The Magisterium of Religion, by Michael Shermer

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Michael Shermer recently wrote about his trip to Köln, Germany, where he stood amazed at "the magnificent cathedral in the city center that has defined the region for nearly eight centuries." [Photos included] Shermer says "It is a reminder of the power of faith in a pre-modern world lit only by fire and plagued by poverty, disease, misery, and early death." He really explains what it was like living in the latter Middle Ages, and how science displaced superstitious thinking. Awesome!
On this trip to the Cologne Cathedral I time-traveled back to the latter Middle Ages and into the late Medieval mind to imagine what it must have been like to experience the awe-inspiring magnificence of such a culturally-dominant edifice that literally and figuratively puts all other structures in the shade. Imagine walking into this sanctuary after a long and exhaustive journey from one’s provincial countryside and spartan abode....

To fully feel that world let’s go back to a time when civilization was lit only by fire, centuries ago when populations were sparse and 80 percent of everyone lived in the countryside and were engaged in food production, largely for themselves. Cottage industries were the only ones around in this pre-industrial and highly-stratified society, in which one-third to one-half of everyone lived at subsistence level and were chronically under-employed, underpaid, and undernourished. Food supplies were unpredictable and plagues decimated weakened populations. Read further here.

On Cameron Bertuzzi of "Capturing Christianity" Switching from Evangelicalism to Catholicism.

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Evangelical Christians have been bailing ship in the last few decades. They have been moving to "mainstream" versions", "liberal" versions, and Catholic versions. The young ones are a growing group of the "nones" who don't embrace any organized religion at all.

There have been a few intellectual evangelical Christians who became Catholics in recent decades, most notably Francis Beckwith (b. 1960): A philosopher and theologian, he was elected president of the Evangelical Theological Society but converted to Catholicism in 2007.

I did a quick search and found conflicting accounts of the numbers of evangelicals who switched to Catholicism, as opposed to the numbers of Catholics who switched to Evangelicalism, without arriving at a firm conclusion.

Which brings me to Cameron Bertuzzi of the highly popular "Capturing Christianity" apologetics ministry. Ten days ago he announced that he's switching from evangelicalism to Catholicism. It's getting noticed with 76k hits so far.

Here We Go Again with the Fake News Christmas Story

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It’s not hard to find the goofs and gaffs



Churches all over the world will once again get away with the traditional Christmas story, for one simple reason: the folks in the pews can’t be bothered to carefully read the Jesus birth stories in Matthew and Luke. It’s just a fact these stories don’t make sense and cannot be reconciled: Fake News! A few of the more charming verses from these stories have been set to music and are recited during Christmas pageants; these deflect attention from the utter failure of these stories to quality as history.

Who or What Is God? You Go First

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And provide the evidence for your answer



Carl Sagan was in high demand as a public speaker, and during the Q&A periods, he reports that a common question was, “Do you believe in God?” His response was to ask a question:

 

“Because the word God means many things to many people, I frequently reply by asking what the questioner means by ‘God.’ To my surprise, this response is often considered puzzling or unexpected: ‘Oh you know, God. Everyone knows who God is.’ Or ‘Well, kind of a force that is stronger than we are and exists everywhere in the universe.’ There are a number of such forces. One of them is called gravity, but it is not often identified with God. And not everyone does know what is meant by ‘God.’ The concept covers a wide range of ideas.” (pp. 181-182, Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science)

 

Oh you know, God. We live in a god-saturated culture. God in whom we can trust is on our money; the god whom we are under is in our pledge of allegiance; the Bible—god’s word—is in millions of hotel rooms. There are hundreds of thousands of churches built to the glory of god throughout the country. It’s hardly any wonder that people can say, Oh you know, God.

On Interpreting the Bible:

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My conclusion is the Bible says what it says until refuted by reason, morality, and/or science, then it says something other than what it says. No joke!

Paul’s Christianity: Belief in Belief Itself, by John W. Loftus

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I was honored to write the Foreword to Robert Conner's excellent new book The Jesus Cult: 2000 Years of the Last Days, which you can get on Amazon.

It was long, so understandedly Conner had to edit it down. Here it is in it's entirety.

Paul’s Christianity: Belief in Belief Itself

Citing plenty of Roman writers familiar with the early Jesus Cult, along with teasing out the true meaning from Christian sources, Robert Conner makes a solid case that “Christianity was a cult from its inception, a toxic brew of apocalyptic delusion, sexual phobias and fixations, with a hierarchy of control of women by men, of slaves by masters, and of society by the church.” It had an “irrational and antisocial nature” to it, and “its destructive features remain a clear and present danger today. Its greatest threat is the core feature of the Christian cult: belief in belief, the conviction that the Christian narrative is literally its own proof.”

To say I agree with Conner is a huge understatement. I love how he writes! Readers will find in his book a great amount of erudition combined with an unmatched use of rhetoric and even hilarity. I am honored and delighted to write this Foreword for another excellent book by him.

Connor says Christianity was nothing more than a cult “in the most pejorative sense of the word.” In the chapters to follow he makes his case, showing that religious cults share with Christianity “several familiar features” like “a fixation on sexual purity, bizarre interpretations of scripture, and often a preoccupation with End Times theology which leads members to interpret events through an apocalyptic lens.”

Darwin, Science, and the Origins of Life itself

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Scientists like Darwin discovered evolution as an answer to why there are so many species, including human beings. It undercut the creation accounts in Genesis 1 & 2, Psalms 104, and Job 38-42, which can no longer be taken as straightforward accounts, but are now considered nonhistorical myths. The Bible can no longer be considered as a scientific textbook, to say the very least.

So the question of the origins of life itself is not something to be answered in the Bible. This question is proving to be as elusive as the origins of species. But if it is to be solved, scientists will solve it.

Q. Are we sure the Bible was ever specifically authored as a scientific text book?

A. It offers the pre-scientific mind knowledge about those areas it talks about. In Genesis we learn why people die, why there are rainbows, where rain comes from, and why snakes slither across land. We also learn that stars are hung in the firmament just above the mountains. They teach how the universe originated, which god created it, why women were subservient to men, why there is pain in childbirth, why we live with thorns, why work is hard, and why there are different languages. Just picture this before the rise of science that could dispute it all. God didn't know anything about the universe yet he allegedly created it.

Is It Possible Your Minister/Priest Doesn’t Believe in God?

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What might have caused that to happen?



Here’s a sensational headline that would shock the world: Pope Resigns, Issuing a Statement that He No Longer Believes in God. But we’ll never see such a headline because, even if a pope stepped down because of nonbelief, the Vatican hierarchy wouldn’t allow such honesty. Other more palatable reasons would be given. I once asked a prominent Italian television journalist if it could possibly be true that the Vatican clergy really believed the theology-on-steroids that the church promotes, e.g. such wackiness as transubstantiation, the immaculate conception, Mary’s bodily assumption into heaven. He responded, “Oh, maybe half of them do. But don’t forget, it’s a business.”

Who Needs a Higher Power To Overcome Addiction?

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My wife Sheila and I feed the homeless once a week. We do so in the parking lot of the rescue mission downtown out of the back of my old Jimmy. We have gotten to know some of the homeless and their stories.

We do it to help those in need. If one of them says anything like "God bless you" or "Thanks be to God", I tell him/her we're just being good. We don't believe in God.

One guy approached me recently and said he bought and read my book Why I Became an Atheist, and that it changed his life. "How so?" I asked. He said he no longer believes in God.

Now you might think this is a bad thing, since believing in God can help people down on their luck. Not so! AA hasn't helped him stay sober, neither has God, his higher power. So depending on God didn't work. He said it makes much better sense to rely on yourself. Relying on God is an excuse when you fail. God will also easily forgive you when you fail, and you know it.

Relying on himself forced him to take ownership of his own life, and decisions.

He's been sober about two months now. What we know is that so far he's doing better than he did when relying on a god.

Praise reason!

"Democracy Is On The Ballot" - Sen. Elizabeth Warren On Why The Stakes Are High In The Midterms

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Please watch! Please vote! Please share! I'll be working at a poll station on Tuesday. This should be interesting. Do YOUR part!

Oligarchy: What's Really Wrong With America!

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Here are two talks that tell us what's really wrong with the USA:

Christian Theology Can Be Part of the Problem of Evil

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The apostle Paul and John Calvin did their fair share of damage          



Christians who are sure that the New Testament reveals a loving god aren’t paying close attention. One of the charter documents of the Christian faith is Paul’s Letter to the Romans. In the opening chapter we find a list of people who deserve to die, because they don’t acknowledge God. The list includes gossips and rebellious children, “…since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct.” (Romans 1:28).  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness…” (Romans 1:18) And there’s more: “...by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Romans 2:5) “…for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.” (Romans 2:8)

Psychic Epistemology: The Special Pleading of William Lane Craig

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A new paper of mine was appropriately published at Halloween, over on Internet Infidels.

My focus in this paper is to expose the special pleading of William Lane Craig’s psychic epistemology (or spirit-guided epistemology) as I correctly call it—rather than reformed epistemology as it’s known. I consider this to be an extension of a book of mine, where I offer good advice to the Christian apologist. In part one, after questioning the need for apologetics and warning about the monumental challenges to it, I tell apologists to become honest life-long seekers of the truth, to get a good education in a good field of study, to accept nothing less than sufficient objective evidence, and especially to determine how to know which religion to defend. I offer good solid tongue-in-cheek advice for apologists.[1] LINK.

The Game Is Up: Disillusioned Trump Voters Tell Their Stories (2022)

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Must watch! Must share! This is the best approach I've seen to help Trump loyalists question their loyalty to him. Please share with your right-wing friends! "A former GOP congressman, a rising Young Republican; a party-loyal Ohio farmer; a US Army Veteran & hardcore 'MAGA'; and 3 evangelicals recount their evolutions from Trump supporters in 2016 to adamant adversaries in 2020."

Is There Any Place for Bible-god in the Real Cosmos?

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All of our god(s) were invented in utter, total isolation



If the Bible is what the devout claim it is, we should be able to trust the information it provides about god, right? Alas, so often—far too often—that’s hard to do. How do modern Christians feel about these two verses, Exodus 29:17-18, i.e., proper worship procedure regarding animal sacrifice:

 

“Then you shall cut the ram into its parts and wash its entrails and its legs and put them with its parts and its head and turn the rest of the ram into smoke on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD; it is a pleasing odor, an offering by fire to the LORD.” 

 

I’m assuming not too many Christians would welcome this kind of smokey ritual on Sunday mornings. The author of this text believed that (1) his god was close enough overhead to smell the smoke from the fire; (2) his god had a sense of smell; (3) his god savored the aroma of burning animal flesh. Of course, this is a sampling of primitive, superstitious religion: one way to get right with a god was animal sacrifice. Another aspect of primitive religion is disguised here by the English translation. The word LORD in all caps is the rendering of the divine name; this god’s name was Yahweh—as reconstructed from four Hebrew consonants (add different vowels and you get Jehovah). Calling on the name of the god is a kind of magic, which survives to this day when Christians say, “…in Jesus’ name we pray.


On Vampires and Revenants Resurrecting from the Dead

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[First published on 10/5/20] Because this is the haunted month of Halloween here's something to spook ya all!

I'm always interested in new angles to argue my case against Christianity. Kris Keys does that in the excellently researched essay below. He argues there is more evidence for the resurrection of Vampires and Revenants than there is for the resurrection of Jesus.

Introductory comments by Kris Keys:

Well this is my first time writing a blog post and little did I know it would be for the website Debunking Christianity!! I find this to be completely hilarious as I am not in of myself militantly opposed to Christianity in of itself; I tend to dislike Evangelicals but that is because I view them as hypocritical and blatantly power hungry but of course this description would not apply to all Christians. As probably the readers of this post have deduced by now I am not a Christian, but I am also not an atheist either. I tend to be rather eclectic in my views. I fancy myself to be broad minded and open to change.

I am a schoolteacher by profession, and I have taught both social studies and science at the high school level. I have dual degrees in both fields. In my not remotely enough spare time I enjoy reading folklore, Medieval history, sociology, anthropology and other subjects. Basically a lot of stuff.  Over the years I have heard the Christian argument for the physical resurrection of Jesus and at one time I found this argument to be convincing, but more and more for many varied reasons I became rather skeptical of it. 

None of this explains though, how this essay came about! Nothing remarkable about it really. I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw John Loftus’s profile. In discussion with him I mentioned that one could use the resurrection argument to demonstrate the existence of vampires and I showed him a response I wrote to a friend of mine on this.  John asked me to do a write up for him.

So here is a write up I never seriously figured I would write up on a blog, one that I never suspected I would write for. So I hope everyone enjoys it. So without further ado, here is my attempt to show that the Christian argument for the resurrection of Jesus would also demonstrate vampires exist. I will leave it up to you dear readers to determine if Jesus rose from the dead and if you need to invest in crucifixes and garlics now; or that perhaps claims of the dead returning bodily just should not be given the benefit of the doubt. You decide.

Abortion: Everything You Need To Know

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Directly below are a few links to what our authors have written about abortion.

--Why I Write and Write and Write About the Religious Right, by Teresa Roberts. Commenting on Bob Nononi, a Republican politician from Idaho, who said in a public forum that maybe we should consider the death penalty for women who get an abortion, she unloads the harms of the religious right in general. "Right under our very noses, we are becoming a theocracy and people by in large are refusing to believe it’s happening...The religious right is no longer willing to sit on the sidelines as their cross-eyed cousins once did, talking in tongues, handling snakes, beating their kids and oppressing their women. Watching the rest of Americans live their own lives as they please infuriates them. They're here to tell you that they're no longer a joking matter. They're serious. Dead serious. Furthermore, they're winning which is making them bolder by the minute."

--Why is the Religious Right Obsessed With Abortion?, by Teresa Roberts. She argues: "Abortion has evolved into a single driving issue of such monumental proportions in part because society has become far more secularized than we realize. The shift away from a moral code dictated by churches and enforced by government has caused a great deal of discomfort for individuals and institutions that once wielded so much power over our lives. They are now struggling to reclaim what they perceive as their god given right to determine and enforce the new moral code that defines modern culture. They feel the shifting tide as they continue to lose their tight grip on the reins of society. It has turned them into crusaders, not just for the protection of the unborn but for a return to the glory days when the church had the final and last say over what would be tolerated and what would not."

--Birds of a Fundy Feather, by minister-turned-atheist Joe Holman. In commenting on Eric Rudolph, the famous abortion clinic bomber, Holman argues: "The Christian fundamentalist mindset is dangerous. It devalues life and appreciates one that exists only in fantasy. It enslaves the rational mind, empowering an otherwise conscionable individual to do inhumane things with feelings of integral justification, or at the very least, creates support and sympathy for those who so act."

--Apologist Edward Feser gets into the debate by comparing George Tiller, an abortionist doctor, to Jeffrey Dahmer who killed, dismembered and ate 17 men and boys. Feser says, "Tiller was almost certainly a more evil man than Dahmer was." LINK, with a follow-up LINK.

--In a tongue-in-cheek essay, Why Conservative Christians Should Love Abortion, Franz Kiekeben takes seriously William Lane Craig's arguments that slaughtered innocent children go to heaven, and draws the conclusion that so do aborted fetuses. Hence, "Christian conservatives should be encouraging women to get pregnant for the sole purpose of aborting their fetuses — and doing this as often as they can! They should stop protesting abortion clinics and instead hand out fliers informing women of the religious benefits associated with the practice, and encouraging them to do the godly thing."

--God Loves Abortion, by Jonathan Pearce. "Given the statistics that fetuses die from natural, spontaneous abortions, or miscarriages; abortions that God has the power to stop, and seemingly designed in to the system in the first place, then.... either God is not omnibenevolent; or God does not exist; or embryos are not so sacred and arguments over what defines personhood are called for; or that millions of fetal deaths a year, unknown to humanity, are necessary for a greater good."

--About fifteen years ago I participated in a written debate with an atheist over abortion, which can be found at DC here. I think I laid out a reasonable case for a women's right to abortion.

What You Need To Know about Abortion

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[First posted on 4/2019] To help inform everyone on the sanctity of life here's a chapter written by Dr. Ronald A. Lindsay for my anthology Christianity is Not Great: Why Faith Fails. It's a work that details the harms of the Christian faith and why we oppose it. We pick up after Lindsay discusses the messy sanctity of life principle as applied to end of life decisions. [See a previous post which has several essays on abortion and the Christian right found here.]

Abortion and the Original Meaning of the Constitution

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Let me explain why originalism is a misleading misinformed bogeyman of conservatives.

I'm Stunned. My Friend Willie Dave Died.

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Below you'll watch Willie Dave (David Elie) so full of life, singing his very last Karaoke song Wednesday night. His specialty was imitating songs of Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, and Frank Sinatra. I especially liked the Sinatra song below. He looks so full of life at the age of 71. Twelve hours later he suffered a heart attack and died! This was a shock to everyone. He was a good friend of mine. We hung out, sang Karaoke together, and camped together with our gals in Florida. He was also a fan of right-wing politics and did some interesting end-times prophecy stuff, which we debated. He was a good man. I loved him. Recently we were texting each other about NFL football, and when we could get together again in Florida.

Each time I watch the video I shed a few tears. You never know. Death awaits us too. He will be missed greatly. My deepest sympathies go out to Ginny, and others. I wish I could do something to help. Maybe writing this tribute will do so. Ginny tells us, "Dave loved life! He woke every morning and prayed. Then he would say, 'Its going to be a great day - I get to spend it with my Ginny.'" Now watch a man full of life singing his last song. See what an amazing fortuitous song it was too!

Keeping the Folks in the Pews in the Dark

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What the church doesn’t want them to think about



Worship services are a form of show business, at which some Christian brands excel especially. How much does the Vatican spend every year on its worship costumes alone? But most denominations, while not so extravagant, do their best to “put on the show,” which includes music, liturgy, ritual, props, sets—those stained-glass depictions of Bible stories—and the trained actors, i.e., the clergy. All this is designed to promote the beliefs and doctrines of each denomination. But there are so many different denominations: who is getting Christianity right? Is there any denomination that urges its followers to look beyond the liturgies? What’s behind it all? What are the origins of the beliefs celebrated in liturgies?

New Book Out: "Debating Christianity: Opening Salvos in the Battle with Believers"

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Well well now, it looks like someone else put out a book in my name! 😉

Debating Christianity: Opening Salvos in the Battle with Believers.

Step #1: Assume What You Believe is False!

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One way to do this, if you really want to know, is to assume what you currently believe is false. That is step #1. Step #2 is to demand the sort of evidence that a judge would allow in court. Step #3 is to produce that evidence or give up what you currently believe. No excuses. No double standards.

There are exceptions, like disputes over beauty, or other subjective preferences, but the exceptions cannot be the rule.

Should We Be Accountable To God?

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An apologist asked me this question: "Do you think that if a creator created us that we should be accountable in some way to this creator?" My answer:

No. If a creator exists we have no obligation to him if we are given metaphysically free self-determination. He can impose such a thing on us, but that's something he should negotiate with us. God has no right to command us to do good without providing good reasons for being good. And if those reasons are indeed good ones we should be able to discover them without him having to command them.

No one should be above the law, not even the lawmaker. That's why a kingship model of God in the Bible is offensive, as found in the story of Job, since kings could do whatever they could get away with doing. If a god exists he must be subject to his own laws. "Thou shall not kill, lie or steal" as they apply. By contrast the social contract is a negotiated one. Democracy is a participatory type of government.

If a creator god wants to be praised or thanked he should earn it. Now of course, we would give praise to him and thank him for life. But we should only praise and thank such a god as his creation is a good one, and his deeds in the world are good ones.

The Elephant in Richard Carrier’s Room: A Lesson for NT Scholarship By Joseph Atwill

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I co-edited the book "Varieties of Jesus Mythicism" with my friend Dr. Robert M. Price. In comes Dr. Richard Carrier, also a friend of mine and peer-reviewed author of a very important book on Jesus mythicism. These two friends of mine have personalities that are almost opposite of each other. Bob is a gracious person when it comes to disagreements. By contrast Dick is, well, a dick. :-) He's someone who holds no punches such that there were authors who didn't want him included in our book, despite being the first peer-reviewed author of an important peer-reviewed book on Jesus Mythicism.

Carrier recently reviewed our mythicist book. He liked some chapters and trashed some others. So I wrote a defense of it, LINK. He did write a blurb for our book though:
Mainstream experts mostly already agree the miraculous Jesus didn’t exist, but what about a merely human Jesus? This anthology usefully exhibits the full gamut of doubting even that, from the absurd to the sound. Some contributions are not credible, but some are worth considering, and several are brilliant, indeed required reading for anyone exploring the subject. The book will be absolutely necessary for any future Jesus mythicist scholar. - Dr. Richard Carrier, peer-reviewed author of On the Historicity of Jesus.
Having previously been called a "doofus" when it comes to Bayes Theorem, I know the sting of a review by Carrier. In my defense I myself had a peer-reviewed paper published on Bayes Theorem at Internet Infidels, where the vice-President said it was one of the best papers he ever had the pleasure of reading and approving! Carrier still has not responded to it, but if he does, he may overwhelm me with words and links galore, burying me in so much work I won't be able to respond to it all, if I do. Yet, I'm sure I have basically refuted his case. No, Bayes is not the tool for assessing miraculous claims, which by their very nature are impossible to take place in the natural world, by means of the natural world. I have argued that Bayes cannot and should not be applied to claims which are nonsense, and that miraculous claims in the ancient Biblical past are all nonsense! They are all nonsense because there is absolutely no credible evidence for any of them. Lately I offered some additional thoughts on Bayes.

By the way, I want to know about the peer-review process when it comes to Carrier's book on Jesus. Please tell us Dr. Carrier! If anyone takes a minute to search for it, there are varying methods and goals in peer-review. What is not promised is that the book is setting forth something true and factual. It only means, at best, that an author has dealt with all of the most important objections.

I know that Sheffield Phoenix Press is a highly esteemed scholarly liberal book publisher. I also know publishers want provocative books that sell well (despite any claim otherwise), since money is indeed a factor. This is not to impugn Sheffield Phoenix Press, and its editors, or any of its authors, including Carrier, since it's very significant that a mythicist got a book published by this publisher! [Atheist scholar Hector Avalos also published two books with them]. But peer-review does not mean the particular reviewer (or committee) thinks what Carrier wrote is true. Yes, we should definately read what Carrier writes. We just don't need reminded that his work was peer-reviewed so often, nor does it mean Carrier's particular treatment is the end of all Jesus mythicism studies, or that Carrier gets to be the hall-monitor for every mythicist who writes on the same subject.

As I said in an earlier post, I don't care much at all with how the Jesus character originated. What I know is that the Jesus in the four gospels did not exist. I said so in my Preface. I also said each and every one of the theories presented in the book are possible. That's my starting point. Possibility is good enough.

With that in mind I'm posting what Joe Atwill sent me in response to Carrier. I did not solicit it, but I welcome it.
The Elephant in Richard Carrier’s Room: A Lesson for NT Scholarship
By Joseph Atwill


Richard Carrier has written a critique of two of the parallels I discussed in the chapter I wrote for "Varieties of Jesus Mythicism." SOURCE I wish to respond.

World War I: Why Didn't It Put an End to Belief in God?

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A personal, loving, competent god is out of the question



When we study episodes of colossal suffering in human history, we have to wonder: “How did belief in a good, powerful god survive these experiences?” The masses of people affected would have been more than justified in telling their priests to get lost. “The theology you’ve been peddling is all wrong.” The Black Plague of the 14th century, which brought horrible suffering and death to perhaps a third of the population from India to England, should have meant the end of personal theism, i.e., belief that a loving god manages the world, indeed, keeps close tabs on every person on earth. Unfortunately, critical thinking was not a common commodity at that time, so the church got away with preaching that human sin was the cause of the plague; god was getting even. This is stunningly bad theology, the embrace of supernatural evil, as Dan Barker has put it: the loving god had disappeared.

Largest-ever map of 56,000 galaxies is demystifying the universe's expansion

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Here's a map of 56,000 galaxies! It's estimated there are between 100 to 200 billion galaxies. We're in such a small little tiny part in the universe! We know so very very little. To believe there's a god who transcends all time, who knows what's going on in every planet of every galaxy, who created it all in an instant for his glory and our worship, is ludacris! LINK

Mark Mittleberg On Five Science and Logic Arrows That Point to the Christian Faith

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In chapter 10
Mittleberg argues there are five science and logic arrows that point to the Christian faith. See the arrows on the cover? In his book he discusses 20 of these arrows in three chapters. I'm going to briefly write about the first five and link to a few responses. I invite commenters to share important resources as well. After that I will discuss Mittelbergs thoughts on the question "Who designed the designer?" I find what he said to be both unique and interesting, although unsatisfying.

Arrow 1: Design in the universe points to an intelligent designer. A great book on this is by Dr. Abby Hafer, The Not-So-Intelligent Designer: Why Evolution Explains the Human Body and Intelligent Design Does Not. She also wrote one chapter for each of my anthologies The Case against Miracles and Christianity in the Light of Science. Consider also David Hume's criticisms of the design argument.

In Defense of "Varieties of Jesus Mythicism"

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I knew this anthology of ours would suffer from the criticisms of the uninformed and the informed. So let me share the back-story of how it came to be, and how it was envisioned, in order to stave off some unjustified criticisms. Here's a link that introduces the book, which includes the contents, blurbs, and something about the authors. Here's an Amazon link to it.

Robert M. Price and I had talked about doing such a book earlier, and I knew he had been working on it with other contributors. Then he shot me an email on Nov 23, 2019, saying:

Bible god Is Not a god ANYONE Would Want

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...except those who are okay with supernatural evil



I was a Bible nerd even in my high school days, and continued to be one in college, when I made the decision to go to seminary. What a thrill that was: to study the Bible and God at the graduate level. But early in my seminary years I learned a troubling lesson—from my theology professors themselves: it is impossible to come up with a coherent theology of the Bible. For the simple reason that the Bible’s ideas about god are an incoherent, uncomplimentary mess.     Theologians themselves know that there are a thousand and one embarrassing Bible verses, so many of them relating to what Bible god is like and wants. This is one of the reasons that Christianity itself has fractured into thousands of different brands: so many disagreements about its god.

The Demon, Matrix, Material World, and Dream Possibilities

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New essay of mine at Internet Infidels, "The Demon, Matrix, Material World, and Dream Possibilities". Link

Robert Conner Interviewed On His Book, "The Jesus Cult: 2000 Years of the Last Days", by Derek Lambert of MythVision

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Click here for that program. In other exciting news, check out Derek Lambert's upcoming live program 3 Christian Debunkers Expose The Christian Cult!

A Pop-Quiz for Christians, Number 5

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Reading the Bible to spot the incoherence of theology



Many years ago I met a young man who had been raised in an evangelical Bible-belt family. He told me that a common way to greet friends was, “How is your walk with the Lord going today?” Perhaps this derives from the old hymn, I Come to the Garden Alone, with the lyrics, “And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own…” They know that Jesus is their friend. Since the Bible is god’s own word—without error or flaw—these are the Christians most likely to actually read the Bible. Inevitably, however, they run into Bible verses and stories that undermine, and even destroy, the Jesus-is-my-friend concept. Hence there are thousands of Christian apologists—including some very famous ones—whose mission in life is to spin the alarming Bible texts in the most positive ways, making everything “come out okay.”

Christian “truth” in Shreds: Epic Takedown, Number 9, continued

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There’s no way to verify exactly which Jesus is in Christian hearts



Just how many humans on Planet Earth “feel Jesus in their hearts”? Devout Jews and Muslims probably have no use at all for this common Christian claim; they feel “close” to their god—whatever that means—with Jesus playing no role whatever. But never mind, many Christians feel Jesus so intimately, so closely, that they proclaim proudly that they even “belong to Jesus.” They’re pretty sure that this Jesus who owns them is, beyond any doubt, wonderful. For those who read the Bible, however, this Jesus may be hard to find, indeed may be cancelled by so many texts that preachers don’t read from the pulpit, that artists don’t depict in stained glass.

Mark Mittleberg On The Evidential Path to Faith: "Truth is What Logic and Evidence Point To"

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If there's one thing to be known about about Randal Rauser it's his desire to approach apologetics in new ways, which can be seen in his essay, The Top 5 Problems with Contemporary Apologetics. I think what Rauser is looking for can be found, to a large degree, in Mark Mittelberg's book, Confident Faith: Building a Firm Foundation for Your Belief. Mitleberg doesn't just regurgitate the methods of apologetics, (i.e., evidentialism, classical, presup...), and he's not in debate mode. Instead, he writes in a winsome conversational manner. He even shares his personal story. However, Mittelberg seems to be a tribalist, and he's definately a fundamentalist, something Rauser is against. Anyway, 3 out of 5 ain't bad! Even though I disagree vehemently with Mittelberg, I find him to be refreshing.

Reflections On Plantinga's "Refutation" of the Logical Problem of Evil

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We did not deal with the Logical Problem of Suffering (or Evil) in my recent anthology, God and Horrendous Suffering. It's said Alvin Plantinga answered atheist philosopher J.L. Mackie's Logical Problem of Evil argument. Mackie even acknowledged that he did. Here are some reflections on it.

First, Plantinga didn't do anything significant by arguing it’s logically possible God exists given suffering. Possibilities don’t count; only probabilities do. All we need to say is that it’s extremely improbable for God to exist given suffering. But that says it all!

Second, the real issue is whether or not a theistic God is probable given suffering. It's not significant to say such a God is still possible. All kinds of strange things are possible, which is an extremely low standard. Show that it's probable God exists given suffering, and that would be impressive.

Third, Plantinga did not argue with integrity when throwing up an illegitimate ad hoc hypothesis that all natural evil is caused by Satan, something Richard Swinburne pointed out. Ad hoc hypotheses are illegitimate since their sole purpose is to save a proposition from refutation. So Plantinga did not honestly answer Mackie.

If we throw out illegitimate ad hoc hypotheses then the logical problem remains. The kill or be killed law of predation still has no resolution, nor do other natural evils. For this problem must be solved with integrity for it to be solved at all.

Lastly, Dr. Kyle Johnson has argued it's impossible to have a justified belief in demons. So if it's impossible to have a justified belief in demons then Plantinga's Free Will Defense fails. But wait! There's more...

Christian “truth” in Shreds: Epic Takedown 9

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“…the most effective refutation of the New Testament remains the New Testament…”



For centuries there have been epic takedowns of Christianity. Secular and scientifically minded thinkers have noted the inherent flaws of theism in light of biology, astronomy, cosmology, comparative religion—to name just a few disciplines. Dan Savage once said that he didn’t lose his faith, he saw through it. Why doesn’t this happen far more often than it does? There is such a huge mound of evidence that Christianity is false; we are tempted to yell at believers, “Please snap out of it!” We may be tempted as well to urge devout folks to examine the insights offered by biology and astronomy, to deepen their understanding of how the world/cosmos actually works. But so many of these folks are profoundly science-shy. Actually, many have been coached to be science-hostile.

Never To Forget 9/11 Photos

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The Demon, Matrix, Material World, and Dream Possibilities

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Below is Appendix C from my book, Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End (Pitchstone Publishing, 2015), pp. 257-271. You're welcome! Given the influence of Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig, I doubt very much believers have heard these issues discussed like this before. I share it in hopes you'll like what I write enough to read the whole book. 

The Demon, Matrix, Material World,

and Dream Possibilities,

by John W. Loftus

Oh the Irony: Jesus Pre-Existed, but May Not Have Actually Existed

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Theology collides with the standards of historical verification



The vast differences between the gospels of Mark and John are a tip-off that the Christian message was confused from the very beginning. How did such divergent depictions of Jesus emerge—and why were they both included in the New Testament? It must have been church politics, which would be no surprise; in Paul’s letters we find references to quarreling and infighting. What a sorry state of affairs, moreover, that most churchgoers today wouldn’t be able to list/discuss the distressing ways in which Mark and John differ.    

 


I have stated many times that the author of John’s gospel is guilty of theology inflation. That’s what happens when theology imagination runs wild, in the absence of objective evidence about god(s). And in the ancient world there were many mythologies and superstitions available to fuel imaginations.

Mystical Faith? Reviewing Mittelberg's "Confident Faith" Part 15

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In his apologetics book, Confident Faith, Mark Mittelberg is writing sentences and chapters on examining his religious faith from the luck of the draw of childhood and cultural indoctrination. I think he acknowledges the problem fairly well. The question I wrestle with is how his brain can allow him to understand the problem, yet utterly fail to honestly deal with it, as is obvious here. So his book is little more than a 287 page example of confirmation bias in action.

At least Mittelberg can be credited with acknowledging the problem. But then, apologists can admit this problem, along with the twin problems of horrendous suffering for a good god, and of believing a virtually impossible miraculous biblical event took place, yet go on to write as if they didn't acknowledge these problems at all. It's because their brains will not allow them to truly acknowledge THE FORCE OF THESE PROBLEMS, no matter how accurately they are described. Cognitive biases are like viruses of the mind that won't let them consider the force of these and other problems for their faith.

William Lane Craig by contrast, doesn't think there's a childhood and cultural indoctrination problem at all, because he says
"The Bible says all men are without excuse. Even men who are given no good reason to believe and many persuasive reasons to disbelieve have no good excuse, because the ultimate reason they do not believe is that they have deliberately rejected God’s Holy Spirit. Therefore, the role of reason in knowing Christianity is true is to be a servant. A person knows Christianity is true because the Holy Spirit tells him it is true, and while reason can be used to support this conclusion, reason cannot overrule it." [Craig, Apologetics: An Introduction, p. 22.].
Craig says, "I am asserting that not only should I continue to have faith in God on the basis of the Spirit's witness even if all the arguments for His existence were refuted, but I should continue to have faith in God even in the face of objections which I cannot at that time answer." SOURCE.

The Knights Templar: "a monastic order that would have a license to kill."

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I'm reading an interesting book I got at a Good Will store. Described below is how the barbaric Norsemen polytheistic gods gave rise to the Knights Templar monastic order.

I don't think anything shows the cultural influence on Catholicism more than the rise of "a monastic order that would have a license to kill." See for yourselves. This point is masterfully made by David Eller in my anthology, The Christian Delusion.

A One-Two Punch: Christianity Out Cold

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Too many resurrected gods, and too much suffering



Chances are, there are no Catholic priests who, from the pulpit on Sunday morning, will urge their parishioners to study the Book of Mormon: “Maybe the Mormons have it right, and we don’t.” Chances are, there are no Southern Baptist preachers who will suggest that, for a month, everyone in the congregation should go to a Catholic Church: “Maybe the Catholics are following true Christianity.” Chances are, no Methodist ministers will stand in the pulpit and advise that everyone should study the Qur’an—read it cover to cover: “Maybe Islam is the one true religion, after all.”

The Intuitive Faith Path. Reviewing Mittelberg's Book "Confident Faith" Part 14

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On January 2018 I started a series of posts on Mark Mittelberg's book, Confident Faith. The first post introduced Mark and his book right here. [See the Tag "Mark Mittelberg" for more]. I stopped reviewing his book when I got busy on my final three books [See Link.]

So I'm back to Mittelberg. To briefly rehearse, Mittelberg begins his book in Part 1, "Six Paths of Faith", by speaking about approaches, or methods readers adopt to embrace their respective faiths (remember, *cough* he says we all have faith):

1) The Relativistic Path: "Truth is Whatever Works for You"
2) The Traditional Faith Path: "Truth is What You've Always Been Taught"
3) The Authoritarian Faith Path: "Truth Is What You've Always Been Told You Must Believe"
4) The Intuitive Faith Path" "Truth Is What You Feel In Your Heart"
5) The Mystical Faith Path" "Truth Is What You Think God Told You"
6) The Evidential Faith Path: "Truth Is What Logic and Evidence Point To"

"This is crucial" he says, "because the method (or methods) you use in deciding what to believe has a huge bearing on what those beliefs will actually be, as well as how confident you'll be in holding on to them." (p. 9) "Most people never consider this" he goes on to say. "They just arbitrarily adopt an approach--or adopt one that's been handed to them--and uncritically employ it to choose a set of beliefs that may or may not really add up." (p. 10)

To his credit, Mittelberg does something intellectually respectful, that William Lane Craig does not do. Mittelberg discusses other ways of knowing the truth about faith and religion. Craig participates in debates about apologetics but he only defends his own particular view in them. It's like he's forever in debate mode!

So far I only got to method 3. Given my emphasis lately on William Lane Craig's Spirit Guided Epistemology, it's time to compare and contrast Craig's views with Mittelberg's.

In the Face of Brutal Reality, How Does Christianity Survive?

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So many human calamities, so much suffering 



For most of us—Christians and nonbelievers alike—it was hard to get into anything resembling the Christian spirit in December 2012. On the 14th of that month, a gunman killed twenty students and six teachers at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT. The nation was in shock, grieving. Ten days later, at a Christmas Eve dinner, at the home of a Catholic friend, she said—during grace, referencing the massacre—“God must have wanted more angels.” I had to resist the temptation to throw my drink in her face. If any Catholic theologians had been present, they would have swung into action, to perform an exorcism, to get rid of the demon that had invaded her brain. Theologians work overtime to explain why their caring, powerful god wasn’t able to stop the gunman. Here was a devout Catholic suggesting that her god had engineered the killing to get more angels. This is a symptom of catechism-induced brain death.

The Abject Failure of Christian Apologetics.

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A great many Christian theologians don't think highly of apologetics, following in the footsteps of Karl Barth who thought natural theology was a failure. In their colleges there is no apologetics department, or apologetics classes! According to them, natural theology is a failure. God is his own witness. Only God can reveal God. Revelation from God can only come from God, or as Barth himself said, "the best apologetics is a good dogmatics". [Table Talk, ed. J. D. Godsey (Edinburgh and London, 1963), p. 62].

Immanuel Kant's statement speaks for a lot of them: "I have found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith" (Critique of Pure Reason, bxxx)

In my book, The Case against Miracles I wrote a chapter called "The Abject Failure of Christian Apologetics." In it I show how 80% of apologists reject the requirement for evidence (i.e., Evidentialism) in favor of four other methods. The best explanation for why they've come up with different methods of defending their faith is because they themselves don't think the evidence is good enough.

The Awful Controlling Damning Lying Calvinist God

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As the editor of God and Horrendous Suffering, which is highly recommended from important philosophers of both sides of this debate, I also wrote the chapter titled, The Awful Controlling Damning Lying Calvinist God. If you want to see the mental contradictory contortions needed by Calvinists (and Muslims) to exonerate their god from the origin of evil, I recommend this video by Edouard Tahmizian, Vice President Of Internet Infidels Board.

William Lane Craig's Advice: "Quit reading and watching the infidel material you’ve been absorbing."

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As I've mentioned before, William Lane Craig does not consider doubt to be a virtue. Given his utterly unjustified claims of a (holy) Spirit Guide he can't recommend it, not with regard to Christianity anyway. He advocates a double-standard, one for his sect-specific faith and a different one for all other faiths, even though faith is the basis for all of them. So he's offering nothing different than what Mormon missionaries do, or Muslims, or Psychics, ad nauseam.

But given the existence of world-wide religious diversity Peter Boghossian tells the naked truth: "We are forced to conclude that a tremendous number of people are delusional. There is no other conclusion one can draw." He says, "The most charitable thing we can say about faith is that it's likely to be false." [Source]. No wonder Boghossian goes on to make a difference between sitting at the adult table from sitting at the children's table. People like Craig, no matter how highly he's regarded, or how brilliantly he uses empty rhetoric without substance, are not allowed at the adult table for discussion until they disavow faith as a method for attaining truth about the world, it's workings, and origins. By contrast, as I repeatedly stress, Doubt Is The Adult Attitude. If there is a way to know the truth then doubt is the means to achieve it, and science repeatedly delivers the goods.

Rene Descartes speaks for us when he wrote:
"If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things."
Now consider what Craig wrote on October 21, 2013, in answering a Christian who was in the throes of doubt, due to the writings of David G. McAfee. He or she wrote:

Enough Already with this Holy Spirit Crap

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…unless there’s reliable, verifiable, objective data



Sometimes I dream weird, surreal, even alarming stuff. When I wake up, I wonder how in the world my brain mixed/garbled so many different elements from my memories. I have to be fully awake before I realize I’m back in reality. My bedtime routine always includes a glass of wine, so maybe that provides some of the fuel! My brain had been busy for the hours I was asleep. But what it if wasn’t just my brain? Is it possible that I was getting input from the spiritual realm? Belief in an afterlife probably arose because people saw deceased friends and relatives in their dreams—so, wow, they weren’t dead after all. 

 

There have been a lot of foolish, even dangerous ideas passed along by people who claim to have heard from the spiritual realm, via dreams, visions, hallucinations. These are the currencies of religions. Commonly, a religious seer just has to describe his vision to an audience of his/her choosing, and voilà, people follow in awe of this “person of god.” Christians claim that a third of their god is indeed a holy spirit. (Holy ghost has gone out of fashion!) They insist that their spirit is the truly holy one, and that it is at the top of the hierarchy.