Bluffing, Talking Piffle and Lying for Jesus

 How to make a mess defending Christianity 

In my article here last week, Three Christian Gods Missing in Action, in which I discussed a few of the more incoherent aspects of Christian theology, I concluded with this paragraph:

“Our request to theologians: please tell us where we can find reliable, verifiable, objective data about god(s)—we need to dispel all this incoherence. Theologians themselves, I suspect, also wish they had data. Making things up, century after century, is a chore. And it’s such a nuisance that theologians can’t agree: they argue endlessly about what they’ve made up.”



Wouldn’t you know it: one of persistent trolls who visits this blog, Don Camp, decided to let us know how Christian theology meets these standards. But, of course, he illustrated exactly the opposite. He confuses faith bias—sincere religious opinions—with reliable, verifiable, objective data. 

(1) Christian theology is reliable because, 

Mr. Camps assures us, there were witnesses to the Christ event,  “…multiple witnesses who had nothing personally to gain by fabricating the evidence and a lot to lose by standing firm on their testimony.”

·     Mormon, Muslim, and Jewish believers will stand their ground on exactly this basis. They know their religions are right. 

·      But let’s be clear: the multiple witnesses didn’t fabricate evidence; we would love to have evidence. 

·      And there’s no way to prove that the accounts in the gospels are based of witness testimony, i.e., aren’t fabricated

Mr. Camp has confused religious conviction with data: the multiple witnesses would need to show us the evidence upon which their feelings were based. Millions of very different religious enthusiasts are confident that their testimony is true, without being able to cite the reliable, verifiable data. 

(2) Christian theology is verifiable because, 

Mr. Camp says, “There were multiple witnesses to the life and works of Jesus. There were multiple witnesses to his resurrection.” Robert Conner’s response to this on the blog last week is worth sharing:

“No, Don, there weren't any witnesses to Jesus' resurrection. None. At. All. Despite Jesus foretelling that he would rise on the third day after his death, not one of his disciples showed up to witness it. Not. A. One. And when the women visited the empty tomb, expecting it to contain a corpse, and reported back to the Eleven Amigos, here's their response: ‘But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.’" (Luke 24:11)


Robert Conner points out in his book, Apparitions of Jesus: The Resurrection as Ghost Story, that the gospel writers were influenced, in their depictions of the risen Jesus, by ghost traditions of the time.


As for Mr. Camp’s claim, “There were multiple witnesses to the life and works of Jesus…” —this begs the question of where we can find reliable, verifiable information about what these witnesses saw, not the accounts that ended up in the gospels decades later. We need letters, diaries, and other archival materials contemporaneous with the events of Jesus’ life—which is exactly what we don’t have. People raised in faith-influenced environments assume that the gospels are reliable—i.e., based on “multiple witnesses”—without noticing that these theologically-motivated documents fail the basic tests of history: the gospel authors don’t provide exact details about where they got their information


I have given this example many times: A. Scott Berg’s 743-page biography, Wilson, includes 38 pages of sources and notes. Helen Langdon’s 391-page Caravaggio: A Life, includes 27 pages of sources and notes. These authors specify, in detail, where they found their information. Nothing like that—nothing whatever—exists for Jesus.


Secular historians without faith bias—who have not been taught that the gospels are sacrosanct—are not impressed, as Richard Carrier has noted:

“A conference sponsored by the Center for Inquiry’s Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion in Amherst, New York, in December 2008 gathered numerous reputable historians to begin debating how much we could even claim to know about the historical Jesus—and most agreed the answer was very little, or even nothing. In fact, a growing number of mainstream experts are expressing doubt that much of anything can be reliably known about the historical Jesus…” (Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt, p. 11)

Naturally Christian apologists have redoubled their efforts: No this can’t be, they can’t accept this verdict! So they keep on writing to make the case that the gospels tell it like it was—and Mr. Camp is one of their enthusiastic supporters. But it’s not difficult to see what’s going on, and, again, Robert Conner observes:

“The Evangelical Resurrection Industrial Complex (ERIC) has churned out scores of scholarly tomes, hundreds of erudite disquisitions in professional journals, dissertations and commentaries, as well as conferences and debates beyond numbering, and the tsunami of dishonest verbiage shows no sign of receding.” (6 September 2017, Debunking Christianity Blog)

It’s dishonest verbiage because the fact remains that there is no contemporaneous documentation of any kind to substantiate the words and deeds of Jesus, let alone his resurrection. 

(3) Christian theology is objectively based because,

Mr. Camp assures us, “Multiple witnesses interdependent of each other agreed that Jesus was God represented in the flesh.” But we could find many devout Jewish and Muslim theologians who deny that this is so—and we would have to assume that their piety is just as genuine. Again, of course, we want to know upon what basis the multiple Christian witnesses arrived at this conclusion: where can we find the reliable, verifiable, objective data that leave no doubt whatever that Jesus was “God represented in the flesh.” Feelings and faith biases are not adequate data—at all. Mr. Camp wants us to believe that religious opinions are data. Well, they are data for what people believe, but not for the truth, the substance of those beliefs.

Commonly, when I ask theists to tell us where we can find the reliable, verifiable objective data about god(s), I add this stipulation: “And all theists must agree, yes that’s where to find the data.” This will never happen because theists can’t agree on whose revelations, visions, prayers, mediations, and scriptures are authentic—which is why I added these words to my closing paragraph last week: “And it’s such a nuisance that theologians can’t agree: they argue endlessly about what they’ve made up.”

Mr. Camp would have us believe that the witnesses to the Jesus events “…were considered honest men by those who knew them.” Presumably this would have included the original disciples, but we have no contemporaneous documentation about any of them either. We would need lots of testimonials—documents, e.g., diaries, letters—demonstrating just how honest the disciples were. Most of them are ill-defined figures in the gospel stories… 


…and there are some embarrassments. 


Did Paul think Peter was an honest man? In Galatians 2:11-13 we read: “... But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.” 


And just how honest was Peter, who has three famous lies to his credit, denying Jesus on the night he was betrayed? Moreover, Peter’s avarice was on display far more than his decency and honesty in his treatment of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. 


Mr. Camp is confident that the accuracy of Christian accounts is backed up scholars: “These are the conclusions of scholars and experts who have studied the evidence over many years,” whom he assures us are not “loonies.” Here he’s talking piffle. Conservative, evangelical “scholars and experts” may energetically promote their party line, i.e., the truth and reliability of the gospels, but easily the majority of devout and secular Bible scholars acknowledge the defects of the gospels, how far short they fall from the standards expected by historians. 


Is Mr. Camp right that the scholars who adamantly defend the gospels aren’t loonies? Well, that’s a difficult call. These are folks who have been coaxed to accept—either as adults, or more likely, as children—the ideas championed by an ancient cult, and are obsessed with intense study of it. They embrace the idea that God required a human sacrifice to enable the forgiveness of sins—which Christian theologians have worked so hard to make sound less offensive, less grotesque than it surely is. 


Is it not loony to be heavily invested emotionally in such ideas? …as well as other superstitions that have piled on, e.g., belief in the resurrection of the human sacrifice as a key to gaining eternal life, as well as eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking his blood. Among many Christians the hope persists that Jesus will one day return to set up his kingdom.


How is any of this emotionally healthy? The world is not a better place because these magic blood beliefs from the ancient world have been preserved by the church, based on misplaced reverence for the Bible. Hector Avalos was blunt:


“We should now treat the Bible as the alien document it is, with no more importance than the other works of literature we ignore every day. Biblical studies should be geared toward helping humanity wean itself off of the Bible and toward terminating its authority completely in the modern world…One day, the Bible might even be viewed as one of the curiosities of a tragic bibliolatrous age, when dependence on a text brought untold misery and stood as an obstacle to human progress. We might then study the Bible as a lesson in why human beings should never again privilege any book to this extent.” (The End of Biblical Studies, p. 29)


Mr. Camp asked one critic to avoid vitriolic name-calling. But he should grasp that trolling is not a best practice, and commonly pisses people off. If anyone ventured onto earth-science blogs to argue that the earth is flat, there might be quite a lot of vitriolic name-calling. If someone trolled astronomy blogs to argue the case for astrology, the same would likely happen, and so too if a troll showed up on a blog of space-flight enthusiasts to argue that the moon landings were faked. Arguments for a flat earth, astrology, and fake moon landings are pathetically shallow and will be dispatched brutally. What does Camp expect when he presents his pathetically shallow arguments here? He is in the same league with flat-earthers and astrologers.  


For several years now the Debunking Christianity Blog has presented overwhelming evidence—reliable, verifiable data—that Christianity retains no credibility whatever. It is wrong on so many levels; the case against it has been stated thoroughly. And yet…the trolls drop in to argue their case by talking piffle, bluffing, and lying.


I urge you, by the way, to check out the responses to my article last week, or rather, the brilliant, masterful responses to the troll. The followers of this blog have low tolerance for bullshit.    



David Madison was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years, and has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. His book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, was published by Tellectual Press in 2016. It was reissued in 2018 with a new Foreword by John Loftus.


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