffering above the horrors of a gang rape should not be tolerated by a perfectly good omnipotent being, and even THAT should not be tolerated!

Now I don't have to split hairs to determine when enough suffering is tolerable. All I have to say is that the greater the amount of suffering tolerated by a perfectly good omnipotent god, then the greater the problem of suffering is for good people to continue to believe in a perfectly good omnipotent god. If someone wants to punt to free will then become educated about the nature and value of free will.

A Excerpt from "Christianity is Not Great" On Prosecuting Accused Witches

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What grates on me a bit (sorry) are people who comment here who haven't read my books. I have a good guess they haven't because commenters don't usually refer to them when they would greatly contribute to the discussion. But what grates on me much more are believers who don't think very deeply, who act as know-it-all's about everything regardless of the discipline with a quick Google search to any face-saving way to avoid the truth, written by others who don't think very deeply, who act like know it all's looking for any face-saving way to avoid the truth. Take Don Camp, PLEASE! He's here again (has he ever left?). This time he's an expert on the Salem Witch Trials:
God has placed people in the position of his agents for justice n the world. We have the God-mandated responsibility to stop injustice. That is you me and everyone else.

And that is what happened.

There were twenty witches tried and executed in Salem in 1692-1693. Higher courts finally made those trails illegal. The system that God had established worked.
Camp never considers what might result had the witch trials been divinely averted. He only looks to the potential good that came from them, if one can say that. Listen up, eventually anyone can find something good in any event, no matter how horrendous. The problem is the very sufferings of a tragedy and what might have happened if they had never happened. Looking for the any good result due to rosy god-glasses is not treating events dispassionately with objectivity ('tis typical of believers who seek understanding of their faith, per Anselm). Eventually someone who looses an arm might find something good that came of it, but the real question is whether an amputee's life would have been better had the arm never been severed in the first place, and my bet is every amputee would rather have the arm back.

Don again:
The problem in Salem and elsewhere was not the command but the question who is a witch. As it turned out the people of Salem were wrong about what a witch was. They were wrong about how to detect a witch. They were wrong about how God would have us deal with witches in the era of Jesus and the gospel.
Here's the excerpt from my chapter on the witch hunts. I think it helps the discussion a bit:

Quote of the Day On Apologetics, by ORAXX

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ORAXX: "Did you ever notice that science doesn't require apologists and apologetics?" Apologetics, of course, is the art of defending and convincing others for one's sect-specific faith. Scientists, on the other hand, just do science based on experimental observations and math. The evidence does the convincing. There are no college classes or degrees offered in the art of defending and convincing others of the results of science.

Doubt and the "Evil" of Nonbelief

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Many believers admit to having doubts. In fact, probably most do. It is so common a phenomenon that whole books have been written about it, and in The Case for Faith, Lee Strobel interviews the author of one of them, Lynn Anderson.

Strobel asks him, “Can a person be a Christian and nevertheless have reservations or doubts?” Anderson’s answer is a definite yes: “where there’s absolutely no doubt, there’s probably no healthy faith,” he tells Strobel, adding that he rejects “the ‘true believer’ mentality — people with bright smiles and glassy eyes” who never have any questions about their religious views. Strobel also mentions other thinkers who claim that “having doubts isn’t evidence of the absence of faith; on the contrary, they consider them to be the very essence of faith itself.” Neither Anderson nor Strobel, then, see religious doubt as a problem.

In another chapter of The Case for Faith, however, Strobel asks Ravi Zacharias how it could possibly be fair for a serial killer like David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz — who like so many former criminals has now “found” Christ — to go to heaven, while someone like Mahatma Gandhi is presumably suffering in hell.

All Apologetics is Diversionary

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I've argued all apologetics is special pleading, and I stand by that. All apologetics is also diversionary, intended to distract attention from something more important. I recently said "Subjective private religious experiences prove nothing." Don Camp says of it,
I don't know why this is such a startling observation. It is virtually a truism. If we broadened it some to subjective private experiences prove nothing, it would still be a truism. And since subjective and private are redundant, subjective experiences prove nothing is really enough. The fact is every experience is subjective.
Boom! Just like that we are no longer talking about religious experiences. Now we're talking about subjective experiences in general. Next we're told every experience is subjective and apparently of equal evidential value to the person having the experience. Don goes on to say he needs to personally experience God as the proof of his reasonings, just as he would doubt that a UFO landed in someone's backyard until he personally saw the UFO land and touched the alien who came out of it. LINK.

What does this have to do with believing the religious tale that a virgin gave birth to a "demi-god" in the ancient superstitious pre-scientific past (as one Christian belief of many)? What kind of religious experience could prove this took place? What does Don say about those who claim to experience God who fail to believe a virgin gave birth to a "demi-god" in the ancient world? How can two people have the same religious experience yet come away with totally different theological conclusions (not mere details, mind you)? How reliable are religious experiences if they can do that? Why aren't the tools of the historian good enough to know what happened in the past, such that believers need these religious experiences? What exactly is this religious experience? We know what it means to see, taste, touch, hear and smell. What specifically does it mean to experience God? Why is it people who claim to experience God always conclude he agrees with them about everything? Those are the issues he's trying to divert our attention away from. Get us thinking about something else whenever possible because there isn't a good answer to the questions posed of him.


For LGBT People, the Bible Is a Weapon of Mass Destruction

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The feel-good verses can’t cancel this reality
Anyone who has summoned the courage and energy to fight racism, misogyny, and anti-Semitism knows how much damage has been done by Bible texts; hatreds and unspeakable cruelties have been fueled and justified by literal interpretations of scripture.

Anger, aggression, and territoriality have been imbedded by evolution in the human brain. We have to work hard to subdue these traits, and far too much of the time we fail—as the history of warfare makes so clear. What a shame that ‘sacred’ scriptures have so often endorsed fear of the other, the alien, the unknown. If you really do believe that God had a hand in writing the Bible, what a disappointment; as I’ve noted before, his job performance was well below par on his inspire-the-Bible days.

Another Case Study In How To Defend Obfuscate The Christian Faith, Part 1

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As readers know I wrote a book on this topic, titled, you guessed it, How to Defend the Christian Faith (subtitled, Advice from an Atheist). The book has received some good recommendations including those from Christian scholars Karl Gilberson, Chad Meister, and Gary Habermas who has recommended it for his PhD apologetics students.

Our case study today is from apologist Randal Rauser, who objected to a recent post of mine, titled Subjective Private Religious Experiences Prove Nothing. The first question is why Rauser the apologist would even care? Surely he has the goods, the objective evidence, a sufficient amount of it, such that he doesn't need to bother with subjective private religious experiences. Right? So by dealing with what I wrote he tacitly admits that a sufficient amount of third party independent corroborative objective evidence does not exist. For if it did, he could ignore what I said. My stated requirement for "a sufficient amount of third party independent corroborative objective evidence", while clumsy and a bit redundant, says it all. The two parties involved are the person claiming to have subjective private religious experiences and a god who provides them. We need sufficient independent evidence, corroborative objective evidence, that has the potential for reasonably convincing third parties.

I'll call these alleged subjective religious experiences private miracles since they cannot be adequately explained by the natural processes of the brain alone, just as biblical miracles cannot be adequately explained by the natural processes of nature alone. Sufficient objective evidence of miracles, the kind we're looking for, the kind we need, is independent corroborative evidence that has the potential for convincing reasonable informed third party adults, whether they're privately experienced in the mind or publicly experienced in the world outside the mind. So all by themselves subjective religious experiences of a private miracle prove nothing to reasonable informed third party adults.

To be clear, I don't deny that these private subjective religious experiences have the potential for convincing people who have experienced them. Sadly, they can and they do convince childish uniformed ignorant gullible superstitious people. What I deny is that they have the potential for convincing reasonable people. That's because to convince a person they should also have the potential for convincing reasonable informed third party adults. To be additionally clear, I'm not talking about some hypothetical fictionalized story of a private miracle experience created to obfuscate actual testimonies. No, I'm talking about the kinds of testimonies people actually claim of private miracles. They are no more able to convince reasonable informed third party adults than ancient biblical testimonies to miracles can.

Christianity Is Not Too Big to Fail, 3

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Helping it along…off the cliff
Those who don’t reside in a bubble of piety are reminded daily of the dangers posed by Christianity, e.g., there are high-placed child rapists and high-placed idiots who see Satan at work. 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:

Richard Carrier On the Non-Existence of Q

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I think Carrier is on to something I hadn't considered before. If we want to be evidenced based people, then we need to be evidenced based people across the boards. We need to acknowledge there's no evidence that "Q" exists. Q (from Quelle, the German word for "source") is a hypothetical gospel considered by most biblical scholars to be a separate "source" (hence Q) for the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke). It's supposed to explain the divergences and agreements between them. But the fact is we have no extant manuscripts of Q. None at all. Full stop. Carrier:
In fact all the evidence for Q is 100% consistent with Q being a redaction of Mark, one that added a bunch of material to Mark, expanding things in Mark that were too brief or unsuited for a later author’s tastes or needs. And that means Q sounds pretty much exactly like Matthew. In fact, it’s almost certainly Matthew. Q is literally the least likely hypothesis of any that’s plausible.

....

If we applied Ockham’s Razor—a valid logical principle—instead of this fallacy of circular argument adopted by all Q defenders, we’d get a different result. Because what is simpler? That Matthew and Luke used two sources one of whom we can only hypothesize the existence of? Or that Matthew used only one source (and made the rest up) and Luke only used Mark and Matthew (and made the rest up)? The latter theory requires no ad hoc hypothetical sources. It relies solely on evidence and texts we actually have. It is therefore the much simpler hypothesis (because the probability of all the facts it rests on is as near to 100% as makes all odds; which is not the case when we start depending on merely hypothesized facts, which for that very reason have a significantly higher probability of being false: see Proving History, index, “gerrymandering” and “Ockham’s Razor”). And on top of that, it turns out, unlike evidence for Q, there actually is concrete evidence Luke copied Matthew (as we’ll see). So we know he did. And that leaves nothing else to explain.

SO MUCH Bad Theology in ONE Bible Chapter

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Who’s the culprit? His initials are J.C.

We can be sure that, most of the time, believers descend into a fog of piety when they pick up their Bibles to read the Jesus stories. It’s as if critical thinking is suspended or even cancelled as they reverently plod or skim through the gospels. That has allowed the church to get away with a lot.

Why not try another perspective? For example, that of comparative religion or literature. Consider that the gospels fit in the wide range of fantasy and mythology writings of the ancient world. Maybe they’re not so sacred, after all. I recommend, as an experiment, that every time devout readers come across the name Jesus in the gospels, they should put in another name instead; that might deflate some of the aura of holiness. How about substituting Brian for Jesus? That alternative hero has been proposed by John Cleese, Eric Idle, et al. Their superb use of satire, I am sure, has helped erode the appeal of Christianity (and exposed its silliness).

In Defense of David Hume Part 6, William L. Vanderburgh On "Hume’s 'Abject Failure' Vindicated"

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William L. Vanderburgh defended Hume against John Earman in a very thorough article published in 2005 in Hume Studies, titled, Of Miracles and Evidential Probability: Hume’s “Abject Failure” Vindicated [You can read the PDF right here.]. In it Vanderburgh shows David Hume probably knew of Bayes Theorem and never mentioned it for good reasons. I'm including a few of the important highlights below. I consider it an important contribution on Hume and Earman and even Bayes.

Subjective Private Religious Experiences Prove Nothing!

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Watch this!! Come on, come on! Come to your senses! Subjective private religious experiences provide no evidence at all that your religious faith is true. I've read the special pleading type of arguments attempting, but failing to show, these experiences are veridical, that if a god exists he can give you one. Sure, I'll say it. If a god exists he can give someone a direct experience that he exists and his religion is true. But this gets you no where. It still doesn't show that one particular god gave you the experience you claim to have had. The argument ignores the actual way people get these experiences and how they are used to defend all kinds of crazy religious faiths. The only way to know if your supposed religious experience is true is according to objective evidence evaluated dispassionately without any double standards, as an outsider.

Three Top Apologists Reject the Force Of Arguments To God's Existence

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First, Alvin Plantinga: “I don’t know of an argument for Christian belief that seems very likely to convince one who doesn’t already accept its conclusion.” [Warranted Christian Belief, p. 201.] Sure, Plantinga offered "Two Dozen Or So Theistic Arguments" but he doesn't back down from saying they're not very likely to convince one who doesn’t already accept their conclusions. [BTW: a 504 page anthology has been released attempting to defend these arguments.] Second, John S. Feinberg: “I wouldn’t try to prove God’s existence first, if at all, in that I am not convinced that any of the traditional arguments succeeds.” [Can You Believe it’s True: Christian Apologetics in a Modern, Postmodern Era, p. 321].

Third, Richard Swinburne rejects the force of two theistic arguments in particular: "In the course of this book...I shall not discuss a priori arguments...I think ontological arguments for the existence of God are very much mere philosophers' arguments and do no codify any of the reasons which ordinary men have for believing that there is a God. The greatest theistic philosophers have on the whole rejected ontological arguments and relied on a posteriori ones." [The Existence of God, 2nd, ed., pp. 9-10].

Swinburne again: "I cannot however, see that, given that there are conscious men acquiring knowledge of the world, that man's awareness of moral truth is something especially difficult to explain by normal scientific processes. Men living in close proximity and needing fellowship might well be expected to grasp concepts of fairness and justice, especially when it would be of advantage to one group to bring home to other groups their moral obligations. A long tradition of writing on human evolution beginning with Darwin's The Descent of Man showed how man's moral awareness might be expected to develop by evolutionary processes, as man evolved from lower animals."

Swinburne considers a Kantian argument. "(1) Promise-keeping is always obligatory. (2) But an action is obligatory if and only if it conduces to the perfection of the universe--what Kant calls the summum bonum. (3) It is more probable that promise-keeping will conduce to the summum bonum if there is a God than if there is not. This argument is valid, but its first and third premises are highly questionable...As it stands, the argument is not a good argument." He argues, "I cannot see how anyone who holds one of the first and third premises but not the other is going to be persuaded by a process of rational argument to hold the other, unless he is first persuaded by some other argument that there is a God. For this reason I cannot see any force in an argument to the existence of God from the existence of morality.” [The Existence of God, 2nd, ed., p. 213-15.]

If they don't accept them why should we? Why should anyone?

In Defense of Hume Part 5, John Earman Didn't Refute Hume, He Completed Him

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It's widely touted that in his book "Hume's Abject Failure" John Earman "refuted" Hume. Did he? Consider what Richard Carrier tells us:
Earman didn't "refute" Hume, so much as he fixed Hume. Hume wrote just a few years before Thomas Bayes solved the problem Hume was beating around the edges at in his Argument against Miracles. Earman shows that reframing Hume's argument in a Bayesian framework fixes everything wrong with the original argument as worded. Hume's mistake is subtle, and arises from the imprecision of his wording and formulation. He hadn't quite known yet of the correct logical form of what he was trying to say, but it is remarkable he came very close to the same insight his contemporary Thomas Bayes did. Earman's fix rehabilitates Hume's argument...
There are definitely some of Hume's arguments that are spot on, that on their own show miracles cannot be believed based on testimonial evidence alone, especially if one is using testimonial evidence to prove a god exists and his religion is true, when compared to the laws of nature represented by Newton's laws of motion, as I argued here. At best one should suspend judgment. But more than this, Hume is not to be considered wrong, just incomplete, and that's a huge difference.

We just need to consider scientific revolutions. Paradigm changes build on each other as science progresses. The previous paradigms aren't to be considered wrong, but rather incomplete. As science progresses we recognize that the science of yesterday was not yet complete. That's it. If you've never read much of Isaac Asimov's, read his essay called The Relativity of Wrong. It will forever change how you view science. He explains why the discredited science of the past is not to be considered wrong, but rather incomplete, by discussing the changing views of the shape of the earth, from flat to spherical to pear-shaped. The same things can be said about Newton's laws of motion as completed (not falsified) by Einstein's relativity equations. Newton's equations were not wrong, even though he didn't factor time into them, as Einstein did. They just don't work at or near the speed of light. So there's no overturned or falsified theory here! In a like manner, Hume gave us the initial paradigm to evaluate testimonies to miracles which still holds true, but now Earman and others are offering other ways to examine miracles from a more complete paradigm. So no, Hume has not been refuted. He is being completed.