Quote: Richard Carrier on Christianity

I’m sorry to say that, after 35 years as a Christian, yes, this is what we believe.

Definition of Christianity #1: Fundamentalist Version:

The belief that some cosmic Jewish zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

~ Richard Carrier, Lecture “Are Christians Delusional?”, Skepticon 3

Definition of Christianity #2: Liberal Version:

All that Eve stuff is baloney. But I still have an imaginary friend who manipulates the world for me, and he also magically impregnated a woman two thousand years ago, and she bore him a son who underwent an ancient ritual of blood sacrifice in order to dispel a curse laid upon me, thus ensuring that I will be immortal (although I’ve never seen this work for anyone else before).

~ Richard Carrier, Lecture “Are Christians Delusional?”, Skepticon 3

Jesus’ Atonement:

God needs blood to fix the universe, but only his own blood has enough magical power to do it, so he gave himself a body and killed it.

~ Richard Carrier, Lecture “Are Christians Delusional?”, Skepticon 3

The Four Stories We Tell Ourselves About Death (YouTube)

This is a lucid TedTalk from philosopher Stephen Cave. He makes the case, albeit with TedTalk brevity, that humanity has developed many specific immortality stories based on four simple plotlines. Such stories are intended to mitigate our innate fears about death, by which people have always convinced themselves that death is not real or final. Since we can see thematic recurrences serving the same bias and human desires, it is reasonable to question the validity of any specific immortality story (i.e., Hindu, Christian, Modern, etc.). We believe such stories because we want them to be true, and not on the weight of the evidence that such stories actually are true. Historically, we have proven willing to believe pretty much anything that promises an escape hatch.

My thoughts: why do we regard faith as a virtue? Why do we condemn those that lack faith, or at least look on them as sad figures?

  1. There is no confirmable evidence that any immortality tale is true.
  2. Belief in immortality must be on faith.
  3. Those that murmur against faith are implicitly shouting that the death proposition is true.
  4. People do not want to be reminded, and they do not want to be awakened to their wishthinking. The point of faith is to forget. It is to forget our smallness and our mortality. And if faith is delegitimized, we will all have to remember.

Hence religion. So many immortality stories. So varied and creative and beautiful. So many beautiful lies, conceived in terror, and bourn by happy wishing. But lies, such as they are, prove damaging, of a squandering influence, and ultimately – entirely unnecessary.

Infographic: The Breaking of Christian Apologetics

Collapse of ApologeticsIn thinking back over the course of my own investigations, I have noted that several criteria have proven useful again and again. As a person investigates issues of faith and compares different explanations, these principles of vetting can help clear away the clutter that is so happily foisted by various authors. I have dubbed the following five criteria:

  1. The Goose and the Gander
  2. The Burden of Proof
  3. Scaled Support
  4. The Weakest Link
  5. Alternate Cases

In my own investigations, I have found that the most robust cases raised by the mightiest Christian apologists cannot survive the winnowing.

The Goose and the Gander

Principle:

If a rationale can be used to support more than one religion, that line of argument cannot be considered definitive. What is good for goose and the gander cannot adjudicate between them.

Example:

Eyewitness testimony from believers living at the time of Jesus does count as type of evidence. However, it is not unique or definitive evidence. Other religions make similar claims on similar grounds by people who similarly believed. [Read more…]

Reading the Wrong People

Table of Major Written WorksSome friends have considered that my departure from Christianity must be due to a misplaced emphasis of the sources that I have consulted. That is, perhaps I spent too much time reading “the wrong people”, and so came to bamboozlement. This is a legitimate concern, and I suspect that it may be more broadly held than I would hope. It struck me as incorrect on first blush, but I did go back and actually catalogue my sources by worldview.

Taking only the major written works that I read (a few dozen), the statistics sum as shown in the first chart. As can be seen, theist sources dominate the atheist/agnostic sources by 3 to 1. Neutral sources included generic information without direct bias or commentary on Christianity one way or another, while the mixed category denotes resources like “multi-view” type books.

Table of All SourcesIf the net is cast more broadly and extended to include all resource types – including shorter articles, book reviews, Wikipedia entries, and the many debates and lectures that I have watched – the percentages shift as shown in the second pie chart (130+ total).

For myself, I can find no intrinsic indictment in these statistics, nor a visible dereliction of duty, nor an inundation of dreaded atheistic slant. Rather, the collection represents a range of viewpoints, and it favors Christian-biased sources more heavily than any other segment.

Yes, I must maintain, it is possible to become convinced that Judaism and Christianity face intractable problems as a result of a well-rounded, detailed, and broad-based research effort. My conclusions have not been for lack of consulting Christian scholarship. After all, that was my fortress of first retreat. But the vanguard within those walls sadly could not answer…

See the Review of Sources and the Bibliography for detailed lists.

Infographic – Timeline of the New Testament Books

One of the many difficulties the New Testament presents for scholars is dating and sequencing the books in order. Some of the books were written anonymously and did not specify an author. Dating of documents was also not undertaken. Using a range of textual clues, scholars have developed approximate dates for the books. While timelines can be found from a number of sources, I had trouble finding any that were annotated with other significant events of the period. Thus, the following timeline, which combines information from several resources.

My hope is that this may serve as a fairly rich “info-graphic” to help outline the development of Christology and “historical” information about Jesus as contained in the gospels. (please do advise if you find any errors)

New Testament Timeline - JerichoBrisance

The core timeline – which consisted of only the books and their dates – was drawn from Raymond E. Brown’s Introduction to the New Testament (RC); and I found it in a post by Jared Anderson at RationalFaiths.com (LDS). Other sources consulted are cited below. The following is a brief excerpt from Wikipedia on Raymond E. Brown:

The Reverend Raymond Edward Brown, S.S. (May 22, 1928 – August 8, 1998), was an American Roman Catholic priest, a member of the Sulpician Fathers and a prominent Biblical scholar of his era.

Brown was one of the first Roman Catholic scholars to apply historical-critical analysis to the Bible.

He was regarded as occupying the center ground in the field of biblical studies, opposing the literalism found among many fundamentalist Christians while not carrying his conclusions as far as many other scholars.

Theological Evolution

When surveying the letters of Paul and the gospel accounts, it is interesting to note the development of historical claims, as outlined in the orange numbered callouts on the timeline. [Read more…]

Visual Comparison: Genesis vs. Other ANE Myths

John Walton, Christian scholar from Wheaton University, presented side-by-side comparisons of various ancient near eastern (ANE) creation myths with Genesis in his book “Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology” (ref. 57). His tables are quite detailed, listing specific documents from Egyptian, Sumerian, and Akkadian texts (tables 2-1 and 2-2). I have created a condensed version of this information in the two tables below for quick visual comparison. The first compares theological and thematic features, while the second compares the metaphysical elements included.

It should be noted that these other cultures were far larger, regionally dominant, and antecedent to the Hebrew culture and creation account. The cosmology and thematic elements of the Genesis account were derivative of this pre-existing cultural context. Though they all differ in narrative and in theology, they are similar in how they see the world – and in what they do not see. There remains no insight in any of these myths regarding such things as:

  • Dinosaurs or extinct creatures
  • Disease-causing micro-organisms
  • A sense of cosmic scale
  • Human emergence by evolutionary descent

They are all, as it were, written at the same grade level. In terms of historical representation, they all fall down equally. But there is only one for which moderns simply will not concede this.

Summary of Features Appearing

Feature Comparison of Genesis and ANE Myths

Summary of Elements Appearing

Element Comparison of Genesis and ANE Myths

20 Christian Academics Speaking About God (YouTube by J. Pararajasingham)

After the past year’s study, I was astonished to learn what leading Christian thinkers actually believed about the Bible, about explanations of evil, and about cosmic/human origins. It was distressing because I believe many of these views are largely unknown to the common man in the pews. I realized just how lost our intellectual vanguard actually was, and how defeated our claims stood on the battlefield of evidence.

The following YouTube video is a compilation of 20 top Christian academics talking about God, the cosmos, the problem of evil, and other topics. Each interview excerpt is long enough not to be taken out of context, and the assemblage is very interesting. Many of these scholars were recommended to me during the past year, and they are A-listers within the Christian scholarly community. I have read their longer works and watched their lectures and debates on YouTube (N.T. Wright, Alvin Plantinga, William Dembski, John Walton, Alister McGrath, etc.). This video captures the project of textual rehabilitation and doctrinal rehabilitation that I have seen at the bottom of the bookpile, and it does so in about 25 minutes.

It illustrates what I previously wrote in the Moral Pivot:

It was our own scholars, and no one else’s, who taught me to despair.

A must watch. Kudos and thanks to J Pararajasingham. Be sure to check out his other videos on YouTube.

 

 

Bringing the argument home to the apologists

As an engineer, I have considered that illustrations would be of great benefit in clarifying the various issues surrounding the Bible and adverse evidence. This illustration was absolutely spot on per my own observations from the past year’s study.

One of my critiques of Plantinga‘s “Where the Conflict Really Lies” was that he made a project of defending a streamlined and generic theism, only to leap to a conclusion that Christianity was therefore more reasonable than non-belief. This illustration depicts precisely the downfall of the entire book. And such conflations abound everywhere.

As I have posted elsewhere, theism or deism may possibly be true, but that does not save Christianity. The Bible’s credibility collapses on the great weight of disconfirming evidences and the many textual ascription crises.

deconversion

The good news is that today’s apologists find their own core belief indefensible. This is leading to an attempt to draw the debate away from the many core logical absurdities found in the “gospel”, and to a focus on arguments absent from what has lead most of them to their faith. These are just a decoy. Any proposal of a spherical cube of gold can be immediately dismissed due to the impossibility of a spherical cube, evidence of gold not withstanding. In like manner, any proposal of the logically impossible Christian god can be dismissed based on the impossibility of that god, in spite of proffered evidence of “changed lives” or “fine tuning” or perceived weaknesses in evolutionary theory or the need for “objective purpose”. Whatever gods may exist, the logically impossible god of the Bible is disqualified as a candidate due to his logical incoherence. Let’s avoid the intentional…

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