Talks From the Labor Day International eConference on Atheism Now Available

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Did You Miss the 2020 International Conference on Atheism? You're in Luck! Not everyone was able to attend the conference, so we've made it easy for you! CLICK HERE!

The Amazing James Randi Will Be Missed!

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The Amazing James Randi has died at the age of 92. He will be missed. I met him in Vegas when I was on the program in 2013. All I have to show for it is this empty wine bottle.
He's got at least one last performance in the works. It's a Christian documentary on medical miracles. They interviewed him along with Michael Shermer and myself. On the Christian side I'm told they interviewed William Lane Craig, Paul Copan, and JP Moreland.
Several news sources are writing about him. Here is one from the Rolling Stones magazine. I'll also include a video. He was amazing!

Superstitions that Fuel Christian Piety

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Straight outta the Bible

In ancient times, all over the world, the idea caught on that some humans were gifted with knowledge of the spirit world. So many things happen in life that people didn’t understand—lightening, earthquakes, mental illness—surely unseen powers were at work. And it was cool that some humans knew how to manipulate these powers—or so they claimed. Innumerable gods were imagined, whom countless priests and priestesses flattered and served.

Bible Blunders & Bad Theology, Part 4

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The perils of comparing the gospels 

Once upon a time four gospel writers got together at a bar in Corinth. They had all submitted their gospels to the Canon Approval Board, and had been told the time when the decision—which gospel was the winner—would be announced. These authors didn’t actually like each other, but this was a special occasion; each one looked forward to gloating, and seeing the downcast faces of the others.

Monolatry

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It seems obvious that the ancient Israelites were not monotheists, but instead practiced monolatry, the worship of one god combined with a belief in existence of other gods. This is the best explanation of the first commandment's “no other gods before me” as well as of Psalm 86:8's “there is none like you among the gods.” But there are also events described in the Bible that suggest belief in other gods.

One that is particularly interesting is mentioned in the book Bible Prophecy by Tim Callahan:

Is Murder Always Murder? A Response to Dr. Munson by Dr. Hector Avalos, Iowa State University

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Prof. Henry Munson

Writing book reviews is no facile task.  A reviewer must be familiar with the subject matter, and also show some familiarity with the ancillary issues that a book might raise, especially those that are outside of one’s immediate field. That is why I am usually very grateful that someone even deigns to read one of my books. 

Dr. Henry Munson, a professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Maine, reviewed my latest book, The Reality of Religious Violence: From Biblical to Modern Times (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2019) in the prestigious Journal of the American Academy of Religion 88, no. 3 (September, 2020): 900–902. 

Crystal-Ball Theology

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…or imaginary prophecies: take your pick 


Caravaggio brilliantly captured the moment when the Risen Jesus invited his disciple Thomas to touch the sword wound in his side. But what’s wrong with this picture? Certainly nothing is wrong with the painting; it is one of Caravaggio’s masterpieces, and I chose it for the cover of my book because it helps expose some of the theological nonsense in the New Testament. There is so much to unpack here, but let’s give it a shot.

William Vanderburgh's Book, "David Hume On Miracles, Evidence, and Probability" Is Now In Paperback!

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Dr. William Vanderburgh's book length defense of David Hume on miracles is now in paperback and more reasonably priced! It's the book I reviewed and highly recommended in the Appendix to my anthology, The Case against Miracles. As you might guess I recommend both of these books. I consider mine to be a defense of David Hume as well.

On Vampires and Revenants Resurrecting from the Dead

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Because this is the haunted month of Halloween here's something to spook ya all!

I'm always interested in new angles to argue my case against Christianity. Kris Keys does that in the excellently researched essay below. He argues there is more evidence for the resurrection of Vampires and Revenants than there is for the resurrection of Jesus.

Introductory comments by Kris Keys:

Well this is my first time writing a blog post and little did I know it would be for the website Debunking Christianity!! I find this to be completely hilarious as I am not in of myself militantly opposed to Christianity in of itself; I tend to dislike Evangelicals but that is because I view them as hypocritical and blatantly power hungry but of course this description would not apply to all Christians. As probably the readers of this post have deduced by now I am not a Christian, but I am also not an atheist either. I tend to be rather eclectic in my views. I fancy myself to be broad minded and open to change.

I am a schoolteacher by profession, and I have taught both social studies and science at the high school level. I have dual degrees in both fields. In my not remotely enough spare time I enjoy reading folklore, Medieval history, sociology, anthropology and other subjects. Basically a lot of stuff.  Over the years I have heard the Christian argument for the physical resurrection of Jesus and at one time I found this argument to be convincing, but more and more for many varied reasons I became rather skeptical of it. 

None of this explains though, how this essay came about! Nothing remarkable about it really. I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw John Loftus’s profile. In discussion with him I mentioned that one could use the resurrection argument to demonstrate the existence of vampires and I showed him a response I wrote to a friend of mine on this.  John asked me to do a write up for him.

So here is a write up I never seriously figured I would write up on a blog, one that I never suspected I would write for. So I hope everyone enjoys it. So without further ado, here is my attempt to show that the Christian argument for the resurrection of Jesus would also demonstrate vampires exist. I will leave it up to you dear readers to determine if Jesus rose from the dead and if you need to invest in crucifixes and garlics now; or that perhaps claims of the dead returning bodily just should not be given the benefit of the doubt. You decide.

“Morality Made Me an Atheist”

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Even Christians can’t agree on “Christian” morality 

Auntie Em—Dorothy’s aunt in The Wizard of Oz—wanted so much to tell off Miss Gulch: “Almira Gulch, just because you own half the county doesn't mean that you have the power to run the rest of us. For twenty-three years, I've been dying to tell you what I thought of you! And now...well, being a Christian woman, I can't say it!” Which means that Auntie Em wanted to live by the Golden Rule, “do unto others…” We applaud her for that, but it’s not uniquely Christian. How do we know exactly what constitutes Christian morality?

Bible Blunders & Bad Theology, Part 3

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Merging Easter with Halloween


I’m sure Christian commitment can be rated, perhaps on a scale of 1 to 10. Those whom we would rate as “tens” are fervent, unshakable in their belief: they are the untouchables, the unreachables—in terms of getting them to grasp the incoherence of Christian theology. But then there are those at the other end of the scale, who would earn a “one” rating; even “lukewarm” would be a generous description. They would walk away from the faith—and many probably do—with little hesitation or regret.

 

There are those in the middle of the scale, the “fives,” who are regular churchgoers, but who admit—at least to themselves—that they have doubts. They go along with it all because church is what they do. But the right argument, or the wrong personal tragedy, might puncture faith, temporarily or forever.

Intro Outline for "The Incompatibility of God and Horrendous Suffering"

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I'm writing an introductory chapter now for my next anthology with three headings/main points:
1. The Christian Faith Stunts the Imagination;
2. The Christian Faith Has No Objective Evidence At All;
3. The Christian Faith Makes No Sense At All.
It's titled "God and Horrendous Suffering" and has been accepted for publication with GCRR.

Faith and Equivocation

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Whenever someone is defending faith, or is arguing that faith and reason are compatible, they should be asked which of three common meanings of the term they are thinking of. If the exact meaning of the word isn't made clear, it is almost a given that their claims will deteriorate into a mess of equivocation.

When challenged to provide evidence for the existence of God, most theists reply that their belief is based on faith. This makes it clear that, in this context, “faith” means belief without evidence. This meaning of the word also applies to the claim that faith is needed when the evidence isn't conclusive. Or in other words, when the believer says that reason can only take one so far, and one must make the decision to believe.

The Biggest Bible Embarrassment of All?

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The author who said too much 


There are so many Bible episodes that could be in the running for biggest embarrassment. Certainly the story of Noah has to be in the Top Ten. God is so annoyed by human sin he decides to kill everyone on earth except one family—even most of the animals have to die. How many millions of toddlers and babies were drowned? It’s sad that Bible writers thought this was good theology. Who needs a genocidal god with extreme anger management issues? But—there’s a way out: the Noah story didn’t happen, of course. It’s folklore, borrowed from other ancient folklore.

Dr. David Geisler On What Could Change My Mind

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Recently Dr. David Geisler struck up a conversation with me on Facebook Messenger after he noticed a tribute I posted to his father Norman Geisler a year ago. LINK. David has a doctorate of Ministries in Apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, and is the author (co-authored with Norm Geisler) of Conversational Evangelism: Connecting with People to Share Jesus. This book has gained the high recommendations of Josh McDowell, Ravi Zacharias, Mike Licona and others. He is also the President of Norm Geisler International Ministries. He started messaging me, asking if I had even taken on his father's type of apologetics. Immediately I found out who he was, but as he kept asking questions I got a bit annoyed with his pleasant persistence. So I asked him why me? His response: "John, I consider you to be in a different category than most other atheists. I’m not sure there is anyone out there right now that articulates atheist augments as well as you do. I’m not trying to butter you up. I’m just trying to be honest with you. Why would I want to talk to other atheists?"

Dumping Normal Rules of Evidence and Inquiry

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Theology Gets a Free Pass to Make Things Up

Most of the gods imagined by humans—since we began imagining such things—have plied the miracle trade, so it’s hardly a surprise that miracles ended up in Bible narratives. Folks who have been taught since toddlerhood that the Bible is “God’s true story” commonly retain toddler naiveté about the Bible as long as they live. “One requirement for success as a sincere Christian,” Valerie Tarico and Marlene Winell have pointed out, “is to find a way to believe that which would be unbelievable under normal rules of evidence and inquiry.” (Psychological Harms of Bible-Believing Christianity)

Things We Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said

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Text of my presentation at e-Conference on Atheism

[Here is the script of my presentation on Saturday, 5 September 2020, with a few small additions. The video should be available soon. The event was sponsored by the Global Center for Religious Research.]

We pose this challenge to theists: please tell us where we can find reliable, verifiable data about God—and all theists must agree: Yes, that’s where to find it. This never happens because theists don’t agree. For example, they usually claim that scripture is a source of data about God…but whose scripture? We see no effort on the part of Christians to expand the Bible to include the Qur’an and the Book of Mormon. They refuse to acknowledge that these books qualify as scripture.

Naturally, Christians adore the gospels. But these documents themselves present major problems, just in trying to figure out what Jesus did and said. Rembrandt has given us a portrait of a friendly, amiably Jesus. So my apologies to Rembrandt for puncturing this image in what I’m about to say.

Jim Spiegel, Whom I Previously Debated, Just Got Fired for "Little Hitler"

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Professor Jim Spiegel just got fired from Taylor University for this song, titled "Little Hitler." I debated him last year. He believes nonbelievers don't accept his sect-specific Christianity because we're sinners who reject his god. I didn't know how depraved he thinks we all are, until this video. What a lunatic he is! Here's a news feed on it.

Miracle Claims Asserted Without Relevant Objective Evidence Can Be Dismissed!

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I recorded a video talk for two virtual conferences this past Labor Day weekend, for the International eConference on Atheism, put on by the Global Center for Religious Research, and for the Dragon Con Skeptic Track. I'm very grateful for these two opportunities. That video will be released sometime soon. In what follows is the text of my talk. Please share if you want others to discuss it with you. Enjoy the discussion!

Today I’m arguing, along the same lines as Christopher Hitchens did, that “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.” [God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York, Twelve. 2007), p.150.] Specifically I’m arguing that “Miracle Claims Asserted Without Relevant Objective Evidence Can Be Dismissed. Period!”

I think all reasonable people would agree. Without any relevant objective evidence miracle claims shouldn’t be entertained, considered, believed, or even debunked. I intend to go further to argue that as far as we can tell, all, or almost all miracle assertions, lack any relevant objective evidence, and as such, can be dismissed out of hand, per Hitchens.

The Skeptics Track of Dragon Con is Live Streaming Today!

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I'm doing a talk at 5:30 PM est.

“Magic Lies at the Very Heart of Christianity”

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Jesus: Exorcist, Magician, Lord and Savior

In the subdued lighting of a church in Spain, I saw a woman touching the frame of a saint portrait as she prayed. A vial of Pope John Paul II’s blood toured the United States in 2004—yes, a vial of blood was displayed in the center of a gold reliquary—especially precious because it qualifies as a body part of a saint; apparently a spiritual benefit could be derived by being in the presence of this holy artifact. Billions of time a day, Christians conclude their supplications to God with the words, “In Jesus’ name we pray.”

An Audio Edition of "The Case against Miracles" is Now Available!

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My anthology is now in an audio edition! Click here.

Bible Blunders & Bad Theology, Part 2

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Were the gospel writers incompetent or dishonest?

The beginning and end of the Jesus story should prompt suspicion; in fact they jeopardize the entire Jesus enterprise—because of what they don’t tell us.

The Beginning

Why don’t we know more about young Jesus? The earliest New Testament author, the apostle Paul, betrays no interest in the ministry and teachings of Jesus, let alone where he came from.

If the Shoe Were on the Other Foot

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What Christian wouldn’t be incensed by the following statement, especially if informed that it was made by a professor of philosophy at one of this nation’s venerated institutions of higher learning? The statement, ostensibly an attempt to explain the real reasons underlying the religious beliefs of millions of our fellow citizens, appears to be purposely disrespectful:

“Christian belief,” this professor declared, “does not arise from assessment of evidence, but from stubborn closed-mindedness; it does not have its origin in the desire for knowledge but in arrogance and contempt. Christianity is the suppression of truth by hatred, the outgrowth of small-minded prejudice. In short, it is bigotry that is the mother of belief.”

Even strong atheists might admit that this goes too far. No wonder so many religious individuals feel as if they’re under siege. These days, it really does seem that there’s a war on certain types of belief.

Atheistasis on Apologetics with John Loftus

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The International eConference on Atheism is September 3-5 !!

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Here's a discount code to get $4 off on this upcoming International eConference on Atheism. Come on! Join us! Just use: ifollowloftus This is gonna be good!! Just look at the topics and speakers! David Madison and I are among them. Hosted by the Global Center for Religious Research (GCRR) and open to believers and nonbelievers alike. 

When a Good Brain Collides with Bad Religion

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…we get a happy ending

Christian fanaticism has been fueled by the apostle Paul, whose absorption in Jesus—whom he met in his visions—approached totality. He was sure that both body and mind had to yield to Jesus: “…those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). And loosely quoting a text from Isaiah 29, he disparaged thinking: “For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (I Corinthians 1:19-20). Even conservative scholar Ben Witherington has admitted that Paul would be considered a fanatic by many Christians today.

Is God Just?

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[Another summer re-run.]

We nonbelievers claim that a perfectly good, loving being would never have created hell, but according to most Christians we are simply wrong. God is loving, they say, but he is also just — and justice demands that evil-doers be punished. Without hell, after all, where would the Hitlers, Stalins, and Ted Bundys of this world end up? In heaven?

This is a common argument, which means that many must find it persuasive, but my guess is that those who do simply haven't given it sufficient thought. It's very easy to see the flaws in it.

To begin with, hell isn't only for serious evil-doers: standard Christian doctrine maintains that we are all deserving of eternal punishment and that anyone who doesn't accept God's offer of salvation ends up there. A second thing to keep in mind is that even the worst evil-doers aren't necessarily sent to hell — not if at some point they become sincere believers. Ted Bundy, for instance, claimed to have accepted Jesus before being executed, and if that's true then on the standard view he did end up in heaven.

One therefore cannot justify hell on the grounds that evil-doers must be punished. But more importantly, can one still maintain that God is just given this doctrine? Does it make sense that all of us are deserving of eternal punishment, or that those who accept Jesus are forgiven?

"An Atheist Perspective" An Article I Wrote Just After My Deconversion

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First let me share a photo that was take in 1985. Here are the two men I admired most, Drs. William Lane Craig and James D. Strauss, both at my graduation from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in June of 1985.
I had just earned a Master of Theology degree in the Philosophy of Religion under Craig, which was my third master's degree. I had earned the other two under Strauss. I had just been accepted at Marquette University the next school year for a PhD degree in Theology. It turned out that I only had the energy and finances for a year and a half of full time study there, so I took a Senior Minister position in Angola, Indiana. 
I had hopes I would return to finish my PhD, but something happened on the way to paradise. The rest is history, as they say. 
Now about that article. It was written twenty-two and a half years later. In January 2008 I had sent the following short essay to "The Christian Standard" for publication. I had previously published more than a dozen articles with them on various topics, and thought their readers might be interested. It was rejected. Anyway, I just found it and realized I had never shared it before. Enjoy. 

Bible Blunders & Bad Theology, Part 1

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Everything you know about god(s) is (probably) rubbish

So, one day I’m crossing Park Avenue in Manhattan. The southbound lanes are separated from the northbound lanes by a wide stretch of flowerbeds and trees—our city’s answer to the Champs-Élysées. On this particular day a frenzied street preacher, near one of the flowerbeds, is yelling his message. You can’t miss a word: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. Whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.” This guy is stoked with anger. Well, why not? God is angry too.