Christian “truth” in Shreds: Epic Takedown 9

“…the most effective refutation of the New Testament remains the New Testament…”

For centuries there have been epic takedowns of Christianity. Secular and scientifically minded thinkers have noted the inherent flaws of theism in light of biology, astronomy, cosmology, comparative religion—to name just a few disciplines. Dan Savage once said that he didn’t lose his faith, he saw through it. Why doesn’t this happen far more often than it does? There is such a huge mound of evidence that Christianity is false; we are tempted to yell at believers, “Please snap out of it!” We may be tempted as well to urge devout folks to examine the insights offered by biology and astronomy, to deepen their understanding of how the world/cosmos actually works. But so many of these folks are profoundly science-shy. Actually, many have been coached to be science-hostile.


Which is why I recommend another approach: try to get the devout to ready/study the Bible.


Seriously. Surveys have shown that most can’t be bothered. Indeed, Catholics have told me that they were never encouraged to read the Bible, hence, for them, it’s even a greater unknown than it is for Protestants. One Catholic woman, who kindly agreed to read one of my manuscripts a few years ago, was startled: “I never knew that Jesus was supposed to come back.” 


How sad, how annoying, that the charter documents of the Christian faith—the gospels and epistles, those 27 books of the New Testament—are simply ignored by so many of the devout. There are some who may explore these texts, commonly under the guidance of ministers who have been trained to offered excuses for alarming verses. But there are few churchgoers who study the New Testament, with the help of books written by New Testament scholars. In fact, the output of Christian academia is largely unknown. The church gets away with so much precisely because the laity are unaware, uneducated about the content of their Bibles—which includes far too much awful, inferior, wacky stuff. 


All we have to do is point it out! We have a new epic takedown—which does exactly that—in Robert Conner’s recently published book, The Jesus Cult: 2000 Years of the Last Days. Written in conversational style, with considerable humor, these 106 pages call attention to Bible texts that show, beyond any doubt, that early Christianity was indeed a crazy Jesus cult, as Conner explains in Part 1:


“…this work defends the claim that Christianity was a cult as presently understood from its inception, a toxic brew of apocalyptic delusion, sexual phobias and fixations, and a hierarchy of control, control of women by men, of slaves by masters, and society by the church.” (p. 2)


John Loftus’ Foreword, by the way, is an especially helpful introduction to the book. 


[My previous articles in this series on Epic Takedowns of Christianity:   One    Two   Three   Four   Five   Six   Seven   Eight]



In Part 2, “The Last Days,” Conner examines the apocalyptic delusion in detail. The apostle Paul preached and wrote fervently that “the coming of the Lord” should be keenly anticipated, any day now. This urgency is reflected in Paul’s advice in I Corinthians 7 that even married men should act as if they didn’t have wives, to remain pure for the arrival of Jesus: “…the present form of this world is passing away…” In I Thessalonians, which scholars believe is the earliest document in the New Testament, Paul assures his readers that their dead relatives will be the first to arise to meet Jesus:


“For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will be with the Lord forever.” (I Thess. 4:16-17)


Then we who are alive, who are left. Conner points out: Preaching the imminent end of the existing age is the bedrock of primitive Christian belief, a fact widely acknowledged in mainstream New Testament studies.”  He quotes Gerd Lüdemann: “…the Second Coming of Jesus will occur in the immediate future…the vast majority of Christians would be living witnesses to Christ’s return from heaven.” (Paul: The Founder of Christianity, p. xxii) Paul even scolded Christians for taking each other to court:


“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels, to say nothing of ordinary matters?”  (I Corinthians 6:2-3)


So Christians could look forward to meeting Jesus in the air, then judging angels in the new kingdom. By any standard we wish to apply, this is full-blown apocalyptic delusion. Conner calls it correctly:


“Paul’s predictions failed. The blameless dead, sexually unblemished, are all still in the ground. The hollow promises of the Christian prophets in Paul’s churches were false and would be disproved again and again, generation after generation, century after century.” (p. 11) 


This “bedrock of primitive Christian belief” continues in the gospels, with Mark—the earliest written—setting the tone. There is little ethical teaching in Mark, whose primary messages in that the kingdom of god is about to arrive. At this trial in Mark 14, we find the Jesus-script in which he promises those present that they will see the Son of Man (= code for himself) arriving on the clouds. And there are several references in Mark and elsewhere to the arrival of the kingdom “before this generation passes away.” So many Christians nowadays seem to gloss over this bedrock element of original Christianity—or treat it as a metaphor (for something)—rather than facing the hard fact that this was as essential part of the original faith. Conner quotes Barry S. Crawford: “…there can be no question as to the meaning of these texts. Each is a straightforward announcement of the imminently impending eschatological consummation.” (Journal of Biblical Literature 101 (1982), p. 226)


Which just didn’t happen, as Conner notes: “…nineteen centuries have passed and every prediction of the Second Coming, every one of thousands, has been wrong. The faithful are waiting still.” (p. 15) He offers a brief survey of preachers and prophets who keep predicting that Jesus is about to arrive. Maybe these guys simply can’t read—or they’re pretty sure that the gullible people who follow them can’t read—i.e., these New Testament texts stressed that the arrival of Jesus was about to happen, soon. Of course, many Christians have deleted the apocalyptic delusion from their theologies—no matter the mental gymnastics required: 


“Although End Times fever still rages among many in the evangelical sects, centuries of disconfirmation and unhinged religious frenzy have resulted in a more sedate stance among the mainstream Christian establishment.” (p. 17)


“…both the predictions of Jesus and the assurances of Paul were belied by the passing of time. Jesus and Paul had proven to be false prophets and not just around the edges. No sane person could take their words in context and honestly claim to believe them.”  (p. 17, emphasis in the original)


So, one bedrock element of the faith is just bad theology and a spectacular failure. But there’s more.


Part 3: The Rising Son?


In my article here a couple of weeks ago, I discussed the inconvenient truth that dying-and-rising gods were part of the ancient religious landscape in which Christianity was born. These cults were popular because they promised their followers escape from death, because their heroes had triumphed over death. How can it be a surprise that the apostle Paul bought into this superstition? He believed in a magic formula/spell:


“…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)


The gospel writers, who came along later, took it upon themselves to create narratives about Jesus rising from the dead. Were the four gospel authors up to this task? Since they were theologians, not historians, their narratives are not convincing. Conner states exactly why not:


“Given the crucial importance of the resurrection, the purported guarantee of salvation for all the billions of humans who have ever lived, we might expect—at a bare minimum—multiple eyewitness attestations from historically confirmed contemporary figures of Jesus as well as a clear, internally coherent account consistent with other sources. The resurrection stories meet neither of these criteria… the evidence for the resurrection, the basis of the Christian religion, are stories in the gospels that cannot be corroborated by any other contemporary source.” (pp. 27-28, emphasis in the original)


Wait a minute: this is such an important event in this history of mankind, but the supposedly divine author behind it all couldn’t do a better job of it? And it gets much worse: the four gospel accounts of Easter morning are a mess—they do not agree at all on what happened at the “empty tomb”—but this fact goes unnoticed by the laity when texts are read selectively from the pulpit.


One of the most astonishing verses in Luke’s gospel is 24:11. The women who had discovered the empty tomb—and were told by two men in “dazzling clothes” that Jesus had risen—rushed to tell the disciples: “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” How can that be! In Mark’s gospel, Jesus told his disciples three times that he would be killed, and then come back to life. And they had seen him raise three people from the dead. 


“Yet despite Jesus’ detailed predictions and their first-hand experience, the apostles remain thicker than two short planks—they don’t understand what Jesus means by ‘rising from the dead’ (Mark 9:32) even after the Master calls them aside and Jesus plains it all to them (Mark 10:32). Did Jesus really call Peter ‘the rock’ (Matthew 16:18) because Peter was the epitome of cluelessness?” (pp. 28-29)


The plot flaws abound—what else to expect of fantasy literature with no connection to history? This is perhaps the biggest one, as Conner makes so clear:


“…according to the canonical gospels—the ones the Church decided are the trustworthy inspired ones—not a single person sees Jesus rise from the dead. Despite his repeated, detailed predictions that he will suffer, die, and rise from the dead three days later, not even one of Jesus’ apostles shows up to watch it happen. No. One. Sees. Jesus. Come. Back. To. Life. No. One. Sees. Jesus. Leave. The. Tomb.” (p. 30, emphasis in the original) 


And this is a clincher, by the way, that the Easter morning stories are fantasies, not to be taken seriously: Matthew reports that lots of dead people came alive when Jesus died (how’s that for magic!), then walked around Jerusalem on Eastern morning. It makes no sense, as Conner notes:


“….holy zombies doing a march on Jerusalem is unmentioned in the other gospels or by any histories of the era. If a hoard of dead people proved Jesus had risen from the tomb, why didn’t Jesus Himself show up in Jerusalem accompanied by angels and dressed in shining raiment? …Why didn’t Jesus appear post mortem to his persecutors and settle the question of his resurrection then and there, once and for all as he promised at his trial?” (pp. 42-43)


Part 2 of the book, pp. 26-51 is, by itself, an epic takedown of Christianity. It is worth thorough, careful study. The resurrection of Jesus, another bedrock doctrine of the faith, is without foundation. And we don’t need science to figure this out; Conner states the truth: “…the most effective refutation of the New Testament remains the New Testament.” (p. 97)



Parts 4, 5 and 6, “Jesus Family Values,” and “Fact Exempt, Tax Exempt, Above the Law,” “The Skeptic’s Panarion,” go into more detail, sealing the case against Christianity. I will discuss these parts in my article here next week. The way faith-in-action has played out in human history leaves us with no confidence whatever that a good god had anything to do with it. I’ll cite just one example now:


“In response to a tsunami of lawsuits, the Boston archdiocese closed seventy parishes and the archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Law, resigned his position. Cardinal Law had known for at least two decades about rampant sexual crimes committed by clergy, including the infamous case of John Geoghan, a priest who raped or molested over 130 children in six parishes over a period of thirty years. Relieved of his duties, Law absquatulated to the Vatican where Pope John Paul II—who was declared a saint in 2013—appointed him Archpriest of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore with a salary of $12,000 a month.” (p. 84)


We know that the apostle Paul’s magic formula doesn’t work in real life, i.e., you’ll be saved if you believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Conner wrote this in the Debunking Christianity Blog recently:


“Why aren't Christians stunned? That's a question I've asked myself for years on end. When priests by the hundreds molest kids and bishops cover it up, why aren't Christians stunned? When nuns raffle off babies of unwed mothers, why aren't Christians stunned? When prophecies fail to happen, why aren't Christians stunned? When unmarked graves of children are discovered around Christian ‘schools,’ why aren't Christians stunned? When embezzlement and sexual assault by preachers get reported on a weekly basis, why aren't Christians stunned? When religious leaders gather to lay hands on a figure like Donald Trump or Jair Bolsonaro, why aren't Christians stunned?  




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). His YouTube channel is here. He has written for the Debunking Christian Blog since 2016.


The Cure-for-Christianity Library©, now with more than 500 titles, is here. A brief video explanation of the Library is here


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