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:

Reblog: “My Journey to Atheism” ~ Nathan Pratt

Reblog:

Nathan Pratt pens an impactful autobiography in this post, which provided me with a number of strong resonance points as I read it. His path away from Christianity came from a different angle, but the struggle to understand and the responses from others in his life are eerily familiar. A recommended read. I wept.

unpacked thoughts

Something I’d like to get out of the way immediately is that this post is going to be very honest. It’s a brief history of my religious upbringing, my crisis of faith and the final pushes to search for truth. Nothing I’ll say in this post is said out of anger or malice. It’s an honest portrayal of the extreme difficulty of leaving something you’d held to be truth for almost 30 years. I imagine that some of the topics and points will offend, but please read to the end.

One of the more frustrating things to come out of leaving religion is that so many theists think I haven’t thought this out. That I’m just going through a phase. I’d be willing to wager that I’ve gone much farther in my pursuit of truth than about any believer out there. I’ve put a staggering amount of time into this journey…

View original post 4,033 more words

Quote – Sam Harris – Tell a devout Christian…

Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it.

Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.

~ Sam Harris (link)

These sort of statements are the kind with which we Christians flatly disagree. We find them [Read more…]

iGod, Part 1 – Divine Uplink

The Holy Spirit is that little piece of me that I like to call God.

Red Telephone

Red TelephoneNot long ago, a friend sent an email announcement to me and some others, outlining a plan to go into the missionary field. The email cited God’s leading and their prayerful consideration. It also stated that this consideration had begun when he heard God speak to him, audibly. I’ve heard claims to hear the audible Voice of the Lord before, but I will admit that it has been some time. And as with everyone I’ve known who claimed to have received the Big Call on the red telephone, the experience left my friend brimming with a sense of calling and purpose. The conversation that followed between us was both respectful and quite long. The story sounded so very familiar. It sounded like a story that I myself would once have told.

To Walk by the Spirit

In my younger days, I walked in the Spirit quite fervently, or so I thought. [Read more…]

Miracle Challenge

ImageAs Christians, we cite the miracles of Jesus or Moses or the apostles as evidences of the divine commission under which they walked. That is, their teachings and message are validated as being from God by the testimony of the miracles they did. We believe God was in their words, because God was clearly in their actions.

Indeed, Augustine speaks the mind of the church:

I should not be a Christian, but for the miracles.

~ St. Augustine, cited from Blaise Pascal, “Thoughts”

But not so fast. Miracles can only serve as proof if the miracles themselves are on firm footing.

Challenge: provide example, if you can, for a single instance of miracle, as recorded in the Bible, which can be verified through physical evidence.

Perhaps a softer challenge would be more charitable. Since the events in question are in the past, perhaps a more historically-oriented phrasing would be better fitted.

Challenge: provide example, if you can, for a single instance of miracle, as recorded in the Bible, which can be verified by a non-Biblical, contemporary witness to the event.

This softer challenge, even if met, would not really demonstrate all that much. But it matters little in any case. The prospects for either type of verification are rather dim indeed. Nevertheless, we Christians routinely believe that un-verified miracles can be taken as verification that our teachings came from God. But we do not have such support. Instead, we have a circular claim set. It does not withstand even mild scrutiny. In that way, Christian miracles are quite the same as Mormon or Muslim miracles. True to a tee, definitive in meaning, solidly supporting the faith in question, and entirely and consistently unverifiable.

The miracle tales are good stories. We should probably leave them at that and adjust our claims accordingly. I advise a sustained effort to flip the rocks over, to check under the hood. There is simply nothing there.

Infographic – Evolutionary Tree of Myth and Religion (reblog)

In keeping with my affinity for educational visual aids, I simply couldn’t resist adding this one to the lineup. Excellent work from Simon Davies @ www.Facebook.com/HumanOdyssey. Thanks to Seth Andrews at TTA for the Facebook post.

My own thoughts… I had a conversation with a friend quite recently, and he asked me what I thought “the truth” was. I told him that at bottom, I think religion is simply something that people like to do. We fear death. We fear uncertainty. And we fear insignificance. Religion gives us an incantation against the parts of our own minds that grasp these realities. Further, we Christians are not special, and we do not have corroborating evidences that our competing faiths lack. The mirage of uniqueness grows from the soil of ignorance. We do not understand “the others”, and so we do not understand ourselves. Only deep reading about our faith from outsiders, and about other faiths from insiders, will dispel the fog. And visuals like this are an excellent help.

Mythology Tree of Descent

cas d'intérêt

Reflections of a Francophile

Two Wheels Across Texas

My Quest to ride through all 254 Texas Counties

The Curious Atheist

Freely Seeking Truth After Religion

Class Warfare Blog

I don’t want to start a class war; it started a long time ago and, unfortunately, we are losing.

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

Variant Readings

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

Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain