Showing posts with label "Avalos". Show all posts
Showing posts with label "Avalos". Show all posts

The Obituary of Dr. Hector Avalos (10/8/1958 - 4/12/2021)

As mentioned before, Dr. Hector Avalos has died, a Harvard trained biblical scholar, my friend, and team member here at DC. He died after a battle with cancer. Here is his obituary He'll be missed greatly!
This pic of us together was taken in 2011 in South Bend, Indiana, when Hector was in my area giving a series of talks on religious violence. It was during a very short period of time when I had shaved off my goatee.

Dr. Hector Avalos Has Died. He was a one man demolition machine when it came to debunking Christianity!

My heart just broke at the news that Dr. Hector Avalos just died. I wept at the news. My heartfelt sympathies go out to his wife Cynthia and other loved ones and friends. I loved this man. I loved his scholarship. I loved him for his support of my work. I loved his demeanor and resolve. He was the greatest scholar I've ever personally met and known. He should go down in history as the greatest biblical scholar in our generation. You may disagree but that's my assessment. He made a huge difference. He will be greatly missed.
Here's what I wrote about him in the dedication to my book, How to Defend the Christian Faith, as one of the scholarly friends who greatly influenced my thinking:
I dedicate this book to Hector Avalos who is expertly leading a second wave of atheist biblical scholars following the first wave of new atheists. His writings are multidisciplinary in scope (covering biblical, scientific, ethical and political issues) utilizing a variety of venues (scholarly books, journals, blog posts and newspapers), and cross-cultural in scope (in both English and Spanish). He is a one man demolition machine when it comes to debunking Christianity and its influence in today’s world. 
I first gained Hector's attention when I highly recommended his book The End of Biblical Studies. Then he joined the team of writers here at DC. Here are a few of his early postsHe was relentless in countering ignorance when he was maligned. He responded with scholarship, firmness and as a gentleman. I liked how he would almost always ask his opponent a few hard questions to answer at the end. 
We had a mutual admiration for each other. He came to my defense several times when I was under attack, for which I was thankful. Imagine having a biblical scholar defending you as a verbal pit bull!  
In honor of his legacy I'm asking people buy up his books. See the marquee of his books pictured at the header of this blog. Get his flagship book, The End of Biblical Studies, plus Slavery, Abolition, and the Ethics of Biblical Scholarship, then The Bad Jesus; The Ethics of New Testament Ethics, and also The Reality of Religious Violence.
I have a picture of us together and I'm trying to locate it. For now I'll post the Foreword Hector wrote for my book Christianity is Not Great: Why Faith Fails. I share it to let readers know what he thinks is important. He thinks my work is important. If you value his opinion perhaps you should too. 

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


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. 

"Atheism Was Not the Reason Hitler Killed So Many People" by Dr. Hector Avalos from The Christian Delusion

I've been thinking about posting whole chapters of my books. At Dr. Avalos's suggestion here's one of them from The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails, edited by John W. Loftus (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2010), pp. 368-95, used with permission. No reproduction of this chapter is permitted outside of this post under copyright laws. You may reasonably quote from it and link to it though.

This is an extended chapter of what you'll find in Avalos's book, Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence. At the present time Avalos is doing a revision of that book, which will almost certainly update the chapter you're about to read, so look for it.

Avalos explains why atheism was not the cause of the Holocaust, especially dealing with the arguments of Dinesh D'Souza, and including other apologetic attempts to distance Christianity from the Holocaust. If you love this chapter as I do, there are many others in my anthology you'll love as well.

Quote of the Day by Dr. Hector Avalos, Chiding Pop Christian Apologists For Pretending To Know Things They Don't Know

Don Camp has roosted here at DC, viewing himself as an apologist whose primary goal is not to learn from us but rather to dismantle our arguments against his faith. He's posted so often I limited his comments to ten per day. What Camp should tell us is why his god was so incompetent he enlisted apologists like him to set us all straight. Enter Dr. Hector Avalos. Camp had strewn together a lame response to a video Dr. Avalos made, so Hector responded here. Undeterred, Camp thought he could respond further. So Hector chided him in a letter below, which also serves as a warning to other pop Christian apologists and professional apologists as well.

Dr. Peter Boghossian has defined faith as "pretending to know things you don't know." It's a stipulative definition, one that's polemical in nature yet accurate from the perspective of atheists and skeptics. No, we emphatically do not have to use a word such as "faith" in the same way Christians use it, when the concept behind it is the debate itself. Although, if faith is trust, as they say, there is no reason to trust faith. Anyway, just like the sophists in the days of Socrates, who pretended to know things they didn't know, most all apologists for Christianity do likewise (otherwise they wouldn't be apologists). By contrast Boghossian wants us to practice the intellectual virtue of authenticity, whereby we admit we don't know something if we legitimately don't know it. No one can know everything. So apologists who are pretending are not authentic people. The question is why anyone would take seriously the pontifications of an inauthentic person? The lack of authenticity, all by itself, should tell us such a person is indoctrinated, brainwashed and delusional.

Clan or Thousand? A Response to Dr. Vincent Torley

Dr. Vincent Torley responded to my post on “The Use and Abuse of the Amarna Letters by Christian Apologists” in the comments section.
Torley’s response is fundamentally flawed and exhibits a lack of training in Hebrew and Semitic philology. He cites sources that he himself is either not evaluating critically or is unable to evaluate because of a lack of knowledge of Semitic and Hebrew linguistics. 
I will focus on this statement to illustrate my point: "In summary: some 600 families, or clans, left Egypt, consistent with the 70 that entered, the length of stay, and the births there."

The Use and Abuse of the Amarna Letters by Christian Apologists: A Response to Don Camp

Pharaoh Akhenaten, founder of Amarna
Don Camp, a blogger who often comments on DC, has written a critique of a video lecture, “How Archaeology Killed Biblical History,” that I presented in Minnetonka, Minnesota for the Minnesota Atheists on October 21, 2007. 

Camp objects principally to some of my statements about the lack of historical and archaeological evidence for the Exodus. Camp appeals to the famous Amarna letters, which date from the middle to late 1300s BCE, to refute some of the claims I make in the video lecture.
Camp purports to present a researched post with footnotes. In particular, Camp appeals to this website to document his claims about the Amarna letters.
For the sake of clarity and brevity, I will address the main points of Camp’s blog post with two principal questions:
I. Does archaeology support the large numbers of people mentioned in Exodus 12:37, which claims that 600,000 men on foot were part of the Exodus? (Approximately at 17:06 in my video lecture).
II. Does the Amarna correspondence, dated to the mid-late 1300s BCE, support the historical claims of the Bible concerning the conquest of Hazor and Shechem by the Israelites?       
I will explain why Camp not only misunderstands the Amarna correspondence, but also why he lacks a proper understanding of both the Bible and archaeology when he makes his case. On a broader level, this essay explains why we cannot use the Amarna correspondence to confirm the Exodus or Conquest narratives.

Por qué no creo en la sanidad divina/Why I Don't Believe in Divine Healing


Neumann murió cuando sus padres usaron solo la fe

En marzo del año 2008, Madeline Kara Neumann, una niña de 11 años de edad, murió en la ciudad de Weston en el estado de Wisconsin (Estados Unidos). Sus padres, los cuales son pentecostales evangélicos, creyeron que solo la oración la iba a sanar y no la llevaron a los médicos cuando ya estaba muy grave.
La enfermedad de la cual murió esa niña fue determinada ser diabetes, una condición que la medicina científica moderna puede controlar efectivamente. Sus padres fueron sentenciados por su crimen.
En octubre del 2015,  Dale y Shannon Hickman, una pareja de Oregon en Estados Unidos, fueron condenados por la muerte de su bebé, David. El bebé nació prematuro, y sufrió algunas complicaciones médicas. Segun un reporteUn médico testificó en el tribunal que si los padres hubieran llamado al 911 [cuando] apenas nació, existían ‘99% de probabilidades de que el bebé sobreviviera.’”
Kara Neumann y David Hickman son solamente dos de millones de personas que han muerto desde el principio del cristianismo cuando dependieron de la fe en lo que llaman "Dios."
Yo mismo oraba por los enfermos
En este ensayo explico por qué no creo en la sanidad divina aun despues de en un tiempo ser yo mismo un predicador pentecostal que oraba por los enfermos, muchos de los cuales testifacaron ser sanados despues de mis oraciones. La creencia en la sanidad divina carece de evidencia, y es tambien peligrosa.
Esta creencia se encuentra frecuentemente entre grupos pentecostales evangélicos modernos que usan pasajes bíblicos como Marcos 16:18 ("tomarán en las manos serpientes, y si bebieren cosa mortífera, no les hará daño; sobre los enfermos pondrán sus manos, y sanarán") para sostener sus  creencias.  Para estos grupos, la sanidad divina es una de las pruebas más poderosas de la existencia de Dios. 
A pesar de algunos experimentos científicos recientes que reclaman la efectividad de la oración, la existencia de este fenómeno no se ha podido establecer por los investigadores científicos o por los médicos independientes.
Y aun cuando existen sanidades extraordinarias, esto no podría demostrar que tales sanidades sean hechas por el dios de los cristianos.  Explicaremos más adelante también porque los experimentos científicos no pueden establecer la eficacia de la oración.

Why David Rohl's Response Fails


David Rohl, the main "expert" behind Patterns of Evidence: Exodus, has now responded to my critique. His response is in the comments section of that link. My critique has clearly touched a nerve.
I was hoping he would come armed with facts that would definitively refute my evidence, but he came armed with speculation. I address some of his specific responses here.
RE: “The first idiotic statement from this so-called expert was that he couldn't find any Yahwistic names in the Brooklyn Slave Papyrus. This guy clearly knows his Bible, because he thinks there should by Hebrew names bearing the Yah or Yahu element in them BEFORE Moses has the sacred name revealed to him on Mount Sinai!”  

Note that Rohl does not deny that there are no Yahwistic names in the Brooklyn Papyrus.

Rohl also has missed the fact that I addressed this issue. Please note my statement in my essay: This late occurrence is odd because the Bible says that Yahweh was the name that began to be used during Adam’s generation (Genesis 4:26) and was used by the Patriarchs (see Genesis 12:7-9, in contradiction to the statement in Exodus 6:3).”

We know that there are different traditions as to when the name Yahweh was first known. Rohl simply picks and chooses which narratives tell the true history of when that name was first used or revealed. Aside from avoiding what I said, it is actually Rohl who does not believe what the Bible says.
Rohl chooses to believe that the name was revealed to Moses (e.g., in Exodus 6:3ff), but chooses not to believe that it was used since Genesis 4:26 and by other pre-Mosaic figures.

PATTERNS OF POOR RESEARCH— A Critique of Patterns of Evidence:Exodus


I received an e-mail recently asking what I thought of a new documentary called Patterns of Evidence: Exodus produced by Timothy Mahoney in 2015 (See film trailer). I had not seen it, and I was curious to learn if apologists actually had something new to say.
I ended up suffering through about two hours of repackaged arguments, many of which I thoroughly considered and rejected decades ago.  
The documentary is largely based on the book, Exodus: Myth or History? (St. Louis Park, MN: Thinking Men Media, 2015) by David Rohl, whose book cover describes him as an “Egyptologist, historian and archaeologist specializing in the historical relationship between Pharaonic Egypt and the Bible.”
Otherwise, Rohl is known for espousing other theories that are not widely accepted by most scholars.
Ron Wyatt’s The Exodus (1998)  and Simcha Jacobovici’s The Exodus Decoded  (2006)—see Dr. Chris Heard’s excellent critique here )— are also part of this genre.

Patterns has this general structure found in other apologetic documentaries:
 A. A documentary filmmaker professes to seek the “truth” in a fair-minded and “scientific” way.
B. Skeptics of biblical historicity are interviewed.
C. Advocates of biblical historicity are interviewed.
D. The conclusion claims that the evidence favors C.
This is a fairly routine approach found in the written works of Lee Strobel (e.g. The Case for Christ [1998]) among others.
We can trace this style of apologetics at least as far back as Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853), the Harvard Law professor who put the Bible on trial, and called witnesses in his The Testimony of the Evangelists, Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice (1846). The verdict was predictable: The Bible is historically reliable.
The problem is that most of these documentary filmmakers often don’t have enough expertise to know which expert is offering good information. Mahoney cannot read any ancient languages that are crucial to evaluating some of the claims made, nor does he have the mastery of archaeology and Near Eastern literature necessary to detect the nonsense that Rohl offers him.
In reality, Mahoney did not evaluate carefully even the very archaeological artifacts and reports that he displays for the camera.  He omits a lot of countervailing material (e.g., the Amarna letters, as I will explain).
To his credit, Mahoney admits that he is not an expert. I also will credit him for at least admitting that the majority position among scholars is the one his documentary opposes. But this will not save his documentary from some of the fatal flaws that were obvious to me upon first viewing.



The New Atheism is a name given to a movement represented by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, all of whom wrote best-selling books that were highly critical of religion [1].

Although the New Atheism does not eschew the classical arguments against the existence of God, its focus is primarily on the immorality and harmful consequences of religious thinking itself. For some, the New Atheism is not merely atheistic, but also anti-theistic [2].

Another main feature of the New Atheism is a secular apocalyptic outlook born out of the events of September 11, 2001. A secular apocalyptic outlook refers to the view that religion has the potential to destroy humanity and our entire biosphere.

However, many secular and religious critics of the New Atheism have charged the New Atheism with a number of flaws. One is a lack of expertise in scriptural and religious studies that has led Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens to make pronouncements that are rightly viewed as simplistic or inaccurate in some cases.

This situation has led to the perception that the New Atheism has no experts in scriptural and religious studies that could challenge religious counterparts with as much or more expertise. Others have conflated all New Atheists as followers of a neoliberal or capitalist ideology. Still others note that all the representatives of the New Atheism are white males.

Accordingly, there is a need to identify a Second Wave of the New Atheism. Such a need was discussed briefly in Hector Avalos, The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2015), but it received no elaboration [3].

Dr. Hector Avalos: How Archaeology Killed Biblical History

[First published April 2008]

Part two is below:

Why David Marshall is not a Biblical Scholar


An Apologist should not be confused with a "Scholar"
The recent post about David Marshall’s lack of expertise, when compared to Matthew Ferguson, points to a broader issue of who counts as a “scholar.”  
Since some of my posts were referenced in that discussion, let me just add my own comments on why David Marshall would not qualify as a scholar of the Gospels, while Matthew Ferguson would.
In general, a scholar is one who, at minimum, has the equipment needed to verify independently the claims made in the relevant field.  Usually, it is standard to have undergone some certification process as reflected in graduate degrees and peer reviewed published work. Self-proclamation as a “scholar” is not standard academic procedure.
In the case of biblical studies, one needs, at minimum, the ability to evaluate the primary biblical sources independently. That, in turn, means that one must have the ability to read biblical texts in the original languages.

A Response to Professor Paul Allen: The Supposed Myth of Religious Violence and Religionism in Secular Academia


Prof. Paul Allen of Concordia University
Religionists are those who see religion as beneficial or necessary for human existence and, therefore, something that should be preserved and protected. I recently visited Montreal, Canada, where the divide between secularists and religionists in academia is very much alive, at least in some institutions.  
Some of these religionists are theologians or professors trained in theology who occupy positions in secular universities. When some of them feel religion is threatened, they respond more as part of an ecclesial-academic complex than as secular analysts of religion. One example is Professor Paul Allen, an associate professor in the Department of Theological Studies at Concordia University in Montreal. His response to religious violence offers an excellent case study of how Christian and religionist apologetics represents itself as scholarship.

Bad Boy, Bad Jesus, Bad Bad Jesus: Reviewing “The Bad Jesus” by Dr. Avalos, Part 2

The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics is a 461 page monster of a book written by biblical scholar Dr. Hector Avalos. It's unlike any other scholarly book on the market today. It tells us the rest of the story of the Jesus we find in the four gospels, the dark side, the raw side that biblical scholars try to whitewash over because they think Jesus deserves special treatment. Dr. Avalos by contrast takes off the blinders, forcing readers to see what Jesus was really like.

My guess is that people won't like Jesus after reading his book. I don't. He's not a guy I would want living next to me, or being around my children, or writing a column in a magazine, or politically involved in America that's for sure. No one should. Let's even have done with the notion Jesus was an over-all good person. I would want little to do with him. You might too after reading this wonderfully researched, one-of-a-kind book on an essential issue in disabusing Christians of their faith.

In the future when someone says Jesus was sinless, respond by saying "Bad Jesus." If someone holds up Jesus as an example of a good life, hold up Hector's book "Bad Jesus" in response. If someone asks, "What would Jesus do?," respond by asking them to read "Bad Jesus." It is the antidote to people who indefensibly think Jesus was a perfect human being. It is the corrective to believers who think we need a red-letter edition of the New Testament. It tells us the rest of the story, a story that most people and most Christians have never heard before.

Having said this I want readers to take a look at the contents of his book below, including selected quotes I've chosen from what Avalos writes in each chapter. Keep in mind I make no pretense to summarizing these chapters, only providing a few quotes that might provoke you to read it, which you should. See for yourselves:

W. L. Craig as a Pick-and-Choose Supernaturalist: A Response to Travis James Campbell


About a year ago, I began a series of responses to Dr. Travis Campbell, who wrote a critique (“Avalos contra Craig” = ACC) of my chapter on the historical Jesus in The End of Biblical StudiesSee abbreviated Google version of the book.
W. L. Craig
Three posts were planned to address three issues that I had raised about William Lane Craig’s defense of the historicity of the resurrection. As Campbell (ACC, p. 290) summarizes my arguments:
“A. Craig has misused C. Behan McCullagh’s criteria [for the resurrection];
B. a case can be made for the apparitions of Mary using McCullagh’s criteria (thus, we have a disproof by counterexample); and
C. Craig is a selective supernaturalist.”
I addressed the first issue hereThe second issue is addressed here.
The debate between myself and W. L. Craig is found here.
This post discusses how Craig is a selective supernaturalist insofar as his attack on methodological naturalism betrays an appeal to supernaturalism only for events he favors and not because of the application of some consistent criterion.

Dr. Hector Avalos On "Who Was the Historical Jesus?"


The Solid Sky in Genesis: A Response to Rev. Juan Valdes


One composite reconstruction of biblical cosmology
This is the second installment in a series of responses to comments made by Rev. Juan Valdes in the debate and in his post-debate webpost responses.
In my last post, I refuted his contention that Genesis 1:1-3 does not speak of water as the primeval substance that pre-existed light, the earth, the sky, and all heavenly bodies.
In this post, I concentrate on showing that biblical authors believed that the sky was a solid structure, probably metallic, in which the stars, moon, and sun are embedded.
If so, that certainly does not accord with our observations of how the universe is structured. His relevant webpost is here.

Was the Cosmos Formed out of Water? Response to Rev. Juan Valdes

Rev. Juan Valdes

On February 16, 2014, I engaged in a formal debate in Indianola, Iowa with Rev. Juan Valdes, the pastor of the Iglesia Centro Evangélico Pentecostal in Miami, Florida. He is part of Reasons for Hope, an apologetics organization headquartered in Kentucky.
The topic question was: “Is Genesis 1-3 a Scientifically Reasonable Account of the Origin of our World?”
Rev. Valdes argued for the affirmative, and I argued for the negative.                                                       
You can see the debate here, and I will be referencing any precise time references (Hour:Minute:Second) in this version of the debate. Rev. Valdes has responded to some questions he did not answer at the debate here.

David Marshall and Guillermo Gonzalez: How Untruth Becomes Gospel Truth


My post on “Craig versus McCullagh”  noted William Lane Craig’s inconsistency in using “consensus” as a measure of the validity of an historical claim. See Craig v. McCullagh.
When the consensus agrees with Craig, then he deems consensus as a sound barometer of truth. But when the consensus does not agree with him (e.g., the acceptance of evolution by some 99% of scientists; the consistent use of non-supernaturalism by nearly all academic historians), then he deems consensus as something akin to the Party Line of totalitarian regimes.
Part of my response to Craig showed that, if there has been anything akin to a Party Line, it has been one administered by Christian institutions that have disemployed, persecuted, and killed scholars that did not agree with orthodox positions for about the last 2,000 years.