Plot Twist on Ehrman vs Wallace Debate

This article in the Atlantic tells a fascinating story of antiquities theft, cover-up, and fraud. The basic topic was attention grabbing. But I was positively arrested by the opening scene, because I remember watching it quite distinctly:

[Read more…]

Guidance for the Perplexed Regarding the Exodus

helpFor those who may feel lost about the Exodus question, I’ve briefly collected a few helpful links and references here. I’ll start with a bottom-line summary, then provide articles, YouTube lectures, and books below.

Bottom-Line Summary

Those who simply want an evangelical crutch to give assurance of Biblical accuracy will find the gate wide and road broad. I leave such readers to brace their insecurities as they wish. But for those who want to understand the state of knowledge and agreement within the overall community of evidence-based research, I offer the concise summary of the moderate scholar William Dever, given in a 2013 lecture:

To make a long story short, today not a single mainstream biblical scholar or archaeologist any longer upholds Biblical Archaeology’s “Conquest Model.” Not one. Various theories of indigenous origins [for the people of Israel] prevail, in which case there is neither room nor need for a Biblical Exodus — at least of that [Biblical] proportion.

~ William Dever, UC San Diego Exodus Conference, June 1, 2013 (YouTube)

[Read more…]

Yale Lecture Series on Hebrew Bible

My friend Archaeopteryx was good enough to share the YouTube lecture series by Yale Professor Christine Hayes, “Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible)”.  After watching the first video in the series, I believe this will make a good resource for serious seekers who want to understand the historical events, cultural forces and literary composition of the Old Testament. I read many volumes written by various historians during my own investigations, and I suspect this video series would shorten the learning arc for others.

I’m linking the first video here, which I have cued to mid-lecture as Prof. Hayes discusses 5 common myths about the Hebrew Bible that most Americans do not understand. If you have another 15 minutes, feel free to back it up for full context. I’ll also be adding a link in the sidebar under Rapid Resources, though these lectures are admittedly a bit long to be considered truly rapid. Cheers!

Good Friday Off!

Sometimes my kids get the day off school in observance of a national leader’s birth. But today they get the day off because long long ago, in a third world country far far away, somebody was tortured to death in front of his friends and family. Austin ISD, among others, nods to the cultural inertia and takes the day off. And all the children of Texas, irrespective of their beliefs, are led to associate this observance with the adjective “good.”

It would probably be a sick thing to observe MLK’s assassination every year and refer to it as good. [Read more…]

Hug the Shrug

Whatever

Last week my oldest son, Jack, had a high school project that involved making text/graphic description of himself and his life. Among the many points of identity and culture in the project, there was a section in which he was supposed to talk about his religion. My wife told me that Jack had simply put himself down as an atheist. That’s not surprising, as he has been pretty open about being non-religious among his friends. In this case, however, he included two graphical illustrations to go along. One was an internet meme about believing in “one god fewer,” and the other was my infamous Easter Infographic. Jack didn’t mention it to me, of course, because Jack strides a mellow sort of cadence through life that doesn’t usually dip a toe in dramatic waters.

[Read more…]

Infographic – Family Tree of Christianity (Reblog)

Evan T. at On the Way to Ithaca has gone to an incredible amount of work to develop an infographic showing the family tree of Christianity. Click the image below to get web and print versions of the graphic at his site. The comprehensive scope of this graphic has made some points of info verification challenging for Evan, to say the least, and he hopes that the community can potentially provide feedback, error-finds, or corrections that will lead to even better accuracy in the details. Kudos for the excellent work.

online-en-small

A Recent Resurrection to Consider this Easter: Reblog of “The Curious Case of Alireza M.”

noose

This Easter, advocates of the traditional Jesus tale might consider a more recent example of “resurrection” that foiled a professional execution in the most startling way. The following was a blog post I originally wrote 18 months ago, though the ending has been appended. We now know how the story really ends.

October 18, 2013

An astonishing news story was posted by CNN this morning, with the following highlights:

Convicted by an Iranian court of possessing a kilogram of crystal meth, the 37-year-old man was sentenced to death by hanging at Bojnurd Prison in northeastern Iran, according to Jam-E-Jam, an official newspaper that offered this wince-inducing account:

On the morning of October 9, Alireza M. was taken from his cell to the gallows, where the judge who had issued the order read his sentence aloud and official papers were signed.

Then, a rope was placed around his neck and he was hanged for 12 minutes, after which his body was lowered and a doctor declared he was dead. The doctor, the judge and the prison head then signed the death certificate, and the body of Alireza M. was taken to a morgue for delivery the following day to his relatives.

But the next day, a worker at the morgue noticed that plastic encasing one of the bodies had steam in front of the mouth.

Consider the tally:

  • Executed by suffocation…
  • By professionals that carry out such executions for a living…
  • Death witnessed by multiple people…
  • Dead body lowered and inspected…
  • Carried away, wrapped, and laid on a flat surface

I can think of one notable case where this sort of thing happened before. [Read more…]

Easter Infographic Now in PDF Format

Per visitor request, I have created a PDF version of the infographic. It is available as a link above picture on the infographic page.

Pontius, Our Pilot – Part 1

Resurrecting the Pontius Pilate series for Easter.

Jericho Brisance

What-is-truth02To those who have, of late, recited to me our old evangelical adage – that the scriptures of the Bible are, despite their manifold authors, truthful and without contradiction – I have countered with my standing response: where would you like to begin?

Today we shall turn to one of our preeminent but unacknowledged allies, one who stands as exemplar of the sorrowing fact that the biblical writers were rather making it up as they went along – our old dear villain, Pontius Pilate. Just like Lazarus and Paul, Pontius can help us to pilot up-current, back through the Channel of No Return, to break the siren spell of rose-tinted apologetics.

View original post 2,000 more words

Taking Easter Seriously – Revised & Enhanced

It is that time of year again, and so I am reposting the popular “Taking Easter Seriously” infographic. This 2015 version includes slight enhancements and corrections to the prior version.

Many Christians read the Easter stories year upon year, as I did for several decades, yet we never compare them in detail. As a consequence, we often do not realize that they are not telling the same story. There are indeed contradictions in the texts, but it is very important to move beyond “mere contradiction” — the issues with our gospels are far more extensive than that. Comparison against the historical record and assessing the gospels for trends of legend development are probably far more crucial. As with many non-believers, I left Christianity specifically because of the Bible, and because I considered and examined its content very seriously indeed.

Perhaps it is time for more Christians to take the Bible and our Easter stories seriously.

[Click Image for Full Size Version (PNG), Use Ctrl+ and Ctrl- to adjust zoom.] or [PDF Version ]  or [Greek Version]

I am indebted to scholars like Bart Ehrman, Marcus Borg, & Richard Carrier, without whom I would no doubt continue in my own past failures to take Easter seriously. And as always, I look to improve the accuracy of my work wherever possible. Please reply with any factual errors found, and I will correct appropriately. Thanks.

Also See: Infographic for New Testament Timeline

(C) Copyright 2015, JerichoBrisance.com

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

[In other words, feel free to pass along, distribute, etc., just don’t repackage it and sell it. Thanks!]

 

~

References: [Read more…]

Reblog: From Fundamentalism to Freedom

Feeling strong kinship with the author, and also being impressed by the balanced, compact, and expressive prose, I found this article worth reblogging.

http://new.exchristian.net/2014/05/from-fundamentalism-to-freedom.html

Heaven is for Real: Odometer of Credulity

It is not snobbish to notice the way in which people show their gullibility and their herd instinct, and their wish, or perhaps their need, to be credulous and to be fooled. This is an ancient problem. Credulity may be a form of innocence, and even innocuous in itself, but it provides a standing invitation for the wicked and the clever to exploit their brothers and sisters, and is thus one of humanity’s great vulnerabilities. No honest account of the growth and persistence of religion, or the reception of miracles and revelations, is possible without reference to this stubborn fact.

~ Christopher Hitchens. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Heaven is for Real. Sigh. Over the weekend my older two kids and I went to a Barnes and Noble to chat over coffee while looking at books and magazines. While there, I thumbed through and read several sections of this abysmal little pamphlet, for calling it a book would grant it far too much dignity. Not since the Prayer of Jabez have I seen piffle more perfectly suited as a litmus test of human credulity.

Basic Criticisms

Criticisms for the book are easy to discern from directly reading it or perusing critiques on the internet. [Read more…]

Fish that Wriggle

God, but there is a lot of noise out there.

The internet and blogosphere are littered with so many voices, each claiming a supremacy over the attentions of their dear readers. Echo chambers are on offer for any view. As people, just trying to live our lives, we pilot toward these safe harbors and find the affirmation that our souls crave. Our aged tribal impulses are nourished on the village chants uttered from the pulpits, from Fox News, from the New York Times, and from the Academy. Most of our positions are inherited from friends or ancestry – the common property of our communities. We back our sports teams and we back the Bible with equally ardent and unthought loyalties.

But as the tribes sit round their village tables, lapping up communal pablum from silvered urns, the vessels are at intervals shaken to spillage by disquieting questions. These inquiries are voiced by seekers, dissidents, and apostates. Doubt is mustered – that lurking menace which stalks the confidence so painstakingly erected by our rousing battle cries and stadium chants. Communities are organisms in their own right, and inquiries that would atrophy group loyalty are a threat. Doubt shrinks the numbers. Questions disquiet the members. They put static on the loudspeakers of affirmation. They waken the dreamers from their harbor sleep. We must sing together, or not all. [Read more…]

Dismissing the “Fact” of the Resurrection in a Single Sentence

Bankruptcy_Clipped2

In a perfect analogue to the grand assertions of every cult and religious fiction, not one of the astonishing claims regarding the life of Jesus – the Herodian slaughter, the great census, the heavenly star, the many miracles, the raising of Lazarus, the great earthquake, the hours of darkness, the rending of the temple veil, the hordes of walking dead, the mass post-mortem sightings, or the ascension – was recorded by a single contemporary outside of the faith tradition.

~ Jericho

~

On Martyrs and the Religious Impulse

Stoning of StephenThe great mistake is to assume that the early followers of Jesus had a reasonable basis for their faith, and that they would not have put themselves at hazard over a mistaken or dubious belief. We reflexively take too flattering a view of our shared human nature.

The broader history of religion offers manifold instances of martyrs sipping the bitter cup over complete falsehoods. One might even conclude that the presence of a martyrdom tradition was actually a mark against the validity of Christianity, placing it squarely in the company of myriad cults, equally bereft of truth but ever eager to slaughter animals, to self-castrate, to sacrifice children, and to die in the service of the non-existent and the false. Fervent religious zeal and false beliefs make strange but steady bedfellows in the history of faith.

One might even conclude that the presence of a martyrdom tradition was actually a mark against the validity of Christianity…

We resist admitting the fact that we are but semi-rational creatures where religion is concerned, and that people invent the oddest beliefs imaginable for themselves and for one another without recognizing that they have done so. Our wishing minds have proven reliably willing to perish over a rumor believed. In this lies an answer to all the riddles, for there stands a yawning gap between the miraculous events contained within the gospel accounts – resurrections and earthquakes and darkness and the dead emptying their tombs – and the complete silence of the pagan and Jewish records of the time. So it is for the miraculous events in Islam or Mormonism. These gulfs mirror the chasm between our reasoning faculties and our religious impulses. Reconciling the disparity requires a humbler view of our own nature, but it is an explanation which leaves no remainder.

Martyrdom is evidence only of belief, and belief is not an evidence of anything.

Solipsism – an Illustrated Definition (YouTube)

Some readers have been intrigued by my use of the word solipsism. What does it mean? Well, we could go by the Dictionary.com definition, but that’s a little on the boring side:

Solipsism – an extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one’s feelings, desires, etc.; egoistic self-absorption.

I’m afraid that I would never have called my faith a solipsism. Isn’t Christianity all about dying to self? Yes, in many ways. And no, in so very many others. I submit the following “illustrated definition” for consideration. Caricatures can be instructive, and they can cause us to rethink things to which we are blinded by familiarity:

I’d have to say that I’m guilty of all these things. The retrospective has been a hard swallow.

~

Ref: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheThinkingAtheist

 

SnapThought – Wrested from My Hands

Icthus

My faith in Jesus was wrested from my hands by the three-pronged crowbar of God’s creation + God’s character + God’s texts. These three explode away from each other in a cloud of incompatibility. We have been given clear markers throughout Christianity of a man-made, not God-made, religion. In short, the scriptures and dogmas cannot live up to their billing, and much that is claimed never happened.

In talking to other believers and deconverts, I have found basically three sorts:  (1) Those who do not know the issues and rest untroubled. (2) Those who are aware of the dilemmas and, despite being unable to resolve them, choose a faith of forgetting instead. (3) Those whose faith died in a struggle that refused a surrender to apathy.

Trying to do Good, based on Beautiful Lies

My Facebook feed yesterday included a truly saddening story about a principled woman who took a courageous stand for her faith.

The commissioners were ordered to cease opening meetings with prayers that specifically reference Jesus Christ…

But Carroll County Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier not only disagreed with this order, she chose to defy it…

Frazier introduced the prayer as having been authored by George Washington, saying, “This might be a good opportunity to demonstrate how our founding fathers, and leaders all throughout our history, have upheld the idea that we are a nation based on biblical principles…

Apparently aware that she could be charged with contempt of court, Frazier tearfully proclaimed her willingness to go to jail over the issue.

Fred Edwords, The Humanist

Then, the tragic irony of this would-be act of career martyrdom… [Read more…]

“Strictly Speaking, the Gospels are Anonymous” (w/ YouTube)

CaseForChristAs Anonymous as Genesis

“…strictly speaking, the gospels are anonymous”

~ Craig Blomberg, The Case for Christ

This little boulder of information is so frequently passed over. Evangelicals stamp feet and insist that the gospels are eyewitness records. But these are curious eyewitness records indeed, though a person is unlikely to come away from The Case for Christ understanding the following:

  • The gospels never claim to be eyewitness records.
  • They never narrate in the first person.
  • They were written in the wrong language for Galilean disciples.
  • They recount a great deal that the disciples could not have witnessed.
  • But perhaps most disturbing – and perhaps the first flag we should have noticed – is that they are entirely anonymous.

And that makes the first four books of the New Testament a whole lot like the first five books of the Old Testament: they all have unfounded traditions about who wrote them; they were all written in the wrong language; they were all written in the wrong voice; and they all include information that doesn’t make sense for eyewitnesses. Yet we like to say that they are eyewitness records – because, hey, that sounds reliable.

~

A few more quotes to flesh out this interesting issue of anonymity: [Read more…]

Quotation – Thomas Jefferson on the Gospels

Thomas_Jefferson_by_Rembrandt_Peale_1805_croppedJefferson was not a Christian in any sense of the term that most would recognize, and many scholars have concluded that he was a deist. Some see this as a reason to dismiss his views on religion (while keeping his wall of separation, of course). However, it is instructive to understand why he held the views that he did. Jefferson had good reasons for landing on his deistic conclusion. His prescient observations below have been born out by the two centuries of New Testament scholarship since:

~

[Read more…]

Secular Wings

My freedom from spiritual abuse happened when I walked away from the abusers. My healing and recovery from the complex trauma of spiritual abusers, spiritually abusive faith and toxic religion happened while I was still a Christian and continues to this day. My deconversion came later after many many years of studying the Bible, Christian apologetics, cults and spiritual abuse. When I realized that the Bible is not the inerrant Word of God, the only honest thing I could do was to stop calling myself a Christian. ~ Zoe

Variant Readings

Thoughts on History, Religion, Archaeology, Papyrology, etc. by Brent Nongbri

Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

A Measure of Faith

Investigating the collision of faith, science and reason

aspiretofindtruth

Seeking answers for some of the big questions of life.

Random thoughts

Random musings about everything.

Victoria NeuroNotes

Into the Gray

Richard Carrier Blogs

Announcing appearances, publications, and occasional thoughts on natural philosophy and ancient history by philosopher, historian, and author Richard Carrier.

kind-ism

adventures in losing Faith & Leaving Christian Science