Reality Check: What Must Be the Case if Christianity is True?

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In 2011 I did a series of posts called "Reality Check: What Must Be the Case if Christianity is True?"  I put some of them in the third chapter in  The End of Christianity, and the first chapter in God and Horrendous Suffering.

Below I've put together thirty of them that most Christians agree on and why they are all improbable:

1) There must be a God who is a simple being yet made up of three inexplicable persons existing forever outside of time without a beginning, who therefore never learned anything new, never took a risk, never made a decision, never disagreed within the Godhead, and never had a prior moment to freely choose his own nature.

2) There must be a personal non-embodied omnipresent God who created the physical universe ex-nihilo in the first moment of time who will subsequently forever experience a sequence of events in time.

The Metastability of Faith

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Quick summary: atheism is easier than religious faith, and people are lazy, so why does anybody bother with the hard option? Why don't human brains seek a kind of lowest-energy state, by analogy with dynamical systems that tend to run downhill? This post explores, rather speculatively, whether the human brain on faith gets stuck in a kind of higher-energy state, and becomes unable to get to the bottom, similar to what many dynamical systems actually do.

Upcoming Virgin Birth/Miracles Debate, December 21st

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In this debate I'm going to focus on the alleged miracle of the virgin birthed incarnate god. Dr. Slade, of the Global Center for Religious Research, will focus on Mary's apparitions and on testing miracles in general. I'm told this will be a two hour program.

A Big Item on God’s To-Do List: Kill as Many People as Possible

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Yet the church gets away with “God is love” 


Those who have been assured since childhood that God is Love—and


have been coached to pray to their loving father well into adulthood—seem immune to many Bible texts that contradict this idea, for example, these pieces of Jesus-script:

 

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”  (Matthew 10:34-36)

 

Luke’s version of this text is prefaced with, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already ablaze!” (Luke 12:49)

 

In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul taught that “wrath and fury” awaited people who were disobedient to god. (Romans 2:8)

The Magic Self-Authenticating New Testament, Robert Conner

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It can be asserted with little fear of contradiction that every literate


adult the world over has a mental image of Jesus of Nazareth. After all, Christianity is the largest religion — an estimated 2.4 billion adherents — and has existed for 2000 years. For centuries, laymen and scholars alike assumed the gospel stories were history and that Jesus and his apostles were verifiably historical characters like Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1), Herod the Great (Matthew 2:1), or Tiberius Caesar and Pontius Pilate (Luke 3:1-2). However, in the early twentieth century, when German scholars began to question the reliability of the New Testament texts, that assumption came under challenge, particularly after 1909 when the philosopher Christian Heinrich Arthur Drews published Die Christusmythe, The Christ Myth, that claimed there was no reliable independent evidence for the Jesus of the gospels — Jesus, Drews asserted, was a product of the imagination. Could Drews have been right all along?

David Eller, "Is Religion Compatible with Science?" An Excerpt from Chapter 11 in "The End Of Christianity"

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IS RELIGION COMPATIBLE WITH SCIENCE? by Dr. David Eller (pp. 257-278). [This is a 4000 word excerpt out of 8600 words. Get the book!]

  In most of the squabbles between religion and science, religion is never defined, because, since most of the squabbles are occurring in majority-Christian societies, the assumption is that “religion” means “Christianity.” Worse yet, the assumption is usually that “religion” means “traditional Chris­tianity” or “evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity.” Substituting one of these terms for “religion” in our original question yields the highly problematic inquiry: Is traditional/evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity compatible with science?

The first problem, of course, is that even if it is not, then perhaps some other form—some modernist or liberal form—of Christianity
is com­patible with science; perhaps Christianity can be adjusted and juked to fit with science. The second and more profound problem is that even if traditional/evangelical/ fundamentalist Christianity or any version of Christianity whatsoever is not compatible with science, perhaps some other religion—say, Hinduism or Wicca or ancient Mayan religion or Scientology—is. Yet you will notice that almost no one asks, and almost no one in the United States or any other Christian-dominated society cares, whether Hinduism or ancient Mayan religion is compatible with science, since few people know or care about Hin­duism or ancient Mayan religion. The tempest over religion and science is thus quite a local and parochial brouhaha, people fighting for their particular reli­gion against (some version or idea of) science.

Christianity’s Embarrassing Apostle Paul Problem

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Hallucinations are not a credible foundation for any religion

  

The church gets away with a far, far too much because most of the laity don’t bother to read the Bible, let alone study it carefully. This failure enables the clergy to nurture an idealized version of the faith—indeed, an idealized version of Jesus—unhindered by so much of the nasty stuff in full view in the gospels and in the letters of the apostle Paul. The clergy are quite content that the folks in the pews don’t go digging about in these documents. Instead, ritual, sacred music, costuming, stained glass windows—church d├ęcor in general—allow the laity to savor a false version of the faith promoted by the ecclesiastical bureaucracy.

The Christian Illusion of Rational Superiority (Part 2)

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[This is one of my earliest posts, published in January 2006] Many Christians will maintain they have a superior foundation for knowing and for choosing to do what is good. They claim to have objective ethical standards for being good, based in a morally good creator God, and that the atheist has no ultimate justification for being moral.

Consider what Dr. William Lane Craig wrote: “If life ends at the grave, then it makes no difference whether one has lived as a Stalin or as a saint.…” “Who is to judge that the values of Adolf Hitler are inferior to those of a saint? “The world was horrified when it learned that at camps like Dachau the Nazis had used prisoners for medical experiments on living humans. But why not? If God does not exist, there can be no objection to using people as human guinea pigs.” [Apologetics: An Introduction, pp. 37-51].

The Christian claims to have absolute and objective ethical standards for knowing right from wrong, which is something they claim atheists don’t have. The Christian standards are grounded in the commands of a good creator God, and these commands come from God’s very nature and revealed to them in the Bible. There is a philosophical foundation for this claim, and then there is the case Christians present that the Bible reveals God’s ethical commands. Both are illusions of superiority. It is an illusion that the Christian moral theory is superior, and it is an illusion that Christians know any better than others how they should morally behave in our world.

Former Atheist Ayaan Hirsi Ali Announced She's a Christian!

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Wow! Christians nabbed another atheist based on faulty perceptions.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an ex-Muslim who was a leading voice in new atheism and has now become a Christian!

How Did Paul Know What He Tells Us About Jesus?

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We often marvel at Paul's lack of interest in the life and times of Jesus. He says Jesus was born of a woman but says nothing about his mother. He tells us Jesus was killed for the sins of others but tells us nothing about where the event occurred. He tells us that Jesus was buried but he tells us nothing about the gravesite. Did Paul not think the information was available in his time?

We know Paul could read the Old Testament as allegory as we see in Galatians 4:22-31:

Take It to the Lord in Prayer: More Magical Thinking

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“Tonight is the night that Mary passes through your house…”


Six years ago I published an article here about a sure-fire way for

devout believers to prove, beyond a shadow of doubt, that prayer is an authentic way of communicating with god. That YES, god uses prayer as a way to let humans know his will on a wide variety of issues. I suggested recruiting 1,000—or 10,000—believers known for their intense prayer activity for a special project. But there’s a very crucial rule for the selection of these prayer experts: they must be drawn from the many different branches of theism, e.g., Catholics, Protestants—so many different kinds, including Pentecostals—Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Greek Orthodox
 
After a few weeks of intense prayer activity, these folks across the broad spectrum of theism would share what god had told them about such things as:

"The man of science is a poor philosopher." -- Albert Einstein

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John Smith posted this quote from Einstein on Facebook. The full quote is from 1936:
It has often been said, and certainly not without justification, that the man of science is a poor philosopher. Why then should it not be the right thing for the physicist to let the philosopher do the philosophizing? Such might indeed be the right thing to do a time when the physicist believes he has at his disposal a rigid system of fundamental laws which are so well established that waves of doubt can't reach them; but it cannot be right at a time when the very foundations of physics itself have become problematic as they are now. At a time like the present, when experience forces us to seek a newer and more solid foundation, the physicist cannot simply surrender to the philosopher the critical contemplation of theoretical foundations; for he himself knows best and feels more surely where the shoe pinches. In looking for an new foundation, he must try to make clear in his own mind just how far the concepts which he uses are justified, and are necessities. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Einstein’s Philosophy of Science.
Granted he was speaking about the philosophy of science, which is a legitimate philosophical inquiry. But think on this. Maybe not, I say. Science has solved a multitude of philosophical problems, and will continue doing so. Given that success rate scientists are good philosophers. By contrast, by the same standard, philosophers have been poor scientists.

This comment of mine drew a bit of fire on Facebook.

The Christian Illusion of Rational Superiority (Part 1)

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[This was one of my earliest posts here at DC] Many Christians assume a certain kind of rational superiority over any other system of belief and thought, especially atheism. According to them, their beliefs are rationally superior in the sense that Christianity wins hands down in the marketplace of ideas. They claim that a compelling case can be made for believing in Christianity over any other system of belief and thought.
This way of thinking about the Christian faith is due to what my friend and Christian scholar, Dr. James Sennett calls, “The Illusion of Rational Superiority,” in his forthcoming book: This Much I Know: A Postmodern Apologetic.

Dr. James Sennett argues against the idea that people who reject Christianity do so because they are either “ignorant,” “stupid” or “dishonest with the facts.” That is, he argues against the idea that a “fully rational rejection of Christianity is impossible.” Dr. Sennett calls this objection the Christian “Illusion of Rational Superiority." It's simply an illusion, he claims. [Although, as a Christian philosopher he argues it is an unnecessary illusion due to the fact that even though he has a reasonable faith, it is “not rationally compelling to all.”]

The Gospel Grift: Always Be Closing, by Robert Conner

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A major challenge in this time of declining Christian belief is finding a
hot button issue that keeps gullible followers enraged and engaged and dropping their Social Security dollars here and there into collection plates. For decades, one reliable sales pitch for evangelicals and Catholics was the specter of the homosexual menace, but as recently noted, “When the Supreme Court declared a constitutional right of same-sex marriage nearly eight years ago, social conservatives were
set adrift. The ruling stripped them of an issue they had used to galvanize rank-and-file supporters and big donors. And it left them searching for a cause that — like opposing gay marriage — would rally the base and raise the movement’s profile on the national stage. “We knew we needed to find an issue that the candidates were comfortable talking about,” said Terry Schilling, the president of American Principles Project, a social conservative advocacy group. “And we threw everything at the wall.” I’m sure Schilling really meant to say, “We threw everything at the wall after much prayer and deliberation.”

Christianity’s Addiction to Magical Thinking

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Churchgoers don’t even notice or care 



A thousand years from now, will there be people—with as little grasp of history as contemporary Christians—who worship a goddess named Minerva, because they believe that Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter stories was real? What magical powers she had! She could change herself instantly into a cat, and multiply food supplies. Will there also be a goddess Hermione, based on Hermione Granger in Harry Potter, who created a magic potion that allows the person who drinks it to assume the physical appearance of another person? Will the Fairy God Mother in Cinderella be worshipped as well, because she used a magic spell to turn a pumpkin into a splendid coach?

I've Written Three Books On How To Honestly Seek the Truth

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[First Published August 2022] I've written three books to educate believers on how to honestly seek the truth and defend it: 1) The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion is True. In it I show honest believers how to approach their faith consistently without any double standards or special pleading.

2) How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist. In it I show Christian apologists how to correctly defend their faith, if it can be defended at all. Apologists should read it before writing another sentence in defense of their faith. In it I challenge apologists to stop doing what they're doing if they're honest about defending their Christian faith. The risk is that if they stop it they cannot defend their faith at all. But the risk is worth it if they're serious about knowing and defending the truth.

3) Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End. In it I show philosophers of religion and other intellectuals how to properly discuss and debate religious beliefs. What I cannot teach however, is to desire the truth. That comes from within. Taken together these three books are the antidote to the faith virus. The problem is almost none of them desire the truth, comparatively speaking. Here's hoping a few honest believers are reading who desire the truth.

For God So Loved the Whales

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In her book, The Not-So-Intelligent Designer: Why Evolution Explains the Human Body and Intelligent Design Does Not (2016), Abby Hafer gives a by turns amusing and horrifying account of numerous obvious goofs in the human body that any competent designer would fix. (Or be sued by the victims.) These are all elegantly explained by evolution, and count as evidence for it. Since evolution typically proceeds by small increments of genetic change, which are often as small as a change to a single nucleotide, the corresponding changes to the phenotype are also often small adjustments to what is already there. Evolution cannot "see" that a better solution may be far away in the design space, requiring large-scale modification of the genome at many positions simultaneously. What's worse, these modifications would have to occur in multiple individuals at the same time, to maintain a breeding population! For more about the evolutionary design space, see Daniel Dennett's Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995).

An egregious example of bad evolutionary "design" is the recurrent laryngeal nerve, which is a bad-enough mistake in humans, but reaches comical proportions in giraffes. As all tetrapod vertebrates have a similar arrangement, it would have been even more comical in the longer-necked sauropod dinosaurs. The nerve would have been as long as 28m (92 ft) in Supersaurus, almost all of which was an unnecessary detour.

Other popular books on evolution mention this remarkably bad design, including: Why Evolution Is True (2009) by Jerry Coyne; The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution (2009) by Richard Dawkins; and Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body (2008) by Neil Shubin.

But I'll focus on whales today, specifically their superhuman resistance to choking and cancer, two serious killers of humans. 

Which Atheist Books Do I Recommend?

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Having previously linked to some reasons why philosophical apologetics is not changing very many minds, especially the most sophisticated philosophy that every serious philosophical apologist loves to recommend, because it says that they understand it! Congrats to you!! A lot of it is obtuse and obfuscationist though. As it's practiced today, it isn't that helpful if one wants to change minds. After all, the more sophisticated that philosophy is, the more sophisticated the reader is. At that level it doesn't change the minds of sophisticated readers because they are already entrenched in what they think. It also has a way of being turned around as a pat on the back! Just see how William Lane Craig responds to a very detailed and knowledgeable question about philosophical apologetics at his website, Reasonable Faith. Craig wrote:
I include your question here for the instruction and encouragement of our Reasonable Faith readers. You have masterfully surveyed for us the current philosophical landscape with respect to atheism. You give our readers a good idea of who the principal players are today.

I hope that theists, especially Christian theists, who read your account will come away encouraged by the way Christian philosophers are being taken seriously by their secular colleagues today.

The average man in the street may get the impression from social media that Christians are intellectual losers who are not taken seriously by secular thinkers. Your letter explodes that stereotype. It shows that Christians are ready and able to compete with their secular colleagues on the academic playing field.
To see this you need to read my book Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End. This is the first book I'm recommending, with others to follow below. If nothing else, consider the recommendation of atheist philosopher Nick Trakakis, co-editor with Graham Oppy of several important philosophy of religion books, and the author of his own book on The End of Philosophy of Religion, plus The God Beyond Belief: In Defense of William Rowe's Evidential Argument from Evil. He even wrote a chapter in my book, God and Horrendous Suffering. He said this of my book Unapologetic:
I am in wholehearted agreement with you. I actually find it very sad to see a discipline (the philosophy of religion) I have cherished for many years being debased and distorted by so-called Christian philosophers. Like you, I have now finally and happily found my place in the atheist community. I’m slowly making my way through your "Unapologetic book", it’s quite fascinating, loving the Nietzschean hammer style.

On Vampires and Revenants Resurrecting from the Dead, Written by Kris Keys

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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.

What are the Best Atheist Books?

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I am a follower of John Smith at Facebook, who writes some very good provocative stuff. This Facebook post of his to the left provokes some thought too. He suggests a few works he considers to be the best defenses of atheism. They are all sophisticated philosophical treatises.
Sure, I'm a gadfly, but there are people who think the best atheist arguments come from atheist philosophers. Who or what is the source of this ignorance? Where does it come from? I think it comes from Christian philosophers themselves, because it can and does serve as a red herring leading people away from some powerful atheist arguments.
When I show up and offer a different perspective they treat me with a touch of tribalism, and/or they ignore me. It doesn't have to be that way. There is room for all types of argumentation from Biblical/Religious scholars and especially scientists.
Alex Pinkney graded philosophical arguments, since apparently, he considers them the best that atheists have to offer. He wrote: 

Bill VanStone's Encouraging Thoughts On My Book "Unapologetic: Why Philosophy Must End"

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His message was: "Keep writing – and keep righting!" He sent me an email that tells it all. 

Ciaran McArdle On Philosophy and the Mysterious Witness

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McArdle has a YouTube channel and sends out several emails a week, like this:
One thing that I like about John Loftus is that even though he has a PhD in philosophy, he refuses to join apologists in the Philosophical weeds. The Christian god, exists just above our head, sniffs animal carcases and impregnates virgins. As Stavrakapoulou puts it in Anatomy, the Christian god has hands, feet, a penis etc. Loftus sticks with the specific theism. Pine Creek Doug does this also. In that philosophical locking of horns betwixt Michael Jones-town and Phil talk, my head was spinning. My mind was trying to keep track of all of these invisible abstractions: "agents" "minds" "predicates" etc. And in my view, this is a deliberate apologetic ploy. 
Yahweh is a carcase-sniffing tribal god with a massive cock. In Ezekiel, we are told that god has a glorious fiery penis. Retreating to all of this highfalutin philosophical talk is simply a red herring. 

Christianity Doesn’t Survive This Fatal Knockout Blow

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One of several, actually



Even a casual reading of the Ten Commandments (either Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5) should make anyone skeptical that a supposedly good, competent god had anything to do with it. Here was this god’s big opportunity—alone with Moses on the mountaintop—to let humanity know the best moral principles to follow. Many ethicists have noticed three crucial items that are missing: (1) Thou shalt not engage in warfare; (2) Thou shalt not enslave other human beings; (3) Thou shalt not mistreat or undervalue other human beings because of the color of their skin. These omissions are surely an indication of defective, indeed bad theology.  

 

Slavery and racism have brought so much pain and suffering to the world. But war has been, by far, the greatest destroyer, especially as weapons have become more and more advanced—very smart people have been hired by military leaders to create devastating killing machines. This prompts us to doubt, on another level entirely, that a good god was involved in the creation of humans.

The Parable of the Mysterious Witness by John C. Wathey

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The Parable of the Mysterious Witness by John C. Wathey:

This fictitious story begins with a sexual predator who has been stalking a family, watching their house. His eye is on the young daughter. He has studied her habits and those of her parents long enough. He decides to attack. So he enters her room through the window, silences the frantic child with duct tape, and carries her to his car. The predator reaches a wooded area and drags the struggling girl with her muffled screams into the woods, where he brutally beats her, rapes her, and buries her alive in a shallow grave. The predator then drives away.

Shockingly there was a mysterious witness watching him, an undercover policeman. Although he carries a gun he did not intervene. Although he has a police radio he did not call for assistance. He simply watched it all take place then drove home, leaving the girl to suffocate to death. Even more shocking we’re told the policeman is the girl’s father, and that he dearly loves her! “The crime of this sexual predator must surely be among the most despicable imaginable. Yet I expect most readers of this story are even more appalled at the behavior of the mysterious witness. How can one possibly rationalize his utter failure to rescue this poor little girl, his own daughter? And yet, for the believer in the omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent personal god, every horrendous act of evil in the world, every natural disaster, every injury, illness, and genetic defect that causes senseless suffering has just such a mysterious witness: God himself. [John C. Wathey, The Illusion of God’s Presence: The Biological Origins of Religious Longing (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2016), pp. 38-39.]

Neil deGrasse Tyson On The Flaws Of Eyewitness Testimony

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Watch this then think, we don't even have an eyewitness of the resurrection of Jesus:

Hey, Devout Christians: How Did You Get Your Bible?

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Most churchgoers seem to be clueless 



Other words come to mind as well: indifferent, complacent, gullible. Quite bluntly: There is a lack of curiosity. If the church says that the Bible was inspired by a god, isn’t that good enough? In fact, it is one of the great ironies in the ongoing debate between believers and atheists that the Bible is one of Christianity’s biggest embarrassments. Atheists—anyone outside the faith, for that matter—can point to countless passages in the Bible and ask, “Is that really the god you believe in? Why do you follow/adore/worship Jesus when so much of his advice in the gospels is so bad?” Professional Christian apologists work very hard to make the Bible look good—make it look like it came from a divine author. But the huge problem is that so much of the good book is just awful.

The Reality of Senseless Suffering, by Franz Kiekeben

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The traditional argument from evil claimed that God was incompatible with any amount of suffering, for God could, and would want to, prevent every instance of it. Most philosophers nowadays regard that as too strong. A certain amount of suffering might be allowed by God, provided there is a morally sufficient reason for his allowing it—provided, in other words, the suffering serves some greater purpose or is the unavoidable consequence of something that justifies its existence. For instance, it may be that our having free will is a great good which more than compensates for any evil actions resulting from that freedom. Or it may be that certain types of suffering are the only way to bring about something of immense value. As an example of the latter, it is possible that in order to freely develop into the sort of beings that God wants us to become, we must first overcome certain challenges—and these may include disappointments, feelings of frustration, and other experiences we would prefer not going through. (As some theists put it, God’s intention was not to create a paradise in which to keep us perfectly happy, but to create a place where we can grow and develop into persons worthy of spending eternity with him.) It is also possible that an instance of suffering today is the least terrible means of preventing a far greater amount of suffering at some future date. Each of these, as well as several other possibilities that will be discussed below, provides a conceivable explanation for at least some of the bad things that happen in this world.

But even if God is not incompatible with all suffering, he is incompatible with suffering that cannot be justified by some outweighing benefit. Such suffering would be senseless or gratuitous, and if we are to take seriously the claim that God is perfectly good as well as all-powerful and all-knowing, we cannot suppose that he would let someone suffer without reason. If one has the ability to prevent such pointless suffering, yet fails to do so, one cannot be considered morally perfect. It follows that there can either be a God, or there can be senseless suffering, but not both. This leads to a very simple argument in support of atheism:

Pentecostalizing Christianity, by Robert Conner

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Observers agree that many churches across Europe and North America
are bleeding members, struggling financially, and are increasingly faced with the choice to close or merge to stay afloat. At the same time, sociologists of religion have noted a clear trend: the center of Christian belief is steadily shifting to the global South. As Christianity withers in Europe and its former colonies in the northern hemisphere, a New Christendom is springing up in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. Its brand of Christianity is Pentecostalism.

Dr. Hector Avalos On Mistranslating The Bible

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From his masterful book, The End of Biblical Studies.

A Mighty Fortress Is Their Faith: Protecting Ancient Superstitions

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“…an utterly wrongheaded approach to their faith…”



About ten years ago, when was I writing drafts of chapters that would be part of my 2016 book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief, I asked a few Christian friends to read and critique what I’d written. They all refused, except for one Catholic woman—showing more courage than the others—who seems to have learned something from my chapter on the gospels: “I didn’t know Jesus was supposed to come back.” I was not surprised, since so many Catholics have told me they were never encouraged to read the gospels. Another Catholic woman who refused my request was honest about her reason: she embraced her faith passionately because she is eager to see her mother again in heaven—and she wanted nothing to jeopardize that. One Protestant admitted that he worked hard to keep his faith intact, and was reluctant to read anything that might fuel his doubts.

The Lingering Death of the American Church, by Robert Conner

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In recent years a number of American states have passed legislation to open Lookback windows that extend the statute of limitations in cases of sexual assault. Vermont passed such a law in 2019, followed by Nevada and Louisiana in 2021, Colorado and Arkansas in 2022, and California, New York, and Maine in 2023. Lookback windows allow previously silent victims of sexual abuse to file civil claims that often result in substantial financial penalties for organizations that harbored sexual predators.

Ten Reasons Why Most Believers Don't Seriously Question Their Faith

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Every Monday morning I'm posting submitted essays, excerpts from my books, and some of the best posts of the past. Here's one from January 17, 2012.

This topic interests me to no end. Why don't most believers seriously question their faith? Does it take a special type of individual? Does it require some personality trait that believers don't have? Does that make skeptics different people? Could it be intelligence? Could it be that skeptics have a higher self-esteem than others? Is it that we don't need social approval? Is it that life's experiences have shown us we cannot accept the dominant opinion on a matter? Is it that we question what we're told in general? Perhaps, but when we look at skeptics in general there doesn't seem to be a set pattern. Perhaps a scientific poll might help answer that kind of question. What I do think is that the following ten reasons are almost certainly necessary conditions even if they are not sufficient ones:

On the Danger of Stupid People

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Ignorant Amos reminded us of "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity" by Carlo M. Cipolla. Think of Donald Trump and his base, especially on the last one. The Laws:

1. Everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals among us.

2. The probability that a certain person is stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.

3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person while deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses themselves.

4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals.

5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

Unfortunately, ignorant, stupid, and unskilled people do not know they are ignorant, stupid and unskilled!

You’re Sure You Know Jesus in Your Heart? Can You Verify That?

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Imagination plays a major role in religious certainty



The huge ecclesiastical bureaucracy has been in charge of promoting an idealized Jesus, hence it’s no wonder Christians are confident that they know Jesus in their hearts. They fail to notice that Jesus is a product, one that is presented in the most positive ways. The church has always gotten away with this because, for the most part, the laity can’t be bothered to look at the so-called evidence; that is, to verify what they’re told about Jesus. 

 

The supposed sources of Jesus knowledge are simply not valid. They are the equivalent of smoke and mirrors. The fervent promoters of Jesus—theologians and clergy, but beginning with the gospel authors—remind us of the man behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz conjuring stories and fantasies. Let’s consider a few examples.

On the Incompatibility of Answered Prayers and Science by Daniel Mocsny

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By Daniel Mocsny: If outside influences like prayer or meddling gods cannot be excluded, then science cannot proceed - it won't work. The same experiment will get different results depending on who was praying somewhere in the world, or on the whim of some god. Science doesn't just assume that we only use natural explanations, it actually requires that only natural phenomena exist. Otherwise you can't reliably replicate a result. Replication is fundamental to science, and even more important for industries built on science, which replicate the same products billions of times.

Thus the very existence of science is strong evidence against the kinds of gods people worship - gods who intervene routinely in the natural order. The burden of proof is therefore on the theist to explain how we can have science and smartphones that undeniably exist, and at the same time we have their God whose existence and behavior would make science impossible. The plain fact that during the past two centuries the intellectual elite (i.e., those who actually have some claim to expertise on matters of religion, philosophy, and science) have indeed become overwhelmingly skeptical in regard to the existence of a "conscious Creator.”

Things the Clergy Won’t Tell You

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To protect thousands of different, conflicting Christian brands 


Let’s look at four forbidden topics.


 

ONE

 

Each Christian denomination—there are so many divisions, sects, cults—screens and vets those who rise to the rank of clergy. These are the champions of the faith, as it is preached across such a wide spectrum of conflicting versions. No individual congregation would tolerate any clergy who strays far from the orthodoxy cherished by that congregation. Thus we won’t find Catholic priests stepping into their pulpits on Sunday morning to explain that Mormonism or Methodism happens to be the right brand of Christianity after all. Of course not, because all clergy are paid propagandists for their own brand of the faith. That’s how they earn their living.

From Richard Carrier's Essay, "Establishing the Biblical Literalism of Early Christians":

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Richard Carrier establishes the fact that early Christians really believed their miracle stories, contrary to liberals who demythologize the Gospels like Rudolph Bultmann and John Dominic Crossan:

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Usually I don’t have to argue this because it’s obvious. But there are a few who have attempted to contend that early Christians—say, before the fourth century—never took the Gospels as factually true reports of events but only as allegorical tales, fables conveying a point or deeper truth—essentially, as edifying fiction. Some have even strongly asserted there is no evidence of anyone in that time ever treating the Gospels as historical fact. This is so wildly false I am astonished and perplexed by anyone saying this, particularly when they are erudite, well-trained scholars. But every once in a while this happens: someone assertively insists well-established premises of a field I’m in are false, requiring me to do the work of culling enough of the rather obvious evidence we otherwise take for granted just to put such things to rest and demonstrate that, yes, this time, the premise is a correct assumption of the field, not a sectarian contrivance or modern conceit (and remember, I am always ready to admit when it is not).

To be clear, my argument to follow is not that ancient Christians were radical fundamentalists who rejected every allegorical interpretation of tales in their Bible. Every Christian accepted some things in their stories were edifying fictions, or that they were both literally true and allegorically meaningful (I give extensive evidence of this in On the Historicity of Jesus, Chapter 4, Element 14). But my point here on out is that all extant Christian literature from the first two centuries of the religion, every single text that conveys any position on the matter at all, consistently insists the Gospels are substantially records of historical facts. And they often even insist that anyone who denies this is a loathsome fool damned to hell. Even if those same Christians will give an allegorical meaning of a story here and there, that does not counter my point: that none say the Gospels are wholly allegory, or that anyone can be saved believing they are. Ironically, their shrill insistence on this proves other Christians existed who did think the Gospels were entirely a sacred fiction. But we don’t get to read anything those Christians wrote. They were the enemy, all but erased from history, by that other faction of Christianity that came to dominate the world....We can therefore never say “early Christians simply did not regard the Gospels as historical records.” Put that claim to rest. The evidence against it is vast and unassailable. It simply is not true.

GUESSINGS ABOUT GOD: Robert Conner’s review of new book by David Madison, PhD Biblical Studies

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Books that question the validity of Christian belief and the historicity of New Testament stories appear regularly these days and they raise quite a few uncomfortable questions. Did Jesus really say the things attributed to him? Was Jesus even a real person? Did the gospel writers simply make up accounts of miracles like the virgin birth? Can we harmonize the contradictory resurrection stories? Do the gospels, written decades after the life of Jesus, record any eyewitness evidence? Who actually wrote the gospels? The gospel authors never identify themselves in their texts or speak in the first person—did they even meet Jesus? Over a century of critical study of the New Testament has raised many such thorny problems.

God Is Okay with Abortion—Devout Christians Tell Us So

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Without intending to!


A member of the congregation is hospitalized with cancer. So fellow parishioners organize prayer marathons to plead with their god to intervene—and it works! So they claim when their friend’s cancer has been defeated, after considerable intervention by medical professionals. What a relief that god granted their wish. 

 

But what are the implications of this belief? It’s a good idea to think it through.

In Defense of Richard Dawkins And On Being Right

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John Smith posted this quote on his FB Page by Michael Ruse, atheist philosopher of biology: "Dawkins's book The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course & it makes me ashamed to be an atheist. New atheists do the side of science a grave disservice, a disservice to scholarship." Others followed suit, including philosophers Tom Morris, Trent Doughtery, Ron Morales and Jonathan Blocker. I, on the other hand, have defended the so-called new atheists.

I responded: There is something grossly wrong about these evaluations. It fails to give credit where credit is due. Dawkins has been a defender of unguided evolution which destroys Christian philosophy in one fell swoop! So what if he tried reaching the masses, by-passing the elite philosophers? They are never convinced otherwise by other elite philosophers. Why can't Dawkins speak as a laymen philosopher like others? The one thing he has done is to change the minds of a massive number of people who are now former believers. People can talk about his lack of understanding if they want to, but if you don't think this world is in a better place because he wrote his book, then you fail to understand we are in a global crisis that can best be met with fewer believers in it.

Matthew Flannagan responded to me:

John W. Loftus it sounds like your saying something like this: so what if Dawkins work isn't of a decent intellectual calibre, it works in persuading lay people. Which is basically claiming to be a dishonest propagandists.

I responded back to him:

Matthew Flannagan let's say I've seriously studied the Christian faith at the highest levels for the longest time, and that I conclude it's bunk. Let's also say I've concluded the Christian faith causes significant harm. So I know it's bunk, and I know it causes significant harm. From this perspective what matters is that Dawkins and others are correct, regardless of whether they can adequately argue the case or not. I would prefer, by far, that they argue the case adequately, but it's enough if they don't. I defended this view in chapter 8 of my book, Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End. It's titled, "It is Enough Just to Be Right!"

I have said a few things in defense of Dawkins at Academia. So far I've silenced them all. Here are a few key paragraphs from it:

My Jaded Response To More Philosophical Disproofs of God

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I received a message from Brian Holly on Facebook, asking me what I thought of two philosophical disproofs of God:
I’d like to present you with two arguments I believe are original - at least I have never seen them anywhere. First, an argument against the possibility of an omniscient being: An omniscient being must know all facts, and that must include the fact that he is omniscient, but he can’t know that he’s omniscient, because he has no way of eliminating the possibility that there is some fact unknown to him.

Second argument: if an omniscient, omnibenevolent God creates any world, he must create all possible worlds. Supposing, a la Leibniz, that God’s goodness requires him to create the best of all possible worlds. To do that, he must survey all the possible worlds. Now, consider, God’s knowledge of each of these worlds must be perfect and complete, down to every last wiggle of every last subatomic particle. But then it seems that there is no discernible difference between God’s perfect idea of a given possible world and that world as it would be if instantiated. So there is no difference between God’s thinking of a world and creating it. Gosh, isn’t metaphysics fun?
My Response: At this stage in my intellectual journey, I find these types of philosophical arguments to be nothing more than playing games that can only benefit Christian apologetics. See this paper instead: Does God Exist? A Definitive Biblical Case. [See Tags below for more].

The Trickster’s Apprentice, by David Eller

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My plan is to post something of interest every Monday morning. These posts will include excerpts from my books, submitted essays, posts made here in the past, and new ones. Enjoy.

The Trickster’s Apprentice

By David Eller


At the end of the first part of Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche has Zarathustra withdraw into his solitude, asking, “what matter all believers? You have not yet sought yourselves: and you found me. Thus do all believers; therefore all faith amounts to so little.” In a previous essay, I introduced the figure of the trickster, the mischievous, unrestrained, shape-shifting boundary-crosser to whom many pundits have likened Trump. I realize now that that essay was the first of a two-part musing on faith and following, inspired by this cross-cultural fact: people don’t usually follow tricksters. They may laugh at him (since, as I pointed out previously, a trickster is almost always a male, at least at first), they may be aghast at his disrespect of morals and traditions, they may dread his baleful influence. A trickster is always a destroyer, usually a creator, sometimes a buffoon or cautionary tale, but virtually never a leader. Who would choose the trickster’s world of chimeras, deceptions, and insatiable appetites?