Rule Number One for Bible Reading: Question Everything

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Curiosity is the cure for faith



“Where did this story come from?” “Where did the author find his information?” “Why did the translator add a footnote?” “Does this story deserve to be in sacred scripture?” Question everything. But maybe this kind of curiosity is too much work, and it undermines the intent of those who promote the Bible as the indispensible foundation for faith. They want you to inhale, to soak in the spiritual meaning that every Bible chapter provides. But when we question everything, it turns out that spiritual meaning is often absent. Or contrived. Religious bureaucrats have tried too hard. A lot of folks have turned away from the faith because there is so much in the Bible that is worthless—or at least trends toward that end of the spectrum.

Evidence Abounds against the Importance of the Philosophy of Religion

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The evidence against the importance of the Philosophy of Religion is found exactly where we would expect it to be found. Just consider what it would take to be convinced that Christianity is true. The overwhelming answer is not philosophy. It's the requirement for sufficient objective evidence. See for yourselves in four definitive answers given by four different atheist writers. LINK. Our answers revolve around the five most powerful reasons not to believe. Spread the word, and don't forget to mention my book Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End.

New Blog Header!

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Above you'll see the books of the authors here at DC. Besides mine we have books by Robert Conner, Franz Kiekeben, Dr. David Madison, Dr. Richard C. Miller, and Tim Sledge [alphabetized with links to one of their amazing books on Amazon]. After my final two books we'll do another blog header photo. See both of these books described here: Varieties of Jesus Mythicism: Did He Even Exist? and God and Horrendous Suffering. They should be available in just a couple of months!

Dr. Kip Davis Concerning Josh McDowell's Dishonest Conversion Story

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Dr. Kip Davis on evidence that demands a verdict concerning Josh McDowell's dishonest conversion story, and what it says about McDowell's apologetics. If you skip to 48:26 you'll hear a brief summary of Davis's points and a powerful conclusion. Then go back and watch the whole damnable thing.



Christian “Truth” in Shreds: Epic Takedown 4

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“…helping humanity wean itself off of the Bible…”



“Bibliolatry is the worship of a book, idolatrous homage to a book, or the deifying of a book. It is a form of idolatry. The sacred texts of some religions disallow icon worship, but over time the texts themselves are treated as sacred the way idols are, and believers may end up effectively worshipping the book.” So says Wikipedia, and adds that, “Historically, Christianity has never endorsed worship of the Bible, reserving worship for God.” I suspect this is just flat-out wrong.

Phil Bair On Extraordinary Evidence For Miracles

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Phil Bair was suggested by James K. Walker to debate me. Walker is a Christian apologist and former Mormon who is President at Watchman Fellowship. I hadn't heard of Phil before. But he seems smart enough. Anyone who has read my anthology on miracles and still disagrees gets my attention. 

Phil offered two objections to my defense of the aphorism, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." 

ONE) Phil Bair: “You have no criteria for identifying what qualifies as extraordinary evidence for an extraordinary claim.” My response:

Peter Boghossian Got Fed Up So He Quit!

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Here is Dr. Boghossian's resignation letter. I don't have the time to express my thoughts on the complex issues involved. But this is sad to me. I have appreciated my friend Peter over the years. I greatly appreciate his game changing book, A Manual for Creating Atheists. His emphasis on the inadequacies of faith and the importance of the Socratic Method for seeking belief change are of the upmost importance. This focus alone creates atheists. [See tag below]

He has been a great encourager of what I do. He has invited me into his atheism class via Skype and Zoom to talk with his students. He wrote a fantastic chapter in my anthology Christianity is Not Great and some blurbs for a few of my books, most notably the one on miracles, and my last one on horrendous suffering. He is truly a gadfly just like Socrates. I wish him all the best. If he does nothing else he has changed the world. But I suspect he's not done yet.

Where Was God When This Happened? Part 18

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The scandal of divine incompetence


In the face of massive human and animal suffering, Christian apologists offer tired clichés:

·      God works in mysterious ways

·      God has a larger plan that we cannot see or know about

·      To preserve our free will, God chooses not to interfere

Yet no hard evidence is offered to back up these speculations to exonerate God. They are mediocre theological responses to crises in the real world. 

In fact, Christian theology itself undermines any credible concept of a good, competent God. God is watching carefully, i.e., Christianity is totalitarian monotheism. 

Nothing we do escapes his notice: “I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

Moreover, prayer works because God can even read our minds. Christians believe in, love, worship, and sing songs to this God who pays such close attention to every human being.

Bad, Mediocre, Alarming Jesus Quotes

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 “Calling out a silent rebellion…”


Here is my interview with Clint Heacock of the MindShift Podcast, about my new book, Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words. I hope to reach a wide audience of Christians, urging them to honestly face the many sayings of Jesus they simply ignore. In the book’s Introduction, I state my agenda:

 

I’m calling out a silent rebellion by followers of Jesus—including many of his most devout disciples—against some of his key teachings. One characteristic of these teachings is that if they were uttered by anyone other than Jesus, these same believers would reject them immediately and openly, instead of pretending they must mean something else or are too mysterious to grasp.”

 

The book’s website includes the Table of Contents and a chart of 292 Jesus quotes that fall into four categories. (1) Preaching about the end times; (2) scary extremism; (3) bad advice and bad theology; (4) the unreal Jesus of John’s gospel.

 

Posted by David Madison, PhD Biblical Studies


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John Beversluis, "The Gospel According to Whom? A Nonbeliever Looks at The New Testament and its Contemporary Defenders" 6

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Beversluis%2BMeme
I'm posthumously posting six chapters from an unfinished book sent to me for comment in 2008 by the late John Beversluis (see Tag below). This is chapter 6, his last chapter on John the Baptist.

God in Hiding

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Supreme Creepiness


A tribal Near Eastern deity meticulously observes our every thought, word, and deed, or so the biblical texts teach their impressionable reader. The New Testament introduces this deity to converts as an all-loving parent-figure, yet—how weird and creepy can this get—an inaccessible parent who watches his “children” as if through well-stationed peepholes and hidden surveillance cams, never approaching them, speaking to them audibly, hugging them, cooking them a meal, or providing for them in any palpable, direct (read “evident”) way. According to Christian theology, the deity is “present” actively “loving” his creation; yet the cosmos machinates on in cold silence, not admitting the slightest evidence of this alleged fatherly care. Biblical religion instead requires of converts a sheer fideism, a make-believe mental assertion of divine presence and supreme love in the face of the contrary, what Luther called the deus absconditus, the god who hides.

Unteachable Christians Come Out of the Woodwork

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Glimpses of Arrogant, Aggressive Ignorance


I’ve been in book-promotion mode since my new book was published last week: Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught. One of the things I did was arrange an ad on Facebook. I carefully selected the target audience, e.g., atheist, humanist, freethinker, secular. Facebook gave me an estimate of how many people would be reached, which was pretty impressive. But as it turned out, many people who were not in my selected targets got included. That is, the ad popped up on the timelines of Christians. The reaction was predictable: Hell hath no fury...like an offended Christian.

"Send Proof" To Hit Theatres in September!

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Look for this Christian documentary in September. It bills itself as examining medical evidence for supernatural miracles, and in engaging skeptics. I was interviewed for it. "Leading atheist and skeptic voices featured in the film include authors Michael Shermer, John Loftus and James Randi who provide their perspectives." Send Proof LINK. This is quite an honor as you might guess. I hope I did my part justice.

Texas's Abortion Law and the Original Meaning of the Constitution

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My brother and Me

With the Deviousness of the Texas's Abortion Law the Texas GOP theocrats have effectively found a way to gut Roe v. Wade, and it's disgustingly appalling to me.

I was talking with my older brother this past weekend who said Trump's nominees to the Supreme Court were the best actions of this twice impeached one term past President. He said the nine Justices ought to make their decisions based on the original intent of the Constitution. This should be the main qualification for Supreme Court Justices, since they are not part of the legislative branch of the government. 

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

Three Papers For Consideration By Dr. David Kyle Johnson

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The Crux of the Problem for Believers

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Testimonial%2Bevidence%2Bquote
The crux of the issue with regard to Christianity and other miracle based religions--especially when it comes to unverifiable and unfalsifiable miracles in the past--is this one. Dr. David Madison has repeatedly challenged believers to come up with a revelation from a god that has been verified for all. So far there are no claimants. The intractable difficultly is that there is no miracle claim in the Bible that has any--and I mean any--objective evidence for it at all! None! At all! Much less sufficient objective evidence. LINK. So I find it strange that anyone--and I mean anyone--takes the miracle claims in the Bible seriously, along with the apologists who defend them despite not having any--and I mean any--objective evidence for them.

John Beversluis, "The Gospel According to Whom? A Nonbeliever Looks at The New Testament and its Contemporary Defenders" 5:2

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Beversluis%2BMeme
I'm posthumously posting six chapters from an unfinished book sent to me for comment in 2008 by the late John Beversluis (see Tag below). This is part 2 of 2 parts of his fifth chapter on the virgin birth narratives. I would disagree with Beversluis that Jesus was good moral person who offered good moral advice, but he was influenced by Thomas Paine and Jefferson's writings. [On this issue see Dr. David Madison's excellent newly dropped book!]




The Three Stages of Christians' COVID Prayers

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This is an insightful essay on COVID prayers by Captain Cassidy. LINK.

Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught

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The popular practice of ignoring Jesus


Increasingly, in recent decades, core Christian beliefs have been subjected to withering criticism and analysis. The problem of suffering keeps getting in the way of accepting that there is a caring, competent God in charge, as I discussed in my article here last week, God’s Credibility Is Running on Empty. But specifics of Christian doctrine also appear, after all, to be untenable: careful study of the Easter stories in gospels demonstrates that they fail to qualify as history. See especially, (1) Jonathan MS Pearce, The Resurrection: A Critical Examination of the Easter Story; (2) Michael J. Alter, The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry; (3) John Loftus’ essay, “The Resurrection of Jesus Never Took Place,” in his anthology, The Case Against Miracles; (4) Richard Carrier’s essay, “Dying-and-Rising Gods: It’s Pagan, Guys. Get Over It.”

 

I suspect that many Christians themselves sense that suffering—especially when it arrives calamitously in their own lives—damages their faith in God’s goodness. But the resurrection stories probably are naively accepted because the faithful have been conditioned to tolerate the high levels of fantasy and magical thinking in the gospels. They may stumble a bit if they read Matthew’s story about a lot of dead people walking out of their tombs on Easter morning, but the acclamation, “He is risen!” is usually not diminished. The apostle Paul seems to have locked in this belief: “…if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

Jonathan MS Pearce's Book, "The Resurrection: A Critical Examination of the Easter Story" is doing well on Amazon UK!

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Pearce used to write for us here at DC. Yesterday his book was doing better on Amazon UK than the book by Dawkins! Check his book out. I wrote a provocative blurb for it:
Hitchens’s Razor, not Bayes’s Theorem, is the proper tool to use against the “absolute baselessness” of the resurrection belief (per David F. Strauss, as quoted in this book). There’s no objective evidence for it. The testimonial evidence is abysmally poor. We should therefore dismiss this superstitious belief for what it is (per Hitchens). However, if you want to take such a belief seriously, read this thoroughly documented terminal case against the resurrection based on the latest research! This is the only book you'll need. Pearce is your expert guide on all the essential issues.
I back up my claim about Hitchen's Razor right here.

Tom Flynn has died. It's quite a loss. His life made a difference!

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This is sad sad news!! He was my friend. A good man. A thoughtful man. He died at my age, 66. This is unsettling news as well. LINK.

Why the Church Keeps Getting Covid Wrong, by Neil Carter

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masked woman with arms folded in front of a church
This is a guest post by Neil Carter, a former evangelical who now lives as a skeptic in the deep South. It originally was posted here
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I live in the Deep South, and now that the Delta variant is here, I'm back to wearing a mask again wherever I go. School started back for us last week, and masks are mandatory because our district doesn't have any wealthy white people bullying the school board into disregarding the pleas of every hospital and infectious disease expert in the country. 
Americans don't appreciate expertise in general, in case you haven't noticed. Even the ones who have achieved mastery in one discipline seem to believe that makes them know as much as the experts in all other fields as well. Where I live, people are quick to believe that a radiologist on FOX News or OANN knows more about viruses than an actual epidemiologist featured on any other network. They can't seem to tell the difference---or worse, they just don't care. 
Christianity in America compounds this problem because it already has a strong anti-intellectual bent built into its source material. The Bible is replete with examples of Yahweh instructing his people to do the opposite of what seems logical in order to highlight the miraculousness of their delivery in the end. "Lean not on your own understanding," the Good Book says, as does the framed word art in millions of homes all over the country. 

John Beversluis, "The Gospel According to Whom? A Nonbeliever Looks at The New Testament and its Contemporary Defenders" 5:1

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Beversluis%2BMeme
I'm posthumously posting six chapters from an unfinished book sent to me for comment in 2008 by the late John Beversluis (see Tag below). In this fifth chapter Beversluis writes about the birth of Jesus. This is part 1 of 2 parts. I've highlighted a few gems from him.

CHAPTER FOUR: A PREGNANT VIRGIN:

Matthew and Luke are the only Gospels that record the birth of Jesus (Matthew 2:1-23 and Luke 2:1-19). Mark says nothing about it and starts his Gospel thirty years later with the appearance of John the Baptist on the scene. The Gospel of John is, as always, a case unto itself. It starts with a famous (and Hellenistically flavored) passage about “the Word” (logos) that existed “in the beginning” and goes on to say that this Word was not only with God, but was God (John 1:1). The only allusion to the birth of Jesus is the subsequent remark that this Word “was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:11)—a remark that is so oblique that anybody unfamiliar with Matthew and Luke would never guess John was talking about the same person whose birth they record in their Gospels. John has no interest in the so-called “baby Jesus.” He sees his birth in cosmic metaphysical terms—as the incarnation of a pre-existing celestial Logos who not only was God, but who also the Creator of universe (“All things were made by him; and without him was not made anything that was made” (1:3). This heavy-duty (and stoically-influenced philosophical) terminology is completely foreign to Matthew and Luke who are comparative lowbrows concerned only with various factual details about the story.

God’s Credibility Is Running on Empty

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His “goodness” is hard to detect



In case this hasn’t come to your attention: one of the bullets that struck Pope John Paul II, 13 May 1981, was later inserted into the crown of our Lady of Fátima in Portugal. The pope was sure that Mary had guided the bullet to miss a vital artery, thus sparing his life. This conviction arose from his deep piety, but for those of us who are skeptical of the brain-on-piety, we wonder why Mary hadn’t guided the bullet to miss the pope altogether. Something is wrong with this theology.

The Amateurishness and Toxicity of Randal Rauser

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Benjamin Blake Speed Watkins put up a twofold discussion starter question on Twitter, which he's very good at doing. He asked, "What are ways that atheists and theists can raise the level of discourse online? How do we get these discussions to look more like philosophy?" 
Presumably he's addressing our lower levels of discourse and our lower levels of philosophy. He wanted to know how we can raise them up to better, higher standards. In what follows you'll see an egregious example of the problem he seeks to address. Since he can be a bit provocative at times, I began with something provocative.

Where Was God When This Happened? Part 17

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The scandal of divine incompetence


In the face of massive human and animal suffering, Christian apologists offer tired clichés:

·      God works in mysterious ways

·      God has a larger plan that we cannot see or know about

·      To preserve our free will, God chooses not to interfere

Yet no hard evidence is offered to back up these speculations to exonerate God. They are mediocre theological responses to crises in the real world. 

In fact, Christian theology itself undermines any credible concept of a good, competent God. God is watching carefully, i.e., Christianity is totalitarian monotheism. 

Nothing we do escapes his notice: “I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

Moreover, prayer works because God can even read our minds. Christians believe in, love, worship, and sing songs to this God who pays such close attention to every human being.

Here's a Good Interview with "The Bryce is Right!"

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John Beversluis, "The Gospel According to Whom? A Nonbeliever Looks at The New Testament and its Contemporary Defenders" 4

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I'm posthumously posting six chapters from an unfinished book sent to me for comment in 2008 by the late John Beversluis (see Tag below). In this chapter Beversluis makes mincemeat of the characters in the Nativity Narratives as being confused and/or irrational if we take the story as historical truth. I've highlighted a few gems from him.

Dr. Hector Avalos Celebration of Life

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Today at 1 PM CDT will be a celebration of the life of Dr. Hector Avalos. Please join us. Click to read his influence here at Debunking Christianity. This is the first listing of his writings at DC.

Dr. Hector Avalos Has Died. He was a one man demolition machine when it came to debunking Christianity!

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My heart just broke at the news that Dr. Hector Avalos just died. He was a Harvard trained biblical scholar, my friend, and team member here at DC. He died after a battle with cancer. Here is his obituary He'll be missed greatly! I wept at the news. 
My heartfelt sympathies go out to his wife Cynthia and other loved ones and friends. I loved this man. I loved his scholarship. I loved him for his support of my work. I loved his demeanor and resolve. He was the greatest scholar I've ever personally met and known. He should go down in history as the greatest biblical scholar in our generation. You may disagree but that's my assessment. He made a huge difference. He will be greatly missed.
This pic of us together was taken in 2011 in South Bend, Indiana, when Hector was in my area giving a series of talks on religious violence. It was during a very short period of time when I had shaved off my goatee. His wife Cynthia took it.
Here's what I wrote about him in the dedication to my book, How to Defend the Christian Faith, as one of the scholarly friends who greatly influenced my thinking:
I dedicate this book to Hector Avalos who is expertly leading a second wave of atheist biblical scholars following the first wave of new atheists. His writings are multidisciplinary in scope (covering biblical, scientific, ethical and political issues) utilizing a variety of venues (scholarly books, journals, blog posts and newspapers), and cross-cultural in scope (in both English and Spanish). He is a one man demolition machine when it comes to debunking Christianity and its influence in today’s world. 
I first gained Hector's attention when I highly recommended his book The End of Biblical Studies. Then he joined the team of writers here at DC. Here are a few of his early postsHe was relentless in countering ignorance when he was maligned. He responded with scholarship, firmness and as a gentleman. I liked how he would almost always ask his opponent a few hard questions to answer at the end. 
We had a mutual admiration for each other. He came to my defense several times when I was under attack, for which I was thankful. Imagine having a biblical scholar defending you as a verbal pit bull!  
In honor of his legacy I'm asking people buy up his books. See the marquee of his books pictured at the header of this blog. Get his flagship book, The End of Biblical Studies, plus Slavery, Abolition, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship, then The Bad Jesus; The Ethics of New Testament Ethics, and also The Reality of Religious Violence.
To see how he supported my work, below is the Foreword Hector wrote for my book Christianity is Not Great: Why Faith Fails. I share it to let readers know what he thinks is important. He thinks my work is important. If you value his opinion perhaps you should too. 

Christian “Truth” in Shreds: Epic Takedown 3

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“…the greatest prank in history.”

 

It’s almost entertaining to watch liberal Christians squirm out of the clear messages of the New Testament. John’s gospel declares that Jesus is “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Jesus inherited that role as a human sacrifice after animal sacrifice had come to an end with the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE.  So this idea is firmly anchored in Christian doctrine by John’s gospel—and elsewhere, of course—so Christianity is stuck with it. Yet, in a 20 April 2019 article in the New York Times, Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary, said: 

 

“The pervasive idea of an abusive God-father who sends his own son to the cross so God could forgive people is nuts.”

Where Was God When This Happened? Part 16

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The scandal of divine incompetence


In the face of massive human and animal suffering, Christian apologists offer tired clichés:

·      God works in mysterious ways

·      God has a larger plan that we cannot see or know about

·      To preserve our free will, God chooses not to interfere

Yet no hard evidence is offered to back up these speculations to exonerate God. They are mediocre theological responses to crises in the real world. 

In fact, Christian theology itself undermines any credible concept of a good, competent God. God is watching carefully, i.e., Christianity is totalitarian monotheism. 

Nothing we do escapes his notice: “I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

Moreover, prayer works because God can even read our minds. Christians believe in, love, worship, and sing songs to this God who pays such close attention to every human being.

A terrifying new theory: Fake news, conspiracy theories [and religions] as an evolutionary strategy

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Hat Tip to Robert Conner for this news item. Here are a few snippets:

"Human beings have an evolutionary history, and deception is commonplace in the animal world because it confers evolutionary advantage. There's good reason to believe we're not so different, other than the fact that humans are ultra-social creatures. In ancestral and evolutionary terms, being part of a successful social group was every bit as essential as food and water. So deception among humans evolved from group conflicts."

"So what we're trying to understand is, why people believe things that must be false. The traditional narrative is, 'Well if you believe false things, then you must be stupid. It must be because you haven't really made an effort to actually figure out what is going on." But over the last few decades, more and more research has accumulated that suggests that's not the case. In fact the people who are responsible for spreading misinformation are not those who know the least about politics. They actually know quite a lot about politics. In that sense, knowledge doesn't guard against believing things that are false."

"But because we humans are exceptionally complex, another way to signal our loyalty is through the beliefs that we hold. We can signal loyalty to a group by having a certain set of beliefs, and then the question is, "Well, what is the type of belief through which we can signal that we belong?" First of all, it should be a belief that other people are not likely to have, because if everyone has this belief, then it's not a very good signal of group loyalty. It needs to be something that other people in other groups do not have. The basic logic at work here is that anyone can believe the truth, but only loyal members of the group can believe something that is blatantly false." LINK.

A New Testament Profile in Fanaticism

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Please STOP calling him “saint” Paul




Astute readers usually want to know an author’s sources, especially if they’re reading history. Professional historians cite their sources, commonly in extensive footnotes and bibliographies. It’s also satisfying to know how novelists have been impacted by personal trauma or just ordinary experience: what fires their imaginations?

 

But the church—in so many of its manifestations—has managed to blunt curiosity about stories in the Bible, which is passed off as “word of God.” The awkward, alarming texts are treated as metaphor, symbolism, hyperbole…all meant, the folks in the pews are assured, to convey spiritual meaning. There is little prodding or encouragement for laypeople to ask, where did this story come fromAnd this is a necessary first step in trying to determine if the story is true. Is it fact or fiction? Is it fantasy, and is the claim that it has spiritual meaning simply a dodge? There’s little incentive to get to the bottom of things.

Where Was God When This Happened? Part 15

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The scandal of divine incompetence



In the face of massive human and animal suffering, Christian apologists offer tired clichés:

·      God works in mysterious ways

·      God has a larger plan that we cannot see or know about

·      To preserve our free will, God chooses not to interfere

Yet no hard evidence is offered to back up these speculations to exonerate God. They are mediocre theological responses to crises in the real world.