Bible Blunders & Bad Theology, Part 8

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Paul’s poor advice on good citizenship


When I was growing up in rural Indiana in the years following World War II, one of our primary sources of news was The Indianapolis Star. Its masthead included a quote from the apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, 3:17: “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” This allowed us to infer that Paul had been a champion of freedom—and yes, even of democracy itself; Paul was on our side. But that’s not quite what Paul had in mind. In this text he compares the new spirit bestowed by Christ to the letter of the old law that kills: that is the liberty/freedom Paul was talking about.

Introduction to "The Incompatibility of God and Horrendous Suffering."

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I'm finishing up my very last anthology on The Incompatibility of God and Horrendous Suffering. As always this takes a great deal of my time. Here's something from my introduction for your consideration:

 The goal of Part 1 A Prolegomena to Horrendous Suffering is to provide the reader with some background knowledge that can help assess the arguments in this anthology. No one approaches the issues in this book without having some previously held views, called background beliefs or background information, or just priors. They help readers evaluate what they’re reading. So believers don’t evaluate the problem of horrendous suffering in a vacuum either. They do so against their prior background beliefs, which are largely culturally indoctrinated ones. But only background knowledge counts, which is based on evidential reasoning. So in chapter 1 I’m providing a large dose of it by defending Hitchen’s Razor. When taken together with the chapters that follow I consider this anthology to be a refutation of Christianity, even though I’m aware that “refutation” is a very strong word. It’s not the central argument, or only argument in my case against Christianity. But it’s pretty damned powerful, an ironclad case if there is one, even though I realize there’s no silver bullet that can kill blind faith since cognitive biases are in near total control of the believing mind.

The goal of Part 2 Philosophical and Apologetical Problems, is to challenge apologists and philosophers on behalf of Orthodox Theism to admit that horrendous suffering renders it exceedingly improbable to the point of refutation for a perfectly good, all-knowing, all-powerful, omni-everything god to exist. Theists treat God just like Poseidon’s son Procrustes did to dead bodies. He amputated their limbs in order to force them into iron beds he had previously made. Theists are forcing their god into a Procrustean bed of their own making, divorced from prior conceptions of god behind a Veil of Ignorance (see chapter 2), and from unadulterated conceptions of god stemming from ontological arguments, and from honest conceptions of the god we find in an honest exegesis of the Bible. Instead, conceptions of their supposed omni-everything god are based on whatever can exonerate him from charges of incompetence, ignorance and indifference in light of the ever-present massive amount of horrendous suffering in this world. This must stop!

The goal in Part 3 Theological and Religious Problems, is to show the relationship of horrendous suffering to different theologies and religious faiths. We never find the orthodox theistic god in the abstract. That kind of philosopher’s god is the one extracted from a multiple number of religious faiths purely for discussion’s sake. It doesn’t exist except in the minds of a few people in the world, just as there is no such thing as “mere Christianity”, given the number of Christianities in the world. Only sect-specific theological gods exist, one’s that have a whole religion, or a complete theology as baggage. So they should be discussed within the context of their sect-specific religions, as is done here.

The goal of Part 4 Biblical, Historical and Personal Issues, is to demonstrate the horrendous nature of the Bible’s god, the horrendous actions of faith, and how these considerations can personally lead us away from religion. They provide the necessary backdrop for understanding the philosophical arguments, something lacking in almost every strictly philosophical discussion of the problems addressed in this book. 

How NOT to Convince Us About God

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A favorite theological scam


I never, ever visit Christian websites or blogs to advocate atheism; I don’t invade the online space of any religion. I’ve always thought this would be a waste of time and keystrokes—but moreover, it would be bad manners: it would be like walking into a church on a Sunday morning to argue with the preacher. Bad manners. I don’t want to be a troll.

Atheist & Christian Book Club with John Loftus On "The Case Against Miracles

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I know this is a long podcast, just over 2 hours. But I think I raise a number of good points, some of which came out in the last half hour or so.

A Tsunami of Christian Hate

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What can happen when a prophet gets it wrong

The Prophet Jeremiah—not the one in the Old Testament—but the Prophet Jeremiah Johnson of North Carolina appears to have fumbled the word of God; he had predicted the reelection of Trump. Hemant Mehta, in a post on The Friendly Atheist blog, quoted Johnson’s follow-up:

“My aim in this public apology is twofold. First, I would like to repent for inaccurately prophesying that Donald Trump would win a second term as the President of the United States. I refuse to blame the saints and say, ‘It didn’t come to pass because they did not pray enough.’ Nor will I proclaim, ‘Donald Trump actually won, so I was right, but now it has been stolen from him.’ I believe the first statement seeks to alleviate the prophetic messenger from the responsibility of what he prophesied, and the second statement is filled with potential pride and an unwillingness to humble himself and admit he was wrong.

Jesus and the Celestial Teapot

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Weighing probabilities

January 6th 2021 Was a Historic Day.

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Remember this day: January 6th 2021. Jan. 6, 2021. 1/6/21. 

It's the day Democrats take both houses of Congress with two duly elected senators. It's the day Republican influence is marginalized for decades to come. It's the last day evangelicals hold political power in America. It's the day Trump's malignant narcissism is recognized and condemned by every reasonable American intellectual and politician. 

We just lived through one of the most historic days in modern history. The results are good!

In Defense of a Thoroughly Secular New Year

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“Christianity is not too big to fail”

As of today, a fifth of the 21st century is now behind us. How are we doing? Does the famous Charles Dickens sentiment express how we feel these days? 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

No, “age of wisdom” doesn’t sound right. Certainly there are reasons to suspect that foolishness and incredulity are in the ascendancy these days. Tom Rafferty, owner of the blog, Understand Reality Through Science, noted this week on Facebook, “Unless religion is marginalized, humanity will be up the roaring and rocky creek without a paddle.”

First Few Blurbs For My Very Last Book!

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Dr. Richard Carrier was probably the first scholar who recognized my work as important. He wrote blurbs for my books along with several chapters. I'll always be grateful to him. He's also the first person to recommend my last book, The Incompatibility of God and Horrendous Suffering:

Loftus has again produced a brilliant gallery of informed experts, now addressing the problem of evil from every angle, and with such power and depth that it shall be required reading for anyone promoting or opposing evil as a disproof of God.

-- Richard Carrier, author of Jesus from Outer Space and Sense and Goodness without God.
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If you still believe in God after reading this book, it’s a miracle. The arguments in it against faith are so strong, that no logical reading would allow faith to stand up to them. But then, faith isn’t logical.

-- Linda LaScola, co-author with Daniel C. Dennett of Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind.
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The most pressing challenge to belief in God today is undoubtedly the problem of pain. One only needs to read the provocative array of essays in this volume of leading atheists and other non-theists to see why this is such an ongoing problem for those of us who believe that God is real. Whatever one’s beliefs or worldview, and whether one agrees or disagrees, I commend all seekers of truth to read and reflect on this significant work that John Loftus has so skillfully edited.

-- Chad Meister, Professor of Philosophy at Bethel University and co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to the Problem of Evil.
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Loftus’ previous book, The Case Against Miracles, is the final nail hammered into the coffin of magical, miraculous beliefs. This book on horrendous suffering should permanently inter that coffin, and with it morally absurd reasoning in defense of religious faith.

-- Peter Boghossian, author of A Manual for Creating Atheists, and co-author of How to Have Impossible Conversations.
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As a Christian apologist, I can say that there is no intellectual objection to Christianity more daunting than the problem of horrendous suffering. In this important new book, John Loftus has gathered a diverse collection of voices that seek to build a comprehensive, multi-pronged critique of Christianity based on this most difficult problem. No Christian apologist can afford to ignore it.

-- Randal Rauser, Professor of Historical Theology, Taylor Seminary.
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For centuries upon centuries believers have wrestled with the existence of God given horrific suffering in this world. But the excuses they offer for God twist our moral sensibilities. They frame suffering as good, inexplicable, or inevitable, and absolve themselves of harms that they themselves inflict, or passively ignore. This book makes that impossible. In chapter after chapter, the excuses get shredded before a jury of rational jurors. As a result, God vanishes, leaving the blood-stained Church to face conviction alone.

--Dr. Valerie Tarico, author of the book "Trusting Doubt."
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One of our oldest myths is the tragic story of Job. Faithful to God, who had blessed him with a wonderful life, Job tried to understand why so many disasters suddenly befell him. One after the other, increasingly horrific tragedies destroyed Job’s estates, his family, his health, his happiness. He cried out to God for an explanation. There was none. Job’s lament has echoed across the millennia but no answer has ever come back. In this ambitious anthology, John Loftus and his colleagues argue the response to Job’s lament can only be “God does not exist.”

-- Dr. Karl Giberson a Scholar-in-Residence in science and religion at Stonehill College and author of "The Wonder of the Universe" and "Saving Darwin"
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John Loftus has a voluminous back catalogue of superb counter-apologetics books. This latest one on suffering is equally powerful as well, clearly and decisively showing that belief in God should not coexist with the huge gamut of pain and suffering in the world. From the thorn of horrendous pain Loftus fashions a spear, piercing theism’s side from which certainty, belief and religious adherence should rationally gush forth. It presents ample evidence that classical theism is dead and buried, so in one hand, Loftus is holding a spear, and in the other, a spade.

-- Jonathan MS Pearce, publisher of Onus Books, and author of Not Seeing God: Atheism in the 21st Century, and Did God Create the Universe from Nothing?
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In this book, Patterson’s chapter had me imagining myself as a default future human, not yet assigned a sex or race or even historical era, and then seeing how any God who made such an assignment wouldn't abide by my own innate sense of fairness. Loftus's chapter on Calvinism exposes the book of Job as an outrageous horror story in a way I didn't really appreciate until now. The clear-eyed explanations of the many writers Loftus has assembled would have forced me as a troubled Christian to confront some major issues with my faith. What a gift that would have been to bypass those difficult doubting years!

-- Ed Suominen, publisher of Tellectual Books and author of An Examination of the Pearl, and co-author of Evolving Out of Eden.
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What’s the collective word for sage? An encyclopedia of sages? Whatever it is, John Loftus has corralled one to create his latest anthology. This book is a wide-ranging and insightful look at the problem of evil, which is as relevant (and unanswered) a problem for Christianity as it has ever been.

-- Bob Seidensticker, author of Cross Examined blog at Patheos.com.

"How the Gospels Became History", A Review by Dr. Richard C. Miller

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The Ancient Christian Gospels as Historiae: A Secular-Critical Evaluation of M. David Litwa's "How the Gospels Became History".

Miller writes: "In the article I contend, contra Litwa, that the Gospels were not written or originally read as chronicles of factual historical events."

To provide him some feedback you can find him here: https://m.facebook.com/Dr.RichardCMiller; or email him at: dr.richard.c.miller@gmail.com

In Defense of a Thoroughly Secular Christmas

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“Maybe leave the manger in the basement”


So, what to talk about on this Christmas Friday? I could discuss the Jesus birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, i.e., that they cannot be taken seriously as history—and all the reasons why; that virgin birth is a borrowed concept, which most of the New Testament authors rejected. These birth narratives are so deeply embedded in the Christian psyche—baby Jesus in the manger—that the faithful are usually unwilling to examine them critically. So much has been researched and written on this, so I’ll take a pass on it today. But check out the article that John Loftus posted here yesterday, Johno Pearce (aka the Tippling Philosopher) Debunks the Nativity Narratives!

 

Johno Pearce (aka the Tippling Philosopher) Debunks the Nativity Narratives!

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Johno Pearce is an indefatigable debunker of all things Christian. Recently he did a fantastic job of showing that "the infancy narratives are not historical and were later-developed embellishments." Johno is your man! Read his essay then get his book The Nativity: A Critical Examination.

Johno recently had a debate over the infancy narratives with Lydia McGrew, a fundamentalist Christian apologist, which he writes about here. Listen to the debate and see for yourselves.

Atheistasis! with John Loftus Christian Resurrection and Religious Relics

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Enjoy this discussion! Jenna writes: "I got to learn from John during this discussion, in depth, what we know about the likelihood of a man coming back from the dead a couple thousand years ago. We talk a bit about religious relics and how to determine legitimacy. Very interesting discussion to be discussed in detail further immediately following this premiere on my discord server, link to be shared in chat."

Bible Blunders & Bad Theology, Part 7

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Train Wreck Bible Verses

The Bible is a dangerous book, actually—from the standpoint of preserving the faith. Conservative scholar Ben Witherington once made a stunning confession, concerning Paul’s Letter to the Romans, i.e., that “…the goal of understanding this formidable discourse is not reached for a considerable period of time.” Wait a minute: Isn’t God’s Word supposed to the clear, its meaning obvious? Perhaps the Gideons have been on a fool’s errand for so many decades, giving out Bibles for free—more than a billion so far—on the assumption that the Word of God is accessible; it’s right there, just read it and “get it.” Witherington knows it’s not that simple, and the problem goes much deeper than that.

The Five Most Powerful Reasons Not To Believe

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I'm still being approached on Facebook Messenger by Dr. David Geisler in his attempt to change my mind. He's an Evangelical scholar/leader and the son of the late Norman Geisler. His focus is on philosophical arguments to the existence of his god, especially the ones his father made. Those kind of arguments bore me to death, especially since Christian apologists Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne and John Feinberg don't place much stock in them. Over on Twitter there are a cadre of atheists who love to debate these philosophical arguments with Christians back and forth, to what effect I don't know. So I asked them in a Tweet: "Let me know when you're having a discussion about the value of debates with fundamentalist Christian philosophers over beliefs that have no objective evidence." I'm still waiting for that discussion. My take is they don't want to deal with the arguments in my book, Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End

So after getting yet another attempt by Dr. Geisler to change my mind, I've put together the five most powerful reasons not to believe, and they're not philosophical arguments per se, but evidential ones. Keep in mind it's brief for effect:

Does the Bible’s God Cross the Depravity Baseline? by Dale O'Neal

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Written by Dale O'Neal:

           To assess the morality of a culture, one must determine the point at which any culture crosses the line from simply bad behavior into rank depravity.  As difficult and subjective as this is, given its importance, attempting to do so would seem to be an essential exercise, especially given the biblical god’s threat of eternal punishment.  While pondering where to begin to answer such a question, I ran across something outside the biblical context that helped me quite a bit by establishing what I refer to as a depravity baseline.  I believe most civilized people will acknowledge this as an acceptable reference point, so comparisons can then be drawn by referring to it.

Religious Studies On William Vanderburgh's Book, "David Hume On Miracles, Evidence, and Probability"

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Religious Studies recently reviewed the book by William Vanderburgh: David Hume on Miracles, Evidence, and Probability. In the Appendix to my own book on miracles I reviewed it very favorably as well. Here are some snippets from the short review:
In David Hume on Miracles, Evidence, and Probability William L. Vanderburgh presents a concise defence of David Hume’s ‘Of Miracles’. By providing a more in-depth look at the relevant biographical details of Hume as well as an expanded investigation of Hume’s broader epistemology, Vanderburgh argues that many commentators, both historical and contemporary, have either misunderstood or misrepresented Hume. At the heart of Vanderburgh’s defence of Hume is the rejection of the arguments put forth by Hume commentators such as Richard Price, John Earman, and others who have attempted to interpret ‘Of Miracles’ from a Bayesian perspective. Vanderburgh argues that approaching Hume’s epistemology from this perspective is fundamentally wrong and that Hume’s argument ought to be interpreted using a non-mathematical probability framework.

Christianity Keeps Hitting New Lows

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Its capacity for “Crazy-Making”   


Is my title a dangerous generalization? How could there be new lows after the Crusades, the Inquisition, and televangelism? Of course we know that many of our Christian friends and neighbors do their very best to lead good lives and help others; aren’t there thousands of good deeds done every day? But it’s not hard to spot the new lows because some Christians manage to grab headlines in the worst possible ways.

Getting Your Vaccine is a Matter of Trust. Trust the Science!

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Here is a text discussion I had with two family members, JA and TO on trusting the science behind Vaccines. I didn't know their views initially. I think I did good job even though I could've written so much more. They are 64 and 68 years old near my age. It started when I heard the Pfizer Vaccine was about to be approved: 

JO: YAY! Looks like the FDA is going to approve the Pfizer Vaccine! The UK already did. Get one of the vaccines ASAP!

JA: I don't know, scared of it.

DON’T BE CLOSE-MINDED TO SCIENCE

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Here is an excerpt from the Introduction to my 2016 anthology, Christianity in the Light of Science, pp. 20-23. If you don't have it this is one of the best books I've ever published:

In this volume is found the evidence, the scientific evidence, the objective evidence that can convince open-minded people. Open-minded people will be open to the scientific evidence. Closed-minded people won’t be open to it, but will instead try to denigrate or deny it. To help believers be open-minded to scientific evidence I have argued quite extensively for the Outsider Test for Faith.5 Professor Jerry Coyne, a scientist specializing in evolutionary genetics at the University of Chicago, says “the wisdom of this . . . quasiscientific approach” is “unquestionable.”6 It asks believers to rationally test one’s culturally adopted religious faith from the perspective of an outsider, a nonbeliever, with the same level of reasonable skepticism believers already use when examining the other religious faiths they reject.

My Last Anthology: The Incompatibility of God and Horrendous Suffering

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I just finished my own contributions for my last anthology, tentatively titled, The Incompatibility of God and Horrendous Suffering, to be published next year by Global Center for Religious Research. I'm done. It's time to enjoy life more. What a ride this has been! No more books. I've written all the books I want to write. I'm very grateful for my readers and your encouragement over the years. It has been very frustrating at times. But it has also been very rewarding knowing I made a difference to some degree. I'll still be here writing for my blog DC, Facebook, and Twitter, along with doing podcasts, speaking engagements, and debates, so no worries. I'm even thinking about doing some videos, we'll see. 

I didn't write a single chapter for Christianity in the Light of Science, and only one chapter for The End of ChristianityBut in this upcoming anthology I've written the Introduction plus five chapters! That's because I'm more of an expert on this problem than any other.

Today I finished my last chapter on Calvinism. I think it may be the best chapter I've ever written! Given God's pre-ordained decretive will he must agree. However, I might change my mind just to fuck with him. ;-) Below is the Table of Contents. It's an excellent model for how philosophers, apologists, and theologians should've been discussing this problem decades ago. If you place this upcoming anthology next to Christianity is Not Great, you'll have everything needed to understand why we think it's worthwhile to debunk Christianity, and religion in general. 

More Bad Examples in Scripture

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Again the apostle Paul—what a surprise!


It’s probably safe to say that most of the people in the world are not, at any given moment, shopping for a new religion. Catholics, Baptists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc. aren’t thinking, “There’s gotta be something better than this.” If nothing else, religion is tradition, and most folks go with what they’ve been taught. Nonetheless, there are aggressive sellers in the religious marketplace, hoping to wear down those who aren’t shopping.

Bible Blunders & Bad Theology, Part 6

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Copycat theology is a bad idea

 


“The Bible is the Word of God.” This is an idea that Christians don’t take seriously—come on, not by along shot. If wisdom from God were right there for the taking, you couldn’t get them to stop reading it. But they do stop reading it—they neglect reading it—because the wisdom of God doesn’t exactly pop out at you. Indeed, Christian theologians have argued endlessly about meanings and interpretations. Pick out almost any Bible text, and you’ll find disagreement and controversy about applications in the modern world.

Bradley Dalton Reviews My Magnum Opus!

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“Why I Became An Atheist” (WBA) was revolutionary for me. I first read it in 2016 when I was 18 years old. I had been doubting my faith for awhile and came across a lot of different resources debating atheism vs theism. One day I was watching The David Pakman show and he interviewed John Loftus. I used to minister to youth groups in high school. So, seeing someone like Loftus who was once all in for Jesus, become an atheist intrigued me. Out of curiosity, I decided to purchase WBA.

It was the final nail in the coffin for my faith and has led to my ever growing interest in religion in politics than I’m engaged in to this day. I grew up in a Pentecostal Church. My faith in Jesus meant the world to me. I read the Bible cover to cover in High School, I prayed daily, and I wanted to help bring people to the Lord. I was a genuine believer at heart.

When I first read WBA, I was blown away by the level of knowledge that Loftus had on Christianity. I had never seen anything like it before. I enjoy the book so much that I’m reading it for a third time. I’ve also read and reviewed several other John Loftus books. I believe that this is his best work.

A Penis Bone in Genesis 2:21? Retrodiagnosis as a Methodological Problem in Scriptural Studies

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Ziony Zevit is the Distinguished Professor in Bible and Northwest Semitic Languages in the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University. He has done widely respected work on the religion of ancient Israel (see Zevit 2001; 2013).

However, Zevit makes a claim that is difficult to accept or understand linguistically, exegetically, and medically. In so doing, he is engaging in “retrodiagnosis,” the practice of providing modern medical categories and descriptions for conditions unknown or of no interest to ancient writers (Arrizabalaga; Muramoto)Critiques of retrodiagnostic approaches are now numerous in scriptural studies, and these include those of Hector AvalosJoel S. Baden, and Candida R. Moss.


Typically, such approaches seek to diagnose a condition mentioned in the Bible in precise modern medical terms. Debra A. Chase attributed one condition mentioned in the Mesopotamian creation epic known as Atra-∆as•s to Kwashiorkor-Marasmus, which is associated with starvation. 


Malcolm Gladwell (13-14), a popular writer who is not a biblical scholar, believes that Goliath suffered from “acromegaly—a disease caused by a benign tumor of the pituitary gland.” For Gladwell, this condition explains why Goliath has poor vision and so asks David to come to him in 1 Samuel 17:44. S. Levin attributes Isaac’s blindness in Genesis 27:1 to diabetes.

Holy Relics, Batman!

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Please
 stop wasting our time and energy

 

I’m pretty sure that even the most devout Christians experience flash episodes of atheism; that is, they see for a few moments, with clarity, that God doesn’t exist. One of the most famous of these flash episodes actually made the news some years ago. In March 1996, a gunman massacred 16 kids and their teacher at a school in Dunblane, Scotland. The United Kingdom was stunned, and in the days following thousands of flowers were placed as a memorial outside the school. One bouquet was accompanied by a Teddy Bear, with a note attached: “Wednesday, 13 March 1996—the day God overslept.” (Reported in the New York Times, 23 March 1996.)

Holy Propaganda, Batman!

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Tales from the cult

A few decades after its inception, the Ancient Jesus Mystery Cult produced writers who had a knack for fantasy literature. The apostle Paul was the first to write about Jesus Christ—as least his letters are the earliest documents that have come down to us—but he said almost nothing about Jesus the Galilean peasant preacher. Paul had hallucinated his way into the cult, i.e., he had visions of the dead man, and bragged that he received no information about Jesus from human sources.