Dead Giveaways that Christianity Is False

The damage is right there in the Bible

Christian apologists—theologians, preachers, priests, Sunday School teachers—work so hard to explain away the big goofs in the Bible, which are not hard to spot. Why not just trim the Bible? Thomas Jefferson did that with the gospels, but traditions about the holiness of the Bible are firmly entrenched. Even so, can’t a committee of distinguished theologians and church officials get together to pray hard for divine inspiration about what actually should be in the holy text? Then they could announce the results and issue God’s Updated Bible.  


A few obvious deletions come to mind, e.g., Luke’s Jesus script (14:26) that hatred of family and life are requirements for following him; Matthew’s claim that lots of dead people walked around Jerusalem on Easter morning (Matthew 27:52-53); the list of new Christian skills the resurrected Jesus announced in Mark 16:17-18 (e.g., drinking poison, handling snakes, casting out demons)—after all, we know this last one is in the fake ending of the gospel. So there’s a lot of cleaning up for the God’s Updated Bible committee to do.


But that’s only the beginning. Christian faith is seriously wounded by texts that are commonly treated with great respect by theologians. There are so many problems, for example, with just the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. As best we can determine, the apostle Paul was the first person to write about Jesus Christ. Galatians is commonly dated some twenty years after the death of Jesus, and thus a couple of decades before Mark, the first gospel, was written. 


Since there is no report of Paul having met Jesus while the latter was alive, we of course wonder: just where did he get his information about Jesus? Well, he tells us, and it’s not what we want to hear:


“For I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:11-12)


Wait a minute. That can’t be good. Paul boasts that he didn’t get any of his information about Jesus from the people who had known him in person. This declaration in Galatians 1:11-12 is meant to reinforce what he stated at the opening of the letter: “Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead…”


All of his deep certainties were based on revelations from Jesus himself: he had visions of the dead Jesus talking to him. Of course, to him Jesus was alive in the spiritual realm, reaching out to him. It’s not all that uncommon for folks to see deceased people in their dreams—and, of course, they seem very real and alive. Non-Christian observers readily grant that Paul’s visions were hallucinations, i.e., delusional fantasies generated by the brain.


Devout believers cherish the idea that Paul had genuine visions of the resurrected Jesus. But how do they verify that? “Taking it on faith” is not valid; the determination of truth cannot be based on that kind of faith bias. And where do they draw the line? Are the visions claimed by other religions taken seriously? Lots of “holy” people throughout history have had visions. “Well, the visions of our religion are true, but the visions claimed by Mormons, Catholics [if you’re Protestant!], and Muslims are not true. Those very different God ideas can’t be valid.” If believers want to be generous and grant that all these visions are somehow real, are they willing to expand the Bible to include the Book of Mormon and the Qur’an? 


Guess what isn’t going to happen! 


Christians should admit, “Okay, we’ve been conned.” The first guy to write about Jesus hallucinated his way into the early Christian cult, but didn’t know squat about Jesus. This is obvious from the conspicuous lack of detail about Jesus of Nazareth in Paul’s letters: he says nothing about his teaching and miracles. 


Which brings us to another curiosity in Galatians 1, Paul’s report that he hooked up with Peter for a couple of weeks:


“Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother.  In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!” (verses 18-20)


Paul wanted to assure his readers that he didn’t mingle with “any other apostle”—he’s not lying! He seems to be reinforcing his earlier boast that he didn’t find out about Jesus from any human source. But we’re stumped about the fifteen days he spent with Cephas (i.e., Peter). R. Alan Cole, in his 1965 book, Galatians: An Introduction and Commentary, wrote: “Paul apparently had no firsthand knowledge of the life and ministry of Jesus…Peter must have been a priceless font of knowledge in this area…Anyone who spent a fortnight lodging with Peter must have heard much about the earthly Christ…” (p. 94) 


Yes, wouldn’t you think? Yet Paul shows no signs of benefiting from this “priceless font.” 


But maybe the answer is not so puzzling. Peter comes across to us—as we find him in the gospels and Acts—as a familiar figure: he is the rock upon which Christ will build my church, but who nonetheless so dramatically denied knowing Jesus on the night he was betrayed. On Easter morning,  “…Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.” (Luke 24:12) And in the early days of the church he bullied Ananias and Sapphira so brutally that they dropped dead (Acts 5:1-11). 


These stories were created/invented decades after Paul by the gospel writers, and as far as we know they are fiction. So far, New Testament scholars have discovered no contemporaneous documentation whatever to establish that the gospels are history. Christians think they have a pretty good idea who this Peter-in-the gospels was, but the Peter whom Paul visited for fifteen days might bear no resemblance whatever to this gospel figure. R. Alan Cole could very well be mistaken that he was a “font of knowledge.” The Peter that Paul met probably was a leader in the early Jesus cult, but as to who he really was, we have so few clues. Richard Carrier has noted:


“Peter was probably already a prominent if not leading figure of some fringe, countercultural sect of messianic Jews, something akin to the sect or sects represented in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Because scholars have long noted there are several ethical, doctrinal, and other similarities between the sect(s) at Qumran and earliest Christianity, including a particular organizational similarity: at least one Qumran sect already had a committee of ‘twelve’ working under their organizational leader running the community…” Jesus from Outer Space: What the Earliest Christians Really Believed About Christ, Kindle, p. 167.


Paul’s failure—in his prolific writing about Christ—to include abundant details about Jesus, is a tip-off that something isn’t quite right about our common assumptions about Peter. That’s not Paul’s fault, but we suspect that the gospel-Peter is largely fictional. Such disconnects remind us that, when reading the Bible, question everything, as I argued in my article here last week


So, this guy whose letters—at least seven authentic ones—ended up in the New Testament and who played such a formative role in shaping Christian theology, got his ideas about Christ from hallucinations. Isn’t that a dead giveaway that this faith has shaky foundations, and is thus deeply flawed?


Shouldn’t Christian theologians also be stressed that Paul was a bully? It is typical of religious fanatics that they don’t tolerate differences of opinion, certainly not alternate theologies. Paul seems to have written this letter to the Galatian church because he was mightily pissed off:


“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel [or messenger] from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!” (Galatians 1:6-9)


He was furious that other Christ preachers had shown up proclaiming messages that differed from his. And he took it personally: “…you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ.” Yes, this is bullying: “let that one be accursed”—he says it twice. The major problem, it would seem, is that there was no uniformity of belief in the early Christian cult. Stories and theologies grew with the telling, one especially dramatic example being the stark contrast between the gospels of Mark and John. In modern terms, we would say there were no quality controls. Richard Carrier has summed it up pretty well:


“Paul’s sect, overwhelmed with Gentiles, evolved into dozens of warring sects, one of which would come out on top politically and use its power to suppress all the others. Such was the fate of Christianity.” (Jesus from Outer Space, Kindle p. 167)


In fact, Paul set the tone for centuries to come: Christians have differed, quarreled, abused each other because they cannot agree on theology and practice. It’s as if the one Jesus quote they do agree on is Matthew 10:35-36:  “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”


Former Southern Baptist preacher Tim Sledge has seen this in action, as described in his superb book, Four Disturbing Questions with One Simple Answer: Breaking the Spell of Christian Belief:


“Take a group of these born-again, new creations in Christ—to whom God is giving directions and guidance for day-to-day life—put them in a church and wait. Eventually, some of them will get into a disagreement about something. Sometimes, they work it out, but often, no matter how much prayer takes place, one group gets angry and leaves, often to start a new congregation. Wait a little longer, and the process will repeat—over and over—and that’s one reason we have not only thousands of churches, but thousands of Christian denominations.” (p. 16)


By the way, Paul’s rant against the straying Galatians comes right after he offers them “peace” in his opening theological statement, which reflects superstitions of the ancient world:


“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (verses 3-5)


Do Christian theologians want to embrace all the bad theology here? (1) Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins = a human sacrifice operates magically to cancel sin; (2) to set us free from the present evil age = delusional hope for escape from the human condition, as it has been experienced for countless generations: it is what it is—hardly a sign of intelligent design, by the way—and so many religions have promised relief and escape; (3) how can it possibly be true that a self-sufficient God gets off on being offered “glory” by humans? That concept reminds us that the ancient god Yahweh—whose rough edges Christian theologians have been knocking off for centuries—was modeled on tribal chieftains who demanded unstinting praise.   


In Galatians Chapter One alone, there are too many dead giveaways that Christianity is false. It would have to be deleted from God’s Updated Bible.  




David Madison was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years, and has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. He is the author of two books, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith (2016; 2018 Foreword by John Loftus) and Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (2021). He has written for the Debunking Christian Blog since 2016.


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