Bible Blunders & Bad Theology, Part 3

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Merging Easter with Halloween


I’m sure Christian commitment can be rated, perhaps on a scale of 1 to 10. Those whom we would rate as “tens” are fervent, unshakable in their belief: they are the untouchables, the unreachables—in terms of getting them to grasp the incoherence of Christian theology. But then there are those at the other end of the scale, who would earn a “one” rating; even “lukewarm” would be a generous description. They would walk away from the faith—and many probably do—with little hesitation or regret.

 

There are those in the middle of the scale, the “fives,” who are regular churchgoers, but who admit—at least to themselves—that they have doubts. They go along with it all because church is what they do. But the right argument, or the wrong personal tragedy, might puncture faith, temporarily or forever.

Intro Outline for "The Incompatibility of God and Horrendous Suffering"

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I'm writing an introductory chapter now for my next anthology with three headings/main points:
1. The Christian Faith Stunts the Imagination;
2. The Christian Faith Has No Objective Evidence At All;
3. The Christian Faith Makes No Sense At All.
It's titled "God and Horrendous Suffering" and has been accepted for publication with GCRR.

Faith and Equivocation

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Whenever someone is defending faith, or is arguing that faith and reason are compatible, they should be asked which of three common meanings of the term they are thinking of. If the exact meaning of the word isn't made clear, it is almost a given that their claims will deteriorate into a mess of equivocation.

When challenged to provide evidence for the existence of God, most theists reply that their belief is based on faith. This makes it clear that, in this context, “faith” means belief without evidence. This meaning of the word also applies to the claim that faith is needed when the evidence isn't conclusive. Or in other words, when the believer says that reason can only take one so far, and one must make the decision to believe.

The Biggest Bible Embarrassment of All?

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The author who said too much 


There are so many Bible episodes that could be in the running for biggest embarrassment. Certainly the story of Noah has to be in the Top Ten. God is so annoyed by human sin he decides to kill everyone on earth except one family—even most of the animals have to die. How many millions of toddlers and babies were drowned? It’s sad that Bible writers thought this was good theology. Who needs a genocidal god with extreme anger management issues? But—there’s a way out: the Noah story didn’t happen, of course. It’s folklore, borrowed from other ancient folklore.

Dr. David Geisler On What Could Change My Mind

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Recently Dr. David Geisler struck up a conversation with me on Facebook Messenger after he noticed a tribute I posted to his father Norman Geisler a year ago. LINK. David has a doctorate of Ministries in Apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, and is the author (co-authored with Norm Geisler) of Conversational Evangelism: Connecting with People to Share Jesus. This book has gained the high recommendations of Josh McDowell, Ravi Zacharias, Mike Licona and others. He is also the President of Norm Geisler International Ministries. He started messaging me, asking if I had even taken on his father's type of apologetics. Immediately I found out who he was, but as he kept asking questions I got a bit annoyed with his pleasant persistence. So I asked him why me? His response: "John, I consider you to be in a different category than most other atheists. I’m not sure there is anyone out there right now that articulates atheist augments as well as you do. I’m not trying to butter you up. I’m just trying to be honest with you. Why would I want to talk to other atheists?"

Dumping Normal Rules of Evidence and Inquiry

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Theology Gets a Free Pass to Make Things Up

Most of the gods imagined by humans—since we began imagining such things—have plied the miracle trade, so it’s hardly a surprise that miracles ended up in Bible narratives. Folks who have been taught since toddlerhood that the Bible is “God’s true story” commonly retain toddler naiveté about the Bible as long as they live. “One requirement for success as a sincere Christian,” Valerie Tarico and Marlene Winell have pointed out, “is to find a way to believe that which would be unbelievable under normal rules of evidence and inquiry.” (Psychological Harms of Bible-Believing Christianity)

Things We Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said

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Text of my presentation at e-Conference on Atheism

[Here is the script of my presentation on Saturday, 5 September 2020, with a few small additions. The video should be available soon. The event was sponsored by the Global Center for Religious Research.]

We pose this challenge to theists: please tell us where we can find reliable, verifiable data about God—and all theists must agree: Yes, that’s where to find it. This never happens because theists don’t agree. For example, they usually claim that scripture is a source of data about God…but whose scripture? We see no effort on the part of Christians to expand the Bible to include the Qur’an and the Book of Mormon. They refuse to acknowledge that these books qualify as scripture.

Naturally, Christians adore the gospels. But these documents themselves present major problems, just in trying to figure out what Jesus did and said. Rembrandt has given us a portrait of a friendly, amiably Jesus. So my apologies to Rembrandt for puncturing this image in what I’m about to say.

Jim Spiegel, Whom I Previously Debated, Just Got Fired for "Little Hitler"

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Professor Jim Spiegel just got fired from Taylor University for this song, titled "Little Hitler." I debated him last year. He believes nonbelievers don't accept his sect-specific Christianity because we're sinners who reject his god. I didn't know how depraved he thinks we all are, until this video. What a lunatic he is! Here's a news feed on it.

Miracle Claims Asserted Without Relevant Objective Evidence Can Be Dismissed!

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I recorded a video talk for two virtual conferences this past Labor Day weekend, for the International eConference on Atheism, put on by the Global Center for Religious Research, and for the Dragon Con Skeptic Track. I'm very grateful for these two opportunities. That video will be released sometime soon. In what follows is the text of my talk. Please share if you want others to discuss it with you. Enjoy the discussion!

Today I’m arguing, along the same lines as Christopher Hitchens did, that “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.” [God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York, Twelve. 2007), p.150.] Specifically I’m arguing that “Miracle Claims Asserted Without Relevant Objective Evidence Can Be Dismissed. Period!”

I think all reasonable people would agree. Without any relevant objective evidence miracle claims shouldn’t be entertained, considered, believed, or even debunked. I intend to go further to argue that as far as we can tell, all, or almost all miracle assertions, lack any relevant objective evidence, and as such, can be dismissed out of hand, per Hitchens.

The Skeptics Track of Dragon Con is Live Streaming Today!

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I'm doing a talk at 5:30 PM est.

“Magic Lies at the Very Heart of Christianity”

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Jesus: Exorcist, Magician, Lord and Savior

In the subdued lighting of a church in Spain, I saw a woman touching the frame of a saint portrait as she prayed. A vial of Pope John Paul II’s blood toured the United States in 2004—yes, a vial of blood was displayed in the center of a gold reliquary—especially precious because it qualifies as a body part of a saint; apparently a spiritual benefit could be derived by being in the presence of this holy artifact. Billions of time a day, Christians conclude their supplications to God with the words, “In Jesus’ name we pray.”

An Audio Edition of "The Case against Miracles" is Now Available!

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My anthology is now in an audio edition! Click here.

Bible Blunders & Bad Theology, Part 2

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Were the gospel writers incompetent or dishonest?

The beginning and end of the Jesus story should prompt suspicion; in fact they jeopardize the entire Jesus enterprise—because of what they don’t tell us.

The Beginning

Why don’t we know more about young Jesus? The earliest New Testament author, the apostle Paul, betrays no interest in the ministry and teachings of Jesus, let alone where he came from.

If the Shoe Were on the Other Foot

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What Christian wouldn’t be incensed by the following statement, especially if informed that it was made by a professor of philosophy at one of this nation’s venerated institutions of higher learning? The statement, ostensibly an attempt to explain the real reasons underlying the religious beliefs of millions of our fellow citizens, appears to be purposely disrespectful:

“Christian belief,” this professor declared, “does not arise from assessment of evidence, but from stubborn closed-mindedness; it does not have its origin in the desire for knowledge but in arrogance and contempt. Christianity is the suppression of truth by hatred, the outgrowth of small-minded prejudice. In short, it is bigotry that is the mother of belief.”

Even strong atheists might admit that this goes too far. No wonder so many religious individuals feel as if they’re under siege. These days, it really does seem that there’s a war on certain types of belief.

Atheistasis on Apologetics with John Loftus

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The International eConference on Atheism is September 3-5 !!

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Here's a discount code to get $4 off on this upcoming International eConference on Atheism. Come on! Join us! Just use: ifollowloftus This is gonna be good!! Just look at the topics and speakers! David Madison and I are among them. Hosted by the Global Center for Religious Research (GCRR) and open to believers and nonbelievers alike. 

When a Good Brain Collides with Bad Religion

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…we get a happy ending

Christian fanaticism has been fueled by the apostle Paul, whose absorption in Jesus—whom he met in his visions—approached totality. He was sure that both body and mind had to yield to Jesus: “…those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). And loosely quoting a text from Isaiah 29, he disparaged thinking: “For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (I Corinthians 1:19-20). Even conservative scholar Ben Witherington has admitted that Paul would be considered a fanatic by many Christians today.

Is God Just?

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[Another summer re-run.]

We nonbelievers claim that a perfectly good, loving being would never have created hell, but according to most Christians we are simply wrong. God is loving, they say, but he is also just — and justice demands that evil-doers be punished. Without hell, after all, where would the Hitlers, Stalins, and Ted Bundys of this world end up? In heaven?

This is a common argument, which means that many must find it persuasive, but my guess is that those who do simply haven't given it sufficient thought. It's very easy to see the flaws in it.

To begin with, hell isn't only for serious evil-doers: standard Christian doctrine maintains that we are all deserving of eternal punishment and that anyone who doesn't accept God's offer of salvation ends up there. A second thing to keep in mind is that even the worst evil-doers aren't necessarily sent to hell — not if at some point they become sincere believers. Ted Bundy, for instance, claimed to have accepted Jesus before being executed, and if that's true then on the standard view he did end up in heaven.

One therefore cannot justify hell on the grounds that evil-doers must be punished. But more importantly, can one still maintain that God is just given this doctrine? Does it make sense that all of us are deserving of eternal punishment, or that those who accept Jesus are forgiven?

"An Atheist Perspective" An Article I Wrote Just After My Deconversion

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First let me share a photo that was take in 1985. Here are the two men I admired most, Drs. William Lane Craig and James D. Strauss, both at my graduation from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in June of 1985.
I had just earned a Master of Theology degree in the Philosophy of Religion under Craig, which was my third master's degree. I had earned the other two under Strauss. I had just been accepted at Marquette University the next school year for a PhD degree in Theology. It turned out that I only had the energy and finances for a year and a half of full time study there, so I took a Senior Minister position in Angola, Indiana. 
I had hopes I would return to finish my PhD, but something happened on the way to paradise. The rest is history, as they say. 
Now about that article. It was written twenty-two and a half years later. In January 2008 I had sent the following short essay to "The Christian Standard" for publication. I had previously published more than a dozen articles with them on various topics, and thought their readers might be interested. It was rejected. Anyway, I just found it and realized I had never shared it before. Enjoy. 

Bible Blunders & Bad Theology, Part 1

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Everything you know about god(s) is (probably) rubbish

So, one day I’m crossing Park Avenue in Manhattan. The southbound lanes are separated from the northbound lanes by a wide stretch of flowerbeds and trees—our city’s answer to the Champs-Élysées. On this particular day a frenzied street preacher, near one of the flowerbeds, is yelling his message. You can’t miss a word: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. Whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.” This guy is stoked with anger. Well, why not? God is angry too.



Could My Great Grandfather Tom Loftus Be Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame? He Should Be!

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Here is a fantastic, and for me fascinating interview with baseball historian John Pregler, concerning the role my Great Grandfather Tom Loftus played in the early history of Major League Baseball. 
Listen here: https://sportsfh.com/
Even if this topic may sound boring to you, there's so much that is utterly fascinating you should listen to it! It aired on "Sport's Forgotten Heroes." Enjoy. I did! He's even being suggested as a future inductee into the Baseball Hall of fame!

Jesus Reboot Fail: Resurrection Doesn’t Work

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As we can figure out from the Bible itself

“A man ascending vertically from the Mount of Olives, by whatever means of miraculous propulsion, would pass into orbit.” So observed British scholar A. N. Wilson, gently ridiculing the story of Jesus’ departure into heaven described in Acts 1:9, “…as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” As reported later in Acts 7:55-56, the about-to-be-martyred St. Stephen “…gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” So, an orbiting Jesus wasn’t part of these fantasies.

Yet Another Bible Chapter: More Trouble than It’s Worth

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Blending superstition and bad theology

“For years my congregations sang the Gloria Patri which ended ‘Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.’ I sang about a ghost. As a grown man.” So said D. B. Ramsey recently on Twitter; he was a Baptist minister for ten years, and his book, Speaking of God: We Don’t Know Sh*t will be published in October. Yes, religion has a way of getting adults to do childish things; images of Casper the Friendly Ghost come to mind.

Update On My Next Anthology: "The Incompatibility of God and Horrendous Suffering"

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It has been accepted for publication by the Global Center for Religious Research! Below you can see the confirmed authors and chapters. The book shows that it’s exceedingly improbable to the point of refutation for a deity to exist.

The Incompatibility of God and Horrendous Suffering

Theoretical issues surrounding the problem of suffering for various gods are important but not of the utmost importance, in the same way as theoretical issues surrounding the problem of miracles are important but not of the utmost importance. For just as philosophers can endlessly wrangle over the definition of miracles, the kind of evidence required to believe in them, and the demarcation line between supernatural and natural events, so also they endlessly wrangle over the definitions of evil, goodness, omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenelovence, free-will, and other questions in attempts to make suffering compatible with theistic god-concepts, revising their god-concepts down the endless rabbit hole.  

The way to deal honestly with miracles is to focus on the question whether or not there is relevant sufficient objective evidence for an actual miracle, something I’ve previously argued.[i] It’s not to construct endless hypothetical cases to see if a miracle can ever be believed.[ii] So too, the way to deal honestly with the problem of suffering for the various god-concepts is to focus on clear-cut obvious cases of horrendous suffering, the kind everyone can agree on as being horrific which no one can reasonably deny.

God, Sex, and the Orgasm

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[First published 3/28/10. Written by John W. Loftus] You know you like it. Sometimes all you can think of is having sex. Come on. You know this is true. Sometimes it dominates your thinking. You cannot wait to have it. You fantasize about it. You must have it. It is probably the best natural high we experience.

The Gathering Storm: Will Christianity Be Held Accountable?

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Enough is enough

This comment was posted recently on one of my articles:

“In what year did you become not just an atheist but a crusader against Christianity?
In what year did you acknowledge yourself as a homosexual?”

I found these questions about chronology a bit puzzling, but then it struck me that there was another agenda: to identify me as a zealot, and to make sure people know that I am gay. After all, what could be worse than an outspoken gay atheist?

On Trump, Covid-19, Cognitive Bias, and Evangelicals

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[Sorry about all the ads. I think I got rid of them. Wait for it.]
As we know by now Donald Trump is a narcissistic sociopath. Not only can we tell by watching and listening to him speak about his rating "numbers, and his lack of empathy for the victims of Covid-19, two people who should know have come out in public saying so. His niece Mary Trump, as we should all know by now. But also Trump's ghostwriter for the book "The Art of the Deal." Tony Schwartz has written a devastating piece on Trump, warning us all about him, titled The Psychopath in Chief. He says,
Understanding what we’re truly up against — the reign of terror that Trump will almost surely wage the moment he believes he can completely prevail — makes the upcoming presidential election a true Armageddon. Vote as if your life depends on it, because it does.
The Atlantic Monthly has put out a few great articles on Trump, Evangelicals, and the Coronavirus. The most important one is a theme of mine about cognitive bias with regard to faith and religion:

My Great Grandfather's Major League Baseball Legacy Has Been Settled!

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Finally! 110 years after he died, my great grandfather's efforts in the early years of baseball has been acknowledged and noted! Here is a picture of him I hadn't seen before.
The recent Spring 2020 issue of the Baseball Research Journal has a story written by John T. Pregler titled, "Tom Loftus: The American League's Forgotten Founding Father." He was famous in his day, very much so!
Tom's son was named John. His son's name was Tom, my dad. From Tom to John to Tom to you know who! My older brother's name was Tom. Cool, eh?
To read the article Click Here. To see a photo of the Journal cover and first page of the article see below. Yes. it's exciting!

Sex and the Celibate Priest

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Turning religion into an ordeal

I wonder how often Christians rate themselves; that is, do they reflect on how they measure up as followers of Jesus? What standards do they use? How often do they embrace the apostle Paul’s claim, as stated in his letter to the Galatians?

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (5:24)

Suppose They Found PROOF Jesus Existed

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What difference would it make?

Most laypeople are probably stumped at the claim that there is no proof that Jesus existed. How can that be? If you get yourself to Israel you can visit the places where Jesus was born and baptized. Catholics know about the relics of Jesus, e.g., fragments of the cross, thorns from the Crown of Thorns—even the foreskin of Jesus is venerated: “At various points in history, a number of churches in Europe have claimed to possess Jesus’s foreskin, sometimes at the same time. Various miraculous powers have been ascribed to it.” (Wikipedia)