Raised by ‘theological conspiracy theorists’: How I lost my faith

A Gutenberg Bible (photo by Flickr user JMWK, via Wikimedia Commons)

Editor’s note: What follows is the personal account of a young woman who lost her Christian faith after learning, in college, that the young-earth creationism view she had been raised in was based on scientific and factual untruths. All emphases were added by the editor.

You know that photo of the kid’s 4th-grade creationist science test that’s making the rounds online? That represents to a T what my science education background was, up until I was 16 and left my home school for community college.

People think that test is fake; sadly, every bit of it rings true to what I was taught for years, and I believed it because that view was presented to me by people that I knew were “real Christians” (biblical inerrantists who had a “personal relationship with Jesus”). For ages, I didn’t bother to check to see if their claims were true because a) “real Christians” would obviously not teach bad science or misrepresent the facts; b) everyone in my community appeared to believe in young-earth creationism; and c) I didn’t have easy access to non-creationist scientific resources on the topic and even if I had, reading them would have been seen as a sign of distrusting God’s word — a lack of faith.

Discovering that so many apologists for young-earth creationism (including the writers of my Christian textbooks) actually appeared to have misrepresented evolutionary theory and the evidence for it in a way that I can only describe as dishonest (whether they intended to be or not), and discovering that many of them also lacked the credentials to speak authoritatively on the topic in the first place, made up a major link in a chain of things I discovered that resulted in me “losing my faith,” as it were.

I’m only just starting to claw my way out of deep, angry skepticism back toward religion in general. It seems whiny to blame my upbringing for my trust issues, but imagine how it would feel to believe in Santa Claus (and belligerently and amateurishly argue for his existence to your friends) until you were 21. One of my friends did believe in Santa until she was 9, and said that when she discovered he wasn’t real, she cried like a loved one had died.

I didn’t lose Santa — my presents had always said, “From Mom and Dad.” Instead, I lost God. (By the way, I had also been taught to believe that without God, our lives can have no value or meaning and we might as well kill ourselves.)

My parents still think I’m a Christian (I still am, if you subscribe to “once saved, always saved” theology), but the bond of shared beliefs that I had with them for the first two-thirds of my life was shattered. The services and beliefs of their (also inerrantist) current church make me nuts but I can’t raise my objections without being viewed as someone to be worried about, prayed for, but possibly also feared and distrusted.

An older church friend relayed how proud she was of her elementary-school-aged granddaughter who stood up in class and angrily confronted the teacher with, “Evolution has been disproven, but you’re teaching it as fact!” I bit my tongue so I didn’t retort, “Disproven to everyone except the vast majority of scientists with actual credentials.” Not only would it have outed me as someone who does not adhere to an essential article of fundamentalist faith, but it would likely have had no persuasive effect, since a great deal of people in the creationist community have been taught to view evolution-accepting scientists as misguided, mistaken, delusional, personally deceitful haters of God and truth, or witless tools of Satan, or any combination of the above. They’re like theological conspiracy theorists, and I used to be one of them.

The process of leaving that mindset, questioning everything I had never been allowed to question, caused me years of emotional frustration and, at times, literal physical nausea as I realized that I now was at odds with people I love about beliefs that they view as a critical component of what it means to be “saved.” If they knew what I believe (or don’t believe) now, they would potentially question my original conversion and start worrying about my salvation, if they haven’t already.

It hurts and it’s offensive, and I think it’s sad and theologically wrong, but at the moment, it’s not worth sacrificing the decent and basically courteous relationship we have. So I pick my battles carefully and try to take comfort in the fact that my relationship with my parents is now actually more “normal” than it was when we agreed on everything.

— The author, who asked to be identified only as E.J., is a graduate student at Florida State University.

Readers, do you have a story like E.J.’s? If so, and you don’t mind sharing, email it to Tyler Francke for consideration on GOE’s Testimonies page. The American church needs to hear from you.

  • E.J., my heart goes out to you. Although I was fortunate enough to be raised in a mainstream church that didn’t have a problem with science, I have relatives who are convinced that I and my family are lost because we don’t believe as they do. This does make for awkward social gatherings, and some truly horrendous funerals. Sincerely believing that your grandmother is now burning in hell doesn’t make grieving an easier task. I would like to recommend an author to you – Rachel Held Evans. She wrote a book called “Evolving in Monkeytown” that addresses many of the issues you are facing. Her blog is good, too. http://rachelheldevans.com/.

    • That’s not the only funeral horror story I’ve heard, but it’s one of the worst. So sorry your family had to go through that. I’ll second the recommendation of “Evolving in Monkey Town” for this author. I follow RHE’s blog, and she has some really good thoughts.

  • Peter M J Hess

    Great piece, very heartfelt, and worth sharing. I would love to be in touch with the author, as my job with the National Center for Science Education involves communication with people in exactly this position. You can reach me at hess@ncse.com.

    • Peter, I’m guessing the author will see this, but I will forward your message along to them just in case. Thanks for reading.

  • EJ, I don’t have all the answers. I believe scientific facts are real….they can be proven. I believe God created the world, but as to its age, I believe the science. I don’t know how everything fits together..dinosaurs, people, etc………but I have faith that God is real, He is with us, and he has used science to allow us to discover ways to work His miracles on earth (medicines, Xrays, electricity, etc.). Sadly, some of these have been used to satisfy baser needs of greed and self-indulgence. I believe there is global warming and climate change caused largely by man. I don’t believe that a woman’s body shuts down during a rape and doesn’t “allow a pregnancy.” I find it horrifying that they want THEIR faith taught as FACT and to completely ignore science. It’s like they want to take us backwards. I am frustrated too. Hang in there………..I am in my 60s and I am still learning; it’s a lifelong process. Blessing to you!

    • Amen, Connie. I have never understood why it’s not recognized as a miracle to take four base pairs of amino acids and create all life on earth with them.

  • Charles Darwin was an Anglican and the Catholic church supports the teaching of evolution AND global climate change (gasp!). The fundamentals are ruining it for everyone.

    • ac

      Slightly off-topic, but while Darwin did consider becoming a priest and was a believer when he started his travels on the Beagle, he lost his faith over the ensuing years. So, not really, an Anglican.

      • You are correct, just one thing I would add, is that Darwin lost his faith not because of evolution but because of the death of his little girl. That is a lot more common than the science one.

        • I would agree with that to a certain extent. I’m not an expert in this matter, but I think some of his correspondence indicated that his scientific studies started him down that road, but yeah, the loss of his daughter to scarlet fever was probably the bigger factor in his eventual loss of faith.

          Hoping this doesn’t come up, but just to preempt it, no, Darwin DID NOT recant of evolution and convert to Christianity on his deathbed. 🙂

  • I think this issue extends beyond creationism and extends to the whole Bibles itself. I was raised in the type of home where the Bible was used as a collection of concrete facts; therefore, questioning what it says is questioning G-d. I think a large portion of conservative Christian churches sweep this topic under the rug, or worse, dismiss it as heresy. This approach leads to Christians – especially young Christians – feeling conflicted the moment they come into contact with a scientific approach to religion and creation. Perhaps, more time needs to be spent asking WHY the message is important, and not if it happened. When Messianic Judaism (Jews who believe in Jesus as the Messiah) started to grow in the town we lived in, as Jews, my parents became more involved, and we eventually took root in one of these synagogues. I was in my teens and talking to the rabbi about my issues with some of the Biblical stories, specifically the flood story. His message was roughly, our faith shouldn’t lie in whether these stories are 100% fact, but rather, what is the message being portrayed. I am not going to say that was the end of my struggles with my beliefs, but I can say it kept me from completely turning my back on G-d. I am a born skeptic, and because of this, I am not sure I will ever have the faith I wish I could. I do think it is important for believers to educate their children on what they will encounter as they grow spiritually and educationally, and to do so with caution, because young people are inquisitive and prone to questioning everything. I think it’s dangerous to not give them an educated assessment of what they will learn outside of the church walls, especially, about their beliefs. I think for believers the message tends to lean towards us versus evil educators. I think many believers would benefit from stepping back from the situation and gaining a broader sense of their beliefs, beyond just what the Bible says. I am amazed how many believers do not know anything about the Bible other than what it says, this comes off as ignorant to an increasingly skeptical world.

    • Christian Schmemann

      Couldn’t it simply be the case that Noah’s Flood refers to the end of the last Ice Age? When the glaciers melted, there was a bunch of water that had to go somewhere, which ultimately would be the oceans, resulting in a rise of ocean levels.

      I know that Wikipedia is at best a shaky reference not be used in academic scholarship, but you might find this interesting.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sea_deluge_hypothesis

      • Mickelodian

        There are towns beneath the Mediterranean. Sea levels rose somewhat dramatically about 10k years ago as the glacial front moved north… but even so this was a hugely iterative process… the coastline would have slowly moved up the beach over the course of generations.

        All of those towns were (as far as we know) deserted by their inhabitants slowly… nobody was washed away … Having said that local flash floods would also have been a regular occurrence…

        Wiki is accurate if you read it and then roll down to the references… or better yet just use google scholar.

        In short the water went into the sea at a steady rate… just as its rising right now… its only noticeable if your house faces out onto a beach and you can see the water level on the supports of a pier or something year after year.

    • When I took Philosophy I started to really question some of the heresies that were in different congregations as I studied the history of controversy in my 30s as I wasn’t shy to write about heated controversial subjects. I even had the happy clappy pissed at me because I would say with young earth creationism and Biblical Literallism that the center doesn’t hold. I became more vocal about the science of evolution just as I returned to my faith.

      I pulled no punches and as Rey Parra worded it I put everything on the table. In one book I wrote I retold one of Rey’s blue humored jokes that made the pastor blush; I was going, “did he make a joke about anal sex and Greeks? Oh [bleep] :laughing: He told it in front of the pastor too.” I embraced an R-rated approach to my faith — as I have no problem using strong language to rebut legalistic types and sometimes the responses are a bit dark humored.

      I pointed out with Heaven’s Gates and Hells Flames the part with the atheist evolutionist killing herself needs to be revised to a Biblical Literallist and a young earth creationist finding out they were lied to from the pulpit. I was pissed off when I was handed Big Daddy and Angels (the Chick Tracts) as I made a career in rebutting them. I saw Muslims as my neighbors in Illinois as I had a few friends who were Muslim.

      When I started my first website I got a lot of Independent Baptists trying to say I was a blasphemer because I explored dark subject matter. I had the pastor’s wife of Faith World Outreach giving me flack for taking a Philosophy class and the congregation cornering me because of my heavy metal tastes as they frisked my tape collection looking for dark subject matter. One of the women in the congregation claimed that Megadeth was already in hell as rumors of Dave Mustaine becoming a born-again Christian fluttered the heavy metal community as far back as 1994. I questioned Outward Hollisness as I had a reputation that’s very blunt and direct — I openly cuss and find no sin in using the f-bomb as that’s paraphrased from fornicate. I got the dirtiest look from my friend Skot Shaw’s wife at JPUSA for letting the f-bomb slip.

  • E. J.; I went through the same ‘evolution’ as you describe here.

    What kept me sane and in touch with God is the following progression of ideas.

    1. If God is really God, He created the Universe and all therein no matter the method.

    2. If God is really God, He has no qualms or fears over anything humanity can discover about the process. (Or any process, for that matter.)

    3. What is the discrepancy between Holy Writ and the combination of Big Bang cosmology and evolution?

    I have written an essay on the matter, directed to other Christians having the same problem of fitting ‘the world as we know it’ into ‘God as we know Him’. Please read it at http://www.oldmanmontgomery.wordpress.com

    Sorry for the shameless self-plug here.

    By the way, God really is God and Bishop Ussher (I’m sure a good fellow, all in all) is not Holy Writ.

    • Mickelodian

      “By the way, God really is God and Bishop Ussher (I’m sure a good fellow, all in all) is not Holy Writ.”

      Or even good at basic arithmetic as it turns out…..

      On your primary evaluation of discovery and how it impacts on your beliefs though… I’m not sure really… are you trying to shoehorn this holy writ into the discoveries of science?

      After all you accept the science clearly… its hard I know to ignore, and its based on a methodology unfamiliar to both earlier generations and anyone from a theological background…

      But heres the thing… I will make an assumption here (without reading your article yet) that you accept the science precisely because it has so much in the way of removing bias and demonstrability…. it not only makes sense to you, but it even demonstrates how it makes sense. Of course not all science can be understood and often times we have to take whats presented by science on the understanding that the Method of its demonstration while not understood by us… IS understood by many, and they will uncover any flaws… they will certainly uncover them if they try to apply an inaccurate explanation for sure. So folks really do have ‘faith’ in science…. with me so far? In other words I don’t know if a meta-stable null vacuum really does expand to a full universe… I have to take the word of mssrs Dewitt, Wheeler and those that tested their math that this is so. I take it on faith and with experience in the fact that most of this stuff ends up in someone pocket 30 years later.

      However… and this is a rather large however… if this is how and why you now accept the scientific explanation and the religious one must adopt to it… then is it not disingenuous to not at the very least insist on at least in part the same level of veracity for the remaining religious claims?

      So the ‘God really is a God’ statement should…by the very fact you’ve already accepted you have faith in science, maybe for the reasons I outline, maybe not… but accepted all the same…well should not that require that very statement to obey at least in part the same methodology? It leads to the question if ‘God really is a God’ on what premise do you either ask the question or satisfy yourself that your conclusion is correct?

  • I just wanted to ask if the realization described in this piece necessarily means losing one’s Christian faith entirely. There are millions of non-Creationist Christians – why throw the baby out with the bath water? I’m not trying to make any assumptions about the author; just trying to understand her perspective more fully.

  • “I’m only just starting to claw my way out of deep, angry skepticism back toward religion in general.”

    Why not try calm, rational skepticism? Religion has lied to you once, and so it’s quite possible it’ll continue to lie to you.

    While YEC is absurdly wrong, take a look at the truth claims even ‘mainstream’ religion makes. Cutting right to the heart of the matter, let’s examine the resurrection. Note that in science, when making a null hypothesis, we use the most likely answer, then attempt to disprove it.

    Thus, in order of increasing likelihood, the resurrection was:

    1) Jesus rising from the dead by divine intervention,

    2) Jesus arising from the dead due to being an alien, or use of alien technology,

    3) Someone made it all up, because no religious figure worth his salt in those days didn’t have a resurrection myth e.g. Osiris, Mithra etc.

    Dispassionately examine the evidence for this and then decide which is the most likely answer.

    It’s perfectly possible to live a fulfilled, moral and loving life without a trace of religious observance. We are a moral species, it comes from within.

    • P.S. I also recommend this article (and others linked) on why Christianity folds under the weight of evolution: http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/newspaper-readers-asked-to-defend-religion-against-sciences-no-adam-and-eve-finding/

      • I appreciate you posting this link. I’ve been following this series on Jerry Coyne’s blog and think it’s something every Christian evolutionary creationist should read. I’ve been developing a response, but it’s not quite ready yet. Thanks again!

    • Hi Colin, thanks for visiting this site and for reading this author’s story. I appreciate your perspective, too, and would like to offer a response. The resurrection is something that I accept on faith. I fully acknowledge that if it happened, as I believe it did, it was a miracle, and not something science could predict or explain.

      That being said, I still don’t think it’s completely ridiculous. One of the earliest books of the NT, Acts, records the apostle Peter using the resurrection as proof of Jesus’ divinity. If the resurrection was something the disciples had just pulled out of thin air, this probably wouldn’t have been very convincing. Also, scholars believe Acts was written less than 30 years after Jesus’ death, so at least some of the people who witnessed the crucifixion would have still been alive, and should have been able to point out any details that were purely invented (like the resurrection) if, in fact, there were any.

      Again, I don’t see this as irrefutable proof of the resurrection, though I might argue that it makes option No. 1 slightly more likely than option 2. 🙂

      • With respect, I do not accept belief on faith as a valid argument. Why do you not require proof on this most important aspect of your life, when you would routinely demand proof for far lesser claims? While you may believe faith is a virtue, that is only true in the eyes of a con man like Ken Ham, L. Ron Hubbard or Joseph Smith. It makes for gullible victims, aka. ‘easy marks’.

        My point about the null hypothesis, is that you begin with the most likely explanation, and only move on when that has been overturned. Given the great variety of religions and cults across the planet, we must conclude that the event of people making things up and attributing it to the supernatural is not uncommon (see the aforementioned Smith and Hubbard).

        On the other hand, no miracle has ever been recorded since the rise of science, which gave us the tools to test such things. Thus, point 3. remains the null hypothesis. You need to disprove it before you even get to the aliens or deities!

        P.S. With your permission, I’d like to replicate this particular discussion thread on my blog: http://worldinfocus.net/?p=167 ?

        • I didn’t say that I have no proof of God’s work in my life. If I hadn’t experienced that, I doubt I ever would have come to religion. But I have, at times, experienced things I can only understand in spiritual terms. You probably think me mistaken, or perhaps deluded, but it is good enough proof for me.

          Based on that personal evidence, yes, I choose to take some things on faith, because if God is real, I think it reasonable that he might have, on rare occasions, interacted with us. One of a number of ways I believe I differ with the likes of Ken Ham and other anti-evolutionists is they twist and ignore objective facts about the world around us, and try to teach others to do the same. I don’t think that is good or necessary.

          Ah, this is so difficult to explain, particularly in a comment thread. I hope it makes some sense. Thanks for your patience and the respectful nature of your questions.

          P.S. Your request is perfectly fine with me, though I appreciate you asking.

          • I presume then you mean personal sensations as experience of God? If so, how did you know it was the Christian God, and not one of the countless others?

            Con men, psychologists and advertising executives have long known the human mind is a plastic thing – it isn’t that hard to fool. You have set your bar for proof too low.

            This is why the scientific method is so valuable – as the great Richard Feynman said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”

            It should be noted that if a god has interacted with us, there would be measurable traces, unless it covers its tracks afterwards. This idea is lampooned by the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which states that the Earth is young, but that the FSM tampers with the scientific instruments to make it look old.

          • Your first question is a really good one. In reference to one particular experience, the day I converted to Christianity, the main reason I believe the sensations I felt were from the Christian God is because that is the deity to whom I was specifically praying. I wouldn’t expect another god, or flying spaghetti monster, to answer prayers that weren’t directed at them, so I presumed the one that answered my call was the one I was explicitly addressing.

            I’ve read about some of the psychological principles I think you’re referring to, and I can’t disagree that, in the some ways, the mind is “a plastic thing.” Suggestion can be incredibly powerful, memories can be incredibly unreliable, etc.

            I don’t think what I experienced that day can be discounted as a simple quirk of the brain, however. It actually felt a lot like being high. I’ve wondered before if it might have been a flashback effect of a drug I tried once, but if that’s what it was, it was the most amazingly coincidental timing ever, and it’s never happened since. I really don’t expect to be able to prove to you the validity of my personal experience, but that’s the honest truth of it.

            As far as your last point, I disagree that the physical world would necessarily bear measurable witness to interactions with a spiritual being. Christian theologians have long held that faith is of utmost importance to God, and if that’s true, I wouldn’t expect to find undeniable proof of his existence anywhere in nature. That would leave no room for faith.

          • You were praying to a particular deity and received an answer. Have you considered that this was just your subconscious giving you what you wanted? See the Feynman quote again – we are masters of self-deception.

            I’ve actually witnessed the phenomenon you described – I was trying out evangelical Christianity for size, so went to a summer camp. In the big tent, with live bands, singing and other forms of evangelical worship, people were falling over, ‘overcome with the spirit’, and was assured some would ‘speak in tongues’. What I saw was mass hysteria causing people to faint as they overdosed on neurotransmitters.

            It was a deeply uncomfortable experience and was nearly my last active participation in religious observance. I was actually a deist at this point, though I did not realise that at the time.

            If something interacts with the natural world, it will leave a trace; that is an unavoidable circumstance. I would contend that theologians will of course uphold that stance, as without faith, there is no reason to believe at all. The first rule of religion is to program its adherents to replicate it. This is why the overriding decider in what religion you have is which one you were born into, or in your case, were immersed in later in life. It exploits our innate need to belong, for we are a social species.

            I appreciate your honesty in not attempting to paint it as anything other than faith. Consider it this way, you have made an assertion based on a personal experience you’ve been unable to replicate, and attributed to a deity without evidence.

            To get back to my hypotheses, how do you know it’s not aliens, the admins of the Matrix, or some other phenomenon? You don’t. You had a rush of endorphines and called it God.

            I had a similar experience recently, watching Chris Hadfield perform Space Oddity on the International Space Station. I was elated, blown away by the accomplishments that allowed this feat to happen. None required invocation, even reference, to a deity. Thus, it doesn’t require a deity to feel elated or inspired, and a natural explanation is always preferable to a supernatural one – see again the null hypothesis.

          • Jeka Babull

            I’m seeking faith and have been to a couple of evangelical church sessions and have felt freaked out, I prefer the traditional.

          • Mickelodian

            “I’m seeking faith and have been to a couple of evangelical church sessions and have felt freaked out, I prefer the traditional.”

            In the past nobody knew HOW this worked or WHY it worked… we know now that its rather easy to have otherwise sane folks do the most insane things without introducing them to class A drugs…..

            What you suggested below is a single step short of strong pantheism…which is the idea that the universe itself IS god… strong pantheists would suggest that the universe being more complex than the sum of its parts and supported by a misinterpretation of complex adaptability theory is in fact conscious … generally though pantheists just suggest that the universe is the universe…a big machine where stuff happens.

          • Jeka Babull

            I am finding it hard to understand if this is approving of my idea or not. I find your description of pantheism appealing and will not research it until I have written this, so be it if I sound like a twit. Your description to me does not eliminate the possibility of a god.

          • Mickelodian

            When I was a teenager often times before school in the morning I’d turn on the news… grab a bowl of suggery suger sweet cereal yummy… and then proceed to inflict the same horror on my mind via the news that I was inflicting on my health eating sugar…

            One morning I fell asleep on the sofa watching the news…. it was still blaring in the background but I dreamed all the time I was sitting up eating the breakfast watching the news… my dream was of VERY current events…. I was dreaming I was doing something I should actually have been doing had I not dozed off…

            Anyway in the news bulletin there was an image of a new British Aircraft carrier which was supposedly launched a few days beforehand… the reporter was in a helicopter heading toward it and it was unusual in that it looked fantastically futuristic… much more modern than any of the US aircraft carrier fleet… according to the report it had computer guided defenses, intelligent missile batteries… all aircraft were Short takeoff and landing… it was like something out of a modern computer game… but the year was 1984… nothing like this existed then…

            Then I woke up… I realized that I’d been dreaming… my sister was tapping me on the shoulder and pointing out how I’d missed probably three classes…and how she would have the pleasure of ratting me in to my parents…

            So I sort of forgot about it and went of to school… That was in 1984… thats almost 30 years ago… it does not take 30 years to design and build an aircraft carrier with technology unheard of in the day… I might have been hearing the news report nd dreaming up the images… I don’t know… but it was SO realistic I can remember it with almost perfect clarity to this day…

            Two years ago I seen this -> http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/01/07/article-2258574-16CBA41C000005DC-95_964x669.jpg

            Now its a different color… mine was white and had a wider platform… but thats the ship I seen… it went on the drawing board at the start of this century… 15 years after my dream…

            Do I think it was some portent? or some sort of prophecy? a message from somewhere? or something like that?

            No, no I don’t … I think its a total and utter coincidence and I’d say there are hundreds of folks that seen the very same thing in a dream too…and all total and utter coincidence… thats cos there are lots of folks, and the mind is the best GFX card on the market.

            And also I understand now a lot more… as a teenager I was facinated by this dream… now its just a memory.

          • Jeka Babull

            I was thinking the other day, what if god is infused in the universe like a cosmic unseen intellect and the physical is his presentation like neurons, thats why it is so hard to get evidence on god apart from the physical? Just saying

      • ngotts

        I think there’s an option that is more likely than any of Colin Morrison’s (1)-(3):

        (4) The disciples believed in the resurrection, but they were mistaken. We know that dreams and hallucinations of the recently dead are common among those who knew them well. We know that at least some members of religious cults will go to extraordinary lengths to explain away or reinterpret events showing that they were deluded in their beliefs – in this case, the belief that Jesus was going to bring about some great and immediate change in the world. If you read the gospel accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection carefully, you will find that:

        a) They are full of inconsistencies. What did Jesus say on the cross? What unusual environmental events happened – do you believe the sun was really blotted out for three hours (Mark and Luke), or that there was an earthquake (Matthew), neither of which the author of John considered worth mentioning? Who went to the tomb? Who told them Jesus wasn’t there? To whom did he appear? Was there a zombie invasion of Jerusalem (Matthew)? Clearly, they are not reliable accounts of what happened.

        b) Some of the appearances sound like simple cases of mistaken identity: Mary Magdalene’s encounter in John 20, when she supposedly mistook Jesus for the gardener (maybe it was the other way round), and the encounter on the road to Emmaus, when the disciples supposedly only realised it was Jesus they had been walking with and talking to at the point he disappeared.

        c) Joseph of Arimathaea appears, gets Jesus buried, and promptly vanishes from the record. You might be interested in this article, by Byron R. McCane, a Christian NT scholar and particularly this (emphasis mine):

        E. P. Sanders, in attempting to reconstruct the course of events at Jesus’ trial, has pointed out that probably no single individual was in a position to know fully the exact
        course of events that night. The point is well taken and should serve as a reminder
        that a degree of uncertainty will always inhere in any effort to reconstruct what happened
        at the death and burial of Jesus. It was, after all, almost two thousand years ago. John
        Dominic Crossan, of course, takes scepticism a good deal further and argues that “nobody
        knew what had happened to Jesus’ body…With regard to the body of Jesus, by Easter
        Sunday morning, those who cared did not know, and those who knew did not care.”
        There are reasons to agree with this sobering assessment, at least in part. Certainly
        few–if any–of Jesus’ followers directly witnessed his death and burial, and the
        glamorized Christian stories of his interment cannot be trusted to describe wie es
        eigentlich war
        . Yet there are good reasons to stop short of complete scepticism about
        the fate of Jesus’ body. Indeed, the evidence from Roman, Jewish, and Christian sources
        all coheres around a single conclusion: Jesus was buried in shame. Someone from the
        Council approached Pilate about the body and put it in an underground tomb reserved for
        Jewish criminals.

        Now if there really was an “empty tomb”, this suggests an obvious possibility (this is my suggestion, not McCane’s): the women who went to anoint the body, who were not Jerusalemites and if they witnessed the burial at all, probably did so from a distance, went to the wrong tomb, and found it empty because no-one had been put there. Combine this with normal psychological and social processes (once a few people had “seen” i.e. hallucinated, or even dreamed of, Jesus, which among his remaining followers would not wish and expect to do so?), and it’s easy to see how belief in the resurrection could take hold very quickly.

      • dylans

        I have a question about the resurrection. The story goes that Mary Magdeline went to the tomb intending to anoint Jesus’ body with herbs etc and was shocked to find the tomb open and an angel sitting on a stone (alternatively, she found two shiny dudes inside the tomb depending on which gospel tells the story)

        So my question is, how did she expect to get in if she was shocked to find it open? I mean she didn’t go there carrying a crowbar or a car jack in order to get the stone opened. She fully expected the tomb to be sealed. So just how was she planning on getting in?

        Also,if as you say, the crucifixion/resurrection etc are all based on eye witness accounts and you accept them as true because of that, do you have the same view of Matthews claim that Jesus’ death was accompanied by earthquakes and the dead rising out of their graves? If, as seems obvious to me that story is obviously fiction, then why accept that story as false yet insist the other stories are true?

        • Hey Dylan, I’m not seeing a scenario quite like you describe in any of the gospels. I think Luke is closest (it’s the one with the two shiny dudes). Here’s what it says at the beginning of chapter 24:

          But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.

          The text suggests to me that the witnesses were not confused about the stone being removed, but rather about Jesus’ body not being there. Mark’s resurrection account also bears mentioning in this discussion, since it notes an interesting exchange between the women on the way to the tomb. In 16:3, it specifically records the women wondering who they might find to roll the stone away for them, since it was too large to move themselves.

          You ask a good question. Based on the verse in Mark, I’m guessing that maybe they thought the soldiers guarding the tomb would help them or perhaps they might have tried to enlist the help of someone passing by.

          The other passage in Matthew that you mention is definitely weird, I won’t deny it. If it were just an invention, though, it seems like a strange thing for the writer to insert. I mean, whether you believe the gospels are true or not, I think we can both agree that the authors’ intentions were to write convincing accounts of whom they believed Jesus to be (Luke explicitly states his goal as such at the beginning of his).

          So if that was the author of Matthew’s intention, it would seem odd to me for him to simply invent such a fantastic detail; it could have been disproved so easily if something comparable hadn’t actually occurred.

          • dylans

            Hi Tyler thanks for the prompt reply. Yes I see that there is an explicit passage in Mark where they discuss who is going to move the stone. Thanks for that. I hadn’t seen that before.

            “And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre”

            That answers my question. However I have more.

            There seems to be a contradiction in the accounts of what she saw. In Matthew she saw an angel come down from heaven and sit on the stone and talk to her. It says
            the angel said to the women,

            “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified”

            The angel then tells her that Jesus has gone to Galilee. He says

            “He is going before you in Galilee”

            But in John we get a different story. In John Mary is all panicky and worried when she sees the body has gone and she runs to the disciples and says

            “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

            The problem is obvious. If she had met an angel then she would know that Jesus had risen and wouldn’t be all worried and panicking.and assuming the body had been stolen.

            The only reasonable conclusion I can come to with this contradiction is that the angels stuff is made up to give a supernatural spin on the body disappearing.

            Likewise I disagree with your conclusions about Matthew’s saints rising from the graves passage. It seems to me that if such an event happened then it would be one of the most fantastic supernatural events in world history, dead people everywhere walking around Jerusalem greeting people etc. Yet only Matthew mentions it. No other gospel writer thinks its important enough to mention. Is that reasonable? This incredible event occurs, a mass rising of the dead, earthquakes etc going off all over the place and noone but Matthew thinks it worth mentioning?

            It also begs the question, if the bodies of dead saints are rising all over the place then what is so special about Jesus resurrection?.You say yourself that Acts, records the apostle Peter using the resurrection as proof of Jesus’ divinity. However If Matthew’s account is accurate then resurrection was pretty routine that day. If Jesus resurrection is supposed to be evidence of his divinity then why is the resurrection of the saints not seen as evidence of their divinity too?.

            Alternatively if the resurrection of the saints is NOT evidence of their divinity then why do we see the resurrection of Jesus as evidence of his? Is it just because Jesus was the first to rise? It seems to me that Matthew’s account. far from adding to the miracle, actually undermines it by making Jesus just one of many people coming back to life that day. His resurrection goes from being this incredible and unique event to being merely the first of many to rise.

            I don’t think its unreasonable to assume that ancient accounts of supernatural activity are deliberate fiction written in to suit an agenda (to demonstrate the divinity of the person written about) If you dispute this then you need to at least be consistent and apply the same credulity to other, non biblical, accounts of miracles too. If it is true of the Gospels that we should accept their accounts on face value then why not for, say, the miracle accounts in the Quran. Should we assume that just because the authors of the Quran describe Mohammed riding a horse to heaven that it must be true? And if we are (not unreasonably) to be sceptical about Mohammed riding to heaven on a horse then why should we not apply that same scepticism to the Gospel miracles?

          • Hey Dylan, again, I think you ask some really good questions. I have just a few thoughts I would like to share. In references to the differences in the gospel accounts, we both know that they were all written by different authors. As a writer myself, I think it’s a beautiful thing to see the writers’ different personalities, experiences and styles come through in their accounts.

            For whatever reasons, in some of the accounts, the authors chose to highlight different things. Personally, I like to preserve and analyze the differences rather than trying to harmonize them away, as other Christians sometimes seem inclined to do. But in the specific scenario you mentioned, I think there is a reasonable alternative rather than “the angels were just made up.”

            On the day Mary went to the tomb, I’m guessing she was probably not in the best state of mind, having just witnessed Jesus’ brutal crucifixion a couple days before and now, she was on her way to prepare his body for burial. She would probably be suffering from some pretty hard-core PTSD. If she did, in fact, see an angel in the tomb, who told her not to be afraid and Jesus is risen, I think it’s somewhat reasonable to think a person in that state of mind would not believe them, would not be able to comprehend what they’re saying, or maybe wouldn’t even remember by the time she reached the other disciples (I’m not an expert, but I think short-term memory loss can be a symptom of post-traumatic experiences).

            As to Jesus’ resurrection “not being special” if others rose from the grave, the fact must be pointed out that evangelical Christian theology says that everyone who ever lived will, at the end of days, be resurrected. Early Christians believed this so much that they didn’t even use the word “died,” preferring to say so-and-so was “asleep.” So in light of that, if the resurrection of the saints Matthew talks about did occur, it may have been just a “preview” of sorts, more than anything.

            At any rate, I don’t believe the resurrection itself is the key to salvation, so the fact that others would be raised doesn’t take anything away from Jesus. Christians hold the resurrection as confirmation that Jesus was who he said he was, but I think the larger message is that of God taking on flesh, living among us, and ultimately choosing to die for us while we were yet sinners.

          • Nick Gotts

            The accounts don’t just “choose to highlight different things”; they flatly contradict each other, as I noted above:

            Who went to the tomb? Who told them Jesus wasn’t there? To whom did he appear?

            As for the zombie invasion of Jerusalem, srsly?

            The other passage in Matthew that you mention is definitely weird, I
            won’t deny it. If it were just an invention, though, it seems like a
            strange thing for the writer to insert. I mean, whether you believe the
            gospels are true or not, I think we can both agree that the authors’
            intentions were to write convincing accounts of whom they believed Jesus
            to be (Luke explicitly states his goal as such at the beginning of
            his).

            So if that was the author of Matthew’s intention, it would seem odd
            to me for him to simply invent such a fantastic detail; it could have
            been disproved so easily if something comparable hadn’t actually
            occurred.

            It’s not necessary to conclude that either it really happened or the author of the gospel of Matthew (whoever that was) “simply invented it”: that’s a classic false dichotomy. The gospel was written decades after the events it purports to describe, and it would be truly bizarre if all sorts of stories about Jesus’s life and death had not been repeated, swapped, embellished and even invented out of whole cloth – for example, in a misguided attempt to impress potential converts – in that time. How, exactly, could it have been disproved? No-one would have been in a position, in the 80s CE (the decade preferred by most scholars for the gospel), or even a couple of decades earlier, to assemble and question the potential witnesses, even if such a thing would have occurred to them.

          • Nick Gotts

            On the day Mary went to the tomb, I’m guessing she was probably not in
            the best state of mind, having just witnessed Jesus’ brutal crucifixion a
            couple days before and now, she was on her way to prepare his body for
            burial.She would probably be suffering from some pretty hard-core PTSD. If she
            did, in fact, see an angel in the tomb, who told her not to be afraid
            and Jesus is risen, I think it’s somewhat reasonable to think a person
            in that state of mind would not believe them, would not be able to
            comprehend what they’re saying, or maybe wouldn’t even remember by the
            time she reached the other disciples (I’m not an expert, but I think
            short-term memory loss can be a symptom of post-traumatic experiences).

            Of course, the same state of mind could equally account for her seeing an angel – and Jesus – when neither of them was really there. And – as I suggested above – for going to the wrong tomb. We need to remember too that this is the woman out of whom Jesus supposedly cast demons – which in naturalistic terms, means she suffered from serious psychiatric illness, probably marked by delusions and hallucinactions – which cannot be cured by faith-healing, although the symptoms might be temporarily alleviated.

          • Mickelodian

            There were soldiers guarding the tomb? Why would you say soldiers might guard such a tomb? Soldiers don’t often stand guard over a dead man now do they?

            I’d imagine their superior when asked would have a little explaining to do about why Roman resources were being utilized to stand guard over a corpse…? no?

            In this story the fact that there were guards needed for a roman and Judean prisoner who had been executed… and vilified would therefore infer there was an actual valid reason why military resources would be expended to stand guard over that prisoner who’s escaping days were over…

            Assuming the story carries validity then your first answer here will also give you the location of the body from the tomb. The most likely answer… I noticed a lot of maybes in the answer above…and thats fine, contrary to popular belief its okay to speculate… so long as the speculation resolves eventually to something that is at least likely…

            If one then invests time and energy in the answer…its probably best to conclude he most reasonable answer is the actual answer…or at least close to it…

            So for example nobody really knows what persuaded Aristotle to remain on an Isl;and being invded with the sole purpose of kidnapping him… maybe he didn’t really care who his masters were, maybe he had invested a lot of time in the Island… maybe the soldier who killed him was justified, maybe not?

            However I doubt that the answer is he stayed there because the Goddess Aphrodite had appeared to him and promised him everlasting love in return for his tenure… and to be honest even if he wrote it himself, rather than relying on someone to write such half a century after he died with no witness then its very much less likely than some other reason, even in the total absence of that other reason.

            Einstein during his lifetime is reported to have said he didn’t like the idea of using excess brainpower and this was the reason he bought the same suit several times… now putting aside the fact that he did own several versions of the same suit…he also owned a plethora of other clothing…so his excuse of saving on brainpower (whatever he would mean b that) is to say the least unsupported by the facts. it observably had nothing to do with brainpower… my guess…and its a guess… is that like most men he simply despised shopping.

            Sometimes you have to put aside the least likely conclusion in favor of the MOST likely…

          • There were soldiers guarding the tomb? Why would you say soldiers might guard such a tomb? Soldiers don’t often stand guard over a dead man now do they?

            I’d imagine their superior when asked would have a little explaining to do about why Roman resources were being utilized to stand guard over a corpse…? no?

            Matthew 27:62-66: The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

            “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

            Answer your questions? Say, weren’t you atheist guys supposed to know the Bible way better than us ignorant Christians?

          • Mickelodian

            You can quote Matthew Tyler… but the point I’m actually making IS Mathew and the other gospels… I’m asking WHY you think these accounts are valid… quoting from them directly is not going to support their veracity any more than me quoting from a Batman comic in support of the Dark Knights adventures.

            I’m asking what makes you think the account IN Matthew and the other Gospels is in any way accurate… Plus I can assure you that Matthew seen neither nor heard from ANY witnesses…not in 70ad and he had no sources available to help him add things to earlier Gospels. Despite you hoping desperately this is the case.

            I’m asking a logical question which is “Is it a common thing for cults to defend their ‘missing body’ story which almost always occurs after the death of a leader or authority figure?”

            Cults do this… in fact you don’t even need a cult…a groundswell of fans is good enough… Hitler is supposed to have survived death, Elvis too, and John Lennon…even JFK is supposed to be in a vegetative state in a hospital beneath the white house, Napoleon is supposed to be making a comeback any day now, along with a host of leaders ….

            THIS is what the author in this part of the bible is trying to get around…the fact that even in his day, when he wrote this, the theft of an executed leaders body was practically the standard. He needed to turn that into magic… and every one of those other groups wold later insist their leader was not dead but had ‘escaped death’.

            Which do you think more likely…that this leaders body was ALSO stolen from the tomb, just like all the others before it… OR do you think the body up’d and walked away? Which is more likely Tyler? Not which one do you believe? Which is more likely?

            Matthew therefore approaches the common argument of the day and a common practice of the day by all sorts of cults…by referencing it head on with the standard “Our leader was magical and could escape death, therefore his body was not stolen he rose from the grave”…

            Now in point of fact Matthew knew full well that there wasn’t a body to steal…after all he was making up the story on the fly. But he did know in advance that the versions reiterated until then had faced this issue…He knew that others knew the ‘stolen body’ thing was so common he had to address it. It was a tell- tale sign of ‘rubbish cult’ when the holy man told you of their leader who rose from the dead. Almost ALL cult leaders bodies seemingly rose from the dead… it was so commonplace no self respecting leader would be caught dead in a tomb!

            To this end a small group of grave-robbers made a small income throughout history by stealing bodies under contract.

            So given it was a common thing what you are saying is that THIS TIME it was real…and of course all the other times it was not real… Really? Really Tyler?

            Since that time and before it almost ALL cult and tribal leaders bodies went on the missing list. So the author Matthew or whatever his name actually was had to address it. After all Jesus (or whatever his name was) is one of a long list of stolen bodies… if truth be told I’m not entirely sure why we aren’t all knee deep in body parts these days.

            It still occurs today… the old ‘missing body’ magic… right now its a gentleman by the name of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who managed to survive not one or two but three separate US air raids. In each one he was horribly injured and in every one survived… but somehow after the first one, nobody has heard a bloody thing from him.

            But at the very earliest this was in AD 70… 40 years after the fact… there was nobody alive to refute it…I know you’d love to bring it back another ten years… sorry the destruction of the Temple is mentioned in there…we know the date for that it was 70AD..so lets assume Matthew wrote it ten minutes after he seen the destruction of Jerusalem on CNN or Fox and not 20 or 30 years later still…which ALSO means btw that Matthew was not the Disciple Matthew… he was dead.

            What you are missing is that the body was only missing because it never existed in the first place …dead or alive!

            Now only the naive would accept this when it was THE most common story of dead leaders in the day yes? You know full well that its not possible to escape death…. AND you must also consider that Matthew also went on to tell how a zombie invasion of Jerusalem occurred soon after…So if you accept one zombie… I suppose and entire city of zombies is entirely within your grasp. So not just one Zombie leader… but an entire army of undead marching about a city…this is ALSO in Matthews gospel… you believe this too I suppose?

          • First, you question where in the world I came up with this crazy idea that soldiers were guarding the tomb. Then, when I show you where the author of Matthew explicitly reported that there were guards, you say, “Well, of course there were guards! Every tomb in the kingdom had to have a guard because body-snatching cults were more common than cockroaches in the Roman Empire!”

            Point is, you really don’t inspire a lot of confidence that you know much about the Bible, or the place and time period in which Jesus lived and the New Testament was written, or, really, much of anything that you’ve ranted about on this site. I get that you really, really, really don’t like Christianity, and that’s fine, but hopefully I can save you a lot of time here by telling you, up-front: I’m not going to abandon my faith because some faceless Internet commenter thinks it’s stupid. Sorry to disappoint.

          • Mickelodian

            “First, you question where in the world I came up with this crazy idea that soldiers were guarding the tomb. ”

            No, I didn’t I KNOW where you got that…

            “Then, when I show you where the author of Matthew explicitly reported that there were guards, you say, “Well, of course there were guards! ”

            Because I wasn’t questioning WHERE you got it from… you missed he point…read it again.

            The reason Matthew PUT the guards in the story is to belay fears that HIS leader was the same as all the others of the day and that came before…

            But it fails to work because the guards need to be explained…

            So Matthew does due diligence on this…and proceeds to relay a private conversation in his Gospel…

            And you believed that private conversation took place… in fact you never even noticed was not something he would have known or could know.

            THAT is why I bought it up… I thought somehow…misguided as I am that you’d work out it was a red flag in the story and question it… I was wrong.

            Instead you quoted it to me… I do in fact own a bible y’know. If you are going to own an expensive book then in my collection its a first edition Lord of the Rings and a limited edition reprint of the book of Kells.

            I’ve read the bible…but I read it the SAME WAY I read every book… as a book… not a historical account.

            Thats WHY I brought it up! I was under the impression when something was presented to you that could never have been subject to witness testimony you’d question the authors… you didn’t.

            Yes I know rather a lot about the first century…. but I do not tie myself to a historical account that contradicts the historical accounts of every other commentator and author of the era.

            I also know full well what is possible in the first century and what’s not.

            So for example a Roman tax audity of a governed territory was not carried out by asking the entire population to return to their place of birth… thats utter lunacy. I have no idea WHY anyone would even suggest that was the process Rome used to gauge its tax potential.

            I do however know the name and some history of the guy tasked WITH that census… he was well known in Rome… but managed to piss a few folks off…and when you done that in Rome you found yourself withing a year sitting in the sand of Syria or Judea…

            A tax census was accomplished by nobody going nowhere… the entire population would be utterly unaware it was taking place.

            That too in the Gospels is utter nonsense… because unlike you Tyler I also read a lot about the Roman empire… how it worked and what machinery they used to run their civilization… After that Audit Rome took back over direct control of Judea…clearly someone had their hand in the cookie jar!

            Why would I care what you believe or don’t… you aren’t even in the same country or side of the planet as me.

            I have no investment in faith… you do. I don’t have anything to gain or lose….as far as I can see this is just me pointing out all of the clear red flags and errors in a book.

            You just happen to think this book despite all the magic bits in it is accurate. I can’t do anything about that!

          • Chris

            I’ve read the bible…but I read it the SAME WAY I read every book… as a book… not a historical account.

            Somehow I don’t doubt the lack of effort put into your read, but at the same time I doubt the first part of your statement; your ideals are all over the place and in terms of misquotes and misunderstandings of basic fundamental facts is very revealing.

            Not an indictment against you, but you argue a bit too much against something of which you clearly don’t have even a basic understanding.

            The Gospel accounts in the Bible are historical. There are several other “gnostic” gospels that were “rejected from the Bible”. Not because they didn’t convey the story they wanted or anything, but during the canonization process were not determined to have been authored by the credible witness. Sort of like how we can determine Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter isn’t history but uses a true historical figure.

            Your dismissal of the historical writings included in the Bible is circular. The Bible preserves several independent accounts of history, all in one concise place, and your complaint is there isn’t more widely available. But the records are all there! It’d be like dismissing a dictionary as “evidence” of a word’s definition or spelling because more scrolls aren’t written about a word.

            Not to mention, there are historical writings that are not part of the Bible. I linked you yesterday to this article, outlining several additional sources that are not clouded under the “of course it’s in the Bible that’s the only reason” claim, as you accuse. I’m sure I could find more, or you could try it yourself.

            Why would I care what you believe or don’t… you aren’t even in the same country or side of the planet as me.

            I have no investment in faith… you do. I don’t have anything to gain or lose….as far as I can see this is just me pointing out all of the clear red flags and errors in a book.

            Then why are you here? You continue your rantings and show everyone exactly how little you understand of Christian faith and Biblical historicity, taking way too much time out of your day for something in which you have no investment.

            I am only intervening because I have concern for those who don’t take the time to understand, have a cursory understanding of a few things and consider themselves experts in the Bible. I had a discussion with someone recently who insisted that the Christmas story included Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalene. Doesn’t take much understanding to see he clearly didn’t know the facts he was arguing against– and I see the same fallacy at play here. You say you’ve read the Bible, I do honestly encourage you to read again. You missed something. Ask for guidance from the author if you want to make sure you are doing it right. I can honestly assure you if you are sincere in that, He will give you that understanding. He promised.

          • “First, you question where in the world I came up with this crazy idea that soldiers were guarding the tomb. ”

            No, I didn’t I KNOW where you got that…

            Dude, no, you didn’t. Do I need to quote you again? Here you go:

            There were soldiers guarding the tomb? Why would you say soldiers might guard such a tomb? Soldiers don’t often stand guard over a dead man now do they?

            I’d imagine their superior when asked would have a little explaining to do about why Roman resources were being utilized to stand guard over a corpse…? no?

            Not only did you have no idea about the specific passage in Matthew, you obviously didn’t know about the idea of soldiers guarding the tomb in general.

            I realize this is a rather minute point, but it’s illustrative of the larger issue that you’re very poorly informed about this topic and yet presume to lecture us about it.

            You constantly shift and change your position to new information that you were completely unaware existed. The only constant is that you think you’re The Unenlightened One and we’re all a bunch of dunces. Everything else is fluid.

            So Matthew does due diligence on this…and proceeds to relay a private conversation in his Gospel…

            And you believed that private conversation took place… in fact you never even noticed was not something he would have known or could know.

            There’s nothing in the passage that would indicate Pilate’s order is a “private conversation.” At the very least, we know the chief priests were there, and they weren’t exactly best friends with the Roman governing officials so it’s unlikely they were meeting secretly in Pilate’s living room. The Pharisees were also there, and as far as Rome was concerned, they were ordinary citizens with no special privileges.

            In all likelihood, the priests and Pharisees approached the prefect when he was openly hearing business from the public and he made the order in front of everyone. It was probably widely known in Judea at the time. Local news has a way of getting around.

            I do in fact own a bible y’know. If you are going to own an expensive book then in my collection its a first edition Lord of the Rings and a limited edition reprint of the book of Kells.

            The Book of Kells…is a Bible. The four gospels, anyway.

            Yes I know rather a lot about the first century…

            You don’t appear to. You seem to have a decent grasp of basic new atheist arguments against the historicity of the New Testament and no depth in the subject whatsoever.

            I have no investment in faith… you do. I don’t have anything to gain or lose…

            I kind of doubt that as well, considering the many long rants you’ve “invested” in this two-and-a-half-year-old thread on a Christian website.

            But if that is true, then stop wasting your time. I’ve already told you that your opinion that I’m stupid is not going to convince me to abandon my faith.

          • Mickelodian

            ““Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.”

            Well there you go… requirement for yet another witness the one present at this conversation…and we don’t even know the Guards name and Pilate died soon after… so now you have a conversation…and absolutely NO witness of it…. was this Joe the teenage gardener listening in the window again?

            You are NOT doing yourself or the Gospel any favors by increasing the number of witnesses required for Matthews CIA operative later to acquire this knowledge are you?

          • You got me: I don’t know every single one of the sources the author of Matthew used in writing his gospel. But, to be fair, I don’t think very many historical writings of the time came with a complete bibliography.

      • Mickelodian

        “so at least some of the people who witnessed the crucifixion would have still been alive, and should have been able to point out any details that were purely invented (like the resurrection) if, in fact, there were any.”

        You think the author of Acts went out to hunt these folks down (how you would find any is another question) and ask them what they might have witnessed 30 years previously?

        Wouldn’t that be just less likely than ‘just made it up and there’s nobody alive to question it’ ….

        After all that’s the logic you would apply to other claims by other religions… Did for example Gnish really turn into an elephant? were you there? would all of those witnesses have lied? or was Gnish AND the witnesses just made up?

        If you examine this fairly, putting whether you WANT IT it be true aside, then like most scriptures from most religions you’ll find its just a story… A nice story I’m sure… but just a story.

        After all even the ‘mission’ portrayed in the Gospels makes no sense… a son of a god decides to absorb the responsibility of others evil actions passed on to them by inheritance of sin from father to son and mother to daughter… even though they done nothing. The price of this forgiveness for things they had no part in and weren’t born at the time so could not have exercised their free will in the action? Well of course its their fealty? As usual its ‘do as I say and what I want and I’ll forgive you for this sin I made up just there….’

        what sins? what responsibility? Really?

        You wouldn’t agree this is a reasonable way to carry out resolution of morality yourself right now… would you?

        If you realized you were descended from Genghis Khan you won’t feel any guilt for his crimes of war? will you? are you responsible? should we forgive you those sins?

        How about we forgive you the sins of Ghengis Khan if you swear fealty to … ohh I don’t know… pick a name from the phone book!

        Does this not seem silly to you? of course it does… so why doesn’t the older story seem silly?

        • You think the author of Acts went out to hunt these folks down (how you would find any is another question) and ask them what they might have witnessed 30 years previously?

          Wouldn’t that be just less likely than ‘just made it up and there’s nobody alive to question it’ ….

          I didn’t say the author of Acts hunted anybody down. I said exactly what your second question asks: When the book of Acts came out, it was recently enough that there would have still been people alive to question it — if what it said plainly contradicted what happened.

          After all that’s the logic you would apply to other claims by other religions… Did for example Gnish really turn into an elephant? were you there? would all of those witnesses have lied? or was Gnish AND the witnesses just made up?

          I’m not an expert in Hindu mythology. If you can present some account that purports to be historical and claims to contain eyewitness accounts of Ganesha being a real person and possessing an elephant head, I will be happy to address it.

          After all even the ‘mission’ portrayed in the Gospels makes no sense… a son of a god decides to absorb the responsibility of others evil actions passed on to them by inheritance of sin from father to son and mother to daughter… even though they done nothing. The price of this forgiveness for things they had no part in and weren’t born at the time so could not have exercised their free will in the action? Well of course its their fealty? As usual its ‘do as I say and what I want and I’ll forgive you for this sin I made up just there….’

          I know you think atheists know the Bible way better than Christians or whatever, but “God forgives people who have done nothing wrong” is an extremely poor understanding of both the gospels and the clear theology of New Testament books like Romans. The Bible teaches that we need forgiveness because we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God — not because of some magic transfer of guilt from our ancestors.

          • Mickelodian

            “I’m not an expert in Hindu mythology.”

            You realize that your Hindu mythology is also the beliefs of 800 million Indians?

            “If you can present some account that purports to be historical and claims to contain eyewitness accounts of Ganesha being a real person and possessing an elephant head, I will be happy to address it.”

            Exactly… thats EXACTLY the point I was making… so in Acts we should find for example an actual witness that actually discussed this with the actual Author… and it should be as you insist supported by the observations of others.. who as you state were alive at the time yes?

            This is precisely the point I’m making… there are no witnesses of Gnish transforming into an elephant or anything else… there were no witness… the elephant boy AND the witnesses and everyone else in the story are characters… illusory. For that Reason I can’t offer the testimony of Vikki Vale that Batman is real… both Batman and Vale are totally fictional.

            So there’s no offering of the testimony of Judas Iscariot one can offer in defense of the Jesus story if Iscariot is also a fictional character.

            “I know you think atheists know the Bible way better than Christians or whatever, but “God forgives people who have done nothing wrong” is an extremely poor understanding of both the gospels and the clear theology of New Testament books like Romans. ”

            The basic premise of the bible and central theme of Christianity is that a God sent his Son who was also himself to earth to offer a method by which humanity could be forgiven for original sin… that original sin being an illicit fruit eating party several millenia previously by two moronic kids in a paradise garden.

            Thats the central theme… yes? The central THEME of Christianity is in direct conflict with your interpretation of it here -> ” The Bible teaches that we need forgiveness because we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God — not because of some magic transfer of guilt from our ancestors.”

            In fact if you are right… then there is no need for a Jesus at all.. each individual is responsible for their own actions or lack thereof and has the responsibility to their community you suggest… ergo. Jesus is unemployed!

            My point is that this story in the bible as it is taught and understood worldwide by Christians makes no sense whatsoever…. its not possible for me, or you, or anyone to forgive someone else’s responsibility for things they done or things their ancestors done…

            No matter what actions are taken by me I cannot be responsible, even if I volunteer to be responsible for the actions of a historical figure… or in this case as you agree yourself two non historical…dare I say Mythological characters.

            And I accept that the Bible teaches all sorts of things… but I would point out that most of the world have not read you gospels and magically seem to understand all of the things the bible teaches… do you not consider this rather odd?

            Then again babies cry when hungry without being told to do so as well. Not one baby to my knowledge has ever read Dr. Spocks childcare books…

          • You realize that your Hindu mythology is also the beliefs of 800 million Indians?

            Um, yes? Still not an expert in it.

            Exactly… thats EXACTLY the point I was making… so in Acts we should find for example an actual witness that actually discussed this with the actual Author… and it should be as you insist supported by the observations of others.. who as you state were alive at the time yes?

            That’s really not the point you were making earlier, but what you describe here is pretty much exactly what the author of Luke writes in his introduction, that his and the other gospels are based on a careful investigation of the eyewitness accounts passed down to them.

            You can accept or reject them, but eyewitness, historical accounts are exactly what the gospels claim to be. I’m pretty sure the mythological origins of Ganesha are not presented the same way, but again, feel free to show me otherwise.

            There would NOT have been anyone to question the first gospel… first they would have to be able to read… as you are likely aware the Roman and Judean education budget even for the three R’s was not exactly top of the lie in terms of its efficacy…. in fact it was non existent… very few could read TO question anything…and just like disagreeing with a speaker on the TV nobody gets to hear you if you DO disagree…cos you’ll live and die with tha disagreement and nobody will ever get to hear of it.

            The stories of Jesus were spread widely by word of mouth long before being committed to paper. When they were, they continued to be copied and shared and were read aloud in churches and wherever else they could be. You don’t think anyone, at any point in this process, might have spoken up and said, “Uh, no. Guys, I live in Jerusalem, and I can show you where this Jesus guy is still buried if you want to know.”

            The basic premise of the bible and central theme of Christianity is that a God sent his Son who was also himself to earth to offer a method by which humanity could be forgiven for original sin… that original sin being an illicit fruit eating party several millenia previously by two moronic kids in a paradise garden.

            Original sin is a doctrinal concept that was developed by the Catholic Church hundreds of years after the Bible was written. It is an important doctrine, yes, but to call it the “central theme” of Christianity or the Bible is wildly, hilariously false. In no biblical understanding of Christ’s sacrifice could original sin replace one’s personal responsibility for their own sin. If anything, original sin is an additional offense that is added to our personal guilt before God.

            The rest of your post is irrelevant since it is based on the completely wrong idea of original sin being the “central theme” of Christianity.

          • Mickelodian

            “That’s really not the point you were making earlier, but what you describe here is pretty much exactly what the author of Luke writes in his introduction, that his and the other gospels are based on a careful investigation of the eyewitness accounts passed down to them.”

            Really? Think about his for a minute…I’d like you to consider where you are going with the idea of ‘witnesses’. The Gospels relay a story in essentially real time…in chronological order… the story starts with Jesus’s parents before he was born then goes on to some elements of his childhood as he grew up in a town that didn’t yet exist…. or at least of which no evidence has been found existed but lots of evidence against. It then continues with an unmerciful gap in the middle until his 33rd year… and you are suggesting that this is somehow the work of the authors of the bible as they trod around Judea finding geriatric original witnesses of all of this stuff….. or did all the witnesses turn up one day on their doorstep… hopped off a couch with their zimmer frames…Original witnesses I might add that were seemingly there at every conversation thats relayed in the Gospels… at every meeting, including the private ones…yet the witnesses themselves although remarkable in their ability to recall details are never mentioned in the story…

            You expect that anyone that was not already indoctrinated from childhood with this story to believe it? Its for this lack of childhood indoctrination and utter lack of knowledge that you simply wave away other religions scriptural accounts and their witnesses. Which is in fact perfectly sound…

            Y’know the way Jesus was talking with Mary Magdeline…and of course Joe the Gardener and Susan the housekeeper who were listening in through the window… later to relay this to the authors of the gospels… when they were tracked down after 30 years of investigation.

            What s more as luck would have it there are so many witnesses all available to these authors many decades later… some in their 90’s (to cover Jesus’s childhood) and they remember so much… that an entire chronological biography can be established…and all done in the first and second century… Or was it one witness… a biblical Jesus stalker perhaps that follows Mary and Joseph from the time before they were married for near on 33 years … and in a land where getting a restraining order was unlikely at best.

            Would you be able to write an equally accurate account of someone that died 30 years ago… from the 20th century…with all of the advantages and get it so accurate that details and conversations were reported in chronological order? Just pick a name from the graveyard and off you go sort of thing? I doubt it… what makes you think therefore that the authors of the Gospel in another country entirely and 2k years ago had a dogs chance in hell of doing that even if there were really a million witnesses?

            You know how to separate fiction from a reported account I’ll assume… ? yes?

            Next I noticed with some disconcerting but to be honest not a lot of surprise that you decided to mention WHY you chose Christianity… and it was because at the time you were praying to the christian god and therefore ascribed such experience you later had to that god….

            Okay… now this might come as an unmerciful shocker to you but why were you not praying to Thor, The flying spaghetti monster or the Hindu gods? In fact if you were not a christian then why precisely were you n the act of praying to the christian god in the first place?

            Would it be because you were actually christian to begin with…hence you chose being a christian WHILE you were a christian?

            What you are saying is… that you were christian…and are still christian… and while a christian chose Christianity… which is why you are a christian, you’ll forgive me if I don’t find that too amazing. Its not like you were a follower of Japanese Shinto and decided to give the old christian god a bash was it?

            “The rest of your post is irrelevant since it is based on the completely wrong idea of original sin being the “central theme” of Christianity.”

            You’ll need to also inform every priest and pastor of it being the wrong idea…since they all subscribe to it also.

            “The stories of Jesus were spread widely by word of mouth long before being committed to paper. ”

            Well for some reason specific conversations of folks originally there, and at different dates and times seemed to also have found their way into this word of mouth story? More than that it doesn’t seem to suffer from what ALL witness testimony suffers from…which is massive degradation each time its passed on…how is that possible? Plus … is this not a bit of a backtrack from the ‘witnesses’ idea? now its moved to hearsay….

            “When they were, they continued to be copied and shared and were read aloud in churches and wherever else they could be.”

            The first Christians went to the very same synagogues and temples that the Jews attended… I doubt this would include in depth discussions of Jesus.

          • Really? Think about his for a minute…I’d like you to consider where you are going with the idea of ‘witnesses’. The Gospels relay a story in essentially real time…in chronological order… the story starts with Jesus’s parents before he was born then goes on to some elements of his childhood as he grew up in a town that didn’t yet exist…. or at least of which no evidence has been found existed but lots of evidence against. It then continues with an unmerciful gap in the middle until his 33rd year… and you are suggesting that this is somehow the work of the authors of the bible as they trod around Judea finding geriatric original witnesses of all of this stuff…..

            Jesus’ mother was still alive when he died, as were his brothers and sisters. At least one of his brothers became a major figure in the early church, and his mother was mentioned in Acts as well. That would be where the authors got their information about his childhood.

            or did all the witnesses turn up one day on their doorstep… hopped off a couch with their zimmer frames…Original witnesses I might add that were seemingly there at every conversation thats relayed in the Gospels… at every meeting, including the private ones…yet the witnesses themselves although remarkable in their ability to recall details are never mentioned in the story…

            “Original witnesses” to the things Jesus said and did? Like, I don’t know, his 12 disciples (minus Judas Iscariot)? Yeah, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have been that hard to find for the authors of the gospels.

            Would it be because you were actually christian to begin with…hence you chose being a christian WHILE you were a christian?

            Um, no. I was not a Christian before I was a Christian. But, good question, I guess?

            You’ll need to also inform every priest and pastor of it being the wrong idea…since they all subscribe to it also.

            I defy you to find one priest or pastor who says original sin is the “central theme” of the Bible and the Christian faith, and that one’s personal sin has absolutely no bearing on anything.

            More than that it doesn’t seem to suffer from what ALL witness testimony suffers from…which is massive degradation each time its passed on…how is that possible? Plus … is this not a bit of a backtrack from the ‘witnesses’ idea? now its moved to hearsay….

            I didn’t say this word of mouth was what the gospels were based on. I just said the stories were being shared. Which makes your scenario of “no one outside the churches knew anyone was making claims about this Jesus guy until the printing press was invented” sort of unlikely.

          • Mickelodian

            “Jesus’ mother was still alive when he died,”

            And your support for this part of the bible being accurate…is of course the bible itself.

            ” as were his brothers and sisters.”

            Sisters really? I seem to have missed that….

            “At least one of his brothers became a major figure in the early church, ”

            So you say, yet… again of course the evidence of the bibles account being accurate…is the bibles account itself.

            “and his mother was mentioned in Acts as well.” See what I mean?

            “That would be where the authors got their information about his childhood.”

            The authors of the bible…got their information…from …wait for it…the bible… really? No other supporting information? anything?

            Tyler you are using the contents of the bible as supporting evidence of the veracity of the bible.

            You would not accept this as evidence in any other frame of human discourse… in fact if I tried it you’d be the very first top point out I’m using evidence of the content in question to support the content in question.

            Perhaps this is the wrong approach i truth be told… because clearly you have a little bis here so you are letting things slide to support that… Lets change the topic to a non religious figure… Say for example Alexander the great… Did Alexander the great exist? Thats the very first question… how could we work out if he did or not?

            Now obviously neither you nor I possess a means to find out for certain…. but there is supporting evidence.

            Now imagine ALL of the evidence was from one source and that same source told you that Alexander was in fact a time traveler….that his skin was blue… and not only that but he had six fingers on each hand AND he was the only man known to have a baby… NOW would you take that source as being trustworthy?

            You can see the problem here. the bible says so many things that are in fact not possible…like Jesus walking on water (not possible) and engaging in reanimating folks who are dead for days… again not possible….and transmuting one chemical compound water) for a more complex one (wine) using magic…

            Yet despite these cartoonish and rather superhero style properties not once did this chap use his magical superhero powers to demonstrate conclusively anything of any real importance… he never told folks the nature of matter, or even how basic gears would work…things that would have had a totally transformative effect on civilization… instead seemingly he was more interested in the volume of alcoholic beverages available at weddings…

            You can sort of see why your source…your only source is not to be trusted here… it tells you things you know for a fact are rubbish.

            “Yeah, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have been that hard to find for the authors of the gospels.”

            But the authors of the Gospels didn’t find them… it would be worthy of an actual mention don’t you think? You’d LIKe that to be the case, but not only is there no evidence of it, the odds of it are not ‘likely’ they are infinitesimal… tiny. Each of the probablilities you think are likely in order or this to be the case are minute…

            First the authors would have need to travel to, or have someone else travel to Judea… that alone is a dangerous thing to do… half of them at least will die during that voyage.

            Next the person or persons they need to speak to have to actaully be known by a name… and before these accounts were written, before their ‘testimony’ was written the author would need to know in advance who they were…. in order to find them in the first place…how would he have known?

            Next they have to be in the same place… which again is unlikely… and they also have to be alive… again even more unlikely…

            Then they have to remember word for word conversations they had with this Jesus guy 30 years beforehand…

            That include the witness following Jesus around the desert for 40 days!

            Even if each of these…and these are just a few things in the way had a 10% chance of actually transpiring then the odds of finding one is now less than one thousandth of one percent… No other historical accounts in history ever used this method…why would this be the fist.

            Generally historical accounts in the first century were written as prose… and they were of course littered in bias, which is precisely why historians use several sources and even then they are going to be wrong more than half the time.

            My point about the printing press is that ALL of the bible and every single other book in the world whether fictional or historical can’t be trusted …. and that precisely because each copy was prone to translation, copying and political bias over the course of 1400 years. We know for a fact lots of it was added after the fact… virgins, deliberate forgeries of letters from one character in the gospels to another…. accounts of things that didn’t exist in the day…like for example Nazareth…

            You yourself would not be able to construct full conversations that real witnesses of a real event had with a real person in the 20th century only a few months later… let alone 30 years later.

            You are also desperate to ignore the most likely thing of all… which is the very same likelihood you are delighted to satisy yourself of other religions and scripture… which is that they were made up by folks to create a new group of followers. You don’t really think that theres a god called Xenu do you? or Zeus? or Mardok? Or any of the Hindu gods… you ascribe the very same logic to them that I am ascribing to yours…. that its made up… and EVERY person with those other beliefs will ascribe the very same logic to yours…. somewhere along the line you decided that everyone else was wrong and you’d forgive your scripture in order to accept it.

            You are doing that not because you think its likely…you know how unlikely it is… and that likely worries you because its so unlikely its not worth considering…its negligible… yet you are basing a rather large chunk of your existence on this tiny, negligible likelihood to the detriment of the rest of your existence.

          • The authors of the bible…got their information…from …wait for it…the bible… really? No other supporting information? anything?

            That’s not what I said. I suggested that the original sources for information about Jesus’ early life was probably his family, and his ministry was probably his disciples. The fact that these people were mentioned in the Bible does not make them… wait for it… the same thing as the Bible.

            Yet seemingly were converted to Christianity while …wait for it… praying to the christian god…. Do you not see any contradiction?

            I’m not entirely sure that you understand what a contradiction is. I was praying to a particular God, received a clear answer and, yes, it caused me to think that particular God might be real. That’s not a contradiction.

          • Mickelodian

            “That’s not what I said. I suggested that the original sources for information about Jesus’ early life was probably his family, and his ministry was probably his disciples. The fact that these people were mentioned in the Bible does not make them… wait for it… the same thing as the Bible.”

            1. They are mentioned nowhere else… only the bible. Specifically the Gospel of Mathew which was hardly a source of the content of Matthew before it was written…

            2. The source is not Acts either since that was written AFTER Matthew or so you claim…and you have to claim it because otherwise all of your witnesses are dead!

            3. The fact that these people were only mentioned in the bible and nowhere else whatsoever DOES in fact make your claim ‘just the bible’ as the source of ‘just the bible’.

            “I was praying to a particular God, received a clear answer and, yes, it caused me to think that particular God might be real.”

            Why were you praying to this God that you didn’t believe in yet for?

            The contradiction if we are to accept what you wrote is as follows…

            1. I was not a Christian.

            2. I prayed to the Christian god

            3. I then became a Christian.

            Thats the chronological order correct?

            Right my point is NUMBER 2. there… sorry… why would you pray to that god if you did not accept it was an actual god?

            And if YOU DID accept it was an actual god, hence the praying to it… ad it was the Christian god… then obviously the reason for such prayer IS self explanatory… but that means you were already a Christian.

            How many times in a lifetime would you say the average Hindu, Atheist? Buddhist? Muslim or Jew prays to the Christian Godhead specifically?

            How did you miss this contradiction?

          • 3. The fact that these people were only mentioned in the bible and nowhere else whatsoever DOES in fact make your claim ‘just the bible’ as the source of ‘just the bible’.

            This makes absolutely no sense. Because the only record we have of these people is one you don’t accept — the Bible — that means they didn’t exist?

            I have news for you, man: There are millions of people who have lived and died, and the fact that we don’t have a written record of their existence does not, in fact, mean they didn’t exist.

            If a person, like Jesus, lived, then we don’t need three credible independent sources to verify that he had a mom.

            And if YOU DID accept it was an actual god, hence the praying to it… ad it was the Christian god… then obviously the reason for such prayer IS self explanatory… but that means you were already a Christian.

            Um, no. Lots of people pray to God without being Christians or even necessarily believing in God. I wasn’t sure there was a God when I prayed to him that day. I prayed because people told he was real, and I trusted them enough to give it a shot.

          • Mickelodian

            “This makes absolutely no sense. Because the only record we have of these people is one you don’t accept — the Bible — that means they didn’t exist?”

            No it means that since the book also claims things that are not possible then its at best incredibly suspicious… in other words the default position for an extraordinary claim is ‘sorry I call bullshit…how do you reckon thats accurate?’

            …So at the very least to ensure these characters are not simply made up then the thing to do is to confirm their validity outside of the bible… that’s the very same process you yourself would apply…AND DID APPLY in this very same conversation about elephant headed boys in India…you requested an EXTERNAL source of its validity… incidentally I don’t have one…., nobody does, its mythology used to explain a moral story…so we can both agree an elephant headed kid is nonsense.

            What you did not do with hindu mythology though is use it as self confirming its own story… that’s what you are doing with the Gospels……you are using the bible as definitive evidence that what the bible says is true.

            You would not accept such evidence in anything else. You’ve also already demonstrated such skepticism with other folks religions and religious claims. Rightfully so… extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence….

            Not to mention the fact that these characters are not found in any other historical records of anything…

            There were plenty of Hebrew, Roman and even Egyptian writers in the area at the same time, they wrote all sorts of things that do survive to this day…often bloody boring things on a ‘no news’ day…you would imagine a water walking magician whose death caused a zombie plague might just have peaked ONE of their interests… ??? no???

            After all if half a century later its such an amazing story that according to you it requires folks tramping the middle east looking for surviving ‘witnesses’ for the authors of the original gospel. You’d imagine that it would be noteworthy by someone else.

            But thats not the point I was making anyway… the point I’m making is you using the gospel as evidence of the gospel own efficacy ad then finding no problem doing that…. If someone else of another faith done that you would claim they were deluded and brainwashed and probably indoctrinated since childhood…..but when YOU doi the very same thing its nothing of the sort. Whats the difference?

            ME: How do you know whats written in the gospel is accurate?

            You: Its says so in the Gospel. Here’s a quote from Mathew to back up the Gospel… and in this quote it relays a private secret conversation that took place…see…

            ME: No I don’t see… all I see is thus far its cleanly fictional…the private conversations nobody witnessed only serves to confirm that.

            You: ‘Crickets chirping’

            The fact you see no madness in that is unfathomable.

            “Um, no. Lots of people pray to God without being Christians or even necessarily believing in God. ”

            No, no they don’t.

            I also notice you’ve taken classes in cherry picking. I raised rather alot of points in that last piece… the most important one being that the Gospel presents a private conversation… in fact its in Matthew and its in the piece you quoted to me… clearly you have not read or considered it… it relays a private conversation between two people setting up a plot… you never bothered so much as to ask HOW a private conversation could later find its way to the Gospel of Matthew… You realize that with the exception of the fundamentalist weirdo brigade who think they are living on a 6k year old planet that no theological scholar believes this part of the Matthew Gospel yes? For the very reason I’m relaying to you… which is its not possible to witness a private and secret conversation… its not possible to follow Jesus around the desert… Jesus was also NOT his name…nobody knows his name…. and every single part of every gospel that has such conversations are literally made up.

            Thts the bit I thought would get your attention…. not insisting that because there’s only source I think its not possible for it to be based in some form o truth… As a point of fact there are sources which are the only source of information and are taken at face value… but those sources don’t then go on to relay magical feats o transmutation removing all ‘trust’ in their efficacy. As soon as you see a religious book wheel out the magic…ad the magic is bloody party tricks with wine and whatnot… at that point is facepalm time.

          • Chris

            “Um, no. Lots of people pray to God without being Christians or even necessarily believing in God. ”

            No, no they don’t. People who have no god beliefs never pray to any personal god… now theres times when I might exclaim “Jesus H. Christ!” at something… that is not an act of fealty!

            He just told you that was his story. How do you have the ability to call him a liar? Do you claim to read thoughts?

            I know many people who live their lives convinced that they are the only god there is, but when sickness or death comes around certainly do pray, and request prayer from others, to a personal God. It is real to so many and they want that too.

            This isn’t an Emperor’s New Clothes scenario, you literally are conversing with people who believe this stuff. We’re not just going along faking it like everyone else, but it’s real. And you can’t deny that, just because you see differently.

          • No it means that since the book also claims things that are not possible then its at best incredibly suspicious… in other words the default position for an extraordinary claim is ‘sorry I call bullshit…how do you reckon thats accurate?’

            You’re shifting your position again. But, to reiterate: It’s not an “extraordinary claim” to believe Jesus had a mother and siblings.

            that’s the very same process you yourself would apply…AND DID APPLY in this very same conversation about elephant headed boys in India…you requested an EXTERNAL source of its validity… incidentally I don’t have one…., nobody does, its mythology used to explain a moral story…so we can both agree an elephant headed kid is nonsense.

            That’s actually the opposite of what I said. I didn’t ask for an external source, I asked for some verification that the accounts of Ganesha purport to be historical or claim to be from eyewitnesses. If they do not, then they’re not an appropriate counter-example for the gospels, because the gospels do claim to be historical and eyewitness accounts.

            There were plenty of Hebrew, Roman and even Egyptian writers in the area at the same time, they wrote all sorts of things that do survive to this day…often bloody boring things on a ‘no news’ day…

            Yes, turn-of-the-first-century Judea was absolutely packed with Hebrew, Roman and Egyptian historians writing about all sorts of things. That’s why we have exactly one (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilate_Stone ) piece of non-biblical, contemporaneous evidence that (partially) confirms Pontius Pilate even existed.

            Dude, you seriously know nothing of what you’re talking about. It’s embarrassing.

            I also notice you’ve taken classes in cherry picking.

            It’s not cherry picking. I just have to ignore most of your comments because they consist almost entirely of rants based on starting points that range from misinformed to completely fallacious to idiotic (like Mary and the Bible are the same thing).

          • Mickelodian

            “You’re shifting your position again. But, to reiterate: It’s not an “extraordinary claim” to believe Jesus had a mother and siblings.”

            The very same book relays accounts of this character carrying out magical feats that are impossible…. I was extremely care to caveat WHY it is suspicious… really, really careful to do that. You chose here to ignore WHY I count it as being fictional…

            The character in the book existing in the first place IS fictional if that same character is a first century harry potter! Not because he had a mother… Harry Potter had mother… that’s not however what makes the character a fictional one… the magic bits are the giveaway! Its not possible to turn water into wine… so the character Jesus in the Gospel never done that… he didn’t do it, because its not possible…not because he had a mother and sisters.

            When you read any fictional book, even one that ‘could’ have occurred, like for example Oliver Twist… the way anyone determines its fictional basis is that the narrator is always present, even in cases where no witness could have later reiterated the story and been everywhere… You apply this yourself to every book you read except seemingly the Gospels.

            “I asked for some verification that the accounts of Ganesha purport to be historical or claim to be from eyewitnesses.”

            The goddess Parvati witnessed the beheading of Ganesh … that good enough? Why don’t you ask her what she saw… her contact details are in the same book as the story. She’ll remember it, she was really pissed off he had been killed and threatened to end creation… Brahma had to calm her down. He too was a witness, you can ask him… his siblings re Skandra and Kartikeya… would they lie?

            Would you prefer human pretend witnesses to Godly fake witnesses? I mean your witnesses are mere humans… mine are Deities… I think in a courtroom my witnesses since they have godly powers would be more believable!

            Anyway these accounts are clearly real… after all they are in the Puranas…

            [See how this is a stupid argument when its another religion]

            Turtles all the way down Tyler!

            “Yes, turn-of-the-first-century Judea was absolutely packedwith Hebrew, Roman and Egyptian historians writing about all sorts of things. That’s why we have exactly one (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… ) piece of non-biblical, contemporaneous evidence that (partially) confirms Pontius Pilate even existed.”

            Pilate found his way onto coins Tyler…

            start here -> https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0,5&q=reign+of+pontius+pilate

            Took me like 15 seconds. however yes you are right… in order to establish the guy even existed then you need MORE than one source… in fact more than two… or three…there needs to be a body of evidence that is commensurate with accepting the guy existed…

            If any one of those tells you he turned water into wine you can ignore it… its bullshit!

          • Chris

            In tradition with Proverbs 26:4-5 I’d take a stab at a few…

            Sisters really? I seem to have missed that….

            Mark 6:3, “…aren’t his sisters here with us?”

            “At least one of his brothers became a major figure in the early church, ”

            So you say, yet… again of course the evidence of the bibles account being accurate…is the bibles account itself.

            I encourage you to read this, there is evidence for this in the writings of Josephus, as outlined there. This is extrabiblical and historically accurate.

            The authors of the bible…got their information…from …wait for it…the bible… really? No other supporting information? anything?

            Matthew and John at least were disciples and apostles. Peter, James, Jude…. all personal contacts. They lived with Jesus for 3 years. I’m pretty sure at least they knew what was going on and would be a credible “witness” by anyone’s standards today, based on that fact alone.

            The authors of the bible…got their information…from …wait for it…the bible… really? No other supporting information? anything?

            If I may quote Tyler from another more recent post which sums this up pretty well, quoting John 14:26, “That’s Jesus, talking to his disciples, and assuring them the Holy Spirit would remind them of “everything” he said, after the was gone.” There’s an element of faith that must be understood in order for any of it to make sense.

            How would the Disciple John know what conversations Jesus had with Satan in the desert?

            John did not tell this story. This story is found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It is not told by John. Minor detail, but if you’re going to argue against something, you should probably understand what you’re saying.

            So for example the account of Jesus as a child in the temple teaching the rabbi’s Hebrew law from the old testament… not true…there wasn’t a Nazareth and definitely no temple.

            Not sure where the notion of Nazareth not existing comes from, I will certainly try and find more on that because that is a first for me, but when Luke retells the story, the Temple was in Jerusalem, and it certainly was there at the time you question, historically evidenced by Roman destruction in 70AD.

            No one can argue you into believing, but if you’re going to try and argue someone out of believing, please try and take the time to understand the opposing view first. Who knows, it could make sense to you and you’d have a great witness to share. Keep an open mind, and give it a try.

          • Mickelodian

            Mark 6:3, “…aren’t his sisters here with us?”

            Maybe rather than reading these books literally you should pay some heed yourself to Jewish, specifically Hebrew tradition yes?

            I don’t see anyone accepting this means Jesus as depicted in the gospels actually had blood female siblings. Now i could be wrong, you could be right, but I very much doubt it.

            Anyway… what I find particularly interesting about this part of the Gospel of Mark is his total denial of Jewish tradition… Jewish law….

            So heres another one of those questions where I’d be hoping you’d ruin off and look not in the bible but into actual known culture of the day… in this case culture that is still around today.

            It goes like this….In the event of the death of a man which was rather common in the past, his wife or wives were automatically betrothed to his eldest brother…or failing that a long line of male succession until eventually she ended up with one man or another. The person taking the wives by the way …well it wasn’t a burden…. remember women were property in this day and age and in this culture, if you inherited the wives…well you got everything else in the guys estate too!

            This was an important aspect of life millenia ago.. like many previously nomadic populations a failure of a wife to find another man spelled certain death. However the wife had no say in this, it was all done according to strict laws…. the ones you’ll insist Jesus was there to uphold.

            Women were not allowed to ‘own’ anything at this stage…. no more than you dog ‘owns’ it ball or other toys. Most civilizations considered women to be just as much ‘property’ as you’re house or livestock. In fact women were often counted in terms of property for taxation purposes. The more women you owned (or so the argument was) the more potential you had to pay taxes. This is why men were allowed to marry as many as they liked, or own female slaves, or have concubines galore… but who would want to leave themselves open to a tax audit?

            However I see no evidence of this whatsoever in any of the Gospels….. so what happened to Joseph? Did he die? was this not noteworthy? After all Joseph is used by Christians in the first place to show the personal lineage of Jesus from King David.

            You realize I’m asking you these questions hoping you’ll go look up any actual evidence … but you won’t obviously…you stick to trying to get other information from the gospel. But the Gospels unfortunately are biased with geek culture… many of the daily rules followed by folks outside the centers of population in Galilee are simply ignored. For example the prctice of women covering their faces with a veil… well that was not initiated by the Israelite’s, or the Sumerians… it was part of Greek culture….and had been since about 500bc. Thats why veils are mentioned in the bible as if it were common practice, it wasn’t. But the Greeks of course WROTE the bible. So they transferred a lot of their cultural norms into it.

            This would be like writing a book in the west about a first century Chinese hero and basing him on roman or Etruscan culture.

            So you’re bible including the Gospels are riddled with Greek cultural norms and the actual cultural norms of this area you think I know nothing about are removed completely or inferred from the old testament. Thats becasue new followers of Christianity were not going to be sought from the Jewish population but from the Greco-Roman civilization. So the Greek culture could not be removed and therefore the story would have to accommodate it.

            After all you insist the apostles and disciples mentioned in the Gospels later wrote the Gospels… but you know yourself this is not possible. First they would need to be able to write, and if they could write they would have written things at the time. Next they would certainly have spoken a language but it would not be Greek!

            If they were from outside Jerusalem or Tyre they would have spoken Aramaic or Hebrew… if inside Jerusalem or the major cities they would have spoken Hebrew (about 10% of them) some perhaps Egyptian or Syriac, or Latin.

            Yet here you are insisting that these guys who were born at the turn of the century were writing in koine Greek at the end of that century and beyond…and ignoring the facy they were prone to dying….. and imposing greek cultural bias on their books ignoring the own nomadic roots…

            Read up on these things… there’s a lot of work went into working out these things, a lot of archaeology went into working out how folks lived in the past, it will not be gleaned by reading something as bastardised between two cultures as the bible.

            Josephus’s writing is interesting…he was born AFTER Pilate was dead btw…and a decade after Jesus is supposed to have existed…. and he was not writing from his cot! He had to grow up first… The single passage of his writing you are referring to is not of course Josephus though is it?

            Who wrote that Tyler… do you know?

            Let me give you a clue… he lived in the same town and in the same building as pontius pilate..but a few centuries later….

            Again hoping you’ll actually look up the actual histocracy of the bible… its known y’know… we know who the actual forger of josephus’s account was… and he has a bit of form for it too… its not the only thing he forged.

            Now one of the least Christian or Jewish writers in this period was Tacitus… he wrote mostly roman history and his writings too are littered in bias of the day, he held Julius high on a pedestal for example. And historians of the day wrote their opinion as if it were prose, not dry historical facts.

            Tacitus pointed out that there were Christians and that they follow a leader who was purported executed by Pilate …. he didn’t say there was a Jesus, or he knew there was or anything else… he just commented that Christians existed and what they believed. I can do that right now about Greeks who still believe in the Olympian gods… that does not mean there really is a Zeus!

            “Matthew and John at least were disciples and apostles”

            so you say…. and hey if its in the bible it must be true… even if its nowhere else and nobody noticed. Read the actual history Tyler. Its not possible for them to have been the actual disciples… and nobody thinks that’s the case. Well you do obviously, but you are wrong there.

            “Not sure where the notion of Nazareth not existing comes from, ”

            The archaeology of Nazareth…

            The current archaeology of the area shows that their was a settlement in the area about 8,000 bc (10k BCE) … that on and off this was sellted until about 5k BC… at which point the local water supply dried up and the area was uninhabited until about 300ad when the Byzantines built a well and a bath house along with some other buildings there… There is no evidence whatsoever of a first century settlement… not a shred… somehow all of these buildings known to Jesus seem to have totally disappeared … not so much as a Sandal strap has ever been unearthed by archaeologists… not Jewish archaeologists, not western professional archaeologists and so called ‘christian’ archaeologists managed to come in with shovels and totally screw up all of the REAL archaeology there… At the moment this is rather a big thing… many Universities are lobbying the Israeli department of works (the folks that hand out licences in the matter) to ensure that those tasked with digging up the streets of Israel should at the very least be qualified and not do totally terrible things like concrete over a byzantine home found last year.

            Plus the folks that done that (an unqualified guy and his wife purporting to be Christian archaeologists) had form for it…as soon as they find things that disagree with their religious beliefs they insisted the house was from the first century, produced one photo…[Its byzantine] then deliberately destroyed the archaeology… in this case filling it with concrete, paving over it and then setting up an entertainment complex on the site…they also never published anything they found there… so all the info about it is contained in their heads… and they are keepng quiet. Thats truly wrong and should be illegal the world of archaeology in that one move lost probably the best example of an early Byzantine home… but now we’ll never be able to investigate it, bullshit artists got to it first!

          • Chris

            Ok, you just apparently wasted a lot of your time writing that.

            You’re grammar is atrocious, you don’t even know who you’re responding to, and you did not cite anything of any repute to anyone to back up any of your claims. You really ring as someone who knows a thing or two, eh?

            Hardly any of that had anything to do with the prior conversation, and I know just where to file the ramblings of an uninformed zealot.

            I have no time to argue historical tangible facts with you, if we can’t even get past “everything in the Bible is a LIE, man” then I don’t even know what to say. They call it “faith” for a reason, and I guess if you don’t want to understand, you just won’t.

          • Yeah, I think when I saw he couldn’t even keep two different people straight was about when I decided I was done with him, too, though it might have been earlier than that. The guy can’t even stay consistent with his own points comment to comment. I get the feeling neither of us really need to be here for him to enjoy his rants.

  • ZD

    E.J. life can and, indeed, should greatly improve post-fundamentalism.
    I grew up in the same world as you, and I left at some point in uni as well.
    The absolutist ideology fall apart completely when you leave the evangelical bubble behind.
    I’ve found that contrary to my former church’s teaching that morality is impossible without the Bible, my most trusting and meaningful friendships have been with people that don’t believe in god(s). You are now truly free to live a life of respect, compassion and intellectual curiosity without have to stop and make sure all your beliefs, behaviors and friends match up with some old white pastor’s misguided interpretation of stone age literature.
    Best wishes.

    • ZD

      Oops, sorry, there are a few typos in there, but you get the idea.

  • Christian Schmemann

    Fundamentalist Protestantism, with its Young-Earth Creationism and rejection of Evolution and Cosmology, is the spiritual Taliban of Christianity! The Taliban of the Flesh in Afghanistan and Pakistan go around shooting young girls in the head for no other reason than seeking an education. The Taliban defend their senseless violence by claiming that any attempt to undermine Islam must be resisted by force if need be, though they are unable to explain how educating women undermines Islam.

    The spiritual Taliban in Christianity rejects Evolution, Cosmology and Science generally because of a doctrine of literal interpretation of the Bible; such an interpretation of the Bible frequently clashes with Science. Most people are unable to hold views that are contradictory to what is plainly evident by the facts, and as such reject Christianity as unreasonable. Fundamentalist Protestants shoot the faith of many people in the head over a doctrine that they ultimately cannot explain how it is relevant to the Gospel.

    • Christian Schmemann

      I understand why many people would consider my comparison of Fundamentalist Protestantism to the Afghani Taliban to be extremely bigoted. Perhaps it is bigoted.

      However, this young-earth creationism is chasing so many people out of Christianity, and people are abandoning Christianity over an issue that has no relationship to the Gospel.

      For those Fundamentalist Protestants who want to argue with me on this, I ask this question: where does the Bible proclaim itself to have authority to speak about science and natural phenomena? One cannot find any such statement in the Bible. ; therefore, Fundamentalist Protestants must logically consider using the Bible as a science book to be a extraneous practice that cannot be supported by the Bible that by their own practice of avoiding anything not explicitly sanctioned in the Bible

      • Hey Christian. I would agree this is harsh language, but I’m going to permit it. I see where you’re coming from, and I, too, lament the effect that this dogmatic devotion to unbiblical ideas has had and is having on the church and the world at large. This double speak from the evangelical young-earth faction is something I’ve written about on this site many times in the past.

      • Mickelodian

        ” Most people are unable to hold views that are contradictory to what is plainly evident by the fact”

        Rather ironically this is not only possible, but its clear that MOST of us hold contradictory notions happily in our minds all the time… so long as they are segregated all is well, its only when they meet up, when both ideas are presented a one that folks realize they have a problem…at that point one or the other ideas will collapse or be rejected. Often its not the ‘most accurate’ explanation… because after all most of us don’t actually know what the full story is on any particular topic, and again most of us only have a brief outline of any general idea, scientific or not…The one that’s retained will generally (as a rule of thumb) be the one most liked by the individual. The idea that makes them feel better.

  • Joy_F

    Understand all too well. I was in a public school until I was 15 when my parents influenced by the current culture of very reactionary evangelicalism pulled me out to homeschool my siblings and I fortunately for me, with only two years to go, I got out without much damage. My siblings were not so lucky.

    I remember reading the creationist propaganda in those textbooks and thinking “What? This doesn’t make any sense.” But I kept my mouth shut answered the questions on the tests accordingly so I could get out of there as quickly as possible and cause the least amount of tension necessary. It was a miserable two years. I had previously loved math and science, and now I hated them – gone was the mystery of discovery replaced by “facts” that had been “proven” curiosity quashed, and told I had to choose between faith and science, i quietly remained “Christan” and told no one of my doubts. I wondered into Linguistics in college, where language diversity and complexity ended up leading me to the same conclusion I had previously held before homeschooling: that if I was intellectually honest, creationism wasn’t a valid option.

    I still keep it quiet to my family. To the lay person, it seems plausible I suppose. Fortunately, I found a wider community of believers where belief in evolution isn’t vilified, and is instead considered and generally accepted.

    • I am so sorry to hear all that, Joy, but grateful to know you have found a wider community in which you feel accepted and supported in your spiritual and intellectual pursuits. Thanks for visiting the site, and thanks for your comment.

    • Upstream Paddler

      One of the problems with home schooling is apparent in the grammar of your very first sentence,

      • Joy_F

        You are right. Homeschoolers have horrible grammar. If you think mine is bad, you should see my younger siblings who homeschooled for much longer. We also as a rule, can’t do math or science. Which is why I am learning now, bad grammar and all.

        • Mickelodian

          I can sort of understand why ‘science’ would be a no-no in terms of evangelicals home schooling their kids… but math?

          Why on earth would ‘math’ be something deemed ‘unimportant’ or worse? That sort of thing would take a wrecking ball to a kids future.

          • Joy_F

            Math is seen as unimportant by a lot of homeschool parents because they themselves struggled with it, then as adults didn’t see why (algebra, geometry etc.) would be useful to them. In my family, and the wider homeschool community I was in math was nonessential because the parents couldn’t remember it and weren’t sure why they had to study it, so it must not be super useful……so went the logic anyway. As result, most of us missed any sort of higher math instruction.

          • Mickelodian

            ” As result, most of us missed any sort of higher math instruction.”

            Wow! thats really, really dangerous…. theres a horror story about that if you have time to read it…

            In the Islamic world for several hundred years after Mohammad the greatest advances in medicine and science were still being discovered by the Arabs…. the west at the time (Europe) was in the middle of the dark ages where any type of inquisitiveness was stamped out as it arose… the church played whackamole with discovery… but in the Arab world until about 1100ad it was all pistons firing…

            Then one Islamic cleric Al Ghazali decided one day that because of the advances in science…specifically in algebra and math it was to be deemed ‘un-Islamic’ and in fact a trait of Satan…. from that point on math and anything related to it was dumped…

            So from that point on math became the bad boy….

            To this day its considered evil for the most part. despite the fact that algebra was created by the early Islamic scholars…

            Roll on to today and you can see the advances of this level of ‘unimportant’ painted from Tehran to Baghdad and Islamabad to Damascus…. not a single useful invention or discovery has been made since… literally every shirt on everyone’s back, every phone n their pocket, every single discovery made on planet earth after the 12th century was made outside the Islamic world….

            Thats the result… lets hope its not about to repeat itself ehh?

  • Caleb Farrelly

    Genesis is believed to be written by Moses.
    Claiming that it is meant to be interpreted as literal is ridiculous.
    After all at the very beginning we get 2 different stories about ‘creation’.
    I grew up in a good mainstream church.
    I remember on sermon on Genesis 11, with the story of the Tower of Babel. Our minister noted the features that mocked Babylon. Firstly Babel, the name itself is refering to Babylon. It then goes on to say they planned to make a tower with brick for stone and bitumen for mortar. This I hadn’t really notice before. It raised the question of why? Why put that into this text?

    • I still can’t understand how the literal hermeneutic has caught on the way it has, other than simply a woeful lack of reflection and critical thought on the point. I mean, as you mention, you can’t even get past the second chapter of the Bible without the interpretation falling apart.

  • Mickelodian

    It more likely the case that strong evangelicals will become atheistic than moderate Christians. As soon as someone realises they have been ‘lied to’ on one point they start to look at all the others. That wouldn’t be too much of a problem in the 70’s, 80’s or even the 90’s… but these days everyone carries the worlds access to all human knowledge their pocket… (smartphones) and the truth is hard to escape once you have the bravery to look where you were told not to look.

    Everyone probably has some experience of talking to atheists online and the fact is it seems always to come as a major shocker that these atheists seem to know the bible or koran inside and out… they have actually read these books! In fact if the Pew research institute studies are to be believed atheists know more about Christianity and all religions than the adherents of those beliefs.

    Their advantage in any discourse is that they have no fear of reading or listening to any argument whatsoever… however if a christian ‘fears’ knowledge…any knowledge, is too fearful to look up what ‘science’ actually has to say on any given toipic for fear of taking a hammer to their beliefs… then their faith is already on the rocks. On the rocks because what they are admitting is that they hold their beliefs with such fragility… that they simply cannot face facts.

    The atheist or non religious person has no such fears… if they find out something new that contradicts what they believe…then they change their mind and make no bones about doing so.

    • I agree with most of this except the part about knowing the Bible and the Koran inside and out. I have found most atheists’ familiarity with these books to be on par with fundamentalists.

      • Mickelodian

        “except the part about knowing the Bible and the Koran inside and out. I have found most atheists’ familiarity with these books to be on par with fundamentalists.”

        Well that’s your experience… although studies of the matter would tend to disagree. As I said there’s an interesting study by Pew on the matter… intuitively one would suspect most atheists would have only a shallow understanding o the matter. But this is planet earth…when most of them were previously religious… they had to read a lot to find out where scripture and religion came from.

        From experience the atheist mind tends to be absolutely pedantic, even if the topic is as mundane as the in’s and out’s of boiling an egg they will read a text book on it before telling you how its done. Leave the egg in the water for 10 seconds longer or less than is optimum and you’ll never hear the end of it.

        • Yeah, no, that’s very hagiographical. Atheists are not automatically critical thinkers by default or bookish. There are plenty of stupid atheists out there and/or people who became atheists for seriously illogical or anti-empirical reasons.

          I’m open to being proven incorrect, but at least Dawkins and Harris display an astounding level of ignorance when it comes to both the Bible and the Koran. Maybe their disciples are more knowledgeable than they.

          The Pew research you refer to is here:

          http://www.pewforum.org/2010/09/28/u-s-religious-knowledge-survey/

          Which shows that evangelicals (and Mormons) know the most about Christianity, but atheists know more than most Christians about world religions and the role of religion in public life.

          The research does not back up your claims.

          The only reason I’m making a point about this is because I run into this myth rather frequently – that being an atheist automatically makes a person smarter, think more critically, or more evidence-driven. That is just not the case. There are certainly many atheists who are smart, critical thinkers, and evidence-driven, but the correlation is not a necessary one.

          • Mickelodian

            I might have a bias there obviously since I’m a utter bibliophile… so in terms of hagiograpy I read for example the biography of St. Augustine not for religious reasons but because it was the first biography written in history (that we know of)…

            However in terms of bookishness and having studied the matter somewhat I’ve arrived at the conclusion that the primary reason for an increase in atheism is a dissent for the concept of not asking questions… yes this was fueled by the four hoursemen… now three.. since Death it seems caught up with one of them.

            If dennett sticks to the diet his doctors put him on maybe famine will take another…

            However with this increase CAME bookishness… well maybe thats unfair…because with the internet came bookishness. Reading has increased in the last decade and the rise of the internet is directly attributed to that.

            I agree there is a tenuous at best link to critical thinking and atheism… but there is a correlation but as yet unexplained link between atheism and general intelligence in the population. I don’t know why that is, I don’t think anyone does at the moment. And of course we have no idea which leads to which… suffice to say all the best educated and most intelligent folks in all world populations also seem to have a very much higher incidence of either atheism or irreligious outlook.

            But those are averages… and as they say, lies, damn lies and statistics.

            I’d say if I was to come down on the myth in one way or the other I’d be more incline to say being smart in the first place and being lucky enough to have a good education is more likely to result in atheism… not the other way around.

            We can do something about education but not a lot about average intelligence without freely available gene therapy for all.

            However the man point I made here is that what will generate an atheist every time is a fundamentally religious person who realizes they have been lied to…

            That is LESS likely to occur with moderately religious folks… they already accept that most of their knowledge of Scripture is incomplete and that most of their religious leaders are wrong or have already caved in to pressure from knowledge… they have much greater scope for reinterpretation.

          • I definitely agree with the overall points you were making in that post about the relationship of stupid religion and the production of thoughtful atheists. I just quibbled with the idea that atheists tend to have a deep understanding of other religions. I don’t find that they do in general, but of course I could be wrong.

            What I find is more common is a scenario more like what you described – someone is raised in some relatively unthoughtful, uncritical brand of faith, then when that faith is shown to be impoverished and/or full of falsehoods, they drop it and atheism is sort of the natural reaction. I find it pretty rare that someone has that experience and it transforms their Christianity, although that’s what happened to me. I’ve also never run across anyone who had that experience and went to Islam or Hinduism or some other religion, although I’m sure people have. Usually it ends up being all or nothing.

            This is why I think Christianity has created more atheists than atheists.

          • Mickelodian

            “I’ve also never run across anyone who had that experience and went to Islam or Hinduism or some other religion, ”

            Well that happens obviously… hence all the nutted out whack jobs now flooding into Iraq and Syria having found God …. who incidentally is also it seems of a mind to hand then an AK47.

            Those guys were once pretty much secular or of a lower religiosity… its not the status quo obviously but it happens.

            I’d hold the internet responsible for making a fair number of faux atheists that do not understand the questions asked or the psychology, or the philosophy or even the basics of the neurology that is measured against religiosity…

            Many I’ve talked to… in fact the majority claim that it was realizing evolution was true that made them atheistic… yet none of them know how the process of evolution works… most think its a linear process of modification of individuals in a nice linear model… they never even bothered to work out that any trait of an individual will be washed out of the population by successive generations… they don’t even reason that much.

            Having said that most are also young…so no surprise.

            I’d say that culture and other ideologies are responsible for most atheistic societies. Socialism in the case of Sweden…which is a cultural bias going back to the Norse… and culture coupled with communism in china…

            In the UK its Christianity… they just dumped god when it was compered with other stuff.

            In France it was likely the philosophical and social commentary at a very crucial moment in the nations history…

      • Same here.