Ian Mills: "Don't Read Apologetics!"

This "New Testament Review" podcast is fantastic! Listen in as two Christian PhD candidates at Duke University, Ian Mills and Laura Robinson, discuss Lee Strobel's book, "The Case for Christ." While they treat the general outline of the gospels as historical to some degree, they destroy the argument that the gospels were written by eyewitnesses. At least listen up to the 21:30 minute mark! Then keep listening to the end to hear them rip into apologetics itself! The whole discussion is good!

Ian says Strobel's book isn't just bad. He says, "This book will make you dumber. No matter how much you already know...you will almost certainly know less by the time you finish this book. It is profoundly deceptive..." (25:45).

It's not just Robert M. Price saying it in his book, The Case against the Case for Christ, or me in my anthology The Case against Miracles--the book apologist Tim McGrew should read before he says anything more about miracles!

The podcasters call Strobel's book dishonest and deceptive from the get-go. It's a textbook case of deceptive apologetics. If this is so, why accept apologetics at all? Ian says it plainly, "Don't read apologetics!" That is, not if your primary goal is to understand the gospels.

A Visit to the Creation Museum


[Since we are all stuck at home right now and cannot visit museums, here is an updated version of a post about my visit to Ken Ham's sad excuse for one. I hope this helps fill a void until you can actually go there and see all of its wonders for yourself.]

Ken Ham's “unnatural history” museum in Petersburg, Kentucky is, as you probably know, devoted to a literal interpretation of the Bible. It claims to present evidence that the earth is about 6000 years old, that dinosaurs coexisted with humans, that there was a worldwide flood around 2350 BCE, and so on.

It is a bizarre experience from the moment you walk in.

"The Case against Miracles" Will Be Made Into An Audiobook!

Good news! I've learned that my anthology, The Case against Miracles, published by Hypatia Press, is going to come out as an audio book! I don't know how soon. If the chapters have different readers for effect, and why not, let my chapters be read by Seth Andrews. ;-) It's the book Timothy McGrew needs to consider before saying anything more about miracles.

The Influence of Pandemics on Religion


This is an excellent presentation by Dr. Darren Slade on how pandemics change history, especially the Justinian Pandemic in the 6th century! Fascinating!

So if western Christians believe their version of Christianity is the true one, they also have to thank their god for the Justinian Pandemic! He no longer works in mysterious ways! His methods are being exposed little by little.

Quote of the Day On the Philosophy of Religion, By David Madison

Click here for more quotes from Loftus
Recently on Twitter Dr. David Madison said, "Everybody insists their own god exists and argues accordingly. Theism deserves the same respect as astrology, alchemy, and belief in a flat earth." Then he linked to my book Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End. What's significant about this is that he's a biblical scholar, having earned his PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University School of Theology. He kindly blogs here at DC and is the author of Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: A Minister-Turned Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, of which I was honored to write a Forward to it.

I've said repeatedly that I might be wrong, but no one can say I'm ignorant. After all, I have nearly the equivalent educational background of Dr. Paul Copan, the former President of the Evangelical Society. David Madison can say the same thing by the tenfold, especially seen in his fantastic book, online writings, podcasts and exhaustive reading list of atheist books in The Cure-For-Christianity Library. In his esteemed judgment, after years of studying it out, the evidence conclusively shows the Bible and any religion or theology or philosophy based on it, "deserves the same respect as astrology, alchemy, and belief in a flat earth." His most succinct case is made in a chapter for my recent anthology, The Case against Miracles.

Announcing A New Important Anthology On Jesus Mythicism Co-Edited by Robert M. Price and John W. Loftus

Dr. Robert M. Price and I have co-edited a new anthology, tentatively titled "Varieties of Jesus Mythicism." It's to be published by Hypatia Press and should be available in a year or so.

We have chapters by David Fitzgerald ("Why Mythicism Matters"), Earl Doherty, Neil Godfrey, Stephan Huller, Bill Darlison, Joseph Atwill, Derreck Bennett, R.G. Price, Tim Widowfield, Michael Lockwood, PC Emery, Barbara Walker, Danila Oder, plus our own contributions. We also have three chapters disputing historicist biblical scholars Bart D. Ehrman, James McGrath, and the late Maurice Casey. We included a long chapter on the history of Jesus mythicism too. It should be the standard book of theories that might best explain how the Jesus cult began!

Christianity: Ten Knockout Punches, Number 9


What Jesus would do isn’t good enough

Here’s a surprising headline from 2014: “Evangelicals Have Higher-than-average Divorce Rates.” This is the opening paragraph of the article: “Despite their strong pro-family values, evangelical Christians have higher than average divorce rates—in fact, being more likely to be divorced than Americans who claim no religion, according to findings as cited by researchers from Baylor University.”

Wait a minute. Isn’t this the crowd that always wants to know What Would Jesus Do? These are the words of Jesus in Mark 10:

Magic, Miracles and Madness

Here's an interview done with myself, Robert M. Price, and Robert Conner, authors in my new anthology The Case against Miracles. My part begins at about the 15 minute mark. You can skip to their joint interview where they discuss their chapters at the 1 hour 12 minute mark, which includes a spirited debate on the alleged insanity of the apostle Paul.

Is Timothy McGrew An Expert When it Comes to Miracles?

Christian apologist Tom Gilson said: "Timothy McGrew is an international expert on epistemology and miracles. If Loftus has come up with a better defense than Tim has already encountered, that would be a miracle all its own."

John Loftus: If Timothy McGrew is considered an international expert on miracles and concluded a virgin named Mary gave birth to the second person of the Trinity, then he's not really an expert. He's certainly not a historian using the standards of the historical method, which is the kind of expert we should turn to for miracle claims in the past, not philosophers. Let's see him respond to this link to show that he's an expert. Can he respond or not? If not, then what atheist Michael Levine says is dead on.

Despite the condescending attitude of Jonathan McLatchie and the McGrews, I think they stand to learn from me. If you know anything about me you know I'm well-read. So I'm telling you there are plenty of critical things said in my book on miracles that I don't think they have considered before. See one of them below.

Perhaps Now Is The Time To Read My New Anthology!

If you're reading more books due to spending more time at home, perhaps now is the time to read my latest anthology, The Case against Miracles. It just may be the crowning work of my publishing career. It should be interesting to watch apologists deal with it. Here are links to the paperback edition, and the Kindle edition. Some recommendations of it are below:

A Critical Examination of a Panel Discussion On The Resurrection

Christian apologists Tom Gilson, Jonathan McLatchie, Timothy McGrew and Lydia McGrew participated in panel discussing the resurrection of Jesus recently, and invited questions beforehand. So I obliged with two questions:
1. Would you comment on this quote: "The minimal facts approach is not a fair approach the data, to say the least. By virtue of any disagreements it’s not fair for their side to take off the table any “facts” the other side objects to. That is special pleading, pure and simple, in favor of Christian scholarship. So what is offered are “minimal facts, not all the facts”. What is needed is a sound argument for why apologists can arbitrarily exclude certain things from the discussion. Only if both sides agree to this can apologists Habermas and Licona go ahead and make their case. But skeptics atheists and agnostics don't.
Before the panel discussion Jonathan McLatchie responded:
John W. Loftus I find your objection to the minimal facts approach quite bizarre. The whole point of the approach is that it is tying one's arm deliberately behind one's back and limiting themselves to data that is granted by the skeptics -- i.e. starting from common ground assumptions. How is that "special pleading in favor of Christian scholarship"?
I replied:
Jonathan McLatchie WL Craig and others have said it frees the apologist from first having to defend the authority of the Bible. But defending the authority of the Bible is the major task of theirs. So it allows them to escape from the major task of theirs, which is special pleading.
My reply was not mentioned in the discussion. You can watch the video below.

Let's Let Go of the Shroud (Of Turin)

Let's Let Go of the Shroud (Of Turin) 

God’s Spotty Performance on Miracles


Not quite a “tidal wave” of wonders

Christianity is stuck with its miracles—they’re an integral part of scripture—and Christian apologists are stuck with their obligation to defend them. Of course serious Christian thinkers—by which I mean those tuned in to how the real world works—have made the adjustment: miracle tales are part of folklore across a very diverse religious spectrum. So, no, Jesus didn’t walk on water, still the storm, or feed the five thousand. Given the era in which the New Testament was written, these are special effects that increase the wow-factor—“Just look at what gods can do!” Supposedly, of course, there is residual “spiritual value” in the miracle stories, so preachers can make the most of them.

We Have a Lackluster Democratic Presidential Candidate in Joe Biden, Now What?

A friend of mine said on Facebook: "I’ve been a dedicated Bernie Sanders supporter for years. Two campaigns. I don’t love Biden, but I will support him, and hope that he chooses to take the ideas of Warren, Sanders, and Yang to the White House with him." My response: "I agree, but unlike my support for Bernie, all I'll do is vote for Biden. I have no enthusiasm for Biden or the democratic party as an entity."

What else can we do? One response, the wrong one, is anger, based on feeling marginalized and even victimized by the democratic establishment (DNC), and responding by refusing to vote for Biden. I won't lie. I have sympathies for this view. And the arguments are there, especially for the millions of young people Bernie Sanders has brought into the political process for the first time in their lives! They would not be involved if it wasn't for Sanders. So it would be easy to stick it to the DNC, for sticking it to their man. They had no stake in politics in the first place. They can leave it. "Let people in power go back to screwing the world up, since there's no hope for changing the establishment except for a complete revolution, as shown twice now when it came to Sanders." That was precisely the anti-establishment revolutionary message Bernie offered them as the only way to change politics. That was what got them involved in the first place. With the prospect of four more years of sameness in politics, why bother? Besides, Trump has already done most of the damage in appointing a slew of conservative judges who will be in power for the rest of their lives.

Missionaries Had a Huge Head Start on the Fact-Checkers


Pulling-the-wool has worked from the get-go

“It’s so much easier to believe in God when you hear music like that. I can feel it all coming back to me.” So says one of the characters in James Runcie’s novel, The Road to Grantchester, after hearing Handel’s Messiah. And as the soprano sings “If God be for us, who can be against us?” the protagonist of the story “…is so struck by the fact that the higher notes in the aria are reserved for the words ‘God’ and ‘Christ’ that his tears come unbidden.”

I know the feeling. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God was one of the favorite hymns of my youth, and there are few experiences as awesome as hearing it sung in a cathedral accompanied by the thundering bass of a colossal pipe organ. You feel its impact…to your very bones. Even Richard Dawkins has said, “…I don't want to do without Bach's St. Matthew Passion or the Verdi Requiem…”

Music, of course, has become part of the theatre of church, designed to provoke intense emotion, so that tears and belief “come unbidden.” Emotion is a key for the deflection of thought. The church is highly vested in blunting curiosity about evidence; indeed carefully crafted theatre—the choreographed rituals, the architecture, stained glass, artwork—is designed to mask the absence of evidence.

There are also chapters in scripture that are especially well crafted to achieve the same effect, to impress folks with God’s mysterious and awesome ways. One of these is Chapter 10 of the Book of Acts, which itself was designed, not to recount history, but to enhance the faith of Christians well more than half a century after the death of Jesus. The author of Acts knew how to hit the right notes; he was aware of the themes and ingredients that would resonate with his target market.

This is another article in my series on all of the chapters of the Book of Acts. The Introductory article is here. The one on Chapter 9 is here.

The hero in this text is Peter, who, since he is soon to disappear from Acts, gets good press in this chapter. Gone is the strident, vindictive Peter whom we encountered in Acts 5; there he scolded two people death—literally—for not giving all of the money from the sale of property to the church.

Here, however, we find a Peter whom angels recommend. We read that a pious centurion in Caesarea named Cornelius—he was generous and “prayed constantly to God”—was visited by an angel, who instructed him to summon Peter from Joppa; straightaway he sent two slaves and a soldier to fetch Peter.

The next scene is Peter’s famous vision of a large sheet descending from heaven: “In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air.” (vv. 11-12) This is not a text for vegetarians: “Then he heard a voice saying, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.' But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.’ The voice said to him again, a second time, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.” (vv. 13-16)

We can give demerits for a couple of things in these first sixteen verses, if our hope is to defend Acts as history. An angel is given a speaking role, and both the centurion and Peter have visions in which they receive instructions from God. Visions are certainly real, in the sense that hallucinations are real—bizarre stuff does go on inside the heads of religiously inclined folks. But in this case we can suspect that the visions/angels/voices are simply literary devices. The author is being creative, using the omniscient perspective of a novelist.

But we can appreciate that the author is taking sides in the struggle of the early Jesus movement to decide if it would remain a breakaway Jewish cult—bound by Jewish laws and traditions—or if it should embrace the wider world. This author advocates the latter. Cornelius is not Jewish; he is a Roman centurion praised for his piety. He prayed constantly to God and was favored with an angel visitation: “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.”

The Old Testament dietary laws take a hit in Peter’s vision of the sheet lowered from heaven: “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” In this way the author also smacks down the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:18, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” It would seem Matthew was more sympathetic with the “keep it Jewish” faction—and he alone created this Jesus script; it is missing from the other gospels.

While Peter was pondering the vision, he received another revelation (vv. 19-20): “Look, three men are searching for you. Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them.” Peter found them at the front gate—and discovered their mission: “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.”

Peter gave them lodging for the night, then headed off with them to Caesarea to meet Cornelius and his family. Right off Peter demonstrates that he had learned the lesson of the sheet lowered from heaven in his vision: “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” He was curious about why he had been summoned, and is told: “So now all of us are here in the presence of God to listen to all that the Lord has commanded you to say.”

Again, we can see this author crafting the story with his target market in mind, i.e., diverse members of the Jesus cult (i.e., Jews and Gentiles) who shared the mindset about the spiritual realm. It’s a nice touch that Cornelius had been identified as an upright man “well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation,” (although, inexplicably, Peter didn’t seem to know who he was) thus making the point to these readers that this was a Gentile admired by Jews, and that his Gentile family was “gathered in the presence of God” to hear what Peter had to say.

Peter begins with a surprising expression of ecumenism: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (vv. 34-35) He then makes the pitch for Jesus, and thereby wanders into a thicket of theological problems:

• “God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses…” (By-Us-Who-Were-Chosen-by-God, by the way, is a sure mark of cult fanaticism.) It’s almost as if the author of Acts had already encountered skepticism, i.e., isn’t it suspicious that the Risen Lord didn’t appear to anyone outside his circle of acquaintances?—at least in the gospel accounts, which betray no knowledge whatever of Paul’s claim that Jesus appeared to “more than 500” (I Corinthians 15). Why not appear to Pilate or to those who were present at his trial? After all, Jesus promised at the trial that they would see him coming on the clouds of heaven. Yet only the original cult devotees of Jesus saw him. Even then, no doubt, there was skepticism about the farfetched resurrection tale.

• Witnesses “…who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” Paul knew nothing of these stories, and argued that it was spiritual body, not a physical one that “rose”—so presumably not a revived body that could eat and drink. The author of Acts knew the story of the Empty Tomb, which is never mentioned in Paul’s letters.

• “…he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.” Why would Christ the Judge be necessary if, as Peter said at the outset, “…in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

• “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” This is standard New Testament propaganda, and is a lie. There are no prophets, at all, anywhere in the Old Testament who “testified” about Jesus, much less who predicted forgiveness of sins for those who believe in him. The fact-checking concept was unknown to the gullible cult followers who read Acts; they wouldn’t have headed to the library to look up what the prophets had to say. And to receive forgiveness "through a name" is an aspect of magical thinking.

In this short space of ten verses (34-43), Peter, as scripted by our author, has stumbled badly. Well, from the standpoint of consistency and honesty; these virtues are not often demanded of theologians, especially by members of their cults.

But never mind that. Now our author kicks the drama up a few notches (vv. 44-46):

“While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God.”

So the scene is transformed into a mass séance: a divine spirit has been summoned (by Peter’s mediocre sermonette, no less) and the point is made again that Gentiles as well as Jews are favored—by spirits who cause people to “speak in tongues.” Peter moved to seal the deal (vv. 47-48): “‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” In the fifth chapter we found a similar story of the Ethiopian eunuch who straightaway believed Philip and was baptized on the spot: Philip was a complete stranger who had hopped into his chariot and explained a text from Isaiah—yes, of course, the text was about Jesus.

The author of Acts is a master of cult narrative. He depicts people listening to the pitch and accepting it promptly. No due diligence, no fact checking. These stories set the tone—and the precedent—for missionaries and preachers for centuries to come: “Here’s our message—trust us, we’re in touch with God—come to the altar, be saved, get baptized.” Remember: preachers and missionaries are cult propagandists. No, that’s not too harsh: They are paid by their bureaucracies preserve, protect, and defend their particular versions of the truth. Would your local Catholic priest invite Mormons, Muslims, or evangelicals to services, to preach their opposing versions of the truth? Catholics show up to the get the official approved party line…from their own paid propagandists.

The last thing the bureaucrats want or expect is dissent, due diligence, and fact-checking, especially when trying to win souls for Christ. They just want winning…so much winning.

“New converts in different social contexts,” John Loftus has pointed out, “have no initial way of truly investigating the proffered faith. Which evangelist will objectively tell the ugly side of the Bible and of the church while preaching the good news? None that I know of. Which evangelist will tell a prospect about the innumerable problems Christian scholars must solve? None that I know of.” (The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails, p. 90)

John Loftus urges Christians to apply the Outsider Test of Faith to their beliefs. That is: Will they hold up to full, skeptical scrutiny? …the kind you apply to religions you don’t believe in. And this is not rocket-science. It’s a matter of reading the Bible, and analyzing all faith claims, in full skeptical, due-diligence mode, unsupervised by priests or preachers. Now it’s their turn to face the fact-checkers.

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.

The Cure-for-Christianity Library© is here. A brief video explanation of the Library is here.

Rebuffing and Rejecting the Resurrection: An Explanation of Cavin and Colombetti


(A formatted version of this post, with pictures, is available here.) 

Christian academics, like Stephen T. Davis, and William Lane Craig, have often argued that it is rational (even scientific) to believe in the resurrection of Jesus because it provides the best explanation of the available evidence (e.g., the biblical witness and the martyrdom of the apostles). In the latest issue of SHERM (Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry), the academic journal published by the GCRR (Global Center for Religious Research), Robert Cavin and Carlos Colombetti have refuted such arguments by explaining how the Standard Model of physics entails that such an event is implausible and has low explanatory power.

Their paper is brilliant and I expect it to reverberate within the academic community. The paper is highly technical, however, and as such I don’t think the general populace will have an opportunity to read and understand it. Because I think an appreciation of their conclusion is very important, it is my goal here to lay out in easy—or at least easier—to understand terms (1) why “Jesus was resurrected” is not the best explanation of the cited evidence, and (2) how such a resurrection event being contrary to the standard model of physics is relevant to establishing that is not.

To do so, I will use the method for comparing and evaluating hypotheses that I have taught to college freshmen for about 15 years: Ted Schick’s SEARCH method. State the claim. Examine the evidence for the claim. Consider Alternative hypotheses. Rate, according to the Criteria of adequacy, each Hypothesis. I will explicate each step as I do so.

Book Review of John Loftus' The Case Against Miracles by Dr. Gregory Michna

The peer-reviewed academic journal, Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry (SHERM), just published a book review of John Loftus' latest anthology, The Case Against Miracles.
In it, Assistant Professor of History at Arkansas Tech University, Dr. Gregory Michna, gives a section-by-section review of the book from a scholastic perspective, appraising both its academic worth and style of argumentation. At one point, Dr. Michna writes,
The assorted contributors who provided essays for The Case Against Miracles offer a range of arguments—from the philosophical and intellectual to specific historic deconstructions—suggesting that miracles fly in the face of reason and should be met with credulity. They provide a wide survey of issues inherent in miraculous claims that will give any reader much to consider.
You can read Dr. Michna's entire article for free as part of the Global Center for Religious Research's commitment to publishing the latest in scientific research on religion. LINK.

Christianity: Ten Knockout Punches, Number 8


Christianity is a cult of human sacrifice

How do you explain torture to children? Author Phil Zuckerman faced this challenge on a day that was supposed to be a pleasant family outing:

“Our older daughter had a school assignment to visit a California mission. Built by the Catholics in the 1700s and 1800s, the California missions are a vital part of California history. And so we were excited to take our daughters to check one out, about 20 miles from our home. “And the mission was lovely: beautiful landscaping, old buildings, indigenous flowers, a trickling fountain. And then we walked into a large hall—and that’s when my younger daughter lost it. The space was full of crucified Jesuses. Every wall, from floor to ceiling, was adorned with wooden and plaster sculptures of Jesus on the cross: bloody, cut, and crying in pain. Some were very life-like, others more impressionistic. But all exhibited a tortured man in agony. My daughter had no context to understand it; she had no idea what Christianity was all about and had never been exposed to this most famous killing in history. She just saw what it objectively was: a large torture chamber. And she burst into tears and ran out.

It's the End of the World, Again


"In around 2020, a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe, attacking the lungs and the bronchial tubes and resisting all known treatments."

Those are the words of psychic Sylvia Browne in her 2008 book End of Days: Predictions and Prophecies about the End of the World, which rose to the number two position on Amazon's non-fiction chart after Kim Kardashian tweeted about this. For the naive, the accuracy of Browne's prediction seems impressive. But of course it really isn't.

To begin with, the fact that she stated something that turned out more-or-less right is easy to explain: That there will be a widespread virus, and that it will cause “pneumonia-like” symptoms (why not simply “pneumonia”?) are both fairly safe guesses as to what could happen in a given year — even though one is of course still likely to be wrong when making such a prediction. In this case, Browne just got lucky. But she also made far more incorrect than correct predictions. Kardashian's tweet includes the above picture of the relevant page in Browne's book, and there one can also read that another epidemic would take place in 2010, this one involving a flesh-eating disease transmitted by mites that came from exotic birds. You probably don't remember that epidemic, since it never happened.

Did Particle Physics Just Disprove the Physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ?

What you’re about to read may very well be the biggest game changer in the history of discussions on the resurrection of Jesus. In fact, what you’re about to read is likely going to change the way theologians, scientists, apologists, and philosophers view the probability that any corpse, at any point in history, revivified back to life.

Excerpt From "Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End"

I've decided to provide excerpts from my works for consideration. Here's one from Unapologetic, "Chapter 4: Case Studies in Atheistic Philosophy of Religion."

In Defense of the New Atheists

My specialties are theology, philosophical theology and especially apologetics. I am an expert on these subjects even though it’s very hard to have a good grasp of them all. Now it’s one thing for theologically unsophisticated intellectuals like Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and Stenger to argue against religion. It’s quite another thing for a theologically sophisticated intellectual like myself to defend them by saying they are within their epistemic rights to denounce religion from their perspectives. And I do. I can admit they lack the sophistication to understand and respond point for point to sophisticated theology. But it doesn’t matter. The reason is because all sophisticated theology is based in faith: faith in the Bible--or Koran or Bhagavad Gita--as the word of God, and/or faith in the Nicene creed (or other creeds), and/or faith in a church, synagogue or temple. No amount of sophistication changes this.

A Pandemic of Delusional Thinking


Christianity’s debt to magical imagination

When did belief in God begin to lose its footing? Realities on Planet Earth can deliver devastating blows—perhaps none greater that the Black Plague that killed one-quarter to one-third of the population between India and England; each death was grotesque, horrific. Barbara Tuchman made this observation—one of her ringing classic statements—in her 1978 book, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century.

Now is a Good Time to Read My Latest Anthology, Yes?

Why don't you read some books while staying home during the next few weeks and months? Here is one suggestion, my latest anthology!

It's very gratifying to hear the recommendations of this new work titled, The Case against Miracles. Like almost every single book of mine it's highly recommended by thinkers and scholars on BOTH SIDES of our debates!

Of it, famed Christian apologist Dr. Gary Habermas said:
Christians need be aware of what non-Christian scholars are saying. In this thoughtful and stimulating volume, editor John Loftus brings together a number of the most accomplished atheists and other skeptics to deal with the crucial topic of miracles, an issue that is important on all sides.
Catholic apologist Trent Horn, author of nine books including Answering Atheism, said:
While some entries are stronger than others, The Case Against Miracles represents a powerful critique of the miraculous. Its central arguments demand the attention of any serious defender of the Christian faith.
Dr. David Madison said:
The previous four Loftus anthologies have left little of Christianity intact. Of course, apologists continue to flail, but the case against miracles—so massively documented in this new 562-page book—wipes out all vestiges of this primitive, magical thinking.
Dr. Peter Boghossian just wrote this additional comment on Twitter:

Two Bible Chapters Collide Head-on


Where were the fact checkers?

The concept—the excuse—that “these are holy writings” diverts attention from the haphazard way in which the New Testament was put together. Let’s imagine Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John sitting together in a bar, awaiting news about which of their gospels will be selected for the Bible. They don’t especially like each other, and wrote their gospels because they also didn’t like the way the others told the Jesus story. Matthew wanted to correct Mark; Luke freely changed what he found in both, and John—well, John, was sure the others had it all wrong.

Yay! Bernie Sanders Isn't Giving Up, and For Good Reason!

Both the political establishment and the billionaire class that backs them want Sanders to quit. Why should he? Now it's down to two candidates, and my bet is that Sanders will destroy Biden in their debate on Sunday March 15th. Here's a preview:

This debate takes place at an important crossroads, where the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic meets a country that doesn't have universal healthcare coverage. Professor Robert Polin provides an excellent commentary on it starting at the 2:05 mark. Polin ends with some very strong words.

Keep in mind that 20 Top Economists Endorse Medicare for All as Best Plan to Cut Costs, Save Tens of Thousands of Lives Each Year. Key Quote: "By eliminating insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, and lowering overall healthcare costs, Medicare for All will result in enormous savings for almost all households, all except the richest households who will pay more in taxes."

Plus, don't forget the existential threat of climate change. Here is the evidence and why it's troublesome! Given that it has been one of Sanders main platforms, and that Biden's record is sketchy, Sanders is the one we can really trust to push for change.

Bernie's Plan, How To Make the Rich Pay, And Trump's Pledge

We bailed out foolish banks and their rich investors in 2008-09 to the tune of 700 billion dollars. Records show they spent some of that money foolishly with bonuses to the CEO's, without helping many of the people stuck with home loans that were higher than the cost of their houses.

Isn't it time we bail out the working poor from student loans and forbidding high healthcare costs? We can. Take a look at Bernie's plan. He shows how it can be paid. People say the rich can avoid paying taxes. Not so. We can make the rich pay more in taxes.

It's about time the filthy rich should pay back to those of us who helped make them rich!! It's about time we bypass the political establishment who has been complicit in their heist. Let's stop the madness. Let's stop justifying the madness to our own peril. It is time for a revolution.

Do you see how the democratic party and former presidential hopefuls are lining up behind Biden? Rebel against them. They are part of the problem! If you disagree, who's going to force the rich pay a fair wage to their employees, one where no one working 40 hours a week fails to earn enough to afford decent housing, or go to college, or pay for their healthcare? If they don't do it voluntarily they should be taxed into doing it because it's right. It's inhumane not to do so. Better yet, make several of these things free for the American people.

If you're dismissive of these realities, please acknowledge that we need the workers who will accept poverty wages for many needed jobs, and why this is not the society you wish to live in!!! It's not the kind of society I want to live in, no matter how much money I make, because I care. Contrast this with what Trump is planning. He has pledged to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid if reelected:
"Yesterday, when asked about the growing national debt, Trump pledged to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid if reelected. This has been his plan from the start: 1) Pass massive tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations by claiming they'd pay for themselves. 2) Explode the deficit and send the national debt skyrocketing. 3) Demand cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid."

"At this point, Trump and his enablers aren't even trying to hide their plans anymore. For decades, Republicans in Washington have had their eyes on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. If Trump is reelected, they'll finally get their wish. We must all come together to stop them." LINK.

Karl Marx On The Relationship Between Religion and Economic Inequality

Religion and economic inequality exist together. Where you find one you find the other in a modern industrial society. The working class needs religion whenever inequality prevails. The wealthy class of people need religion to pacify the working poor.

This symbiotic relationship is so intertwined the working poor will even justify their economic inequality, and do so because of their religion. This keeps them all happy until someone asks if there's a better way.

While Marx was unduly optimistic and while his views were unduly co-opted by Lenin, what he says is important and true. For more, see Austin Cline's entry, Religion as Opium of the People: Karl Marx's View on Religion and Economics.

Christianity: 10 Knockout Punches, Number 7


The embarrassingly bad resurrection tale

It’s rare for religions to come up with new ideas, and Christianity especially did a good job of borrowing, adapting, and recasting. One of the oldest ideas is that gods have a habit of coming alive again. In fact, early humans explained the arrival of spring in just this way:

“A vegetation deity is a nature deity whose disappearance and reappearance, or life, death and rebirth, embodies the growth cycle of plants. In nature worship, the deity can be a god or goddess with the ability to regenerate itself. A vegetation deity is often a fertility deity. The deity typically undergoes dismemberment, scattering, and reintegration, as narrated in a myth or reenacted by a religious ritual. The cyclical pattern is given theological significance on themes such as immortality, resurrection, and reincarnation.” (Wikipedia)

Can One Actually Believe in Christianity?


[Originally published as a guest-post on the A Tippling Philosopher blog at Patheos.]

In one of the essays in Loftus's anthology The Case Against Miracles, Robert Price raises an issue that is commonly ignored. Price's essay, “Jesus Christ: Docetic Demigod”, concerns the miracles of the Incarnation and of the Virgin Birth, and is well worth reading for the many additional points it makes (as is the rest of the anthology). Here, however, I'm just going to discuss that one issue, for it is something that puts the very idea of Christian belief in doubt.

Price asks whether it is possible to “believe what you cannot understand.”

Consider the doctrine of the Trinity. It does not mean that there are three gods, nor does it mean that there is one God who “reveals himself in different forms,” for those, he points out, are both considered heresies (Tritheism and Modalism respectively). Or consider what is claimed regarding the Incarnation — namely, that Jesus is 100% God and 100% human. It is impossible to make sense of such a thing. After all, it is a logical contradiction. But then what is it that the Christian is supposed to believe?

Robert Reich: "Sanders is Our Best Shot to Take Back the White House"