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Christians: Please Use Critical Thinking Skills When Evaluating Your Beliefs!

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Rachel, conservative Christian:

Of course you dispute Paul’s authorship by saying “Paul allegedly saw!”  Why “allegedly?” Why use that word as if to infer or imply that the Apostle Paul is somehow in error or at the very least lying? …What is next? I address [one issue], and then you add some more, and I address that…vicious cycle!

Paul is not “allegedly” saying anything [when he claims to have seen the risen Jesus], he is being factual and clearly staking his reputation as a Christian and being truthful about his encounters with the Risen Christ Jesus. When you say to me what Paul “allegedly saw” you do not say, what Paul “heard.” Does that matter?

The Apostle [Paul] was not speaking to a dead person! Paul (Saul) asks: “Who are you?” And the Person talking to Paul (Saul) says: “I AM Jesus of Nazareth whom you persecute.” Paul describes his encounter with the Resurrected and glorified Jesus as a heavenly vision.

Galatians 1:20 Now, what I (Paul) write to you, behold, before God, I do not lie.

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Gary:

Rachel, I am not trying to create a vicious cycle. I am simply encouraging you to use critical thinking skills to evaluate your beliefs.  Critical thinking skills involve analyzing sources of information. Is the source reliable? Is the claim made by the source corroborated by other sources?

With these points in mind, what is the evidence supporting your belief that Paul of Tarsus literally saw a bodily resurrected Jesus? Well, we have his statement in Galatians “have I not seen the Christ”. The other evidence comes from the Book of Acts in which a non-eyewitness third party quotes Paul as describing events in a “heavenly vision”.

In neither of these accounts do we have any details of what exactly Paul saw—other than possibly a bright light. A bright light, even if it is a talking bright light, is not a body. And seeing a talking bright light in a “vision” is not reality. Therefore by using critical thinking skills we must come to the conclusion that Paul had a fantastical experience in his mind and came to believe that he had seen the resurrected Jesus.

The principles of Critical Thinking help us to see that your belief that a first century man named Paul really did see a walking, talking (resurrected) corpse is based on faulty reasoning and insufficient evidence.

 

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Dear Old Earth Creationists: If the Universe is 14 Billion Years Old, How do You Reconcile the Fall of Adam?

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Michael Strauss, evangelical Christian blogger and scientist:  “Over the last 100 years scientists have discovered that the universe had a beginning about 14 billion years ago in which space, time, matter, and energy came into existence.”

Gary:  I assume you also believe the scientific consensus that the first humans existed sometime between five and seven million years ago, millions of years AFTER the first living organisms appeared. If this is true, how do you explain the fact that millions of living organisms were suffering and dying for millions of years PRIOR to Adam’s and Eve’s fall—the event in history in which God cursed his “good” creation—as taught by most mainstream Christian churches?

 

 

 

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Presidential Election 2020: Unless You Live in A Swing State, Your Opinion and Vote Mean Diddly Squat

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Bernie’s programs sound WONDERFUL! Who doesn’t want free healthcare for all? Who doesn’t want free child care for all? Who doesn’t want free college education for all? Who doesn’t want job guarantee for all?

The question is: How is Bernie going to pay for all these wonderful programs?

And the answer is: A massive increase in taxes, including massive taxes on the middle class.

Now, you and I may not mind paying higher taxes to bring all these wonderful benefits to every person living in America. I do not. But the fact is, since American presidents are not elected by popular vote but by the Electoral College, it doesn’t matter what you or I think if we do not live in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida, and Arizona. The voters in these SIX states will decide if Donald Trump stays in the White House for the next four years and wrecks havoc on our democracy. We MUST nominate a candidate who will convince the majority of people in these six states to vote Democrat.

So if you can show me polls that demonstrate that Bernie will beat Trump in these SIX states (not just in a couple of them), then nominate Sanders. But if you can’t, you had better stop living in fantasy land:  vote with your brain and not your heart.

 

 

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Dear Moderate Democrats: Please Unite to Support Whichever Moderate Candidate Wins the South Carolina Primary

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I’m having a (political) nervous breakdown.

For the last three years, I have been impatiently counting down the days to Donald Trump’s exit from the White House.  I was certain that any half-decent, moderate, Democrat could beat Trump.  Whether the Democratic candidate’s last name was Biden, Booker, Harris, Bennett, Buttigieg, or Klobuchar, I would support him or her as the Democratic nominee.  (I would probably even vote for Warren over Trump, if push came to shove.)

But not Bernie.  Anybody but Bernie!

So when Bernie Sanders won almost 50% of the vote in the Nevada caucus last Saturday, I began to gnash my teeth.  I don’t want a socialist president.  I don’t want a socialist economy.  I don’t want a socialist country!  I don’t want Bernie Sanders the Socialist to become president of the United States!

So if you are a moderate Democrat, please join me in supporting whichever moderate Democrat wins the most votes in the South Carolina primary this coming Saturday.  Let’s all vote for this one, moderate candidate in the upcoming primaries on Super Tuesday and the primaries thereafter.  Even though we each may support a different moderate candidate today, let’s unite behind one moderate candidate after Saturday night.  If we do not, the extreme left wing of the Democratic party will win.   Bernie will win.

And if Bernie wins in the primaries, Trump will win in the fall.

Most Americans are not ready to embrace Bernie’s extreme socialism or his historical infatuation with Communist societies.

Let’s save our country from bullying, obnoxious extremists—both from the right and from the left.

 

 

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Why Did James Acknowledge the Divinity of his Brother, Jesus?

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Dr. Michael Strauss, university professor, scientist, and Christian apologist:

If true that James was a follower of Jesus, then Jesus’ own brother acknowledged he was divine. On what basis would he do that?

Gary:

“Divine” in what sense, is the question.

I think that most scholars would agree that the earliest Christians believed that Jesus was divine, in the sense that he was the “anointed one”, the messiah, the son of God. But did James (or any of the other early disciples) believe that Jesus was Yahweh incarnate, the Creator of the universe?? Other than fundamentalist Protestants and evangelicals, most scholars would be hesitant to give a yes or no answer on that question. The Christology of the disciples immediately after Jesus’ death and even for several years thereafter is disputed.

So in human history have the family members of someone who believes that he is a prophet, a messenger of God, and some sense, divine, believed him? Yes. Just ask the brother of David Koresh who was a member of his cult. And if we do a little digging, I will bet that we can find brothers and sisters among the followers of other cult leaders.

So I am not surprised that some of the members of Jesus’ family believed him to be a prophet, the messiah, and in some sense, divine. Remember, in the Old Testament, the anointed kings of Israel were referred to as “the son of God”. So if the family of Jesus came to believe that Jesus was the messiah, they would then accept that he was “the son of God”, a divine being. And if the author of John is correct, that thousands of devout Jews in Jerusalem turned out to greet Jesus as the new king of Israel, why wouldn’t the family of Jesus also believe?

Again, in Acts chapter one, the author states that “the brothers of the Lord”, which sounds to me like “all the brothers”, were praying with the Church. Do you claim that all the brothers of Jesus received an appearance of Jesus?? I doubt it. So, this is evidence (if this account is historically accurate) that numerous members of Jesus’ family converted to Christianity WITHOUT first receiving an appearance of Jesus. Therefore, this is evidence that it is certainly possible and plausible that James converted PRIOR to his alleged appearance experience mentioned in the Early Creed.

Again, tens of thousands of people have “seen” dead people appear to them over the course of human history. And we have evidence that some brothers and sisters of men claiming to be prophets and messengers of God have believed them. The Resurrection of Jesus Story is just not believable. Just because a few members of a first century cult came to sincerely believe that their dead leader had appeared to them is not sufficient evidence for modern, educated people to believe this tale. It is a typical case of religious hysteria, no different than Virgin Mary sightings today.

Dr. Strauss:

Would any of your close relatives ever claim that you were divine based on their interactions with you?

Gary:

It is irrelevant what my relatives or anyone else’s relatives living TODAY would claim. What is relevant is what the family of Jesus, living in first century Palestine, would claim. And according to the author of Acts, chapter one, all the brothers of Jesus were already believers within weeks of Jesus’ death. Why? Why were they all believers? Answer: We don’t know. But what is odd is that if all their conversions were due to a recent appearance of Jesus, there is no mention of this fact anywhere in the Book of Acts. Even if one of the brother’s, James, claimed to have received an appearance of Jesus, we have no evidence that any of the other brother’s claimed to have received an appearance. This strongly suggests that the majority of Jesus’ brothers converted to Christianity for reasons other than an appearance experience. If most of Jesus’ brothers converted for other reasons, then it is possible and plausible that James converted for other reasons. Therefore, this is evidence that it is possible that James was already a believer prior to his alleged appearance experience. The claim that the conversion of James is an example of a skeptic conversion is unfounded and based on conjecture. We have no evidence why or when James converted.

 

 

 

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Evidence that James, the Brother of Jesus, Was Already A Believer Prior to Jesus’ Death

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Joseph, Mary, Jesus, and his brothers and sisters

The Ascension of Jesus

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of[c] James. 14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

 

Gary:  His brothers??  Immediately after the alleged Ascension, [all?] the brothers of Jesus were praying with the early Church??

Think about it:  If James the brother of Jesus had just recently converted to Christianity due to an appearance of the resurrected Jesus, wouldn’t you expect this fact to get a little more attention by the author of the Book of Acts?  But no.  No mention of a recent appearance to a brother of Jesus nor any mention that the future bishop of Jerusalem had just converted due to this appearance.  What better proof to convince dubious Jews of the bodily resurrection of Jesus than to proclaim from the roof tops that a skeptic brother of Jesus, a brother who had previously considered Jesus to be a nut case, had recently received an appearance of the bodily resurrected Jesus and had converted to “the Way”?  But nope.  No mention of these events.

The fact that the “brothers” of Jesus (sounds to me like “all” of Jesus’ brothers) are mentioned almost like an after-thought in this passage, devoting themselves to prayer with the leading men of the early Church, suggests to me that the brothers of Jesus had been believers in the messianic teachings of Jesus for quite some time.  Why else would their participation in such a significant event in the history of the Christian Church be mentioned so casually?

This is evidence that if James, the brother of Jesus, did claim to have received an appearance of the resurrected Jesus as Paul in the Early Creed of First Corinthians 15 claims, he was already a believer!

 

Update 02/18/2020:  I believe that the last sentence of the post above would be better worded to say:

This is evidence that if James, the brother of Jesus, did claim to have received an appearance of the resurrected Jesus as Paul in the Early Creed of First Corinthians 15 claims, he may have already been a believer!

In summary:  According to the author of Acts (chapter one) all the brothers of Jesus were already believers within weeks of Jesus’ death. Why? Why were they all believers? Answer: We don’t know. But what is odd is that if all their conversions were due to a recent appearance of Jesus, there is no mention of this fact anywhere in the Book of Acts. Even if one of the brother’s, James, claimed to have received an appearance of Jesus, we have no evidence that any of the other brother’s claimed to have received an appearance. This strongly suggests that the majority of Jesus’ brothers converted to Christianity for reasons other than an appearance experience. If most of Jesus’ brothers converted for other reasons, then it is possible and plausible that James converted for other reasons. Therefore, this is evidence that it is possible that James was already a believer prior to his alleged appearance experience. The claim that the conversion of James is an example of a skeptic conversion is unfounded and based on conjecture. We have no evidence why or when James converted.

 

 

 

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Jesus and Harvey the Invisible Rabbit

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Christian:  I can share with you that I have a relationship/connection with Jesus, as do many Christians. You cannot prove that I do not. The evidence is all around you but instead you want to go down a philosophical rabbit hole.

Ubi Dubium:  Rabbit hole? Perfect! I have a connection with my close friend, a six-foot-tall invisible rabbit named Harvey. You cannot prove that I do not. And Harvey wants a connection with you, which will make your life better in every way. All you have to do is tell him telepathically that you want to be his friend. (And go to weekly meetings of the Harvey Fan Club.) (And give me 10% of your money.)

Convinced?

 

 

 

 

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