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

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…]

Pontius, Our Pilot – Part 4

<< Continued from Part 3

Summing the Woeful Tally

The gospels simply do not tell a consistent story about the trial of Jesus.

Prophecy: In the first three gospels, a Silent Jesus comports with the prophecy of Isaiah, as intimated by Luke’s record in Acts. In John, a Mouthy Jesus precludes any possibility that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled by the quick-witted Nazarene, who parried questions with a series of paradoxical comebacks that worked circles around a hapless Pilate. Either (1) Isaiah was indeed foretelling the messianic Jesus, and hence John was exaggerating the story for his own dramatic ends; or else (2) John finally told us the truth about just how talkative Jesus was, and the prior three gospels were skewing the trial to make the life of Jesus seem to fit Isaiah’s prophecy, when it really didn’t. In any case, one or more of the gospels was playing fast and loose with historical fact. Either Jesus fulfilled Isaiah, or Jesus out-pointed Pilate. [Read more…]

Pontius, Our Pilot – Part 3

<< Continued from Part 2

Probable Cause

Some 40 years after the death of Jesus, stories about him finally found their way into a heroic written tale, the book of Mark. In the subsequent two decades, these accounts were duly amplified by the later three gospel writers, along with many other non-canonical gospels. But the stories preserved about Jesus, while retaining a good deal of historically implausible content, persistently steer further away from conceding the most probable cause for Jesus’ violent end. [Read more…]

Pontius, Our Pilot – Part 2

<< Continued from Part 1

The Reluctance and Showmanship of Pilate

But now we come to the second focal area of this essay: the purported reluctance of Pilate in condemning Jesus to crucifixion. The scrupulous reader can readily observe that the gospels do not paint the same picture on this question either.

Mark portrays Pilate as reluctant, condemning Jesus to placate the demands of the Jewish leaders.

Matthew amplifies the theatre of the scene by describing Pilate washing his hands, offering a literary opportunity for the Jewish leaders to call down a curse upon themselves and their descendants (a thematic move blamed by many for the later Semitic persecution of the Catholic church). Indeed, Pilate’s wife is even invoked, sending him warning to leave the righteous Jesus alone. And on both counts again – we should ask again how it was that a later account from Mathew seemed able to come up with additional details unknown to Mark. How would Matthew know about a private message from Pilate’s wife? [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…]

Quote – Richard Carrier, “Why I Am Not a Christian”

I’m cognitively defective. Or that’s what Christians tell me. It’s not true, of course. But the curious thing is how desperately they need to believe there is something wrong with me. For otherwise, they cannot explain how someone so well informed about their religion could reject their faith—indeed, someone who doesn’t just give it a pass, but rejects it as firmly as any other bizarre cult or superstition. Which is what it is. This book is about why.

Carrier, Richard (2011-02-28). Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith (Kindle Locations 35-38). Philosophy Press. Kindle Edition.

~~~

Well, on the background of some responses that I’ve received during my exodus from the faith, I certainly resonate with the felt diagnosis from others. And the more people I converse with, the more I realize how common this viewpoint is… and how guilty I myself have been of the same.

Says Who? … The Baffling Anonymous Bible (4)

Anonymous Writer…God created man in his own image…

~ ANONYMOUS

~~~

A bit more:

Contrary to tradition, Moses did not write Genesis or the remaining four books of the Pentateuch. And we do not know who did, [Read more…]

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

iGod, Part 3 – The Practice of the Proxy

HypnosisWe train the new believer in the practice of God-by-proxy from the first day of Gospel witness.

We evangelize by telling the gospel story of Jesus to the unsaved. We encourage them to read the New Testament, and to pray that God would open their eyes. We promise them that if they ask God’s forgiveness and invite Him into their hearts, they will be saved, and they will become children of God. We assure them that the Holy Spirit will reveal Himself to them and show them the Truth of the Scriptures.

And so the sleight of hand begins even before day zero of the Christian life. [Read more…]

iGod, Part 2 – Return to Eden

Genesis 1When we Christians designate some of our normal people-parts as God-parts, we make a calculated trade. If we talked about our felt truths or our conscience in human terms, we would find ourselves with a festering surplus of uncertainty. And a certain lack of cosmic stature. And stature is no small thing.

Genesis has outlasted its peer creation myths from the Ancient Near East for one reason, and one reason alone. Genesis contains four magic words: “the image of God”.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

~ Genesis 1:27

We moderns do not retain Genesis because of what it tells us concerning the origins of the earth, for it is a tale told at the same grade level as any fable. [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…]

My Life is Brilliant

I cannot but lean on this British bit of phrase as I reflect upon the infant year, my family, and my life. Not even a lesser patch rests unconsumed by hope and happiness for life, and for my children’s futures. They are beautiful, and happy, and far more resilient than we. Our sober and determined oldest. Our cheery, clever dancer. Our crimsoned & laughing redhead. And our Little Bits, the perfect one that we nearly lost. I wonder so very much what they will all be, and await the reveal with anticipation.

family

Now it is true that most friends of yesteryear are gone, but I think it is a winter that will not outlast the coming equinox. And I realize that no pleading is likely to convince my friends that the ebb of faith does not mean the end of happiness, but we have been told many myths. Uncluttered and unfettered, as a season of social quietus, it is the most unburdened that I can recall.

I reflect that the curious domino topple from Jericho has been an odd epiphany: what I began for my friends, many friends would not read. But others have in their stead, and they have leant a support as friends ought to. Cheers and a hearty thanks to you good folk. I’m dreadfully sorry for what I find to be my three and a half decades of down-looking. You’re the sort I should have been, had I been better.

Peace and Best Wishes, J.B.

As a Matter of Fact

The entire discussion of Christian apologetics would be greatly served if there was a clearer appreciation of a critical distinction: that of (1) facts and (2) contentions.

  1. Fact: A fact is something that has really occurred or is actually the case. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability, that is whether it can be proven to correspond to experience. (ref)
  2. Contention: a point contended for or affirmed in controversy. (ref)

The subtle trick of apologetics is get that rubber stamp out: labelling contentions as facts is job one. We do not like doubt. When in doubt, stamp it!

A Recent Comment

One of my commenters recently posted the following:

The foundation of the Christian religion is not in fuzzy emotions or the logical coherence of its theology, but in a historical event: the resurrection; that it occurred, that there were many eyewitnesses to it, and that many of those eyewitnesses died attesting to it.

I formerly believe and said exactly the same thing. But is the resurrection a fact, or a contention? [Read more…]

When I read the Book of Mormon, I feel closer to Jesus Christ.

Mormon Ad

This ad appeared on the CNN home page today and if clicked will take you here.

In a single sentence, this ad illustrates the problems outlined on one of my prior pages, Faith Card. Our existential sense of spiritual truth simply does not work. It is not a barometer of fact or fiction. It is not a compass that leads to anywhere. Our intuition does not work where spiritual matters are concerned. Well meaning, “faithful” people are all radically divergent in the direction their respective compasses point.

Pleasant Mormons like this young woman, far from being in the service of the devil, are doing the best they can. But they have been hampered by an unfortunate paradigm, which claims that the really important things in life must be known by faith. This general belief, that faith is the mechanism by which we know spiritual truth, is shared by the broad range of religions. And it is a demonstrably ineffective and wayward mechanism.

Faith constitutes a proposal regarding process… “This is how you find ultimate truth.” Your internal sense of relationship or spiritual presence should be your guide. That burning of the bosom should be your guide. Truth feels a certain way when you have it. You know, because it sounds right. You know because you know. You know because of your sacred texts. But at bottom, this type of knowing is followed by everyone in religions that oppose yours.

The cleverest part of faith, however, may be found in a self-validating defensive mechanism. Faith concurrently makes objective knowledge claims while maligning the validity of the one process which can call it’s bluff: critical thinking. Answers to the most pressing questions, we are told, can only be known by faith. Study, analysis, science, and the like are all said to lose their potency where ultimate questions are concerned. “You cannot answer these questions through such means,” comes the admonition from those who have never actually tried.

Belief in belief: the tragedy that all religions share.

I encourage my Christian readers to visit the Mormon website linked above. I would further encourage reading of Buddhists and other faiths. You will see a repetition of themes in how religious viewpoints are defended, advanced, and arrived at. The means of thinking are entirely analogous, but the specific claims are contradictory. And that should raise the question: what if faith is a flawed mechanism?

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

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.

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