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…]

Reprise of “Isaiah-Gate” – Catholic Tremors and Affirmation

Infallible StampIn response to my recent post on the virgin birth, a fellow blogger, Arkenaten, was good enough to forward a quite interesting article. It recounts how a group of Jewish inquirers sent three questions to then-pope John Paul II for response. These questions pertained to seemingly conflicting assertions in the New Testament regarding Jesus’ (1) post-resurrection appearances, (2) genealogies, and (3) virgin birth. I highly recommend reading this short web article, for it is insightful from top to bottom. However for our purposes, the well-asked third question was put as follows:

The genealogical line linking Jesus and King David seems to pass through Jesus’ father. But since Jesus was the product of a virgin conception, then he does not share in his father’s Davidic ancestry. How is Jesus a descendent of David?

The Vatican declined to give a direct answer but referred the group to the French Dominican Fathers’ Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem. They also declined comment, but stated that the catholic theologian Raymond Brown could provide appropriate answers. Brown was good enough to direct them to his own theological works at the library of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem. What they found was a catholic position undermining the historicity of the virgin birth altogether. This is what they report:

On the other hand, admits Brown, “The virginal conception under its creedal title of ‘virgin birth’ is not primarily a biological statement.”  He stresses that Christian writings about virginal conception intend to reveal spiritual insights rather that physical facts.  Because record of the virginal conception appears only in two Gospels, and there only in the infancy narratives (which Brown suspects are largely fictional), the Catholic theologian tactfully concludes that “biblical evidence leaves the question of the historicity of the virginal conception unresolved.”

Brown mentions the possibility that “early Christians” might have imported a mythology about virginal conception from “pagan or [other] world religions,” but never intended that that mythology be taken literally.  “Virginal conception was a well-known religious symbol for divine origins,” explains Brown, citing such stories in Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Greco-Roman and ancient Egyptian theologies. He proposes that early Christians “used an imagery of virginal conception whose symbolic origins were forgotten as it was disseminated among various Christian communities and recorded by evangelists.”

~ SimpleToRemember, Judaism Online (link)

[Read more…]

YouTube – “Isaiah-Gate” and the Virgin Mary… Minus the Virgin

L'_Annonciation_de_1644,_Philippe_de_ChampaigneIt stands to shame that we Christians are the last to know about our own errors of sacrilege. But as the season of Lent is here, I would petition abstention from one particular sacrilege, the inherited error of believing Jesus was born of a virgin, and that being so conceived would have fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. Our belief that Isaiah predicted a virgin-born Messiah is simply false, a scandal which heretofore shall be referred to as Isaiah-Gate! And though many books have discussed this, I finally located a succinct 4-minute description in an engaging lecture. And a good thing too, because there are two quite curious points to this dilemma of non-prophecy. First, it is odd that we came to believe the messiah would be born of a virgin, essentially based on a translational boof. Second, it is more interesting still that we should wind up with gospel stories describing the fulfilment of said prophecy, when we now realize that Isaiah said no such thing.

But first things first. Here is the YouTube lecture excerpt, with commentary following.

YouTube: Bart Ehrman

Manifold Greatness of the King James Bible, 4 min., January 2013.

   ~

   ~

(NOTE: video is set to play from 45:08 to 49:03. Timings sometimes do not work correctly in IE. Recommend using Firefox)

Recap

[Read more…]

Pontius, Our Pilot – Part 1

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. [Read more…]

One Magical Thought

If I think just one magical thing, I can live forever.

~ Christian

God Doesn’t Watch Rape

Woman Attacked

An excerpt from Francis Collins’ book, The Language of God, spurred a particular realization for me some months ago, when I first read it:

I know a young college student who was living alone during summer vacation while she carried out medical research in preparation for a career as a physician. Awakening in the dark of night, she found a strange man had broken into her apartment. [Read more…]

Marco’s Daddy and the Beginning of Life on Earth

Two Fingers ManHow can my great-great grandfather, Marco, help clarify how we view the beginning of life and the universe? Well, interesting question. Though it will take us circuitously through a barking-mad courtroom, a mock trial, and some rather startling suggestions regarding my own ancestry, the final picture should be crystal clear.

But first things first: a little background. There are two questions that demand (!) an answer.

Just Two Simple Questions

I have friends who are creationists, as indeed I myself once was. We’ve been dialoguing quite a lot since the Ham-on-Nye debate not long ago. So much so, that I have had to put aside some previously planned blog projects and such, and I’ve been spending my time fielding science sorts of questions instead. Or at the very least, I’ve been trying to. [Read more…]

Ravi Apologist Bingo

I have had friends deeply enamored with Ravi Zacharias, but I have found his writing and lectures to be tepid and maddening, respectively. Those who are not familiar with the works of better minds mistake Ravi for a sort of CS Lewis-like figure, or a great intellectual. He doesn’t rise to Lewis’ wasteline, I am afraid. He regurgitates the work of others, and he possesses an unfortunate dimension that was essentially absent from Lewis’ work: malice. Lewis always maintained an eye toward evangelism – really reaching to people outside the church. Ravi’s drivel is perfect cheering fodder for those who already agree with him, but little more.

I was, as such, quite pleased with the cleverness of this wonderful new game: Ravi Apologist Bingo!

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/02/17/this-is-a-powerful-way-to-combat-a-christian-speaker-at-your-university/

YouTube – Excellent/Short Analysis of Ken Ham’s False “Observational vs Historical Science” Dichotomy

Potholer always does a superb job:

No Fault

How can one say it to friends?

It isn’t our fault.

It isn’t our fault if the people who raised us, and the people who raised them, were given bad information by other well-meaning but misled people. People like Ken Ham and Kent Hovind.

Or that you simply could not check out the legitimacy of information sources back then, at least not the way you can now.

In looking at Ken Ham, [Read more…]

Conversation Transplant… Minimal Facts Discussion

Well, it seems I’ve been ousted from a blog for the first time, ostensibly because I didn’t talk enough about facts. Though for the life of me, I would say it was more because I challenged a few sacred cows than anything else.

In any case, I have found a few belated comments in response to my remarks on the same thread. They were thoughtful and cogent, so I think they deserve a response. No need for good discussion to die.

Sadly, I don’t really have a great deal of my own initial comments. But – *trumpeting heralds* – one of my interlocutors was good enough to copy/paste most of what I said. Those comments will be below, and then I’ll respond in additional comment bubbles following.

Cheers,

Matt

Says Who? … Baffling Anonymous Bible (1)

Anonymous WriterIn the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

~ Anonymous

YouTube: Dawkins on Cargo Cults

I first read about the Cargo Cults from Hitchens, then found another such discussion from Dawkins. I was glad to see that the Dawkins chapter has been captured on YouTube with some, albeit not terribly extensive, footage of the believers themselves. Here I will venture only three brief observations:

1. Modern, Western people possess no genetic superiority to these villagers. We are running the same mental “hardware”, so to speak. The only difference is that we are educated and indoctrinated differently.

2. Christianity was started among an initial crop of believers with generally low levels of education and literacy, in a poor and oppressed region. And it was rejected as nonsensical by the educated class of the same region.

3. Arguments made by NT Wright and others that fully-orbed religions such as Christianity require long periods of time to develop are simply mistaken. And like the Cargo Cults, Christianity can be demonstrated as having acquired nearly all of its material from prior myths and cults.

Part 1:

Part 2:

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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. What I write here, may be very different from what I’ve written in the past. It might also be repeats of the past themes. ~ Zoe