Hector Avalos On Why He Rejected Christianity

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Dr. Avalos is the author of The End of Biblical Studies, which is part of the DC Challenge.

Dinesh D'Souza Debates Daniel Dennett - Part 1

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Part 2 can be found below. The rest should be easy enough to find...

Spinning Plates and Souls: Salvation and Christianity

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When I was a youth back in the early to mid sixties, I (along with my family) would watch the Ed Sullivan Show. While I did not care much for the singers, I was fascinated by the magicians and acrobatics he would have on.

One of my most memorable stunts Ed had on was a man who was fast with his hand and on his feet. This individual claimed he could place a plate one a stick, give the plate a spin and keep the plate balanced and spinning on the stick by moving the supporting stick under the plate in a circular movement. What fascinated me more was that this man said he was going to try and get twenty or more plates spinning on their sticks at the same time. However, as he started more and more plates spinning on their sticks, he had to constantly return to the early plates to add more energy to the sticks to keep the plates spinning or, as the slowed in their motion, they would shatter as they hit the floor.

Even though this individual was fast with his hands and feet, after he had set the twelfth plate spinning, the earlier ones would began to wobble and many fell off their sticks breaking on the floor. Although he got about twelve plats spinning, the rate of plates slowing to a wobble, losing gyroscopic balance and breaking as they hit the floor increased until he reached a point where he was just (pardon the pun) breaking even.

Like the plate spinner on the Ed Sullivan Show, evangelical Christianity is spinning “souls” on the stick of faith though emotionalism and the illogics of theology called dogma. Just as in the first two Great Awakenings, evangelical Christianity is constantly proselytizing souls for the Kingdom of God only to have many earlier souls looses their spiritual momentum, began to wobble in their faith and, if not pumped back into some gyroscopic spiritual sensationalism (though revivals or some other momentous hype spun by their particular sect or apologetics) they mentally break as they hit the floor of reality.

What is interesting here is that as evangelical Christianity races about to apologetically pump sticks of the faithful to regain lost spiritual gyroscopic energy, Christianity is itself changing or evolving as the spiritual realm moves closer to bridge the gap between it and the secular world (see my post on : The Fabrication of Religious “Truth”).

But in the world of faith, Christianity has an apologetic explanation. From the Protestant perspective, those souls who are able to ignore the secular world (either thought denial or some form of so-called Scriptural Separation) are usually labeled Calvinist. Those who wobble in their faith and mentally break on the floor of secular reality are considered as either “never saved” or, as the followers of Jacobus Arminius would put it: “They lost their salvation”. But at the very least, when the Christian mind is no long able to support the real conflict between the dual spiritual and secular mental perspectives, the saved soul is cited as “having lost the joy of their salvation”.

It is in just such a world and a decade after the death of one the major spiritual pillars and plate spinners known as Mother Teresa (set on a fast track for Catholic sainthood) that we will find many more spirituals plates began to wobble and fall. Though Mother Teresa was heralded by both Catholics and Protestants as a spiritual giant, her letters reveal a soul tormented by doubt of the divine to the point where she began to sound in like a “neo-atheist”.

In the end, this major spiritual plate spinner privately confessed that she came to accept and love her “godless spiritual darkness”.

God Limits Himself

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This argument is intended to provide the warrant (underlying principle) for the Atheist argument that the Problem of Evil negates a perfectly Just, Moral, Benevolent, Good, etcetera, God. It intends to show that the principle or Warrant comes from God himself. This is the first in a series of articles that create a complex argument against the existence of the Christian God.

It is believed that the bible is revelation from god. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness". In the bible, if he has not authored it himself, he has at least approved of being labeled as Good, Just, Merciful, Reasonable and Trustworthy among other things. Since God has approved of this to be said about himself, he implicitly agrees to behave that way. These are his limitations to his behavior. For example a trustworthy person will act in a way that supports that characteristic and is prohibited from acting in ways that negate the trustworthy characteristic. They are limited by their commitment to be trustworthy.

Goodness, Justice, Morality, Mercy and Reasonableness have a meaning and have characteristics that are more or less consistent between languages such as hebrew, Greek and English, to name a few. So If God has approved of these labels being applied to him, he has implicitly agreed to behave in a way that supports those characteristics. He has in effect limited his own behavior to comply with his self-proclaimed characteristics. If he is trustworthy, he will behave in a way that supports that characteristic. If he is reasonable, he will act in way that supports that characteristic.

Morality has meaning to us, and God has agreed to be Moral, therefore in order to appear Moral to us he must agree to behave in a way that doesn't violate enough moral principles to negate that characteristic.

- God is moral.
- the set of morality as understood by humans contains a set, or subset of moral principles.
- God has properties similar to the set of human moral principles.
- We say god is moral because we compare him to the set of principles comprising the set of morality. Otherwise we have no basis for the comparison.

So now if pick a valid principle out of the set of morality, and see if it can be compared to god, this should be a valid test of Gods similarity to the set of morality that we are comparing him to.

Additionally let’s add these qualifiers.
- We are made in gods image,
- God loved us so much that he have his only son so that none should perish

So how moral is god? How many of our characteristics of morality does god possess? And if we make a list of moral principles, and we compare it to god’s behavior can we come up with a value of "how moral is god when compared to our set of moral values"?

Then if we say that some principles in our set are "universal morals" I'd be willing to bet I could get a consensus that god violates some of those "universal moral" principles. A lot of them have been written about here on DC.

If god Violates a Moral principle he becomes less moral. This affects his trustworthiness in a negative direction.

If we say that it is reasonable to impose this set of morals on a human, and we say that god is moral, then we can say in some respect it should be valid to impose this set of morals on god. If we can't, then saying that god is moral is meaningless, especially, perfectly moral. So if humans cannot possibly be more moral than god, then God must meet or beat any expectations that we can place on a human. For example, If we say that a human is deficient in morality for condoning slavery, then if god does not at least meet that expectation, then he is deficient as well, unless we can say that violating this principle is not an indicator of a violation of this principle or any shortcoming of morality.

On what grounds does god not need to meet this expectation? On what grounds do people need to this expectation? If people need to meet this expectation and god meets or beats our expectations of morality, then he should be expected to do it to. Not just because I say so, but because it is consistent with what he has approved of to be said about himself, of which he says about himself, should be trustworthy.


Do We Want Religion Taught in Our Schools?

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Penn & Teller Creationism Bullshit

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Daniel C. Dennett has argued that religion should be taught in the public schools. What he proposes is that a teacher should first offer a balanced survey of the various religions and then have the freedom to argue for his particular religious, or non-religious viewpoint. His proposal is to introduce a reasonable discussion of religion into the public classrooms. I suspect the reason is because he thinks that in doing so our children will be introduced to other religious viewpoints, it will require students to actually think about and defend their views, and eventually it will produce doubt into these children who may only be hearing one particular viewpoint from their respective parents and churches. It's an interesting and intriguing proposal, which is what European public schools already allow.

In the Penn & Teller video Christians are arguing the same thing with respect to the evidence for creation over evolution. They want teachers to present both sides of the issue. They think Intelligent Design will win the argument. What do you think of these two proposals? Again, I'm intrigued by them both, primarily because I don't think religious viewpoints will win these debates.

Results From Our Poll on Celebrating the Holidays

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What do you make of them? Here they are...

I celebrate Winter Solstice: 12 (5%)

I celebrate the birth of Jesus: 56 (27%)

I celebrate being with family and friends: 116 (56%)

I don't celebrate it much at all: 38 (18%)

They add up to more than 100% because people could choose more than one option.

The Fabrication of Religious “Truth”

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Truth in religion – especially Christianity- is defined in terms of Dogma. Thus, any attempt to discuss truth in the area of ecclesiastical logic must be done in the terms of Dogma. Accordingly, “The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church” defines dogma as “a religious truth established by Divine Revelation and defined by the Church.”


Within the context of the above definition, we note that religious truth or dogma is subjectively controlled as well having limitations by asking just what is “Divine Revelation” and just how this choice of “Revelation” is “define by the (or which) Church”. Accordingly, the question of religious truth is begged by circular reasoning into an area which can be highly sectarian.

Christian history of doctrine reveals a progressive formulation and reformulation of dogmas set forth by the great church councils such as the First Council of Nicaea (325 CE) as expressed in the Nicene Creed to defend the established or Orthodox Faith against the Arians and to again to try and finalized dogma in the Catholic tradition with Vatican II (ending in 1965). Thus, Christian truth was now defined on one level by western Orthodoxy (that is in the Catholic tradition) and any deviation from this set faith or “truth” could have one labeled as a heretic, infidel or an apostate with punishment ranging from excommunication to death.

Christian dogmatic truth has remained set in orthodoxy until external objectivity caused it to admit that its religious truth as “defined by the Church” when its “Divine Revelation” was forced to admit defeat when faced with new empirical facts. As such, the old dogma of a mythical Biblical three tier cosmos with its geocentric view of the universe was finally replaced as truth almost 400 years latter when Pope John Paul II officially vindicated Galileo in 1995.

In the same vein, the Southern Baptist formalize their dogma of slavery in the antebellum South in1841 on the correct teaching of the New Testament (especially the Pauline Epistles) only to repudiate this very Biblical dogma officially on June 20 1995 when the Baptist leadership voted in a formal “Declaration of Repentance”.

When the “Correct” or Orthodox Tradition can not agree on dogma as derived from “Divine Revelation” (as seen today in the west’s dogma of the Immaculate Conception and Purgatory), then a split occurs in between east and west resulting when the Pope of Rome excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople who, himself, likewise returned the favor in 1054.

Even within the Bible itself, there is no divine prohibition on the outright fabrication of scripture. For example, the Book of Isaiah has at least 4 authors all creating different and new concepts of God under the accepted name of Isaiah most notably in the disconnect between the end of chapter 39 and the start of chapter 40.

During the so-called “Intertestamental Period” (a theological term to devalue non-canonized scripture) was filled with authors trying to shape theology and world views by writing under famous names from the Hebrew Bible such as Enoch, Adam and Eve or 27 other Biblical characters. Such scriptures fabricated under the names of famous characters from the “First Testament” were also accepted as factual by writings canonized in the New Testament such as Peter and Jude (For an excellent discussion on this matter see: The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and the New Testament: Prolegomena for the Study of Christian Origins, by James H. Charlesworth)

Likewise, the New Testament has epistles written under Paul’s name to legitimize new theological truths and gain church order. With such known and out of control fabrications happening to existing texts (along with the creation of new texts under a famous name) the writer of the Book of Revelation invoked a cruse from God on anyone planning on tampering with his work (Rev. 22: 18 -19).

Finally, to show just how religious truth can be fabricated and propagated by an ancient and established orthodox Christian tradition, I would like to recount my situation with the Orthodox Church in Greenville, S.C.: Saint George Greek Orthodox Church.

While attending its annual Greek festival, I went inside to get an introduction to the Greek Orthodox Church and its icons. As I entered, I was given a printed brief history which included the statement that the Greek Orthodox tradition was the TRUE Christian Church established by Jesus himself.

On the wall in the church is a large icon mural of a knight on a white horse who had just slain a dragon. The guide told the visitors that the icon depicted Saint George as a righteous knight who killed a dragon (a creature pictured with bat wings and a snake like neck and head) who had terrorized a village for a number of years. Thus, by killing the evil dragon, George became a Saint and he is honored with this event by the name of this church: Saint George Greek Orthodox Church.

After thinking about this dogma as depicted in one of their holy icons, I decided to call
Saint George Greek Orthodox Church and ask if it was a fact that dragons really existed.
The church’s secretary told me she would have the priest (Father Tom) call to explain the icon.

The phone rang one morning and it was the orthodox priest (Father Tom) from St. George Church who seemed to have been given the impression that I was a potential member.

In short, after a few formalities, the text of the conversation went something as follows:

Harry: Could you tell me about Saint George Killing the dragon.

Father Tom basically recounted what the church guide told me and the other visitors.

Harry: So there were real dragons that flew and could terrorize a medieval village?

Father Tom: Well, the dragon which was killed was in reality Satan and by killing Satan, George freed the village from its destruction.

Harry: So Satan is now dead?

Father Tom: No, Satan is not dead! St. George killed the dragon just as the icon depicts.

Harry: So, again, were there real dragons that flew and could terrorize a medieval villages?

Father Tom: (now getting angry) Who are you? You are not a Greek Orthodox are you?

Harry: No (I decided it was best not to tell him I was an Atheist).

Father Tom: I’ll tell you one thing. You and the rest of you so-called Christians will stand before Christ at the judgment and there you WILL give an account on just why you are not Greek Orthodox.

With that he hung up and I knew no more about the matter of dragons and the icon than before he called.

In the end, I had questioned a divine dogma. When I pushed the point of the fabrication of religious “Truth”, I was given the wrath of God as a future judgment for my soul. And that's par for the course!

God Hates Us All

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God As Accessory To Child Abduction

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Many people are gathered this season participating in the Christmas Holiday. They share the story of Jesus born in the manger, being held and cuddled by his mother and adored by all his visitors, angels and animals. Children act out the story in churches. Some say that christmas is for the children. These are the children that we see. But every season, there are children that we don't see. Children that are missing. Children that have disappeared and we can only hope that nothing bad has happened to them. Lets say that Tom saw a child being abducted but has decided not to get involved. Is Tom culpable of being an Accessory to the Crime? Is there any obligation in principle for Tom to report this Crime? Tom is an accessory to the Crime. There is at least a legal principle for him to report the crime. Now lets change one word in our scenario and see what happens.

Lets say that God saw a child being abducted but has decided not to get involved. Is God culpable of being an Accessory to the Crime? Is there any obligation in principle for God to report this Crime? God is an accessory to the Crime. There is at least a legal principle for him to report the crime.

Wikipedia - Accessory

In some jurisdictions, an accessory is distinguished from an accomplice, who normally is present at the crime and participates in some way. An accessory must generally have knowledge that a crime is being, or will be committed. A person with such knowledge may become an accessory by helping or encouraging the criminal in some way, or simply by failing to report the crime to proper authority. The assistance to the criminal may be of any type, including emotional or financial assistance as well as physical assistance or concealment.

Here is a link to Child Find of America

When they went missing, God was there in his omniscience, omnipotence, omni-benevolence and his "perfect" Justice. Christians can lay down piles of Rhetoric about God valuing Freewill so much that the he won't interfere with the criminals act, but since this is the case, then he values the criminals freewill more and the subsequent act of the criminal more than the freewill of the victim or the safety of the victim, whom in the context of this article are children.

God Violates the very sound principle of reporting a crime when one has knowledge of it. God is Guilty as accessory to crimes associated with missing children.

So as you are looking at baby Jesus laying in the manger and basking in the joy that your children bring you as they sing, play and open their christmas presents in wide-eyed wonder, think about those children that have had their freewill violated and are missing today. Pray God brings them back home tonight, then lets see how many come back home tonight.

Christ Mass

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People get offended when "Christmas" is abreviated as "x-mas." Sounds sinister, no?

But I propose the name "Christ-X" - because it is the second part that is so horrific.

What is a "mass?" In the "mass," the "priests" take bread and wine and claim that they turn it into the ACTUAL BODY AND BLOOD OF JESUS THE CARPENTER TURNED PROPHET!

I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP!!!!

Mass? Christ-mass? I should think that any self-respecting Protestant should find the word offensive! But these days, Christians no longer kill eachother over issues of "transubstantiation versus consubstantiation" - those days are apparently behind us....

AS LONG AS YOU BELIEVE THE DOGMA OF THE TRINITY... (an unbiblical idea) then you are IN THE CLUB!

Never mind that the Magi are said to have read the stars to find Jesus... never mind that a star allegedly parked over a crib without so much as singing the baby therein...

Christmas is the celebration of the long reach of an emperor named Constantine... all else is irrelvant.

Christians partake of pagan rituals (lighting up trees, etc) and talk about the "real meaning of Christmas.." - hah!

While atheists enjoy the festivities of a Christian celebration with wild abandonment...

Ah, it is a strange time...

http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com

Another One Bites the Dust...er, Leaves the Fold

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Here's Brian Green's testimony from two emails sent to me [Used with permission]:

The first one:

I'm a newly deconverted christian who just wanted to thank you for your book and blog which have greatly helped me see the world for what it is (and isn't). It's very freeing not being bound to a restricting and honestly irrational way of life.

Thanks from a fan!

Brian Green

ps: looking forward to the release of your new book!

The second one:
I was born into a Christian home and was born again and began taking my faith seriously after my daughter was born. There were always a few things that didn't seem to make sense, such as why is belief regional (where you live mostly determines how you will believe), and if there is a holy spirit why were the mature Christians no more gifted with the 'fruits of the spirit' than anyone else. In fact the ministry personnel are the worst (my wife works for a church).

So because of these doubts I was really into apologetics and have many books but all of them are from Christian authors. I never thought enough to read any opposing literature. That was until I had a crisis in my marriage and the lack of help and true compassion from our church friends (not unlike your story) that caused me to truly doubt and look elsewhere.

That's when I got your book and was blown away! I couldn't believe the evidence. There were other gods who died and rose again? And the Bible is very inconsistent, which of course was never covered in church. Other books I've read that helped are Dan Barkers Losing Faith in Faith and Gary Lenaires An Infidel Manifesto. These all made so much sense when reading, as opposed to the Christian books that I needed a road map to follow the logic.

This has all happened within the last year and I feel better about myself and my life than ever before. My wife is still a Christian but clearly is seeing my point and I believe she is very close.

Thanks again I read DC every day!

Ex-seminarian (& student of Dembski) Leaves the Fold

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Is it just me or does it seem that many are leaving the fold? His name is Gabe. This is what he wrote:

I broke free from Christian fundamentalism in April 2006. I was a third year student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. This seminary is considered by many to be the intellectual hub of evangelical seminaries. The president of the seminary, Dr. Albert Mohler, has been called "the leading intellectual voice for evangelicals in America." He has been a frequent guest on Larry King Live, debating controversial topics such as gay marriage, abortion, religious tolerance, etc. Dr. William Dembski also teaches at the seminary, who is widely considered the world's leading proponent of Intelligent Design. Dr. Dembski was my professor in the fall semester of 2005.

But with one year left to complete a Masters of Divinity in Theology, I could no longer ignore the questions that were piling up in my mind. My questions and doubts troubled me to the point that I simply could no longer preach and teach something that I wasn't sure if believed any longer. I had become a member of a Southern Baptist church almost a year earlier. I absolutely loved this church, and all three pastors were also students at the seminary. The pastor was a Ph.D student, so I really enjoyed his sermons because they were really "deep" theologically. So when I informed them of my decision to leave the faith, you can imagine their reaction! Shortly after hearing of my decision, they held a Wednesday night service to excommunicate me from the church and "deliver my soul over to satan for the destruction of my flesh and the eternal flames of hell." Here is the email correspondence that took place after I informed them of my decision to leave the faith. Hope you enjoy:

What you Read is What you Get: Taking the Gospel Statements of Jesus at Face Value.

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If the simple one sentence statements of Jesus (as recorded in the four Gospel accounts) can not be taken at face value, the question must be asked: What good are they? Moreover, at just what point are these clear and simple statements (if not taken at face value) make Jesus as a liar?

Lets look at a well know example; a situation where Jesus makes such a clear and simple statements when eating and drinking with his disciples before his death as recorded in all four Gospel accounts: Matt. 26: 26-29 = Mark 14: 22 -25 = Luke 22: 15 – 20 and John 6: 51 – 58:

Of the bread Jesus emphatically states: “This is my body.”
Of the wine Jesus emphatically states: “This is my blood.”

These two statements are not given either as parables or as symbols; they are (as understood in grammatical terms), used as simple demonstrative limiting adjective sentences of possession. Thus, Jesus’ statements are clear and simple; no parables or symbols mentioned or implied.

Now before Protestant Christians claim that Jesus did not know what he was talking about and that he MUST be understood as using metaphors or hyperboles, let see just how the oldest Christian Church – the Roman Catholic Church – understands these Gospel statements when used doing the consecration of the Eucharist as defined at a major church council:

The Council of Trent declared subject to the ecclesiastical penalty of anathema anyone who "denieth, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but saith that He is only therein as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue" and anyone who "saith, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood - the species only of the bread and wine remaining - which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation".

Furthermore, if the Catholic dogma is indeed just plainly mistaken and simply wrong in its understanding of Jesus (as I’m sure many non-Catholics Protestants are sure to argue in their forth coming comments) then - may I ask - just where and just when are the terms Heaven, Hell and Salvation not to be understood as simple metaphors, hyperboles or parables? Or, to put it another way, at what point does Jesus make logical sense for the simple believer who wants to take him at his word?

Fruit Of The Spirit And The Problem Of The Heap

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This article discusses the Flawed Principle of identifying Christians by their outward characteristics.
The problem of the heap, sometimes called the problem of the Beard is stated something like this. When you drop one grain of sand on another, when do you have a heap? Or if a man lets his facial hair grow out when do you call it a beard?

The fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. They are the characteristics that sum up the nine visible attributes of a true Christian life. That's a nice pile of Rhetoric and very appealing to the ego and very convincing if we don't put much thought into it. But each of these in themselves suffer from the problem of the heap as much as they all do together.

Does everyone agree on exactly what love is? When is a person experiencing Joy? What if they drift out of Joy into happiness or just apathy? How much suffering is long-suffering? How much is gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance? If we say that these only apply to Christians, do we really believe that? Aren't there people out there that are not Christians that exhibit these? I think I exhibit them, and some Christian thinkers have admitted their crises in faith. How much faith do they have? Enough to keep their positions that's for sure.

What is the difference between them and me? In some cases they are dishonest to themselves, and sometimes to others, at least I don't profess to be a Christian. I would say that if I went back to church and avoided talking about God, nodded my head and smiled politely in a tolerant politically correct kind of way, no one would know the difference. My fruits would look fine to them.

In any case, if Christians make up a third of the population of the world, and these characteristics can be applied to all categories of people, then the defining characteristic must be Faith because in this context, it would be faith in God. So what we really mean to say is that "you will know them because they profess a belief in Jesus".

So now, back to the heap, how much faith in Jesus is enough? And additionally how much faith in Jesus and how much of any of the rest of the fruits are enough? It seems to me that I could disqualify most of the Christians in any given church I walk into using this criteria. So if those that have enough fruit to be called Christians are few, and you don't know how much is enough, then you don't really know if you are leading a true christian life or not.

All this uncertainty about being a 'true Christian' and not appearing like a Christian to other Christians seems to defy reason. I think we could say that using these criteria is meaningless and I wonder, with all things being equal, why be a Christian? Why participate in the protocol? Most Christians in that 30% probably aren't leading a truly Christian life and as a result are as lost as I am. Its a narrow road, many are called but few are taken, is that how it goes? So of the billions of people on the planet since god allegedly made himself known, less than 30% are chosen. What is the point in that? That's a lot of needless suffering for someone to permit, when he set the conditions ahead of time and knew the outcome before he started. That sounds like predestination to me, and in that case, no matter what you do, you are either saved or not, your name is in the book of life or not. So how much is enough, and are you really saved or do you just think you are? Would another Christian say you are a real Christian? How do they know? By your fruits? But don't your fruits seem fine to you? How do they look to your friends?

Yet Another Unpleasant Truth

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Note: “Mrs. Jane Ortega” and “Michael Ortega” mentioned below are real people whom I have come to know and been corresponding—only their names have been changed to protect their identities. And, uh…well, the letter pretty much explains the rest…


“Dear Mrs. Ortega,

I hope this email finds you doing well. Being that we have been acquainted with each other for some time now, and being that we have had the opportunity to look at the academic side of the problem of evil, I wanted to offer a finishing piece to “drive home,” as it were, what has been discussed.

Please understand that the things I will mention are not intended to be insulting or hurtful, but are to make clear to you that you have not taken to heart what we are debating. The problem of evil is an emotional argument, as well as a logical argument, and that is why the best Christian apologists in the world keep coming back to reconsider it. When one seeks to avoid the logical force of the problem, they are confronted with the emotional discomfort created by it, and this makes them reconsider the logical force of it once again. This is always the situation when people say the problem of evil “doesn’t affect” (your words) them. Like a sleeping pill, the problem hasn’t affected you because you haven’t digested it yet!

As you know, I met your son Michael at the bus station. That put me in touch with you, which, of course, I deem a good thing. But the unfortunate circumstance of your son is not a good thing. It is a terrible thing.

Each time I see him I think to myself how hard it must have been for you to raise a kid like that, and for forty-two years straight, be reminded of the fact that he will never be a normal man, that he will never pay his own bills, and that his brain will never stop requiring a handful of special pills everyday just to keep him out of trouble with the law. He will never get married and bring you grandchildren. He will never hold down a normal job or live in so much as a budget-sized apartment by himself. He will never host a thanksgiving dinner for the family, will never tend to his share of the chores, or even clean his own clothes. I deeply feel for you, and although, right about now you’re probably preparing to tell me how much of a joy and a gift from God you consider your son to be, even with all the heartache that raising a severely bi-polar/schizophrenic can be, I’m here to tell you no less forcefully that you don’t deserve it.

You don’t deserve any of this. You are a good woman, a wonderful person, and you deserved to get a son who would carry on your legacy, who would take care of you in your older years. But you don’t have that. Instead, your son has given you a bruised lip and broken furniture on more than one occasion. Your son consumed Palmolive dish soap and thumbtacks as a means to end his life earlier this year. Someone clueless enough to try and kill himself in a manner such as this is worthy of the utmost pity. That alone is a fountain of sadness. Your son has been arrested a great many times, and each time, could not make a single coherent statement in his defense. These are monumentally sad facts that I know you are aware of, but there is a reason for why I am reminding you of them—and I think you know that reason.

I want to tell you what your boy said to me the other day. I was standing guard in the bus terminal as usual when he approached me and immediately began to carry on about how cruel you were to him as a child, throwing him in snake pits and whipping him with thorns from rose bushes. As he stood in my face, twitching madly, I gently moved him out of my personal space and began for the fourth time this week to assure him that you did none of those things to him, that it was all in his mind. Failing to get through to him, I tried to convince him that even if he still feels that way about you that he should try and just move on with his life, and not go around telling complete strangers about it and having them come to me and ask to have him removed from the facility because he won’t leave them alone.

I could tell by looking into his distant eyes that he comprehended not a word I said. He went right on accusing you and the government of poisoning him with bitter herbs and by putting deadly sound waves in the Rod Stewart songs he likes to listen to. It’s so sad to see him walking around like that, in a never-clearing fog of paranoia and disorientation. I had to ask him to leave the station again a few days ago (but I think I already told you that the other day).

I know you love him and try to hug him before he goes to pushing you back away from him at your weekly monitored meetings. In tears, you assure him you love him, but it does no good. You do love him, and you always will, and no one’s saying you shouldn’t, but I’ve seen how you break down every time you are around him. It crushes you to see him in such pain and not be able to do anything about it or get close to him. That must hurt in a way that only a mother can know. He’s such a handsome man too—if only he had a normal mind.

Frankly, if your son is a gift from God, then God doesn’t think much of you at all. If such a higher power exists, he hates you or else couldn’t care less about you; there’s simply no other way of putting it. Now I don’t find it sound to believe that a deity hates you or loves you. You deserve so much better, but unfortunately, there is no God who will do you better.

For the last four or five conversations, we have been discussing the problem of evil, and in that time, you have acquitted your God of all charges of cruelty and evil. I would ask that you keep deliberating on this, and when you are ready, look your son in the eyes the next time you see him and ask yourself: “Do I really and truly deserve this?” What does your heart of hearts tell you? The only way the problem of evil can be ignored is when the problem is someone else’s, but when the problem becomes your own, it is impossible to ignore.

You are a very strong person, Jane, so strong that you have been able to take in stride and accept what would be too much for some people. Maybe you will one day be strong enough to accept yet another unpleasant truth.

Best regards,

(JH)”






Creationist Fatally Stabs Evolutionist

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The life of a Scottish backpacker and Evolutionist was cut short by an English Fundamentalist Christian Creationist. The Creationist took a stab at dissecting the evolutionists argument earlier in the evening, however, failed by his rapier wit, the Creationist decided to drive his point home the only way he could. Evolutionists everywhere should be more cautious as the the debate is getting dicier as time goes on.
Link

A bizarre row about evolution versus creationism led to an English backpacker fatally stabbing a Scottish backpacker during a fruit-picking trip to earn money for their travels.

Alexander York, 33, from Essex, was sentenced to a maximum of five years in jail yesterday for the manslaughter of Rudi Boa, 28, a biomedical student from Inverness.

Honor the Child - a different take on Christmas

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Honor the Child
by Marlene Winell, Ph.D.

The Christmas season is often busy and complicated with families and schedules and special events. There are standard criticisms of materialism and holiday angst. Yet at the center of it all there is a powerful image that speaks to all of us – the Child. It’s fascinating to me that once a year so many people stop everything, or at least pause, to acknowledge a Child.

But who is this Child of Christmas and why does the image have such power? We have religious and secular interpretations, and I would like to suggest a third – a soulful interpretation.

For Christians, this is a specific Child, the baby Jesus, entering the world to be its savior. This is why the angels sing and the wise men visit. God has at last fulfilled his promise, and there is rejoicing.

For other people, not Christian, the Christ Child still represents hope and renewal. As with the solstice and the new year, the Child symbolizes newness and birth, the promise of fresh life. The Christmas tree also has this idea of new life. As such, the holiday still has meaning and reason for celebration.

These reasons are significant and important to remember in the context of all the commercialism of the season, of course. But I think there is much more to appreciate about the Child. This is not a child that will grow up to save the world. In history as we know it, Jesus Christ did not fulfill messianic predictions. Some Christians will say that Christ rules a heavenly kingdom of the heart, and is still coming to rule the earth. Perhaps. But the focus on someone coming to rescue us is a mistake, in my opinion. (Other Christians will say that he came to teach us how to save ourselves--a lesson we still need to learn.)

The view of the Child as symbol of hope and life is a valid alternative view embraced by many at this time of year. Our world is so weary with struggles, we all need the healing force of hope. If the image of a newborn baby gives us encouragement, and draws us together with gentle love in our families, that is certainly a good thing. “Peace on Earth,” is a welcome message on holiday greeting cards.

But the Child archetype connects to each of us in a personal way as well. We were all children once and we can perhaps remember the innocence and freedom. It’s good to ask ourselves whether we still know how to laugh and enjoy life. The image of a baby instinctively raises questions, and brings up feelings.

On the deepest level, the Child connects to matters of the soul. By this I mean essence – the way we actually experience being alive. This is not the Christ child or just a symbol of hope -- this is the Original Child that is in each of us. This is the Child we all know is still present but may be lost or buried. Our life patterns, our “personalities,” our many roles, our anxieties, our regrets, our plans, our endless thoughts, all conspire to distance us from who we once were – infants with magical capability for presence and joy.

The author of the paper, “The Infant as Reflection of Soul,” William Schafer, says “Babies by their very existence call us back to something we all sense we have lost. They do not enchant us simply because they are ‘cute.’” He says infants frequently hint that they are capable of experiences we no longer commonly enjoy – original experiences of energy, openness, and joy. In early infancy, Schafer says, these are profoundly essential human spiritual experiences. The pure, calm awareness of a baby is free of internal commentary, judgment, comparison, fear, or desire.

Interestingly, in the spiritual Balinese culture, babies are not allowed to touch the ground for the first year of life. They are considered closer to God than adults. In any culture, one only needs to look into an infant’s eyes to see a being that is absolutely in the present, that has no agenda whatsoever, that is open to the simple miracle of being alive. This delight is pure and plain in a smile, a look, a wriggle of total energy. The ego has not emerged; there is just being. Worries about the past and concerns for the future do not exist; the moment is timeless, endless. In Schafer’s terms, infant joy of this kind is the natural, inevitable consequence of presence.

In contrast, adults experience split-second judgments that erode the capacity for joy. If we have a bad experience, we can’t wait for it to end. If we have a good one, we want more of it and we worry that it might stop. Either way, joy—the sense of being open and drawn to our actual experience in wonder and curiosity without fear or repulsion—is veiled. We end up living lives in which most of our time is spent wanting to be in some other moment than the present one. The quality of every moment is constantly being judged and compared with something past or some imagined way that it should be.

Intuitively, we have some awareness of this dilemma. As babies learn to navigate the world, we watch them and marvel at their “development,” but gradually we see them become like us as they grow up, industrious and goal-oriented, forgetting their pure state of just being instead of doing. It seems like an endless cycle.

But if we choose, we can learn from infants. We need to see them with new eyes and let them be our teachers. We can let them remind us of what we have lost and teach us again to be purposefully and mindfully present and joyful. We can learn from the way they respond with awareness to others.

When new parents talk about holding a newborn, they talk of a “miracle” with overwhelming feelings. Other people can have the same feelings about a baby, and there is a tug on something deep within. What is that? This is your core, your Original Child, your personal manifestation of the archetype, alive deep inside. And part of the archetype of the Child is the capability of great transformation.

But the Child is quiet and fragile. The experience of deep contact depends on connecting to that Child within. And it is our hectic lives with layers of coping, achieving, struggling, or succeeding that hinder the knowledge of the Child from reaching us. And ironically it is the Christmas season that is full of too much hustle and bustle. We lose the connection, and in the midst of parties and presents, we feel lonely and unsupported.

And perhaps there is another good reason why feelings are raw at this time of year; we aren’t just busy. It could be that the image of the Christmas Child, in addition to the childlikeness of the ornaments, cookies, and presents, evokes the knowledge we all have, albeit below awareness, that we are still children at heart. As adults, this includes the needs and the wounds that we have acquired. Even Carl Rogers, after a lifetime of studying psychotherapy, said “there are no grown-ups.”

But the Divine Child part of the archetype is the one that calls to us at this time of year. Each of us personally is drawn to hope and renewal. Each of us is still innocent, life-loving, and capable of the soulfulness we see in infants’ eyes.

So this season, let’s consider what it might mean to honor the Child – first of all in ourselves, and then in each other. We can slow down and look around. We can be gentle. We can remember that we are all connected. We can watch our adult habit of having expectations and practice appreciating what actually is. We can allow ourselves to feel joy for no reason. What else this might include I don’t know, but I suspect it could be quite different, and quite magical. For me, I plan to cherish every opportunity to look into the eyes of a young Child. I expect I will learn something I can use when I look out of my own Child eyes. I will practice delight.

Reference: Schafer, W. (2004). The infant as reflection of soul: The time before there was a self. Journal of Zero to Three. National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families, 24: 3, pp. 5-8.

Marlene Winell, Ph.D. is a psychologist and consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area who works with people recovering from harmful religious experience. She is the author of Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion. See www.marlenewinell.net for services and events.

Bill Ross - Deconversion Story

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Hi, my handle is WoundedEgo but my name is Bill Ross... this is me with my family.

John has graciously invited me to contribute to his blog, and suggested I begin with my deconversion story, and so I shall...

Unfortunately, being as cerebral as I am, the story will not involve a car chase, but I'll try not to bore...

There is a wonderful scene in one of the Wallace and Gromit stories where Gromit sits in jail doing a jigsaw puzzle. As he places the last piece in the puzzle, he realizes that the puzzle has a personal message for him - he will be leaving jail tonight via a breakout!

This was my experience. I pondered the Bible for many, many years, trying to discover its central themes that would tie the whole thing together and unlock its cryptic design. As soon as I did so, I realized that it would not serve as my own mental framework.

I quote this from the introduction to my book, Bible Shockers!:

My lovely wife of twenty something years is an extremely capable person with a wide range of interests. She might be spending her day absorbed in an art project with the younger children, having some coffee or tea with friends or riding her bicycle up to the video store to see if they have anything new along the lines of Stephen King, or if not, something with some gut wrenching human relationships. She seldom thinks about the Bible. I, on the other hand, like many people, have had a long fascination with the Bible and have often neglected other important activities in order to understand some difficult passage or other. I spent many years as a Christian, treating the book as Protestant Christians are wont to do:

* As a vehicle of magic communication from God to me
* To reinforce the Catholic/Protestant traditions I had been taught

I have spent many more years approaching the text as an ancient religious text, driven to deeply understand as one would understand any other ancient religious text. The reasons I moved from reading the Bible as a vehicle of magic communication from deities, and from seeking proof texts for my faith, to methodical objective study were twofold. First of all, I was challenged by a passage in the Bible:

Hebrews 12:27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

As I meditated on that passage I began to think to myself that rather than try to "prop up" my beliefs with the Bible, what if I began to see which ones I could knock over? Any that would not knock over were solid and I would know exactly why, but any that yielded were unreliable and could safely be discarded. All of my beliefs were quickly exposed as imposters.

Magic communication had failed me. I found that I received confusing, conflicting messages and silly ideas. I found I was insecure and misled by the thoughts that seemed to come from the deity but were just notions. Most troubling was the see-saw of alarm versus confidence that I found myself on. For example, one day I might read some condemning passage of scripture and find myself feeling, and believing myself to be, condemned because of my sins. The next day I would read a passage of assurances and feel, and believe myself to be, in favor. I found I could not really be secure about anything because my subjective moods often dictated my interpretation of the Bible as it concerned my personal relations. I needed to know the objective criteria for my relationship to God.

What I hoped to find was an understanding of God and of the Bible. What I actually found was shock and awe. What I found was that I had not understood the text at all, and that to an alarming extent, the ideas that I had been spoon fed were nasty viruses of misinformation. When I finally understood the Bible, I realized it was not magic, divine or credible.

*****

I look forward to contributing...

Bill Ross
"Sigh, I miss my imaginary friend...http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com

Father Christmas and Yule!

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Christmas is such an amazing time. Christians celebrate the birth of Christ, using pagan symbols, and complain about how everybody ignores the true meaning of Christmas. Atheists enjoy the pagan and social festivities, and rightfully so. Happy Yule! Agnostics enjoy the wassail, and some don't recognize Christmas at all. Put them in the boat with the folks over at the United Church of God...Happy Grinch-mas! But Brother Crow wishes everybody a Merry Christmas and a brave new year. All anguish, pain and sadness leave your heart and may your road be clear. My Christmas gift to all - posters, comment-makers, and John himself - is what I think is the greatest Christmas song in contemporary music, a song that reminds me why I deconverted...yet still enjoy this awesome day of Yule. So,be it heaven or hell - the Christmas we get we deserve! (and forgive the video...it's old and cheesy, but still the best!)







Dr. Craig on Religious Diversity

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Irish Farmer of Exposing Atheism responded to this Blog entry of mine where I said:

William Lane Craig explains geographical religious diversity by arguing, in his own words, “it is possible that God has created a world having an optimal balance between saved and lost and that God has so providentially ordered the world that those who fail to hear the gospel and be saved would not have freely responded affirmatively to it even if they had heard it.” Craig argues that if this scenario is even “possible,” “it proves that it is entirely consistent to affirm that God is all-powerful and all-loving and yet that some people never hear the gospel and are lost.” Notice him retreating to what is merely “possible?” He’s trying to explain the evidence of global religious diversity away. The probability that not one of the billions of people who have not heard the gospel would respond if they did hear the gospel can probably be calculated, if missionaries kept records of their efforts. To claim what he does against the overwhelming evidence of missionary efforts belies the facts. Contrary to Craig, when we look at the billions of people who have never been given a chance to be “saved” because of “when and where they were born,” his scenario seems extremely implausible, to say the least.
Skeptics in the comments section are eating him up alive. Check it out.

Giant Human Skeleton Remains and the Desire to Believe

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Does this archeological "find" confirm the Bible that giants once roamed the earth?







Well, it's a hoax:

According to the creator this image was lifted from Worth1000, a Web site that hosts contests for digital artists. Created by an artist using the alias IronKite, the picture placed third in a 2002 competition that was titled "Archaeological Anomalies 2," which asked contestants to “create a hoax archaeological discovery.”

IronKite created the image in less than an hour and a half out of the remains of a mastadon. "I laugh myself silly when some guy claims to know someone who was there, or even goes so far as to claim that he or she was there when they found the skeleton and took the picture," IronKite said. "Sometimes people seem so desperate to believe in something that they lie to themselves, or exaggerate in order to make their own argument stronger." David Mikkelson of Snopes.com said such hoaxes succeed when they seem to confirm something people are already inclined to believe, such as a prejudice, political viewpoint, or religious belief.

This helps confirm what I have been saying about the will to believe, here.

Thanks to Ed Babinski for this story

Can Our Wills Be Severed From Our Beliefs?

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See below for Michael Bolton's rendition of "Silent Night."

Bill Gnade has said of my post, Do Non-Believers Willfully Refuse to Believe?, that it “is probably the best post I've ever read by anyone here at DC.” I’m not sure exactly why he said that, but I’d have to say he has offered a very thought provoking response to it here. Let me respond…

Bill, thank you for your kind words at what I wrote. I do have a deeper understanding of things than you have given me credit for, and I suspect you do too. I found myself thinking about you and I when you wrote:

Surely we have all known someone who has refused to concede he has lost a debate, or has denied compelling evidence, solely to maintain his claim to superiority or certitude.
Well, I thought of you more you than I, okay? ;-)

Yet I don’t think we entirely disagree here. I agree with you that our wills cannot be severed from our beliefs. I think it’s part of who we are as human beings, given our “passional nature,” as William James described it.

That recognition doesn’t make me a disciple of Schopenhauer however, like I think you are. Every major philosopher has a good point, otherwise he wouldn’t be considered a major philosopher, and I suppose Schopenhauer is a marginally major one (although very few of the introductory college textbooks even deal with him, much less provide an excerpt of his writings, and some don’t mention him at all). I honestly don’t know that much about his views, but it seems to me he places too much of an emphasis on “will,” that’s all; just like Freud placed too much emphasis on sex, and Marx placed too much emphasis on capital. According to Bertrand Russell, Schopenhauer is “not very consistent and not very sincere.”

But Schopenhauer’s point probably cannot be denied in that what we believe to be true is influenced by our wills, since we all have wills. Some people do in fact “will to believe,” while some others “will to disbelieve.” When this happens we’d have to attribute what they believe to irrational fears, psychological guilt, superiority complexes, or the need for power, sex, or capital. That’s why there is what Paul Ricoeur calls the “hermeneutics of suspicion,” where we should be suspicious of the motives behind someone’s arguments because she may have an ulterior motive. There is some truth to that. If an argument doesn't look sound to us we should ask ourselves, “what is this person getting out of arguing for what she does?”

However, there are two things to say by way of your response to what I wrote. In the first place, I don’t see the will to disbelieve as an over-riding factor in what all nonbelievers reject, which is what many, if not most Christians claim. I was listening to some Christmas music recently. Michael Bolton’s “Silent Night” is the best rendition of that song I’ve ever heard. As I was listening to it I thought to myself, “the Christian message is absolutely wonderful if you ignore all of the superstitious ignorance and barbarisms in the Bible, like genocide, witch, heretic and honor killings. Absent from these things there is no story that tops it in the world. It beats the competition hands down, and plays into our need for significance and forgiveness and hope.”

If anyone is willing to believe what she does it's the Christian, for most every Christian will ask me “what’s left if it isn’t true?” Christians will harp on the fact that unless it is true they have no hope, no meaning, and no purpose in their lives. I demur, of course, because I have hope, purpose, and meaning in my life. But for them unless one has some kind of ultimate hope, meaning, and purpose, then there is none at all. The benefits to believing are multitudinous in American society almost everywhere, whereas the benefits to not believing are both experientially (without such a hope and significance) and socially slim. No wonder several of our team members here at DC won’t divulge their real names for social repercussions.

In the second place, Christian believers typically argue that willing one's beliefs is something they themselves do not do. According to them, only nonbelievers are the ones doing the willing, and they "will to disbelieve." Christians think they follow the evidence and nonbelievers do not. So if it’s true that all of us will our beliefs, then Christians must defend why they think only nonbelievers do this. If Christians cannot show they are different based on this, then they also "will to believe." But once they admit this, Christians should become agnostic about what they claim to believe, since they have recognized that how they see the evidence is based upon their wills. This makes agnosticism the default position, as I’ve argued here before.

Do Non-Believers Willfully Refuse to Believe?

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One contention that many Christians make about nonbelievers in general and ex-Christians like us in specific, is that we have hardened hearts. We refuse to believe because we rebel at the notion of obeying the commands of a righteous and holy God. It’s not the truth we seek, for we know the truth, it’s claimed. It’s that we reject the truth because of willful ignorance. We simply refuse to believe. They will quote some passages in the Bible like Romans 1 to reinforce this belief of theirs, and nothing we can say will change their minds on this issue. My attempt at answering such a contention will probably be received no differently, but I like to try. So here goes.

Christians who have not yet accepted the idea that “all truth is God’s truth” will believe what the Bible says, regardless of what I say here. But they fail to understand two things. In the first place, they fail to understand that not all Christians think this way because those Bible passages can be legitimately interpreted differently. I’ll not go into this here, but their whole contention is built, not on what God says, but how they interpret what God says, if he said it at all. In the second place, whenever exegetes have tried to interpret the Bible, those who accept that “all truth is God’s truth” will interpret the Bible in keeping with what we learn from science, philosophy and experience, for these things are a check on proper Biblical exegesis. Experience, for instance, has always been a check on exegesis, whether it comes to Wesleyan perfectionism, perseverance of the saints, second coming predictions, Pentecostal miracle workers, understanding marriage, parenting, ministry, and so on. The whole science/religion discussion is an attempt to harmonize the Bible with what scientists have experienced through empirical observations of the universe. While experience is not the test for deciding what the Bible says, the Christian understanding of what the Bible says must be able to explain personal experience.

So here we are as former people who lived and breathed the Christian way of life and faith. We claim we left because the reasons to believe simply were not there. This should be a check on the Biblical exegesis of the relevant texts, rather than forcing Christians to claim we rejected the Christian faith because we are in rebellion against God.

That being said, consider too that people sincerely and honestly disagree over almost everything that we can disagree about. Name it and there is probably a disagreement about it. Which diet is the most effective for losing weight? Which sports player was the greatest in his or her sport? I could go on and on, about some scientific results, politics, ethics, economics, anthropology, and history. From the scholarly level to the peon level we disagree about everything there is to disagree about. And this goes for religion as well. There so many religions and sects within them that if each one was a person we’d be able to fill up the largest stadium in the world with them.

I’m not saying that of all the religious and non-religious views that none are correct, only that it reveals an incredible amount of chutzpa to claim with complete assurance that he is not only correct, a large claim in and of itself, but also that the others know the truth and willfully reject it. The Christian had better be absolutely sure his Biblical texts say exactly what he claims them to say before making such a wildly implausible contention.

Undismayed, the Christian will claim as evidence for their interpretation of the relevant Biblical texts that the claims of the gospel are unflinching and absolute, demanding a complete surrender and commitment such that people who know the truth and don’t like it will rebel against it. But is this really true? The Greek word for repentance, metanoia, means a “change of mind.” That’s what it means. Of course, implicit in the meaning of the word is that a change of mind leads to a change of behavior, and that is true, such that if there is no change of behavior then it’s clear there was no change of mind. But think about this. If someone was really convinced of the truth of the gospel then he has already changed his mind! One cannot change his mind and also refuse to change his mind. His mind has already been changed. And if changed he would change his behavior in keeping with what he believes. It cannot be otherwise. And what exactly is the gospel that he changed his mind about? That God loves him, died on the cross to save him, will bring him into the eternal pleasures of an eternal bliss which avoids the eternal pains of hell. All God asks is to obey him in return, although such obedience doesn’t actually save us. If someone actually believed this he would willingly obey God. This would be a no brainer. If someone accepted this as the truth he would surrender to God in obedience. It’s the least he could do, especially since this God will also help him, grant him answered prayers and forgive him when he falls.

Futhermore, if people do reject the truth of the gospel because it demands too much of them, then how do these Christians explain militant Muslims who reject the gospel? They are willing to fly planes into the World Trade Centers for what they believe. And while I think such obedience is immoral and misguided, I don’t see very many Christians with that same kind of commitment, say for just one example, when it comes to selling all and giving to the poor, or at least, giving till it hurts. There are Tibetan Monks who sacrifice everything for what they believe too, or a Mother Teresa, if she was all that, anyway. To say people reject the Protestant gospel (since I mentioned Mother Teresa) because they reject the demands of the gospel, is simply ludicrous.

We nonbelievers and former Christians do not believe because we do not think the evidence is there, period. To say otherwise one would have to deal with my arguments here. And if you cannot reconcile the relevant biblical texts to these arguments and our testimonies, then perhaps you too should consider that the Bible is not the word of God like we do. The relevant Biblical texts were written in an ancient era which is unlike our democratic free speaking era, where we’ve learned that sincere and honest disagreements are a part of daily life, and acceptable. In the ancient era (and during the Inquisition) people were killed for believing differently, because people who believed differently were considered evil in a collective society which demanded unity on such matters. We still find the barbaric notion of the “thought police” in Muslim countries today. But it is barbaric, and this same kind of barbarism is reflected in certain interpretations of the relevant Biblical texts about those who don't believe.

David Mills, Author of Atheist Universe, Predicts My Book Will Be "One of The Top Atheist Books Ever Published"!

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As seen here he wrote:

From everything I've heard and read about this forthcoming book, it's going to be one of the top atheist books ever published. John Loftus has such a unique background and wit in his writings that I'm literally counting the days until it reaches my home via Amazon. Thank you, John, for your meticulous efforts to educate the rest of us about the many failures of theology. - David Mills

Whether this is true or not is to be seen, but I'd like to think so. He's refering to the forthcoming Prometheus Books edition titled, Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity. This book is not yet out. When it'll come out I cannot say, but I'm told there is already a six week delay in the publishing process. In the meantime my self-published book, Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains, is readily available if you'd like to take a look at it before then. It contains the same arguments.

To see a summation of my argument read this.

David Mills joins the many others who are recommending it, who can be seen listed here.

David was the first openly avowed atheist to go into space and experience Zero Gravity! To see a funny slideshow about this historic event (and his humorous self-promotional ways) see this!

On "Getting Excited About Jesus"

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The following is an email I sent to the President of the Southern Baptist Convention about a year ago.

Dear Dr. Page,

I heard you preach Sunday morning on our local channel about “getting as excited about Jesus as people do about their favorite ball teams”. I (as a former Baptist preacher) must say there is a major difference between the world of everyday reality and the religious world view claimed by faith.

For example, would Taylor's' First Baptist Church get so excited about Jesus (as based on the claims of the Bible) that you and the deacons would drop all the fire and liability insurance on the church? If you look closely, most all steeples crosses have a lighting rods sticking out of their tops. This is a reality in our world that the Biblical writers knew little if anything about and “getting excited about Jesus” will do nothing to change this fact and would Taylor's' First Baptist Church get so excited about their faith in Jesus that they would cut the cables grounding the church's lighting rods atop the four spire's?

Would you or any of the staff at Taylor's' First Baptist Church get so “excited about Jesus” that the entire church staff would “step out on faith” and drop all their health insurance, thus proving their total faith in Jesus; that he is returning soon (1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11) or that Jesus (as God) will provide for all the faithful (Matt. 6:19-34 / Luke 12: 22-34)?

When a natural disaster is about to hit, do you, your deacons and the entire church find yourselves “getting as excited about Jesus” and leaning on him for protection or is reality trusting in your insurance agent and the policy of liability for protection written on your church?

Preachers seem to think that people should live a life of faith that seems to exists on Cloud 9 or some "Pie in the sky in the by and by". The forced reality is that our secular life's way of reasoning will win out over the Bible and theology any day of the week as a means of shear survival. Most people would never invest their money in the Stock Market the same way faith is sold in sermons. The Bible (and the idea of “getting excited about Jesus”) is an idealism better left to live in a mythical context of church fellowship on Sunday morning.

As opposed to faith, reality is that the faithful suffer greatly and died, often at young age. Many churches burn down every year when hit by “fire from Heaven” (lightning) and getting “excited about Jesus” will do as much to stop this as getting excited over one's ball team.

Finally, religious faith can not compete with reality and defaults into its own philosophical realm: the world of theology. Thus, it is of little wonder that most everything Christianity claims as evidence of religious truth can not be sued in a court of law anymore than a person who is declared mentally insane can not be sued.

Sincerely,

Harry McCall


Dr. Page never replied.

"How MUST an Omniscient God Behave?"

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This rhetorical question was asked recently by a believer suggesting that as finite persons we cannot fault God for allowing the evil we see in this world. Here's my response:

You realize that whatever you say in answer to this question is telling us how an omniscient God must behave, right?

But I say that an omniscient God should be able to understand us as human beings such that he would be able to communicate with us better than he did in the Bible. There is no doubt in my mind that an omniscient God could've communicated in such a way that the Church as an institution would not have santioned killing people who didn't believe like they did in the Inquisition and witch hunts (which killed innocent people). And there is no justification for such a God not to have unequivacably condemed slavery either. If your response is that he has higher, mysterious purposes, that we simply cannot understand, then such a God should know that since we cannot understand him we would also reject him. And yet this is what I find you defending...that an omniscient God has acted contrary to his expressed desires that we should accept him.

A Summary of My Case Against Christianity

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As a former student of Dr. James D. Strauss I credit much of the approach in my book to three things he drilled into us as students, but in reverse.

When doing apologetics he said that “if you don’t start with God you’ll never get to God.” He’s not a Van Tillian presuppositionalist because he doesn’t start with the Bible as God’s revelation. He merely starts “from above” by presupposing God’s existence, and then he argues that such a presupposition makes better sense of the Bible, and the world. Again, “if you don’t start with God you’ll never get to God.” Since that’s such an important, central issue, I’ll focus on why we should not start “from above” with the belief in God in the first place, but rather “from below,” beginning with the world. If successful, then my argument should lead us to reject the existence of the God who confirms the Biblical revelation.

The second thing Dr. Strauss drilled into us was his argument that “we don’t need more data, we need better interpretive schema.” What he meant is that we interpret the details of the historical and archaeological evidence through interpretive schema. The need to come up with more data, or evidence, isn’t as important as the need to better interpret that data through the lens of an adequate worldview. While the data are indeed important, the big worldview picture provides the necessary rational support to the data. We need to be specialists in the Big Picture, not the minutia. I agreed then, and I agree now, except that the better interpretive schema that supports the data is not Christianity, but atheism.

A third thing Dr. Strauss drilled into us is that “all truth is God’s truth,” and by this he meant that if something is true, it’s of God, no matter where we find it, whether through science, philosophy, psychology, history or experience itself. There is no secular/sacred dichotomy when it comes to truth. There is no such thing as secular “knowledge” at all, if by this we mean beliefs that are justifiably true. Neither sinful, nor carnal, nor secular “knowledge” exists as a category because such “knowledge” isn’t true. All truth is sacred and it comes from God alone. Since not all truth is to be found in the Bible, it follows that the Christian thinker must try to harmonize all knowledge wherever she finds it. According to Strauss, the Christian thinker must view all knowledge gained outside of the Bible through the lens of the Christian worldview and reject anything that does not conform to it. He argued “from above” that the Christian worldview is what best interprets these other truths, something I now deny. My claim will be that the truths learned outside of the Bible in other areas of learning debunks the Bible. That which we learn outside the Bible continually forces us to reinterpret the Bible over and over until there is no longer any basis for believing in the Christian worldview. We cannot harmonize what we find in the Bible with that which we find outside the Bible.

My claim is that the Christian faith should be rejected by modern, civilized scientifically literate, educated people, even if I know many of them will still disagree.

There are probably many Christian professors who have had some serious doubts about the Christian faith, like Drs. Ruth A. Tucker, and James F. Sennett. In her book Walking Away from Faith: Unraveling the Mystery of Belief and Unbelief, Ruth A. Tucker shares her own doubt and how she overcomes it, hoping to challenge unbelievers to reconsider what they are missing. But in one place in her book as she was contemplating her own doubt, she candidly confesses what sometimes crosses her mind. As a seminary professor she wrote, “There are moments when I doubt all. It is then that I sometimes ask myself as I’m looking out my office window, ‘What on earth am I doing here? They’d fire me if they only knew.’”

My friend James F. Sennett is another one who has seriously struggled with his faith, as seen in his, as yet, unpublished book, This Much I Know: A Postmodern Apologetic. He confesses to have had a faith crisis in it, and wrote his book as a “first person apologetic,” to answer his own faith crisis. In chapter one, called “The Reluctant Disciple: Anatomy of a Faith Crisis,” he wrote, “I am the one who struggles with God. I am the Reluctant Disciple.” “Once I had no doubt that God was there, but I resented him for it; now I desperately want him to be there, and am terrified that he might not be.” Prompted by a study of the mind/brain problem, he wrote, “Sometimes I believed. Sometimes I didn’t. And it seemed to me that the latter condition was definitely on the ascendancy.”

With me I just stopped struggling. It required too much intellectual gerrymandering to believe. There were too many individual problems that I had to balance, like spinning several plates on several sticks, in order to keep my faith. At some point they just all came crashing down.

Let me begin by talking about “control beliefs.” They do just what they indicate; they control how one views the evidence. Everyone has them, especially when it comes to metaphysical belief systems where there isn’t a mutually agreed upon scientific test to decide between alternatives. Many times we don’t even know we have them, but they color how we see the world. They can also be called assumptions, presuppositions and/or biases, depending on the context. As Alfred North Whitehead wrote, “Some assumptions appear so obvious that people do not know that they are assuming because no other way of putting things has ever occurred to them.” They form the basis for the way we “See” things.

Having the right control beliefs are essential to grasping the truth about our existence in the universe. Psychologist Valerie Tarico explains that “it doesn’t take very many false assumptions to send us on a long goose chase.” To illustrate this she tells us about the mental world of a paranoid schizophrenic. To such a person the perceived persecution by others sounds real. “You can sit, as a psychiatrist, with a diagnostic manual next to you, and think: as bizarre as it sounds, the CIA really is bugging this guy. The arguments are tight, the logic persuasive, the evidence organized into neat files. All that is needed to build such an impressive house of illusion is a clear, well-organized mind and a few false assumptions. Paranoid individuals can be very credible.” (The Dark Side, p. 221-22).

Since having control beliefs don’t by themselves tell me what to believe about the specific evidence for Christian miracle claims, I also need to examine that evidence, although time won’t permit me here. But I do so in my book. I consider them as the historical claims they are. I examine them by looking at the internal evidence found within the Biblical texts themselves. I consider what these texts actually say and scrutinize their internal consistency. Wherever relevant, I also consider whether the Old Testament actually predicts some of these events. Then I examine these claims by looking at the external evidence. I consider any independent confirmation of these events outside of the texts. Lastly I subject these claims to the canons of reason using the control beliefs I will argue for here. I conclude from all of this that the Christian faith is a delusion and should be rejected. Then I describe why I am an atheist and what it means to live life without God. I present a whole case, a comprehensive case, a complete case, from start to finish, as a former insider to the Christian faith.

I argue that I think skepticism about religion in general, and Christianity in specific, is the default position. Anyone who investigates religion in general, or Christianity in specific, must begin with skepticism. Anyone who subsequently moves off the default position of skepticism has the burden of proof, since doing so is making a positive knowledge claim, and in the case of Christianity a very large knowledge claim that cannot be reasonably defended with the available evidence. This best expresses my set of control beliefs from which I derive two others:

1) There is a strong probability that every event has a natural cause; and, 2) The scientific method is the best (and probably the only) reliable guide we have for gaining the truth. Therefore, I need sufficient reasons and sufficient evidence for what I believe. As a result I have an anti-dogma, an anti-superstitious and an anti-supernatural bias. No “inspired” book will tell me what I should believe. My first question will always be “Why should I believe what this writer said?” This doesn’t mean that in the end I might not conclude there is a supernatural realm, only that I start out with these assumptions. Christians will bristle at these control beliefs and cry “foul.” They will argue that if I start out with an anti-supernatural bias “from below” it predisposes me to reject their religious faith, and they are right. It does. They claim that with a supernatural bias “from above” I will be more likely to accept the Christian faith, and that too is correct, although there are still other supernatural worldview contenders. Nonetheless, since this is crucial, let me offer several reasons that I think are undeniable for adopting a skeptical rather than believing set of control beliefs in the first place.

In every case when it comes to the following reasons for adopting my control beliefs the Christian response is pretty much the same. Christians must continually retreat to the position that what they believe is “possible,” or that what they believe is “not impossible.” However, the more that Christians must constantly retreat to what is "possible" rather than to what is “probable” in order to defend their faith, the more their faith is on shaky ground. For this is a tacit admission that instead of the evidence supporting what they believe, they are actually trying to explain the evidence away.

1) Sociological Reasons. The sociological facts are that particular religions dominate in separate distinguishable geographical locations around the globe. John Hick: “it is evident that in some ninety-nine percent of the cases the religion which an individual professes and to which he or she adheres depends upon the accidents of birth. Someone born to Buddhist parents in Thailand is very likely to be a Buddhist, someone born to Muslim parents in Saudi Arabia to be a Muslim, someone born to Christian parents in Mexico to be a Christian, and so on.” The best explanation for why this is so is that people overwhelmingly believe based upon “when and where we were born.”

Since there are no mutually agreed upon tests to determine which religion to adopt, or none at all, social cultural and political forces will overwhelmingly determine what people believe.

Because of this sociological data I have proposed something I call “the outsider test for faith.” Test your religious beliefs as if you were an outsider, just like you test the beliefs of other religions and reject them. Test them with a measure of skepticism. If you don’t do this, then you must justify why you approach other religions than your own with such a double standard. The Outsider Test is no different than the prince in the Cinderella story who must question 45,000 people to see which girl lost the glass slipper at the ball last night. They all claim to have done so. Therefore, skepticism is definitely warranted. I defend this test from several objections in my book.

William Lane Craig explains geographical religious diversity by arguing, in his own words, “it is possible that God has created a world having an optimal balance between saved and lost and that God has so providentially ordered the world that those who fail to hear the gospel and be saved would not have freely responded affirmatively to it even if they had heard it.” Craig argues that if this scenario is even “possible,” “it proves that it is entirely consistent to affirm that God is all-powerful and all-loving and yet that some people never hear the gospel and are lost.” Notice him retreating to what is merely “possible?” He’s trying to explain the evidence of global religious diversity away. The probability that not one of the billions of people who have not heard the gospel would respond if they did hear the gospel can probably be calculated, if missionaries kept records of their efforts. To claim what he does against the overwhelming evidence of missionary efforts belies the facts. Contrary to Craig, when we look at the billions of people who have never been given a chance to be “saved” because of “when and where they were born,” his scenario seems extremely implausible, to say the least.

2) Philosophical Reasons (1). Arguments for God’s existence aren’t conclusive or persuasive. They don’t lead exclusively to theism but at best to deism, which I might happily concede and then argue that a distant God is not much different than none at all. Besides, moving from deism to a full-blown Christianity is like trying to fly a plane to the moon. And the theistic arguments don’t lead us to a particular brand of theism either, whether Judaism, Islam or one of the many branches of Christianity.

When it comes to God’s existence our choices can be reduced to these: 1) Either something has always existed--always, or, 2) something popped into existence out of absolutely nothing. Either choice seems extremely unlikely--or possibly even absurd. There is nothing in our experience that can help us grasp these two possibilities. But one of them is correct and the other false. We either start with the “brute fact” that something has always existed, or the “brute fact” that something popped into existence out of nothing. A third view is that, 3) Our existence in the universe is absurd to the core.

William Lane Craig used the word “bizarre” to describe this problem when he wrote, “I well recall thinking, as I began to study the Kalam Cosmological Argument, that all of the alternatives with respect to the universe's existence were so bizarre that the most reasonable option seemed to be that nothing exists!” We must all recognize that we really don’t know why something exists rather than nothing at all. Agnosticism is the default position. Anyone moving off the default position has the burden of proof, and I maintain that moving from agnosticism to atheism is a much smaller step than moving to a full blown Christianity. Since the larger the claim is the harder is it to defend Christianity has a huge and near impossible burden of proof.

Christians want to argue for the belief in a triune God, even though the no sense of the trinity can be made that is both orthodox and reasonable; who was not free with respect to deciding his own nature, even though Christians want to think of God as a free personal agent; who as a “spiritual” being created matter, even though no known "point of contact" between spirit and matter can be found; who never began to exist as their “brute fact,” even though according to Ockham’s razor a simpler brute fact is to begin with the universe itself; who never learned any new truths and cannot think, since thinking demands weighing temporal alternatives; is everywhere, yet could not even know what time it is since time is a function of placement and acceleration in the universe (and if timeless, this God cannot act in time); who allows intense suffering in this world, yet does not follow the same moral code he commands believers to follow.

3) Philosophical Reasons (2). The Christian defender of miracles has a near impossible double burden of proof.

As the late J.L. Mackie wrote: “Where there is some plausible testimony about the occurrence of what would appear to be a miracle, those who accept this as a miracle have the double burden of showing both that the event took place and that it violated the laws of nature. But it will be very hard to sustain this double burden. For whatever tends to show that it would have been a violation of a natural law tends for that very reason to make it most unlikely that is actually happened.”

In Douglass Geivett and Gary Habermas edited book titled; In Defense of Miracles they labelled part 2 as “The Possibility of Miracles.” Notice how they must retreat to what is possible, not what is probable? Of course miracles are possible if there is a creator God, but what we want to know is if they are probable. By definition they are not very probable. We are asked to believe in the Christian God because Biblical miracles supposedly took place, but by definition miracles are very improbable. We cannot bring ourselves to believe in the God of the Bible unless we first believe those miracles took place, but we cannot bring ourselves to believe in those miracles because they are by definition very improbable.

John King-Farlow and William Niels Christensen argue that just because we today don’t experience miracles doesn’t mean that throughout the history of mankind God has done a plethora of them, and will do so again when the time is right in the future. They are asking us to believe against the overwhelming present day experience of nearly all modern people that things might turn out differently than we now experience. Is this impossible? No, not at all. But again, it’s not probable.

Take for example the story that Balaam’s ass spoke to him. If today’s Christians lived back in that superstitious era they wouldn’t believe this happened unless there was good evidence. But because they read about it in a so-called “inspired” book they suspend their judgment and believe it. Back in Balaam’s day they themselves would not have believed it, until Balaam made his ass talk in their presence.

Besides, Christians operate by what Harvard trained Biblical scholar Hector Avalos describes as “selective supernaturalism.” They believe the Biblical miracles because they favor them, while they are skeptical of the miracles they don’t favor in other religions. Why the double standard here? At least I’m consistent in being skeptical of them all until a supernatural explanation is required by the evidence, and I haven’t seen any evidence that requires a supernatural explanation yet.

4) Scientific Reasons (1). Science proceeds based upon methodological naturalism. methodological naturalism assumes that for everything we experience there is a natural cause. Paul Kurtz defined it as well as anyone when he wrote that it is a “principle within the context of scientific inquiry; i.e., all hypotheses and events are to be explained and tested by reference to natural causes and events. To introduce a supernatural or transcendental cause within science is to depart from naturalistic explanations.”

This is what defines us as modern people. In today’s world all modern educated people base their deductions on the method of naturalism in a vast number of areas. Before the advent of science in previous centuries people either praised God for the good things that happened to them, or they wondered why God was angry when bad things happened. If someone got sick, it was because of sin in his or her life. If it rained, God was pleased with them, if there was a drought God was displeased, and so on, and so on. Science wasn’t content to accept the notion that epilepsy was demon possession, or that sicknesses were sent by God to punish people. Nor was science content with the idea that God alone opens the womb of a woman, nor that God was the one who sent the rain. Now we have scientific explanations for these things, and we all benefit from those who assumed there was a natural cause to everything we experience. We can predict the rain. We know how babies are produced, and how to prevent a host of illnesses. There is no going back on this progress, and it is ongoing. Christians themselves assume a natural explanation when they hear a noise in the night. They assume a natural explanation for a stillborn baby, a train wreck, or an illness.

Christians like Alvin Plantinga object to the use of methodological naturalism in many areas related to their faith. He argues that Christian scientific community should “pursue science in its own way, starting from and taking for granted what we know as Christians.” See what he’s doing here? He is forced into retreating to Bayesian background factors to support a weak position. He’s trying to explain the evidence away. He’s retreating to what is merely possible; that while methodological naturalism has worked very well in understanding our world, it’s possible that it doesn’t apply across the board into the Christian set of beliefs he’s adopted. And he’s right. It is possible. But again, how likely is it that it works so well on every other area of investigation but that it shouldn’t be used in understanding his background beliefs too?

5) Scientific Reasons (2).

Astronomy. This universe is 13.5 billion years old and arose out of a cosmic singularity. No account of the development of this universe can be harmonized with the creation accounts in Genesis except that these accounts were pure mythic folklore.

Archaeology. There isn’t any evidence for Israelites being slaves in Egypt for four hundred years, or that they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, or that they conquered the land of Canaan.

Geology. Confirms the slow evolutionary development of life in the sedimentary rock layers on a planet nearly 5 billion years old, just as astronomy confirms the slow evolutionary development of galaxy, star and planet formation. Geology also disconfirms that there was ever a universal flood which covered the earth.

Brain Science. Confirms that strokes, seizers, and other illnesses stem from a brain malfunction and hence disconfirms that there is something called a mind or soul. If there is an immaterial mind where is it located? Sam Harris points out that if God created us with a mind then there is no reason to expect that he also created us with a brain.

Modern Medicine. Has achieved astounding results that such superstitious practices like exorcisms and blood letting and supernatural healing are delusional. The late Carl Sagan, said, “We can pray over the cholera victim, or we can give her 500 milligrams of tetracycline every 12 hours…the scientific treatments are hundreds or thousands of times more effective than the alternatives (like prayer). Even when the alternatives seem to work, we don’t actually know that they played any role.” Voltaire said: "Prayer and arsenic will kill a cow."

Psychology. Confirms that who we are and how we behave are determined to an overwhelming degree before we reach the age of accountability. People are not evil so much as much they are sick. There is no rebellion against God. If God is omniscient then like the ultimate psychotherapist he knows why we do everything we do. There can be no wrathful God.

6) Biblical Reasons (1). The Bible is filled with barbarisms that civilized people reject.

A female captive in war was forced to be an Israelite man’s wife (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). If a virgin who was pledged to be married was raped, she was to be stoned along with her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:23-24), while if a virgin who was not pledged to be married was raped, she was supposed to marry her attacker (Deuteronomy 22:28-29), not to mention the pleasure of “dashing of children against rocks,” and genocide itself.

That God is a hateful, racist and sexist God. Christians think Militant Muslims are wrong for wanting to kill free loving people in the world, and they are. But the only difference between these Muslims and the Biblical God is that they simply disagree on who should be killed. According to Sam Harris, “it is only by ignoring such barbarisms that the Good Book can be reconciled with life in the modern world.”

7) Biblical Reasons (2). The Bible is filled with superstitious beliefs modern people reject.

In the Bible we find a world where a snake and a donkey talked, where people could live 800-900+ years old, where a woman was turned into a pillar of salt, where a pillar of fire could lead people by night, where the sun stopped moving across the sky or could even back up, where an ax-head could float on water, a star can point down to a specific home, where people could instantly speak in unlearned foreign languages, and where someone’s shadow or handkerchief could heal people. It is a world where a flood can cover the whole earth, a man can walk on water, calm a stormy sea, change water into wine, or be swallowed by a “great fish” and live to tell about it. It is a world populated by demons that can wreak havoc on earth, and also make people very sick. It is a world of idol worship, where human and animal sacrifices pleased God. In this world we find visions, inspired dreams, prophetic utterances, miracle workers, magicians, diviners and sorcerers. It is a world where God lived in the sky (heaven), and people who died went to live in the dark recesses of the earth (Sheol).

This is a strange world when compared to our world. But Christians believe this world was real in the past. My contention is that ancient people weren’t stupid, just very superstitious. Christopher Hitchens puts it this way: “One must state it plainly. Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge.”

I can propose scientific tests for what I consider superstitions. I can compare what a meteorologist says about the weather with someone who plans to do a rain dance, and test to see who’s right more often. That’s science. The results of reason and science have jettisoned a great many superstitions. Testing and comparing results. That’s science. I can do the same for the superstitious practice of blood-letting, for exorcisms, for people who claim to predict things based on palm reading, or tea leaves, or walking under a ladder, or breaking a mirror, or stepping on a sidewalk crack. I can even test the results of someone who gets a shot of penicillin when sick with the person who refuses this and prays instead. That’s science. And we modern people are indebted to science for these things. It’s what makes us different from ancient people.

Voltaire said, “Every man is a creature of the age in which he lives, and few are able to raise themselves above the ideas of the time.” In the Bible there are so many superstitious beliefs held by the Gentile nations at every period of time that superstition reigned in those ancient days. I don’t think any modern person should be able to conclude anything other than that. The beliefs of these nations were so prevalent that God’s people in the Bible regularly joined in the same practices and worshipped these gods and goddesses. If these nations were so superstitious that Israel regularly joined them in their beliefs, then it seems reasonable to suppose the beliefs of the Israelites, and later the Christians, were also based upon superstitions too.

We who live in the modern world of science simply don’t believe in a god of the sun, or moon, or harvest, of fertility, or rain, or the sea. We don’t see omens in an eclipse, or in flood, a storm, a snakebite, or a drought, either. That’s because we understand nature better than they did, by using science. We don’t see sickness as demon possession, nor do educated thinking people believe in astrology to get an insight into the future. Nor do we think we are physically any closer to God whether we’re up on a mountaintop rather than down in a valley. But every nation did in ancient days. Now it’s possible that ancient Jews and Christians were different and believed because of the evidence, but how likely is that?

8) Historical Reasons (1). If God revealed himself in history, then he chose a very poor medium and a poor era to do so. If you know that much about the craft of the historian, she is dealing with the stuff of the past in which many frauds and forgeries have been found. This justifies a skeptical outlook upon what has been reported to have happened. Almost anything can be rationally denied in history, even if the event happened.

Consider the following historical questions: How were the Egyptian pyramids made? Who made them? Why? Was Shakespeare a fictitious name for Francis Bacon? Exactly how was the Gettysburg battle fought and won? What was the true motivation for Lincoln to emancipate the slaves? What happened at Custer's last stand? Who killed President John F. Kennedy? Why? Who knew what and when during the Watergate scandal that eventually led to President Nixon resigning? Why did America lose the “war” in Vietnam? Did George W. Bush legitimately win the 2000 election? Did President Bush knowingly lead us into a war with Iraq on false pretenses? What about some high profile criminal cases? Is O.J. Simpson a murderer? Who killed Jon Bene Ramsey? Is Michael Jackson a pedophile?

Hector Avalos, argues that historical studies are fraught with serious problems. When it comes to the non-supernatural claim that Caesar was assassinated by Brutus in Rome, in 44 A.D., he argues, “We cannot verify such an occurrence ourselves directly and so we cannot claim to ‘know’ it occurred.” When it comes to whether or not King Arthur actually existed, he argues, “our contemporary textual evidence…is nearly nil.” If this is the case with non-supernatural historical investigations, then it is compounded so much more when it comes to the so-called supernatural events in history.

Consider Gotthold Lessing’s “ugly broad ditch:” “Miracles, which I see with my own eyes, and which I have opportunity to verify for myself, are one thing; miracles, of which I know only from history that others say they have seen them and verified them, are another.” “But…I live in the 18th century, in which miracles no longer happen. The problem is that reports of miracles are not miracles….[they] have to work through a medium which takes away all their force.” “Or is it invariably the case, that what I read in reputable historians is just as certain for me as what I myself experience?”

When dealing with the problems of the historian, William Lane Craig argues that, “first, a common core of indisputable historical events exists; second, it is possible to distinguish between history and propaganda; and third, it is possible to criticize poor history.” Craig concludes: “neither the supposed problem of lack of direct access to the past nor the supposed problem of the lack of neutrality can prevent us from learning something from history.”

Notice again how Christians must argue about what is possible here? Such a conclusion is a meager one; that knowledge of the past is possible. Even if true, and I think it is, there is a lot of doubt for any supposed historical event, especially momentous and miraculous ones.

9) Historical Reasons (2). The History of the Church is Strong Evidence Against Christianity:

- The Inquisition.The angelic doctor Thomas Aquinas argued from the Bible that heresy was a "leavening influence" upon the minds of the weak, and as such, heretics should be killed. Since heretical ideas could inflict the greatest possible harm upon other human beings, it was the greatest crime of all. Heretical ideas could send people to an eternally conscious torment in hell. So logic demands that the church must get rid of this heretical leavening influence. It was indeed the greatest crime of them all, given this logic. So, the rallying cry for over two centuries was “convert or die!”

I understand how today's Christians gerrymander around the logical conclusion of these arguments. They say the Bible passages that call for the death of heretics and non-believers don't apply under the New Covenant. But if that's so, then why wasn't God clear about this such that Aquinas and two centuries of theologians got it wrong, causing such torment and misery? God did not effectively communicate his commands to his people. Doesn't he know humans well enough to do so? It seems an omniscient God needs some basic lessons in communication, or God isn't a good, or God just doesn’t exist.

Why didn't God (Jesus or the Apostles) specifically say, "Thou shalt not kill people if they don't believe the gospel (KJV)," and say it as often as needed? If that was the case, and if you were God, wouldn't YOU do the decent thing here?

- Witch Hunts during three centuries from 1450-1750 A.D. It was a response to the problem of evil as seen in the devastating Black Plague. They actually believed witches flew threw the night, met together with others, and had sex with the devil who left a mark on them. Once accused it was nearly impossible to be declared innocent. No evidence was needed. In most cases no evidence was found. Torture was all they needed to extract the confessions, and it was especially harsh against accused witches because it was believed their magic could help them withstand greater pain.

Why did God say, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" rather than say, "Thou shalt not torture, strangle, or burn witches (KJV)," and say it as often as needed? If that was the case, and if you were God, wouldn't YOU do the decent thing here?

- Slavery in the South. There is no justification for God to have allowed the slavery in the American South, or any slavery for that matter. None. If God was perfectly good, he would've said, "Thou shalt not trade, buy, own, or sell slaves" (KJV version), and said it as often as he needed to do so. But he didn't. Former slave Frederick Douglass said, "I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs."

Just ask Christians how they themselves would feel if they were the ones being burned at the stake for heresy, or beaten within an inch of their lives by a Bible quoting slave master. Surely their own arguments that these Christians of the past merely misunderstood what God wanted them to do would fly away in the wind with the smoke of their flesh, and with the drops of their blood.

10) Empirical Reasons. The problem of evil is as clear of an empirical refutation of the Christian God as we get. James Sennett has said: “By far the most important objection to the faith is the so-called problem of evil – the alleged incompatibility between the existence or extent of evil in the world and the existence of God. I tell my philosophy of religion students that, if they are Christians and the problem of evil does not keep them up at night, then they don’t understand it.”

If God is perfectly good, all knowing, and all powerful, then the issue of why there is so much suffering in the world requires an explanation. The reason is that a perfectly good God would be opposed to it, an all-powerful God would be capable of eliminating it, and an all-knowing God would know what to do about it. So, the extent of intense suffering in the world means for the theist that: either God is not powerful enough to eliminate it, or God does not care enough to eliminate it, or God is just not smart enough to know what to do about it. The stubborn fact of intense suffering in the world means that something is wrong with God’s ability, or his goodness, or his knowledge.

Christians believe God set the Israelites free from slavery, but he did nothing for the many people who were born and died as slaves in the American South. These theists believe God parted the Red Sea, but he did nothing about the 2004 Indonesian tsunami that killed ¼ million people. Christians believe God provided manna from heaven, but he does nothing for the more than 40,000 people who starve every single day in the world. Those who don’t die suffer extensively from hunger pains and malnutrition all of their short lives. Christians believe God made an axe head to float, but he allowed the Titanic to sink. Christians believe God added 15 years to King Hezekiah’s life, but he does nothing for children who live short lives and die of leukemia. Christians believe God restored sanity to Nebuchadnezzar but he does nothing for the many people suffering from schizophrenia and dementia today. Christians believe Jesus healed people, but God does nothing to stop pandemics which have destroyed whole populations of people. There are many handicapped people, and babies born with birth defects that God does not heal. As God idly sits by, well over 100 million people were slaughtered in the last century due to genocides, and wars. Well over 100 million animals are slaughtered every year for American consumption alone, while animals viciously prey on each other.

Take for example the 2004 Indonesian tsunami killed a quarter of a million people. If God had prevented it, none of us would ever know he kept it from happening, precisely because it didn’t happen. Any person who is supposed to be good would be morally obligated to prevent it, especially if all it took was a “snap” of his fingers to do so.

Stephen Wykstra argues that it’s possible we cannot see a reason why an omniscient God allows so much suffering. We’re told God is so omniscient that we can’t understand his purposes, and this is true, we can’t begin to grasp why there is so much evil in the world if God exists. But if God is as omniscient as claimed, then he should know how to create a better world too, especially since we do have a good idea how God could’ve created differently.

There is no perfectly good, all-powerful, omniscient God of Christian theology.

Most Christians do not believe in the God of the Bible anyway. Instead they believe in the perfect being of St. Anselm in the 11th century A.D. after centuries of theological gerrymandering. The Bible isn’t consistent in describing its God, but one probable description is as follows: rather than creating the universe ex nihilo, the biblical God fashioned the earth to rise out of the seas in divine conflict with the dragon sea god, sometimes called Rahab, as in Job 26:9-12. This God is merely the “god of the gods,” who like the other gods had a body that needed to rest on the 7th day, and was found walking in the “cool of the day” in the Garden of Eden. Yahweh, the god of Israel, probably emerged out of a polytheistic amalgamation of gods known in the ancient Near East in pre-biblical times. In the ancient Near East, all pantheons were organized as families, and Yahweh was simply one of the members of that family. Some biblical authors consider Yahweh, the god of Israel, as one of many gods fathered by Elyon whose wife was Asherah, to whom was given the people and land of Israel to rule over (Deut. 32:8). This God was responsible for doing both good and evil, sending evil spirits to do his will, and commanding genocide. As time went on Yahweh was believed to be the only God that existed. Still later Satan was conceived as an evil rival in order to exonerate Yahweh from being the creator of evil. Still later in the New Testament the God of the Bible was stripped of physical characteristics and known as a spiritual being. As theologians reflected on their God they came to believe he created the universe ex nihilo. Anselm finally defined him as the “greatest conceivable being.” But Anslem’s God is at odds with what we find in most of the Bible.

Christians claim to derive their beliefs from the Bible, which had a long process of formation and of borrowing material from others; in which God revealed himself through a poor medium (history) in a poor era (ancient times); who condemns all of humanity for the sins of the first human pair, commanded genocide, witch, honor, heretic killings, and who demanded a perfect moral life when such a life is not possible, given that we are fleshly creatures kept from knowing God’s purported love and power by an unreasonable “epistemic distance”; became incarnate in Jesus (the 2nd person of the trinity), even though no reasonable sense can be made of a being who is both 100% God and 100% man; found it necessary to die on the cross for our sins, even though no sense can be made of so-called atonement; who subsequently bodily arose from the dead, even though the believer in miracles has an almost impossible double-burden of proof here (it’s both “improbable” being a miracle and at the same time “probable”); who now chooses to live embodied forever in a human resurrected body (although there are many formidable objections to personal identity in such a resurrected state); to return in the future, even though the New Testament writers are clear that “the end of all kingdoms” and the establishment of God's kingdom was to be in their generation; and will return where every eye will see him, which assumes an ancient pre-scientific cosmology; who sent the third person of the trinity to lead his followers into "all truth,” yet fails in every generation to do this; who will also judge us based upon what conclusions we reach about the existence of this God, which parallels the ancient barbaric “thought police” which is completely alien to democratic societies; and who will reward the “saints” in heaven by taking away their free will to do wrong, and by punishing sincere doubters to hell by leaving their free will intact so they can continue to rebel.

To read What would convince me Christianity is True?, see the link.