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Christians, Muslims, and Mormons are Experts at Inventing Harmonizations for Their Holy Books’ Tall Tales

Book Of Mormon Geography
Did the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) close up shop when DNA evidence proved that Native Americans are NOT descended from ancient sea-faring Jews as the plain reading of the Book of Mormon claims? Of course not. They simply re-interpreted the passage in question. Where did they learn this clever slight of hand? Trinitarian Christians!

Christian:

Gary, You’re saying “The Romans would NEVER have tolerated a “great crowd” proclaiming a Galilean peasant as King of the Jews [in the story of Jesus “triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday]. ”

The Gospel of John says that Jesus entered Jerusalem five days before the Passover. Could you please share your research as to when Pilate actually arrived for the Passover. Also, if you don’t mind, please provide your research showing how many soldiers were actually present in Jerusalem, five days before the Passover, and whether there is any indication that any soldiers of “rank” (ie, higher than the average foot soldier) would have likely been present at the gate that Jesus entered at?

You see, I’m not even sure there was anything more than perhaps 500 Roman soldiers garrisoned at Jerusalem at the time, and I’m certainly not sure that a “great crowd” outside the city walls – of people coming to the Passover (for God’s sake) – would even have drawn notice from a Roman guard: they would be *expecting* “great crowds”. I mean, the “median estimate” of scholars is that the Passover gathered a good quarter-of-a-million “pilgrims” each Passover. So, this was routine. Happened every year at about the same time.

And I have serious doubts that the average Roman auxiliary would have even known what “Hosanna” meant. So, I’d really love to see your research on this to demonstrate your statement that “The Romans would NEVER have tolerated a “great crowd” proclaiming a Galilean peasant as King of the Jews. “

Gary:

Is it possible that a “great crowd” of Jews welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem as their new Jewish king during the Passover week in circa 33 CE and no Roman soldier heard about it? Sure! Is it possible that Pilate and his troops from Caesarea didn’t show up until the next day? Sure! Is it possible that when the author of John says a “great crowd” he really meant just a few dozen people who whispered “King of the Jews” under their breath as Jesus passed through the gate? Sure!

Anything is possible!

Do you Christians really think that you are the only religionists who play this game? Don’t you realize that Muslims, Mormons, and Hindus are just as adept at inventing rationalizations and harmonizations for the preposterous claims in *their* holy books?

When DNA evidence proved that Native Americans are *not* descended from ancient seafaring Jews as the Book of Mormon says, did the Church of Latter Day Saints fold up shop and call it quits? Of course not! They simply reinterpreted the text!

You Christians have had TWO THOUSAND years to rationalize (explain away) and reinterpret the preposterous, silly claims in your ancient holy book. Why stop now!

But the problem for you is this: Internet-savvy younger generations are not buying your “spin”. That is why the membership numbers of most Christian denominations in North America are in steep decline. So it isn’t just me who thinks your explanations are silly, so do a lot of young Christians. That is why they are LEAVING in droves!

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Was Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem a Real Historical Event? No Way!

The Lord Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
Was Jesus of Nazareth greeted by a “great crowd” welcoming him to Jerusalem as the new King of the Jews? Would the Romans have tolerated such a scene?

Joel Edmund Anderson, professor of New Testament studies, on his blog: …it is easy to conclude that [the Gospels] are historically reliable.

Gary: Could you be more specific? Which stories in the Gospels are historically reliable?

–Is “Luke’s” claim that 3,000 Jews converted to Christianity on Pentecost in Jerusalem historically reliable? If so, please explain how that harmonizes with your scholar’s estimate that by circa 50 CE there were 5,000 Christians worldwide. If both are true, that means that Christianity increased by 3,000 people in 40 days after Jesus’ death, but then by only 2,000 in the next 20 years. Why the big slow down? Is this story realistic or was someone inflating his numbers? If so, what else did he inflate?

–Is “Matthew’s” story of an earthquake shaking people out of their graves to roam the streets of a major city historically reliable? If so, why do most scholars including some very conservative evangelical scholars doubt this event occurred?

–Is “Matthew’s” story of Roman guards at the tomb historically reliable? The overwhelming majority of scholars do not think so.

–Is “Matthew’s” story of the calling of the apostle Matthew historically reliable? Most scholars, including conservative evangelical scholar Richard Bauckham, believe that “Matthew” invented this story.

–[Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem at Passover] Are we really to believe that the Romans stood by as thousands of Jews greeted Jesus on Palm Sunday as the new Jewish king? Preposterous. This event did not happen.

So if most scholars doubt the historicity of SOME stories in the Gospels, why should we believe in the historicity of the others? Yes, Pilate was governor of Judea at the time. Yes, Tiberius was Caesar. Historical fictions often include general facts.

[A Christian reader of Anderson’s blog then comments that rejecting the evidence for Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is equivalent to rejecting the evidence for Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.]

Gary: Anyone who believes that the evidence that supports the Gospels’ claim that the first century peasant Jesus entered Jerusalem to the acclaim “Hail the new king of Israel” on Palm Sunday is equivalent to the massive quantity of evidence supporting the historicity of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is not worth debating or even speaking to because either he lacks critical thinking skills or he is not dealing with a full deck of cards.

Joel Edmund Anderson: Gary, you have zero credibility. You are holding up a cheap B-movie caricature of the Gospels and only attack that. I know of no scholar who disputes that Jesus came to Jerusalem for the Passover (either AD 30 or AD 33), ran afoul of the Temple establishment, was arrested, and then crucified by Pilate. He was a messianic figure. Passover celebrated God freeing his people from oppression. When he came into Jerusalem, it is entirely reasonable to think his followers welcomed him in that way. And again, the Gospels do NOT say thousands of Jews did this. When you read the account, it is clear you are imposing on it a caricature of the event that has been undoubtedly shaped by cheezy Jesus movies and bad church Easter pageants.

Gary:

The Gospel of John, chapter 12:

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him….

9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
the King of Israel!”

14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:

15 “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. 17 So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify.[d] 18 It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. 19 The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!”

Gary: “the whole world has gone after him”. Yet Joel claims it was a small group of Jews huddled off in a corner, whispering “Hosanna…the King of Israel” under their breath, speaking so quietly that the Romans never heard a word.

Nonsense.

This story is NOT historical. The Romans would NEVER have tolerated a “great crowd” proclaiming a Galilean peasant as King of the Jews. Caesar was King of the Jews. To try and reinvent the meaning of “great crowd” to maintain believability in this tall tale is absolutely ridiculous. Christians would not tolerate Muslims, Mormons, or Hindus using such silly rationalizations for preposterous claims in their holy books, yet they do it with a straight face for theirs! Shameful.

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The Gospel Stories Must Be True Because They Paint the Disciples in a Bad Light

12 disciples of Jesus | Jesus.net
The Twelve Disciples of Jesus

Gary: If some detailed stories in the Gospels are not historical (dead saints walking the streets of Jerusalem) then why can’t other stories be non-historical (“Luke’s” Ascension Story, John’s Doubting Thomas Story, etc.)? If some stories in the Gospels are fictional, isn’t it plausible that although the empty tomb, women finding the empty tomb, and claims of appearances to some of Jesus’ followers are historical facts, the detailed stories about these facts are fictional embellishments? Maybe the “facts” are the bare bones account that we see in the Early Creed and everything else is fictional? How would we know otherwise?

It is therefore possible that people really did believe that Jesus appeared to them, but their claims of what they saw are not what we see in the Gospels. Maybe the original claims were the same as Paul’s claim (at least according to the anonymous author of the Book of Acts): they all saw bright lights.

Christian: Gary, none of the apostles expected to see Jesus either crucified or resurrected from the dead. That wasn’t on their radar at all, and in fact, when the women tell the male disciples they’ve seen the resurrected Jesus the men don’t believe them at first.

When Jesus encounters the two disciples headed back to Emmaus in Luke 24, not recognizing him as Jesus (a detail not likely to have been invented, either) they tell him that they thought they had found the Messiah in the person of Jesus of Nazareth however when Jesus was executed by the Romans they realized they’d backed the wrong horse. This too is not a story the early church would’ve invented.

Also, ancient people weren’t stupid; they knew the difference between a bright light and a person. The gospels insist that they saw a flesh-and-blood person, who they touched and could hear and who actually ate a meal with them. I’ve never heard of a light with an appetite for broiled fish, have you?

At the end of the day–as you yourself have agreed–believers and skeptics alike are left with an empty tomb. If there was no resurrection *what happened to the body*?

The fact the gospels make several embarrassing claims regarding Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection (his disciples and family save John and his mother all fled; the Romans had to borrow a tomb to bury him; women were the first witnesses to the resurrection and the male disciples won’t believe them until they encounter him themselves; etc) argues that the story of the resurrection isn’t a literary invention, because–again–people don’t normally tell lies that could damage their credibility.

Gary:

“This too is not a story the early church would’ve invented.”

The “Church” has invented all kinds of tall tales. Did you know that the Church invented a document whereby Emperor Constantine allegedly donated the city of Rome to the pope? Even the Church now admits that it was a forgery. And please don’t tell me the “early” Church was any different than the Church a few hundred years later. Human beings are capable of telling whoppers when it serves their purposes and goals. Anyone who believes that the original disciples of Jesus and other early followers of Jesus were all “saints” is living in fantasyland.

“Also, ancient people weren’t stupid; they knew the difference between a bright light and a person.”

So was Paul stupid?

“The gospels insist that they saw a flesh-and-blood person, who they touched and could hear and who actually ate a meal with them. I’ve never heard of a light with an appetite for broiled fish, have you?”

This is a circular argument and conjecture: “The disciples really did watch Jesus eat a broiled fish sandwich because that is what the Gospels say, and the Gospels must be historically accurate because Christians would NEVER tell a lie or make up stories that make themselves look silly.”

Nonsense. Oral story tellers and book authors want to give their audience a good story. Inventing a story of the resurrected Jesus eating a broiled fish lunch is much more interesting than rattling off the bare bones story of the Early Creed. This is STORY TELLING. The authors were not lying but neither were they giving a history lesson.

“people don’t normally tell lies that could damage their credibility.”

You are thinking in black and white terms: either the Gospel authors were telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth or they were lying. How about something in between. They were telling STORIES, for evangelization purposes only.

What happened to the body? No idea, but my first guess would be that someone moved the body. Isn’t that the most probable explanation for most empty tombs/graves?

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Millions of Educated People Believe in the Resurrection. Does that Make it a Rational Belief?

Figuring out the Educated Individual - Education Activitie

Christian apologists are often incensed when we skeptic counter-apologists label Christian supernatural claims irrational.

“Tens of thousands of very intelligent, highly educated, attorneys, doctors, engineers and other Christian professionals believe in the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. This proves that belief in the Resurrection is rational.”

Really?

Tens of thousands of very intelligent, highly educated, attorneys, doctors, engineers and other Muslim professionals believe in the historicity of Mohammad’s flight on a winged horse to heaven. Does the fact that a lot of educated people believe this supernatural claim prove that belief in flying horses is rational?

I will bet you will say, no.

Tens of thousands of very intelligent, highly educated, attorneys, doctors, engineers and other Buddhist professionals believe in the historicity of the Buddha’s miracle in which he caused a water buffalo to speak in a human language. Does the fact that a lot of educated people believe this supernatural claim prove that belief in talking animals is rational?

I will bet you will say, no.

So you see, dear Christian apologist, just because a lot of people believe a particular supernatural claim in no way makes that belief rational. Most educated, non-Christian people in the world believe that your belief in virgin births and resurrected corpses is just as irrational as their supernatural beliefs are to you. Face the facts: all supernatural beliefs are superstitions and superstitions are not rational.

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Dear Christian Apologists: Stop Whining About the Gospels Being Treated Unfairly by Historians

2806. Crocodile Tears - Word Play by Cryptid-Creations on DeviantArt

My god, Christian apologists are big whiners. They cry crocodile tears over the “terrible, mean” discriminatory manner in which professional historians evaluate the historical reliability of the Gospels. I am so sick of hearing it. There is no discrimination, Christians! Professional historians do not accept as historical fact ANY supernatural claims. Period. Get over it.

Check out my comments on this topic on the blog of conservative Christian theologian and apologist, Joel Edmund Anderson: here.

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The Gospels Must Be Historically Accurate Because There Were Only 5,000 Christians in the Mid First Century

Everything You Need to Know about Pentecost – St. Lucy Catholic Church

Conservative Christian theologian:

[T]he majority of scholars acknowledge that Mark, Matthew, and Luke were all written somewhere around 40 years after the ministry of Jesus, and John around 60 years after the ministry of Jesus.

Given the fact that, as scholars like Rodney Stark estimate, the Christian movement probably totaled only around 10,000 by the end of the first century, and probably only around 5,000 by mid century, we’re not dealing with massive numbers here. So if the Synoptics were written around AD 70, and the entire Christian population was only slightly above 5,000 at that point, that pretty much narrows the possibility for where the source material came from. And therefore, it is by no means a stretch to think that much of the stories about Jesus came from eyewitnesses and the original disciples.

And given that, along with [Craig] Evans’ argument, it is easy to conclude that they [the Gospels] are historically reliable.

Gary:

“Given the fact that, as scholars like Rodney Stark estimate, the Christian movement probably totaled only around 10,000 by the end of the first century, and probably only around 5,000 by mid century, we’re not dealing with massive numbers here.”

The author of Acts (whom most scholars believe was also the author of the Gospel of Luke) says that within FORTY DAYS of Jesus’ death, the number of Christians was at least 3,120. If this is true, then the conversion rate to Christianity dramatically declined after Pentecost, if twenty years later, at mid century, the total number of Christians was only 5,000.

“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” –the Book of Acts, chapter 2

So either your scholar is wrong, or “Luke” was inflating his numbers. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that “Luke” was a reliable historian!

Celebrating Woodstock » Three Hundred Thousand Strong
This is what a crowd of three thousand people looks like. Are we really to believe that this many people converted to Christianity in ONE day…and no first century Jewish author mentioned this fact?? I think “Luke” was a big fat liar.

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The Agonizing Dilemma of a Doubting Pastor

How to Become A Pastor

Christian pastor:

Hello Gary, I think I may have reached out to you several years ago. I had been a pastor in the [name of denomination hidden] for about [hidden] years, left the ministry because of my own doubts, and after about [hidden] years of that, decided to give it a try again. I’ve been back in the pulpit for [hidden] years now and again having doubts. If I’ve got the right guy, 1) could you please point me to those posts I commented on back then and 2) I’d be happy to re-engage. Thanks for your time! [Name hidden]

Gary: This email has been stuck in my “feedback” file for over one year! I just now found it. How sad. I missed the opportunity to help this poor man. Imagine being a pastor of a church and coming to the realization that you no longer believe what you are preaching! Imagine not having training in any other field of work. Imagine that you have a family to support. What do you do??

If I could give this man any advice, it would be to contact the Clergy Project, a national support group for ex-clergy who no longer believe. Here is a link to their website: here.

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I Want to Leave Christianity but I’m Afraid. How Did You Get Over the Fear of Hell, Gary?

Dante's Inferno Illustrated Edition by Dante Alighieri | NOOK Book (eBook)  | Barnes & Noble®

Reader:

Hey Gary, Thanks for your blog. I find it refreshing and an oasis of truth and hope in a very confusing time in my life. I have been leaning more towards agnosticism as of late, after seriously questioning my own religious experiences and convictions. I have a few questions for you. I have studied scripture extensively, but it seems you have more knowledge than I do.

1) How do you account for the “historical” account of what happened at Pentecost in Acts 2, as well as the “Gifts of the Spirit” being acted out in today’s Pentecostal church? How, or why would Luke or whoever authored Acts make that up?

2) Do you still ever feel nagging fear or doubt that maybe you’re making the wrong decision? I want to leave fundamental Christianity, but I am terrified that I might be making the wrong choice and that there will be eternal consequences. How have you gotten over that fear?

Any response will be appreciated. I am trying to break out of this ridiculous “Satan and demons are playing with your mind” mentality that I’m stuck in. This shit sucks. Thanks!

Gary:

I believe that the story of Pentecost as described by the author of Acts is pure theological fiction. He made it up! We know he invented other stories. If he can invent Jesus levitating into outer space (a fantastical event not mentioned by any other author of the New Testament) why stop there? Let’s have five thousand devout Jews convert to Christianity right in the middle of the Jewish capital, all because a hundred or so Christians start speaking in foreign languages while flames of fire dance above their heads!

Yet no other contemporary author, Christian or non-Christian, mentions this incredible event.

Pentecostals: Why is it that Pentecostals seem to experience more miracles than people in all other Christian denominations combined? Read “Miracles” by evangelical apologist Craig Keener. He describes hundreds of fantastical miracles…almost all of them occurring among Pentecostals in the Third World. Are these Christians more devout? Do they have more faith? Or, are they on average less educated and more gullible than other Christians? I believe the latter is the case.

Do I still fear eternal damnation in Hell? No. When I first deconverted from Christianity I very much did. If it has been drilled into your head, ever since you were a child, that God loves you so much that he gave his only begotten Son…but if you don’t love him, he is going to roast your sorry ass on a spit over the hottest fire possible—forever—you don’t just decide one day to abandon that belief. Your brain must be deprogrammed. That is what this blog has done for me. Instead of paying for psychotherapy for a couple years, I blogged. Talking about my beliefs. Debating them with people who still believe them. Reading and researching books about this belief. That is what I recommend that you do to get over the brainwashing of this evil ancient cult. Best wishes, my friend!

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What Happens When the Holy Spirit Enters Your Heart? Absolute Bliss and Profound Love!

Holy Spirit Open The Eyes Of Your Heart Pictures, Photos, and Images for  Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter

Christian reader:

Hello, Gary. I stumbled across your blog while searching images of King David. I recently decided to create a painting representing him, in a photo-realism style, if i can. The choice of Biblical event is not important here.

The last thing in the world I would attempt is to convince you of the “error of your ways” in embracing agnosticism. However, a relationship with the Creator of the universe is not realized by an intellectual process, but via the heart (You’ve undoubtedly heard that one before). That is not to say that there is nothing to “know” or that belief involves a feeling that is achieved. One does not profess a belief in God to escape hell or to bend another to one’s will. What happens when the Holy Spirit enters your heart? Absolute bliss & profound love for every person on earth. Usually a spiritual gift will manifest. People will want to know you and experience your peace of mind. You cannot think or will yourself to that “consciousness”. I actually cannot inform you how it happens; I think it’s usually a surprise. Best wishes!

Gary:

Your conversion experience obviously had a very profound emotional impact on you. The problem is, many people, of many different religions, sects, and cults have made the very same claim about their conversion! To me, this demonstrates that dramatic emotional experiences are not reliable indicators of the truth. I would encourage to watch this short video:

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