Quote of the Day, from CSI Crime Investigation Show

"People lie. The only thing we can count on is the evidence."

--Script from CSI Crime Investigation show.

Bob Seidensticker's List of 10 Skeptical Principles for Evaluating the Bible

It's a good list with a bonus principle. Principles 1-5 are here.

Principles 6-11 are here.

Another principle which I advocate is to read between the lines. Ask yourselves what the opponents of Jesus and Paul said in response. Were the Pharisees that bad as a people? After all, they were the people's party. What arguments did most Jews have against the resurrection claim? They were there, they believed in God, they knew their OT prophecies, yet they didn't believe. What did early Christians say in response to Paul? What did they think of him, and why? Do you think these opponents were convinced by the sheer logic of what Paul said? If not, how did Paul's Christianity come to dominate?

John Gray’s Criticism of the New Atheists, Part 2


Last time around, I wrote about Gray’s claim that religion isn’t meant as “a theory that tries to explain the universe,” but is instead “an attempt to find meaning in events.” And I pointed out one rather obvious problem with this claim — namely, that many do believe in religion as a way of explaining things. But even if Gray were right about the meaning of religion, there would be a problem with his view.

The way he sees it, religion gives us insights into the human condition. In this, it performs much the same function as certain works of fiction. The myth of the forbidden fruit, for example, teaches us, according to Gray, about the “ambiguous impact of knowledge on human freedom” — which he tells us is more realistic than the myth found in Greek philosophy “that knowledge and goodness are inseparably connected.”

If the Bible Had a Sewer...


…that’s where this chapter should be floating

One of the reasons that the Bible cannot be taken seriously as a word from God—from any god, let alone a benevolent, caring creator—is that it includes so much trash. Christian apologists know this very well; they’ve written thousands of books, and preached countless sermons, making excuses, doing their best to sweep the trash under the rug. Well, maybe not sermons so much: preachers don’t like to draw attention to alarming Bible embarrassments.

It’s easy to avoid the landmines in Leviticus or the Book of Revelation: just ignore them. Not too many laypeople—outside of diehard evangelical Bible fanatics—bother with the less-trafficked books. Stand outside any church as people are filing out and ask, “Don’t you just love the prophet Ezekiel?” Yet, despite lack of interest about what’s actually in it, they dutifully carry their Bibles; what could surpass this holy artifact?

Believing In God Produces More Pain Than Otherwise

When life gets difficult, really difficult, it's better if you didn't believe in a god. Take it from me. I've been on both sides of the fence. When someone loses a 10 year old son to leukemia, or a daughter to a car accident, or a spouse who goes missing and is never found again, AND you pray for comfort or peace or a solution, which falls on deaf divine ears, I'm telling you it's better not to believe. For your pain is doubled at that point. The first pain is the suffering from the loss itself. The second pain is feeling abandoned by your god.

Over the years believing minds will convince themselves the loss was for the best, when they eventually ignore what should've been the case but was robbed by death. Or they'll read the obfuscations of some apologists who say Jesus carried them through their sufferings, or that he suffered with them. What does that even mean when one stops to actually think about it? But even by believing standards most of their petitionary prayers go without being divinely answered the way they were prayed. So it stands to reason believers are constantly, more often than not, disappointed from the lack of divine help, to say the least.

Me? Not so much...never to be exact! I never have to worry about any lack of divine help, and I never have to get frustrated over it either. In other words, I never have the added pain that comes from the lack of divine guidance, help, or comfort. Ever! So from my perspective, I say, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me...and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28-30; NIV] Now do you understand?

Why Do We Suffer from the Invisible Man Syndrome?

“Tell people there's an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority will believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure.” 
― George Carlin

I was born with a vivid imagination. It was both a blessing and a curse. As a child, I wrote plays, stories, poems, songs and loved to pretend. Role playing was my favorite pastime. I could get into character better than any other child I knew.  Until quite late in life, well past preteen, I dreaded growing up. The real world didn't hold the same allure and fascination of my pretend world. Unlike many of my peers, "adulting" didn't seem all that appealing to me. Whereas they were anxious, even excited, to date, get their first jobs and mimic the grownups in their lives, I was skeptical. The real world looked a bit grim and the faces of most of the adults that I knew were often work worn, worried, anxious or depressed.

You too could purify the universe of bad influences, bad deeds and bad thoughts!

All you had to do is be born and raised somewhere else on the planet. For more photos click here.

What Good Is Christianity?


Who needs it, really?
Since humans began to walk upright, thousands of religions have come and gone. Many hundreds of gods have fallen out of favor: even many Christians themselves can’t stand the nasty god who stalks the Old Testament, although—hint, hint—it’s the same god in the New Testament. Christianity is now so splintered—the faithful have quarreled endlessly about it—even its most devout followers can’t agree on what True Christianity is. Millions of the faithful are holed up in their own defensive denominations, clinging to fragments of the faith they hold dear.

So what’s the point? Dan Barker has mentioned the elephant in the room: “I did not want to lose my faith, but I became painfully aware that Christianity has no case. I discovered there is no evidence for Christianity. And I also found out, to my astonishment, that there is no need for it.” (Losing Faith in Faith)

Hypothesis: Since Bayes Theorem Cannot Help Us It Should be Abandoned

Here is the full title to this post:
Hypothesis: Since Bayes Theorem (i.e., the math, the equation, the formula) cannot help bring us to a consensus concerning something accepted on faith, or assess specific miracles and theistic based religions, and because it is ripe for abuse in the hands of Christian apologists who dress up their delusion with undeserved respectability, it should be abandoned for better alternative methods, by people who really want to know the truth.
This is not a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There is no miracle baby to be found in the dirty bathwater. Bayes is used by people in this debate who wish to look superior than others. It's a rite of passage into a specific club of intellectuals who like the status of being considered above the rest of us. But it solves nothing, clarifies nothing, and will be thrust into the dustbin of elite faddishness as one after another intellectual wannabe comes up with their own calculations without reaching a consensus between believers and non-believers on the inputs or the resulting probabilities. As philosopher Godfrey-Smith put it, “The probabilities” in Bayes’ Theorem “that are more controversial are the prior probabilities of hypotheses, like P(h).” He asks, “What could this number possibly be measuring?” He says, we cannot “make sense of prior probabilities” [Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science (University of Chicago Press, 2003), p. 205]. He is dead on in the area I'm arguing, faith-based claims of virgin birthed deities and resurrections from the dead. And while I'm at it, gods themselves, who are supposed to exponentially increase the prior probabilities.

Bayes is a mathematical wasteland when applies to these issues. The only merit it offers is the discussion of the evidence and the ensuing arguments in defense of the inputs, which could be done without the math. So atheist apologists who argue for the use of Bayes Theorem in an area with no promise or hope of a consensus, are merely arguing for their own special status in these debates, and dividing people unnecessarily between Bayes users and non-Bayes users. The most extreme case of this is atheist apologist Richard Carrier, who thinks the rest of us are ignorant, stupid, and irrational to disagree. This only makes him feel relevant by arguing for his own irrelevancy. This is not to throw a bone at Christian apologists. I think Carrier is brilliant and has already dealt some significant death blows to the Christian faith. But on this issue his brilliancy, and undeserved superior ego, has led him to defend an irrelevant wasteland, a dead end, one that has no promise of accomplishing or solving anything.

The better tools? Science; requiring sufficient collaborative objective evidence commensurate with the type of claim; requiring claimants to shoulder the burden of proof; arguing from inference to the best explanation; using the standard of the Outsider Test for Faith; ridicule (after all, we know faith-based arguments are special pleading all the way down), and more. Carrier will respond just as believers do when it comes to their faith-based doctrines, by forcing these tools into the grid of Bayes Theorem and calling me a doofus another dozen times or more. So let's see this in practice, a friend comes up to you and says his wife gave birth to a deity. You say show me some objective evidence. We don't need Bayes at all there, do you see? I can understand why Bayesian reasoning without the math is much better when it comes to more complicated issues, but at rock bottom it's all about the evidence, just as apologist Vincent Torley was convinced by it, even though he had previously done his own Bayesian calculations. I see no reason why hammering home the lack of objective evidence won't work as well, or better than using Bayesian math. Bayes is probably worse off in terms of convincing others, for the only people who would slough through it are far less likely to be convinced by it. I've written a book on why responding to fundamentalist arguments in kind gives their beliefs a certain undeserved respectability. So my arguments against the use of Bayes are rooted there, but not found exclusively there. For as you can see I have other arguments that Bayes just doesn't help us (i.e., the math, the equation, the formula). [See Tag for more]

How Not to Be a Doofus about Bayes’ Theorem From Someone Who "Doesn't Really Understand Bayesianism"

The title is a response to two posts Richard Carrier wrote here, and recently here. If anyone disagrees with Carrier we're irrational, ignorant, foolish, and now with a newly released super-bad description, doofus/doofuses. 

I would like to catalog the variety of responses apologists and atheists have toward Bayes, but I won't. What I do know is apart from the people he mentions who "don't understand Bayes" he should also include David Hume, Apologist Michael Licona and Dan Lambert. One wonders if anyone could have argued for anything before Bayes given Carrier's praise. Pffft. What I know is that those who use Bayes come up with wildly different results with regard to the resurrection of Jesus.

--Apologist Richard Swinburne calculates the probability of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, given the existence of a god, is 97%. Swinburne should run that past a peer-review panel including Muslims Jews and Hindu's to see how that goes over. ;-) We know from a historian's perspective that's utterly idiotic! 

--Apologist Vincent Torley calculated that "there’s about a 60-65% chance that Jesus rose from the dead." Of course, that was before he read Michael Alter's book on the resurrection, which I recommended, that had no math in it at all! How could this happen without Bayes? Oh my! But it did. Apparently the shear evidence Alter presented was enough. Wow! Who would have thunk it. 

--Apologists Timothy McGrew and Lydia McGrew calculated the odds of the resurrection of Jesus to be 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 to 1. *Silence* *Awe* *Respect* Christians must revere them for coming up with the highest calculation any intellectual *cough* has done so far. Can anyone do better here? They need to go see a doctor and get some meds, quickly. Richard Carrier thinks Bayes helps. Okay then. Please tell us how such a useful tool can produce these wide diverse results. Tools are supposed to help. But even among apologists themselves it does no such thing. Carrier says Bayes helps us clarify where we disagree and by how much. Really? We already know this! Dressing up a delusion in math is still a delusion. Responding in kind only gives a delusion an undeserved respectability. This is a major point of mine in Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End. Who's the doofus again? 

Introducing My Next Anthology "The Case against Miracles"

I finally submitted the digital book files to my publisher Hypatia Press, an imprint of Ockham Publishing out of the UK. David G. McAffe is the editor. It has been seven months since I started working on it. Getting authors, working with them, and writing my own chapters while on the road for the last two months has wore me out. I'm glad that hard phase is over. I'm told it should be published by September or October, just in time for year end holiday shopping. How good is it? Well, I consider it the best anthology yet, and they've all been good! You can see the chapter contents right here. To whet your appetites my Introduction is below:

A Challenge for Churches

Here's a post that I endorse by my friend Bob Seidensticker at Cross Examined. Churches should step up and do this. LINK

John Gray’s Criticism of the New Atheists, Part 1


In Seven Types of Atheism, political philosopher John Gray, who’s an atheist himself, takes the so-called new atheists to task for their “notion that religions are erroneous hypotheses.” Treating religion this way, as if it were a kind of “primitive science,” is a mistake, he says. Rather, we must understand it as allegory and myth, as a way of imparting truths about the human condition. “Religion is an attempt to find meaning in events, not a theory that tries to explain the universe.” As evidence, he mentions St. Augustine’s fourth-century view that the Bible need not be taken literally, as well as Philo of Alexandria’s first-century description of Genesis as “an interweaving of symbolic imagery with imagined events.”

Christian Corruption Deserves Scorn and Ridicule


Let the satirists and cartoonist sharpen their knives
At the end of God Comes Out of Retirement to Distance Self from Catholic Church we find this quote:

“I mean honestly,” continued God, “who’s going to believe you’re the arbiter of all that is good in the world if you can’t even see that being on the side that’s defending pedophiles is bad. Really it makes me want to smite the lot of them and let Satan sort them out, but I think that would probably be more a punishment for Satan.”

How did the Catholic Church manager to combine the ultimate misogynistic Old Boys Network (the Vatican) and the World’s Largest Gay Community in strident denial (the Vatican)? That is a formula for disaster on so many levels, including blaming pedophile on homosexuality. Here's an eyeopener:

In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy

This 550-page book by Frédéric Martel was published last month in eight languages, based on four years of research and interviews with Vatican insiders.

Of course Christian corruption is not confined to Catholics. How about those Baptists (Southern or otherwise) and mean-spirited Methodists.

Maybe the most corrupt practice of all, however, is blatantly selling a product you don’t have: the promise of eternal life. When you’ve got that gimmick you can get away with a lot and still hold your audience. The faithful don’t even notice, don’t even care, that the concept of God peddled by the churches doesn’t make sense.

Christianity Is Not Too Big to Fail, 5


Helping it along…off the cliff

While claiming the moral high ground, Christians keep shooting themselves in the foot. Are they showing off that their brand of magical thinking is toxic? 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:

Getting God Off the Hook for Natural Disasters

Does the Scale of the Universe Undercut Belief in a Tribal Deity?

Can God Do Perpetual Miracles?

Does Mythological Naturalism Presuppose Its Own Conclusion?

On Stigmatizing Left-Handed People: Science Is Eliminating What Faith Produced

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

Installment Four 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. In 2016 he was invited by John Loftus to write for the DC Blog.

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

When a Nasty Piece of Work Writes Scripture


Making Christianity Even More Cringeworthy
Before the Bible came under serious critical scrutiny—i.e., historians decided to analyze the texts as they do other documents from the ancient past—traditional beliefs about authorship were assumed to be true. Thus, the Pentateuch was written by Moses and the psalms by David; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were folks mentioned in the gospels and/or epistles.

These traditional certainties have faded or eroded completely, because of evidence in the documents themselves. It turns out that most of the Biblical documents were penned anonymously, and many are now recognized as forgeries. But there is one standout author whom we can identify without a doubt, because a few of his own letters have survived. We know for certain who he was: the apostle Paul, who wrote some of the letters credited to him. Thus we can try to figure out his thought, and we have a pretty good idea of his character.

What Strain of God Virus Was Spread in Your Home?

I was raised in a genuine American cult. The made-in America kind of religion that is unique to the spirit of this country. If you don't fancy the religious offerings of the day, invent a new one. Eventually, people will begin to follow you if you've got the courage to preach your truth and the intestinal fortitude to stick it out until the right group of people stumble across your church and decide to cast their lot with you.  

Christian Apologist Vincent Torley Says I've "rendered a service to philosophy"

We've been discussing private miracles. [See tag below]. I’ve argued private miracles must pass the same tests that third parties require. People—I didn’t say children—who claim to have experienced a private miracle—I didn’t say a mere extraordinary event—can only say it was real after rigorously verifying it, by asking a whole slew of honest questions. They need a sufficient amount of third party independent corroborative objective evidence for them. This is what reasonable adults should require when it comes to a miracle of the private kind, just as they should require with a miracle claimed by a multitude of people—which happens never.

Torley is arguing that there are private miracles people should believe despite the requirement for sufficient objective third-party evidence. In the course of this debate Torley rewards me with a backhanded slap instead of praise when saying I've "rendered a service to philosophy". He wrote about an Indian Prince who experienced frost for the first time:
There's a famous passage in Hume's Enquiries Concerning the Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals (1777) where he writes:
The Indian prince, who refused to believe the first relations concerning the effects of frost, reasoned justly; and it naturally required very strong testimony to engage his assent to facts, that arose from a state of nature, with which he was unacquainted, and which bore so little analogy to those events, of which he had had constant and uniform experience. (Section X, Part I.)
Hume was willing to "bite the bullet" and acknowledge that people following his epistemic principles would sometimes reject as absurd things that later turned out to be genuine - nevertheless, he insisted, they "reasoned justly." Perhaps John is willing to "bite the bullet," or perhaps he wishes to reconsider his views. But what he has done, albeit inadvertently, is show that Humean skepticism, when taken to its logical conclusion (for that's where John's epistemology is derived from) leads to a reductio ad absurdum. And for that, I thank him: he has rendered a service to philosophy. Cheers.

Private Miracles Must Pass the Same Tests That Third Parties Require

In a previous post I made the claim that private miracles must pass the same tests that third parties require. People who claim to have experienced a private miracle can only say it was real after rigorously verifying it, by asking a whole slew of honest questions. They need a sufficient amount of third party independent corroborative objective evidence for them. If there's no objective evidence to convince others, there would be no objective evidence to convince oneself either. Rather than being an experience of a real private miracle, the experience could come from an accident, hallucination, brain malfunction, wish-fulfillment, sleep deprivation or a drug. So whether private or public all miracle claims should be able to show a sufficient amount of third party independent corroborative objective evidence.

Consider an example of an extraordinary kind, one that might be within the realm of possibilities. Let's say you experienced an alien abduction while walking home from a birthday party, in the afternoon on a clear day. The aliens take you to their planet in a different solar system of the Milky Way Galaxy to do experiments on you, 10 light years away. When done with you they bring you back. You are convinced this really happened. So you immediately run to tell everyone what you experienced. But no one saw the alien space-ship pick you up, or drop you off. No one has aged either. No astronomer can confirm the solar system with its star exists. You have no scars from their experiments. You have no scientifically advanced artifacts from your travels. You have no scientifically advanced information to share.

Should YOU continue believing it?

'Great' Bible Texts…that Really Aren't So Great


Extreme religion in disguise
So, be honest now: How many Christians cheerfully open their doors to Jehovah’s Witnesses who come knocking? It’s not so easy to knock on doors in Manhattan, so it’s common to see these intrepid missionaries at their literature tables in the New York City subway. I have yet to see passers-by interacting with them, so their hit ratio (getting people to hear their pitch) is probably no higher than when they ring doorbells.

The irony, of course, is that Christians who rebuff or ignore Jehovah’s Witnesses are on the same family tree of faith; they share belief in the ancient Jesus cult. It’s just that the JWs are more aggressive about it. And, of course, there are now thousands of variations on the old cult, as Christianity has splintered endlessly. This fragmentation can be traced to endless Christian fighting about theology, but above all to the disagreements in the original source documents, i.e., the gospels and epistles.

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

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

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

Quotes from Slade on weighing the accuracy of miracle reports:

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

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

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

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

Christianity and the Witch-Hunt Mentality


It’s alive, potent, and dangerous

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

Why Do Humans Crave Domination?

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

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

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

Another Bible Chapter that Wouldn’t Be Missed


Somebody please get the scissors

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

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


What Richard Carrier said!

What Guy Harrison said!

What David Madison said!

For Installment 1, click here.

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

Could You Think Your Way Out Of These Religions?

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

Debunking Christianity, One Graphic at a Time!


What John Loftus said!

What Robert Conner said!

What David Fitzgerald said!

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

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

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

When True Christians Beat Up on True Christians


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

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