Just Released: "A Statistical Critique of the Minimal Facts Apologetics of Gary Habermas and Michael Licona." -- Written by Michael J. Alter and Darren M. Slade

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SHERM Journal just released a publication whose full correct title is, "Dataset Analysis of English Texts Written on the Topic of Jesus’ Resurrection: A Statistical Critique of Minimal Facts Apologetics." It was co-authored by Michael J. Alter, and Darren M. Slade. In a nutshell, the article disproves (for the first time using actual data) the common apologetic assertion that 90% of "critical scholars" accept the historicity of certain minimal facts about Jesus. Abstract:
This article collects and examines data relating to the authors of English-language texts written and published during the past 500 years on the subject of Jesus’ resurrection and then compares this data to Gary R. Habermas’ 2005 and 2012 publication on the subject. To date, there has been no such inquiry. This present article identifies 735 texts spanning five centuries (from approximately 1500 to 2020). The data reveals 680 Pro-Resurrection books by 601 authors (204 by ministers, 146 by priests, 249 by people associated with seminaries, 70 by laypersons, and 22 by women). This article also reveals that a remarkably high proportion of the English-language books written about Jesus’ resurrection were by members of the clergy or people linked to seminaries, which means any so-called scholarly consensus on the subject of Jesus’ resurrection is wildly inflated due to a biased sample of authors who have a professional and personal interest in the subject matter. Pro-Resurrection authors outnumber Contra-Resurrection authors by a factor of about twelve-to-one. In contrast, the 55 Contra-Resurrection books, representing 7.48% of the total 735 books, were by 42 authors (28 having no relevant degrees at the time of publication). The 42 contra authors represent only 6.99% of all authors writing on the subject.
The leading defenders of the miniaml facts approach are Gary Habermas and Michael Licona. One of the authors of this Sherm Journal Article is Dr. Darren M. Slade. He studied under Habermas at the doctoral level, and took many classes with him. He even debated him. You can find the article's webpage Right here. Below is an excerpt from the article's conclusion.

Christian “Truth” in Shreds: Epic Takedown Number 7

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…god really isn’t all that great 

Oft-repeated items from childhood stick in the mind. Our mealtime grace was “God is good, God is great, thank you for this food. Amen.” Full-blown, industrial strength, Sunday School naivety about religion. Drivel. I’m tempted now to ask, “What were we thinking?” —but of course we weren’t thinking at all. How is it even remotely possible that the creative force that (supposedly) runs the Cosmos requires/desires/appreciates being told by countless humans that he/she/it is good and great? What a useless idea. Moreover, instead of the word “God,” we could just have well have said “our food supply chain” is good and great. If you didn’t eat everything on your plate, the clichĂ© we heard was, “Think of all the starving people in China.” If God is good and great, how could that happen? We were fortunate to have a well-functioning food supply chain.

I didn’t expect this!

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Any author or editor wants their work to be acknowledged as being good and helpful. But I never expected this from the most recent Freedom From Religion Foundation's newspaper.

Have you gotten that book yet? It's one of a handful of my favorites: Christianity Is Not Great.

Christianity Is Not Great: How Faith Fails

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Anthologies are not easy to organize. Contributors have to be recruited, and they may not all be available at the time you need them. Scholars have to respect you enough as an editor to join your project if they are available. Over the past few years, John Loftus has demonstrated his ability to recruit the best scholars and scientists to his anthologies. The present anthology, Christianity Is Not Great, is no exception. Scholars representing fields as varied as physics and anthropology are here.

Consequently, these anthologies are some of the most substantive collections of rebuttals to theistic arguments, and specifically to Christian theistic arguments, in existence. They signal a new era insofar as atheists are organizing coherent and scholarly responses that are wide-ranging in scope, instead of just focusing on a few traditional issues (e.g., philosophical arguments against theism or creationism). These anthologies touch on, among many subjects, history, sociology, psychology, and biblical studies.

Christianity Is Not Great swiftly demolishes one of the greatest and subtlest myths promoted by believers. The demolished myth is that Christianity, even if it cannot be proved to be true, has at least been good for the world.

Aside from the wonderful contributions, this volume is an indirect tribute to Loftus himself. John Loftus is an indefatigable laborer for atheism. He represents one of those voices who still has not received the honor he deserves. Yet few modern atheists have provided as much useful service to educating the masses about atheism as he has done.

--From the Foreword by Dr. Hector Avalos.

Bill Burr Speaks the Truth About Religion

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Sound familiar? This video has been watched 2.6 million times. Burr is reaching millions more people than I could hope to do. Here is a snippet to tease you into watching this 9:48 minutes of pure genius.
Everybody else's religion sounds stupid. The first time I heard the story of Scientology I was like, that is the dumbest shit I have ever heard in my life...while simultaneously still kind of believing that a woman who never got f*cked had a baby that walked on the water, died and came back three days later. Yeah, that made total sense to me. So it just hit me one day. Why doesn't Scientology make sense and my shit does? I think it's because I heard their story when I was an adult. I heard my story when I was four years old. What was I going to do? I had to make a decision. Just let go of it. Let go of it like that creepy moment in curling... That's what I did with my religion. I just let go of it. It just floated away.

Bible Study to Help You Get Over Christianity

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So much of scripture undermines belief


There are zealous Bible apologists—of the evangelical/fundamentalist variety—who try to make the case that the Bible is inerrant: It’s the perfect word of their god. Their followers are confident that, opening the Bible to any page, any chapter, god’s wisdom and guidance are there without fail. They can gerrymander even the worst texts to come up with lessons that fuel their piety. But we know that there are many Christians outside these circles who aren’t so blind. They recoil with horror at so many Bible stories and teaching—as much as secular readers do. And they know that too much of the Bible should not have been included in the canon, although they wouldn’t quite agree with Hector Avalos’ suggestion that 99 percent of the Bible would not be missed.

The Outsider Test for Faith

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Formulating and extensively defending the OTF is Loftus’ greatest contribution to the philosophy of religion and atheism. The basic idea is that you can only have a rational faith if you test it by the same standards you apply to all other competing faiths; yet when you do that, your religion tests as false as the others, and the same reasons you use to reject those become equally valid reasons to reject yours.

This is the greatest book Loftus has ever produced. It's without question a must-read for believers, and atheists who wants to debate them. Superbly argued, air tight, and endlessly useful, this should be everyone's first stop in the god debate. Loftus meets every objection and proves the Outsider Test for Faith is really the core of every case against religious belief, and the one argument you can't honestly get around. It takes religion on at its most basic presuppositions, forcing the believer into a dilemma from which there is no escape: either abandon your faith or admit you don't believe in being logically consistent. After reading it, and sincerely applying its principles, anyone who really wants to be rational will be on the road to atheism in no time.

Though this idea has been voiced before, Loftus is the first to name it, rigorize it, and give it an extensive philosophical defense; moreover, by doing so, he is the first to cause a concerted apologetic to arise attempting to dodge it, to which he could then respond. The end result is one of the most effective and powerful arguments for atheism there is. It is, in effect, a covering argument that subsumes all other arguments for atheism into a common framework. LINK.

-- Dr. Richard Carrier, author of Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith.

“The Rationalization Hypothesis: Is a Vision of Jesus Necessary for the Rise of the Resurrection Belief?” — by Kris Komarnitsky

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I had previously highly recommended an essay by Kris Komarnitsky in my chapter on the resurrection for The Case against Miracles.

When it came to my chapter 18 on the resurrection of Jesus I mentioned the theories that help explain the origins of the belief in Jesus' resurrection. I stressed one theory above all the rest:
One theory has recently been defended by Kris Komarnitsky, author of "Doubting Jesus’ Resurrection: What Happened in the Black Box ?" He has done an excellent job of showing what could have happened in an online post on Mathew Ferguson’s blog titled, "The Rationalization Hypothesis: Is a Vision of Jesus Necessary for the Rise of the Resurrection Belief?" I find it to be the most detailed defense of this theory, making it worth considering, complete with four real-life examples of it in history. He takes issue with the bereavement visionary hypothesis of the disciples, widely regarded as a plausible naturalistic explanation for the data, and argues instead for what he calls the cognitive-dissonance-induced ration- alization hypothesis. The question he discusses is whether bereavement visions produced the belief that Jesus arose from the dead, or whether the resurrection belief came first due to cognitive dissonance reducing rationalizations, favoring the later. Go read it. Now! Forget the swoon theory that Jesus didn’t actually die, the conspiracy theory that the disciples purportedly concocted to perpetrate a hoax, the impersonation theory that someone impersonated Jesus, or the unknown tomb theory where the disciples went to the wrong tomb.
Then I linked to it. It has now been released again, for which I thank Matthew Ferguson! “The Rationalization Hypothesis: Is a Vision of Jesus Necessary for the Rise of the Resurrection Belief?” — by Kris Komarnitsky.

Arguments Against God: 10, 20, 30, 50, and Counting!

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Christianity’s unfortunate embrace of incoherence


Following the publication of my book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Faith six years ago, one of the most common questions I got from atheists was, “What, only ten?” Of course, there are far more, and I explain that I sorted the many problems into the ten categories. There’s a certain appeal of top ten lists. But others have taken a different approach. In 2014, Armin Navabi published his book, Why There Is No God: Simple Responses to 20 Common Arguments for the Existence of GodGuy P. Harrison has a good brand going with these titles, 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God, 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True50 Simple Questions for Every Christian

 

All of these books are included in the Cure-for-Christianity Library I have been building since the publication of my 2016 book. There are now more than 525 titles, most published since the year 2000. The devout may be wondering—if they even know about this surge in atheist/secular publishing— “Why do these heretics keep writing?” From behind their high stacks of frothy, sentimental devotional books, churned out year after year, they cast contemptuous glances at atheist books that might come to their attention. They may wonder how there is anything more to be said against god and believers.

Follow the Money Trail: Faith-Based Education and Publishing in Apologetics, by Michael J. Alter

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Michael J. Alter is an independent researcher and author of The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry (2015), A Thematic Access-Oriented Bibliography of Jesus's Resurrection (2020), and the forthcoming text from GCRR Press, The Resurrection and Its Apologetics: A Critical Inquiry, Vol. 1.

Alter has written a two part essay at the Global Center for Religious Research titled, "Follow the Money Trail: Faith-Based Education and Publishing in Apologetics. Highly recommended! Nonbelievers seeking an education and a publisher are not out-gunned, they just have less opportunities when up against the massive amount of resources of Christian organizations, colleges and publishing houses. I know this all to well.

Recent Trends in Apologetics, Part 3

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To read Part 2 in this three part series click here.

From the outset I should say that 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. Stands to reason, right? 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), 62]

I should also say that most apologetics books are just more of the same old, same old thing. I can't tolerate reading any more them, as they rehash what others have already said, for the umpteenth time. It can even be seen in their annoying and false book titles, using words like Evidence, even though there is no direct or objective evidence, Eyewitness, even though everything we have is filtered down via 2nd-3rd-4th hand hearsay, and Comprehensive, even though the chapters in those books are superficial treatments.

"Evidence"

J. Daniel Hays, A Christian's Guide to Evidence for the Bible: 101 Proofs from History and Archaeology

Allen Quist, Evidence that the Bible is True: The Apologetics of Biblical Reliability

"Eyewitness"

Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony [Expanded and Updated], 2017.

Daniel P. Buttafuoco, Consider the Evidence: A Trial Lawyer Examines Eyewitness Testimony in Defense of the Reliability of the New Testament

"Comprehensive"

Joseph M. Holden, ed., The Comprehensive Guide to Apologetics, 528 pages. I did a search inside this book for Dawkins, Harris, Barker, Price, Stenger, Carrier, Avalos, & Loftus. None of these names are mentioned. Barker is quoted as saying there isn't any evidence for their faith. Dawkins is quoted the most, someone admittedly untrained in philosophy or theology.

William A. Dembski, Joseph M. Holden, Casey Luskin, eds., The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith, 656 pages.

Now on with the show.

Holding On to a Horrible God

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“…remarkably resistant to rational inquiry”


There are some human tragedies that prove unsettling to even the most devout folks. Faith is shaken because events seem to shatter confidence that there’s a god who has “the whole world in his hands.” His eye is on the sparrow, he even knows how many hairs are on our heads. That god is paying attention. So how do big tragedies happen, right under his nose—so it would seem? The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed more than 225,000 people; a huge percentage were infants and toddlers—crushed and drowned by the waters. In 2012, at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut, a gunman murdered twenty kids (six and seven-year-olds), and six members of the staff. In 2000, a Concorde aircraft crashed in flames on takeoff from Charles de Gaulle airport: 109 people on board were burned alive. These horrors remain firmly in my mind.

Recent Trends in Christian Apologetics, Part 2

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To read Part 1 in this three part series click here. Now on with the show.

I'm going to begin at the beginning, what's considered to be the resurgence of Christianity touted by Christian apologists. Over at Patheos, there is a page for Evangelicalism that offers little more than self-congratulatory bluster for its philosophical and apologetical achievements in the recent past, given the religious diversity in the world. Atheist philosopher Quentin Smith was quoted as saying that God "is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments." That's the LAST stronghold. "God" has already been ousted from most every other department in the university. So why on earth would evangelicals be quoting Quentin Smith on this, or feeling good about what he said? The bottom line is that you cannot have a religious trajectory that will last very long without a good solid foundation. What evangelicals will have to come to grips with is the lack of a Biblical foundation for what they believe. It simply is not there. They have completely and utterly ignored this fact.

I'm here to remind them that Natural Theology is dead, so their philosophical renaissance is nothing more than fundamentalism on stilts, as Dr. Jaco Gerike argues. I especially love Gerike's chapter 5 in my anthology The End of Christianity titled, Can God Exist if Yahweh Doesn't?

One problem with answering the philosophical arguments of WLCraig, Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, and company, can be seen in Craig's response to the atheist literature over the last few decades that trounced their fundamentalist arguments. A fine summary of that atheist literature can be read here. Craig seems jubilant about it all, saying:
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. Moreover, 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.
In other words, responding to fundamentalist philosophy only encourages fundamentalist philosophers!

Jim Jefferies - God is drunk at a party

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Maybe Jesus Himself Could Talk You Out of Christianity

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There’s so much he shouldn’t have said!


A few years ago I asked a prominent Italian journalist: “Can it possibly be true that the Vatican hierarchy really believes the wacky ideas that the church promotes?” For example, transubstantiation, papal infallibility, immaculate conception, the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven. He responded, “Oh, maybe half of them do. Don’t forget, it’s a business.” The primary product of this business is Jesus, and for twenty centuries the church has worked hard to hype the product. The apostle Paul got the ball rolling with his message that he’d had private conversations with the dead Jesus, whom he was convinced was alive in heaven. Paul was confident that believing in resurrected Jesus was the key to salvation. This is a perfect example of magical thinking: believe something and voilĂ , you get your wish. Decades after Paul, the gospel writers wrote their stories about Jesus the Wonder Worker.

Recent Trends in Christian Apologetics, Part 1

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I'm going to revisit this topic for a Part 2. I already have a draft to post. Help me out. What are some trends in apologetics that you've noticed?

[First Published 11/13/19]. As the author of a book that offered good advice to Christian apologists, How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist, I should keep up with how they're doing. Given that Evangelicals concede they are losing in the marketplace of ideas, and that they partially blame this on the rise of the internet, no wonder apologetics is in demand. Everyone is doing it, or so it appears. This is a sign, all by itself, that Christianity of the evangelical kind is dying. For apologetics is necessitated by the need, and the need is dire.

So what's recently been happening in the apologetics publishing world? Let's look at some books.

1) Apologists are making apologetics more accessible to readers.

We've seen the advent of apologetics study Bibles. The first one to be published was The Apologetics Study Bible: Understand Why You Believe, by Holman Bible Publishers, 2007. 

I Got a Letter from a Jehovah’s Witness!

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A short letter packed with bad theology


In pre-COVID days I occasionally saw Jehovah’s Witness missionaries standing by their literature tables in the New York City Subway—and even too, once, just outside a Paris Metro Station. But that’s the closest I ever get to them: I live in an apartment building, so they’ve never had access to my front door. COVID must have made knocking on doors even more unpopular. So sending letters is an alternate strategy.

An Outsider Test for Polytheism

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On Twitter:
Ben Watkins:
That any particular religious belief is geographically and temporally predictable based on local facts about culture and familial relations is more likely given naturalism than theism. Despite the insistence of some apologists, this likelihood judgment is not a genetic fallacy.
Ocean:
This would very much be a monotheism objection. With polytheism one would expect localized variations.

Can Atheists Criticize God on Moral Grounds?

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“In the minds of Christian apologists, atheists cannot rationally criticize the Christian god for immoral behavior if an objective moral standard does not exist. I haven't seen a good atheist comeback on this issue. Does anyone have a good, concise, bullet-proof comeback?” — Gary M.

The underlying argument here is that one cannot justifiably criticize something on moral grounds unless one accepts an objective moral standard; that only God provides such a standard; and that therefore atheists cannot consistently claim that the biblical God is immoral — not even when he commands genocide.

Christian Dependence on Propaganda Fantasy Literature

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Other religions make the same mistake


It would be hard to name a book that has been hyped more than the Bible. During the last couple of centuries its status has slipped among those who study it critically, but still today there are extremist Christians who insist that it is a holy book, free from error. Even more moderate Bible editors know that the hype still sells, so Holy Bible is the title they choose for the cover. But this is undeserved, as devout scholars themselves admit—although maybe not out loud, or too loudly.

The Problem of Evil and Moral Choice

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Lately, there've been quite a few discussions about morality in the comments sections. With that in mind, I thought I'd re-post one or two old blog posts that deal with a moral topic.

The following is from 2016, before my first post here at DC:

According to most solutions of the problem of evil, bad things are allowed by God because in the long run — as Dr. Pangloss put it in Candide — “all is for the best.” In other words, each terrible event is justified as the means for bringing about a result that more than makes up for its badness. For example, one such view claims that evils are necessary in order to provide us with the opportunity for moral growth. Thus, the apologist Richard Swinburne, a proponent of this idea, maintains that if even “one less person had been burnt by the Hiroshima atomic bomb... there would have been less opportunity for courage and sympathy...” (The Existence of God, p. 264). The death of all those people — or of the millions killed by the black plague, for that matter — was, all things considered, a good thing. Otherwise, God wouldn't have allowed it to happen.

On The Fundamental Objection to the OTF

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[Republished post from 3/03/ 2012]
In a very well-written comment EricRC, a Ph.D. student in philosophy with promise, sums up what he calls the fundamental objection to the Outsider Test for Faith (OTF). Before sharing and then critiquing what he wrote let me refresh my readers on what it is:

Jim Jefferies, "Stand Up About Religion"

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Australian atheist Jim Jefferies, "Stand Up About Religion." this" is funny stuff!

 

Christians, Please Learn These Two Words!

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To understand why the faith is in great jeopardy


“How do you know your religion is the right one?” It’s not hard to guess what kind of answers we’d get if we posed this question to people coming out of church on Sunday morning. Usually, the answers would be variations on, “I feel it in my heart,” which in turn is based on trusting what they’ve been told by ministers, priests, and parents about the Bible, visions, and prayers. These respected authority figures make sure their cherished religious “truths” are drummed into young minds. But rarely, if ever, do devout folks—seized with genuine curiosity or skepticism—ask, “How do you know these things are true?” Another way to ask this is, “What is your epistemology?” The purpose of epistemology is to sort out the ways of knowing that are reliable and trustworthy. Ministers and priests resist teaching epistemology to their parishioners, because that would involve the search for reliable, verifiable, objective data to substantiate belief (and theists have never been able to agree on where such data can be found). So, all ye Christian faithful, please learn this word: epistemology—and try to put it into practice.

George Carlin Expresses How I Feel About Religion

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Let me express my feelings about religion through George Carlin. I'm not saying he understood the various nuances of religion or the specifics of any given theology. I can imagine believers saying to themselves over and over "but that's not what I believe." Nor do I think he convinced many people. I'm posting this because he expressed how I feel about religion. I respectfully talk to the people he berates and belittles for their beliefs. But deep inside I agree with him in ridiculing them. Yes, what I do can be done. I've done it for decades. Many of us do it.

Does The Outsider Test for Faith Unfairly Target Religion?

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Here is the final section from chapter 8 of my book The Outsider Test for Faith (pp. 169-170). I summarize what is wrong with objections that the OTF unfairly targets religion.

My Response to All These Objections

Let’s just respond to all of these objections this way: Either the OTF is a fair way to assess the truth of religious faiths or it is not. If it is not a fair test, per the above objections, then why do believers use it to reasonably examine the religious faiths of others? That they do is clearly evident. When believers criticize the faiths they reject, they use reason and science to do so. They assume these other religions have the burden of proof when it comes to their extraordinary claims of miracles. They assume that their holy book(s) are written by human not divine authors. They assume a human not a divine origin of their faiths. Believers do this when rejecting other faiths. So this dispenses with all the red herrings about ethics, politics, science, and a material universe, for the OTF simply asks believers to do unto their own faith what they already do unto other faiths. All it asks of them is to be consistent. If there is any inconsistency at all, it is in how they assess truth claims. But if the OTF is a fair test, why do believers have a double standard, one for their own religious faith and a different standard for the religious faiths they reject? Let them use reason and science to examine their own faith. Let them assume their own faith has the burden of proof when it comes to their extraordinary claims of miracles. Let them assume human rather than divine authors of their holy book(s).

Pop Quiz for Christians, Number 2

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Would your devout friends get passing grades?

In 1927 Bertrand Russell delivered a lecture at the town hall in Battersea, England. The topic was Why I Am Not a Christian, and this is now the title of a book that includes several of his writings. In 2011 Richard Carrier published a 92-page book with the same title. Russell was one of the great minds of the Twentieth Century; Carrier is one of the top Jesus scholars of our time. I’m pretty sure that Christian book stores don’t carry either of these book—i.e., there isn’t a section, “Books Written by Our Atheist Critics.” Devout believers may boast that their faith is unshakeable, but we suspect otherwise. They might identify with the fellow who cried out to Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) Thus they keep their distance from anything that might puncture faith.

The Gods Even Prefer Different Hats!

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Here is another strong indicator that god's are created by human beings in different social cultures. Deities prefer different attire, eating habits, traditions, sexual prohibitions and positions, not to forget they prefer different social morals and beliefs. Hence the meme above left. They also prefer different hats! This shows religion to be made up mostly by men to control people, to become powerful, to be known as important and wise, and to get the women (don't forget the women). Look at all these religious hats below. [Someone noticed the first priest looks like me, presumably from the Russian Orthodox Church. Maybe, maybe not. I'm not confessing.] I provide a link to others.

PART 2: REASSESSING PAUL'S TIMELINE by Bart Willruth

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If Part I is correct, that Paul lived and wrote in the 1st century BCE, the implications are immense. [For Part 1 see Tag "Reassessing Paul"] What would it mean? Here is a suggested paradigm for understanding Paul in an entirely different context. Does the shoe fit?

THESIS 2: PAUL WAS A RANKING (NAVAL) MILITARY MAN WRITING TO SOLDIERS AND THEIR FAMILIES.

Teaser: John Dominic Crossan wrote, "There was a human being who was called 'Divine,' 'Son of God,' 'God,' and 'God from God,' whose titles were 'Lord,' [sovereign] 'Redeemer,' 'Liberator,' and 'Saviour of the World. Most Christians probably think that those titles were originally created and uniquely applied to Christ. But before Jesus ever existed, all those terms belonged to...” [See below for the answer].

To review PART I: Paul likely lived and wrote in the first century BCE, and was likely a combatant or agent involved in the Jewish civil war. His incidental terms and people, as mentioned in his letters, seem to be consistent with a timeline in the 40’s to 30’s BCE. If this chronology is correct, Paul would never have heard of Jesus of Nazareth and couldn’t have been writing to Christians as we would recognize them.

Since I am suggesting that Paul was writing in a military context, I will list some straightforward facts about the Roman military of the time as background for how Paul might fit in:

Rampant Idiocy in Christian Belief

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And now we have a handy guidebook!

In recent days, Pat Robertson came out of the woodwork—or rather, out of retirement at 91—to explain to the world that Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is part of God’s plan to hasten the End Times, in a battle that will ultimately play out in Israel. What? We can be sure that Christians throughout the world condemn Putin’s aggression, and are appalled by the suffering caused by the ongoing invasion. Where did Robertson come up with this crazy idea? Well, it comes right out of the New Testament, even in the bad theology we find in Jesus-script: the coming of the kingdom of God—the End Times—will bring as much suffering as the world experienced at the time of Noah. Part of Robertson’s delusion is his conviction that he knows God’s mind well enough to coach the rest of us.

Reassessing Paul's Timeline by Bart Willruth, Part 1

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REASSESSING PAUL'S TIMELINE by Bart Willruth.

Paul, the so-called founder of Christianity, may not have been who we think he was, or lived when we think he lived. In this presentation, I will take some things for granted. I am writing from the perspective of a Christ mythicist; that is, there was no historical Jesus of Nazareth, and Christianity developed on different grounds. This has been argued elsewhere, therefore I will not repeat the arguments here; see "The Varieties of Jesus Mythicism" edited by John Loftus and Robert Price.  

I realize that any attempt to date, or re-date, Paul will be speculative, but that process also includes the attempt to maintain the traditional timeline. But lack of proof doesn't preclude assessing probability. That which I will present in brief below is a novel paradigm; I would point out that the value of a paradigm rests in its utility in answering questions and drawing together a coherent explanation for the data. This is still a work in process.

I began this survey several years ago as I noticed anomalies and problems in the traditional view of Paul. That Paul was not writing in response to a historical Jesus is, by definition, a conclusion of virtually all of the Christ-myth theories. That the gospels and Acts are not historically reliable is a corollary to that position and is the conclusion of  The Acts Seminar (WESTAR) and familiar names such as Robert Price, Richard Carrier, Earl Doherty R. G. Price, David Madison, and others; they cannot be used to tell us anything firm about Paul's biography or thought. All recognize the principle of giving primary sources (Paul’s own letters) absolute priority. Nevertheless, many of my fellow Christ-myth proponents continue to assume Paul's traditional timeline, that he was in some way converted to a form of Christianity in the 30's CE, that he began traveling throughout Greece and Asia Minor in the 40's CE to spread the word to the gentiles, and wrote letters to the believers in various cities during the 50's CE. But what are these dates based on? The answer is clearly the chronology of the gospels and Acts. But if there was no historical Jesus and Acts is theological/historical fiction, what ties us to these dates? We are effectively cut loose from those constraints except by habit and presupposition. In conversations I've had with other mythicists (most of whom are well known to the readers of John Loftus' books) the common responses to this problem are all variations of, “I agree that Acts is not reliable history, but it’s all we have,” or "These dates are overwhelmingly accepted by scholars. Why should we change them?" Of course, most of these scholars they reference are accepting some level of historicity for the Jesus of the gospels and Acts, so we end up in a circular defense chain with one major broken link. I still find some mythicists repeating some version of the phrase "within a few years of the crucifixion" or "the presumed date of the crucifixion." This imposes the later beliefs of Christian writers into the earlier writings of Paul as though he was writing in response to a historical Jesus which is a conclusion at odds with that of the Christ-myth theory. It is simply improper methodology to assume a chronology for Paul based on the later assignment of a date for a historicized Jesus and the immediate inauguration of the Christian movement. Bottom line: reassessing Paul's timeline is a direct and necessary consequence of deeming the Gospels and Acts as non-historical. Re-dating Paul would likely impact our understanding of his thoughts and purpose.

As an aside, Robert Price, in his book "The Amazing Colossal Apostle" suggests that Paul's letters date from the late first century CE to the second century CE. While we differ on where to assign a re-dating of Paul, we both recognize that there is no reason to hold to traditional dating. In his post, "How do we know the Apostle Paul Wrote His Epistles in the 50's AD", Richard Carrier acknowledges that "I don’t consider this matter as settled as mainstream scholars do. Paul’s Epistles do fit remarkably well the 50s B.C." However, he still wishes to maintain the traditional timeline.

Some other points to consider: According to the Acts Seminar, “Acts and Christian Beginnings”,

*Christianity did not begin in Jerusalem. It likely began in a Hellenized region.
*Acts was written in the second century.
*The author of Acts was writing a theological apologetic, not history.
*Acts cannot be considered a source for Paul’s biography.
*Acts must be considered non-historical unless proven otherwise.

I started questioning how we would assign a chronology to Paul without the gospels and Acts; that is, if we just discovered Paul's writings in a cave and didn't have the baggage of tradition and presuppositions about his timeline and the timeline of Christian origins, how would we date them? This question is so important that it should be repeated. Since we have no contemporary external data referring to Paul, we are essentially in that position of having just found his writings in a cave. Relying solely on internal clues, how would we assign a date of authorship to these writings. I began a survey of the boring details regularly skipped over by exegetes who are in a hurry to get to the theology; the people Paul mentioned, places mentioned, events, and terminology used, all in the attempt to find historical clues to tie him to a particular timeline. Very quickly, it became apparent that there is no historical marker referenced in Paul's writings which tie him to the traditional timeline, once the historical Jesus is removed from the equation. Yet, Paul does mention quite a few people, events, places, and terms which elicit questions vis a vis the traditional chronology as well as his identity and that of his addressees. After examining the clues available, it has become apparent to me that his timeline is defective and needs to be reassessed. At the same time, it would appear that his biography needs a second look.

Faith is Unscientific So it Justifies Believing Without Evidence

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Biblical Fideism and the Demise of Modern Christianity

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In Roman late antiquity, we observe the steady eclipse of classical mythology, and all of its pluralism, with a singular enforced “orthodox” Christian mythology. As anthropologist Franz Boas observed over a century ago, “mythological worlds had been built up, only to be shattered again, and new worlds were built from the fragments.” Many, including me in my own published work, have documented the survival of prior forms and their rebranded continuity in early Christian mythology. What is often lost on modern observers, the point this essay aims to correct, has been the continuity of the prior cultic doxastic indulgence through the system of myths and legends that provided the bedrock of the new religion; It is as though the D.C. universe had been replaced with the Marvel universe, both fantastical worlds intentionally elevated from the mundane quotidian world of realia known both to us and to the ancients.

Earliest critics of the religion (100-250 C.E.), as I have discussed previously, described the nascent religion as a fraudulent superstitio, a system of cultic tall tales, myths, and legends to be accepted despite lacking and contrary evidence. Converts willfully embraced the fantastical world presented by the cultic movement as a strategy for ascesis, the philosophical transcendence of base human drives and the societal structures configured to tailor to such primitive impulses. Modern interpreters who investigate the earliest Christian reception and use of the New Testament, upon initial exposure, consistently encounter the befuddling replete reality of the ascetical function of these writings, as well as the early Christian preoccupation with allegorical (non-literalist) readings. Epistemic “knowledge” argumentation and evidentialist ground for any rational propositional case were conspicuously absent (not merely non-central) in the early Christian apologetic tradition. But why???

“The age of Jesus was not an age of critical reflection…”

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Kooks, quacks, lunatics, and con artists


It has been my depressing experience, a couple of times in recent years, to attend services at Catholic churches. Once for a funeral, once for a wedding. On both occasions—one for grief, one for joy—the Mass was celebrated: the theatre, the spectacle, of magic. Here were citizens of the modern world: they survive and thrive because they have a pretty good grasp of the realities of life. They know what to do to raise families, acquire cars and houses, pursue careers, plan vacations, and build portfolios for retirement. 

 

Their family entertainments commonly include Disney and superhero movies—and, of course, the Harry Potter adventures. These make-believe worlds are fun, because on-screen magic is fun. But why, in the world of church theatre, is the magic taken seriously? During both ceremonies I witnessed, members of the congregation approached the priest—in splendid theatrical costume—to receive a fragment of the body of their god: to eat their god. On some occasions they drink its blood as well.

Why Did Randal Rauser Recommend "God and Horrendous Suffering"?

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Inquiring Minds Want to Know!
As a Christian apologist, I can say that there is no intellectual objection to Christianity more daunting than the problem of horrendous suffering. In this important new book, John Loftus has gathered a diverse collection of voices that seek to build a comprehensive, multi-pronged critique of Christianity based on this most difficult problem. No Christian apologist can afford to ignore it.

-- Dr. Randal Rauser, Professor of Historical Theology, Taylor Seminary, and co-author of God or Godless. Source.
You can get this book from the Global Center for Religious Research. To read a nice summary introduction of the problem of horrendous suffering read this.

It should be noted that despite his high recommendation of my work, Rauser is on a mission to discredit it, pejoratively calling me a "New Atheist" and a "Fundamentalist". He did a video about this where the only comment under it after 13 hours is, "This is stupid", by WCB. Hardy har har har!

God Gets a Big Fat F

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God’s Inexcusable Negligence/Incompetence

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It’s as if he isn’t all-powerful—or doesn’t exist

“…seven-year-old Adrian Jones was tortured repeatedly with some of the most inhumane practices, including being left standing overnight neck-deep in the family’s filthy swimming pool and being forced to exercise for hours without rest. In the end, he was confined to a shower stall where he was starved to death as he screamed through a vent, ‘I’m going to die.’ His torturers fed his corpse to pigs.”   

 

This is one of several cases mentioned by Darren Slade in his essay, “Failed to Death: Misotheism and Childhood Torture,” in the John Loftus anthology, God and Horrendous Suffering. Slade explains that “failed to death” (FTD) “…originated from a 2012 investigative series by The Denver Post and 9News that examined the murder of 175 children in Colorado who were beaten, starved, suffocated, frozen, or burned to death.”  (page 123)

Jesus Will Do Away With Democracy!

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Perhaps in the comments someone can document what Fred Kohn wrote on Facebook. It needs some extended elaboration into other important areas, like theocracy and punishment.

Christianity is inherently theocratic, just like we find with the Hebrew religion in the Old Testament. It's wrapped in the language and culture of its day, which includes theocracy. The same language in Revelation says Jesus is expected to reign in a kingdom over people on earth, and later in heaven.

A reign over people assumes a theocracy. That was the political philosophy adopted in the Ancient Near Eastern world. The biblical god and his son are tied to a form of government that is rejected by modern, educated, civilized people. One cannot have a kingdom without doing away with democracy. So Jesus will do away with democracy! Christians still talk of a kingdom and a reigning Jesus. Heil Jesus! We also see this includes ancient forms of punishment that a king will inflict upon the disobedient. What could be problematic about this?

A Pop Quiz for Christians

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There would be a lot of Cs, Ds & Fs 

There are, of course, so many different kinds of Christians: from snake-handling cults in Appalachia (see Mark 16:17-18) to High-Church Anglicans who hold on to the resurrection as a metaphor—and thousands of varieties in between. James B. Twitchell put a humorous twist on it: “A Baptist is a Christian who learned how to wash; a Methodist is a Baptist who had learned to read; a Presbyterian is a Methodist who has gone to college; and an Episcopalian is a Presbyterian whose investments have turned out well.” (p. 31, Shopping for God: How Christianity Went from In Your Heart to In Your Face, 2007) Based on my own experience as a pastor, I know Christians exist on a scale, from lukewarm occasional churchgoers to those who are committed enthusiasts—they mean it when they tell us they “belong to Jesus."

The Case Against Miracles

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I thought I knew a lot on these topics—inasmuch as I was once a born-again Christian myself and made these arguments, then became a born-again Skeptic debating believers—but I learned more from reading this one book than all other works combined. The Case against Miracles belongs in every library and personal bookcase of both believers and skeptics. LINK

--From the Foreword by Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine.



Let's Debate The Real Issues!

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I am being asked to a debate, so I offered two possible debate questions:

Is it reasonable to believe in miracles based solely on 2nd 3rd 4th handed testimony?

Is it reasonable to believe in a good god given horrendous suffering?

The End of Christianity

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“No collection better demonstrates how taking Christianity seriously reveals its all too human origin. This superb, often witty, and exceedingly well-researched collection explains how early Christianity is only a pale resemblance of any of the diverse Christian sects today. As well, the authors reveal how vastly improbable Christian dogmas are, such as the notion that a god designed the universe; that life replete with personal identity continues after death; that hell represents divine justice; and the claim that morality is exclusively Christian. Overall, very sobering for Christians, and so wonderfully delightful for the rest of us.”
—Malcolm Murray, PhD, associate professor of philosophy, University of Prince Edward Island; author of The Atheist’s PrimerLINK