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New Survey: Christianity Continues its Rapid Decline in the United States

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The religious landscape of the United States continues to change at a rapid clip. In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.

Both Protestantism and Catholicism are experiencing losses of population share.

Read the rest of the article here.

 

Gary:  What is causing this rapid decline?  My guess:  the Internet!  Never before have people had so much information at their fingertips.  Information is empowerment.  Uncensored, unfiltered information is the bright light exposing the dark recesses of religious dogma for what it is:  ignorant, fear-based superstitions.

And here is another question:  How long before the “unaffiliated” become the majority in the United States?

Not soon enough, in my opinion!

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Was the First Jesus Appearance a Case of Mistaken Identity?

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Jesus had been publicly executed several weeks earlier.  His grave was found empty a few days after his burial.  His despondent disciples had returned to Galilee to resume their lives as fishermen, etc..

But today, not long after Simon Peter and his brother Andrew had shoved off from the shore of the Sea of Galilee to go fishing, the fog and morning mist on the receding shoreline (several hundred feet away) suddenly parted and there is a man standing on the shore looking at them.  He slowly raises his arm to wave at them.

“It is Jesus!” both men exclaim.

“But how can this be?” asks Andrew.

Then the fog rolls back in and “Jesus” can no longer be seen.

They both begin shouting to Jesus on the shore.  They plead for him to wait for them until they bring the boat to shore.  But there is no reply from the fog and mist.  Are they too far away for him to hear them?

As they frantically row back to shore, an exuberant Peter proclaims, “God has raised Jesus from the dead!  That is why the tomb was empty!  Jesus is the Messiah just as he told us!  Jesus will restore the kingdom of Israel!  He will crush the Romans!  Our hopes and dreams are not dashed!  (And then to himself under his breath):  …And I have been forgiven of my betrayal.”

Once they get to shore, they cannot find Jesus.  He is gone.

“It was an appearance! Jesus has appeared to his first two disciples as a sign!  He will appear again; to the others; to all of us!”

Peter and Andrew rush to tell the other disciples and share the good news that Jesus is back from the dead; the New Kingdom is about to break forth; and they will soon rule as princes on thrones of gold in the New Israel.  Soon, other disciples and groups of disciples are “seeing” Jesus.

But after a few months pass and there is no restoration of the Kingdom, the disciples are forced to reconcile their revived hopes and dreams with reality through the process known as cognitive dissonance.  Their desperate attempts to find some solution to keep their dreams alive eventually results in the conclusion that God has not “raised” Jesus from the dead, but something far greater:  The general resurrection of the righteous dead has begun, with Jesus as the FIRST fruits! 

“Sell all your positions, move to the capital, Jerusalem, and live in one large commune. The End is Near!!!”

Is this how the Resurrection Belief began??

 

 

 

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Why Are So Many Christian Apologists Hesitant to Admit the Age at Which They First Believed in the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus?

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Twelve year old kids

 

Christian apologists LOVE to talk historical evidence when it comes to their belief in Jesus, the resurrected messiah (Christ).  But ask them at what age they first believed that a dead first century corpse was brought back to life and later levitated into the clouds, and you get all kinds of resistance.  The hemming and the hawing is truly hilarious.

It is a very simple, very easy question, Christian apologists!  What’s the hesitation?

See an example of this phenomenon here.

I assert that the overwhelming majority of Christians, including Christian apologists, believed in the historical reality of this fantastical supernatural tale at a very young age; the overwhelming majority prior to the age of TWELVE!

Question:  Does a twelve year old have the intellectual maturity to thoroughly examine complex historical data and analyze ancient linguistic evidence to arrive at a rational decision regarding the reality of dead corpse re-animations and non-mechanically assisted levitations into space in the ancient world??

I personally don’t think so!

So how is it possible for these people to objectively evaluate historical evidence for this ancient claim when they have believed that the ghost of this dead prophet has been living somewhere inside their bodies, giving them inaudible life advice and direction, since they were twelve years old???

I don’t think they can!

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A Jewish Refutation of the Resurrection

Excerpts from Jews for Judaism:

The Christian scriptures claim that their leader, one Jesus of Nazareth, was crucified by the Romans and that as a result of this he died. These authors of the Christian scriptures tell us that after Jesus’ death he was sighted by some of his followers alive and well. According to these men, this miraculous event is the sign that Christianity is the true religion. Some Christians look at the alleged resurrection of Jesus as a solid foundation upon which to base their faith. These people feel that there exists solid evidence that proves that the resurrection was an actual historical event. Although this event supposedly took place many centuries ago, still these Christians feel that they can honestly be sure that Jesus really was seen alive after his death on the cross.

…There are a few points though, which these Christians failed to consider. The first and most basic point is the passage in Deuteronomy 13:2-6. In that passage God clearly instructs us that even if a miracle is performed which seems to substantiate the claims of a prophet, we are not to take this as a sign that God wants us to worship another god. God is testing us to see if we truly love Him with all our hearts. So, even if Jesus were to resurrect himself in front of our eyes, still this cannot serve as a sign that we are to worship him. Since he is not the one whowas revealed to the Jewish people at Sinai, then he is “another god“, all his claims to the contrary notwithstanding. So the entire claim of the resurrection, even if it could be backed by solid evidence, does not have the strength to prove the veracity of any brand of trinitarian Christianity. But we shall see that the entire claim is without foundation.

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 How do we know about the story of  Jesus’ alleged Resurrection?

The Christian Church tells us the storywe know about the story . And where did they hear the story? We have to go back in time in order to try to trace the origins of this Christian tradition. (The Catholic Church claims that they have a direct tradition which traces itself back to Peter, the problem is that the dishonesty of the Catholic Church is a well documented fact, furthermore what do we know about Peter that tells us to believe him?)

Protestant Christians (who agree that the Catholic traditions cannot be trusted) would point to the books of the Christian scriptures. These writings, which historical research indicates that they existed quite early on in the history of Christianity, they testify to the story of the resurrection.

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Who wrote these books? Who determined that the authors were trustworthy people?  What criteria did the early Christians use to determine that these writings should be considered holy? What assures us that the early Christians who had read these books really believed that every word that these writings contained in a literal sense? 

…The first thing that becomes immediately obvious is that these authors do not tell you where they are getting their information from. The range of events described by these books precludes the possibility that the authors themselves were eyewitnesses for every event mentioned in the books. Much, if not all of their information was (at best) related to them by other people. (In case you were wondering why we don’t consider the possibility that these books were written by prophetic powers, ask yourself these questions. Who determined that these men were prophets, and if they were prophets then why is there so little conformity in their descriptions of the same events.) How did these authors interview their sources of information?

…Another interesting factor that comes to light when examining the various sightings of Jesus, is the point that the only ones who testified that they saw him were people who were already totally devoted to him. Even among the devotees, the Christian scriptures report that there was an element of doubt concerning the truth of the resurrection story.

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Realize what this means. We have a beloved leader; a leader whom his followers believe to be greater than Moses, and wiser than Solomon. Protestant Christianity would have us believe that his disciples believed him to be an almighty god. The devotion of his disciples was extreme. The Christian scriptures report that the followers of Jesus had to relinquish all of their possessions in order to join the following. Jesus demanded that his followers love him more than they love their parents, spouses or their children. It is clear that what these people would require as evidence to the resurrection of their adored teacher, would be much less than the evidence required by one who is unaffected by this bias. With all this in mind Matthew reports (28:17) that when Jesus reappeared to his disciples, some worshiped him, but some doubted.

This is comparable to a cult leader who is accused of shoplifting. Some of his followers come to court to testify that their leader was elsewhere at the time that the crime had taken place. As you watch the witnesses filing in to testify on behalf of the accused, it strikes you that the only ones who are testifying, are people who are totally blinded by devotion to this man. When these devotees open their mouth to speak, each one contradicts the other on every point of their testimony. The only thing they all agree on is that their leader was not in the place where his accusers claim he was. They do not agree about basic details of their story such as the actual location of their leader during the time of the crime. Furthermore it is brought to your attention that even some of his devoted followers who were with these witnesses, did not come to court. They doubted the veracity of the testimony of their fellow devotees. Could you decide that you are totally convinced that this cult leader was definitely not guilty of shoplifting?

The testimony of the Christian Scriptures concerning the resurrection story is sorely lacking. It is difficult to see how one can consider these writings as “convincing evidence” to the resurrection of Jesus.

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But what about the disciples? Why were they so devoted to Jesus if they did not have their faith substantiated by an actual resurrection? 

The problem with this argument is that the devotion of the disciples preceded the resurrection story. It seems that the devotion to their leader produced the resurrection story and not the other way around. The way the Christian Scriptures describe the devotion of Jesus’ disciples it would almost be surprising if there were no resurrection story. Does this mean that the disciples were preaching a deliberate lie? Not necessarily. There is no way of knowing today at what point in time was it that the resurrection story came to be accepted by the followers of Jesus. It is possible that it took years for the story to develop until it was actually believed in a literal sense. It may have started with reports of visions, which over the course of time came to be spoken of as actual sightings. This would explain the manifold contradictions in the Christian scriptures. It would also explain why the early Christians did not maintain a tradition concerning the concrete occurrences of Jesus’ reappearance. If indeed Jesus did reappear in a physical sense it would make sense that the physical details of the event should have been recorded. These include the noting of the precise location at which these reappearances took place. We should have the early Church pointing to a particular physical spot and saying, that this is where the most important event in world history took place. But no record exists of such a claim. This lends weight to the theory that the resurrection story began with a series of emotional visions.

Even if we were to assume that the original disciples believed that Jesus was resurrected in a physical sense, still, we must take into consideration the simple fact that these people would not demand the same standard of evidence that an unbiased person would require before believing a resurrection story. There are many scenarios that would have the disciples believe that their leader is resurrected which are more plausible than an actual resurrection. There could have been an empty grave. It is doubtful if his loyal followers would have required more evidence than an empty grave before preaching and believing that an actual resurrection took place.

One example for such a situation would be that there may have been confusion concerning the precise burial site of Jesus. According to the Christian Scriptures the burial took place hastily, and close to nightfall. There were no more than four people claimed to be present at the time of the burial. This being the case, it is quite possible that his followers pointed to an empty burial spot in which Jesus was never buried. (Since the graves were hewn into stone it was customary to have such spots empty, even without anyone dying – the Christian Scriptures tell us that Jesus was laid in a grave which was opened for someone else who had not yet died.)

(continued here)

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Dear Christian: Would You Teach Your Children that Alien Abductions are Real Without First Thoroughly Investigating the Evidence?

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I have found that, as was true in my case, very few Christians first believed in the the central truth claim of Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus, due to historical evidence. Rather, we believed due to emotional experiences or perceived miraculous events—and often at a very young age (under 12).  It was only after our emotional decision to believe this fantastical claim that we decided, often years later, to obtain historical evidence to back up that emotional decision.

Is that rational?

If one is going to believe that a first century corpse came back to life, ate a fish meal with his friends, and later lifted off the ground and disappeared into the clouds, wouldn’t it be prudent to thoroughly investigate this claim first, researching both the pro and the con arguments, before making a decision to believe it? Wouldn’t most modern, educated people do this type of research for any other fantastical claim?

What educated person today would encourage his or her child to believe in the reality of alien abductions, for instance, without first thoroughly investigating the evidence? Yet Christians teach their young children to believe that a publicly executed first century peasant came back to life, hung out with his buddies for forty days, and then lifted off from earth, without any mechanical assistance, into outer spaceAnd the overwhelming majority of these Christian parents have never once researched the historical evidence for this claim!

Is that rational??

As a former Christian myself I believe that Christians do this for one reason: Belief in Jesus the Christ, Lord and Savior of humankind, Ruler of Heaven and Earth, is an EMOTION-based belief. Historical evidence is secondary.  So when a Christian tells you that he believes in the Resurrection because of the historical evidence, challenge him.  Ask him or her take this short test:

Dear Christian:  If you find out tomorrow that Julius Caesar did not cross the Rubicon how will that make you feel?  Now, compare that to finding out tomorrow that Jesus of Nazareth is still dead; he never rose from the grave.    If your response to the first discovery is indifference, but your response to the second is profound sadness, that shows you just how emotionally invested you are in this issue.  Is it really possible for you to objectively discuss the historical evidence for this disputed event if you are so emotionally attached to the outcome?

This is why discussing evidence with Christians is usually a waste of time. Evidence is not the issue.  One must dig deeper and find out why the believer is so emotionally invested in this belief.  

 

 

 

 

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Bright Lights: the Origin of the Christian Faith

The Conversion of St. Paul by Caravaggio

If Paul can see a bright light on a dark desert highway and believe that he has seen the physically resurrected Jesus then it is entirely plausible that this is what happened to Peter, James, the Twelve, and the “Five Hundred”.  They all saw a strange bright light and believed it was an appearance of the physically resurrected Jesus.  Paul may have believed that his bright light spoke to him, but a guy who believes that he has taken an intergalactic space voyage to a “third heaven” to hear confidential communications between space people is not dealing with a full deck.

The Gospels were written by non-eyewitnesses, decades after the death of Jesus, writing works of evangelism.  The Appearance Stories in Matthew and Luke have nothing in common.  Any non-biased reader would see these two stories are fictional embellishments of the bare-bones appearance accounts mentioned in the Early Creed.  And John’s Appearance Stories, written one or more decades later, look like an amalgamation of Matthew and Luke’s Appearance Stories.  Fleshed-out Appearances Stories involving seeing and touching a resurrected corpse are going to convert many more souls than a dry, non-descript list of alleged eyewitnesses.

Unlike Jesus’ disciples, Paul was a highly educated.  He was also a pharisee.  Yet he converted to the new Christian sect due to a (talking) bright light.  How much more likely then are the chances that the “unlearned” disciples converted due to even less dramatic experiences, such as vivid dreams, false sightings, or non-talking bright lights!

The Christian faith is an ancient superstition, originating in the fertile imaginations of first century zealots.  Modern, educated people should not believe this ancient nonsense.  Abandon belief in the supernatural, my friends.  Embrace reason, science, and rational thinking!

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Jesus?

 

 

 

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Why Can’t Moderate Christians Admit that There May be Embellishments in the Resurrection Appearance Stories?

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Moderate Christians have no problem admitting that there are probable embellishments or allegories (in plain speak:  fiction) in the Genesis Creation Story, the story of the Exodus, the Conquest of Canaan, the story of Jonah and the Great Fish, the birth of Jesus narratives, the guards at the tomb story, and the dead saints shaken out of their graves by an earthquake story.  But for some reason, they just cannot accept the possibility that the detailed appearance stories in the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John of disciples seeing, hearing, talking to, and touching a resurrected body are just more fiction.

I’m not implying that the evangelists (whom most scholars doubt were eyewitnesses or even associates of eyewitnesses) knew that Jesus had not appeared to anyone (they lied).  I’m sure that they sincerely believed that Jesus had appeared, in some fashion, to some of his followers.

And I will bet that the evangelists were familiar with the list of alleged eyewitnesses listed in the Early Creed.  But isn’t it at least possible that the evangelists chose to flesh out (embellish) the bare-bones story found in the Early Creed for the simple purpose of making a better story (and therefore, a more effective evangelism tool)?  They weren’t trying to deceive anyone with their embellishments. They were simply trying to write good stories!  After all, they were writing first century Greco-Roman biographies in which embellishments to the core facts were perfectly acceptable.

So why do you think that on this one issue, moderate Christians refuse to accept the possibility that these stories are embellishments (fiction)?

Update:   You can see a moderate Christian making such an argument, here:

Historically-Speaking: Pondering the Problems Surrounding Matthew and Luke’s Infancy Narratives, and the Date of Jesus’ Birth

 

 

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