Frustration

Sigh…

So here’s what’s been going on lately. Most of you who read this blog already know that when my wife and I left Christianity, it wrecked most of our family relationships. My wife’s parents and siblings, as well as my own, felt that they could no longer interact with us socially after our deconversion. We were no longer invited to any family functions, and our communication with them all but disappeared. We would speak if it was about religious issues, or if there were logistic issues that needed to be worked out in letting them see our kids, etc.

Over the years, things have gotten a little better, especially with my wife’s parents. Things are by no means back to normal, but at least our infrequent interactions have become more civil and more comfortable. A few weeks ago, I even had a phone conversation with my father that lasted about half an hour and had no references to religion whatsoever. It was nice.

Nevertheless, the awkwardness is still there, just under the surface. And we’re still blacklisted from all the family functions.

Throughout this time, I’ve occasionally reached out to my side of the family with phone calls, letters, facebook messages, etc, in an effort to discuss the issues that divide us. I don’t get much response. I’ve always been puzzled by that, since I know they think I’m completely wrong. If their position is right, why aren’t they willing to discuss it?

In the last five years, I’ve also been sent books and articles and even been asked to speak to certain individuals, and I’ve complied with every request. Why not? How could more information hurt? But when I’ve suggested certain books to them, or written letters, they aren’t read. When I finally realized that my problems with Christianity weren’t going to be resolved, I wrote a 57-page paper to my family and close friends, explaining why I could no longer call myself a Christian. As far as I know, none of them ever read the whole thing. And sure, 57 pages is quite a commitment. But they say this is the most important subject in their lives…

This past week, the topic has started to come back around. A local church kicked off a new series on Monday entitled “Can We Believe the Bible?” It’s being led by an evangelist/professor/apologist that was kind enough to take time to correspond with me for several weeks in the summer of 2010. I’ve never met him in person, but a mutual friend connected us, since he was someone who was knowledgeable about the kinds of questions I was asking. Obviously, we didn’t wind up on the same page.

can we trust the bible?

My wife’s parents invited us to attend the series, but it happens to be at a time that I’m coaching my oldest daughter’s soccer team. So unless we get rained out at some point, there’s no way we can attend. However, we did tell them that if practice is ever cancelled, we’ll go. I also contacted the church and asked if the sermons (if that’s the right word?) will be recorded, and they said that they should be.

Monday night, the weather was fine, so we weren’t able to attend. And so far, the recording isn’t available on their website. However, they do have a recording of Sunday night’s service available, which is entitled “Question & Answer Night.” I just finished listening to it, and that’s where the bulk of my frustration comes from.

It’s essentially a prep for the series that kicked off Monday night. They’re discussing why such a study is important, as well as the kinds of things they plan to cover. What’s so frustrating to me is that I don’t understand the mindset of evangelists like this. I mean, they’ve studied enough to know what the major objections to fundamentalist Christianity are, yet they continue on as if there’s no problem. And when they do talk about atheists and skeptics, they misrepresent our position. I can’t tell if they honestly believe the version they’re peddling, or if they’re purposefully creating straw men.

A couple of times, they mentioned that one of the main reasons people reject the Bible comes down to a preconception that miracles are impossible. “And if you start from that position, then you’ll naturally reject the Bible.” But that’s a load of crap. Most atheists were once theists, so their starting position was one that believed in miracles.

They also mentioned that so many of these secular articles and documentaries “only show one side.” I thought my head was going to explode.

And they referred to the common complaints against the Bible as “the same tired old arguments that have been answered long ago.” It’s just so infuriating. If the congregants had any knowledge of the details of these “tired old arguments,” I doubt they’d unanimously find the “answers” satisfactory. But the danger with a series like this is that it almost works like a vaccination. The members of the congregation are sitting in a safe environment, listening to trusted “experts,” and they’re injected with a watered down strain of an argument. And it’s that watered down version that’s eradicated by the preacher’s message. So whenever the individual encounters the real thing, they think it’s already been dealt with, and the main point of the argument is completely lost on them.

For example, most Christians would be bothered to find out that the texts of the Bible are not as reliable as were always led to believe. Even a beloved story like the woman caught in adultery, where Jesus writes on the ground, we’ve discovered that it was not originally part of the gospel of John. It’s a later addition from some unknown author. To a Christian who’s never heard that before, it’s unthinkable! But if they’ve gone through classes where they’ve been told that skeptics exaggerate the textual issues in the Bible, and that the few changes or uncertainties deal with only very minor things, and that none of the changes affect any doctrinal points about the gospel, then it’s suddenly easier for them to swallow “minor” issues like the insertion of an entire story into the gospel narrative.

Sigh…

I’m going to either attend these sessions, or I’ll watch/listen to them once they’re available online. I may need to keep some blood pressure medication handy, though.

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1,060 thoughts on “Frustration

  1. archaeopteryx1

    Even a beloved story like the woman caught in adultery, where Jesus writes on the ground, we’ve discovered that it was not originally part of the gospel of John. It’s a later addition from some unknown author.” – In the fourth century! It was added because to those in authority, it sounded like something Jesus would do.

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  2. May I ask, does your wider family see the fear in their response to your atheism? Another way of putting it is to ask whether they see the fear in their belief of course.

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  3. Crown

    “Sigh” is right. Now, I’m not an “evangelical” Christian, so I do not place complete stock in the Bible. Can’t: there are contradictions in it that render it not perfectly reliable. I’m a Catholic, but I don’t place complete faith in the Church either. Can’t: there have been too many atrocities over the years. I’ve directly experienced miracles, and sought out and collected scientific documentation on several more. Those are real enough, but they don’t come with context. To understand what they mean, you need to know the backstory, and for that you do need the Bible and the Church, imperfect though they are. So it’s through a combination of personal experience, first person and third person miracle, and the explanation of the meaning of these miracles and identity of their source through Church and Text that I come to what I know to be true.

    But really, do you want to actually discuss such things with me?

    How would the discussion go?

    “I’ve experienced such and such a miracle.”
    “That’s not a miracle.”
    “Yes it is, that doesn’t happen in nature.”
    “Then it didn’t REALLY happen to you either. You’re making it up.”
    “No, I’m not.”
    “Then it’s just a natural phenomenon, and you’re mistaken about it.”
    “No, I’m not.”
    “Well, sorry, I’m just not going to accept that you’ve really experienced miracles.”

    And therefore any first person evidence I can give is ruled out of court.

    What’s left then? Third party miracles.
    “Here’s the science.”
    “That’s not science.”
    “Yes it is, look at the sources.”
    “Then they are mistaken. or fraudulent, or it’s just something we don’t understand. But whatever it is, it doesn’t prove God exists.”
    “Well, gosh. Actually, yes it does, because it’s physically impossible, but there it is.”
    “Then it’s not REALLY there and you’re mistaken.”

    And therefore any third person evidence I can give is ruled out of court.

    That throws me back on just the Church and the Scripture.

    But the Church burnt Joan of Arc and protected men who touched boys’ pee-pees, so nobody is going to give THEM credibility.

    Which leaves the Scriptures, and they contradict.

    Which leaves us nothing to talk about.

    None of which means that I didn’t experience the miracles and that they don’t reveal God. It just means that no conversation is possible across this chasm.

    Sigh.

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  4. Knoxville Freethinker

    The charge of “anti-supernatural bias” is one I’ve run across in a few spots, including J. Warner Wallace’s “Cold Case Christianity.”

    In truth, I’d be incredibly interested in supernatural phenomenon. I don’t discount them completely just because I “feel” like it.

    Two problems stand in my way of accepting supernatural claims:

    1)Almost ALL people that accept the supernatural only accept SOME supernatural claims, while rejecting others. Their methodology for accepting supernatural causes is almost always based on the lack (or, more commonly, their lack of knowledge of) an extant natural cause. Their explanation of the supernatural mechanism is grounded in the perceived reliability of an ancient “inspired” text or their gut “faith” feeling. If I could be convinced of supernatural causes, they would still have to convince me to accept their supernatural mechanisms while discounting those of other belief systems.

    2)The very word “supernatural” is ill-defined and lacking in content. In some cases, natural events are attributed supernatural causes and orchestration (see most “miracles”). If there are both “supernatural” and “natural causes,” why can’t we add a third category, “Goulbap?” (Thanks Fake Word Generator!).

    Goulbap causes are causes that are natural in another dimension of the universe, but considered supernatural in this dimension. Why are supernaturalists so quick to dismiss the Goulbap? They have no evidence that Goulbap causes do not exist! (However, do not be deceived when the Locobots say their way is supported by Goulbap causes.Use discernment, prayer, and the words of the Peloozoid to guide you).

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  5. Peter

    Hi Nate

    You have my sympathy friend.

    Having seem some debates on matters of faith I have concluded that the two conditions that be placed upon any debate or discussion are:
    1) the person of faith should accept that there is a possibility God is not there;
    2) the person without faith should accept the possibility that God is there and therefore that miracles are possible.

    Unless parties to discussions are prepared to actually consider both possibilities then there will never be a sensible discussion. I see abuses from both sides of the argument.

    People who had been active church members and have left after a deep consideration of issues are generally very well informed. Consequently a high level presentations of all the standard arguments is actually likely to be unhelpful.

    I know what I am looking for is empathy from people of faith. An acknowledgment that issues which cause people to question their faith are not due to moral failure but rather a consideration of evidence.

    I am sorry Nate that this has been such a heart wrenching issue with your family.

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  6. crown,

    I think you’re right, a discussion with a non-believer over a miracle that you’ve witnessed wouldn’t be convincing. At the very least, the skeptic would think you were just mistaken about what you saw or the perceived cause of it.

    however, i can understand how such a personal experience would allow someone to believe in the bible and the church, even if they are fallible, but this creates other issues in my mind:

    – why doesnt god perform miracles to the unbelievers, when miracles obviously go a long way to convince the nay-sayer (Thomas, Jacob, Gideon, yourself)?

    – If the bible and the church cant be trusted, how can you be sure that it is those that actually provide the context to the miracles you’ve witnessed?

    – and if the bible and church both contain their share of problems, and if witnessing a true miracle is what it would take to recover believe in them, then it shouldn’t be surprising that people who have not witnessed miracles don’t trust in them.

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  7. I agree with you. These conversations become contentious, if not impossible, when one or both sides fails to try to understand the other person’s position. Even though I may be pretty convinced of my conclusions I could be wrong. Too many people seem to be 100% confident in their given position and, therefore, instead of listening with the intent of having meaningful discussion it just turns into both sides trying to change the other’s mind. Which results in a stalemate at best, and a full fledged row at worst.

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  8. I am all too familiar with that awkwardness with family members. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person out of all my extended family that is not a Christian.

    Nate, I think your family has really made things even more difficult by imposing the banishment from get-togethers as if you have some kind of disease or something. I hope they can move past that, it seems rather childish. I think the best way to restore relationships with Christian friends and family is to just not talk about religion. Being invited to a series like that is really an insult (they may not realize it), but it’s like saying “here, come learn something” – as if you haven’t spent countless hours looking over all the arguments already. On the bright side, maybe the series could produce some interesting discussions here on your blog. I’d be interested in listening to the audio if they ever release it.

    Your analogy to a vaccination is right on. I can remember receiving many of those in all the sermons and classes I have sat through.

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  9. I don’t view nate’s family so harshly – I pity them. I imagine that they don’t like what they feel must be done and probably don’t even understand why god wants them to banish their son, brother, friend, and so on.

    They do it because they think god commands it of them, I am sure. I am certain that it would cause them much grief… I do wonder if, in so doing, they still have that “peace that passes all understanding…”

    they probably view this as an amputation – nothing they want to part with, but something they must do for spiritual health.

    people with such faith and devotion are almost admirable, except that in order to commit to this, it seems like they’d have to keep themselves from really thinking things all the way through – likely out of fear that god will punish them eternally for their thoughts. they likely cant allow themselves to consider the notion that questioning the bible’s claims (made by men) is not the same as turning your back on god… except that maybe since all they know of their god came to them by men, it is hard to differentiate between the two…

    it sounds like an unfortunate and tragic situation.

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  10. I’ve never understood shunning. Jesus consorted with folks considered untouchables and there are these cute sayings like “hate the sin, love the sinner” etc. but I haven’t met too many Christians who think that Jesus’s commandments/behaviors are worth following.

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  11. The frustration you express here, Nate, is the same reason why I haven’t told all of my family about my deconversion. There still are too many social networks tied to faith in Alabama, and those faiths require petulance instead of understanding. Your family is showing the exact same behaviors that my very religious family members show. I suppose the only difference is that they’ve shared what they think of non-believers with me.

    Stay strong. This post shows that your capacity for human decency is far larger than those who would sacrifice a relationship over believing in zombies and party tricks. When put that way, it seems that what they’re doing is fairly petty, isn’t it? But really, they’re still beholden to what used to ail you. It’s a tragedy, I think, because they’re missing out on having a decent person in their lives.

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  12. Most atheists were once theists, so their starting position was one that believed in miracles.

    Quite right.

    At one time, I even disagreed with Jerry Coyne about this. He said that science ruled out the resurrection. My point of view was (and still is) that science makes it implausible but does not completely rule it out.

    I was far more influenced by the biblical account of the resurrection. It is hopelessly vague and could easily be describing hysteria among distraught people.

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  13. Nate, I’m surprised that it’s so incredibly rare that you express frustration – what you’ve been through with your family is in my mind intensely traumatic.

    I think the only positive thing I can think of saying is that practically everyone on your blog would love to bake a cake for you (as well as for SaintPaulieGirl).

    I think at some point it’s fair for Christianity to become like Islam or Hinduism to us. Yeah, I know we never want to turn away from any possible evidence that may show it to be true – I fully agree with that. But at some point surely we come to the place where we feel the time spent will not be fruitful. We do it with so many other religions after all. I know this is a tricky thing, but we all have to come to our own feeling that we’ve given more than enough effort and chance and at that point not feel like we are obliged to give in to every seminar our families want us to attend. I don’t have the answers on how we can know we’ve reached that point yet though. 😦

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  14. re: religious freedom laws:
    for any Christian that thinks they have the right to refuse service to bake gays a wedding cake, they need to crack open their buybulls to luke 6:30, jeezzzuuusss says “Give to EVERYONE who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”

    And if they get sued for refusing service, they need to crack open their buybulls and read matthew 5:40 when jeezzzuuusss says “And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”

    not only do they not have the legal right to refuse, they dont’ have the moral right to refuse.
    Their argument is bogus, they are nothing but phony christian bigots.

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  15. Thanks for all the great comments.

    I think Howie’s point is very powerful, and it’s one I should take to heart. When it comes to my family and former friends, I’ve made every effort to remain above board. I’ve always believed (even when I was a Christian) that truth has nothing to fear, so further examination of an issue can only be a good thing. Any time I’ve been sent a letter, or something similar, I read it, think about it, and send a reply. I don’t want any of them to think that I had no answer to something they sent, or that I didn’t read it. I’ve tried to keep an example “above reproach,” so to speak. So that’s the mindset I have when I go into this kind of thing.

    However, I think Howie makes a great point, and it’s something I’ll have to think about. I also agree with those of you who said it’s hard to expect much from this kind of thing. It’s true that these kinds of things are done with believers in mind, not skeptics. And they’re not going to talk about anything I haven’t already studied in deeper detail. I primarily want to listen to these so I know what my family is hearing. If I get the opportunity to talk to them (and I told them I expected us to discuss these things, if we were going to attend), then I hope to not focus too much on whatever is covered in these lessons. I’d rather talk about the reasons why my family members believe the way they do. What are their reasons for belief? In our past discussions, it usually revolved around my reasons for not believing. But the specific issues that resonated with me struck directly at the foundations of my faith, and I’ve realized that the reasons I believed are very different from the reasons most of my family believes. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find out what those reasons are.

    @Ruth — yeah, completely coming out definitely has some drawbacks, but I think I would personally have a harder time if I had stayed in. It’s just hard to imagine having to tacitly approve all the nonsense. Plus, if I had kept my atheism in the closet, I would still be going to church 3 times a week to maintain the charade. Probably even have to teach the occasional Bible class. **shudder**

    @Crown — thanks for commenting! I think you’re right — a real conversation about the issues would be difficult, because I’ve never had a supernatural experience. Knoxville Freethinker and William both made comments that really resonate with me on that topic.

    @Peter — I couldn’t agree more with your 2 points. Thanks!

    @william — yeah, I think your analysis is right. They don’t want to sever these family ties, but they think they have no choice. It’s really sad.

    @Neil — I completely agree with you. I don’t discount the possibility of miracles either. It’s the other issues in the Bible that sank the ship for me.

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  16. @Nate,

    yeah, completely coming out definitely has some drawbacks, but I think I would personally have a harder time if I had stayed in. It’s just hard to imagine having to tacitly approve all the nonsense. Plus, if I had kept my atheism in the closet, I would still be going to church 3 times a week to maintain the charade. Probably even have to teach the occasional Bible class. **shudder**

    My deconversion happened about the same time I got divorced, sold my house, and moved to another town 30 miles away. That helped me to not have to play along. Had I stayed where I was I’m sure I would have had no choice in the matter. I don’t think I could tacitly endorse the nonsense. It makes me feel ill just thinking about it. I’m fairly certain that most of the people I was close to have guessed that I’ve made some sort of spiritual transition – perhaps to a more progressive Christianity – based on my not tacitly endorsing certain ideas and instead questioning them, but I doubt they’ve made the connection to my not believing at all even if they think my salvation is questionable.

    How’s that for a run-on sentence?

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  17. Nate, I’m so sorry for what you’ve been going through. I agree with Howie, it’s intensely traumatic. Published in the British Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies, Psychologist Marlene Winell writes:

    “Leaving the fold means multiple losses, including the loss of friends and family support at a crucial time of personal transition. Consequently, it is a very lonely ‘stressful life event’ – more so than others described on Axis IV in the DSM.”

    I think that it is most likely fear that is causing your family to push you away. You wrote:

    “What are their reasons for belief? In our past discussions, it usually revolved around my reasons for not believing. But the specific issues that resonated with me struck directly at the foundations of my faith, and I’ve realized that the reasons I believed are very different from the reasons most of my family believes.

    I think you’re right.

    Dr. Winell goes on to say:

    “Making the break is for many the most disruptive, difficult upheaval they have ever gone through in life. To understand this fully, one must appreciate the totality of a religious worldview that defines and controls reality in the way that fundamentalist groups do. Everything about the world – past, present, and future – is explained, the meaning of life is laid out, morality is already decided, and individuals must find their place in the cosmic scheme in order to be worthwhile.

    The promises for conformity and obedience are great and the threats for disobedience are dire, both for the present life and the hereafter. Controlling religions tend to limit information about the world and alternative views so members easily conclude that their religious worldview is the only one possible. Anything outside of their world is considered dangerous and evil at worst and terribly misguided at best.

    Sending you a virtual hug. {{{hug}}}

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  18. archaeopteryx1

    My own definition of supernatural would involve the suspension of the natural known laws of science, and even then, I would be forced to consider a law that may not yet be known. Otherwise, I would have to admit that “magic” exists, and except for the magic that I’ve found in the unconditional love of a child, I’ve yet to see any.

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  19. Hang in there, it gets better.

    You’ll know you’ve had enough when you have a proselytizing book in your hand or your standing at a church door, and you say to yourself, ‘I’m really just tired of this nonsense,’ and go do something else. At that point you may also realize that it really doesn’t matter why your family members believe as they do, it’s your own sanity you need to worry about, and it is really the other family members who need to accept that, and live with it. If they love you, and it sounds as if they do, eventually they will.

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  20. archaeopteryx1

    But you have to ask – and I’m sorry to say this, Nate, but you’re far to intelligent not to have already thought of it – how deeply could they have loved, if they can turn it off that quickly?

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  21. archaeopteryx1

    science makes it implausible but does not completely rule it out.” – With all due respect, Neil – I realize we’re playing on the same team here, but I know of nothing in science that would keep a dead brain from decaying in three days. Ask any paramedic – after only six minutes without oxygen, irreparable brain damage sets in.

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  22. archaeopteryx1

    I gradually morphed into atheism while still in High School, which only strengthened as time went by, and my parents and I had some heated discussions, but at NO point in time was I ever shunned, banned, or in any way discriminated against because of my beliefs, and I realize that I owe my parents a great deal for that, now that I’ve seen that it isn’t always that way in other families.

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  23. arch, I dont think they’ve turned their love off. I am sure that they view this as “tough love” like punishing a child or giving a child a painful shot that they need for their own good.

    it’s not that they quit loving.

    albeit, if they were really intelligent and really honest with themselves, they’d see how utterly nonsensical the bible is and begin to operate under reason and not under the dogma of a collection of ancient superstitious men.

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  24. archaeopteryx1

    This from the Secular Student Alliance:

    Last week, CNN aired a documentary on atheism in the United States. We were so excited to see one of our student leaders, David Gormley, featured! Unfortunately, David’s own parents called him a “dead person” because of his atheism—on national television!

    David is a student at the University of North Georgia, where he is the President of his school’s secular student group.

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  25. archaeopteryx1

    No, Nutsy – I posted that in reference to your statement as an example as to how quickly discussions can turn vehement! Paranoid much?

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  26. Nah…my name isn’t Jane! lol

    But thank you for the explanation because I really didn’t get the relevance. Just call me blonder than I paid to be. O_o

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  27. archaeopteryx1

    But you’re the only one that Tiribulus says is intelligent enough to hold meaningful discussions with him – that’s something I would find FAR more insulting than being called a mere slut, as it would imply the two of you have something in common – I’d take slut anyday!

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  28. I don’t view nate’s family so harshly – I pity them. I imagine that they don’t like what they feel must be done and probably don’t even understand why god wants them to banish their son, brother, friend, and so on….

    arch, I dont think they’ve turned their love off. I am sure that they view this as “tough love” like punishing a child or giving a child a painful shot that they need for their own good.

    I agree with you, William, that some people probably do feel this way. I, for one, can’t imagine banishing my child for…well…anything. So the heartache it must cause family members to do what they think they must to serve their God is surely not lightly or easily undertaken. Add to that the admonition in scriptures to shun fellow believers, even family members, who you believe are in the faith but sinning. Add to that being told that is the loving thing to do. It completely flips on it’s head what love really is. Believers and unbelievers are operating on two totally different definitions of the word.

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  29. Don’t tell me your jealous, Arch! 😉

    I think we all know why Tiribulus wants to hold discussions with me and it ain’t my smarts. Please. I know when I’m being patronized.

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  30. archaeopteryx1

    All I can say, is that even though my parents didn’t agree with most of my beliefs, they were always there for me, and I’ll never forget that.

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  31. archaeopteryx1

    I don’t know, because he implied that you two were holding discussions somewhere else, or by email.

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  32. I don’t know, because he implied that you two were holding discussions somewhere else, or by email.

    He might be holding discussions elsewhere or by email but not with me. The only discussions we’ve had are over on Violet’s blog.

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  33. All I can say, is that even though my parents didn’t agree with most of my beliefs, they were always there for me, and I’ll never forget that.

    As it should be. I just think Christianity, especially in it’s fundamentalist forms, have had it hammered into them that the loving thing to do is “church discipline”. That’s the protestant version of excommunication. If you isolate the sinner he’ll/she’ll see the error of their ways and come running back like the prodigal child. Is it messed up? Sure. But it doesn’t mean they’ve turned their love off, even if they don’t know how to love fully.

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  34. archaeopteryx1

    Possibly I read it wrong, there’s only so much of T that I can take at a time, and it was near the bottom of his comment:

    Ruth has thus far on this site been the only person I’ve found capable, or at least willing to have a sustained grown up CONVERSATION about what matters most.

    Every single thing that has or can come up on this page has been dealt with by me already ten times each with Ruth. It’s astonishing that after a couple hundred comments and a few dozen hours spent with her here that she remains the one and only person who has grasped the import or even actually the definition of epistemology.

    Look at those links I put at the top of my page I linked to above and you’ll even see her defend me a few times against the cackling cacophony of uncritically thinking cluelessness around here. Watch the videos she posted and read the conversation that follows about especially Cantor and Boltzmann. That’s what a grown up conversation looks like. You will of course also see, despite my relentless confidence in and encouragement of his ability to be more, Arch doing his first rate drunken frat boy routine as well.

    I’ll get back to her. I owe her that. Ruth is a most substantive, stimulating and capable interlocutor.

    https://violetwisp.wordpress.com/2015/03/26/why-christians-must-face-their-demons/#comment-17494

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  35. Possibly I read it wrong, there’s only so much of T that I can take at a time, and it was near the bottom of his comment:

    Yeah, maybe you read more into it than was actually there, though there were a couple of times I thought he was sort of inviting a private conversation. I don’t know. There’s just something…offish…about him. I find it hard to be trusting of anybody that blows that much smoke using the King James English.

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  36. I think that shunning is also to prevent the unbeliever’s ideas from spreading.

    Well, there is that. But mostly when I’ve seen it applied and actually called church discipline it’s been to exact some “tough love”. Anytime I’ve seen shunning for the purpose of preventing the spread of opposing ideas it’s been more of circling the wagons to head off the Indians. There’s no love lost on those savages.

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  37. Ruth: “I find it hard to be trusting of anybody that blows that much smoke using the King James English.”

    NeuroVictoria: LOL

    Ammi right though?

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  38. archaeopteryx1

    I suspect the thing was his reference to the links – I didn’t even bother to look at them, as by that time, I had had all of him I could stand. I just assumed they pointed to some site where you and he had been having discussions, but they may well have referred back to other of Vi’s posts I should have looked, but I spend a half-day each day, just replying to comments, and long before I get to the last one, I’m brain dead.

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  39. I get that, arch. I think those links might have referenced a forum where he had already had the same conversation with another guy who also didn’t buy into Christianity. We didn’t converse there he just wanted me to read their convo. The name of the forum was Testosterone Nation. Are you surprised?

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  40. IMO, Dr. Winell was right-on in the part where he “went on to say”.

    The thing I find interesting about this whole scenario, Nate, is that they would even invite you and your wife to this “event.” I could somewhat understand it if you were newly deconverted, but from what I gather, it’s been several years. Why in Thor’s name would they think this individual’s message would resonate with you at this point in time?

    Having said that, I do remember inviting my unsaved friends and family to such events during my Christian heydays. Of course, they basically ignored me, but I felt better because I had fulfilled what I considered an obligation/command of my faith.

    In any case, know that we followers of you and your blog support you 100% in whatever you choose to do.

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  41. carmen

    Nate, I’ve just got caught up on the comments on this thread. Such diplomatic comments your friends make!

    I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be going through what you are experiencing. My heart goes out to you. Knowing me, though, their persistent attitude would be thoroughly pissing me off. . diplomacy be damned . . by now.

    You are a good, kind and decent man; a family member to be proud of – isn’t that the most important part?

    Like

  42. From the Unfundamentalist website/blog:

    “By way of researching my book I’m OK – You’re Not: The Message We’re Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop, I posted a notice on Craigslist sites all over the country asking non-Christians to send me any short, personal statement they would like Christians to read.

    “Specifically,” I wrote, “I’d like to hear how you feel about being on the receiving end of the efforts of Christian evangelicals to convert you. I want to be very clear that this is not a Christian-bashing book; it’s coming from a place that only means well for everyone. Thanks.”

    Within three days I had in my inbox over 300 emails from non-Christians across the country. Reading them was one of the more depressing experiences of my life. I had expected their cumulative sentiment to be one of mostly anger. But if you boiled down to a single feeling what was most often expressed in the nonbelievers’ statements, it would be Why do Christians hate us so much?

    Below is a pretty random sample of the statements non-Christians sent me (each of which I used in the book). If you’re a Christian, they make for a mighty saddening read. Or they certainly should, anyway.”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unfundamentalistchristians/about-unfundamentalist-christians/

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  43. Matt

    I feel for you, I really do. I never understood the practice, it just seems so unproductive. I also don’t understand how they can just not look into the objections you have raised to them. When I first heard of your deconversion, the one thing that made me come check out your blog again was that I KNEW YOU. I knew that for you to have given up on christianity there must have been some big reasons worth at the very minium investigating. It baffles me that they never gave serious consideration to your beliefs but want to invite you to this event.

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  44. well said, Matt.

    The bible itself says to seek out the truth and to not answer a matter before you’ve heard it out, and lauds the bereans as noble for researching what they could, when they could.

    It’s this very type of thing that helped me when I was deconverting. The people who always said that the truth never had anything to hide, began hiding and shutting their ears to these issues. I found their lack of faith disturbing – especially when they claimed to have so much of it.

    but theirs wasnt a faith in truth, but a faith in Truth (trademark).

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  45. Thanks guys.

    And let me reiterate, while my deconversion was definitely painful, and the subsequent family issues have been as well, I’m actually in a pretty good place with all of it. I wish things were different, but the only person I can control is myself. I’ve made my peace with that. And having such a supportive community of friends here on WordPress has been a huge part helping me find that peace. So thank you. 🙂

    My recent frustration mostly came from hearing how the very real issues against Christianity are watered down or simply misrepresented by some Christians. It shouldn’t be surprising… it’s just hard to listen to, especially since I know how much damage it continues to do to my family relationships. When they hear this kind of thing, it only supports the false narrative they have of why I left Christianity to begin with.

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  46. I get it.

    I know what it’s like to hear preachers make the dumbest arguments and misrepresent what they’re arguing against… at times it may be that they’re ignorant, but sometimes I think that they must know that they’re having to lie to make their case.

    it is maddening.

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  47. I agree with that. But surely, you are only arguing that if it happened that would be a miracle and evidence of supernatural intervention.

    Even the religious agree with that.

    By contrast, there could not be a violation of Newton’s laws of motion, because those are necessary truths.

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  48. archaeopteryx1

    I almost feel guilty, Nate, that my own deconversion came so easily, and without any alienation from my family – except of course for the arguments, and my Mom would always say that my dad and I would argue with a fence post, so I wouldn’t by any means call that alienation, just business as usual.

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  49. archaeopteryx1

    But surely, you are only arguing that if it happened that would be a miracle and evidence of supernatural intervention” – No, I’m arguing that it would be brain soup, and that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, couldn’t put Yeshua together again.

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  50. Maybe a little thoughtful Biblically grounded guidance might be in order … something along the lines of ‘love thy neighbour’ with a little John 3:17 about Jesus not being interested in condemning others?

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  51. Nate, your letter showed up in my email and I ended up reading. I really don’t want to debate, so help me understand. Biblical scholars are convinced the woman caught in adultery actually happened. It was considered if should be removed, but decided they were so sure it was a true event, that it should be left in. If they are wrong, which they don’t believe they are, but if they are, then again, it does not affect doctrine. Who are these experts that you believe over and above other experts? Why are you so convinced they are right? And what about all the 98% that we are sure of? We just throw all that out the window? How is it that a few “debatable” issues cause you such a problem? To be dealing in absolutes would be one thing, but most of these that I have seen are very debatable, full of speculation, and unproven science, simply theories at best. Take this particular example you have given. Most biblical scholars are convinced of it, wherever it came from, but they do admit it’s not part of the original John. If you don’t trust it, then simply disregard it. We don’t have a 100% perfect translation, but there are so many ways of checking and double checking things. If you can prove beyond any doubt that say 2% is messed up, why not just disregard that part, and see what you have left? And oh, by the way, I do still believe in miracles. What Christian worth his salt does not? Some of these people you speak of really blow my mind. I don’t know these circles you seem to have been in. So anyway, I’m speaking straight from my heart as best I know how. I’m not debating. It’s getting us nowhere. Question: A rough estimate. If you eliminated every scripture you’re absolutely sure you’ve proven wrong, I mean we’re talking absolutes here, what % of the Bible would you have left? And I’m not talking about things like Noah’s Ark. If God is supernatural, and if he can cause all those animals to come out two by two and simply stroll onto a man made Ark, then surely he could make them all fit, even if he had to do it supernaturally. Surely you can see this? So you gotta set things like that aside. God is not going to fit in any box you can mentally comprehend and explain away. If he did, he wouldn’t be God. Okay, I’m done. It’s late. I’m exhausted and got work tomorrow. I don’t even know why I read this. I was just checking my email real quick before bed. It’s my wife and my 38 wedding anniversary, and I got a special surprise I made up for her waiting. She gets home around eleven, but I’ll probably be already conking out, I hope. Hey, man. We’re not enemies, but I guess I’m just not able to be the biblical genius you need. I believe in the simplicity of Christ. We make it complicated. Just my opinion.

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  52. Nate, sorry about the blacklisting and awkwardness you’ve experienced. I totally understand how those apologetic approaches and attitudes are frustrating. People can fail to appreciate that there are good reasons to doubt, and there is no simple solution to regain faith even if one wanted to. Anyway, it sounds like you are diplomatic and have a wonderful attitude. I am impressed!

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  53. Hey guys … aren’t you sorta’ getting away from the point of Nate’s posting? I think Brandon left a pretty nice comment. This doesn’t happen very often so maybe we could leave it at that? Not trying to be the blog police. Just making an observation.

    Liked by 1 person

  54. Hi thee,

    Happy anniversary! 🙂

    Biblical scholars are convinced the woman caught in adultery actually happened. It was considered if should be removed, but decided they were so sure it was a true event, that it should be left in

    That’s not information I’ve run across before; can you recall where you heard it?

    Let me explain the point I was getting at: whether or not the event related in that story ever actually happened, all the evidence currently points to the story not originally being part of the gospel of John. So, to me, this brings up a lot of questions about inspiration. If God really did inspire the writers of the Bible, wouldn’t it be a problem to add a story to one of the gospels? And if it came from some other inspired source, why don’t we have it too?

    Our approaches to this are just very different. I think you view Christianity as the default view that all people should have; therefore, instead of needing evidence to convince you it’s true, you’d need substantial evidence to convince you it’s not.

    When I was a believer, I thought Christianity was true, but that’s because I thought it had superior evidence. However, when I found out that it seemed to have failed prophecies, contradictory passages, incorrect history and science, and its texts showed signs of interpolation and editing, my opinion of that evidence changed. And I realized that Christianity made some extraordinary claims. Without extraordinary evidence to back them up, there was no reason to keep believing them.

    So I think I intuitively knew that the default position should be skepticism. I mean, isn’t that how you view every other claim? By default, you don’t believe Mormonism, Islam, or Hinduism. No one had to prove to you that those religions were false — you just didn’t believe in them, because they’re not prevalent in your country. And it would take a great deal of evidence for you to believe in them. The same should be true of Christianity.

    Does that help explain my position a bit better?

    Hope you guys enjoy your anniversary — congrats on 38 years!

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  55. archaeopteryx1

    The woman caught in adultery story doesn’t show up in any copy of the gospels before the 4th century CE. It was first placed in Luke, but there were those who thought it fit better in John, so it was moved. So much for a concern with accurate reporting.

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  56. I’ve read that some scholars think the passage has similarities to the style of Luke, but I don’t think I’d heard anyone say that it was actually added to Luke at one point. Do you remember where you ran across that?

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  57. archaeopteryx1

    I had it last week, but I don’t have it now, and it’s well after midnight. I’ll go through my browser history and see where all I was last week, that should jog my memory. I may have actually bookmarked it, I’ll check my bookmarks too, just not tonight.

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  58. Nate, tell me something, are you attending this sessions because you expect to learn something new you don’t already know or do you silently suspect you could be wrong in your disbelief and that christianity is right you just didn’t get the correct interpretation or are you doing it for family and maybe because you don’t have a better way to employ your free time?

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  59. Peter

    Regarding the story of the lady caught in adultery I had posted a comment on another blog, that Arch might have in mind:

    ‘D.A. Carson in his commentary on John’s Gospel notes that John 7:53 to 8:11 was not found in any Eastern text of the Bible before the tenth century. It is missing from all the early reliable manuscripts of the Bible. All the early church father omit it. Where it is included in ancient texts there is usually a note included questioning its authenticity.’

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  60. Crown

    William,
    I suppose we could discuss miracles within the framework of your questions. From my experience that usually turns out about as much fun for me as a root canal, but I am sometimes willing to do it in order to provide data for others to consider.

    I think what Nate describes as going on with his family is pretty awful. Nobody can ever be forced or blackmailed into believing anything they don’t, or disbelieving anything they know either. This “shunning” business has always struck me as quite evil and un-Christian.

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  61. Hello Nate,

    This moved me. I’m so sorry that it has been your experience. If my sons decide to not follow Christ, then I hope and plan to behave differently. If that happens, I’ll ask for your insight and help. Truth is truth. Wisdom is wisdom. I consider your words and manner to be wise. I love my sons, will love the partners they choose and the children I hope they will bring to our home in my elder years.

    You may know that I care about the Bible and consider it valuable. That said, I don’t think that the class is a good use of your time. It makes me so sad that your parents don’t consider a grandchild’s soccer game to be an expression of the Gospel. It is to me.

    Thanks for your honesty and for what it can teach a Christ follower about what we are doing wrong. I wish I could implore your parents as elders in my faith to see things differently.

    Pascal

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  62. Makagutu,

    that’s a good question and one I would like to hear nate answer.

    I wanted to add my perspective though. If I were in nate’s place, I would be going so that i could catch all the issues and expose them to those who invited me – but I dont think that makes me closed minded.

    When i was a christian, I was sure that christianity was true – so when I listened to other points of view, I opened my ears and listened to what was said and evaluated it, but all the while I fully expected to be able to find them wrong…. I’m not longer a christian even though my handling of information has not changed.

    I dont know if nate is the same or not, but I dont feel wishy-washy on this topic. I hold a certain amount of confidence in it, seeing as how I’ve put a lot of time, study and thought into it, but while I think my position is better than theirs, I still know that I do not know everything and could be mistaken,

    I think my position will hold up better than theirs, but if holes in my position are exposed, I wont ignore them, i will face them and reevaluate as I hope they will also do.

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  63. 98% of what, thee-n-counter?

    are you saying that 98% of the bible is confirmed?

    If you are, I would suggest that is a gross misrepresentation of reality. But think about this, the bible makes spiritual claims and it makes physical claims (historical, scientific, archaeological, etc). Some of the physical can be verified or tried, while the spiritual claims cannot be.

    If we find that even a small portion of the things we can check end up being inaccurate, why should we have confidence that the spiritual/supernatural/un-verifiable claims are accurate?

    and i would suggest that the bible is less than 98% verifiable, if that is what you were saying.

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  64. Well, I can resonate with pretty much every point that you raised. I think that the way you characterized as an inoculation is clever and accurate. Lately I’ve come to regard the friends and family issue as one with asterisks. They aren’t friends, their friends*. It isn’t family, it’s family*. But I think the question you raised on the question of the apologist is a good one. I’m not quite sure where their minds set comes from either. But they got the same inoculations. They got the same water down strains. And I think that someplace in their minds, they just never got past that dismissiveness. They’ve still never really seriously tried to square the circle.

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  65. @Nate

    I’m super sorry to hear this. Incidentally me and my wife have just came out of the closet to my in-laws who are stanch Brethrens. Thankfully everything went better than expected. Don’t think they really cared about why I disbelieve as they totally backed off after confirming that I was baptized – they believed in “once saved always saved” sort of reformed doctrine (not exactly full blown Calvinistic).

    So yes, I’ve put this off for more than a year and it is great that family ties are still there. I do hope that things will get better for you and yours.

    In the meanwhile you do have other friends in your area that functions like a community? If not perhaps it may be good to join some hobby club or something. No man is an island after all.

    Liked by 1 person

  66. I think its great that the religious are actually being compelled to even do seminars which deal with (attempt to deal with) objections they can no-longer ignore. That’s a positive sign! Imagine this happening just 20 or 30 years ago? Never. Not in the US, at least.

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  67. Nate, tell me something, are you attending this sessions because you expect to learn something new you don’t already know or do you silently suspect you could be wrong in your disbelief and that christianity is right you just didn’t get the correct interpretation or are you doing it for family and maybe because you don’t have a better way to employ your free time?

    I smiled at the last question. 🙂

    I may not actually make it to any of these, since I’m coaching soccer at the same time (as long as the weather’s good). But I’ll try to watch them (or listen, if just audio) online, if they post them.

    I don’t think Christianity is right, and I don’t expect to learn anything I don’t already know. I’m always open to learning something new or being shown where I’m wrong, of course, but I don’t expect for either to happen. I’m only entertaining the idea of going, because if I don’t I know I’ll be accused of not being open-minded or being afraid of information, etc. Also, if some of my family members are going, I’d like to know what they’re hearing. The odds of us ever resolving our differences are extremely low, but they’re not zero — so I’m willing to put in whatever work it takes, just in case. I hope that if I consistently show a willingness to see both sides of the issue, then they eventually will as well.

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  68. I think you’re right, John. In fact, in the “preview” sermon I listened to, they acknowledged that. It was 2 evangelists speaking to an audience, and they talked about how more and more people no longer view the Bible as God’s word, or view its morality as abhorrent, etc. That part was edifying, at least. 🙂

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  69. Powell,

    I’m so glad that things went well in talking to your in-laws.

    And yes, we have an entirely new circle of friends now, and things are good. Some of them are religious, but don’t really care that we aren’t. And we’ve met some others from a local Meet-up group, and that’s been a huge help. Also, as luck would have it, there’s a couple that we were close friends with at our old church who have recently deconverted as well. It’s been really nice rebuilding that relationship. He comments here from time to time (earlier in this thread, in fact) and goes by Matt.

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  70. Hey Matt B,

    Good to see you again! 🙂

    You make an excellent point about the evangelists receiving the same inoculations.

    I’m sorry that you can resonate so much with what I’m saying… I’ve wondered how things are going for you and Janelle. Are y’all around the 2 year mark now?

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  71. Pascal,

    Thanks for the kind message. My biggest hope is to eventually get to an “agree to disagree” place with my family, but their beliefs about “church discipline,” as Ruth called it, currently prevent that.

    And I may have been misleading: they’re supportive of the kids’ soccer. They didn’t realize we practiced during those times when they invited us, and they understood why that would keep us away.

    Thanks again!

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  72. archaeopteryx1

    Here you are, Nate, it was easier to find than I thought —

    Jesus Forgives a Woman Taken in Adultery

    This story, beloved for its revelation of God’s mercy toward sinners, is found only in John. It was almost certainly not part of John’s original Gospel. The NIV separates this passage off from the rest of the Gospel with the note, “The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53–8:11.” That is, the earliest Greek manuscripts, the earliest translations and the earliest church fathers all lack reference to this story. Furthermore, some manuscripts place it at other points within John (after 7:36, 7:44 or 21:25), others include it in the Gospel of Luke (placing it after Luke 21:38), and many manuscripts have marks that indicate the scribes “were aware that it lacked satisfactory credentials” (Metzger 1994:189). Furthermore, it contains many expressions that are more like those in the Synoptic Gospels than those in John.
    ~~ The Bible Gateway ~~

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  73. archaeopteryx1

    I always wished that sermons had question-and-answer sessions at the end, I’d go to church far more often (last time was 1969) if they did.

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  74. William and Nate, thanks all for your responses.
    Nate I think your reason for wanting to attend or listen is fine though as for me, let me be accused of whatever crime it is, but unless they can show how a man could eat a whale and throw up after 3 days, am not attending.

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  75. Carmen I would be lying to myself or them if I told them am going to learn something new.
    We can’t mix the gods. Either it is the god of the Bible or some nebulous idea they are talking about but not both

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  76. Hey Nate,
    Another heartfelt post — so open and sharing. Very cool.
    Best wishes on all that.
    I went through all that 30 years ago, so it is hard to remember.
    And I had the benefit of moving all over the planet and leaving behind those with whom I had the religious connections. So I had physical and theological distance — they helped each other.

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  77. I did a little study on the passage you briefly mentioned at the end of your post (and which occupied many of your commenters) – John 7:53-8:11. From what I saw, many commentators who uphold the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, would admit that this story is not original to the Gospel of John. However, they would also agree that it seems to be an authentic recording of an actual event in the life of Jesus.

    I am OK with that and still holding to inerrancy of the Scriptures (in their original autographs, as the typical definition goes). We have an extremely reliable manuscript for the New Testament thanks to the unheralded work of textual scholars. I find the evidence for the Resurrection, for example, to be overwhelmingly supportive. Obviously, many of you have not weighed it out similarly. Frankly, I find the typical suggestions explaining away the Resurrection, its many witnesses, the conversion of its opponents, and the startling growth of the early church to be much more fanciful and irrational.

    However, your original post was much more personal than just a discussion of this one textual concern. It does pain me to hear about strife within your family. I do think the Christian faith and Scriptures can (and should) be ably defended. But dealing with these involved, battle-of-the-experts kind of debates is not a simple task. I do hope that there will be true reconciliation within your family. Let the love of God prevail.

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  78. Sabio — thanks for the kind comment!

    You know, my wife and I actually talked about moving for a while after our deconversion. But we love the town we live in and finally decided to stay. I’m glad we did, because we eventually made a new circle of friends, and I have some extended family in the area that really took us in. But it’s true — some aspects of hanging around did make it difficult.

    Thanks. It was great to hear from you again 🙂

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  79. Hi Sean,

    Thanks so much for the kind words! Yeah, I do hope that things get better with the family. We’ve gotten into a decent routine over the last several years, but it’s nothing like the way it used to be.

    From what I saw, many commentators who uphold the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, would admit that this story is not original to the Gospel of John. However, they would also agree that it seems to be an authentic recording of an actual event in the life of Jesus.

    Thanks for weighing in on this. I’m not sure about their explanation though. I mean how they would know if it was an actual event or not? And even if it were, doesn’t this still lead to the question of why God didn’t inspire one of the gospel writers to record this event? And if it was added by a later scribe, was that individual inspired as well? It seems strange to me to think that God could inspire something, but then be okay with it being edited. Why would God ever need to edit anything? And if someone did it without God’s authority, what does that mean?

    As far as the NT manuscripts go, I agree with you about them being very reliable. Aside from a few issues, I think the translations we have today are likely very close to the original autographs. Even so, there are contradictions within the different accounts that raise huge questions for inspiration, in my opinion. And the majority of scholars to not believe that the gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, which causes additional problems. While I’m very confident that the authors believed the things they were writing, they were not passing on information that they gained firsthand. I mean, the resurrection accounts are actually some of the most conflicting sections of the New Testament. In fact, this recent post provides a great infographic that sums up the major issues.

    Frankly, I find the typical suggestions explaining away the Resurrection, its many witnesses, the conversion of its opponents, and the startling growth of the early church to be much more fanciful and irrational.

    It’s been my experience that these kinds of claims actually break down in the details. After all, what witnesses are there to the resurrection, other than the gospels? And which opponents were converted? As to the growth of the early church, I don’t find it all that hard to believe. There’s actually a really good article on it here, if you’re interested.

    Thanks again for the great comment — I really appreciate your weighing in. Take care! 🙂

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  80. I have come to the conclusion that it is virtually impossible for skeptics/non-believers to have a productive debate with conservative Christians regarding the validity of the Bible and its supernatural claims. The reason is that we do not share a common starting point for a debate on these issues.

    The skeptic looks at evidence and forms an hypothesis/conclusion. The conservative Christian forms a conclusion from an ancient holy book and then looks at the evidence to confirm that conclusion. To come to any consensus, either the skeptic must accept the ancient Christian holy book as absolute fact and the source for all truth or the conservative Christian must agree to abandon his preformed conclusions, look at the evidence with an open mind, and allow the evidence to speak for itself. Neither side is willing to do this.

    So why do I continue to engage conservative Christians on their “inerrant” views? My hope is that with every exposure to the evidence, one small chunk in the armor of their faith (superstition) is chipped away and that one day they will see their belief system for what it really is: ancient superstitious nonsense.

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  81. Crown

    Gary,

    How do you approach Christian commentary that does not come from the ancient book but comes from direct miracle?

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  82. Hi Crown,

    I left this response to a conservative Christian who said that she had heard God speak to hear in an audible voice and other claims of supernatural experiences, which to her, confirmed the existence of the Christian god:

    I’m sure your experience was very real, Terri. The problem is, Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, and many others can recount the same intense feelings, intuitions, miracles, and personal experiences involving prayers and worship of their gods. So how do we choose which of these believers’ feelings, intuitions, and experiences are due to the one true God, and which of these people simply had an intense emotional experience, delusion, seizure, or hallucination?

    I do not discount the possibility of the supernatural. However, there are thousands upon thousands of supernatural beliefs on this planet. It just doesn’t seem like a good barometer of truth to measure the validity of these supernatural claims by accepting someone else’s intense experience as proof. I demand more evidence than someone else’s feelings, intuition, and personal experiences to believe ANY supernatural claim.

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  83. Well, I can’t possibly read all the comments I see here, and I’m sure you don’t expect me to. Thanks for that. My wife and I just got back from seeing movie: Insurgent. I still say those books have a Christian message. Christians do not fit the worldly molds people want them to. We diverge and supersede. In my opinion, we’re not the problem, we’re the answer. But be that as it may, I found the info on the woman caught in adultery as a footnote in my Amplified Bible. Scripture says it would require so many books to be written to contain all the things Jesus did. Maybe some translator thought this one encounter from something someone wrote needed to be in there. I don’t know, but as the “original” manuscripts prove, we don’t have perfect translators, so we dig and search out truth. Most people are not interested in the deeper things. They will never search these things out. Their loss in my opinion. Some people are satisfied with the “Gospel” only. And I would say that is the most important part. I’m sure there were things written concerning Jesus that never made it into authorized scripture. Even the Catholic Bible accepts more books than the King James does. But if I find something that seems to be contradictory, you are right, I approach it from the perspective that I’m missing something. So I begin to dig deeper. In this case I found the Amplified Bible freely acknowledging the decision the translators had to make concerning that encounter with the woman. However, this is not to say that the translators were not good at what they did, just because they were not perfect. When the book of Isaiah was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, they compared it to newer copies of the book and found them to be completely accurate. So yes, there may be a couple minor scriptures that appear to be not quite the same, but sometimes we simply don’t understand Jewish ways. Some people get tripped up over the two genealogies of Christ, and do not realize one is the line of Joseph, and the other Mary. Also, the Jews sometimes omitted the name of someone who brought shame to their nation, or for the sake of making memorization easier. There are many explanations, but few people are really interested in digging so deep. The average congregation would probably fall asleep on these details, sorry to say.
    I know we will tire of running around and around this same bush. And I have probably given you enough examples of other explanations to things you consider to be absolutely contradictory. I do believe the Bible to be what it claims to be, and I do believe the translators did a great job, but not perfect, and scholars have continued to work at that perfection. I still believe evidence weighs heavily towards O. J. murdering his wife, and I don’t believe an explosion of “any kind”, whether swelling, shrinking, belching, hiccupping, cooling, heating, or tap dancing could have ever created what we are living. I love this artist called, God. And I want to know him better.
    Now back to the movie. You see, the world wants us to fit into one of their molds, and when we don’t, they want to shut us up, discredit and lie about us, they see us dangerous when they are the ones attacking us. We should all live and let live. That would be nice, but alas, human nature does get in the way, because we’re not perfect. But a “Holy Standard” is not the problem, it is the solution. And should any man determine that standard? Why should I submit to what you think is right, or any other man? The Creator has set a standard, and as to be expected, man has a problem with it. But what should the pot say to the potter? Go ahead, say it if it makes you feel better, but it changes nothing. We think so highly of our intelligence, but we’re still just the pot, and the spiritual clock of Israel keeps on ticking.
    Hope I have not bored you. I’m done running around the bush. I didn’t mean to get back involved. I guess I need to get you out of my email. And why is my Internet still up? We’re trying to figure that out ourselves. (hee-hee.) We don’t know why. It’s supposed to be canceled. Our Comcast shut down days ago, but for some reason this darn Internet is still up. Maybe my wife miscommunicated something. We’re looking into it, because we really do want to get rid of this bill. Maybe you can let SPG know about that. Did he pray?

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  84. @Thee

    I think this applies to you – http://apastasea.blogspot.sg/2013/10/the-will-to-believe-and-will-to-know.html?m=1

    Obviously you are extremely satisfied that one geneology refers to Joseph’s line while the other points to Mary. Omigosh where have you been all my life, if only I spoke to you earlier you would have been able to clear all the doubts and queries I had when I was in theological college.

    Or not.

    How about you get less pompous and thinking that your knowledge is so special when it is barely beyond Sunday school stuff and basically apologetics 101. I would be appalled if any of the other readers here haven’t heard what you’ve said before.

    On a separate note, what’s miraculous is not the fact that you still have Internet, but rather you still sticking around after bidding adios in another thread.

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  85. Peter

    Hi Gary M

    I am impressed by your analysis of the situation and your preparedness to engage with others.

    The experiential side of religion is very subjective and is an issue I struggled with for some time. It seemed to me to provide proof that overrode concerns about the Bible and Church history. However when we come to understand that people of all religions have these experiences it points to them being more likely physiological than truly supernatural (given the competing claims of various religions).

    I recall a talk from Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones in regard to speaking with tongues. He noted a religious revival in part of Africa. There were two regions affected in one of them the matter of tongues had been taught but not in the other. After the revival tongues was only manifested in the area where it had been taught. This suggested it was more likely a psychological rather than a supernatural manifestation.

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  86. Hi Powell,

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think thee is trying to be arrogant. I think he writes in a conversational style — kind of reminds me of a good ol’ Southern boy. I have a lot of relatives and friends like that, so he doesn’t rub me the wrong way. I think he’s just being matter-of-fact.

    I do agree with you on the genealogies thing though, and I’m gonna bring that up to him.

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  87. Hi thee,

    Thanks for the comment — glad you’re still checking in.

    Yeah, we view things differently. Not sure that there’s a way around that. The genealogies that you mentioned, for instance. I’m aware of the claim that one is through Joseph and one is through Mary, but how does anyone know? Here’s Matthew 1:15-16:

    15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

    And here’s Luke 3:23-24:

    23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,

    Both claim to be through Joseph. Did you know that there’s another explanation that says both genealogies are for Joseph, but one is a levirate marriage?

    Basically, this is a case of having no idea how to explain the different genealogies, so just throw whatever you can at it and see what sticks. Does that sound like the work of an omnipotent God? After all, if one of these explanations solved the problem, why didn’t the Bible provide us with that explanation?

    Throughout the Bible, we keep getting things like this. It’s not that outsiders and skeptics create problems, the Bible creates its own problems. This is what I found so troubling in my final days as a Christian.

    Hope that makes sense… I’d be interested in any thoughts about it you might have.

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  88. @Nate

    Yeah perhaps I’m reading the tone off. Incidentally my boss is a southern guy, but he doesn’t give me the same vibe nor talks in the same way. Funnily he does remind me of you though, very gentle and caring, mostly upright and wants to do the right thing (very rare considering that we are traders working in a financial firm)

    Also incidentally he’s an atheist. (Or maybe this have to do with him working in NY since graduating). But I also joke about him being a typical American Boy Scout. Superman style.

    So yes I recognize a nice guy when I see one, but certainly I’ll tone down my own doucheness towards thee especially since you have spoken up for him. Will be the last you hear from me about him.

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  89. When thee-n-counter says “Most people are not interested in the deeper things. They will never search these things out.” the implication as I read it is that those of us who’ve been there done that never went deep enough. Is there a bottom to this deepness before we hit pay dirt?

    Every thing he wrote is something I once believed and read and studied and was taught and then I kept going deeper and look where that got me? One could in turn say that you thee-n-counter haven’t gone deeper.

    Or is thee-n-counter referring to his fellow Christians?

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  90. Hi Nate, I’ve been reading but not commenting, but I’m sure you know I sympathise with the family disunity. We had a family rift in my mum’s family (over a quite different matter) and I grew up not really knowing my cousins. It’s very sad and so unnecessary.

    I wanted to add one thing to the discussion of how conservative christians can be so bloody-minded and uninterested in what you see as evidence against their belief. I have seen psychological research that finds that some people are more likely to make decisions analytically and others are more likely to make them intuitively. Most of you guys here (and me too) are probably analytical thinkers, meaning we look at evidence and analyse it logically and systematically (or at least we try to). But many people, including religious people, but including many others besides, don’t make most of their decisions that way, but much more intuitively.

    Now here’s the killer. We’d all like to think that analytical is definitely better, that’s how science does it, etc. But we’d be half wrong. For many decisions where they’ve been able to test this, intuitive thinking actually gets things right more than analytical. Why? Because if the decision is complex, with more factors and more unknowns than we can cope with, analytical thinking gets gummed up whereas intuitive thinking jumps across the difficulties.

    Now whether you think that God’s existence is better approached analytically, or not, perhaps you and others here can see that it may be quite unrealistic to expect some people to approach the questions differently, and it may even be that their way of approaching some of them is better. At least if you don’t agree, you may understand better.

    I had a question. I recall you once said that if you ever went back to christian belief, it would be to a more progressive form of christianity. If that ever happened, do you think your family would be happy with that and relent, or would it need to be their particular brand?

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  91. Thanks for the comment, unkleE.

    Yeah, I think my family would only be satisfied with their particular brand of Christianity. My wife’s parents might be a little more flexible there — I’m just not sure. But it wouldn’t make a difference to my side.

    To your points about analytical vs intuitive thinking, I think you’re probably right. To me, that explains quite a lot about the different approaches people have. Oddly enough, I also think that aspect of human nature points to there either being no god, or a god who doesn’t care if we believe in him or not. Otherwise, how could God expect us to all come to one conclusion vs another?

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  92. carmen

    “Oddly enough, I also think that aspect of human nature points to there either being no god, or a god who doesn’t care if we believe in him or not. Otherwise, how could God expect us to all come to one conclusion vs another?” . .. now THERE’s an excellent point, Nate!

    Liked by 1 person

  93. When conservative Christians say that skeptics have not “dug deep enough”, what they really are saying is that skeptics have not accepted the existence of the supernatural. But when conservative Christians say this, they of course are only talking about THEIR supernatural claims.

    Conservative Christians reject out of hand the supernatural claims of Muslims, Hindus, and Mormons as silly nonsense.

    When asked why we should believe the Christian supernatural claims and reject the supernatural claims of every other religion on the planet, some conservative Christians will tell us that they have “experienced” Jesus personally and that this is proof of the truth of Christianity. When we point out to them that millions of Muslims, Hindus, and Mormons claim to have the same personal experiences with their gods, conservative Christians will resort to non-supernatural evidence.

    And what is the nonsupernatural “evidence” that Christians possess to support their supernatural belief system? If you boil it all down, it is this: the testimony of two men—Saul of Tarsus and Papias.

    Dear conservative Christians: Do you see why we skeptics find your arguments unimpressive and in fact downright ridiculous? You are asking us to abandon our worldview based on reason and the scientific method, and to replace it with your worldview of a universe governed by armies of good ghosts and bad ghosts, all battling for control of our brains (“souls”), based on the testimony of one first century vision-prone rabbi and a few brief statements on the authorship of the gospels by a second century mystic.

    You’ve got to be kidding.

    Liked by 1 person

  94. archaeopteryx1

    "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."
    — Steven H. Roberts —

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  95. Crown

    Gary M.

    Thank you for you note.

    I’m going to end my participation on this thread with three brief responses to what you wrote to me.

    The first is that I think trying to persuade people about religion is worthless. I believe what I believe because of miracles. Before the miracles the beliefs seemed absurd. So, although I notice that Protestants in general have a fetish for trying to “preach” religion to others, to get them to convert, my own belief is that people with a skeptical mindset, like me, only come to know that God exists if God comes directly to get us. No human being could have ever gotten me there. All they could do was annoy me. Catholics don’t go door to door. We baptize babies and run hospitals and schools and AIDS hospices. Take the faith or leave it, God’s there with an open door.

    As for me, I never believed it until a series of miracles happened to me. Much of it was visions and conversations and the like, which are of the sort of subjective things that never convince me of anything when somebody else tells me about them. Oh, so you talked to God, eh? Joe Smith said that too, and he even got golden plates out of it. L Ron Hubbard wrote a novel about Xenu and set up a Roach Motel for idiots in LA. Kayla is not impressed, and neither am I.

    When you’re talking to angels and demons, it is persuasive – to you – but nobody else is likely to believe it. Nor does it matter if they do, does it? God talked to ME, not to them. When God wants to talk to them, he will. If he wanted to talk to all of us at once, he could. He doesn’t. He knows why. I don’t.

    It’s the objective physical miracles that are the most important, though. I have had three happen to me:

    (1) I broke my neck and was paralyzed. God healed me in an instant.
    (2) A very dead lizard rose from the dead in my hand because I asked.
    (3) A very dead mouse rose from the dead in my hand, because I asked.
    In all three cases, my “Prayer” consisted of three things: “Please”. The word “please”, hurled out into the universe. The first was not addressed to anybody. The second two were prefaced with “Father, you can do anything.”

    Which brings me to the third and final point: I know God is there because of direct personal miracles. These miracles were about me, not about the world. So I don’t argue with the world from them, because, in truth, I don’t really give a damn if anybody else believes in God or not.
    I was not “commissioned” by God to go out and persuade anybody of anything. MY job is to follow a straight path and bear a lot of weight and put up with a whole lot of crap and nightmarish things, over decades, to pull a whole bunch of people who need me along. God has everything to do with it, in the sense that he made it possible for me to keep doing it at all, and he gives me a light towards which to strive through what would otherwise be a dark valley. And THIS Atlas would rather shrug and leave a bunch of people to their fate than keep pulling the barge. But I keep pulling the barge because I’ve been kept whole to do it.

    Nowhere in this is there, or ever has there been, any direction to go out and preach at people. Protestants read the Bible that way. Catholics think that God ordained a professional clergy to do that, and gave them the charisma to do it, and they, specifically, are the ones who ought to be doing it, because lay people like me will overstate things, tell untruths, get unduly angry, make up shit, and disgrace God by not being good models.

    Of course, the professional clergy have managed to cock it up pretty badly by not being able to keep their hands off boys. But that is THEIR problem, and God’s. Not mine.

    Miracles are real. I am an intact, walking, talking, breathing man because God decided to heal a broken neck and a paralyzed boy who otherwise would have gone missing at the bottom of a lake, and whose body may never have been found.

    He healed my spine in an instant, and raised two animals from the dead (it meant something to me, to anybody else it seems like a waste of miracles). And he did it all in private. And therefore I don’t talk about these things face to face, only anonymously.

    And only in a foul temper, as in: I hear all of the intellectualization, but God does exist and I know it.

    Maybe God will grab your face someday, maybe he won’t. That’s up to him. It’s none of my business. Other people’s relationship with God is none of my business. But yeah, he’s there.

    That’s it. That’s all. Crown out for good on this thread.

    Maybe I’ll comment on something else in some months.

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  96. Dear Crown,

    First, I am very happy that you are healthy and well.

    Second, if believing in God gives you peace and happiness, great! My issue is not with those who believe in a kind, loving God and try to emulate that behavior to the rest of mankind. My issue is with conservative Christians, of all denominations, who believe that the supernatural claims of the Bible prove that Jesus and Christianity are the ONLY truth and that anyone who refuses to believe that one “truth” will be cast into their god’s eternal torture pit.

    If conservative Christians behaved like the Amish, keeping their beliefs to themselves, you wouldn’t have websites like this criticizing them.

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  97. @ Crown

    Re: Miracles

    Glad you are no longer paralyzed. However I’m very skeptical about the “instant” healing. I believe you as much as I believe those who says that God healed their cancer and the works.

    And I guess you have already discovered the magic word. Other people’s prayers are not answered because they didn’t say “please” enough. I guess God is just like any old fairy godmother, you just gotta be polite!

    With regards to the other 2 resurrection, I have a hunch of what could have happened that gave you the impression that they were alive again after being dead. But then whatever I said will be useless since you are firmly believing that it happened, as with all believers of other things eg. “Roswell is really real, I see aliens creating corn circles!”.

    Therefore, I think we can settle it rather easily, go and find a dead lizard/rat/anything, go and pray and tell me whether it resurrected. Take a video so that you can convince people here that indeed it is happening. Certainly even seeing is not believing, e.g. magic tricks etc but we will take your word for it since you appear to be really sincere, and I guess Christians wouldn’t lie would they?

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  98. @ unklee

    That is a very good point you are making. I’ve read from somewhere (can’t rem lol) that intuition is actually your subconscious synthesizing all your knowledge and experience into a quick answer. Whether this is the case or not, I can see the virtues of such decision making.

    However, I will stop short of saying whether this way is “better”.

    We all know of heuristic biases, and intuition has that in spades. Certainly biases are not harmful in your day to day decision making, and may speed up your brain process, making life easier. However making life easier does not make it “right”. If you are searching for truth, we need to shut off the heuristic biases and go for analytical methods.

    Just my 2 cents on things.

    In my line of work, we see a lot of information overload which may paralyze people from making decision at all. And ironically, most of us actually resort to using “feelings” – I think prices “feel” toppish or “feel” like it’s bottoming out. This is also why computers haven’t really truly over take traders in the world of finance (high frequency trading aside, but that is another matter).

    Then again, are traders mostly right or mostly wrong using feelings? Statistics shows that most of the time it’s 50/50. A monkey could have done the same randomly. So perhaps feelings may not be the best way to judge price movements. However, if you ask any trader worth their salt, they’ll say they get it correct with their feelings most of the time.

    I honestly don’t know who to believe, and sometimes I do feel like a charlatan telling people where I think market will move. I think I get it right most of the time, but then this could be my own confirmation bias. And looking at all the literature teaching others how to predict the market, I do think even in the world of finance we’re closer to dousing and astrology than we think.

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  99. “Oddly enough, I also think that aspect of human nature points to there either being no god, or a god who doesn’t care if we believe in him or not. Otherwise, how could God expect us to all come to one conclusion vs another?”

    Nate, I think that would be true if salvation was based on knowledge, and if God had an exact specification of what he wants from us and if one of those types of people was favoured over another in believing, and if there was a terrible punishment awaiting those who fail the test. But since I think none of those 4 conjunctions is true, I don’t have a problem.

    “However making life easier does not make it “right”. If you are searching for truth, we need to shut off the heuristic biases and go for analytical methods.”

    Hi Powell, no the tests I saw were testing for truth not easiness. Sometimes intuition gives an answer that better conforms to reality.

    “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    You know, a single man once said to me: “I contend that we are both single. I am just married to one fewer woman than you are. When you understand why you haven’t married all the other possible women, you will understand why I didn’t marry your wife.” Makes sense? 🙂

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  100. @ unklee

    Interesting, can you share some of the links/literature about the tests? Those that I read thus far have been about making decision – not really “truth”.

    Ironically, my intuition tells me that chances are we’re conflating different definition of “truth” here, hence the confusion. See what I’m getting at? I’m actually going to read the tests and analyze them, rather than sticking to my intuition and assuming that i am correct. Lol.

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  101. Hi Gary, as an evangelical Christian. . .

    It doesn’t make sense to break up evidence in categories of natural and supernatural. Typically evidence is divided into categories like scientific, sociological, historical, experiential, etc. There can be evidence for supernatural coming from these. But first, when we talk about supernatural, we first must define natural. Usually, it is what we gather from phenomenological experience and scientific theorizing. All categories that transcend these two are “supernatural”. Examples include: existence itself, self-existence, the substance of mental life, consciousness, experience of beauty, conscience, etc.

    Now, you might disagree that these are supernatural. You are likely a physicalist saying passionately, “The mind is the brain”. Fair enough (better than eliminative materialism). Even so, in order to draw a coherent picture of reality, you must at the very least account for existence itself and self-existence. The naturalist worldview falls embarrassingly short on these questions and remains incoherent compared to theistic or even Buddhist worldviews. But, coherence is not what concerns us here. What concerns us is, what is supernatural? Well, at the very least those two features of reality are supernatural — existence (i.e., of anything) and self-existence (why do you exist? what are you fundamentally?).

    Now you as a devout atheist, could accept all of naturalism with a tinge of supernaturalism. You could say that the universe is self-existent purposeless entity of mass and energy, which is a supernatural claim, and that Gary is simply a particular arrangement of neurons and neural activity that just happened to occur randomly out of the near infinite combination of neurons and neural activity according to genetics and neurogenesis. Note also, you cannot “see” or generate a scientific theory about why this random arrangement if Gary and not Brad Pitt, so this is also a supernatural claim.

    So with regards to this kind of supernaturalism, there is no real point to having a superiority complex thinking your worldview is somehow vastly better than Christianity. It’s absurd to think this, you’d have to put your brain in a frying pan to actually conclude this. Or, just be that intellectually arrogant. But, I suspect neither is true for you.

    I suspect you are most concerned with the additional supernatural elements of the Christian faith. Namely, the resurrection of Jesus. I’m surprised to see you fall short on identifying at the very least the four gospels and Paul as testimony to weigh in considering this manner. But, I can see you are not one of those skeptics thinking, “No amount of testimony is sufficient to prove a miracle”. Instead, the testimony is somehow reduced to Paul and Papias? Really Papias? That’s new for me. And, after being reduced these authors are profiled as “first century vision-prone rabbi” and “second century mystic”. I will ignore Papias for now. I am more curious what specific evidence you have that Paul’s testimony is not credible? How does your profile of him make him not credible?

    Lastly, you boldly claim, “. . . millions of Muslims, Hindus, and Mormons claim to have the same personal experiences with their gods. . .” This is problematic. First, very few people claim that their experience is the same as other religions. Maybe some New Age religious pluralist folks would. Otherwise people in different religions have different experiences, that should be obvious since they have different rituals and doctrines. But, more importantly, who in the world is arguing that because of their personal experience, you should believe? This is not a line of argument in any apologetic circle I am familiar with. Same with the converse. What atheist thinks to herself, “I don’t have religious experiences, therefore no one should hold religious beliefs.” More likely you mean neither of these. Instead, you are advancing an attack on people for believing because of their personal experience. You are telling people they should doubt their experiences, right? Almost all apologetic circles talk about the conviction that comes from the Holy Spirit upon reading the scripture or hearing the gospel. But, you say this is a misinterpretation of reality. This conviction is false and should be rejected, right? Do not insult my understanding of the scientific method, science cannot disprove the existence of the Holy Spirit. You can only give me reasons to doubt my interpretation of reality. I would be curious to hear any. And, if it amounts to the problem of evil or problems with historical testimony, I will gladly admit these are good reasons to doubt. But, not good enough to me personally.

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  102. Hi Powell. I’m not an expert in this of course, but it seems that analytic thinking is focused and impersonal, and is best in mathematics-type situations where the problem can be broken down into constituent parts and each one dealt with using a known algorithm. But intuitive thinking is more holistic and personal, and is best when we have to make a decision in a hurry, or if the matter is not amenable to being broken down into analysable parts using known algorithms. Some aspects of religious belief and disbelief would seem to fall into each category.

    Some references:

    Trust your gut: Intuitive decision-making based on expertise may deliver better results than analytical approach
    Analytical thinking vs. religion
    Thinking too much: introspection can reduce the quality of preferences and decisions.
    Pitting intuitive and analytical thinking against each other: The case of transitivity
    When to blink and when to think: preference for intuitive decisions results in faster and better tactical choices
    The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion – psychiatrist argues that we all use intuitive thinking to make up our minds on religious and moral questions and then some of us use analytical thinking to justify our views. Not saying he’s right, just giving you the reference.

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  103. Hi Brandon (anaivethinker),

    I know your comment was addressed to Gary, but I have a few questions, so I hope you won’t mind me jumping in.

    I feel like the bulk of your comment was only intended to muddy the waters. That if we can confuse everything enough, then we can make acceptance of physical reality just as tenuous as belief in the supernatural. Forgive me if I’ve misread what you’re saying.

    First, I’ve never heard anyone give the definition of supernatural that you’re using. And that fault could lie with me — I haven’t delved into philosophy as much as some of the people who comment here. But I think most people use ‘supernatural’ to refer to anything that can’t be explained naturally, like magic, the afterlife, etc. When it comes to something like the mind, maybe you’re right — maybe the mind is the result of something supernatural, like a soul. But we don’t know right now. And while science can’t give a firm answer at this point either, there are certainly a number of indications that make it reasonable to conclude that the mind is the sum of brain activity. We know that we have minds (as far as we can trust our perceptions), and we know that we have brains. We’ve also discovered how the brain works in some areas. So this conclusion is by no means baseless, and to say that it’s on equal footing with belief in ghosts and magic seems disingenuous to me.

    Now the last paragraph in Gary’s comment was a bit over the top, but I think he was using exaggeration for effect. I think the substance of his points were pretty good. While the religious experiences of people vary across religions, it would be hard to argue that Christian experiences are unique. The idea that a person believes he or she is in contact with the deity they believe in, or some agent working on the deity’s behalf, is common among all religions, as far as I know. And the differences seem to have more to do with that individual’s expectations, based on the culture and belief system they’re familiar with. That shouldn’t be surprising.

    We also know that humans are good at fooling themselves. We’ve all had vivid dreams that have momentarily tricked us into believing they were real. We’ve all had deja vu. We’ve all thought we’ve seen something or heard something that we’ve later had to question. We also know, as mentioned above, that people have competing religious experiences. There’s even been some indication that religious experiences such as these can be manufactured. So is it really unjustified to think that all of these religious experiences have natural explanations?

    I’m not saying you’re wrong or that you don’t have any good reasons for your belief. But I felt that your comment to Gary seemed to overstate things. Again, sorry if I’ve misread you.

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  104. archaeopteryx1

    Oh Brandon, Brandon, Brandon – (shakes head)

    …people in different religions have different experiences, that should be obvious since they have different rituals and doctrines” – How many Christian denominations are there? Something in the thousands. Do they all have the same rituals and doctrines? Are they not the same religion?

    I’m surprised to see you fall short on identifying at the very least the four gospels and Paul as testimony to weigh in considering this manner

    The testimony of four anonymous authors, writing 40 – years after the alleged fact, and the testimony of a man who never met Yeshua (if he ever existed), who falls down in the road and hears voices? Yeah, I’d buy that testimony, who wouldn’t?

    Do not insult my understanding of the scientific method, science cannot disprove the existence of the Holy Spirit” – Nor can science disprove the existence of fuzzy pink unicorns – why don’t you dash off and write a post on the existence of fuzzy pink unicorns? Send me a link —

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  105. archaeopteryx1

    I feel like the bulk of your comment was only intended to muddy the waters” – No, I don’t think you’ve misread him at all.

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  106. Crown,

    I liked your comment. You acknowledged that skeptical people wouldnt believe in a report of miracles, but went on to explain why you have faith – the witness of miracles.

    naturally we’re skeptical, but you know that and were merely sharing why you’re no longer skeptical.

    And while I am skeptical myself, I can understand why such things would be so compelling. Had I witnessed or experienced anything similar, i’d likely be an unwaivering believer still – but alas, to date there have been none shown to me.

    thanks for sharing.

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  107. Hi Brandon (anaivethinker),

    Very interesting points, let me try to address them.

    “What concerns us is, what is supernatural? Well, at the very least those two features of reality are supernatural — existence (i.e., of anything) and self-existence (why do you exist? what are you fundamentally?).”

    Often when I get into discussions with conservative Christians regarding the evidence for the resurrection and other supernatural claims of the Bible, they want to divert the conversation to a philosophical discussion of reality. I once was told by a conservative Christian that until I could prove that I exist…he would not debate the evidence for the resurrection. “How do you know, Gary, that you are not just the figment of someone else’s imagination?”

    I am not a philosopher, nor am I interested in debating such profound issues as to the reality of my existence or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. I am a naturalist. I believe in the natural world and I use the scientific method and reason to explore and understand that world. That is my reality. Christians can choose to live in another reality, one filled with (holy) ghosts and ghouls (devils and demons), I choose not to.

    Bottom line, unless we agree on a common definition of reality, skeptics and Christians will never come to an agreement on the “evidence”.

    And that is another issue: What constitutes “evidence”?

    I consider evidence to be any information that would be considered evidence in a court of law. So the following would NOT be evidence:

    1. I know that John Smith killed Mr. White because God tells me in my heart that he did it.
    2. I know that John Smith killed Mr. White because four anonymous authors in my holy book, three of which borrow heavily from the first, say he did.
    3. I know that John Smith killed Mr. White because a Jewish rabbi traveling in Syria had a vision in which he saw John Smith kill Mr. White, and due to this vision, the rabbi changed religions and suffered terrible persecution and execution. No rabbi would do that unless he had really seen a murder.
    4. I know that John Smith killed Mr. White because a guy named Pappy, living 90 years after the death of Mr. White wrote a couple of sentences in his diary stating that a guy named John told him that a guy named John Mark had written a book describing the sermons of a guy named Peter, who said that he was a witness to the murder of Mr. White by John Smith.
    5. I know that John Smith killed Mr. White because all the early leaders of my church, who are now dead, believed that he did it.

    So in my reality, the Christian “evidence” just doesn’t cut it. Maybe in your reality it does. My bet is, however, that more and more educated people in western civilization are abandoning a worldview/reality that involves ghosts and ghouls running the universe and are adopting reason and the scientific method as the basis of reality.

    Bottom line: I choose not to debate you on the issue of what constitutes reality. If we are to have a productive debate, either I must adopt your reality or you must adopt mine. If not, we will simply be speaking past one another, which is usually what happens when conservative Christians and atheists/agnostics/naturalists debate each other.

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  108. In regards to Saul/Paul of Tarsus:

    1. Paul himself says that his experience on the Damascus Road was a “vision” (see Acts chapter 26). He also says that all he saw a was a bright light. He never says he saw a body. Christians like to point to I Corinthians 15 and conclude that because Paul said “have I not seen the Christ”, that he saw a body. If I believed that a bright light had stopped my on the highway; blinded me for three days; and the light spoke to me saying it was Abraham Lincoln—I would believe that I had seen Abe Lincoln.

    2. Visions are not reality. Many tens of thousands of people have claimed to see Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Elvis, etc.. We don’t believe any of these people, so why believe Paul?

    3. Just because a Christian-hating Jewish rabbi converts to Christianity is not proof that Christianity is true or that he really saw a resurrected body. Weird conversions happen. There is a man in Israel today who once was a Jewish rabbi and settler. He converted to Islam. He is now a Jew-hating Muslim cleric. THAT is a dramatic conversion, and I doubt you believe that his conversion is proof that Islam is the one, true faith.

    4. Who appointed Paul an apostle? Why is it that the apostles had to meet and cast lots to pick the replacement for Judas, but Paul walks onto the scene self-appointed, supposedly by Jesus? Why would Jesus spend three years training twelve guys to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” and then after he dies, turn around and give the job of “missionary to the gentiles” (the world) to a Pharisee?? Very odd. Notice none of the other apostles ever refer to Paul as an apostle, only a “brother”.

    5. Why is Paul accused of being a liar so often? Why is Paul constantly defending himself against being a liar? Do the other apostles ever feel the need to deny being liars. Why did no one in the early Church seem to question the authority of Peter but many in Asia Minor and Greece questioned Paul’s authority and teachings?

    6. Why does Paul never tell us any personal details about Jesus? Where he was born? The names of his parents? Why does Paul never mention any of Jesus’ sermons, parables, or miracles?

    Very strange, my friend. it is almost as if the “Christ” that Paul worshipped was a completely different person than Jesus of Nazareth. I personally think that Paul was mentally unstable…or a liar.

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  109. archaeopteryx1

    There are a number of neurological phenomena that explain Paul’s bizarre behavior, but Brandon rejects them all.

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  110. Josh

    Hey Nate-
    I know I’ve said this before, but I wanted to say again that I feel deeply for the trauma your family has experienced. I don’t use the word ‘trauma’ lightly, as I have, unfortunately, been on both ends of banishment in my life, and I realize how painful it is. Whether your extended family realize it or not, I’d wager they are causing themselves as much or more pain than they are causing you.

    You seem to me a very thoughtful and caring person, Nate, and I’d be honored to be your friend regardless of how different our beliefs. I am saddened and sorry for your pain.

    Liked by 1 person

  111. Lots of interesting comments. My intuition tells me that trusting my intuition is a bad idea. What does that tell you?

    I always thought that supernatural referred to the involvement of invisible agents (Gods, Angels, Ghosts and such). The way Brandon is using the word makes it sound as if all unexplained phenomena should be considered supernatural.

    Why is Saul/Paul being considered as witness testimony for the claimed resurrection? He wasn’t even there. If we don’t have first hand testimony for a supposed miracle we can’t really perform any witness profiling.

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  112. Matt

    Well brethren pray for us; it looks like Nate and I will be attending one of the meetings that inspired this post. Hopefully I won’t spontaneously combust when I darken those church doors. 😉

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  113. Yeah, I plan to wear a hardhat, unkleE. 😉

    We’ll chime in later and let you guys know how it goes. And if I could type better on a phone, I would even live blog it!

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  114. @Unklee

    Thanks for the links!

    I’ve browsed through them – not really reading them in-depth and they are similar to what I’ve read so far: Intuition good for decision making, not exactly finding out what is true or not.

    Hence, at least at current juncture, I believe my original assertion that intuition is good for decision while “truth” finding – e.g. asserting that say a property of certain matter, is best left via analytical methods.

    Who knows, maybe my conclusion will change after a second read of all the links you’ve given me.

    Thank you once again!

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  115. Dave’s comment was almost entirely what I was going to write. Thanks for doing the work for me Dave. 🙂

    @Josh – good to see you, hope you’re doing well.

    @Matt and Nate: have fun at the meeting. Hopefully the comradery will ease the frustration level for you.

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  116. “Intuition good for decision making, not exactly finding out what is true or not.”

    On my (admittedly limited) reading, that is broadly true, but there are two factors this doesn’t account for.

    1. Analytic thinking is good for finding out truth when there are clear definitions of truth and clear ways of verifying or falsifying that truth – e.g. in science and maths. But it isn’t so good when the truth is still truth, but is fuzzier and harder to determine (e.g. in personal relations or the initial stages of a new science), because analytic thinking wants to simplify down into known methods and that isn’t always possible. So (I think) in questions about God, analytic thinking is better for analysing philosophical arguments but intuitive thinking is better for pulling everything together to make an overall assessment. That is why everyone agrees we need both types of thinking. And criticising christians who use only intuitive thinking without seeing the problems in atheists who value only analytic thinking is short-sighted. And vice versa.

    2. If Jonathan Haidt is right, we all arrive at decisions about God intuitively, and then try to justify them analytically – which is even worse for atheism because atheists are even less understanding their actual decision processes than christians who value faith (which is closer to intuitive thinking). I don’t know how well accepted Haidt’s ideas are, but I think they are fairly mainstream. I recommend you, and others, read some of his stuff.

    Happy reading!

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  117. Hi Nate, thanks for replying, it’s really helpful because sometimes I don’t realize how I sound and can’t even express my own thoughts. 🙂

    “I feel like the bulk of your comment was only intended to muddy the waters.”
    It was not my intention, but I understand how it appears that way. My main intention was to start to delineate a conception of the supernatural then tie this into the resurrection, not as an argument but as. . . well I’ll try to explain in a second because it’s complicated. It’s overly-complicated.

    “I’ve never heard anyone give the definition of supernatural that you’re using.”
    I can see how this part would be confusing because colloquial usage of supernatural refers to imaginary or fictional things (vampires, werewolves, magic, dragons, etc.). Or Dave’s conception was that of invisible or immaterial. On the other hand, at least when I’ve heard it used, the philosophical notion of supernatural is simply that which transcends the natural, however this is defined and understood. We could also call it ‘unnatural’, or when it relates to existence, ‘metaphysical’. Whatever we label it, the important thing is that it differs from a colloquial meaning of supernatural because it is not automatically fictional. Even atheist philosophers contend with metaphysical issues and do not chalk them up to fiction.

    Gary was saying that besides the New Testament, we only have this inferior category of evidence he called “supernatural evidence”. I was suggesting, even though it was poorly communicated, that this notion is misled and that the metaphysical CAN be evidence in favor of Jesus’ resurrection. Think about it this way. If you claimed your brother rose from the dead and you are an eyewitness, I would investigate with a very high degree of suspicion and likely end up not trusting you. People have made these sorts of radical claims throughout history. Part of what makes Jesus different from this example is that he is connected to serious theistic philosophy. I need to elaborate more. . .

    So Gary wants to say that this connection to theistic philosophy (Jewish creational monotheism) carries no weight at all, it is “supernatural evidence” that we can dismiss. Let me give two reasons not to do this. First, I reconverted to Christianity because of the resurrection. So, I know that a centrally important issue was Jesus connection to a serious contending worldview of theism. It’s not just that Jesus was raised, it’s that this carries high theological significance in a background of what was already a seriously contending worldview to me at the time. The second reason is that what Gary referred to as “supernatural evidence” consists also of metaphysical problems that are also recognized by atheist philosophers. So, Gary is asking us to do what is impossible to do, to completely divorce consideration of testimony with that of theology, and what might even be irrational to do if we are to have an integrated worldview. Even an integrated naturalist worldview would consider the metaphysical questions and other data points.

    For instance, I cannot tell you to just suspend your consideration of textual problems with the New Testament and the problem of evil (or other significant issues to you) and make a judgment about the testimony for the resurrection. Not only is that probably impossible, but like I said in some sense irrational because it would put your worldview at risk of incoherence. I hope this is beginning to make sense.

    But, instead of cementing these ideas, I dabbled into other areas like philosophy of mind and then my interest in Gary’s thoughts on Paul. I was scatterbrained.

    “. . . there are certainly a number of indications that make it reasonable to conclude that the mind is the sum of brain activity.”
    I didn’t mean to argue against this notion. I think Christian theism is perfectly compatible with this up to a point. We don’t have to accept Descartes’s substance dualism to be Christians. One thing I did try to mention was there are metaphysical questions that do not comport well with the full on naturalist picture of the mind-brain.

    “I think the substance of [Gary’s] points were pretty good. While the religious experiences vary across religions, it would be hard to argue that Christian experiences are unique.”
    I agree they are good points, but I think they have only so much mileage. . .

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  118. @ Unklee,

    I would largely agree with you on both points. If one go by intuitive methods it is easy to believe in the existence of God.

    I guess my issue is I simply don’t trust my own intuition. Which is what set me off in my journey which land me in where I am today. I don’t trust my own intuition because I see so many other religious people trusting their intuition when it is clear from a Christian pov that they are misguided. Furthermore, the bible teaches that there are those whose ears are itching to hear what they want to hear, while the heart is deceitful. Hence, it seems to me that even the bible is against using intuition for discernment, or at least not just using intuition only.

    Since my disbelief, I’ve been reading much more on how the brain works, how illusion works and all the brain shortcuts that give us our senses – and how street magicians and even sales people exploit them to their advantage. All these lead me to go further against the use of intuition.

    Oh well, I guess we are simply on different camps with regards to this matter. Maybe my conclusion will change after more reading.

    Thank you!

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  119. Matt

    Tonight was, well…frustrating for lack of better words. The speaker didn’t seem to be giving it much of a go and lacked any original material. Some of his ‘facts’ were misleading, some were flat wrong. Nate took notes he should have much more to say. I did learn a few things by my own googling during his sermon though, so there was a positive outcome from my perspective and it was great to hang out with an old friend.

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  120. Peter

    Hi unklee

    apart from endorsing the comment from powellpowers, I would question whether Jonathan Haidt is correct. I was listening to some talks by Hector Avalos yesterday. He started as a Pentecostal Minister and wanted to learn more about his faith so started to study the Bible seriously. It was the study that caused him to conclude his faith was misguided. His path is quite common among people who have left Christianity, they had intuitively believed, but analytics eventually persuaded them that their intuitive feeling was wrong.

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  121. Peter

    Hi Gary

    In regard to visions I used to puzzle why it was Catholics had visions of Mary whilst Protestants had visions of Jesus. Seemed to me God was acting in unexpected ways, perhaps aligning with the people’s understanding? Though as I reflect I wonder is this is a pointer to the visions being internally produced based on the subjects expectations.

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  122. Gary, I hope you don’t mind if I refer you to what I replied to Nate. I’m not trying to divert any issues. I am criticizing your separation of “supernatural evidence” from “nonsupernatural evidence”.

    Second, I agree we need to debate from within a common framework or as you say “reality”. Sure we ultimately have a different interpretation of reality, but that doesn’t mean we cannot have a debate within our common framework.

    Third, I don’t think anyone disputes your notion of evidence. What you are not seeing eye to eye with me on is that when someone commits to a Christian worldview, it is not simply a standalone consideration of “I feel this way” or “Because it says so”, rather it is based on a range of evidence and drives including philosophical, historical, experiential, social, psychological. It’s certainly not as simple as your cartoon of it.

    “The more educated people in western civilization are abandoning a worldview. . .”
    Pew (the research firm) just came out with a projection of the demographics of religion. Over the long run the “none’s” tend to stabilize as a percentage because their rates of conversion to religions, growth rate, birth rate, and death rate. Christianity and Islam will have major global gains over the next 50 years. I’m willing to bet the effect of education also has a limit and is nuanced if closely studied. Past studies of practicing scientists in the US show about 50% religious rate and most accomplished scientists claim 15% theism and 85% other. The causal relationship between education and religiosity is not well understood, and there are plenty of competing explanations for the facts at hand.

    On Paul. . .

    Your point one A. Even though Paul refers to his encounter as a “heavenly vision” this does not mean we can equate this with what we think of as a “vision” or visionary experience which is like a dream. If you are really willing to grant Acts as a credible source, you will have to deal with the fact that the author records Paul’s encounter three times and each time Paul’s companions have a physical experience of something happening. This means it could not have been all in his head as a dream. It had to be in reality.

    Point one B. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul recounts an early creed which lists certain witnesses and Paul places himself at the end of the list indicating that whatever they experienced, he also experienced. We know that hallucinations cannot be shared by many people if they are of the same content, so if these encounters really were of the same content, then it had to be in external reality. It could not be a hallucination or a dream.

    Point two. Again, Paul did not necessarily have what you think of as a “vision” all in his head. Consider also that Paul refers to himself with a special status as an apostle which literally means one sent by Christ but not close companions like Timothy. Paul states that Jesus sent him to preach the gospel in 1 Corinthians 1:17. Being “sent” like the other apostles implies an experience of a phenomenon in which someone actually sent him.

    Point three. True weird conversions happen. The significance of his conversion is that it is highly radical and not likely without some radical impetus. He was driven to terrorism meaning he must have vehemently disagreed with Christian faith and mission making the kind of conversion he had – devoting his life to being a missionary in spite of harsh persecution and trials – very unlikely. It’s like Osama bin Laden turning into Martin Luther King Jr. The question you must ask yourself is, what would cause him to do this? What hypothesis can you provide?

    Point four. If we take Acts seriously, Paul was appointed by Jesus. Otherwise, we know that whatever Paul said to Peter and the other apostles they seemed to have accepted him. Also, Paul seems to have felt a certain burden for the Gentiles, but this does not give him some sort of official title of being the one and only apostle to the Gentiles. Peter actually claimed to be an apostle to the Gentiles in Acts as well.

    Point five. I’m not sure what you are referring to about Paul being accused of lying so often. From New Testament studies we know there were many early “Christianities”. Not just one monolithic group. So, there were plenty of disputes about certain issues. Even Peter seems to have sided with the circumcision faction for a time until Paul rebuked him. And, there was an initial wave of Jesus missionaries from before the resurrection such as Apollos who had incomplete knowledge of the gospel. The picture we get is variegated and with many challenges as the world was enriched with religious ideas that are foreign to us today.

    Point six. Why should Paul recount the stories of Jesus’ life in his letters? Scroll space was limited and he was addressing very specific issues in his letters.

    Last point. There just isn’t any good evidence that Paul had any sort of mental illness. People have tried and it just doesn’t work. And, to say that he lied that whole time, he gave his whole life suffering stoning, beatings, shipwrecked, traveling the Roman Empire, poor, imprisoned many times, fighting false teachers, all for something he knew was false all along? That’s way low on the list of possibilities. If anything, we have good evidence that Paul sincerely believed what he said.

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  123. …and it was great to hang out with an old friend.

    Yes, it was! Thanks again for coming with me. 🙂 Made a huge difference. I’ve decided to write up a new post about how things went tonight. Should have it up soon…

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  124. Oh man,

    I’m getting envious of the bromance between Nate and Matt.

    Incidentally both my best mates (my best man for my wedding and the other my master of ceremonies) are Christians now, and it was actually me evangelizing to them during our early twenties. Funnily one of them attribute his first manifestation of holy spirit to me cuz he was totally vibrating when I laid my hands on him while praying (yes we were charismatic).

    I think the chance is slim but it will be great if we could hang out and chill like last time without mentioning religion. I’ve protested before – saying that I am interested in my friends’ lives and not their religion, only to be retorted that religion is their lives now. Fair enough I guess, and it is strange seeing them so pious. My hope is that their seriousness will eventually bring them to the same journey as I did, but I’m not holding my breath for it.

    Well, a guy can dream can’t he?

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  125. Thanks for all the elaboration, Brandon. I’m not going to address everything you’ve laid out tonight — I just don’t have time, I’m afraid. Hopefully I can get back to it soon.

    But Paul is someone I’ve thought about a lot, and I do have a few thoughts.

    As to his conversion, the accounts in Acts aren’t really related by Paul, but by the writer of Acts. That’s not news to you, I know. But it’s possible that the author of Acts is telling a version Paul wouldn’t agree with. After all, Paul’s version in Galatians 1 is sparse on details, he says that his immediate response was not to consult with any human being. This doesn’t necessarily contradict Acts 9 where it talks about Paul and Ananias… but it might. It’s hard to say. Paul’s epistles don’t relay the story of his conversion in any way that helps us verify the accounts in Acts. So it’s hard to say for sure that other people were witness to his vision, or whatever it was. And as Gary mentioned, Paul repeatedly insists he’s not lying about various things. This indicates that he either is lying, or that other people were telling false stories about him. Perhaps his conversion experience was one of them?

    As to what could cause him to change so abruptly and completely, I think it probably was some kind of conversion experience. I do think Paul was very sincere in his belief, and I don’t think he was crazy. He strikes me as someone who was very troubled by the spiritually lost. He was extremely zealous, so he obviously took his beliefs seriously. No doubt he was very angry at these Christians who were leaving the “truth” of Judaism for their blasphemy.

    But Paul also knew a number of Gentiles and was a Roman himself. And his epistles show how concerned he was with the “us vs. them” aspect of Judaism. When you personally know Greeks who are just as good and moral as the Jews you know, why does God view them differently?

    Whether he experienced heat stroke, exhaustion, or something else entirely, he came to think that this Jesus (whose followers he had been so focused on) appeared to him in a vision and had a mission for him. Paul was able to see that Christianity had the power to make his ideal of “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free” a reality. The more he thought about it, the more sense it made. It made sense to start viewing the Messiah, not as an earthly king, but as the head of a spiritual kingdom. And his death actually fit very well the symbol of sacrifice, and even called to mind the story of Abraham and Isaac.

    Anyway, to cut to the chase, I can see why Christianity would have become attractive to Paul. He was obviously a deep thinker and had lots of time to think about Christianity and how it related to Judaism and the surrounding Greek culture while he pursued them.

    Is that really how it all happened? I have no idea. But I find it more likely than believing that Jesus literally came back from the dead. Not that I think miracles are impossible, but it would take really good evidence to make me think the miraculous explanation is best.

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  126. I’m getting envious of the bromance between Nate and Matt.

    I know what you mean, man. 🙂 I’m always jealous if some people I’ve met online find out they live near one another. It’s actually happened several times now… apparently Austin’s the place to be!

    Sorry to hear that about your friends, though. That is tough. Matt was raised Baptist, but I convinced him to join the Church of Christ back in 2006. He saw some problems with it a year or two later and went back to a Baptist church, so we fell out of touch (he was withdrawn from). Then I left Christianity altogether in 2010, and he’s now done the same thing. Crazy turn of events!

    In fact, something very similar happened with one of my best friends — a guy named Graham who comments here on occasion.

    Here’s hoping they come around!

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  127. Dear Brandon,

    “that doesn’t mean we cannot have a debate within our common framework”

    I don’t see that we have a common framework. I would only include evidence that would be admitted in a court of law, you would admit “experiential evidence”. That is not a common framework.

    I cannot prove your reality, your worldview, wrong. And you cannot prove my worldview wrong. So we are at an impasse. I see no way around it. I believe that you are operating under a delusion. You believe that an evil ghost (the Devil) has blinded me to the truth.

    How do we proceed?

    I agree with you that both Christianity and Islam are projected to grow. Christianity is mushrooming in Africa and Asia. My contention is that Christianity is growing in areas of lower education and lower living standards, and in areas of high levels of belief in magic and superstition. Christianity is declining in the industrialized western world. Christians will say that this is due to materialism. I say that it is due to the Internet and the evidence on the internet that proves the supernatural claims of Christianity highly dubious.

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  128. archaeopteryx1

    I could go point-by-point and dispute everything Brandon has said, but it would be a waste of time, as he would simply do the Testament Twist and find a way to wiggle around every one of my points.

    My major issue is this – look at all of the convolution that Brandon has to go through to make his points – why would a genuine religion have to be so convoluted, in order to accept it – if it is valid, offers sufficient, verifiable evidence, who could resist accepting it? No one would have to do a Brandonesque soft-shoe around the evidence in order to sell it to you.

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  129. “I don’t trust my own intuition because I see so many other religious people trusting their intuition when it is clear from a Christian pov that they are misguided.”

    “I would question whether Jonathan Haidt is correct.”

    Hi Powell, hi Peter,

    I think it is very interesting what seems to be happening here. It seems you intuitively don’t like to think that you are thinking intuitively, and that you don’t like Haidt’s findings that your unbelief is intuitive. So you oppose what the studies seem to be finding. Do you see the irony?

    You and many others here criticise christians for being faith-heads and not basing their views on evidence (i.e. not using analytical thinking), but when your world view is threatened, you seem to be responding in a similar way, not analytically at first (though hopefully later) but intuitively. Remember, both ways of thinking are better than either on their own.

    My hope is that you will see what is happening, and perhaps be a little less critical of intuitive christians in the future, because you have seen that you and they are not necessarily all that different. I suppose you won’t like my saying this, but think of all the things that have been said the other way in this comment section, andI’m sure you can cope! 🙂

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  130. archaeopteryx1

    Actually Gary – and I meant to mention this in my response to Brandon – Brandon is incorrect. The Pew Research Center – and I can find the link if necessary – has estimated the non-religious in the US at 16% currently, and projects 25% by 2050/ Poco a poco —

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  131. archaeopteryx1

    I don’t expect a response to this tonight, Nate, as it is late for both of us, but re:
    And as Gary mentioned, Paul repeatedly insists he’s not lying about various things. – where does he say this? Thessalonians II? I ask because T-2 was a forgery, with the author trying to ram it down the throats of the reader that he was really Paul, reminiscent of Nixon’s, “I am not a crook!

    Regarding Acts, I really can’t imagine you know nothing of the Acts Seminar:
    http://www.westarinstitute.org/projects/the-jesus-seminar/seminar-on-the-acts-of-the-apostles/acts-seminar-to-complete-its-work-at-spring-meeting/

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  132. @unklee

    I think it’s the opposite. I do think I’m thinking intuitively, and hence the active need to snap out of it.

    Am I critical of Christians who think intuitively? Not really, but I would simply say they’re operating on a different level of rationality.

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  133. Peter

    Hi unklee

    You may well be right in what you say. In the end I can only speak for myself. I once used to think I was a very logical and analytical person. I have since come to know myself better desapired of my earlier confidence in myself. I now realise I am prone to just as much hypocrisy and psychological hang-ups as the typical person (if not more so).

    So if I apply the Jonathon Haidt findings to myself I assume that it would mean that intuitively I never believed. Rather I tried to persuade myself that I did and I used apologetics and the like to buttress myself against my underlying unbelief. That is, I was constantly looking for evidence to persuade myself that my intuition was wrong. But once I realised the evidence was in fact not there then my true intuitive feeling came to the fore. I then started to search out contrary evidence to support my true intuitive feeling.

    The above paragraph might seem a bit convoluted but it is me trying to make sense of the argument and applying it to my own journey.

    At this stage I am with Pilate ‘What is truth?’

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  134. You are absolutely correct, Archae. It is astounding how Christians will twist themselves into pretzels to explain away all the evidence against their supernatural belief system.

    I still assert that Christianity rests on the testimony of two men: Paul and Papias. I say this for these reasons: The four gospels were written anonymously. Even if you believe that “the beloved disciple” was John, son of Zebedee, and you believe that at the end of the Gospel of John, the author hints to his identity as that of John, son of Zebedee, we still have no corroborating proof of the authorship of that book. The author could have simply inserted that hint for the purpose of supporting his forgery. So who do Christians look to for support for the traditional authorship of the Gospels? Anyone from the first century? Nope. Answer: Papias in the second century. And Papias’ claims are third or fourth hand information. And Papias had some wild ideas that caused even early Christians to consider him a mystic and dimwitted. But it is this man’s two or three brief comments about non-identified gospels that Christians base the traditional authorship, and therefore eyewitness authorship, of the Gospels upon.

    Very, very weak evidence, in my opinion.

    And then there is Paul. Let’s forget that Paul himself calls his experience on the Damascus Road a “heavenly vision”. Let’s assume that Paul really believed that he saw a walking/talking resurrected body. Why believe his outlandish, supernatural claim when there are numerous naturalistic reasons why Paul could have believed he saw a talking dead man?

    1. Paul had a seizure.
    2. Paul had a mental disorder that made him prone to delusions and hallucinations.
    3. Paul lied and made the whole thing up, and the author of Acts was a conspirator in the lie.
    4. Someone played a trick on Paul and jumped out of the bushes and pretended to be Jesus.

    Now Christians will say that all these possibilities, especially the last one, are ridiculous. But dear Christian friends: these possible reasons for Paul believing he saw a talking dead man are much, much more reasonable, and much, much more probable than that Paul saw a talking zombie.

    Many people have had seizures. Many people have been delusional and had hallucinations. Many people have lied. Many people have played tricks on other human beings. But none of us has EVER talked with a zombie.

    Ever.

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  135. Hey Arch, Paul swears he’s not lying in Gal 1:20. That’s the passage I was thinking of, but to be fair, I didn’t research it beyond that when I made my comment, so “repeatedly insists he’s not lying” may have been an overstatement on my part.

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  136. archaeopteryx1

    Interestingly, Gary, “John, son of Zebedee” would have been the only one of the Gospel writers (assuming he was who he was claimed to be) who was on location when Yeshua created the memorable “fishers of men” tableaux, yet in the book of John, he tells an entirely different story.

    the author of Acts was a conspirator in the lie” – Have you any familiarity with this?
    http://www.westarinstitute.org/projects/the-jesus-seminar/seminar-on-the-acts-of-the-apostles/acts-seminar-to-complete-its-work-at-spring-meeting/

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  137. Proof that Paul was either a Liar or Mad:

    And his disciples took him by night and let him down over the wall, lowering him in a basket. And when he had come to Jerusalem he attempted to join the disciples but they are all afraid of him for they did not believe he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists; but they were seeking to kill him. And when the brethren knew it, they brought him down to Caesarea and set him off to Tarsus.
    (Acts 9:25-30)

    And (Ananias) . . .said, The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Just One and to hear a voice from his mouth; and you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now, why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name. When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple I fell into a trance and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get quickly out of Jerusalem, because they will not accept your testimony about me. And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in very synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in thee. And when the blood of Stephen thy witness was shed, I also was standing by and approving, and keeping the garments of those who killed him.’ And he said to me, ‘Depart; for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’
    (Acts 22:14-21)

    But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; and I still was not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judea; they only heard it said, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”

    (Galatians 1:15-23)

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  138. archaeopteryx1

    In Thess II, the author specifically says, “I Paul write this with my own hand. This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write” – Bart Ehrman maintains that Thess II was only one of six forged letters out of the thirteen attributed to Paul, and The New American Bible, produced by the Catholic Church, implies the same thing. Galatians, though, Ehrman seems to believe was genuine.

    Such strong professions always remind me of Nixon’s “I am not a crook!”

    These are the forgeries:
    Timothy I
    Timothy II
    Titus
    Thessalonians II
    Ephesians
    Colossians

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  139. Copied from VoiceofJesus.org:

    If it is a lie, and you accuse me of lying, I will be forced to respond with a denial because a lie cannot and will not speak for itself. The things that motivated me to lie will motivate me to deny my lie. Then, feeling the weakness of my position, I look for something more! What more can I do? I must call forth a witness, so that you have not only my testimony, but also that of another. The scripture plainly states that everything is established at the mouth of two or three witnesses. You may have me pegged for a liar, but perhaps you will believe someone else.

    But on whom can I call on such short notice? To be effective, I must have a witness now! Not only so, but my witness must be a person of undisputed veracity, for it will not do to call on a reputed liar. Whose testimony would you accept immediately without question? Who? Who? Who?

    Ah! There is only one person right for my task . . . God in heaven! His veracity is beyond question and He carries the extra advantage of never having been known to testify. He would surely condemn me for a liar if He were to testify but, since he never has, I am safe in calling upon him and the very mention of his name may be persuasive.

    The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I do not lie. At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas guarded the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped his hands (II Corinthians. 11:31-33).

    But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie! (Galatians 1:15-20)

    For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the gentiles in faith and truth (I Timothy 2:7).

    I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience bears witness in the Holy Spirit that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen by race (Romans 9:1-3).

    I count four times here, in the New Testament epistles, that Paul denied that he was lying: to the Corinthians, the Galatians, Timothy, and the Romans. Once, to the Romans, he called the Holy Spirit to witness for him. Twice, to the Corinthians and to the Galatians, he called God to witness for him. Three times, to the Corinthians, Galatians, and to Timothy, the denials were issued concerning his assertions of his calling and apostleship.

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  140. Here is the big question: Why does Paul NEVER say, in any of his epistles, that the Twelve confirm that he has been called by Jesus to be an apostle? Why does he only appeal to private revelation? A claim that cannot be proven or disproven.

    And, Is there anywhere in the New Testament where any of the Twelve refer to Paul specifically as an “apostle” and not just as a “brother”?

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  141. Here is another interesting point (in my humble opinion):

    The only passages in the New Testament that seem to confirm that Paul had any acceptance of authority (but not apostleship) by the Twelve is in the Book of Acts (allegedly written by Paul’s sidekick and accomplice, Luke) and in the forgery of Second Peter, a book many (non-fundamentalist) scholars believe was most likely written by a pro-Pauline forger.

    If you read the teachings of Jesus and you read the teachings of Paul there is little resemblance. Jesus never told his followers to stop the practice of circumcision nor did he tell them they could abandon the Jewish dietary laws. Jesus’ message is almost always directed to the Jewish nation. He refers to Gentiles as “dogs”. Jesus for the most part kept the Law and expected his followers to do so except on some minor issues. Paul tosses the Law out of the window and directs his teachings to non-Jews.

    Is the Christianity that we have today truly CHRISTianity…or is it…PAULianity?

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  142. You’re right on, Gary. The Christianity today is absolutely Pauline Christianity. And for even more reasons than those you listed in your last comment. I devote an entire chapter to this shyster in my book and point out why his brand of faith, though in total opposition to Jesus’ teachings, was accepted and spread throughout the first century inhabitants.

    (You can find my book listed on Nate’s “Books I’ve Read” page if you’re interested.)

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  143. archaeopteryx1

    Just as I was reading Gary’s comment in my email, and noticed his use of “Paulinity,” I found myself asking, where’s Nan, she ought to be weighing in on this! And here you are —

    Liked by 1 person

  144. Hi Nate,

    I’m running a bit short on time.

    I agree that there are problems in comparing Galatians to Acts. And, your analysis of Paul is very fair. I would agree that it is difficult to push the miraculous explanation, and we can say we don’t know for sure what happened. That’s much better than trying to persuade others it was definitely this or that like psychosis or a dream or guilt complex.

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  145. Gary. . . I’m afraid you don’t understand the nature of evidence and using a common framework to dialogue. Your view of evidence makes it appear like you have a superiority complex. Also, you seem hellbent on disproving Paul as opposed to someone fair-minded like Nate. The way you stereotype Christians as “twisting evidence” also clearly supports that you have a superiority complex. Or you are bigoted. I’m not quite sure yet.

    Either way, I don’t think a conversation with me is going to be much help. I can’t cure a superiority complex or bigotry if that’s what is driving you. But, know this. You will fail miserably with your attitude in any real scholarly endeavor. This will be bled out of you. So, if this pursuit is on your radar, it’s time to rethink some things. Otherwise do what you want cuz its the internetz.

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  146. And here is the clincher about the “Apostle” Paul of Tarsus:

    “Prosperous, sophisticated, highly cultured, Ephesus was the leading city of the wealthy and populous Roman province of Asia. “

    If you believe that Paul wrote Second Timothy, Paul says this:

    You are aware that all who are in Asia have turned away from me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. -2 Timothy 1:15

    And if you believe that the Apostle John, one of the original Twelve, wrote the Book of Revelation, John wrote, at some point after Paul wrote his epistle of Second Timothy:

    “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands: “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. – Revelation 2:1-2

    Do we have any mention of anyone claiming to be an “apostle” to the people of Ephesus other than Paul?

    Paul was a fraud.

    Liked by 1 person

  147. Brandon,

    If you and I were two attorneys arguing a case in front of a judge, would I be projecting a “superiority complex” if I objected to your attempted use of subjective, internal revelation from an invisible supernatural being as admissible evidence?

    That is all I am asking. Let’s agree to discuss evidence based on the type of evidence that would be admissible in a court of law in any western, industrialized nation.

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  148. I regret that Brandon finds my approach to his position as arrogant and rude, but this is the typical reaction I get from conservative Christians when I refuse to play the “prove-to-me-that-the-supernatural-does-not-exist” game.

    Nope. I’m not going down that rabbit trail.

    Debate me on the evidence for your holy book’s historical claims just as you would debate me on the historicity of any other historical claim.

    Imagine if I were debating someone on the historicity of event X, and they presented as their only evidence the testimony of two non-eyewitnesses, one who received his information third or fourth hand as an oral tradition, passed down over many decades, and one who received his information from a zombie—as proof of the historicity of event X.

    Even Conservative Christians would laugh at such preposterous evidence for any other historical event, but they then turn around and insist that their supernatural claim of the reanimation of a first century dead man is historical fact. Come on.

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  149. archaeopteryx1

    One of Brandon’s many, many problems, is that he credits Paul for his re-conversion, and if it were established that Paul was a basket-case, where would that leave him –? He HAS to believe that Paul was a sane, rational, pious individual – his sanity, which is hanging by a loose thread as it is, depends on it.

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  150. Josh

    He HAS to believe that Paul was a sane, rational, pious individual

    But, really, Arch. Does that describe any of us 😉

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  151. Crown

    Gary M

    I said I wasn’t going to comment any further on this thread, but I saw this, from you, and it caught my eye:

    You wrote: “Let’s agree to discuss evidence based on the type of evidence that would be admissible in a court of law in any western, industrialized nation.”

    It’s an interesting standard, one that merits discussion.

    First, for reference, I am an attorney,. I have a us J.D. from a US Ivy League law school and the French equivalent from the Sorbonne, and I have practiced law in both New York and Paris, under their respective legal systems. I’m licensed to practice in the courts of New York and Connecticut, as well as the Federal courts for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York.

    This does not mean that whatever I say about the law is right. For every case presented before the Supreme Court, all 9 Justices have clerks scurrying around researching what the law is. Nobody knows for sure what the law is on any subject, because it can change at any time, and because it is subject to the opinions of judges, and to the interpretive decisions of courts, administrative tribunals, and legal and regulatory enforcement officials. And they often disagree.

    So, just because I am a highy credentialled (and well paid) lawyer from a prestigious background, with two decades of experience, commenting on the area of my professional expertise, does not mean that what I have to say about the law is correct. It doesn’t mean that if you take what I say and run into the courthouse, you’re going to win. It means you will probably prevail on the particular points I write about, before normal judges who follow the generally accepted precedents.

    It also means that insults directed at my legal knowledge or understanding of the US or French legal system are ridiculous. In matters of religion, argument by insult is a favorite tactic of most participants, which is why I hate arguing about the subject and generally avoid it. But the specific subject here isn’t religion, it’s what a court “in any western, industrialized nation” will accept as evidence. That’s a technical question, not a religious question. It’s been raised in the context of a religious argument. The religious argument may have no answer, but the technical question of law does have an answer. I’m going to write one for you, and for anyone else who chooses to use it.

    It is not “right” – there is no right answer in law. Any judge can decide to do something different, and that stands in that case if it isn’t appealed. And if five Supreme Court Justices decide on a new rule, that’s the new rule, regardless of what the old rule was.

    With those caveats, let’s proceed.

    First, your standard is too broad: “admissible in a court of law in any western, industrialized nation” essentially means that probably anything can be admitted. The US has the most restrictive system of admission of evidence, because in the US, moreso than in most other Common Law countries. virtually everything is submitted to a jury of lay people as triers of fact. Therefore, there is a whole vast corpus of rules of evidence designed to prevent all sorts of information from being placed before jurors that may “prejudice the case”, because our judges and lawyers want to maintain control of the process and the outcome. In civil law systems such as France, trial courts are composed of panels of judges – juries are used only for certain very serious crimes – and in those systems the judges ask the questions. So, in those systems there are no exclusionary rules as such. The judges ask what they want answered, and they can ask anything. In the US, it is lawyers who control the process and what is presented at trial before the jury, while the judge sits as referee and source of legal interpretation for the jury. But in the Civil Law countries like France, the judges ask the questions, and then the judges sit as the jury to decide the case. If in the course of their deliberation concerning the case further questions come up, they will send interrogatories to the witnesses and demand more questions. It’s an inquisitorial process.

    So, in France, essentially ANYTHING could be “admitted” before the court, because all that is required is for a judge to ask the question.

    In the US we have exclusionary rules, to prevent certain evidence from being presented to the juries. These rules have been imposed by the judges. In France and the rest of the civil law systems, there are no exclusionary rules. Judges don’t impose rules on themselves on what they may ask. There’s no Fifth Amendment either: the refusal to answer the questions of the judges, the decision to “remain silent”, can be interpreted by the judges as proof of guilt, and probably will be.

    The problem of getting Biblical testimony into a court in France (or anywhere else that has the Civil Law system…which is pretty much everywhere that doesn’t speak English and that was colonized by Europe) is not that the nature of the evidence is “inadmissible” or “hearsay”, it’s that it’s difficult to see any circumstances in which it could possibly have any bearing on a trial.

    If God himself, or the testimony of some Christian, is what is on trial, then by the standards of every country EXCEPT probably the United States or Canada, the answer is that Scripture could be admitted for consideration if one or more of the judges of the case wanted to look at it. There’s no “rule” to bar anything. The judges ask for what THEY want to know and see, and there are no rules or limits on what that might be. Civil Law trial procedures are called “Inquisitorial” for a reason: judges inquire, they ask whatever they want to know, and if you refuse to answer, they can and probably will hold it against you.

    Under such a system, the trial of religion you envision would depend on the judges. But then, that[‘s always the case, one way or the other.

    No, what YOU want is the AMERICAN legal system, with its specific rules of evidence that dramatically limit what may be presented by the famous “Hearsay Rule”.

    Now, simply put, the Hearsay Rule is incomprehensible. It’s incomprehensible to law students and to young lawyers trying to pass the bar. Part of the reason for that is that it’s false advertising. You’d think, based on the name of the rule, that it means that you can’t present evidence of what somebody else said in a US court – no “He said/She said”. But then you find out that such evidence is routinely presented all the time. Part of the reason is that there is this “Hearsay Rule”, but then a long laundry list of exceptions, with FURTHER local variations in the exceptions based on local court rules. And in the end, it’s a judge’s own personal opinion that decides things on the line. When you’re young, it APPEARS to be utterly arbitrary.

    It isn’t as bad as all that, though. What is needed is the 80,000 foot view.

    If you pull way, way back and look what the Hearsay Rule really says is this:

    The only evidence that can be presented to any jury is evidence given directly in court by a live witness, under oath (I won’t lie, so help me God, and if I do, it’s perjury – which is still a serious crime; believers always understood that if they lied before God it meant they would go to Hell when they die, so the oath was more effective in earlier times than today), to the face of the accused, with the accused having the power and the right to directly cross-examine the witness giving testimony either himself, or through a skilled lawyer who represents him.

    THAT evidence is the only directly admissible evidence because:
    (1) Witness is present, and can be imprisoned for contempt for refusal to obey judge and rules.
    (2) Jury can see the witness and decide credibility based on non-verbals.
    (3) The accused is present, and the jury can see the reactions of the accused and witness to each other.
    (4) Accused can directly challenge and cross-examine the witness to his face.
    (5) Perjury is a felony with prison time and other harsh penalties.
    (6) The judge can control the questions asked if they get out of line, and has contempt powers over everybody present in the room.
    (7) At least in the minds of believers, the oath means, or meant, that God was invoked to be present, and to condemn to hell whoever lied after invoking God’s name. That’s why atheists used to not be permitted to give testimony or undertake other legal acts: they could not give an oath before God that meant anything. Today, we’ve dispensed with all of that, and a person can simply “affirm” that he is telling the truth. God may or may not throw him into hell if he lies, but the judge can still take his money and his liberty.

    For all of those reasons, the only directly admissible evidence is that which the Jury hears directly from the lips of the witness, under oath, in court, with the defendant present and able to cross-examine.

    EVERYTHING ELSE is Hearsay. Everything said or that happened outside of sworn testimony in court is hearsay. Police statements, films of events occurring, a witnesses written testimony somewhere else, depositions – all hearsay in fact.

    The literal legal definition of hearsay under the federal rules of procedure is found in Rule 801(c)
    which I quote:
    Hearsay. “Hearsay” means a statement that:
    (1) the declarant does not make while testifying at the current trial or hearing; and
    (2) a party offers in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement.

    So, if it doesn’t happen IN the courtroom, it’s hearsay. The police report: hearsay. The victim’s direct statement to the police: hearsay. Confessions in the police station: hearsay.

    Now, trouble is, if we just limit ourselves to what is said in court, and if we exclude ALL hearsay, we will not have sufficient evidence to do anything. So the “exceptions to the Hearsay Rule” admit all sorts of statements that have been made out of court.

    The list of exceptions is long, and frequently common-sensical.

    Confessions to the police are admissible (provided that they are not obtained through a method that breaks some other law). But note, if they ARE so obtained, they’re not admissible. NOTHING that is said out of court ever has to be admitted, it’s all hearsay and CAN all be excluded unless accepted under the many, many broad exceptions.

    Testimony given under oath at depositions is generally admissible, though not always. Technical questions governed. Does the defendant have the ability to cross-examine the witness, for example.

    Police reports are generally admissible, on the theory that agents of the government act in the public interest, are disinterested and can be trusted. (This is often a bit of a joke in real life, but the evidence IS admitted nevertheless.)

    When it comes to documents, some are admissible, and some are not. Often it depends on what it is that the document is being offered to prove. Contemporary records of events, sense impressions, statements against interest – there are all sorts of intricate rules that are designed to allow evidence to be gleaned from the documentary record, without allowing people to either overwhelm the courts or cook up self-serving documentary alibis.

    Physical objects may be admitted if they are probative of the fact in question.

    There’s an “ancient documents rule” that allows things that are too old to be authenticated to nevertheless be offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.

    So, let’s go back to your stipulation: “Let’s agree to discuss evidence based on the type of evidence that would be admissible in a court of law in any western, industrialized nation.”

    I’ll agree to that rule. I’ll bring my case before the civil law judges in a court in, say, Fatima, Portugal, or Wroclaw, Poland, or maybe Buenos Aires or Santago. Chances are that I’ll get judges who are believers, who can ask anything, and who won’t exclude Bible and other testimony. The judges are really everything.

    Obviously that’s not going to work for you. You’re going to stipulate to American courts, with American rules of civil procedure.

    Once we’ve wrangled around for a court – with you looking to get the case tried in San Francisco and me looking to bring it in Mississippi or maybe Salt Lake City – we end up splitting the difference and trying it in Des Moines… a place in the middle, neither radically secular nor head-attached-with-bolts conservative – a Blue State.

    You’re going to move that the case be moved to summary judgment, for no evidence can be presented. You’re going to call the Bible and all of the writings of the Patristic Fathers hearsay. I’ll say “Ancient Documents!” The court will either grant your motion, or defer to specific instances of evidence, deciding case by case (there are propositions for which Scripture and Patristic writings could be ancient documents).

    For my case, I will present my own miracles, directly experienced. This is not hearsay. It will be presented in court, under oath, with the possibility of cross-examination. My own direct testimony in my case is always admissible. You get to cross examine me. The jury decides who they believe. The jury also decides, if they believe me, what they think it means. I tell them it means God is. You tell them it means that I have mental problems.

    Or rather, you TRY to tell them that, but I move to have the judge deny you that presentation, as you have established no foundation for asserting that I have mental problems. I say that the bald assertion that my presentation of miracles is proof of mental instability is begging the question.

    The judge either rules for me, on the grounds that you have established no foundation to assert mental instability, or he rules for you and allows a psychiatric examination.

    We have a battle over who does the examination, and end up with a judge-appointed doctor (because you won’t accept a theist doctor and I won’t accept an atheist), and with expert witnesses to cross examine the doctor or doctors no matter what they say, we proceed.

    The doctor will come back and say that I am sane (because I am), and I’ll pile on the credentials and honors I’ve had that will convince any jury that I’m a rock solid guy (Navy pilot, high security clearances, Ivy League, stable marriage, beautiful family, etc.). But if you get the right doctor and he says that I may be unstable, I have my experts challenge the doctor and bring up every mistake or stupid thing he ever did in his testimony (impeaching the witness). All humans have mistakes, and aggressive lawyers can make anybody look like an error-prone bumbler.

    In the end, I probably win the sanity test. So then you have to impeach my credibility, to persuade the jury that I’ve lied in the past and done crappy things, and that THEREFORE I may be lying about this miracle stuff too. And you win on digging up dirt, for the same reason that I won on impeaching the doctor: we’re all human, we all have dirt, and when presented artistically by an expert in character assassination, you can always bring people way down.

    So, now the jury doesn’t like me as much as they did. I’m a hero with clay feet. I’m an intelligent guy, none can doubt that, but I may also be a sneaky one telling lies. I’m a lawyer after all. Doubt returns.

    So, now I seek to bring two objects into evidence, two pieces of cloth, one called the Sudarion of Oviedo, the other called the Shroud of Turin. You object as to relevance. I say that these are the burial sheets of Christ. You retort that this is unprovable, and I reply that in fact the evidence contained in these sheets, these ancient documents of a sort, DO prove the divine.
    You say that’s preposterous, but I offer up scientific reports. The judge will admit it, because it’s a question of fact.

    Then we will have a battle of experts. You’ll offer up some scientific evidence. I will offer up more (the prepoderance of the evidence is with the Shroud). The experts will battle it out, and it will be a question of fact for the jury to decide.

    Certainly my own testimony about miracles is admissible – and subject to cross and mental examination.

    The Shroud and Sudarion are admissible as objects that contain probative facts. The question as to whether those facts are in fact probative or not is not a question of law. It’s a question of fact for the jury to decide. Scientific witnesses will be called on both sides. I know the facts of that particular case, and I know that my scientific evidence is much more persuasive, taken altogether.

    And THEN I’ll enter the portions of the Bible that discuss the burial cloths of Jesus and the means of his crucifixion. All four Gospels discuss the grave wrappings, and the features of the crucifixion contain thereupon.

    It will be a fight over the actual nature of the Shroud: work of art, or miracle. And the bulk of scientific evidence, when presented in a courtroom environment such that neither side can interrupt the other’s presentation, but with the opportunity to cross and answer, will come down decisively on the side of “Not scientifically explicable”.

    With that foundation established, I’ll move to admit another set of objects: undecayed bodies. I’ll have the scientific expert witnesses that say that bodies always decay unless they, mummify (and your witnesses will say the same, because it’s true), and I’ll present these undecayed, unmummified bodies as evidence of the divine. Once again, a presentation and a cross. And once again, the preponderance of the evidence will be “not scientifically explicable”.

    Then I’ll bring out the Lourdes healings, and the Marian apparition there, and the undecayed body of the girl who saw Mary there, still supple and undecayed, and unembalmed, and unmummified, after 140 odd years. You’ll cross, but the Incorrupt will already have been vetted, and a large body of doctors have already pronounced the Lourdes Healings “not scientifically explicable”.

    Then I’ll move to admit the portions of Scripture that discuss Mary, and comparable healings by Jesus. You’ll move to deny as hearsay. I’ll retort “ancient document” again, that explain the content of the evidence.

    The judge, jury, your lawyer and even you will be fascinated by the case as it unfolds.

    Then I’ll move to present the three long-term, controlled, peer reviewed, published studies of Near-Death Experiences at hospitals, starting with the Dutch hospital study first published in the British Medical Journal “The Lancet” in the summer of 2001. You’ll move again that it’s hearsay. I’ll move that it is more direct witness testimony of the divine, and probative.

    And if your hearsay objection fails, I’ll have many NDE experiencers whose experiences paralleled mine, and relate to the Lourdes miracles, ready to testify and be subject to cross. That will almost certainly be admitted for the same reason my own direct miracle testimony could not be excluded.

    And then finally I’ll move for one more object. Having laid the foundation each time, first with direct personal testimony subject to cross (admissible), then with a probative artifact that is subject to scientific review, then with the ancient documents that provide the factual background to understand the probative object, then with more objects, and more still, with review and cross, I’ll get this last object into evidence, and scientific cross will, once again, leave a question mark “inexplicable”. And I’ll get one more bite at the ancient document exception to demonstrate the meaning of that object.

    And then I’ll rest. I’ll have gotten several thousand objects or events into evidence, with the outcome of scientific cross being “Not scientifically explicable” each time. I’ll have only gotten about 1% of the Bible into evidence, under the ancient document exception. I’ll have gotten my miracle testimony heard, and you’ll have had a difficult time impeaching me. And with that, it’ll go to the jury.

    And the jury verdict will depend on the prejudices that the jury took with them into the jury box at the start of the trial, so who wins and who loses will have all been determined before trial by which one of us won the voir dire in seating the jury, just like in practically every other case in our casino of a justice system.

    Still, for our purposes, what is almost certainly admissible in a US court of law trying the facts of God and miracles are:
    (1) Personal claims of miracle by a testifying witness, subject to cross.
    (2) Physical objects that have been scientifically examined and that are subject to a battle of experts (the Shroud, the Incorrupt, the Lourdes healings, and the Lanciano Eucharistic miracle all meet this rule).
    (3) Peer reviewed hospital NDE studies – scientific evidence, reviewable by experts.
    (4) Ancient documents sufficient to establish the foundation for the above.

    After I have presented my last artifact evidence and ancient document discussion, but before I close I will present one more fact. I’ll present it as a statement of fact, which means that you can object to it and try to disprove it, but you will do neither.

    I will tell the judge, jury present, that I have presented the strongest admissible evidence, in the form of scientifically examinable artifacts and cross-examinable witness testimony. I will express my regret that all of the evidence I have to present is Christian, because my experts found non non-Christian physical miracles that had been sufficiently rigorously examined scientifically and subject to peer-reviewed studies. I would regret to his Honor and the jury that the content of the physical miracle argument for God was entirely Christian, but that that is what appears to be the case.

    Then I will leave it to you, my adversary, to either get into the business of producing admissible non-Christian physical miracle (you won’t be able to – the scientific review requirement narrows the range of admissible artifacts to Christianity), or to let that fact just sit there, unopposed, for the jury to consider.

    In voir dire, you will have taken care to eliminate all of the obvious believers of whatever faith. And I’ll have played along and made sure that the jury pool is agnostics and inactive Christians. If there’s a vocal atheist, I won’t strike him.

    Because what will happen after we’ve both presented our case is that those jurors will go into that room with their heads filled with science about incredible things that can’t exist, and that are “scientifically inexplicable”, to use the words of professional (respected, peer-reviewed journals). They’ll have seen bodies that are 300 years old and undecayed, and have heard mortuary scientists say “no way”, and “if only it were that easy! A little mask of wax?” , and heard experts say that these are not mummies.

    You’ll be frustrated because you won’t be able to exclude any of the physical miracle evidence.

    It would be a merry trial, and under the rules of evidence, those portions of Scripture pertaining to Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, his healing miracles, his mother, and the peculiar things he said about the eucharist will all be admissible under “ancient document” rules, because they explain the context of the physical evidence already presented.

    The beauty of such a trial situation would be that each side would be forced to be completely silent (under pain of contempt) to hear and see the complete evidence presentation of the other side, and would not be able to walk out or end the conversation at any strategic moment.

    So, to close, your stipulation of “admissible in court in any western society” would allow whatever interested the judges in most countries. You mean American rules. And depending what the issue on trial was, the evidence I’ve discussed: direct miracle testimony from live witnesses, physical artifacts that appear to break the laws of physics and that have been studied, and peer reviewed hospital studies of NDEs are admissible. So are any ancient documents that give context to what these things mean. I couldn’t present the Bible on its own, no. But having presented the Shroud, and had the thermochemists explain what the image is, and how there’s no way it can exist, I will then be able to admit the ancient document that describes these cloths and their features with some detail.

    And my jury, those lapsed Christians, agnostics, apathists, and that one vocal atheist (who will be like the grain of sand that makes the pearl in the jury room for me), will hear these things, remember things, be surprised that there actually is all of this “stuff” out there, be surprised at the serious scientists who have looked at it, and their conclusions.

    I COULD put a parade of miracle witnesses on the stand, but I won’t – because nobody believes them. But I’d subject MYSELF to your cross, because the jury would come to think I was honest and you were mean.

    If I did the voir dire right, I’d win. If you did it right, you’d win.

    And the result wouldn’t convince a soul anywhere.

    But the people who sat in that courtroom would scratch their heads and wonder about some of what they say. So would you.

    Which is why at the outset you’d object to the admission of any evidence.
    Which is why you stated the court rules as your rule.

    But if religion were on direct trial, I could get artifacts, peer-reviewed science, and personal testimony in. And if each side had to be silent when the other spoke, and was not permitted to leave – the regular rules of court – and had to answer the questions of the other – and the people making the case were not themselves the jury…well, it’d be fun.

    Liked by 3 people

  152. Archae:

    What you say is very true. My last thread holding me to my conservative Christian faith was…Paul.

    I had just recently given up my belief that the Gospels were eyewitness testimony by a side by side comparison of the six Resurrection accounts (the gospels, Acts, and I Corinthians 15). An honest comparison of the six accounts, side by side, proved to me that eyewitnesses would not give such divergent testimony.

    So it all rested on Paul.

    And the more I read about the teachings of Paul, the more I realized that he knew nothing about the Jesus of the Gospels. His Christ was someone completely different. And Acts chapter 26 was the final straw. I had never read that Paul himself referred to his experience as a “heavenly vision”. Why would Paul call seeing a real, flesh and blood resurrected body a “vision”? Did the authors of the gospels ever use the term “vision” to refer to the appearance of Jesus to the Eleven??

    No. The gospels infer that the disciples saw a real walking, talking, broiled-fish-eating dead man…but Paul only saw a bright light…in a VISION.

    Paul did not see a real body. He saw a light…a talking light. That’s it.

    I came to the decision that I could not base my entire life and my worldview on one man’s testimony of seeing lights.

    That was almost one year ago.

    Liked by 2 people

  153. Matt

    All this discussion of Paul reminds me of the commentor, I think her name was Laurie….That felt Paul was an antichrist of some sort. She had more of a Messianic Jewish perspective. I really enjoyed her input.

    Like

  154. Hi Crown, I start by saying that I am already on your side of the fence, if not in 100% agreement, so I’m biased.

    But truly, that was the most amazing, informative comment I think I have ever seen on the internet.

    Thanks you for sharing all your knowledge and experience and putting it into that hypothetical. I will be quoting it somewhere, I’m sure, perhaps even in its entirety.

    And for what it’s worth, I agree with you about it all turning on the choice of the jury. I have only ever been on one jury, and in the end the decision (we couldn’t agree) all turned on the fact that a young and somewhat arrogant guy who had some lawyers in his family pushed himself forward to become the jury foreman, and then used that position to refuse to accept the police case because he knew and (in my judgment) he enjoyed grandstanding.

    Thanks.

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  155. Hi Crown,

    Thank you for the fascinating review of the law.

    So I revise my criteria:

    1. US court.
    2. Neutral, impartial jury.
    (Yes, I know that would be hard to find, but let’s try. Someone who grew up neither religious or non-religious. Someone who doesn’t base their life on the supernatural but is open to the possibility that the supernatural exists. How about, non-religious, college educated, Japanese Americans?
    3. Issue to decide: Is there enough evidence for the alleged Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth in the first century AD to convince a neutral jury today, in a US court, that it was indeed an historical event?
    4. Where is DagoodS when I need him??

    Like

  156. Dear Crown,

    Without a neutral, unbiased jury, I would bet that you would win your case if the trial were held in Des Moines, if the issue on trial were the historicity of the supernatural claims of Christianity. However, if you were arguing in favor of the historicity of the supernatural claims of Islam or Hinduism in a trial in Des Moines, I think you would lose. And not because non-Christian supernatural claims have not been studied well enough by science or have not been thoroughly peer-reviewed.

    The Muslim and Hindu supernatural claims would fail to persuade the typical Iowa jury because most people in Iowa do not believe in supernatural religious superstitions…except those of their own religion.

    Like

  157. Crown

    1. US court.

    Ok. We have to pick WHERE.
    Let’s go forum shopping, and we have to agree.
    I’m not going to accept anywhere in the Northeast or the West coast. You’re not going to accept anywhere in the South. That leaves the Midwest. If you’re smart, you’re never going to accept anything south of the Ohio River. I’m not going to accept Illinois.
    What does that leave?
    Kansas, Nebraska, North and South Dakota? You’ll veto.
    What’s left, then? Minnesota or Wisconsin? Hmmm. You’ll take them. I’m leery.
    What then? Indiana, Ohio? You should outright reject Indiana. Ohio maybe.
    Iowa or Michigan. That’s probably what we’re stuck with: Iowa or Michigan.
    You pick. I’ll accept either. Not thrilled about the choices, but they’re probably the most neutral. I’d lean towards Iowa, because it’s all farms.
    You’d probably be wise to lean towards Michigan.
    And so, with a whole big beautiful United States to choose as our venue, we’d end up in fucking DETROIT – because THAT’S how our adversarial justice system works out in the end: only when everybody is screwed and nobody is happy does it feel like justice.

    2. Neutral, impartial jury.

    For that, we’re going to have to go to some other planet. And even that may not work. (You’re not going to accept a jury from Kolob, are you?)

    Japanese Americans? Ha! The Japanese are the most atheistic people on the planet.

    Mankind is a mortal knows it. There’s nobody in America who doesn’t have an opinion about God. And that’s the problem in finding a jury, isn’t it? Everybody has already judged the broader case. Jews reject Jesus’ resurrection, or they’d be Christians. People who believe in the resurrection are religious. Muslims don’t think Jesus died in the first place. There is no neutral, impartial jury. So we’re going to get stuck with whatever jury the justice system gives us, and depending on who guessed at who was hiding his or her emotions about religion the best, one of us will win. I’ll probably win. I can practically read people’s minds. It’ll be a hollow victory, though, because what’s at stake here is not someone’s liberty or property, but the credibility of an idea. So, I’ll be able to use my understanding of human nature to get a jury favorable to me, which means I win the game…but that will prove nothing.

    We could just dispense with the jury and make the jury is you and me. We know we can’t get a neutral and impartial jury, and nothing whatever will be accomplished. The real question is whether the partisans, us, themselves can be persuaded of anything by logic or fact.

    One nice thing about having each other as the jurors is that it forces cordial exchanges. In front of third parties you can insult your opponent’s parentage, but it doesn’t work too well when your adversary is also the judge of your case.

    3. Issue to decide:
    You’ve proposed: Is there enough evidence for the alleged Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth in the first century AD to convince a neutral jury today, in a US court, that it was indeed an historical event?

    I propose: Is there enough evidence for the alleged resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth in the First Century AD to convince you, following general US court rules, that it was indeed an historical even. And conversely, is there insufficient evidence for the alleged resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth to convince me that it either was not an historical event?

    4. All of this is predicated on the noition that you, and I, really do want to find the Truth, if it can be found. I waved off discussions on this site because I am utterly uninterested in a personal fight.

    Alright, so, it’s Detroit (grumble)…WAIT! Because WE’RE the jury, we don’t have to pin ourselves down. We can fly all over the planet to conduct our trial. I like that better.

    So, I’ll pick the first place of our meeting. Our first venue is Hanauma Bay, Oahu. There are, to be sure, other places I think are even better, but naming some obscure beach on Guadeloupe sounds scary. So, we establish bona fides with coconuts, pineapples and mai-tais on the beach at Hanauma Bay. At the end, we may still end up with a hung jury, but it will be worth it if the jury is also hungover.

    I’ll start with a stipulations:
    I am eventually going to enter some ancient documents into evidence. However, I will stipulate from the beginning that I will not enter anything into evidence that was written by the Apostle Paul.

    The ancient documents that I will enter into evidence will be small portions of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and a portion of the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas Didymus.

    Because these documents cannot be authenticated as to author, and the writers cannot be cross examined, I will be unable to enter these documents as primary witnesses. Rather, I will only be able to enter them as corroborative or substantiating testimony to facts for which I have otherwise laid a proper foundation.

    In other words, no intricate Biblical knowledge is required, and we’re not going to follow the white rabbit down the hole and twisty-turny all through 1500 pages of Scripture and come out the end and say “Voila, Resurrection! Because…BIBLE! Yay.”

    That’s been done before, and it’s ridiculous crap.

    Given that religion tells me what I can do with my pee-pee, and I have always rather enjoyed going on adventures with my pee-pee, if I’m going to be constrained by some spook into actually giving up on my favorite hobbies, then there had damned well better be PROOF for it. Otherwise – uptight people who want to tell me what to do with my pee-pee (or WORSE, try to TOUCH IT when I’m five) can go stuff themselves and their fairy tales and die in a hole.

    It has to be REAL, or it’s all a bunch of crap. I like exotic women. I like tropical beaches. I like to do exotic women on tropical beaches, with mai-tais and pineapples for desert. If I’m going to take the exotic women part out and sit on the damned beach and be satisfied with the Mai-Tai (and no, it ain’t the same – they can CALL the drink “Sex on the Beach”, but alcohol is a glass is most definitely not sex on the beach, or anything remotely LIKE sex on the beach.

    So listen, God, if you’re telling me that I actually have to give up sex on the beach, then you had damned well better PROVE your case. Because you’re asking more than I’m gonna to give up if you don’t. Call me Thomas with a hard on. He was at least EAGER for you to prove yourself. I’m unhappy that you did, because this is one dog who LIKES his vomit. But it is what it is, and he proved it to me. Now I’ll prove it to you. On that beach. With no sex. Dammit.

    Your jury.

    Liked by 1 person

  158. Dear Crown:

    Hey, I like you! You are funny!

    “Because these documents (the four gospels and the gospel of Thomas) cannot be authenticated as to author, and the writers cannot be cross examined, I will be unable to enter these documents as primary witnesses. Rather, I will only be able to enter them as corroborative or substantiating testimony to facts for which I have otherwise laid a proper foundation.”

    If you and I are the jury, go for it. Anyone who knows the story of my deconversion knows that I did not leave Christianity due to being mad at God, or my pastor, or that I had a secret sin I wanted to indulge. I left due to the evidence (lack there of). If you think you have evidence that might convince me to change my mind…present your evidence, Counselor.

    Like

  159. Gary, you’re missing the point about how Christians use internal evidence. You make it sound like I’m trying to shove my view down your throat based on my own personal internal evidences. Please try to understand this. Like I said from the beginning. . . no one wants you to change your mind based on their own internal experiences. Does that make sense? At the very least, you cannot assume that we want to unless we state this explicitly.

    Using the “that’s typically what conservative Christians do when I say” line when I actually am not doing that particular action suggests to me you aren’t even reading what I type. Can you not understand or do you not respect me? Do you just want to win an argument so you can get a golden star?

    Lastly, your approach by its nature makes inferior a group of serious thinkers. It is bigoted and the way your rhetoric suggests to me some kind of superiority complex. Is that really so? I don’t know for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  160. I’m sorry if I offended you or misunderstood you, Brandon.

    I have a suggestion, watch how I interact with “Crown” in our ongoing discussion regarding evidence for the Resurrection. He is going to present some evidence from the Gospels (but not as eyewitness testimony). I’m open to hearing what he has to say. Hopefully you will see that I AM interested in evidence, But I’m not interested in debating what constitutes reality. It seemed to me that that is where you wanted to go. Sorry if I misunderstood you.

    Liked by 2 people

  161. Thanks for your kindness Gary. I’m sorry for being too blunt and negative especially with my last comment. I need to be more diplomatic. And, on a positive note, I think your deconversion story makes sense from an intellectual standpoint.

    I’ll be interested to see what you and Crown come up with.

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  162. Nate, congrats on passing 400 followers, that’s pretty cool.

    I concur with Nan and UnkleE – that long comment from Crown was very informative and well written. Thank you for sharing, Crown, you mentioned some things I’ve not heard of so I’ll be checking those out.

    Liked by 1 person

  163. Crown

    Gary M

    Alright, well, we had our opening arguments on the beach in Hawaii. Now we’re getting on a plane to Iberia. We’re staying in the town of Oviedo. The Court is assembled. You have given me permission to go first, and so I will begin.

    Your Honor, I would like to enter into evidence this old piece of cloth [Presents a photograph.] Please enter this as The Crown’s Exibit 1.

    The original cloth that this is a photograph of is in that monastery just over the hill.

    Your Honor, distinguished jury, let’s talk about this old bloody rag.

    But let’s do it tomorrow.

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  164. Pingback: My Recent Field Trip | Finding Truth

  165. Peter

    I came across an article headed “1,500 Medical Studies Declare Healing Power of Prayer Undeniable”. I thought this will be useful, some hard evidence at last.

    However when I read the article what was screaming at me was ‘psychological factors’. Seemed to be no proof about prayer, it might as well said ‘tea drinkers live longer’ or ‘married couples are healthier’. If this is ‘undeniable evidence’ then the case is exceedingly weak.

    http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/religion-today-blog/1-500-medical-studies-declare-healing-power-of-prayer-undeniable.html

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  166. Hi Peter, it depends on what sort of studies you want. Some types of studies yield little positive results, others yield strongly positive results. No prizes for guessing which types of studies sceptics and christians prefer (but I’ll give you a hint: they aren’t the same). There’s enough information out there to justify belief or scepticism, but not enough to force either view. I think God’s given us enough to go on if we want to know, but not enough to beat us over the head if we don’t want to know. A sceptic would say something different (fill in your own words!). I have researched this quite a bit, and still going.

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  167. Hey Peter,

    Someone once wrote that a new Christian will pray for God to do incredible, miraculous deeds, a seasoned Christian will only ask for his meal to be blessed. Why is that? Answer: After asking God to perform miracles multiple times, and after noticing that those kind of prayer requests are rarely if ever answered, for you or for anyone you know, most Christians learn not to ask God for the hard stuff, just the easy stuff…the stuff that has a 50/50 chance of happening anyway.

    So you believe that God cured you of your pneumonia, do you? Great! But most people recover from pneumonia. When God heals people with limb amputations, THEN I will believe in the power of prayer. Last time I checked, no amputee’s arm or leg has been spontaneously reattached or regrown by prayer or anything else.

    I will wait to see what “Crown” has to say, but let me give an idea of my worldview: I believe that every decision that I make is based on a calculation of probabilities. Sometimes that calculation is done consciously, such as when I decide whether or not to walk across a weather-beaten foot bridge over a deep gorge in the African jungle, or subconsciously, when I drive over bridges on an American highway. My brain calculates whether or not I should take a particular action or believe a particular concept to be true or not.

    My brain has already calculated that most people recover from illness spontaneously, and many more recoveries are due to medical interventions, even though for some reason, prayer, not the doctors and not the medicine, gets the credit. The probability that an invisible ghost god is responsible for healing is very low on my list of probabilities. Even the worst of cancers have survivors. Even the worst of injuries have survivors. And what convinces me even more that these recoveries are not due to the Christian god’s intervention is that the incidence of disease and death from disease and injuries is no different among Christians than among any other religion on the planet…even though Jesus said, “Ask anything in my name and it shall be done unto you.”

    Sometimes you win the Lottery, even when your odds (probability) were a couple million to one. It happens. It doesn’t mean that an invisible god pulled your winning numbers out of the “hat”.

    Like

  168. Peter

    Hi Gary, a couple of years ago I visited a lady who was ill. She had a very bad cold. I prayed for her and was surprised to see her at Church the next day with no ill effects. She came up to me and said, ‘your prayer worked’! She was convinced it was the prayer that cured her cold. But I recall wondering to myself at the time that maybe it was just the passage of time and the normal healing process of the body.

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  169. Well, I’m not sure why we haven’t hear from “Crown” but I read up last night on the topic he is going to discuss: the alleged burial face cloth of Jesus housed in Oviedo, Spain, and the alleged burial cloth of Jesus–the Shroud of Turin.

    Believers will present all kinds of arguments why these relics are the burial garments of Jesus, including pollen found on both garments, that some allege are from plants only found around Jerusalem.

    Even if all these claims are true, the only way to prove that these burial garments are those of Jesus of Nazareth is to have DNA evidence. Do we know any descendants of Mary that we can test DNA samples from?? No. But even if we could, it still wouldn’t prove that Jesus rose from the dead, and that’s the issue, not whether Jesus was executed. I already accept that assertion as (probable) historical fact.

    And again I go back to probabilities: What is more likely? That the above relics are actually the burial garments of a first century Roman criminal, or, frauds, perpetrated in the Medieval Ages during the very profitable relic trade?

    Carbon dating has shown that the Shroud was made in the Middle Ages, not the first century. Believers have come up with many excuses to dispute the accuracy of the carbon dating, but I don’t buy them.

    Next evidence, please.

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  170. archaeopteryx1

    I’ve read it was dated to the 12th century.

    Speaking of “Do we know any descendants of Mary that we can test DNA samples from??” – Doesn’t it make logical sense from a strictly biological standpoint, that any offspring of Mary’s, without an earthly father, would have to bear a strictly “XX” chromosome? Why would a “holy spirit” possess human DNA?

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  171. Very good point, Archae.

    One other thing about the Shroud of Turin I find shocking is that believers claim the shroud has blood on it with AB blood type. How is it that Jesus had a recognizable blood type? We each obtain our blood type by receiving one allele from each of our parents. Here is an example:

    “How are ABO alleles inherited by our children? Each biological parent donates one of their two ABO alleles to their child. A mother who is blood type O can only pass an O allele to her son or daughter. A father who is blood type AB could pass either an A or a B allele to his son or daughter.”

    You can’t obtain both an “A” allele and a “B” allele from your mother! So Jesus would only have one allele, from his mother, as his father was a ghost.

    Do ghosts have a blood type???

    The Shroud of Turin is either a fake or Jesus had a human father!

    Of course, there is always the tried and true fall back: God went “poof” and Jesus was given AB blood by magic.

    Like

  172. Point of interest: I will bet good money that the majority of Protestant Christians reading this thread will snicker along with agnostics and atheists at the Catholic “evidence” for the Shroud of Turin, but will turn around and accept as fact the Catholic “evidence” for the authorship of the Gospels.

    The traditional authorship of the Gospels is a Catholic Tradition, declared as fact by the same Catholic Church Fathers who preached baptismal regeneration, the baptism of infants, and the Real Presence in the Eucharist.

    Protestants threw out most of the Catholic traditions, but retained two of the most important, and two of the weakest to prove true:

    1. The authorship of the Gospels.
    2. The canonicity of the New Testament.

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  173. Crown

    Gary M

    I assume that the request for concise, relatively brief statements was for me?

    You asked for the US Rules of Evidence, the way things would be admissible in a US Court. Brevity and concision are not features of our justice system. But as it happens, the judge in our case was just about to intervene this morning to lay down the law, so that may help you out somewhat in your quest to control the proceedings.

    [Fade to a conference room in Oviedo, Spain.]

    Crown: Now, to pick up where I left off last evening…

    Judge: Mr. Crown, I’m going to need to stop you here. What is this picture that you have attempted to enter into evidence? You said that this is an old bloody cloth that is sitting in the monastery over there in town. You’ve tried to submit a photograph of it to this Court. I hope you’re not intending, by admitting a photograph, to admit details of the cloth itself into evidence.

    Yes, your Honor, that is precisely what I intend to do.

    But Mr. Crown, you can’t just submit a photograph in place of the actual evidence!

    I can, your Honor, if Mr. M doesn’t object. He didn’t object. So yes I can.

    Whoa! Whoa! Whoa there! Now, see, you’re doing it on your very first move! You’re an experienced attorney. Mr. M isn’t. He is representing himself pro se before this court. So, YOU know that you can put just about anything into evidence if HE doesn’t object to it, and you know that he’s not going to. He wanted this done under US Rules. By that he didn’t mean all the lawyer’s tricks under the Rules. Since I can see YOU’RE going to try to take advantage of him because, I am going to have to step in and impose the rules on you.

    But your Honor, I’m playing by the rules!

    Yes, Crown, what you are doing is LEGAL, but it was not the INTENT of this mediation. Look, you’re calling this a trial, but really what this is, is non-binding mediation with a stipulation to the US Rules of Evidence. There is no justiciable issue here, so there can’t be a real trial. The whole POINT is to try to persuade each other to come amiably to a common position on a non-justiciable question. And playing tricks to force things into in evidence that competent counsel would object to is not going to help you reach any sort of agreement at all. So I’m going to have to intervene here from the bench to ensure that Mr. M’s available objections are properly presented. And here’s how I’m going to do it –
    In a normal case with proper representation, there is pre-trial discovery. Each side has to present the other with the evidence that it has in its possession, when requested by the other. Crown, you have not requested any discovery from Mr. M…

    No, your Honor, I have not, but that doesn’t mean that M cannot request discovery from you.

    Mr. Crown, I’m not in a position, as judge, to frame a discovery request against you on his behalf, but I can impose an evidentiary hearing that will function as de facto discovery. And that’s what I’m going to do. So, Crown, what is all of the evidence that you’re planning on presenting to this court? Present a list, and while you’re at it, present your arguments as to admissibility.

    Your Honor! You’re not allowed to make me tell the other side how I intend to present my case!

    No, but I AM allowed to exclude any evidence that doesn’t meet the evidentiary standards, and I’m the one with the discretionary authority to decide that.

    Unless I appeal…

    Unless you appeal and WIN, and who are going to appeal TO? See, I can play the procedural game too.

    Evidently, your Honor…

    Exactly. Evidence. So now, Mr. Crown, be a good fellow and present me with a list of all of the evidence you intend to present, and go ahead and give me your arguments for admissibility with each piece. Save some time.

    But that will completely remove all of the drama in the case! It will remove my ability to bring out the facts a little at a time, to tell the story in the way that is most convincing.

    If you want to tell stories, Mr. Crown, go write for Boston Legal. I’ve seen you spin your stories and schmooze opposing counsel so they don’t go for the jugular when you’ve negligently missed a filing date. I’ve seen you manipulate facts and evidence and people all your life…

    Excuse me, all my LIFE? Your Honor, are you STALKING me?

    No, you idiot, I AM you! I’m a figment of your imagination, remember? And if you keep trying to schmooze ME you’re going to look like a mental patient in front of everybody reading this, so knock it off and fly right.

    Right. Yes, sir.

    So, now, stop bantering with me and give me your evidence and tell me why I should allow you to bring it into court! Tell me the story the way the law would make you do it if the other side had good counsel. Get on with it.

    Very well, then, your Honor, Mr. M, here we go.

    (1) Exhibit 1 – the “Oviedo Cloth”. I have to submit this as a photograph because the object itself is a treasure kept by the Cathedral in Oviedo, Spain. I can no more bring it into court than I could the Mona Lisa. not unless the custodians grant permission for that.

    I will ask for judicial notice of the undisputed facts that the cloth EXISTS, that it is kept in the Cathedral in Spain. You will grant judicial notice of the EXISTENCE of this well known, documented artifact which is at times put on public display, will you not, your Honor?

    Yes, obviously. But what is the relevance of this cloth?

    I will present forensic evidence, in the form of reports of forensic scientists, on properties of the cloth: that it is 100% linen, that the stains on it are of human lymph and blood type AB, and that it bears pollen grains in its weave that are unique to plants indigenous to the Levant. I will present carbon dating evidence that it dates from the 700s AD.

    I will also present expert testimony that the carbon dating of old linen is notoriously unreliable.
    I will also enter into evidence the blood typing of Egyptian and Mesoamerican mummies dating from 2000 and 3000 years ago, respectively, which demonstrate Blood type A (on the Egyptian mummy), and Blood type B (on the Mesomerican).

    I will also enter into evidence, as an ancient document, words from Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:11 that prohibit the Hebrew people from making cloth of threads made out of mixed material. If you require it of me, I will present these texts in Hebrew from the “Dead Sea Scrolls”, First Century artifacts taken from the caves at Qumran. I will ask you to take judicial notice of the translations of these passages from widely available sources.

    That will be the set of evidence I present as Exhibit 1 and related materials, your Honor.
    The relevance of the mummies from the First Century and the 10the Century BC is to counter the potential argument that “all old blood types as AB”. This is completely untrue, but is widely disseminated. I seek to preclude such arguments by forensic and material facts. The expert discussion of blood typing will also point out that the AB type on the cloth is quite rare.

    The relevance of the pollen grains is that, although the cloth is currently found in Spain, the presence of pollen of plants that are found only in the regions of Israel is evidence that the cloth was at one point in its history in the regions of Israel.

    That the cloth is 100% linen, and not a mix of fibers, means that it fulfills the requirement of Jewish law such as it was known to exist in First Century Israel, as proven by the existence of those provisions in the scrolls of Deuteronomy and Leviticus found in the Qumran caves, which were abandoned in the First Century.

    The presence of the cloth at Oviedo is documented there from the time of its arrival in 631 AD. I will demonstrate this using ancient documents – the monastic records making reference to its presence. The unreliability of carbon dating evidence will be testified to by experts in the field (in the form of written reports, unless you require me to produce live witnesses). The fact that the documentary record records the Shroud’s presence at Oviedo for a century and a half prior to the carbon-dated age directly demonstrates the unreliability.

    Finally, as regards Exhibit 1, I will introduce into evidence the ancient record contained in John 20:6-7, which reads in pertinent part: “And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.”

    I will enter into evidence the expert testimony of historians that describe First Century Jewish funeral preparations.

    Mr. Crown.

    Yes, your Honor?

    You seem to be arguing that this old bloody cloth you intend to enter into evidence is the facecloth of Jesus, and for proof of this you offer pollen from Jerusalem and ancient documents that only begin the chain of custody in Spain in 631 AD, and that only refer to travel from the Middle East. Is that correct?

    Yes, your Honor. I realize the chain of custody problems. This bloody facecloth establishes an Israelite provenance, a blood type, and of course is evidence of a trauma (the cloth is heavily stained with blood and lymph, but I recognize the chain of custody problems and the vague “somewhere in the Levant” provenance. But I am prepared to demonstrate by forensic evidence that this cloth was in fact in Jerusalem, in or around the time of the First Century AD.

    I will do this by introducing a second piece of physical evidence, Crown Exhibit (2), the 100% linen burial wrap which covered the same dead, bleeding body that this face cloth did.

    I will demonstrate that this second cloth is the companion to Exhibit 1 through the report of a detailed forensic analysis that was made of the patterns of blood and lymph dispersion and contact points between the imprint of the face in the face cloth and the imprint of the face on the burial shroud. Through a computer demonstration I will overlay the stain patterns and contact pressure points of the second cloth upon the first, and demonstrate that they match like a fingerprint. The rare AB blood type also matches, as does the pollen.

    By way of this “fingerprint” overlay forensic technique I will demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that these two bloody 100% linen cloths once covered the same face of a dead man, bloo type AB, somewhere in Israel, Jordan or Syria.

    By the documented date of 631 AD for the arrival of the facecloth in Oviedo, I will demonstrate that the carbon dating of the second cloth to the 1300s is quite impossible: the fingerprint-overlay of the blood and pressure points leaves no reasonable doubt that these two cloths covered the same face, and the facecloth is documented by an admissible ancient document chain of custody to have arrived in Spain in 631 AD and to have been revered since that time as the burital facecloth of Jesus.

    By the specific soil types found in the folds of the second cloth, I will present forensic analysis that identifies the location of that soil to be, specifically, the region of Jerusalem.

    Having demonstrated the unreliability of Carbon Dating on linen both through forensic testing and through a documentary record (a linen cloth sheet that was carbon dated to the 1300s is found to have a fingerprint-like match in blood and pressure-point pattern to the bloody imprints of a facecloth whose documentary trail begins 700 years earlier.

    I will also present vanillin decay forensic evidence (from a peer-reviewed 2006 report published in the chemistry sciences periodical “Acta Thermochimica”) that indicates by the absence of any remaining vanillin in the linen that the linen dates to prior to 600 AD (no further specificity is possible, due to the complete absence of any remaining vanillin in the fabric).

    I will present forensic evidence that the carbon dating of the cloth conducted in the 1980s was performed on a mixed-fiber medieval patch on the edge of the cloth, and not on the 100% linen main body of the cloth, which is much older.

    An analysis of the image on this second cloth, popularly known as the “Shroud of Turin”, will show the deceased body of a man who has been severely beaten, crucifed through the base of the hands and the feet, lanced in the side, battered in the face, with indication of bloody wounds seeping through his hair. No bones of the man’s body appear to have been broken.

    One of the coins on the eyelids of the deceased will be demonstrated to be a lepton bearing a mis-spelling of the title and name Pontius Pilate. Photographic and documentary evidence of an actual original example of this coin with the mis-spelling will be introduced into evidence.

    I will introduce evidence from the 1970s of expert microscopist Walter McCrone indicating his findings that the image on the Shroud of Turin are painted. And I will introduce dozens of forensic experts who describe in great detail that the image on the Shroud is neither painted nor drawn or branded in. I will present no evidence corroborating McCrone’s findings, as I have been unable to find any. I will present dozens of reports by more recent forensic examiners refuting it in totality and in detail.

    I will enter into evidence, under the ancient documents exception to the hearsay rule, accounts of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which describe the scourging of Jesus and the peculiar manner of his crucifixion and burial, as well as the disposition of his burial cloths in his tomb. These documents are not entered to establish that Jesus is in fact the person on the Shroud and whose blood is contained on the Facecloth, but to demonstrate that the person on the Shroud matches each of the details contained in the Scriptures.

    The Jerusalem region soil on the feet of the man in the Shroud establishes that, whoever he was, he was crucified in that region. This correlates to the Levantine pollen found on both the Shroud and the Facecloth.

    The Pontius PIlate coin image on the eyes is corroboration of First Century Roman-era execution.

    I will introduce into evidence, under the ancient documents rule, the Gnostic “Acts of Thomas Didymus”, specifically the “Hymn of the Pearl section contained therein. This document is estimated to have been created in the early 200s AD). It reads, in pertinent part:

    “Suddenly, I saw my image on my burial garment like in a mirror
    Myself facing outward and inward
    As though divided, yet one likeness
    Two images: but one likeness of the King of kings.”

    As I present this early document, I will present the image that is on the shroud, demonstrating that the description fits the likeness.

    This is presented as corroboration, that the Shroud of Turin meets that description, and may have been the burial garment to which Didymus referred. The 3rd Century provenance of the Didymus document would place the Shroud at a date preceding that, and would establish that in that time already it was an object of reverence and wonder to some Christians of that age.

    All of the above, you honor, presents a circumstantial case: SOME man CERTAINLY was crucified at Jerusalem in the Roman period during or after the period of Pontius Pilate, and had both that particular linen facecloth placed on his face and that linen sheet wrapped around his body. He was tortured in ways that match the scriptural descriptions, and buried in linen sheets matching the Scriptural descriptions. The Gnostic Acts of Thomas description of the burial garment of the “king of kings” is strong circumstantial evidence that something closely resembling the Shroud of Turin was known to early Roman era Christians.

    The forensics establish that the Shroud and Facecloth are real artifacts of the preparation for burial of a tortured, dead Jew (the body is circumcised) from Roman-era Jerusalem during or after the era of Pontius Pilate and before the early 200s AD.

    Does this establish that the man on the Shroud is Jesus, that he was crucified in the First Century? No. It does establish that SOMEBODY was crucified in the First or Second Century, in Jerusalem, in exactly the manner described in the Gospels, and that this very burial shroud probably influenced Christians quite early to think that it belonged to Jesus.

    And that’s quite a lot.

    And now I’m going to prove that whomever it was that was tortured, crucified and buried just like Jesus, whoever it was under that Shroud, was the subject of a miracle.

    We shall return again to forensic pathology. The image on the Shroud is formed by a Maillard Reaction. This is the chemical reaction that causes bread to brown. The microscopic surface of the linen threads were browned just so to produce the image. That is clear from the recent biochemical forensics of the reaction.

    It is clear that that’s what this is, and that’s a problem, because under the standard laws of physics, that is simply impossible.

    Browning threads is not impossible, but the particular FEATURES of this browning of the threads is.

    The image is on both faces of the cloth. Clearly on the surface that faced the body, and very lightly on the side that faced away from the body. However, the threads are not burnt through. The Maillard Reaction occurred only on the surface of the threads. Somehow, energy influenced both sides of the cloth to produce the mirror image, without burning THROUGH the cloth.

    The image is three-dimensional, like a holographic negative. The 3-dimensional features of the body can be constructed from the image, which is also a photographic negative.

    The photographic negative aspect of the image was not discovered until the Shroud was first photograph in the late 1890s. Photography, and the notion of the photographic negative, didn’t exist before the 19th Century. But this First Century garment contains one. Such images STILL do not exist in three-dimensions. Our holographic negatives today are slits in crystals which only form visible 3-d images when light is shined through them. The Shroud is unique in that the three dimensional image is preserved in a photographic image which can itself be PERCEIVED as a negative. The technology has not been invented that can do that.

    The image is formed of Maillard Reactions, billions of them in an exquisite sequence so perfect it created a microscopically perfect three-dimensional image of this crucified man. Problem: Maillard Reactions are entropic, like the swirling of gases in a room, or the swirling of smoke, or the browning of bread. One cannot paint a perfect detailed Mona Lisa in bread browning, even with a computer. One can create a vague image, but not the sharp holographic negative.

    This First Century thing contains an image that is the equivalent of falling snowflakes being blown by the wind into forming a perfect replica of the Statue of David. It would not help if men were to try to set up a bunch of fans to do that. The process of snow falling, and microscopic sugars browning, is too complex, too random,, too entropic to do any of that.

    The image on the Shroud is not man made. Man cannot do that today, even with technology. Sure, men can make things that LOOK LIKE the Shroud, from a distance, but the image on the Shroud is ACTUALLY a 3-dimensional photographic negative, in lightly browned linen sugars, on both surfaces of a sheet. The technology doesn’t exist to do that. We cannot imagine HOW to do that. One does not use linen, without any silver in it, as a photographic substrate. And one does not control entropic forces with three-dimensional microscopic precision. One does not do that in the 21st Century, it is completely impossible with our current technology. It was completely impossible in the 13th Century. And it was completely impossible in the First also.

    And nature cannot spontaneously form such an image. Overriding the laws of physics. It’s impossible.

    But there that image is. It’s real. It contains all of the features necessary FOR it to be Jesus, and it contains one additional feature that makes it certain that it IS Jesus, as advertised:
    IT CANNOT EXIST.

    Man cannot CREATE such an image, with THOSE materials and THOSE features. We can’t do it because the image itself breaks the laws of physics. One can breathe smoke rings. One cannot breathe out the Mona Lisa. It’s impossible. Second Law of Thermodynamics. Law of Entropy. They bar it. Nature can’t do it either.

    But there it is. It DID happen, once, because we HAVE THE ARTIFACT. And look who it happens to be.

    Oh, and one last detail: somehow, that bloody body got out of that sheet without smearing so much as a drop of blood anywhere on the fabric. Law a dead body on a sheet and put it over the top and leave the body there, things will settle. They won’t form images on Maillard reaction Mona Lisas, but they’ll settle. Eventually, the body will decay, and with it, the burial sheet, unless the body is gotten out of the sheet before that.

    But when a bloody body is wrapped in a cloth, the blood goes into the cloth, it becomes sticky. Body and cloth and blood stick together. You can get the body out, but if you do, you’re going to crack and break and tear and smear the dry or the sticky or the still-wet blood. No matter what you do, you’re not going to get a bloody, battered body out of a full body sheet without smearing some of that copious blood, somewhere.

    Except this one time. THAT body, somehow got out of THAT sheet, without smearing any blood at all. And that, your Honor, is a SECOND true miracle that is visible to anybody with a strong education in forensic pathology.

    Bring in CSI, and they will corroborate what I will introduce into evidence.

    Two miracles on a sheet that contains a man crucified in First Century Jerusalem exactly like Jesus.

    Have I PROVEN that it’s Jesus? Have I PROVEN the Resurrection? Using modern technology and with no reliance on Scripture for anything other providing standards of proof so detailed they’d be impossible to accidentally meet without forgery…and yet forgery in this case is rendered impossibly by the physics?

    Of course I have.

    All one can do is doubt the reality of the forensics. Doubt that the facts are TRUE. IF the facts I have presented are true, then it is perfectly obvious that this is the burial shroud of Jesus Christ – and it’s perfectly obvious he was resurrected too – because that image is a miracle, and that body got out of that cloth without smearing any blood.

    That’s it, your Honor. That’s my evidence, and that’s the case I will present. I have met all of the evidentiary standards. If you want to, you can refuse to admit the expert reports of forensic scientists, published and peer-reviewed though they be, because you can insist that I produce live forensic scientists for cross-examination.

    That can be done – and if I were to win the lottery, I’ll be happy to do it. It would be expensive to gather that sort of LIVING talent into the courtroom to be cross examined. Peer review is supposed to do that for expert publications, your Honor, but you can postpone the proof until I can afford to haul the actual forensic scientists who did all this work and published all of that overlapping material into court. You can DELAY the presentation of the expert evidence by a trick, if you want to, your Honor, but you can’t keep it out if the writers DO testify in person.

    I think with that, your Honor and Mr. M, with my evidentiary hearing, I rest my case. I’ve proven it. There isn’t any argument against it other than “I don’t believe the expert testimony”, but that’s not an argument, that’s an opinion of the trier of fact.

    Attorney Crown, that was an interesting set of evidence. Yes, under the approach you have taken, all of that evidence is admissible. But let me ask you something. If all of that is true, what is there left to faith?

    Faith doesn’t mean belief. It means trust. The Shroud and the Cloth, plumbed scientifically, prove Jesus was crucified at Jerusalem, died, was buried, and miraculously resurrected. He got out of that Shroud, leaving a burnt image on both faces, without smearing a drop of blood.
    So, he was divine, or had divine favor.

    What does that mean? Beyond the fact of a miracle, it means NOTHING. It means that a man was miraculous, indeed, divine – he overrode the physics. What does he WANT of you or of me? What does it MEAN? For THAT information, the only place that one can look is into the written sources that provided witness to those pieces of cloth in the tomb. It’s the Shroud that vouches for the integrity of the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection really.

    It’s faith alone that lets one make the leap that the miracle man who came out of that Shroud and left his image on it without smearing a drop of blood really said “Love thy neighbor as thyself, and love God above all.”

    The Shroud only proves that Jesus was divine. NOW what?
    For THAT, the only place one can look to find out a thing about Jesus is the Scripture and tradition. And it takes faith to think that what Scripture and tradition say is really what the man who came out of that sheet by a miracle wanted.

    Crown rests.

    Goodnight.

    Liked by 2 people

  174. Fascinating discussion, Crown.

    Here are the problems with your argument, as I see it, and remember, I’m not just the opposing attorney, I am also a member of the two person jury (you and me):

    1. For every expert you have that endorses the belief that the pieces of cloth in Turin and Oviedo are “miracles” and that they date from first century Palestine, you have two or more experts who say they are not. In addition, I would say that a very large percentage of Christians do not believe the Shroud of Turin nor the facecloth of Oviedo to be the burial garments of Jesus. Most Protestants do not buy this story. Most Protestants believe these relics were just two of the thousands of religious relics sold in the Middle Ages. Twenty different churches each claimed to have one of the ten fingers of a particular apostle. It was rampant fraud! Martin Luther denounced the relics trade as a major abuse of the Church. The overwhelming majority of today’s Protestants are extremely skeptical of any Catholic claim regarding a religious relic.

    Just the other day the pope was in some church where a bottle allegedly contained the blood of some apostle, and when the pope kissed it, the blood allegedly moved, or something to that effect. Such claims warm the cockles of Catholics, but they are a joke to Protestants. And I am a former Protestant. My worldview is already very biased against Catholic relic claims; a bias that originates from a version of Christianity, not atheism.

    2. So the majority of experts do NOT believe in the authenticity of these pieces of cloth, and, a sizable percentage of Christianity does not believe in the authenticity of these pieces of cloth.

    3. Since I am not an ancient cloth expert, I must ask myself this question as a non-ancient-cloth lay jury member: Whose argument is more believable, and, on which side of the argument are the MAJORITY of the experts?

    My vote: NOT authentic.

    Next evidence, please. I am not interested in discussing the Shroud of Turin or any other Catholic relic claims. I didn’t believe them when I was a Christian for the same reason I don’t believe them now: Only Catholic “experts”, for the most part, believe these claims.

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  175. P.S. Send a team of Japanese scientists to Turin and Oviedo and let them have full access to the pieces of clothes to run whatever tests they want on them, and I’ll bet the pink slip to my car that they will come back and say: Fraud.

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  176. archaeopteryx1

    CUT TO:
    INTERIOR – THE COURTROOM GALLERY – DAY

    [From the gallery, slowly arises a man, incredibly handsome, tall, stately, dignified, exponentially more interesting than the Dos Equis “most interesting man in the world” – middle-aged, if he lives to be a hundred. This is Archaeopteryx, known as “Arch.”]

    ARCH
    (to the Judge)
    Your Honor, if I may – I should like to appear in this proceeding in the role of Amicus Curiae, a friend of the court —

    JUDGE
    I should deny your request, as it would be highly irregular to allow it, but you’re just so damned INTERESTING, so sure, why the hell not?

    ARCH
    Your Honor, from the Jewish Encyclopedia, which I can only assume the Court would agree is not anti-Semitic: “Measurements of Jews have been taken sporadically in most European countries with the following results: The average height of Jews is 162.1 cm.” This translates to an average height of 5.31 feet, or +/- five feet, four inches. The image in the Shroud of Turin is of a man of six feet in height. There is no evolutionary or genetic reason, your Honor, as to why the average Jewish person should have shrunk in height over the past two millennia, while the rest of mankind has exhibited an increase in size over previous generations. Ergo, the image in the Shroud of Turin could not possibly be a first-century Jew.

    Further, your Honor, if I may present from the Bible, the man who began all of this, the prophet, Isaiah, who predicted a Messiah, from whom the gospel writers had every opportunity to construct a fictional character matching Isaiah’s description: Isaiah 53 – “He has no form or comeliness . . . no beauty that we should desire Him.

    And as long as Mr. Crown, your Honor, is presenting to the Court photographs in lieu of the actual shroud, no doubt the Court will also allow me to present an image that most biblical anthropologists believe most closely resemble the actual Yeshua (“Jesus,” from the Greek):

    The average Jew of the time period did not have long hair, as depicted in the image in the Shroud of Turin, who was estimated at being six feet tall and sporting long hair. If the Court would entertain a word from a prominent figure in the history of Christianity, Paul, aka Saul of Tarsus – “In 1 Corinthians 11:14 Paul tells us long hair is degrading to, and unnatural for a man.

    The website, Religious Tolerance offers, your Honor, a rather detailed analysis of the Shroud:

    Portrayal of the man’s arms and hands: There are two problems here:

    The body is shown in a relaxed state. Yet his hands reach and cover his genitals. In reality, a man’s hands can only reach his genitals if his arms are stretched downwards. This would have happened if the body had been tightly wrapped with a long narrow strip of fabric. However, this shroud is a long, wide covering that was simply laid over and under the body — not wrapped tightly around it.

    The right forearm also appears to be several inches longer than the left. This makes sense if the image were painted by an artist in order to cover the genitals and preserve the modesty of the image.

    Judge:
    Mr. Archeopteryx, your evidence is so compelling and you are SO freakin’ interesting, that I have no other alternative than to order, CASE DISMISSED!

    Liked by 3 people

  177. Very interesting points, Arch!

    Crown: I would be very curious to know how Catholic cloth experts explain the claim that the blood on the shroud and on the head covering in Ovieda have type AB blood on it. You can’t have type AB blood unless you have a human mother AND a human father.

    Please explain.

    I will be happy to concede that the shroud is of Jesus if you will admit that Jesus was not born of a Virgin and was not God.

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  178. archaeopteryx1

    Also, I neglected to mention that in 2002, forensic anthropologist Richard Neave determined, based on an analysis of skeletal remains of Semitic men from the first century, that Jesus was 5′ 1″! Compared to the figure in the Shroud of Turin, Jesus would have seemed like a garden gnome. They could have hung him on the cross with thumbtacks.

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  179. Crown

    Gary, what you have proposed is a “Battle of the Experts”. Happens at every trial in which forensics are involved.

    Johnny Cochrane was able to make the OJ trial about race, and a win on voir dire gave him the jury that disregarded all the forensics and acquitted because one of the cops once said “nigger”. If the prosecutors had kept the case focused on the actual forensics, OJ was a dead man. Likewise, I need to keep our case focused on Rules-of-Evidence admissible forensics, and not speculation.

    I chose this battlefield because I already know the answer to your conjecture about 2:1 balance of authorities against the authenticity of the Shroud. Peer-reviewed reports by credentialed scientists who are experts in the field, published in established and accepted scientific journals, are the only sort of out-of-court written expert testimony that you or I are going to be able to get admitted to evidence. Nothing else will meet the evidentiary standards of the US Rules. Opinion pieces will not, no matter who wrote them.

    I already know that the only two extensive peer-reviewed, professionally published expert reports on the Shroud that you’re going to find are McCrone’s work and the 1988 Carbon Dating are the only thing you’re actually going to be able to present. That’s why I put them into evidence myself. I then put the huge body of admissible evidence that refute them in to systematically crush them like an anaconda.

    McCrone is dead, and nobody has ever been able to reproduce his work, but many have demonstrated pieces of it that are false, and have demonstrated methological holes in his technique that led to his erroneous answer. He did his work in he 1970s. Forensics have come a long, long way since then.

    The failure of the 1988 Carbon Dating team to follow the established protocol and their use of an edge piece of mixed fibers is well documented. And the fingerprint-like face overlay of the cloth and the shroud are decisive.

    I know that the ratio of actually admissible, published expert evidence here in favor of my argument versus yours is similar to the balance between the Climate Change scientists and the Climate Change Deniers (with you in the role of the Deniers): not even close.

    That’s why I chose this battlefield. I knew you would go there, that you would assume that there is a large corpus of evidence that favors your viewpoint (which is more strongly held than you admitted in voir dire), that only religious Christians would study the Shroud, and that their science would be poor. I knew it, so I prepared an evidence trap for you.

    I did it to give you a real teachable moment.

    This doesn’t mean that its Jesus on the Shroud (though it probably is – indeed, the fact of the Shroud’s existence may EXPLAIN somewhat why Christianity was so persistent in spite of persecutions – the Christians had this marvelous THING to look at, in secret, to strengthen their faith).

    The remarkable image is real, and not man made. It’s an incredible, apparently nature-bending phenomenon, highly improbable (indeed, the Shroud is utterly unique, which is what makes it such a difficult thing to analyze: there’s nothing to compare it to). That doesn’t prove that the man the Shroud covered was divine. Perhaps some freak accident happened to somebody who died just like Jesus, or perhaps it is Jesus, and the freak accident happened to him and that’s what helped people believe in him.

    One would get that impression from reading what John says obliquely in his passage about going to the empty tomb with Peter. He ran ahead, got there first, waited out side and looked in, and saw the rolled up facecloth and the burial cloth in the empty tomb. Then Peter went in, then John followed him into the empty tomb, and only THEN does John write “and he saw, and he believed”. From a straight read, John saw something IN the empty tomb that caused him to believe, that did not have that effect on him when he was standing outside looking in, seeing the cloths there.

    If there was nothing in the tomb but Peter, John himself, a rolled up facecloth and an empty burial sheet, WHAT did John see in that tomb that caused him suddenly to believe.

    The answer to that, is probably the Shroud of Turin.

    The Shroud is an interesting thing. You want to dismiss it. And if you hadn’t stipulated the Rules of Evidence, you could, with a handwave.

    Since I went ahead and waived the jury in favor of just talking to you, and you’re the one I have to convince, I can’t grind through to the end of the argument.

    But if there were a jury, impartial or even partial, and we arrived at this point, I will have presented them an avalanche of admissible expert forensic testimony, in the form of published peer-reviewed material, perhaps with the men who wrote the material there to testify in person.

    You will have promised the jury “twice as much contrary testimony”, but when you went out to actually FIND the professional, scientific, peer reviewed forensic evidence, published in professional journals, you’ll be thrown back on your heels and referring almost completely to two of MY exhibits – McCrone and Carbon Dating. You’ll have to do what Climate Deniers do: go out and find some guy to come in and testify as an expert.

    And when you do, on cross I will demand his credentials, and I will demand that he cite to the peer-reviewed published forensic evidence on which he bases his conclusion – and he will be left with McCrone and the 1988 Carbon Dating, and his views of those things. And all of the rest of the detailed dissection of those materials will stand against him. I’ll bring each fact of importance up again, and cite the journal and authority (and where it’s a Jew, or an Asian, or an atheist who did the research, I’ll be sure to point that out), and ask if he agrees.

    Of course your expert will say that he does not.

    I will ask him on what basis, and he’ll either cite to his personal opinion, or he’ll cite to McCrone and to the 1988 Carbon Dating – and that will allow me to bring up the various authorities that dismantle those old sources again, and again.

    The jury is always biased, but if they are able to shake free of their biases, they will conclude that the Shroud is ancient and not man-made, and not currently explicable. Because that is what the science says.

    And then they’ll wonder about what it is and how it came into existence, and how it managed to survive for so long.

    And I’ll answer “It’s Jesus’ burial sheet, it came to exist because of the miracle of the resurrection, and it survived so long because Christians guarded it because it’s been an obvious miracle, a sign, since the First Easter.

    And you’ll retort that it’s the burial sheet of some ancient Palestinian who happened to be crucified by the Romans at about the same time as Jesus, and in the identical manner (with peculiarities like crown of thorns and lance in the side and no broken bones) as Jesus, but that it’s not Jesus, and that it came into existence by some strange coincidence of luck, and was preserved for all of these centuries by luck.

    And even you won’t be very happy with your argument, but it’s all you’ll have.
    In fact, you’ll know just how the Climate Change Deniers feel when they’re all alone at night, sitting with a big pile of fresh evidence against them and a world full of circumstances that tell them they’re wrong…but certain they’re right nevertheless.

    It’s an uncomfortable place to be.

    The best answer is to admit what is obvious: It’s Jesus’ burial shroud, it was preserved remarkably, and the REASON it was preserved is because what is on it. What is on it is inexplicable, and gets stranger when you look at it more deeply. It may not make you believe, but it ought to make you doubt yourself.

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  180. I will find some quotes from skeptical scholars and post them. However, it is now my turn, and I call YOU to the witness stand:

    Mr. Crown, will you please explain to the court how it is possible that Jesus had AB blood and yet was born of a virgin?

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  181. If the court may grant it, would Mr. Crown while explaining to the court, tell us how it is Jesus was male and not female given he can only have been a clone.

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  182. Crown

    Gary:

    You wrote an interrogatory, which I have subdivided into numbered questions:

    “Crown: I would be very curious to know
    (1) how Catholic cloth experts explain the claim that the blood on the shroud and on the head covering in Ovieda have type AB blood on it.

    You can’t have type AB blood unless you have a human mother AND a human father.

    (2) Please explain.

    (3) I will be happy to concede that the shroud is of Jesus if you will admit that Jesus was not born of a Virgin and was not God.”

    (1) I cannot answer the question regarding Catholic cloth experts. The only information that I have is from published, peer-reviewed forensic reports from various sources, and compilations of the contents of those articles. I have no basis, from the articles or the compilations, to know anything about the religions of the forensic scientists who performed the tests, or the religion of the textiles expert from the University of Toulouse who discussed matters of the linen and its weave.

    I can state that the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) Team that did much of the detailed work on the Shroud were composed of credentialled scientists from various fields, and that their members included a Jew and a self-acknowledged atheist, whose position following his work on the Shroud changed to agnosticism. Prior to studying the Shroud he was sure there was no God. After studying the Shroud, he was sure that what he examined was a real object, not a fraud, very ancient, and not explicable by modern understandings of chemistry and physics. He didn’t know what the Shroud is, and does not concede that it proves God, or the divinity of Jesus, or that the man on the Shroud was in fact Jesus (though he acknowledges that it may well be). But he does know that it’s not a fraud, and is very ancient, and is a true mystery. So his view, based on his participation, passed from “I know” to “I don’t know”.

    As far as the religions of the team members go, though, I do not know. I’m not sure that it’s relevant either. Copernicus and Grigor Mendel where Christian monks. Galieo was a practicing Catholic who taught in Catholic universities.

    Scientific techniques, if practiced under the supervision of others and properly recorded, produce reproducible results. That was the very problem of McCrone’s work: he worked alone, and published results asserting that the image on the Shroud was painted on, but his methodology was not fully provided, and his results have never been repeatable by anybody.
    THAT is what biased “science” looks like: a guy working alone with a belief system he’s determined to uphold, who fakes the data and relies on his prestige to carry the argument.

    Team science, with peer review and – crucially – repeatable results produces usable data regardless of the religion of the scientist.

    This is why I chose the forensic science battlefield, specifically, for the Shroud, and why I was so interested in using the US Rules of Evidence. Because under those rules, you’ve got McCrone and the 1988 Carbon Dating, and they’re very unimpressive, and I’ve got everything else.

    Your interrogative 1 ASSUMES that the religion of the scientists determined the result. Unfortunately for you, if we probe and find Jews and atheists (and we will find at least one of each) producing science that upholds the mystery of the Shroud, your case is weakened.

    One rule of lawyering: NEVER ask a question in court to which you don’t already know the answer.

    The forensic science of the Shroud isn’t Catholic. The Catholic Church takes its own strange positions on things. The Shroud ITSELF isn’t “Catholic”. It’s an object, from ancient Roman Palestine. It, and its companion facecloth, are KEPT by the Catholic Church, but the people qualified to do the sorts of analyses we’ve been discussing are people with PhD’s in specific fields of forensic science. Religion, or the lack thereof, is not a qualification to be allowed to perform such work.

    (2) In the normal course of circumstances as we understand them, following the usual laws of genetics as we have discovered them to date, blood type AB would require an “A” allele from one parent, and a “B” allele from another parent. But then, in the normal course of circumstances, following the laws of physics as we have discovered them to date, it is not possible for trillions of sugar molecules to lightly brown on two faces of a linen sheet, thereby capturing three-dimensional holographic negative information about a deceased human body, at a degree of detail sufficient to read the lettering of inorganic coins on the deceased’s eyes. The latter is as scientifically inexplicable as the former, and given the law-breaking nature of the latter, one can properly call it a miracle.

    If the source of the miracle that could make such an image, and then get a body out of the sheet with the image without smearing a drop of blood is supernatural, indeed, if the source is as advertised all along: the Creator, then obviously the Creator can make a man with whatever blood type he chose.

    You asked me to explain. I can no more do explain HOW than I (or anybody else) can explain how an image of that particular nature got on the Shroud. But your question was open-ended, so perhaps I can explain WHY.

    WHY type AB? Well, back then, nobody knew anything about blood type, so it was irrelevant. Men would only learn about blood typing in our era, in an age when it was possible to discover the features of the Shroud that make it not art but stunning mystery. Such men would have the science to recognize blood-type, and type AB has particular significance. First of all, it’s rare. Therefore, that it appears on the Shroud and the Cloth is itself a first, easy point of common reference. It allows for the elimination of other possibilities.

    Because it’s rare, the fact that it appears in a third miracle, the Lanciano Eucharistic Miracle of circa 600 AD, is itself an interesting cross reference.

    The fact that we have three blood samples from two articles of cloth that were on the same man, AND a blood sample from centuries later from an alleged miracle involving the heart of Jesus offers us the possibility to someday, perhaps, with even more advanced science, to do a comparison of blood samples from all three. And if the Lanciano miracle’s AB blood proves to be the same blood, genetically, as the blood on the Oviedo Cloth and on the Shroud…well, wouldn’t that be something?

    It would be, and it wouldn’t matter whether the tests were done by a Catholic, a Jew, a Japanese or an atheist. In fact, let’s have all four do it simultaneously, side-by-side, along with a Muslim and a Hindu, while we’re at it. Let’s see if they get the same results.

    More generically, God’s choice of AB blood for Jesus could have a lay teaching purpose. Type AB is the universal receiver: he who has it can receive the blood of anyone, and is compatible with all. If Jesus’ had a blood type, and God were making a point to people in the age that CARED about blood types, then the logical choice would be type AB.

    As far as your point (3) goes, such an exchange cannot be made. One cannot “concede” truths. They’re either true, or they’re not true. Objectively, and unknowably for certain to either of us, Jesus either was or was not the son of a virgin and God the Father. He either was or was not killed on a cross. He either was resurrected or was not. The Shroud of Turin and Oviedo Cloth either covered his dead body or didn’t. The image on the Shroud, and the way the body got out of the Shroud without smearing blood, either was in defiance of the laws of physics (and therefore was a miracle), or was not.

    By “agreeing” to one set of stipulations, we cannot thereby cause anything on that list to change in its truth. The truths of these things are independent of human opinion. We may not know the answers, but we cannot CHANGE the real answers by bargaining over what we will “accept”. Any such bargain is nonsensical.

    I, personally, am convinced by the evidence that the IMAGE on the Shroud cannot exist under the laws of physics. It does, and so the IMAGE is a miracle. So, I know I am looking at something supernatural. It’s the fact of the supernatural itself that causes me to then, as the SECOND step, look at the information conveyed BY this miracle.

    If the image on the Shroud were of an elephant-headed man, but the Shroud had the same incredible chemical properties as it does, then I would be looking into the meaning of an elephant-headed man, and might well take it as a sign from Ganesh, the Hindu deity.

    But the image on the Shroud looks like Jesus. And that means that I need to know more about this Jesus.

    That makes sense to me. Bargaining over truth, as though it were malleable and I could just “choose” to believe things without any proof, just because I want them to be so – that does not make a lick of sense to me. So I cannot accept your proposed exchange of truths in question (3). To my experience and belief, truth just doesn’t work that way.

    Was Jesus born of a virgin? Tradition says so. It doesn’t matter to me either way.
    Was Jesus God? It depends on what one means by God. But that is not a question you asked in your interrogatory, and one does not volunteer information in a proceeding.

    Like

  183. Does anyone know why there has not been more carbon dating done on the shroud? If there is any doubt about the cloth sample that was used, why not take other samples?

    Liked by 1 person

  184. Crown

    You asked a fourth interrogatory question: “Mr. Crown, will you please explain to the court how it is possible that Jesus had AB blood and yet was born of a virgin?”

    Someone scribbled a note asking how he could not be just a clone.

    The answer is the same as the answer to the question of how the first human came to be, or the universe, or the image on the Shroud: sovereign act of will of the Creator. Nothing more, nothing less.

    The laws of physics are the opinions of God. MATTER and ENERGY are bound by them. WE are bound by them. HE is not.

    God likes his opinions, and doesn’t change them lightly. He decided to make Jesus as he did, for the reasons he did it, and so he did. Just like he made the first man.

    Scripturally speaking, angels have at times mated with humans and produced offspring. If they can, the Creator obviously can.

    Christian tradition says he did. Once.

    So, that’s how. It’s God we’re talking about here. If God made a Son, no laws apply other than as he chooses to MAKE them apply.

    Like

  185. Peter

    Dave, I don’t know the answer, but I can conjecture. If as a person of faith you held a relic and were uncertain about it’s authenticity would you subject it to testing that would prove it to be inauthentic?

    Liked by 1 person

  186. Crown: “More generically, God’s choice of AB blood for Jesus could have a lay teaching purpose.”

    And there you go, folks. Conservative Christians will trot out all kinds of “experts” and (pseudo) scientific evidence to support their supernatural claims, but if they get caught in a corner on the evidence, they always have the fail proof escape: God “poofed” it, and it was so.

    Nonsense.

    “Poofing” in not evidence. It is faith.

    Judge: Mr. Crown, please present actual evidence without any “poofing” or your case will be dismissed…and no more Catholic relics. I now consider them as inadmissible due to your “poofing” attempt.

    Liked by 2 people

  187. Crown

    Dave wrote:
    “Does anyone know why there has not been more carbon dating done on the shroud? If there is any doubt about the cloth sample that was used, why not take other samples?”

    I do.

    The Shroud of Turin doesn’t belong to the public. It isn’t in a museum. It is an artifact possessed by the Catholic Church, and kept under the control of the Diocese of Turin.

    The pressure to carbon-date the Shroud began long ago, but for decades the carbon-dating technique required substantial portions of material, which would often substantially destroy the object being dated.

    The Church only consented to a carbon-dating of the Shroud when the techniques had improved significantly enough to require only small strips of cloth.

    However, the Church was always leery of carbon-dating for many reasons. Among lay people, carbon dating is Science, capital “S”, and treated as Truth, capital “T”. But the truth – and the Church was well-briefed in this (recall: some of the greatest research universities in the world are Catholic institutions) – is that carbon dating alone is never conclusive, often inaccurate,

    The Church authorities were concerned that, whatever the outcome, people would stampede to the wrong conclusions. If the cloth were found to be very ancient, people would assert that it WAS the burial shroud of Christ, and base their faith upon it. And the ancient dating might not be accurate, and a later revision could cause people a crisis of faith.

    Conversely, the Church was concerned that if the outcome were that it was not ancient, that people would jump forth to proclaim fraud, which might also not be true: carbon dating is notoriously inaccurate. There are living snails that carbon date to 60,000 years old.

    The carbon is dated, and the carbon may not have been part of the living tissue. The Shroud is burnt from a medieval fire and is covered with soot.

    Also, theologically, the Catholic Church doesn’t base its faith in relics, or place its faith in them. They are museum pieces, reminders, but they are not the BASIS of faith.

    So, given the keenness of people for carbon dating, the Church was very leery for a long time that it would be used for no good purpose. The authenticity or falsehood of the cloth itself changes nothing regarding Catholic doctrine, but it sure can cause people crises of faith if THEY have placed their faith in it.

    It took the Church a long, long time to agree to a carbon dating.

    The Church was also concerned, for the same reasons, that the results would be manipulated.

    Many were vehemently opposed to even the small amount of damage that would have to be done to the cloth to extract the sample, given that the testing served no purpose vital to the faith. Shall we cut a strip off of the original Declaration of Independence in order to carbon date it? Shall we nip a corner off the oldest Magna Carta, or cut a one-inch hole in the Mona Lisa to verify its age? Shall we break a toe off of the statue of David to analyze it? No? Then why carve a piece off of the more ancient, more revered Shroud of Turin to satisfy the curiosity of some people?

    Also, when the Church finally agreed to permit a, single, carbon dating, the negotiations to bring it about were intense, and often bruising. There was an intense concern all around that people with an agenda to manipulate and an axe to grind NOT have sole custody of the sample, and that the sample be done in a way that would be authoritative.

    Thus, a detailed protocol was determined as to how, when, where and who would take what. In particular, small samples were to be taken from different portions of the Shroud, and it was all to be tested.

    The Church’s fears proved spot on, for the Protocol was violated. The sample taken and tested was from the edge. It was tested, not according to protocol, and dated to the 1300s, and you had major magazines proclaiming to the world that it was a fraud.

    And that is that. There will be no second carbon dating of the Shroud in our lifetimes. As long as anybody is alive who remembers the 1988 debacle, or can read the comments about it, the Church isn’t going to expose this precious old treasure to that sort of manipulation again.

    The issue is not, and never was, the result of the test. The Church never based faith on a piece of cloth anyway. The issue is simple: the Church had to override massive internal opposition to damaging the object for a testing that was supposed to be fair and follow a pre-negotiated protocol.

    The Shroud was damaged, the Protocol broken, the results were published, the Shroud declared a fraud on the front pages all over the world. Careful forensics ever since have systematically demolished the credibility of the 1988 test, but the men who broke the rules to produce the result they got, got the result they wanted to get (Because they broke the rules), and now people still cite to their “work”.

    The Shroud was damaged, the Church was lied to, the contract was broken, and the public trust betrayed. The Church is never going to let anybody touch the Shroud for carbon dating again.

    And that’s why.

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  188. @Crown,

    You wrote: But the image on the Shroud looks like Jesus.

    And how do you know this since there are no living witnesses that can share with us what Yeshua actually looked like?

    As Arch pointed out, biblical anthropologists have made a best guess, but that’s all it is.

    There may well be an actual “image” on the shroud and, as you pointed out, the shroud is “a real object, not a fraud, very ancient, and not explicable by modern understandings of chemistry and physics.”

    But what evidence do you offer that “the image on the Shroud looks like Jesus”?

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  189. Hi Crown,

    Bravo! I’m just sitting here in the public gallery enjoying the “show”. I am a christian but not a Catholic, so I am open-minded about the Shroud. I have done a little reading about it, but not a lot. You are clearly a formidable barrister and I appreciate all the evidence you have submitted. I will certainly be having another look. I don’t see how your evidence can be simply dismissed, it requires me to do a bit of reading, which I will enjoy doing. Thanks.

    Since I am in the public gallery, and just heckling (quietly!), I am not bound by rules of evidence, so I will comment on the AB blood group and your explanation of it as a “sovereign act of will of the Creator”. I agree, but I think logic tells us that this can be explicated further.

    Mary was the mother of Jesus, so he must have been born from one of her ova, that’s the only way we can meaningfully say she was his biological mother. So God apparently chose to fertilise that ovum in some way. The most obvious way (would God do the obvious thing?) would be to miraculously create a sperm, complete with DNA ….. and blood group – not a difficult thing for God to do, I imagine. I can understand people not believing that happened, but I cannot see how the AB blood group is difficult to explain.

    Thanks again.

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  190. Dear UnkleE:

    Nothing is difficult when you can “poof” it.

    This is why Christians need to stop claiming that they have “evidence” for their supernatural claims. If you are always able to resort to “poofing” to explain how something happened, that isn’t evidence that is faith, or as we skeptics call it,…superstition.

    Liked by 1 person

  191. Now to dismantle the nonsense of the Shroud of Turin and the face cloth of Oviedo.

    I could copy and paste the entire article, but it is very long and many of you would probably consider such a long post as rude, so I will post some excerpts and the link at the end:

    —The shroud cloth was radiocarbon dated in 1988 to circa 1260-1390 CE by three separate laboratories. This date is consistent with the earliest documentary evidence of the shroud’s existence. It is also consistent with a fourteenth-century bishop’s report to Pope Clement VII that an earlier bishop had discovered the forger and that he had confessed.

    Liked by 1 person

  192. —36. The church conducts secret tests and suppresses unfavourable results: In 1969 the Archbishop of Turin appointed a secret commission to examine the shroud. That fact was leaked, then denied, but “At last the Turin authorities were forced to admit what they previously denied.” The man who had exposed the secrecy accused the clerics of acting “like thieves in the night.” More detailed studies — again clandestine — began in 1973. The commission included internationally known forensic serologists who made heroic efforts to validate the “blood,” but all of the microscopical, chemical, biological, and instrumental tests were negative. The commission’s report was withheld until 1976 and then was largely suppressed, while a rebuttal report was freely made available. Thus began an approach that would be repeated over and over: distinguished experts would be asked to examine the cloth, then would be attacked when they obtained other than desired results.

    37. The group most famous for claiming the authenticity of the shroud is STURP (Shroud of Turin Research Project), now disbanded. ‘Unfortunately, almost all of these were religious believers, most of them were Roman Catholics’, and the scientists were all selected by the Holy Shroud Guild; in fact, the leaders of the group, John Jackson and Eric Jumper, ‘served on the Executive Council of the Holy Shroud Guild, a Catholic organisation that advocated the “cause” of the supposed relic. So having this group investigate the Shroud was a little bit like having the Flat Earth Society investigate the curvature of the Earth’. STURP was comprised of 40 US scientists, made up of 39 devout believers and 1 agnostic. Knowing that the proportion of believers to agnostics is much different in scientific circles than it is in the general population, it has been calculated (Debunked! by Georges Charpak and Henri Broch) that the odds of selecting a group of 40 scientists at random and achieving this high ratio of believers is 7 chances in 1,000,000,000,000,000. In other words, the formation of this group is stacked and very biased towards authenticating the shroud, and therefore you must take their claims with an extremely large grain of salt.

    Liked by 1 person

  193. —39. The church has never claimed the shroud as an authentic relic, however it has not discouraged the myth. Father Mike Mahler from ‘Cornell United Religious Works’ states:
    “The Vatican has never made a statement about the authenticity of any relic, including the shroud. It is also highly unlikely that it will ever do so. Further information is found in the New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 13, and Volume 18, page 476. The latter article raises many good points which create serious doubts about the authenticity of the shroud as Jesus’ burial cloth, even if the shroud originated in the first century.”

    Yet the Vatican has no problem verifying miracles. In 2002 the Vatican recognised the 1998 after-death-miracle on Monica Besra which has been attributed to Mother Teresa. This has been very controversial, with the doctor who first diagnosed Besra saying the church should not push Besra’s case because it was medication, not a miracle that cured her. Her husband also supports the doctor’s version of events. Doctors that are on record saying that it is a miracle did so anonymously and can not be traced. Besra’s medical records containing sonograms, prescriptions and physicians’ notes have been seized by the church. Besra is a 30-year-old tribal woman from Dulidnapur village. She is illiterate and speaks her tribal mother tongue only. Until recently she has not been a Christian, yet her statement is written in fluent English and shows familiarity with details of Catholic belief. It is obvious that the text has not been written or dictated by her. But Besra cannot be questioned, she has vanished. It is very damming that the Vatican will authenticate such a controversial case, contrary to medical advice, yet won’t pass the same authority on the Shroud of Turin.

    Liked by 1 person

  194. —Conclusion

    In this essay I have shown that claims made by Father Laisney regarding the dating of the Shroud of Turin are irrefutably false. Whether they were made deliberately to deceive or through ignorance was not determined. I have also listed numerous reasons why the Shroud of Turin can not be, or is extremely unlikely to be, the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. For believers it’s not just a matter of demolishing 2 or 3, or even 20 or 30 of these reasons, they must be able to clearly show that they are all flawed arguments. Since some use quotes from the Bible itself, for them to be false would mean that the Bible is in error also. Proving the Shroud authentic by proving the Bible wrong would be a backward step for the Church. If you can’t have complete confidence in the Bible, you can’t have complete confidence that Jesus even existed at all. I am of the opinion that the Shroud of Turin is nothing more than a religious gimmick used by the Church to bolster the shaky faith of their gullible and insecure flock. I believe it is unlikely that Jesus the man even existed, let alone was crucified around 30 CE. Thus no evidence of Jesus has ever existed and this explains why the manufacture of fake relics has been necessary and rampant for the last 2000 years. That these relics could fool ignorant, superstitious, medieval peasants is understandable, but that modern educated people with libraries of knowledge and scientific and forensic tools at their disposal still believe in this forgery is both amazing and disappointing. For some it is a testament to the human mind’s ability to delude itself. For others it is an example of the lengths they will go to in their attempt to deceive their followers. Accepting the cloth as the burial shroud of Jesus Christ will remain the domain of faith, not science. I will end with a quote from Joe Nickell, author of Inquest on the Shroud of Turin:

    “We should again recall the words of Canon Ulysse Chevalier, the Carbolic scholar who brought to light the documentary evidence of the shroud’s medieval origin. As he lamented, “The history of the shroud constitutes a protracted violation of the two virtues so often commended by our holy books: justice and truth.”

    Liked by 1 person

  195. Dear fellow readers: Do you see what happened in this discussion? If evidence is presented to conservative Christians that debunks their supernatural claims; and that evidence cannot be explained away with natural means, conservative Christians resort to magic (poofing).

    Magic is not evidence.

    This is why it is almost a waste of time to have these discussions with believers: no amount of evidence is going to change their entrenched, faith-based, supernatural beliefs (superstitions). Even if we could dig up the very skeleton of Jesus, prove by DNA testing that without any doubt, it is Jesus…Christians would explain it away with magic and still insist on Jesus’ bodily resurrection and his claims of divinity:

    “Well, God must have made the skeleton as an exact replica of Jesus, with the same DNA as Jesus, and buried in the sands of Palestine, just to throw off hard-hearted sinners and skeptics, who must believe by faith and not by evidence.

    Aaaargh!

    Liked by 2 people

  196. I’m sorry if that statement offends you, Crown. I mean that sincerely since you seem like someone I would enjoy having a beer with, but I cannot retract that statement.

    I believe that those of us who have “seen the light” regarding the false claims of conservative Christianity and other fundamentalist, supernatural-based religions, must be polite but honest when it comes to the supernatural. Calling conservative/orthodox Christians ignorant idiots (which I do not believe that you are) would be rude and inappropriate; saying that your supernatural beliefs are ignorant nonsense is being honest.

    Superstitions must be confronted and condemned, not coddled and given respect.

    Many tens of thousands of people have suffered physically and mentally due to the supernatural claims of religion. The time for treating these superstitions with polite, kid gloves is over. We must be honest and straight forward: Religious supernatural claims are ignorant nonsense, invented by Bronze Age nomads, living thousands of years ago in terror of every unexplainable natural disaster, attributing floods, lightning, famines, and bad harvests to the whims of invisible gods, not due to natural forces of nature.

    It is time to abandon these beliefs and accept reason and the scientific method as the basis of reality, not the schemes of good and evil ghosts.

    Liked by 3 people

  197. Crown

    “Nan wrote:

    You wrote: But the image on the Shroud looks like Jesus.

    And how do you know this since there are no living witnesses that can share with us what Yeshua actually looked like?”

    What I meant was: there’s a circumcised man. His face has been battered. His body is covered with the marks from having been flagellated. His hands are pierced at the base, his feet are pierced, his side has been speared. His head has blood from several wounds. None of his bones appear to be broken.

    If we found the image of the body of a man on a burial shroud, and he was the same, except his legs were broken, the Christians would say: can’t be Jesus, Scripture says his legs were not broken.

    If we found one who wasn’t whipped, or who didn’t have the peculiar blood around the head, or who wasn’t lanced in the side, or who wasn’t circumcised, the Christians would point to the image and say “Not Jesus: doesn’t comport with the Bible.”

    But in the case of the man on the Shroud, his final torment and crucifixion matches exactly the account in the Scriptures in every detail. If we found a body on a shroud, the only one Christians would accept was one who looked exactly like Jesus as far as the details went. And that’s what the body on the Shroud does: it meets the expectations, in all of those respects, of what Jesus would look like.

    That’s what I meant. I didn’t mean his face.

    Like

  198. From the above linked source:

    39. The expression (of the face on the Shroud) is strangely composed for someone tortured to death, and the hands are neatly folded across the genitals. A real body lying limp could not have this posture. Your arms are not long enough to cross your hands over your pelvis while keeping your shoulders on the floor. To achieve this the body can not lie flat, yet Jewish burial tradition did not dictate that a body must be hunched up so as to cover the genitals before wrapping in the shroud. The claim that rigor mortis had set in and thus caused the legs not to be straight is ridiculous, since the arms should also be contracted, plus the timing is all wrong for rigor mortis. The most obvious answer is that the artist knew the image would be displayed, and didn’t want to offend his audience or have to guess what the genitals of Jesus would look like. It is also suspicious that Jesus is depicted assuming a pose that medievalists refer to as the venus pudica pose. This pose is associated with nudity and loss of innocence.

    Liked by 1 person

  199. Crown

    Gary M, you wrote: “saying that your supernatural beliefs are ignorant nonsense is being honest”

    No, it’s not honest. It’s false. And it is ignorant.

    I write about miracles because I have experienced them.

    I use third party miracles like the Shroud to try to find common ground.

    I needn’t have bothered.

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  200. Crown

    “According to the authors I read, the Shroud has the corpse covering his genitals with his hands.”

    The authors you read are misinformed about a great many things. Go read better sources.

    Like

  201. Crown

    You cited “Silly beliefs.com” A website.

    Guess what. Your website is not admissible in court, under the rules of evidence. Know why? It is not scientific.

    I provided only a synopsis of the facts contained in the sources I would use. And my sources have the following features that “sillybeliefs.com” do not have:

    (1) They are written by men with PhD.s in the subject matter under discussion.
    (2) They men who wrote the articles were the actual persons who conducted the clinical experiments.
    (3) They wrote their findings in formal scientific papers that follow the professional format,
    (4) that were accepted for peer review and peer reviewed,
    (5) by recognized scientific journals in the field of study, in which they were published.

    Those criteria make what I was prepared to offer as evidence actual, legally admissible EVIDENCE, in the US court system, because those criteria make the sources I use actual professional SCIENCE, prepared using the scientific method.

    “Sillybeliefs.com” does not meet any of those criteria. It is not science, it is not professional, and it is not admissible.

    You hurled the charge of pseudoscience at me. I’m practicing science. You’re practicing pseudoscience.

    It’s too bad, for you. You would be much better off to have COMPLETELY left Protestantism behind, instead of preserving all of that narrow-minded Protestant bigotry, and certitude about things you could not have possibly known then, or now. All you did was change gods.

    Anyway, this has become as pleasant as a root canal, so I’m done with it.

    Like

  202. Crown, very nice case. It’s a shame that they don’t seriously engage you and just scream “magic” and “unscientific”. Definitely root canal invoking.

    Before you go, I think the most important step in your argument is in determining that there are no plausible natural ways to generate the image. What publication was able to show this?

    Like

  203. archaeopteryx1

    If God made a Son, no laws apply other than as he chooses to MAKE them apply.” – So – the god of the gaps defense –? Weak, very weak.

    Like

  204. I encourage everyone reading this thread to do a google search entitled: “full body photo of the image on the Shroud of Turin”.

    I just did it and the corpse’s hands cover the entire genital area. If there is a circumcised penis there, I can’t see it. But, if Christians can “poof” AB blood onto the shroud that lacks the allele of a human father, then I’m sure they can also go “poof”, and using “magic Christian glasses”, see through the hands to view the circumcised penis.

    This is getting down right ridiculous, folks.

    Liked by 1 person

  205. archaeopteryx1

    “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. it is simply too painful to acknowledge — even to ourselves — that we’ve been so credulous. “
    — Carl Sagan —

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  206. archaeopteryx1

    …it meets the expectations, in all of those respects, of what Jesus would look like.” – it meets the expectations, in all of those respects, of what four anonymous authors, writing 40 – 70 years after his alleged death, and who never met the man, indicated that Jesus would look like.

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  207. archaeopteryx1

    Anyway, this has become as pleasant as a root canal, so I’m done with it.” – Don’t forget your briefcase —

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  208. Mmm…

    I kind of hate to see things begin to break down, especially since they’re doing it along ideological lines. Not surprising, I guess. But I still hate it.

    I haven’t had a chance to read every single line of these comments yet, but I’ve scanned them. A couple of things:

    I couldn’t claim that either Crown or his beliefs are “ignorant.” He’s obviously accrued a great deal of information about them. Honestly, if his information is accurate, then the case for these relics is much better than I had ever assumed. It’s just not something I’ve ever thought to investigate before. I made that mistake once before — I don’t intend to make it again — so I plan to research this stuff.

    Now don’t freak out — I didn’t leave Christianity lightly, and I have many problems with it. It would probably take more than just a couple of relics to convince me that Christianity is true. But I think it would be intellectually dishonest for me to just dismiss what he’s saying without investigation.

    At the same time, Crown, you have to recognize (and I think you probably do) that miracles are very hard to demonstrate to anyone who doesn’t experience it in person. Most of us on this thread don’t believe we’ve ever seen anything supernatural. So to us, any natural explanation seems more likely than a supernatural one. I don’t think that’s an unfair standard — it’s just an acknowledgment of what “supernatural” and “miraculous” mean.

    THEREFORE… I think it makes most sense for neither side to claim victory after only a couple of posts. Crown’s comments have been very thorough so far, but a group of skeptics is going to need time to research the claims before we’ll grant any kind of victory. And for us skeptics, we shouldn’t expect Christians to drop their beliefs after only a couple of points from us. It’s a complicated issue, and we all feel strongly about it.

    Liked by 2 people

  209. Oooh, and let me add that I’m mostly speaking about myself here. The rest of you guys may have already researched this more than I.

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  210. You make very good points, Nate, but must we skeptics really “thoroughly investigate” every supernatural claim before we discount it as nonsense?

    There are thousands and probably tens of thousands of supernatural religious claims in this world. Must we, and can we, investigate them ALL before we make the definitive statement: “I don’t believe in the supernatural. I believe that superstitions are nonsensical.”

    If a Hindu tells us that on one day several years back, hundreds of Hindu gods spontaneously starting drinking milk from spoons offered to them, must we “thoroughly” investigate this supernatural claim before declaring it a superstition? Must we tell Mormons that we will have to do some thorough research regarding their claim that Joseph Smith received tablets of gold from an angel before we can declare this belief as superstitious nonsense?

    I don’t think so.

    I believe that the burden of proof is on the person who makes the supernatural claim to provide concise, verifiable evidence for his claim…free of “poofing”…or expect for his claim to be rejected as nonsense.

    To not do this is to legitimize the belief in superstitious thinking and by doing so, subject yet another generation to the whims of fear-mongering churchmen.

    Liked by 1 person

  211. Hi Gary, you make some great points. This is something I still struggle with. I’ll say that the first detailed comment Crown posted got my attention. I’m skeptical — but he laid out better evidence than I had anticipated. At that point, I think it’s appropriate for me to consider what he has to say and look into it for myself before I completely reject it. Or worse, expect him or anyone else to.

    You know, on the flip side, you and I had to do the same thing when we were presented with claims against Christianity. I mean, the legitimacy of the Bible was a fact to me at that point. I could have (like many people I know) simply rejected those claims since I “knew better.” But I’m really glad I didn’t.

    I do think that atheism is the correct worldview. But… I’ve also been wrong before. I agree with you that we don’t have to entertain every single supernatural claim that someone makes. But if there’s actual evidence to consider, I don’t mind looking at it.

    I may reach a point down the road when I no longer feel that way… I don’t know.

    Plus, I’m really tired, so I’m not sure how coherent I’m being anyway 😉

    Like

  212. archaeopteryx1

    I’m cut to the quick – no one even thought enough of my conclusion to attempt to refute it, and I thought it was compelling! This would be the part where I go off and pout —

    Like

  213. You have a much better sense of being tactful than I do, Nate, and for that I commend you.

    If I were having a conversation with a Christian friend or family member I would NOT start off the conversation by saying that their beliefs are nonsense; not if I valued the relationship and held out hope that I could maybe one day get them to see the falseness of their belief system. I would try to reason with them…tactfully.

    My bluntness with Crown may have been due to his “victory lap” regarding “trapping” me in my claim that I had more experts than he did in our imaginary court case. I probably should have held my fire.

    I’m a doctor…disliking gloating attorneys is in our DNA.

    Liked by 1 person

  214. Peter

    Arch, for what it is worth I thought your presentation was compelling.

    Though it can be dangerous when one fishes for compliments. I used to dread trying to answer honestly my grandmothers question, ‘how did I like the meal’? Cooking was not her strength.

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  215. archaeopteryx1

    I’ve always found that if you answer such questions honestly once, you rarely ever need to do so again, as you’re rarely asked a second time.

    And I wasn’t fishing, I was BS’ing – I do that a lot.

    Like

  216. “I plan to research this stuff”

    Hi Nate, bravo! I plan to do the same, and I intend to write something on it no matter how it turns out. I am not Catholic and I am not much impressed with most of the little I know about relics of the saints and all that, so my natural predisposition is to be sceptical of all this. But Crown did make an impressive presentation and it may be that the facts support him.

    I’ll be interested in what you come up with.

    Liked by 1 person

  217. Crown

    Nate,

    I appreciate your forum. I appreciate your level-headedness.

    Way back when I discovered this place, you and I exchanged some e-mails. I decided not to post here generally, because I agreed with you in general that discussions of miracles would probably become nasty. You were right. They started well, but very quickly it became a matter of belittling me for the putative sin of being superstitious.

    I myself only accept the existence of the supernatural because of miracles.

    I know, because of miracles. Nobody will believe mine, and people are nasty, so I try to take the most scientifically examined physical miracles and discuss from that vantage point.

    The discussion can be had with some.
    Others are OJ jurors and it’s pointless from the get go.

    Like

  218. Josh

    Crown-
    I think you did an excellent job of presenting an incredible amount of information – so much that I actually thought my head literally exploded at one point. I do think you’re right about miracles and proving them, though. I tend to be in the camp that believes that Jesus could have been ministering within the past 5 years, and we could have an abundance of video, document, artifact, and oral information attesting to the fact that he performed all miracles recorded in the gospels, and there would still be rejection because of all the reasons we see here: people could have mistaken what they saw; video evidence can be tampered with; reports don’t line up with one another, or even contradict each other at some points; “I didn’t see it, and I won’t believe it unless I witness it personally”; etc, etc, etc. Heck! Even Pharaoh’s lackeys could duplicate almost all of the “miracles” God performed. Jesus and God have left us primarily to ourselves and our own conclusions. I am not a historian, scientist, etc, but it seems to me there just isn’t enough evidence to convince someone on those grounds that God exists and Jesus is God. That gets Jesus and God in a lot of hot water. But, for whatever reasons, that is the way they chose to relate to us. The Gospels reveal a God who became incarnate to an unknown woman in a backwater town, is recorded to have directly instructed people to not reveal who he was, couldn’t even perform miracles in some towns, didn’t even know when he himself would return, couldn’t convince his own followers beyond a period of a minute or two without some additional miracle, and then died a regular old criminal death. He chose not to make himself and his message definitive beyond a doubt, for whatever reason. It is superstitious to believe. It is almost foolish to have faith. Yet, some of us continue to have that faith in the face of staunch opposition. I think it’s good to communicate what we believe and why we believe it, whatever those reasons are for each person. But, expect heated resistance. It’s just not ever going to be definitive for everyone. None of us like that, but it’s the way it is. Good luck to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  219. 7. The shroud has no known history prior to the mid-fourteenth century, when it turned up in the possession of a soldier of fortune who cannot or will not say how he acquired the most holy relic in all of Christendom.

    8. The shroud surfaced in France exactly at the height of the ‘holy relic’ craze, the collection of patently false relics relating to Jesus. Not one such relic has ever been proved to be genuine, and the faking of relics was rife at this time. There were between 26 and 40 “authentic” burial shrouds scattered throughout the abbeys of Europe, of which the Shroud of Turin is just one.

    9. The earliest written record of the shroud is a Catholic bishop’s report to Pope Clement VII, dated 1389, stating that it originated as part of a faith-healing scheme, with “pretended miracles” being staged to defraud credulous pilgrims. The bishop’s report also stated that a predecessor had “discovered the fraud and how the said cloth had been cunningly painted, the truth being attested by the artist who had painted it”.

    10. In 1390, Pope Clement VII declared that it was not the true shroud but could be used as a representation of it, provided the faithful be told that it was not genuine.

    No pope has ever declared the Shroud authentic. None. So Pope Clement VII, the pope at the time that the shroud surfaced said it was NOT authentic, and no pope since has declared it authentic. That should tell you something.

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  220. archaeopteryx1

    Not my blog, Josh, but I’m sure that one of the many reasons you are so welcome here is your open-mindedness – and the fact that you resemble the Pillsbury Dough Boy, nobody doesn’t like him! Oh wait, that’s Sara Lee – nevermind.

    Like

  221. “The Gospels reveal a God who became incarnate to an unknown woman in a backwater town, is recorded to have directly instructed people to not reveal who he was, couldn’t even perform miracles in some towns, didn’t even know when he himself would return, couldn’t convince his own followers beyond a period of a minute or two without some additional miracle, and then died a regular old criminal death. He chose not to make himself and his message definitive beyond a doubt, for whatever reason.”

    If you knew that tonight your neighbor’s house is going to explode in a ball of fire and that your neighbor, his wife, and his little children are all going to be burned alive…would you leave them vague hints and tips about what was going to happen to them? Or would you pound on their door, stand out front of their house and yell at the top of your lungs to warn them?

    So we are to believe that the Almighty God of the universe loves the whole world so much that he sent his only son to pay the death penalty for our ancestors’ forbidden fruit eating, but, he sent him to some small backwater area of the known world; hiding his true identity for his entire life; and after dying, only appearing to people who had already believed due to his sporadic miracles. And if we don’t believe we are going to be burned alive for all eternity!

    Nonsense.

    If there is an almighty, loving God he would make sure that every one of us knows about his eternal torture pit; he would go out of his way to tells us. He would appear to each one of us; he has the power to do it. He would flash a message on the moon: “REPENT AND BELIEVE IN MY SON, JESUS OF NAZARETH OR BURN IN ETERNAL HELL FIRE.”

    So either the Christian story is a lot of baloney…or the Christian god is a sick bastard who enjoys watching billions of humans writhe and scream in agony in his eternal torture chamber.

    It’s one or the other, Christians. Don’t tell us your god is a “loving Father” and then tell us that he burns people alive for the thought crime of not believing in him and submitting to him as their master.

    Liked by 4 people

  222. carmen

    Thank you, Gary, for that last comment.

    Although I can appreciate that Crown went to a great deal of trouble to share his information, I still see miracles – bottom line – as what he IMAGINES to be true. I am a teacher and think it’s wonderful that people have imaginations – we have a plethora of works of literature that illustrate the beauty of imagination, for example. But that’s ultimately what religion boils down to, for me – a mythical work of various men’s imaginations.

    I, for one, did not read anything that led me to believe that anyone was being nasty, as asserted by Crown – in disagreement perhaps, but not nasty. Maybe it’s that ‘persecuted christian’ complex?

    Liked by 2 people

  223. Imaginations of men, indeed.

    “A penis panic is a mass hysteria event or panic in which male members of a population suddenly experience the belief that their genitals are getting smaller or disappearing entirely. Penis panics have occurred around the world, most notably in Africa and Asia. Local beliefs in many instances assert that such physical changes are often fatal. In cases where the fear of the penis being retracted is secondary to other conditions, psychological diagnosis and treatments are under development.

    It is becoming increasingly clear that these forms of mass hysteria are more common than previously thought. Injuries have occurred when stricken men have resorted to apparatus such as needles, hooks, fishing line, and shoe strings, to prevent the disappearance of their penises. An epidemic struck Singapore in 1967, resulting in thousands of reported cases. Government and medical officials alleviated the outbreak only by a massive campaign to reassure men of the anatomical impossibility of retraction together with a media blackout on the spread of the condition.

    http://listverse.com/2009/03/16/top-10-bizarre-cases-of-mass-hysteria/

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  224. Dear Christians,

    We could get into a long debate over the lack of evidence for the many supernatural and historical claims in the Bible such as:

    1. A six day Creation.
    2. The age of the universe.
    3. A world wide flood.
    4. The origin of languages from a tower.
    5. The patriarchs
    6. Hebrew slavery in Egypt.
    7. The Exodus.
    8. The Conquest of Canaan.
    9. The great empires of David and Solomon.
    10. The forgery of the Book of Daniel.
    11. The absence of any contemporaneous non-Christian accounts of great earthquakes in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus death, the three hours of darkness, zombies roaming the streets, the resurrection, and the post resurrection appearances to hundreds of people of the executed King of the Jews.

    We could debate all these issues, and why there is no evidence to support these claims, but the claims of the Bible can be shown to be ridiculous nonsense by just one claim of the Bible, and it is this:

    What is the cause for the massive suffering of billions of human beings on earth today and for the previous thousands of years?

    Answer: ancestral forbidden fruit eating.

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  225. carmen

    Gary, to your ‘ancestral forbidden fruit eating’ I would add, ‘which, in millions of people’s minds, got blamed on WOMEN’. . even more damaging.

    Liked by 1 person

  226. Neuron and Carmen:

    It really is a sick, chauvinistic belief system. Let’s hope that more and more Christians will have the courage to remove the rose colored glasses from their eyes and see their ancient belief system for what it is: a tall tale.

    Liked by 1 person

  227. Josh

    It’s one or the other, Christians. Don’t tell us your god is a “loving Father” and then tell us that he burns people alive for the thought crime of not believing in him and submitting to him as their master.

    Hey Gary-
    There are many, many Christians, myself included, who would tell you that God does not “burn people alive in hell for the thought crime of not believing in him and submitting to him as their master”.

    I recommend reading:

    Robert Farrar Capon
    C. Baxter Kruger
    Sharon Baker
    Rob Bell (especially Love Wins)

    Like

  228. Crown

    We’ve lost the forest for the trees.

    The interesting thing about the Shroud isn’t that Jesus is on it.

    It’s that the image itself is a true miracle: nature can’t make it, and man can’t make it either, not in the First Century, not in the 14th, and not in the 21st.

    It’s proof of POOF.

    There are many other such objects, each with their examinable miracle.

    These things prove miracle.

    And THAT is what is interesting.

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  229. Crown … you originally said the shroud looked like Jesus. Then you fudged in your response when I asked how anyone could know it was Jesus. And now you’re saying it isn’t Jesus on the shroud!

    From everything I’ve read, the whole reason the shroud is venerated is because people believe it’s Jesus.

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  230. Josh,

    For the majority of the last two thousand years, Christians have terrorized “sinners” with the threat of being burned alive for all eternity in God’s torture pit as described by Jesus himself in Christianity’s ancient middle eastern holy book. In the modern era, as secular/humanistic morality has gained prominence in our culture, the harsh, very judgmental, traditional Judeo/Christian morality has been repeatedly reinterpreted and softened to make the Christian message more palatable to modern, non-superstitious, educated people:

    1. You don’t really burn, but you are in pain…forever. Torture.
    2. You aren’t in physical pain, only psychological pain. Torture.
    3. There is no pain in Hell, but you will miss out on all the fun in heaven. Silly.
    4. Hell is just separation from my imaginary ghost god in the sky. I can live with that concept.

    Like

  231. It’s kind of funny: when you do a Google search on ‘how shroud of turin was painted’ the links keep alternating between those who say it’s obviously a painting and those who say it obviously isn’t. So much for experts, huh?

    However, I did run across this article that talks about an Italian chemistry professor who tried to make a similar shroud using materials from the time of the shroud’s origin (whether this means 1st century or 13th, I don’t know). According to the article, he was pretty successful. I haven’t researched it past that one article yet, but I thought I’d share. It definitely makes me more skeptical of the claim that science can’t explain its existence.

    http://www.livescience.com/9740-shroud-turin-evidence-closer.html

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  232. Josh

    Gary-
    The fact the doctrine of hell is continuously reinterpreted is undeniable. And, I’m not certain that’s a bad thing, or something for which Christians should be embarrassed. I think it’s good to go back and look at what we think we understand on a regular basis and evaluate whether it makes sense, both to us and in the context of what was originally taught/written. I have read a few articles that do a nice job evaluating what Jesus and the NT actually taught about hell. Here’s a good one by unkleE:

    https://theway21stcentury.wordpress.com/what-to-believe/hell-what-does-the-bible-say/

    Like

  233. Josh

    Thanks for the additional links, Nate. I don’t put any stock one way or another in the shroud, but I’m always fascinated to read and watch about this old stuff 🙂

    Like

  234. Crown

    It’s a pity the article about the Italian chemist didn’t give us details about the image he made. Was it formed of Maillard Reactions? Was it a three dimensional negative? Was it on both surfaces of the cloth?

    It looked very much like the image, the article says. That’s nice. But did it look like the image under a microscope? Did it look like the image chemically? Can you make a 3D hologram from the image? Does it have the 3-D quality? When you photograph the image, do you get a photographic positive?

    The article gives no technical details, nothing. That’s why the article isn’t admissible into evidence in a Court.

    Perhaps the scientists tests would be admissible, and he’s around to testify to it.

    The cloth itself would be – it’s not an historical artifact in a treasury. His image, which “looks like’ the Shroud, can be examined. That way we can test his image precisely, point by point. “Looking very much like” is not reproducing the image. People have been making Shroud images for years – things that LOOK LIKE the Shroud image. They’ve done it by heating statutes and putting a sheet over it. They’ve done it by rubbings.

    These produce images that LOOK LIKE the Shroud image. But, when you analyze them forensically, they’re nothing like the Shroud image.

    If you find anywhere that gives details on the chemistry of his image, please post them.

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  235. Crown

    Nan,

    I didn’t fudge anything.

    The image on the Shroud looks like what we’d expect Jesus to look like from art. Of course, the iconography of Jesus’ face in particular COMES FROM the image on the Shroud.

    The image on the Shroud contains all of the cross reference points that a Christian would expect – it looks like the crucified Jesus.

    That’s not fudging.

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  236. Hi Josh,

    I have also read the Christian explanations of why Jesus didn’t literally mean that people would be cast into a lake of fire where there is gnashing of teeth and the worm dieth not, and maybe the explanations are true. Maybe Jesus was speaking figuratively. It’s possible.

    But here is the problem: If the Holy Spirit reveals truth to Christians as the Bible claims, why is it that it is Science that keeps forcing Christianity to redefine the “true” meaning of what is said in their holy book? Why didn’t the Holy Spirit reveal the true reality of hell, the non-literal six day Creation, the non-world wide flood, the non-just-a-couple-thousand-year-old earth, and on and on…

    Isn’t it much more likely that the reason Christians must repeatedly update what an all-knowing, perfect God really meant to say…is that their all-knowing, perfect god never said it…and… probably doesn’t exist?

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  237. @Crown,

    … all of the cross reference points that a Christian would expect …

    I guess that pretty well sums it up. IOW, if you believe the bible story, then you believe what you see in the shroud. The power of suggestion is strong indeed.

    Like

  238. Josh

    Gary-
    I don’t think the examinations of the language Jesus used in reference to ‘hell’ are “Christian” per se. They are just examinations of what the words mean. Aren’t they? Is it totally unbelievable that, for centuries, we simply misunderstood what was being said? We clearly misunderstood Jesus’ teaching on grace toward those who are outcast even to this day. The man sat down with those the religious leaders called ‘sinners’ and ‘unclean’, those the religious leaders wouldn’t be caught dead even being near. We get all of that wrong despite Jesus’ actions and teachings. How much more likely we misunderstand something about an ‘eternal’ idea that none of us has any access to whatsoever?

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  239. I agree with you, Josh. Fallible human beings can get things very confused when trying to understand what God the Creator really said when reading books by anonymous authors; therefore, authors whom you cannot question to ask what they meant or what the persons they allegedly were quoting really meant.

    But the Holy Spirit should know. And the Bible says that the Holy Spirit reveals truth to believers. So how is it possible that NOT ONE SINGLE Christian, for almost 2,000 years, was told by the Holy Spirit, the following:

    1. Hell is figurative. Don’t scare people with images of fire and brimstone.
    2. The earth was not created in six days and is not 6,000 years old.
    3. There never was a flood that covered the entire earth and the mountains by 22 cubits of water. This was only a regional flood in the Euphrates River Valley (and the story in Genesis is a re-working of the Babylonian flood story about Gilgamesh.)
    4. The earth is a sphere.
    5. The sun does not revolve around the earth.
    6. Seizures are not caused by demon possession.
    7. There is a cure for leprosy. (Jesus just didn’t tell anyone about it.)

    I could go on.

    Why Josh? Why did an all-knowing God write a holy book containing so many errors in basic science, geology, archaeology, and medicine, or, if we want to retain a belief in his perfection, why did he do such a sloppy, confusing job of dictating his holy words that he left humanity in profound confusion on these subjects for thousands of years?

    Millions of people, including innocent little children and babies, have suffered and died excruciating deaths from diseases that we now know are easily treatable…but not due to the profound wisdom in the Bible, but due to reason and science.

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  240. Josh

    Isn’t it much more likely that the reason Christians must repeatedly update what an all-knowing, perfect God really meant to say…is that their all-knowing, perfect god never said it…and… probably doesn’t exist?

    Gary-
    This may very well be accurate. Clearly, I come at this from a different perspective than you. We may never see eye to eye. I’ve come to the definite realization that, while I do see some problems in some things that skeptics have said or written in response to Christians, my faith is most definitely more the result of a desperate hope than it is of well-reasoned arguments and solid evidence. And, let me also say that, if God turns out to be the kind of God who damns people forever in hell for not having enough information when he didn’t offer conclusive information, I’d like to at least think that I will be the first to flip him the bird and make my way toward the Devil’s playground.

    Like

  241. Crown

    Jesus never said “Hell”. The word he used is written in Greek as “Gehenna”. “Gehenna” – Gehinnom – is a Jewish concept.

    Jews believe that when people die, their spirits go to one of two places: Gan Eden – literally the Garden of Eden, which in Greek is “Paradise” (NOT “Heaven” – “Heaven” – ha’shamayim in Hebrew and ouranos in Greek, means “sky”), or Gehenna.

    The spirits of the very good, clean and pure go immediately to Gan Eden, a place of delight.

    Everybody else goes into Gehenna, a dry place of heat, and there, they are cleansed of their sins and do penance for them. Eventually, most rise out of Gehenna to Gan Eden. Some traditions say 1 year maximum. The depth to which a spirit is pushed into Gehenna is related to the severity of the sins that the person has. The very worst sinners – those who have committed the most monstrous crimes – are pushed very deep and never leave Gehenna.

    So, Jewish Gehenna is “Hell”, but Hell, to the Jews, is Purgatorial; it is hot and painful, but it is cleansing.

    If we’re going to translate what Jesus said into comprehensible terms, we should write “Purgatory”, not “Hell”, because Gehenna is Jewish, and Jewish Gehenna is NOT eternal, for any but the very worst.

    Jesus tells us as much in the case of the unforgiving servant, the one who is forgiven a massive debt but who refuses to forgive a small one by another.

    Jesus says that the ruler had him bound and sent to the torturers into the dungeon, UNTIL the last penny is paid. The difference between “forever” and “UNTIL the last penny is paid”, is the difference between Christian Hell and Jewish Gehenna.

    Jesus said that the Father would treat us in the same way if we are unforgiving.

    So, to be clear: CHRISTIANS have created a doctrine of eternal hell.
    But JEWS, like Jesus, have only Purgatorial Gehenna, where the flames are cleasing of the sin, like dross from metal in a fire. Only the blackest and worse are so terrible that their sins just are not cleansed within the time left.

    Now, the Christian theology, in the revelation of John, includes a SECOND fiery place, the Lake of Fire.

    At the end of the world, all are resurrected to the flesh, and each is judged, alive. Judgment is based on deeds/works. Jesus repeats that about 20 times in Revelation. Paul seems to disagree in Romans. Jesus trumps. Jesus judges, and those who are the murderers, sexually immoral, idolators, liars, cowards – he gives the list twice on the last page – they’re thrown into the Lake of Fire for the Second Death.

    Revelation says that the condemned angels are in the flames on and on, but only that when men are cast there this is “the second death” – ambiguous. Maybe that’s it: those spirits – souls, actually, because spirit and body are bound – may burn up and be utterly destroyed. Or maybe it’s like Gehenna – again.

    In no case does anything in Scripture happen “forever” or “eternally”. The word “forever” or “eternal” never appears in Scripture. Rather, in Hebrew, the words are “olam” and “olam va’ed”. Those words mean “to a distant time”. Literally, they mean “to the horizon and beyond”. As far as the eye can see and more. The concept is “to the unknown”. “Forever” is an assertion of the known period of time: an open set that never closes. But the Hebrew word “olam” says only ‘until we don’t know when, far away’. And that’s not eternity. It’s finite.

    Likewise, in the Greek, the word by which olam is translated, and the New Testament concept, is “aion” – the eon. For the eon. An eon is a long, unspecified period of time. It is, once again, “until we don’t know”. “Eon of eons” implies a vastly longer time. But in no case does it mean forever. It’s not unbounded. It’s still bounded, somewhere far away.

    That’s what Scripture actually SAYS.

    So, in English, man is composed of a body, that falls to dust, and a spirit, which is breath from God. When breath and body are together, that’s a nephesh – a soul. The body falls to dust, the spirit goes to Paradise (Gan Eden) or Purgatory (Gehenna). The soul ceases to exist.

    After the sins are cleansed, most in Gehenna proceed to Gan Eden.

    At a certain point in the unknown future, Jesus returns with the end of the world as it is. At the denouement of that, the City of God, the New Jerusalem, comes down out of the sky (“Heaven”), to Jerusalem, the dead are all resurrected – spirits rejoined to bodies – and become new again, and each is judged according to his deeds. There is forgiveness for sin, for those who were forgiving, and of course those who have been purified, by the various means described in the Scripture (including Gehenna – where the last penny of debt was paid). Those who pass judgment proceed through the gates into the City, to live with God to a distant time.

    Those who fail are thrown into the Lake of Fire, either to be destroyed for good, or to wait to a distant time.

    Of the time after that distant time, Scripture is silent.

    That’s what it actually SAYS. No Christians or Jews seem to be able to read it as written. All seem to have to add their own traditions to it.

    And they’re as nasty in atheists in abusing whoever challenges their preferred belief.

    So there’s no point in doing so. However, there’s also no point in trying to “get along” by not correcting people when they say “Scripture says” and then start using words like “Hell” and “eternity”. Those words do not exist in Greek or in Hebrew, and they never appear in Scripture. Neither does the word God. The words are “Powers” or “He will exist” in the Hebrew, and “Mighty” or “Power” in Greek. Elohiym and Theos mean the same thing, and they refer to POWER, not GOODNESS. “God” is the Anglo-Saxon word “Good”. It was applied to the Christian deity because he was the good one. If we want to translate the words “El” and “Theos” DIRECTLY into English, then we have to use the proper English word conveying the identical concept, and that word is “Ace”. We have not referred to the deity as an “Ace”, plural “Aesir” since Christianity came, and have referred to the Christian Aces as “Good” – God – ever since, because they were the GOOD ones.

    Are you tired of me yet?

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  242. Crown

    Gary M: why do you believe that it’s wrong to kill people.

    Who defines “wrong”, for you?
    And who defines “people”?

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  243. carmen

    “Are you tired of me yet?”

    No, but you’re revealing yourself to be just like other commenters on here who claim to know the ‘truth’ – it’s positively amazing how many ‘truths’ there are out there. As I’ve said already today, imagination is a wonderful thing! 🙂

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  244. Crown

    Josh,

    Many would say that it’s heretical and wrong. And they would pick up their English translation of a Hebrew or a Greek text to “prove” it.

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  245. I’m not interested in getting into a debate on the source or basis of morality, Crown. I posted a link on Nate’s most recent thread (My field trip) from John Loftus of Debunking Christianity who discusses why humans have a sense of morality without needing the assistance of divine ghosts to behave decently towards one another. If you would like me to post the link here, let me know.

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  246. Crown’s question brings up an important issue:

    I believe that many Christians hold onto their supernatural belief system because they fear that their lives would devolve into moral chaos if they were to abandon it. It’s not true, my Christian friends. You can live a perfectly moral, compassionate, kind existence without believing and being a slave to invisible gods and ghouls.

    Here is the link I mentioned:

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2013/09/on-god-and-objective-moral-values-one.html

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  247. Crown, that’s interesting information, but I’m not in complete agreement. I’m assuming that your info on the Jewish ideas of the afterlife come from Talmudic tradition, or something? I know the Old Testament doesn’t teach that concept. There, Sheol is the only word used about the afterlife, and it appears to the destination of all the dead, both good and bad.

    Gehenna is used by Jesus, and it references the Valley of Hinnom, which was a trash heap outside Jerusalem and traditionally thought to be a place where child sacrifice was conducted deep in Israel’s past. Exactly what Jesus meant by it is up for debate.

    The New Testament also uses the Greek terms Hades and Tartarus — the latter carrying an idea that fits more with the traditional notion of Hell.

    As to how long souls are in either place, I think that’s also up for debate. I think claiming that “we don’t know how long” can’t include the idea of eternity is overstating things. I’m not saying that it must mean eternity, but I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable ruling it out.

    Like Gary said, the bottom line is this: ask 100 Christians what the afterlife is comprised of and you’ll get 100 different answers (maybe more). No one has any clue, though many think they do. The passages on the subject could be read any number of different ways.

    And the fact that the teachings on the subject change between the two testaments doesn’t help the notion of divine inspiration any.

    Liked by 1 person

  248. Crown, all I can say is there are so many things wrong in your lengthy comment above that I could write an entire blog posting correcting you. Instead, I’ll just focus on your references to “gehenna,”

    The Jewish people did NOT believe that when people die, their spirits go to one of two places. They believed in one place: sheol, i.e., the grave, a dark unknown state, the abode of the dead.

    Gehenna was NOT a “a dry place of heat” … where they were “cleansed of their sins” and did “penance” for them. It is a reference to the valley of Hinnom where, historically, King Ahab made molten images to the pagan god Moloch and then performed the abominable practice of burning his own sons for a sacrifice (2 Chronicles 28:3; Jeremiah 19:4-5). (King Manasseh is said to have done the same — 2 Chronicles 33:1, 6).

    It’s obvious the Catholic doctrine of purgatory has influenced your POV since there is nothing in the OT that talks about a “purgatorial” hell, which you claim the Jews believed in. Further, according to many Jewish scholars, there is no definitive answer to what Gan Eden is or how it ultimately fits into the afterlife.

    There is much that is attributed to “Jewish belief” when it is actually based on later rabbinic text/interpretation — not actual scripture. In much the same way, Christians have “reinterpreted” the bible to fit their own personal perspective.

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  249. Crown

    Nan – Jewish Gehenna, “Hell” is in fact Purgatorial. Note, please paragraph 2 below, from the Jewish Encyclopedia. Go argue with them.

    From the Jewish Encyclopedia:

    GEHENNA (Hebr. ; Greek, Γέεννα):

    Judgment.
    It is assumed in general that sinners go to hell immediately after their death. The famous teacher Johanan b. Zakkai wept before his death because he did not know whether he would go to paradise or to hell (Ber. 28b). The pious go to paradise, and sinners to hell (B. M. 83b). To every individual is apportioned two shares, one in hell and one in paradise. At death, however, the righteous man’s portion in hell is exchanged, so that he has two in heaven, while the reverse is true in the case of sinners (Ḥag. 15a). Hence it would have been better for the latter not to have lived at all (Yeb. 63b). They are cast into Gehenna to a depth commensurate with their sinfulness. They say: “Lord of the world, Thou hast done well; Paradise for the pious, Gehenna for the wicked” (‘Er. 19a).

    There are three categories of men; the wholly pious and the arch-sinners are not purified, but only those between these two classes (Ab. R. N. 41). A similar view is expressed in the Babylonian Talmud, which adds that those who have sinned themselves but have not led others into sin remain for twelve months in Gehenna; “after twelve months their bodies are destroyed, their souls are burned, and the wind strews the ashes under the feet of the pious. But as regards the heretics, etc., and Jeroboam, Nebat’s son, hell shall pass away, but they shall not pass away” (R. H. 17a; comp. Shab. 33b). All that descend into Gehenna shall come up again, with the exception of three classes of men: those who have committed adultery, or shamed their neighbors, or vilified them (B. M. 58b). The felicity of the pious in paradise excites the wrath of the sinners who behold it when they come from hell (Lev. R. xxxii.). The Book of Enoch (xxvii. 3, xlviii. 9, lxii. 12) paraphrases this thought by saying that the pious rejoice in the pains of hell suffered by the sinners. Abraham takes the damned to his bosom (‘Er. 19a; comp. Luke xvi. 19-31). The fire of Gehenna does not touch the Jewish sinners because they confess their sins before the gates of hell and return to God (‘Er. 19a). As mentioned above, heretics and the Roman oppressors go to Gehenna, and the same fate awaits the Persians, the oppressors of the Babylonian Jews (Ber. 8b). When Nebuchadnezzar descended into hell, all its inhabitants were afraid that he was coming to rule over them (Shab. 149a; comp. Isa. xiv. 9-10). The Book of Enoch also says that it is chiefly the heathen who are to be cast into the fiery pool on the Day of Judgment (x. 6, xci. 9, et al.). “The Lord, the Almighty, will punish them on the Day of Judgment by putting fire and worms into their flesh, so that they cry out with pain unto all eternity” (Judith xvi. 17).

    Valley of Ge-Hinnom.(From a photograph by Bonfils.)
    The sinners in Gehenna will be filled with pain when God puts back the souls into the dead bodies on the Day of Judgment, according to Isa. xxxiii. 11 (Sanh. 108b). Enoch also holds (xlviii. 9) that the sinners will disappear like chaff before the faces of the elect. There will be no Gehenna in the future world, however, for God will take the sun out of its case, and it will heal the pious with its rays and will punish the sinners (Ned. 8b).

    Sin and Merit.
    It is frequently said that certain sins will lead man into Gehenna. The name “Gehenna” itself is explained to mean that unchastity will lead to Gehenna (; ‘Er. 19a); so also will adultery, idolatry, pride, mockery, hypocrisy, anger, etc. (Soṭah 4b, 41b; Ta’an. 5a; B. B. 10b, 78b; ‘Ab. Zarah 18b; Ned. 22a). Hell awaits one who indulges in unseemly speech (Shab. 33a; Enoch, xxvii.); who always follows the advice of his wife (B. M. 59a); who instructs an unworthy pupil (Ḥul. 133b); who turns away from the Torah (B. B. 79a; comp. Yoma 72b). For further details see ‘Er. 18b, 101a; Sanh. 109b; Ḳid. 81a; Ned. 39b; B. M. 19a.

    On the other hand, there are merits that preserve man from going to hell; e.g., philanthropy, fasting, visiting the sick, reading the Shema’ and Hallel, and eating the three meals on the Sabbath (Giṭ. 7a; B. B. 10a; B. M. 85a; Ned. 40a; Ber. 15b; Pes. 118a; Shab. 118a). Israelites in general are less endangered (Ber. 10a) than heretics, or, according to B. B. 10a, than the heathen. Scholars (Ḥag. 27a; comp. Men. 99b and Yoma 87a), the poor, and the pious (Yeb. 102b) are especially protected. Three classes of men do not see the face of hell: those that live in penury, those suffering with intestinal catarrh, and those that are pressed by their creditors (‘Er. 41b). It would seem that the expressions “doomed to hell” and “to be saved from hell” must be interpreted hyperbolically. A bad woman is compared to Gehenna in Yeb. 63b. On the names of Gehenna see ‘Er. 19a; B. B. 79a; Sanh. 111b; et al.

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  250. Crown, this is almost exactly what Nan and I were saying. The Jewish Encyclopedia is talking about the belief systems under the Roman Empire and later. This is not taught in the Bible. There’s a clear difference between the OT teachings on the afterlife and the New. And it’s not too surprising since the Jewish people went through Persian and Greek rule before Jesus’ time, two cultures that did believe in a delineated afterlife. This is actually why Jesus talks about Gehenna as though everyone should know what it is, even though it isn’t talked about in the OT at all. And it’s one of the main reasons that there was a distinction between Pharisees and Sadducees.

    This is problematic for Christians that put a lot of stock in the Bible. After all, if the later traditions about “Heaven” and “Hell” (I’ll just use those for simplicity’s sake) are accurate, why weren’t they talked about in the OT? Or why aren’t the texts that talk about them included in canon? Why is there any change in the teaching at all?

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  251. Crown — from the same website:

    The place where children were sacrificed to the god Moloch was originally in the “valley of the son of Hinnom,” to the south of Jerusalem (Josh. xv. 8, passim; II Kings xxiii. 10; Jer. ii. 23; vii. 31-32; xix. 6, 13-14). For this reason the valley was deemed to be accursed, and “Gehenna” therefore soon became a figurative equivalent for “hell.”

    Please note that many of the references at this website are from Rabbinic commentaries, not the scriptures. IOW, they are interpretations. Just like most Christian beliefs.

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  252. Crown

    Nan the reason for your error is that you have assumed, as Protestants all seem to, that the Old Testament is Judaism. It isn’t. It’s only part of Judaism.

    When the Temple was up, the authority in Judaism reposed in the High Priest, the priesthood, and the Sanhedrin. The law is the written Torah AND the oral Torah – all of it together.

    Protestants are “Scripture Alone” and thereby amputate their ability to understand Judaism because they pretend that Judaism is, likewise, Scripture Alone, but that was never true at any point during the existence of Jewish people.

    Before the destruction of the Temple, the lawmaking authority reposed in High Priest and Sanhedrin, through judgment.

    After, it reposed in the rabbinate. Judaism is based primarily on the traditions recorded in the Talmud, not the TaNaCh.

    Judaism is like Catholicism: its priests had the authority to interpret, make law, reveal it, and that too be “the law”. It is Protestants, only, who LIMIT God and his religion to the BIble.

    Of course, therefore, things like Gehenna and what Jews believe about it are not within the range of Protestant understanding: since 1519 AD Protestants have ordained that God’s law is to be limited to the Scripture, and that Jews are whatever Protestants read in their abridged Old Testament.

    This is untrue. And it’s why a Protestant would think that purgatorial Gehenna is just a Catholic idea.

    Nope.

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  253. I refer to myself as a “non-believer” who leans towards scientific pantheism and secular humanism.

    I left Christianity over 20 years ago and wrote a book (can be found on Nate’s “Books I’ve Read” page) that examines the history behind many of the more popular Christian doctrines. What I discovered in my research is that many beliefs are based on tradition (i.e., interpretations that were introduced into the faith many hundreds of years ago), rather than actual history (which, in most Christian churches, is either glossed over or not addressed at all).

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  254. Crown

    “Please note that many of the references at this website are from Rabbinic commentaries, not the scriptures. IOW, they are interpretations. Just like most Christian beliefs.”

    Please note, Nan, that the ONLY PEOPLE who confine “True God” to the Scriptures are Protestants. Catholics never have. The Orthodox never have. The Jews never have.

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  255. BTW, I think you have it backward. Judaism is not like Catholicism — Catholicism tries to be like Judaism, with a little Christianity thrown in for good measure.

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  256. It baffles me how Christians can appeal to “objective morality” as a sign of the Christian god’s existence, but yet if you read their holy book, the Christian god is the most immoral, blood thirsty, vindictive, sadistic, genocidal mass murderer who ever existed!

    What moral being would order little children to be ripped from their mothers’ arms and chopped to pieces, all because their parents offended the “chosen ones” by not allowing them to pass through their land…on their way to steal other peoples’ lands?

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  257. The majority of the Christian holy book, the Bible, is not appropriate reading for young children. That should tell you something.

    This ancient book of superstitions teaches one of the most barbaric and subjective forms of morality.

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  258. “The Jewish Encyclopedia is talking about the belief systems under the Roman Empire and later. This is not taught in the Bible.”

    Hi Nate and others,

    I am not Catholic, and I don’t fully agree with Crown’s interpretation of Gehenna as purgatorial. The information I have found suggests the first century Jews had several different views, including Gehenna as punishment, as purgatorial and as annihilation.

    But I believe you and others have misunderstood first century Judaism (or “Second Temple Judaism” as it is often called) when you argue from what the OT says. First century Jews had many interpretive texts which took stories from the Tanakh and amplified them, developed them, drew conclusions from them, etc – as you know from Peter Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation

    Enns and others have clarified how Jesus and the NT authors lived in this cultural milieu and adopted some of its approaches and quoted or alluded to some of these writings. Many of Jesus’ sayings and arguments contain shadows of all this, and to properly understand him requires that we take all this into account.

    I have said to you many times, you have left behind your fundamentalist Protestant belief in God, but I don’t think you have yet left behind your fundamentalist Protestant view of the Bible. There is change & development within the OT, change & development between the OT and the NT, and even change & development within the NT. Fundamentalists don’t recognise this, but it is quite clear. Far from being a problem, that is the point. As one scholar I read recently said, to the Jews their scriptures were not a prescription but a dialogue between different ways of seeing things.

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  259. unkleE,

    Yes, Judaism has been “modified” in many ways over the years. But these modifications are based on, as you wrote, interpretive texts. Key word: interpretative. This is no different than what the churches of today are doing when they split into thousands of different denominations because they “interpret” the scriptures differently from one another.

    It all boils down to what you think the text means as opposed to what I think it means as opposed to what the rabbis think it means as opposed to what the scholars think it means as opposed to what Crown or anyone else thinks it means.

    IOW, when you get right down to it, the bible (both OT & NT) is a very poor standard to follow if one truly wants to live according to what “God” wants.

    Liked by 1 person

  260. Nate, thanks too for the links on the Turin Shroud. I’m setting up a bookmarks folder for everything I find so I can spend some time on it when I get time.

    I think it is worth saying something about evidence based belief. Most of us here would say that we should base our beliefs on evidence, and non-believers are strong on saying we shouldn’t hold beliefs on “faith” alone.

    So Crown comes here and tables a bunch of evidence before the court. He claims this evidence points to a particular conclusion – that the 4 gospels record a historical fact when they record the resurrection. He is not using the gospels as an authority, as some here have wrongly understood, but he is attempting to use the scientific evidence he tabled to demonstrate, on this one point at least, that the gospels have recorded a historical fact.

    He hasn’t given references to his evidence, he has just tabled it. It is now up to the court, especially Gary as his opponent, to examine and question whatever parts of that evidence we all wish to test.

    Now it is interesting to observe the response. Nate, you and I are initially a little sceptical, but intend to research further, and you have begun to do so. But others here have not given any indication of that (though perhaps some will).

    No-one except Brandon has asked Crown to elaborate on his tabled evidence and supply some references. So no-one yet has given any indication that they have looked at his evidence at all, only reacted to his outline of it.

    The main critical responses I have observed have been these:

    1.Light-hearted mockery which doesn’t engage with the evidence Crown presented in any way.

    2. To simply dismiss his evidence with multiple uses of the word “poof” (perhaps an unfortunate choice if you have the same slang in the US as we have in Australia!). That of course isn’t an argument, certainly not evidence. It is just an admittance of not using evidence, but prior opinion. So in a court case examining the possibility of miracles, this reply to an alleged scientific case simply prejudges the question and refuses to consider miracles even when there is allegedly good evidence?

    3. A few quotes from one or two sceptical websites, which as Crown said, don’t constitute scientific evidence. I haven’t read them in detail yet, but perhaps they contain references to good scientific data, but none of that has been brought forward so far.

    This is not an evidence-based response!

    An evidence-based response would look at both sides of the question, especially the evidence that Crown has already provided. It would see what scientific studies both the Catholics and the sceptics claim support their cases, and how they answer each other. That is what I intend to do, and Nate what I understand you will be doing as well.

    There is no shame in not following through with such an assessment – we all have busy lives and can’t follow every topic through to a conclusion. But if we can’t follow through, we shouldn’t be claiming to be evidence-based on this matter – we are just being as much faith heads as some accuse christians of being.

    I thought long and hard about writing this comment because I feel sure some of you won’t like it. I’m sorry if it is too strong, but I have avoided mentioning names or being personal. But I know there are people who read this blog while rarely commenting, and who are interested in evidence, and I write to point this out to them as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  261. Hi Nan, thanks for your comment. We could discuss how christians today can know about God, and I would be happy to do so if you wish. But the topic here was understanding what Jesus meant when he talked about Gehenna, and Crown and I are saying that you and Nate are mistaken if you think the only background to understanding his thinking is the Tanakh, when it has been demonstrated that he and the NT writers were also influenced by and reacting to contemporary thinking and interpretive texts.

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  262. I have said to you many times, you have left behind your fundamentalist Protestant belief in God, but I don’t think you have yet left behind your fundamentalist Protestant view of the Bible. There is change & development within the OT, change & development between the OT and the NT, and even change & development within the NT.

    Hi unkleE,

    I think you’re right about the changes that are in place, but I do still think this is problematic. I know you and many others view it differently — I just can’t join you in that view. To me, it looks too much like what we’d expect to find from texts that had no divine aspect to them at all. So when the Bible’s texts don’t stand out from the pack in that way, I just have an extremely hard time accepting them as anything other than human writings about belief. I see them as religious commentary, in other words.

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  263. unkleE,

    Just to clarify my position, based on your last comment — I don’t deny that Jesus’s thinking was influenced by contemporary thinking and interpretive texts. I just think those facts point against the idea of inspiration, similar to what I said above.

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  264. Hi Nate, of course I would like you to see the scriptures as inspired, but that isn’t what I’m talking about here. All I’m saying is that whether they are true or not, inspired or not, they show change and development throughout, they contain some disparate viewpoints, and their methods of interpretation are not as literal and fixed as you sometimes assume. These seem to me to be facts, and any conclusions we draw should start from there. I don’t see these facts as barriers to belief in inspiration, while you do. But in interpreting Jesus, we should take these facts into account, and I felt you didn’t. I’ve said it before, even though we disagree about many things, I appreciate that we can discuss this way. Thanks.

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  265. I am going to copy and paste below the conclusions of the carbon dating study of the Shroud conducted by three different highly respected laboratories in the late 1980’s, working independently, and under the supervision of the British Museum.

    I will predict in advance that believers in the authenticity of the Shroud will not be swayed by this evidence. Believers will claim the results are bogus and flawed. Science says otherwise. The sample taken for this analysis was not just a tiny clipping of the edge of a patch on the Shroud. It was a long strip that did not involve any patched or damaged areas. The Bishop of Turin was present when the sample was taken.

    The conclusion of each of the three labs, working without any knowledge of the findings of the other two, was that the Shroud was created in the fourteenth century. The Vatican has never claimed the Shroud is authentic and to my knowledge has never condemned the findings of the carbon dating as in error.

    People who want to believe in a shroud, in a face covering, or in a resurrection will NEVER be convinced otherwise, regardless of the evidence. But for those of us who are willing to look at the evidence and let the chips fall where they may, this study should be considered conclusive scientific evidence that the Shroud of Turin was just one of many forged “relics” circulating in the Middle Ages.

    From the website (I will post the link below):

    Conclusions

    The results of radiocarbon measurements at Arizona, Oxford and Zurich yield a calibrated calendar age range with at least 95% confidence for the linen of the Shroud of Turin of AD 1260 – 1390 (rounded down/up to nearest 10 yr). These results therefore provide conclusive evidence that the linen of the Shroud of Turin is mediaeval.

    The results of radiocarbon measurements from the three laboratories on four textile samples, a total of twelve data sets, show that none of the measurements differs from its appropriate mean value by more than two standard deviations. The results for the three control samples agree well with previous radiocarbon measurements and/or historical dates.

    We thank Cardinal Anastasio Ballestrero for allowing us access to the shroud, Professor L. Gonella for his help and support throughout the project and Professor A. Bray for commenting on our statistical assessment of the data. We also thank Miss E. Crowfoot, T. G. H. James, Dr J. Evin, M. Prevost-Macillacy, G. Vial, the Mayor of Saint-Maximin and the Egypt Exploration Society for assistance in obtaining the three known-age control samples. Oxford thank P. H. South (Precision Process (Textiles) Ltd, Derby) for examining and identifying the cotton found on the shroud sample; R. L. Otlet (Isotopes Measurement Laboratory, AERE, Harwell) for stable isotope ratio measurements on two samples; J. Henderson and the Department of Geology, Oxford Polytechnic for undertaking scanning electron microscopy, and SERC for the Special Research Grant which provided the primary support for the Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit. Zurich thank the Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI, CH-5234 Villigen) for technical and financial support. The AMS Programme at Arizona is partially supported by a grant from the NSF.

    1. La S. Sindone-Ricerche e studi della Commissione di Esperti nominata dall’ Arcivescovo di Torino, Cardinal Michele Pellegrino, nel 1969 Supplemento Rivista Diocesana Torinese (1976).
    2. Jumper, E.J. et al. in Archaeological Chemistry-III (ed. Lambert, J. B.) 447-476 (Am. chem. Soc., Washington, 1984).
    3. Burleigh, R., Leese, M. N. & Tite, M.S. Radiocarbon 28, 571-577 (1986).
    4. Tite, M.S. Nature 332, 482 (1988)
    5. Stuiver, M. & Pearson, G.W. Radiocarbon 28, 805-838 (1986).
    6. Slota, P.J., Jull, A. J. T., Linick, T. W. & Toolin, L. J. Radiocarbon 29, 303-306 (1987).
    7. Vogel, J. S., Nelson, D.E. & Southon, J.R. Radiocarbon 29, 323-333 (1987).
    8. Vogel, J. S., Southon, J.R. & Nelson, D.E. Nucl. Instrum. Meth. B29, 50-56 (1987).
    9. Linick, T. W., Jull, A. J. T., Toolin, L. J. & Donahue, D. J. Radiocarbon 28, 522-533 (1986).
    10. Gillespie, R., Gowlett, J. A. J., Hall, E. T. & Hedges, R. E. M. Archaeometry 26, 15-20 (1984).
    11. Suter, M. et. al. Nucl. Instrum. Meth. 233[B5], 117-122 (1984).
    12. Stuiver, M. & Polach, H. A. Radiocarbon 19, 355-363 (1977).
    13. Ward, G. K. & Wilson, S. R. Archaeometry 20, 19-31 (1978).
    14. Caulcott, R. & Boddy, R. Statistics for Analytical Chemists (Chapman and Hall, London, 1983).
    15. Stuiver, M. & Reimer, P. J. Radiocarbon 28, 1022-1030 (1986

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  266. If you have ever had a discussion with a fundamentalist Christian regarding Creation, you know that they despise and distrust carbon dating. Unfortunately for them and for believers in the Shroud, carbon dating is very accurate.

    Here is an excerpt from the above article:

    How do you know that radiocarbon really works?

    It is possible to test radiocarbon dates in different ways. One way is to date things that you already know the age of. Libby did this when he first developed the method, by dating artefacts of Egyptian sites, which were already dated historically. Another way is to use tree rings. Every year a tree leaves a ring, the rings increase in number over time until a pattern of rings is formed. Sometimes the tree has many hundreds of rings. Scientists can date the age of the tree by counting and measuring the rings. Radiocarbon daters can then date the tree rings and compare the dates with the real age of the tree. This is a very good way of testing radiocarbon, and we now know that there are some differences in radiocarbon dates and real time. Most of the time radiocarbon dating is accurate, but sometimes it is different from the real age by a small amount. Using a calibration curve, which is based on radiocarbon dates of tree rings over the last 10000 years, radiocarbon daters can correct for this problem.

    We can also test radiocarbon by comparing the results with the dates produced by other dating methods, and there are many of those. These methods are completely different to radiocarbon dating and use different methods to provide dates. Some of the dating methods include Uranium/Thorium dating (dating coral etc), Thermoluminescence (pottery, sediments), Obsidian Hydration (obsidian), Electron Spin Resonance (teeth), Amino Acid Racemisation dating (eggshell, bones), and many others.

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  267. Matt

    I have to say, when Crown first showed up dropping all the ‘evidence’ of the shroud’s authenticity I was really blown away. I haven’t completed a full study of it yet, but so far what I’ve found lead me to feel compelled to comment. The shroud is far from the slam dunk he contends it to be. So far I’m finding mostly non conclusive findings, or findings that date it to the middle ages.

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  268. 1. The god of the OT routinely killed thousands of people, including infants and children, by drowning them, burning them alive, or killing them in their sleep.
    2. Most Christians believe in the Trinity. Therefore, the god of the OT is the same god as the god of the NT.
    3. If Jesus is God, then he is a member of the Trinity, and therefore complicit in the killings of infants and children.
    4. The Bible says that God never changes.
    5. If the Bible is true, the god that you tell your children to pray to every night is a baby killer?

    Why do you believe this barbaric nonsense? Stop and think!

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  269. archaeopteryx1

    Actually Josh, I was just thinking about stuff like that yesterday, while driving. If, as many Christians say, the Bible’s god, even before the creation of the universe, had a third of himself, Jesus, waiting in the wings to be crucified, as he is so omniscient that he knows all that’s going to happen, then he already knew who was going to accept him and who would reject him. So why bother going through all of this if he already knows what’s going to happen.

    I enjoy Shakespeare, and I’ve attended the performances of a number of his plays, not to mention having read all of them. And yes, there are some, such as Hamlet, Othello, and Julius Caesar, that I would see more than once, even though I know how the play will turn out and could in many instances, mouth the words along with the actors, simply because a different director will stage the play differently, or different actors will bring their own interpretations to the roles, but I would likely never see the same play, starring the same actors, twice – it would be boring. But if the Bible’s god is omniscient, he’s already seen it all and knows everything that will happen – why bother with it, when he knows that nothing will ever change – no new director, no new actors – how could it even be entertaining for him? Sure, one can say he gave us free will (and others who can argue with that), but regardless, if he’s truly omniscient, he has already seen what choices we will make with that free will. So why not just shut the whole thing down and say, “Well, that was fun – what’ll we do next?”

    I know you don’t have the answer to that, and I’m not just picking on you, but the question is out there for anyone, you just happened to be closest. Yeah, yeah, “mysterious ways,” which always translates to “I don’t know.”

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  270. archaeopteryx1

    It’s that the image itself is a true miracle: nature can’t make it, and man can’t make it either, not in the First Century, not in the 14th, and not in the 21st.” – I call BS – if we don’t have an explanation, it just means we haven’t found it yet.

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  271. Gary, you’re spot on. But just like you, me and others experienced — death anxiety is very real. There comes a time when one has to make a choice. Do I want to serve and worship a character like Yahweh, Jesus daddy, for eternity? Like you pointed out — this god says he doesn’t change. I deconverted for the reasons you mentioned. When I did, what I saw in scripture became even more magnified — horrifying. It confirmed the neurologicalresearch I read about neural circuitry associated with critical assessment being deactivated with those who have deep attachments with others, loved ones.

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  272. Josh

    Arch-
    Not to presume to speak for God, but I can tell you there are dozens of movies, and multiple Broadway musicals which I have seen multiple times with the same actors. I saw The Phantom of the Opera 5 years in a row in San Francisco with virtually the same company each time. If I lived there I would have seen it much more. I’ve also seen Les Miz and Miss Saigon multiple times in Green Bay with the same company.

    So, there’s at least one minute instance where you look at God and ask how He could possibly do that to while I completely get it 🙂

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  273. The Shroud of Turin is more interesting than I thought.

    Apparently, the STURP team’s primary objective was to determine how the image formed. They ruled out scorch and paint. The image is some sort of oxidation and only involves one side of the cloth and in places only a few fibers thick and shows signs of both bone and soft tissue. The researchers think it is consistent with radiation emission of some sort. But, how do we explain someone’s body emitting radiation in such a way?

    And the botanical evidence is more impressive than I imagined including the imprints of plants and recovery of pollen specific to the Levant. Beyond any reasonable doubt we can say this represents a man who was crucified in the Levant in the season of spring and who was flogged and stabbed in the left flank. It fits very well with accounts of Jesus from the gospels.

    Also, it’s relation to Christian icons is interesting as well.

    The inconsistent carbon dating may be due to bacterial film growing on the surface. Some carbon dating specialists think there may be a way to get around this with developments in the future.

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  274. Gary, the conquest of Canaan involved the divine judgment of wicked cultures. I know what you are thinking. Well, how can children be wicked? Are they culpable for their culture’s sin? Are they culpable for their parent’s sin? No and no. So, does God have the right to request their lives before their natural death? That’s my question for you.

    Consider that this extends to childhood diseases and deaths. Does God have the right to request anyone’s life before their natural death?

    What is your case?

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  275. “if he’s truly omniscient, he has already seen what choices we will make with that free will. So why not just shut the whole thing down and say, “Well, that was fun – what’ll we do next?” ”

    This is an excellent point. Do Christians stop to think that their never changing, all-knowing, perfect Christian god DID just that? The Christian god created the universe…and then decided to shut the whole thing down.

    If you read the story of Noah and the Flood, the Bible says that God “regretted” having made man. Now how can someone who is omniscient “regret” something? How can someone who knows what is going to happen; someone who only allows his will to happen, turn around and regret what he had just willed to happen??

    Dear Christians: A God who is really and truly omniscient and perfect does not “regret”. Regret is a human emotion. When we humans say we regret doing something it means that we made a mistake. Your god says in the Book of Genesis that he made a mistake and he regretted having done something. That is not perfection. That is human fallibility.

    Your god says he is perfect, but then turns around and admits he makes mistakes. Your god is either not perfect, a liar, or non-existent. Which is it?

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  276. And think about this:

    Why did a perfect god need to create a universe and human beings to begin with? If the Bible is true, the Christian god has existed forever. He never had a beginning. So before the first day of Creation, God had existed for trillions upon trillions upon trillions of years…and then one day…he decides he wants to create some stars and planets, and on one tiny planet, in one solar system, in one galaxy…he decides to create flowers, and grass, and trees, and dogs, and cats, and lions, and tigers, and bears…and lastly, some “mini-hims”.

    Why???

    Was he bored? Was he lonely? Was the worship, praise, and lauditory singing from the angels not enough? Did God need some additional new fans to worship and praise him?

    But for whatever reason, (knowing EXACTLY what would happen in the future) God went ahead and made his little play toys: he hung the sun, the stars, the moon, the planets, created animals and plants, and then made man. Then, he decided to make one more tree…a MAGIC tree, and he stuck it right in the middle of the mini-him’s playpen. He told his two new little play things not to eat the fruit on the magic tree. Then he allowed a walking/talking snake to trick them into eating the fruit. And for punishment of eating his forbidden fruit, God gave them a death sentence, cursed the ground and all the animals, triggering horrific suffering for thousands of years of man and animal, and plagued man with hard work, labor pains, rape, child abuse, and murder, war, etc..

    On top of this, after his little play things die off, usually enduring horrific suffering as they die, he then sends most of them to his eternal torture pit…just to make sure they know just how righteous and holy he is.

    Now…why again did a perfect, all-knowing god need to create a universe??

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  277. Brandon:

    So you believe that the targeted killing of children and babies is, sometimes, under some circumstances, justifiable??

    Even in war, the targeted killing of children is considered a war crime. Killing children as “collateral damage” in the act of war is not a war crime, but deliberately targeting children for killing; hunting them down; looking for their hiding places and then running them down as they scream in terror as they see you raise your sword or knife, IS a war crime.

    Your god would be arrested, tried, and convicted of the most heinous war crimes if he were put on trial today.

    He is a monster. How can you teach your children this barbaric nonsense? How can you call yourself a “moral” person and believe this?

    Brandon: There is NEVER any justifiable reason to target children for killing. Never.

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  278. Gary, you’re just make assertions without reasoning.

    Consider how strange the situation really is. God gave the Israelites rules of engagement that spared women and children with only one exception — the Canaanites. (Two exceptions if we count the Amalekites). This has zero to do with modern warfare especially with regards to policy or international law on war crimes.

    I tried to make it more clear for you. This is the same as God taking a child’s life with other means — natural disaster, cancer, pneumonia, etc. Only God uses human agency. So, the question is, does God not have the right to request their life? Notice I’m giving you the burden of proof to make a case.

    This means you can’t just assert that if we put God on trial this or that would happen. Give me details. Reasoning. An argument. I know what you want your conclusion to be, but demonstrate that your conclusion follows some line of reasoning.

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  279. Murdering children has no justification, Brandon. Your religion’s white washing of your god’s despicable crimes is a disgrace. It is unconscionable. Just what distinguishes your morality from that of ISIS?

    If I need to give you reasons and arguments for why it is wrong to murder children, your standard of morality defies any argument that I could ever present to you. Your position is IMmoral, my friend.

    You have been brainwashed, Brandon, that murdering children is sometimes good. One needs no more evidence than this to see your religion for what it is: a barbaric, ancient, superstitious lie.

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  280. @Brandon

    Does God have the right to request anyone’s life before their natural death?

    Wow…

    I’m assuming that you’re asking this as a rhetorical question – e.g. you obviously think the answer is yes.

    Perhaps I think that is the great divide between believers and non-believers. Believers think that as long as God is the creator of everything, he has every right to do anything he wants. While for people like me I don’t really subscribe to “might is right” kind of thinking.

    But hey, I don’t believe in absolute morality so I’ll stop short of calling your train of thought as “wrong”. I dislike it, I just hope you or people like you will never come into power.

    That being said, I do have an issue if you do equate “good” to God if you believe the above. Definition of “good” must be outside of God, not “whatever God does = good”, for the latter definition makes the word “good” meaningless.

    Anyway, what you’ve said (and also your subsequent replies to Gary) reminds me of a friend (I would rather call him an acquaintance now) who once told me that even though he doesn’t know why God would send his kind and nice grandfather to hell – obviously he’s not a believer – but when it does happen (he obviously is of the mainstream belief that people only go to hell after everything is over, not at the moment you die – e.g. last portion of revelation) he would applaud God and praise God for that is definitely the good thing to do. By the way he said this with tears in his eyes.

    So what do we make of this? Cult thinking? Crazy? Or a rational christian trying to do his best to rationalize crazy shits that they believe God does?

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  281. Here is just how crazy the Judeo-Christian moral system is:

    Saul, the believer and follower of Yahweh/Jesus, had no problem killing little children and babies, but spared the sheep and goats. He had no pity for crying, terrified children, but he spared the sheep and goats out of selfish greed..

    And much worse, Brandon, your righteous, holy god did NOT punish Saul for killing babies…but he DID punish him for not killing the goats and sheep!

    That is madness, Brandon. There is no justifiable reason to excuse this behavior.

    It is evil.

    I have a bet to make with you: If you had been there that day, and God himself had told you to chop the arms, legs, and heads off of little Amalekite babies and toddlers, do you think that you would have obeyed?

    I bet you wouldn’t. I will bet, Brandon, that you are a much more moral being than your god is.

    Liked by 1 person

  282. Brandon to Crown: “Before you go, I think the most important step in your argument is in determining that there are no plausible natural ways to generate the image. What publication was able to show this?”

    I second this request.

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  283. Brandon, your apologetic regarding genocide and the horrors of the old testament used to be surprising yet understandable to me given your view of scripture. It is becoming a bit creepy though as time goes on. Surely you see the conundrum here, no?

    Your view seems like this: If there is a creator then it is sovereign so commanding the slaughter of toddlers as they are running away from you is acceptable behavior and we can still put the label of “all good” on a creator like that.

    What is off limits for this sovereign creator before we can agree the label of “all good” doesn’t fit – nothing? If it commands you to rape a toddler is it ok in the same way, or is that a different category for some reason?

    Liked by 1 person

  284. As someone above said: Is the Christian god “good” because his behavior adheres to objective moral principles at all times, or is he “good” simply because he says he is good? If the later is true, then good is only a matter of what the biggest, most powerful, bully says it is.

    How is it that Christians can condemn the barbaric, genocidal acts of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, but call the same barbaric, genocidal acts of their god “good”? Their is no rational explanation for this inconsistency. The morality of Christianity is subjective, not objective. The morality of Christianity is subject to the whims of a tempermental, vindictive, vengeful, blood-thirsty big bully—Yahweh/Jesus.

    You can point out all the errors and discrepancies in the Bible to Christians until you are blue in the face and it won’t change their minds. But, how do they counter the charge that their god is a murdering son-of-a-bitch? Answer: “He’s good because he says he is.”

    If the Christian god exists, dear Christian, please at least be honest and stop calling him “our loving Heavenly Father”. No loving father murders babies. Tremble in terror and call him what he is: “our Heavenly Monster”.

    Liked by 1 person

  285. archaeopteryx1

    3. There is no pain in Hell, but you will miss out on all the fun in heaven.
    Fun in heaven? Read the Bible carefully – there’s no fun in heaven, it consists of praising god, 24/7, for eternity – does that really sound like fun? And what kind of poor self imaged entity really needs that?

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  286. Nate,

    Your commenters are usually far more knowledgeable and articulate than I am, so I typically just read and nod quietly over here in my little corner of the interwebs as they expound on the details of religious history, but I wanted to say that your bravery is admirable, as is your willingness to be open-minded (in the best sense of the term).

    Such qualities often lead to a lot of sighing.

    The God of the Bible is not one that is easy to understand or follow, much less believe in, for most rational thinking people. Taking the time to be as understanding and tolerant of each other’s right to believe as their own conscience dictates is not always easy, especially when the effort is not reciprocated.

    Liked by 1 person

  287. Some may find it rude for me to refer to the Christian god as a murdering-son-of-a-bitch. But I have a question for you: If Adolf Hitler had been captured at the end of WWII, and you had the opportunity to speak to him, would you refer to him respectfully as “Herr Chancellor” or would you refer to him as a monstrous, mass-murdering SOB?

    Mass Murderers and Baby Killers do not merit respect.

    Christians need to understand how many of us skeptics view your belief system. Yes, we view it as a fable or myth. But your myth is not an innocuous myth such as that of Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. The belief in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy has not been the cause of the murder of millions of innocent men, women, and children. Your belief is responsible for just that: MASSIVE persecution and murder.

    I realize that most Christians today do not see themselves as adherents to “that version” of Christianity, but the bottom line is: you still worship and obey the very same BABY KILLER god!

    Your belief system is immoral, my Christian friend. To not speak out against your beliefs; to not speak out against the monster you call your god; to not attempt to rescue more and more young people from this brain-washing cult, would be the epitome of IMMORALITY.

    We MUST speak out plainly and forcefully against the evil superstition of conservative/orthodox Christianity!

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  288. We skeptics/non-believers do not hate Christians. You are our family, our friends, our co-workers. We care deeply about you. But your beliefs are evil. You have been brainwashed to believe the lie that your evil god is good. He is not. He is the epitome of evil. It is our duty to help you to see that.

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  289. The god of the Bible ordered the brutal murder of every breathing Amalekite child and baby.

    Conservative Christian: “The God of the Bible is not one that is easy to understand or follow, much less believe in, for most rational thinking people…(but we should obey and serve him anyway).”

    Nazi: “Hitler is not one that is easy to understand or follow, much less believe in, for most rational thinking people…(but we should obey and serve him anyway).”

    Neither of these individuals is thinking rationally.

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  290. Saw this on FB and thought it worth sharing:

    [T]he prevalent idea of “God” merges several types of being:

    1a A creator who designed the laws of the Universe (it’s thinkable, but explains nothing much. Where did that creator come from?)

    1b A creator who worked within pre-existent laws and made a new Universe with them (eg a team of scientists with a super-powered Large Hadron Collider) This is a realistic possibility and it was discussed before the LHC fired up.

    2. A invisible tyrranical (sic) being with power over this earth who requires us to believe in it and worship it and will punish us like crazy if we don’t, either before we die, or after, or both. Subject of several Star Trek episodes, also of the Old Testament.

    3. An invisible benevolent being who loves us and takes care of us. Subject of the New Testament and of Isaiah.

    The thing is – the case for each of these has to be made separately.
    And if somebody makes a good case for one of these – it does NOTHING AT ALL to advance the case for the other aspects.

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  291. Dear atheists, agnostics, skeptics, naturalists and other non-believers in the Christian god:

    I believe what Nan has said above is very important: It is critical for us to point out to Christians the irreconcilable traits of the Christian god. You cannot be a good, benevolent, loving father and a baby-slaughtering murderer at the same time.

    We will not defeat conservative/fundamentalist religious bigotry, discrimination, intolerance, and superstitions debating Christians and other religious fundamentalists regarding the accuracy of their holy books and the reality of the supernatural claims therein; we will only defeat this evil by convincing good, decent, thinking Christians of the immorality of their belief system.

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  292. Howie, it has nothing to do with sovereignty . That’s the sort of “might makes right” type of argument. Also, notice that I’m not using any apologetic at the moment. I’m challenging Gary or you or anyone else to make a coherent case for your position.

    It’s not as easy as people think it is, it’s kind of like Kagan arguing for contractarianism against a decent case for moral nihilism. Well, how does a supreme creator deity fit into a moral scheme like contractarianism?

    I think the creep factor is just a gut level reaction. This is an emotionally charged subject that even I get. I have to intentionally suppress this, think about the facts, and think more objectively.

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  293. Powell, it has nothing to do with might makes right, see what I said to Howie above. If you have a good case, I’m willing to hear it. Until then, I’m not sure what you are talking about. You are not addressing me, you are just having an emotional burst against someone else — an old acquaintance?

    What is your case? Assertions and emotions I don’t want to here. Give me the inner logic and knowledge. Demonstrate.

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  294. We can forget the “creepy” statement for the moment, but as an aside you may really want to consider it if you want to convince people who admit to having a moral sense even though they aren’t completely sure where that moral sense comes from (and I’m one who concedes it could possibly be from a deity).

    I think I’m just unclear by your case Brandon. Your words seem to be saying clearly that if there is a supreme creator deity then he has every right to command slaughtering all human Amalekites and Canaanites no matter what age. If it’s in his rights I’m assuming you mean he is still all good even in this scenario.

    Liked by 2 people

  295. archaeopteryx1

    There never was a flood that covered the entire earth and the mountains by 22 cubits of water. This was only a regional flood in the Euphrates River Valley

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  296. Josh

    Speaking of frustration, it really bugs me when people discussing these topics present themselves as if they’ve arrived at THE correct conclusion. I see very little evidence on this thread that anyone on either side of these topics has been willing to actually check out more information. When I read guys like Nate and unkleE admitting they need to go and read up, it makes me think there is likely none of us who can say we’ve exhausted the information on even on of these topics. I think a lot of this has to do with the interwebs, and the fact that it’s so easy to talk a big game anonymously.

    Anyway, for this discussing the morality of God based on OT passages, here is just one series of articles giving a lot of history and context I found quite interesting it doesn’t defend killing of women and children. Instead, it shows that we may not have a correct understanding of either the events or what lead up to the events.

    http://tcapologetics.org/god-of-war/

    I know, I know. The guy’s an apologist, so must be fudging. This isn’t the only place I’ve read this stuff, so more than likely there’s good info in here. Plus, most of you all want us Christians to only trust the review of those who don’t believe Christianity. So, why not return the favor? We can’t always focus only on those who believe as we do

    • God implemented justice on a particularly evil culture. In doing so, God was not forcing His law onto every other nation; He was
    • showing He was a God cared about the victims of evil.
    • God waited hundreds of years before implementing His justice; he carefully warned the targeted cultures; and he drove out most of the people ahead of time.
    • The language of destruction in the war texts primarily contain language of displacement: God was destroying a horrific cultural system, even while the individuals within it were embraced by the Israelite community.
    • The people involved in the wars were the cultural gatekeepers (priests and military), not the civilians.
    • The rules of war reflected the principle of lex talionis, the command that the punishment should not exceed the crime.
    • This is not a history of genocide, but of the salvation of an area of the world from specific cultures that were some of the most brutal on record in human history

    Who among us, if we saw evil invading a region, could fault the one who intervenes? If anything, a lot of us may fault God for waiting too long to intervene.

    “Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.”

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  297. archaeopteryx1

    I should have added – basically, the orange area, this was the great flood of 2900 BCE, which took out the city-state of Shurrapak, at which the Sumerian Kings List ends during King Ziusudra’s reign, with the words, “…and then the flood swept over.”

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  298. Josh

    The bullet points above are just a flavor of the series. There’s a lot more in the articles. Forgive the terrible editing – I’m typing on my iPad.

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  299. archaeopteryx1

    Sorry I can’t join you Josh – Satan has a restraining order against me – something about a bad influence —

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  300. archaeopteryx1

    Are you tired of me yet?” – Oh, that ship is LONG over the horizon —
    But I will admit you’ve given me an even greater insight into the convoluted nonsense that humans will concoct just to avoid taking responsibility for their own destinies.

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  301. @Brandon

    I’ll let the rest decide whether what I said was dripping in emotional outburst. I don’t think I am, you think I was, so be it.

    Regarding the case? I’m not making any case, you are the one saying that (or at least I’m assuming) that you are ok with God doing whatever he wants. I’m the one saying that is not a good idea in judging goodness and for simplicity sake I’m calling it “might makes right”.

    In any case, if this is going to degrade into psychoanalysis, I’m gonna say the same of you – are you ok with a god-being doing whatever he wants because that was wad you experienced with your dad? Hence you are used to the sort of abuse environment but in this case at least God is defined to be always good while your dad obviously isn’t.

    Cheap shot I know, but 2 can play the game, or we cool about not resorting to such mud slinging moving forward?

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  302. Peter

    The following is a quote from Christian Hoefreiter ‘Genocide in Deuteronomy’ 240 -262:

    ‘Devout readers of the Bible have found these passages to be morally unpalatable and theologically challenging ever since antiquity. The cognitive dissonance caused by these texts can be summarised as a severe tension between three tenets or deep-seated intuitions:
    1. God is good, loving and just;
    2. The Scriptures bear faithful witness to God;
    3. Both the concept and practice of herem [God sanctioned war and genocide] are morally revolting.
    For Christians the complication of a perceived tension between the OT and NT is added. Most strategies amount to a more or less radical reappraisal of at least one of these three claims above.’

    What is clear is that a really satisfactory explanation of these tensions has eluded Christian apologists despite 2,000 years of effort. That in itself implies something.

    Liked by 3 people

  303. In my now one-year-long experience of being an ex-conservative Christian, I have discussed the justifications for the bloody actions of the OT god many times with Christians. Christians always want to divert the conversation to “context”:

    “In that time, place, and circumstance, it was moral and good for the Christian god to hunt down and slaughter terrified little children.”

    The issues I have on this position are this:

    1. Would you accept any justification today for hunting down and executing little children and babies? If not, then why would was it appropriate then?
    2. What evil would a society have to commit to warrant hunting down and killing off all their children?
    3. Many Christians justify their god’s slaughter of children and babies in the OT due to the alleged sins of the parents such as homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, and child sacrifice. Even if true (which I don’t think can be demonstrated) that hundreds of Amelekite children were sacrificed every year, does that justify killing them ALL pre-emptively?
    4. Can you find anywhere in the Bible that states that the Amelekites practiced infant sacrifice and that this was the reason for God’s order to kill them? Or was the reason for killing every one of them, including the children and babies, because the Amelekites had refused to allow the Israelites to cross their land to enter Canaan? Is refusing to allow someone to trespass on your property valid justification for killing every man, woman, and child?

    I don’t think that Christians can give any good answers to these questions other than to try to change the subject, refer us to an “expert” who, in a long article or book, will attempt to explain in complicated terms why hunting down and executing children is morally appropriate in some situations, or finally admit that:…even if God was a brutal, baby-slaughtering monster…we must kneel before him, sing his praises, and pretend that he is loving and good…or we will receive the same brutal treatment in the after life.

    What does this morality sound more like: contemporary, western humanistic morality…or…the morality of barbaric, Islamic fundamentalists?

    Liked by 1 person

  304. 1 Samuel 15

    Saul Defeats the Amalekites but Spares Their King

    15 Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord. 2 Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

    4 So Saul summoned the people, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand foot soldiers, and ten thousand soldiers of Judah. 5 Saul came to the city of the Amalekites and lay in wait in the valley. 6 Saul said to the Kenites, “Go! Leave! Withdraw from among the Amalekites, or I will destroy you with them; for you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites withdrew from the Amalekites. 7 Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt. 8 He took King Agag of the Amalekites alive, but utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep and of the cattle and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was valuable, and would not utterly destroy them; all that was despised and worthless they utterly destroyed.

    Crime: Not being nice.
    Punishment: complete slaughter of every man, woman, and child

    Notice in the last verse what is of value according to the Bible and what is not:

    Valued: sheep, cattle, fatlings, lambs.
    Not valued: women, children, and babies

    Dear conservative Christian: Does this passage really reflect YOUR moral values? I hope not.

    Liked by 1 person

  305. Brandon:

    I will be happy to discuss my perspective on the source of morality, if you will agree, unconditionally, to the following statement:

    “The hunting down and targeted execution of children and babies is evil and immoral; there is never, neither now, in the future, nor in the past, any circumstance in which the hunting down and targeted execution of children and babies is justifiable; any individual, being, or entity who perpetrates or orders the hunting down and targeted execution of children and babies is vile, evil, immoral, and worthy of the harshest condemnation; under no circumstances can such an individual, being, or entity be considered “good” or be given any form of honor or respect.”

    If I were asked to debate a member of ISIS on the topic of morality, I would insist on his agreement to this same statement before debating him. I doubt he would agree to it.

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  306. And the details of the story of the Amalekites gets even worse, folks. I just looked this up:

    Guess the approximate year when Bible scholars believe that the Amalekites “rudely” refused to allow the Israelites to cross their land; the “sin” that caused God to order them annihilated: circa 1400 BC. And guess the approximate year when God ordered Saul to slaughter every man, woman, and child of the Amalekite people due to their sin of inhospitality: circa 1050 BC!

    So how many people were alive in 1050 BC that had committed the offending sin in 1400 BC ? Answer: none.

    The Christian god ordered the annihilation of an entire people, including the chopping to pieces of every toddler and infant, for the inhospitality of their ancestors….350 years earlier!

    How can any Christian possibly call that moral behavior?

    Liked by 1 person

  307. archaeopteryx1

    So what I’m hearing from both Unkie and Crown, is that OT scripture, most especially the Torah consisted, besides the written version, of the priestly opinions d’jour – how reassuring.

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  308. archaeopteryx1

    …as we have in Australia!” – You’re from Australia, Unk? I’m sorry to hear that, I’ve always had such a high opinion of Australians.

    Liked by 1 person

  309. archaeopteryx1

    I’m not aware of anyone’s concept of “facts,” that includes the following definition: “they contain some disparate viewpoints, and their methods of interpretation are not as literal and fixed as you sometimes assume. These seem to me to be facts…

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  310. archaeopteryx1

    Why do you believe this barbaric nonsense? Stop and think!” – Gary, would that it were really that easy —

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  311. archaeopteryx1

    It fits very well with accounts of Jesus from the gospels.” – Written four to seven decades after his alleged existence by anonymous authors who never met him – great leap of logic, Brandon!

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  312. archaeopteryx1

    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Brandon

    It’s okay to murder children, as long as they’re Canaanites or Amalekites – the god he’s trying to convince you to worship says so!

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  313. “…as we have in Australia!” – You’re from Australia, Unk? I’m sorry to hear that, I’ve always had such a high opinion of Australians.”

    Arch, I have yet to see unkleE be uncivil. Based on some past dialog with him, he is not comfortable with, nor has he ever justified the diabolical behavior of the Biblical god in the OT.

    Liked by 4 people

  314. Josh

    Arch-
    You are looking a bit deranged. Unless I’m looking at this in my email thread, which I almost never do, I have no idea to which comments you’re responding!

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  315. Arch wrote: Man created god, in His own image, and with His own fallibilities.

    It is my contention that God is nothing more than a construct of the mind.

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  316. archaeopteryx1

    The problem I have, Josh, with sites like the one you recommend, is that the authors look at all of the negative things in the Bible and say, “Ok, how can we spin this to make it a positive thing –?” It’s similar to the tactics that Brandon regularly employs.

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  317. “It is my contention that God is nothing more than a construct of the mind.”

    I agree, Nan. To Arch’s credit, he wrote something on my about page that I think is worth repeating:

    “The gods have never known more than the men who created them.”

    For anyone interested, who hasn’t already seen this, it is an excellent lecture that compliments what Nan wrote.

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  318. Josh

    Arch-
    I really don’t see it as “trying to make it a positive thing”. I think, to our minds today, it is brutal and not the way we’d hope to have things dealt with. At the same time, I think his points about who actually would have been killed is important. Ultimately, though, I think what this discussion comes down to is inerrancy. Is every word that is written the God’s-honest truth about what happened? I come from the perspective that what is recorded is not necessarily what God actually commanded, what was carried out, etc. It’s interesting to me that skeptics question “inerrancy”, which is not a doctrine that all Christians hold to, and use that as a stepping stool to prove the whole Bible is in question. At the same time, however, most skeptics, when it suits their purposes, will not allow that another portion of scripture may not be entirely accurate. I agree that it can’t all be “literally true”, but we both have to give and take in the examination. I don’t think it’s fair to pick out some places and say “The Bible can’t be true because this is inaccurate or is a misrepresentation of history”, and then, in the same breath, be unwilling to allow that other records in the Bible may also be inaccurate, hyperbolic, or parabolic.

    Just sayin 🙂

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  319. “At the same time, however, most skeptics, when it suits their purposes, will not allow that another portion of scripture may not be entirely accurate. I agree that it can’t all be “literally true”, but we both have to give and take in the examination.”

    Josh, may I has how you discern what portions of the Bible are true and what aren’t?

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  320. archaeopteryx1

    I know, Josh – take it up with Nate, he has chosen not to stack his comments. I used to try to include a recognizable segment from the comment of the person I’m addressing, but after commenting for so long on blogs that DO stack, I’ve gotten out of the habit of doing that, as on stacked blogs, my comment generally falls immediately beneath the one to which I’m responding, so there’s never any doubt.

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  321. Josh, I’d much prefer Christians to drop inerrancy in order to solve this, but unfortunately many do not which is why the conversation is necessary. I don’t believe it’s required that the bible be completely literally true, but if it’s not it brings up other issues which aren’t easy to solve. Which is what Victoria’s question is related to so I’ll just sit back and watch your conversation with her.

    By the way, my favorite theist’s resolution to the horrors of the old testament is Thom Stark’s in “Human Faces of God”. You may like it since it lines up a little with some of the other authors you like. He gives up on inerrancy, and even believes that his God wants us to condemn these passages, so you can see I’m open to more nuanced ideas from that. Stark and I differ in our metaphysical conclusions, but again, as far as resolving these difficult issues I really like his approach.

    Liked by 1 person

  322. archaeopteryx1

    The only time that I play the inerrancy card, Josh, is when conversing with theists who claim that the Bible is in