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Holy Moly! Jesus Appears in Chicago!

Thousands of very sincere Pentecostal Christians claim that Jesus has appeared to them. You can find their claims all over the internet and on Youtube. Yet, most educated (non-Pentecostal) Christians think these people are ignorant NUT JOBS! So why in the world do these educated Christians believe similar hysteria-induced claims from the first century??

Just watch the ignorant nonsense that occurs in this video. It should make every educated Christian ashamed and embarrassed to be associated with this ancient superstition-based belief system.

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Resurrection? People Have Been Seeing Jesus for Two Thousand Years and Counting!

The original disciples of Jesus, and Paul, are not the only people in history who have claimed to have “seen” a back-from-the-dead Jesus. Hundreds if not thousands of people over the last 2,000 years have claimed to be recipients of a Jesus Appearance. In the past, one had to know where to find these appearance claims written in obscure books. Today, however, one can go online and find these claims with one click of the mouse, including videos of modern people claiming to have seen the resurrected Jesus. Don’t believe me? I can assure you, most of these people are still living, although some may sleep. So you can look them up and ask them!

Why do most modern, educated, western Christians dismiss modern Jesus sighting claims as silly and preposterous but accept hook, line, and sinker the claims of similar religious fanatics from the first century?

Holy Trinity, Batman! This guy claims to have received appearances of Jesus and his Father!

Jesus appeared to this guy in his bedroom (why do ghosts prefer bedrooms??)

And in case you missed it: Jesus recently appeared to large crowds in Africa!!!

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Dear Atheist: Don’t Read the Bible Like a Fundamentalist!

Fundamentalism turns 100, a landmark for the Christian Right

Sophisticated Christian apologist:

There is no question that the Bible does indeed carry much deeply problematic moral content. And rather than ignore those texts or spin them, Christians need to confront them honestly. Every reader has a tendency to read in accord with their biases. And if [Dan] Barker [popular skeptic/former Christian pastor turned atheist author] reads like a fundamentalist Christian counting instances of the ‘f-bomb’, his book forces Christians who have their own selective methods to confront many texts that may present a significant challenge to their theology.

The fact is, however, that there are many books and essays by Christians that offer thoughtful reflections on biblical violence in light of theology, hermeneutics, and ethics (e.g. Eric Seibert, Kent Sparks, Paul Copan, Greg Boyd, Peter Enns, John Dominic Crossan, Philip Jenkins, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Richard Swinburne, Douglas Earl, Thom Stark). None of these scholars root their analysis in fundamentalist methods. And all of them seem a good deal more aware of their own presuppositions and how those presuppositions inform their work than Dan Barker.

Gary:

Whenever one is reading an ancient text, a text whose author has been dead for millennia, it is impossible to be 100% certain as to the intent of the author. Did he intend this or that passage to be understood literally or metaphorically? No one, I don’t care how much of an an “expert” he or she may be, can be certain. Experts can only make educated guesses.

So whether we are reading the works of Homer, the authors of the Pentateuch, or the authors of the Gospels, we can only guess as to the author’s intent. But there is a big difference on this issue between Homer and the authors of the Bible. Does it really matter whether or not some particular passage in Homer’s “Iliad” was intended to be read literally or metaphorically? No. Not really. Not in the big scheme of things. In fact, even if ALL the characters, stories, and details (the Greco-Trojan wars) in “The Iliad” are fictional it wouldn’t really matter. But imagine if the authors of the Pentateuch were wrong! Imagine if ALL the stories in the first five books of the Jewish and Christian holy books are complete fiction!

And imagine the same is true with the authors of the Gospels. Imagine if many or all of the stories about Jesus found in the Gospels are fictional?? Yes, Jesus probably existed. Yes, he was probably an apocalyptic preacher and had a reputation as a healer and miracle worker. But imagine if the detailed stories of Jesus’ followers seeing and touching a walking, talking corpse are merely theological fiction!

Don’t read the Bible like a fundamentalist, my friends, but do read it with your eyes wide open! You have an educated brain. Use it! Virgins never give birth to demi-gods fathered by invisible (holy) ghosts and brain dead corpses never come back to life.

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Silly Skeptics! You Must Read the Bible in Context!

Content vs Context: What's More Important | by Erin Ashley Simon | Medium

How often has a Christian apologist informed you (the skeptic) that you are reading the Bible like a fundamentalist because you accept the literal reading of a particular Bible passage as the intent of the author, instead of taking the time to understand the nuances of “context”?

All the time, in my experience!

The problem with context is that it is open to interpretation without access to a living author. This is particularly the case when dealing with very ancient texts like the books of the Bible.

How can anyone be 100% certain that the author(s) of the Book of Genesis did not literally intend his readers to believe that the Creation occurred in six literal days? If this was the intention of the author, science has proven him wrong. Christian apologists can argue all day long that the author was using symbolic language or that the ultimate author, God, was accommodating to a scientifically ignorant culture, but there is really no way to know for sure. The context? Who knows!

And what about Noah’s Flood? What if the author(s) of Genesis really did intend his readership to understand that the Great Flood literally covered the entire earth, including the highest mountain (Mt. Everest)? Science has proven the literal reading of this passage absolutely false. So how do we determine the “context” of this story? Did the author believe this story to be literally true or did he intend to use this story as an allegory? Who knows!

And the list goes on and on (Tower of Babel, the Exodus, etc..).

It is odd that many Christian apologists are eager to reinterpret passages in the OT using “context”; stories, which by some odd coincidence, modern science has recently proven cannot be literally true. But these same Christian apologists are reluctant to do the same for similarly fantastical claims in the New Testament!

A virgin birth? Couldn’t we use the same strategy to say that this story was allegorical or theological in intent and not historical? What about the claim of water walking? Turning water into alcohol? Restoring sight to the blind? If the stories of the Old Testament can be reinterpreted using the excuse of “context”, accommodation, or allegory, why can’t we do the same with the stories in the New Testament??

If the stories of Creation and Noah’s Flood are not literal, then maybe the stories of wild eyed, illiterate peasants seeing a “resurrected” corpse are just as non-literal! Maybe the fantastical stories of people seeing and touching the resurrected body of Jesus were never meant to be understood literally. Maybe they too were written for theological/literary purposes. What was their true “context”?

Who knows!!

Context can be a quagmire, my Christian friends. Be careful how often you appeal to it!

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Philosophy is the Art of Making BS Sound Intelligent—and that is why Christian Apologists love it!

The Great Ideas of Philosophy, 2nd Edition | The Great Courses

Check the credentials of many popular Christian apologists today and you will frequently find that he or she has a degree or at least some training in philosophy. Why is that? Answer: Philosophy is the art of making BS sound intelligent, and the superstitions at the core of Christianity are the epitome of BS. Ghost impregnated virgins? Reanimated, broiled fish eating, into outer space levitating corpses? Come on! The only way to make these outrageous claims appear respectable to a modern, educated world is to obfuscate the evidence for these claims with a heavy helping of mind-numbing philosophical mumbo jumbo.

But what is so glaringly hypocritical about apologists’ use of philosophy to defend their superstitions is the fact that when presented with the outrageous supernatural claims of someone else’s religion, these same Christian apologists will usually hand wave away these claims without a second thought, never bothering to apply their complicated, sophisticated philosophical concepts to the superstitions of Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, and others.

And these often very intelligent, highly educated Christians cannot fathom why we skeptics are so appalled at their use of philosophy to defend their “faith”. Think about this: Imagine someone using philosophy to defend his belief that stepping on a crack will break his mother’s back. How absurd! Yet, Christians do the very equivalent by using philosophy to defend their belief that a first century peasant from the middle east is the virgin-born creator of the universe; a back from the dead man-god with unlimited supernatural powers who demands our worship and praise to avoid some form of horrific torment in the afterlife. Wake up from your delusion, dear Christian friends!

The quagmire of philosophical theory is the last line of defense for an ancient superstition whose debunking is long overdue.

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Jesus Said Some Really Crazy Things

I Love My Dad - Father Son and Daughter T-shirts Collections

In the previous post I quoted the Gospel of Luke in which Jesus told his followers to “hate” their fathers and mothers. Christians, of course, don’t believe that Jesus really meant to be understood literally in this passage. Jesus would never tell a disciple to hate his father and mother, they assure us.

Are they sure?

Let’s look at another statement from Jesus:

He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 

–Matthew 10:37

Forget about your parents. What sane person would ask you to love him more than your son or daughter?? That is not rational, folks. That is crazy talk!

“But Jesus was God!” Christians will respond.

Hundreds if not thousands of mentally deranged people have believed themselves to be a god or a prophet. We don’t believe these nut jobs, so why should we believe Jesus?

Think about this: Why did Jesus’ first disciples believe him? Is it because he really did walk on water and really did turn a couple of fish into five thousand fish in front of their very eyes? I don’t think so. I think they believed Jesus’ crazy claims for one simple reason: They were living in terrible circumstances (Roman occupation) and were desperately looking for a rescuer, a savior, to deliver them from the Romans and to make their lives better and happier. Check out Jewish history. It is full of false messiahs promising the Jewish people deliverance from their occupiers!

Jesus offered hope. It was false hope. It was crazy hope. But it was hope, and that is why they believed him.

We have zero evidence outside of the Christian Gospels that Jesus performed any specific miracle mentioned in the Gospels. No non-Christian contemporary of Jesus wrote about any of his great public miracles (raising people from the dead, healing the lepers) nor of the fantastical events surrounding his alleged resurrection (earthquakes, angel sightings, dead saints roaming the streets, three hour eclipses, temple veil tearing down the middle, etc.). Think about this: If Jesus did all the miracles attributed to him by the Gospels, he would be the greatest Jewish prophet in the history of the Jewish people. He allegedly raised more people from the dead than all the prophets of the Old Testament combined! Yet not one non-Christian author bothered to mention these great Jewish events.

No, these events did not happen, folks. The magic-filled stories in the Gospels are the consequence of the whipped up hysteria of a desperately miserable people grasping for something, anything, to give their lives a little meaning and hope.

The stories of Jesus are ancient tall tales, my friends. They. did. not. happen! They should be taken no more seriously than the fairy tales found in the books of the Brothers Grimm, in which the poor are suddenly and marvelously blessed with great bounty or miraculous healing by a benevolent fairy godmother or other worker of magic.

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Gary, Please Don’t Throw Jesus Out with the Bathwater!

Be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater - OpusXenta

I received this comment from a Christian in the “feedback” section of my blog recently :

Thanks for your honest and earnest story. For what it’s worth, I have read Ehrman (Misquoting Jesus and various articles in BAR) and listened/watched his lectures on BAR media. He’s a smart, nice, articulate guy, who values truth and people too. I see his unbelief as a natural consequence of his linking the Bible with fundamentalism.

Given his experience, the link would be hard to break. It was for me. He has taken the fundamentalist ultimatum (Either you believe every word is literal history and/or the word of God, or you may as well be an atheist) to its logical conclusion.

One of the problems we face in determining the truthiness (Computer science actually uses that word) of the Bible is the diversity of “true religions,” which implies at least most of them are false. Another problem we face is the hubris exhibited by dogmatists, exceeded only by their intransigence. One must wonder how the Bible can be true or even useful when it is subject to such disparate readings. This oversimplifies the issue, but I think we are bound to miss the import, if any, of the Bible and of Jesus’ story until we notice that Jesus was more secular than people of his time and people ever since have wanted him to be.

He claimed that his purpose was to set people free (Luke 4:18 – 21), not burden them with a new religion. Martin Luther and the other reformers were heroes, but their goal was to correct mistakes apparent in the medieval church. Going back to the Bible is more than fixing up the ceremonies, doctrines, etc., but rediscovering what the radical Jesus showed and taught of the Kingdom of God.

Taking Jesus as a genuine, secular man opens the possibility of discovering his way, apart from the encrusting barnacles of religion. However, his outrageous claims of his identity demand either acceptance, at some level, or repudiation. Of course, some repudiate the claims because they think his followers invented them. That opinion and its opposite separate honest people. On supernaturalism, one can misread the Bible as an intentional maximalist or an intentional minimalist. Either bias can be extensively confirmed. A more innocent way of reading is to suspend one’s preferred frame of reference and absorb the story and its implications.

Of course, we must consider the ways that ancient people perceived and interpreted their experiences. No law of God or Nature requires us to assume their cultural position, but neither should we assume we can’t make sense of anything they said. I am convinced you can escape fundamentalism while following the way of Jesus. Bathwater and baby…

Gary’s response:

Jesus (allegedly) said the following:

Now large crowds were traveling with him [Jesus]; and he turned and said to them,  

“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.  …So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

–the Gospel of Luke, chapter 14

If someone today made such a statement I’m sure you would agree that such a person is not dealing with a full deck. He is mad. Yet you believe a man living 20 centuries ago, making similar mad statements, is worthy of your discipleship and even worship. Why??

Sorry, my Christian friend, you are not being rational. Your emotions are preventing your brain from using critical thinking skills. The claims attributed to Jesus are the claims of a delusional mad man.

Yes, I will throw Jesus out with the bathwater!

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Do Atheists Worship Science?

Science Worship Geeky Atheism" iPad Case & Skin by TropicalToad | Redbubble

Christian: Although most atheists do not consciously view science as their God, it functions as God in their lives. 

Gary: I have never prayed to science to bless my food, keep my children safe, or to have a nice day. I have never asked science to forgive me of my bad deeds and thoughts. I have never asked science to be my lord and master in exchange for living happily ever after in some version of Never Never Land.

Sorry. Your analogy fails, my Christian friend.

Seven Types of Atheism' Review: Better Off Without Him? - WSJ

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Why Do Exorcisms Only Occur Among Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, and Fundamentalists?

Don Gabriele Amorth, exorcist in the diocese of Rome, who died in 2016. Photograph: Giulio Napolitano/AFP/Getty Images

Call your local Presbyterian or Episcopalian clergyperson and ask them how often they have conducted an exorcism on one of the members of their congregation. Ever??

Then call your local Pentecostal minister. Ask him or her the same question. I bet you will get a very different answer. Why is that?

A public university education is the best cure for (belief in) demons and demonic possession!

My father was a fundamentalist Baptist pastor. One day when I was ten or eleven years old he performed an “exorcism” in his church office while I was listening outside the door. The woman he was “exorcising” was a working class single mother with a high school education with a lot of financial and emotional issues.

I listened to my father talk to the “demon” which “possessed” her. It had a deep voice and was very angry at the world and at God. Was it a male voice or just the woman’s own voice, attempting to speak like a man? Looking back, it could have been either. But now that I am older and more educated, I am certain it was the woman’s voice, attempting to talk like a man.

That is the issue with all these alleged cases of demon possession: The claims can always be explained naturally. No demon-possessed person has ever levitated from the middle of Times Square or any other public square. No demon has ever popped into the nightly news broadcast or caused the news anchor’s pen and papers to levitate in front of the camera. Demons just don’t seem to like video recording devices! In a world where almost every person on the planet has a camera phone, demons and their laws of physics defying activities are never recorded.

These off-camera demonic events almost always occur in private or in the presence of believers (who never seem to have their smart phones operating). Why is that? (And no, Randal Rauser, PhD, we don’t need a formal study to know that this is the case.)

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PhD Claims to Have Encountered a Demon

How I Learned to Be Happy By Finally Letting the Demon Inside Me Take  Control — Sherman Ave

Gary: Why is it that demons only appear to people who believe in them?

Randal Rauser, PhD seminary instructor, Baptist apologist, former Pentecostal: What is your evidence in support of the claim that “demons only appear to people who believe in them”?

Gary: Do a google search on the subject. If you do an internet search, you will find that it is almost exclusively the case that people who claim to have encountered a demon were raised as children to believe in such beings. In fact, in the United States, if one does a google search on the topic of demon possession, one will find that the overwhelming majority of people who claim to have had an experience with demons are Pentecostals/fundamentalists.

How odd that devout 21st century Episcopalians and Presbyterians rarely if ever claim to have had an encounter with demons, but Pentecostals seem to see them on every street corner.

Rauser: If you don’t have evidence to support the claim that “demons only appear to people who believe in them” then don’t make it.

Gary: Don’t be ridiculous.

Belief in demons is dangerous. Shame on you as an educator for peddling such superstitious nonsense. Such belief is responsible for the persecution, torture, and death of tens of thousands of people throughout history, and even today. Check this out from a recent scientific article:

“Along with a handful of Vatican-sanctioned exorcists, there are hundreds of self-styled exorcists around the world. After attending 50 exorcisms during research for his book, Michael Cuneo states that he never saw anything supernatural or unexplainable: No levitation or spinning heads or demonic scratch marks suddenly appearing on anyone’s faces, but many emotionally troubled people on both sides of the ritual.

While most people enjoy a scary movie, belief in the literal reality of demons and of the efficacy of exorcism can have deadly consequences. In 2003, an autistic 8-year-old boy in Milwaukee, Wis., was killed during an exorcism by church members who blamed an invading demon for his disability; in 2005 a young nun in Romania died at the hands of a priest during an exorcism after being bound to a cross, gagged, and left for days without food or water in an effort to expel demons. And on Christmas Day 2010 in London, England, a 14-year-old boy named Kristy Bamu was beaten and drowned to death by relatives trying to exorcise an evil spirit from the boy.”

Source: https://www.livescience.com…

Randall, you grew up as a child in a fundamentalist, working-class (limited education), superstitious denomination (Pentecostalism). If you had grown up in an upper middle class Anglican or Presbyterian home, the odds of a “demonic experience” would be extremely low. Check with your local Anglican priest or Presbyterian minister how often he has performed an exorcism. Probably never. Then check out how often the local Pentecostal preacher has performed an exorcism. Weekly??? Why the huge difference?? Come on, Randall, use that educated brain of yours. You don’t need a double blind study to see the true cause of “demon sightings”.

Your brain has been programmed for demons since you were a toddler, just like a child growing up in the Serengeti has been programmed to think “lion” when he hears rustling in the grass.

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